On ENT as a Bridge Troll Catapult

A short one for you…

I recently completed a promotion with Ereader News Today and it was modestly successful, so I thought it would be a good idea to check out how ENT fares in a more general sense. I took the ENT email from June 27th and recorded the rank of each book that wasn’t listed as free across a range of times. This is a very simple examination, but I wanted to see how the ENT email affects sales, and this is the closest method I have to gauge sales/popularity. So how’d the books do?

Title Genre Reviews Stars At Time
of Email
0.5 Days
Later
1 Day
Later
1.5 Days
Later
2 Days
Later
4 Days
Later
9 Days
Later
Archangels – Rise of the Jesuits Thriller 296 4 108,747 2,165 2,157 3,464 4,172 17,744 80,908
After Days Sci-Fi 59 4.5 67,835 1,936 1,908 2,743 3,326 11,121 22,748
Wind Catcher Fantasy 74 4.5 96,654 1,200 1,378 1,355 1,211 2,977 30,364
The Highland Stones Fantasy romance 3 4.5 296,856 5,251 4,859 10,925 13,891 41,477 170,485
Death by Times New Roman Thriller 9 5 419,159 1,711 1,562 3,233 3,651 6,864 50,798
Killer Deadline Thriller 10 4.5 236,758 5,846 5,399 10,084 13,612 53,054 208,228
The Carlswick Treasure Thriller 10 4.5 32,128 2,869 2,628 5,506 7,361 17,592 208,228

I don’t mean to imply anything positive or negative about the books listed in the ENT email (and hence here). My intention isn’t to say anything about the books. I’m only interested in ENT’s effect on their sales. I’ve included the genres because apparently ENT is most effective with with thrillers and romance.

The 9 Days Later rankings were all over the place, which could be accounted for by any number of things which I don’t have enough data to explain. What’s really interesting though is the very uniform spike in popularity. All of the books rushed up the charts, and stayed there for a few days. They all dropped back down again, but most not as far as they spiked, and even now a lot of them are showing up on each other’s Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought lists.

For a bit of fun, I plotted the rankings on a chart, with the names removed (they’re not important) for our purposes here. I used a logarithmic scale so you can actually see the differences, and inverted the scale, so it sort of shows popularity over time (ranking would have shown a very flat and overlapping bathtub curve).

ENT Rankings Over Time

Interesting, isn’t it? These books fared much better than mine, but mine’s completely the wrong genre (fantasy) while here, even the 2 nominally fantasy books in this round-up are more romance and Y.A./coming-of-age than fantasies. Let’s not complain about my pretty, little bridge troll – that’s not what’s important here – we need to focus on ENT as a promoter. Since an email goes out every day, I think these stats look pretty damned good.

What about you? What do you think?

On Pimping a Bridge Troll to BookBlow with a $30 Tithe

Next in my ongoing saga to promote my pretty, little bridge troll (Equivocal Destines) is my just-completed promotion using BookBlow Book of the Day.

Right from the beginning, I should make 1 very important thing clear. This promo didn’t go well, but I don’t blame BookBlow for my results. This is a test of the methodology for me, and I think any and all book promotion services that use this methodology will have the same issues as I experienced. I considered leaving BookBlow’s name out of this completely, as I want to look at the methodology, not the service but I’ve included so much detail about BookBlow that anyone could find out who I used in no time, so I’ve added their name anyway.

My BookBlow Tasks

I did nothing. Seriously. Well, I submitted my book using their form – http://bookblow.com/submit-book/ – and paid them the money, but that’s all. My book was already discounted at Amazon.com. No wait, I changed the description to remove the “ENT Promo” text. More on that later. I decided I couldn’t really promote my promo elsewhere because it’s too close in time to my previous promo, so anyone who sees this announcement would probably have seen last week’s announcement and get Equivocal Destines fatigue.

The BookBlow Process

BookBlow uses a very different promotional process to ENT, my previous promo experience, which is why I was keen to try it. The gist of it is as follows:

  1. Twitter blasts
  2. Facebook group posts

Here’s what they actually say. I copy-and-pasted this directly from their page above:

– We tweet 3 times to more than 350,000 readers from these accounts- Our Twitter allies

– We post your book as “Book of the Day” on our Facebook page. BOOK OF THE DAY

– We post on Top 50 book promotion groups on Facebook. Check Top 50 Book promotion Facebook groups

Now, I’ve never been highly convinced that either of these tasks will actually result in sales, but it still needs to be tested, so that’s where we find ourselves now. If one of them’s going to be successful, it has to be the Facebook groups, surely? After all, that’s what Facebook groups are for. Let’s look at their process in more detail, and I’ll add what they actually did for me.

Twitter Allies

My promo was tweeted 3 times, as advertised, by 18 twitter accounts. All 18 Twitter accounts tweeted exactly the same things, at exactly the same times.

  1. Beautifully written and so easy to become lost inside this amazing world.
  2. Exotically-set, full of surprises, and exceptionally well-written,
  3. The book reads quite quickly because it’s hard to put down.

All of the quotes were cribbed directly from my reviews, which I guess is a good way of finding legitimate quotes for the tweets, as long as your reviews are legit (mine all are). I’m very disappointed with the timing of the tweets though. It isn’t difficult to schedule the tweets to go out at randomised times. Hell, I could o that with the free version of Hootsuite in 5 minutes. Blasting out the exact same tweet on 18 accounts at the same time is just spam.

Here’s my next problem with tweet blasts. I’m currently following all 18 of these promo accounts (and more) at the very least so I can see if/when any of them mention my book. How many of the followers of these accounts do you think are actual customers looking for deals and how many are other authors doing the same as me? My main problem with tweet blasting is that I strongly suspect it’s all just spamming to the choir.

Anyway, here’s what happened. I can’t give impression counts as I don’t own these Twitter accounts.

