Author Topic: First Book Launch - Post Mortem  (Read 495 times)  

Offline DanielGibbs

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First Book Launch - Post Mortem
« on: June 25, 2018, 12:19:53 PM »
Well, its been a ride the last couple of months. The lead up to launch, the launch, promotional activities, etc... I've learned a lot. Had some success. Made mistakes.

I noticed that there was a long thread about indies bragging about sales, so I wanted to start by saying that I'm not  bragging, and will specifically highlight missteps. Its my hope that someone will get some value out of my mistakes. ;)

So first, the backdrop... this was my first book. I started writing this book when I was 14 years old. I created the universe in my mind all the way back then. Let me assure you that what I attempted to write back then was laughably awful. In the last 23 years, I've tried to write it again many times. It got better. Eventually my job (IT engineer) morphed more into "write proposals for new work all day long". That's when I finally learned how to write. :)

When I decided to finally get really serious last year, I did alot of research (This forum has been awesome for helping new blood); did alot of reading. When I finished my draft, I ended up using two different editors; both who were awesome; one to provide a development/line/copy edit, and another to do a final copy/white glove review. I lined up some friends that love Scifi to be beta readers; they had alot of positive feedback and caught some embarassing word errors. I invested in custom 3D spaceships of the main ships (and a number of enemy ships too....I have enough for a bunch of covers now), a website, and a book trailer. In other words, I went all in.

I also invested heavily in launch day promotions. Pretty much anyone that would support promoting a new book, I did. Some were very cheap ($5 bucks); some were $300 bucks (NewInBooks). Also did an ARC through Hidden Gems.

I think that my book's plot line is unique (Orthodox Jew commanding a space ship, faith playing an active role in the characters lives), and that played into successes (and failures). More on that later in the post.

So what's the take away from all that prep?

* I went all in on promotion.
* I had a professional cover
* I had professional editting that really brought value
* I believe that the technical quality level of the novel was high; almost no typos, formatted well, and it presented as a professional product.

And then, launch day arrived.

I did a four day pre-order that got 4 sales. Launch day got 2000 KENP, and 4 sales. I averaged 1000 KENP a day for the first two weeks, and 1-4 sales a day. Almost no promotions made back the money invested, except the super cheap ones.

I ran some ads; they got good clicks, but few sales (10 to 1 ratio of clicks to sales). I understand that's actually a decent metric, but typically works a lot better with multiple books out in a series. I have one.

Did my promotions pay off? I'm not sure. Through May 31st, between ebooks, paperbacks, and KENP reads, I had about 85 books sold. Royalties vs spend, that's a dismal failure. However, when viewed through the lens of, Im some brand new dude writing a book, never been heard of before, and I needed to convince folks to buy my book and take a chance I think it was worth it. Could I have streamlined the spend? Absolutely. Should I have avoided the ads? Probably. But in the end, my worst fear was I would release this book, and ten people would buy it, and all ten would leave one star reviews. That didnt happen.

Then June rolled around. My last few promotions hit, including the one I had lined up a couple of months in advance with a promoter that I wont mention here (mostly because there will be a scrum because some authors like them, some dont, fights break out and the promoter will come weigh in and then Ill be wrapped up in a quilt and such. 😉 I havent had a post moderated in God knows how long, anywhere, and Id like to keep that streak going. If you want to know who privately, PM me.) and it was my final promotion for this novel.

It hit on June 7th; and I got a big uptick in books sold. Huge uptick. Both in books sold and in KENP. I sold more books in the three days after that, than I had previously all in. On the 7th, as soon as I realized what was happening, I kicked up bookbub ads, and even made it onto the first page of new releases. After day three, it fizzled out and I killed all ads. Since then Ive sold on average, a book or two a day (sometimes sales, sometimes KENP downloads), and average about 750 KENP a day. Theres some wild swings there too though Saturday I had 1222 KENP. Sunday? 66. Its fun to watch those metrics and try to assign some reasoning to them, though honestly, I havent been able to draw any useful conclusions yet, except people dont seem to read a lot on Sunday at least when to my novel.

The negative from that promotion was that is that my also boughts are /hosed/. I had built up a nice also bought list organically that even had my favorite author, David Weber, on it. (I really liked that)
Now theyre all over the place. However with the Amazon changes, who knows if that matters? Regardless, when I run a 99 cent promotion, I expect it to clean itself up as I will target Scifi readers exclusively. I also got a wave of new reviews, including some really nice ones, and another very direct one that hated the plot, but did not attack the technical execution. (more of that in a bit)

Bottom line is that while it sold books, and those sold books translated into some nice reviews I wish I hadnt run that final promotion, even though it was about the only one that turned a profit. I think the mess up from the also boughts was a mistake on my part. But, you live and you learn.

