Notes from the Self-Pubbed (Issue #7)

I’m conflicted. I’m kind of tempted to just keep the omnibus at $1.99. After all, sales keep happening (albeit a very small amount of sales), so I imagine people keep reading. When I started this I had no problem giving away the first book (Dead Empire) for free, but although many thousands of people downloaded it I never received any reviews or hits to the blog or Facebook page. Upon research, I found it was likewise among others who tried the same tactic – nobody seems to know where all those copies went or whether they were ever read. Even though $1.99 isn’t free, it nets me very little money. Still, it’s something, and I seem to get regular hits to my social pages.

But of course I had to bump the price back up. If I didn’t, I’d never be eligible for another BookBub promo with the omnibus unless I wanted to straight up give it away, which as I mentioned is a loser deal. In fact, I bumped the price up to $9.99 because many moons ago I had increased each included book to $3.99 and had never adjusted the omnibus. So, now it matches as just a bit over the price of two books for three, same as before. It’s been a couple of days and sales have predictably dropped to zero, but that’s okay. We’re not having a fire sale or a going-out-of-business blowout. We’re staying the course.

And the course is looooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnggg. Like, for the rest of my life long. Like, Tolstoy long. You on board? Come on, we’ll walk it together. Won’t be so bad that way.

But how exactly did that BookBub promo go, you may be asking? And I promised I’d tell you, didn’t I? After all, this is Notes from the Self-Pubbed, so I shall dutifully and unashamedly share my trials and travails with you, my beloved and curious readers.

But first things first. HAPPY SECOND ANNIVERSARY to THIS TONE OF VOICE! YAY! Commence with the dropping of the balloons and the throwing of the confetti and the eating of cake!

 

I invited the New England Patriots to my Blog Anniversary Parade. My fans seemed to really enjoy that.

I invited the New England Patriots to my Blog Anniversary Parade. My fans seemed to really enjoy that.

 

Second, I have a blog tour on-going, so I will refrain from comment on that until it is done. It deserves its own post, so I’ll wait until it’s finished. By the way, today Grant Scotland is featured over at Hope, Dreams, Life… Love. Check me out on my good side.

But let’s take a look at those BookBub numbers. As this was a BookBub International promotion, the United States subscribers were excluded from seeing my sale. I don’t really get how they separate the two in a digital universe, but they do how they do. People visiting Amazon or B&N.com in the U.S. could still buy my book at the reduced price, they just didn’t see mention of it in their BookBub newsletters. Anyway, here are the numbers:

 

BOOKBUB INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION

COST: $261 (ZOINKS!)

ANNOUNCED SALE PROMOTION DATES: Monday, February 6th through Wednesday February 8th

VISIBILITY: One appearance on Bookbub’s International distribution newsletter and webpage on February 6th.

 

SALES:

FEB 6th:

AMAZON: 123 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 7th:

AMAZON: 58 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 8th: (announced end of sale date for promotion)

AMAZON: 12 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 9th: (I updated blog and my own newsletter with news I would extend sale another day)

AMAZON: 16 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 10th: (not technically part of the promotion, but just finishing out the week and waiting for price normalization adjustment to appear at stores)

AMAZON: 5 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

While I waited for the stores to accept the fact that I had brought the price back up to $9.99, I sold 13 more copies at the reduced price from the 11th to the 13th. B&N was the culprit. They always seem to drag their feet when I tell them I want to raise a price. As long as they resisted raising it, I couldn’t tell Amazon to do the same. Amazon is very touchy about that sort of thing. Ah, these little wars these mega companies wage. Anyway, that’s 13 more units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty – all Amazon.

So, how’d I do?

 

"You're kidding, right? I don't have time for this anymore. I'm THE PRESIDENT.... Okay. Wait. Let me see if I can get Flynn on the phone."

“You’re kidding, right? I don’t have time for this anymore. I’m THE PRESIDENT…. Okay. Wait. I know a guy who’s not doing anything. Let me see if I can get Flynn on the phone.”

 

Okay, fair enough. I’ll handle the summary this time, Your Orangeness.

Total sales:

Amazon: 227 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

Kobo: Uknown

B&N: Unknown

Apple: Unknown

Return: $159

 

Soooooooo, not so great. Looks like I’m out about $100. I know Kobo and B&N and Apple have yet to report in and I won’t hear from them for another month or so (I distribute to those outlets through Smashwords and they usually report sales to Smashwords monthly or quarterly) but I very heavily doubt those platforms yielded enough sales to even bring me to break-even territory. Admittedly, Kobo is huge in Canada, so that might not be nothing. Regardless…. I won’t lie. I’m pretty disappointed. BookBub was supposed to be a guaranteed positive ROI. Everywhere I checked not a single person had a bad experience.

And yet, I’m partially to blame. If I had set the price at $2.99 instead of $1.99, I would have been in Amazon’s %70 royalty bracket, which would have made all the difference in the world if I had achieved the same number of sales. At $2.99 @ %70, I would have a return of $334. About on par with what I was expecting. Again, this is assuming I would have achieved the same number of sales. No guarantee there. Also, BookBub’s international reach is far less impressive than its domestic subscriber base. But, I would have had to pay about three times as much to get a domestic feature, which they didn’t offer to me anyway.

So, am I head-in-the-oven? Am I looking wistfully at tall buildings and wondering how to get to the roof?

Nope.

I may have spent my last dollar-rich marketing bullets on BookBub and Goddessfish, but I’ve got plenty of ammo left. True, the advertising budget is depleted (for now, at least), but the word ammo is plentiful. I’ve finished both of the short stories I promised myself I’d complete this year and even revised them to a level I consider fit for submission. And I love them. They’re of a higher caliber of writing than the Grant Scotland books, but that’s because I’m aiming them for a larger audience. Also, short stories – to my mind – insist on packing more info and subtext into a tighter margin. Words are more carefully chosen and I have to be more precise than what the comparative roominess of a full-length novel allows. Finally, I need someone else to foot the bill for marketing for once, so I need to devote a little extra energy into crafting stories for specific publications.

