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Publishing strategies for a free novellette

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by skip.knox, Aug 9, 2016.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I have one novelette on Amazon Kindle, which I can take down any time as it has had no marketing and no readers. I have a novel nearing completion, which I'm shopping to agents. I also have a short story in an online mag.

    Now I have another novelette, 14k. I can use either as my leader, but my intent is to offer one for free, then offer the other for free to anyone who signs up to my mailing list. My question to the Dearly Assembled is: where would you offer the public free one? Smashwords? Amazon? [Nook]? All of them? The last option is, as I understand it, a bit problematic to achieve on Amazon.

    I welcome all comments, especially those from people who have already done this.
  2. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Skip, what subgenre of fantasy is the novelette? Would you mind posting the cover/blurb here for us to see? That way I can provide you with more specific advice.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Novelette is a length category, like novella and novel. The hierarchy goes novel -> novella -> novelette -> short story.

    Here's the blurb:
    Quinn-the-Sprite has been set up. His only chance to escape the hangman is to help the wizards of the Black Isle unlock a door. Tricky. Especially when guarded by a house that talks to ogres.
  4. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Okay...I'll do my best to give you what I know:

    1) Could you please post a pic of the cover if you have one yet? The cover is absolutely the most important thing in all of this (aside from the story). It'll signal to the readers you're aiming for that this story is for them!

    2) Work on that blurb. It's not strong enough or intriguing. My suggestion is to head to the Amazon best sellers list and go through the shorts gracing the fantasy lists. Study a couple of those blurbs and take note of their pattern. Blurb is the 2nd most important thing to signal your readers: Amazon Best Sellers: Best Kindle Store

    Bryan Cohen wrote a book on blurbs that is super helpful and amazing. Not kidding. GET THAT BOOK and redo your blurb.

    3) If your goal is to be read and build a mailing list, then enrolling this novelette in Kindle Unlimited will be the most helpful to you. It's possible to put it out there on the other sites...BUT the readership is smaller and Amazon gives you free days, etc to play with. That said, here are some options:

    -Enroll the novelette in Kindle Unlimited and price it at $0.99.
    -Take 5 free days provided for you through being in Kindle Unlimited. Schedule promos that are only for free books during those 5 days. If you have social media, schedule that in, too. There is Freebooksy, BK Nights on Fiverr, and a few others that you can find by going to the Writer's Cafe @Kboards.

    You will schedule your promos with the strongest one(s) starting on the FIRST day of your free days. For example, if you schedule a Freebooksy AND BK Nights, do them BOTH on the first day. Then, your weakest promos will tag along.

    Day One: strongest promo
    Day Two: second strongest promo,
    Days 3-5: weakest promos and on the last day, schedule in your social media/blog followers, etc

    4) Put out the next book within 30-90 days if possible. Like, this is where you will get a boost if you're going for numbers.

    5) On the front and back matter of your book, place a link or note about your reader magnet, which you will use to bait in mailing list subscribers. If I were you, I would use a longer piece, like a novel or novella, as the loss leader and the novelette as the reader magnet. This may not be what you have available right now though, sounds like.

    6) Key words. You want to put every single keyword you can possibly think of for Amazon to properly categorize your story. For example: fantasyorcmagicalcreaturespixiesfairiesfarawayland <----that's one keyword. Get my drift?

    Just a few pointers for you. My experience with novelettes is that they haven't sold worth a damn, but then again, I didn't have them properly packaged. Make sure that you have yours packaged very well! Cover, blurb, and title are you reader beacons. If these 3 things aren't right to your subgenre and story, then you might not see a lot of sales/reads. Just guessing outright that you're probably in the sword and sorcery category.

    Last, don't be in a rush. Get things right the first time but also expect to make mistakes. You'll learn because the curve is freaking steep and other things will start making sense. Keep promoing that book until you get the next one out.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2016
    skip.knox likes this.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Thanks, that's just what I was looking for. I agree about getting it right. There's a narrow window upon release. Do it right and you gain momentum. Do it wrong and there's no recovering. Try again with a different book. *shudder*

    The novel isn't finished yet. My notion is to give the first novelette away publicly. Give away second to subscribers. And have the novel ready in the next few months. The wrinkle on that is I really want to find an agent for the novel, so that stretches out the novel timeline.

    Five days free is fine, but what I really want (I think) is permafree. So would this strategy make sense?

