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Write and publish with love and fury.

TOP 10 Tips: KDP Ads, Updates and the Writing Biz

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This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

The only zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero. If you liked The Stand, you’ll like this.

Tip #1: Tweak your print descriptions. 

I use the Author Marketing Club description tool to develop my book descriptions for Amazon. The template makes ebook descriptions look great. Don’t just copy and paste your ebook descriptions to your print book descriptions, though. The text will run together into one big block.

Add editorial reviews and more information to your author sales page Author Central. Give the readers more reasons to check you out and revisit those descriptions from time to time to try out fresh ad copy.

Tip #2: Update old books.

I know it’s a pain, but after a new book comes out, go back and reload old books to update your calls to action. I used to give readers too many choices when they were done reading. Now I just send them to AllThatChazz.com and encourage them to subscribe for updates.

Tip #3: When something isn’t working, change it.

I realized I was getting behind in podcasting because I hate reading my own work aloud. I remember being called upon to read aloud in class in fifth grade and I don’t like it anymore now. (If you must read, don’t rush it like I did.)

It took me forever to get through reading a book I love when I turned on the microphone. Lesson learned: renew the All That Chazz podcast. Changing the format. Go back to my comedy roots.

Also, I’ll get voice over artists for my audiobooks. Podcasting is so much fun as long as I’m having fun. I’m back to that with the latest episode. Click below to hear some jokes.

ALL THAT CHAZZ pod pic

Tip #4: Experiment

KDP Select came out with an advertising tool within Amazon that’s sort of like Google Adwords without all the bells and whistles. The beta test of this new discovery tool did not go well and the changes since the beta run are not apparent to users.

So far, according to my totally unscientific survey of players in the know and my own testing with three campaigns, it’s not working…yet. It may not. However, it’s CPC (cost per click) so, it’s not like it’s a huge risk. It’ll either work or it won’t.

Opt in or opt out for your books within Select via your bookshelf. Don’t decide to avoid early adoption because your still angry about Kindle Unlimited. These are business experiments and business decisions.

By the way, not for nothing but once again, Amazon innovates and experiments while the other platforms watch and wait for…something.

UPDATE: So far, a lot of impressions but no clicks. I imagine an underground marketing bunker on high alert far below Amazon. The accounting and IT departments are running in circles like they’re at Defcon 2 and they’re screaming at each other, “Figure it out! Figure it out! Why is this so much worse than Adwords?”

The experiment continues.

Tip #5: Tweak pricing

If you go through Draft2Digital, for instance, notice from your pricing dashboard that you can manage pricing for individual territories. The automatic pricing tool is based on the US dollar.

I fiddle with pricing a bit. For instance, the book price they set for India is always high. The figure you see on Amazon that is commensurate with the US dollar exchange could buy you three books in India. Also, when I see an odd number, say $4.11, I change it to $4.25 or 3.99. If I see a price where I’m also charged the VAT, I bump up the price a bit more to cover the VAT in that territory. People are used to prices that end in .99 or .25, .50, or .75. Odd numbers look too odd.

Tip #6: Perspective.

I won an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest for the This Plague of Days Omnibus. This is my eighth writing award, but the truth is that, sadly, these awards don’t really matter much.

The win did boost my sales of the Omnibus a bit. However, unless you win first prize, it’s not going to change your life (and not even then.) I’m happy to win an honorable mention. Also, the judge said nice things about TPOD I used for a strong editorial review. I got $50 worth of WD books that cost me $30 to ship so that puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Entering the contest cost $100, so I hope the prestige pays off in the long-term. I’m leveraging the happy as much as possible. The book is up forever so that balances out the expense somewhat, but the usefulness of the recognition is an unknown value. I don’t know how to solve for x in this case.

Tip #7: Productivity

If you missed last night’s podcast with Mat Morris, it was fun and informative. For instance, Mat talked about what he has learned from an app called Rescue Time and I’m a new disciple of that software. You can watch that episode of the Self-publishing Roundtable here.

Good tips amongst the hilarity, though sadly you missed my Sean Connery impression in the after-party. Tune in every Thursday night at 10 PM EST.

Tip #8: From to-do until to-done

Since the beginning of January I’ve added an old-school method of tracking my work, daily sales and expenses. I mark it all on a paper calendar. I don’t write down what I will do. I write down what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day. (And now I’m adding metrics from Rescue Time).

That which is not measured will not be changed, so word counts are of prime importance. You can use your project targets and stats in Scrivener to keep on track, too. It feels good to fill up that calendar each day and it tells me when I’ve gone off the rails. 

BEST (1)

Coming soon! Get The Haunting Lessons now so you’re ready for Book 2! THL is about a young woman from Iowa trying to stop Armageddon while dodging ghosts, demons, a bad doctor and a dead boyfriend. Come to New York. Join the Choir Invisible. Fight for the future.

