Amazon Publishing acquires Go Away Home – I’m giddy!

Have you ever thought you were as happy as you could be and then something happens to make you realize you could reach a whole new level of happy? It happened to me this month.

When I completed the manuscript for my World War One-era novel Go Away Home earlier this year, the thought of finding an agent and a publisher flashed through my mind for all of a nanosecond. Since publishing my memoir Growing Up Country seven years ago, I’ve been proud to call myself an indie author and an indie publisher. I didn’t hesitate to walk down the indie road again.

Then one morning – six months after I published – I opened an email from Jodi Warshaw, a senior acquisitions editor for Amazon Publishing. Warshaw said, Go Away Home “caught my eye because of all the rave reader reviews. Then I dipped in and couldn’t put it down!”

Warshaw wanted to talk about my interest in partnering with Lake Union “to see the sales match the review intensity.” She got my interest, all right. There’s no organization that knows marketing like Amazon.

I was thrilled – then skeptical. Could this be real? I contacted my go-to person for all things of this sort. Melissa Foster (best-selling author and founder of the World Literary Cafe) confirmed that, “This is great news.”

Lake Union Publishing

Lake Union Publishing

So I am pleased – thrilled – head over heels – over the moon (all cliches apply) to announce that Go Away Home has been acquired by Amazon Publishing and will be released under the Lake Union Publishing imprint in July 2015.

Between now and then, the manuscript will go through an Amazon team of editors (because good can always be better), gain a new cover, and a marketing team will prepare for the launch. All these people working on my novel makes me positively giddy. Can you believe it? I have “people.”

I haven’t made out a Santa wish list in decades. Even if I had made one this year, signing with a publisher would NOT have been on it. That would have been too unbelievable. While I don’t know everything this new affiliation will mean, I do know I’m excited by the opportunity to learn, and I couldn’t be happier.

I would not be here without all the support and encouragement of readers, of writers, of friends, of you. So, I thank you. And I wish you a joy-filled Happy & Healthy New Year.

Does paying for book promotion pay off?

As an indie author, I’ve looked at paid book promotions from time to time and always backed away. There were so many questions for which I had no solid answers. Which promotion site? What guarantee did I have that it would work? How many books would I have to sell to break even? If I did a promotion, when? My novel Go Away Home published in July; was a September promotion too early? My memoir Growing Up Country has been on the market for seven years; would anyone still be interested?

Finally I decided: Do it or stop thinking about it. I took the dive, and scheduled a promotion  for my novel. I had to take a big gulp when it came to paying the bill and I spent a lot of my time holding my breath. Ultimately, I’m glad I did.

Here’s what I did and how it worked.

Go Away Home - BookBub PromotionWith the philosophy If you can’t go big, go home, I chose BookBub – the gorilla of ebook marketing in terms of reach, cost, and results – to promote my novel in September. Electing for as clean a test as possible, I didn’t do any promotion other than that. Not even social media.

Go Away Home Promotion

  • BookBub Cost: $400 for a one-day, $ .99 promotion.
  • Reach: 1,030,000 women’s fiction readers. I’d requested historical fiction, but BookBub recommended women’s fiction. I figured they knew what they were doing and went with it. Plus the women’s fiction promo was $40 less expensive.

Sales & Rankings:
Pre-promotion Amazon Kindle Sales Rank – 55,110

Day of promotion – Sept. 7 – Price at $ .99 – Sales – 1,422 – Author Rank: as high as 69
Day 2 – Sales – 319
Day 3 – Sales – 151
Day 4 – Price at $1.99 – Sales – 52 – Author Rank: between 393 and 1,116
Day 5 – Sales – 66
Day 6 – Sales – 61
Day 7 – Price returns to $3.99 – Sales: 27 – Author Rank – 1,298

Go Away Home - Amazon Best SellerGenre Rankings: In the course of the promotion, Go Away Home ranked in the Top 10 in Coming of Age, Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction and Historical Fiction

Return on investment: First-day sales covered the promotion cost by 2.5x

On to the next book: Encouraged by the success of the novel promotion, I elected to use paid promotions for my memoir. Again, I let BookBub lead the way and added two other paid promotion outlets: Ereader News Today and The Fussy Librarian. Here are the results.

Growing Up Country Promotion

Sales & Rankings
Pre-promotion Amazon Kindle Sales Rank: 217,307

Day of promotion – Nov. 13 – Price at $ .99 – Sales: 2,504 – Author Rank: As high as 21
Day 2 – Sales: 520
Day 3 – Sales: 388
Day 4 – Price at $1.99 – Sales: 101 – Rank: between 105 and 870
Day 5 – Sales 73
Day 6 – Sales 64
Day 7 – Price returns to $3.99 – Sales: 20

Growing Up Country Author RankGenre Rankings: In the course of the promotion, Growing Up Country ranked in the Top 10 – often #1 – in History, Family Relationships, and Midwest & Women’s memoirs & biographies.

