Tag Archives: Starting out as an indie author

Summary of ad results for 99c sales

null

When I did my 99c Countdown Deal of Yseult two months ago, I promised to do a summary post after this round of promos was over. Last week, the third week-long promo ended, and now I have put together my results to share with you, along with some conclusions about running a 99c sale. I did not apply for a Bookbub ad for any of these promos, since part of my motivation in testing ad sites like this is to find alternatives to Bookbub. I have had Bookbub ads before, and I know that they are effective, but they are very difficult to get, not to mention very expensive.

Without further ado, here are the numbers for the three promos I did in the last two months:

Yseult

Yseult, Aug. 30 – Sept. 4 (total spent: $98)

Aug. 30 – Nothing – 2 sales
Aug. 31 – Book Barbarian ($8) – 27 sales (29 total)
Booklovers Heaven (Free)
Manybooks.net – (Free)
Sept 1 – Blog and Facebook – 11 (40 total)
Sept 2 – Books Butterfly ($50) – 45 US + 6 UK (85 total) + 6 UK
Sept 3 – Nothing – 1 (86 total) + 6 UK
Sept. 4 – Bargain Booksy ($40)- 30 US + 1 UK (116 total) + 7 UK

Summary: I did not quite break even on the ads, but Yseult stayed in a couple of top 100 lists for the rest of the month and continued selling. But the big advantage of the increased visibility was in pages read: over 11,000 for the month of September. In August, when I didn’t do any ads, it was 2500.

Chameleon in a Mirror

Chameleon in a Mirror, 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)
Oct. 10 – More FB pages (free) – 8 sales (63 total) + 1 UK

Summary: I got closer to breaking even on this Countdown Deal, ending up only $3 shy of earning out. But I have subsequently had only a handful of sales and 3500 pages read. CIAM dropped out of its top 100 lists much quicker. Part of the problem may also be, however, that I need to get it into a couple more niche categories somehow.

Shadow of Stone

Shadow of Stone, Oct 15-22 (total spent: $22.99)

Oct. 15 – None – 1 sale
Oct. 16 – BookGoodies ($5) – 2 sales (3 total) + 2 UK
BookHippoUK (free)
Oct. 17 – The Midlist (free) – 42 sales (45 total + 3 UK)
Oct. 18 – ContentMo ($1.99) – 11 sales (56 total + 3 UK)
Reading Deals (free)
Oct. 19 – Facebook sites, etc. – 5 sales (61 total + 3 UK)
Oct. 20 – Book Barbarian ($8) – 17 sales (78 total + 3 UK)
Oct. 21 – BettyBookFreak ($8) – 2 sales (80 total + 3 UK)

The ROI on this sale was pretty fantastic, mostly because SoS managed to get approved for a free Midlist ad. I scheduled the promo accordingly and booked the other ads around The Midlist listing. Still early days yet, though, to say what the long term effect will be, although it already seems to be dropping in rank faster than Yseult did after its promo.

Here are some other ad results for 99c sales I’ve had in previous months, with the disclaimer that the oldest are from last December and could be quite different now:

Shadow of Stone:
12/16/14 – Fussy Librarian ($14) – 8 sales
12/17/14 – BKnights ($5.50) – 4 sales

Chameleon in a Mirror:
2/24/15 – BKnights ($10.50) – 8 sales
6/2/15 – ManyBooks ($20.00) – 28 sales

Island of Glass

Island of Glass:
6/30/15 – Robin Reads ($10) – 13 sales

As you can see from this list, most advertising sites don’t earn out. On the other hand, getting your book to a high enough ranking that it will stay in a couple of top 100 lists for a while is worth paying more for your ads than you earn. Nonetheless, several of these sites were very disappointing to me in terms of ROI, and I do not intend to use them again unless I start hearing rave reports on places like Kboards. The biggest disappoints for me were Choosy Bookworm and BettyBookFreak, which I had both heard good things about. Perhaps those sites are better for mysteries or romances than they are for fantasy, but I for one won’t be going back for a while.

Another thing to take into consideration is that as soon as they start getting a better reputation, may advertising sites raise their prices so much that they no longer become a good deal. I was quite pleased with the results of my Book Barbarian ads — at $8. But they have since raised their prices to $25. 17 sales for $8 looks very different than 17 sales for $25.

