Welcome to the Qamber Designs blog! For those of you who don't know me, I've been a member of the team for almost seven years now. I'm also a published author, which allows me a unique perspective on the business. I've seen my fair share of successes and misses since I started publishing. Today I wanted to share one of those hard-learned lessons. It's my hope to not only encourage you in your own publishing ventures but hopefully help you learn from my mistakes. ;)
What I Thought I Knew
It's a truth universally acknowledged there is no magical formula for success. I tend to think it’s a combination of luck and the right story at the right time. You may have as polished a product as you can conceive (with much beta, editing & revisions), but for whatever reason, you don’t hit the market at the right time.
As I’ve spent much of the past four years studying publishing marketing trends, I came to realize a few things. Specifically in this case, about my recently completed Wylder Tales Series. Let's take a look at what was lacking first.
No direction – I did zilch pre-marketing for the first novel. Even after publishing a re-write, I didn’t know what kind of story I was trying to sell besides "high fantasy meets Beauty and the Beast retelling."
Timing – Fairy-tale re-tellings have had their ups and downs. At one time, I thought the release of Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast would help generate interest in my series. I wasn’t counting on an overflow of other re-tellings to crowd the market, especially not those by traditional authors with established followings. Double whammy, am I right?
Cover art – Since we're here at the platform of my now-and-forever cover designer, I should give a disclaimer. Najla has always taken my ideas and created something twice as beautiful as I envisioned. Even some of my stranger ideas. It's honestly not her job to correct me if I decide to go off-market. That job is on us as authors, something I talk more about at my last post on genre trends. In my early days, I picked my covers based on what I felt fit the story, without polling or at least studying similar covers in my genre. While I love standing out from the crowd, there really is something to selling a product that people recognize from the get-go.
As you can see, something had to change if I wanted to keep writing more Wylder Tales (aka- ROI).
I didn’t want to keep publishing books into the dark without a plan, so I decided to experiment and create something of a case study. Here are a few things I did in the attempt to change my book series' fate.
With nothing to lose, I chose to go by my critique partner’s advice and put Craving Beauty, the first in series perma-free, then spread the news on my social media. Since I wanted to help promote as much as possible, I signed up with several different newsletters to reach a broader audience. The following promo sites are places I discovered thanks to info other authors provided via Kindle Boards.
AskDavid – I'll be honest, the site made me a bit skeptical. On first impression, it comes off at first as another “AskJeeves” (for all you old web surfers) However, the promo for your free books is legit. Bonus points: you get to create your own tweets to use via that page.
Results – I saw a lot more traffic for my book, and quite a few more downloads. My favorite part of this was the fact you can word your own extra promo tweets, so it doesn’t all look like the uber spammy book tweets you often see.
BKNights – I was the most skeptical of this service because you purchase their services via Fiverr and I'd had zero experience with them. However, the moderator for BK was very helpful and polite and was easy to coordinate with.
Results – Since I also signed up with an additional promo service I can’t tell for sure how much this impacted sales. Good news, more venues, bigger potential audience.
Kindle Boards Blog – They feature your free book on their “Book Discovery Day” and you get a chance to be listed alongside some fantastic authors in a large audience.
Results – I believe this feature brought in the most results, possibly because of its huge establishment in the community.
Two years later, and where is my series at?
Results of rebranding and recovering a perma-free Craving Beauty, combined with the fact I finally finished the series with Bound Beauty, have given me surprising success. Folks are generally much more willing to grab the first in a complete book series. That way you aren't waiting an infinite amount of years (cough, cough, Winds of Winter...) for the author to publish the next book.
new cover for books 1-3 (ain't it gorgeous?)
Back to Wylder Tales. Through consistent effort and patience, I found a nice niche in the Gothic and Dark Fantasy categories. Sometimes it really is about finding the right readers. There are so many books being published every day, many by top dogs. So where do we fit in as Indie authors? And what's more, how do we replicate the success of one series with others? If I had the answers to all this, I'd have been too busy using my royalties to finally complete my book collection ;) The truth is, after everything I've read and seen and experienced, there really is no set formula. It's all about what's right for you. Which reminds me.
Before you dive into your own case study...
Determine your goals first.
Are you trying to expand your audience, reach new readers? Or are you just trying to sell books? Because the methods for one aren't necessarily synonymous with the other. Building your platform and author brand will eventually draw in new readers, which will, in turn, draw in more sales. But if you are looking for numbers, something, like enrolling in KU and blasting newsletters about your discount days, would be better. There are plenty of other marketing methods you can try, like from online book tours to local indie store events.
Remember, marketing trends are in-flux.
What's popular one season, (i.e. virtual book tours and first-free-in-series) may not be the best method for the next season (i.e. newsletter swaps.) At this point, from what I've observed, while newsletters are still effective in building your audience, people's e-mails are over-saturated. I know my inbox is. One thing to always keep in mind is "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you." If you don't like a full inbox, don't bombard your subscribers. If you hate lots of tweets about "buy my FREE book!" then don't tweet that. All authors want to sell books. We want our stories to be heard. But publishing is about the long-game. It's about trial and error.
Keep reading and learning from the wisdom of others and, of course, keep writing.
Lather, rinse, repeat: you must keep writing. If you don’t have a polished professional product, you won’t win readers. If you don’t write more books for your series, you never will see results. And that concludes today's mostly professional case study. Thanks so much for reading! While most of our clients at NQD are seasoned pros at what they do, just as many of you are starting fresh. We've all been there and that's why we're here to help you navigate your publishing journey. If you're one of our seasoned vets, please feel free to share your own tips and tricks of the trade in the comments below. We're stronger together, as one big publishing family, than apart, right?
Happy writing and creating, friends!
About the Author
Jennifer Silverwood has been involved in the publishing world since 2012 and is passionate about supporting the writing community however she can.
After studying traditional art at University, she began helping Qamber Designs & Media bring authors' books to life. Jennifer is the founder of We Write Fantasy, a blog and support group for fellow genre authors.
She is the author of the Wylder Tales Series, the Borderlands Saga, and the romance titles Stay and She Walks in Moonlight.
Learn more about Jennifer Silverwood’s books at the following links: