What I learnt over the weekend

Second Chance

This weekend has been a wonderful learning experience. To say that I have been blown away with the response to my free promotion would be an understatement. I ran the fill gamut of emotions, from surprise, to excitement, to pinching myself to see if it was real. If the next few paragraphs come across as boasting, I apologise. It’s not. I’m just trying to get my head around it all.

amazon.co.uk top 10People like free books, and that’s a good thing

Some authors are against giving their work away for free. I can understand why. When it takes a year or more of hard work to write a book, why should people have it for nothing? I see it a little differently. While I want to earn money from my work, I also know that the biggest challenge to a self-published author is visibility. The more people who see our work, the more chance we have of generating a word-of-mouth buzz. I discovered many of my favourite authors through friends lending me copies of their books. I may not have paid for that particular book but I certainly paid for everything else the author wrote.

Saying that, my expectations for the promotion weren’t high. Having spoken to a couple of authors who ran free promotions at a similar stage in their publishing career as myself, I thought it realistic to have 100 downloads over the two days. My hope was that possibly 200-300 copies would be downloaded. To put that number into perspective, it would be close to twice the number of copies than I had sold since launch. I knew I was being a little greedy but hey, one could dream.

In the end over the two day period my book was downloaded over 1000 times. At one point I was no.8 in the Amazon.co.uk free Science Fiction charts as well as  no.1 in the Dystopian and Cyberpunk sub charts. On Amazon.com I made it to no.16 in the Science Fiction charts and No.2 in the Cyberpunk and No.3 in the Dystopian charts. I was also in the top 10 of the UK Thriller charts, top 20 in the US thriller charts. All from a 2 day promotion.

The kindness of strangers

I didn’t pay any money to advertise the promotion. The only promotional avenues I used were via social media. Many friends and family shared my promotion on Facebook, to which I am very grateful. Probably the biggest promotional boost, though, came via twitter. I’ve spoken about how I’ve come to like twitter in the past, how what started as a means to promote myself became a great way to meet like-minded people. I have rarely promoted via twitter but for this weekend only I sent a total of 13 tweets letting people know my book was available for free. I was worried it was too much as I didn’t want to fill people’s inboxes with tweets saying ME, ME, ME!

What happened next was wonderful. Many of the people I had befriended via twitter retweeted my tweets. This meant they were seen by all their twitter friends, some of whom retweeted them on again, and again. Through these acts of kindness, enough people decided to take up my promotion to send my book into the charts. Once visible, it enabled many, many more Kindle readers to find out about my book and download it. If it wasn’t for the kindness of these people, my promotion would never have been as successful as it was.

The fear of success

Of course, having this many downloads means that there are now hundreds of people all over the world who will now judge my work. For somebody as self-critical as myself, that’s a terrifying thought. Even though I’ve been lucky enough to have had a number of good reviews to date, a small part of me is just waiting to be pointed out as a fraud. This isn’t a plea for sympathy, I would much rather be in the position I am in than have nobody read my work, but I’ve now realised that I’ve passed the point of no return as far as critical anonymity is concerned.

Writing is not everything

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that while all this has been very exciting, the thing that gave me most pleasure this weekend was watching my 7-year-old play his first cricket match of the season and taking his first wicket. It put everything else into perspective.



22 thoughts on “What I learnt over the weekend

  1. Guilty as charged, I did download your book for free but it was the first time I saw anything about it from your blog.

    When I do download something on free promotion I like to “pay” the writer with a thorough book review which I post to Amazon, Good Reads and link to on Indieview (and I will definitely do the same for yours). I have tried releasing my stuff on free promotion with the hope that people will give it an honest review but sadly it never works that way. If everybody who d/l free promotion books of my novelette reviewed it, I would now have 200 ratings at Amazon/Good Reads and not the 5 or 6 I actually have. I won’t put my short story collection for free until I have a novel out, probably a year or more from now.

    Looking forward to reading it, but it may be some weeks.

