New ads for Yseult, and a late #WIPpet for Thursday

I was analyzing the Facebook ads I have running today, and I noticed that I’m getting very few clicks from women on my ads for Yseult. That strikes me as a bit unfortunate, since it’s a retelling of Arthurian legend giving some of the female characters much more prominence and more pov action. So I’ve decided to experiment with a new ad in addition to the old targeting a female audience. I will write new copy emphasizing the female perspective, and I’ve been putting together some alternative images today to test with it:

Yseult

Yseult

Do please tell me what you think! Anything is fair game, I don’t bruise easily. :)

Given the ad analysis and graphics work I’ve been up to, I’ve haven’t gotten any words written yet today, but generally the writing is going well. I think I may have written the last sentence of Dragon Touched yesterday. I was envisioning it ending in a different place, but then I realized that would end up being a bit much wind down. The first draft is still not completely done, since I have to backfill important elements that only occurred to me during the writing, and add more detail as well as the sex (something I tend to put off, much like battle scenes). But I think the complete shape is there now, and I’m coming up with more and more ways to continue this thing if there’s a demand. Pretty amazing to me how quickly I was able to knock off a first draft on this one! Hopefully I can learn something from the experience for my other projects.

Even though it’s Thursday already, I’m still going to throw a WIPpet snippet at you in parting. :) Once more from Ygerna, which I will be returning to more seriously in the next few days. 14 sentences, for 11 + 2 (today’s date), and one to finish the scene. This comes right on the heels of the excerpt I gave you last week:

Gurles laid his own spoon down, without even having tried his custard. “Ygerna,” he murmured. “Uthyr has a reputation with women. I think you should stay away from him.”
She was grateful for the ambient noise of the wedding banquet, which she hoped had made his softly spoken admonishment impossible for all but her to hear. It would be much too embarrassing otherwise. In private, she might have excused his patronizing words, but in public she found herself fuming.
At a far corner of the long table, someone was raising their glass in a toast to someone else. Ygerna ignored it as if she had not heard, breathing deeply.
Eventually she trusted herself to speak again without lashing out.
“Thank you for your advice.”
She pushed her custard away and rose. “I find I have lost my appetite,” she said to the table at large. “Please excuse me.”

Emily Witt is our host for the snippet sharing session, in which we post an excerpt from a WIP on our blog, something that relates to the date in some way. If you want to play too, add your link to the Linky.

Giant 99c SFF Box Set Sale, Feb. 6-7!

SFF 99c box set sale

For only two days, chose from over 40 boxed sets at a special sale price of only 99c! Science fiction, dystopian, fantasy, and SFF romance, there’s something for everyone who like speculative fiction here. ;)

My own contribution is Yseult, Books 1-4, on sale for 99c through tomorrow, Feb. 7.

Enjoy!

How to develop a strategy for ebook sale promotions (Starting out as an indie author)

Once upon a time, when I first started switching from traditional to indie publishing, all you had to do to sell books was to offer your works free on a regular basis and get a few thousand downloads. After the free runs, the books would be high in the Amazon rankings, which would provide the visibility to sell a decent number of books daily for a while until your book disappeared into obscurity again. My biggest income month as an indie author is still from those early golddigger days.

In that carefree time when I first started out, way back in 2012, even a *short story collection* offered free was enough to boost visibility and garner sales for the more lucrative longer works.

No more.

Now it is hard to even give short story collections away on Amazon (although they do still sell on other venues). And for a free run with a novella or novel to result in any kind of significant bump in sales after it’s over, you have to give away tens of thousands of copies of your book.

So I’ve had to switch gears. In the last year or so, I’ve been testing various sites for advertising my books, as well as new book descriptions, new keywords, and new covers, and I’ve seen a steady rise in book sales, from income of under $50 a month to this:

I realize this is peanuts compared to really successful indie authors, but for me, it’s monetary proof that I’m going in the right direction. For about a year, from late 2013 to late 2014, I pretty much stopped marketing my books completely. I published Chameleon in a Mirror during that time, and it took off like a stone weighed down by a ton of bricks. But that does not seem to have had anything to do with the quality of the book — see my bestseller last month in the image above. :)

During my no marketing phase, my books were earning me between $40 – $70 a month. When I was ready to publish Island of Glass, I decided it was time to come out of my marketing slump and start regarding it as a challenge, an experiment, a puzzle I needed to figure out. Here are some of the strategies I’ve come up with during the last year of extensive experimentation.

