It’s been 90 days since I pressed publish on my debut novel, Keep Away from those Ferraris. Here is what I have learned about the ups and downs of self-publishing in the past month:
Don’t Stop Believing. Who would have thought that 1970’s rock crooners, Journey, could give a life lesson to self-publishers? But if you don’t buy into the title of their most famous song, then you are going nowhere. My sales figures will illustrate the point. As I said in last month’s report from the trenches, I sold about 140 units in the first 60 days. By all accounts that’s good going for a first timer. And then, things went awful quiet. I sold 13 units in all during February – 3 paperback and 10 eBooks. My CreateSpace EDC figures (paperbacks sold outside of Amazon) for January added another 9 units. I am still €1300 in the red with this book, having invested €1500 on cover-design, editing, Facebook ads and free giveaways. Guess what. I still believe. In fact, I’ve never been more optimistic. And not just because I’ve been listening to too much 1970s rock classics. Why?
I Can See Clearly Now. I’ve started with the naff song titles, so I might as well carry on. After only 90 days I can see the task ahead of me. It’s tricky but it’s doable. It isn’t going to play out the way I thought it would play out. Three months ago, I figured my profile as a columnist in the Sunday Independent and regular guest on RTE’s Today Show would be enough to put a rocket under my book. It didn’t. Here’s why. Nobody cares. Not in a bad way or anything, but just because people read your articles or see your face doesn’t mean they will buy your book. I have a few favourite columnists and TV personalities, but I never bought their book. My existing real-world profile gave sales a gentle nudge. That ship has sailed. Now begins the slow grind of building a fanbase on the internet. And that’s an entirely different process to the traditional route of book launches, signings and appearances on local radio. Here is what I am doing to build a fanbase during March:
Every Day I write the book. This is simple. I’m writing the follow-up to Keep Away from those Ferraris. There is one thing easier than selling your first book on the internet. And that’s selling your first two books on the internet. So for instance, I have put a link to my mailing list at the back of current eBook, so people can sign-up there and then to hear about my new release. That’s already gathered 10 names. It’s a start. I will put the first chapter of the new book as a teaser at the end of the current eBook once it has reached final draft. I will probably set my current book to free before release of the sequel to generate some interest. (You can either do this through KDP Select or else by letting Amazon know you have set it free elsewhere and they will price-match it down.) And I will see what can be done with buy-one-get-one-free type offers. You’ll see a lot of advice on how to market your eBook. The best advice I’ve heard is write the next one.
Do the Blog. Ok, no more song-title headings. (Mainly because I’ve never heard a song about blogging.) The second best bit of advice for self-publishers is that you have to blog regularly. I tried to ignore this bit of advice because it sounded a lot like hard work. Well guess what – selling books is hard work. And it pays off. Here’s the thing – I put a post up on my blog every Wednesday, detailing how things went in the preceding seven days. I advertise this post fairly loudly until Friday afternoon. I get about 150 visitors to my website over those three days. And that’s when I sell my books. Bear in mind that amounts to about three or four sales. That’s the kind of ratio you are talking about, for starters anyways. Another blogger told me yesterday she had 50,000 views for one post and ended up selling two books. Read that again. And remember that while a blog is essential, it isn’t sufficient.
Not all reviews are equal. Just as there are influential book reviewers in newspapers (or at least there were, things are changing) there are people out there with review blogs and a big audience who trust their views. Ask around, search the forums, see who reviewed other books in your genre, go through the blogroll of popular reviewers and see who they follow. It takes time to find the right people to review your book. But it’s time well spent. A crime reviewer gave Keep Away from those Ferraris a very decent thumbs up on twitter and on her blog. It resulted in a small number of sales and a large increase in traffic to my website. It also opened some doors with other reviewers. All of this is going in the right direction. Which is why I haven’t stopped believing. Not yet anyway.
So there you have it. Three things I plan to do in order to publicise my first book – blogs, reviews and write a second one. I’ll let you know how I’m getting on next month.
(c) Pat Fitzpatrick