    • Don’t feel guilty, I was touched and very pleased with your offer to review my book, especially as I know you’ve been on a hiatus for a while. As I said above and as you know yourself, it’s lack of visibility that is our biggest problem.
      There’s no hurry, I look forward to reading the review once it’s ready.

  2. Dylan, this is fantastic news and a great achievement as well as being great encouragement to the rest of us. And well done for that first wicket – magical stuff!

    • Thank you, Jenny. The wicket was very good. He should have had another if they had been playing the LBW rule, but then maybe it’s a little advanced for an under 9 team!

  3. Dylan, I didn’t download your free book. I purchased it, the only thing I regret is, it still hasn’t arrived…
    Once it does I will let you know how it made me feel. #excited
    Cricket makes me shudder, the watching of sport doesn’t do anything for me, I do not apologise for that.
    I do however love the memories of watching my children’s first time anything. A smile, tongue bettween tightened lips as a shoe is tied for the first time. First time on stage and the first time they took part in sport, with me furiously clapping from the side. Next year I will see my daughter marry. I hope to ressurect memories of her first times. What a brilliant weekend you had, i think you have many more; with your books and your children. I watch in anticipation.

    • I’ll not try to persuade you on the merits of cricket. Needless to say, I think you’re issuing out, but then again so are many. many people!
      Sorry the book hasn’t arrived yet. Unfortunately it’s out of my hands (despite rumours to the contrary, I don’t have a little desk at Amazon HQ parceling up my book). Have a word with your postman and check to see if he hasn’t stolen the book to read first. If he has, make sure you ask him for a review! 🙂

  4. Fantastic news this Dylan, congratulations! Oh I do wish I had a Kindle more than ever now! Well, I will get to read your book be sure of that, one way or another! This is very encouraging for us all and wow, how wonderful for you. But I love how watching your little boy take his first wicket was the best news of all… 🙂

    • Thank you, Sherri. Yes, I’ve been a little overwhelmed, as you can probably tell. Of course, you don’t have to wait to get a kindle, it is available as a paper back too 😉

      • Oh yes, why was I thinking it wasn’t out yet on paperback? I’m sure we had this conversation already now that you mention it…sorry Dylan, I’m a bit all over the place at the moment. Will check it out… 🙂

  5. Wow… that’s brilliant, Dylan! I’m so delighted for you. It’s always good to see someone who’s selling a self-published book be forthcoming about sales figures. Mostly we (Writerly GenPop) remain clueless as to what to anticipate in terms of sales, should we go for self-publishing. Thanks for sharing your success – and enjoy that warm glow of satisfaction!

    • Hi Jools, remember the big number isn’t sales (if only). The other thing with the sales is that I’ve been cautious in my promotion, waiting to get independent reviews before dipping my toe in the water. I’m sure some debut authors have sold more, others less. I also heard from another author yesterday who told me her free promo was a complete flop, so it’s not a guarantee (am I putting in enough caveats yet?).

      • I’m sure everyone has a different experience of self-publishing and promotion and much must depend on the sort of story, genre etc. I feel I would likely approach things in a similar way to you, which is why your experience is of no small interest. Plus, of course, as one of my Blogging Buddies, I’m properly excited that your book is gaining traction and positive reviews. 🙂

  6. This is really interesting. I agree with everything you say about extending the reach of a book until it begins to gain sales via word-of-mouth. My book is distributed via a publisher so I am not sure how far this approach is available to me but it is tempting. Loved the post and wish you every success with your novel.

    • Thank you, Peter. I hear that publishers tend to be less inclined than independent authors in giving away work for free, especially for new authors. If they aren’t willing, perhaps you should push them to earn their cut and find different avenues for promotion…

  7. A huge congratulations Dylan! What a fascinating experiment, and thank you for sharing. Great information to tuck away for reference from those of us who are not there yet. I’m sorry I missed the “free” window, and I feel guilty for not purchasing yet. I will add it to my Goodreads list today so I don’t forget. And don’t let all those new readers/fans forget about you. Hopefully your next project is in the works.

