Rural Romance – my Valentine’s Day gift to you

Rural Romance – my Valentine’s Day gift to you

I’m bringing the romance to you today – A Bed of Barley Straw is FREE to download on Kindle from right now until Saturday 18th February. Just click on the picture of me to download your copy!

profile-with-heart-bw-happy-valentines-day

Put up your feet and enjoy! With very best wishes, Sam xx

 

Donning my marketing hat (are you using Bublish yet?)

Donning my marketing hat (are you using Bublish yet?)

I hooked up with Bublish this week. I’m not sure why it took me so long, given that it’s free (for readers and for ‘Emerging Authors’), but maybe the sheer choice of digital book-sharing platforms addled me sufficiently that I ended up doing nothing, with any of them.

bublish-snip

As an independent author, and *²rooky *¹authorpreneur, it’s down to me to tell readers about my novels. So, with the new book about to come out, I donned my marketing hat and doubled my efforts.

I know more about marketing from the customer point of view than I do from that of the marketeer.  I know what annoys me (pop-ups, sign-ups, repetitive, shouty-ads, and don’t get me started on cold calls) so I was looking for more thoughtful ways of marketing my books.

Bublish achieves that:

  • Readers sign up because they want to hear about books
  • Author posts (or ‘bubbles’) have added value and insight (ie, they don’t just shout READ THIS)

If you’re not using Bublish already (as a reader or a writer) I would thoroughly recommend it. You get to choose which genres you’d like to hear about, and authors share extracts from their work, with accompanying thoughts and comments. It’s really easy to use and set up, plus (did I mention already?), it’s free!

¹*Authorpreneur (Urban dictionary definition)

An author who creates a written product, participates in creating their own brand, and actively promotes that brand through a variety of outlets.

²*I’ve done teaching, farming, horses and accounts, but I never had to market myself until I wrote a book, so whilst I may not qualify as a fully-fledged authorpreneur, I do qualify as a rookie.

A Bed of Brambles teaser…

A Bed of Brambles teaser…

In case I haven’t teased you for long enough, here’s a sneaky extract from the new novel (no spoilers, I promise).

The rural lanes were familiar now, white painted signposts to places she knew, remembered landmarks. They crested the hill, the scenic approach, and their journey took them onto the Cotswolds Romantic Road, the route that didn’t pass the industrial estate or the council houses to the east of the village. Driving it after an absence, Hettie could see what the tourists saw, the contrast of chocolate-box houses and lush, picturesque landscape. She was lucky to call this place home.

Ahead to her right the village still slept in a leafy green hollow of clotted cream cottages and pantile roofs, with punchy chimney pots rising above their ridges. And off to the left, Draymere Estate, its dry-stone wall curving alongside the road, softened by the years and the tall grasses clustered at its base. The Hall wasn’t visible yet, as it would be if they drove on through the village. Alexander swung the car off the road at a break in the wall, the back entrance to the estate.

They passed her old cottage and the stable block. Hettie looked at the clock on the dashboard. It would be another hour before early stables and horses wanting their breakfasts. The thought made her smile, a reminder of snuggling down in her bed in that cottage, with time in hand before she had to get up.

‘What are you thinking?’

‘I’m thinking it’s good to be back.’

You might get another one next week,  but then I’ll be stymied for passages that don’t reveal too much of the plot (or need an adult rating) winking-emoji

Book Promotion – what I got up to in 2015

Book Promotion – what I got up to in 2015

So, here’s the book promo chart which I linked to in my earlier post So does the marketing work? – my efforts to make my book visible over the last ten months, and the chequered results. Read and enjoy, and if you’ve got any better suggestions please drop me a comment below.

ps The link was there last time because I hadn’t worked out how to insert a table into a WordPress post (without a plugin). Well I have now, sort of, but if anyone knows a tidier way of doing this I would love to hear from you!)

and a pps to The Sister – so yes, everything is possible if you try hard enough! Not perfect, but possible 🙂

Promotion Cost Time consumed Enjoyment/ bad taste in the mouth Result Profit
Start a blog £0ish (I got led astray with domain names and pretty backgrounds but it doesn’t have to cost) Quite a lot Great fun! I’m a writer, of course I want to write.

WordPress & HTML sometimes do my head in

Met lots of nice people in the blogosphere. Learnt new skills and generally enjoyed myself. Had some lovely feedback from readers

Recommended

No idea. Probably not, but I have sold a couple of books to people who were able to contact me through the website
Twitter £0 no ifs, no buts Ate up my life in the early days but I’ve got a grip on it now Some laugh out loud moments.

