Promoting the Same Book for Seven Years—info for authors

First—a brief history of my first novel (I’ve published four so far and have started a fifth that I plan to turn into a series).

I started researching and writing “My Splendid Concubine” in 1999 (total copies sold to date are almost 21,000).  During that time, we visited China nine or ten times and traveled extensively throughout that country doing research. Concubine, after a stack of printed revisions almost as tall as I am—I was six-foot-four but as we age, we shrink—the novel’s 1st edition came out in December 2007, and it sold 562 copies in its first two years. In 2010, the novel went through more editing and revisions, and then the 2nd edition came out with a new cover. Between 2010 and 2013, the 2nd edition sold more than 11-thousand copies. The 3rd edition, after more editing, revisions and another new cover, came out in 2013 and has sold more than 9-thousand additional copies and is still selling.

During those seven years, Concubine was promoted in several local brick-and-mortar book store author events, through thirty-one traditional talk radio shows where I was a guest expert on China, and three book blog tours in addition to two BookBub ad campaigns: one in 2013 and another in 2014.

What follows is a brief report of the most recent $0.99 promotion of My Splendid Concubine from April 13 – April 19, 2015.  When that promotion ended, I submitted a price increase from $0.99 back to $3.99, but as I’m writing this post, I see that Amazon has kept the price at $0.99—and it has now been more than five days since the official promotion ended.

Starting Sunday, 4/12, I pinned—after I made sure that price had been dropped by Amazon and Draft2Digital—a Tweet promoting the sale to the top of my Twitter page and tweeted fresh tweets to support the sale several times a day in addition to the pinned tweet that was always there.

To discover how to pin a Tweet to the top of your Twitter page so that it’s what everyone sees first when they visit, I’ve included this video from YouTube that explains how to do it.

When I checked my Twitter Analytics page (I’m not sure you can open this link), it turns out that the Tweet that promoted the sale (the pinned tweet) was the Top Tweet for the last 20 days with 4,178 impressions (number of times users saw the Tweet on Twitter—I have no idea how they measure that). Using Twitter analytic, I learned that the same pinned Tweet was Retweeted 54x, the image was clicked on 7x and the link that led to Amazon was clicked 5x, and that was just the pinned Tweet.

I have no idea how many times all of the other promotional tweets were seen. For instance, I found one of the same Tweets that was not the pinned version, and it was viewed 904x and engaged 23x. Engaged means the number of times a user has interacted with a Tweet, and I probably posted the same Tweet three to five times a day during the sale.

But what about the four ads I ran with The Fussy Librarian, Choosy BookwormeReaderNewsToday and Riffle?

The price drop to $0.99 was submitted on 4/11. Note: Seven copies sold for the full price at $3.99 between 4/1 through 4/4.  No copies sold between 7/5 – 7/10.

Sales by Date During the Promotion

  • 4/11 – 2
  • 4/12 – 20
  • 4/13 – 29 (two ads ran: The Fussy Librarian and The Choosy Bookworm)
  • 4/14 – 50 (one ad ran: eReaderNews Today)
  • 4/15 – 14
  • 4/16 – 13 (I think the ad from Riffle ran—a site with a high Alexa rank in Canada—but there were no sales from Canada during the promotion, and I’m not sure if the ad ran the day it was scheduled, because I never saw it even though I searched.)
  • 4/17 – 3
  • 4/18 – 3
  • 4/19 – 3
  • 4/20 – 1 (I submitted the price change from $0.99 to $3.99 at 7:30 AM)

During the same time span as the Concubine promotion, my other three books sold 12 copies at the full price of $3.99.

The result: More than 160 copies have sold so far in April for all four of my books—but most of the sales were for “My Splendid Concubine”. The total number of sales for January, February and March were 148 or an average of 49 copies a month. I think that an increase of sales of more than 326% for April was a success.

 
I think exposure is more important than profit. If the work is worth reading, the exposure might lead to those profits in the future.

For instance, Amanda Hocking didn’t earn much money or sell many books for her first eight years as an indie author, and then her sales went viral making her an internationally known author and a millionaire.  For those eight years, Hocking worked part time jobs for poverty wages, and lived at home with her mother who nagged her relentlessly to get a real job that would support her. Hocking said she worked really hard developing her social media platform. I wonder if her mother is nagging her today.

In May and June, my 4th book, The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova, will be going on a book Blog Tour with a $0.99 price drop from $3.99 in addition to plans to run ads on several sites, for instance, BookBub (if the ad request is accepted), Fussy Librarian, and eReaderNewsToday.

