A Pretty Successful Debut! Repressed Is Off To A Good Start!

A Pretty Successful Debut! Repressed Is Off To A Good Start!

Greetings all,

CoverLayoutIn my last post I mentioned a bit about how Repressed had a solid start.  So I thought I’d try to keep the momentum going while sharing some insight for those trying to get their journey as authors started.

Social media posts and word of mouth helped me get my third-most pre-sales ever. Before anyone start to think I’m quitting my day job, I had eight pre-sales.  The Power of Words had the most ever (17). Caught came in second (13).  This might seem terrible to some. It sure didn’t feel like much to me, but those numbers compare pretty favorable to a number of the authors I speak to on a regular basis. Some of them are stable, full-time authors.  It’s certainly not a ton compared to those best sellers, but at the level I’m currently climbing toward, it’s a good place. People, especially new authors, should focus on goals and those goals should be based on data and expectations established by people in a similar situation. If I compare myself to Brandon Sanderson, I’m going to cry and never write again. However, if I keep my eyes on people with a similar number of titles released, in a similar genre, and with a similar marketing budget, I notice that I’m doing well, and that’s my point here.

Screen Shot 2019-01-02 at 12.00.09 AM.pngThe other thing I’m happy to say is that Repressed’s ranking in it’s category,  Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Literature & Fiction > Social & Family Issues > Bullying.  I don’t exactly remember how high Caught got, but Repressed was pretty great.  This title made it as high as #38 on the best-seller list and is still in the top 300.  I’m particularly happy that I stayed in the top 100 for its entire first week.

How’d I do it? Well, married life is still something I’m adjusting too. I only had time for social media efforts. I posted probably once every other day. I used hashtags to draw interest and little tag lines. I made sure the cover was everywhere too.

kaitlynFor my next title (Sojurn in Captivity is coming in April!), I expect to have my newsletter back up and running. I intend to run a FB cover reveal as well as a release party. I’ll run a few more newsletter campaigns, and we’ll see if I can’t set up a blog tour.  I’ll be interested to see how those things affect my next release, but I’m happy with what I think are great results when accounting for a minimal marketing campaign.

What I’m hoping for now is to start seeing reviews pop up. I’m honestly excited to see what readers thought of Kaitlyn’s story. If you were one of the people who picked it up, please consider a rating and review on Amazon and or Goodreads.  Even if you hated it, I truly want to know. Like with every project, I try to stretch and do something new. I hope you were as charmed as I was with Kaitlyn, but even if you weren’t the feedback will still be invaluable.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

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A Guest Post from Steven D’Adamo! The Basics of PPC Marketing with Taboola

A Guest Post from Steven D’Adamo! The Basics of PPC Marketing with Taboola

Greetings All,

I’m super stoked about this post.  I’ve known Steven since I’ve started blogging, and I consider him a friend above all. I also consider him one of my top marketing mentors, so when he offered to create a post, I jumped at  the chance.  His book, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, is out now, and I’ve already ordered my paperback version and added it to my impossible to whittle down TBR list on Goodreads.   So, if you’re like me, and you feel like marketing is a tough nut to crack, please see below.


 

When I tell people I used to use PPC marketing as part of my job, they give me funny looks. When I tell them that I am now using PPC marketing to promote my first novel, they’re downright flummoxed.

But Pay-Per-Click Marketing is really quite simple: you pay a particular service to feed your webpages, articles, or blogs to other content-driven websites, where they can be seen by a wider, more diverse audience. You then only pay the service provider when a user clicks on your headlines and visits your website.

In this post, I’ll provide a basic overview of how to create and manage a PPC campaign through Taboola.

Creating a Taboola Campaign

There are many PPC services, but I chose to use Taboola, because of the two PPC services I used at my former job – Taboola and Outbrain – I found that Taboola has a better user interface and can be done more cheaply than Outbrain.

Setting up a new campaign is fairly straightforward.

  1. In your Taboola dashboard, click Campaign Management on the left menu, and click New Campaign.
  2. Name your campaign. I use a simple convention: RSPC – Publish Announcement – Smartphone, so I can differentiate the website, content, and platform for the campaign right away.
  3. Select your timeframe. The shortest campaigns should be 10-14 days, but I think 4-6 weeks is optimal.
  4. Campaign Settings 1Select your targeting locations. Taboola lets you get into regions, cities, and even zip codes, but for most campaigns, you’ll want to stick with one country, like the US.
  5. Choose your platform: desktop, smartphone, or tablet. Some people like to include Tablet and Smartphone together, since these are both “mobile,” but I prefer to use each platform separately.
  6. Then, set your Cost Per Click bid and spending limit. You may have to start with a higher click rate, like $0.45-$0.50 per click, but Taboola lets you adjust this throughout the campaign. Your spending limit puts a monetary cap on your campaign, so you can plan the length and limit of your campaign based on your budget. 

