- Advertising works, even when you are not getting clicks. Spend sixty dollars on a Goodreads campaign and play with the text every now and then to test the traction. Link straight to your retailer page – you want people be directed to where they can buy your book. If they click, the fund goes down. If they don’t, they’re seeing the cover of your novel, even if they’re not directly looking at it. Thousands of people will see your book advertisement each month. Never underestimate the power of the familiar subconscious.
- Get on Goodreads. Without Goodreads my novel would be sitting sadly on Amazon, all alone, with two or three reviews. Granted, it only has six now but lots of people are seeing it through my regular giveaways and over 1,400 people have added it to their ‘to read’ list. That means something, right?
- With reference to the above, run regular giveaways. Just list one copy of your book, make the eligibility worldwide and let it run for a couple of months. Then when a winner is chosen put the next one up. It’s not exactly free advertising but it’s pretty cheap advertising – your book is being continuously advertised in the giveaway section. People’s friends will see when they enter thus spreading the word.
- Tweet! I do not Tweet nearly enough, but I try. If you’re doing giveaways or Kindle Countdown Deals let the users of social media know. Make a Facebook event, mention it in blogs, email group organisers on Goodreads and (responsibly) ‘spam’ the relevant folders in the forums. Just let readers know what’s happening, when; and share your excitement about your book as often as you can.
- It seems to be the thing for authors to follow five thousand people on Twitter in order to get five thousand people to follow them back. Except at some point they start to unfollow those five thousand people to make themselves look established. If they’re all doing it, it probably works, but it’s entirely false. Mostly they’re all just DMing each other asking one another to read their currently free book (yes, I know they’re probably selling more novels than me).
- Time is money, money is time. Do you have the money to splurge £500 on your latest advertising campaign? Can you pay for verified reviews from top reviewing/endorsement agencies? No? Do you have 36 hours a day to make the posters and find the reviewers/endorsers yourself? No? Do you have the money to get someone else to do it all for you instead?
- Promotion is time consuming and time spent not writing, but it works. 17 ratings on Goodreads may seem a low amount to most authors (shh, I’m going somewhere with this), but there are plenty of self-published (and agency-published) books out there that go their whole first year without. one. single. review. Oh, the horror.
- Visual aids help even the most learned of readers. Have a promotion? Then declare: FREE EBOOK! Now let’s try something more visual:
Slightly more eye-catching? no?
- Free ebook giveaways are better than discounted ebook sales. Whilst this is true for unknown authors like myself, someone like J. K. Rowling would probably benefit more from a discounted ebook giveaway bonanza. When I ran my Kindle Countdown deal with a discount on my novel, I achieved a grand total of 3 downloads. Better than none, obviously, and those people are probably more likely to leave a review. When I ran the free equivalent I got over 500 downloads. Have any of those people read my novel yet? There’s no way to tell. But it got me in the top five of the Arthurian books category for a couple of days at least (side note: Harry Potter is NOT ARTHURIAN!).
- Try to keep up with your social media appearances. Homely images of your novel next to coffee on Instagram will draw attention, or pen a declaration of how actively you are living the life of a writer. Share something like: New ideas for new scenes today. Writing from the heart, with a picture of you gazing out of a coffeeshop window. I haven’t tried it yet, but I see other people posting such stuff on Instagram and they get more likes than me, so they must be doing something right.
So things have been busy lately. Not busy in the sense that I’ve got mountains of work done, am now half way through to publishing book two (or indeed that children’s book I was working on), but busy in the sense that real life has got in the way. New job, new home, and a new schedule that so far has left little time for anything else other than working and sitting in the sofa each evening, thinking about how much you should be doing with your evening time versus how little you are actually doing (LOTRO, I blame you).
