For me, it has flown in a torrent of words and I have managed to produce two full-length books, two novellas plus a host of short stories.
This has been wonderful and I have loved writing them.
But of course, the wonder turns to anguish because when the books are complete it’s time to compete.
Truth is the competition is tough, has a huge budget and the market is crowded and can eat its young.
For indie writers, professional ones who write regularly and endeavour to earn their living from their work, the run-up to Christmas has been a mad rollercoaster.
I am in a couple of Facebook writer’s groups and have been reading some terrible stuff.
Some writers are spending huge amounts creating their books, covers and advertising and seeing absolutely no return.
They are devastated and having to make hard decisions.
For those who write great books, it’s just a question of the market being difficult and crowded.
For others, it can be because their books are just not of publishable quality but this is a whole other debate and you can read about this here.
Most of the writers I have encountered are writing very good books but the biggest problem is selling. Selling is tough, tough and tougher!
So what are writers doing about this?
According to what you read mailing lists are king at the moment.
Writers build these lists by giving away a portion of, or all, of one of their books in exchange for an email address.
Once they build their list they mail their readers directly to tell them about new books etc.
I am not sure about this method because I have not yet tested the theory.
However, I am thinking about giving it a try as I do have a couple of short stories I could give away.
Most of my full-length books are in KU (Kindle Unlimited) and so it would be breaking the Amazon terms of service to give away more than 10% of these although I might try using the 10% and see.
It’s all an experiment and if I decide to go ahead I will write more about it and let you know how I get on.
Despite many writers claiming success from mailing lists, I am not so sure.
From my own experience on this site, I would say that there can be a downside.
We are living in a freebie world and there are people who scour the net looking for free stuff. They subscribe and then immediately unsubscribe.
Fair enough – we all like to get something free.
But I have read about writers who had so many unsubscribers that their mailing list provider banned them from using the service – accusing them of being spammers.
Personally, I have found that once people have signed up for the freebie, whether it is a book or something like my Creative Writing Tracker quite a few tend to unsubscribe as soon as they receive their first mail.
Not everybody who subscribes to a mailing list is genuinely interested in the website or books.
Many subscribers never open the emails – I see this here on this site.
Since the email provider charges by quantity it is worth checking to see who is opening your emails and if they haven’t opened the last three or four it is worth letting them go.
I recently unsubscribed over 700 people who hadn’t opened one of five emails I had sent.
As you know I don’t send out that many emails as I have no wish to overwhelm people who like me are probably already flooded with emails.
So it was clear to me that some of my subscribers were just not interested and that’s okay.
I mailed them to ask if they wanted to remain on the list and those who did not reply were unsubscribed.
Judging from this experience I’d say you would need a huge mailing list of book-hungry readers to make this method of selling work and that you need to cull your lists regularly.
So to promote my latest books I decided to choose to advertise.
GAMBLING ON ADVERTISING
I am not a gambler but sometimes advertising makes me feel like one.
I decided to go with AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) to go direct to readers. This has been quite a steep learning curve but I received quite a bit of help along the way.
There are two types of adverts Product Display and Sponsored.
I understand that Product Display can be a little bit tricky so this time I decided to use Sponsored.
These require keywords and most people use 200-1000 of them.
Keywords have to be chosen to suit your book and genre and so to learn how to do this I turned to Dave Chessun of Kindlepreneur and learned from his excellent free video series.
Dave was extremely helpful when I had a slight difficulty and even sent me a video to talk me through.
I did the free trial of his KDP rocket software and found it great – easy to use, efficient and time-saving – so I bought it.
KDP rocket helps enormously by generating keywords associated with your book genre and similar titles and has made creating AMS ads so much easier.
Armed with my new knowledge I set about creating a few low-budget ads.
AMS – WHAT CAN YOU AFFORD?
These adverts are charged on a cost per click basis and you can elect to have a daily budget.
This takes away the fear of becoming bankrupt in the process.
The idea is to judge the success of the ads by the sales and KU reads.
However, in December this suddenly became impossible and right now it still is.
KDP which is Amazon’s publishing dashboard has been overwhelmed and a result there is a delay in publishing sales results.
Not everybody was affected by this – those that were received a notice from Amazon telling them about the issue.
I was one of these so I am now in the horrible situation where I am paying for ads without actually being able to be absolutely sure if they are working or not.
I’m glad I kept my budget low as this could potentially lose money fast.
At the moment I appear to be making a small profit. I am pleased because I am still learning as I go and have spent very little.
Of course, I am not entirely sure about these results because until Amazon clears up their issue with sales results I am flying a little bit blind.
However, flying blind is something I’m used to. Whenever I write a book or story I have no idea whether it will be successful.
Will people hate it? Love it? Or something in-between?
This is the life of a writer and despite the uncertainty, I wouldn’t want to be anything else.
I am privileged to able to write and survive with a roof over my head when so many in our world do not.
So instead of worrying about book sales and adverts this Christmas I am going to think about how lucky I am to be safe, warm and fed.
I hope you are also safe, warm and fed. Whatever happens with your books and mine this is what really matters.
In the meantime, I hope you have a very Happy Christmas and as always…
Good luck with your writing.
P.S. My latest book The Sunshine Girl is out now and you can read it for free with KU or buy it from Amazon.
All the information and exercises on this site are free to you. If you have found this useful or helpful then please comment, like and share, but the best way to support the work I do here is to buy my books.
You won’t be able to stop writing because these beautiful and inspiring exercises will banish your writing block right now.
Someone’s following Josie.
Her new boyfriend’s got a secret life.
Will she still be laughing when everything turns upside down?
The Sunshine Girl is a funny and entertaining fiction story set in gritty 1970s Liverpool.