WRITE TO MARKET RESULTS (MY HUGE MISTAKE, ALL THE NUMBERS, LAUNCH STRATEGY, & MORE )

Here's a video summary of the blog post plus other updates on what's next, my new office, and what I've been up to. 

The links I mention in the video: 

MY PLAN FOR FINALLY BECOMING A SIX-FIGURE AUTHOR: https://youtu.be/AyO6Bbfo39E

WRITING TO MARKET UPDATE #1: THE RESEARCH PHASE, WHAT TO DO, AND WHAT I'VE LEARNED SO FAR: https://youtu.be/1MhJNeKAsW0

WRITING TO MARKET UPDATE #2: THE FIRST DRAFT IS DONE (AND WHAT'S NEXT): https://youtu.be/mGv6GTsIFT0

I wrote my first book in November 2011.

I wrote and published my first real book by New Year’s Eve 2013.

By 2017, I had written 8 books across two complete YA contemporary romance series and made my first few thousand dollars self-publishing.

But I still wasn’t making more than a $600-$800 a month on average. I’d only had a few $1000+ months, and I wanted more.

The first 8 books I wrote were written purely from the heart and before I learned so much more about even basic story structure. Not to mention how to market, cultivate a fanbase, and grow a newsletter.

I wanted to do big things with my next series and start making some real money from my fiction. I knew that the key to that was writing to market: finding something I loved writing that readers really wanted to read.

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This is where the #BestFriendsForever series was born.

During November of 2017, I created 5 main characters and wrote down the basics of the story they would each have. Each book would feature a popular romance trope.

Before I even did that, though, I read and followed Chris Fox’s Write to Market book to a T, following his exercises step by step and reading/learning from the bestselling books in my genre.

It paid off.

Chris has an updated version of this gem coming fall of 2018, but I still highly recommend Chris's books for writers. He's a knows his stuff, but more importantly, he's worked really hard to get where he is. 

So it took a little longer than I planned, but by April, I launched my first written to market book. Here’s exactly what I did and how it all went.

If you have a questions for me, feel free to leave a comment or email me at hello@writermom.net.

WRITING THE FIRST BOOK

I wrote the first book, #TheRealCinderella, during mid-December through mid-January.

I made a video diary as I went as a reader bonus for later. The whole experience was a lot of fun, but I knew the first draft would need a lot of work.

Meanwhile, I looked for a cover designer. I planned for a March release, but ended up pushing it back to late April after the first cover designer ghosted me.

It ended up working out for the best, though, because then I ended up getting an amazing cover designer (Jenny from Seedlings) and an amazing editor (hey, Kelsie!), who managed to level up my story big time.

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Both of these expenses were big but so worth it.

I knew that making my product as best as possible would make or break the book so I spent the money on the best editor and cover designer I could get, using freelance editing money to help fund both.

The edits were not easy to get through (I do not like editing), but by the end, I was incredibly pleased and could not believe that I had written this awesome book. It was definitely my best work to date, again thanks to my amazing editor.

PRE-LAUNCH

I began getting ready for launch way before the week of April 24, when the book was scheduled to come out.

I created a comprehensive, super detailed launch plan comprised of everything I had learned from Chris Fox’s Launch to Market and other super smart indie authors.

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After creating some deadlines for myself, I began creating book promo graphics, pulling teasers, preparing ARCs, getting together an ARC team, creating reader magnets, setting up an autoresponder, and so much more.

I also created a space where I could input daily sales throughout the launch as well as notes about rank and other info. I knew the main goal would be to keep sales increasing day over day.

So I decided to launch at 99c for a limited time (at least a week) and push the book to as many readers as possible by getting the book on the bestseller and new release charts for Teen & Young Adult Romance.

I also decided to release wide. That was more of a not wanting to put my eggs in one basket decision I had made a while back for my entire business, even though most indie YA romance authors were in KU.

I was lucky that I already had a small fanbase for my other two YA romance series. I had a team of over 130 readers who had signed up for my ARC team at the end of my autoresponder sequences, but I decided to create a new Google form and have some strict requirements for this book's advanced review team.

Taking a page out of JA Huss’s book (check out her Perfect Year YouTube series), I asked readers for their Amazon reviewer profile, check off if they had read and reviewed one of my books already, understood that they were agreeing to review by a certain date, and knew that it was a clean YA romance book.

They also had to promise not to share the book and let me know if they could purchase a copy upon a release for verified review purposes.

