The Marketing Mind Shift And The Power Of Ad Stacking With Ricci Wolman

How can you shift your mindset in order to reach more readers with your books? How can you leverage the tools available for authors to sell more copies? Ricci Wolman from Written Word Media gives her tips.

In the intro, The Hotsheet useful newsletter; Book publishing is broken; In the US, the Federal Trade Commission is about to launch the antitrust lawsuit against Amazon [Politico] and a thought experiment; The Authors Guild trains authors on AI tools, and so does the IPG, and so does Publishers Weekly. Google rolls AI writing into Docs and Gmail. is live — use discount coupon LAUNCH for 15% off all books in all formats until the end of August 2023. Catacomb is available on my store and also everywhere else.


Today’s show is sponsored by Draft2Digital, where you can get free ebook formatting, free distribution to multiple stores, and a host of other benefits. Get your free Author Marketing Guide at

Ricci Wolman is the founder and CEO of Written Word Media, a marketing platform that empowers authors to market and sell their books. Ricci has been in the self-publishing space for nearly a decade. She holds an MBA from Harvard, and is passionate about using her marketing powers for good.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Creating a positive attitude towards marketing
  • Separating ourselves from our art to become business-minded
  • What Written Word Media offers authors and readers
  • Ad stacking — what it is and why it’s so successful
  • Price differences when marketing different genres
  • The many aspects that make up the marketing ecosystem
  • The future of selling direct while utilizing promo services

You can find Ricci at and you can use my affiliate link here if you fancy checking out the Membership while supporting the show.

Transcript of Interview with Ricci Wolman

Joanna: Ricci Wolman is the founder and CEO of Written Word Media, a marketing platform that empowers authors to market and sell their books. Ricci has been in the self-publishing space for nearly a decade. She holds an MBA from Harvard, and is passionate about using her marketing powers for good. So welcome back to the show, Ricci.

Ricci: Thanks, Joanna. So nice to be here.

Joanna: Oh, yes. So I wanted to take you back a little bit. You started out in banking and then moved into corporate marketing.

Tell us a bit more about why you wanted to start your own company, and why in the author space? Because frankly, there are more profitable businesses.

Why do you care about books and marketing?

Ricci: Yeah, absolutely. So I would say the entrepreneurial thing came first. I always knew I wanted to start and run my own company, it was just a matter of when and how. So that had always been in the back of my mind, even as I was going through my different corporate jobs.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do that within the books and book marketing space, due to really just luck in a personal story, which is that my mom was self-publishing a book. This is all the way back in 2009/10 ish, when self-publishing was fairly new. And being the tech-savvy daughter in the family, I was helping her get her files uploaded and learn how the KDP platform worked. 

My background was in marketing, as you alluded to, and so through the process of helping her publish her book, it became very clear to me that there was a lack of resources for authors when it came to marketing their books. That’s how Freebooksy was born, which was our very first promo site. It really just started, honestly, as a Facebook group. And that has now grown to the Written Word Media platform.

So it’s been a wonderful journey. I myself am an avid reader. I’m a big believer in books. So it’s a confluence of events and a lot of luck that brought me to an entrepreneurial trajectory within the books and self-publishing space.

Joanna: And certainly, I jumped on board with Freebooksy really early on, and over the years, we’ve become friends. I was just listening to you there, and I’ve known you for so long that I’m used to your accent, but just—

Tell people a bit about your background and what your accent is, in case they don’t realize.

Yes, absolutely. Well, right now, at this point in my life, it’s very blended.

But it started out as a full-blown native South African accent. That is where I was born and raised, from Johannesburg. I lived there all the way through my initial schooling. I came to the States when I was 17 for college, and this is home now. It’s quite a crazy thing, and now I’ve spent more of my life and time in the States than I had in South Africa.

Some of that time was in New York and Boston, now I actually live down south in North Carolina. So it’s a blended South African/American with a little touch of southern in it, if people are trying to place it.

Joanna: I love your accent!

Let’s take it up to the level of marketing in general, because many authors struggle. It probably is, apart from actually writing the book, which is one struggle, many writers also struggle with marketing.

I feel like there still is this feeling of, “if my book is good enough, then readers will just find it, that somehow quality will out.” I feel like that’s almost a defeatist attitude.

How can authors reframe marketing to be more of a positive choice, something even creative and worth investing in?