Bad taste in the mouth? Depends who you follow!

Met a lot of nice people in the twittersphere. Even made friends – yes really. A lot of generous sharing going on out there.

Recommended (if it’s your thing)

Would have to be, because it didn’t cost me a penny and I have sold books to twitter pals.
Facebook Page £0 to £Any limit you set (if you pay FB for ads or boosted posts) As much as you want to give it, but you will disappear if you don’t keep at it Meh. I don’t spend enough time on the page – no real interaction with followers Boosts and ads can be directed to people who are likely to read your books, but you are paying for it No idea, but somehow I doubt it
Feature in Good Housekeeping Magazine £0 + A lot of luck 1 Day Bloody brilliant. Best day out ever (read all about it in This Weeks Shenanigans) A trip to Londinium, a make-over, posh clothes to try on and a free lunch. What’s not to like?

Recommended 🙂

Definitely sold a number of books, and it cost me nothing
Visit the local bookshops £0 Roughly half a day begging, ongoing sucking up Great once I’d talked them round. Lovely people.

Sticking the neck out was uncomfortable. Bookshops hate Amazon

Sold lots of real, paperback books. Great buzz seeing my book on the shelf. Became the ‘local bestseller’ (briefly!) Absolutely. Or it will do when they pay me for the books…
Feature in the local press £0 Roughly half a day finding photos, talking to reporters and writing a press release Mild embarrassment when the headline read ‘Saucy Farmer’s Wife’ (or something like that) People stopping me in the street. A run on the local bookshop (which of course I mentioned in the feature. Yes. Bookshop and Amazon sales
Kindle Free Promotions £0 15 minutes to fill in the form Fun watching the download graph rocket.

Not so fun that you’re giving the book away.

Hundreds of downloads, gets the book seen by readers. Yes and no (the download is free) but it cost me nothing and I’m hoping the same readers will buy the next book. More pages read on Unlimited, which I do get paid for.
Goodreads Giveaway £0 for promo, cost of books + postage to mail the books to winners 15 minutes to fill in the form, a trip to the post office Another chart to follow! A few reviews of the book Not sure/not really BUT reviews grow interest in the book. Postage costs can be high if you run worldwide (you don’t have to)
Public speaking £0 (some authors charge, but I’m not there yet) 3 days stressing + however long the event is More fun than you would think (or more fun than I thought it would be) once you get over the nerves. People are nice. A good laugh, and usually good sales. Yes – best sales day ever of the paperback was after my talk to the WI!
Paid email subscriber lists (I’ve done BookBub and Fussy Librarian) ££ depends which countries you target. USA is spendy, I went UK – less than £100 An hour or so submitting (with a good chance you will not be accepted)

A fair bit of time faffing with time zones and price drops

Watching the money roll in…

… oh wait, I’m giving the book away again.

Lots of lovely downloads Yes when I price dropped to £0.99, no when I priced at £0.00. But there’s always that second book that their tongues are hanging out for…
Start a newsletter/ email sign up £0 so far I reckon quite a lot, but it’s early days for me with this. People really need more crap in their inboxes…

… luckily for them my Newsletter rate is scarce/non-existent

I’m told the potential is huge…but how the hell do you persuade people to sign up?

Ps – do please sign up for my Newsletter here 🙂

Watch this space. The idea being that every faithful fan who has read your book will be running for the shops the minute you tell them a new one is out.

So does the marketing work?

So does the marketing work?

It’s hard juggling all the balls when you’re a self-published author. Writing… to editing… to cover design. Formatting, proofing, and uploading the finished (you pray) book. That’s a lot of hats…and then there’s the marketing. The bit that many (most?) of us find painful and frustrating.

It often, but not always, costs money. It’s time consuming, trying to keep both your name and your book out there (without pissing people off by banner waving). In a perfect world, you want a gaggle of followers AND your book to be seen by new potential readers… over and over again.

We all know that isn’t easy, and when I’ve spent half a day submitting the book for promotions, twittering, posting, sticking my neck out and generally shouting about how GREAT-WONDERFUL-UNPUTDOWNABLE my book is, I start to feel like a grubby billboard. If the promo cost money, I wonder is it worth the dent in my purse (and the nasty taste in my mouth?)