Tip #9: Reassess

This Plague of Days is by far my flagship, but I have other books that sell well on Amazon. As long as that continues, I’m still exclusive to KDP Select with those products. I take note of the books that aren’t moving. That’s when I give the other sales platforms a chance at selling my brain babies.

On Amazon, my branding is diffuse. On Kobo, I appear to be a crime novelist and only a crime novelist. I’m told thrillers can move on Kobo. We’ll see, but I do like that my brand is more focussed on other platforms.

Tip #10: Consider teaming up

I am collaborating with three authors on three separate projects this year in addition to my own lonely and solitary writing. If you find the right partners, you can divide the work and multiply effort and resources.

Keeping up with their pace on Google Drive is motivating. I often write faster by the power of pure excitement. I don’t want to let my writing partners down, so guilt works, too.

~ I hope you found one of these suggestions helpful. Find out about deals, review copies and advanced review copies first by subscribing for updates at AllThatChazz.com. In the new podcast, I do terrible, terrible, entertaining things.

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TOP 10 in Publishing: What’s changed again? Amazon.

If hope you enjoyed my interview with Simon Whistler on The Rocking Self-publishing Podcast (see the post below this one for details if you missed it.) We recorded the episode on July 4. It didn’t take long at all for some details to change since the interview. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Yes, on too much coffee, I can get pretty manic. Also, some of the interview was edited for excessive Sean Connery impressions.

2. I was in Kobo briefly. I made $27. Finally and at last! I can retire! …Mm…no, actually, I pulled the plug on Kobo except for some short stories.

Everybody agrees. The folks at Kobo are nice people. Then I heard a horror story of someone who couldn’t move books on Kobo even when Kobo promoted them! I was to meet with the good people of Kobo in Toronto. After evaluating the track record and potential, I blew off the meeting so I could stay home and write and edit my next books. The trip literally wasn’t worth the gas. I do hope things will improve in this regard in the near future for Kobo and several other platforms. Amazon needs healthy, not anemic, competition.

3. Kindle Unlimited was introduced soon after the interview. Seeing so little movement on Kobo, I promptly pulled out and slapped my books back into KDP Select. With their value added proposition, suddenly there is more marketing juice to squeeze out of Amazon. 

4. Kindle just announced they will reward early adopters of the program by relaxing the 10%-read-to-get-paid rule on the first round. They also added to the shared fund for borrows. I missed out on the money bump when they introduced KDP Select in the first place. I wasn’t going to miss out again.

5. Since returning to Select, My KU earnings frequently surpass my regular sales. People are taking to the program. This is especially nice because This Plague of Days, Season One is a whole book, the first in the trilogy. It’s selling at just 99 cents. More readers are willing to check it out through the KU program. That pays roughly a couple bucks per borrow instead of 30 cents. Am I a huge success, yet? No. However, I’m getting exposure that other platforms can’t seem to give.

6. This Plague of Days is getting promoted on a couple different lists by Amazon. Seems it’s getting some traction with teens most, science fiction second and fantasy third. (Interesting, yes? Maybe I should revamp the sales descriptions to skew away slightly from horror since its layers and appeal may lie elsewhere.)

7. Amazon just upped the ante in the value added column by opening up the pre-order button to little guys like me. Holy crap! I have some thoughts on how that could be useful, but I’ll save it for another post once I’ve gone through their submission process firsthand.

8. When we recorded the interview, Simon and I discussed whether the Amazon-Hachette debacle would still be a thing by the time the interview aired August 14th. As I recall, neither of us were that optimistic the battle would be over by then and we were right. In an attempt not to bore the audience or appear dated too soon, we largely avoided that discussion. We’re all suffering Amazon versus Hachette fatigue, aren’t we? Looking forward to the titans figuring it out for themselves.

9. We had a great time with that interview and I hope you laughed along with us. There’s some good information sifting through that hour of self-publishing talk. The field is growing and changing so fast — or at least Amazon is changing their game so fast — several things changed in a very short time.

The other platforms? Um. Can anybody name an innovation from any of the other platforms in the last six months? (There must be something, but nothing strong has stuck with me.)

10. What didn’t change? Pretty much everything else. I’m still glad I serialized This Plague of Days but I don’t intend to serialize again (too many gears and pulleys and cons versus pros on that machine.) 

What’s next?

More series (not serialization) and another omnibus edition. 

Stay tuned.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Solopreneur Writers: 10 Nitty Gritty Pickies

Thousands of little details afflict us as artisanal publisher-authorpreneurial Han Solo writer-heroes. A couple of authors publishing books for the first time have asked me about nitty-gritty details to watch for. Here are ten that came up in our discussions of new book launches.

1. When you set your price on Amazon, the calculator will automatically set comparable prices in other countries. Set it lower for India. The “comparable” price would actually buy three books in India (and so, is too expensive.)

