Refusing to Rush

I confess that I am impatient. I’ve been wanting to order new business cards for over a year, but have prioritised completing Fallen Warriors, marketing Fallen Warriors and recently writing the sequel.

When I decided yesterday to have a go at a new design for my author business cards, I wanted to order them straight away. (I felt a bit of pressure as there was a “33% off” offer from the printer I was planning to use…)

I was happy with the front image, but I knew the text on the back wasn’t working. Posting the front and back images yesterday was useful. I got helpful feedback which I’ve tried to listen to.

I had no-one suggest a different front, which is encouraging. The latest version of the back is below:

I had tried Tempus Sans font on the previous version–which I use on the cover of Fallen Warriors–but have now changed that to Antonio.

Thinking about what I’m trying to do with this card, I want to primarily use it as a marketing tool, something I can give to people I meet to advertise my novels. It tells them where they can buy or order, from selected bookshops (only four so far, but I need to keep working to expand that) and online.

Also, currently I’m giving away a short story to anyone who signs up to my mailing list, but it would make sense to offer samples of both novels since Book One of The Great Scottish Land Grab and Episode One of Fallen Warriors are both available for free already online. I can bundle the opening chapters and the short story into one sampler and it means that whether someone is interested in either novel, they can try it out in exchange for signing up to my mailing list.

I wondered if white as a background was too sparse and so have added a photo.

I’m going to hold off ordering new cards until next week. If you’ve any more feedback for me, do let me know.

Why every author should fully review a proof copy of their book

Gah! That moment where you realise you forgot to do something really simple…

I’ve been reading through my first novel again – The Great Scottish Land Grab. I’m having a small print run done to finally allow me to sell to Scottish book shops and took the opportunity to make a few changes, the main one being updating my contact details.

When I published Land Grab, back in 2014, I thought it would be a good idea to buy the domain www.cafepolitics.net as Cafe Politics played such a huge role in the story and www.markandersonsmith.co.uk (and all variants) were taken, and www.thegreatscottishlandgrab.co.uk would have just been silly.

I’ve since decided on www.dragonlake.co.uk as my permanent web presence and wanted to update the new edition of Land Grab to use this website and my current email address. The Copyright page was done fine. I added in an author note asking people to sign up to my mailing list – all fine. Even the Call to Action at the end of the book was updated okay.

Everything bar the acknowledgements page which I foolishly didn’t even read before sending off the manuscript to the printer… Turns out the acknowledgements page contained a request to email me if the reader found any mistakes using the old email address… Gah!

I’m in two minds whether to just let it slide as I still own that domain, except, it just doesn’t sit right.

Maybe I’ll call the printer tomorrow and ask about just sending through a new manuscript and forgoing a new proof.

What would you do in this situation?

Analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab Part Three

Continuing a short series analysing sales of my first novel: The Great Scottish Land Grab. You can find yesterday’s post here and the first post here.

Every author’s story will be slightly different. I’ve benefitted from reading and hearing about the lessons other authors have gained from their experiences selling their books so it makes sense to offer what advice I can from my own experience.

What worked

1. Don’t discard rubbish first drafts
The first draft of Land Grab was not great, but it contained large sections that contained the core of the story I wanted to tell and on re-reading a couple of years later, still thrilled me.

I was extremely fortunate to have a relevant first draft waiting when I realised the level of interest in the Scottish independence referendum. If only I’d realised it sooner, but in reality, much of the plot of the finished book came out of my own journey exploring the issues. I doubt I could have written the novel, especially my first, at any other time. I was told from an early age to write and save what I wrote as it may become useful later. It’s good advice.

2. Be aware of what people are interested in
My decision to try and publish Land Grab in 2014 was definitely the right one. I made sales I might not have made at any other time. The original idea for Land Grab was for someone to try and steal a General Election to gain power and use it to reverse the Highland Clearances. As my interest in the referendum grew, I realised it offered a ready made situation that could be exploited in my plot and I began to rework the story to fit a topic all of Scotland was interested in.

Yet trends can easily vanish, as happened in October 2014. The No vote won and my sales began their quick slide towards zero.

Still, almost three years later and interest in Scottish independence has had a resurgence following Brexit… I’m still selling this book three years on…

3. There is no substitute for advertising
If you want to see zero sales, don’t market your book. If you want to sell one copy, tell someone you’ve written a book. Then tell someone else. Repeat until one of them buys it! If you want to sell hundreds or thousands of copies… You have to tell thousands or even millions of people.

