Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Sharing My Progress: Promoting Tales From Virdura

So, you may or may not know that my new fantasy flash fiction collection, Tales From Virdura, went up for pre-order last week Monday.

I'm going to do something I've never done before - I'm going to share with you how exactly I'm going about promoting and marketing it, and try to be as honest as I possibly can about the results.

Here goes...

The book first went up on Goodreads on 10 October last year. It had no edition label, other than "ebook", but it had the first draft of my product description. The product description changed a few times between the time it first went up, and the time the book was loaded to the retailers.

I contacted my cover designer in January, and we had a long meeting to discuss my vision for the cover.

Fast forward all the way to 18 April 2016. I was finishing the manuscript and waiting for my cover designer.

The second I had the cover, I created and published three separate editions: one for Amazon (Kindle), one for Smashwords, and one for Kobo. At the same time I re-labelled the book on Goodreads to "Smashwords Edition", and put in the ISBN.

Smashwords approved the book the very same day, and by the following morning, it was live on iTunes. Amazon approved it later that evening, and so I created another Goodreads edition, labelled "Kindle Edition".

By now it was last week Tuesday (19 April), and so I wrote and published a blog post, advertising the book and encouraging people to pre-order it. I promised people a copy of A Petition to Magic if they would pre-order it and e-mail me their receipt.

I tweeted a link to that blog post, and promoted it:

(Please retweet the above tweet, if you're on Twitter)

At the time of this writing, that tweet has had about 33 000 impressions, 7 clicks, and has cost me R20.51 (approximately $1.42). I'll keep on updating that figure until my budget is exhausted, or the book releases, whichever comes first.

I also posted it to Facebook (but did not pay to promote it):

(As above, with the Tweet, feel free to share that Facebook post)

By the following day (Wednesday, 19 April 2016), the pre-order was live at Barnes & Noble. I updated the above blog post, and decided that now was a good time to create the official Tales From Virdura page on my website. It was also the day I created new cover images for my Twitter account, my Facebook account, and this blog.

It was Thursday by the time the Kobo Edition of Tales From Virdura finally went live, so I updated the above blog post, added a new purchase link to my website, and created the Kobo Edition of the book on Goodreads.

With all the pre-order links live, and the official page up and running, I took a chance and submitted the book for a free promotion through eBookLister. By Saturday, I saw that it was live on their site, and I was ecstatic. I also submitted to Choosy Bookworm at the same time, but as far as I know, they have not promoted it in any way.

On Sunday, I submitted to two more sites: Pretty-hot.com and ReadFree.ly. It went live on Pretty-hot later that afternoon, I haven't seen it on ReadFree.ly yet.

And that's the story so far. I am tweeting the link to the blog post (offering A Petition to Magic free) every single day until release, and posting it to Facebook once per week.

At the time of this writing, I have yet to make any pre-order sales on Amazon or Kobo. If I've sold any on iTunes, Smashwords hasn't reported them to me yet.

I'll continue to update this blog post as more information becomes available. Wish me luck!

[Update 2016-05-03] One week later... It appears that none of the other sites I submitted Tales From Virdura to are going to promote it for me. I've continued to tweet the link to the above blog post every day. I've had some retweets and likes - even a few clicks - but still no pre-orders. My Twitter campaign is still running, and I've now spent R28.01, for a total of nine clicks.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Tales From Virdura: Cover Reveal and Giveaway

I have some really exciting news for you today. It's been a long time coming, but the cover for my new book, Tales From Virdura, is finally complete. Bask in all it's fantasy deliciousness:

Pretty cool, huh?

The cover was designed by the exceptionally talented Hilary Keegan. If you have a project, for which you need art done, or are interested in learning the tricks of the trade, go take a look at her website: http://www.artschoolbedfordview.co.za/.

If you don't know what the book is about (or perhaps you just forgot), here's the blurb:

Explore Virdura, a world full of fantasy, magic, and drama.
Find out what happens when a dashing young farmer's son swoops a neighbouring daughter off her feet.
Meet Queen Tricia and the Royal Wizard Solon. Or Queen Celeste, her daughter, as she continues to struggle to come to terms with her new role as queen after the death of her mother.
Or read about Tobin the Bounty Hunter as he takes down Jarvis, a merciless criminal who brutally slit a blacksmith's throat.
All these stories and more await you in Tales From Virdura, a collection of flash fiction stories that take you deep into the world and the lives of the characters who inhabit it.
If you enjoyed reading A Petition to Magic, this might just be your next read.
You'll find out more about old characters and meet new ones. You'll read prequels and origin stories, and you'll read original stories taking place in new locales within the Kingdom.
This book can be enjoyed as a companion to, or separate from, A Petition to Magic.
And now for the "giveaway" part...

Tales From Virdura is now on pre-order, and will be released on 1 June 2016. And if you pre-order it, you'll get a free (e-book) copy of A Petition to Magic!

Yep. All you have to do is pre-order the book from one of the below retailers, then forward me your purchase receipt (to graham@grahamdowns.co.za). Give me a day or so to see your message, and I'll send you the gift of A Petition to Magic at Smashwords.

Of course, this deal applies to pre-orders only. If you wait until after release before you buy it, you won't be eligible for a free copy of A Petition to Magic. Sorry.

In case you need a refresher on what that book's about, here you go:

"Graham Downs opens the door to a fantasy world in his short story, A Petition to Magic, a world of emotions, trust, self-searching and enchanted characters that will definitely leave readers wanting more."
Queen Celeste rose to the throne of Virdura a month ago, after the sudden death of her mother.
Desperate to prove herself, she agrees to hear the case of a simple farmer who claims a neighbour stole his cow.
To help her in this task, she orders her chief advisor, the royal wizard Solon, to cast a spell and divine the truth for her. Solon, however, is keeping a terrible secret. He is unable to perform any magic, and he cannot afford to let the queen find out the reason why.