  8. Congratulations on your success! Even though books are given out for free, that doesn’t mean that they all make the charts so well done! I have recently started on my writing career and it’s a steep learning curve. Reading your post is very interesting and informative.

    Some times it benefits an author to give a book away for free so that readers get a taster of their work and then purchase their next book. I have written a post about why people are reluctant to buy an e-book at 2.99 even though it’s cheaper than the price of a cup of coffee (at my website http://www.alexavrio.com blog and my wordpress blog http://alexavrio.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/for-less-than-the-price-of-a-cup-of-coffee/)

    You mentioned that you’re worried about being judged about the quality of work. I’ve noticed that lot’s of my writer friends worry about that. You have to believe in the quality of your work. And from what I’ve seen lot’s of people think you’re doing great. Shame that I missed the promotion, but I’ll download the book and have a read this weekend. Keep on writing!

    • Hi and thank you for your comment. I agree with you that some people balk at paying 2.99 for a book. Even some friends of mine, people that would happily buy me a beer, have hesitated at buying my book. I’d love to understand the psychology of that. I suppose part of it is because you are unknown. I think that’s why the strategy of having a free first book in a series, then a paid second and onwards has worked for so many indie authors.
      As for the self-doubt, I wouldn’t worry for me. I have faith in my work – I wouldn’t have published it if I hadn’t – it’s just a little daunting when so many people have access to it in such a short space of time.
      Good luck with your writing and thanks once again for dropping by!

  9. Hey CONGRATS on the successful promotion and making it into the charts! That is VERY exciting! Twitter IS a great place to meet like-minded people and I just followed you there myself yesterday! I was happy to meet another sci-fi dystopian thriller writer! It’s also nice to see this inside view of the self-publishing world. I’ll be publishing there myself at some point and am gathering intel in the meantime, heh. I did want to say, also, that your cover is very striking, and as strange as it sounds, that could also be a reason initially that so many people were willing to give your book a chance when it became free. I, personally, am a very cover-oriented person, and many self-published books do not have well-designed covers, unfortunately. 😛 But your cover definitely caught my interest immediately. I don’t even know what it’s about other than the genre, and I’m intrigued. The very unique font is attractive and yet distracting by being too over-the-top. The cover is clean, sharp, and the color pattern makes me curious as to if it actually relates to the story within, and if it does, in what way, which makes me want to read. Your author name is not more prominent than the title of the book but is still clear and easy-to-read. Well done, all around! 🙂 I most definitely intend to purchase a copy of your book and check it out! Look forward to reading and continuing to chat here and via Twitter! OH, and I LOVE what you said about watching your son play cricket! I have a 3 year old son and I completely understand that realization! It’s happened to me several times as well, when I get stressed or overwhelmed trying to launch my writing career or keep up with the dayjob, etc … then I play with my kid and realize what’s really important. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi! Thank you so much for your comments. Yes, us dystopian writers need to stick together. After all, we know how things could end up in the future 🙂
      I’m so glad you like the cover. I’d love to take credit for it myself but all I did was choose it. It’s actually by a guy called James at goonwrite.com. He produces excellent, ready-made covers at a very good price. I would definitely recommend you look his site up.
      Good luck for the future with your writing and I would be more than happy to chat via twitter once you are ready to take the first steps into self-publishing.

  10. Tip top job! Well done and thanks for sharing. I really like Twitter too, but I find it really hard to cut through the chatter to have conversations with people. I often have chats on twitter as a result of following people, or them following me or we go onto twitter for a chat from somewhere else but there’s no kind of… inbox… no way to get an easy handle on it without having it popping up on your phone the whole time (which I will be able to one day, when my current contract expires, but not right now without mortgaging my house to pay the bill).

    The only thing I really hooked up with, a while back, was Lit Chat and that was great.



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