My Experience with Robin Reads

Posted on May 7th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Self-Publishing Woes

As I think most of you are probably aware by now, Saving the Dragon was on sale this week for 99 cents. Some of you may be wondering why I did the sale so early relative to the release of Courting the Dragon next month. Well, wondering no longer. My motivation for doing the sale this week was because I was able to secure a promo slot for Saving the Dragon on Robin Reads.

Each day Robin Reads updates their site with “hot deals” aka limited time free and 99 cent eBook offers. They promote each book for one day, and the author/publisher is obliged to keep that book free or 99 cents (depending on the promotion) at least until 11:59PM that evening. Robin Reads lists their address as Florida, so I assume that’s EST/EDT. Subscribers to Robin Reads will also get those deals in their email.

There is a fee associated with getting a promo slot. For the Fantasy genre for a 99 cent promotion I paid $60 USD. The question other indie authors looking to promote their books will be wondering is… is it worth it?

It’s a little too early for me to answer that question definitively. It will be hard to really quantify how this impacts sales for Courting the Dragon next month, or Saving the Dragon in the future. The promo was on May 3rd and today is only May 7th, so I don’t know yet how many reviews and/or Goodreads ratings this will produce. However, I do have some sales numbers and some thoughts, so I’d like to share those with any authors that may be considering this.

First, the day of my Robin Reads promo was my single highest sales day. Ever. May 3rd wiped the board with my best sales months. In fact, I came very close to selling as many books as my top 2 previous sales months combined. Now, before you think that’s super impressive, let me explain that I sold 39 books between Amazon (37) and Barnes&Noble (2), the two platforms that Robin Reads links in their promotion. My previous highest sales month was around 22 books across Amazon, Apple, and Audible in April 2020.

This (relatively) huge jump in sales did wonders for my Amazon rankings. I didn’t think to snap a picture at the beginning of May, but my rankings in the individual categories were in the 4000 to 5000 range. Here is where my rankings peaked after the Robin Reads promo:

I don’t think Saving the Dragon has ever broken the top 15K for the Kindle Store bestsellers. Not even on publication day. Some may not see being #12,812 as being a big deal, but for an indie book that was published 6 years ago with little marketing until very recently, I would say that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Since the promo, my sales have fallen off, of course. However, they seem to still be slightly higher than normal. Some of that could be attributed to the on-going ad campaign for the 99 cent sale overall (paid on Facebook and just me tweeting like a crazy person). Given that the last few sales days were still higher than prior to the promotion, though, I think some of it may be a residual effect from the promo, possibly due to my improved ranking. It’s hard to know, because we don’t really get good analytics on the conversions.

So, did I make back my $60 in royalties? No.

Do I think the Robin Reads promo was worth it? In short, I think yes. Even if only 10% of the readers who purchased in rate and review it, that will bring me within spitting distance of 20 reviews. My rankings are dramatically improved, if only temporarily, which should improve the effectiveness of my very modest Amazon ads campaign (which does have good conversion metrics available, by the way). And, if all goes well, at least some percentage of these readers will probably be looking forward to the release of book 2.

It’s not a Book Bub Featured Deal, which I think most indie authors know is the most coveted of promos, but if you can’t get a Book Bub Featured Deal, well… this just might be the next best thing.

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April 2021 Update

Posted on April 30th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: News, Release Announcements, Self-Publishing Woes, Writing

My performance for Camp NaNoWriMo was, predictably, abysmal. Finding the Dragon is sitting at just shy of 8000 words (some of which I think will be thrown out) as I write this. That’s a far cry from the “modest” 23k goal I set. Still, I’m not beating myself up about it too much; April was a very busy month.

My sorry excuse for a word count chart from Camp NaNoWriMo

Let’s start with the highlight, of course, which was getting ARCs out for Courting the Dragon. Printing ARCs through Barnes&Noble Press worked out much better than I could have anticipated. Depending on when I get the copy edits back I may be able to do a second run of corrected ARCs, which would be super swell.