Sound like a good deal? Well, read on...

Where can I pre-order Tales From Virdura?

Here are the stores that currently have Tales From Virdura on pre-order, and you can use any of them to get your free copy of A Petition to Magic.

Just click on a link to be taken to the book's sales page at that retailer.

This list may expand over time. I'll update this blog post continuously, as new retailers come online.


If you run into any problems pre-ordering the book, you might want to ask in the comments below. That way, if I can't help, I'm sure that somebody else can!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Flash Fiction: Sticky Black Stuff

I submitted this story to Adhoc Fiction last week. It didn't make it, so I thought I'd share it with you instead.

The challenge was to write a complete story in 150 words. I hope you like it!

"What are you doing, brother?" the man asked his sibling at the dinner table. "Experimenting with gravity?"

"No,” replied the boy. “I'm learning about friction." He tilted the dinner plate ever so slightly, watching the glass on top of it, and the sticky black liquid inside tilt, but not spill.

“As it relates to gravity, you mean. Anyway, I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Mom’ll be mad if you spill.”

A clap of thunder startled the two brothers, causing the younger to lose concentration, and tilt the plate a hair further than he’d intended.

The glass slipped off the plate, and shattered on the floor, causing the sticky black soft drink to run everywhere.

“What on EARTH is going on in here? Now I’m going to have to wash this whole floor!”
Uh oh. Mom.

Later, the man stood over his brother’s bed, watching him rub his backside.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Why You Should Review Self-Published Books

Over the past few weeks, I've tweeted and Facebooked quite a bit, about the importance of authors encouraging reviews of their books, and of readers writing those reviews.

Why is it so important, though?

Well, in the first place, traditionally published books tend to get reviewed in major publications, sometimes long before release. This is because traditional publishing companies have massive clout when it comes to marketing, and can get these books into the hands of places like Publishers Weekly, The Sunday Times, the Mail and Guardian, The New York Times... the list goes on.

And it's no secret that these reviews work! When you bought the last big Stephen King blockbuster, how did you find out about it? Maybe you're on Stephen King's mailing list (so yes, signing up to your favourite author's e-mail list is important, too), but chances are you saw a review for it somewhere.

Well, we independent publishers operate on an infinitesimally smaller budget. We (most of us anyway) have day-jobs. True, most traditionally published authors do, too, but we have to split our already preciously limited spare time between writing new material, and marketing our backlist. We simply do not have the time or budget that the big publishing companies do.

We can't afford a billboard, and we can't rely on a professional review in the New York Times, to help readers discover our books.

Here's who we do rely on, though: you. 

Yes, you, dear reader, have the power to decide whether people find, read, and love our books, or languish in obscurity for the rest of our careers. Our lives, and our livelihoods, are in your hands - now doesn't that feel good? If you read one of our books and enjoyed it, but don't tell anyone, we starve.

And the best way to tell everyone how much you enjoyed our books? Write a review.

The second reason why we so desperately need reviews, is because most of the retailers (Amazon in particular, which is where the majority of most indie authors' sales come from) uses those reviews to recommend our books to other readers.

If you're an Amazon customer, you've probably received at least one e-mail from them, at some point, recommending that you buy books. Well, those recommendations are based on books in genres that Amazon believes you're interested in, which have the most reviews!

Reviews provide "social proof", so when you write a review for a book, and put it on Amazon, that review is helping people you never knew existed to discover that book, and not just your friends.

There's one final reason why you should write reviews, especially on Amazon, but it's a bit controversial.

If you buy a lot of e-books, there's a fair chance that you're on one or more e-book recommendation mailing lists (Like perhaps BookBub, ReadFreely, Digital Book Today... there are lots).

Well, the books that you see in those e-mails are books that authors paid to put there. I guess that's our equivalent of a billboard along the highway. Those spots are far cheaper, but there are often restrictions on the minimum number of Amazon reviews a book needs to have.

The more reviews a book has, the more likely it is that one of those sites will agree to e-mail it to their readers, and they will outright reject a book that has less than a minimum amount.

So when you review our books, you're not only helping your friends discover them, and random strangers to discover them through Amazon's recommendations engine, but you're also potentially helping millions more people through these book marketing companies/e-mail lists.

All from your one review! Is that not the most power you've ever had over another human being's future?

But what should you put in a review?

Many people shy away from posting reviews, because they don't think their writing is good enough, or they don't know what to say.

Well, it's true that you can write these beautiful, flowing reviews, if you like, and there are many tutorials out there, to teach you how to do just that.

But really, it isn't necessary. Truthfully, the star ranking that you give it means far more to the above mentioned algorithms, and those minimum requirements for book marketing, than the text itself.

You have to include some text in, of course, but honestly, all you need to say, is something along the lines of "Great book. I really enjoyed it!"

Type that into the review box, pick a rating from one to five stars, and hit publish.

You have now officially helped an author sell their next copy of that book. Easy, huh?

So, the next time you finish a book that you've really enjoyed, spare a thought for the poor, struggling author... especially if the book is self-published. Write a review!

More about me

I, personally, review every book I read, for the above reasons. I review most of them on Amazon, but I review each one on the social reading site, Goodreads. If you'd like to get an idea for the types of reviews I write (and the types of books I like), follow me there: http://www.goodreads.com/GrahamDowns/.

Also, if you'd like to sample some of my own books, please go take a look at my website, http://www.grahamdowns.co.za/, where you can find all the relevent links to buy them, and sample them without leaving my site.