Ricci: Yeah, and I wish that were true, that a book that’s fantastic and good enough would somehow rise to the top without any marketing.

That is not true, and it’s not true of really any product or service or idea, really, that’s out there in the world.

Even some of the most amazing ideas need some marketing behind them so that they can reach a critical mass of people to make an impact.

Ricci: The first thing I would say is for authors to understand that this is true for everything across the board, to not take it personally. It’s not necessarily just around books in the book industry, this is just the way that it is. It does take some effort to get a spotlight and put some attention on your work.

The other thing I would say is that there’s a mind shift that needs to happen. And as somebody who owns my own business, I’ve struggled with this as well.

When I first started Freebooksy and Written Word Media, I felt a little cringy about marketing. I think that’s part of it for authors as well. It’s like, well, I’m not a salesperson, I’m a writer. And for me, it was like, I’m not a salesperson, I’m just trying to offer a service that helps authors.

So how do you reframe that from being, hey, I’m pushing or trying to sell, to something that’s more positive? And the truth is, is that —

The book that you have written is going to bring a lot of joy to the readers who are the right fit for it, and I think that’s where it would be helpful for authors to focus.

Instead of thinking about marketing as, hey, I’m trying to sell more of my books, think about marketing as a way to reach more people and impact more lives, and that the people are out there waiting to read your book, but they don’t know about it.

You’re actually doing a service to them by helping them discover the book that you have written.

That’s on the mind shift piece of it. The first element is you have to get comfortable psychologically with selling and marketing your book. Then the second piece is, okay, now that you’re comfortable, what channels and tactics do you choose in order to get your message out there?

Joanna: Yeah, we’ll come back on that.

It’s interesting, you mentioned there that marketing has to be done, and it’s true for any product, any service, any idea.

I feel like this is something that authors struggle with, because on the one hand, we feel like we’re artists and creatives, so we don’t want to think that our book is the same as any other product. Like you said, it’s a mind shift, which I completely get, but it’s almost like—

How do we separate ourselves from the art to become a business person?

Ricci: Yeah, I understand that perspective, and it is challenging, but you can even look at some of the artists within other mediums. Painters have art shows, right. They get galleries to pick them up, and they have art shows, and people go to those art shows to see the work.

So in every realm of creativity, there is an element of marketing.

Otherwise, people would be creating wonderful works, whether that be art or fiction, and it would be sitting in a room at home or sitting in a drawer in your desk. So it does feel maybe not a natural place to go, but I think trying to zoom out and understand that it is part and parcel of being an artist is also showing your work might help authors feel differently about it.

Joanna: Yes, I mean, for me, people often ask how I balance my time. What I tend to say is —

In the mornings, I do creative work, and in the afternoons, I do marketing and business.

I just call it business, which is everything to do with marketing, getting it out there, and accounting and all of these things, interviews like this, and other stuff like that. So I almost divide my time into two, and that helps me almost divide my head into two, around how I need to separate the artist and the business person.

Ricci: Absolutely, and I think for each author, it’s going to be different. It’s a spectrum, right.

You can spend 100% of your time writing, and if that’s all you want to do, that’s okay, but then you need to hire somebody to wear the business hat and do the marketing.

Or you might be an author who, like yourself, Joanna, is fine with the 50/50. Or you might be somebody who the marketing comes very naturally to you, and you actually love it, and so you want someone to spend 75% of your time on the marketing, and only 25% of your time on the writing. So I do think it’s a personal choice, and it’s very specific to each author, and their personality, and what they feel called to.

Joanna: So you talk there about hiring someone, and of course, that’s one of the things we do with Freebooksy, Bargain Booksy, and what Written Word Media does is essentially we’re paying for marketing services.

You were last on the show in 2015, which is kind of crazy. I didn’t realize it been so long.

Ricci: Me neither.

Joanna: I know, it’s crazy. Time flies.

Written Word Media has moved on a lot since you were last on the show in 2015. So if people only know Freebooksy and/or Bargain Booksy, why don’t you tell us like—

What is going on at Written Word Media? What can authors and readers find?

Ricci: Yeah, so we have grown and evolved a lot since 2015. And what I’m going to share with you is the metaphor that we share internally about what our vision for the platform is and how we’re building that out.

So if you think about where we started and when we chatted in 2015, we had a few promo sites, Freebooksy, Bargain Booksy, and probably Red Feather Romance were the most known or the ones that were around at that time.

