You the Writer, a “Full-time corporation”

Okay, something funny happened on the way to cyberspace. I know I hit the “publish” button on Wednesday, and I even saw this post on my email, but it ain’t on my blog. Mistake or conspiracy against pics of kids dressed as skyscrapers? Anyway, I’m reposting this one today. Hope it works this time.

It seems the entire publishing world is buzzing over Amanda Hocking, the 20-something writer who self-published her paranormal romance book, and became an instant millionaire by selling over a million copies of her latest book…in one month. Well, while that quick blurb may make a nice headline, the real story is much less sexy (as most news stories usually are).

As stated in Laura Miller’s excellent article in Salon, Hocking has spent years blogging and marketing her work. She even goes on to state how much she dislikes that portion of the job, and because of all her marketing efforts, she has virtually no time to actually write. “Right now, being me is a full-time corporation,” she said.

Beyond the fact that Miller highlights other authors and how much marketing work they all must do to sell their books, she also states that another big part of Hocking’s success is the price point for her ebook. Her ebooks sold between $1 and $3. Miller states, “Plenty of readers were willing to take a shot on a book that cheap,” and I completely agree. We wouldn’t have tried Oxiclean all those years ago if it was $19.95 right out of the gate. We didn’t recognize the brand. We didn’t know how good it was. We tried it because we got a deal from Billy Mays (God rest his soul) “I’ll give you 3 tubs of Oxiclean for $19.95 plus you get the Ped Egg and the Flowbee for free!”

I recently began the process of dropping the price of the ebook version of my latest thriller, The Brink, to $1.99 from $8.99. My publisher, iUniverse, allows authors to make a one time price change to their ebooks, pending vendor (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc) approval. I got a call back from iUniverse telling me that the vendors would only allow me to go down to $2.99. At that price point, and with the author getting 50% of the sale, that means I’ll get around $1.50 per ebook sale. 

My iUniverse rep also said it will take up to 4 weeks for the $ change to be made, so that means I’ve got 4 weeks to develop a marketing strategy for the $2.99 ebook. So what will work? After almost a year of running online book marketing campaigns, I certainly know what doesn’t work. And that’s probably more than half the battle. Anyway, it’s time to go into research mode and get ready to build the Greatest Online Book Marketing Plan Ever.  As always, your comments, suggestions, and critiques are most appreciated.

To the keyboards!

**********************************************************************

Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com

The Nightstand Diaries – 1 year, 5,000 books, and an (almost) anything goes approach to marketing a political thriller.

July 15, 2010

Day 31 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010 – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

  • FB ad round-up – is it getting ‘chilling’ up in here? 
  • Getting ready for the podcast, which is now a video interview 

 FB ad round-up

I think I need a jacket, ‘cause the “chillingly current novel” campaign is charging ahead like gangbusters. And yes, you do have to monitor your bid numbers, because they can change.  I had only 3 hits yesterday, but then I noticed the bid range changed from $.49-$.59, to $.72-$.92. So, when I changed it from $.50 to $.72, the number instantly rocketed up! Again, here’s the “CCN” ad:

 Chillingly current novel

Preview the year’s most controversial thriller and get a 40% off coupon at your local Borders bookstore good through July 15th.A

 So here are the numbers from the campaign:

Date Imp. Clicks CTR (%) Avg. CPC ($) Avg. CPM ($) Spent ($)
07/15/2010 154,824 27 0.02 0.70 0.12 18.94
07/14/2010 157,660 31 0.02 0.65 0.13 20.00
07/13/2010 132,073 46 0.03 0.43 0.15 20.00
Lifetime 444,557 104 0.02 0.57 0.13 58.94

104 clicks over 3 days isn’t bad. I just wish I knew if those folks bought books.

 Along those lines, I’m going to contact outside help to see if I can track down that info. More on that in tomorrow’s post.

