Tag Archives: indie

The Promotion Experiment

Like most hybrid or indie writers, the most difficult things for me is making sales. Writing is the easy part. They say you have to spend money to make money, so for the past three or four months I’ve been doing an experiment; instead of spending all my spare dosh on booze and kebabs (can’t go out in the midst of a global pandemic anyway) I decided to put all the money I make from writing during that period back into writing. Or more specifically, into marketing and promotion.

As you may be aware, there a hundreds of promo sites and services out there and most of them cost money. Bookbub is the undisputed king, which I wrote about before, but as far as the multitude of others are concerned, it’s hard to know which ones are truly worth the money and which aren’t. Hence this little experiment. There is little scientific basis behind it. I didn’t do a ton of research, I just looked around to see how much various promo sites cost and what people were saying about them, and tried a few. I’m going to be completely honest and transparent with my figures, so don’t laugh. Believe me, I’m well aware that some people out there sell more books me.

It’s a sad fact that one way to grab new readers is to get on your knees and beg them to read your work for free. Though it’s not really free for them, they’re still giving up their time and energy. Giving away free books is a controversial marketing technique in itself. Some writers feel it devalues the product, and makes things worse for everybody. If readers get used to being given free books, why would they ever bother buying another book again? I can see their point, but in my experience giving away freebies has been hugely beneficial. To clarify, I’m talking about free Kindle promos here, rather than permafrees or books given away on newsletter sign-up. For starters, people who would never normally read my books are given the opportunity to check them out, and if they like my stuff it might encourage them to pick up another of my books. They might even leave a review somewhere. Plus, an increase in downloads, free or otherwise, improves your author ranking and skews various algorithms in your favour, all of which adds to your visibility. For obvious reasons, if you’re going to run a free promo on one of your books you’re better off making it one of a series, or at least having a healthy back catalogue.

CONFESSION: I also write rip-roaringly, thigh-slappingly funny travel books under a super secret pseudonym. It’s difficult to promote something when you can’t put your own name to it, so because THAT GUY had a new release a while back (book 3 in a series), I thought I’d invest the lion’s share of my budget into giving him a little boost. The Fussy Librarian is one of the better-known services but they aren’t cheap, and some strategizing is required to make it worthwhile. The series is about China, so to capitalize on the Western media coverage I scheduled the promotion to run during Chinese New Year. I made the first book in the main series free, left book two up at normal price (1.99) and put book three up for pre-order at a reduced 0.99. Then I paid a whopping $48 for a spot on the FL site and in their ‘non-fiction’ newsletter blast, and waited to see what would happen.

By the way, spots in different FL newsletters have different prices, related to the amount of subscribers each one has. But if you’re a first-time user, you can input the code 10OFF at check-out to get $10 off the regular price, which for me knocked the fee down to $38. Not to put too fine a point on it, the results were incredible. On the day of the promotion, my book was downloaded 1016 times, and a further 258 times over the next few days. Okay, the pessimists might say that all I succeeded in doing was give away over £2500 worth of books. But if only 1% of those who downloaded it leaves a review or even just a rating (optimistic, I know) I’ll be more than happy. In addition, during the same time period the second book in the series sold a dozen copies and I picked up six pre-orders for the third.

Verdict: Hit

EreaderIQ have a list of requirements almost as long as your arm. Novellas and collections are ‘unlikely’ to be accepted, your books should have at least five reviews and should be free or deeply discounted. A place in their email blasting in the ‘horror’ category which, according to the site, reaches 9,500 subscribers, costs $10 (other categories have different rates). I put my recently reissued and revamped novel Sker House forward for this, which was duly accepted. The day of the listing it sold 9 copies, and the day after it sold another 3. Not bad. But because I had to discount the book so much, I made a slight loss on my investment.

Verdict: Partial Hit

Readfreely are less particular. $6 (gold level, again there are different options) buys your book a spot in their newsletter and promotion across their social media platforms. It’s difficult to quantify how big their reach is, but as they have less than 4,000 Twitter followers, which is a great indicator, I’m guessing it isn’t great. I put X4, my latest collection, forward for this one at it’s regular price of £1.99 (though I said it was being discounted from 3.99. Shoot me). X4 sold one solitary copy on the designated date, which sucks, but over the next few days sales of my other X books increased and I sold several of each, which may or may not be related. I’m not convinced either way.

