I sat in my favorite local coffee shop the other day and tried to do a little planning for 2020 and it only kind of worked. I mean, I have a list of goals and to-dos, but I don’t have a clear-cut plan like I have in previous years. At first, this worried me, like the driven part of me was broken, but then I realized, it’s okay. In 2020, I’m just going to go with the flow. Which is why I chose flow as my 2020 word of the year.
I’ve pushed myself so hard for the last six years or so in order to build a career. Now I am at a point where I can reap the benefits and take opportunities as they come. Yes, I’ll still make things happen when I need to, but I don’t know that I need to be as intentional about it.
Looking Back at 2019 Goals I did a fair amount of this in my post on nearly driving myself to burnout (which I am proud to say I am emerging from – I’m back to working on the Minor biography after a month of rest), but I wanted to specifically examine my goals for 2019. I’m shocked to see I did better than expected, especially for a year in which I didn’t publish anything.
Finish the proposal for, successfully pitch and sell a book I’m co-writing with another author. We did our best to pitch this book, but were unable to get a contract for it due to circumstances outside of our control.
Finish the proposal for, successfully pitch and sell another book on the suffrage movement (different angle from above) I’m working on. After the experience of the book mentioned above, I shelved this. But the good news is that I might be able to use it for my dissertation when I go back to school in a few years.
Write both of these books by their deadlines (I’m hoping both will be traditionally published by August 2020). N/A
Finish the biography I’m working on (not Rose, someone else) and sell it. I think I get half credit on this. Research took a lot longer than I expected because I found so much more material than I thought would be available. I have a proposal and sample chapter done and am still querying agents. I’m nearing a second finished chapter.
Attend three conferences and have successful speaking engagements at the ones I’m booked at. – Woot! Did this and it was FABULOUS!
Possibly work on either Isolde or the gothic fiction book I’m planning. I’ve thought about both, does that count?
Keep up to date on the progress of Madame Presidentess as it makes its way toward becoming a TV show or movie. – Yeah, this was a disappointment, but I knew going in that it was unlikely to happen. But there is still hope for the future!
Finish chapter for non-fiction Arthurian book (due March 2020).
Continue working with local League of Women Voters chapter on Centennial Committee.
Speak locally about the August 2020 centennial of women getting the right to vote.
Adjust to new role of assistant editor for Novelist’s Inc. member newsletter, NINK.
If we end up with a female presidential candidate, promote the heck out of Madame Presidentess. (This is no reflection on my personal political choices. I will, however, use it to my advantage if it becomes a reality.)
Side projects to be worked on when/if have the time: Hallmark book, devotional, musical based on Kill Hannah songs.
Option Madame Presidentess again as well as the Guinevere Trilogy. (I realize this is out of my control, but I can have it on here in an effort to think positively, right?)
So, yeah, I think that is plenty for one year, especially in addition to my more personal, non-writing goals. I’m excited to be headed into the ’20s. Let’s hope those flapper dresses make a comeback and that these ’20s don’t have the economic depression the 1920s did!
I made a big decision the other day. I’m not sure when or where – it will depend on finances and what life has in store – but I’m going back to school to get my PhD in American History and Women’s Studies. My specialty will be the U.S. women’s suffrage movement. This will help me gain credibility in the non-fiction publishing world, as well as hopefully improve my fiction writing as well. What will I do with the degree? I would love to be a research professor (assuming I need a full-time job that isn’t writing).
What about you? What are your goals? Do you have a word of the year for 2020?
I’ve been pushing myself really hard since 2016, the year I started publishing and somehow put out four books in seven months.
Each year I told myself I wouldn’t work so hard, but I kept on and sometimes added even more.
And now, almost four years later, my characters won’t talk to me. That’s a big problem because I can’t write without them.
So I think I may be reaching the burnout point. Luckily, I’m not fully there, but I think I’m getting close.
Looking back on my year, it’s not surprising:
Suffrage Movement Book:
Researched two sample chapters.
Wrote sample chapters (17,315 words)
Queried agents with co-author.
Virginia and Francis Minor biography:
Researched 105,557 words of notes.
Took research trip to University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Wrote proposal and sample chapter.
Project on hold.
Historical fiction book:
9,041 words of notes (not complete)
Project on hold due to project below.
Researched 21,634 words
Developed detailed 7 page outline, with becomes 40 pages with notes.
Did this in three weeks.
Wrote 6,218 words.
Now the book is refusing to cooperate.
Wrote a short story for an anthology – 10,000 words
Researching book chapter: The Ethics of Writing Guinevere for the Modern Age.
So far at 15,410 words of notes.
Have four articles and two books to go.
Wrote three articles for NINC newsletter.
Reported on 11 sessions from the NINC Conference.
That’s a total of 185,175 words written (not counting the articles and reporting), even if most were notes.
Attended four conferences, speaking at two.
Spoke at five other events.
Conducted a successful USA Today bestseller list campaign.
Read 86 books (not including research) to date. Will likely hit 100 by end of year.
Oh and I have a full-time job.
But yet I hesitate to let myself have a break.
I’m not sure I know how. I don’t know how to person without writering.
