My Bookbub experience and a few tips

Phew. What an experience. Talk about pins and needles.

I ran my first Bookbub promo on May 15th and wanted to share a bit of my newbie experience — what I learned, and what I might do differently next time.

First of all, I dove into this effort after reading a detailed post by Deborah Jay (author’s of The Prince’s Man – an excellent fantasy series, I might add). Deborah provided wonderful guidance regarding her strategy as well as a look at her results.

I wasn’t as financially successful as Deborah, but I did turn a profit. Two months after the promotion, my sales are still above pre-promo levels. I’m happy with that.

I also hit #1 Bestseller in a number of categories including Epic Fantasy, ahead of Sarah Maas (and her 22K reviews) for a day! And ranked #24 in the Fantasy genre over all. That little “Best Seller” banner was a giddy high while it lasted.

Some things I learned:

Make your book available through multiple retailers.

Some authors say this doesn’t matter, but I had tried to snag a Bookbub promo a number of times in the past and was always turned down. My books were exclusive to Amazon, a requirement of Kindle-Unlimited. This worked great for lazy old me, but from my perspective, it seemed to be a problem when it came to Bookbub.

I took seven books off KU, including the series I wanted to promote, and three other books that were languishing on Amazon anyway. I had to wait for the KU contracts to expire which can take up to 3 months, so I did this step first.

When the KU contracts expired, I published all seven books on multiple platforms: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Googleplay. I didn’t realize that Smashwords publishes (on your behalf) on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple. So I did more work than I needed to. But live and learn. Smashwords and Googleplay would have done the trick.

A special note here: Bookbub knows what they’re doing. If the book had only been available on Amazon, I would NOT have made my investment back. For me, the multiple platforms were essential to pushing up the sales.

Pricing

I went with the $.99 promotion, dropping my retail price from $2.99. I’ve heard that the bigger the drop, the bigger the incentive to buy from a reader’s perspective. I have no idea whether my price deal was significant enough to cinch a purchase if someone was on the fence, but there you go.

I dropped my prices a week ahead of the promotion on all sites. I didn’t know how long it would take for all retailers to make the adjustment and didn’t want a hiccup. This also enabled me to do some pre-Bookbub promotions to give the book a bit of a boost in rankings.

Be sure to check ahead and make sure the prices changed. This should be a no-brainer. But… I set up Googleplay to drop automatically and it didn’t! I discovered it the day after the promotion and lowered it then. UGH!

Pre-Bookbub Promos

The Bookbub promotion is expensive – $705 expensive. I used the family’s vacation funds, hoping, HOPING, that I’d be able to replace them. Phew. I also ran $100 in pre-promotions with various sites to build momentum and improve the book’s Amazon ranking. I went with 12 sites, about half of them free with no guarantees.

(There isn’t time to book some of the better promotion sites, so act fast before slots fill).

Basically this was a bust. I sold about 12 books this way with a revenue of $4. Next time, I’ll go with more free sites. Authors who use multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) may do a lot better than I did.

First in a Series

Catling’s Bane is the first in a (4-book) series, and this was key, for me, in making the promotion a success. Sales of the other three books in the series topped 125 in the first week after the promotion, and they continue to sell across the retail platforms. I would not have broken even without them. If you’re thinking about giving Bookbub a try, I recommend going with the first book in a completed series (unless you’re last name is Rowling or Clancy).

Reviews

One question that Bookbub wants answered when considering your book, is how many reviews you have (and your average). I had 66 at the time of submitting, and apparently, this was enough. (I’ve hear that books with fewer are accepted too.) Getting reviews is no easy task! I’ve recommended Goodreads Reading Rounds before, and still believe it’s a great tool. The reviews are Amazon approved. Here’s a link to a post that explains more about them: Goodreads Reading Rounds.

Post-promotion reviews are coming in from Bookbub readers. Yay for Bookbub Readers! Not many of them are text reviews, but even those star-only reviews add up.

