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BOOK SALES REPORT
GD Deckard
Posted: Friday, December 4, 2015 9:34 AM
Joined: 7/23/2014
Posts: 159


The Bare Bones:

In June of this year my book, The Phoenix Diary, was e-published by Book Country, part of the largest publishing conglomerate. The publisher put it on the major booksellers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, kobo (Japan's "Amazon"), Flipkart (India's "Amazon") and on Book Country's own sales site. It received an excellent review on Amazon.

I put up a website, ThePhoenixDiary.com, to promote the book. Thanks to a Google Ads campaign, about 12,000 unique visitors a month are spending an average of 3 minutes each on the book's site.

The publisher pays me for book sales reported by retailers in a calendar quarter. Payment is made into my bank account 60 days after the end of the quarter. 

For the period of July, August and September, I received a check on December 1st in the amount of $11.91 for 4 books sold on Apple's iBooks. There was no other retailer reporting.

The above are just facts.

Conclusions:

I'm surprised by the paltry sales. Book Country published it on the major e-book retailers. The Google Ads gave thousands of people the opportunity to buy it. Since people not buying the book are people who haven't read it, the lack of sales is no critique of my writing. 

Maybe it didn't strike readers as the kind of book they'd like to read. Maybe I'm marketing it wrong? Maybe not all of the retailers reported their sales.

Any thoughts, anyone?


Atthys Gage
Posted: Friday, December 4, 2015 11:44 AM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


Ugh.  That's painful, GD.  I was hoping for better. 

 

But I wasn't very hopeful.  Not because of the book, which I found both engaging and nicely written (yes, I did read it not too long ago), but because that sort of sales seem to be pretty typical.  I didn't expect very much from Google marketing. I'm sorry I wasn't wrong.

 

The problem, I think, lies in the saturation of the web with stuff for sale.  The vast majority of us ignore ads in our feed, (even resent them sometimes. ) I've made a few modest attempts at promotion on Facebook, and the results were nil. And these were supposed to be targeted to people who were, potentially, book buyers.  (I don't know how they decide that.  Maybe they had a history of having once clicked on a book ad. Or they liked a Harry Potter meme. I haven't any idea.)  I don't know how Google placed your ad, but it clearly didn't work. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that 36,000 people spent three minutes perusing your website and only four chose to buy, but how are you going to know?They can tell you anything they think you want to hear to keep you signed up. "It'll get better. These things take time." Or make you doubt your product. After all, Lou Albatross had 10,000 book sales last month.  But Lou Albatross was giving away personal consultations to folks for his surefire how-to-sell-anything plan (the Albatross method) and the book was just a premium.  In short, I don't believe the experts at Google or Amazon or Facebook really know very much about book marketing.  (I've done several blogposts about all of this sad business over at atthysgage.com, specifically the Marketable Me series.) 

 

Fact is, books are hard to market.  It does take a long time to build up an audience, and it probably will get better, but I don't think there are any short cuts. I've done marketing pushes (ManyBooks, Fussy Librarian) and none of them have paid for themselves in book sales. I'm approaching a one year anniversary since Spark was released, and I'm past six months on Flight of the Wren, and I'm still surprised every time Amazon registers a sale. Most often, its because I ran a promotion, or because I bought the book to send it to some reviewer who responded t my query letter.  In essence, I am spending money to get people to read my books.  All in the hope that eventually a sort of critical mass while be reached and the books will start moving themselves.  

 

That's a business plan?!  No. But it's all I've got so far.  I still think the co-op idea is worth pursuing. Frankly, nearly every author I know is in the same boat (though some of us are in steerage), and if we had a site where my few fans and your few fans and Curtis' and etc, etc, all went, the cross pollination could help all our little flowers grow.  Unfortunately, I'm tech stupid.  

 

In the meantime, hang in there.  Keep writing. 


Rob Emery
Posted: Friday, December 4, 2015 11:44 AM
Joined: 3/4/2014
Posts: 18


Back in 2004 I self published a sci-fi piece called The Gatherer. Author House handled it for me. I never promoted it in any way because I was not that thrilled with the final product. (My fault not theirs, bad editing) At $13.00 for a paper back copy there were about fifty let into the world (I ordered twenty of that fifty for give away) Then I took the book out of circulation in order to do a re-write. I checked Amazon the other day and someone had advertised a used one for $999.99. Go figure. I looked again later and it was gone or they pulled it.

With all your advertising it seems you should have done better with your book.  Perhaps you might take another look at your back cover synopsis. Most folks buy a book on the content of that back blurb.

Good Luck in the future,

Rob Emery


Nicholas Kotar
Posted: Friday, December 4, 2015 3:52 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 56


about a year ago, I listened to a webinar by a goodreads guru who suggested that a "good" first-time self-published book can expect to have no more than 300 books sold. A year later, that number seems to have changed to 5 books total! The problem is that there's not much you can do. It seems that the ebook craze that was pushing sales of ebooks on amazon has died down, and print sales are coming back up again. The reason, by all accounts, is simply over saturation. Too many people are self publishing, and many of them have figured out that you need good design, a nice cover, and editing. A nice looking book is no longer a guarantee anyone will notice you. However, GD, if you're in it for the long haul, I recommend you listen to the podcasts at bookmarketingtools.com. They're very good, and maybe you can learn some useful tips. Also, if you can get bookbub to feature your book, that may add a few sales. But it's competitive, I hear.
JanPeac
Posted: Friday, December 4, 2015 9:14 PM
Joined: 4/24/2014
Posts: 28


Hey there.  Sorry to hear about your book sales situation. Your experience is not out of the ordinary, unfortunately.

 

I'm in the middle of a big promo.  I discounted my book, High Strung, to 99 cents and have a BookBub running tomorrow. I've got this hoopla running through the 9th. After that I'll report back on what I did and the overall effectiveness of the promo.