I am heartened however, that I keep selling books. People are seeing my novel, somewhere. I wish I had more metrics on that, because I am running no ads or promotions now.
So what was the final take away from the last two months of sales? I hit my stated goal (and beat it) of selling 150 books; and I can pay my light bill off those royalties. In the words of Stephen King, that suggests that perhaps I have some small amount of talent. 😊

Most reviews say the novel was extremely well written, and a lot of people really liked having some religious faith, especially in the way I did it (youll find Christians, Jews, Muslims, and an atheist on the main character list for the good guys). A few didnt, and they were very vocal about that. What that tells me is that there is a market for my unique take on scifi. Call it, religious scifi. 😊 I would like to figure out how to engage more faith based markets (especially Jewish and Christian readers), and I will put some time into that over the next few months.

But its not a career changer, as of yet. That takes a lot of hard work, and many more books. What I did walk out of the last two months with however, is hope. Hope that I might just have what it takes to write decent books, that people want to read.

What are the next steps?

First and foremost, WRITE MORE BOOKS! Im at 55k words on the second book in the EOTP trilogy; Ive forced myself onto a tight schedule to have it to my editor by July 23rd. Giving a 2 month cycle for editing, cover, and formatting, that will allow me to release late September. I already booked the Hidden Gems ARC, and thats forcing me to stay focused.

While that book is in editing, I plan to begin writing the third novel, with a goal of having it to the editor by November 15th. God willing (and the creek dont rise), by years end Ill be almost done with my first EOTP trilogy. What happens next Im not entirely sure of. I dont plan to do any marketing of the second book; I want to keep my powder dry for book three, attempt to get a bookbub, and do a massive promo stack making the first book free for a week, second book, say, 1.99 (discounted) and the third book full price.

To me that is where rubber will meet the road. The only consideration is timing. Ive read a lot that says scifi does well in April/May; so maybe I keep my powder dry until April of 2019.

The other thing I have to look at from a business perspective is how to drive down cost. Right now, I sink a lot into writing a book. Two editors, cover, etc. I hope to improve my grasp of basic grammar issues so that I eventually only need one editor, and since I had a number of ships made, covers will be a far easier task. I wont be doing book trailers, and the website is there, requiring minimal updates for new releases. I experimented with hiring someone to help me manage social media (I eschew social media entirely, and as such, have little experience with it and little interest); but that was a failure too; the person I used only made a few posts, dropped off the face of the earth, then showed back up demanding money. Again filed under live and learn. Ill reevaluate that later this year.perhaps I can get better at it myself.

Im also going to do the Mark Dawson course. Its another hefty investment, but a lot of folks have had great things to say about it, and well, hes obviously very successful with what hes doing. 😊

After the trilogy, I already have outlines for 3 full length novels with the same cast of characters, and several novellas. A few friends have expressed interest in writing short stories for an anthology based in EOTP. So that might be a book too. Linking them all together will be a challenge, because the new novels, post trilogy basically fit into the gaps (there's a 18 month or so time jump between each book in the trilogy. It provides the broad strokes of the universe....the next books will fill in the details, if you will. Think of them as the ongoing adventures.)  between the existing books, so reordering my series might make sense; when the time comes I'll come ask for advice by the folks here that are far smarter on it than I.

The verdict is still a very long way off. But Im hopeful, and more than anything else, Ive discovered I love to write. Its fun, and when I get into a period where the ideas are flowing and Im ON, Im on. I could crank out 5-10k words on those days I think. Unfortunately, Im not able to write full time yet. But maybe someday.

The only thing I cant really do is come up with ideas outside of EOTP. I literally have one idea for a novel thats not set in the EOTP universe. If folks continue to like the universe, that will be a positive. If not, well, it might be the end of my writing, because Ive no interest in simply writing what will sell. Its got to mean something to me, and EOTP does.

I hope my experience so far is of some help to new authors. If anyone has questions about how I did something specifically, feel free to PM me. Id also like to thank everyone here thats offered suggestions, advice, and support the last couple of months.

Onward! 😊
So Fight I - Echoes of the Past Book 2: 35%

I Have Fought a Good Fight - Echoes of the Past Book 3: 5%
Daniel Gibbs | Website | Twitter | Facebook

Offline ElvenSteele

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Re: First Book Launch - Post Mortem
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2018, 04:46:05 AM »
Hi thanks for taking the time to share your launch experience, it was an interesting read.

Offline grimshawl

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Re: First Book Launch - Post Mortem
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2018, 05:02:46 AM »
thanks for sharing your experience. I really appreciate getting to hear how others are doing trying to get established in this business.
Marty Myers, Fantasy indie author of The Dungeon Con, One Foot in the Grave and Loki's Daughter, The Opal Dungeon