Twitter Ally   Tweet #1 Tweet #2 Tweeet #3
Name Address Followers Listed on Site? Time Impressions Time Impressions Time Impressions
AHA Program @ahapartners 14.4k 6 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1:51 PM
AHA Program @Ahaprograms 4.1k 10 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1:51 PM
AmazingAuthors @AmazingAuthors 10.5k 4 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1 retweet 1:51 PM
Author Giveaway @Authorgiveaway 2.5k 12 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1:51 PM
Book of the Day @BOOKOFTD 43.5k no 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1:51 PM
Author RTS @authorRTS 9.1k 9 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1 favourite 1:51 PM 1 reply
Book Blasts @bookblasts 4.2k 13 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1:51 PM 1 favourite
Book Blow @bookblow 54.3k 1 7:50 AM 2 retweets 10:51 AM 1:50 PM 2 retweets
Book Tweet Lady @Booktweetlady 9.1k 11 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1:50 PM
Free Book of the Day @FreeBookDeals 7.1k no 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1:50 PM
Book Deal @BookDealsPromo 12.7k no 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1 retweet (same person) 1:50 PM
EBOOK PROMOTER @ebookpromoters 75.5k no 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1 retweet (same person) 1:50 PM
KINDLE EBOOK REVIEW @reviewmyebook 63.8k no 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1 retweet (same person) 1:50 PM
Book Tweep @booktweep 57.1k 3 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1:50 PM
Book Pluck @bookpluck 13.6k 7 7:50 AM 10:51 AM 1:50 PM
<doesn’t exist> @Book_oftheday 2
<doesn’t exist> @bookdeal02_my 5
<doesn’t exist> @pingbooks 8

Twitter Promo Account Activity

Here’s a thought – if this is MY Book of the Day promo, let’s see what else these Twitter accounts were up to on MY day.

First, I checked @ahapartners, because it was first on my list. It was tweeting 8-12 times an hour, on average. It tweeted 14 times during the hour of my third promo tweet. My BOTD promo was 1 of, what, 100-150?

What about the biggest account on the list? @ebookpromoters was significantly less busy but was still tweeting a few times an hour, including 4 tweets during my third promo tweet.

I found a bigger problem than the frequency of tweeting though. The tweets were most definitely copy-and-pasted from the books’ reviews – typos and spelling mistakes included. This wasn’t true of my promo tweets, but other tweets, for other books, had obvious errors in them. Surely we should expect the promo site we’re paying to polish their output instead of blindly copy-and-pasting the semi-coherent ramblings of our fans!

Facebook – Book of the Day

When I checked, https://www.facebook.com/Mybookoftheday didn’t exist!

Top 50 Facebook Book Promotion Groups

I can’t give you any useful information about BookBlow’s promotion of my pretty, little bridge troll on Facebook. Facebook won’t notify me of anything and goes to great lengths to manipulate what people see on the various timelines. Here’s some important notes on the situation though.

  • Most of these groups are 75% full of cookbooks, erotica and zombie novels. Seriously. My book seems a bit out of place.
  • I keep seeing the same group of books cross-promoted on all of the Facebook groups that I check, and they’re all being directly posted by the authors.
  • I stumbled on an ad (direct from the author) for a book I see spammed all across Twitter every day too so I checked its ranking on Amazon but it’s about 250k, so all of that intrusive, annoying ad-spamming on all of these social media platforms are giving it about as many sales as my book historically got.
  • I just wasted 30 minutes scrolling through the last 24-hours of the top 5 groups and couldn’t find a single post about my book anywhere in any of them. Now, I’m not implying BookBlow’s done anything wrong (I did see the post about my book yesterday). More likely, it’s just how Facebook reorders the timeline, only shows certain posts in the timeline and a bunch of other guff like that to manipulate what we see. Who knows, maybe Facebook wasn’t showing me the post about my book because it’s worked out it’s about me so assumes I won’t need to see it. The point is, these groups are flooded.
  • If these 50 groups are actually “Top” groups, as BookBlow claims, why do most of them not even have dedicated group names? Check my table below. It’s easy to go to https://www.facebook.com/username and assign a name. The group owners who haven’t done it must not take their group too seriously.
  • The fact that so many of these groups have approx. the same number of members makes me wonder (like Twitter) if it’s mostly the same 12-13k authors joining all of the groups (like I did) for the purposes of advertising, community-building, etc – ie not buying anything.

So here’s my main problem with Facebook groups. If most of the posts on all of these groups are directly from the authors of the novels being promoted, what do I need BookBlow for?

Here’s the Facebook groups BookBlow uses anyway.

