Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hey, what did my blog tour say about my writing quality? I CHOOSE TO INTERPRET THE RESULTS IN A WAY THAT IS FAVORABLE TO MY EGO.






post... like how I worked that in there?... and at the time, remember, I was getting ready to release a phenomenal new horror story,


which I am sure you already have bought, but, you know, in case you didn't, here's a link to Amazon, where you can get this incredible gothic horror novel for just $0.99!

And as I was getting ready for that release and setting up a blog tour, I had wondered -- my insecurity at the time -- whether it would say something about the quality of my writing if people didn't buy the books even though I was doing this marketing push.  

OK. That's the recap! Now it's two months later and I am ready to discuss how the blog tour actually affected the sales and whether it was worth it, in the long run.

The tour was over 10 blogs, with me writing part of a short horror story at each stop, changing the plot based on reader and blog-host suggestions; the resulting story, "This Is How I..." eventually involved a decapitated Stephen King, a many-tentacled monster, an other-worldly Cthulu-like monster, a wisecracking spider-venom created clone, Betty White, and Snickers, so now you know that people along the tour were completely insane.  Also, the story was incredible.  I'll collect it up here one of these days for reading in whole, so make sure you visit this blog three, maybe 70, times per day.


OR, hire a team of adorable youngsters to monitor this site around the clock.


The tour was a lot of work -- it's actually more time-consuming than I thought to write on a schedule like that, let alone make sure that there are posts telling people at previous blogs to catch up to the latest, etc., especially if you don't want every post to be the exact same.

To help spur sales, I thought I would finally do something that I've seen other writers do: Make the book free for a couple of the tour stops.  Amazon will let you do that for five days out of every 90, and there were 10 days on this tour, so I threw in other books as freebies from time to time.

ADMITTEDLY, it may not seem immediately logical that by charging nothing for books I hoped to make money, but you know the old saying: You've got to lose money to make money.


"I don't... that doesn't sound... my head hurts!"



So did it work? Let's look at the numbers!

The tour began on Friday, 9/13 -- the choice of Friday the 13th was entirely accidental, and I completely failed to capitalize on that release date for a horror novel



So here are my book sales numbers for the months BEFORE 9/13:

In July, I sold... One copy of my book "Do Pizza Samples Really Exist? And 117* Other Ways Of Looking At Life (*Give Or Take)", which is a collection of essays that you can also buy for just $0.99!

This probably is not the last ad you'll see in this post. JUST BUY SOMETHING SO HE'LL LET THE COPYWRITING STAFF GO HOME! WE'VE BEEN STARING AT THESE COMPUTERS FOR HOURS! THAT'S RIGHT, WE'RE THOSE ADORABLE KIDS FROM UP ABOVE! HE MAKES US DO THESE CAPTIONS! EVEN WHEN THE PICTURES ARE ENTIRELY AGE INAPPROPRIATE!


Then, in August, I had, as I mentioned in my last ISWG post, ZERO sales. (YAY FOR CAPITALISM!)

S0 then in September, things DID take off.

In the US alone, I sold

6 copies of Temporary Anne, plus 1 copy each of Up So Down, The Scariest Things, You Can't Imagine, the After, and Just Exactly How Life Looks.  Inexplicably, I also sold four copies of my Xmas scifi/humor book, "Santa, Godzilla & Jesus Walk Into A Bar," a/k/a The Greatest Xmas Story Ever Told (By Me)."  

You know, because nothing says "Xmas Cheer" like "raking the leaves in Late September."

Google "Jesus Raking Leaves," and you'll find this image. I don't understand religion.

Those numbers are slightly higher than average for the year -- while sales were down in the summer, my average is about 1-3 books per month, for each of my books.

And what did I have to do to get those numbers? Here's how many free copies I gave away:

The Scariest Things, You CAN'T Imagine: 142
Eclipse: 131 (Note that I sold no copies of Eclipse in that month).
Temporary Anne: 113.
the After: 94.

Yes, you read that right: the book that I was actively promoting came in third in free downloads.

I should note that the blog posts were not the only way I was promoting these books. I also had posts on my blogs, and I actively used Twitter: I have four automated tweets per day, about four of my books. Four is the most I figure should be on a Twitter account during the day, because if I see people doing too many ads for stuff, I unfollow them. I don't mind ads -- I do them on my blogs and Twitter -- but I don't want anything to be all commercials.

So on Twitter, though, on the free-book days, I did a bunch more - -usually 5-10 different tweets with a link to downloading the book for free.  Did that help? I have the same number of Twitter followers, more or less (about 588), so nobody got too annoyed and unfollowed me (or I got followed and unfollowed in equal numbers), and maybe Twitter's farther reach helped me get overseas sales: In the UK, I sold 5 books and gave away 33, and I gave away 19 copies in other countries (with no sales).


