Do You Give Your Book Away?

Do You Give Your Book

My writing goal has always been to get people to read my books. Pretty simple, eh?

Those of you who’ve been following my journey (or are published authors yourself) know it isn’t that easy. One of the things I’ve been tossing around is giving away my full-length novels for free.

I already give away short stories as subscriber magnets for my newsletter…but how about an entire book? Will this help me in the long run? Especially when I only have two books available for sale at the moment?

Despite the cautions from others that this devalues my work and it only makes sense if you more books in the series, I decided to do it anyway. Why? Because I want to know. Don’t you?

So, I did some experiments with my FREE days through my Kindle Contract. (For those of you who don’t know what this is, if you sign up to be exclusive with Amazon, they give you two advertising options during each 90 day contract. Either you can drop you book price to free for 5 days (consecutive or non-consecutive) OR you can participate in one countdown deal.)

Back in February, I blogged about my countdown deal for Love, Lies & Clones where I basically lost money…about 50% of my investment. Last week, I had a countdown deal on my other novel, Blood & Holy Water, where I did it smarter. The results? I still lost about 33% of my advertising investment. (i.e. I put in about $150 in advertising and made back about $110 back.)

So…what about FREE days instead?

With Love, Lies & Clones, I had five free days to experiment with. Here’s what I did. (Note, I don’t know if there is spillover sales for my other novel from these downloads.)

  • April 27th — No Advertising — 286 copies downloaded — $22 in extra sales over the next few days, no increase in Kindle Unlimited page reads. Result was a net profit of $22 with no advertising cost.
  • May 11th & 12th— Ran a Genre Pulse ad for $12.50 on the 11th followed by another Free day on May 12th — 810 copies downloaded over the 2 days (360 on day 1 and 450 on day 2) — $6 in extra sales over the next few days and an extra $14.50 in increased Kindle Unlimited page reads over the next two weeks. Result was a net profit of $8.
  • May 25th — Ran a Fussy Librarian ad for $27 and had my book priced 99 cents before and after the promo. 578 copies were downloaded — Only made back $3 because of the 99 cent pricing and had a page bump that only was an extra $3.5. Results were a net loss of $21. If I would have kept my book at full price, this promo would have broke even. I also had the memorial day holiday here, so I don’t know if this was run at the best time.
  • June 26th — Ran a Robin Reads Ad for $60 — 1483 copies were downloaded – Made back $42.63 in extra sales and I’m unsure on the KU page reads at this point. Probably will make this promo break even.

Non-Fiscal Benefits:

  • Newsletter signups: I have had 24 sign-ups from this promo. (I have a “download my free prequel” link in the front matter and back matter of the book.)
  • Social Media Follows: I know I’ve had some, but didn’t quantify them. Probably the same number as newsletter signups.
  • Reviews: I received some reviews on goodreads and amazon. (4 amazon reviews, 13 goodreads) I had been fearful they’d be extra critical because the book was free, but they weren’t.
  • Exposure: How do you quantify just having people see your story?

So, overall, free days appear to get your book(s) in more hands and bring in more net revenue than countdown days. (I don’t know how true this statement is if you’re doing a lot of cross promotion and not paying for advertising.) Giving your book away is also a great way to get your book out into the world, whether or not it’s the first in a series–especially for a newer author.

My Tips for Setting up a Free Day.

  1. No advertising is a good place to start. Perhaps promote it with other authors. People will find your book, and you may even get spill-over sales the next day (I did.) I will be repeating this method to see if it’s consistent.
  2. If you’re advertising, it appears best to only have your book available for free for a single day. Consecutive days will result in more downloads, but won’t make money back to pay for your advertising.
  3. Don’t spend a ton on advertising. Moving forward, I’m going to try to shoot for the $25 or under price tag.
  4. Keep your book full price before and after the free promotion.

I’m still left with some internal debates. Is giving your book away free devaluing your work? Is there long term complications? I don’t have those answers. I write because I love it and it’s fun. And seeing thousands of people download my book is pretty darn fun!

What do you think? Have you given your book away free, and what were your outcomes?

Lessons Learned; 90 Days of Self-Publishing

30 (2)

I’m now out past the dreaded 90 days since self-publishing my novel, Love, Lies & Clones. I posted about my lessons learned in the first 30 days HERE and the first 60 days HERE.

Remember my writing goal? All I want is for people to READ what I’ve wrote. I have no goals to make any sort of real money doing it. (It’d be nice if it wasn’t a money-sucking hobby though.)

Here’s how the first 30 and 60 days went (I published December 16th).

First 30 Days Dec 16th to Jan 15th (Book priced at 99 cents)

  • Expenses: $389
  • Income: $95
  • Profit/Loss: $-294
  • Sold 63 eBooks, 18 paperbacks, and 3824 Kindle Unlimited page reads.

Next 30 Days Jan 16th to Feb 15th (Book priced at $2.99)

  • Expenses: $5
  • Income: $135
  • Profit/Loss: $130 this month profit (but still at a loss of $-259 overall)
  • Sold 13 eBooks & 5 paperbacks and 480 Kindle Unlimited page reads.
  • (Despite making more money, I wasn’t happy that only 18 people grabbed a copy of my novel. Remember, I’m trying to get people to read my stuff.)

