book launch

Book Launch: The Dream World Collective!

I’m excited to announce the launch of my first full-length novel, The Dream World Collective! If you’ve ever dreamed of quitting your job to live a life of depth and adventure, I wrote this book for you.

Think of this book as The Big Bang Theory moves in with Gilmore Girls. It’s got adventure and secret admirers and Ninja Santa debates and an imaginary gnome or two. (Well, Gnomunculus protuberans, to be precise.)

DWC Glamor Gnome Letter Tea Yarn.JPG

The Dream World Collective – Now available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover.

And the timing couldn’t be better. This book is perfect snowy weekend reading – cozy and funny and sweet, with a swirl of romance and a sprinkle of geek.

If you want to try it out before you buy a copy, you can read it for free on Wattpad, with new sections going up regularly.

But the print editions are gorgeous.

Get your copy of The Dream World Collective today!

Clickworks Press | Amazon

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May in Review + June Goals

Hi friends! May completely snuck up on me. Between a series launch, a string of family visits, and a heavy workload at the day job, I seriously didn’t even notice we were in a new month until about the 10th. It was, frankly, unsettling. Nevertheless, May was full of exciting developments. Let’s take a look.

May Accomplishments

1. Hubris Towers series launch!

Hubris Towers

Seriously! Go check it out!

Bill and I published Episode 1 of our new comedy series. It’s so good! You should totally read it!

  • Reader response has been phenomenal, with almost unanimous 5-star reviews to date. Brilliant!
  • First-month ebook sales were a little lower than I expected, but should pick up as we release new episodes.
  • The paperback Pocket Edition was surprisingly popular. I expected to sell a few to die-hard fans, but we sold dozens of them. Maybe because it comes with a free Kindle copy on Amazon. (Boom! Marketed.)

2. My first free promo I made The Stone & the Song free for two weekends in May, and—wow! Suddenly I understand why people use free promos!

  • My book hit #1 Free in Fairy Tales on the first day of the promo and stayed there for the rest of the weekend!
  • Downloads in the first day more than doubled my first month’s sales, and over the course of the two weekends I ended up with hundreds of downloads.
  • This is the first time I’ve definitively broken out of the friends-of-friends sphere of readers, and also resulted in my first (5-star!) review from a total stranger.
  • The first weekend did about four times as well as the second, and I have no idea why. Let me know if you have any theories or have seen similar results.

3. First multi-platform release The Stone & the Song is my KDP Select guinea pig, but long-term I definitely want to build up a robust cross-platform audience. Hubris Towers was my first multi-platform release.

  • So far, Hubris Towers is available on Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and Amazon.
  • So far no real traction on the non-Amazon platforms. I’m curious to see how this develops as the series matures and gains momentum. Still pretty sure it’s worth it long-term.

4. Released 2 more sections of the Dream World Collective

5. Wrote about 8,000 words of Hubris Towers Episode 2. (Now with Russians!)

  • Planned release date is June 13. That’s so soon!
  • This is by far the fastest-paced large-scale project I’ve attempted to date, and I’m really excited to see how that helps us build momentum.
  • Sign up here to get a reminder when it comes out

6. The Clickworks Press catalog is expanding! I can’t say too much yet, but I’m getting ready to release the first Clickworks Press book I didn’t write.

  • This is a game-changer. My plan from the beginning has been to make Clickworks Press bigger than me. Bringing in new authors makes it a fundamentally different kind of endeavor, and I’m so excited to be bringing in brilliant talent this early on.
  • Short-term, this helps authors streamline their publishing experience, cross-promote, and get more exposure. It points readers to great new reading experiences. It helps Clickworks Press develop legitimacy, flexibility, and a robust catalog. Long-term, just wait and see. We’ve got some incredibly cool ideas in the pipeline.
  • I’m still thinking through the details of the business model and I’d love to hear what you would find cool and useful. Drop me a line at byfaroe@gmail.com if you’re interested in brainstorming or have some ideas for me.

June Goals

That was long, so I’m going to keep this quick.

  1. Release Hubris Towers Season 1, Episode 2.
  2. Write 1/4 to 1/2+ of Hubris Towers Episode 3.
  3. Release more sections of The Dream World Collective.
  4. [Stretch] Set up a weekly auto-delivery system that will give people happy stories in their inbox.
  5. Iron out the first-phase Clickworks Press model.
  6. Investigate the costs and mechanisms of a Clickworks Press website that can support my super-cool ideas.
  7. [Possibly] Write more of The Unaccountable Death of Derelict Frobisher. Frobisher is the crème de la crème of my writing endeavors (which is saying something). It will not do to neglect it much longer.

What’s new with all of you? Anything I can get excited about with you? Tell me!

