The Launch

Few subjects quicken the blood like releasing a new book. Between the fear that this one is going to stink and the hope that maybe this one is going to be The One, the emotional roller-coaster of launch has few equals in the life of any author.

A lot has changed in launch strategies over the last ten years. The process is still fun, nerve-wracking, and almost never as successful as we hope, but there are some things to consider beyond how much time you shouldn't be spending refreshing the Amazon reports page. Start with the basics:

What Do You Want?

Most new authors - and a fair number of experienced ones - don't actually take the time to think about this. "Sell more books!" is an admirable goal but operationalizing that can be problematic. For many, the launch is an occasion, something to announce, an event to bruit about because who doesn't love a book launch? They see it as a great time to promo the heck out of a title in the hope of launching the book into Orbit ... or maybe Tor.

So what do you want? Sales, income, or readers. Pick one.

One thing to consider is the Amazon Rocket Launch. This is the one most people pursue, hoping to get a huge first day or two that will catapult their book into the upper reaches. Before you pursue this remember the mantra:

Up like a rocket,
Down like a rock.

Amazon's weighted rolling average of sales ranks punishes spikey sales so if you sell to everybody who knows you on day one, there's nobody left on day two to keep your missile from falling back to the ground.

For me, the goal is income. As a full time author, I need to cover my bills and keep food on the table. If I can afford to keep doing what I love, then sales and readers will follow. So I focus on the basics of launch to avoid the Rocket as much as I can. The strategy is called "soft launch" or "slow burn" and involves keeping the news low key and spreading it out over time.

1. I don't announce the release any more. I let fans tell me when the book is available. They often know before I do. Having them tell me - on social media - means they're also telling all their friends at the same time.

2. I actually do send an email out to my list around the second or third day. They signed up to be notified and I try to let them be the first people I tell. I just don't tell all of them at once, hoping to spread the sales out over a few days. It's not like I have a big list. I keep it trimmed down to under 2000 addresses but spreading those out can make the difference between a long, steady climb in sales and a crash ending spike.

3. I post to my blog. Eventually. Frequently that's earlier than I'd like but I only update my blog once a month and I tend to release near the end of a month so I capitalize on Kindle Unlimited (which is a different conversation).

4. Back in the day, I used to make one tweet with a link to the book. Just one. Not one a day. Not one that's repeated three times to hit all the major time zones. One. Ever.

My goal is to stay in the top 1000 on Amazon for a month. After that, gravity - and algorithms - take a toll on the heartiest of fliers. Doing that generally gets me about 5000 sales and over a million page-read on KU.

But I'm established. I spent years building my audience and growing my fanbase. What about somebody just starting out?

The rocket ride is the same should you choose to light the fuse. You might climb very high very fast. The crash will hurt just as much.

Soft launch pays dividends for those who are just starting out. Since you can't depend on your fans yet, getting the word out is where you need allies to help you. Joining a like minded group of authors who can help you is probably the single most important thing a new author can do. I have a mantra for that, too:

The fastest way to get an audience is
borrow one.

Who do you ask? How do you do that?

I've written about allies and how to find them before. There's nothing fancy or complicated about it. Compared to blog tours, swag planning, and review chasing, it's pretty low key and not as time consuming. It leaves a lot more time for what matters - writing the next book - but often feels uncomfortable to new authors who'd rather do something - even if it's not very effective - than to  trust the soft launch to do its magic.

Generating early buzz with beta readers pays dividends as long as your beta-to-release time is short (a few days or a week). The issue there is my third mantra for today:

You can't get fans
for a book you haven't released.

Whether or not you ride the rocket, here's hoping your next release brings the results you want.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls https://www.nasa.gov/content/expedition-38-lifts-off

The Myth Of Reviews

While I'm pottering about in my writing shed, I frequently come across the myth of reviews. Generally it follows the form of "How do I get more reviews for my book?" This question is a symptom of the more pernicious problem - buying into the myth that reviews generate sales.

It's an understandable myth that's been caused by confirmation bias getting passed along as causal relationship. It develops like this:

  1. You publish a book.
  2. You don't get many sales.
  3. You do a little promotional activity
  4. You get more sales.
  5. You notice you have more reviews.
  6. You seek reviews with ARCs, giveaways, pleas at the end of the book.
  7. You get more sales.
  8. You notice you get more reviews.

The confirmation bias comes into play because you took an action - requested reviews. You believe that action resulted in more reviews and that those reviews generated the sales.

