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Fall For The Indie Book Hot Wash

Whew, that was a long fifteen weeks y’all. But it successfully filled the time between August and December so now I can start promoting Alliances highlighted fifteen authors.

As you may remember, hot washes are how the military reviews exercises and other events to take a peek at what went right, what went wrong, and what can be done differently next time. For me, Fall for the Indie Book was a way to test different marketing theories I had related to social media and sales, as well as compare whether results I was getting for my book were the same as if I was promoting another’s book.

Key Lessons Learned

Here are some of the key lessons learned, which I’ll use going forward to help hone my marketing strategy:

1) Scheduling Is My Friend

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret: 99% of the Fall for the Indie Book content was scheduled weeks – if not months – in advance. All the tweets, all the blog posts, all the Facebook updates – they were ready to go way ahead of time.

(The content for the blogs, however, was sometimes provided in the nick of time…)

There are a couple of reasons why this worked:

First and foremost, I had a checklist of all the promotional content I was going to be providing as part of Fall for the Indie Book, and scheduling ensured that I hit everything I said I was going to do for the authors. Although sometimes, I didn’t do all what I was supposed to do (more on that below).

But in addition, it allowed me to step away from Twitter and Facebook (mostly Twitter) and do other things – like write two short stories, Empath, and finish editing Alliances (and, oh yeah, work my day job). I checked in with Twitter from time to time, retweeting, commenting, etc, to ensure I’m not a total spambot, but it relieved the pressure from me to worry about the ad stuff and promoting the blog.

Note: In case you missed it, the ads were 2x a day – once in the morning, once in the evening, and that was it. That’s about my limit for advertising on a daily basis.

2) You can lead a horse to water…

I’m not calling any authors out – but there were a few that just…did not play along. They didn’t retweet other authors, some didn’t even retweet and share their own stuff! It was a bit annoying, to say the least, that I put in all this effort for these guys and they didn’t bother to hang out. Even more so because I could have (should have) replaced them with authors who were much more eager to play.

This is the same thing I run into with my clients in my day job, and one of the reasons why I’m leaving that day job. I bend over backwards for people, and too often I find that they are more than willing to accept help, but when asked to give it – nada.

Being an Indie Author is about supporting the community, not being in it for yourself. Imagine how much more successful we could have been if everyone had participated at the same level? If instead of the eight or nine super-supportive people, we had all fifteen authors supporting each other?

You are only as strong as your network; this was an incredible opportunity to grow that network, and I was sad that more people didn’t take advantage of it. But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him realize he’s dehydrated.

/victim rant

3) Bait and Switch

I said at the beginning that Fall for the Indie Book was about supporting authors, and a lot of the authors that I picked, I did not read their stuff beforehand. I kind of just assumed the best and went with it.

Unfortunately, that meant that I had to post a couple reviews that weren’t sunshine and rainbows.  I tried to be very articulate about what I liked and what I did not like, so that I wasn’t just being mean for no reason. There also was one Did Not Finish – which could have been avoided entirely if I’d just read what the author had before agreeing to have them on the blog. Which sucked, because I really loved that author as a person, but didn’t dig the genre.

As well, I’d just spent the whole week telling you about their book, and then was like, “Yeah, but I didn’t like it.” So I’m switching tactics for 2015 – instead of having reviews linked to Guest Blog posts, I’m separating them. Sometimes the same author will have a guest blog, book spotlight, and review, and sometimes not. Hopefully it will still allow me to showcase and highlight authors, and still remain true to my reviewing without hurting anyone’s feelings.

4) Biting Off More…

Ah, my eternal problem.

When I do something, I go all in. Sometimes, I pull more onto my plate than I can possibly do. And in this case, I think that’s what happened with Fall for the Indie Book. I did not provide the universal level of quality and support that I probably should have – the blogs went downhill in the level of review and the number of “buy me” links that I posted. I’m planning to go back to all of the guest blogs and interviews and update them with the right links.

The problem is that I’m one person. One person with a day job who was trying to run a massive fifteen week guest blog effort, write books, run a company, and make a profit. I completely underestimated the mental toll scheduling 75 blog posts, 300+ tweets, and 150+ Facebook posts would take. As usual.

If I do another Fall for the Indie Book again, it will be significantly less weeks, and perhaps significantly less stuff involved. I will also be much more careful about the books I choose to highlight, and make sure that the authors understand when and where to post their stuff.

Tools

Here’s a listing of the tools that I used to promote the event, and how successful they were.

Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Google+

Facebook is…not a good place to promote your stuff. And with the 2015 algorithm changes,
it’s about to get even crappier. I found that when I posted blog links
on Facebook, I had about a 3% view rate. That’s…pretty pathetic.