UPDATE August 11, 2018

For a little more than a year now, I’ve been experimenting with Amazon ads and learning what works. The focus is on “My Splendid Concubine” because it has the most reviews, three hundred and twelve with 251 four-and-five stars. Amazon has run more than 800k impressions resulting in 4,169 clicks (as of today) since the start of the campaign.  The cost of the clicks so far is $1,167.47 offset by $1,059.31 in royalties from the 380 sales that Amazon has linked to the clicks, but that number is misleading because of sales not related to the clicks from the ad impressions. Total sales are closer to 600 resulting in more than $1,600 in royalties. My guess is that readers that clicked the ad, bought the book, and liked it enough, talked to other readers who bought the book without clicking on one of the ads.

At 5:27 PM today, “My Splendid Concubine” was ranked #15,082 Paid in the Kindle Store and #11 for its specific genre.  Sales for the e-book for August broke 100 copies this morning with twenty days to go before August ends.  I plan to write a blog post about what I’m learning. I just checked and there have been another ten sales so far today.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

 Covers for first 3 novels

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

How Blogging helped me find Readers and sell Books

It seems that many authors think that if they are not writing a book, it’s a waste of their time. For instance, producing a blog. If you are an author who thinks that way, I suggest you think again, and learn how to blog properly.

To make a point, I’m not going to start out talking about blogging. I’m going to mention poetry. Back in the early 1980s, I fell in love with writing poetry when I took a summer workshop from a Pulitzer Prize winning poet while I was working toward an MFA in writing.

I have never earned any money from my poetry, but I write it anyway and post my poems on Authors Den. The 124 poems I’ve posted there have had almost 80-thousand views. My latest poem, Smartphone, has had more than 50 views so far, and I posted it this week.

My fifty-five articles on Authors Den have had almost 50-thousand views, and the fifty-two news pieces I posted there have had more than 23-thousand views.

In fact, the excerpts of my three books on Authors Den total almost 72-thousand views.

There’s also one short story, and it’s had 1,917 views. I also published A Night at the Well of Puritya finalist in the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards—on one of my blogs where it’s had another 125 views.

The idea behind all of this free stuff that I write is to attract readers who might decide to buy and read one or more of my books, and I also enjoy doing it.

But the Authors Den stats are nothing compared to the views on the Blog I launched to support my first book, My Splendid Concubine, a novel that’s sold more than 20-thousand copies. iLookChina.net has 7,481 followers and more than 500-thousand views. In fact, I can track the before and after sales of the novel this blog supports as part of my branded internet author platform.

As I’m writing this post, iLookChina currently has 1,897 posts, and I wrote most of them. So far, for 2014, the site averages 239 views a day. I launched iLookChina in late January 2010, but Concubine only sold 221 copies its first year in 2008, and to promote the book that year, I was on 31-radio talk shows as a China expert, held several author events in local brick-and-mortar bookstores, and conducted two book-blog tours—but I wasn’t blogging.

How has blogging translated into sales of My Splendid Concubine? Well, by the end of 2010—after I had written and published more than 1,000 posts on iLookChina, Concubine sold 2,375 copies that year—more than four times the combined sales of the first-two years. In 2011, Concubine sold another 4,641 copies, and in 2012, four thousand one-hundred-fifty-eight sold, and more than five thousand in 2013.

In addition, in 2009, before I launched iLookChina.net, Concubine sold only 341 books for an average of 28 a month—that’s less than one a day. Over the years, I’ve launched several other blogs and published two more books, a thriller called Running with the Enemy, and a memoir called Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé.

There’s another benefit to writing more than just books. The more an author writes—even Blog posts or poetry that readers may view free—the better the author’s writing becomes, and when I took an all-day blogging workshop from Bill Belew through the South Bay branch of the California Writers Club in late 2007, Belew said we can write a Blog and eventually turn what we write into a book.

What I don’t do on my blogs is write that much about me, my writing habits, or my books. This post is one of the exceptions. Instead, I focus on China, its history, its politics, its culture and its people. For the blog, The Soulful Veteran, that supports my thriller, I write mostly about war, combat, military issues, PTSD, etc. For my third book, a memoir, I write about teaching, public education, children and parenting at Crazy Normal.  Then there’s this blog, Lloyd Lofthouse.org, where I write on any topic that strikes my fancy. I’ve even written about Growing up with Oranges.

