Category Archives: tumblr

To Select…or not to Select. That is the question.

PJ Sharon here on this chilly New Year’s Eve Day. Since I’m in the process of re-evaluating my first quarter marketing plan for 2014, I thought I’d share the results of my latest promotion. Most of you are familiar with KDP Select, Amazon’s 90 day exclusivity contract that requires authors to publish only with them for that time period. The perks of putting all your eggs in the Amazon basket are paid borrows by Prime members (average $1.94 per borrow), entry into their new “Count Down Deals” program, and/or the ability to run FREE promotions for five days of the 90 day period. A year ago, all of this was very attractive. Now, not so much.

Most Indie authors agree that running free promotions has been much less effective than it was a year or two ago. Now that the market is flooded with freebies and bargain books, it’s getting harder and harder to sell at any price—even FREE! Sales of my last published novel, WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, which released last July, reflect the drastic change. I’ll preface these results with the caveat that YA Dystopian is a hard sell across the board lately since that market is pretty much glutted. I also believe that book two in a trilogy is often tougher because folks won’t buy/download book two if they haven’t read book one, and readers don’t want to get hooked into a trilogy with no guaranteed release date of the third book.

Having said all that, I’m trying not to take it personally or be embarrassed about such a poor sales record. The fact is, I don’t think the numbers reflect the quality of the book at all. What reviews I do have, are excellent, and feedback I’ve had from readers has been awesome. So what’s up with the numbers?

Coming June 24th!
Coming June 24th!

I enrolled WESTERN DESERT into the Select program in October, figuring I would promote books one and two through Halloween, running my first two day FREE promo around the time readers might be drawn to Dystopian/Sci-fi-fantasy stories. I was part of a group sale, advertised on the usual 20-30 sites that promote freebies (some charge a nominal fee of $5-15), and did a social media blitz, including some blog appearances. The best I did was had about a thousand free downloads and sold eighty or so copies of WANING MOON, book one in the trilogy.

Now, I realize that those results meant that my book was in the hands of potentially a thousand new readers, and it did wonders for my sales rankings for both books during the sale, but being that WANING MOON was selling for the .99 cent price point, I made about $30. I’ll add that there was no after sale bump in numbers (meaning my sales flat-lined again immediately), and I’d spent my budgeted $100 for advertising the sale, netting me -$70 for my trouble. Consider the amount of time it takes to set up ads on 20-30 sites, schedule blog appearances, participate in social media non-stop for two days, and well…you get the picture.

I waited a couple of months, planned my last three day FREE run for right after Christmas, hoping to catch all those new Kindle owners, and promoted both books like crazy. As in, “Two Books for under a buck!” “Buy WANING MOON for .99 cents and download WESTERN DESERT for FREE!” I joined with Awesome Indies for their Holiday Bonanza e-book sale, promoted on 30 FREE e-book sites (I’m hearing now that it takes 50 sites to make a dent), and I scheduled mega tweets, FB, Goodreads, Google+, Pinterest, and tumblr promos. I spent my $100 budget, and had the support of dozens of other authors who tweeted, posted or otherwise shouted it to the world for me. Here were the results:

Worldwide (including a few downloads in Germany, France, India, Canada, and Australia—a new market for me!), I had a whopping 543 downloads of WESTERN DESERT and 39 new sales of WANING MOON. Oy! Hours of preparation, insane amounts of marketing, and yes, I’m down about $85. I did reach the #1,026 mark on the Amazon rankings in the Free kindle store, #2 in the Sci-fi/fantasy/Genetic engineering category, and #10 in the Dystopian category, but numbers bounced right back to oblivion when the sale ended.

Granted, I was unable to procure ads on the really big sites like Book Bub and a few others which require as many as twenty-five reviews these days to even be featured and are very choosy about what they pick to advertise, but really? For the work involved and the investment of time and money, it feels like I’ve run a marathon and placed next to last. A far cry from last year’s FREE promo for SAVAGE CINDERELLA  when I boasted 40,000 downloads between my two day and then a three day promotion. The best part was the over 800 direct sales in the weeks after my free run. Yikes! What a difference a year and-a-half makes. Even HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES and ON THIN ICE promos last year at this time did much better than my 2013 efforts for my Dystopian reads.

It would be nice to get a few (hopefully good) reviews out of the promotion and getting my name out to new readers is always a good thing, but all in all, the Select program has little left to offer me with this book series. Perhaps when I publish another Contemporary YA romance, or when I have a boxed set of all three books in the trilogy, I’ll give it another go, but for now, KDP Select is a losing proposition for me. Of course, take all this with a grain of salt, because I’ve heard of a few other authors on my loops who are still pulling in good numbers with Select. Go figure!

What do you think? Have you had better results? How did you do it? Am I missing something?


Oh, tumblr, how I love thee!

PJ here, and I’ve finally found a form of social media I love! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy checking in with friends and readers on Facebook, but many of those folks are writers, friends, family, high school alumni, and adults who enjoy reading YA fiction, and it can often take up a lot of time getting caught up on everyone’s happenings. I engage in twitter on a regular basis, but as with FB, most of my twitter followers are other writers. After taking a Publicity 101 workshop with Heather Riccio recently, I was prompted to reach out more directly to my audience (namely teens), through tumblr. It turns out, tumblr is easy and really fun!tumblr icon 2 (2013_06_02 00_59_02 UTC)

I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to how I can reach readers and looking at where I’ve had my focus in terms of marketing and social media. Recognizing that I have to expand that all-important sphere of influence and try to connect with readers wherever they may be, tumblr was on the no-brainer list. It was highly recommended by my YA writing peers that tumblr and Instagram are the go-to locations for teens. For sanity’s sake, I chose only one.

I’m just getting started and I still have to work out a few kinks, but I really like tumblr. You can check out my new page here: I will have to add my books to my page so readers will know where to find them, but I’ll add a little at a time as I figure out how to find teen followers. As with FB and twitter, it’s a slow build.

Tumblr is where I can post a cool pic right from my phone or computer, with a short blurb about the photo, about life, or about any number of things I think are awesome.

Basically, I’ll share snapshots of life as I see it—another way to share my message of hope with teens. I’ll post about my books as well, but 80% of my communication here is going to be about sharing pieces of me with teen readers.  You can add  a custom background, change fonts, and even connect your posts to FB and twitter, a great way for me to contribute to my brand on my FB PJSharonBooks page.

I realized a long time ago that blogging every day on a static website page was nearly impossible, despite the encouragement of publicity specialists who insist that consistent, frequent posts will garner attention and gain you an audience. Frankly, I don’t have the time or enough interesting, informative, or entertaining things to talk about every day. As it is, I currently use my web site’s home page as a way to keep readers updated monthly about sales, contests, and news about appearances. Keeping your content fresh and making your posts “value added” for readers is a challenge.  Blogs such as the one you’re reading now take significant time and effort and weekly blog posting is more than enough for most of us.

I figured a daily blog that literally only takes me two minutes to post would be a great way to start making a shift in the right direction. It’s kind of addictive and oh, so simple, I think I’ll be very happy there and don’t feel the need to explore Instagram at this point. I hope you’ll follow me or share with any teens you think might enjoy some clean, fun entertainment.

What about you? Have you tried tumblr? What’s your favorite mode of social media and why?

Additional announcements:

1.) The winner of last weeks audio book of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES is Brenda Maxfield! Congratulations, Brenda! I’ll be contacting you to collect your FREE audiobook download.

2.) Readers have until September 11th to enter to win a FREE signed copy of WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy as part of a Goodreads giveaway. You can enter to win here