Permafree

I had already put a short story from The Pendragon Chronicles up for free, but Gawain and Ragnell, even though it is part of A Shadow of Stone, has its own complete plot arc — and thus provides no compelling reason for anyone to read the other books, other than enthusiasm for my brilliant writing, of course. But it has no hook; it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. Readers claim they hate this, but book 2 in a series is more likely to find buyers if book 1 ends leaving lots of questions unaswered.

Since my Pendragon books were meant to be standalone novels, I went a different way to attract more readers: I split up my monster book, Yseult (200,000 words, or 800 manuscript pages), into the four “books” I had already organized it in and published them each separately. Once I managed to make Part I free, I had a cliffhanger book to entice readers to buy either the next book or the complete “boxed set.” And I also now had 2 free “books” in the series that I could alternately promote cheaply or free. (See my blog post on promoting permafrees.)

With some experimenting along these lines, I noticed that as long as I could keep at least one of those two permafree books in the top 20 of the Arthurian Fantasy Free rankings, it helped get me regular sales of Yseult. The Arthurian Fantasy category is small, so it’s not as hard to stay high in the rankings, but by the same token, it doesn’t attract as many readers who will then pick up your higher-priced book or books. I’m pretty sure that if you can keep a permafree high in the rankings of a much bigger category like Epic Fantasy, you would see higher sales of the related book.

Organize promotions around effective advertisers

Don’t set your promo prices and dates and then go looking for advertising. Do it the other way around.

I invested quite a bit last year, in both time and money, testing various advertising sites for ROI (return on investment). You can certainly take my own recommendations as a guideline, but the thing is, your results might be very different. A number of advertising sites recommended on Kboards were a washout for me. Garnering a BookBub ad will pretty much always guarantee a good ROI. But not only are they hard to get, they are very expensive, and not all authors will be able to afford their prices.

Some of the places (besides BookBub) I will build a book promotion around are ENT, BookBarbarian, ManyBooks, and RobinReads. I’ve had less than stellar results with BargainBooksy and any number of sites other authors swear by. That’s why you can’t get around investing in your own experiments, at least a little. I started my experimental marketing investing in sites that authors on Kboards recommended — but of those, there were quite a few that for me had a pretty miserable ROI. You can read some of my results in this post.

The thing is, there is no magic bullet. But while a number of ad sites didn’t pay out for me, in those months I’ve seen a steady increase in sales — with no month that my investment was higher than the money I earned from my books. So as a whole, the increase in visibility is worth it.

After the last few months of experimentation in advertising, I’ve come to the conclusion that most indie authors who are serious about selling on a regular basis won’t be able to get around doing some similar experiments for their own books. Several of the advertisers I had the biggest hopes for turned out to be my biggest disappointments, while some less well known gave me surprising jumps in sales. Genre, cover, subscriber tastes — so much plays a role, it’s hard to say which book will do well with which advertiser.

Some generalizations I can make, regardless of genre and / or experience:

– Before paying money for advertising, try to figure out the reach of the web site or list. If they do not provide any numbers themselves, Alexa rankings might be a good place to start. I have a list of Alexa rankings here.

– Once you have figured out the advertising sites that work for you, apply for an ad with one of your favorites well in advance, usually about a month, and chose the option that your dates are flexible. If your book is accepted, plan your promotion around the effective advertiser, applying for some free or less expensive ads in the days leading up to it.

– Try to do a 99c advertising campaign with at least one of your books a month. (I don’t advocate free anymore, except for permafree.)

– Don’t use the same advertiser and the same book every time. Ads are much more effective if you haven’t advertised a book through the same service in at least six months. Obviously, this strategy works better the more books you have to advertise. If you only have two novels published, concentrate on getting more out before you start experimenting with advertising the way I did. To remain visible as an author with this strategy you would probably need at least four novels or longer novellas, preferably more. (Short stories and collections do not work to boost my visibility.)

