Planning the Blitzkrieg

Or, trying to judge the ebb and flow of the market
Pam Uphoff

How much does timing matter? The End-of-School slump is solidly in place, as I write. When will everyone get back from Disney Land and visiting the grandparents and start looking around for something good to read?

Let me check my tea leaves . . .

Marketing is my weak point, and timing the market a mystery. Last year, there were slumps in May/June and late August. Other writers complained, so it wasn’t just me. So . . . a mid summer blitzkrieg will surely work this year, right?

Like all Indie authors, I keep trying various things marketing my books. Several things have worked, but all short term.

The first method was to pub a book or collection of short stories every other month. Of course, I don’t write that fast, and I ran out of “done enough to polish up for publication in two months” manuscripts after a year.

Then there was “Price your books like you’re a professional and proud of them!” Weird. Bumping stuff up to $5.99 actually produced a sizable bump in sales numbers, and therefore income. Then the second Summer of Recovery . . . and sales tanked again.

So I lowered prices, and had a small short bump. Then on to the next experiment. Five titles released in quick sequence, starting in September and running into October. Now that produced a really nice bump! . . . that petered out immediately.

Drat. Thought I had it there, for a minute.

So . . . back to guessing market timing again. Will a mid summer release work better?

Only one way to find out. I’m just putting the polish on four titles that I can bring out in quick sequence, two or three weeks apart, to try and boost my sales, my author ranking and my visibility. Will it work? The crystal ball is in the shop for a tune up (not that it ever seems to help.) Only hindsight is reliable, and some days I have my doubts about it.

But after this blitz, I think I’ve got things lined up to where I can publish something, at least a novella, every two or three months for awhile. So maybe I can sustain the momentum, finally.

So . . . pre-publication list of things to do . . .

(1) Editing, in progress. First story done. Entering and obsessively double checking on the big novel will be done today. The two novella offering looks good. The last . . . darn it, it’s so close to being novel size—I need to add just a few complications and then get the beta readers to take another look at it. But it is copyedited. Until I add bunches to it.

(2) Covers. I have decided to buy covers. I like most of mine, but they don’t seem to be doing the job of selling books. I’ve got the first one. And looked at the art for the second. I’ll go back and redo the old covers, to match the fonts and styles, replace a few with utterly hopeless cover art . . . sometime.

(3) Formatting. I’ve got the chapter headings all correct, checked the numbering, need to double check the dates. Then it’s just a matter of the legal page and the table of contents.

(4) Blurbs. Must write blurbs.

(5) Keywords. Must consider what potential readers might search for.

(6) Prep the mailing list.

(7) Consider exact timing and preorder dates, and links from one book to the next.

(8) Scream and run about in panic.

(9) Push the button. Four times. Maybe starting next week.

(10) Okay. Fine. I’ll do it right now. Olympian will be available . . . probably later today. And of course the pre-order on the third one, with the place-keeper cover went live within an hour . . .

Am I insane?

Don’t answer that. I’m a writer.

And on to the self-promotion. You guys who’ve already read my other stuff? I really need reviews. Even if you hated them. Honest.

The series starts here:
Outcasts and Gods

But a more recent entry point is here:
Empire of the One

21 Comments

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21 responses to “Planning the Blitzkrieg

  1. Draven

    to really gauge the market wouldn’t we need monthly sales data from all of us?

  2. I don’t think release date is terribly important with self-published books, honestly. With traditionally published books sold primarily through chain bookstores timing is important since a book that doesn’t sell a certain number of copies inside the first month is going to get destroyed for a refund. On-line books, on the other hand, have no shelf-life.

    • Author ranking is affected, and thus visibility to readers outside the author’s circle of current readers.

      • Granted, but you can also do promotions well after the release day. I did one for my series after the entire series had been released and got the first book up to 30-something in “Metaphysical Fantasy” (a category that I didn’t choose) and ended up next to Neil Gaimen’s “American Gods” for a day.

        E-book sales are very forgiving. You’re not facing the “30 days to do or die” that traditionally published authors deal with.

  3. eowyn

    Do you have a mailing list to notify your customers when a new book is out?

    I have to remember to check amazon (I used the kindle Unlimited program to enjoy the whole run of the Outcasts and Gods series. But then … I read to the end, and now I have to wait for updates like everyone else.)