I think. I don’t know. I haven’t submitted a story to a magazine since I was in High School, so this is all going to be new to me.

Anyway, money’s tight right now, so it’s time to turn to traditional publishing for some help. I’ll be submitting these stories to magazines/e-zines for publication and I’m sure I won’t get much (if any) money from it, but at least I’ll get exposure at no cost to yours truly. I might try BookBub again someday, since selling 227 copies of the omnibus over the course of a week is still the best performance I’ve seen from any promotion so far, but next time I’ll do it at $2.99 and hold out for a domestic distribution. That will be costly, so I won’t even attempt it until next year.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to get these stories published and let you know if I have any luck.

As for Grant Scotland… Well, if you’ve been following the series at all, then you already know he doesn’t let a little thing like lack of dough get in the way of setting the world to rights. Some friends have insisted Grant is me and I’ve resisted the comparison. After all, ALL of the characters are me. How could they not be? But, right now they’re more right than they know. I may have gotten knocked around a bit (again) but as the wise ones say “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

 

 

——————————————————————————————————-

 

“If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” – Wise Ones

Want to sign up for the mailing list and be eligible for the next giveaway? Sign up for the newsletter!

Want to see my author profile and my books on Amazon? Check it out!

Want to see more posts and tour the blog? Go to the Home Page!

Advertisements

Grant Scotland on Tour!

That’s right! I’m taking The Adventures of Grant Scotland on a book tour! A virtual tour, that is. Online-like. Goddessfish Promotions has teemed with all of us (me) here at Dan McClure Publishing (the back office of my apartment) to launch the Grant Scotland franchise into the blogoshere.

For the next few months you’ll be seeing my books everywhere (not available in some locations) on the internet. So be sure to stay tuned to what’s happening both here and on all the sites that will be advertising and talking about the series. If you comment on the conversation on the participating blogs, you are automatically entered to win an Amazon Gift Card courtesy of Goddessfish!

I’ll list the sites and the tour dates that are currently booked below, but be sure to follow Adventures of Grant Scotland Facebook page and Twitter handle to get the most up-to-date tour info and links.

December 27: Books,Dreams,Life
December 29: Christine Young
January 3: The Avid Reader
January 5: Fabulous and Brunette
January 10: Kit ‘N Kabookle
January 12: Writers and Authors
January 17: Lilac Reviews
January 19: T’s Stuff
January 24: BooksChatter
January 26: Book Lover Promo
January 31: Sharing Links and Wisdom
February 2: Independent Authors
February 7: The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
February 9: Edgar’s Books
February 14: Readeropolis
February 16: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
February 21: Lynn Crandall
February 23: Dina Rae’s Write Stuff
February 28: CBY Book Club
March 1: Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
March 6: Hearts and Scribbles
March 8: Tina Donahue Books
March 13: Welcome to My World of Dreams
March 15: Reviews by Crystal
March 20: Book Giveaways
March 22: Queen of All She Reads
March 27: Am Kinda Busy Reading!
March 29: Harlie’s Books
April 3: Natural Bri
April 5: Long and Short Reviews

 

——————————————————————————————————-

 

The tour will be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. There’s plenty of fun interviews, blog posts and book excerpts, so be sure to check out all the stops!

Prevent any further premature celebrity deaths – write reviews and give tips.

Want to sign up for the mailing list and be eligible for the next giveaway? Sign up for the newsletter!

Want to see my author profile and my books on Amazon? Check it out!

Want to see more posts and tour the blog? Go to the Home Page!

 

Grant Scotland Goes To Print!

At long last the day has arrived! The Adventures of Grant Scotland is confined to merely existing in the digital world no more! Now you can find actual ink and paper copies of the chronicles of Grant’s deeds of dubious merit and doubtful virtue. So, if you’ve been waiting to have your shelf decorated with these handsome volumes or know someone who would appreciate the gift (Christmas is right around the corner) then you’re in luck.

 

image

When I hold them all in my hand at the same time I can’t believe the sheer volume of word-mass I have vomited forth to date.

 

At the moment, Dead Empire and the omnibus are currently available, but books two, three and four will be ready for order in a few days. You can find options for ordering the print editions on the Amazon pages of the Kindle editions, but here are the direct links:

Spy for a Dead Empire

The Adventures of Grant Scotland: The Unlikely Spy

Are you interested in hearing about the self-publishing print process? Maybe? I’ll tell you what. I’ll refrain from getting into the details here, but I’ll do another Notes from the Self-Pubbed next week for those who are interested. Something tells me people are a little too distracted by other events to be in a good place to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of my little cottage industry just now.

I may also do a post about the election, but I don’t want to get too political here. However, there have been a few things I’ve observed after Super Tuesday that I’d like to talk a little about, but I promise it’s not anguish-filled Trump bashing. Plenty of people are doing enough of that and I’ll no doubt do some of my own over the course of the next four years, but there has been some interesting internal debates among Dems/leftists that have got me thinking.

But for tonight, I’ll just keep it short and sweet. The next few months you will witness one of the things that makes our country great – the peaceful and orderly transition of power. Celebrate and be thankful you live in a country where that is the case. The rest of the stuff we’ll keep working on.

 

——————————————————————————————————-

 

I didn’t forget my contest winner! A signed copy of The Unlikely Spy will soon find it’s way to you, Daria Liston!

Reviewing books and tipping delivery people help make America great (again)!

Want to sign up for the mailing list and be eligible for the next giveaway? Sign up for the newsletter!

Want to see my author profile and my books on Amazon? Check it out!

Want to see more posts and tour the blog? Go to the Home Page!

 

I Only Have Everything Left To Do

All done! Finished! Fini! Mission Accomplished! Pencils Down! Le livre c’est morte! No. Wait. That’s not right. About five years worth of French classes and you’d think I would have learned one damned thing. I don’t even think I can remember how to say my own name.