So, how did the next 30 days go?

When you sign up for Kindle Select, you are enrolled in a 3 month contract. In that three months, in exchange for exclusivity to Amazon, you receive two benefits.

  1. You are enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. That means that your book is made “FREE” to Amazon’s KU subscribers. As an author, you get paid per page these readers read. (It averages about 1/2 a cent per page.) I had thought this would open my book up to a pile of readers, but I’ve been disappointed.
  2. You are given a choice of two promotions in the 3 month period. Kindle Countdown Deals or “FREE” book day. I wanted to try the countdown deal, since I heard so much good about it making your book discoverable. Again, I was disappointed.

Why is it dreaded to be out more than 90 days? Amazon has lists of new releases. They have a 30 day new release list and a 90 day new release. After 90 days, you’re on your own in the sea of 5 million books. (That’s why, ideally, publishing something every 90 days is helpful for maximum exposure.)

Okay, to the good part of this post. The numbers.

I’ve already posted about my Kindle Countdown Deal I ran HERE. Overall, I was happy to sell 138 books. I had to spend another $219 which I didn’t earn it all back. The rest of the month, I only participated in free promotions. How’d I do?

How’d I do this Past 30 Days Feb 16th to Mar 15th (Book priced at $2.99 with a Kindle Countdown Deal at 99 cents for 7 days)

  • Expenses: $219
  • Income: $121
  • Profit/Loss: $-98 this month profit (total loss of $-357 overall)
  • Sold 140 eBooks & 1 paperbacks and 4572 Kindle Unlimited page reads.
  • (Overall, I got over 140 copies of my book into people’s hands. That made me happy, but there has to be a way to do this without being an expense.)

Lesson’s Learned This Month:

Kindle Countdown Deals: Dropping the price to 99 cents and paying for advertising doesn’t amount to a profit (Unless, you get a Book Bub deal or have more books in a series to sell.) Next, I would like to try pricing my book at “FREE” to see what effect that has–especially since I’ll have another book published and “FREE” sales of one may lead to actual sales of the other.

Kindle Select (Amazon Exclusivity): I’m teetering on whether this is worth it or not. I believe for romance genres, it may be worth it, as there are a lot of Kindle Unlimited subscribers. (Romance readers tend to go through books quickly.) Here’s how I’m torn:

  • Staying in the program: Will my page reads go up when I have a second book out there? Can I increase the number of readers by using Amazon’s “FREE” pricing promotion?
  • Leaving the program: I’d like to be able to give my books away free as a subscriber magnet to build my newsletter, but I’m tied in with Amazon at the moment. Also, I’d have the ability to go “wide” listing my books on other platforms such as Kobo, Google, iBooks, etc. (Though, I understand these platforms are small potatoes compared to Amazon.)

Overall, I decided to stay with Amazon exclusivity for one more contract cycle (3 months) to answer the questions I have about a second book helping the first and how the “FREE” days work.

Amazon Product Page (Sales Page): Three (four?) things REALLY Matter: Cover Art, Title, Blurb, (Reviews?). I think my blurb is good, reviews are good too. Title, I can’t change, but I can add a subtitle. I may have an issue with my cover. I’m completely beginning to buy into it’s worth spending money on a fantastic cover. It really does mean a lot.

What I’ve Done, Moving Forward:

I played again with my cover for Love, Lies & Clones and am currently experimenting with this one. I’m already seeing some increased sales. It’s still not my answer. I also added a subtitle to the novel: “A Captivating Futuristic Mystery Novel.” Again, I probably could do better, but it’s a start.

llc low

I’ve decided to continue in the Kindle Select exclusivity program for another 3 months, more as a trial than for anything else. Here’s the three things I wish to accomplish:

  • See if by having a second book published, if it effects sales of the other books.
  • I’ll experiment with some FREE advertising days, instead of the Kindle Countdown. I had been hesitant because do people really read free books? At this point, it’s worth a try. Bonus – this achieves my goal of my book being in more people’s hands. I just hope they read it.
  • I’ll also experiment with some variations in pricing. I may become the “All Books Only 99 Cents — ALL THE TIME” author. (I’m happy to give up the 70% royalties at the $2.99 price point in exchange for more readers.)

Take Home Message:

First, despite all these “Lessons Learned” I am very happy on how Love, Lies & Clones has performed. (Especially for someone who had NO IDEA what they were doing regarding marketing. Remember when I thought all I had to do was hit publish and thousands of people would find my book?)

  • I have 23 reviews on it with an average star rating of 4.8 stars. Not so bad for a first book.
  • I’ve had a ton of feedback from people that this book got them into reading again as it was so easy to follow and a page-turner, that they don’t typically read sci-fi, but this book was realistic and enjoyable, and even that they connected with the main character and reexamined their own practices in their life. Win. Win. Win.
  • A typical self-published novel sells about 250 copies in it’s lifetime (stats from HERE). Love, Lies & Clones has sold 243 books so far…and only 3 months has passed.

As I plan the release of my next novel, Blood & Holy Water (launch day is set for April 4th) I’ll be modifying some of the things I tried with Love, Lies & Clones and taking some different approaches. Stay tuned for updates on that launch.

