Disappearing in Plain Sight – Five Free Days – Part Two

Montreal - Bruce Witzel photo

In part one of this series, I described my book marketing journey since 2013 and the circumstances that led me to attempt procuring a coveted BookBub (BB) advertisement for the first book in the Crater Lake Series – Disappearing in Plain Sight (DPS – because acronyms are so cute – right?). In this post, I will describe the things I did to get ready for the promotion.

Step one: Before trying for the BB slot, I moved all my books into the Kindle Select Program. For those of you unfamiliar with the way Amazon works, a short primer may be in order. When I enter my books in the Amazon Select Program, I give Amazon the exclusive right to market my e-books. In exchange, they allow me the opportunity to do free promotions (up to five days in a three-month period) or countdown in price deals. They also enter my books in the Kindle Unlimited Program. Readers can subscribe to this service for a monthly fee and then they are allowed to download up to ten books at any given time free of charge. Authors are paid for these books based on the number of pages read.

Freighter on the St. Lawrence - Bruce Witzel photo

Amazon calculates Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) based on a ratio related to the number of real pages the book would have if it were a print copy. The softcover edition of DPS has 328 pages. This translates to a KENP of 588. Authors are paid (as of last month – this rate varies) 48 cents per 100 pages read. If a reader goes the distance, I will make $2.82. More than I would make from a sale. Authors who write longer books do a bit better with this formula.

During and after a BB promotion, Kindle Unlimited subscribers really notice a book. Because DPS is the first book of the Crater Lake Series, there should be a ripple effect of notice over the other two books, as well – The Light Never Lies (LNL) and Chasing Down the Night (CDN). So, I really need to be in Kindle Unlimited!

Looking towards the Channel Islands off the California coast- bruce witzel photo

Step two: Once accepted by BB ($330.75 CND), I set up my free promotion days on Amazon. Because the slot BB had given me was Easter Sunday, I decided to extend the common wisdom that advises three free days with the BB slot in the middle to five. This would give extra insurance that the book was actually free on the day of the slot. I’m so paranoid about things not working out. BB will not advertise a book if it isn’t free or at the price agreed upon for the arranged date and they will not refund your money! Five free days would also give people who didn’t check their email Easter Sunday or Monday a chance to still act on the sale and get DPS for free.

Step three: A friend recommended Book Marketing Tools  as an easy and inexpensive way of getting the news of my free days out on a number of sites. I signed up ($21.29 CND) and this service allowed me to fill in all my book and sale details once and then reap the benefits of being promoted on up to 32 different marketing sites. I made it onto 29.

Victoria Harbour - Bruce Witzel photo

Step four: I was advised to surround the BB slot with other promotion methods in order to go into the BB day with the lowest Amazon ranking possible and to extend the burst BB would create as long as I could after the day.

I booked a Fussy Librarian slot ($33.38 CND) for the day before the BB. As well, fellow indie author, Peter Ralph , offered to feature my promotion to his entire email list that day.

For the day following the BB slot, I signed up with BookSends. I wanted to go with E-Reader News Today, a less expensive and higher rated option but they were not accepting any new submissions until April. The services I chose on BookSends were expensive (207.07 CND). I debated going with their less costly option for only literary fiction subscribers but after perusing the actual emails they send out, it was obvious to me that the top slots for Free Books of the Day got the most attention from subscribers. I decided to go big or go home.

Freighter on the Columbia - Bruce Witzel photo

Step five: On March 24th, the day before the free days started, I scheduled tweets with the hashtag #FREE and a catchy one-line hook to run every hour on the 25th. I’ve never done anything like that with Twitter before, always having held to the idea that one should do nine interesting tweets to every promotional one. I broke this rule because I really wanted to get the news of DPS free to as many people as possible.

West Coast magic - Bruce Witzel photo

Okay, there you have it. Tune into part three of this series to find out if I managed to catch any readers!

Disappearing in Plain Sight – Five Free Days – Part One

  First rhodo - Guenettte photo

Over the Easter long-weekend, I ran a five-day free promotion for Disappearing in Plain Sight. Before going into chapter and verse about how that promotion went, I want to spend part one of this post setting the stage.

I self-published Disappearing in Plain Sight in the spring of 2013. From then until March 24th of 2016, the book had garnered 135 e-sales across all Amazon venues. I’ve had it in and out of Kobo, Nook and iTunes and those markets added 22 more sales. Most will admit, this rate of return gives a new meaning to slow and steady. Somewhat like this poor little forsythia (pictured below) that I’ve nourished along for years.

Forsythia - Guenette photo

Efforts at selling softcover copies of all my books in our local community has resulted in far more sales. It is those sales that have kept my head above water and provided the capital to invest in yet more inventory and pay for the production of subsequent books.

Emma in Save-On with Chasing Down the Night - Guenette photo

I have dedicated many hours to building a social media network, writing blog posts, searching for interesting articles to share on my Facebook Author page and stripping down tidbits of daily life to 140 character tweets. I’ve enjoyed many of these activities but they’ve been primarily aimed at creating an audience of readers who will get interested enough in me to invest the small amount of money it takes to purchase an e-book.