That said, I have managed to get a couple of things done and will get back into the swing of working on projects evening and weekends soon enough. I’ve just organised another Goodreads Giveaway for the months of June and July and, feeling festive, have sorted out a Kindle Countdown Deal for the Spring Bank Holiday. Ironically in order to do this I’ve been shut inside fiddling with graphics and promotional material rather than actually sitting outside enjoying said spring weather, but so far I’m pleased with what I have planned. The phrases I’ve used to make the promotional posters come from the pages of my novel itself; lifted straight off of the New National propaganda posters that Arthur walks past on a regular basis.
“Smile and the world smiles with you, read one. A happy worker is a happy person, read another. You have the things in life you deserve, proclaimed the next. And, would you know if your neighbour is housing illegals?“
These posters will be released randomly in the run up to the Goodreads Giveaway I’ve organised, hopefully to rally up some excitement, so watch this space. In the meantime I’m hoping to break through book two syndrome, you know – something halfway between blank page syndrome and where the hell do I start syndrome. Don’t panic if you were expecting me to have already drafted book two by now – it’s all there, ready to go and planned on paper – I just want to start it right.
Except then I remembered that book two isn’t book two at all. I don’t need to worry about starting a new novel – it’s a series. And more specifically the second instalment of the series was always intended to be the second half of Logres, married entirely to Volume One. In fact, they’re not even separate: they should be the same book, just divided into two publications. Suddenly I don’t have to worry about new novel syndrome. Now I can just pick up where I left off – start a new chapter – without worrying about the final finished polished package.
Meanwhile I’ll keep working working, will adapt to my new routine and continue to anxiously await reviews from my read-to-reviewers, the people who are offering an honest review in exchange for a free copy of my novel. Yes, I now know I should have organised all of this before my release date way back in December last year, but I’m new at this book-writing book-promotion thing, and really I’m learning as I go along.
With many thanks to Mlpmom (blogger, reviewer, and all-round nice person), I present to you my very first guest post: 14 things… The Future King: Logres, as hosted on Mlpmom’s amazing blog, My Guilty Obession!
Please do take a moment to visit My Guilty Obession to see what I’ve been up to. In my post I offer insight into what led me to the Arthurian Legends, how my characters first emerged and 14 things I learned whilst writing my debut novel. So check it out!
The Future King Logres is available to buy on Amazon!
Just click here.
So it’s over! My five day giveaway has come to an end, and downloading has gone quite well. Well enough for The Future King: Logres to shift up a spot and make it to number five in the free Arthurian charts on Amazon (see below)! Now that it’s no longer available for free, it’s been removed from the charts temporarily, and will probably be slotted back in much lower down until the paid sales start to trickle in.
Giving away your work for free isn’t something that is instinctive, and given the amount of work and time that goes into producing a self-published book it is compelling to have readers actually buy your book, especially after launch. You’ve got to earn back all those hours spent working for nothing but the love of your craft somehow. However, the reality is that a reader is more likely to give less for the work of a complete unknown than someone with an established track record, so despite any reservations I had it suddenly seemed instinctive to take the plunge and give my ebook away for free.
The whole five day thing worked out well (Amazon allows you to supply your ebook for free for a maximum of 5 days out of every 90 days), as it gave me time to build up momentum and get word around. Despite my modest social media following I managed to top 260 downloads, which quite honestly is many more than I was expecting.
If you’re in the same boat as me and you’re considering promoting your book (particularly if you’re about to or have just released it), then I would definitely recommend offering it for free for a short period. Obviously I’ve yet to see what number of reviews my giveaway will ultimately produce, but the more people who read an unknown book (and hopefully like it) the better – it should result in increased circulation and future sales.
If you are considering a free giveaway with zero budget I suggest the following:
- Prepare some eye-catching graphics that you can present across all your social media channels, a new one each day with a similar look and feel – sort of an e-flyer.
- If you have WordPress or a Facebook page, spend an afternoon preparing all your promo material and schedule your posts in advance – they’ll appear when you want them to and will give you more time on the day itself for actual book promotion.