After every post I publish, there’s a line that separates the post from a short bio of me and a blurb about my books with links—scroll down to see what I’m talking about. To learn more about how to Blog properly, I suggest you start out by watching the two videos from Bill Belew that are embedded in this post. Because Belew taught me how to blog, why not let him teach you too?


This presentation explains how to overcome the obstacle to getting started with your blog and web site. Bill Belew is an SEO and web traffic guru – a real one. No fancy tricks. Just long hard and long lasting effort.

In conclusion, if you read this far, thank you for visiting. You may never buy or read one of my books, but you might tell someone about this post who will. Think about it.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Thank you for asking me to review your book, but …

Occasionally, an e-mail arrives in my overcrowded inbox—like one did today—from an author asking me to review a book, and 99.9 percent of the time I say no. Then I offer advice on where to seek reviews from what I have learned since I launched my first title in December 2007.

Does that mean I don’t read books?  Of course I read books. I have exactly sixteen very patient tree-books waiting on my bedside table. Some have been waiting to be read for months. I also have four audio books (on CDs) waiting for me to review. These days, I read more books with my ears than my eyes.

Hint—ask avid readers for reviews who don’t write books. The odds of hearing a yes might be better.

The reason why I don’t accept 99.9 percent of books authors ask me to review is due to the fact that I’m usually spending fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM working on my next book, or promoting the books I’ve already published. For instance, it’s Sunday and I’ve been at it since before 6:00 this morning. I did take a break to walk two miles and eat. I’m eating now as I write this and it’s almost 4:00 PM.

I even force myself to get out of my chair and walk to the bathroom when the call comes, and Monday through Friday, I spend an hour a day exercising with weights and aerobics—something I get out of the way as early as possible.

Here’s some of the advice I offer:

I understand the hunger for reviews, so I suggest starting out with a Library Thing Giveaway in addition to hiring an internet publicist—my publicist is Teddy Rose—for a few hundred dollars to arrange a book blog tour that might generate a few more reviews that appear on Amazon and on blogs that review the book.

You might even want to attempt a Goodreads Giveaway, but be warned, there are trolls who are members of Goodreads dedicated to trashing books—that they never read—with rotten reviews and 1-star ratings, and that even happens on Amazon. Trolls are mean, sneaky, mentally ill people addicted to anonymously hurting others, and standing up to them just motivates the trolls to be meaner. Consider these trolls to be the Ebola virus of the internet. If you question why there are such people on the earth, think about Hitler, Stalin, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

You may not know this, but last year when I decided to stand up to a flock of Goodreads trolls who attacked me and my work, one of them predicted my career as an author was over—more than seven thousand copies of my work has been sold since that flame war.

Once a book has garnered enough positive reviews to be considered, I suggest submitting to sites such as BookBub or eReaderNews Today and then, if they accept the book for a paid e-mail blast advertisement—you have to offer it for sale at a reduced price or for free—be aware that not everyone who reads a book will review it, but a few might.

For instance, My Splendid Concubine had an e-mail blast from BookBub earlier this month, and the book has already garnered two, great 5-star reviews from verified purchases and one review from a troll that wasn’t a verified purchase—most trolls are too cheap to even pay 99 cents for a book they plan to trash. Since this June’s BookBub blast, as of this morning, Concubine has sold more than 3,000 copies.

There’s also eBookBooster to announce a book that is going on sale. Click the link and discover for yourself what eBookBooster offers and what it costs, and never forget that there are no guarantees for anything you do as an author to promote your work.

The truth is that for most authors, it takes time, patience and persistence to attract readers, reviews and build an audience. Because there’s a lot of competition from other authors, that means readers and sites like BookBub get to reject books and even ignore them if they aren’t interested.

There’s also another reputable site I know of to submit a book for a possible review, but even The Midwest Book Review only accepts about a third of the books sent to them. For instance, Midwest reviewed my first book, My Splendid Concubine, but didn’t review my second book, Running with the Enemy.

Midwest will not tell you that they haven’t accepted your book for a review or the reason why. What happens when a book is not reviewed by Midwest is that you will never hear from them. If they review the book, they will contact you and send you a copy of the review.

Also, be aware that Amazon will not allow sites like Midwest to post reader reviews. That doesn’t mean Midwest sells fake reviews, but it does mean that Amazon has a policy not to allow any review that was paid for to be posted on their site as a reader review.