The promo sites are just a super effective way to market your book in a time-efficient manner.

So what we do is we go out there and we aggregate groups of readers, and then we put your book in front of readers that are most likely to purchase or download the book. So very similar to Book Bub, we just happen to have a family of brands that do that, we don’t have one single brand like Book Bub. 

The way to think about that is we had one really successful ride — promo sites — that work well for authors and authors really enjoyed riding.

And over time authors have come to us and said, hey, I need help with other types of things.

So what our vision is we want to build out this theme park for authors that has a lot of really fun marketing rides.

The key point here is fun. I know marketing is stressful and daunting for so many authors, and so what we’re trying to do is take that piece away and bring the joy back to it. So everything that we do, every product that we launch, has that in mind. How can we make this easy and fun for authors?

So we have, if you think about a theme park, we have our promo sites as part of it, where we have Freebooksy, Bargain Booksy, Red Feather, we have Audio Thicket, we have NewInBooks, and we’re actually starting to bring on partners. We now have Hello Books and Fussy Librarian.

So we have this really robust corner of the park that’s all around promo sites, and if you just want to run a promo in one of those newsletters, there it is, easy peasy.

We’ve also built out a section of the park called Reader Reach. This is all around Facebook and Amazon ads.

So if you want someone else to run your Facebook ads, your Amazon ads, you would come to Reader Reach side of the park. One of the things that we really love about that product is that we do everything for you. So the creative, the ad copy, the targeting, and we’re able to leverage a lot of the audiences that we have and the data we have to actually be more effective at running some of those ads, then maybe an author could do on their own. 

Over time, what we’re hoping to do is to continue adding different rides, different areas of the park, that authors need and are going to find fun and exciting. So if you want to come into the park, you can walk right in and go to any section of the park, jump on the ride.

We also do have the equivalent of a VIP pass, which is our membership program.

So you can sign up to be a gold or platinum member. (affiliate link)

With that program, that gives you preferential access to some of the rides, it gives you access to rides that we’re testing, so any kind of beta products that we have, it gives you access to a bunch of discounts for other vendors in the space.

So you can picture that as there’s a Reedsy (affiliate link) kiosk, and if you want to use Reedsy, they’re going to give you a coupon because you’re using Reedsy because you came in through the park. Then you also get discounts on every ride that you ride, to the point that if you use your membership well, you actually make back a return on your investment.

So if you buy gold membership for $125, and you ride enough rides, you actually get $250 back in value.

So that’s a way for us to say thank you to authors that really want to stay in the park and ride everything. It’s also a way for authors to say, hey, I love what you’re doing, I’m happy to pay an annual fee. Then we’re taking that and reinvesting it in building a bunch of new rides for the future.

So that’s the vision, which is very different from when we chatted in 2015. So the last thing I’ll say about the rides is that there’s one experience that we have built very recently, and that’s the promo stacking experience.

I’d love to talk about promo stacking in more detail, but —

One of the most effective marketing techniques is for authors to have a concerted marketing strategy around a price drop or a discount.

So instead of just running Freebooksy, you run multiple promo sites.

That tends to be quite time-consuming and arduous to organize, and so one of the experiences we’ve put together is promo stacking bundles.

So you can walk right to that section of the park that’s all around promos, and tell us, “Hey, I’m going to run a five day promo,” and we’ll put all the elements together for you. So we’re super excited about that experience. It’s the first time we’ve done something like that. So far, the reception by authors has been very resoundingly positive.

Joanna: Lots to unpack there. I love the theme park. I think it’s hilarious, actually. I mean, I think it’s great that you’re so enthusiastic and your team is so enthusiastic about marketing that you’ve made it a theme park. I think for most authors, it’s like marketing is not fun, but if you can make it more fun, then I think that’s a great selling point. 

I mean, the ad stacking, in particular, I think is interesting, and I joined the membership just a few months ago.

One of the things I like, and we’ll come back on ad stacking, one of the things I like is almost the reminder to myself.

You do get emails, so if you run a Freebooksy or a Bargain Booksy, or one of the rides, you’ll get an email which says, “It’s been 90 days since you last ran an ad. Do you want to do another one?” And I actually find that really simple thing very useful because time just flies, and I’m like, okay, it’s time to reschedule, which I think is great.