Sites I will definitely be using again (unless they raise their prices too much) are The Midlist,* ManyBooks, ENT, ContentMo, BooksButterfly and Robin Reads. I would also like to try and get a slot with Ereader IQ and Pixel of Ink eventually, to see how well they do. POI used to be what BookBub is now, and while it is no longer the star for promotion, I’ve been hearing good things about it.

Finally, I would like to point out that if you can scratch the money together, it’s much more worthwhile to throw as many effective ads as possible at a promo. Given the results of the above Countdown Deals, I’m suspecting you need a bump of at least 100 sales to create any kind of lasting effect in terms of visibility for your book.

In conclusion, I highly recommend checking out Nicholas Rossi’s list here — and participating in his survey when you do paid advertising. We indie authors have no other recourse than information when trying to make it in this incredibly competitive business. If we share our results, we’re in a much better position to judge which sites might be useful, and which will just be a money sink.

Good luck!

* The Midlist has sold their mailing list to HarperCollins and is no longer promoting indies. You can read more about it here.

Related posts:

Where to promote a 99c eBook sale

Alexa rankings for eBook ad sites

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.

Testing more ad sites: 99c sale of Chameleon in a Mirror

Chameleon in a Mirror

I have another 99c Countdown Deal on one of my books going this week, this time for my time travel, Chameleon in a Mirror. BTW, it also got a very nice review recently at The Reading Head. πŸ™‚ Anyway, here’s the lineup for the ads:

Oct. 5 – Ereader News Today ($20) – 26 sales so far
Oct. 6 – Book Goodies ($5)
EbookStage? (free) – I have a question mark on this one because they wanted me to post a Tweet which Twitter rejected as spam. As a result, I’m not sure if they will actually promote the book or not.
Oct. 9 – Booklover’s Heaven (free)
Sweetfreebooks ($5)
Awesomegang (free)

I booked the following ad as well, but I don’t know when they will run it:
Choosy Bookworm ($18)

Total spent: $48

I applied to quite a few other free sites but didn’t hear back, so I’m assuming that the book won’t be carried there. I’m curious to see how this one compares to my recent Yseult promo, on which I spent about twice as much in advertising.

Before the promo, CIAM was at #553,601 on Amazon. This morning it was #9,970 overall, and #66 in historical fantasy. πŸ™‚

I have another Countdown Deal of Shadow of Stone scheduled for later this month and will be testing a couple more ad sites then. As a result, I’ve decided to wait on the summary post of advertising options for 99c sales until after the Shadow of Stone promo, when I’ll have quite a bit more info.

Wish me luck! πŸ™‚

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Alexa rankings for eBook ad sites

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Using Alexa

A couple of days ago, I blogged about the results of my most recent 99c sale — which went better than anything I’ve done since the last time I took out a BookBub ad, oh so long ago. It appears I’m getting a bit savvier about where to advertise.

So how do you go about deciding if a place is worth it for you to plop down the hard earned money you’ve made elsewhere in the hopes of someday making enough from writing to quit your day job? Well, I’m glad you asked that run-on question, because I’m going to tell you. The first thing I usually do is go to Kboards.com and search for the ad site I’m considering using to see if there has already been a discussion about it. Then I google the name of the site with something like “advertising” and “results” and other such search terms, to see if I can find out if other writers have been satisfied with the service. Sometimes (probably not often enough), I’ve checked the rankings on Alexa to see if the site really does get the kind of traffic it claims.

You can get into a rut with advertising, if you keep using the same sites over and over that have been successful for you before. It makes sense to hit different sites with (hopefully) different subscribers and readers who may not have seen your book before. So I found a couple of lists with sites I was unfamiliar with — adding up to so many that I knew any time I tried to figure out which to try, I would be end up feeling swamped and wouldn’t bother after all.

So I decided to sacrifice a couple of hours and weed out the lists a bit using Alexa. And since I’d gone ahead and done all that work anyway, I figured I might as well share it with my blog readers.

This ranking is by no means a guarantee of the effectiveness of any given ad site. Many sites are only for authors, with the ads appearing on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites. Many sites these days inform their readers of deals through email, and aside from ad pages for authors, the site is little more than a sign-up for the email list.

