Hot Washes

2017 in Review

As customary, every December, I put together a recap of what I spent, what I made, and what I want to do in the next year. 2017 in review is kind of like a stockholder sharing meeting, as everyone who buys a book is essentially investing in the Sush brand. And it's also for my fellow indies so they can see if they're doing better, worse, or about the same. It doesn't include everything I spent, but these are the so-called "big rocks." Advertising Costs: $2400 With only two new books this year, I spent a lot of money both preparing for #DemonSpring and pimping out my existing series. I also began investing in growing my newsletter subscribers, hoping that if I scooped up more freebie seekers, they'd continue on to buy the rest of my series. I'm bummed to report that many freebie seekers are just that--freebie seekers. I saw no noticeable improvement in sales via Instafreebie giveaways. But that's why we try things, right? I also got a BookBub. So let's just let that sink in for a minute. Because it's kind of a BFD. But since my ad ran in November, the sales and impact will show up in 2018's report. I ended up making around 4x what I invested (so far), so it was absolutely a great investment. Book Production Cost: $1200 With only three books to worry about this year, my book production costs went way down from last year. In fact, I think the majority of this is just editing costs really. Although I didn't enjoy the publishing pause from an income perspective, I did like having the chance to write all three books at once, get my marketing squared away, and have a chance to breathe---oh, who am I kidding? I started on Lexie as soon as DS was done... Event Costs:  $5,000 I really pulled back on events this year, especially in the second half of the year. And although I spent $5k (including the cost of books), I also made $5,000, so I ended up really close to even. While part of that is not doing as many events, I'm doing a better job of knowing which events are worth my time and which aren't. I bowed out of RT convention this year (losing my $200 deposit, sadly), as I didn't have a table and I didn't see the value. My one [...]

By |2017-12-14T09:17:06+00:00December 18th, 2017|Hot Washes|Comments Off on 2017 in Review

The Island Kickstarter Hot Wash

Oh! You guys hate love these! If you're just joining us, a hotwash is what the military does after an exercise. It's where everyone gathers around a table right after an exercise and talks about what went good, what went bad, and what could be improved. Observations Overall, The Island Kickstarter was a smashbang success. I not only met my minimum goal of $400 in the first 90 minutes, but then we went ahead and smashed the first stretch goal of $1,000 and even covered nearly all the expenses sunk into preproduction of the book. To say I was flabbergasted was an understatement. Our total amount raised was $1599 *eye twitches* Beyond that, I was completely surprised to see the number of followers and friends who were 1,000% behind this project. I'd thought that I'd be screaming into the vacuum, but hey, look at that, people kept RTing my blog posts and links. So thanks everyone. The most surprising thing was the sheer number of people who reached out to me and asked me to give them money to promote my kickstarter. That, at least, was not very fun. Why Kickstarter I had a couple of reasons for wanting to run a KS for The Island. First and foremost, while recouping costs was definitely part of it, it wasn't the main reason. As a brand new series, I wanted to start the "pre-release" excitement about four months early. Since I have Fusion releasing in the middle of Feb, I needed something that could be a big burst of excitement, and get books in hands (and, by extension, reviews on blogs and such). I tried doing Preorders with another company with Alliances and that was a big dud. But a Kickstarter seemed to be kind of the best solution for what I wanted to do. Pre-Planning First and foremost, I began planning this Kickstarter about 2 months in advance. I identified all the different rewards that I could presumably give to people. I reached out to Kickstarter Guru and all-around magical unicorn Emily from EmilyReadsEverything and listened to everything she said. I decided to do both eBooks, paperbacks, and hardcovers, and added on Swag Packs with buttons, bookmarks, and maps. I also added a Razia set of books (randomly way more popular than I'd anticipated) and two shoot-for-the-moon rewards, the MS review and the $400 dedicated to your love reward.  I used the Kickstarter feedback tool to get [...]