Midwest reviews are free for paperbacks but not for e-books. Because Midwest charges a fee for e-books submitted to be reviewed, that disqualifies all Midwest reviews from being posted on Amazon as reader reviews even though they are reader reviews. Here’s my disclaimer—I have never paid Midwest for a review, because I have always submitted paperback copies to them.

Does that mean reviews that Amazon will not allow to be posted on their site can’t appear on the Amazon page of your book?

Unless Amazon changes their policies and rules, any reviews that Amazon rejects as a reader review may be posted through Amazon Author Central. To see what I mean, I suggest you visit the Amazon pages for My Splendid Concubine and Running with the Enemy.  Scroll down and read each Book Description and/or the Editorial Reviews section, where the awards and some pull quotes from reviews are posted. These appear before the reader reviews.

These are legitimate awards and reviews that come from reputable sources. The literary contests charged entry fees for juried literary contests that offer no guarantee that a book will earn an award. In fact, I have been told by the book festival organizers that less than five percent of submissions earn awards.

In addition, next time someone tells you that it’s wrong to pay a fee to enter a literary contest, consider this: The National Book Award that is announced in the national media annually, charges an entry fee of $135 for each title submitted, and the Pulitzer Prize charges authors/publishers a $50 entry fee and again charges to attend the award ceremony where an author, who is a finalist, might not win. The National Book Award and the Pulitzer are considered by the media to be two of the most prestigious literary awards in the United States and possibly the world.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

How I sold almost 2,000 books in twenty hours

for the July 6 update,
scroll to the bottom

If you are a serious author—indie or traditional—then you’re in business and should have an internet platform. The simplest platform might just be a blog, or it could be more complex with a combination of a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and an Amazon author page, etc.

Once an author has an internet platform, there’s one more step to seriously consider—to advertise. Although I have been a guest on thirty-one, traditional radio talk shows, advertised in a regional magazine, held several author events in brick and mortar bookstores, earned awards from literary contests and been on several book blog tours, the only two marketing methods that resulted in immediate, measurable sales was through blogging on iLookChina and buying e-mail blasts from BookBub and/or Ereader News Today.

So far, in one year, I’ve paid for two BookBub e-mail blasts, and three with Ereader News Today, and they have all resulted in increased sales and paid for themselves with a profit.

For BookBub, I submitted my first historical fiction novel My Splendid Concubine back in early 2013, and it was accepted. That first BookBub e-mail blast went out on June 16, 2013, and resulted in 2,699 sales before the price went back up to $3.99 a week later.

After my second novel Running with the Enemy was rejected recently by BookBub, I submitted the book to Ereader News Today.  You should know that BookBub only accepts 10 to15 percent of the books submitted to them, and if your book is accepted, it isn’t a free e-mail blast. It’s costly—several hundred dollars at least with no guarantee the results will be a success.

HiDef Kindle Cover December11

Ereader News Today accepted Running with the Enemy for an e-mail blast that went out March 28, 2014, resulting in ninety-eight books sold over a period of seven days. Ninety-eight books doesn’t sound like much compared to two thousand six hundred ninety-nine, but the results were impressive nonetheless when we take into account that Running with the Enemy hasn’t found its audience yet, and was the focus of a flame war in 2013 by a vicious tribe of Goodreads internet bullies, who were responsible for at least one of the two 1-star reviews of this book on Amazon. The second, more recent 1-star review was left by another troll.

Both of these trolls were liars. The oldest 1-star review claimed to have read the book, but she never did, because only three copies had been sold when she posted her review on Amazon, and her review wasn’t a verified purchase. On Amazon, if you buy a book, the review will be listed automatically as a verified purchase.

The second, most recent 1-star review of “Running with the Enemy” said, “Why I stopped reading: I’ve never given up on a book before the 20% mark. I’ve never given up on a book that I agreed to review for an author—until today.”

That was also a lie, because in the last two years, this reviewer stopped reading twenty books she had agreed to review, and she stopped reading five of them before the twenty percent mark. In fact, for one book, she stopped reading thirteen percent of the way in.

Back to why selling ninety-eight copies of Running with the Enemy through an Ereader News Today e-mail blast was impressive, because this book was selling, starting in February 2013, an average of 4.7 copies a month. Going from that to 107—nine copies sold before the Ereader News blast went out—is more than twenty-four times the monthly average, and only 11 copies sold the next month after the price returned to $3.99.

