It’s that time again. With slightly less than two months left before the release of Silenced, I’m gathering up a list of people who are willing to read and review.
It’s always been a bit difficult to find people who will commit to jumping into the current book of a series when it’s already well on its way to completion. Though the last two books that were released were technically able to be read as stand alones, it’s always been my opinion that the best experience comes from reading the series in order, from start to finish. With this release, I’m requiring that those that receive an ARC do just that.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that the first book was released with a whimper. No build up, no marketing whatsoever until it had already gone live. And the promotion that I got once it was already for sale was minimal at best, though I did pay for advertising. Books two through four were handled by another promotional company, and the results were slightly better. But after a harrowing roll out for Changed which cost me hundreds of dollars and left me in tears, seriously considering deleting a manuscript that most of my readers ended up loving, I knew I could do better.
My answer? Like it is with most everything on this crazy self-publishing journey, I’m doing it all my own damn self. I’m not paying a tour company this time. I have done some advertising, shelling out a minimal amount to promote the special preorder price for Silenced during a group Facebook event. I’ve done my own giveaway. I’ve guest hosted a few takeover slots. And yes, I have directly contacted bloggers – some old standbys who it was really a formality to ask them – as well as some new faces that I’m excited about teaming up with. Once I have the paperback version ready, I’ll also do a Goodreads giveaway too.
The fact of the matter is that by driving my own train, I’m in total control. And as such, I’ve seen marked improvement over the results that I got when I let someone else take the wheel. Right now, I’m sitting on over twice as many Amazon preorders of Silenced (with nearly two months to go before release) than I had of Changed total. And the numbers at the other retailers are just as strong.
No, I’m nowhere near the point of ever reaching a bestseller list, but it’s convincing enough data to wonder why I didn’t decide to do this my own way ages ago.
Which leads to this. I want you – yes, you – to read and review Silenced. Haven’t started the series yet? No problem. There’s plenty of time to catch up and read the new book before February. I’ll even send them direct to your Kindle email address one at a time. All you have to do is promise to read the first four books in order from beginning to end, answer one trivia question per novel to confirm that you did, and you’re golden. All ready to get your ARC and post an honest review to Amazon and Goodreads.
Ready to sign up? Click the link below for more details and to get started.
This past week, Amazon price matched Intoxicated, making it free across all platforms. All in all, it wasn’t as lengthy of a process as I expected it to be. I believe that I started on 5/7/15 by changing the price at Smashwords, then waiting for the trickle down effect to take place.
Every day since the book went free at some of the bigger sites (iBooks, B&N, Kobo), I clicked over to Amazon to see if they noticed. I reported my own lower prices quite a few times, even though I’ve heard that it’s not effective if the author does it. I did enlist a few friends to help, but I’m not positive that more than two other people reported the lower price.
The tipping point in my eyes is when I uploaded Intoxicated to Google Play as a free download. Not because I plan on selling tons of books there, or even uploading the rest of the series there, but solely because I stumbled across advice that suggested this was a surefire way to get Amazon to make your book free. And the logic makes sense. After all, Google is, well, Google. Imagine when the search engine results pulled up for your book, showing free at Google, and paid at Amazon. With the way Amazon dominates the ebook market, it’s not good for them to be publicly undercut.
Sure enough, within two days of my book going live on Google Play, it was also free at Amazon. I had achieved success, and didn’t even know it until I saw the first three free downloads hit on my dashboard, a lovely green color among the (very) sporadic red line of paid sales.
As I expected, perma-free works better on Amazon than it does on other outlets. Though making it free at other retailers has guaranteed at least a few downloads per day, the response elsewhere has been nothing like over at Amazon. It was fun the first day to periodically check my dashboard to see the downloads climbing by what I considered to be leaps and bounds. Mind you, I did nearly no promotion of this – just a simple tweet, a Facebook post, and a mention over on Tsu, so most of the downloads came from people stumbling across it themselves.
