As of today, my triple-book release is nine days old! Still very new :) But now that all of the hard creation process is done (you know, writing, editing, creating covers, formatting, etc), the truly hard part for me begins.
Marketing my books.
I would say “as a self published author, this is especially important,” but let’s be honest, this is vital for ANY author. You may have created this extremely awesome and wonderful book for people to read…but how do you get the word out?
With the original books 1 and 2, I fell considerably short in my efforts. And I didn’t take advantage of social media, which is probably one of my biggest mistakes.
I bought ads now and again on Amazon, but that was it, and I was never consistent. I got tables at conventions, gave my cards out to everyone I could, but that can only take you so far, and I’m starting to discover that handing your card out does very little (not to say I’ll stop doing that.)
So now I’m pushing harder, and trying things I hadn’t tried before for marketing.
Among them? Facebook and instagram ads. I just started them after a photo session of the eBook editions (thank you to my wife Beck for taking and editing this photo, it turned out beautifully,) so we’ll see if it works out. I also updated my facebook author’s page with a ‘shop now’ button and tagged my products, which is a feature I never knew you could do!
I’m also heavily pushing my first book on Amazon ads.
Already I’m quite happy with how the books are doing in the Kindle Unlimited store. I’ve had record numbers of reads for multiple days! Each book is already doing far better than the previous books ever did. Hopefully I can keep this going and build some more momentum!
I cannot over emphasize how important marketing is to success with your books. Don’t spend so much time and effort on it that you never get your next book written, but don’t dismiss it, ESPECIALLY if you’re a debut author and no one knows your name yet. Get the word out. Get your name out there.
And then get to work on your next book! Because if you hook readers, they’re gonna want more!
I’ve done a lot of the back-end work for marketing now, so I feel like I’m ready to focus on book 3 of the series again. In fact, this week I already started work on it again! But more on that later :)
For now, I hope the beginning of everyone’s holiday season has gone well!
If any of you went looking for the print editions of my new novels, you may have had difficulties during certain times…Amazon KDP was extremely delayed and kept encountering issues in which the books disappeared from amazon.com and then reappeared later.
They’re finally settled in, and available for purchase along with the Kindle editions! And if you want both, be sure to buy the print edition first, as you then get a significant discount on the kindle edition!
Hi everyone, it’s here!! The day has arrived, and three books in the Sword of Dragons series are available in print and Kindle! :D Click the covers below or the links beneath them to go to their store pages!
Hi everyone, today is gonna be one jam-packed blog! It’s been over a year in the making, but the 2nd editions of the first two novels in the Sword of Dragons series, along with the print edition of the Orc War Campaigns anthology, finally have a release date! This also means that I finally show off the covers!
If you’re new to my blog, a long time ago I announced that I was working towards this goal. One of the many changes in the 2nd edition was a unique title for the first book, previously just titled “The Sword of Dragons.” Now it is known as “Rise of the Forgotten”!
So without further ado, I give you book 1’s new cover! (Click image for larger version)
But wait, there’s more! As I said, this is a triple-book release event! So I now give you the cover art for Burning Skies:
And finally, the one cover I’ve given no hints or previews to whatsoever over the past year, the cover for The Orc War Campaigns:
One of the things I’m hoping you’ll notice right off the bat is that the artwork is a similar style across all three. In my search for cover art, I was fortunate enough to find an artist on Shutterstock named Vuk Kostic whose artwork was exactly what I was looking for, and he has posted copious amounts of artwork with dragons! So it gives me a large pool to choose from :)
I am very happy to have spent the money to purchase the rights to utilize his artwork, and at least for the time being, I plan to utilize his artwork for all future Sword of Dragons covers. I highly recommend checking out his Shutterstock page to see what else he has, he’s a fantastic artist!
There’s been far more done to the books than just shiny (actually matte) new covers! I have proofread all three books several times over the past year and found numerous items to change, some of which I noted in my previous blog. The pacing and flowing should be a lot better, and this will make them even more enjoyable to read :)
Not to mention maps! There are maps inside the books!!!
