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How to Get 16,000 Downloads of Your Novel in 2 Days

Image16,100. That’s the number of free copies of Shepherd’s Moon I just gave away during a two-day promotion in May on Amazon’s Lending program. Did I plan for that many to go out? Not in a million years.

Many people, mostly fellow self-published authors, have expressed interest in how I accomplished this feat. The truth is, it was the result of a LOT of luck and a lot of planning. I didn’t have a single penny to put towards advertising, which is one more reason I’m thrilled about the outcome – it didn’t cost me anything other than the $50k in royalties (flinch) I potentially lost (more about that later).

I promised a detailed post on how I organized this promotion. So let’s take a look at the marketing plan (such as it is) that I organized prior to this giveaway.

The saga began back in October, 2011 when I first made Shepherd’s Moon available to the public. After the first month, I collected data and went back into my editors chair to make changes. The beauty of self-publishing a novel is the ability to edit after a release (although I don’t recommend doing that – more on that later). With two more sets of changes behind me, I made the book available to several Goodreads groups. (Trust me when I say that this move is not for the feint of heart). There are some amazing people on Goodreads. If you can confidently read the constructive reviews and ignore the mean-spirited ones (of which there were only one or two) without getting upset, you’ll be able to extract some helpful advice that you can apply to your future work.There are many remarkably skilled readers and reviewers on GoodReads and it is a really great place for calm authors who have the hide of a rhino.

The move netted me over 20 reviews and over 30 ratings. With another set of changes in hand from the groups suggestions, I hit the editing room again.

Sales began in earnest, and I averaged a respectable rank for the first few months on Amazon. Not great, but certainly not horrible for an indie author with no marketing budget (whatsoever)!

I decided I needed to try something else to get word out and joined the Kindle Lending program I’d heard so much about from fellow authors. I scheduled a two-day promotion in mid-May, and then I set about notifying the big indie promoters to see if they would feature my novel on their site. Because I followed their extensive submission guidelines and already had excellent reviews on the novel, all of them agreed to run the promotion. This part of the process took nearly two weeks of highly focused writing and preparation.

I created original guest posts, interviews, sneak peaks, and press releases and scheduled social networking across the social networking world. If the website offered a free option for being featured, I took them up on it. Each post was scheduled to run on blogs and specialty sites (listed below) on specific days. The day the promotion went live, Indies Unlimited, Indie Author News, Indie Book List, and Pixel of Ink all carried the story. That made all the difference. These groups work VERY hard to help out new authors and have continued to retweet, post and forward the links on to their readers. I highly recommend them all (particularly the first two!)

When I awoke the morning of the promotion, I already had over 2,000 downloads. As I hit the refresh button on my phone, the number increased by 100-500 a minute. All Day.

And, that’s how I spent the next 48 hours. Hitting the refresh button…

The final count was 16,100 downloads in two days. For a very short time, I hit my high points at:

In the US:

  • #3 on Thrillers
  • #7 Bestseller Kindle

In Germany

  • #1 in Thrillers
  • #5 Bestseller Kindle

In the UK

  • #3 in Thrillers
  • #7 Bestseller Kindle

In Spain

  • #6 Thriller

In Italy

  • Where’s the love, Italy???

(And yes – before you ask – I can document everything). This was all accomplished with no money (at all) for advertising, in competition (sort of) with the release of Shades of Grey (don’t get me started on that mess), while Hunger Games (yay!) still dominated my category.

As for the end result of this promotion? I’m not sure yet… Sales have risen dramatically, but I’m not a bestseller (paid) yet. Over 20,000 people know about my novel. I understand that it is now possible to watch your sales multiply by thousands within hours. Those are all great things that have come of this experience.

On the other hand, it’s completely unnerving that I potentially lost over $50,000 in royalties. My sales ranking slipped after the promotion from a steady 5,000 to a steady 76,000 (despite steady sales).

I still don’t understand Amazon’s ranking system (and I think they design it that way).

It is my intense hope that even 10% of those who downloaded the book will actually read it, comment (hopefully favorably) and maybe recommend the novel to friends. I also hope that people will want to read the next book in the series (entitled, “Blood of the Shepherd”).  