For the first two days of free at Amazon, I did so much better than I expected. Intoxicated hit right around sales rank 1,200 of all free books at its peak (at least what I witnessed) and was also (just barely) in the top 100 of both the Romance and the Women’s Fiction categories. Pretty good for an experiment.
The interest has subsided since, which I fully expected. I’ve submitted it to a couple of free book websites for editorial consideration, as I’m hoping I can get some promotion at no charge. I’ve just started a targeted Facebook ad for the next week, but am not throwing a whole lot of money at it. So far, I am the only click, because I couldn’t stop myself from trying it out to make sure the damn thing worked.
What’s my goal here? Ultimately to get people to take a chance on my series by reading the first one for free. And the early results are promising. Prior to Amazon setting it to free, I’ve had a few paid sales of Book Two at the other retailers. And a purchase of the rest of the series at Smashwords, each subsequent book selling two days after the last. And since going free at Amazon, I’ve gotten one new review of Intoxicated, and paid sales of Book Two each day.
Still not setting the world on fire, but it’s a start. I’ll take it.
After a lot of debate, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and price the first book in my series at perma-free. I know that starting out, I was hugely skeptical of this practice, and I’m still not entirely sure that it will work out for me. But it’s worth a shot, right?
Besides, Intoxicated is the book that I always give away if I’m doing a mass freebie. It’s the one that I want people to start with, because all the others come after it chronologically, even if they focus on different characters. And it’s the one that’s been pirated, so there’s already plenty of free – unauthorized – copies floating around. Why not make it legit and have a way to actually track how many downloads I get?
As you might already know, Amazon does not let you price your books for free. Sure, they have their free days for those that are exclusive, but the list price has to be 99 cents or above. The only way to get a book perma-free there is by price matching.
So I’m enlisting the help of all of you if you’re fair game. It’s easy to report a lower price to Amazon; you just scroll down on the book’s page until you find the link to “tell us about a lower price”. Then you click, copy and paste the other retailer’s link, and specify what price is being charged there. Repeat for each retailer and you’re done.
I’ve changed the price to free at all retailers that I control. Smashwords, iBooks and Kobo had it free within hours. Barnes & Noble will have the price updated shortly. Now we’re just waiting for Amazon’s algorithms to kick in and price match.
Here’s the links you’ll need to help out. And by all means, if you use one of the other retailers anyway, be sure to download your own copy. I’ll add B&N when the price change is effective, and I’ll definitely advise when we’re successful over at Amazon.
Update as of 5/11/15: B&N is now free (it was a penny over there for a few days), and I lowered the list price at Amazon to 99 cents, but I still need your help in getting it free.
Thanks for your help!
It’s official. In 2014, I joined the club of authors who made more money on outlets other than Amazon than at the ebook behemoth itself.
This was something that I predicted way back in July, when the rollout of Kindle Unlimited happened on the same exact day as the launch of my third title. Though my release day event quite heavily featured links to Amazon, my sales there were absolutely nothing. Instead, I watched as readers flocked to iBooks – and B&N, to a lesser extent – to purchase their copies.
It was several months before my third book even had a sales rank at Amazon, because no one pulled the trigger there. And the first person that did promptly returned it. Since then, I’ve gotten a sale here or there but nothing to write home about.
Actually, my sales anywhere are nothing to write home about, but since I’m not in this for the money, that’s beside the point.
What is the point is that I moved more copies at other outlets than at Amazon, which further backs up my decision not to limit myself to distributing to only one retailer. Granted, if that one retailer was Amazon, I’d be able to take advantage of their free days, countdown deals, Kindle Unlimited and their new pay per click advertising.
I understand what Amazon is doing with their exclusivity deal, but I really wish they would extend those marketing options to every self-publisher. After all, Amazon benefits from all ebook sales, not just those from their Kindle Select program. Instead, they pretend that they’re the only player in the game, which isn’t true.
