Posts Categorized: Publishing/marketing

‘The Plains of Kallanash’: the first month

October 16, 2014 Publishing/marketing, The Plains of Kallanash 2

A month ago, my first fantasy novel went live on Amazon. This is a status report of what’s happened to it since.

Marketing strategy

Erm… what marketing strategy? Experienced authors publishing their umpteenth book plan the launch with meticulous attention to detail, organising street teams to post reviews and spread the word, scheduling promotional campaigns with military precision and adjusting on a daily or even hourly basis if sales and rankings underperform. I didn’t do any of that. The received wisdom is that sales can’t be expected to take off until the third book at least, and even then only in popular, high-turnover genres like romance and YA, and when the books are arranged into a neat series. I write stand-alones, loosely linked but not in a series, in epic fantasy with added romance (sort of). So a big promotional push would almost certainly be a waste of money.

My sole plan was to announce the book’s existence to online friends via my blogs, Twitter, Google+ and the writerly forums where I hang out. The price was set nice and cheap ($0.99) initially to allow those who know me to pick up a copy without breaking the bank, and I opted into Amazon’s Select program to take advantage of the free days later. Since Amazon allowed pre-orders for everyone shortly before release day, it seemed good to give that a whirl. I sent out a few ARCs a couple of weeks beforehand.

Once I got some print copies ordered, I started a Goodreads Giveaway (which won’t allow ebooks). I’m only offering two books, so the total cost will be the cost of the books plus postage. I also found a nice little promotions list on Kboards geared to new and undiscovered books (low rankings and/or few reviews). It’s only $15, so it’s worth a shot.

Expectations

I’m a realist (read: pessimist). Or perhaps it comes from studying statistics in the past. I know the chances of a big take-up are vanishingly small, so my expectations were correspondingly low. I reckoned I could sell 15-20 copies to online friends, and thereafter perhaps 1-2 copies a week to random strangers. So somewhere between 50 and 100 copies in the first six months. With reviews, I thought maybe 3-4 initially from online friends and ARCs, and then odd ones here and there. I couldn’t estimate borrows at all. Some people seem to get loads, some none at all. The Kindle Unlimited program is too new for me to guess how it might affect me.

Results: Sales

I had 12 pre-orders, then two good days of 10 and 9 sales apiece. After that things slowed to a trickle, averaging roughly one sale per day for a while and then dwindling. There were 3 returns. Total sales 58, of which 42 were from the US, 12 from the UK, and 4 from the rest of the world. So expectations exceeded.

Results: Borrows

7 borrows. I noticed quite a few spikes in rankings unrelated to sales, so I’m guessing those were from borrow downloads which may (or may not) turn out to be actual reads later (a reader has to get to the 10% mark to trigger an entry on the report, and therefore a payment).

Results: Reviews

Here’s where everything fell flat on its face. I got one review on UK Amazon a couple of days after publication, and a deliciously complimentary 5* review on Amazon.com after a couple of weeks (thank you, random stranger!), but otherwise, nothing.

Results: Promotions

The Goodreads giveaway resulted in more than five hundred signups, about half of whom added the book to their to-read shelf. It also gave me a few ratings on Goodreads: 3 at 4*, 4 at 3*, with one 2*, with an average of 3.25. No reviews attached (apart from a repeat of an Amazon one), but I assume the ratings came from people who have bought and read the book. The objective of raising awareness of the book was achieved, as well as a few sales (and it still has a couple of weeks to run). The Kboards Discovery Day promotion, which cost me $15, resulted in zippo. However, a Twitter account called KU Spotlight (@KUSpotlight) has been tweeting about books in Kindle Unlimited, including mine, and that’s resulted in a couple of mini-spikes of sales/borrows (although nothing since: the law of diminishing returns).

Conclusions

This is pretty much in line with my expectations. Perhaps a little better, although things tailed off quicker than I’d hoped. It was fun to watch the early sales come in and see my Amazon rankings shoot up after a sale and then meander down again.

