The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 16 Results
Subscribers still rolling in from Instafreebie giveaways. Just a few emails to keep up with daily. 561 this month so far, which is less than .10 each. (And I didn’t have to give Facebook any of my data…) More progress on creating sales from direct emails…
Written fiction words: 8454
– free – 0
– paid – 6062
– free – 7930
– paid – 915
– New Total: 810
– Net: 202 added
Book sales this week
– Amazon – 1, PublishDrive – 0, StreetLib – 0, (Draft2Digital – 1 , Lulu – 0 = these just reported from March, early April); Total Week’s sales – 2
Books published this week:
Building a Constant Stream of Subscribers
I may be over a thousand subscribers next week. This is starting from January with no real list (I actually had one in that list before December finished.) Actually, since I’ve been writing this, I’ve added a couple dozen more. That is all Instafreebie.
Just to talk about that strategy some: The first month or so was to get a lot of books published. And these were all short stories, in various genres. Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery-Detective. The only one I haven’t written in (yet) is Romance, at least not as a dedicated main story arc.
And instead of considering any of them precious, I put up a couple of books by each pen-name up on Instafreebie as exclusive there. I’d already had some non-fiction books up, and two of these are perma-free on Amazon. This approach is strictly to get subscribers and build audience. Being able to post in most possible giveaways with several pen names in many of them, this is giving me a wide exposure to readers, and a lot of subscribers.
The priorities have been 1) A deep backlist, 2) Subscribers. I haven’t used all the data on how to get Amazon to market for me. Because I write short stories that aren’t positive ROI by running ads. And running ads at this point is a distraction to simply building up the other routes.
Also, I publish wide and never exclusive. This is because how I’ve been treated by Amazon as an author-publisher, and how I’ve seen and heard of other authors being treated. I’ve always made slightly over 50% of my sales outside of Amazon from any books I’ve been able to publish both there and everywhere else.
This whole Fiction Challenge is to test what I’ve discovered, to develop a back story for marketing, and also as the business plan for public domain publishing is being more and more shut out of Amazon. (See other data below about building a business plan that runs outside of Amazon’s restrictions.)
Email Opt-In’s Affected by EU Rules
I never said people had to sign up to my mailing list in order to get a book. With the new EU rules, this is now forcing people back to that approach. Instafreebie said that required opt-in’s would result in higher unsubscribes and complaints. And this is true. It’s happened to me and I also unsubscribe quickly these days to inane authors who deliver no real value through their newsletters I’m forced to subscribe to.
Tracking Subscribers to Generate Sales
I send my fiction subscribers to an updated “Free Books” page that always lists my most current giveaways, and upcoming ones. Currently, I have 13 giveaways on that page. And I use Bitly shortened links to check my clickthrough’s. Mailerlite also tracks the links in my emails. I also have affiliate links embedded through Draft2Digital so I can see where they show up. While D2D actually notes the sales, Amazon Affiliate links should give me more granular data. (More on that this coming week as I check it out. Oh, lookie – I made .32 for the last 30 days! But yes, one of those was one of my books. Two other paid books, and 29 free books – how did those happpen?!?)
The overview: I mail to my mailing list every week, giving the books I published that week and also a link to the free books page, telling them about the new giveaways that started up. Each of these links is a bitly link as well. I have about a 40% open rate, and maybe 45% of those will click on the free books page link and then some 35-40 people will click the book links and varying amounts will click the giveaway links. All are bitly links, even the images for the giveaways (as people will click those instead of or in addition to the link.)
When I pull up bitly analytics for the week, I can see the breakdown at a glance.
My Mailerlite can tell me more granularly who clicked through and their past history of opening and clicking on links and what links the individuals clicked on. Later, I’ll be able to approach these active people and ask for their help to form a pre-release segment who would get advance reader copies.
Right now, with these systems, I can find mostly who is buying, but not exactly. Amazon will never allow me to find that out. But this is close enough. I can tell how effective my email marketing is. And that is a breakthrough.
Wattpad, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Medium Research
When I pulled up my notes on this, I found that it was all joined at the hip. You couldn’t research one without researching the others (see “Avid Reader” post.)