Back to My Splendid Concubine’s second BookBub blast that went out at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2014—by June 19 at 6:45 AM—about twenty hours later—ASIN: B00578UNLG, had reached an Amazon Best Sellers Rank of #59 paid in the Kindle store. Before the BookBub blast, the best seller rank hovered around one hundred thousand out of more than three million books listed on Amazon. In addition, in the first twenty hours, Concubine sold 1,915 copies—almost as many copies as it sold a year earlier for the same number of hours.

The cost for an Ereader News Today e-mail blast will be 25% of the earnings received as a result of the posting. This will be based on the number of books that were sold through their links on the day the book was posted and the day after, which they will report to you in the invoice that you receive.

In addition, I paid twenty-five dollars to EBook Booster to submit the Concubine sale information to twenty-five other sites that announce free and/or reduced e-book sales. I also paid six dollars to The Fussy Librarian to post the sale announcement there too. If you want to know what I paid for the BookBub blast, the answer is on their site. I paid for a Historical Fiction ninety-nine cent sale.

This second BookBub blast also resulted in a new 5-star review posted June 19, by Amazon’s number three, highest ranked reviewer and avid reader Joanna Daneman, who has reviewed almost three thousand books on Amazon. Too bad I can’t write as fast as she reads. And the ninety-nine cent sale isn’t over until after June 24, 2014

Kindle_LR_e-book_cover_MSC_July_25_2013

Joanna Daneman’s Amazon review
Like “Shogun” but set in Imperial China. REALLY GOOD!

This was a huge surprise–Lloyd Lofthouse’s novel about Robert Hart and Imperial China right after the Opium Wars is fascinating, dramatic and it’s almost impossible to believe it was based on a real character because it reads like a blockbuster novel. Robert Hart, the main character was called the “Godfather of China’s modernism.” He arrived in China almost as a soldier of fortune, and ended up as a completely fluent, trusted advisor to the Chinese court and the British, having learned perfect Chinese but more importantly, the intricacies of the culture.

This book is a lot like “Shogun”–in fact, if you liked “Shogun”, you’ll probably enjoy this book. The themes are similar; an unbathed, barbaric Westerner becomes enchanted with the local women, falls in love, is repelled and confused by an alien culture, but immerses himself so deeply in the ways China that he becomes able to navigate the twisted channels and treacherous waters of Chinese diplomacy and court life. Instead of Japan. Bushido and the Tokugawa Shogunate, we have here the China’s Qing Dynasty and the two regent empresses and the young emperor, and the vast Mandarin bureaucracy buttressed by Confucianism and Tao.

There is a lot of sex in this book, but it isn’t simply for titillation; it shows Hart’s total enchantment with China and the people in the person of Ayaou, his concubine. Her story and the story of how Hart won her is the personal side of a very interesting historical novel.

I couldn’t put this book down. I hope Lloyd Lofthouse will write more.

Discover other posts about publishing and promotion:

Authors Finding Readers

Discover how Amazon changed book cover design and why authors need to pay attention

Learning Twitter for authors; then tweeting magic

Number 2 and then Number 4 on July 4 - 2014

UPDATE
Posted July 6, 2014

“My Splendid Concubine” officially went on sale June 18, 2014 when a BookBub blast went out at 11:30 AM.

By 6:44 AM the next day, June 19, the book had sold 1,941 copies. By 6:26 AM on July 20, another 550 had sold.

Jump to the end of the month on June 30, and Concubine sold a total of 3,015 copies. “Running with the Enemy” sold 18 and “Crazy is Normal” four. So far, for just July to today at 5:59 AM, another 59 copies sold at the full price. For a comparison, only 40 copies sold in May.

For a better comparison of the impact of the BookBub blast in addition to other June cross promotions on Twitter and through other sites:

In 2008, the first year, “My Splendid Concubine” sold a total of 221 copies or an average of 18 a month.

In 2009, 341 copies were sold for an average of 28 a month.

In 2010, after launching my first serious Blog, iLookChina.net, and publishing more than one thousand posts before the year ended, 2,375 copies of Concubine had been sold for an average of 180 a month.

In 2011, 4,641 copies were sold for an average of 387 a month.

In 2012, 4,158 sold for an average of 346 a month.

In 2013—the first year I paid for a June BookBub blast, 5,044 were sold for an average of 458 a month.

In addition, the following 5-star review was also a result of the BookBub blast promotion,
and look who wrote it.

Snapshot of Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

_________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

Learning Twitter for authors; then tweeting magic

Several years ago I joined Twitter and set up an automatic feed from my first Blog—iLookChina.net; then I ignored Twitter for more than four years. I had no idea how to use Twitter or Facebook properly. Both sites confused me and Facebook still does.

