Advertising Strategies: a Work-in-Progress

Maze

Source: Shutterstock

As of maybe six months ago, I’m a fully independent or self-published author, what is sometimes referred to as an “author-publisher“. I like that term, because it conveys the sense that self-publishing is more than just banging out words and then sending them out into the world, all naked and unprepared. There are things one needs to consider, things a publisher usually does. Two of those are editing and book design, and I’ve blogged about those before.

The other thing that a publisher does to a greater or lesser extent (at least, if you’re lucky and they are any good) is advertise your book. In the case of small or independent presses, you may have a small or non-existent presence in bricks-and-mortar stores, so you can’t rely on people stumbling across your work by accident. That’s where advertising comes in.

I’m still feeling my way through the morass, trying to find strategies that work for me and my books. I thought it might be helpful to others (and for my own future reference) to catalogue some of them here.

Book blitzes

These are generally organised to try and raise a bit of word-of-mouth attention when a book first comes out; kind bloggers share promotional content. Sometimes they result in a few adds to peoples’ Goodreads shelves, but I haven’t noticed a huge number of sales as a result. Maybe I’m just not doing them right! Certainly, I wouldn’t do a blog tour with customised posts, as I don’t think the time invested would be worth it. But I would do a book blitz for each of my future releases. Every book deserves a birthday party. 😉

NetGalley listings

Publishers will usually list books on NetGalley, which is a site that allows reviewers to apply for free ebook copies of books in exchange for an honest review. It’s a lot of reviewers’ bread and butter. But it’s expensive to have a NetGalley account, so, for an independent author, it’s generally more cost-efficient to buy in on a co-op such as this one. I had a three-month co-op when Isla’s Inheritance and Isla’s Oath came out (I had each book up for about six weeks), and a one-month co-op for Lucid Dreaming. I got a bump in the number of reviews on sites like Goodreads, but, like a blitz, this is about word of mouth rather than direct sales.

Facebook advertising

I saw a tweet that described Facebook advertising as being as effective as setting your money on fire. The metaphor probably works better in countries where the money is made of paper, but still, it’s not too far off. I have tested a handful of ads and have seen no return. These days, the only thing I’d pay to advertise on Facebook would be occasional posts on my author page; Facebook throttles visibility of page posts so that not everyone who likes the page will see them. If you pay them money (the extortionists that they are), they will share the post more widely. In terms of impressions, this is quite effective … but I’d reserve it for significant updates, such as book releases.

Free book promotions

This has been my most recent effort, and also my most successful to date. Because it is my most recent, I’m going to go into a bit more detail, with some numbers. (This does feel a tiny bit like airing dirty laundry, but if you promise not to oggle my underthings I think we can all ignore that!)

I made the Isla’s Inheritance ebook permafree (ie I have no plans to set a price for it again), and advertised it via the “Buy a Series Post” option at Freebooksy. They have a significant market reach and people loooove free stuff. When I previously advertised a sale of my erotica novella (*cough*), I had a ton of downloads, so I knew it worked.

In the first two weeks after the promo ran, I had almost 5000 downloads on Amazon and a handful at the other sites. Isla’s Inheritance made it to #2 on Amazon US for free Paranormal & Urban Fantasy (as I write this, it’s sitting at 233).

Isla's Inheritance free ranking

There haven’t been a huge number of reviews as a result, but there have been consistent sales on books two and three in the series. I didn’t expect that people who downloaded the book would buy the sequels so quickly, but on the first day of the promo I had four sales of Isla’s Oath and one of Melpomene’s Daughter — suggesting that there were at least four people who read it straight away and liked it enough to keep reading. (If you were one of those people: thank you!)

Within the first two weeks, the promotion had paid for itself with sales on the other books. It’s the first time a promotion has done that for me, so I’m pretty pumped.

There are a few caveats, however. The first is that obviously I didn’t make a penny off those 5000 copies of Isla’s Inheritance; this means that, in order for me to even break even on the trilogy, sales on the other two books have to cover not only their own production costs but those of the first books as well. For this reason, I wouldn’t personally make a book permafree that didn’t have sequels available — because, while I don’t expect to be rolling around in piles of money, I’d at least like to imagine I might recoup my expenses at some point. 😉

The other caveat is that there hasn’t been much, if any, cross-pollination to my other book, Lucid Dreaming. I expect that if people finish the trilogy and enjoy it, and they decide that they’d like to see what my adult (rather than young adult) book is like, that might happen … but it will be slower.

What next?