Group # Group Name Website Members
1 BOOK REVIEW & PROMOTION https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookpromo.review/ 29.4k
2 Books, Books and more Books!!! https://www.facebook.com/groups/320356974732142/ 33.3k
3 Book Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/187547284642012/ 14.7k
4 Promote Your Book! https://www.facebook.com/groups/205686289555465/ 16.1k
5 Authors https://www.facebook.com/groups/179494068820033/ 27.4k
6 Amazon Kindle Goodreads https://www.facebook.com/groups/kindle.goodreads/ 21.6k
7 Book Lovers https://www.facebook.com/groups/2204565182/ 20.7k
8 Book Junkie Promotions https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookjunkiepromotions/ 22.3k
9 Aspiring Authors https://www.facebook.com/groups/2204546223/ 22.6k
10 Books https://www.facebook.com/groups/29851114873/ 19.9k
11 Writers and Readers Unite https://www.facebook.com/groups/69073710111/ 25k
12 Writers’ Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/memberswritersgroup/ 28k
13 Authors and Book Lovers Discussion https://www.facebook.com/groups/authorspostyourbooks/ 21.3k
14 All About Books https://www.facebook.com/groups/AllAboutBooks2009/ 20.6k
15 BOOK PLACE https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookplace/ 22k
16 Passion for Books https://www.facebook.com/groups/passionforbooks/ 29.3k
17 Books Gone Viral https://www.facebook.com/groups/booksgoneviral/ 21.5k
18 Celebrating Authors https://www.facebook.com/groups/157960580960255/ 14k
19 Indie Author Book Promotion Page https://www.facebook.com/groups/571135069563269/ 26.2k
20 SUGGEST ME A BOOK https://www.facebook.com/groups/135014283196453/ 13k
21 A new place to advertise books for sale https://www.facebook.com/groups/aplacetosellbooks/ 11.1k
22 I love books https://www.facebook.com/groups/iluvbooks/ 12.3k
23 Urban Author’s E- book club https://www.facebook.com/groups/178147335598872/ 11k
24 The Kindle Hub https://www.facebook.com/groups/327660353939762/ 11.1k
25 Kindle readers and authors https://www.facebook.com/groups/337141432986476/ 15.7k
26 Kindle Publishers https://www.facebook.com/groups/512098985483106/ 17k
27 The Facebook Book Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/8211764644/ 11k
28 Book marketing & review exchange https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookmarketingandreviews/ 35.3k
29 The Literary Lounge authors, writers, publishers, and illustrators https://www.facebook.com/groups/135486133130440/ 13.3k
30 Novelspot Readers https://www.facebook.com/groups/NovelspotRecommendsbooks/ 13.7k
31 All Things Books https://www.facebook.com/groups/allthingsbooks/ 17.6k
32 Kindle … https://www.facebook.com/groups/acrebooks/ 13.3k
33 Hot Reads https://www.facebook.com/groups/429922670407471/ 12.6k
34 The Book Nest https://www.facebook.com/groups/booknest/ 12.2k
35 Advertise your Book https://www.facebook.com/groups/177830275661611/ 10k
36 Author Promo and Book Sales Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/147716185430164/ 11.6k
37 Books that will free your mind. https://www.facebook.com/groups/217829088277112/ 16.9k
38 Book Promotion & Links https://www.facebook.com/groups/303475983057542/ 5k
39 HONEST KINDLE BOOK CLUB https://www.facebook.com/groups/715699865117336/ 6.5k
40 Kindle Book Sharing https://www.facebook.com/groups/367069680033403/ 6.3k
41 Aspiring Novelists https://www.facebook.com/groups/aspiringnovelists/ 6.6k
42 Indie Authors International https://www.facebook.com/groups/160213917377540/ 8.8k
43 Writer and Authors and Readers unite and rejoice https://www.facebook.com/groups/476236565733229/ 8.8k
44 The Writers Connection https://www.facebook.com/groups/WritersConnection/ 7.6k
45 PROMOTE YOUR BOOK https://www.facebook.com/groups/201856639887358/ 7.5k
46 Amazon Kindle/eBook Readers UK/Europe/Asia/Africa/Elsewhere https://www.facebook.com/groups/129536203777715/ 9.6k
47 Amazon book and ebook readers https://www.facebook.com/groups/419504758165134/ 16.4k
48 Reviewers Roundup https://www.facebook.com/groups/ReviewersRoundup/ 13.5k
49 Author Meeting Place https://www.facebook.com/groups/authormeetingplace/ 4.4k
50 Support An Author https://www.facebook.com/groups/supportanauthor/ 7k

What about my book description?

I mentioned earlier that in preparation for my BookBlow sale, I removed the ENT promo text from my Amazon book description (and Kobo and Smashwords). Here’s the thing – this appears to have actually had a negative impact on my sales. Seriously. You’ll understand more in the next section.

Results

So, after all of that, you have to be desperate to know how many copies of my pretty, little bridge troll I sold, and how much profit I made, through my BookBlow promotion.

0

Yep, seriously. For the whole 24-hour period after the first tweets of my BookBlow promotion, I sold a grand total of zero copies of my pretty, little bridge troll.

W.T.F !!!

An endless series of “WTF” statements…..

What lessons can we, should we, learn from this complete debacle? My personal choice – what I assumed from the beginning:

  1. Tweet spamming doesn’t sell books. Everyone knows this, as far as I’m concerned, I just proved it. My Twitter follow list is full of authors, and I assume so are those of the Twitter accounts the advertisers use.
  2. Facebook was – past-tense – a great place to promote your wares, but this is (apparently) no longer true. The grapevine says Facebook’s no longer a social network, but is now just a sales machine for people who aren’t you or me. Everything’s geared towards Facebook helping people sell things when they pay Facebook, which I didn’t, and I doubt would work anyway. Word is, Google+ is the new place to go. I’ll test that later.

On Pimping a Bridge Troll to ENT with a $20 Tithe

My blow spew titles are getting weirder and weirder, which is OK with me. So here’s the deal. On Wednesday 24th June 2015 I ran a promotion with Ereader News Today. I’m running a few promos for my pretty, little bridge troll, Equivocal Destines, over the next few months, and ENT is the first. Why ENT? Because the word across the various blogs is that ENT is 1 of only 2 promo sites that reliably produce positive results – ie that actually make you more in sales than the promo costs you. I’ll be trying out some others too (I already have another scheduled) but ENT is an excellent place to start.

First, a word about my Amazon ranking

I recently organised and went on my honeymoon. In Equivocal Destines, I proposed to my girlfriend Paulina, who was, lets say, quite surprised to see my proposal in print when my paperback copies arrived – weeks after I published it. Anyway, so she said yes and we went to Crete. Check out my Twitter feed for dumb ego-posts from there. The point is, while doing all of this, I pretty much ignored my book, sales plummetted and its ranking nosedived. I regret nothing – some things are more important than sales and rankings.

Feel free to skip these points as they’re in my table below.

  • Historically-speaking, my ranking has been hovering around 150-200k.
  • After 1-1.5 months when I had more important things to do, with a grand total of about 3 sales (1 to a student, I found out later) my ranking had dropped to 900k.
  • I organised my ENT promotion and manually dropped my price on Amazon to 99c. At the same time I updated the description with info about my promo and promo price.
  • A day later I sold a single copy. My ranking went up to somewhere around 400k. I don’t remember exactly.
  • On Sunday and I sold 1 copy (the price was already 99c) and my ranking jumped again to just under 150k.
  • I sold a copy on Monday (in the UK) but the money didn’t appear on the KDP report until Tuesday. In the 12 hours between KDP reporting the sale and the money, my ranking dropped from 150k to 260k, most of that overnight. Beware – it seems that sales in the ‘other’ markets don’t help your ranking in the main store at all. My rank at amazon.co.uk dropped to under 100k though. My ranking is always better at amazon.co.uk. Check out my blog on that topic for my reasons why.
  • On the day before my promotion (Tuesday), I sold a copy in the main store. My rank dropped from just north of 300k to 157k.

That’s what’s happening before my promotion. The ranking jumps up a lot with single-unit sales. Check out my older blog spew on my thoughts about Amazon’s ranking system to see why I think this is the case.

