Author Topic: Epic fantasy book launch - starting to slide (Day 5 Update)  (Read 5330 times)  

Offline pwtucker

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 572
  • Gender: Male
  • Asheville, NC
    • View Profile
    • TransientMe
It's taken me five years to get to this point. Five years of false starts, wrong turns, and moments of delirious hope where I thought I was finally breaking out - then didn't. Seven months ago I finally rolled up my sleeves and started writing The Path of Flames, a book I'd love to read. A month and a half ago I put it up for pre-order, and yesterday it went live. Which means I'm both thrilled and nervous to say that thus far my launch is going far better than I'd thought possible.

Quick stats (as of 4 PM 5/14)
  • Put up for Pre-order on April 5
  • Sold about 2 - 3 copies each day thereafter, ranked around 90k
  • Launch Day 1: ranked in the morning at 15k rank, dropped to 8k by end of night with a total of 34 sales and 800 KU reads
  • Launch Day 2: ranked in the morning at 8k, dropped to 5k for the rest of the day, with 32 sales and 8,500 KU reads
  • Launch Day 3: ranked in the morning at 5k, dropped to 4k for the rest of the day, with 43 sales and 4,000 KU reads
  • Launch Day 4: ranked throughout the day in the high 3k, with 7 sales and 6,000 KU reads
  • Big promo scheduled on Friday

Where I'm coming from

Like almost everyone else here, I've always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first full length novel while living in Sydney for a year (thanks Nano) and then took a job back in 2007 at Penguin in NYC to learn about the publishing world from the inside. I met a lot of genuinely lovely people, got to interview William Gibson, but became disillusioned with the industry. I tried querying agents with no success - though Neil Gaiman's agent at one point asked for the complete manuscript (I didn't know what to do with myself for the following four months till she turned me down.) Working in their online department meant I was introduced to the Amazon self-publishing phenomenon early on. I leaped at it.

And then genre hopped. Made my own covers. Started series and didn't finish them. Didn't create a mailing list. Didn't brand myself in any way. Just flailed and wrote stand alones and poured my heart into my books and then sat back, unable to understand why it was all going nowhere.

So I summoned all of my reserves and tried to write something commercial. My wife and I were in a tough financial spot. I launched a Kickstarter, managed to get it funded, wrote an urban fantasy trilogy featuring a Miami that had been given wholesale over to vampires, hired a professional cover designer and editor, and then launched the books into the void.

Crickets.

Despondent, I found J.A. Konrath's blog where he mentioned KBoards. I clicked over and everything changed (this is where there's a montage scene of my reading every post under the sun. Granted, it's not a very exciting montage scene.)

Around this time my daughter was born and we moved back to Miami. We really wanted my wife to stay home with our baby, so the pressure was on to replace her income. I launched a PNR pen name and began to publish serials furiously under KU1. And - success! January of 2015 saw me making high four figures. I started receiving wonderful emails from my readers, my mailing list blew up, everything was going well. But I couldn't keep it up. Our baby had colic, I was writing from 5 to 8 am at the office before doing my day job, then coming home to help out. PNR was fun but not my true passion, and over the summer my enthusiasm waned. I just plain burned out, fun as the genre was. My serials become increasingly wooden and formulaic, my income began to dip, then KU2 hit and everything imploded.

I was back at square one. What to do? I decided to take everything I'd learned and write a book I cared passionately about under my own name again. That was last September. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.



What I did:

Cover

Epic fantasy requires gorgeous illustrated covers. I'd been using the fantastic Yoly for my PNR, but I knew I was going to need real artwork for my new book. Knowing this was a key part of my plan, I started researching at the same time I started writing. I browsed the fantasy best sellers lists looking for covers that caught my eye, and found Child of the Daystar. Beautiful artwork and it was doing insanely well at the time rankings wise. I reached out to Andreas Zafiratos, the artist, and found him to be both enthusiastic and professional. I took out a new credit card and commissioned him to start creating my covers.


I found out after the fact that my protagonist Asho bears a striking resemblance to Elric, but after much agonizing and consulting friends and other authors, I decided to run with it.

The book itself

I didn't study the market as maybe I should have, but instead simply channeled my favorite authors and wrote the best epic fantasy novel I could. And man was it tough. How do you control pacing with multiple POV's? How do you convey the uniqueness of your fantasy world without egregious info-dumping? It was hard work. I went through my fair share of bouts thinking that it was flat and stale and dull, but I powered through, having learned that first drafts don't have to be perfect. When I reached the end I decided it wasn't too bad. I did a second draft. Then I revived my tiny mailing list (about 220 folks that signed up after reading my vampire books) and asked for ARC readers. I sent out copies for feedback, and sent the second draft to the copy editor.

