Tag Archives: Shadow of Stone

How to do a successful ebook promo (without BookBub)

Starting out as an indie author

As many readers of this blog know, I broke down this month and did a free promo for one of my Big Fat Fantasies again, Shadow of Stone, the second book in The Pendragon Chronicles. For a number of reasons, I hadn’t really wanted to go there anymore:

1) The reviews you get after a free run are sometimes downright depressing, since a lot of people are grabbing the book who are not your target audience.

2) The Pendragon books are REALLY long, and they took a LONG time to write. Something irks me about giving away all that work for free.

3) I don’t want to support the assumption on the part of a growing number of readers that the only good book is a free book.

Nonetheless, I decided to plan a free promo for Shadow of Stone. In the last half a year, it has sold less than 50 copies and had less than 20,000 pages read. Meaning that even though the book can be borrowed through KU, there were very few people taking advantage of the opportunity.

Shadow of Stone

I think part of the curse of my Pendragon Chronicles series is that the books are standalone novels. And it seems that when readers come to the tragic conclusion of Yseult, which ends with no cliffhanger pulling them on, they are not as compelled to immediately buy the next book — only about 25% of the people who buy Yseult also pick up book 2. So I really didn’t have a lot to lose by tossing SoS out there for free for the first time in years.

Before I scheduled the free run, I applied for ads with a number of sites where I’ve gotten good results before. A lot of places don’t want to advertise book 2 in a series, even if the novels are standalone, but I finally got approved for an ad with Manybooks.net for May 21, so I set up the free promo around that. Organizing a free promo is very different than a 99c sale, since with that you want to go out with a bang. Your sales ranking doesn’t disappear like it does when you’re giving the book away for free. I figured for the free run, I wanted my heavy hitter towards the beginning, so that Shadow of Stone would soon be high in a lot of top 100 lists, which in turn would (I hoped) lead to organic downloads also improving the rank. Around the more expensive ad, I scheduled a couple of inexpensive promos through Fiverr, and applied for as many free ads as I could. (You can see the list of free sites I usually apply to here.)

The strategy worked better than I imagined, even though I never heard back from a number of the sites offering free ads. Here’s the breakdown for my ads, other promo activities, downloads, and income during the course of the free run for SoS:

Shadow of Stone free from May 20 – 24

May 20 – Natali FB promo Fiverr ($5.50) – 185 downloads, $21.32 in earnings
NewFreeKindleBooks (free)
May 21 – ManyBooks ($25) – 685 downloads, $27.47 in earnings
EbookDaily (free)
May 22 – Posted to Facebook groups – 263 downloads, $22.94 in earnings
May 23 – Fiverr Bknights ($10.50) – 1382 downloads, $76.08 in earnings
Booklovers’ Heaven (free)
Blog post
Mailing list
More FB groups
May 24 – More FB groups – 363 downloads, $28.90 in earnings

Ask David (free) – ran Shadow of Stone from May 20 – 24

Applied for but no response:

Reading Deals
Frugal Freebies
SF Signal free fiction
OHFB (May 24)
Ebookshabit
Freebooks
Choosy Bookworm
EReader Cafe
Ebooklister
Freebooksy
Iloveebooks
Newfreekindlebooks
ebookasaurus
Armadillo
Freeebooksforme

I also tried to set up a Facebook ad based on impressions, since I figured an ad where I pay for clicks for a free book would hardly be worth it, *g* but it was never approved. That’s an experiment I would still like to try for a free book, but maybe with a permafree where time is not of the essence.

One more thing I did which helps explain the huge jump in downloads towards the end of the free run: just before I was intending to go to bed on May 23, I checked the rankings for SoS, and it was very close to breaking the top 100 overall free on Amazon. Since I’m in Central Europe, that means it was prime time in North America. So rather than shutting down as I had intended, I sent out pleas on Facebook and Twitter, asking people to share the word and help me break the top 100.

It worked.

Here are the rankings of Shadow of Stone when I got up the next morning:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

It was #1 in several other categories as well, but those are the ones Amazon decided to show me. 🙂

During the course of the promo, I sold 51 copies of Yseult, which had previously been limping along at about a sale every other day. Strangely enough, sales of other books not in the series picked up as well, something I rarely experience with a 99c promo.

But the fact remains that the vast majority of my income from this promo was from sales of Yseult. The way the Amazon algorithms are right now, I definitely would not recommend a free promo for a book that is not part of a series. The rank for SoS after its free run (where it broke the top 100) was #126,851. Yseult, on the other hand, was #7580 — at full price. The sales I’ve seen since the promo are mostly a result of the increased rank of the companion novel.