My ENT tasks

I actually did very little to promote this sale. As mentioned above, I had more important things on my mind.

Date Action Result
Weeks ago Completed the form to advertise Equivocal Destines on ENT. It’s a standard, 99c promo which cost $20. The promo was approved a week or 2 later.
Last week Updated the blurb / synopsis at KDP, Createspace and Kobo to be more positive and proactive. See my blog spew on the topic. Approved and visible a day later on Amazon. Instantly updated on Kobo.
Fri 19th Updated the blurb / synopsis at KDP, Createspace and Kobo to include a notice about my ENT sale. I made th font red on CreateSpace and bigger on both CreateSpace and KDP. Kobo doesn’t seem to allow any pretty formatting. Approved and visible a day later on Amazon. Instantly updated on Kobo.
Fri 19th Manually reduced the price on KDP to 99c and adjusted to x.99 across all markets. Approved and visible a day later.
Fri 19th Setup promotional prices on Kobo for the 24th and adjusted to x.99 across all markets. This worked as expected, and Kobo’s system of setting up promo prices is actually very cool. I didn’t sell any copies on Kobo, but ENT was only promoting my Amazon link, so I didn’t expect to.
Sat 20th Sent out the 1st of (hopefully) many polite promotional tweets with an attached image of the book cover, which will be auto-spammed onto Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
My #ereadernewstoda #99cents promo is Wed 24th, but the discount’s up now! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SZ63XY6 #AHAprogram #IARTG
Yep, it happened. der
Sat 20th Pinned my spammed tweet on Twitter and Facebook. Impressions = 581
Total engagements = 8
Retweets = 4
Favorites = 2
Hashtag clicks = 1
Detail expands = 1
Sat 20th emailed my (puny) mailing list about a blog post and added an extra section to the bottom about this promo. This will have no effect what-so-ever since my mailing list is so new, but it’s a good habit to get into.
Sat 20th Posted about Fallen Victors to the “Promoting OTHER Authors’ Books” thread athttp://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors This has nothing to do with my promo. I just saw the thread and thought it was a nice idea.
Sat 20th Posted to the “only 99c” thread at http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors:

My pretty, little bridge troll’s having an Ereader News Today sale this Wednesday, but I’ve already manually reduced the price so you can grab it for 99c now.

[[ASIN:B00SZ63XY6 Equivocal Destines (Upheaving Nidola Book 1)]]

Here’s the first part of the blurb, so I don’t waste too much space in this thread:

I can’t find a way of verifying if this actually did anything. There’s no read counter and you can’t enter custom URLs based on short links that you can track.
Sat 20th Added a thread to “The Book Bazar” http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,42.0.html then quickly fixed it because I forgot to add a direct URL, again.

[b]My pretty, little bridge troll, [color=navy]Equivocal Destines[/color] ([url]http://authl.it/B00SZ63XY6?d[/url]), is discounted to [color=red]99c[/color] until Wednesday 24th June.[/b]

[table][tr][td]In a world plagued by hordes warped by magic into creatures hell-bent on the destruction of mankind, where [i]elemental magic[/i] holds sway and determines your lot in life, Taal is [i]of the water[/i], which should assure him a place among the revered rudas, protecting his city and assuring him the wealth it bestows. But centuries ago, it was a water wizard who caused [i]The Change[/i] that precipitated all of the disasters that followed, and now, being a water wizard is the lowest of the low.

With dreams much bigger than life in Takelberorl will allow a lowly water-boy, Taal sets out on a journey that will change his world forever. In reality, he’s a typical, 16yo boy who’s only following the pretty girl, but those electric-blue eyes (and said pretty girl’s older brother) just won’t let up on the whole Destiny thing.

From the battle-scarred plains that surround the place of his birth, through regal cities and across pristine mountain wildernesses full of mysterious forces, Taal and his makeshift band of renegades search valiantly in a quest to unmask the evil forces conspiring to annihilate all races. Taking heart-pounding risks and suffering tumultuous trials, the team experiences both horrific battles and unexpected delights.

Powerfully descriptive and yet lyrically poignant, Clarke reveals the land of Nidola as one of not only diverse wonders and startling beauty, but also exposes a world where seemingly benign occurrences have often surprising and even deep meaning. The radiant and dynamic characters transverse exquisite landscapes that are both hauntingly beautiful and fiendishly dangerous. Adventurous and exciting, yet thought-provoking and memorable, Taal’s adventure transports the reader to a unique place that won’t soon be forgotten.

[i]Universally agreed – and reviewed – as highly unique and entertaining, with deep and well-developed characters, Equivocal Destines is an excellent choice for anyone looking for something different. There’s elves and dwarves; swords, magic and action, but all set in a cohesive world unlike any other, with a full cast of original creatures, instead of relying on the stock fairytale cliches of dragons, warewolves and vampires.

Professionally-written, proofread and edited, with appropriately-themed cover art worthy of store shelves, Equivocal Destines is a quality read that shouldn’t disappoint.[/i][/td][td][img]https://raymondclarkeauthor.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/equivocal_destines_cover_for_kindle.jpg?h=300,w=150[/img][/td][/tr][/table]

203 Views

This got merged with the post I made for a previous, free promo. That, I guess, sort of killed it as it had a bad subject line. Anyway, by the time I’m writing this, it’s on page 7. It got 203 views, but those are shared with the previous promo.

My Results

The results of my ENT promo were generally positive, and I definitely recommend ENT to any other authors who’re looking for advertising ideas / locales. There’s a couple of caveats, as always:

  • ENT says on their site that they’re most successful with thrillers and romance titles, and this is what I found too.
  • I’m thinking (but can’t confirm) that where your book lists in their email out is very important. My book was #8 of 14, which isn’t a very good placement. Couple that with my almost non-existent placement on their website, which is part of the package, and I’m thinking I was modestly hamstrung by bad placement. I think they do a first-come, first-served method of choosing the listing order, so book your promo early. I had trouble even finding my book on their site, which says a great deal about late setups.

So here’s my results, in painstaking detail. It includes the sales listed in the notes above. I’ve included my ranking at random points along the way to give you all an idea of efficacy – in the fantasy genre – but this list is based on whenever I happened to check, which I did mostly to compile this list.

