book promotion, book reviews, book sales, publishing, reading, Uncategorized

Now, here’s something new – a reader!

Writer's Block

Well, the launch is done – phew! I’m a bit surprised at how tense I got – I thought I’d be more laid back. Too early, of course, to give a report, but the first impression is… mixed. Yes, it’s better than the last, but given that all I did then was post on my blog, that’s hardly difficult. This time I had a strategy – build up my mailing list and ask my subscribers to post reviews. I’d sent a free copy of Perfume Island to over a hundred, but so far none has appeared. Early days yet, perhaps – we shall see. But the only reviews so far have been from people I was in touch with before (you guys included – many thanks!).

On the other hand, it has been good to get a couple of messages from complete strangers telling me, ‘I enjoy your books so much.’ And it made me realise that I’ve never before experienced that sort of connection with readers. It gives me a glow inside that’s different from other satisfactions I’ve got from writing. For a couple of reasons, I think. Firstly, as I said, these aren’t people I’ve built an online relationship with – they’re people who’ve come across my books by chance or because they happen to like the mystery genre. And that’s the second thing – they aren’t writers but readers. Crucial as it is to engage with and learn from other writers, we’re not normal readers because we always have one eye on the craft of writing (‘Ah, what a beautiful / overblown / clunky sentence that is!’). So it’s rather strange to think that someone might be reading my book simply because they want to enjoy a good story. You might say it’s a bit late to be discovering only now what it’s like to have a few readers. Well, yes, I fumbled and faltered a lot along the way. But better late than never, you’re never too old to fulfil your dreams, yada, yada…

Will Perfume Island actually sell many copies? Probably not. But a few more than One Green Bottle (again, not difficult). And the prospect of having readers raises another issue: they’re following a series. What do I do with Magali now? Is she a brand? Do I owe it to my readers to keep her going? Well, here’s what Hugh Howie has to say: ‘A big mistake I see from too many aspiring writers is to follow up their first work with a sequel, and turn that into a trilogy, and write a fourth and fifth book while they plan their sixth and seventh. […] Plan on writing many great books about many awesome characters. Plan on writing three different trilogies in three different genres. Sequels aren’t bad; in fact, they can be critical to your success. What’s bad is only giving readers a handful of avenues into your imagination. Give them as many onramps as possible. Write short stories as well as novels. Write in different genres. Experiment and adapt to your sales and any critical feedback.’ (The full article, which covers many other points, is here.)

I found that reassuring. Because much as I like Magali, I don’t want to be wedded to her for the rest of my writing life. In fact, other ideas are barging to the front of the queue, demanding to be written. For the moment, though, I’m thrusting them back. A trilogy, at least – I can’t not write a trilogy. So this morning, with great relief, I stopped looking on Amazon every other minute and got back in touch with Magali and Charlotte in Mystery Manor (much darker, more thriller than mystery this time). Because if I don’t do that, I might lose my readers just when I’m starting (let’s be optimistic here) to gain them.

As for the marketing, I see no alternative to persisting with the mailing list. The first time people unsubscribed, I was dismayed. Now I’m pleased – it means I won’t be annoying them. And little by little, there’s a chance that of those that remain, a few will swell the number of that very select group I think of now as ‘my readers’.

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book promotion, publishing

What took you so long?

So, Curtis, Perfume Island is finally ready for release.

Ha! L’Arlésienne arrives at last.

I’m sorry?

A young woman from Arles in Alphonse Daudet’s play of the same name. She’s talked about all the time but never actually appears on stage. The term now applies to something we’re led to expect but which never arrives.

I see. Well, I hope it’s worth the wait. What took you so long?

You may recall it was about to come out last year, but-

You think I recall that? With all the other books I have to read?

Well, if you stop interrupting, I’ll remind you. My publisher at the time was… let’s just say I decided it would be better to do it myself. At which point I embraced self-publishing fully, stigma and all – well, there isn’t one, is there? Once you decide to go down that road, you can’t let doubts like that get in the way.

And what did it involve in concrete terms?

I realized my marketing strategy was non-existent. I kept reading that the best way to reach out to readers, and above all to keep them, was through a mailing list, so I set about building one. I’ve done a giveaway and two cross promotions, and now have a list of about 420.

Who are all going to read Perfume Island?

If only! No, but eight of them – people I don’t know at all – have already agreed join my launch team. Which basically means they get free stuff in exchange for writing a review and spreading the word when the book comes out. Of course, 420 is a tiny number – self-publishing guru Mark Dawson has 60000. But it’s a start. The next 12 months will be a test of how well this works. Right now, I’m just pleased that I did part ways with my publisher – having control over the whole process makes a huge difference. Even if I make mistakes, they’re my mistakes and I can decide how to fix them. And I’m finding that marketing can be enjoyable too, once you start to look at it as a creative, learning experience.

Any final message you’d like to give?

Just my heartfelt thanks to the Writers’ Co-op. It seems a long time ago when GD put forward the idea on Book Country. We’re hardly big, but the level of support is tremendous. And though we write in different genres, we share the same commitment to the process. Every word of encouragement has been precious. You guys rock!

