Saturday, October 13, 2018

Celeste Barclay

Are you a success? How do authors know if they are successful?

 Hello Reader,

What is success anyway?

To each his own, I suppose...

I think a lot of authors, or people in general, ask themselves if they are successful. And the resounding answer is, "I dunno." I asked that question on a few of my social media threads, and the same answer came back over and over, other than "I dunno." It was what I feel is a rather trite qualitative answer: Success is whatever you make of it. And variations of that. Success might be selling one book. Success might be writing more than one book. Success is different for everyone.

Guess what... 

I already knew all of that. It still didn't answer my question, or at least they weren't satisfactory answers to me. I wanted something more quantitative. While I'm no formal mathematician, and I avoided a minor in Econ just so I wouldn't have to take Econometrics because that meant finally taking Calculus, I do like me some statistics (with two graduate degrees there was no way to avoid either Research Methods classes). I wanted objective answers, not subjective ones. I was lucky enough to stumble across an author, Sally Britton, in one Facebook group who led me to another Facebook group. While giving me that recommendation, she also, finally, gave me an answer that I could sink my teeth into.

And it was a doozy!  I took copious notes of which I'll give you the abridged version.

FAIL- First Attempt In Learning

I went into this little (ad)venture without having any clue what I was doing other than I wanted to write a book, pray that some people enjoyed it, and sell some copies.  I wrote it, edited it, published it, solicited reviews, and marketed it "all by myself"--apparently my favorite phrase as a preschooler-- and I had some "success."  This wasn't enough for me though.  I had already planned a series, and I wanted it to go somewhere.  Since I didn't enter into this with a business plan, I don't really count
Mairghread Sinclair and Tristan Mackay
book 1, His Highland Lass, as my launching pad, but rather how I tested the water.  Book 2, His Bonnie Highland Temptation, has really been my launching pad.

My steps come from someone who knows.
Since I really count my second book as my launch, I would say that Sally and I had a fairly similar start with royalties in the $100s for our first month.  When I heard this, I felt like I was talking to someone with whom I could relate.  I wasn't talking to someone who blew me so far out of the water that there was no hope of catching up.

Sally stumbled upon The Writing Gals and realized that she needed a lead magnet, which she wrote and uploaded.

Sally's second month, where she still had only one book published for sale, saw a growth of about $40s.  During her second month, she plunged into steps 2-4 below and published her second book.  By the end of her third month, she made her $500/month goal.  Month four was spent writing and marketing for her, and she focused on newsletter trades, giveaways, and creating her own Facebook readers group.  She ended the month with close to $1700 in royalties.

Month five was momentous!  Sally released her third book which happened to be in perfect sync with market demand for sweet romances (not quite my sub-genre), and she jumped to nearly $9k in royalties.  Wowzers!  She began listing on other sites such as EReaderNewsToday and Fussy Librarian.  She kept up with her Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) ads, swaps, and networking.

Month six was a breather from writing but not a breather from marketing.  She hosted a month-long Christmas in July style giveaway.  She networked with other authors to have more to offer; along with that, she marked down a book to free each weekend that month, and her royalties jumped to $13.5k.

Month seven saw another new release with over 2,000 preorders at $2.99 a piece.  She's since pulled her original lead magnet and put it up for sale.  Now, her books retail generally for $3.99.  That month, when I corresponded with her, she was projected to make $15.5k.

I'm willing to take her advice and believe her on how to quantify success.

Steps to success

1. Set a goal for how much you would like to earn.  In education, we talk about backward planning.  This basically means determine where you want to end up, and then figure out the plan to get there.  $500 a month sounds good to me!  That would pay for my writing expenses and give me some extra pin money.

2. Find some experts who already paved the path.  Sally recommended that I check out The Writing Gals on Facebook which led me to their YouTube channel, and I am SO glad that I did.  Oh, Mylanta!  I have found the proverbial pot of gold.  There are weekly podcasts that cover EVERYTHING an author could want to know.  There are episodes about writing for the romance genre which includes plotting storylines, picking or identifying tropes (the premise or theme of a story), and editing.  In this area, I felt pretty solid.  

It was the publishing information that blew me away! Double oh, Mylanta!  When I say publishing information, I don't refer to uploading it to a distribution channel.  I'm talking about everything that goes along with it after it's on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Kobo, etc.  

And here we go...

