Back in Boston, I took a Grub Street course called Ten Weeks, Ten Stories, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I came out with ten short stories, and have been shopping them around ever since. The first of them has been picked up at Every Day Fiction, it's about a criminal on the loose but it's listed under 'parenting.' Not my decision, but I'm kind of tickled by it. If you'd like to take a peek, you can read it here.
Months after my first line-up of promotional ideas and options (Blog Tours: A Comparison, Part I), I've come out of the fray with less money and more books sold, and here's the rundown of what was worth it and what wasn't. I'm keeping track of all these successes and failures to help myself learn marketing tactics. Since it's blog posts like these that have helped me formulate my marketing strategy in the first place, I figure I should share it with the rest of the indie author community. Here's what I tried, not limited to blog tours, and how it all worked out. If you've got marketing tips to share, please leave a comment!
Successful marketing attempts, from most to least effective:
#1: Bargain Kindle Books (corresponding with a 99 cent sale)
This was a huge success! Bargain Kindle Books lists ebooks that are on sale, and sends the list out to a whole bunch of avid readers. You have to apply, and get accepted, so there's some selection, which is good. The day the book was listed, it climbed to #9 in the paid Kindle store for comedies. The next day, it crept up to #4, and remained in the top #20 for another few days.
COST-BENEFIT: I'll pay 25% of my royalties on all the purchases made while my book is listed, which ends up being just under 9 cents per book sold. In theory, I won't lose money on this, but since I'm dealing with a third party (my publisher) I won't know for sure until I see a royalty check, and compare it with my bill.
#2: In-person readings, talks and signings (especially readings that involved other authors as well)
It took a lot of pavement-pounding to get my first two readings (probably visited over 20 bookstores in Boston). But once I got some exposure, fellow authors and community members got wind that I did events and I started getting invited. I sold some books at these events, but nothing astronomical... at the worst I sold 1 copy, at the best I sold 9. But the turnout was especially good when I cross-pollinated with other authors, and I got some press surrounding the events. The events and corresponding press appear to have boosted sales in surrounding areas. The end result means more paperback books floating around people's living rooms, the back of cars, and private bathrooms. All good things.
COST-BENEFIT: I most definitely didn't make any money selling books, and if you include gas and time spent and food purchased, it was a bit of a charity case. But it was worth every penny (and every second) to meet the people, and talk books with avid readers and other writers. And now I can tell people I read at the Harvard Coop!
#3: Ebook sale for 99 cents
Sales certainly spiked when the book was first sold in the Kindle store for 99 cents. If I could have, I would have given it away for free for a week or so, just to get the word out.
COST-BENEFIT: Sure, I won't make as much money on each sale. No, I don't care. Yes, it will benefit me in the end.
#4: Reviews, interviews and articles
It was a lot of work at first, getting reviews lined up... but then after the book came out I found that there were plenty of opportunities to do interviews on friends's blogs, and as the word got out, people started to approach me. Some of these articles seemed to help spike sales, others fell flat... but either way, the more exposure the better, and now I have a little collection of links to post here on my website, which makes me kind of look like a legit author.
COST-BENEFIT: Free, and totally worth the time... if you have it.
#5: Goodreads giveaways
These are totally worth it for me, because my publisher is willing to send a book to the winner. I got one Goodreads review after about 6 giveaways, and lots of to-reads, but that's about it.
COST-BENEFIT: I don't know if it would be worth it if I had to pay for the book myself, but as long as my publisher pays for it, I'm game.
#6: Blog Tour: Goddessfish
I did three blog tours and wasn't too impressed with any of them. The only tour that seemed legit was Goddessfish, which I wrote off at first because it's geared towards romance and erotica. But the people were professional, and the bloggers posted on time. On the less-positive side, the reviews were short, and nestled under a bunch of blog tour nonsense: the Goddessfish logo, my synopsis, bio and an excerpt. I'd have rathered a review, with links, and nothing more. It seemed kind of kitchy, but I guess I got what I paid for.
COST-BENEFIT: I think it was worth $50 for five reviews, most of which showed a spike in sales. And, it was fun to read people's thoughts on my book.
#6: Facebook ads
I put up a targeted ad for my Facebook page dedicated to The Atheist's Prayer, and enjoyed watching the book get over 300 likes. It wasn't cheap, and I didn't see a spike in sales. But now my page is more legit, and I have a host of people who see my Facebook posts, and might slowly gain fans from it.
COST-BENEFIT: I ended up spending about $120, which Facebook claims is just over 50 cents per like. That's expensive, and I didn't see a spike in sales. Will I do it again? Not for The Atheist's Prayer, but maybe I'd do it again to boost the release of my theoretical 'next' book.