Campaign Settings 2There are other settings you can use, but those are the primary ones you will want to consider.

Next, you’ll want to create your content by adding URLs for the webpage you want to promote. I highly recommend using only one URL per campaign. If you have multiple URLs to promote, set each one up in a distinct campaign. However, for each URL campaign, write 3-6 unique headlines. This will help you capture the widest audience for your content.

For my content, I chose to promote my blog post announcing the pre-order period for my novel: https://redstringpapercuts.com/2018/06/19/the-warden-of-everfeld-memento-is-being-published/

Taboola Headlines

I used the above four headlines across three campaigns for Tablet, Desktop, and Smartphone, targeting the U.S. – basically casting a wide net just to gauge initial interest in my novel.

For the image, I asked my cover illustrator to provide me with a high-quality image of my full cover without any of the text – Taboola does not like text in images. I then tried to diversify my headlines between a few key themes:

  • Giving a quick tagline about the main characters
  • Announcing the publication date for a new novel
  • Presenting the reader with a question to make them curious
  • Enticing readers interested in world-building or fantasy universes

One or two of these headlines will certainly perform better over the others, but finding out which ones will tell me a lot about my target audience.

Here is how my campaigns did on the first day:

Taboola Campaign Comparison Day 1

Impressions tell me how many people saw my headline, while Clicks tell me how many of those Impressions actually clicked on my content. CTR, or Click-Through-Rate, is simply a ratio of clicks to impressions. Average CPC tells me about how much I’m spending per click on each campaign, and Spent gives the total dollar amount spent.

Now, a few notes on my actual results:

  • I received the fewest clicks (15) on my Desktop campaign, but spent the highest amount to get them ($7.50, tied with total Spent for Smartphone).
  • The CTR for Desktop is also a bit low – 0.03% (An average CTR is 0.03%-0.05%)
  • By contrast, my Smartphone campaigns received the most clicks (32), with the highest CTR (0.12%), and a high Spend ($7.50).
  • The Tablet campaign performed well, and still way better than Desktop.

Conclusion: I should consider re-allocating my budget away from the Desktop campaign, and toward the Smartphone and Tablet campaigns. These results are only from the first day, so I’ll wait another day or two before adjusting to see how things shake out over a longer period. A single day is really only a snapshot of my campaigns’ potential.

Next, I’ll want to see how my individual headlines are performing against each other. I already know that Smartphone and Tablet are doing well, so I’ll look at all of my headlines together to see which of the four stand out across all three campaigns.

Taboola Content Day 1

The above screen only shows eight of my 12 total headlines, but that’s okay. The other four have received 0 clicks so far. And, Taboola’s content algorithm promotes headlines that perform well, so these already have a head-start over the rest.

Now for some quick notes on my headline performance:

  • “What do honor and memory mean…” This is performing well across all platforms: 34 total clicks for an average CTR of 0.05%. The Desktop version may sink with its poor CTR of 0.02%, but this headline is a winner overall.
  • “Explore the Unique World…” is showing some potential, but it has a lot of catching up to do.
  • The other two headlines appear to be scrapping it out for second place.

Conclusion: I can already see that my top-performing headline is successful at drawing in readers, so I can consider using this one again for a later campaign.

The overall order and performance of these headlines will certainly change over the course of these campaigns, but I’m betting one of the current top three maintains its current dominance.

That’s all for now! I’ll keep an eye on each campaign’s performance over the next 10-14 days and decide then if I want to extend them. Visit Red String PaperCuts in a couple weeks for an update on how my PPC campaigns performed.

 

Benchmarks and Thanks! The Initial Results of My Giveaway With Both an Emotional and Marketing Perspective

Benchmarks and Thanks! The Initial Results of My Giveaway With Both an Emotional and Marketing Perspective

Greetings all,

AnUnusualOccupationCoverLast week was a whirlwind for me a in a lot of ways. But for those interested in marketing and for those interested in my life as an author, I thought it’d be nice to simply give a look at the results for my giveaway.

Premise:

I knew I had Bob’s Greatest Mistake coming out (it’s out now, and still 99 cents until May 15). I wanted to get Bob some visibility, and I knew this option from KDP was available. When I do anything, I like to have reasonable expectations. I also want clear, measurable goals.

Goals:

Get Bob on the top 100 list.