And I could pretend right along with them.
But it would exclude those readers – who are obviously there – who want to read on their Nooks or iPads and iPhones. And yes, I know all about the Kindle app and they likely do, too. But the whole point of having another ereading device is to not purchase your content from Amazon, but rather from B&N or iBooks. And clearly, this is what is happening.
When I entered my journey into self-publishing, I fully intended the bulk of any sales to come from Amazon. In fact, I published to Smashwords as sort of a trial run – to get a feel for things before I unveiled my book to the big dog. By doing so, I learned that overall, I liked dealing with Smashwords better. After all, they allowed me to do many of the things Amazon is just starting (preorders, tying books to a series, subscription models) long ago. And I always publish there first, because I find that formatting my book to Smashwords specifications eliminates a lot of work later. Quite honestly, once my book is vetted for Smashwords’s Premium Catalog, it’s a quick five minute process to upload my book to Amazon.
I’m well aware that the tides may change as readers get complacent with the Kindle Unlimited model and cancel their subscriptions. Let’s face it: Amazon readers are used to getting books for free anyway; is it really worth most shoppers’ $10 per month to read unlimited books? For most, I’m thinking it would be cheaper to supplement the free downloads with paid sales of the books that they can’t live without.
So I’m eager to see what happens with my upcoming release. Now that Amazon has – finally – allowed me to list a preorder there, we’re again on a more level playing field. And I’ve ramped up my marketing efforts as well. Of course, my marketing efforts plainly include all retailers.
Could 2015 be the year that Amazon reclaims its dominance in my Schedule C?
I need your help.
As some of you already know, the fourth installment in my series is releasing on April 7, 2015. I’ve got that familiar nervous excitement that’s building in my stomach, tempered by the knowledge that I’ve been here, done this before.
This time around, Amazon has their preorder option available. Obviously, I’ve done the whole preorder thing at B&N, iBooks and Kobo, but since there’s a vast majority of readers who are still loyal to Amazon, there’s a whole new world of opportunity there for me to explore.
The bottom line is that I want buzz on my book during the preorder period. And on release day at Amazon, I’d like to have a minimum of 25 reviews.
In order to make this happen, I’ve already enlisted the help of my favorite promotional company to coordinate my release day event. I’m also planning to do a preorder event of some sort with them, the details of which are being worked out as we speak. I’ll no doubt be contacting my blogger/reviewer friends personally and letting them in on the action. But I know that’s not enough.
That’s where you come in.
See, I’m going to be giving away up to 75 ARCs of Changed to readers like you who agree to the following rules. Trust me, I’m not going to make you jump through hoops.
1. You must be on Goodreads.
2. You must add Changed to your bookshelf. Here’s the link:
3. You have to track me down (here, on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter or Tsu and let me know you’ve done this. I will check, so please make sure that I can see your shelf! Also, when you contact me, let me know what format you want this in: mobi, epub, PDF and where to send it.
4. It goes without saying that the ARC is for your eyes only. No sharing of the ARC, but you can certainly share this post if you know someone else who would be interested.
5. Please post your honest review to Goodreads as soon as you finish the book. I’m talking 1-5 stars here people; no need to worry about feeding my ego. And I want reviews to go up during the preorder period, so don’t be concerned about posting too soon. I will ask that you copy and paste to Amazon once it goes live there.
6. If you love the book – or hate it, but think it’s a great fit for someone else – please don’t hesitate to talk about it.
7. I will email all who participate periodically. What I’m thinking is a total of four times: the initial sending of the ARC, a reminder email halfway through the time period between the ARC being sent and release day, a reminder email a day or two before release day to copy and paste to Amazon, and a wrap up email after release. I promise not to be too annoying or pushy.