Anyway. Not important. I don’t write in French. I barely write in English.

The point is that I have finished the first draft of the fourth book in the Adventures of Grant Scotland series! Huzzah! I even maybe kind of sort of know what I’ll call it, but I’m not 100% on that, so I’ll keep it to myself for now.

 

"Keep it secret. Keep it safe."

“Keep it secret. Keep it safe.”

 

But what does this mean? When will this book be released so the one or two people who mistakenly download it can immediately return it when they realize there are no pictures of boobies?

Well, I’ll spend the next two to three months revising it and then get the editing and cover art done. It would be nice to think I’ll have everything wrapped up by June 1st, but July 1st is the safer bet. And while I’m doing all this revision, I’ll also be continuing to write the short stories I’ve been working on and setting up promotions for the new book as well as the series as a whole and getting print versions ready for order. Oh, and I’ll be trying to drum up real world enthusiasm by getting space at a fantasy/sci-fi convention and raffling off some books and t-shirts. Hopefully, I can purchase a booth without having to ransom someone’s child. Again.

NOTE TO SELF: Look for less awesome kid this time. Last one was too much fun and was a killer Catan player. Couldn’t resist setting up play dates, which have been a little awkward. Maybe kidnap a brat. Wait… parents might not want him back. Hmmm…

Oh, and the map! I keep forgetting about the map. There’s a map to Grant Scotland’s world – two, actually. They are in very rough form, but more or less ready to hand over to an artist and have them make something pretty. This is more a question of having spare cash. I don’t believe maps are critical to the series, but I’d like to add them to the blog and Grant Scotland Facebook community page as just a fun add-on for fans.

When I get some fans, that is. I ordered a bunch from Amazon, but they still haven’t showed up. I did get a large shipment of desk-top, oscillating… You know what? I’m not going to do that. You deserve better.

 

"Don't make me come over there. That joke was almost a hate crime."

“Don’t make me come over there. That joke was almost a hate crime.”

 

So, let’s see. I’ve got a ton of revisions to do (seriously, the amount of trouble Grant is getting into almost requires its own encyclopedic appendix to adequately catalog) plus more writing in and out of the Grant Scotland universe plus a lot of new promotion work. I recently did a no-frills promotion of the first three books during their latest Kindle Countdown phases in March using just the Kindle Advertising Campaigns and the results were not encouraging. That cost-per-click is just too high and there’s still not much difference I can see between interest-targeting and product-targeting (although product-based yields significantly more impressions but fewer sales). At any rate, I’m going to do one more round and tweak the expenditure way down to see if I can still rack up enough impressions/sales to make it worth it. I’ll probably bring my bid down to a dime a click. If the expenditure still gets out of hand, I’ll give up on it until I see some kind of limited guarantee of performance from Amazon. Kindle borrows are increasing in frequency, and that seems related to the campaigns – so there’s that, at least.

I’ve only found less than a handful of outside promoters (E-Reader News Today, Fussy Librarian, Booktastic and perhaps Booksends – although Booksends never pays for itself, its subscriber base seems decently big from what I’ve read elsewhere) who seem to be worth the money, but I’m building up some cash (and giving their subscribers a reset phase) before using them again. Additionally, I’ve heard from everyone who has used it that Bookbub is a veritable goldmine, but I have yet to be accepted onto their newsletter.

So, no Notes From the Self-Pubbed for now or the next few months. Also, the T-shirt giveaway has been put on hold for now. Contain your disappointment! I plan on re-launching the giveaway once Book Four releases. At that point in time I plan on including a free e-copy of Dead Empire along with an entry into the T-shirt giveaway at that time. The hope there is that tying such an enticing invitation to join my mailing list into a blog tour will yield the best results in terms of picking up dedicated readers. But we’ll see.

 

"Such plan! Much idea! Very excite! Wow."

“Such plan! Much idea! Very excite! Wow.”

 

That’s all. Just a quick update. Now I must away. I’ve words to beat into complete sentences and plans to set in motion and pizzas to deliver! YIKES! Is it April already?

Don’t put things off like I do. Get those reviews out and those tips ready. 😉

 

——————————————————————————————————-

 

Want to sign up for the mailing list and be eligible for the next giveaway? Sign up for the newsletter!

Want to see my author profile and my books on Amazon? Check it out!

Want to see more posts and tour the blog? Go to the Home Page!

 

You Are Not Special

One of my favorite forums to peruse out there in internet land is the one for authors on Goodreads. One particular thread on that board occupies most of my time. It’s called “Best Bang for buck book promos.” It serves as an invaluable information trading tool for all of us self-published authors curious about which advertising sites work well and which don’t. Although I’ve never found any silver bullet pieces of wisdom (aside from “get BookBub to promote your book, duh”) it’s good to keep track of any scams people trip over or any new/cheap promoters that always seem to boost your sales just enough to make a profit and expand your audience.

Occasionally, though, the thread wanders a little off topic. Not very far. Since we’re all there for the same reason, we all share a common desire to keep the information exchange on track. However, recently there was a flurry of posts where people commiserated with each other over the flood of terrible books on Amazon and what that glut of bad writing is doing to hurt the sales of all us good, honest, sincere, forthright, god-fearing and hygienic self-pubbers.

Luckily, I missed the week where these laments were being posted. Had I seen them in real time, I don’t think I could’ve resisted jumping in and picking a fight. My main problem isn’t with people complaining about bad books – for the love of Robert Heinlein, I’ve done plenty of that myself – but some commenters went so far as to recommend Amazon start trying to be more proactive about demanding a higher-quality of product before allowing it to be sold on the site. That’s when I started hopping up and down in my chair and blowing steam out of my ears.

 

Sometimes the steam doesn't come exclusively out of my ears...