15th November – release of Perfume Island. The Arlésienne appears!

 

 

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book promotion

Where should you advertise your book?

There isn’t yet a reblog button on this site, so I’ve just copied the first two paragraphs along with a link to the full article. A good report by Andrew Updegrove on the options open to you if you want to advertise your book.

Over the last ten years, literally hundreds of services have sprung up that send daily newsletters featuring discount and free ebooks to subscribers. The king of them all is BookBub, with millions of subscribers. Unfortunately, unless you’ve written a real best seller, it’s almost impossible to get them to accept your book (and if they do, it will set you back as much as $1000 for that one-shot ad). The good news is that out of all the rest, there is a very small handful of services that can help you sell lots of books. The key is to figure out which they are, and what type of promo to run. Read on, and I’ll share what I’ve learned through running hundreds of ads over the past two years with scores of these services.

In order to find out which sites can produce, whenever I tried a new service, I ran it alone at a time I wasn’t doing any other significant promotion. And two cautions before I go into the results: first, each of my books is a thriller. Your results may vary if you are in another genre. And second, it’s a dynamic marketplace, with many services rising and falling in effectiveness all the time.

The results and discussion can be found at:

http://andrew-updegrove.com/how-to-actually-sell-books-through-advertising/

 

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book promotion, book reviews, publishing

Strategy update

front cover2

I’ve been busy. Still am, but starting to see the end of the tunnel as regards my marketing strategy. The first tunnel anyway – there are lots more to come. Here’s what I’ve done so far.

Using Draft2Digital, I’ve made One Green Bottle free on Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. It was up there already but shifting no copies, so it’s not much of a change. Now I need to write to Amazon to ask them to match that price, i.e. have it permafree. They’re under no obligation to do that, so I don’t know how they’ll respond. But they’re well aware that many authors do this as part of their marketing.

I’ve written Making a Murder, six essays about the writing of One Green Bottle, which I’m offering free to anyone who signs up to my newsletter. The offer is at the front and back of One Green Bottle, so anyone downloading it has an incentive to sign up and I get their email address, which obviously I can’t get directly from Amazon. I don’t know if Making a Murder will appeal – it’s not fiction, and the essays are humorous, so it’s a gamble. It would probably be better to stay in the same genre, which is what I intended, but my novella, which was to serve that purpose, needs more work.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to my mailing list. I had around 700 subscribers after doing a joint promotion and a giveaway (many more from the first than the second) and I then sent different messages according to whether they opened my first email or not. I offered Perfume Island free, prior to its release in November, and removed over 200 subscribers who didn’t open that email. Of those that did, 112 signed up to receive the book.

That’s a lot of giving away of two books that have taken me five years to complete. Not so long ago I’d have thrown up my arms in horror at the very idea. Now? I’m quite relaxed – 112 reading the sequel is 3 or 4 times more than read the first. Not all will like it and of those that do, only a few will write reviews, but I’m still at a stage when I need to reach out to those few.

The worst part of all this work? Converting Making a Murder to epub and mobi formats, which I have to do if I’m sending it out myself. Converting a text is fine – Calibre handles that easily. But getting a text with pictures just right is a challenge. Or a nightmare, depending on your mood.

From time to time, I step out of my marketing bubble and see that the world continues to turn and hurricanes to blow. I’m working on a third book in the series, which I hope to bring out before the Apocalypse.

 

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book promotion

Marketing update

repeat

A short while ago I announced I was doing a giveaway. It ended on 5th July, so here are the preliminary results. In fact I also participated in a cross-promotion in which 20 mystery and suspense authors made their books available free on Instafreebie, undertaking to promote the offer to their mailing list.

The giveaway was costly – the value of the prize plus promoting the giveaway itself came to over $200. I’d hoped for a minimum of 200 subscribers; I got 97. Conclusion? Not worth it. Especially when compared to the cross-promotion, which cost me nothing (Instafreebie offer a free trial for a month, after which it’s $20 a month if you want to collect the email addresses of those who download your book).

The cross-promotion brought in 576 subscribers, meaning I now have upwards of 700 altogether. In three years of blogging, I laboriously reached 65, so the sudden influx is massive. Is this the way forward? Everyone says so.

Now the challenge is to convert those subscribers into readers, and ultimately readers who’ll want to pay for the next book in the series. I’m approaching this with some trepidation – send out too many emails, be too pushy or adopt the wrong tone, and they’ll unsubscribe. So far, my unsubscribe rate is under 4%, which is healthy. If it goes up to 7%, Mailchimp (free till you get to 2000 subscribers) suspect you of spamming and send you nasty warnings.

A lot of people, of course, don’t even open the emails. Or don’t read the free books. Or if they do, don’t pay for the next one. So only a tiny proportion of subscribers will become your followers or fans. How tiny? Only time will tell. But at least it feels like I’ve got some sort of traction, a sense of control over a process which has hitherto been random and wasteful. If I convert just 5% of subscribers into followers, that’s 35 – not a lot, but still way more in a single month than in three years of effort up to then. So what do I do next? Rinse and repeat.

