It’s been almost two weeks since the launch of Cupid’s Way but it feels like a LOT longer! The dust has settled, I’ve had chance to gather a bit of data and reflect on what went well – and what didn’t go so well - and I’ve laid it all out here for you to take a look at. I’ve come to some pretty pivotal conclusions, and made some radical decisions based on what you’ll read here, so let’s get the fun stuff out of the way first!
The Launch – What Went Well
The support I had on launch day was awesome. You were amazing. Readers and bloggers, friends and family, reviewers and contacts – everyone came through for me and shared, posted, commented and generally got involved to get the word out. My plan, or goal, was to get as many people as possible to download the book over the weekend in order to propel Cupid’s Way up the charts and hopefully gain some visibility beyond my own reach of contacts. In order to do this, I did the following:
- Offered my book for review to book bloggers with a request that they post the review around the launch date
- Pre-warmed my mailing list with a special competition and then sent out an email with the buy links on launch day
- Posted about the book on my blog and reader website
- Hosted a Facebook launch event with lots of great prizes and opportunities to interact
- Contacted practically everyone I know with any kind of platform and asked them to post something about it on the day of launch.
- Set up a Facebook Advert, targeted to my ideal reader, for the three days that the book was at the special launch price of 99p.
On Friday June 27th, launch day, Cupid’s Way had 54 downloads. There had been an additional 24 prior to the ‘official’ launch date – I had to upload the book to Amazon to check it was all working okay and I’m guessing readers of my other books happened across it, or friends downloaded ahead of launch day. Over the following days it achieved the following figures: Saturday 36 downloads; Sunday 69, Monday 21.
On Tuesday it reverted to its ‘normal’ price of £1.99 and downloads dropped to 10, and have stayed roughly at this number daily since.
So, how did it do in terms of chart position? By Monday morning, Cupid’s Way peaked at number #710 overall in the Kindle charts. (I didn’t manage to grab that image as I wasn’t at my computer.)
At one point, all three of my romantic comedies were in the top 10 Family Humour, which was really lovely :)
The launch event on Facebook was, in my humble opinion, one of the most engaged-with I’ve seen, and everyone who got involved seemed to have a great time. All in all, the launch went pretty much as planned. Except …
What Didn’t Go So Well
I made a few errors, which definitely had an effect on the sales and chart position of Cupid’s Way, and another basic error which seriously impacted on the bottom line! I’ll share them with you so you can learn from my mistakes, and of course all this data will help me do a better job next time! ;) (Make sure you read to the end to find out exactly how different this will be next time.)
Timing and exposure. I left it far too late to contact book bloggers. This was simply because I had too much to do getting Cupid’s Way finished and ready, and in hindsight, putting off the launch until later in the year might have been sensible to give me time to get a proper blog tour set up. Take for example Sue Watson’s brilliant new book Love, Lies and Lemon Cake. This launched on the same day as Cupid’s Way, and although they are very different books they are roughly the same genre. Cupid’s Way actually achieved a higher chart position immediately after launch, but then dropped down to the 5,000s, where it has stayed. LLaLC has, over the past couple of weeks, continued to climb, currently at #224 in the charts. Sue’s book launch was properly planned months in advance by the team at Bookouture, and the word-of-mouth exposure from book reviewers is building momentum.
Of course, Sue also has great contacts in the media, and is a wonderfully warm and positive promoter – and it’s a fantastic book! But the exposure, helped along by magazine reviews and radio appearances, have certainly assisted in the rise up the charts. LLaLC will, quite rightly, chart in the top #100 soon, and this just seems out of reach for me at the moment, no matter how good a book I might write. I just don’t have the resources to gain that kind of exposure. BUT – I could have been more organised and given Cupid’s Way a chance by getting started on it all a lot sooner!
Pricing. My plan was to price Cupid’s Way at 99p to encourage new readers to give it a try, banking on fairly robust exposure immediately following launch day to make the book visible. The problem is, I think most of the people who downloaded the book were existing readers, and I think I’m right in saying that most of my lovely existing readers wouldn’t have minded paying an extra one pound for the book. I needed to sell 4 times as many at 99p to make the same royalty as at £1.99, because of Amazon’s 35%/70% structure. So, basically I lost money. Cupid’s Way will take a lot longer to break even – unless I gamble on a free promotion at some point, which I’m loath to do for various reasons.
Next time I’ll launch at £1.59, which allows a 70% royalty, but is still an attractive price-point for romance readers – who are, research has shown, very price sensitive.