I was going to ask you, because I think other people might be thinking it—

If you run something every 90 days, how do we guarantee that there are new readers? How are you refreshing your readers on that side of things?

Ricci: Yeah, that’s a great question.

So for us, marketing is fun. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, in terms of, we think theme park, we think fun. This is what we do day in and day out, and everybody’s really excited about marketing.

What we do consistently, day in and day out, is continue to build our reader audience. So, much of the membership fees and what you’re paying for promos gets reinvested into marketing to build up the lists.

The reason that we recommend waiting 90 days, or at least 60, is we want to make sure that we have enough new readers on there so that you’re going to see great performance every time you promote with us. 

So I’m not going to share our secret sauce of how we get those readers, but what I can tell you is that we are adding tens of thousands of new readers every month.

We literally track it on a weekly basis how many new readers are added to every single promo site, to make sure that we’re hitting our targets. We have a slew of different marketing channels and a team that is focused on doing that every day.

Joanna: And then I guess the other question, because this is a global show—

Is this primarily US-focused? Or what can people expect around the international side?

Yeah, so the homegrown Written Word Media sites are primarily US-focused, but we have been candidly lacking in terms of an international audience, and that’s where this partnership with Hello Books comes in that we’re super excited about.

So about a month ago, we announced that we have the strategic partnership with Hello Books. Hello Books is now a ride inside of the Written Word Media park. We are actually managing all of the kind of back end, we’re running the ride for Hello Books. 

Ricci: Hello Books has a much more diverse audience. There are, of course, US readers, but there are a lot more readers from the UK, Canada, Australia. It has international reach.

So the goal is to continue to grow that audience with a focus on the international readers so that we can provide full-service marketing for authors who want to reach all audiences, not just a US audience.

Joanna: And then still drilling down into what’s available, people write different genres, and each of these offerings is genre specific.

What have you found are the best-performing genres? How are they broken down?

Ricci: Yeah, so the way that we think about it is, we don’t play favorites with genres, but there is a natural demand curve when it comes to genres.

So romance, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, those are all very popular genres. So the audiences that we are able to build there tend to be very large, and so when you go into buy a promo, you’ll see that the pricing for a promo for those genres are going to be more expensive. They’re only more expensive because you can get back that return because the audience is so large.

Ricci: Then there are other genres which are just as valuable, but tend to maybe be less popular in terms of the general audience, like literary fiction, or children’s, or LGBTQ. So we also build out those audiences, but when you go into purchase a promo, those will be cheaper.

So let’s say you spend $30 on a promo for lit fic on Bargain Booksy, the expectation is you will make that back in sales. Because the audience is so much bigger on mystery, if you spend $80 on mystery, you’ll make that back in sales.

So we’re actually able to configure our pricing to make sure that no matter what genre you’re publishing in, you are going to get a return, but there is of course disparity in the number of readers who are interested in each particular genre.

Joanna: What about non-fiction?

Ricci: Yeah, non-fiction, I would say, is squarely in the middle.

In terms of audience, non-fiction is trickier because there’s so many sub genres within non-fiction. So calling non-fiction one genre is a little anathema because within that you might have biography and memoir, there’s self-help and how-to, there’s cookbooks, there’s history.

What we’ve done is try to break down non-fiction into the top three or four sub-genres of non-fiction, and then we go and build those reader lists on those specific interests and, as well, price it up accordingly.

I will say, non-fiction, especially business, is probably the one genre where there is so much more author supply than demand. So there are a lot of books being written in that genre, but there’s not as much demand from readers. Not because readers aren’t interested, but just because there’s so much to choose from.

So if you’re interested in reading business books, maybe you read one a month, but there are probably thousands out there that you could be reading. So we do find that to be kind of the most mismatched genre in terms of supply and demand.

Joanna: That’s interesting because as a non-fiction reader, I’m quite different to a fiction reader.

And Written Word Media specializes in digital, but with non-fiction a lot of people read in print, or even hardback, and also, I think pay top price rather than necessarily looking at promo sites.

So I think it’s just a totally different market, although personally, I’d like to do more non-fiction promotions. I feel like the market is quite different to the voracious fiction eBook reading market.

Ricci: That’s correct, and what happens in non-fiction is you tend to get these breakout books, and then they stay on the charts for much, much longer.