I worry someone else will get to this latest book before I do.
I feel like I always need to be doing something.
I worry that taking a break will harm my career.
Yet, I know I have to slow down/stop for a while. The only thing I can muster energy and interest in right now is playing Covet Fashion on my Kindle. That is not a good thing because it costs money, rather than making me money. And it takes up time I could be using for writing. But at least it is a creative outlet, I guess. (And I am a damn good stylist!)
I know how I got myself here; now I just have to figure out how to get out of it.
Hi. Wow. It’s been a minute since I posted anything here. Life has been crazy with research and work and well, life.
Late last month I had the wonderful fortune to attend my second Novelists Inc. Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. That is one of two conferences I will not miss (the other is Historical Novel Society, when it is stateside). The programming is smart and meant for writers where I am–not beginners, but not household names either–okay, most of us.
The two sessions (well, actually it was four because both were two-parters) that I liked the most were Growth Hack a Bestseller by Entangled Publisher Liz Pelletier and You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Story by Houston Howard. Both were applicable to traditionally published authors as well as indies. But the interesting thing to me, as an indie author, is that they seemed in some ways to offer conflicting advice.
Let me explain. What I heard overall on the traditional side (not just from Liz) is that you should keep writing the next book, with the focus on it becoming a bestseller, rather than worrying about the books you’ve already written. (Liz’s talk was about how you can plan your way to writing a bestselling book and it was really, really good.) But on the indie side, there was a clear focus on diversifying the books you already have to gain more readers. What they mean by this is expanding your story in new formats. This is directly from my conference notes:
Houston calls this multi-platform strategy your Superstory. It begins with thinking bigger than a novel. In Superstory, you extend your story into multiple platforms and surround your novel with other things that can help it compete.
Superstory is NOT:
Promotions or advertising.
Online tools like new media/digital.
Multimedia (franchising, merchandising, etc.) in which you are giving your audience the same content in a different format (i.e. the movie version, the comic book version, etc.)
Continuing your story over multiple platforms (a.k.a. transmedia).
Each new piece of content is a piece of a puzzle, something unique that is only explored there and leads to something else. It is all part of the same story, but the story is expanded in a coordinated way. (i.e. anthology of the backstory of minor characters in your book series.)
So it could be that the book tells the story, the movie continues the story, then spins off into a video game, and ends in comic book, so that they all work together to create a different experience for the fans.
Think about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It began as a movie, got much more back- and front-story as a TV show and then continued on past the finale in the comic book realm with new stories.
I LOVE this idea! But there’s only one problem: There’s only so much of me to go around, and both things take time and money, two things I have precious little of.
I am seriously so inspired by his ideas. (I bought Houston’s book but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.) Without giving too much away, I can see:
The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy
An anthology of stories of the other characters (Elaine, Corinnia and Leodgrance, Mona, Vivianne/Merlin/Nimue, Lancelot’s backstory, etc.)
Jewelry line (I’ve had this in mind since I started the series).
Some kind of a tie-in to the history of Avalon.
Instagram visual series from one of the characters.
Music. The voice of Guinevere. (A friend and I actually talked about this one time.)
Video game. I’ve wanted to do one for ages, but that is far down the list.
I have a bunch of other ideas written down (but not to hand) for what I would have put into a companion guide.
Been Searching for You
The two additional books in the series.
A comic book version (which I’ve been wanting to do for a year or two now anyway – yes there ARE romance graphic novels).
Annabeth’s Millie Mysteries books (assuming I can figure out a plot and how to write a mystery).
An old-time radio show version of the Millie Mysteries.
Instagram visual series from Annabeth, and one from Mia.
Annabeth’s dream wedding board on Pinterest (which kind of already exists, but it is hidden).
Alex’s Pinterest board (you know he has one since he uses it in the book).
A podcast around women’s suffrage.
I could do stories about the other characters, especially Tennie, but I’m not sure if I want to go there.
Something with Spiritualism. I just don’t know what yet.
Fun stuff, right? But it’s also a lot of work–time I could be using to write/research my next book. You can see where I’m torn.
It’s especially hard because I don’t write full-time. On top of this I have ideas for seriously about 50 OTHER stories I want to tell, each of which could get its own Superstory list.
I’m not sure what the answer will end up being. Probably a little of both.
As readers, what would you like to see from me, either on the list above or something else? Or do you think I should just move on to new stories? I’m really curious.
September started off with pleasant news yesterday: Mistress of Legendwas awarded the silver medal in the mythology category of the Reader’s Favorite Awards. As usual, I totally forgot I entered so that was a surprise to me! So thrilled that people are liking this book, even when it is read alone.
Wow, I got the shock of my life last night when I logged in to Facebook to see that I was tagged by Author’s Circle. I had entered their contest, so I was hoping for good news, but I certainly didn’t expect to see that Mistress of Legend was named Book of the Year!
This means that all three books in the Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy have received Book of the Year Awards: Daughter of Destiny from Chanticleer Reviews (2015) and Camelot’s Queen (2016) and Mistress of Legend (2018) from Author’s Circle. Author’s Circle also named The Once ad Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend as their Non-Fiction Book of the Year in 2017.