Why am I telling you all this? Most self-published authors don’t talk about sales figures or rankings (unless they have something special to boast about). I certainly don’t have any results worth boasting about, that’s for sure. But that’s exactly the point: this is a book by a debut author that’s not in a hot genre and hasn’t had any hype or promotional push; low sales are exactly what would be expected. Too many new authors publish their first book and expect the world to fall at their feet. For a very, very small number of people, that does happen. For most people, no.

Books don’t just sell themselves. The first book sells to the author’s friends and family, with only a sprinkling of random sales to strangers. It takes several books (typically three, but it could be many more) to gain some traction and sell in reasonable numbers. Even then, sales drop off without constant promotion. Bestselling author Hugh Howey said recently that his sales were a quarter of what they used to be, because he hasn’t put out a new full-length novel since January.

So, for all aspiring and published authors out there, here are my numbers for your edification or amusement. Sometimes it seems as if all you hear about is the outliers, the hugely successful breakout hits. This is a reminder of what’s normal for self-publishers.

Future plans

For the future, I have some promotion to take advantage of because of KDP Select. I’ve chosen to go for the five free days. The Countdown option runs for longer, brings in actual money and impacts on sales rankings, whereas the free days only affect ranking in the free charts. However, free days are likely to shift more copies, and at the moment I feel it’s more important to get the book out there and (possibly) read than to make any money from it.

If you want to mark your calendars: Kallanash will be free on 25/26 Oct (to coincide with the end of the Goodreads giveaway), and again on 3/4/5 Dec (for no particular reason). I’ve booked a cheap promotion for the 25 Oct, so I hope to shift a few copies then. If you’ve already got a copy (thank you!), please tell your friends about the free days so that as many people as possible can take advantage.

Looking further ahead, the next book, ‘The Fire Mages’, will be published probably in early January, and the third, ‘The Mages of Bennamore’, around May or so. That will be the point at which I will start thinking seriously about promotion.

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A new review of ‘The Plains of Kallanash’

October 15, 2014 Publishing/marketing 0

There haven’t been many reviews yet – one on Amazon, one on the UK Amazon also posted to Goodreads – so every extra one is much appreciated. Today marks the first review by a book blogger, although, to be fair, Anachronist is an online friend of some years’ standing, and also my fellow contributor over at book review site Fantasy Review Barn. She also beta read Kallanash for me, so not quite a random stranger.

Here’s a snippet from the review:

However you know what I liked the best? Like in real life there were no baddies rotten to the core, no really. Or rather I should say the baddies were so three-dimensional and complicated that, after a while, you didn’t perceive them as completely negative characters.

You can read the full review (and many other great book reviews) at Anachronist’s blog here. And watch out for her interview with me, too. [ETA: You can read it here. Some interesting and unusual questions in there.]

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‘The Fire Mages’: beta readers wanted

October 8, 2014 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 4

Another book, another step on the road to publication. Yes, ‘The Fire Mages’ is critiqued and revised, and now it’s ready for beta readers. But here’s the problem: only two people have read it from beginning to end so far, and they both loved it. My daughter loved it so much that when I told her I was revising it, she said: ‘No! Don’t change anything.’

So now I’m looking for readers who will tear it to shreds and tell me everything that’s wrong with it. I want people who will find the plot-holes, the implausibilities, the continuity errors. Because nothing’s perfect, right?

‘The Fire Mages’ is quite different from ‘The Plains of Kallanash’, being a much more conventional fantasy work. It’s about a young girl with an unusual ability, a coming-of-age story. If I knew how to define the YA genre, it might be that, too. There’s plenty of action but also a strong romantic element. It’s a stand-alone work, with no connection to the previous book except that they are both set in the same world.

If you’d like to help, all you have to do is read the book and let me know what you thought worked and what didn’t work. It’s about 150,000 words (approximately 450 pages), and I can supply it in mobi, epub or pdf format. If you’d like to beta read it, email me.

