Marketing: a plea for advice

A New Year’s Resolution you are invited to help me keep.

It’s still January (isn’t it?) – and anyway, I had lots of reviews to post.

I’ve been thinking really hard about marketing. I usually do, at this time of year, just before making some kind of New Year Resolution. It never really works, but at least it means I spend a little time considering the options and the various things I could do. So this yeajorar’s resolution was simply to work harder at marketing…

I ought to start by saying that when I began to write novels and novellas for publication, I very quickly abandoned any publishers other than myself. I found I was too much of a control freak to cope with editors, sales teams, etc. That doesn’t mean I don’t use editors – I do, but I’ve chosen them because I like their work, not because somebody else has imposed them on me. Then, having settled for self-publishing, I made the one resolution (in June, not at New Year) I have actually so far kept. As I began the process in 2012 I’m quite pleased with myself.

What’s this amazing resolution? Not to spend any money whatsoever on my work other than the obvious cost of having a laptop, an internet connection and programs such as Word and Photoshop. Things I would want anyway. Oh – and some money on Skype which was the cheapest way to communicate with the US tax people and get a foreign exemption. My editors (more than one) are people for whom I edit in turn, or repay in other non-monetary ways. And yes, at least one is a professional editor. I make my own covers. I do my own formatting. I seek advice from other writers on FB or WordPress. I read the advice given by Smashwords and Amazon. I follow bloggers like David Gaughran for his inestimable advice.

I know my books are as good as I and my editors can make them in terms of language, story development, formatting, etc. Technically, I don’t think I need to change anything.

I also know that because my works cross more than one genre they will appeal to fewer readers than straightforward romance, crime or fantasy will. They are, perhaps, less sexually explicit than many romance books which may also affect sales. On the other hand they are definitely not YA material though some young adults might well enjoy them.

I do find it hard to write adequate blurbs and choose appropriate tags, and this is probably the area where 2020’s resolution will end up initially.

I’m happy with my covers. I personally dislike covers that feature stock pictures of models (sometimes the same one on various different books) – pictures that often don’t tie in with the descriptions of the character inside, or my vision of them, and pictures that in many cases are simply unappealing. I prefer covers that give a glimpse of the kind of world the reader will enter, so I end up not using figures on my covers at all. I find working with graphics programs (and my own photos) quite therapeutic, so sometimes I start creating a cover even before a book is finished. I’m aware that romance novels are supposed to have those stock figures. I’m also aware that stock figures sell copies.

Then there’s pricing. I’ve tried various price levels and have used Smashwords’ sale (when some of my books were free), given coupons for freebies or discounts to people I know or to people who might leave reviews. I don’t think I’m getting it right.

I’ve looked at other authors’ pricing and also at my own buying habits.

I am really reluctant to pay much for the first book by an author I have not tried before unless I am getting recommendations from a lot of people I trust and who I know share my tastes. So maybe I ought to be pricing the first in each series lower? I am also reluctant to pay much more than $3.99 for any e-book – the publishing costs are far lower than for print books and even when I know and like the author anything more than that price usually has to be in a series I’m following and also be a full length novel. But I have actually stopped following some series because of the high prices (e.g. Rivers of London). And yes, I check the length of books before buying; I’m not keen on paying anything for a standalone short story, however good.

I have noticed that anything under $3 tends to be novella length at best, so maybe I’m selling my series short? I personally tend to avoid short stories unless they’re in a collection (I do have a vaguely limited budget) and it’s possible potential purchasers see my prices as indicating reduced content, especially since my first two publications were novellas.

I currently have the following books available with, as they insist, the same price on Amazon and Smashwords.

Series: The Skilled Investigators (fantasy, elf detectives, female heroine, intelligent dragon, sub plot of mm romance)

 The Scroll
 The Market
 The Crown
 The Lantern
 The Road

All full length novels (between 60k and 80k words) and all currently priced at $2.99. The final volume in the series, The River, is finished (currently with betas) and I hope to publish it early in the New Year. Before Easter, anyway.

Series: Living Fae (‘urban’ fantasy with fae living in Cheshire, UK, plus unicorns, with both mm and mf romance)

 Growing Up Fae
 Tales From Tara
 Flying Free
 On The Edge

Again, all at $2.99 and again, all full length. These overlap to some extent but need to be read in sequence to make sense.

Once both my two series are completed, I have wondered about creating box sets and altering the price – maybe make the individual books dearer but give heavy discounts on the box sets. I could probably then justify doing some kind of relaunch. Thoughts?

Novellas: stand-alone stories which are longer than short stories

 The Lord of Shalott (an mm take on Arthurian legend)
 Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers (an mm version of Snow White set in mediaeval Great Zimbabwe)
 Silver Chains (contemporary mm romance)

The first two are currently $1.99 and the last is $0.99 – it got a lot of downloads when it was free in the Smashwords sale. That hasn’t generated any actual sales and whilst I’m happy with the story it doesn’t really showcase my usual style.

Collections of short stories:

 Three Legends (mm retelling of legends)
 Beating Hearts (five fantasy and sci fi stories)

Both currently $1.99

I published a short Christmas story in December making it free until at least the end of January – maybe till Valentine’s Day. Once I’ve sorted out some formatting I might price it at $0.99 or I might just leave it free. I wrote at leisure but published in haste, so the technical bits need tweaking!

 False Starts

2020 will be devoted to The Virgin and the Unicorn, which is written but needs a lot of work. It’s a full length novel, a regency-style fantasy with an arranged royal marriage plus sentient unicorns and a lot of culture clash which is one of my favourite themes. I suppose going by my current pricing it would be $2.99 but I have a feeling I’m getting that wrong.

I’ve tried ‘advertising’ on FB, not only on my own page but also on various groups. Some writer friends have been nice enough to ‘interview’ me, and reblog my posts. I admit to getting confused about where and when to ‘promote’ my books and possibly not doing enough research. That’s definitely part of the resolution!

Meanwhile, I’m not making many sales. Not none, but not many. Not enough, in fact, to make up for the nightmare this time every year of having to deal with the Inland Revenue (see https://jaymountney.wordpress.com/2020/01/09/its-that-time-of-year-again-tax-returns/). So obviously I need to reconsider various aspects of marketing. I’d seriously welcome comments and advice from all and sundry. You could comment here or find me on FB and message me. Or you could email me at harlequinandyarrow@gmail.com

I’d really welcome advice from strangers who happen to be following this blog as well as from people I already know!

By the way, I do have two other resolutions:

 healthier eating for the whole family and paying extra attention to environmental concerns (especially with regard to packaging).
 actually using the jewellery and accessories I have/buy/receive instead of hoarding them, dragon-style. Dragons are, I think, for fiction rather than the dressing-table.

2 thoughts on “Marketing: a plea for advice

  1. I feel your pain! Your box set idea sounds like a good plan – maybe six months after you publish the last in the series? I’d up your price slightly to $3.99 for the new regency-style release. Would it be worth putting a page count in your book descriptions to show that they are full length novels (or novellas)?
    It is easier to see options for someone else 🙂 but don’t think for a moment that I know what I am talking about. I have ten things to republish and most are short stories which will be 99p; two are full length novels (95K and 100K) which will be £3.99 and available in print; one of the shorts is 23K so I might price that at £1.99, maybe.
    They’ll all be on KU which I hope will tempt people into trying my writing – once I figure out how to let them know my stuff is back out there!

    • I really like the idea of the wordcount in the blurb! I obviously have to work on my blurbs anyway as other people (on DW) have mentioned them. Thanks for the advice – I’m saving all advice in one document and will be devoting February to working on it!!

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