In-depth looks at my writing are something I try to avoid here, as I want this blog to be about more than just the craft of writing, however, I’ve got this New Year’s Resolution to keep my blog up more than I have been and only a few ideas for content. Ended up asking around for topic ideas, and this one came up as something that may be interesting to people (or at the very least other writers in of anthro fiction).
Before I get too deep into things, I want to give some context to the information I’m sharing. Currently, I only have two books published (In Honor’s Shadow and By Duty Bound, which I just published). Both books are anthropomorphic low fantasy targeting the young adult demographic and are part of the same series. Neither book moves in enough volume for me to really give hard data on trends or anything, but I do feel like I have some anecdotal impressions that may be worthwhile.
There are also some notable differences between the launch of the two books. In Honor’s Shadow was launched early in the year (late February), while By Duty Bound launched much later (early September). In Honor’s Shadow was released immediately upon completion, while By Duty Bound had a 1 month preorder period. Both books were initially offered for 2.99USD as part of a special launch sale. Both books also participated in Furry Book Month the year of their launch, where they went on sale for 2.99USD a second time.
With regards to editing, In Honor’s Shadow saw more people helping with proofreading it than By Duty Bound did, however By Duty Bound got more outside help on the structural side and benefited from automated assistance in editing which In Honor’s Shadow did not (initially) receive. It is also worth noting that By Duty Bound is roughly 30% longer than In Honor’s Shadow.
Finally, it is important to note that with the release of By Duty Bound I have decided to drop the price of In Honor’s Shadow to 0.99USD going forward.
I must admit that the lead-up to the launch of my second book went MUCH more smoothly than the launch for my first one. This is probably to be expected, as I knew what I was doing this time, but I really feel like having the firm launch date set with my pre-order period made it easier to know where my focus should be at any given time.
By contrast, In Honor’s Shadow basically saw me doing a mad sprint to get the book edited one last time the week of launch, followed by a scramble to compile everything into the various formats used by the various stores. To be 100% clear, I was still making minor changes to By Duty Bound in the final days as well, but these were largely much less critical changes in my opinion.
I should also mention that despite having less human help on the proofreading side of things, I definitely had the sense that By Duty Bound was much better edited in that regard than In Honor’s Shadow. This is quite possibly because the types of errors I tend to make may be the sorts that are easily flagged by automated systems. It should also be pointed out that using automated tools did not reduce the amount of time the book spent getting proofread but rather was used alongside a more normal process to help catch issues that were missed.
Pre-order vs. Immediate Launch
Here I am going to again be clear that my numbers aren’t yet large enough to speak confidently about trends so I will be talking about how the results felt compared to the immediate launch.
Personally, I liked the pre-order period, and although I am not sure if the duration was correct I feel like for where I am (and my decision to not advertise yet) that going for only 1 month was probably the correct choice. The nicest thing about the pre-order is that all the sales from the pre-order period get piled into the day of the launch, which is great for store ranking. By Duty Bound got noticeably higher ranked in its categories than In Honor’s Shadow did at launch. Advertising coupled with a longer pre-order period would almost certainly compound this.
Did the pre-order get me more sales? Maybe. The sales were higher, but I am not sure if that is because of anything I did or just random chance causing a fluctuation in my numbers. I feel like it helped, but that may just be an illusion from having been able to see my sales numbers accumulate pre-launch during the pre-order period. What I can say for sure, though, is that it certainly did not HURT. If I was going to change anything, I think it would be to make the pre-order period have a unique deal instead of keeping the price at 2.99USD even after launch (which I shall address later).
Furry Book Month
Here is a major difference I feel results from the timing of my book release: I definitely feel that Furry Book Month helped In Honor’s Shadow noticeably more than By Duty Bound. When By Duty Bound launched it had been on pre-order for 2.99USD through August, and then on a launch sale for the same price all through September. Thus, when October arrived, I decided to simply continue the sale through Furry Book Month. I do not feel this was the incorrect decision, but given the timing of my book’s launch it meant that the book had been sold for 2.99USD for 2 straight months before Furry Book Month, so going on for an extra month really isn’t a big deal.
In Honor’s Shadow launched at the end of February, however. It also went for 2.99USD during its launch month, but then went up to the intended 4.99 price point for the next 6 months (April-September) before dropping back down to 2.99USD for Furry Book Month. This looks like a far superior deal to me, and allowed me to make a better advertisement push.
Although this isn’t something I would change, it is worth keeping in mind. I intend to participate in Furry Book Month again next year so it will be interesting to see if there is any difference.
Things to Try Next
Thinking ahead to my future book releases, there are only two things I think I should try going forward: advertising and pre-order window. This would be a big step forward in terms of what I am doing to get my books sold, but it seems like where I need to start headed as I will have 3 books out (when Honor’s Path #3 launches). This also brings into frame a whole mess of new things to think about. Book releases will need to have more consideration into their timing than just “when it is finished” since the pre-order window will need to coincide with an advertising campaign. This, in turn, means that ads will need to be designed and campaigns arranged ahead of time.
And of course, this also carries the risk of being bungled such that the return doesn’t offset the additional costs. I have a lot of questions about advertising that I’ll need to look into. For example, is it better to focus my advertising efforts on the period where the book first goes on pre-order, or should I ramp things up as it gets closer to the release? Or perhaps a sustained campaign is best, ensuring that my message is presented to the target audience as often as possible. How long should I continue advertising after the book’s official launch? This is all stuff that I’ll need to consider, and I’ll definitely be looking for some material to read covering it.