Monday, 11 August 2014

Why Free Still Works...

I've found that marketing tactics among indie authors seem to go in waves. A couple of years ago, free ebooks were all a hit. Then this time last year, it was the $0.99 'deal' ebooks that were riding high. Now it seems to be $0.99 box sets that are hitting the best seller lists.

I have debated putting together a box set for some time now. To be honest, the only thing holding me back is time in formatting it, and also creating a box set cover. I'm sure I could figure it out if I had the time, but I don't right now because new books still take priority with my writing time. With the kids off school, so I now have three little ones under my feet all day, I need to stay focused.

However, that wasn't the point of this post today! No, today I wanted to talk about free ebooks and why as a marketing tool, they can still work.

May 2014 was one of my slowest months, sales-wise, that I've had for at least a couple of years. I had the third book in the Spirit Shifters series in the editing process, and I just thought sod it, I'll put the first book as free and see what happens. I did this by choosing the free option on Draft 2 Digital, and then within a few days, Amazon price matched.

Within a few days, I had over 14,000 downloads of Autumn's Blood on Amazon, and thousands more on Barnes & Noble and Apple. The sales of the second book took off, and as soon as I released book three, my sales jumped to a height I've not seen for some time.

Because my free book worked so well in this instant, I decided to take one of my other books, The Sound of Crickets, and put it into KDP Select. I've not been in KDP Select for eighteen months, but the book wasn't selling on any platform, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I set up a number of ads and set three of my free days on Amazon. Well, even these results surprised me. In three days, I had almost 20,000 downloads of The Sound of Crickets. I'd been hoping for a couple of thousand, so those numbers were overwhelming. When it went back to paid, the sales continued. Over the last few weeks they've begun to drop back down again, but I'm still getting more sales than I did before the KDP promotion.

One of the best parts of this free promotion hasn't just been the sales. When I started my give away, I had about fifteen reviews on Amazon. Now I have 35 reviews for the book, and all of them state that they're 'Amazon Verified Purchases' and all of them loved the book. I always expect at least a few negative reviews from such a big give away, but so far there hasn't been anything below a four star! (This may change any day though!).

So, here's a summary of the benefits of running a free ebook:

  • Exposure. People who haven't come across you before may put your book on their kindle, or other e-reader.
  • Sales. You may get continued sales after a free run, or the readers may buy other books in the series, if there is one.
  • Reviews. Hopefully people will be good enough to leave a review once they're done reading.
  • mailing list sign-up. I always include a link to my mailing list at the back of my books. 
Want to try one of my free books? I have several! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Free Novel on Amazon Today!

I've decided to take another little plunge into the world of KDP Select and so my women's fiction novel, 'The Sound of Crickets', is free on Amazon for the next three days only, starting today.

I think of this novel as 'Bridget Jones's Diary' meets 'Steel Magnolias'.There are no vamps or shifters in this book, but there is a touching story of friendship between four women on line, something I think most of us can relate to in this day and age.

 I hope you'll head over to Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk and grab yourself a copy. 

Here's the blurb and the new cover! 

Four women who have never met ... 
Four lives inextricably joined ... 
Four friendships that will last forever ... 

Named after Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, Amelia Thompson always thought life would have given her wings. Instead, she finds herself stuck at home with three small children, and a body she no longer recognises. Hoping to connect with like-minded people, she decides to reach out on a women's forum to try to find others with whom to start a blog. 
To her delight, she gets a response. Sara, a romance author whose elderly mother has just moved in with her. Kelly, whose husband only wants to spend time down the pub, and Charlotte, who is suffering from empty nest syndrome now her daughter has left home. 

Told in the medium of their blog posts and emails to each other, The Sound of Crickets is a touching novel of friendship in the digital age. 


Friday, 30 May 2014

A Change in Cover: Marketing

Last month, I released my first women's fiction novel, The Sound of Crickets. The idea is original, the characters easy to relate to, and the book has been receiving great feedback, both with reviews, and with readers contacting me to tell me how much they loved the book. I even had one reader plan out the whole sequel for me and she had some good ideas, too!

