Category Archives: Success

KDP Select and My Three FREE Days Experiment.

Hello Scribe’s readers. What a crazy week and a wild ride I’ve had. First, let me thank everyone who either downloaded SAVAGE CINDERELLA or helped spread the word that it was available for FREE for three days last week. And if you missed out, I’ll be using my two remaining “FREE” days at the beginning of June just before I pull the book down from the KDP Select program to upload it to Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. What does all of this mean? This post might be a bit long, but bear with me and I’ll explain.

Kindle Direct Publishing Select program is available to authors who upload their books to Amazon and agree to exclusively sell only on Amazon for a ninety day period of time. I won’t get into all the details of KDP Select since I’ll be covering it in depth soon on Market or Die with Jennifer Fusco and I want to focus this post on the results of the promotion. In short, one of the perks of being in the Select program is the ability to offer the book for free for up to five days during that ninety day period. The benefits of this are numerous. Allow me to share my experience with you.

On Thursday, April 19th, I joined fifteen other children’s, middle grade and YA authors who put all of our books for free for that day only. I used the momentum of that promotion and added two more free days for my book. Thanks to the organizational genius and diligence of our “fearless leader” Stacey Juba, the books were listed on dozens of sites that showcase FREE books. Stacey assigned each of us five sites to contact regarding the promotion. That means at least seventy-five sites potentially carried our free promo. It cost us nothing and was very easy and manageable. I also listed my book on the following FREE Book promotion sites:

E-reader News Today, Indie Book List, Pixel of Ink, Free Kindle Books Today, Your Book, and Kindle Nation Daily, most of whom kept my book listed on their front pages for the entire three days. It might interest you to know that I had just come off of a ten-day Blog Hop with seventy-four other authors and had the opportunity to promote the event to the dozens of people who “hopped” by my blog to check it out or leave comments. We implemented a massive tweet and FB campaign as well with our social networks. 

My goals for the FREE promotion were as follows:                                                                                     

1)      Increase visibility/discoverability (Top 100 lists)

2)      Expand my readership/reach new readers

3)      Boost sales

4)      Get more reviews (I had only two reviews, both 5 stars before the promo started. This will become important later.)

I was stunned at the results and I’m still floating on the residual effects. Before I started the FREE days, I was feeling a bit discouraged. January, February, and March sales had climbed steadily and I half expected April to continue to climb since I had just released SAVAGE CINDERELLA (SC) in mid-March, thereby expanding my backlist, which should, theoretically increase the sales of all of my books. Not so much. Truth be told, April brought on a big fat stall in sales and I hadn’t sold a book in three days. As of April 18th I had sold 11 copies of SC on Amazon for the month. My Amazon ranking was somewhere around 80,000. Pitiful, I know! Sales of ON THIN ICE have consistently been good and I was at 58 sales for April. Not bad, but not nearly as good as the previous three months.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up on April 19th (three hours into the promotion) to 57 downloads and a ranking of 7,842 in the Kindle  Free Store. I watched throughout the day and was mesmerized as I saw the numbers soar. By midnight that night, I had 4,954 downloads and was #89 on the Free Kindle Books list. I’d broken into the TOP 100 list that would gain me the exposure I was looking for.

I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of the numbers over the next few days, but by the time the promotion was over on Sunday morning, SC had 26,688 US downloads, 1,031 in the UK, 76 in Germany, 6 in France, and 1 in Spain (my first Spanish reader!) My book was #7 in the Kindle Free Store. There are other lists that are important to note here. Books are categorized into many sub genres when you list your book on Amazon. Authors get to pick these categories so it’s important to choose wisely. SC stayed in the #1 slot in my categories for the full three days.

The only downside I discovered is that I’ve gotten a few less than stellar reviews which has lowered my starred ranking from a lovely 5 star average to 3.8 stars. This is not an uncommon occurrence according to many indie authors who believe that this is due to the large cross section of readers who may not, in fact ,enjoy the genre but download anything FREE. There is also the belief that anything FREE is of lesser quality and value. 

The upside is that I met all of my goals and exceeded my expectations. Since the promotion ended on Sunday, I’ve sold 120 copies of SC with 45 borrows (for which I will be paid 2.04 each), and 30 copies of ON THIN ICE. HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES has sadly fallen off the radar with only 13 sales this month, and will have its own promotional resuscitation very soon. These are my current stats in the Kindle Paid Store as well as in my categories:

 Overall, a resounding success! It’s likely that the numbers will settle down again over the next days or weeks, but the boost has been encouraging and I am absolutely thrilled with reaching 28,000 potential readers. You couldn’t buy that kind of exposure and it really cost me nothing but a little time and effort. As always, thanks to all of you who continue to support my efforts and make this crazy ride such a blast to share.