Paperback ARCs of Courting the Dragon still in the box.

Which brings me to an update about the paperback availability of both Courting the Dragon and Saving the Dragon. Saving was priced at $9.50 and Courting was planned to be priced at $14.99. This was due to the price restrictions with KDP’s Expanded Distribution (this is what put my KDP paperback in Barnes&Noble stores, BAM, etc). I’ve decided after seeing how the Barnes&Noble printing works to cut the KDP Expanded Distribution and simply run print editions on both platforms. This means that the paperback will only be available from Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. However, it also means that I can drop the prices to $7.99 for Saving and $10.50 for Courting. I plan to do the same for Finding, and may even offer paperback pre-orders through Barnes&Noble. We’ll see.

I have two other announcement related to the availability of both books.

First, in addition to Kindle, Nook, Google Play, and Apple iBooks, both books will also be available from Rakutan Kobo. The regular price is still $4.99 for Courting.

Second, for this week only (April 30th to May 8th), Saving will be on sale across all the eBook platforms. For this one week you can pick it up for just 99 cents.

Saving the Dragon and Courting the Dragon in paperback, each with a bookmark sticking out of the top. In front of them is a mug that says "I just happen to prefer spells to sewing needles."

Another fun thing this month was lining up some prizes for the big giveaway in June. I won’t tell you all about the grand prize basket yet, but I will tell you about the awesome coffee mugs! You can’t see the whole phrase in this photo since it wraps around, but they say “I just happen to prefer spells to sewing needles.” I got these from the wonderful @skyekelrose. Check out her Etsy shop here.

On a more personal note, things have taken a minor left turn for me recently. A few days ago I started having more than my usual twinges in my neck and wrists. My right hand was basically unusable for a day. Just placing my hand on a computer mouse was intolerable. This didn’t help my already lacking word count for FtD. After much icing, sleeping with a wrist brace, and Advil, I am feeling much better. However, things are still tender and I don’t know how well I will be able to keep up with writing and the blog in the short term. For now I am going to plan on maintaining my upload schedule and social media presence, but please be aware that there may come a time that I have to step away for a week or two. We’ll see what the doctor says.

You can find all the retail links for Saving the Dragon here.
You can find all the retail links for Courting the Dragon here.
Digital Advanced Review Copies of Courting are still availble. You can request one here.
Read my FREE short story “The First” here.

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Why I’m Releasing a Revised Saving the Dragon

Posted on February 1st 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Cover Reveal, News, Release Announcements, Self-Publishing Woes

***At the time of this writing, the updated eBook should be available on Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Google Play. I am currently waiting on a proof copy of the updated paperback before I put it back on sale.  ***

Saving the Dragon Cover

About the Cover

I didn’t necessarily need to re-cover Saving the Dragon, but I felt that it was the right thing to do ahead of Courting the Dragon‘s release. There were a few reasons for this. The biggest two were: 1) I wanted a cover that would be a cohesive piece of the series. 2) I wanted a cover that I felt better reflected the Fantasy Romance genre.

Getcovers.com delivered on both these fronts. They absolutely nailed this one, and I can’t wait to see the cover for Courting the Dragon.

Why a Re-Release?

When I published Saving the Dragon back in 2015 (yeah, it’s been 6 years folks) I had zero clue what I was doing. I made a lot of mistakes. Many of them are forever immortalized in the print copies already in existence. The publishing platforms back then were not what they are now. Y’all Google Play has really stepped up because their site sucked. At that point in time, I also didn’t have some of the tools and resources available to me now. Like Scrivener 3. That app is a godsend. I’m sorry Windows users that you’re still on version 2. #NotSponsored.

