The Indiewriter vs FacebookAds

My author page on Facebook does well. Or at least Facebook seems to think so. In fact, they think it does so well, they offered me a €20,= gift coupon for an add to reach even more people! How good am I! lol

Okay okay, this is, of course, a mere marketing trick from Facebook to push you into spending your hard earned money on their adds. But since I’ve been curious about it for a while now, I decided to play around a little with it.

In the Indieworld it seems there is a strong division into the camp that believes in Facebook ads, claiming they do wonders for their business, have a great return rate and are a Godsend to Indie writers. The other camp? Not so much. They believe the opposite. It doesn’t add to anything, is a waste of money, and that there are way better ways to spend your precious money.

Okay, not really helpful. Of course, things are easy when they work for you. You know you did something right. But when things didn’t work, you have to ask yourself, ‘why?’. Is it because Facebook ads really don’t work (for you), is it because your ad simply isn’t enticing enough, or because you used the wrong keywords or target groups?

Deciding I wanted to try it out for myself, I decided to set one up. Nothing too fancy, I took my blurb, added a few 5* reviews I had gotten, and a link (including cover image) directly to my book on Amazon. Then I had to fill in my target audience. Facebook tries to help you by making suggestions. Now I have no clue as to where they get them from, but trust me, IGNORE them! Or at the very least double check if that is what you want. In my case, Facebook advised me to run the ad in only one province in the Netherlands, among men and woman from 10 to 85 years old. This was for my book Dinner at Dawn, an m/m paranormal romance, with a sex scene in it, targeted at women and written in English…. See my problem here? I would be downright surprised or shocked if a 10-year-old Dutch speaking boy would consider buying my book. Okay, so I caught it and changed it into at least the English speaking part of the world, in particular, the countries where Amazon claims my books are most popular in. I also adjusted my targeting audience.

Next were the keywords. Thanks to KWFinder I had a nice list of keywords that should attract the right kind of people. Only to run into a slight glitch. You see, Facebook had a lot of keywords, but not always the ones you’re looking for. For instance, it does have ‘GAY PRIDE’ but not the word ‘GAY’ alone. Sigh.

After toying around with it, (read me typing in random words in hopes of finding some useful ones) I got a list that I was pretty happy with.

Setting my budget of max € 20,=, spread over 3 days (the amount of my free coupon), Facebook estimates I should be able to reach around 9.000 people… That wouldn’t be a bad thing. If only 1 percent actually clicks on the Amazon link and would buy it….

At the end of my promotion, I have reached 251people (meaning they saw my ad), with an involvement of 121 people (meaning they reacted to it, either by comments, likes, clicks or shares). Only 1 person actually clicked on the Amazon link.

Success? Failure? Hmm hard to say.

The promised 9000 people reached? >> I think it’s safe to say that was an epic failure.

But for the rest. I still got 1 sell through this free ad. And like I said, I didn’t really put much effort in the ad itself. Coincidently though, and I have no clue if this is related to the ad, but in the 2 days after my ad stopped running, I sold almost the same as I did in the whole first week… Coincidence?

Would I do it again? Not any time soon, unless of course, Facebook thinks me so good to give me a free coupon again. I think I’ll wait a bit until the next book is out (hopefully soon).


The Indie writer vs The Newsletter

Newsletters, our mailboxes are filled with them. Most of them hardly get read, and disappear into some folder for later reading, if at all. Yet, every self-respecting blog, self-publishing group, etc keeps insisting on the importance of having a mailing list.

I see the pro’s; building a fanbase, staying in touch with your readers, informing them of updates so they can buy, building an ARC team, getting beta-readers etc.

I also see the con’s; It takes a lot of time and effort, how effective are they really, and my biggest issue; what to write about.

But why would people want to sign up for a newsletter in the first place?

So I got thinking and opened the folder in my inbox where I save the newsletters I actually read and valued enough to save them. I started reading through them. Among them, newsletters of Nalini Singh (amazing writer, check out her books!), Bryn Donovan (I swear her newsletters on tools for writers helped me so much) and even the newsletters of Randy Ingermanson (the developer of the ‘snowflake method’). I looked through them all to find the reason why I keep them/signed up for them; the common component? They all give away freebies. And I don’t mean freebies as in free gift cards or copies of their books or whatever, no, they give away free EXCLUSIVE content. And that’s what tickles my fancy.
You see I’m one of those people who either LOVE a series or go mwah and drop it. If I love it, I want to read everything about that writer. I want more. More chapters, more character bio’s, more sneak peeks etc. Little things that the general public has no access to. I guess it’s the same with the DVD boxes that now have the extended versions and other bonus materials on them. People are willing to spend money on just a few scenes that didn’t even make it to the screen.

