Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Troubleshooting: No One’s Buying

Self-publishing can be a lot of work–not only do you have to write the book, but you have to be in charge of editing, proofreading, securing a cover, distribution, and marketing. So it can be depressing if sales are slow or non-existent. What are some things you can do to try and help boost your sales?

Check Your Product

The first step is to make sure you’re putting out a story that is in good shape, not one that’s riddled with typoes, stray punctuation, obvious plot holes, bad formatting, or anything else that makes your book look low quality or amateur. If you find yourself consistently getting bad reviews, or if reviews are consistently pointing out the same issue, it may be worth it to take your story off of being on sale and do another round of beta reading or editing. Some distributors will let people who have bought your book know when you put out a new version.

Check Your Market

It can be hard to know where to put your story when there’s fifteen million different categories available. It doesn’t hurt to look at books that are similar to yours and see what categories they’re listed in, and whether or not they’re performing well in those categories. With online distribution, it’s easy to test out different, related categories to see which ones work the best for your story. You can also tweak your keywords to see if that helps you gain traction. Getting your book where the right readers can come across it can be a lot of the battle.

NOTE: If you do marketing research, you’ll probably hear advice about putting your book into more niche markets to increase its rankings. While this can be a good strategy, make sure the categories are still appropriate to your book or you’re not going to be doing yourself–or your book–any good, and you might actually do some harm.

Check Your Marketing Strategy

It can be helpful–and some people would argue essential–to set up a marketing plan before you release a book. This is a place where you keep track of your different marketing techniques as well as how successful different things have proven to be. You can also keep track of reviewers and your budget, if you have one.

When I make a marketing plan, I often do waves of marketing, such as indicating which activities are pre-launch, during launch, or post launch. I also keep track of activities to try if my initial efforts don’t seem to be working the way I’d like them to. If your sales aren’t what you’d like them to be, it may not hurt to follow some book marketing podcasts or blogs, or to take a webinar or two on techniques that sound interesting to you. That way you can tweak your marketing strategy and hopefully find something that works for you.

Many authors consider marketing to be the hardest part of self-publishing, and it can be hard to find which strategies work best for you. Be open to trying new things if they appeal to you. And when doing research, try to stick to articles and books that aren’t older than a few years, as what works in book marketing changes relatively quickly.

NOTE: If you really hate some aspect of marketing–like, for example, Twitter–don’t force yourself to do it. You’ll be miserable, it’ll be a waste of your time, and your dislike will come through to the readers you’re trying to reach. It’s better to focus your time on something you like to do.

Am I missing anything here, Squiders? Anything else you’d recommend checking if your sales are low?

See you on Thursday!

Goals, Accomplishments, and Zombie Alpaca

Happy arbitrary division of time, everybody! But a new year feels good, doesn’t it? I feel good, anyway, like there’s a year of possibility out there just waiting for me to take it.

To get things started, look at this awesome mug my sister got me for Christmas.fear them

Ahahahaha. Sometimes she has excellent taste.

(Sometimes.)

The rest of this post is the obligatory reflection of how 2016 went and how I hope 2017 will go. At the beginning of last year I made a spreadsheet of all the things I wanted to do and gave them general time frames for completion.

I only completed two things on the list, but I think that’s a bad reflection of how the year actually went.

  • I revised, edited, published, and marketed City of Hope and Ruin (with help from my intrepid co-writer Siri, of course). That’s no mean feat in of itself, as you guys probably know.
  • I also wrote a near-novella length story for To Rule the Stars and went through the revision process with that. In addition, I did both the print and ebook formatting AND the cover. I’m pretty dang proud of that. (The cover in paperbook form is gorgeous and I regret nothing.)
  • I wrote and published a CoHaR-related short story/prequel which may or may not have made people cry.
  • I wrote several (not sure how much, but probably at least 10K) thousand words on my nonfiction books, both here on the blog and in the books themselves.
  • I redid the book description for Shards and redid the back matter for both it and Hidden Worlds.
  • I’ve done several drafts of my query letter for my YA paranormal novel.
  • I completed the revision prep for the first book of my high fantasy trilogy, which took about six months because it was in a terrible state.
  • I’ve continued to shop short stories to appropriate markets.
  • I’ve also continued to write monthly installments of my stealth scifi serial (say that five times fast), and have also started posting it to Wattpad.

So how does 2017 look?

First of all, I’ve got a short story collection coming out in early February called The Short of It. It will have four previously-published stories and one brand spanking new one. I’m doing final edits on it now, so I’ll let you know more information as it becomes available. I’m going to test out KDP Select with it, so I’ll report back on how that goes.