Here's the thing: If you want more reviews, sell more books. Only people who read the book will review it. If you're seeing more reviews, it means more people are buying your book.

Here's the other thing: When it comes to Amazon reviews - the ones most people seem concerned about - the potential reader who sees those reviews is already on your page. You've done the heavy lifting and it's up to the cover and blurb to get them to sample.

My opinion is that reviews only matter in the edge cases - those situations where the potential reader is either on the fence or is looking for confirmation for the decision they've already made. If you haven't hooked them with both the cover and blurb, the reviews aren't likely to convince somebody to overlook that pair of sins and take a sample. They'll have already clicked 'next.' If they've decided to maybe give it a try, they'll look at reviews to justify their decision. If they've decided they probably should pass, they'll look at reviews to confirm their choice.

There's one other factor at play - the sophistication of the potential reader in navigating the Amazon ecosystem. People who understand the jungle know how the Amazon review game gets played. They tend to go with sample over review in order to make up their minds before they pull money out of their debit accounts.

Just to forestall the argument about Goodreads or Bob's Book Blog or Kirkus or whatever, those are lovely. Getting reviews there by convincing a reader to talk about you is good buzz. I'm not convinced that Kirkus is worth the dosh, but I'm miserly. My point is that nobody's going to review your book if they haven't read it. I know it's common advice to send out ARCs and generate pre-publication buzz and all that, but spending time and energy pursuing Amazon reviews is not likely to pay off anywhere near as handsomely as getting that next book out.

If you're doing anything that stands between you and release day, stop doing that.

I realize this is the minority opinion, but if books with more reviews got more sales, then my book with 700 reviews would have more sales than my newly released title with only 70. While that is, in fact, true, the reality is that the book with hundreds of reviews was released years ago and sells a couple of units a day. It has sold a hundred times more units in its lifetime than the new release, which generated a lot of reviews. The new release - with only 70 reviews - is selling a couple of hundred units a day. It hasn't been around long enough to generate many reviews but it's still selling much faster than the older titles.

I use this handy mantra:

Reviews do not drive sales.
Sales drive reviews.
If you want more reviews,
sell more books.

The best way to sell more books is to release more books for readers to buy and not spending time and effort chasing the review rainbow.

JMO. YMMV.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
CC BY-SA 2.0 License

A Few Notes on Discoverability

Discoverability is one of those newish buzzwords that tries to describe the process by which a reader finds a book to read. The problem with the generally accepted view of discoverability is that the goal is not to have people discover a book. You can't build a career on a book. As an author you need readers to discover you. That may feel really scary but fight it. If you're an author, it's the reality of your chosen work. You can't be a concert pianist if you never get out of your living room.

Discoverability Only Matters Once

What we tend to lose track of is that most of an author's fanbase is made up of people who discovered him or her just one time. Once a reader knows your name and what you write, you don't need to be discovered by that reader again.

If you're smart and if you write something that that reader likes, you'll keep him or her reading your stuff forever—or at least until you piss them off by charging too much, writing too much stuff they don't like, make them wait too long between works, or toss some other sand into their gears.

How Does A New Author Do That?

Lean on your network.

There’s a difference between network and platform. Your network is a collection of your peers. Writers, artists, editors, and others engaged in the creative endeavor of bring literature to the audience. Your platform is your audience. They're the people who support you by buying your stuff.

Your network doesn't need to discover you. You need to build the network. You've already started by being a member of RMFW. Your network should have members who like and respect your work. It should have at least a few members whose work you like and respect. They don't all have to be in the mutual kumbaya society, but having a half dozen people with whom you share sensibilities is important.

Individually, new authors have very small audiences, perhaps as few as a hundred readers garnered over months of frustration. Ten such authors—with similar sensibilities and writing in related genres—have a thousand.

A thousand true fans represents critical mass. Once you get there, discoverability is a function of how fast your true fans share. It is no longer the author's problem.

The combined audience of ten authors won't give you that thousand true fans, but it's a nice start. Use that group to prime the pump by giving them something positive to talk about.

Give Them A Reason

My friend Evo Terra regularly says something like "If you want people to talk about you, do something remarkable." Having people talk about you means you get discovered by people who hear the talk.

One book is not remarkable. One book a year is not remarkable. One really OMFG book? Not remarkable for more than one news cycle.

What’s remarkable?

