Category Archives: Self-publishing and marketing

I GOT A BOOKBUB!!!!

Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I actually screamed when I got the email – Josh thought someone horrible happened. Instead, something almost miraculous did.

For those of you that may not know, BookBub is the holy grail of e-book advertising, for both self-published authors and traditional publishers. It’s head and shoulders above any other online marketing tool, and I have tried them all, as you may already know if you’ve seen my Super Duper List. The only one that I haven’t tried was BookBub, not because I couldn’t afford them, but because they didn’t want me or either one of my books. Believe me, I’d tried. I have been applying on nearly monthly basis for about eighteen months, and have been getting stock-standard rejections. I have tried different categories. I have tried getting BookBub followers (I have 27 of them now). I did everything I could to increase the number of reviews (Shizzle, Inc has 82 reviews). I even tried replying, begging for feedback. Still, “not at this time” was all they said.

Until now! Look at it! Look!!

bookbub-offer

I have confirmed and paid – Shizzle, Inc will be one of BookBub’s Featured Deals on 6 March! As you can see from above, there’s a catch, though – it was NOT selected for the US market, which is only, you know, my target market, but hey! I got my foot in the door, and every time I’d managed to do that before, I eventually got the rest through. The subscriber list will be Humor and it’s 200,000 strong. The estimated number of downloads is 2,500, which is not too flash, but let’s see what actually happens. The cost is $36 USD and I hope for at least a few buy-throughs to Indiot. But mainly, I hope that sometime in the future I get the whole world covered in free copies of Isa Maxwell’s Escapades.

It’s a sign. I mean, I don’t believe in these things, of course, but what else can it be? I have a crisis of confidence, take a three-month hiatus, return, and finally land the coveted prize. Oh, wait. It’s persistence. That’s right, that dogged persistence does eventually pay off. Maybe not the first or seventh time, but you never know, it could be the next one.

Just keep going. I will too.

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Who can call Mr. Hue a douche now?

I was flipping through the channels today, trying to find anything but the commentary on the US election, when I had a strong deja vu feeling. I went back to Amazon and looked through the 1-star reviews of Shizzle, Inc. until I found its source:

“…the behavior of Mr. Hue was unrealistic and quite frankly, shockingly rude. A complete douche. If this were reality, his company would have gone down in flames before it ever got off the ground.”

Sorry, dear Gloria Louise. Turns out that if Shizzle, Inc. was set in reality, Mr. Hue would now be President-elect of the United States. So what if he spouts dubious business advice, insults people, or fires loyal employees? If anything, he’s not controversial or shocking enough. I mean, these quotes are almost polite when compared to some of the stuff that has come out of Donald Trump’s mouth:

Meme #9 Mr Hue

Meme #8 Mr Hue

Meme #6 Mr Hue

So guess what? I’m gonna bring him back! Somehow, I’m gonna use this recent drama to spin and sell more copies of Shizzle, Inc., because, as one extremely successful man has taught us all, you “can never be too greedy.” Mr. Hue probably won’t be groping anyone or making lewd comments about his own daughter, but maybe he can, I don’t know, call someone “fat and ugly” before firing them, that kind of thing. Maybe he will deport the Japanese instead of merely taking advantage of them. This may anger a lot of people, but what does that matter if I get to push my own agenda and sell more copies of my book? And in any case, who cares what people think about Shizzle, Inc., as long as I “got a young, and beautiful piece of ass.” Sorry to drag you into this, Joshy.

Not sure what I’m gonna do yet, but I have a feeling it’s the perfect time to try the New York agents again.

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How to catch a Moby Dick

UPDATE: how truly awful, I didn’t know that Gillon Aitken has died just a couple of days ago. I can’t stop reading about him being “the true gentleman” and “literary giant.” RIP, Mr. Aitken.

If anything, the news gave me the shake I needed – life is short and I better get going. The plan still stands, although I will have to find another literary giant to help make my dreams come true.

ORIGINAL POST: I don’t know why, but after a year and a half of self-publishing game, I am once again dreaming of the elusive white whale of traditional publishing. It could be the exhaustion of all the marketing effort that has gone into promoting my books, or the recent confidence boost from finally nailing a big fat dream job. Suddenly I want to change everything: the pricing strategy, the plot of my third book, the marketing buget. It’s been a big few months and I have all the excuses to take it easy, but I just can’t. I feel like I need to take the writing dream by the collar and shake it until it wakes up and gets going again.