Here’s the detail:

Kyra has always been drawn to the magic of spellpages. She is determined to leave her small village far behind and become a scribe, wielding the power of magic through her pen. Halfway through her training, she has a mage as patron and her ambitions are within her grasp. But a simple favour for her sister goes disastrously awry, destroying Kyra’s dreams in an instant.

Devastated, she accepts an offer from a stranger to help her find out what went wrong. The young man sees growing power within Kyra, potentially stronger than spellpages or any living mage. The answers to unlocking that power may lie within the glowing walls of the Imperial City, but its magic is strong and the unwary vanish without trace on its streets. Thirsty for knowledge and desperate to avoid another accident, she feels compelled to risk it.

While she focuses on controlling her abilities, a storm of greed and ambition boils up around her. Kyra is a pawn in the struggle for dominance between unscrupulous factions vying for rule of her country. Trusting the wrong side could get her killed–or worse, the potent magic she barely understands could be put to unthinkable evil.

 

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Milestone achieved: fifty sales

September 24, 2014 Publishing/marketing 7

When I pressed the ‘publish’ button for ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ twelve days ago, my expectations were realistic (read: low). First book, no platform, no horde of fans waiting anxiously. And no plan to promote the thing beyond telling people I know: hey, look, this book I’ve been wittering about? It’s out. So being realistic (read: pessimistic), I hoped to sell 15-20 copies to online friends, and thereafter perhaps a copy or so a week to random strangers. Maybe 50 copies in the first six months.

Today when I checked my sales stats I found a nice surprise: a sale in Germany which brought the total sales up to 50. My first milestone achieved already. It isn’t much of a milestone, but it’s more than I expected at this stage, which is pleasing. So ‘Danke’, random stranger in Germany. I hope you enjoy the book.

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Published!

September 13, 2014 Publishing/marketing 8

Yes, ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is finally published. Hurray!

Since it’s been on pre-order for a week or two, my daughter and stayed up until midnight to watch it go live on Amazon.co.uk. Eight hours later, it went live in the US. If I’d planned things better, I could have watched the roll-out around the world, starting in Australia. Then there was the paperback version to get up and running, which took a few hours for all the kinks to work out. Mid-afternoon, the ‘look-inside’ feature was activated. And then there were sales reports to watch and rankings to track and royalties to check. And hey, I’ve made around $5.00 already. Better get that Ferrari ordered… Oh, wait, there are refunds… 🙁

Last night I threw myself a launch party, with champagne and nibbles and a cake with ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ inscribed on the top in icing. And I’ve had a whale of a time. This publishing business is fun. 🙂

You can buy ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ at a special introductory price at:

Big Amazon

UK Amazon

Australian Amazon

Canadian Amazon

And all other regional Amazons. Also on Kindle Unlimited.

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is an epic fantasy adventure with a strong romantic element. Here’s the blurb:

Thousands of years after a magical catastrophe reshaped the world and pulled the moons out of alignment, the secret of magic has seemingly been lost. At the centre of the vast, forbidding Plains of Kallanash lies a land ruled by a secretive religion, whose people fight a never-ending war against the barbarians in the wilderness beyond the border.

Amongst the nobility, double marriages are the norm. Junior wife Mia always dreamed of attracting the attention of the dashing lead husband, but never dared to compete against her lively older sister. Hurst has spent ten frustrating years as junior husband, longing to test his skill with a sword in battle, longing for his beloved Mia to turn to him.

The mysterious death of Mia’s sister thrusts the marriage into turmoil. As Mia and Hurst struggle to adjust and find out what happened, they uncover sinister truths about the ruling religion. But the gods are unforgiving; even Mia’s innocent questions carry a terrible punishment. Hurst is prepared to risk everything to save her, even if it means taking up his sword against the barbarians, his own people, and the gods themselves.

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‘The Plains of Kallanash’ now available for pre-order

August 30, 2014 Publishing/marketing, The Plains of Kallanash 5

The book is written, the final edits are done, the cover artwork is finished, formatting is complete and the files are uploaded to KDP. So now I just have to wait until the publication date I’ve decided on before pushing the button.

