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The Findings of a First-Time Author (Part 2)

Continuing my findings as a first-time author… If you didn’t read Part 1 then make sure to check that out too.

So let’s continue with The top 10 things I’ve discovered through self-publishing.

Marty McFly

This guy wanted a Pepsi free but he had to pay for it.

6. The best way to promote your book is probably through making it free.
This is where those Amazon KDP free days come in. You’re allowed five days every three months where you can put your book on promotion and give it away for free. You can get a lot of downloads this way – although don’t expect that all these downloads will equate to someone actually reading the book. But if you’re a first-time writer like I was last year, this is the most effective way I know of to introduce yourself to the eBook market and generate organic reviews for your book. There is also a way of going ‘perma-free’ which is maybe a good idea if you have a series of books, or at least have a large enough catalogue that you don’t mind giving one away for free – something to think of further down the line. It’s like drug dealers will give you a sample to get you hooked and then you just can’t stop going back for more… (not that I know anything about that, of course!).

For the record, I’ve found the best results through Freebooksy and Kindle Nation Daily (in terms of ads that I paid for). As for the free sites, there are plenty of them and you may as well spend time hitting them all. Here’s a list to get you started. There are also (paid) tools that will submit your details to multiple sites so you only have to submit the information once.

In terms of the websites that charge when it comes to advertising your free (or discounted) book, although there are plenty of them, don’t expect that they will necessarily accept your book. If you do get rejected just keep trying though. The big player in book advertising is, hands down, Book Bub. They are pretty pricey, but they get you great returns. Not that I know that from experience, just from what I’ve heard all other authors say. I’ve never been accepted by them, but it hasn’t stopped me from trying!

Long John Silver

Remember when pirates used to be cool?

7. There’s a depressing downside to giving your book away for free.
When you make your book free, it’ll get downloaded and made available on rogue websites, and this can be majorly disheartening for the independent writer, especially as a lot of us self-publishers are essentially one man bands and not making tons of money through this. I don’t know what to do about this other than suck it up and carry on. If you decide to avoid giving it away for free then it’ll be difficult to gain momentum with it. So this is one area where it feels like you can’t win. Piracy is a major pain in the backside and will make you question why you are doing this.

Paid Author Logo8. Nothing’s free.
As I said, there are numerous websites that will advertise your book on its free days, and yes, a lot of them you will pay, even though you’re giving away something for free and you’ve still got to pay someone to promote it. But there is a ‘kickback’ you get from free days – it’ll lift your book in the Amazon charts and people will continue to download it after the free days, or it will be read through Amazon Prime readers, and in those cases you are paid per page view. So giving it away for free doesn’t mean that you get zero return. Finding effective advertisers can be difficult, and I imagine even the more successful ones have periods where the market is just down and results are therefore down, or maybe they’re just better at different genres than others. I find the Paid Author website a great starting point as they make YouTube videos to show you their results from advertising with particular websites. I’ve used a fair few of them myself. There are some that I’ve had great results with. There are others that I would NEVER use again as I’ve felt ripped off and doubted that they’d even done anything – stick to the ones where you can actually see that some marketing is actually going on is all I’d say. There are free websites out there too, and sometimes I’ve used my free days and gone through these websites only, and sometimes I’ve had brilliant returns. So it can all be pretty unpredictable. You’ll just have to see what works for you. Another thing I’ve wondered through this whole experience, with this ‘industry’ of promoting vain self-published writers is whether somewhere on the other side of the world someone has a ton of Amazon accounts that they use solely to download free eBooks and make authors feel great that they’re getting great results on their promos, but that might just be my cynical imagination kicking in. Sometimes I’ve had a ton of downloads and hardly any reviews, and sometimes it’s the other way round. You just can’t predict it.

Stephen King

So keep those ideas coming… from anywhere!

9. The more books you have, the more success you’ll probably find.
I’ve only got two books out there myself so far, so hopefully I’ll start to be taken more seriously and snowball more success. Not that I’ve made extensive checks, but I guess there are a lot of one book strikers who’ve had an ambition to write a book someday and once that’s ticked off their bucket list they’ll be on to something else. But if you manage to get a fan of your work, then there’s a good chance they’ll want to read more from you, so you need to be mindful of keeping your audience – remember to promote your other books in your other books, and have a newsletter. The successful writers will tell you that’s a really key thing. Don’t expect that hyper success will come overnight.

genre

I’m sure my genre is in there somewhere.