In fact, it’s been so long since I signed up for my Twitter account, I had to visit Twopcharts.com to discover that I first signed up on March 16, 2009—1,782 days counting back from January 31, 2014, but I started building my author’s platform December 2007 when I launched my first website. The blogs came later, and after I started to seriously blog in 2010, sales took off from 341 for 2009 to 2,375 for 2010, and in 2013, my work sold 5,044 books—the best year yet.

Then last May—1,531 days or 4.19 years after I signed up for my Twitter account—I was encouraged by another author to seriously start working it. A week later a speaker at the Berkeley Branch of the California Writers Club (est. 1906 by Jack London and friends)—where I am a member—told the audience that writers/authors needed to be on Twitter—that Twitter was crucial for an author’s platform.

Still not sure how to use Twitter, I found a short tutorial and read it; then turned to YouTube and watched several videos. The embedded videos in this post may give you an idea of what YouTube has to offer.

On May 25, 2013, I posted my first original tweet—Historical Novel Review says “written in gritty way enhanced by vivid compelling descriptions that seem too real” @ http://goo.gl/gPnwP 

Since then—for the 251 days before January 31, 2014—I retweeted or posted almost 35,000 times, and I’m still learning how to use Twitter properly.

In those first-four years while I was doing little to nothing with Twitter beyond automatic feeds from my first Blog, my Twitter page attracted about 400 followers.

But since May 25, 2013 that number has improved dramatically; when I starting writing this post, I had more than 4,200 followers and was following more than 4,600.  I’m also retweeting and tweeting three times a day when possible—a morning Twitter session; another one in the afternoon, and a third in the evening. I know there are sites—like Hootsuite—that offer automatic feeds of one kind or another, but I haven’t taken advantage of that yet. I’m still thinking about it.

I’ve also discovered that everyone on Twitter doesn’t tweet the same way. For instance, there are those—it seems—who tweet an endless stream of thank you, thank, thank you, and don’t say much of anything else. Then there are others who tweet stuff that doesn’t work well for retweeting.

I have now developed a routine where I post two originals tweets together and then retweet (RT) others five or more times who retweeted one of my originals. The reason I follow this pattern is so anyone who retweets my tweets won’t have to scroll far down the page to find one to RT, because I’ve learned that it isn’t always easy to find something to RT when you have to scroll for several minutes past hundreds of tweets searching for one that’s worth retweeting.

Anyway, I maintain four Blogs and in each pair of original tweets I post, I Tweet something that includes a shortened link that leads back to one of my blog posts [where I have written and published more than 2,200 posts], Websites or my books on Amazon. I almost never thank anyone for retweeting my tweets. Instead, I visit their Twitter page and RT something interesting they tweeted—if I can find something interesting.

The results of this effort and then some [the following numbers are based on referrers for All time]:

By 6:46 PM on Thursday, January 30, 2014, my Soulful Veteran Blog had a total of 160 visitors who had arrived from Twitter; 2,046 from search engines; 474 from the Website for My Splendid Concubine; 10 from my Facebook page, and 3 from Google +.

iLookChina.net has had 529 visitors arrive from Twitter; 234,889 from search engines; 1,284 from Facebook, and 520 from Google +.

Crazy Normal—my blog about education, teaching and parenting—has had 407 visitors from Twitter; 254 from DianeRavitch.net; 93 from Facebook; 9,765 from search engines, and 50 from Google +.

For my signature Website/Blog—Lloyd Lofthouse.org—925 arrived from Twitter; 8,214 through search engines; 1,849 from Yahoo! (where I leave comments in news piece forums); 479 from Facebook; 11 from LinkedIn, and one from Google +.

Note that this isn’t the entire list of referrals to my Blogs—visitors arriving from other sites and sources.

As for book sales, there’s no way to link sales to Twitter, Facebook, Google +, my Blogs/Websites or any other site, but my first two novels have sold almost twenty thousand copies and continue to sell steadily.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

 

Discover how Amazon changed book cover design and why authors need to pay attention

There’s a reason that the Midwest Book Review [est. 1976] rejects books from the covers before even opening the book to discover the story inside. To learn more, I suggest you read what Midwest has to say about The Importance of Book Covers.

Midwest says, “[Titles] are rejected for having cover art that looked like the product of a high-school drawing class assignment for beginners. Cover art that was so avant-garde that it left all mainstream sensibilities bewildered in its wake. Cover art that looked cheap, felt cheap, was cheap.”

