Tag Archives: group promos

How Amazon continues to do its best to piss off its writers: The odyssey of establishing my rights to Looking Through Lace

I’m sitting here listening to a yellow jacket determined to commit suicide in one of my wall lamps, and wondering why Amazon seems so hell-bent on annoying its authors these days.

This weekend, August 5-6, Patty Jansen is hosting another big 99c promo with 100 books in various science fiction and fantasy genres. I entered my boxed set of Looking Through Lace, Books 1 & 2, and was accepted. Only now it looks like my book won’t be on sale — at least not on Amazon. And it’s anyone’s guess if I will have to take the book down or not entirely (on Amazon), for reasons no one has seen fit to provide me answers with.

But let us start at the beginning, shall we?

Early this week, I lowered the price of the Looking Through Lace boxed set everywhere it was available, just like I always do for a promotion. Price changes went through fine — except on Amazon. Instead, I got this:

Hello,

Thank you for publishing with Amazon. Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else. To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming your publishing rights within four days:

Looking Through Lace Boxed Set: Books 1 and 2 by Nestvold, Ruth (AUTHOR) (ID:7106553)

Acceptable documentation can include:

– If you are the author and you are republishing your book after your publication rights have been reverted to you, a signed reversion letter from your former publisher
– If you are the author and you are publishing under a pseudonym, a copyright registration using the pseudonym
– If you are not the author, a signed contract between you and the author granting you the rights to publish the book in the territories, languages and formats you have selected
– If you are not the author, an e-mail from the address listed on the author’s (or their agent’s) official website confirming that you have the rights to publish their book in the territories, languages and formats you have selected
– If you are a literary agent, a signed contract between you and the author or an email from the address listed on the author’s official website granting you the right to act on the author’s behalf with respect to the book

Documentation we cannot accept includes:

– A statement by you that you have the publishing rights without verification by the author/copyright holder
– A copyright application for which registration has not been confirmed

If you publish books for which you do not hold the publishing rights, your account may be terminated.

Thank you,

Amazon KDP

I wrote back, asking why they were requiring confirmation of publishing rights for a book that had been published with them for over a year and a half. I listed some of the publishing credits of Looking Through Lace and explained why I still had the rights to my own novella, which was originally published in Asimov’s in September 2003.

Instead of any answers, I got almost exactly the same email, with one small change at the beginning:

During a review of your KDP submission(s), we found that content in the below title(s) has been previously made available on Amazon. Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else. To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming you have the necessary publishing rights within four days:

Looking Through Lace Boxed Set: Books 1 and 2 (ID: 7106553)

Please provide any documentation or other evidence that proves you have retained rights for the book(s) listed above.

This, of course made me even more frantic. I could hardly imagine that anyone was trying to steal my novella, since it wasn’t exactly selling like gangbusters. Most of the time it just sits there, selling a few copies a month, except when I do some kind of promo. But why would Amazon keep insisting I prove my rights to my own work if someone hadn’t tried to steal it? And why wouldn’t they respond to my questions and tell me what was the specific problem so that we could clear things up? None of what they required as “acceptable documentation” applied to Looking Through Lace or the boxed set.

Every time I tried to write them to try and find out what was going on, I got one of the above canned responses, about a half-a-dozen in all — and me becoming increasingly aggravated.

Finally it occurred to me (no help on Amazon’s part) that this weirdness regarding Looking Through Lace might have to do with the fact that it was recently reprinted in a new anthology, Galactic Empires. I sent them the PDF of the contract with Neil Clarke, and pointed out the clause indicating non-exclusive rights.

They haven’t sent me any more stupid canned emails since. But they also still have not gotten around to lowering the price of the boxed set for the promotion. I used to be a huge proponent of Amazon, but since the page flip controversy, I’ve changed my ways — more and more with each passing conflict.