 

Janice

 

PS: High Strung is 99 cents on all the major online retailers!  (I had to try, right?)


Mimi Speike
Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2015 2:06 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016


@ JanPeac. I really want to hear how you do. My theory is that a discount price doesn't affect sales so much. The problem for me is not price, but making time to read speculatively. I have so much that I know for sure I want to get to, that to try something out of the blue, I have to really be impressed. I'm trying to put this together, like everyone else. I'm not published yet, so I've done no marketing. I'm trying to learn from you guys what works and what does not. 

 


D'Estaing
Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2015 8:50 AM
Joined: 8/20/2015
Posts: 95


I'd agree with Mimi there. I can't think that the difference in price of a few dollars is going to make all the difference between someone buying your book, and someone not buying it. And in fact, the reverse might be true. Someone seeing a book for sale for 99 cents might think "Remainders Bin material" and pass. Think about it. How often have you gone in to a bookshop and looked for a book on price terms? Or how often have you picked up a (fiction) book and thought "I'd really like to read this", but then been put off because it's too expensive? I think it's sad that authors feel the need to discount the price of their work down to next to nothing in an attempt to get sales. I'm aware of the argument that faced with two similar books, someone might buy the one that's cheaper, but it's sad that this seems to result in a circle of diminishing returns until everything is less than a dollar.

 

And GD, sorry to hear that your Google campaign didn't pan out. That must have left you disappointed and significantly out of pocket, too. I think there's something to be said for clubbing together. I'm thinking of setting up some kind of imprint myself, of quality self-pubbed books. There must be some way to gain some momentum.

 

D'Estaing

 

www.editorial.ie

--edited by D'Estaing on 12/5/2015, 8:51 AM--


Atthys Gage
Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2015 11:40 AM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


I always get that little "bargain bin" reaction when I see a 99 cent price, myself.  But everyone seems to expect it now. Not as a permanent price point, but as a temporary markdown.  Bookbub gives you a better price depending on how low you're pricing the book  (and you have to mark it down, or they won't promote it.)  Free gets you a significant discount.  Either way, Bookbub is very pricey, but pretty much everyone agrees its effective. The hard part with Bookbub is getting accepted at all (they reject at least 80% of applicants) so congratulations to Janice. You must have a nice collection of positive reviews. 

 

It seems that the days when you could mark your ebook down (even to free) over at Amazon and rack up thousands of "sales" are behind us now. I haven't tried it, but from what I've read, it doesn't work nearly so well as it used to. The novelty has faded, or there's just too many titles out there, or people's kindles are so full of previously downloaded titles that they've never gotten around to reading... Probably some combination of all of the above.  

 

On that glum note, I'll wish Janice good luck and refill my coffee cup.


Perry
Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2015 1:08 PM
Joined: 9/17/2013
Posts: 104


This thread is not encouraging for someone who has just finished a first novel and is looking for ways to get it in the hands of readers. I'm looking for a regional publisher that will provide local/regional marketing help, but I know that I'll have to put some time into reading and signing and selling the book myself.


I've known some people who have their books for sale on the web, and for them, that hasn't worked. I don't know why. My own web sales have been poor. 


I've had two short story collections put out by a small traditional publisher. My most productive marketing to date has been word of mouth among members of my target population, placement of the paper and ink book in local stores, and finding places to read. I've spoken to 50 people at a time, sold a dozen copies at the end of the reading, had a few people buy me Brandy Manhattans, and gone home happy. Some of those readers will tell their friends, and a few more books will be sold. 


At a social event last week several of my readers asked when they could expect my next book. It's gratifying to hear from them like that, but it's slow work to grow the readership. I can't drive after three Brandy Mans, and the cab service in our area is terrible, so I'm living with a small appreciative audience right now. 


 



Mimi Speike
Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2015 2:33 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016


The one reason I see for selling at a very low price is to sell a partial, a novella-like taste, as a teaser. In which case you'd better be ready to follow up with the full book, sold at a fairly substantial price. That will be the measure of a success, not how many free/next to free pieces you can give away. 

.

If I refuse to pay more than a dollar or two for a book, I can get all the glorious, well vetted works that I want at the library sales. And I do. Ninety-nine cents, even two-three-four-five-ninety-nine, that doesn't tempt me in the least. I need a discription and a sample that make me say, that's it! I've got to read this thing.

.

This process is not a matter of marketing. It is a matter of seducing. 

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 12/5/2015, 2:36 PM--


Mimi Speike
Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2015 4:07 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016


Do I know anything about it? No, I admit it. I'm only theorizing.
GD Deckard
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2015 10:24 AM
Joined: 7/23/2014
Posts: 159


GREAT POSTS!

 

@ Atthys Gage

GMTA (or, for those new to webspeak, "Great Minds Think Alike I agree the book market is difficult. Maybe it always has been & new writers are habitually taken unawares. Hence the need for us to be candid about how sales are going.

I will check out Bookbub. Thanks.

Let me know what, exactly, you'd like to see on the WritersCo-op.com site. It would be great to turn it into real writers' meeting place.

 

@ Rob Emery

Thank you for your candid report. Real life examples help us to figure out how best to go forward.

Interesting comment about the cover. A friend (and professional songwriter) swears that my cover is so bad it kept people from buying the book. (Dunno But I'd appreciate it if you'd look at the cover at ThePhoenixDiary.com & let me know what you (really) think.

 

@ Nicholas Kotar

That is good information. Thank you!

 

@ JanPeac

Luck to Ye

Your report will be very interesting. We need to hear about different marketing approaches. Please do let us know how it goes.

 

@ Mimi Speike

You are, as usual, thought provoking. We have so many new ways to fill what idle time we have. Books are now lost in a tsunami of cell phone, social media, Netflix, video games & website entertainment.