Also, some sites only cater to select genres. I was very pleased with the results of my ad with Book Barbarian, for example, which is not exactly stellar in this ranking. But they only promote sff, so they are targeting precisely the readers I want to reach. And at a price tag of only $8, I suspect they are one of the better deals for writers in my genre. I fully intend to use their services again — with a different book next time. πŸ™‚

But the thing is, an outrageously low ranking probably indicates that you are not going to see much of a result from a listing with that site. The worst ranking I encountered was 15,000,000 — and it didn’t even offer free ads. I did not include that site on my list. This irregular blog comes in at a little over 600,000, after all, to give you some comparison. (Which I only learned while writing this post. *g*) And I assure you, none of you wants to give me money to plug your book, although I would be happy to take it …

Price is another thing to take into consideration when weighing whether to advertise with any of the sites listed here. Not surprisingly, BookBub has the highest Alexa ranking. But the prices they charge are also far more than many indie authors can afford.

Since I compiled this list for my own use, when not otherwise noted, the ranking is for US traffic, which is where about 95% of my sales come from, making it most important to me. By the same token, I didn’t even check romance sites, since I do not write romance, at least not yet. I also did not bother to include any sites above a ranking of 500,000 if they don’t provide a free advertising option. I make no apologies for that, and no claim in the first place that this list is anywhere near complete. It was intended for my personal use, and I just happen to be sharing it with you. πŸ™‚ Finally, I want to emphasize once more that this ranking alone does not indicate how effective an ad placed with one of these sites will be, given how many different factors play a role. It can only be one of several data points influencing the decision where to take out an ad. AND it is only current at the time of this writing (Sept. 10, 2015). Alexa rankings may be completely different a month from now.

The sites not already listed on my other promo pages (here, here, and here) I got either at http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/2015/02/35-alternatives-to-bookbub/ or http://www.readersintheknow.com/list-of-book-promotion-sites. You can use those to compile you own rankings for advertising purposes. πŸ™‚

Now on to Ruth Nestvold’s personal Alexa ranking list of ebook advertising sites:

https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing
2,176 US; 8,393 global

http://new.ereaderiq.com/advertise/
8,082

http://robinreads.com/author-signup/
9,683

https://ohfb.com/kindle-book-advertising-for-authors-and-publishers.html
16,171

http://manybooks.net/promote.php
17,124

http://digitalbookspot.com/ (bknights on Fiverr)
18,275

http://freebooksy.com/editorial-submissions
19,662

https://www.themidlist.com/submit
22,810

http://www.dailyfreebooks.com/promote-your-kindle-book.html
25,940

http://ereadernewstoday.com/bargain-and-free-book-submissions/ (ENT)
29,576

http://www.bookgorilla.com/advertise
37,273

http://digitalbooktoday.com/
38,161

http://www.theereadercafe.com/p/authors.html
45,262

http://blog.booksontheknob.org/subscribe-about-contact/authors-read-this
58,972

http://booksends.com/advertise.php
55,240

http://authors.choosybookworm.com/newsletter-and-website-feature/
56,149

http://fkbt.com/for-authors/
60,736

http://ebookstage.com/authorAreaPage.xhtml
75,536

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/submissions/
76,876

https://www.thekindlebookreview.net/advertise-books-2/
78,724

http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/for-authors/
82,796

https://www.thekindlebookreview.net/advertise-books-2/
98,369

http://bargainbooksy.com/for-authors
100,705

http://bookgoodies.com/submit-your-free-kindle-days/highlight-your-free-kindle-days/
116,216

http://www.xtme.de/submitting-a-free-e-book-to-xtmeenglishbooks/
130,042 global; 7,738 Germany

http://www.freebookshub.com/authors/
131,056

http://www.bargainebookhunter.com (can be booked through Hotzippy)
134,201

http://ereadergirl.com/submit-your-ebook/
161,376; NZ 2,827

http://askdavid.com/for-authors
161,996 global; United Kingdom 24,180 (also ranks in India and the US)

http://bookbarbarian.com/why-advertise/
179,531

http://www.freebooks.com/submit/
188,008

http://readingdeals.com/submit-ebook
188,357

http://www.ebooksoda.com/authors/
199,297

http://www.bookbasset.com/authors/submissions/
200,900

http://beezeebooks.com/book-promotion/
206,871 global; 975 New Zealand; also India