This is my fourth Book of the Year award. When I received the first one I was absolutely shocked. The second I thought was a fluke. The third was just unbelievable. But four? That’s like beyond mind-blowing.
Many people have asked me how I hit the USA Today Bestseller list with The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy, so today I am going to share exactly what I did, including more detail and numbers than you could ever want. This is going to be a LONG post.
This method is not the only one by any means, but it is time-tested and many authors have used it with success. Of course, if you want try it, you’ll need to adjust it to your own needs and budget.
A Bit About the USA Today Bestseller List Each of the bestseller lists is a little different, but USA Today counts sales from Monday to Sunday, so you would want your promotion to mirror this. As the name of the publication implies, only sales in the United States count toward their list. The number of sales you need varies, but the general advice is 5,000-9,000, though I hit the low end of the list with 4,191. The number depends on the time of the year because there are busy and slow periods in publishing just like in any other industry. But the good news is pre-sales count if you are trying to hit the list with a new book. The general rule is that you need at least 500 sales at Barnes & Noble and iBooks in order to make a list, so you can’t try if you are Amazon exclusive. There is debate about whether that 500 is combined or separate or if it is even accurate; some people say the real number is closer to 150 or 200. The point is you need a mix of sales–USA Today won’t count you if you are only on Amazon.
Quick Tips For those who don’t want to read the whole post, here are some quick recommendations. But I do suggest reading the whole thing because not everything you need to know is covered here.
You really need a Bookbub Featured Deal in the U.S. to make this work.
Ad stacking is key to gaining and maintaining momentum.
Have a budget before you start so you don’t go crazy with your spend.
Put thought and strategy behind your advertising, graphics and text.
Lower your price at least 3-4 days in advance at all retailers. I did this and still had problems with NookPress and Google Play not lowering correctly.
When you put your retailer links into the forms for your ads, save which ones you used. One or two nights before your sale, check all them to make sure they are reflecting the sale price – especially if you use distributors. I had a rouge Barnes & Noble link that was removed from a major newsletter because the price didn’t drop with that link, even though it did with all the others I checked. By the time they told me there was a problem, the newsletter had already gone out and they refused to send the correct link. I will always wonder how many sales I missed out on because of that stupid link.
Ask for help! People are so willing to share and do what they can to help you succeed!
Tell people you are aiming for a list. That’s not something people get to help others do everyday and I really believe letting people know makes them more likely to share than if you just say your book in on sale.
Don’t be shy or get worried you will annoy people. You may, but they will also understand why you are posting so much. And if they don’t, you don’t need to be friends with them anyway.
My Sales By the Numbers I’m listing these early in the post so you can see what I achieved with the method outlined below.
Total sales: 4,191 Estimated Total Income= $2,136.30 Estimated Expenses = $1,672 (newsletter ads) + $761.40 (social media ads) + $9 (graphics) – $2,442,40 Estimated Total Loss = $306.10
It doesn’t bother me that I lost a little money on this. Profit was not my endgame. My goal was to hit the list and I did. You may feel differently and that is totally fine.
By retailer breakdown:
Amazon = 3,574 ebooks (and five print books, but those don’t count toward the list) Barnes & Noble = 298
Nook Press = 6 (I had issues with them not changing prices, so that is why it is low)
Distributed through Smashwords: 283
Distributed through Draft 2 Digital = 9 (I don’t use them like I should)
Distributed through Smashwords. (I have yet to go direct with them, but I should) = 224
Distributed through Smashwords = 91
Smashwords = 5
(Google Play was not included because they never lowered my price.)
My Category Rankings Barnes and Noble
#1 in fantasy
Held for 2.5 days
In top 15 for 4 days
Bestseller status for 5 days
#11 in ALL Nook ebooks
In Top 100 for 3 days
#1 in three subcategories on Amazon
Held for 2.5 days
#4 in Fantasy on Amazon
Held for 2 days
#5 in Sci-fi and Fantasy on Amazon
Held for 2 days
#40 in ALL Kindle ebooks
In Top 100 for 2.5 days
#8 in Sci-fi and Fantasy on iBooks (I only thought to look at this on Sunday, so I’m not sure if it was any higher. It likely was at least on Thursday.)
Made their Hot List two weeks in a row.
#1 selling book
#1 selling boxed set
#1 selling fantasy boxed set
#1 in fantasy
#1 in fairy tales
Week 2 (this is with it back at full price)
#4 selling boxed set
#1 selling fantasy boxed set
1 in fairy tales
Outsold both George R. R. Martin (2 books) and Nora Roberts at certain points. I know most of their fans likely already have these books so it isn’t like I outsold a new release, but still, these authors are HUGE!
BookBub is Key You can try the other elements described below without a BookBub Featured Deal in the US, but unless you already have a huge audience, I wouldn’t recommend it. BookBub is expensive, but very powerful. They say most authors average about 3,000-4,000 in sales from one of these deals, but that depends on the category you are in. (I was in fantasy, where they say the average is 2,100. My numbers were just above that at about 2,500.) In my experience, if you want a US deal (which is where the vast majority of subscribers are) DON’T click both US and International, even though they say it increases your chances. Every time I’ve clicked both, I’ve gotten international only. While that is good for increasing sales and establishing greater foreign readership, a US deal is what gives you the chance to make a list. This was the first time I indicated I only wanted a US deal, and the first time I got one.
