My First Month of Book Promotion: What I’ve Learned

First Month of Self Promotion

I’ve been a busy bee

Just over a month ago, I self-published my novel Mervyn vs. Dennis on Amazon. A lot’s happened since then and I’ve been much busier than I expected. Here’s a fairly self-congratulatory list of the things I’ve managed to do in 5 weeks:

  • Design my cover
  • Buy a pineapple
  • Buy a larger pineapple from a different supermarket because the first one looked a bit pathetic and not bristly enough
  • Take a load of profile pictures
  • Eat both pineapples
  • Format my manuscript for Kindle and other devices
  • Write a new blurb (this actually took hours)
  • Completely redo my cover because I’d done the whole thing in the wrong size
  • Write a bio
  • Create an author site for Amazon
  • Buy a domain name and create my own website
  • Revamp my personal Twitter account into a more authory one
  • Write my first 4 blogs
  • Feed the cat
  • Start a Goodreads account and make an author profile
  • Make some business cards with AR codes on the back
  • Redo the cover again for my paperback copies
  • Design the spine and back cover for my paperbacks
  • Get the paperbacks printed
  • Create a Facebook author page
  • Organise a Goodreads giveaway
  • Start a Mailchimp newsletter
  • Pick my nose
  • Start Pinterest, Tumblr, Stumbleupon and scoop.it accounts
  • Write personalised emails to every relevant book review blogger on the internet, offering them review copies (this took days)
  • Contact many of Amazon’s top 100 reviewers, offering review copies
  • Organise a Librarything giveaway
  • Change some nappies
  • Promote an Amazon giveaway
  • Run Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads advertisements
  • Send out paperbacks to interested reviewers
  • Write this massive list of things I’ve done

Self-Promotion and Advertising

So how has it all gone? Well, I haven’t exactly stormed the bestseller charts and I’m not writing my Pulitzer acceptance speech yet, but it’s gone as well as I could’ve realistically hoped. I announced the launch on Facebook to friends and family and many were kind enough to buy a copy. From there, of course, sales died down. I paid for a promotion package at Awesome Book Promotion to coincide with the launch and for the following weeks. I’m not sure how effective this was. All those initial sales I can largely trace to friends and family. The ads may have given me some good exposure and customer awareness but I’m not convinced they directly led to any sales. It may have worked better if timed with a giveaway rather than a launch.

I ran a few Amazon advertisements, using the pay-per-click method. So far I’ve manged to sell a grand total of 3 books through this method and have spent more than I’ve earned. I do get a lot of impressions but there’s no way of knowing how many people have actually seen the ad. I’ve cancelled the more expensive campaign and kept the cheaper ones running for now. I also did some Facebook and Twitter advertising and got quite a lot of clicks from my call to action but no actual sales I can account for. The way they sell their advertising packages is extremely tempting. The more you’re willing to spend, the more clicks you get. You can actually buy your way to success (and bankruptcy). Twitter was the most expensive and probably the least effective method.

What I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing

Start as early as you can

This was the best advice I read many times before I self-published, and it’s also the best advice I ignored. This is typical of me, however, and I’m not sure how else I would’ve got anything done. To get sufficiently excited about promoting a book, I needed a book already sat there on the internet. The sensible thing to do, of course, is start promoting your book before you actually publish it. Get some early reviews in, drum up some excitement, organise a giveaway, get your paperbacks printed–that sort of thing. For me, the pressure of having a book already out there gave me kick up the butt to start promoting. If you can, you really should start early. Don’t be like me. Please.

Bookbub is king

I’ve done a lot of research on all the different promotion sites and Bookbub is definitely the promo don. If you can get your novel on Bookbub, don’t think twice about the cost, just bite their hand off. Mervyn vs. Dennis was rejected for a promo, most likely because of my lack of Amazon.com reviews. I’m working on this, though, and have a few reviews coming in from bloggers that should help my chances next time. Getting Mervyn vs. Dennis included in a Bookbub sale is one of my next main targets. Wish me luck!

