Felt good to do nothing but writing (and farming). All the various interruptions on July 4th showing up midweek, then fireworks for four days around it (drives some dogs nuts) – all lent to distractions. But I’ve got two books ready (nearly) to publish and another anthology to proof…
The Great Writing Business Challenge – Week 27 Results
Instafreebie/PW: 53/181 (Actual vs. Reported: 40%) 4 non-IF subscribes.
Overall Total: 3262 (small drop, and continued slow onboarding from IF, while fewer stick. Means their mailing list isn’t expanding and they don’t have a finger on the pulse.)
Published Words Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 0, Medium: 0, Wattpad: 0
– paid – Book Outlets: 11489, Medium: 0
Published Words Non-Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 1140, Else: 0 (Medium)
– paid – Book Outlets: 0, Medium: 0
Fiction Books re-published with updates:
- Total: (still) 167 to go.
Books In Progress:
- Hermione 3: A Case of Lost Time
- Hermione 4: Enemies and Bookends
- Hermione Anthlogy
Book sales this week:
Note: Amazon Fiction – 9/35: 26%
Lulu sales for May: 2 ebooks, 139 paper/hardback (avg per week – 40 | avg. royalty – $3.40) only two fiction out of that, and only reprints (none mine). Next report (for June) 15 July
New Podcast Episodes:
21 subscribers from back-ads in last 30 days – close to even split fiction and non-fiction. Fiction back-ad subscribers are coming from Instafreebie. 0 back-ad unsubscribes in last 30 days. Encouraging, if slow. Next obvious approach is to get the rest of the top-selling books using those back-ads, and also diversifying into courses. (And finish off the back-matter upgrades in fiction.) 126 signups from my non-fiction forms in the last year.
Note: I’ve unsubscribed around twice as many as current list. That figures, given IF’s freebie-seeker list. You get 10% of the claims to both subscribe and stick. 30% subscribe -and 66% of those leave. By non-conclusive survey, 70% of those IF freebie seekers won’t buy.
IF looks to be slowly dying out, with few new giveaways starting (might be the summer). I suspect that they are running through authors. It’s still worth me keeping up with them, but not running my own giveaways per se. If I wanted to increase these, I’d be running one giveaway in my main genres every month. But that is a lot of work. Have to get back to this when I can think it through. Down the line of setting up perennial giveaways with A/B tests on blurbs. That would be the worth on these – but not for me, since I’d have to do the admin work on reporting their results. My main use would be to test my own blurbs, in addition to subscribers. Like everything else online, it works as well as you send it traffic – and pay it.
…is to build up non-fiction subscribers through course sign-ups and backmatter ads while I continue milking IF for new fiction subscribers. And adding in Wattpad and Medium free fiction as subscriber inlets.
IF subscriber long-term:
821 IF subscribers have been with me more than a year. IF says I subscribed 2940 by then. We’re staying within the 30% retention rate. With the survey of them that says 70% don’t buy – ever – then you wind up with just under 9% that qualify as converting to organic.
Meaning that this cost investment is winnowing out a very select group of readers. And very tiny. Only recently have I started boosting my income from those who are still there. Because I’m converting them through my emails.
I’ve altered my 90-day removals to just those who never clicked on anything – and not sending them the “Still interested?” email, since these are now in the no-open category. I know that leaves me with some inactive readers, but potentially able to be revived. That’s probably just a numbers-fudge on the long term. There were 175 90-day no-openers, but only 50 that never clicked on anything. I can live with keeping 125 on the list for a little while longer. I have no one who hasn’t opened something in 180 days – so we’ll try that route.
One bright spot is that I’ve gotten my no-openers down to 0. Meaning I’m somehow breaking through to readers on the IF list who are worth something. Took long enough.
If that’s so – that I’ve filtered out the worst – then the next step is to ramp up IF claims by organizing giveaways with my “verified status” there.
The question is it worth that effort in getting the 10% of stick-around subscribers and 3% buyers? Probably. If it doesn’t take much to do.
[Sidebar note: there is now an undercurrent of people rejecting unwanted submissions on IF. Now some organizers are simply outright banning LGBT, Erotica, Spam romance. No explanation, no justification, no being “polite” about it. Of course, it’s because your kind of book doesn’t attract these readers – so you’re watching out for your own list. No more arguments with IF staff about being “discriminatory”.]
Still, all this points to Wattpad as the next big test. Again.
[Update: It’s so simple when you keep it simple. Three new banners from the same template. Three new giveaways – Sept to Dec, Mystery, SF, Fantasy. Done deal. We’ll see.]
Email Advice Wisdom
With my uptick in sales from Amazon, I’ve pretty much thrown out nearly all the advice I got from my email “coach” at this point. I’m sharing (some) details of my life with my subscribers as per conventional wisdom, and sending them directly to Amazon. That last was the big ticket decision. I give them at least three links in every email (all buying links), which is contrary to all email advice. And my sales through the other two links have increased as well. The Amazon sales are for other back-title books. None of the original advice – about talking as each pen name in the emails (which we discarded once I provided my own analysis of my own statistics – that I’d already given her) was working. Her idea of emailing as a character in one of the books only worked for about a month – and didn’t get these responses, either in sales or direct emails.
Note: Sending traffic to my own site didn’t result in increased sales. Sending them directly to all the outlets (including buying direct from me) did.
This is pointing more and more to expanding to Wattpad/Medium and building audience the “hard way.”
Plus, getting the courses going for non-fiction to serve that public.
When I have all my top selling books represented with courses and backmatter, and my fiction onto Wattpad, then I’ll venture into ads. Before then, it’s all a crapshoot.
