I recently wrote the hardest email of my life. It was about my latest novel’s launch period (TICK to the TOCK – January 08 – January 31), and I included as many stats as possible: The Good, The Bad, The Downright Terrifying.
I value transparency and honesty, and I believe the day of the recluse author is no more. Readers desire more from the books they read, because it’s not about a single tale, it’s about the entire journey, which includes the author, their process, their worries et al. Now, a little mystery is fine and encouraged, but I want to ensure I’m an open book (pun intended).
There’s being open and OPEN, though. That bloody email was CRAZY-OPEN, because it showcased the less than glamorous side of self-publishing. Quite frankly it’s embarrassing for the most part, and I didn’t want to discourage the aspiring author. Yet I decided long ago I’d write that email, and so I did. The feedback was humbling to say the least, and I want to take it a step further and share EVERYTHING in this Blog Post.
The Good, The Bad, The Downright Terrifying.
I FAILED 4/5 OF MY LAUNCH PERIOD GOALS
One of the projects I’m working on is The Successful Mistake, which has given me a whole new outlook on how valuable mistakes can be. I made mistakes during TICK to the TOCK’s Launch, and I more than likely got carried away. After all, writers spend so much time with their head in the clouds, it’s easy to lose yourself to dreamy dreams and wayward thoughts.
Still, I FAILED 4/5 of my Launch Period Goals:
- 50 Amazon Reviews (FAILED: I received 20)
- 100 Guests to the TttT Launch Shindig (FAILED: 60 people came)
- 1,500 Rafflecopter Entires (SUCCESS: nearly 4,000)
- Become an Amazon Bestseller (FAILED: ermmmm, not even close – more on this later)
- 1,500 Combined Unique Hits on the Landing Page & Share Page (FAILED: around 600)
This in itself is rather embarrassing, but not compared to what lies ahead. I must share these Goals with you though, because it’s what I set out to achieve in the months leading up to TICK to the TOCK’s Launch. The Bestseller List and Website Hits were a little ambitious, and I based the Amazon Reviews on what I hoped my Blog Tour would achieve. As for the Launch Shindig, well, 60 Guests was an ideal number. Had 100 turned up it would have been a cramped and uncomfortable evening – I consider this a half-win 🙂
FOCUS WAS ON EXPOSURE MORE THAN SALES
I recently wrote a post about Sending 300 Personal Emails Within 200 Minutes of Each Other on Launch Day. This is an important aspect to mention, because although I did want to sell lots of copies, focus was on EXPOSURE.
Within these 300 Personal Emails, I asked people to SHARE, not buy. I didn’t know what impact this would have on sales to be honest, but the following insights should shed some light. And as with any launch or project, there’s a great deal I could obsess over, but my plan was to always analyse the following:
- Book Sales
- Book Reviews
- Website Stats
- The Rafflecopter Giveaway
1: BOOK SALES
Jumping head first into the scariest part, let’s consider the actual number of books sold. Rather than exclusively place TICK to the TOCK on Amazon, I made it available through as many online stores as possible (B&N, Kobo, Apple, Libiro, etc), as well as creating a Print-on-Demand (POD) Paperback on Amazon, and printing 100 Paperbacks via a local printer.
This is what occurred:
- Ebooks Sold = 20
- Paperbacks Sold = 25
- Highest Amazon USA Rank = 52,000
- Highest Amazon UK Rank = 11,000
Roughly, this created around £250 ($400) in revenue, which, although isn’t a complete disaster, is a long way from covering my outgoings. Speaking of which, let’s break down the costs associated with a self-published book launch. By no means do I speak for the entire self published world (some spend less, others MUCH more), but I consider my approach rather standard:
- Editing = £600 ($1,000)
- Blog Tour = £120 ($200)
- Paperback Printing Costs = £300 ($500)
- TttT Notebooks = £50 ($80)
- Shindig Launch Night (including venue hire) = £100 ($160)
- TttT Bookmarks = £30 ($50)
- Rafflecopter Giveaway (prizes & postage) = £100 ($160)
TOTAL COSTS = £1,300 ($2,100)
You can spend less, and certainly spend more, but I’d say a £1,000 – £1,500 budget is about right for a Self-Published Author still finding his feet. YOU NEED TO RESPECT THE PROCESS, which means Editing Costs are unavoidable in my opinion (no matter how amazing your grammar is). And I’m sure you can crunch the math on your own, but I’m around £1,000 ($1,600) short from breaking even. This equates to around 600 Ebooks that still need selling.
