How to be a Chartbuster on the Kindle Store (An Interview With Angela White – Author of The Survivors)

We recently discovered that one of our Author Pro Subscribers had broken into the top 5 on the Kindle store. While these lists change constantly, it is still a moment to savor if you are an indie author. Especially when you notice that your book is ranked ahead of a mega author such as Stephen King (in the picture it is the book ranked #4 and titled “Survivors.”)

Editor’s Note: You can win a free copy of Angela’s book on Freado.

We requested her for an interview to share her learnings on book promotion and indie publishing with us. She graciously agreed.

Ladies and gentlemen …without further ado … we present to you, an interview with Angela White, city taxi-cab dispatcher turned charbusting author!

BB – Angela, tell us a bit about yourself and your books. You are fairly enigmatic on your Amazon bio. All we know is that you’re from Cincinnati and are a city taxi cab dispatcher.

Wow. That was a great introduction. I’m blushing. And very honored to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Stephen King. He’s a mad genius, my favorite author, and unknowing mentor. I’ve spent more a.m. hours in his universes, twitching at every little sound, than I can count. I was a third shift waitress back then and I’d pick up one of his newest paperbacks and sometimes read until noon. That’s one of those things about writers; we love to flip pages, ours or someone else’s.

Something about me that no one knows… I’m not a taxicab dispatcher anymore. Thanks to the readers, I’ve recently been able to leave my offline job. I now put in full time hours (60+) on my own material and only I, tell me what to do. It hasn’t gotten old yet. Lol (in a grateful, humble manor and wishing it on others.)

My Books. Nearly everything that comes out of my pen is about the end of the world. You’ll find a bit of romance and drama, surrounded by horror and fantasy. Perfect for a chilly evening’s pleasure. For a little while, the “Real world” won’t exist. My word on that. I’ll give you what you came for.

BB − How did you become an author?

I wrote my first book (7 pages) in elementary school for a class project. As far as I know, it’s still in their library. That’s when it began. As to how: Officially I started with AuthorHouse (Not recommended) and after spending thousands to get six dollar checks back, I did a lot of research. I get like a dog with a bone sometimes and I spent almost 6 months on it. The things you can find! Do the indie authors reading this know that they can request categories directly through Amazon? (If you don’t know why this matters, do the legwork. It’s part of the reason my books are doing so well right now. Without it, you wouldn’t be reading this.) What about free book covers and how to set up the perfect Amazon page? The information is out there for those with the determination and desire to be more than they are now. At least that’s how I see it. I discovered Amazon during my searching and from there, everything I did, I aimed at that site, from links to blog posts.

BB − Why do you write?

Why do I breathe? Because I’m supposed to. Some people take you places with a car or provide something you can see, touch and smell. I do the exact same thing. Mentally.

BB − Whom do you write for?

It used to be only for myself and if people thought it was crass or graphic, it didn’t matter. I was sure it was perfect the way it was and I refused to listen to anyone. Wasn’t all bad though, I learned from those mistakes. Now, it matters to me if the reader is satisfied.

BB – How did you feel when you discovered that your book is a top 5 book in the Amazon Kindle store? Did you go out and celebrate?

That’s a bit harder to answer. I watched my first book move from 150,000 range, up to 2,500 in right around a month. I was working The Plan (started 6/14/11 for a book that had been on and done nothing for 8 months.) but I remember thinking it had to be a fluke.
When it hit the top 20 list for fantasy series, I was still waiting for an email from KDP, telling me there had been a mistake.
I broke the top 10 about 8?9? weeks into the Plan and it became more real for me. The sequels, which had also done nothing for half a year, were moving up the charts now, which meant people were coming back for more. They liked it! Indescribable.
I still haven’t celebrated. Scared that the other shoe might drop, I suppose. You’d think I’d have tougher skin than that, after some of the reviews I’ve gotten. What I did, was get another story out there. Then another. One of those things “They” don’t tell you: One-hit wonders happen all the time. It’s the next book, where it gets hard.

BB – How do you handle negative reviews on Amazon? It seems that you are quite proactive by jumping in and responding to negative feedback going so far as to offer a refund to one of your readers! I think that is quite gracious and does wonders to build goodwill.

