One Promotion Done, Another Underway

Happy April, everyone! I’ve never been a fan of April Fools Day, so no pranks will be found here.

Today launches the start of a brand new promotion I’m taking part in. In a bid to find more newsletter subscribers, I’ve joined a group of 50 other authors, and all are offering free mystery/suspense ebooks if readers sign up to their newsletter. The promo lasts until May 9th , which provides ample time to find great new reads. I have no idea how this event will go, but if I don’t try I won’t have my answer either. The link to all of the offered ebooks is HERE If the link doesn’t work, please let me know!!

Last week’s series promotion on Freebooksy went well, I think. Of course, when you’re trying something new there’s nothing to compare it to. But I sold a couple of hundred ebooks and wound up ranking #52 in the free Kindle books category and #5 in the women sleuths category. This is a rarity for me. I had just over 2,000 downloads on my featured day, but Amazon and other outlets are keeping The Opposite of Dark free until April 5th, and sales are still trickling in. Perhaps the most important part of this exercise is that I improved my discoverability, which is wonderful.

A year ago, I gave no thought to promoting an entire series, or a newsletter, for that matter. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and taking some risks. One of the best parts is that I’m learning a lot and by sharing my experiences, I’m hoping it’ll help with your strategizing too.

Series Promo Event is Up and Running!

Marketing guru David Gaughran has long advised authors to offer their first book for free when promoting a series. Given the tough financial circumstances many readers face these days, it sounds like a good idea to me, so I signed up to be featured on a book promo site called FreeBooksy on Saturday, March 27th.

Because things can always go wrong with changing prices, especially since I need to rely on Amazon’s cooperation to make the book free, the changes have already been made and are now in effect until April 5th. I contacted Amazon on Monday and requested a price match. This is the only option that authors with wide distribution have to make their books free for a short time period. The tricky part is that Amazon can always say no. I had to provide links to their competitors’ sites, showing that the book is indeed free elsewhere. Luckily, I corresponded with a really helpful person, who made the book free the same day.

So, I’m giving away Book #1, The Opposite of Dark. Book. #2, Deadly Accusations is now at $.99.. #3 Beneath the Bleak New Moon is $1.99, #4, The Deep End, is $2.99 as is #5, Knock Knock. My latest, The Blade Man is $3.99.

One of the cooler things Amazon does is to provide a link to the entire series so readers can purchase all six books with just one click. Right now, the entire set can be purchased on amazon.com for $10.35 US! You can find the link HERE.

The books are also available at:

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-opposite-of-dark-2

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1151714413

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/opposite-of-dark-debra-purdy-kong/1101958680?ean=2940153393650

The cost of this Freebooksy campaign is $170.00 US, however, with the Canadian exchange I have to pay over $200, so we’ll see what happens. As Gaughran says, a large part of marketing is all about experimenting, trying new things to see what works and what doesn’t. I still need to put more focus on ads, but I’m not quite ready until I have a clearer understanding of how they work. Wish me luck!

Making the Most of Freebies in 2021

Free ebooks and workshops have been fairly common for some time, but over recent months the popularity of free anything appears to have exploded.

I used to resist offering one of my books for free, mainly because my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark was traditionally published a decade ago, at a time when advanced review copies were the only freebies my publisher offered and self-publishing was just starting to ramp up. Things have changed a great deal, including my mindset, and I now offer the book free for anyone who signs up to my newsletter.

I also offered the book free during a BookBub promo event in late 2019, which garnered enough sales of the other books to make this event profitable. Based on a recent blog post from author and marketing guru David Gaughran, 2021 is the year for free, and he recommends offering at least one of your books for free more than ever before. You can read more HERE.

I was recently told that there are now over 2 million books published worldwide, and over one million in the U.S. alone, each year. A staggering number when you think about it. With the collapse of in-person book selling opportunities in 2020, more authors turned to online selling through book promo sites, for example. To compete with all the others, many of them have offered at least one book, if not a whole boxset, for free.

