Readers who have followed my writerly journey will remember that I hit a dry spell between 2012 and 2020. I wasn’t writing during those years. Promoting my work was the last thing on my mind. I was emotionally, mentally, and physically unavailable for any kind of bookish event.
Which is why I was both excited and nervous about participating in an author event sponsored by the local public library. It wasn’t just a book-signing opportunity. The 10 participating authors also presented a mini-workshop on Getting Started Writing, Overcoming Writer’s Block, Avoiding Common Errors, and Getting Published.
Nerves and eagerness led me to over-prepare, as I do. I had new posters printed for my book table. I obsessed over what I should wear. I actually practiced—in front of a mirror—my five-minute talks on two of those topics.
It all went fine, of course. Book-signings and writing workshops are like riding a bicycle: once you learn, you don’t forget. I fell back into it like the old pro I am. Prior to 2012, I’d done a bunch of author events and writing conferences.
Here are a few pictures from my “comeback.” It was fun, and I’m glad to go back on the circuit.
Book description: Laura never realised she was different, or that she was touched in some way by the heavens, until she first set foot, contrary to all law and tradition, within the portals of Darkharrow. Here, in the remote Eastings of Britannia, far from the wealth and the power of London, the dead lie sleeping beneath the ancient towers and cloisters of the great abbey. For some, destiny dictates that their long slumber shall endure until the last trump sounds and all the dead shall rise from their graves, but for some the care of the Camalodolite Order shall reawaken them long before that day. No one has ever been able to look upon the countenances of the departed and tell whether they may be awakened, whether their hearts are of ice or of stone – until now.
Caught between the competing affections of those who love her, threatened by those who would destroy her, Laura finds herself enmeshed in a web of conspiracy that draws upon her deepest resources and enforces choices upon her that are of the most momentous kind.
My review: Dark, fascinating, original, and beautifully written
I love this book! It is utterly engrossing and kept me turning the pages late into the evening. I give it 10 stars for the original storytelling, masterful writing, fascinating characters, and a crisp, compelling plot that sweeps the reader into an ever-darkening story. The prose is elegant and perfectly matched to the story’s brooding, spooky, gothic aesthetic. Fans of Edgar Allan Poe and of Bronte’s Wuthering Heights will revel in this book. I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended. Take a chance on an author you might not know — you won’t be disappointed.
What a relief to have all of this frantic effort behind me! Now I can focus on making pretty promotional graphics at Canva to post on social media. I can try to remember to upload new videos to my somewhat neglected YouTube channel. Most importantly, I can start planning a new book.
Too Much, Too Fast?
At this natural pausing point, it behooves me to pause and consider whether releasing three new books or editions in less than six months might have been rushing things a little. If this frantic schedule has left my head spinning, I fear it has also confused my readers.
Barely had I begun begging for reviews for Waterspell Book 4: The Witch before I was begging equally earnestly for reviews for The Complete Series boxed set. Some readers, I suspect, got muddled: They didn’t fully grasp that Book 4 is a separate publication from The Complete Series. And thus, they didn’t realize that each publication needs to be reviewed separately. Although Amazon correctly shows The Complete Series (the boxed set) as being one part of the Waterspell series, reviews for each individual book in that series are not immediately visible to shoppers who are looking at any single title in the collection. That is to say: Amazon treats each book (and edition) individually, which creates (in me) a need for readers to take the time to post individual reviews for every book and every edition. A big ask.
Indeed, that’s a lot to ask of even the most ardent fan. All of my asking—first for the individual Book 4: The Witch, then for the boxed ebook set, and now for the culminating audiobook—has befuddled even me. I’ve no doubt that I’ve raised confusion in the minds of many readers. They (and I) would have benefited from a slower pace of new releases in 2022.
Nevertheless, rushed though it was, I’m delighted to have all of the publishing frenzy done and dusted. The new titles and new editions are out there, readers are finding them, and new reviews are appearing. The six-month sprint is over. Now I settle into the marathon of ongoing, nearly continuous book promotion.
Book Promo Overview
In May, I ranked the promotions I’d used, according to their effectiveness. With another month of experience behind me now, I’m revising two of my earlier estimations. Both of my giveaways—Goodreads and Reader Views—have improved their grades from C to B-minus.