Cheers! —Ben

Book Launch: Detailed Breakdown + Debrief

Kara Jorgensen, author of The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden, asked about how I marketed The Stone and the Song during its recent launch. (For those just joining, this was my debut launch and hit the top 10k in Amazon paid rankings, selling nearly 100 copies in the first ten days with no budget and no pre-existing mailing list.)

My reply got way too long for comments, and I’ve been wanting to share this anyway in case it’s helpful to any other authors out there, so here it is.

Results

  • Nearly 100 sales in first 10 days
  • 4 days on the Top 20 Amazon Best Seller list in Fairy Tales
  • Broke the top 10k in Amazon paid rankings
  • Multiple five-star reviews on Amazon within first few days of release. (It appears a couple have since disappeared. I’m looking into this.)

Wave 1: The Big Facebook Bonanza

For this launch the announcements went in two waves. I announced the pre-order on Facebook, and a bunch of friends were really excited and shared the announcements and/or made announcements of their own. I probably had around 10-12 friends who shared/announced at least once, including 3-5 friends who went crazy and put it up once or twice a day or more for the first few days.

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

I’ve lived in multiple cities and have always been working to become a professional author, so I had a pretty wide base of friends excited for me. I think the great cover and professional presentation helped push a lot of people into taking the book seriously and being genuinely intrigued or excited about it, not just casually happy for me, and the pre-order discount (99 cents) made it pretty low-commitment.

So people started ordering, which gave me an early surge in rankings and Hot New Releases, and I shared screenshots (on FB) to keep the excitement going and help legitimize the book as a serious endeavor, not just a “cool thing my friend did.” Then my crazy-cool friends shared those, etc. This first burst lasted 2-3 days, during which I got 50-60 pre-orders.

Wave 2: Building A Mailing List

A few days later, I launched my mailing list (more details here) with a broadcast to 420+ old friends and acquaintances. Of these about 60 bounced, and of the rest about half opened the note and 30-40 signed up for my mailing list. During the day or two after that email my total pre-orders went a little above 80, with a few more trickling in since then. By then I’d fallen far off in rankings, but this second The Stone & the Song hits Amazon Hot New Releases!surge pushed me back up into the Top 12k-15k in Amazon Paid (and top 15-25 in Fairy Tales, and Hot New Releases again) for a couple days.

Note: I’m not keeping the huge list. I may send one reminder, but otherwise I’m only emailing the people who actually opted in.

I was also fairly shameless about telling relevant friends and coworkers about my book, but (hopefully) without being too weird about it. It’s tricky riding the line between helping people find it if they’d be interested but not making them feel obligated or awkward if they’re not. Main thing there is to think from their perspective. I try not to spew my announcements to everyone, but to think about who might genuinely enjoy what I’ve got and let them know it exists.

Initial Follow-Up

My real goal from this launch is to get 25 Amazon reviews by March 7, two weeks after release. With over 85 sales, a ghost army of amazing supporters appearing from nowhere, and consistent messaging that this is the best way for readers to help me, I think that’s realistic. These reviews will harness the goodwill and momentum of the launch and put it in a lasting form that (I hope) will drive Amazon to start putting the book in also-bought lists and recommendation emails and convince new readers to buy it.

I contacted my shiny new mailing list with a last-chance reminder on the final day of pre-orders. Going forward I’m going to send an intro email describing some exciting upcoming projects and ideas, but mostly the goal is to figure out cool new ways to delight my list. I’ve got them preliminarily self-segmented into readers, writers, adventurers, enigmas, etc., along with asking who’s interested in what (updates, collaboration, friendly notes, experiments), and my philosophy is that the list is more for them than for me. More to come on that. Sign up here if you’re interested in joining in.

The book itself has an unobtrusive sign-up link on the copyright page and some pretty carefully-thought-out calls to action in the back, inviting people to sign up for my mailing list, support me on Patreon, or email me. It also has a sample of my next novel followed by links to where you can read it free for now and a reminder to sign up for the mailing list. The goal is to find those who liked my story enough to read it to the end, give them a taste of what else is available, provide an overabundance of fun and value, and get a way to stay in touch. I’m excited to see how this develops over the next couple weeks as my 80+ initial buyers get time to read and finish the story.

Lessons Learned

This was a test run and I’ve learned a lot. Knowing what I know now, I would have done it a little differently.

1. I’d just release directly (with a limited-time discount) instead of making a pre-order. I could have had readers leaving reviews on Amazon or sharing their thoughts about the story on social media throughout the launch week rather than just going on hearsay and product description.