Getting ready for the podcast, which is now a video interview

 The lovely and talented ladies from girlsinthestacks.com informed me today that the podcast is really a video interview. So I’m off to take the hedge clippers to my eyebrows in a bit. To get ready for the interview, I sent them a few suggestions of the topics we could cover. (As a freelance reporter, I find it very nice when your subject does this) I also spent some time doing research online about those topics.  So, tonight’s homework is to learn how to embed a video into tomorrow’s blog.

 Last night, we talked about how you can incorporate podcasts into your blog or site to get book sales. Well, videos are an even better way to do that. On my site, I have a book trailer on the home page that starts automatically. While it’s pretty basic, the music is really cool, very ominous and gets people in that thriller mindset.

 Try to make a list of 5 uses for videos to sell your books. Then expand that to 10. It’ll be easier than you think. Then all you need is a 17 year old to tell you how to edit and embed the thing into your blog and website and you’re good to go!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

 

The Nightstand Diaries – 1 year, 5,000 books, and an (almost) anything goes approach to marketing a political thriller.

July 9, 2010

It’s named “The Nightstand Diaries” because in terms of publishing a book, it doesn’t mean squat that we’re published. It doesn’t mean squat that our book is on a bookstore shelf. It’s only when someone takes our book home and reads it – as a way to relax on a lounge chair, pass time on a subway, or as the last mental exercise before putting it on the nightstand and going to bed – that we become a part of our readers’ lives. With this notion in mind, I invite you to come along as I try to do that very thing. My goal is to sell 5,000 copies of my new novel The Brink over the next year using mostly social media with a limited marketing budget. And this is an interactive blog, so if you have good marketing ideas, or want to critique mine whenever I do something stupid, let’s hear it! So, without further ado, let the book marketing madness continue…

Day 25 of 365

In this issue:

  • Today’s FB numbers
  • Reminding folks about tomorrow’s signing
  • Giving blood and feeling woosy

 

Today’s FB numbers

 Numbers didn’t budge since yesterday. The ad “US Const. Article Found” didn’t “click” with people. And I haven’t had a click on the Lewisville Borders signing since I changed the ad pic from the cover shot to my ugly mug pic. I changed it back and am letting it ride until tomorrow afternoon.

 If you’re in the Lewisville, Texas area tomorrow between 1pm and 3pm, come give us a kiss.

 Reminding folks about tomorrow’s signing

 I spent about 30 minutes today reminding my FB friends who live in the area as well as the folks I sent invites to (the library staff, area media contacts) about the signing tomorrow. One of the library staff folks mentioned that their mystery book club will be doing The Brink in September and they bought 6 copies for those folks. DON’T FORGET about the book clubs in your area. They can help BIG TIME to spread the word about your book!

 Giving blood and feeling woosy

I gave blood today and then had a few cocktails to kick off the weekend. Not the best deicison, but a fun one. Salud!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

 

The Nightstand Diaries – 1 year, 5,000 books, and an (almost) anything goes approach to marketing a political thriller.

July 8, 2010

It’s named “The Nightstand Diaries” because in terms of publishing a book, it doesn’t mean squat that we’re published. It doesn’t mean squat that our book is on a bookstore shelf. It’s only when someone takes our book home and reads it – as a way to relax on a lounge chair, pass time on a subway, or as the last mental exercise before putting it on the nightstand and going to bed – that we become a part of our readers’ lives. With this notion in mind, I invite you to come along as I try to do that very thing. My goal is to sell 5,000 copies of my new novel The Brink over the next year using mostly social media with a limited marketing budget. And this is an interactive blog, so if you have good marketing ideas, or want to critique mine whenever I do something stupid, let’s hear it! So, without further ado, let the book marketing madness continue…

Day 25 of 365

In this issue:

  • More Facebook campaign changes  
  • How important is book cover design?
  • Make your book current – The looming banking crisis, round 2

More Facebook campaign changes

If the number of folks that have clicked on my FB ad about the Lewisville, Texas Borders signing this Saturday actually show up, we’ll sell out of books and I just might go 2 for 2 as far as having the most successful signings at 2 different Borders stores! Here’s the running total:

Campaign Daily Budget Clicks Impressions CTR% Avg. CPC Spent
Lewisville Signing $20 40 155,632 0.03% $0.62 $24.83
US Const Article Found $40 1 22,505 0.00% $0.72 $0.72

Lewisville Signing – I got 29 out of the 40 clicks today, so I decided to change my budget for tomorrow to $40 (since it’s the last day). I also changed the pic on the ad to my mug shot from the book cover.  The copy is the same:

Preview

Lewisville Borders Book Signing

 

Like thrillers? Need a unique gift? Visit Lewisville Borders Saturday, July 10, 1-3pm and get the year’s best thriller signed!

 The other ad was a complete DOG!  A reminder of what it looked like:

 

 I got 1 stinkin’ click out of 22,505 impressions!  That sucks! So I changed it to this:

 Preview

US Const. article found!

 

Join a fugitive cop as he discovers the unthinkable link between a lost Constitution article and a plan for global financial Armageddon

  I stayed with the “reading” target group and when they click on the ad, they will go to my site, but they are not taken to the home page. Rather, I’m taking them straight to the preview page where they can hopefully get immersed in the story right off the bat and then click on one of the store links at the bottom of the page to purchase the book.

 How important is book cover design?

 Tonight I must again reference the “Pimp My Novel” blog. Eric asks a great question in his blog today: Just how important is the book cover? As a publishing industry insider, he comments on everything from size of the cover to the artwork affecting how it will get show on store bookshelves. I, for one, think people can, and do judge books by their covers. Covers need to show a lot about the book, but not give away the kitchen sink. For The Brink, I wanted to show that, at its essence, it’s a story of two people running for their lives. So I’ve got the man and woman running in the center of the book. Pull back from that, and you see the shot of the Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C. looking ominous in the shadows. There’s a reason for that, but you know why I can’t tell you. Then, if you look hard enough, you can barely make out the script from the U.S. Constitution. That’s there because the book starts off with a secret article of the Constitution being found, and almost stolen. Finally, the gold and silver colors of the lettering were used for a reason, those colors mean something to the plot. I was very pleased with the design folks at iUniverse. I emailed them what I wanted the cover to look like with all these elements, and they hit it out of the park.

 My advice is to spend A LOT of time thinking about your cover…draw it out in pencil on a piece of paper, then put it away for a few days, let the image marinate in your mind.  Come back to it, make corrections, then show it to some friends you trust will give their HONEST opinion. Show it to your agent, editor, and maybe even take it to your local bookstore for a “man on the street” survey. Like Eric the novel pimp says, the cover’s gotta pop!

 Make your book current – The looming banking crisis, round 2

 Before I started writing The Brink, I noticed that novels that sold well took advantage of current events. Case in point, one analyst said that one of the reasons The Da Vinci Code sold so well is that it came out just as the stories about the Catholic priest abusing children started breaking. The Hunt for Red October did so well because it came out during the height of the Cold War, and when asked, then President Ronald Reagan said it was the book that he got under his Christmas tree that year. (Talk about right timing!)

 I’ve always been interested/horrified at our country’s financial leadership, or lack thereof. I thought that one of the ways I could make people take notice of just how bad our debt situation is, was to write a thriller about it. I mean, how many people would read an economist’s 400 page thesis on the Ticking Global Financial Time Bomb? But, how many people would want to read a thriller about two people running for their lives as they try to uncover a global financial conspiracy? I’d take door #2 as well.

 If you want to follow the looming disaster that is our current international financial system, a great blog I found is The Baseline Scenario. The blog’s authors also wrote a book entitled 13 Bankers. I’ve yet to read it, but it’s on my list and will hopefully be on my nightstand soon…     

 The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

 

The Nightstand Diaries – 1 year, 5,000 books, and an (almost) anything goes approach to marketing a political thriller.

