In my world, busy writing and promoting my scifi serial novel Black Hull, I happened across a successful scifi indie novel. Its author, Elliott Kay, was kind enough to answer some questions I had for him about the wild success his book Poor Man’s Flight has had. I was struck when I first looked at his book, which was released at nearly the same time as my first episode (January 2013). Mind you, his book is 380 pages in one volume, and mine is released in 30-40 page episodes (5 out so far), but I couldn’t help but reel at the wondrous success he’d had. His book has amassed over 300 reviews in several short months (at the time of this blog post), and he was at the top of the category lists for his book, not to mention near the top of all Kindle paid books. Here’s what I wrote Mr. Kay:
I am a fellow indie author. I saw your book in the top 350 paid Kindle books, with 270 reviews already, and it was only published a month ago! congrats on the wild success. I am part envious, but more curious, if you’d share some of your best marketing tools with me. I am looking to get my scifi book Black Hull out there, but have been struggling as of late to find good marketing to generate the first batch of reviews. I appreciate any information that could help direct me in the right path. If you threw a lot of money into advertising, I can’t really keep up with that due to a low budget, but perhaps if it really worked well, I could save up for it. Thanks a million.
He promptly responded kindly with:
I’m kind of flattered you’re even asking. 🙂
My initial foray into self-publishing came from having done very well on a website called Literotica.com, which offers free stories in a wide variety of categories. It’s a highly-trafficked site, and if erotica is something you enjoy writing, you really can’t beat it for free exposure. My first story series had a big following, and when I took it down and self-pubbed it as the novel “Good Intentions,” a great many of those readers were happy to pick it up.
From there, I made sure to leave my email address and offer to put people on a notifications list for when I came out with something (erotic or not). I therefore had about a hundred people to email when I first put Poor Man’s Fight up, along with the usual plug to all my friends on Facebook and such.
As a result, I got a good clip of purchases and reviews in the first couple of weeks, and I think that helped to raise the visibility of the book. Past that, all I’ve done is start up a blog (which doesn’t get a remarkable amount of traffic) and keep my fingers crossed.
Honestly, since the largest share of my work before PMF was erotica, I was worried that my erotica fans would complain that there was no smut in PMF. Turns out, my actual problem has been people loving PMF, immediately going out to read Good Intentions… and being shocked that it has numerous explicit sex scenes. I have a warning label on the book, I have it categorized as “erotica,” yet some people don’t look at any of that and then get upset at what they find.
I will say that the difference in cover art quality is probably a huge factor between the books. “Good Intentions” was a success in that it made me very happy, but its sales are unimpressive compared to PMF. However, for Good Intentions my cover is simply a photograph (with some good photoshopping) done by a friend who wanted nothing more than credit for his work. For PMF, though, I hired an artist to do my cover, and that cost several hundred dollars. That investment, as it turns out, has been MORE than worthwhile.
You can get good cover art on commissions between $350 – $500 if you shop around on DeviantArt.com and such.
Anyway, that’s about all I can tell you. I’m not really sure if I did one thing or another that really helped my sales. I haven’t bought advertisements or anything. I absolutely wish you well on your book!
My thoughts were two-fold: What a nice guy! and, wow, I’m even more jealous. No advertising! I’ve spent money here and there on advertising since November of 2012, and only now am I starting to recoup what I spend on my monthly promotional efforts (which aren’t much). It seems he built a following on an independent site, much like EL James did. Those readers immediately flocked to him once he published on Kindle. What a great success story. Each time we see another runaway success, at least for me, it is a great source of encouragement and inspiration. Thanks Mr. Kay for showing us, once again, there is no need for a middle man anymore.