Description and Cover

If you can’t get any of the big, more effective advertisers to accept your book, despite the fact that your manuscript isn’t riddled with typos and you have a fair number of positive reviews (don’t believe the myths circulating about the astronomical numbers you need to get a BookBub ad), then it might be time to re-evaluate the presentation of your book.

I am convinced that the single most important thing for selling books is your cover. It’s the first thing your potential reader sees, and if it isn’t interesting or eye-catching enough for him or her to click on it, you’re losing sales right there.

I’ve done several cover makeovers recently, one myself for Chameleon in a Mirror, and two for my Looking Through Lace Series with new covers designed by Lou Harper. All of those books saw dramatic increases in sales / downloads when I did a promo for the book with the new cover compared to the results with the old. Note: you can’t expect a book that’s dead in the water to come back to life with a new cover. If your book is in the lower dregs of Amazon somewhere that no one will ever see it, and you don’t do some kind of promo to increase its visibility, it will remain in the lower dregs of Amazon, despite its stunning new cover.

I have also seen significant increases in sales after changing my descriptions. One of the most effective things I have found for the new product format on Amazon (which only makes the first few lines of the description visible without the customer having to become active and click on “Read more”) is to start with enthusiastic “sound bites” from reader reviews. Here’s an example:

Once I changed the description to make a number of positive reviews plus a teaser prominent in the mini space which is now the Amazon default, I saw a much better conversion rate for the low-level ($1 a day) Facebook ads I’ve been using to try and keep my books from disappearing into obscurity. Now I just have to find formulas for my other books that are as consistent as Chameleon in a Mirror is right now. :)

But the operative phrase is “right now.” The thing is, the ebook market is constantly changing, and as an indie author, you have to be willing to change with it: keep abreast of marketing trends, and changes in Amazon, Kobo, Apple, or anywhere else you sell your books. If you really want to make a living selling your books, you’re not going to get around doing your own experimenting, or keeping abreast of changes in the market. You can take this information I’m giving you as a basis to do your own experiments, but my results are based on my books, my covers, my descriptions, and can’t be carried over 1 to 1 to your books, your covers, your descriptions. All I can offer you here are guidelines based on my own experience, some possible ways to develop your own strategy to lift your books out of the doldrums.

In Conclusion

During my Year of Experimentation (following my Year of Marketing Dangerously / i.e. Not at All *g*), I tried plenty of THIS IS THE WAY YOU WILL IMMEDIATELY SELL SH*TLOADS OF EBOOKS strategies. Some of them increased my sales, most of them didn’t. On the other hand, most of those strategies sold as get rich quick schemes have some basis is fact — but they don’t take the individual book or the individual genre into consideration. And many are based on creating cheap non-fiction ebooks written specifically to a niche market.

Those kinds of marketing strategies don’t really work for fiction. In my experience, you just can’t get around testing things yourself for what will work for your own books.

But researching the sites and strategies that have worked for other authors can certainly make the task much easier. And I hope those of you looking for better ways to market your ebooks find this helpful. :)

Writing, sales, taxes, and more from Ygerna for #WIPpet Wednesday

It’s amazing to me how inspirational regular sales can be for my writing. And I don’t think it’s just a matter of greed. *g* Just seeing a steady increase in books bought and pages read makes this whole writing addiction seem so much less like some kind of idiotic weakness on my part. It’s working! I’m finding an audience! Maybe I really can make real money at this someday!

And that puts all kinds of inferiority complex demons to rest, which in turn makes the writing somehow easier.

Speaking of which, the new Looking Through Lace boxed set is doing very well during its introductory 99c sale. I’ve sold 85 copies so far, and it’s made it into several top 100 lists. Here are the rankings last time I checked:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,633 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#32 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > First Contact
#34 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Galactic Empire
#38 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Exploration

Whoopie!