Again, thanks for sharing this journey with me. I’ll post another update on Love, Lies & Clones after this next 90 days.

–Joy

Feel free to share your thoughts and wisdom in the comments.

 

Kindle Countdown Deal – Results

Last week, I had my first Kindle Countdown Deal for my novel Love, Lies & Clones. If you remember back to my comments in my 30 day and 60 day self-publishing update, I raised the price of my novel to $2.99 solely so I could participate in this promotion. It’s also one of the reasons to be exclusive to Amazon.

kindle-countdown-deal

(If you don’t know what a Kindle Countdown Deal is, it’s a short time period–up to a week–where you can put your book on “sale” to attract more readers. When the book is on “sale” you still collect the higher royalty rate (70%) rather than the 35% they’d typically mark you down to.)

Previously, I posted that I decided to run pain promotions to advertise my countdown deal. Here was my line up and spending. I added my daily sales to each line.

2/16 – Book Barbarian ($20) & My Book Cave-All Week Exposure ($20) 21 eBook sales
2/17 – eReader News Today ENT ($30) & Sweet Free Books ($7) & My Newsletter  35 eBook sales
2/18 – Book Sends / eReader IQ ($35) 21 eBook sales
2/19 – Guest blog for Mystery Thriller Week (Free), HeadTalker Campaign (Free), & a few Ask David Tweets ($2 – Maybe) 7 eBook sales
2/20 – eReader Cafe ($25) & a few more Ask David Tweets ($1 maybe) 13 eBook sales
2/21 – Free Kindle Books & Tips FKBT ($30) 14 eBook sales
2/22 – Bargain Booksy $50 24 eBook sales

My goals weren’t to make back my investment. Actually, I was only hoping to make back half of it. So, how’d I do?

  • I sold 137 electronic books and 1 paperback.
  • I had 2706 page reads during the promo and 661 reads in the 5 days since the promo.
  • Total spend was $219. Royalty earnings of the book sales and page reads was about $109. (Yup. I made back roughly half of my spend.)

But making money wasn’t my goal at all. From reading a ton of blog posts from other authors, I knew I wouldn’t make money with a countdown deal. My two main motivations were:

  1. Have people find my book! There are 5 MILLION ebooks in the kindle store. How the heck do people even find mine? By selling your book, you build up your ranking, your also bought lists, Kindle Unlimited borrows/page reads, you get put on the Kindle Countdown Page, and other things.  –OR–
  2. Prove to myself that being exclusive to Amazon is not worth it. That, even with paying good money for promotions and doing the Amazon special deals, people still don’t find your book.

I had other motivations too:

  1. Determine if I’m better off listing this as a mystery/thriller or a sci-fi. Now, when I peek at my also boughts and the number of books sold with each promotion, it appears sticking with sci-fi is the winner.
  2. Build up “also boughts” to make it discoverable when people browse other books. I went from 1 page of also boughts to 13.
  3. Determine if it’s worth giving it away Free. (Or not promoting the countdown deal at all.)
  4. Decide to “go wide” or stay exclusive to Amazon. I still want to try a few more things before I make this decision. (Things I have up ahead: Kindle Unlimited Cross Promo, Publishing a new book & possibly experimenting with free days.)
  5.  Experiment for future book launches. I wanted to try these promo sites before launching Blood & Holy Water. I want to try to do that launch right.
  6. Experiment with these paid promo sites. Do the higher priced ones get you more sales? (Bargain Booksy was not worth the $50, in my opinion.)

To my surprise, what I wasn’t expecting was to actually have people read the book and respond. I mean, come on, Joy, that’s your main motivation for writing. I had two nice things happen to me.

  1. I received one review from the countdown so far — a 5 star! (I love 5 star reviews.)
  2. I received an email from somebody else, praising my story saying he’ll be watching for more books from me.

Maybe these two will become loyal “true” fans.

Also, I did hit #59 in one Amazon category. (Probably better than that, but I went to bed.) I was in the top 100 in the other two categories.

llc-59

So, my overall thoughts on the Countdown Deal? I’m still not really sure.

  • On one hand, I’m happy because I sold 138 books plus had people actually read it through the Kindle Unlimited program. That’s my goal right? To have people read my book? BUT, something sits wrong with me having to lose money to do so. I debate pricing my book at free to get it in people’s hands, but still struggle if people actually read the free books they download. I mean, I have a pile of free books on my Kindle I haven’t touched. Now, if I pay for them, I’m more likely to read them. Then I debate going permanently at 99 cents. I was hoping to earn back my initial investment before I went this route, but I don’t know. Have I mentioned that I just want people to read my book?
  • On the other hand, it’s a fiscally losing problem. I understand BookBub is really the way to go with adverting that brings a positive return on your investment (and it comes with a hefty price tag of somewhere around $500 depending on the genre.) The problem: Bookbub is quite restrictive and only select a fraction of the people that apply. I’ll try for it, as soon as I have 20 reviews and have Blood & Holy Water published. The other downside, is I had to raise the price of my book to $2.99 for 30 days before the promo (and 14 days after). I wonder how many sales I lost because of it? I mean, I made more money at $2.99, but making money is not my primary goal. (And less book sales = lower rank on Amazon.) Also, there were other free cross-promotion opportunities I would have liked to take part in, but couldn’t because my book was priced at $2.99 with no flexibility.

