How Self-Publishing Failed, And Why That’s A Good Thing

During my self-publishing quest, I have tried many things and read about many more. What I can tell you without question about my approach to my first novel is…
It totally failed!
Now let me qualify that. Did I get downloads? Yes. Did I get some paid sales at the same time? Yes. What I mean by ‘fail’ is a layered answer. To say the number of downloads I received was underwhelming is an understatement. Sure, I did OK and ended up ranking in the top 50 FREE for the categories of Dark Fantasy and Coming of Age. My overall FREE sales ranking was in the top 6,000 which is nothing to sneeze at considering. I released my first novel, The Blood of Altlock, in several parts, or “episodes.” I put out Episode 1 FREE, alongside Episode 2, which was not FREE, but $1.99.

The idea was that a portion of those who downloaded Episode 1 for FREE would go back and pay for Episode 2. This did happen. All said and done I was looking at about 10% of my FREE download total in sales on Episode 2. Which is pretty much what I expected to get. Unfortunately, I was looking for downloads in the thousands, and that didn’t happen.
To help accomplish this, I promoted the hell out of it. I was on Facebook and Twitter almost every day plugging it. I did a Facebook event for launch day to connect to readers and talk about the book. I submitted it to Pixel of Ink and Author Marketing Club and was lucky enough for Author Marketing Club to run Episode 1 in their daily email on Saturday, which got me the fastest spike in downloads of the weekend. I posted on Google+, I used word-of-mouth around town, and I had many of my posts reposted or retweeted by followers and friends on all platforms. It even got featured at least once on the Inkblots & Daydreams Facebook page.

So what went wrong, exactly? The promoting on social media was the right thing to do. That’s where most know me and where I can most easily be seen. What I didn’t have was a buildup here, on my blog. I should have been talking to you, dear readers, about it in advance. Not a week before. Author Marketing Club was a smart move and I will use it for every free promo I do from now on. I don’t have any hard data on whether or not Google+ was effective, but based on the interactions and “Likes” I would say no, it wasn’t. The Facebook event did little for me as only two people were there to interact with. I’m not sure if I would do another one. So what I can point to as where I need to focus efforts for the next time is Amazon.

Amazon is teaming with Indie authors looking for the same thing I am: people to buy their books and on a regular basis. I believe I have a compelling book description, but maybe it could be better. I gave myself a brand new author bio, but could I do better? Then there are reviews.
Reviews matter a lot. I currently, as of this writing, I had 4 reviews on The Blood of Altlock: Book 1. That’s well below even the 10% of total downloads. I included in the back of each book a ‘Call to Action’, which tells every reader why reviews are important and how they can help with them. I included a link in the book to my mailing list as well, so that I can keep those readers updated on my next project and even offered FREE stuff for doing it.

I know that I need more reviews. The more reviews I have, the more visible my book becomes. If you were looking at two books that were similar, one with 25 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars, or the book with 2 reviews and a 4.5 average? Most by nature will gravitate to the one with more reviews. It’s human nature. I know this. But short of begging, I have followed all the advice I was given save one. The one thing I have not done yet is emailing reviewers on Amazon and asking them to review my book. I know this is a thing that happens and even know some who have done it with positive results. Is this my next avenue?

I have since taken The Blood of Altlock off sale on all platforms, taking it into rewrite mode. I decided to fix a few things that I wasn’t completely happy with, making the best possible product that I can. At which point I will try this whole crazy process once again. We have to learn from our mistakes, and also realize that what works for someone else, may not actually work the same for me. But I haven’t given up, not by a long shot. I’ve just been refining my methods. But I guess if it were easy, everyone would be bestsellers.
Until next time…

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