The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Month: March 2015

Lessons learned from my first paid ebook promotion

In an effort to be more open with all you Everyday Authors, I’ve decided to write more posts detailing my personal experiences as an author. In this instance, I’m going to talk about a recent free campaign I promoted through a couple of services. Although my numbers aren’t anything to boast about (at least not yet, fingers crossed) I’m hoping to save the rest of you a little trial and error. On the flip-side, if you have any experiences you’d like to share about what worked (or didn’t work) while marketing your books, I’d love to have you write a guest post for EA.

This probably won’t be the most analytical breakdown of ebook marketing you’ll find, but I think it’s still a good overview, especially if you’ve been thinking about doing some ebook promotion yourself.

To end my six month KDP Select run for Out of Exile, the first novel in my Teutevar Saga series, I opted to go with the five days of free. Out of Exile has been in KDP Select since last September and now that I have a few more books in the series out, I wanted to end my exclusivity and branch back out to the other platforms (but that’s another discussion). During my first three months of KDP Select, I ran a free day on Cyber Monday, one on Dec. 17 and then the remaining three days Dec. 21-23.

For Cyber Monday, I only spread through word via a few tweets from my author account. The 17th was a guest post/cross-promotion with another author and for the 21-23, I put mentions out on my social media platforms the first and last day and also let my mailing list (around 20 subscribers) know about it. The end result was 535 free downloads.

On my second go around, I wanted to do all five free days together because I’d heard you get more traction that way, so I scheduled them for March 19-23. I also reached out to two promotion services: Ebook Booster$40)( and BKnights($20). BKnights is on Fiverr, but I not only paid for the five dollar promo for their website, but also got Facebook listings and in their email blast as well — I figured what the heck, it was only five more apiece for each. Ebook Booster, if you haven’t heard, charges you $40 dollars and then blasts you free book offer out to a bunch of other ebook promo sites for you. Since this way my first time attempting a promotion and I’d rather be writing than researching ebook promo sites, they seemed liked a good choice.

This is where the process gets a little murky. Without using affiliate links or even custom links when I submitted, I have no way of knowing where my downloads came from. Looking at Ebook Booster alone, I’m pretty certain I made it into at least seven sites (based on the email responses I got back from them) but can’t say for sure. My book was also low on reviews (8, with a 4-star average) so I know this decreased the number of sites I got into.

The second problem was this: I was lazy so I listed my book’s free days as the 19-23. This meant, as you can see in the graph below, that the majority of the promos all ran on the 19th (and I’m assuming a couple on the 20th) rather than being evenly spaced throughout the free period. Had I submitted Ebook Booster and BKnights for different days, I could have had a better idea of how each service performed for me.

KDP_run_graph

Not only was I unable to measure each service’s effectiveness by itself, but by front-loading the promotions to the first day, my ranking was much more short-lived (if you didn’t know, Amazon’s algorithms shoot you down as fast as you go up, so it’s better to spread downloads/purchases out if you can). Even so, I still hit #2 in Western Sci-Fi and cracked the top ten in New Adult within the first few hours on the 19th.

Something strange happened next. I wasn’t ranking at all in Historical Fantasy, but by the morning of the 20th, I’d managed to crack into the top ten of the category. For some reason, however, my ranking in New Adult completely vanished, like Amazon took it out. I have no clue why/how this happened because Out of Exile is included in the New Adult category, but there you have it. I never received a ranking for New Adult the rest of the free run, despite it being a relatively small category.

As you can tell from the graph, sales took a drastic drop after the 20th and I have to believe that the resulting downloads that day were a result of my placement in the free charts. I sent out one tweet/Google Plus post/Facebook post on opening day and one again on closing, in addition to notifying my email list on the last day (to create a sense of urgency). At my peak, I was at #1 in Western Sci-Fi and #2 in Historical Fantasy with an overall ranking of #1129 in the Kindle for free books (really great for me!). Although there was a steep drop-off for the last three days of the giveaway, I attribute the smaller, less competitive categories Out of Exile is under for sustaining 40+ downloads/day.

Here’s the funny part. My total number of downloads after using Ebook Booster and BKnights’ ebook promotion services? 578. Yep, I only moved 43 more books and it cost me $60 to do so.