So I simply piled all these links into a single document, with some short summaries to make sense of these.
The discovery is that you use Wattpad to get subscribers, not to get sales. Especially as these readers want free books. So you use the strategy above to get them some. And in this, they’ll find your pen names and subscribe to track them.
You also publish the book first, and then put the chapters (or scenes) up on Wattpad as serials. You keep to a publishing schedule (Friday night seems best) so they’ll expect your next installment. Then you leave the book up there, and get another one posted. Right now, I have books by three pen names that can be posted there.
If they do get involved in the book, they can always buy it, as you put the links at the beginning and end in your author notes. And your link is always a books2read link (preferably a Bitly link if that’s possible – so you can track the traffic from Wattpad.) If not, you’ll still be able to get data from Draft2Digital and your Amazon Affiliate link (as well as Kobo and ITunes.)
LibraryThing and Goodreads are available for you to compile book lists (especially of your pen names’ books) and enable giveaways. You can get reviews, to some degree as well. (Again, reviews are an Amazon-only problem. Enabling this goes back to setting up an ARC segment through your mailing list of true fans. These are the ones who will help you prime the pump and sales on Amazon versions.)
Medium should be another income source. While it’s more known for non-fiction, there are several publications who only deal with fiction. Once I get into these, I’ll update this data.
It came to me as a crossover when I was researching old MLM references to find why the “guru’s” moved off MLM. During this, I heard a Nick Stephenson video where he says he moved off writing in 2015 to do courses and software full time. This is also what happened with Tim Grahl (although he’s finally finished his two-year experiment of writing one day a week to get a novel done under Shawn Coyne.) See that post and you’ll see that I find the most successful in several different areas have done this. They wind up getting the most of their income from courses. Grahl at one point said that while his book brought in a decent amount, he also generated 4 times as much through additional clients, but nearly 100x as much through his course. I also found another author who said the same.
When I dug through the MLM guru’s works, I found that this was the exact model they each used to move off MLM over onto just promoting courses and course packages. Much less work than MLM.
And all authors should be investing into courses. WD Smith has a huge number of courses he runs every month and pushes this more than getting subscribers to leverage his fan base.
That post tells the basic structure that makes sense of all the “sales funnel” and “affilate marketing” approaches that are so commonly splashed around. I bring it up here so that you can implement it (and test it) for yourself.
Authors should be keeping a blog. Out of that, you can write (and record) a non-fiction book. Using the recordings, you can make videos for a course – or several. And this becomes an additional income source for you.
At that point, your books all become lead magnets for real. And your “sales funnel” is built simply.
(Do check out Smith’s approach through his Teachable site, and you’ll see how you can utilize this from what you already know how to do. It’s different ways in how to help others. The more value you give, the more exchange you’re receive.)
Of course, writing and publishing to Wattpad needs serials, which means knowing how cliffhangers work. I looked up what I could and finally bought one of Smith’s workshops. And waited for 6 weeks for all his videos to get delivered so I could digest them in one sitting. (So much for instant gratification.)
This subject not as disjointed as all the online references and his course make it out to be. It isn’t just lists of types.
The simplicity of it is this: A cliffhanger consists of a change in character, setting, or conflict (problem) that includes enforced suspense as the resolution is incomplete. Break it down by the three factors in any book (character, setting, problem/conflict) and it becomes quit simple. All you are doing is interrupting a change in one of these, then finish the resolution of that change later in the book.
Of course, it means you have to study openings as well, as cliffhangers and openings are bookends. (Time and setting shifts are closely-related cousins.)
But the underlying study is that you have to read a lot of books to find the ones which do get you through to the end. Those you want to dissect. Those are the ones with the great cliffhangers (and pacing, and depth.)
And this all reminded me that I need to get the Dorothea Brande “Becoming A Writer” course out to you, as the how to of doing this is in her book and that course. She doesn’t cover cliffhangers, but she does tell you how to dissect a book.
The sequence is: Read, Dissect, Write. You always and only read and write what you really love and are interested in. You never rewrite, you just go ahead and write the next one – better. Writing is practice based on what you discover in your reading. And you read for pleasure and note the ones that really keep you going to the end. It doesn’t matter how “old” they are. Of course, the modern books have some different approaches to cliffhangers other than the old Lester Dent/Doc Savage adventure days.
