I’m new to the indie author game, and I don’t know much about marketing.
That said, I’ve just finished reading Joanna Penn’s HOW TO MARKET A BOOK, and already regularly listen to her CreativePenn podcast (as well as the Sell More Books Show) so I am learning.
It’s a damnable steep curve though.
This past Saturday I published my short story collection, CONFINED SPACES on Kindle Direct. It’s a collection of seven stories by a virtually unknown author, so I knew that there weren’t going to be many people who’d just charge out and buy it. But I’m building a brand here and I wanted it to try and get it to as many as people as possible.
Fortunately, every 90 days you’re on it, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) allows you to give your book away free for five whole days.
But, and this is something I’ve learnt in the six months since I put FOLIAGE online and started this ball rolling, giving books away for free isn’t actually that easy.
From the outside staring in, you’d think it would be. Why wouldn’t somebody just pick up some fiction for no money at all if with just the click of a button?
But then, there are so many free books out there. Millions of pages of free fiction. I know of people who have vowed to never buy another book again, and in a way, I can kind of see their point. There’s enough free prose that even if the average person spent the rest of their lives reading it, they’d never get near the end.
So, even if I put my book free for a couple of days, I was still facing competition at every angle of the 360.
How then to get noticed?
Well, I got the stories properly edited and had a professional cover designed. But the possibility of being ignored was still incredibly high.
My author platform is small, it’s embryonic, but I’m slowly trying to build it up, and besides, this is all about the learning. So, I started to run my own low-fi advertising campaign. There are 7 stories in the book, and so I found 7 images that matched these stories.
These images all were in copyright (some magnificently obviously so – Elizabeth Taylor, and the still from PSYCHO), you can however post all kinds of images on your blog and on Twitter. I’m no IP expert, but as long as I didn’t use them in paid adverts – a big ‘BUY MY BOOK’ over the top of Janet Leigh and John Gavin – then I thought I should be fine.
(Although I already know that I’m going to be more careful in future and will scour through free stock images to get what I need.)
In the week leading up to publication, I posted one image a day on my blog, Twitter and Facebook. I don’t yet have a huge number of followers, but I have some and the number is growing. They were the obvious place to start. And people did comment positively on the blog, and re-tweet my tweets, so they reached a wider audience.
Then on the day of publication, I wrote a blog-post introduction to the collection on my blog, posted that on Facebook and boosted the post.
My past two attempts, I’ve had mixed results in boosting Facebook posts. I’ll be honest, Facebook is still a huge mystery to me. I didn’t join up until earlier this year, and even now only ever use it for my writing life, not my personal life. But I’m the indie-author mindset now, and if there’s a tool that can potentially connect to millions of people, then I’ve got to use it.
The mistake I made last time, I realised, was to go too broad. When you target your boost, you can choose location and interests. Hitherto I’d gone for a smorgasbord of interests: from ‘ebook readers’, ‘short story fans’, ‘thriller fans’. It was much too wide. I had a lot of clicks, but not many conversions and my budget was pointlessly eaten up.
This time I just went for ‘horror readers’. Nothing else.
It was just ‘horror readers’ in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia.
Horror readers are after all my people, they are the ones I want to appeal to.
I set a budget for £120 and ran the advert for a day, and quickly realised it was going much more successfully than last time. Last time I struggled to get above a few dozen copies shipped, this time it was close to 150. I was getting more than one conversion for each pound I’d spent.
What’s more, because I was directing those interested souls to my blog post with the Amazon links, rather than to Amazon itself, I had sign-ups to my mailing list too!
While the Facebook promotion was running, I did bombard Twitter and Goodreads as well, so I’m sure clicks came from other directions. And yes, that would have messed up my data slightly.
At the end of the twenty-four-hour promotion, I was pleased. Given the last time I did a promotion, it was so unsuccessful it would probably have been cheaper to drive around the houses of those who were interested and hand them a free copy, I was actually delighted.
With the paid promotion over, I then bombarded the various ‘free book’ pages on Facebook, to let people know it was still available for nothing (and kept going with Twitter as well) and got an extra hundred downloads from that.
The end result was more than 250 people now have a digital copy of CONFINED SPACES. That isn’t a huge number, of course it isn’t. If I want to make a career out of this, I’ll have to aim for launches in the thousands. But, I would estimate that that is more than two hundred people who had never heard of me before last weekend, and now have my work on their Kindle.
Whether they read it is another matter, but I’m getting my name known, and – of course – marketing on this book will continue.
I don’t envisage publishing the first part of my big epic trilogy until October 2018, and hope to have a firmer grasp of marketing and reaching an audience by then. Everything I publish before then, I’ll be immensely proud of and want people to read, but they’ll also be a way for me to hone my skills.
It’s all about baby steps in the general right direction, and right now I feel like I’m following the correct path.
If you’re interested you can join my mailing list and pick up a free FRJ short story right here.