The First Day of My Launch (Not)

Yesterday was supposed to be the first day of my launch. Due to REASONS I pushed back the book by a couple of weeks. However, I did not push back the promotions.

I wanted to see the results of the book promotions on a preorder.

My goal for Day 1 of my launch was to sell 200 copies of my 99c book.

As of 31 December 2019 the book had 135 pre-orders.

As a result of the promotion I now have 232 pre-orders.

I managed to gain 97 pre-orders across 7 promotion sites. I’m happy with those results. I imagine they would have been better if the book had been live because of borrows in Kindle Unlimited but 97 pre-orders are still 97 new readers.

In absolute terms, the promotions cost me $232. For a 99c book, that comes out to $2.05 cost per book (adding in the $0.34 I make per sale). As a new author, I’m fine with having a loss leader for a first book if it means readers will pick up the second book (priced at $4.99). Assuming they do, I’d make $0.94 profit (after deducting for Book 1 costs). That’s not much but again, the books are part of a series and if they like my style they may choose to stick around with me.

It’s always important for you to highlight what your goal is when launching a book. Right now my goal is not to recoup the costs of the book but to find readers and get them to pick up a copy.

I’m happy that 97 new readers took a chance on me.

I’m going to use the same promotion sites in my next launch but I’ll be using them when the book is live to compare the results.

What are your goals for your next book launch?

2020 Goals

I have 3 main goals for 2020. An important part of composing achievable goals is to make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely). I’ve outlined the ones that are the most important ones to me.

Publishing Goals

I want to publish 20 books by 31 December 2020.

One of my primary goals is to publish a 12-book series. The other books are set in the same world but are part of other series. Twenty books sounds like a lot but I have some of them written already. My publishing goal is tied directly to my daily writing goals.

Earnings Goals

I want to earn $100,000 by 31 December 2020.

That sounds like a lot but let’s break it down. $100,000 divided by 20 books is $5,000 per book.

At a $3.99 sales price ($2.29 royalty factoring in delivery costs) I have to sell 2,183 copies of each book to earn $5,000.

That still sounds like a lot, right?

My books will be in Kindle Unlimited which should help reach more readers and earn money without selling copies. I just need to have readers borrow.

This also leads me to my next goal…

Newsletter Goals

Get 3,000 readers on my newsletter list by 31 December 2020.

This one is ambitious because it’s difficult to get people to sign up for newsletters.

From what I’ve read over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that people would rather pay 99c to get a story than sign up for a newsletter and get it for free.

I prefer organic subscribers but I don’t think I will reach my goal if I depend entirely on organic subscribers. My plan is to introduce three different reader magnets on sites like BookFunnel and StoryOrigin that will be entryways to the various series I will have published. I will be launching these in April once I have a few books out so that by then it would be a lucrative time investment.

Miscellaneous Goals

In addition to my publishing, earnings, and newsletter goals I have some other personal and professional goals.

I want to attend 2 conferences during 2020 and a writing retreat. I’ve already booked those. Attending writer conferences are important because they provide value in unexpected ways and yield results that show up months later. I can draw a line to several opportunities I’ve had over the past six months directly to meeting people in person.

The conferences also inspire me creatively, in addition to motivating me to write more.

I want to create new friendships and deepen my existing ones with other authors. I have a limited circle of fantasy author friends and I’d like to expand it. Having a support system in this career is important for both personal and professional reasons. Friends in the same space can help motivate and inspire you to achieve more and reassure you when plans aren’t going the way you’ve planned.

I want a solid team of loyal readers that I can rely on to provide feedback on early copies of books. Getting readers is the first half of the battle, maintaining them is a different story. I want to build a loyal fanbase that enjoys my stories. Readers are the reason I write. Money is the reason I publish. Readers are important and one of my goals is to have many of them turn into friends by year-end.

I want to learn how to learn how to run AMS and Facebook ads effectively. I’ve enrolled in two courses to help me learn this.

Those are my goals for 2020. We’ll see at the end of the year if these were realistic goals to put in place.

What are your goals for 2020?

3 Months Later…

A lot has happened since my last post. In a nutshell:

  1. I formed a publishing company.
  2. I went to a writers conference and had a fantastic experience.
  3. I took down my old preorders and set up new ones.
  4. I changed my publication schedule.