Not a crazy number by any means, but realistically TICK to the TOCK won’t break even in 2014. Knowing this SUCKS, and I haven’t accepted defeat or anything, but I realise more than ever before that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
2: BOOK REVIEWS
In my opinion Book Reviews are HUGE. Where there’s a popular book lies a word-of-mouth success story, and in today’s modern age of social media and too-much-choice, reviews act as a gatekeeper.
This is why I signed up for a Blog Tour with Xpresso Tours, because it would provide TICK to the TOCK with an audience to SHARE & REVIEW. I assumed the majority of Blog Tour Stops would result in a review, which would also be added to Amazon & Goodreads. This wasn’t the case.
Not all stops reviewed TttT, and not every reviewer placed it on Amazon and Goodreads. As such, my 50 Amazon Reviews Goal was a non-starter, but this was down to Blog Tour naivety above anything else. Would I take part in a Blog Tour again? Possibly, because the exposure is great and I’ve formed some amazing relationships. HOWEVER, if I did, I’d go about it differently and ensure a Review Only Blog Tour.
So, how many reviews did TICK to the TOCK get during Launch?
- Amazon = 24 (18 USA + 4 Unique UK ones) 4.6 Average
- Goodreads = 35 (24 Written Reviews) 4.3 Average
- Review Blogs = 23 (10 of which added to Amazon)
Not exactly a groundbreaking amount, but in general I’m receiving 4 and 5 star reviews, which is bleeding AMAZING.
This demonstrates the book I spent months and months pouring my heart and soul into is worthy of the bookshelf. As an author, tackling self doubt and replacing it with self assurance is HUGE.
But do reviews matter? The truth is I don’t know, but I’m currently placing emphasis on increasing this amount. I don’t think the number of reviews or the average rating defines a book, but from my own personal experience, if I find a book with over 50 reviews I perceive it to be somewhat popular, because not everyone who reads your book, reviews it. If a book has 50+ reviews, it demonstrates hundreds, if not thousands of people have taken a chance.
And this is important, because MOST PEOPLE DON’T LIKE TO BE THE FIRST!
They may say they do, but the majority don’t. The lions share like to see other people take a chance, give it their approval, and then they buy the product… read the book… support the band… join the cause… THIS IS WHY I VALUE REVIEWS AS HIGH AS I DO.
3: WEBSITE STATS:
I try not get bogged down in website analytics, because it becomes rather addictive, and for most part, I have no idea what the majority of buttons mean. I’m aware of the basics however, and for the TICK to the TOCK Launch 3 pages interested me:
- TICK to the TOCK Landing Page = 280 Unique Visitors
- TICK to the TOCK Share Page = 218 Unique Visitors
- The Launch Extravaganza Page = 309 Unique Visitors
This means the three pages I tended to point people towards gathered 807 Unique Visitors during launch. Email was by far the most beneficial tool I used (which is good seen as I sent over 300 personal emails) with 288 Referrals. Facebook followed (183 Referrals) and then Twitter (85 Referrals), which is also nice as this is where I utilise most of my time.
A tad disappointing is the amount of traffic gathered from other sites (Blog Tour Stops, Review Sites, etc), which was low indeed. Again, this doesn’t mean the Blog Tour was pointless because people may have visited the Amazon Page (which indie authors have little access to), but when you combine this with the number of books sold, it showcases what you can and can’t expect from a Blog Tour.
Another thing I like to focus on is the average time spent on a page, and all three did admirably well. On average, people spend around 2 minutes 30 seconds on my site per visit, but for TICK to the TOCK Landing Page they spend 2:41, for the TICK to the TOCK Share Page it was 3:38, and for the Launch Extravaganza Page they spent a whopping 4:42.
This is EXCELLENT news indeed, because it demonstrates people not only clicked, but read what was on the page. I wish it was as simple as getting people to visit and buy, but this is rarely the case (in any business). In fact, it usually takes 5-7 interactions with a product/service before someone parts with their money (this gives me hope 🙂 )
And before we move on, let’s take a peek at Social Media, because the TttT Share Page pointed people towards Facebook & Twitter. Basically, I asked folk to TWEET (55 people did), SHARE (42 people shared the picture) & LIKE the Facebook Page (150 TttT Likes during the launch period – more on this later).
I also received over 100 new Twitter Followers during this period, but I sense much of this is due to the Rafflecopter Giveaway, which is what we’ll look at next.