http://www.frugal-freebies.com/p/submit-freebie.html
211,208

http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/
211,254

http://readcheaply.com/partners/
213,980

http://www.iloveebooks.com/for-authors.html
222,842

http://addictedtoebooks.com/content/free-advertising
224,161

http://ebookshabit.com/for-authors/
237,735

http://www.freeebooksdaily.com/p/promote-your-free-book.html
248,641

http://www.booksbutterfly.com/order?tag=readersintheknow
251,520

http://indiebookoftheday.com/authors/free-on-kindle-listing/
251,886

http://www.ebooklister.net/submit.php
279,609

http://www.book-circle.com/submit-free-kindle-ebook-listing/
300,000+ global; 3,000 Phillipines

http://bookpraiser.com/submit-book/
293,107

http://www.ebookhounds.com/pricing/
308,789

http://ebookasaurus.com/authors/
318,623 (global)

http://www.bookbuzzr.com/plans.php
329,155

http://bettybookfreak.com/authors/
367,548

http://www.goodkindles.net/p/submit-your-book.html
371,292

http://booktastik.com/pricing-sale-estimates/
380,520

http://www.freebookdude.com/search/label/Promote%20with%20The%20Book%20Dude
413,117

http://www.peoplereads.com/list-your-ebook
518,197

http://lovelybookpromotions.com
593,211

http://contentmo.com/submit-your-free-ebook-promo
618,531; global 401,223

http://freediscountedbooks.com/submit/
620,927

http://www.armadilloebooks.com/
904,702 global

Hope you all find the list useful. πŸ™‚

Effectiveness of ads for a 99c promo: Results for Yseult

Last week, I had a 99c sale for Yseult running, for which I took out several paid ads — none of them BookBub. *g* I promised to provide a summary of the results once the promo was over.

Here are the ads I took out and the dates they appeared:

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)

For the week, I spent a total of $98 for advertising. At the beginning of the promotion, Yseult was at #511,349 on Amazon.com. The highest it reached during the week of the promotion was #7,555 on Sept. 3, according to the sales info on Author Central. Here is one of the better results caught as screenshot:

Arthurian fiction bestsellers

It actually made it up to #4 in Arthurian Fiction at one point, but I forgot to take a screenshot. πŸ™‚

Here is how the sales during the week broke down:

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

Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, before the Books Butterfly ad came out, I had 38 sales in the US and 2 in the UK. Before the ads came out, there were 2 sales. So I’m sure that most of those sales were a result of the ads, but since they were all on the same day I’m not sure exactly where the sales came from. Nonetheless, excellent ROI, and well worth using again. Perhaps next time on different days, so that I have a better idea which ones work best.

Books Butterfly – Sept 2 ($50)

After the Books Butterfly ad, I had another 47 sales in the US and 4 in the UK. In absolute terms, that means I lost money, but it is also the ad that pushed my visibility up the most and got me into some top ten lists.

Bargain Booksy – Sept. 4 ($40)

After the BargainBooksy ad, I sold another 30 copies of the book in the US and 1 in the UK. For me, in terms of ROI, this was the least effective of the ads I took out.

As I mentioned last week, I deliberately spaced the more expensive paid ads with a day in between so that I’d have a better idea of their effectiveness. When I’ve tested ads before, I’ve tended to do a different ad every day, which makes it more difficult to figure out which ads got me the sales, since there is always spillover.

To my way of thinking, with my limping sales in the past months, this promo was a definite success. Not only did I sell over 130 copies of the book (meaning I recouped the costs of the ads), I also sold several copies of Shadow of Stone, #2 in The Pendragon Chronicles, and paperbacks of Yseult as well — something that hasn’t happened in a long time. πŸ™‚ Even my freebies in the series have a lot more downloads now than they did this time last month.

And now that the book has returned to full price, I’ve made a couple more sales, and seem to have several readers borrowing it, to judge by the pages read in my dashboard.

I promised to compile these results with those of other 99c sales I’ve done, but it’s late now in Central Europe, and I think I’m going to save the summary post for next week.

Anyway, I’m very happy with the results, even if some of them were quite different than expected. But I’m paying for that as well, and will know better what to use next time I schedule a promo for one of my books. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Be Willing to Make Changes

More than once in this series, I have pointed out the things an author might want to take a critical look at if her book isn’t selling — assuming she is doing the marketing work to get the word out in the first place, that is. πŸ™‚ Without regular marketing, all the fabulous book blurbs and pretty covers are nothing, since no one will see them. (If you have not yet read my post about what to do if your books aren’t selling, it’s available here.)

