Back when I started in 2011, I used Smashwords (SW) to distribute my books (except to Amazon). I eventually went direct everywhere possible, but I still had The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos distributed to Nook through SW for a while, because I’d done a pre-order. It was selling pretty steadily—like hot cakes, actually. I sold 107 copies in one month, which was an all-time best for me. When I unpublished it from SW and went direct to NookPress, though, it flatlined. I wrote about it here on Kboards, and several people said they’ve had similar experiences. Some suggested that it was because I was essentially starting over when I went to NookPress.
The entire time I was direct, I barely sold a thing. I’m talking a year and a half of one sale every now and then. I hoped that it’d just take some time for things to get moving again, but it never happened.
Toward the end of 2016, I started having issues with NookPress. I ended up distributing through Draft2Digital (D2D), because I just wasn’t getting anywhere with NookPress support. (Other authors were experiencing other weird glitches, so I have a feeling NookPress is in need of some serious overhaul. I’d never had a problem with them before, but I just couldn’t wait around for them to fix my account; I had books to publish!) Anyway, I was distributed through D2D for a month or so and nothing moved. I remembered how I’d done really well in the Nook store through Smashwords back in 2014, so figured it couldn’t hurt to try it again.
I moved my entire Nook catalog to Smashwords. Immediately, Nook sales picked up for me again. At the rate I’m going, I stand to make $100 in royalties on a single title alone this month (The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos).
Some authors have speculated that SW has some kind of relationship with Nook’s merchandizing team. I’m really starting to think this is true.
I’m hoping that my other books will start moving in the Nook store, whether through SW juice or as a result of people reading and liking TNWTST. If each of my books could consistently make $100/month in the Nook store alone, I could pay all of our bills and my husband could quit his job!
Here are some things I’m going to try to improve my Nook sales:
Update back matter in TNWTST to point readers to another book.
Update Sandpaper Fidelity cover (which I need to do across the board anyway).
Lower price of Becoming Natalie from $3.99 to $2.99. Something about that $3.99 price point just kills sales for me.
If I have the budget, do some advertising for Just One More Minute—either on Facebook/Instagram or with less expensive sites like Bookbub that accept Nook books.
Just a little over two weeks ago, I released my 10th novel, Just One More Minute. It’s a contemporary NA small town bakery romance, and it’s my first ever written-to-market novel. By “written-to-market,” I mean I intentionally wrote it using romance tropes, or themes, rather than letting my creativity run wild and using tropes by accident. For example, some of the tropes I wrote with were “enemies to lovers” and “second chance.”
I also looked at bakery romances. They’re fun and lighthearted; I was challenged by my therapist to write something on the lighter side back when I was in PTSD recovery. However, I am who I am, and needed to include my own flavor: gritty, steamy romances led by strong belles, focusing on social issues. I baked all of those things into Just One More Minute, but kept it lighthearted, which made it a lot of fun to write and a lot easier to market. It’s also making me a lot more money than my most recent releases have—and more money is always a good thing, since that means I can pay my bills and write more books.
Since I’m trying to get better at comparing the state of my business before and after each book launch, I’d like to dive into what I learned from Just One More Minute. If you’d like to follow along, here are my pre-launch numbers.
The Cover Reveal
The cover reveal I did on Instagram went really well! For some reason, I didn’t note how many followers I had before the cover reveal 🙄, but I now have 375 followers on Instagram. I do know I gained quite a few with every piece of the cover I posted. Using relevant hashtags—like #bookstagram and #bibliophile, for example—really helped me reach a new audience. It also drew in some weird bot accounts. 😂
My followers really seemed to like the piece-by-piece reveal, and new-to-me readers thought it was cool, too. The beard piece got the most likes! 😍 Mind you, before I started this particular cover reveal, my average likes were maybe 10 per post. Now I’m averaging 20-50 likes per post; I’ve also been trying to post several times a week, to keep that momentum going. Even now that I’m technically unplugged, I’m still posting to Instagram—I’m just not checking notifications.
A note on the cover: A few days before release, I noticed that the title on the original design was really hard to see at thumbnail size. My designer couldn’t fix it right away, so I launched with the original cover. However, I ran some ads the week after release—which are basically thumbnail-size covers in newsletters like Bookbub—and those ads failed epically. I suspect it was because the title was hard to read, and customers just passed it by while scrolling through their email.
However, sales from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, etc are doing great, because their thumbnail size is a bit bigger. I’ve since redesigned the cover to make the title pop more.
