10 Things I’ve Learned After 7 Years of Blogging

Today, according to WordPress, is my 7th anniversary of blog writing (nearly 6 with this blog).  I started this blog because I got my first story sale with my short story Death Watch, which was published by the good folks over at Liquid Imagination.  Originally my blog was my website, and though I have since separated the two, a lot of people still find me through this blog.

When I started out, I really didn’t know what to expect.  And seven years later, I still really don’t know what could happen.  But here are at a few things I have learned since starting out.

1 – Getting traffic to your blog is hard.

It took me a long time, a really long time, to gather up any type of blog traffic.  I tried funny posts, writing posts, life posts, and mixtures of all three.  What I learned is the topics don’t really matter, it just takes time to start showing up in search results and for people to come to your blog looking for certain content.  Which leads to number two.

2 – Pick a topic for your blog

Pick a topic for your blog and stick to it.  Does that mean I don’t blog about life? No.  It just means that the general topic of this blog is books and writing.  I love the movies, video games, and hockey.  Sure I mention those in my blog, but I don’t think I’ve written blog posts on those things.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to write on other topics, but you’ll get a better following if your blog has a theme.

There are exceptions to every rule.  My post, Eight Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to Washington is not writing related at all, but it is the only post that gets a hit at least once per day.

3 – If getting traffic is hard, getting a following seems impossible.

For the longest time, my family were my only followers.  It look a long time to work up to a decent following and to keep them following.  There are a lot of ways to get the regular following and keep them, and many of those are involved in these things I’ve learned.  The truth is, no advertising ever worked.  The only followers I ever got were from reading a post of mine and liking it enough to follow the blog.

4 – Losing followers is very easy.

People stop following a blog for many reasons.  The most common, you offended them.  Society has placed a lot of weight on being offended, as if it really means anything.  I’ve lost followers when they found out I’ve got LGBT characters in my novels. I’ve lost followers because I’ve mentioned I own guns.  I’ve lost followers because I made a Trump joke.  You will also lose followers if you don’t blog in a while.  I lost most of mine during my two year hiatus.

5 – You can’t please everyone.

So you may be thinking that you should sterilize your blog from any possibility of offence.  I tried that in the beginning of my blogging days.  Hell, I used to try that in the start of my writing days.  Well, fuck ’em. People will get offended by what you say.  If they don’t, does your writing carry any real passion anyway?  As I said above, people think being offended means something.  It doesn’t.  What I have learned is that more people appreciate the honest writer connecting with his audience than they do a sterilized blog.  You can’t please everyone, so don’t try.

6 – Listen to your audience.

Many of my blog post ideas come from blog comments or my social media.  I’m not saying you need to ask them what to blog about next, though you can a time or two.  But pay attention to what they are saying about your blog.  As a self published author, I noticed many of my readers were talking and interested in that aspect.  As a result, I wrote Self Publishing, a post in which I explored what Self Publishing was all about.  It took more work than most of my posts do, but it was also the most successful post.

7 – Read and connect with other bloggers

You really need to read and connect with other bloggers.  For one, you will see what is trending and discover what other bloggers like you are doing.  This will let you know if the topic you want to blog on is over-saturated or that it is of no interest to anyone.  But also you can work with others to do guest posts and other connections to attract their followers to you and your followers to them.

8 – Guest posts are great.

Guest posts are a great way to drive followers of others to your blog.  For a long period of time I was doing an author focus blog series that allowed guest posts from other authors.  It drove new eyes to my blog that may have otherwise not visited.  Don’t expect a ton of new followers from it, but you just might get someone poking around your blog for other stories.

9 – Don’t expect your blog to be a revenue stream.

I’m not sure I have made any book sales from people who came to read my blog.  In most cases it is the other way around.  People have come here after reading my work.  Some to complain, but most because they liked what they read and wanted to see more.  Also, ad riddled blogs suck to read (of course we have no control over the WordPress ads).  One ad maybe, or sponsored content is okay.  But some blogs read so heavily of sales pitches that they become no fun to read.

Also, don’t overly self publicize on you blog. It isn’t wrong, but it is a fine line between content and advertising.  The point of a blog is to connect with your audience, not sell them shit.

10 – It is okay to blog for yourself.

It is absolutely okay to write a blog for yourself with no aim to gain followers.  You might accidentally acquire a few anyway.  But not every blog has to be for fan connection or to gain more readers.  Some can be for the hell of it.  You can have as many blogs as you like too.  The choice is yours.

BONUS: We’re all full of shit.

Here is a bonus thing I’ve learned, everything on the internet about how to write a great blog is full of shit.  This one included.  What worked for me may not work for you.  Lord knows I read a lot of crap, that when I tried it, did’t work for shit.  More to the point, articles with things I’ve learned titles are there to help you see what was learned.  You can use it, or you can toss it.  The choice is yours really.

It is your blog, write what you want, but I’ve shared what I’ve learned.  Your results may vary.

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Broken Trust Release Party is Over!

Whew! The month long release party is over. And boy has it been nuts! First of all I learned a lot about marketing a big release, and I wanted to share with you the things I learned. This way perhaps you can have a big start to your marketing project too!