The simple summary is this: in my opinion, the most important things standing between an author and a sale are:

– A less-than-gripping book description
– A cover that isn’t compelling enough
– First pages that don’t make the reader eager for more

I admit up front that I have never rewritten the first pages of a novel to give it more of the character of a hook that will lead to a sale. But I have switched stories around in a collection to see if the new first pages will result in better sales. And I have revamped descriptions more than once, along with keywords and all that comes with it.

But changing descriptions and keywords is relatively easy. The work (and possibly expense) involved in changing covers is something else again. Nonetheless, I have done it a few times. Here are a couple of covers I’ve changed:

The cover for Mars was a new one when I finally published the short story to Amazon, so I have no comparisons there, but with The Future, Imperfect, sales increased dramatically after I changed the cover.

If you are doing regular marketing and your sales are still flagging, I strongly recommend running your covers by a new site, Rate Book Cover, to see what readers totally unconnected to you think of your cover.

Naturally, I have to test these things myself. Since sales for Chameleon in a Mirror have been limping along recently, I decided to upload it.

It flunked out.

Okay, not completely. It got an average of three stars out of five. But that is not good enough. Over a third rated the cover average, and even more rated it either poor or awful. Most of the readers in the last two categories are probably not going to click on that cover, and I’m assuming quite a few who rated it average are lost to me as well.

I still like the cover. But I can see how it might be too busy for some readers. And since Chameleon in a Mirror is a book of my heart, I think it deserves some experimenting.

I started out with two considerations: 1) The book plays with literary history; 2) It’s a time travel.

For #1, it occurred to me that a number of novels that revolve around thought experiments involving historical figures use art in the public domain in their covers. So I started searching for paintings of women gazing into mirrors. I would have preferred something from the same period as the novel, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. Instead, I went for John William Waterhouse. The result is the cover at the beginning of this post.

For #2, I went to Amazon and searched for “time travel.” Going through several pages of results, and ignoring the time travel romances, I noticed that a lot of the better selling books have a background with clockworks or a clock face. So for a cover emphasizing time travel, here’s what I came up with:

I don’t regard either of the covers as “finished” yet — I still need to work on type and layout, among other things. But once I’m satisfied with them, I’ll upload both to the Rate Book Cover site to see if they can get better reader ratings than what I have now. I also intend to upload all three to the cover comparison site, Help me choose a cover. Unfortunately, that one doesn’t get very much traffic.

If all of the covers get bad ratings, I will keep trying. My goal is to come up with a cover that gets an average rating of at least 4, meaning more positive reactions than negative. Once I have a compelling cover, I’ll upload the new one and then schedule a promotion for the book, so I can see if the results are better than with the previous cover.

I’m not looking forward to another rash of “awful” ratings, *g* but I figure if I can get an idea of reader reactions before I upload a new cover, it might save me time on the promotion end. The truth can be harsh, like the reader feedback I got for our first Chameleon cover, but now that I know, I can work on coming up with a better cover for the book, one that grabs the readers CIAM was meant to reach. πŸ™‚

One of the freedoms of being an indie author is that we have control over every aspect of the book, from editing to appearance to marketing. By the same token, we also have responsibility for every aspect of the book.

For that reason, we need to be willing to recognize errors in judgment and make changes accordingly. I intend to slowly start uploading all my covers to the Rate Book Cover site — one at a time, since I don’t have tons of extra time to start working on new covers or finding new cover artists.

Oh, and please feel free to let me know what you think of the new designs. For the sake of comparison, here’s the old:

Starting out as an indie author: Rolling with the changes

Starting Out as an Indie Author

Last week, I posted about eBook pricing in the “Starting out as an indie author” series. Among other things, I mentioned a strategy often used by erotica authors: publishing short stories with KDP Select, charging $2.99 per story, and relying on borrows through Kindle Unlimited to make money.