And if all of those wishes come true in some perfectly entwined cosmic connection, it just may be possible for me to one day make a living writing fiction…I sure hope so!

A (very) Beginner’s Guide to Twitter “Trends”

For those of you new to the Twitter network, there are a few tools you should be aware of, not the least of which is the Trends tab and the use of hashtags. This is one very basic look at the Trends feature and is designed for those brand new to using Twitter.

To begin with, a trend is anything that more than one person is talking about. When I tweet as @PetsWeekly, I look for trends on #pets. This means, I use the hashtag (#) to search topics. You do this by going to http://www.twitter.com and logging in.

Look at the left side of the screen under “Trends” and you will see a box that shows what is popular (or “Trending” in the United States, the world, or in any location you specify.

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So, if I were tweeting right now, I would try to come up with a post for one of the top trends that fits my subject area, such as:

I wonder if #pets were included in the #1940census

To verify that you did it correctly, and to follow the conversation you have just joined, type in #1940Census in the Search box above your tweets and the results should return your tweet text:

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Each time you refresh, you’ll be able to follow the conversation and receive new tweets on the topic.

Now, in my Author (@StacyMantle) account, I would try to focus more on specific items of interest to me and my genre. Because I want to be more specific, I will search on specific items of interest, such as fiction, writing or anything I’m personally interested in. We search on specific terms by using a hashtag.

For example, I’m a big fan of the new HBO series Game of Thrones. I can search for tweets on this topic by typing in #GameofThrones or #GOTDay or any one of the many hashtags that apply to Game of Thrones.

What I will find are many fun tweets relating to the topic. For instance, actor @NathanFillian (one of my most favorite actors who plays the author/investigator on Castle) recently posted

@NathanFillion #IfIhadadirewolf I’d call him Watwolf.

“What’s your wolf’s name?”

“Watwolf.”

“That one.”

“Yes.”

And so on…

Let’s translate that tweet. We know it’s from Nathan Fillion because the @ symbol is in front of his name and we are followers of his account. We know it’s an allusion to Game of Thrones because he uses the hashtag phrase “If I Had A Direwolf” and because I’m a fan of the series, I know he’s talking about the direwolves in Game of Thrones. If he wanted to make it even easier on us, he could have added a GOTDay hashtag, but since Twitter limits us to 140 characters or less, we have to guess. But, hopefully you get the idea…

Now, how to use this knowledge… I have a few options. I could respond directly to his tweet in an effort to get my book title out to the general populace by shamelessly capitalizing on someone else’s fame by writing something like this:

@nathanFillion #IfIHadADireWolf I would let Alex handle him… http://amzn.to/HUmBoJ

This may or may not accomplish two things:

  • 1. NathanFillian could respond to me (doubtful, but one can hope) and that will bring my name up to his 1.2 million followers.
  • 2. Nathan’s fans will see his name come up and hopefully click through to my Amazon link and order the book.

Or I can respond to the topic by using the hashtag only. It will still come up on anyone who is using the trending topic.

Be very cautious when you use this feature. It’s easy to become known as a spammer and you don’t want to be a spammer.

Using trending posts will help you accomplish several things: First, you’ll increase your readership. Second, you’ll increase your followers. Third, you’ll become known as someone to follow. It will be a lot easier for you once you get going.

Give it a try now and learn how to use these very valuable tools from Twitter. And don’t forget to follow me @PetsWeekly and @StacyMantle !

And Nathan, if you’re reading this, sorry to use you as a learning template but you are the funniest guy we know on Twitter (well, next to the @BronxZooCobra)

Secret of a Successful Writer: Show up

ImageThis morning, as I sat in front of my desktop computer waiting for an update to load, I browsed through several blogs on my iPad, checked my email on my phone and suddenly realized something: I have become so connected that I am now disconnected.

I have been so “connected” with social networking and websites and email over the past four years that I have actually become “disconnected” with actual humans. This is a real problem for me. As a writer, it’s my job to bridge the gap – not be the gap.

In my teens, I used to be an adventurer. I was the person out there hiking through the Superstition Mountains searching for lost gold mines and finding tarantulas in their backpack. I was the person who took off for a year and lived in my car with two wolf hybrids just so I could see the country. It was then that I was truly an artist.

