Every once in a while I hear an author say that they’re ready to throw in the towel. They’ve tried X, Y,Z, and nothing is selling and they’re getting bad rankings, bad reviews and are ready to quit. Writing takes a lot of time, effort, and patience. So many people think that the first book is going to sell a thousand copies or a million. That’s just not how it works. The people who do are incredibly lucky or have a stellar marketing plan.
The first and hardest lesson to learn relates to that advice that all creative people have heard and despise: “Develop a thick skin.” I really don’t have one. I’m actually pretty sensitive. I need padding and steel armor and even then those bad reviews hurt. People are so diverse that if you put your work out there, you’ll probably get bad reviews. That doesn’t mean you should give up. As a matter of fact, carry on.
Read the reviews. Ask yourself if they have a point. What are you going to do about it? Sometimes nothing. If the person says “This isn’t my usual genre and sure enough I didn’t like it”, well then I don’t think you’re obliged to make any changes or even feel so terribly bad about the review. If the person says, “The description was so long I fell asleep halfway through” then you have just gained some very useful information, albeit painful.
If your work isn’t selling, look first to the cover and title, then to the description. There are millions of books out there in competition with yours. So, it has to be awesome. Believe me when I tell you that it took me a long time to ‘get’ this. Because I thought my artsy covers WERE awesome. I was pretty much the only one.
Take the joy of creation out of the equation so that your enthusiasm doesn’t sway anyone’s response, and ask friends honestly whether the cover will work. If you ask for honest advice, you may open a great can of worms that will actually save you the deeper pain of having your book sink into the Amazon Abyss.
(Don’t be surprised if I do some more Epic FAILS with covers. I seem to have a unique lack of taste when it comes to garishly bright and cheerful colors that drive people screaming for the next book.) Speaking of which, I’m planning to change the name of The Zombie Cowboy Two-Step…because apparently the idea of dancing zombies doesn’t do much for people…
Keywords are important. No, really. I had no idea how important. But they are. So do your research and pick the best.
Same with categories. I’m actively experimenting to find the best fit with both categories and keywords. Some books only fall into a couple of categories which makes them easy. For others, you might have 6 or 7 that could work. That’s where the real experimentation begins.
Advertising. First, I submit to every single free advertising book site that I can find. Then I started with the paid ads. So far, it’s been a disappointment. But this blog is about experimentation…and the key to growth and learning is to fail every now and then and learn from the failure. So I am failing wildly with paid ads. So far, most of them are break-even or less. A couple I tried were epic fails, as in practically 0 results.
Strangely, the most effective ad so far has been the $8 Book Basset Highlighting service for free ebooks which more than paid for itself. Thanks Book Basset! (Also, I should add that FreeBooksy gave me a wildly successful free advertisement. I’m planning to try them out for a paid ad because of the boost in downloads).
Genre. Okay, so the rule goes that you’re supposed to find a popular genre and write a series in it. Great advice that I woefully ignored and now have four stand alones that don’t sell as much. Again, a learning experience. My series sells pretty good. The standalones not so much. So now I have a whole bunch of Book 2’s to write.
It’s so hard for an author to self-judge if their work is any good. Beta readers and editors come in quite handy. Also, readers and reviewers. By the way, THANK YOU readers of When, Were, & Howl. I actually didn’t know if the humor came off or not (see previous paragraph on covers…sometimes our own tastes do not run with popular opinion). But now I know I can be funny 🙂
I have so much to learn, and so many things to try, but that’s what I’ve come up with so far. If something isn’t working for you, make changes until it does. Writing isn’t for everyone, but if it’s something you’re serious about, then failure is just a step closer to success. Go for the epic fails and eventually you’ll make it.
And now for a bit of self-promotion…Moon Struck if Free on Amazon