I Formed a Publishing Company

I’m really excited that I decided to take the step of forming a company. It was a spur of the moment decision and I had to get it done in two weeks’ time. It was a little stressful researching everything in a limited time but I was surprised at how easy it was create the company. I incorporated in Nevada and only had issues with opening a bank account. In the end, it worked out and for that I’m happy.

Owning a company is exhilarating and utterly terrifying.

The main reason I chose to create a publishing company was because it made financial sense. I weighed the pros and cons and realized it made more sense for me to do it now instead of further down the line. I have a lot to learn and there’s no time like the present to get started.

The thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it alone. I’ve decided to hire people to help me with company issues and taxes. I want everything to be above board and professional. And the people I hired have already helped me avoid so many issues so I’m grateful for their help.

And now I can’t treat writing as a hobby anymore. It’s officially a business. Shit just got real.

I Went to a Writers Conference and Had a Fantastic Experience

In November I went to a writers conference. It helped me reconnect with my author friends and make new ones. The conference also afforded me the chance to connect with people I wanted to work with.

You can say all you want about connecting with someone online, it will never replace real life engagement.

I’m glad I made the decision to go and plan on attending more conferences in the future. So far I have 2 planned for 2020 but hoping that 2021 will include more of them.

The more authors I meet the more I realize I want this to be my full-time career. I’m hoping 2020 is a great year and gets me closer to achieving that goal.

I Took Down my Old Preorders and Set up New Ones

Taking down my preorders was a conscious decision because I wanted a fresh new bookshelf. I could have transferred over my existing account by changing my tax information but I chose to create a new one for the business and shut down my old KDP account.

Goodbye hobby writing, hello professional writing!

I Changed my Publication Schedule

On my flight to the conference I realized a crucial flaw in my old publication schedule. One main goal of mine is to have a completed series by the end of May. The problem was that the series I was working on had nothing to do with the series I wanted readers to connect with in June. I had to shuffle the writing around to make sure it accommodated my marketing strategy. I also decided to jump into a trend that may or may not take off. We’ll see… I’ll discuss that more in another post.

For now I just thought I’d let you know where I’ve been for the past three months. Even though I know you’re the only one reading this right now, Chris, and you know exactly where I’ve been.

The First Book

I’m redrafting my first book. It wasn’t hitting the notes I wanted so I changed the setting and the overall arc. It’s going to be submitted to my editor next week and I’ll have a better idea then if it requires further work.

This book isn’t going to be a masterpiece of literature. I just want the readers to enjoy a good story. I want them to get hooked into the story and devour every chapter. I want the book to be impossible for them to put down. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

It’s so much harder to execute than it appears.

My process is strange, I write the book and then I read it and reread it and wait for the parts where I get bored or lose interest. A lot of my writing is instinctive. I can’t verbalize or explain breakdowns of arcs or character motivation or all that stuff. I suck at discussing craft. All I know is that “something feels off” and I have to figure out a way to fix it. I usually have a vague idea why it feels off and I keep fiddling with it until it starts feeling right.

I need the readers to love this book so that they pick up the next. I need them to love it because it also introduces a character that has a spinoff series in early 2020 and I’m going to put up the pre-order when this book goes live. I’ll be able to determine if I was successful in my pursuit of hookiness based on the number of pre-orders I get for Book 2 and Book 1 of the new series.

So this week is all about fixing the first book and rewriting the first chapter.

Free Author Promotions

There are a few free author newsletter promotions that are worth the time to sign up and participate in.

  • Ebookaroo: Ebookaroo is run by Patty Jansen and features Science Fiction & Fantasy books in the following categories:

– 99c books (any 99c books, either perma-99c or on special)
– new releases
– free books if they’re first in series
– books on all retailers, including KU books
– Audio books

You can submit your books here: https://pattyjansen.com/ebookaroo/for-authors/

📚📚📚📚📚

  • SFF Book Bonanza: It’s run by Dean F. Wilson and features a multitude of free and paid author promotions. Free promotions include free book and 99c books. The other promotions range from $5 to $25+.

You can check it out here: http://sffbookbonanza.com/authors/

📚📚📚📚📚

  • Art of the Arcane: This promotion requires a newsletter share.

