Since deciding to self-publish my novel, Love, Lies & Clones, I scoured the internet and obsessed over every “My First 30 Days of Self-Publishing” post; intrigued by everyone’s experience. All of them were slightly disappointing and had the same theme. How do you find readers?
Well, I thought I’d throw mine out into cyber-space too since today marks the end of my first 30 days.
Firstly, those of you who’ve been following me know my goal with writing is just to have people READ what I’ve wrote (and enjoy it.) Writing is completely a hobby so I’m not trying to make any money doing it, but I did want to share the economics. (Incidentals of writing books, computer, desk, notebooks not included.)
- Pre-publishing costs: $265 (editing, stock photo for cover, ISBNs)
- Post-publishing costs: $124 (advertising, print advanced reader copies)
- Grand total of expenses: $389
Net Income for first 30 days:
- Ebooks: 63 books
- Page reads (Kindle Unlimited program): 3824 (equals about 10 books)
- Paperback sales: 16 (it’s for sale at my parent’s zoo)
- Total income: $95
WHAT I’VE DONE & LEARNED
Editor: I’m still very happy I hired a freelance editor to review my novel before publication. I will be doing this with all my books. At the very least, it saves me some embarrassment.
Cover Creation: I know paying somebody to create a stunning cover would have helped sales, but I’m on the fence if it would have offset my costs. I’m planning on getting a few more books out there, and with book 2 in this series, hiring someone to design an awesome cover for both novels. I did really enjoy the process of creating my own. (I blogged about it here)
ISBN’s: I bought a pack of 10 of them for $25 each—as I’ll be publishing a pile of books. I haven’t seen a benefit of this yet, and probably wouldn’t have needed to purchase these as a new author.
Advanced Review Copies: Urgh! My big lesson: DON’T SEND OUT PHYSICAL PAPERBACKS TO GET REVIEWS. I sent out 6 of them (clearly letting the reader know they were in exchange for an honest review), costing a total of $67.44. Well, out of these six, only 2 turned into an actual review. From now on, I’ll only send digital copies—plus, I think the natural reviews you receive tend to be more positive, though I don’t have enough of these to confirm this yet.
Advertising: I tried a variety of advertising strategies.
- Free Submission Websites: I submitted to Book Angel, eBook Skill, Pretty Hot, Awesome Gang, Armadillo, Book Bongo, and People Reads. I picked all these because other authors seemed to have some success with them. Well, I’d say they all netted me zero sales. Maybe one sale from People Reads.
- Critters.org: I belong to this critique forum and they send out a weekly email with manuscripts up for critique. I submitted a “Woo Hoo” that my novel’s published and thanking those who critiqued it. I may have sold 2 copies from this email.
- Headtalker Campaign: I netted 2-4 sales from this. Considering it had a social reach of over a million people, this is pretty dismal. (Here’s a link to Headtalker)
- Kindle Scout Email: Kindle Scout let everyone who voted for me know my books was available – this netted 4 sales, though I had my price set higher for a few days here. It could have netted more with a lower price. (Here’s my blog post on Kindle Scout)
- Cross-Promotion: By far, this was the best thing I did for marketing. I was involved in one the week after Christmas with all many authors involved in t he Kindle Scout campain. I netted 7 sales from that. Then this past week, I was involved in a big 70 author one for speculative fiction – this netted me 12 sales. The best part of both of these? I met some new friends. I found these all through Kboards. (Here’s my blog post on cross-promotion)
- Blogs: I appeared on some blogs as an author spotlight and others with a review of my book. I can’t say if these helped or not. (Minimal impact at best.) I know, my own blog helped. (Here’s one of those blogs)
- Instafreebies: I have the first six chapters up on Instafreebies with 33 copies downloaded so far. Do they turn into sales? I don’t know. Either way, I’m happy 33 people wanted to read the first six chapters. (Here’s the link) ***Update 1/21/17**** This was changed to the first THREE chapters, because I realized Amazon changed their policy. You used to be able to post 10-20% without being in violation of the KDP Select Contract, now it’s only 10% (or perhaps the 20% had been a type-o on their part at one point.)
