Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Richard Stephenson - A Question About Advertising For The Indie Author


A Question About Advertising For The Indie Author
by Richard Stephenson

Let's face it.  Every indie out there will tell you something different.  One will heap praises onto an advertising method while the next will call it a waste of time.  What works for you might not work for the next author or vice versa.  Some advertising methods might be easier to track than others, giving the former the appearance of not working when they might be paying off quite well.  I figured it was time for me to throw my hat into the ring and share the secrets that have kept Collapse in the Top 10K during its first two months on the market as well as the Top 10 Paid list of its categories on many occasions.  

I strongly encourage feedback in the comments, let's all share our successes and failures and help each other out.  I'm just going to start at the beginning and take you all the way to the present.
I think one of the key things to the success of Collapse was the free sneak peek I had of the first seven chapters.  Three months prior to release, I distributed the sneak peek as far and wide as I could.  I posted the sneak peek on SmashWords, Barnes & Nobles, and Amazon.  In hindsight, the one fact that I wish I had been aware of was price-matching on Amazon.  The lowest price you can offer a book on Amazon is 99 cents.  Had I known that all it would have taken was a few readers to complain to Amazon that they could get the sneak peek for free on other sites, I would have done so.  Lesson learned on that one.

In terms of distribution, I used Bit Torrent.  I'm sure a few of you reading this are thinking WTF?  Bit Torrent?  Isn't that the distribution network for pirates?  Well, yes, it is, but it is also a valid means of distribution that can be used in legitimate ways.  In the first month, the sneak peek was downloaded somewhere between 8 to 10K times.  Once you upload something on Bit Torrent, it takes on a life of its own and spreads across the internet.  From what I could tell on the sites I uploaded it to, I was able to track that figure, for all I know it could have been twice or three times that amount.

It was after the first month or so that I decided to cautiously spend a little money on advertising.  I had to tread carefully since I really had no idea what I was doing and was truly gambling my own money.  I started out advertising the sneak peek on GoodReadsFacebook, and a few popular book blogs in my price range.  Time for a little crash course - the easiest method of paid advertising is cost per click, or CPC.  You set the maximum bid that you want to pay per click and it kind of works like an auction.  If you have the highest bid above other self-serve advertisers, your ad gets displayed more prominently at key points during the day.  

Someone clicks, you pay each time for that click.  Most self-serve advertising allows you to set limits so you aren't shocked with a bill you can't afford.  You can set a daily, weekly, or lifetime limit  Once the money is spent, the ad stops and you pay your bill.  Daily and weekly are pretty self-explanatory.  The lifetime limit means you have a maximum dollar amount with no time limit imposed.  If you have a lifetime budget of $50, it can all spent in a matter hours, days, or weeks, just whenever it is spent.  Impressions means the total number of times your ad was displayed on the site, whether someone clicked on it or not.

GoodReads didn't impress me to be honest.  Love the site, but their self-serve advertising just left me feeling like it wasn't worth it.  Very few clicks and not enough impressions.  Facebook, on the other hand, has an excellent system set up that is very user friendly and very easy to customize.  This comes as no surprise given that Facebook makes billions of dollars on advertising.  I was able to tailor the ad to a very specific audience and put the ad in front of people that I knew would be interested in my genre.  If you have a little money to spend on advertising, Facebook is a worthwhile option.  Some might argue that people clicking on your ad doesn't translate to people downloading your book. While that is technically true, they are interested enough to click the ad and find out more about your book.  

Exposure and awareness is the key to advertising.  Advertising generates buzz, your book isn't going to be read if people aren't aware of its existence.

While I had the ads running, I also engaged in the most popular, not to mention free, advertising means out there today - social media.  I created a Facebook page for my novel and spread the word the best that I could.  Another helpful vehicle on Facebook are the various groups and pages centered around the Kindle or just reading in general.  I posted the book cover a few times a week on those pages advertising the July 6th release.  Got a decent amount of positive feedback.  Be mindful that you respect the wishes of each page/group, some encourage as much promotion as your heart may desire, some ask to keep it to one post a day or a few a week.

Far and away the most successful social media outlet for me was Twitter, which is outlined in this post.  I've read many, many an article and blog that claims Twitter is a complete waste of time.  I thought the same thing in the beginning due to the incredible amount of time that Twitter requires.  As I mentioned in the post I just referenced, TweetAdder is an excellent tool that does all the heavy lifting for you.  I get tweets sometimes on a daily basis commenting that my book looks interesting, I loved your book, I'm downloading your book, I downloaded your book and loved it, etc. 

Some have criticized automation for not having a personal touch.  I keep up with both of my Twitter accounts and engage comments and questions usually on the same day they are posted.  I don't care what anyone says, Twitter sells books if used properly. Collapse was released on July 6th.  I uploaded it to Amazon and it went live around 5am in my time zone.  I'm not exaggerating when I say I got several tweets at 12:01am asking what the deal was, when can I download it?  It's July 6th, when will it be available?  Sorry, but you can't tell me Twitter doesn't work.

The next step in the pre-launch process was to get myself out there on book blogs.  I searched and searched and found many book blogs willing to interview indie authors.  I considered it great promotion and still do, it's the entire reason I interview indie authors here on my blog.  All it takes are a few tweets a day letting indie authors know that you are interested in interviewing them.  As of the day this post was written, I'm booked up till early November on author interviews.  Along with those interviews I did pre-launch, I asked the hosting blogger if he or she would be interested in looking at my sneak peek and posting a review.  Many of them did, resulting in even more promotion.

