Saturday, September 4, 2010

Live from the Book Blitz Trenches

Hi, I'm Zoe Winters. Yeah, that sounds like a very support group thing to say, but as it's my debut post here I thought I'd introduce myself. I sell a lot more books as an indie author than many, and a lot less books as an indie than others. Yet, no matter what my numbers are, one thing I've always been, is vocal.

This causes me a lot of stress at times because while I have fans, I also have a few hecklers. And I know the hecklers sit around waiting for me to fail. Any time I try something new I know I might be giving the hecklers more to laugh about. And yet, at the end of the day, I'm still Zoe. So I'm going to say what I have to say.

One of the things I've done is blog and talk not only about my successes but about my failures and mistakes. I think it's easy to see someone doing pretty well and not know the hurdles and obstacles they climbed over to get there. I'm always surprised by the indies who want to throw in the towel after a month or two because they aren't selling big numbers yet.

Making mistakes and having some failures doesn't mean you can't get where you're going. I've done my fair share of stupid things, such as licensing cover art, instead of getting work-for-hire. (With a series I could think of a million ways that could go badly.) I lost a few hundred dollars and found a fantastic new artist. Lesson learned and completely not the original artist's fault. Cost some money and some time.

And I have another stupid error to bring to you today. We might print up some T-shirts later that say: Zoe Winters: She sells books even when she's a moron!

Today I'm coming to you from inside the Book Blitz trenches to talk about my first ever book blitz and what I've learned and am continuing to learn through this week's experience.

I planned my book promotional blitz months in advance. Then as the time got closer, I planned 2 guest blog posts a day for this week. I had an incentive to buy Blood Lust "now" on Kindle by making it 99 cents for the first part of the blitz. I had a BIG prize: A Kindle... with an even bigger incentive attached to buy the book... If Blood Lust gets into the top 25 of the overall Kindle store, I'll give away a second Kindle.

The way I saw it... if I didn't make the top 25, I wouldn't have to buy a 2nd Kindle to give away, and if I did, I wouldn't care that I had to buy another one. :)

The incentives were in place to make it go viral, everything was as it should be... then I made my error.

I published the Kindle edition in the DTP system on Saturday morning before the contest at 6 am. The plan was to announce the upcoming contest on my blog when the book became buyable and run it through today.

In my experience even though it says 48 hours, I've never had it take longer than a day and a half for my book to be totally live and buyable. When I got up late Saturday evening (because I'm on a vampire sleep schedule right now), I went to check progress. The Kindle page for Blood Lust was up! Whoo Hoo!

Time to send out my emails and make my blog post and tweet and get this party started.

But here was my error... the book wasn't buyable yet. I'd forgotten that the page can be up before there is a buy link and pricing information. I was so glad to see it already up there that I didn't really look as hard at the page as I should have.

So I blogged and emailed and tweeted... I opened the Pandora's Box on the contest. Immediately I started to see a much bigger and more enthusiastic response to the contest than I imagined I would get.

But... then I found out nobody could buy it. Suddenly I was losing money because not every single person who saw the offer was going to come back and check things out a second time. I was promoting and having other people promote a book that wasn't there yet... at least not on Kindle... and most people don't want to pay $13.95 to buy a print book of an author they've never tried.

Which is understandable.

Eventually the buy link went live. My sales weren't as great as I'd hoped they would be. Part of it might be that it was 4 days into the contest before people could buy the book. Part of it might be that the book was a compilation release of previously released material. A lot of it was likely timing: school starting back, labor day weekend, major publishers releasing their fall catalog, this is the part of the year my sales start to dip anyway, etc.

I also feel that giving away a Kindle was both distracting (such a big prize it overshadowed what I was actually promoting), as well as not demographic-specific. A Kindle IMO is too broad of a prize because it doesn't narrowly target enough. For my next book blitz I think I'll give away several print paranormal romance books, including signed copies of mine. That should keep the contest more tightly focused toward readers of my genre.

But it's all live and learn. Sometimes failures are what help us to figure out what doesn't work, so we can tweak and hopefully have a more powerful strategy the next time. A lot of people who know me consider me to be a "successful indie author" (I've sold over 23,000 ebooks on my own.) Well, now you know, that even "successful indie authors" don't win every single battle, and you don't have to either!

Zoe Winters is an indie author of quirky paranormal romances. Her favorite colors are rainbow and clear.


  1. Argh! That 48-hour thing is killer. So who won the Kindle?

  2. Thanks for this post, Zoe. :D It was informative and fun to read. It's good encouragement to help fellow indie authors through those discouraging times.

  3. Hey Selena,

    A woman named Susan Griscom won. I loved being able to tell her. She was really excited! Even though immediate sales weren't as great as I'd hoped, I did gain some new fans and garnered some good will among readers... It was also great publicity. I'm on the radar of people I wasn't before, and I won't do the "exact" same thing for my next blitz, but... I will do some kind of giveaway. I haven't figured out details yet.

    Hey Luna, thanks! I'm glad you found it helpful! I know I've often seen people's success stories, but without seeing some of the mistakes or less-than-hoped-for results, it's hard to look at one's own mistakes and 'less-than-hoped-for results without getting down about it!

  4. We all make mistakes. I've done it. And banged my head against a wall for a while. (At least it felt good when I stopped :) But everything we do is a risk of some sort - even writing the book in the first place. What's life without risk?

  5. Definitely! It's a learning experience and something that will help me do better next time! :)

  6. Nice to meet you Zoe. I like your positive attitude! You have to remember that putting ourselves out there in the first place is a worthwhile effort and everything that we do along the way, good or bad, is still good because it's publicity. I think success is far more satisfying in baby steps.