1. Don’t waste your time with preorders!

I put a lot of work on setting up preorders, and I even had massive discounts. And not one person preordered the book.  Not one. Despite all the promotion of it, no one order one.  Not even my family. I don’t know why that is. I think it has to do with the fact that people would rather order from a trusted source. But I don’t know that for sure. And since Amazon won’t let me do preorders on there, I just was stuck with doing it through PayPal.  In any case, this is the third time I have offered preorders, and the first time I have offered it for an extended period of time (three weeks).  And I have never made a preorder sale. So I won’t be wasting the energy setting up that on Paypal and my website.

2. Plan your release early in the party.

My goal with this party had been to build a buzz, and create preorders. I think I did get the buzz going, but since my book didn’t release until the end of the party, I think I may  have lost out on some sales potential.  So for my next book, the release party will come either right after the book releases or maybe just a week into it.  That will be a better option.

3. Too many giveaways means too few entries.

There were so many giveaways in this party. Book a Day in May, Goodreads, Grand Prizes, Kindles. I just had so many.  I really liked the Book a Day in May.  I will do that again, but I don’t think I will do it the same way. Perhaps one entry form with a drawing each day.  This way entrants don’t have to fill out so many forms. That does get rather tedious.   I’ll be experimenting with Raffle Copter to see if that can be done. I also don’t think I will release a book in May while doing this giveaway.

I think the magic number for giveaways is 1 at a time. Yeah, just one.  Otherwise it is hard to focus on them and get a lot of people entering. Of course, GoodReads tends to always draw a lot of entries. But RaffleCopter is solely based on how much work you put into marketing it.  So I will limit myself to just one.

4. Hire a Blog Book Tour Company

I did a blog book tour with Dissolution of Peace, I hired OrangeBerry to do it. And while I wasn’t 100% satisfied, I did get a much better response from it. Putting on a book tour is harder than it looks. I tried to do it myself with Broken Trust. I wound up with four days unfilled out of ten total days. That is really bad for such short tour. With OrangeBerry I ordered 30 days and they gave me 30 days, with most of those 30 being within a 30 day period. So from now on I will pay a little bit of money and not have all the hassles of doing it myself. This includes all the scheduling, finding bloggers, and coordinating the releases.  It just wasn’t worth it to try and do it for free.

5. No one cares about the games.

I created Quizzes for the tour, two of them. And they were hardly touched. I had a trivia game, no one showed up to play. I did an answer this question and win a book, no one did it. I did a first five to share this link wins, and no one shared it. People just didn’t care about the games. They could enter to win without jumping through hoops. Do I think I would have better success with less giveaways? No. I’ve tried this time and time again and it never works.

6. Trivia Facts and Quotes from the book.

Now this I think I will do again.  This people seemed to like. One of the the things people liked most: These quotes and Trivia facts were not accompanied by any “buy me” links. People seemed to like that they could get a sneak peek at the book and not be followed with a “buy me” sales pitch. That’s just it, it wasn’t a direct sales pitch. It was a marketing tool, that is for sure. But, it is not direct and in your face.  The quotes on the graphic (picture) rather than in the body was also really successful for shares and re-tweets. But I think next time I will mix up the quotes with different graphics. I think after a bit, people see the same graphic and assume it is the same quote.  And to be fair, I didn’t think of this graphic idea myself, I saw S.M. Boyce doing it of her books. So naturally I borrowed the idea.

7. Scheduling your posts for various times works.

It is very tedious work.  I planned every promo post for the entire month. I planned them for different times through out the day.  Why did I do this? Because my followers probably check at different times. And I wanted to make sure no one group of followers always saw the same thing.  So I spread it out and it seems to have works. No one complained of post overload and I didn’t lose any followers during the release party.  Also, I never posted the same stuff at the same time on both Facebook and Twitter. I always spread it out. It is a pet peeve of mine when people post the exact same stuff at the exact same time on all their social media. Why follow all of them then?  Anyway, that seemed to work out too.

8. Hire someone to do your Book Trailer

I’ve always hired someone to do my cover art, but did the book trailers myself.  This time I hired someone, and it seems to get a better response from viewers. It is being shared more, that is for sure. So from now on I will hire someone to do them. It just makes sense. I’ll stick with writing and leave the graphic arts to those that know what they are doing.

9. Plan for things to not go as planned.

I got hired a started a new job right in the middle of all this. Had I planned to just do the tweets live, this never would have worked out.  Luckily I scheduled them and they could go on while I tried desperately to focus on my new job. There were also technical issues with the blog tour. So I had to handle those. There were broken links, and unexpected blog posts (which I welcome), and much more to deal with on the fly.  So you have to be prepared for things to not always go as you planned they would.

10. Did this work?

I don’t really know.  I sold 3 Kindle copies on release day.  Not exactly the flying off the shelves that I hoped for. But also there were still giveaways going on. And I secretly hope that people are just waiting to buy to see if they win the book. But experience tells me that isn’t the case. I hoped to create a buzz and the only way to measure that is in sales, though that isn’t a fair measurement. So hopefully the sales pick up now that word is getting out that the book has released. Perhaps releasing the book sooner in the party would have created more sales over the month.  Time will tell on that.

Creating buzz when you are a small time writer is not easy. Many of your “followers” are not paying much attention to you. And you don’t have any name made for yourself. You can’t expect instant results.  My only hope is that as each book comes out, more and more progress is being made in the that direction. Eventually I hope to be able to say that I slowly built a name for myself. And this was one step in that build.

