Sunday, 2 April 2017

How much is too much when it comes to promoting a book?

My sales have plummeted over the past few months – I'm not sure if I'm relieved or worried that I am not the only one to notice this downturn. It would seem that a few years ago, when I started this self publishing lark, there were around 400 000 new titles put up on Amazon each year but now there are more than two million. Unfortunately, the surge in sales caused by the arrival of the Kindle in the UK, then again when KU started and thousands of people joined the subscription club, is long gone. Everybody who wanted a reading device has got one and ditto joining KU.
This means the pie (amount of sales) is now being divided into smaller slices. My author ranking remains the same as it was, but I am no longer able to get a bestseller flag for new titles – something that happened automatically in the past.
Before things changed I didn't buy in promotion or pay for advertising when I released a new book – all I needed to do was send out an email to my subscribers list and post on the various loops and forums I belong to. Now everything has changed – and not for the better. Therefore, reluctantly, I decided to be more proactive with my books.
I bought in two free book promotions which cost me £75 each with BookSends . One was for the first book in the Duke's Alliance Series, A Suitable Bride and the other for Hannah's War. I also did two BookBub ads at the cost of £35. I recovered the costs of my promotions and editorial and cover costs within three weeks.
I don't know which of these made the most impact but sales of all my books picked up – strangely the Nightingale Chronicles – my Victorian saga series – did really well.
My sales returned to pre-slump levels after about five weeks. This meant the cost of the promotions was covered plus quite a lot more. However, as things are now back to pre-promotion levels  I've once again bought into several different promotional things for the first book in my World War II series, Ellen's War, Blue Skies and Tiger Moths.
I have purchased a ninety day promotion with Self Publishing Showcase for £80. I've also got a brilliant package from Books Go Viral - cost £125. I have a Thunderclap campaign (free) running and a professionally designed ad for BookBub which I shall run a month after the book is released on 26 April. This was set me back a further £60. 
Out 26th April
As the cover for Blue Skies and Tiger Moths was shot for me (again the brilliant JD Smith organised it) that is an extra I don't usually have with my books. Therefore, it's going to take me a long time to recoup my expenses. I also have a paperback copy available – nobody will buy it apart from me – so that's money I can't recoup from sales. 
I know several writers that have their books brought out by professional companies that provide the editorial services normally given by traditional publishers and I think this costs around £1500. Obviously I don't spend anything like that, but I wonder if the benefits of having a large company behind one's work would justify the extra cost.
The holy grail of book promotion is, of course, getting a BookBub one, but they are very difficult to get . I had one last year and the knock-on effect was amazing. I've tried several times since but been turned down – I think only 12% of applications are successful.
My writing expenses are going up because of the money I'm putting into promotion and marketing whilst my income is falling. At what point do I decide to let the market dictate and just concentrate on writing and producing the best books I'm capable of? I have a good writer friend who does no promotion and isn't in KU and her sales are rising - we write similar things - but she published through a company who puts her books on all platforms. Maybe it's time to consider that route.
I would be interested to know your take on this  – is it a temporary glitch that will pass or is it going to get worse? If the latter, then is there anything we writers can do about it?

Blurb for Blue Skies & Tiger Moths
Ellie Simpson is a flying instructor and good at her job but war is coming and when it does she will no longer be able to do what she loves most -fly. The arrival of flying officer Gregory Dunlop, and the nephew of her boss, Jack Reynolds, in her life only complicates matters. When she can no longer take to the skies in her beloved Tiger Moth she decides to join the WAAF. Then tragedy strikes and she has to rethink her life.
  CLICK HERE to preorder.