Sometimes the steam doesn’t come EXCLUSIVELY out of my ears…

 

The whole point of self-publishing is to bypass any self-appointed gatekeepers and present your work directly to the consumers and letting them be the final judge of its merit! To start hemming and hawing and saying “yeah, but there are people who are just throwing up unedited half-finished manuscripts and it’s giving us all a bad name” makes you sound like you feel like you’re owed something. Like Konrath says “No one owes you a living.” Going beyond that, I would add “You are not special.”

I made this realization a number of years ago about myself and believe me, it was an uncomfortable shock. I thought because I was good at this thing or that thing, it meant I should be given as many breaks as I wanted. Slack should be cut to fit me! When it was explained to me through subtle suggestion and workplace experience that you’re only as good as the latest good thing you did and if you want to succeed at something you have to care enough about it to keep trying to be better at it – only then did I understand I should stop wasting everyone’s time and start carving out my place in the world. On a good day, the world will make a little room for you, but most days you have to dig it out for yourself.

But you say you want Amazon to start separating wheat from chaff for you and your readers? Really? Who’s to say your work isn’t crap? So, you published something that’s 100K words and paid to have it edited and packaged professionally. Good for you! So what? That means you deserve something and the guy who’s just using the marketplace as a free sounding-board for a peer-review and revision process (I’ve read a couple of authors who do this) should be shut out? No. That author has as much right to the open market as you do. You don’t like it? Fine. You’re allowed. Just don’t be one of those guys who wants to change the system to suit himself and tries to make it sound like it’s somehow for the greater good.

 

"There but for the grace of Trump, go I."

“There but for the grace of Trump, go I.”

 

Don’t be that guy. I understand you’re struggling and getting frustrated because you just can’t find an audience. Welcome to the club! Being an author is hard! But here’s the thing – you have to decide whether you actually want to be an author or you want to make money on Amazon. Because if all you want to do is sell books on Amazon, it’s actually not that hard to do. Go copy and paste some romance novels, change some names, photoshop some covers and then post under a pseudonym. Guaranteed after a few promotions and a dozen or so titles, you’ll be raking in a steady profit. NOTE: I’m not knocking romance writers – I’m just saying their genre is rife with this kind of nonsense.

That’s not writing. You know it and I know it. Want to be an author? Write. Write as much as you can as well as you can and after revising your work to the point where you can’t change anything more without changing the whole thing – then publish it. Wash, rinse, repeat. You’ll note that no where in that list of instructions does it mention complaining to Amazon that other writers seem not to try as hard as you do, so they should be shut out so your work is a little less buried under the pile. There’s no need for that and you shouldn’t have time to worry about it anyway.

Want to pass a gatekeeper and be in an elite club? Go the traditional publishing route! Then you won’t have to worry about any of this stuff!

You are not special. Neither is anyone else. However, you shouldn’t let that stop you from promoting your work and yourself. Keep writing and challenging yourself and your skills will eventually attract an audience. But trying to lobby for gates and referees on the playing field won’t help your game any.

 

——————————————————————————————————-

 

Thanks again for your valuable time! I deeply appreciate you sharing it with me. As always, feel free to express your thoughts below in the comment section.

This week’s T-Shirt winner is Mary Williams! Congrats, Mary! Look for the newsletter soon and please respond with size and mailing address!

Want a T-Shirt? Sign up for the newsletter!

Until next time, drop a quick review on Amazon for a book you liked or hated or fell asleep on. Also…

 

"It puts the tip in the driver's hand or it gets the hose again."

“It puts the tip in the driver’s hand or it gets the hose again.”

 

 

Notes from the Self-Pubbed (Issue #5)

Well, here we are in January and I’ve got some news from December for you. I know the last thing you wanted to do this winter was go BACK a few weeks, but just keep in mind all the holiday cheer and lights and stuff. Put some bourbon in what’s left of the eggnog. You’ll be fine.

I’ll make this one quick. There’s not much to tell, really. I ran a promotion for Troubled King and had some disappointing sales results, but there were some bright spots.

 

"Why do I even bother with you?"

“I think you should get your bright spots looked at by a doctor.”

 

Maybe so. But let’s get into the numbers, shall we? Or, as Kai Ryssdal says in his hipster way: “let’s do the numbers.” What’s with that guy, anyway? I mean, I like him, but man he comes across as a smarmy and upper crust aristocrat. Likable in that way you like a rich friend who buys you expensive and sometimes illegal stuff, but also incredibly bourgeois. When he brings Steven Dubner on, I always breathe a sigh of relief – someone who actually talks like he’s not trying to sell me something. Anyway, don’t mind me. Just poking a little fun at Kai, but I always enjoy NPR’s Marketplace. Good stuff.

Getting back to business, in mid December I ran a Kindle Select promotion for Spy for a Troubled King and scheduled advertisements with two different sites. Here are the figures from setup and result:

From list price of $3.99:

From 12/14 to 12/18, Troubled King went to $0.99

From 12/18 to 12/21, Troubled King went to $1.99

Choosy Bookworm ad selected for 12/14: $25

Awesome Gang ad selected for 12/15: $10

Amazon click-ad buy layout for 12/14 to 12/28: $100 cap with a $0.75 max bid per click.

Total ad expenditure: $35 (plus $36.09 in resultant Amazon click-charges from ad period)

Why no Facebook community ad page boosts? Got tired of throwing money at Facebook.

 

"But how will I afford my fourteenth mansion?"

“But how will I afford my fourteenth mansion?”

 

Results:

Sales for 12/14: 3 units of Troubled King @ $0.99

Sales for 12/15: 3 units of Troubled King @ $0.99

12/16: Nuthin

12/17: 1 unit of Troubled King @ $0.99

12/18: Nuthin.

12/19 and beyond: a sweaty, hot bag of nuthin.

