YA scifi/fantasy writer Andrea Pearson is the author of The Kilenya series and the Katon University series. In this week’s episode, we talk about her early marketing mistakes and how her promotional strategies have changed since then.
Andrea wrote her first book, The Key of Kilenya, a fantasy novel targeted at middle graders (ages 9-12), back in 2008. She attracted lots of attention for the book when she posted it on HarperCollins’ now defunct author discovery website Authonomy, eventually picking up an agent, and then an offer from Little Brown. She ultimately turned down that offer, unhappy with the contract terms (low royalty percentage and little control over content and art), and signed with a small press. The press put out the book, but later, after discovering JA Konrath’s website and self-publishing, Andrea decided that “if a publisher, a small press publisher can do all that stuff for 50 percent of the royalties, that we could do it and get, you know, 70 percent of the royalties.” So Andrea turned indie.
She started publishing her Kilenya series in mid-2011, a total of six full-length novels and three related romance novellas, releasing the last title in February 2014. Andrea followed that series with her Katon University books, targeted to an older audience of 16 years and up, writing and publishing all five books within a year, with the fifth set to release on 11/2/15.
Mistakes Were Made
In the beginning, Andrea admits they made mistakes, especially in the marketing efforts she made after she published the first book.
She originally priced the book at $.99, then ran a free promotion. She got a thousand downloads in a day…and panicked, changing the price back to $.99 and effectively halting the downloads.
She also spent several thousand dollars promoting the first book before the second was out, which was a bust. She says she didn’t start making money on the series until she had the third book up for sale and the first book set to permafree. In hindsight, she says, she should have held off promoting until she had a solid first book with a lot of reviews and the other books already available for purchase.
“Promoting one book is not as effective as promoting multiple books.”
After Andrea completed her first series, she decided to write her second series to completion before trying to market it. She wrote all five books in the Katon University series in about a year.
“When you give yourself permission not to worry about marketing, it’s very liberating.”
Andrea also took feedback from readers and reviews to improve the first books in both series, even having the first book re-edited. Then she invited her readers via email to give the books a re-read and let her know how she was doing and hopefully post a review. This served to make the books stronger, as well as increase her reader engagement and overall number of reviews.
She made Discern, the first book in the Katon University series, permafree. Andrea says that running occasional free promos every now and then are a great way to passively market for reviews and build up a book’s perceived value.
Finally, Andrea took the time to test various promotional sites one at a time with her first series in order to judge their effectiveness and reach. (See “Mentions” above for a list of Andrea’s recommended book promotional sites.)
The Next Big Thing
With the final installment of the Katon University series set to release in November, Andrea is finally ready to market the series. She is planning on a two-week marketing blitz. The first week will focus on increasing awareness and recognition of her books by arranging for book blasts (where bloggers and followers will post the book cover, blurb, and purchase links on their sites and social media) and blog tours. The second week she will run the promotions she’s been carefully testing in the previous year.
After that, she will be free to focus on her Next Big Thing, which happens to be a bouncing baby boy due in late October!
On deciding to self-publish: “We just decided that if a publisher, a small press publisher can do all that stuff for 50 percent of the royalties, that we could do it and get, you know, 70 percent of the royalties.”
On waiting until your third book to promote: “Promoting one book is not as effective as promoting multiple books.”
On writing five books in a year: “When you give yourself permission not to worry about marketing, it’s very liberating.”
- Start marketing after your third book. Stores don’t sell only one item, and neither should you. Get a few books done before you start marketing and splitting your time away from creating new books. That way your fans will have another book (or two) to turn to as soon as they finish the first.
- Promote your permafree books now and again as a passive way of marketing for reviews. As Andrea mentioned in the interview, running occasional free promos on your permafree books is a terrific way to gather reviews, bolstering your book’s value in the eyes of potential readers/buyers.
- Improve your books. Are you suffering from one-, two-, three-star reviews? Are you getting similar criticisms repeated over and over? Fix it. Especially if it’s a first book in a series. You want to make that book as good as you can make it. (Obviously, this is true for all your books, but it’s even more critical for a first in a series.) Update the book and invite your readers to weigh in on the changes and hopefully add to the reviews with a four- or five-star rating.
- Test promotional sites to determine their value and reach. Andrea recommends giving each promo a few days in order to avoid overlap and conflicting data from multiple promotions.
What is the single best lesson you’ve learned as an indie author? What’s the most painful lesson you’ve learned?
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