Tag Archives: budgeting

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?

Writing is a Business. Get used to it.

I recently read on one of my favorite blogs, Writer’s Guide to E-publishing, about D.D. Scott’s production schedule. Production schedule? Was I supposed to devise some master schedule? Well, I kind of have a plan, but nothing as well plotted and organized as D.D.s. That woman is a writing machine. Go D.D.!

For me, this whole indie publishing journey has been a whirlwind of learning new tasks. From creating a social media platform to budgeting, finding a good editor, designing cover art–the lists go on and on. I thought I’d done plenty of research to get me going, but nothing has prepared me for how much there really is to do–besides writing great books—a challenging feat in and of itself.

From the time I decided to indie-publish in May, to my September 24th release date for Heaven is for Heroes (Yikes! That’s this Saturday already), I had almost five months to prepare. I knew I would need at least that much time to take care of all the details I had on my list—now known as my production schedule. I feel somewhat prepared and hopefully have learned plenty along the way that will make future endeavors easier, but what I’ve learned is that a production schedule goes beyond a daily page count if you want to be published, traditionally or otherwise.

There is a reason traditionally published books take 18 months to get out onto the shelves. I haven’t even discussed getting ARCs to reviewers and the marketing and promotion that is required way ahead of time to actually sell the book when it does come out. Reviewers require three to six months advanced copies. This is not going to happen in my current plan. Reviews from big name reviewers cost money and most won’t even consider reviewing Indi-pubbed books. I’ll keep searching out reviewers, but in the case of my current book, I’ve asked readers right under my bio on the last page, “If you enjoyed this book, please go to Amazon.com and give it a review.” If they hated it, hopefully they won’t bother:)

 Contrary to popular belief, self-publishing doesn’t mean slapping a book up onto Amazon and setting it free. Although I’m pretty sure that many writers do just that. There is a dredge of terrible e-books out there that should never see the light of day and are keeping the e-book industry on the “fringes of acceptable writing society.” I don’t want mine to be among them, so quality for me is first and foremost. At the same time, production and creating a back list of books is the quickest way to find e-publishing success. So once again, I’m trying to find balance. On my current plan, my cyber bookshelf will have two titles for 2011 and two, possibly three, for 2012. I have committed to releasing On Thin Ice in December and Savage Cinderella in the spring of 2012. These are two stories I already had written and felt were more or less ready to go.  I’m not so convinced after my experience with HIFH and all the work that went into creating the cover, the book trailer, revising, editing, revising, editing, revising…oh, did I say revising? I dare you to find the one typo that I missed on the two hundred copies I’ve already had printed! My current WIP, 21 Days should be out in June and the first book in a dystopian trilogy I’m planning for next winter should be ready by November.

 To meet those deadlines, I need to create a very specific production schedule, get organized, stay focused, and write my little fingers off. The plan is to have five or six titles in my backlist so that the long-tail sales start to gain momentum and I’ll start to see my profit margin grow in the next year. My STG for 2012 is to make back my investment and cover the cost of my conferences. LTG is to make enough profit to hire help, i.e.: a publicist and personal assistant to handle marketing and promotions. For more details on my marketing plan, stop on over to Market Or Die  (MOD) where I’m guest blogging for Jennifer Fusco  (I’ve always wanted to be in two places at once—thank you cyberspace).

I had the good fortune of hearing Kristan Higgins speak at the CT RWA meeting this month about the “countdown to launch” and all the necessary and suggested steps to take in the final three months before a book release. The list is a bit daunting, but even more so are the details involved in each task. You have to have your team in place and create a schedule that includes deadlines that you can adhere to. Cover art should be done at least three months before book release. A trailer, if you do one, should be done 2-3 months in advance, and you need to give editing a lot of time and consideration. Hire a professional and expect that there will be a lot of back and forth revisions. This takes time. I have three months to get ready for the release of On Thin Ice. I believe I’m a bit behind on my production schedule.  I’m not whining—at least I hope I’m not—but I don’t want to sugar coat the work involved in self-publishing, and the necessity of getting organized. I happen to work really well with deadlines, so I create them and work my butt off to meet them, but there is a huge learning curve, way too much for one person to do, and a huge investment in both time and up-front costs, so–

 Today’s Scribe Secret: No matter where you are in your writing career, create a production schedule, set goals (short and long term), and treat your writing like a business. If you are working toward publication, this is the job. Are you ready?

Anyone who comments on both the Scribes blog and MOD will be entered to win a free e-book copy of Heaven is for Heroes. Contest runs until midnight Thursday, September 22nd. The winner will be selected randomly and announced on both blogs next Tuesday, September 27th.

Available September 24th
Heaven Is For Heroes out September 24th

Win a FREE e-book copy!

Available this Saturday on my website www.pjsharon.com or wherever e-books are sold.