On July 17th I released my second book – Bloodlust: Will to Power
I was not expecting wonders, it being my second book as a self-published author, but I planned a short, simple campaign to boost initial sales and draw some attention to my work. It consisted of the following steps.
1) Tuesday Teasers: Posting excerpts of Bloodlust: WTP. I started this about ten weeks before release. It is a common idea and one that readers react well to. I frequently posted teasers in raw form and enjoyed listening to suggestions from readers on wording. In general, I found that the Tuesday Teaser is a decent way to get a little attention for a book.
2) Set a Date: Let everyone know when the book is going to be published: I actually had people ask me when book 2 was coming. I set the date and held fast. This is especially important for making sure everyone is ready for a release day push.
3) Release Day: On Release day my plan became more complex. The goal was to get a large number of initial sales to get a nice initial ranking. I’ll break it down even further.
- Announce the book on personal social media: Facebook, Author page, Blog, and Twitter: I did not overdo it, never pushed more than twice on any site.
- Announce the book on small, friendly forums. I did this partly to avoid trolls that often lurk in bigger forums and also because it is easier to handle questions in smaller forums then point to those threads when I post in a bigger forum. The forums I posted on were initially r/self-publish and r/fantasywriters which are very supportive and friendly. I only posted once in each.
4) Build Momentum: Going into the weekend after release I had additional measures to build momentum. The goal was to take those initial sales from friends, family, and fans building on them to carry the book forward. It consisted of the following strategies.
- Use promotion days for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale. In general, I am skeptical of free promotions, but putting book one up for free is sure to get some attention for book two which at this point would benefit from even a little bit of additional momentum.
- Announce the book on larger forums. With a bit of momentum, some questions answered, time off for the weekend, and a solid ranking I could announce to a bigger forum with more confidence. My plan was to announce it in r/fantasy and a few other places. The offering of book 1 for free would enhance this announcement.
How well did it work? Stages 1, 2, and 3 worked very well. With 25 quick sales I was actually poised to hit the top 100 in some of my categories. (Wednesday might be a slow sales day for books, which would work in my favour). A spot in the top 100, however brief, would expose me to another listing and more people. I went to bed giddy on Wednesday night, after a long celebration 😀 hoping that I would be able to capitalize on that momentum and hit the weekend hard. On the day after release, however, things fell apart due to something I had not foreseen.
One Star Driveby
On Thursday I noticed that sales had ground to a halt. Still happy from the previous day, I thought nothing of it. Later, however, when showing the amazon to a friend on my phone I noticed my book was rated 1 star. My heart skipped a beat. At first I thought that this must be one of my fans finishing the book early and accidentally hitting the wrong rating. Then I read the review. I have had a 1 star review before (both on amazon and on goodreads) but this one hit me like a truck. I never would have expected someone to 1-star the second book in a small self-published series the day after release. Here is a link to the review in question. (Please be respectful if you decide to write a response! Amazon has already removed several comments)
For a moment I thought that I had made a grievous error in judgement and released a titanic flop that betrayed the first novel. But then I remembered that I had already received some positive feedback from friends and fans, including fairly critical readers on this very blog. Then I took a deep breath and read the review again. Two lines stood out.
1) “one of the best loss of innocence through conflict books I have ever read” (book 1): The main character kills three beastmen and is seduced in the first chapter. He does not have much innocence left after that. So not quite. A brief skim of book one might give that impression though.
2) “it was written in almost a different style from the first book”: Bloodlust has an unusual structure. Each chapter is set around a match in Gavin’s career. It is almost episodic in some ways. This structure, the most obvious point of style remains exactly intact as do headings, quotes, and even fonts.
That made me (and others) suspicious and so I checked out his review history. My first glance made me even more suspicious.
Three one star reviews on the same day? That set me off. I looks to me like a hack job. I can’t be sure, but that review history is damned suspicious. I immediately reported him to Amazon and started complaining in various places. I checked out the rest of the review history and found a fairly suspicious pattern of 1 and 5 star reviews. Eventually I ran into one of the other authors who he’d smacked with the dread rating on the same day, David. I’ll let David speak for himself, here is his post on the subject.
Regardless of the eventual outcome, this 1 star review (the day after release) destroyed my early momentum and ruined my little campaign. The review is nicely crafted to warn off fans of the first book, at least until I get a few fore reviews in. I’m not sure why he did it, but I am skeptical that he even read the book. Given his history of glowing reviews for books he loved, where is the five star for “the best loss of innocence” story he’d read?
Sadly I can’t prove anything. If he is acting maliciously, he will get away with it, until evidence builds up.
I left off promoting on the bigger forums until I have a more solid review base. While sales have started to recover and a few loyal fans dropped some great reviews, my initial chance at the top 100 died with his review. However, I learned something.
I like to let reviews grow organically. I have always kind of scoff at books that go live with 10 five star reviews from loyal fans. Now I see the reason for that. People shy away from a 1 star rated book, we do this even though we all know the review system is flawed. So in order to avoid that kind of derailment in the future I will have to give out more advanced copies and gather more reviews from fans and readers (although not just five stars — my first book benefits greatly from having some great 3 star reviews, which show up in the critical section). A cushion of legitimate reviews might have kept the momentum going.
Next campaign will be different. Publishing is war. I will not go into battle alone.