Friday, April 12, 2013

Progress report: One Shade of Red

Image: Creative Commons
 I have learned a few things in the year since I published my first novel, The Bones of the Earth — even some things about publishing books. I tried to apply them when publishing my second book, One Shade of Red.

I’ve known the importance of promotion and advertising any product for a long time. Even as a kid, I saw ads promoting the power of advertising. I knew that if I wanted my book to sell well, I’d have to figure out some way to promote it.

The problem, however, is that advertising costs money. Money I don’t necessarily have, money that I need for my other indulgences, like food and heat and gas. And taxes.

In the past year, though, I have also learned about some promotion and advertising I could afford.

And I learned is that results of promotion are not always what you expect.

What I did

After I released The Bones of the Earth at the end of 2011, sales were not what I had hoped. So I read, I researched, I spoke and corresponded with a lot of people who know, or who said they knew, about how to promote a book. I listened and I planned to take as much of their advice as I could for the release of my second novel.

I ramped up my participation on Twitter and joined some great, fun groups on Facebook. I was invited into the Guild of Dreams fantasy authors’ group and corresponded more frequently with other writers. And as you faithful readers have noticed (thanks, by the way, for coming back here every day!), I increased the amount of blogging I do, and wrote guest blog posts for others.

Even before I was finished with the first draft of One Shade of Red, I started talking about the book in person and on the Net. I put little teasers on my blog and tweeted things like “Coming soon: a sexy spoof of 50 Shades of Grey.”

I put samples on my blog for Six Sentence Sunday, too, until that fun site closed.

I solicited and received some excellent and very encouraging advice from an excellent writer, one known for both erotica and other writing, too: Charity Parkerson. Thanks, Charity!

One of my most important decisions was involving the amazing members of Independent Authors International. As I’ve blogged before, Gary Henry and Cinta Garcia de la Rosa were invaluable editors and reviewers. Ben Wretlind and Bruce Blake contributed excellent copy-editing and proofreading. Thanks, all — I really could not have produced as good a book without you.

Another iAi member, David C. Cassidy, designed a fantastic cover. I can’t say how happy I am with it! Thank you again, David.

Once I had a fully edited version, I sent advance review copies to some good friends who are known for good book reviews. Their response was very positive — and I made sure to tell them I wanted honest reviews, and not to spare my feelings. I am very gratified to read their responses, which you can find on Goodreads and Amazon.

Blog tours

By February, I knew I was getting close. I set a deadline of the end of March to launch One Shade of Red as an e-book. When I realized that was the Easter long weekend, and the April Fools Day followed immediately, I chose April 2 as the official publishing date.

Taking a cue from Bruce Blake, I organized two blog tours. First was a cover reveal a couple of weeks before my launch day. Thanks to everyone who posted that stunning cover:

- CR Hiatt

- Rachel Thompson

- Christine Nolfi

- Bruce A. Blake

- Wodke Hawkinson

- Doug Dorow

- Linze Brandon

- Lisa Jey Davis

- David C. Cassidy

- Jesi Lea Ryan

Next, I set up advertising on Wodke Hawkinson’s Find a Good Book to Read and on Rachel Thompson’s two book promotional sites, the Indie Book Promo and the related but more specific Romance Promo Central and the Erotic Promo. [

The launch

Launch day was April 2, as I said. For one week before and one week after, I organized a blog tour. (I did not realize until it started that the blog tour coincided with Passover.) Ten generous bloggers agreed to post an excerpt from the book; each person got a different excerpt. Thanks to everyone who participated:

- Alan McDermott

- Siggy Buckley

- Charity Parkerson

- CR Hiatt

- Dawn Torrens

- Bruce Blake

- Cinta Garcia de la Rosa

- Doug Dorow

- Frederick Lee Brooke

- and Shannon Mayer.

Also, Joyce Strand agreed to feature the my guest post about why I wrote a book like One Shade of Red, which is such a departure from my earlier work.
It’s amazing how many people will say “yes” when you ask a favour.

For launch day, I set the price at 99 cents, and for my first book, too. Opening special!

The results

Sales that first day were gratifying — not huge, but it seemed that the market at least noticed that my new book was available.

After that, sales dropped off.

However, starting that day, sales of The Bones of the Earth started to surge on Amazon’s UK site. I don’t know why, but sales have been steady there ever since, and now the full edition and Part 1: Initiation Rites, a stand-alone novella which is also available as an e-book, are in the top 100 of the Historical Fantasy category — depending on the day, sometimes ahead of some major titles like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana.

I had heard of this phenomenon before: the best way to sell more books is to publish more books. But this is the first time it has happened to me.

It’s curious that this sales spike is restricted to the UK. Come on, Americans — are you going to let the Brits outdo you in buying The Bones of the Earth?

You can still beat them in buying One Shade of Red!


  1. I am hoping to have the opportunity to test your results. I posted a whole series on how ineffective my substantial promotional efforts were on my first novel (but 14th book).

    I have been hoping that a follow up novel (or even the more serious non-fiction project I'm shopping) might bring some interest in it, but I haven't found a publisher for the two other novels yet and self-publishing to my quality standards is currently not in my budget. I do find with blog posts that odd ones will suddenly go viral a year or two down the line, so I figure there is something to just continuing to live and write.

    1. I, too, hope to test some book promotion techniques that I have read about and others have found effective with my third book, which I will launch on June 22. Keep watching this blog for more details.