2. If you have a list of book bloggers to whom you wish to send Advanced Reading Copies, check their guidelines carefully to see their preferred reading mode. PDFs are free to email but some people don’t want to sideload their e-reader or read on their computer.

The easiest solution is to gift the book to your list of reviewers, preferably during a pulse sale at 99 cents to minimize the cost of promotion. You get credit for the sales and potential reviewers are more likely to check it out with Amazon’s happy, one-click experience.

Smashwords has a solution that’s free: Promo codes. Send the code to potential reviewers so they can redeem it for a complimentary copy. Inexplicably, no other platform has stolen this idea yet. Still!

3. Services like Smashwords and Draft2Digital can upload to multiple platforms at once. However, there is often a delay if you want to change your prices across retailers. This makes a BookBub promotion, for instance, a logistical problem. And by “problem,” I mean a red-hot skewer in the gluteus maximus.

I’ve noticed the worst delays seem to happen between Smashwords and Apple. One of my books took more than six months to show up on Apple. Draft2Digital had problems with Kobo. Those issues are fixed now.

4. KDP Select’s five days of giving your book away for free isn’t the great tool it once was, though other platforms still seem at a loss as to how to promote effectively and boost discoverability. The commitment to exclusivity with KDP Select is five days out of ninety. 

If you are using free day promotions, I suggest you don’t promote for more than two days at a time. Better to stop while sales are still coming in and visibility is high rather than allow the sale to lose steam over an extended period.

Use Author Marketing Club to identify sites that will promote your promotions so you maximize promotion power.

5. Some intermediaries charge much more to upload your book to various platforms. Avoid them. More important than the fee they charge, you’ll sacrifice power over your book and flexibility to promote.

If you don’t have the technical skills to do it yourself, get someone else to help you for a fraction of the cost (and a one-time fee instead of bleeding cash on an ongoing basis.)

6. Box sets are the latest tool for discoverability. I’m involved in one now and, though we’re still at the very early stages, my visibility on Amazon has already gone up.

How it works is, several authors get together. After a cage match, the Alpha who has the most resources and the one they all trust, publishes a sampler. They might give away whole books. Everybody promotes the box set at 99 cents and bam, the tide raises all boats and more readers find you. 

Some people are sneering at box sets, but I think it’s because they misunderstand the intent. It’s not about making money, particularly. This is us playing the long game and working with allies to fire off flares. It’s about raising your rank, giving strangers a chance to fall in love with your work and selling your other books. (So write more books.)

7. Publishing is a business and, despite the fact that we’re all cybering and telecommuting from our worldwide basement headquarters, you’ll still have to run errands. The thing you track least for tax time is mileage. Keep a notebook in the car and track it. Canadians, use a pencil because you know that pen will freeze each winter (August to June).

It might not add up to much, but it’s a lot when you’re making nothing. You wouldn’t burn cash just for fun, would you? Then keep your receipts and track the little things. Claiming a home office may be all that justifies your new publishing venture to your accountant, and your spouse, for the first couple of years.

8. Word was built for office use. Scrivener was built for writers. The program allows you to bounce around your manuscript with ease and format for publication. Get Scrivener. If you’ve already written your text in Word, importing to Scrivener is not a big deal. Yes, there is a learning curve, but it’s worth it.

9. Before you publish and make all the other edits you’re going to make, search the text for two spaces. Those extra spaces sneak in if you don’t scrub them out.

10. Yes, you need an author website, but a simple WordPress site (preferably with your own name) will do. Eventually, with more books under your belt and future changes in the publishing landscape, you may choose to sell books straight from your site. It’s a cool idea that doesn’t really have elegant delivery solutions for the reader (yet).

You can switch your author site to a more complex configuration later, if need be. Don’t worry about that for now. Now is the time to build a base of readers. You could sell straight from your website, but most authors would prefer not to sacrifice their visibility and reviews across the current sales platforms. 

~ There are many more details to attend to, but that’s a start. Hi, by the way. I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Good to meet you. Find me on Twitter @rchazzchute. Connect with me on Facebook here.

Filed under: author platform, DIY, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top Ten: Renew your readers’ interest between books

As I finish revisions to the finale of This Plague of Days, I’m entering that crazy time between the writing and the publishing. We all go through it. There’s still editing and proofreading to do and you aren’t done until you’re sick of it and not even then. But I am excited!

Today, I had my first back and forth with Kit Foster, my graphic designer. We talked cover designs. Out of context, my description of what I had in mind was pretty dumb or nigh-impossible, but through the magic of his art, Kit will transform that raw material into something awesome that makes browsers into buyers.

But how do you keep the sales going between books?

Sales always drop off. They call Day 30 after your book launch “The Cliff” because you lose attention from readers as you disappear from the bright, shiny new thing list. Interest can be buoyed and sustained, however. You don’t have to try all the strategies from this list (or any), but I do suggest you try at least one. Experiment and let me know what works for you.