- Social Media: I definitely had a ton of luck with Facebook — especially my own personal page. Twitter has not been effective for me. Twitter seems to be a great spot to connect with readers and other authors, but not to sell your book. Especially a new author like myself. (Note: I’m not talking about their advertising or boosted posts–just the free stuff.) (Facebook and Twitter here)
- Facebook: I ran a Facebook ad briefly, before it was pulled. (My rant about that is HERE.) It turned out to be quite expensive for what you got out of it. (I’m thinking no sales. Maybe a Kindle Unlimited read. Total cost: 18.41 –I had run three different ads, really experimenting on how the whole thing worked.) I’ve read a lot of success stories, but I think this’ll take some trial and error–if I go down this path again.
- Paid Websites/Email blasts: BKnights-through Fiverr: $6 gave me 2 sales. Booktastic gave me 2 sales for a $7 ad, eBookHounds for $10 gave me 1 sale. None of them paying for themselves. My book was priced at 99 cents this whole time.
- Goodreads Giveaway: I listed two paperback copies to giveaway for free. Total cost of the book plus shipping was $16.54. 658 people requested my book, 262 people put it on their “to read” list (along with hundreds of other books already on their lists), but even with all this, I don’t think it netted anyone actually reading my book–yet.
- Amazon Marketing Serivice Ads: And now, I discovered AMS ads. These take a little bit of work to fine tune a short “hook” to make people click your book and then honing the keywords that trigger your ad on people’s searches. I’m still working on this, but they’ve definitely brought me some sales at a cheap enough cost. I’ve spent a total of about $2 so far (been running since January 1st) and brought in at least 3 sales and some page reads.
Other lessons learned:
Pre-orders: I had mine up for two weeks. I think a week is long enough or a much longer period (months). In my two weeks, I had a bump of people ordering it in the first three days, then nobody for a week, then it picked up the last few days again. Total pre-orders were 19 copies.
Blurb: The book blurb is so important. The cover may draw the reader in, but the blurb is what sells the book. It needs to be punchy and leave the reader wanting more.
Book Pricing: I’m still struggling with this one. I’m currently at 99 cents, but I’m nervously raising my price tomorrow to $2.99. (I expect zero sales for the next 30 days at this price.) I’m not trying to make more money, but have multiple factors contributing to this decision. Urgh, the psychology behind this whole thing makes my head hurt. Love, Lies & Clones had been on pre-order for 99 cents and raised the price at go-live to $2.99, causing me to have zero sales for 3 days. I panicked and lowered it back to 99 cents for the first 30 days.
- I think some readers may think books priced at 99 cents may be poorly done.
- I want to try a countdown deal for more exposure and I need to be priced at $2.99 or more for a month to do this.
Things I’m doing with the next novel I’m publishing (Blood & Holy Water):
- Continue to pay for an editor. Money well spent.
- Make a more genre specific book cover. (Match the top sellers in the genre.) I’m still making it myself as I’m not ready to spend the big money yet.
- Pre-order for 1 week only, don’t advertise this to my loyal followers until a few days before – in an effort to raise my rank.
- Try Kindle Scout again. I think it was good exposure—especially when my book is sitting with the editor.
- The free services for exposure don’t seem to work, so I’m skipping them. Devoting my time to writing and useful marketing.
- Cross promotion is awesome. I’ll sign up for as much of this as I can find.
- Continue with Amazon advertising (AMS) and fine tuning it. It’s prime real estate exposure. We’ll see how I feel about this when I raise the price of my novel to $2.99.
- Price book at 99 cents for the first month—at least until I get more followers.
- Hit it big for launch week. Schedule a blast of promos for one week, don’t scatter them. Any ranking you build up, quickly falls between promos.
- Digital only advanced reader copies, and these still may not turn into reviews, so don’t count on them.
- Write a supurb blurb to hook the reader.
- BUILD A MAILING LIST!
But then, my entire experience could be because nobody cares about a clone’s desperate search for her father. There’s a ton of forums and tools out there for writers to try to identify what’s “Hot” and writing to that market. That’s not me though. I’ll keep writing whatever crazy idea springs to mind. Be it clones, vampires & angels, or superhero wives.
Wow, thanks for reading this WAY TOO LONG blog post! Until next time.
Feel free to share your thoughts and wisdom in the comments.