Tag Archives: artistic expression

Book Tour Insights

Technically it’s been four months since The Girl In Between book tour came to an end, but let’s just say I delayed this post in order to thoroughly examine the experience and let all of the resulting goodness seep in. And by goodness I mean actual sales and increased visibility. I’d post a snapshot of my sales prior to the tour, but since they were pretty much nonexistent, I won’t. Instead, here’s a snapshot of the first 90 days after the tour, which started on October 31st, the release day for The Girl In Between. Tour Sales Free downloads were steady and it’s been months since I’ve had a day where that number has been zero. As for paid sales, the red line barely moved throughout the three months following the tour, but because of the success I had in the weeks directly after, I definitely agree with the notion that it takes up to six months for something to climb up out of the bowels of Amazon. Here’s a snapshot of my sales and downloads since February: AfterTourSales Much more consistent. My sales didn’t necessarily skyrocket in March, but to go from selling 0 copies a day for the past two years to selling 1-4 copies a day felt like the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. It had been an uphill battle every step of the way, but for the first time since starting this journey with The Things They Didn’t Bury back in 2012, I actually achieved some financial success! So what do I attribute to March’s significant turnaround in sales? Besides the countless maddening hours I spent writing over the past five years, the importance of which can’t be overstated, I took some strategic steps before, during and after the book tour towards treating my writing more like a business and less like a hobby.

Step 1: Write A Series

A lot of successful indie authors encourage newbies to publish a series because it allows for the first novel to be perma-free, which has HUGE promotional benefits, and it can build and retain a readership much quicker than standalone novels can. As an artist I thrive on structure, so once I came up with the ideas for my first three novels there was really no veering from them. I’ve never tried to write in the direction of trends, so even though I could certainly understand the benefits of writing a series, I just wasn’t ready to go down that road. Not to mention the fact that I hadn’t yet come up with an idea that could sustain a series. Personally, I never want to get into the habit of trying to write to what’s popular, because no matter what I do, I’ll never be able to please everyone. I needed those first three novels in order to grow as a writer and I’m glad that I devoted that time to writing what I wanted write and to learning the valuable lesson of FINISHING.

When I made the decision to turn The Girl In Between into a series I felt one hundred percent certain that I could see it through. What I didn’t know was whether or not it would be any good or make any sense or keep people’s interest or just be a big waste of time. Because I’d never written a series before, I decided to write the first draft of each novel back to back, and because of the way I’d scheduled the edits, I was able to publish them fairly close together. The Girl In Between was released on October 31st and The Boy In Her Dreams was published a month later at the end of September. Because I knew The Girl In Between would be perma-free I wanted all of the early purchasers to be able to get their hands on the sequel immediately if they were interested. Since I didn’t have a huge readership anxiously anticipating the release of either novel, this strategy didn’t necessarily have the kind of effect I thought it would. I didn’t take into consideration how long it would actually take for the first novel to gain steam. But I do still think that it’s a good strategy for anyone who already has some sort of an established readership because it helps create momentum.

Step 2: Plan a Blog Tour

I’ve planned blog tours before for my standalone novels but they never gained the kind of traction I’d hoped for. Having a series to promote this time around really allowed me to be extremely generous with giveaways and experiment with different price points. After spending countless hours trolling the internet for every young adult book blog I could find (the master list I’ve shared here) I started sending out emails–hundreds of them. It’s an excruciatingly slow and time consuming process but introducing yourself to internet strangers and asking them for help really is the only way to get it.

How to Plan a Blog Tour in 5 Easy Steps:

1. Prepare a Media Packet in email or word doc form containing the following promotional necessities: Book Cover, Blurb, Purchase Links, Social Media Links, Excerpt or Teasers, Coupon Codes for Giveaways, Author Bio, Author Photo, Newsletter Sign-up Info, etc.

2. Scour the internet for every book review blog you can find (Or just click here : ) I’ve done all the work for you)

3. Carefully read through their review policy and make sure your book is something they’ll enjoy before submitting a request. Also take into consideration their most popular or most requested (via their review policy) posts. Lots of bloggers prefer to post some kind of actual content along with their giveaways or book spotlights so be prepared to participate in an interview (some bloggers appreciate when you have pre-made questions and answers readily available) or guest post.