Ah, reviews and reviewers. You love them and loath them. Each one is critical of your most cherished possession; yourself. Living up to someone else’s expectations can be daunting to souls that come unprepared… As a writer, you let that piece be seen and all feedback, from ANY source, is supposed to be taken with a grain of salt and open ears.
Personally, I can’t ignore them, even the bad ones. I pour over their comments on edit Mondays and touch up, fix, or delete as I see fit. It bothers me to feel like I’ve stole their money with a product that wasn’t good. Yes, even for the tiny royalty I get from listing them at $.99. To be able to call myself a bestselling (or any kind of) author, I need the readers to be satisfied.
At the same time, I’ve just stopped responding to some of them. Things have gotten rough in the Amazon forums and it’s branched into reviews. They’ve grown very mean and starting a “riot” with careless words will not move my books into that coveted #1 position.

BB – You also have a Kindle Blog. How effective is this in helping you find new readers?

Publishing my blog on the Kindle is only a few weeks old. I believe most of the subscriptions I’ve gotten are current readers who want the convenience of having posts sent to them as I put them online.
As for the blog itself; It’s priceless. I use Blogger (Not Blogster!) and because it’s from Google, all posts are put instantly into the search engines, instead of having to wait until the crawlers go around every few days. Other than Amazon, My Dark Fantasy Blog is the most valuable marketing tool I use. I do pre-orders and sales from there, as well as making separate pages for upcoming and my most popular titles. It’s very easy to use too. That helps.

BB – What is your strategy on Twitter to drive sales?

Twitter is high volume at a very fast pace. If you don’t post, a lot, then this social site won’t help much. What’s a lot? Judge it on your target audience. Romances imply housewives, who get kids off, take care of chores and try to enjoy a bit of quiet before the next round of duties. How often would they be able to check in? Every thing has a target audience. Once you find yours, draw up a schedule and use HootSuite to send out the ones during your busier times.
I try to post every few hours and I spend 5 minutes a couple days a week gathering followers. I find them in the search bar, using the keywords I gave to Amazon for my book. Many of them follow me back and then see my posts. That way I’m always expanding and exposing. 2 tips about twitter:
One- They have a follow limit of 2000 until you have an untold percentage of followers. Avoid businesses and other writers. Find real people.

Two-Don’t use the same material twice in 6 months. Rehashing gets that post and future posts ignored. Un-following will follow. (Pun intended.)

BB − Did you use blurbs to help market your book?

Absolutely. You’ll never have a popular book without a great description. For every new release, I draw up a blurb before I write it and just before release. It’s also what I use on many of my Amazon book pages. Make once, use many times.

BB – What about the iBookStore? Do you spend any time tracking reactions to your book here?

I haven’t tried the Plan on other retailers yet. This one took months of research and sales watching and it’s very Amazon targeted. I’m not sure it would work anywhere else. In the future, I may make an attempt. Right now, I only sell about 10 copies a week (Total) on iTunes. I do that in hours in the Kindlestore and that’s just on one book. It’s funny, how different all the other sites are. Many of them are just not very marketing friendly to Indies’. One of them recently had to change how it listed self published books. Instead of being in all chosen categories, they were being lumped under a “Indie” button and then sorted into genres just for us. You can imagine how well that went over.

BB – Do you do any marketing on Facebook? Can you give us the link to your Facebook fan page?

Here’s my Fb link: http://www.facebook.com/Angela7white
I use Hoot, which feeds all my posts directly to twitter and FB, including those from my blog. I like being on FB but they have very strict friend gathering rules and it’s very easy to have your privileges suspended for days at a time without ever getting a reason why or even an answer to your confused inbox. I mostly use it for reader connection after they’ve already found my book on Amazon or my blog. We can talk and not be digging through streams to find each message.

BB – You also recently held a “Live Safe Haven event” on your website? What exactly was this event? How did it work out?

I built an interactive (Limited) demo that’s based on Safe Haven refugee camp, one of the bigger parts of my Life After War series. I invited the readers to check it out and then vote on if I’ll finish it. We had fun playing in the bathrooms. Sounds funny, I know.
Here’s the link: http://authorangelawhite.blogspot.com/2011/07/live-safe-haven-event-all-survivors.html. The deadline isn’t till the 30th of September so feel free to vote.