Amazon pay-per-click stats:

Impressions: 32,211

Clicks: 69

Average Cost Per Click (aCPC): $0.52 (I had adjusted my max bid to $0.75 from the $1.00 I had used for Dead Empire)

Detail Page View: 75 (not really sure how Detailed Page Views beat Clicks, but maybe they counted DPV originating from other sources? I guess they must have.)

Estimated Total Sales: (Resulting from same user clicking the ad and then buying) $1.98

 

Horrible.  Absolutely horrible. Choosy Bookworm, although I like the guy that runs it, still seems to miss the mark. He offers specials sometimes, though, so I may try him again. Awesome Gang was certainly in my price range, but judging by the books that usually show up in their newsletters, I’m not sure I’m reaching my target audience, so I may not try them again. Still, 10 bucks isn’t too much of a risk. Amazon pay-per-click continues to disappoint. I’ll keep tweaking my aCPC downward until I can get some happy medium of exposure vs. expenditure.

BUT! Something happened. From 12/28 to 12/31, I had at least two different readers download and absolutely devour Dead Empire and Troubled King on Kindle Unlimited. At least, as far as I can tell. The spreadsheet they give me is great, but not absolutely conclusive. It looks like two readers ate them up and they both ventured into Wayward Daughter and then lost interest.

I think.

But who knows? Maybe they decided to save Wayward for another time. Anyway, anytime someone gets your book and can’t put it down for a few days can only be a good thing.

Sure wish they leave some reviews.

Ah, Troubled King. Perhaps my most noir-esque thriller of the three, but still it struggles to find a home. Wayward Daughter, I think, is a better novel but Dead Empire still clearly leads in sales, impressions and reviews. Troubled is not just that king, but also this king (meaning me, the king of this pitiful blog empire). Perhaps the new year will yield greater fortune.

 

“Or SOME fortune, at least…”

 

Great. Even my fortune teller is getting cynical.

 

—————————————

 

Well, I told you it would be short. That’s all I have, except one more T-Shirt winner! This week’s T-shirt winner is none other than that Valkyric muse who inspired the title to my Grant Scotland omnibus – Daria Liston!

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

Let me know where I can send you my good and worthy threads, Daria, and what size you prefer for yourself or some lucky loved one!

Want a T-Shirt? Sign up for the mailing list!

Until next time, everyone! Be good and do some reviews and tips and such!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selling the real McCoy

I used to hate meeting new people. Throughout my teen years and into most of my twenties I was so scared of first impressions that I tried not to make any at all. This had the effect of creating the very negative opinion in people’s minds that I was an aloof snob who thought he was better than everybody. This was true, of course, but they had no way of knowing that at the time.

I’m kidding. It wasn’t true. I was firmly convinced everyone was smarter, funnier and more attractive than me, so I stayed shy. I expect most people, especially other writers, feel that way at one time or another while growing up, but I carried it with me for longer than I should have. This isn’t to say I didn’t make friends. I did. By being in the same classroom as others and then later in the same workplace, it became easy to talk to people about the the things we had in common – namely school or work. Eventually, when I’d become satisfied that someone wasn’t actively trying to avoid my company, a friendship might develop.

So, if you’re having trouble in that area yourself, that’s a good blueprint to work from. Later on, when you feel more comfortable with your prospective friend, you can show her your collection of locust husks and amateur hentai drawn with menstrual blood and mucus. ProTip: Be sure to have a waste basket, bottled water and a clean towel nearby, just in case.

 

"Just lift the lid carefully and try not to breathe in too fast."

“Just lift the lid carefully and try not to breathe in too fast.”

 

It wasn’t until I became a computer game designer that I started to embrace meeting new people. I was a little bit older, and with age comes a certain amount of “who gives a fuck” in regards to first impressions, but also because I had gained an enormous amount of self-confidence. Why? Isn’t it obvious? Did you misread what I wrote at the beginning of the paragraph? I was a computer game designer! I had the coolest job on the planet! Of course everyone wanted to meet me! In fact, I was pretty sure most of them wanted to be me!

Even though none of that was true, it didn’t matter. I believed that it was true, at least to some extent, so it gave me enormous self-confidence. I still suffered from my own peculiar brand of first impression jitters, namely that for an hour or two after meeting someone new I obsessively went over every word I said to them in my head, almost panic-stricken with fear that I came off as a jerk, doofus, douchebag, milktoast or somehow gay. Seriously, I still do this. I can now laugh at it while I mentally torture myself, but it still happens. Anyway, although that remains a small issue to this day, I was no longer, nor am I currently, encumbered with paralyzing shyness.

But the real reason was not that I thought I was so much cooler than the average middle class white guy, but that I had built something that I could talk to anyone about. I had a product to sell. Sounds greasy, I know, but bear with me. You see, I no longer had to sell myself to people based solely on such ephemeral things like my looks, brains or common lifestyle circumstances like work or school. No, I had a product that I built and was proud of and even wanted to sell you! The company I worked for, Mad Doc Software, sent me places to talk up the games we were making from time to time. I wasn’t terrible at it, but I’m certainly no salesman. No, what’s important here is that I went from a shy kid not wanting to risk meeting anyone to being a man who wanted to shake your hand and tell you all about this great game I got right here.

 

"MADE A COMPUTER GAME. IT DIDN'T SUCK."

“MADE A COMPUTER GAME. IT DIDN’T SUCK.”

 

And that’s still with me. My career in computer games may be over, but I’ve got a product I’m even more proud and excited to tell you about. The Grant Scotland series is fun, smart, snarky and its approach to fantasy is down to earth without being too dark and gritty. But how to tell everyone about it? When I was a computer game designer, I could go to game conventions and expos and find a ready audience of willing listeners. But now? Finding my audience has certainly proven far trickier. There are several reasons for this and all of them are legitimate and mostly beyond my control, but I’m not interested in throwing up my hands, saying “oh well, I tried, but you see of course how the whole world is against me” and admitting defeat.

