A year ago I decided to start self-publishing. It was a slow start, but like many other self-pubbed authors, the holiday season (December 2010 and January 2011) were very kind to me.
I was excited.
I told my writer friends.
Some shared my enthusiasm some didn’t. Many who weren’t previously published by New York poo pooed my success as something they couldn’t attain because they didn’t have a “name” otherwise known by marketing gurus as a “platform.” Please note the scare quotes there. I use them because while I do have fans, I am not a “name” and really believed the success I’d had was more from Amazon algorithms than my fans searching out my stuff.
But I heard that a lot.
So I decided to do a bit of an experiment. I took on the job of revising the very first manuscript I’d ever written, an amateur sleuth mystery titled Loose Screw.
The book needed work–lots of it. But I put in that work and in March put the book out under a pen name.
I created the cover myself with my target market in mind. First, though, I had to decide who that target market was. I had a few choices. One was people who buy dog mysteries. Loose Screw features the main character’s Alaskan malamute, Kiska.
I love that dog and he was really important to me so a logical direction to go.
Another option was people who like antiques mysteries. Lucy, the main character, owns an antique shop and for a major part of my life, I’ve been involved with antiques. I love antiques. So, again, a logical choice.
Then there is Montana where the book is set and a state I also love.
All of these things were important to me and the book and, like many authors, my first instinct was to put them all on the cover.
That cover looked…yawn. Dull and dry. Yes it was factual, but to steal an advertising saying, I was selling the steak instead of the sizzle.
My degree is in advertising. I managed an advertising department at a daily newspaper. I love advertising. I know advertising. And I was completely guilty of ignoring all of that and selling the damn steak.
That cover never made it online.
Back to the drawing board, or, in this case, Amazon I went. I looked at books that were selling and immediately realized my mistake.
First, dog mystery lovers, antiques mystery lovers and Montana lovers might be my market, but the weren’t the biggest market. The biggest market was lovers of fun mysteries with a chick lit tone.
I had that–but my cover SO didn’t say that.
I dumped the dog, dumped the antique store background and dumped the lovely drop of blood that I had hoped said “mystery.”
I came up with this…
Not the best thing ever designed. (I am NOT a graphic artist.) But it gave the feel I wanted. I put my book up and waited.
I did a little promotion. I mentioned it on my blog as part of a general promotion I was doing–but didn’t say I wrote the book. I mentioned other people’s books too.
I gave away five copies along with another mystery that was selling pretty well to give my “also boughts” a bit of a boost.
And that was about it.
Amazon U.S. Sales Only
April: 5 (Then because I wanted this to be the first book in a series and wanted to pull in as many readers for those future books as I could, I lowered my price to $.99–this is probably the most important thing I did.)
Rest of April at $.99: 11
At this point, Loose Screw’s ranking had gotten as low as #750 or so, but bounced back up to #1,800. I felt I was losing ground and needed to give things a boost. I also knew my cover looked exactly like what it was–something someone who wasn’t an artist had put together with Photoshop.
I hired India Drummond to do a new cover for me. I got that up at the end of September. My ranking dropped immediately back down to #1,000 and continued to drop. The past few days the book has been at a low of #550 and a high of around #650. Average sales a day have jumped too.
October through the 11th: 885
Now, before anyone says it–yes, this book is $.99. No, I am not getting rich here. But I have made as much as many people who sell to NY get for their first books in an advance–and the book is still selling.
And more important to me, I am building an audience for the next book that I plan to start writing next month.
I also proved my point (which since I do love to be right is VERY important) that you do not have to have a “name” or a “platform” to sell self-published books.
You do, though, have to:
1.) Know your audience
2.) Target that audience with a cover and product description that grabs them
3.) Have a book that then meets their expectations
And that is it.
Simple as 1,2, 3.
Now I just need to find the time to relook at all of my books and see where I may have missed my market. How about you?[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://howtowriteshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/LoriColum.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Lori Devoti is the multi-published author of romantic comedy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Look for her workshops at Write by the Lake (DCS University of Wisconsin), at RWA conferences and meetings, and here at the How To Write Shop. For more information, visit her web site.[/author_info] [/author]