You can check out their free group promotions here: https://artofthearcane.wordpress.com/upcoming-giveaway-signups-2/

Amazon Ads: 1-9 September 2019

I’ve gotten 68 pre-orders from 1-9 September, averaging 7 books a day. My pre-order record in a single day is 11. In another lifetime that number was in triple digits but a fresh start requires humble expectations.

Why 11 when you can see 12 right there? Well, one pre-order was returned that same day taking the total down to 11.

I’ve referred to advertising as burning money in the past because it is the way I do it. However, I’ve come to a decision that I’m going to set this book up as a loss-leader in order to get the beginnings of a readership. There isn’t much money to be made when advertising a 99c book unless you get readers hooked and buying the next books in the series. I’m going to treat it as such. This book will be the launchpad of my publishing career and it’s worth spending money on that.

My launch strategy involves increasing the spend on Amazon Ads when the book is live and signing up for newsletter promotions. I think a lot of KU readers hunt for books that way so I believe it would be effective in getting more borrows.

Another method I’m going to use is free author promotions. I’ll discuss that in more detail in the next post.

I’ll share how much money was spent advertising the book if it recoups its losses. Until then, I’ll share how many pre-orders I’m achieving and if I beat the record of 11 per day.

It’s the Little Things

Today was an admin day. All these little things add up to a mountain so I decided to tackle everything so I could start the week fresh and just write.

Things I did:

Updated my Author Website: This has been long overdue. I changed the theme, customized it, scrubbed the old posts and updated the pages. Still to do is post new content this upcoming week to replace all the posts I purged. I also have to establish a social media calendar to ensure I post content across my blog, twitter account, and instagram. They’re all pretty empty at the moment.

Linked UK & Canada Stores on Amazon Associates OneClick: I’m planning to host weekly posts featuring books and I want to add affiliate links to them. Affiliate links are an easy way to make some extra money. The holidays are coming up and people buy a lot of things on Amazon. I’m hoping to get some of that action.

Signed up for ConvertKit: Started a paid subscription. I got my first batch of subscribers from a list builder I signed up for. (I’ll discuss my list building approach in a separate post.) I created a couple of forms and integrated them into my author website.

Discussed Fonts: I contacted one of my cover designers on the font he has on my covers. It seems like a little thing but it’s time consuming. I really want my branding to be consistent. I have a nice author font across the covers I’ve commissioned from various cover artists but I decided I want this cover designer to have a different font. I want a thicker font that stands out in thumbnail size. I had to hunt for fonts and share them with him so he could test them on the covers he’s designed. I still haven’t found the perfect one. This is a work-in-progress.

Modified an Existing Promotion Website: I have an existing book promotion website that I haven’t touched since early this year. I scrubbed all references to my pen name. Starting Tuesday, I’ll be sending out regular emails to the existing newsletter contacts. I plan to run a book fair in November so I will reach out to the author subscribers next month to set that up.

Created a Google Form for Author Newsletter Swaps and Promotions: I realized I need to take full advantage of seeing a lot of authors at November’s conference. My plan is to have a lot of business cards on hand with a QR code to the google form. Ideally I’d get fantasy authors that want to help promote my book in return for me promoting theirs.

Started Designing the Business Card: This is a work in progress. I need a couple of book covers to be finalized, which means I need to choose a font, and then I can finish the design and order the cards.

Updated my Expenses File: I’ve left some paid invoices in my inbox. Updating my expenses file meant I could finally clean out my inbox by filing them away, and have a better idea of how much I’ve spent so far on everything (the answer: too much).

Now that I have my admin sorted, I can focus on writing for the week.

The First Chapter

Why is the first chapter the most difficult chapter to write? Do you feel the same way or am I the only one? I agonize over the first sentence and the first paragraph and everything in between until I reach the ending and wonder if I have placed a sufficient hook.

Today I spent five hours writing a first chapter. I wrote a first draft, rewrote it, and kept poking at it. By the end of the day I still wasn’t happy with what I had produced.

I was supposed to finalize it to show to a friend in the morning. And by morning I mean eight hours from now. I should probably sleep. It’s 2 AM and I’m supposed to meet her at 10 AM.

Any other day, I would talk into a microphone, transcribe it, and edit it at a later date. I still agonize over that first chapter but it’s not as stressful. This time it’s different. I want to get into a story bundle so I’m putting a lot more pressure on myself to get that first chapter just right.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my past is that I do worse when I put more effort into something. I know, it’s weird. I overthink things and the magic disappears with all my second-guessing and editing.