Perhaps if I had gone with this alternate cover for the
overseas edition?


On the one hand, you might say that with an average of $0.35 profit per book, giving away several hundred might have cost me $70 or so in sales, but remember, that wasn't the point.

Wait, the point WASN'T to make money? I don't get publishing.

The point, Mr. 1950s Guy, was to generate buzz and introduce people to my writing to see if that would spur other sales: get me reviews, maybe get me onto Amazon's Hot 100 list one day (I never did make that list.)

So did THAT work?

In word,

That word is "No," for you people who are a little slow on the uptake today.

In the month or so SINCE the tour ended, I have sold...

TWO books.

So, double the sales, right? YAY FOR MARKETING AND CAPITALISM.

I'm turning socialist.

Anyway, that's the update on the blog tour and/or the quality of my writing.  And I don't think that it's the writing itself that is suffering: I think the problem is that I'm still not marketing it right.  The actual lessons I learned from this tour are:

1. The quality of the writing is important to ongoing readers, so if you have a good story and good editing that'll maybe get people to buy a second book.  To that end, I think that the comments on the quality of my writing were okay: I got a positive review from a total stranger about my book Eclipse, and each day of free books resulted in at least 1-2 sales of a non-free book the next couple of days. I also had no refunds of books, so people were not dissatisfied with either the free or written books.

That's all to say: nobody knows whether you're any good until they read one of your books, so quality of writing is important to second sales.

2.  A blog tour shouldn't require reader participation.  Really, every lesson I learned on this tour could be summarized as "You are weird, Briane," which is my insecurity for this month -- how come I'm so unlike other people? -- as things that I like are not the things that everyone else in the world likes.  My tour was designed to get people to leave comments without resorting to that hokey "What do you think?" question at the end of posts -- I HATE THAT, almost as much as I HATE PEOPLE WHO FAVORITE A TWEET INSTEAD OF RETWEETING IT.

Honestly: why do that? FAVORITING DOES NOTHING. If you are on Twitter, retweet stuff! I retweet almost everything I see from a select group of loyal readers. You should do that.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah: Turns out that many people DO NOT WANT TO HELP YOU WRITE A STORY. Go figure? I thought we could get someone to do that work for us?


SAVE US!
Which leads to 

3.  I think people really hate serialized stuff on the 'net.  I've been a longtime supporter of serializing stories: I have serialized whole novels, but this idea for a blog tour -- which was supposed to pull people from blog to blog AND lure in new readers from each blog visited-- absolutely failed to do that.

Instead, a small corps of people followed from blog-to-blog, and new readers failed to materialize.  Is that a comment on the story? I don't think so.

(I DO NOT NEED MORE INSECURITIES OKAY?)

Instead, I think it's a comment on the fact that if you regularly read, say, Lara Schiffbauer's blog or Andrew Leon's or Rusty's, etc. I can't name all of you all right? YOUR CHECK IS IN THE MAIL*

*You're not getting paid I lied

Anyway, if you regularly read those and I show up one day with part six of a story that requires you to track down through 5 other blogs you've never read just to figure out what the heck is going on, you're NOT GOING TO DO IT.

See, I might do that, but, as I've come to realize, I am not other people, and it turns out that other people do not like being given homework assignments when they're surfing the Internet.

SO REALLY, my insecurity for this month ought to be "I have no idea how society works, but I'm learning so give me another chance, would you?"

Anyway: Live and learn and make $0.70 in royalties for all that hard work!  See you next month!

-\
So I'm not getting paid, either? This job blows.



AS LONG AS YOU ARE HERE, MAYBE CHECK OUT SOME OF MY OTHER STORIES ON THIS SITE? There's an index page tab up there. You could bookmark them and read them later! Maybe print them and take them home? Am I coming on too strong? I always do that.


23 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Shame it didn't spur more sales. I thought it was an original idea, which is so hard to do with a blog tour now since it's all been done before.
I think the one thing I've learned after doing three tours is that after the big push, don't pull back. Keep venturing out. I'm still doing tour stops, just once a week now rather than a whole week, and hope to continue well into next year. (Although a lot of those will be pushing the IWSG site rather than my latest book. It's easier for me to talk about the group anyway.)
What else can you try?

Pat Dilloway said...

People love free books. Ask them to pay a measly 99 cents? Heck no, that's too rich for my blood! On Smashwords I made a first draft of my book "Star Shepherd" free while I was editing it and it was downloaded over 300 times in over a week. Since I finished editing it and made the price 99 cents? 1 copy sold on Smashwords and 3 on Amazon. So really 300 people would download it free but only 1 would pay 99 cents for it? Doesn't make much sense.

