I am in a much better place this year (2019) than I was the previous year. I know enough to make me dangerous.
But there is still a long way to go, and I have to decide where to best focus my efforts in the upcoming year to build on the growth from last year. Namely, I want to actually have people spend some money on things I have written.
The first piece of my plan for this coming year is to continue and build upon my review blog. The numbers are clear in the short time that I have done it: it drives an extraordinary amount of traffic to my site. While that alone might not sound like much, those who are coming are staying and looking around. People average four pages on a visit, so they are looking at more than just the reviews.
This is also a natural extension of my personality. I like to help people in any way I can. In this case, I am focused on people who are struggling to have their author voice heard as well. I feel like it is a good way to build my reputation and brand. I always want to be accessible and helpful, regardless of my level of notoriety.
I want to expand the review blog to twice weekly, but the volume is not there yet. I don't have enough stories submitted for review to do that. I don't want to just pick random ones for sale on Amazon, or something for free on Wattpad. I want people to bring them to me for a review. I would need 104 stories lined up for the year, with a running backlog of around 10 at any given time to make it work. Right now, I sort of live paycheck to paycheck on them. I have two queued and nothing else beyond that.
Once word gets out a little more, I suspect this issue will go away and I will have to rethink my strategy on them. If it grows too quickly, I could get crushed by it and have to back off. Right now, that is just a minor concern though, and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
The second part of my plan is to up my game on Twitter promotion. This would entail a few things, and I have a few concerns.
At the top of my list is building a hashtag for my upcoming collection of short stories. I am not convinced of my own ability to get others into my hashtag, or to have people actively looking for it, but I think it is something I have to do. I have to provide a way to float above the Twitter noise to have people find me. It's easy to get lost on Twitter. I'll need to do a lot of reading up on the right way to build a hashtag so that the efforts pay off.
I also will continue to build upon my Twitter cards, creating graphics for tweets that I want people to look at. This is definitely time-intensive and my skills are still improving (Photoshop and Illustrator are not easy tools to learn). The results have spoken for themselves in terms of engagement. You need pictures to draw attention to yourself on Twitter.
Among my concerns with the graphics piece is how quickly you can devolve into the T-Mobile CEO, where your stuff looks like junk mail and becomes an annoyance in one's feed. Then the whole process would become self-defeating: I would invest huge amounts of time creating things that people ignore. Clearly, time is a finite quantity and I need to use it as wisely as possible. Hopefully, someone clues me in before I reach that point.
Another item that is much lower on my list is branching out to other platforms. I am not yet convinced of the ability of places like Wattpad or Smashwords to generate sales. Perhaps I need an author-specific Facebook page, or an Instagram one. I haven't done enough research on the other social media aspects to understand what they might be able to do that Twitter doesn't. Part of me feels like I need to get a handle on Twitter before I move toward anything else.
Then there is the time investment thing again. Social media takes a lot of time, for better or worse. I don't feel like I want to only be on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook when I am hawking my wares. I want to engage. I think this is the trap many people fall into. You are out there promoting, but you don't give people a reason to be interested in you. You become a set of advertisements and cease to be a real person.
As for the Wattpad and Smashwords things, I am not sure I am ready to take that plunge. I don't yet see a path to convert those "fans" into people who will pay for my writing. The price is actually kind of steep for an author, giving away the "first publish" rights to your work. From all I have read, putting something on Wattpad (or a similar site) dooms it in terms of traditional publishing interest and hurts you with Amazon. Without a fair sense of what kind of conversion rate I would get in terms of paying customers from those platforms, I may steer clear. (Please reply with your compelling arguments for these.)
Lastly, my major marketing goal, the one that might be hardest to achieve, is getting an influencer to promote my new book. There is a large segment of people who will never bother to approach a celebrity or someone with a huge reach to look at their stuff. I am not one of those. I expect to get a lot of non-responses. Perhaps a few "thanks, but no thanks" replies. That's fine. All it takes is one.
I know that if I don't ask, no one is going to volunteer and just do it. It won't happen. I am confident in the writing, yet I understand that traditional publishing would take another year or two before I could find a publisher, if at all. (It's a 35,000-word short story collection, which hits most of the "we're not interested" check boxes.) I know the stories are solid, and I know people will like it. This is just a different path (albeit one with a small chance of success) that I'm trying.
I won't be counting on that one thing to sell my books, I'll be working on tons of my own marketing (I have some Google Ads money to spend, perhaps some Amazon Ads and other things as well). Money isn't the main objective, it's about scoring enough success that subsequent efforts will make money.
I am looking forward to your comments and replies. I could always use constructive criticism or encouragement.