Advice needed

OK guys I really need some advice here. As many of you will be aware, I’ve self-published two novels, The Inheritance and Reunion of the Heart, on Amazon Kindle within about a year of each other (September 2013, August 2014).

The thing is neither of them have taken off – I mean AT ALL – and I’m feeling really low about it. I will admit that I haven’t done a huge amount of promotion for either and I guess you would all say that that is why they haven’t sold much.

But here’s the thing: I’m not entirely convinced about the positive impact of lots of (and sometimes costly) promotion. I’m not convinced that putting them on a number of different promo sites would make a massive amount of difference. Or tweeting about them. Or Facebooking etc.

About a year ago I put The Inheritance on a free promotion. I got nearly 9500 downloads. But I was really disappointed that it didn’t translate into sales. I think part of the problem was that around that time Amazon stopped promoting free books hence my struggle to get more sales afterwards.

So anyway last weekend I decided to do an experiment and put The Inheritance on sale at 99c. I thought maybe I might get a few more sales. I did tweet about it but so far nothing.

I’ve read some ebooks about getting to know how Amazon and its algorithms work and how to use that to my advantage. I’ve tried changing some of the keywords on Reunion of the Heart but that hasn’t seemed to make any difference either.

Some of these books have also suggested various ways to promote your novel strategically, things like setting up a mailing list. But would these work or affect my sales if I haven’t got a book coming out soon? I would also struggle with setting upΒ a mailing list as I haven’t got a clue how it’s done!

I feel frustrated because I think (maybe erroneously!) that my books areΒ as good as many other people’s that are out there and doing OK for themselves. The main problem is that no one knows they’re there. Also, as my husband has pointed out, I write in a broad genre (i.e. contemporary romance) and so it’s hard to target my potential audience with things like good keywords because there are so many titles out there.

Argh! Anyway, I feel like I need to create a good strategy, a plan to give my books a bit of a kick start so that I can somehow let people know that they’re out there and are worth a read. But I don’t know where to start. I’m also tired from my new day job (which is great BTW – I can be thankful for that at least!) and I don’t want to take on too much extra work at the moment.

Any suggestions? Or anyone going through a similar experience?

*I should add that I’ve heard from a writer friend that ebook sales (particularly in the UK) are down which I guess doesn’t help!

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36 thoughts on “Advice needed

  1. Sorry I’m not experienced enough to help you, Elaine, but I do read a lot about sales and gaining readers. Some of the big name authors don’t put much stock in social media and others push on it.
    Another writer, Danielle L. Davis, ( The Protector ) seems to being doing very well with her book and she works full time, too. I know that must be very hard. :-\

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    • Actually you’ve already helped me – that article on the Smashwords blog is very helpful!
      Yes I’ve been in contact with Danielle Lenee Davis and I’ve read her book. I’m glad she’s doing well, it’s a great story. πŸ™‚

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  2. First, November is not the month to try experiments because it’s known to be slow across the board. The only way to avoid this slump is to debut a new book and promote until your eyes bleed. So I wouldn’t let that get to you.

    The only other thing I can say is that you do have to promote to some extent. There’s a lot of books out there, so you need to do something to bring yours out of the swarm. Even if it’s doing one pinned tweet a day with a few choice hashtags, it’ll be something. Remember that one of the stigmas of being an indie author is that people think you’re not serious about the trade. So many people took advantage of the system to crank out unedited, carbon copy books that it discolored the indie author appearance. So you have to do do things to make yourself stand out as a serious author, which tends to be promotion of some kind. Maybe find some blog tours to join in on because helping other authors also helps you.

