I love introducing authors to tools that can make their writing lives easier. Some tools help you write better, publish more easily, grow your email list, and increase your readership.
Different tools work for different authors, so I’m not dogmatic about which tools you should use. However, I do know of many scams. You’ll never hear me recommend Xlibris, iUniverse, or Author Solutions because they are all scams. They take advantage of authors.
I want to feature legitimate companies so you can make an informed decision about which tools will serve you best.
One such helpful tool is AuthorsXP. I recently spoke with the CEO of Authors XP, Amy VanSant. She’s a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author who has written over 20 books. She started AuthorsXP in 2017 to help fellow indie authors promote their books and avoid marketing pitfalls.
What is AuthorsXP?
Amy: It started as a newsletter swap. I had discovered that writing books meant becoming a marketer. I got frustrated with the marketing and thought it would be great if authors would work together and do newsletter swaps.
A newsletter swap is when you write about another author’s book in your newsletter, and they write about your book in theirs. You’re not trading email lists or sharing reader information. You’re simply giving another author space in your own author newsletter. AuthorsXP started as a way to organize those newsletter swaps.
As things progressed, I figured I should start an AuthorsXP newsletter for readers because I needed to get more readers on the site to help the authors.
So, I started running giveaways. Since I wanted only avid readers on my list, I offered mostly books as giveaway prizes. It took me a long time to build a curated list of readers, but I knew it would be a more valuable list in the long run.
When I had a list of readers, I started sending a daily deal newsletter, like BookBub does. Then authors began to ask if I would connect them with beta readers so they could get more reviews.
Slowly but surely, I added services to AuthorsXP.
How do you match beta readers with authors?
Thomas: Do you offer a matchmaking service for readers who want to be beta readers? Certain readers love pointing out what’s wrong with the book and have suggestions to improve it, but they may have no idea who you are as an author.
How do you match readers with authors?
Amy: I started by asking the readers who had already signed up to review books. I emailed them to see if they’d be interested in beta reading a book, and I had many more people interested in beta reading than I thought I would.
We refined the list of readers over time. Some readers would agree to read the book and then never do it. But over the years, I ended up with a great list of people who want to be beta readers. They love it. They love helping authors and talking to them.
Some authors have told me they’ve become friends with their beta readers, so it works out for everybody.
Does your review program help authors get more reviews?
Thomas: Does your read and review program help authors get more reviews on their books?
Amy: Yes. It helps them get reviews on Amazon. Many services out there claim to help you get reviews, but many are illegal as far as Amazon is concerned. They violate Amazon’s terms of service by paying people to review. Those sites pop up every five minutes, and authors don’t always realize that’s what’s happening.
In my newsletters to the authors, I’ll debunk the claims certain review sites make. I’ll look at their registrations and see that they got their domain name yesterday. They just throw out a service to see what money they can get from people, and then they run away.
AuthorsXP has a list of actual readers. I have a list of books from authors who want reviews, and my readers can read and review them if they want. We don’t pay or incentivize them, but a good number of them do leave reviews.
And you never know, maybe somebody who didn’t bother to leave a review just keeps thinking about your book and ends up buying your second book.
How do authors submit their books on AuthorsXP to get more reviews?
Thomas: How do I get my book featured on AuthorsXP to get more reviews?
Amy: You can sign up at authorsxp.com. In the upper right corner, you’ll see a login. If you’ve never been there before, you can quickly sign up.
We have a magic new menu that shows up for authors, and we have different options for selling books, building your newsletter list, and getting reviews.
When you fill out the form, I send a notice to my readers saying there’s a new book available. Author can log in to the admin area to see how many people have requested their book and how many have reviewed it. They can also contact any of the readers.
How does AuthorsXP make money connecting authors with readers?
Thomas: How do you make money with this program?
Amy: There’s a charge for everything an author signs up for, but I keep the charges as low as possible. For example, an author can pay $10.00 to have their book deal emailed to 100,000 readers.
By comparison, BookBub has millions of readers, but they will also charge around $900 to feature your book in their email.
Is the AuthorsXP reader list segmented by genre preference?
Thomas: Do you send your daily deal email to all 100,000 people or only those interested in that particular genre?