Before I make it seem like I got a raw deal and that these services are a waste of money, consider this: not did my book only have 8 reviews, but I also believe I saturated the Western Sci-Fi category with my first round of promotions in December. This meant that I was competing almost exclusively in the much bigger Historical Fantasy category since for some reason, I wasn’t allowed to play in New Adult. When you add it up, it cost me a little over 10 cents for each download I received. Obviously many of those won’t translate to reads, reviews or email sign ups, but I’ll give the first book in a series away for 10 cents any day of the week.

So what did I learn?

  • If you’re trying to track effectiveness of a marketing tactic, don’t run multiple promos at the same time.
  • It’s better to line your ducks up in a row so that you have sustained, even downloads rather than blasting everything on the first day.
  • I was reaffirmed of the importance of selecting categories you can compete/chart in.
  • Reviews matter! I need to work harder on building up a collection of positive reviews before I try any more promotions.

Going forward, I’ll probably hold off on Ebook Booster, at least until I have a more competitive title with a large numbers of reviews. For $5, though, you can’t beat BKnights and I’m excited to see my numbers when I run something with just them.

What ebook promotion services have you used? Were they successful or a bust? Tell me in the comments!

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.

Writing Productivity: How to write like a journalist

Like many writers, my first professional gig with words came at a newspaper and I still do work as a freelance journalist. Although the articles I’ve written encompass a wide variety of subjects, there are a number of fundamentals no matter the beat. When I got serious about finishing my first book, I found myself falling back to these same writing productivity tactics to help me push through. Many authors have similar backgrounds as journalists or copywriters and will already be familiar with the tips I’m going to talk about. Even so, it’s always good to brush up (it helped me just by writing this) on these habits. If you don’t have a background in another form of writing, hopefully you’ll find a tactic or two that will improve your writing productivity. With that being said here are five ways to write like a journalist:

Give yourself firm, challenging deadlines

Writing on a deadline is the MOST important lesson I learned as a journalist. Nothing gets you past writer’s block like a firm, inescapable deadline that won’t budge. There were many times when I would return from a press conference and have an hour to hand in a polished, 750 word story. As a sport reporter, I needed to have a rough draft done before the game was over. Between transcribing quotes and checking facts, I never had the luxury of spending fifteen minutes getting that one paragraph just right.

Authors, especially ones just starting out, often avoid deadlines. They don’t set firm word counts per day/week and they don’t give themselves can’t-miss publication dates. This is a bad habit to develop. Give yourself a hard deadline that’s practical but still a challenge — a little stress, a little fire under your seat is a good thing. For starters, this can be something that requires you to write, revise and edit just a little faster than you’re comfortable with. Add some accountability by telling your friends, family, readers and editors what your deadline is too. And above all else, don’t let yourself off the hook for any reason.

Don’t edit while you write

This is a habit I’m guilty of even though I know how much it bogs me down. If you’re trying to hit a faster word count goal, going back and editing while writing will derail you. Onward and upward. A rolling stone gathers no moss. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, journalists don’t have the luxury of pondering over a single paragraph for fifteen minutes, let alone hours or days. Get over yourself and just write. If you’re worried about all of those typos and sentence fragments that keep popping up, remember this: the faster you write, the more time you have to go back and edit after you’ve got a first draft. On top of that, the faster your fingers move, the less time your brain will have to second guess itself. You’ll be surprised at the quality you can produce at high speeds. If you don’t believe me, read this piece by Steven Pressfield’s editor.

Keep it concise

The beautiful thing about print newspapers is that they only have a limited amount of space in them. In our new world of digital publishing, this isn’t the case anymore, but our attention span as a human race has diminished in direct correlation as well. I’m not going to pick a side on writing short stories and novellas instead of the next Great American Novel, but I am a believer in keeping whatever your write to the point. Long, flowery, descriptive language is a beautiful thing in creative writing class, but the hard truth is that it turns off a large number of readers who aren’t literary snobs. You can still write beautiful, elegant sentences, just don’t let them morph into beautiful, elegant pages. Write for clarity, not to show off your expansive grasp of language.

Collect story ideas

No matter if you write fiction or non-fiction, I highly recommend keeping some sort of physical notebook/notepad on your phone/Google Doc/Evernote file to keep track of any random ideas that come into your head. A good journalist has story ideas planned out weeks and months ahead of time (hint: this is how you write phenomenal articles on a deadline, you plan ahead). Keep track of any ideas you have and refer back to this document often. You’ll be surprised what your mind comes up with that you’d have forgotten if you didn’t record it somewhere. If you believe in writer’s block, story ideas are a great way to get the wind in your sails again when you stall.

