Author Topic: [UPDATED] Learned from kboards. My turn to give back. Marketing & lessons:  (Read 19834 times)  

Offline Sever Bronny

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[UPDATED JAN 8TH 2015] Warning: not all paragraphs updated

My turn to give back, especially to those starting out. (Updated to reflect new tips and tricks I learned)

Don't know how it would have been possible to publish my fantasy book without all the expert advice around here. On Nov 25th 2014 I hit the publish button on KDP, and watched as my book slowly gathered 21 31 sales (+40 hardcopy presales to friends here in town) and 7 10 borrows without any advertising (though I did email my paltry mailing list). That first sale was magic, and for the first time, I truly felt like a real author. [Update: as of Jan 8, 2015, thanks to things I learned from kboards, Arcane sold 1600 copies, achieving the #1 rank in the USA and UK in its subgenre.]

The next step is gathering reviews and advertising, all while readying books 2 and 3 in the series (both are complete and undergoing final editing and proofing). I'll be enacting a marketing campaign (which I outline in better detail on my blog here). You can go to that link to see the results of the campaign.

- Adwords hints: Turn off Display networks; go with the CPC model. Also, don't forget to use negative keywords (but NOT campaign wide!). Have a ton of ADs competing against each other. Weed out the poor performers, but make copies of the good ones and tweak them. Make it a Battle Royale--survival of the fittest in true Darwinian style, baby. When google eventually recommends new keywords, load up, but weed out the ones that don't apply.

- Twitter: Use Hootsuite to load up on Tweets for the day ahead (only regarding your book). Try to keep it to 2 robo tweets a day, else you'll get muted by your friends. And retweet your friend's important tweets (the tweets that you know are important to them), and don't forget to have fun and interact. See this thread on other twitter hints.

- Facebook: Don't pay for facebook ADs unless it's a link direct to Amazon, and then focus on CPC (cost per click). Avoid markets other than the US as kindle is popular mainly in the States. Use a landing page if you can to monitor progress (though bitly links work too as they show up as Amazon lins, if I recall correctly). Careful with this one--you can easily blow through your budget.

- Marketing: too much to go over in a nutshell. I made a post on kboards and goodreads that I condensed and turned into a blog post here. Will update it when I have time.

- Approach select fantasy readers/reviewers on Amazon/Twitter/Goodreads and offering them a copy of the book, following these Dos and Don'ts guidelines. UPDATE: This is tedious and kind of sucks and people don't like being reminded to review (I'd advise against reminding anyone, unless you know they LOVED the book).

- Small release party here in my home town of Victoria BC (I ordered 55 copies from createspace, and of those, about 40 are pre-sold to people in town). UPDATE: Had to order more. Party was fun. T|otally worth doing it at home. Pubs suck. And don't pay to rent a joint. Ugh, what a waste of cash that is.

- Goodreads book giveaway as soon as my books arrive (planning on giving out 3-5 signed copies). UPDATE: So I ended up only doing one, and it was a huge success--had tons of people sign up. Also, keep it to 10-15 days as more days doesn't necessarily lead to many more signups. Oh, and DON'T bother with Goodreads advertising. It's not up to snuff yet. Google is infinitely better right now.

- Print really cool bookmarks based on the front cover design and give them out like candy. UPDATE: This worked like a charm. The bookmarks are functional objects people use, so they love them. I also have a kick-butt design that catches the eye, and give them out like candy. Can't recommend this enough. And do them double-sided! I'll post a photo in the comments how mine turned out if people are interested.

- Print cool business cards and give those out like candy too (I'd go with bookmarks first, THEN this). Don't do T-shirts or other swag until you have a following demanding it. I learned that lesson the hard way with my music, over-ordering and going in the hole for stuff I could have done without. Still sold it most of it, but still.

- Obligatory blog post about the book being released UPDATE: The more I blog, the easier it becomes. I'll be featuring a bunch of author interviews this year, and all of them are people I met here on kboards (only fantasy / scifi  or for people who want to talk selfpub). My advice is to find a secondary focus for your blog, something you enjoy, and run with it. I've realized I enjoy interviewing authors I know, haha. Anyway ...

