Sneak Peeks

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Self-Publishing Secrets

     I hope you aren’t here looking for the magic bullet of self-publishing success. The secrets I’m revealing here aren’t the how-to’s of self-publishing, because, seriously, there’s really no secret to that. Everyone and their grandma has a self-publishing guide on Amazon’s shelf. In fact, all you have to do is put “self-publishing secrets” in the title and it’s a guaranteed best seller.
     What I’m talking about are the real secrets.
     How much did you earn from self-publishing last year?
     How successful are those blog tours?
     How well do free promotions work?
Well, I’m going to tell you.

     The first thing I’d like to point out (and this is important for perspective, not just filler) is the fact that I am a hermit. Look back through my blog posts and Twitter feed and you’ll see that my offerings are sporadic at best. I’m not social. I’m jealous and guarded with my time. Even my dear family only sees me on a rare weekend when we all have magically synced schedules. To compound this genetic predisposition toward solitude, I was also born in the in-between age, when technology was becoming available to the yuppies and the rich kids that lived on the hill, but not everybody had seen a cordless phone yet. We didn’t grow up with technology. My TV was black and white as a kid (gasp!) because we were too poor to buy a color set, and black and white wasn’t totally abnormal at the time.
     You get the drift. I’m not comfortable with social media, THE NUMBER ONE tool for selling books.
     Strike one and two.
     The only reason why my reluctant approach to social media didn’t leave me with a third strike, dead in the water, is because I finish and publish my books. And the writing isn’t half bad.
I love writing. But not just any writing. I love writing about my worlds. My people that only I know and who I desperately want to share with others. Every spare moment that I can carve out for writing I devote solely to the creation of my novels. If I were to use that time to blog, or comment on other blogs, or chase bloggers for reviews, I wouldn’t have anything else to offer readers but blogs.
     But I decided that in 2013 I was going to give social media my best effort. Though I didn’t have the time for continual socializing, I was willing to invest in people who could, and try a (tiny) bit harder to be present myself.
     Here’s what I did-
I tweeted from my phone at least a few times a week.
I paid a company to take me on a blog tour.
I ran a Facebook promotion giving away a free iPad Mini.
I joined two Goodreads writer’s groups.
I subscribed to Netgalley for a month.
And I published five novellas in a series.
     How did all this work for me?
     If a person’s success using Twitter is measured by the amount of re-tweets and mentions they receive, then it was a dismal failure. I mostly Tweeted release details, and sneak-peeks at upcoming cover art. I also did short blurbs from cool scenes in my books in the hopes of sparking some interest in them.
     Everyone hates those. Wait, was that too sweeping a judgment? Okay, to be specific, I rarely got retweets of these Tweets, because, let’s face it, they’re basically ads and most people don’t like ads.
I also Tweeted about some writers and causes that I wanted to support, but my Tweets were clearly lacking the whipped cream and sprinkles that brings ya back for more.
     Bad Redhead Media gives some of the best advice that I’ve come across about using Twitter. Do I follow all of the amazing free advice she gives? No. Which is why Twitter doesn’t work for me. I’m a skulker, not a sharer. I read your Tweets. You don’t read mine.
     If you aren’t following Bad Redhead Media, do so NOW! She will deliver you from evil if you just obey…
     Here’s a link to her website
Blog Tour-
     One month, a couple dozen blogs, carefully prepared answers and blurbs, just watch the sales roll in. Right?
     I only have experience with one blog tour operator so I can’t speak for the entire species, but my tour was a rather dismal failure. The blogs that this company booked seemed to only run blog tours, one after the other, after the other, after the other… I can’t imagine what sort of following they have, maybe that’s actually what a lot of people look for? Natch. Not only was this promotion fairly generic looking, but most of the bloggers didn’t end up posting the interviews or other writing I provided. This may be the tour manager’s fault for not pushing it, or simply flakey bloggers, but it was disappointing and certainly not worth the money that I paid. I didn’t see any rise in sales to indicate a spike of interest from the blogs. Zip.
     But blogging does work. The key is finding people who actually like your novels and aren’t just accepting five bucks to paste you on their scrolling author page. When real people talk about you to their real followers, the response is boggling. A regular person wrote about my book, A Taste For Moonlight, on an average little blog last year and the boost in sales blew me away. I rocketed all the way to number three on Amazon’s best seller list and stayed there for over a month. Top 100, baby! Best feeling ever.
     The power of a single voice is far greater than you realize. I wish I knew who that girl was so that I could thank her. (Thank you!)
iPad Mini Giveaway-
     I also tried a Facebook contest to raise interest in my work, I’d heard great things about authors who gave away Kindles and such. (I’m laughing as I type this) Okay, how did it go?
I got 2,000 new likes on Facebook because of the like-gate on the contest. You couldn’t enter without clicking “like” first. Most of these people Tweeted about the contest for an extra entry, so for a month a couple thousand Tweets were flittering about with my name on them.
     Rise in book sales? New reviews? Tons of new Twitter followers?
     Nope. Not. At. All.
     The cost of the contest and the cost of the iPad Mini were definitely not returned. So funny and confounding, I’m still not sure why it didn’t work?
     My best advice on this one is, if you run a contest, find a way to make buying one of your books a no-brainer, like offering 50 extra entries for proof of purchase, or 100 extra entries for a link to a review of your book. And definitely do the like-gate if it’s on Facebook.
Goodreads and Shelfari-
     I joined a couple of their groups and did my usual sporadic participation. If you make friends and comment on posts often, you’ll keep your name on everyone’s mind. I notice people that regularly pop up in my updates and I remember them. Do people remember me? No. I don’t comment enough. I am a lurker, not a participator.
     I joined a fantastic group of authors on Netgalley called Patchwork Press. They allow authors to buy month-long spots for a VERY reasonable price (under 50 bucks) instead of forking over the hundreds a private membership would require.
This was a promising one. I got a couple of new reviews out of my month long trial on a single title. It apparently works best with newly/soon to be published works, but really anything that a fairly new or self-pub’d author submits might find success.
     This one was worth it.
     I’ve self-published five Paranormal Romance novellas for $.99 each, and three full length NA SciFi novels for $2.99 each on Amazon, and offer them on Prime. I also have the anthology of Par/Rom novellas as a single volume for $3.99. This one isn’t Prime and I have it for sale on Kobo, Nook, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
     Most of my sales come from Amazon. I’ve sold only a handful of books on Barnes & Noble.
I believe I averaged between 30-40 hours a month on writing and the little I did with social media to promote myself. If you can devote more time to writing, it will doubtless pay off exponentially as long as all of the following “IF’s” are checked off.
     IF you use Twitter correctly and Tweet about more than your own books, and IF you blog regularly and find regular people who will blog about you, and IF you run giveaways for real fans, and IF you join book groups and participate often, and IF you subscribe to Netgalley and submit your book for professional review, and IF (the biggest IF) your writing isn’t half bad and you produce new work regularly, then you can reasonably assume you’ll do at least as well as I have by self-publishing.
     Now, I don’t know how these and the following numbers stack up with other self-pubs because most authors are extremely tight-lipped about such things. I know that for me, finally typing them is a bit daunting. My husband even asked me whether I was “really putting it all out there.”
     Yep. This is the stuff that I wanted to know when I began this journey. Mainly, how successful can you be with self-publishing? Now that I have this knowledge, I feel obliged to help the people who haven’t gotten here yet.
     So, (deep breath for courage) this is how the hermit did-

     My total sales in 2013 were $27,975.47 and the commission I received on that was $9332.91
     I sold about 25,000 books.

     Boom. There it is.