Marketing as an Indie

This is how selling books on Amazon works as an indie, after you’ve exhausted your own lovely readership.

Sales rank is like shelf space. The higher your sales rank, the more likely you are to be seen by random browsers. (This is also influenced by # of reviews, especially when it comes to browse methods other than category-wandering, like ‘also bought’ and straight up search results.)

Sales rank is obviously influenced by sales. So you need to move your book up in the sales rank so more people see it. You need to do this by selling. Or by doing giveaways that you convert to a minimal price point on the second day. And you have to promote the sales and the giveaways, so you go to various deal-promo lists and you hope to get a lucky feature or else you pay them (or you get lucky and THEN you pay them) for that feature.

And you hope like hell some of the taste-setters maybe pick up your book someday. One of the problems there is that the taste-setters are pretty courted and petted and busy, and they often have an aversion to reading books they haven’t heard other people talking about warmly. Kind of a catch-22 there, where you also have to end up lucky. But you keep trying because word of mouth matters and some mouths have more reach than others.

Meanwhile you’re of course working on the next books, which, especially if they’re sequels, provide their own boost to sales. I think they’re the longest-term thing to be accomplished, both in terms of time spent and benefit gained. But ask me about that again in a year or so!

It’s definitely a job, with expenses. Not anywhere near a full-time job, not for me and my shelf and my approach. But I can understand why a micro press without somebody armed with a budget and fully dedicated to marketing would eventually flounder. And unless you have lottery-winning luck or an existing platform with thousands of solid social media contacts, simply writing a book and putting it out there is going to result in six sales and depression.

Independence Day, Book Sales, Updates

My sons have been watching lots of YouTube videos, because that’s the modern state of summer daycare around here, and thus I feel an almost overwhelming temptation to start my post with, “Hi everyone, Chrysoula here!”

One day I might get around to posting more of my thoughts on current events in this blog. I DO talk about things other than books, but mostly on Twitter at the moment. But there’s definitely a lot to think about this Independence Day.

Or not think about! Here’s the book sale blurb! Matchbox Girls is 99 cents, down from 2.99! Citadel of the Sky is $3.99, down from $6.99. In the case of Citadel of the Sky if you don’t have it may I encourage reading it so you too can see what all the fuss* is about?

*The fuss: Citadel of the Sky tends to inspire strong opinions, some good, some bad. I had a review tour last month. It was… tempestuous.

As for Matchbox Girls there’s no better time to get started with the Senyaza series. The short story collection Etiquette of Exiles will be appearing in ebook form in less than two weeks and the 4th full novel, Divinity Circuit,  will be showing up in the autumn.

Ahem. I’ve been experimenting a lot with marketing, as you might guess. I’ll have a blog post at some point on the various services I’ve tried and the response I’ve seen. Some of my theories are not panning out. Other things are basically working. I would like to point out that Citadel of the Sky has a quarter page ad in RT Book Review, an actual print magazine, which is a small dream come true.

I’ve also been finishing up a round of revision on Divinity Circuit. After that my plan is to outline and generally do pre-production on a whole bunch of different novels:

  • Senyaza #5, tentatively called Hybrid Spirits and a direct sequel to Wolf Interval. I’d like to write and release this by autumn 2016.
  • Thrones #3, listed as Shrine of Summer in Citadel of the Sky. I’d like to write and release this in spring 2017.
  • Nightlights #2. I’d like to plan this extensively then write it slowly for Wattpad across 2016. We’ll see what happens. The toddler starts preschool so hope springs eternal!
  • Astromantica. Good old Astromantica. I meant to devote the whole year to you. Let’s see if we can at least produce an outline draft, eh?
  • High School Werewolf Unicorn Romance, possibly called Fangs 4 Flowers. This is an experimental book that I’d like to write and release fast. Although I’m not quite sure when…
  • Unnamed Space Opera. Sailor Moon meets Warhammer 40k. Another experiment, this time in finding out if I should be writing science-light SF. I’d love to write this one in November and December, for an early 2016 release, but we’ll see because it needs a lot more worldbuilding and thread-weaving than F4F will. On the other hand, my space-obsessed 8 year old is eager to help.