#7: Blog Tour: Novel Publicity
This was set up by my publisher at no cost to me, which is awesome. I saw a spike in sales after some of the reviews. Sweet. I expected a lot out of Novel Publicity, because their website is stellar and professional. To my surprise, this tour was less professional than the Goddessfish tour. I don't think a single blogger posted their review on time, and four of them decided not to review at all. As with Goddessfish, the actual review was often hidden underneath a bunch of fluff. I think one review was only a sentence long.
COST-BENEFIT: For me, the tour was free and totally worth it. I would NOT, however, pay a whopping $1,000 for their 'traditional' tour, which promises 20 reviews (that's $50 per review, compared to Goddessfish at $10 per review).
Disqualified: Attempts that failed miserably
Book Club Reading List
After doing a helluva lot of research on blog tours, I got a hair up my butt and decided, on a whim, to sign up for something I'd never heard of before, with basically no research on the legitimacy of the program. Basically, the Book Club Reading List is what it sounds like: a newsletter that connects authors with book clubs. The idea is great- you say something about yourself and your location/availability so that interested book clubs, after reading your book, can contact you and have a meet-the-author session (in person or via Skype). That's cool, right? Thing is, I've gotten nothing out of it, no spikes in sales, no emails, nothing. Something might come through eventually, but I'm skeptical. Lesson learned: I should research better.
STUPID TAX: $150
Reading Addiction Blog Tours
I knew, signing up for this, that it was a waste, but the price (less than $6 per review) sucked me in. The blogs were of a similar low quality as the Goddessfish and Novel Publicity tours, but I didn't see any spikes in sales. I still enjoyed the reviews, though, so I guess it wasn't all bad.
STUPID TAX: $34
On Blog tours in General
Since this started as a series on blog tours, I feel like I should wrap up with my opinion on the much-debated and generally looked-down-on concept of paying for your book to get tossed around the blogosphere.
My overall take: Worth it for your first book, not necessarily legit or cost-effective
Hey, now I have at least three times as many reviews, google results, and plenty of exposure across the world wide web, so I'm not complaining. As an unknown author, it's hard to get your name out; I have no shame in pushing it there. Sure, the tour hosts were often kitchy and sometimes sketchy. But I could tell by the reviews that most (maybe not all) of them actually read the book, and I enjoyed hearing what they had to say. Also, they are real people, with real friends. Perhaps their blog doesn't have a following, and is unprofessional and not to my taste, but maybe they will help me out with word of mouth. More reviews = more exposure, and exposure is more valuable than gold for a new indie author. Also, now I have blogger contacts for my next book. In the future, I might do Goddessfish again right around the release date of a new book, to spike sales and feel good about myself in the beginning. But first, I've got to start writing that book!
I'd like to take a moment to congratulate Scott Alexander Jones on publishing his second complete book of poetry! I hired Scott as my professional editor for The Atheist's Prayer and without his input the book wouldn't be in the shape it is now. So I have plenty of respect and gratitude, and I expect poetry lovers to gobble up his work.
That finger on your temple is the barrel
of my raygun--
That wretched dull resonance
breaching walls where windows once were, here
at the end of all things
tells us nothing
we haven’t already been told
That eyelid slit of light
beneath the bathroom door at the end of the hallway
yellow & yellowish & yellowing
as deciduous leaves
says one of us remains
awake at this androgynous hour
lighting candles meant to conjure azaleas.
Last week I had a really nice conversation with Niki Norlock and Richard O'Shields over at Everyday Connection. They were nice and fun and interesting and I enjoyed it thoroughly... and they recorded it for their podcast radio! The actual interview starts at about minute 10. Then we babble on about books and sailing for a bit, and I lose reception a couple times, thanks to my fantastic internet. Then there's some ads and music and we talk some more, etc. I forced myself to listen to it, and I'm pretty sure I made a fool of myself, but am less mortified than I thought I would be. So, here it is for all to hear! If you're looking for me, I'll be hiding in a corner.
I think my favorite part is that they say, "Have a great now."
Reading and Book Signing: Waynesville, NC
Celebrating the release of Lynne M. Hinkey's second book: Ye Gods!
WHERE: Waynesville, NC: Blue Ridge Books
WHEN: Saturday, June 7 @ 3:00 PM
I will be Joining Lynne M. Hinkey, author of Marina Melee, for the book release, signing and reading of her second book: Ye Gods: A Tale of Dogs and Demons. Join us if you enjoy the funny and fantastic side of spirituality and myth.
All Over the Map: Lexington, VA
Three local, female writers on their varied genres and perspectives
WHERE: Lexington, VA: The Lexington Coffee Shop
WHEN: Sunday, June 22 @ 1:00 PM
I will be joining two other talented writers from Rockbridge County for short readings and a discussion on the craft of writing. Katie Letcher Lyle is the author of over twenty books including poetry, novels, historical non-fiction, and nature books, as well as many articles and two plays. Nancy Johnston is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner, and the author of two self-help books about codependency: Disentangle and My Life as a Border Collie.
