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The long game

Keep your eyes on long-term goals rather than short-term gratification

It’s been nearly three months since I published The Girl from Oto. I’ve sold about 150 print versions via Createspace/Amazon, and about 100 Kindle versions via Amazon. Most indie authors sell up to 90% e-versions. My book is an outlier in that regard. But I got a big bump by having a launch party and publicizing the book to family and friends, most of whom prefer to read actual paper books.  I am thrilled with my sales so far and see this as a solid beginning for a book that will hopefully have a long future. After all, books are evergreen. I remind myself often of Ken Follett’s success with Pillars of the Earth (not coincidentally, one of my favorite books). It was 400,000 words long and took him many years to write; his publishers were resistant to it despite the fact that he was already a successful writer of spy thrillers. He finally got it published and it did not do well at first. Then slowly people discovered it and it began to gain popularity through word of mouth. It is now his most popular book, and he says when people  talk to him about his writing they overwhelmingly want to talk Pillars of the Earth. If it can happen to Ken, why not me? Here’s a rundown of my activities of late, and plans for the next few months.

Bookstores: A lot of indies don’t bother with bookstores because it’s a huge investment of time and energy for very limited returns. But I get a lot of requests from people who want to “buy local” and wish my book was in their neighborhood store. People, your wish is my command. Most bookstores refuse to carry Createspace-published books, some because they hate Amazon, but also because Ingram Spark is their preferred distributor of books. I’ll be following the advice in this article on how to publish with both Createspace and Ingram Spark.  Once my Ingram Spark version is ready, I’ll be hawking The Girl from Oto to bookstores in areas where my social network is strong and there will be some demand for it.

Facebook ads/Kindle countdown deal: I did my first Kindle countdown deal using Facebook ads to promote it.

My first Facebook ad. I made it on Canva!

My first Facebook ad. I made it on Canva!

I ran the promotion for a weekend only. You can do it for up to seven days, but anecdotal evidence showed me that most people who run longer promotions get the best results in the first few days, especially on weekends. I got about a 1.5% click rate on my ad and got about 70 downloads of the book at the discounted rate of .99. I also got a lot of views on my Facebook author page and my website. I promoted the deal on Fussy Librarian and a few other e-mail Kindle promotion sites. People say the ideal is a 3% click rate. I like this article by indie author David Penney about his experience with Facebook ads. Like me, he only has one book and no experience marketing on Facebook. Basically he just kept trying different ads until he got some traction and sales started growing. He found the color of his ad made a huge difference in click rate. Yellow was the magic color. (Hmm, did that influence my color choice?) Facebook ads start at $5 per day; the more you spend, the more people will see your ad.

Goodreads giveaway: I did my first Goodreads giveaway last week. Before I set it up, I read as many blog posts as I could find by other indie authors who had done it. I decided to follow this strategy: keep it fairly short (1 week), open up the Giveaway to the UK and Canada as well as the US, and only offer one book. With just one book on offer, lots of people will still sign up for the giveaway, and in the end you might have to pay for shipping to the UK (which it turns out I do—and I’m thrilled about that, because I really want my book to be discovered there) but if it’s only one book, no big deal. More than 1200 people entered the giveaway, and 500 people put the book on their “to-read” list. I consider that a huge success—it got my book in front of a lot of eyes. For free!


Canva rules!

Sequel: I worked a ton on the sequel, Mira’s Way, during November, logging at least 1000 words most days, but then I lost a week due to travel and holiday time, so I finished out the NaNoWriMo challenge at about 30,000 words (50,000 is the goal). However, it got me into the groove of writing a lot every day. I kept it up in the first half of December and even had an epic 5,000 word day. Despite this, I have had a bit of a setback with the novel because as I roared along writing one scene after the next, I got about 75% of the way through the historical narrative and realized I had a major structural issue, a couple of character issues, and a big plot problem. Doh! It’s all fixable, but it took the wind out of my sails. I’m going back to the drawing board these next few weeks to rehash it and get all the problems ironed out before I start going gangbusters on the writing again.

Going wide vs. staying exclusive with Kindle: This is a topic that indie authors agonize over. Should I go wide? Should I not? Why? Why not? So-and-so went wide and she exploded all over the world book scene! But another guy who faltered when he went wide now plows all his e-books into Amazon and he’s a gazillionaire! I’m going with Joanna Penn’s advice (she writes the popular Creative Penn blog and does a weekly podcast that I listen to religiously). She says it’s best to stay exclusive until you have three books. At that time it makes sense to put your books on all the other platforms (Kobo, iBooks etc.) So while I will be expanding my print empire to include Ingram Spark, I will keep the e-book in Kindle for now. Sorry, Amazon haters, I would really prefer not to have all my e-book eggs in one giant corporate basket either, but a one-off book floating around in the vast seas of global publishing with little to no marketing/advertising help is just going to bob aimlessly along.

The long game: With the marketing/publishing work, I often feel like I’m barking down a well. Is anyone other than me getting the message about The Girl from Oto? Will it ever gain traction? Did I do all those years of research and writing just for a few hundred people? Maybe. But I’ve gotten such lovely feedback from readers. Knowing my book has had a positive impact on those people is incredibly gratifying, and I know that all the work I did was worth it. I loved every minute of the project. The thing is, there’s no guarantee of success in this game. I’ve already seen in just three months that there will be small successes and small setbacks along the way, but my eyes are focused years down the line. Like Ken Follett, I’m going to just keep writing and publishing and stay hopeful. I’m looking forward to 2017, my next baby step in this long game!

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