People want your money

There are a lot of books out there and every author wants to be read. The vultures have realised this, too, and there are many dodgy places that will take your money in exchange for competitions, reviews or promotions. I’ve seen competitions that cost £100 to enter and what do you get for winning? A badge to stick on your site or book cover that you have to pay to download. I’m not even kidding. There are also countless Twitter-based promotion sites that will tweet about your book to their thousands of followers in exchange for cash. I’m still undecided about these. Some do have a lot of followers but many just seem to follow each other. They’re also, of course, followed by the authors who’ve used their services and not, more importantly, by people who want to read good books.

Free promotions work

I ran a free promotion for Mervyn vs. Dennis over one weekend and took out a Books Butterfly promo to advertise it. This went really well, with over 1500 downloads. I’d also done a lot of promotion off my own back including emailing countless sites who kindly agreed to add my sale to their newsletters and feeds. The very next morning after the giveaway, I received the following wonderful 5 star review on Amazon.com:

By Kindle Customer on July 31, 2016

This book was actually fascinating; although set ten years ago there was so much concerning racism and homophobia it could have been written in 2016. Besides all that it was often hilarious and totally lol funny:) I was mildly surprised that I read it all in one go. Although there were other things to do, I couldn’t put it down. The relationships between Mervyn and Dennis, Mervyn and Clyde, Cecil, Sara, Adam were all totally enthralling. If you enjoy well written stories with quirky characters and interesting plots, this book is for you.

Whoever you are, Kindle Customer, thank you! Just this one review made all my self-promotion and the giveaway worthwhile. There are also a few people currently reading Mervyn vs. Dennis on Goodreads and I’ve had some more newsletter subscribers. It’s easy to think that I gave away 1500 copies of my book and lost potentially a thousand pounds in royalties, but most of those downloads were in America where there are still plenty of sales to be had.

The free promotion also sent me to the top of the charts in my genres at Amazon.com. Mervyn vs. Dennis was the number one most downloaded title in both satire and comedy. Getting to the top, largely thanks to the Books Butterfly promotion, must have also resulted in people simply downloading it because it was number 1. It’s the opposite of a vicious circle, which pretty much sums up self-promotion: you’re either in a vicious circle or a positive one. It’s hard to break out of the vicious one and you’ve got the make the most of the positive one while it lasts. Overall sales have increased since the promo so perhaps I’m getting some good word-of-mouth as well.

People are really nice

The most surprising thing of all, especially considering that this is the internet, is how nice people have been. I’ve had many complete strangers, and old friends I thought I’d lost contact with, contact me about my book and how much they enjoyed it. Instead of the depressing slog I imagined it would be (it’s been a slog for sure, just not a depressing one), the whole process has been rather heartwarming. I got my paperbacks printed mainly as promotional items for reviewers and prizes but holding the first one in my hands was a lovely moment. They look a lot better than I expected and kudos to BookPrintingUK for the fantastic job they did on them.

It’s time consuming and addictive

Right now there are several things I’d like to work on for my next phase in self-promotion. Writing this blog is one of them. After this, there’s an interview I need to do. There really is no limit to the amount of work you can put in. It’s an all-consuming activity. I’m constantly checking my emails for news from reviewers and checking the Amazon kdp site for my updated sales figures. It’s great to wake up in the morning and see I’ve sold some more copies or that someone’s read the whole book in one day through the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) tracking. To my profound shame, I’m rapidly becoming one of those people who check their phone every 5 seconds.

Reviews are hard to get

Getting good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads is one of the most important factors in the success of an ebook. The problem is that many friends are worried about writing something that comes across as dumb or trite. Meanwhile, with random people, they understandably can’t be bothered. I’m just as bad myself–I rarely write reviews for products on Amazon, so I totally understand when people don’t do them either. The problem is, I suppose, people underestimate just how important they are. Even just a two line review makes a world of difference. So if you’ve read my book but haven’t reviewed it yet, please do! It doesn’t have to be an Ebert-style analysis, just something short is absolutely dandy. It really makes a massive impact on sales and my chances of getting a Bookbub slot. I have actually added a grovelling request at the end of my book asking for reviews but, silly me, I didn’t do it before my free promotion, so most people only got the newsletter request. Hey ho!

Pinterest and Tumblr are weird

I still don’t understand them. Can someone explain them to me?

Should You Self Publish?

