I went ahead and popped The Weirld into their Summer/Winter sale, so for the month of July it will be free there (whoooooo)! Since I don't have a sequel to sell, it's not, like, sensible marketing or anything, but I felt like, Why not?
Looks like that killer spreadsheet project is done with for now, so I'm going to get going again on Trust--but not today, because I got maybe six hours of sleep last night. (There's this whole unbelievably stupid insurance drama going on with my allergy shots right now--you know, at the height of grass season--which has gotten so fucked that I literally cannot get shots even if I pay for them out of pocket, even though everyone agrees that I should be getting them. Kaiser Permanente!)
I guess I should report on the eBookSoda and Free Kindle Books and Tips thing--the ads ran on the 12th for eBookSoda and the 13th for Free Kindle Books and Tips. Neither sold enough books to pay for itself, but the FKBT one did much better than the eBookSoda one.
As I've mentioned before, when I did Trang the things that really helped were 1. doing a giveaway at LibraryThing and 2. getting an ad with Bookbub.
This time around, Bookbub is WAY more expensive, and the people at LibraryThing haven't done squat. (My sister had the same complaint--I guess the culture there has changed. I have more ratings at GoodReads at this point.)
So I poked around, and thanks to the ever-reliable Lindsay Buroker I found these recommendations. I'm giving eBookSoda and Free Kindle Books & Tips a go, because both are willing to waive the review requirements for new books. (FreeBooksy also has a BargainBooksy thing--I might use one or the other some day, but both are relatively pricey, so I'm going to start with the cheaper services.)
I took a peek over at BookBub--wow, that's gotten way pricier. They used to be $60 for a free promo (granted, it took some effort to get picked up), and now it would cost $470 to do a 99-cent promo. OK. For that kind of money, I'd really want to make sure it works, so I'll definitely wait.
I was out of town yesterday when my Library Thing giveaway ended, so today when I came back I immediately opened that list up and started sending copies of The Weirld to people!
Until I was about a dozen in, and realized that these were people who had asked for a copy of Trang lo those many years ago.
Ugh. Yeah, the way it's set up, the first list to pop up when you click "Winners" is...the first list of winners you've had....
So then I sent out about a dozen apologies, and then I sent out copies of The Weirld....
I had to take care of some tax stuff today (amazing how much more gratifying fiddly book publishing stuff is when compared to fiddly tax stuff). But I did get the near-final proof of The Weirld paperback--it's got an issue that is so teeny that I actually decided that I would change it and then approve it, sight unseen. (Risky!) Once it's up, I'm immediately going to buy copies to send to the U.S. Copyright Office, so if it's just God-awful I can change it again.
I also started up the Library Thing review copy giveaway--hopefully that will get me some reviews.
What else? I do want to start back in with Trials (and have actually had some good ideas for it), but today was not the day for it. I also don't know how the next week or so will be--I had to start antibiotics because of a root canal, and that can get a little funky. So today I spent some time trying to figure out how best to lay out the large-print edition of The Weirld--I think I'm going to have to basically copy-paste the text from Scribus into the word processor and back into Scribus....
When I set up my free days, I wanted five in a row, but somehow I got the impression that Amazon only gave me four. Well, they did give me five, which means the book is still free today, which I guess is good because I forgot to take down the FREE FREE OMG FREE! line on the Web site until today (oops).
Anyway, no huge shock here, but remove the advertising and the number of books sold plummets. It's funny because I was just telling the older niece that people think the key to selling books is writing a good one, and that's just not true: Marketing leads to sales.
I got up to #16 in Sword & Sorcery and #104 in Teen & Young Adult!
Again, WAY better than I thought I would be doing with this campaign. Also got a couple of likes on my Facebook page, so that's promising. (Still no clicks on the Amazon campaign even with the higher price--I'm just not getting many impressions from them.)
I went through and finished my first pass fixing the paragraph breaks and italics for Trust. The paper copy I have smells too much like cat pee, though! I'm chucking it after this and will order a new copy when I order copies of The Weirld.
Just barely, but...whoo! Like I said, I really wasn't expecting any sort of response at all, so I'm inordinately impressed!
This has been strictly due to the Facebook campaign--the Amazon one hasn't received any clicks yet. It also doesn't have many impressions, because my per-click bid was too low, so I've bumped that up for the rest of Monday--we'll see if that helps.
I'm up to #24 on the Sword & Sorcery list--not quite the front page, but close. I really wasn't expecting for this campaign to have, you know, any impact--the book doesn't have any reviews! At all! But I guess either I look more respectable now than I did back when I was first shilling Trang, or people just really like the cover! (I just started with the Amazon ad campaign and so far haven't had much response there, but the Facebook campaign is really resembling the first one I did for Trang.)
Anyway, I wasn't really planning on marketing seriously, but now.... I talked about it with my sister, and she basically gave me back the exact same pointers I gave her when she came out with a book, and I realized that, yeah, I can be a lot more efficient now because I know what's worth the effort. I feel like the next step is to get reviews, so I'm going to do a Member Giveaway on Library Thing, since that worked well last time.