This is a trad book, but I think Atomic Habits has been on the top charts of non-fiction for years now. And it’s like, there are lots of other really amazing books around habit building and productivity, yet, James has a kind of a lock on that market.

So the non-fiction tends to have more of this momentum somehow, where it’s really harder to knock some of the kings and queens off of their pedestals there. So it’s more competitive somehow.

Joanna: Yeah, just different. Let’s come back to the ad stacking.

Back in 2014, I can’t believe it so long, I was part of the Deadly Dozen, twelve thriller writers organized by Diane Capri, a fantastic author, and we hit the New York Times list and the USA Today list.

NYTimes Deadly Dozen130314

And we used essentially, the ad stacking design, which as you mentioned is sort of multiple promotions on different days during the week of measurement of the bestseller list

It’s so interesting because almost a decade later, ad stacking is still a good idea.

So maybe you could explain a bit more about what it is. And I guess since this is about marketing in general—

What are some of the other sites that authors might put together or some of the other things they might do if they wanted to make a run on a bestseller list?

Now the USA Today is back, by the way.

Ricci: Yes. I saw that. Yes. Thank goodness, we need as many bestseller lists as possible. So I was glad to see that. Yeah, your dirty dozen promotion.

Joanna: Deadly Dozen.

Ricci: Sorry, Deadly Dozen, of course. Your Deadly Dozen promotion was super successful because I think you all, I think it was 12 authors, did such a fantastic job of executing on promo stacking.

Another kind of analogy that I try to use when educating authors about this is to think about the last time you were maybe sitting in a symphony hall or going to see a Broadway show, and you’re sitting in the audience and the orchestra down front, they start tuning just before the show.

So you might hear a cello or violin, and you hear it and you kind of look up for a minute, and then you go back to talking to the person next to you. Maybe a drumbeat goes, you look up for a minute, then you go back to the person sitting next to you.

But then when the whole orchestra starts together, that first note, everybody looks up and a hush falls on the audience. And that, to me, is what promo stacking is.

If you promote on just one site, you are going to have a small impact.

You’re going to get some people who look up and say, okay, there’s that book, that’s interesting. But if you have this concerted effort that all happens together, you get this burst of activity that grabs everyone’s attention, so that the promotions themselves actually give you results that are greater than the sum of its parts.

Having each one of the instruments and the orchestra playing together is so much more powerful. 

So that’s why, we’re just the beginning stages of this, but we’re really going to be trying to build out as many different promo stacking options as possible for authors that we have found to be successful.

The promo stacking, generally, authors are choosing between three or five day runs. The reason that it’s kind of maxed out at five is just because of the price drops through KDP.

If you’re actually using KDP Select and their price drops, five is the maximum that you can drop your price. So it’s not necessarily that five days is optimal, but it’s just kind of where the industry standard has come to. 

What we found to be most effective is you want to email, email, email.

So email your own list, use promo sites, as many as possible to get your book out via email to readers, doing any kind of email list swaps with other authors that you’re friendly with.

Then what we also like to do is put a baseline Facebook ads campaign, like a five day Facebook ads campaign that runs over the whole five days to give you some foundational sales which smooths out some of the highs and lows that can come from the different emails.

So if you were to go to the site today, and you go to our promo stacking interface, what you’ll see are some three and five day promo stacks. We’ve already put those elements together for you. The Facebook ads, plus say, a Bargain Booksy, and Hello Books, and an eReaderIQ.

Or if you’re doing a free book, it’s Facebook ads, a Freebooksy promo, a Fussy Librarian promo, and maybe one other thing. So the goal is that we’ll continue to expand the different elements that can be incorporated into those promo stacks, but we already have some really compelling ones out there.

The last thing I’ll say on that is the thing that I’m most excited about is, I have done promo stacking before, as I said, my mom has books. So I have gone to every different site and set these promo stacks up, and it takes hours. It takes hours of coordination, I have a spreadsheet, I’m figuring out my dates, I’m going to each site, I have to put my payment method in every time. Some of the sites don’t confirm until a few days later, so you think you’ve got your stack set up, and then they write you back and say, sorry, that day is not available. Then you have to kind of reformulate everything.

The reason that we’ve picked this as one of the first places to go for experiences is because it is so painful, and it is so time-consuming.

And we’ve structured it to take all that pain out.