By |2017-03-14T08:40:30+00:00January 17th, 2016|Hot Washes|7 Comments

Conviction Hotwash

"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don't know which half" - John Wanamaker The book business is a funny thing. Some days, I'll tweet and tweet and I'll make zero sales. Other times, I'll be gone from my computer and come back to 10 downloads. Still other random days, I'll pop into Smashwords and see a spike of 150 downloads from absolutely nothing I did. All of this is to say that any money you spend on advertising is a crap shoot, but there are still some lessons to be learned. The number one rule is that if you try something and it doesn't work, don't try the exact same thing again. Because doing something over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity (looking at you, Facebook ads). With Conviction, I found myself in the odd position of having a book to sell that you won't want to read unless you've picked up the first two. So if advertising books was tricky before, now I'm scratching my head. How do I balance trying to sell the third book to readers already invested while still searching for new readers? Here's a couple things I did: 1. Make Double Life Free We've all heard the schpiel about making the first-in-a-series free. Draws readers in, hooks them and then they'll pay for the next book in the series. I've found that yes, the activity on the book is usually between 5-10 downloads a day. But how many people are just downloading the book and never read it? Since Conviction came out, I'm at a 2% purchase rate from Double Life to Alliances but close to a 90% follow-through from Alliances to Conviction. A lot of folks download free books and forget about them (present company included), so I'll be interested to see how those figures change over the long run. 2. Review Giveaway At the beginning of last month, I ran a contest that anyone who reviewed Double Life and posted a review would get a free copy of Alliances, and then an advanced copy of Conviction, with everyone who did so being entered to win a paperback set of the three. Unfortunately, this contest was a GIANT bust! Nobody entered! Nobody reviewed! SAD PANDAS! To be honest, I was trying to convince some folks who'd read the book to write a review. I'm [...]

By |2017-03-13T10:59:07+00:00November 16th, 2015|Hot Washes|Comments Off on Conviction Hotwash

Alliances Hotwash Part II

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about the results of nine weeks' worth of content building up to Alliances. Today, I'm talking about the specific goals I set for myself for this quarter (technically, we're still in it, but I don't anticipate much change between now and the end of the month). My specific numbers are competition sensitive (that is, I don't feel like sharing them!) but what I did put was the % complete of the goal I set. As you'll see, sometimes I woefully underestimated myself, sometimes I woefully overestimated myself. But for the most part, I was pretty much right on the money. This speaks to the importance of creating goals for yourself. When you have something to work towards, you put in time and effort every day. And soon you'll find yourself much farther than you were before. PART II: Metrics   E-Book Sales / Preorders Total number of Alliances Preorders: 21% of goal Number of Double Lifes downloaded (Jan-March): 103% of goal Total number of Sage Teon Short Story Downloads: 78% of goal Truthfully, I way overestimated how many preorders I could conjure. Even over a 9 week period (longer, in fact, over 3 months), I only was able to get to 23% of my goal. I'm really not sure there's anything I could have done differently; this one is simply a lack of awareness for my series. Which, I still have to remind myself, I've been doing this for less than a year. And although I can't totally remember how many preorders Double Life had (since it was only available on Smashwords), if memory serves, I still had a % increase from first day sales. So it's a win. One of the things I did not do until recently was add a link in the back of the Amazon version of DL that went straight to Alliances. Once I did that, I saw an uptick in readers buying Alliances. But I wonder how many people read Double Life and just put it down, never to pick up Book 2? Lesson learned - put the link in the back of the book as soon as you have it. Am I doing preorders again? Absolutely. For one thing, I don't have to worry about uploading the book on the day it comes out. For another, as Empath is a stand-alone first book, there's a good chance [...]