I just recently had a brainstorming session with my marketing team – namely, my brother and his good-for-nothing, boozy friend (just kidding, Brad). We started talking about all sorts of ways to get the Grant Scotland brand out there. Some were good, some were ridiculous and some were just out of the question. The point where I draw the line is outright bribing people for Amazon reviews. The point came up that in order to be successful, you have to be willing to be a little unethical. I agreed that this was probably true, but there are limits. For instance, I would never give money to someone in exchange for a review. However, I would be willing to enter a fan who gave me a review (good or bad) into a contest for some free stuff.

See the difference there? I know. It’s subtle, but to me it’s important. Sure, there’s an ethical gray area I am more than willing to walk around in and make myself at home. That doesn’t mean I’d ever be willing to go full Trump and completely abandon my moral compass in some useless struggle to achieve success at any cost.

 

"Loser."

“Loser.”

 

One day I’ll stop punishing myself with that guy, but… IT IS NOT THIS DAY!

By the way, they never suggested I do any such thing. We just talked about it. We also talked about getting so drunk we’d get thrown out of the place we were eating. “Local author and associates cited for disturbing the peace” was a marketing strategy we toyed around with for a while. Hey, worked for Peter O’Toole, right? We decided to shelve that plan for the time being. Maybe plan ahead next time. Get some young and hungry local reporter to be on scene.

Anyway, the point is that I’m trying to be true to myself and at the same time sell you a great product. I’m a mediocre salesman at best, I know, but with a little time I’ll win you over. The product, after all, will do most of the work. 😉

Stay tuned! I’ve got a great holiday treat coming up soon. You won’t want to miss it!

So long! Be well! Review a book! Tip your driver!

 

 

Reviews are everything, reviews are nothing

Amazon book reviews (and to a lesser extent Goodreads reviews and to an even lesser extent – is that possible? How many extents are there? How far does an extent go? Can an extent get an extension? More importantly, will I ever find my way out of this parenthetical? – wait… where was I? Oh yes… and to an even lesserer extenterer all other sites that allow reviews) are critical to an author’s success. They help or sometimes dictate if a 3rd party website will promote a book. They influence how seriously Amazon regards your book and if they will recommend it to their customers using an algorithm that is as full of mystery and magic as an average day at Hogwarts.

 

Pictured: Jeff Bezos, shortly after entering his mysterious school for gifted youngsters.

Pictured: Jeff Bezos, shortly after entering his mysterious school for gifted youngsters.

 

But do reviews actually mean anything? Bear with me for a sec here. If you’re an Amazon customer, do you write reviews for everything you buy? Of course not. I mean, obviously you wrote a scathing critique of that combination toaster/blender you bought, warning all the other unwary customers away from the product’s false claims of serving up a complete breakfast in minutes. Failed to mention how everything somehow tastes like a toast slurry, didn’t they?

But what about all the products you liked? Well, maybe you wrote one glowing review of that complete DVD box set of The Waltons you bought for yourself a while back. Sure, you wrote it after binge-watching all nine seasons, eyes bleary from three bottles of red wine and tear-filled from the regret evoked by painful reminders of the sunshine of youth now eclipsed and the glory of bygone days, but you meant every word! And you wouldn’t take back one single syllable. Well, except that mention of your first girlfriend and how you hoped she was happy and living the life you always knew she deserved. You went back and edited that out anyway. Don’t worry, I’m sure no one saw. Well, no one who cared anyway.

 

Don't you judge me, internet. Don't you dare judge me.

Don’t you judge me, internet. Don’t you dare judge me.

 

But besides that one special product near and dear to your heart, do you write reviews for anything else? I’m betting not. That latest pack of underwear sure was delivered on time and hugs your butt cheeks exactly as described, but you just can’t be motivated to take the time to pen a nice note stating that with your name attached and everything. No, for most products we buy on Amazon we blissfully neglect leaving reviews. Why? Because we have lives full of about a thousand things that demand our attention. How could writing a review no one will probably ever read even attempt to make it into the top 10 on your to-do list? I mean, I deliberately shifted gears on my life a couple of years ago to limit the amount of things going on in it so I could concentrate on writing and even I can’t be bothered to review my latest purchase of athletic socks and spanx!

I made up one of those purchases. I’m not telling you which one.

So, if we know this about ourselves, why then do we trust reviews so much? Why do we bother looking at them at all when we know all the 5-star reviews are absurdly slanted (if not outright bought) and all the 1-star reviews are from customers who either should never have bought the thing in the first place or are just angry that it isn’t everything they ever wanted? Why do we place such a great emphasis on weighing this critical feedback, which often is neither critical nor feedback?

The answer, of course, is that it’s all we have. Amazon and all the other e-tailers have no independent reviewers. There is only the feedback left from the seething mass of humanity. In a way this is good, but in another it’s bad. It’s good, because no one entity can be bribed or otherwise influenced to leave good or bad reviews. It’s bad because most people either don’t leave reviews or leave sloppy and clearly biased ones. With a situation like this it’s tempting to just ignore reviews altogether, but even though you are loathe to leave them yourself, you know you need them.

 

WAT DO?

WAT DO?

 

Well, I know it’s going to sound like I’m telling you that one plus one equals a George Foreman Grill, but you need to write more reviews. Yes. You do. And me, too. (Well, I can’t really do it for books for reasons that should be obvious, but I can do it for other stuff.) I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. We have too many meaningless reviews so we need more? Yes. But what we need are meaningful reviews.

No! No, don’t run away! Wait! Let me explain!

I’m not talking about full page critical analysis stuff. No one reads that bullshit anyway. No! I’m talking about 2, 3 and 4 star reviews where you leave twitter-sized feedback. One thing you liked, one thing you didn’t and would you purchase more. That’s it! From one sentence to a maximum of three! That’s all! Easy-peezy.

But will it work, you ask? Well, you tell me. When you look at reviews do you read the essay-length ones? Do you read the 5-stars? The 1-stars? I strongly doubt you read the long reviews. You might read bite-sized 5 and 1 stars, but if you decide to purchase the item,  do you realistically think your review of it will line up with either spectrum? Of course not.