I should have salvaged the first draft of that first chapter.

I’m going to start over again tomorrow. Start from scratch and let the words flow, and then give that to her and see what she thinks of it.

Amazon Pre-order Changes

Amazon changed their pre-order policy a couple of days ago from 90 days to 1 year. In addition, you can now extend your book a month from the pre-order date you’ve set without any penalties (one time exception).

I believe this is going to change the landscape of Amazon. How? I’m not sure yet. I have a couple of theories. I think ad spend will increase and keywords will become more competitive. I also think you’ll be seeing more of the big names at the top of the charts for a longer period of time. Competition is going to get more tough but it won’t be hopeless. There are still plenty of opportunities.

I read someone’s comment on Facebook that authors are limited to 10 pre-orders at a time. I haven’t looked up the veracity of this statement but if it’s true then it should curb the number of titles competing against each other and things won’t get too out-of-hand.

How does this change affect my release schedule? Personally, it’s a relief that I don’t have to release a book within a 90-day window in order to get the pre-order link for my back matter. I do have to restructure my publishing schedule to take into account the changes and I’m debating the merits of having a preorder up so early.

Rapid releases are great, but personally I believe it’s better for a book to build momentum over time and slowly gain a large readership. That’s why I’m in favor of long pre-orders and time in between releases.

I’m going to have a few release experiments in 2020 such as:

  • Rapid releasing 5 books in a series in one month.
  • Releasing 1 book in a series two months apart for the year.
  • Releasing 3 books and 1 volume (3 books in 1) within the same sub-genre on the same date to compare which approach is the best for income.
  • Releasing 3 books on Amazon in a single day without having them on pre-order.

Now that Amazon has extended pre-orders I can start my experiments earlier. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to finalize my covers and blurbs so that I can start putting up a few of my 2020 releases for pre-order.

Burning Money…

…also known as advertising.

One of my goals during this journey is to learn how to advertise without setting money on fire.

I’ve used 3 advertising strategies so far, Amazon ads, Bookbub ads, and newsletter promotions.

Results are as follows:

  • Amazon AdsOh look! My sales went up! It cost me how much?? I can get Amazon to spend my money and get results, not amazing results by any means, but I did see my sales increase.
  • Bookbub AdsWell, that money disappeared into thin air. I can get Bookbub ads to spend my money and zilch. Zero effect.
  • Newsletter PromotionsHmm, I guess people were right about them losing effectiveness. I used 3 newsletter promotions to rather lackluster results.

I’ve seen many authors advise not to start advertising until your third book is out.

I don’t agree with that.

I want readers to be waiting for my third book.

I want readers to be hovering over the preorder button and weep in joy when my book finally appears on their Kindles. Okay, maybe not weep. I’d settle for being happy that the book they’ve waited for is finally theirs to read.

The thing is, readers can’t be waiting for something if they don’t know it exists.

So I advertise…

Another reason advertising book 1 is important is that you learn what’s working and what’s not. My lessons cost me money. Don’t be like me.

I changed blurbs and advertising strategies with the following results:

  • Blurb 1 + medium-bid Amazon ads + newsletter promotions = 45 sales over 1 month
  • Blurb 2 + Bookbub ads + low-bid Amazon ads = zero sales over 21 days
  • Blurb 3 + high-bid Amazon ads = 34 sales over 12 days.

I’m not happy with Blurb 3 but it’s getting more sales than Blurb 1 or 2. I definitely need to work on my conversion rate and figure out what the issue is there. I had 521 clicks but only 34 converted into sales. That has to be improved.

Above are the results of the ads from Blurb 3. The numbers makes me cringe when I see how much I’ve spent versus how much I’ve made in sales. And I haven’t even shared what I spent on Blurb 1 and Blurb 2 ads. But I keep reminding myself that right now my objective is to capture readers. I want them to give my book a chance and hopefully they’ll enjoy it and move on to the next.

I’m starting from a position of zero readership. I’ve accepted that Book 1 will be a loss-leader and established how much money is allowed to be burned in the chase for readers. I’ve allowed myself a grace period in 2019 to spend in order to gain readers but I will have to be more fiscally responsible in 2020.

I need to fix the numbers above over the next three months so that I can launch into 2020 in a stronger position with advertising.

#2020Goal: Stop burning money on advertising.