In my opinion, yes! I decided to self publish as something of a last resort and I’ve found it much more enjoyable and exciting than I imagined. I’ve got a clear plan for the future and I’m currently editing my next novel Grand Theft Octo which will hopefully be out in a few months. The only problem I’ve faced is never having enough time. Striking a balance between writing and promotion (let alone home and social life) is really difficult. It’s always appealing to write something new but there’s always the temptation to do a bit more promo in case you find a brand evangelist who’ll recommend your novel to the whole of the internet.

Check Out These Great Blogs:

Here are some great blogs with more invaluable tips and advice on self-promotion:

A really useful and interesting guide on advertising

Some great tips and warnings about self-publishing

Getting your self-published book into high street bookstores

Self publishing and the fear of marketing

Making peace with self-promotion

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64 thoughts on “My First Month of Book Promotion: What I’ve Learned

  1. Thanks for following my blog.
    Read the preview of Mervyn vs Dennis and liked what I saw. Did you juggle the text to leave Mervyn in such a low state right at the end of the preview? Had to buy the book to see what he did next.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, Brian!

      I hope your ankle is on the mend and you find more time for writing soon.

      Delighted you enjoyed the sample of Mervyn vs. Dennis. I’m glad it’s doing its job! Thanks a lot for buying and I hope you like the rest.

      Didn’t have to juggle the text. Was always aware the first three chapters would either be read by literary agents or online as a preview. Tried to make them fairly self-contained with a bit of a cliffhanger.

      Like

  2. I just discovered your blog when you followed me (thanks!), and I’ve already opened three separate tabs because you have so many posts I need to read. Good work!

    All your self-promotion tips are helpful; I’ll have to add this to my list of resources. I’ve never heard of Bookbub before, but I’ll definitely look into it.

    Like

    • Thanks a lot Hannah! I’ve really enjoyed your self-publishing series of blogs too 🙂

      Bookbub is indeed very powerful. It is a bit expensive but, from every report I’ve read, you always make your money back. You need a lot of good Amazon review to get accepted by them though.

      Best of luck with Alen’s War!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Self-Publishing Part 5: The Dark World of Advertising | HANNAH A. KRYNICKI

  4. OMG – you’re killing me! What a list of accomplishments. Is pineapple some kind of wonder food? (BTW – it’s taken me years to write a not-so-crappy blurb) With your energy I know you’ll be a success – keep at it.

    Like

    • Haha, well I’ve slowed down a bit now. It’s really tough to make time for both self-promotion and writing (as well as the day job). Perhaps it’s time for more pineapple!

      Blurbs are indeed really tough. Probably my least favourite part of a book to write. All the best, jan, and thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  5. Fab, fab, fab! This is just the kind of post that I like to read – the real, unvarnished truth about self-publishing and the amount of work involved compared to the often minimal rewards. I am truly impressed with what you have achieved and most importantly that you managed to feed the cat. Well played. I am off over to check out your book now and thanks for picking up my blog. I have yet to have the feeling of my actual book in my hands but when I get past the mechanics of how to do it, I cannot wait!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ann!

      Minimal rewards is certainly right but I like to believe that every little thing adds up and might eventually turn into something big 🙂

      The trickiest part of getting the paperbacks printed was getting the cover right. The spine has to be a certain size depending on how many pages you have–that sort of thing.

      They’re definitely worth investing in, especially for sending out to Amazon top reviewers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I will definitely be investing in paperbacks. I have a friend who has done this and I know that the spine size is real issue – I will hopefully be able to tap her brain when I get to that bit!

        Like

  6. You did all of that in 5 weeks?! I think you’re gonna need a bigger pineapple! Brilliant post, and seeing as I’ve just redesigned the cover for my previous novel, I feel your pain as regards the resizing and ‘you seem to have text too close to the edge’ roller coaster of joy 🙂 Thanks for the follow and best of luck!

    Like

    • Thanks Evie!

      My own particular cover faff was doing the whole thing in the wrong dpi (new term for me) and then having to do the whole thing from scratch. Oh what fun! What japes!