Lessons learned: If I do this again, things I want to remember.

  1. If the #1 spot in the book’s category is possible, STACKING PROMOS on a single day or over a few days is a better option. (You can check an approximate number of books sold per day for the #1 position by plugging it into this free tool HERE. It tells you how many books per day of that book sell…you have to be able to sell more than that number.)
  2. If the #1 spot is not possible, you want to spread the sales out. With the Amazon algorithms, consistent sales (and reviews) keep your built up rank longer–which makes you more visible.
  3. Some sites are better than others for promoting. I picked my promotion sites based on other’s recommendations. My gut’s telling me that Book Barbarian, ENT, My Newsletter, (maybe eReadercafe & FKBT) are my best choices for next time. (Of note, back when I first released, I used much cheaper promo sites and had very little results. I was intentionally using more expensive ones for this promo.)
  4. Newsletter is great. People click photos, so make it pretty. Keep building your newsletter list.
  5. In the mornings, before the paid promo launched, I had very few sales. I really believe that just having a countdown deal, with no advertising, will not get you far.

I come back to the same conclusion. How do you sell more books? Write more books! Everyone says it’ll take off with book 3 or 4…probably in a single series.

Again, thanks for sharing this journey with me. Until next time.

–Joy

Feel free to share your thoughts and wisdom in the comments.

 

I Need Your Vote! (& How to Advertise Kindle Scout)

First off, I’m asking for a favor. If you have an Amazon login, would you head over to Kindle Scout and nominate my novel, Blood & Holy Water? Voting ends March 5th. (Thank you in advance.)

bhw-ks

Kindle Scout is Amazon’s publishing platform. It was designed to keep a steady stream of good books flowing into their Kindle Unlimited program. Authors need to have a polished book, including the novel itself, the cover, editing, etc, before they submit into the program.

Once in the program, it gives Amazon a 45 day exclusivity window to consider publishing your book. To keep the author busy during this time, they are urged to solicit as many nominations as they can. As a reward for nominations, your book gets to be displayed on the Hot & Trending list. Amazon never really says if the nominations matter, speculation is that they may matter if your book is borderline, or if you get a TON of nominations, they may look at your story harder.

Okay. Now to the fun part of this blog post!

As I promised a month ago, I wanted to talk a little on how to promote your novel on Kindle Scout.

Why promote? Besides a little push it may give Amazon to select your novel,  I look at the Kindle Scout program as pre-publishing marketing. It’s just another way to build an audience for when you publish, whichever way you do that. How else could you get 1000’s of eyes on your book? The best part? On your release day (with or without a Kindle Press publishing contract) everyone that nominated your book gets an email saying they can now go and purchase it. Did this work out for me for Love, Lies & Clones? A little. I did get a handful of purchases from the Kindle Scout email, but I think I had my pricing wrong.

In my first campaign for Love, Lies & Clones I was clueless on what this whole program was and what to do in it. I pushed my book as much as possible on my platforms on Day #1, then ran out of people to bombard with my message, VOTE FOR ME! VOTE FOR ME!

Here’s what my stats looked like. The blue bars are hours on the Hot & Trending list (Remember, Hot & Trending = more visibility and exposure for your novel. Once you fall off, it’s hard to get back on.) The orange line graph is the number of page views my novel received. Notice the dreaded middle! Ouch.

llc-ks-stats

Let’s talk strategy. Your goal is to obtain as many votes as you can. Both for raising the flag to Amazon to seriously consider your novel, but to also gather an audience for when you release (even if you’re not selected.) To make this program work for you, you want to stay on the Hot & Trending list as much as possible. If your cover isn’t good, or your story doesn’t interest people, you may be out of luck, despite everything you try. THE KEY TO STAYING ON THE HOT AND TRENDING LIST IS A STEADY STREAM OF NOMINATIONS.

When does your campaign need the most help? The middle! Take a look at the huge sag! During the middle, so it’s important to be strategic with these techniques to help raise up the page views during this time–hopefully translating into votes and hours on the Hot & Trending list. Keep in mind, this is easier said than done. Here’s my current campaign for Blood & Holy Water. I’m still trying to figure it out, but the center of my campaign looks better than it did with Love, Lies & Clones. At least there’s some hours on Hot & Trending. (Note, on day 3 of my campaign, Amazon sent out a huge marketing push for the Kindle Scout program, which created that spike in everyone’s data. That had nothing to do with anything I had done.)

ks-data

Moving on. We know promoting your Kindle Scout campaign is important. How do you do it? Here’s some ideas I used or considered. (Remember, I haven’t “won” with Kindle Scout yet, so these ideas are only ideas.)

FREE MARKETING

What worked well for me with a big impact is below. (Keep in mind, I feel I could have had better results if my audience was bigger.)

Reach out to your family and friends: I used Facebook (& this blog, of course.) My author page & my personal page. My secret was that I waited to reach out to this group when my page views started to tank and I began falling off the Hot & Trending list. These friends & family are your secret weapon. Use them strategically when you need them. (Plus, you don’t want to spam them either.) I reached out to them on 9th & 11th day of my current campaign. (See graph above.)