When you are submitting for a deal, unless you are published by a major house, the general advice is to focus on your ebook only. This is partly because of the costs involved in printing paperbacks, which limit how far indie authors can reduce our prices before we lose money on a sale. It is also because many of the lists count paperback and ebook sales separately, so focusing on both won’t actually increase your chances. Plus, most readers of these newsletters are buying ebooks anyway. (I did find that I saw a slight increase in paperback sales during the campaign even though that book wasn’t on sale, so you may see the same benefit.)
When thinking about your potential deal, there are two big decisions you have to make: which book and what price? As for which book, it is easier to make the list with a boxed set (either of your own books like I did with the Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy or with a set from various authors who have established fan bases) than it is with a single book. This is because readers feel like they are getting greater value when they get more than one book at a sale price. (Hey, I can’t blame them.) It is definitely possible to do it with a single book, but you will have to work that much harder at advertising and rely more on your fan base to promote.
Another fairly big decision is which genre to advertise in. Bookbub only has so many choices so you have to decide which best fits your book and its potential readers. If your genre is straightforward like contemporary romance, it will be an easy decision because they have that as a category–and it is a very popular one. However, The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy is historical fantasy and they don’t have a category for that, so I had to choose between historical romance (which it is not), historical fiction, and fantasy. I’ve learned from previous experience that my Guinevere books sell better when I market them as fantasy, so that is the category I went with, even though historical fiction has a bigger BookBub subscriber number. (A lot of this has to do with anticipating reader expectations. I think straight historical fiction readers could be turned off by my Guinevere books because she is a mythological, rather than historical figure and the book has mystical elements to it.)
Marketing expert Amy Collins told me once that the bigger the price drop you can demonstrate for BookBub, the more likely you are to get a featured deal. How far you choose to drop it depends on your goals for your campaign. If you are looking to make money (or at least break even), you may not wish to go all the way down to $0.99 like I did. (My normal price is $9.99.) However, if you don’t care about a profit and are just looking to try to make a list, as I was, drop the price down as much as you are comfortable. I personally wouldn’t advise free because 1) you won’t make any of your money back and 2) many of the lists don’t count books offered for free.
Rumor has it Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days for BookBub deals because you can then ride the “tail” from the ad for the rest of the week. Mine was on a Thursday, and I did just fine. My sales dropped off pretty quickly Saturday and Sunday, so for me, the tail wasn’t as long as some had led me to believe. If you don’t like the day/date that Bookbub gives you, just email them (quickly – I think their rules say it has to be a certain amount of time before your deal) and they will change it. Mine was originally on a Saturday and I asked them to change it because I was traveling and also asked for a different day based on when other major advertisers had open slots.
You Got a Featured Deal, Now What?
Ad Stacking for Newsletter Lists The first thing you should do when you find out that you got a BookBub Featured Deal (besides celebrate) is start planning the other ads you are going to run in the week of your promotion. These are usually mostly ads targeted at newsletters/mailing lists of readers. Some of the really popular ones (especially Robin Reads and Fussy Librarian) fill up a month in advance, so keep that in mind when confirming your BookBub date. Also keep in mind that some of these sites are VERY expensive. Don’t feel bad if you can’t afford them. I went into debt for this and I don’t advise anyone else to do so. Below are ones I used, along with the price, which of course, they can change at any time. Some of them are flat-rate pricing and some let you choose what package you want. Here’s a great database to use to evaluate potential ad companies.
Just Kindle Books
free, part of a package with another company
Kindle Nation Daily
Early Bird Books
There are a few that I would have liked to have used, but couldn’t and why:
Free Kindle Books
Didn’t have enough reviews
not enough reviews
not enough reviews
not appropriate for a short period promo; better for new release
The best advice I can give is to cluster ads from these types of companies around your Bookbub ad, preferably BEFORE the day of your Featured Deal. Don’t run other ads on the day of your Bookbub Featured deal; just let it do its job on its own. It is better to get some heavy hitters in before your Bookbub deal so that they jump-start your sales and trip Amazon’s algorithms into paying attention. That way your book is primed for the big BookBub day.
Based on my sales, the promotions that seem to have done the best are the ones I scheduled on Monday (Robinreads, Bookrebel, Early Bird Books), as I had 625 sales that day, as opposed to 227 on Tuesday and 220 on Wednesday. I’m only using Amazon as my example because they have the easiest report by day but my sales at other locations showed a similar pattern.
It is still important to continue to advertise after your Book Bub deal. You can do this through ads from the places above and/or through your own ads. I had scheduled all of my ads with other companies earlier in the week, so I relied upon Facebook/Instagram, Amazon, and Bookbub ads that I created during the last four days of my campaign (Friday-Sunday). My sales reflected that as they trended steadily downward. I will go into more detail on the ads I created myself below.