I ended up with 16 ARC members who had about a week or so to read and review. I wasn’t as strict as I could have been with a few people, but even so, I ended up with 10 readers who did review and a few who also purchased and made their review verified. I created a handy spreadsheet to track this and follow through.

A week before launch, I also did a cover reveal giveaway using Rafflecopter for a $25 Amazon gift card. The purpose of this was to get readers excited for what was coming. To enter the giveaway, readers could share, comment, like on the linked FB post with the pretty cover, follow me on Instagram and Goodreads, etc. 

Copy of #TRC cover reveal giveaway.jpg

However, I posted the giveaway link in the post they were supposed to comment, like, and share. Next time, I won’t do that, making sure only my VIP readers can enter and not random people who just want the gift card. The giveaway also had the nice added bonus of getting me tons of extra followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and Bookbub.

Meanwhile, my editor did a second round of final (minor) edits, but I made the decision to hold off on the paperback but go ahead with the ebook release the week of April 24, creating a secret preorder that went live about five days prior.

The goal with the preorder was to get the sales page for the book to be completely built and with a few also-boughts by the time the book went live on Tuesday, April 24 (or very soon after).

Also, I managed to get an international 99p/99 euros/65 rupees Bookbub Featured Deal for a new boxed set of my first YA romance series.

I knew it would be a great opportunity to get tons of extra eyes on my new release while it was at 99c. The Bookbub people were kind enough to accommodate me and give the book a slot on Thursday, April 26th.

I was very excited (and nervous) for what was to come.

LAUNCH WEEK (AND MY COLOSSAL MISTAKE)

It was hard to see straight during launch week, especially after the colossal mistake I made.

The book accumulated 15 organic preorders during the few days before release. I didn't tell anyone (except a few writer friends in a FB group when I got the pretty orange #1 New Release sticker for one of my categories).

During launch week, I staggered announcements to five different segments of my email list. I also had tons of newsletter swaps lined up with other YA romance authors, having built up some goodwill in the past several months by sharing their stuff. :)

I kept a close eye on things every single day, making sure those sales kept trickling in and increasing daily.

I ran into my first problem with AMS ads. My whole dashboard seemed frozen. My money wasn’t being spent, new ads weren’t being approved, and no new data was rolling in. I couldn’t believe it.

Thankfully, two awesome writer friends suggested Bookbub ads. David Gaughran had mentioned using them as a get out of jail free card. Well, with the mistake I realized I made plus AMS ads not working, I knew it was time to take them out of my back pocket and experiment. More on my mistake in a sec.

Everything was chugging along nicely the first few days after launch. I still didn’t have also-boughts. They were also-vieweds, but they looked decent.

Plus the book had gotten the book up as far as #16 on the New Releases list for Teen & Young Adult Romance. Normally, that wasn’t too difficult, but things had turned quite competitive all of a sudden.

Several authors in the indie space were launching or had just launched. The top 50 (and especially the top 20) of the Bestsellers list seemed impossible to crack.

The overall rank had gotten as low as 13K, but the book was hanging out around 16K for the most part. And it hit #1 in several smaller categories that week.

As far as reviews, it had gotten 6 five-star reviews and one (not nice) 3-star review. That poor review wasn’t fun to read, but I knew it was not the end of the world. I brushed it off.

So where did I mess up?

Remember where I said that I had posted in a writers group on Facebook during the secret preorder?

Well, that really messed up my also-boughts.

Around Wednesday or Thursday, my also-boughts finally appeared. They were almost entirely books about book marketing and self-publishing.

I loved David Gaughran, having met him at Smarter Artist the year before, but I did not want his books dominating the first page of my also-boughts!

So what had happened? All of my awesome writer friends had gone and pre-ordered the book!

Of course, I  so appreciative of all the support, but I really shouldn't have posted a screenshot of my book or I should have made it very clear that they should not buy the book.

Quality of also-boughts can make or break the launch of a book. So you see why I was devastated.

I just remember feeling completely devastated about these also-boughts. It took a lot to make me legit upset or sad when it came to my books. I’d gotten a lot of poor reviews and none of them had ever made me truly upset. But this did.

I laughed about it to my author friends, afraid I might start crying instead. I had been working on this since November. A LOT of sweat, blood, and tears (and money!) had gone into this launch. And I had messed it up by posting a screenshot on Facebook.

Now Amazon would start recommending my book to authors instead of YA romance readers. NO!!!

It was especially hard because I had these super high hopes and expectations for the book (having never had a successful book before).