3. Lead magnets for authors are a thing, a really good thing.  I'd heard of these from other marketing experiences, but I didn't know it was a thing for books.  It makes complete sense, but as I've said numerous types before (see just about every other post I've written so far), I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.  Sally gave me a brief explanation of the concept, and then I turned to The Writing Gals for a more in-depth explanation.  I was in the middle of book 3 at this point, so I pushed through and finished writing that at the middle of September.  I then put that work in progress (WIP) off to the side to let it rest, and I churned out a lead magnet.  I started writing it on September 23rd and wrote the last period on October 4th.  It's a prequel novella that's close to 90 pages or 40,000 words.  I edited, got a cover, and just uploaded it to Book Funnel, My Book Cave, and Prolific Works (formally Instafreebie).  That resting WIP is now onto edits and revisions so it will be available on November 1st.
                I should pause for a moment and explain lead magnets in case you were like me
                and don't know what I'm talking about at this point.  A lead magnet is a book that
                will draw readers into your series or even your brand.  It's often free and a novella.
                Readers agree to sign up for your newsletter, and they receive the download in return. 
FREE with newsletter subscription
                It helps to build your following.
I uploaded my book to these three sites late (I could barely keep my eyes open) on October 11th.  I woke up this morning (Oct 13) to see that my piddly little six-person newsletter had grown to 137 subscribers in essentially a day.  As of right now, on Book Funnel, I have had 152 views with 138 downloads.  That's a 90% conversion rate! It's been downloaded 23 times so far today alone.  My Book Cave has only yielded 8 leads with 5 downloads, but Prolific Works hasn't yielded anything yet.  That said, I have joined 3 giveaways that haven't started yet on Prolific Works, and I've joined giveaways on Book Funnel and My Book Cave.  
While it feels a little contradictory to give away my book when I want to make money off of them, I consider this to be the seed that hopefully germinates and grows my brand.                                                                         
4. Newsletter swaps are a terrific way to cut down your legwork and get higher returns.  I've spent HOURS UPON HOURS of seeking reviews and having some people decline, many never respond, or a few don't follow through (that irks because I just gave away my book for absolutely nothing).  I've joined about four newsletter swap groups on Facebook, and am getting ready to send out my second newsletter on Monday (sign up on this site for your free book!).  Now that I have over a hundred subscribers, I feel like this edition might be going somewhere.  I include information about my works in progress with teasers, a link to this blog, and recommendations for other books (there's the swap part).

5. Marketing and more marketing goes beyond just the newsletter swaps and networking.  There is also product placement.  I've written before about marketing so I won't elaborate much here.  I have used AMS ads before and gotten pretty good returns, but it's REALLY EASY to spend more than you make.  I've used Facebook ads to grow my following on there, but haven't had terrific returns on building my following on here or selling my books (though I am willing to revisit the book ads since many people have had success using them).  I also want to check out EReaderNewsToday and the Fussy Librarian, among other sites.  As you may have read on my earlier posts, that I considered the blog tours, but I haven't done any yet.  I haven't ruled that out either, but I have noticed that the reviews that I thought would be my lifeblood (according to just about everyone) haven't been a requirement to actually getting sales.  I'm sure having some help, and more might be better, but it hasn't prevented me from selling nearly 80 ecopies outright, a couple of paperbacks, and nearly 50,000 pages read (that doesn't include people who downloaded it but haven't read it yet) which is His Bonnie Highland Temptation.  Even book 1, which really feels like it launched at the same time as book 2 since it got a professional cover then and really felt more legit has sold 53 ecopies, also a couple of paperbacks, and had 22,251 pages read or nearly 160 copies.
Callum Sinclair and Siusan Mackenzie
about 235 copies of a book that's been on Amazon for only 6 weeks.  I'm talking about book 2, 

So if you're still wondering what success is,

Success is setting a goal and attaining it, but success is when there is demand, consistently and ongoing for whatever you have to offer.  It involves consistently growing your brand. As an author, I think this means increasing your sales month after month.  It means expanding your brand awareness so that you rank higher with each release. It means gaining more followers on your social media and having actual engagement with them. It means positive reviews with readers asking for more.  It might even mean being asked to speak at conferences or guest blog for other authors or reviewers.  A few awards and accolades certainly don't hurt.  Who knows, maybe becoming famous, at least in your genres lit rings, is the ultimate sign of success.  But for me, it's more than just "success is what makes you feel good."  It's quantifiable and qualifiable.  So while I don't think I'm yet a success as an author, I do have a better plan to achieve it and measure it.
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