Time & Day Cumulative Sales Totals Sales Ranking Notes
June 17th 0 sales for 1 month 900k I had more important things to worry about – my wedding and honeymoon.
The point is, if you don’t advertise (for any reason, legitimate or not), your sales and ranking will suffer.
June 18th 0 sales for 1 month 900k I organised the ENT sale earlier but only manually changed the price on June 18th, in preparation for the sale on the 24th (Amazon warns you that their changes can take 5 days to propagate, but in practice it always updates within a few hours.
June 19th 1 approx. 400k
June 21st 2 approx. 150k
June 22nd 3 approx. 260k This sale was in amazon.co.uk so didn’t help my amazon.com ranking at all. Lesson re-learned!
June 23rd 4 approx. 157k
Wed 24th June 23 29,442
Wed 24th June 24 16,402
Wed 24th June 25 14,300
Thu 25th 29 14,852
Thu 25th 32 12,349
Thu 25th 32 but later 11,854
Thu 25th 33 11,902
Thu 25th 36 12,352
Thu 25th @ 1:30pm 36 16,142
Thu 25th @ 3pm 36 21,804
Thu 25th @ 4:50pm 36 22,562
Thu 25th @ 11pm 36 24,838

20150624 - ENT promo sales results

One final thought on ENT’s sales. I must admit I was expecting a dramatic increase in sales (which I saw) and a more parabolic decrease in sales over 3 or maybe 4 days (which didn’t happen). I don’t know about you, but I often check my ENT emails a few days after I receive them and possibly buy a book later. Yep, I’ve used ENT as a customer too. I was expecting a lot of other subscribers to buy books over a few days, but I didn’t realistically see it. I have to assume either people think the book won’t still be on sale in 3 days or there’s just so many good books that most people don’t bother with anything but the latest email. Either way, factor this into your marketing plan.

How do we judge success?

What’s your goal from a marketing campaign? What’s mine? Here’s my thoughts.

Making a profit

If my goal was to make an immediate profit, I failed. I spent $20 and made about $15, depending on whether or not you count the before and after sales. I do.

Increasing visibility

If my goal was to increase the general visibility of my book so that potential customers can see it on Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” list, then I also failed, sort of.

My list was, I think, 5 pages long. Now it’s 8 pages long. So there’s more books on my list. I’m linked to a wider selection of titles. I checked though, these books appear on my list, but I don’t appear on any of their lists, so my book’s still invisible. How is this possible? Because not enough people have bought my book yet. The correlation has to be strong in 2 directions to be useful, or at least 1, but the other direction. 100 people bought Book X and a couple of those people bought my book, so Book X is on my list, but with only 2 people buying mine, my book’s not on Book X’s list, yet.

Let’s not be too cynical about this though. Do any of you really expect a single round of advertising to catapult your book to stardom? Yes? Then you’re an idiot! This is round 1 of a long process for me, and I’m confident that it’ll end in success, but it’s not here yet. I really do believe that ENT will help my book, but in the long run.

Bragging rights20150625   amazon.com   Best Sellers in Children's Sword & Sorcery Fantasy Books

What about bragging rights as a goal? If this is the case, then I’m a jackpot winner. Check this one out. There’s my novel, Equivocal Destines, on the same page as all of the Harry Potter novels. How awesome is that? It was only there for a few hours, and it’s long gone now, but I get those bragging rights forever with this (non-photoshopped) screen scrape.

Conclusion

ENT is a winner. Less so if your genre’s fantasy, more so if it’s thrillers or romance (see my next post in a few days for details) but it’s definitely worth your 20 bucks, in my humble opinion.

Catapulting Bridge Trolls onto Foreign Soils: Destination Nook

Today you can bare witness to my pathetically short, prematurely aborted attempt at publishing my pretty little bridge troll to Nook, ie, Barnes & Noble. Here’s the demeaning and insulting process:

  1. Create a general profile at https://www.nookpress.com/. This couldn’t be easier.
  2. Upgrade the account to a Vendor Account. You know: Press the drop-down –> Select Vendor Account. Piece of cake.
  3. Complete the Contact Information section: Add some more generic info –> Press Save & Next a few times. There’s nothing to all of this. I’ve typed all of these details into so many forms in the last few months that Chrome’s doing the work for me.
  4. Complete the Publisher Information section. More of the above. Easy peasy.
  5. Complete the Payment and Tax Information section. Crap! Here we go again. I highly recommend you go here http://www.nook.com/services/cms/doc/nookpress/us/en_us/legal/w8.html and read this immediately. Every company says this, but none have laid it out as clearly and as usefully as Nook just did. So here’s my problem:
    1. They say “US law currently requires that we receive a signed, original, physical copy of W-8 … Scanned, faxed or other electronic copies are not yet treated as valid documentation.” O…K… so why did Amazon and Kobo accept digital declarations? Maybe this W-8 form is a different one. In that case, why didn’t Amazon ask for it? whatever, it’s optional. I can worry about it later. Let’s just get the book on the shelves.
  6. Select Tax Country and Bank Country. Are you F#@KING kidding me??? Here’s the valid list:
    1. United States
    2. United Kingdom
    3. Belgium
    4. France
    5. Spain
    6. Italy
    7. Netherlands
    8. Germany

What type of hokey, dumb-ass, small-town, redneck BS is this? I can’t publish a book on Nook because I don’t live in one of that tiny selection of anointed countries? Are all authors in the universe located in one of these few countries? How about this – I live in Poland but I’m Australian and still have an Australian bank account. I could use my parents’ or a friend’s address or something and get it working, but Australia’s not even on the list!

Game over (before it’s even begun).

I. Hate. Nook!

On Concisely Signposting Bridge Trolls

Here’s a question. Well, 2. And a tip – I got all of this very wrong  (I say that a lot).

  1. When should you write the blurb for your book?
  2. What are the blurbing rules?

There’s so many blogs out there giving advice on writing blurbs that I won’t repeat the usual stuff here in detail. I had some further thoughts though. Ones not usually covered.