If I get good reviews, maybe I'll try for BookBub again? That would entail doing another three months in KDP Select, but I think that would be worth it if I'm in a position to make BookBub work. (It still works, right? I think I read that people are still using it. God I'm out of touch....)
I finished going through Trang and fixing the hard return and italic problems, so I submitted the fancier-looking version to Amazon.
I also felt vain and impulsive and started a Facebook and Amazon ad campaign for the free days of The Weirld. Obviously that's not going to pay for itself unless people get that book for free, then get Trang for free, and then pay for Trust, but I'm hoping it will get the book some reviews and maybe get the algorithms to work for it.
Well, today has been a bit of a grind. I wanted to reformat the Trang and Trust e-books using Kindle Create, and that's proving a bit more difficult because the only files I have are the MOBI ones, and the MOBI => DOCX conversion process creates all kinds of weird issues (with things like italics and paragraph breaks, sheesh). I should be able to get them done in a few days (I have to get my shot tomorrow, which slows everything down), but it's going to be a fiddly process.
I signed my book on for the five-day freebie and was going to e-mail the people who signed up for alerts...but there's a new law that's just gone into effect saying you have to include your physical address in any e-mail sent for commercial purposes. To which I say, FUCK, NO. Jesus, I've had enough problems with fucking stalkers for a lifetime, OK?
So, my apologies to anyone who ever signed up for alerts--you're not getting them. I'll take down the form.
I'm a-wandering in search of...everyone's damned 2017 tax forms! In the meantime, I've been thinking about the release of The Weirld as an e-book. (And I'm feeling quite thankful that I'm not using Word and not having to worry about all kinds of random extra coding getting shoved into the book for no reason. It's so much easier!)
I saw that Amazon has really upgraded their tools for authors! What they've got looks like something (assuming it's not buggy) that will very quickly turn out an especially nice e-book. I'm genuinely looking forward to playing with that when I get home.
It doesn't look like much has changed with Smashwords, which is also nice--they've always been easy to use.
Buuuut...because I don't intend to do the long marketing push I did with Trang, I'm eyeing going exclusive with KDP, albeit just for the first 90 days since I don't like relying on a single retailer. Exclusivity would give me access to some promotional tools that are very easy to use and hopefully would get me reviews so that I don't feel like I'm completely neglecting this book. Plus I like the idea of offering the people who follow me (especially those who have stuck out this long dry period) an early-bird special price, and with exclusivity I can just make the book free for five days. So I think that's where I'm headed.
I ordered proofs! It will take a couple of weeks, and if history is any guide, I'll have to do fixes, but! An Important Milestone has! been! achieved!
And you'll notice that I've put up sample chapters and prettied up my home page--oooh la la! I even posted to Facebook and Twitter...trying not to notice that the last time I've put anything up on either was 2016. Yoikes.
The reality is that I'm quite a bit busier now than I was. Like, obviously the next step is to format the e-book and release it, but...that's going to have to wait a couple of weeks as well because I've got to go focus on the family business for a bit. I'm actually really happy that production fell as it did, because tax time is usually a bit too distracting to get much writing done, but I can do things like formatting or inputting copy edits between putting out the inevitable fires. It's nice to feel like I'm making meaningful headway even though I'm not writing.
And I'm thinking about what's going to happen after the book comes out. I still want to do a large-print edition--that actually should be much easier to do now because I'm using real layout software. (And I should note that at this point, I have actually sold a few!) But I'm just not going to have the time to experiment with lots of different kinds of marketing like I did in the past. Maybe I'll run some Facebook ads and branch out to Google or Amazon, or maybe not.
The more I think about audiobooks, the more I think that's just never going to happen, especially not me doing them myself. Maybe one fine day I'll hire somebody.
Seeing that I'll probably have an actual book out fairly soon (!!! It's been so long!!), I decided to finally, you know, act like a real writer and get Mail Chimp going. I've been collecting e-mail addresses and names from people who want to know when the next book is coming out (OK, so they really want to know when the next Trang book is coming out, but no harm in letting them know about this one), but I haven't really done anything with that information, because you know, no book was coming out.
So I signed on to Mail Chimp and put those names and e-mails onto a list, which was easy enough to do. Then I realized that I could have a direct-to-Mail-Chimp sign-up form on the Web site (much more easily done through the Web hosting service than through Mail Chimp). Its over there to the left now. I'll just keep the all-purpose Contact form the same--if people want alerts and use that form, they can just tell me that's what they want, and I'll add their information to the list by hand.
So, the Bing campaign just really isn't going anywhere, in large part, I suspect, because very few people actually use Bing.
That's from my Block B Web site. It's illuminating to have different window onto the Web, isn't it?
Of course Bing's solution to this is for me to not use so many "low volume search terms," but hey, I went down that road once before, and it was really expensive. So, I'm glad I did this, especially since it let me try out search-engine advertising for free, but I'm going to conclude that Bing is not an effective marketing avenue.
But I may look into Google....
