Monday, 12 January 2015

A Tale of Two Novels

First Thirty Days

This blog sets out the outcome of a little experiment. For those of you who haven't read last week's post, towards the end of 2014 I released two YA novels. One was called Inner Fire; the other was A Necklace of Souls. Inner Fire was released with significant publicity; A Necklace of Souls was launched with next to none

More details on the two novels are set out below.

Two Novels

- Inner Fire - YA - thriller/suspense - standalone - publisher: Waverley Productions, 2014
- A Necklace of Souls - YA - fantasy - #1 in series - publisher: harperCollins (Voyager) 2012-13; lately published by Waverley Productions, 2014. Winner: Tessa Duder Award, 2012; NZ Post Book Awards, 2013.

Publicity for Each Novel

1. Inner Fire: 
  • Professional publicist and professional press release
  • Available as on-line and print 
  • Advertising and publicity:
      • Newspaper article (readership 250K +)
      • Radio interview
      • Review in Collected, School Librarian magazine
      • Advertising in self-pub section in Publishers Weekly and application for review by Publisher's Weekly
      • Advanced Readers Copies to local high-volume bloggers 
      • Blog tour to YA bloggers
      • Goodreads giveaway
Sales channels - Inner Fire
  • Kindle unlimited, kindle select and countdown deal.
  • CreateSpace - print copies, including extended distribution
  • NZ specialty bookstores - print copies

2. A Necklace of Souls:
  • Advertising and Publicity:
      • Advance reader copies to Goodreads followers
      • Facebook advertisement 
      • Extensive publicity in NZ 2013-14 through NZ Post Book Awards. Approx 2000+ sales in NZ 2012 - 2013 before rights returned in 2014.
Sales channels - A Necklace of Souls
  • Amazon Kindle
  • itunes, barnes and noble, Nook and Scribd (via Draft2Digital)
  • Print in local NZ bookstores - voyager imprint only
From InkyGirl

Outcome - Caveats

  1. Numbers set out below are approximate only.
  2. The cost of marketing only includes giveaways, publicity and advertising. It does not include cover art, editorial, website design or formatting.
  3. I don't have visibility into print sales through bookshops yet as these are not available until after 3 months. So this print sales volume includes direct print sales through my website only, not retail outlets.
  4. Inner Fire was in the top 50 on Amazon for the YA/thrillers/spies for the first thirty days.
  5. Although the loans look reasonably good for Inner Fire, the revenue for Kindle Unlimited is really uncertain. Greatest returns are through print sales through my website.
  6. There are other rewards than sales volumes. For Inner Fire, these have included people stopping me on the street and saying how much they enjoyed my book; emails from fans; emails from reviewers saying 'it's fabulous'; a parent telling me in a cafe how thrilled they were that their daughter, not a big reader, was reading my book and loving it.


Inner Fire A Necklace of Souls
sales - amazon
loans (kindle unlimited)
sales - print
sales - electronic (other)
reviews - Goodreads
reviews - Amazon
approximate cost of marketing (NZD)$1,000.00$15.00

The Sales Roller-coaster


  • Formatting was a lot harder than I thought it would be; I wasted a lot of time on it.
  • Using a local printer worked well (it was cheaper than CreateSpace), but the lack of print-on-demand facilities in New Zealand makes it expensive unless you do more than about 300 units.
  • Print is a really effective advertising tool. People love getting free books. The Goodreads giveaway (which you can only do with a print book) was an effective promotional tool. However, sales were relatively low - although loans were higher than I'd expected.
  • Using a professional formatter made life a lot easier but it's quite expensive. It is probably more cost-effective to use an outlet like Draft 2 Digital .
  • Using a blog tour is good promotion (and is relatively inexpensive) but offers limited return in terms of sales. However, I gained a lot of followers on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter following the blog tour, which was useful for the release of Necklace
  • Using a professional publicist meant a high-quality press release and has gained some high-profile reviews, such as a national newspaper article, but has led to limited sales volume.

Final Conclusion

Low-key advertising seems to offer better value. So for A Skilful Warrior (the sequel to A Necklace of Souls) I will have a small blog tour, a Goodreads giveaway and, if you're a Goodreads follower, you might get offered a free advance copy. Get in quick! 
  1. Social media seems to be more effective than paid publicity. 
  2. And finally - these sales volumes will not make me rich. However, other very successful self-published authors report similar sales volumes early on, and so for the time being I'm actually not that discouraged. 
  3. In general, the trend is positive. Reviews are good; readers are enjoying my books. And I'm working out a more hassle-free process as I go. So I do plan to produce one or two more books in 2015. Stay tuned!

Friday, 2 January 2015

New Year, New Year's Resolutions

The hardest thing about writing is that ... it's a slow process. It takes time to craft words well; it takes persistence to string them together to make sentences. And it takes even longer for these sentences to grow into a novel, to be edited and re-edited until the novel is complete. The trick to writing is to approach the task in increments. One paragraph at a time, each paragraph growing into a scene, into a chapter and so on.

The same is true for publishing. Getting a book onto virtual or physical bookshelves is best approached as a project. Tasks accomplished sequentially, in their required order. Rather like moving house, it's a good idea to sit down and plan the steps.  I had a list of jobs that need to be done before the book is released. Some things needed to be done early, others waited until the last minute. One of the things which needed to be done early was launch preparation.

