Authors Helping Authors: It May Not Work For You

Today I’m going to share my publishing journey, but first I’m going to let you in on a shameful secret. Okay. Maybe it’s not too shameful, but perhaps a little on the obsessiveness side. I check my Amazon sales at least once a day. In fact, admitting to once a day isn’t close to an estimate. Let’s go with several times a day and leave it like that. After all, a gal has to have a little pride right?

Control Freak: Brandon's Story by Reena Jacobs

Released September 2010

My best selling work, Control Freak: Brandon’s Story, averages about 3 sales a day. Though it’s listed at $0.99, the price isn’t bad for a 3+k piece of work which took me 1-2 weeks to write, polish, and edit. I have to admit, I’m quite pleased with the results, profit-wise. Not stellar, but at least it’s something. It’s rather nice knowing I’ll have $30-50 a month from Brandon’s Story to fund various promotions and what not. And anyone who’s tried to promote a book, knows that amount doesn’t go very far.

Still, if only my other works did so well. 🙂

It’s interesting to note, I did pretty much no marketing for Brandon’s Story. In fact, I offered it for free for the longest time. Honestly, I didn’t think it was a piece anyone would want to purchase at $0.99. After all, it’s a short story, and a very short story at that. When I set a price for Brandon’s Story, and people started buying it, I could hardly believe it!

Shadow Cat

Released January 2011

Why? Because Shadow Cat, which had all favorable reviews was having an extremely difficult time getting off the ground. I’ve been all over the place with the price, from $0.99 to reel in folks who only buy cheap, to $4.99 to lure in folks who think cheap is crap. No matter what price I slap on Shadow Cat, it averages about 2 sales a week. <sigh>

Shadow Cat and I even went on tour together. Me and my kitty… tiger.  I put up ads on various blogs, paid for advertising on Goodreads, Facebook, Google Adwords. I’ll be honest, I’ve yet to see a return on investment (ROI).

Allow me to go off on a tangent, as I’m known to do at times. 🙂 I was driving to pick up my son from preschool today and thinking about my ROI. With no out of pocket expenses by only publishing Brandon’s Story in eBook and not spending a dime on advertising (I think), I’ve already earned a decent salary for at least 1 week. Remember, I mentioned it took me 1-2 weeks to write, polish, and edit Brandon’s Story for publication.

ROI for Shadow Cat? I might have covered the marketing expenses for Shadow Cat… maybe. And the time writing, polishing, and editing? haha Let’s not even go there.

I Loved You First by Reena Jacobs

Released July 2011

Next up, we have I Loved You First. With I Loved You First, I cut back on the advertisements and went straight for the blog tour… full force. 45 days and I don’t know how many blogs. The book received lots of great reviews. Last I checked, we were up to 16 reviews at Amazon and averaging about 4 stars. Way to go Alex!

You’d think folks would flock to pick up a copy. Not so, my friends. Of all my works, I Loved You First has the least amount of sales. Lean a little closer, I don’t want this getting around the blogosphere. Can you hear me? Well, I Loved You First has only received 3 sales this month. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. Last month was only slightly better at 6 sales. Yikes!

In terms of my ROI? I think I spent about $60 in promotion materials for the blog tour, which doesn’t include the costs of books and shipping. I’m certainly not crying over the fact. I spent a lot more trying to get Shadow Cat off the ground and still only have 8 reviews on Amazon. Of course, Shadow Cat has slightly better sales, but not enough to make me feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth with advertising.

Control Freak: Regina's Story by Reena Jacobs

Released October 2011

Okay. Last piece, which I released early this month. Control Freak: Regina’s Story. I did even less advertising with Regina’s Story than I did Brandon’s Story. For the most part, I just set it out there and tweeted a couple of times about the availability. Interesting enough, the sales on Regina’s Story are comparable to Shadow Cat — averaging about 2 sales a week. Actually, the sales for Regina’s Story are slightly (not by much), but still slightly better than Shadow Cat.

Like Brandon’s Story, Regina’s Story is another shortie — a little over 4k words. I will admit, it took me longer to write. I just wasn’t in the mood to write erotica. In fact, I’d considered giving erotica up entirely. However, I felt I owed readers the sequel to Regina’s Story. After all, the back of Brandon’s Story ended with a promise to have the sequel out shortly. That “shortly” took about a year to get around to writing. 🙂

So here I am, a little over a year into the self-publishing game, 4 works up for sale, 2 free flash fiction pieces, and completely clueless over what works and what doesn’t.

