Marketing Makeover

As the end of 2012 looms on the horizon, I’ve been working on my first quarter marketing plan for 2013. Being a relative newbie to indie-publishing with much more to learn, I’ve been studying the results of my first year efforts, and in retrospect, I can say I’ve definitively learned one thing. Well, I’ve learned a LOT actually, but one thing in particular stands out for me. I’ve learned that there are no constants in this business. What worked for one book didn’t work for others. What worked yesterday might not work today, and no matter how hard I work, there is an element of luck and timing that I have no control over. PJ Sharon here, welcoming you to the Writing Secrets of Seven Scribes. Today, I’ll be sharing what I think is a more focused approach than my previous “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” marketing plan.

Not that I haven’t had some moderate success with this approach, but like any business, the only way I can survive is if I trim the fat so to speak, and look for areas where I am wasting my time, effort, and resources. To that end, here is what I plan to do differently in 2013.

1) KDP Select-The exclusive 90 day enrollment that I did last spring with Amazon for Savage Cinderella was by far the most successful (at least in the short term) promotional tool I found. With 39,000 downloads, a temporary spot on the top 100 list, and a significant uptick in sales for several weeks after my FREE days, I felt like I was seeing some real progress forward. However, shortly after coming off the Select program, my sales declined in June, and the numbers tumbled every month after that for my first three books. I heard from industry veterans that the best way to rebound was to publish another book, which I did in September. Despite a month long blog tour and several group promotions, I have not seen much improvement in sales since then.

I resisted continuing with the KDP Select program because I didn’t like the idea of exclusivity, and I was hearing that results for the Select program had reportedly not been as good as they were last spring. That being said, I’ve decided to take the plunge again—for several reasons. I would be foolish not to tap into the Amazon pot that is set aside monthly to be divided amongst Select participants, paid out for “borrows” from the Kindle Lending Library. With 1.5 million dollars available for December (twice the norm), “borrows” should offer authors a nice Christmas bonus. Being able to offer my books for FREE for five days during that 90 day period without jumping through all the hoops of playing the “price matching” game is a simple and effective marketing tool. It also helps me to increase my reader base and my visibility, which are probably the greatest challenges that an author must focus on.

So I’ve revamped my cover for Heaven is for Heroes Heaven is for Heroes 72 dpi 600x900 WEBSITE USEand enrolled both it, and On Thin Ice, into the program for the next 90 days. That means Only Savage Cinderella and Waning Moon are available on all platforms. If all goes well, when my 90 days are up, HIFH and OTI will go back onto all distribution channels and I’ll put Waning Moon into the Select program for a few months prior to the release of Western Desert, book two in the trilogy. I hate feeding the Amazon “monster,” but until I see real sales on B&N et al. I can’t pass up the opportunity. I literally have made an average of $15 a month from B&N—and less through Smashwords–hardly worth giving up potentially hundreds of sales through Amazon.

This is where I was supposed to mention earlier that both Heaven is for Heroes and On Thin Ice will be available for FREE on Amazon this Friday and Saturday, December 22-23. If you haven’t read them, I’d love it if you would download them or tell anyone you know who might enjoy some YA romance drama. The more downloads I have, the closer I’ll get to that top 100 list so all those new Kindle owners can find me after Christmas. I appreciate it!

2) I’ll keep exploring available social media platforms-I now have almost 500 FB likes and nearly 1000 Twitter followers, which is where I have put my focus over the past year. I’m not sure how that translates directly to sales, but it sure helps me connect with some great authors, bloggers, readers, reviewers, industry professionals, and some all-around awesome people. Since word of mouth is still the best advertising, it’s clear that social media is here to stay and is a useful medium to help get the word out. I would like to try to focus on finding what works for me and best helps me connect with my target audience. That will include more time on sites like Good reads, Pinterest, Tumbler, Wattpad, and Kindle Boards.

3) Budget funds for paid advertisements and production costs. Short cuts are not the way to go in this business. It’s a very competitive industry and becoming more so every day. Hiring a cover artist, quality editors, and paying for advertising that has proven to be effective are worth budgeting funds for. My husband and I doing everything ourselves at first seemed like a way to save money and maintain control of my product, but in the long run, I can see I didn’t give my books their due.

The nice thing about Indie publishing is that I can make changes whenever I want. The books won’t be taken off the market if they don’t sell in a month or two. My backlist can become my front list if I want to start a new advertising campaign and change up the cover, try a new venue, or target specific groups of potential readers. The sky is the limit, but it all costs money, so I’ve realized that I have to budget money to give the books their best chance to succeed.

