A review, a review…my kingdom for a review!

August 30, 2012

When I started this blog I intended it to cover the progress from writing to getting published, warts and all.  To be honest, the launch of ‘Flight Into Darkness’ as an eBook has not been a massive success and the reason for this is clear; I thought that simply getting the presentation right and making it known that the book was out there would generate sales in a kind-of passive way.  Wrong.  Any marketing person can tell you that a good product can still fail if it’s not marketed properly and this means active marketing.  Passivity doesn’t work.

So, I have decided to take Tony Slater’s advice and have a formal Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn launch party and this will require my full attention for quite a while.  Because I am about to start my CELTA teacher training course next week, this will swamp me for the whole of September and there will be little time for anything else.  We move house in October to add to the confusion so the launch party won’t be until the end of October.  Between now and then I need REVIEWS that I can use for my marketing!  Please!  They should ideally be left on Amazon on the webpage for Flight Into Darkness:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flight-Into-Darkness-ebook/dp/B008YFC9HK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1345178103&sr=8-2 for the UK, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008YFC9HK for most of the world, and http://www.amazon.de/Flight-Into-Darkness-ebook/dp/B008YFC9HK/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1346318081&sr=1-1-catcorr for Germany.

I can’t emphasise enough the need for reviews, good or bad.

The idea of the launch party is to get as many people as possible to download the book at about the same time.  This will, hopefully, put it into Amazon’s top 10 list for the day or week, then people who have never heard of me may also download and start a chain reaction.  Then come more reviews which can be tweeted, etc.  I’m sure it will be more difficult and time-consuming than I had expected but that’s what marketing is all about.  It is now increasingly clear that the writing was the easy bit!

So, whilst the CELTA course is in progress, this blog will  probably go quiet for 4 weeks.  In the meantime,  there is time for people  to read the book and leave reviews which I can use later.

I came across this article on Tweeting:  http://www.indieauthornews.com/2012/07/twitter-tips-for-authors.html.  Interesting reading and a good summary.


Tony Slater’s tale

August 24, 2012

I’ve been in touch with Tony James Slater who self-published his book That Bear Ate My Pants (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pants-Adventures-Idiot-Abroad-ebook/dp/B0057P6FNO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1345807006&sr=1-1) .  Last year, he made a serious effort to launch it and this is what he did, in his own words:

“The very first thing I did, that you probably noticed, was I set up a ‘launch party’. First step in this was to get a couple of close friends and family to give me a couple of nice reviews! Now, it doesn’t work to just bung ’em a copy and ask – even after all this time, the same 3 family members that reviewed it for me on day one are still the only ones who have! So you have to really persuade ’em, explain how important it is.   

 Right, so you’ve made the book available – without telling anyone! You’ve got the reviews posted. You’ve checked all the blurb for typos, and your author central page is set up on Amazon with a nice smiling pic of you and links to your website etc… 

Then make a Facebook Event about the launch. Pick a date (mid week preferably, and a week in advance say) and set the Event for that day. Invite EVERYONE, and in the invitation message plead with them in as fun and jokey a way as possible, to invite all their friends to! Doing this in advance allows enough time for friends of friends to respond and hopefully join the event. Each couple of days post an update on the Event’s Wall, sort of like a countdown – “Getting SO excited folks, only 3 days to go ’till Launch Day! How does my hair look?” type stuff.

Try to be entertaining! That’s what will sell it to people who don’t directly know you, but have joined the event anyway.

 Then, on Launch Day, your aim is to sell as many copies in one day as humanly possible! 2 days is good too, so don’t go too mad at those who forget, but this is the time to tell all your friends and family, the ones that promised to support you on your journey to becoming a famous writer, to buy a copy!

 Send a message to all participants of the FB Event – even those not attending – giving them the link directly to the Amazon page. That’s the only way they’ll buy it – telling them where it’s available will result in 90% of people saying ‘ah yeah, I’ll check it out at some point…’ and that’s the last time they’ll ever think of it. You have to put the clickable link right in front of them!