4. Construct a brief personalized email for each blog admin you’ll be submitting to -Use the blogger’s name in the salutation -Attach or include all your media information -Refer to their review policy in your pitch so they know you actually took the time to read it -Offer something FREE and of VALUE to their readers in exchange for being spotlighted on their blog -Thank them for everything they do for authors!

5. Wait. This is definitely the worst part. Now that I have three blog tours under my belt I can say with depressing certainty that only about 10% of the emails I send out actually get a reply and only about half of those bloggers actually follow through with a post. These numbers aren’t meant to discourage anyone but everyone who takes on the responsibility of planning their own blog tour should go into it with realistic expectations.

A blog tour can certainly increase your sales and visibility but it won’t necessarily make you an overnight sensation. What it will do is provide you with new opportunities to introduce yourself to readers who just might fall in love with your stories. And then tell their friends. Who will tell their friends. And that’s how careers are made.

Of course, I could have paid for the services of a tour host and saved myself the time and heartache of being rejected over and over and over and–you get it–but I believe there’s a lot of value in interacting with people personally. Many of the bloggers I reached out to had participated in tours in the past and over the years I’ve developed relationships with some of them that really mean a lot to me. When you’re an indie author, you don’t cultivate a massive amount of readers overnight, but it happens one at a time through emails and blog comments and social media interactions. That’s what makes them so long-lasting. That’s what makes them special. And the first step to cultivating relationships that last? Generosity. It’s also the first step to planning an amazing book tour.

Step 3: Be Generous

People love free stuff. They love contests and giveaways and the excitement and exclusivity that goes along with winning a prize. When I was approaching bloggers with my very first book I hadn’t yet learned the value of free and was afraid of giving away too many copies of my novels. Now I know that there is no such thing as giving away too much stuff.

The Girl In Between became perma-free the moment the sequel was published and I also put it up on Wattpad. Since then I’ve gotten over 800 reads and 10,000 downloads. It’s true that some people will download anything that’s free and my book may have gotten lost in their TBR pile never to be seen again, but it’s also true that some of those people actually read the free books they download and then go on to buy the sequel. My point is that you should never underestimate the power of FREE. Writing isn’t about making money, it’s about being read. And if you want people to read your books then you have to make it as easy for them as possible.

Bloggers especially, will be much more open to the idea of hosting you on their site if you’re willing to offer something to their readers in exchange. Some bloggers might ask for an exclusive excerpt or teaser or some might ask that you write a guest post about a topic of their choice. Usually if a blogger asks you for something specific it’s best to deliver what they want but I would suggest offering free e-books for their readers every chance you can. The goal of a blog tour is to create maximum exposure and find readers. This means getting the actual book in front of them by any means necessary. The best way to do that is to give them the book for free! So whether you’re planning a tour for your first novel or the final book in a series don’t be afraid to be generous. Don’t be afraid to give. Do it despite the possibility of receiving nothing in return. Do it because your story deserves to be read.

Step 4: Use Promo Sites

I’ve experimented with different promo sites in the past (all free) and I definitely recommend submitting to as many as possible and timing the promotions at various points throughout the tour. A few at the beginning, middle and end should help increase your downloads and boost your rank. If you have other books for sale you should also see a an uptick in paid sales as well. Taking another look at my free downloads during the TGIB book tour you can see that there were two days when they really skyrocketed. Tour Sales This surge in free downloads corresponds with two promo days. I usually submit my book for promotion through Author Marketing Club, but unfortunately not all of the participating sites let you know if your novel’s been accepted. Because of this I have no idea which sites are responsible for the major increase but I do know the tripling of my downloads was no coincidence. I’m currently experimenting with promo sites again for this series, the results of which I’ll try to share in a later blog post, but what I have concluded is that there’s really no good reason not to submit to these sites. They’re free, some offering guaranteed promotions for as little as $5, which means that you can increase your visibility–sometimes significantly–for just the price of a coffee. Not only that, but making your book visible to multiple audiences via multiple platforms is an important part of building your author brand. If I come across an interesting sounding book on Goodreads I may make mental note of it, but the odds of me remembering by payday to actually go purchase it are slim. Unless I just so happen to stumble across that same book on a review blog I frequent or on a pinterest board I follow or in a weekly email from a discount e-book website I subscribe to. The more opportunities you create for people to stumble across your work, the more likely they’ll be to purchase it.

