The First Month in Review : What Worked, What Didn’t

I started this blog because I read that authors who want to go the self-publishing route need to start a blog.  But, what to write about?  Really, what do I have to say that others will want to read?

So, I decided to focus on all the details, the sales and such, of publishing my first ebook.  Before I published Whatley Tupper on Amazon (and saying I ‘published’ it sounds so much more involved than in reality: I clicked a button), I couldn’t find much information on how many books new authors sell, and what to expect.   So, that became the focus of my blog.  And now that it’s been a month since I dived into this, I want to relay some of the things I think worked, and what didn’t.

What worked best?

A few things stand out.  Checking in regularly to Kindleboards, DTP Community, GoodReads, Amazon Community Discussions, and most recently MobileRead forums definitely helps, and I know I’ve got a few sales through each of those avenues.  The Author-Tag exchanges are also useful at both Kindleboards and DTP Community.

Making it cheap.  I’ll discuss this in more detail tomorrow (when I’ll update the sales and royalties graphs), but putting my book down to 99cents made a huge difference in sales.  I still don’t think I’ll keep it there for long (for reasons I discussed in earlier posts), but if you want to get your book out there faster, put it at 99 cents, at least for a week or so.  If I could do this again, I think I’d start at 99 cents just to get more copies out.

Smashwords free coupons.  I know I’ve received at least a couple reviews through this, and I’m sure more will come along at later times.  Personally, this is all I use Smashwords for, the ability to give out free copies of your book.   It also allows you to download the Kindle-ready book file which you can attach to emails to prospective online reviewers.

A professional looking cover.  People really do judge a book by it’s cover, especially with ebooks, I think.  The spray bottle I made in 20 minutes appealed to my minimalist tendencies, but a cover for a book needs to be bold and clear even in a thumbnail.

Getting reviews.  Unless you’re getting friends to write overly glowing reviews, this takes time.  Hence the 99 cent route is useful, as well as Smashwords.

Spalding’s Racket.  I was featured when my book cost only 99 cents, and that day was the best day of sales I’ve had yet.

Getting lucky.  First, get your mind out of the gutter.  I’m referring to J.A. Konrath releasing his own choose your own adventure style book just this week, which lead to him writing a review for Whatley Tupper (which I plan on flaunting shamelessly anyway I can).  This had nothing to do with anything I did.  It’s just fortuitous timing.

What didn’t work?

Rushing into this too quickly.  I really should have waited a couple more weeks before clicking publish.  The earliest versions of Whatley Tupper had many typos, formatting errors, and malfunctioning hyperlinks.  I’ve been writing for more than a decade, and this is no time to get impatient.  I think I’ve been lucky in that no one who purchased one of the earliest copies ever wrote a scathing review (at least, yet), but this easily could have been avoided.  Considering the bad taste a lot of self-published work is leaving in some readers’ mouths, I don’t want to be part of the problem.  And I do not feel any resentment towards these people who trash self-published books for their amateurish quality.   If people are paying for something, even if it’s just 99 cents, it should be professional in quality.

Raising the price to $4.49.  Yeah, maybe there was a slight improvement in royalties, but I was only getting out a book every other day.  An unknown author will never grow his/her base that way.  Stick to $2.99, max, while no one knows you.  This isn’t about making royalties, not at this stage, at least.

Facebook.  But that’s just me, I’m sure.  I never used it before, instead enjoying being one of the last holdouts as if it makes me a better person (it does).  And, being a high-school teacher, I don’t want to have my own facebook account since that just seems like it’s not going to lead somewhere positive.  Perhaps I’ll learn more about the potentials of this.   Right now, it’s not doing anything for me.

What’s next?

I think the next month could be significant.  I have a paid sponsorship at Kindle Nation Daily UK on Monday, September 27th, as well as on the US version on Friday, October 8th.   Judging from the experiences of many others who have gone this route, I think this could make a significant boost to my exposure.  I won’t know until it’s my time, but right now this seems like the smartest route to advertise that I’ve read about.  Even though the price has gone up, $80 is cheap.  I’ve spent that much mailing out a couple of complete manuscripts of Whatley Tupper, just to receive a lowly rejection later a couple of months later (“It’s not you, it’s me”).

I’m hoping to get a few more blog reviews, like the one at Digital Spotlight Fiction Review.   Of course, this relies of more good luck, as well as those ever-so-useful Smashwords copies/coupons.

The key to all of this being successful is in having the exposure somehow taking on a life of it’s own.  If Kindle Nation Daily leads to be big spike for a few days before returning to where it was before, then I won’t consider it a success.   It needs to grow.  It can grow slowly, that’s fine, but it needs to grow.

So, we’ll see.

Or, to be more accurate, I’ll see.  Did anyone actually even read this far?

Smashing

First, the Smashwords coupon expired today, I advertised it at KindleBoards, GoodReads, and the DTP Community, and 15 people downloaded the entire version.  So, now the question is how many people will I get to review from this.   Like I said before, I’d hope to get at least two reviews from this.  I’ll have to wait and see.

Secondly, I can’t really tell what difference having my book featured on JC Phelps blog was for the day of Sunday because the free Smashwords coupon was also advertised there.  I did notice a spike in people downloading the free copy, but no change in sales from being featured on the site.  Unfortunately, I’m quite sure that JC Phelps audience for her blog is almost identical to the people at KindleBoards, which I’ve promoted my book as much as I can, so it probably doesn’t make a difference.

Other than that, I received an email from J.A. Konrath saying that he’ll be reviewing Whatley Tupper soon on the Amazon site (he’s been reviewing various Choose Your Own Adventure style ebooks in recent days in anticipation of his own similar book to be released soon).  That would be fantastic.  In fact, the very fact that someone like him with so much exposure is releasing a choose your own adventure book for the Kindle must be good.