I promised when my summer marketing experiment finished, I’d share my discoveries with you. For those of you interested in the mysteries behind book marketing, today’s post, and the next couple will focus on what happened. Tiny disclaimer here: keep in mind, every author’s journey in marketing varies.
Alrighty then, class is now in session. Let’s begin.
First background: I have four books in an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance series called The Kyn Kronicles. The first book, SHADOW’S EDGE, was published October 2011. Every year since, I’ve managed to release between 1 to 2 full length (300+ pages) novels each year. Here are their publication dates (to give you an idea of how long they’ve been out):
- Shadow’s Edge October 2011
- Shadow’s Soul June 2012
- Shadow’s Moon May 2014
- Hunted by the Past August 2014 This is the first in my Paranormal Romantic Suspense second series, PSY-IV Teams
- Shadow’s Curse January 2015
- Tangled In Shadows September 2015
- Touched by Fate early 2016 release PSY-IV Team #2
- Marked by Obsession late 2016 release PSY-IV Team #3
I’m sharing this information so you can get an idea of my writing schedule. Your books are the most important part of any author’s marketing plan. Granted, I write series, which helps with my planning, but you can do the same with single titles as well.
My plan was to give away the first book, SHADOW’S EDGE, for free from June to August. Three months. My hope: gain new readers, boost sales on the remaining series, get readers hooked on my new series. This wasn’t an easy decision. For most authors or any artist, the idea of “giving away” what we worked years on makes us cringe. However, any artistic endeavor that earns money is more than art, it’s a business. After four years and five books, I decided to use the lure of a free read to get new readers to come visit my world.
As an avid reader, free is risky. Sometimes you score big, sometimes not so much. Still, it gives the reader a chance to learn if they’ll like your voice. I knew when I discovered new authors, I’d turn around and go purchase the rest of their books until I devoured every single one. Then I’d pace until the next release came. Generating that same excitement was my hope with this summer promotion.
First, you need groundwork before embarking on a massive marketing campaign.
- Set a realistic goal for your writing. This does not mean whipping yourself bloody if you didn’t hit 10K words yesterday. My brain would be slime if I tried that. My very, very best in four years was around 5K, and I had to pull a disappearing act from my family to accomplish this. Instead, I have a daily word count goal, I do my damnedest to hit. By “daily”, I mean five out of seven days, because warning: life will interfer. My set goal (now) is 1500/day. Sometimes I go over, sometimes I manage 200. As long as I write, it’s a win.
- Have more than one title out. Again, this is my opinion, but if I tried this marketing experiment back when I only had one book, it wouldn’t work. As an avid reader, I can assign a few reasons why marketing is more successful when you have more than one book on the shelf. First, it shows your readers that you’re committed to giving them more. They invest their time to visit your worlds, and they want to make sure it’s not a short county fair ride versus a week long cruise. Second, having more books out gives you a more visible result of your efforts.
- Cultivate relationships with other authors/readers/bloggers. This is CRITICAL. The writer/reader community is hugely supportive, but you have to reciprocate the kindness. This means, offer to exchange/host other authors at your blog o sphere, so when you’re ready to announce a sale or release, you have a built-in network for free promotion. Keep in mind, you’re trying to entice new readers, so instead of doing a “buy me” post, share a personal post: writing tips, writer’s life, how you juggling your many hats, or how you do research for your stories.
- Along this same line, create a group of unique posts to share. Mix up the excerpt, character interviews, and cover reveal posts with the personal ones. Do interviews, but don’t use the same answer (word for word) each time. Decide what kind of posts you want to provide, so when you’re reaching out to other blogs to help spread the word, you can tell them your post options. Makes it much easier if the host can pick what works best for their audience from your Post Menu.
- Make sure your live links are reflecting correctly. Before you kick it all off, make sure all the links to your books are right: right price, right place, right cover.
- Track yourself. Thanks to my previous day job, Excel is my preferred tool for tracking my schedule. For this campaign I tracked which blogs I was at, when, their url, what post type to send and any special requirements the host may have. I then had a section for book listings, paid and free. Yep, there are both, which we’ll cover in a future post. My spreadsheet included tabs to track rankings as I kept straight where I was and who I was with. It also allowed me to come up with my unscientific graphs you’ll be seeing in the next couple of weeks.
- Go forth and spread the word. Once the prep work is done, be sure you visit where you’re being hosted, thank your host, reply to your commenters and help spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pintrest, and carrier pigeon.
Now that you’re ready to rock-n-roll, we’ll go into book listings and ads next week, and dive a bit into sales ranks.
If you’ve survived the marketing wars, feel free to share your experience, because I’m barely scraping the tip of the ‘berg here.