Thoughts on a Sales Spike

Apples by msr from FlickrOn October 7th a new ad went live for one week for Probability Angels. I would link to the blog where the ad went live, but I can’t find it. It seems to have been taken down. I’ve emailed the owner and am trying to figure that out.

At any rate, on Sunday the 7th the ad went live and when I checked sales on that Monday there was an impressive spike in my numbers. I should add here that this ad was solely for the Kindle version and the resulting sales have only shown up for that version so far.

So that’s my first bit of information. An ad directly caused a sales spike. I have yet to have this happen in any meaningful way, especially for an ad that was comparatively inexpensive. This is a pretty large bit of information considering the number of different ads I’ve attempted with flat sales as a result. It’s proof of concept for what, up till now, has only been a theoretical idea. An ad saying (basically) “Here is Probability Angels, here are some review quotes, click here to buy it,” resulted in just that.

The ad was a banner ad and I was charged for a week. I was not charged per click or for impression, as is done by many ad campaigns. No matter how many views or clicks I got, the ad stayed up and my original fee was all I paid. So that’s too, was, different.

Now it gets…annoying. Since the sales spike my numbers have flattened out again. This is to be expected. The question is, what are they flattening out into?

As I mentioned, the spike was pretty large. I was one of the Kindle’s top 250 authors in Horror that week. A somewhat hyper-specific title, but for someone who has existed in the ether for awhile as far as titles go, a very welcome one.

But was this spike large enough to impact sales after the ad was taken down?

I don’t know yet. Which, as I said, is annoying. But initial numbers make me want to say, yes. I have had almost as many sales since the spike flattened as I did during the spike itself. In other words, sales have flattened off, but not to their pre-spike levels. They’ve flattened off at a higher level. Instead of X number of sales a day, I have Y number of sales a day, and Y is decently larger than X.

This concept is oddly missing from so many blogs and marketing articles I read. It’s there in some, but not to the degree I’d expect.

This concept being: the spike isn’t what’s important; it’s where you return to post-spike.

Odds are, and certainly for the kind of campaign I am running for my work as a whole, I won’t have a constant stream of ads being shown. I have to pick and choose and so far, for paid ads, I have seen zero results.

Now, though, there’s this spike. Great. But if, after the spike, after the ad comes down, my sales return to exactly where they used to be, did I really accomplish anything?

I would argue no. Granted, with only a week or so having passed, I can’t really make that call. It takes people time to read a book and then, possibly, tell a friend or review it or pass it on or do any of the things that would foster a real growth in audience.

But let’s say a month passes and my sales are exactly what they were pre-spike. I’d say that wasn’t a spike, it was a fluke. And that does nothing for me.

And yet I see so many people chasing spikes instead of studying the baseline numbers. Spikes are nice and they’re important to chase but…

Apple fruit by Doug88888 from FlickrI mean, pretend you’re lost in the wilderness and you’re looking for apples. I don’t know why you need apples, not important, you just really have to get some apples. That’s your goal. So, naturally, you start looking for apple trees. I mean they’re easier to see, obviously, and they’re a great sign that apples might be around. And then you spot some apple trees. And you rejoice. And then you do nothing else.

The apple trees are spikes but the apples are really what’s important. You can’t swap out your goals like that, but a lot of people start to mix the two up. You have to then verify that they are indeed apple trees. You have to see if they’re poisoned…or something. And that they’re fruiting or…look I’m not a freaking apple farmer. The point is that the search for apple trees, the search for spikes, is only a temporary goal. You still have to find those apples. And a spike doesn’t mean you’ve widened your audience.

Savvy?

So that’s where my head’s been. Ludicrously high after the numbers came in during the ad campaign, and then every day after has been a sea of anxiety and overthinking things and queasily awaiting the next day’s numbers so I can try to verify if I have apples, or if I only found a dead apple tree.

It’s kind of annoying.