Shortly after I had finished that blog post and published it, I received an email from Kindle Direct Publishing announcing new Amazon payment per borrow calculations — a payment scheme that will make the above-mentioned strategy for erotica authors obsolete. Here the pertinent passage from the email in question:

As with our current approach, we’ll continue to offer a global fund for each month. Under this new model, the amount an author earns will be determined by their share of total pages read rather than their share of total qualified borrows. Here are a few examples illustrating how the fund will be paid out. For simplicity, assume the fund is $10M and that 100,000,000 total pages were read in the month:

β€’ The author of a 100 page book which was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

β€’ The author of a 200 page book which was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

β€’ The author of a 200 page book which was borrowed 100 times but only read half way through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

Right now, no one knows what Amazon’s per page price will end up being, but with the monthly pot being divvied up by pages rather than borrows, it is safe to assume that 20 page erotica short stories are going to end up with significantly less than $1.40 per borrow, the payout in previous months.

What that means is, the authors who were relying on the above business model to make money are going to have to react to the changes and come up with new strategies, such as pulling their stories from KDP Select and going wide, or bundling their short stories to make longer works and take advantage of page count, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this — I actually think the new payment structure for borrows will be much more fair than the previous model.

But there’s a lesson to be learned from this that’s important to all indie authors, whether they write erotica or not: the “rules” of self-publishing are constantly changing, and we have to learn to adapt as we go.

An example: I pulled my monster epic fantasy novels, Yseult and Shadow of Stone, from KDP Select some time ago, because I didn’t feel like “giving them away” for the minimal amounts made by a borrow. But if Amazon is now paying per page read, it makes KDP Select much more interesting for a 200,000 word novel. So I went back and counted my sales on all other venues for the last year and a half, and it comes to a little over 60, less than half of which are for Yseult and Shadow of Stone.

As a result, I will be reacting to the current changes by pulling my Pendragon novels from other retailers at the end of the month and putting them back in Select for at least a while to test the waters. On Kboards, people are speculating that the per page payment for borrows could be higher in the beginning, in order to entice people with longer books back to the fold. If that’s true, it would be nice to be able to take advantage of it.

I don’t know yet if this is actually going to be a change that will be good for me, but it’s worth a shot. I’ve gotten to the point now in my indie career where I’ve realized everything is in flux, and I have to learn to roll with it.

It wasn’t always that way. When I decided to go indie with the English original of Yseult, after I had gotten the rights back from Random House Germany where the book had been published in translation, I got incredibly lucky. Amazon had just introduced KDP Select, and I decided to go with it, since I still needed time to learn how to publish with other retailers. In order to get some initial traction, I did a free run shortly after publication, once I’d gotten the first couple of reviews. Yseult was picked up by Pixel of Ink, which back then was what BookBub is now, and it was downloaded almost 10,000 times — a lot in early 2012.

That put my book in several bestseller categories and made it a hot new release. As a result, in my first months as an indie author, I was easily selling hundreds of books a month. I had plenty of previously published short stories, and I bundled them in collections, which I regularly offered free while I worked to get Shadow of Stone ready for publication. For that first year, with staggered free runs and no paid advertising, I was able to continuously increase sales.

Then Amazon changed their algorithms. A book that was downloaded for free no longer counted as much towards “bestseller” status and thus was not as effective in making me and my books visible. The strategy that I’d been using to sell my books was no longer working the way it had been, ever since I first started self-publishing.

I started using paid advertising. I managed to get a couple of BookBub ads. I had a couple of amazing months as a result — but there was no longer any lasting effect, as far as I could see, at least not compared to those first months.

A couple of things happened. Short story collections no longer helped in getting eyes on my novels, and I realized I had to get more longer works out.

And I got frustrated. My sure-fire strategy had turned into a limping loss leader. So I basically gave up, which led to my “year of marketing dangerously,” which I’ve mentioned before.

The moral of this little story is: if you ever have any success, put it in the bank, because you will need it when success leaves you again. (James Lee Burke once said something along those lines, but I can’t find the exact quote, so I have to paraphrase.)

The other moral is: try to keep abreast of changes in the market and adapt accordingly. What worked all through 2012 no longer works mid 2015. While some will say – DUH – we are only talking a little more than two years here, not a lot in the big scheme of things.

I have no idea if this brave new world will ever settle down — but if you want a comfortable life, you shouldn’t be a writer in the first place. πŸ™‚ That basic fact has not changed with the self-publishing revolution, despite the few exceptions. The responsibility is ours now, more than it has been in a long time.