Goodreads was a giveaway of 100 Kindle ebooks of The Complete Series. That giveaway has now netted me five-star ratings from two of the winners, along with a very nice review from one of those satisfied readers: “Loved it. Couldn’t put it down. 5 star box set. I may actually reread this because I enjoyed it so much.”
Reader Views was a giveaway of physical copies. I’d been disappointed that no recipient of those rather pricey, high-quality paperbacks had responded by word or deed. But on May 28, a winner of a print book posted on Goodreads: “Thank you, Deborah. I loved this novel and can’t wait to start Waterspell 2.” Those few words made everything worthwhile, all the expense and effort of mailing out physical copies.
I hope this doesn’t sound whiny. I’m truly grateful for every review and every star. Readers are busy. I get that. Writing reviews can be hard. I get that, too: I suck at writing reviews. Some of the reviews my books have received have filled me with awe, they’re so insightful and so beautifully written. Me? About all I can ever think to write about a book is: “I liked it.” Too many mandatory book reports in my school days ruined me for writing book reviews, I fear. But every author will value a simple “I liked it” as much as they value a detailed, four-paragraph analysis.
All reviews count. Every review matters.
To sum up: Marketing is hard, it’s expensive, and it’s time-consuming. To ensure that I’m spending my promotional dollars effectively and using my time wisely, I must pause occasionally and analyze how I’m meeting, or not meeting, my goals. At this point in my writing life, my goals are to get more reviews. At present, reviews are more important than sales. Without reviews, books (and audiobooks) won’t sell. First comes the writing/publishing, then the reviews, and THEN the sales.
Quick Links to Post Reviews
If you’re a reader who is inclined to help me out with a new review (or two, or five), I’ll be eternally grateful. 💙 Here are the direct links to post reviews at Amazon:
April 21, 2022: The 4-in-1 book bundle hits the stores! Before I had my first cup of coffee on Release Day, I was checking the downloads on my Kindle and Nook to be sure the formatting had survived the trip through cyberspace. Especially the complicated Table of Contents that I struggled with, before finally figuring out how to use Word Styles to achieve the hierarchy needed to list each individual book with all of that book’s chapters as subheadings. Evidently I was successful: The TOC in every edition looks good and makes logical sense.
Now I wait for ratings and reviews to (hopefully) appear. I’m especially interested in the results of my Goodreads Giveaway of 100 Kindle copies: Will that giveaway generate the new reviews I’m hoping for? Fingers crossed that most of the people who entered the giveaway are actual readers of epic fantasy. Past experience, however, tells me that at least some of the entrants (and therefore, some of the winners) are pirates who only want free books that they can turn around and sell under the table. It’s a shame that Goodreads attracts so many unsavory characters. Between its trolls and its thieves, Goodreads remains a sketchy proposition for authors, though readers seem to find it useful for tracking their To-Be-Read lists. Here’s hoping that my newest giveaway produces results that will raise my admittedly low opinion of Goodreads.
Far more rewarding (and fun) has been my experiment in offering ARCs (advance reader copies) at NetGalley. Going through a co-op made NetGalley affordable. And so far, I’ve been very pleased with the quality of the reviews The Complete Series has received there (excerpts pictured above and below). I’m thinking of trying NetGalley again to pull in reviews for the forthcoming audiobook edition.
Release Day always feels anticlimactic, after the flurry of pre-release promotion. I’ve done what I can to let people know there’s now a boxed set, and the 4-in-1 bundle is the easiest, slickest, most convenient way to experience the world of Waterspell. I hope readers find it and love it.
Where does this leave me? Besides tired? I’m truly worn out from this flurry of publishing and promoting. The end of all this effort, however, is in sight. Before too much longer, I will log off of social media; ignore this website (as I have often done in the past); and settle down to WRITE something new! The ideas are bubbling. I’m scribbling notes, in between the Instagram posts and my YouTube uploads. What a joy it will be to discover the story that arises from those scribblings! I was meant to write, not to spend all of my time waving a book over my head, asking people to “Buy this, please!”
When I first looked into NetGalley (“We Help Books Succeed”) I thought it was beyond reach because of the budget-busting expense. But then I learned about these things called “NetGalley co-ops,” which are group ventures that bring the cost down considerably. Going through a co-op (I am using Victory Editing), a writer can put a book on NetGalley for $50 for one month and start sending out ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) to all sorts of industry professionals, including booksellers and librarians.