Sometimes I don’t think I really have the personality for this marketing thing…

Now, is anyone else have a weird craving for apples?

The Pins are Out of the Grenades: More Thoughts on Self-Publishing

Burning bombI haven’t been sleeping real well lately and my eyes are all kinds of blurry this morning. That’s partly because of allergies and partly because I’ve been pretty stressed out this past week.

As I mentioned last Wednesday, I’ve started seeing signs of my self-promotion paying off. It’s clumsy but, for the first time ever, I have a marketing machine that makes some sort of sense to me.

Everything I’ve tried over the past few years, outside of releasing a new book, has had a murky effect on my sales. My readership has been growing, there’s no doubt there, and I continue to get new fans, but it’s been…well to call it confusing doesn’t quite fit because that implies that I at least understood some of what’s been going on.

I haven’t. Good reviews on well-read blogs have done nothing, bad reviews on blogs with three readers have boosted sales. Giveaways have done nothing, Tweeting “1…2…3…READ MY BOOK!” got me introduced to the publishing house that brought The Hunger Games to Latin America and Spain.

It hasn’t been merely confusing, it’s been like a Dali painting on acid. I might as well have woken up every morning, drank a bottle of NyQuil, and sat down for my marketing time for all the logic that has been involved.

Now though? Now there’s actual sense here. I apply force X to lever Y and Z goes up. I adjust my marketing budget (X) in the two ad campaigns I’m running right now on Facebook and Goodreads (Y) and sales (Z) rise.

LeverIt’s clumsy and I have to believe that I can get a larger rise in sales per dollar put in by tweaking ads, page layout, which quotes from reviewers I lead with, etc. Currently the cost in advertising per sale is a dismal number, and when I talk about sales I’m talking low double-digits for April.

But it’s a functional machine. And it’s real. And that’s why I haven’t been sleeping.

Money goes in, sales go up…but that’s not the end goal.

That’s a means to an end.

The end goal is to have Amazon eventually say, “Why hello there, Probability Angels, you’ve been selling well recently. How about I introduce you to more of my customers?”

That’s been my goal since day one, though I’ve lost track of it plenty of times. That’s been my bedrock concept. And now here I am, putting real money in and creating real sales on Amazon and having hourly panic attacks that my core goal, the attention of the Amazon algorithm, is a myth. Or that the money I’d have to spend to garner that attention is so high that all I’m doing is throwing my money away to see a brief rise in sales and then, once the money, Force X, is gone, things will slow back down to a crawl and Amazon will not have taken notice. It’s stressful.

I do have two concrete facts that I’ve come away with this week, though.

One is that, with the rise in sales of Probability Angels there has been a rise in sales of the sequel, Persistent Illusions. And I’m not advertising Persistent Illusions. At all. There’s mention of it at the end of the current edition of Probability Angels and it is the first book that Amazon recommends if you liked Probability Angels, but no direct marketing by me. So to see the numbers of the sequel also go up is comforting. I’m buying fans not sales.

The second concrete fact is minor and specific entirely to the Goodreads ad campaign, but I found it fascinating.

Goodreads recommends that you create two ads for every ad you make. One to target a set of authors, and one to target a set of genres.

Here are my two ads based on a quote from Nyx. Note the difference in click-through rate:

PA Goodreads Ad with Reviews

Probability Angels Ad No Reviews

For those of you not familiar with CTR, that’s your click-through rate, the percentage of times the ad has been clicked out of the total number of times it has been displayed. CTR’s generally range from 0.05% to 0.50%, so o.11% is a big number in this world, the highest in my ad campaign, in fact.

And yet, the second ad, the one targeting specific authors, has a 0.0% click-through rate. I could see some discrepancy between the two because one targets genres and the other authors, but for an ad worded exactly the same to range from the highest CTR in my campaign to the lowest? No. That was a red flag.

And yet I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on…until today. Can you see it? You probably caught it already.

