Advertising Strategies: a Work-in-Progress

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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


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.


Amazeballs SPR review of ‘Lucid Dreaming’

Those that follow me on social media will have already seen my fainting hysterics over this, but for those that haven’t: Lucid Dreaming received an amazing professional review from Self-Publishing Review this week. Five stars. Whee! Needless to say, I’m over the moon (and trying not to let it go to my head).

You can read the whole review here, but here’s an excerpt:

Lucid Dreaming is a great, comfortable read, like a new pair of slippers that fit like your well-worn favorites. Lucid Dreaming is very fresh and gorgeous looking, with a fluid and vibrant read to match. To chance a pun, you could even say the writing is lucid. Page has a particular self-awareness that just, just about creeps in and tinges the edges of the page now and then in a very modest manner that pays dividends when the time is right.

Similarly, Melaina is a great lead, with a wry and experienced charm to her character that stands out from her peers, both in the context of her own story and in the wider genre. She’s relatable, in all the right ways, and there’s a sadness behind her strength, but she’s taking it all in her stride. It sounds par for the course, but there’s a very certain je ne sais quoi to her and the whole book at large. There’s a really strong and surprisingly wide supporting cast of all breeds that are well curated to push the story in every way it needs to, when it needs to be, and the perfect storm comes in wild, colorful strokes from beginning to end.

Cover to cover, the book really shines, even down to the simple detail of its little butterfly motifs scattered here and there as dividers. It’s a really outstanding work that I cannot sing high enough praises of. Urban and paranormal fantasy fans: buy this book. For me personally, it scratched an itch I didn’t even realize I had, and for anyone looking for something new in the genre, it’s likely to do the same. It’s an example of some of the finest to be found in a rather crowded arena. It’s hard not to find yourself giving yourself “one more page”, page after page, and for better or worse this is a read that will definitely keep you awake if you’re not careful!


Add Lucid Dreaming on Goodreads

Ebook

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia
Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Paperback

Createspace | Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

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SPR Review


‘Isla’s Inheritance’ is back

Isla1_Front_sml

YOU GUYS! It’s been two months since Turquoise Morning Press returned the rights for the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy, and in that time the fantastic Kim and I have been working our booties off. I’ve re-read this book (twice), spent an unhealthy amount of time trawling stock websites (the images for the covers and the latest teasers are all courtesy of Shutterstock), and then squeed enthusiastically at the end result. There is definitely something to be said for self-publishing; the sense of satisfaction at the end of the process is enormous.

ANYWAY. I’m pleased to announce that Isla’s Inheritance, book one of the trilogy by the same name, has been released back into the wild. So far the ebook has made it as far as Amazon and Smashwords, and the paperback is only at Createspace. But I’ll update my Isla’s Inheritance trilogy page as I get more links.

Thank you as always for the support of my wonderful friends and family. This re-release has been an unexpected bump on the road, and I admit I wouldn’t have chosen the Lucid Dreaming release month to be doing all this work (let alone just before Christmas, with all the end-of-year shenanigans), but hopefully you agree that the result is worth it in the end.

Ebook

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia | Smashwords

Paperback

Createspace

Isla_new_covers


An update, some squeeing and probably some other stuff…

I haven’t been blogging as much lately. I’m sure you’ve noticed. It turns out that self-publishing for the first time, combined with prepping to re-release an entire trilogy, all in the lead-up to the silly season, is quite time consuming.

Who knew?

Still, there have been a few exciting things going on. On the Lucid Dreaming front, a beautiful box of paperbacks arrived. I squealed so loudly I may have frightened the dog. I then got to do one of my favourite things: autographing books to fulfil orders for some of my favourite people.

If you’re interested in an autographed copy, they are AU$15 plus postage. (I realise that could get a little XX-y for people that are outside Australia, but the offer is available worldwide regardless.) Send me an email at cassandrapage01(at)gmail.com and we can sort out the details.

Excitingly, if you don’t want me to deface sign your book, I discovered today that Lucid Dreaming has made it onto The Book Depository. Free shipping worldwide. Whee!