  • Regularly recommend somebody from your network.
  • Participate with readers in social media.
  • Build a body of work as fast (and as good) as you can.
  • Earn the reputation you want to have by being willing to build it one reader at a time.

It'll take a couple of years. Maybe three, maybe five.

If you write good stuff, if you build a good network, if you pay attention to the details of your craft, then readers will discover you and--through you--your work.

It's up to you to make sure they only need to discover you once.

Image credit:By Stewart Butterfield (flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Best Day

One of the more common questions I hear is “What’s the best day to release a book?”

Generally, the question comes from somebody who may have released a book or two and it sank without a burp. They think the reason it sank might be they launched in the wrong season or the wrong day of the week.

It’s understandable when one considers that publishers generally release a spring and fall catalog. Some add a winter calendar. They send those to bookbuyers so that must be when people buy books, right?

Not so much.

Bookbuyers make their selections to stock in the coming season. Publishers collect all the new titles into the glossy catalogs to make those selections easier. Booksellers know that readers enter their shops every day of the year so a seasonal catalog is simply a convenience for the publisher and buyer. The books they order from the catalog may not see a store shelf for weeks.

The year end holiday season offers another possibility for launch. The rationale follows the logical path where people get new e-readers for the holidays and will need fresh reading material to go on them.

In the past, starting around 2010 and on into 2014, that was a reasonable path to follow. Lately, fewer people are buying new dedicated readers, opting for tablets or even smartphones as reader-of-choice. That still offers an opportunity but removing a few million new Kindles from consideration each December limits the utility of this strategy. It’s not a bad idea to release a work in mid-December so that it’s got some traction and visibility by month end, but that’s not a good reason to delay a book that’s ready in October.

There are those who weigh the advantage of the day of the week. Saturday? People are off work and might be looking for something new to read for the weekend? Perhaps Friday night for those who plan ahead? Sunday might be a good day to release a book because – for many – it’s a day of rest and quiet contemplation.

Personally, I favor any day that ends in “Y.” The only exception might be if you plan to launch into Kindle Select. Amazon aggregates page-reads by the calendar month so releasing on the last day of the month will maximize page-reads toward a potential Kindle All-Stars reward. For new authors this is almost never worth chasing. The lowest tier of All-Star reward takes about two million page-reads for a single title. People who ask “What’s the best day?” don’t usually expect to get millions of page-reads. Mostly they only want to give their book the best chance at catching on.

Here’s the thing.

Booksellers know that readers enter their stores every day of the week. Perhaps they get more foot traffic on the weekends when people are off work, but that has less to do with readers wanting books on the weekend that with readers being able to get to the bookstore. For most indie authors, the market is ebooks and the largest bookstore in the world is on every reader’s desk – even in their pocket. A reader who wants a new book only has to log in. Which means – in most cases – the best day to release a book is my favorite day that ends in “Y” - today.

Social Capital

A lot of attention gets paid to social media without really understanding a fundamental concept - social capital.

In addition to all its other characteristics and traits, social media transactions depend on - for lack of a better term - a currency. You earn it as you give and pay it when you ask.

This makes a certain amount of sense if you think of the pesky neighbor who always wants to borrow your lawnmower but never returns it with gas in the tank. It doesn't help matters if he returns it with a bottle of beer when you don't drink beer.

That underscores a different - and more common - problem with social capital. So many people work to "create compelling content" without realizing that their "compelling" is my "no thanks." What should have resulted in a deposit to their social capital account winds up being a big fat withdrawal.

Most of the time - and I think, most people - fall into the "revenue neutral" portion of the continuum. Sometimes what they post is interesting enough but not engaging. They're the crazy uncle who tells a story about his trip to the grocery store when some kid was whining for candy and his mother wouldn't let him have any. They're the people who scour the web looking for "compelling content" to "share."

If you want to build up your social capital, don't do that. Reach out to somebody and talk with them. Authors, artists, creatives of all stripes can make a huge impression by reaching across the web to talk with fans. Congratulate them on a new job. Sympathize over their recent loss (even if it's only hair). Treat them like people - not contacts you count like coups. Every time you do that, you get a few bits of social capital. Every time some lurker sees that, you get social capital. Every time somebody notices that you're not asking for something but offering something without expectation of payment, you're earning social capital.

Sure it's only a few tiny slices. You need to do it a lot to get a pile big enough to make a difference, to accrue enough in your account to be able to spend it effectively.

When you spend, you don't spend little slivers. You spend big chunks.

