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 Sort of Roundup

I don’t usually do roundup type posts, but I have a few things to tell you about and none of them I felt I could stretch to fill an entire post, so I thought I’d rope them all together and herd them into a corral somewhere on this imaginary dude ranch I call a blog. So, giddy-up those little piggies. Do pigs giddy-up? I told you, I’m no expert at roundups.

Today is the last full day of Obama’s presidency and I hope he does something weird with it, like fill the Oval Office with testicle-shaped balloons or put glue in the First Stapler. You know, just go crazy with it. But seriously, I’ll miss the guy. I’m split about whether or not he was a great president, but he represented the USA very well with his style, grace and gravitas. Although his foreign policy left a lot to be desired and he spent most of his first term struggling with a muddied domestic message, history I think will be very kind to him based on the ACA alone. Yes, it’s a deeply troubled piece of legislation, but it’s the first of its kind and it took serious balls to get that thing passed and then defend it like it was the Alamo. Hopefully, the once impossible dream of national healthcare will remain a reality and will survive and evolve into something we can all be proud of. No matter who else in the future tries to put their name to it, it’ll always be to his credit in my mind.

Thanks, Obama.

 

obama_wave

“No problem. Be good. I’m outta here… I’m taking the jet with me, though. Trump’s got his own. He won’t mind.”

 

In other news, guess who landed a promo-spot on BookBub? ME! Yes, the most influential and successful email marketer of e-books finally selected my Grant Scotland omnibus, The Unlikely Spy, for a spot on their daily newsletter. As most of you probably know, I’ve performed several painful experiments over the past couple of years with other email marketers and came to the conclusion (along with basically every other self and traditionally published author) that BookBub is the only one truly worth it. The entrance price is steep, but everyone who has ever been featured on their newsletter has received a decent return on investment as well as a huge increase in distribution, at least for the length of the promo at any rate. How did I do it? Well, I told them the omnibus would be discounted down to a crazy cheap $1.99 for a few days and would be offered on Nook, Kobo and Apple as well as Amazon. I think that’s the killer combo they like to see.

I’ll update the blog/Facebook page/Twitter etc when the deal goes live.

I made some New Year’s resolutions. I committed myself to writing two short stories and the next installment in the Grant Scotland series by year’s end. One story is almost finished and the other is about 30-40%. The next Scotland book is all just notes for now, but there are ALOT of notes.

Oh, and I resolved to lose weight. Again. Sweet treats, this is tough! Word of advice to anyone still in their thirties – start adopting healthier eating habits than you had in your twenties. Your waistline will thank you in your forties. Your wallet, too. You’ll save a TON of money on the number of forklifts needed to move your gigantic ass around.

 

“Morning, Dan! Where would you like me to place your left buttock?”

 

And finally, the Adventures of Grant Scotland blog tour rolls on! Today, we’re being featured at T’s Stuff. Stop by and read an excerpt from Greedy Villain and a brief interview. Each blog I stop at has a little different dose of excerpts, guest posts and interview questions, so be sure to check them all out. You can find a list of all the stops here. FYI – Some sites have switched dates so you might have to hunt around a bit. You can also find updated  links to all the stops as they happen on the Grant Scotland community page.

That’s it! Are you ready for tomorrow? Are you ready for the next four years? Things are about to get real interesting, that’s for sure.

 

jurassic-park-33-hold-on-to-your-butts1

 

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“When you’re going through Hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

Reviewing and tipping is loving.

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Grant Scotland on Tour!

That’s right! I’m taking The Adventures of Grant Scotland on a book tour! A virtual tour, that is. Online-like. Goddessfish Promotions has teemed with all of us (me) here at Dan McClure Publishing (the back office of my apartment) to launch the Grant Scotland franchise into the blogoshere.

For the next few months you’ll be seeing my books everywhere (not available in some locations) on the internet. So be sure to stay tuned to what’s happening both here and on all the sites that will be advertising and talking about the series. If you comment on the conversation on the participating blogs, you are automatically entered to win an Amazon Gift Card courtesy of Goddessfish!

I’ll list the sites and the tour dates that are currently booked below, but be sure to follow Adventures of Grant Scotland Facebook page and Twitter handle to get the most up-to-date tour info and links.

December 27: Books,Dreams,Life
December 29: Christine Young
January 3: The Avid Reader
January 5: Fabulous and Brunette
January 10: Kit ‘N Kabookle
January 12: Writers and Authors
January 17: Lilac Reviews
January 19: T’s Stuff
January 24: BooksChatter
January 26: Book Lover Promo
January 31: Sharing Links and Wisdom
February 2: Independent Authors
February 7: The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
February 9: Edgar’s Books
February 14: Readeropolis
February 16: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
February 21: Lynn Crandall
February 23: Dina Rae’s Write Stuff
February 28: CBY Book Club
March 1: Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
March 6: Hearts and Scribbles
March 8: Tina Donahue Books
March 13: Welcome to My World of Dreams
March 15: Reviews by Crystal
March 20: Book Giveaways
March 22: Queen of All She Reads
March 27: Am Kinda Busy Reading!
March 29: Harlie’s Books
April 3: Natural Bri
April 5: Long and Short Reviews

 

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The tour will be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. There’s plenty of fun interviews, blog posts and book excerpts, so be sure to check out all the stops!