I’ve taken part in a number of cool free workshops lately, one on marketing and others related to fantasy writing. The information’s good and the presenters knowledgeable, but there’s a lot of upsell with links to purchasing software, courses, and other things, which seems fair enough, as long as they’re not bombarding me everyday. But it really does feel like free is king these days, which is okay is you have a series, but not so much if you only have one published title.

Self-isolation and uncertainty is tough for many of us, but I’ve found that taking workshops is a good use of time. Once things go back to normal (whatever that might look like) I doubt I’ll be inclined to spend as much time at home in front of the computer. Who knows, maybe all the free courses will disappear too. It’ll be interesting to see what bookselling looks like a year from now, and if David will still recommend free for 2022.

I Read Canadian Day

Today in Canada, we’re celebrating a day of reading Canadian books for young people. I’ve already seen terrific Facebook posts by Canadian children’s authors, Darlene Foster and Eileen Holland to promote exactly that. As stated on the I Read Canadian website, its purpose is to “raise awareness of Canadian books and celebrate the richness, diversity, and breadth of Canadian literature. You can read more about it HERE.

When my kids were in school, reading was a high priority in elementary and middle schools, but it dwindled somewhat in their high school years. When I was in school, oh so long ago, the majority of our required reading was by American or British authors. It’s great to see that more Canadian schools and libraries are reaching out to local authors.

Some of the books I love are Darlene’s, who many of you know through her WordPress blog. I also want to give a shoutout to children’s author Eileen Holland, whose two children’s books found a home with a Canadian publisher a couple of years ago. If you have school age children in your lives and you’re looking for good reads, please check them out.

Darlene can be found HERE and Eileen can be found HERE

There are many other great children’s authors, but a google search will help you find many more. And if you know of any, feel free to share their links with others.

As it happens, I’m also reading a Canadian mystery author this week, named Winona Kent. Although Lost Time is written for adults, it’s still Canadian and Winona is another terrific author who deserves attention. Canadian books and Canadian authors have been working hard to raise their profile over the years. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the number of Canadian publishers has risen all that much recently. Our country is a small market, so we have to work hard to gain a little attention. But we’re a tenacious lot with plenty to say. It’s always a thrill to find new exciting authors, not only here in Canada, but everywhere. 😊

Winding Up 2020

Pexel photo by Karolina Grabowska

If you’re not an accountant and would much rather write or clean out your closets than tackle recordkeeping for your writing biz, I understand. Having been raised by a bookkeeper whose father was an accountant, and with three CPAs in my immediate family, numbers are definitely a thing in our household, though. Oddly, I’m the one who balances the checkbook in our house, but I don’t mind.

I keep records for my writing business without using any particular program, although I will if the business grows. Right now, income and expenses are few enough to simply record on an Excel spreadsheet. My family takes care of the tax filing and calculating the deductions I’m allowed from working out of my home office. My part is to simply enter expenses and income as they appear.

It isn’t always that straightforward, given that bookstores and some of Draft2Digital’s vendors have a lag time between making a sale and reporting it to the author, as do publishers. In the old days, I used to wrap my bookkeeping up on December 31st, but it now occurs the last week of January.

Crunching the numbers is the best way to take stock and compare net profit with the previous year’s income, and to make budgetary decisions for the year ahead. I wasn’t expecting much for 2020 because my usual craft fair events were cancelled. The book promotion sites, especially BookBub boosted ebook sales to the point where I sold more books than last year than ever before, although 90% of them were ebooks and therefore a fraction of the price of my print books. Still, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that my net profit for 2020 was up a little bit compared to 2019. The reason is that my expenses were cut in half because I didn’t have to spend big bucks on craft fair fees and the insurance coverage that some fair organizers require.

Hopefully, the craft fairs will be back this year. I’ve already received one application from a fair planning to return in November. I can’t wait to see how this year unfolds. How about you? Was your 2020 better, worse, or the same as the previous year? Do you plan to try something new to sell books this year?

Where to Spend, or Not Spend, on Your Author Biz

Photo from Pexels

At this time of year, I always calculate how much money I’ll need to maintain and expand my writing business. Having grown up relatively poor, budgeting has been a way of life since childhood. The accountants in my family keep me on track, so financial accountability is part of normal life.

