If I went back a little more than a year in time, I was fresh off self-publishing my first story on Amazon. It was thrilling, to have something I'd written "out there".
I posted something on my personal Facebook page urging people to go get copies. I sold a couple to friends and family. It was a novelty factor, honestly. It didn't get me very far at all.
This may sound a little thick, but I didn't completely understand why I hadn't gotten a small but steady stream of sales just by having it available for Kindle. I really did not have the first clue about how to market my story.
This was my first lesson in marketing: your personal circle means well, but they are probably not going to help you sell books. Most of them don't know anything about marketing either.
Some of them were kind enough to share my post to their friends, but I was never able to see whether or not I actually picked up any sales from those efforts. Amazon doesn't give you the fine details on who bought your books, at least as far as I know (which may be another thing I have yet to learn about).
I focused my efforts on building a little library of items for sale on Amazon. Go ahead and chuckle now, at the idea of adding more things for sale when your first item isn't selling. I thought maybe I could increase my presence enough to change my numbers. It was not a formula for success. It dawned on me after a few months that I needed to find ways to reach out to total strangers.
In March, I started a journey on Twitter, a social media platform that I did not at all understand. I always had the thought, as someone older that Twitter and Facebook did the same things essentially. Given that profound lack of understanding, I've been slow in figuring out Twitter. I've just hit 700 followers, after 10 months of being active on the site.
Things like reach, impressions, interactions -- those were all foreign concepts to me, and ones that I learned about the hard way. I would post text posts with one hashtag, promoting my stories. I don't remember getting a single "like", let alone a sale from those.
I went back to writing, and spent some time reflecting on what I was and wasn't doing. I had a very productive period of writing over the summer, but it came at the expense of my things for sale. I put almost no effort at all into my Amazon offerings, and it showed.
During that time, I came across a bit of mentor in a way, though I doubt she would call herself that. Cindy Kolbe responded to my request for a critique partner for my newly-written short stories. I, in turn, started reading her yet-unpublished memoir. (Cindy's book was eventually picked up by a publisher and is due out in a few months.)
Cindy had 18,000 followers (and counting) on Twitter. She had a website devoted to her book. And all of this before attempting to sell her book. She would probably tell you that she did not do anything extraordinary to help me, but she answered my questions and gave me some pointers on building a platform as an author.
So now I have my own website. It has its flaws, but it is showing steady growth. Even on days where I do absolutely nothing related to it (the weekends), I still get a modicum of traffic. These are (hopefully) people that are finding my site and potential "fans", people that might buy things or at least ones that enjoy my writing. It's a start.
I conducted a little test of my Twitter following during December 2018, to find out where I am in terms of progress. I put my items on Amazon (all short stories) for free at different times and built a promo card on Twitter for it.
The results were encouraging. I pretty much doubled my "sales" for the year. I have readers in Australia, the UK, Spain and Brazil. (KDP Beta Reports show market info for free, if you're wondering how I learned that.)
These were some new lessons that I learned going into 2019:
In my next post, I'll take you along for the ride as I talk about my marketing ideas for the year ahead. Perhaps a few of you who know better will be able to help steer me away from things that waste my time and efforts.