July 7, 2010

 It’s named “The Nightstand Diaries” because in terms of publishing a book, it doesn’t mean squat that we’re published. It doesn’t mean squat that our book is on a bookstore shelf. It’s only when someone takes our book home and reads it – as a way to relax on a lounge chair, pass time on a subway, or as the last mental exercise before putting it on the nightstand and going to bed – that we become a part of our readers’ lives. With this notion in mind, I invite you to come along as I try to do that very thing. My goal is to sell 5,000 copies of my new novel The Brink over the next year using mostly social media with a limited marketing budget. And this is an interactive blog, so if you have good marketing ideas, or want to critique mine whenever I do something stupid, let’s hear it! So, without further ado, let the book marketing madness continue…

 Day 24 of 365

 In this issue:

  • Facebook campaign changes
  • Get sales info or die tryin’
  • A cool plot device for a mystery
  • ‘Pimp My Novel’ – a blog name I wish I had thought of

 Facebook campaign changes

 I’m just going to go ahead and call July my Facebook ads month. Although I’m still flying blind as to how effective they are in the sales dept., I can see that some folks are clicking on my ads. Plus, as I change and tweak them, I can see which ones at least peak interest and which don’t so I can use them during my ‘search engine ad’ month, which will be August or September.

Here’s today’s ad campaign #s:

Campaign Run Status Last Updated Budget/day Clicks Impressions CTR (%) Avg. CPC Spent
ActivePausedDeleted
07/07/2010 1 21,669 0.005% $0.72 $0.72
ActivePausedDeleted
07/07/2010 9 54,504 0.017% $0.60 $5.43
CompletedDeleted
07/04/2010 43 196,924 0.022% $1.16 $50.00
CompletedDeleted
07/07/2010 60 354,461 0.017% $0.72 $43.04
CompletedDeleted
07/02/2010 67 218,665 0.031% $0.76 $50.92
  Totals       180 846,223 0.021% $0.83 $150.11

 

I had 9 people click on the Lewisville Borders book signing invite, but they didn’t actually RSVP. Do people normally do that on Facebook invites of people they don’t know?

 I also stopped the eBook ad and started a new ad entitled “Fiction come true.” Here’s the screenshot with it:

 

When folks click on it, they are taken directly to my homepage.

 Get sales info or die tryin’

 This title is my homage to Fitty.  Have you seen the pics of him after he got so freakin skinny for that movie role? It reminded me of the dude in the movie Seven who got strapped to the bed for a year and eventually swallowed his tongue. Christian Bale (aka Batman) also did a similar mad diet for the movie The Machinist. These guys are something else. What they’ll do for their art form.

 On the last blog, I explained how I found out how to get current sales info from barnesandnoble.com through Nielsen BookScan. Being so used to getting free information over the web, I thought it’d be gratis. Oh no. Each report is $85. Damn! And eBook sales reports aren’t available yet. I have an email into my publisher about getting some info that isn’t “historical” (i.e. month old sales reports) by Internet standards, so again, we play the waiting game.

 A cool plot device for a mystery

 I saw this article about the “Grim Sleeper” and then read about how he was eventually caught through his son’s DNA. What a cool plot device for all us mystery writers! 

 ‘Pimp My Novel’ – a blog name I wish I had thought of

 I will readily admit that Eric’s blog is waaay better than mine. He works in a sales dept. of a publishing house. A direct quote explaining his blog: “There are a lot of blogs out there that cover the agenting and editorial aspects of book publishing, but here you’ll find out what happens to your book after it’s been acquired.” Check it out, it’s a cool blog packed with good information.  

 And as always, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…

 Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow.  