A month later the manuscript came back covered in red ink and I had copious notes from my readers on things that needed attention. I spent two weeks doing a third draft, and finally declared myself ready to go.

ARCS

I created a print version so that my readers could post their reviews early. I ended up with seven 5 star reviews, which was great.

Blurb

This has been the hardest part. I've gone through about five distinct interations. I've asked KBoards for feedback, FB groups, friends. I've edited and tinkered and researched and still think mine is wooden and could be improved. But here's what I came up with:

Quote
A war fueled by the dark powers of forbidden sorcery is about to engulf the Ascendant Empire. Agerastian heretics, armed with black fire and fueled by bitter hatred, seek to sever the ancient portals that unite the empire - and in so doing destroy it.

Asho--a squire with a reviled past--sees his liege, the Lady Kyferin, and her meager forces banished to an infamous ruin. Beset by tragedy and betrayal, demons and an approaching army, the fate of the Kyferins hangs by the slenderest of threads. Asho realizes that their sole hope of survival may lie hidden within the depths of his scarred soul--a secret that could reverse their fortunes and reveal the truth behind the war that wracks their empire.

Categories

Evenstar's post on keywords was brilliant. I did my research and when my pre-order finally published I was already in 8 cats. I emailed KDP asking to be placed in another 2, and launched into 10. Key.



Launch Plan

Wayne Stinett has made me a believer in trying to simulate a gradually growing curve of sales so as to lead Amazon's algo's into thinking it's an organically hot seller. Thus Day 1 I did little more than tell FB, Day 2 (today) I'm going to tell my mailing list, write some blog posts, and have scheduled BKnights, and Day 3 I have a Hungry Author blast scheduled. Hopefully this will result in that gradual and organic-looking curve that will make Amazon sit up and pay attention!

Details

I put The Path of Flames up for pre-order on April 5 and it inexplicably began to sell 2 - 3 copies a day. No promo, nothing. I've no idea how or why but I was quite pleased! I decided to emulate Domino Finn and all the other recent successes by emulating their launches - which meant doing very little, actually. The idea being you reserve all the big promo's for when you release Book 2. So what I did was participate in a Pay-What-You-Want promo from Rebecca Hamilton's Hungry Author to include my book in a bundle of about fifteen others about halfway through the pre-order (no sales, but I'll be getting some mailing list sign-ups at the end of the month), and line up her Hungry Author launch. I also booked BKnights... and that was it. It felt weird to do so little, but I held back.

Pricing

Nothing surprising here. $0.99 for the duration of pre-order with a tag stating as much. I'm going to keep it at that price for the first 5 days after publishing, then raise it to $3.99. I need all the help I can get to sell as many copies up front as possible, and lowering the price is a key element of that plan.

Launch Day 1

I'd been selling around 2 - 3 copies every day and hovering around 80k in the rankings. Yesterday my book went live and I immediately shot up to around 15k. I was surprised, and don't know how I captured my early sales in the early morning. I'd decided that the only thing I was going to do was promote the book on my personal and author pages on FB. I was honest with my friends/family about needing their support so as to tickle the Amazon algo's, and they came through in a big way - 10 shares and many likes. I also put $4 into boosting my Author Page post so that all 227 of my followers saw it.

And - wow. Over the course of the day the book dropped to 12k, then late last night it hit 8k. I woke up this morning, sure it would have crashed, and it's now in the high 5ks. Crazy.

Launch Day 2

Today I'm going to put up some blog posts, email my mailing list (it's only 170 people but still), and am running a BKnights promo. I hope to continue the momentum long enough reach tomorrow without losing too much rank...

Launch Day 3

This is the cornerstone of my launch plan: Rebecca Hamilton's Hungry Author blast. I've seen it do wonders for so many others that I've got my fingers crossed it'll launch me right up there, get Amazon to pay attention and cause their algo's to kick in and do the rest.

Launch Days 4 - 5

Nothing planned but letting the $0.99 promotional price run. I'll play this by ear, but I plan to raise the price to $3.99 by Sunday evening when ranks begin to fall. That's going to be tough!



