Today I am interviewing Heather Day Gilbert, who is talking about the release of her first novel, God’s Daughter, which I recently reviewed on Iola’s Christian Reads. Heather’s second novel, Miranda Warning, will release on 20 June 2014.
What platform did you have prior to the launch of God’s Daughter?
I’m so thankful I had an agent who encouraged me to build my platform while my book was out on submission (it was out for almost a year and a half!). In that time, I joined Pinterest, Twitter, and started a Facebook Author Page. I changed my email, website, and twitter handle to reflect my author name (not an idea, like @vikingwritergal). I joined with two other authors, Becky Doughty and Jennifer Major, in a group website dedicated to the love of fiction and the need to nurture marriages (Married…with Fiction, which is no longer an active blog).
So by the time I realized God wanted me to self-publish my Viking novel, I had a firm platform in place. I would say I had at least 1,000 twitter followers and 200 Facebook fans at that time. I truly feel Facebook is where I connect most easily–it doesn’t require long posts so I can get relevant info out fast and regularly touch base with readers. Pinterest is also a wonderful way to connect with other Viking-lovers all over the world.
Since my launch, I’ve added more outlets–a newsletter email list, a Goodreads/Amazon author page, and a Soundcloud account (for my audiobook).
What was the strategy/planning behind your book launch? Where did you get your information and ideas?
I got my ideas two ways:
- Reading self-publishing blogs, such as The Creative Penn.
- Watching traditionally published authors’ marketing strategies very carefully and emulating what I could afford to.
What activities did you undertake to launch your book?
I’ve actually run a 4-part series on this topic on my blog, titled “So You’ve Decided to Self-Publish“.
The first and most critical step is to have a great blurb and cover art in place (not to mention a well-edited book!).
The second step was to lock in early readers, so the early reviews on Goodreads/Amazon were well-thought. Then I gave them 2-3 months to read and/or endorse the book.
The third step was building buzz for my book (I pulled quotes from my book and created pinnables, did vlogs, lined up blog tour, etc).
The final step involved the actual launch–sticking to a firm launch date, getting the CreateSpace softcovers loaded, and giving myself a little wiggle room while formatting for different uploads (Smashwords is different than Kindle, etc). This stage also involves book giveaways on blogs, Goodreads, etc. And the marketing at this stage goes on endlessly.
How long did that take? How difficult was it?
My novel, God’s Daughter, released November 1, 2013. I was marketing for at least 2 months ahead of that to build buzz, then I did about 39 guest posts for the blog tour over the course of 2-3 months, and I honestly haven’t stopped marketing since.
I knew I had to give over 100% to get the word out on my debut novel, or I’d be invisible in a sea of Amazon books. I tried not to cross the line into spamming territory (scheduled tweets, etc), but I was an aggressive marketer. I actually enjoy marketing.
I think the key to marketing is believing, at your core, that your novel is worth reading and sharing. I was passionate about this novel because I believed people don’t know enough about this period of Viking exploration and they like to ignore the fact that some Vikings were documented Christians. Also, women played a huge and undeniable role in Viking society, as my main character historically sailed with all three husbands…and with one to North America, no less! I also strongly believe we need more CBA books with married main characters readers can relate to, not just dating characters.
How successful was the launch (and how do you define success)?
In my mind, it was quite successful, because it exceeded my expectations (though I try to keep my expectations low!). God’s Daughterhit three bestselling lists on launch day, as well as the Hot New Release lists. It stayed on those for about a week or two. It has stayed on the Amazon Norse/Icelandic Bestseller list for seven months now. I think creating buzz around release day had a lot to do with it. Not to mention God’s blessing!
The book continues to reach people and garner reviews, and was recently picked up to be sold at the Royal BC Museum Vikings exhibit. There is now an audiobook version of God’s Daughter on Audible.com (narrated by my crit partner, Becky Doughty, of Bravehearts Audio). So I feel the book will continue to expand its reach.
But the real definition of success is finding readers who are hungry for this novel and find it unforgettable. That just revives my little author heart and makes me want to keep bringing books to them.
I saw you used NetGalley to get book reviews. What made you decide to use NetGalley?
How NetGalley work for you? Would you use it again? Did it represent value for money? Would you recommend it to other indie authors?
I would not do it again the same way I did. I paid for a monthly slot, but it was with a publishing house that primarily sells romance. Therefore, I think the readers came into it thinking my book was romance (it is not categorized that way, since the main character is married, although I would call it a love story). Not onlydid I receive very few reviews from that, the reviews I received weren’t stellar, as I think it hit the entirely wrong demographic.
I found the most effective strategies for garnering reviews were:
- Tracking down every book reviewer I could find who reviewed historicals and offering an ebook in exchange for honest review (time consuming!).
- Doing a Kindle Freebie of the book, which necessitated pulling it from Barnes and Noble (Smashwords) and going with Kindle Select. This garnered some reviews from non-demographic readers, but it also reached many soon-to-be-loyal readers I couldn’t reach otherwise.
What will you repeat for your upcoming book launch? What will you change?
Great question! This time around, I’m not focusing so heavily on author endorsements. For my debut novel, I wanted as many as possible to prove I wasn’t a complete unknown quantity. But I’ve asked my Facebook fans about this, and most say they rarely, if ever, read endorsements, unless it’s an unknown author. I do have a couple so far, which I’m so thankful for, but that is not my focus this time.
I’m also not lining up such a strenuous blog tour. I’m pretty wiped out, having gone basically nonstop from about June 2013. When my mystery, Miranda Warning, releases June 20th this year, I am hoping I can pull back from marketing somewhat. That said, I don’t truly believe books will just sell themselves. As an author, you need to stay on top of your sales (which is sadly impossible for traditionally published authors), and tweak your marketing strategies to fit your numbers. This is a true benefit of being an indie author. I can implement marketing ideas and see immediately if they’re working or not. I’ve definitely had some hits and misses!
And I’m starting out with only a softcover version and Kindle version of this book, so I’m going with Kindle Select, versus trying to upload to Smashwords (Barnes & Noble) as well. I love having control over my freebie/discount dates.
What advice would you give to other authors about to launch their book?
My best advice (primarily for indie authors) is don’t rush the launch process. I love having a firm launch date, but I try to set it late enough so that I give my early readers time to read and so I can make sure my cover art/formatting is in place.
For traditionally published authors, I would say be as involved in the marketing process as you can be. I know your hands are tied on scheduling freebies/discounts on your books, but you can build your Facebook page, pin pics of your book topic, etc. I know many traditionally published authors are doing marketing work, outside the publicity firms.
To be perfectly honest, I think one author, 100% dedicated to getting the word out on his/her book, can be as effective as a publicity firm. We might not be able to afford expensive electronic gadgets as giveaway gifts, but we can keep the pedal to the metal and be relentless in our marketing. And I believe that’s what it takes. A publicity firm only works on one book a limited amount of time. As an author, you can promote your book at any time. This is something I’ve definitely learned from being an independent author.
Thank you so much for having me, Iola! What wonderful questions, and I hope this interview encourages many authors out there!
HEATHER DAY GILBERT enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Seventeen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling. Heather regularly posts on Novel Rocket about self-publishing.
You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Audible.com. Her Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, will release June 20th.