Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Indie Experiment: What's worked for me

With the caveats from the last post out of the way, people no doubt want to know what has worked for me. I chose to focus on two means of marketing, book blogs and Twitter. I'm still gathering data. It looks like they work in tandem to boost my sales.

Book blogs: These are pretty straightforward. The internet is full of angelic people who read books and post reviews. You give them a copy of your book, they give you a review. If it's a good review, you broadcast it and add an excerpt from it onto you Amazon listing using the tools at authorcentral.amazon.com. My listing of Someone Else's Fairytale has several examples on it. I submit to every book blog I come across that does my genre, and once I have the review, I link to it from www.emtippetts.com, tweet it, and put it on my FB page. A listing of all the book blogs that have featured me (that I know about) is here: http://www.emtippetts.com/p/links.html

Twitter: It took me a while to get into Twitter. As a microblogging site, it seems useless. Follow more than a dozen people and your incoming stream is so enormous that you're not going to be able to read it all. Besides that, you probably won't want to. Much of the content is mundane, what people are eating for breakfast and that kind of thing. For your close friends, maybe you'll care, but in general I think most of us don't. Twitter started to work for me when I realized that it isn't a microblogging site. It's a global cocktail party where people are very tolerant of new voices in their conversations and who don't mind if you disappear unexpectedly. They'll assume Life happened to you.

With this in mind, I don't bother reading everyone's tweets. I read all the tweets @ me. If you look at my Twitter profile you'll see that 98% of the tweets are @ someone, and most of the rest are retweets of nice things people have said about me and my books. When I have a contest or something to publicize, then I tweet it around, but really, only a tiny percentage of my followers will see it. They have to be looking in the right place at the right time. It's not the most efficient way to broadcast.

There are a lot of tools you can use to find people and topics on Twitter. I use tweepi.com, which allows me to find people who tweet about chick lit or who follow romance authors similar to me. Some people are very aggressive with this and tweet at these people and cut into their conversations. For example, if two people are talking about fairytales, I could butt in and say something like, "Imagine if you were living everyone else's fairytale?" and put a link to my blog which has a post that pitches my book. I've done this with great results, but I don't like it. I'm just too introverted to put myself out there like that repeatedly, so what I do instead is just follow people. If they like my profile, they'll follow me back, and when they do I tweet at them to say thank you and put a link to my emtippetts.com site which has a pitch on the homepage, a longer version of what I've been putting in query letters my whole career. My aim here is to put myself out there without being in people's faces. My aim is also to find people who will take the initiative to click links and look up my site. I'm early career, so I need to find people who will take chances on a new name.

When I began my Twitter campaign, I was selling about three copies of my book a week. For the first couple thousand followers I accrued, my sales were barely increasing. I spent a month at about 2-5 sales a day, and I really doubted this was working, but I figured it didn't hurt to build up a huge followers list, and some of these followers were also friending me on Goodreads and following my site. After about two months of this strategy, the sales started to pick up. I sold 138 books total in January, but in February sold 1233. These are still small numbers in terms of how much money you make, but they're growing and that's what I care about. Throughout February my number of books sold went from 3 a day to an average of 40 a day for the whole month, and the book was climbing the sales rankings. By the last week of the month, the book broke into the top 1,000 ebooks on Amazon and I did a free promotion to celebrate, which pushed the book up even higher to peak at 194th on the site.

As I write this, the book's moving down the ranks, which could be from any variety of factors, or none at all. I haven't had as many book blogger reviews lately, but sales also cycle and change at random. Some days they spike up for no discernible reason, and others they barely come at all. My lowest sales day this month so far was yesterday, at 31 books, but the average for the month so far is about 80 a day. I think not obsessing is also key here. It's easy to let sales numbers govern your mood, but the book business is a long game, so any one day means very little in the long run. You will have good days and bad ones, months when you break your own records and ones when you wonder if anyone even knows you exist.

What matters most is that I'm doing something that I have control over - I can't control sales, but I can control how much time I spend seeking out new followers on Twitter and how many book blogs I submit to. This way, whenever I feel low, I don't just sit around and despair. I get on my computer and get to work - and a VERY nice side benefit to Twitter is that I meet other people who just like to chat. By seeking out romance fans to follow on Twitter, that's like putting up a sign advertising ice cream on a beach on a hot day, but then some of the people who walk up to the stand will just want to compliment your outfit or say hello. If you're going to be sociable anyway, why not be sociable somewhere that you might also make money? Thus it's a win-win. Even if you don't have a good business day, you can still make new friends and have it be a positive experience.

What I must emphasize, though, is that this is working for me because it fits my personality. I'm not a dedicated blogger. I don't have a MySpace page. I don't know much about purchasing ad space and drafting an ad campaign. I don't feel comfortable trying to get speaking engagements, and i really don't like doing book signings. I'm more of an introvert. I like being at home with my kids and computer. There's little point forcing myself to do things I don't like. If I show up at a book signing feeling out of place, people will likely be put off. For an extrovert, this might be a golden opportunity to meet people and sell books.

I guess the only other point I can add is that selling books is an indirect kind of business. Every now and then you meet someone who says, "Okay, I'll go buy your book!" but more often you meet someone and then they need to see you 2-3 more times before they'll buy, so they might read an interview of you, see a review, then have you follow them on Twitter before they start clicking links and buy. Other times, you don't sell to the people you meet, but they'll go talk about you to their friends and that'll be that third or fourth contact for the friend that induces them to buy. Because it's an indirect business, you can't get stressed out about direct results. So your public presentation doesn't lead to a surge in sales. Keep going. Do something else. Just make it a part of your routine, and over time, you'll see the results.

This leaves just one other topic I want to cover, and I'll do that in another blog post later on this week: What not to do. What are some things that are going to drive people away and hurt your reputation? I don't know all of them, of course, but I've gathered a list of the ones most noticeable to me.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for your candid comments! As an Indie writer of historical romantic suspense, I found them inspiring. -Leigh Sparrow

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    1. Glad to hear they helped! Feel free to share what's worked for you. I'm still very new to the biz.

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  2. Thanks Emily Mae. I use both Facebook and Twitter, but not to the advantage that you have. Apparently it's time for me to get to work!!!

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    1. Hi Mary! Glad it's a useful post. Did you get the copy of Fairytale that you won from Linda's site yet?

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  3. Fascinating set of blog posts and experiment. Thanks for being so open and clear about what's worked for you. Have you ever looked at Writer Unboxed? It's a daily blog with contributions from about 30 or so different writers at various stages of their writing careers. Topics are all things writer related. They seem a community that would really appreciate your insights and experiences.

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    1. Hi Lucy! I haven't heard of that particular community, but I'm aware there are quite a few of these. While I know participating can only help me, these days I only take on something new if I know I can budget the time. I'm spread pretty thin right now - which is its own challenge when figuring out how to get you books out there.

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    2. Should say "your books". Still waking up, I guess :-)

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  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences :) It's very helpful to know what others are doing, and if it works. Best of luck in all your endeavors!

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    1. And to you! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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