Step 5: Keep Writing

Leading up to and after a new release it can be incredibly difficult not to spend your entire life tracking sales. In the beginning stages of your planning there will be a lot of things to juggle, and you’ll likely end up devoting more time to promotion than you do to your actual writing. For a short period of time this will be acceptable but eventually you’ll have to refocus your efforts on what’s actually important, which is not cyberstalking potential readers. Eventually you will have to accept the fact that you’ve done all you can and get back to work!

Sure, you could continue to tweak and experiment until your brain turns to mush, but like I said, making money is not the point here. Self-publishing is not a get rich quick scheme. Even if you do experience some miracle results from your first promotional experiment, those sales will eventually trickle downward, regardless of how high they once were. Which is why you should never measure your success in numbers in the first place. Your first priority should always be your work. Sales don’t sustain a career. Readers do. So if you want to turn writing into a career then you have to give your readers what they want–more books.

You can adopt every trick you’ve heard from every self-published author who claims to have figured out the secret to life-long literary success, but I promise you nothing will be as beneficial as having a strong backlist. Nothing you can measure will be as satisfying or sustaining as an email from a reader whose life was changed by your words. We all want to make a name for ourselves but the truth is there are no shortcuts. Not in life. Not in art. So if you want to be a writer, do the work. Don’t shy away from what’s difficult, embrace it. Don’t count, create.

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Mistakes

January has been a tumultuous roller coaster of highs and lows, triumphs and epic failures. My blog tour was a huge success (which I’ll blog about in more detail later) but as it wound down, some emails slipped through the cracks, some information was miscommunicated, oh, and I discovered that the copy-editing for The Boy In Her Dreams still left behind some glaring mistakes. Having published four books prior, I thought I knew how to cross my Ts and dot my Is but getting this particular novel out into the world was a huge test of my patience. I struggled with the formatting the entire way through and once I did finally manage to get it online there were not only spelling and grammatical mistakes but also continuity errors as well. Luckily they weren’t entirely atrocious but were they enough to be distracting? Yes.

I’d never gotten a review for any of my previous novels mentioning problems with the copy-editing so as soon as reader feedback started coming in, of course I panicked! When it comes to self-publishing, whether I outsource some of the work or not, the final responsibility to put out a stellar product is always on me. Only me. And it’s my choice. It’s my choice to have total control. So far it’s been an incredibly rewarding choice but when something goes wrong it’s a reminder of how terrifying that choice really is.

I immediately took the book off sale and started researching copy-editors. The person I’d worked with in the past was a friend and therefore free and now I’ve learned my lesson that neither are good when it comes to doing business. Thankfully I found someone who came highly recommended via the blog of a self-publishing powerhouse who I so admire and I didn’t hesitate to email her. Because this person is actually a professional she got the edits back to me just a few weeks later and basically saved my life in the process. Overall the entire experience was smooth and stress-free and it left me feeling grateful that the entire calamity had actually taken place.

Because I’m indie and my books exist entirely online, I was able to swap out the new revised edition in less than an hour and it was on sale the next morning. I didn’t have to recall print copies or send out formal apologies to my distributors. Did I spend money to make the corrections? Yes, but did I “lose” money because of the original mistakes? No. I didn’t lose readers. I didn’t ruin my reputation as an author. Instead, coming face to face with this particular chink in my workflow has made me better. It’s made my book better and because of this experience, everything I publish after this will be better too. Not only was my learning expedited due to the stressful circumstances but it was also done in private. A few readers, who are total strangers to me, offered constructive feedback, and miles away, alone in my apartment, their words helped facilitate growth.

That’s the kind of direct relationship you get to have with readers when you’re indie. Because readers are not some kind of ephemeral finish line. They’re not just consumers, they’re people. Real people who don’t just read books but who have the power to make them better. If we just open ourselves up and actually listen to them. When you hit publish, you’re creating a real relationship between you and your audience whether you realize it or not. During the few weeks that The Boy In Her Dreams was off sale I was flooded with emails from people saying they’d loved the first book and wanted to know where to find the sequel. I went from feeling like a failure to feeling so incredibly validated and it changed my outlook on the entire situation.

