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  • gardnerjg

Post-launch evaluation for my debut fantasy novel

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

It's been one month since The Path From Regret was published and I thought it was time to take stock of what went well, celebrate the successes, and consider how to best move forward.

I chose to not hire a publicist because they are a poor investment given the frustrations and lack of results that I heard about from other authors. Therefore, I sent emails out myself to book bloggers, podcast hosts, local news media, bookstores, and libraries to promote my novel. I have never been on social media and didn't want to start just to promote my book, so there would be no help coming from Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Finally, I chose to go with a competitor to NetGalley, called BookSirens, which was far more economical in terms of getting early reviews for my book. With that foundation, how did things turn out?

By not hiring a publicist I saved $6k, which was the average cost for a book launch that promised nothing other than an attempt to get reviews and media coverage. The contracts I reviewed were very clear that I was gambling and there was no guarantee that I would get anything of value from them. I feel that I made the right choice, especially since the authors I've spoken with have been mostly unhappy with what they got from their publicists. Now maybe they got a bad one, but regardless of who they worked with, these authors all had very similar experiences and complaints.

With no social media, which I argue is suspect for giving a significant boost in meaningful visibility, my success with reaching out to bloggers, etc. was rather poor. I carefully researched book bloggers that seemed to be a good fit to review my novel and emailed 30 of them. In the end, four said yes, two said no, and the rest just ignored me, so the overall success rate for bloggers was about 10%. I had slightly better results for podcasts. I contacted 15 podcast producers and three said yes, two said no, and the rest never responded, which gave a success rate of 20%. Despite the small number, I'm very happy with how the interviews and podcast episodes turned out, and I've got links to all of them on my Media page. I intend to keep looking for bloggers and podcasters that are a good fit to discuss the novel for the next few months.

Overall, with the very affordable price and ease of use, I think BookSirens was a decent alternative over NetGalley. That being said, my success in getting early reviews was not very good. When I stopped the eARC promotion on BookSirens, which lasted three months, here were the final results:

How I interpret these numbers is that my success rate with BookSirens was between 6% and 3.5%. The former number is how successful the cover was at getting potential readers to click the "read back cover" link, and the latter number was how many people actually downloaded the eARC after reading the back cover. I think that next time I would add a book giveaway through the GoodReads Author Program. This has a non-trivial cost, but given the huge reach of GoodReads I think it would be better than just using BookSirens alone.

The most gratifying success I've had so far has been with public libraries. Once I had my publishing contract this became the big goal, because while it is pretty easy to get a book listed on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, it's much harder to get it into a library. Right now the novel can be checked out at public libraries in Maryland, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Arizona. A very big thank you to my friends and family who made acquisitions requests.

After reading this far you might be wondering why I haven't talked about what you'd expect authors to care the most about: sales. I could certainly contact my publisher and ask, but I don't see much point. Making lots of money from the novel was never the dream, it was just to be published. I've tried very hard not to move the goalposts and now think that success is if the book sells well or gets lots of reviews. If I start stressing about those things, then writing won't be a fun hobby anymore. If/When the royalty checks arrive, however small, I'm going to celebrate them because they are a great bonus. In the meantime, I'm going to keep working on my next novel and try to get that published. That's the new goal.

Thanks for stopping by.

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