On the less positive side, on Sunday I started doing our taxes, and all that wonderful writing momentum has ground to a halt. Our taxes are a very complicated affair, unfortunately. Last week, I got 5100 new words written. This week, only 200 so far. :/

On to WIPpet Wednesday. Last week, we left Ygerna making embarrassed excuses to her betrothed. Today I’m giving you 3 paragraphs for the 3rd of the month that pick up right where we left off:

“The weather,” Gurles repeated deliberately. “Then why does he keep looking at you like that?”
The few bites of honeyed custard she’d eaten — one of her favorite desserts — was beginning to feel like a stone in her stomach. Yes, why was Uthyr looking at her that way? At the same time, his intense gaze made her nervous in that strangely pleasant way she’d felt around him before. And when it came down to it, why was Gurles asking her such questions, as if she had done something wrong? She hadn’t even been aware of Uthyr’s attention.
She shook her head. “I don’t know.”

Igraine / Ygerna
Igraine / Ygerna

Emily Witt is our host for the snippet sharing session, in which we post an excerpt from a WIP on our blog, something that relates to the date in some way. If you want to play too, add your link to the Linky.

Ground Hog Day Science Fiction Romance Sale! Feb. 2-4

Science fiction romance sale

Big science fiction romance sale going on over ScifiRomance, and the Looking Through Lace Boxed Set is one of the books included! You have to act fast — the 99c price tag for both books is only through Feb. 4.

But be forewarned regarding the link to the sales page above: lots of six packs on display. *g*

KENPC v2.0 Amazon KDP Changes Normalized Page Counts (February 1, 2016)

This is not good news. My big Arthurian novels have each lost over 50 pages. :/

chrismcmullen

Images from ShutterStock. Images from ShutterStock.

KENPC v2.0 February 1, 2016

Amazon KDP changed how it determines the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC).

This affects Kindle e-books enrolled in KDP Select, which can be borrowed via Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime.

KDP Select books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime pay by the page read, where a Kindle Edition Normalized Page (KENP) is determined based on the book’s KENPC.

(This has no impact on royalties earned through sales, just borrows.)

On February 1, 2016, the method that Amazon uses to compute the KENPC changed.

The new value of KENPC is called KENPC v2.0.

Visit your KDP Bookshelf and click the Promote and Advertise button next to a title to see what its new KENPC is.

According to Amazon, on average the KENPC has changed by 5% or less.

I checked several of my books, which had KENPC’s ranging from 170 to…

View original post 199 more words

Publication news and more from Ygerna for #WIPpet Wednesday

It’s been a while. I’ve been busy. With this:

Looking Through Lace

And this:

Beyond the Waters of the World

And this:

Birthday
Six years old!

Sheesh. Hard to believe I’ve been a grandmother so long. I’m not that old! Or maybe I am, given the way my face is falling and my knee refuses to play along when I attempt the warrior pose when doing yoga …

But anyway, back to writing. I’ve gotten an awful lot done in the weeks I’ve been absent from my blog. Not only have I formatted and published the e-book boxed set of Looking Through Lace, I’ve published the POD version of the second book, Beyond the Waters of the World, and I’m halfway there on putting together the CreateSpace boxed set for both novellas. (I didn’t do the covers this time — that’s all the work of my fabulous new cover artist, Lou Harper.)

At the same time, my word counts haven’t been all that shabby either: 4300 last week, and 5500 the week before. I’m heading into the home stretch on two projects I’m working on simultaneously right now, Ygerna, and Dragon Touched, an Urban Fantasy set largely in the Woodstock neighborhood of Portland where my daughter lives. I started it on a whim during a recent Nanowrimo, wanting to see if the writing would go easier if I didn’t constantly have to research everything (or leave notes to myself to research this or that when I had the time).

It did and it does. Leaving notes to myself in the Pendragon Chronicles series doesn’t always work, since the fantasy is heavily based on what little we know of the Dark Age history of 5th and 6th Century Britain. Many times I can’t just wing it — I have to check my research notes, to make sure I’m using the right person in the right era.

Writing contemporary Urban Fantasy, I can wing it. I’ve wandered those streets, and if I don’t remember certain details, a place marker is enough. It’s not the same as not knowing who might have possibly been where in a certain decade, or what they might have worn, or who might have been their enemies or allies.

