Last year was my most prosperous writing year to date. I’ve been doing this author “thing” for over fifteen years and finally have some momentum going. I can’t call it a hobby anymore. It’s not just something I do for the fun of it, although I do have a blast most times. It’s gotten to be serious business these days.
How did this shift come about?
I spent money. Yeah, I spent money on writing. Money beyond an editor and a cover artist. Money on advertising and a small street team. It was money well spent too.
In February of 2016, I took the plunge and paid what I considered an exorbitant amount to have one of my books advertised in Book Bub, a reader newsletter that targets specific readers. I’d heard from more than one fellow author that they’d made back the money they’d spent on this promotional opportunity and then some.
Still I was reluctant. I was tired of always taking a hit in the writing department. I slaved away for hours and hours after the day job and wasn’t seeing any financial rewards for my labor. I couldn’t reach the readers I needed to by just blasting images and links and clever one-liners on Facebook groups that had anything to do with reading and books. I was sick of checking my Amazon rank and finding it to be large, unspeakably embarrassing numbers.
I was ready to quit altogether.
Finally, I decided to go for it as a last ditch effort to make writing a semi-respectable profession for myself. If it didn’t produce some solid sales, I was done. I doled out the cash and waited.
I wasn’t disappointed. The book I advertised was free and the downloads came pouring in. I didn’t make any money off those downloads, BUT those lovely readers were kind enough to buy the other books in the series. A lot of them. Soon I was watching my ranks go down and my earnings go up! I was delighted and refueled to continue spinning tales.
People were really reading my stuff. They were leaving reviews. They were emailing me with kind words that sent me over the moon. My characters were finally getting to meet the world. I was like a proud mom.
I supplemented this tidal wave with establishing a small, 3-person street team of fine women who had liked my books and were willing to spread the word. I promised them a monthly prize, and they agreed to talk about my books to their friends, re-post news about my books on Facebook, and other little things that have helped my sales.
For a few solid months, I saw some wonderful royalties and grew excited about the number of readers I was reaching. Sales tapered off after the summer and then I did something crazy like launch a new series that wasn’t really like the series that had garnered some fans. Things have been slow to pick up on that new series, but I’m gearing up to spend some money again and hopefully put these books in front of the right readers. I’m determined to have another great writing year.
In the meantime, I’m experimenting. I’ve been trying out different sponsored Facebook ads and have found that the ones with images with little text do the best. They are eye-catching enough to get people to notice them in their newsfeeds and make them curious enough to click for more info. I’m also dabbling with promoting the “Shop Now” button on Facebook to see if leading people directly to Amazon works better than providing several links in the ad for various retailers. And finally, I’m playing around with a review service where you pay a fee, your book becomes available to targeted, non-paid reviewers, and those reviewers promise to post reviews at various spots online. I’m figuring if I can get more reviews for my new series, then I can approach Book Bub with more confidence.
Blog tours, book trailers, and online parties never seem to work so I’ve cut those out of the cycle. I’m devoting my time and money to new ideas or things that have worked for me in the past.
In other words, I’m still learning. Over fifteen years doing this writing “thing” and there’s still so much to figure out.
What’s something new you’ve learned that works for your books? Or if you are a reader, how do you find those new books you grow to love?
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I'm glad things worked out for you, Christine. Keep this in mind whenever you consider your writing a "hobby" or something you do "part-time." One of my college professors once told me that "writing is a craft, and like any craft, the drive to do it is a calling." Have a great weekend!
Chris, I like your go-for-it spirit and I'm happy you've been successful with Book Bub and other strategies. How readers find the books they like is an age-old mystery, and with so many stories to choose from, getting our novels to the right audience...a huge challenge. Thanks for sharing your successes!
Love to hear about successes, Christine. You've given me some ideas for thought. I'm writing the last book in this series, and I'm deliberating on just how to approach my career now. It's a turning point for me.
Great insight. Thanks for sharing what worked for you. An age old mystery, indeed, how to reach those who will want and like our books. Congratulations on your success and, yes, go get 'me attitude.
BookBub did the same thing for me it did for you. The key is to have other books in the series available when you land that ad so readers have something else to buy. However, having Amazon reviews is critical to getting on BookBub. With my new series, that's been a real challenge. My publisher puts all my books up on NetGalley, and I get quite a few Goodreads reviews ahead of the release. But those readers never seem to remember to go back and post the reviews on Amazon after it releases. So, kind of pointless! I've never found anything else that's half as effective as BookBub. I've also learned tweeting and posting on those FB book pages and blog tours do nothing. My publisher is trying a few new things like contests to engage interest on their FB page. They gave me a "takeover" spot right after my next book releases in early March. And I'm part of a Valentine promo thing and a "Date night" promo. We'll see if any of it works. I figure their page gets more traffic than mine, so it can't hurt. Great post with lots of good info, Chris!
Wow, you've got some great news there. I'm glad it's working well for you. I've found what worked for one book might not work for another. And, yeah, that's crazy. I don't know if it's because I write in too many sub-genres and therefore attract different readers.
It's nice to do a takeover for 1/2 an hour on someone else's facebook party. My last one garnered me 32 more sign-ups for my newsletter. I'm at 2800+ followers now. They don't all read it or click through, but some do so it's worth the 2 hours of my time to put it together. I offer a free self-published novella to give them a taste of my writing style. I depend a lot on tweets. I see an uptick in sales when my street team tweets for me. Not much but if the books we tweet about sell 3 or 4 copies that day, I'm pleased. I'm not a fast seller and never will be. I'm slow and steady and sell a copy of most of my books a day. The more we have to offer readers, the better. So, I keep writing. I rarely advertise my firemen's series. The publisher has them at 99 cents per book, so they sell on their own because of the low price. No one ever leaves a review though, but they're my best sellers. Go figure.
Last fall, when I finally had two books in a series, I decided to try the same strategy--I spent money on advertising. I was turned down by Book Bub, but I bought some inexpensive ads on a few other sites to advertise my sale on one book and freebie for the other. I paid for a few sponsored FB posts and did a giveaway on my author page. I ended up with my biggest month ever, and the results trailed through the next month. Now it's back to nearly nothing, but I've learned that as an unknown indie author, you do, in fact, have to spend money to make money. The real key seems to be having a strong, multi-book series. When I finish the third book in the series, I'm going to do the same thing again, and hopefully the results will be even stronger.
Wonderful news, Chris. I put the 1st book in a series up for 99 cents then advertised (some free/some paid) and watched the other books in the series go up in sales. I plan to do the with my 2nd series. I think stores call it a "loss leader." The thing is you have to have more books to make giving away (or selling cheap) worth while. Best wishes on this new venture.
Congratulations, Chris. You inspire me to keep trying, to keep writing. So happy for your success.
Thanks for sharing. I need to try new things, too. These ideas are great.
"Never give up, never surrender!"
Good for you, Chris! I would gladly spend money if I knew where to get the most bank for my buck. :) Right now, I'm investing my money in giveaways, games, monthly prizes and a PA. I don't think I can expect results overnight, so we'll see.
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