A Few Other Things of Note:

US or International or Both:

Bookbub offers a choice in promotion markets. It’s more expensive to go global, but I’m glad I elected this option and was accepted. I had sufficient sales both domestically and internationally to cover the combined cost. I would go this way again if I have a choice.

Reporting lag times:

Don’t panic if a week has gone by and your numbers are giving you heart murmurs. Retailers report at varying times! Apple, for example only reports at the end of the month, so if you run a promo at the start of the month, it will be a while before you have the slightest inkling how you did there. It took me almost two weeks to know that my family vacation was back on again.

Payment lag times:

This takes months, so don’t panic. My promotion was mid-May which Amazon will pay at the end of July. The other retailers take just as long.

Bookbub writes the blurb:

I didn’t know that Bookbub would be writing the blurb for my promo. A bit scary to say the least. They did a good job, but it wasn’t what I would have done (or did). My eyeballs fell out of my face. Just be prepared.

Cover:

This goes without saying. A professional cover is essential. Your promotion is competing with others in your genre.

Quality:

This also goes without saying. A Bookbub promotion is a big investment, and you not only want to snag a bunch of sales, but you want the readers to pick up more of your work. I made another editing pass through the series (and corrected a score of typos) in the weeks before the promotion. I was glad I did.

Was it worth it?

It appears so. I was a wreck, but ultimately Bookbub did what it says can do – provide a return on the investment, sell books, increase sales over time, improve ranking, and generate reviews. No guarantees, of course, but this seems to be a consistent outcome. Would I do it again? Yes.

Make a Book Trailer with PowerPoint

I’m a cheapskate.

I’m also technologically impaired.

So when it came to making a book trailer for Sunwielder’s audiobook pre-release hype, I resorted to the old familiar standby from my years of selling office furniture – MS PowerPoint. The program’s been updated over the past 2 decades, but I still figured it out with some trial and error. And error. And a little more error.

The main thing I learned is regarding sequence:

1. Start with your text: Keep it pithy. I used my book blurb and pared it down to its bare essentials. That gave me about fifteen slides to populate with images.

2. Then add images: I took advantage of Pixabay’s royalty-free, attribution-free images for this one, frequently mashing them together to create a scene. Remember to check copyright details for the images you decide to use.

3. Add transitions: Don’t get too zany, but have fun. Timing is the hardest part. Just keep viewing and adjusting until you’re satisfied.

4. Add animation: Same as the above.

5 Add music: Once your presentation is done and the timing close to finalized, find a piece of music. I searched for royalty-free music about the length of the slideshow since editing music is beyond my brain’s ability. Again, check the copyright details. I added a slide at the end for the required attribution.

6. Tweak about 50-100 times.

7. Export from PowerPoint as an MP4 file.

8. Upload to Youtube, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Want to check it out?

Soul Swallower Infographic

A recent guest post on Nicholas Rossis’s blog suggested using infographics as a book marketing tool (check out the helpful tips). I thought I’d give it a try for my WIP: Soul Swallowers. I’m not very techy so I did this on MS Word.  Everything you ever wanted to know about swallowing souls!

Have a wonderful weekend ❤

Goodbye Traditional, Hello Indie (Part II)

printing2

Part I of this blog summary focused on my personal experience contracting with a small press. On the whole, it was a valuable learning experience, especially for a new author who knew nothing about anything. My publisher treated me fairly and respectfully, I improved my craft and happily published my first 6 books. For many authors, this approach may be the perfect publishing route.

Yet, publishing through a small press has significant challenges that are worth considering. As I gained knowledge and skills, it became clear to me that the obstacles outpaced the advantages. In 2015, I experimented and self-published 2 books. The results drove home the stark differences in the two approaches.

In 2016, I decided to go all indie. I began the process of canceling contracts with my publisher and reclaiming my books with the intention of republishing them myself.

Below, I explain my reasons.

So what were my small press challenges?

Control

This is one of those “know thyself” suggestions.