- Ask your friends and family to reblog/share your posts to their friend networks – the more eyes that see your free ebook giveaway the better.
- Make use of the Goodreads website (or equivalent). I’ve only recently joined Goodreads myself, but there are thousands of members on there who are all looking for their next read – and they all appreciate a free book! Spend time posting in forums to build up your contacts, but more specifically look for groups that have specific threads where you’re encouraged to post news of your new book or free giveaway – I did this and it really helped circulate my ebook and gave me a boost on downloads.
- If you are on Goodreads you can create an event on your author page (good idea to set one up – just add your self-published book to the site, then declare that you are the author through your regular account – Goodreads will merge your account with your author account for you) and invite your friends. Send out as many invitations as you can, because the people you invite can also invite others to attend the event, maximising exposure.
- Don’t let things rest for too long. If you’re running your promo for multiple days, advertise, share and keep posting on every single one of those days. Don’t have a day off. Eventually your deal will get noticed by people outside of your regular friend sphere, and someone might be kind enough to share it.
- Make your offer very clear with exact start and end times, along with instructions on how use the offer. I found that a lot of people were having problems with the Amazon extensions. I was supplying a UK link, which meant that US or French customers couldn’t get the book for free because they were trying to make a purchase through the UK link. In the end I linked to those regions as well and detailed how to find the book when using a different Amazon site (you just change the site extension to your relevant region – e.g. .fr or .com).
Now that the free ebook promotion is over, I’m going to take a short break to a) apply to jobs, and b) continue with my other projects. Book promotion will have to be ongoing, but part of it is now a waiting game to see how those 260+ readers will take to TFK Logres and what sort of reviews they will leave (assuming everyone reads it!). I am hoping of course that they will love it enough to share it, but time will tell, so in the meantime I shall keep my head down and perhaps get back into writing book 2 instead.
Now to end with some more promotion as per my own advice. Though the 5 day deal has ended subscribers of Kindle Unlimited can still pick up TFK Logres for free, whilst it is now also listed at its regular price of £3.99. Still a steal for a 517 page book, no?
- There are many more file types than I thought. .rtf, .htm, .epub… but it’s .mobi that you want. According to Amazon, .mobi is the one.
- Making your book available on Kindle isn’t as straightforward as it seems. A quick conversion of your .pdf, and then you’re done? So. I. thought.
- Actually, the above requires a) removing all formatting from your original Word document that you exported for print, b) keeping any formatting as simple as possible, c) exporting your Word document as a .htm/.html file, d) running said .htm file through a converter, e) downloading Amazon’s Kindle previewer, f) downloading Amazon’s Kindle reader because the previwer doesn’t preview well, g) realising that your document hasn’t exported quite as you would like and, h) running through all the former to try and suss out where you went wrong.
- Oh, and on top of that you’ll read all sorts of blogs and tips about what you shouldn’t do (i.e., forcing a certain font type on your text), but do them anyway, because firstly you don’t know how not to do it, and secondly ‘Normal style’ completely undermines any alternative fonts you have made use of in your book (who doesn’t like Garamond, anyway?).
- At several moments, in desperation, you will break from your formatting to look into companies and services which promise to do all the hard work for you.
- You will bemoan, ‘but I just want it to look like a book!’. Specifically your book, which you just spent months perfecting in print.
- It comes to your attention at some point that perhaps you should have sorted out your Kindle file first, before your book launch, but then you remember that Createspace and Amazon told you that it would be easy.
- Perhaps this is easy, you then think, as you export your book for the third time wondering why your TOC (that you made in Word, as you were told), still isn’t working. Why? Why?
- After downloading independent software to export your book to .mobi for you, you realise that it is the conversion itself that has broken your TOC, and that you could have just edited your .htm document in Dreamweaver in the first place to fix all the links and the formatting issues instead.
- You find random things in the block of your book text (like a hyphen between two paragraphs) and then think, God, has that always been there…? then don’t want to look to double check just in case it is (you’ll do it later, or forget, or a reader will find it for you).
