Lockdown was quite a productive period for me. I managed to finish my second novel, The Circle, plus take several free online courses for indie authors about promoting and marketing my book once it was ready. So on 1 August, I published the kindle version of The Circle with high hopes that all the new things I had learned and put into action would harvest positive results. Although the paperback version was not quite ready, my husband Charlie and I set off in our campervan looking forward to getting out of Glasgow now that lockdown was lifting and walking in pastures new after treading the same paths for the months of lockdown trying to keep fit and sane.
It was wonderful. We went north east to Edinburgh, Anstruther, Stonehaven and Lossiemouth, south to the beautiful border town of Melrose, west to Largs on the Firth of Clyde and south to the Mull of Galloway, the most southerly point of Scotland. We did lots of walking, saw an abundance of wildflowers, had our first pint in a pub and ate out for the first time since lockdown, embraced the sunshine and rain of the Scottish weather, marvelled at beautiful sunsets and we even saw some dolphins.
In between these trips, I was at my laptop finishing off the paperback and checking out sales. Six weeks later I feel a little bit down even although we have a trip to Mull and Fort William planned for the end of September. I think I must have post publication blues or perhaps it’s the continuing uncertainty around Covid 19. There are visiting restrictions in Glasgow and other areas nearby and it’s clear that the virus will be with us for some time to come. I wasn’t sure what to write about but thought it might be interesting for you to know what I learned on the courses that I took and whether their advice made any difference.
One of the things I discovered is how important the cover of your book is as readers look for specific things when they are searching for novels to read. It is important to make it genre appropriate and that influenced the cover I put on The Circle and was also the reason the paperback version of The Circle came later. I had lots of issues with the cover as I used a photograph from Canva. This is a site where you can access lots of images for free to use on book covers, blogs, Facebook etc. They had a much wider choice than KDP’s Cover Creator but it took longer than it would have done, had I used one of KDP’s images, to get the size and colour right. However, I got there in the end. Knowing the importance of book covers, also made me change the cover of One Year. I had used a design from KDP when I published it in 2017 and when I looked at it next to other books on Amazon it didn’t fit the genre or stand out. One of the things I learned from that and changed in One Year and included in The Circle was to use a sub-title as it gave an instant description of the novel to the reader as they were searching.
Colours are as important as images apparently and I must say I struggled to choose the colours I did and if truth be told I’m still not 100% happy so I may very well change them again. One of the advantages of publishing on KDP is that it is easy to make changes. It is also important to have a brand so that readers recognise your books right away. This might mean using the same layout, same colours or if you are famous make your name the dominant feature in all your covers. So there’s quite a lot in getting the cover right isn’t there!
I also learned that it was important to have an online presence where readers could receive updates about me and when my book would be published so I set up an author page on Facebook and Goodreads. I already had an author page on Amazon but I updated it. I did regular posts on Facebook and I think some of my followers must have shared them which was great as they seemed to reach quite a lot of people and I offered readers the opportunity to pre-order The Circle. I also did some posts on Twitter and Instagram but I had no idea what I was doing on these platforms and all I seemed to get as a result were men wanting to make personal contact. As a happily married woman I didn’t oblige.
The courses I took also suggested offering the first novel in your series or a previous stand alone novel for free. Incidentally, they also said it was better to write a series than stand alone novels as readers will definitely buy subsequent novels if they like the first one and will look out for them. The idea behind offering freebies is that you will get new readers who will write reviews and if they like buy your new book. So I offered One Year for free and asked if those who downloaded it would do a review in exchange. I was disappointed when no-one did despite over fifty being downloaded. The one positive was that most of the free books were taken up by the US market and I thought that might influence US readers to look for The Circle if they liked One Year but it hasn’t happened yet. However, for some reason it seemed to have an influence on how many Kindle Unlimited pages were read which was good as I also get some royalties from that.
One of the courses I took was Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad Profit Challenge. In fact, I took it twice and have signed up for his third course in October as I found it extremely complicated to understand. However, one of the things I found out from this course is how important categories and keywords are in terms of potential readers finding your book on the huge Amazon market and I managed to get both my books into eight new categories as well as the two that I signed up to when setting up my books originally. Following the courses, I did set up a couple of ad campaigns but they have not been successful. I think it’s because I am too cautious to do what Bryan suggests which is to set up multiple ad campaigns at once using lots of different keywords. I worried that if things went wrong, I could end up spending hundreds of pounds for no sales but given that I’ve had no clicks it hasn’t cost me anything. I might be a little more adventurous after I take the October course given what I now know.
Another important thing I learned was how important reviews are as readers take that into account when considering whether to buy a book or not. Although I’ve had positive verbal feedback from friends and family about The Circle and One Year, hardly anyone has put a review on. It is early days I know and I’m hoping that this may change over the coming months.
I’m still looking into some other things that I have heard about so I might try some other tactics but I must admit I feel disheartened that my efforts haven’t made much of a difference in sales but I’ll keep plugging away. I find the whole promotion and marketing thing very interesting and apparently as an indie author this side of things is as important as writing! Telling us how to sell books is certainly big business and more and more writers are getting involved in doing just that. Until next time, keep safe everyone.