Theme When you’re planning your campaign, you need to think like a marketer. This means:
Being consistent in your messaging through all of your graphics and other communications.
Keeping your color scheme and fonts consistent as well.
Having a theme to tie together your copy and images.
Using images that are professional (I recommend stock photography from iStock, Adobe Stock or some other paid site) and that are consistent.
Using comparison titles to help readers understand what type of book you’re promoting.
You can choose to base your theme around anything–perhaps an upcoming holiday, season, news event, TV show or movie that your books are similar to–as long as it gives your audience something to identify with and as well as a clear, honest picture of what to expect from your book.
I chose to target the “showhole” left behind by the end of Game of Thrones because my Guinevere books have a lot of similar attributes (political conniving and maneuvering, murder for the sake of gain (though not as many deaths as GRRM’s books], a quasi-medieval setting [though mine is more early medieval], and a bit of magic). I also played off the idea that in the show at least the women did not fare well, but they do in my books. This also ties nicely into the resurgence feminism is having at the moment. I also wanted to touch on the idea that fans have waited a long time for The Winds of Winter and still have a long wait, so they can use that time to read my book.
Once I saw how the various messages performed (more on that below) and I had some solid success to back up revising my ads (this was on Friday after the big Bookbub push), I decided to keep the basic graphics and message the same, but change them a little to play on the books’ new bestseller status and create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), since the campaign was coming to an end.
Graphics Once I had those basic ideas in mind, I decided to create eight graphics that I would both use as the basis for my Facebook/Instagram and Bookbub ads and share on social media. The reason two were similar is I wanted to see which type of background connected better with people, simple or complex.
Out of those, four played heavily on the Game of Thrones theme:
But I knew not all my readers were fans of the show, so I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. I also created an ad that appealed more to readers of historical fantasy, one for readers of epic fantasy, one that emphasized the award the book recently won, and one to those who are attracted to the romance in my books.
I use Canva to create my graphics. I’ve tried Bookbrush, but I can’t get it to work correctly for me. (Some people swear by it, so use whatever you are comfortable with). All of my images either come from Canva or Adobe Stock. (It is very important to use legally purchased images. Yes, it costs money, but it’s better than getting yourself sued for something you stole off of Google.) I have a running account with them that costs $29.99/month, so I have hundreds of credits to use anytime I need them. I don’t have any special graphic design training; I think I just picked things up over my 15 years in PR and marketing.
Once the Bookbub deal happened and I had several things to crow about, I edited my graphics. You’ll notice the bestseller seals (which I created myself, based off of things I had seen others do). They aren’t on every image and I don’t always include all three because sometimes that made the design too busy. I let the ad dictate what I did and did not include. Also note the change in language. It is simpler and uses terms like “Buy now!” Don’t Miss Out!” and “Hurry!” to create a sense of urgency and FOMO. These graphics also emphasize the end date more which is both a helpful reminder for people and another way to emphasize this is a limited time offer.
There are a few things it would be wise for you to do before your promotion week.
Make sure your book page is properly formatted on all sites. You’d be surprised how messed up they can get, especially on Amazon (their editor follows no known HTML logic) and Barnes and Noble (which I never did get fixed, despite multiple attempts).
Check Amazon your categories. Amazon is always adding new categories, so if you haven’t checked yours lately, you might want to shift them around. It is easier to hit #1 in a smaller, more niche sub-category. But I actually took my book out of the Arthurian niche sub-category and put it into the bigger historical fantasy category because I wanted to see how it did. My two categories are Fiction > Fantasy > Epic and Fiction > Fantasy > Historical.
Check your Amazon keywords. These are how Amazon will throw you into a third category, so make sure your keywords really reflect what you book is about. This is how I got into the Sword and Sorcery subcategory
Get any typos fixed that you or readers have identified and be sure to upload the new files in plenty of time before your sale.
I also did a few other things that are totally optional:
I asked on Facebook if any of my author friends had a newsletter timed to the sale and was willing to mention it. From that, I got nine people who said they were willing to share anything I posted on Facebook, a suggestion for someone to contact who might help, a newsletter swap with author Nancy Bilyeau and an interview and newsletter mention from marketing expert Amy Collins. This is something I would totally do again. The worst people can do is ignore you or say no.
I was heading to the Historical Novel Society Conference just a few weeks before the sale and I knew they would have a swag table so I had 25 small cards printed advertising the sale. I didn’t count how many were left after the conference (a lot) but I needed something to do with them. So I handed them out to people I knew at my day job. I have no way of knowing how many people actually bought the book from the card, but as several of my co-workers said, “Hey, if we can ask you to buy cookies and pizza for our kids, you can certainly ask us to buy a $0.99 book.” I would advise checking on your company’s solicitation policy if you’re going to do this, just to be safe. It was fun, but it’s not something I think I would do again.
They say the higher the number of reviews your book has on Amazon, the more likely readers are to buy your book, so you may want to try increasing your number before your promotional week. I emailed my newsletter subscribers asking for review in exchange for free book (not sure if that is totally okay or not, but I did it). It only netted me two reviews out of 2,000+ newsletter subscribers. I won’t take that exact tack again, but if I had more advanced notice I might have done Choosy Bookworm’s Read and Review program, which I’ve used before and had success with.