4) More than anything, though, I’d like to become more organized about my time management-This is a business. But without writing good books in a timely manner, I will have no business. That means that the writing has to come first. I’m not kidding myself into thinking I’ll be able to keep it all under perfect control, but I will budget my time differently, allowing for 50-60% of my time to go towards production of new material, with only 40% of my time spent on administrative details.

There have been times over the past year where I haven’t written a word on a WIP for weeks because of getting caught up in all the crazy business chores and responsibilities. I’m finally beginning to let go of all that, and bring my focus back to the writing. If it means less time building my network or promoting the books, then so be it. And if I only get one quality book out this year, then that’s okay with me, too–though I’m planning for two and possibly another short story.

Most importantly, staying healhy, sane, and having some fun along the way is much more important to me than sales figures these days. When I start stressing about all the “to-do’s,” I remind myself to relax and enjoy the ride. You never know what’s going to come over that next big hill.

What will you do differently this year?

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34 thoughts on “Marketing Makeover”

  1. Once again Paula, you share amazing information about the publishing industry. Like any business, new ideas arise each day. To learn them all takes enormous commitment. Working at the marketing and the business end does make it difficult to find time to do your craft. Writers write, designers design, artists do art, and so it goes. I have yet to find any who love to market their work, leaving little time to do what you spend years learning b/c you wanted to be a writer, or whatever your choice. We all love our craft, we prefer to do our craft, but then who does the selling and who keeps the finances? It is a vicious cycle. You need to make money in order to hire a hand to help so you can do what you love. I am not saying that marketing isn’t fun, but it takes us all away from creating. Best to you.

    1. Right on, Gail. That is definitely the conundrum. For me, although I love writing and learning the craft brings me more than enough challenge, I’m not one of those writers who “has to write.” I started this process eight years ago with the goal in mind that I would write to supplement my retirement in 10-15 years. I know what you’re thinking…I picked the wrong field to go into if I was looking for a money maker, LOL. But I’ve seen the possibilities and think the investment in time will be worth the pay-off eventually.

      I figure if I pace myself and continue to grow my business over time, I’ll get to that point where I won’t have to work so hard for so little return. In the meantime, I’ll continue to improve my craft, learn the business end of things, and enjoy the fellowship along the way. There are worse ways to spend time, and I love hearing from readers that have been impacted positively by my books. When I mentioned giving up writing one day in passing to a co-worker, he said “The world would miss out on so much if you quit.” That is a thought that will keep me writing far longer than any paycheck:-)

  2. So interesting Paula. As always, I am impressed with your clarity and focus. I always learn something from your posts, and it helps to remind me that it’s first and foremost about the writing. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. Thanks, Paula! I feel the same way, that what worked once with one book might not work again, even for the same book! I think we’ll always be on a learning curve in this business! Thanks again for another great post!

    1. It is tough to keep ahead of the trends, for sure. But having such a great group of authors willing to share their journey keeps us all in the know:-) I’m so grateful for the WG2E and our street team peeps. You guys are awesome!

  4. I’ve been wondering about KDP Select. I’ve heard so much conflicting advice.My sakes at B & N and Smashwords are like yours. I have to ask why bother putting it up there. Ugh! I’m paying attention to your journey and may follow your path a bit. I changed my cover and price. We shall see.

    Thanks for the info!

    1. Yeah, I’m not sure how to break into the B&N and Smashwords markets. I sell so few books there that it hasn’t made sense to add them to Kobo and Apple individually. It seems like a lot to keep track of for only a few sales here and there. Some authors are selling very well on B&N, but I don’t know what they are doing to make that happen. I’ll have to ask D.D. Scott about that.

  5. Thanks, Paula! I, too, have a love/hate relationship with the ‘Amazon Monster.’ Unfortunately, none of my free download days netted me nearly as many downloads as yours did, nor were friends I directed to the Amazon website even able to find my book amongst the other 38,000 to 68,000 daily ‘free’ downloads Amazon offers unless I gave them the direct link (which proves how glutted the market has become). Nor did it net me a single, precious review (I’d have probably committed hari-kari if not for all the Goodreads reviews telling me my work doesn’t stink).

    On the other hand, every point you made about Amazon’s visibility was spot-on. It is the place people go to buy books. I have come to a different conclusion for experimenting this year … I am going to be adding some old-fashioned marketing methods (conferences, book signings, book fairs) and getting actual paper copies of my books into readers hands as those seem to be the only people who READ the book (versus download it and let it sit on their e-reader). Perhaps we can compare notes?

