About 2 weeks ago I self-published my first book. I should clarify, it was the first book I released, not wrote. I equate it a lot to public speaking. You want people to like it (and you), so there is a lot of nervousness around putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to scrutiny. But I finally said to hell with it and did it. And it blew up! I can now call myself a best selling author. There were a few days where the book topped the charts on Amazon.
I’ve got into the habit of checking social media every morning, writing some posts, and working on the site every day. This morning I woke up to see a 2 star review. No text, just a bad review. It brought down the ratings to a 2.5. No one will want to buy it now, they probably don’t even want it for free. Well then. First lesson:
Solely relying on a 3rd party like Amazon is like shooting yourself in the foot
There’s nothing I can do. Was it written poorly? Was it someone I upset? Did they not like my points? I can’t ask and I can’t take it down. Screwed.
I thought about it for awhile and I just don’t know what it could be. Most people enjoy my writing, I’ve had that feedback multiple times. Maybe they don’t believe what I wrote? I don’t know what to say about that, they are teachings from the top engineering firm in Boston. It could be something else, I’ll never know.
So I decided to stop marketing it.
Selling a product for $2.99 just isn't worth the effort
There are no repeat purchases, no subscription, and I don’t even receive all of that money. I have a hard time justifying charging more for a 30 page book, despite how valuable the information is. So I think the real lesson is make sure your product provides enough value that you can afford to keep fighting. $2.99 isn’t enough to get me out of bed or to keep fighting.
But I will share how I got to be a best selling author.
The answer to promotion mostly is reddit.
You have to be careful where you post it, it’s against the rules of many subreddits to self-promote. I did mess up on one of them, but I did my best not to piss anyone off. The first day of promotion I set the book price to free, for the entire day and shared it on r/FreeEbooks. It gained a lot of traction, but the following day (when it was no longer free) was the first time it hit the #1 best seller lists.
After I a few days I started more traditional marketing techniques. I made a little website that I could share, made an Instagram and Twitter. With them I used every hash tag I could to get the initial promotion out. The results were… mild. I just started switching to more engaging posts, related to the topic of the book, but I’ve since quit so I can’t share how that experimentation was working.
I do think for long-term sustained promotion, building a community should work
My plan was to create that more engaging content, creating place for people to talk about the subject could work. I was just so new to it all I learned pretty late in the game. And if I were to do it again, I would have started marketing like this long before I released the book. Building up a community that trusted me as an author or authoritative voice could have made a world of difference. It takes a long time to do. It’s a slow and steady type of strategy, unlike my previous blast campaigns.
All in all being an author is hard
You are going to have self-doubt, you are going to lose motivation, and it quickly becomes like running a business. After fighting through all of the psychological issues I didn’t expect it would become a business. I suppose that’s also a lesson learned.
So I’m throwing in the towel, at least this time, at this price point. I’ll leave it out there, maybe some people will stumble upon it in the future and it helps them, but it won’t reach as many people as I hoped. I think I’m okay with that. If you do want to check it out, feel free. You can find it at FromProgrammerToEngineer.com.