The Nightstand Diaries – 1 year, 5,000 books, and an (almost) anything goes approach to book marketing

July 6, 2010

It’s named “The Nightstand Diaries” because in terms of publishing a book, it doesn’t mean squat that we’re published. It doesn’t mean squat that our book is on a bookstore shelf. It’s only when someone takes our book home and reads it – as a way to relax on a lounge chair, pass time on a subway, or as the last mental exercise before putting it on the nightstand and going to bed – that we become a part of our readers’ lives. With this notion in mind, I invite you to come along as I try to do that very thing. My goal is to sell 5,000 copies of my new novel The Brink over the next year using mostly social media with a limited marketing budget. And this is an interactive blog, so if you have good marketing ideas, or want to critique mine whenever I do something stupid, let’s hear it! So, without further ado, let the book marketing madness continue…

 Day 23 of 365

 In this issue:

  • A Facebook 4th
  • The Lewisville media showing the luv 
  • May 2010 sales report

 A Facebook 4th

I sincerely hope everyone’s 4th was a wonderful celebration of friends and family. We have some really cool 4th of July fireworks show in the Dallas area, with Addison’s Kaboom Town! being named one of the best in the country. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I used to work with those wonderful people and they do put on a kick-ass show year after year.)

The plan was to take the entire holiday weekend off, but I continued tweaking my Facebook ads and discovered I could “invite” people to the Lewisville Borders book signing coming up on Saturday, July 10th.

 Here’s the screenshot from FB that includes the budget info and an example of the ad itself:

  

 

You’ll notice the ad is titled “Lewisville Borders Book signing.” It was first titled just “Book signing,” but I changed it to catch people’s eye who live in or around Lewisville, Texas. On that note, I also started targeting the ad to people who live within 10 miles of Lewisville and that was going to only approximately 2,400 people. I just changed it tonight to 25 miles of Lewisville, and the audience exploded to approximately 1.4 million. With the low CTR (click through rate) percentages that FB ads typically get, it’s important to keep your audience as large as possible. As you can also see, I have yet to have anyone “RSVP” for the event, but hopefully that will change by tomorrow night.

One thing I’ve been forgetting to add on these postings is the amount of time each project takes. To find and then create the book signing invite ad took around 2 hours total. And so far, since no one has clicked on it yet, costs is 0, but I did give myself a $20 daily budget over the course of the 5 days the ad will run.

The Lewisville media showing the luv

I’ve talked before about using Google alerts to show when your name has been mentioned anywhere in cyberspace. Last week, I got three Google alerts about the Lewisville signing. Among the several news outlets I contacted about the upcoming signing, I wrote and emailed news releases to the Lewisville Leader newspaper and Dallasnews.com, which is the online version of the Dallas Morning News. They have a “GuideLive” entertainment section that gives information about all kinds of events around the DFW area. While I didn’t send a news release about it to the local TV stations, our NBC affiliate must have picked up the Dallasnews.com link, because they had it listed on their site as well.

If you haven’t signed up for Google Alerts, open up another browser window and do it now. It takes two minutes and it’s priceless. No really, it’s free. I would have never known about the three news outlets publishing my news release, and I wouldn’t have known to thank the editors responsible for doing so, if it wasn’t for Google Alerts. 

May 2010 sales report

One of the frustrating things about the book publishing business is that sales numbers lag so far behind. For example, it takes my publisher, iUniverse, a month to post sales figures. This means I just got my sales numbers from May 2010, which was my first month of sales for The Brink. The numbers are as follows:

Hard covers:                                        43

Paperbacks:                                         114

eBook version:                         didn’t come out until June 2010

 Total:                                                    157

 Total left to sell to reach 5,000:             4,843

 As far as tracking eBooks go, I may have found a way to track those in near real-time, but I’ll save that juicy morsel for hopefully tomorrow’s post as I’m waiting on some information.

 By the way, if you’re wondering how much money each sold book represents, while I can’t speak for all authors, iUniverse authors receive 20% of each hard cover and paperback sale, and 50% on eBook sales. So, based on May’s numbers, if this was my only gig, my family and I would be living under a highway overpass. But the good news is that we wouldn’t have far to commute to our jobs begging for money at the street corner.

This is another perfect example of perception. We writers tend to think of ourselves at artists. While we are, if we want to put food on the table by writing as a job, we must think of our passion as our business as well. I am, and if you have written a book and out there selling it, you are as well, starting up a business. It takes months, even years for some businesses to make money; even longer to turn a profit. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…

 Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow.  

