Book Tour Insights

Marketing & Promotion, Self Publishing

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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THE GIRL IN BETWEEN BLOG TOUR RECAP DAY 44

Self Publishing

It’s day 44 of The Girl In Between blog tour! Check out all the latest reviews and giveaways as well as links to where you can download a copy of The Girl In Between for FREE!

BBB

Star from the Bibliophilic Book Blog is currently running a giveaway for 2 e-copies of The Boy In Her Dreams BUT it’s the last day to enter so be sure to check out her blog before the deadline!

RL

The Reading Lark is an amazing book blog that posts several times a day and always has room to support indie authors. Andrea has spotlighted two of my novels in the past and this time around she introduced me to her fellow reviewer, Heather, who posted a stellar review of The Girl In Between!!! It was seriously so well-written and her thoughts and insights so touching. I’m really grateful to the entire team at Reading Lark for always taking a chance on my books! Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming giveaway from the Larks for The Boy In Her Dreams.

LR

Lola over at Lola’s Reviews was kind enough to post a spotlight for The Girl In Between as well as a giveaway for the sequel. She also conducted a really fun interview in which I discuss the magical setting of The Girl In Between and how I come up with the names of my characters. Lola was so great to work with and her Q&A was the most unique. I loved getting to dive into some specifics of the story and my writing process that other interviewers hadn’t touched on yet.

UR

Anna from Unquenchable Reads also posted an amazing review of The Girl In Between! Another member of Team Felix, she was a huge fan of the plot and I loved hearing her thoughts on Bryn potentially being an unreliable narrator. It’s true that Bryn’s experience isn’t just delivered to the reader through the film of her disease but it’s also delivered through the film of someone who possibly/probably has some form of PTSD from her disorder and that definitely alters her translation of even the waking world.

PT

Over at Pointe Taken, Aubrey posted a 5 STAR REVIEW of The Girl In Between! Hearing that this story will stay with her for a long time was so rewarding. I loved her thoughts on Bryn’s character and the writing style and was so ecstatic that she connected with the story! Huge thanks to her for taking a chance on my novel.

EL

Emma is a fellow author who is also dedicated to helping out indies. She frequently spotlights other writers on her blog and was generous enough to post an excerpt from The Girl In Between! Check out her blog for info on her WIPs and all of the amazing indies she’s featured and keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming spotlight on my blog featuring her newest work.

BSA

Kristen from Book Sniffers Anonymous was kind enough to post a spotlight of The Girl In Between along with an excerpt. Check out her blog for tons of great excerpts from other undiscovered indie authors!

MSI

Amber from Me, My shelf and I, also posted a spotlight and excerpt of The Girl In Between last week. Many of the reviewers on Me, My shelf and I are also aspiring authors so check out their blog for not just bookish memes and reviews but also guest posts from other authors and great writing advice!

RD

Ruty from Books Are My Way of Living has become such a huge support over the past few years. She read and reviewed The Things They Didn’t Bury as well as Breathing Ghosts and has so selflessly helped me spread the word about my books. She is currently running a giveaway on her bog for 2 e-book copies of The Boy In Her Dreams!

ER

And last, but certainly not least, Nikki from Endless Reading posted a fantastic review of The Girl In Between just yesterday and shared her thoughts on Bryn’s bravery in the face of her disease. I love hearing people’s reactions to the fact that KLS is an actual disease, something I’d never heard of either before running across a news article online, and I’m so glad that reviewers are finding it as interesting as I did.

A huge thanks goes to all of these incredible bloggers for participating in the tour! Anyone still interested in an indie spotlight swap and/or review feel free to send me an email at lzkbooks[at[gmail[.]com

Current Giveaways:
Bibliophilic Book Blog (Ends Sunday, December 14th)
Books Are My Way of Living (Ends Sunday, December 28th)

Download The Girl In Between for FREE:
Amazon
Smashwords,  Google PlayBarnes & Noble & Kobo

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TGIB-WP

Call To Bloggers!

Self Publishing

The blog tour for The Girl In Between series officially starts on November 1st and runs through the end of December. If anyone is interested in hosting a giveaway, book spotlight, author interview, or posting a review in exchange for a spotlight on my blog, please keep reading!

