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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Notes from the Self-Pubbed (Issue #4)

Well, the holiday season is in full swing and all of us here at Grant Scotland Enterprises are full of good cheer, not to mention copious amounts of scotch! But we’re not just celebrating the annual month-long feeding frenzy of consumerism nor the yearly visit of a conspicuously overweight Aelfan man of notoriously unstable temperament and questionable judgement nor even the secret pagan rites of the Winter Solstice festival.

No!

I mean, yes. All of that, of course. But also, no!

We are chiefly celebrating – and we’re really excited about this – our first Grant Scotland T-Shirt recipient! That’s right, ladies and gents! We have a winner! A verified winner! Someone who has actually succeeded at something! Right here in our very presence! Can you believe it?

But let me back up a second, if you don’t mind. We’ll bring our lucky contestant out later so we can gaze in admiration and swoon with adoration. First things first, though. Let’s talk business.

I just recently finished my first promotion of the holiday season and I wish I could say that everything went super terrific. In fact, it was just the opposite of that. What would that be, anyway? Unexceptionally inferior? Insignificantly awful? Ordinarily bad?

Ordinarily bad sounds about right. It has a certain sad-sack tone to it.

 

What is the sound of one clown crying?

What is the sound of one clown crying?

 

Anyway, I had decided on marching my promotion efforts sequentially through each Grant Scotland novel as the holiday season progresses, so I began with Spy for a Dead Empire. I bought advertising space on two ebook advertiser’s websites and newsletters during the first two days of a Kindle Countdown Deal. For those who aren’t familiar, a Kindle Countdown deal is a week long period of price-reduction (either graduated or not) where the publisher (me, in this case) signs his book up for participation in the 90-day Kindle Select program (which means Kindle Unlimited subscribers can borrow it and I get a little bit of money from borrowed pages read) and Amazon allows some additional internal promotional options. That may be a little much to take in all at once, but essentially it’s a deal with Amazon where I publish with them exclusively for a time and in exchange they help promote my book.

So, my Countdown Deal days were from November 23rd to the 30th. I tapped Booksends to run an ad on 11/23 and Booktastic on the 24th. Concurrently, I gave Amazon a budget of $100 to run pay-per-click ads on their site (you may have heard of it) for the period of 11/23 to 12/7. Let’s see the breakdown and the results:

Countdown Deal: Discount Spy for a Dead Empire @ $0.99 from 11/23 up to 11/27 and @$1.99 from 11/27 to 11/30.

Booksends newsletter ad space for 11/23 – $25 + $10 for EReader IQ partner newsletter

Booktastik newsletter ad space for 11/24 – $10

Facebook community page promotional post boost for two days starting 11/23 – $5

Amazon pay-per-click ad campaign 11/22 – 12/7 – $0 to $100 depending on results. Actual result was $75.56

Total marketing expense: $125.56

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And lets take a look at those sales from 11/23 to 12/7:

Spy for a Dead Empire Amazon sales: 12 copies @ $0.99, 2 @ $1.99

Spy for a Troubled King sales: 0 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Wayward Daughter: 0 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Dead Empire borrowed pages read: 882

Spy for a Troubled King borrowed pages read: 271

Spy for a Wayward Daughter borrowed pages read: 1 (for real?)

Total Sales: $16

Royalties from borrowed pages read: (roughly one-half cent per page)  $5.77

Amazon pay-per-click stats:

Impressions: 104,519

Clicks: 95

Average Cost Per Click (aPCC): $0.80

Detail Page View: 103

Estimated Total Sales: (Resulting from same user clicking the ad and then buying) $7.96

Gross income (not adjusted for Amazon’s 30% cut on sales): $21.77

Net: -$103.79

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YIKES! That’s awful! And highly unsustainable. What really did me in was the pay-per-click. I definitely was too competitive on that. An $0.80 cost-per-click is ridiculous. Maybe I’ll tone that down for Troubled King’s holiday promo. We’ll see.

The sales were so dismal that I don’t feel like including the daily counts. Most happened on the first day and then the rest happened sporadically, probably mostly attributed to Amazon’s click ad. Booktastic was notably horrible. Maybe resulted in one sale. Maybe.

Well, I don’t have to guess what my financial adviser has to say about this…

 

"When I'm president, remind me to deport you. Now, show me this winner you mentioned. I only want to talk to winners."

“When I’m president, remind me to deport you. Now, show me this winner you mentioned. I only want to talk to winners.”

 

Ah, yes! To the good news! The first week of our Grant Scotland T-Shirt giveaway is completed and the winner is….

