Monday, 25 October 2010

After the Sale - Chapter Marketing

I'm going to avoid the whole social media marketing topic other than to say (a) I'm still trying (and failing) to find the balance between family, work, writing and online socialising with a marketing slant and (b) I did the obligatory blog tour in my release month and I do think it was a success and (c) there are plenty of other writers out there who have this down pat and offer loads of excellent advice.

What I really wanted to talk about in this post was paid marketing, as in advertising. Not giving advice here, mind you, just a ramble of what I did, why, and my conclusions.

First up, I decided right at the start that I wasn't going to spend more on advertising than I could potentially earn from the sale of my debut e-book. The range of ebook sales is so up and down, and as this was my first release I had nothing to go on, so putting a number to this was impossible. I cut off my budget at about $130... that includes all my ads put together.

I participated in a treasure hunt (LASR) which had a minimal entrance fee, but I also donated a copy of Betrayed for their competition. This brought viewers to my blog, but from what I could see from the stats, these viewers came to get the URL link and didn't stay to browse or click through to any links for my book. Still, I hope my name lurked in their heads a little while longer, lol.

For the other ads, I had a dilemma with what buy-link to use. Taking the viewer directly to Carina Press means they're limited to shop there. I want them to shop there, because I get much higher royalties straight from Carina Press sales than from thirdparty vendors. But I do think many readers have their preferred choice of vendor, usually linked in with their e-reader, and could this be a stumbling block? My website, on the other hand, gives a quick on-hand blurb of the book (the ad is usually just a cover) in addition to a list of links to thirdparty vendors of their choice - but this requires an extra step in the buy loop. For the most part, I ended up directing viewers to my website - also for the reason so that I could monitor click throughs from the various sites.

My budget wasn't huge, so I was limited to cheaper advertising sites. Should I have aimed higher? Probably, and next time I'll splash out on at least one or two of the more expensive sites, if only for comparison. I don't have the data for comparions now, but common sense dictates that the more expensive sites have better click through rates - even the cheaper sites had excellent reading stats.

Monitoring click-through rates to my site, I noticed that the worst performance was my rotating banner ad. The site I used had unlimited ads in the rotation, which meant you could click for days without actually seeing your ad come up. Other sites put a limit on the number of ads in their rotation, and this probably has a much better success rate.

Static ads, especialy on the web site's main page, got the best click through rate. These are more expensive but well worth it. Still, I was looking at maybe 2-3 click throughs from that link per day. And also, to get these spaces, you have to plan ahead and get your booking in early, they fill up really fast and long in advance. I only started looking at advertising once my book was released, and got lucky on one site where they'd had a cancellation. Next time I will start booking these slots the second I have a release date.

Do I consider the poor click-through rates a failure? NO, not at all. As a reader of many of these online sites, I'm bombarded with cover ads and seldom click through myself unless something really jumps out at me or if I know the author and see they have a new release out. But as a debut author, I have to get my name out there, and the more times people see my name, my cover, the better for it to trigger something in their head when they're browsing through bookselling vendors for something to read. If this exposure sparks something in them to take a second look, I'm happy - of course this is not anything that can be monitored, but I do believe in paid advertising as a neccessity.

My publisher, Carina Press, also do a lot of their own marketing and advertising, and I was delighted to see my book in some of their bundled ads.

The sites I used for advertising were Long and Short Romance and Romance Junkies. I shied away from Smart Bitches and Dear Author because of their more expensive rates, but I'll definitely look at advertising on these sites next time round.

There are so many paid advertising opportunities out there, and my conclusion is that next time I'll make much greater use of them, selecting on or two expensive options and plenty of the cheaper options.

Monday, 18 October 2010

After the Sale - Chapter Reviews

Probably one of the most emotional sides to the entire process - when it comes to reviews, rejection is no longer about an editor's personal taste, publishing schedules and/or a story that doesn't quite fit what they're looking for right now. Rejection here is direct from your readers, on a large scale and *bang* right there in the public eye for everyone to witness.

Still, a stinging review is a thousand times better than being ignored altogether. Betrayed got the full range, from avid excitement about this *new author* and lavish praise to *okay, loved some parts BUT...* to *yawn* and even a few *slaps across the knuckles*. The advice (and excellent it was indeed) from multi-pubbed authors is to by and large ignore the reviews and concentrate on writing. Hmm... as a debut author, this wasn't gonna happen despite my best intentions. A singing review blossomed rose petals in my breast and a scorcher blocked the sunlight from my day (LOL) But you know what I'm getting at, each review really affected me (and still does, as some are still coming in). It didn't matter than one reviewer swooned at my hero's brogue while another found it difficult to read - personal opinions, I know, you can't please everyone - but I still felt each and every one.

And still, to be totally honest, the worst review sting comes when you offer your book to a reviewer and they say 'No thanks, I'l pass on this one.'

Which brings to me the business of reviews. Being new to all this, I wasn't sure how much or little to do in this regard. Many review sites request a 3 month lead time in order to synchronise their review with your release date - this is difficult with an e-book because the publishing schedule is much faster than traditional and I, for one, only got my production copy of Betrayed about 6 weeks before it's release date. But, I was suprised to see that some of those reviewers got their review out on time anyway and another thing to keep in mind with e-books - the shelf life of your book is not as rigid as print copies and it doesn't really matter if that review comes out a few months after your release.