 

 

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book promotion

Giveaway Gamble

loto

I’m running a giveaway. I never thought I would, so I’m rather surprised. But I’ve reached a point in my writing where I want to put it to the test. Which means I’m going to pay to build a mailing list in the hope that enough people will like what they read to make it worth my while. Eventually.

Here’s the deal. I’m giving away 12 paperbacks in a raffle. To enter, you simply need to give me your email address. Then you’ll be on my mailing list, from which you can of course unsubscribe at any moment. The winner gets the grand prize but all entrants get a free ebook of One Green Bottle. In a forthcoming newsletter, I’ll be announcing the release of the sequel, Perfume Island, in September. So then I’ll see how many people liked the first book enough to want the second.

I could do this without the giveaway, via my blog. But after a couple of years, my mailing list stands at 67, which means it’ll get to a thousand around the time of my 112th birthday. Blogging is good for all sorts of things but not for getting readers.

The giveaway will be up soon on giveawaypromote.com. That costs me just $5 (or $10 for a featured promotion). If I don’t do that, only my blog readers would find it, which kind of defeats the purpose. So if I get n people signing up, it’ll be money well spent . How big is n? Some giveaways draw more than 1000 entrants, but I’m not getting my hopes up – let’s say 300. I’d be quite happy with that. Less than 200? Mweh. The cost of the prize plus postage will be around $200: given that some of the entrants will (a) unsubscribe from the newsletter, (b) either not read or not like One Green Bottle, (c) read and enjoy it but not go on to Perfume Island, there needs to be a large number of entrants for this gamble to come off.

The raffle winner will be chosen by an online random name picker, into which I’ll feed the names of the entrants myself. There are services which can do this for you, along with a host of other frills. The best, apparently, is KingSumo, which costs $200 (one-off payment – it’s yours then for life), but it only works on wordpress.org sites, not wordpress.com. The other main two are Rafflecopter and Gleam. There are free versions to both of these, but if you want them to collect emails (which after all is the point of the whole exercise), they cost respectively $43 and $39 a month. You can run your giveaway for just a month, then downgrade again to free, but still it’s another expense, so for this first bash I’m not using them. Maybe next time – if there ever is one. This time I’ll get the emails by having entrants sign up on a landing page.

So that’s the background. I’ll report back on results when the giveaway ends. Meanwhile, would you like to head over here and tell me what you think? Have I done it right? Any blunders you can see? If you do, I’d be grateful if you could let me know before I post it on givewaypromote. And of course, don’t hesitate to enter yourself – you might even win.

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Ill-defined and disreputable?

novella

‘Sir, what’s the German for notice?’ ‘Notiz.’ ‘No tits?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Really, sir? None at all?’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You just said, “No tits”, sir. Do mean, like, absolutely flat?’ ‘Any more of that, Bausse, and you’re in detention.’

That this and similar episodes are what spring to mind most readily when I think of German at school may well mean that my mind is as puerile now as it was back then. Nonetheless, by way of association, and with much effort, I recall other details too: the scarred wooden desks, the dingy yellow walls and the hapless features of Mr. Graham, whose life we made such a misery.

Also a book with a pale blue cover, The German Novelle, which presumably I read. Like pretty much everything else I studied at that time, I don’t remember a thing about it, except that the Germans were the first to take the novella form, originally established in Italy, and turn it into something with a specific set of characteristics, different from those of the novel. Notably – and here I turn not to my memory but Wikipedia – it is ‘restricted to a single, suspenseful event, situation, or conflict leading to an unexpected turning point (wendepunkt), provoking a logical but surprising end.’

Importantly, length is not a criterion. A Novelle could run to several hundred pages. But these days, when we use the word novella in English, length seems to be the determining feature. And I must admit that when I set out to write one, what I had in mind was something in the order of 30,000 words. But to reason only in terms of length would be a mistake, and run the risk of validating Carl E. Reed’s apothegm of wince number 69: ‘A novella is a book that ran out of steam.’

Stephen King has called the novella ‘an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic’. This hasn’t prevented him from writing several himself, though he points out the difficulty of selling them in the commercial world, being too long for a magazine and too short for a book. While this may indeed be a drawback, it makes the novella an ideal candidate for self-publishing, where a common strategy is to make it free in order to draw readers in to the rest of a series. This was indeed my reason for writing Closed Circle. I’ve read of that strategy many times – now I aim to test it out myself.

Not for a while, though. Because although I’ve finished a version that might pass muster, I’m not satisfied yet. It needs a good dose of improvement, for which I’ll need to let it simmer subconsciously – or whatever books do when we’re not actually working on them – for a couple of months or so. Basically, I didn’t realise when I embarked on it how hard it would be. All writing, of course, turns out more difficult than the initial vision promises, but I grappled with this one a lot. Not that it ran out of steam, on the contrary – it’s got a bit too much. I need to tighten the valves a bit, fix a gasket or two. It might gain a few thousand words in the process, but that won’t matter. It’ll still be a novella, because strangely enough, without thinking about it, I ended up with something close to the definition in The German Novelle. Maybe I did remember something more than the German for notice after all.

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