Every time you ask somebody to look at your book, or read a new 5-star review, or even just link to your website, you're spending capital. A lot of people are running a deficit budget and wondering why things aren't moving.

Even things that you'd think would pay off big - like recommending a book that's not yours - can backfire on you if the person getting the recommendation doesn't like the book you recommended. If they remember who promoted it to them, they'll blame the you - not the author. The obvious advice is "don't recommend a book you don't like" but too many people recommend books because the author asked them to - or because the author is a friend. If you love it, say why. If you only liked it, say why. If you didn't even like it - or its in a genre you don't read - don't do anybody any favors because you're spending social capital that's difficult to recoup.

Before you make that next social media post, remember: You earn in pennies but you spend in Benjamins.

Image credit:
Steve Snodgrass: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass
Creative Commons: SA-BY

We Disrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program

One of the things I keep hearing is that Amazon is disrupting the publishing business. That disruption is what allows independent authors like me to make a living in a field where - in the past - only a handful of superstars could quit their day jobs.

I've been looking at this for a couple of years now and I think we're focused on the wrong end of the paradigm.

Disruption is a technical term and happens when an innovation changes the marketplace for a new and under served populations of customers.

Who are the customers in publishing?

Certainly not the authors. Publishing has long see the authors and editors and artists less as customers than as piece work laborers, a necessary overhead cost in producing the books that they sell to the real end customers - readers.

I would argue that the disruption that Amazon has caused is in reading and they did it by changing the distribution model that a few (and shrinking) number of companies have controlled for decades. Ebooks in general and Amazon in particular gave people with limited means and limited mobility access to the community of letters in numbers that were unthinkable before. Those readers, and our ability to reach them, is what makes it possible for me to make a living writing novels.

So when the Wise and Powerful Wizard of 'Zon changes the rules, like trying out new subscription models or altering what authors get paid, remember one critically important distinction.

We're not the customers that their disruption serves. We're only the beneficiaries of that disruption.

Cash the checks and keep writing.

Image Credit:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

[This post originally shared with the Writers Discussion Group on Google+ - Aug, 2015. Nothing has changed since then.]

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

The new year is a time to look ahead but also a time to reflect. The timing of this column is significant to me because ten years ago yesterday – January 12, 2007 – I sat down to write what would become my first science fiction novel. I finished the first draft in ten days, the second draft in four, and had a completed third draft by the end of the month. I started recording it – a few chapters at a time – in the front seat of my car because it was the quietest place I could find. I released the first episode at Podiobooks.com on February 17th. I made every mistake. I did everything wrong.

I wrote four novels that first year and podcast them all. I had no idea what I was doing and never imagined that I’d be here – ten years later – a full time novelist.

This column isn’t to tell you how great I am. It’s to help lend some perspective on how much the industry has changed since I began. Many think the golden age is over. The people who were in it when it began will always be the winners and there’s no room for the new folks coming along behind. The pool is flooded and it’s impossible to rise to the top.

Yeah. Not so much.

In 2007, the Kindle wasn’t on the market. Self-publishing consisted of Lulu and BookSurge for print-on-demand titles. The price points killed sales. Booksurge – which would become CreateSpace – took a drubbing in 2008 when Amazon tried to get all the POD authors to use only their interface to sell books on Amazon. It’s not that bad now, but the wise POD authors always list through CreateSpace for Amazon these days in order to keep their titles from going out-of-stock, but I digress.

In January, 2010, I signed with a small press to produce my books in text formats. They convinced me that we could do better together than I could on my own. The salient point is that I built my audience for three full years and across six titles before I tried to sell what we’d consider a book. I did it by giving my stories away as free podcasts.

I made a lot of strategic decisions in those years about what to write, where to release it, how to promote it, and what tools and techniques to use to build that audience. It took months to get the first hundred, a year to get the first thousand. By the time I signed with the publisher in 2010, I had a million downloads across all the episodes in all the books and that took three years.

We released Quarter Share just before the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention in the spring of 2010. By then the Kindle was making noise in the marketplace so we released both ebook and paper. That ebook thing was a gamble. In those days selling a few hundred ebooks a year was a Big Deal. We had a release party at BaltiCon and a table where I hand sold a few copies in paper, mostly to the fans who already knew the story from listening. Quarter Share sold a few hundred on release and settled down to about ten a month.