 

I Call BullSh*t: Social Media Marketing is Easy

Dung-heapI’ve decided to start a new regular post call “I Call Bullshit”.  In these articles I will take  common themes, rules, myths, and legends about writing and publishing, and I will call out the bullshit behind all of them.  Call me the Mythbuster of the writing world. Unless that violates some copyright, then just call me Richard.

Anyway, one of my favorite sayings is, “I call bullshit.”  Why? It has so much more of a punch than, “I don’t think that is true. ”

This time around I tackle the myth that Social Media marketing is easy.  You wouldn’t believe how much I heard this starting out as a business owner, and now as a writer.  And on the surface it sounds easy.

Here are some of the things I have heard:

All you have to do is post a lot and people will follow you and buy your products.

Once you have followers, the word will get out about your projects.

If you write engaging articles, people will continue to read your blog.

Getting followers is easy.

Well, I call bullshit.

I am not a social media expert, and I think anyone who claims to be an expert better have some concrete evidence to this title.  But, I have used social media for my old security business.  And I currently use if for my writing, and for Plasma Frequency.  I am constantly on social media, not just for business but for personal use too.

First, simply posting doesn’t attract followers.  You have to post things that either engage your audience or entertains them.  And you have to get them to like it enough to share (or ReTweet or ReBlog) it to their followers.  And it has to be good enough that their followers than choose to follow you.  This can be excellent articles, a hilarious Tweet, information that your audience might enjoy, or anything like that.

Again, that sounds easy, but it isn’t. Lets look at my author account on Twitter.  I’ve been on Twitter for going on three years.  Not a long time, but I have almost 4,000 tweets in that time.  Or,  roughly four tweets a day.  That doesn’t sound like a lot and compared to others, I am a novice.  But, even still I can only think of maybe twenty tweets that actually gained mass popularity and directly resulted in adding one or two follower.  I know of only three tweets that directly brought on 10 or more followers.

Now, my blog on the other hand does tend to attract more followers with each post.  I usually get one follower for every three to four posts I make.  But, I have had some posts, such as my self publish one, that brought on a ton of followers.  And my articles on writing tend to draw more attention that my promotional posts (I’m getting to that).

I haven’t had a a follower of Facebook is ages.  Facebook is becoming the vast wasteland of social media marketing.  And I will get to that soon.

Now, posts resulting in purchases…. I hate to tell you this.  But I can not account a single sale on any product to Social Media posts.  Not one.  For one reason it is hard to measure that.  I am sure people see my book is out and go buy it.  But my guess is most of those people were going to buy it anyway because they know me, or know my work.  They just needed the reminder it was out now.  But, how many people have read this blog and decided they wanted to buy my book?  There is no way to really know that.

I will say, as a big time consumer of books, I have never seen a promotional post by an author I didn’t know and decided to buy it.  My promotional post I mean “Here is my book link.  Please go buy it.” Followed by a link.  Any why not?  Well that is a lot like a hard sale.  Imagine walking into the car dealership, which is already a hard sell location, and the first think the salesman said to you was, “Here is a car, please buy it.”  You probably would leave.  And I doubt you would buy the car, you know nothing about it.

The same is true in social media.  You need to get people to buy your books because they like what you have to say.  That means they like what you post on your blog, the Tweets you post, the Facebook things you share.  And then, only every now and then, you give them a reminder that you have a book out.  Or you integrate reminders through out your posts.  I often reference my books and my magazine in posts.  But not in a “Buy me now” way, but in an example or a causal reference.  Like product placement on TV.

And that takes a lot of work.  I go back through my blog posts to add these links you see.  I have to constantly update my website and blog to show relevant books.  And even still those only result on a few clicks.

Promotional posts are not outlawed.  There are several promotional rules out there.  Some say the one-in-three rule, or the one-in-five rule.  I personally use the one-in-ten rule.  That is that one in ten of my tweets or Facebook posts are promotional.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I count my tweets.  It is a general rule of thumb.

Lets say you are lucky to have a vast amount of followers.  I certainly don’t.  But maybe you are lucky.  You may actually be unlucky.  Here is why:

Facebook has stacked the deck against authors, especially broke ones.  It is a game of percentages. Not all those people will see your posts.  Not even half of them will.  Not even a quarter of them, unless of course you pay for that.  Promote your post and it will pop up everywhere and to everyone, even people not following you. But it comes at a price.  Of my last few posts on my Author Page, only 2.5% to 8% of my followers saw the posts I made.  On Plasma Frequency’s page it was a bit better, 9% to 41%.  Note, the 41% was on those posts that were shared by others (like when an new issue releases and all the authors share).

So here lies the problem with Facebook:  Getting Followers, and getting those followers to see what you post.  The solution, and the only one I know of, is to pay Facebook.

But I am a small press that doesn’t make a profit.  My books are not making a profit yet either.  I am unemployed, trying to make a living off of writing.  I don’t have “extra” money to pitch into a Facebook campaign.  And even if I did, a little research will show you that there are plenty of people who didn’t get much for their money.  And what would I have to pay to get all my posts seen all the time? My wallet just started crying at the thought of it.

You may be thinking Twitter is the way to go.  Sorry, to tell you that simply being free has not solved the problem.  Getting followers can be easy.  Follow a shit-load of people and so many will follow you back.  Then, I know people who go back and unfollow all the people who don’ follow back… I call bullshit on that too, but that is another topic.

