Author Topic: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch (Updated with results)  (Read 3019 times)  

Offline pwtucker

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I've benefited enormously from the generosity of previous posters who shared their outlines and explained what they did to achieve success. I'm doing the same here in the hopes of paying it forward.

I published Book 1 of The Chronicles of the Black Gate on May 11. You can read the initial launch thread here. The launch went incredibly well - I rose to around the #1,000's and have stayed there over the past two months, finally achieving that mythical 'stickiness' of which I've always heard but never managed to enjoy. I put Book 2 up for pre-order at the same time, and it's sold a steady 30 copies ever since, hovering around the #6,000 rank as a result. I've currently got 1,300 pre-order sales, and Book 2 is set to launch on July 15. Things are looking good.

To give you a sense of just how much Book 1 has changed my sales, here's my sales chart. Note how things blew up after May 11:



That huge spike on June 26? A stunningly generous review from Pornokitsch. I'd entered Path of Flames into the Self Publishing Fantasy Blog Off organized by Mark Lawrence, and when my judge posted his review, it got some great attention, especially when Benedict Patrick posted the link on Reddit (he's a super stand-up guy).

I've done no other promotions since my Hungry Author promo on May 13.

What have I learned from all this? What would I tell myself back in 2014 when I was just starting to get my act together?

  • Resist the urge to write something that you think will make you a quick buck tomorrow. Instead, write something amazing that will make you even more bucks a month or three from now.
  • Invest as much money as you can into covers. Covers will make or break you. I spent money I didn't have on hiring Andreas Zafeiratos to do my covers, and I've been rewarded for it.
  • Yes, it's worth working on your blurb for a whole month and bothering friends to reread it until they stop responding to your emails. Your blurb needs to be tight. Super tight. I C&P something like 20 top selling blurbs from my niche, studied them, chopped them up, and then attacked my blurb till I was sick of it. But it made a difference.
  • Make sure your whole product page is professional. This is a key element to long term stickiness. Cover, title, blurb, look inside, about the author, series page - everything is crucial.
  • There is no silver bullet in the form of the perfect promo formula. Promos can shove you into the limelight for a moment - and then your quality needs to hold people's attention. I spent too much time obsessing about the perfect launch plan in the past and not enough time on the actual book. Don't make this mistake. I really did assume my fundamentals were solid when they weren't, and thought that cracking the perfect launch plan would result in eternal success, when it won't.
  • Don't dive into what looks to be a lucrative genre just for the money. Odds are you won't do well, but even worse, you might start selling and then find yourself trapped writing stuff you don't care about. Trust me. Despite the income, that's something you should avoid like the plague.
  • Help others out. You reap what you sow. Not only is that what this Board is all about, but it's genuinely a great thing to do, and without looking or asking for it, that generosity will be returned to you when you most need it.
  • Write a 12k novella that answers a big question in your Book 1 and offer it for free at the back of the book in exchange for people signing up for your email list. I borrowed this trick from Chris Fox, and it works.
  • You don't need to worry about social media if you don't really enjoy it. I've done no promo on social media at all and it hasn't affected me. Instead, I've started to connect with other authors for the fun of it on Twitter, and it's been great.
  • Pre-orders are good if you don't have a built in audience. However, I'm not going to do pre-orders for Book 3. I want people instead to sign up for my mailing list to learn when it's released, something people didn't do this time around as they simply snapped up Book 2.
  • Plan your Book 2 launch ahead of time, and book your key promos a month out from when it's set to launch. That will raise the odds of your lining up some good services. While promos beyond Hungry Author aren't that key to launching Book 1, I think they are important for Book 2. I'll outline my launch plan below.
  • Get ARCs out to best friends and readers on your mailing list so that they can post good reviews on Book 1 before it launches (put your paperback book up so people can post reviews there). Instant social credibility when your Book 1 goes live.
  • Don't burn up key promos with your Book 1 launch. Save them for when you launch Book 2, so that their audiences are fresh for max effect.
  • Setting Book 2 up for pre-order reassures new readers that this series has momentum. Then keep that momentum, publishing Book 3 no more than 2 months after Book 2. Momentum is gender neutral sovereign ruler of your ongoing success.
  • Writing epic fantasies with 800 KENPC pages really pays off when you then enroll it in KU.
  • Finally, read and learn from other successful authors here on KBoards. I wouldn't have come up with this plan without the generosity of folks like Jasmine Walt, Domino Finn and others who posted similar outlines. They are the best and deserve to be over-nighted their favorite cookies.

