For better or worse, this is my battle plan.
Now that I’m settled post-publisher—all of my books with the small press are back on the digital market, with paperbacks coming soon*—I’ve turned my focus to preparing for my next release.
Since two of the books that were reverted to me were published right before the close, they got zero marketing attention. My book manager and I had a pretty solid plan, but the publisher announced they wouldn’t be offering any of their usual support in their last month of business. Book 1 was a re-release and Book 2 was a brand new release. Book 1 was originally published last summer, with a pared down version of the marketing plan below. Book 2 kind of just slid into the world with no fanfare (except for a release party I went through with on Facebook, in spite of the bad news).
I decided to focus my time and budget on re-releasing all four books, which is why Book 2 of my series got pretty much no marketing attention. I’ve been doing my usual weekly teasers, and have samples available on Wattpad (with samples trickling to my author blog starting next week). I also did a promo where, through June 1st, if anyone purchased Book 1 or 2 and sent me their receipt, I sent them the standalone that spun off the series.
My dashboard with the publisher’s sales reports was down all May, so aside from the three emailed receipts I received, I have no idea how well the book did. It’s back on the market now, but I’ve got crickets as far as sales go.
Which is totally okay, because I’m pulling out all the stops for Book 3.
As far as my budget can go, anyway.
I spent a few hours yesterday and wrote up a complete, eight-page marketing plan for Book 3. This includes a schedule for all the things I have to and want to do, because without everything written down with deadlines, I’d forget.
Facebook Release Party
The very first marketing thing I did was let my reader group on Facebook vote for the final title. I’d come down to three choices on my own, and the winner was almost unanimous.
I also set a release date and scheduled a release party on Facebook for that evening. In less than a day, I filled all eight slots for author takeovers. All I did was reach out to author friends in similar genres. (A couple genres are different, but I still think it’ll be okay.)
Then I created a list of incentive-driven stretch goals for RSVPs to the party. For example, when we hit 100 people RSVPed as “going” rather than “maybe” or “interested,” I’ll post a video reading of Chapter 1 (from the new book).
As of today—the day after I created the event—the stats are:
- 7 interested
- 13 going
- 208 invited
But I have just over three months to reach my goal of 1,000 people “going.” 😊
Starting today, I’m serializing Book 1 on Wattpad. That place has a huge existing audience, so I think it’s very important to tap into that readership. I have samples of all of my books available up there, and one entire book published to Wattpad. Two books have over 1,500 reads each, and tons of votes and comments. Right now, Book 1’s stats are:
- 55 reads
- 0 votes
- 0 comments
That’s with only five chapters available. I expect these stats to continue to grow with every chapter I publish. I’ll be updating twice a week.
Once I’ve published the epilogue, I’ll submit it to be featured on Wattpad’s home page for even more traction.
I’ll also be posting samples of each book to my blog. The first five chapters of Book 1 are now available, and in the coming months I’ll be serializing the first five chapters of both Book 2 and 3. I’ll be posting every Friday. Each chapter has buy links to its respective book, and is connected to the next chapter.
In May 2016, I had 443 views on my blog. I’m currently averaging about 45 views a month—which is about right, for a little known author like myself.
My plan is to continue not being sales-y on the socials. 😉 I participate in #TeaserTuesday and #1linewed every week. I do share buy links as each of my books are published (and when I self-published them again when my publisher closed). I also share links to the sample chapters and other fun free content. Throughout June, I’m participating in #WIPjoy. I think mostly authors are following the hashtag, but it’s still gotten me a few likes and retweets.
My current social media stats are:
- Twitter: 1,286 followers
- Facebook: 449 likes
- Instagram: 288 followers
- YouTube: 25 subscribers
I don’t really do much with the last two, other than occasional uploads. I also don’t actively chase followers. This is all organic, with little effort on my end. I do have links in the back matter of all my ebooks, and when I do takeovers I ask people to like my author page and invite them to follow mt everywhere else.
Speaking of takeovers, I’ve already booked a few for June and July, and hope to leverage them to funnel people through to my release party.
I’ll also be posting teasers from Book 3 every Tuesday. Since I got my edits back from my editor, I can start pulling teaser-worthy quotes as I complete final edits. (She’s going to do one more pass after I get this round back to her.) I’ll save them all in a doc, then make teasers as I have free time. (It takes me about a half hour to make each teaser, considering I have to hunt for decent free stock photos and then arrange the text.)
However, I’ve become a stock photo junkie, and am always saving the ones I think will work for teasers for future books. This cuts down on time.
This is where I really want to focus on growth. Right now I have 222 subscribers on my main list. The others are only in the double digits. I send out roughly one newsletter a month (though I did a weekly bonus content campaign leading up to the release of Book 2). Currently the only thing I’m doing to grow my list is, aside from CTAs in my back matter, using signups as an incentive to enter giveaways when I do takeovers.
My plan is to leverage my back matter and, when I can afford them, Facebook ads to grow this even more. The permafree Book 1 will also help.
I’ve been putting a lot of effort into keyword research lately. I’d started to last year, but then kind of fell out of practice (especially as my health issues got worse). I did notice an uptick in sales when I was actively researching and tweaking, so I’ve resolved to get back into that habit.