So this is where Bookbub ads came back in (I didn’t even have AMS ads working!). I dug out my business credit card, determined to fix these also-boughts and get the book in front of the right people (not on page 2 of David’s Strangers to Superfans also-boughts).

FIXING MY MISTAKE AND RESULTS FROM FIRST TEN DAYS OF LAUNCH

I hardly stepped away from the computer during launch. I kept a super close eye on things, refreshing the book page constantly and managing ads too.

Thankfully, the Bookbub ads really helped and the also-boughts got better and better by the day. Bookbub ads saved this launch! They cost a pretty penny, but it was worth the investment, even if it got difficult toward the end to find good comp authors.

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David Gaughran has a lot to say about BB ads, if you want to learn more. I turned them off once the book went to full price, but I definitely recommend them for free or 99c.

The book stayed pretty sticky on the charts and did well. Here are some stats as of the first week and a half.

  • #TRC got as low as #6 in New Releases for Teen & Young Adult < Romance < Contemporary

  • It got the orange #1 New Release sticker for a few smaller categories

  • It got as low as #17 in Bestsellers for Teen & Young Adult < Romance < Contemporary (large & competitive category right now)

  • It got the orange Bestseller sticker for Teen & YA Dating & Intimacy Books (not super easy to crack) and Teen & YA Self-Esteem Books

  • The book got as low as #3781 in the entire Kindle store!

  • The book sold well over 400 copies in its first week and a half of launch!

Plus I reached 40 copies sold in one day on the 26th, the day of the international Bookbub Featured Deal, and the sales kept increasing!

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Despite my big mistake, I was really happy with the launch and thought that overall it was a success. It was definitely my best launch ever. The best I'd done before this was hit about 17K, briefly, for another not written to market book.

My pie-the-sky-but-within-reach goals for this launch were top #3000, top 3 for new releases, and top 20 for bestsellers. I was SO CLOSE!

I thought I had a good chance of hitting top 3 of Teen & YA Romance new releases, but the competition in this category was intense. A lot of big and smaller authors had new books out, and they were pushing them hard.

However, I pushed just as hard and even harder than I planned due to my also-boughts mistake and AMS ads not working as I thought they would. Crazy how that happened. I ended up getting an ENT (ended up being meh) and a couple extra (big) newsletter swaps (made a big difference!) and extended the launch until the ABs were fixed.

My original aim was to keep sales increasing over 5 days, but I ended up keeping my foot on the gas for several more days. To keep readers excited and give them an extra cookie, I also ran a launch week giveaway, this time for a signed paperback. This got them sharing my new release again.

However, I wondered whether the book would stay sticky... That's really worried me, but I hoped that I had proved its worthiness to Amazon with the steady sales from the past week and a half. That next Saturday was a slow day for sales, but that's when the rank actually started dropping below 10K. Go figure.

As of that weekend, the launch was officially over, but the book picked up some steam of its own. I sent out the last call for 99c email to my entire list, letting them know the sale would end that day. The plan was to raise the price to $3.99.

I wondered if the book would keep rising in the charts and lowering in rank if I left it at 99c, but I decided to go ahead and raise the price since that’s what I had told readers.

As far as wide sales on other platforms, there were not a ton because there's just not the same visibility over there, like categories, bestseller charts, new release charts, etc. But the boxed set did well and got me some extra income, so that was great.

POST-LAUNCH RESULTS (DID THE BOOK STICK?)

Even after the launch was over, the book continued to amaze me!

My biggest worry and question was whether it would stay sticky, but it did! It was surreal.

It continued to rock the top 10 in new releases and even bumped back up sometimes in rank as well. It was at 6-8K and then went back down to 5K and #25 in Bestsellers plus #5 in New Releases. No other book had come anywhere near these kinds of numbers.

And now that the book was at full price, I was actually making some good money!

AMS ads started working again, so I left a couple on, but other than that, I relied on Amazon's algorithm and the book’s stickiness to keep it sailing.

By this time, 2-3 weeks after launch, the book was selling an average of 25 copies a day. I was very pleased.

However, I also learned that it never gets easy, and there's an incredible amount of pressure once a book of yours does well. Will it stick? Will it just drop off? Will book 2 do as well? HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

But the great sales were also great motivation for getting the next book out!

I think that the long (steadily building) launch and push along with a great cover and blurb was what made the difference here. Get the best cover, editing, and blurb you can. And write what readers want!

(P.S. Book 2 just came out a couple weeks ago. Look out for a launch results post on that book soon!)

