book promotion, book reviews, book sales, Google Ads

Where now?

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I’m not going to talk about my first published novel, let alone the first one I wrote. Not that it’s a matter of the less said the better, but I don’t want to keep you up all night. So we’ll just go as far back as One Green Bottle, released last September.

Sales have been minimal. I hesitate to say disappointing, because one positive point, at least, is that I had no expectations. So I’m not plunged into a slough of despair. Objectively, though, there’ll be little point in continuing if the second book doesn’t do better.

Is it down to the book itself? There’s always that doubt – did I write a dud? But I’ve had enough feedback now to be fairly confident I didn’t. The book’s OK, it’s readable. People – if they knew about it – might enjoy it. Obviously, though, what I have written is a book that nobody needs. But that’s not just the case of One Green Bottle – you could say it of practically any book that’s published.

So where now? How am I preparing for the release of Perfume Island, scheduled for September? What are the steps to follow?

Reviews. Here on this site, Atthys Gage suggests a first step is to get a minimum of 15 to 20 advance reviews that will appear on or near the date of the book launch. After a year of blogging, I’ve built up enough of a following to make that number realistic. It’s been pointed out to me that reviews are of little value, since they only get seen by people who are already on your Amazon page. Very true – in the process leading from awareness of product to purchase of product, reviews are close to the purchase end. Nonetheless, it’s better to have them than not. If someone goes to your page and finds zero reviews, it’s not a great incentive to buy (even if many people say they don’t read the reviews, there are still plenty who do).

But the question remains: how to build the awareness that will drive people to Amazon in the first place? I read again and again that the main tool here is the mailing list. Get enough people to sign up to your newsletter and you can send them emails to inform them of new releases, giveaways and any other snippets that might be of interest. Even if only half of your subscribers open the newsletter, and out of those that do, one in 10 buys your book, that’s 50 purchases for every 1000 subscribers.

I haven’t been good with newsletters. I started one, dropped it, left a long gap and started a second one recently. Furthermore, I’ve been in a dither about what to put in it. Giveaways? Contests? Updates on the WIP? Pictures of the cat? I’ve subscribed to several myself and you find all of that (including the cat). In the end I settled for giveaway contests and a couple of serialised stories. Which is probably overcomplicating things – advice I’ve read since is to keep it simple. Inform of an upcoming release, a special offer maybe, and that’s it.

Everyone agrees you have to offer an incentive – people only sign up if they get something from it. So far I have 19 subscribers. Hmm… Perhaps my giveaways don’t give enough. I did think of offering a Lamborghini but decided against it in the end. Because the problem with giving away anything other than your books is that you’re not gaining readers but freeloaders. And to give away a book, you need to have written at least two, because the point is to get people reading (and liking) the first so then they’ll buy the second. Which is why the release of Perfume Island will be not just a writing milestone for me but a marketing one as well.

It’s possible also that I focus too much on my blog. It’s good to have one, yes, but it’s time-consuming and the sort of organic growth it offers is slow. Unless you have a massive following, it’s not the best way to build your mailing list. If I rely solely on my blog, awareness of the existence of Perfume Island is going to be way too low for any substantial number of readers to find it. So what’s the alternative? Twitter? I could do more there, but I still have trouble getting my head round it, and in terms of raising awareness, it’s one of the least effective channels there is. Yes, it can be done, but it requires dedication, personal engagement and time – much the same effort, in fact, as I put into my blog.

So now, very cautiously, I’m investigating Facebook. Reluctantly too – I like Facebook about as much as I like stepping in dog poo. But at least now I’ve cleared the first hurdle, which was understanding the Facebook philosophy: why be user-friendly when you can be as maddening as a swarm of midges? Once you get that straight, it’s a matter of breathing deeply and staying calm. And now at last I have a Facebook page, as well as a profile. I only recently learned the difference: the page is where you tell people how great your book is, the profile is where you tell them what you had for breakfast. For the moment my page says I’m username@create.page. When I try to put my own name there, I’m told ‘You’re not eligible.’ Do they deign to explain why? Of course not. Courtesy isn’t part of their vocabulary. After much searching, though, I gather I need my page to be ‘liked’ before I can really call it my own. 25 times, if I’ve understood correctly. So now I’m in the ignominious position of begging people – that’s you, dear reader – to ‘like’ my Facebook page in order for me to truly virtually exist. When I get to 100 likes, I’ll start to levitate.

