Updated: May 27
I thought I’d write an entry about my first 30 days in the self-publishing world. It's all my opinion, feel free to ignore my advice and disagree with me, it's just my thoughts.
I was scared people would hate my writing. Even friends and family, I was worried they wouldn't like it. But now enough people genuinely like my books that I couldn't care less what others think. Which I'm not going to lie is a pretty great feeling. It's nice having fans, even if there aren't enough of them for a game of football...
So what did I learn?
I learned two major things. Both very important to my continuation in this career path. Selling books is a bitch. And people like my books. This would have been a lot easier if nobody liked my work. I could have just moved on. But now I have to keep writing to satiate my dozen or so ravenous fans.
About a year ago, I started researching this whole self-publishing and marketing malarkey. Already then I could see it was clearly going to be a nightmare.
I think probably the best advice I read was something along those lines: “So you’ve finished your first book, great, now write your second and maybe even your third…” That was not the marketing advice I wanted…
But actually, the reasoning was sound. Let’s say you release a book, and some people get it and like it, but then finish it and have nothing else by you to read. Their attention will have moved on to something else by the time you release your next book. Have another book locked and loaded for your first fans.
Having worked in marketing I was familiar with the methods at my disposal. Advertising was out of the question, as were paid promotions. These only yield good results with considerable budgets. Usually, more than you should put in a debut novel and more than a struggling writer can afford.
Keywords are very important. If you get the right keyphrases, Amazon will add a category for your book and this increases your chances of being seen.
So what did I do?
Set up a Goodreads page! That’s a must. The community is great and it will help you discover great books and hopefully get yours discovered. Also, it’s free.
I decided to enroll my books in KDP select for the first 90 days. Based on research it seemed like the reasonable thing to do first. It would be a good (and easy) way of getting the books out there, collecting feedback and reviews and experimenting with price points and promotions.
However, it seemed that only enrolling your book in the Amazon promotion would not be enough to get anywhere near hoped results.
There are a lot of aggregator websites that offer to list your book, especially if it is free or on a deal. Some offer the service for free (askDavid, zwoodle, awesomegang, and more) and some you have to pay for (Bookbub, Bookbarbarian, authormarketingclub, etc).
I haven’t used the paid ones, not yet anyway, and I’m not sure I will, still undecided about them. But the results for the free ones were not good. And from my research, it seems the paid ones are no better, the main reason is mostly struggling authors peddling their wares subscribe to these sites. Still though if the service is free and it yields a one book conversion that was still worth it. Though I would steer clear of any paid services.
Social media is free. Use it. My Twitter gets little engagement and conversion. Facebook is a little better and Instagram is quite good with most conversions to the website. It doesn’t really matter though, it just has to be done, it is expected. Not having social media makes you appear dodgy.
Create content that matches your work’s vibe, or yours, or as one of your characters. Why not? Just make the content fun, visual and about others. Nobody wants to sub to a page that only pushes the same product over and over again. Do mention offers and new releases though.
Influencers. That is what works in this day and age. Do you know someone with a popular social profile, with engaged followers, in a domain that isn’t too far removed from what you do? Get them to help. By far my best results came from influencers. One post from @cheekyexploits yielded higher downloads than all other methods combined. And if you’re wondering how the book and a cheeky butt insta are connected, we're mates in real life and you need to just read the book.
The free promo days yielded both great and disappointing results that helped me understand the Amazon algorithm a bit. Your ranking depends on a number of factors from what I could suss out.
· Number of downloads
· Increase in downloads
· page views
- Kindle Unlimited Pages read
· how the competition is doing
I was able to breach the top 10 in all my sub-categories and reached about top 500 in all free kindles books. Which isn’t too bad (I'm told) for a first time self-published sci-fi author.
It's been a few days since the promo finished and both book 1 and 2 are staying in between top 200s to 1000s in their respective sub-categories (at the time of writing this). I’m not seeing crazy downloads and the only reason for that is because there must be thousands upon thousands of books doing terribly.
Why are they doing terribly? Because they are most probably terrible books, with terrible covers.
Don’t mess about with the cover, so much crap out there. Get a good cover that works with your book's style. Several of my reviewers mentioned being attracted to the cover. Get a good cover.
Another thing you don’t mess about with is editing. I cannot believe how many times 3 people read and edited this book and still a couple of typos and double spaces made it through… (If you have the kindle version re-download for a typo-free copy (I hope), if you have one of the first 50 paperbacks it’s now a limited edition with typos which I can sign for you if you’re ever in London)
So my conclusions… I’m not sure yet. I’m going to do a countdown deal for Book 2, in April, and another free promo on book 1. We’ll see how that goes.
I’ve prepared target audiences and will advertise at some point. Free promo listing sites don’t really work. But free is free. Avoid paid listing sites unless maybe Bookbub, if you have the budget and they accept you.
Word of mouth is still king, and social media influencers represent word of mouth on steroids.
Be patient. Like really patient. Recognition might come only once you’re dead!