 Questions? Comments? Do you appreciate FREE books as much as books you’ve paid for? I’m curious to know.


Blog Burnout

Welcome to Tuesday, Scribe’s readers. PJ Sharon here. In today’s post, I’ll be asking and answering a few questions about blogging—now that I can say without exaggeration that I have ample experience. I’d also like to address a growing problem for authors and bloggers called “Blog Burnout.” For me, this inevitable outcome of overexposure to blogging is defined as the mental, emotional, and physical fatigue that comes from “chronic” blogging. The symptoms are:

 1) An inability to come up with a single new and unique idea if your life depended on it.

2) A mistaken assumption that your life does, indeed, depend on it.

3) And a burning desire to cut ties with FB, Twitter, and Blogger captchas (those squiggly, indecipherable, non-words that you have to enter to leave comments on Blogger sites). 

According to marketing experts, blogging is a surefire way to get your name out there, promote your work, and increase your sales. In theory, blogging is a way to reach potential new readers who will buy your book or shout to the world what a brilliant and interesting writer you are. It has become a standard practice for authors and has been met with varying results (mine of which I will share shortly).

Some of you who haven’t been around long or have been living with your head in a rabbit hole may ask, “What is a blog tour?” That’s when an author sets up “guest appearances” on other authors’ blog sites, review sites, or anywhere that may attract an author’s readership. Guest blogs can be pre-prepared interviews or a 500-800 word “on topic” type of post that might appeal to specific readers.

What are the requirements for a successful blog, you ask?  Blogs need to be interesting, entertaining, informative, and above all, fun. Always end with an engaging question to open the door for comments. Try maintaining that level of creative juice for twenty or thirty posts over a two or three month period of time, especially while maintaining your own personal blog or website, contributing to your regularly scheduled group blogs (known as grogs), and the other million and one tasks that authors are responsible for on a daily basis, and let’s see you keep your hair on.

 Call me naïve, but I was completely unprepared for the toll that this kind of focused promotional effort would have on me. Don’t get me wrong; it was a valuable experience in many ways, but there are thing that I will do differently next time. Let me explain.

I have met some wonderful authors along the way and have had a great time interacting with readers and giving away books. I’ve also learned a lot about writing. Working to a word count, writing concise and persuasive blogs that hopefully meet the above requirements (interesting, entertaining, informative and fun), and I’ve learned how to talk about myself, my books, and my process—skills that every writer needs to learn.

As for whether my blog tour was successful in helping me to sell books, the jury is still out. My sales stayed pretty steady throughout the tour. It didn’t seem to matter where I blogged or how often per week, I never saw a bump in sales in either direction. Would I have sold the same amount of books without doing any blog appearances? I’ll have to wait a few weeks to see what happens when the dust settles and I am less visible. I do have to get back to…um…finishing that next book, a task made much harder because of this sense that my creative mind has been a bit—shall we say—overtaxed.

My recommendations:

1)      Pace yourself. Although it’s important to be visible in order to gain attention for your work, you and all of the people who have graciously chosen to support you on your journey will be much happier and less saturated…hehem…stressed if you take it slow and steady. Do what’s comfortable and what makes sense to you as an author. Remember that writing your next book is your primary job.

2)      Choose wisely. Do your homework, or pay someone to do it for you. There are Blog Tour companies out there that will design a tour for you for as little as $20-$50. If you want to do it yourself, choose blogs that are specific to your readership and that have a solid following. It takes some research but it’s a worthwhile investment in your time. This is one thing I would do differently next time around. I may even hire a virtual assistant (a college student on summer break) to do this research for me. The reason this is essential information is that I think you are more likely to find readers at review sites than author blogs, and in order to sell books, you need to be focused on finding readers. Although authors are wonderful about hosting other authors, and supporting each other’s book sales, most of the views that author sites get are from other authors, not readers. Unless that author has a large fan following, you aren’t likely to gain a tremendous amount of sales or find the readership you want.

3)      Keep it short and sweet. I am the queen of lengthy posts, LOL (this one included). We writers are not known for our brevity. But effective blogging in this warp-speed world means getting the point across and making it count.

