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.”

 

 

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

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Notes from the Self-Pubbed (Issue #4)

Well, the holiday season is in full swing and all of us here at Grant Scotland Enterprises are full of good cheer, not to mention copious amounts of scotch! But we’re not just celebrating the annual month-long feeding frenzy of consumerism nor the yearly visit of a conspicuously overweight Aelfan man of notoriously unstable temperament and questionable judgement nor even the secret pagan rites of the Winter Solstice festival.

No!

I mean, yes. All of that, of course. But also, no!

We are chiefly celebrating – and we’re really excited about this – our first Grant Scotland T-Shirt recipient! That’s right, ladies and gents! We have a winner! A verified winner! Someone who has actually succeeded at something! Right here in our very presence! Can you believe it?

But let me back up a second, if you don’t mind. We’ll bring our lucky contestant out later so we can gaze in admiration and swoon with adoration. First things first, though. Let’s talk business.

I just recently finished my first promotion of the holiday season and I wish I could say that everything went super terrific. In fact, it was just the opposite of that. What would that be, anyway? Unexceptionally inferior? Insignificantly awful? Ordinarily bad?

Ordinarily bad sounds about right. It has a certain sad-sack tone to it.

 

What is the sound of one clown crying?

What is the sound of one clown crying?

 

Anyway, I had decided on marching my promotion efforts sequentially through each Grant Scotland novel as the holiday season progresses, so I began with Spy for a Dead Empire. I bought advertising space on two ebook advertiser’s websites and newsletters during the first two days of a Kindle Countdown Deal. For those who aren’t familiar, a Kindle Countdown deal is a week long period of price-reduction (either graduated or not) where the publisher (me, in this case) signs his book up for participation in the 90-day Kindle Select program (which means Kindle Unlimited subscribers can borrow it and I get a little bit of money from borrowed pages read) and Amazon allows some additional internal promotional options. That may be a little much to take in all at once, but essentially it’s a deal with Amazon where I publish with them exclusively for a time and in exchange they help promote my book.

So, my Countdown Deal days were from November 23rd to the 30th. I tapped Booksends to run an ad on 11/23 and Booktastic on the 24th. Concurrently, I gave Amazon a budget of $100 to run pay-per-click ads on their site (you may have heard of it) for the period of 11/23 to 12/7. Let’s see the breakdown and the results:

Countdown Deal: Discount Spy for a Dead Empire @ $0.99 from 11/23 up to 11/27 and @$1.99 from 11/27 to 11/30.

Booksends newsletter ad space for 11/23 – $25 + $10 for EReader IQ partner newsletter

Booktastik newsletter ad space for 11/24 – $10

Facebook community page promotional post boost for two days starting 11/23 – $5

Amazon pay-per-click ad campaign 11/22 – 12/7 – $0 to $100 depending on results. Actual result was $75.56

Total marketing expense: $125.56

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

And lets take a look at those sales from 11/23 to 12/7:

Spy for a Dead Empire Amazon sales: 12 copies @ $0.99, 2 @ $1.99

Spy for a Troubled King sales: 0 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Wayward Daughter: 0 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Dead Empire borrowed pages read: 882

Spy for a Troubled King borrowed pages read: 271

Spy for a Wayward Daughter borrowed pages read: 1 (for real?)

Total Sales: $16

Royalties from borrowed pages read: (roughly one-half cent per page)  $5.77

Amazon pay-per-click stats:

Impressions: 104,519

Clicks: 95

Average Cost Per Click (aPCC): $0.80

Detail Page View: 103

Estimated Total Sales: (Resulting from same user clicking the ad and then buying) $7.96

Gross income (not adjusted for Amazon’s 30% cut on sales): $21.77

Net: -$103.79

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

 

YIKES! That’s awful! And highly unsustainable. What really did me in was the pay-per-click. I definitely was too competitive on that. An $0.80 cost-per-click is ridiculous. Maybe I’ll tone that down for Troubled King’s holiday promo. We’ll see.

The sales were so dismal that I don’t feel like including the daily counts. Most happened on the first day and then the rest happened sporadically, probably mostly attributed to Amazon’s click ad. Booktastic was notably horrible. Maybe resulted in one sale. Maybe.

Well, I don’t have to guess what my financial adviser has to say about this…

 

"When I'm president, remind me to deport you. Now, show me this winner you mentioned. I only want to talk to winners."