2. I’d have been ready to send out the email as soon as momentum started dying down. I was still figuring out mailing lists and refining my contact list, and ended up having about a 2-3 day delay between the two big surges, and my sales rank dipped to 100k (and even, briefly, close to 200k). I think if I’d timed it better I could have had a sustained 10-20 sales/day for 5-6 days in a row. I don’t have details, but I get the impression that’s getting close to where Amazon’s algorithms would start picking it up a little more seriously and it might have started getting some organic sales and building on itself a bit.

3. I’d have contrived a way to keep up the engagement on FB through the day. I have a day job (and no smart phone) so wasn’t able to respond to peoples’ shares, encouragement, questions, etc. during the day. My bitlinks and my friends who were watching corroborrated that the action fell off around 11am. My wife and I have since realized that she can help keep things going from home while I’m at work :]

4. I’d have proofread a little more carefully. I ended up getting a little impatient and loading the final compile at 2am a day or two before deadline. It turned out there were still a few typos. Luckily I was able to fix some of these early on and upload the fix during the pre-order period. A hard lesson was that Amazon freezes the design 2-3 days before launch. I had a couple final adjustments to the manuscript that unfortunately didn’t make it to the pre-order customers even though I uploaded the changed version within minutes after Amazon unfroze the book. Not critical, and they can set their accounts to get the updated version, but it bothered the perfectionist in me.

5. I wish I had figured out a way to get a list of people who bought the book. It would make it really easy to express gratitude, remind people to leave reviews, check for interest in future releases, notify buyers about the changes in 4 above, etc. Anybody have a good way to do this?

It was all a ton of work and a ton of fun. I’m trying to mostly put it behind me and get back to work on actual writing now. This has more than ever driven home for me how good it will be to have a catalog of other books I can direct eager parties to.

Any ideas on things I could have done better? Questions or experiences of your own you’d like to share? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!

—Ben

Back to Job One: Write More Words

My first book launch is (mostly) over. It was highly successful and highly educational, a crazy whirlwind of 18-hour days and emotional highs and strategy and enthusiasm and screenshots. Now it’s time to get back to the real work and joy of being a writer: writing.

Launch Highlights

The Stone and the Song: A Fairy TaleThe launch of The Stone and the Song was a test run in preparation for upcoming full-length novel launches. For a first release and a short work, I was surprised and pleased with how well it did:

  • Nearly 100 pre-orders
  • 4 days on the Top 20 Amazon Best Seller list in Fairy Tales
  • Broke the top 10k in Amazon paid rankings
  • Really lovely response in early customer reviews

Above all, I’m incredibly grateful for the massive enthusiasm shown by my friends, acquantances, long-lost friends, friends-of-friends, and new readers throughout this launch. I was blown away by all of your kind words, word-of-mouth, and eager purchases. Thank you to everyone who was involved!

Back to Work

Pre-order and launch was a really intense couple of weeks. I put in many hours beyond the day job working on final formatting, marketing copy, promotion, and infrastructure. I indulged in the urge to obsessively refresh my stats—hey, you only get one debut book launch, right?—and record and celebrate and angst and adjust things. I allowed myself to get fully sucked into the experience, and I learned a ton.

And then, like waking up, I realized all of it had been a week or two out of my life, and the Big Climactic Launch Day is actually the beginning of my book’s life in the world, not the end. I’ve stopped obsessively refreshing—it’s going to be a little while before Amazon recommendations and new organic sales start kicking in, even if that happens. And I’m ready to move on.

This was fun, but it’s all in the service of a bigger goal: a life spent writing. Now that the bulk of the work on Stone & Song is done, I’m finding it’s oddly pleasing to let it go and get back to business on the next big thing. Today’s goal is 1,000 words on Frobisher and, if I can swing it, uploading the next chunk of The Dream World Collective for free reading on Patreon. I really enjoy the strategy and the friends and the energy of a launch, but I love the writing.
Cheers!
Ben

Building Momentum on an Amazon Launch: Early Lessons

We’re one day into pre-orders and The Stone and the Song has hit the Amazon Hot New Releases list and #21 Best Seller in Fairy Tales! As an author with a tiny budget and minimal platform, I count that as a big win, though still a preliminary one. Here’s what I’m learning so far. (And you can pre-order here if you want a copy.)

150211.0930 Stone & Song FT Best Sellers 21

Almost up to the front page!

What Went Well

Presentation matters. Everybody says it, and it’s true. Get your cover and your product description as polished as humanly possible. What you’re watching for is a visceral reaction when you show someone. My cover and my description have gotten some big reactions—people exclaim or jump up or lean forward. They’re my friends, but the key here is that I watched people go from just being happy for me to being genuinely excited about the book itself. It’s beautiful and intriguing and it looks like the real deal. That added a whole different energy to the launch.