So I added my website to have a page with this Exclusive menu, only to block the visitor from entering. (mean I know) They have to sign up to the newsletter in order to gain access to this exclusive bonus material.

In all honesty, I hadn’t written it yet, and as no people had signed up yet, I wasn’t in a hurry to do so either. However, now that the book is published, and people are actually reading it, I have several people per day signing up for the newsletter. (yes, backmatter matters!) So now I’m busting my ass to get a newsletter out, including the bonus material.

Luckily I had already planned on the kind of things I wanted to offer up:

  • scenes from the books that were edited out at a later stage.
  • character bios’ > For my first newsletter I plan an interview with my two main characters
  • sneak-previews of covers
  • maybe even a poll for covers or names of characters > get readers involved in the decision-making process!
  • sneak-previews of new novels
  • maybe even short side stories

Will a successful and large mailing list prove profitable in the future? We’ll see. But first I need to build one and keep them entertained.

The Indie writer on a convention…

Conventions. Chances are you’ve been to one before. Huge gatherings of like-minded people, looking to spend some time together, discovering new things in their fandom, and generally looking for things to spend their hard earned money on. Whether it be model train conventions, Star Wars conventions, book fairs or anime conventions, they attract thousands of people. People who are–if you’re in the right place, of course–, your target audience.

I’m a huge anime/manga/comic fan. I’ve visited many ComicCon’s Animecons etc. And almost eighty percent of the people I meet there, like the same genre’s, same type of books as I do. I’m a woman, liking m/m romance. In fact, it was through these kinds of conventions that I came into contact with the genre, (it’s a really popular genre among anime/manga fans, especially women).

Coincidentally I write in that same genre; M/M Paranormal Romance. In all honesty, though it’s gaining in popularity these days, it’s a pretty small niche market to write in. It’s also not a genre that people usually advertise they love to read as it’s not as ‘cool’ or ‘sophisticated’ as some of the other genres. Yet at these type of conventions, it’s a gathering of niche markets like this. Thousands of people who are interested in things that are not for everyone. Where they can finally come out and proudly say they love Star Wars, model trains, anime, m/m paranormal romance etc. What better place for an Indie writer/publisher to get your niche target audience together in one huge room?

Granted the brave Indies before me who have already tried this road, warn me that they’re not selling that many books, BUT they all claim the same thing; It’s done miracles for their branding and spreading the word in the community. They also say that they see a significant increase in sales the weeks following the convention.

So guess what? I just reserved a table at Tomofair (in the Netherlands) I’ll be attending, signing, and hopefully selling my books there. (I say books, because I fully intend to have my second novel in the series, Breakfast at Dusk, also finished by then.)

A good, promising thing to look forward to, and my creative mind is racing; I’m thinking bookmarkers instead of business cards, customized tote bags, wall scrolls, booktrailer on a large screen. And in my darkest fantasies, I see a line going around the corner with people standing in line for my autograph… (but that’s just between you and me 😉 )

When you finally hold your baby in your hands…

It finally happened. After months of hard work, pain, stress, and tears, it’s finally here; The mailman smiles unknowingly as he hands me the package that holds the fruit of my labor. “Please sign here,” he says. And I couldn’t be happier as I sign.

Once in my living room, a sudden fear strikes me. What if it came out all wrong? For an hour or so I simply stare at it as I do my chores. My eye never too far away from the package resting on the table.

Finally I gather the courage to open it. My baby, Dinner at Dawn. It smiles up at me as I unwrap the packaging material and I can’t help but tear up. Is this what becoming a mother feels like? I couldn’t be more proud when I gently stroke its cover, its spine. Admiring the feel of it. As I open it, my fingers stroke the never before touched pages. My normally pragmatic mind tells me to stop being so dramatic and emotional. “It’s a book, one you’ve seen and worked on for ages. You’ve stared at the cover and content thousands of times, what’s so special now?”

I don’t know. All I know is that it is. Very special. I’m tearing up and I can’t stop it. It’s like all the stress and hard work suddenly pours out and grips me, but in a good way. A relieved way.

After I gathered myself (it took a while) I pick it up again. Taking a closer, more pragmatic look. Okay, the cover is a bit on the dark side. (POD apparently comes out darker than your screen does) and there are a few minor mistakes here and there. But that was to be expected. And can still be edited.