The same logic applies for readers who are in search of a good read. The first thing readers see is the cover and there are too many books to choose from. The cover that wins the contest for the eyes usually means the book is picked up and opened.

Because of this, the first book I published that ended up with two covers was “My Splendid Concubine’s” 3rd edition when a fellow author said the paperback cover wasn’t working on Amazon as a thumbnail sized cover. I think it was because there was too much detail in the original art work.

LowRes_e-book-and-paperback-cover-together

The reason why authors need to rethink book covers has been explored by C.K. Abbott on her blog. She says, “Paperback book covers have to perform different jobs than Kindle covers.”

Here’s where I may have made my mistake—twice. For both “My Splendid Concubine’s” 3rd edition and “Running with the Enemy”, my first two novels, I commissioned an artist to create original art quilts and then took photos of the quilts to convert into book covers—those impressive art quilts now hang on our bedroom wall.

But here’s the twist. It’s all in the size. What looks great large doesn’t always work in a smaller size.

The original quilt for Concubine was 23 inches wide by 31 long, and the quilt for “Running with the Enemy” was 21 x 27. After I took the photographs, I shrunk them to 5.5 x 8.5 for the paperback covers.  On Amazon, those same covers were even smaller and the rich details in the original quilts were lost.

As an indie author in charge of every step of book production, it’s possible to get carried away—like I did—when it comes to experimenting with other art forms to create original book covers.

In another Blog post, Scarlett Rugers discusses how to choose the right font for your eBook cover. Rugers is an award winning book cover designer from Melbourne, and the work she displays on her site is stunning.

But cover art appears in more places than on a paperback or Amazon. Cover art needs to be effective in both a thumbnail and larger-than-life on a poster and Read Owl.com discusses this topic in Seven Tips for Great Cover Design.

Low Res e-book and paperback covers joined December 13

And at Book View Cafe.com we learn: “It is a fact that most potential customers for any particular ebook will first encounter the cover image as a thumbnail. With that in mind, cover designers have trended toward simple art, toward large type size rendered in straightforward fonts. Cover illustrations have been demoted to lesser importance. Graphic considerations reign.

“Unfortunately, far too many ebook designers are still thinking like print book designers. The only difference is they have applied the rule of making covers that are legible at thumbnail size. They’re repeating that mantra until they throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

If you want to see more stunning book covers, check out the winners of the e-Book Cover Design Awards, September 2013, by clicking on this link for The Book Designer.com.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Watch out for Murphy’s Law when promoting a book

Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

True, it happened to an advertisement of “My Splendid Concubine” scheduled to run Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

I’ll explain what happened later.

In this post, I want to share some examples of what I have done to promote my work—with results. Also more examples of Murphy’s Law.

“My Splendid Concubine” came out December 2007. But I started researching the main character—Sir Robert Hart—in 1999. The research; revisions and editing continued for more than a decade. Along the way, I researched China’s history and culture and made several trips to China with my wife and daughter. It also helped that my wife was born in China and is Anchee Min, the author of “Red Azalea”, a “New York Times Notable Book of the Year” (early 1990s) that also won the “Carl Sandburg Award”. My wife would go on to write six historical-fiction novels with China as her subject, and her last book—“The Cooked Seed”, a memoir—was published this year.

Anchee is my go-to person when I have questions about China’s history, art and culture.

This week I ran my third internet advertising campaign through the Authors Marketing Club.  The ad was supposed to run on March 25 listing a .99ȼ sale price— reduced from $3.99. Instead—this is where Murphy’s Law comes in—the ad ran on the free page and there were hardly any sales. No surprise there. Imagine someone expecting a free book discovering it selling for ninety-nine cents. I sent an e-mail to the Authors Marketing Club alerting them about the glitch, and I’ll update this post if I hear back from them.

Although I have offered free, review copies through Goodreads (10 paperback copies); Library Thing (25 paperback copies), and complementary copies for internet book-blog tours, I have never run a free giveaway for the “My Splendid Concubine” e-book, and I don’t think I ever will.  Ninety-nine cents is as cheap as it’s going to get.

Why?

Mainly because in 2008, a copyright pirate—without permission—offered the 1st edition of “My Splendid Concubine” as a free pirated download, and it hit #1 on the piracy download list that year.

Being the number-one most pirated book in 2008 isn’t exactly something to fall in love with.

I discovered the piracy while I was shopping one day, and a clerk at Fry’s [the electronics warehouse] recognized my name because he read about the novel breaking records being downloaded from pirated sites—it seems that there were tens of thousands of downloads. I think this is another example of Murphy’s Law.

