Reality Bites!

Here we go again, marching into another Spring; full of optimism no doubt? Well, yes and no; in the year since I last experienced the gradual warming of my bones, and new growth in my garden, there have been many positives.

When you look at things more closely however – reality bites.

Do you recall my New Year resolutions? To write more; to market The Phoenix series, rather than individual titles. To double the number of downloads I achieved in 2016; and to enjoy life.

With the help of the Freebooksy promotion in mid-January, the first month of 2017 gave me huge optimism with well over 4500 downloads/sales. I had started writing the next book; the marketing plan was off to a great start, and I was enjoying life. So how did February turn out?

It’s never easy to pitch the follow-up promotion with a site that brought you plenty of success first time around. I discovered that last year with Digital Books Today, and Book Sends. A six to eight weeks’ gap should be reasonable; but ‘list exhaustion’ can strike before you know it, and the cost per unit yielded for the second, and particularly the third promotion make them far less attractive.

Last Monday, with no other promotions throughout February, I returned to Freebooksy for another Phoenix Series feature. This time, the figures fell to around 1700. There will be little point returning for six months; even then, it could give a similar return, rather than the heady heights of January.

What about all the other social media channels you’re using, you ask? That’s a fair point. This is where reality kicks in. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Goodreads, AskDavid, IAN (Independent Author Network) are all avenues I’ve used to spread the word about my books.

Do they help sell your books? Their effect is minimal at best.

Take Twitter as a prime example. Last February I had around 105,000 followers; I used Buffer to schedule up to 6 Tweets per day; and I spent a couple of hours every day adding a similar amount of content that was about anything other than my own books; as is recommended.

In the past year, I have lost 10,000 followers; I never follow anybody on the off-chance they’ll follow back these days (which I did regularly in my first four years on Twitter), and only follow back accounts that follow me first, and seem interesting. 99% of those stay with me.

I now schedule 8 Tweets per day with Buffer, and it’s a rarity if I add more content outside of that. I vary my posted Tweets, with new wording, fresh images, and lots more variety than twelve months ago, yet the impressions my Tweets receive have fallen from almost 1500 each, to around 800 (Likes & Retweets are down too).

Should I be worried? Why bother? Last February I was shifting a mere 10 – 15 copies per week. In the second half of 2016 despite the Twitter statistics being in decline I shifted over 300 copies per week and in 2017 so far, I’ve achieved 750 copies per week.

So, who needs Twitter, or any of the others if it comes to that? My own website, my Facebook Author Page etcetera, have plodded on for the past year with no significant improvement in traffic. There’s no evidence to suggest any one of them has been responsible for this eight-month long surge in interest in my books on Amazon.

No, the reality is the only sure-fire way for an indie author to sell books is to use a wide range of promotion sites. I’ve identified around 30 sites, where costs vary from $10 to $150 per feature.

Until last summer, I limited my marketing budget to around $500 per annum. I was well aware it was too little, so I pushed the boat out at the end of June, with $125 spread over four promotion sites. The results galvanized my enthusiasm for the game!

If I showed you a graph with the ‘peaks’ and ‘troughs’ of my weekly sales, it would become evident that when I don’t have a promotion running, the units drop dramatically. Not as low as the 10 – 15 of last February, but there’s no consistent, sustained level. Why is that? Because reality costs!

If I shop around, avoiding sites I have used in the past six month for the time being, and increase my budget to $3000, I’m convinced 2017 will yield at least 50000 downloads/sales.

My hope was to use one site on six to eight occasions, costing $150 each time, to achieve 16000 copies (or 20000 if things went well). That’s not practical, because one site will never have a large enough list to sustain me revisiting it any more than three times in a year maximum.

My guess is that by varying the promotions, and trying to have one running somewhere every week of the year would mean I would need to up my budget to at least $5000. I’m not sure I can stretch to that – but if I could, I wouldn’t be surprised if I could achieve close to 100000 copies for the year.

What does it all mean for me going forward? Despite my reservations above, I’m going to continue using the majority of the social media channels I currently use, but I’m not going to do much more than ‘maintain’ them.

All my efforts are going into funding the promotions; what I need to locate urgently are features which help me SELL copies of books 2-6 (plus 7-9 later this year) in the series. With the first book set as Permafree, there are thousands of copies of that being downloaded, without a promotion that specifically encourages the take-up of the series as a whole.

If I can get five percent of those readers who have taken ‘The Olympus Project’ through a promotion, to BUY the other books in the series, it would help fund my extended marketing budget.

