Part III: Letter to my Earlier Self about #Preorders
This is Letter Three of Four of my “open letter to my earlier self” series that first appears on The Book Cove Reviews, http://www.thebookcove.com/2014/12/author-sally-ember-edd-letter-to-my.html, late November – December, 2014.
Letter One will appear on my site, http://www.sallyember.com/blog, on 3/26/15, Letter Two on 4/4/15; Letter Four re-posts on April 18, 2015.
I published my first ebook in December, 2013, and my second in June, 2014. My third will release late in the Spring of 2015.
This is a letter to describe all that I wish I had known about Pre-Orders before my first ebook went into Pre-orders in November, 2013, and what I used somewhat for Volume II’s Pre-order period in the Spring of 2014 before its release in June of 2014. I will certainly build upon these experiences for subsequent releases of Volumes of The Spanners Series in preparation for their Pre-Order weeks, especially since Amazon has recently joined the Pre-Order bandwagon.
Thanks to Mark Coker, Founder/CEO of #Smashwords, #indie #authors have lots of information in FREE slide shows and several webinars to help indie ebook authors succeed in self-publishing.
Mark provided excellent instructions, tips and support for my first ebook’s publication last fall, the sci-fi/romance which has been getting great reviews, This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series. His exhortations and statistics persuaded me to engage in a Pre-order period prior to full sales release on Smashwords and its affiliates and before uploading to Amazon (which did not allow pre-orders at that time).
In his post (link to full post, below), Mark defined Pre-orders:
Mark also gave great info on how to schedule a Pre-Order, here:
Furthermore, Mark detailed the benefits of Pre-Orders for Authors and Readers:
A great realist, Mark also provided great info as to what to expect, a “Reality Check”:
So, you will do it all correctly. You will follow his instructions to the letter. That’s the kind of meticulous, organized person you are. Brava.
Now, let me tell you how your first experience with pre-orders will go, Sally.
Not so well.
Let’s review the Tips Mark provided and clue you in as to what you will actually experience:
Tip One: Plan and implement AGGRESSIVE, multi-week marketing campaign
Okay, Sally. Since this is your first time as any kind of book marketer, it’s a good thing you are going to be laid off in August, 2013. Really. You will need every extra minute and a full-time job would just get in the way. Oh, sure, you could have used the extra cash, but believe me, you will be extremely busy job-hunting and lucky to be able to fit book marketing in the interstices of each day.
By the way, being laid off will avail you of a little more family support (thanks, Ellen Fleischmann, Merlyn Ember, Sarah Miranda, Lauri Stern and Carole Harris) to move your heretofore unpublished book forward into self-publication. I applaud that you are going to take this unemployment time to learn, via Mark Coker’s videos and others’ videos via Google Hangouts, as well as free webinars, blog posts, groups’ posts and articles, all about the publication and marketing processes for indie authors.
You were always a good student: this is your current “class.” You want an “A,” don’t you?
Get it all done, except pay for PR (no extra funds). You will:
- start a new website and blog;
- become active on Goodreads and Twitter;
- start and add to several Pinterest Boards; y
- become more active on Facebook, both on your personal and newly started Series pages;
- become more active on LinkedIn;
- join Google+ and begin to use it more, including starting a Series page there;
- join many Groups/Communities on Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads and Google+ as well as local, in-person writers’ groups;
- research and find, then engage a professional cover artist (thanks, Aidana Willowraven!);
- start tracking your KLOUT, SNAP and ALEXA scores.
What will happen with all this effort?
OUTSTANDING results (you will think) in the first few months. For example, you will see your KLOUT score go from 31 to 61 by Volume I’s release day (12/19/13).
Your website (sallyember.com) will go from being so invisible as to have no ranking at all to being in the top 3.5 million via ALEXA. (You will postpone using Snapscore.) By a few months after releasing Volume II, your ALEXA score will be in the 500,000 range!
Your Twitter #FF will increase from 7 to over 1600. Your blog will gain almost 40 #FF (NOT your family, either!).
You will acquire almost 300 LIKES on The Spanners Series Facebook page and over 300 new contacts personally there and on LinkedIn and Goodreads. 60 become #FF on Pinterest.
Seems good, to you.
Don’t forget how hard you will work at networking by posting excerpts of Volume I, then Volume II on Wattpad and Authonomy and allowing previews of the same number of chapters on all vendors’ sites.
You will then garner several very positive pre-release-day reviews which will be posted on/into Volume I’s front matter, your website, Goodreads and all other social media.