Anyway, just to give you an idea of the sorts of things I’m talking about:

  • Creating the ePub file I needed for Google Play was a straight-up horror-show in 2015. I had to use an eBook management application called Calibre to MANUALLY EDIT THE MARKUP when Google rejected it fifty bajillion times.
  • My author name was screwed up on iBooks for years and I couldn’t fix it till I purchased a Mac. iTunes Producer was, at the time, a dumpster fire that their own customer service had no idea how to use.
  • I was trying to manage various drafts and revisions of a 50k+ word novel (or novella depending on who you ask) in Google Docs. Please note, Google Docs is a wonderful tool, but it is not, I repeat, not the tool for text documents over 25k words with formatting. I’ve since discovered that Pages in iCloud manages slightly better with documents of this size, but only slightly.
  • I did all of my print layout in LibreOffice because that’s what I could afford. If that doesn’t make you cringe, it should. In retrospect, there’s a pretty great open source desktop publishing app called Scribus that I probably could have used to get a more InDesign-esque experience. But as with many other great open-source programs (*cough* GIMP *cough*) Scribus has a UX that I don’t find particularly intuitive. (I love GIMP, by the way, no shade).
  • Professional editing is expensive. That actually hasn’t changed. But grammar tools like Grammarly have gotten infinitely better so at least what you’re sending to the editor is less of a hot mess.

So, as you can see… It. Was. Chaos. I don’t even have a copy of the final manuscript anymore. When I started this revitalization project, I had to download the ePub from my publisher account with Barnes&Noble and use good ol’ Calibre again to convert it to rich text. Which, predictably, made a bit of a mess. And then I discovered something utterly horrifying: I don’t think I uploaded the document I got back from the editor. I think I uploaded my revised draft. Needless to say, this atrocity could not stand.

So.

Although for the purposes of Amazon and printing I created a new “edition”… this is not a new edition of the book. You don’t need to buy a new paperback copy. (Unless you want to, I mean, I like money.) I did not make significant changes to the text. I cleared up one mortifying mistake that my audio narrator pointed out and fixed some commas and typos. I fixed/updated my photo in About the Author. That’s about it. It was not my intent to make Saving the Dragon a better story. The goal was to make it a little more professional and polished as a product. (Which is the opposite of this blog, by the way. This is pretty raw, I don’t even run these posts through a grammar-checker half the time. Enjoy my comma splices, suckers!)

The only “addition” to the book is the preview of Courting the Dragon that’s been available for free on my blog for years.

What I really did change was the over-all look-and-feel of the print edition and modernize the eBook. There have been some advances in the format since this book was originally published. The reason for this is two-fold. Again, I wanted to bring a little more polish, but I also wanted to set Saving the Dragon up to be consistent with the releases I have planned for later this year and on into 202X (you aren’t getting me to commit to even a release year for Finding the Dragon after the purgatory that was finishing Courting. You get a decade). And yes, you read that right. I have releases planned for later this year. I even have the pre-order dates configured in Amazon so I’m contractually obligated to upload the final text by a certain date.

As for the audio edition, the only change to that is the updated cover, because 1) Hilary fixed my big goof when she read it anyway and 2) you can’t actually hear the other changes I made, or they are so small that you would have to be physically reading along with the audio to notice. This may however have the effect of killing Whispersync on the book, and if so I apologize.

There is a silver lining in all of this. Doing the edits and reformatting on Saving the Dragon gave me some major pay-offs. First, since I did it right before jumping into the first draft revision for Courting the Dragon, I found all sorts of threads from the first book that I need to weave back into the second. It gives me an opportunity to bring some additional continuity. Second, I will be able to reuse the print and ebook compilation profiles I created in Scrivener when I go to publish both Courting the Dragon and Finding the Dragon. This will keep the whole series feeling cohesive from a design perspective.

Thank you

So that’s it for the explainer portion of this post. Now I just want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has come on this wild ride with me. Everyone who bought a copy of my freshman attempt at self-publishing (I’m so, so sorry about the editing. Truly). Everyone who has nagged me (for years) about the sequel. And everyone who at least pretended to be interested when I went off on a writer rant. I appreciate you all. I hope you love the updates.