KEY LESSONS:

- Assume you're a terrible writer and have a lot to learn. Pick up as many books about writing and editing as you can. I think I read about ten before I felt comfortable enough to finalize my first book, and I'm 35 years old. (But still believe in yourself that your final product will be professional--but only if you work your butt off to get it there). Any hint of arrogance or ego about how good you are or how much schooling you have under your belt is a recipe for disappointment. (Oh, and my favorite book to learn from, which I even reviewed, is Lisa Cron's Wired for Story). A Writer's Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon is also very good. Your product, especially your first one, is the foundation of your career. Make it it as pro as possible, even if you have to shell out some mula to do it. I'm not saying mine is any good (that's for the public to decide), I just know this to be a fundamental truth.

- Hammering out a good blurb is critical, so swallowing your pride and posting it publicly here on kboards is a must. For some reason, out of everything to do with writing, this was the hardest for me, and I mean it. Anyway, after posting it publicly to be ripped apart, take your licks, learn, but move on at some point--you can tweak it endlessly and stress yourself out in the process (like I did). I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS ENOUGH. SAME WITH COVER!

- Read as many of the "this is what I messed up on" posts as you can; they're sometimes more valuable than the "this is what I did right" posts. My mistakes: not writing sooner, not following advice because of my ego, not finishing the entire series before publishing (due to impatience), not writing every day (still struggling with this one), not sticking to my deadlines (was supposed to have books 2 and 3 published by now, gah!), believing people that said self-publishing is for losers (it isn't--it's for people willing to work really hard on making the best product they can--and your product can outshine a publishing house' release).

- When searching for content on kboards, use google advanced search and point it to kboards. The search function here is not too reliable yet (someone in the comments mentioned the shortcut to this)

- This forum is great for networking. If you're around long enough, it's like university. I consider myself a newly-minted sophomore and I've been here well over a year, and that's not counting those months I spent lurking. There are a lot of varsity and junior varsity players here. Listen to them, they are wise. The big dogs (Blake, Howey, Hocking, Aubrey, Stinnett, and many others) have already graduated. Some alumni still come to drop pearls of wisdom. Most are too busy. (I'd love to see a photo chart of the various generations of writers as tey come an go, sorted by "class year", haha).

- The stickied links on this forum are INVALUABLE. Study them like a first-year med student. Especially this one.

- Post your cover for critique. Take a whoopin'. Test the cover with people in your genre. Move on.

- Make sure your cover is relevant to your genre and has a wow factor. I did my cover myself, but I also did about fifty different covers before settling on a style that works, and is approved by fantasy readers in testing.

- Make sure that if you're doing your own formatting, that it's absolutely perfect (I used Guido Henckel's formatting guide -- just DO NOT do the "replace all quotes with quotes" thing, trust me on that one, especially if you have spaces between your quotes, like this: " 'The following proclamation will be enforced,' " he began to read).
UPDATE: Why avoid this? Because if you have quotes floating in the air, like I do in the example above, they'll revert to the default position of facing left, even if one set was facing right. Going through your whole document to find them is a pain. Further, I find re-doing quotes completely unnecessary, though Guido's intention was good.

- Don't be afraid to message individual forum users for help. This community works because we share our knowledge. Self-publishers also really only have each other to learn from.

- Sign up to mailchimp and post a link to your mailing list at the back of every book. This is CRITICAL.

- Have a physical copy available - it makes your book look professional, and also makes the digital ebook price look like a bargain. It's not as hard as I thought to format the thing for print, though you'll have to do a little bit of research on how to do it right.

- Don't be afraid to call people (especially createspace, they're super friendly and helpful).

- If you have the means, incorporate (especially if you're Canadian -- taxes are super low up here for corporate entities). Not to mention it limits your liability to getting sued.

- Write the next book (I'm still struggling with this one--spending too much time marketing / procrastinating. I should be writing EVERY DAY, and I'm not ... yet.) UPDATE: Does editing count? =P

- Listen carefully to criticism, and try to get as much of it as you can (but be mindful; use it constructively or move on).

- Read Russel Blake's system on selling books (I printed it out and stuck it at the front of my binder)

- Read Russel's system again. Sleep with it if you must. Cuddle it. Stroke it tenderly.

- Synchronize all of your accounts -- twitter, blog, author facebook page (if you have one), etc. I use hootsuite to manage my twitter feed, though admittedly I still really really suck at twitter.

- Run one last spell check on the final product POST FORMATTING. Formatting can bungle a few words here and there, so it's critical you do one last run-through before publishing. And for the love of all that is good, order a physical copy proof!