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Ebook Pricing

Once you’ve written your book, had it beta-read, edited, proof-read, what have you; once you’ve got a great, eye-catching cover and gripping book description; once you’ve formatted the interior (or had someone do it for you) so that your book looks professional on an eReader; after all that, then you are ready to publish.

Only: what price are you going to charge for your book?

There are many philosophies out there regarding eBook pricing, from those who are offended by the idea of pricing their book for less than a Grande Caffe Latte, to those who who advocate “price pulsing” (raising and lowering prices on a regular basis in response to sales, or lack of same), those who swear by 99c to reach as many readers as possible, or those who set a price without much thought and never touch it again.

What it comes down to is: what is going to make you as an author the most money and get you the most readers?

Of course, like all things, it’s not quite as simple as that. There are a number of things to take into consideration when pricing your eBook. Here are some of the questions to ask yourself when determining the prices for your eBooks:

– What royalties will the price point earn you per book?
– How long is it?
– What genre is it in?
– Do you already have a fan base?
– What are you personally comfortable with price-wise?

You may have noticed that I didn’t include the question, “What prices are readers paying?” The variables for that are so huge, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to try and base your pricing decisions on that. There have been several surveys done on what readers are willing to pay, such as that by the Fussy Librarian.

It is interesting data, and certainly worth taking into consideration. But you and I are never going to earn anything off of the 9.4% of readers who only download free books (and those are only the 9.4% who admit it.)

Ebook Royalties

One of the first things to take into consideration when pricing your book is: What percentage are you as an author going to earn of the cover price? (As an indie author, you are the publisher and what you earn from your books are not royalties, strictly speaking, but for the sake of simplicity, I will use it as an umbrella term for the percentage the author earns from a sale.) Here is a breakdown according to eBook retailer:

Ebook Royalties

Most retailers require that you set the price the same with them as with all other stores where you sell the eBook. From this table, it’s fairly obvious that the best price range for your book is between $2.99 and $9.99. But the percentage the author earns is only part of the picture. Although the royalties are lower, many authors swear by the 99c prince point, saying that the volume makes up for the lower royalties. I have had little success at 99c, except for short-term promotions, but as with all things, YMMV.

Length

An eBook does not have the same weight and heft as a physical book, so that readers do not have the same immediate signs communicating length. I personally suspect that this is one of the main reasons I see a certain reluctance among the eBook audience to pay more for longer books. While this might feel unfair to the author, to the reader, an eBook is an eBook is an eBook — at least in my experience.

As a result, I have ended up pricing most of my books at $2.99 — from collections of short stories, to novellas, to novels of over 100,000 words. Only for my “doorstoppers” of nearly 200,000 words each, Yseult and Shadow of Stone, do I charge more than $2.99.

While many readers are unwilling to plunk down much more for twice as many+ words in digital format, at the same time, it is still going to be hard to try and get 70% royalties from your readers for short fiction — with certain exceptions, which brings me to the next point, “Genre.”

Genre

When deciding how to price your eBooks, I highly recommend conducting some research to see what other eBooks in the same genre are selling for. I write primarily in science fiction and fantasy, and I am only one author among many, and my experience is limited by what I write. In other genres, readers are willing to pay very different prices.

Take for example erotica. In erotica, a common practice is to charge $2.99 for short stories, and rely on borrows through Kindle Unlimited to actually make money. Readers put up with this because it’s smut, and they don’t care what the price is because they’re getting their reads for “free.”

In most other genres, if you charge more than 99c for a short story, you will either get 0 sales or be vilified in reviews — unless, of course, you already have a fan base that will snap up everything you write.

Another example: there are a number of New Adult, Romance and Paranormal writers who are releasing short episodes of their books in serial for $2.99 each, with the first episode free. So if you have the right product and can reach the right audience, you will also be able to demand very different prices than what I have described here.

What price are you comfortable with?

While some authors just starting out may think $2.99 for a full-length novel is equivalent to giving their work away, let me put it in perspective briefly. My novel Yseult was originally published in translation with Random House Germany as Flamme und Harfe. It was over 700 pages long and sold in hardcover for €19.95. And I was making less per book on that €19.95 hardcover than I am making now on the eBook at $3.99.

On the other hand, I no longer care to give away my Big Fat Fantasies for free in the hopes of seeing more sales at some future date. That may be a decision that is costing me sales in the long run and that I will eventually have to revise, but for now I am trying to find other ways of getting eyeballs on my big books.