10. Know your genre!
Especially if you use advertisers to promote your work. They’ll want to know what genre your book fits in as they’ll target it to specific audiences who are into it. For me, it’s been a bit challenging as I haven’t quite been comfortable about putting my first book, The Tale of the Soul Searcher, inside a box. Yes, it has some crime, it has some mystery, it has some of the supernatural, it has a bit of horror, it has some romance, but it’s not really any of these, not on their own. Maybe it’s its own genre, but I didn’t really think about this before I started writing it. So maybe you should know what genre and what audience you’re targeting before you start the whole process.

Anyway, I hope this top ten list provides some use for someone somewhere! There are plenty of other finer findings, but these are really the main ones. Are there any glaring areas I haven’t touched on? What things did you find as a first time writer? Please do let me know. I’m always willing to hear other authors’ insights!


The Findings of a First-Time Author (Part 1) 1

It’s been almost 18 months since I self-published my first novel on Amazon and so I thought I would write a blog on the experience of dipping my toes into the great publishing ocean, and hopefully give some help and pointers for other authors, especially unpublished writers who are thinking of releasing their first works. Not that this is advice from a bestselling author or anything – whilst I’m no longer a first-time author, I still consider myself a newbie in this realm and so I’m still very much learning about it all, still trying to find that magical formula myself… if indeed there is one. There are various eBooks out there that appear to have the winning formula to turn you into a bestseller; you’ll read them and they’ll get you inspired but you probably still won’t get anywhere. Read them anyway. They’ll give you pointers if nothing else. Anyway, take anything I write here for what it is and feel free to disagree and add to the discussion!

I should point out that all of the following is from what I’ve found through publishing with Amazon only. I know there are other eBook vendors out there but I have no experience with them. I have heard from other authors that most of their sales come through Amazon. The reason I am with Amazon solely is because my books are signed up to KDP Select which asks for exclusivity.

So what I thought I would do was present my findings in a list:

The top 10 things I’ve discovered through self-publishing.

1. Don’t proofread your work yourself.

Joseph Kiel reading Dark Harbour

“Ah crap, I found ANOTHER typo!”

Well, I mean, let that be the starting point – you need to at least start the work of tidying up those inevitable typos and grammatical errors and those clunky sentences or things that are otherwise just plain wrong, but you need other eyes to look at your work. Preferably you need someone with a keen eye for detail who will scrutinise each sentence meticulously – having proofread other authors’ works myself I have a pretty good sense of what’s involved in the job. No matter how many times you proofread your own manuscripts, something will get through. Saying all that, I proofread both of my Dark Harbour novels myself – and in fact no one else on the planet had even read the whole of the first one before I published it. The good thing is that with eBooks you can correct any mistakes and re-upload them pretty quickly, which is what I did.

A year later I reviewed the manuscript of The Tale of the Soul Searcher with fresh eyes, and I found that despite having read through it countless times in the past, I still found typos that I’d missed. But despite all I’ve said here, I’ll most probably continue to ignore my own advice and carry on publishing without another proofreader going over my work. But you shouldn’t do this. Get a proofreader. Better still, get an editor.

2. Most of your readers will come from America.

Rory Gilmore reading

You’ll know you’ve made it if Rory Gilmore buys your book

It’s a no-brainer really: the population of the USA is 5 times bigger than the UK so it’s a bigger market. Now, as you’ll no doubt have gathered by now, I write in English, and so my markets are mainly the English-speaking world, and if you haven’t gathered from my spellings or my domain name, I’m based in the UK. I don’t know, but I have a suspicion that the number of kindle/eBook readers is proportionally higher in the US than the UK – perhaps there’s data out there to confirm that. But anyway, you’re going to get a lot of US readers. Yes, I’ve had a bit of response from the Australian and Canadian marketplaces, and even a small trickle from non-English-speaking marketplaces, but most of your readers will be American, and to further give you an idea on demographics, I’m pretty sure most of my readers are female.

3. My native UK market seems to ‘get me’.
This is based on the reviews I’ve got through the US and UK Amazons: the US has given me a complete mixed bag, whereas the UK was unanimously giving me 5 stars until someone thought The Tale of the Soul Searcher was the sickest thing they’d ever read and bucked the trend with a 1 star (would have been a 0 if Amazon allowed, apparently). So I don’t know whether other writers find this, that their books are best received in their native countries, but that’s been the case with me.