The real secret however is to pour your heart into your book and write the best damn book you can. Super trite! That's the kind of advice that made me roll my eyes back in the day. Now I know it's the boring but crucial truth. In the end, nothing's more powerful than word of mouth marketing. Harness that beast and make it work for you by giving your readers something to talk about.

Book 2 Launch Plan

Book 2 goes live on July 15. I'm running a Count Down promo starting on the 12th for Book 1, reducing its price to $0.99 until the 16th. That's an expensive move given how much it's making me each day, but I'm hoping it will prove well worth it. Here are the promo's I've lined up for Book 1:

12th: Digital Book Today, BKnights
13th: Book Blast
14th: Bargain Booksy
15th: Book Barbarian, ENT

For Book 2, I've got a Hungry Author slated for the 17th, with announcements to my social media on the 15th and a blast to my email list on the 16th.

I'm hoping Book 1 will shoot up in the ranks as a result of that promo blast and then stick to the new ranking when it flips back to $3.99. I'm also hoping that will in turn send a new flood of readers to Book 2, helping cement the jump it enjoys as a result of the Hungry Author promo. Fingers crossed.

Book 3 will hopefully drop mid-September, at which point I'll try to promote Book 1 with a Book Bub.

So there you have it. I'll post a recap of how the launch goes after the dust settles, and with a little look it'll all be good news.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2016, 07:21:54 am by pwtucker »

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    Offline Richard Crawford

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #1 on: July 10, 2016, 11:39:20 am »
    Thanks for sharing Phil, really interesting breakdown, and thanks for the advice you gave me, v much appreciated.  :)

    Also congrats and kudos on an excellent book. The Pornokitsch review has been more than backed up by readers' reactions and you're building great momentum online! The Gemmell's next year.

    Offline jckang

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #2 on: July 10, 2016, 11:55:01 am »
    Thanks for sharing your experience!  I wish I had read this before launching my first in series book.


    Multicultural Epic Fantasy
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    Offline JaclynDolamore

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #3 on: July 10, 2016, 12:27:50 pm »
    Congratulations on such a successful launch. It all makes sense: great covers must lead to great blurbs must lead to great books. And I've seen Path of Flames and The Black Shriving everywhere and they are so eye-catching. Man, am I tempted to put up a preorder for my book #2...

    Jaclyn Dolamore | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

    Offline Scott.Tracey

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #4 on: July 10, 2016, 12:50:41 pm »
    As I'm finishing writing Book 2 and prepping to launch Book 1, this is extremely helpful!  Thank you so much, there's some really great advice in here.

    Scott Tracey | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

    Offline Phillip Thomas

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #5 on: July 10, 2016, 02:05:37 pm »
    Fantastic advice on both your original post and now this Phil.  I actually have bought Path of Flames and it's on my list to read once I get a minute between writing book 2 and editing book 1!

    A quick question that i don't think you touched on but forgive me if you did, what are your views on the importance of editing - whether it be copy or developmental - did you use one/both/neither?

    PT
    « Last Edit: July 10, 2016, 02:14:07 pm by Phillip Thomas »

    Offline pwtucker

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #6 on: July 10, 2016, 02:19:12 pm »
    @ Richard Crawford: Thanks for the kind words! I'm excited to see how your series does now with its kicking new covers. Traitor's Blade has been on my TBR pile ever since I read Pornokitsch's review ;)

    @jckang: Thanks! It's never too late to learn new tricks. Trust me. I've been self publishing since 2011.

    @Jaclyn: I've been following your launch, and you're doing great! Are you capturing your Book 1 readers through a mailing list sign up? Out of curiosity, why did you choose not to go with a pre-order?

    @Scott: Best of luck! Glad to have been able to share my experiences.