I still love the original design—it’s so glow-y and swoon-y—but the typography was just way too light. I ended up dusting off my dinosaur Gateway—which still has Photoshop CS4 on it—and cleaning it out—viruses galore!—to redo the cover from scratch. I couldn’t find the fonts my designer used, and she was unavailable, so I had to make due. I think it came out okay. Not great, but okay. And now the title really stands out!
I was, however, successfully able to repeat the glowy overlay. It’s not exact, but it’s close. I did it with the gradient tool in multiple layers, with multiple colors at different opacities. I still don’t love the new look, but I had to be done with it and move forward.
I just want to stress here that I noticed the thumbnail issue super late in the game and life threw some curveballs at my poor designer. Ordinarily the fix could’ve waited, but with ads running and the price about to go back up, I had to do something myself—nothing personal.
On the bright side, this got me out of design retirement! I’ve been working on some other cover redesigns that I can’t wait to share. 😊
Getting back on track, during my piece-by-piece reveal, I collected email addresses to send a five-chapter preview to. The pre-order went live on October 31st with the final piece, and I emailed my list that preview.
I got 11 pre-orders on Amazon and 1 on iBooks; I don’t know about the other retailers because they don’t display pre-orders separately. It wasn’t my best pre-order run (which was 36), but it also wasn’t my worst (which was 0)! I suspect if I’d done a longer pre-order (I only did 18 days), it would’ve beat out my best (which was a three-month run).
I’m slightly nervous to share these numbers. I’m still relatively unknown even after five years, so try not to judge me too harshly. So far, Just One More Minute is my second best-selling book in its first month.
A note on pricing: Originally, when I did the $0.99 pre-order, my plan was to bring the price back up to $2.99 on release day. Mostly because I didn’t have the budget to run ads for a sale. But thanks to my GoFundMe—which is really helping me get caught up on bills—I had a bit extra. I thought of that old parable.
Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you’ll feed him for life.
I never thought I’d be quoting the bible to help me with my business, but it’s true. I figured I could set aside $20-40 and run some ads with smaller newsletters (I so can’t swing a Bookbub right now), which would help me make more money in the long run. I’m still an unknown author, and I have an autoimmune disease that is, quite frankly, kicking my ass and preventing me from working a normal job. So in this position, I have to be agile and smart. Which isn’t always easy, because the brain fog struggle is real. Chronic illness jokes! 😂
Dark humor aside, I thought I’d use some bill money to try and make more money, and extended my $0.99 promo to two weeks after release. The ads didn’t work out (see my cover notes above). Thankfully I only spent about $20 on ads. I ran them on Monday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so the proximity of the holiday could’ve had an effect on them, too.
Fortunately, the book is selling really well on its own on iBooks and Amazon. On Kobo, it’s doing moderately well. And it’s moving, albeit slowly, on the other retailers. Without further ado (and mind you, this is in its first two weeks, on sale, so please be gentle and don’t judge me too harshly)…
Google Play: 7
A note on Nook: Oh Nook, why you gotta do me wrong… Unfortunately, something is glitched out on their end and I haven’t been able to reliably get into my NookPress account for months. I’ve been in touch with support multiple times and the issue doesn’t seem to be being resolved, which is a shame. Honestly, at this point, the second I can log in again, I’m yanking all my titles and re-publishing them through Draft2Digital, because this has sucked up a lot of time and caused me a lot of headache. Not to mention I’ve started my annual end-of-year inventory and can’t touch a single title I’ve published through NookPress… 😱
I’ve since bumped the price up to $3.99. Now, originally I’d planned on making $2.99 my regular price. However, after doing a lot of thinking, talking with other indies on Kboards, and market research, I’ve determined that the majority of books in the NA category are priced $3.99 and above across all retailers. This is a bit of a test balloon, and I’m a little worried that it’ll bring my good sales to a screeching halt, but I really need to start making money again so I can feed myself, my husband, and our overlord the cat. She’s a tyrant, I tell you.
I did an early cover reveal for my email list and Facebook reader group a few days before posting the final piece on Instagram. I also sent my email list a five-chapter preview before anyone else got it. After that, I posted all five chapters on Wattpad in one shot, then scheduled weekly chapters to post to my blog. My goal here was to drive pre-orders. And obviously it worked—but I should’ve done a longer pre-order period.
