Saturday, February 23, 2013


That's what I have done hundreds of times over the last week. I've refreshed the Amazon page for reviews and I have refreshed the sales reports more times than I can count. Needless to say, I am not a rich man or able to quit my day job yet. Despite not being able to buy my own jet or even my own toy drone, I have received a few sales. My current royalties might only pay for dinner from the McDonald's dollar menu, but I could not be more proud. The feeling of actually selling a book is greater than I could have ever imagined, however, after that first sale, I was at a complete loss as to how to sell more than three or four books.

I did extensive research and came up pretty short on how to get the book into the hands of readers who aren't already on my Facebook page. There is a startling lack of detail on how to really market a debut novel. Most of the sites and blog posts speak in such general terms like "make a marketing plan" and "promote before you write" that I nearly gave up. I finally ran across a blog post by Ryan Casey, who I reference before, simply telling me to put the book out there for free to get some downloads. Don't promote like crazy, just get the book to some readers and go from there. So, that's what I'm doing.

 The Hunter's Son is going to be free on Amazon for two days (February 24 & February 25).

I have only put word out to a few places. Facebook, twitter and Goodreads. I am hoping a few hundred downloads turn into twenty or thirty reviews. I then plan to do a blog tour once the book goes back to paid. I plan to update with my findings in subsequent blog posts and tweets (you can follow me on twitter @jewellbe). I will also update before and after the blog tour. Should be a fun ride to see if I can move a few more books in anticipation of the second book in the series.

And in other news....

50% of all Amazon ebook sales are planned sales.

According to a recent presentation at the TheMediaBriefing's Digital Media Strategies conference in London, half of all Amazon sales are planned sales. This means that half the folks purchasing books on Amazon are not discovering them by way of the Amazon rankings or through the ever popular "Also bought..." feature which apparently only counts for about 10% of purchases. The other 40% was a mix of promotion, best seller lists and miscellaneous ways to find books.

So what does this mean for the indie/self-published author? I, honestly, don't think it means a whole lot. I think that everyone always knew that the Amazon promotions only take a book so far. Buzz has to be generated in other arenas to get a book to really sell. If selling a lot of books was just as easy as putting the book on Amazon and having readers find it, then there would be a lot more people making a living off of writing than there are now.

Many across the web are saying that this means stores like Barnes and Noble are selling a lot of books. That people are willing to stand in a store, browse and, ultimately go home and purchase a book on Amazon. While I believe this happens for Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, it does not explain how self-published authors who have no presence in brick and mortar stores sell books. What I think it shows is that you have to have the "marketing plan" and "promote before you write" like it is a second job (at least once you figure out what the heck those two things are).

I think it goes without saying that promotion, both in person and on the web, are going to sell you more books than sitting back and waiting for people to find you. You can only do so much promotion on Amazon before you hit a wall. Reviews will only get you so far. The question is what promotion works best for you as a person and within your budget. I am going to try out a few approaches and, hopefully, help other self-published authors figure out just what a "marketing plan" for a debut ebook really is.

Personally, I am going to start out by trying the tips that Ryan Casey had in his blog along with promotion on Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook. I'm then planning to do a blog tour and re-evaluate from there. I don't have thousands of dollars to throw into this book, but am hoping to earn some money to do more for book number 2.

Do you have any marketing tips or tricks that have worked for you? Leave a comment if you want to share.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Your first time is your best time, right?

This week has been one of many firsts.  My first self published novel (shameless plug here for The Hunter's Son available on Amazon), the first time I almost threw the computer against the wall formatting said novel, and my first blog post.  When I started this journey 16 month ago, I thought writing a book wouldn't be so hard.  I mean, I write every day, how hard can it be?

That hubris probably cost me about four months of good solid writing.  I became so frustrated with adding commas and reading through edits that I almost quit.  In fact, I "set my book aside" for a few months to pursue other ventures only to feel so guilty that I came back to it.  Without the help of my editor Brenda (shameless plug of her website here) and the support of my wife, none of this would have been possible.  

I was so happy when I finished the last round of edits, because writing is the hardest part, right?  Then I realized that book cover design, self-promotion, marketing, website design, book launch and blogging were all left to be done.  For a while, I was so overwhelmed that I didn't know if I could really do it.  I also thought that I could save a few bucks by doing everything myself, which was probably my biggest mistake.

That’s not to say that the website doesn't look good or that the promotion is going terribly, it just means that, if I had to do it all over again, I would probably throw a bit more money into my book at the beginning.  The ease with which we are able do things on the internet can make someone quickly forget that we get what we pay for and those people who specialize in certain areas get the big bucks for a reason.

This has led me to the decision to put any money I get from my first novel right back into my second.  The Hunter’s Son is the first book in a trilogy and I want to make things a little easier on myself the second time around.  I also suggest to any new authors like myself to really do research on marketing and self-promotion prior to releasing their book to save a huge headache.

To start, I released The Hunter’s Son on Smashwords without really doing any research.  Now, there is nothing wrong with Smashwords and the Style Guide is quite effective for designing ebooks for Kindle.  That being said, I released my novel on a Sunday night and was on the front page of Smashwords for nearly twenty-four hours but received only about seventy-five page views and eleven downloads of the first twenty percent of the book that was available for free. 

I did sell a couple of books that first day, although one of them was to my wife who I insisted could simply give me three dollars and I would give her a copy off of my laptop since she insisted on being the very first purchaser .  The second day of release on Smashwords, my page views went from seventy-five to ten and then down to three on the third day.  It was this point that I began speaking to my editor Brenda about Kindle Select and their “free promotion for exclusivity” deal.  I was unsure about giving anyone exclusive rights to my book; however, Brenda pointed me toward two blog posts. The first was from  J.A. Konrath (found here) and the second from one of Brenda’s clients named Ryan Casey (found here).  The evidence they presented was overwhelming and if you are having doubts, they are well worth read.

So I decided to go with KDP and immediately took my book off Smashwords.  I had already finished my print edition on CreateSpace and received the proof copy.  I figured, heck, why not just get them both on Amazon at the same time.  So I pressed publish on both the e-edition and the print edition only to find out that the e-edition has a waiting period of 12-24 hours and the print edition has a waiting period of 5-7 days before appearing on  Never did I run across these time frames in all my research.  I could have left the book up on Smashwords for a few more hours, but that might have only meant two or three more page views.

Despite these hiccups, I am gearing up for my free promotion days on Amazon and will keep everyone up to date when the promotion will happen and what the results are.  I've seen everything from 20,000 downloads to 500 downloads.   Who knows what will happen.

I look back at my first week as a self-published author and realize how different everything could have been and how different everything could be.  A little research here on promotion and a little money there for some website design and my life might have been much easier.  This is not meant to take anything away from the finished product which I am very happy with.  I just realize, now that I am done, how much easier it all could have been.

Maybe the second time will be the best after all.