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.

Categories: The Long Hard Road