4. You’ll most probably sell way more eBooks than hard copies, but you should still have both versions available.

Earth Song

And we need fewer trees, right?

I say this even though publishing paperbacks is a more complex process – you need a back cover and spine in addition to the front cover for one thing, and this is all proportional to the size of your manuscript of course, so there’s a lot of precision involved and Amazon will reject your document if it doesn’t fit the template. I did find that Amazon takes you through the process well though, and they’ve made it much more straightforward since they ditched Createspace and you can publish your paperback version through the same control panel as your eBooks. But your main market will most probably be the eReaders. It’s nice to have hard copies – it helps for marketing, you can give them away, and I guess they somehow make you feel like a ‘proper’ author, having something physical that you can put on your bookshelf.

Big deal guy

Now this guy?… He’s kind of a big deal.

5. Marketing yourself and promoting your work can be a full time job.
When you have more than one other life like I do, this can make it challenging to find some degree of success in this field as you need to spend so much time at it. I mean, look at my blog here. It’s not exactly brimming. You can learn a lot from other authors, so see what they’re doing, talk to them. There’s a useful forum you should join called KBoards, full of authors discussing self-publishing and their experiences of promoting themselves, so get signed up there.

I pestered a lot of other authors for their insights, and still do! Learn from their mistakes as well. See what you don’t like about them. There’s a ton of writers on twitter and a lot of them seem to market using the same cookie-cutter way where everything is a brand. Hey, maybe it works and I’m just getting it all wrong, but I’m conscious of presenting myself as a ‘real person’ and not overselling. That’s probably my biggest turn off with other authors. I don’t like automated DMs on twitter when I follow people and I rarely read them, so I don’t use them myself. Recently, as another example, I was enticed to sign up for an author’s newsletter and to download one of his books for free, but this then sent me on a series of hoops to jump through and I was very soon exhausted and unsubscribed from his mailing list. I would imagine the guy is doing way better than me, but still, it didn’t work for me.

Anyway, that’s the end of part 1. Stay tuned next week for the concluding episode!


The Night Shiner Beast is Released…

I am really excited to announce that my new book, Dark Harbour: The Tale of the Night Shiner, has now been released. You can check it out now on Amazon where it is available as an eBook or as a paperback. The cover, as I mentioned before, was designed by the awesome studio Asylum Seventy7.
Dark Harbour: The Tale of the Night Shiner
This is a follow up to my first book, what was indeed the first of the Dark Harbour trilogy, The Tale of the Soul Searcher, and was released last year. I actually wrote half of this new book before the first one was released, so writing it concurrently I was able to sow a little detail into the continuity. Saying that, I’m also aiming for these books to be standalone narratives.

The first Dark Harbour tale very much had a romance theme to it, despite all the death and blood in it. This new tale though sits firmly within a horror / supernatural genre. A bloodthirsty creature, the Night Shiner, has returned to the town. He’s a figure loosely based on the legend of Spring-Heeled Jack as he pounces on people from out of nowhere and then flies away again. The story also takes inspiration from one of my favourite films, Jaws, where a terrified community attempts to deal with the deadly problem at hand. The Night Shiner preys on people in the dark hours, killing off the losers and the wasters, and many individuals are forced to look in the mirror and ask that dreaded question: am I next?

There is a definite psychological subtext to this book, with overtones of the fear and terror that we increasingly find ourselves in in this modern day. Even as I was publishing this book, one of the deadliest terror attacks to hit my country was taking place. Psychopathic groups around the world make it their agenda to instill fear in us, rogue nations demonstrate what destructive powers they are concocting, and in the vicious circle, the media know that fear sells, and that, as Michael Moore talked about in one of his films I watched recently, nations can be so fueled and steeped in fear. In fact, I may talk more about this on a personal level in another blog…

The Night Shiner character was touched on a few times in the first book (I was sowing the seeds, as I say!) as I knew that the sequel would be all about this horrific beast. There were various other details I set up in the first book without you realising too. Most of the characters from the first book make reappearances in the new book, and they all have their part to play in it.

All in all, I am very pleased with how this new book has come together. I know when people are plugging their newest creation, they’ll always tell you that it’s the best thing they’ve ever done, but really, I do think that this is the best thing I’ve ever written. I think it’s more engaging, more page-turnery, more terse, and more tense than the first book.

