I published a romance novel. Here’s what I learned in 4 weeks.

MichelleOn Writing1 Comment

Welcome! If you’re here, you’re probably a writer romance writer. 😊

This year, I published my first romance novel (second novel ever), partly for your sake. Though I’ve edited tons of books since 2013, I hadn’t published my own work in five years. (I mostly blame my toddler sons for the hiatus. They’re seriously cute. #NoRegrets) I wanted to feel those waters on my own feet…and report back to you, who tend to be so full of questions. 😇

So, here goes:

  1. My brain hurts. Yes, editing requires focus, and yes, I can multitask with the best of ’em. But whoa, Nelly. Writing a full-length novel takes dedication and grit and copious brainpower. I had no idea!! (I had some idea…) I worked day and night, balancing family and other deadlines, for 10 months to wrestle this thing from conception to release. Some of my authors do this and more in 30-90 days, release, then pick up their weary hearts and do it again. And again. And… #ICantEven #ISaluteYou
  1. A good cover is life. Wanna set yourself apart from the dozens of authors releasing books on the same day as your release? Give your novel a cover worth a hundred thousand words. Do it yourself if you can. Don’t do it yourself if you can’t. As a “newbie” to romance readers, I might not have sold a single book to anyone except family and friends if my cover hadn’t been so delicious (readers’ words, not mine 🖤). What’s more? That cover paired with a killer blurb. The book itself received decent reviews—averaging 4-4.5 stars on Amazon US—but readers remained clicky-clicky even after I stopped all ads, a bigger credit to my cover and blurb.
  1. Sales at a glance: In four weeks, I tipped past 100,000 Kindle Unlimited page reads. I sold 75ish paid eBooks, a few paperbacks (womp womp), 902 promo units, and signed ten paperback giveaways. Is that fantastic? Not really—many of my self-published authors see these numbers, or a lot better, in a single day—but it ain’t too shabby for a “newbie’s” first stab at a hot genre.

As for rank: I got down to ABSR’s low 4000s on my best day. That was neat. I took a screenshot. 😎 Without running ads, my rank danced between the middle 9000s to over 60k, without apparent rhyme or reason.

Aside: To pre-order or not to pre-order? There’s some debate about posting a pre-order vs. not. I did a 90-day pre-order. I did not lower the price of my book during the pre-order period or release week. It has always been $3.99. I listened closely to every side of this discussion before finalizing a strategy. I’m happy with my choice and would do it again.

  1. Find your tribe. It helps to know folks before diving in. Like, really helps. This matters long before you set your release date. Members of my tribe date back to 2012, when I was working on After Henry: A love story. Some were critique partners turned editing clients turned ARC reviewers for Work in Progress. A handful of my author/editor relationships evolved into friendships. These guys and gals became sounding boards, confidants, encouragers, and even advisers. So much of what I learned about craft, networking, marketing, and so much I didn’t know I didn’t know…came from my tribe. Don’t be shy. Find yours. Seek them out. They are also seeking you.
  1. Keywords and Categories. Don’t just throw ’em up there and hope for the best. These are gears of a much larger marketing wheel! You can outsource a PR firm to help research the most ideal keywords and categories to create effective AMS campaigns to sell your book, or do some or all of the legwork yourself. KDP Rocket is an affordable tool. Don’t be afraid to contact Amazon directly—you can submit a request to add your book to more categories, potentially boosting your rank in chosen categories, boosting visibility by proxy—and of course, SALES.
  1. PR firms are the bee’s knees. But they aren’t all created equally. I did a little research of my own, then asked one of my clients—a highly accomplished, self-published romance author—if she had a recommendation. She referred me to Foreword PR & Marketing. I poked around the cybersphere a little more, asked a few more authors about their experience with Foreword, chatted with Linda over the phone, then pulled the trigger. I felt great about hiring them. And I’m so glad I did! Linda and her team not only went over and above anything I expected from them, they answered my questions, read my books (total bonus points), and delivered. There was no way I had time to schedule the release blitz and blog tours, a dozen group takeovers, and prepare three to four AMS test ads. I’d saved for this investment, and I’d hire them for every book.
  1. Facebook ads are generally more effective than AMS (“Amazon”) ads. Do both, anyway. And anytime you run ads, test, test, test! Don’t drop 100s or even 1000s of dollars on an ad you haven’t tested. And don’t expect a winning ad to keep winning forever and ever till the end of time. Test, then monitor. Research the kinds of images and ad content that appeal to your market. Understand the ad metrics and how to make yours better. Test different audiences. Learn to run an effective Facebook ad—not a boosted post. Boosted posts are great for interaction and page “likes,” not book sales. Although AMS ads seem a bit more expensive (and their reporting leaves something to be desired), they still have a place in your holistic marketing campaign/strategy.

