The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I started gearing up for October promotion way back this Spring. It involved an email exchange with Mae Clair that led to forming the Story Empire collective. That includes the formation of this blog, and our mutual promotions.
I also wanted to do a bunch of solo promotion, and that's what this assessment is going to be about. Regular followers of my blog know I do assessments from time to time, and since they can be helpful to my fellow authors, I thought this might be a good place to post one. I may touch upon the Story Empire promotions, but it's too soon for an assessment of our group efforts.
Assessments are like any other numbers game. You can make the numbers tell you anything you want. If you look at money spent vs. money earned, my promotions were all losers. That doesn't give you the whole picture though, and it all works a bit more like this:
This is a dowsing rod, this one hangs on the wall at my office where I spend 40 hours per week to pay for my writing addiction. They are a form of witchcraft that exists to this day. People still use them to find places to drill wells, and the more creative claim the ability to find gold and other precious items, even to help make life decisions. Assessing author promotions is a lot like dowsing. This is because Amazon doesn't provide all the data you need. All you know is that a copy was moved, or that some pages were read by someone.
My end game has always been to gain fans. I'll take all the individual sales I can get, but fans come back for more. They come to my blog and leave comments. They post the occasional review. Those are the real prizes to an author, because they help spread the word.
One of the first things I did was set up a free week for my novel, Panama. This is one of my older books, and while it is a consistent seller, it's been out there long enough to justify the free days.
I moved over 400 copies of Panama, landed in the bestseller list (for free books) several times, and getting as high as the low twenties on the list.
Free days are hard to assess. I know many people grab a free book, then never read it. I'm willing to bet the number is 350 or higher. That leaves me with the remaining 50 or so. I've already gained two five star reviews, and one reader wrote out a blog post about it too. That fits my description of a fan, so I rank the free days as a positive thing.
That's all the information I have, so again a bit like dowsing. If you think about the ones who grab it and never read it… I never lost anything, because they weren't going to buy it anyway.
I also ran out some original micro-fiction on my blog. I've been doing this in October since the first days of blogging, and call the stories Macabre Macaroni. They fit with a Halloween theme, and people seem to like them.
In my own promotions, my original character Lisa Burton (the robot girl) has become my personal assistant and spokesmodel. (Think branding here.) I commissioned some original artwork to use with the Macabre Macaroni posts.
The hook became the idea that if readers enjoyed the story… they might enjoy the two books of short fiction I published called Experimental Notebooks. These are priced at 99¢ and are intended as a gateway drug to my longer fiction.
The stories were popular posts, and I moved copies of both Notebooks. More copies of the second edition, but that makes sense. I also spent money on the artwork, but Lisa draws the eye, and posts where she appears are always more popular.
Maybe it isn't paramount to this assessment, but I tend to weave a complex net. Lisa has her own novel, and people have checked it out because of her blog appearances. She also got a short story in the first Experimental Notebook.
Would the Experimental Notebooks have moved anyway? Did I move more because of Macabre Macaroni? Dowsing: I have no way of knowing for certain.
In the second week, I ran a 99¢ sale for my newest novel, The Playground. You do this by holding a Kindle Countdown Deal and only having one increment.
Playground is only about six months old, and I'm not ready to give it away just yet. Those who've read it seem to be leaving positive reviews, and it fit the October/Halloween theme I had going.
I moved a total of THREE copies during the sale. That kind of qualifies as a total disaster. Note however, that someone who buys a book is likely more inclined to actually read it. Again, there is no way to know when someone reads the book unless they post a review, and even then you can't be sure is was from the sale.
Last year, the 99¢ sales seemed to be the sweet spot to get readers interested in my other works. This year, it looks like free is where it's at.
I'm counting the 99¢ sale in the loss column, but it could still gain me a fan or two.
As far as a Halloween/October themed book goes, Will O' the Wisp is kind of my crown jewel. This is the book I chose for the Paranormal Bar & Grille blog tour that all of your Story Empire authors are on. It's still going on right now, so assessment is too early.
Outside of the tour, I did a few things on my own. I'm known as someone who likes to play with all the tools. I set Wisp up for an Amazon Giveaway.
This required me to buy five copies of my own book to give out during the contest. It's okay, I still get the royalties. Amazon has several methods of handing out the prize. One makes it into a horse race, where the first five get the books. Another uses some kind of complex algorithm whereby it's possible nobody will win. Think of it like a 20 sided dice roll for every entrant.
I chose the option where there is a magic number, and went with 70. This means the the 70th entrant wins a book. So does the 140th and so on. With five books, it took 350 entrants to disburse them all.
Amazon also gives me some options that might work to my benefit. I can make entrants watch a YouTube video. (I don't have YouTube videos.) I can make them follow me on Twitter. I chose to make entrants follow my Amazon author's page. According to Amazon, followers will get an email when I have a new release. I really don't know if it does more than that, but my own blog feeds directly into the Amazon page, so there is fresh content.