Just how effective are blog tours, ads, promotions, etc? Perhaps I’m not trying hard enough or better yet, perhaps I’m not giving my attempts at marketing long enough to kick in and take effect. What says you?

What types of marketing have you tried?

Do you have a story to tell? Share with us your successful and less than successful campaigns. 🙂 In fact, email me (, and I’ll open Ramblings of an Amateur Writer to you for your own guest post.

9 thoughts on “Authors Helping Authors: It May Not Work For You

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but as a newbie to this, I NEED to know the realities. We can’t all be Amanda Hocking…at least I know I’m not! LOL Keep up the GREAT work and thank you again for sharing.


  2. Amanda Hocking is definitely an outlier in the self-publishing game. 🙂 Doesn’t hurt to strive to reach that level of achievement though.

    I figure I’ll continue with my hit and miss campaigns until I figure out what works. I did have a few good months over the summer which I’ve analyzed and think I might have a clue what happened. 🙂 We’ll see if I can repeat the results.

  3. Very honest post, Reena, and I imagine a lot of folks have similar experiences. I’m not sure I got much out of doing blog tours either. Most blogs just don’t get much traffic. These days, if I guess post, I pick and choose more carefully and make sure it’s worth the effort (high traffic site or one that has search-engine-optimization benefits).

    As for the short story, my guess is that Brandon’s story moved a ton of copies when it was free, so it appears in a lot of people-who-bought-this-bought-this pages for other books, even though it’s no longer free. I’ve seen some people in my genre shoot up to the top of the bestseller’s lists after giving their books away for free for a few weeks and then shifting them back. The book stays at the top for quite a while even though it’s now $2.99 or something. I wish I could get Amazon to be more responsive for me when it comes to listing ebooks as freebies, heh.

    I’ve been trying to get Flash Gold listed for free for the better part of a month, but no dice yet. I’m debating on whether I want to give it a try with my first EE novel when EE3 comes out. I wish Amazon made it a little easier to work that, but then if everyone did it, it’d cease to be effective. There’s probably already some of that now.

    By the way, have you added the sales link to Regina’s story at the end of Brandon’s story? You probably have, but it’s definitely worth pimping it (and the other titles) at the end of the most popular one.

    Good luck!

  4. Thank you, Kasumi. 🙂 I’m keeping the hope alive also.

    Lindsay ~ Offering Brandon’s Story free definitely gave me a bit of a publicity boost. Like you, I’ve tried it with other books, but Amazon has been highly uncooperative. In fact, they’re intent on doing exactly what I don’t want them to do.

    I give my works away for free at other sites, but they don’t price match. I set my prices to the regular price across the board, and Amazon discounts my works to $0.99. Like Shadow Cat is currently discounted 75% for some reason. I don’t get it. Most of all, I hate the canned responses they feed me through customer service.

    I’ve tried to work with Amazon because of they’re so popular, but these days I feel like I’m back in bed with Bank of America. Haha I’m thinking it’s time for me to stop trying to trick the system to work the way I want and work through avenues which don’t force me to play a losing game.

    Tee hee… but first I might try the free game one more time. *shrug* Call me wishy washy

  5. I’m with you on the clueless train. my sales numbers are not great, either. Legacy of Ghosts has sold four this month on Amazon (lol!) though it has done better on Barnes & Noble (via smashwords) but not spectacular numbers.

    One thing I know works is to get a free book listed on Amazon. When 101 tips went free I went from selling four or five books a month to well over 100 for Shades of Gray. But is’ a downward momentum – peaks and then drops off. (I think I have 19 sales this month for that book on Amazon) I think as Ruth Anne Nordin says, the best way to sell books is to write books. But dang, it can be frustrating, LOL!

  6. Joleene ~ The upward fluctuations in sales are nice. They make me totally giddy. What I would like to see are sustainable sales. I’ll have to stop by Ruth Anne’s place and see what she has to say.

    It does seem that individuals who are able to roll out a series of books in a short time fare better. From experience, I know I can write works in a short period of time and even muster the motivation to get the editing done. The difficult part is keeping the motivation high to geh her dun.

    Hmm… profits. yeah.. I think profits would provide me that high motivation. haha

  7. I think it’s great that someone is finally telling the self-published authors that it is not easy. In my humble opinion self- publishing may always remain easy but getting sales is going to get get harder as more and more authors take the same route. But stick it out. More books will increase your brand value and generate higher sales.

  8. I’m with you on that Sabine. More books do help. There’s always the potential for additional sales if a reader finds one work. Thanks for the encouragement.

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