Use an editor

There isn’t a journalist out there worth his/her salt who doesn’t use an editor. When you’re writing on deadline, you’re going to make mistakes, even if you have time to do a self-edit before publishing. The same is true for writing a book. You’re going to make mistakes. You need an editor. Not only do quality editors make your finished product shine, they also help you improve your craft. All of us have some type of writing quirk (in my case, several) that we struggle with. An editor can point out flaws in your writing you might be blind to and help you turn them into a strengths.

Author Origins: David Wright

author-david-wrightDavid Wright is the bestselling horror and sci-fi co-author of the Yesterday’s Gone and WhiteSpace series, and a cartoonist. He is also one third of The Self-Publishing Podcast with Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.

You can find him at www.DavidwWright.comwww.CollectiveInkwell.com and www.SelfPublishingPodcast.com

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I’m David Wright and I’ve been creating stories for as long as I can remember. As a child I was heavily influenced by the Peanuts comic strip and it held a magic which transported me to another time and another world. After the Star Wars movie came out, my parents got me the first few comics in the series, and I was immediately hooked on comics and serialized storytelling. Ever since, I’ve been merely hoping to do what the best artists did for me — create worlds for others to get lost in. I’ve gone back and forth between comic strips and writing books.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

Thankfully, writing is my job at the moment. I’m not sure how prolific I could be if I’d gone back to another job, as I’m pretty low on energy to begin with most days. Having a full-time job and making time for my family would seriously hamper my ability to write books.

Having said that, I think the hardest part now is getting out of my own way. I battle with depression, so it’s difficult to feel like anyone gives a shit about anything I’m creating, but fortunately, my co-author, Sean Platt, is a very optimistic person and has done a lot to help me get out of my own way.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

My schedule and habits suck with a capital S. As I said, I tend to get in my own way. It’s not uncommon for me to procrastinate, or write a bunch, hate it all, delete it, then start over like two days before deadline.

I am trying to get my shit together, though, and put a system in place.

Would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

We sold very little in our first month. Despite a ton of interviews around the time that Yesterday’s Gone: Season One came out in summer 2011, I think we sold maybe 50 copies?

It took a little while for sales to really pick up, though I can’t recall the exact time. We didn’t wait around, though. We went right to work on another book so once people did start to discover us, they’d have more than just a book or two to read.

There’s a debate amongst writers about the luck factor. Some writers say you don’t need luck, that you can succeed on your merits alone. But I disagree. I think you DO need to work your ass off, and in doing so you can create some luck, but I feel there is still an element of luck involved. Had Pixel of Ink not featured us when they did, who knows what would’ve happened?

I think we still would have found success, but would it have come in time to be enough to support us as full-time writers? It’s tough to say.

Which is why I’m grateful to our readers, as well as the attention that reviewers and book bloggers have given us.

I know it can be difficult to see other people break out when you’re still behind in some way, but you have to work through it because while luck doesn’t give you a guaranteed outcome, giving up does.

At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

We were working freelance as consultants and writing and doing art for companies when we decided to invest in ourselves.

Sean was a huge factor in us taking a chance on ourselves. He basically continued to work (for a little while) as we wrote so we could support the company (and I could pay my bills) while we got this writing thing off the ground.

Then Sean quit consulting, probably a bit earlier than I would’ve felt comfortable with, and we were on our own — sink or swim.

We swam like the desperate motherfuckers we were.

It’s tough to make a leap of faith like that and not know whether it will pay off. If I hadn’t had Sean’s belief (and financial support early on), I’m not sure I could’ve done it.

I would tell most writers to keep their day job as long as possible, though. I’m very pragmatic in that way. Though some would call me cynical. And by some, I mean most.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

We talk about everything on SPP, so I’m not sure if there’s anything we haven’t discussed.

As for hobbies, I’d like to be a musician but lack the dedication to learn how to play well enough. But I’ve always had a love for diverse musical styles and almost always listen to music while I wrote. I’m also a casual gamer. I like shooters and big open world games like the Fallout and the Elder Scrolls series.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Writing.

You HAVE to treat writing like another job. You HAVE to put the hours in. This means sacrifice in your social life, your TV or movie watching, video games, etc. There is no shortcut to putting in the hours. I spent thousands of hours in my teens and twenties writing crap in order to get to a point where I could write stuff less crappy. Even then, I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t until my job as a newspaper reporter, with the constant writing to deadlines, that I got over my fears and learned to get out of my way.

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