In my twenties, I calmed down (or at least made a concerted effort to calm down) and became a “businessperson.” I bought a house, worked, vacationed every summer, and did the 9-5 thing. I hated my life.

In my thirties, I took it a step further and finally got married. Which actually was (and still is) the best thing that ever happened to me. The kid thing has never held any appeal for me – besides the fact that I can have them anyway, babies scare the crap out of me; I would hate to screw up another living creature. So, I substituted animals for kids – mostly because I like animals better (and personally I think they are better adjusted than most people).

The one consistency in my life has been writing. I’ve kept a journal since I was old enough to hold a pen, and I’ve written about everything… From poetry to articles, blogs to novels – for the last twenty years, I’ve been able to make a living (however meager) by putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard.

And I learned, most importantly (and mostly the hard way), that the most successful writers are not successful because they’re talented and amazing – they are successful because they are consistent and engaged.

The minute you miss a column delivery date, you lose a client. The day you neglect to finish an article because its too hard to find that elusive closing statement, you lose a gig. The week you miss an email delivery of a newsletter, you lose a reader. The year you miss putting out that novel, you lose the potential to be a bestseller. But, most importantly, the second you fall prey to reviews, listen to critics, or forget to be true to your voice that playful inner being that scripts out the scenes in your head; you lose your ability to write. 

Here’s a secret: Writing is not about being the best; it’s about being the most consistent. And I suppose the same can be said for life.

Half the battle is just showing up.

Its dragging yourself out of bed each morning to face the day, to participate in life with coworkers and friends, to drag yourself to happy hour because you don’t want to lose the opportunity to connect.

This is a lot easier to do when you are single. It’s easy to stay involved. But once you get married and have that security of someone being there for you all the time, it’s easy to slip into obscurity.

So today I’m making a conscious effort to be a participant in life one more. It’s not going to be easy because I don’t really want to do it. I would be perfectly content living in a cave that was completely isolated from every human on the planet if I had internet access and my pets.

I don’t have to become a social butterfly, flitting from event to event. But I do need to attend a function once in awhile and blog about “real things”. I need to let others see me as I am, not as I would have them see me. And really, I need to regain a focus on writing. Whether its blogging or finishing another book or writing a magazine article – it needs to be done for joy, not from obligation.

Those half-finished blog posts that I was too afraid to post because I knew they would be controversial are going to be dusted off and posted. That novel I’ve been working on for the last two years is going live. The website that I’m most well known for is going to be around, but we are taking it the next level – a better level.

So, look for a new me – coming your way soon – sans auto correct.

Chaotic Blog Week in Review

Each evening, I take maybe 20 minutes and read through a huge list of blogs. Those that catch my attention are read all the way through, others are glanced at, and still others will remain undiscovered (by me) forever. To accomplish this feat in a timely manner, I rely on Google Reader and Zite – an app for my iPad that consolidates blog entries on the topics I choose and organizes them into n easy-to-navigate list. Since my interest in blogs is as varied as my interest in life; topics include everything from the obvious: pets, writing, marketing – to the “not so obvious”: conspiracies, environmental, and architecture (et al).

I’m going to give this “weekly posting” thing a try. It may turn into a monthly posting, or no posting at all, but I’m sure you’re not going to care one way or the other. Let’s start off with a quick overview of the Chaotic Blog Week in Review.

Environmentalism meets urban fantasy:

Zom-Bees: Parasitic flies are taking over the minds of honeybees and creating (for lack of a better word), Zom-bees. More details on this fascinating story (and how zombees may impact our own lives) can be found at Eco-centric Blogs Time.

Interesting architecture:

Life in a Tree: I mean “in” a tree, not near the top of a tree or beside a tree. This is a look at some of the amazing architecture that allows you to live life in a tree. This type of architecture is known as “whole tree construction” and you can learn more about it at InHabitat or Whole Tree Architecture.

Aqua Architecture: If you’ve ever wanted to build a home centered around a water feature, this site has some very interesting ideas on how to do that. These dreamlike underwater landscapes come to us courtesy of Takashi Amano, one of the most influential people in the field of freshwater aquascaping, and his firm, Aqua Design Amano.