4: RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY
This was my one successful goal. I hoped for 1,500 entries and received nearly 4,000. AMAZING… but… this was my first Rafflecopter Giveaway, so I had no idea what to expect. Sure, I looked at previous examples, but until you do something yourself, it’s hard to know the ins and outs.
Without doubt however, this is where the Blog Tour came into its own, and had I not taken part, the Giveaway would have dwindled.
As well as links to TICK to the TOCK, the embedded Rafflecropter Giveaway was present on ALL Blog Tour Stops. This is great as it’s a fantastic form of interaction, but I learned several things along the way:
- Such a Giveaway DOES NOT lead to many sales
- YOU WILL lose some money (postage, prizes, etc)
- The SOCIAL MEDIA SHARES that come with it won’t lead to viral fame and fortune
- You more than likely WON’T experience a runaway success story
- You WILL gain new followers (over 100 new Twitter followers)
- People WILL like your Facebook Page (over 150 TttT Page Likes)
- Word of Mouth WILL occur
- You get to SURPRISE people with meaningful gifts (and this is special indeed)
Not all the LIKES and TWEETS and FOLLOWERS came via the Rafflectopter Giveaway, but it’s safe to say a large chunk did. These new people may not buy TICK to the TOCK now, but they’re now part of the journey. Who knows what this may lead to…
Another important aspect to consider are the email addresses received from a Rafflecopter Giveaway. My Mailing List for Fiction now stands at over 200 people, and again, not all came via the Rafflectopter Giveaway, but the majority did. I now have a duty to nurture these readers and make them feel special, which emphasises the long term dedication you need for self publishing.
Writers, this isn’t a sprint! You have to be in this for the long term.
HERE’S TO GENERAL CONCLUSIONS
You may also want to read THIS ARTICLE I wrote a few weeks back, as it covers how and why I wrote 300 Personal Emails and sent them all on launch day. It links with everything discussed above, and was a central part to TICK to the TOCK’s Launch. Overall, the conclusions on that post are the same as here: If I could do it all again, I would – with a few tweaks, of course 🙂
Other than the Rafflectopter Giveaway, I failed all of my goals. These failings may be down to high expectations, naivety, and general day dreamary, but to sum everything up with a single word, I’d choose: EMBARRASSING.
I just think this is what it’s like for the average self published writer, though. It’s a struggle, a slog, a painful and unnerving journey that has no definitive end in sight. But what are we supposed to do? Stop writing? Yeah… that isn’t going to happen!
As I said in the beginning, that email was one of the hardest ever, and this post is by far the most difficult (and most embarrassing… and the longest, too). To admit you’re over £1,00o from breaking even, sold barely a couple dozen books, and fell short of every hope and dream is hard. No, scrap that. IT’S FUCKING HARD!
But as I compare this launch to Beyond Parallel’s (my first novel), I know I’m improving. Not by a huge amount, but the signs are brighter for sure. As I keep saying, this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
The thing is, this is one of the best aspects of self publishing your work, because your book remains available for as long as you want it to be. TICK to the TOCK isn’t going anywhere. If it only sells another 20 copies all year, a publisher won’t pull it down and condemn me to the bargain bin. There’s nobody stopping me from writing my third novel (this process is already underway), and as with all word-of-mouth success stories, you never know when the tipping point will tip.
So, let me finish with a tad more self-loathing and where I stand today:
- The TICK to the TOCK Launch didn’t go according to plan
- Sharing the numbers (or lack of) is embarrassing
- I’m far from rich or even stable
- And I’m scared my dreams may never materialise
HOWEVER, I also wake up each morning, look in the mirror, and say SCREW IT – because there’s a bright side, too:
- I have 200 new email addresses
- I have over 200 new Facebook Likes
- I’ve met some amazing reviewers and bloggers who I know will bring greatness into my life
- I’ve learned several BIG lessons, and a few cool ideas have spawned from them
- Overall, people seem to like my new book
- I no longer have a single novel to my name, but TWO
And that’s a wrap, a Self Published Book Launch in all it’s UNGLORY. I wish I had tales of runaway successes and viral craziness, but I’m just an average writer with an average story – at this moment in time 🙂
At over 2,500 words, this is my longest post ever, and if you’re still reading, what a trooper you are. Thank you for being part of this journey, and thank you for making me accountable. This was a tough post to write, but I have a feeling it’s one I’ll revisit time and time again.