By |2017-03-07T15:59:30+00:00March 12th, 2015|Hot Washes|Comments Off on Alliances Hotwash Part II

Alliances Hotwash – Part I

Y'all know me and my hotwashes. I decided to write a full-up recap and analysis of the promotional period for Alliances, up until the release yesterday. There's some post-release promo going on in the form of a blog tour, which I may write up a quick one after that's over. Since it's a lot of stuff, I'm breaking it up into parts. Today's review focuses on just the content that was on the blog, since that was the center of the promotional universe. Tomorrow, I'll look at some of the specific metrics I was tracking. Although the "project" was supposed to start 1 Jan, I ended up putting up Alliances for preorder on 18 December. But the corresponding blog content didn't appear on the blog until 5 January, the first Monday of the new year. For most of all of the blog posts (except for Wednesdays), I added this graphic at the end of all the blog posts. It linked directly to the Amazon page. Did it work? I'm not sure. I don't know if people saw it and didn't realize to click on it. For Empath, I've decided to put the blurb and cover of the book at the end of every post (again, except for guest blog posts), with button-links to the ebook stores. That way people can make a decision within the post.  #MondayBlogs As always, Monday Blogs reigns supreme on all metrics. Alliances focused content on themes from the book, and some other content that I had on stand by (why yes, I have tons of stuff just waiting in the wings). The trend continues to be higher for content about me personally, indie publishing, or general non-book stuff, and lower when it comes to stuff about the book itself. For Empath #MondayBlogs, I've taken the seven things that scare me the most, and written about them. I think it'll not only be a big driver to the blog, but it'll be interesting to folks who've been following me for a while to see what truly scares me. #TeaserTuesday The Alliances Teaser Tuesdays were a bit of a dud. I tried to choose passages that were applicable to whatever I blogged about on Monday, which was fun, but it often felt like I was talking about something on Monday that I didn't show until Tuesday. Empath offers an opportunity to add in more of the "personal" [...]

By |2017-03-07T15:58:18+00:00March 11th, 2015|Hot Washes|Comments Off on Alliances Hotwash – Part I

Pensacon Hotwash – Take 2

I realized today that the hotwash I posted yesterday wasn't really a hotwash. It was more a lovely picture-based summary. The hotwashes you crazy kids have come to expect should have lessons learned and all that fun stuff. So here's the real hotwash. Pensacon the Project encompassed more than just the three day event. It was a testing for media engagement, looking at the differences between selling one book versus two, and also learning to let other people sell my book. Bottom Line Up Front: Pensacon was successful in some ways, and not in others. But overall - I'm a happy camper. I had been planning this damned convention since August, when I put down the $483 for a table, electricity (YES, SO GLAD I DID THIS), and an extra badge. Total, I invested $2300 into this event between the table, my flight to Pensacola, books, advertising, and petty cash out to feed my two helpers. Yes, that's a lot - and more than I normally put up. But I also knew that if I was going to splurge, I would splurge on a release convention. Media Engagement I put together a press release for the event, focusing on my hometown girl nature and coming home to release the book. I sent it to every media outlet in Pensacola - and only one of them decided to follow up. First with an almost verbatim article and then with an honest-to-God interview article. One or two people mentioned that they saw the article and it got them interested enough to come find me - so definitely a good thing. The media team at Pensacon was also pretty supportive - sharing the article and whatnot. And the Pensacola Today article was also mentioned on the local radio station, so that was even better! I'd never worked with traditional media before (other than when I actually worked for them in my former life as a news producer freelancer), so it was good to get out of my comfort zone. The media is still one of the best ways to be noticed, and it's worth it to try and get their attention. Book Sales My total sales for the event were 104/200 copies of Double Life and 83/100 copies of Alliances - which is a split difference. Obviously the goal is always to sell out, but selling only half of my copies of Double [...]