Anyway, I see people with 5k followers and following 5k people.  I follow 400 people on my account.  When I go on Facebook, I can go back for an entire day and read all the post from a day.  Maybe it would take an hour, or two tops.  Go on Twitter, I can read Tweets for four hours, and only get about 3 hours down my timeline.  There are so many people out there shouting on Twitter that things get lost.  Some of my favorite Tweeters are constantly missed by me.  I find myself skimming over my timeline and bypassing any tweet with a link in it.  Anything that sounds like “buy me”.

And that got me thinking. If I am doing that with 400 people, what is the person who follows me with 5k other people they are following.  I can guarantee they are not reading Tweets by a small time author with sarcastic humor.  So while Facebook will tell you that they are not showing your posts to everyone.  Twitter is showing it to everyone, but I contend that just as few are actually reading what you Tweet.

And, WordPress tells me how many views I get on each article I write.  None of them add up to all of the followers I have.  In fact of the last ten posts, the readers number worked out to about 25%, on average, of my follower count.  And that is just the ones that clicked the link.  Not that actually read the article.

And if that is the case, simply having followers does not mean they are hearing about your projects.

Write engaging articles, Tweets and posts, and people will read what you write.  Well, what the hell is engaging? You can answer that for yourself, but not for other people.  It sounds easy.  Just write about writing.  Sorry, but every independent author and writer out there is putting out self help articles on their blog.

So what makes yours stand out from the crowd?  Your personality.  Certainly the fact that this feature has “bullshit” in it will mean some readers won’t read it.  But, it is also giving this article a bit of my own style.  Regular readers know that I tend to have a rambling, sarcastic, and sometime crass humor in the topics I write about.  Every single one of my blogs oozes with my opinion, and that gives it my own flair.  You can get my information anywhere, but my opinions and humor you can only find from me.

All that still doesn’t mean new followers.  They have to find your blog, Twitter, or Facebook before they even decide if they want to read what you say.  And while WordPress does well to attract new people to my articles, the rest is up to me.  It isn’t easy.  And, I can write one really good article, but not everyone is going to read it.

Finally, getting followers is easy.  Three years I have been fighting my way up to getting good quality followers.  And you see, that is the real trick here folks.  Getting followers is easy.  You can get thousands of egg avatar followers on Twitter, but those bots aren’t reading shit you write.  You can use programs to gain more followers, or be part of “Team Follow Back” and get thousands of followers quickly.  But they are not reading what you say, and that defeats the entire point of everything you’ve been working for.  Why write at two thousand word blog, such as this one, if no one reads it?  Why keep tweeting away when no one is reading them?  That is not an effective social media marketing strategy.  That is a scam of trying to make yourself look popular in the hopes that you might get more followers based on your perceived popularity.  It won’t work.

There is only one way to get quality followers on any social media platform.  Time.  Develop a strategy and stick with it.  Modify it as you find out what works, and keep plugging away.  I certainly get more hits to my blog now than I did three years ago.  My interactions on Twitter have gone up.  But it takes a lot of hard work.  Why do think major companies hire social media team members to manage their pages?  Because it takes a full time marketing team to really work on it.  And let’s face it you are only doing it part time around all the other jobs of being a writer, publisher, and/or editor.

To say social media marketing is easy is complete bullshit.  Like all marketing, it takes time, strategy, know how, and hard work.  It also takes the added step of being social and being yourself.  There is nothing easy about it.

FREE eBOOKS!

As I announced a few days ago, today my books are officially free on Amazon.com.  Get a copy for your Kindle for free!

Both Volition Agent and Dissolution of Peace are 100% free for Kindle.  Please pick up a copy and share the links with your friends.  We can make these books top sellers!  The are free until Labor Day so get your copies soon!

Volition Agent - Kindle Cover (Hires jpg) Dissolution of Peace Cover

 

 

 

Official Volition Agent Book Trailer!

As you know I have been hard at work getting Volition Agent ready for publication.  Well, actually over the last week I haven’t done much with the book itself.  You see my editor has it, so she is hard at work getting it ready for me to get ready to publish.  So in the mean time I went to work on a Book Trailer for Volition Agent.  This one was a lot harder for me than the Dissolution of Peace book trailer.  The main issue being that Lexia has already been so perfectly defined by Joy Anna’s portrayal in the cover art.  This left me with more of a challenge.  No stock footage I could find of women with guns fit the image of Lexia.  So I scrapped that idea all together and went in this direction.

I really like the music I found to accompany this.  It is a stock piece for one of the stock material sites I visit often.  You may also notice a date has been picked for the release.  I know when I originally announced the novel I said the first part of June, but these things take time and so July 2, 2013 is the official release date.  Though there will likely be some Advanced Reader Copies arriving a little before that.  If you are a book reviewer, or review blogger, and want to review this book before it comes out let me know.  So without further chatter from me.  Here is the trailer (I recommend HD).

Dissolution of Peace Blog Tour

Dissolution of Peace Spring Blog Tour is official!

Book Tour Image

I am going on a blog book tour with Dissolution of Peace.  The book and I will be traveling through the virtual world to attend various blogs to spread the word about my book.  I’m excited about this since it will allow me to share a little bit about me and the book with a new audience.  You can visit these blogs and see interviews, guest posts, and book reviews.  I will be on tour from April 8th until May 13th this year!