As previously lamented, a couple of years ago I started with an attempt to break into the traditional publishing. That time, I went with “cast the net wide” strategy. I penned about 70 applications and sent them off to American agents and a few big-name publishers. The best reply I got was “it’s funny, but we don’t know if there’s an audience for it.” It felt like a whole lotta effort for nothing and it felt like my dream of being a published author was dying. That’s when I decided to give it a great big shake by self publishing my first two books.

Now the dream once again feels like its flatlining, and I need to shock it back to life. I’m thinking adreanline. I’m thinking a big dream, hence the Moby Dick. This time, I won’t cast my net wide, instead zeroing in on one big target. Here he is:

gillon

Yes, the literary agent of Helen Fielding. And why the hell not? As soon as I had this insane/brilliant idea, I fired off an email to Gillon asking if he’d be interested in having Isa Maxwell series republished with a traditional publisher. The way I figured, he’d probably say no. This is where my strategy will differ from the previous salmon-like application spawning.

I shall not take no for an answer. I will not move onto another agent until I am absolutely sure that I have bothered Mr. Aitken enough to at least have a look at Shizzle, Inc. Here’s my multi-step plan of ever-increasing pestering:

  1. Send an email (already done).
  2. Send copies of physical books.
  3. Contact other agents in the same agency asking how to get to him.
  4. Find him on social media and fire off @ messages until he figures out how to block me.
  5. Start an online petition of “Mr. Aitken, please read Shizzle, Inc!”
  6. Start a website http://www.mraitkenpleasereadshizzleinc.com and publicise it on social media.
  7. TBD. Something viral, preferably.

The way I figured, what do I have to lose? Okay, so I may eventually piss him off, but is that really worse than him not knowing who I am? On the bright side, what if he finds all this nonsense hilarious and decides to check on who the hell is this mad woman Spoke? Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, that’s the plan. If you have any crazy suggestions for the mad woman Spoke, let me know. Cause I’m doing this!

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This is why you should complain to KDP

Let me start with a disclaimer: I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist. Perhaps it’s because I was never invested in the causes: I don’t really care if the moon landing was real or who killed JFK. But lately, one conspiracy has been getting under my skin, and it’s Amazon’s glitchy system, specifically KENP.

Quite a few authors have complained online that their pages read count went down. My own count was zero for the entire month of October, but at first I chucked it to the pathetic sales figures in general. Then, after I published the blog the other day and seeing a number of comments mention the issue, I decided to complain to KDP. I told them that it’s impossible that I would have zero pages per day for the whole month because a friend of mine tested the system by downloading the book and reading a few pages.

Ok, so that was an outrageous lie, but look at what I saw this morning:

kenp-on-1-nov

Coincidence? Maybe, but I suddenly remembered that this scenario happened before, a few months ago. That time I complained after about two weeks, was promptly told that there’s nothing wrong with the system, but the pages showed up immediately and kept showing up every day. It’s been less than 24 hours since my latest complaint and I have not heard from KDP, but I expect another assurance that everything is fine.

So if you are an author with a book in KDP Select and you feel that your pages count is down, don’t beat yourself up. Complain to KDP and see if the count jumps within 24 hours. And if it does, please let me know.

Oh, and my apologies to conspiracy theorists out there. Keep up your good work. Somebody has to.

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Saying goodbye to permafree. Or the 70% royalty. Or both.

Sometimes I feel like Sisyphus

Promoting and marketing

Only to see my sales tumble

The watched pot may never boil, but whenever I take my eyes off the sales charts for a few weeks, the algorithms bury my books in the bottomless pit of the millions of unknown titles. Even worse, when I run back to the kitchen and fan the flames with marketing, the download peaks last only a day or two. Just look at the Exhibit A:

free-downloads-in-october

Fyi, the companies responsible for the peaks you’re seeing are as follows:

5 October – I don’t know whom to thank for the 367 downloads as I’d applied for a number of free services and apparently got picked up by somebody without confirmation.

24 October – BookHippo featured author, 102 downloads for FREE.

25 October – BKNights with 226 downloads for $11.

29 October – My Book Cave with 117 downloads for FREE.

As you can see, the “normal” downloads between promotions are just 3-5 books per day. What makes this even more frustrating is that I’m trying to give the first book away FOR FREE. Not only that, the permafree strategy has been in place since May, and yet instead of the snowball effect, what I have is that proverbial boulder, freefalling back to zero the moment I stop pushing. Wait, it gets worse. I jumped into permafree hoping for 2% “buy-through” of the second book, but so far it’s been less than 1% with the second book priced at $2.99. And for whatever reason, my KENP pages for Indiot have completely disappeared. Here is the Exhibit B for the same time period:

paid-sales-in-october-2016

This sucks big time, which means that I need to do something about it. Considering that I don’t want to “write to the market” or go on yet another cover redesign go-round, I’ve decided to change my pricing strategy. Radically. Like, smash it into pieces. Here are the two strategies I’m considering:

  1. Make both books $0.99 and available only through Kindle Select. Promote both with paid ads.
  2. Keep Shizzle, Inc as permafree and make Indiot $0.99 and promote only Shizzle, Inc as a freebie.
  3. Make both books free. Well, not really, but what the hell, how do I get Isa to go viral? She is destined for the big screen. I’m even more convinced of that having just suffered through “No Stranger Than Love.”