Twitter,
obviously, reigned supreme. Google+ was…well I can’t actually tell if
Google+ was good or not because although people +1ed posts, I couldn’t
see who or what did. I’m still learning with you, Google+.

Scheduling Tools

I told you that I scheduled content, so what did I use to schedule it? For Twitter, I used Tweetdeck, and for Facebook, I used the native out of the box page scheduler. Blog posts were obviously scheduled using Blogger’s native scheduler.

I used IFTTT to cross post to Tumblr and the first post to Twitter in the mornings when the post went live.

For Alliances, I switched to HootSuite. I’ve still got issues with the UI and I hate that there isn’t a desktop application for it, but I do like the way that they display scheduled content, and I do like how I can post to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ at once.

Yes, that’s right. All 10 weeks of Alliances content has been written, posted, and scheduled. What do you think I was doing during Fall for the Indie Book? 😀

What Worked and What Didn’t

External to authors themselves, here’s the anecdotal data of what hashtags and strategies worked, and what did not:

#MondayBlogs

This was one of the more retweeted hashtags. Bad Redhead Media is the host of this hashtravaganza, and I have found you get a crap-ton of retweets and engagements on Mondays. For Alliances, I have weekly blog posts about topics related to and about the book, so I’m moving those to Mondays.

Social Media Tuesday

This one was moderately successful, but not as successful as it could have been. I saw an uptick in Facebook likes for everyone, but it wasn’t enough to be successful.

For Alliances, I’m stealing an idea from Melissa Petreshock and doing a #TeaserTuesday theme.

#WWWBlogs

Similar to Monday Blogs, this one is hosted by the Women’s Writers (etc.) group. But unfortunately, the reach is limited.

I still plan to offer guest blog spots on Wednesdays; for Alliances, focusing on a “Blog Swap” idea, and the theme being friendship and trust.

#1LineWed

I love this hashtag. It’s a challenge to find one line in the first place, but the engagement is great. It’s owned by the Romance Writer’s of America Kiss of Death chapter, but I’ve joined up because I love the concept. The engagement is super-high as well, lots of RTing and sharing.

#TBT

For Fall for the Indie Book, this one was good. For Alliances, I’m throwing it back to old blog posts.

#FridayReads

As I said above, this one sometimes made me sing from the mountains, and sometimes made me cringe in horror. In the future, probably switching to a “Book Spotlight” kind of post, coupled with a review on Saturday.

 

Metrics

Here’s some fun metrics for you to see the impact of the effort:

From the S. Usher Evans Social Media Questionnaire, Survey period 11/15-12/1

I was actually pretty stunned at the number of people who had no idea what Fall for the Indie Book was. Then I looked at my website and saw my organization was gahbage. So I reorganized everything and made the FFIB content a bit more prominent.

Again, this could also have to do with the sample size of people – a lot of the respondents were from my personal Facebook page. But it still pointed out that I did not do a good job of promoting FFIB after the initial push in September.

Bad Promoter. Bad.

Total site visits 1 Sept-12 Dec

Surprisingly, the biggest days of site visitors had nothing to do with Fall for the Indie Book; they were blog posts that I wrote on Sundays – about my fear of running and my book signing hot wash. So the moral of the story is that the most compelling content is that which comes from the soul, or that which comes from real life.

Although Erin Rhew wins for driving the most traffic to my website. Look at that spike in the third week.

And finally, my favorite two kinds of metrics.

Visitor Geography 1 Sept-12 Dec

 

US Only Visitors 1 Sept-12 Dec

Look at all the potential street team people!!

Conclusions

Was Fall for the Indie Book a success? Kind of.

I hit most of my objectives – highlighting fifteen authors, reading fifteen books, testing marketing strategies. But somehow it doesn’t feel like as much of a success as I think it could have been; more because there wasn’t enough promotion. I wish that more books had been bought, I wish that more engagement had occurred. But it was a good learning experience.

In 2015, the focus of this blog will be the 3 books I have coming out, as well as my #SUsherDoesAmurica book tour this summer. But I still believe in the idea of highlighting other authors, and so I’ll always have guest blog spots open.

Hopefully, this blog post is helpful to folks and spurs people to hire me to help with their marketing.

Next Steps

Next week, I have one more event planned – a week-long blog tour of my cover reveal with some of my FFIB friends. There will be some scheduled tweets to wrap up my goodreads giveaway and sharing of the posts, but after that, I’m taking a breather and shutting down the social media machine for the last two weeks of December.

Don’t worry, I’ll be ready to get back in it on 1 January with the kick-off of preorders for Alliances on Amazon Kindle!

Published inHot Washes
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