Updated: Nov 18, 2018
2017 was a wild year for me.
I moved into my first apartment and started a new job at pretty much the same time. My boss at the time warned me, saying, “How do you feel about doing two of the most stressful things at the same time?”
I just laughed. Turns out, neither life choice was a laughing matter. The end of summer into early fall of 2017 was mind-numbingly stressful. I stopped editing If I Let You Go to focus on getting my head back and my life sorted out.
Then, in November, I published my first book, accomplishing a life goal. It’s been out for a little over a month and while it’s not a bestseller, it’s still selling better than I hear other debut authors are selling, so I must be doing something right.
Speaking of selling, I want to talk about what worked for me in 2017. Obviously, having been on sale for such a short time, I don’t have a lot of data, but I’ll share what I can.
Certain promotions seem to work better than others, for sure.
Blogging, I’ve been told, is key to earning money. And while I’ve earned quite literally under $2 in Amazon Associates sales, I haven’t seen sales of my book directly associated with my blog. Frankly, I don’t have the readership here that I would like yet. My website still has some technical growth to do before my readership will improve.
However, I did sell four books after my guest post on Sci-Fi and Scary went live. Lilyn’s blog has more readers than I do here and her fans enjoy the genre I write in. If we’re talking pure royalties, I “made” $9.52 from the sales that transpired on Amazon after that guest post. If a freelance client wanted to pay me that amount for that post, I’d have told them to take a ship to Pluto, but I love sci-fi, it was a fun post to write, Lilyn has an awesome blog, and it’s going to take a lot of exposure for my newbie name to stick out to anyone.
Conducting a blog tour is a lot harder than it sounds. Firstly, book reviewers are inundated with requests. Secondly, consumers know when they’re being pitched. There’s a growing movement that thinks blog tours are a waste of time. I rather enjoyed writing for Sci-Fi and Scary precisely because it didn’t feel like writing ad copy. Finally, writing posts takes time – that’s time not spent writing another book. I haven’t formed a solid opinion of book tours yet, but my opinion will evolve in 2018.
If I’m being honest, I’m not that into Goodreads. I use it to keep track of how many books I’ve read and what I want to read (my 2017 goal came way short… bleh). I’ve been recommended some books I’m really excited to read, too, like Bird Box. I’ve never been super into reviewing books, though. As someone who now seeks reviews, I’ll leave more in 2018, but I see an awful lot of authors leaving 5-star ratings on every book. No one wants to invite backlash by leaving anything less than glowing.
I have a friend who writes so many reviews on Goodreads that traditional publishers are asking to use his name inside of their books. He doesn’t have anything published yet, and will do so under a different name, but it could really benefit him if he didn’t use a pen name.
Having your name featured in blurbs is basically free advertising.
Aside from beefing up my profile on Goodreads, I used their giveaway feature. This boosted my sales by a few books, as well. This was a pleasant surprise for me. There were people who were so into my book that they didn’t want to take the chance of not winning, and just bought it. I also did a giveaway on Amazon.
Around the same time my Goodreads giveaway began, someone entered my book cover into a bracket competitionwith 31 other authors. The author who initiated it cleverly inserted his own book cover, giving himself exposure while also getting the bracket to make the rounds by tagging all of the other authors he included. The creator included links to purchase the books. I learned a great deal from this competition in terms of what works graphically and what doesn’t. I felt honored to be included and was grateful for the insight the bracket provided.
Quite honestly, this is a tactic from 2017 I might use and build upon in 2018.
I still don’t have a Facebook page. That’s on my 2018 List of Things to do. However, I did use Twitter. Things I found:
It doesn’t matter how many followers you have. Engagement is key. 6,000 engaged followers who reply, retweet, and like tweets are worth more than 16,000 followers who only do those things every now and then (if ever). I’m working on strengthening my channel by reaching out to the engaged followers of other science fiction authors. The fancy term for this is poaching, but it’s totally white hat, common, and encouraged.
Twitter is not great for sales. Every now and then I’ll post saying my ebook is .99 cents (which it is now for one week, if you’re interested!) and I’ll pick up a sale or two, but it’s really not a big sale-creator. It’s appeal to me is in building brand exposure.
… More importantly than building brand exposure, it’s great for building community with readers and authors.
I don’t view other authors as my competition. We’re not selling wrenches here, in which a consumer needs one really nice wrench and all other manufacturers lose out. Over thirty books sit on my shelf waiting to be read.
Beside these things, I’ve gotten some interesting feedback about the book.
People love the medium-large 12pt font. I thought 11pt font was annoying and knew that publishers go smaller because they can make more money by using less paper that way, but I didn’t want to be that person. Also, I didn’t know what the Hell I was doing, and was giving it my best shot. To my shock, people love it. It doesn’t feel like a kid’s novel or a senior reader.
My readers are actually mad that I’m not working on a sequel right away. They want to know what happens to River and Edwin. Does he get the girl? Does Airlee die? They don’t care that I’m working on another book. They want the continuation of this book.
The last point is interesting, because another author suggested to me that if I had any plans at all of publishing a sequel, I shouldn’t release If I Let You Go until I nearly completed the sequel. By the time another book gets out there, my readers may forget about me and the novel.
Regarding ebooks versus physical copies, the paperbacks are winning. They’re only winning by two sales, but I was expecting ebooks sales to swamp physical sales. I suspect this might have to do with the detail of the book cover and the fact that the book has been out for a month. Friends and family have purchased the book already. From here on out, ebook sales might dominate.
Amazon Sales Ranks are also extremely interesting. Every time someone buys my book, my ranking seems to go up a couple of hundred spots. I’ve been in the Top 1000 Dystopian books and in the Top 100,000 books on Amazon, which tells me one thing: there are TONS of other books that sell very little or not at all. Writing truly isn’t a get-rich-quick profession, and self-publishing (writing at all, really) is not the gold mine that blogs from 2010 made it out to be. Times changed. 2017 proved that.
I made some mistakes in 2017, but I’ve been able to learn from all of them.
In some ways I’m entering 2018 just as confused, but knowing your weaknesses is half the battle.
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