I always like to try new ways to market my books, and I especially like free ways to promote the novels. But I’m not always timely. A year ago, when I launched the print version of Sacrifice the Living, the novel became eligible for a Goodreads Giveaway. It was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t get around to reading the Frequently Asked Questions until today, and I discovered that the good people at Goodreads recommend doing a month-long Giveaway contest before a novel is published and a second one several months after it hits the shelves.
Category archive: Apocalypse Revolution
The great thing about e-publishing is that readers can actually influence writers in a way that simply was not possible in the traditional publishing model. Didn’t like a chapter? Write the author to tell him/her, and they can actually change it and seamlessly update the work on Amazon or Smashwords. I’m not suggesting that writing should become a collaborative effort, but if hundreds of people e-mailed me to say they loved my novel except for one non-essential chapter, I’d toss it.
He had just turned ten when the world ended. At first it was fun, because some of the teachers stopped showing up at school. The principal, tall and angry, kept stuffing the students into the gym to watch movies, promising each day that next would be normal. Instead, fewer and fewer of Tevy’s friends came to school, and one day neither did the principal.
That is the opening of Generation Apocalypse, and I’m delighted to announce that it will launch on Friday September 21st. This Friday. Yup, only three months late, but I think you’ll discover that it was worth the wait.
Early reviews: one trusted reader described it as the best book I’ve ever written. Another raved about the opening and scattered complementary comments throughout the manuscript–something he rarely does. Even my wife, one of my toughest critics, thinks I’ve written a great book.
So here’s my shameless plan: If you’re a fan and you want to be part of the success of Generation Apocalypse, buy it on Friday September 21st, or Saturday the 22nd or Sunday the 23rd. That’s this weekend. Why these days? Because I’m trying to push the bestseller ranking on the book high and fast. Amazon helps those who helps themselves, and their system will automatically promote a book that’s selling.
Is this unfairly gaming the system? Absolutely not, because any author can do it. Indie authors can’t afford advertisements in the New York Times like the big six publishers, so we have to find other ways to get that sales bump at launch and create buzz.
If the book sucks it’ll sink anyway. I’ve tracked several authors through this process, and one thing I’ve discovered is that while an author can light the match, only readers can make the fire catch hold and burn brightly. If the sales taper off and Amazon’s promotions don’t help, their algorithm will drop a book from the most-favored status and it will die.
But I think we’ve got a winner. So buy early and buy often!
If you’re worried that you haven’t read book one of the series, Apocalypse Revolution, fear not. Generation Apocalypse can be read as a stand-alone novel. But I’m willing to bet you $2.99 that when you get to the end, you’ll want to read book one to find out how this all began.
Many thanks to all my fans for their e-mails of encouragement–and their gentle nudges to write faster–over the last three months. You inspire me.
I’ve got a confession to make: book two of the 1000 Souls series is ready to go, but I’m not going to launch it just yet. I apologize to my fans, some who’ve been on my Facebook page gently urging me to hurry up. I know I’ve missed several deadlines, and I hate to make people who are eager to read my novel wait just a little bit longer. I’m as eager for them to read it as they are.
Why am I holding back? Because I’m not good at marketing, and I’m trying to do better. Usually I get a novel up on Amazon as soon as it’s ready and try to do bits of marketing here and there after it’s available for sale. Besides being a challenge to squeeze these faint efforts in between the day job and the family, this half-hearted approach doesn’t build momentum. Every time I get the ball rolling, I wander off to take care of other things.
A traditional publisher would never ship a book out to stores without preparing the ground for sales. They send out copies for review, they get other authors to blurb, they take out ads, and they have a specific launch day and even a launch party.
Obviously I can’t afford ads in the New York Times, and Stephen King isn’t going to blurb for my book since he’s never heard of me, let alone my books. But there are other marketing initiatives I can take.
First, I have a couple of websites I have to get in order: my publisher website and the novel site. I also need to write all the promotional material, which ends up being substantial, rather than adding it a bit at a time later.