 

@ D'Estaing

You are exactly right about clubbing. Writers can benefit by sticking together in this market.

If you do set up an imprint, consider letting us know at WritersCo-op.com. We might all profit more by working together. (Don't judge the members by our website. We're just getting started.)

 

@ Perry

Keep Brandy Mans buying friends close You seem to be enjoying the social aspects of being a writer and we all here wish you sales success.

Also, your candor is appreciated, Perry. These posts help us to focus on reality and help us to think of ways to improve how we market our books.


Atthys Gage
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2015 10:27 AM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


I agree with you in theory, Mimi. The problem isn't just about getting people to buy the book, though, it's about getting them to even notice it exists, which is really the more daunting task.  The seductive waltz of words is useless if the reader isn't even at the dance. And there are SO many dance halls in this town!  I don't like it any better than you do (and it hasn't worked for me so far anyway), but big markdowns are expected—even required—if you want to use some of the available marketing avenues. 

 

Ebooks have been a double-edged sword. If you self-publish, you can sell your book for two bucks and make more profit per book than you would from royalties for a traditionally published paperback.  Cheap books, more profit—everybody wins.  But the sad byproduct of this arrangement has been to cheapen books as a commodity, to the point where asking $2.99 for the result of a year's worth of hard labor now seems, eh, kinda pricey—especially when there's so much other stuff out there for less.

 

I'm not sure what to do about it, either.


Dan Martin
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2015 12:29 PM
Joined: 9/9/2013
Posts: 7


Hey GD, sorry to hear about the book sales. Having yet to publish a book myself, I have zero knowledge in how to go about it, and as such, have little advice to offer, except this:

 

Book covers in the digital age are reduced to thumbnails. Like YouTube videos, or images of links you click on, it is this tiny image that seems to make or break how many people click on it. I work for a digital video studio, and we have entire teams devoted to using the best image, text, etc., to grab people's attention. And while I'm very much aware that you and I don't have those kinds of resources, here's what I've learned...

 

In regards to your book cover, it goes beyond whether it's good or bad, which I think is a bit subjective. The problem is two-fold. First, looking at the thumbnail of your book, I can barely see it. The color choices do not allow it to pop off the screen. And second, the larger problem for me, is that the image you've selected tells the potential buyer nothing as to what your novel is about. Just looking at your book cover, I have no idea what it's supposed to be, until I begin to read the description. And unfortunately, most people aren't going to read the description if the cover doesn't interest them first.

 

Anyway, that's just my two cents. 


Mimi Speike
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2015 12:52 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016


What makes me want to read a book? A thoughtful review that suggests the piece is not just an exciting (or whatever, poignant, etc.) plot, but, (these words in a prologue I am now reading to Don Quijote) 'prose luminous with value'. A cute twist doesn't do it for me. I want something that expands my world. 

.

A book has to grab me by the throat (as Don Q has already done, in the prologue by Harold Bloom). I'd already decided, I have to read this book. Actually, I read it in high school, fifty years ago. At that age you read for story. This time I read for style and layers of meaning. I see already that it will be a pleasure to read. And I expect to learn a good deal from it. 

.

There is nothing wrong with reading for pure entertainment. When you get both entertainment and artistry, that's the best. 

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 12/6/2015, 12:53 PM--


DJ Lutz
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2015 5:59 PM

I think the comments made about over-saturation of the ebook market are true. I can spend a few minutes on Amazon (or wherever) perusing the cozy culinary mystery ebook offerings but unless I know the author, or the book has some kind of hook different from the others, I will probably pass. I have too many books in my TBR pile as it is and am trying not to increase it unless the odds are good I will still like the book by the last page.

 

I do appreciate this discussion since I plan on publishing this next year through BC. However, I am also going to utilize print on demand. I am loosely associated with a local writer's group in a nearby city and they have published a decent anthology of short stories. I doubt it will win any awards, but they have sold over 12,000 books in one year (combined ebook and paper version sales.) The stack of "real" books draws readers to the table, then many customers pass on the $14.95 hard copy but bite on the 4.99 ebook.

 

Their real skill? They go on a marketing tour every weekend. With 52 book signings, book club visits, library card table set-ups, writer's conferences, volunteer classes given at rec centers, winery tours, county fairs, etc, etc., etc. they have achieved enough sales for 18 authors to earn about $2,000 each. That is a net figure, after production and marketing expenses. Yes, they have the advantage of having 18 sales people, but the concept works.

 

The fact about the book business today is that the author has to do the majority of the legwork in marketing. Otherwise, the best books in the world will be swallowed up in the abyss of the ebook publishing platforms, i.e. Amazon.

 

 

 

 


D'Estaing
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2015 6:13 PM
Joined: 8/20/2015
Posts: 95


@ Dan Martin -  "Book covers in the digital age are reduced to thumbnails." Really good advice, that people might not naturally think of. There's little point in having detailed, complicated book covers. You want to go "iconic".

 

@DJ Lutz - how did that work? Did the authors take it in turns to do the marketing, and did they pay themselves anything for doing that?


Atthys Gage
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2015 6:21 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


DJ.   That's a great resource.  I hope that works out for you.  The best sales day I ever had was at a local book signing.  Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of opportunities in my area, (smallish town, remote from any metro areas.  But there's nothing like personal contact for creating interest.
DJ Lutz
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2015 6:39 PM

@D'Estaing: I don't think there were any events where all 18 authors were present. The group spent time during the publishing process identifying events with sales potential then offered them up for any and all who wanted to go. Most events were no cost except for gas, which the authors (technically all self employed) took as a business expense depending on how their accounting was set up. For the conferences with fees, they tried to get spots as panelists, moderators, or offered classes. By doing so, the normal entrance fees were often waived or reduced. Those costs were taken out of the gross sales numbers prior to the net being distributed to the group. This was handled by a book manager employed by the regional publishing house that produced the hard copies.