From my blog it's pretty clear people don't like having to do anything more than say "thanks for sharing" or something along those lines. I mean even the games like Comics Trivia and Box Office Blitz where I was offering cash prizes it's a bear to get anyone participating.

Final analysis I guess is most people are lazy jerks who only want something for nothing.

Briane P said...

PT:

I actually think it's a bit more complicated. I'm like that, too: I have a limited budget (obviously, given my sales), so even $0.99 can add up. If I were to buy every book available from the main bloggers I read almost every day-- that's you and Andrew -- I'd spend probably $20+, and I don't like to buy books until I'm ready to read them. Even now I have a bit of a backlog on my Kindle and it bothers me.

So I get that they may not want to pay $0.99 for a book if they're not sure about it, whereas a free book is no cost, even if you never read it. I'm like that with music: I'm incredibly choosy about songs if I have to pay, but I'll download almost any song if it's free.

Alex:

That's for another post, really, but you're right: never quit marketing. The key for me is not being too annoying or aggressive about it. Like I said, I don't mind ads, until they become obnoxious or repetitious.

I've got some other stuff in the works that I'll probably discuss in future ISWG posts.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I think the days of free books are waning. For a while, everyone jumped on the KDP Select bandwagon and we were flooded with free books. Now everyone has hundreds of free books they will never read. Sadly, 99 cents isn't much better. People place value on something that they perceive has value.

An author friend tried an experiment last week. She let the first book in her series go free for a couple days. There were more downloads, but it didn't help the others. When she raised it back to 3.99, all three books started selling well again. In the same amount of time, twice as many people paid 3.99 as had downloaded it for free. It's all in perceived value.

Andrew Leon said...

What I know is that sales on my stuff have slowed to almost a halt since I stopped have the FREE! pieces of Spinner coming out. I had 2 whole purchases on the 2nd collection so far, which, honestly, is just depressing.

However, people really don't like to work for stuff, so, whereas I thought your blog tour was brilliant, I knew you'd probably not get other people following along, which is too bad, but, then, it's mostly their loss. And it is their loss, because they didn't get to participate.

So I don't know what to tell you other than "it's not you," which is the truth but also doesn't really help.

Briane P said...

Diane:

I've heard that argument before, and there's some merit to it. I tried for a while upping my books to $2.99 and $3.99 but saw no difference in sales, either way, so I dropped them back down again because to me, $9.99 is the MOST an ebook should cost and even that seems outrageous, given the lack of physical costs in producing them. So I keep them at $0.99 because of a belief that that is what ebooks should cost.

Andrew:

I think in your case, people came to know that they would get some sections free, so they waited to purchase them until they were free. Your very consistency may have worked against you.

I think the main thing is, again, perceived quality as well as taste. I had no problem getting all the books by Nick Harkaway, once I knew how great I loved his first book. I have no problem buying yours and PT's books, because they are things I like, so when I'm in the market for a new book I'll check out yours.

Other people's, it's harder to know whether I'm really getting something I'll like. A name brand author -- Neil Gaiman, Nick Harkaway -- carries with it the same cache that "Produced by Stephen Spielberg" is supposed to bring, the assurance that this is something you will like because you know that person stands for a certain kind of thing.

That's why I said it's ongoing readers who quality relates to: both new readers lured by favorable reviews and people who think "Well, I liked his last book, I bet I'll like the next one."

Another way people could help, following up on your blog, Andrew? If all Indie Authors gave ONE other author's books as a gift at Christmas. We should do that, promise to all give someone an ebook by some INDIE author we love.

Rusty Webb said...

I have hits and misses with my stuff too. I'm a big believer in the perceived value thing though, when I see a socket set for sale at the $.99 store I'm probably not going to get it. There is not way in the world that is something worth owning.

But if I see it for $20 or something, well, then I'm interested. So, I'd say, take The Scariest Things You Can't Imagine and raise the price to $2.99 and don't apologize for it.

Then wait for the money to come rolling in.

And I know I dropped out of the blog tour at some point. I can't remember what happened, I did go back and try to catch up later, but I ended up going offline entirely for a week or so... I don't know. It just happens with me sometimes.

But I think you should just keep pumping your work out, and eventually something will strike a chord with the masses, and once that happens, your legions of new fans will start buying your backlist.

Game. Set. Aaaaaannnndddd.... match.

Andrew Leon said...

That's a good idea, although I'd really like to know that the person I was giving the book to was going to read it before I gave them something.

My conflict, right now, would be that I would want to give away "The Man with No Eyes" because I really want people to read your story, but that would seem rather self-serving.
Maybe I'll do it anyway, though, because people should read your story.

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