As I closed in on my launch date of July 6th, I knew I had to focus on a critical key in the promotion process - the Advanced Reading Copy, or ARC.  ARCs are sent out to potential reviewers and book bloggers prior to launch.  About six weeks prior to launch, I put out some feelers to see if anyone was interested in posting a review on the release date or very shortly after on Amazon, GoodReads, and their book blog.  If you decide to go the ARC route, be prepared for rejection.  Book bloggers usually have a full plate of books to review.  Don't take offense if a book blogger tells you thanks, but no thanks.  

Book bloggers review books for their own pleasure, most have specific genres and will only review a book if it meets their criteria, myself included.  Some just don't have the time to review every book request they receive. If you can manage to get five to ten bloggers that are willing to review your ARC, you're doing pretty good.  Remember, the more advanced notice the better.  If you can give a blogger three to six weeks to review your book, that would be ideal.  If you can manage to get a decent amount of reviews shortly after you launch your book, you are more apt to attract potential readers.  A word of caution, book bloggers can be brutally honest in their reviews, so don't expect a four or five star rating just because you gave them the privilege of reading your book prior to launch.

While we are on the subject of blogs, do you have one?  If you are an indie author, you need one.  I was hesitant at first given the amount of time it would take.  Once I figured out the basics, I've had a lot of fun with it and look forward to blogging.  For me, the best way to promote my blog is on Twitter, using the methods outlined in the above referenced post.  Reach out to other indie authors and get some cross-promotion going - interviews, guest blogging, ask other book bloggers if they will review your book.   Make your blog interesting, don't just discuss your book, blog about your personal experiences with writing or whatever interests you.  Does your book touch on a cause or a help raise awareness?  Blog about it.

I also recommend linking all of your social media on one of the last pages of your novel.  Set up a gmail account specifically for your novel and encourage feedback from your readers. I have received numerous emails from readers and it has been a real pleasure interacting with them.

After Collapse went live on July 6th, I felt a huge burden lifted.  I was done.  I could relax.  Months of hard work was finally finished.  Well, that sense of relief didn't last very long because I was not finished.  Advertising is full time occupation that requires constant maintenance.  I still had a lot of work to do.  I simply dialed up everything that I've mentioned thus far.  The time that I spent writing could now be focused on advertising and promotion.  One of the steps I took was to enroll in KDP Select, which I discuss at length here.  I also decided it was time to put a decent amount of money into advertising.  After extensive research, I decided that I could get the most out of my advertising dollar at Kindle Nation Daily.  What impressed me about their services was that they are upfront about the results and share them so anyone can see for themselves. I've used them twice so far, once in July a few weeks after launch using Option 2 and again in conjunction with my first free promo using the Free Book Highlighter Service.  I've seen some amazing results and will continue to use a portion of my royalty money to pay for future promotions.

Well folks, that's it.  I'm sure plenty of you out there have done a lot more.  I'm working on my first book signing at our local Barnes & Nobles.  I'll be sure to let everyone know about that experience.
Thoughts?  I don't claim to be an expert, just sharing my experience.  I've made plenty of mistakes along the way, learning as I go.  What have you done differently?  What has worked for you?  What didn't work for you?

Buy now @ Amazon
Genre - Dystopian
Rating - R
More details about the author & the book
Connect with Richard Stephenson on Facebook & Twitter
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Books Sold - 6 Nov 2011 to 31 May 2012

Some of you have asked me for my total number of books sold to evaluate KDP Select so here it is. Bear in mind, that results will vary based on genre and author. Good luck and remember, Keep Moving Forward.

Total - 120,836

1. Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out
Amazon Kindle - 42,559
Paperback -
Smashwords -

2. Frequent Traveller
Amazon Kindle - 35277
Paperback -
Smashwords -

3. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 1
Amazon Kindle - 462
Smashwords -

4. Mirror Me Martha (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 281
Smashwords -

5. Drive On Hope (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 190
Smashwords -

6. Blog-A-Licious Directory 2012
Amazon Kindle - 1
Smashwords -

7. Pandora's Reading Room 1
Amazon Kindle -
Paperback - N/A

8. The Cat That Barked (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle -

9. Dora's Essentials - Examining Anxiety
Amazon Kindle -

10. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 2
Amazon Kindle -

11. Elevenses from Around the World
Amazon Kindle -

12. Genetically Modified Foods vs. Sustainability
Amazon Kindle -

Blog-A-Licius - Sherbet Blossom

SherbetBlossom

Blog-A-Licious

Dealightfully Frugal

Blog-A-Licious - The Few, The Proud, The Wife

Blog-A-Licious

My Soul Slippers

Blog-A-Licous - Textbook Mommy

Blog-A-Licious - Blue Frogs Legs

Blog-A-Licious - Pretty All True

Pretty All True

Blog-A-Licious - tbaoo

tbaoo

Blog-A-Licious

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Blog-A-Licious - The Invisible Art

Blog-A-Licious - Rediscovering Domesticity

Rediscovering Domesticity

Blog-A-Licious - Quiver Full

Blog-A-Licious - Cori's Big Mouth

Blog-A-Licious - Great Fun

Greatfun4kids

Blog-A-Licious - Busy Wife

Blog-A-Licious - Steps To Happiness

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Blog-A-Licious - Toby & Max


Blog-A-Licious - Amelie

Raising Amelie

Blog-A-Licious - Peas In A Pod

Blog-A-Licious - Riley

Blognostics - Poetry

BlogNostics

My Awards - September 2010

My Awards - September 2010
Awarded By Jo Frances

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded By Alejandro Guzman

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded by Kriti Mukherjee

My Awards - April 2011

My Awards - April 2011
Awarded By Roy Durham

My Awards - June 2011

My Awards - June 2011
Awarded By Sulekha Rawat

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