 

They also did not pay themselves for the work involved. At least not in terms of money. Their payment was in books sold and, more importantly, in getting their names out in public.

 

 Did some put more effort in than others? Certainly. Was this fair? They didn't worry about it. However, they plan on another anthology and I suspect those who did nothing will not be invited to submit again.

 

 


Mimi Speike
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2015 11:28 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016


Yes, the number of self-pubs is overwhelming. Of the self-pubs with the viral successes, can anyone describe what they think might have caught the eye and the imagination of readers? Can we get some examples here? 

.

There's Hugh Howey, I know about him. His thing is beautifully written, and a unique world, I guess. I haven't finished it though. I see some problems with the set-up of his underground community that kind of put me off. I need to pick that up again and finish it, see if I can get past what annoys me. Or if he explains it later on. It pulls me out of the story, when I'm saying to myself, I don't get this, I just don't get it.

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 12/7/2015, 7:20 AM--


GD Deckard
Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015 9:09 AM
Joined: 7/23/2014
Posts: 159


@ Dan Martin

Thank you, Dan. Your two pennies are rare coins. Everyone here should read what you wrote, so I'll repeat it:

 

"I work for a digital video studio, and we have entire teams devoted to using the best image, text, etc., to grab people's attention. And while I'm very much aware that you and I don't have those kinds of resources, here's what I've learned...   In regards to your book cover, it goes beyond whether it's good or bad, which I think is a bit subjective. The problem is two-fold. First, looking at the thumbnail of your book, I can barely see it. The color choices do not allow it to pop off the screen. And second, the larger problem for me, is that the image you've selected tells the potential buyer nothing as to what your novel is about. Just looking at your book cover, I have no idea what it's supposed to be, until I begin to read the description. And unfortunately, most people aren't going to read the description if the cover doesn't interest them first."

 

This is exactly the kind of expert advice that can benefit all new writers. Thanks again.

 

@ DJ Lutz

It's good to know for a fact that old fashioned book promotion still works. Thanks for letting us know this.

To you knowledge, does the group also use social media, Facebook, Twitter, etc?

 

Hmmm... maybe, from this thread, we will be able to glean the parts to put together a workable marketing plan.


curtis bausse
Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015 9:50 AM
Joined: 11/13/2014
Posts: 37


@ GD Just got back from travelling to find your report on the ad campaign. As everyone says, hugely disappointing. It was a promising avenue to explore, but with the deluge of ads we receive and the vast volume of books to choose from, it becomes just another cry in the wilderness. I do believe the co-op can be a way forward. Still lonely, but a few voices together are slightly more effective than when isolated. 

 

@ Mimi As regards pricing, from what I've gathered, the discount strategy works if it applies to the first in a series. Otherwise it appears to make little difference. Unfortunately, readers have now come to expect it. So all in all, we're in a game where even to sell a single book has to be considered a victory of sorts. Yet we still keep at it, for the various reasons expressed in Mimi's thread on why we write. I've taken as my motto now the three P's: perseverance, patience, perspective. I'll probably still be uttering them on my deathbed.  


DJ Lutz
Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015 8:24 PM

The group of authors I have mentioned were not technically a co-op. They were all signatories to a contract offered by the book manager, a representative of the publisher. There was a set royalty rate and the group was encouraged to do the legwork for sales, although the publisher still places the book in bookstores, i.e. Barnes and Noble, and on Amazon with all their ilk.

 

Social media - yes. Each author was encouraged, and assisted when necessary, to develop a personal author website if they did not already have one. The authors were already Facebook savvy in order to keep up with their grandchildren, so they each had a network of friends who helped spread the word about their book. They also set up a Facebook and Twitter account using the Book's name. From those two platforms, they kept readers informed as to when and where groups of authors would be gathering for signing, conferences, etc. Both were very effective.

 

There were some "built-in" advantages for this group, and they would have been foolish not to use them. Many had been volunteers,moderators, or panelists at Malice Domestic and Bouchercon for years. Many were also active in MWA and/or Sisters in Crime. The bottom line, these ladies (and a few men) spent a long time building their platform online.But nothing they did was exclusive. We can all do the same things.

 

Do we all need an online platform? These days - yes, absolutely.

Don't have one yet?

Remember the old saying: the best time to plant a shade tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is today.


GD Deckard
Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015 9:53 AM
Joined: 7/23/2014
Posts: 159


@ curtis bausse

DJ Lutz's post, immediately following yours, suggests an interesting approach to promoting books.

 

@ Atthys Gage

Do you or curtis think the methods used by DJ Lutz could be facilitated through the Writers Co-op?

Maybe our website could be a source of information for writers who want to identify events with sales potential and learn how to best use those events to sell their books.

 

@ DJ Lutz

Once again, thank you.

And um... want to be an advisor? Other writers could benefit from your experience.


Erik-R
Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015 7:04 PM
Joined: 8/22/2014
Posts: 9


I don't think it’s your book; it’s a good post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel.  I am starting to believe that new authors truly need a book agent to push stories to the big publishing houses.

 

I’ve been looking directly for a publisher.  They all want the author to give them ‘a marketing plan’.  It appears, they are pushing the ad cost on the new author, which I find fruitless and insulting.  So far, I been getting form letter rejections, one was so bad it had the name of the previous author’s book title on it, lol.

 

Anne Rice states, a writer should always push their novel on someone in the industry - never give up!

 

Thanks for sharing your insider info on advertising; it was very helpful.