JOSH PHELAN! That’s right! Josh Phelan is a WINNER!

 

He's actually wearing a Grant Scotland T-Shirt underneath his suit.

He’s actually wearing a Grant Scotland T-Shirt underneath his suit.

 

Congratulations, Josh!

I’ll shortly be contacting Josh via my fancy-shmancy newsletter (Sign up now and don’t miss next week’s giveaway!) to get his size and address. Soon he will be receiving his short-sleeved shirt just in time for winter.

I know, I know. Someday I’ll figure out how to schedule things appropriately… but it is not this day!!!

So long everyone! Tip your driver and review a book! Alternatively, you could tip a writer and review a driver, but we’re not equipped for that here.

 

Adventures of Grant Scotland T-Shirt Giveaway!

‘Tis the season, everyone! ‘Tis the season of buying and selling, giving and taking, eating and drinking, sneezing and blessing, caroling and drinking, wrapping and decorating, arguing and drinking, throwing and dodging, weeping and drinking… and… what else? Oh yeah, drinking. But it is also the season of Grant Scotland! In fact, it is the very first season of Grant Scotland merchandise! The inaugural season. Season One – with deleted scenes and a blooper reel!

That’s right! Sweet Grant Scotland loot is now available! Feast your eyes upon the glory that is the Official Adventures of Grant Scotland T-Shirt (TM)!

 

actual_T3

Pictured sizes are 2XL and Small for reference. Other sizes include, XL, Large and Medium.

 

actual_T19

This is what I had written on the back, because when you’re wearing this thing, you’re wearing Grant Scotland.

 

“Oh sweet merriment above the firmament!” you may cry out in glee. And who could blame you?

“I am unworthy to even gaze upon such gifts of grace!” you may exclaim tearfully. And who wouldn’t think that? Except maybe not quite with such hyperbole.

“But how might I lay my unworthy hands upon such gleaming bounty, even if only to pass it on to one more worthy than myself?” you may ask on your knees and with hands upraised beseechingly. And again, who could blame you? Although, really, you’re starting to get a little weird about the whole thing.

Well, you’re in luck! Every week during the holidays (and perhaps even some weeks after the holidays) I’ll be giving these T-Shirts away FREE! Yes, FREE meaning including shipping. Not, FREE, but you have to give me thirty bucks, first. No! FREE, like for real FREE. FREE as a newly born infant! FREE as a lucky penny! FREE as that pack of gum you stole when you thought no one was watching! (People were watching, it’s just that no one cared.) FREE, I say! FREE as only a man writing with no pants on can describe it!

“What’s the catch?” you ask, suddenly cagey and on guard. And why shouldn’t you be? There’s nothing in life for free!

And you’d be right. I do require one small favor. Sign up for my mailing list. In exchange, you become a permanent entrant to every weekly giveaway I hold this season (and possibly later).

That’s it. That’s all. No money involved. I promise not to email you anything but blog updates and alerts for book releases and major promotions. That will be at most once a week. Additionally, the mailing list stays with me, obviously. Your email address goes nowhere but into my Mailchimp account.

I’ll make sure nobody gonna get it. Know why? ‘Cause we tight, yo. *FIST BUMP*

So, every week for the next… mmm… call it five or so, I guess… I’ll draw a winning email address out of a virtual hat and announce the winner and ask that person where he or she would like me to send the shirt! It’s that simple! I’ll announce the first winner around this time next week, so sign up now!

Oh. What’s a virtual hat you ask? Well, it looks a little like this:

 

actual_T17

Photo touch-up courtesy of my lovely goofball of a wife.

 

I’m reasonably certain you’d look way better in my t-shirt than I do. It’s really not that hard, as you can plainly see. You’ll draw a lot of attention. No need to thank me. And when people stop you on the street and say “I like your t-shirt,” you can reply with a wink: “Grant Scotland lives.”

Or you can smile awkwardly and look away and pretend to be interested in the cars and the buildings and the lack of anything interesting to look at while you wait for the crossing light to change. That’s pretty much what I do, because I suck at self-promotion. But it won’t be self-promotion if you do it!

But however and wherever you wear your Grant Scotland T-Shirt, you’ll be happy that you got it for FREE! So sign up now! Don’t miss your opportunity to be dressed in the next big thing in serial adventure, fantasy, mystery, action, espionage, suspense and… what else… oh yeah, drinking.

 

"Ahem. There is also a cat of plainly superior quality, breeding and temperament."

“Ahem. There is also a cat of plainly superior quality, breeding and temperament.”

 

Hope you’ll sign up! Good luck! In the meantime, don’t forget to tip your driver and review a book!