Return on investment: First-day sales covered promotion costs by more than 3.5x

  • BookBub: 2,788 sales; revenue to me $1,951.60
  • Ereader News Today: 146 sales; revenue to me: $102.20
  • The Fussy Librarian: 17 sales; revenue to me: $11.90

Seven observations from these promotions:

  1. It’s a hoot: Okay, just had to get that out of the way. It’s a kick to see my book ranked up there with books by Sue Monk Kidd and Diana Gabaldon. Even if it’s only for a few days. Now back to business.
  2. Scheduling a promotion – BookBub is known for being tough to get into so I gave them as much scheduling flexibility as I could. They responded to my submissions in 48 hours and were easy to work with. I scheduled Ereader News Today & The Fussy Librarian to run in the days after BookBub to extend the news.
  3. You get what you pay for: There were fewer sales through Ereader News Today and The Fussy Librarian, but the cost was much less and they delivered sales proportionally, so I’d use them again.
  4. A long promotion tail: Even though sales dropped precipitously from promotion highs, both Go Away Home and Growing Up Country have sold more copies each day, every day since their respective promotions than they did prior to the promotions.
  5. Holiday cross-over sales: While paperback sales of Growing Up Country have always accelerated during the holidays, this is turning out to be particularly good year. The ebook promotion drove the memoir to the top of the charts as people were looking for gift books. A month after the promotion ended, the memoir still ranks in the Top 10 Midwest memoirs and is selling well in both ebook and paperback formats.
  6. Reviews – A Bonus: Because of the promotions, both books have garnered a healthy increase in reader reviews. Go Away Home picked up 36 new reviews since September and Growing Up Country has earned 54 new reviews in the past month, including its first one-star review (be still my heart!).
  7. Your results will not be the same as mine: BookBub shares the average sales for each category. Women’s fiction: Average sold: 2,120 with a range of 170 to 5,420. Biographies & Memoirs: Average sold: 2,430 with a range of 290 to 6,210. I didn’t quite make the average with my novel but exceeded it with my memoir. Great success since I was holding my breath that I’d surpass 170 and 290. All the usual suspects come into play in whether a book sells well: cover design, title, quality of writing, topic interest, reader moods, the phase of the moon.

I share this report for what it’s worth. Paid promotions are one arrow in the author’s marketing quiver. And this is one for which you can see a clear ROI.

This was a lot of numbers to crunch and I hope I was reasonably clear. Let me know where I confused and where I might yet elaborate. Apologies for the blurry graphics; they’re the best I could get from a screen shot.

The Writing Life – Memoir to Fiction

My writing career suffered a rocky start in elementary school and it took years to regain my writing confidence. Yet writing has been core to my life. I made a successful career in public relations, published a memoir, and will soon publish a novel.Writing Italy

I’m interviewed on Sherrey Meyer‘s blog Healing by Writing, today, covering such topics as how I made my way back into writing, as well as the how and why of my move from writing memoir to writing historical fiction.

Here are the opening few sentences of the interview:

“Carol, In reading your bio, It’s clear that most of your professional life has involved some form of writing. Did you always want to write, or did it just happen spontaneously while in college or on a specific job?

In grade school, I wrote an essay I was particularly proud of. When I got a “C” on that essay (probably because of my atrocious handwriting), I was totally deflated. That early experience stuck with me and I managed to make it through high school and most of college without any real sense that I had any writing skill …

I invite you to come on over to read the rest of the interview and meet Sherrey.

Many thanks to Sherrey for inviting me to her blog today!

An homage to the iron

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Monopoly iron – No longer relevant? Image from Voxxi.com

Monopoly players have said good-bye to the iron, welcoming a cat as the new player piece. As kids growing up in the 1950s, my sisters and I played Monopoly often, and I have to admit, I don’t think any of us ever chose the iron. My personal favorite was the shoe. Still, the iron performed a central role in our lives. Washing on Monday. Ironing on Tuesday. I learned to iron, as many girls did, bringing wrinkle-free order to stacks of handkerchiefs.

Ironing was so integral to the week that I devoted a chapter to it in my memoir Growing Up Country. Since publishing this memoir, I’ve learned that laundry and ironing hold almost as many memories for rural women as taking care of chickens. And that’s saying something.

Though I still have an iron, I use it as little as possible. But I can be as nostalgic as the next person about losing Monopoly’s good old iron. So as we bid the iron adieu, here’s an excerpt from my memoir, from the chapter – “Laundry Lessons.”

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4-H Ironing Demonstration

When Grandma Jensen came to stay with us, which she did every summer, she took over ironing chores. She ironed hankies, too, but not her own. Each night she washed her own hanky in the bathroom sink and plastered it on the screen of the bedroom window to dry.

In the morning, Grandma donned one of the cotton shirtwaist dresses she wore every day. She pulled on nylons, rolling them down to just above her knees, and covered her pure white hair with a silver net. Finally, she plucked the now-dry hanky from the window screen, folded it and put in in her pocket.

When Jane and I took on the 4-H shirt ironing demonstration – and for one summer claimed squatter’s rights at the ironing board – I can only imagine what Grandma thought.

As tedious as the hours of ironing could be, they were also the hours when Grandma watched ‘her shows’ as Mom always called the soaps.

A dedicated follower of the perpetual heartaches and never-ending trials of Search for Tomorrow, Guiding Light and As The World Turns, Grandma set the ironing board up in front of the TV in the living room and tackled the ironing while she caught up on the day’s stories. Piece by piece, she drew shirts and pillowcases and hankies and dresses from the laundry basket, stretched them on the ironing board, flicked water with her fingertips and eliminated wrinkles in our clothes while the characters in her dramas solved the problems in their lives.

Every week the basket of ironing was full again with the same laundry; every week the soaps offered the same problems to be solved. Because of Grandma, the hopelessness of soap operas and the never-ending challenge of laundry are tied together forever in my mind.

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