Yes, I know that this is a Book 4 and that scares people a little bit. However, out of all of the books in the series, this is the one that I would consider being most standalone in nature. The main characters in this one have been secondary characters in the others, so there’s not a lot of backstory that you need to know to get into their lives. In fact, the hero is little more than a bit character in books 2 and 3. The heroine has sort of a cult following from the other books, but that’s because of her tendency to have the best one-liners in all of them.
That being said, I want a wide variety of readers’ opinions. From those who are die-hard fans of the series (and there are a few) to those who have never heard of me before.
I will not send ARCs to anyone until my book has been uploaded to Smashwords, at a minimum. Likely not until preorder links start to roll in, which will be approximately the first week of February. This is simply a security precaution on my part. I seriously doubt anyone will leak my book, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Realistically, you’ll have about 8 weeks to read and post a review.
Enticed, but not sure what you’re in for? No problem; here’s the first chapter:
Sound good? Have any questions? Give me a shout and let’s make this happen!
Remember when I posted about ebook subscription services Oyster and Scribd? As recently as a few months ago, these services seemed odd to most of us. We sat around and contemplated just how that would work. A Netflix for books? Weird.
Seems like Amazon was listening as well. They’ve started their own service, Kindle Unlimited. It sounds a lot like the others in concept, but with one glaring difference: they require indie authors to be exclusive to Amazon in order to be included.
When I read that email, I shook my head and sighed. Yet again, Amazon discriminates against those indie authors who choose to be available at other retailers. Note that traditionally published authors don’t have to proclaim their loyalty to Amazon to be included in the program.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Amazon and the ability they provide me with to get my books seen by the general public. However, I think that they are making a big mistake by choosing not to at least pretend to play well with others. After all, my books still make them money when someone chooses to purchase them there. I’m not even mad about not getting the free promotion days (I just do those on Smashwords) or having the opportunity for my books to be borrowed by their Prime members (I had Prime for a year and NEVER borrowed a single book). But this exclusion stings a bit.
It’s no secret that all three of my books are available on both Oyster and Scribd. I can’t speak for Oyster since I’ve never used it, but I love my Scribd account. I’ll even fully disclose that I don’t currently pay for my Scribd account, as a one year free subscription was part of the deal that Smashwords ironed out when they came on board. But will I continue the subscription when I have to cough up money for it next year? Based on the amount that I use it currently, yes. My last five reads have come from there. The app is a bit quirky at times, and you practically feel like you’re jailbreaking the Kindle Fire to install it, but it’s been worth it for me. I’ve read books that I normally wouldn’t have tried – from both traditionally and self-pubbed authors.
So I’m obviously down with the whole ebook subscription service thing. And I would partner with Amazon’s if they would let me. But I can’t, and there’s no way that I’m giving up my freedom to publish elsewhere to do it. There are just too many unknowns. For starters, the terms of payment on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited are vague at best. It reminds me of the KDP Select program, where you get a percentage of the money put in the pot each month depending on your downloads. This means that one month, you may get $2 per sale/borrow/read/whatever. Six months from now, you could potentially get 25 cents. Funny, Scribd and Oyster are able to tell me exactly how much I will make per read once a consumer gets past a certain percentage in my book. If Amazon would allow me to keep my books everywhere else and participate, I’d accept these terms and just consider whatever it was that came in extra income. But when they’re requiring me to pledge myself to them exclusively, don’t I deserve better than smoke and mirrors?
Realistically, I can see Amazon at some point demanding that all indie authors who publish with them do so exclusively. We’re not that far from that right now. At first, this scared me. Then I realized that I technically don’t need them. After all, my Kindle readers could always purchase my books on Smashwords and side-load them. I’ve done it with my own books – I don’t own Amazon versions of them. I could make a tutorial on how to side-load books, post it on my website and direct everyone to it. In fact, I make more money per sale on Smashwords than I do at every other retailer including Amazon. If I didn’t see the value in being at the big names, I’d already be directing my readers to buy only from Smashwords.
But I understand the power of choice. Why can’t Amazon?