    @Phillip: Hope you enjoy the heck out of the book ;) I'm lucky to have three beta readers who are awesome, steeped in the genre and really savvy with their feedback. In effect, they act as my developmental editors, and have consistently pushed me to deepen character arcs, shore up plot holes or told me when things got too weird or fortuitous for the characters. As a result, I've only needed to use my fantastic copy editor, fellow KBoards author Carol Davis. She's been key in helping me present my books in a professional manner, and worth every penny.

    Offline Justawriter

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #7 on: July 10, 2016, 02:21:41 pm »
    I'm excited for you! What a review that guy gave you. And your covers are gorgeous. Looks like you will be in for a run release week. Good luck!

    Offline JaclynDolamore

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #8 on: July 10, 2016, 04:17:09 pm »
    Thanks, Phil! I...well, honestly I haven't done a preorder because I only have about 5k of book 2 done and I'm currently in the midst of working on a musical being produced of my book Magic Under Glass in Baltimore and I keep getting kidnapped to do script rewrites, so I keep feeling nervous about when I can truly get to work on book 2. But it should be over at the end of the month so maybe a 3 month preorder would be safe. I suppose I could bump it up a little if the writing goes well. I'm starting to be sold on the idea, seeing how well your preorder has gone and a few others...Kristal Shaff's I think I've seen around a lot as well. I do have a mailing list signup at the end of book 1 but I don't have any freebie stories to offer yet and I've only gotten a few sign ups. Well, if this launch continues to go well at least I'll have more time to devote to writing. I've been juggling a very demanding, ill-paid but flexible Ebay antique-selling business and writing at once for the past few years so if my new book actually makes some money maybe I can breathe!

    Jaclyn Dolamore | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

    Offline Salvador Mercer

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #9 on: July 10, 2016, 07:58:34 pm »
    Good advice and I love the covers!  :)

    Do update when book two goes live.

    Offline T.J. Zakreski

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #10 on: July 10, 2016, 09:57:40 pm »
    I write Sci-Fi and I'm going to imagine traveling back in time to see how the universe would have unfolded had I followed your advise before I released my first book. There is so much "thy sea is so great and my boat is so small" about this whole experience.Thanks for throwing a buoy out there for the rest of us.

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    Offline Dom

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #11 on: July 10, 2016, 11:23:51 pm »
    I love seeing your success, Phil. And that Pornokitcsh review was amazing. Keep kicking butt.

    Resist the urge to write something that you think will make you a quick buck tomorrow. Instead, write something amazing that will make you even more bucks a month or three from now.

    Man, this needs to be repeated more often. Our business is all about building up a backlist and growing fans. Quick shortcuts won't always help long-term.

    Offline pwtucker

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #12 on: July 11, 2016, 07:58:49 am »
    I love seeing your success, Phil. And that Pornokitcsh review was amazing. Keep kicking butt.

    Man, this needs to be repeated more often. Our business is all about building up a backlist and growing fans. Quick shortcuts won't always help long-term.

    Thanks Domino ;) As one of my original inspirations for this approach/style of launch, it's cool to hear from you.

    If only I could go back in time and tell myself that two years' worth of short cuts ends up being the longest route to success.

    Offline pwtucker

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #13 on: July 11, 2016, 08:00:25 am »
    I write Sci-Fi and I'm going to imagine traveling back in time to see how the universe would have unfolded had I followed your advise before I released my first book. There is so much "thy sea is so great and my boat is so small" about this whole experience.Thanks for throwing a buoy out there for the rest of us.

    I hear you, TJ. It's taken me years to figure out this approach, and many, many book launches that spiked high for a week and then sank into the depths. All I can say is keep at it, keep learning, and keep writing. In the end it's what I did.

    Offline BlinkFarm

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #14 on: July 11, 2016, 03:02:22 pm »
    Thanks for all the insight and congrats on your success!
    I write science fiction & erotica.
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    Offline pwtucker

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch
    « Reply #15 on: August 09, 2016, 07:21:24 am »
    Hello everyone,

    Just a quick update on how my Book 2 launch strategy worked out. I've had people PM and ask me via FB chat so I think there's enough curiosity to warrant a post. I also want to share in the same spirit that previous authors have done here on KBoards in the past - without their generosity I'd still be floundering in the dark.