Prevent any further premature celebrity deaths – write reviews and give tips.

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The Cover Reveal and Other Things I Should Care More About

The talented and affable Mr. Thomas McGee of Rightly Designed has finished work on the cover for Spy for a Greedy Villain! And, now… without further ado I will reveal to you that which you have in breathless anticipation no doubt been awaiting. God, what an awful sentence. Who wrote that? Was he given permission to brutalize the English language so heinously? Actually, you probably don’t need a permission slip these days. Oh well… RAISE THE CURTAINS!

 

aogs4_cover_final

You already looked before I said “raise the curtains” didn’t you? Of course you did, you sneaky monkey.

 

You know, I really don’t get the whole “Cover Reveal” thing. I never even noticed it was a thing before I started self-publishing. What is it supposed to do? Generate buzz and excitement? Has it ever? I doubt it. I really do. I think it’s just another marketing gimmick that people do because they figure “why not?” It’s no-cost and it fills another blog post and generates a new tweet.

Well, hey. “Why not for me too” is what I always say when I’m saying things that aren’t quite true and don’t make much sense.

 

"Now you're starting to speak my language."

“Now you’re starting to speak my language.”

 

In addition to revealing the cover, I’m also revealing the release date for Greedy Villain. November 1st! Mark it on your calendar if you’d like but rest assured that I will remind you as obnoxiously and repeatedly as I can summon the strength to do so. Speaking of which – the strength summoning part, not the obnoxious part – I am planning to do a blog tour after release and have been investigating how these things work and they look HARD! You have to commit to doing at least one, but preferably several, guest posts and interviews per week over the course of four or eight or even sixteen weeks! Yikes! I can hardly stand talking about myself here as infrequently as I do. I don’t even know how I’m going to muster up the narcissistic wherewithal to launch what amounts to a dastardly coordinated surprise attack on the internet using naught but my massive ego.

Actually, when I put it like that, it sounds doable. Exhausting, but doable.

In any case, I no longer have a choice. Either I’m taking this whole enterprise seriously or I’m not. None of the lesser book promoters have yielded satisfactory results and Bookbub is still giving me the cold shoulder. The first three books haven’t collected a single new review in months. Purchasing a blog tour is the only viable way I can think of to get a few sales and a few reviews and push my name out there some more. I’ve done a little research on this and, like Bookbub, a blog tour almost guarantees you’ll get your money back, as well as pick up a few reviews. Also, they’re cheaper than I had priced them when I initially looked at them last year, so that’s good.

A friend of mine recommended I start going to fantasy/sci-fi conventions as an attendee and approach some publishers to help spread the word about the Grant Scotland franchise and also possibly pick up some extra work for e-zines and what not. It’s not a bad idea. I hadn’t really considered it, because I’m not too interested in writing for anyone else right now and I don’t want to give up rights to Grant either, so I doubt how sincere I’d be in approaching people in the industry.

Preferably, I want to attend a fantasy/sci-fi convention in a booth with printed copies of my books to sell or raffle off. It’s the self-pub way. I want to market to the consumers, not the producers. But, I also want to land a traditional publisher at some point for other projects I have in mind, so maybe getting my face in front of faces sooner rather than later might work. I don’t know. I’m having a tough enough time thinking about all the guest posts I’m going to have to write, nevermind my person-to-person pitch skills.

 

"Hi! I'm talk! Do you have a minute to Dan McClure?"

“Hi! I’m talk! Do you have a minute to Dan McClure?”

 

I know. I should have thought of all this much sooner and been busy with it after book two rather than book four, but come on. It’s me we’re talking about here. If there’s a way I can do something backwards and make it more complicated than it has to be, then you can bet your lunch money that’s the way I’m doing it. But if I was any other way would you still love me?

Don’t answer that.

 

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Finished. Let’s you and me grab some hooch and dangle.

To review is essential, to tip is divine.

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Halloween tastes funny

This isn’t about bashing Halloween. I’m alright with Halloween. It’s not my favorite holiday, but it’s up there. This isn’t about how it is a hipster holiday, either, where everyone sarcastically celebrates the anti-religious overtone and engages in a pseudo-mockery of faux-revelry. (Really, is anything worth a genuine emotional reaction in hipsterdom? Don’t answer that. I stopped caring ten words ago.) It isn’t even about the inevitable duels for cleverest costumes among people who dress up as the latest killed character from the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones or insert-obscure-AMC/HBO/Showtime-original-series. No, it has nothing to do with hipsters. I’m alright with hipsters. They’re adorable, after all. No, for me it has to do with Halloween literally leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

 

"Young man, is this going to a naughty place?"