    1. Hi Anna. I do have all of my books in print and try to do as many signings/book fairs/library appearances as possible, but I haven’t gotten many sales from doing those either and the investment in time and effort makes it cost prohibitive IMO. The only good part about it is that it is fun meeting people. part of the problem as an Indie is getting into book stores to do signings. They tend to shy away from anyone who isn’t well known and published traditionally since they have such limited shelf space these days. if they aren’t going to carry your books, they sure aren’t going to let you in there to sell them on the floor. I do have plans to reach out to more school systems this year to reach more high school readers. I’m going to approach it as a career day type of proposal. We’ll see what comes of that:-) Good luck and stop back by to let us know how it’s working for you.

  6. Thanks for laying it all out for me, Paula–saved me the work of making my own plan! LOL Seriously, though, you’re so in line with my thinking. In the new year I plan to really focus on the writing side to get 1 full length book and 2 long novellas published, in addition to at least 4 of my books produced on audio. Select worked pretty good for me in March ’12, and amazingly well at the very end of Oct. ’12, into November. One my Select run is done with Lost In Italy (and I don’t think I’ll do my last 2 free days), I’m really considering entering my contemporary western Chasin’ Mason into the program for a single run starting in January. But for sure, I’ve got to turn my attention back to the writing!

  7. I’ve learned so much from and continue to learn. Thank you. My first self-published book comes out in a week or so and I was on the fence about KDP Select. This helped. Happy Holidays to you and your family. I shared on all media.

    1. Thanks so much,Marian. And good luck with the Indie pub. I have a feeling you’re going to do great. Romance, mysteries, and thrillers are the top sellers in the Indie world. Let me know if you have any other questions. I’d be happy to help.

  8. Great post, Paula. I’ve been trying to sort out my goals and my plans (marketing, promoting, time management) for 2013, and one thing I’m seriously realizing is that my time management needs to improve. So does my view of my career… I need to see it AS a career, and not just as a fun thing to do that occasionally brings in some bucks.

    I released my first self-published book (an adult romance short story, under my top-secret pen name) in September and have already found myself doing some major tweaking. Things I did wrong: I didn’t seek advice from other self-published authors beforehand. I didn’t do enough advance promotion of the release; I just kind of threw it out there and said, “Oh, by the way, here’s this book.” I wasn’t careful enough about the pricing. And I probably made other mistakes as well.

    Things I did right: I hired a professional editor and cover artist. I sent the book out for reviews. I mentioned it to everyone I could think of who might pass along the word. I included it one month in the list of books my promotion person was handling.

    I still have a lot to learn, but this book was intended in part as an experiment so I could *see* what I needed to learn. I’m hoping to put out at least one more self-pubbed romance in 2013, and possibly a self-pubbed YA, along with changing my focus a bit with my publisher-published stuff. So hopefully in 2013, I’ll be able to focus more on my writing as a *business*, not just fun, and will see my earnings increase accordingly.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jo. I think that might be an advantage for me–that I got into writing as a career path and therefore immediately saw the business potential. The world of publishing is changing so quickly that we are all “learning as we go.” It helps to be part of writer’s loops and follow a good Indie publishing sight like WG2E (The Writer’s Guide to e-publishing). They are an amazing resource. I belong to IndieRomanceInk yahoo group, Marketing For Romance Writers, and the WG2E Street team. I know it means another huge time commitment, and my email in-box is a bit unwieldy, but for me, that is the most useful way to learn the business and keep up on the trends. Thanks for stopping in and good luck with your Indie endeavors!

  9. Paula, I totally admire you and your work ethic. That being said, I’m so glad you wrote this post, especially the last part, where you said sometimes you haven’t written a word on a WIP in weeks because of all the promotion related things you’re doing. I thought I was the only one dealing with that issue. My friends who are the most successful writers are the ones who get new books out on a regular basis. They’re the ones who spend a great deal of time writing, and a little bit of time promoting. That’s my new mindset for the new year.

    Also, I agree with you about budgeting for paid promotions. It’s so time consuming to organize your own blog tours, etc. Next year, I’m even going to switch to review only or book blurb blitz tours to save time. I spent countless hours last year writing guests posts and answering interview questions for blog tours. I didn’t see an uptick in sales to justify the time spent away from writing my next novel.

    Good luck on your next KDP release. To Paula’s readers, if you haven’t read On Thin Ice yet, you’re missing out on a terrific story. Go get your copy and dive in!