I record writing income and expenses on an Excel sheet pretty much once a week, but I don’t create a new spreadsheet of anticipated expenses for the upcoming year, though I probably should. When it comes to annual fees for professional memberships, websites, promotion services, etc. I simply refer to previous years to know what I’ll need.

They say you have to spend money to make money. When it comes to book production, this is quite true unless you’re traditionally published. So, it’s always a challenge to see if anticipated income will be enough to hire the editor and jacket designer I’ll need. As many of you know, production costs can add up, especially if you intend to sell print copies at various events. The question is, how likely will it be to make that money back in a relatively short timeframe, and what is a short timeframe anyway?

To boost sales income, I’ve tried half a dozen promotion (aka book deal) sites with mixed results. Last June was more profitable than the fall, although each event helped get the word out about my books. Still, I’ll be reflecting on how much to spend this coming year. I’ve also pondered Amazon, Facebook, BookBub ads, which can be highly profitable or extremely costly, depending on a number of factors. Based on what I’ve learned so far, you need to know what you’re doing.

A recent post from Writer Beware also got me thinking about money. The piece made it clear that the number of scammers is growing and they’re becoming more clever about targeting authors, both traditionally and self-published. I recommend reading their most recent blog and, as mentioned before, using their site as a resource when you’re approached by someone or a company you’re not sure about. You can find the blog HERE.

To me, financial health is as important as physical and mental health. This year, I’m excited to see if I can build my business while still spending prudently. It should be an interesting experiment.

How Can You Tell When the Year’s Nearly Over?

Before I start this week’s discussion, I now have links to the Writers in Our Midst event tonight at 7 pm. PST. The show will be live streamed on Facebook at Port Moody library’s FB page HERE. You can also access it directly from the library’s website HERE.

So, how can you tell if the year’s nearly over? It’s because the best books of 2020 lists are showing up everywhere. While I always find the lists interesting, they’re also a little discouraging as it becomes quite clear that I can and will never keep up on my reading.

I read about fifty books a year. After an active day, most of my reading is for pleasure, although lately I’ve been reading and studying a number of nonfiction writing-related books. I have read the work of several authors on the New York Times bestseller list (divided into categories), which you can find HERE. I just haven’t read their latest offerings.

It can certainly be argued that bestselling books don’t necessarily mean best written book. The Washington Post has chosen to name the top 100 books for 2020, books that stood out for them (HERE). Since I’m not a subscriber I couldn’t see all of the article, but I was able to get a look at their thriller and mystery category (HERE) up to a point. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the fantasy list of novels at all.

When it comes down to it, I don’t feel overly guilty for not reading all the recommended books. I spend a lot of reading indie authors (I’m woefully behind on that as well) along with the big names. I also post short reviews because I like to showcase authors who deserve more attention.

I don’t know if I’ll post my own ‘best of’ list this year. I did so at the half way point this summer, but we’ll see. I’m curious to see any you will create a best of the year list. If you are, I’ll definitely be taking a look at them!

Those Devilish Details

As an indie author with wide distribution, meaning that I sell my books on other platforms besides Amazon, I’ve learned that it’s crucial to keep the information at the back of my ebooks separate between Amazon and other booksellers.

Amazon doesn’t like it if, for example, I provide universal links to other platforms at the back of an ebook that I published directly through Amazon. As Draft2Digital is my distributor for Kobo, Apple books, and Nook, among others, I therefore had to create two separate ebook files to keep things straight. Apple also will refuse to list my books if I include any Amazon links at the back of my books, by the way. While I understand that the conglomerates aren’t interested in supporting one another, it also means we have to pay extra attention to production details.

This week, I’ve been updating the backend information in each of my Casey Holland mysteries, and reducing prices in preparation for a couple of upcoming promotion events. One of the things I’ve done is add a short paragraph, inviting readers to post a review on Amazon or wherever they’d like.

On sale for $.99, starting Oct. 28th!