Fenella J Miller

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Duke's Alliance - Book Three - An Unconventional Bride

£1.99 /$2.99

I'm pleased that this book is finally released. Thank you if you pre-ordered and I hope that you are enjoying it. If you haven't tried it then here is the first scene for you to read.
There will be the fourth book in this series, An Accommodating Husband, available in August. This will be Lady Giselle's story. Then there will just be  a story for Lord Peregrine and the duke himself. These will be published in 2018.
I'm still not convinced that putting a title on preorder is the best idea as the hundred or so sales have already been counted before release day. If you are going to do any sort of pre publication promotional work, ads and so on, then you have to have the book on Amazon in order to have the correct ASIN to make the link. Also, if you are going to do a Thunderclap campaign – which I'm going to for my next book – the same rule applies.

February 1813, Silchester Court.

'Forgive me, your grace, this letter has arrived by express.' The butler bowed deeply and held out the silver salver.
'Thank you, Peebles.' Beau scanned the contents of the letter and was so startled by the contents he sent his coffee cup flying from the table.
Already this year was turning out to be an unmitigated disaster. First Peregrine, the oldest by five minutes of the twins, had bought himself a set of colours and was at this very moment undergoing some rudimentary training before being shipped out to the Peninsular to fight for King and Country. Why in God's name Perry had felt the need to become a soldier he'd no idea. Perhaps it was because Bennett had had a successful career in the military until he resigned his commission when their father had died.
Aubrey had taken his brother's departure badly and was mooching around the house unable to settle on anything. The twins had done everything together and Beau supposed he must be grateful that both hadn't taken the King's shilling.
Giselle had slipped on the ice and broken her leg two months ago. She still insisted she was unable to walk and was therefore marooned upstairs in her rooms. Perhaps this letter was not such bad news after all.
He looked at it again and smiled. He tucked it into his waistcoat pocket and went in search of his brother. Aubrey spent a lot of the day with Giselle in her apartment. She was missing Madeline, indeed they all were, since her older sister had married Lord Carshalton last year. The fact that Giselle also had to postpone her Season until next year had added to her low spirits.
Beau took the stairs two at a time and walked straight into his sister's sitting room. His siblings were staring morosely into the fire, not even engaged in desultory conversation.
'I have just received a letter from a relative of our mother's.' This announcement caught their attention as no one in the family had known they had any other relatives.
'Who is it? Are they coming to visit?' Giselle said, a welcome spark of interest in her eyes.
He flicked back his coat-tails and settled beside her on the chaise longue. 'Do you remember Mama telling us that her sister married a younger son of the Earl of Guildford?'
She shook her head but Aubrey nodded. 'I think you must have been too young, Giselle, but I do recall hearing that story. Didn't they go to India and perish in some uprising or other?'
'That's what Mama was led to believe. However, it seems there was a child, a girl, who eventually found her way to these shores and has been living quietly somewhere in Somerset. Elizabeth Freemantle, our cousin's name, is now seventeen years of age and it seems that I am responsible for her. She wishes to be presented.'
'Beau, please don't leave me here alone. I couldn't bear it. It's bad enough not being able to go to London myself…'
He reached across and patted her sound knee. 'Don't fret, little one, I've no intention of going myself. I rather thought that Aubrey could do it in my stead. The house in Grosvenor Square is already prepared and fully staffed as we expected to be up there for your come out.'
His brother looked dubious. 'Let me get this straight, brother, you want me to do the pretty with my cousin? Escort her to dozens of routs, soirées and balls? That doesn't sound too shabby.'
'You can't possibly do it, Aubrey, at three and twenty, you're far too young. The poor girl would be better off waiting until next year when Beau can take charge and escort us both.'
This was exactly the response he'd been hoping for from his sister. Like all the males in this family his brother couldn't resist a challenge.
'If Perry is old enough to fight then I am certainly old enough to act as sponsor to our unknown cousin. Can I see the letter for myself, Beau? I think you are keeping something back from us.' Beau handed it to him. His brother read the missive out loud:

Dear Duke of Silchester,
You do not know me and no doubt will be wondering why a stranger has the effrontery to send a letter by express. I am writing on behalf of your cousin, Miss Elizabeth Freemantle, the orphaned child of your aunt, Lady Elizabeth Freemantle. I only recently discovered that she is your cousin and that you are her legal guardian. If I had realised this earlier I would have sent her to you immediately.
It is possible, of course, that you were unaware of the existence of your cousin. When her parents died in India you might well have assumed that their baby, Elizabeth, perished also. I was able to save the child and have been taking care of her since then. I was entrusted with not only the baby but her fortune.
My husband, Captain Cassidy, was an officer in the East India Company and we were also stationed in India. He too was killed by the insurgents. I fled with Elizabeth, and my own daughter Mary, and made my way to Somerset, where we have resided ever since.
Miss Freemantle is a considerable heiress and will be in much demand on the marriage mart. I heard on good authority that her youngest cousin, Lady Giselle, is to make her come out this Season and obviously, Miss Freemantle will be presented with her.
My own daughter, Mrs Mary Williams, will accompany Miss Freemantle as her companion. She was widowed three years ago when her husband was killed.
Miss Freemantle is now seventeen years of age, well-educated and spirited. She will do better in the charge of a gentleman like yourself. She is travelling with my daughter and man of business, and will be at Silchester Court by the end of the week. Mr Gregson will hand to you the necessary papers and legal documents.
I am in uncertain health and being responsible for Miss Freemantle is something I can no longer do.

His brother shook his head. 'This girl is going to be foisted off on us without a by-your-leave? Reading between the lines, Beau, I think Mrs Cassidy is glad to get shot of her. For the word 'spirited' I think we could substitute 'wild'.'
Giselle was having none of this. 'How can you say that about our cousin? I'm absolutely thrilled she's joining the family. Does that mean you will send Aubrey and Cousin Elizabeth away in April?'
'If you would make more of an effort to get about, sweetheart, then maybe we could all go as originally planned? However, if you don't get on your feet by the end of March, Aubrey shall go with Elizabeth and her companion, and you must remain on your own with me.'
For a moment he thought he'd gone too far, that she would dissolve into tears at his harsh words. Instead she pursed her lips and nodded. 'I have allowed my sadness at losing my sister and two brothers to keep me languishing up here. From now on I shall come down to dinner and begin to exercise my leg as the doctor told me to.'
Mission accomplished Beau left them in animated discussion about the possible character and appearance of this new member of the family. He had a nasty suspicion Aubrey was correct – the young lady in question was going to be a handful. His lips curved. He was thirteen years her senior and had no doubt whatsoever he would curb whatever tendencies she might have to misbehave.
'Help me get up, Aubrey, I'm going to begin practising walking immediately. It's quite possible I've lost the use of my legs having malingered here for so long.'
'Up you come, sister, but you mustn't overdo it.' He kept his arm around her waist and gently assisted her to her feet. She only managed half a dozen steps before complaining that her leg hurt too much to continue.
'Of course it does, you goose, but I insist that you walk the length of this room and back before you give up. Beau means it, he will send us without you. Surely you cannot wish to miss the excitement of your first Season?'
She pulled a face but did as he asked. By the time they reached the windows she was walking more freely. 'It is painful, but I feel so much better being upright and not being carried around like an unwanted parcel.'
He returned her to her position on the daybed and stepped back. For the first time since Perry had left he began to feel more cheerful. 'I'm going down to talk to Beau, I'll be back to escort you to dinner this afternoon.' He reached the door and then turned back. 'No doubt Elizabeth will require a new wardrobe – why don't you send a letter to your modiste? I'm sure you won't want to be eclipsed by a girl two years younger than you.'
This was exactly the motivation his sister needed. 'Thank you for reminding me, I shall write immediately. She must send me the latest fashion plates and samples of material so we have something to choose from.'
He raised a hand in casual salute and headed downstairs. As he arrived in the vast entrance hall the door opened and Bennett stepped in looking remarkably pleased with himself.
Aubrey jumped the remaining stairs in one go and ran across to embrace his brother. 'Is Grace not with you? We have such exciting news to impart. Both she and Madeline will be quite astounded.'
'I don't believe anything you can tell me will eclipse the news I have to give you. Grace is with child and in September you will become an uncle for the first time.'
'You must come with me and tell Beau, he will be as delighted as I am.'
Bennett and Beau could be twins, like he and Perry, so similar in appearance were they. The news that they had a cousin called Elizabeth was discussed at length.
'I'm going up to tell Giselle my good news. Grace is with Madeline – I shouldn't be surprised if there will be not one, but two new arrivals this year.'
'Make that three, Bennett, Elizabeth is also a new member of the family – albeit a fully-grown one.'
Aubrey remained with his older brother. 'I know none of us are sticklers for protocol, but will this companion, Mrs Williams, be sufficient to silence the tabbies? Should we not find an older woman to act as chaperone to the girls?'
His brother looked at him as if he was speaking in tongues. 'One middle-aged woman in the household is more than sufficient without fetching in another. God's teeth! It is perfectly proper for us to reside under the same roof as our cousin.'
'I suppose so. She's also your ward which would give her double protection. I've probably spent more time in Town during the Season than anyone else.  Don't forget that Perry and I have experienced two Seasons already.'
'Quite true – I tend to avoid London during the months of April to June for that very reason. The more I think about it, little brother, the more convinced I am that you should oversee this project. I will, of course, be there for Giselle and Elizabeth's come-out ball – but will remain here as much as possible.'
'Let's hope our cousin will not prove to be a confirmed flirt. I'm going to have my work cut out keeping the rakehells and fortune hunters away if she is as pretty as either of our sisters, especially as she has a massive fortune.'
'I have every faith in you, Aubrey. Don't forget you will have the assistance of this Mrs Williams. The fact that she is prepared to remain at the side of her adopted sister must mean the girl cannot be that bad.'