    1. Do all prep work, of course.
    2. Publish to KDP and take the five days.
    3. Do the weird gyrations necessary to achieve permafree. Slight risk here, as the gyrations don't always work and you end up with perma-.99
    4. Step 3 gyrations include publishing to Smashwords, etc.
  6. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    My understanding is that you can have a permafree in KU but I'm unsure as to how that goes. Here's the deal though: readership in KU is different than the readership wide. You must choose which one you desire to step into. KU/Amazon is the best deal when it comes to building an audience as a new author. With KU, you can keep that novelette for free for readers enrolled in the program, and KU has a larger audience than wide does. Also, it takes time to gain traction wide and since the pot is smaller, Amazon would be much more to your advantage. Granted, the decision is yours and you can always play around with it. Also, a permafree novelette isn't going to pull the weight that you're seeking necessarily. A novel would. However, if you're looking gain an agent for it, then why go through all the trouble of doing this with the novelette?

    What I'm saying is that publishing Indie and publishing traditionally are two different beasts, and if you go with one then I'd put the other one aside for now. Reason being is that these projects sound like they are tied in together with your goals. Do you want a readership now? Do you want to make money? Is it more important to see your writing in print?

    I'll give it to you straight: if you want a readership, go Indie. Your novel is what's going to bring in those readers. If you only give readers a novelette as a brand new author, that's not going to do that much for you. Take it from someone who has tried that, seen others try that, and seen not much results that way. Yes, there are Indie authors out there doing well for themselves with short fiction but they also publish over and over and over again. You only have one novelette. Not trying to discourage you but I also don't want you to waste your time doing any of this marketing stuff if you're going to cut off readers before they even begin a journey with you.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Even with trad pub, houses want to know about your platform, so it makes sense to have that already in progress when the Big Call comes. If the novel doesn't have an agent after four to six months, then it goes indie, but I have to try. And if selling a novelette online is tough, it's nearly impossible to the traditional houses.

    I have two novelettes--The Garden of Hugo Vuerloz, and Mad House. Eventually, once I ha.ve two or three novels, I may offer one of those as incentive, but right now this is what I have. There are more novels waiting to be written, but I absolutely have to get Goblins at the Gates finished. It's a first novel. It will likely be somewhere between mediocre and sucky. But I can't jump the other hurdles until I jump the first one.

    Thanks for the response. Hoping to hear other voices as well.
  8. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I have given some thought to your circumstances and you are in a tricky spot. Let me green light a few thoughts for you. I don't claim they will give you an answer but might help in your considerations.

    You are quite right that even traditional publishing houses want to know about your platform. They also have other concerns as well.

    I think you should look for ways to build your platform and identity beyond just giving away short works for free. Some people I am talking to in traditional publishing right now are using those shorter works to fill in the time gap between novels written and published in the more normal course, let's say about a year apart. They often do this in just e-form to keep momentum or buzz going around a series or author, particularly when the author is not coming out in two versions for the first book (i.e. hard and soft cover, or trade and mass market whatever).

    Let me give you an example to make the approach clearer. A friend of mine sold his first book through a smaller publisher and it came out as trade paper and e with no mass market version. The book took off very well and it created a fair bit of attention and buzz, but he next book was not due out for a year. So to try and keep the buzz going my friend and his publisher decided to put out a e only novella in between. Your material that you are now thinking of using to build your platform could be used for that purpose later, even in the traditional world.

    Now some of this depends on how prolific you are. IF you can bang out short stories or novellas etc quickly and with quality you might not care and might use them to build you platform for you now. IF they take a while for you to do well you may want to hold them back and spend those assets more strategically.

    You might want to consider building your platform or brand other ways. Something you might want to do is try to get a great set of blurbs now, even before you have an agent. Good blurbs like that can really help sell a book.

    Platform building is a long term strategy to my mind. I would suggest that starting to work hard at it about two to three years before traditional publication is acceptable, while working at it for twice that long is optimal.
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Your suggestions are about what I have in mind. I was not clear enough that I want to give away Mad House in public, then give The Garden of Hugo Vuerloz as a free e-pub to subscribers, with a couple other short stories as continuing gifts for sticking around. I also have a variety of articles on my web site, with more in the works, all of which are also free. I have a blog, but it's just too much to keep it up. Twitter annoys me with its endless ads. Altearth does have a Facebook page, but I struggle with how to use it, given the email list plus web site.

    Complicating factors are two, one of which I can do something about. One, I'm a month short of sixty-five. Long-term just keeps getting shorter, though it's still long enough for some good to come of it. Two, I write slowly -- I'm the Abominable Slow Man. Hah! I am trying to overcome a lifetime of behavior and perhaps innate personality to move more quickly. Watching one's parents and parents-in-law fade toward death is gruesomely inspirational in this regard.

    On the plus side, I have roughly a gajillion (give or take a thousand) stories waiting to be written. There's little likelihood of hitting a dry spell.

    But I've wandered far from the OP, which was far more modest: do I put Mad House, my free public offering, on Amazon only or go wide, as the KDP saying has it? If it's Amazon only, my inclination is to go KDP, but I'm open to counter-arguments, especially ones supported by experience.

    Thanks to all who have responded so far. I welcome all comments, even (or especially) the OT ones.

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