By C.J. Archer
C.J. first started publishing independently in 2011 and was an immediate success—making enough to become a full-time author within her first year. She notes that the indie landscape is constantly shifting and uses indie blogs and Facebook groups to keep up to date with the evolving world of self publishing.
C.J. Archer is a #KWLWonderWoman—a savvy entrepreneur building her writing career into a successful independent business. We’ll share more stories here and on Instagram. Do you have a story to share? Tell us here.
A lot has changed in the self-publishing landscape since I released my first book in January 2011, yet some things are the same—an eye-catching cover, an intriguing premise, and an enticing description backed up by a story that readers enjoy are still a must. If those things are in place, it makes advertising much easier.
When I first started, giving away the first book in a series for free worked very well. Readers went on to pick up my other books at full price. While giving away free books still works, it’s not as easy as just setting the book to free anymore. You have to get the word out. Buying a Bookbub featured deal is a fantastic way to reach thousands of readers but don’t despair if you can’t get one. There are other email marketers like eReader News Today, Freebooksy, Robin Reads, and Book Barbarian. Better than these are retailer-specific in-house promotions. Kobo makes it incredibly easy for KWL authors to get involved in their promotions.
I try to get at least one of my books or boxed sets into a Kobo promotion every month. My favourite are the promo code discounts as it means I can have a Kobo-only sale and not worry about Amazon price matching. My Kobo fans love it! I usually only discount the first book in a series or the boxed set of the first 3 books in a long series, rarely the later books in the series.
A little trick I’ve learned with Kobo promotions is to nominate my bestseller. It might seem counter-intuitive to discount a book that’s doing well but it’s all about gaining visibility in the short-term to reach more readers who’ll stay with you in the long-term. Books already selling well are placed prominently on the promotion page where they get more eyeballs. I didn’t realize the power of this tactic until I nominated my bestseller The Watchmaker’s Daughter (the first book in the Glass And Steele series) for a Kobo promotion. That book had sold well on its own without discounts for several months before it was accepted into a 30% off site-wide sale. Not only did it sell over 300 copies during the four-day sale, but my other books received a boost too, particularly the ones in the same series. Every new book I release in that series still does well at Kobo, thanks to the visibility it received almost a year ago.
One of the best things about Kobo’s promotions, however, is that many of them cost nothing up front. Anyone can afford that.
Aside from promotions and discounts, I use my newsletter to announce new books, pre-orders, and any other news. I send it about every six weeks, or when I have something to announce. Every newsletter sees a bump in sales or pre-orders in the following days. Having this direct access to my super fans is incredibly important, but so is keeping my newsletter “clean”. With the cost rising as subscriber numbers increase, I don’t want to pay for freeloaders. I only want real fans who’ll buy my books.
All of my books have a direct link to the page on my website where readers sign up to my newsletter. The link is right after THE END and before inserting a page break so they can’t miss it. I also offer subscribers short stories set in the same world as my books with the same characters. These are exclusives not available anywhere else and can’t be purchased. The stories are on a password-protected page on my website, and each of the books in the related series has a note telling readers to sign up to get access to the stories. The password is delivered via my mailing list provider’s auto-responder. I currently have 2 stories on this website page. One of them links one series to another, giving readers a glimpse at the happily-ever-after of two beloved characters while introducing a new character in the hopes they’ll like him enough to follow him into a different series in which he stars. The second exclusive story delves into the backstory of the hero from the Glass And Steele series. I wrote it when books 2 and 3 were already out and book 4 was on pre-order. After giving my newsletter subscribers access to the short story, I made book 1, The Watchmaker’s Daughter, free for a week at all the retailers and landed a Bookbub ad. This two-pronged marketing tactic meant my newsletter gained new subscribers at a rate of 50 per day for over three months, and book 4’s launch was better than all the others.
As I noted earlier, The Watchmaker’s Daughter sold well on its own before I discounted it. The book took off at full price of $4.99 USD, selling 40,000 copies in its first year. Books 2 and 4 in that series hit the USA Today bestseller list at their full price. I did very little advertising for the series before book 3 came out, using only my newsletter and social media to announce each book upon release. So why did it do so well out of the gate compared to my earlier series?
I still don’t have a definitive answer except to say that no two series behave the same, even from the same author. No two authors have the same career either, so copying what one does may not work for you. What the success of the GLASS AND STEELE series has shown me is that if all the fundamentals are in place (cover, description, story), it is possible to do well without spending thousands on advertising.
If you are interested in being part of KWL’s beta promotions programme for authors, please email us to request access to the merchandising tool. Please note that you will have to have your books uploaded directly to KWL in order to access the tool. Click here to learn more about how payments work for these promotions
C.J. Archer is the USA Today bestselling author of historical fantasy novels including The Emily Chambers Spirit Medium Trilogy, the Freak House series, the Ministry Of Curiosities series and the Glass and Steele books. She has also written historical romances set in Elizabethan England.
C.J. has loved history and books for as long as she can remember and feels fortunate that she found a way to combine the two. She has at various times worked as a librarian, IT support person and technical writer but in her heart has always been a fiction writer. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, 2 children and Coco the black and white cat.
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