How to Get the Updates

You can follow these links to learn how to get the eBook updates for your platform of choice:

  • Kindle
  • Nook
  • iBook (this one isn’t directly from Apple, but it was the best I could find)

I couldn’t find a link for Google Play. From what I can tell, it seems like the content updates immediately in the web reader (there does not seem to be a 24 to 72 hr processing period as with the other platforms). I assume that re-downloading it to your preferred device should have the effect of fetching the updated files.


Fun Bonus Fact: I *actually* wrote most of this blog post before I’d even commissioned the new cover(s). That’s how excited I am (was?) about this release and what’s coming up next. I am (was?) also super sleep-deprived from working weird hours and pushing myself on wrapping up CtD’s revisions, so if I came across a little manic, now you know why.

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Courting the Dragon Revision Update & Reflection

Posted on June 29th 2018 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: News, Self-Publishing Woes, Writing

We are close to the end! So close, in fact, that I’ve already drafted the blog post to announce the release dates. I have only a very thin stack of papers left in my print-out of the Courting the Dragon’s second draft (because remember, I threw out like half the book several months ago). Once that is finished there’s a new epilogue I want to write and then it’ll be time for final polish.

Getting through this revision has been a real trip. I’ve been trying to reflect on why it was so much harder to get through this one than the last one. I think a few factors are at play:

  1. I wasn’t really trying to write a book for publication when I wrote Saving the Dragon. I was just having some fun with NaNoWriMo. There was no pressure to get the thing done.
  2. Courting the Dragon is a lot longer than Saving. You could make an argument that Saving is almost more of a novella than a novel and I would have a really hard time refuting your point. You cannot make the same claim about CtD. It is novel length. Not like George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan epic-tome-of-doom novel length, but still long enough to get past some publishing houses’ minimum submission requirements.
  3. I hated my villain and a lot of other parts of the first draft. That made it really hard to want to work on the book and prompted the great word count massacre earlier this year.
  4. I really want this one to be good. I want to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. I want a stronger story, better writing, more character development, etc, etc. I am also really concerned with consistency for the magic system and generally continuity. I painted myself into some weird corners with random little things in Saving. Book 3 is going to be really interesting depending on how I tie up so worldbuilding in CtD.

And of course there was all of the of big life stuff all right in the middle of writing and revising this book, but we don’t need to rehash those details again.

I will say that after the long, arduous journey of getting Courting the Dragon finished, I think I will be taking a short break from Penny and her dragon. I have several projects that are begging to be finished. The Foundling is probably the closest to completion, and I really feel like that should be my next focus. After that it is up in the air whether Penelope’s Dragon Book 3 will be next in line. Odds are probably good that it will be, but I think I will need to see how I feel after Foundling.

The last of the paper print out of Courting the Dragon

All that is left of draft 2 to edit/revise as of this posting

A messy stack of papers from the printout of Courting the Dragon

A monsterous, messing stack of *most* of the pages from draft 2 that have been revised to date.

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End of March Update

Posted on March 24th 2018 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Audiobook, News, Self-Publishing Woes

The end of the 1st quarter is upon us, and I’ve been pretty quiet the last few weeks. March has been a crazy month!

Production for the audiobook edition of Saving the Dragon has been chugging along. Hilary has uploaded all of the chapters! We’re now in the process of listening and making any necessary revisions (hmm, that sounds familiar) which means a lot of it is back in the hands of your favorite procrastinator, yours truly.

Oh, meanwhile, Courting the Dragon is still in heavy revisions. I had hoped to have it out to beta readers by now, but that still seems like it is at least a week off. I’m still hopeful for a summer release and hope to make an official announcement of the date soon.

Hot Tea & Tall Tales is on a short hiatus while Bob and I figure out our filming situation. Filming in the living room in front of the fireplace just isn’t sustainable, so we’re trying to figure out a more permanent solution. We’re exploring the idea of turning our junk room (aka the spare bedroom) into a combination writing and filming space. I think the transformation could make for a great blog/vlog series, so let me know if you guys would be interested in that.

That’s it for this update. Ciao!

*** Edit: I can’t believe nobody pointed out that I put 3rd quarter instead of 1st!

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