Follow-up

I've already got Book 2 up for pre-order with a link at the back of Book 1 to it. I'm using Pretty Links to control my links, sending users to my site then redirecting them to Book 2. This allowed me to avoid Affiliate linking issues as well as put the link into Book 1 before I had Book 2 up; when Book 2 went live days before Book 1 published, I simply updated the redirect in my Pretty Link dashboard. Here's the cover:


I'm also creating a free Reader Magnet to drive up mailing list sign-ups. This is a 12k short story that answers some key questions from Book 1, and which will be promoted at the start and end of Book 1 and on my site. I wish I had this ready earlier, but I only came across the tactic while watching Chris Fox's stellar YouTube videos late in the game. Chris, why didn't you start publishing your videos a year ago?!


This being epic fantasy it's going to be tough to launch a new book every 30 days, but I'm going to do my best. I think Book 2 will hit 60 days after Book 1, at which point I'll run a Kindle Countdown deal. Same again for Book 3. At that point I'll gauge how well the series is doing, and whether it's worth writing the entire 5 book arc or ending it early.

In the meantime I'm going to try to stay focused on Book 2 and not endlessly refresh my book page to check the rankings. I've got high hopes that this series might do well, but if not, I'll learn from my mistakes and simply try again.




Sorry, link removed as links in posts in the Writers' Cafe are seen as promotional.  You may certainly have the book in your signature.  --Betsy
« Last Edit: May 15, 2016, 03:57:55 pm by pwtucker »

KBoards.com

  • Advertisement
  • ***

    Offline BenedictPatrick

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 111
      • View Profile
      • Author Website
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #1 on: May 12, 2016, 07:42:11 am »
    Congrats on what seems to be a great start to the launch! Will be keeping an eye on this thread over the next few days.

    Well done on keeping up the regular pre-order sales as well - your cover must be perfect for the market to do that work without any major promotion :)

    Benedict Patrick | www.benedictpatrick.com

    Offline Al K. Line

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 189
    • Gender: Male
    • Blighty
      • View Profile
      • Al K. Line
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #2 on: May 12, 2016, 07:43:02 am »
    Good luck with it, Phil, I get the feeling you are going to do awesome.

    If you are sure about the date you are going to go back to full price I would stick that date in your blurb. I saw a massive surge in sales the final day of the sale, and that sets you up perfectly for algo-tickling at full price - sense of urgency, and all that.

    Offline jackconnerbooks

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 420
    • Gender: Male
    • Austin, TX
    • Jack Conner
      • View Profile
      • Jack Conner Books
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #3 on: May 12, 2016, 08:00:19 am »
    Good luck, Phil! I'm an epic fantasy writer, too, and I'll be watching your launch with great interest.

    Bestselling fantasy, science fiction and horror writer
    Jack Conner | Facebook | Wordpress | Amazon Author Page

    Offline Jordan Rivet

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 156
    • Hong Kong
    • YA fantasy & post-apocalyptic adventures at sea
      • View Profile
      • Jordan Rivet
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #4 on: May 12, 2016, 08:03:09 am »
    Sounds like you're off to a great start already! Congratulations!

    Jordan Rivet | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter

    Offline RandyJMorris

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 44
      • View Profile
      • History and Technology
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #5 on: May 12, 2016, 08:08:40 am »
    I'm already seeing your book in the also-boughts of my book 3 so that's a good sign. Good luck to you.
    « Last Edit: May 12, 2016, 08:37:18 am by RandyJMorris »

    Offline kespano

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 156
      • View Profile
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #6 on: May 12, 2016, 08:20:00 am »
    Congrats on your launch going well. Thanks, too, for sharing the details of your experience.


    Offline C. Rysalis

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1553
    • Gender: Female
    • The Writer's Lair
      • View Profile
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #7 on: May 12, 2016, 08:37:15 am »
    Congrats! I'm jealous of the number of reviews you already have.  :P

    Love the covers, by the way.

    Olivia Rising

    Offline David J Normoyle

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 804
      • View Profile
      • David J Normoyle
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #8 on: May 12, 2016, 08:41:53 am »
    Thanks for sharing. Epic fantasy is hard. I have one due for launch in July and I started it and gave up several times over the last few years before knuckling down and getting it right (I maybe wrote 300K words to get 100K right ones). Weaving multiple POV characters from different cultures on a vast landscape took a lot of work. But reading back on the nearly finished product makes me think it was worth it, and I'm sure my future novels will benefit from the work done in getting this one right.

    I'm planning to do similar to you, with a preorder, hungry authors, 99cent first week price etc. Also I have several short stories listed on my whiteboard that I plan to write as mailing list magnets. (I was thinking of making the preorder more expensive than 99c to start so as to ensure that fans wait until release day before buying, but I like what you did in getting organic preorders and not pointing your fans to the page until release day.)