This isn’t an Amazon bashing post. I’m not going to pull my books in outrage. I’m going to keep publishing with them until they tell me that I can’t. But I’m so glad that they aren’t my only outlet for sales.
As an aside, I’ve seen the power of choice work for me with my new release. iBooks, B&N and Smashwords have all outsold Amazon this past week. I’m talking paid sales, not the free copies of the first in my series that I’m giving away throughout July over at Smashwords. Not that I’m kicking ass in the sales department, but it proves my point that Amazon isn’t the only name in the game. They should stop acting like they are.
There are many things that I enjoy about publishing on Amazon. The main one being that I get to share my work with readers who use their services. But, like everything else, there are improvements that I would make if I were running the show.
I’m not about to go all opinionated and weigh in on their latest controversy (especially since it’s open for debate on what it means for indies); we’ll keep things civil here. In my perfect world, here’s what Amazon would offer to me as a self-publisher.
1. Preorders! Unless you are super huge or with a traditional publisher, the indie author is left out in the cold. Some have speculated that this is due to the fact that Amazon doesn’t want to deal with disappointed customers when indie authors promise and don’t deliver. To me, that doesn’t make sense. I’ve preordered several books through Amazon and they don’t charge my account until the book is automatically downloaded to my Kindle on release day.
True, I’ve never had a book I’ve preordered not come out on its anticipated release day. But even if crap happened and the author had to delay publication or totally scrap the project altogether, I wouldn’t be out any money. I might be disappointed, yes, but I wouldn’t be mad at Amazon.
Think about that. Books aren’t the only product that you can preorder. Video games and music come to mind instantly. There are several examples that you could find in those industries of things that were expected out on one day and were delayed for various reasons. Can we say Watch Dogs – which was supposed to be released at the launch of the PS4 in November 2013 but just came out the last week of May 2014 (6 months later)? Did my husband, who had it preordered so that he’d have something to play when he brought home his shiny new console, scream at the poor guy behind the counter at GameStop when it wasn’t there? Well, no.
Blame the right people if you need to be mad at someone. For self-published books, that would be the author. Better yet, make sure you don’t put yourself in that position. Don’t make your book available for preorder until you have a fully finished rough draft – at the very least.
I think that Amazon is lagging behind in this arena, mainly because my new release is already available on B&N, iBooks and Kobo as a preorder. If those three retailers don’t have an issue with letting me have a preorder, why does Amazon?
So my fully complete, final Amazon version waits in my computer while other retailers have potentially gotten a jump on selling theirs. And I have to upload to Amazon far enough ahead of my release day in order to get my link out to the bloggers who will be participating in my event. Yes, this means if you’re stalking my Amazon page, my book will be live prior to 7/18 there, but I won’t publicize it. July 18th is the official release date.
2. Emails when you sell a book. I’m still a small fish in a big pond. Rather than obsessively checking my sales figures, why can’t Amazon tell me when I’ve sold a copy? Smashwords does this and I love it. Just make this service something you can easily toggle on and off and everyone’s happy.
3. Emails when a new review is posted on your book. See Number 2. Smashwords also does this.
4. A dashboard where you can see page views for your books. Because I’m curious. It would also be helpful to see how many of those people click on the “Look Inside” section of each title. Smashwords already does this. (Are you sensing a theme?) Combined with the sales data that’s already available, this could be a great tool to track what my conversion percentages are. Or they could figure that out for me, since I hate math.
5. When a review posts on an Amazon site, it appears on all Amazon sites. This already happens when I post reviews for books I’ve read on what I call the “mothership”, amazon.com. If I go to amazon.uk or amazon.au, it also shows up there. But what about our international friends who don’t buy from amazon.com? I personally have a glowing review on amazon.ca from a blogger that no one sees unless they happen to buy from the Canadian site. I would love for that to show on amazon.com and factor in to my overall rating. Because people in other countries can be fans, too.
So there’s my short list of things that I would love to see Amazon do to help out the self-publisher. Anything that you would add?
