Book promotion update

I spent most of the day submitting Where Memories Meet to websites that promote ebooks. I want to promote the book during its Amazon countdown deal scheduled for February 1 – 7. Apparently some sites have to approve the submission (due to time, space, or quality reputation considerations I imagine). Other sites seem to be willing to take my money and go with it. That might give you an indication about the desirability of promoting on the various sites. Overall, it seems like the business of promoting self-published books online is much better established than it was when I first published Dancing in Heaven in 2011.

Here are some useful things I’ve learned:

TCK Publishing has generated two lists of sites that promote ebooks, one for  free ebooks, and one for paid Kindle books that I used since my Amazon countdown deal starts at $0.99 and not $0.00. The list is ordered by rank according to the amount of traffic the site gets. The top six are:

Book Bub 27,224
Ereader News Today 28,681
Buck Books 34,248
Many Books 35,754
Kindle Nation Daily 43,172
The Kindle Book Review 45,812

  • As I mentioned in my Marketing Self-Published Books post on January 6, I was turned down by Book Bub.
  • I submitted my book to, but have not heard back from, Ereader News Today.
  • I did not submit to Buck Books. By the time I got around to it, I couldn’t easily find the way to submit, and I was too tired to deal with it.
  • I submitted to Many Books but have not heard back.
  • I looked at Kindle Nation Daily, but the slots for the dates of my countdown deal were already taken. Next time I will have to apply earlier. (Alternately, BookBub requires that you apply no earlier than one month before your promotion date. It all gets rather jumbled up and confusing after a while.)
  • I submitted to the Kindle Book Review. They accepted my money ($25), but I have not received any confirmation.
  • Previously I paid $90 for a promotion at Just Kindle Books (ranked 365,139). I’m assuming that’s a go.
  • And earlier I paid $20 for a promotion at Goodkindles (ranked 594,646). The rankings go to 5,628,580. So although these sites are not at the top, neither are they at the bottom of the list.
  • I plan to apply at BookGoodies (ranked 231,471) tomorrow. Their application is complex with required author interview questions to fill out. I’m going to start fresh in the morning. (I stand corrected. Please see the comment BookGoodies added below.)

These are just some of the options. They vary in what promotional services they provide from tweets, Facebook posts and emails to featuring books on websites. Many promotions run for only one day, although it varies depending on the site and the price you are willing to pay. It’s rather complicated. I have started an Excel spread sheet that I am using to keep track of site URLs and the status of my submissions. I don’t have any first hand experience with paid promotions. I chose not to spend money on promoting my first book. If all goes well with this experience, I may decide to splurge and promote Dancing in Heaven later.

Wish me well.

 

 

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Marketing self-published books

Marketing continues to befuddle me as I try to promote Where Memories Meet – Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s. If my book doesn’t cross a reader’s radar, they won’t know it exists, let alone buy and read it.

Most times when I wade out onto the web with all the marketing and promotion advice for self-pubs, I just get discouraged and walk away. There is a lot of book promotion noise out there on the web. But I’m trying to keep in mind a quote I came across recently:

“The universe is infinite; there is space enough in it for everyone to succeed, including me.”

Although I want to make my books available in many formats for anyone who wants to read them, Amazon is making it tough. Several years back they instituted a program called  KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select. This program provides opportunities for authors to offer price promotions, and include your book in the lending library. For example, many authors promote their book for free during an introductory period. This successfully gets their book into readers’ hands, some percentage (and I don’t know how many) of whom will actually read the book and and even leave a review on Amazon. Because of the way Amazon promotes its products, including your book, having a lot of reviews and better yet, sales, gives you more free promotion. Your book will show up during searches. You’ve seen it, “Customers who bought this book (or product) also bought these products. . .” And magically your book gets on a reader’s radar.

To be on KDP Select, you have to sell your book exclusively on Amazon. I have not yet chosen to do that with Dancing in Heaven. But last month I enrolled Where Memories Meet in KDP Select. That means I can, and have, scheduled a countdown promotion where I set the book’s price at a discount for a period of time (a couple of days). Then Amazon notifies customers of the price break and how much longer it will be in effect.

My countdown promotion is scheduled to begin February 1. My normally $2.99 priced ebook will be offered at $.99 until February 4, and then it will be $1.99 for three more days until it returns to $2.99.

I think this is a good sales tactic, but it needs to be promoted. I’ve been researching websites that promote ebooks for a fee. They include but are not limited to Book Bub, Just Kindle Books, Ereader News, and Goodkindles to mention a few. For varying prices, these sites will blast your book out to their fans and followers, and perhaps list on their website for a day or longer. To promote my memoir at a price of $.99 via Book Bub  it costs $720. They are only able to accept 20% of the books submitted to be featured. My book was not accepted.