You’re thinking: Wow, that’s a lot! And it is, which is why I’m planning a good solid few months outlining. Honestly, I have three goals that all have to squeeze in together:

  • Continue on with my existing commitments. For Thrones of the Firstborn, that’s three more books. For Senyaza, it’s… a lot more books. Let’s call it ‘indefinite’. And Nightlights kind of deserves a sequel.
  • Experiment with writing a fast, emotional romance. One of the stories I wrote for the Senyaza collection was an attempt at mimicking the style of little kid chapter books. I found that the focus on clear, simple images and straightforward language was really addictive and quick to write. I’d like to see what happens if I do that again but with more adolescent subject matter. Also, romances sell better than everything.
  • See if I can find a niche where what I write is more in line with reader expectations. I… I can go into this more later in another post if anybody is curious.

My strategy for writing all these outlines will be a round-robin snowflake style. Very top-down, go through each of the projects for each design step. And I’m not quite giving myself as much time as I think I need, because you know what happens when I give myself plenty of time? I find ways to Not Work until I no longer have quite enough time. It’s ridiculous.

There’s a heat wave on here. It seems to be the new form of Seattle summers. We have no AC. And now it is time to take the children to a lake. So, uh, later!

Oh so busy revising and writing and driving

Well, the Handy Small Child has started preschool, and I’ve started working through the Matchbox Girls edit notes in earnest. The lazy days of summer, when all I had to do was write a Nightlights scene a day and do chores, have drifted away like autumn leaves.

Of course, it’s the hottest weather we’ve had all summer right now. I mean, my tomatoes  don’t care, they’re still stubbornly staying green, because they’re conspiring against me. But still, hot weather.

Anyhow, this weekly post is supposed to be about Matchbox Girls. It’s my novel! It’s coming out in February! I’m going through it closely for the first time in at least six months. It hasn’t faded as much as I thought it might, but I did spend three years weeping tears of blood over it. Maybe it takes more than six months for those to fade.

Yes, okay, hyperbole. I don’t think I even cried salt tears over it. I did, however, reach the 3/4th point in the original draft, then decide it was All Crap and wrote it all over again from scratch. And it took a long time. Three+ years from start to finish, as I said (and for comparison, I’ve written 111,000 words since starting Nightlights in April).

A few scenes from the initial draft made it into the second draft mostly unmodified, but there were huge, huge changes, too. Characters cut, characters added, sub-plots expanded, sub-plots removed. Sometimes I run into brainstorming from before I even started the initial draft and it’s barely recognizable.

One thing I’ve noticed I do in the process of refining a story idea is that I strip information from the protagonist. In early iterations of an idea, the protagonist is often well-informed, with clear instructions and knowledgeable mentors. This makes maintaining tension harder, which affects pacing. So I throw out most of the information and make acquiring it part of the plot. What I do is probably a bit of a cheat, and I’m sure many excellent authors are able to provide a well-paced story without throwing characters in over their heads.

But it seems to be an effective cheat.

Okay, going through editorial comments and changes probably adds a lot of tension to the reading process for me. But while every scene is still laser-engraved in my memory, I still picked up this sense of growing anxiety and dread from the story, an awful sense of ‘Oh God, what’s going to happen next?’ Ridiculous, because I know. I wrote it. Ridiculous and weird. A couple of beta readers mentioned that they’d read most of the story in one sitting, which I dismissed at the time as ‘they were trying to get through it fast’. (Sorry, beta readers! Please forgive me!) Now, I’m wondering if I maybe did something right.

Posts like this are hard for me. The idea that saying something good about myself or my work will backfire on me is deeply, deeply ingrained. But I also need to do lots of self-promotion to succeed in this new publishing world. Or at least– I need to do some self-promotion. I still firmly believe that quality should rise to the top, but I’ve grudgingly come to admit that it can’t happen if it’s hidden in a closet. It’s easier for introverted me to work on quality improvement over selling myself, but I’ve got to work on both.

So, Matchbox Girls. Every sixty pages or so, it changes gears, always going faster. I think people will like it. And you’ll probably be hearing more from me about it.