    Unfortunately, I've been diverted from book 2 by an Urban Fantasy that demanded to be written. But I hope to have book 2 not more than 90 days after book 1.

    Your cover art is incredible, and the blurb and look inside hooked me, so I'll be purchasing and will be following your release. Hope your launch continues to continue as well as it has started.


    David J. Normoyle | website | facebook

    Offline Annette_g

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1556
      • View Profile
      • Annette Gisby Author Page
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #9 on: May 12, 2016, 08:44:59 am »
    OH, wow! Those covers are gorgeous :) Good luck!


    Annette Gisby | website

    Offline JohnMilton

    • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
    • **
    • Posts: 86
      • View Profile
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #10 on: May 12, 2016, 08:56:05 am »
    I picked up a KU copy.  Good luck.


    Working on Book 2
    John Milton | Facebook

    Offline Craig Andrews

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 344
    • Gender: Male
    • Portland, OR
      • View Profile
      • Craig Andrews Website
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #11 on: May 12, 2016, 09:12:46 am »
    That's a very strong, well thought out launch strategy, Phil. Combined with your beautiful covers and very enticing blurb (seriously, I'm going to buy it because of that) I'm sure you'll find nothing but success. Good luck!


    Offline Dom

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 979
    • Gender: Male
      • View Profile
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #12 on: May 12, 2016, 09:43:59 am »
    Phil, it looks like you've put a lot of time and thought into this. Your covers are gorgeous. A good ranking without much promo is key, and it looks like you have that sticky factor. Enjoy it and keep getting those books out!

    Offline meh

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1132
    • Gender: Female
      • View Profile
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #13 on: May 12, 2016, 11:14:43 am »
    TOS.
    « Last Edit: September 28, 2018, 05:11:16 pm by meh »

    Offline pwtucker

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 572
    • Gender: Male
    • Asheville, NC
      • View Profile
      • TransientMe
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #14 on: May 12, 2016, 03:11:45 pm »
    Thanks everyone for the support and encouragement. I've spent the afternoon visiting a farm with my toddler, and was able to temporarily forget all about book ranks and algorithms due to her imperious demands to see more cows and piggies. Good stuff.

    I'm holding tight at around the upper 5k, though it was looking wobbly there for a moment. My old mailing list proved to be a bust; I sent out three staggered blasts to each quality tier, and had only one person click on the purchase link all told. Looks like it's time to do a little list cleaning.

    If you are sure about the date you are going to go back to full price I would stick that date in your blurb. I saw a massive surge in sales the final day of the sale, and that sets you up perfectly for algo-tickling at full price - sense of urgency, and all that.

    Great tip, and thanks! I've gone ahead and implemented this.

    Phil, it looks like you've put a lot of time and thought into this. Your covers are gorgeous. A good ranking without much promo is key, and it looks like you have that sticky factor. Enjoy it and keep getting those books out!

    Thanks Domino! As one of my sources of inspiration, it's great to hear from you. If I can achieve even a tenth of your success I'll count myself content ;)

    So you said you had a few false starts. Was this a new pen name, or did you have other books under this name out there already?  I agree with you that the cover is the key in epic fantasy. I've let my fantasy name just sit and do nothing for the past year while I'm developing my romance name, but once I have books ready, I'll relaunch it with new covers.

    Also, you say you have a Facebook--how many friends on there? Blog? Other social media?

    Definitely some false starts. I've got almost a dozen books out under my main name, and I managed to score Bookbubs a couple of times back in - um - 2013? Didn't go anywhere. I also had one delirious moment back in Dec 2011 when free ranks still converted to the same ranking in paid, and I promo'd THRONE right around New Year's. When the free day ended, I appeared around #30 on the paid list right next to Konrath, and made about $5,000 in three days. Insane. I actually hyperventilated for a bit and had to walk home.

    Facebook is minimal: I've got about 150 friends and family on my personal page, and about 220 on my author page. They really came through yesterday and helped boost my rankings, so I'm very grateful. I don't really blog, and just posted on Twitter today, so little help from those angles either.
    « Last Edit: May 12, 2016, 03:13:43 pm by pwtucker »

    Offline Kristal Shaff

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 177
    • Gender: Female
    • Iowa
      • View Profile
      • My Website
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #15 on: May 12, 2016, 04:12:22 pm »
    I love your covers. :)

    Just got my copy.

    Kristal Shaff | Website | Facebook | Twitter

    Offline Joseph J Bailey

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1128
    • Gender: Male
      • View Profile
      • Joseph J. Bailey - Author
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #16 on: May 12, 2016, 05:02:22 pm »
    Your covers help tell the story... great work!