I’m thinking of trying both strategies 1&2 in stages. For starters, I am about to run a Countdown Deal on Indiot, before I make it perma-$0.99. Then after a month or so, make Shizzle, Inc $0.99 as well. Wait another month. Finish the third book. Send it to a hundred literary agents. Give up on Isa and write something along the lines of “How To Sell A Ton Of Books Without Really Trying.” That has worked for some.

If anyone has any better ideas, I’m all ears. Thank you in advance.

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My experience with a NetGalley co-op by Patchwork Press

If you’ve seen my Super-Duper List of Book Advertising Websites, then you may have noticed my moaning about the $399 NetGalley signup fee. That’s just so you can give your book away for free to book bloggers and other professionals, in hopes that they will post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Needless to say, I was in no mood to take that big of a financial hit, until I came across another author mentioning Patchwork Press and the NetGalley co-op service they provide. Basically, instead of paying $399 to list one of your books for six months, you get to try the service for much, much less – in fact, a year-long listing through the co-op would cost only $360. You can try NetGalley for one month for just $50. It sounded too good to be true, but I can spare a fifty, so I was willing to try it.

I listed Shizzle, Inc for one month from late July to August. To simplify things, I’ve decided to break my review into two parts: my experience with Patchwork Press and my opinion of NetGalley.

Patchwork Press:

  1. First of all, the co-op is not a hoax! Yay! Shizzle, Inc was listed on Netgalley as promised (the listing is now archived). The reason you pay less is that (I assume), Patchwork Press (PP) pays a publisher fee and gets to list a large number of titles, at a fraction of a cost for each.
  2. PP has a responsive customer service – all my emails were answered promptly. There was a glitch when Shizzle, Inc was not posted on the day I wanted, but I got a prompt apology and the listing was extended as a bonus.
  3. Great customer service continued throughout, not just until I paid the bill – something was wrong with my epub file, but PP offered to sort it for me. I was given an option to provide a Word file, which they converted.
  4. PP did all the assessments of requests and chose who should or shouldn’t get a copy of my book. You may prefer to have control over this aspect of the service, but I was happy to let them use their experience and judgement.
  5. Every time a review was posted, I got an email from NetGalley asking if I wanted to have it added to the book’s page. I had to forward this email to PP if I wanted the review to be added, and they did so very quickly (in less than a day).
  6. There’s no option to use NetGalley’s marketing services, but I’m about to ask PP if that option exists but is not advertised by them.

NetGalley:

  1. I don’t know how many requests Shizzle, Inc had, but I got 5 reviews in the span of a month – 4 positive and 1 negative.
  2. Turns out that people have the option to vote on the cover. This was an added bonus, as I’ve designed the cover myself and continuously worry if it’s good enough. The cover got 9 “thumbs up” and 1 “thumbs down.”
  3. I can’t weigh in on the marketing option (which is an additional $200 for your book to be included in a newsletter). NetGalley claims to have 30,000 subscribers to the newsletter, so I would imagine it would be a huge difference in the number of reviews.
  4. You may choose not to add the negative reviews to your book listing (as I did). However, you can’t control what gets posted on other platforms, so I got one negative review as a result. Bummer. But I did get four positive reviews, including one after the listing was archived. That’s an average of $10 per review, via an acceptable and perfectly legal platform.

Overall, I would recommend trying a co-op service. Apparently, there are others out there, such as Victory Editing for as little as $40/month. If you know of any others, please let me know!

May the positive reviews be with you.

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Happy belated birthday to Shizzle, Inc!

With all the recent health drama going on, I completely forgot that on 4 September was the one-year anniversary of Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell Escapades Book 1) hitting the Kindle “shelves.” My brain is slowly returning to its usual programming after I finally heard the three sweetest words in the English language – “it was benign.” While I’m facing several more weeks of tough recovery – I still can’t stand up straight or walk for more than a few minutes at a time – it’s nothing compared to the agony of anticipation and anxiety.

