Hi! It’s time for an obnoxiously long monthly blog. How has your December been? Did you overeat and overdrink and overspend on gifts? Me too!
Let’s get into it.
Adventures in book promotions
In December my writing life revolved around watching my Amazon sales dashboard as I dabbled in paid book promotions for my festive short story collection, Merry Bloody Christmas. To cut a long story short, over 6000 readers downloaded my ebook over the course of the five days I made it available for free. 6000. 6000! Wild. If you’re interested in self-publishing or already self-publish, the following rambling paragraphs may be of interest to you. If not, feel free to skim ahead… skim, skim like nobody’s watching!
I achieved my ridiculous 6000 downloads by running a Featured Deal with BookBub. I use BookBub myself as a reader; you choose which genres of books you’re interested in and BookBub sends out daily or weekly emails with relevant ebooks that are either free or heavily discounted. I’ve discovered loads of new books by using BookBub and have always been curious to see how well it works for authors or publishers in terms of promoting books.
Authors pay a fee to have their free/discounted ebooks included in BookBub’s emails, and this fee varies depending on the popularity of the genre their book fits into. Luckily, the genre that best fit Merry Bloody Christmas just so happened to be one of the cheapest, making the risk of my little experiment pretty minimal. So I bit the bullet and decided to give a Featured Deal a go in hopes of shifting a bunch of free copies of my book. I was hoping that it would boost my sales ranking and therefore lead to more sales once the freebie offer ended and the book returned to full price. Plus, I hoped it might lead to a couple of new reviews and maybe some sales of the book’s sort-of sequel, Come What May Day.
It worked! The book ended up becoming a number one bestseller in a couple of Free Kindle Books subcategories (Humour and Single Authors Short Stories) on the day that the BookBub deal was sent out. It also ranked at number 3 overall in Top 100 Free Kindle Books. Amazon’s bestseller lists are terribly fickle in that they’re updated by the hour, but I won’t lie—my ego was stroked a little by that very short-lived bestseller status.
It felt very counter-intuitive to pay to encourage people to download a free copy of my book and I was all jittery on the weekend the deal went out, fearful that I’d wasted money on a promotion that wouldn’t lead to any actual paid sales and royalties. But the boost in sales ranking definitely helped; after the freebie deal ended, I kept selling books. Not a lot of books, but some books—far more than I did last year despite bleating on and on about the book on social media for the whole month. I also had thousands of Kindle Edition Normalized Pages read (compared to a measly hundred or so last year), and my estimated royalties for these is looking fairly good. Plus, I’ve had a couple of new reviews on Amazon that will hopefully help to encourage more people to buy the book when December 2020 comes around. Oh, and I sold some copies of Come What May Day, too!
My BookBub promotion was sent out on 7th December, and since then I’ve generated enough royalties to give me a 100% return on my investment in the promotion. I’m not rolling in cash by any means (I wish!), and I’m kicking myself that demand for my book almost instantly disappeared when Christmas day came to a close due to it being a seasonal book. But… my experiment worked! BookBub brought me far more free downloads and subsequent royalties than I could have achieved without it. And I’m really interested to see what kind of results I could get with a discount rather than a freebie when I come to promoting Come What May Day in spring.
Writing sad stuff
Earlier this month I published He Looks Old, a short non-fiction piece about losing my Dad. I got all a bit overwhelmed with the response it got (thank you to all who took the time to read it and leave a like or a comment), which is why I didn’t respond to any comments… I was too busy snivelling and feeling weird about it, but please know I was very grateful for your kind words.
My Dad died seven years ago, although sometimes it still feels as if it was only yesterday. I guess I felt a bit like I was fishing for sympathy for old grief, which definitely wasn’t my intention. In reality, I wanted to have a bash at writing some creative non-fiction, and losing my Dad was one of the most emotional periods of my life, so that’s what came to mind first. It’s easier to write about it now that lots of time has gone by.
Something I realised on the back of that piece being received so well is that my sad stuff tends to be more popular than my light, funny or silly stuff. I Remember and The Last Cig In The Packet are two other emotional stories that seem to have resonated with people. I’d like to write more stuff like this – dark, difficult stuff – but I tend to default to the silly stuff because it feels a bit easier. Being serious is hard, because I have to reach into the most vulnerable, emotional parts of me and reveal them to the world. Gross! But it’s incredibly fulfilling when stories like He Looks Old – stories that are sad and raw and very personal – seem to connect with people and make that vulnerability worth it.
Lovely things I read
At the start of the month I read Watership Down and became all caught up in the adventures of bunny rabbits. I think I tried to read it many years ago when I was a kid and just couldn’t get into it, but I loved it this time around. Since it’s such a classic tale I would assume most know the general gist of the plot—a bunch of brave rabbits break free from their warren and set out to find a new home, facing heaps of danger from predators and humans and fellow bunnies along the way. Bunny life is brutal, but I kind of wish I could lounge around in green pastures under the sun all day.
I also read Wreckage by Emily Bleeker, a book which has been languishing, unread, on my Kindle for far longer than I’d like to admit. It’s the story of two survivors of a plane crash who found themselves marooned on an island in the Pacific Ocean for two years before rescuers arrived. The pair had a tricky time on the island and decided to lie to their families and to the press when it came to recounting the details of their harrowing experience, but as they give one last television interview it seems like some of their lies might catch up with them. The protagonists’ decision to lie felt like a bit of a convoluted way to create tension and complications where there needn’t have been any; what happened on the island was interesting enough. Nonetheless, it was an entertaining read and I was gripped by the plot.
After a busy few days over Christmas I wanted nothing more than to curl up with a couple of books and binge-read to my heart’s content. I chose Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella for this, expecting it to be light and witty and cosy and perfect for the post-Christmas comedown. And it was exactly that. The protagonist, Rebecca, is a financial journalist who is addicted to shopping and plagued by debt she can’t shift, despite working for a magazine called Successful Saving. She’s a very likeable character and I can see why the Shopaholic series is so successful—Kinsella’s style is warm, engaging and very fun indeed.
My final read of the year was The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw, which was rife with mystery and magic. It’s set in a small town called Sparrow which has been victim of a curse for two centuries after three sisters, suspected of being witches, were drowned in the harbour. The story goes that each summer the spirits of the sisters rise out of the water and possess the bodies of teenage girls in order that they can entice boys out into the harbour and drown them. Protagonist Penny wholly believes in the fable, but some of her peers believe it only to be superstition, despite there being multiple drownings of teenage boys every summer. The book has a gorgeously dark and moody atmosphere and I loved the concept of the curse. Unfortunately, there’s a big twist that I saw coming miles off, which left me feeling a bit underwhelmed by the time the story came to a close. Despite this, and some stereotypically unrealistic YA romance, it was a really enjoyable story and I’d definitely read more by Ernshaw.
Bye 2019, you miserable bastard
2019 has been a weird year for me. I’ve been more miserable and messed up than ever before, but I’ve also made huge steps forward in terms of therapy and Getting My Shit Together™. I’m be glad to see the back of this year and I feel really positive about what 2020 will bring. I have plenty of goals to strive for, both writing-related and personal, and I’m excited to see if I can achieve them. Hopefully this sense of optimism won’t disappear by January 2nd as it so often does.
I think that’ll do, since I’ve gone on for way too long already. Thanks for reading and thanks for sticking with me through 2019.
Happy New Year, everyone, and Happy New Decade! May the twenties treat you well.Follow Ellie Scott on WordPress.com