Sigh. Too bad I like history so much and have to keep using it in my fantasy …

Even though I’m jumping back and forth between two WIPs at the moment, I’m sticking with Ygerna for WIPpet Wednesday. The way I’m going now, I should be done with the rough draft of Dragon Touched in a couple of weeks, which means you might never see it again. :) So here I give you 9 paragraphs, 2 + 7 for the day of the month. This comes shortly after the last excerpt, while the political discussion is still ongoing:

Vortimer pursed his lips. “I assure you, my father has the interests of Britain at heart.”
On the other side of the table, Bican’s sister Elen leaned her chin in her hand. “What if the Saxon warriors he has hired do not much care for British interests?”
Elen was something of a riddle to Ygerna. Despite her striking appearance, with her curly dark hair and intense hazel eyes, she was unmarried, although she was already into her twenties. But as daughter of King Aldroenus of Armorica, she must have had any number of princes and kings interested in marrying her.
Servants came by, setting plates of sweet custard in front of each of the guests, and interrupting the political discussion. Ygerna could tell Vortimer was relieved. His father might be High King, but he’d been elected to the position by the regional rulers of Britain, who could just as easily choose a new military leader if they were dissatisfied with Vortigern. It would be wise of him to take such grievances seriously.
Gurles leaned close, his spoon in his custard and his gaze at the head of the table. “What did the Pendragon want with you earlier?”
“Want with me?”
“When he walked back with you from the church. He certainly seems to want something now.”
Ygerna glanced at the head of the table. Uthyr was seated in a place of honor near the newly wedded couple — and he was practically staring at her.
Flustered, she laid her spoon aside. “We were only talking. About the weather.”

Emily Witt is our host for the snippet sharing session, in which we post an excerpt from a WIP on our blog, something that relates to the date in some way. If you want to play too, add your link to the Linky.

New cover for Beyond the Waters of the World

My cover artist, Lou Harper, has finished the cover for the second book of Looking Through Lace, Beyond the Waters of the World.

Beyond the Waters of the World

So what do folks think? I haven’t finalized yet, so some tweaking could still be done if anyone has any suggestions. Do let me know in the comments! And thanks in advance. :)

Results of BookBub ad in the UK for Chameleon in a Mirror

Last year, 2015, I sold an average of 8 books a month in the UK. As many of you know who read this blog, I had a UK only BookBub ad for my literary time travel, Chameleon in a Mirror, earlier this month. Right now I have 124 sales and 6205 pages read across all titles in the UK. Last month, it was 4 sales and 1235 pages read, total.

Here are the best UK rankings I saw during the sale for CIAM:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #781 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy
#3 in Books > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical
#8 in Kindle Store > Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

Chameleon in a Mirror #1

The ad cost $100. Income in the UK since the ad went live has been 75 pounds, plus 4100 pages of CIAM read. All together, that comes to about $130 in UK income for Chameleon since the BookBub ad, dependent on exchange rate and what the payout for pages read will end up being this month. CIAM sold nothing in the UK the previous month (December 2015), so it’s safe to say that most of that income is a result of the BookBub ad.

Added benefit: my other books are selling a bit more there as well.

During the sale, CIAM sold 95 copies in the UK, 2 of those before the BookBub ad went live. Now, a week later, sales are up to 115. Here’s the ranking of the book in the UK today:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #13,305 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#17 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy
#28 in Books > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical
#62 in Kindle Store > Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

Since the BookBub ad, CIAM has consistently been selling a couple of copies a day, and is still in several top #100 lists. At the end of the sale, I started a Facebook ad targeting UK readers with a whopping budget of $1 a day, and since I don’t have an Amazon Affiliates account for co.uk, which would help me track where sales are coming from, I can’t say whether the regular sales are a result of the BookBub ad, or the dollar a day Facebook ad I started after the promo. So I can’t attribute all of those sales and pages read to BookBub. But it certainly got the ball rolling, and I’m trying to keep the book from disappearing into obscurity too quickly with the Facebook ad.

To summarize: I would definitely take another UK only ad with BookBub if that was all they wanted to offer me. The increase in visibility is amazing, and despite the cost, I have made something of a profit and continue to do so. That’s a win in my book. :)

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