Pro Tip: If you’re in Kindle Unlimited, which I do recommend for indie romance authors, don’t write off an ad that doesn’t give you “sales”—remember that you get paid for page reads, too. 😉 There’s no way to see if an AMS ad is yielding new page reads—sigh—so just keep an eye on things and test, test, test.

Pro Tip 2: Each AMS test campaign should have close to 1000 keywords. You can run an “auto-targeting” test ad in tandem with your own. Don’t rely solely on Amazon’s auto-targeting.

  1. Teasers and promos and newsletters, oh my! This is supposed to be three points but I’m getting wordy, so let’s get right to the goods: teasers tend to receive positive interaction on social media (Facebook and Instagram are where it’s at). They make awesome boosted posts, if you’re into that. You can’t have too many teasers. Just don’t make them suck, ’kay? Look at other badass teasers from similar authors and get inspired—don’t totally copy their style or steal their image. Don’t be that guy/gal. No one likes that guy/gal. Your cover designer can probably create some cool teasers for you, or take a stab with Canva. Be consistent in your branding—similar fonts, colors, etc.—so readers start to recognize you. Teasers are fun. Do ’em.

Real quick: For promos, group promos, and ARC giveaways, check out Bookfunnel and Booksprout. These sites can be used to build your newsletter list and ARC team. It helps to have a reader magnet—a short story or novella you post for free, and in return, the reader subscribes to your mailing list. Booksprout is great in that once you post your ARC, they will find reviewers for you. Bookfunnel promos need to be advertised elsewhere—a Facebook ad should work well to “funnel” readers to your Bookfunnel promo, whether it’s your reader magnet or a group promo. Both sites are user-friendly and effective. There are competitor sites…but I haven’t used them. 😊

Newsletters: You’ve got options. I seem to be the only author in my tribe—and in my extended tribe—using Constant Contact. I started using CC while working as a contractor for another company, years ago, and it just stuck. I’m not unhappy with it. I manage multiple mailing lists (one for authors, one for readers, and a secret third). I get good open and click-through results. The templates are pretty. If it ain’t broke…ya know?  

Does this help? Overwhelm? I’m overwhelmed. Told ya I was tired. 😆 Even halfway leaning on a PR firm, I spent close to a hundred hours researching to glean this info and share it with you. You’re welcome, I think. 😅

The bottom line(s)?

It’s a lot of work. YOU CAN’T MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY. You won’t likely get rich from a single book. But you can turn a profit from a single book. YOU. CAN. And with commitment and a few more books—good, unputdownable books—you can turn this passion into a living.

I’m here to help. Leave a comment below or email me: michelle@fictionedit.com. 💞

Happy writing!

-MJM

Psst: Here’s the link to Work in Progress (Love in Progress Book 1), my new release. Clicky-clicky. 😘

One Comment on “I published a romance novel. Here’s what I learned in 4 weeks.”

  1. Hi, I’m a newbie as well. I published my first book in 2017. It didn’t do well, I think it sold to family and friends. I’ve decided to rebrand it with a new cover, New formatting and proofreading as I had the worse of the worse editors. Many mistakes. I’m in the process of publishing my second. It’s back from the editor. All that said, I need to market and do ads. And that is what I need to learn. I’m open to ideas. Renee

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