Where It All Comes Together, Part 1

I began writing the first episode of The Vampire's Pet (written under the pen name V.R. Cumming) sometime in March or April of 2014. Between May 6th, when it was published, and 10 January 2015, when the final episode of The New Vampire was released, I had a very productive writing and publishing period.

I also gained a lot of fans who've been waiting over a year now for the next installment, The Vampire's Favorite, which chronologically falls between The Vampire's Pet and The New Vampire.

I've been working on The Vampire's Favorite the entire year, knowing readers are clamoring for it and not being able to do a thing about it as life interfered with my writing schedule and output in major ways.

The manuscript is now nearing completion, right at the moment when a couple of other factors have come into play. Because of that, I've scheduled a (for me) major promotional run of The Vampire's Pet for mid-February. How and why I'm doing that is the reason behind this post, but before I get to that, let's start with a few precursors that have been in the works for a while.

Background

When I first began writing The Vampire's Pet, I had no plans beyond releasing it in novelette-length episodes, quite unlike the Daughters of the People Series, which by design had a finite series arc. Serialized novels had risen sharply in popularity at the time, as had Erotic Romances, so I thought, why not?

Those two simple words lead me to a lot of great story ideas. They also tend to get me into a little bit of trouble, schedule wise, but that's a story for another day.

Somewhere in the middle of writing and releasing The Vampire's Pet's six episodes, the idea for the complete series gelled in my mind and eventually settled into four distinct parts. It was during the writing of The New Vampire's five episodes that I realized I really hated writing in serial form, so I decided to release the final two parts of the overarching story as complete novels and branded all four books under the name The Vampyr Series:

Book 1: The Vampire's Pet
Book 2: The Vampire's Favorite
Book 3: The New Vampire
Book 4: The Master Vampire

Yup, I wrote them out of order. It wasn't until I'd already started releasing episodes of The New Vampire that I realized I'd skipped a great segment of the overarching story and began developing The Vampire's Favorite.

I made my own covers for the individual episodes of The Vampire's Pet and The New Vampire, as well as a short story occurring chronologically during The New Vampire's events. When it came time to bundle the episodes of The Vampire's Pet into a novel, I hired cover designer L.J. Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations, and she did a stellar job. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford her services when it came time to bundle The New Vampire's episodes, so I did that one myself as well.

In the meantime, sales spiraled downward and the open and click through rates of my infrequent newsletters continued to drop, thanks primarily to the lack of promotions and new releases. I knew I had a great opportunity to revive sales and reader interest with the release of The Vampire's Favorite, so I started planning for that way back in August 2015.

Pre-planning Activities

Back around that time, I received a windfall from outstanding (and completely unexpected) sales of The Choosing, a SciFi Romance written under the pen name Lucy Varna. Before I even got paid, I had a loose plan for how I needed to spend it.

One of the first things on my list was new covers for The Vampyr Series. I contracted with L.J. to do all four using the feel and tone of The Vampire's Pet's cover, and once again, she delivered a product well beyond my expectations.

Not only did she create an effective brand for the series, she exactly conveyed its dark, dangerous, and sensual overtones.

The second thing I did with monies earned from The Choosing was to dedicate a certain amount for advertising and gaining newsletter subscribers. For the latter, I turned to I Love Vampire Novels' author giveaway program. They scheduled a giveaway during this past January for me, and the results were jaw dropping. Over 2,000 readers entered the giveaway. I've been working since then on converting them into readers, but that's getting a little ahead of myself.

In summary, there were several things in the works long term leading up to my upcoming promotional run:

  • I continued working on The Vampire's Favorite, pushing it ever closer to completion.
  • I had new, professionally designed covers created that branded the series.
  • I gained a lot of new newsletter subscribers.

But those are only part of the bigger picture, and for that, we need to shift focus and discuss something else.

Goals and Timing

As much as I advocate for author's planning, just having a plan isn't enough. It has to be executed as well as our novels are written. Otherwise, we're wasting our time and money, and frankly, both are in too short supply to waste.

Before setting tangible goals for my upcoming ad campaign, I had to decide on its timing. I've tried promos with The Vampire's Pet before with little success. I really needed to have a more cohesive plan as well as something else to draw readers into the rest of the series.

That draw is the release of The Vampire's Favorite, a story readers have been waiting on for over a year. The manuscript is so close to completion, I've set a tentative release date before the end of February. This gives me adequate time to finish writing what will end up being around a 100,000 word novel (I'm really that close) and have it thoroughly edited. (Ah, the perks of having my own in-house editor.)

By planning an ad campaign for The Vampire's Pet for shortly before the new release, I will hopefully accomplish two goals: First, it will revive sagging sales for the first book in the series at a time when readers know there's more on the way. Second, readers will be enticed into going ahead and pre-ordering the second book while it's fresh on their minds, thus triggering a ton of sales on release day, hopefully boosting The Vampire's Favorite's sales rank enough to get it into the Hot New Releases lists (which will get it in front of a ton more readers).

At least, that's the plan, or, truthfully, the really strong hope, as it's unwise to plan reader engagement; it's simply too unpredictable. But reader engagement is also one of my goals. Specifically, I want to re-engage existing newsletter subscribers and engage the ones gained through the ILVN giveaway program, so that they become true fans rather than passive subscribers.

But the underlying goal is always to have a financially successful series. Without that, it would be nearly impossible for me to earn a living and, by extension, continue writing at a pace readers will endure.

To recap, my goals are:

  • To revive sagging sales of The Vampyr Series, particularly the first book.
  • To gain a large number of pre-orders and subsequent sales on The Vampire's Favorite.
  • To re-engage my loyal readers and engage new ones.
  • To earn a living off my writing.

As with the pre-planning activities, setting goals isn't enough. There's a lot more that needs to be done to make this a really successful run, including planning the campaign, buying ads, and setting up funnels in the back matter of each book in order to pull readers through the series and really capitalize on everything that's come before. Those will be addressed in the next blog post in this mini-series.

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