BB – Who maintains your website for you? It’s authentic and looks like it’s been crafted with passion and creativity!

Thank you! I use Webstarts for their outstanding, one of a kind features and use how to articles online to supplement their nearly non-existent support.

BB – You also have a book trailer for one of your books. How did this work for you?

Sales wise, nada. You always run into the same problem. How do you get the trailer out to people so they can find your book? Even on Youtube, unless it’s spectacular, it’s doesn’t drive new readers. I use it mostly as a blog prop to give new people a chance to “See” before I show them.

BB – How do you organize your day? When do you get the time to write? When do you get time for book promotion and marketing?

Organized! I’m rolling my eyes at me. I’m not. Other then the Plan, I don’t follow a set schedule. I write when the mood strikes and work from a daily to-do list. I try to edit and update on Mondays but can’t always. With Hoot, my posts are scheduled, so that’s what’s organized, not me!

BB – Best-selling Indie author John Locke recently signed a deal with a traditional publisher to distribute his books in physical bookstores. Do you have any such plans in mind?

I use Createspace and am securing a deal with Ingram Wholesalers and Baker and Taylor that will send my books out to millions of potential readers. I see no reason to put myself back under the thumb of a boss. I’ve just gotten my freedom and I’ll fight to keep it.

With that being said, I am very interested in this story being on the big screen or maybe redone as a mini series. I’ve always felt that way. One of those quiet dreams. We all have ‘em, right?

BB – You are also selling book related merchandise on your site. Can you tell us a little about this initiative?

The merchandising is also very new. I only offer one item right now, engraved dogtags based on my series. It makes the person an official member of Safe Haven and gives their rank in the chain of command. I hope to offer more next year, like maybe a Safe Haven bed and breakfast in SD! Another of those dreams. Lol.

BB – Any other thoughts or advice for other Indie authors who want to emulate you?

Where to start? Okay. The top 3 things you MUST do to break into the top of the charts:
• Quality material. I made the mistake of putting unedited books online and am still paying the price for it, in reviews and lost readers. Find an editor. For free? I did. And I loved it so much that I begged him to take me on as a client. (I adore you, Daryn Malof, my wonderfully talented, kayaking, English Professing editor!) The difference it’s made is incredible.
Many teachers, especially in today’s economy, are looking for extra work. Talk one of them into taking a look and make a deal based on a percentage of copies sold.

• “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever get there?” I love that quote. Without a Plan, nothing will fall into place. Draw up a 6 month sheet that covers everything from marketing to editing and use Hoot or another app to keep your time free. I recommend a large desk calendar.

• You really only need your book (Quality material) and the reader. Reviews will come in on their own and until then, a great price is a solid remedy to no (And sometimes bad) reviews. The cover art and even the actual epub creation, YOU CAN do yourself. I pay for nothing that I don’t have to and spend less than $45 a month on promotions.

Thank you very much for allowing me to share some thoughts. I’m honored to be here on Freado, one of the best Author marketing sites and I’d be happy to try to help if anyone wants to ask a question. For now, I hear my pen calling. It says my new release, Bone Dust & Beginnings, is ready to be uploaded to Amazon. Yeah!

Have a great week everyone,
Angela White
Teller of Stories

Naveen
Naveen is the Customer Support Executive and Social Media Manager at BookBuzzr. When he is not working or playing GTA, he is working on finishing his graduation.

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  1. wakincade@gmail.com'weston Kincade

    Congratulations Angela. It’s good to hear the experiences of an indie author making the grade. I’ll be sure to check out HootSuite as soon as I get off work. I’m an English teacher and writer, so laughed when you mentioned your editor’s profession.

  2. phil@ideasdigital.com'Phil South

    Great piece, and thanks Angela for sharing. Bit confused though. She keeps mentioning “The Plan” what is she talking about there and can she elaborate on that?