I’ve also got Shards in a promotion this weekend where it’ll be available for $.99 (It’s normally $3.99). I’m testing some new promotion techniques, and am also interested to see if the new book description (see above) will hatch me any chicks. More information on that later, too. I may post a Saturday post depending on when I get the info from the promo coordinator.

That’s the immediate future. Other plans:

  • My revision of the first trilogy book takes top priority. My mother and sister signed me up for PPWC at the end of April, and if all goes according to plan, I hope to pitch it there. I’ve applied for a session with the acquisitions editor of Del Rey.
  • The next highest priority is the query letter for my YA paranormal. I’d like to start querying it sooner rather than later.
  • I’d like to continue to try out new promotion techniques with both Hidden Worlds and Shards. I didn’t market HW at all when it was released, and Shards suffered from a misleading book description. I feel like they deserve more/better work than I gave them the first time. If you have ideas/want to help, please let me know!
  • I’m going to continue work on my nonfiction book series. The publishing/submitting posts will start back up here next week. I’m also considering moving to a three-times-a-week posting schedule to speed things up.

If all that gets done, I’d like to:

  • Finish the first draft of my space dinosaur scifi adventure novel.
  • Research, outline, and start a steampunk adventure/mystery series.
  • Start a new novel in the Shards!verse.
  • Discuss and perhaps start a sequel to City of Hope and Ruin, or at least work on other stories in the same world.

There’s more odds and ends, but those are the main things.

How did 2016 go for you, squiders? Anything really exciting happen? What are your plans for 2017?

(I know typing this stuff all out is a pain, so feel free to link me to posts and whatnot if you’ve laid it out elsewhere!)

MileHiCon Recap

Well, Squiders, MileHiCon has come and gone. I manned a table in the Authors’ Row for Turtleduck Press to mixed results, but the con is always a good way to meet other local authors and talk shop.

(I said hi to Connie Willis and she said hi back! Of course, I didn’t know it was her when I said it, because I didn’t know she was at the con as she was not advertised. I’ve been quietly geeking out to myself ever since. I also ran into Carrie Vaughn in the bathroom and exchanged greetings.)

The Authors’ Row is a space where local authors and small or indie presses get half of a six-foot table to lay out their wares, so they can sell books and connect with local readers. I believe they implemented the idea in 2014 (which was the first time I had a table–and I originally applied for a vendor table since there was no Authors’ Row option originally), and from what I understand, interest has grown in it exponentially, so they’ve tried to expand it every year to get more people in. The original section is an L-shape in the main atrium outside the Vendors’ Room and the Art Show. Last year they added a couple of tables across the atrium directly next to the Art Room doors, and this year they added a table on the far side of the Art Room doors and a couple tables down a side hallway directly next to the original L. They put all us presses down this hallway.

It wasn’t a terrible idea. The Authors’ Row coordinator is a sweetheart and trying to do her best for everyone. And this hallway section was directly across from the entrance to the room where the major events were, so I think the plan was that we would get traffic from people going to the events. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. People going to the events didn’t want to be bothered, and people who hit the original L-section of the Authors’ Row didn’t seem to realize that the other sections (the hallway, across the atrium, or next to the doors) were part of it, so we also didn’t get the same traffic. So sales were not so hot.

Ah well. It was a learning experience.

I do find myself pondering what to do about next year, however. Is it worth it to get a table and hope I get a better spot? I’m pondering dropping doing TDP and just doing me, and seeing how that goes. There were a couple of other published authors from my writing group there as well, and there was some discussion about seeing if we could share a single spot, but I don’t know if that would be allowed.

The other option is to not get a table and use their author co-op option. They have a co-op table, where an author is assigned a 2-hour slot for selling and signing. It could be a good compromise.

Decisions to be made. The sign-ups for Authors’ Row for next year is already live, though, so I should probably get on it.

The other authors around me were awesome, however. MileHiCon is specifically for scifi and fantasy literature, so if you’re in search of some new reads, check these guys out:

Everyone there was super great, but these were the guys I connected with the most over the weekend. Props to them for keeping me company and being generally great people.

So, that’s MileHiCon in a go. How was your weekend? Thoughts about doing conventions in general?

Long Tour Aftermath (and a shark)

Happy October, Squiders! Though the leaves have not turned and today is the first real autumn-y day of the year. Get on it, autumn.

Anyway. Siri’s and my long blog tour for City of Hope and Ruin has come to an end, and now I can comment on it and whether or not I felt like it was worth the time and money. Just to recap, we bought a multi-month tour, which ran from July 14 to Sept 29, and each week we’d provide a guest post, interview, or something along those lines for that week’s blog, depending on what they wanted. (Some weeks we had two blogs scheduled.) On the day the blog post went live, we’d stop by the post a few times to answer questions and thank the hosts, etc.