 It never goes as well as you could imagine. I had 60 people in my ‘I guarantee I will buy your bok on Day x’ group, plus friends and family from all over promising faithfully, all of whom I emailed personally on the day – some several times. I had people giving me shout-outs, I went on Twitter and mentioned it, even though I only had a handful of followers… and I bought 3 copies myself. How many did I sell? 34. 34? Yup… disappointing, but no-one ever admitted to being in the crowd that forgot or didn’t bother to buy it… Ah well!

 But those 34 sales, on one day, shot the book up the charts to somewhere sensible like rank 5,000 (from 1.5 million!). I didn’t know it at the time, but it also probably put me on the ‘Hot New Releases’ list and maybe even the ‘Movers and Shakers’ list – two aspects of Amazon I didn’t even know existed at the time! If so, that might have helped, as over the next couple of weeks I actually sold a handful of copies, as opposed to most self published books that sell nothing at all for the first couple of months.

 And then… well, after that you’re in at the deep end I’m afraid! Luckily there’s no urgency – my book is getting a bit more successful now, but it’s still not exactly a big hit, and it’s taken me a year of working at it to get this far. I’ve joined Select and run a couple of 2-day free sales, which made the biggest difference and gained me stacks of great reviews… I sent it out to book reviewers and bloggers, I asked every blog I came across if I could write a guest post or get them to interview me… just basically looked around for any ideas I could use!

 One good source is a Facebook Group called ‘Indie Writers Unite’ – it’s a melting pot for self pubb’d authors, in theory to share ideas, what’s working, news and tips, and to help each other. In practice it’s half about this and half people bitching about their lack of sales or trying to promote their own books to each other… but most of the tips I’ve used in one way or another came from that group. Deffo recommend it!

 And keep your eyes out for new sites all about ebooks, as they often offer a chance to befriend the site owner before they get really big and popular – which most of them do eventually! You can get cheap advertising, which sometimes (not always helps). Basically once you’ve built up a few good reviews and are sure the blurb and cover etc. are as strong as they can possibly be, I’d stick it in Select and plan a free sale. When that time comes, let me know, coz I’ve got a great list of how to run a free sale too!!

 Sorry, this got quite long! Hope it helps. It’s just my 2p worth, nothing concrete in here – it’s just me saying what I did, in the hope it works better for you than it did for me.”

So, there you have it.  A launch party seems to be a good idea and I didn’t do one.  I should have done one.   Now, with the CELTA course about to swamp me for the next month, I won’t have time to attend to the second launch of ‘Flight Into Darkness’, so I’ll do it in October.  I’m going to follow Tony’s advice, I think.  He’s been quite successful with his book.


Craig Stone

August 21, 2012

Another interesting piece from a self-published, and very successful, writer:  http://www.indieauthornews.com/2012/02/indie-author-interview-craig-stone.html. It’s encouraging to read things like this.  Makes you realise that there’s a whole community of us out there, each thinking we’re hitting our heads against a brick wall.  If we all got together, we could knock that wall down!

We’re drowning in Indie eBooks…great!

August 21, 2012

For those interested in going the self-publishing eBook (‘Indie’) route, this is an interesting and informed article:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2012/08/15/publishing-is-broken-were-drowning-in-indie-books-and-thats-a-good-thing/

Speaking personally, I resent the accusations that most self-published eBooks are badly written, although I have to admit that I was reading one by quite a respected American writer and had to stop at Page 50 because of formatting and grammatical errors that made it irritating and difficult to read.  That’s just careless because it’s actually a good story, he’s a good writer and it’s not difficult to get it right.

Anyway to get back to the point.  Traditional publishing is experiencing a revolution and they don’t know how to deal with it.  They are retreating and becoming defensive. Literary agents are becoming increasingly selective and risk-averse.  Publishing houses are seeing slashed revenues and bookshoops are closing.  However, the very best writers will still get published but I’m well-read and realistic enough to know that I’m not ‘one of the best’.    Plus, I’m unpublished which makes life even more difficult in a difficult and deeply conservative business.

