Author Interview–Aila Stephens

Everyone loves to hear how a launch goes. Was it successful? How many books did they sell their first day? Their first week? How many page reads did they have if they were enrolled in Kindle Unlimited?

Book launches are exciting.
◊Cover reveal!
◊Excerpts!
◊Author interviews!
◊Blog tours!

But what about after? There is always going to be someone else who releases a book and our attention will be jerked away by a shiny new cover.

What happens after the launch? What happens months after the first week of sales? How does an author keep the momentum going?

I spoke with author Aila Stephens to find out. Listen in—maybe she’ll tell us all her secrets.

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You launched Sex, Love, and Formalities, the companion to Sex, Love, and Technicalities in November of 2017. How did that launch go for you? Can you give us a quick rundown of what you did to prepare? You hosted a giveaway, as well, correct?

Sure! I drank a lot of coffee. I panicked a little…no, no. I mean, yes, I did those things, but really, I talked Formalities up on social media a little more than I did when I launched its’ predecessor. I had much better-looking bookmarks printed up, and I spent a little more time and money on the book trailer than I did for the first one. I love having a book trailer for my books. It’s mostly a total vanity thing, but they’re still fairly rare in the indie community. Giveaways are pretty hit or miss, I don’t think that’s a secret, but I look at them as a necessary evil.

I did have a giveaway. It’s no secret that giveaways are pretty hit or miss, and there’s never any rhyme or reason to how many participants you get, but this one had decent participation. I gave away two signed copies of my books along with coffee and tea, a mug, and even a nice shawl to throw over the shoulders as it was quickly turning wintertime.

That was a great giveaway! I was bummed I couldn’t enter. You also did a free book promo for book one during the launch of book two using some of your free days allowed to you in the KDP Select program. Can you explain how you promoted that, if you did? If I remember correctly, your stats for that free book were rather impressive.

I promoted using Twitter and my Facebook author page.

I am going to strangle myself for this, but I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how many free copies of Technicalities were downloaded during those days, but it was several hundred—maybe even closing in on a thousand. I’d tell you concretely, but apparently, Amazon won’t let me go back that far. Whatever it was, the top ranking I got on Amazon that day was #14, for Women’s Fictions > Crime, and I believe it was #20 for Women’s Fiction > Romance.

That’s fantastic! Did your free promotion for book one bolster sales for book two?

In the weeks following that free promotion, I did have several thousand “normalized pages” of Formalities being read on Kindle Unlimited, which was very nice.

…If only all those free books and KU pages led to reviews, right?

It’s hard to tell if the sales of Formalities since then have been directly related to that free promotion, though I suspect most are.

Did you find it easier to launch book two since it was a sequel?

I did. I had so many—so very many—mistakes I learned from with Technicalities. I think that’s kind of a great thing though, learning from one’s own mistakes. I made a few with Formalities which I hope to avoid with the next book, and I’m sure I’ll make some with it that I’ll try and avoid with the one after that…and so on and so forth.

What are you doing, four months after your launch, to keep sales going? And are your methods working?

Still drinking coffee, still panicking. Ha! No. It’s not in my nature to go for the hard-sell. I do share pictures of my covers from time to time on Instagram, though it’s fruitless. What I think has helped me the most to see continued sells and KU reads has been my blog. I didn’t have the best track record of consistently blogging, but after my launch, I decided to make blogging my second priority to writing more books. I blog every Monday and every other Thursday. I’m still trying to wean myself from blogging just to other writers and figuring out how the heck you blog for readers, but I digress.

At the end of every blog post I include a small, hopefully unobtrusive, advertisement I made for my books and I link it to them on Amazon. I have noticed that I usually sell something on Tuesdays and/or Fridays, and my KU pages have remained rather steady.

This is a comfortable way for me to garner attention to my books without me feeling like a spam-artist.

Again…if only those translated to reviews.

What have you learned from either of your books to help you launch and maintain momentum for your next book?

I want to give a little more time between finishing the book and launching the book. With this next one I want to seek out ARC reviewers on YouTube (which, honestly, excites me and kills me a little on the inside), and I also want to spread out smaller, but still impressive, giveaways. I am still researching some launch tactics, but these are the main ones I intend to employ this go-round.