Reach out to your mailing list: Yeah, here we are again, talking about the importance of a mailing list. (Build your list early! I can’t say that enough. Stop everything, create a giveaway, then get back to writing that novel.) I sent out an email to my group (I split my group in two and sent the same email to half of them one week and the other half the next to spread my page views/nominations out.) This got me enough nominations to push me on the Hot and Trending list for hours over two days after each email. My first newsletter went out on the 14th day of my campaign. See how the bump in page views and hot & trending hours for the next few days on the above graph. My second one went out yesterday, I’m still waiting for results. This segmenting your mailing list is a great way to keep a consistent flow of traffic to your campaign. Perhaps, break your list into 4 or 5 segments. A little push in the beginning to get you on the list, then one each week and another push 4 days from the end?

kboards: I LOVE kboards for more reasons than just my Kindle Scout campaign. It’s a great group of authors who have published on kindle. There’s a nice thread of people connected with Kindle Scout HERE, and they’ll get you a ton of nominations at the end of the campaign. (Take a look at Love, Lies & Clones campaign ending.)

These things had a marginal impact on my campaign:

Headtalker: I’m on the fence about HeadTalker. I had a campaign, I built up a social reach of over a million people and that got me a bump on the 19th and 20th day of my Blood & Holy Water Campaign (See graph above.) Here’s a link to HeadTalker.

Twitter? Um…I don’t know about this. It works better for obtaining nominations than it does for selling a novel. What worked with my last campaign, that I didn’t do with this one, was creating an automatic Direct Message that said, “I could use your help right now. Would you vote for me?” Then following 50 people a day, hopefully, they follow back and vote for you. Why I chose not to do it this time? I didn’t want to be annoying and I wanted to be more genuine.

Copromote: I used this platform to build up “credits” before my launch, then asked other people to share my message. I had nearly 100K credits/reach built up, but this went fast–and I’m not sure of the success. I tend to share posts on twitter to build my credits and then only have my message shared on the other platforms to make my credits last longer. Maybe this brought in a few page views/votes. Here’s a link to Copromote.

Goodreads: I probably just don’t know how to use this platform in its entirety, but there’s a board I posted nomination requests on. I did have a few fellow Kindle Scout authors throw a nomination my way. I also used this to distribute Advanced Reader Copies (and sent them to Kindle Scout first, to check it out before they said they were interested.) Again, a few people went this way.

PAID MARKETING

I struggled with paid marketing. If you’re taking this as a launch platform, and wanting to get as many people as possible to nominate your book for exposure for your publishing day, then paid marketing may be worthwhile. I didn’t explore this much, but know of two ways to go about doing this.

Facebook Ads: I dabbled in this. I spent $2.60 to run my ad for 1&1/2 days. I picked to boost a post to people who liked my page and their friends. The reason I chose to do this is because Facebook only displays your page posts to a few people who liked your page. I have over 200 people there, and only then had seen my request. My boost was scheduled for 7 days at a budget of $2 per day, but I stopped it early, after 2 days because it started to show to the same people over and over. (Remember, I don’t want to be annoying.) This got me the page view boost on days 19 and 20 on the above graph though. You can boost posts to custom audiences, creating a list of people who read on Kindle and follow authors of similar stories. I had tried this with Love, Lies & Clones and felt it got quite expensive quickly…with minimal results for the price. BUT, I’m not an expert at Facebook Ads. In fact, I really don’t know much at all. Expanding and dabbling with this would be a great way to keep that steady trickle of nominations.

Author Shout: I hadn’t heard of this program during my first campaign and only discovered it halfway into my second campaign. Of the other authors I interact with, they say this has been helpful with a steady trickle of nominations. (Some authors citing about 20 page views from this program.) They have a Kindle Scout campaign that costs $10. If I would have known, I may have given this a try. Next time. Here’s a link to them.

And I’ll leave this post at that. Please ask questions if you have any and share your own wisdom in the comments.

–Joy

 

If you’d like to read more, Lincoln Cole, a Kindle Scout winner, has a fantastic reference book. It’s called “Kindle Scout Guide: How to Run a Hot & Trending Campaign and Improve Your Odds of Getting Picked” This is THE book to get to walk you through your campaign, from preparation, to marketing, to what happens next.

Also, you can check out one of my blog posts about the program HERE (Preparing for Kindle Scout) or HERE (My Nomination Request for my previous novel). Or, head over to the Kindle Scout website HERE.

 

Lessons Learned; 60 Days of Self-Publishing

30-1

Sixty days have passed since self-publishing my novel, Love, Lies & Clones. I posted about my lessons learned in the first 30 days HERE. I wanted to focus on the second 30 days with this post. They have been PAINFUL!

Remember my writing goal? All I want is for people to 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 during this journey. (I still say writing is not an expensive hobby. Try being a triathlon addict. One race can set you back a few thousand dollars…plus the equipment? Ouch.)

Here’s just a quick overview of the first 30 days (December 16 until January 15) as a reminder:

  • Expenses: $389
  • Net Income for first 30 days: $95
  • Profit/Loss: $-294

For the first 30 days, I had my book priced at 99 cents with a goal of gaining readers (since I’m a new author.) Here’s my sales:

  • 63 eBooks (Profit of $21)
  • 18 paperbacks (remember, it’s for sale in my parent’s zoo.)

