The Old & the New

Firstly, Happy New Year to everyone!

I feel inspired today. Granted, I may have glanced over some of the New Year’s Resolutions or the more sensibly named Goals for 2014 posts on Facebook without taking much of the information in properly. I may also have previously pooh-poohed the need most people seem to exhibit for about a week in early January before slipping into old habits and forgetting all about that brilliant plan to visit a gym three times a week. Nevermind that those extra pounds always seem to ruin any attempts made to purchase a new pair of jeans (except jeggings, thank god for jeggings), junk food and sweets always win by the 20th of January, or early February for the most disciplined of us all.

No! This isn’t one of those posts. (Although I could really use a kick up my arse to finally start using that treadmill which has been collecting dust in my living room. Volunteers, form a neat queue and please, no pointy shoes!).

Instead I’d like to talk books & writing.

2013 has been pretty good, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. It helps to be reminded of just what all has transpired and then perhaps figure out a way to top it in 2014. So let’s start, at the beginning:

3rd of January 2013: I published Just Another Day at the Office Part 1. I had been writing this story for several months at that point and felt like something really had to happen. Mostly it was due to impatience that I was wasting my time with just one short story up on Amazon which wasn’t really doing much. But nevertheless, I published Part 1, and by May had the whole serial out. My first novel(ish) length work. I never thought I’d have the drive to follow through but somehow I got there!

5th of February: Part 2 came out and it was still the good old days when KDP Select could make an impact (that’s the Amazon scheme that gives you 5 days to make your book free as a promo, in exchange for exclusivity). So of course I had to try it for myself. I gave away loads of copies of Just Another Day 1, and sold a bunch of Just Another Day 2. I finally felt like a real writer, and knew I had to start acting like one.

Also in  February: Not sure of the exact date, but I was recently reminded by expiration warning emails from my domain name registrar that this site is up for renewal in February. It’s hard to imagine now because it feels like so much time has passed in between, but this website isn’t even one year old! The next thing I did was start a mailing list, because apparently everyone should have one. I still feel like I’m a bit new to the concept (and who in their right mind would want to receive emails from me every month?), but I think it went pretty well, all things considered.

March: I published Just for One Night (I know, I should really sit my ass down and write that sequel I’ve been hinting at), and Just Another Day 3. This of course does not mean I actually wrote two things in March. Sadly I have this thing called Compulsive Procrastination Syndrome which means I write stuff, leave it half / mostly finished and ignore it for months at a time before finally getting it done and published.

May: Just Another Day 4 and with it the end of the serial. Cath & John’s story felt complete. I can’t even begin to explain (again) how very pleased I was and still am. I often dreamed but never fully believed I could write a full book. Now I know that I can because I have: this is going to be the first of many!

July: Just Another Day at the Office came out in print 🙂 It was extremely exciting to hold it for the first time.

October: A much needed sequel to Ladies’ Day came out: British Champions. I promise I won’t leave it another year before continuing that particular story…

December: Gratis: Midwinter Tales came out. A free anthology featuring some amazing talent in the genre, which also happily kicks off another series of mine, The Rebound List, conveniently while I still haven’t finished some stuff I’d started earlier in the year. Of everything I’ve done this year, Gratis was basically the grand finale. In fact I was shocked by the interest we saw in this anthology and encouraged to try and replicate it…

What’s next?

So, enough reminiscing and patting myself on the back for 2013. What’s important now is to look ahead at what needs to happen in this coming year to keep growing as a writer and self publisher!

The Rebound List: I had set myself a goal of finishing #2 in this series in December. Sadly I failed. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up, so right now I’m aiming for January. Hopefully the remaining parts will follow soon after so I can add another full length release to my catalogue.

Just for One Night: That sequel. I know, really, I’ve been way too lax about this one. And the same goes for what happens after British Champions. I’ve got a vague idea for both, but nothing concrete.

Gratis: There will be another Gratis collection scheduled to publish on the 20th of March. The line-up is already looking good, even if I’ve yet to put the first word on paper for my contribution. 🙂

Audio: I desperately want to release Just Another Day (1? Maybe more?) in audio. While I do not fully get audio books (not fiction, anyway), I love listening to podcasts and such in the car. For me the draw is that I get to be entertained and (since they’re podcasts, not fiction,) learn something. But it would be so cool to revisit this story and bring it to life a bit. I have a few parts of it recorded already, hopefully I can get organised and finish it shortly.

Video? Closely related to the audio goal above, wouldn’t it be cool to post the same on youtube? A lot of people create book trailers for their work, which I don’t fully understand. But it might be nice to do some videos of books being read out and perhaps some relevant imagery? I’m not entirely sure, but it’s something to think about.