We used GoddessFish promotions, which, coincidentally, is also where I get some of the promos I post here, such as The Ever Fiend from Monday.

So, results. I feel like we got a lot of great comments on the stops, and people seemed generally excited about the book.

Now, sales? They haven’t been amazing, and I don’t know that they can directly correspond to any of the tour stops. Actually, a fourth of the sales we’ve made since the start of the tour to today have been since the end of the tour, whatever sense that makes.

There is a definite bump of adds to people’s “To Read” lists on Goodreads with each tour stop. Whether that will translate into ongoing sales in the long run, I can’t say. We’re still sitting at a 4.15 score on Goodreads, which is pretty good.

We did get some reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon from the tour, which is very nice. (We’re sitting at a 4.5 score on Amazon, but there are less ratings there since Amazon doesn’t let you leave a rating without a text review anymore. Unless I’m crazy.) You guys know how crazy it is to get reviews, so it’s almost worth it just for that, especially since everyone liked the book.

(If you don’t know how crazy it is to get reviews, it’s like pulling teeth. Leave reviews. Authors will appreciate it, even if you didn’t like the book. I mean, as long as you’re not mean about it. Mean reviews are the worst.)

Would I do it again? Hmmm, not sure. In the direct work to sales ratio, the results weren’t great. But the reviews are nice, and it was a good way to reach a ton of people I never would have otherwise.

(The last three stops, if you want to see them:

Blurbs, bios, excerpts and links at all stops, as usual.)

Now that that’s over with, who wants to see the shark I sketched this morning?

shaaaark

Now that I’m doing sketchtober, I remember that shading has always eluded me. I also tried to draw my youngest, but she kept moving.

You’ll also be pleased to know that I continue to take my revision planning seriously.

nerd

(Next to market it says “things to buy, rumors to overhear” in case that’s unreadable.)

How are you, Squiders? Other authors, any marketing things that have worked well for you? Non-authors, what are your feelings on sharks?

Marketing and Nonfiction Ponderings

I’ve found something fantastic, Squiders–a marketing videocast aimed specifically at indie speculative fiction writers. I cannot tell you how excellent this is. I have taken so many marketing courses, attended so many webinars, and read so many articles and books, and for the most part they seem to be aimed at nonfiction writers, which is a totally different animal. If they even address fiction, it’s more wishywashy, because there’s a formula you can use for nonfic and it will more or less work, but fiction is a weird and unpredictable animal and what works for some people won’t do anything for others.

So it’s so great to see people who have been moderately successful in not only fiction, but my own genre, talk about what they’ve tried, what’s worked, what hasn’t, and so forth. They also have other authors and people like Mark Coker (who runs Smashwords) on as guests. It’s been around for almost two years now, and I’m trolling the archives at the moment, watching a video here or there that seems like it will be relevant. If this sounds like something you would also be interested in, you can find it here. (Or go to YouTube and search “marketing sff” which I have found also works.)

Speaking of nonfiction, I started my nonfiction series last January and have all of a book and a half to show for my time. I’m finding it really hard to make progress, which has been a bit baffling, because I do nonfic writing all the time for my contract positions as well as here at this blog. So I’m considering an experiment–maybe I could write a series of blog posts for one of the books and then modify and expand those to into a book. How does that sound? The book series is on writing motivation as well as basic skills like outlining, so it’s not out of scope for the blog in general. If people sound generally okay with the idea, I’ll do a poll to see which subject is most interesting to you guys.

(In case people are wondering, my hope is to have all seven books done before I start publishing so I can maintain a regular publication schedule. I also have some journals and workbooks planned to go along with the series as well.)

My last pondering for the day is about Patreon. I set it up, oh, a year and a half ago? And I will admit that I’ve done a really terrible job of doing anything with it, partly because the whole platform kind of confuses me, and partly because there seemed to be very little interest from my readers as well. (You can see my Patreon page here.)

Since this obviously isn’t working for anyone, I’m thinking about revamping it, lowering the price of the reward tiers, and focusing it on a single project, so that it would be kind of a “How an Author Writes a Book” sort of thing, where patrons could watch the entire process from idea generation through to publication. I’m not sure if that’s actually interesting to people, but it seems like it would be easier to connect with than just random tidbits about a variety of projects. Thoughts, Squiders?

Anything of note with you, or that you’ve seen about the interwebs? Anything really interesting that you’ve taken notice of?

Happy 50th, Star Trek! (and a tour update)

Yesterday was Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Squiders! I find the date easy to remember, not only because I’ve been a lifelong Trekkie, but also because September 8th also happens to be my wedding anniversary.

That was not on purpose.