Dates:

As I mentioned above I will be traveling blog to blog from April 8th until May 13th.  There are still a number of dates available so if you would like to get in on the tour, it isn’t too late.  There are still several open dates available.  If you want one, just go here (link) and pick a date.  Then scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see “Would you like to host this author on your blog?”  Click the link and sign up.

The folks over at Orangeberry Book Tours are hosting this tour for me.  They’ve taken a ton of the work out of it so I just get to hang out at various blogs.  While I will try to keep the listed dates below updated, for the most current dates and locations visit my Tour page.

While I hope you will go check out each blog host before and after my posts, I will be posting links to blog tour posts throughout the tour on my Facebook and Twitter pages.  So if you don’t follow me there, please do.

Terms:

Book Feature: A quick feature just announcing the basics about Dissolution of Peace

Twitter View: A interview with me over Twitter.  I’ll be off work so I am going to do my best to answer these questions live.

Twitter Blast: A collection of book quotes sent out via Twitter.  Please RT the heck out of those. 🙂

Book Review:  Just that, a review of Dissolution of Peace

Author Interview: An interview with me, posted on their blog.

Guest Post: This is a post I write for their blog, as a guest.

Tour Dates and Locations:

8th April – Book Feature at Peace from Pieces

9th April – Twitter View with OB Book Tours

10th April – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

11th April – Author Interview at Mommy Adventures

12th April – Guest Post at The Bunny’s Review

13th April – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

14th April – Book Feature & Author Interview at The Reading Cat

15th April – Guest Post at Blog-A-Licious Authors 

16th April – Book Feature & Author Interview at Author’s Friend

17th April – Guest Post at Kindle Nook Books

18th April – Book Feature at Paws on Books

19th April – Guest Post & Book Feature at Anya Breton‘s blog

20th April – Book Feature at Book Professor

21st April – Author Interview & Book Feature at Michael R McDuffee‘s blog

22nd April – Guest Post at Books Are Magic

23rd April – Author Interview & Book Review at Pages 2 Pages

24th April – Guest Post  at Disincentive Reviews

25th April – Book Feature at Book Professor

26th April – Guest Post at Quality Reads

27th April – Author Interview at Fantasy Books

28th April – Book Feature at eInk Reviews

29th April – Book Feature at My Love for Books

30th April -Book Feature at Brainy Reads

1st May – Book Feature at Pages to Chapters

2nd May – Book Feature at Living for Books

3rd May – Orangeberry Pick of the Week & Sidebar

3rd May – Guest Post, Author Interview & Book Feature at Talisman Book Publishing

4th May – Book Feature at Gentleman Reads

5th May – Book Feature at Working For Books

6th May – Book Feature at My Love for Books

7th May – Book Feature at Aspiring Book Reviews

8th May – Book Feature at Reading My Addiction

9th May – Book Feature at Imagination in Books

10th May – Orangeberry Book of the Day – Gentleman Reads – Excerpt /

11th May – Author Interview at Up In Smoke

12th May – Guest Post at Richard Stephenson‘s blog

13th May – End of Tour Celebration post! at Flores Factor.

Blog Tour Giveaway!

This book tour will include the largest giveaway I’ve done to date.  There will be some great prizes including: Signed Paperbacks, Free Paperbacks, Free eBooks, and an Amazon Gift card.  This is hosted by Rafflecopter and there are multiple ways to enter.  The giveaway will end on May 19th.  Check back with the giveaway often because as more blogs post, more entries will be possible.  In fact, you get five entries just by entering this GIVEAWAY CODE: “E.S.S. Australia”

You can find the Giveaway on my Facebook page: CLICK HERE FOR A DIRECT LINK

I can’t wait to see you all on the tour!

Do KDP Select Free Promotions Work?

Yesterday I did my first KDP Free Promotion.  For those that don’t know, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has an option to sign up for KDP Select.  This is a 90 day period where you allow Amazon (and by default Kindle) to be the only electronic form of your book sold.  Some people balk at the exclusiveness this implies.  But there are some pluses.  You get to be part of the Kindle Prime Lending Library. This means that people can borrow your book for free and in return you get a part of the collective “pot” of money.  I’ve not had any borrows yet.  Some authors have told me that you get more borrows for higher priced books, since prime users can only borrow one book per month.  I don’t know about that.

The other thing you get to do is pick five days per 90 day period to make your book free.  You don’t have to do that.  You don’t even have to pick the days when you publish your book.  You can go back and set up your days when you want.  You can do all five together or pick and choose a few days spread out.  The choice is entirely up to you.

As you probably saw in yesterday’s post, I made Dissolution of Peace free in honor of Veterans day in the United States.  It was free on all Amazon sites globally.  I did this for two reasons.  First, I wanted to see how well this KDP Free Promotions thing would work.  Second, I have a special place in my heart for those that serve in the armed forces.  It may even be why I enjoy writing military fiction.  So I decided to honor those people in a way that was important to me.

The real question is, do promotions like this work?

Success is truly something only you can decide.  But, I will show you what it did for me in just the one day since the promotion.  You can decide from there if it could be successful for you.

I would also like to point out that I did not market my free book on anything other then this blog, my Twitter, and Facebook.  I didn’t announce it on one the the many free eBook blogs.  I just spread the word myself.

