Tag Archives: ebook publishing

On Wart Trolling in Mediocre Bridge Trolls

Everyone out there will have heard one of the most common pieces of advice for new writers:

To be a good writer, read more.

OK, zajebisty, but what exactly? The usual advice is to read the classics, and the classics in your genre. So, if your genre’s fantasy, then read LOTR. If it’s romance then read… I honestly have no idea. Danielle Steele? Either way, read everything George Orwell ever wrote and a bunch of turn-of-the-century American writers.

Poppycock!

I’ve learned more from reading crap books that I ever did from reading the luminaries in the field. I only really read other indie books, and I only ever read those with 4 or more stars on Amazon, which I guess is pretty common for a lot of (cheap) readers. None-the-less, a lot of the books I read are worth significantly less than their ratings – and I love them for it. A few examples:

  1. I’ve mentioned this classic charmer a few times recently (in various places). Some book (I don’t remember the title) as the protagonist die in chapter 1 and become a trainee guardian angel. It’s her job to save human souls from demons. Then she gets all kissy kissy with the leather jacket-wearing “bad boy” supervisor, then she gets the job of rescuing a special baby from demons. Apparently it’s special because it’s mother was a guardian angel, which is a big no no. Anyway, so now guardian angels and demons will instantly die if they touch this baby (the birth and breast feeding must have been fun for its mother) and so she’s given special gloves. Lo and behold, she has to pick up the baby without the gloves and doesn’t die. Why? Apparently her mother was also a guardian angel, so she’s special too. OK, so why isn’t her new boyfriend toast? Guardian angels (her boyfriend) can’t touch these special babies (her) without instantly dying.
    1. What I learned:
      1. Plot hole!!! And it’s the size of, well, the whole book.
  2. I’m currently struggling through a very well-written book that’s excruciatingly slow and monotonous. I’m 11% in and so far nothing’s happened, but I keep reading because I want something to happen. I’ll probably give up soon. In the first 11%, a new wizard has been trained (no exposition on what that involved or how, just conversations about how grey his room is) then been kicked out of his master’s tower with a cruddy map and told to never come back. Now he’s wandering from town to town and getting sore feet. The highlight of his journey so far has been the 2 or 3 pages the author spent explaining, in graphic detail, how to skin, gut and clean roadkill. A squirrel, I think it was.
    1. What I learned:
      1. Pacing is critically important. Don’t let it go on for so long with explanatory stuff.
      2. What the author finds fascinating might be boring, or even just plain gross, for the readers.
      3. The whole My character starts his journey with amnesia thing really is a cop-out.
  3. I gave up on the last book I tried to read at 19%. So, in this one, apparently humans engineered true A.I. and it took over the world. Then it escaped from the confines of the Internet to become a free-roaming intelligence made up solely of swarms of electrons that move through the air, so it can’t even be killed. Aaargh!
    1. What I learned:
      1. If you don’t understand physics, don’t write about it.
      2. If you don’t understand IT, don’t write about it.
      3. If you must, find someone to help you make your plot reasonable.
      4. Don’t repeat the same thoughts and ideas in multiple conversations with too many characters – setting the stage for 19% of a book gets monotonous and boring.
      5. If every character is always negative, then so will the reader be, and they’ll solve their problem by deleting your book.

I could go on, but I guess you get the point. Now, these are all broad-brush lessons that I’ve included here, but on reading these 3 books (as much as I could stand anyway) I learned a lot of specifics about how these authors committed their sins, so I know what to look out for in my own books, specifically.

Those lessons are worth the few hours I put into these freebie books, and so should you.


If you’re interested, I’ve also added a condensed version of this to my page How to Edit & Proofread a Novel in the section Don’t Do As I Say.