You will join many authors’ sites, such as Shelfari and BookLikes, Authors’ Database and others with author and then book pages. You will create and update your Author’s Central page on Amazon (which doesn’t do Pre-orders, yet, but since you already had a nonfiction book authorship, you could do this prior to uploading your ebook).
You will provide copy for and link to postings of several author interviews on several websites and Blog Talk Radio‘s IndieBooks show. You will leverage the local writers’ group to do public readings and then video yourself doing them and post these on Youtube, to start your Spanners Series‘ Channel.
Using the cover for Volume I, you will print up 50 flyers (second time you spend money on this endeavor, first being the cover) and give them out everywhere you go, even the Farmers’ Market.
cover and logo art by Willowraven
You will talk up your book and series everywhere you go, also. You will send out Facebook and Goodreads reminders of the release date and plan an Author Q & A on Google Hangout On Air/ YouTube and Goodreads for release day as an “EVENT,” which you will extensively promote, along with the Pre-orders themselves, for weeks prior to the release date.
You will believe you have done everything you could to create a strong “Author Platform” and prepare for Pre-orders to succeed. But, being a new author to sci-fi/romance and to ebooks, and an indie, self-published author in a very crowded field, the “splash” you will be making, despite KLOUT‘s encouraging stats, will not be feeling large.
Furthermore, due to your inexperience and Smashwords‘ lack of statistics given to authors in real time, you will have no way to gauge the success of your Pre-order marketing via the numbers of Pre-orders, from Smashwords, iBooks, KOBO and nook. You will be very frustrated that these vendors do not provide ANY kind of info as to the numbers of Pre-orders accumulating to authors at this time.
I can tell you: you are not the only one who is frustrated with the lack of real-time sales feedback. Because of all the complaints, perhaps, some aspects of this process do change by the time you do Pre-orders for Volume III.
It remains to be seen if stats for Pre-orders become available. But, at least authors can get almost-real-time sales stats via Smashwords from Smashwords and iBooks/iTunes by release date of Volume II. Yeah!
Kobo only provides book ranks and nook only provides ranks when sales are high enough to “warrant” them. None of them will provide any stats until actual sales begin accruing on “release” day, though.
iBooks has a sales threshold before it agrees to put out a ranking, though, so although you will soon be able to see sales stats (about 3 days after the sale occurs), your ebooks won’t yet have met the threshold for sales and reviews that will let your ebooks get ranked on iTunes. Bummer.
As a Kindle Direct (KDP), not Kindle Select (KSP), author, you won’t have the option to do Pre-orders on Amazon until Volume III, but at least you can check in on any day, any hour and get not only several different sales and author relative ranks, but go look at your actual sales figures online, including total sales, gross cash intake and net royalties. Yeah, Amazon!
Pre-orders’ Results, Volume I:
Going solely by Amazon‘s and Smashwords‘ sales figures (the only ones you will have for quite a while), your Pre-Order and regular sales periods will not be huge successes, to say the least.
Your first royalty check from Amazon would not even pay for one tank of gas. Smashwords only pays quarterly; first check from them, not a lot better.
You CAN say that you are now a professional, paid ebook author, nonetheless! Woohoo!
Tip Two: Mobilize fans
You will first try to gather fans (see above) and then mobilize them. However, as a first-time ebook author with no other fiction sales before this, your “fan base” is minimal and will stay that way for over a year, through Volume II.
Sorry, Sally. Your “fan base” is nonexistent prior to Pre-orders.
Please do use your growing fan base extensively for This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, Volume II, which will go into Pre-Orders in April and on sale June 9, 2014.
[PRIVATE, PERSONAL NOTE: something very bad is going to happen to you (which I’d rather not talk about now) right after you upload Volume II which will greatly curtail your utilization of this Tip.]
cover and logo art by Willowraven
So, great Tip, but you won’t be able use it for TCE and it won’t help much for Volume II, either. Set your sights on using this Tip for Volumes III and beyond, all right?
Tip Three: Special pricing
You will be smart and take Mark’s advice about pricing all the way. He suggested lower prices or free for Pre-orders, but strongly suggested NOT offering it free if the ebook has no others before it in the Series.
Mark also suggested, based on his extensive research, the “sweet spot” balancing sales with profits for ebooks, currently set @$3.99.
So, you will set TCE’s Pre-Order price @$1.99. The sale price for TCE will be $3.99 and will stay that way until Volume II goes into Pre-orders, 4/1/14, at which point Volume I will be PERMAFREE and Volume II will be set @$1.99 for Pre-orders and then @$3.99 when it goes on sale 6/9/14.