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  3. I’m not sure if I can be much help; our books came out around the same time, and my sales have been pretty abysmal, too, lol. Again, I tried a lot of different promotional techniques, and nothing really helped, so now I’m just in the camp of patience. I think the most important thing a writer can do is just keep writing. The more books you have out there, the more likely the chance someone finds it, enjoys it, and shares it with other people. And getting involved in a community might help, too. Most of my sales have come from just friends, fellow authors, where we chatted a little and talked about slumping sales and then promised to buy each other’s books. You’ve got to give a little to get a little. I’m also going to be producing a review in December that I hope will not only promote me, but also the other authors involved. We don’t know yet how it will go, but there’s a lot of buzz among the authors, so who knows? I hope that excitement leaks out into our wide network of readers to spark something a little more.

    As much as we’d love for our books to take off, I’m realizing more and more how unlikely that is. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but just keep at it. Writing is a business were patience is key. So just keep blogging, keep networking, keep writing and publishing, and who knows where it will go after that?

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    • Hi, thanks for your lovely comment, that’s really helpful. I think you’re absolutely right about hanging in there and being patient (which is something I find hard as I’m an impatient person lol).

      I also think it’s true what you say about being persistent and keeping slogging away at it. After all if I don’t try I’m not gonna get anywhere with it, right?

      I hope you can increase your sales too. Best of luck with it all. And let’s keep in contact – maybe we can help each other to get more visible. πŸ˜€

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      • Yeah, that’s definitely somewhere I’m been slacking off myself. I have a lot on my plate right now, so keeping up with my fellow author friends has fallen to the wayside slightly. But I’m hoping to get my focus back and start seeing what else is going on in the writerly world around me. I get really overwhelmed with the connectivity of the world today, so I tend to “check out” every once in a while, which doesn’t help.

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      • I can sympathise – I have this new job I’ve just started as I said which is making me tired and I just don’t have the energy to do loads of writing/promo for it etc. I’ve also stopped following loads of blogs via email as it gets just too much. I just comment sporadically, as and when I can.

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  4. I’ve heard that mailing list are very helpful. I’m with you: I have no idea how to set that up, but it’s worth researching. If you get good advice on this, please let me know. I’m sorry to hear your books aren’t doing as well as you’d hoped. I think I’ve heard it said that it can take a couple of books being published before you start seeing sales, because new books help promote old ones. Are you working on a third? They say to publish a new book or run a promotion every 90 days. Certainly keep up the tweets and post on Facebook. My sister and I have features on our blogs to promote other authors. Have you ever been interviewed by litchic? Likewise, I’m starting to promote authors on my blog and would love to interview you. My contact information is on my blog if you’d like to contact me.

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    • Thank you, that is very helpful, I will be in touch.

      And your advice is very good – I am indeed working on a third novel. Currently doing some major edits to it so I’ve got a long way to go before I hit the publish button!

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    • Hi Danielle,

      Lovely to hear from you. That’s great advice about writing a book people want to read! (It’s basically what my husband says.) And although it’s kind of obvious, it’s an easy thing to forget, so thank you for reminding me!

      I think I got to around about #75 in the free download chart. So if I could replicate that kind of success again that would be wonderful! But I’m not counting my chickens. πŸ˜‰

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      • But, what was your ranking when you came off the free promo? I keep track of that and take screenshots of the time and how many I’ve sold over a period of time after the promo and how many were downloaded during the free promo. I don’t do a free promo over an entire day and have never done a multi-day free promo. I usually stop it the next afternoon once the rankings don’t seem to be moving in the right direction anymore.

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      • To be honest I can’t remember. But basically I didn’t get many more sales after the free promo compared with before. You’ve got some good tips there though. It’s worth bearing them in mind. πŸ™‚

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  5. Two of my friends run a site Trainingauthors.com. it has lots of good advice. Joining a small fb author group might also be encouraging and helpful. Let me know in a pm if you want an invite to christian indie authors… it’s my fave.

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  6. Quite honestly, my book seems to sell best during an ENT promo. (http://ereadernewstoday.com/) It only costs $25. The nice thing is that during the promo I might spike 200-400 copies in a day or two. Then, there is a small stream for a month or two, but at least it flows. After about three months, it stops altogether, and I have to do another promo to get it flowing again. That’s pretty much how things have been for me since I published my one book in March of 2013. I know I need to get another on out there, but I am trying a genre switch and it has been a challenge. ENT has literally saved my book from total obscurity.