      Just read the beginning of The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris and liked it enough to grab a copy. I really like your voice and humour 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Shut the front door! That’s mighty kind of you Niel *tips imaginary cowboy hat*. Hope you enjoy it 🙂 If you’re interested, I’m doing a ’20 questions’ thing on my blog – a sort of a quick-fire round for authors, followed with all the usual links and plugs. Let me know over on twitter (I’m @evgaughan) and I’ll send you the questions.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for following my (very poor) blog. Great post and at least your friends and family bought your book. Only my sister and two daughters will buy mine (and my sister doesn’t read them). I think one friend bought one (though I can’t be sure – nobody will own up to it). I gave up on really promoting a while back (just on my sad blog, and Twitter when I think about it though I find I enjoy tweeting other people’s books). I don’t have the energy for both promoting and writing (I’m old and have health issues) and I find that I what I most want to spend my time on is writing. So, I just keep writing and I’m happy when somebody buys one (though they mostly “buy” the free ones – I’ve considered making them all free but my daughters won’t let me). I’ve considered writing something other than sci-fi or fantasy – or scifantasy (I do have one “black urban” short that’s neither) and I may do so at some point but that’s not what I enjoy writing sooo… Anyhoo, I read the excerpt and it looks good, so as soon as I can scratch up the 2.99, (I’m retired and on a very fixed income) I’m going to give your book a go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bea,

      I actually found your blog because you very kindly helped promote my novel Mervyn vs. Dennis on Twitter. So thank you very much for that!

      I’ve heard that free books work best when they’re the first instalment in a series. People do love collecting free stuff, though, and I do wonder if they just download books and never read them.

      Glad you enjoyed the excerpt of my book. I hope you enjoy the rest!

      All the best with your writing.

      -Niels

      Liked by 1 person

  8. There is so much I want to say in reply to this MASSIVE and AMAZING post! I started early with my website, blog, Facebook page, and twitter. It’s as much of a struggle no matter when you do it to not let it distract you from actually writing and editing. The balancing act is hard. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day. I love reading too, but I hardly have the time since I’m busy reading and editing my own stuff right now. I’m definitely adding your book to my reading list, but it might be a while before I finally get to it :/
    Twitter: Don’t trust individuals for promotions! Since I’ve been on it, I’ve had tons of indie authors follow me only to drop me a few days or weeks later because I didn’t follow them back. Some of these people have 21k followers and are following 21k people. I didn’t want their garbage clogging up my feed so I chose not follow. YESTERDAY, I realized that you can mute people on twitter. Meaning that, you can mute 21k people that you follow just like all 21k of your followers can mute you. It’s completely pointless! I don’t understand why someone would put so much energy into something like that. They’ve got to have robots doing it for them. I prefer following real people. If you follow me, I’ll follow you back though 🙂 (https://twitter.com/rq_woodward).

    When I read your book, I’ll definitely review it. I’d offer a trade, but I write fantasy and I know that it isn’t everyone’s favorite genre. Again, I like real people and reviews rather than this fake trade thing. Besides, I haven’t even published anything yet, haha.
    Thanks for the tip on Bookbub. I’d never heard of it. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the great reply!

      You’re so right about Twitter and I had no idea about muting. That makes a lot of sense. There are so many people out there just fishing for followers without any real interest in what they have to say. They only follow others in order to be followed back. It’s all a bit sad really.

      Thanks for your interest in my book. I do occasionally read fantasy so I’d love to check out yours when it’s released 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Mary. I’m really glad you enjoyed my blog. You’ve made my day!

      I’d be delighted to guest spot on your blog sometime. Thank you for inviting me. I’ll definitely be in touch when things are a little less hectic.

      All the best,

      Niels

      Like

  9. A great article on promoting a self-published book. I didn’t do very well on this with my first novel, and I’m hoping to improve things with my second one! My main barrier is to convince people to actually read the book. Once they’ve actually read Outside Inside, they love it. I also have the same problem with getting many of my friends to leave a review. It would make such as difference to me, but I can’t force them to leave a review. I look forward to reading your book – perhaps we could share some tips on promoting ourselves as authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Anne!

      I have a similar problem with Mervyn vs. Dennis. When people read the book, they love it, even if it’s not their usual genre. I suppose that’s the main challenge all self-published authors face and why we work so hard at self-promotion!

      As far as reviews go, the most success I’ve had was with a Librarything giveaway. The reviews have been fair, fast and insightful. They will be negative, though, if necessary so you need to be absolutely certain your book is in great shape. You’re doing great so far with 12 reviews on Amazon.co.uk though!