What I’d like to talk about is where you must put your hook in your blurb, and how to write it. What’s important is that, no matter how pretty your blurb, and no matter how much you write, you get about 3 lines to convince your reader to buy, and 3 lines is the optimistic number. Let’s go with 1. Just as importantly, how much space do you get on each of the sales channels before your prospective customer has to click on another button to even see the rest of your blurb?


Let’s do a quick survey. Here’s the stats from today’s EReader News Today email. FYI, if you haven’t signed up for this yet, do it. It’s an excellent way of finding new, indie authors. Disclaimer – they don’t know I exist, so I’m not advertising them at all, I just like the service. I compared what you can see in the EReader News Today email to what you see on Amazon.com. It’s actually really simple for Amazon though – they display the first 5 lines of your blurb, whatever they are, even if they’re blank lines. More on this later.

Title Word Count Chars w/o Spaces Chars w/Spaces Notes
Cicada Spring: A Novel 68 330 395 That’s half a word short of paragraph 1.
Floyd 5 136 65 310 369 Amazon cut the blurb after 5 lines, 2 of which were blank, so missed almost everything.
First Bite – Shifter Romance Box Set 65 294 357 Again, Amazon showed only 5 lines, so showed nothing useful.
There’s no place like HOME 59 267 324 Amazon missed the hook by 15 words.
Predatory Kill 60 245 298 ENT appears to have skilled the promo stuff before the blurb on Amazon. Ignoring the 1-handed clapping, this is the first blurb of the day with a hook clearly shown.
Relics 72 315 383 Good hook in paragraph 1, shown on ENT and Amazon.
A Dead Husband 71 303 363 Good, visible hook. Lots of other promo stuff *under* the blurb, only visible after you press Read more
Above the Bridge 68 321 384 The hook’s at the bottom of the ENT blurb and only just visible on Amazon.
The Prophet # 1 66 318 375 Good hook. Lots of promo stuff under the Read more button on Amazon.
All The Gods Against Me 67 311 377 Unclear-but-visible hook visible on ENT but obscured with self-promotion on Amazon. Sounds like a fun book though. I grabbed a copy.
In This Life 71 320 383 Unclear-but-visible hook, but it seems like a paranormal romantic to me, so I’m not a good judge.
Curse 64 313 367 Short, clear hook in a 1-sentence paragraph. Excellent for hooking those interested in the genre.

OK, so what have we learnt from all of this?

  1. Amazon displays the 1st 5 lines of your blurb, no matter what, so your hook must be in paragraph 1, on the 1st 5 lines – and they’re narrow lines.
  2. ENT safely shows about 60 average-length words, so your hook has to be in there.
  3. Don’t get too fancy. Some of the blurbs had hooks but they were unclear, badly worded not specific enough to actually hook me, even with those in my preferred genres.

Now let’s compare Amazon to the other big retailers. For this, I’ll have to pick a single, famous book and see what everyone does. Just because Gra o Tron is cool, I’m going with A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) by George R. R. Martin.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0553593714/ 5 lines of blurb. No hook, but it’s Game of Thrones, so does it really need it? Yes! Some people really do live under rocks.
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/a-game-of-thrones-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-book-1 The search page shows 3 lines of Synopsis but the book’s page shows a lot more. It references HBO, which is a sure hook then actually explains the plot, which is better that the author’s people’s choice for Amazon.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-game-of-thrones-martin-george-r-r/1112681019 3.5 lines of blurb – all self-promo.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/audiobook/game-thrones-song-ice-fire/id387502843 Full blurb – 7 lines long. By a mile, the best blurb of all of the sites. It actually describes the plot as no others do. (I used the audiobook because Apple’s site is horrific to navigate if you don’t own an Apple toy.)

In the table above, most of my comments are about the topic / quality of the blurb, which is beyond the control of the website / sales channel – this is Martin’s people’s choice – but I’ve also listed the length of the visible blurb, which is important to you.


So, here’s the general rules for blurb writing:

  • You need 3 short paragraphs, 1 for the intro, 1 for the short content, 1 about you… bla bla bla – whatever. Read other people’s blogs to find out how to write a blurb that’ll hook a reader. More importantly:
  • Your blurb must have a hook in paragraph 1.
  • This hook must be in the first 3 lines.
  • This whole paragraph must be positive! No humdrum either. Why? Because I’ve found that when I’m reading through the 12 blurbs in the EReader News Today emails, I get bored  by the end of line 1 when the blurb starts out negative (“The protagonist’s life sux … shit happens … she meets a vampire … life gets interesting.”) or when it’s prosaic (“The protagonist leads a mundane life … something happens … he’s forced to …”) aaargh! Next! I have 12 choices every day.
  • Different sales channels – and that’s exactly what they are – treat your blurb differently, so write it, fine-tune it and test it our across all channels. Change it as necessary and don’t be afraid to burn and rewrite it if your book’s not selling well.

Catapulting Bridge Trolls onto Foreign Soils: Destination Kobo

My first novel, Equivocal Destines, has been available on Amazon for 4 months. I originally signed up to the Kindle Select program which gave Amazon exclusivity for 90 days. As this exclusive period has now ended, I’m belatedly adding my book to the other main sales channels. The first one of these, Kobo, has turned out to be a very different process to Amazon, which has made me think about writing a blog post on my experience with each sales channel.

Here’s my little bridge troll on Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/ebook/equivocal-destines

First up, a word about Smashwords

Strangely, to talk about Kobo, I first have to talk about Smashwords. You see, Smashwords appears to be an excellent, trustworthy, online, ebook store with credibility and a great feature that the others lack – if you publish to Smashwords, they’ll distribute your novel to (almost) all of the other sales channels. Excellent, right? IMHO, yes and no. If you’re technophobe, lazy or busy, definitely do this. The problem is, they take a 10% cut of your sales for the privilege. Now, I imagine for most authors this is a price well worth paying, but I’m a little different/weird in that I’m comfortable formatting ebooks and I’m willing to spend the time doing it. This means that I can get 10% more money by publishing my book to all of the other main sales channels separately. I’m still going to make use of Smashwords for their direct sales and the minor channels (which aren’t worth me spending too much time on) but I’ll do the main ones myself. This includes Kobo.

How does the Kobo publishing process compare to Amazon?