So you come to us, we’re booking on all the sites, the minute you book, it’s guaranteed those dates are set, you check out once. Something that used to take maybe 8 to 10 hours, now can literally take five minutes. I’m a big productivity person, always looking for shortcuts, and so this promo stacking tool that we have is the ultimate shortcut for authors.

Joanna: Yeah, it is fantastic.

What I do want to say, though, it’s obviously not free. It is a product that people are paying for, this service.

So I think maybe we should talk about what it is good for. For example, a brand new author, their first book, no reviews, possibly not the way to make their money back, although of course, you do have NewInBooks as one of the sites.

What would be your best recommendation for booking these types of spike marketing campaigns with the ad stacking?

In order that people can see the sell-through and can at least hopefully make their money back?

Ricci: Yeah, and our goal is always for authors to get that return back. So we’re always monitoring results and setting our pricing accordingly. So your question is a really good one, and it depends is the answer. It depends on where you are in your author journey and what your goals are.

So if we’re starting with somebody who has a newly published titled, and you’re trying to build reviews, and you’re trying to sell some copies of the book, get some traction.

The other element here is you do have to educate the algorithms, Amazon being the most important one, but slowly but surely Apple and Google, this is on eBooks specifically, are starting to take a little bit of share. For that type of title, I would recommend a free run. 

For a free run, you don’t actually have to do it for that long. You could do a one-day or a three-day free run where you set your book to free. And what’ll happen is you’ll do a promo stack, you’ll see a spike in downloads, and if you’re in KU, which most of the time you will be if you’re doing a free day, you actually get paid out on any reads that you get even when your book is free.

I really love that element of it for authors who are exclusive, or at least exclusive when they first launch the book, and then maybe you pull the book out after.

So free is good. It also generates a ton of reviews, and it teaches Amazon very quickly who the right readers are for you.

When we talked about that symphony, you’re trying to get the attention of readers, but you’re also very much trying to get the attention of the retailer where your book is being sold, and that’s one way to do it.

Once you get the attention of the retailer, once the algorithm figures out, hey, this is a book that has traction, this is who the audience is, it will start doing some marketing on your behalf.

It starts to show it in books you might like, it starts to send emails to readers, including that title. So you know, free for a newly published title tends to be very powerful.

Free is also very powerful if you have a series. And if you put book one as free, it really helps your read-through.

So you see a lift in sales of all the other titles in your series, so we love that.

If you’re looking for just a straight return, where you have a title that’s kind of the baseline sales are a little lower than you’d like, that’s when doing a 99 cent or $1.99 promo over a five day period would really help you to climb the charts again, spur some activity, get this halo effect going for increased visibility.

Then after the promo, you should be at a higher baseline level of sales than you were before.

Joanna: Yeah, I think the main point is you’ve got to know what you want to achieve, and then do your promotions around that.

So we’re certainly not saying just jump in and pick something, you really have to think about your marketing strategy. Then of course, it’s a regular event.

So I’m always building my own email list, but I also use various Written Word Media campaigns to do little spike campaigns through the year. So I guess that’s the reality of the author life, is these things happen month in month out. Whether it’s ongoing marketing, ads, spike marketing, content marketing, like we’re doing here—

There are just lots of things that make up that marketing ecosystem.

Ricci: Absolutely, and I think sometimes, especially if you’re getting started, or even if you’ve been doing this for a really long time, you can be a little unsure of what the best strategy is. We would be happy to help with that.

We have a team of experts who are looking at this all the time for different authors. So if you were just to write into us, there’s no charge for this, and you can say, “Hey, here’s my book, these are my goals.” We do this all the time, so we would tell you, “Hey, here’s some suggestions on some marketing tactics that might work.” So, you write in, or you’re right on our Facebook page, we’ll help with that.

Joanna: That’s great. I appreciate that. I hope some people take you up on that. That’d be great.

I do want to ask you because, of course, I’ve been wide from the start. I mean, I’ve been doing this since before there was KU, like your mum. I mean, there was no KU back in 2009/2010 when your mum started, or 2008 when I started.

So one of the trends that I’m part of, and many authors are doing now, is selling direct. It’s become more and more of a thing over the last few years. I’ve got my Shopify stores, I’ve got two now. So I wondered how that might work in terms of Written Word Media in the future.

Can we have our theme park marketing services with selling direct, as well as all the big retailers?

