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Monday, September 7, 2020

The Journey to Self-Publication, Part 8: Pre-release Marketing

I've gotten quite a few questions about why I finally decided to delve into self-publishing and how I'm doing it, so I figured why not create a new blog series!

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a piece of the self-publishing puzzle---from how I came to this choice to writing, editing, marketing, sales, and everything in between. Please remember that this is simply my experience, how chose to do things. Others do things differently, and that's fine! So, your mileage may vary, but in the end, I hope seeing yet another way of tackling self-publishing will help you on your path. 

Need to catch up on previous posts? Find them here:

So far, I've really enjoyed self-publishing, and my journey hasn't been super difficult. Having all the control is empowering, and the freedom I've had to tell this story the way I want has been great. But getting the book to the point where you can hit "publish" is the easy part, really. Now, I have to get people to actually buy and read my book, and that starts long before the book is actually available for sale.


For me, the first step in my marketing plan was to pick a solid release date--yes, this was very strategic for me, as it should be for anyone venturing into self-publishing. I chose September 15, 2020. 

Because I'm tuned in to the publishing conversations on Twitter, I knew that paranormal was making a comeback within traditional publishing. Agents and editors were actively seeking it out. I also knew I needed several months lead time to get everything in order, so I was already leaning toward releasing book one in the fall, though I was aiming for later in October. Then, two things happened that I couldn't have planned, but worked really well to my advantage:

  1. Stephenie Meyer announced, and then released Midnight Sun in August, and 
  2. Tracy Wolff's second book, Crush, was moved up to release later in September. 

Both of these books / series are used as comp titles for my book, so having them release right around the same time as my book would help tremendously as I can tap into the same fan base. I re-evaluated my original late October date and decided to move up the publication date. People who have read Midnight Sun and want more young vampires, or readers who are looking for something to read while waiting for Crush can read my book. My book release falls right between these two books, hopefully putting me in the sweet spot. 

As soon as I had my release date picked, I began my marketing efforts. Here's a comprehensive list of the things I've done so far, cost involved, and the honest results... 

1. Cover Reveal -- I didn't do anything huge for this, but I shared it on my social media and with my newsletter subscribers and asked a select few author friends to share it, too. I made sure to include the pre-order buy link and the link to Goodreads. I didn't get any purchases at this stage, but I did have a couple friends add it on Goodreads. 

Cost: $0.00

2. Hired Some Help -- I hired a PA (publishing / personal assistant) to help maintain some of my social media, make graphics, and create, organize, and run a readers' group. If y'all are looking for someone, I suggest checking out Sara Beth Williams. She's highly organized, communicative, easy to work with, and very affordable. Since hiring her, I've seen an uptick in engagement on my Facebook author page and on my Instagram. 

Cost: $80.00 per month (for 2 months so far, though I have no intention of firing her. LOL)

3. Created a Readers' Group -- This was something I'd been meaning to do for a long time, and I figured now was the perfect opportunity. If you want to check it out, you can visit the official website and the Facebook group to get a sense of how I'm running this. Right now, the group is still small (under 50 people) and comprised mostly of friends, family, and fellow authors, but I'm working on growing it. I share sneak peeks, exclusive excerpts, and other fun stuff in there before it goes public anywhere else. I ask for them to help spread the word about my book by sharing posts, etc., and in turn, they can earn points to eventually get free books and swag from me. I've gotten 2 or 3 pre-order sales from this group.

Cost: $0.00 (For now. Once I begin sending rewards, this will start to cost me something.) 

4. Joined a Newsletter Builder -- A friend of mine alerted me to a paid opportunity to grow my newsletter that was targeted specifically to readers of Twilight and/or YA paranormal books. Don't worry -- everyone new to my list was added with their consent upon entering the hosted giveaway. From this event, I gained 463 new subscribers! I recently sent out a newsletter welcoming all of them and introduced them to my book. I ended up losing about 20-25 of those subscribers, but I expected that. In fact, I expected more than that, so overall, I'm pleased with the retention rate so far. 

The day I sent that newsletter, I had 4 new pre-orders, which isn't a lot, but those are four people I might not have reached otherwise if it hadn't been for this effort. If you're interested in joining something like this, check out the Fiction-Atlas Author Builders group on Facebook. They have tons of opportunities for a variety of different genres. 

Cost: $25.00

5. Dropped the Price -- Originally, I had the price set at $2.99, which I didn't feel was too much for a book that's over 300 pages / 100k words. But, I also realize I'm a nobody in the YA paranormal world. At this price, I didn't sell a single copy 😔 So, I made the choice to drop the price to $0.99 up through release week. I had my PA make some graphics announcing this price change, we shared them on social media, and within days, I had a couple more pre-order sales. This is probably one of the biggest benefits of self-publishing -- the ability to play with the price point until you find that sweet spot that works. 

Cost: $0.00

6. Started Blogging -- I began writing and sharing this Journey to Self-Publication series along with consistently sharing #TeaserTuesday posts each week leading up to release day. I've shared links on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I've seen a sharp increase in my blog visits. Has it resulted in any sales? I have no idea, but it's getting my name out there more, which was the ultimate goal. 

Cost: $0.00

7. Pre-Release Reviews -- I hired Xpresso Book Tours to list my book on NetGalley for 30 days to help garner some early reviews. (I also hired them to do a book blitz, but I'll talk more about that in another post.) Readers post their reviews directly on the NetGalley site, along with Goodreads, and hopefully, on Amazon once the book releases. I've been able to pull quotes from some of the reviews to use in teaser images I share on social media, and to list in the "reviews" section on the book's Amazon page. While I can't say with any certainty that this was the reason, I did end up getting a couple new pre-order sales shortly after my book went live on NetGalley.

Cost: $65.00

I also, just recently, added my book to the Book Sirens website to (hopefully) garner a few more reviews. My book is being added on Monday (today), so I don't have any insights to share about this just yet, but I'll circle back around to this in another post to give an update. 

Cost: $60.00 

8. Guest Blogging -- I've been reaching out to fellow authors and bloggers to do some early guest posts / interviews to talk about my book or anything else they'd like me to talk about. While I haven't done a ton of these, I have seen some benefit. The day one of my interviews went live, I had a new pre-order sale. Was it directly related to the guest post? No idea, but it can never hurt to get your name out there. 

Cost: $0.00

Overall, I've spent a total of $310.00 on pre-release marketing efforts. (Disclaimer: I've actually spent more than this, but those are for release day and beyond, which I'll talk about later.) As of the writing of this post, I have a total of 11 pre-orders. 

To some, that's laughable, I'm sure, but for me, I consider that mildly successful. Even books I've published with small presses didn't have that many pre-orders, and knowing I'm doing this on my own? Feels like a pretty big win 😉

I'm still a very long way away from breaking even on my investment -- and I realize I might never break even on this book, and I'm okay with that. The way I see it, this is my "loss" book; the book I use to draw in readers to the series and to me as an author. I can only grow from here, right? 

Next week, I'm going to dive into audio books, why I think they're fantastic, and how they can bring in another stream of royalties for very little investment! 

Got questions?

Drop them in the comments!

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