Getting Books in the Hands of Readers

The point in writing a book is to have it read.  I’ve stressed that making money is not my goal in writing.  My goal is to get readers and maybe get a few fans who want to read anything I write.  So did the promotion get my book in the hands of readers.  With out a doubt it is a huge success in that fashion.

In Amazon US, I had about 19 times more downloads yesterday then I have had since my book was released.  Nineteen times more readers in one day then in the four weeks since my book was released.

In Amazon UK, I had 88 times more downloads yesterday then I have had since my book was released.  The UK was phenomenal in this free promotion.  I’ll get to more on that soon.

In Amazon Germany, I had 7 times more downloads yesterday then in the four weeks since it was released.

I even had my first download in Italy.

In comparison to other promotions I have done, this was by far the most successful.  My own eBook giveaways resulted in only around 10 free eBooks being given away.  This includes those sent to reviewers.  But if I wanted to get more readers, this was certainly a great way to do it.  They may not read it right away, I am sure there are people who just won’t pass up free, but there a whole lot more people with copies of my book now.  This means there are a lot more people in the pool to write reviews, tell their friends, and look for future titles I release.

Creating Awareness of my Book

This is a really hard thing to do.  Getting your book noticed by potential buyers is very hard for any author, especially the indie author.  You are fighting an up hill battle with major authors, major publishers, and the rest of the indie market.  It is not easy to be noticed.

One way to get noticed is on Amazon’s Best Seller Lists.  The thing that always frustrated me about many “help” sites that talk about these best seller lists don’t let you know the secrets to getting on the lists.  The truth is the secret is simply getting sales.  But Amazon does one great thing here.  The Best Seller Lists of the Top 100 eBooks sold is listed right next to the Top 100 Free eBooks.  Number 5 in sales is right next to number 5 in free.

This means that when someone is looking for the best sellers on science fiction ebooks, they are also seeing the best sellers in free science fiction ebooks.  You still have to get the downloads to get on the list, but you can get a lot of benefit once you get on the list.  If nothing more than getting the cover of your book seen by more eyes.

I mentioned how great the UK was in this free promotion.  The first time I checked my Amazon UK page yesterday was at 10:16 in the morning.  My book had only been free for ten hours, which is a fair amount of time, especially considering the time difference.  But at that point I was #48 on the Top 100 Free Science Fiction eBooks.  And by the end of the promotion I was #19.  In that time I had been on the same page as H. P. Lovecraft, Jules Vern, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and more.  I was even next to George R.R. Martin at one point.  That is some good company to hang out with, even on a virtual level.

UK Best Sellers of Science Fiction on 11/12/2012

In the US, it was a slower start.  This, in part, has to do with two factors.  First, the US site has a much larger pool of shoppers.  They include India, and many other places that don’t have their own sites.  But, KDP free events also start at 12:01 am Pacific time.  Right when most of the US is still asleep.  But by 12:45 pm, twelve hours into the the promotion, I was on the top 100 list at number 61.  And by the time it was over, I had made it to 28.  So while the UK really came through on the Best Seller’s list, the US still put me along side the great names of Science Fiction past and present.

 

US Best Sellers of Science Fiction on 11/12/2012

I would say that overall that is a successful way of gaining exposure to my book.  I don’t know how many people browse the Top Sellers list.  But I do know that I often look for books online this way.  So overall even if I didn’t get downloads, people saw my book cover.  And book covers are the brand image of books.  Like all brands, the more the image is seen the more it becomes known and in some cases trusted.

You might be wondering where my book ranked at in the over all ranking for Free eBooks.  In the US it was #779 and in the UK it was #425.  Not bad considering how many thousands, probably millions, of books are on Amazon.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth advertising is probably some of the best.  People often choose books based on the recommendations of friends and family.  While I doubt anyone recommended my book the same day they downloaded it.  I got far more downloads then I have Facebook, Twitter, and Blog followers.  This means people had to hear about it from other people.  So people were at least mentioning my book.  I also noticed that many people were downloading my book in the US before it broke on to the top 100 list.  So they had to find it some other way.

But this huge pool of new readers who downloaded my book will contribute to the word of mouth advertising that will continue to increase traffic to my book.  And will hopefully increase my sales volume.

Reviews

I don’t know if this will increase my reviews.  Before the promotion I had two Amazon reviews, and one Amazon UK review.  But, the increased reader pool also means an increased reviewer pool.  So that has to cause a higher chance of being reviewed. But only time will tell on this.

Increased Sales

Again, only time will tell on this.  But my point has never been to get money.  Some people see the free book giveaway as nothing but lost revenue.  But to date, nothing has got Dissolution of Peace in the hands of more readers than the Amazon free promotion.  I’ve never thought of writing as a way to make money.  For me it is has been about readers, and maybe making enough money to cover the costs associated with publishing it.  Would I complain if my book starts flying off the shelves?  Of course not.  That is the goal of most writers, but not for the sake of money but for the sake of the volume of readers.

From what I have heard from others, the sales will increase but that takes time.

Summary

I can’t really see it any other way.  KDP has hit a home run with the idea of allowing authors five days to make the book free.  And if you use those days through out your 90 day period as a promotional tool, you can really gather a lot of new readers.  And many readers who might not have otherwise picked up your book.  I’ll likely do another two or three of these free promotional things in the next few months.  I see nothing but success here.  And if I enjoyed this much success with limited announcement outlets, imagine if I branched out from my circle of followers.