Here is an overview of all the costs that went into this launch. I did spend quite a bit of money (since it was the first book of a new series, that made sense), but I also wanted to make sure I didn’t spend some crazy amount that would take forever to make back.

TOTAL PRODUCTION COSTS

COVER $550 (including a $100 rush fee)

EDITING $410.32 (PARTIAL SWAP FOR PROOFREADING)

TOTAL PRODUCTION COSTS: $960.32

TOTAL COSTS DURING LAUNCH AND FIRST FULL MONTH

AMS ADS: $1067.10

BOOKBUB ADS: $269.75

RAFFLECOPTER: $13

AMAZON GIVEAWAYS: $44.65 (mostly for newsletter swaps)

COVER REVEAL GIVEAWAY: $25

SIGNED PAPERBACK LAUNCH WEEK GIVEAWAY: $12

TOTAL: $1431.40

TOTAL REVENUE FOR MAY (FIRST FULL MONTH)

This includes revenue from the boxed set featured deal on Bookbub and my other books, but the vast majority of income came from the new release. 

AMAZON: $2535.46 (over $2200 from #TRC)

WIDE: $112 (not counting paperbacks; don't have access to those stats; about another $50-$100)

TOTAL: $2647.10

I made about another $1500 on Amazon in June, not counting the other retailers and paperbacks. Not bad! 

OVERALL THOUGHTS

  • AMS ads ended up spending like crazy the next month or so. It was frustrating to see that much money go to ads when I wasn't sure how much they helped.

  • I've never made this much money off of my books! It was super exciting and it hit me that making money off of my fiction was really possible for me.

  • Just about hit all my reach for the sky goals :)

  • Took quite a bit of spend to reach said goals (not for the faint of heart) but it was an investment and I understood that.

  • My biggest fear was (and still is): will it last? How long will the book stick? But there's only so much you can do. If you can have an excellent cover and good editing, you're already mostly there.

  • Seeing how well the book did and how well it was received gave me lots of motivation to finish writing, editing, and launch the second book and keep going.

  • Feels great to be paid more than a few dollars a day :)

  • Previous book sales, before launching this book, were about $400 to $600 a month total. They were closer to $600 to $1000 in 2016 when I was marketing, before I burnt out and had a baby.

  • The plan is to release a new book in this series every 3 months; there are four more books in this series with potential for more or a sideways series at another school, with minor characters, or something.

  • I can probably only focus on this series for now and will need to put other ideas on hold. There will be little to no room for other projects or collabs. A book every 3 months for me right now is about my limit, but I'm also trying to push my word counts higher and higher and trying not to lose momentum during the revisions process; getting an editor (and the associated deadlines) helps a lot with that.

  • I'm really excited to see how book 2 does; there is that fear of it not being as good as the first and what price to launch at. Don’t want to get behind on post-production and editing this time around, although due to focusing on the launch, I already am... (spoiler: all went well! Look for a post on that launch soon!)

So yeah. Overall, #TheRealCinderella launch was a success and my best launch to date. I think my biggest lesson learned from this write to market experiment is to put out the best book you can.

Especially your book cover and editing. If you have to get a part-time job or freelance to do it, then do it. That's what I did.

Pay attention to the popular tropes in your genre and find the story that readers will love and that you will have a blast writing. I am loving writing this series. 

And like I said, I highly recommend Chris Fox's book, Write to Market. Start there if you want to try this yourself. I also have some videos of everything I did along the way to get here

Got any questions or comments? Leave them below! 

6 Proven Methods for Selling More Books & Reaching More Readers

6 Proven Methods for Selling More Books & Reaching More Readers

By now you know that you’re not going to start selling books by ignoring the marketing side of your author business, or worse, trying to sell on social media.

I’ve published eight books across two complete YA contemporary romance series. The first book in each series has reached #1 in its main category, Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance, several times. One book got as high as #136 on the overall free chart and the other peaked at #176.

It’s important to know that these were books mostly written for love, not for market. They’ve never been crazy bestsellers, but they’ve also come a long way from selling one to two copies a month.

If you’d like to do the same and sell more books as well as reach more readers, try these six strategies for yourself!

What Social Media is Actually For (Most Authors Get This Wrong!)

What Social Media is Actually For (Most Authors Get This Wrong!)

A fellow indie author asked recently on Facebook what works for engaging readers in marketing and social media, and I realized that this is something that a lot of authors don’t get quite right.

Too many authors want to focus on social media and growing their following there rather than focusing on the activities that will truly move their author businesses forward.

Like writing the next book or running a limited time sale with stacked newsletters.