Things stayed quiet until the Kindle Autumn of 2010. That’s the point where the Kindle’s market penetration tipped into the mainstream market for heavy readers. It would be another three months before Kindles became more common with casual readers. In October I became the first author at my publishing house to sell a thousand units in a single month with a single title. Others had sold a thousand across multiple titles, but that was the beginning for me.

By 2012 I dissolved the contract with my publisher by exercising my exit clause, got my rights back and spent a year re-issuing the four titles they’d released under my own imprint. By then I had eight books. Now I’m working on lucky number thirteen and the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.

But here’s the thing.

The fundamental market has changed, but for the better. Millions of people read ebooks now. Dedicated devices are less common. Tablets and smartphones have taken over. Amazon and Kobo have a presence everywhere around the globe making digital products available to almost half a billion English speakers. The early stigma of self-publishing as vanity press has not disappeared but has become significantly diluted as dedicated self-publishers approach the work professionally in order to produce works that rival – even exceed – the quality of those published by the Bigs.

The reality of publishing today encompasses a variety of paths. Small, productive self-publishers can – and often do – earn more than authors published by the likes of Random House and Macmillan. They get fat and happy on sales numbers that are too small to support any of the bigger houses and some of the small. With reduced fixed cost overheads and very small variable costs people like me can do what most authors were never able to achieve ten years ago. We can quit our day jobs.

It’s not fast. I spent three years just building audience for my stories and five years before becoming a full time author in the summer of 2012.

It’s not easy. I’ve written over two million words across my novels. I’ve tried and failed a couple of times along the way. I’ve had to learn some hard lessons.

It’s not guaranteed. Fiction is still art and art is fickle.

But it is possible if you’re willing to do the work – the real work, not the work you want to do. If you’re willing to stick it out for years, not weeks or months, in order to build the structures, establish your audience, and work it like the business that it is. The life of an author isn't a sprint or a marathon. It's not a race of any kind. There's only one finish line and it's the one we all face. If there's one thing I've learned over the last decade it's that writing is a way of life.

So Happy New Year, RMFW. We're already almost two weeks in. Go write something great.

Living The Dream

Beach DreamingThis month I want to talk a bit about living the dream. As a full time science fiction author, I’m in the sometimes unenviable position of working for myself. Like most things indie, it comes with good points and not so good points. It means the boss always knows when I’m goofing off and my employee is a bit lazy. It means I need to take responsibility for deadlines—or not. It means I need to decide—well—everything, really.

But here’s the thing.

My job as a writer isn’t really different from someone pursuing a traditional path. I have a little more flexibility in what I write. I don’t need to write a specific kind of story because of contract, or the kind of story my agent needs in order to interest an acquisitions editor. I can write the stories I want to read but can’t find, secure in the knowledge that my publisher—me—will accept it.

The flip-side is that I never know if the book is any good.

Of course, that’s the same problem Orbit has. Tor and Baen and the rest, too. Nobody knows whether the next book will sink or sail. Every publisher tries to publish the best books possible, but no publisher can predict—successfully—which book will be a hit.

As a publisher, I need to have a few different skills from other writers. I need to know how to put a book together, how to get my books into distribution channels, and how to get readers to find—and buy—them. I need to have a little more knowledge about the various markets, how they work, and what changes I should expect. I need to accept that not everything will work and to trust that enough things will. Generally, my publishing process is the same as any other press.

None of the skills are difficult to acquire when compared to the craft of writing. None of the knowledge is more complex than what I need to master in order to tell a story that people might want to read. None of the work is more complicated than tracking submissions, rejections, synopses, agents, publishers, and sales over the months and years that writers on the traditional path have to do.

As an indie, I control the vertical. I control the horizontal but still don’t know if we’re going to the Twilight Zone or the poor house. I have to trust that we’ll wind up someplace interesting with a landing I can walk away from, because I’m living the dream.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s What’s Up Front That Counts

Print from History of Chester County, 1881
Print from History of Chester County, 1881

Back in the Dark Times, there used to be a commercial with the tag-line "It's what's up front that counts." Their value-added proposition was that - ahem - first impressions matter. This month I thought it might be useful to look at book layout because when it comes to books, what's up front does count.

Front-matter are those silly pages that show up at the beginning of the book. Most people skip past them but they serve a purpose. Joel Friedlander from The Book Designer lists some common front matter as half-title, frontispiece, full-title, copyright, dedication, table of contents in that order.

Traditionally published authors don't deal with this but for those of us with a more DIY bent, this stuff matters because it's how to present your work professionally.