When I created the author ad, the one with no clicks, I forgot to toggle the box on the ad creation form that puts a link to your reviews at the bottom of the ad.

Three words: “View 85 reviews.” A change from 0.0% to 0.11%.

No wonder I haven’t been sleeping well. I forgot to check off one box and a swing in numbers that large occurred.

Yoga meditation on the beach

I miss the days of pure theory. Those were comforting. It’s so nice to say, “Well this happens because of that and I know it’s true because in my head it sounds right.”

I still do plenty of that and, granted, that mindset came about because nothing I did seemed to matter anyway. But now there’s this jarring sense of cause and effect. And, along with that, a very real sense that I’ve moved out of dress rehearsal, that I’m no longer practicing, that I’ve switched from learning to juggle with duds to juggling with live grenades…and all the pins are out.

Theory no longer; sleep is scarce.

More next week.

A Few Words About Advertising Your Books

Times SquareLast week I chatted a bit about marketing my books, what has worked, and how revisiting my core strategy required some shifts in my current methods (that sounded  like jargon-speak).

At one point I mentioned that advertising was a pretty lousy way to sell books. That may have been a bit of an overstatement. The phrase “advertising” is broad and I don’t think one blanket judgment sums up my thoughts on the subject very well.

When I said that advertising is a lousy way to sell books, I was referring to the ads that most people think about whenever this project comes up in conversation. Big ads. Showy ads. Expensive, one-time ads. For instance, a lot of people have suggested that I price out a billboard in Times Square. I doubt highly that I could afford something like that, but, living in New York, most people throw that idea out. I mean, why not at least get a price quote?

Well, because I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t do anything. For one, the signal to noise ratio down there is absurd. But, more importantly, the advertisements in Times Square are parts of much larger marketing campaigns. Those billboards are not sole attempts to have those products interact with the masses in midtown. Those billboards are usually marquis ads for large brands that also have lord knows how many other ads, signs, catalogues, etc. where they can catch a hold of someone’s eyeballs, if only for a moment. And if you can catch someone’s attention with your product a few times in a few different ways, well then you’ve got something

AD building by By Straws pulled at random from FlickrThe other types of ads in Times Squares are ads for musicals. These ads are much easier for me to relate to. Why? Well, why are there musicals advertising in Times Square? Because that’s where the theaters are in New York. It’s Broadway. You’ve got the ads, then you’ve got the theaters themselves with copy all over them, you’ve got tickets for sale right there in any number of formats, it’s just a great place for musicals to advertise. That sort of overlap is, as I said, easier for me to relate to than the mega-campaigns of GAP or Apple. And, more importantly, that sort of overlap is achievable by me on the web.

There are four basic methods I have tried for advertising my books online. Here are my thoughts and conclusions on each.

1. Designing an ad and buying ad space on a specific website, such as a popular book blog.

This has not worked and I don’t recommend it…for me. I think this method would work wonderfully for a book whose genre is easily accessible. If you write Urban Fantasy as that genre is perceived by the current market,  sexy vampire/werewolf/ghost/human who is out hunting/being hunted by a sexy ghost/werewolf/vampire/human, then I think buying an ad on an Urban Fantasy blog could be great. The audience is primed for you, they came there looking for exactly what you’re offering, and, though it can be costly time-wise or money-wise to put a good design together, you’d just have to hit the proper notes to get clicks.

Me? My books? I have no idea what genre they are. They’ve been eviscerated by urban fantasy fans and adored by urban fantasy fans. I ask people what genre I write in and I get a complete hodgepodge of responses. Fantasy? Thriller? Literary? I mean there’s a scene in my book where an undead ronin saves a two-thousand year old Roman slave from being incinerated by his combined efforts with Isaac Newton to come up with a unified theory of gravity.

What the fuck genre is that?

So, no. This method has not been good to me.