Verdict: Miss

Because this is one of the most cost-effective options, I repeated the process with one of my pseudonym’s rip-roaringly, thigh-slappingly funny travel books. The results were similar.

Verdict: Miss

There are two connected sites, Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy. One is for free books, and the other, surprise surprise, is for bargain (reduced) books. I opted for the latter, and paid $25 to have X4 included in an email blast to 77,000 subscribers. On the day of promotion, X4 sold a dozen copies and, mirroring the pattern in the last promo, my other x books also benefitted from a sales bump and sold another dozen or so between them.

Verdict: Hit

The last, and most recent thing I tried was Amazon ads. I’m a complete novice at this. You need a flipping degree in economics and marketing just to work out which key words to use. Like most things it’s a case of trial and error. Basically, you set a daily budget, choose your settings, and are then billed per click. I set a budget of $5 per day for 5 consecutive days on my psuedonym’s latest release, which resulted in just five clicks at a total cost of about $3.40 and no sales. Then I ran a similar promo on X4 with a higher budget over a longer period of time and got similar results but for a bigger outlay (around $18). It was at this pint I realized I must either be doing something wrong or Amazon ads, like Facebook ads, were a complete waste of time. I hear stories about people making a killing from Amazon ads. I might try it again at some point in the future after I learn more about it but on this occasion, I think I’ll lay off them.

Verdict: Miss

So, all things considered, it was a mixed bag of results. I must admit that in the back of my mind I’d hoped all this effort would at least give my Amazon ranking a lasting boost. But the moment I stopped actively promoting, my sales virtually flatlined. Turns out worthwhile promotion of any kind is expensive, but if you don’t promote you don’t get any sales and you hemorrhage money anyway. There are, of course, reasonably effective ways of marketing your work for free using social media and cross-promotion, if you have the time and the energy. Maybe I’ll write another post about that at some point. In the meantime, I hope other indie writers, who may be as confused and bewildered as me, can get a few pointers from this post. It all boils down to doing your research, knowing your target market, and choosing the right places to invest based on your budget and readership.

I think.


The Corona Book of Ghost Stories

I am pleased to report that my 6th short story of the year, Where a Town Once Stood, has been included in the Corona Book of Ghost Stories on Corona Books, UK-based independent publishers of the “brilliant, innovative and quirky.”

Corona

 

I’m not sure which category Where a Town Once Stood belongs, probably the third one. It’s a pretty straight-forward ghost story with a dash of social commentary based on a period of my life when I was trying to break into journalism. I was still working full-time in a packing factory, so I did a few voluntary shifts at a local newspaper called the Merthyr Express in my spare time. I just wanted to see what went on behind the scenes at a newspaper. Suffice to say it wasn’t exactly Fleet Street. In fact, it was far more boring than I thought possible, and while I sat in the office fielding phone calls about fetes and community meetings I yearned for something exciting to happen. A real-life ghost story would have been the dream, but there were times when I would have settled for a giant cucumber story.

Reading it now, Where a Town Once Stood would be a perfect addition to my series of stories set in the fictional Welsh village of Wood Forge. For some reason however, I named the village Tref y Meirw which (I think) means ‘Town of the Dead’ in Welsh.

A little private joke there.

By the way, to give credit where it’s due, I appropriated the title Where a Town Once Stood from an Alarm song about the decline of post-industrial Wales from the seminal album Change.

Check out the ToC:

Corona 2

The Corona Book of Ghost Stories is out now.


The Human Waste Blog Tour

Last year, I did a blog tour for my novel Sker House. It proved not only very successful, but a lot of fun. It was so much fun that I decided to do it again this year to support my latest novella, Human Waste. Below are the details. Please consider paying a visit and/or drop a comment or share a link to help support these awesome hosts!