Now that the sales bump from the Freebooksy promotion has more or less worn off, I’ve decided my next experiment will be with Goodreads advertising. I read a really interesting blog post by Lindsay Buroker on how she made it work for her, and I’m keen to give it a try. Goodreads has a big advantage over Facebook in that at least we know the people on there are readers to start with.

Wish me luck!

If you’re an author-publisher, have you tried different forms of advertising? What has worked for you? What hasn’t?  I’d love to hear about it!


Isla1_Front_smlDo you also like free things?

The Isla’s Inheritance ebook is available free from the following retailers:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia

Barnes & Noble

iBooks

Kobo

Smashwords


The best kind of book mail

My name is Cassandra Page and I’m an online bookstore addict. As a result, I’m no stranger to friendly little packages showing up, sometimes (in the case of preorders) months after I ordered them. Such packages always make me smile …

… but not as much as receiving a giant parcel full of copies of my own book does! In some ways that’s counter-intuitive. I mean, I’ve read my book, right? But there’s nothing quite like being able to pat fondle hold a copy of a book you’ve worked really hard to produce.

Today both my son and I are home because we’ve got colds, so I was fortunate enough to be here when the delivery bloke with his doof doof music arrived to drop off this lovely parcel.

Isla_Box_Photo

This particular delivery is even more exciting for me, since paperbacks of Isla’s Oath and Melpomene’s Daughter were never produced by their previous publisher. Naturally I squealed, and my son (who is six) made disgruntled noises about non-picture books. Since I can’t share my joy with him … or with anyone else, given it’d be antisocial of me to take my germs out of the house right now … I thought pester you with it. Thanks for being ace, internet! 🙂

Here is the trilogy, all sitting side by side. Note the amazing work Kim did to get them looking beautiful together? I especially love the little symbols at the top: an arrow, a snowflake and a seashell, chosen to represent each of the stories they represent.

Spines

And here is a photo I’ve been keen to take for a while now: all my preciouses sitting side-by-side on my bookshelf. I have two copies of the original Isla’s Inheritance there (since it is no longer available), and two of Lucid Dreaming (one is the paperback proof; I used the online proof function for the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy).

All

And this is me. Only I’m a brunette with curly, shoulder-length hair and glasses, obv.

Rapunzel

If after seeing the lusciousness that is all three books together you’re keen to have copies of your own to fondle, they are available online. Alternatively, for Australians (who may find it cheaper) or those who are mad keen for a signed copy, they are also available from me. Email me at cassandrapage01_at_gmail.com (replacing the _at_ with a @)!


 

Sale

 

 


Why I chose not to self-publish before, and why I’ve done it now

Back in 2013, I blogged about the four reasons I chose to publish the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy through a small press rather than to self-publish. To summarise:

  • I wanted someone else to edit my book
  • I wanted someone else to do all of the other things that are required when publishing a book (cover design, typesetting, etc)
  • at the time, Amazon’s royalty payments to Australians involved sending cheques in US dollars; I wanted someone to electronically transfer me royalties
  • and because, in all honesty, I felt like it would give me a sense of validation.

And then, in October last year, I blogged about the reasons I was no longer with said small press. I suppose in hindsight I could have saved myself a lot of stress if I’d just self-published in the first instance, but I gained so much valuable experience in releasing the three books through Turquoise Morning Press that I don’t regret the decision.

In the four months since then (wut?!), I’ve self-published not one but four books. To be frank, that was an utterly insane decision, but I was already locked into the release date for Lucid Dreaming, which I’d decided to self-publish in the meantime, and I wanted to get the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy back on the market as soon as I could. I was just lucky my designer could work to those timeframes.

Now I’m out the other side I can finally think and breathe again. So how do those four reasons stack up?

Editing 

Obviously, with the trilogy, I got the external editing I was after. But I re-read and re-proofed each book myself as well, before self-publishing; I didn’t just upload them as they were, because there were a few tiny stylistic things I wanted to change. Normally it’s impossible to edit — even to copy edit — your own work, but when you take a several-year gap between finalising them and re-reading them it is a lot easier to be objective.

For Lucid Dreaming, several awesome friends critiqued it for me, and then I paid for it to be edited by a professional editor who is also a good friend. This was money well spent.

Cover and design

I paid for all four books to be professionally designed by another good friend. This was also money well spent. I can slap together a teaser or a meme just fine, but the finer points of cover design completely escape me, and there’s no doubt that all four book covers are beautiful and have a similarity of appearance that ties them together.

I expect I could learn how to do paperback and ebook layouts (though not the Smashwords table of contents procedure — I tried to read the instructions and my brain turned to mush). But the value to my mental health and stress levels of having someone who gets how it’s done and can apply a theme to the entire book was immense.