Second, I need to do a proper launch. That means picking a launch day and letting people know in advance instead of after the fact. The idea here is to get all my friends, family and fans to purchase the novel on the launch day. This could give the novel quite a boost on the Amazon bestseller list. Is this gaming the system? You bet, but in a way that all authors and publishers try to get a bump in sales right off the bat.
I also want to contact each of my fans, especially the ones who have reviewed Apocalypse Revolution, and give them an Amazon gift certificate so that they can buy it on my tab. If they provide another good review it will be money well spent. Even if they just buy it, well, they’re buying it, which means I’m actually only paying 30% of the cost of the novel, and I get the bestseller rank boost. If you want a free copy, use the Contact Mike button above and let me know that you’re interested, and I’ll see that you get one too. Fans, especially ones who’ve taken the time to write me and tell me how much they love my book, make this whole endeavor worth while.
I met with my business manager today over lunch (fortunately we’re married, so it was easy to arrange) and we discussed what had to be done by launch. After some scheduling debates, we’ve pick a book-launch day.
So here’s the first big announcement. Drum roll please. Generation Apocalypse, Book Two of the 1000 Souls, launches on Friday, September 21st. It’s the best I’ve ever written. I love it. I hope you will too.
Look out world. Here they come.
This is a cautionary tale for indie-authors.
Up until around June 23rd, Amazon used to auto-suggest Apocalypse Revolution to readers. For instance, when looking at a product page for a similar horror novel, readers would see this header below the cover page and description “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” After that comes the row of about one hundred clickable thumb-nails of novels usually in the same genre. When checking out other horror/scfi adventure novels, I often found that Apocalypse Revolution was auto-suggested.
But it all changed in the third week of June. Now I can only find one novel that auto-suggests AR: The Dragon and the Unicorn, and AR is about the 90th suggestion.
So what happened? Obviously this was not a human decision, except that a bunch of variables were programmed into the auto-suggest algorithm and my novel tripped one of them. Here are my theories:
1) Low downloads on a free day. This is my bad. I waited months for the new cover and then ran three free days close together. That’s a killer for downloads because the hard core readers who are looking for deals will have already downloaded your novel the day or week before and don’t need it. On the last free promotional day I ran there were only forty or so downloads, actually there were more in the UK, only the internet knows why. Here’s my other bad: I didn’t promote the free days at all. I was conducting an experiment to see which cover moved better, but of course I couldn’t run a proper control, so it was a pretty useless experiment.
Maybe the algorithm has a bit of code that says, ‘if free downloads are less than fifty in a day, stop auto-suggesting this novel.’ I’m paraphrasing of course.
2) The six month theory. The third week of June was six months since I published AR. Now I admit I haven’t done a whole lot to promote the novel, and Amazon helps those who help themselves. I’ve been cramming through book two, anxious to get it to market, anxious to get to book three and fill in the gap that takes us to Vampire Road, which is book four. So I wonder if I trip some piece of code that says, ‘if sales aren’t x by six months’ reduce auto-suggest function by an order of magnitude.’ In other words: dump it.
Whatever the cause, the results are startling. AR went from selling one or two copies a day to nada, okay, almost nada, since Amazon turned off the promotional tap.
I’m not too worried. Book Two of the 1000 Souls is the best I’ve ever written, and I think its sales will put me back into Amazon’s favored novel status. But I have learned my lesson. Amazon promotes those who promote themselves. Don’t leave it to luck, because Amazon’s Amazing and Scary Algorithm will cut you off and leave your novel to languish into obscurity. Fair enough. Why should Amazon have to do all the work?
So I’m thinking about book trailers, Shelfari, Good Reads and more. I’ll keep you posted. Any suggestions, send them my way. I’m not a natural promoter, but I’ll learn.
I promised when I started this blog that I would share raw numbers whether they were good or bad. So today I have to share the results of yesterday’s free day experiment.