 

Much Regards,

Erik


Carl E. Reed
Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015 8:01 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


@GD: I wanted to reflect at length before replying to your post. Everything I was going to say has been said by others posting here: the difficulty of getting noticed in an over-saturated e-book market; the dreck (let's be honest) most current-day, self-published books represent to discriminating reader/writers like Atthys Gage, DJ Lutz, Mimi, et. al. (who, as Mimi pointed out, can pick up great works of literature for pennies on the dollar—such critically-lauded books vying for limited reader time against your own work); the nonsensical metric of counting Google clicks as some kind of meaningful marketing/reader interest statistic.


I've experienced my own intermittent angst at finding high-paying markets closed to "un-agented fiction" and published e-books selling in the single digits. Let's not kid ourselves: a writer needs money (you know, the stuff that keeps food on the table, books in the house, an active internet connection up and running) to survive.


I've been mulling this over for a while now and I think I have a partial answer. Well, the merest splinter off a sliver of the hardwood block called "PAID WRITING".


Here's what I'm thinking: What's oftentimes missing from today's literary marketplace is writers supporting—and by supporting I mean BUYING and READING—other struggling writers. Even a handful of sales might be enough to keep a discouraged writer writing long enough to make a wider break-through.

 

Those of you familiar with the pulps of the 20s-40s will immediately recognize the truth of what I'm saying: fans wrote in to criticize established writers. Editors printed these comments on their magazines letters' pages. The pulp writers themselves actively read and commented on each others' work. In time, some of these early fans became professional writers themselves. 

 

What do you think about starting a SUPPORT ACTIVE BOOK COUNTRY WRITERS thread?  

 

Example: A writer pledges to spend $5, $10 or $20 a month on other BC writers. ONLY such pledged writers—on this particular thread—would be allowed to run a brief synopsis, writing sample, and sales pitch in the hopes of attracting $$ and comments to their own writing.

 

Something like this: My name is Writer X. I pledge $10 a month to support my fellow BC writers. I hope you consider my own work, _____________________ for purchasing and comment.

 

The ideal reader for  _______________ is _______________.

 

This tale concerns ___________________.

 

(brief excerpt of the work in question follows)

 

Now—when you purchase another's work—you simply mention that fact on the thread. You might choose to post feedback here on Book Country, Amazon.com or some other site; send a personal comment to the writer via private e-mail—or refrain from commenting at all. (It might be a good time to reiterate here that once someones purchases your book it's considered bad form to hound another writer for feedback on said published writing. Your work was purchased, after all—isn't that the point? Eyeballs & $$? Presumably your writing went through successive drafts and criticism prior to being released into the wild . . .) 

 

Nowadays it's a commonplace remark for working writers to bemoan that they have no readers, as "the only people buying writing are other writers". So be it. Instead of bitching about this lamentable fact (I'm not calling you out, G.D.; I'm referring to all of us collectively) I'm suggesting that we put our money where our loyalties, interests and sympathies lie: Let's spend a few judiciously-directed shekels to support our hard-scribing brothers and sisters who labor unrecognized and monetarily unrewarded in the shadow of "The Greats".

 

What say you? 

 

PS. Yes, Book Country as a whole is just such a venue for self-promotion, reader/writer outreach and publication. The broad analogy I would use is (again, in this specific context): an on-line mall. I envision writers who might buy and sell under such a specific in-house thread in that mall as akin to club members who gather in a specific space within that sprawling building to conduct their narrowly-delimited business. 

 

PPS. I'm not seriously suggesting any such thread would be a comprehensive answer to the many troubling and problematic issues you raise, GD. I'm proposing this as a bit of a one-off experiment in targeted marketing.

 

 

--edited by Carl E. Reed on 12/10/2015, 1:24 AM--


Atthys Gage
Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 5:18 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


I like that idea, Carl.  As one of those single-digit sales authors, I'm interested in reaching out to any and all potential readers, and this is precisely the kind of door-to-door hand selling that I'm slowly coming to realize is the only real avenue that works (at least in my experience). It may be feeble in terms of numbers, but the other methods I've used have had no kind of impact. And they cost money, too.  At least this way, I get an intriguing book in the bargain. 

 

Building a readership takes years, and it's ALL word of mouth.This idea has some serious juice.  I'd like to know, GD, if you think this could somehow tie into the co-op idea.  I don't want to step on BC's toes, but I'm wondering.

 

Thanks, Carl.


DJ Lutz
Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 8:18 PM

@GD - lot of good stuff being said here. Everything I have learned about social media has come from author Kristen Lamb. Her marketing process involves using social media to build relationships instead of constantly making the hard sell. If anyone is interested, this her book is the bible for social media meets writer: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8582699-we-are-not-alone.Not sure if you can still find it for purchase, though.

 

I like the idea of dedicating a few dollars a month to support authors on Book Country, although I am leery of creating a sub-group within BC. I would hate to ruin the egalitarianism of the site. That said, I have purchased a few books from BC authors, Janice Peacock's bead mystery series most recently, and am interested in a few more I have read during the workshop process. I doubt I could pledge a certain amount per month, only because sometimes life throws me car repair bills that take every dime of coffee and book money. But I digress. Instead, I think I will commit to purchasing a book from a Book Country author every time I finish reading one. This may equate to one book a month, maybe three. Of course I would offer a review on Amazon or wherever. It's the nice thing to do.

 

 


Carl E. Reed
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 1:59 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


@Atthys: Thanks for the feedback on my proposal. Let's give it another two weeks or so and see what kind of comments we get.


@DJ Lutz: I hear ya! I, too, struggle to come up with book-buying money month-after-month. (Just recently had to sell off damn near my entire library to pay past-due bills + currently have a car days away from repossession. So it goes . . .) I also share your concern about "ruining the egalitarianism" of the site. (Would it, though? After all, anyone could join or drop out of such a proposed thread at will.) 