Amy: The list is segmented by genre. I have steamy and not-so-steamy romance writers, and I do not send steamy books to the not-so-steamy readers. People tend to get angry when it’s not what they want or expect. Same with cozy mystery and crime. You can submit your book in multiple genres, though.
How does AuthorsXP help build my email list?
Thomas: So how would an author get more email subscribers at authorsxp.com?
Amy: I’m a huge proponent of having your own newsletter. It’s the only thing indie writers have any control over. Amazon can change its mind at any moment and do something crazy that makes it harder to sell books, but your newsletter is the one thing you have control over.
If you don’t have an email list, please start one. If you have one, don’t neglect it. Start building it.
We help authors grow and nurture their email lists by doing giveaways based on genre.
Last week we had a Christian giveaway, and this week it is urban fantasy. Authors can look through the list of upcoming giveaways and sign up for the one that fits their genre.
I also do private giveaways. Authors can give away a collection of their own signed hardback books or books by other authors. You can use KingSumo or any other giveaway program to set up your own giveaway, and I’ll send your giveaway link to my reader list.
Thomas: If I’m running a giveaway through KingSumo, could I sign up and pay for AuthorsXP to promote my giveaway to your subscribers?
Amy: Yes. You can do a private giveaway, or you can do it through the weekly giveaways. Once readers sign up for the weekly giveaway, they are automatically directed to what I call the Book Fair page. Authors in the weekly giveaway can add their books to the book fair for free if the book is offered for free, $0.99, or if it’s in Kindle Unlimited.
Every reader who fills out the form to enter the giveaway is shown the page where they can buy your book if they want to.
How do the weekly giveaways work on AuthorsXP?
Thomas: Does everyone who enters the contest win a book, or do only a few people win?
Amy: The top two prizes include a copy of every ebook that’s being featured, and then there is one winner of each book.
The author only has to give away three ebooks. They’ll give away two copies to the top two winners, who win a copy of every ebook, and one copy to a third individual who wins a single book.
You can also donate a paperback, but you don’t have to.
One of the frustrating things about daily deal newsletters is that you’re featuring only one of your books, but you might have multiple books on sale.
AuthorsXP allows you to run a series promotion. We can dedicate an email to your series where your books are the only ones featured in the email. It works the same way as the daily deal, except the whole page is about you and your books.
You can mix this up any way you like. If you have book one free and book three for $0.99, you can just offer those two books.
You could also offer your whole series of up to 10 books. It works well. I do it every time I have a new release of my own books because we’ve found that series promotions are very powerful.
What mistakes do indie authors make when promoting their books?
Thomas: What mistakes do indie authors make when promoting their own books?
Amy: They don’t keep track of their marketing efforts. If you’re marketing in a void, you’ll keep making the same mistakes.
If you track which promotions worked and didn’t, you’ll know where to invest your marketing money.
For example, if you run a promo on every available site you can find within a short window, you don’t know which sites did well for you and which didn’t. Since you don’t know, you’ll just keep paying for promos and giving money to those that don’t work because they happen to coincide with one that did.
Thomas: Back when I was the marketing director for a traditional publishing company, we used to track each promo on a spreadsheet. We’d record the number of sales the day before, the day of, and the day after the promo. If the promos ran close together, it was hard to determine which ones worked.
Over time, I discovered that the same book would perform differently on different sites. It wasn’t necessarily that some sites were bad, although a few were. But certain sites worked better for certain genres.
BookBub performed for everyone, but there was a group of promo sites that worked well some of the time for some books.
Each one of these list-building deal sites has a separate community of readers. BookSweeps, StoryOrigin, and AuthorsXP each have their own readerships. If you’ve run a list-building promo with one, try running a promo on another site. You’ll introduce yourself to a whole new group of readers.
The first time you run a promo on a site, you tend to see a big spike in your subscribers because a bunch of readers who had no idea who you were suddenly know you exist, and they sign up for your email list.
Be careful advising another author on which sites worked or didn’t. If that author isn’t in your genre, they may have different results.
For example, if readers are used to getting romance books, your military sci-fi won’t perform well on that site.
Or maybe a promo site has a smaller military sci-fi audience, but once you do a couple of promos, you’ve reached that whole audience. On the other hand, a romance reader’s appetite is almost unlimited, and every time you do a promo, they’ll just keep coming.