A marketing expert I know constantly says, “Test and measure. Test and measure.” Unfortunately, in the amazing universe of the internet there are way too many variables for a proper quantitative experiment. The first free day I ran for Apocalypse Revolution, back in mid-February, a respectable 550 downloads flew out the door in a day. When I ran a second free day two weeks later I didn’t expect much, and for most of the day the were only about 30 downloads. Then something very strange happened somewhere in cyberland, and in the next four hours over 1300 copies flew out the door. What weird corner of the internet picked me up that day I simply don’t know, but I sure wish I did. That put me in the top 500 on the Kindle free bestseller list, at least it was at 485 when I went to bed with California still to finish downloading.
But for the most part, unless you really spread them out and promote the heck out of them, free days have diminishing returns. Perhaps its because the dedicated SF readers have already snapped up my novel, or perhaps it’s something to do with how Amazon promotes them, but the numbers usually go down the more free days you offer. That means the paid afterglow that usually comes with the free days also goes down.
Last week I decided to run a free day for the old cover of Apocalypse Revolution, just a little something to say that I gave the $400 I spent on that cover a fair chance. As I mentioned in my last blog, I was never thrilled with it. I didn’t expect too many downloads, but a respectable 347 downloaded throughout the 24 hours. Enough that I ended up 713 on the Kindle free bestseller list. That also put the novel at #6 for Science Fiction Adventure and #19 for horror. Not earth shattering, I know, but I enjoyed the ride. I especially liked the moment when Apocalypse Revolution was beside Wool. That’s fun exposure.
So yesterday I ran a free day with my spiffy new cover. I thought it would blow the doors off the free day. In the UK it did well relative to last week. But on this side of the pond (which oddly, includes Australia) only 72 people downloaded the novel. I guess I’d saturated the market. I refuse to believe the old cover worked better than the new cover and I point to the UK numbers as proof. Last week only nine downloads, this week 28. Or maybe they just like the new cover better in the UK.
Now I did zero promotion for both these free days, not a single tweet. I have one free day left before my KDP Select runs out, and I’m debating whether to run it. However book two of the 1000 Souls is nearly complete, and I’m still trying to build a following for the whole series.
I still love free days though because I want people to read my writing, people who have as much fun in my world as I do. I know only a fraction of the free downloaders are actually reading the novel, but hey, a fraction is more than zero. It’s a start.
I’ve heard many traditionally published authors complain that the downside of having a contract with one of the big six publishers is that you have very little say in the cover art. I do sympathize, but in the indie world we have the opposite problem. We have all control of the cover art.
This may sound like heaven to some, but I haven’t much of an eye for graphic design and worse, I really don’t know much about covers in general. When I purchased a book last year, I never thought about what drew me to it if I didn’t already know the author. I rarely looked at a cover or thought about why I liked it or even if I liked it.
I’ve had to climb a steep learning curve since, and this is where an agent or a publisher could have helped (assuming they were good at their jobs.)
So Apocalypse Revolution went through three covers in the last six months. The first was a very biblical number that was totally my idea. The graphic artist did a great job bringing it to life, but it hardly sold at all. It occurred to me that people might think this was some nut-bar religious conspiracy piece, or worse, some dull treatise about an undiscovered book of the bible.
So I went to the pro, the same one that Joe Konrath uses, but unfortunately he was swamped. I’d have to wait weeks. I changed the title to emphasize the action and the genre, and I slapped together a quickie cover myself with the new title. I had my graphic artist fix my amateur rough draft. That cover actually worked better and sold better, so I felt it was worth the two week wait for the next cover, the one that would be stunning.
But two weeks turned into a month, and two months and nearly three. The problem with a good cover artist in this new e-book world is that they’re busy–very busy. When I finally did get the promised cover, I understood how traditionally published authors must feel. I didn’t particularly like the cover, and yet I felt I had to go with it because this cover artist had a proven track record. His covers sold books. He knew the business and had been deeply immersed in it for years.