Listen, here’s what I do. I read the 1-stars to see if they’re for real. If they sound legit, I’ll move on, regardless of how many 5-stars there are. Most 5-stars are bought. Everyone knows that. BUT – if the 1-star reviews sound fishy or complain about crap I don’t care about? I cut to the “most helpful” review and read a few other 3 stars. “Most helpful” reviews are usually 3-stars. Know why? Because most things are good and bad. But they might be good with things you care about and bad concerning things of which you couldn’t give one soft stool.

It’s a shock, I know. I’ll give you a moment with it.

Actually, we’re about out of time, so go ahead and hit the showers. I might revisit this topic later, but for now just try to make a little extra time in your schedule to do some on-line reviews. It’s democracy in action, after all. Did I mention that? No? Well, I’m mentioning it.

Until next time, everyone! Don’t forget to tip your driver and don’t forget to review your purchase!

 

 

Halloween tastes funny

This isn’t about bashing Halloween. I’m alright with Halloween. It’s not my favorite holiday, but it’s up there. This isn’t about how it is a hipster holiday, either, where everyone sarcastically celebrates the anti-religious overtone and engages in a pseudo-mockery of faux-revelry. (Really, is anything worth a genuine emotional reaction in hipsterdom? Don’t answer that. I stopped caring ten words ago.) It isn’t even about the inevitable duels for cleverest costumes among people who dress up as the latest killed character from the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones or insert-obscure-AMC/HBO/Showtime-original-series. No, it has nothing to do with hipsters. I’m alright with hipsters. They’re adorable, after all. No, for me it has to do with Halloween literally leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

 

"Young man, is this going to a naughty place?"

“Young man, is this going to a naughty place?”

 

Have you ever tasted fake blood? Don’t. It’s terrible. I once had the distinct displeasure of ingesting this horrible substance one Halloween when I was just a tiny Tone of Voice and it’s dreadful taste scarred me for life. I think it was the time my big brother had the great idea of dressing me up as the monster from the movie C.H.U.D. by using bits and pieces scavenged form other Halloween costumes. My brother’s personal touch? Using White-Out to scrawl PUD on the back of my vampire cape, so that instead of a Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller, I was simply a Pretty Ugly Dude. My brother found this riotously funny, but our mother was less than amused. I didn’t mind. I’ve never really minded being the butt of jokes, as long as they were funny. Teasing I’m not especially fond of, but a good joke is a good joke.

Unfortunately, no one got the joke, but I looked pitiful enough to score the usual bag of candy, so it all turned out in my favor anyway. Well, except for the fake blood. At some point, someone (I don’t know, maybe it was me) decided to add fake blood to whatever mask I was wearing, which would have been fine if the mask had any sort of absorbancy. Alas, it did not, so the stuff dribbled straight into the mouth hole and onto my lips.

If you’re wondering what fake blood tastes like, it’s a palate cleansing mix of plastic, falseness and melancholy. Three horrible tastes that taste like death together. I don’t think I got sick, I just know I couldn’t get that taste out of my mouth no matter how many mini-Snickers I inhaled.

 

"This candy tastes like failure and regret. Does this mean I'm an adult now?"

“This candy tastes like failure and regret. Does this mean I’m an adult now?”

 

To this day, I always suppress a shudder when I see people dressed up like zombies, their faces and clothes drenched in the supposedly “non-toxic” pseudo-plasma. “Non-toxic.” Pffft. Tell that to my flavor-memory. Seriously, there are times I will get this unfortunate taste appearing in my mouth from out of nowhere. I have no idea what triggers it, and for a long time I could not trace what it was or what it was linked to. (My dentist suspects it’s likely a leaky filling, and she’s probably right, but her logic and science aren’t welcome here!) I don’t know how I finally remembered. I suppose I eventually broke through the mental barrier I had built up around it and determined it was from that unfortunate Halloween. But even knowing its source, it still pounces on me from out of nowhere. In fact, it even hits me whenever I get too close to a heavily made-up woman.

Yes, this even affected my dating life, but for the better I think. People who wear too much make-up are duplicitous by nature. I once went on a date with a nice young woman who kinda-sorta looked and sounded like Meg Tilly. Trouble was, she wore so much make-up she also kinda-sorta looked like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. So, Elvira crossed with Meg Tilly. I know most of you are like “NOT BAD!” Well, I suppose it would have been, except for my aforementioned aversion to makeup. I couldn’t conceive of getting close enough to kiss her, let alone anything more intimate. Needless to say, that romance lasted all of one date, but I later found out from mutual acquaintances that she was a bit of a man-eater, so it was fortunate I had kept my distance.

 

"Vaht's the problem? You like the boys, maybe?"

“Vaht’s the problem? You like the boys, maybe?”

 

That’s not really how Elvira talked, but I just couldn’t bring myself to mimic her trademark valley girl/jersey girl accent.

But this just recently got me thinking that about the larger issue of selling yourself as something you’re not. It’s a topic I’m always grappling with as I try to figure out the best way to market my books. There are things that I have decided I simply will not do, because they just seem to me to be too fake and too gimmicky. Fake and gimmicky is fine for Halloween, but not for me. I don’t want to try to sell my books in categories they don’t belong simply to get a good Amazon ranking. I don’t want to constantly spam twitter/facebook/this blog or a mailing list with constant reminders about how great the Adventures of Grant Scotland series is (even though it’s pretty great, to be honest) in the hopes that eventually enough people will tiredly mis-click (or mis-tap) and end up buying a copy. I don’t want to engage in review trading with other authors and I definitely don’t want to buy reviews.