You’d think I could get my act together to actually post on the anniversary, but hey! This way I stand out from the crowd! A rebel, that’s me. Totally. A rebel.

Anyway, Trek has been a major part of my life since it was little and has, in many ways, shaped me as an adult. Some of my earliest memories are watching original series reruns with my parents, and I went into engineering as a major in college in a large part because Geordi Laforge was my favorite character on Next Generation. I spent my teenaged years roleplaying Star Trek on AOL, testing out new characters and new situations, which I think helped my writing and creativity immensely (especially because I got my Mary Sue tendencies out there as opposed to the first novel I ever wrote).

My mother recently moved out of my childhood home, so I had to confront the many belongings I’d left behind, which, to no one’s surprise, included ~50 Star Trek books, probably as many action figures, a model of the original Enterprise, an Enterprise-D engineering playset, a tricorder, a phaser….

You get the idea.

I like science fiction but I adore Trek, and I think a lot of that is the generally optimistic mindset of the franchise. Even darker series like DS9 still hold the core belief that we are ultimately good and trying our best to do what’s right. (If you haven’t watched DS9, do.) I read a lot of original series books as a kid/teenager, and the strong friendship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy has always been very inspirational to me as well.

So here’s to 50 years, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the silly. Keep on boldly going.

(Also, I read this article on Upworthy and thought it was silly, so here you go.)

For those of you who are following Siri’s and my long tour for City of Hope and Ruin (we’re giving away away a $50 Amazon giftcard), here are the stops since the last time I posted about it. We have three more stops, on the 15th, 22nd, and 29th, and then freedom! We’ve been getting lots of good response on the tour, but it doesn’t seem to be directly contributing to sales.

Each tour stop has the blurb, one of a variety of excerpts, and giveaway info.

Anyway, I hope your September is off to a good start, Squiders. Do anything fun to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th? Thoughts on Trek in general?

PitchWars, Tours, and Miscellany

Oh, Squiders, what a week I’ve had. Did I tell you that my stove caught fire? I think I did. It looks like we might actually get some money from the repair company, though! (We had someone out to check a burner on it–then the next time the burner was turned on, the entire electric system went up in flames.) But I also had to get the brakes replaced on my car, get a radon mitigation system installed, interview painters because we had a whole bunch of hail damage, etc. But in somewhat positive news, I’ve finally had the trim taken off the car so at least I never have to deal with that madness again.

Anyway, it’s been rough. I mostly want to burrow under my desk and read trashy romances and old Star Trek novels but, alas, I am an adult and have adulting to do. I mean, not that it’s getting done in a timely fashion, but I’m at least pretending.

In writing news, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I’ve got a new City of Hope and Ruin related prequel short story up for free over at Turtleduck Press! So if you liked CoHaR and would like more, there you go! And if you haven’t picked up CoHaR and would like a taste, tadah, free story! There’s also a free excerpt available.
  • So, apparently the application window for PitchWars was the 3rd thru the 6th. I like the idea of Twitter pitches and so have had the schedule open since January, yet have somehow managed to miss every event anyhow. PitchWars is a little more complicated–you pick four mentors and send in your first chapter and query letter, and if they pick you, they’ll help you polish your manuscript and query, and then in November they’ve got a panel of agents that look at the submissions, and I guess there’s been great success at people getting traditional publishing deals through it. Since there was a multi-day opening, I actually heard about it in time to get an application in for my YA paranormal novel, which I’m planning on going more traditional with.
  • I did, however, send in my application about 3 hours before the window closed. I guess if mentors are interested, they’re sending partial/full requests, and you’ll know you were selected before the official announcement on the 26th. I’ve heard nothing. It could be that I’m at the bottom of the queue and people haven’t gotten to me, or it could just be that I was so late into the game that people already had their eye on favorites. Or my submission could suck, but I’m trying to be optimistic.
  • I’ve finally got some momentum on editing the first book of my fantasy trilogy. It needs so much work. But I’m starting to see what it could be, and that normally helps on the motivation front.
  • But seriously, it needs so much work.
  • I joined Wattpad! You can find my profile here but I haven’t done much as of yet. A very nice author (whom you can find here) has been a doll about taking me under her wing and telling me how the site works.
  • We’re doing a space princess anthology for Turtleduck Press this year, so I’ve been working on that. I’m rather pleased with my story for it. I had a lot of fun doing science fiction instead of my normal fantasy–and space adventure science fiction at that.
  • Our long-term blog tour’s on right now. We’re giving away a $50 gift card again, so stop by any of the stops to enter. Thus far we have:
  • All stops have excerpts and blurbs and what have you, as well as tons of ways to enter the contest for the gift card.

I think that’s it in a nutshell. How are you, Squiders? Have you gotten up to anything fun or exciting lately?