Sales did pick up, but I haven’t been able to shake the fact that I don’t particularly like the cover. Is that supposed to be Vlad or some generic ripper? But the real challenge of the rippers is they look just like anyone else. They’re scary because of their choices and their actions, not their appearance. To me, this said nothing about the content of the novel. I think as a publisher you don’t want to surprise people. You don’t want them to get half-way through before they realize that it’s not the novel they believed they were buying when they looked at the cover.
The other big problem is that with a series of five novels, the covers should carry a theme. A reader should know it’s from the 1000 Souls series simply by looking at the cover.
So I went back to my first graphic artist and we sat down for lunch at a restaurant on St. Clair with a patio in the back. We spent a sunny hour talking covers, themes and my novel. He set me to work. He wanted outlines of all five novels. He wanted descriptions of the characters, symbols and settings. It was pages of work over two days, and I highly recommend it for anyone writing a series. Know where you’re going and why.
So cover number four is now up on Amazon, and sales jumped already. I’m going to run a free day this Thursday and compare it to the free day I ran last Thursday to see if there’s a difference. I’ll keep you posted.
Now I love looking at the cover of Apocalypse Revolution, and the cover of book two is coming soon. And we’ll being doing a new cover for Vampire Road (book four) to fit it into the theme. I can hardly wait.
Oh, and if the old gun target cover is still displaying on the right of this blog, don’t worry. It just takes a little while for the new cover to chug through the system.
I’m still amazed that the SF community around the Ad-Astra Convention continue to be so conservative about eBooks. I have many author friends with more published short stories than I have, and yet most of them have neglected to indie publish and speak of it as something only for the unwashed masses.
But this weekend at Ad-Astra I got a sense of the source of that unease about indie publishing, and it’s nasty rumors being spread by one or more established authors who have signed many times with the Big Six publishers.
These established authors are usually great about helping newbies develop their craft. At Ad-Astra they generously provide writing workshops, and they share insights into their experiences with querying, how they met their agents and how they landed a publisher. While I’ve heard one of big name authors refer to the “poor self-published saps in the dealer room,” most are supportive of newbie writers.
But this weekend at the Publishing FAQ panel I found out that at least one author is spreading false information about the indie crowd. He wasn’t there, so this is hearsay and thus I won’t name him since he may have been taken out of context or misquoted. But someone at the back of the room used his name, and said that (Big Name Author) had informed him that self-published authors were cheating by downloading their books hundreds of times in order to push up their best-seller rank on Amazon higher than traditionally published books.
I had to pick up my jaw from the floor and, while no one wanted to hear from me, I insisted on responding. I explained that Amazon doesn’t allow you to buy your own book multiple times. I admit I had only assumed this, but I tried it this morning just in case I’d lost my mind, and sure enough Amazon told me I’d already bought my book.
I explained to the panel that if an author wanted to buy their book multiple times, they’d have to open multiple accounts on multiple browsers. So basically an author can buy books for all the credit cards and e-mail addresses they own. So that’s what? Three copies? Six? Obviously that’s not going to affect your bestseller rank for more than a day.
I stated that maybe they had this mixed up with free promotional days on KDP Select, something most of them seemed totally ignorant of. I explained how on one promo day 1300 copies of Apocalypse Revolution downloaded in two hours. They weren’t downloaded by me. It’s just one of those internet mysteries. Some website somewhere let their followers know that Apocalypse Revolution was available for free, and they all snapped it up at once. That put me way up on the FREE Kindle bestseller list but didn’t do a thing for me on the PAID Kindle bestseller list where all the traditionally published novels are found.
Everyone at the panel agreed that maybe Big Name Author had been misquoted or had misunderstood the situation himself. Wherever this rumor started, the damage is done, at least among the Ad-Astra crowd. It certainly explains why many at the con seem to hold indie authors in contempt without even reading their books. It’s going to be my personal (and uphill) battle to undo the suggestion that we are somehow gaming the system.
I have many friends at Ad-Astra, and it’s still one of my favorite cons, so I look forward to the year when there is an Indie Guest of Honour (note the Canadian spelling) But I admit I’m not holding my breath that it will happen at Ad-Astra 2013. I’ve a long way to go on that road.