By |2017-03-07T15:55:30+00:00March 6th, 2015|Hot Washes|Comments Off on Pensacon Hotwash – Take 2

Pensacon Hotwash

If you missed the excitement this weekend, I went home to Pensacola to attend the second annual Pensacon and to release Alliances 10 days early. Best. Weekend. Ever. #pensacon #pensacon2015 @pensacolapensacon #RaziaAlliances A photo posted by S. Usher Evans (@susherevans) on Mar 1, 2015 at 6:17pm PST This weekend was quadruple-y awesome because not only was I releasing Alliances, but I got to go home and see my kiddos that I haven't seen since January 2nd. Best way to end a crazy con day. #mrbiscuit #homehomehome #petstagram A photo posted by S. Usher Evans (@susherevans) on Feb 27, 2015 at 6:48pm PST I had tons of help this weekend at my booth (for the first time, someone actually offered to work with me!). My baby cousin Cassondra (the drawer of the Empath cover dragon) got to nerd out with me all weekend. Love this girl A photo posted by S. Usher Evans (@susherevans) on Feb 27, 2015 at 10:35am PST And my best friend in the universe, baby bump and all, was such a trooper. My best friend is the best ever and I love her. #pensacon #RaziaAlliances #bffs A photo posted by S. Usher Evans (@susherevans) on Mar 1, 2015 at 6:16pm PST I can't even begin to think about how awesome and surreal it was to have other people selling my book. And sell they did - we kicked major ass. By the end of Saturday, I blew through all of my previous three-day-con sales records. By Sunday, I sold over 100 copies of Double Life and over 80 copies of Alliances. #pensacon2015 #raziaalliances #raziadoublelifeA photo posted by Valerie (@vem522) on Feb 27, 2015 at 12:04pm PST I was actually rather surprised at the number of folks who bought both Double Life and Alliances. All of the conventional wisdom says that you sell twice as many book 1s as 2s, but I ended up selling about the same number of both. My price point being what it was, an additional $5 plus the exclusivity was probably a big part of that. I did see a big spike in eBook downloads, and even got an Alliances preorder, which is fabulous. Another one from @pensacolapensacon... Hanging with the guys from @howitstacksA photo posted by S. Usher Evans (@susherevans) on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:41am PST But really, the best part of this (and any) convention is the moments where someone walks up [...]

By |2017-03-07T15:54:03+00:00March 2nd, 2015|Hot Washes|Comments Off on Pensacon Hotwash

Fall For The Indie Book Hot Wash

Whew, that was a long fifteen weeks y'all. But it successfully filled the time between August and December so now I can start promoting Alliances highlighted fifteen authors. As you may remember, hot washes are how the military reviews exercises and other events to take a peek at what went right, what went wrong, and what can be done differently next time. For me, Fall for the Indie Book was a way to test different marketing theories I had related to social media and sales, as well as compare whether results I was getting for my book were the same as if I was promoting another's book. Key Lessons Learned Here are some of the key lessons learned, which I'll use going forward to help hone my marketing strategy: 1) Scheduling Is My Friend I'll let you in on a dirty little secret: 99% of the Fall for the Indie Book content was scheduled weeks - if not months - in advance. All the tweets, all the blog posts, all the Facebook updates - they were ready to go way ahead of time. (The content for the blogs, however, was sometimes provided in the nick of time...) There are a couple of reasons why this worked: First and foremost, I had a checklist of all the promotional content I was going to be providing as part of Fall for the Indie Book, and scheduling ensured that I hit everything I said I was going to do for the authors. Although sometimes, I didn't do all what I was supposed to do (more on that below). But in addition, it allowed me to step away from Twitter and Facebook (mostly Twitter) and do other things - like write two short stories, Empath, and finish editing Alliances (and, oh yeah, work my day job). I checked in with Twitter from time to time, retweeting, commenting, etc, to ensure I'm not a total spambot, but it relieved the pressure from me to worry about the ad stuff and promoting the blog. Note: In case you missed it, the ads were 2x a day - once in the morning, once in the evening, and that was it. That's about my limit for advertising on a daily basis. 2) You can lead a horse to water... I'm not calling any authors out - but there were a few that just...did not play along. They didn't [...]