I decided that I wanted to try a kindle countdown deal and to do so, I needed to raise the price to $2.99 for 30 days. I knew that raising the price would decrease the number of sales. (In fact, I thought I wouldn’t get any!)

So, how did the next 30 days go?

I had already tested some advertising while my book was priced at 99 cents with minimal success, so I decided I wouldn’t do any paid advertising, except Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) Ads while it was priced at $2.99. I wanted to save my advertising dollars for a Kindle Countdown Deal. I’ll post about that next week.

So… With nothing more than my routine blogging, a facebook and twitter post or two, and the AMS Ads, here’s my sales:

  • 13 eBooks (Profit of $26.52)
  • 5 paperbacks (Profit of $13.95) My parent’s zoo is closed for the season.

Note how, despite selling 50 less books, I made more money. (Unfortunately, my main goal is to have people read the book, not make money. This is the part that has been painful. I’ll go a two or three or more days in a row without a single sale.)

Just this past weekend, a local book club decided to make Love, Lies & Clones their March book read. (Thank you) That accounted for 4 sales so far. (2 paperbacks and 2 ebooks)

My Expenses This Month: $4.63 on AMS Ads. (Plus, all the paid promos for my countdown deal, but those expense will be deferred until my next post.) So, my balance sheet:

  • Expenses: $394
  • Net Income for first 30 days: $135
  • Profit/Loss: $-259

Lesson’s Learned This Month:

Mailing List: A mailing list is SO important. Not only does it help you reach out to your readers, it also qualifies you for some promotional opportunities that work (Newsletter swaps). BUT to participate, many of them require huge mailing lists. What I should have done is started building this list a year ago. Offered a freebie through instafreebies or My Book Cave way back then. I have yet to send a newsletter out and I may still change my mind on this.

Amazon Rank: You’re undiscovered unless you rank in the top 100 of your category. Preferably top 20. On my release, I should have thrown more money into advertising, even if I know it wouldn’t come back immediately. I’m spending about $200 on my Kindle Countdown. We’ll see if that is a good figure, or if it should be less…or more.

Author Interviews: These take time and at this stage in the game, I’ve seen very little (if any) success. I am doing a guest blog post this week and we’ll see if that has a little more impact.

Kindle Unlimited Page Reads: I thought the higher price would bring in Kindle Unlimited Page Reads — It didn’t.

Amazon Book Page: I continue to fine tune my page on Amazon. I’ve tweaked my blurb (using bold and adding in review comments), checked my reviews (I have 15 of them, averaging 4.8 out of 5 stars), and tried to figure out what is not making people click the purchase button. The only thing I can think to do to attract more readers is change the cover…but will that even help if they don’t find you in the first place?

Today starts my Kindle Countdown Deal, where Love, Lies & Clones is only 99 Cents. I have the following promotional sites booked. I’m not expecting to earn my investment back, but I hope half of it. I’ll talk about my reasoning when I post the outcome. Stay tuned for a recap of what worked, and what didn’t.

  • 2/16 – Book Barbarian ($20) & My Book Cave-All Week Exposure ($20)
    2/17 – eReader News Today ENT ($30) & Sweet Free Books ($7) & My Newsletter will go out.
    2/18 – Book Sends / eReader IQ ($35)
    2/19 – Guest blog for Mystery Thriller Week (I wrote an article about using medications as murder weapons) (Free), HeadTalker Campaign (Free), & a few Ask David Tweets ($2 – Maybe)
    2/20 – eReader Cafe ($25) & a few more Ask David Tweets ($1 maybe)
    2/21 – Free Kindle Books & Tips FKBT ($30)
    2/22 – Bargain Booksy $50

 

Again, thanks for sharing this journey with me. Until next time.

–Joy

Feel free to share your thoughts and wisdom in the comments.

 

Preparing for Kindle Scout (Again!)

Once again, I’m submitting a novel to Kindle Scout. In October I had submitted Love, Lies & Clones to the program. I had no idea what I was doing. Now, I thought I’d try again…this time with a little more thought to the process. (My goal is to get it submitted by February 1st)

What is Kindle Scout? It’s Amazon’s publishing platform, different than self-publishing, where Kindle Press is your publisher. Because of this, you earn less royalties than self-publishing (still more than traditional publishing), but Amazon does the marketing for you. Here’s a great blog post about the topic from Kindle Scout Winner, S.G. Basu.

kindle-scout

For me, it’s really not about winning a publishing contract. In fact, I have mixed feelings about that in general. (For Love, Lies & Clones, I remember having a small panic attack that I’d give up control of the manuscript if I won.) I’m doing this for three primary reasons:

  1. It gives me a deadline. Otherwise, I’d nitpick and rearrange the novel forever. I want to move on!
  2. I’m still struggling on my cover choice. Kindle Scout gives me an opportunity to test one.
  3. It’s a little bit of free advertising/marketing.

When readers peruse the Kindle Scout website, they see very little of your novel, only the cover, title, and tagline. Because of this, these three items need to shineYour goal is to have them click into your novel to read more…and hopefully, nominate you. (The jury is still out if Amazon actually uses this data in their decision, but I’m running this for other reason, I want to see if my book package is tight enough for publication.)