Overall though, it’s one hell of a magical experience to hold your book for the first time. This feeling will probably fade the more books you have published, but for now, I feel like I’m high as a kite, and I can’t wipe the stupid grin off my face.

I’m not a very confident person. I don’t do great things, broke no records of any kind, never won a contest in my life. Mediocre is what I would describe myself at. But now, seeing my book for the first time, with MY name on the cover…. I think for the first time in my life I feel truly proud of myself. Proud of what I accomplished. Loads of people say “Oh, I want to write a book one day.” But I actually did it. Even if it won’t become a bestseller, even if I only sell a handful of copies… No one can take this away from me.

Another illusion shattered, building a fanbase.

We all heard of writers who seemingly came out of nowhere and become best selling authors overnight *kuch*E.L. James*kuch*. Not that I ever imagined myself becoming one of those lucky few, but still. To me, they were the stars of our trade, the authors to live up to. Of course, I was aware that it wasn’t just their writing skills that got them there, but still. That was until I watched a presentation from a self-published author herself who explained a bit more about the stories behind success stories like that. The things that aren’t always publicly known, or at least not widely known. It rattled me.

Read on, only if you don’t mind risking having your illusions shattered as it did with me.

You see, there is a reason behind their ‘sudden’ success. And that is, that it’s not sudden. The world at large may never have heard of them before, but they already had a huge fanbase. E.L. James had thousands of followers on sites where her fanfiction story (yes, fifty shades of Grey was based on a fanfiction story she wrote) was posted. Even if not all her followers there bought the book once she published it, it was still a huge boost in sales. It’s safe to say, that without it she probably wouldn’t have made it to the bestseller list. And this is not just for her, many of the ‘best seller’s overnight’ have similar stories like this. Not perse in fanfiction, but they already have a huge following of fans, whether they be from a blog, or social media, they had fans. Loyal fans. Fans willing to buy, share and advertise their books. And that is something that can’t easily be bought or obtained. You need to invest time and effort into it.

One of the marketing tools to do so is what they call a ‘reader magnet’. Usually, a story that people can read for free. So I decided to start an account on (AO3). But you have to give it some thought. Because you want readers there to get to know your writing style. So the story you put up there, need to be in a similar genre/style than your novel(s). Then you add your link to your website, newsletter, etc at the end, to generate traffic to your novels and you as an author.

Is it a lot of work? Yes. But, I think it can be a very good investment of time and effort. Remember, no one makes it big overnight. Everyone has a backstory, a story that’s not always as widely known. So with the illusion of becoming big overnight shattered, I focus my energy on the long term; Creating a fanbase now one of my top priorities.

Chicken and the egg, review style

One of the many things I’ve learned, yet never really thought about it is the importance of reviews. To be honest, when I buy a book (even by an unknown author to me) I never pay much attention to the reviews. The cover and blurb are what draws my attention most. But, having said that, that doesn’t seem the norm. Most people do take reviews very seriously, especially when they don’t know the author or their works yet.

There are several ways to get these. One is the organic way, people buy your book and hopefully will leave a review. But this is a ‘who was first’ situation, because if they won’t buy the book without reviews, how do I get reviews?

As I’ve talked about before there are sites like Booksprout where you can offer your books for a free ARC (Advance Reader Copy) in return for a review. It works. But I only had a handful of people who signed up. (I did get my first 5* review there, so totally worth it). Then I started thinking. You don’t just want any reviews, you want reviews from people who are your target audience, and therefore are more inclined to like your book and leave a positive review. Better yet, you want reviews from people who want to spread the word and buy your books.

I started my search on Facebook. (it’s the only social media platform I’m active on) So I searched for groups. ARC groups, review groups, but all, and this is very important, within my genre. I write m/m Paranormal romance/urban fantasy, so I made sure to target groups with exactly those interests. And Lo and behold there were about a dozen that I could find within half an hour or so. And that’s not all, they welcome authors within their genre, welcome ARC’s even more, but also let you advertise your book, complete even with links to where they can buy a copy. This alone resulted in several loyal followers who signed up for my newsletter true my own website, followed my authors’ page on Goodreads, and Amazon etc.

So yeah, Facebook groups are a win!