Diversification: I love the stories I’ve written, the genre I’ve played around in (Erotic Romance). It’s a lot of fun and seems to work well for me because I constantly seem to dream up new stories. This last bit is especially weird because I’ve never been a reader of Romance really. My usual reading tastes are much darker, ranging from Fantasy to Crime and Horror. So because of that, I’d really love to try my hand at something else under a different name… Perhaps 2014 will be the year I diversify!

Efficiency and Timeliness: Since starting the newsletter in March, I believe I skipped one month where I had nothing to say and been late on multiple occasions. This year I won’t skip a single one, I hope! Also, hopefully I’ll have more to add to the blog. What would everyone like to see on here? More previews of stuff that’s in progress perhaps? I’m not a natural born blogger, so coming up with thoughtful articles all the time is just simply not going to happen. Expect off topic rambling and rants, perhaps the occasional anecdote. Now if only I had enough of a life to have suitable material…

Stuff that’s in progress: I have a significant part of a new story written, tentatively called The Best & Worst Year. I know where it’s going, but just haven’t done enough with it. This year, I will. It’s a bit weird, this one, but I know it must be told. Obviously I already hinted at another story for Gratis 2, it’s meant to have a spring / Valentine’s theme and I hopefully will have something. I also have an idea for a fantasy / historical thing which is attempting to develop into a story which will hopefully see the light of day in 2014. This would be one of those attempts of mine to diversify, because I do love fantasy as a genre. But this one still feels pretty erotic as things stand right now.

Marketing / Promotion: perhaps I’ll crack Twitter this year? Nah, probably not. OK, advertising then? I’ll try, but I really don’t know… Perhaps the way forward is to just keep working away and trust that those who will enjoy it, will end up finding it somehow. Maybe 2014 will be the year that I get the fuck off Facebook and onto Google+ write more. Realistically though, that’s not likely to happen.

Anyway, I suppose what I’m trying to say in a really roundabout way is that yesterday, on the first day of a brand new year, I spent a lot of time moping around on the sofa feeling depressed. One could guess that it was due to the holidays coming to an end and the day job starting again. Or the prospect of having to take down the Christmas tree which seemed to make the living room so much nicer to be in. It was neither of those things though, instead I was sad because I’d read a bad review. It wasn’t even directed at me personally, just at something I believe in 100%. And somehow I felt a stab deep inside my heart because this other person, a complete stranger, could not see my vision and understand the intent behind it. That’s pathetic, ridiculous even. Why should I feel upset just because some person somewhere doesn’t like something I like? Have I ever sat around wondering why the world is so cruel because a stranger doesn’t like chocolate as much as I do? No, I haven’t.

Why is this different?

Essentially it is exactly the same thing. Tastes differ, and that’s fine. People have opinions and feel like they ought to express them even when they don’t fit in with mine. Fuck it. Despite all that, 2013 has been a great year and I ought to feel happy about everything that’s happened in it. And 2014 will be even better, so long as I don’t get distracted!

Exclusivity or not; are other retailers worth it?

Like many self published authors, I have spent a lot of time wondering whether KDP Select is worth bothering with or not. Is it really worth signing up for exclusivity, just to get 5 Free Promo days per 90 days? When I started, I signed up for it and tried it out. It worked, at least to some extent. I was able to get word out there about my books by making use of the Free Promo days.

Then I finished writing my serial, Just Another Day at the Office, and decided that the first part should always be free. If you’ve ever looked into how to do this, you’ll be aware that the ONLY way of making Amazon give a book away for free permanently, is to upload it elsewhere, set the price to zero and wait for Amazon to price match. That’s what I did; I uploaded my books everywhere I could possibly figure out how, and made part one free.

Now I feel it’s time to evaluate whether branching out has been the right decision. I put my royalty income from all sales platforms over the past 1 year into a spreadsheet and was quite surprised by what I found out. Obviously Amazon is by far the biggest source of royalties, but I found unexpected stats for some of the smaller outlets.

retailers-chart

I have been on Amazon longer than anywhere else, so this breakdown may change over time. Also, the above chart was made off of royalty income. This is an important point to note: The majority of my work sells for $0.99 which means I get only 35% royalty at Amazon. Some of the other outlets pay better at that price level, meaning that they form a larger share of my royalty income, compared to actual books sold compared to Amazon.

Another thing to note is the Smashwords segment in the chart; it represents almost exclusively sales via Barnes & Noble. My work is not yet available on Apple, but when it does, I expect income from Smashwords to grow significantly.