Let’s compare Kobo to the 800 pound gorilla in the room, Amazon. Smashwords doesn’t ship to Amazon unless your book becomes very popular  (because Amazon doesn’t supply an automated transfer system, it’s not Smashwords’ fault) so most indie authors are going to want to publish directly to Amazon anyway.

Amazon’s publishing process is very slick and highly automated. You follow the prompts, upload your cover image and your complete document, and Amazon does the rest. I found it to be fast, painless and accurate. The process to look maybe a day, including Amazon’s processing time. It took me a lot longer to format my book according to Amazon’s template document, but that’s expected.

Kobo uses a different system which appears to be based on a different philosophy. They still have a system where you upload your cover image and source text but it then opens in a web-based editor so you can edit the document online. I found the conversion process to be highly inaccurate and the online editor clownish and immature. Please keep in mind that I’ve only tried this with one source file so I can’t realistically speak with any authority, yet. I will say though that my source document uploaded perfectly fine to Amazon and is designed according to Smashwords’ excellent style guide.

I checked out Kobo’s Content Conversion Guidelines (http://download.kobobooks.com/learnmore/writinglife/KWL-Content-Conversion-Guidelines.pdf) and found the document to be a waste of time. Seriously, use Smashwords’ formatting book. It’s infinitely better.

The online editor is also very limited in its options, and if you use it your book will probably end up looking simple and maybe even amateurish. I’m wondering if this is deliberate. Maybe Kobo hardware has limited display options. I don’t know. I highly recommend doing all formatting in Word then simplifying as necessary to get Kobo’s system to accept it. Or, better yet, find a separate .epub creator and upload the finished product, bypassing Kobo’s frustrating system completely. I’ll do this next time. Amazon doesn’t let you do that – they use .mobi files, but you can’t upload those there either.


2 days after publishing to Kobo, I’m still having problems. I found the title of my book seris  – Upheaving Nidola – keeps getting changed to “Up heaving Nidola”, which could be an auto-spellchecking problem which I can’t figure out how to turn off, but the publication year – 2015 – is also changed to “201 5” in 3 places on the copyright page. These types of errors shouldn’t happen. I’ve confirmed my source document is correct and contains no hidden formatting to make this happen, so it’s just a Kobo problem.

I hate Kobo!


Once the book content is uploaded, things change dramatically. My limited experience so far shows that Kobo is more flexible and fair on pricing and distribution. Kobo gives me 70% of the sale price for all books sold in all regions that they sell to. Amazon has more local markets, but this is the Internet where anyone can buy anything from anywhere so I don’t see that as too important.

Most importantly for me, Kobo is much more reasonable on payment. I am Australian but I live in Poland. My only option for payment from Amazon is an expensive cheque sent by mail in US dollars. Amazon applies an $8 processing fee to the cheque and the process seems to be very slow and cumbersome. Kobo, by contrast will send the money directly to my Polish bank account in Euros. Simple and effective.

I already prefer Kobo.


Update 1 – Fri 29th May 2015

I emailed Kobo about my problem with their system. I got this reply:

Hello Raymond,

Thank you for getting in touch with us.

Our instant preview function is relatively new and we are still working out some of the kinks. Currently, it can take a few days for updates to go through to the instant preview, although updates are reflected in the actual file within a few hours of make the changes.

My sincere apologies for the inconvenience.

Best,
Vanessa

OK, so, long story short, I was inadvertently using their systems incorrectly because they failed to inform their authors that the Preview function has a delay. I can live with that. I really appreciate the speed and actual usefulness of their email-based customer support. I worked in IT back in Australia so I can assure you of this simple fact – every system will eventually fail / have a problem. What’s most important is the quality of the customer service when this inevitable problem rears its ugly head.

I appreciate Kobo’s customer support now. My simple experience was waaaay more positive than what I naively assume I’d get from Amazon.

On Unsupported 99c Promos

A week or so ago I ran my next marketing experiment for my novel Equivocal Destines. My previous 2 experiments were with free promos. Having judged them worse than useless, but actually counter-productive, I’ve moved on to 99c promos. Michael Bacera pointed out a piece of sagely wisdom to me a while ago, which is effectively that free promos are going out of fashion, presumably, because they don’t provide a marketing boost, sales boost or even a reviews boost for your book. My research has shown they actively decrease the popularity of your book by reducing your Amazon ranking. After all, while you’re giving away copies (which don’t result in reviews or post-giveaway sales) you’re not selling copies, so your ranking plummets. Good advice. So, what about 99c?

Well, here’s where I ran into a huge problem. It turns out Amazon has no intention of helping me out here. I’ve removed my book from the Kindle Select program because of its demand for exclusivity. I’d rather also be allowed to sell my book on Smashwords, Apple, Google, etc than use Amazon’s promo infrastructure and rent copies. Maybe it’ll work out badly, but that’s my next experiment. Without Kindle Select, there’s no option within the system to run any promos at all. I was left with the choice of doing it manually, so I did.

  1. I reduced the price to 99c, manually.
  2. I updated the text of my Book Description with bolded text saying it was discounted, etc.

The problem is, all these manual changes do nothing to promote the promo. If I could use Kindle Select’s mechanisms, Amazon would put in a bit of effort and all those promo websites would scan and find it. No such luck for me, I was on my own. So here’s what I did to advertise. It’s a copy of my previous promo task list, but updated, and looks really pathetic. My self-imposed remit was to not spend any money though, which severely limited my choices.

