All the stories in Upon a Time are based on fairy-tales: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty. Except they have a fairy godfather, a mirror programmer (how do you define 'fairest'), and specially engineered glass shoes.
Fun, right? Easy, right? Well, yes and no.
This blog post documents the process, partly for my own reference, so I don't repeat my mistakes, and partly for others, because I really wished I'd had something like this to read before I started.
The Story of My GiveawayI wanted to do two things with Upon a Time
One: I wanted to thank my readers.
A side note: When you're independent, like me, your readers are the most important thing in your world. (Apart from family and friends, of course!). Traditional publishers have multiple customers: distributors, booksellers, book clubs. I have one: my readers. This does change the focus significantly - astute self-published writers have a very active social media presence for this very reason, and explains perhaps why some of the large publishers have taken a while to discover the power of directly engaging with their readership. My readers are wonderful, intelligent and so kind - I really, really enjoy talking with them on facebook and twitter. I felt it was important that I thanked them for all their support over what has been a very full-on year.
Two: I wanted to find out more about who buys my books.
So I decided to set my giveaway up as a lead magnet.
What's a Lead Magnet?A lead magnet is an article of value for a visitor to your website. It's also a way to encourage customers to sign-up for more information from you ("to receive a free xxx sign up for our newsletter"). Why on earth would I want people to sign up for anything - I'm not a store, I'm a writer? A lead magnet is designed to extract email addresses from customers. The holy grail of marketing; a targetted market. This is a bit conflicting for me, because I wrote Upon A Time as a present, not a carrot. But what the hey, if it could be both that would be super.
So I decided to ask readers to provide their email address before receiving the link to the short stories.
I wanted to set up this short story collection as an EXPANDING collection. I love serials, and I love the idea of special stories for a select group. I also love advent calenders, the idea of opening a little door and seeing something secret inside. So I wrote this set of stories kind of like an advent calendar. Nutty, I know.
The plan for my Giveaway was that, four times throughout the 2016, I will release another bunch of short stories, for readers to download. By signing up to this collection, they will end up with, by the end of the year, a substantial free book. And hopefully, by the end of the year, I'll have enough content that I can actually put it up for sale in 2017.
Sounds simple, doesn't it?
|Martin Scorsese from AZ Quotes|
There is no such thing as simpleHere are the steps (and costs) to doing this Giveaway:
- Write the stories. Edit, repeat. Re write.
- Create digital files for your giveaway. I splashed out on Vellum to produce epub and mobi and I used a template I'd already created to do the pdf. Another side note. Oh wow, Vellum is so AMAZING. I did all this formatting in an afternoon - it would have taken me all day to do this earlier. I purchased a single use license, but you pay per title, and because this is an expanding book I won't have to pay again.
- Engage a cover artist, or do it yourself. I engaged Paper and Sage. Because I'm fussy with my covers, I didn't buy a premade, but if I had this would have made the process a little cheaper.
- Build a newsletter on mailchimp. This means figuring your way through the mailchimp software. Not hard, but takes time. (I went with mailchimp because my web wizard, Doug, said it was the best for me. That's how I select website plugins: Doug tells me what to do and I do it.)
- Build an email header on Canva. Again, not hard, but takes time to learn the software.
- Build a Facebook ad on Canva. Ditto. And, oh no, because I haven't got the pro option (because I'm trying to keep everything low cost), I can't resize the email header. Solution: download the email header as a jpg and upload it again into Canva's uploads files. This means I can't change the elements within the image, but it saves me starting again from scratch.
- Test the newsletter. Test the newsletter link. Test everything a hundred times. It won't work the first time (or it didn't for me), so repeat and repeat.
- Load the files onto your web page.
Wordpress IssuesThis is where it all went pear-shaped. Turns out that Wordpress.org does not accept mobi or epub files. I spent a couple of hours googling 'troubleshoot' and finding bunches of code written by enthusiastic developers that might or might not work. But I'm not Doug: my idea of coding is to write a formula in excel. I didn't want to break my website by adding in something off the internet.
A couple of hours later I found cloud-up, a file sharing site, and recommended by wordpress so I figured probably compatible and not dodgy. I put my precious mobi, epub and pdf files on there. More testing of links, an error in the pdf, a few more fixes. Then - the files wouldn't download from cloudup onto my ipad. Aargh!
By then it was six on a Saturday and my kids and sick husband were hungry. I ordered takeaways.
Oh yes, and I'd sprained my ankle that week. It was huge and swollen and purple, but fortunately not broken. So a day sitting down was actually really good for it, but isn't it always the way, that life gets in the way of your plans?
- I embedded a pdf into my giveaway page, and that seemed to open fine. Fingers crossed.
- Double checked the links on the newsletter.
- I crafted a boosted post on Facebook, using my newly made Canva graphic, and set it off into the world.
- Sent out the newsletter (with its Canva-generated graphic), into the world.
5 new sign-ups to my newsletter. 5! After all that work. I do wonder about this writing lark sometimes.
Outcome so Far:
50 odd hits on my website. A few shares on Facebook.
I realised I might have made a mistake with the mailchimp software - I forgot to ask people to confirm their email address, so quite possibly they retrieved the file without signing up.
That's not a problem - it was a giveaway, anyway.
Motto: If you're going to give stuff away, don't expect payment.
But if these people want to get the rest of the story - if this was you - you'd better get in touch, like my facebook page or something, because otherwise you'll be left hanging on, never knowing what happens to Aroha and the rose.After all, says David Mitchell, there's nothing worse than a story half-finished. It's like a half-finished love affair.
To those of you who did manage to download, Merry Christmas! I do hope you didn't have any technical glitches. And I hope you enjoy the stories.
Don't forget to check in for more. Next release is Valentine's Day.