The half-title page tells the reader the title of your book. That's it. In my own work, I bend this rule because I like establishing the graphical themes as early as possible, frequently carrying an element from the cover. I do it on purpose, knowing that it's "not done."

The frontispiece isn't used that much any more. It's a graphic on the back side (verso) of the half-title. In paper, when the reader flips the half-title, the frontispiece shows on the left and the full-title shows on the right.

The full-title page carries the title, author, series name, publisher and anything the publisher wants to say about the book. Sometimes the log-line shows up here as well as the publication date and place.

Copyright statements show on the verso. So copyright date, entity holding the copyright, publisher info, ISBN, Library of Congress control numbers, contact information, and - in fiction - frequently a statement along the lines of "I made this up. That's not you I'm talking about." (I'm paraphrasing.)

The dedication will show on the next page by itself. If you're going to honor somebody, make it count. In paper, that'll be on the right side, opposite the copyright.

Following that, you'll find tables of content, forewords, introductions, prologues, and a host of other pages which might apply to a book. Friedlander suggests a second half-title to wrap up the front-matter if the section is particularly long.

Which brings me to the secret. These pieces are all part of your stylistic toolbox and are not cast in stone -- or even paper.

My own front-matter (in both ebook and paper) consists of half-title, copyright, other books, dedication, title page. Sometimes there's a table-of-contents but in fiction, I find they're not particularly useful in paper and unnecessary in ebook. I've taken my layout based on old mass market paperbacks and my own reading preferences. Nothing says you have to do it the way everybody else does.

But...

If you're laying out your own books, putting your story in a professional looking box can give readers a sense that you know what you're doing. Most of them won't know what's supposed to be there, but some piece of their brain will tell them if something's off. They may not be able to say "Hey! This copyright page is in the wrong place" - in reality there's no real right place - but they might notice if it's missing. They may not know what a half-title or a title page is, but it'll be a familiar landmark as they get into your story. It tells them a story is coming. It tells them to settle in. They turn to chapter one and the story begins.

Because what's up front does count.

For further reading:
Joel Friedlander - The Book Designer

Image credit:
Explore PA History

Allied Powers

"By

When it comes to sales and promotion, DIY is not necessarily the best solution. It's much easier to promote somebody else's book than it is your own. It's also less likely to get you tossed in the spam hamper with Nigerian Princes and <Body Part> Enlargement Salesmen. For this, you need allies. Allies you can use to help promote your work to their audiences.

The best part of this? They don't even have to be aware of it. You can use the power of Amazon's ecosystem to promote your books on allied authors' descriptions. The catch? You have to promote theirs. The reality? It's going to happen anyway, you may as well take advantage of it.

The secret sauce is in the Also-Boughts. That magical ribbon of titles that shows up after you've sold a few books that says "Customers who bought this also bought:"

If you haven't got them, it's a function of sales over time. It's actually possible to go without sales long enough that they age out and go away. It's a good marketing ploy to try to keep that from happening by selling a few books now and again. The best way to do that is to publish another book, ideally in a series, but that's a different topic.

The beauty of the Also-Bought is that while your book points to somebody else's book, their book generally points back to yours. If you have a few pages of Also-Boughts, that's a fair number of people helping to support your title. You can help the process along by talking up their books. If there's somebody you'd love to have in your Also-Bought ribbon, you might get that person's latest book and read it. Assuming you like it and think your readers will too, then tell them about it. Write about it on your blog. Tweet about it on twitter. Add it to your Book of Face. Try to get more of your fans to buy it.

Once it gets ahead of a critical mass (the secret sauce of which is apparently guarded more diligently than the Colonel's Secret Recipe of Herbs and Spices), those books will start showing up on your ribbon and your books will start showing up on theirs.

You can also find allies on your Author Central page where Amazon helpfully tells people that readers who bought your books also bought books by a list of other authors. That's a great place to actually prospect for allies. You might write to one or two and tell them how much you admire their stories. Perhaps you can offer a pull-quote (sometimes call a "blurb") for their product description or cover copy. After a while, you might even ask them if they'd consider offering a blurb for your upcoming release. Some will say "no." Others will say "not this time." Some will say "sure."

The point is that other authors are not your competition when it comes to readers. They're your allies. Close bonds with allies can yield amazing results.

Offer to meet them in Yalta and see what they say.

 

Photo Credit: By U. S. Signal Corps - Library of Congress , Franklin D. Roosevelt Library & Museum http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/images/photodb/09-1905a.gif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=211252