2. Google Ads

Google ads were where I first started experimenting with advertising and I highly recommend you do so if you’re an indie author. It’s cheap, as low as a dollar a day, and you should treat the experience as a crash course in marketing. Don’t just set it and forget it, really dig deep into the data. That’s where this method had its merits. I started thinking about genres (yes, I know I just said I was genre-less but I still have to try to target something), what other authors my readers enjoy, and I definitely learned a lot about simple hooks and call to actions to put into an ad in order to get a higher response. “Click now!” sounds like a stupidly annoying thing to put into your ad, but, seriously, it works.

So Google is a great place to hone, or discover, a wide number of tools that are needed for advertising and bigger picture marketing.

The problem? It’s just too damn big. And the space you’re given to write an ad is laughable. Honestly. It’s like writing haiku.

Facebook by Scott Beale / Laughing SquidIf I was selling vacuums, okay.  “Vacuums on sale. Low prices. Click now.” I mean, it’s easy to get to the point with some products. With books though? It’s hard enough to get across that you’re selling your specific book, not just books in general. You have to cram in your personality and flavor and a sense of your genre. And that’s not so bad, but unfortunately Google awards you when the words in your ad match up with the words you choose to trigger your ad during searches.

So I had to try to get all of the above stuff in while fitting in words like “books,” “urban fantasy,” “thriller,” “zombies.” It’s rough.

And it’s made rougher by the fact that Google doesn’t understand English. If I write, “Probability Angels by Joseph Devon,” well that’s quite obviously a book. The tiny word “by” in there conveys that concept. But for Google this phrase has nothing to do with books because the word book doesn’t appear.

Short answer? It’s cheap and a great place to get your feet wet. But I found composing ads that got clicks, showed up for the searches I wanted to, and weren’t slowly tuned out by Google more difficult than writing a freaking book.

3. Facebook Ads

Now we’re on to something. Equally cheap, which is nice. You can start with a few dollars a day and experiment with their interface and what they like to see in ads. More importantly, they have great targeting. I know that my writing gets compared to Neil Gaiman, for example.

How do I know this? I’ve asked people, and researched what key words have brought people to my site, and taken note of what books amazon pairs me up with. And on Facebook I can write an ad, have my book cover up there, and then target it only to people who have “Liked” Neil Gaiman. This is wonderful stuff.

Furthermore, I can create a larger campaign. Instead of one ad, I have a series of ads. They all  run under the same budget, so I’m not adding dollars here. They all have the same basic info, but they all are offer new angles into my books. Most of them are memorable quotes from my characters. Catching, jarring quotes. Someones sees one, okay, they do a double take and they move on. But that person will see various quotes over time and, again, engaging a target in different ways helps your product sink in. This isn’t quite as varied as the mega-campaigns I mentioned earlier, but it is variation within my ads. The reader is exposed to different characters and their tones while the basic ad image remains the same. It feels much more like a marketing campaign instead of just ads.

And, most importantly, it’s working. Sales are up. Can’t argue with that.

Recent Reads by giveawayboy on Flickr4. Goodreads Ads

I have high hopes for this. Remember the musicals advertising in Times Square from earlier? Well this is the same concept. Goodreads is one of the largest social book networks out there. Eventually I’ll poke around Shelfari and Librarything too but for now I’m learning the ropes at Goodreads.

One thing I like here is that my ads click through to my book’s Goodreads page. My visitor has no sense of leaving one site and landing at my site, which can be jarring. They’re in familiar territory the whole way and they know perfectly well how to ad my book to their “To-Read” pile. You can also choose to have a tally of your reviews included in your ad. That’s great data to throw in there and, again, it’s data that Goodreads users understand.

Plus, you can create multiple ads under one budget so you can come at people from a few different angles just as with my Facebook ads, which I love.

The downside? Currently there’s a massive site-wide bug in their advertising code that is causing zero ads to show. So I have no idea if this idea will pan out. But I think it will. It seems like a good system.