Costs. I spent too much. You’re shocked, right? This is me, after all – the one who always goes on about how you can cut costs and do everything yourself and that you should keep your bottom line low so you can break even quickly? Well, quite. The thing is, I wanted to throw everything at Cupid’s Way. I wanted to give it a chance at maximum visibility, and I thought – wrongly – that you could achieve that by spending money.
Actually, you can achieve that by spending money – but you need to spend A LOT of money! I paid for a Facebook Ad and got in the region of 60 downloads from this ad. 60 x 32p royalty? £19.20 – which is lovely. Until you hear that the advert cost me £24. Not good maths. I ordered 100 copies of the paperback, thinking I’d do loads of book signings and sell stacks of copies and create a buzz locally, but the problem is I’m too tired to organise all this now and I really need to get on with my next book. Yes, the paperbacks will sell – eventually – but this was an up-front cost I didn’t need.
I spent a lot (£70) on promotional stuff – notebooks, mugs, fridge magnets. Giving them away on launch day was lovely, and everyone who won a prize was really happy. But did I really need to do that? Did it sell more books? Did it reach out to new readers? I’m not sure it did to the tune of £70, to be honest.
After-launch momentum. It’s been said before – notably after the launch of The Family Trap – but I do tend to be in the habit of launching a book and then disappearing for a week or two! If I don’t go on holiday, I hole up in my house and ‘go dark’ for a while. Why is this? I should be plugging away, still contacting book bloggers, posting new reviews on Facebook, Tweeting, getting the buzz to reach fever pitch … Ah, you know why. As an indie author, getting a new book out – to the standards of a traditional publisher – is exhausting. By the time launch day is over I’m usually completely knackered, often coming down with a cold, often feeling really flat and depressed that I still haven’t been picked up by a lovely publisher who would, at the very least, do some of the bloody work.
Anyway, you can probably ascertain from this list what I will do differently next time:
- Get started on planning the launch sooner, to allow for maximum exposure
- Price my book at a reasonable level where I won’t lose money
- Don’t spend too much on advertising or promotional stuff
- Don’t order too many books – 10 for friends and family is plenty
- Take it easy and pace myself so I have something left to give after launch day.
I’d add to this, don’t have too high expectations. I had totted up my personal reach – those on my mailing list, blog followers, FB likers, friends and contacts – and I figured I could get 250 downloads on launch day if everyone who was likely to want to read the book bought it. How wrong I was! Only 19 people on my mailing list clicked on the link to Cupid’s Way in the launch day email. That’s only 19 people out of a list who have voluntarily signed up for news of my next book! Don’t get me wrong – I am massively grateful that there are even that many people who want to read it – so far Cupid’s Way has had almost 300 downloads, and that is, for a little indie author like me doing everything on her own, astonishing. But, what it does illustrate is that this stuff is hard. Getting people to download your book, even for 99p, even when they have enjoyed your other books, is hard. And finding new readers is exceptionally hard. As more and more books are published, it’s getting harder and harder to make an impact. Just bear that in mind when you come to launch your next book – I know I will!
Indie Publishing and Launches – An Idea Gone Wrong?
All this brings me to reflect on something Dan Holloway said a while back (I’m paraphrasing him now as I can’t find the exact reference but it had an impact on me): ‘Indie authors shouldn’t be imitating traditional publishing, we should be carving out our own path, doing things our own way.’ Many of the problems I ran into, outlined above, occurred because I was trying to emulate a model I have absolutely no realistic chance of emulating with any success. This is a form of vanity, when you think about it. I write a book. I publish a book. I want my book to be considered on the same terms as all other books, however they are published. I knock myself out trying to make my book appear and feel and behave the same as other books. In some ways I succeed, out of sheer will and determination, but in some ways I fail miserably because it was never actually possible – because I am demonstrably NOT a publishing house. I am a person ;)
And where is the writing in all of this? Where is the time to craft and grow and create something original. Why should indie authors aim to replicate what traditional publishers do – isn’t the whole point to be indie? To be original and independent of the restrictive processes that don’t necessarily serve readers too well anyway?
Authors like Terry Tyler clearly figured this out a long time ago, and in the manner of a child who had to learn for herself the hard way, I now take off my hat to Terry who writes a great book, gets it ready for publication – in ebook format only, at the moment – publishes it, promotes it a bit to her social network, then moves on to write the next book. And, tellingly, she actually has the energy and enthusiasm to move on to her next book because she hasn’t spent the last three months exhausting herself trying to replicate a process that in a publishing house has about 50 different people working on various tasks.
This has been a wake-up call for me, and a bit of turning point. It’s taken me two years, four novels, and a rollercoaster ride to realise that self-publishing doesn’t mean I have to be a writer and a publisher all rolled into one. I can just be a writer who reaches out to readers. And I think I’m going to enjoy that!