Here are some more lessons I've learned from my experiment with self-publishing short fiction for e-readers.
For starters, using social-media advertising to drive sales for short fiction is a waste of money. I made $13.10 in the last quarter of 2012 and the first bit of January 2013, but I spent at least $60--and probably much more than that--on Facebook advertising. I also spent $25 for one day of advertising on Google that gained a few clicks. Although I've made a few sales during these periods, this represents a fairly large loss in terms of percentages if not outright dollar amounts. This includes "promoting" posts on Facebook linking to short fiction that is for sale or even free--I "promoted" the Smashwords page of "The Beast of the Bosporus" for $5, but only made two sales. I promoted the blog post with a short sequel (of sorts) to "Illegal Alien" and only got 45 or so views despite that many "likes" on the fan page and thousands of views (of the promoted post). Although one of the problems self-published authors face is that there is nobody besides themselves to market their work, it doesn't seem like Facebook advertising is the way to go, at least at this early stage.
(Maybe if I had a novel...)
However, Facebook advertising can be VERY effective for one's Facebook fan page. Before I bought an ad promoting my Facebook fan page, I had around 80 fans, around half of whom which friends or family members. Now I have just over 1,800 fans. When I promoted posts announcing new stories, this gained me a significant number of new Facebook fans even though I got few if any new sales.
One method that has gotten me new sales is to the KDP Select program, in which one's KDP stories can be offered for free for up to five days. In the last month or so I've had two stories offered for free for a few days and each time, I've made at least one new sale of my horror tale "I am the Wendigo," which is no longer part of KDP Select. In fact, checking on my most recent campaign (a free offer of "Melon Heads"), I've actually sold two copies of "Wendigo" and possibly another sale of "Illegal Alien." Although I've been taking stories off KDP Select to post them on Smashwords to widen my sales base, the lesson I've learned from this is to always have something available to offer for free to generate sales of other material.
However, the free promotional campaigns don't generate a lot of reviews. My friend Jeff Baker noticed this before with his own self-publishing effort and theorized that people who get fiction for free are less likely to have as strong opinions on the story because they didn't pay for it. So far my campaign has borne this out.
That being said, I have discovered a reliable way to get reviews--review swaps. So far I have reviewed two books by Chris Nuttall, The Cross-Time Road Trip and The Royal Sorceress in exchange for several reviews of my self-published stories. Soon I will do the same for Bruno Lombardi, a fellow member of my alternate-history forum who has a new novel out, Snake Oil. Although reviews don't necessarily equal sales, they do help.
And spiffy cover art does not necessarily bring improved sales. I paid $45 for a really nice cover of "Illegal Alien" but it's been one of my poorest sellers, even though it's gotten the most reviews.
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