    1. Thank you, Suzanne, for the shout out about ON THIN ICE, as well as sharing your struggles. It’s comforting to know we aren’t alone in all this, isn’t it? I spent a ridiculous amount of time on blog tours and interviews that amounted to little or no direct sales. I try to remember what DD Scott says about name recognition and connecting to readers being the most important result of our social media and advertising efforts. I do think it’s valuable to assess the measurable outcome of each of our promotional plans and decide from there what works and what doesn’t. That’s why being able to check our sales on a daily basis is so helpful (or depressing) LOL. I try not to get hung up on sales or lack thereof these days. It’s too nerve wracking. This year, I’ll focus more on reaching readers and see what happens.

  10. Great insights, Paula. I’m looking at my first quarter plans for 2013, and this has been a big help. I’m still on the fence about KDP Select, because I’m hearing good and bad with it. Right now, my publisher is willing to do a couple of strategic price drops on Into The Dark, and I’ll be using one to coincide with my April indie release. We’ll see how that pans out. She is willing to put Dark into Select, but we both think we should try this first.

    SO TRUE about writing and not getting caught up in the marketing frenzy. As annoying as it is to hear (at least to me) sales for most of us are a waiting game, and more books means more reasons for readers to find you. So I’m going to try to focus on that.

    And yes on the editing. I hired a developmental editor for my next book, and although expensive, well worth it. Will be employing her in spring, too. And I truly believe we need a separate developmental and line/copy editor, because fresh eyes are so important.

    Thanks for sharing, and good luck!

    1. Thank you, Stacy. I have a content and grammar editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader, as well as relying on critique partners and beta readers. There is no way that a book is publish ready without that level of scrutiny. It’s definitely not a one person endeavor. I appreciate you stopping in and sharing your experiences with us.

  11. I agree completely with a lot of what you’re saying, Paula. I’m doing well on iTunes, B&N and Smashwords (and even Kobo) but that’s because I’ve a perma-free out with Reckless Nights In Rome which is the first in a series that Amazon have price matched. I’ve been looking at Select for a stand alone romance/adventure. But since I sell 100x more on iTunes than Amazon and I’ve done diddly squat promotion, staying out of Select is a no brainer for me.
    I began this journey at the end of April and by Christmas will have three contemporary romances and two paranormals out there.

    Once Reckless went perma-free across all distributors readers started to contact me about book three in the series. From iTunes alone (I’m in the top 100 in over 50 countries) I receive anything up to twenty msgs per day via facebook/email/twitter and I keep every single one in a FAN file. I do have a mailing list, but peeps seem reluctant to ‘sign up’ for anything, so I keep my own and that definitely works for me. Recently romance author Ruth Cardello invited me to participate in her ‘Authors giving back for the twelve days of Christmas’ promotion on facebook where I gave away twelve books. And that brought me to the attention of her fans. They talk to me every day on facebook and have even run their own little photographic chat about who would play Nico (the hero in Reckless). Speaking to readers must be THE most important thing an author can do imho it’s the next level of promotion.

    But all of this can come at the cost of our creativity. Like you, I’ve gone for weeks unable to create new work because my brain’s buzzing with ‘stuff.’ Going forward I’m not switching on the internet until I’ve my daily word count under my belt. I’m also involved in a big pre-Christmas promotion and it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.

    For the future I see indies joining together in cohesive supportive groups running bigger and bigger promotions etc to bring us to the attention of readers. Interesting times ahead for all of us :)

    Great post, Paula.

    1. Awesome response, CC. I love hearing about the successes of others. It lets us see the possibilities and how people are getting there. Without people blazing the trails, we’d all have to work even that much harder. Thanks for sharing what’s working for you and I agree, it is definitely about connecting to readers.

      I’m excited for you with your success on i-tunes. I think more people are starting to look beyond just the music available and there are tons of i-pad users. That’s got to be good for authors. I just haven’t tapped into that market yet. I think part of it is that I go through Smashwords to get to i-tunes, sony, kobo, diesel, and even my expanded distribution to libraries. I like Smashwords for the coupon code options and the multiple distribution channels all in on e place, but getting into the premium catalog for expanded distribution is a pain. I’ll have to do a blog on that topic sometime soon! So much to learn…

  12. Thanks for all the great info, PJ! I love the new look of Heaven is for Heroes. I’ll be spending a lot more time writing this next year as well. That definitely has to come first. I hope you have a happy holiday and a wonderful 2013!

    1. I love it, too, Rhonda. A new cover always feels like a facelift. Now if I can only get Amazon to finish uploading it. They are way backed up this week!

      Good luck with all of your writing this year. I have a feeling its going to be a wild one for all of us.

  13. I’m not up to where you are PJ but I’m stuffing this info away for when I am. : ) Thanks for a great post and the comments are great too.

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