My listing for Waterspell: The Complete Series (Boxed Set: Books 1–4) is scheduled to run through April 29. In just the first two days of it being on NetGalley, I’ve received requests from more than 40 interested readers, including several booksellers, educators, and institutional as well as school librarians. These are people who would not have known my series even existed, if not for NetGalley.
This experiment has only just begun. Proof of its success (or failure) will lie in how many reviews my boxed set gets, and the quality of those reviews. At this early stage, however, I’m thinking that NetGalley, accessed via a co-op, is a good investment. At the very least, I’m getting exposure in a much larger arena than Bookstagram and Facebook—and my cover art for The Complete Series is getting all thumbs-up so far! Not a single negative vote has appeared yet, which validates my choice of a traditional two-dimensional cover instead of the 3-D “boxed set” graphics that many writers are using (to their detriment, in my opinion, since those 3-D images hide the pretty cover art and make the books’ boring spines prominent).
Another useful aspect of a NetGalley listing is the space it provides for a Marketing Plan. Forced to actually think about it, I came up with this:
The magic number of reviews is 50. That’s what I’m hoping for: a total of 50 reviews at Amazon for The Complete Series.
Past experience with Goodreads Giveaways suggests that only a fraction of the 100 individuals who won Kindle copies of the boxed set will actually post a review. I may be lucky to get 10 reviews from that giveaway.
Which means I’m pinning most of my hopes on the NetGalley reviewers. I’m appealing to you, you lovely librarians and booksellers: help me out with plentiful reviews. They don’t all have to be 5-star (though a girl can hope and dream, and extend oodles of humble gratitude to everyone who is so kind and generous).
Unpacking a shipment of your own new book is a thrill like no other! I’ve had the pleasure of opening a box of my latest, Waterspell Book 4: The Witch, which is now available in print (paperback) and all ebook formats. It looks great, IMO. But I’m biased. Now it’s a waiting game, putting me on pins and needles as I look for the first reviews to come in. I’m sure I could have done more, I could have sent out more Advance Reader Copies, I could have spent more on ads and promotion. But the reality, I know, is that readers won’t care about Book 4 unless they have read and enjoyed the original trilogy.
My promotional efforts, therefore, remain focused on Book 1: The Warlock. It’s featured today, February 18, by BookRaid (with which I’ve enjoyed success previously); and on Saturday, Feb. 19, Bookorium (new to me) promotes it. After that, I intend to run only one ad each month, alternating between BookRaid and The Fussy Librarian (adding Bookorium into the mix, if that one proves successful).
The greater part of my attention must now turn to the two boxed sets: Ebook and audiobook. With Book 4 releasing (singly) in February, does it make sense to release the boxed set of ebooks in April? Is that too soon? Will that schedule give me time to promote the set? Research is needed, along with serious thought. The later in the year, the fewer the months during which the boxed set will carry the 2022 copyright date. With so much emphasis on “new releases,” keeping that 2022 date as fresh as possible, for as long as possible, seems to argue for publishing the boxed ebook set ASAP.
Then there’s the boxed set of audiobooks. Will it be most likely to find an audience during the summer months? Should it be released in May, hard on the heels of the companion ebook set? I think that might be best. But again, I should research and find out when audiobooks sell most strongly: spring, summer, fall, or winter.
Also washing around in the back of my mind are the words of my experienced beta reader, and the suggestions of my audio narrator. Both of them are telling me that I should write more books (or at least novellas) set in the world(s) of Waterspell. Hmm. Should I? Can I?
I think my spring, summer, and winter of 2022 will be busy.
Intense! The first four days of January 2022 were intense. I’ve been glued to the computer, shepherding Waterspell Book 4: The Witch into the catalogs of every major bookseller, and several less-famous stores, too.
It’s been extremely gratifying, seeing the book appear in store after store. There’s now a Universal Book Link (UBL) that takes readers to their preferred bookseller. Book 4 has a page at Goodreads now, too.
What’s next? I still need to flesh out the book’s detailed listing at Amazon, as soon as Author Central will let me. And I’m waiting on the printers to send me a proof of the paperback edition.