You might be wondering why I put myself through this ordeal. The answer is simple: ads. Now, I’m not saying I’m actually going to do them, but I’m setting out to explore them. Facebook ads, apparently, provide an effective way of raising awareness of your book among the sort of readers likely to like it. They also cost money, so you have to be very careful how you do it. GD has told us about, and warned us away from, Google ads. Facebook could well be the same, so I’m approaching this the way I walk through a forest full of zombies in the dead of night. But one thing is clear: if I don’t do something, Perfume Island will be released to barely more effect than One Green Bottle. A pebble dropped in the ocean. Because getting reviews is only a fraction of the task – now I have to get people to notice that the book actually exists.

I’m pretty sure, as Perry Palin says, that in the end it’s all personal, a matter of gaining readers one by one. But I’m ready to give the other approach a try. Maybe I’ll chicken out, or be driven so mad by Facebook I’ll have to be locked away. Whatever happens, I’ll keep you updated on progress. In the meantime, I humbly beg you to nip over to Facebook and adore my page.

 

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17 thoughts on “Where now?

  1. mimispeike says:

    Good info here, very thorough. If Perfume Island doesn’t do well, will you drop writing, or try another genre? Don’t you have fun writing? That’s what keeps me going. Writing Sly is a damn lot of fun. And, when you have no idea how the story is going to shake out, you gotta keep at it, just to find out for yourself.

    Do I have expectations for Sly? I surely do. My expectations are that he’ll be discovered long after I’m dead. I’ll be famous a hundred years from now. There’s no chance of me being dissuaded about that, is there? I have the feeling GD feels the same way. Maybe it takes being our age to say, I don’t care if it flops. It’s fun, that’s enough for me. What about it, GD?

    What Facebook is good for, I haven’t found out yet. The best thing about it is the Wix Design Experts page, full of great tips. I just read last night of an astonishing new development. We can now download our favorite fonts into Wix. Unlimited font choices! The closest thing to a miracle I’ve ever seen. Maybe there are angels after all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I have fun writing and can’t and won’t stop. After the senselessness of Nice I just had a fit of ‘What’s the point?’, but we eventually get over it. We must.
      As for changing genre, I have many ideas in different genres but I’ll see this one out – the third is under way and five are planned. But I went for genre because the first one I published was long, literary and complex – and it disappeared without trace. So I’d really like to crack this marketing thing before I say to myself that the fun alone is enough. Maybe one day I’ll return to that literary novel and rework it à la Sly 😉

      Like

  2. GD Deckard says:

    When people ask me if I read the reviews, I lie & say no. Not on purpose. That’s just what I think of reviews in general. But, when shopping, I count the stars to narrow down a specific purchase and then I read the reviews to justify my decision. Weird as that sounds, I suspect I’m normal.

    Has anyone done a study on how a writers’ first successful book became successful? What happened could be good information.

    Targeted ads may be effective. A friend of mine made little pottery jars with cute Wiccan sayings on them, filled the jars with rock salt from the hardware store & advertised them in New Age magazines as pagan bath salts. Sales exceeded her wildest dreams. A year after she quit the mail order business, her company, “Cosmic Circle,” still had unfilled prepaid orders. “When we need the money,” she told me, “I fill some.”
    ‘Course, she knew who to target.

    Liked by 2 people

    • With regard to first successful novels, there are now quite a few self-publishing success stories, but I suspect they’re still far outweighed by traditionally published. Sometimes due to nothing more than hype – Girl on the Train, for example. But it can also be a combination of good writing, originality and a dose of luck – being spotted by the right person at the right time. My next novel will be about pagan bath salts.

      Liked by 2 people

    • atthysgage says:

      Brilliant.

      I’ve actually searched for stores that sell carpets, looking for someone who might sell Flight of the Wren on consignment. Damn few options, and none of them very hopeful.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    Facebook, targeted ads, serials, who knows? Some of that will work but, as Curtis says, how well?

    I’ll move forward heeding Steve Jobs’ inspiring statement: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

    I’ll promote heavily at street level, bumper stickers, posters wherever a bulletin board will accept one, flyers handed out, arts and crafts fairs. Whatever comes to mind. You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road. I bet I get to Scotland afore ye.