Use trackable links. I used Bitly to post my links, which gave me clear line of sight on how the message was spreading. I don’t know of any way to see how many people have viewed your Amazon product page, but I was still able to keep on top of how many people clicked through to see the product page. Leave me a comment if you know of a better way to do this. (For the record, I got about 50 clicks on the first day.)

Set a clear goal and communicate it. For this project, I’m not mainly focused on sales numbers. My goal is to get 25 Amazon reviews within 1-2 weeks of release. I have mentioned this over and over, on Facebook, in person, on the blog. Basically any time I tell people the book is available, I tell them my goal as well.

This works on a lot of levels. A review (especially a good review early on) is a lot more significant long-term than a sale. With the pre-order discount, I get about 35 cents per sale. But say you’re browsing on Amazon. Think about how differently you’d approach a book with dozens of fairly high reviews and a book with one or two reviews, or none. The latter looks bare and amateurish, and you have no way to get a sense of the book’s quality and content. The former looks well-established, fairly popular, and has plenty of reader experiences for you to connect with as a potential reader.

But this goal also gives my readers and friends a project to get behind, something that’s beyond just me and my sales numbers. It gives us something to push for together, a message to pass on, a sense of purpose, and (I trust) a big moment to celebrate together in the near future. It’s a great way to bond with readers and add energy to the launch whlie building a solid foundation for future sales.

The Stone & the Song hits Amazon Hot New Releases!

The Stone & the Song hits Amazon Hot New Releases!

Things to Improve

Be available. I made a quick Facebook post announcing the pre-order and a minimal blog post, then didn’t touch it all day because I have a day job (and no smartphone). I have amazing friends, so within 4 hours this still became the most-seen and most-clicked announcement I’ve ever made, but Bitly and my more-connected friends both told me that the action died down around 11am. I bet if I’d been able to check in periodically, even just for brief thanks, likes, and answers to some questions/issues that arose, it would have maintained a slow burn throughout the day and helped the word spread even further than it did.

Fresh eyes. I sent the final version to Amazon at 2am after a grueling day and night of post-production—writing marketing copy, arranging final layout, tiny corrections, check, tiny corrections, check again. Needless to say, my brain was mush, and I ended up missing a pretty glaring issue on the front page. Luckily a friend caught it early on, but probably better to sleep on it, get another pair of eyes on it, and then post it for the world to see.

Looking Ahead

Slow and steady. I got 20 pre-orders the first day. What excited me far more was that I had 5 more a few hours into the second day, up to 8 around noon. While I’m incredibly excited and grateful to have such loyal and vocal friends, one of my big fears is that I’ll tell them about my book, they’ll all buy it, and that will be the end of it. My second-day pre-orders are an indication that I might be setting up for sustainable sales, not just a flash in the pan.

I used to think in total sales, but I’ve found that the more meaningful metric seems to be sales per day. It’s not really about getting a big crowd to do something; it’s about establishing the visibility and credibility you need to consistently keep drawing new readers. My friend Bill has a great analogy about rolling snowballs; the bigger the initial snowball, the easier it is to get momentum, but the real point is to get the ball rolling so it keeps growing. Your crowd is your initial snowball, but the win is to get a steady stream of new readers too.

To assist with this, I’m actually staggering my announcements a bit. I’m going to be sending emails to potentially interested friends-and-relations who maybe didn’t see it on Facebook, and telling different circles of friends as I naturally run into them. From what I hear, this may also help maintain a higher or more stable sales rank, since Amazon now looks for sustained sales rather than raw totals.

Keeping the readers I get. The book includes a sneak peek of my next novel and links that make it easy to read more, sign up for my mailing list, or support me on Patreon. I’d love to get this book to as many people as I can, but I’d especially like to find the people who like it and the sample enough to stay in touch.

So that’s what I’m finding so far. What about you guys? Any interesting questions or findings or ideas for me?

Also, don’t forget to pre-order The Stone and the Song. It’s only 99 cents through 2/21/15. And be sure to leave a review! (Heh heh. See?)

Cheers!

—Ben

Pre-Order The Stone and the Song!

The Stone and the Song is available for pre-order on Kindle. Pre-order by Feb. 21 to save 66% and get it for only $0.99. Click here to pre-order now!

Pre-order by 2/21/15 and get 66% off!

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

In a world where words are power and magic is song, a voiceless girl must defeat the sorceress who betrayed her.

But soon she will find that the evil touches more lives than her own. A sculptor of near-living statues, a fakir with the power of sight, and a band of children chasing dreams in the desert all play their parts. And at the center of it all lies a heart of stone that may hold the secret of unending life.

The Stone and the Song is a story of betrayal and of sacrifice, of love and of dreams, of strength in weakness and life beyond death. Wrapped in lush imagery and poetic language, it is a tale that will draw you in again and again.

Pre-order it now!