So those are my thoughts and experiences from the trenches. I’ve got a lot of online ad campaigns under my belt and I really hope that my blunders can help others find a quicker and easier path to their audience.

Now…who wants to fund my billboard in Times Square?

Marketing as an Indie Publisher, the Amazon Algorithm, and Why My Books Are No Longer Free

I was talking to a friend of mine once about what I’m trying to accomplish in the world of independent publishing and he commented with a quickly astute, “Huh. Sounds like a lot of chicken and egg stuff.”

Every time I try to gather my thoughts and plan my next move for my books, I come back to that comment and it has continued to ring true.

I put out a new story? Great, so I want to get readers for it. So I tweet and post on Facebook and write about it on here…but that only reaches the readers I already have. Some of them are die-hards and they go on to tweet and write about it (if they like it), but then it fizzles out pretty quickly.

Which is to say that when I want to grow my fan base, I turn to people who already read my work and tell them about it. It makes sense sort of…in the proper light. But when you think about it, it’s…well it’s chicken and egg work.

The annual art contest is another great example. I love the art contest and have loved every entry I’ve received over the past three years, but all I know to do to promote it is to tell my readers about it and encourage them to pass it forward. And that’s effective to some degree, but it doesn’t exactly “go viral” ever.

My initial thoughts, years ago, on how this would work would be that one person would read a short story, enjoy it, then tell two other people about it and my words would spread ever outward. But social connections and influences don’t work like that. It isn’t a clean pyramid of 1 influences 2, then 2 influence 4, then 4 influence 16 and so on.

Generic two-step flow network diagram by esagor Flickr

No. No, social networks tend to look something more like this:

Community and Group formation in a Social Network by BigSee from Flickr

You’re the dot on the left.

Which is to say that some random reader could influence dozens of people simply because they have an upbeat attitude while a huge fan who is more of a thinker might not even share my work with someone else, preferring instead to digest it slowly in their own way.

I think about this quite a bit and the notion of “going viral” is a rather intricate phenomenon.

That being said, I do think the best way of getting there is to not over-analyze it and to find new readers wherever you can, make them aware of your work, and represent yourself professionally but with your own attitude thrown in. Shake every tree but focus on those most likely to bear fruit, like groups you seem to have a high reader-to-fan conversion rate in. Then? Lather, rinse, repeat.

I have definitely been growing my fan base using these methods over the years, but it hasn’t exploded. Which brings me to the very weird question of, “How do I find new readers?”

I mean, again, when I put out a new work I mainly tell my current readers, but that doesn’t get new readers, does it?

Sadly I have no answers. I just know what hasn’t worked, and I know what I’ve had to tweak.

Advertising, for example, has proven to be a pretty lousy way to spread the word. I’m now of the opinion that advertising needs to be just one part of a larger marketing strategy, not a stand alone investment thrown into the world with no real connections to anything else.

There’s a notion in marketing, a sort of “Rule of Three,” when it comes to ads. Think about the first time you see an ad for a new product that pertains to you. You look it over, nod, and then immediately forget about it. Once isn’t enough. But if you see an ad, then read an article, and then it comes up in conversation with friends? Well then that product sticks. It takes about three different entry points into the cranium before an idea will lodge there firmly.

So advertising alone never made much sense or impact. Campaigns would see a rise in hits on the site and then nothing more would happen.

Recently though, I’ve started thinking about this project as a whole again, something I haven’t done in awhile. And some core ideas had to be revisited.

One of the larger tools I always knew I had at my disposal was the Amazon algorithm. Simply put, when Amazon gets a feel for your shopping style it starts to recommend books based on similar shoppers’ previous purchases. If a book, any book, starts getting linked up in Amazon’s big ol’ brain to a popular book, then that other book starts getting pushed on consumers in the world’s largest book store.

That’s a powerful tool, but it’s one that fell by the wayside in my plan over time.