It’s a bit of a relief because $720 is pretty steep for my marketing budget. Instead I have paid a minimal fee to have my book (with the countdown deal) promoted on Just Kindle Books, and Goodkindles. I am still waiting to hear from Ereader News. I have no idea if promoting my book on these sites will produce any measurable benefit.

Another option I have is to buy advertising on Amazon. You have to bid for the advertising slot by entering a price per click. You set the total amount you are willing to spend. Amazon does not guarantee customers who click your ad will buy your book, but it will get on their radar.

I suspect your head is spinning by now. Mine is. So I’ll sign off from the marketing trenches.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

Here are a few links to my struggles with and thoughts about marketing during my first self-publishing experience:
Now marketing
Promoting in the world wide jungle
How much time should I spend promoting my book?

 

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Things I learned with my second book

As many of you know, I published my first book, Dancing In Heaven four years ago and just recently released my second book, Where Memories Meet – Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s. Some things were easier the second time around and some things have been trickier. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

With my first book, everything was new. I had to learn about traditional and self-publishing to make an informed decision. I researched and read a lot of opinions and decided on self-publishing at that time. You can read about my thought process here in my series on my experience with self-publishing. It’s a little dated, but I think many things still hold true.

I had to understand what an online “platform” was and how to build one.

I needed to start a website.

I had to learn my way around CreateSpace print-on-demand, and ebook publication through Amazon and Smashwords. This is all in addition to writing, editing, and formatting my manuscript. I learned about the Goodreads author program. I had to create author pages at various online sites. There were a lot of things to learn, decide on, and execute the first time around.

When I take all that into consideration, publishing this second book has been like a cakewalk. But there were a couple of things I didn’t consider initially or learned about the hard way.

The biggest thing I missed was to include a reference to Dancing in Heaven in Where Memories Meet and to update Dancing with a reference to Memories. Once I realized that omission in my marketing strategy, it was easy enough to correct ebooks because I just added the information to my doc file and re-uploaded it to Amazon and Smashwords. It’s a pretty quick process. The print books are a little more complicated and  I really haven’t dealt with it effectively there. But the truth of the matter is that after the initial push of paperbacks, the vast majority of the books I’ve sold have been ebooks. So I’m not too worried about it.

The other thing that proved tricky for me was making sure both of my books, in both of their formats, showed up on my author page at Amazon. You would think that would be a no-brainer, but I had my name as Christine Grote sans the “M” for my middle name as the author of my first book on Amazon. I included the “M” on my second book. So for a brief period of time I was two different people at Amazon. The help at Author Central proved to be quite helpful in straightening out that snafu. I had a similar, different but related, problem at Goodreads and I think I got that fixed by asking someone at the Librarian Group there. Again, very helpful.

Now the challenge becomes how best to publicize these two books. The learning curve never ends.

I’m an ebook wizard

Well, maybe I’m not quite a wizard, but I’m certainly more proficient than I was three days ago.

Smashwords, an online multi-format ebook publisher, uses a “meat-grinder” to process book files. The author submits a word document; it goes through the meat-grinder and out comes a variety of ebooks that can be read on many types of platforms. You’re probably familiar with pdfs. Other formats Smashwords can produce, and then publish, include but are not limited to mobi for the Kindle, and epub for Nook.

This whole ebook business can be pretty complicated. But it’s all about what file types a particular software can open.

For the past two days I feel like I’ve been in a meat-grinder.

I used Scrivener, a terrific writing program and file system, when I wrote Where Memories Meet. Files in Scrivener have to be exported into a particular file type to be used in some way: as a printable document, as a shareable word document, as a pdf, etc. Scrivener is able to produce some ebook formats this way, epub (Nook) and mobi (Kindle) included. And that’s what I did.

I compiled my book in Scrivener and saved it as a mobi file. Then I uploaded it to Amazon for publication as a Kindle ebook. But if I do nothing more, I am limited to only making my book available for Kindle users. Nor can I give away free copies for review, which is a nice feature Smashwords allows.

Smashwords requires a “clean” Word doc (not to be confused with Word docx, which I learned the hard way). I spent nearly every waking moment in the past two days producing the “clean” Word doc.

I think it was worth it. Hopefully WMM will look better across most if not all platforms this way. I think it will.

I ended up having a lot more control of where my page-breaks are, which is important to me because of all the images I have in my book. And I believe I had more control of fonts and overall paragraph styles. The Scrivener software made a lot of those decisions for me when it produced the mobi file. For example, the first file I published on Amazon had a nightmare Table of Contents running about three pages on my Kindle. Who needs that?

