Like Scrooge in a Christmas Carol, my latest adventure in self-publishing is a cautionary tale!
I’m an Indie science fiction writer and began my latest novel, Innerscape, during the Nanowrimo of 2012. Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is held every November. You can’t really write a novel in a month, at least I can’t, but you can make a good start on one. That’s what I did in 2012, but it was not until the start of November, 2016 that Innerscape was finally finished.
“Just in time for a Christmas launch!” I thought, rubbing my hands in glee. “Wonderful!”
What better time to promote a new book than when everyone is primed to shop-till- they-drop?”
A great many wonderful things did happen during my recent, pre-Christmas launch. For example, I discovered that there are an awful lot of kind, generous, interesting people online. I also discovered that Twitter can be fun, and that marketing need not be like having root canal treatment without anaesthetic.
Overall, however, I swore I would never do a pre-Christmas launch again. Never. Ever. Again. The weeks leading up to Christmas are hectic enough without editing, converting and publishing a novella length episode every week for five weeks!
But wait, there’s more. I also ran five free periods on Amazon and five competitions, one for each episode.
And marketing, let’s not forget the marketing. As I always write to music, I thought it would be a great idea to link each episode of Innerscape to the music that inspired it. Not only would this give me something to talk about [I hate promoting my own stuff], it would also allow me to promote trailer music and the wonderful musicians who create it.
Like all great theories, mine fell in a heap rather quickly when I discovered that not everyone loves the same music I do. I continued to promote Jo Blankenburg, Roger Subirana, Audio Machine and Two Steps From Hell, but I changed the competition prize to an Amazon gift voucher. Moving on.
And then there was the mid-launch re-write. Chris James, a generous friend and talented science fiction author in his own right, offered to edit Innerscape for me, despite the punishing schedule I’d set. Everything was going surprisingly well until right near the end, when he discovered a black hole in the final episode.
You know how it is. You write a story, and it becomes your life. You think you know everything there is to know about it…until an outsider taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, you, um, forgot something.”
As black holes go, the one in Episode 5 wasn’t that big. So what if the villain got away scot free? So what if he didn’t get his just deserts? No big deal… Right. As if…
In a mad panic I told Chris that it was much too late to do anything about the blackhole. He agreed. So, of course, I told everyone there would be a slight delay and set to work. There I was, two weeks before Christmas, feverishly repairing the gaping hole in the grand climax of the story. I was still working at the time, had Christmas presents to buy, a house to clean, chocolate mousse cake to bake [a family tradition] and 1.6 acres to prepare for the onslaught of summer and bushfires [in south eastern Australia]. No problemo…
And, oddly enough, the re-write went like a charm and didn’t turn out to be such a huge a problem after all. Episode 5 was published about 3 or 4 days late, I made the cake, mowed the grass and even managed to buy some presents. Who says you have to clean house and decorate a tree at Christmas?
Apart from discovering the limits of time and my own strength, I also learned some other, valuable lessons:
Free promotions still work, but it’s best to have a large following first. I’ve had a lot of people coming to my blog over the years, but most are there for my technical writing, not my fiction. The fact that I rarely post about my fiction may have something to do with that. 😦
Competitions also work, but again, it’s best to have a large following first. And if you are going to have a competition, then it might be an idea to offer one, single, big prize rather than five small ones. In hindsight, I think that one prize of a $100 gift voucher would have tempted more people to enter the competitions.
Still on the subject of competitions, don’t make the rules too hard. For my competitions, I posed a multiple choice question for each episode and asked people to read the ‘Look Inside’ sample to find the answer. The winner was chosen at random from the correct answers. The theory behind this format was that people would read the first few pages of the sample to find the answer, but then they’d keep reading because I’d hooked them into the story. Fine in principle, not so great in execution. Some lovely readers were intrigued enough to keep reading, but over all, the competition wasn’t a huge success.
Pre-Christmas promotions may still work, but it’s best to have a print book available for people to buy. Can’t exactly stuff ebooks into a Christmas stocking now can you? Not unless you buy the Kindle first. Oh, now wait. Maybe that’s what I should have offered as the grand prize?
So there you have it; mistakes were made and lessons were learned. Innerscape did get some brilliant reviews, and some very welcome exposure, but this ageing superwoman will not be launching anything before Christmas again. Next year I’m kicking back, putting my feet up and having a quiet Baileys. 🙂