So, that’s the dilemma for March. How to fund more promotions; how to stimulate sales of the other books, and carry on writing ‘Something Wicked Draws Near’ (#7 in the series), which is scheduled for completion before the end of April.

Have a good month! I shall be busy, as you can tell!

If you want regular updates on my books, why not join The Phoenix Club? The March Newsletter (#9) will be circulated in a few hours.

Perseverance Pays

Here we are again at the start of a new month. I can’t believe they come around so quickly. Perhaps it’s just old age.

Last April I published a blog chapter entitled ‘After The Black Dog’ in which I set out all the positives and negatives concerning my writing ‘career’. Nothing was working, no matter what I tried. Money was an issue, certainly, but at that point I was designing my exit strategy. Which was to write a couple of books to round off the Phoenix series; then quit, to take it easy.

In July, a book promotion changed things totally. Several thousand downloads during the rest of the summer, saw me publishing eight books in paperback, planning to complete 12 books in the series, and working harder than ever.


At the dawn of this New Year I told you that I had resolved: –

To write more.
To market The Phoenix series, rather than individual titles.
To double the number of downloads I achieved in 2016.
To enjoy life.

On the 16th of January, my first Freebooksy promotion for The Phoenix series yielded 4000 downloads. The rest of the month added a further 500.
So, January produced over 25% of my annual target already!

Odd how things can turn around isn’t it? Ten months ago, I was ready to pack it all in; but I decided to persevere. Perseverance pays.

I can put a tick beside all four of my resolutions. I’ve started writing the next book; the marketing plan is off to a great start, and I’m enjoying life. (Even the man flu that I’m suffering can’t stop me smiling.)

GOLD, SILVER, & BOMBS
For quite some time this book was Free on Amazon, but I’m only offering #1 ‘The Olympus Project’ Free from now on. As from Feb 1st, #2 will be $0.99

If you want news of offers and gifts, why not join The Phoenix Club. The February Newsletter (#8) will be circulated in a few hours.

What Will You Resolve To Do in 2017?

‘A New Dawn’, book #6 in The Phoenix series, is complete. It only remains to be formatted ready for publication. Of course, the holidays have delayed that; as nobody was working!

The cover, blurb and any other preparation I could manage, has been done. There are one or two items to tidy up for the paperback version, then we’re good to go.

Last month I told you the series was going to continue until #12. One thing’s for sure, I’m starting #7 almost immediately. I found it harder to get motivated this time than on any of the earlier titles. Old age possibly? Maybe, but it wasn’t a lack of ideas for plot lines. There are many stories left to tell.

So, what are my resolutions for 2017?

To write more.
To market The Phoenix series, rather than individual titles.
To double the number of downloads I achieved in 2016.
To enjoy life.

When you get a moment, check out my Gallery and Reviews Pages. After the exercise I carried out in the autumn, comparing my content/presentation with some of the best writers in my genre, I’ve updated them. The Gallery will now contain images and slideshows relating to my novels. The Reviews appear in discreet files by title. Nobody wants to trawl through over 100 reviews! You can do that on Amazon! I’ve selected the Top Ten highlights by book. Also you’ll see that I’m scrupulously honest about the number of stars I award my titles. It matches with the Amazon assessment. I hope you like the updated look?

Christmas was spent with our family, which is what we both prefer. Our children now have their own families, and since Boxing Day my wife and I have been left to our own devices. New Year’s Eve doesn’t encourage us to go out to socialise anymore; so, we stay home and welcome the New Year with a glass of something. I hope 2017 brings you everything you wish.

If you want news of offers and gifts, why not join The Phoenix Club. The first Newsletter for 2017 will be circulated in a few hours.

My First Missed Deadline

November saw two great weeks of downloads, due to the two promotions on Books Butterfly and Booksends, that I mentioned last month. I was encouraged by the figures in the remaining three weeks too. There are no more paid promotions until 2017 now, so I fully expect the downloads to drop away. It seems evident I can’t sustain the higher figures, without adding to my marketing budget. C’est la vie.

‘A New Dawn’, #6 in The Phoenix series, is behind schedule. I’m going to miss my Christmas deadline! I’ve got 40k words finished, so its two-thirds of the way there. There’s no sign of the dreaded ‘block’, it’s more a desire to get the ‘feel’ of this one right.

If there are up to six more titles to follow, then certain structures need to be put into place, to provide avenues for the necessary story lines. I hope readers like the subtle alteration in style. My own view is that I’ll gain new followers, with a slight change in direction. My fervent hope is that I don’t lose any of my current readers.