Do you have any tips for those who are seeing declining sales after their launch?

I would ask them what they’re doing to keep putting it in front of people. Like I said, there isn’t a soul out there who can say I’ve sent them an auto-DM going, BUY MY BOOK!! But I endeavor to have a quality blog I drive traffic to several times a month, in the hopes that by the time someone gets to the bottom, they’re intrigued enough to take a look at my books.

You can’t publish a book and then expect people to find it without a little elbow grease.

Have you ruled out paying for ads or promotions?

Not at all! I just don’t want to do it for two books. Once my next book comes out, I’ll shell out a little money for advertising and see what comes of it. Three is by no means the magic number, but I will chalk it up to research, too. I can’t afford to be anything except financially prudent with this, but I’m excited to see what happens with it.

I’ve read the best advertisement to promote your work is to write another book. Do you believe this is true?

Absolutely. I wish I had the ability to write full-time so I could crank them out faster. I think in today’s world, we’re all so accustomed to instant-satisfaction that we don’t want to fall in love with a book or an author if they’re not producing anything else. It’d be like watching The Paradise on Netflix and falling in love with it only to learn they shucked it after two seasons. We binge-watch in this day and age, and readers binge-read. This is why there is so much advice out there saying book series are the moneymakers.

…says the girl writing a standalone book right now.

Think of Harper Lee. To Kill A Mockingbird is a priceless piece of American literature, but for the longest time—fifty-five years!—there was only one published out there by Ms. Lee. I don’t know how well that sort of publishing schedule would work in this day and age. 😉

I guess the secret is to write such a thought-provoking, moving book, that your book is mandatory reading in all schools! Thanks, Aila, for taking the time to chat with me!

Vania, thank you so much for sitting down with me again for such a lovely interview! I am always honored and humbled that someone of your talent and expertise has time for little ol’ me.

And to all of your amazing readers, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know me!

Love ya, mean it!  -Aila

Aila always makes me blush. I hope you enjoyed her interview and maybe learned a little something about how to keep the momentum after your launch from drifting away. Help keep her momentum up by downloading free copies of her books here (March 27 and 28) and give her Amazon profile a follow while you’re there. 🙂

Aila is leaving her mark all over the interwebs, and you can follow her Instagram account, Tweet with her on Twitter, like her Facebook author page, and definitely give her blog a peek. She’s in the middle of a wonderful writers’ resources series you don’t want to miss!

Thanks for reading!

 

Quotes taken from the websites in the photo captions, and photos taken from http://www.pixabay.com and http://www.unsplash.com. Graphics created with these photos in http://www.canva.com.

Basic Rundown of Terms and What They Mean

It seems as if there is a lot of confusion in the way people post things online referring to who is what and what they do, and I see this mostly on Facebook. Let me clear up some confusion for any new writers who may be looking to self-publish in the near future. Here are a few basic terms and companies described.