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On Prodigal Bridge Trolls & Homecoming Dances

When I first published Equivocal Destines, I enrolled it in Amazon’s Kindle Select program. They “recommended” it and after some quick research, it seemed like a good idea. I wasn’t happy about it’s conditions, but it worked out OK. In brief:

You enroll your book(s) in KDP-S and you get fancy benefits:
  • You can set the price of your book to free for 5 days out of every 90 day enrollment – which is actually highly restrictive as most other sales channels will let you set your book to any price you want, including free, for as long as you want. It’s the only “free” option on Amazon though, so – in theory – good for marketing. I used this enrollment period to do a bit of free advertising (free book, not free service) and it all came to naught, so this isn’t worth squat in reality.
  • You can lend your book to Amazon Prime and Amazon Unlimited customers. You still get about $2 for each copy lent. Now this was something I could really get behind. It was another way to make my book available to lots of people, for a better price, and I still get my $2. Awesome! In reality, I lent a whole bunch of copies and haven’t seen a cent from Amazon for all of it, but it’s a good, ethical theory. Amazon’s now changed the pricing policy, but that’s a topic for another time.
  • You get prioritised advertising space – for whatever that’s worth for my completely unknown book. Not incidentally, that’ll probably be the topic of my next blog spew, so stay tuned.
There was also a single, massive downside. You have to make the book exclusive to Amazon for the 90-day enrollment. Now this is something that I find highly unethical and abusive. It was because of this rule that I removed my book from KDP-S and published it elsewhere.
Now, it feels good to have your book available in all of the stores, and it’s also a lot nicer and more ethical to have full rights to your work, instead of ceding some of those rights to Amazon or anyone else. The problem is, all of the other stores are completely ineffective. I’m going back to Kindle Select now.

Back into the fold

I was with KDP-S for 1 iteration of the standard 90-day enrollment period, then I didn’t renew it and published at Kobo and Smashwords, which in turn published my book pretty much everywhere else. In that 5.5 months, I’ve sold a measly 5 copies in stores that aren’t Amazon. I used to rent a lot more copies than that each month on Amazon, and that was only days after releasing my book and having done absolutely no advertising.
I recently read Mark Coker’s recent diatribe (from Smashwords) about KDP-S, and I agree with pretty much everything he says, from a ethical perspective, an industry perspective and a financial perspective. He’s absolutely right that KDP’s exclusivity clause is unethical (my words, not his) and needs to go. Like he admits though, I have prioritise the rent that I have to pay. More than that though, I have some serious misgivings about all of the other storefronts/sales channels.
  1. Only Amazon actually makes a serious attempt to put unknown books in front of potential buyers. I’ve looked into the advertising options at Apple, Kobo, etc and found Amazon to be far superior, even in their evilness. Basically, Amazon’s better at making money for themselves, by (accidentally) making money for me.
  2. It’s not even possible/easy to advertise outside of Amazon myself. I’ve used KBoards, ENT, BookBlow and BookGorilla and they all just want a direct link to your book on Amazon US. I don’t know how to advertise my book outside of Amazon, or outside of the USA. I have a proportionally much higher number of fans in the UK but I can’t even find an advertising service to reach more of them. All of the big services are USA-centric and Amazon-centric, so why should I care if my book’s on other sales sites if the advertisers don’t?
  3. No matter what you may like or dislike about Amazon, they’re still the place to be. Sorry, but it’s true. I wish the other sites would put as much effort into the whole process as Amazon does, but they don’t, so Amazon it is for me, and if it’s going to be Amazon, and Amazon is willing to give me more for free by rejoining KDP-S, then so be it.

I’ve done a bunch of rounds of advertising but my book’s still languishing in obscurity. This isn’t the place to speculate at length about why (dark cover art, unadvertisable genre…), but it does provide an opportunity to really test the pre-KDP-S vs. post-KDP-S landscape. I’m going to re-enroll and just leave it for a few weeks to see if my sales (and rentals) magically increase. If they do, with no further input from me, then we’ll all know that Amazon’s background magic actually does alter your book’s placement by being in KDP-S. A lack of movement might just mean my book’s not appealing, but time will tell.

On KBoards Book Discovery as a Bridge Troll Catapult

Welcome back to my (so far brief) floundering series on promotional sites and their effectiveness. Most recently I’ve tried the KBoards “Book Discovery” promotion service (http://www.kboards.com/book-discovery-promo/). As they say, it’s a promotion opportunity “for newly-published or overlooked books”. Well, due to my utter failings at promotions (I’ll have to change tack again soon) this is exactly what my book needs.

First up, what’s their deal?

I’ve pulled this, almost verbatim, from their website.