If you want news of offers and gifts, why not join The Phoenix Club? Newsletter #7 will be published in the New Year. A Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year. I’ll be back in January with lots more news I need to keep this blog post short – that book won’t finish itself!

a-new-dawn

A Dig In The Ribs

October was an interesting month, but ultimately it saw little return for the ‘dripping tap’ experiment. Despite the efforts of a handful of sites offering cheaper advertising for ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ and ‘In The Lap Of The Gods’ via 3 day blog posts & tweets; Daily spotlight; and 7 day pinning to Home page there were few actual sales.

I’ve used Books Butterfly this week for the two permanently free titles and ‘Bingo!’ the extra money I laid out paid dividends immediately. Over 700 downloads in 3 days. On Monday it’s a return to Booksends for a blast on ‘Gold, Silver, and Bombs’. (On Aug 8th ‘The Olympus Project’ got the same treatment and that yielded almost 1500 downloads) You get what you pay for I guess?

The next three weeks are promotion-free zones and although Digital Books Today are running a campaign throughout Dec/Jan, I’m waiting to decide where to target my promotion next.

The ‘dripping tap’ has been abandoned for the time being. It seems more beneficial to give the vast reading public ‘a dig in the ribs’ from time to time. So, the strategy going forward is ‘larger lumps every now and then’!

Time will tell whether this will bring lasting rewards, or just short term elation as the Amazon rankings improve sharply.

topthumb

The EIGHT paperbacks are still on the shelves awaiting orders. I’m still trying to work out how to promote these better. All ideas welcomed.

I’ve reduced the number of daily posts via Buffer, with that mixed-bag of titles, images and media. October saw an increase in impressions, but not enough to warrant it being a regular method of communication. Time for another batch of tweets, images and media vehicles perhaps?

Although the modest, regular spend strategy is now out of the window, I’m still increasing my ‘background’ presence with listings on EReader Café, Readers In The Know and The Fussy Librarian.

The website is fully functional at present, but there are changes to be made and by the dawn of 2017 I hope to let you see a slimline, more dynamic site. More news as I get it.

I’ve made a start on ‘A New Dawn’, book six in The Phoenix series, but it’s behind schedule. Mea culpa! Not to panic though, if I can write 3k words per day for 20 days between now and the 30th of November, it will still be ready for Christmas. No worries.

phoenixclubbanner

If you want news of offers and gifts, why not join The Phoenix Club. Newsletter #6 will be circulated to my ‘happy band of followers’ in a few hours.

The Dripping Tap Plan

With every month comes new challenges. September has thrown up a few familiar ones I’m afraid, but resilience is one attribute that a writer develops over time.

A setback that would have floored me a year ago is merely a mild irritation these days. All the evidence shows that progress is being made, so ‘onwards and upwards’.

The book promotion early last month yielded almost 900 downloads. The last three weeks were promotion-free zones and the drop-off in sales was significant, but not as low as the barely-visible levels of January to June.

The EIGHT paperbacks are now on the shelves awaiting orders. Don’t be shy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’ve read the ‘Reverse Engineering’ blog post from a week or so back, then you will know I’ve been busy measuring my ‘digital footprint’ against others in my field. It’s a constant task; nothing stands still in social media. If it does; it stagnates very quickly.

So what’s new? The dripping tap? This will be evident on THREE fronts between now and the end of the year.

I’ve increased the number of daily posts via Buffer, with a mixed-bag of titles, images and media.

I’ve identified up to THIRTY promotion sites with potential benefits for the indie author. You might still see the occasional obvious ‘big spend’ on the sites I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, but essentially I’ve targeted a modest spend EVERY week across a range of promoters.

Instead of a possible ‘spike’ on a particular day, I’m hoping to spread the word far and wide, picking up a few new readers here and there, day by day.

On Twitter, I have looked into the ‘Moments’ category, which has been available for around a year. It seems to me to be a fertile area for investigation. Watch out for my ‘Moments’ over the coming weeks.

There’s always a downside isn’t there? I pray that you can read this post without difficulty. My website has been playing up of late and the support I thought was readily available seems to have gone walkabout. If it can’t be resolved successfully soon, then I’ll be off to pastures new.

phoenixclubbanner

If you want more news of offers and gifts, why not join The Phoenix Club. Newsletter #5 will be circulated to my ‘happy band of followers’ in a few hours.

Can We Learn From The Best?

I know this is earlier than expected, but I spotted a post from another blogger about ‘reverse engineering’ and thought I’d give it a spin.