  • CreateSpace
    CreateSpace is the paperback publishing arm of Amazon. This is where you go to create a paperback of your book, if you’re not choosing one from a myriad of other options. You can find free templates for your cover, and free formatted templates for the interior. They are free. You don’t need an account to download these. They also have a Cover Creator with templates and font/font placement. Choose a photo (available for commercial use) and the creator will create a cover in accordance with your book’s measurements. They also have a CreateSpace Community. If you have questions, they have most likely been answered 1,000 times already.
  • KDP
    KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. This the Kindle arm of Amazon. Some people only publish on Kindle (or e-reader/tablet if they go wide {see definition below}.) The set up is much easier than putting together a paperback. Just format your file, upload your cover art, fill out all the fields for price, etc, and you’re done. Your ebook will be published on Amazon in 12 hours. They say to give them 3-5 days, but it has *never* taken that long.
  • KDP Select
    KDP Select is OPTIONAL. When you enroll your book into this program, you are promising Amazon you are not selling your e-book anywhere else, in three month blocks. That means you are not published on Nook, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, or anywhere else e-books are sold, including your own website, during that time frame. This does not have anything to do with your paperback, and you don’t have to enroll in Select even if you don’t plan to publish your e-book elsewhere. It seems people use KDP and Select interchangeably, and this is not accurate. If you enroll in Select, your book will be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, or KU. Readers with KU subscriptions can read your book as part of their subscription costs, and Amazon will still pay you for the page reads. If you want to know more about Kindle Unlimited, look here. You can unenroll any time, but KDP makes you finish out your three months, so plan ahead if you want to begin selling your books on other platforms.
  • KDP Print
    KDP Print is the paperback arm of Kindle Direct Publishing. With CreateSpace closing their online store and the creation of KDP Print, it is rumored that eventually Amazon will shut down CreateSpace. Why have two services doing the same thing? I’ve looked around KDP Print, and the submission process is similar. Even the downloadable templates are the same. The only difference is how your purchase your author copies. There was a lot of complaining at first, because KDP Print didn’t offer the same things as CreateSpace does. They are slowly changing that, though, and to me, that’s another indication that soon you won’t have a choice between the two. I only hope their customer service remains the same. I’ve had to call CreateSpace customer service on occasion, and I have always received polite and helpful service.
  • Going Wide
    Going wide means that you are not selling your e-books only on Amazon. That’s it. Lots of people don’t understand what this means, or they get confused because they don’t realize there is more than one place to sell books. There are a lot of opinions on this topic and you need to do what’s best for you and your writing and marketing plan. Currently, I’m in Select, but I feel as I add more to my backlist, I will expand. It’s never good to have all your eggs in one basket, but it may be a while before I have more than one egg.You have a couple options on how to go wide: You can upload your file to all the places yourself. Kobo recommends you upload directly to them so you can take advantage of marketing opportunities. But you can’t upload directly to iBooks unless you have a Mac and can download the necessary apps. Most people use a 3rd party aggregator such as Draft2Digital to distribute their e-books. But be aware if you do this, your royalties are lower. You pay D2D to distribute, but then you also pay the vendor for selling your book.
  • IngramSpark
    IngramSpark is the other company indies use to publish their paperbacks. They have better distribution (CreateSpace uses them to distribute) and The Alliance for Independent Authors suggests you use CreateSpace to sell your book on Amazon and use IngramSpark for other distribution. CreateSpace will give you a free ISBN number, which is why a lot of indies go that route, and CreateSpace is free (besides taking their cut of your royalties) and IngramSpark is not. Also, IngramSpark makes you purchase your ISBN through Bowker. If you decide to purchase one from Bowker, however, you can use that one for both IngramSpark and CreateSpace. That is another personal choice, and you will have to do your research and see what is best for you. If you plan to do any book signings, IngramSpark is the way to go. That way a Barnes and Noble can order your book from IngramSpark and return any that you do not sell at your signing. The cost is on you, for returned books, but bookstores do not like to deal with CreateSpace, as they view Amazon as a competitor.
  • BookBaby, Lulu
    If it all seems too much for you and you just want to upload your book and walk away, there are reputable self-publishing companies who will help you. Though I haven’t used BookBaby or Lulu, I have heard they treat you well, and don’t pressure you to buy services and products you can’t afford. Be aware that if a company offers “editing” that they do a light proofread or line edit only, and if you want developmental editing or a deeper sweep of your MS, you will need to hire that out before you submit your book to these companies. These companies are legitimate as far as I am aware. Joanna Penn even had the founder of BookBaby on as a guest on her podcast, and Joanna would never endorse a company that is not on the up-and-up. She is a member of the Alliance for Independent Authors and they are committed to helping the indie-publishing industry.These are not to be confused with other self-publishing companies run by Author Solutions. Companies such as Author House, Xlibris, and iUniverse are listed on the Writer Beware website, and you should use extreme caution when deciding with whom you will publish.

    Thanks for reading this quick guide. If you’re new to the writing and publishing scene, it may seem overwhelming, and there is never a lack of information on the internet. As always, check and double-check before you make any decisions, and always, always, be careful if you decide to pay someone for a service. It’s nice to think you can trust people you meet online, but in reality, the only person you can, and should, trust is yourself.

    Tell me what you think! And let me know how I can help.

Happy writing Vania Margene