Why?

Because when I first started this site the Kindle didn’t exist. The iPhone didn’t exist. Hell, I didn’t even have a laptop. The thinking was to put all my work up online for free. I figured that if someone was going to read an entire book off of a computer, well then that was a FAN, all caps, and I’d gladly give up the royalty for that reader just to have them on my side. Most other readers who became hooked would get sick of reading on a screen and then go purchase a book. And most of them would purchase from Amazon.

Over the years, though, so much has changed. I now happily read books on my phone. People can download PDF’s into any number of devices designed for easy reading. People have more choices than, “Read my entire book off of their computer monitor or buy a paperback.”

So in order to bring my overall plan back into focus, a slowly built audience with a large percentage of them purchasing me on Amazon, I’ve done something I never expected myself to do. I’ve stopped offering my books on my site for free.

This is annoying because I firmly believe that, in five or ten years, books for free on authors’ websites will be the norm. I think new tools for monetizing readers will continue to come along and income for authors will be made based on web visitors. Or at least a larger portion of it than occurs today.

Hell, I think that would work for any already broken-in author with a core fan base.

But for an author trying to find that fan base, when the Amazon algorithm is a major tool being used, well…I need those damned sales. Not for the royalties, but for the PR.

Again, this is a complete turn around from my plan of five years ago, but, again, so much has changed that my plan needed to be revisited.

Plus I can take comfort knowing that my books cost NINETY-NINE FREAKING CENTS for their e-versions and that this isn’t a suicidal price point, but one at which I earn a healthy royalty.

The world has changed.

Somehow I forgot that such things happen.

Time to change with it.

Virtual Book Tour in March

nurture book tourI recently booked a virtual tour with Nurture Your Books.

For those who don’t know, virtual tours are when you and your book are scheduled to appear on a variety of blogs across the internet during a set period of time. This is sort of like what I try to do myself via cold emailing, but by hiring a professional I get access to a much wider network. And I don’t have to cold email anyone.

The great people over at Nurture have set up a ton of reviews and interviews (I think I’ve answered roughly fifteen billion interview questions) and I think a guest post or two.

I did a much smaller book tour back in the fall and was underwhelmed by the results, as well as by the woman I was working with.

I need to stress that the people at Nurture have been amazing thus far and I’m hoping to see much better results.

Here’s the schedule they’ve set up:

Probability Angels by Joseph Devon – NURTURE Book Tour Schedule:

I’m gonna be all over the freaking place and I’m crazy excited about it.

Also they made this:

Probability Angels Nurture Tour Banner

I look vaguely professional there.

I’m not sure how they did that. I think they’re magical beings or something.

Anyway, get ready for more of me in March than you’ll know what to do with.

How You Can Help Indie Authors

Young woman telling a secret to a manHere’s a question I’ve been asked a few times in the past month: “Where should I buy your book so that you get the highest royalty possible?”

The people asking were new readers who were looking to support my work and my life as much as they possibly could. It’s a lovely sentiment and it makes me warm all over whenever it’s expressed, but here’s the deal. At the volume of sales that I’m working with right now, the whole publishing thing is a losing proposition financially.

I’m a start-up company. A research project. The quest for a shipping route to India. However you want to think about it, doesn’t matter, the point is that there is only one thing you need to worry about if you want to support me and my work, and it isn’t money. Money comes later.

Right now? Right now it’s a review.

I need reviews and I need them posted on my book’s pages at the largest book store in the world, Amazon.com.

If you use GoodReads or Shelfari or one of those services, reviews there are good. If you have a blog, reviews there are good.

But the absolute most bang you can get for your support is to post a review on Amazon. And it doesn’t need to be a lengthy discourse on my books, or an in depth discussion on their literary merits. Those are awesome and if you want to do that go nuts, but I feel like too many people don’t leave reviews because they feel like they don’t have anything important to say.