    I’ve read a lot of “How [successful writer] promoted their book and sold loads” pieces and they can be a little thin on what they actually did to achieve the amount of readers they did. Just want to be sure I understand what the plan was…

  3. hunter.ts@btinternet.com'Scott Hunter

    Great stuff Angela – you’re right about the determination factor. Keep going, never give up. Right now I’m delighted that my novel ‘The Trespass’ has broken into the top 100 on Amazon ‘Action and Adventure’ chart ahead of Wilbur Smith! Bookbuzzr have been great!

    Looking forward to reading your novels!

    Best Rgds,

    Scott Hunter

  4. emily_s_hill@hotmail.com'Emily Hill

    Dear Angela,

    What an inspirational, heartwarming story. I read your BookBuzzr interview with great interest. How generous to share which tips worked for You. How many of us IndieAuthors are cheering on your success – Countless Numbers…Brava!

  5. herocious@hotmail.com'herocious

    Enjoyed the interview. How exactly do you spend the $45? Where are you buying advertising spots? Just curious. You can email me here: herocious AT hotmail

  6. pzmiller@gmail.com'Phyllis Zimbler Miller

    Angela —

    I have a question regarding this statement of yours:

    “I use Createspace and am securing a deal with Ingram Wholesalers and Baker and Taylor that will send my books out to millions of potential readers.”

    Is this option available to any CreateSpace author or only to a successful author such as yourself?

    If available to anyone, would you be willing to share your contact person? (Did you go through CreateSpace or through the other end — Ingram & Baker and Taylor?)

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller
    http://twitter.com/ZimblerMiller

  7. mdohnoutka@yahoo.com'Melissa Ohnoutka

    Great interview! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m so glad to hear success is still possible if you struggle in the organization area. LOL Wishing you the Best of Luck for the future!

    Melissa

  8. me@barrycrowther.com'Barry Crowther

    I’m with Phil, what’s The Plan that keeps getting mentioned. This was a question I asked John Locke and we had to buy his ‘How I Sold Millions…’ before all was revealed.

    Is it real, or do we need to wait for the eBook?

    Just a thought
    Great and inspirational Blog post
    Thanks
    Barry

  9. pzmiller@gmail.com'Phyllis Zimbler Miller

    Angela —

    Thank you so much for the info about Baker and Taylor & Ingram.

    I always use CreateSpace because of the Amazon connection. I just self-published my 86-year-old father’s first book, “The Love Life of Howard Handsome and Other Short Stories,” through CreateSpace, and within three days of my approving it for publishing the book was available on Amazon!

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller
    http://twitter.com/ZimblerMiller

  10. emily_s_hill@hotmail.com'Emily Hill

    Dear All,

    I have published to Ingram’s Lightning Source and have a year of experience with them…some cautionary notes for those who are going to proceed with that option. This is MY experience, if your book is THROUGH the system [ALL DONE AND UP]; please chime in.

    First know that you make application and pay fees to become an Ingram publisher. I have a micro-publisher registration. I have one Tweet friend whose book ranks at 100,000 and they have not yet accepted him.

    Their application fee, plus book cover upload and separate-pay interior upload; plus galley proof shipping cost about $200. I opted for the print-on-demand contract and paid an additional $60 to get into the print catalog.

    I am retired, all I do is marketing, client’s work, news releases and social media. Oh! and write for some time each day ;D My downside is being in the historical fiction genre [yawn, to most people]. I have made $35 in the past seven months on the Barnes & Noble brick and mortar sales through Ingram. Their payments begin SEVEN months after you put your label into their system. It is SLOW money. The Lightning Source upload process is not ‘linked’. The first screen takes you to the first upload step, but once you are in the labyrinth, it doesn’t link you to a progression.

    A client of mine opted NOT for the print-on-demand contract as she is paying Lightning Source [not for storage] but to have Lightning Source SHIP 2 books to 25 stores [with no marketing to those stores]. If the two books are not found by shoppers in the store, she will pay to have them sent back to the Lightning Source warehouse and re-shipped to other stores. I heard from my own ‘Auntie Em’ that authors have gone broke just from having their books shipped all over the nation.

    Proceed very carefully with the Ingram Lightning Source option, as you read their contract, put each piece into play in your mind, and then hop in! Your first check will arrive seven months from now.