Get at least 100 downloads.

Get 25 reviews.

Reasoning:

Getting Bob on the top 100 list for his category gains the visibility I wanted. The more I can get Bob in front of viewers, the more likely it is someone will give him a chance. Giving copies away now and getting him on that list could gain those I call loyal readers.

Knowing how many followers I have on various social media, Choosing a small fraction of that number (about 10 percent), I felt was reasonable. It still meant there were people at least rooting for me and willing to help out. If those downloads become reads, that’s even better.  But…

…. if those reads become reviews, now we’re talking. If I earn 25 reviews on Amazon, first, it means 25 more people actually read my book, which is awesome! Also, This gets me more visibility on Amazon. This number should be enough to start getting Amazon to recommend it to other readers.

Results:

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 2.01.14 PMBob made it as high as #31 on Amazon’s Free Paranormal Thrillers category! Honestly, Bob’s never sniffed a ranking that high before. This achievement alone would be enough to consider this campaign a huge success, but it didn’t end there.

I had 140 downloads for Bob. For those who read this post, I offered little demonstrations of appreciation for each benchmark, and we hit 100.  Not quite enough for a karaoke song, but still, so many people turned up to give Bob some love!  This puts me past the 500 mark in terms of “sold” books.  Sure, they were free, but at the end of the day, people picked my book. There are lots of free books out there in the world, and you all chose to give mine a try. That matters. I appreciate it! It means the world to me. I even sold a few copies of Bob’s Greatest Mistake and Caught. Again, even if this was all that happened, I’d call this a huge win. That said, the 100 copies people picked up in five days was more than 1/4 of the books I’d sold in the last three years.  Like I said, success!

It’s too early honestly to talk about reviews. While I did post a review that appeared during the giveaway, I’m not convinced that copy was downloaded during that this. I’m pretty sure that was an individual who bought the book earlier and finished it in a very timely manner. If I hit that 25 review benchmark, it would be the first time I’d run a campaign of any sort and had remotely this level of success. I’m eagerly refreshing the page and looking for reviews, but I still think it might be a tad early for anything to come up just yet. This is even more likely if anyone is as remotely loyal to their TBR as I am. Sure, Brandon Sanderson has automatic head-of-the-line privileges in my TBR, but everyone else has to wait their turn.
Those Emotions:

thank-you-1606941_960_720I’m still in awe of your support. I’ve been at this for a tad more than three years. The blog’s been going for a bit more than a year (I think). It’s just amazing to see how far it’s come and how willing you all are to lend a hand. I can’t repay it. I can’t thank you enough, and there aren’t enough words to express my gratitude anyway. I can only hope that I continue to post content you’re interested in and write stories you love. I hope you enjoy the first part of Bob’s journey as much as I do.

If you have any  questions on logistics, feel free to ask in the comments. For now, I just wanted to sing the praises of a successful campaign.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Always an Awesome Time!

Always an Awesome Time!

Greetings all,

AwesomeCon was a few weeks ago, and I always like to talk about how the conventions I attend go.

This con is special to me because it was one of my first ever and certainly the first “big” convention I ever attended. I go every year, and I plan on being there every year God grants me life.

From a business standpoint, I did fairly well. What I mean to say is I sold about what I normally sell at any convention. AwesomeCon is a bit more expensive to get to, but that means I get a lot more exposure too. It’s a weird balance between sales and marketing, but I’m pretty satisfied with how it meant.

I’m hopeful that the new readers I met enjoy the books and maybe drop me a review or two. I also made a few new author friends and linked up with some fans. Look, the fact that I can say with certainty that I have fans is still kind of a wondrously strange thing to me. Getting to say hello to a few loyal readers and maybe meet a few new ones is always a plus.

Another reason I’m such a fan of this event is the fact that I usually have a panel.  This year was no different.  My panel about “The Pitfalls of Unwary Self Publishers” has become a tradition.  I managed to record the event this year so anyone interested in the process (or more importantly the things they shouldn’t do) can just watch the video.

 

Finally, I got to see some cosplay, my favorite was of a young woman who dressed as the new Doctor. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, and she was the first person I’d seen wear the 14th (there were 14.  Count them.  #AllRespecttoJohnHurt) Doctor’s attire.

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These events are always fun, and I can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who comes to see hello, much less listen to me rant about my books and then actually buys one. I’ll always be indebted to those who help keep my dream moving forward.

 

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions by Jeffrey Cook and Lee French

Book Review: Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions by Jeffrey Cook and Lee French
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This image was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

As I was trying to improve my success at conventions, I met Jeffrey at the 2017 AwesomeCon, and picked up his book.

