I’ve been MIA from my blog and I’m glad to be back. I’ve had my hands full teaching a Stanford on-line course in the book-length memoir. The class was wonderful, I adored the students, their projects are fascinating, and where else would I get to engage with such interesting, accomplished people. But when the class ended last Friday, I was happy to get my so-called life back.
The other thing that has kept me too busy these past weeks is promoting my self-published novel, The Answer to Your Question. If I don’t do it, who will? Not only is it time-consuming to try to get the word out, but I’ve had to spend an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to get the word out. I’m having to educate myself about a whole new area of self-publishing, promotion and marketing. So why am I doing it? Because I want my novel to have the best shot at finding an audience.
Turns out there’s a lot of help out there, from those who have gone before into the dark jungle of promoting their books. They’re very willing to “pay it forward.”
Though I was familiar with “pay it forward,” I hadn’t thought of it in terms of self-publishing promotion until I read a blog post by Martin Crosbie. It’s on a great, helpful website for Indie Authors (six months ago I didn’t even know what an “Indie Author” was and now I am one . . .) http://www.indiesunlimited.com/. If you’re an Indie Author and you know it, clap your hands–and check out this site.
Martin Crosbie is one of self-publishing’s success stories; his first novel, My Temporary Life, achieved best-seller stardom on Amazon. He describes in his post how a year ago January he was flailing around, as he put it, trying everything he could to find readers for his book.
He contacted Robert Bidinotto, whose novel Hunter sold tens of thousands of books, and was an Amazon #1 Kindle seller in both the thriller and romance categories in 2011. Bidinotto was generous in his counsel to Crosbie, advising, among other things, that he change his cover image. Crosbie doesn’t believe My Temporary Life would have reached the status it did if Bidinotto and others hadn’t told him things he needed to do and if he hadn’t done them—like changing the cover. He encourages others to pay it forward by helping other indie authors learn how to better promote their books.
Joel Goldman, who is a very successful author of crime novels, has definitely paid it forward to me (Thank you, Joel!). He spent an hour on the phone telling me things to do based on his own experience promoting his books. Of course the first things he told me to do were change my cover . . . and title! I agree with him that I need to, but oof-da! I will have to build up a whole new head of steam to take those changes on.
Joel recommended two Kindle ebooks by David Gaughran:
If you’re contemplating self-publishing, or want to know more about how to promote your book, these books, along with Guy Kawasaki’s APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, are indispensible reading.
Joel also recommended that I try a promotion on Bookbub.
Bookbub, along with Pixel of Ink and eReaderNewsToday, are the Big Boys for advertising free and bargain ebooks. I paid $240 dear dollars to have Bookbub announce my ebook giveaway on June 2nd and 3rd. I hope I can pay it forward to some of you by sharing my experience.
Bookbub says it has over a million subscribers who sign up for free to get email announcements about limited-time free or discounted ebooks in categories ranging from mysteries to cookbooks. They’re selective, only promoting what they consider high quality books with a good number of positive reviews. I had about 60 five star Amazon reviews when I booked my ad but you don’t need that many.
My previous giveways had resulted in between 4 – 5,000 downloads, which seemed like a lot to me. I hadn’t spent much money on them, $50.00 or so to advertise on a few sites, plus posting notices of the giveaways on some sites that don’t charge. The idea behind giveaways is that the more people who read and like your book, even if it’s free, the more they’ll spread the word about it to their friends and book clubs, which will lead to sales. Some of them will even write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, which is another thing an author wants. Good reviews, of course. It’s true that only a small percentage of people who download a book for free ever read it, but those are more readers than if you never gave it away.
I advertised my two-day giveaway on Bookbub on June 2nd, and by June 4th, I had 36,567 downloads. I was astonished! I had trouble wrapping my head around that figure. I started the promotion with 83 reviews. Today, June 20th, I have 120 reviews, 95 of which are 5 star, and 23, 4 star. I’ve sold over 200 ebooks since the promotion, and another 44 people have “borrowed” the book through Amazon Prime.
(I probably have an advantage in that Answer is something of a page turner, and can be classified as a mystery or suspense novel. It was not my intention to write that kind of novel; I just wanted to tell a good story. I was so out of it that I wasn’t tuned in to how popular genre books are, especially crime and mystery novels. I teethed on literary fiction, and thought that’s what I was writing, if I thought about it at all. But luckily in some ways, Answer can pass in the mystery/suspense category.)
I realize that my sales figures for June may seem ridiculous to some. I know we’re not talking Gone, Girl here (which has over 11,000 Amazon reviews; wrap your head around that!).
But they don’t seem ridiculous to me. I’m happy! Self-publishing a book like I did, without being a big name with a big following, has felt like starting out in a deep hole in terms of finding readers.
36,567 downloads! I’ve felt the power of Bookbub, and now I feel the love.
Love you, Bookbub. Thanks for the muscle!