Release Date Announced
Even better news, I’ve officially settled on a release date for all three books…and it’s just around the corner! Drum roll, please….
November 16th, 2018
Yup, you read that correctly, this coming Friday!
In fact, as soon as Amazon approves everything, the Kindle editions will be available for pre-order! I’ll update my facebook author’s page as soon as I get notification with links to where you can go to pre-order!
Unfortunately KDP has no method for allowing pre-orders of the print editions, but fear not! As soon as I possibly can, this Friday I will post links to them once they are available!
Thank You Followers and Fans
I want to thank all of you, my readers, my fans, everyone. This has been a tremendous effort that has been on top of considerable life changes. Since I began this undertaking, I lost my Mom, married my wonderful Starshine, and moved. Through it all, I’ve received nothing but encouragement and support from everyone.
It means the world to me. I hope you all feel like this was worth it, and I hope you enjoy. I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say about them!!
Last weekend, Beck and I attended the first annual WhimsyCon, a new Steampunk convention in Denver that essentially replaced the defunct Anomaly Con. While we were there, we attended a few panels on writing, self-publishing, and story-building.
One of the panelists that we saw a few times was a self-published author who makes six figures a year! Who wouldn’t want to do that with writing? So we eagerly attended his panels.
For the most part, I was pleased to find out that Beck and I were already on the right track, with our rebranding and focus on marketing with my books. One of the things I didn’t necessarily agree with, however, was his idea of ‘write and publish as much as possible.’ To the point that he is publishing well over a dozen fiction novels per year. I’m curious if he’ll be able to maintain that pace for very long.
However, in all of the panels, including his, one thing came up that didn’t surprise me, but I’d never before considered with my own previous work…focus on eBook vs. print.
This author (and forgive me, I can’t remember his name…) pointed out that almost all of his sales were eBook. A very, very, very small percentage of his sales were print. And he even said that, ‘focus on eBooks’ and, unsurprisingly, he even suggested, “Amazon KDP for their KDP Select program, especially if you’re just starting out.”
It was around this time that I realized something… I had focused most of my marketing on my print books for The Sword of Dragons.
And I realized that this probably was a mistake.
Why Was Print Important To Me?
Well, first of all, it still is…for one simple fact. I love books. I love physical books. And all of my life, I’d dreamt of getting my books onto bookshelves. In 2015, that dream became a reality.
But I still focused on it. Still focused on getting people to buy printed editions. Went to conventions to sell them (don’t worry, I still will :) ). Urged people to buy them.
And I occasionally posted advertisements and sales on Kindle…whenever the whim struck me.
But I wanted my books to be read and to sit on bookshelves the world over! I wanted to autograph them! I wanted physical interaction, physical books, physical everything!
Why Should I Focus on eBook?
Because that’s frankly where the market has gone. Not to say that I will not put out print editions or carry around printed editions to sell if I happen to run into someone who wants a copy.
A balance seems to have been struck between popularity of eBook vs. print, and I will always love and prefer physical books. But what about the voracious readers, or as they called them in the panels, “serial readers,” the people who read an entire book every day? Not only would buying printed books get expensive, but think of how much space they would need to store them?
Plus, as was noted in the panels, Kindle Unlimited is essentially the Netflix of books. Pay a flat fee, and read as many books as you want. It’s given voracious readers access to books at home unlike ever before. Sure libraries are free, but if you found a book you wanted to read right now, and the library didn’t have it, you’d have to wait. Or if you found an author you loved, but they only carried some of their books, you were out of luck, or at least had to wait for them to decide to bring in more of that author’s books.
Kindle Unlimited, it seems, is what is turning the tide in eBook’s favor.
And for self-published authors, it could very well be a good thing. It gives the serial readers access to your books that they might never have had before.
Knowing that I hardly ever paid for advertising for The Sword of Dragons, I can tell you that when I first enrolled my books in KDP Select, I started seeing regular reads, which translated to regular royalties. Granted, not a lot of money came in from that, but it was better than nothing. And now that I’ve dropped my books out of KDP Select in anticipation of releasing the 2nd editions? Nothing.