I like control when it comes to my writing. Going with a publisher means sharing control, and quite often, having no control. There is a good chance that you will have minimal control over timing, cost, promotional discounts, and post-publication changes and corrections.

Timing

When contracting with a publisher, you are one of many authors. The publisher is juggling priorities and trying to keep a lot of clients happy. They want to get books out there, but they can’t get everyone’s book done next Saturday. A small press is “small” and the employees are probably wearing multiple hats.

Manuscripts come in and land at the bottom of the pile. Slowly they cycle their way to the top. Even a pristine manuscript has to go through all the steps, and I had to wait my turn like everyone else. Realistically, it took 9 months to a year to get a book to the public from the time I submitted the manuscript. I did have to follow up routinely to keep the process moving.

When self-publishing, a manuscript still needs other eyes, but the time frames are much shorter because you’re not cycling and recycling through the “pile.” Time frames can be very short if an author is willing to use critique groups, enlist alpha and beta readers, and do some serious editing and proofing work up front.

Costs

There is one big disadvantage in the do-it-yourself road – you can’t actually do it yourself. You need other eyes on your work and there’s often a cost. When indie-publishing, the purchase of services comes out of the author’s pocket. This includes editing, proofing, and cover design.

Most indie authors seem to have identified reasonably priced and capable resources within the indie community. Swapping services with experienced peers is an inexpensive way to get this work done, but requires a significant time commitment. Mom and your BFF are usually not qualified to provide these services.

I can’t stress how important editing and proofing is to the reader, the indie community, and the author. A poorly polished book can ruin a fantastic story and discourage a reader from picking up another book by the author. If you haven’t the money or time, pursue a publisher who will handle these important steps for you.

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Royalties

When going through a publisher, be aware that the author’s revenue is a percentage of the publisher’s profit, not a percentage of retail. This means low earnings per book and download. The publisher is entitled to their cut – they’ve invested upfront time and resources into the book. Add an agent to the mix and profits are further split.

For me, royalties came to about $.65 per book whether ebook or paperback. Now, as an indie author, even though I sell my books at a lower price than my publisher did, my income is higher because I don’t have to share the profit.

In one month, one of my self-published books earns what I made in a whole year with my traditionally-published books, combined.

Yes, you read that right. If you didn’t, read it again. Can I pay the mortgage? Not even close. But the difference floored me.

Now, it’s a little more complicated than that, because it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Which leads me to marketing and promotion…

Marketing and Promotion

I didn’t start writing to get rich. Of course, making money at something I love to do is nothing to scoff at, but what I really wanted was readership. Increasing readership usually requires advertising and promotion. Advertising and promotion requires money. So there you go; they’re connected.

Big publishing houses have marketing departments! Small presses don’t.

When publishing with a small press, 99% of marketing will fall to the author.  Marketing and promotion without any ability to control pricing is a long, frustrating, expensive uphill battle. Why?

  • Traditional publishing’s higher book prices discourage many readers from taking a risk on a new or unestablished author.
  • Higher prices and lower per-book royalties mean that advertising is often at a loss. I never recouped my advertising costs, not once.
  • I had no ability to offer discounts or free days to sell more books and increase readership.

With my indie books, I control pricing. This has a huge impact on marketing and promotion.

  • I sell my indie books at a lower cost which invites more sales.
  • My per-book royalty is higher than it was with a small press.
  • The higher profit allows me to advertise more effectively – I have to sell far fewer books to break even and can actually turn a profit.
  • The profit goes into more advertising which brings more readers and generates more profit which pays for more advertising, etc. Around it goes.
  • I can offer discounts and free days to increase readership and propel sales.

Updating

When a small press publishes a book, they are finished with it and on to their next project. They make no money going back to fix those typos that everyone missed. They don’t care if you want to make a change to a scene in chapter 7. They aren’t the anxious, obsessed, perfectionist author. They run a business.

Typos drive me nuts. My small press books sat there with their handful of typos, and I was helpless to fix them. The name of one of my characters was misspelled on the back cover of the paperback, and it took a year for the publisher to correct the mistake. The name was misspelled in the Amazon blurb for 3 years.