Once the Book 4 paperback is proofed and ready to print, I’ll begin the process of updating each of the earlier paperbacks with a repaginated interior. Printing and shipping costs being so high these days, I took the opportunity to make a handful of minor text edits to the existing paperbacks, while also repaginating them to slightly reduce the page count of each. It may not make a great difference in printing/shipping expenses, but the end-of-line hyphenation definitely looks better in the repaginated editions.
Also in the near future, I’ll be scheduling a new promotion at BookRaid. I’ve already got a one-day ad scheduled for The Fussy Librarian, for January 18.
Happily, though, Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock continues to rank quite high in its category at Amazon: #49 in Fantasy Adventure Fiction, #82 in Epic Fantasy, and #85 in Sword & Sorcery Fantasy. It’s building momentum, which I hope will carry readers through the entire series, drawing them in due course into the finale, Waterspell Book 4: The Witch.
Now, I think I’ve earned myself a nap. Followed by an online grocery-shop. I’ve been too busy to bother with mundane things like trips to the supermarket or the post office or the gas station. Book publishing takes tremendous amounts of time and effort! #ifyouknowyouknow
It’s nearly January! I’m champing at the bit, ready to start the New Year with my long list of new publishings and refreshed publishings:
1. NEW Waterspell Book 4, both ebook and print, becoming available for pre-orders in January. 2. REFRESHED Books 1-3, ebook and print editions, going up at Amazon, Google, Smashwords, Lightning Source, etc. 3. NEW Complete Series Boxed Set, Waterspell Books 1-4, available for pre-orders in March, I think. 4. NEW Complete Series Audiobook Boxed Set, to be published in Spring 2022.
If I was better at social media, I would know just how to tease the new Book 4 with a tantalizing and intriguing Cover Reveal. Even without that, though, I’m pretty pleased with the success of my marketing efforts for the series-starter, Book 1: The Warlock. It has made it onto an Amazon Best Seller list.
To feed my need to be doing something ahead of January, which will be a flurry of publishing activity, I’m using this week to make my lists and check them twice, ensuring that every file and graphic is in readiness for January 1. I seriously doubt I can wait any longer than that, to get Book 4 out there and then begin the painstaking process of refreshing the Original Trilogy, in every edition and format. I’m committed to publishing wide, but it does take organization and forethought to ensure completeness and consistency across multiple publishing platforms, booksellers, and databases:
Two months? Have I messed up the countdown? In November, you may recall, I was Four Months Out.
The fact is, things are going so well, I’ve moved up the release date by a full month. Waterspell Book 4 will be available for pre-orders not later than January 18, with the book to be officially released on February 18. Hallelujah!
The short little lines at the bottom of the above graph were the products of my ongoing advertising via BookBub, before I wised up and quit wasting my promotional dollars there. I have found BookBub to be overrated and WAY overpriced. Clicks there were costing me about 60 cents, whereas the cost-per-click ranges from under a penny to about 3 cents, max, at the other sites.
Ranked in order of their cost-effectiveness, based on my results:
The Fussy Librarian
BookBub is totally off my list now. I won’t bother with them again. Nor will I continue with Story Origin, which has also proven to be ineffective, for me anyway. Some people may have the time and interest to work through the complexities of Story Origin’s interface, but I think my time is better spent elsewhere. I’ll fulfill my obligation to support the December 2021 “Passing Through Portals” promotion sponsored by Story Origin, but I won’t continue with a $10 monthly account there.
That’s my monthly promotional report, shared for the benefit of any authors who might profit from my personal experiences with paid book advertising. Ads in selected (and selective) newsletters are working for me.
Social media? Not so much. My friends give me wonderful support at my personal Facebook profile, but my efforts to “go viral” via my public accounts (Bookstagram and Facebook author page) are generating only modest interest. As is this blog. But I have things to say, so I’ll keep posting!
Many thanks to all of the readers who have downloaded Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock, vaulting it onto the Amazon bestsellers lists! I am deeply grateful to you. ♥
The past 30 days have been highly productive and educational. I now have a much better idea, and a better plan, for spreading the word about the original Waterspell trilogy as well as the forthcoming Book 4 (and the forthcoming boxed set). My promotional efforts are paying off, and I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.