Of course, these numbers don’t come close to those to the profit you can make if you DO get a BookBub ad. But since those are few and far between (my last was in January), I’m very happy with the 4:1 ROI of this particular promo. 🙂

Shadow of Stone FREE through tomorrow, May 24!

For the first time in years, I’m giving away one of my Big Fat Fantasies. Through tomorrow, you can get Shadow of Stone free on Amazon.

Shadow of Stone

Description:

For over ten years, there has been peace in Britain after Arthur and his warriors soundly defeated the Saxons at the battle of Caer Baddon. But sometimes peace is deceptive …

After a series of hard winters and famine, an alliance of dissatisfied northern kings attack the rich cities of Southern Britain. But in the years of peace, Arthur’s army has grown soft; jealousies and trivialities rip once strong alliances apart. Cador, who is mockingly referred to as “farmer king,” must go to war again. The threat to their way of life throws him together with Yseult, the woman he has secretly loved since he was a youth.

But can their politically expedient marriage help bring peace to Britain again? Or will it only lead to further conflict?

As betrayals both real and imagined shake the foundations of former British unity, Cador and Yseult must try to negotiate their own personal peace. Who will survive the upheavals to come? Will Britain rally once more behind a common leader to fight off the common threat?

If you haven’t read the first book, no worries — both novels are standalone stories, revolving around different Arthurian legends, and set in a more realistic historical setting than the more chivalric Arthurian tradition.

Enjoy and pass along! 🙂

Final ad testing experiment: 99c sale of Shadow of Stone

Shadow of Stone

I’ve been sick with a major head cold recently, which is one of the main reasons why I haven’t posted to this blog in over a week. I’m feeling a bit better today, which coincides with the first day of final round of testing ads for 99c sales of ebooks, this time for Shadow of Stone, Book II of The Pendragon Chronicles. Here’s the lineup for the next week:

Oct. 15 – None
Oct. 16 – BookGoodies ($5)
Oct. 17 – The Midlist (free)
Oct. 18 – ContentMo ($1.99)
Oct. 19 –
Oct. 20 – Book Barbarian ($8)
Oct. 21 – BettyBookFreak ($8)

Applied for free ads: Ebooklister, Read Freely, Read Cheaply, Reading Deals. I have not heard back from any of these however, so I don’t know if the book will get picked up by any of them.

I also have the results for the ads I ran for the Chameleon in a Mirror sale from Oct. 4-10 (total spent: $48)

Oct. 4 – Nothing – 1 sale
Oct. 5 – Ereader News Today ($20) – 27 sales (28 total)
Oct. 6 – Book Goodies ($5) – 11 sales (39 total) + 1 UK
EbookStage (free)
Oct. 7 – Posted to long list of FB pages (free) – 4 sales (43 total)
Oct. 8 – Choosy Bookworm ($18) – 6 sales (49 total)
Oct. 9 – Sweetfreebooks ($5) – 6 sales (55 total)
Booklover’s Heaven (free)
Awesomegang (free) – Apparently didn’t post after all
Oct. 10 – More FB pages (free) – 8 sales (63 total) + 1 UK

I broke even on the cost of the ads, and have since had a few sales and several thousand pages read. These ads were much less effective than those for Yseult last month. On the other hand, for that campaign, I spent almost $100, and it gave the book the boost it needed to get high in several top 100 lists — the visibility necessary to create a long tail for a sale.

When the sale on Shadow of Stone is over, I will put together a summary post of all my results, as well as some of the conclusions I’ve come to. Ads for ebooks are getting more and more expensive, while their effectiveness is dropping. To my way of thinking, the best way to combat that trend is to share our knowledge, so that writers won’t be tempted to put as much money in advertising that doesn’t work.

Promoting your 99c sale revisited: Yseult, A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur

Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur

About two years ago now, I pulled Yseult and Shadow of Stone, my two big doorstopper Arthurian novels, from KDP Select and went wide with them. Unfortunately, I was never able to get any traction with them on other sales sites, even with a couple of permafree titles. So when Amazon changed it’s payment model for borrows, I pulled them from all other sites and re-enrolled them in Select. At official KENPCs (Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count) of around 1000 pages each, when those are books are read to the end as borrows, they earn me almost four times as much for a borrow as in the old system — and they earn me more than for a direct sale too. 🙂

But as I have pointed out before, you can make neither sales nor a borrow if you don’t get your book in front of people. This summer has been crazy busy, and I haven’t had a lot of time to set up advertising. Now I finally have a Countdown Deal set up for Yseult this week, during which I will be testing a few more 99c promotional gigs. BookBub is not among them. I am trying to find out what advertising opportunities are out there for which you do not need to shell out hundreds of dollars. Next week, I will post my results, as well as summaries of several other 99c promotions I’ve done in previous months with the ads I bought for them.