The Girl In Between is already available for purchase and the second book in the series (Title, Cover, and Blurb coming soon) will be released at the end of this month on October 31st. The third book in the series will be released by EOY as well. I have Smashwords coupon codes available and am looking to give away a TON of copies so please contact me if you think your blog readers would be interested. I know a lot of my fellow indies like to swap spotlights and may have other memes or features available, so if anyone is interested I LOVE conducting interviews and am planning on featuring every indie author who participates in the tour.

If you have a new release or even just an old release that you’d like some exposure for, or even if you’re unpublished and would just like some exposure for your blog, I’ll be posting spotlights every Friday throughout the tour to an audience of almost 1,000 followers. Each spotlight will include a brief interview and whatever other promo you provide. FYI the last time I ran a blog tour for my novel Breathing Ghosts, my stats were exponentially higher and I was getting almost 100 views a day. That may sound like small beans to some of you with more successful blogs but if anyone else out there is struggling with getting traffic, a spotlight during my blog tour could provide some decent exposure. Also, if you’re just looking to score some new content for your blog, maybe on a day you don’t have time to prepare something, I’m open to writing guest posts or any other content you can think of.

If anyone is interested in review copies I have The Girl In Between and Book 2 available in MOBI, EPUB, and PDF files. Send me an email at lzkbooks[at]gmail[.]com if you’d like to post a review during the tour or even if you’re busy and would like to post one after. My goal is to get at least ten reviews on Amazon by the end of the month so I can potentially experiment with some promo sites like Bookbub, and then relay my results here on the blog of course.

If after reading all of this anyone is interested in participating in the tour, drop a comment here with your email address or shoot me an email at lzkbooks[at]gmail[.]com ! I appreciate everyone who took the time to read this post! Thank you all for your support!

Author Interview: Laekan Zea Kemp on Breathing Ghosts

Writing Process

Big thanks to Julie Israel for interviewing me on her blog!

In this interview Laekan gives us the scoop on Breathing Ghosts, her writing experience and next project here. Give it up for the author!

Me: Tell us a little about Breathing Ghosts.

Laekan Zea Kemp: Breathing Ghosts is a coming of age story about first love, self-acceptance, and conquering your fears.

Me: Where did the idea for Breathing Ghosts come from?

LZK: This will probably sound strange but I honestly can’t even remember anymore. The story actually started out as a screenplay and my goal was to create something that would be really interesting visually. I think the road trip aspect of the novel just developed as I was trying to pick a setting–there were too many interesting places to just choose one. River was also the first fully developed piece of the puzzle and since he was so closed off emotionally I knew sending him on a road trip would be the perfect way to get him out of his comfort zone.

Me: What was the most enjoyable part of the project?

LZK: The most enjoyable part of writing this particular book was seeing how much I’ve grown, not just as a writer but as a person. I hit a huge growth spurt during the writing of this novel and it really boosted my confidence. Not only that but by taking a character who was so closed off emotionally and forcing him, by the end of the story, to knock down those walls, I was able to knock down some of my own. I share many of River’s flaws and while I hadn’t intended to face them, that’s exactly what I ended up doing. And even though it was uncomfortable being vulnerable there’s no way I’d be the writer I am today had I not gone through that experience along with my character.

Me: What was most challenging part of the project?

LZK: For this particular story, I would say the hardest part was being driven by so many questions concerning grief and death and the meaning of life and never fully realizing all of the answers. But, in general, the hardest thing about writing is always the daily battle with self-doubt. It’s so hard to remain subjective enough to critique your own work while also being your own cheerleader. Trying to maneuver those highs and lows can really do a number on your emotions and I’m always drained by the time I finish a book.

Me: Any external influences that significantly informed the novel? Your own experiences, another book or story that inspired something?

LZK: Story ideas always come to me in the form of relationships and then as they develop, no matter how detached I think I am from a project, they always end up being about something I’m going through emotionally. It’s totally unintentional but through exploring River’s grief I was finally able to come to terms with my own–I’d lost my father about four years ago and it was the worst thing I’ve ever been through. For four years I’ve seen how that tragedy has changed not only me but the people around me and I wanted to know why. Why grief propels some people and destroys others. Why it pushes some people closer together and tears others apart. I wanted to know when it stops hurting and I wanted to know the trick to surviving in case it never does. Those were the things that drove me to my computer every day and even though writing this story didn’t deliver all of the answers, it was still a really incredible journey for me personally and I hope that comes through when people read the book.

Check out the rest of my interview via Author Interview: Laekan Zea Kemp on Breathing Ghosts.