How you advertise is possibly less important than the fact you are doing it. As long as you are reaching out to people who might be interested in your book, you may see some sales.

I’ve managed to sell dozens of copies by approaching strangers and talking to them about my novel. I found out this year that I could also sell copies by paying for Facebook advertising and I’m now also experimenting with Amazon Ads.

Time or money, you have to pay at least one of them and probably both and if you do it right, with a good product, you’ll find that you will sell.

4. A good cover will help, but a poor one won’t stop people if the concept is right
My first book cover was poor:

Yet, if you look at yesterday’s post, I still managed to sell a hundred copies. I knew it wasn’t the best I could do and kept trying different ideas, using this one when I released book two:

By the time book three was almost ready, I’d convinced myself I needed to show another side to Scotland and settled on this:

The last chapter written, the third book in the trilogy published, I listened to reason and hired a graphic artist: David MacKenzie who took a new concept I’d wanted and produced what became the final cover for The Great Scottish Land Grab:

David was kind enough to produce related covers for each separate book in the trilogy as well which you can view here.

5. Telling people how to buy the book
When I’ve told people they can buy copies on Kindle or physical copies through Amazon, they have. When I’ve told them there is a book, but failed to include that vitally important where to buy, I suspect they haven’t… It’s rather embarrassing to admit that on my leaflets and business cards I forgot to include that vitally important piece of information!

6. Split your book and make the first part free
Or write a short story or novella or prequel and give that away.

While giving the first part free is no guarantee that anyone will read it, let alone go on to buy the rest of the novel, I am seeing results where I’ve advertised the novel and let people know they can try the first book for free. If they are interested enough to act on your request and download the book, I think people will be more inclined to read it. Then, they may enjoy it and go on to buy the rest…

Want to start reading book one of The Great Scottish Land Grab for free? Click here…

7. Don’t give up!
If you have written a good story, then believe in yourself. Publishing is a long game and as many more experienced writers than myself have said, ebooks will be there long after printed copies are removed from the shelves.

My intention is to keep writing, keep selling and keep learning.

If you have any advice to share on your experiences of selling your books, why not comment below.

Analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab Part Two

Yesterday I started an analyis of what worked and what failed as I attempted to market my first fiction ebook: The Great Scottish Land Grab.

Today I want to look in more detail at what I was doing to market the book and what results it had.

The chart below shows the lifetime sales of Land Grab book one since June 2014:

First thing to point out is that Orange/yellow shows sales where I got paid, blue is sales of the book after I set the price to free.

One of my biggest mistakes was not making book one free right away. Instead I priced it at 99p.

I was marketing Land Grab every single day during the summer of 2014. I printed up business cards, approached random strangers at village fairs and at train stations. I posted on Facebook and Twitter and while I sold over a hundred copies, look at the difference in numbers from October 2016… I did almost no marketing at all for the three months from October 2016 and people still found and downloaded the book!

I wonder how many more downloads I might have had in 2014 if I had enticed people in with a free offer.

The next two charts show life-time sales for books two and three respectively:

The numbers are not huge so I can’t make any hard and fast statements about what worked and what didn’t work, but it does seem to me that releasing Land Grab as a series did allow people to try at a low price and then free, and then go on to buy the other books in the series.

Both in 2014 and since October 2016, I’ve seen people go on to buy book two and three after downloading book one.

The chart for the full trilogy looks very different:

The fact is that I still carry business cards with me and still give them out or leave them in cafe’s and other venues for people to find. The business cards only advertise the full novel and I think that people who are intrigued by the cover image on the cards or maybe by something I’ve said will go on to buy the full novel.

Contrast the final chart with the first three and you see that huge dead area from November 2015 till August 2016. Without advertising I don’t see sales.

That’s a really important statement. Early this year I had an offer from Facebook. A £30 credit towards Facebook advertising. I used £12 of that voucher to advertise The Great Scottish Land Grab and later worked out that I made a slight profit off the back of it. (In reality a full profit as Facebook gave me a free voucher, but looking to see whether I would make a profit in future, it was small, but there.)

Tomorrow I’m going to try and round all this up into some sage advice to anyone thinking about how they can sell their book.