Today, November 18, with the official launch of Waterspell Book 4 just four months away (it should be available for pre-orders in only two months, on January 18), I’ll try to summarize what I’ve I learned.
BookBub vs. BookRaid
Hands down, BookRaid.com is better! I’ve found that BookBub is overrated and overpriced. Comparing my continuously-running BookBub ads with my one-day BookRaid ad:
• BookBub got 273 clicks at a cost of $160 = $0.58 per click • BookRaid got 715 clicks at a cost of $62 = $0.086 per click
That’s right: A one-dayBookRaid ad attracted nearly three times as many clicks, and cost me less than 9 cents per click. BookRaid advertising maxes out at $60. No matter how many clicks an ad gets, the advertiser will not be charged more than $60. It’s a Canadian company, and my credit card charged me $1.80 foreign transaction fee, so the actual, final cost came to $61.80. Divided by 715 clicks, however, that’s less than 9 cents per click, compared to the nearly 60 cents per click (!) at BookBub. What a bargain BookRaid is!
Particularly in light of the great results. My BookBub ads had been running almost continuously for weeks, and they were barely moving the needle at Amazon. In fact, almost no Amazon (Kindle) customers were even clicking on my BookBub ads; those ads mostly attracted Google Books and Apple-Canada readers. (I love my Google Books and Apple-Canada readers! Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that Amazon rankings count for so much in the crazy world of publishing.)
#147 Fantasy Adventure #289 Sword & Sorcery #305 Epic Fantasy
But then on November 7, following my one-day BookRaid ad, my Amazon rankings were:
#446 overall #4 Fantasy Adventure #8 Coming of Age #8 Sword & Sorcery
The numbers also improved at Barnes & Noble: from 124,953 before BookRaid, to 71,283 after.
ManyBooks and Fussy Librarian
Pleased though I was with those numbers, I wasn’t done experimenting. I scheduled ads for the very next Saturday, November 13, benefiting from discounted prices at both The Fussy Librarian ($39, regularly $49) and ManyBooks.net ($19, regularly $29). With those promotions running simultaneously, I can’t say which was the most effective, but together they brought me great results. That Saturday morning, Book 1 was ranked #3256 at Amazon: #26 Fantasy Adventure, #51 Sword & Sorcery, #52 Epic Fantasy.
That day and the next, those numbers climbed:
My conclusion? Stop wasting money on ineffective, overpriced BookBub ads, and direct my promotional dollars instead to the lovely folks at BookRaid, ManyBooks, and Fussy Librarian.
Goodreads and Other Social Media
After taking Alessandra Torre’s free Goodreads webinar, I’ve got a somewhat higher opinion of Goodreads. I’ve tried to implement Alessandra’s great advice about interacting effectively and efficiently on that platform. Some of her advice is:
• Leave reviews for books you love (those you can honestly 5-star) • Like/comment on other reader reviews of those same books • Mark your current read as “Reading” • Leave your own review of your own books (no star rating, just your comments) • Like/comment on the 5-star reviews that readers have given you • Share a Goodreads review on your other social media
After doing these things, I’ve definitely seen more engagement with readers at Goodreads. To my absolute delight, several new readers have gifted me 5-star reviews there. These are the first new interactions I’ve had at Goodreads in ages. My effective promotion (via BookRaid, Many Books, and Fussy Librarian), combined with my more enthusiastic Goodreads participation, seems to be attracting new supporters to my cause. I’m deeply grateful. ♥
These new 5-star ratings have raised my overall numbers at Goodreads to 3.97. Alessandra Torre said the average rating there is 3.5 stars, so I’m feeling good about being “above average.” ↑ Goodreads has a reputation as troll central: too often, there seems to be more emphasis on savaging a writer than on appreciating the time and effort it takes to write a book. With Alessandra’s blessing, I’ll try harder to boost and appreciate the work of my colleagues, to share the love in this crazy publishing free-for-all.
As for my other social-media efforts:
Instagram is working well. I’m connecting with readers and authors there. So far it hasn’t brought me any new reviews (that I know of), but I enjoy interacting with Bookstagrammers.
My personal Facebook profile is reserved mostly for my private life, but when I get good book news, I’m thrilled to share it with my friends and feel their love.
