Monday, July 23, 2018

Celeste Barclay

Lessons Learned from a Self Publishing Author Part 2

Self Publishing Image

Hello Reader,

Before we get started, comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome!

Let's recap part 1 before we move on.

Kindle Direct Publishing (Kindle Books)

1. You can upload your manuscript to be published as both  Kindle ebooks or Kindle book (paperback).  
2. KDP Select means that you have 90 day enrollments where Amazon books has sole distribution rights to your book.  This allows you to get into the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library.  Once you have all of that set, you can move on to advertising and publicizing through KDP.
3. KDP Advertising allows you to run two types of ad campaigns-- product display and sponsored product.  You can also do Kindle Countdown Deals and giveaways.
4. Royalties and KDP dashboard let you know how things are progressing.  The KDP dashboard is where you uploaded and got started.  It also has all of your sales reports and tracks your royalties.  
5. Amazon Author Central is the page that shows up when someone clicks your name under your book's listing.  Be sure to claim this! 

Ok---that's the long and the short of Part 1.  Now for the new stuff....

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing, and Some More Marketing

I'm going to start off with what I did the first time around, and then what I plan to do for the next launch.  Two very different approaches: novice and experienced.

Novice:  I launched my book...and then thought, "okay, now what do I do?"  I started researching how to market my book, and the recurring theme was the importance of reviews---and how I should have gotten some lined up before the book's launch.  Woopsies!
I googled how to get free book reviews (you can't review your own book even if you have a different Amazon account or write under a pen name like I do.  HUGE no-no.  Amazon also really doesn't want you to get a ton of your family and friends to blitz the review section.  They want it to be authentic and organic.  That doesn't mean it actually is, but I'll get to that in a moment).  I generally really like the information and how-to's that I got from Kindlepreneur, but there was a piece of advice that consumed a lot of time and gave me essentially no benefits.  They recommend that you go through the reviews for books that are similar to yours and click on the top reviewers.  Some Amazon reviewers have their email or website in their profile.  You then write a very polite email (I'll show you a sample below) to request a review.  About 9 times out of 10, you won't hear back from anyone.  I did get my first review that way, but all my other emails went unanswered.  Super frustrating!  And kinda scary when it's radio silence.

My ad placements and being part of KDP Select for Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library is what saved my bacon.  As I said in part 1, most of my royalties come from the pages read from the downloads.  This isn't ideal, but I'm still learning.

Experienced:  This is partially what I have started to do for my first novel and what I plan to do for the upcoming one.

Reviews!  Actually, hold up.  Social Media!
A. I decided to start blogging as soon as I released the book.  Scroll back through....you'll see some breaks between posts.  That's because I was working, being a mom, and writing the second book.  I strongly suggest creating a website and a blog.  Give yourself amble time to blog, even if they're short ones.  Discuss the characters, the setting, the behind the scenes, your motivation, etc.  Things that will help the reader better understand and appreciate your work.  Blog about your experience becoming an author, such as this two part blog.  I'm posting this "live" just like I did part 1, but write a few posts and upload them on dates you choose if that makes it more time efficient.  The point is: interact with your potential audience.  Share your posts on your social media and vice versa.

B. Last week, I created Twitter and Instagram accounts for writer-me and launched a Facebook page for writer-me (see the right sidebar or click these links).  Be active on your social media!  It doesn't count if you create accounts/profiles and then do nothing.  You look like a spammer.  The single best move I made in the way of marketing and getting reviews is creating my Twitter account.  I have found more reviewers than I ever did with the search Amazon method or even googling review sites for my genre.  The other day, I sent out about a dozen requests.  Before the end of the evening, I had heard back from four.  I've sent out a few more requests and have gotten a few yeses and a few nos.  Twitter will let you leapfrog to the more active review sites rather than hoping Google returns with strong results.  You do have to accept that these are often professional bloggers or reviewers, so it's first come, first serve.  You may have to take a number and be patient.  Even so, I got a way higher ROI for my efforts.  If you get a "yes but not until __" that's fine.  Follow up with them about two weeks before their expected delivery/posting date just to remind/confirm.  I have an excel spreadsheet with their names, email, website, date of request, answer, and posting date.

Now About Those Reviews

C. Be sure you have a Mobi and/or ePub edition of your work along with a PDF.  The first two are the versions that most reviewers want because they are tablet/ereader friendly.  If you don't know what those are, Google them.  Basically, they're just file types.  I honestly don't remember which site I used, but there are plenty out there, and they're FREE.  Start contacting reviewers before your book release.  Get some reviews lined up.  They will have to clearly state that an honest review was given in exchange for a free copy from the author.  They won't be able to post to Amazon or Goodreads until your book is live, but they can do it really soon after.  Also consider putting your book onto Amazon books / Kindle ebooks for pre-order.  Build excitement and anticipation this way.