As for how to navigate Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords and Createspace, I managed to muddle through. Practice makes perfect, and by now I’ve had a lot of practice!

Amazon royalty payments

Now that Amazon Australia exists, Amazon pays via direct deposit. Hallelujah!

Validation

Well, this is a tricky one, isn’t it? I’ve read some excellent blogs by authors much more successful than me, in which they say that no matter how successful you are, there’s always someone doing better than you. Once the heady rush of having a three-book deal wore off, I found that I spent a lot of time qualifying my success to people. They’d be gleeful and I’d be self-effacing. So I guess in a way I never got the validation I was after.

The upside and the way forward

There are definitely perks to self-publishing, most of which won’t be a surprise to anyone. Being able to control the various design decisions mean that I adore all four of my covers, rather than having to compromise on and have less input into ones designed at someone else’s expense. Live sales reports are a mixed blessing (and can be downright depressing unless you’re a smash hit), but there are advantages there if you want to test out different forms of advertising to see what sales effect they have.

So, after all that, would I publish with a small press again? No, I wouldn’t. Although self-publishing the way I want to, with more professionalism than I can bring to bear, costs money, I’d rather do that. Small presses are a mixed bag, and the Amazon-dominated market is unkind to them. (It’s what killed TMP.)

Would I publish via traditional publishing, were the opportunity to present itself? Yes, because they can offer something I can’t get via self-publishing: market reach. The idea of being a hybrid author (one that does both traditional and self-publishing) has a huge amount of appeal to me.

Have you tried multiple avenues for publishing your books? Which worked best for you?


 

Isla3_Front_smlMelpomene’s Daughter, the final book in the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy, is once again available at all good (and some evil) online book retailers. You can find the buy links for it, and the rest of the series, here.

Isla struggles to embrace her fae nature while preserving her humanity in the final, exciting instalment of the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy.

Isla has spent months persuading the Canberra fae that she isn’t a tyrant like her mother, trying to prove that—despite her mixed blood—she’s human, not a monster. That she’s one of them, not one of the high fae who enslaved them.

But a vision of a fresh-dug grave warns that someone is going to die.

When the Old World fae once again move against her family, seeking revenge for old wrongs, Isla will stop at nothing to keep those she loves safe. She just wants to be left alone. But to win that right for herself, her family and all Australian fae, she must cross the oceans and take the fight to the country of her birth.

Isla must prove she really is Melpomene’s daughter after all.


An update ramble (aka proof that Cassandra shouldn’t blog tired)…

So, err, January has sort of gotten away from me. I had all these ideas for blog posts — primarily to, you know, write them — but clearly that hasn’t gone well. So of course, since I got maybe five hours sleep last night, now seems like the perfect time to write an update. Mostly so you know I haven’t been eaten by rampaging drop bears or whatever.

Me, writing this blog post

Me, writing this blog post

One of the posts I was planning was going to be a “my goals for 2016” post. It can more-or-less be summed up in this short list:

  • Self-publish Melpomene’s Daughter (Isla’s Inheritance #3)
  • Write the sequel to Lucid Dreaming
  • Be awesome

Melpomene’s Daughter is going well. I have the paperback proof from KILA Designs and have maybe 50 pages left to read. My goal is to get it done by the end of this weekend, so that I can get it back to Kim before my son and I scarper down to the coast for a week of probably getting rained on at the beach. (It’s going to be awesome.) That way, when I get back, the book should be all go for a February re-release.

Melpomene's Daughter paperback title page

Such a lovely title page. I could pat it.

I started drafting the sequel to Lucid Dreaming over Christmas. I’ve got three chapters down and, well, lots to go. I’ve also got my next project lined up — one I’m super-excited about — so, aside from wanting to finish off Melaina’s story for its own sake, I’m also keen to finish it so I can move on to fresh pastures. I’m so fickle. 😉

Lucid Dreaming has been getting some great reviews on Goodreads and other review sites/blogs. If you’ve reviewed it (or any of my books), then know that I love you from the bottom of my heart.

Over at Aussie Owned and Read, I blogged about how audiobooks are the best thing since, well, books.

I haven’t been reading as fast as usual — unless you count my own books, which I have read many, many times. In fact, I’ve been on the same two books (one audio, one ebook) all year. Which is not to say that they aren’t awesome, because they are. I just haven’t had as much time lately — and my usual time to read audiobooks, on my commute, hasn’t been viable because my son has been with me more often than not. If it does rain at the coast as much as I anticipate, at least I can catch up on some stories.