But hang on a minute – Amazon now has a cool new toy for self-publishers. We can set a book up for pre-orders, just like the big boys. Even a complete newbie like me. I dithered a bit about it – once the date gets close, I can’t change anything! And what if I’ve made a mistake! It’s a bit like those did-I-leave-the-gas-on moments when you’re on the way to the airport.

But my daughter assured me it would be cool to have pre-ordering available, so I went for it. And – hey presto! ‘Tis done.

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is now available for pre-ordering, at special introductory prices.

Here’s the page at various Amazons:

Big Amazon $0.99

UK Amazon £0.77

Australian Amazon $1.07

Canadian Amazon $1.09

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is an epic fantasy adventure with a strong romantic element. Here’s the blurb:

Thousands of years after a magical catastrophe reshaped the world and pulled the moons out of alignment, the secret of magic has seemingly been lost. At the centre of the vast, forbidding Plains of Kallanash lies a land ruled by a secretive religion, whose people fight a never-ending war against the barbarians in the wilderness beyond the border.

Amongst the nobility, double marriages are the norm. Junior wife Mia always dreamed of attracting the attention of the dashing lead husband, but never dared to compete against her lively older sister. Hurst has spent ten frustrating years as junior husband, longing to test his skill with a sword in battle, longing for his beloved Mia to turn to him.

The mysterious death of Mia’s sister thrusts the marriage into turmoil. As Mia and Hurst struggle to adjust and find out what happened, they uncover sinister truths about the ruling religion. But the gods are unforgiving; even Mia’s innocent questions carry a terrible punishment. Hurst is prepared to risk everything to save her, even if it means taking up his sword against the barbarians, his own people, and the gods themselves.

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Wattpad: final thoughts

August 30, 2014 Publishing/marketing 3

With the publication of ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ rapidly approaching, I’ve finally taken down most of the chapters posted on Wattpad, so that I can sign up for Amazon’s exclusive program, KDP Select. I’ve left six chapters up as a sample, but I don’t expect them to get many reads.

I started posting the book on Wattpad a chapter at a time, many months ago, and then posted the remaining chapters more than a month ago. So how did it do? Some numbers:

Total reads: 2,018 (each chapter viewed counts as one read)

Votes: 344

Comments: 156

This is barely a blip in the Wattpad world, where the most popular books garner reads in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions. It’s more interesting to look at individual chapters.

Chapter 1: 450 reads

Chapter 2: 69 reads

Chapter 3: 60 reads

Chapter 4: 54 reads and so on.

So a lot of people looked at the first chapter, decided it wasn’t for them and moved on. This is very similar to potential purchasers looking at the sample on Amazon. I have no idea whether this is a typical distribution or not, but it’s not unexpected.

After the precipitous drop-off on chapter 2, numbers drifted slowly downwards through the first third of the book as readers lost interest or became distracted by newer, shinier books or real life. After that point, numbers stabilised, so virtually everyone who got to the one third point went on to finish the book. When a reader voted to say they enjoyed a chapter, I got a timed notification of that, so I could sometimes track a reader’s progress over many hours (in one case, eleven hours!). That was fascinating. But most readers didn’t vote or leave comments, they simply read, anonymously.

So how did Wattpad work out? In the early days, I participated in the forums, read and commented on other work and generally interacted with a lot of people. I followed 28 people, and acquired a similar number of followers (there’s quite a lot of tit-for-tat following amongst authors). After two or three months, my participation dropped to nothing, but the book had developed some modest momentum, and continued to attract new readers. I now have 43 followers.

Wattpad is a great place for beginning writers to stretch their wings in a friendly and supportive environment, but the lack of rigorous critique means it won’t help writers to improve. It’s also a good place for published authors to post a permafree book. It’s not great for building a fanbase of paying customers; Wattpadders like their free books. Even writers with vast numbers of fans on Wattpad have trouble translating that into sales.

