Results of Summer Science Fiction Marketing Program

photoThe results are in from my summer marketing experience.

A few comments first. I couldn’t do everything, so I picked what interested me. You will put energy into those things you want to do and slide if you’re uncomfortable with doing it. So pick what you think you’ll like to do. And do that.

I am not a famous author (yet) and I have a small platform. I am not John Scalzi who shows up for a book signing and gets a large crowd at Powell’s. I haven’t won a Hugo (yet). I Twitter some, but usually stare at the feed and think, “What the heck can I say interesting?” I enjoy writing and editing, so most days I’m doing that rather than having coffee with friends or grabbing a movie. Consequently, my local network is small because friendships take work and I keep busy with family and writing.

I do like to blog about books I like, and I like people. I don’t have a big marketing budget, and so far have used book sales to cover all expenses such as editing, covers and marketing.

Having said this, I decided to try two approaches. One was to use Amazon’s KDP Select programs. The other was to get out and do person to person.

Which would be most cost effective?

Hands down, Amazon won. In fact, it blew me away. At zero expense, I enlisted in the KDP Select and put the first book in my series Caught in Time on sale for free for five days after Mother’s Day. I submitted to Bookbub for a listing during my free days. It would cost $100 to list on their site and I’m sure they get affiliate fees in addition…but I wasn’t big enough for them and got turned down. I submitted to Sweetfree Books and received a very enthusiastic response and got a listing there for free for my free day.

I also Tweeted and blogged about my upcoming deal.

Cibola BurnNow…I am a follower of Dean Wesley Smith and several others and my cunning plan all along was to write a series as a way of selling my books. I’m also a fan of Lois Bujold, Ann McCaffrey, Lee Modesitte, Sharon Lee, and others who have big series. In fact the two books I’m reviewing next are part of an ongoing series I have been reading: Cibola Burn and Fool’s Assassin.

The first day Caught in Time went free, over 800 books got downloaded worldwide. The second day, 3000! I had expected some lag time with the others in the series, but immediately readers started to buy them, and in fact, A Dangerous Talent for Time did amazingly well.

At the end of May, there were 4500 free worldwide downloads of Caught in Time and over 60 books sold at retail in two weeks by the time the program ended.

Excited, I plunged into the Publisher’s Book Fair to sell person to person. For this, I shared expenses with Diana Peach (Myths of the Mirror, Sunwielder) I bought $100 worth of paperbacks of my titles to fill out my inventory. I bought two crystal necklaces ($50) as incentives for a three book deal, and I paid $25 toward renting the space. I bought flowers ($10) to decorate the table and chocolates ($5). Diana paid parking, drove, paid half the rent and brought the tent she had borrowed from a friend. She also purchased inventory, brought chairs and decorations. We spent from 10 a.m. To 5 p.m. standing and talking to people…which was a lot of fun.

I sold six books at discounted prices.

Okay. We had fierce competition because over fifty tents all around us were also selling books.

Did I mention that I had fun? But my feet hurt.

So, next was the Amazon Countdown Deal experiment for July. This ran seven days and I was doubtful about how successful it would be, but it didn’t cost a dime and required very little time and energy.

Blam! Right away, readers all over the world started buying. They started with Caught in Time and then nibbled on the others. In fact I sold almost as many A Dangerous Talent for Time as I did the Caught in Time deal. July was my best month ever.

But I had a book signing in August to round out the summer. And another Countdown Deal with Cosmic Entanglement because now I was a believer. For the book signing, I advertised on my blog, Twitter and Goodreads. Once again, I bought flowers and added to inventory since I had sold out Caught in a Time at the Publisher’s Fair, and everyone buys the first in a series. But Jan’s Paperback Books provided cookies, table, tablecloth, chairs. I just had to show up with books and a smile. Diana bought $150 in radio advertising to see how that would help sales. We both put out the word to our multitude of friends.

Debbie and Jody of Jan’s Paperbacks were terrific hostesses. They agreed to consign two of our first two books. So locals, you can find my paperbacks there in Aloha, OR.

Neither I nor Diana sold a book.

Those who showed up knew me and had already bought. At a following book club, three people whispered they were going to come to my signing, and I had to tell them that it had already happened.

But did I mention that I had fun?

And sore feet.

But…I had one more promotion for August, and the Cosmic Entanglement Countdown Deal rolled around with me rubbing my hands in excited anticipation. This a great read and because I do time travel, it is also a good starting book. I expected wondrous things.

The universe has a way of surprising you.

I don’t know whether it was the timing (school starting), the title, the cover, reading fatigue or happenstance. I didn’t sell as many as before. But an interesting thing did happen. I sold four KLL/KOL books. These are books sold through the Kindle Lending Library and the new Kindle subscription program…and I sold a few on Smashwords…those not on the KDP Select Program. I hadn’t sold there in over a year.

When payday came, I had eight lines of income coming in. The USA, UK, Fr, AU, CA, EU, KLL/KOL and Smashwords. Then Amazon POD or the CreateSpace Paperbacks kicked in some too.

So, what have we learned boys and girls?

Amazon rocks. Don’t hesitate to experiment around. Online was better in this case and more cost effective than person to person. Series are good. Be in it for the long term.

And keep trying different stuff.

Anyone have comments on what did and didn’t work for you? I’d love to hear it. Maybe a guest post?

Here’s an interesting article on this subject.

http://tarasparlingwrites.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/what-makes-people-buy-self-published-books/

Because I blathered on, I’ll review Cibola Burn next week…stay tuned.

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Filed under ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, science fiction series, Self-publishing, social media

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