So, although it took time, required some reading, and was tedious to do, I think producing a clean Word doc, and then uploading it to both Amazon and Smashwords is the way to go.

I’ll tell you what I did next time. You could do it too.

Where Memories Meet cover

Where Memories Meet – Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s
Now available for Kindle at Amazon, and other ebook formats at Smashwords.

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Self-publishing—an update

I know, I know. It’s been so long since I wrote about self-publishing that you might have forgotten. Occasionally it slips even my mind.

I wanted to share two things with you: a interview and my book sales.

A few months ago, Beth Ann at It’s Just Life, suggested I request a review from TBM who blogs at Making my Mark, and is the author of A Woman Lost. TBM graciously read and reviewed Dancing in Heaven. A few days ago I answered interview questions for her.

Have I always wanted to be a writer?

What writers have influenced me the most?

When did I decide to write the memoir?

How difficult was it to write about my sister’s death?

I answered these and other questions about what I learned, my family’s support, and my current project. I know I’ve written a lot about Dancing in Heaven and my writing process, but I think there are new things in this interview. You can read my answers at Making my Mark. Stop over if you get the chance.

Now for the sales. Amazingly enough, considering my almost complete lack of regard or effort for marketing, sales for Dancing in Heaven continue to dribble in. At random intervals I receive a royalty check or a notice that money has been deposited into my account from a miniscule amount of $12 to a somewhat respectable amount of $320. That always reminds me that I’m still selling books, or at least that Amazon.com is still selling books for me.

I think Dancing in Heaven has made enough in royalties to pay for my publishing expenses which include setting up my business. I didn’t take the time to do the math and calculate the exact amount of money I’ve deposited, but I did add up how many books I’ve sold. As I approach the two-year anniversary of publishing Dancing in Heaven, I’ve sold about 770 books. Although initially I sold more print copies, over the two years the print copies amounted to only 18% of total sales. The lion’s share, 67%, of sales are from Kindle e-books. The remainder is from a combination of Nook, Smashwords, and hand-sold books. All things considered, I’ve been selling about one book a day. I’m okay with that.

I’m grateful for Amazon who basically does free marketing for me by suggesting my book to shoppers who are looking for similar titles.  Dancing in Heaven only has a bestsellers rating of 90,589, which sounds like it might be at the bottom of the barrel. But when I consider there are more than 1 million Kindle books for sale, that puts me in the top 10%. (Something Mark pointed out.) Which is somewhat amazing to me. I had read somewhere early out that the vast majority of books don’t break 100 copies. So at least I’ve done that.

I also have given away quite a few books, which means more readers for Annie’s story, which is what it is all about for me.

I’d do it all again.

In fact, I am doing it all again.

You can read more posts about my self-publishing journey, including things I learned in a self-publishing workshop, on my self-publishing page.

Where do I go from here?

Where do I go from here?

When I decided to write about blogging, I did what I often do, I went online to find out what I could.

That’s not entirely honest. I googled it and check two links.

I found an article in New York magazine on line called The Early Years by Clive Thompson which was basically a timeline of the history of blogging. Did you know that the first blog, ever, was created by a college student in 1994? Almost twenty years ago.

Quite a few years ago my oldest son told me I should start writing a blog. I didn’t listen to him at the time, much to my chagrin. If I had maybe I could have proftted from being one of the early people in.

Did you know that people actually made money off of blogs? You probably did. I’m always the last to know.

But like so many other things, it helps to be popular if you are already famous. We like to follow people who have been proven to be well-liked by other people. The same goes for authors. We like to read authors who are the best sellers. They don’t have a problem getting an agent or a book contract. Same goes for famous people. Just check out the tables in your local B&N. But you already know that.

Clive Thompson talks all about it in Blogs to Riches: The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom also published in New York magazine.

I never intended or expected to make money with my blog.

That’s probably a good thing, too.

I started the blog to encourage myself to write regularly, even every day, and to start creating an online presence. Just a little over two years ago on January 21, 2011, I started my blog with a short post, A New Start with Clean House, that mentioned both my mom and Arthur. Arthur is still with me. Mom is not. I still write about both.

My second post, Missed Opportunities, was about the red fox that I saw run through our yard, but failed to capture on camera. I still have missed opportunities, but now I keep my camera on a shelf in the kitchen where I am sometimes able to catch the wood ducks, the pileated woodpecker and the owl, the groundhogs, my most recent good catch – the scarlet tanager, and even a red fox.

I saw this female wood duck this morning. I think she was looking for her mate. They’re usually together.

01-Wood duck - 2013-05-01 _32.-500

My third post,  Fiddles radio broadcasts, signing off and iPads, was one of my all-time favorites. Very few people read it.