Another thing I’ll be tracking is the ranking of Yseult. Before the promotion started, it was at #511,349 on Amazon.com. I have already had two sales, and now it is at #97,793.

This week, I’ll be testing the following ad sites:

Book Barbarian – Aug. 31 ($8)
Booklovers Heaven – Aug. 31 (Free)
Manybooks.net – Aug. 31 (Free)

Books Butterfly – Sept 2 ($50)

Bargain Booksy – Sept. 4 ($40)

I’ve also applied for a number of other free ads, but I haven’t received confirmation that my book will be carried, so I’m assuming it won’t be running on any of the other sites besides ManyBooks and Booklover’s Heaven.

I deliberately spaced the more expensive paid ads with a day in between so that I’ll have a better idea which ones are actually effective. When I’ve done this kind of thing before with a different ad every day, it ends up being hard to figure out how many of the sales are from the ad of the day, or from the ad that ran the day before.

Watch this space next week, when I will post my results, and provide a summary of ads for other 99c sales I’ve tested. 🙂

Shadow of Stone on sale for 99c through Dec. 19 – and testing ad sites

In my on-going attempt to get back into the swing of things marketing-wise — and figure out what works in this new self-publishing era of Kindle Unlimited and various other changes — I set up a sale this week for Shadow of Stone, the second book in The Pendragon Chronicles.

Shadow of Stone on Amazon

For over ten years, there has been peace in Britain after Arthur and his warriors soundly defeated the Saxons at the battle of Caer Baddon. But sometimes peace is deceptive …

After a series of hard winters and famine, an alliance of dissatisfied northern kings attack the rich cities of Southern Britain. But in the years of peace, Arthur’s army has grown soft; jealousies and trivialities rip once strong alliances apart. Cador, who is mockingly referred to as “farmer king,” must go to war again. The threat to their way of life throws him together with Yseult, the woman he has secretly loved since he was a youth.

But can their politically expedient marriage help bring peace to Britain again? Or will it only lead to further conflict?

As betrayals both real and imagined shake the foundations of former British unity, Cador and Yseult must try to negotiate their own personal peace. Who will survive the upheavals to come? Will Britain rally once more behind a common leader to fight off the common threat?

For the purpose, I found a few sites that will advertize 99c sales for free, as well as several cheaper ad options, which I have staggered throughout the week to test their effectiveness. It is well known by now that a Bookbub ad will get you hundreds of sales, but it can be very difficult to get a slot with them because of all the competition. Besides, placement in their newsletter costs hundreds of dollars. And while most books with a Bookbub ad earn the expense back, not everyone has that kind of ready cash up front.

So I am testing various options so you don’t have to! *g* Next week, I will summarize the results and put together a list of the advertizing sites I’ve found.

In the meanwhile, feel free to take a look at Shadow of Stone. And if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can now borrow it for free, since it is back in KDP Select. Just for the record, that is not because I am an Amazon fanatic, it is because my sales on other sites were so abysmal, the advantage of making money through borrows on Amazon just amounted to the better deal for me. When and if any other market seems to be developing more potential, I will add more of my books to other sites.

On splitting up a big book: Turning Yseult into episodes

As many of you following this blog know, I started my career as an indie author after I got the rights back to the original English of my novel Yseult, which was published in German as Flamme und Harfe by Random House Germany in 2009.

Flamme und Harfe, Ruth Nestvold

I published the English original in January 2012 on my own with this cover from the talented Derek Murphy of CreativIndie Covers:

Yseult, Ruth Nestvold

Since the original publisher of Yseult / Flamme und Harfe, Random House Germany, told me they were interested in a sequel (which they decided they were not interested in after all), when I published Yseult, I already had the next doorstopper waiting in the wings, Shadow of Stone, which I published in June of 2012.

That too sold quite well, and I began to imagine that I was on my way to a wonderful career as an indie author.

Halt.

Readers started wanting to know when the next “installment” would be available. Of books that were both close to 200,000 words, or over 500 pages long. Unfortunately, I don’t write fast enough to produce novels of that size every year, and I lost readers.

I started writing a prequel to The Pendragon Chronicles, Ygerna, hoping to make it free and attract more readers that way, but I soon noticed that the story of Arthur’s mother was too complicated for me to finish off in a couple ten thousand words, and it ended up on the back burner. I do have a free short story from the second novel available, Gawain and Ragnell, and that has helped my sales somewhat, giving potential readers a taste of the world of The Pendragon Chronicles. So I know for a fact that permafree can help your sales.