The basic steps: –
1.Select a group of writers in your genre that you admire, or you believe are a few rungs up the ladder from you. I went mad and chose NINE! Three ‘greats’; three well-known indie crime thriller writers and three who specialize in Vigilante Justice series.

cover-collage

2.Compare and contrast your covers. Produce a photo collage. Is there anything you can learn? In my case, I noticed Ian Rankin’s Rebus series uses very similar covers across its range, quite basic in design, but easily identifiable as part of a series. As you know, I elected to keep the same Phoenix image throughout the series. Tim Stevens and Jon Mills use almost exactly the same cover image.
The font size for titles and author name on many of the people I chose is far larger than mine. Colour though, isn’t that important to the group. My cover stands out from the rest because of the bold orange I used. Or is that just me being protective?
3.Check out the ‘blurb’ for the book. I deliberately cut off where Amazon states ‘Read More’. If you haven’t captured their interest in the first half-dozen lines, why would buyers delve deeper? If you do read on, some of the ‘big’ names have reams of information, mini-reviews from other ‘big’ names and prestigious publications. Although we can’t all add in that much detail, there are tips and tricks to learn from what they say & how they say it.
4.Look at the huge variety in the author bios! Claude Bouchard tells you about his writing, but there are lots of personal insights too; he gives the impression of being approachable. The sort of guy you might want to know? Jon Mills tells you zip about himself. Decide for yourself what works best and try to match the content and flavour of your bio to which you think is the best. I’ll let you into a secret: – when I re-vamped mine last year, I visited Ian Rankin’s. Apart from all the accolades and achievements he’s got in his, it contains some personal background followed by a list of all the books he’s written in chronological order. I used his as my template; thinking I could add in the accolades if/when they came along!
5.Analyse their social media output. Where are they? What do they tweet about? How do they use their Facebook page? How interesting is their website? Do they have other ‘footprints’ to help them sell books in greater numbers than us? My chosen authors were a mixed bag, but a couple had websites that were awesome (when compared to my own) and yet Tim Stevens, who is prolific and successful doesn’t have a dedicated website. Peter James has a YouTube TV channel (another box I can now tick) and Karin Slaughter posts dozens of trailers, interviews and other items through YouTube on her website.
6.Some writers suggest you should read books by your ‘favourite’ or ‘successful’ authors and then use what they wrote about & how they did it to improve your own writing. I think that’s rubbish! Be your own person. The world doesn’t need another Ian Rankin (sorry Sir). Your stories have to be unique in some way that sets them apart from the crowd. You’ll never achieve that if you follow the template laid down by another writer, no matter how brilliant they might be.

marketing1

There’s nothing really new in this approach is there? I remember reading articles from other bloggers and book promotion site owners telling me pretty much the same things over the past four years. I agonised over my covers, my blurb and my bio twelve to eighteen months ago and re-vamped everything. I think it had a positive effect; but you can’t afford to sit still. It’s time to re-assess. I’m going to sift through the data I’ve gathered and I’ll tweak those areas of my set-up I think will benefit from ‘learning from the best’. If you want to try it out yourself (I suggest on a more limited number of writers!) it might help; if it does come back & tell me all about it.

This was a bonus post. There are lots of newsworthy items left over for another day. I’ll be back in a fortnight. Happy Autumn!

Available In Words And Pictures

Before you know it, August will have come and gone. It’s time for a new blog post and another hectic month of events to catch up on.

The promotions for ‘The Olympus Project’ and ‘Gold, Silver, and Bombs’ produced a huge surge in downloads on the 8th of August, with just under 1400 books in twenty-four hours. Many thanks, and welcome to those new readers.

It was inevitable that after such a great day, the next three weeks would be an anti-climax, but it’s true what they say: – after you manage to get that ‘spike’ in sales, you don’t drop back to the level you were at previously. So, with very little promotion going on, the figures are still healthy.
Nothing Is Ever Forever

I have been running a promo for ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ #3 in the series, and at $0.99 it’s a bargain! As I promised last time, #4 ‘In The Lap Of The Gods’ has been reduced to the same price in the past week.

Yes, that means TWO things! One, you can get the first FOUR books in The Phoenix series for $1.98; and two, ‘The Price Of Treachery’ #5 in the series is OUT NOW. Priced at $2.99 the reviews are starting to arrive and a 14 Day Book Launch promotion starts on Monday 29th August on Digital Books Today.
The Price Of Treachery

Just in case you thought I sat back after completing the new book, the paperback situation has been moving forward quickly. There are EIGHT titles on Createspace waiting for their Cover files. The fabulous ‘The Cover Collection’ will be supplying those in the next few days and before you know it, I’ll be a Paperback Writer.