Just for kicks, I figured I would raffle off a couple copies of my book. Here's what I'm giving away...
1 signed copy of The Atheist's Prayer
1 Kindle copy of The Atheist's Prayer
And here's how to get it...
Always started whistling
When the mountains bulged around us
As we trucked down 81
Going home was boring
And the mountains seemed constricting
When the trees blocked out the sun
I tossed that Appalachian blanket
A long long time ago
It was scratchy
And I wanted something more
But then I found that old blue blanket
In a box of autumn orange hues
It smelled of lilacs blooming
At the dawning of the spring
Of the hot and humid summer
Condensed in soggy rain
And then it spoke in halted whispers
Of winter's sharpened stillness
Shattered by the train
So now I start to whistle
While I drive down 81
My old blanket wrapped around me
As the trees block out the sun
It's pretty exciting to be invited back to Comicazi for another event. Saturday, May 3rd is Free Comic Book Day which I recently learned is a nationally celebrated holiday! I have to admit I am pretty excited (and only somewhat surprised) to find that The Atheist's Prayer seems to fit in quite comfortably among comic books, graphic novels, magic cards and action heroes.
Comicazi, "the home of the bad kids," has been selling comic books in Davis square for over a decade. More than just a comic book shop, Comicazi hosts comedy shows, gaming nights, and author events on a regular basis. I'm thrilled to be a part of this community!
If you want to stop by this Saturday, the event starts at 11:00 AM and ends at 2:00 PM. (although it might run longer if people keep coming!) Comicazi is located at 407 Highland Avenue in Somerville.
Here's the list of creators and creations:
Tony McMillen, Nefarious Twit
Max Papas, Adventures of the GWF
Tonya Ratz, Make Me A Dragon
Amy Biddle, The Atheist’s Prayer
Art O’Callaghan, Rogan
Paul Axel, Legacy
While we're on the subject of comics, I recently found the following image floating around in cyberspace, and it seems like an appropriate time to pay homage to Bill Watterson. Since I read all the Calvin & Hobbes books front-to-back as a kid, I can't help but assume that the following comic was a subconscious inspiration for The Atheist's Prayer. Enjoy.
The Writing Process Blog Hop is an author-run series, in which indie authors share a bit about their writing process, then pass the buck to the next guy. I’m following Katie French, one of my very first writing partners and a co-founder of Underground Book Reviews.
What am I working on?
I just took a class at Grub Street- a Boston-based writing collective that I would highly recommend to anyone in the area. I now have 8 or so short stories to clean up and shop around, and I'm thinking about turning one of them into a full-length novel. I just can't decide between post-apocalyptic zombie dystopian, or a bank robber on the run. Maybe I'll figure out a way to combine them.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I've been told that the dialogue and character development is what makes my writing interesting and unique. I love a perfectly imperfect character, and I never let my characters conform to stereotype. I hate the concept of "good and evil" so when I write a story, the "bad guys" will have redeeming traits and the "good guys" will have flaws. I also have a crazy imagination. As I create characters and twist plots together, my goal is to surprise my readers, to take them outside their comfort zone, and to keep them guessing. My favorite thing to hear about my writing is anything starting with, "I didn't expect..."
Why do I write what I do?
I guess it all comes down to inspiration. Books were a huge part of growing up for me - I didn't have television so I spent my childhood playing in the woods and reading. My love of books was first fueled by Patricia C. Wrede's young adult series, called The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Even today, I love how the main characters defy their storybook stereotypes (starting with a beautiful princess who hates pretty dresses and etiquette). As I got older, I was captivated by more serious books: To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, The Stranger, Lord of the Flies. I love a story that ends on an imperfect note. I am also enamored with Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk and Christopher Moore, and much of my writing is inspired by their ability light, fast writing, and their ability to combine humor with catastrophe.
How does my writing process work?
I write best when I have a beginning and an end in mind. Even when I'm writing a short story, I can't start until I have a vision of the last scene. I don't need much, just a direction to push my characters towards, and something that I know I will be satisfied with. I had a very clear destination with The Atheist's Prayer, and although the book changed drastically from when I first wrote it to when it was published, the overall character arcs stayed the same.
Following me next week on the #mywritingprocess tour are:
Lynne Hinkey, a hilarious author and writer. Her newest novel, Ye Gods: a Tale of Dogs and Demons, is about the mythical Chupacabra.
R. A White, a talented fantasy writer. So far, she has written two books in The Kergulen Series, which follows an escaped slave girl named Rima as she confronts issues of race and culture... while battling dragons.