Another win to get great reviews and get your name out for free are reviews blogs. Again, it’s important that you find groups within your genre! These groups and blogs etc can be harder to find. I didn’t even know about their existence (stupid me, I know) until I used KWFinder. As I mentioned in my previous post, KWFinder is an absolute goldmine. It shows you which websites use a lot of those keywords. Besides sites like Amazon, Goodreads etc. it also showed several sites/blogs that were basically the same thing as the FB groups. Sites within a specific genre that offer a platform for authors to showcase, advertise, and get reviews for their novels. Most of these do this for free. You submit your story, they will write a review. A great example of this is: MM Good book reviews. Mind you, there is no guarantee, of course, they will write a positive review, but still.

So I signed up with several of them, and within 2 days my novel was already mentioned in two newsletters as a tip, and as an advertisement for a new release. AT NO COSTS! Sure you can buy advertisements, probably reach an even bigger audience than this, but if you’re on a tight budget like me, this is very valuable. And what’s more, this newsletter may not go out to a million subscriber, but it does go out to people who are highly interested in my specific genre. (not to mention the immense motivational boost to my ego to see my novel in an ‘official newsletter’ that I didn’t write 😉 )

Keyword Goldmine

My first novel ever (ebook version) is up for preorder. Hurray!

What I thought to be a relatively easy step in the process, turned out to open a whole new can of worms.

Keywords being one of them. One of the innocent looking questions Amazon wants to know in order to get your book published is what keywords you want to use. At first, I thought they meant which genre, but no. Keywords are something else. It turns out that keywords are the words Amazon (and apparently pretty much the whole Internet) uses for readers to connect with your books. In other words, the ‘words’ people search for when looking for a novel.

Okay, still not that hard, right? I write paranormal fantasy with a male/male romance, some overlap with urban fantasy etc etc. But when reading the fine print (yes Amazon does try to help you along) it said not to use words already used in your description, because they already use those. Okay, so I need other words…

I got stuck. Because what kind of words people use to search for books? Then I remembered in one of the many blogs, Facebook groups etc that keywords are a BIG thing, and that it’s very important to get it right because it could very well mean the difference between people finding your book and not. And note to self, if they can’t find you, they can’t buy you! After googling around on the know how’s of keywords, I stumbled upon the Kindlepreneur. I already mentioned the site I think, but it’s a very helpful site/youtube-channel on self-publishing on Amazon. After a quick look around, I came to one of his posts about keywords. Basically, there are two options.

  1. you go to anonymously type very slowly in the search field and see what Amazon auto fills in. It’s not foolproof, but it does give you an idea of what people have searched on before you came along. I tried, it, but it didn’t give me many useful results.
  2. The second tip he gave, turned out to be a goldmine. No really. Well, not literally of course, but you catch my drift.

What’s so special about KWFinder? It’s a site where you can enter any keyword and it will instantly spit out a whole list with related keywords. Kind of like a thesaurus for search words. Okay handy, but not that special. ( I can hear you think it, don’t deny!) True, but it does more. It also shows you how many times the keyword was searched for in the past month, on what kind of websites, the costs per click on that keyword, how many competitors per pay to click, a rating on how easy/difficult it is to run advertisements on and the list goes on. Oh, and it also lets you import said list with keywords closeby to spreadsheets etc, so you can easily save them. Now, I’m not that smart with ads yet (hell, I haven’t even begun to focus on that part yet, although I really should do so) but even I know how valuable this kind of information is. GOLD I tell you. GOLD!

I learned for instance that the keyword ‘m/m’ is far more popular than ‘gay’. That ‘LGBT’ is upcoming and trendy, but not so much in combination with ‘paranormal romance’. And that people tend to look almost two times more for ‘books’ than they are for ‘novels’. Interesting hm?

But it gets better. There’s also the First page results on Google search results (SERP) it tells you on white kind of sites people used those keywords. And that’s where I think the second biggest value lies. Because these are the sites my readers are searching on. Apart from the logical sites like Amazon, Goodreads and other major bookstores etc, I quickly realized there were also a lot of review blogs/sites on it, with a specific genre, opening a whole new world of possibilities and marketing chances. (see next post on that!)  

My next thought was: “Okay this looks too good to be true. The whole program/site looks way too smart. How much is this going to cost me?”

And there’s the beauty. It has a free account option that allows you to research up to five keywords per 24hrs for free. Yes, you read correctly. This goldmine is free to use for 5 searches a day.  

To be honest that is just fine with me. The amount of information I got from it was so huge that with the following up etc I don’t think I have time for more than those 5 searches a day.

So go check it out. NOW!

below is a screenshot of one of my searches, just to give you an impression of how a goldmine looks like when you stumble upon it.