Conclusion

For the most part, I think it is safe to say that readers expect eBook prices to be lower than for a standard paperback. And for an unknown author with no fan base, the lower the price, the better. If you are considering publishing a first book and have no other works ready for publication, it might be wise to wait until you have a couple more books almost ready to go. Having one book free to entice readers to try out your work can be a powerful marketing tool.

But keep in mind, all I can give you in these posts on “starting out as an indie author” are tips based on my own experience. Before you decide on prices for your eBooks, do more research, especially in your genre. And good luck!

Further reading:

https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/the-great-e-book-pricing-question/

“10 Tips for Choosing the Right Book Title” via Anne R. Allen

I just read an excellent article on book titles in the ebook age that I had to share with readers of this blog. Take for example all the great advice in Tip #3 alone:

3) Study Titles that Work

Here are some title categories that are “tried and true.”

The hero’s name
This is the oldest type of title in the book, literally. A title simply stating the name of the protagonist has been around since the birth of the novel. Names made up the most common titles in early fiction. From Don Quixote, Tom Jones, Robinson Crusoe, David Copperfield, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Madam Bovary, Mrs. Dalloway, and Auntie Mame, to Olive Kitteridge and Coraline, the protagonist’s name can be a pretty safe choice for a title.

Then there are protagonist’s names with embellishments like The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Charlotte’s Web, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and The Talented Mr. Ripley

The antagonist’s name

Sometimes the villain gets top billing, as with Moby Dick, Hannibal, and Jaws.

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is one of the most clever villain titles, because even though Rebecca DeWinter is dead, she casts a shadow over the entire story. The fact the main character has no name but “the second Mrs. DeWinter” makes this title all the more compelling.

The main character’s occupation or title:

The Master Builder, The Vagabond, The Sot Weed Factor, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Master and Commander, The Continental Op, The Good Soldier, Gladiator.

A family member’s occupation or title:

The Mermaid’s Sister, The Duke’s Children, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Father of the Bride, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Baker’s Daughter, The Unicorn’s Daughter, The Bonesetter’s Daughter.

You’ve probably noticed that daughters have been in vogue recently. Here’s a piece with an infographic showing how titles involving daughters have expanded in recent years.)

Setting is good:

Mansfield Park, The Country of the Pointed Firs, Brokeback Mountain, Wuthering Heights, Cold Mountain, Mystic River, Echo Park, Dune, Tinseltown, Telegraph Avenue.

These let readers know where the story happensβ€”which helps them decide if they want to go there. Remember you want your title and cover to give as much information as possible to your potential reader without confusing or overwhelming them.

Or use the setting with embellishments:

The Amityville Horror, Murders on the Rue Morgue, The Last Time I Saw Paris, The Incident at Owl Creek Bridge, The Bridges of Madison County

The main character’s place of origin

The Virginian, Bastard Out of Carolina, The Man from Snowy River

The main event or inciting incident:

The Hunger Games, The Great Train Robbery, Escape from Alcatraz, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Death of Ivan Ilyich….(or practically anybody). “Main event” titles are informative and contain the hook, so they’re great choices.

Theme:

These advertise the book’s big picture: Pride and Prejudice, Of Mice and Men, War and Peace, The Beautiful and the Damned. These are especially good for literary fiction.

Quotes from the Bible, nursery rhymes or the classics:

A Time to Kill, The Sun Also Rises, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, Blithe Spirit, Along Came a Spider, The Golden Apples of the Sun, Tender is the Night, Infinite Jest, His Dark Materials

In fact there are so many from classic literature they have their own Wikipedia page.

Quotes from songs or song titles:

Catcher in the Rye, Go Down Moses, Norwegian Wood, Sometimes a Great Notion, and most of Mary Higgins Clark’s oeuvre from While My Pretty One Sleeps (1990) to I’ve Got You Under My Skin (2014)

NOTE: If you take a line from a song rather than the title, make sure it’s in the public domain. Song titles can’t be copyrighted, but quoting even one line from a copyrighted song can cost you big bux.

Lines from the work itself:

The Silence of the Lambs is a reference to Clarice being traumatized in childhood by screaming lambs.)

To Kill a Mockingbird also comes from the book’s dialogue, as do Gone with the Wind and Waiting to Exhale.
….

Now get you over the read the rest of this great advice here.