The future of fiction
Mainly is because I like writing it, not because it’s an easy way to earn money. Actually, the field is so saturated, and so difficult to get known as a brand, it’s typical conventional wisdom at work. The authors who make it are consistent over decades, and hone their craft constantly. Or – get a backlist quickly and then start investing money into advertising to get their brand known.
While Amazon quietly reverted the “also-bought” carousel, the key data for that market is as always: “Amazon works as well as you send traffic to it.” And that’s the same with all of the rest as well. (And now, outside of their “KDP Select” income-grabber, authors have to pay to have their books found inside Amazon. There is no free-ride anywhere.)
Without a place to corral freebie-seekers into one place and give your book to them, you wouldn’t have any way to get readers except by advertising. And you have to pay to give your books away.
Meaning, after a year and a half, and a few thousand subscribers, the work I’m doing that pays my way – and where I can get valid subscribers from readily – is and has always been non-fiction.
I got 50 fiction subscribers from IF last week. 3 fiction subscribers from backmatter ads, 13 from non-fiction backmatter ads. I have 30% remaining of IF subscribers from a year ago. I have 65% of my non-fiction subscribers (all organic) out of 200+ when I started from a year ago still remaining. To date: since starting my fiction and non-fiction backmatter opt-ins, I’ve gotten (and kept) 84 new organic subscribers. Since February. Out of a total of 966 subscribers. 852 of them are associated with fiction. 33 non-fiction organic subscribers have crossed over from IF. But the backmatter ads haven’t been implemented in non-fictioin.
Out of that paragraph, we see the jury is still out. IF has proved to be a cheap route – and you get what you pay for.
Sending to your own blog just filters sales. It’s a competitive also-ran. Use it to host things like landing pages for subscribers, and their reader magnet giveaways, and podcasts. It can be used to convert your freebie seekers to organic subscribers – but don’t count on IF subscribers to stick around. Best is to get them to buy from you – which takes them out of the freebie seeker category.
Fiction writing is pay-to-play. The biggest trick is figuring how to do that with positive ROI.
Starving-in-garrets has never had a better camouflaged that with the devolution of the money-grubbing, selfish Bezos-Amazon.
Write for fun, write for amusement. Develop your chops. When you have a decent backlist of decent books, start investing in ads. Meanwhile, build your subscribers. Once you reach 50,000 subscribers, then apparently you’ve hit a sustainable, critical mass.
That’s the Content Inc. model. Fiction isn’t cheap or simple as non-fiction is in that book. Mainly because of the “race to the bottom” most indie authors are promoting. Also, because Pulizzi didn’t find any “content marketers” who wrote fiction. The missing point is not getting to places readers want to go – like Wattpad.
Your best bet is to test all the “conventional wisdom” you find. And be prepared to find only 1-10% of it to prove out as useful.
Where you should spend your time as a beginning author
Writing new books, polishing your craft.
Do not start out by building a blog and write there. If you need one, set it up on Blogger for free. Blogs don’t make authors. Books sold makes authors.
Send your books to Wattpad, chapter by chapter (after they’ve been published on Amazon.) Polish your cliffhangers and your pacing. Get the equivalent of at least 5 novels (250K words) all published in series with recurring characters. Many successful writers have started with 10 (500K words). Wattpad is where you build real audience and learn to write in serials.
Publish wide. Keep your latest anthology in Select (untested advice) and remove it once the next one clears pre-order status. And then publish the earlier one wide through D2D.
Do not worry about social media. Less than 1% ever buy a book. Around 10% even claim a free book on IF. Social media is a time-burner. Period. Spend your time writing new fiction. (And Amazon harvests your social media connections to remove your reviews.)
Once you have your backlist in series (and, preferably, written as serials) then you can make sure they are well represented by book and blurb/description on Amazon, and then master ads. By then you’ll know how to write hooks for your stories – and hooks for marketing is related, so that’s simple.
Of course, keep your backmatter updated. Of course, accept subscriptions and direct sales on your own site. Of course, ask your subscribers to post reviews on Bookbub and Goodreads. (Amazon’s bots are now subtracting reviews by your social media followers, so just another reason to ignore asking people to review there.)
If you can get your backlist built in a year, then you’re set to start advertising.
Until then, simply write and post everything wide – not exclusive – and especially to Wattpad/Medium to develop your audience.
You could, possibly, “make it” in a couple of years. More than likely, you’re going to spend the first 5 years simply perfecting your craft and learning how to write ads that convert.
Until, then, enjoy regularly cranking out great books.
Because that is all that matters.
What’s coming up for me?
2 days a week: Continuing to write fiction.
2 days a week: Getting back into updating the rest of the fiction back matter. Then building courses and updating backmatter in all my non-fiction books, in order of sales.
2 days a week: Getting the key fiction series onto Wattpad by chapters.
1 day a week: Continuing to send out emails weekly to my subscribers to keep them engaged. Continuing to put my books onto Instafreebie (even organizing more giveaways) to get more fiction subscribers while I only expect 10% of those to stick around and buy anything. As long as IF still lasts (and doesn’t raise their prices.)
Last week’s to-do’s:
- Emails out – blitz (Mon) Fiction, ARC, LS – YUP
- Write and publish rest of Hermione books. NOPE
- No auction this week – holiday. YUP
- Back to re-publishing anthologies as time permits. NOPE
This week’s to-do’s:
- Emails out – blitz (Mon) Fiction, ARC, LS
- 2 days publishing full Hermione series (three more books)
- 2 days posting to Wattpad.
- 2 days re-publishing fiction anthologies so I can get to non-fiction. (Includes Thurs. auction.)
Also published on Medium.