16 Key Ways to Sell eBooks, Drive Reviews (and Maybe Land on the New York Times Bestseller List)

By Laura Pepper Wu

About the Speaker: Ingrid Ricks’ self-published memoir, Hippie Boy, recently hit the New York Times eBook bestseller list and was quickly acquired by Penguin Group imprint Berkley for a nationwide print launch in January.

Ingrid gave a lively and jam-packed talk about her success as an indie author, as well as how she made the NYT bestseller list which ultimately landed her a traditional book deal with Berkley earlier this year. Here is a summary of her talk.

Ingrid’s first point was about the length of the books she has written – and her advice to others regarding that. In her experience, short eBooks (30,000 words) sell much better than short story collections of the same length.

Ingrid’s thoughts on this is that promo sites rarely pick up short story collections. So if you have a short story collection, her advice is to consider taking each short story and either publishing it as a Kindle Single, or expanding it into a 30,000 word story.

Pricing: $3.99 is sweet spot. Experiment. $3.99 – $4.99 are good places to start.

Key lessons from Ingrid’s author career so far:

  1. It’s never too early to build an author brand, and it’s important to build your author brand not your book. Ingrid made the mistake early on of naming her website and Facebook page with her book’s name, and then having to start over again later on in her career.
  2. What is your key message? Build a brand around that. Ingrid’s message is helping others to reach their dreams, fulfill their potential, and tell their story. Check out
  3. Build your social media accounts under your author name, not your book.
  4. Get familiar with GoodReads. It can be a great place to meet readers and fellow authors who can help you cross promote.
  5. Join social media groups connected to your book’s subject matter. In Ingrid’s case – Former Mormons, Women writers, Memoirists etc.
  6. Use open submission platforms – Scribd, Open Salon. Both places increased the exposure to her work and website a lot.
  7. COVERS: BookBub did a recent study on book cover trends. Dogs, cute kids, beaches, topless men, beautiful images like cookery. In addition, the cover should pop as a thumbnail.
  8. Book description – it’s got to be compelling. No typos as promo sites won’t feature you if you have them, and readers won’t buy. Don’t ruin your chances of reaching your full sales potential because you whipped up a description that doesn’t do your work justice. If you’ve won awards, be sure to put them in your description.
  9. Use Author Central – and fill out one separately for each country. Eg.
  10. Get Reviews! – Promo blogs won’t pick up book unless you have reviews. You’ll need an average 4 star rating and 20 + reviews.
  11. A good way to get reviews = Library Thing – free to do an eBook giveaway. Also, ask book bloggers, and if you have a paperback, send it off for a Booklist review.
  12. Industry reviews make the world of difference. It costs nothing to send a paperback off to Booklist, but it made the world of difference to Hippie Boy’s success.
  13. Promotional blogs are critical. Successful authors are all utilizing the power of promo sites such as BookBub, Bookblast, Book Gorilla etc.
  14. Paid promotions: Get a BookBub listing, and then build other promos around it. Submit to other places – Book Blast, Book Gorilla, etc. to build momentum and keep the book selling.
  15. Always keep experimenting and testing.
  16. KDP Select can work. A BookBub listing for the book as free resulted in 32,000 downloads in the 3 days afterwards, and $3000+ in sales after the fact. Well worth the BookBub listing fee!

Very Important Advice! Make your book the best it can be and don’t rush it. Because of the ease of self publishing, people get trigger happy. Ingrid waited 6 months to work with a developmental editor who came highly recommended – this ensured the book was top notch and it paid off in the long run.

In Ingrid’s opinion, you need more than one book to be a successful author – 6 is the magic number. Books cross promote books. You can run a promo once or twice a year and sell across the board consistently.

And now for the part everyone was curious about: How Ingrid got Hippie Boy book on the NYT bestseller list!

In her words:

“I wrote the best book I could write, hired a great developmental editor, created a cover that popped, wrote a compelling description, got industry reviews, and sought out timely media opportunities.”

Note: A necessity to making NYT list is to have great sales on several retail platforms. So having book enrolled in KDP Select is going to prevent this.

Conclusion – Your book has an endless shelf life, so keep promoting it long term. New marketing opportunities are always emerging, and it can often seem like there is just too much to do! When you feel overwhelmed, take a breather and write more books, success doesn’t have to happen over night!

Check out Ingrid’s website here: Hippie Boy will be re-released in January 2014. Her other books are available on Amazon.

Meet-Laura-199x300About the writer: Laura Pepper Wu is a freelance writer and editor at The Write Life Magazine. She lives in Seattle where she enjoys reading, writing, and hiking with her dog – often in the rain! Find out more about the digital magazine for writers, published monthly at Follow her on Twitter @LauraPepWu.

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