When/if The Spanners Series ebooks start selling well and your fan base has grown sufficiently, you may raise Volume II’s price to $5.99 during Volume III’s Pre-order period, now pushed into spring, 2015, and set the Pre-order price @$2.99 for Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change.
Volume III’s sale price, releasing in late Spring, 2015, will then probably be $5.99.
If sales aren’t great (YET), you should follow your previous pricing plan for a while longer for upcoming Volumes (the series has 10, total): Pre-orders @$1.99 and sale price @$3.99.
The exact pricing may not make that much difference, but you really can’t tell. You also won’t be able to glean much about how the switch from Pre-order’s lower price to the higher sales price affects sales. Oh, well. Deal with it.
Tip Four: Use your other books to help
I know; you wish you could for Volume I, but you suffer from lack of said “other” books, except for the professional book of nonfiction; hardly relevant. Will do for Volumes II onward.
This involves putting a call for reviews into the back matter of each Volume, thanking readers, letting them know about upcoming Volumes’ release and pre-order dates, and generally sending them to your Author Platform via many links you will provide in each Volume after Volume II.
Plus, you can now put the first Chapter of Volume I IN Volume II, at the very end, for a “Sneak Preview,” getting readers hooked even before Volume II is in their hands.
Keep doing all that linking and revising for each Volume in the Series: upload the revised versions with added review snippets in the front matter as well adding Chapter One of the upcoming Volume, adding any new links, giving release and pre-order dates, etc.).
Tip Five: (MY TIP): Do it better each time
Yes, plan to do it all better, as I am explaining so patiently to you, earlier Sally.
One thing you WILL do better: Networking!
One way you do that is to start your own talk show! Use your network on Google+ to get some training, practice and support. Watch a lot of Hangout On Air (HOA) shows to see how you want to do yours.
You will enjoy being a Google+ HOA talk show host, inviting authors to converse with you LIVE almost weekly on Wednesdays, 10 – 11 AM EST USA. This show, CHANGES, will greatly increase your visibility and credibility and raise the FUN factor of being an indie author.
You will LOVE doing CHANGES and meet some great authors, readers and fans in the process. I promise. Start your new show in August, 2014.
Add a page about CHANGES to your website and keep up with adding guests, URLs for shows and other information. Link to your shows on your site and on Pinterest as well.
OTHER RECOMMENDED IMPROVEMENTS:
- Get more and different Beta readers for Volumes II and III.
- Try to get some reviewers for Volume I to be reviewers for Volume II. When you have actual fans, ask some of them. Also, remember that you are involved in several networks of authors and others that help with promoting each others’ social media sites. ASK!
- It’s great that you have 3 Book Trailers ( which you created myself, free, via Animoto) so that your Youtube Spanners Series Channel is growing. Each time you release a Book Trailer, your sales go UP on Amazon and Smashwords (and perhaps the other sites; don’t know, yet). Do more trailers for Volumes II and beyond.
- Use the existing flyers and make new ones when Volume II comes out. Make free business cards via KLOUT/MOO and Vistaprint which you design. They will have some links, Vol I book cover and Series logo on them. Give them out EVERYWHERE.
- Join and attend workshops with several local writers’ groups.
- Comment on and re-blog/re-post others’ blog posts instead of just writing your own (see? like HERE!).
- Use StumbleUpon, Reddit, Quora, AllExperts.com, Suvudu and other sites to raise the visibility of your “brand” and drive traffic to your website (via WordPress.com). Your website now has over 290 #FF with 45 more on Tumblr, which are still small numbers, but show a massive increase since the websites launched in August, 2013. Make sure you post a link to every Guest Post, Author Interview, Review and Youtube video on your own website.
- Set up cross-posting so that each receives all posts from your WordPress blog: re-post on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google +, Goodreads, Shelfari, BookLikes and Amazon as well as Suvudu, etc. (see above).
- Use JustUnfollow to keep your Twitter #FF useful, active and not ‘bots. Now up over 4000!
- Continue to use author networks to share and collaborate for increasing each other’s visibility, rankings and comments. All of your numbers are fairly high and staying there on the book and author sites mostly due to these efforts.
So, with all of the above, you will be as READY as you can for your ebooks’ Pre-order periods.
Good luck, earlier Sally!
I’ll keep in touch.
Link to Mark Coker’s full Smashwords Pre-order Slide Show post here, which is well worth viewing: take notes! Please share, tweet, USE!
Links to Reviews of Volume and Volume II of The Spanners Series, Author Interviews, other Guest Blog Posts, Book Trailers, CHANGES Episodes and more on: http://www.sallyember.com