Then at some point I started noticing something new happening in ebook publishing: it seemed as if a lot of the most successful indie authors were publishing their ebooks in episodes or as serials, in chunks from between 50 to 200 pages. Like with a TV show, each episode might bring a single plot thread to a conclusion, but there was also often some kind of cliffhanger to make sure the reader came back for the next installment. An added advantage of the episode format is that the author can make the first “book” of the novel free in order to entice readers to give it a try.

Slowly an experiment started to take shape in my mind. I had these two Big Fat Fantasies, after all, together close to 400,000 words. But in the era of ebooks, when the reader can’t judge a book by how heavy it is in her hand, books seem to be getting shorter. And while the true short story has yet to make a comeback, readers appear to be increasingly accepting of novella-length books. (This is all totally subjective and unscientific, so don’t quote me on it.)

Anyway, as a result of these observations, I have decided to launch an experiment. I am going to take the four books of Yseult apart — which, btw, is how I organized the novel long before the advent of ebooks — and offer them separately. I will try to make the first book free on Amazon as quickly as possible. Here is the pricing structure I’m considering for the serial version:

Part I: FREE
Part II: 99c (my take, 30c)
Part III: 2.99 (my take $2)
Part IV: 2.99 (my take $2)

My goal is not to make more money than with the complete novel, although that is what would happen if readers were only to buy the individual parts. But when I do this, I do not intend to unpublish Yseult. That will still be available for 4.99 for anyone who is enjoying the series enough to want to buy the novel. Mostly I’m just hoping that with parts 1 & 2 at free and 99c respectively, a few more readers will try out the series.

So recently I’ve been working on a template for the covers of the individual episodes. I wanted to use the cover of Yseult as a basis, to make sure that no one bought any of the episodes thinking it was a new story in The Pendragon Chronicles. At the same time, the covers should be distinctive enough to stand out from each other. Given those considerations, here’s the template I came up with for the series:

Yseult template

And here’s my first attempt at a single title:

Yseult-Part-1

My thought is to use different colors beneath the “celtic fringe” *g* on the left / west side of the cover as a visual signal of the differences between the books. And now, as I write this, it occurs to me that the color for the first book, which takes place in Ireland / Eriu, should be a dark green rather than the dark purple I have now. *g*

Anyway, I welcome any thoughts / feedback you have in the comments below!

I might land flat on my face with this experiment, but I’m not out of much more than a couple days worth of work making the new covers, formatting the individual sections, and uploading them to the various venues. Wish me luck. 🙂 And do please let me know what you think!

It’s accounting time again! Me and my goals, first quarter 2014

Long, long ago, when I first came to Germany, I was given the nickname “Nessie” (for my last name), and I liked it so much, I kept it. Who wouldn’t want to be a big green sea monster, after all? Anyway, my son got me this excellent T-Shirt, which I think is very appropriate for a post where I have to fess up to all the things I didn’t accomplish in this round:

Nessie

In case you can’t read the words, they’re “The important thing is that I believe in myself.”

Anyway, on to the accounting for the first Round of Words in 2014:

Writing:

– Write every day, aiming for at least a page, or 250 words. This is really low for me, and once I manage to catch up on the translation, I can raise my goals. At that point, I will also add some specific project goals.

I did work on writing projects almost every day, but it was more revising and editing than creating new words. Still, as long as I continue to work consistently towards my writing goals, I’m pretty happy with myself.

Business:

– Be done with the Big Translation Project by the end of the round

Not quite. I am now on page 257 of 303. At least the finish line is in sight now. Maybe I can get it done before the next round starts.

Writing business:

– Publish Chameleon in a Mirror
DONE!

– Publish Island of Glass

Nope. Only recently got the comments back from the final beta reader, so I’m still working on revisions on that one.

– Publish “The Shadow Artist”
Nada.

– Upload “Leaving Sweater” to Smashwords and make it free
‘Fraid not.

– Publish Shadow of Stone to B&N, Smashwords and D2D
DONE!

– Publish “Mars, A Traveler’s Guide” to Amazon and make it free
No such luck.

– Make Author Page for Amazon.de and Amazon.uk

I made my author page for Amazon UK! It’s not live yet, though. I’ll provide the link when I have it. I still need to do Amazon.de.

– Update my blog’s book page
DONE!! You can see the new page here.

– Submit a short story a week to traditional publishers

Not quite. I submitted four short stories this round, of which three have already been rejected. I added this goal late, but I still should have had twice the submissions. Maybe next time!