Now, I want to emphasise the point that most of us are conscientious middle-rankers who want to write good stuff and have other people read it.  If we can make some money, that’s all well-and-good but that’s not really what it’s all about.  My novels have all gone through several drafts and have all been professionally edited at significant expense.  I’ve read them again and again and eliminated typos, formatting and grammar errors.  It takes months.  When I publish something, I want to be proud of it and it therefore has to be as good as I can make it.  It takes blood, sweat and tears, masses of time and oodles of devotion.

So, we may be drowning in Indie books but I still believe that the good ones will emerge, the bad ones will submerge.  I wonder in which category Flight Into Darkness http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flight-Into-Darkness-ebook/dp/B008YFC9HK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1345178103&sr=8-2 will eventually end up?

Twitter advice from a good twit

August 20, 2012

My editor, Debi Alper is pretty active on Twitter and I am a newbie.  As this blog is intended to be a kind-of one-stop advice centre for self-publishing writers, I thought it would be useful to others to read her advice:

Roger – setting up a Twitter a/c is just the first step. You have to be tweeting … a lot! That means engaging, not just promoting. Received wisdom is that the ratio of ‘other stuff’ to promo should be about 90:10, otherwise people get put off very quickly and you can do more harm than good. Also, with Twitter, tweets slide off the screen very quickly so you can’t assume a couple of tweets a day is going to launch you into Twitter stardom. And the more people someone follows, the less likely it is that they’ll be online at the right time to see your tweets. For example, I can’t ever remember seeing a tweet from you!

I’ve just checked your Twitter a/c. You’re only following 54 people and have only 24 followers. If you read Nicola Morgan’s Tweet Right, you’ll know you’ve barely begun to wring the potential from Twitter. As I’ve said before, it takes time and energy. The good news is that it’s exponential so, after a while, you don’t have to be so proactive in following others in the hope they’ll follow you back. But … sigh … there are no shortcuts.

Ah, me.  I suppose I have to tell the world what I had for dinner and about my cold sore.  Yes, a cold sore.  I get them when I’m stressed out.  Herpes simplex, I think it’s called.  So far, that is the most visible result of my fab marketing campaign.  Seriously, though, Twitter is a great resource and a single tweet from Debi (or other well-connected worthy) can result in a flurry of visits to your website/blog.  I just need them to go to the Amazon kindle store now!


So, who knows Stephen Fry?

August 20, 2012

The past few days have been dominated by marketing efforts for Flight Into Darkness (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flight-Into-Darkness-ebook/dp/B008YFC9HK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1345178103&sr=8-2)  but sometimes I feel as if I’m shouting from inside a soundproofed room.  I’ve tried to do everything right, as recommended: website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, The Word Cloud, Amazon, ISBN Agency listing, free downloads, doing reviews of other peoples’ books in the hope that they will reciprocate, all that good stuff.  And yet, it seems to be having little impact.  Ok, I know I’m impatient and this will be a long slog, but what more could I do?

There’s one thing; a good marketing ploy is to get an endorsement from someone famous.  I don’t have any famous friends, my editor isn’t famous enough and is biassed in any case. Harry Bingham is tied up with the York Festival of Writing.  Then I started to think broader.  Amongst others, I follow Stephen Fry on Twitter because he’s witty, intelligent and always has some slantwise view of the world that’s worth reading.  His I3 debate performances with Christopher Hitchens were classics of rational clear thought in a mad word.  And yet, he has over 4 million followers and is a busy guy.  In any case, he’d probably think my book was a little beneath him.  Self-doubts, self-doubts, self-doubts.  Even so, I’d love to tweet him directly but I don’t suppose he’d notice so I haven’t.

Does anyone out there know him?  He’d be my endorser of choice…even if he only did a little retweet.   Just one.  To 4 million people!

4000+ hits!

August 18, 2012

Just exceeded 4000 hits!  I guess it shows that there are a lot of people out there who don’t have enough to do!  Many thanks to you all.