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.

The Fantasy Writer

I set up this blog to chronicle my self-publishing journey, my achievements and missteps, in the hope that it will be helpful to someone. Even if at the end of the day the lesson is don’t do what I did.

The main reason however is that I need an accountability space. This will be it.

I’ll try to be as honest as I can without revealing my identity. My numbers will be 100% accurate (you’ll see exactly how much money I burn) but some data may not timely and some information may be cagey.

If you do know my identity please don’t reveal it.

So what are my goals? My goals are to be able to quit my job and go full-time as an author in 2 years’ time. Ideally it would be less than two years (I’d love reach this goal by March 2021) but I’m giving myself two years to make this work.

How am I going to do it?

  • Write stories people want to read
  • Publish the books on a rapid release schedule
  • Build up a rabid following
  • Rinse and repeat

I’ll break down the steps of how I attempt to tackle each bullet point above over the course of my journey and how well it’s going.