This really is a solid resource for a new author looking to start using conventions to expand his platform. My regret is that I found it a year after I’d been doing conventions, and I read it nearly a year after that.

There are a few things in this book I’m considering, the one I’ll mention (and I assure you there are several ideas in here that new authors should consider) is working with a partner. For me, my current issue is the overhead.

This book agree that conventions aren’t about making money. Most authors hope to break even. My current advantage is that I’m staying local, but even that advantage doesn’t always help.  While I think most of the conventions I’ve been at have been successful, I’ve still actually lost money.

31V2s4104aL._UY200_I’m prepping for Balticon, and I’ve done the math. I have to see at least 11 pairs of books (or some combination of the two, but the pairs are easier to estimate) to make back what I paid for the table and the actual ordering of the books. I average 15-30 books sold per event. So why do them? First, if I don’t, I don’t sell books. It’s that simple. What this book confirms is the idea for conventions is to build your platforms and find more readers loyal to you. I’ve done that through the years, and that’s the trick for me. If I were able to team up with a  few local authors, the overhead would come down, and I could lose less money (maybe even make some) while still gaining new readers.
91eVmgnWIyL._UX250_All of that comes just from that idea. It’s one I’ve tried a few times, but this book gives tips on how to work with other authors. Seeing these ideas gave me a bit more insight into how to do this better.

Like I said, this book is most valuable to those who haven’t started going to conventions yet. If you’re thinking of doing it, I recommend this book to give you a solid start.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Farpoint: A Good Time Was Had By All

Farpoint: A Good Time Was Had By All

Greetings all,

27972454_1205474502930654_1199494595308664423_n
One of the kind folks who picked up a copy of Bob Drifter. 

I had the pleasure of attending Farpoint last week.  It was the second of what will now be six conventions I’ll be at this year.

The most fun for me was talking to the other venders. It’s always fun meeting artists and venders, but this time was a particular pleasure. I ran into a few acquaintances, which is always nice because it allows me to catch up.  I made some progress on Worth of Words.

Oh yeah, I sold some books! For those curious about the financial feasibility of conventions, well, I didn’t sell quite enough to earn back what I paid for the table (let alone what it cost to purchase the books). The thing is though, if I don’t do conventions, I don’t sell any books. The investment is on building familiarity, building my newsletter, and getting my work out there. Those are all things I accomplished. I still only have two physical books to work with and three titles available. Things will improve as I keep at it. Last year, I didn’t do that many events, and my sales reflected it. While I can’t point to many sales, what I can say is I’ve almost sold more books in two months this year than I did in all of last year (I’m only 20 sales away from that mark).

graph-841606_960_720
Stock imagery from Pixabay.

I say this because it’s important anyone getting their name out there understands it takes time. I’ve always advised that the more patient (and probably successful) author waits until he has three books before he publishes.  It creates momentum and lets readers know you’re not going anywhere. None of the math made this any less fun or successful when considered with a longer, more strategic mindset.

I let that affect me far too much in my first year, so much so that I didn’t do many conventions in year two, and that made things even worse. I believe in this plan, and I have the regular sales to prove it. Doing conventions on a regular basis is the right way to go.

The other thing that matters are the reviews. The more books I sell, the more likely I am to see reviews. The reviews I’ve gotten are mostly positive. Of the 35 reviews I have on Amazon, only three of them (9 percent) are two stars or fewer. I’m not even sure I have any one-star reviews. Of the 41 reviews I have on Goodreads, only three of them (7 percent) are two star or fewer. Yes, there are some repeats, but there are also some originals, and I’m simply providing data to those thinking about publishing or becoming authors.  What this means to me is that the people who read my books like my books. That encourages me to keep putting the books out there, and I hope it encourages you to do the same. No, I wouldn’t do it the way I did it if I could do it over. But I’m fixing that this year and next year (four titles in 2017 and at least three in 2018).

27867504_1205474519597319_5040277904096255085_nOn the other side of this equation is how much fun these events are. Like I said, Farpoint was a blast just talking to people and getting to know the other venders, and you all saw how much fun I had at Animorecon. The rest will work out in time.

My next convention is Awesomecon, which I’ve been to every year since I’ve been published. I’m doing my “Self-Publishing for Unwary Authors” panel again (folks seem to really like that one). I may even get another. I see a lot of folks at that event, and I can’t wait to meet more.

