I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best at marketing books. Which is ridiculous considering I have ten years of marketing experience. But here we are!
I’ve released over ten books and every single time, I will hit publish, tell social media and my mailing list and then hide.
It’s not a big problem – I still get good, organic reviews, I still make sales, albeit slowly.
But I’ve never had a bestseller, presumably because my mailing list is small and my friends/family circle is even smaller.
During my year off from publishing, I did some research into how to launch a book properly. There were graphs and everything.
I made a plan and adapted it for my new book, Bewitching, which released on 4th April.
For this particular book launch I decided to prime my mailing list, use a book blog tour for the first time and book a couple of paid promotions.
Here’s how it went and what I learned along the way…
Lesson One: Don’t get COVID-19
The main thing I’ve learned is not to catch COVID-19 the week of your book launch.
At my worst, I would log on to my laptop once a day to check my sales figures and that things were happening. At my best, I’d give the book a little push.
By the time COVID had settled in my face, I no longer cared if the book did well or not. I just wanted to feel better again.
Lesson Two: I’m not convinced that you *must* have a mailing list, but it’s nice to have
Investment: Free (I use Mailerlite and have a tiny list)
I mentioned in my post about what I learned from not publishing or marketing for twelve months how I restarted my mailing list. I essentially emailed my 300+ strong list, explained the situation, asked them to segment themselves if they were still interested and ended up with about twenty-four people interested in this particular fantasy series.
Wonderful! If these people are this interested after two years of nothing from me, then they’re bound to buy the book, right?
Two people asked to be ARC readers. One left a review.
Five people clicked the link to the new book on release day (out of the 16 people who opened the email). I know one definitely bought it because he’s a mate and he emailed me about it.
I sent a second email a few days later giving details of the new freebie area (that got six clicks) and telling them about the series discounts running (that got one click).
I was left a little underwhelmed, in all honesty. Originally, two years ago, I stopped emailing my mailing list because so many were just there for the freebies and it sort of feels that way still.
But then, I didn’t bombard them with emails during the launch and there wasn’t much warm-up. Maybe this was my fault?
Mailing lists are a long-term game, so I’m not giving up on it yet. I’m just not sure it’s entirely worth it compared to other strategies.
Lesson Three: The book tour was not worth it
Having never done a book tour before, I asked a lovely client about her experiences. She said she’d made no sales out of it but the reviews were nice.
Well, reviews are nice. And I needed reviews for my new book. Would quicker reviews lead to better sales in the long term?
I booked a seven-day blog tour at the cost of £65. Nice and cheap.
…And was then asked for five paperbacks. This was the point when I realised I shouldn’t have tried this marketing tactic, but if you don’t try, you don’t know.
Altogether, this blog tour cost me just over £100 and there were 18 ‘stops’. Not all of those were reviews. Seven were promos and one was a no show.
The promos do nothing.
A small handful of the reviews were lovely. A few reviews ended up on Amazon (not as many as I thought). Most people complained that it was the fourth book in the series and not the first.
Fair enough, I should have put all the promotion into the first book, but the first book has over 20 ratings on Amazon – all of which were free and organic.
A couple of the reviews made me do a happy dance (despite being sick). I’ll be using those in the editorial section on Amazon.
I have no idea if any of the book sales over the launch can be attributed to the reviews. If they are, judging by the numbers, I’m guessing they’re from the few reviewers who decided to go back and read the rest of the series (which I’m very grateful for, cue another sick happy dance).
Was it all worth it?
I won’t be doing a blog tour again.
Lesson Four: I’d do paid promotions again
Investment: Roughly £29 and £30 (in US dollars so dependent on the exchange rate)
I’ve previously done paid promotions (paying for the book to be listed in a big newsletter of book deals) and received zero sales. But I keep hearing good things, so I booked slots on ManyBooks and BookSends for the first book in the series, discounted to 99p or 99c.
And then I watched my series sales go flying!
Thank the gods.
This is definitely a marketing strategy I’ll try again, and I have a good feeling that a lot of the people who bought the first book went on to buy the rest of the series, as there was a definite uptick in sales throughout the series during these two days.
It didn’t do quite as well as I’d hoped BUT on the websites it is suggested that books which are available wide do better than ones exclusive to Amazon. This definitely needs further exploration.
Shock Lesson Five: People are actually pre-ordering the fifth book in the series!
As a last-minute throwaway idea, I decided to create a pre-order for book five and stick the link in the back of book four. It is ONLY in the back of book four (and on the series page on Amazon). I haven’t promoted it at all.
In my experience, pre-orders don’t work. And they’re a bit rubbish on Amazon unless you have a huge, engaged audience (which I obviously don’t), because Amazon declares pre-orders as sales for that day rather than launch day, which means they won’t do a thing for your ranking on launch day.
Still, for the purpose of this blog post, I thought I’d better check how many pre-orders I got during the launch week so that I could share the zero figure here with confidence.
BOOM! Six pre-orders!!
What an amazing surprise!
So what the hell am I doing here? I need to go write the next book! Quick!
The random, surprise Lesson Six: It might be time to leave Kindle Unlimited
There was talk among the indie author community towards the end of 2022 about all of the piracy problems with Amazon and Amazon closing authors’ accounts when their books were stolen and republished, because they were in Kindle Unlimited and therefore had to remain exclusive to Amazon.
Ultimately, Amazon is an arse, but it’s where the majority of readers hang out.
I took all of this chatter in, did some research and then decided that one of my projects during 2023 would be to try ‘Going Wide’.
Which is why at the end of 2022, I removed my Last War series (of four books) from Kindle Unlimited. I hadn’t had a page read or sale for this series for a very long time, so I didn’t think I’d be losing anything.
Since then, I’ve been sitting on the books. This quarter, they’ll be going through a mini revamp and then Project Going Wide will begin.
Imagine my surprise, then, when after months of very few sales, people started buying the first book in my Last War series. With no promotion (other than the dying Amazon ads I’ve left running).
In fact, one of the sales on launch day of my new book was actually for my first published book in the Last War series.
I can’t wait to get going with this new experiment, and I will of course report back.