I feel like I’m in a Kafka novel — which, incidentally, is not by me. 🙂

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Starting Out as an Indie Author: Social Media and Cross Promotion

I’m almost there on getting the book version of my series “Starting Out as an Indie Author” ready for publication! I’ve put together some new material on subjects I hadn’t covered in my posts. Today I would like to share a new chapter with you, “Social Media and Cross Promotion.”

Social Media and Cross Promotion

Social Media for Writers

If you are forced by financial difficulties to keep your expenses for advertising as low as possible, social media and cross promotion may be the only effective avenues open to you until you have made enough from your books to reinvest in more expensive ads (or better covers, or whatever you have decided you might need to move your writing career forward). Because when it comes right down to it, most of the cheap advertising sites are cheap for a reason. And many of those that are more expensive have priced themselves so high that you’re never going to get a positive ROI using them. Luckily, there are plenty of authors out there willing to share their results with other authors, so we don’t have to throw our money away, at least not too much.

But to figure that out, you need to network with other indie authors. A great place to start is the Writers’ Cafe on KBoards, which I’ve mentioned before in this series.

So how should you spend your time on social media as an author to sell your books? My answer: don’t. Yes, I know I started this post suggesting it might be one of the only ways for authors who don’t have the money for advertising to “get visible” (to quote David Gaughran, who you should read, by the way.)

But the thing is, you don’t sell your books on social media, not really. You offer content (like me with my Indie Author series), or you become an Internet personality (like Chuck Wendig), or you join groups and start up conversations with readers who are fans of the genres you write in. No one likes authors who are only posting “BUY MY BOOK” all the time.

I’m in the camp of those who believe that social media only sells books indirectly. If you have established relationships with readers through social media, then they might be curious and pick up one of your books to see if they like it. Admittedly, I am far from being a social media guru. I’m not a big fan of FB and Co., since it can be such a time sink. But just consider how you react when “BUY MY BOOK” shows up in your Twitter feed. I bet you’re a lot more likely to click Unfollow than the link to buy the book.

Consider as well that the time you spend on social media is time you could be spending writing. If you only have one or two novels finished so far, it probably makes more sense to concentrate on writing the next one before you go searching for an audience for books that aren’t there. One book does not a career make (except if you’re Margaret Mitchell).

Basic Internet Presence for Authors

There are plenty of recommendations out there, but here are mine:

– Amazon Author Page
– Facebook Author Page
– Goodreads Author Page
– Twitter
– Blog or static web page

One of the reasons I suggest making sure you have at least the above is because many of the advertising sites I have recommended on this blog ask for links to web page, Twitter, and Facebook when you book an ad.

Here a short rundown of those that might not be quite as obvious:

– Amazon Author Page

The Amazon Author page is important because if you don’t set one up, all a reader gets when clicking on your name in the Amazon store are the search results. If your name is Jane Smith, this is not going to help you a lot. I’m lucky that my name is not all that common — not even in Norway. But even for a Nestvold, an author page is still a big advantage over a page of search results. It allows me to have links to book trailers, my blog, author pics, and all of my books:

Amazon Author Page

To create your author page on Amazon, you need to go to Author Central: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/

– Goodreads Author Page

The importance of a Goodreads Author Page is similar — it allows you to link all of your books, as well as your blog feed and whatever book trailers you might have in one place. And that on one of the most important sites for book addicts in the world.

To create it, you need to set up a Goodreads account. Once you have that, all you need to do is find one of your books, click on your name and scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find “Is this you?” When you click on the link, you can send a request to join the Author Program. Complete instructions are here:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/program

– Facebook Author Page

To create an FB author page, click on Create / Page on the left hand side of of the screen in your news feed and follow the instructions. The “Writer” category is under “Artist, Band or Public Figure.”

If you’re a bit of a social media grump like I am, you might be wondering why I recommend so many things to sign up for. While on the one hand I don’t like spreading myself too thin, at the same time, I have fans on all of these sites who only communicate with me through whichever happens to be their favorite. Without those sites, I would be missing out on communication with readers who want to contact me.

