Lessons From a Book Launch

5 January 2017 by , 1 Comment

bggSo Man & Beast, my first novel in nearly fifteen years, came out last month and I thought it would be helpful if I shared my experiences launching it. We Indie authors have to stick together after all and I’ve always appreciated when other authors shared their experiences about what worked and didn’t work for them. Be warned, this is a rather lengthy post and while some aspects apply only to my situation, I still hope some of my experiences might be helpful.

Strategy: Now that I’ve restarted my writing career, I’m playing a very long game. And by that, I mean what I’m doing with Man & Beast and Man & Monster (just out now), is really all about launching my Drowning World series, which comes out later this year. In other words, while I do want M&B and M&M to sell well, both books are really tools I’m using to build a bigger platform to launch the new series. This strategy isn’t unique to me, of course; most every writer uses each new book to build a bigger audience and launch platform for their next book. What’s unique to me is that I had two previously published novels that I was able to re-title, update, and give new covers.

The first decision I had to make was whether to go wide or to go exclusively through Amazon. I could write a lengthy post about that entire decision, but after doing a lot of research, I decided to go with Amazon, specifically so I could be part of Kindle Unlimited (their reader subscription service) and take advantage of the promotional tools that offered. I set my initial price at $.99 for a variety of reasons. Doing that allowed me to take advantage of the many services that promote $.99/free books and would, I hoped, help with the mysterious Amazon algorithms.

My marketing included Amazon ads, boosting Facebook posts, the previously mentioned promo services, as well as reviews and a few posts on book blogs, newsletter swaps, and giving away Man & Beast via the Big Gay Fiction Giveaway (85 M/M writers joined together to giveaway copies of their books via Instafreebie). What I couldn’t do, since I basically had no email list, was use use my own newsletter to promote my book.

Results: As of January 3rd, I’ve given away nearly 2,000 copies of Man & Beast, sold another 300 copies, and had 44,000 page reads via Kindle Unlimited (authors get paid for every page that gets read) for a total of $361.11.

My costs were $500 for the book cover, $12 for the banner for my website, and roughly $150 for Facebook and Amazon ads, as well as promo with RobinReads, BookHounds, EbookBetty, and others. So at the moment I’m operating at a loss of $300.89.

But I’m totally cool with that. Like I said, I’m in it for the long haul. Would I have liked the book to have done better? Well, duh!

Perhaps you’re thinking it didn’t do better because it isn’t a very good book. Always a possibility, but readers and reviewers do seem to like it. Right now Man & Beast is rated 4.5 stars with 24 reviews on Amazon and 4.11 stars with 68 reviews on Goodreads. So I don’t think I wrote a stinker.

Takeaway: So what worked and what didn’t? That’s obviously a bit tricky to tease out as I don’t have a test case to compare with. But here is my take.

  • Didn’t work: $.99/free promo sites are mostly be a bust for M/M books IMHO. (BookBub is a different story. I haven’t done them yet, but definitely plan on it.) The best results I got were with EbookBetty and a gay specific service, Rainbow Shelf. Both days I had promos running there, I sold 25 books. There is a caveat with EbookBetty as I also had a Facebook ad running that day, but since FB ad never seemed to work on any other day, I think the credit has to go to EBB. The cost for EBB was $18, so at $.99 a book, so I lost money, but I expected that. Ironically, Rainbow Shelf currently isn’t charging, so they were a steal. The biggest problem I found with the $.99/free promo sites was that almost none of them had specifically gay lists (unlike BookBub) and several of them wouldn’t even take a M/M book. Consequently, very few of their readers were interested in gay books. There is a new service launching this month, LGBT Romance Deals that will specifically be promoting M/M romance. I’ll be giving them a try.
  • Didn’t work: Facebook and Amazon ads don’t appear to work. I got very little traction with either, despite trying different keywords and different ads. Here I have to note that Man & Beast isn’t your typical M/M book. I cross genres — historical, romance, thriller/horror — so it’s possible that readers saw my ads and decided it wasn’t for them.
  • Didn’t work: Newsletter swaps where other authors promote you in their newsletters; in return, you do the same for them. I did several of these and none seemed to sell many copies.
  • Worked: The Big Gay Fiction Giveaway. Before I came up with the idea for the BGFG, I had fifty-five people subscribed to my newsletter. Afterward, it was over 1,500. A number of those readers have posted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and ordered Man & Monster. So the giveaway was a huge win that I’ll definitely be repeating.
  • Worked: In general, getting coverage for M/M books is definitely an uphill struggle. So thank heavens for M/M review sites like DiverseReader, SinfullyGayRomance, and MyFictionNook who actually review and post about LGBT books. And other M/M authors have been very helpful in promoting Man & Beast. Networking with fellow authors is crucial!

man-monster-ebook-smallWhat I’ll Do Different Next Time:

  • Newsletter promotion. Thanks to the Big Gay Fiction Giveaway, I’ve now got an email newsletter list that I’ll be able to use to promote Man & Monster. (And I’ve got a whole strategy about how I’m going to use that email list, which I’ll discuss in another post.) Hopefully, that will make a big difference.
  • $.99/free promo sites. Initially, I won’t be doing any of these. Mostly because they didn’t work and because I’m pricing M&M at $4.99. A little farther down the road, I will be doing a BookBub for Man & Beast to help spur sales of both books. I’ll also use the Countdown Daily Deal, which is available to author’s enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and let’s authors promote their book at a lower price for a set period of time.
  • Guest blog posts. I’m doing more guest blog posts, interviews and excerpts. This seems to be the best way to reach potential readers.
  • I won’t be doing any FB ads, except for boosting my initial “Hey, my new book is for sale!” post.
  • Newsletter swaps. This time around I’ll be looking for books that are less romance and more genre, such as paranormal, science fiction, and, of course, historical.

So there you have it! Stay tuned for an update on how the launch for Man & Monster goes.





One Response to “Lessons From a Book Launch”

  1. Dilyana 3 February 2017 at 10:54 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your experience! Looking forward to the post about your email list strategy.

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