For me, Wattpad was an interesting experiment. I enjoyed being part of the Wattpad community, and I found some awesome books to read (although you have to search for the good stuff). However, it was really the wrong time and wrong book to post, and if I’d known I would have to take it down to join KDP Select, I would never have started posting. I don’t regret posting there, I just wish I could have left the whole book on Wattpad and also had the freedom to sell it exclusively on Amazon. But self-publishing is about making these decisions for myself, and determining the direction of my writing career. Given the choice between selling the book on Amazon or giving it away on Wattpad, it’s really a no-brainer.

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‘The Plains of Kallanash’: ARCs available

August 17, 2014 Publishing/marketing 8

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is getting closer to publication! I now have ARCs available, so if anyone out there would like a copy to read for review, please email me at brightmoon@paulinemross.co.uk. I have both mobi and epub formats available (sorry, no print copies yet). Reviews can be posted immediately on Goodreads or your blog, and on Amazon after publication in mid-September.

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is an epic fantasy adventure with a strong romantic element. Here’s the blurb:

Thousands of years after a magical catastrophe reshaped the world and pulled the moons out of alignment, the secret of magic has seemingly been lost. At the centre of the vast, forbidding Plains of Kallanash lies a land ruled by a secretive religion, whose people fight a never-ending war against the barbarians in the wilderness beyond the border.

Amongst the nobility, double marriages are the norm. Junior wife Mia always dreamed of attracting the attention of the dashing lead husband, but never dared to compete against her lively older sister. Hurst has spent ten frustrating years as junior husband, longing to test his skill with a sword in battle, longing for his beloved Mia to turn to him.

The mysterious death of Mia’s sister thrusts the marriage into turmoil. As Mia and Hurst struggle to adjust and find out what happened, they uncover sinister truths about the ruling religion. But the gods are unforgiving; even Mia’s innocent questions carry a terrible punishment. Hurst is prepared to risk everything to save her, even if it means taking up his sword against the barbarians, his own people, and the gods themselves.

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Another new cover

August 14, 2014 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 4

When I arranged for the cover for ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ with Streetlight Graphics, there was a lead time of several months. So, thinking ahead to the release of the next book, ‘The Fire Mages’, I thought I’d better get on and book it early, so I wasn’t held up waiting for it. Inevitably, a slot came up much sooner than I expected, so, lo and behold, I have another cover to reveal.

‘The Fire Mages’ is set in a different part of the same world, and is more town-based, so I wanted a more built-up feel to the cover. However, the designer, Glendon Haddix, has kept the turbulent sky, fonts and layout to give a very ‘series’ feel to the two covers, even though they’re both stand-alone books. And he’s taken the ‘fire mage’ aspect to produce a very striking image which captures both the fantasy and romance elements. I think he’s done a great job.

Here are the two covers side by side for comparison:

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On Wattpad and KDP Select

July 19, 2014 Publishing/marketing 7

Now that I’m getting closer to publishing ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ in September, I’ve been starting to think about marketing (for want of a better term). Which online retailers to sell through, pricing and all that jazz. And how to build up some awareness of the book beyond the three regular readers of this blog (hi folks! {waves}).

I had already devised a plan to post ‘The Plains of Kallanash’, chapter by chapter, on Wattpad, a process that would take many months. I’ve now uploaded more than half the book, and somewhere around the two-thirds point would fall the actual date of publication to Amazon. The idea was to make Wattpad readers aware of the book itself while uploading the final chapters, and even if that didn’t translate into sales, it might generate a review or two.

But then I started looking into Amazon’s programs in more detail, in particular, the KDP Select program, which offers an author certain benefits in exchange for exclusivity. I’m not too bothered about making the book available on iTunes or Kobo, at least, not at the moment – I’m all for keeping it simple, while I’m learning how this self-publishing lark works. So KDP Select is a no-brainer, surely?

Well, no. Read more »

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