So far I have 11 keywords up on the Bing campaign, and this is the message I get for 10 of them when I check to see if the ads associated with them are being displayed.
Yeah, OK. I've already had to contact support because my account was "suspended" (not actually suspended, it just told you that it was, because that's good design), and at this point I'm feeling like the PIA factor is pretty ridiculous. I know it's been a while, but what I recall of advertising on Facebook was that it was truly "set it and forget it"--you weren't expected to ride herd on it to make sure it did what it had to do in order for the company to make any money....
Hey! I'm actually doing a little promotion, entirely due to chance! I wanted to improve the search-engine optimization for BlockB.com, so I signed on to the Bing Web administrator thingy, and they gave me a coupon for $100 in free advertising on Bing, Yahoo, and some other search engine no one actually uses, I don't remember what it's called.
I never tried search-engine advertising before (I mostly stuck with Facebook), but hey, it's free, so I figured I'd put in a little text ad for Trang. We shall see if it has any impact or is worth doing.
It will also be interesting because when I last did this three years ago, I got the best results by explicitly targeting Kindle users. It will be interesting to see if that helps this time around, or if people are just so used to reading on their phones at this point that it won't matter....
I'm traveling for the holidays, so I loaded up my phone with e-books--mostly authors I know (Lindsay Buroker!) but also some free books from writers I don't know.
I finished the first one last night, boy did it make me wish I'd never started. The plot was basically Weepy Girl and the People Who Scream at Her, and at the conclusion, Weepy Girl, after losing everything that ever mattered to her (and weeping about it), dies. Weepily.
Wow, that really . . . does not motivate me to shell out actual money for the next book.
Now, the book was science fiction, so maybe Weepy Girl's not really dead and there's some kind of exciting sci-fi twist in the next book, but since I'm unhappy about having spent my time and energy on the first book, it's not like I'm going to bother finding out. If the author's other books are like the free book, I don't want to read them. Ever. If (as I kind of suspect) the author half-assed their free book because they saw it as just a teaser for their "real" books--well, that's obviously not much of a marketing strategy, is it?
I've also seen free books that are basically jacket copy for the actual book--the free book is very short and very basic, and it doesn't really give you anything more than a description would. ("Zombie Deer Hunter, Book 1. Fred is a deer hunter--but the deers he hunts are zombies!!! Also, he may have the hots for the mysterious doe-eyed priestess who provides him with special zombie-killing buckshot. The End. Follow these links to buy Zombie Deer Hunter, Books 2-347!")
I mean, I can see how writers convince themselves that it's OK to not bring your A game to a freebie--you can't possibly give away all your hard work, you want to be paid for your time, you're worth more than this, etc.
But you know the freebie that made me instantly shell out for the entire series? The first book of Hugh Howey's Wool.
You absolutely cannot argue that Howey did not bring his A game to that book--it's excellent all on its own.
(I'm gonna get spoilery about Wool here--be warned!)
Ironically, Howey did the same thing in that book that the author of that Weepy Girl book--the main character dies at the end. But it happens in such an unexpected way (unlike Weepy Girl, who dies exactly the way she'd been weepily expecting), and the book is so well written that I just had to read the rest.
And hey, that Lindsay Buroker! The first book of her Emporer's Edge series is a freebie, and while you could argue that it's not her finest novel, it's definitely complete--she wrote it as a novel, not as some marketing teaser to the "real" story. The same thing is true of the short stories she gives away or sells for very little money: They're actual stories that work on their own and add to the EE universe, not just "Click on these links if you'd like to receive some actual satisfaction from your reading!"
Like they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you waste my time with some crappy hack copy in your free book, why on Earth would I assume that you've got anything else in you?
So, Alicia had a good question:
I'm curious - when you have a moment - how did your books do while you had no time to promote and pay attention to them? I hope well.
Or did you find time for at least keeping track of that?
Now, it seems she thinks that I haven't been paying any attention to my books for the past couple of months as I fixed up the new house. But the truth of the matter is that I haven't done ANY marketing since my brother passed away late last April--in a crisis, I've found that it's best to simplify one's life as much as possible and focus only on the things that are truly essential. As a result, aside from the stuff that cropped up because of something I did a couple of years back, there has been no marketing of my books for almost a year--no Facebook ads, nothing.
How have sales been? Remarkably steady!
With one important caveat: Whenever something changes with Amazon, the level of my sales changes--but then remains steady. Sales are lower since Amazon switched from have a Science Fiction: Series bestseller list to having a Science Fiction: First Contact list--but they have been quite consistent at that lower level.
Compensating somewhat for that lower level is the fact that the book is now on the Science Fiction: First Contact list at Amazon UK.
Wait! This means I am now an INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING AUTHOR!!! Oh, that's hilarious.
The reason it's hilarious is that I'm still not selling tons of books--not nearly enough to make a living off it or anything. If I needed to do that--well, for starters I would actually write more, but also I would push to get on a bigger bestseller list, like getting back on the general Science Fiction list. Back in those days I was making about $500 a month off of sales of Trust--obviously still not enough to live off, either, but if I had more titles out....