While I advocate making sure you have a presence on all of the sites listed above, that doesn’t mean I think you should be hunting down followers or friends on Twitter or Facebook or anything else. That way lies madness, and many hours of wasted time. Believe me, I’m as guilty as anyone of being addicted to numbers when I first started learning about all this stuff. But believe me as well that chasing followers is not going to do you a bit of good. Yes, you should be on all those platforms, but no, following or friending in the hopes of selling more books will get you nowhere and will only eat up time better spent writing.

Further social media sites for authors

– Google+
– Instagram
– Tumblr
– Pinterest
– Reddit
– LinkedIn

I am on all of the above, but with the exception of Pinterest, which I love, I don’t really use any of them. And despite my love of Pinterest, I have no idea whether it can work as a marketing tool. What I mostly use it for is a place to collect links for books in progress, as you can see from this board for Ygerna, a prequel to my Pendragon Chronicles series:

https://www.pinterest.com/ruthnestvold/ygerna/

As for the rest, I signed up for them because I read somewhere that you really had to have a presence there as an author, so I went with the flow. Of all of them, Reddit appeals to me personally most, but at the same time, I know that I could get lost in the discussion threads if I allowed myself to, so I just don’t go there in the first place.

For all of these sites, the main thing to remember is to be on those that appeal most to you. Use them in a way that feels natural, stay authentic, build a presence, and interact with like-minded readers and fans.

Cross Promotion

This is where the real genius of social media for marketing purposes lies. If you can find a good group for cross promotion, when you all have a sale, instead of yelling “BUY MY BOOK,” you will be sharing an amazing deal with dozens of eBooks on sale for only 99c!

Which would appeal to you as a reader more, HUGE SALE or BUY MY BOOK?

In my opinion, group promos are pretty much the best way of getting the word about your novel out to a wider audience for free. The idea behind cross promotion is that all of the authors involved share the information on their blog, mailing list, Facebook page, etc., and the more authors involved, the wider the reach. So it requires some effort on your part in helping to spread the word, but not much more than if you were lambasting Twitter with tweets most people will ignore.

But how do you find out about groups like this in your genre? One of the best resources I know is Kboards, which I mentioned above. I no longer spend as much time there as I did when I was first starting out, but it is an incredible resource for indie authors.

Aside from Kboards, another way of finding group promos in your genre is through Facebook. Try searching for “group promos” or “group promotions” and see if anything shows up that fits with your genre. The group I participate in most regularly, “Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Promotions” organized by Patty Jansen, is on Facebook — although I found it through Kboards. If you also write SFF, you can find the link on the right sidebar of my blog. Join, introduce yourself, help promote in any way you can whenever there is a group sale. If you have found a good community, I am sure you will see results.

But remember, putting a lot of effort into promotion isn’t really worth it if you only have one or two novels out. Concentrate on getting a couple more published before you start spending too much time trying to draw attention to yourself and your books.

52 authors you can try for FREE!

Fifty-two books by fifty-two authors. All are the first in a series, all are free. Click the image or the link below to check them out!

http://pattyjansen.com/blog/fifty-two-authors-you-can-try-for-absolutely-nothing/

Please note: not all of these books are free outside of the U.S. Many of them have been made free through price-matching on Amazon, and the author does not have control over this. My book, for example, Yseult: Two Women, has not been price-matched outside of the US, whereas my Pendragon short story “Gawain and Ragnell” has. Sorry for the inconvenience!

The challenge of becoming visible as an indie — and an interview

As anyone knows who’s stuck their toes in the self-publishing waters, one of the biggest challenges facing indie authors is getting noticed. So that beautiful tree you cultivated fell with a satisfying crash? But if no one is there to hear it … you get the idea.