But I have to do something. I’m fine with marketing on Twitter and Facebook and all the rest regularly (but not constantly) and being patient as my audience slowly grows, but I sure would like to give the whole process a boost if I could. I’m currently thinking about doing a blog tour, which is essentially like paying for reviews, but it’s the LEAST offensive way to do it. Also, it’s a form of review buying that everyone does, from big publishers to self-publishers, so it’s generally considered to be kosher. We’ll see. I know the people who run those sites greatly prefer to do tours only for books that are about to be released, not existing titles, so I’ll keep it in mind for Book Four.

Well, that’s about it from me for tonight. As always, thanks for stopping by and spending some time reading about my fear of fake blood. Is there a name for that? Pseudo-hemophobia?

So long, folks! Tip your driver!

 

Notes from the Self-Pubbed, (Issue #2)

In the last exciting issue of Notes from the Self-Pubbed, I had been disappointed in the results from my $0.99 promotion of Wayward Daughter, but had decided to soldier on and attempt a cross-platform $0.99 promotion for Dead Empire. Well, I did just that and was able to sign up not just two but three recommended book deal newsletters: EReader News Today, Fussy Librarian and Bargain Booksy(Free Booksy). I had used Free Booksy before, but had never tried their Bargain listing. The other two sites were completely new to me and only available for Dead Empire because it had received more than 10 reviews. Actually, EReader News says they don’t have a minimum review requirement, but since they had passed on Wayward Daughter and accepted Dead Empire, I am inclined to think otherwise.

Anyway, before I get to the results, about which I’m sure both of my readers are on pins and needles, (no, literally – I know you’re both part of a mental rehabilitation experiment for internet trolls, forced to read the most uninteresting blog on the internet while sitting on a chair whose seat is made of standing pins and needles… it’s just… well, I wanted to contribute to science in some way and… OK. Fine! It’s a paid trial and I volunteered my blog because I needed the money!) I wanted to point out something I had forgotten to mention last issue. I have actually done a few paid promotions before the ones I talked about previously. In fact, I’m pretty sure I ran them before I even had a blog. Mainly they were free giveaways and aimed simply at getting my books in front of as many eyeballs as possible. I talked about it in a somewhat dry (PINS!) and boring (NEEDLES!) fashion a little while ago. I just wanted to set the record straight that there was a Notes from the Self Pubbed issue before the first official one – HIGHLY collectible! Not worth much now, but when my audience reaches a critical mass and…

 

OK, Batman, OK. Sheesh! Like I'M the one who dwells too long on his own personal struggle. (Don't hit me)

OK, Batman, OK. Sheesh! Like I’m the one who dwells too long on his own personal struggle. (Don’t hit me)

 

So! To the Bat Stats!

I ran a week long $0.99 promotion for Spy for a Dead Empire from 8/19 to 8/26. The book was available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords. It’s also supposedly distributed through Smashwords to sites like FlipKart and OverDrive among others, but I’ve seen little evidence and even less sales to prove it. Anyway, here are the promotion expenses:

Fussy Librarian newsletter ad space for 8/19 – $23

Bargain Booksy newsletter ad space for 8/20 – $40

EReader News Today newsletter ad space for 8/22 – $20

Facebook community page promotional post boost for two days starting 8/19 – $5

Total marketing expense: $88

——————————————————————————————————————–

And lets take a look at those sales from 8/19 to 8/26 (PINS AND NEEDLES!!!):

Spy for a Dead Empire Amazon sales: 36 copies @ $0.99

Spy for a Troubled King sales: 2 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Wayward Daughter: 3 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Dead Empire Nook sales: 5 copies @ $0.99

Total Sales: $61

… and perhaps a sale or two from Apple and Kobo, but they haven’t reported in yet, so I have no idea. Maybe a sale or two, maybe not. But, in total, not bad. Certainly better than the last effort, but let’s check with the Donald:

 

"I only read authors who can turn a profit."

“I only read authors who can turn a profit.”

 

Wow. Rough, but I guess I always knew the Donald would be a tough one to please. Anyway, let’s look at the sales breakdown by newsletter run date. In previous promotions I had tried to stack newsletter run dates on top of each other to try to game Amazon’s ranking system, but there’s some debate whether that’s still possible. In prior years, you could push yourself up Amazon’s sales ranking by having a bunch of people download your book on the same day and get an additional advertising boost from Amazon, but it’s unclear if that’s still the case.

8/19 (Fussy Librarian & Facebook) – 8 total units

8/20 (Bargain Booksy & Facebook) – 14 total units

8/21 (Nothing) – 1 unit

8/22 (EReader News Today) – 17 total units

8/23 (Nothing) – 2 total units

8/24 (Nothing) – 2 total units

8/25 (Nothing) – None

8/26 (Nothing) – 2 total units

Well, EReader News Today definitely showed a return on investment. That’s pretty cool! It’s a little unclear about Fussy Librarian, but I know next-day sales are real, so it’s probably close to a wash. Bargain Booksy seems like it was more expensive than it was worth.

So, overall I’m still disappointed, but not disheartened. I briefly considered ditching the $0.99 promotion thing and fleeing back to Kindle Unlimited, but I think I’ll do one more cross-platform run for Troubled King. It’s almost certain it’s going to lose money, since I likely won’t get a spot on EReader News Today with the six reviews I currently have, but I gotta run it anyway. It’s the last promo I had planned for this round! I gotta do it! I may be losing sales and borrows the more time I spend away from KU, but this is my personal quest we’re talking here. I gotta get the ring to Mordor. Que music: Don’t say – I didn’t tryyy…

 

Thank you, Emmi. Seriously, this song makes me weep with creepy-haunted-haunts. Yeah, that's a thing. you can look it up.

Thank you, Emi. Seriously, this song makes me weep with creepy-haunted-haunts. Yeah, that’s a thing. You can look it up.

 

So, I’m planning the next promo for late September. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll probably post some silly nonsense about tropes and shenanigans in popular pieces of film, TV and “print” in a jealousy-fueled, contempt-riddled attempt at comedy. Be sure to check back soon.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to tip your driver!