By |2017-03-07T15:50:12+00:00December 13th, 2014|Hot Washes|Comments Off on Fall For The Indie Book Hot Wash

First Book Signing Hot Wash

Yesterday, I had my first book signing in Leesburg, VA and to be perfectly frank, it did not go so hot. So in the spirit of sharing all my ups AND downs, here's a run down of all the stuff that happened, and how I'm going to do things differently. In the world of le military, a hot wash is where you look over the events of the day and try to make sense of what went right, what went wrong, and what could be improved or changed. And yes, I am going to write this post like a real consultant report. Because that's how I roll, yo. Situation For my first book signing, the date offered was chosen because there was an arts festival going on downtown the same day, and would potentially draw more people out and about. I thought it would be a good idea to be out in the city, drumming up interest, before the signing. Pre-event, I set up the following things: Created a Facebook Event and boosted it with a $50 ad, targeted to Leesburg and the surrounding 50 miles, and the target demographic Added events to my Amazon page and Goodreads page Set up scheduled tweets and posts about the event using local hashtags I did not utilize traditional media during this event at all. More on that later. Because I was going to be out in the arts festival for a while, I signed twelve books and left them in the store, using my patented 12-book-spiral Feng shui method to set the aura in the room. Looking back on it now, I needed another 12 on the table to complete the method, and that is probably why everything went downhill. My neighbors at Comic-Con know my obsession with the 12 books on either side. ANYWAY Out in the town I went, passing out these lovely flyers that I got, 200 (100 printed and cut in half) for $18. I figured they had all the pertinent information on them, including my website, if any of the flyers made it far enough to meet a computer After a few hours of doing that, I returned to the bookstore with my new pens and was ready for everyone to come in and buy all 75 of the books I brought. Outcome I sold a whopping six books. To people I already know and could have [...]

By |2017-03-06T12:22:06+00:00September 21st, 2014|Hot Washes|Comments Off on First Book Signing Hot Wash

Double Life Release Hot Wash

This is the Double Life hot wash. For those who aren't in the military, a hot wash is a run-down of the good, bad, and ugly when you have an event. So, I published a book last week... Yeah, I know I'm super late blogging about it. One should probably write a blog on the date of such an important event. But, to be honest, I didn't quite know what I was going to want to write until it happened. Then it was a busy weekend marketing and all that, then it was Father's Day (apparently, I made my daddy cry, which is no easy feat #rightinthefeels). First of all, thank you to the ~50 folks who've bought my book so far. Per the latest stats from le Amazon and le SmashWords, I'm looking at about 24 online purchases (mostly ebooks). The rest of the books I've sold from the copies I ordered directly from CreateSpace. I've still got about 20 or so in my car to sell, which means I might actually make a bit of profit this go'round. (Yeah, it's not a lot. But it's a looooooong game.) Second, thank you to the folks who have cracked it open so far, and I know at least one of you has finished it already (besides my amazing beta readers who are incredible). Thanks for going on a journey with me and Lyssa; hope you enjoy it :) (And, you know, I'd LOVE it if you'd leave me a review on GoodReads or Amazon or whatever...but no pressure). Okay, so the thank yous are out of the way. But how was my birthday/release day? Amazing, incredible. I've been feeling lonely lately, whining to myself and all that. Needless to say, I definitely ate a lot of crow on Thursday. I felt all kinds of loved and appreciated from people near and far. I got a bunch of facebook well wishes (responded by book!spam, but c'est la vie) I got the best lunch ever from Wegmans I got cupcakes from my fun runners I got unexpected gifts from my best friend in the mail Lastly, a bunch of people bought my book, which was the best birthday present ever. In other news, I wanted to share the results of my GoodReads giveaway. I had over 700 people enter to get my book. SEVEN HUNDRED. Not only that, but over 300 people [...]

By |2017-03-20T11:27:05+00:00June 16th, 2014|Hot Washes|Comments Off on Double Life Release Hot Wash