I’ll keep updating it, but it’s important I make clear this post is more about perspective than it is about immediate gratification, which is true of being an author. I want any hopeful authors to be informed, and I the conventions, readers, and newsletter subscribers to know just how much they mean to me. I hope this accomplishes that goal.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

No One but You Wants to Sell Your Book: A Scam Warning

No One but You Wants to Sell Your Book: A Scam Warning

shakedown-1340048_960_720One of the biggest things I feel for early on in my career as an author involves the appearance of help.

What happens is someone from a company calls you.  I was just sitting in my room editing Caught when someone calls.

“Hello, I’m is this M.L.S. Weech?”

I ignored the suspicious accent and rough pronunciation of my name. You see, someone called my author identity. I was finally noticed!

“This is,” I said, feeling my heartbeat race.

I can’t remember what company he claimed to be in, and I don’t want to dime out the other company that fooled me the same way (though that looked far more legitimate than this first company).

Things they say:
“Our research team has tagged your book as one that’s very appealing to our market.”
“I’ve read your book, and I really think there’s a lot going for it.”
“Our reader surveys have identified your book as one that rated very high.”

Other things they say:
“We’re prepared to present your book at ‘insert fake book conference.'”
“We’d like to market your book.”

So, on my infinite list of things I wish I’d known or even just thought of:

  • What self respecting marketing company has to solicit books to market? Seriously, their job is to put brands in front of eyes. Their entire profit margin is based on selling things. People go to them to market a product. They don’t just randomly call people.
  • Anyone who calls asking for your money, isn’t interested in helping you make money.
  • Even if they’re offering to pay X for Y. They’ll eventually get around to asking you for money.

This leads me to last night. I’d already had a fairly unpleasant day. So imagine my mood (those who know me know I’m not one to suffer much in the way of wasting my valuable time) when someone calls.

First warning: They used my real name and not my pen name. I have nothing against my real name. It’s a bit hard to pronounce, which is the reason for the pen name, but I like it. The thing is, this caller didn’t even speak about the author credited for my book.

Second Warning: “I can tell you’re reading out loud.” When this woman called and told me how readers rated it 90-something percent whatever, she started off by saying, “I’m calling about your book….The….Journals of….Bob…Drifter.”  (Clearly she’d done a tone of research on my book. I mean, she worked so hard, she forgot the name of the book she was researching.)

dollar-163473_960_720I tried to be nice:
I’m smarter now than I was a few years back. So I usually have a nice conversation. I’m polite. I get a kick out of these people who want to tell me how great my book could sell, but they can’t even name the main character (the hint is on the cover folks). But, as I mentioned, I was already in a fighting mood. So, the most nice I could have been was to be  frank:

“I’m sorry ma’am, but if you’re calling to offer me services that will cost me any money, I’m not interested. I’d been scammed before, so unless you’re offering me services at absolutely no cost to me, I’m not interested.”

Anyone who knows me knows that was probably the moment this individual should have hung up.  She didn’t.

Don’t worry, Sis, I still wasn’t that bad:
I can get flat out mean on the phone (one of my sisters gets pretty upset at me when I lose my temper on people who waste my time on the phone).  It’s a failing of mine, but this time, because I already knew I was ready to spit rage and discontent in the face of any who dare appear before me, I reminded myself that no one actually deserved said anger.  She went on to carefully avoid using the phrase “no cost to you.”

She said things like, “We’re prepared to do this marketing for you for this amount of time.”  Then she went into her pitch like a bull in my freshly mopped China shop.

I was still pretty direct:
Before she could finish her rather elaborate plan that didn’t include my target audience, my demographic or my local market, I said, “I need to stop you there. The question I asked was, are you doing this at absolutely no expense to me.”

She said, “Like I said, we’re preparing to offer you…”

I said, “Ma’am, I asked you if you’re going to do this at no cost to me. Please answer yes or no.”

safe-913452_960_720This apparently hurt her feelings. She told me she can’t work with me. I’m apparently a negative person.

Honestly, I was, but she was trying to steal my money, so I don’t, exactly, feel guilty about it.

The thing is, my first year I lost $24,000 (that’s not a typo). So be direct.  I found a blog I think really gives you a good way to vet people, but I stand by my original statement:

No one, ever, is going to call you and say, “I want to help you sell your book.”

Well..okay, an Agent may call you, but he’ll know your name and the name of your book, and you’ll have sent him a query.  Same with a publisher.  But no one, ever, is going to call you out of the blue, and suddenly want to sell your book. Spend that money on a marketer you’ve researched, conventions you can attend, or publishing a new book.

Don’t fall for the traps. We in the indie author community support you. Bounce these opportunities off us. Search any company that calls you. Chase your dream, but don’t let others take advantage of that dream.

Thanks for reading,

Matt