Publishing: The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 18 Results
Instafreebie continues to roll in subscribers. I have over a thousand just from them. Meanwhile, my other subscriber outlets have been shaken roughly, not just stirred around…
– free – 0
– paid – 242394 (yes, that’s in one week…)
– free – 3359
– paid – 0
Instafreebie – 511 (yes, that’s also in one week…)
– New Total: 1211
– Net: 4 added
Book sales this week
Amazon – 2, PublishDrive – 0, StreetLib – 0, Draft2Digital – 0 , Lulu – 0 = Total Week’s sales – 2
Books published this week:
- The Hooman Probe
- New Voices Vol 002
- Collection: MWJP Author Bundle 001
Actions taken this week on email were to simply shut down RainMail (few useful features, and high cost once over the minimum) and AWeber (complex feature list, hard to use, and high cost with nothing free). Meanwhile, my site isn’t playing nice with MailChimp, and I found several hidden subscribers that hadn’t been sent over. The action today was to put a Mailerlite subscription box obvious on the site, giving it a redesign. I’ll have to watch my forms closely.
I also worked out that I can simply “delete” no-opening subscribers on Mailerlite, which preserves their data, but I don’t have to pay for them. So if they come back at a later time, they don’t hit an “unsubscribe” error. I deleted 22 of these.
Meanwhile, my auto-response emails are starting to get unsubscribes before they hit my list. This is a short email saying that I’m going to be sending them an email newsletter every week, with an obvious unsubscribe link in the top line. (The most hilarious one was “The emails are too frequent” as a complaint from just one person – but she had only gotten that one email. The vast majority had only received a single email. Smart. 26 unsubscribes in a week, out of over a thousand. .o2 percent.)
I get dozens of emails from Instafreebie every day, and generally keep up with them as they are simple. I did get a comment from support that they like how fast I accept people into my own organized giveaways.
Since this is where I’m getting most of my subscribers, I’m reinforcing this.
The two actions I have going are to
- 1) Get my books into all possible giveaways going at the same time.
(last week this was 20 giveaways, this week “only” 19.)
- 2) Always have a giveaway of my own running as well.
Coming up (as I’ll talk about below) is to reinforce this with an Instafreebie how-to ebook and course.
This drive of new subscribers has kept me away from Wattpad tests, which are now set up better than before. Last week’s publishing has set me up for three pen names to start serializing their books there. I just have to set up the initial work of getting started, and then I’ll queue these up for a Friday evening posting party to get them up. This week’s publishing put me back from my scheduled to-do list. Email debugging lead to a site redesign, and more sorting out Instafreebie to find out how to goose these subscriptions even higher. Mostly, I published tons.
The Great Bundle Experiment
Part of the huge number in publishing fiction this week was from bundling four biggish books into one collection of nearly 170K words. Right now, I have this only available through my own site. Just as a test of driving traffic. Later, I’ll get this over to Amazon and also on Lulu as paperback, just to show how valuable the ebook is.
I sent out an email yesterday to see who would click on it. It was sent out to a list of just over a hundred people who have over a 20% click rate. Right now, that email is running at over a 60% open and 40% click rate.
Amazon Publishing Breakthrough
My “Feeding the Beast” strategy is to break into fiction writing with prolific output, not getting into a lot of massaging ebook metadata and running ads in order to get sales. The analysis point was that the breakthroughs I’d seen were in people who had a huge backlist. And that by writing short stories, you could build a backlist faster.
One thing that does get Amazon’s attention is when you update your content. Most books sit there for months, and then the author can forget to come back to add in some back data about his new releases and update the description, etc. Traditionally published books are very bad about this.
Draft2Digital does this automatically, however. Each time you publish a new book (and you include their bibliography in the front/back of each book) they auto update all the other books by that author.
Up to this point, I haven’t published to Amazon through them, which is a hold over from the old days when I used Lulu as an ebook aggregator. Lulu (still) has the worst interface for ebooks (and books) of anyone. Only a thousand character description and no bold or italic anything. Often, they even take out the line returns and make it a single block of text. They don’t give you a decent selection of categories to use, and the list goes on.
So I was always publishing directly to Amazon on my own.
When I went to publishing fiction, I had Draft2Digital take over the aggregating. (Yes, you can publish to Apple directly, but it takes a MAC and is a pain. N00k Press can be done, and also Kobo. Add about 15 minutes per site per book to get that publishing done. Meanwhile, there are PublishDrive and Streetlib who take your books to all sorts of other international sites. Each of which is faster than publishing individually to the big-name guys.
My line so far has been 1) Lulu for free ISBN, 2) Draft2Digital, 3)PublishDrive, 4)Streetlib, and 5) KDP.
The original idea is that I could spend more time with KDP at the end and put in special look-inside ads, etc. So it would be last.
What about Smashwords? Their meatgrinder is a pain to use. And I have to add a special paragraph to each book, which really means you want to use them as an aggregator. Especially as you can’t use their free ISBN anywhere else.