I’ve been a published author for just over a year. How crazy. I have a bottle of champagne in my fridge, which will pop as soon as I’m off the cocktail of painkillers. Too bad I can’t have a sip right now, because I do have quite a few reasons to celebrate. I transitioned from a decade of dreaming about being a published author to having two books self-published. I took a massive five months off work to pursue this writing dream. I started #ComedyBookWeek and saw the inaugural event soar with 117 participating titles. I have made lots and lots of connections with other authors, have learned from them, and shared my experiences in turn.

Speaking of experiences, few things compare to the joy ride of getting your first book published. The high of seeing it on Amazon. The low of pathetic sales. The high of doing something about the low sales, be that paid advertising or trick after marketing trick. The low of realizing this is one of the worst ROIs you’ve ever had. The high of the first 5-star review. The low of the first (and second, and third) 1-star review. It doesn’t end, and it doesn’t get old, and eventually you learn to accept it for what it is. The learning curve is very steep in that first year, and I have learned lots, namely:

  1. I have improved as a writer as I continued to work on the second novel, so it’s been difficult (but necessary) to let go of the first book and stop trying to fix it. I did hire the fourth (!) editor to clean out Australianisms, but will not worry about it again. I will move on and write more, because Ana’s opus is yet unwritten.
  2. I have learned A TON about marketing a book. From cover design to launching, to which paid advertising sites work, and which don’t. If you haven’t seen my Super-Duper List of Book Advertising Sites, check it now. It may save you a few bucks. I haven’t hit NY Times list yet, but while Shizzle, Inc sold 12 copies in it’s first week, Indiot sold over 100 in the same amount of time.
  3. Speaking of sales, Shizzle, Inc sold a total of about 800 copies in its first 8 months, at $3.99, then $2.99, and finally $0.99. Its permafree now and thousands of free copies have been downloaded (I wish I kept a better eye on the numbers, as I can only look back at the last 90 days). It was hard work to push these sales along – I have not made my money back on all of my paid advertising experiments, and even the free downloads have withered down to nothing over the last few weeks, without ads. Just for fun, here are the last month’s charts: Shizzle, Inc free downloads shizzle-on-12-sept …and Indiot paid sales indiot-on-12-sept
  4. Going permafree was a difficult, but exciting decision, and one I still stand by. No, it’s not helping to pay back the investment, but Shizzle, Inc now has 73 reviews, and I am inching my way towards that elusive BookBub promo. Indiot is not doing too shabby, either, with 12 reviews in its first two months of existence.
  5. Speaking of reviews, I’ve learned to accept them as they are. At first, the 1-star reviews hurt so much that I’d even written A Simple Guide to Overcoming 1-star Review Grief. Now I just make sure that I read those bad reviews only once. The 5-star reviews, however, I read again and again. Kid you not, some of the early positive reviews I’ve read at least twenty times, and will undoubtedly read again. They have been a healing balm and a fuel to keep me going.
  6. I’ve learned that moving a book in a brick-and-mortar store is practically impossible. It was a thrill to see my book on a bookstore shelf and then into the bookstore’s front window, but I sold just two copies that way. From now on, I will concentrate on electronic book sales, until one of the big publishing houses offers to take this chore off my hands.
  7. Social media. Oh, boy, what have I not tried with social media? I went wide, and now there are dead accounts on just about every platform. My main lesson there was not to spread myself thin and to concentrate on just a couple of venues, which are this blog and Twitter for me. I did learn a lot about Goodreads, but Found Instagram and Facebook to be too much of a chore with little return.

This was an intense year, and I could probably go indefinitely with the dot-points, but I think the most important thing is that I’m still here and still kicking, despite now being well aware of the realities of self-publishing. It’s difficult, it’s often discouraging, expensive, time-consuming, and confusing. Good thing that it’s also liberating, empowering, educating, and inspiring. I’ve been a self-published author for one year, which is both a long time and not nearly long enough to count any chickens yet. I like to play this game sometimes, where the future me has something to say in terms of advice or encouragement. I’d like to think that Ana 2020 would thank me for not giving up on this dream the way I gave up on sculpture or breeding rare fish (okay, that one was a doozy).

Happy Birthday, Shizzle, Inc. I’m so glad to have you in my life.

