Notes From the Self-Pubbed (Issue #8)

THE BLOG TOUR ISSUE!

My Virtual Blog Tour ended earlier this month and I’m ready to share the goods and the bads and the ups and the downs. The Tour was arranged by Goddessfish Promotions and began in late December and continued until the middle of April. What would happen was Goddessfish would coordinate with a book review blogger to schedule a day where that blogger would post an advertisement for my book or interview with me or an excerpt from one of the books or some other piece of content relating to Grant Scotland. Then all of that blogger’s followers would see the post and comment on it in order to be eligible for an Amazon Gift Card. Goddessfish scheduled on average about two bloggers a week, generally Tuesdays and Thursdays, but sometimes Mondays and Wednesdays, and each one was pretty good about posting something different so followers were encouraged to “follow” the tour from one site to another.

Sounds great, right? I had been skeptical about the true advertising power of this sort of thing, since I found it difficult to imagine there were that many book-blog sites, not to mention active members who visited them frequently. I mean, do you visit blogs that talk about books on any sort of regular basis? I mean JUST books. This site doesn’t count, since it’s my personal blog where I also talk about being an author – I rarely talk about what I’m reading/have read. I’m talking about “fan sites” for fantasy, romance, sci-fi, etc. Do you ever go to these sites and hang out and talk about books?

 

“Hey, everyone! I just found out about this great book called The Necronomicon! I can’t wait to get my hands on it!”

 

Yeah, neither do I. Nevertheless, a blog tour was something I had to try, since I couldn’t very well claim I was taking this self-publishing enterprise seriously if I didn’t try it at least once.

It turns out once is enough. Probably more than enough. That is to say, I’m never doing anything like it ever again. Not on my dime, anyway.

First off I want to say that Marianne and Judy at Goddessfish were very nice and professional. I have nothing but good things to say about them. However, I can’t recommend their services, because my own results were so disappointing. In fact, so bad was my experience that I feel I have to warn other self-published authors to save their money and keep away from blog tours in general.

So, what was so bad? Well, mainly the biggest problem became apparent fairly early on. After the first few stops on the tour, it became obvious that each time a blogger hosted a blog post about Grant Scotland, the same 6 or 8 people would comment – on every site. That is, there didn’t seem to be separate followers on separate sites. It was always the same names, no matter if it was a site that claimed it mostly liked romance books or mostly liked fantasy books. Oh, and almost all of them mostly liked romance books, judging by their style and sidebar content and advertising.

 

“Where is the ripped bodice? No ripped bodice = no sale.”

 

So, the audience was frustratingly small, but that’s okay, nobody was buying anything anyway. I ran kindle countdown deals on all four books and Goddessfish made sure the deals were advertised on every site where Grant Scotland was featured, but not a single sale was recorded (not entirely true, but let’s just say I noted no “spike” in sales). Well, unless some sales happened during the Bookbub promotion period, but the tour had already been going on for almost two months by that time so I find it unlikely.

But I had heard blog tours were a great way of generating reviews and I had sent out free e-copies of all the books, so I was looking forward to getting a few Amazon reviews at least. Nope. Not one. I did, however, get four very enthusiastic reviews on Harlie’s Books by someone who clearly actually read all four books. So, that was nice, but it would have been nicer if those reviews had made it on to Amazon.

But did I make any new friends, at least? Hard to say. I know I have new followers to the blog and Facebook pages, but whether those people are here for the content or the promise of giveaways, it’s impossible to tell.

Well, I guess it’s not impossible. I could always just cancel the giveaways and see if anyone sticks around. In fact, I think I’ll do that. I’ve been mulling it over and doing extra reading about mailing lists and giveaways and authors and I’ve come to the conclusion that mailing lists and giveaways are GREAT ways to get a ton of followers, but they don’t do squat in terms of building an audience. An audience is composed of readers and they’re not the ones making the rounds from site to site trying to get free stuff. Those are internet gypsies. Additionally, every person I’ve seen advocating for mailing lists and giveaways ultimately turns out to be someone trying to sell me something. Sure, they may also be an author (although I’m highly dubious of this in each and every case) but they always put way more effort into talking up some pay-to-play service instead of what’s cool or interesting about their books, writing, etc.

 

“You want to know about my book? Well, it’s very successful. But wouldn’t you rather know how I made it so successful?”

 

So, no more mailing list. You’re just going to have to bookmark me or sign up to follow the blog by email (although I’ve found in my personal experience that wordpress emails often get filtered to the junk folder) and just keep an eye on the blog. I’m sure at some point in time in the future I’ll give away free stuff in some off-the-cuff contest, but doing the whole Mailchimp/Rafflcopter/Twitter Ads route just isn’t for me.