4)      Offer incentives. Offer free books, swag, signed copies or some other creative incentive for readers who take the time to leave a comment. Contests garner attention, but they require a little effort staying organized with your giveaways. Make sure you follow through. Also make sure you use your influence wisely. You may want to ask for “likes” or “tags” (see my post on why these are important), or you may use contests to gain Twitter and FB followers. Don’t ask for too much and make it worth their while, but don’t be afraid to ask. T Harv Ecker says, “People don’t have what they want, because they don’t know what they want.” Be clear about what you want from your blog tour and formulate a plan to get it. Stay focused on your goal for each post and “speak” to your target audience as best you can.

5)      Say thank you. Let’s face it; without readers, authors are nothing. And without this wonderful community of authors who are traveling this rocky road with us, we would all get nowhere. I am so grateful to all of the authors who graciously hosted me, bought the books, tweeted my posts, shared my tour sites on their FB pages, and took the time to leave comments. I appreciate you, your patience, and your support more than you know.

In conclusion, when you start to feel like you’re doing too much, asking too much, and getting sick of answering the question, “What inspired you to write?” it’s probably time for a break.

As for what’s next, my ongoing promotional experiment will be in the form of the “Authors in Bloom” Blog Hop and a couple of FREE days in April where SAVAGE CINDERELLA will be up for free in the KDP Select program. I’ll be at the RT Booklovers Convention in Chicago with Katy Lee and I’m hoping to recharge my battery while I’m there signing at the Expo. Ahhh, yes…and I’ll be writing the next book.

So I Didn’t Win Mega Millions

“What would you do if you won all that money?” a coworker asked me after I had announced that I had just bought my very first lottery tickets.

“Well… I’d pay off my parents’ house. Get each of my brothers a brand new car. I would buy this school a new roof, get every child here and IPAD and replace the playground.”

“But what would you do for yourself?”

“Oh that’s easy,” I replied. “I would quit this job. I would quit this job so hard.”

My coworker looked at me and laughed. “How would you do it?”

“MC Hammer flashmob,” I answered easily. Of course I had thought about this for a while. “I would have hundreds of gold parachute pants made, hire a choreographer and pay every employee in this district to learn the dance and at the end of it we’d all pose with our arms folded across our chests and yell STOP QUITTIN’ TIME.”

Hammer time? No Quittin' time!

My coworker shook her head at me and said, “You know you’re crazy, right?”

“No, darling. They call rich people eccentric.”

Alas, I woke up Saturday morning to find out that I didn’t win the huge jackpot. BUT I had hit four of the six numbers which means I won a cool $150. Which is clearly not enough to hire a flash mob and quit my job ,which I do love by the way. All of this money talk got me thinking… If my writing career takes off, would I quit my day job?

Now I’m not talking about Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks or Stephen King money, but enough money to feed my shoe habit and make the bills. 640 million is certainly way more than most writers can ever expect to make and if I had won that money work would not be an issue because I would spend all of my time traveling or doing good things that people with loads of money should do.

But could writing alone fill my days? I really don’t know the answer to that. Probably not. I’m a single girl, no kids. My family lives an hour away and I actually like my job. Believe me at times it sucks but mostly its pretty cool, especially when kids who are now in highschool come back just to visit me. (Gag I feel old when they do that.) Right now my job fulfills me and writing is so solitary. Plus this girl likes her health care!

But my answer might change in a few years when I’m married with some babies of my own. Writing seems to be the perfect career for a busy mom. Write when the kids are at school, be home in the afternoons to do homework. Bring in money doing what I loved.

My answer might not be the same as yours. If you could do it …. if you could survive on writing alone would you quit your job? And if you would like to see what my flashmob dream looks like click HERE.

As always happy writing!

2012 is 25% Done, Are You?

Hidey-Ho Scribblers.  J Monkeys here.  Well, well, well.  It’s March 30th.  The end of the 3rd month of the year.  That means 2012 is 25% of the way complete.  How about you?  Are you 25% of the way through your goals for the year?  Let’s see how I stack up.