It’s the same thing when you throw your brilliant work of staggering genius out into the pond of all the other newly-minted indie authors — and the pond is so full, it doesn’t make a ripple, since there’s no water left.

When I first published Yseult in January 2012, KDP Select was a totally new element thrown into the self-publishing mix, and having a good free run with one of your titles was enough to give sales a push for weeks. Now, not only is it getting harder and harder to have a successful free run, the sales post-freebie are less and not lasting as long. KDP Select is no longer enough to draw attention to your books.

Back when I first started out, I did try a few other things. I wrote to review sites to try to get them to pick up my books, (without success) I did interviews and guest posts on other writers’ blogs, all those things they tell you to do to get the word out about you and your books. But the only thing that seemed to have an effect on sales was a successful free run. And now that isn’t even working anymore.

So how is an independent author supposed to become visible?

One of the things I’ve had some success with are group promos. I talked about that elsewhere, and I still think it’s one of the ways authors can help each other out and reach a larger audience. Which is why I’m participating in another one this month: Kindle Books on Fire. Check it out! If you have a US address, you might even win a new Kindle Fire!

Another thing I’ve been experimenting with more recently is paid advertising. I haven’t had the greatest results until now, but on Lindsay Buroker’s blog recently, she recommended BookBub, which sends targeted emails to readers of specific genres. Their list of fantasy subscribers is over 70,000. (BTW, if you’re an indie author or are considering going that route, I highly recommend subscribing to Lindsay’s blog. She shares a lot of useful information about her own self-publishing experience, and I’ve learned a lot from her posts.)

After reading about Lindsay’s experience with a 99c discounted book, I decided to try BookBub with a freebie of Shadow of Stone. The ad prices are staggered according to genre and the discounted price at which the book is being offered; an ad in the fantasy category for a free book right now is $45. They seem to only take one book a day per genre, however, so competition is steep. I think I got in because of my award nominations in traditional publishing, since Shadow of Stone still only has ten reviews. They also only take full length books, according to their guidelines, at least 50,000 words.

Anyway, results. Within hours, I’d recouped the money I spent on the ad — in sales of the companion novel, Yseult. Of course, this only works if you have books in a series. I saw a tiny increase in sales of some of my other books that are not part of The Pendragon Chronicles, but not much. It’s looking like the bump in sales of Shadow of Stone after the freebie would also have covered the cost of the ad. Yesterday, I had 9 sales and 13 borrows on Shadow of Stone. So I’m definitely going to try Bookbub again, as long as they will give me a listing, that is. 🙂

I also wanted to point anyone who might be interested in the direction of an interview with me up on the OWW workshop. There I mostly talk about my decision to go indie, but craft and theme as well. (The interview is about two-thirds down in the newsletter.)

As to recent writing progress: I’ve been slowed down a bit by a cold, and the fact that the colonoscopy I did this week is having some unpleasant aftereffects. (The results of the exam were negative, btw, which means that’s good for me.) But despite that, with the inspiration of Fast Draft, I’ve gotten 38 pages written on Ygerna this week, my Pendragon Chronicles prequel. That’s nowhere near the 20 pages a day we’re supposed to be doing, but I’m quite happy with it. Hopefully once health issues clear up, I can increase that.

I wish everyone a great week!

Short story sale and new group promo site

A couple days ago, I sold another short story — in the traditional way. By submitting to an editor and having the story accepted. It’s one of my Alaska stories, “The Shadow Artist,” and it sold to Abyss and Apex, who also originally published “In the Middle of Nowhere with Company.” Short stories don’t make me a lot of money as ebooks; traditional sales are more lucrative. But since I have all these previously published stories anyway, I might as well give them a second life, and me a few dollars a month. Just as an example, last month I made about $50 total on the short story collections and novellas, as opposed to around $700 on the two novels. But who knows, as the novel sales increase, the sales of the short fiction just might too!