To start with, I’ve selected seven keywords based on Amazon’s list of browse categories. Then, one or two weeks after the book is live, I sit down and test different phrases based on those keywords. I change them accordingly, and then test again every week or so until they all work well. This is the plan I’ll continue with Book 3.
I’ve written a blurb for Book 3 based on my old book manager’s method. Right now it’s with one of my beta readers. I think I’ve nailed it, but she will help me make it even more awesome.
Of course, the cover is one of the most important elements of a book’s retail sales page (Amazon, iBooks, etc). I’m a little torn right now. When I started off the series, I had mind-blowing covers done by an amazing artist. They were gritty and I felt they perfectly captured the tone of the series. When I signed with the publisher, both of these covers were replaced. Though I absolutely love the 2.0 covers, they just don’t have the same punch that the originals had. So I’m thinking of reverting to those first covers and having that artist do the third.
Right now, I have zero budget for a cover, so it has to wait a couple more weeks.
In the meantime, I’m crafting a hook. These are excellent to pop everywhere, including the “other books” page in your back matter and of course on social media. They’re your book’s “elevator pitch”—or a tweet-length line about the book. Once I have the blurb locked down, I can use it to whittle into a less than 140-character hook.
Or hooker, as I like to call them. Because I work alone all day, okay? I have to have inside jokes with myself.
Actually, this popped up in a FaceTime chat with my work wife, so I guess it’s really an inside joke with her. 😁 That totally makes me less crazy.
This is the hard part. My goal is to launch with 10 reviews, so I’ve offered my email list subscribers an ARC in exchange for an honest review. So far about 10 people have signed up, so my fingers are crossed. I’ve done this before a couple times, and found that it’s best to make sure I remind everyone, several times, to post their reviews. People are super busy and easily forget. Life is life-y.
I’m also starting a NetGalley campaign using a co-op this fall. I’ll do one for each book in the series. Ideally I’d like to have 50-60 reviews for Book 1, at least 50 for Book 2, and 25ish for Book 3.
I’ll also be leveraging permafree for reviews, which (finally) brings me to…
My goal is to set up a sales funnel for this series, so aside from posting the entirety of Book 1 on Wattpad, I’m also making Book 1 permafree at all retailers right before Book 3 launches. This will allow readers to give me a try before they commit to the rest of the series.
Permafree does sell books—as long as the permafree book is the first in a series. It doesn’t have the same strength organically as it did a couple years ago, so you have to constantly rotate ads to boost visibility.
If all of this works, I hope to make enough money to put into advertising the free Book 1, starting in the fall. Of course, BookBub is my first choice. They’re very selective, though, so I’ll start submitting late fall and keep submitting every 30 days until I get in—or until six months have passed and I’ve been rejected six times, haha.
In the meantime, I’ll advertise Book 1 with all the little guys (which are much less expensive than BookBub, but can also be pretty effective). When I get a BookBub, I’ll organize a nice ad campaign.
As I mentioned above, I’ll also be utilizing Facebook ads to build my email list and sell some books.
I’m considering doing a blog tour for Book 3’s release (or a month or two after), but I’m kind of one the fence. In the past, the ones I did weren’t very effective. I’ve organized them myself and had companies run them for me, and neither had the effect I hoped for. Still, it could be another way to get more reviews. So I’m not sure.
These tend to cost about $80, so I’m holding off for now. (Zero budget, womp womp.) I have time to decide if I’m feeling optimistic, haha.
Depending on who you ask, pre-orders suck or rock. I’m doing them anyway. I know pre-orders on Amazon don’t really help your ranking on launch, but they do in other stores. It can’t hurt. My goal is to get pre-orders up by July 18th—a full month before my release. The plan here is really just to capture any impulse sales—especially when I start trickling out sample chapters and sharing teasers and the cover reveal.
In the past, I’ve done cover reveals about a month or two before release. Recently, a pretty successful indie author in my genre—who finally got her well-deserved breakout, whoo-hoo!—mentioned in her blog that she feels like cover reveals can make or break you, depending on the timing. She said that if you do them too far ahead of release, people will actually get sick to death of seeing your cover. Since your cover is your best marketing weapon, she recommends doing them as close to release as possible.
I have to agree, based on my own previous cover reveals.
To pack the best punch and capture those spontaneous buys, I’m going to do mine one week before release.
I know all of this sounds pretty exhausting, but to me it doesn’t even feel like near enough. From what other authors have said, though, Book 3 in a series is the sweet spot when it comes to momentum. I’m going all out—or at least as much as I can—with this release, in the hopes that it’s true.
I’m especially nervous since Book 2 had almost no marketing. I’ve been doing weekly teasers, but I have to wonder if that’s going to be enough, or if it’ll end up hurting me.
Time will tell…
What do you think? Do you have any suggestions? Are you currently putting together a marketing plan? Leave a comment and give me your two cents!
*I’m formatting for print on demand (POD) via CreateSpace by hand, but it’s already taken me hours to do less than half of one, so this isn’t a fast production process. Normally I hire this out, but my bank account is totally tapped at the moment. (It literally has a balance of $0.14—so when I say I’m doing this on a worn shoestring, I mean it!) As soon as I get the hang of formatting for print in Apple Pages, I’ll post a little walkthrough.