Expecting the ad through the Author Marketing Club to run on Wednesday, I announced the sale through Twitter early Wednesday morning, and I think the following tweets resulted in maybe three or four sales that day.  But the sale will continue through October 1.

 99ȼ -75% off@ http://goo.gl/gHVuVB City Weekend Magazine says “a stunning work”; Midwest Book Review said “highly recommended”

#OnSale 99ȼ@ #iTunes http://goo.gl/5iQpu #AwardWinning My Splendid Concubine-the #LoveStory Sir Robert Hart hid from the world until now

#OnSale 99ȼ @ #Kobo http://goo.gl/Au8gM9 #AwardWinning My Splendid Concubine-the #LoveStory Sir Robert Hart hid from the world until now

#OnSale 99ȼ @ #Nook http://goo.gl/OZytMX #AwardWinning My Splendid Concubine-the #LoveStory Sir Robert Hart hid from the world until now

“Probably the best book I have read since Lonesome Dove” is #OnSale @ #Amazon http://goo.gl/gHVuVB  MySplendidConcubine #LoveStory #awards

Kindle_LR_e-book_cover_MSC_July_25_2013e-book cover (the paperback has a different cover)

Promoting “My Splendid Concubine” has been an ongoing job that I started in 2008 with Internet book-blog tours in addition to author events at several local independent brick-and-mortar bookstores in the Bay area. I was also a guest on thirty traditional, broadcast-radio talk shows—a few of those interviews may still be around as podcasts. There is a link or two in the top bar on the book’s Website @ My Splendid Concubine.

Then in 2010, I took more than one workshop and learned how to Blog properly and launched several Blogs: iLook China.net; Crazy Normal; The Soulful Veteran, and Anything Goes @ Lloyd Lofthouse.org where this post appears.

For more than three years I relied on blogging to promote my work and the sales numbers indicate that the posts I was writing for my blogs worked. For example, iLookChina has had almost a half-million visits to the site.

And in 2008—without the blogs—“My Splendid Concubine” only sold 221 copies, and in 2009, 341 copies.

Judge for yourself if building a proper author-platform blog pays off—In 2010, Concubine sold  2,375 copies; in 2011, 4,641, and in 2012, 4,158.

In 2013, I decided to advertise on the internet, and my first ad ran on BookBub on June 17. I kept the price at .99ȼ for a week before changing it back to $3.99. That first ad campaign through BookBub resulted in the sale of almost 3,000 copies that month and the highest royalty check I’ve earned so far for one month’s sales.

The second ad campaign ran through eReader News Today (ENT) and that ad ran on September 1, and the sale stretched for one week @ 99ȼ.  Three-hundred-sixty-four copies sold while the price was discounted.

Total sales of Concubine have reached more than 16,000 since it was first published and continues to sell a few copies daily even when it isn’t on sale. For example, between the two September sales the book sold more than sixty copies at the full price of $3.99.

Over the years, the novel has placed in fifteen juried literature festivals where less than 5% of entries earn awards and it has been reviewed by the Midwest Book Review.

Although Midwest charges a reading fee to submit an e-book for a review, there is no fee to submit a paperback for a review, and I have only submitted paperbacks to this review site that was established in 1976 to serve academic library organizations in California, Wisconsin, and the upper Midwest. It selects about 450 books to review out of the 1,500 submitted each month.

The Midwest Book Review said “My Splendid Concubine” was a strong pick for historical fiction collections and was highly recommended.

Most authors who want to find readers and sell books must promote his or her work. In this post, I have briefly outlined what I have done to find readers for my work. This has been my experience and in no way guarantees a similar experience for other authors.

There is one more example of Murphy’s law interfering with a book launch. In March of this year a tribe of cyber-sociopaths attacked me and my second novel, “Running with the Enemy” as it was being launched, and this attack resulted in a number of 1-star ratings on Goodreads from anonymous bullies who never read the book, and the first review on Amazon—1-star from a troll called Miss M, who never bought or read the book. There is a comment thread for that 1-star review littered with attacks from cyber sociopaths all linked to the same Goodreads group—along with Miss M who is also a member of that tribe. The group calls itself Badly Behaving Authors and some of the members of that group are authors so the name fits.

But promote you must—if you want to find readers—and as I have discovered, the journey can sometimes be full of potholes as described by Murphy’s Law.

Discover Anchee’s Website

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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