Anonymous Writer No More: Writers will no longer be anonymous if this group has anything to say about it. Writing under a pseudonym? Have an anonymous blog? Leaving hostile comments on a friends website under an assumed name? You will not be able to hide much longer…

Graduate students at Drexel University have released two stylometry tools designed to identify the author of any writing. This software makes sure anonymity is a thing of the past. It is capable of identifying the author of any comment, any blog, any work of art, or even an email by matching writing styles with the author.

So beware, mean people – your number is up! But if you would like to learn how to avoid detection, be sure to click here.

The Writing Life: Any writer will tell you they have a very different, almost spiritual, relationship to the written word. Reading a book creates an emotional response in us. We understand that there is something spiritual about finding the right word for the right emotion and once we find it, it’s a bit like locating a long lost friend on Facebook.

We find our platform, we broadcast our message, we hope like hell someone reads it. But, if they don’t, its okay. Our life isn’t about making friends or having relationships with people, it’s about finding the right word to convey the correct emotion to elicit the appropriate response. Jenny Hansen, a brilliant new blogger I stumbled across, captures the 10 Unusual Things I Know About Writers that you should also know.

Hope you enjoyed this week in review! What type of blog posts or news stories caught your eye this week?

The Benefits of Conflict (or “Even Bambi had problems”)

ImageMy entire life, I have labored under the illusion that conflict is a bad thing. I thought that if I could only eliminate conflict from my life, life would be easier. Even at my age (an age I never thought I would make), I still harbor thoughts that life is going to be simple and conflict-free one day.

It’s my guilty pleasure…

I’m slowly, very slowly, learning that life is not supposed to be easy. Even if I had no conflict, I would be trying to create some because, lets be honest, conflict is what keeps life interesting.

Whether you’re creating it, conquering it, or explaining it, you’re dealing with conflict.

Hell, even Bambi had problems…

This is why all writers should be grateful for conflict – because a good story begins with a good conflict.

Last month, I launched the release of my first novel, Shepherds Moon. It was a labor of love that took nearly two years to complete because life kept getting in the way and because I’m too neurotic to let it go out half-finished. If I really set my mind to it, I could write a 100,000 word novel inside of four months – assuming I didn’t have anything else to do. This one took me over two years. Why? Because I have conflict in my life.

I’m not naïve, nor an amateur, so I do not labor under the delusion that I can sit back and rest after writing that novel. This conflict has only just begun. There are going to be people who love the book and those who hate it. There are going to be good reviews and bad reviews. There will, with luck, be future novels born out of this novel.       

In Shepherd’s Moon, my main characters conflict is her fight between animals and humans. While she prefers to remain in the animal world, she is constantly forced back into the human world. As Shepherd, it’s her responsibility to balance both. It would be far easier to lounge around a 100,000 square foot mansion in the desert with her pack. Instead she must go out into the world of humans to protect both her pack and her fellow humans.

It’s the numerous conflicts that I’ve set up for Alex Wilde that makes her life interesting and makes the series worth reading.

This is true for all books. A character may begin the story living what appears to be a perfect, conflict-free life. But that perfect life never lasts past the first act. Eventually, that character must have a conflict, which will migrate into something that must be overcome. The conflict may be a fatal flaw (man vs. self), or a tragic situation (man vs. nature), or a mistake that was made (man vs. society), or something else entirely. Whatever it is, that small problem will become magnified – which eventually turns into; you guessed it, a full-blown conflict.

And in every book, movie or reality show, once the character overcomes the conflict, the story ends.

Why does the story end? Because life without conflict is uninteresting to both the reader and the writer. Face it – you don’t want to read about “perfect” any more than I do.

Perfection is uninteresting, because there is not a single person on earth that can attain it. Whether it’s financial, mental, emotional, or physical, they have conflict. In order to be interesting, to really live life, you have to be in a state of constant state of growth and you can’t have growth without conflict.

It’s a good thing.

Conflict is an opportunity to grow, to learn, to open your mind to new solutions. It’s the reason we were put on this earth and hopefully the reason we will continue to flourish.

So, the next time you think life would be better if you had no challenges, no conflict, remember this: easy isn’t interesting and conflict sells.

What is your conflict and how are you working to turn it into a happy ending?

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