- Unless you are a professional proof reader, it is inevitable that you will always miss something (but then I wonder, do professional proof readers miss things too?).
- It is surprising how one can read a manuscript multiple times, catching double-spaces, incorrectly formatted dashes and dots, missing words, extra words, and yet on the hundredth read discover an entirely overlooked error – in my case missing speech marks at the end of some lines.
- Relying on speech & dictation to catch things for you is a very useful method (particularly for spotting typos) – but it is not to be relied upon 100%. Only yesterday my reader Alex decided to add ‘that’ into my sentence. Clearly he thought the sentence was better with an extra demonstrative pronoun.
- A formatted manuscript is much easier to spot mistakes in than a non-formatted manuscript. I suppose it’s the increased space between lines, the fewer words per page, or something.
- Fewer words per page and a smaller page size means that you’ll have twice as many pages to proof read, yet somehow because of this the whole task seems to go faster (120 pages per day! Woo!).
- Knowing when to stop proof reading is a real issue. How many times do you go through it? With each change lies the potential for fresh mistakes. What if you have a blind spot to the difference between her and his? You meant his, but you typed her. You might not see you typed her until your book is already in print.
- I suppose the above is why I am asking friends and family to read through my manuscript for me (trusting, of course, in their superior ability to sense typos in a sentence – much like those who sense a formidable, horrible disruption when one digit is off in pi – can you? 3.141592653589793238462643383279
- The fear of releasing one of those books that we’ve all come across – when you’re on page seven, and a word is missing, or wrong, or repeated – is quite possibly irrational, but also very real.
- Don’t try to proof read if you’re tired or hungry. Unless you’re in the right frame of mind whilst reading, you will approach the end of the chapter with the feeling you have not done as well as you could have, and then resign yourself to combing through the same pages again later, when you’re feeling a little less useless.
- With all the above taken into consideration, a novel can always be amended to fix any overlooked errors. After all, we all know that’s what editions are really for, right?
- Apparently, if you’re going to be making changes to your book after formatting, MS Word is your best choice as it’s easier to edit content. That, and InDesign is just scary if you don’t know how to use it at all, really – so what hope would one have when it comes to formatting a whole novel?
- You’ll probably start with a font size which will make your book seem shorter. But then you’ll change the page size, line spacing and margins, and suddenly your book will seem longer. Much longer. Not good if you’re self publishing and more pages=less profit.
- It is surprising how bookish your book will look with only the things mentioned in (2) formatted. Because yes, surprisingly, there is more. Once you do get to the ‘more’ part, MS Word will start to seem like a living, thinking thing that does illogical things just to annoy you. This sense of working with a living, thinking thing will not deter you from insulting it frequently with all kinds of profanities, however, and you will feel no guilt in doing so.
- If you’re a first time self-publisher and have no experience in publishing, well, anything, you’ll inevitably have to refer to other (more traditionally published) novels to figure out what yours should look like. This is useful, and you should do it. Pick one book you like the look of and use it as a point of reference. Preferably something from your genre. After all, you don’t want your crime-thriller looking like erotic fiction (though if it’s all about tension anyway, what’s really the difference?).
- Referring back to point (3). You will format, you will think you are done, and then you will notice something that isn’t as it should be. For example, paragraphs breaking on the next page, thus giving you uneven line-to-page frequency. (Tip: if you have this problem, uncheck window/orphan control in format/paragraph for the whole document to fill your pages completely with lots of lovely prose). There will be other things, but at least you will feel accomplished when you fix them.
- Even if you do the above and check off window/orphan control, if you have inserted chapter dividers that look fancy, this will knock off your layout on your lovely new-chapter pages. Still trying to figure out how to fix that one without simply changing the font size of the empty line above said fancy chapter dividers (because, somehow, that seems crude).