    We have a good mix here, each with a favorite strategy. We’re going to get good feedback.

    How did Hugh Howey catch on? I have a sinking feeling that it was pure luck.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Curtis, I really enjoyed OGB and I am really looking forward to reading Perfume Island. You are facing a really real struggle, one that indie authors and traditionally published authors alike battle every day.

    I think you’re doing the right things. You’ve clearly done your research; you’ve re-stated everything important that I’ve read about marketing. It’s just a slow, time consuming, soul-sucking process (one, I might add, that I don’t particularly look forward to, and will be seeking your advice on!).

    Consider Twitter. I haven’t delved into the following aspect too deeply, but I gather new followers without trying all the time.

    Are you on Goodreads? I heard every author needs to be on Goodreads.

    As far as Facebook goes; you might actually enjoy it once you get into it a little. Find some reader and writer groups, get involved in them, and you’ll build a decent following. Post some engaging articles and memes and you’ll pick up a few more likes (I’ve found that boring old status updates are not very engaging). I’ve engaged an okay audience that way (361 likes on my author page now), but I don’t know if it’d sell me any books. But you know what? It won’t hurt.

    I think the ads are a fine thing to consider. And I will like all the Facebook pages you care to create. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the comment, Amanda, and for the support. I think it’s a matter of exploring each outlet one by one, so I’m going to try and overcome my aversion and give Facebook a go. Your suggestions are helpful – I’ll follow up on those. Twitter, maybe later. It’s easy enough to get followers, but what they actually follow remains to be seen. I’m also on Goodreads, very gradually getting to understand it. Again, building up a significant presence takes a long time, but after I’ve mastered Facebook (if I ever do), that’ll be my next aim. And somewhere in all that, I might find time to write…

      Liked by 2 people

  5. atthysgage says:

    Ah Facebook. I remain on Facebook daily. In fact I sort of like it in a strange way. But I doubt whether I’ve sold more than a handful of books because of it. (And those mostly to friends, relations and colleagues who heard about the book because I posted about it.) As far as selling to strangers? Nah, don’t think so.

    I have done a couple of ads on FB. While they didn’t sell books, one of them did cause a few dozen strangers to “like” my author page. Did those people buy books? No. Not so I noticed. But there was some value there. There are marketers who swear that there are ways of utilizing Facebook ads so they are effective in selling books. Unfortunately, most of those marketers are also in the business of selling those ‘ways’ to people who want to sell books on Facebook.

    I can’t swear that it doesn’t work, only that it hasn’t for me. Perry IS right about the personal approach, but the time and commitment required to launch a one-reader-at-a-time campaign is just too daunting. If I were thirty years younger, sure

    Alas, i’m being the maven of gloom again. Perfume Island is a good book. It deserves an audience. So does One Green Bottle. A few little voices speaking out, maybe, can’t drown out the drone of our crass, media-driven culture. But maybe we can catch a few people’s ears. One reader at a time.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thanks, Atthys, I’m going to tread very carefully with the ads. I’ve listened to a couple of videos by Mark Dawson, who attributes much of his success to them. True, he does sell a course, but so far anyway he strikes me as more supportive than predatory. In the end, though, the personal approach is surely the most effective.

    Like

  7. mimispeike says:

    The personal approach may work, but it is a grind, for (I should think) a small reward.

    Newsletters, blogs, cajoled reviews, I’m not convinced that’s the place to put my energy. I think I, I think we, need to be more creative.

    I will try the throw-a-plate-of-spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks method: bumper stickers, flyers, etc. I now have friends on Facebook from Australia to Europe, an astonishing number, an annoying number I thought, until this very moment. It’s just come to me. I’ll see how many of them I can get to hand out bumper stickers, when the time comes. I will, of course, offer something in return. How many eyes see a bumper sticker in the course of a day? Oodles!

    I’m off to Facebook, to accept another day’s accumulation of friend requests. They’re coming at me hot and heavy, all thanks to my original friend Michael Hagen, and his connections, and their connections. The hordes of authors trying to build their network are good for something after all.

    I’m not naive. My thing is complex, and peculiar, and most people who poke a nose into my website are going to turn tail and run. But maybe one of my bumper stickers will attract media attention – My Guy Sly, what the hell is that? Maybe I’ll get a mention in the press, maybe, maybe, maybe. Aren’t we all going, maybe, maybe, damn it all, just maybe?