Well, whatever, so maybe your review won’t become voted the most helpful review of my book. But it will provide data for the Amazon algorithm. It will link my book up with other books. It will mark my book as a book with a readership, and this in turn will get it recommended to other readers.

So I’m begging you, and not just for me but for any up-and-coming author whose work you love, if you want to support them throw them some stars and a few sentences on Amazon primarily, and anywhere else you happen to post reviews as well.

That’s how you can help me. That’s how you can help other authors. That’s how you can help other readers find new authors. And, gosh darn it, that’s how you can help save publishing as a whole.

Please. If you want to back me, go to Amazon right now and write me a review.

I thank you in advance for your time.

 

Looking Forward

I was hoping to discuss how the most recent convention/play test/Probability Angels RPG marketing thing went, but it’s getting late and @Rolling20s is still on the road and I won’t be getting a full debriefing in time to write this.

Chalk that up to poor time management on my part. I forgot what day of the week it was due to the three day weekend. That counts as poor time management, right?

Anyway, I do have some information. One play test was undertaken at the convention and the few players involved had a ton of fun. However, we appeared to have picked a convention that wasn’t ideal, it was difficult for @Rolling20s to get players for our particular type of game, and the first session had to be outright cancelled. So he bailed and headed north to meet up with some friends in the Baltimore area. These friends were definitely the right kind of gamers and he was guaranteed a good play test with a full table (there were only two players at the session he was able to run).

I feel like I should have a map on the site with a “Where’s @Rolling20s?” pin on it or something.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve heard except for some tweets here and there. I’ll do a full breakdown next post.

In other news, I will be undertaking another book tour in a couple of months.

I did a book tour back in the fall and was, frankly, underwhelmed. I was confused most of the time, did not feel like my hostess was promoting my book as much as she was cramming it into any site that would take it, I answered a humongous set of questions that have yet to appear anywhere and, well, it didn’t do much for me sales-wise.

This was, again, mostly my fault. I wanted to see what these book tours were all about and I tried a very very cheap one. I got what I paid for, but I did learn how they work and that I really enjoy answering interview questions.

For awhile now I’ve been toying with the idea of doing another one if I could find the right host, but that was an absolute nightmare.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but people on the internet are insane. When I contacted book tour sites people were writing back in all caps, people were writing back in gibberish, people were writing six emails in one day and then not responding to me ever again. One lady seemed okay, but then she promised me that if I hired her I would get the number one spot on Google for the search term “urban fantasy author.” That’s a big red flag. It says, over and over again, in Google’s how-to pages and webmaster pages that no one can ever guarantee a top slot. Ever. I asked this lady what she had meant by her email, giving her a chance to explain herself, and she replied, “It’s a secret,” and then used some emoticon I’ve never seen before.

However, just as I was about to give up, I tried one more site that offers internet book tours and was completely blown away. I was contacted professionally and promptly, and when I did manage to set some time aside for a phone call all of my trick questions were answered correctly. The woman who runs the business was smart, kind, and, most importantly maybe, wildly enthusiastic about marketing books.

So I have that little adventure to look forward to in the coming months.

Otherwise my life has been boring and cold with a few showers of postseason football.

 

The $.99 Price Point in Publishing

ninety nine cent booksThere have been a lot of articles recently, and not so recently, about how much e-books should cost. Obviously this will always be up for debate, but over the course of last year somehow Kindle self-publishers landed at $.99 as the correct answer for now.

Why $.99? Well for starters that’s the lowest you can go. There’s also a lot of allure in those double digits to the right of the decimal point. Something priced at $1 seems, somehow to our brains, to be much more expensive than something priced $.99.

iTunes and the iStore probably have a lot to do with it, too. $.99 has been their reigning price point for awhile now (though individual songs are creeping back up) and I think it just makes sense to people that digital whatzimahoos should be $.99.