So is it actually worth it? Well yes, I’m afraid it is. I know that because over the last few months I have been running an accidental experiment. Ok, I’ll be honest, I took my eye off the ball. My target of one promo a month dropped to… none in the last three months. An operation, Christmas and 100k words begging to be edited… The result of my lack of effort? My first and only month with ZERO book sales. Hey, it’s not so bad. I still had pages read on KDP select (Kindle Unlimited to readers, who can download the book for free. The author gets paid by the number of pages read. A great incentive, if you didn’t need one already, to write that story which keeps readers turning.) And then there’s Volume II which, when it hits the shelves, will be the next big push. It just isn’t happening fast enough.

Ten months now since I published the début, and my ‘next book within a year’ is almost on schedule. But it would have been published sooner if it weren’t for the time spent on marketing. It could be out there, sitting smug… in total anonymity because no one would know that I, or the books, existed. As it is, I’ve got readers nagging, and that has to be a good thing.

Those ten months have kept me busy; here’s my tongue-in-cheek summary of how I went about selling my soul book: Promo Chart 2015 …

…and in the meantime do please sign up for my Newsletter, find me on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads! And watch this space for Kindle and Goodreads giveaways coming soon! Or even buy the book….

…sorry, sorry, I’ll stop now. It’s all or nothing with me.

 

BookBub, Kindle Countdown and crossing those dastardly time-zones

BookBub, Kindle Countdown and crossing those dastardly time-zones

I’ve been so stuck into writing my new novel, and with harvest upon us as well, that I have to confess to my marketing efforts throughout July and August have being poor (verging on dismal). No surprise then that I have witnessed a drop in sales: For the last few weeks I’ve been flat-lining with only the occasional one-or-two books perking up the sales chart and keeping me from despair.

It was that despair, however, which urged me to bung off a submission request for a BookBub UK Featured Deal. Reading the BookBub submission guidance, I didn’t rate my chances. A Bed of Barley Straw has limited reviews, and the e-book is only available on a single platform (yes, it is Amazon, no surprises there). My personal Magna Carta carries an edict which states that I must embark on at least one marketing foray each month. To be frank, submitting to BookBub felt like an easy way to tick off a checkbox, with no further effort required when my submission was rejected.

To my utter surprise and delight the book was accepted!

BookBub Abobs

My promotion was scheduled to begin on August 20th. A mere seven days from receipt of the acceptance email, with seven days prior payment required. Clearly I wanted to seal the deal and get my $40 off in rapid quick time. (Ideally within half an hour, as I’d promised the Gallivanting Granny that I would take her to market. [PS – I wasn’t selling her])

The first flappy panic – the question “when do you want your deal to end” – involved a trawl through the BookBub Ts and Cs to find out if there were any rules governing this. The information was easy to find in their FAQs (in my haste for rapid solutions I also fired off an email to the BookBub partners, who I’m pleased to say were quick to get back to me.)

Having successfully straddled that hurdle, I decided to complicate things for myself by running a Kindle Countdown Deal concurrently with the promotion. (July’s marketing tick-box checked retrospectively).

Kindle Countdown clock

I have to admit that it was luck rather than planning which enabled me to do so. If your book is enrolled in KDP Select you are permitted to run one Kindle Countdown Deal, lasting a maximum of 7 days, during your 90 day enrolment period. The price of your book must not have been changed in the 30 days prior to the Countdown commencing, and the Countdown must conclude 14 days before your enrolment period ends. Also there are price criteria, and you must be willing to discount your book by a minimum of £1 ($1 US).

That’s a pretty specific set of rules, but luckily KDP enforce them for you. So your book will not show as eligible for the deal if you are sitting outside of their criteria. Phew! It would have taken me more than half an hour to work that out for myself.

The next flappy panic involved TIME ZONES. Simple for some maybe, but my brain was having none of it.

BookBub stipulate that the e-book must be available across all platforms (phew again) at the promotional reduced price (£0.99 in my case) at 12.00pm PST (Pacific Standard Time) and that price must be in place up until 11.59pm on the day the deal ends.

My Kindle Countdown must be scheduled in GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and I’m living in BST (British Summer Time). As someone who still hasn’t grasped the intricacies of changing my clocks twice a year, this could be a disaster. Luckily I’ve got 7 days of Kindle price reduction to span a 5 day BookBub promotion. Gotta be possible right? Flappy panic two.