I’ve written and published 8 books across two different YA contemporary romance series since 2014, so I’ve learned a thing or two about this marketing thing since then.

One of the biggest marketing lessons that I’ve learned as an indie author is this one: social media is not for selling books or finding new readers.

2016 Goals: What's Next?

There are SO MANY things I want to accomplish this year ? My number one goal is to start writing full-time. That doesn’t mean that I’m already making enough money off of my books and editing business, but I’m on my way. My plan is to give up my day job starting this summer and take the plunge into writing and editing full-time.

I work part-time (with close to full-time hours), so luckily it’s just a part-time income I’ll be working to replace at first. We’re also going to work on cutting expenses as a family, including childcare, going back to couponing, and eating out less, but these are things I’m glad to do anyway.

Once I can write full-time, I think it’ll be much easier to replace my day job income and more because, right now, what’s holding me back the most is the lack of energy and time after I get home from my day job.

Below, I outline everything else I’d like to do this year. It’s been two years since I started taking this writing thing seriously and self-published my first book. This year, I’d like to accelerate my growth as an author and get closer than ever to making a living on my writing. I’d like to aim for $1000/a month consistently, and after that, the sky is the limit!

(By the way, the first step I’ve taken to accelerating my growth as an author is joining Monica Leonelle’s VIP Igniters group. I can already tell that being part of a group that will hold me accountable and push me forward is going to be crucial for reaching my goals this year!)

Health

  • exercise 3 times a week minimum
  • keep up portion control and continue eating healthy
  • Drink lots of water and avoid juices and soda as much as possible

Writing/Publishing

  • finish writing/revising YA book from NaNoWriMo 2015
  • write two new books
  • publish two books
  • publish Changing Hearts series boxed set

Marketing

  • promote permafree book every 3-6 months and buy ads
  • put other books in series on sale every 3-6 months (price pulsing) and buy ads
  • keep in touch with readers primarily via email list once a month and 1-2 social media sites (looking into Instagram and Snapchat as #1 choices)
  • keep up reader giveaways, ARCs, sales for email list, etc with new releases
  • keep growing email list with permafree book and front/back matter
  • work on accumulating more honest reviews using email list
  • add 2 new products to my inventory and grow sales to consistent $500 sales a month
  • promote series boxed set (add to autoresponders, buy ads, email readers list, etc)

Reading

  • read 26 books again, more if possible
  • go back to reading daily (been in a rut) and make it a priority

Editing Business

  • set up autoresponders for writers list
  • sale/giveaways every 3-6 months
  • grow editing business for additional income starting this summer when I give up the day job
  • aim for consistent $500 a month in editing income (my website and Upwork)

Daily Habits/Weekly Goals/Quarterly Progress Checks

  • schedule downtime every so often plus holidays
  • keep up quarterly progress checks (complete on time)
  • record daily and weekly goals/progress (on calendar then record in evernote)
  • weekly goal:
    • if I’m crazy busy: 1000 words a week
    • if I’m busy but it’s manageable: 2500 words a week
    • if I’m off from day job/on fire: 5000 words a week
  • schedule blocks of writing and marketing time each week, including time to catch up; create non-negotiable weekly schedule

What are your 2016 goals? Share in the comments! 

2015 in Review: What I Learned, Where I Failed, and How I Finally Started Making Money as a Writer

So 2015 is over, which means it’s time to reflect back on how we did with our goals during the year. Did we make as much progress as we had planned and hoped? Where did we fail and what can we learn from it? How can we make 2016 a better year? 

(Tip: Go back to your previous goals/progress updates and celebrate how far you’ve come! Here are my January 2013 postmy January 2014 post, and my January 2015 post. I can't believe how far I’ve come since then.)

Here were my 2015 goals:

Yearly Goals

Publish 2 more books (Unfailing Love and next book in Unbreakable Love series)
Write next book in Unbreakable Love series
Write YA fantasy book 1 (not fantasy but did write another YA book; well, like 95% done)
Kindle landing page/call to action (see setting up buckets below)
Get 20 reviews on each book (nope, but significant progress)
Lose 10 more pounds
Email auto responder series for readers (room for improvement but a good foundation)
Make books into audio books
Add books to Goodreads
Complete Blog To Do List (incomplete but majority/most important tasks complete)

In order to set myself up to succeed, I broke these yearly goals down into monthly and then weekly goals:

And here’s some deeper insight on how I did in each of the following categories. It’s important to add that some things, especially, the rebrand and relaunch of my YA series wasn’t even in my original goals but something that came up throughout the year.