If my indie-published book needs a correction, I fix it, and four hours later, it’s live!

The same challenge applies to book covers. Covers are reader eye-candy. Covers sell books. A book may benefit from an update of an older cover or a completely new cover. Just like going back and making text changes, publishers aren’t eager to update covers. As I took back my books they all got snazzy covers reflecting my brand.

Why am I going indie?

Publishing through a small press was a great way for me to start my author’s journey. Since then, I’ve gathered the experience and resources to take greater responsibility for my writing career. Indie-publishing gives me control over timing, pricing, promotion, and updates. I’ve published books both ways now, and it’s clear to me that I’m better served by traveling the indie-publishing path.

For an look at the sales results click HERE

Striking the Motherlode

flightfoxcom

image from flightfox.com

Well, I have a gift for you today. NO, it’s not a book. Phew!

A friend of mine shared a link with me, and when I opened it, I gasped. My knees turned to syrup, and I wiped tears of delight from my eyes. I’d struck writing gold.

Brandon Sanderson, the highly successful author of Mistborn and The Way of Kings fame, teaches a master’s level class at BYU for fantasy and science-fiction writers. The class is so popular that only a small number of interested students actually get to enroll. In response to the flood of despair, the entire series of winter lectures were videotaped and are available on YouTube at zero cost.

image from thebooksmuggler.com

image from thebooksmuggler.com

You don’t write sci-fi or fantasy, you say.

I will assert, while skipping in circles with excitement, that the ideas he presents are 99% applicable to all fiction writing. He covers a broad range of choices and approaches, and rarely lays down any hard fast rules. Writers will fill up their brains with ideas while being told to discover what works for them.

(Just to warn you, he does hate passive sentences and has an odd aversion to the word “replied”).

Now, this is a ton of material that includes not only invaluable lessons on writing, but also on how to pitch, sell, and market a book. He’s tidily listed the lessons by content so it’s possible to pick and choose what you’re interested in learning about. The complete listing, with links to each lecture is here: Brandon Sanderson Writing Seminar.

Enjoy!

The Trouble with Introverts

 

image from twentyinparis.net

image from twentyinparis.net

Just to set the record straight, I’m a consummate introvert, replenished by sitting alone in the sunshine, coffee at one elbow, muffin at the other, laptop balanced on my knees. Needless to say, I’m never the life of the party, a shy petunia among the more flamboyant tiger lilies and striking dahlias. I’m content to observe and listen, and then quietly sneak out the back door for a riveting night of jigsaw puzzles.

In our externally focused world, extroverts get a lot of press, but introverts have magical inner worlds that I wouldn’t trade for any amount of attention. I suspect that many writers are introverts, their inner worlds rife with imagination. It’s where we conjure up stories in dazzling color and symphonic sound. We create secret worlds and populate them with emotional characters that we love and destroy. Introverts are anything but boring…to themselves, at least.

The trouble with introvert-ism is that vexing duty called MARKETING.

Really? As an author I have to market? That’s the polar opposite of my introvert strength. I have to be social…in a social network? I have to post stuff on Facebook and start a blog? I have to tweet? Really? Are you kidding me?

If you sense the panic coursing up my spine, you might accurately assume I’m hyperventilating. My mind is a pristine blank slate, utterly thoughtless. What do I say? How many times a month can I write, “I…um…wrote this book, and I hate to impose, but I’d be really happy if you read it.”

My extrovert friends are bundles of energy, brimming with fantastic and zany ideas. I get that deer-in-the-headlights look on my face when they offer helpful suggestions. I stop breathing and need an EMT to jumpstart the old thumper.

Well, I’m knuckling under; you’ll be pleased to know. I just bought a book called Marketing for Introverts by Marcia Yudkin. If you catch me dabbling in the social scene without the internet equivalent of an anxiety attack, you can thank Marcia, I know I will.

Happy Writing