New Year, New Book

My New Year's resolution for 2015 is to get my a new book, A Skilful Warrior, out onto virtual bookshelves by April 2015. It's the sequel to A Necklace of Souls, and was written two years ago. Warrior was sitting on my publisher's in-tray for a year. Then along came a restructure, a down-sizing and two book awards later the manuscript was surplus to requirements. HarperCollins were fantastic, though; they gave my my rights back. Which has meant I have been able to re-publish A Necklace of Souls myself, with very little work, and with a brand-new cover.

Big Bang or Slow Release?

In the meantime, however, I had written Inner Fire. Partly because I wanted to learn the craft of publishing on a stand-alone novel, and partly because the story had gripped me and I wanted to just get it out.  So, rather amazingly I had two novels coming out over just a few months: Inner Fire was published in October 2014; A Necklace of Souls in December 2014. I have used two very different launch strategies for this publishing approach, as I wanted to see which offered the best value.

I've summarised these approaches below, and in my next post I'll discuss the outcome. Click on the links in the text if you want more information.

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more
From Dilbert

Inner Fire

Novel: YA, standalone, suitable for 15 years +. Planned Release: November 2014

June 2014
- Decided to do print as well as e-copies

August 2014
- Booked a book blog tour with YA Bound for December 2014
- Engaged Lighthouse PR to do publicity
- Final proofing of print copies template for CreateSpace
- Prepared cover blurb

September 2014
- Advertising strategy planned
- Engaged a print distributor
- Engaged a local printer
- Print proof prepared for local printer

October 2014
- Formatting for kindle completed by Ebook Launch
- Loaded onto kindle (but not published), decided on price and distribution channels
- Increased social media presence 
- Books arrived
- Press release prepared
- Press release sent to interested parties by publicist
- ebook released onto KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited
- Advertisement placed on Publishers Weekly

November 2014
- Advance release copies to media reviewers (I engaged my publicist to manage this)
- Talk to local bookstores about upcoming release
- Giveaway copies to friends, unofficial reviewers, bloggers
- Increased social media presence
- set up paypal on my website
- joined Amazon Affiliates programme
- sent marketing material (posters) to distributor

December 2014
- Goodreads giveaway closed
- Blog tour completed
- print and e-available for sale
- media interviews (newspaper and company magazine)

A Necklace of Souls

Product Details

Novel: YA and Adult Fantasy, series, book #1, suitable age 13+. Published in 2013 by harperCollins, won a number of awards.

September 2014
- Decided to do only e-book release in 2014; print in March 2015

October 2014 
- sent pdf of manuscript to E-book Launch for formatting. They were unable to format from a pdf, so I went back to the word version. 
- Re-edited the manuscript
- Engaged a cover artist

November 2014 
- Cover design completed
- Formatting completed for Kindle and Google play 
- Blog tour booked for March 2015

mid-December 2014
- Mobi file loaded onto Kindle (not Kindle Select)
- Word file loaded onto Draft 2 Digital.
- electronic advanced reading copies distributed to Goodreads followers
- $15.00 advertisement on Facebook

Print vs E-books?

  • You need to think hard about whether you'll sell print or e-books or both. This will determine your launch strategy and determines your time frame.
  • The approach I used for Necklace was pretty much the same that I used when being traditionally published. People say, oh but self-publishing is a lot of work, and it is, but it's not a lot more than trad publishing if you don't do a print version. 
  • There are benefits to print - people like it for giveaways, it's really really nice to touch a print book and you can sell signed copies. Print also offers you different price points on Amazon and a wider distribution.  However, doing the layout and the proofing was a lot more work. 
  • Using a distributor like Draft 2 Digital was significantly easier than directly loading onto each platform. iTunes has a different platform to Nook, to Kindle, and they are none of them simple to understand. I am still trying to work my way through the Google Play platform! Next time I will just use D2D for every outlet. They are incredibly helpful, they pay monthly and there's no charge if you don't make a sale. Just remember, though, if you do decide to directly load to iTunes, Nook or Kindle later on, you may lose all the reviews that have accrued through your distributor sales.
  • There is a real lack of transparency in print sales through retail outlets. I found this with traditional publishing, too; it's not my distributor's fault at all. This is partly because of the sales and return process which operates with retail. If a book doesn't sell, the retailer can return it to the distributor free of charge. This seems to operate in a 3 month timeframe, so sales volumes won't be evident for a few months. This means that if you do wish to sell through a print outlet, do NOT over-print, unless you are confident of your volumes. 
  • The quality of print from CreateSpace and from Ligare Print were both excellent. Better,  I thought, than the printers used by HarperCollins.
  • In the next post I'll talk a bit more about the outcome of these two strategies, so you can see which approach offered more return on my advertising investment.


If you're wanting more information, also check out David Gaughran's Let's Get Visible; it was very helpful when it came to setting pricing and deciding on which channels to use. I've also set out some links on my pinterest board.

If you have any questions on the information set out here, please do feel free to post a comment or to message me through Goodreads or Facebook.

And Happy New Year. Good luck with your New Years Resolutions, whatever they may be!