Last week I announced that my short story, Corrective Measures, is free to anyone who wants one at Smashwords.com for the rest of January. It’s a look inside Jack’s mind. He’s a serial killer who has a complex
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relationship with God, his psychotherapist and the woman he wants to kill for an argument over a parking space. It’s quirky and dark and there’s even a subtle Sarah Palin joke in there.
But that wasn’t why I chose to make this ebook free. As discussed in Part I, I haven’t been happy with my sales so far. I have eight works for sale and I needed to harness the power of cross-pollination.
As I’ve often said, publishing is easy now. Being found is hard. I chose to make this ebook free because Jack and Dr. Circe Papua show up in my other stories. At the end of Corrective Measures, I discuss where these characters show up in my other work and basically advertise my podcast and what else they might like to buy. I’m hoping, of course, that if they like Corrective Measures, they might like my other stuff. That’s why I think every self-published author absolutely must be prolific. The worst circumstance is to have readers eager for more of your work and not having anything for them to buy. We’re all in a hurry. That’s why my goal for 2012 is to finish writing and revising three novels. (Two are in the revision stage. The other WIP is in the first draft stage.)
So what happened with the free ebook giveaway?
Sorry. Buried the lead. I promoted the ebook like this:
1. Twittered over three twitter accounts cool quotes from Corrective Measures. (“Your hair looks very…flammable.” Still makes me chuckle.)
2. Google+’d the post from this blog and also posted it on my author blog allthatchazz.com.
3. Announced in my Facebook timeline and my Ex Parte Press Facebook page.
4. Promoted Corrective Measures in my podcast that was released Friday across Stitcher and iTunes. Some people download the Self-help for Stoners podcast straight from allthatchazz.com, as well.
5. Made a couple of videos with iMovie that appear on my G+ profile, my author blog and on my Facebook timeline. (I also revamped my author blog with a new header—thanks again to my buddy Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com—and added fresh content.)
6. Asked for help spreading the word from my friends on Facebook.
I have an answer, but before I tell you that, I should add that as I write this, the experiment is only three days old. Many of the people who took me up on the free ebook offer now have the story on their device, but they haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Some of them may never get to it. It’s too early to evaluate the worth of the experiment to e-publishers yet. But I do know what’s been most effective.
Okay, but no, really. What worked?
Contacting friends and family on Facebook by messaging them individually and asking them to spread the word through their Facebook helped.
How do you know it helped?
On Smashwords, the nearest maximum download count was 19 downloads on stories that have been up for over a month. Over the weekend, as of Sunday afternoon, 53 people have downloaded Corrective Measures and I have a fresh and fabulous review. I’m hoping for more reviews to help spread the word. I am encouraged that several people who liked it and sent me feedback are not my immediate friends and family. They are friends of friends, out there in the social media ripple effect, enjoying the fiction and enhancing my credibility with their participation and kind words.
How has this helped sales, though?
So far, there is one (lonely) new sale over the weekend of Vengeance is #1. That’s a short story, too, on sale for $1.99, that features the psychotherapist from Corrective Measures. (Whoever you are, may Thor bless you!)
One sale? Really? Do you call that a success?
Nope. I call that a start. I believe in my work. I’ve got seven writing awards and years of experience that suggest I have an inking of what I’m doing. My readership will find me. I’ll let you know how the experiment works out. I’m pretty relaxed about this process. I’ve started businesses before and I know what it’s like to wait for people to find me. When they do find me, we’ll both be happy. And like I said, it’s three days into the free ebook experiment. Bread needs time to bake. This is what it’s like before you get to the place on the path where you look back and wonder where the time went. Besides, I’ve got big plans for my novels and big plans for promotion that could go huge. I’m not worried. I’m excited. The key word to keep in mind while hunting down dreams is YET.
What can self-publishers learn from this?
I’m three steps into the race. Still, I’m sure of this much:
1. Put out a general call and it’s just an announcement in a world full of announcements. If you don’t ask individuals, everyone will assume that someone else will rise to the occasion. One to one is how messages get passed.
2. Give a lot to get anything. I’m giving away an ebook and free entertainment and a free podcast every week, but big deal. There’s lots of free entertainment available. I could get sucked into watching babies laugh on YouTube for an hour. I’m not talking about the free ebook as the “give a lot.” I mean try to be giving and kind all the time. I dared to impose on my friends because they are my friends. I’ve had interactions with them that were generally pleasant. I’ve promoted several authors on the blog over the last couple of years, but I don’t feel like anyone owes me anything. I approached the people I approached based on rapport and where I felt their interest might lie. I’m wary of bothering anyone with my requests for reviews and downloads so I won’t be repeating a similar experiment like this for a very long time. I also left some people alone because, even though they are friends and family, I do not presume that they are interested in my flavor of fiction. I didn’t ask anything of anyone who I thought wouldn’t be eager to help me out by spreading the word. I’d do the same for them. That’s what friends are for. As Patrick Swayze says in Roadhouse, “It’s nice to be nice.” That little syllogism is the basis of all relationships.
3. Build an email list. This is one thing I have not pursued and I have to get on it. When people express an interest or appreciation or leave a review, that’s an audience who will be interested in the next thing I write. I should be able to email them directly to say, “Hey, here’s more of that thing you liked! Yay!”
4. Get back to writing. This ties in with my resolution to have three more novels for sale by Christmas. You might have noticed that all this social media stuff takes a lot of time and effort. Well…yeah. It does. I’m not complaining. Actually, I enjoyed saying hello to Facebook friends and playing with iMovie was a blast. I love doing the podcast and these are now essential skills in this environment. For instance, this week I’ll record a commercial for a major podcast (hint: not mine). What would have intimidated me a couple of months ago is now something I look forward to doing. I know the tech now so the prospect does not leave me at all flummoxed. However, since November 1, my focus has been getting Ex Parte Press up on its hind legs. It’s been a lot of editing and promotion and learning administrivia and technical details. This is also fun, but it’s not writing new content. It’s not getting the novels done. In a previous post, I called this period The Worst of the First. I’ve burst through that stage now and the full-length novels will be easier to market (for a plethora of reasons to be discussed in a future post.)
I’m writing now more than I’m doing anything else.
My eyes are on the prize.
The prize is your mind. You’re curled up on a couch with the aroma of fresh coffee fading in the air. You’re reading my stories and, when it gets scary, you pull up the blanket to keep warm because the body and mind do not distinguish between the imagined and the real. Your mug cools, unnoticed. Your coffee grows cold and you still haven’t touched it because you’ve pulled my fiction over your head and you’re in my world. You recognize characters you’ve never met. This world feels familiar, but is slightly skewed. You chuckle in surprise. You believe. Fiction is a participatory magic trick. You are invested in one question, “What happens next?” Time stands still and you only come up for air when you realize it’s getting dark and harder to read. The quiet winter afternoon has crept by you. You twist the knob on the lamp beside you and the room floods with a weak yellow light. You should get dinner started. You’ve got things to do. You spare a regretful glance at the full mug of cold coffee.
You pick up the book again. You keep reading.
Just a little more.
And once more, you are swallowed.
Filed under: My fiction, Publicity & Promotion, self-publishing, short stories, allthatchazz.com, book marketing, book promotion, book sales, Corrective Measures, E-book, Facebook, free, iTunes, short story, Smashwords, Stoners