D. Build a relationship with your reviewers.  Follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  Some may ask for reciprocal reviews--I'll review yours if you review mine.  This can get a little dicey in the world of Amazon rules and can just be awkward.  If you do agree, I would consider buying the book (digitally cause that's usually cheaper) rather than getting a free copy that way you show up as a verified purchase.  Let reviewers know if your work is available through Kindle Unlimited that way they download for "free" but are a verified buyer too.  I would also wait to read and review until they've done yours first.

Marketing Services for Hire

E. Carefully consider buying services.  Purchasing reviews is not allowed on Amazon.  See my note above about authentic and organic.  That doesn't mean it isn't done.  The simple fact of the matter is you may be competing against authors who do buy their reviews, and therefore, have a gazillion compared to your handful.  Amazon has now instituted a policy where a user cannot submit a review until they've spent at least $50.  Great for them ($$$ and keeps the phonies out), but not great if you, say, only have Kindle Unlimited.  You would have to wait 5 months ($9.99/month) to submit a review.  If you're like me, that could be well over a 100 books. So what's the alternative???  The services that you might consider purchasing are:
    1. Tweet blasts--the company or website will offer different packages of how many tweets per day they will do.
    2. Blog blasts--the company or website will submit your info to a specified number of bloggers so that it will appear either as a featured book or be mentioned in a post.
    3. Blog tours--this is what I'm seriously considering for this new book's launch.  Remember back in the olden days when authors sat at bookstores and autographed their new releases? (They do still do that.)  This is a virtual one of those.  It allows you to be featured on several websites and blogs.  Most will include Twitter blasts, Instagram and Facebook posts, event hashtag, interviews, opportunities to guest blog, ad placement, custom ads and banner, and encouragement for reviews to be cross-post on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble.  Facebook Launch Parties enable you to do live feeds, and the company will organize getting readers/viewers, giveaways, and contests.  You can usually decide if you want to do a 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days blog tour.  Check around for virtual tour sites within your genre, and then compare the prices. *** Once you're established and have some reviews under your belt, consider becoming a tour host.  Those reciprocal relationships aren't just about swapping reviews.  It's also about building readership and getting access to potential readers.  In my genre, here's an example: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
My plan for now is to do a blog tour.  I need to figure out a day that I can be available to do a Facebook Launch Party (a minimum of two hours).  After the blog tour (I'm only willing to try 30 days until I know whether it's worth it for me and my books), then I will consider the tweet blasts.

F. List your book on multiple sites.  You may decide to publish through KDP Select and remain with it which means Amazon has exclusive rights to distribution.  That doesn't mean you can't list your book on other sites for visibility.  For example, sites like All AuthorBookluver (this one is kind of like Pinterest, and I'm still trying to figure out how to use it), NetGalleryBookLife, and Kindle Book Review are all sites where you can get free (and paid for if you really want to get noticed) visibility and listings.  Goodreads, Goodreads, Goodreads!  Be sure to claim your book(s) on there and build your writer profile.  Thousands of people are on there, and they recommend books to friends and strangers.  Take advantage of the opportunity.

The real deal is this: If you want to be successful, writing a good book is crucial, but the leg work after the writing is what sells the units.  There are some horrible books out there that sell because of marketing and good copy for their description.  The good books that sell well have all the essential elements plus strong marketing.  It takes time and a lot of effort (and sometimes some money, so be prepared) to get your book out to the world.  The writing is often the easy part.

Make a plan and go for it!  You won't know until you try.

Good luck, y'all.


Sample review request email:

Dear Mr or Ms __________,

I found your contact information on (insert website or social media site). I see that your favorite genres tend to be contemporary or paranormal romances, but I hope to tempt you into another section of romances (or something that shows that you actually looked at their website instead of just getting their email from their profile.  Personalize!).

In April I released a novel, titled His Highland Lasson Amazon.  It is a historical romance, and I hope I might interest you in reading and reviewing it.  It is currently available on Kindle, including Kindle Unlimited, and in paperback. It is about 140 pages in length.

(Short synopsis) Arranged to marry his stepbrother, Laird Tristan Mackay cannot takes his eyes off of Lady Mairghread Sinclair. When things rapidly sour between Tristan's stepbrother, Sir Alan, and Lady Mairghread,  Tristan wonders if there is any chance for him to find love with the spirited brunette. https://amzn.to/2JA1w6L

I would really appreciate you taking the time to read and review my novel.  I look forward to seeing any feedback that you may have on Amazon or Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17959368.Celeste_Barclay), and a Tweet would be helpful.

I can send you a Mobi or PDF.  Whichever you prefer.

Thank you.


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