    • I do. As soon as I get the pre-order links and the link to the first story, I’ll be sending out an email to both people on it. Did I mention I suck at marketing?

    • Eowyn, you can also use the follow author option on Amazon, which will send you an email when they release something new. I’ve noticed since I tend to hear from a few people the day of release, that Amazon lags by 2-3 days after release on the notice, though.

  4. One thing I tried that seemed to have good results (I say ‘seemed’ because I’ve only done it once so far) was releasing a new book at $0.99 for 7-10 days as a special debut price. I did that with the first book of my latest series, which ended up generating my highest sales and rankings to date (it retained a lot of momentum even after I ended the promo and raised the price). My reasoning was that discounting the release allowed me to use various promo web sites (most of them will not promote a full-price book) and, being in Kindle Unlimited, the borrows offset the lost revenue from the discount sales (during the ten-day period I generated about three times as much income from borrows as from the .99 sales).

    Then again, the book was in a fairly popular genre (mil-sf) and there may have been other factors at play (the release happened at the end of December, so maybe there wasn’t a lot of competition, and so on), but I’m trying the same tactic with the sequel when it comes out (hopefully sometime next week).

  5. I am impressed! I’m dead in the water for now, and have a To Do list as long as yours – for far fewer items. It seems to energize you – and it’s paralyzing me.

    I think I just figured out the ‘what if I do it WRONG?’ isn’t a useful strategy.

    For example, I just discovered I never put up an author bio on Amazon (that ‘getting it wrong’ bit again). Aargh!

    Best of luck – it sounds like you have a CAREER going there just fine. With pricing experiments an all.

    I am impressed.

    • I’ve done a lot of community theater productions, and I’m usually the one responsible for posting the actor bios. After the first year, when threats and imprecations did not shake out enough bios, I started passing out a simple Q&A sheet with the note that if they did not provide me with a bio, I would create one… from my choice of articles at Wikipedia.

      It got to the point where some people actually preferred that option. 😀

      • Reality Observer

        I am tempted to see whether you will write mine. Almost certainly would be more interesting, at the least.

        I need to get mine done, too, sigh… I approach it with about as much enthusiasm as doing those “self evaluations” at various jobs.

        • With the shows I always did thematically-appropriate ones. For instance, for The Gondoliers, I gave the guy who played The Grand Inquisitor the biography of Torquemada, and for Pirates of Penzance, the lady who played Ruth got the biography of Grace O’Malley.

          With birth and death dates, of course. It’s no fun otherwise.

      • I’m trying to be somewhere between grim but real and totally fantastical but interesting.

        It’s not so big a deal. When I went to get some examples from Amazon, lots of people had no bio, no picture, nothing written in their profile area. Phew!

        I’ve seen those bios in the program leaflets – you don’t know what to believe any more!

  6. Christopher M. Chupik

    “Blitzkreig”? I can already hear the howls from the Usual Suspects.

    • Hmm, I wonder about the sales value of hundreds of one star reviews from non-buyer SJWs would be?

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Those might actually drive sales. Someone moaning about the author being an evil right-winger is more likely to make me check out a book. 🙂

      • Such a surge has driven me to buy a few books, the most recent was I Want To Be Bacon When I Grow Up.

  7. And yes, once got the preorder link for the next one, I pushed the button.

    https://www.amazon.com/Olympian-Wine-Gods-Book-25-ebook/dp/B01H7QS1ZU/

  8. mrsizer

    The plural of anecdote is not data…

    I tend to binge-buy so I have stuff available to read later or press the Buy Next buttons when I get to the end of something. Sabrina Chase got me on that twice last week (good for her; bad for me – I’m supposed to be on a budget this summer).

    I don’t know if it applies to everyone, but the links at the end of A Scent of Metal and One Blood (both very good, btw) go to amazon.com, whilst the “buy from Kindle” links seem to go elsewhere because I could see the book after clicking on the link, but I couldn’t buy it. On the flip side, I suppose links that went to “buy for Kindle” would be broken for everyone else.

    Pam, I think Wine of the Gods is in a fairly rare place (“somewhat unique” is a pet-peeve of mine) because it has become difficult to write anything stand-alone – you have centuries of back-story built up. Saturday Night was a good escape from that trap. The point being: Something short to pull people into the bigger story arc is getting harder and harder to slip in without boring regular readers with “catch up” material.