Ricci: Yeah, absolutely. We’re very excited about this trend for authors selling direct and taking ownership as much of the customer experience, you know, reader funnel as possible.

I’ll come back to direct links in a minute, but the first thing we tell every author is build your email list.

Like having your own email list, it’s the best asset that you can build, and the sooner you start building it, the more successful you’re going to be because the quicker it’s going to grow.

Putting a link to sign up to your mailing list in the back matter of every single one of your titles, that’s the first thing you should do.

That’s also where you get a ton of value from running promos because as people read that book, they then come on and they sign on to your list.

Once you have a list, you can then direct people to your store.

We tried this actually, we were very excited about allowing our readers to go directly to author stores. So we rolled this out earlier this year, and we had some authors try it out, and what we found is that the website experience does need to be robust for this to work.

So I think, Joanna, I’ve seen your stores, like they’re fantastic, right? There’s a great reader experience, you go on, it’s easy to navigate, you can check out easily. It’s on Shopify, it’s a tech site that makes all of this very easy. That’s the dream.

We’re finally at a point where the technology is there, and the readers are actually willing to check out on a place other than Amazon or their top five websites because they already have an account with Shopify and they get that nifty little number to put in, or their credit card information is already stored in their browser. So we’re at a point where those two things have actually finally come together, which they had not been that way in the past.

The final piece of the puzzle, though, is that authors need to be thinking about the reader experience and making sure that it’s seamless.

I think a lot of authors think about their experience. They’re like, I’m excited to sell my book, I can make more money, so I’m going to throw my book up on here. And they expect readers to convert the same way that they would on Apple or Amazon or Google.

But the reason that all those sites take 30% is because they spend so much time on the user experience and increasing that conversion. So if you’re going to be taking more of the profit, you do need to be spending some time on the experience.

So what we ended up doing is we actually rolled this feature back because our readers were complaining that when they got to the author’s website, it was too difficult to check out.

They thought they bought a book, but then they’re like, I don’t know where my book is, I never received delivery of it. So this is something that’s on our list to see how we can help authors get their websites to a point where we could then open it up again, where we could send the readers that we do have directly to their websites so that those purchases could happen there.

Joanna: Yes, and I mean, obviously, you’ve been going now for a long time, and hopefully the business will carry on.

I see this as really the beginning of perhaps the next 15 years of indie, where there will be a rise in all these stores. But I completely get the technical side of things, when you’re building something as you are, it all has to work. So yes, interesting times, but good to hear that you’re looking to do that in the future.

Is there anything else that you see in terms of trends and things for authors on the horizon, or anything else you wanted to point us to?

Ricci: Yeah, I mean, obviously, AI is the big thing. There’s a lot of buzz around that and how that’s going to impact publishing. We have an optimistic view of AI.

We see it as a productivity tool that can help authors write more quickly, and that can potentially help authors save money by having some of the first pass edits have their titles complete.

I do think it remains to be seen what the impact is going to be, and there is some concern around flooding of the marketplace with AI titles. So I think that’s a trend, you know, I don’t have any solutions or big insights around that, but that’s definitely a trend and something we’re monitoring really closely on our end. 

Then yeah, just echoing what you said about authors really taking ownership of their businesses, the trend towards owning all aspects of your business and not being as reliant on the third party platforms.

I do think they will always have a place, those third-party platforms. The way that we think about it is, as an author, just like any business, you need to have diversified sources of revenue.

So the more you can have, the better off you’re going to be. You just don’t want to be dependent on one, but it’s not like any of them are good or bad. You know, it’s agnostic. You just want to have as many as possible to de-risk your business, because that’s what authors are, they’re businesses. Whether they be micro businesses or macro businesses, they are businesses at the end of the day.

Joanna: Fantastic.

Where can people find Written Word Media online?

Ricci: Yeah, you can just come to

That is the jumping off point for anything that you would need. We do have a really great blog. We have just a fantastic team of people here at Written Word Media who, as you can hear, are very passionate about authors and marketing and all things publishing, so you could check out that blog. That’s also where you can learn more about our products and services and membership.

And like I said, if you have questions or if you want help around marketing strategy, shoot us a line at, and we will be happy to chat with you.

Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Ricci. That was great.

Ricci: Thanks, Jo. Wonderful to be here again.

The post The Marketing Mind Shift And The Power Of Ad Stacking With Ricci Wolman first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • August 6, 2023