Currently reading 0116

On a personal note, this month has been pretty rough for me and the boy. Close friends of mine have moved away for an awesome work opportunity; their kids are good friends of my son’s, so he has been just as sad as me about the whole thing. The difference is that, when you’re six, you process these things differently. It’s been hard, but this week has shown signs of improvement. (And the coast trip is a distraction that couldn’t be happening at a better time. Awesome parenting high five, me!)

I’ve also spent a bit of time being sucked into a casual, mobile game called Fallout Shelter. It’s based on the Fallout games, but is more of a resource-management game than a shooter. I like it … though I’m less wild about some of the decisions the game designers have made. Maybe one day I’ll have a rush of blood to the head and review the game, but IT IS NOT THIS DAY.

I’m not that tired.

LOTR dachshund

So, that’s where I’m at. How about you? Has 2016 been treating you nicely so far?


‘Isla’s Inheritance’ trilogy cover reveal

Isla’s Inheritance is my first book baby (well, book triplets, really, given it’s a trilogy), so I’m giddy with delight to be able to share the new covers with you. These were made by Kim Last from KILA Designs — the same wonder who made the Lucid Dreaming cover — so it should be no surprise to you that they are breathtaking.

Feast your eyes! Feast them!

All three covers


Isla’s Inheritance

Isla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own.

Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact her mother’s spirit. But the séance receives a chilling reply.

SHE IS NOT DEAD.

Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.

Isla1_Wrap_nobleed_sml

Isla’s Oath

Australia is a long way from the Old World and its fae denizens … but not far enough.

Isla is determined to understand her heritage and control her new abilities, but concealing them from those close to her proves difficult. Convincing the local fae that she isn’t a threat despite her mixed blood is harder still. When the dazzling Everest arrives with a retinue of servants, Isla gets her first glimpse of why her mother’s people are hated … and feared.

But Isla isn’t the only one with something to hide. Someone she trusts is concealing a dangerous secret. She must seek the truth and stop Everest from killing to get what he wants: Isla’s oath.

Isla2_Wrap_nobleed_sml

Melpomene’s Daughter

Isla struggles to embrace her fae nature while preserving her humanity in the final, exciting instalment of the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy. 

Isla has spent months persuading the Canberra fae that she isn’t a tyrant like her mother, trying to prove that—despite her mixed blood—she’s human, not a monster. That she’s one of them, not one of the high fae who enslaved them.

But a vision of a fresh-dug grave warns that someone is going to die.

When the Old World fae once again move against her family, seeking revenge for old wrongs, Isla will stop at nothing to keep those she loves safe. She just wants to be left alone. But to win that right for herself, her family and all Australian fae, she must cross the oceans and take the fight to the country of her birth.

Isla must prove she really is Melpomene’s daughter after all.

Isla3_Wrap_nobleed_sml


‘Isla’s Inheritance’ re-release – trilogy cover reveal sign-ups

As you know, my young adult urban fantasy Isla’s Inheritance trilogy is currently unavailable, due to Turquoise Morning Press closing its doors. I’ve taken the opportunity to give the books a bit of a spring clean — new covers, new interior design, and a bit of a dust and vacuum (so to speak). The first two aspects are being taken care of by KILA Designs; the designer in residence, Kim, is the same very talented woman that designed the Lucid Dreaming cover and interior, so you can bet your boots that I am super-excited about the whole thing!

As I write this, the covers are almost complete, and they will take your breath away — I promise.

Since I’m very impatient, I’ve decided to run an all-in-one cover reveal for the entire trilogy on 5 December … and this is your chance to take part. I’d love to have you! If you’ve got a blog or social media account and you’d like to help me share the new covers, you can sign up here.

I don’t have a release date for the trilogy yet; the first book is with KILA for internal design, and the second is also ready to go. I’m just re-proofing Melpomene’s Daughter. I’d love to have them all back up before Christmas, but that might be pushing my luck, and the friendship with Kim. We’ll see. 😉

To inspire you, here’s a new teaser for the first book, Isla’s Inheritance

Isla_dream


Playing With Word Clouds

Ages ago I did a word cloud for the first chapter of Isla’s Inheritance. I stumbled across it the other day while digging for something else, and decided I should do one for each of the other two books in the series, lest they get jealous. Also, because it’s fun. And because it gives me an excuse to say I was playing with word clouds in the title of this post, which makes me sound like an awesome superhero librarian!

The app I used for this is Wordle, by the way, if you want to get you some.

Isla’s Inheritance

II word cloud

Isla’s Oath

IslasOathWordle

Melpomene’s Daughter

MelpomenesDaughterWordle