If you haven’t read the first book, and want to dive straight in with this new one, then I don’t mind…

Or if you want to start at the beginning, then The Tale of the Soul Searcher is also sitting there waiting for you (the eBook version of it will also be going on a free promo from the 5th till the 9th June 2017).

I’d love to hear your feedback on the new book. Is it better than the first? Any thoughts on where things may go in the concluding book of the trilogy? I look forward to hearing your thoughts…


News on the New Dark Harbour Book!

So it seems it’s generally agreed with people that 2016 was, quite rightly, a disaster. While all the great celebrities were dying and people were getting all crazy by voting for jokers, I decided to shut myself off from the world and focus on completing my next Dark Harbour book. If you’ve read the first one, then you’ll know what the title is. If you haven’t read the first one then get on to it! And for you johnny-come-latelies, the new one will be called The Tale of the Night Shiner.

I think this one is going to be pretty epic, even better than the first one, a harrowing rollercoaster ride that’s even darker than the first one (heck, maybe 2017 will be the same!). Your favourite characters will be back, and there’ll be plenty of new faces too, including a terrifying monster the likes of which no one has experienced before.
Designing the cover to the new Dark Harbour book.
The great news is that I’m on course to release the book in a few months’ time. Currently I have an awesome designer who is working on a killer book cover (check out his website here), something that’s going to give a punch right from the start, as that’s exactly what the book does.

There will be some surprises. Some people will have their worlds turned upside down, and there’ll be plenty of twists and turns along the way. I’m really looking forward to getting this book out there, but until then I’d better get on and finish it…


I’m a Book Hippo Featured Author!

During my October promo campaign, I again hit a number of different websites to try and get the word out about my book. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these websites are American – there is evidently a massive market of Kindle readers over in the States, but with my book being specifically English, I’ve also been keen to search out the British book-related websites. Book Hippo

One such British website that did catch my eye is one called Book Hippo, so I was keen to sign up here. I understood that they’re one of the bigger players in terms of eBook promotion (come on, they’re a hippo! Hippos are really big!) and so must be a great resource for UK writers and book readers.

I was thrilled to find that this time round I was accepted as a Book Hippo Featured Author, especially as they hand pick their authors (I can believe it – I wasn’t accepted last time round!) so massive thanks to the crew there!

You can check out my profile on their website by clicking on the image of the hippo, and make sure to have a look at the rest of the site which is updated daily with Kindle deals.


Finding an Audience

As a book that wasn’t designed for a specific audience, it’s been intriguing to see what sort of audience would find Dark Harbour. Another aspect to the book that I never specifically had in mind is its genre. With book websites needing to know the genre category though, the one I’ve tended to put it in is Mystery, but there are various others I think you could put it in: Crime, Paranormal, even Romance.

So it’s quite possible that without a specific genre or audience in mind that I’ve gone about it the wrong way, but… whatevs.
September stats
What I hadn’t really anticipated was that most of Dark Harbour’s readers would be female, and a lot of readers would be American. That’s based on the readers that have reviewed it so far and who have added it on Goodreads. Well… and my Amazon dashboard stats as well, of course.

As I was writing the book, I realised that nearly all the characters in the book are male. There is one major female character, but she’s somewhat of a mystery. So I realise I’m not going to win any awards as far as creating strong female characters goes.

I also wondered if the title of the book with a word spelt the ‘wrong’ way, would put off potential American readers. With a book that is specifically meant to be English though, perhaps I thought that a deliberate British spelling in the title would help find Anglophiles. I know there is a hunger for quintessentially British things over the pond: Harry Potter, the royal family, BBC America…

In the second book though, I have attempted to create more balance. There are some more major female characters, AND there is even a major American character in it!

Anyone else have trouble defining the genre of their book? Anyone have any thoughts on what genre to put mine in?


August 2016 News

Joseph Kiel in the Sleaford Standard

Joseph Kiel in the Sleaford Standard

 

March 2016 marked the release of the first of the Dark Harbour books as it was made available on Kindle, the paperback version following a few months later. During its promotional run, Joseph Kiel featured in his first newspaper articles in the Sleaford press, including the Sleaford Standard.

Dark Harbour: The Tale of the Soul Searcher has soared the Amazon charts during 2016 and has been downloaded thousands of times as it now starts to receive reviews which, so far, have all been 5*. It is still early days, but so far the book has readers hooked and has been described as “awesome” and “perfection”.

Stay tuned for more news on Dark Harbour: The Tale of the Soul Searcher as it continues to find its place in our dimension!