Changing Hearts Series Rebrand/Relaunch

  • I had planned on launching book 3 in this series in May, but I was having issues with the cover and feedback on it. I went ahead and decided to ask for input as to why books 1 and 2 were not selling. I put the book 3 launch on hold when I realized the entire series needed to be revamped. I made plans and executed them over the entire summer when I was off work. It wasn’t easy and I wanted to be working on new words, but I’m glad I stuck with this.
  • I designed new covers, wrote new book descriptions, and created new titles for the existing books, including a new series title. I also made significant revisions to the now prequel (previously book 1) and republished. Book 3 (now book 2) came out with a new title, All In, and cover aligned with the rebrand.
  • I made the new book 1 (Without You) permafree at the end of July when it relaunched along with Better Off, the new prequel. I also published All In, book 2.
  • I paid for a bknights ad. I had calls to action in the front and back of the book for readers to get the free prequel, Better Off, if they signed up for my mailing list. I announced the relaunch to my mailing list and sent them the free prequel. Without You got a nice bump. See specific numbers below.

bk knights promo ranking without you

  • July (about 5-10 days): 464 free downloads on Amazon, iBooks, and Nook and also 10 paid sales, more than I had seen in one month before. Paid for a bknights promotion.
  • August: 11,095 free downloads of Without You; 153 sales, most of them All In, still my best-selling book of the entire series; this was the month I paid $20 to knights. I made $64.86 (I’d made about $40 total in the past year and a half.)

  • September: I booked an ENT ad for Without You and saw a great bump in rankings and signups to my mailing list. The book was ranking very well on iBooks. Without You free downloads: about 7,000, mostly across Amazon and iBooks. Close to 200 paid sales across all sites. I made $121.08. I also launched book 3 of the series, Letting Go. I had about 5 excellent honest reviews from ARC readers thanks to my mailing list.

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  • October: about 2700 free downloads across all sites, and I made $114.55. I thought this was great.
  • So that’s how the series has done in the first few months since the rebrand/relaunch. I haven’t booked any more promotions but will be soon to get sales back up. Actually, sales have picked up on their since Christmas and New Year's Day (this is the first time I'm likely to make over $300 in a single month and perhaps just from Amazon), but I don't expect it to last. The plan is to keep promoting Without You every 3-6 months and also put the other books on sale every so often to keep sales up. It’s a matter of scheduling promotions periods in Asana and making sure to execute.

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  • One of my goals this year was to get 20 honest reviews for each book. I definitely did not meet that goal but Without You has 15 reviews, Better Off has 8, All In comes in last place with 3, and Letting Go has 6. I’m offering free review copies of All In to my mailing list via an autoresponder, and I’ve gotten some interested readers. I plan on pushing this a bit more in the next few months. However, I’m finally at a great place where I have enough reviews on almost all of my books to be able to book promotions and get exposure.

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  • I also want to share how the books are doing overall across the various retail sites. At first I started doing equally well on Amazon and iBooks, but as time has passed, Amazon has come out in front as the place where I sell the most books. However, they’re also the two places where I sell about 95% of my books. I’ve had a very difficult time getting traction, sales, and reviews on Nook and Kobo, but hope to work on that this year. If I could get traction on those two sites, that could add significantly to my income.

Sales at Kobo.

  • Oh, and I also redesigned new paperbacks with the new covers. This was the hardest part of all but I actually am seeing a few sales here and there of the Without You paperback, and I wanted them for my bookshelf and to giveaway anyways.
  • Overall, I have to say that I’m REALLY happy with the how far my sales have come since the relaunch/rebrand and since I published my first book on January 1st, 2014. I’m nowhere near making a full-time income yet, but I’m getting there. I’ve set up a lot of things this year to help me get there, and I feel like now it’s a matter of keeping up the growth on my mailing list, interacting with readers through the mailing list, and putting out more books consistently.

Setting Up Buckets 

  • Email List: I mentioned earlier that when I relaunched the series, I put calls to actions in the front and back of all my books to get readers to sign up for my mailing list. I also created a separate mailing list for readers and another for writers. With all the downloads from the permafree book, I’ve gone from having 2 people on my mailing list (including me) to having over 630 people on that reader list. And I get emails from readers all the time, which I still can’t believe.