Here are some Wattpad numbers…
Followers Before Launch: 206
Followers After Launch: 238
Total JOMM Reads: 61
Total JOMM Votes: 9
This isn’t quite what I’d hoped for, but my bar was set pretty high in the wake of the roaring success of Sandpaper Fidelity (which has over 75,000 reads and 2,100 votes to date). However, Wattpad is a fickle beast. For one, it’s hard to gain traction on works that are only excerpts. Wattpad readers love full-length works. Also, Wattpad will only promote full-length works. Still, my bar on excerpts was pretty high too, since The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos has over 13,900 reads and 250 votes to date. I’m hoping that, given some time, JOMM will see similar success. That said, TNWTST is a force of nature on its own: it still moves on retailers (albeit much more slowly now, almost a year after release), people either really love it or really hate it, and it consistently draws in eyeballs. It’s my breakout hit, my best-selling title. It’s what put me on the part-time earnings map when it released ($500/month)—a place I’d really like to get back to!
I have to admit, I’ve really slacked on this. My intention was to post topic-related blogs—posts about depression, grief, etc—leading up to and for a short time after release, to draw in an audience. They’re things I write about anyway. I also wanted to write more specific posts, like my experience as a culinary student at a tech school and how that influenced this book. But time, health, and life haven’t been on my side, so this piece of my marketing plan got lost in the mix.
Advanced Review Copies
This is another area I failed miserably in. I contacted 11 book bloggers about an excerpt and ARC (if they wanted it), but I think I reached out too close to release. I also contacted 15 readers about ARCs. Some had won them during Facebook takeovers I did, and others won them from giveaways in one of my two reader groups (Barone’s Belles and Romance Readers Anonymous). In the past, for TNWTST, I reached out to everyone I knew and asked if they wanted an ARC in exchange for a review; this time, I didn’t have quite enough time. Only a handful of readers responded. So far, JOMM has four reviews on Amazon, with a 4.5 average rating. I’ll be doing a major review push in December with incentives.
I screwed a few things up, unfortunately.
I should have kept in touch with the winners from various takeovers; months later, they probably didn’t remember who the heck I was and simply deleted my email about their ARC.
I also dropped the ball and forgot to send the packet to one of the two bloggers who did sign up for my excerpt!
I’m extremely upset with myself. This is part of the reason why I’m taking a break from social media. I’ve just got way too much on my plate, and I’m forgetting important things. Brain fog aside, I think I’m simply overloaded.
Speaking of overload, my personal life has been a marathon of family emergencies: my sweet great-grandmother passed away, my great-aunt had a severe stroke, and then another family member had an emergency I can’t discuss on the afternoon of my Facebook release party.
I’d dropped the ball on promoting the party—which is another thing I’m bummed about—and then canceled it last-minute in order to be there for my family. My readers, thankfully, were so understanding and sweet. That took off a lot of pressure. But I’d been looking forward to it! Admittedly, I had thought about canceling it, but decided to do it anyway. I always enjoy those parties, even though they can be a lot of work to organize and pull off. That reader interaction is so important to me, and fun! But my work wife J.C. Hannigan saved the day and threw a giveaway that evening while I was stress-cleaning my house waiting for news.
I know I absolutely made the right decision—I was essentially on standby and didn’t want to end up having to leave midway through the party—but it’s just another example of how even the most organized marketing plans can go off the rails.
For my next book, I’d like to A) give myself more time to execute things and B) come up with some backup plans in case of life being life-y. And dear dog, life likes to throw curveballs at me. At least I’m really good at bouncing back. 🙃
This time, I’ll make sure I include my Instagram numbers. 😂
Newsletter: 252 to 267
Twitter: 1,428 to 1,464
Facebook: 511 to 528
Instagram: ??? to 275
Barone’s Belles reader group: 93 to 96
Romance Readers Anonymous reader group: 135 to 153
Wattpad: 206 to 238
Not bad at all. I’d really like to get Facebook, Instagram, and Wattpad into the 1000s, but I can’t complain considering I don’t put a whole lot of effort into growing them. I’m a little concerned as to how Twitter, etc will fare while I’m unplugged, but I can’t let that strong-arm me back into a social media frenzy.
I desperately need to get caught up on my production schedule and get inventory done for 2017 so that I can start the new year off strong (and finally get back into that part-time earnings bracket). I’ll be writing up a whole other post on that very soon, because while I don’t think many people read this blog, I think it’s helpful information for other indies and I tend to see business-y things more clearly after explaining them to others. So it’ll be extra helpful for me!
All told, I think this was a pretty successful launch. I’m curious to see how JOMM does with the new cover and $3.99 price point. I also need to play with keywords over on Amazon, now that it’s been live for a couple weeks. (Speaking of pricing, I’ll be raising all of my novels to $3.99. More on that in my upcoming “Preparing for 2017” post!)