E-book sales did not  justify the time spent. But I didn’t look at it like that. I have always believed that I was creating something that would bear fruit in the future. I had my five-year plan and I was working it. Build the network, enjoy it as I go and write more books.

Periwinkle - Guenette photo

I did not come to promotion and book marketing with any type of experience or, for that matter, enthusiasm. It’s been very difficult to self-promote. Always feeling like I am blowing my horn while standing on a street corner in a strange outfit is not high on the list of things I love.

Book marketing and promotion are skills that require the climbing of a steep learning curve. I’ve had my share of bumps, bruises and falls from that curve. For some time now, the word everywhere has been that BookBub combined with offering a book for free is the only promotion that really works. I’m sort of stubborn when things like that are touted about. I resisted. It was expensive, it was competitive. Two things I generally try to avoid. I’ve also been in this game long enough to have realized that people can exaggerate the good results of their efforts. Who can blame them? When you’ve invested the kind of cash a BookBub slot costs, you wouldn’t want to say it didn’t work out as well for you as everyone else claimed it did for them.

It was simpler than all that, though. I couldn’t wrap my head around how paying a large sum of money to give books away could possibly make any sense.

Doubting Cow - Bruce Witzel photo

So, instead, I continued to invest drips and drabs of money on things that bore zero results when it came to sales – Facebook boosts (this may not have resulted in much because I’m not doing it right), blog tours, entering contests (possibly didn’t amount to anything because I never win), sites that charge nominal fees to promote. All these costs seemed small at the time, but they did add up.

When I caught on to the fact that I had spent a large amount in small bits to achieve nothing, I started to see things differently. At the same time, I received advice from two trusted sources, people who had read my book and had absolutely no reason to lie to me. The advice was clear and to the point: give BookBub a chance in conjunction with Amazon free days. What on earth are you waiting for?

Desert Beauty - Bruce Witzel photo

I moved all my books back to Kindle Select – giving Amazon exclusive rights so I would be eligible to run a free promotion. Then I screwed my courage to the sticking post and did my first application to BookBub for Disappearing in Plain Sight. I was turned down – a very common occurrence. I had heard from other authors that this would happen but told to keep on trying. On my second attempt, I didn’t try to break into the huge romance category but opted instead for literary fiction and I didn’t specify an exact date, allowing BookBub to choose where to slot me. I was accepted. I can’t say that the changes I made from the first application to the second resulted in success because I have no idea one way or the other. There is a certain mystery imbued in all such sought-after services.

Tune in for Part 2 of this post wherein I wax eloquent on the popular wisdom about all the things one should do to ensure success with the coveted BookBub slot.

Wildflowers at Nez Perez Historic Park, Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana - bruce witzel photo

The Ebb & Flow of the Writing Life

Beauty Berry - Bruce Witzel photo  (1)

The most challenging part of my life as a full-time writer is the week after a book launches out into the world. I have done everything within my power to make it the best book possible; I have pulled my hair out getting formatting details just right; I have carefully planned a few targeted promotions; I have blogged, updated Facebook and tweeted on a regular basis.

That’s all I’ve got, folks. I can’t think of anything else to do. Maelstrom is now on its own, swimming in the vast Amazon sea. Here’s hoping it can paddle its way to an island with a high hill, scramble up to the top and wave wildly to be noticed by the reading public. While I may lack objectivity, I do think those who give Maelstrom a chance will enjoy the fast-paced story.

Fall colours - Bruce Witzel photo  (1)

Meanwhile, my life goes on. Fall is making its presence felt in our evergreen world. The apple, pear and Mountain Ash trees are all decked out in yellow splendour. The nights are getting colder and except for those days when the sun shines bright for an hour or two in the afternoon, we are less inclined to run around outside in T-shirts.

Late Cosmos - Guenette photoAnd yet, I can still find a garden treasure or two if I really look. The odd, brave flower brightens the barren beds. Though most plants are showing those distinct signs of decay, destined for pruning back or uprooting to a new location in the ever-growing compost pile, I’ve got a few hardy peppers still growing in a cold frame. Celery and celeriac root poke out of the ground and will soon find their way into soup to warm these chillier days. There will be a few more meals of beets – luscious, round and the deepest red.

Purple haze - Bruce Witzel photo

The fourth novel in the Crater Lake Series beckons to me from the storyboard. A growing file of notes clutter my planning file – storylines, character sketches, location descriptions and bits of dialogue. Exciting … yet something holds me back. I’m not yet ready to plunge in for that deepest of first draft dives.

St. Francis - Bruce Witzel photo  (1)

I’m like the garden going fallow for a time. I need to ponder and think, walk the trails and let my mind wander ahead of me onto paths unknown, territory uncharted. I feel the need to have story ideas turn and turn through my mind as if I sat bent over a spinning wheel with heaps of wool at my feet and the task of spinning it all into the finest yarn.

Winding Trail - Bruce Witzel photo

There is an ebb and flow to the writing life – a time to churn out words in creative frenzy and a time to rest and let the creative spirit rejuvenate. Let me honour both ends of the spectrum.

Mushrooms - Bruce Witzel photo