Before the year began, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to accomplish this year and how I was going to measure my success.  Here’s my secret report card:

  1. Publish 6 books this year.  Well, so far I’ve worked out the template for my personal organizer and my family history cookbook.  Both templates will be available for sale soon.  The 3rd book in my Dixie and Taco kindergarten series is with the illustrator.  My novella is nearly finished; I’m just waiting for my cover artist to graduate from college (in 5 weeks!) and then it’ll be available.  DIY Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy is more than 2/3 written.  And the first book in my 1st Grade reader series, Brook the Fish, is in the queue for the illustrator, too.  I’m on track to have all six of these available before the summer is over and I plan to spend the second half of the year writing.  So I’ll judge goal #1 to be ahead of schedule.
  2. Sell books.  I really haven’t made any progress (or even effort) on this goal yet.  I do have plans in the hopper…so at least that’s something.  But I’m way behind schedule on goal #2.
  3. Lose 51 pounds before the year is over.  Sigh.  This is a perennial failure for me.  So far, I’ve made 10% progress rather than 25%, but at least it’s something.  I’m behind, but not horrifically.
  4. Improve my family’s credit score.  I’m happy with my progress to date on this goal.  I’ve run credit reports and found out our starting point.  I’ve organized our bills and gotten things on track.  And I’ve developed a system to keep on track. I’m happy with my progress here.
  5. Keep up my hair color.  This may seem silly, but I’ve gone gray very young and I have young children.  I’m pretty sick of folks telling me how cute my grandchildren are.  I must say, I’m doing well on this goal, too.  I’ve found a salon I like and my hair looks FABulous!  🙂
  6. Scrapbook 5 pages a week.  This is an important goal, because it reminds me to take a little bit of time for myself every week and do something fun.   That whole “All work and no play” thing.  While I haven’t actually done as much scrapbooking as I’d like, I have done some crafting, some catching up on TV shows & books, and I’m taking a fun class.  All in all, I’m calling this one “on target”.

As it balances out, I’m horribly behind on one goal, far ahead on another and on target with the rest.  I feel good.

Today’s question: how are you progressing toward your goals?


Are you ready for success?

Hey Scriberettes, PJ Sharon here, and after exactly one year into my indie-pub journey, I’d like to talk about how I measure success. I’m not talking about sales numbers, earnings, or rankings today. So, what are we talking about?  I suppose to measure success we first have to define it. My little Oxford Dictionary defines success as: The attainment of an aim; or of wealth or status. For some people, attaining wealth or status is very important. For me—not so much. As a matter of fact, the last thing I want is fame and fortune. You might be thinking that my twenty blog tour appearances over the past two months don’t necessarily support that statement. Don’t get me wrong; I like being recognized for my accomplishments, and I’d like to be able to earn a good living off my writing, but what is truly important to me is being able to do something I love to do, and having it make a difference in people’s lives. There is no doubt in my mind that neither money nor fame will ever lead to happiness.

“Attainment of an aim” is more the definition that works for me. In writing the types of young adult novels I write, my aim is to share a message of hope with readers of all ages, but especially teens. In order to do this, I have to find readers, which means I have to put myself out there by whatever means necessary, and let people get to know me. If that means that I gain “fame” as I gain recognition, then I guess I’ll have to deal with that, but honestly, that’s the part that scares me more than failing to accomplish my goals. I’ve heard of people fearing success as much as they fear failure. I totally get that! And it can be just as much of a stumbling block to success. I’ve had enough failures in life to have learned to transform them into learning experiences rather than letting them make me quit trying, but what will I do if I actually succeed in becoming “famous”…eeek!

Someone I hadn’t seen since high school recently contacted me and was so excited to find that my books and my picture were on Amazon. She asked me how it felt to be famous. I said, “hmm…umm…really?” I’m super excited about seeing my books in print and knowing that readers like my stories, but really, it feels like just another job at this point. FYI, I’m currently earning approximately minimum wage as an author, so it’s probably good that making a fortune is not high on my priority list.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve heard me talk about sales numbers and goals, marketing and promoting, creating production schedules and so forth. I dove into the indie-publishing pool a year ago, knowing nothing about any of these things, and worked hard to learn because I wanted to succeed in two things: Getting my stories in front of readers, and earning a steady income from my writing. As far as the success journey, I’m making strides. But there is always more to do—more readers to reach, more stories to write, and an income potential that makes early retirement achievable if I’m willing to work hard for the long haul. As I continue to focus on those goals, the byproduct is exposure. I want that…don’t I? I’m sure there are lots of writers who think that they do, but once you become published and you have to start promoting not only your books, but yourself as well, the question as to whether you really do want “fame and fortune” will hit you square on the nose.

I’ve heard it said that there is a price to be paid for said “fortune and fame.” It comes with responsibility to your readers, hard work to maintain the status you attain, and the risk of losing sight of your true goal, which for most of us is doing what we are passionate about—writing.  

Writers who are pounding down those agent’s and editor’s doors, or considering the indie-pub route might want to ask themselves if they are ready for success and all that comes with it.

Are you ready? How will you measure success?