The Facebook groups in which I’ve been active are getting less of my time now. They’re either not focused enough on my genre, or they’re actively hostile to authors’ promotional efforts. The latter has surprised me.
All that I’ve learned this past month has helped me refocus my efforts. It dawned on me that, instead of spending my entire marketing budget on individual Book 1 and Book 4 promotions, I should instead plan to vigorously promote the next big thing on my to-do list, which is the boxed set of the complete Waterspell series.
With that future marketing in mind, I’m taking a break from paid advertising for the next six weeks or so. Gonna save my money for a big push in early 2022—especially now that I know what works to move the needle at Amazon.
Book 1 Amazon rank 18 Nov 2021
Even today, five days after my dual ManyBooks/Fussy Librarian promotion, Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock is well ranked at Amazon. And now it’s got 39 ratings: one more than yesterday. People are finding it and reading it! I am feeling much encouraged. It may indeed be possible to relaunch this series, after Life with a capital L sidelined me for too many years.
Making a place for yourself in a world where you don't belong takes courage. So does moving in with a warlock.
“Lightfoot has a sure touch with regard to characterisation. Each of her characters has their own authentic and convincing voice. Narrative, description and speech are exceptionally well-balanced.” —Martin Dukes, author of the Alex Trueman Chronicles
“I absolutely loved all four books! You kept your storyline throughout the four books brilliantly. The characters were all genuine and relatable.” —Carol, Goodreads
“I was HOOKED. I read until 3 am two nights in a row to finish this. The magic system is unique and the characters are as morally gray as they come.” —Megan, Goodreads
“Complicated characters, plot twists, romance, adventure, and magic — all written in a voice that immerses you in a fantasy world both foreign and familiar. Get the box set because you won’t want to leave this world.” —Beck Digs It, Amazon
“Such a joy to narrate this. It didn’t feel like work. The story and characters take flight so naturally and then soar.” —Simon de Deney
“A riveting series. Well written, excellent world-building with an engaging plot in each book and well-developed characters. I was gripped right from the start with twists I didn’t see and unpredictability.” —Aria, NetGalley
“An entertaining, fast paced, and well-plotted fantasy series. The world building is fascinating, and the characters fleshed out. Highly recommended.” —Anna Maria, NetGalley
“Captivating. I loved this series from beginning to end. Complex characters who mature through the series and unexpected plot twists kept me reading far too late into the night.” —Amy, Amazon
“I was hooked instantly. I willingly gave up sleep and could not wait to get up to read more. I’m reading the whole series, and absolutely loving it.” —Sarah, Amazon
“In this four-book saga, the author has created an epic fantasy world full of magic, danger, romance, and travel through time and space. The characters are vivid and complex. This is a most enjoyable read for fans of fantasy and fine writing.” —Shirley, NetGalley
“Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast. Amazing story, very original. Great series.” —Emma, Amazon UK
“Addictive epic fantasy, with drama and adventure. I binged through the books, eager to see how the story unfolds. Great book. 5 stars.” —Di, NetGalley
“A great read that features world building with drama and magical characters. Highly recommended.” —Neil, Amazon
“An extraordinary book, four in fact! I read these over a five-day period and found the storytelling fantastic. See for yourself!” —Michelle, NetGalley
Castles in the cornfield provided the setting for Deborah J. Lightfoot’s earliest flights of fancy. On her father’s farm in Texas, she grew up reading tales of adventure and reenacting them behind ramparts of sun-drenched grain. She left the farm to earn a degree in journalism and write award-winning books of history and biography. High on her bucket list was the desire to try her hand at the genre she most admired. The result is Waterspell, a multi-layered, intricately detailed fantasy about a girl and the wizard who suspects her of being so dangerous to his world, he believes he’ll have to kill her … which troubles him, since he’s fallen in love with her. Deborah is a professional member of The Authors Guild. She lives in the country near Fort Worth, Texas.
Magic, mystery, murder, and romance. Waterspell: An intricate save-the-world fantasy adventure with complex characters, cosmic calamities, and the gothic sensibilities of Jane Eyre.
Mix environmental fantasy with magic, mystery, and a little slow-burning romance, add dystopian undercurrents, and that’s the Waterspell series—a cross-genre story with too many layers for a single label.