When What I Did How Effective It Was
Sunday Update book and release 2nd Edition at 99c Went live within 4 hours
Sunday Write  blog post bout the promo: https://raymondclarkeauthor.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/a-rare-sales-pitch/ A couple of people viewed it
Sunday Tweeted & Facebooked the blog post  A couple of retweets and views
Sunday I added a comment to the “Under $3.00 Kindle downloads” thread on http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/  It got swamped out quickly
Sunday I added a forum post to http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/ This forum is so messy it’s impossible to find anything. I doubt anyone checks it and clicks through to purchase.
Sunday Added a thread to “The Book Bazar” http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,42.0.html http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,213463.0.html
36 views in the first day
It was read about 60 times by the end. I can’t guess if it led to any sales because there’s no timing correlation, but it could only be 1 or 2, max.
Sunday Confirmed I’m still registered at indiebookdiscovery.com Yep, it’s still there, but there’s no way to update the profile to say “On Promo” or anything, which is a deliberate design choice of theirs that I actually like (read their info) so what more could I do.
Sunday I searched Twitter for “book suggestions” and replied to every tweet I could find where someone was asking for a book suggestion and I thought they might be interested. Max 1 sale. 1 person replied, positively.
When the book is free, this seems very effective, but with a 99c promotion, this was very ineffective. My guess is this netted me 1 or 2 sales, for maybe 30-40 tweets. It also took a long time to do it nicely, reply to anyone (almost no-one) who replied to me, etc.
Monday Sent out a few funny advertising tweets with hashtags: #IARTG, #BookBoost as well as the usual #RT, #free, #fantasy, #99cents, #99CentsKindle, #Amazon The free retweeters seem to only retweet once a day
Monday Fixed my forum post at “The Book Bazar” http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,42.0.html because I, stupidly, forgot to add a direct authl.it link It had 36 views at the time of the change but had generated max 1 sale.
Monday Emiled http://www.authorjd.com/aha-program/ for a free tweet promo to 250k. This tweets to:
http://www.bookpromo.in/   @Ebookpromoters   Cheapest deal is $9.99
http://www.bookpromo.in/   @Reviewmyebook
http://www.bookpromo.in/   @Bookblows
https://www.facebook.com/Mybookoftheday/info   @Book_oftheday
http://www.bookpromo.in/   @Bookblow
@Jdshouts
http://enasreviews.blogspot.in/   @Enasreviews   3-5 star reviews for $19.99
@Bookdeal01_my
@Bookdeal02_my
@Bookdeal03_my

More on this guy after the table! I had 2 sales the day of his tweets.

Monday emailed ebookpromoters@gmail.com from https://www.facebook.com/Mybookoftheday/info to see if they’ll consider advertising my book I heard nothing.

@book_ofTheDay tweeted my book out on Friday 1st May to 42k, but this isn’t the same group. This came from @Jdshouts (see above). Friday saw 2 sales.

Monday Filled in the form at http://www.bookpromo.in/p/about-us.html for a free tweet. @ebookpromoters
@Reviewmyebook
@BookBlows
@BookBlow free Tweets to 151k USE – Upload a message on http://www.bookpromo.in/p/about-us.html
Tuesday Submitted an application to ENT It was rejected, a week later. As I suspected, I was too late in applying.
Tuesday Posted an entry to http://www.indiesunlimited.com/category/indies-unlimited/thrifty-thursday/ I heard nothing
I didn’t bother rebranding all of my profiles. It achieved nothing during my previous 2, free giveaways, so it just seems a waste of time. None-the-less, I should have put together a sort of banner to attach to tweets and blog posts.
Infrequent Twitter and Facebook spamming. To be honest, I really didn’t have the heart to do this much. It just doesn’t seem effective either. I gave it  lighthearted try, but achieved nothing.
I checked in on the retweeting retweeting accounts and tailored my tweets to use the better ones. This basically means adding #IARTG, #RT and anything else useful to tweets. This generated a lot of retweets which were potentially seen by over 100k people, but generated no sales. This shouldn’t be surprising since most of the recipients were probably other authors.
I checked a bunch of sites that automatically scan Amazon for free books. Yes, this one includes the word “free”, so I didn’t expect my book to be listed, and it wasn’t. I also searched for sites that list discounted books, but came up with nothing. This method’s only useful for free books.

A quick note about @Jdshouts. I found him (he found me) on Twitter and offered free advertising of any book. All you have to do is ask. Then his website says you should start by buying the pre-release of his book and email him the proof of sale. This sounded really dodgy to me, and possibly a bit unethical, but a test’s a test so I diligently emailed him, following all of his rules, which included only mentioning his book in the email, not actually buying it. I expected nothing back, but true to his word, he did tweet my book out to 250k or so people over 10 accounts, some of them very well-known. I was surprised, but pleasantly so. Not dodgy at all.

His help gave me a very important piece of information too. As my table above shows, I ended up with 2 sales the day of his 10 tweets. ummm… Twitter spamming isn’t effective. I’m really grateful to @Jdshouts for the help. I just wish it had been more effective.

I might even consider buying the pre-release of his book as it sort of sounds interesting. Now that I’m in no way bound or obligated, I’ll give it another look. The couple of grammar mistakes on his website though don’t bode well for the book though.


So, what were my results. At this point, I’d usually add a table breaking down my sales by day and region, but they were so woeful that it’s not worth the effort. I sold 1 or 2 copies a day, which raised my Amazon ranking from 200-250k to round 100k on amazon.com and 80-90k om amazon.co.uk, and achieved SFA else. It was a complete washout.

Now, I guess I could have put a lot more effort into the advertising side of things, but it really was a disheartening experience (as I sort of expected it to be) with a fair amount of work and nothing to show for it. I simply don’t think free advertising’s effective in any format or context.

My next experiment will be with paid advertising. There’s some more permutations of free that I could try, but I doubt they’ll achieve anything more than this one.


My Cumulative, Take-Home Advice

  1. Free promos in all their forms are detrimental to your sales efforts. See all of my recent posts for my proof.
  2. Kindle Select is a great idea, but implemented badly, because it restricts the author and is therefore unfair. It’s not unfair of Amazon to offer it, but it’s unfair to you if you use it. (Keep in mind, as far as I know, Apple has a similarly restrictive policy where they force you to register a piece of Apple hardware with your account to sell your books in their market, so Amazon’s not alone in their restrictive tactics. I think Smashwords can effectively get you round this pointless limitation by publishing to Apple on your behalf. More on this in a week or 2.)
  3. Twitter advertising is pointless. It’s easy to put a tweet in front of 250k people, but results in nothing. This shouldn’t be surprising since most of those 250k users are probably also other authors hoping to use those same sales channels to sell their books.
  4. Banner ads are a waste of time. End of story.
  5. Pretty much all forms of free advertising out there may be well-intentioned, very nice and ethical, but they’re bound to be ineffective with so many books flooding the market.

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