“When I’m president, remind me to deport you. Now, show me this winner you mentioned. I only want to talk to winners.”

 

Ah, yes! To the good news! The first week of our Grant Scotland T-Shirt giveaway is completed and the winner is….

JOSH PHELAN! That’s right! Josh Phelan is a WINNER!

 

He's actually wearing a Grant Scotland T-Shirt underneath his suit.

He’s actually wearing a Grant Scotland T-Shirt underneath his suit.

 

Congratulations, Josh!

I’ll shortly be contacting Josh via my fancy-shmancy newsletter (Sign up now and don’t miss next week’s giveaway!) to get his size and address. Soon he will be receiving his short-sleeved shirt just in time for winter.

I know, I know. Someday I’ll figure out how to schedule things appropriately… but it is not this day!!!

So long everyone! Tip your driver and review a book! Alternatively, you could tip a writer and review a driver, but we’re not equipped for that here.

 

It’s open season on Grant Scotland!

Or sort of. What I mean is I’m kicking off my holiday season promotions today. In the coming weeks there’s going to be some fun stuff going on, including some giveaways, some takeaways and maybe a few embarrassing photos – so don’t miss out! Go ahead and sign yourself up on my mailing list! That will automatically enter you for the fun stuff. Next week I’ll announce the first contest and the prizes, but for THIS week you can get Spy for a Dead Empire on a Kindle Countdown Deal! That means you can get it for $0.99 today through Wednesday, but then the price goes up to $1.99 until next Monday, when it goes back to the full $3.99 price.

 

cover_image_final

“This book is book one, natural one, take it easy.”

 

I had hoped to start the giveaways this week, but a snag in my supply chain has delayed the arrival of my treasure trove of precious loot. I didn’t want to tell you what I’ll be giving away without also including some enticing photos. No! Instead, I shall increase the antici… -pation, by telling that it’s something good – something very, very good.

 

RIP, Don Pardo. Nobody made prizes sound as life-changingly awesome as you did.

RIP, Don Pardo. Nobody made prizes sound as life-changingly awesome as you did.

 

That’s all for now! I’m off to supply dozens of Patriots fans with car loads of delicious, piping hot pizza pies! I’m like the Santa Claus of Italian food delivery, except not at all anything like that.

Tip your driver! Review a book! Dress warmly!

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 #3)

Hello again, self-publishing fans! Welcome to another installment of Notes from the Self-Pubbed, the only self-publishing blog series (except for all the others, of course) that gives you the straight dope on this exciting and wacky internet cottage industry. Actually, although plenty of sites write about it, I haven’t found many that do so in anything but the most vague, self-promotional terms. I did, however, recently find this one. If you like this series, you should check her out as well. She does a good job cutting through the crap. That’s basically what I’m doing here, too. I am very deliberately not trying to sugar coat my self-publishing efforts. This is both for you and for me. If I keep saying things like “sales are steady” or “last week’s promotion increased sales over 200%” when what I really mean is “I’m selling the same 2 copies a week I’ve been selling all year” and “I sold 7 copies this week because I paid for some ad space,” then there’s a very real chance I’ll drink my own kool-aid and burn out and give up once I get tired of lying to myself.

So, I’ll try to keep these Notes as clean of bullshit as possible, no matter the pounding my ego may take. Writing is something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life. Best to keep the fantasy for the fiction.

It’s important to remember that this industry (and this goes for both traditional and self-publishing, actually) is not for the feint of heart! It is not for the quitters! While it’s true that you may get lucky and publish something that becomes an instant bestseller, you most likely won’t. However, if you stay honest with yourself and keep writing, publishing, promoting, blogging, tweeting and doing anything and everything else you can then there’s a not unreasonable chance you’ll someday find your audience. But for self-pubbers, you’ll have the added benefit of having done it without having to give up any of your rights or split your royalties with anyone but your distributor. I think that’s worth the effort and the patience.

 

"I got a sword and this here crucifix-softball for anyone trying to steal my royal-ties."

“I got a sword and this here crucifix-softball for anyone trying to steal my royal-ties.”