Lucid Dreaming paperbacks

Aren’t they lovely?

As for Isla’s Inheritance, I had a very exciting moment when a friend posted this picture on Facebook. Yup, that’s my book, sitting next to Indigenous Governance and a little bit of Skulduggery Pleasant. Sweeeeeeet.

Isla_library

ERMAGERD!

For those of you that are waiting for the series re-release (especially for the paperbacks of Isla’s Oath and Melpomene’s Daughter, which TMP never issued), it isn’t far away now. I’ve re-edited all three books and am now proofing the gorgeously designed galley  KILA Designs did for Isla’s Inheritance.

And the cover reveal for the entire trilogy is this Saturday. You can still sign up here!

Isla's Inheritance galley

It even has little arrowheads!

And, of course, I’ve also been decorating Christmas trees, organising presents, and all the other things that happen at this time of year. Once Christmas is done and the Isla trilogy is back on sale, I might just collapse in a heap for a bit…

…who am I kidding? I’ll start writing the sequel to Lucid Dreaming. 😉


News: Isla’s Inheritance re-release coming soon

I’ve been sitting on some big news for a few days now, because I wanted to wait till it was official, and to give myself a chance to let it digest. My publisher for the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy, Turquoise Morning Press, is closing its doors this month. That means that the books will soon be temporarily unavailable while I get them ready to re-release.

I admit the timing isn’t great for me, given that Lucid Dreaming comes out next month. (Speaking of which, signups for the book blitz are up now!) But TMP hasn’t gone broke — meaning royalties are getting paid out — and the owner is doing her damnedest to look after the authors. That puts it light years ahead of some small press closures that I’ve heard of. #silverlining

Anyway, all of this means that, if you want to buy the trilogy with its current covers, you need to be quick*! I’ve decided to give the books a fresh look, with covers by KILA Designs, the same cover artist who did the gorgeous Lucid Dreaming cover. I want the books to all have a similar feel, since they’ll all be released by the “publishing house” that is me. (Branding, yada yada yada.)

In other news, I am over at Aussie Owned and Read today, talking about writing your way out of a sad place. The timing is coincidental, I swear!

*If you’re interested in a paperback of Isla’s Inheritance, I have a limited supply available that I am happy to sell for AU$10 plus postage — that’s less than cost! Send me an email at cassandrapage01 (at) gmail.com.


LucidDreamingBlitzBanner


I have a confession to make… (and a sneaky cover reveal)

Over the past month, as well as being busy with edits on the second and third books in the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy (which you’ll note is young adult urban fantasy) and spending some time drafting a young adult historical fantasy that doesn’t have a name yet, I’ve been busy with another side project.

I may have accidentally, sorta, kinda written an erotica novella. I tripped and fell and there it was. I swear!

It’s about 8600 words, which makes it about a tenth of the length of your average novel. (And I note that a tenth of the length is otherwise not a good thing in this genre… BOOM.) It is also urban fantasy — so I’m being consistent there, at least. Just not with the market.

My plan is to self-publish it under a pen name: Tammy Calder. Because the last thing I want is for some poor innocent who reads my young adult fiction to click on the “other titles” link and see something that might have their parents filing a law suit against me! For the same reason, I won’t be going crazy with promoting it on my blog or social media.

Otherwise, I’m treating it the same way I would any book I’d consider self-publishing. It’s had a couple of beta reads from friends who are still able to look me in the eye (phew!) and is now with my lovely editor friend Lauren McKellar to be whipped into shape.

(Haha, whipped*!)

Ahem.

Anyway, I have a cover all ready to go. Because Photoshop is fun. Wanna see?

Possessed cover

If you’re wondering why “Tammy Calder”, it’s because that’s my porn star name. You know that old game, where you take your first pet’s name and your first street name, and put them together? (What’s yours? Leave a comment!)

* Yes, I’m making light of the whole thing. It’s because I’m actually kind of nervous about this blog post, and I laugh when I’m nervous. It’s gotten me in trouble before. Many, many times.