- If you can do formatting, you can avoid the mass distributors too (Smashwords, Draft2Digital, etc). Why give away 10% of your hard-earned income to a middle-man? From what I've been hearing from fellow kboarders, it's not too hard at all to upload to Kobo, Apple, etc. It's not for everyone, but it's closer to the DIY route. Then again, it takes a lot of time, so maybe try Smashwords with a book and see what happens! Mark Coker is a decent guy who'll probably answer your email if you send him one with questions, haha ;)

- Have your copyright, Library Archives (CIP data in Canada), ISBN etc sorted out at least two months ahead of publishing. Do the same with your cover and proof copy (that last one I've failed at--MISERABLY).

- Examine your print copy cover output carefully. Turns out Createspace converts your file into CMYK before print (at least that's my conclusion), thus muting the colors (if you used RGB that is). I convert to CMYK first and then adjust the colors to match. Worked for me, at least, but not without significant stress, trial and error.

- Get more than six pairs of eyes to examine your proof copy. A very kind kboarder (thank you so much, Bruce!) pointed out to me, to my utter horror, that there was a tiny spelling mistake in the first paragraph of my book (the first edition--now fixed). It somehow made it past the electronic scanner and every single on of us that has seen it. Gah! *Face palm*. I fixed it promptly but, ugh, how embarrassing ...

- PUSH YOURSELF! My goal this year is to complete my series for 2015, and have at least four of the books published. That's a substantial increase considering I've been working on them for three years without publishing a thing. And FYI: Goals only count as goals if there is a clear time frame and a clear outcome.

- Get your own website! Find something to talk about and blog weekly if you can (and of course, I'm failing at this one too--have yet to establish a regular blogging schedule. *sigh*). Also, do what you can to get people signed up to your mailchimp. Cannot understate that mailchimp enough!

- If you incorporate, ask the law firm you incorporated with if you can use their physical address for your mailchimp address (otherwise your home address shows up in your emails--eek!). And you better not spam, otherwise you might really hear about it, haha.

- Respond to people! I learned this with my music, big time. When a reader sends you an email or a private message, it is CRITICAL for you to reply courteously. NEVER ANSWER REVIEWS. NEVER BE RUDE. From my experience, once you respond, you've increased the chances of winning them over for life by magnitudes.

- If you have large page counts, for the love of all that is holy, check the template restriction page count on your print-on-demand printhouse! Turns out, at 5 x 8 inch format, max page count with createspace is 700 pages. Luckily I caught this in time and shrank my font size to 10 for book 1, so that it can stay uniform with book 2, which is twice as large. I have my wife to thank for spotting that one actually.

- Get regular exercise! The brain just functions better for things like writing when the body and the endorphins have been given a workout. That's just nature rewarding you for taking care of your body. And guess what--it's winter and I might as well be a giant slug. Yep, I'm struggling with this one too, folks.

- Don't get too caught up with word count. This is a tough one, but I've discovered that writing for the joy of it is far more productive than trying to hit a daily word count (not to mention your output actually increases--just avoid looking at the actual total if you can). Find your joy and follow it. You make this all about performance and money and output, you're going to be one miserable you-know-what. If you love what you do (which will be writing 75% of the time, barring release weeks), then it's not a job at all, is it? It's a passion.

- Monitor for burnout. It happens to everyone. Find ways to combat the doldrums. Exercise is a good one. Sitting down to write with zero expectations helps too (and I mean zero! Harder than you think, isn't it?).

- Read self-help books
. Often the things that prevent us from succeeding have nothing to do with our craft or abilities. They're subconscious self-defeating loops, or mannerisms passed down from our parents, or assumptions we made about ourselves, etc. This point is a lifetime study, but makes a huge difference. If it's something you think you're capable of, I highly recommend it. It'll give you that edge over those incapable of bettering themselves. A transferable skill, so to speak.

- Avoid browsing the internet while writing. Scientifically, your brain actually changes when surfing the net. Each link provides a small endorphin rush, and so you are rewarded for skipping around. This is not conducive to long bouts of steady concentration on one topic. This point requires discipline. And yes, I still battle with this one like an angry chihuahua. I found that if the first thing I do in the morning is check the net, then that's what I'll likely be doing most of the day. Make writing / editing the priority.

Above all, none of this matters as much as butt-in-chair hands-on-keyboard writing the next book. Your advice, my beloved kboarders, is why I finished books 2 and 3 in the series (and am working on the 4th) before releasing my first.

Thank you all so much for your kind words of support, your unceasing willingness to share what you learned, and especially your advice. I hope to contribute and give back as much as I can :)

If you're on twitter or goodreads, add me--links in my signature. If you're new and want some advice, although I'm nowhere near as experienced (or especially, successful) as most of my colleagues here, I'd be more than willing to help if I can :)

I have a few other advice and checklist posts on my blog for anyone interested in more.