What you get:

  • Inclusion in our Book Discovery Days post in the Kindle blog. We post these on Tuesdays and Fridays at about 4pm Pacific. The table is limited to 16 books or fewer, and includes a clickable book cover, links to your book’s page on Amazon, and a synopsis describing your book. The synopsis is pulled from the first 500 characters of the description of your book on Amazon.
  • A Facebook post about the blog post. The Facebook post may include an image showing book covers; for space reasons it is not guaranteed that your cover will be among those.
  • A tweet about the blog post to our KBoards Twitter followers.
  • An alert about the blog post in our daily e-mail newsletter.
  • A “KBoards Featured Me” badge to include on your author website.

Requirements:

  • Our family-friendly guidelines apply. No erotica – sorry!
  • Fewer than ten reviews on Amazon *or* an Amazon ranking of higher than 100,000.

To me, this sounds like an excellent opportunity, and the price is awesome. It cost me only $US15. The “What you get” list is very generic in its offerings, but this is to KBoards members, which, in theory, are dedicated bookies and so should be on the lookout for good deals. If you’ve read my previous blow spews about this type of advertising, you’ll know I’m highly skeptical of FB and Twitter spamming, but to this directed audience, it might be more effective that to the world at large. The KBoards blog inclusion and the alert sound very helpful though.

The requirements are awesome, and I’m highly appreciative to KBoards for even setting up this type of promotion, for this type of author. I really wish more services would try to help those at the bottom of the ‘recognisability’ spectrum, instead of only catering to those who can already afford to pay wheelbarrow-loads of cash to bump their books from 25k to 5k on Amazons lists. This alone makes the KBoards Book Discovery promo a great idea.

I just wish it was successful.

How’d it go for me?

Complete and utter failure!

More on why in the next (small) section, but first I need to deal with my numbers, or complete lack thereof.

Now, I did sell more copies during the time period of this promo, but 40% of them were before the promo even went out. I followed my usual process of keeping the promo separated from any other activities so I can see the effects of the promo in isolation, but I did reduce the price of my book and update the blurb on Amazon to add a heading line saying it was on sale for that week because of the KBoards sale. I then sold 40% of my extra copies before the promo, but after the price reduction and headline change.

I can only assume it was the headline that attracted (most of) my extra sales, not the KBoards promotion. How disappointing 😦

Why the crap results?

I have to be fair to KBoards and all of the other services that I’ve tried and lay the blame for my relative failure at marketing directly on my book, not these services. Even with ENT, my results were poor compared to the others in the same promo, so it must be my book, not entirely the service.

I’m looked at this topic before, and no doubt I’ll look at it again, but it’s the cover, mostly. My cover artwork is pretty well done (I like to think) but trankly, too dark (too much black) for the primarily US audience of these services. I’ve gone back to my cover artist a couple of times to get the artwork updated, but if you’ve ever dealt with a cover artist… well…

So look, don’t blame KBoards for my pitiful results, but also, do blame them. After all, half of their promo service is FB and Twitter based, which is pointless. No-one in history has ever bought a book based on a FB or Twitter blast from an advertising site. It just doesn’t happen. So it looks good on the promo site but doesn’t actually achieve anything or the author.

I also have to wonder about the effectiveness of the blog inclusion. Does anyone read that blog or those emails? I don’t know. KBoards is a massive website and is hugely popular (and deservedly so, because it’s excellent) but I’d guess people go there for the threads, etc, not for their blog. My completely unauthoritative guess is that the blog sits at the side of the site and is significantly less popular than their highly popular forums.

Where will I go from here?

I have 2 plans for the immediate future, which are relevant to you, if you’re reading this.

  1. I’ll research more promo services and try them out. I have the spare cash to give them a go, and the patience to try them all in isolation. It’s helpful as most other people don’t want to blog about these things unless they’re wonderfully successful.
  2. Perhaps more useful, I’ve got a thriller/crime novel coming out in a few months. I’m going to get professional, colourful cover artwork done, etc, and it’s much more “in” the genre which these services claim are the most successful. So I’m going to really push my thriller, by advertising it across all of the same services I’ve already tried with my fantasy book with the darker cover art. You should definitely check back in in a few months to see how all of these services, including KBoards, fare with a brightly artworked thriller.

I have to be fair to these services. I don’t like to unfairly crap on advertising services which in all probability work wonderfully for different genres with more competent advertisers (i.e., me), but in my case, this service did, legitimately, fail dismally.

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!