Another thought: I have learned that having a book featured on this site is a gratifying and energizing ego stroke that, sadly, translates to near-zero dollars in sold copies afterward. Apparently, almost no one is perusing writing posted here and then purchasing further examples of the writer's work. I bought GD's and Atthys' books. (In fact, I reviewed both of them when they workshopped their books here.) I've purchased others'. If there were a dedicated on-site thread that showed BC writers their books were being bought it might (a) encourage others to do the same, (b) serve as a means of furthering reader/writer communication and (c) let writers who post here know that at least some of their fellow fictioneers (I do not use the term disparagingly) are actively looking for other new/unknown writers to actively promote and support, and finally (d) such a thread could serve as a kind of voluntary dues-paying for those of us who empathize with other struggling writers and wish to offer a supporting hand in the only ways that truly count: money and public attention.    

 

We'll see what others think. I hope we get a broad range of opinions posted here from divers members, both pro and con, so that we can collectively hash this out.

 

PS. I wonder what Lucy thinks of this idea . . .

 

--edited by Carl E. Reed on 12/10/2015, 4:24 AM--


DJ Lutz
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 5:59 AM

I see the merit through Carl's description. Thanks for that. I can envision an area where books being sold on the BC Bookstore are discussed by the author, and fellow readers (purchasers.) The first name that comes to mind is Bookstore Confidential, but that is sort of an overused trope these days.

 

As with any new product, though, it's all about location.

 

If something is created by BC authors or for BC authors, I would suggest it not be swallowed up in the vastness of the discussion board. There's a lot of good stuff there, but that's just it - there is "a lot" of good stuff there. Maybe attach the new forum as a tab on the bookstore? The verbiage could say something akin to "Check out the BC Bookstore where you can buy your favorite author's books, and as a bonus - listen to what the authors are talking about over here in the Bookstore's Coffee Shop. You can join them, too!"

 

And Lucy, as I recall I once offered coffee mugs branded with the BC logo as a cool gift idea. Here's your chance to start a merchandising store, too?

 

  


Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 10:37 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


Hi everyone! I've been following the thread. I see that you are curious to have my input. What questions do you have for me?

Carl E. Reed
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 9:52 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


@Lucy: Hi! We're spit-balling here, trying to come up with a better way for published authors on Book Country to (a) support their fellow writers, (b) get their own work purchased by others, in order that (c) a greater sense of active community engagement, recognition and monetary rewards flow to working writers.

 

I'm but one member of this great, creative, free-wheeling community. I chimed in on this particular conversation because I'm as puzzled and disappointed as anyone at the low-to-nada sales numbers of good writers who publish on the site.

 

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Penguin/Random House should be publishing a yearly anthology of the best writing drawn from Book Country. You get an anthology like that into national bookstore chains and people will sit up and take notice, people who are otherwise sneeringly dismissive of the intelligence, talent and literary merit of self-published/e-book authors.

 

Since that doesn't look like it's ever going to happen, my fall-back suggestion/question is: (see paragraph one of this message and the last six posts on this thread).

 

We want to pick your brain for an effective way to go about monetizing the good writing that appears on BC. 

 

--edited by Carl E. Reed on 12/10/2015, 10:56 PM--


Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 11:16 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016


I think an anthology is a very good idea, but I think it would be best if it were an anthology of related-genre work. So many here write sci-fi, weird, horror, etc. All that is very popular and would catch many eyes. I just don't think my stuff would fit in there, but I am willing to join the support group. 

.

Since this is a promotion thread, I'll do a spot of promotion. My sequel to Catly Curiosity is done and will be up over the weekend. I've already started book three. I got the opening verse this afternoon. Once you have a concept and a direction, the story writes itself. Then I have to pound my thoughts into rhyme. Some lines come in five minutes, some take five weeks. 

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 12/11/2015, 1:13 AM--


curtis bausse
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 8:32 AM
Joined: 11/13/2014
Posts: 37


I think it's a nice idea. I've bought BC members' books but as part of a fairly random process which has included indie writers encountered elsewhere too. But this kind of initiative would encourage me to focus more on BC members. I don't know if I could pledge a specific amount, but a space where this kind of support is visible would be welcome.
GD Deckard
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 10:51 AM
Joined: 7/23/2014
Posts: 159


@ Erik-R
Thanks we don't give up on writing or promoting!
 
@ Carl E Reed
OK, you start it and I'll buy Rob Emery's, The Gatherer.
 
@ Atthys Gage
Yes, Carl's idea would fit on WritersCo-op.com. But really, BookCountry.com reaches more writers.
 
@ DJ Lutz
Thanks for the tip on Kristen Lamb.
 
And, like all of Carl's ideas, this one is genius but... we need to be cautious about introducing it to the real world
 
@ Mimi Speike
Your "stuff" will be fit between James Joyce and Dr. Seuss
 
@ curtis bausse
I'm with you. I kinda like the idea, just not sure how to make it work.

GD Deckard
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 10:56 AM
Joined: 7/23/2014
Posts: 159


LUCY!

I have a question for you:

 

What can you tell us about how ebook retailers report book sales to publishers?

Or, maybe you can point us in the right direction for the information?

 

Thanks


Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 11:39 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


Re: Anthology. I don't believe that I've heard this idea before. I need to think about this and talk to some colleagues. Carl, as you imagine it, would it be full of short pieces, chapters (ie novel excerpts), or ? It's definitely a great idea; I will explore it.

 

Re: supporting each other by buying one another's books. I think that's a fabulous idea. I've seen other writing communities (on-line and off) organize various efforts to do this. Perhaps you could tie it into the new year as a resolution.

 

Atthys's comments reminded me that when I was releasing my first book, Beautiful Americans, in 2009, social media wasn't nearly as powerful as it is now, so that wasn't a large part of my strategy. I did have a blog but it didn't have a large following and I didn't know enough about SEO back then to really boost my own signal very well (though I did learn a lot over time, it was a great experience, and I did make a few connections online). What I did do that I think was most effective was what Atthys describes: going to people one by one and telling them about my book and asking them to read, buy, or share about the book. Maybe I will put together a blog post about this, but just off the top of my head, here are a few things I did. Bear in mind that eBooks had not yet become mainstream, so I didn't really have a digital strategy--I just wanted people to buy the book wherever they could.