Blah blah blah derpalicious magica!

P.S. I removed my book and author photo and my blub as those things are no longer applicable to the tone of this post. Originally I posted this a few days after my release, hence the visuals. This latest update, on Jan 8th, 2015, is about what I learned.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2015, 08:22:20 pm by Sever Bronny »

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    Offline G.L. Snodgrass

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    Welcome to the club of Published Authors. Congratulations. I am looking forward to seeing how it goes.

    P.S. I really like the covers.

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    Offline Lisa Grace

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    Congratulations. :) Especially on so many sales on the first day with no advertising. Love the cover. Sounds like you have a plan and you're working it. Way to go.
     
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    Offline Quiss

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    Offline G.

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    That is a very striking cover. Love the color.

                        
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    Offline Victoria LK

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    Thanks for the detailed post & Good Luck!  Your cover is intriguing, I like it.
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    Offline Silly Writer

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    That's awesome, Sever! Cover looks great. Blurb sounds interesting. Congrats, dude!


    Btw, I did that Find/Replace with quotes yesterday. FacePalm.  :-\

    Offline Douglas E Wright

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     Sever, I wanted to give your story a thumbs up. Glad to hear you're on your way! :)

    Offline G. M. Washburn

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    Sever, this was incredibly inspiring. As someone still pouring over his unpublished novel, tweaking and tweaking to make it perfect for fear that its terrible - your excitement is awesome and motivating me to just finish already. What I believe makes me want to finish is seeing how clearly and unequivocally happy hitting that publish button made you. Hopefully I'll be in the same boat soon. That being said; favorited for later use.

    Offline Caddy

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    Congratulations on being published! :)
    ALSO WRITING HOT GAY M/M ROMANCE UNDER SIBLEY JACKSON

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    Offline vlmain

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    Congratulations! You're off to an amazing start. I look forward to following your success.

    Offline RG Long

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    I appreciate your humble attitude towards it all! Congrats on the book(s) and I hope success follows quickly!

    Offline EC Sheedy

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    Congratulations, Sever! I opened Arcane--cyberly speaking--last night, and I was into it immediately.  :)

    Thanks for the post and here's wishes for lots of luck going forward.


    Offline markhealy

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    Congrats!  Great to meet another musician who's transitioned to writing as well.
              
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    Congratulations and good luck!  :)

    Offline CesarAnthony

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    Congratulations. Hope for nothing for the best for you and everyone else here. ;D

    Offline Taking my troll a$$ outta here

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    Good luck & many happy sales to you.  ;D
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    Offline S.R. Booth

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    Bookmarked. Thank you!

    Offline lee27

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    Thank you for this excellent post. I will be launching a book in early 2015. Your words are gold to me. Best of good fortune!

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    Offline Sever Bronny

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    Wow it feels so good to finally be able to give back in some small way. I've gone ahead and updated the post with some additional insights, for anyone that's interested.

    Can't thank you all enough for your support, it means so much, more than you know! :)

    Offline Glenna

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    Thanks for sharing this, Sever.  I'm definitely picking up your book.  (I have Russell's notes taped next to my computer.  Miss that guy!)   
    Question: 
    There was another thread a bit ago about Cdns using SIN's instead of EIN's or ITIN's when registering to publish with online retailers. 
     I plan to incorporate too but can't see how using our personal SIN would logically follow if your business is incorporated.   
    Can you comment?  Thanks, Glenna.

    Offline Sever Bronny

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    The route I took was registering for an EIN number (Employer Identification Number) by calling the IRS directly. That was over the summer, so it appears I got grandfathered in, as they changed their system to use a SIN number now. Unfortunately I just don't know enough about the tax side of things to be able to tell you how any of the tax registration numbers impact your corporation.

    And thanks so much, Glenna, hope you enjoy the book :)

    Offline Glenna

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    It would seem that with incorporation an EIN would be  the logical route.  Aside from the fact I'm not comfortable putting my SIN out there.
     I'll dig some more. 
    Am now wishing for a lovely big snow storm in which to settle into your book!

    Offline Sever Bronny

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    I agree, Glenna. Wish we had snow here ... certainly helps with writing cozy stories :)

    Offline Stewart Matthews

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    Congrats, Sever! I'm releasing my first book on December 16th, and I know exactly how you feel right now!
     

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