Amy: Exactly. When you’re new to this and excited about marketing, you want to push your books everywhere.
It’s good to slow down and plan one promo on a certain site on Monday and a second promo on another site on Thursday. That way, you can determine which ones work for you and your book.
It may take you a year or two to work through that, but you’ll save a lot of money if you do it that way.
Thomas: You’ll also get to know what your audience wants and where they hang out as you slowly work through that list.
If you haven’t run a promo on AuthorsXP, I encourage you to check it out and give it a shot. Let us know how it goes at authormedia.social. It’s our own private social network. You can comment underneath the post for this episode.
In 2020 we launched this course on platform building. We offered it in limited beta, which meant a certain number of students went through the course as I created it.
Current modules teach you how to:
- Develop a brand that fits you and resonates with readers.
- Automate your marketing so you can focus on your writing.
- Craft blog posts readers will want to text to their friends and family.
- Build an author website that ranks high on Google
- Start your own podcast that builds a connection with your readers.
- Go on a media tour of radio, TV, and podcasts.
- Formulate a strategy that plays to your strengths and audience.
- Build an email list of subscribers who are ready to buy your book.
I’m currently working on the email module, and once it’s finished, the course will no longer be offered at the beta price.
If you have thought about taking the course, now is the time to do it. When the email module is finished, I’ll email to let you know when the beta is closing. The price of Obscure No More will be increasing significantly.
During the beta phase, I hosted live office-hours calls with the students every month where they could ask questions. I plan to continue adding modules to Obscure No More as the course continues.
Right now, the beta discount is much less than the final price will be, and it’s a one-time purchase. I’m leaning towards making Obscure No More a membership program, which means that students who sign up in the future will pay a monthly fee to maintain their access to the course. But right now, it’s still a one-time purchase for lifetime access to current and future modules.
Many of my other courses are bundled with Obscure No More, so if you’re considering buying multiple courses, it’ll probably be cheaper to get the beta discount on Obscure No More.
Leif and Dyanna Jo are devastated after she miscarries after so many years of trying to get pregnant. The miscarriage becomes a catalyst for their roller-coaster journey to becoming a foster family.
Become a Novel Marketing Patron.
If you’ve listened to the last few episodes, you know that baby Jack’s crawling journey seems to have a profound principle that can guide us as we learn how to build our careers as authors.
Jack can now move forward for short distances. He’s not truly crawling, but he can scooch his arms and move his legs in such a way that he can move forward by a body length.
This is a massive improvement over his previous backward movement. So now, he has accomplished his goal of forward movement.
But since he’s a baby, he doesn’t understand locomotion. He doesn’t know that his ultimate goal is walking. His whole motivation for crawling was to get to the toy that was out of reach. Right now, he’s just enjoying getting to the toy that’s out of reach, and he has the temptation to let his ambition diminish.
The same thing can happen in your author career.
Your first goal may have been to finish your manuscript or to get published. Once you check the box, it’s easy to ride off into the sunset. If you want your obituary to say, “She was an author,” then you’re done.
But most authors realize that they didn’t just want to write or publish a book. They wanted to make a difference.
If you want to make a difference, or a living, as an author, you can’t stop at scootching on your belly.
Eventually, Jack will want to move from one room to another, which will require good crawling technique. He’ll have to get back into the hard work mode he’s been in for the last couple of weeks. Learning to crawl is complicated. You don’t appreciate it until you see a baby doing it incorrectly.
If you’ve been coasting and enjoying having the toy, I encourage you to set a new goal.
Jack couldn’t reach the toy, but now he can, and it seems like the greatest thing in the world. But he sometimes gets stuck in a room where the party is no longer happening. His big brother and sister move to a different room, and he wants to be with them having fun. He wants to be where the action is.
Right now, his only option for joining them is to whine and hope someone carries him to the other room. But soon, he will start learning to crawl, and he’ll be crawling all over the house, following his siblings.
I’m looking forward to him advancing his crawling career, and I’m looking forward to you advancing your writing career.
Set a new achievable goal for yourself, and don’t forget to celebrate the little goals you meet along the way.