One of my friends pointed out the contest culture. There are folks out there who thrive on entering and winning contests. We bought Amazon Gift Cards to hand out along the PBG tour. I expect many participants are after the cards, and don't care at all about my wares. I have a hunch the Amazon Giveaway could be something like this too. It shouldn't be quite that bad though, because you have to follow my page to get in. Maybe a larger percentage of players are actually interested in my work.
I set up the giveaway for two weeks. It took roughly one week to run its course. In this way, it exceeded my expectations. Will some of the other entrants go on to buy the book? This remains to be seen, and Amazon doesn't provide this information. All I'll see are future sales.
Those who followed my Amazon page might all unfollow me after they get the contest results. Then again, they may not. Amazon doesn't make that information available, so it's back to dowsing again.
I'm going to leave Wisp for the moment, but I'll come back to it later. Right now, I have to talk about The Cock of the South.
I wanted to do something for my birthday. I also ran out of Halloween themed novels. (I write science fiction and fantasy stories too.)
The Cock of the South is a Greco-Roman fantasy. There are some monsters in there, and it was the closest fit I had.
The 99¢ sale for The Playground failed miserably. The free days for Panama were a rousing success. Panama got most of it's action on the first day. For comparison's sake, day one netted 321 downloads on the first day.Therefore; I set up a one-day free-day for The Cock of the South.
Both free days started on Monday. I used a Facebook boost for both of them. This time, I only landed 149 downloads. That's a bit less than half. On the other hand, TCOS peaked at #2 in its sub-genre. (If it did hit number 1, it was while I was sleeping. It was #2 when I awoke.) So what happened? This is where assessment gets interesting.
- Maybe Fantasy isn't as popular as Paranormal.
- Maybe Fantasy isn't as popular as Paranormal – in October.
- Maybe my cover for TCOS sucks. (It isn't my favorite.)
- Maybe I went to the well too many times.
- Maybe peaking at #2 is pretty darned good, and I should be happy with that. Over double the downloads, to get into the twenties with Panama. If I double the placement for TCOS that's #4 and so TCOS did better. Unless you're looking at individual books in hand, then Panama wins. Truth: Both are important.
So back to Will O' the Wisp. I also signed up for two book blasts that occur on Halloween day. (Today, as it happens.) One of them requires either a discount, or a free day. (So I'm kind of hooked here.) Wisp has gotten some exposure during the tour. There are also 350 folks who became aware of it via the Amazon giveaway. Can it support a 99¢ sale having that advanced exposure?
I decided to go with a more sure thing. Will O' the Wisp is free all day on October 31st. I can't assess that one, but I can update you in the comments. Grab a copy and help me get into the top 100. Leave me a comment. I am loath to include links on this blog, but readers will expect them. Here they are: North America or the Rest Of The World.
That's a whole bunch of words with a minimal amount of assessment. I purchased blog art, paid for part of a tour and two book blasts, bought several Amazon gift cards, I also did Facebook pushes for each event. Moved mostly free copies. From a mathematical point of view it's all a bust.
But this is dowsing, remember? I'm looking for fans here. Long term fans who might still be buying whatever book I release in 2020. I cast a big net, and results are going to be hidden. Eight months from now, someone will read their free copy of Panama. Maybe someone won a copy of Will O' the Wisp and enjoyed it. Will those people pick up an Experimental Notebook? There is no way of knowing.
What I do know is that free days work better than Kindle Countdown deals (this year). You have to throw out more bait, but the results are there. My blog, Twitter, and Facebook accounts all grew. That's always a good thing, because it increases my footprint.
I was invited to participate in an anthology called Macabre Sanctuary. This one involves a bunch of short fiction by various authors. There are some great stories and I'm honored to be a part of it. My bit of micro-fiction, called There's a Cat on my Grave, is the last one in the book.
I kind of like being first or last, and last seems like the best slot. The last thing all the happy readers will see is my bio and social media presence. My story is a fun one, so I know they'll all have a good feeling at that point.
Macabre Sanctuary is a permanently free book, so it's all about exposure for the authors inside. Go get one, you won't be disappointed.
I also accepted every guest blog request I got during October. These let me expose my wares to new people. It's possible some of my actual paid sales came from these appearances, but again (sing it with me, you've read this far) There is no way of knowing.
A prominent author and blogger wants to use my marketing style as part of a convention presentation on author self promotion. You can bet I offered her some Lisa Burton art and anything else she wants. Maybe some of her attendees will check out my online presence, or even my books.
I'm a big believer that concentrating my attack on October is a good thing. Sometimes people have to see things more than once. My name was out there, no doubt. Maybe they saw a Facebook post and flipped past. Then they saw a tweet about the giveaway, then they saw one of my guest spots. Subliminally, they are aware of me. If they follow me on one of the social media sites, that's like a fisherman getting a nibble. I'll get another chance to reel them in. I don't mean that in a predatory way. I'm actually a nice guy and love interacting with people. I'm here to move some books too, and that's part of the equation.
So there we have it. Trying to interpret results from incomplete data. All authors are in this boat, and since the Story Empire blog is geared toward authors, what did you think? There are no magic bullets here. Your plan may differ from mine, but exposure is the name of the game. The bait was cast upon the water, what the net holds remains to be seen.