That alone convinces me that, for a relatively unknown author like me, KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited is my best bet at getting people to give me a chance.
What Does This Mean About My Future Plans?
Regarding my 2nd edition releases, and all future releases, well they’re still getting their physical copies. I know that I’m not the only one in the world who loves physical books. And if I can figure out how to sell it, I still want to sell a box set of the 2nd editions and The Orc War Campaigns.
However, I’ll also put more effort into the eBooks. Last time I just let Kindle auto-convert my books to eBook format and did nothing else. I didn’t inspect to ensure no conversion errors. And as I already mentioned, I hardly paid for any advertisement.
That’s all going to change. As I’ve said recently, it should be an author’s job to create the best product that they can, not just in quality of story and writing, but also in the actual product itself, its appearance.
I hope this is the right move. I’m pretty sure it is :)
Recently the news exploded with the announcement that Barnes and Noble laid off almost every single full-time employee. Worse than that, they gave no notice – employees came in on a Monday to start their week, and were told to go home.
Hearing this news, the very first thought I had was “They’re following Wal-Mart’s employment change from years ago: only hire part-time so that you don’t have to give them benefits or insurance.” I almost wouldn’t even blame them if that was the case, given how terrible things have become in the United States for medical insurance.
But to let everyone go with no notice, pitiful if any severance, and ‘a chance to apply in a couple months as a part-time, minimum wage employee.’ If that isn’t a slap in the face to those who worked it as a career, I don’t know what is.
However, it gets worse. Many seem to think that this is another sign of the coming end of Barnes and Noble. This article is just one of many I’ve found that posits this inevitable future. The going thought is that Barnes and Noble are trying to liquidate as much money as they can as quickly as they can prior to closing down.
If that’s true, if Barnes and Noble is about to die…what does that mean for writers? Especially self-published writers? What does that mean for readers?
Is this the end of print books? I don’t think so, I still believe that the balance that seems to have been found between print and eBook will remain relatively stable. Especially with the fact that Amazon is opening physical book stores.
But then…where do we go to get books? In many larger cities as well as small touristy towns, there are independent book stores, but their offerings rarely match what Barnes and Noble used to have, or what Waldenbook/Borders used to have before they died.
Which kind of leaves it all on Amazon. Possibly the best place for authors to sell from, and the best place for readers to buy from.
…which gives Amazon an incredible power. They can single-handedly shape the future of reading and writing, if they choose to. There has already been anti-competetive controversies surrounding Amazon (there’s even a dedicated wikipedia page about those practices!)
Granted there are a lot of other choices out there for eBook selling besides B&N and Amazon, but then Amazon doesn’t want you to go to them, so they offer benefits of remaining exclusive to them for eBook sales, on top of the fact that they have a greater reach than most, if not all other venues.
I’ve heard it many times from other Self-published authors, they despise some of Amazon’s practices, but publish through them because they feel it is the only realistic way to get their product out to the most people. Whether or not that is actually accurate is up for debate, I know at least one of my friends who is really good with spreadsheets and numbers has experimented a lot with exclusivity vs. casting as wide a net as possible.
But the fact remains that if B&N dies, which seems likely, it will give Amazon greater power over both print books and eBooks.
I honestly don’t know at this point if that is good news or bad news for writers and readers…
When it comes to self publishing, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most is marketing. In fact, it’s been one of my biggest banes since I started down this rabbit hole. Going in, I had no idea just how important it was, and for that matter, just how much it needs to be a part of your product development from day one.
I thought I had it all figured out in the beginning. The day that I decided that I was going to self publish The Sword of Dragons, I immediately started looking at what I was going to do for a cover design.
This led me to wandering bookstores with friends, pointing out book covers that stood out to us, discussing the good and bad parts of covers, and trying to figure out what would make a good cover for the Sword of Dragons.
In hindsight, doing so, especially first thing in the planning process, was a smart idea. Unfortunately, that was probably one of the few things I did right in the beginning.