After submitting the fourth book revision, I received a message indicating that Apple won’t accept the updates until I remove the word Amazon from my review request. Oddly, this apparently wasn’t an issue for them with the first three books. To prevent further disruption, I created a more generic review request for the first three anyway and resubmitted them.

Both self-publishing and traditional publishing are filled with restrictions and rules, which aren’t always clear. It’s why I keep detailed notes, as there’s no way I’ll remember the details when I release another book a year or two from now. If I decide to publish directly with Apple and Kobo down the road, I’ll probably need separate versions for their books as well, and I’ve no doubt that the formatting will be different for them than it is for D2D.

If you’re fairly new to publishing, I suggest that you make notes of every step in your book’s production process, especially if you’re planning to offer your book for wide distribution. If you wish to provide links to other books in the future, remember Amazon only promotes Amazon, so you’ll need different versions. It’s extra work, but providing live links for readers is worth the effort.

Improving Marketing Strategies

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as an author is that marketing is as much of a marathon (if not longer) as is the process of coming up with an idea for a book, then writing and rewriting until it’s finally ready for publication.

Authors with marketing backgrounds excel at implementing strategies for reaching potential readers, but for the rest of us it’s a hit-and-miss process to figure out what works best. Also, in this rapidly changing world, what worked well five years ago doesn’t work nearly as well today.

I’ve been reading recommended books on the topic of ebook marketing, and found a great resource in author David Gaughran. I just finished taking his free course (I don’t know how much longer it will be free) called Starting From Zero, which you can find HERE. I’ve also read his book Let’s Get Digital. The book is an introduction to publishing, but the latter sections on marketing were so useful that I’m currently reworking my Amazon book descriptions, finding better keywords, and changing the price for upcoming promotions.

Gaughran stresses the importance of developing a website, having a Facebook page, and getting an email list going. I’ve being doing the first two for some time, but I’ve always balked at the idea of maintaining an email list, which is a huge mistake in Gaughran’s view.

Part of my reasoning was that I didn’t want to bother people with announcements to buy my book, every time I released a new one (Gaughran also used to think this way), but the other reason is that I already make announcements on my blog and other social media outlets, so wouldn’t I be repeating myself?

I’m curious if any of you use an email list in addition to your blog. As part of my book updates, I’m adding a link to my blog on my end pages (I probably should have done this from the start) inviting people to join if they’d like to learn more about my writing life and to receive upcoming announcements.

It seems like there’s always something to tweak and improve upon, but as Gaughran also notes, the most important part of your day should still be writing. I couldn’t agree more.

Following Up On Book Promotion Sites

Last week’s blog about promotion sites generated few responses and those who did respond weren’t familiar with the sites I listed. However, I did come across something helpful while catching up on the many blogs I subscribe to.

Author and marketing guru David Gaughran posts a lot of helpful and interesting information about marketing that includes ads, Amazon algorithms, and many other things. The day after I posted my blog I came across his piece on the Best Book Promotion Sites, which you can find HERE.

Those who’ve been following my blog for a while know that I’ve already taken part in a BookBub promo back on Dec. 31. In June, I also promoted my books on Bargain Booksy and Book Adrenaline, offering the first book in my series, The Opposite of Dark, at the discounted price of $.99. Results showed a small profit, but nothing significant. Next month, I’m trying the same discount with The Fussy Librarian.

1st in Casey Holland transit mysteries

I’ve chosen not to do three or four promos at a time because I want to track the amount of sales for each event to figure out which are the most financially viable investments. With six books in my Casey Holland series, sales can trickle in for two or three months (longer for BookBub) after an event, which I also want to track.

Meanwhile, a colleague also planned a promotion event in June, offering the first book in her series for free. As with my books, hers are available at sites other than Amazon, however when she asked Amazon to price match the book for free, Amazon declined. That didn’t happen to me back in January, so I’m wondering if this has happened to any of you, or if you’ve heard of this happening to other authors? So far, I’ve had no difficulty asking Amazon to price match books I’ve discounted for $.99 this summer, but who knows what will happen in future?