Process: Rookie Writer to Authorpreneur

Fried Potato Press started with a question, can E.R. write a positively criticized book by Kirkus Reviews, a reviewer that won’t hesitate to give any book a negative evaluation?

So I looked at the three book ideas I had ready to go. The best one was easy, it had to be saved. The second best had complications, because the co-writer and I copyrighted it. The third best a.k.a. the worst, had no obstacles, since its registration with the Writers Guild had expired and it had minimal personal connection to myself.

The story I chose started off as a screenplay I wrote for a client. So, I turned the screenplay into a third person narrative, which became Remedy, my debut novel. But, it actually became a sacrificial lamb, surrendered to the cosmos to help me learn the business of publishing and selling books. I felt this lamb would make it easier to grasp an undesirable analysis from Kirkus, and if a negative one came, then the decision to kill the entire project would be stress-free.

Doing this as the initial market test for my novel was a gamble, because I knew that the critique by Kirkus Reviews had a high probability of going bad. Nonetheless, they gave me an encouraging criticism. Although I was happy with the positivity, I loved the things they pointed out that could have been cut. Specifically speaking, it was the sex scenes, which were scenes that I was also uncomfortable with, but kept due to advice from a Hollywood insider who was going to produce and direct the screenplay version. I also left the sex in there when I wrote the novel adaptation, because I thought that it would be a good way to see what others would say.

I proceeded to put my book through more tests, so I started to use Twitter for differentiated marketing. It wasn’t that successful and led to hardly any sales, but I tried every day while reading advice from other self-published authors. These informational books mainly came from emails from BookBaby. This guidance led me to try the free Kindle option through Amazon.com. The first free promotion went horrible, but I concluded that I needed to research hashtags and other resources to increase visibility. The second one went well during Amazon Prime Day, but I still hadn’t tried one of the many services out there that specialize in marketing eBooks.

Finally, I tried one of these eBook marketing services, and through research I learned to focus on the ones using email subscribers. In early 2016, I tried Freebooksy to begin the undifferentiated marketing phase, and was floored by the results. I had never known statistics like these in all my attempts to promote my novel. When I read the places where people downloaded from, I was amazed that people from other parts of the world had downloaded it. This was remarkable, because I had never tried this before. So I figured since this is still a market test, let’s see what happens with more free Kindle promotions.

I looked at all my options and learned that I still don’t qualify for some of the larger free eBook promoters. Therefore, I picked the ones I could work with. So far I’ve tried Books Butterfly once, Freebooksy twice, and Bknights once. All of them produced the numbers that I expected, but the second run with Freebooksy blew me away, because it helped Remedy become the #1 ranked free Kindle in crime fiction on the day of promotion.

The other goal of the undifferentiated marketing phase was to get reviews. At first, I received ratings on GoodReads that ranged from 1 to 5 stars. This data was an excellent starting point, but came without verbiage. Luckily, reviews arrived later, because they are critical in my data gathering that will improve my second novel. The favorable analyses were great and inspiring, because they taught me that I appeal to readers. For a rookie like me, favorable reviews are a breeze that could make my cheeks feel cool on a sticky hot day.

As for the critical reviews, I saw them as constructively informative, because I needed that sort of data as well. The one star reviews enlightened me because they agreed with some points that I knew were weaknesses in the novel, and that gave me confidence in my ability to know what should and shouldn’t be in my work. Overall, the critiques were outstanding to my growth as an author, and I know they will be crucial in developing the best second novel I could write.

The market testing was fun, but as a self-published author I realized I need to learn more about business. So I enrolled in college to attain a business degree to go along with my English degree before releasing my second book.

Until then, I must get back on the submission train. Choo! Choo!

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