To some degree this might be the fastest route of all, since they are going to the major EU sites and libraries that PublishDrive and StreetLib handle.
But with snafu’s in their meatgrinder (granted that I’d have those figured out when I finally got a working template) this would take a great deal of time to sort out.
Meanwhile, D2D loves my template (using headings for chapter names) and gives me a very useful epub, mobi, and PDF file for print versions. They also have a nice selection of formats for internal styles. One-stop publishing – all for free.
And updates that book everytime I come out with a new one.
All I have to do is to give them a working LibreOffice file and they do the rest. Technically, I don’t even have to give them a title page. I do have to edit those extra pages out for the EU aggregators and then use that file for Amazon.
But if I have D2D handle the lifting, then those backpages (with links to Books2Read, not Amazon) will be accepted simply.
In short, it will save me time to use D2D to publish to Amazon – this will take my flow down to only three aggregators (plus Lulu for ISBN) and will generate all the files I need. Then D2D keeps them all updated as I keep cranking out new works every week.
Lulu, D2D, PublishDrive, StreetLib. And that takes my book to probably a thousand book outlets. The major ones all on auto-update.
The other scene is that each of these aggregators support pre-orders, aligning all the publish dates under each single interface. Set a date, duplicate it on the other two aggregators, and you’re done.
Pre-orders gives you another 90 days of Amazon visibility, and similar visibility on other outlets. Smashword’s Mark Coker analyzed that the bulk of his best performing titles all started out as pre-orders.
In that “Feeding the Beast” this was the other breakthrough. You “write short and publish long.” As you are cranking out two short stories (ideally) every week, then you publish the first one and put the second on pre-order for a week. The second week has your first story published on a week pre-order (to come out a week after the other pre-order) and the second story is put off for two weeks. The third week of production gets two more stories in to pre-order.
Halfway through the year, you have enough to come out once a week for the next year.
But as you have a pen name for each major genre, you can start writing on these meanwhile. And they will then start leapfrogging each other, publishing at the same time as well. Your work is no longer linear.
My workflow is so efficient now that I can simply write and publish a short story in the same day. So only needing two days per week to meet my publishing quota. Or, write 5 days a week and publish them all on the 6th day. You just have to write clean copy, meaning no huge errors anywhere. And you want to write in serial-series so that they tie together. (The other secret that writers have used.)
Instead of fretting over Amazon sales, you simply crank out volume and leverage everything else. You “soft-launch” all your books without fanfare, concentrating on getting a big backlist.
Of course, periodically you collect your stories up and make them available as longer works. Two of these long works in that collection were actually NaNoWriMo winners, so were 50K words written in a month. Nice little novels/novelettes.
The lineup above would mean you publish each week as well. Even publishing just one a week, you’d have four 12K books published as a serial by the end of that month, and turn around to publish the whole four-book collection as a novel on its own. Four weeks = five books, not just one.
Write short, publish long.
You can fool around with this to get all sorts of combinations. And wind up with something like Jack London’s 140K “Martin Eden” that was entirely serialized, as were most of Charles Dickens’ (longish) works. 46 chapters in the London book would take almost a year to publish at one chapter per week…
The bottom line I’m testing is to get short stories out every single week. Publishing through Draft2Digital makes this simpler.
Again, we aren’t getting into what’s become “conventional wisdom” of running FB or AMS ads to drum up sales. Not at first, anyway. We still have the promotion activities of the four horsemen to leverage: Wattpad, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Medium. After those are examined, then we’ll add radio/podcast interviews to the mix.
It’s still coming back to me that the real leverage is building courses and offering these to your readers. Many fiction authors have found this to be true, especially those who came from a marketing background. Mark Dawson has an expanding set of courses, as does Nick Stephenson and others.
I’ve got an article that needs to come out this week just about all this. An author’s business is not different from any other online business, or even a brick-and-mortar business. As well, the same principles and system sits behind any MLM opportunity. All entrepreneurs can use the system I worked out years ago to evaluate their operation and expand it, or start a new one as they want.
This is the same system that sits behind an author’s “platform.”
And if you go back through my articles and books, I’ve laid this out several times.
All this new article does is to frame it in a new manner so it’s instantly able to be swapped out, like the old frame, engine, and drive-train of cars (still found under trucks.)
The note of this here is to lay out that this scene also has to be integrated while you get your fiction production done every week.
Needless to say, I’ll talk more about how I implement these later. I have all the pieces for several build-outs, but have never worked them all out. Now I have the reason to.
Site Traffic Confirmed
In this last week, it became painfully obvious that I was generating most of the traffic for my site, and that the site wasn’t converting these into income.
The direct traffic I send to the site is dwarfing search engines by 5 to 1.
The last time I saw something like this was through Flipboard. Unfortunately, that is someone else’s platform, and as their internal machine learning changed, so did my traffic. Down. And I also saw that the quality of content on Flipboard that’s recommended to me has also suffered in quality. I get far fewer “likes” and reposts of the material I curate for them.