The heading for this blog post was ‘Words & Pictures’. I paid for Video Book Trailers for some of my early titles, but the outlay wasn’t justified by the number of views/sales they generated. I’ve got my own channel on YouTube now (Author Ted Tayler) with half a dozen Slideshows for my books. They all run for around ONE minute and although the ‘old’ ones are still out there, I’ll be using my new found skill to spice up my tweets and Facebook updates.
The series so far -

I’m planning a new promotion for The Phoenix series in mid-September, so watch this space. That buzz doesn’t show any signs of disappearing; even if it’s a little quieter just at present. Help me turn up the volume!

If you want more news of offers and gifts, why not join The Phoenix Club. Newsletter #4 will be circulated ‘when September comes’ – to coin a phrase.

A Real Buzz

Well, another month has passed. This time I’ve got more to tell you than in any month since I started this blog almost five years ago.

The first two books in The Phoenix series have remained FREE throughout July. That situation is set to continue. I plan to keep ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ at the $0.99 level and when book five is published, then ‘In The Lap Of The Gods will be reduced to match it.

I mentioned the promotion initiatives last month. Well, all three that I invested in have run their course. Wow! What a transformation. After three years of writing novels and trying to get the word out there – something wonderful happened.

If you write books and sell in huge numbers, then you will probably wonder why I am so excited. If you’re like the vast majority of us who have never sold more than single digits in a day, then maybe you’ll get it.

The promotions have helped to boost my numbers to just short of 3000 units in July. Both of the free books have consistently been in the Top 100 Free Crime/Thriller listings and ‘The Olympus Project’ has been as high as #5.

The series

So I want to give a huge vote of thanks to the people below: –

http://goodkindles.net

http://digitalbooktoday.com

http://bookpromo.net

More promotions follow during August and September. Good Kindles are promoting ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ from next Monday (8th) and Digital Book Today are running promos for the first two books here : –

Nothing Is Ever Forever

Nothing sparks your enthusiasm like good news does it? So, ‘The Price Of Treachery’ is 50000 words down, with around 15000 to go. It should be completed by the end of this week, then it’s edits and rewrites followed by the never-ending hunt for early readers and reviews.

I’m still awaiting a green light to publish the books in paperback. I’ve been busy writing these past three weeks and I’ve not chased it up as I should have. That’s my task for this month. Get that sorted. Oh, and finish the book.

There’s been a real buzz around the place this month. Let’s hope it continues. Happy days!

If you want more news of offers and gifts, why not join The Phoenix Club. Newsletter #3 will be circulated in the next 48 hours.

All The News That’s Fit To Print

Do you remember that slogan from a long defunct newspaper? I certainly do. Well, another month has passed and I’ve not written a word. Why am I being so lazy?

I’ve been far from idle; I’ve finally completed editing all the novels and short stories. Amazon US and UK have been extremely speedy and generous in setting the first two books in the series as permanently FREE. Although whenever I make that claim they seem to move the goalposts!

I want people to read the third and fourth stories, as well as look forward in eager anticipation for books five and six. I have no plans to reduce the price of the later books any further than the $0.99 or £0.99 level that ‘Nothing Is Ever Forever’ stands at currently. I need to get some return on my investment! Getting the word out there seems to be proving harder than I realised.

New Olympus Cover


I mentioned the promotion initiatives last month. Well, all three that I invested in are either under way or on hold while Amazon sort out their position. Both of the FREE books were first for the treatment. Various options were available involving listings, excerpts and Twitter blasts. You may well see some of these sites helping the cause: –

http://goodkindles.net

http://digitalbooktoday.com

http://bookpromo.net

More promotions will follow on during July and August if these prove successful and I can engineer a level playing field.

New GSandB Cover
I had a great ‘thank you’ message from Kate Teng from Canva for my comments last month about their website. It’s gratifying to know that someone reads my blog post. Even more so that someone takes the time and trouble to reach out to you in person.

Ever since my first book I have stuck to the modern option; kindle only. I kept getting prompts from Amazon about Createspace and Print On Demand so I wondered what was involved in getting my files ready for paperback publishing.

A lot less than I imagined! Around 45 minutes per book to prepare the word files to upload. I had covers already of course and the Createspace wizard steps you through the process effectively.
So that’s been my excuse for not writing this month! All of The Phoenix series and the two novels that preceded it are set to go into print as soon as I can ensure the promotions are working. I just have to await the tax form saga to be completed and I can press the GO button.

Maybe next week I’ll start writing ‘The Price Of Treachery’. Look out for those initiatives on the promotion front; and the new ones to follow. Enjoy July and I’ll be back at the end of the month with an update on how things have progressed.

If you want more news of offers and gifts, why not join The Phoenix Club. Newsletter #2 will be circulated in early July.