Of course, many people are turned off be the exclusiveness of KDP Select.  They feel like they are excluding a market of readers that use other eReaders.  Personally I have had little request for ePub format.  But, 90 days is a relatively short time.  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to renew it.  Personally I think it is worth a try.

 

Spotlight on Dissolution of Peace

The folks over at Celebrating Authors have done a Spotlight on Dissolution of Peace.  You can check it out here: LINK.  As you usual please show your support by letting them know you saw my spotlight, what you thought of it, and any other comments.

Celebrating Authors is a great website dedicated to spotlighting authors and trying to unite them with readers.  I think they are a great site, and I follow them on Twitter and Facebook.  Check out their Facebook Page, Facebook Group, and Twitter page too.

 

Spreading the Word

So I have been trying to sell copies of Dissolution of Peace now for almost two weeks.  And I am discovering a few things that I didn’t expect to discover along the way.  I know I have touched on some of this before when I wrote “Is Anybody Out There?” but that was more about making a plan for marketing.  This is more about what I am learning that may surprise some of you.

I’ll go ahead and start with common questions about marketing books and give you my answer two weeks in.

Do giveaways work?

The short answer is that I don’t know yet.  I’ve done a giveaway on Goodreads for Daddy is Tired.  I did it at the recommendation of another who told me it really worked for him.  So far, I’ve not seen any boost in sales.  In fact I think I’ve sold one copy total since that give away ended at the end of September.  So I am not sure how it “works” but it didn’t for a children’s picture book.

I’m running two giveaways for Dissolution of Peace.  One ends at the end of October, the other ends at the end of November.  Surprisingly the one on Goodreads seems to be getting a lot less reaction than the one on my Facebook page.  There is one advantage to the Facebook Page give away.  Both my Twitter and Facebook followers have gone up significantly.  Though that hasn’t translated into sales.  We will see what happens come the end of the giveaways.

I did two other giveaways.  I gave away fifteen free copies of Dissolution of Peace for Kindle on Twitter, of which only one was ever claimed.  I did the same on Facebook, giving away ten copies.  Two were claimed.  Not exactly a very strong presence there.  My hope was to get twenty-five copies of my book out there and hopefully get ten reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads.  I’ve not had any reviews (from the giveaway) on either one.

Based on these numbers, you might think that giveaways don’t work.  To be honest no one has ever really told me how they work to get sales.  They just tell me it works.  So Perhaps by the end of the year I will see an increase in sales.  The giveaways don’t cost me anything.  The eBooks are free.  And the signed paperbacks will cost me less than $20 when I factor in the shipping charges.  So when you consider how little it costs, it is worth a shot.  But if you try something, like my eBook social media give away, and it doesn’t work.  Don’t repeat failure.  Even if it cost you nothing monetarily, it will cost you your time.

The good thing about Raffle Copter (which I am using to give away one signed paperback) and Goodreads giveaways, is that it doesn’t cost you but a few minutes of time.  And, like I said, I am getting new followers as result.  That may be of significant value later.

Does Posting to Facebook or Twitter work?

I suppose this is the new form of word of mouth.  Word of mouth advertising does work.  But only if it is done correctly.  But I will clue you in on some surprises I learned.

First, don’t count on people to share it.  All the people I thought were certain to share it, some who were even instrumental in helping create it, have not shared it once.  Many of these people are fellow authors, whom I have promoted heavily myself.  Of course, I didn’t promote them expecting them to do the same.  Though I did kind of hope they might.  Most of them I promoted well before my novel came out.  There are some I have even promoted their business (they are not authors) and they haven’t shared my book either.

But, there is an upside to this.  I have had complete strangers share my book, mostly on Twitter.  These are people who recently jumped on and followed me.  In fact, one person who follows me retweeted it and then five or six people who don’t follow me also retweeted it.  Facebook on the other hand has been all shares from family or friends.  I appreciate everyone who shares it, and I try to help them out when I can.  But remember, just because you help someone else out, don’t expect it in return.  The deal here is that you should share what you want and other will share what they want.  Even though it is disappointing when family and friends don’t.

Facebook groups are another way of spreading the word.  Two things to remember.  First, don’t break the groups rules.  Your post will just get deleted.  Two, don’t expect much from it.  I belong to several writing Facebook groups.  The problem is, all of them are so flooded with self promotional posts, that mine rarely stay within a readable number of posts for more than an hour.  Also, I’m not sure how many people are actually reading what others post there, versus just posting themselves.  Some even seem to post every hour or so.  Which is bullshit if you ask me.  They are spamming the feeds just to keep their book on top.  I’ll get more on spamming later.

Okay, I’ll talk about spamming now.  If all you post on Twitter or Facebook is your novel.  You won’t get anywhere.  It doesn’t take long before people tune you out and/or unfollow you.  Personally I only post about my book a few times a day.  And lately it has been cut back to just once.  I post about other topics: Jokes only I think are funny, blog posts that helped me, Plasma Frequency, the NHL lockout, and more.  I also comment on other people’s posts, try to answer comments on mine, reply to tweets, and retweet things that I liked.  All of these things make me a human being.  Not a constantly tweeting about my book robot.  I think that is equally important as getting the word out about your books.  After all, if you lose followers, what is the point of tweeting to an empty room.