But I always knew this book would be a hard sell. The readers I've built up over the past four years are fans of paranormal romance, and The Sound of Crickets doesn't have a single vampire or werewolf in it! This is the reason it took me so long to get the book out. I always knew I would be dipping my toe into a whole new market of readers.

And I was right. Sales on the book have been disappointing, and I even ran some advertising this week and received far fewer sales than I expected. When this happens, my first instinct is that something needs to change, and the main thing that probably needs changing is the cover.

So that's what I've done. This is the original cover:


I like it. It relates to the book, I think it's fun and quirky, and is bright enough to catch the reader's eye. But for some reason, it's not working. So I've decided to go less Lisa Jewell, and more Jodi Picoult, cover-wise.
This is the new cover:

Completely different, right? A bit more contemporary, while still relating to what the book is about. I'm hoping it will do what I want, and help the book's sales. Only time, and probably a bit more marketing will tell!

You can buy The Sound of Crickets at Amazon!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Monday, 28 April 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Many thanks to Mel Comley for inviting me to join this tour. She's an amazing (and bestselling) writer of a fantastic thriller series (The Justice Series). I know because I've read them! Mel is a British author who now lives in France, where she spends her time, other than writing, renovating her house and taking care of her dogs. Visit her on Facebook at:  Mel Comley and Friends. If you're on twitter drop her a line.  Stop by her blog.  Or visit her website.

MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR

1.) What am I working on?

I'm currently working on the third book of my Spirit Shifters series, Autumn Rising. I'm hoping to  have the first draft finished in the next few weeks, and the book should be out by the end of July. Here's the cover which  I absolutely love, I hope you do too!

2.) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

This is a really difficult question! I would say it's my combination of romance and horror. My novels are quite graphic, and dark, and intense, but they always have a strong romance theme running through them as well. Sometimes, this makes it difficult for me to categorise my work - is it paranormal romance, or urban fantasy, or dark fantasy, or horror? Sometimes a single book will span all of those categories!

3.) Why do I write what I do?

I've always loved the paranormal, ever since I was a young girl. I grew up as a teenager obsessed with vampires, and so it was only natural that I would write about them one day. I also started my love of reading on a diet of Stephen King, James Herbert, and Dean Koontz, so again, writing paranormal was always going to be in my future.

4.) How does my writing process work?

I'm very much what is known as a 'pantser'. I tend to have a vague idea of a story in my head, and ask myself a few 'what if' questions. I will write character profiles down in my trusty notebook to help build upon them and make them feel more three dimensional to me, but for the most part, as soon as I start writing, they pop up pretty clear in my head. With my series books, I might have a vague idea of how I want a book to finish up, but more often than not, that changes by the end. If I try to plot or plan too far ahead, I find myself getting stuck or overwhelmed. The story will feel too big for me, and I'll start to worry I'm going to be able to pull it off. If I just start writing, and not think too much more than a couple of chapters ahead, then the words tend to flow. If I get stuck, I'll simply jump a chapter or two, and write whichever scene in currently speaking to me the loudest at that time. Of course, this does mean that my first drafts are extremely messy, and I have to spend a lot of time going back and reworking things!

WHO IS NEXT?

The next person on the tour is the fabulous Belinda Frisch. Belinda is the author of a number of novels, including the gruesome 'Cure' zombie series! But she has recently been branching out into the world of romantic suspense with her novel Fatal Reaction.

After fifteen years of working in healthcare, Belinda Frisch's stories can't help being medicine influenced. A writer of dark tales in the horror, mystery, and thriller genres, she is a storyteller at heart, and has been writing since her teens. Her fiction has appeared in Shroud Magazine, Dabblestone Horror, and Tales of Zombie War. She is an honorable mention winner in the Writer's Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition. Her novel, Cure, is the runner-up in the General Fiction category of the 2012 Halloween Book Festival and was optioned for film. She is the author of Better Left Buried, Fatal Reaction, Cure, and Afterbirth, in addition to a number of short stories. She resides in upstate New York with her husband, son, and a small menagerie of beloved animals.