    And there's nothing wrong with a bit of resemblance to Elric!

    I hope your momentum continues. Best of luck!


    Joseph J. Bailey | Website | Facebook | Goodreads

    Offline Sunbird Books

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 44
    • Gender: Male
      • View Profile
      • Sunbird Books
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #17 on: May 12, 2016, 05:23:51 pm »
    Nicely done!

    Having a second book all ready to go is an impressive turn-around time. Were you by chance sitting on/working on a sequel before the first was published?
    « Last Edit: May 13, 2016, 09:20:37 pm by SunbirdBooks »

    Offline Dolphin

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1954
    • Gender: Male
    • Under the Sea
    • Skree'ee--eee, eeek!
      • View Profile
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #18 on: May 12, 2016, 08:06:30 pm »
    My first association with Asho was Geralt from The Witcher franchise, but neither is a bad thing. Could bring up drow elves too. All of that's in your target audience, and they don't tire of their favorites easily. Can I ask what you paid for your covers, and whether that includes the full cover formatting, or just the illustration? Andreas does some really nice work.

    Great OP, and congratulations on the success so far! I'll be excited to see how the rest of the series plays out for you.

    Offline anicolle

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 141
    • Gender: Male
    • Illinois
      • View Profile
      • The Fiction & Apps of Andrew Nicolle
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #19 on: May 12, 2016, 08:44:32 pm »
    Fantastic covers! Thanks for sharing details of the launch. Purchased!

    Andrew Nicolle | Website | Twitter

    Offline Steve Shelley

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 101
      • View Profile
      • website
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #20 on: May 12, 2016, 11:57:28 pm »
    Best of luck Phil, those covers look  :o
    [/url]
    Steven J Shelley | website

    Offline angela65

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 151
      • View Profile
    Re: Epic fantasy book launch - going better than I'd hoped!
    « Reply #21 on: May 13, 2016, 05:23:27 am »
    Wow. Thanks for such a detailed and informative post. You're killing it! Covers are awesome.

    Offline pwtucker

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 572
    • Gender: Male
    • Asheville, NC
      • View Profile
      • TransientMe
    So I'm almost at the end of Day 3 and my ranking is holding around 4k, but I think it's tenuous. I've yet to see my also-boughts change from my pre-order period, and I started dipping into 5k until Hungry Author ran around 2 PM EST. Here are my updated stats:

    Quick stats (as of 7 PM 5/13)
    • Put up for Pre-order on April 5
    • Sold about 2 - 3 copies each day thereafter, ranked around 90k
    • Launch Day 1: ranked in the morning at 15k rank, dropped to 8k by end of night with a total of 34 sales and 800 KU reads
    • Launch Day 2: ranked in the morning at 8k, dropped to 5k for the rest of the day, with 32 sales and 8,500 KU reads
    • Launch Day 3: ranked in the morning at 5k, dropped to 4k for the rest of the day, with 33 sales and 4,000 KU reads
    • Hungry Author ran today at 2 PM EST

    I'm hoping that the Hungry Author promo really kicks into effect soon, because as of now it's helped me hold onto my rank but not really boosted me up any higher. Which is still awesome - the longer I hover around 4k the better my chances of Amazon thinking that's where this book belongs - but still, fingers crossed for a nice surge over the rest of the evening.

    Having a second book all ready to do is an impressive turn-around time. Were you by chance sitting on/working on a sequel before the first was published?

    I had a good outline and about 40k done by the time I sent Book 1 to my editor, and am currently at about 90k out of the 160 I think it'll end up being. Life has been very distracting this past month, but I hope to buckle down and get it done by mid-June at the latest.
    « Last Edit: May 13, 2016, 04:40:02 pm by pwtucker »

    Offline Salvador Mercer

    • Status: Arthur C Clarke
    • *****
    • Posts: 2182
    • Gender: Male
    • Cleveland Ohio
      • View Profile
      • Salvador Mercer Website
    Covers are definitely eye catching, great font on the front too and the book seems epic in length, it's obviously you put a lot of work into this. Good luck with the launch!

    Offline AmpersandBookInteriors

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1833
    • Because & means more.
      • View Profile
      • Ampersand Book Interiors
    This is exciting and totally inspiring. Great job!


    Ebook formatting starting at $25.00. Print typesetting starting at $75.00.
    Colleen Sheehan | Ampersand Book Interiors

    KBoards.com

    • Advertisement
    • ***