- Headers and footers are important – format them well! Choose ‘different odd/even pages’ and make sure you mirror your margins through format/document. This does something else to make it look more bookish. From looking at various books I have determined that authors usually have their name on the even page and the title of the book on the odd page.
- Inserting Section Breaks is an absolute nightmare. Seriously, first you figure out that you’re supposed to inset a Section Break relative to whether it’s an odd page or an even page, then you figure out how to get the page numbers to start at ‘1’ on the fourth actual page, and then you realise through exporting to PDF that each new Section Break has skipped a page number and thus created a ‘phantom page’ with nothing on it before every chapter in your document. Huzzah.
- Confident in all the abilities you have learned (as listed above), you calmly go through the document to rectify the problem, only to have one Section Break change reset all the others into a paradoxical chaos of wrong numbers and jumps and gaps where your book is suddenly longer or shorter than it actually is (but not really, hence the number-paradox).
- You fix the above (9) without screwing everything else up. But you’re still editing or there’s a few things left to change. You now wish you had finished the final draft before even attempting formatting, because you’re terrified the slightest change might destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Who knows? Maybe a paragraph more or less will confuse everything and you’ll be stuck undoing everything you’ve done in order to redo it properly. Let’s hope not.
- Pre-existing book covers are your friend. Look at them, examine them and focus on studying books in your genre, but don’t be too disappointed if your self-publishing platform doesn’t support the trim size you inevitably fall in love with as a result (five by seven, five by seven!).
- Make sure the cover correlates with the interior feel of the actual novel (and then dance about celebrating your own brilliance when you think of something that looks really cool).
- Having twenty layers live at once in Photoshop will destroy your computer. No, really. The fan on mine has just… died, or something.
- After spending four hours trying to align font at the bottom of your page to font at the top of your page, your eyes will go funny and everything will look wonky anyway.
- The longer you stare at the block colour red, the more it begins to look like some whacky gradient.
- Apparently due to variations in book binding the artwork for the cover will sometimes end up on the spine, and spine on the cover. You will be advised to avoid sharp lines and complex patterns, so naturally use them anyway.
- You should (and probably will) print out your book cover and wrap it around some other less important novel just to see what it looks like on a bookshelf (mighty good, I tell you).
- An actual, real life plastic ruler can be very helpful when determining layout spacing on your screen for the less technically gifted of us.
- Asking (non-graphic designery) people their opinion on your artwork can be confusing. Just focus on the things they agree on, and ignore anything they don’t.
- Making a book on a template before you have your final page count is just asking for trouble. You think you’re finished, then a last-minute cut adds or subtracts a page or two. New spine thickness, new document! Yeah!
- The Artists and Writers Yearbook is a must, but with my copy harking from 2013, I have discovered the internet to be just as useful.
- At first you apply to three agencies simultaneously, having heard the stories. Then five at once. Then eight at a time. When you start to fear they may all reject you, you begin to wonder how long you should wait until starting from number one again.
- Time is slow when you have queries pending, which (assuming you adopt the above) is always.
- Checking your emails seven times a day does not make time go faster.
- A request for a full manuscript will always fill you with joy.
- A rejection after a request for a full manuscript amends your expectations to ‘best case’ and ‘worst case’ scenario. The ‘worst case’ scenario is that you will receive an unaccompanied ‘no’. The ‘best case’ scenario is that you will get some usable feedback.
- The gratitude you feel when you finally do get tailored feedback is boundless. Agents are busy, we all know, which makes this feedback all the more valuable when someone does find the time to give it to you (thank you, really).
- Rejections pass like unusually-shaped clouds. At first they are something to point out, but soon they go unnoticed.
- Silence from an agent after a query is no reflection on you, but on the time they have spare to respond. Don’t take it personally.
- Despite the above, finding an agent who loves your work as much as you do is still a viable and possible dream. Worrying about what to do should two agents ask to represent you may be premature, but it is an inevitable fantasy.