    Signed,
    Auntie Em

  11. jim@jimdonovan.com'Jim Donovan

    It was interesting for me to read Angela’s interview because, having had success in traditional, paperback books, I guess I was expecting some “magic bullet” technique for selling Kindle books.

    Of course success with a Kindle book, as with a paperback or anything else, is simply a matter of having a plan and taking daily action to execute it.

    The advent of Kindle and other eBook platforms is bringing more opportunity to authors than anything that’s ever come before, however, it still comes down to marketing and publicity.

    You have to connect with real people and give them a way to get to know, like and trust you. From there, they’ll buy what you have on their own.

  12. me@barrycrowther.com'Barry Crowther

    Hi Angela, Thanks for the feedback. I looked high and low for this 45 day plan … and I’m in the online business, I drove myself nuts. This makes more sense now. More reviews, connecting socially and blogging. I’m doing most of those things and it works well, sales are good. I’m in a pretty competitive category with ‘mystery and thrillers’ so I’m always there or thereabouts but cracking the top 20 is really hard.

    I laughed because some guy with a 45 day plan popped up on my searches. He was buying 3 copies of his own book every day for 45 days and made #1 in a super slim non-fiction category lol. Wonder how much it cost him??

    Thanks for all your help and insights they really are appreciated.

    Regards
    Barry

  13. emily_s_hill@hotmail.com'Emily Hill

    Barry, The buy-my-own-book plan would cost at least $325. Possibly it’s worth it. ;D My first month of being published I got hooked into Google Ads – Lordy! – THAT cost a bundle (okay, I’ll spill) $800 later I realized what I had done by putting my ad campaign into an auction system where I’m bidding for ads against hugely deep corporate pockets. Because I was ‘selling’ my pubCoaching service, and my ‘All Smart Cookies Can Self-Publish’ guide I was going against LuLu, Taggart et al – big corporate money – it was costing me $8 every time some clicked my ad, because THAT is what real estate for the self-publishing ‘Google first-page postion’ cost back then.

    Actually, as I type this…$325 looks pretty cheap if one’s objective is being in the Top 100. I like my writing,,,gosh,,,I think I’ll go on over a buy a few copies of myself. lol

  14. me@barrycrowther.com'Barry Crowther

    Emily, those Adwords fiends will get you every time. I’m a consultant in the SEO field so I see this a lot. Unless you have a high ticket item it’s difficult to make any money using pay per click systems.

    Not sure the buy your own book strategy is real or even works, I wish I could find the link now! The guy must have opened a few Amazon accounts to do this kind of stuff and to be number one in a real small non-fiction category doesn’t sound like a winner.

    Maybe we should all just buy each others books!? Cool! We’ll all be millionaires this time next year lol

  15. ginnyrose12@juno.com'Virginia Richter

    Hi Angela, What an inspiring interview! I would like to hire an editor for my next book, but cannot figure out how to find a good one. Could I hire Daryn Malof? I could use some guidance on this. I have seen some edits that are very poor. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience. My best, Ginny Richter

  16. Sky@skypurington.com'Sky Purington

    Super post, Angela! I’ve been with a publisher for years and recently went indie with one of my series. So far, so good but it takes alot of hard work and determination. All worth it though. You taught me a few more things. Thank you so much and wishing you great success always! ~Sky

  17. authormichellehughes@gmail.com'Michelle Hughes (@MichelleHughes_)

    Thanks for the great post Angela I have to admit I went searching for that 45 day plan LOL. I watch my Amazon sales rank numbers like a obsessive stalker and believe me there are days I’m ready to stake Amazon LOL. I really had some super blond moment last week when I decided to publish to ibooks and Nook. Don’t know why it didn’t hit me in the head sooner like a frying pan that not everyone has a Kindle. Any comments about me being from Alabama after that confession will result in you being smacked around *KIDDING*

    As far as an editor, coming from a chick who types faster than her brain can keep up, absolutely a must have. I made that mistake with the first release of my book and look back in horror and how horrible it was. I released the book again adding a few words to the title. Get an editor please and save yourself the embarrassment I went through.

    Truly,
    Michelle
    @MichelleHughes_ on twitter