Carina Press uses NetGalley for reviews, this means that any reviewer can request your book directly from NetGalley if they're interested. This means a lot of unexpected reviews appearing and it also means a lot more coverage and a lot less work from me - I didn't have to go out and troll for each and every review.

But it also raises the question of whom to send your book to or not. Most of the smaller reviewers use NetGalley, but what if some don't? And it looks like some of the larger sites will also go to NetGalley now and then, but more often than not they're inundated with publishers sending them ARCs anyway. Also, there's the question of sending them an email to alert them to your new book coming as opposed to hoping they'll find you in the masses of other releases - a debut author can easily get lost here. I sent about two emails to these smaller sites, one reviewed Betrayed and the other hasn't--yet. Next time I do think I'll take a more aggressive approach.

I did send Betrayed out to about 7 of the larger review sites - some did my review in time for the release month and I'm still waiting on the others - they have a general policy that if they haven't reviewed your book in x months, then they're not going to - another waiting game, lol 

For the rest, I relied on NetGalley and got some lovely reviews from that.

But there was another dilemma and that was the more acerbic review sites. These site don't hold back on pulling you work to ribbons and then shredding up the pieces. These sites also garner the most interest and even a bad review will reward you with loads of publicity. To send or not to send? I chose not to. It was a coward's approach and I'd the same again if I could go back in time. Not for my first book, but I'd seriously reconsider for consequent books when I've built up a little courage.

And there concludes my not so helpful ramblings on reviews. I think this is a very open area where every author must stick to what they feel comfortable with.

Friday, 15 October 2010

TGIF

Not least of all because my boys finally get home tonight after a long, long week on a school trip in Wales. They should have arrived hours ago, but there were problems with the bus and now we're waiting, waiting, waiting...This is the first time they've been gone from home and the empty nest syndrone hit hard - an abrupt reminder that having only one set of twins means everything changes in a quick swoop, no easing in with a littlie still at home when the oldest flees the nest.

On other news, Angela James (executive editor for Carina Press) has kept us on tenderhooks for weeks now with big, big Carina Press news. You can read all about it here ... http://carinapress.com/blog/
It's really huge and, although I'm not directly affected because it's only aimed at Romantic Suspense and Mystery, it's great to see the muscle of Harlequin always has our backs... the fun never stops!

Enjoy the weekend

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

After the Sale - Chapter Edit, Edit & Edit Again

For those of you who have received and R&R (revise and re-submit) and feel it's a rejection - DON'T. Betrayed was one of those. I revised according to the suggestions and concerns of my editor, re-subbed, and a few weeks later received that wonderful "Call" email from Carina Press.

My editor had seen something in my voice, a spark in my premise, something that grabbed her interest enough to commit to the hard work ahead... because Betrayed was far from perfect even after that first round of revisions and even after I'd been offered a contract. There was a second round, a third round, and yes, a fourth round, and after that the copy edits.

My initial draft of Betrayed was about 160k words, I'm sure my editor was extremely relieved that by the time I subbed to Carina Press, I'd dwindled that down to just over 100k... that's an awful lot of reading, careful edit-type reading and commenting and suggesting and fixing and debating back and forth with me over, five times over. My lovely editor even took the time to jot down joky notes that had me laughing out loud at times- I'm sure she wouldn't mind me sharing one...

I'd written (and no, sometimes I have no idea where these words come from, lol)
Before she opened her eyes and sucked his willpower dry with the green fire that seemed to burn from deep within her secret places.

My editor's comment:
Delete the “secret places” because readers may start seeing green pussy-fires J

I laughed so much, I ended up choking and had to cover my tracks when my 10 yr son wanted to know what was so funny.

There was not much time between the round of edits, sometimes as little as one week, and I must admit that the process consumed my time and thoughts. I admire authors who can juggle editing one book while continuing to work on their next. I tried that, but every time I sat down with my WIP, my thoughts would wander to the set of edits I'd just handed in, second-guessing the changes I'd made and wondering if it would be enough or whether more edits would be required. Not productive, but I don't bang myself up about it. This was all so new to me, new and exciting, and in a manner I'm glad I took the time to enjoy and worry over everything.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

After the Sale - Prologue

I've been wanting to do a series of posts on my experience post-sale and post-publication, specifically as a debut author. The leap from aspiring author to published author was both exhilirating and terrifying and I quickly realised that no one's experience is the same. When published authors are afraid to give specifics on what works and what doesn't work, in what path you should follow and what pit falls to avoid, it exactly because of that. There's plenty of wonderful advice out there, but it was quite frustrating to not have a set of easy peasy established rules to follow. Figuring it out as you go makes for many... maybe mistakes is the wrong word, so I'll just say 'things I'll try to do differently next time'.

The editing process, the time wasted, the marketing and review process... Writing I can do, but the rest was a steep learning curve and it's not surprising if I didn't get it right first time. Maybe by my 3,4,5 book I'll start getting the hang of it (if I ever get my next book finished, lol)

I'm no expert and there is some excellent advice out there -- this will just be ramblings of a debut author as she muddled through the murky waters