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  • I’ve set up autoresponders so readers can get to know more about me and my books and I’ve even set up a separate list that my most devoted readers can join: the Awesome Review Team, which gets free advanced review copies and additional giveaways and stuff.
  • Setting up all of these different lists, placing calls to action on my books, website, and social media, and just getting everything in place was not an easy task. It took a long time but I realized it was something I should have done a while ago. Now, my mailing list and website are working for me and I just need to keep up the interaction and maintenance. 
  • Website: I redesigned my website and focused on readers, not just writers. There are calls to action all over the place, including the home page, bottom of posts, sidebar, and book pages so readers can sign up for my readers mailing list in exchange for a free book. I see growth to my mailing list every single day, and part of it is because of people who stumble across my website and want to find out more about the books I write.

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  • Front/Back Matter of Books: I keep thinking about the Self-Publishing Podcast guys and how they say but WHY are you doing this. This is the whole reason behind going permafree on book 1. It’s an investment so I can get more readers and make more money in the long run. Readers find me with that permafree book and they immediately see calls to action for my mailing list. Sign up and you get another free book. Front and back matter is so valuable, and I use it wisely in all of my books. What do I want my reader to do next? Not buy the next book. That’s great, but I’d rather they join my mailing list first. What value can I offer them so they’ll do that?

NaNoWriMo 2015

  • The plan was to participate again. I won last year. It was super crazy with family and work, and I fell behind, but I managed to catch up and win. This year, not so much. I added 30,000 new words of new YA book, possibly a series, but I ultimately did not finish the first draft as I had planned. 
  • This book, being new, turned out to be incredibly difficult to write. The story and characters eluded me, but at least I got close to the end.
  • I still have the end to write, which may seem ridiculous, but not when you don’t know what the end is. I’ll have to set aside time at the beginning of 2016 to finally wrap this book up, no matter how scary it is and whether it’ll ever be a series or not.
  • So I believe I revised one book this year and wrote two more. Could have been better. Could have been three books, but I’ll take it.

Daily Work Habits

  • I started using a printed calendar to mark off every day that I worked on my writing/publishing business. Some days, I got to mark off that day if I sat down to work 5 minutes. Other days, I set higher standards. As you’ll see, I was successful most of the year, but there were long gaps where I did not work on writing at all. Those were times when I was just so mentally and physically exhausted that I couldn’t come home and work on writing stuff (especially towards the end of the year. In the summer, I took time off to travel, visit family, get married, and go on my honeymoon. Which I’m fine with :)

  • This year, I’ve bought a 12 month calendar in which I’l write in more detail what I accomplished that day. I’ll add up minutes/words at the end of the month and take pictures for Evernote as an additional record. I also want to schedule in down time. I think I’m learning that sometimes I need to take a couple of weeks off to just read or watch TV or relax with family. Time to recharge creatively. I don’t expect myself to write every single day anymore. It’s just not realistic, not when I have a day job, family, household chores, and a million other things to do. 
  • My plan is to be able to start writing full-time starting in June, and I expect to see a rise in productivity after that, but it’ll be an adjustment, and I’m okay with that. Right now, my job takes up most of my time and energy. As much as I love what I do, I love writing more and my goal is to be able to do it all the time. I’m exciting that I can finally make the transition. We’ve been working a lot this year on cutting down expenses while saving. I think it’ll still be hard financially, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Reading

 
  • I met and exceeded this year’s reading goals for the 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge by reading 38 books out of 26 (146% of goal). I read so much, and it was great.
  • However, I’ve been stuck in a rut towards the end of the year (due to mental exhaustion/burnout) and haven’t been reading at all since late November. I could never just not read, though, I’ll be finding a good book again soon and diving into another world.

Health

  • I lost 10 more lbs by continuing healthier eating and portion habits, as well as exercise 6 times a week. I haven’t weighed this amount in a long time, and in 2015, I never felt more heathy and active. The plan is to keep that up, even if I don’t exercise with as much intensity.

To sum up, I accomplished most of my goals in 2015. Even though I’m happy with the progress I made in all areas of my life, I think there’s still room to learn and improve. I still think I should be producing more words so that I can be closer to earning a full-time writing income, but that’s only gonna happen when I can write full-time, even if I need to supplement with editing jobs. However, I’m ecstatic for 2016 because I’m closer than I’ve ever been to becoming a full-time author (zero sales to consistent monthly sales).

How far did you come in 2015 with your goals?