(I’ve emboldened the numbers to allow you to share my hysteria, not as a useful aid to your own cross-time-zone promotional dilemmas. Sorry, but it’s no use looking to me for help with this.)

I read the blog of a fellow author who had scheduled Kindle Countdown Deals to run simultaneously across multiple time-zones. A dizzy spell ensued, which necessitated the use of smelling salts.

I scribbled vague numbers and arrows on to scraps paper for twenty minutes, before bringing in my support team – The Farmer, The Engineer and The Gallivanting Granny. To be fair, they had bigger things on their minds (harvest and market stalls) but between them they failed to allay my confusion. The GG was indignant that there wasn’t somebody else who could do this work for me. Bless. She thinks I’m corporate.

I got there eventually, with a prayer and a whistle. Flappy panic three when the Kindle price didn’t drop at 6pm on the 19th. BST of course, it dropped at 7pm (and yes, I know now, I was way ahead of myself. At 7pm in the UK it was only lunch time in America. I think).

By accident, my over-generous over-lap did provide some feedback. I followed the advice on the ALLi Self-Publishing site, and posted about my Countdown deal on Twitter, Facebook and here on the blog. Those efforts produced three sales from the Countdown Deal alone, in the hours between my price reduction and the issue of the BookBub email. (And I’m not knocking that. Three sales was more than I had achieved in the previous seven days.)

What happened next speaks for itself – screenshot taken at 9am on day two of the BookBub promo (that’s BST if you’re interested).

Amazon sales chart

Glory halleluiah, my best day of book sales to date (although I have done ‘better’ when giving them away). Interesting that I’m also seeing a rise in my Kindle Unlimited pages read.

And look how pretty my Amazon #rating is! (There’s a #39 in there somewhere, in case you can’t see it)

Amazon ranking #39

I fully accept that this is a temporary promotional blip, but I’m not going to let that burst my delusional bubble.

Today’s plan was to push on by shouting about my Kindle Countdown Deal on social media, as per the guidelines in the ALLi blog. But Unfortunately my internet is dead. I am blocked from obsessively checking my sales figures, from posting to Facebook or Twitter. I’m writing this instead, but you may not get to see it. Our internet provider tells me that we have used up our monthly data allowance. It’s only the 21st of the month for mercy’s sake!! Oh yes, YD is home from Uni, and she’s over-fond of NetFlix.

Now, should I fork out more cash to get us reconnected? Or should I take advantage of the downtime and write like a dervish?

If you’re reading this, I must have made my decision. #ammarketing

50 Bales of Hay (shameless, I know)

50 Bales of Hay (shameless, I know)

One million book sales in just one week. Woah.

That is a level of book sales that most of us haven’t imagined in our wildest, most optimistic day dreams. An unbelievable storyline (the figures, not the book). You couldn’t write it as the saying goes (and a million is not easy to write unless you are concentrating. That’s a lot of noughts).

I’m talking Grey of course. Isn’t everyone?

Another masterclass in selling from the stable of E.L.James, and the message is starkly simple: Write something that everyone wants to read. And market the living daylights out of it. Respect.

Or it would be simple but for two things. The first is a question – what the hell does everyone want to read? (Submission and lashings might be the answer, but I think that has been done). There are whips in my book, but only the riding sort (and we’re talking horse riding here I’m afraid) so I may have missed a trick.

If you think you know the answer, get on and write that book but my instinct tells me that none of us actually do. We might know what is working now but 50 Shades was new and different. I doubt that James wrote it because she knew it would be the next big thing. She probably wrote the story she carried in her head, as I suspect most authors do. I wonder if she dared to dream one million book sales, right back at the very beginning.

Marketing the living daylights out of a book must surely be easier when you already have one..two…three best sellers and a film under your belt. A supermarket, nay mega-market, full of eager buyers and a proven product to sell. So we have looped very neatly back to the first point. Get yourself a best seller. Write the book that everyone wants to read. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, thanks ELJ.

Or don’t of course. Write the book that you want to write. Write it the best you can. Tell people about it at every random opportunity you trip over. Cross your fingers, and don’t give up the day job. A masterclass in book sales from the stable of Sam Russell. Best week to date (excluding the giveaways which did make my sales chart very pretty) 32 books (thank you the WI) and I was delighted with that. But a hundred would be nice…or even a thousand. Nothing wrong with optimistic day dreams, they are what keeps us going.

As for Grey, have I bought it? You bet I have.