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    • Hi there, good to hear from you. That’s good advice, I will look into it. Let me know how your genre switch goes. I would be interested to hear. Although I’m writing romance at the mo I’m not sure I’ll stick with it for good.

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      • A couple of people who read my historical fiction were not impressed with my crime novel. But then again, a couple who did were. Strangers were. I suppose anything you write, you pray you’ll find an audience for. I like spreading my wings and trying new things, writing for the fun of it.

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      • That’s interesting. I think with genre fiction people like to read what they’re used to, so if they’re reading, say, a crime novel, they expect it to be told a certain way. That’s not to say you can’t experiment with how you tell them though.

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  7. For email lists, most people seem to go with Mailchimp or aweber. There are others, but those are the two I hear about most often. I use Mailchimp because it’s free for the first 2000 subscribers and 12,000 emails you send out. Plus, I use WordPress.com for my author website and I don’t think you can put the signup code for aweber on the page for aweber. http://mailchimp.com/ After that, you have to pay.

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  8. Giveaways rarely result in sales, and few of the so-called promotion sites actually promote at all. We’ve just got to keep plugging away: tweets, blog entries and getting other bloggers to interview us, whilst affording them the same opportunities. I feel desperate at times but then remember that this is my hobby. Even with as few as twenty sales a week, it’s enough to keep me going. Of course twenty thousand per week would be better.

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    • I think you’re absolutely right Roger about carrying on. And I’m pretty much the same as you – this is more a hobby for me at the mo. Having just started a new job, I’m realising that I enjoy being around other people and I wouldn’t necessarily want to be on my own at home writing all day, every day anyway. It could get lonely.

      Though of course those extra sales would be nice. That’s what this blog post was all about anyway! πŸ˜‰

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  9. I know you’ve already experimented with free promotion but have you considered making either of your novels perma-free? I’ve been self-publishing for the past two years and it’s just been in the past three months that I’ve finally started selling a few books a week and I know it’s because I’ve decided to make one of my novels permanently free. It’s small beans but at least it’s proof that my persistence has paid off and that growing my backlist was the most valuable use of my time. I have a Twitter and a Tumblr but hardly use them now that I’ve discovered that self-promotion does little to nothing compared to having other bloggers/reviewers feature me on their blogs. I recently published my reference list of indie book reviewers to my blog in case you want to take a look but if I were you I’d consider putting together a blog tour while one of your books is available for free. Also, even though I swapped posts with you and others during my book tour this month, the truth is, being featured on other indie author’s blogs is hit or miss. You need to go where the readers are and that’s review blogs.

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    • Hi Laekan, thanks for your thoughts, good to hear from you. Yes I have been considering putting my first novel ‘The Inheritance’ on perma-free. It’s interesting to hear your experiences of it. I will definitely think seriously about it.

      And thank you for your advice re guest post etc. on other blogs. I think you make a good point of needing to go on review blogs. I found when I did a blog tour to promote ‘The Inheritance’ that it generated very little traffic.

      Oh well. Onward and upwards! πŸ™‚

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  10. It seems everyone has covered all that needs to be said.

    When I published “The Jackdaw Birdhouse”, I decided to do a short book to experiment with what DOESN’T work in book marketing. It was a great experience and I have a few more tools for when I am ready to publish a full-length novel next year.

    Hoping to have some blog material for what does and doesn’t work – but keep us updated on how your sales go after implementing some of the above advice πŸ™‚ All the best x

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    • Hi Cole, thanks for your comment. I think yours is a really good idea and it’s similar to what my husband suggested. He said why not do an experiment with writing a short piece in more of a specific genre and just market it and see how it does.

      I will definitely keep you all updated with how I get on. πŸ™‚

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