The #1 Marketing Strategy for Writers with a Day Job, Kids, Etc

A little something special today :) The extremely helpful Catherine of Catherine, Caffeinated has so graciously answered one of my burning self-pub questions for her #selfprintedsplash. Be sure to check out the hashtag on Twitter as well as her blog for more answers to self-publishing questions. Also, check out her book, Self-Printed, which has tons of amazing tips!  Question: What would you say are some good marketing strategies for someone with a full-time job and children and not much time to even write? So things that will give you the most bang for your buck? I keep hearing the big thing is writing the next book (and I completely agree, and it's my biggest "marketing strategy"), but what do you think about actual marketing?  Thanks!

Answer: Good question. Yes: get going on writing that next book. But I know what you mean by the most bang for your buck, and I think that might be blogging. My blog is really the core of my presence, and you may have noticed that I really only post about once a month now (I used to post 3-5 times a week! I can't even imagine that now, but this is 5 years in) - but I make it count whenever I do. And so much comes out of that blog post. It attracts eyeballs from everywhere (other people share the link, share it on their blog, e-mail it to friends, etc.) and I have my blog set up to a tweet is automatically posted to it. Whenever someone new lands on my blog, think about what they get: an introduction to me, news of my books, encourage to sign up for my newsletter, etc. They also get an archive of material they can get lost in. Plus they might hang around to catch the next one, and so become part of my online platform. 
 
So if you're tight on time but you still want to do something effective, I would say: BLOG!
Thanks again, Catherine! 

When (And How) Should You Start Marketing Your Book?

You know that you need to blog for readers, not just writers. But if you’re not published yet, when should you start marketing your book on your blog or social media profiles?

At the time of launch? A few weeks before?

Here’s the answer. You should start marketing your book as soon as you start writing it, maybe even when you get the idea.

This will create buzz for you and your book early on. People will be more aware about your book and anticipate its release, especially if they’ve read free chapters and want the rest.

The earlier you start marketing your book, the easier your job will be during and after the book launch.

3 Ways to Market Your Book Early

1. Book Updates and Excerpts on Your Writer Blog: One way to market your book before the official launch is by offering book excerpts and updates on a regular basis on your blog. Be sure to make the titles enticing and juicy (as well as the excerpt itself). Here’s an example that might help.

Also, keep the excerpts on the short side, probably no longer than 300-500 words. People are busy, impatient, and won’t keep reading if they see an excerpt the length of a novel. And remember that a computer or cell phone screen isn’t the ideal place to read a story.

Sharing excerpts will help you start building your fan base early by giving readers a taste of your writing. Hopefully, this will entice them to purchase the book later on. Once a month should be enough, but you can also share excerpts and updates more frequently.

Want to know more about creating a monthly blog-posting schedule?

Many readers will also love following along on your writing and publishing journey. For example, you can do a book cover reveal or sell advanced reader copies.

After you’ve shared excerpts and updates on your blog, make sure to share the links to these posts via social media.

2. Share Extras on Social Media: You can also share extra stuff about your book through Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, kind of like the behind-the-scenes clips and interviews on the special edition of your favorite movie. Some awesome examples would be:

  • character sketches or photos
  • extra story snippets
  • images of settings
  • world sketches and maps
  • your daily progress and struggles

Pinterest and Facebook are perfect for sharing this kind of thing. If you want to see a good example of a writer who does this, check out J.F. Penn’s Pinterest boards. I will also be doing this on my own Pinterest boards and Facebook page.

Sharing through Pinterest and Facebook will also help new readers (who might never have found your blog) find your work.

When you do share extras and excerpts on Pinterest or even Twitter, be sure to use relevant hashtags. For example, if you write young adult fiction, try using #ya or #yalit.

3. Monthly Newsletter with Freebies and News: If you only do one thing on this list, choose this one. A mailing list is the most important asset you have as a writer (be on the lookout for my newsletter soon!). MailChimp offers a free option up to a certain amount of subscribers or if you want something a little more robust, you can look into Aweber. I keep hearing awesome things about those guys.

Your email subscribers are your most loyal fans so reward them. Through your monthly (or weekly) newsletter, you can give your readers free short stories and chapters. Let these readers be the first to know when your book will be out. Give them free ARCs.

You may think that it’s way too early to start a newsletter because you’re not published yet, but that list is going to come in handy when your book is out. You’ll have a list of people who have already shown a good amount of interest in your book and who have given you permission get in touch with them.

The earlier you start your newsletter, the more time it will have to grow before you launch, even if it is slow-going. A list of twenty people is better than no list at all.

Remember: the earlier you start marketing your book the better. That’s buzz that will pay off later. Now you have three ways to start marketing your book right now.

Have you started marketing your book yet? Do you wish you had started marketing earlier?