Cover: I mentioned how I struggled on this. I had it down to two choices and actually did a Facebook A/B testing ad (both ended up nearly equal) then I polled my Facebook friends/followers for their opinion. I had almost unanimous feedback for the red one. WHICH GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING I’VE READ ABOUT COVER CREATION! You want to look like other covers in the genre. Because I’m taking a chance with the cover, Kindle Scout is a perfect test run before publishing.
which-catches-your-eye-first_-1

Title: I ALWAYS struggle with titles. Without a doubt, a title is one of the key features that sells a book (or gets nominations in the case of Kindle Scout.) The novel I’m submitting has been called BLOOD & HOLY WATER ever since I created the idea 12+ years ago. I toyed with some new title ideas, something more catchy, but couldn’t find “the one.” Well, I’m keeping my original title. (Oh, and ampersands (&) don’t show up right on Kindle Scout emails, so my advice is to spell out the word “and” instead of abbreviating. It’s better than the gobbly-gook on the KS emails.)

Log line: The maximum length of this hook is only 45 characters. Yeah, this was nearly impossible. I ended up coming up with four ideas and conducting a Facebook survey about it. The goal is to grab your reader’s attention. (I’m still not sure what log line I’m using. Voting is still open and I have until Tuesday to decide. If you want to help, you can VOTE HERE.facebook-survey-png

The combo of cover, title, and tagline is all you have to attract the reader to click your book to read more. If these are not strong, your campaign will probably not succeed.

Now that you have your potential reader’s attention, you need to get their vote. To capture this, there are two key parts: book description and excerpt. (And the book description needs to be good for them to read on to the excerpt.)

Book description: Your novel wrapped up in a tidy, 500 character blurb. (Yeah, CHARACTERS, not words. And that includes spaces!) The worst part is you can’t use the “enter” key. It all shows up in a big chunk of text. Here’s what I’m going with, I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s what I can do with such limited space. My goal was to show the two main character’s personalities here.

Ava’s sick of mundane angel duties. She wants a promotion to finally earn her wings. A promotion takes more than hard work, it takes a miracle–literally. Unfortunately, her miracle’s impossible, as it involves a vampire. Fin has no time for frivolous gestures. He’s too busy avoiding his own kind to care what a naïve angel wants. But when the other vampires uncover his deepest secret, threatening what he cherishes most, nothing can help him except a miracle. Too bad he chased the angel away.

Book excerpt: This comes from your uploaded document. Yup, you need to upload your entire novel here. Kindle Scout says it should be complete, free of errors, and professionally edited. Okay. I cheat a little. I understand that if KS selects you, you have a few weeks to resubmit a beautified document to them. Because of this, I submit to Kindle Scout at the same time that I turn my manuscript over to my editor. I figure, my document is pretty good already, I’ve had ten (or more) beta readers that have nitpicked the grammar, etc. Now, this may count against me for the KS campaign, so I don’t advise to it, but it’s a decision I make…well…because I’m a little impatient.

Other things to consider:

Book Categories: Where does your book fit? Tip: If it fits in more than one category, PICK it! You’ll get more exposure that way. Mine is urban fantasy with a touch of paranormal romance and suspense, so I picked all three categories. The book will show up in three different carousels then, hopefully capturing more reader attention.

Author Bio: I had read somewhere your bio should be memorable. I lightened mine up since last time and went with this. Hopefully, it creates an impression. Yeah, 500 CHARACTER limit here too. Maybe I should have went shorter… Oh well.

Joynell Schultz was raised at a zoo (yea, bring on the jokes) which gave her a love of animals. She spends her days working as a veterinary pharmacist & spends her nights (cough, cough—very early mornings) creating imaginary worlds writing speculative fiction. When she’s not trying to put food on the table (take-out, of course) for her husband & two children (& keeping it away from her sneaky Great Dane), she spends her time reading, writing, enjoying the outdoors, & planning her next vacation.

Author Questions: There is a whole slew of questions you can answer about yourself, and your book. I don’t think that they necessarily make any difference in the campaign outcome, but I figured, why not answer some.

Thank you note: Oh, with my first campaign, I completely missed the boat on this. I filled it out very politely, but everyone does that. This time, I’m making it pop. Don’t start with “thank you” everyone says those two words. I’m keeping it short and not including a pile of links, since those go out with the email anyway.

Holy crap! I’m thrilled you voted for me. I can’t express my gratitude for your support. I’d LOVE to have your continued support by joining my newsletter list. It’s simple, just visit this website: http://eepurl.com/ccWKDn. Via my newsletter, I’ll make sure to let you know when BLOOD & HOLY WATER is available on Amazon.com.

Author photo: Lastly, you upload an author picture. Yikes. I’m sure there is psychology behind picking a photo, but I HATE photos. I didn’t spend much time on this and used the photo I currently have everywhere. Someday, I’ll get a better one…like when I lose 30 pounds. Ha Ha. Like that’ll happen.