Fenella J Miller

Thursday, 2 February 2017

It's being exclusively with Amazon no longer viable?

My sales have been falling over the past three months and I don't know what is causing this. As far as I know I'm doing the same things I've always done and the books I'm releasing are as well presented, covered and edited as any previous titles.
I've done a quick survey of my writer friends and so far everyone is saying there sales have gone up, not down, so this has to be something related to me.
The first thing I considered his that I need to rethink my marketing strategy. Occasionally I try to get a book into a BookBub  promotion, but they are always turned down. I think one of the reasons is that I only publish with Amazon exclusively and I'm not on any other platforms.

I've been told about D2D who will put my books up on every platform in return for a 15% of the net royalty. The good thing about this company is that you can remove your book at any time for any reason with no penalty. The first book in my new series, Ellen's War – Blue Skies and Tiger Moths, is going to go with them. This will probably impact on the royalties I earn from this book initially but if it works then I shall consider putting my longer historical books with D 2 D in future.
I am also going to organise a Thunderclap for this title as it did very well for my Victorian saga last year.
I find promoting my books very difficult – I come from the generation of women were brought up not to put themselves in the limelight. However, I have decided to be more proactive in future and just hope I don't overdo it.
I have taken out a promotion with Book Sends for A Suitable Bride and for Hannah's War. Both of these will run at the end of this month. I was turned down for the second time with E-Reader for a promotion with them for this book. They took the first one which was for a Victorian saga, I've no idea why they don't want to run one for my Regency series.
I post on my author page and on my regular Facebook page every day, I respond to other people's posts and also tweet a couple of times a day. I really don't know what else I can do as I don't think that blog tours work any more. I'm not sure if any of this expenditure and effort will make any difference. In fact, I think that the real problem lies with the fact that I am Amazon exclusively.
 I know another writer who produces seven or eight new Regency titles every year, isn't in Amazon select, and her sales are growing. In fact of the writers I spoke to none of them are in Kindle select so I'm coming to the reluctant conclusion that maybe that's where I'm going wrong. There are a finite number of readers subscribing to Amazon's library system and I think that all of them have now read  my books and there are not enough new subscribers joining to make the difference.
I think it's quite possible that being exclusively Amazon is no longer a good marketing strategy. Most of my writer friends are on many platforms; but I have avoided this as it's so easy to manage one's income and publication by doing it in one place.
What do you think? Are the days of making a fortune through being exclusively Amazon Published over? Doing free promotions was a huge thing four years ago and I was fortunate enough to get in at the beginning and I'm certain that is why I've done so well with my books. The first promotion I did I got twelve thousand downloads – if I do one now I'm lucky to get a thousand.
I would be interested to hear your views.
Fenella J Miller