    Bumper stickers, what can they cost? I’ve spent plenty already. What have I got to lose?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Perry Palin says:

      Mimi writes that the personal approach is a grind, and it is, but to make it less so we should sort for a receptive audience.

      I subscribe to the New Yorker, but of course just for the cartoons. Also National Geographic, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and a natural resources magazine put out by my state’s Dept of Natural Resources. I have a library card. I have a fishing license. I drive a car. I own a truck. I live in a rural area. Wouldn’t it be helpful if these characteristics, and some others too, would be entered into a data base to be mined by marketers? Well of course that data base exists, and it is the mining of the data base that is behind many of the marketing efforts that come my way, often from organizations I’ve never heard of before. I’ve been targeted.

      A few years ago I had a visit with a business development consultant from our local state university.At the time I was mostly concerned with the forms for starting a business in my state and with tax issues. But the guy asked me about the kind of books I was writing, went to his computer and entered my zip code and some other data elements, and he produced a list of people and their contact information in my area who are readers, and who have interests that are similar to mine. He said, “Here is the list of your local, target market for your books. Should I include the people who own boats?” I was amazed. The data base exists, and we’re all in it.

      The data base is available for a subscription fee, which the consultant said was too steep for little guys like me. But he suggested that the university (an hour and a half away) would let me use their access, or I could ask my public library for help. I could offer bumper stickers to a targeted list of people, if I had bumper stickers, and maybe some of these people would read my books.

      Liked by 2 people

      • And Facebook, of course, has a comprehensive data base which we can, for a price, access to place ads. Perhaps not as specific as the one in your local university but giving age, location and reading preferences. Just another ‘maybe’ to explore.

        Like

    • Yes, we’re all going ‘maybe’. And that’s actually part of the fun – there’s always another maybe round the corner. Thanks to Sue Ranscht, I’m now getting Facebook friend requests too – exciting! Maybe, indeed, we’ll end up liking Facebook?!

      Liked by 1 person

    • GD Deckard says:

      Didn’t you once say your husband was a pilot? He could drop Sly ads out of a plane. You may even get extra local coverage when he does a perp walk for littering.

      Like

  8. mimispeike says:

    I had thought that my Friend requests all proceded from Michael H and his circle. I have come to doubt that. I got a semi-creepy message this morning from a guy who ‘likes my profile and wants to get to know me better’.

    The database thing sounds very interesting. I’m no longer so excited about those FB friends. I have just sent out the following message to a dozen of them (I’ve started with the blatantly Praise the Lord crowd), as an experiment:

    Dear Friend, I have gotten many Friend requests, and have accepted many of them. I begin to perceive that many of you write in genres/on topics that do not interest me, and I’m sure the reverse is true as well.

    I write black humor (specifically, anti-religion), in purple prose (a choice, for comic effect), intricate adventure set in the sixteenth century . . . uh . . . starring a wise-ass talking cat. It’s sweet, sly smarty-pants fun (hooker role-playing the Virgin Mary for a twisted priest client notwithstanding), but some may find it somewhat (lighten up, folks, it’s a riot) offensive. If this is not your cup of tea, feel free to defriend me.

    That should shake them up, eh?

    Liked by 3 people

  9. mimispeike says:

    Yes, I’m on here a lot in the last few days. Why?

    1. I’m on vacation.
    2. I hurt my back in the garden, I’m pretty much flat on my back in bed. (My iMac is right next to my bed, and I have a cordless mouse and keyboard. Next to the garden, this is my favorite place to be.)

    I’m reading the news, but how much of The Yellow Kid can I take? (That may be an insult to The Yellow Kid, he looked goofy, but I gather he was a good guy.) I guess I have no choice but to finally write my ‘Serials’ post. I hardly know where to start. Well, I have the title: Serials: The Little Engine That Could?

    One more thing and I have to bug out, go see what we got in the way of a dinner. Type Writer into the FB search, there are many writer/reader groups, members from the thousands to the tens of thousands. Most are public groups, some you gotta join.

    I’ll be checking this out next. I don’t dare work in the garden for probably a week. Monday night I was a total wreck. I can’t risk that again. I was in so much pain when I moved, I was nearly immobile.

    Liked by 1 person

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