Newsletters/Blogs Another important step is to email your newsletter subscribers and if you have a blog, write a blog post letting people know about the sale, your desire to hit the list (don’t be shy about this!) and how they can help you. The messages can be pretty much the same. I would advise making your story as personal as possible. After all, if you’re going to ask people to help make a dream come true, it’s only fair that they understand why this is your dream.
Because I changed newsletter providers, I don’t have access to the email I sent to my newsletter subscribers, but here’s the post that I did on my blog. It’s a little longer than I would recommend, but the important things are:
Include your buy links up front so people don’t have to look for them
Bold the key messages for those who will skim
Provide more detail toward the bottom for those who want it
Say thank you. After all, you can’t make a list on your own; you are reliant on people buying the books and spreading the word.
You may also want to send a reminder close to the end of the sale period and/or provide updates along the way. This is especially good if you are doing interviews or writing articles to try to attract attention to the campaign. It gives you (and your fans) more things to share online, too.
These not only may spur some people to action, but it will also serve to keep the energy up around the campaign. And be sure to do a wrap up post after, especially if you make the list!
Also, if you are part of any group blogs, make sure you post to those as well! They will reach different audiences.
Street Team If you have a Street Team – a group of dedicated superfans who have promised to help promote your books – even a small one (mine is only 29 people, but I know authors who have around 1,000 in theirs), make sure you let them know about the sale and provide them with resources to help tell people about it. I created a page on my website with ready-made graphics for Facebook and Instagram, as well as tweets that could be copy/pasted: https://nicoleevelina.com/spread-the-word-the-guineveres-tale-trilogy-0-99-sale/. I included this link in all my communications with them via email and in our secret Facebook group. The idea is to make sharing your information as easy as possible for them. (When I updated my graphics, I created another page: https://nicoleevelina.com/new-sale-graphics-guineveres-tale-trilogy/ and let everyone know about the updated information.)
I also invited my team members to share suggestions in the Facebook group for how to keep up interest over the weekend. Then I added some of my own, a few of which were good, a few of which were really dumb. I included everything because you never know what might spark an idea.
If you have a large Street Team, you may want to run a contest with prizes for the person who gets the most shares/likes/etc. or something else to reward the people who put in the most effort. This is something I wish I would have thought to do.
If you don’t have a Street Team, start one now. You can begin by setting up a simple sign up form on your website and then ask your fans on social media, your blog and your newsletter if they’d like to join. Then put a link on your website as well. It will grow over time.
Social Media I am active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, so that’s where I posted these graphics. I did daily posts (with a different graphic each day) on Instagram and Facebook (both profile and page…yes, I know technically you aren’t supposed to do that kind of thing on your profile). If you are aiming to hit a list, TELL PEOPLE. As one of my writer friends said, “You should never be modest about your accomplishments [or in this case, goals] as an author.” I think most people really want to see you succeed and if they know you have a goal like that in mind, they will be more willing to help than if you just say, “Hey my book is on sale.” Sales happen all the time; it’s not every day you can help someone hit a bestseller list.
I did daily posts with a different graphic each day.
I used a core group of about a dozen hashtags and then added others that were more specific to the given graphic. For example for the one with the guy on the side that talks about Lancelot, Arthur and Aggrivane, I used the ones below. You’ll see the specialized tags about romance at the end.
The graphic that did the best was the Winds of Winter ad. Instagram has hidden the number of likes for me, but I was mentally keeping track and it got over 1,000. I have never had anything like that happen before and I can’t explain why it was this one that hit. I used the same hashtags. This was even still the case when I updated my ads with the award seals.
When I started to get great numbers and making bestseller lists at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I took screenshots and posted those as well. That was mainly just me being excited but also a little to show others how well the book was doing in the hopes they’d want to jump on the bandwagon and but the book, too.
I did daily posts with a different graphic each day on both my profile and my page. (Yes, I know you aren’t supposed to advertise anything on your profile, but with the low percentage of people who see anything you post to your page, I do it anyway.)
I pinned my favorite post to the top of my profile on Monday. That way it would be the first thing people saw all week.
When I started to get great numbers and making bestseller lists at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I took screenshots and posted those as well.
I asked everyone on FB over and over to please share my posts that had the graphics and buy links. I estimate that at least 30 people shared over the course of the week.
I drove everyone I know crazy with the above, I’m sure.
I also posted to about three or four different Facebook groups a day, totaling about 15 groups. There were several others that I never got around to posting in.
Be sure to read a group’s rules (usually the post pinned to the top in the main area or over on the right-hand column) to see if they allow promotions. Some do, some don’t, and some only allow it on certain days or in certain ways (i.e. you have to comment on a post the admins start; you can’t start your own.)
Don’t do too many right in a row or even in the same day because Facebook might accuse you of spamming and lock you out for a period of time, not something you want during a promotion.
It’s a good idea to participate in the groups first so you don’t just look like a spammer.
I did daily posts with a different graphic each day. I pinned that tweet to the top of my profile.
When I started to get great numbers and making bestseller lists at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I took screenshots and posted those as well.