The other main news item I have is the next group promo, this time one for which I’m doing a lot of the organization. (As a result, actual word production has dropped dramatically again, go figure.) Anyway, see that nifty badge (thanks, Patty!) up in the right hand corner? If you click on that, you will get to the page that ate much of my spare time this last week.

As you can see, we will be offering a lot of free quality science fiction and fantasy, all from members of the Codex Writers Workshop for neo-pro speculative fiction writers. So put those dates on your calendar and grab yourself some free reading material! And if you are so inclined, please pass the word along. 🙂

Despite promotion and marketing projects, Chameleon in a Mirror has not stalled out completely. I’m up to a word count of 81,000 now, and heading into the home stretch. At my present rate, I should be done with this draft in a month. If I can pick up the pace a bit, sooner. (If I don’t start spending all my time trying to sell the books I’ve already published …)

If you’re interested in some of my thoughts on organizing group promos, check out this blog post.

Could group promos be the wave of the future for indies?

As folks who occasionally stop by this blog may have noticed, I participated in a group promo for fantasy ebooks last week, Summer Solstice Free Fantasy. 23 authors who hang out on the Kindle Boards got together and offered a total of 29 books for free on June 20-21.

Chris Tarwater, husband and promotions manager for his wife Tristan Tarwater, had the idea for the promo and did most of the organization, including putting together the site and having a banner made. For those of us interested in participating, there were a few requirements:

– The book or books to be in the promotion had to be Fantasy
– Books with no ratings were fine
– If the book did have ratings, it had to be at least 4 star avg.
– Book(s) had to be available for free on June 20-21

Chris’s plan for the group promo included:

– Group advertising
– Cross promotion on Facebook, Twitter, blogs
– Submit to the usual suspects (a lot of the “usual suspects” can be found in my post on Promoting Ebooks with KDP Select)

Chris submitted the group promo as a whole to the various sites that list freebies, while each of us participating submitted our books individually. He also organized ads for the promo, which we contributed to as a group, making the cost much more manageable. It was actually the first time I’ve paid for advertising for my ebooks. 🙂

But what gives a group promo like this a dynamic that goes far beyond a little extra advertising is all the people participating. There were a number of things that helped:

– We created an Amazon list with all of the books free on Amazon (some of the books were only free on Smashwords), and about a dozen of us added a free promo blurb to the beginning of our book descriptions shortly before the promo went live. That way, anyone who nabbed one of my books, frex, via an individual listing, would be made aware of the group promo and perhaps be inclined to call up the list and see who else was participating. In this way, when any of us got picked up by POI, ENT, or Digital Book Today, it might also result in extra downloads for those who hadn’t made those lists.

– Those of us with special connections or strategies promoted the group as a whole rather than just our own individual books — which can also be a much bigger draw. For my own part, my German connections resulted in a noticeable number of hits to the group page. I had recently been contacted by Daniela from the German reader site “Verlorene Werke” about a guest blog (my novel Yseult originally appeared in German translation as Flamme und Harfe, so I have a few readers in Germany). When I sent her the article, I also told her about the group promotion, and she posted about it here.

– While not all of us were actively promoting, there were enough people with different friends / followers / subscribers / whatever who were passing the word along through various channels that we as a group were able to reach a much wider audience than we would have as individuals.

During the promo, I gave away a total of over 15,000 books on Amazon.com, plus a few here and there on other Amazon sites. That was over four books, two of which were free three days and two for only two. (Some of us extended the promotion for an extra day to try and take additional advantage of our run.)

Since the (extended) promo ended on June 22, I’ve sold 105 ebooks and had 6 borrows. (My total for the month is 222 / 25.) Yseult and Shadow of Stone are both on the third page in the popularity rankings for historical fantasy. While this still doesn’t come near the results of my very first ever freebie promo back in January, it’s the best I’ve done since Amazon changed their algorithms in March. May was a total washout for me, so I am very happy with the results and will definitely participate in (and maybe even organize!) group promos in the future.