“Young man, is this going to a naughty place?”

 

Have you ever tasted fake blood? Don’t. It’s terrible. I once had the distinct displeasure of ingesting this horrible substance one Halloween when I was just a tiny Tone of Voice and it’s dreadful taste scarred me for life. I think it was the time my big brother had the great idea of dressing me up as the monster from the movie C.H.U.D. by using bits and pieces scavenged form other Halloween costumes. My brother’s personal touch? Using White-Out to scrawl PUD on the back of my vampire cape, so that instead of a Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller, I was simply a Pretty Ugly Dude. My brother found this riotously funny, but our mother was less than amused. I didn’t mind. I’ve never really minded being the butt of jokes, as long as they were funny. Teasing I’m not especially fond of, but a good joke is a good joke.

Unfortunately, no one got the joke, but I looked pitiful enough to score the usual bag of candy, so it all turned out in my favor anyway. Well, except for the fake blood. At some point, someone (I don’t know, maybe it was me) decided to add fake blood to whatever mask I was wearing, which would have been fine if the mask had any sort of absorbancy. Alas, it did not, so the stuff dribbled straight into the mouth hole and onto my lips.

If you’re wondering what fake blood tastes like, it’s a palate cleansing mix of plastic, falseness and melancholy. Three horrible tastes that taste like death together. I don’t think I got sick, I just know I couldn’t get that taste out of my mouth no matter how many mini-Snickers I inhaled.

 

"This candy tastes like failure and regret. Does this mean I'm an adult now?"

“This candy tastes like failure and regret. Does this mean I’m an adult now?”

 

To this day, I always suppress a shudder when I see people dressed up like zombies, their faces and clothes drenched in the supposedly “non-toxic” pseudo-plasma. “Non-toxic.” Pffft. Tell that to my flavor-memory. Seriously, there are times I will get this unfortunate taste appearing in my mouth from out of nowhere. I have no idea what triggers it, and for a long time I could not trace what it was or what it was linked to. (My dentist suspects it’s likely a leaky filling, and she’s probably right, but her logic and science aren’t welcome here!) I don’t know how I finally remembered. I suppose I eventually broke through the mental barrier I had built up around it and determined it was from that unfortunate Halloween. But even knowing its source, it still pounces on me from out of nowhere. In fact, it even hits me whenever I get too close to a heavily made-up woman.

Yes, this even affected my dating life, but for the better I think. People who wear too much make-up are duplicitous by nature. I once went on a date with a nice young woman who kinda-sorta looked and sounded like Meg Tilly. Trouble was, she wore so much make-up she also kinda-sorta looked like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. So, Elvira crossed with Meg Tilly. I know most of you are like “NOT BAD!” Well, I suppose it would have been, except for my aforementioned aversion to makeup. I couldn’t conceive of getting close enough to kiss her, let alone anything more intimate. Needless to say, that romance lasted all of one date, but I later found out from mutual acquaintances that she was a bit of a man-eater, so it was fortunate I had kept my distance.

 

"Vaht's the problem? You like the boys, maybe?"

“Vaht’s the problem? You like the boys, maybe?”

 

That’s not really how Elvira talked, but I just couldn’t bring myself to mimic her trademark valley girl/jersey girl accent.

But this just recently got me thinking that about the larger issue of selling yourself as something you’re not. It’s a topic I’m always grappling with as I try to figure out the best way to market my books. There are things that I have decided I simply will not do, because they just seem to me to be too fake and too gimmicky. Fake and gimmicky is fine for Halloween, but not for me. I don’t want to try to sell my books in categories they don’t belong simply to get a good Amazon ranking. I don’t want to constantly spam twitter/facebook/this blog or a mailing list with constant reminders about how great the Adventures of Grant Scotland series is (even though it’s pretty great, to be honest) in the hopes that eventually enough people will tiredly mis-click (or mis-tap) and end up buying a copy. I don’t want to engage in review trading with other authors and I definitely don’t want to buy reviews.

But I have to do something. I’m fine with marketing on Twitter and Facebook and all the rest regularly (but not constantly) and being patient as my audience slowly grows, but I sure would like to give the whole process a boost if I could. I’m currently thinking about doing a blog tour, which is essentially like paying for reviews, but it’s the LEAST offensive way to do it. Also, it’s a form of review buying that everyone does, from big publishers to self-publishers, so it’s generally considered to be kosher. We’ll see. I know the people who run those sites greatly prefer to do tours only for books that are about to be released, not existing titles, so I’ll keep it in mind for Book Four.

Well, that’s about it from me for tonight. As always, thanks for stopping by and spending some time reading about my fear of fake blood. Is there a name for that? Pseudo-hemophobia?

So long, folks! Tip your driver!