She'll be posting her writing process this time next week, on May 5th, over on her blog! You can also find her on her facebook page and twitter!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Is Facebook Over? Sharing my Advertising Stats!

Every author is told that they need to build an author platform, and they need to have done so yesterday! Platforms can be built via blogging (just like this!), or using social network sites such as Facebook, twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and any number of others. It's impossible for an author to successfully manage all of these and still find time to write, so it's best to select a couple and be as present on those as possible.

For me, Facebook has been the platform of choice. I spend a lot of time of Facebook, not just working, but staying up to date with the lives of my family and friends.

There have been a lot of mutterings lately about how Facebook has changed the reach of posts to people who have liked pages. The idea is that Facebook reduces the reach in order to get the owners of the page to pay to get the post out to those who have already liked the page. This can be done via 'boosting' a post, which can cost anywhere from £1 to £90, depending on how many people you want to reach! The trouble is that the 'reach' Facebook promises you is only an estimate and can be wildly out in its numbers. I am a fairly regular user of Facebook. It's been my method of choice to communicate with friends and readers alike. because of this, I have used both their advert option, together with 'boosting' a post, and then simply posting as normal. Last week, I launched my new novel, The Sound of Crickets, and so ran an advert, together with boosting a post. But something I noticed was that when I went to write my normal posts, all of a sudden, no one was seeing them. When I say no one, I'm talking about 80 people from my approximately 3500 likers! My first instinct was that Facebook wasn't showing my posts to people because they already had my money! So I cancelled my boosted post, and numbers of my regular post went up slightly, to around 300 likers.

One thing I have noticed is that if you can post something your readers can get involved with, naturally, more people will see it. One of my biggest reach posts lately have been about naming a character in one of my books. That reached 1,150 likers, and that was with a single penny being spent.

So I thought it would be interesting to put together a bit of a study about my latest posts and check out the reach. This will include boosted posts, and what the payment was, and how many additional likes or comments it gains. Here are the results!

Boosted post, cover reveal: £3.00 spent. 2373 people reached, 49 likes, 17 comments, 8 shares.
Boosted post, giveaway: £12 spent. 3178 reached, 59 likes, 48 comments, 8 shares.
Boosted post, book launch £0.59 spent. 19 likes, 0 comments, 8 shares
Image post, 684 reached, 0 comments, 45 likes 0 shares
Image post, 313 reached, 11 likes, 10 comments, 3 shares
Image post, 366 reached. 18 likes, 5 comments, 0 share
Engaging post*: 1150 reached, 14 likes, 50 comments, 0 shares
Engaging post: 721, 17 likes, 32 comments 0 shares
Engaging post: 802 reached, 12 likes,30 comments, 0 shares
Shared link: 182 reached, 3 likes, 1 comment, 1 share.
Shared link: 146 reached, 8 likes, 2 comments, 1 shares
Shared link: 80 reached, 3 likes, 0 comments, 0 shares.

Now I know this is a small handful of statistics, and wouldn't win any study awards, but I think from this small handful that the results are pretty clear. Shared links don't seem to have much impact on facebook at all (at least, not for me!). Images posted will be seen by about 10% of my likers, sometimes more. Engaging posts have the biggest reach at about 20% of my likers, with the most comments, but they tend not to be shared. Boosted posts obviously have the biggest reach, and they also tend to have the most shares, but whether this is because I tend to only boots posts that are 'newsworthy' ie. book sales, new releases or book covers, this may be purely down to the nature of the posts I choose to boost.

I still think facebook is the best way to reach readers via a social network. I have about the same number of followers on twitter as Facebook, yet when I post something on twitter, I'm lucky if I get one or two responses. So, even though Facebook are being money grubbing b****ds, in my opinion, Facebook is still the best way to engage with readers. Even better is if you post things that get your readers involved - asking them opinions about character names, book covers, even plot directions.

Facebook may want your money, but you don't have to give it to them. By asking the right questions, and being engaging, you can still reach the people who like your author page.

What about you? How have you found Facebook's new regime? Do you have any tips for engaging readers on your page? I'd love to hear them!

*a post where I've asked for opinions or ideas