Think of it this way.  If every time one of your coworkers, friends, or even family members saw you, all you said was “Buy my book.  It is on Amazon.com and it is great.”  How long before you wouldn’t see them again?  Of course you will tell your friends about your book, but I am sure you talk about other things.  The same should be the case on Facebook or Twitter.  Be a real person and you might wind up with more results and more help for your followers.

What to you thing about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising?

First of all, PPC advertising works on a the principle that a site puts up an advertisement and when someone clicks on it you pay a per click fee.  Many places let you bid on the per click rate.  Lower bids mean you are not shown as often as larger bids.  You can usually choose who you target and even set up limits per month.

Right now I am using Goodreads.  From all the research I have done, Goodreads is supposed to be better at targeting readers than Facebook or Google PPC ads.  I have three ads.  One for the Paperback targeting US readers of Science Fiction 16 or older.  One for the Kindle Version targeting US readers of eBooks and Science Fiction 16 or older.  Last, I have a Paperback/Kindle ad targeting UK readers of science fiction 16 or older.  All three ads are in one campaign.  I pay 20 cents a click  for one, the other two I pay 10 cents per click.  I started the ad on the 16th in the evening.  So in about four days I have had 3,500 views.  Views just mean it came up on the page, it doesn’t mean anyone actually saw it.  Of all those views I have had two (2) clicks, both in the UK.  And both UK clicks resulted in zero new UK sales.

The good news is you can change your ads any way you want until you find one that gets you more clicks.  I recommend you send the clicks to Amazon or Barnes and Noble for sales.  This is because it eliminates extra steps to get your book sold.  The real trick if making an ad that really catches readers attentions.  Though part of this falls on Goodreads.  Frankly they put the ads in a terrible spot.  That even on my large screen, I have to scroll down to see them.

The bad news is, I dumped $90 into this PPC campaign based on recommendations from others that Goodreads PPC ads really jump started their book sales for the first 30 days.  At this rate, it will take me a long time to burn up $90.  So learn from my mistake and start with a smaller number.  Then once you find an ad that gets you a lot of clicks, you can increase.  Another tip:  Keep in mind how much you make in profit on each sale.  If you make $0.30 per eBook sale and you bid $0.30 cents per click.  Someone would have to buy on every click just to break even.  $0.10 is the lowest you can bid on good reads.  So if you book is less than $1.99 you’re expecting a lot for the ad.

Here is the thing, I think PPC can work.  But you have to stay on top of it.  You have to find an ad that works, and that means watching the numbers and changing the ad until you get clicks.  And then hopefully clicks will turn into sales.

What about website advertising?

I don’t know.  I haven’t tried it yet.  I contacted one site that had a really good deal with a few questions.  That was a week ago and they never answered me.  So I’ll continue to look around.  The think on website advertising is you want to find a site that attracts readers of your genre.

What about print/magazine advertising?

Although I have not tried it.  I know this works.  If you put your book in a fiction magazine for your genre you will get the word out there about your book.  The readership numbers matter.  This is why if you want to advertise in some of the bigger science fiction magazines, you will pay a lot for it.  Smaller presses charge less, but you get less readers.

Book Reviews / Author Interviews?

I’m in the process of getting a few book reviews.  But finding sites to do it is a lot harder than I ever thought.  Many have “closed” because of overload.  Many more have lengthy lead times.  One who has accepted my book has already told me it could be 8-12 weeks.  Another is reading it now, and two more have put me on “the list”.  But these book review sites have readers.  I don’t agree with paying for a review.  The most I am willing to do is provide a free book.

Author Interviews.  I have not done any of these yet.  And it seems that the only places I have found that do them, charge for them.  So I don’t know.

It the end, blog reviews and author interviews are another form of word of mouth.  Word of mouth works, it is proven in multiple industries.

Amazon or Goodreads reviews.  The thing with these is to be prepared to have to beg for them.  Just getting people to like the book or add it to a shelf has been nearly impossible.  Then asking people to do the Tags thing on Amazon has been impossible.  Over all it has been a nightmare.  But the truth is, people don’t buy things on Amazon that haven’t been reviewed.  And the more reviews you can get the better people will feel about paying for your book.  But it takes time.  People have to read your book.  And after they read the book they have to feel the need to go back to Amazon (or Goodreads) and rate it.  Many readers aren’t that motivated to do all that.  If they are active on Goodreads, that site does a good job of integrating at least a star rating into the experience of the reading progress.  But there is nothing to encourage someone to go to Amazon.com and review your item.  The encouragement could be that the book was so good they have to say something or it could be it was so bad they had to say something.  More often they have to be encouraged by someone to do it.  That someone being you.

So does marketing work?

Many authors will tell you that they have seen no benefit in marketing.  This is because, like me, they have a preconceived notion that buying an ad automatically equals sales.  Or that all their friends and family will share their book.  Or that giving a few books away will mean that everyone who didn’t win will go buy it.  The truth is far less.  Advertising takes a tone of work and it takes a lot of time before it really takes off.  The truth is most of us are not marketing geniuses and advertising becomes a trial and error.  And since books vary as much as their authors, it is also possible that what you try won’t work for you but will work for me.

The best thing to do is to keep at it.  Spend just a little money until you know what works.  Invest your money wisely.  As I learn more about what works for me, I’ll share it with you all.