The Nightstand Diaries – 1 year, 5,000 books, and an (almost) anything goes approach to book marketing

June 30, 2010

 It’s named “The Nightstand Diaries” because in terms of publishing a book, it doesn’t mean squat that we’re published. It doesn’t mean squat that our book is on a bookstore shelf. It’s only when someone takes our book home and reads it – as a way to relax on a lounge chair, pass time on a subway, or as the last mental exercise before putting it on the nightstand and going to bed – that we become a part of our readers’ lives. With this notion in mind, I invite you to come along as I try to do that very thing. My goal is to sell 5,000 copies of my new novel The Brink over the next year using mostly social media with a limited marketing budget. And this is an interactive blog, so if you have good marketing ideas, or want to critique mine whenever I do something stupid, let’s hear it! So, without further ado, let the book marketing madness continue…

 Day 17 of 365

 In this issue:

  • MFFA – My First Facebook Ad – Day #3 of 5
  • Getting ready for Stop #3 on the book tour – the store visit
  • Get The Nightstand Diaries emailed directly to you!

 MFFA – My First Facebook Ad – Day #3 of 5

 I’m doing a 5 day Facebook ad campaign. I started with an ad that read “The Brink by Mark Fadden. Uncover the most staggering conspiracy of our time and discover an electrifying new voice in suspense fiction.” There was also a cover pic. I set my budget at $20 day and chose the Cost Per Click (CPC) option and sent it out to the “Political thriller” interest group, which there were around 1,200 on Facebook. With that ad, I had 15 clicks out of 19,858 impressions, which translates into a Click through rate (CTR) of .08%. So I chanTime to change the ad! I changed it to read “The Brink by Mark Fadden. Uncover the most staggering conspiracy of our time. “A masterful storyteller” – Writer’s Digest. Here’s a screenshot of the ad in the right hand column:

 

I also changed the interest group to ‘author James Patterson’ rather than ‘political thrillers.’ Here are the new numbers:

Date Imp. Clicks CTR (%) Avg. CPC ($) Avg. CPM ($) Spent ($)
06/30/2010 94,052 25 0.03 0.80 0.21 20.00
06/29/2010 54,210 29 0.05 0.69 0.37 20.00
06/28/2010 7,555 4 0.05 1.08 0.57 4.32
Lifetime 155,817 58 0.04 0.76 0.28 44.32

 As you can see, the Click through rate (CTR) is still pretty low, but that’s to be expected. I’m now going to change the interest group to “Conspiracy Theory”, which there are 16,280 people and see what happens.

 I’ve also signed up for Google Analytics of my website. It’s relatively simple to navigate through the process and, most important, its free. Hopefully, it will tell me where my website visitors are coming from and, more importantly, if they are buying a book so I can see if the Facebook campaign is worth it.

 With Facebook ads, it seems that people either love them or hate them. They either work really well or not at all. Again, if you want another in-depth story of doing Facebook ads, here’s a great account of another first time Facebook advertiser: “My First FaceBook Ad Campaign: The Good, Bad, & The Ugly.”

Getting ready for Stop #3 on the book tour – the store visit

Man, do I love Borders. I hope they don’t close their doors like this story on MSN.com says they will.

Anyway, I took my two posters…

 

 flyers and bookmarks by the store today. They had 40 copies of the book ready to go for the July 10 signing, so I signed a few in case they had some folks in who wanted a signed copy but couldn’t make the signing (always carry a black Sharpie marker, like a college freshman with a condom, except you’ll actually use the Sharpie.)

 I got an email from the store manager later saying because I gave them all that loot, he’s going to make a special end-cap display to help with in-store promotions. Viva La Borders!

Get The Nightstand Diaries emailed directly to you!

 Lastly, I added an option if you want this blog emailed directly to you. If so, please look in the right hand column and submit your email. Hopefully, you’ll start getting it emailed to you tomorrow, if I don’t jack something up, or I’ve had a beer or two to kick off the holiday weekend early.