 

 

 

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Whatever you do, keep going

So, life has served me a curve ball, followed by an uppercut, and then a short left. I will explain later when I’m able to put it in words, but for now, I’d like to share a personal blast from a past with you:

IMG_3250

This is a 12-year old relic of my attempt to become a professional sculptor – note the date in the upper-right corner. The numbers refer to the two miniature sculptures pictured, the one on the left is “-4” because I numbered #1 the first miniature I’d sold on eBay. The one on the right is #22 and once I finished it, it had won an honorable mention in an international doll competition:

22goodfull

The reason I wanted to show you the first photo, was to remind you (and myself) that the most important thing we, creatives, can do is to keep going. With each sculpture or draft, we are getting better and closer to that all-important goal of producing something beautiful, something of value, and something that can make us proud. When I made that “-4”, I thought I was pretty darn clever and good to make something that cute. My sister loved it. I now laugh at that memory. Nobody saw it, thank God, and I continued making more and more miniatures until I became a self-taught pro at making realistic faces that are no larger than your thumbnail. If you don’t believe it, have a look at my Purelines website, which somehow is still up. Yes, those dolls have real eyelashes, and yes, that’s my hand in the photos.

I went on to make more sculptures, with a burning desire to become a portrait sculptor. One of my favourites is of a famous actress I hope you can recognise:

Angelina in clay

I finally gave up when it became too obvious that people did not want to pay for sculptures, or rather to pay for the hundreds of hours it takes to make one. I hope to pick it up again one day when I have more time and less pressure to make a living. Until then, I will write books that don’t sell with the hope of one day becoming so damn good at this writing thing, my new release will become an instant success.

Even if it has to be a #22.

 

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Quick How-To: get 1,000 Goodreads followers with 5 minutes of effort

Have a gander at these here numbers: I now have 1,020 Goodreads friends!

Ana Goodreads stats

How did I manage this, you ask? Well, about a week ago, I had 200 friends, as a result of a year of giveaways (total of 8, which are also responsible for the staggering 2,424 of my books on people’s to-read shelves) and also because of two months of madness advertising #ComedyBookWeek. Then I discovered something most of you probably already know.

Goodreads lets you connect to your friends on other social platforms  en masse.

So, if you already knew that, then why didn’t you tell me? For those that didn’t, here’s how you can connect to thousands of your Twitter or Facebook friends with a few clicks (assuming you have thousands of Twitter or Facebook friends):

  1. On Goodreads, hover over your picture in the top-right corner. When a menu appears, click on “Friends.”
  2. Find this in the top-right corner of “Friends” page:                                        Ana Goodreads stats
  3. Click on each platform’s icon and send out invites by clicking on “Add Friends” button.

That’s it. Now they all will see your general updates, comments you’ve made in groups, and you can invite them to your groups or events. Like, I dunno, you can invite them to #ComedyBookWeek group. Just sayin’.

You’re welcome.

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Quick How-To: add a static welcome page to Wordpress.com without losing your blog

Hi, guys!

I’ve been MIA for a couple of weeks, and for a good reason – as you’ve probably noticed, I am now running #ComedyBookWeek. It’s been a full-time job for the last month or so, what with setting up an official website, approaching 100 book bloggers, and gathering 112 (and counting) books to participate. Not to mention the daily highlights and social media – luckily I’m on leave right now, otherwise, I’d have a nervous breakdown!

Still, I had to take a little timeout and post this How-To, because it took me forever to figure out what should take you five minutes to do. If you’ve looked on #ComedyBookWeek webpage lately, you might have noticed that the front page is now a static one, showcasing all the books on offer. To see the actual blog posts, you now need to click on the “Blog” tab at the top. This makes the page look more professional from the event point of view, rather than the WordPress standard landing page being a blog. Plus, it gives more weight to the books on offer. Incidentally, this is what most professional authors do – when you go to their website, the welcome page is about the author and their books. I am going to revamp this blog in the same way, so I wanted to give you heads up and write down how I did it for #ComedyBookWeek webpage .

Please follow the steps below exactly – if you only assign the front page, you will notice that your blog will DISSAPEAR! And we don’t want that.

Here are the steps:

  1. Create a landing Page that you want to be your “front” page. For this blog, it will be my “About Ana” page. Here are all the pages used in comedybookweek.com:Add page
  2. Create a “Blog” page. Just trust me – add a new page, call it “Blog” or whatever you want, but DON’T WRITE ANYTHING in the body/text box.
  3. Now go to your WP Admin, and in Settings-Reading, assign two static pages as shown below. Assign your welcome page to “Front” and your empty “Blog” page to “Posts.”Reading settings
  4. In Appearance-Menus, add pages and rearrange them as desired. Here’s what #ComedyBookWeek menu looks like:Menus

That’s it!

You’re welcome 🙂

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