Monday, November 15, 2010

After the Sale - Mistakes without Regret

I was so not prepared, mentally or any other way, for my first sale. You'd think after dreaming about this moment for years, I would be, but then it happens and all carefully laid plans take a speedboat to China,lol. The basic rule of submitting is: carry on writing. This should be (and probably is) the basic rule for acceptance. It's what I'd intended.

But then came the bubbly, the blog, the website, author loops, twitter, FB... sound hectic? Yes, suddenly I had to vamp up my online presence and learn to use twitter (all in between five rounds of edits) But many hours/days/weeks were totally wasted by me basking in that dream where I was actually, finally going to be published.

I didn't start writing again until a month after my release date - I had four chapters and about 4 months more work, my publisher's production lead-time is currently 7-9 months and that meant that including the 6 weeks initial submission time, I was going to go over into a two year gap between books (and that's if they actually wanted my new story) Not a good scenario. So I put my historical wip on hold, pulled out an old romantic comedy story, stripped it to the bone and rewrote it in a month, subbed it, and two weeks ago got the fabulous news that Carina Press loved it and wants it. Even so, its release date will be fall next year, which is still a large gap in the epubbing business.

Was it a mistake to wallow in the mudbath of success for so long without getting down to the business of writing? Definitely. Do I regret it? No, I'd do it over exactly the same. It took almost 10 years of hard work, anguish, screaming, doubting and undulating hills of hope and dashed dreams to get to that point, I guess I deserved a little downtime to enjoy the view from the top of the rocky cliff.

Next to actually writing the book, marketing is the next most important thing. And this is where some people have a natural ability to excel. Me? Not so much. My first blog tour was a little dour, each visit was purely about my book, excerts, etc. Mistake? Not sure, but I like the way some other authors bring diversity into their blog tour, sometimes they don't even mention their book (but there's always an image and buy link). Regrets? I don't think I had the time to dream up 20 wonderful and unique topics, but I'll see what I can do next time round. I'd probably spread the tour over two months as well to give me space and keep the interest going longer. With an ebook, there's no reason to cram everything into your release month.

Carina Press makes all their books available at NetGalley for a few months, this is a site where book bloggers and reviewers can request books for review. Basically, the reviewers come to you instead of the other way around. Great for business. I got reviews from sites I never knew existed. I didn't feel comfortable commenting on those sites, but in some cases the reviewer started following me on twitter and I did respond to them there, thanking them for the review. I also try to retweet their other reviews when I come across them, for which they're always know what they say about spreading the love.

I did personally email a few review sites where I wanted to reviewed, about half of them have done the review, other may or may not, once again it's a case of wait and see. Sending out my book for review swept me straight back into the whole submit and rejection circle. Not even the bad reviews were as terrible as the one response I got that said, 'Thanks, but no thanks.'

Reviews are critical, however, and there were some of the more acerbic sites I cowered from sending to. These sites also tend to have high traffic, so this was probably a mistake. Being a debut author, however, each review was an emotional rollercoaster. No matter how much I schooled myself about personal likes and dislikes, no matter how many times I reminded myself that you can't please everyone, each review was personal and there were days when I snapped my laptop shut and believed I sucked. So how can I regret sparing myself from being shredded to pieces? Having my next book contract, though, has been a massive confidence boost and, I hope, I'll be braver next time. I will have to wait and see, lol.

Advertising is both expensive and addictive. I decided on very low cost adverts because, let's face it, I don't expect to make my fortune quite yet and didn't want to end up spending more than my eventual royalties. I did a few banners, then seeing my book out there got into my blood and I paid for a main-page cover...I was lucky to get it thanks to a cancellation, one needs to book these slots months in advance. There is suprisingly cheap advertising options out there, and surpisingly expensive ones. No surprise, the pricier sites have more traffic, so it's a balance game of where you want to be seen and how much you're prepared to pay. Most sites will let you put up an advert for a fee, and it can be kinda fun trawling through the web to see where you'd like to be.

Thankfully, Carina Press did a lot of advertising for us as well, which took some of the burden from me. It was an amazing surprise to find my book advertised on bigger sites that I hadn't known about. As this part of their launch campaign, I'm not expecting personal ads next time round, but as a publisher they still do a lot of advertising all over the place.

Does advertising work? I looked long and hard for the answer to this without success. It's not easy to link in stats for advertising to sales. Not even a click-thru rate is dependable. Some of my adverts linked straight to my book on the Carina Press site, so I couldn't monitor this. Of the ads that I linked to my author web site, the click rate wasn't fantastic. To be honest, I spend a lot of time on these various romance sites and, being bombarded with their ads from all sides, seldom click through myself unless I spot something totally awesome or, more likely, a reminder of an author I already love who has a new release.

BUT, as a debut author, one has to get your name out there and I do believe that adverts are one of the main methods of doing this beside reviews. It doesn't matter that people don't click through. It's good enough for them to see my cover everytime they go to that page and hopefully something sticks. Hopefully, the next time they're browsing an online store and my book comes up, the memory will trigger familiarity, enough so for them to click and read a little more instead of their eyes just rolling over my lonely title. So, was it a mistake to go the low cost option instead of splashing out big? Probably, considering I do think advertising pays and the more you spend, the more you get back. Any regrets? None except the reality that I'm not a millionare and had a restricted budget, lol. We do only what we can.

I'm not sure my ramblings here are actually of any help or even relevant to any other author, it's very much a case of what works for you as an individual and what you're able to cram into your day. But this is a recounting of the start of my journey, a journey I hope I still have a very long road to travel on before it's over.

I'd love to hear comments and/or advise from everyone


  1. Thanks very much for sharing your journey with us Claire.

    Personally I find it very useful to hear your take on whether or not you've taken the right route. The good news is that you get to do it all again with the second release!

    I find the whole advertising and creating trailers idea very daunting. It almost feels as if you have to be some IT whiz kid to be able to be a successful ebook author!

  2. Wow, what an incredibly informative post. Congratulations on the new contract - that is such awesome news. May there be many more to follow!

    And thanks for that tip about NetGalley. I hadn't heard of them.

  3. This was great information for me. I am a nigerian romance writer and I actually self-pubbed my book. It has gotten great press so far but can always do better. Thanks for the NetGalley mention, I also never heard of that.

  4. Very useful "rambles" Claire; it's great to get such a detailed report from someone whose actually been there!
    Judy(South Africa)