    Suffice to say I'm really happy with how things are turning out, and think I've got a good thing going. These books are epic fantasy and each one clocks in at around 160,000 words.

    Here's the first chart that shows sales after Book 1 launched:



    Couple of points:

    • I had a couple of month's pre-order with advance reviews placed on the paperback
    • Launched at $0.99 with only a Hungry Author promo, along with emails and social media, then hit $3.99 after three days
    • I entered the book into SPFBO2, and was lucky enough to receive a great review from Pornokitsch around June 24, followed by a cool thread promoting my book on Reddit
    • I had Book 2 lined up for pre-order when Book 1 went live, showing folks I was on the ball and the series had momentum

    Book 2 launched on July 15. Here's how the launch went:



    As you can tell the launch more than doubled my sales. Things are starting to taper just a little now, but I don't expect too huge a drop-off before Book 3 launches at the end of Sept.

    Couple of points:

    • I lined up a great list of promos for Book 1 to kick off a couple of days before Book 2 went live. My not using them to launch Book 1 really paid off, as their subscribers were hearing about me for the first time.
    • Hungry Author on Book 2 a couple of days in.
    • This time I've not set Book 3 for pre-order, but am instead trying to drive people to sign up to my mailing list. Last time round I saw a great sell-through from Book 1 to people purchasing Book 2 in pre-order, but no mailing list sign ups at all. I'm focusing on that this time round, and am getting about 5-10 sign ups a day.
    • I was chosen to be the finalist of Pornokitsch's SPFBO group on July 14. That's some pretty sweet timing, and I think it helped give me a boost.

    I'm now hard at work on Book 3, and hope to launch at the end of September. Things are getting exciting.

    Here are my conclusions:

    • There are three critical elements to success: an amazing cover, maintaining momentum through frequent publishing, and having the fundamentals down (as good a book as you can write, great editing, killer blurb, etc)
    • Promos are great to jump-start your sales, but will do nothing for you if you don't have those three elements down.
    • Pre-orders are a good strategy to launch, but can be shelved once you've got momentum.
    • Launching Books 1 & 2 at $0.99 is a great strategy, but I plan to launch Book 3 now at full price. Once you have momentum and are three books into a series, your readers should be willing to bite the bullet and buy the book for what it's worth.
    • Social media, networking with great authors and enthusiastic fans, interviews, and other fun exposure along those lines definitely help, but aren't critical to your success. They do make the journey all the more worthwhile, however.
    • KU2 rewards really thick books.

    I'm not sure how specific to epic fantasy these conclusions might be, but I think they should be applicable across the board.

    Offline SA_Soule

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    Congrats! And thanks for sharing your success and marketing strategies.

    S. A. Soule

    Offline Salvador Mercer

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    Saw your second book in my email flyers, Phil. Thanks for sharing. You're looking very good.  :)

    Offline JaclynDolamore

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    Things are "getting" exciting? LOL, I'd think they already are! You must be killing it in page reads with two epic fantasy doorstoppers at this point!

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    Offline Cyle Young

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch (Updated with results)
    « Reply #19 on: October 06, 2016, 02:00:25 pm »
    Thanks for the information.

    Offline jckang

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch (Updated with results)
    « Reply #20 on: January 07, 2017, 05:05:38 pm »
    I want to give a huge thanks to Phil for sharing this info.  It's what inspired me to rebrand with new covers and titles to target my intended audience, and also hire Hungry Author Rebecca Hamilton, who gave me so much help on the way to my relaunch.


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    Offline Jerry S.

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch (Updated with results)
    « Reply #21 on: February 01, 2017, 07:59:04 am »
    Man, I just saw this! These types of posts always encourage me as I'm writing my first book (the first in a series). So it helps to see how others are finding success.

    Thank you Phil! I may reach out to you and others in the future with some specific launch/promo/mailing list questions.

    Offline JavierCabrera

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    Re: Book 1 retrospective as I prepare for Book 2 launch (Updated with results)
    « Reply #22 on: February 01, 2017, 02:19:05 pm »
    Congratulations on the journey!

    Quick question: how many sales total for book one?


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