And there is data in these other Smith courses and lectures that I need to study. Because what he teaches repeats itself in many ways, but he’s giving tips in some areas that apply to others. And on Teachable, you have continuing access to those videos you purchased access to, just so you can.
A Breakthrough on Long Stories
I spent a couple of days working to get a story wrapped up this week, figuring that I’d be able to get to the second part as well. But no. Because stories go as long as they need to. Some become novellas, novelettes, or novels – even epics. Others are barely longer than flash fiction.
This one had better cliffhangers than others, and so I saw that I could break it up into at least 2500-work pieces and publish it that way. Then compile the collection of these and publish it as a longer work.
This brings up pre-orders.
Once you have a decent amount of backlist, then the next point is to start creating pre-orders. Smashword’s Mark Coker covered this in this year’s analysis. [LINK] A huge percentage of his bestselling books all started as pre-orders.
This is the key to Feeding the Beast.
You write short and publish long. In there, I lay out how to have three pen names (so you can study the three physical plot structures individually) and then work out how to publish those works and have something coming out by each author every month, preferably evey week. Because you write short works and publish as long as you can ahead of yourself.
Amazon will then give you an additional 90 days of exposure in addition to their 30 days of being in “New and Notable.”
You crank out short works at the rate of two per week, and then publish ahead of your schedule. One this week, one the next. Eventually, you’ll get 12 weeks ahead of yourself. Then you keep writing and stacking these up so that you always put another story on the stack for publishing 12 weeks from now. If you want to take a break, or take a vacation you can. If you want to avoid production problems of getting sick or having an accident (Stephen King) then you’re income won’t falter.
I knew I was going to get back to this, as it’s actually easier for me to write fiction daily than it is to just slog out a story each week. It’s way more productive. I just do the Stephen King approach of having 2500 words per day, so I’ll at least have a short story that can be published. Probably something like taking one day a week to publish them all. But still write that day.
(Update: Coming back to this idea, shows a bit of where my resistance lies. If you add up my non-fiction and fiction above, you see that between non-fiction and fiction, I’m already writing/publishing over 17290 words per week. That comes just under my ideal target of 2500 words per day. And it’s also a pretty even split for fiction and non-fiction. The idea is to publish a paid work every 2500 words or so. In this, you also see that fiction is trumping non-fiction for paid work, and my current Instafreebie giveaways are for far more fiction than non-fiction. The underlying ghost of an idea is that fiction is more remunerative than non-fiction. Which is true until you start turning it into courses. )
If the story is 12K words long, or 6K words, it doesn’t matter. You can still publish it in parts or not. Whatever is the better reader experience.
You should see that I now have two stories published this week and whortly will have another two on pre-order. This is the beginning of that project. I have two novellas and a novelette sitting here, that can all be syndicated on Wattpad and also published as short reads on Amazon. Basically enough for three separate pen names to have a story coming out each week. A couple of these were NaNoWriMo winners. Meaning that about 28 days of writing 2K words a day can be split up and published over 28 weeks. Half a year of potential short read ebooks.
Yes, this is extreme. No, it isn’t advised you try this. But yes, you should test everything I say for yourself.
And you’ll get really good at cliffhangers after that. Practice makes permanent.
Of course, that gives you what you can do with Wattpad – write two months of NaNoWriMo, then publish over the next year. Do that for three pen names and the momentum (and sales) should build.
Yes, that sounds fine on paper, but…
To Do for this week:
00. Continue to keep up with Instafreebie.
0. Start writing daily, publishing weekly. Target is at least two published works this week.
1. Edit these other works back into short story/serial format and publish them on pre-order everywhere.
2. Start in publishing three sets of these to Wattpad on a weekly basis. Update my notes page on what I find.
3. In my spare time, get into Goodreads and LibraryThing.
4. Start submitting fiction to the Medium magazines, and publishing non-fiction for paid there.
5. Finish distilling cliffhangers and pubish this.
6. Finish distilling MLM works and publish what I find.
Until next time…
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Also published on Medium.