My second novel is nearing completion. With that in mind, I’ve been reflecting from a marketing standpoint upon what I’ve learned with my first. Are there things that have worked? Things that I would do differently? Of course there are.
For about five hot minutes, I considered enrolling book number two in KDP Select upon publication. Then I came to my senses.
Some tout Amazon’s program as the only way to do business. That’s all good and well if it works for them. I get the allure of earning money when your book gets borrowed by someone with a Prime membership. I understand the free promo days. I’m not saying it’s a bad program; it’s just not the right one for me.
Here’s why I’m sticking with my original position to offer all of my books on multiple platforms:
1. My work belongs to me and I should be able to post it wherever I want. By enrolling in KDP Select, your title is exclusive to Amazon. Yes, this is for 90 days at a time and you can remove your title from KDP Select once that obligation is over. But during this time, your content is not allowed to be available anywhere else – free or paid. Most people understand that to mean that you can’t have the title for sale at Smashwords et al, but may not realize that you can’t have free samples on your own website. Let’s think about that. I, as the author, cannot post a preview of my own book on my own website? Even though you can click on the Amazon link to by the book over in the corner? I don’t think so.
2. Not everyone has a Kindle. I have a Kindle. Some of my friends, relatives and readers do not. Yes, you can download the free Kindle reading app on your device and have at it, but not everyone wants to do this. I have no experience with using this app, but I imagine that it’s not as smooth of an interface as buying the book from the iTunes store and having it show up on your iPad. It probably doesn’t place the book in your library on your chosen device, either. Just a hunch. I’ve downloaded my book from Smashwords on my Kindle, iPad and iPhone just to see what happened and it’s kind of a pain to find it. Not impossible, mind you, just not as easy as going through the device specific channel.
3. Some reviewers will not consider your book if it’s enrolled in KDP Select. Look in some reviewers’ policies and they will specifically tell you this. They obviously only entertain books that are available to a wider audience and want your work to be available on at least two platforms.
4. Sales rankings mean little to those that are obscure anyway. A valid point made by pro-KDP Select authors is that by only selling on Amazon, they’re not spreading their sales out over multiple vendors. By forcing everyone to buy from Amazon, every single sale is reflected in that all important ranking. Let’s face it, I write contemporary romance – a genre that is extremely popular. This is both good and bad for me. On one hand, I have a wide target audience for my books. On the other, there are a lot of books available in this category. The likelihood of my sales ranking being anything impressive right now – with just one book out – is slim to none. Now if I was an author of a very specific type of book – say stories of octogenarians who enjoy underwater basket weaving and also have a cat named Larry – my sales ranking would be stellar (in that category). It’s all about the way you interpret things.
5. Truth be told, I’ve found far more success on Smashwords. That may not be how things pan out in the long run, but for right now it’s true. I use Smashwords to distribute my book everywhere else it’s sold besides Amazon, plus it’s also on their main site for sale. The number of copies downloaded from Smashwords et al run circles around the number downloaded from Amazon.
6. If you have readers in other countries, you have to reach the payment threshold for each Amazon website before you will see your royalties. This may or may not be an issue for other people. I have sold two books outside of the US. One was sold on Amazon UK, the other on iTunes Canada. Smashwords lumped in the Canadian sale with the rest of my US sales and paid out. I’m really going to have to target the Amazon UK market if I ever want to see my proceeds from the other sale. It’s only two dollars, but still.
7. Smashwords will email you when one of your books is sold on their site. I love, love, love this feature! Note that this only applies to sales directly from their website; not B&N, iTunes, etc. This is also an optional service, so you can disable it at any time. For the struggling self-pubbed author, nothing gives you an ego boost like the ding of a purchase notification.
So there you have it. That’s my take on why I’ve chosen not to be exclusive with Amazon. Yes, they’re the biggest player in the current e-book market, but there’s also other fish in the sea.