When I was getting close to number 1 in Canada, I started doing specific tweets aimed at Canadian readers. This was my only Canadian promotion; I hadn’t done any ads (mine were specific to the U.S.). The rest was word of mouth.
At the same time I also asked my friend, Canadian author Susanna Kearsley, if she would mind sharing my promotion to to her fans. She did. 🙂
I was very careful in who I asked and how. This is not something you want to take advantage of. If you are going to ask other authors to share your promotion, it is best to stick to the ones you know well, and ask politely. Some may say no or not respond and that is okay.
It didn’t occur to me to add my promo graphics to one of my boards (I have one called “Book Shelf (My Books)” for this very purpose) until Friday.
The reason to do this is to get the graphics onto the boards of your followers for free. I have 18,900 monthly viewers, so that is a lot of people. I wish I would have done it on Monday instead so they would have had longer to see them.
Two of the graphics were in my top 10 pins for that week, netting a total of 1,018 impressions for free.
I also promoted a pin, which I will talk about below. It is not included in the numbers of the bullet above.
Advertising (non-newsletter lists)
Total spend: $353.78
I ran a total of five ads using Boosted Posts over the course of a week. In total they reached 13,872 people, 5,062 who engaged (liked, shared, etc.) with the post and 24 of whom clicked a link.
My most popular post in terms of both reach and engagement was The Winds of Winter ad (which isn’t surprising since FB and Instagram are now linked). I just wish I understood what made that one so popular.
Interestingly, I didn’t even post that one until Friday.
The two that posted on Monday and that ran the entire campaign had very different results. The one I thought would do better only had 1,430 reach and 646 engagement, but the other one that was female-focused blew it away with 5,206 reach and 846 engagement. Go figure.
I had one ad (the bottom one in the image below) that wasn’t doing well at all, so I killed it right away.
Total spend: $16.28
This ad was a last-minute decision that I made on Friday night on a lark.
I decided to promote one of my pins (the romance one with the guy) instead of creating an ad. It is a new option and frankly, way easier. I chose that pin because I felt like it appealed to the widest variety of people and aligned well with Pinterest’s mostly female audience.
I only had two days left in the campaign at that point (less once Pinterest approved my pin), so I didn’t throw a lot of money at it – only $20, of which I actually spent $16.28
The results were 10,328 impressions, 1,400 close up views, four saves and 132 clicks on the buy link, for a click through rate of 1.28%.
Verdict: I would totally do this again, but keep my spend low.
Total spend = $383.37
I broke my ads up into ones that would run in the early week before the BookBub Featured Deal and ones that would run in the end part of the week.
They say the average click-through rate for a BookBub ad is about 0.5%. even though we should all be aiming for at least 3-5%.
There are a lot of complexities about how you set up your ads and how that affects your rate. I’m not an expert, so I just tried different things to see what worked.
These ads appear at the bottom of the emails, so opening the email counts as an impression but doesn’t guarantee that the ad is seen or clicked on.
I targeted my ads both by category (fantasy and historical fiction) and author because just doing category alone made my audience too broad. Authors I targeted included Deborah Harkness, Patrick Rothfuss, Terry Brooks, Philippa Gregory, Diana Gabaldon, George R. R. Martin, and Susanna Kearsley.
The Bookbub ad that did the best for me.
I ran a few different ads with a few different goals:
In the early part of the week (Mon-Wed) I ran five ads.
Three were different graphics, just to see which performed better.
Missing Westeros? Visit Camelot: 6,597 impressions, 17 clicks, click through rate of 0.26%
Historical Fantasy at its Finest: 6,682 impressions, 26 clicks, click through rate of 0.39%
A Woman Rules Camelot: 7,302 impressions, 18 clicks, click through rate of 0.25%
I also ran ads that just targeted certain retailers, i.e. Apple or B&N, to try to drive up sales there. That didn’t work at all. My click through rate for those were 0.03% for Apple and 0.08% for B&N, which is abysmally low. I won’t be doing this again.
In the later part of the week (Fri-Sun) I ran three ads, two which I designed myself and one of which I used the Bookbub ad generator for.
Historical Fantasy at its Finest: 2,259 impressions, 3 clicks, click through rate of 0.13%
Missing Westeros? Visit Camelot: 2,046 impressions, 0 clicks, click through rate of 0%
Bookbub generated ad: 12,364 impressions, 37 clicks, click through rate of 0%
Things I learned:
Simple ads with little text and the book cover work the best.
You may as well just use Bookbub’s ad generator instead of spending the time to design your own.
The more money you throw at an ad, the more impressions you will get (my budget for the BookBub generated ad was twice that of the others) but that doesn’t necessarily mean much higher click-through (that one had only 0.30% vs one of the ones I created with 0.39%)
I need to take some classes on how to create ads that work.
Will I do Bookbub ads again? I’m honestly not sure. I am reading that some people thinking they have gone the way of Amazon ads: too popular and too expensive to really make a difference anymore. If I do them again, I won’t budget as much money, that is for sure.
