Friday, July 26, 2013
Celebrating My Book's Anniversary
This week marked the one-year anniversary of the digital publication of my first mystery novel, The McHenry Inheritance. I’ve had quite a year promoting the book, getting feedback on it, and working on the next Quill Gordon mystery, Wash Her Guilt Away, which I hope to release in early 2014.
Anniversaries are always a good time to celebrate and take stock. The celebration takes the form of a free giveaway today (7/26) on Kindle. This essay will be the inventory, as it were, of what has happened and what I’ve come to understand about self-publishing in the digital age.
The first big lesson I learned was about the power of free, as in free book. I decided to do a promotional giveaway within a couple of days of when the book went up, and on that first free day moved 250 copies. As I hadn’t yet notified most of my friends, those “sales” represented new readers who were willing to take a chance on the book if it cost them nothing. The strategy is that if they like it, they’ll be willing to pay a modest amount for the next one. I hope.
Building the Fan Base
Based on the response to free-book giveaways, my understanding of how to market the book underwent a seismic change over the next few months. Before the book came out, I was thinking mostly about maximizing revenue from it, but I quickly came to realize that for an unknown writer, that’s a pipe dream. There are so many books out there that it’s a rare first novel indeed that will rack up an impressive number of paid sales.
Instead, I came to think of it as a way of establishing some sort of base of followers for the books that I hope will follow. Simply put, I see it as the acorn, from which a solid oak tree may some day grow.
More than 3,000 people have acquired the book, and about 90 percent of them got it as a free promotion. For a first book, that’s a decent acorn, and if a reasonable number of those folks review the book, tell a friend, or come back for the next one, I may be on to something. I don’t need John Grisham numbers to consider the Quill Gordon series a success. A half-dozen books, each generating a few hundred paid sales a month, could produce a steady stream of income over the years.
Finding an Audience Takes Time
Realistically, building a fan base takes time. Most authors do it in increments, one book at a time, until they finally get a breakout book (if they do) that hits the bestseller lists. Keep writing; keep promoting; hope for a break; and maybe good things will happen.
For instance, I was wondering for nine months why no reviews were forthcoming from people who’d picked the book up earlier. In the past three months, those reviews, mostly positive, have been showing up on Kindle, and I now have a respectable 15 reviews. That starts to make it look like a book that people are actually reading, which I hope they are.
And it’s been a lot of fun along the way: Book signings, newspaper interviews, learning to use Facebook and Twitter for promotional purposes, talking to classes at schools, blogging. These days, writing the book is only part of the author’s job description, and I consider myself fortunate indeed that I enjoy the rest of the package as much as I do. Onward to book number two.