So it finally happened, we self-published for the first time. We ran a free promotion for 5 days and made it to #1 in three of our key categories: Comics & Graphic Novels, Cartoons, and Humour & Entertainment. The promotion went well and we were able to connect with our target readers and get their feedback. Though we initially set our key words as “Indie, Chinese, comic, Graphic novels”, we unexpectedly connected with lots of students of Chinese language who told us that they would really like to have some fun resources to practice their reading skills, and that our comic is just what they were looking for. Some even suggested that we go on and contact universities to introduce our comic book. They told us we were filing a niche, which we were very happy to hear. Fortunately, we have friends at the Croatian Confucius Institute as well as friends who run Chinese schools that further shared our post which resulted in a lot of downloads. The overall feedback was positive, both comic lovers and students of Chinese thought the book was cute, adorable, and useful.
Now the harsh fact:
Now that the free promotion is finally over, we can breathe and relax a bit; though not for too long. After a free promotion, a newly published book faces many challenges. It is very easy to promote a free book, but once that promotion is over the main challenge is to keep finding new ways to promote a book that people have to pay for. The results and the #1s attained during the free promotion hardly matter any longer. It’s the sales that help maintain the #1 rank. On a positive note, a large number of free downloads is usually a good sign that people will talk about your book, and may even share it with other or be waiting for the next issue.
Lessons we learned:
- Your first book doesn’t have to be perfect.
The most important thing to understand for people self-publishing for the first time is that it is above all, a learning experience. No matter how long you’ve been preparing there will still be mistakes. The first comic book we published is actually very short, it’s about 24 pages and serves as an introduction to the miniseries. Even though some people suggested it would be better if we published it together with the second book so readers could get a glimpse of our protagonist’s China experience, we felt that we had to make our mistakes first. This book was a good choice to start with – it’s short, it’s fun, it’s not perfect, but it served the purpose.
- Publish the book first and then set the date for free promotion when you are ready
Some of you might already know this, but I didn’t. Once you publish a book, Amazon doesn’t allow you to start the free promotion on the release day, it has to be at least one day after. So if you’ve already told other websites that the free promotion starts on the day of release, you may lose credibility with these sites. They will go to your Amazon page on the day of release only to find that it is not free because Amazon policy does not permit free downloads on release day. If you find yourself in this situation you will have to resubmit to these sites again. Some of these websites may not have available slots at that time. This can be a big headache, so keep this tip in mind: Release first, then set your free promotion dates.
- Setting promotion days is flexible, but setting the publishing day is not.
Once your book is available for pre-order and you’ve set your publishing date, you will not be able to adjust that date within about 10 days of your set publishing date on Amazon without forfeiting the ability to make your books available for pre-order for a whole year.
- Not everyone has Kindle.
Amazon gives users the option to download their Kindle application for whatever device they are using in order to read books. Some people will want to read your book on their computer. This should be easy, but we discovered that figuring out where this option is can be very hard and frustrating. Amazon runs counter-intuitive, so we created an infographic to help:
- Use your ASIN Number in your promotion posts.
When you share your posts you will probably include a link to the U.S. store or to the store of the country you live in. However, many of your readers come from other countries. Amazon has stores worldwide, so to make things easy for these readers, you may want to leave your ASIN number or provide links to the other stores worldwide separately.
- Review requirements for new accounts.
Getting people to write reviews is definitely the hardest part of publishing on Amazon. One might think that they can rely on friends and family for reviews, but the reality is that they won’t leave reviews unless you ask them to. Friends and family are also people with busy lives, so don’t take it personally. Some of them may say they will but in the end won’t leave a review. Before you go assuming they don’t care, I would point our another thing that I wasn’t aware of when it comes to reviews. If you haven’t previously spent the equivalent of $50 on Amazon products, you won’t be able to leave a review. Many of our friends informed us about this.
- Choose a few websites and pay them to promote your book:
It certainly gave me a good feeling when I was able to submit my book info to so many free book submission websites, but in reality many of them do state that promotion results are not guaranteed. Instead of struggling to promote your book on multiple sites at once, it is my opinion that it is better to use a paid promotion service to spread the word about your book. Do some research and get some recommendations first. Using a paid service will guarantee that your work is being promoted to thousands of readers on a regular basis. It saves a lot of time and gets results, so it is worth the money.
From my experience I would definitely recommend the guys from “Awesome Gang” as they published our author interview for free, as well as askdavid who went to the trouble of sending us an email with a link to our tweet, as well as four other links to tweets we can schedule at a later time (over the course of one year).
What I would do differently next time:
Going over what worked and what didn’t during our first promotion definitely gave us more ideas what to do and what NOT to DO next time. My biggest takeaway is that next time I might not allow for 5 free days all at once. First it’s a bit long and can feel exhausting. Second if you use your free days for separate promotions and distribute for example 1/4 or 2/3, you have a chance to get reviews first and then launch your big promotion. The advantage of this is that many promotion sites require your book to have 3 or more reviews before they approve your request for book submission. Finally, when it comes to reviews I will definitely think of some worthy incentive to make people leave a review – simply asking them to leave a review might work the first time but it won’t be effective in the long term.
This was my first publishing experience; I hope you found this helpful. If there is something I missed please add it in the comment section below. In case you missed it and would like to have a look at our comic book, here is where you can get it.