As I mentioned, there’s been a lot of dicussion about this. Some people think it’s good idea, there’s a nice breakdown from earlier last year over at CNET.

Some people think it’s a horrible idea, this article from the Huffington Post thinks $.99 cent books are going to undermine the market and cause a price war that will never end.

I’m not here to discuss the ins and outs of this too much. I’m just here to say that no matter what people think, or write, or preach, or argue, or believe, the fact is simply that $.99 IS the price point for Kindle books.

How do I know?

Because I dropped the price of Probability Angels to $.99 a few weeks ago and I’ve sold more copies since then than I did all of last year. I do have a new ad campaign running based on this price drop, but I’ve run ad campaigns before and never seen results like this.

Is this good? Is this bad?

How should I know? But it is what it is and reality can never be ignored, no matter how pretty your arguments are.

Frankly, I’m of the opinion that future authors will generate revenue from a wide variety of sources, and not just on royalties from book sales, so I’m not particularly worried.

Plus, as I mentioned, the price of music is creeping back up so I don’t entirely think $.99 is the permanent price for an e-book.

But it IS the price of e-books right now.

Full stop.

Progress in Self-Publishing? Maybe…

Progress in Self-Publishing

I think I spotted a ray of hope for self-publishers this morning.

A lot of days I sit at my computer doing nothing more than trying to get people to pay attention to me. And not in a fun, “Look at me I’m wearing a lampshade on my head!” sort of way. In a repetative, mindless, grind known as cold-emailing.

I have numerous Google Alerts set up for terms that have something to do with my books: “Urban Fantasy,” “Independent Reviewers,” “Genre Tweaking Novels Where a Ronin Saves a Roman Slave From Being Burned to Death by Isaac Newton.”

Surprisingly that last one doesn’t prompt a lot of responses.

What I do get a lot of, though, are blogs and sites which review books or interview authors. And I sit here and send off email after email asking for reviews or an interview or a write-up. And then nothing happens.

It’s awesome. Really. Tons of fun.

This seemed like a great idea to me when I started, and it still seems like a necessary panning for gold sort of task, but very quickly the sites I was coming across began to fall into three categories.

They were either:

1. Tiny blogs with few readers who were happy to promote any book that anyone emailed to them.

2. Gibberish spewed by lunatics and organized by a somewhat artistically inclined orangutan.

3. A large, well-established blog that would take review requests but *would never review self-published titles.*

This last category always killed me. I mean, I know why they don’t review self-published books. Self-published books suck for the most part. I stand proudly in a class of authors that could be out-written by a somewhat artistically inclined orangutan if he wasn’t so swamped with requests to design new websites.

Except…except there are also authors like me. Authors who are self-published by choice. Authors who have a growing base of loyal fans because we take our work seriously, know what we’re doing, and are simply a natural offshoot of a massively flooded book market. Some of us with talent were bound to try out this self-publishing thing.

But the fact that this choice automatically shuts me out from some of the larger reviewing blogs is irritating and I always think that it would be nice if there were some caveats to their review requirements. Go read my reviews on Amazon; those are real and barely any are from people I know. But no amount of stars, no number of quotes, nothing gets past that wall of *we do not review self-published titles.*

And that’s not good for anyone. These rules have to change because more and more of us authors are trying end-arounds behind traditional publishers and, while much of the resulting pile will likely remain crap, some of that pile is going to be quality work published in a manner that will be commonplace in a decade.

So, basically the world needs to change in order to make me right. No problem.

But then, this morning, DUN DUN DUNNNN…I came across this site:

The Book Pushers

Their review policy reads as follows: “Previously we had a policy of not reviewing any self published books on the blog. This has now changed. We will be reviewing self published books, but we will only be reviewing copies that we have solicited or bought ourselves. This is due to the vast number of self published titles that are out there.”

So I still can’t technically approach them with my book, but they do review self-published novels!

Victory?

Not even close.

Hope?

Smells a bit like it, yes.