I tried to find the stats. I went to “all posts,” and then filtered for the date. I clicked on the miniature bar graph in the column that says “stats.” I had one “syndicated” view. I have no idea what that means, but it can’t be good. Truthfully, after rooting around a bit on my stats page, I don’t have any idea how many hits that page actually got.  I’m not going to obsess about it.

I continue to tell myself I shouldn’t be concerned with my stats anyway. I continue to not listen.

But a blogging acquaintance, compatriot, friend (what are we to each other anyway?) named Sue Dreamwalker commented on that post and continues to comment occasionally to this day. She has a nice post up today about May Day. So while some followers come and some go, she has stayed with me. I’d like to say thank you to Sue and all the rest of you who joined me early and have stuck around. Another shout out to Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way for lighting my way early on. And while I’m at it, I have to mention the amusing William at Speak of the Devil who continues to hold the esteemed position of being my number 1 commenter.

But I digress.

They say to have followers you have to be a follower. Which sounds a lot like friendship to me. And over the months, now years, that I’ve blogged, I continue to contemplate how this approach can possibly work unless you are satisfied with a static, relatively small, but loyal group of bloggers. A little blogging community. I’m not criticizing that, I’m just saying that if it becomes nothing more than a quid pro quo, your reach with your blog is limited to the amount of time you have to read and comment on others’ blogs. Which also depends on how long-winded your blogging friends are. You can see I will not fair very well in this system, because it becomes fairly obvious fairly early, that you can visit many photographers’ blogs in the time it takes you to read one lengthy, well-written or not, story on a writer’s blog.

This is a dilemma for me.

I started my blog when I was researching how to publish my memoir Dancing in Heaven.

After reading articles online, I realized that to publish a book, either by agent and traditional publisher or by myself, I needed an online presence. After I wrote Dancing in Heaven, I fully intended to seek an agent and publish it through traditional means. My mind changed. But the journey gave me a lot of fodder for my blog.

The advice I heeded was that I needed to build a platform, which at the time I read it was a completely foreign concept to me.

I started a blog.

I’ve read other advice more recently, that if you are a writer, you will serve your goals better by not spending time blogging, but writing instead. I think there is probably some truth in that position.

But I’ve also read that if you are a published author, you need to have a blog where your readers can learn more about you and communicate with you.

But then, I’ve read that if you want to have a successful blog, you need to  pick a topic, carve out your niche, and stick to it.

But that sounds kind of boring to me, and what would I do with my bird photos, garden updates, travel posts, and art series among other things?

If you’ve ever held a digital camera in your hands, running around a sunlit garden or walking through a park filled with birdsong, you already know that snapping photographs is a lot more fun than sitting at a desk doing the hard work of translating your thoughts from your brain through your fingers and the keyboard to a computer screen. Just saying. So maybe I get a little distracted at times.

I organize and generate pages, primarily for my own use, and simply because it feeds my OCD nature, but the occasional visitor finds them useful at times. Particularly the bilateral knee surgery documentation we did. People have thanked me for that one.

What I really think is that there is way too much advice out there on the web, well-meaning though it may be.  My head is spinning. Yours may be too after reading this disjointed post.

My solution is to do what I usually do in these cases. I trust myself. I trust my judgment. And I trust my heart. And thankfully I am married to an outstanding provider, so I am not obligated to make money from my writing in order to be able to feed myself. Which I should be doing a lot less of anyway if I want to listen to the advice about weight, health and nutrition.

I started blogging to force myself to write everyday. I’d grade myself at maybe a C on that one. Because, like I said, the photography has been enticing. And I don’t really consider my photography blogs “writing.”

The commaraderie and support that I received from followers, friends, and commenters I found invaluable as my family entered crisis control in the beginning of December with the diagnosis of my mom’s cancer and through the next intense weeks before both of my parents’ deaths in January.

I struggle with keeping up. I question what it’s all about. I wonder about the best use of my time.

My world was turned upside down when my parents died. I had devoted a lot of time and concern to their care. My foundation was badly shaken. And even though Mom and Dad were well past the days of doing anything of consequence to aid or assist me, they were two people in my life who always loved me no matter what, who always believed in me. And they were gone. That is a tremendous loss.

As I try to make meaning out of my life, I’m asking the question. Where do I go from here?

Memoirs Only Library

Several months ago I was contacted by Richard von Hippel, author of Not Again: “My body’s a write off but I’m all right.” Richard was putting together an online library of memoirs and invited me to participate. Richard has worked hard at adding content to this site called “Memoirs Only.” I am grateful for his efforts and for including Dancing in Heaven in this library. If you have a minute, I hope you will check it out.

memoirs only library