I originally had two ads going, a lockscreen ad (shows on the locked screen of a Kindle) and a sponsored product ad (shows in the product listing on Amazon when people search for certain terms or authors that you define).
Amazon doesn’t give you a lot of options for customizing your ad. Your image will be your book cover and you have only 150 characters for your ad copy.
My ad copy was: “Missing Westeros? Visit Camelot. Priestess. Queen. Warrior. Guinevere was much more than a sinner. Experience life through her eyes in a 3-book set.”
My copy focused on Game of Thrones, but I also told my audience a little about who the book was about (a Guinevere, who is not your average portrayal. She is a priestess, a queen and a warrior who was more active than the traditional sinner) and what they should expect (there is an implication in the roles I mentioned that they will get magic, political mechanations, and action, plus you know that you will be reading her experience as it happens).
I chose manual product targeting by category. My categories were 1) /Books/Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy/Epic Fantasy 2)/Books/Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery Fantasy and 3) /Books/Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy/Historical Fantasy. I picked these because they are my categories for the book within Amazon as well as the categories I thought my readers would read. Interestingly, these are the three categories I hit #1 in!
I also targeted a few products, mostly GRRM books, The Mists of Avalon, and the categories of Arthurian Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery Fantasy, Fantasy Anthologies, Mythology and Folk Tales, and Myths & Legend Fantasy.
I stopped the lockscreen ad after only a day and only spending $2.75 (with 0 sales) because Amazon just wasn’t pushing it out. I won’t do lockscreen ads again, as I’ve noticed from personal experience that they are HEAVILY weighted toward Kindle Unlimited books. (Plus a lot of people have them turned off in their settings.)
Interestingly, my sponsored product ad wasn’t pushed out much either. I only spent $5.22 for 16,846 impressions, but made $44.15 in sales from it. I had an average click-through rate of 11.82% which is really good.
Verdict: I might do a sponsored product ad in the future, but I am finding Amazon Ads to be less and less effective.
Things I Would Do Differently No matter how good any marketing campaign is, there are always lessons learned and things you would do differently next these are mine:
I didn’t find out about merchandising with major retailers (Barnes & Noble, Apple and Draft2Digital) until my campaign was almost over. Apparently if you tell them you have a sale (and mention BookBub if you have on because they understand how important that is) they may help promote your book. I emailed all of them and only heard back from Barnes & Noble. It was too late for this campaign, but now I have the links to their forms for the future.
May not use quite as many newsletter ad services in the future. I don’t know. I’m on the fence about that.
Add my graphics to Pinterest on the first day of the campaign rather than when it was almost over.
Contact a few people I know (Chuck Wendig, Joanna Penn) who might have helped promote the book.
Possibly engage a VA like Kate Tilton on the campaign.
Look at Apple stats earlier. That just totally slipped my mind.
Run a contest with prizes for the person who gets the most shares/likes/etc. or something else to reward the people who put in the most effort.
I’m sure there are other things I could have done differently or better, but that is what is coming to mind. If can think of anything else, please let me know!
Questions? If you’ve made it this far into the post, congratulations! If you can think of anything I haven’t covered or that you want more detail on, please comment and I will totally share!
USA Today Bestselling box set containing Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend.
Game of Thrones meets The Mists of Avalon. Perfect for fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Philippa Gregory, George R. R. Martin and Signe Pike.
Best Fiction Series – Independent Book Publisher (IPPY) Awards
Guinevere is remembered for her role as King Arthur’s wife and for her adulterous affair with Lancelot. But there is so much more to her story…
Priestess. Queen. Warrior. Experience the world of King Arthur through Guinevere’s eyes as she matures from a young priestess who never dreamed of becoming queen to the stalwart defender of a nation and a mistress whose sin would go down in history. Throughout it all, Guinevere faces threats from both foreign powers and within her own court that lead her to place her very life on the line to protect the dream of Camelot and save her people.
This compendium of Nicole Evelina’s two-time Book of the Year award-winning trilogy – Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend – gives fresh life to an age-old tale by adding historical context and emotional depth. Spanning more than three decades, it presents Guinevere as an equal to the famous men she is remembered for loving, while providing context for her controversial decisions and visiting little-known aspects of her life before and after her marriage to King Arthur.
Book One: Daughter of Destiny Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her. Learn the true story of her early life.
Book of the Year– Chanticleer Reviews
Best New Voice, (Silver Award), IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards
Winner – North Street Book Prize
“Rich and stunning, easily comparable to novels by other bestselling historical fiction authors.” – Chanticleer Book Reviews
Book Two: Camelot’s Queen Guinevere is now High Queen and Arthur’s top strategist. But when she is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and driving her into the arms of her champion. Can the Grail’s promise of peace set things right or will peace prove as dangerous as war?
Fiction Book of the Year– Author’s Circle
Best Second Book– Next Generation Indie Book Awards
“Historical fantasy at its finest!” – InD’Tale Magazine
Book Three: Mistress of Legend Legend says Guinevere spent her final days in penance in a convent, but that is far from the truth. Not one to quietly cede power, she fights for her ancestral homeland against an invasion that threatens both her people and her life.
Finalist – Chaucer Award (historical fiction pre-1750) – Winners TBD