      Looking forward to checking out Outside Inside. Anything with cider is fine by me! 🙂

      By the way, the link to your book on the fiction page of your site doesn’t seem to work for me…

      Like

  10. Hi Niels,
    First off, thank for the follow! I’m really impressed by your list. I have a similar list going on here, too. What an exhausting undertaking, but it beats getting assaulted by behavioral kids like at my last job. I just downloaded your book– I absolutely love the cover.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. thanks for the follow of my blog and it appears you are off to a very astute beginning on yours! good job; keep up the good work. the only thing I can say about blogging is that even if it seems to stall–don’t quit–step up your pace. don’t sacrifice excellent posts to just get something out there–but do keep a decent schedule and good luck to you and the sale of your book!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly is an American eagle, well spotted! I think it’s based on the Ramones logo. The top word says ‘Hysteric’ and the bottom says ‘Born to Lose’. The Hysteric is from the name of the T-shirt brand, Hysteric Glamour, which is a Japanese company (I used to live in Tokyo). Bit of a long story, but there you go 🙂

      Like

      • oh, Niels, “Born to Lose?” glad it was covered! didn’t know the name Hysteric, but we have lived in Japan as well, back during ‘Nam, but that also, is a bit of a long story. in any case, I look forward to exchanging some lively thoughts with yah!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Niels, you are doing exactly what you should be doing! We have a saying on this side of the pond : Rinse and Repeat. (It comes from the shampoo bottles.) Basically it means to write another book and do it all again. Then keep doing it until you gain success! if you poke around on the AuthorsOfMainStreet blog, you will find all the places we’ve advertised and the success of each one, etc. Plus you have almost a dozen of us who have been kicking around the publishing industry for many years.

    BTW, I love quirky characters. We all have quirks; it’s what makes us unique.
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I have another two books in the pipeline. They just need some editing and they’re ready to go. Rinse and repeat is definitely my plan 🙂 Your blog is superb and I’m looking forward to checking out more posts. I’m off to find the advertising one now.

      Like

  13. Firstly, many thanks for the follow. I really enjoyed this post and it is also very timely for me. I do a post on Mondays called Small Steps Up Mountains and this would sit really nicely in it. I would love to add your link to next weeks post – it goes out at 7pm GMT. Would that be OK?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: My First Month of Book Promotion: What I’ve Learned – Thoughts on Social Science, Big Sport, and Bigger Problems

  15. Pingback: Small Steps Up Mountains#12 – Watching the Daisies

  16. I’m impressed with not only the depth of research and breadth of ideas, but that you shared them. I’d know of some, started working on a few, but not to the degree you’ve done here. Plus, I’ve gone after things unique to A Perfect Blindness, such as the clubs, bands and playlist of the music featured, one way or the other, in the book as playing in the background, or that the characters danced to, thought of and thought IN (lines of lyrics refashioned as thoughts) and spoken, such as commenting that “Everyday is Halloween” when seeing someone tricked out for a party: on Spotify, 8tracks, YouTube.

    Like

  17. I admire your tenacity with promotion, that was a hell of a list you made! I really find it just hard grind, but I’m sort of plodding on and doing it, although there are some options – like Twitter that I just can’t be bothered with. Maybe because I’m retired and don’t need income from my books I’m less driven to promote them? I’ve found that for me the two best ways have been with blogging (I have 3 blogs – one general, one author, and one photography), and good old Facebook through friends and an Author Page. I’m having a bash at Pinterest, but not Instagram because there’s no app for a pc. I think in the future I may do some Amazon ‘countdown deals’ for the eBooks. Looks like you’re doing great, and I’ll definitely follow your blog! 🙂

    Like

    • Hi Jude,

      Thank a lot for your comment and for stopping by. Glad you find the post helpful. It certainly can be a bit of a grind. It’s really tough finding time to do promotion, writing and the day job. I also prefer Facebook over Twitter. With Twitter, it feels a bit like shouting into the storm.

      Best of luck with The Stowaways. It’s a beautiful looking book 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Niels, I find keeping up hard and I don’t have a day job! Thanks for the compliment on The Stowaways, it’s really appreciated! I had great fun creating that cover. Love your blog, you put a lot into it. A number of people have commented on the re-blog. 😀

        Like

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