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Duke's Alliance - An Unconventional Bride

UK Link
US Link
I'm delighted to tell you that the third book in "The Duke's Alliance" series, An Unconventional Bride, is now available for pre-order. It will be released on 23rd February at the bargain price of £1.99/ $2.99.
I am loving writing this series and intend to add an extra book, the story of the newly arrived cousin, Elizabeth Freemantle, which will make seven books instead of six. This means you will have to wait for Beau's story until 2018. I have to leave the duke until last although I'm eager to write his romance.
The fourth book in the series, Lady Giselle's, will be published in late summer.

 Here is the blurb:

An Unconventional Bride is the third in The Duke's Alliance series. 
Mrs Mary Williams, a colonel's widow, arrives at Silchester Court with Miss Elizabeth Freemantle, who has been brought up as her sister. Beth is the Duke of Silchester's cousin and he is her guardian. 
Lord Aubrey, the duke's youngest brother, finds himself designated to oversee the London debut of both Lady Giselle, his sister, and his lively cousin, Beth, as the duke is called away to his estates in the North.
Although Mary is only four years older than Aubrey she is more worldly and well-travelled. Mary is not thinking of marrying a second time, she values her independence too much, and certainly not to a young gentleman like Lord Aubrey. 
Only when her reputation is lost, and marriage to Aubrey is impossible, does she understand that her feelings have changed.
Is it too late for them to find happiness together? Will the duke allow her to be part of his prestigious family?

Thanks for your continued support -it is valued.
Fenella J Miller

Monday, 2 January 2017

Writing Resolutions

I am not a fan of New Year resolutions but do write a plan for my writing for the year and try and keep to it.
2016 was a good year for my writing. Two and a half books in The Duke's Alliance series, the first book in a three book series about an ATA girl - Ellen's War -  Blue Skies & Tiger Moths  -coming out in March. The final book in the At Pemberley series -A Spy at Pemberley. A Christmas book and  another duke book.
'Search for a Duke' is my first book this year -written as 'A Suitable Husband' in 2006 for Robert Hale. Re-edited and re-covered it is now on pre-order and will be out on 10th January.
This year I intend to write a further six books - the first of which will be the final book in The Nightingale Chronicles. I have a detailed outline for this story but no title as yet.
Then there will be the second book in the Ellen's War series - An ATA Girl.
Next will be another two books for The Duke's Alliance series -this time Giselle and Perry's stories. This will leave one more book -the one I'm looking forward to writing most - the duke's story. Beau has been in all of them and I'm hoping my readers will be as eager as I am to see who he marries.
Then there will be at least one Christmas book - hoping to write two this time.
So - that's one Victorian, one WW2, and 4/5 Regency.
I just watched the episode following four older people around the world. This one was in Japan - made me think about my lifestyle and general health. It has made me determined to lose weight and take more exercise. The Japanese live longer than anyone else and work as long as they want to. I can't join a gym as it would be impossible to go often enough because of looking after my husband.  However, I can take a short brisk walk every day when he's having a sleep.
I've also decided not to stress about things I can't change -Brexit/Trump/husband's illness etc and try and live every day equally. Enjoy the moments of happiness, and there are many, and be glad I am  fortunate to have a loving family, good friends and earn more than enough money to do what I want. I try to pass on my good fortune to as many as I can - I'm not religious but do think how you live your life makes a difference.
 What have you decided to do to improve your life? Even a small change can be important.
Happy new Year
Fenella J Miller