The two surprise entries are Google Play and All Romance Ebooks. Ever since I entered those two markets in April this year, sales have steadily been going up, seemingly unhindered by seasonal slumps or other variations. I expect that at least Google sales will continue to grow as it’s a significant potential market; just imagine what would happen if the majority of Android phone and tablet owners started to really take Google Play serious for their book purchases. I believe we’re now just at the beginning and provided they don’t fuck up, Google could become a force to be reckoned with.

BTW, if you prefer to look at percentages rather than colourful pie charts, the breakdown is as follows: Amazon 68%, Smashwords 14%, Google 10%, All Romance Ebooks 6% and Kobo 2%.

Why I’m not chasing Agents and Publishers

Recently I noticed some joyous announcements from friends on Facebook who managed to get their books signed by publishers. Some managed to catch the attention of a smaller press, some were signed by bigger names. While I’m pleased for them and what they’ve achieved, all of this got me thinking as well. Should this be a goal for me?

Once I’ve worked really hard finishing a new story or novel, should I then send it around agents and publishers, hoping that one of them will like it and make me an offer? If I am not dreaming of being picked up by a large publishing company who will put my book into every supermarket and every big book store, does that mean I’m not serious? I came into this world last year upon learning about self publishing and getting very excited by the possibilities ahead. Seeing my book on a shelf in a store has not been a lifelong dream of mine, I just write because I’m feeling a story and there is no other logical way for it to materialise.

Sure, there are advantages to getting a publishing contract; they’ll sort out some of the practical stuff like getting a cover made, editing and proofreading. They’ll format the book for me and handle distribution. BUT: they won’t sell my book for me, they won’t put a huge marketing plan in place because I’m not a household name. While I suppose they might possibly get my book reviewed somewhere or other, they won’t make me a bestseller unless I’m very, very lucky. I’d still have to promote my book, try to get attention on social media and all of that other stuff which I’ve got to do on my own as well.

And, even if I ignore for a moment that I’d get a smaller percentage of royalties from each sale, what I’d lose is my independence and flexibility. If I find a typo in one of my books now, I can simply open the file on my computer, make a correction and upload the new version within a few minutes. If I feel that the price is hindering sales, I can put it up or down at will.

If any of you disagree, feel free to let me know, but I don’t think I have a problem with formatting in either ebook or print formats. They look professional to me (Thanks, WriteHit.com). If I finish a story or a sequel to a story, I can run it by some beta readers and subject to their feedback put it out into the world within a few days to a week. With a publisher, it could take a year. I can’t keep readers happy if there is a one year delay between me finishing a book and a publisher releasing it for sale, and that would stress me out.

Possibly this post is more interesting to other (indie) authors rather than readers, but I just felt like expressing this opinion. Who knows, maybe in a year or so I’ll change my mind and start searching for a publisher. But for now – as much work as it is – I’m enjoying my freedom, even the fact that I have to keep track of what version of which book I’ve uploaded to which retailers (and believe me, that gets quite overwhelming at times). I like checking my sales figures every so often and see results perhaps after doing a giveaway or interview. And I even enjoy having to do or outsource my covers and formatting. It adds to the satisfaction of actually creating something, beyond words on a computer screen.

The Amazon Free Promotion Experiment; 2

amazon

Back in November I did a blog post about my first experience doing a free promotion with KDP Select on Amazon.

This initial free promotion was a bit of a failure considering I fell ill and didn’t manage to tell a single person about my free book. However, the results were interesting, giving me a baseline for what to expect with zero promotion.

Just to recap, I managed to get a bunch of downloads;
Amazon.com – 87
Amazon.co.uk – 33 (one of these was me)
Amazon.de – 11
Amazon.fr – 1

And the book reached spot 98 in the Amazon UK Erotic Fiction Free Bestseller category.

This time, I’m giving away a different book, Just Another Day at the Office – I and I even have a bit of a cunning plan.

  1. I’m spamming the hell out of Facebook especially and to a lesser extent Twitter and Google+. If you’re my FB friend, you might want to ignore me during this period, after getting your free copy of course!
  2. After reading the free book, readers who want to read more of my work can actually do so because I have more published (Last time the free book was my ONLY book).
  3. Just Another Day at the Office – I, obviously, is only the first part of a larger work. My free promo coincides with the launch of part two. Hopefully my free promo will hook readers into buying the next part.
  4. Compared to last time, I have some lovely writer friends who are helping to put the word out about this promo, and I even have some reviews already up on the book I’m giving away which should make it more attractive.

I cannot wait to see how this promo will play out!

Check back later, when I’ll update this post with the results.

Please note when comparing figures that the first giveaway lasted only one day, the current one will last two days.

The results are in!