 

And what precious data have my recent efforts yielded to me? Well, as you may recall, I was dead set on finishing my cross-platform promotion of the Grant Scotland series that I had begun in early summer. I had started with the newest book, Wayward Daughter, in July and achieved less than ideal results. In August, I promoted my first book, Dead Empire, and had an almost break-even return on investment. And at the end of September, I finished the campaign by promoting Troubled King at $0.99 for the week of 9/23 to 9/30 across Kindle/Kobo/Apple/Nook. I used three different advertisers, plus a small Facebook boost on the Grant Scotland Community Page. Let’s take a look at the set up cost:

Booksends newsletter ad space for 9/23 – $25

Booktastik newsletter ad space for 9/24 – $10

EReader News Today newsletter ad space for 9/24 – $20

Facebook community page promotional post boost for two days starting 9/23 – $5

Total marketing expense: $60

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And lets take a look at those sales from 9/23 to 9/30:

Spy for a Dead Empire Amazon sales: 5 copies @ $3.99

Spy for a Troubled King sales: 33 copies @$0.99

Spy for a Wayward Daughter: 0 copies @$3.99

NOTE: All sales were Kindle. No other sales reported from other platforms to date.

Total Sales: $53

 

Well, we still didn’t manage to break even, but we came even closer than last time. That’s progress! I bet even The Donald has to acknowledge that!

 

"If I'm ever thinking of hiring you for anything, remind me to fire you first."

“If I’m ever thinking of hiring you for anything, remind me how much you need to be fired.”

 

Ouch. Truth hurts. Ok, fair enough. I guess I can’t claim any real success with this promotion or even with the entire summer campaign. I CAN however claim a lot of important lessons learned:

  1. Stop investing in advertisers that don’t yield satisfactory returns.
  2. Stop scheduling advertisers to run ads on the same day. This was an insight passed on to me by some smart marketing people I know, albeit too late to save the campaign, but it’ll be invaluable moving forward.
  3. It’s not yet time to break from the herd. As expected, Amazon sales FAR outweighed other platforms. Get back on Kindle Unlimited and utilize all that Amazon has to offer.

Oh. Almost forgot. Here’s the sales breakdown by date:

9/23 (Booksends & Facebook) – 9 units

9/24 (Booktastic/EReaderNewsToday & Facebook) – 25 units

9/25 (Nothing) – 1 unit

9/26 (Nothing) – 1 unit

9/27 (Nothing) – 1 unit

9/28 (Nothing) – None

9/29 (Nothing) – None

9/30 (Nothing) – 1 unit

It should be noted that I made an effort to promote the sale on Twitter during several days of the campaign, but I have no way of tracking the effectiveness of that. It’s curious that no sales were made on Apple/Nook/Kobo. It suggests that Fussy Librarian and/or Bargain Booksy has a substantial cross platform following that EReader does not. The dates I got sales on Nook correspond to the dates my ads appeared on both of those sites. Well, good stuff to keep in mind.

So, where to now? Well, I’m obviously going back to Kindle Unlimited with the first three books, but I think I’ll keep the omnibus edition present everywhere. Maybe see if I can sneak in a promotion with that one at some point. Beyond that, I’ll be scheduling some Countdown deals over the next few months and I’ll likely still do some advertising to correspond to the deal days, but I’m not sure how much at this point. Also, I’ve got something VERY special in mind for the height of the Holiday Season. I think you’ll like it. No hints, but you definitely don’t want to miss it.

Until next time, self-pub fans! Take care of yourself and remember to tip your driver!

 

Notes from the Self-Pubbed, (Issue #1!!!)

So, I recently took all of my titles out of the Kindle Unlimited program. No, this has nothing to do with Amazon’s recent adjustment to how it rewards authors for pages read on copies borrowed through the program. I’m actually alright with that and even curious to see how it works for my books. The last couple of months I was on the program I was starting to get more than a few borrows. So, I’ll eventually come back to Kindle Unlimited, but I wanted to conduct an experiment this summer and fall.

 

"Just needs a few Gamma Rays and then BAM! Bestseller..."

“Just needs a few Gamma Rays and then BAM! Bestseller…”

 

See, I’ve been using free giveaway promotions for the first couple of books in the Grant Scotland series, but I have a feeling that the self-publishing industry is no longer doing itself any favors by engaging in the practice. Conventional wisdom among self-published authors over the past few years has insisted that you give away your first novel or three in order to get your brand established. Indeed, there’s a lot of evidence that this worked well for many people from 2008 or so to 2012 or so. I don’t have stats for you. It’s largely anecdotal. People built a customer base in a market where demand outstripped supply and these days they can rely on those same customers to pay for more product since those authors are trusted and known suppliers.