So… How does this all come together.

ks-submission

(But keep in mind that the circled parts are all the potential readers will see UNLESS they click your cover.)

ks-sub

Because your novel will show up like this on the Kindle Scout home page:

ks-choices

Once you hit submit, this isn’t over. There’s still the question of promoting your novel, but I’ll save that blog post for another day.

If you’d like to read more, Lincoln Cole, a Kindle Scout winner, has a fantastic reference book. It’s called “Kindle Scout Guide: How to Run a Hot & Trending Campaign and Improve Your Odds of Getting Picked” This is THE book to get to walk you through your campaign, from preparation, to marketing, to what happens next.

1000 True Fans – Mission 4: Platform

operation_-31

Wow. Thanks for sticking with me for an entire month as I attempt to grow my mailing list this year. If you would like to get caught up on previous weeks, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

Review of Past Week (Mission 3: Bribery!): Success. (Notice, no exclamation point here.)

Last week, I put together a collection of 3 short stories to give away as an “ethical” bribe to join my mailing list.Taking this little book I created, I updated all my social media outlets letting everyone know that if they joined my mailing list, they’ll receive this short story collection.  Hey, look at what I even did to my Facebook page and how I changed my newsletter subscription screen (small successes, right?):

facebook-free-bookmailing-list-subscribe

Also, I may have overloaded twitter with posts. (I learned how to use a tweet scheduler this week. It was kinda fun. Even with 2000+ twitter followers, nobody sees these things, but that’s a topic for another mission.)

short-story-collection-1

Overall, I don’t think many of these tactics worked. Maybe my “ethical” bribe wasn’t interesting…or everyone is giving something away free these days. Oh well. What I’m calling a success is having a gift to share when “true” fans who do sign up. That’s my goal anyway, to make and keep followers.

How did this week pan out?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Subscriptions: 31 fans / 1000 true fans (I’m up 5 people this week. Perhaps spill over from last week or maybe from discovering my “platform.” (More of that below.)

copy-of-operation_-2

This Weeks Mission: What’s Your Platform? Honestly, it wasn’t until this past week that I even thought about what my platform was, or even how a platform applied to an author…or a blogger. (Hey, I didn’t even consider myself a blogger until last week!) Here’s my simplified definition:

Author/Blogger Platform: Your personality trait that draws in “fans.” (Ha ha. Did you like how I slipped that word in?)

I thought it would be my writing. When I started this blog a year ago, I was going to use it to showcase my stories. I started with some flash fiction, then switched to sharing my journey. Why did I switch? Because I got more interest in (cheers for?) my struggle to be a writer than I did with what I created. PLUS, I LOVE DOING IT! (Which now makes me think the “freebie” I created last week was the wrong one. If I had thought about my “platform” then, I would have spent some time creating some little booklet elaborating on some of the more popular blog posts.)

According to Jeff Goins at www.goinswriter.com, there are five different platforms: The Journalist, The Prophet, The Artist, The Professor, and The Star. Check out the details here: The 5 Types of Marketing Platforms and figure out which one you are. In his webinar, he challenges you to find which one is your primary platform and stick to it for 30 days, aligning your blog posts, social media, emails, etc. with this theme.

So, who am I? The professor. I’ve always been the “trainer” and “teacher” at work and in life, having a thirst for knowledge. I’m an over-researcher. (Okay, maybe I’m a little bit of “The Star” too, though I don’t like that title. I do enjoy sharing my stories.)

What does this all mean? Go back up to the definition: Your personality trait that draws in “fans.” So, I’m a professor. It’s who I naturally am. I shouldn’t try to change and be the artist, since my “fans” are here for my experiences. In addition to this, Forbes says, your platform is a combination of personality, authenticity, and expertise.

Now, I’m looking to creating my first newsletter. Knowing my platform helps me determine what content / theme to put in that document. A rant on Facebook censorship probably won’t be my reader’s favorite.

Then, moving on to the future of this blog post series (social media), knowing your platform will help develop your social media presence. What do you post on Facebook? How do you interact on Twitter? Reach to your platform for ideas.

Where do we go from here? How does this apply to “1000 True Fans?” Keeping my platform in mind, here’s some ideas:

  1. Guest Blogging: Start connecting with other bloggers who align with your platform. Get to know them. Offer a guest post, if they’re looking. The goal is that some of their audience will be interested in what you have to say.
  2. Networking: Help people by doing favors. Don’t ask, “How can I help,” but rather, find what they need and make a specific offer. Start connecting with like-minded people through meaningful interactions.
  3. Newsletter: Another thing I need to develop is WHAT my newsletter/email persona is. I’ll be blogging about this in the near future.
  4. Blog Clean Up: Now that I know my platform, I’m going to reorganize my blog around it. Highlighting those things that make me…well…me.

Learn More: You can find out more about platforms here:

Next Week: Social media optimization, here I come!

(Note: The first three weeks of this series, I had been loosely following the program outlined in Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing 101’s Webinar: “30 Days to 100 Fans: Mailing Lists 101.” I was supposed to “Experiment with Paid Traffic” somewhere in that 30 days. Utilizing Facebook ads and do free book promotions through sites like Bookbub, Freebooksy, and Booksends. I decided against this at this time. I may revisit it later, but don’t feel I have enough of a platform to take this step.)

I’d love to know. What’s your platform?