Tag Archives: Sales

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.

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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.

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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Paperback or Kindle




Discover me on Indie Book Discovery

On Cloned Bridge Trolls and Irregular Heartbeats

Anyone interested in a quickie? Well, probably not.

Here’s one a lot of (indie) authors may have not thought of. Amazon.com isn’t Amazon. They’re very different beasts. Let me give you my latest data up front. As always, it’s based on my novel, Equivocal Destines.

Site Reviews Amazon Best Sellers Rank Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
www.amazon.com 5 #353,322 19
www.amazon.com.au 0 #278,653 Paid in Kindle Store
#3082 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Epic
#7327 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure
21
www.amazon.de 0 #477.161 76
www.amazon.ca 1 #244,849 19 – exactly the same list as amazon.com!
www.amazon.co.uk 1 #70,825 Paid in Kindle Store
#92 in Kindle Store > Books > Children’s eBooks > Literature & Fiction >
Science Fiction, Fantasy & Scary Stories > Fantasy & Magic > Sword & Sorcery
57
All other Amazon stores no data no data

Well… Any questions? I’m obviously very proud of my sub-sub-sub-sub-genre ranking of 92 in the UK, although I hope my other rankings’ll increase a lot sometime soon too. I can tell from my reports that I’ve sold a disproportionate number of copies in the UK. Here’s my sales numbers, listed as percentages. Any market not listed has generated 0 sales.

 Market Free % Paid %
Amazon.com.au 4.5 6
Amazon.com 80.9 57.5
Amazon.de 2.5 3
Amazon.es 0.3 0
Amazon.co.uk 9 27.2
Amazon.in 0.3 0
Amazon.ca 1.9 6
Amazon.co.jp 0.3 0

So, clearly amazon.com generates the most sales – both free and paid – it’s also a much, much larger market. In reality, 400-500 hundred million. In theory, billions. The UK, with it’s, what, 60 million, is a smaller market with fewer overall sales so my sales as a percentage of that market, are much higher.

As an aside, my first table strongly implies that people in Germany and the UK read a lot more books.

People, don’t just focus on American customers on amazon.com. It looks like you might get more traction focussing equally on the UK, and even Germany where practically everyone under 30 speaks a serviceable level of English (of course, my German friends dispute this generalisation).


Seriously, one day I’m going to have to write a blog post on the rationale behind my ridiculous naming ideas.