As for Blog Tours, Goddessfish offers some very reasonably priced options if you’re a self-pubber and you’re thinking that maybe you can change some internet gypsies into book buyers and fans. I chose the biggest/most expensive option because I figured in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound and obviously can’t at all recommend it. Maybe stringing together a few cheaper tours might yield better results for you.

I just re-read what I wrote and it sounds like I’m down on self-publishing and I’m not. Absolutely not. Although the industry is swarmed by pirates and snake oil salesmen, it’s still very rewarding to have almost complete control over your own work. I am, however, almost certain at this point that a hybrid approach is the best way to go. If I can get some stories or novels traditionally published it will make it much easier to get my self-published stuff in front of a much wider audience. I guess to look at myself as objectively as possible, I’m moving away from being a true self-publisher and towards being an author who self-publishes. True, this really only works for authors who have already attained some measure of success in traditional publishing, but I’m glad I went the self-pub route first. This entire experience has been very interesting and has given me a lot of confidence in my writing that I realize now I desperately needed in order to take myself seriously. Also, I think if I hadn’t tried it first, I’m not sure I ever would have.

I’m still deeply suspicious of traditional publishing, though. I’ve heard many horror stories from many authors about being badly mishandled and then having to live with not having rights to their own work when their publisher drops them. That makes me cringe and it’s something I’ll never let happen to the Adventures of Grant Scotland. I’m way too invested in that series to ever hand it over. Well, never say never, I guess. At any rate, I realize I should start writing a stand-alone novel (not related to the series, but probably a sci-fi or fantasy book) and see if I can attract an agent, but I’m committed to getting AoGS to six books first. Right now the plan is to keep writing Grant Scotland (outline and first chapter of book 5 done so far) but also crank out at least two more short stories by year’s end and put those on the magazine merry-go-round with the other two I’ve finished.

But I might start putting together something for an agent sooner rather than later. Probably should. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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Happy spring, everyone! A great time to make new plans and start new projects!

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” – Vernon Law

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A Letter from the President of Malaero Airlines

From the Office of the President, 4/11/2017

To all Employees of Malaero Airlines,

I’m sure everyone has heard about the most recent mishandling of an overbooking situation that took place on board one of the planes of a competing airline. If not, please see your supervisor for full details and while you’re there please take a moment to pick up our NEW employee handbook and sign the NEW Commitment to Customer Service Excellence and Public Nonaggression Agreement. In fact, even if you are already aware of “the incident,” please make sure you get the new handbook and sign the agreement by week’s end.

I just want to take a moment and be very clear that our stance on handling overbooking situations has always been in favor of non-violent solutions. Even if it was not spelled out in the handbook, strictly speaking, it was nevertheless always our policy that overbooked passengers should be invited to deplane and only brutalized and beaten senseless as a very last resort. While it’s not clear if the employees at United had in fact reached that last resort, it is clear that a very thorough and humiliating beatdown was handed out in a very public manner.

This is something I find to be intolerable as I hope you all do. I don’t ever want to hear about anything like this happening on a Malaero flight. This is what we have customs offices and security rooms for. If you do not know the location and accessibility of these rooms, please see our Chief of Airline Security, Brutus D. Bentbody to arrange a tour. These rooms have been specially designed to be windowless, sound proof and easy to clean. A troublesome customer should be lured there with promises of free miles, meals or even cash if need be and only THEN is he/she to be properly insulted, debased and ultimately given a sound thrashing.

Each room comes with a wide variety of tools and devices to make the administration of pain and embarrassment look and feel as professional as possible. If you have not been given adequate instruction on the efficient use of these items, please contact Mr. Bentbody for a demonstration at your earliest convenience. But do not let inexperience deter you from utilizing these facilities! The LAST thing we want – and I can’t stress this enough – is to have our own very public, not to mention very messy, display of naked aggression against one of our customers simply because one or more of our employees had been misinformed about our policies and procedures.

Don’t be afraid to ask! And when you’re in one of our special rooms with your targeted customer, don’t be afraid to experiment! Even if you get carried away and your guest expires, we have many terrifically skilled people ready to help you. It happens all the time, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Again, the important thing here is that the mistake happened where no one outside the airline can see it! If you’d like to know more about how we deal with expired passengers, send an email to our Vice President in charge of Baggage Claims, Vincent Mattresses. Please CC me on all these inquires. While I encourage questions, I don’t like too many questions. Not everyone needs to know everything.

Here at Malaero Airlines, discretion is our watchword!

Thank you all for your hard work and your continued efforts to provide the very best in customer service and disposal. I’ve been proud to say that here at Malaero, we like to make sure all of our passengers reach the final destination each of them have got coming!

 

Sincerely,

Damion Fiendier, President of Malaero Airlines.

P.S. – Please don’t forget to sign the NEW Commitment to Customer Service Excellence and Public Nonaggression Agreement by week’s end. Or else.