I’ve been slowly working on formatting JOMM for print on demand. It’s horribly tedious, since I’m doing it in Pages (which requires a lot of workarounds), but it’s getting there.
Since this screenshot, I’ve added the alternating author and title headers. Those and page numbers I have to do by hand with text boxes, since the newer Pages is a hot mess and doesn’t allow much customization for headers and footers. I haven’t even started on widows, orphans, and all that craziness. But I did start, and it’s going better than I expected. Just slow! It’s also not my priority, so I don’t have a paperback release date (yet). However, one of my goals for 2017 is to get all of my books back into print. I’m determined! I want to do signings and readings and festivals again.
All right, I think that’s enough burbling.
If you’ve read all 2,700+ words of this, thanks for sticking with me! I hope it was helpful.
The release party on the 19th went extremely well. I had a full lineup of author takeovers, plus lots of door prizes. Here are the attendance numbers:
Not my best attendance rate, reader participation was the highest I’ve ever had.
What Happens On Tour was on pre-order for $0.99 for a week before release; I left it at the sale price over the weekend after launch. This resulted in 20 sales across Amazon, iBooks, etc (and there’s still another week left in the month). I also made the first book in the series permafree, which has so far resulted in over 130 downloads across the board. I have several promotions advertising the free first book coming up in September, so I’m optimistic for next month’s sales too.
Post-party, my social media numbers are as follows:
Newsletter: 251 subscribers
Twitter: 1,370 followers
Facebook: 503 likes
VIP Facebook reader group: 93 members
Romance Readers Anonymous: 123 members
Wattpad: 155 followers
Speaking of Wattpad, each of the books I have available there are doing well, too:
So far, all reader feedback has been excellent (with the exception of one message from a reader asking why my books aren’t all free).
My plan was to submit Diving Into Him to be featured once it was complete, but unfortunately Wattpad has closed their featured submissions for the time being due to overwhelm. I’m hoping there will be enough crossover from Sandpaper Fidelity to get the SOF series going.
Today I sent an announcement to all followers letting them know that I’d like to give them free copies in exchange for their honest review on Amazon.
Speaking of reviews, my Amazon reviews are growing too!
CIT1—Crazy Comes in Threes: 0
CIT1.5—”The Santa Pact”: 0
Becoming Natalie: 2 (4.0 average)
Sandpaper Fidelity: 0
Playing for You: 0
The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos: 45 (3.6 average)
SOF1—Diving Into Him: 8 (4.2 average)
SOF2—Savannah’s Song: 1 (5.0 average)
SOF3—What Happens On Tour: 3 (5.0 average)
Sade on the Wall (writing as Kaylene Campbell): 10 (4.5 average)
I had Playing for You in KU for 90 days to no avail; its last day is today and it only got a handful of readthroughs. Tomorrow it’s going wide again and eventually I will be rebranding it as the prequel to the South of Forever series (possibly with a better title).
I have a campaign beginning in September to increase reviews. A reader recently messaged me and posted to my VIP group asking why my books don’t have more reviews, saying she loves them and they should have more. I went so long being too shy to ask and, though I’ve asked my reader group a couple of times, I didn’t get much response. The only thing that’s worked well for me in the past was offering incentives; that and NetGalley was how The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos got to 45 reviews since its re-release in January (previously it had like 10).
Going forward, I plan to keep doing what I’ve been: leveraging my free tools and advertising when I can. When the South of Forever series is complete and I’ve begun my next series, I may pop SOF into KU to see if it does better. (From what I’ve gathered, standalones don’t tend to get much traction in KU.) I’ve been thinking of putting my duology in KU from the get-go, but I’m not sure yet.
Speaking of my duology, the first book, Just One More Minute, comes out sometime in November. (I’m aiming for the 18th but it’s not set in stone just yet.) Then, in January or February, I’ll release the fourth and final book in the SOF series.
As soon as I can afford it, I plan to start listing all of the SOF books on NetGalley, too. Reviews and releases are my main focus right now.
That’s all for now! I’ll try to update here more regularly in the coming months.
Smashwords, personally, is my least favorite retailer/dashboard, for various reasons—so I thought I’d do a little walkthrough, podcast-style, for my peeps at The Book Lounge!
Once again, this is another of those “I’ll come back in later and type out instructions” (gotta save my wrists where I can, which are aching pretty badly tonight and I still need to do some actual writing). Thanks for putting up with my ultra-tired, overworked babbling. 😉
This tutorial walks you through:
step-by-step instructions to publish an ebook on Smashwords
how to assign a free ISBN to your Smashwords ebook
how to opt in or out of “channels” (AKA retailers)