I’ve said it before – being a writer is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to be in it for the long haul. What I have to keep reminding myself is, this also applies to the goal of one day living off of writing.
With my triple-book launch of the Sword of Dragons series on November 16th, I was extremely pleased to find that not only did my books start off well, but they were trending upwards! It looked like my marketing attempts were succeeding!
And then…nothing. No, I mean, nothing, for four days, not a single sale or KU read. From doing better than the totality of my previous publication to zero activity.
But then something strange happened. A coworker excitedly told me today that she had ordered and received two of the three books last week. I frowned, went to my KDP dashboard, and found no print sales, at all, on or after the date that she had ordered them on.
I started looking at other numbers, and did some math, and realized that my ad campaign dashboard showed that I had made more sales than what was showing up on my sales and royalties dashboards.
A quick google search later, and I come to find out that this has been a known issue since September with KDP. It’s entirely possible that there’s still activity going on, I just can’t see it. At least, that’s my hope.
Crisis averted! But it made me think…
Writing is Building a City, Not a House
I know, it sounds weird, but bear with me.
To the fine folks out there who are in construction, please forgive me as I over-simplify things here – building a house is relatively simple and quick.
A city takes years. And years. And lots of houses (among many other structures.)
For most writers, getting that first novel out there is a huge accomplishment! Hard work, dedication, perseverance (aka stubbornness) have produced a product you’re proud of!
But, unless you’re one of those lucky/talented few, that’s not enough. Sure you’ll hook some readers and all…but it takes more than that to build a city.
It takes time. Lots of time. And more than one book. I keep seeing a ‘magic number’ online, 3 books to start getting a following. And honestly, I’m not sure if Orc War Campaigns counts, being an anthology of short stories.
Either way, I saw a lot of positive results at initial launch, and I’ve received positive feedback, and even heard from folks who say they haven’t had a chance to buy yet, but will be within the next week or two as funds allow.
So I’ve had to remind myself, and am reminding all of my fellow writers out there: if you really really want to make it as a writer, remember that it’s going to be a rocky start. You need more books. You need to work on getting your name out there. But you also need to allow for the seed you’ve planted with your first couple books to grow. And it’ll take time.
Keep at it. Stay passionate. Try not to despair. Glitches in the Matrix aside, you may be surprised what happens in the long run.
Writing is not a game for those who want instant gratification.
If you talk to just about any business person, most of them agree on one thing – marketing is vital to the survival of most businesses! But what is marketing, exactly? And how does it apply to self-published writers?
The initial answer seems obvious – pay for advertisements. Amazon KDP and KDP Select is probably most self-published authors’ best avenue, though it isn’t the only one.
However, there’s more that a writer can do than just paid ads, and I myself am brewing up plans for future marketing efforts! Not to mention, in today’s blog, a very special reveal is at hand… ;)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First lets talk about a couple of other marketing actions you can take as a writer.
Yes, you read right. T-Shirts. T-Shirts can be one of the best marketing tools you have outside of internet ads, and it can be surprisingly affordable!
For me, initially it was just an idea to wear a shirt myself with my novel’s cover on it, but you can use them in more ways. Have a pre-order going through a venue like Kickstarter? Make a t-shirt one of the tiered bonuses! Got a table at a convention? Have some t-shirts on hand to sell or even give away as part of a bonus if they buy your entire set or something.
Or even just have a method of selling them to any would-be hardcore fans!
If you’re thinking to yourself “I’m a no-name author, why would anyone want to buy a shirt of my books?” You might be surprised. Someone somewhere could fall in love with your novels, and want to proudly show off their fandom! But they can’t do that unless you have a way for them to do so.
And one thing I will say: make sure the shirt is incredible and eye catching, just like your cover should be! Sure you could take your front cover and slap it onto a T-Shirt and voila, insta-fan-material. However, my friends at Guildhall Galatea and Color Me Impressed have shown me the value of a design geared towards a T-Shirt, rather than a book cover, and the results speak for themselves!
Not only am I excited to wear the shirt, but I’m hoping people may want to order some for themselves!
And yes, you’re seeing that right…while not the full cover, you just got to see more of the cover for the upcoming “Rise of the Forgotten,” the 2nd edition of book 1 of the Sword of Dragons series!!! :D :D :D
Maps and More!
When I was a teen, I remember buying the video game Everquest, one of the earlier MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.) One of the coolest things that came with it was a cloth map of the world of Everquest!
I’ve since lost that cloth map :( But I never forgot it, and started collecting other fantasy maps, especially from the Elder Scrolls. I’ve wanted to find a way to offer maps to readers (other than just including them in the books) and finally have an avenue.
While chatting with the folks at Guildhall Galatea and Color Me Impressed, we started talking about possibly printing my maps on cloth. I immediately loved the idea, so I went right out and found some material that looked good, and we did a test print. And while it is a low-res, small test print, I was highly impressed with the result!! As such, full-sized, full resolution maps of Edilas and Devor will be printed soon :)
What can I do with these? I’d love to either include them with box sets of the books, or find a way to have them on sale separately. Plus, at conventions, they would help me stand out from all other other authors! And if I really do a kickstarter as a way to preorder, then these maps can be one of the tiered rewards!
This is just the beginning, however. I don’t want to say too much in case everything doesn’t work out, but there may be some other incredible goodies on the horizon to accompany the Sword of Dragons :D
That’s all I have for today, everyone, but I am so excited about all of this! I hope you are too, and I hope my fellow authors out there get some ideas or inspiration from these examples
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.