Acclaimed writer and filmmaker Regina Saint Claire was first out of the blocks, reviewing an ARC for her site the Indie Horror Review.

Close behind was the delightful Irene Cole, who reviewed Human Waste for her Well Worth a Read blog.

Next up I did a guest post about the Top 10 British Comedy Horror Films for the Deviant Dolls. Purely subjective, of course, but you know I’m right.

Then, I dropped in at Teri Polen’s Bad Moon Rising site to give a quick lowdown on Human Waste and chat shit about aliens.

And forced fellow Welshman Andy Graham to host me on his site and let me talk about books, and books, and books. And not even my own books. Not all the time, anyway.

Next up, I was very excited to be part of The Gal in the Blue Mask’s Halloween 2017 Frivolities:

Just for good measure, I also did my first ever character interview with The Gal. And boy, was it fun!

October is a busy month for horror hounds. I dropped into Selene Kallan’s launch party for her novel Starlight on Facebook.

And was featured in P.J Blakey-Novis’ epic 31 Days of Horror event.

Finally, and most recently, Human Waste received another rave review on the Ghastly Grimoire.

Thank you all!

Human Waste is available now, exclusively on ebook format.

human-waste RED


Film Review – Darkest Day (2015)

“British zombie horror at it’s best!” screams the blurb on the poster, which is a bit of a leap. Whoever said that has obviously never seen Danny Dyer’s Doghouse. Anyway, it is customary when writing a film review to summarize the plot, to help the potential viewer decide whether it’s worth their time, effort and money or not. With that in mind, here goes…

Dan (Rickard, also the writer and director) wakes up with amnesia on a beach in Brighton, that weird yet strangely hip little outpost on the south coast of England made famous in Quadrophenia. He wouldn’t be the first young man to do that, but Dan manages to do it in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. So now he isn’t being threatened by the assorted shenanigans of lively groups of mods and rockers, but rather hordes of crazed, blood-soaked zombies, who run around flapping their arms and screaming a lot. To make matters worse, it appears there’s a bunch of soldiers on his tail, too.

DVD Cover

DVD Cover

Luckily for Dan, he soon runs into a small group of survivors, who are shacked up in a student house drinking Stella, as you probably would be when Armageddon comes. There’s even a stereotypically brash American, which is one of the more outlandish parts of the entire film, never mind the zombies. Apart from the awful accent, even in this brave, new globalized world of ours, Americans still don’t go to Brighton. Why would they? If she wasn’t trying to be American, I apologise, but that’s what it sounded like, and it sucked.

When the group of student survivors run out of booze and fags, they are forced to tool up with a selection swords and bludgeoning tools and leave the sanctuary of their squat. You can probably guess the rest.

Bearing in mind there’s only so much you can do within the confines of a zombie film, Darkest Day does at least make an effort to break the mould. It took seven years to produce on a non-existent budget, and the majority of the dialogue is unscripted, a very brave (or very stupid, depending on your point of view) decision when working with a cast of unknowns. Truth be told, this doesn’t lead to much more than a few extra swear words but it’s a big ask to keep the thing going, especially as the lack of budget means the whole thing has to primarily be character-driven. There isn’t much in the way of a plot and it probably won’t win any awards, but to give credit where it’s due, Dan Rickard and his mates achieved a lot with very little. There are fires and zombies and explosions and guns. Even a couple of helicopters. What else do you need? The special effects and CGI are pretty impressive. At times, you are left wondering just how they managed it all if the budget really was as minuscule as we are led to believe. An impressive underground effort well worth 90 minutes of your time.


Adventures in Indie Publishing: Part 4

Crunching Numbers

Hopefully, if you run a free promotion on KDP and promoted it properly, you will have benefited from a few hundred, or even a few thousand downloads depending on how much marketing you do. Incidentally, you can track exactly how many copies are being downloaded , and in which territory, in the ‘Reports’ section of your account. This is an invaluable tool because as you progress through your marketing campaign it allows you to instantly see which strategies are working for you and which ones are not. There are some general rules that it’s worth applying; probably the main one being that most people have more leisure time on weekends and are more likely to download your book, so when utilising KDP promotions, make sure the promo runs over Saturday and Sunday.