Downloads; 2157 in total!
Amazon.com – 1887
Amazon.co.uk – 202 (one of these was me)
Amazon.de – 55
Amazon.fr – 2
Amazon.es – 2
Amazon.it – 1
Amazon.co.jp – 1
Amazon.ca – 7

Rankings:
#4 in Free Erotica on Amazon.com!

#9 in Free Erotica on Amazon.co.uk!

Reviews/Likes
I’ll be honest, I am not sure how many likes I had before the promo so it would be hard to measure any effect. But on 6 and 7 February (while the book was free) I did manage to get two awesome reviews on Amazon.com and one on Goodreads. Also, a few people marked it as “to read” on Goodreads on the 6th.

Resulting sales
It’s too early to tell if now that Just Another Day at the Office – I is no longer free, I might get sales based on how it performed in the rankings. I will post an update about this in a week or two. But, part two, which I launched at the same time as the free promo (with very limited marketing efforts comparatively) managed to achieve quite a few sales in these two days. Some will have been by readers who were already waiting for it to come out, but I suspect that a fair number were from people who may have wanted more of the same story after reading part one.

UPDATE:

18th Feb – Almost 2 weeks after the free promo, I can see a clear trend in my sales on Amazon. Note the graph below. the horizontal axis represents days, 1 being the day I did the free promo. The vertical axis shows the total sales up to that day. (Growth = I’ve sold something, Flat = no sales).

After giving away part one for free on 6 Feb, you can see a sharp rise in sales immediately after, since things have calmed down but I am still seeing more sales than I normally would during times when I’m not actively promoting my work. There is also a little effect on sales of Ladies’ Day, which I haven’t promoted at all for months.

Salesperday


Verdict
This went way better than I expected! I never thought I’d get close to 1000 downloads, never mind exceeding 2100! And hopefully using the free giveaway as a hook to get readers to try out more of my work will pay off beyond these few days as well. I’ll definitely do this again, whether with the same book or something new perhaps.

The Amazon Free Promotion Experiment

My last blog post, for those who read it, already announced that I have self published my first ever work on Amazon. For better of for worse I opted to enroll in KDP Select which means I can choose to give away the ebook for free during 5 days in each given 6 month period.The downside is I am locking myself into an agreement to exclusively sell on Amazon, and not on any other ebook market places such as Smashwords, Apple iBooks, etc.

Now, obviously I’d prefer people to buy it so I get paid royalties, but I have read on other author’s blogs that a free promotion can do wonders for future book sales. So I thought I’d give it a go.

For 24 hours yesterday, my ebook, “Ladies’ Day” was available for free on Amazon Kindle. Now I was planning to be very productive and promote this fact on Facebook and Twitter, and also on this blog, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

Instead of waking up fresh and ready to spam the internet, I woke up with a terrible sinus headache and opted to stay in bed all day. I didn’t post a single link to my book page, didn’t tell a soul that it would be free for 24 hours. Though not ideal, at least I figure this free promotion can serve as a benchmark for any future marketing I do. And for the benefit of other self publishing authors out there, I decided to publish my figures for what might happen when you give away an erotic story (normal price $0.99 or so) without doing a single bit of promotion for it.

Downloads:
Amazon.com – 87
Amazon.co.uk – 33 (one of these was me)
Amazon.de – 11
Amazon.fr – 1

Rankings:
No idea what it was like yesterday but this morning I was ranked 98 in the Amazon.co.uk Free Bestsellers within the Erotic fiction category. My book was nowhere to be found in the Amazon.com bestseller list. This tells me that potentially the market for Erotica in the UK is very small, if I can make it into the top 100 with only 33 downloads.

Reviews / Likes:
I don’t see any discernible increase in Likes on my book, but then I haven’t really been keeping tabs a lot on how many likes I had before. There have been no reviews.

Verdict:
I have no idea yet if this was worth it. But it seems once you start giving stuff away for free, someone or other will notice and download it. This alone is quite promising. I’ll have to assume that at least some of the people who got a free copy will read it, at least in part. And just maybe they’ll later be inclined to leave a review, even if it’s negative.

On the other hand, the next time I do a free promotion, I hope to actually manage to plaster my link all over Facebook/Twitter and maybe websites that list free ebooks. And if I do that, I should be able to see fairly easily if the downloads I’m getting are similar to these current figures, or if there will be a visible increase in downloads due to the social marketing efforts I’ll be putting in.

2 Weeks later:
Although of course I was very pleased that I managed relatively many downloads with zero promotion, it’s the commercial results that count. To be honest there haven’t been any that I could find.

No reviews as a result of the free promotion.
No increase in sales that could be attributed to the free promotion.

Next time I give away my book for free and actually advertise that fact, I’ll write another post which should show a dramatic difference in exposure and hopefully an increase in sales by the end of it.