I did have a long list of goals, and the translation is keeping me very busy, so despite all the goals I didn’t achieve, I’m still pretty happy. Hope the rest of you are too!

Shadow of Stone now available on B&N etc., and a snippet for my #WIPpet

First a confession: the weather in Central Europe is much too good right now for blogging. We’ve been spending all our spare time at the piece of property we have among the vineyards not far from our house. S.O. has been pruning trees, and I have been digging up weeds and replacing them with flower bulbs, mostly lilies. But now the crocuses are blooming, and some are even on the way out.

Spring in Central Europe

For me, keeping up with the translation and the revisions in hard copy of A Wasted Land take precedence over writing blog posts. Which is why I haven’t shown up here in my home in Cyberspace for a while. Despite the gardening, I do continue to move forward with the most important stuff. And as I mentioned last week, with some prodding from a Goodreads reader, I finally uploaded Shadow of Stone to other venues besides Amazon. I am happy to announce that it is now available:

On Barnes and Noble

On Kobo

On the iTunes store.

With that out of the way, I can get on to the real business of the day — or rather yesterday, since I’m a day late: WIPpet Wednesday (Thursday)! My math today for 3/13 goes like this: 3 + 1 + 3 = 7 paragraphs from A Wasted Land:

Kustennin nodded. “I should lead the scouting party.” He glanced briefly at his mother, almost embarrassed at what he was about to say. Normally, Kustennin was reluctant to use the powers he had inherited from Yseult of Eriu, but at the same time, he was well aware that they could be a powerful ally. He knew his hesitation was far from logical. In the end, it came down to one thing: his image of himself as a warrior, not a magician.
“I have some of my mother’s powers of changing,” Kustennin added “I could cloak a small party in illusion, if necessary.”
Taliesin looked up from the plate of cheese and bread he had been devoting himself to. “And I have the ability to help you. We could travel to Venta as a group of traveling minstrels.”
“Wouldn’t that be dangerous?” Celemon asked. “What if one of you were recognized?”
The bard shrugged. “It would be less dangerous for a troupe of players in Cerdic’s territories than for a band of enemy warriors, I’d wager.”
“Who said anything about going to Venta as minstrels?” Kustennin tried to repress the frown he could feel lurking in the muscles of his forehead, but he wasn’t sure if he was successful.
Taliesin clapped him on the back. “Why I did, my liege!”

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts. 🙂

Crossing things off the to-do list – and #WIPpet Wednesday

I was over on Goodreads the other day (something I don’t actually do very often, since the ratings system there tends to depress me), and I noticed that I had a personal message. It was a note from a reader, asking if there were any plans for Shadow of Stone to be published on any other platforms like Kobo? So I had to confess that I’d been intending to for some time, but just never got around to it.

I have to admit, one of the reasons I haven’t been publishing my books like a fiend on all platforms is because I hardly sell anything anywhere besides Amazon — a couple of books a month on B&N, and on Kobo even less, a rare book in the Apple store. But one reader wanting my book was enough of a push for me to finally get the epub put together and uploaded in those places and on Draft2Digital. I haven’t done Smashwords yet, though. They still discourage uploading Epub there, and formatting a doc file for SW always takes me way too long.

I don’t have any links yet, but I will share them when I do.

I also continue to make progress on the hard copy revisions of A Wasted Land. But since I’m working in hard copy now, for WIPpet Wednesday, I’m going to go back to almost the very beginning. If I were to take an excerpt from later in the story, I would have to resist the temptation to do some polishing before uploading it, for fear of making some changes that wouldn’t be in the paper copy I’m working on. (Does that make any sense to anyone but me?)

Anyway, for the third month of the year, I am going to give you three short paragraphs from the prologue of A Wasted Land:

Kustennin gazed after the retreating figures — Myrddin with the shuffling gait of an old man, Nimue and Taliesin carrying the litter.
Evening fog began to curl around their feet, teasing at hems and legs. Kustennin’s little sister Riona laughed in delight at the shifting shadows, chasing and dancing with them. He smiled at her antics, wishing he knew her better. But for most of her life, he had been at war.
When he glanced to the north again, he could barely see Arthur and his party in the swirling mist.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts. 🙂

Shadow of Stone now available in paperback

I got the paperback version of Shadow of Stone the other day, and did a hard copy check of the formatting. All looks good, so now I can announce it here! Here’s a photo:

Shadow of Stone

There really is something quite wonderful about physical books. They’re a lot of work, and I don’t sell very many, but they’re a joy to hold in your hands. 🙂 I really need to make more of my works available in hard copy. Maybe with practice, the formatting wouldn’t take me as long.