In the first three days X: A Collection of Horror was up for free, it was downloaded 368 times in America, 157 times in the UK, and 17 times in other countries, for a total of 542. The following month I put it up for free for another two days, and shifted another 362, for a grand total of 904. I have no idea if that’s good or not. It peaked at number 14 in the Amazon free books horror section, if that’s any indication. I priced paid copies at $2.99 (£1.87, approx) which meant I gave away $2702.96 (£1690.48) worth of books, before tax and Amazon’s 30% cut.

That’s one way of looking at it.

But obviously, most of the people who downloaded my book for free probably wouldn’t have forked out actual money for it, anyway. So the other way of looking at it is that I gained 904 new readers.

I’m not stupid enough to think that every one of those 904 will get around to reading my book. First and foremost, I am a reader. I download a lot of free books to my Kindle, a lot of which I never actually read. I am assuming most people do this. There are a lot of free books out there. Making a rough estimate based on my own reading habits, I imagine around half of that 904 will never open my book. Still, looking on the bright side, that leaves 452 who might!

The Selling Game

From here on out, bar the occasional other promo I do, every book I sell makes money. That should be all the incentive you need. Now, it’s time to go to work and step up your promotion efforts. You can’t force people to buy your book. And begging is just embarrassing. In the most basic terms, you have to get your book in front of people who might like it and persuade them that they need to buy it.

It helps no end if you have a good, concise, well thought-out blurb, or product description. Make it exciting. Check out the blurbs on top-selling titles in your genre for some tips, taking note of what kind of words they use. This may not work for every book, but soon after I put out my latest release, X: A Collection of Horror, I revised the product description to include the following:

WARNING: Adult Content.

At first, I just wanted some kind of safeguard in case I started getting emails from angry parents of kids who had downloaded it. The strange thing is, after I inserted the warning, there was a mini-spike in sales. Then I started thinking, what happened back in the 1980’s when the PMRC made record companies put parental advisory labels on record sleeves? That’s right, sales went through the roof. I don’t pretend to know why, I’m not a psychologist, but I can tell you that after that, I left the warning there!

Getting noticed

The media industry may be in flux, but there are more markets, and more ways to access these markets, than there ever has been before. The sheer number of websites, blogs, magazines, fanzines, newspapers, radio and TV stations, is bewildering, but the one thing they all have in common is that they all need content. You can provide that content for them, either by way of giving interviews or simply sending out review copies of your book. Don’t forget to tell your local newspaper. They love local-boy-does-good stories, and so do readers. However, don’t expect to command a fee. You aren’t Dan Brown or Stephen King. Just be grateful with the column inches and hope they translate to sales.

Try to get a handle on things and focus your efforts. I made up a list of blogs, websites and publications that may be interested in promoting my book either directly or indirectly, then contact them systematically. If you can count some fellow writers amongst your friends, offer to do a guest blog for them. In this manner, you can even organize virtual blog tours. Within the first couple of weeks X: A Collection of Horror was on sale, I managed to secure publicity interviews with:

Zombie Girl Shambling:

http://zombiegirlshambling.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/x-collection-of-horror.html

Daily bookworm:

http://thedailybookworm.com/christian-saunders-interview/

Gingernuts of Horror:

http://gingernutsofhorror.com/5/post/2014/03/horror-author-interview-cm-saunders.html

None of the above are massive sites, but every bit of exposure helps build your platform, increase your profile, and boost your internet search rank.

My first indie offering, X: A Collection of Horror, is out now:

amazon.com/dp/B00IGHTFC8 

Adventures in Indie Publishing: Part 3, focusing on promotion and social networking can be found here:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/adventures-in-independent-publishing-part-3/

Part 2, covering advice on editing, cover art and priming the market, can be found here:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/adventures-in-independent-publishing-part-2/

Part 1, featuring an overview of the industry and an introduction to Kindle Direct Publishing, can be found here:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/adventures-in-independent-publishing-part-1/


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