 

  • Joined Facebook and friended everyone name I recognized--this was fun, I got back in touch with a lot of people
  • Posted my book cover on my Facebook page so that all of these folks would see it
  • Started a blog registered to my own name as the domain name and wrote posts that had to do with getting the book ready for pub as well as posts about Paris and travel in general
  • Posted all my blog posts to Facebook and Twitter
  • Created a Goodreads author page and linked my blog feed to it
  • Had cards made with my website and email address on them, gave them to everyone I met
  • Emailed literally everyone I knew to tell them when the book was coming out--former colleagues, friends, family members
  • Emailed the same list on the on-sale date
  • A family friend lent me the use of his art gallery for a book party. My mom and I baked cookies and my husband prepared some snacks. I took the box of books my publisher had sent me and signed them. I invited everyone I could think of to this party: old friends, family friends, families of my friends, teachers from high school, etc. I had a big turnout, and the expense was not high.
  • I booked bookstore events in every city where I had connections: Providence, RI, Ames, IA, New York, NY, Santa Cruz, CA, Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco, CA, and I paid for myself to get to each of these cities. As soon as those events were booked, I put them up on Facebook and sent emails about them to anyone I knew in those cities. Then I asked close friends to share the events. I sent a ton of reminders about these events out, and at many of them I knew every single person in the room.
  • Asked everyone I knew whether they had any media contacts they would want to share in the cities where I was doing events. My publisher lined up some really nice reviews (including a mention in USA Today) and a fantastic blurb from the author of Pretty Little Liars (Sara Shepard). But I wanted more, especially local stuff. My sister knew some names of people in the media in Des Moines and Ames, Iowa, where I grew up. A friend knew someone at the Monterey Herald (I moved to the Monterey Peninsula as a teen and my mom still lives there), and told him about me and the book release. Bookshop Santa Cruz, where I was reading, was also a place I'd worked in college, and the store put the local papers in touch with me. I don't think I got any media in bigger cities, but I wrote to anyone I could think of to pitch myself.
  • Any blogger who reached out to me to do a blog interview, I accepted, and turned around the questions ASAP. I also guestblogged for a coffeeshop a friend of mine worked at and for the writers group of a bookstore in Northern California. Basically, anyone who gave me the opportunity, I took them up on it. Why not?
  • One of the things that turned out the most nicely was when I cold-called the Carmel Valley Public Library. They were glad to hear of the book and the Carmel Valley connection and they did a really wonderful event for me. This was the event where the most people came that I did not know.
  • In Santa Cruz, I emailed my favorite professors, particularly the ones with whom I had studied French history, since that had sparked interest that led to me writing this book. I also emailed my college counselor, who not only came to the event but told other advisees about it.
  • Emailing my high school teachers about the book lead to me doing a couple of talks on writing at my high school.
  • A friend was doing a fundraiser and asked me to donate books to include as a raffle prize--did that.

 

I remember that at the end of this process, I was exhausted. I'm an introvert and it was definitely a change of pace for me to reach out to so many people and baldly (though politely) ask them to do these things for/with me. It was WORK and I did almost no writing during this time. I also did not end up with a bestseller, FWIW.

 

Is any of that helpful to the discussion? LOL. Maybe I got off track. But I think where I am going is that reaching out to people one by one, person by person, using my connections and being open to making new ones one at a time, generated more "results" than anything else. I haven't yet released a book in the more digitally sophisticated era, but I think there is still a lot of merit in that old pounding the pavement mentality. Leave no stone unturned!

 



Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 11:44 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


I'm sorry, GD, I forgot to answer your question!

 

I'm not sure I am following your question, however. I am going to email you back!


GD Deckard
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 12:11 PM
Joined: 7/23/2014
Posts: 159


WoW Lucy, your experiences offer an abundance of useful insights.

Thank you for sharing!


Dan Martin
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 3:22 PM
Joined: 9/9/2013
Posts: 7


@Lucy -- That was all incredibly helpful!  Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 4:17 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


Oh, thank you! I'm glad it's helpful. It's got me nostalgic for that time! It was a lot of fun but definitely showed me that for authors, marketing IS your job (as Andrea explains so well this video).

 

Another thing that I recommend is contacting your alumni organization if you went to college. I did this for myself and my book was mentioned in my alumni newsletter as well as the newsletter that my department (Women's Studies) puts out. When I worked as a book publicist, I would often contact people at the schools where my authors had gone. A lot of universities have extremely well-produced websites and newsletters to showcase the accomplishments of their former students. At the very least, it's an outlet that's receptive to hearing from you and will likely respond with a congrats or a mention of some sort.

 

If members do decide to go forward with a BC Book Club of some sort to support each other's work, you should definitely put together a blog post for the BC blog to help tell others in the community about it.


Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 4:33 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


Hehe, not to spend too much time in the past, but I also remember that my sequel, WANDERLUST, came out on December 24th, 2009. I had holiday cards made with the cover printed on them. (The cover was very wintry, and the book takes place over Christmas and New Year's Eve.) I sent these cards--of course--to everyone I knew. On the inside the cards said something like, "Wishing you a holiday filled with Wanderlust!"

 

I mentioned above that I baked cookies for events. I had this Eiffel Tower-shaped cookie cutter and the tips of the baked cookies were so thin that they often broke off when I was cooling them. I had a lot of "unusable" cookies that I had to eat.