What did I do wrong after that? For starters, I didn’t have a fully finished product. I wanted my book out there, and I didn’t want to wait to finish important things, such as getting a polished world map ready. I also didn’t spend more time researching marketing, researching fantasy novels, or cover design.
At one point, while looking at covers, I looked to a couple of my friends and said, “all of these fantasy novels look the same. I want mine to stand out and be different. So I’m not going to follow their examples.”
In principle it sounded like a good idea. Make my book stand out amongst all the others.
Except I was looking on bookshelves. Not at Amazon.com. Not at Barnesandnobel.com. Plus there’s one other aspect I hadn’t considered…
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
I’ve run into a problem with the Sword of Dragons series: everyone who has read it has thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ve even gained a few fans! And they’ve done their best to try to spread the word to others.
But what about those who don’t know me or don’t know any of those fans? Or even know the fans, but are so stretched for free time that they are picky about what they read? What do they think when they see the cover for the Sword of Dragons or Burning Skies? Do they see a book that looks like a great fantasy adventure? Or do my covers say something else to them?
I’ve touched on the subject before about cover design, you have to target your audience. And one of the things you can do is make a cover that fits within your genre while standing well on its own. Many, many people have told me at this point, “put a dragon on your cover, your sales will increase.” Why? Because my book has dragons in it, and the entire series will increasingly feature dragons. So I want to attract readers interested in dragons.
But there’s more to it than that, and this has as much to do with marketing as graphic design.
Marketing Books in the 21st Century
I think one of my biggest mistakes was trying to consider how my book would look on book shelves. Even if I get to that point some day where Barnes and Noble puts my novels on their shelves, before I can get to that, I need to consider how my covers will look as a tiny little thumbnail on amazon.com.
And while working on a project’s cover recently (well, sort of recently, before we started packing to move), my fiancee had a great idea that I believe may have helped me in the long run.
If you go to amazon.com and start drilling down into book categories to, in this case, fantasy novels (sword and sorcery!) take a look at the books there. The covers have all been resized down to thumbnail size. Beck had the idea, “take a screen shot, and then edit in your cover design to see how it looks in comparison with the others.”
I knew the moment she said it that it was an amazing idea, and set out to do so. It also helped me figure out which cover to use, because I had ideas for 2 or 3 different covers and had made preliminary versions for each. I put each version up as thumbnails, and very quickly identified which cover popped best while still being easy to identify as a sword and sorcery type novel with dragons.
But I also realized there were issues with the. The title blended in with the cover, and the cover was too bland-colored. So I made modifications and performed several tests, until I had a cover that popped out nicely and whose title was easy to read.
That’s the thing to remember: whether browsing amazon.com or viewing your book cover from a distance at a bookstore, a reader will more likely see your cover as a thumbnail size, and so your title needs to be easy to read without overtaking your entire cover. A difficult balance to strike, but well worth the effort.
Why Is The Cover So Important?
I keep coming back to this topic: your cover matters a lot. Why? Because every single aspect of your marketing campaign is going to hinge on your cover. In book stores and on amazon.com, it’ll be the first thing a prospective buyer will see. In a convention or book signing event, it’ll be the first thing patrons will see. On advertisements, anywhere, whether amazon, facebook, or other, it’ll be the first thing they see. If you have the money and resources to pay for adverts on billboards, bus sides, or trains, again, your cover, or some edited version of your cover, will be what people see first.
First impressions matter. People judge books by their covers.
Granted, if you have a fantastic cover but a crappy story, you aren’t going to get anywhere with sales, either. You might do better than if you had a bad story and a bad cover, but reputation will probably kill your book’s sales.
Do you have a good story? Then you need an appropriate cover to go with it. Not just good, but appropriate.
There’s more nuances you can add into a cover design, but I think I’ve written enough on the topic for one day :) I hope this helps my fellow authors out there, I’ve learned so much about marketing and cover design in the past 3 years and I wish to pass that knowledge on!
Do you have any tips or lessons learned about marketing and cover design? Please post them in the comments below for others to read!
Thanks for reading,
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.