These days, almost every self-published author uses this tactic. What this has resulted in is a giant glut of product into a marketplace that is still clearly growing, but could be over-saturated at the moment. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve heard speculation about that among authors – I think Bookdaily is where I read a couple of articles about it – who believe we may be shooting ourselves in the feet at this point. Customers have downloaded so many free books, they either can’t get to them all or are so eager to get through their TBR pile that they don’t give a book a chance before setting it aside.

My own experience so far would lend support to this. I’ve given away thousands of copies of Spy for a Dead Empire, but I have 12 reviews and hardly any sales at all outside of promotions. This means people either haven’t read the book or read it and discarded it OR read it and put my other books on their wishlist but will only download them when they’re free. The first two don’t bother me so much (well, ok – the second thing is worrisome) but it’s the third thing that has me the most frightened. In our rush to carve out our own audiences, we self-pubbers may have created our own monsters. After all, we share a great deal of readers, especially among genre authors. What if the e-book audience out there has become so used to getting free content, they just assume they’ll always get it for free? And they’ll wait to get it for free, too. Why? Because at least one of their favorite authors will be running a promotion at any given time. They can always find something free to read.

 

"Pay $0.99 for your book? Sure, because I really need another one of those..."

“Pay $0.99 for your book? Sure, because I really need another one of those…”

 

This is worrisome and makes me even more inclined to rush back into the protective arms of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. There, people can borrow the book for free, but I’ll still get paid if they read it. Actually, I’d get paid even if they only read some of it. But before I go gently into that good night, my plan is to do a full slate of $0.99 promotions across all the major platforms – Nook, Apple, Kobo and Amazon. (If you sign your book up for Kindle Unlimited, it can’t be listed with any other retailer) Just recently, I completed a week long promotion for Wayward Daughter, the newest Grant Scotland novel. I used two recommended promotion sites: Riffle Select and EBookBooster. EBookBooster is actually a service that submits your deal to a bunch (25, currently) of different promotion sites. Each of those sites have a relatively small following, though. Riffle has a good sized audience, though, and I’ve done well using them both together for my free book promos in the past. I figured I had built up enough of an audience from their collected mailing lists to have a reasonable chance at getting them to buy my latest installment on sale rather than getting it for free.

The ads through EbookBooster (I actually think only about half of the contacted 25 sites actually run the ads, to be honest) ran on July 22nd and Riffle added me to their newsletter on the 24th. The result was… not encouraging. I spent $25 on EbookBooster (still seems like a great deal, even if you don’t wind up on all the sites they submit your book to) and $40 on Riffle. I sold 7 copies of Wayward Daughter at $0.99 and 1 copy of Dead Empire at $3.99.

 

"I like authors who DON'T lose money during a promotion."

“I like authors who DON’T lose money during a promotion.”

 

Now, Wayward Daughter is still very new, so some consideration needs to go to that. I didn’t want to promote Dead Empire, since these were both mailing lists that contained readers who had seen that book appear for free at least twice over the past year. Didn’t seem right to try to get the ones who didn’t bite the first time to pay to bite this time. I could do Troubled King for $0.99 on those mailing lists, since I think they only saw it for free once. And I’ll probably do that, but my next step, I think, is to try new mailing lists with Dead Empire. There’s a couple I’ve never used that have received some good reviews from other authors. Sites like EReaderNews and Fussy Librarian. They require at least 8 reviews, which Dead Empire qualifies for, but my other two don’t yet. I plan on trying to rectify that by signing up for a blog tour, which usually generates some reviews. Although that might just generate more reviews for Book One than the others, but that seems to be unavoidable at this point. I’ll just have to remain patient with Book Two and Three.

So, my plan now is the bargain promo for Book One later in August. Then I’ll get Troubled King on the Riffle/EBookBooster promo in September. After that, maybe I’ll try Wayward Daughter again, but probably not. Maybe the omnibus. We’ll see.

Meantime, the writing continues. Book Four is outlined and a couple of chapters are done. Weekly word counts have decreased as I balance pizza delivery schedule with writing time, but when I sit down to write, I’m still as productive as ever, so that’s good. Thanks for your interest! Please read and review my books!