 

Another kooky thing I did was I knitted berets (French, get it?) and brought them to events to give out as prizes in order to try to get people to ask questions. For some reason I had a terrible fear that no one would ask me anything and the events would be awkward.This hardly ever happens but I do think it's worthwhile to think about how you can make any event you put together fun for your supporters. I see Perry mentions brandy below . . . also a good idea.

 

None of these things necessarily helped me sell any books. I think mainly they just kept me busy and excited. But that's part of the fun of releasing a book. right? You want to celebrate, because it is a big deal!

 

I will have to put some thoughts together into a post about what old fashioned marketing ideas still might work. And then, of course, it's wonderful to hear all the other insights on this thread and elsewhere as we move forward with new publications. I've learned so much as a writer on Book Country!


Carl E. Reed
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 9:29 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


@Lucy: Hey, that's quite a list of accomplished tasks there! I can well believe the truth of your statement, "I remember that at the end of this process, I was exhausted." Heh! I should imagine. Thanks for giving us a peek into the modern-day, 24/7 self-marketing discipline/procedures expected of 21st century writers. Nowadays it seems half the content found in writers' magazines is devoted to just such marketing techniques and suggestions. (Which reminds me of a rueful joke that made the rounds of the industry a couple of years ago: If constant self-promotion is now the writer's job, what are they teaching marketers nowadays—creative writing?) 


I kid; I kid! We all know the importance of self-marketing when and where possible.

 

My open question to you and the Book Country community at large, however, was much more narrowly focused. Rephrased slightly it is this: Given the talent, fortitude and seriousness of intent of most of us who gather here, can we collectively do a better (and by “better” I mean a more artistically-relevant, engaging, remunerative and craftsman-like) job of dialoguing with one another about our published books? And since we're speaking intramurally here, where would be the best place to gather on-site to hold such a forum?

 

As to the idea of Book Country publishing a yearly anthology of members' best writing (I floated this idea waaay back in the days of the original site before you came on board, Lucy, so I don't believe you would have heard of it before now) I could envision such a book containing 10-15 short stories drawn from various genres plus perhaps an equal number of two-page excerpts reproduced from members' published novels. (All editor's picks, I should imagine.) Also, it might not be a bad idea to include a section devoted to “writers on writing” wherein the most pithy comments, interesting asides and industry-relevant observations made by former or currently-active members are reproduced to give readers a general feel for the over-all tone and tenor of the site.     

 

Again, this is all in the nature of spit-balling, prompted by GD's original questions and invitation to share similar thoughts and experiences.

 

Cheers!

 

--edited by Carl E. Reed on 12/13/2015, 6:40 AM--


Mimi Speike
Posted: Saturday, December 12, 2015 12:05 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016


Lucy, somewhere in these posts you said you are an introvert. How do you manage all this live outreach? I am an introvert too, and getting more so as I age. A very little bit of live interaction wears me out. 

.

I am really overwhelmed by your energy. Marvelous. 


Carl E. Reed
Posted: Saturday, December 12, 2015 2:34 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


@Mimi: I know, right?! I love that she shared the hand-knitted beret anecdote; that story is all kinds of awesome. Perhaps I should mold dozens of little clay monsters and hand them out at my signings. (Not a bad idea, really, for a conversation-starter. An outre tchotchke: cheap, on-point, easily-done, memorable. And something—as Lucy noted—for both writer and reader to interact with if book sales flatline at the moment of truth.)

 

--edited by Carl E. Reed on 12/13/2015, 3:53 AM--


curtis bausse
Posted: Saturday, December 12, 2015 9:46 AM
Joined: 11/13/2014
Posts: 37


@ Lucy - Some great and wonderfully imaginative suggestions there. Many thanks for sharing. I don't know how you managed all that - I was exhausted just reading them!

@ Carl - Re the anthology, definitely a good idea, and I'd see it pretty much along the lines you suggest. The "writers on writing" (and marketing) could be quite an attraction if done well.

@ GD. 'Carl's idea would fit on WritersCo-op.com. But really, BookCountry.com reaches more writers.' I infer that the Co-op would aim beyond mutually supportive writer-readers to reach readers-who-don't-write. Whatever emerges wherever (and hopefully something will), thanks for starting this thread. It's obviously struck a chord.


Mimi Speike
Posted: Saturday, December 12, 2015 2:06 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016


Book two of my Sly verse is up. I've not got all the quotation marks in, I'll work on that. Title: Yo Ho! Again, around 1200 words, with an additional couple hundred in comic footnotes.  



Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Monday, December 14, 2015 1:55 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


Hi Mimi--yes, introversion + self-promotion is a tricky mix! I actually just started a new thread about it; maybe we can crowd-source some tips.

 

@Carl, clay figurines--yes!!! People will get such a kick out of them.

 

@Curtis, yes, it's taken me six years to recover! LOL.


Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Monday, December 14, 2015 1:58 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


On the subject of the anthology, I'd like to see more short pieces up for workshop here on Book Country, and then I'd like to see members really engage with those stories. I'd need to see a ton of feedback and ratings--and revisions over time. Let me think more about how to get members to commit to doing that.
Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Monday, December 14, 2015 2:04 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


Carl E. Reed wrote:

My open question to you and the Book Country community at large, however, was much more narrowly focused. Rephrased slightly it is this: Given the talent, fortitude and seriousness of intent of most of us who gather here, can we collectively do a better (and by “better” I mean a more artistically-relevant, engaging, remunerative and craftsman-like) job of dialoguing with one another about our published books? And since we're speaking intramurally here, where would be the best place to gather on-site to hold such a forum?

 

Carl, perhaps you could start by creating a new thread where members can post links to their published books. I've noticed that D'Estaing has had success with a very careful managed forum called Faux Editors. Because the thread has specific conventions, it keeps the thread on track and fresh. Take a look and see if you might want to commit to helming something similar for BC members who want to post info about their published work.

 

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