I had to realize that my sending to them was not the product, but a derivative product, something sent as a by-product. Like I have IFTTT syndicate everything to Facebook and other places that I create on LiveSensical.com – the traffic Facebook sends me is pitiful. (Not that I’m any fan of social media.)
Also, the Flipboard traffic looks more like bots than real people. Mostly only spending 10 seconds on the site, like a bot. Then bouncing away. So those aren’t useful traffic metrics. Google actually has a higher percentage of clicks that can spend a few minutes there. I haven’t done a ratio/percentage on the traffic of either. The bottom line is that the traffic from both areas are mostly bots. Yahoo is 5 out of 15. Outlook is 4 out of 19.
Small wonder why Flipboard isn’t producing worthwhile traffic – it’s acting like a bot – all but 2 out of 55 visitors spent 10 seconds or less on the site. If it weren’t for the actual people who interact there, I’d drop the whole curation scene. I share to Flipboard as I’m going through these articles anyway. And Flipboard doesn’t give me flack about needing to plus or like anything, the interface is smooth. And they aren’t privacy thieves like Facebook, Google, Twitter. (That I know of.) Search engines are still more bots than real traffic. A quick scrape of the Google data shows that out of 550 visits, only 187 were non-bots (more than 10 second visits.) About 34% real traffic.
Meanwhile, I can track visitors by number counts right down to Amazon buyers. Because the traffic is mostly in a spike, so is date coincident. Emails say which links were clicked on in the email, Bitly tells me what links on the free-books page were clicked on. Sales for that day from KDP tells me if they had any effect.
If I were to do the conventional wisdom of sending people direct to my Amazon product, I’d push some traffic there for real. And might do this (as I can split the traffic into two choices – Amazon or everywhere else. My affiliate code will tell me what traffic is arriving there.
This idea will be my next test. A little more work, but should show me what’s actually happening. If there is any remarkable change in the Amazon sales, then we’ll be onto something. All refinement of the basic design. Exactly what this challenge is supposed to be resulting in.
As you follow (or dig up) these weekly reports, they are quite full of useful data and test results. That one little comment and brainstorm above is such a workable tidbit.
Instafreebie Errata Additions
As my first organized giveaway started, I was able to access the organizer data. In this, I saw that only about 24 out of 59 of the participants were actually sending anything. Under 50%. Of those, 7 were sending traffic, but getting no clicks or claims. So 12 out of 59 participants were getting the claims. Very close to 20%. Instafreebie sharing itself was 4918 claims compared to the 2756 that the rest of the pack was contributing.
In this case, 20% are getting 100% of the results, but less than 50% of the claims. That’s called freeloading, or leeching.
I may do a particularly horrible action about two weeks through, and drop everyone out who hasn’t resulted in any traffic (who didn’t even try.) And then see what the results are. Of course, I’ll give a lot of warning, but the reasoning is to see what happens when the non-performers (leechers) are removed. Fewer books, but we’ll see what percentages remain. Also, right at the end of the giveaways are when the 2nd highest blips occur. So there shouldn’t be any change in effectiveness, unless it’s due to unappealing books. (And this is working these up against their final results – which all participants have access to.)
The funny thing here is that there are three authors on this list who are either promoting for the fun of it, or have pen names I don’t know. Two of the three have promoted diddly-squat, but the other has a non-fiction book up as a giveaway. 42 out of 91 books have no promoter for them. I’ve got some feelers out to account for these 3 people, but if there is no claim, I can as easily lose the non-promoters for the second half of this month and compare the claims before and after, at least as percentages of the whole.
I didn’t appreciate this when I started, but now can see how restricting access to just the actual promoting authors would help.
This means you’d need to start out with free to all giveaways and then create some private giveaways. The point is that you wouldn’t get everyone that you could, as not everyone joins every giveaway in your genre.
Blitz Giveaways – A New Idea
Another test I’m lining up are blitz giveaways – only about 12 days. So a person can send out two announcements to their lists and social media, and have a nice “buy now”.
I’ve been told that most Instafreebie giveaways run for a month. My own data shows that they run for between two weeks and four, about evenly split.
Running blitzes, if they get a lot of subscribers, should then be more efficient. Also, they will overlap somewhat.
Another test in this is to constantly run non-fiction giveaways, as they are infrequent.
There is another number-crunching to do, which is to go through the completed giveaways I’ve produced and see which authors have produced the best, and which giveaways genres have done the best. (Romance? Cosy Mysteries?)
Lots of sorting out to do, all grist for that Instafreebie how-to book/course that I need to produce.
Sorry to get so “thick” into this. There are just some fascinating points about how to win at this game that are nowhere apparent on the surface.
Back to it, then.
To Do For This Week Coming:
0. At least one book this week (have to write some…)
1. Regular emails out to each group in the list. (Missed some last week.)
2. Update Errata post.
3. Get the homework on setting up an Instafreebie course/book.
4. Start posting my Medium non-fiction posts for paid.
5. Start posting Wattpad serials.
Also published on Medium.