I’m not saying that we should preoccupy ourselves with trying to make everyone happy. That would be impossible. But engaging and connecting and being open to having a relationship with our readers is one of the greatest things about being indie. We’re accessible and that makes us better human beings. They’re accessible and that makes us better writers. We are a team. Whether you’re the person crafting a story word by word or you’re the person indulging in it the same way, we’re all in this together. Creating and sharing and living. The life of a story doesn’t exist between point A and point B, it’s an infinite loop that connects us long after the final word is written, the journey starting over every time that very first word is read.

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Answers

I used to think that answers always came in the form of a solution; that they brought clarity and finality and were always true. But answers are a kaleidoscope of emotions, sensations and opinions. Sometimes they’re loud and obvious and sometimes they’re a silent nudge. Sometimes they twist like a knife right in your gut and sometimes they shield you and make you safe. But the most mystifying of them all, the truest answers, never bring us to the end of something but thrust us toward a new beginning. “Real” answers don’t bind us, they set us free, releasing us into an even greater unknown that is sometimes scarier than asking the question in the first place.

It all depends on your perspective.

For the past few months my perspective has been cloudy and dark and I thought my destiny had abandoned me. As I walked through the world there were no signs or answers and I felt like every step I took was in the wrong direction. At first I wallowed in the fear of my own mistakes, living in that place until it started to feel like home. But somewhere along the way, that fear started to rise up and I rose with it. It didn’t engulf me and it didn’t break me. The moment I finally gave myself permission to give up…I didn’t want to anymore. I couldn’t.

Whatever dark current had me trapped, whatever wave had me pinned just below the surface, suddenly broke and all at once it let go of me. I wish I could say there was some dramatic moment of triumph involved, that it was a conscious choice on my part to overcome my fears. But all it took was waking up. All it took was realizing that every day is brand new and with that many fresh starts, with that many possibilities, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I’m doing my best. I’m doing what i love. That’s all that matters. Not who’s paying attention, not who’s listening, not how many mistakes I make along the way. There is no right way or wrong way to make art and there is no right way or wrong way to live life. As long as I’m doing and being and putting good out into the world I don’t need to know what’s coming. I don’t need to know anything at all. The truth is I already have all the answers I need. Why am I here? What’s my purpose? How are we all connected? How can I make a difference? What’s the meaning of life?

Love.

It’s the answer to everything. So give it, receive it, speak it over everyone you meet and soak it in when it’s shared with you. Remember that it’s the reason you create. Because you love yourself and because you love the world, it’s the reason that you write or paint or compose or draw or sing or laugh or cry. It’s the reason that you’re here.

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Questions

I thought this would be the year of answers but it’s turning out to be the year of questions. Big scary ones. I changed full-time jobs, hoping to feel less exhausted and more fulfilled but in all the chaos of the holidays and everything else that’s been going on, I haven’t written or revised or even thought about creating something in almost three months. It’s felt like an eternity and the more time that passes, the more I wonder whether I could actually exist this way.

Today was my first day off in the past eight and I should have spent it working on revisions but I just couldn’t get started. I didn’t want to. I was afraid of too many things–of spending another two years on the same emotional roller-coaster of being an indie author and of not. It would be so easy to stop, to just forget about this series mid-draft, to take my books off sale, to remove every bit of my social media identity. I actually considered it this week and not just because I got some shitty reviews or because I almost lost a friend because of them or because I’m tired and unhappy and unsure. But because I’m afraid.

I’ve faced my fears of failure before but this time is different because I’m not just questioning my path as a writer, I’m questioning everything about my life. I don’t want to be a bystander, a thin reed that bows whichever way the wind blows just because I’m afraid of making a mistake or of being alone. I don’t want to be afraid of the future but I am. Because for the first time in my life I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.

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To Be Read

*To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, I’ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*

laekanzeakemp

The debate between self-publishing and traditional publishing has experienced a huge resurgence lately, pitting friend against friend, colleague against colleague, and reader against reader. It’s madness out there right now and while it’s easy to get caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong the real issue that should be being debated right now isn’t a technical one or even a theological one but a personal one.

There are pros and cons for both self-publishing and going the traditional route and by now we all know exactly what they are. They’ve been discussed to death in forums and on blogs, even on this one, and at this point there is enough information out there for anyone considering publishing to make a thoughtful and educated decision. And yet we still judge each other for the choices we make or don’t make and we still feel the need to compile even more…

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