Here are some ideas to extend your influence with all your books.

1. Write more than one book because your next book helps promote the last one. At a book event, authors talk about the next book, but readers talk about the last book.

2. Write more books. The bigger the stable, the more horses you have in the race, cross-promoting each other.

3. Write (slightly) shorter books. Sadly, my next tome (after TPOD) will (again!) be more than 100,000 words. I’m writing huge books. Many will see this as over-delivering and they’ll love it. It can also intimidate those less invested. The main problem is it makes you appear less prolific even if you’re very productive. It’s #2’s horse and stable issue.

I’m not saying you should shortchange anyone, but keep it reasonable. Few reviewers complain about a quick read. If you’ve got that much to say in a single book and you can’t make it shorter, make it a series.

The complete series for This Plague of Days will be over 300,000 words. The first draft took ten months and then I doubled its size in another eight months. Down the line, I’ll put out more books by keeping them down around 60,000 – 70,000 words.

My crime novels took 3 months each, for instance, from concept to completion. That length is what I’ll be aiming for in the future. Feeling more productive and hitting more milestones also feeds my excitement between books and keeps energy high. Less time between books also gives readers less time to forget about you.

4. Write in one genre. If you can dominate one list, you’ll be more effective in focussed marketing efforts and provide consistent branding. (I should have done this, but it’s not how my mind works.)

5. Collaborate. Writing with another author can expand your influence to each other’s audience and, if you work it correctly with the right person, you’ll get more done faster. Some people think writing with a partner is more work for half the money, but actually you have more people helping with the load, increasing productivity. The guys at Self-Publishing Podcast have proved it over and over, so there you go.

6. Cooperate. Soon, a new horror anthology will be released and I’m in it. My bit will be a sampler of Episode 1 of This Plague of Days. In joining forces with other authors, we’ll co-promote and raise each other up.

7. Have more to give away. I serialized the first two seasons of This Plague of Days. In the run up to the launch of Season 3 and the stand alone (This Plague of Days, The Complete Series), I’m using KDP Select to give away episodes as samples. Those giveaways always bump up my sales in between books when I would otherwise be in the doldrums. I’m a big believer in pulse sales to help new readers find me.

8. Diversify. To sell more between books, have more to sell in different media. There’s interest in turning This Plague of Days into a TV series. (It helps that I wrote the story like an HBO or Netflix dramatic series in the first place.) However, I’d love to see it as a graphic novel, too. I want to sell it as an audiobook. Each iteration feeds the potential for another opportunity.

9. Repackage. Converting This Plague of Days from serialized episodes into seasons, and then into one, big book that stands alone? That’s one example of repackaging. It’ll also give a new crew of readers what they wanted since quite a few people seem to misunderstand the cliffhangers and twists of a serial or they hate serials on principle. (I don’t know what that principle is, but I recognize it and I’m listening.)

Taking different books and selling them as one bundle is another way to go. (I’ll be doing this with the Hit Man Series by turning three books into a bundled trilogy with a new and better name for the whole.)

10. Stay in touch with readers between books. I don’t have a large mailing list, but I do connect with a lot of readers on Facebook and through podcasts. I also have a blog dedicated to This Plague of Days.

Recently, when I needed to add more beta readers to my team, I went to Facebook first because I knew I’d find people who are already into what I’m doing. I’ve got three new, enthusiastic volunteers now.

Staying in touch with readers keeps projects alive for authors, too. When I get another tweet or email asking when the next book is coming out, it helps drive me to get to the keyboard as fast as I can to oil the roller coaster. I know my readers and I can’t wait to make them scream.

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How I sold This Plague of Days, PART II

This Plague of Days Season 2

If I had to nail down what strategies worked to sell This Plague of Days, here are the elements that had to come together:

1. Good story. A selective mute on the autistic spectrum versus the Sutr plagues + a CDC virologist’s band of refugees on the run as Europe falls to the infected = Cool.

2. Kit Foster’s great covers. You can have a great story, but without KitFosterDesign.com, who would have bothered to have a look in the first place?

3. Serialization. See yesterday’s post for oh-so-many details on how and why that worked.

4. Bookbub. I got a flood of great reviews from the giveaway. Season One was a bestseller in September because of the free Bookbub giveaway. Season Two became a bestseller two weeks later in October.

5. Amazon exclusivity. This Plague of Days couldn’t have been free for the duration of the Bookbub giveaway if I wasn’t enrolled in the KDP Select program exclusively. (Note that while it is possible to price match down to free on Amazon, it’s not dependable or predictable if or when you’ll get the price down or back up when you want it. Price matching to get to free is not practical for pulse giveaways.)

The Ins and Outs of Bookbub

Bookbub wasn’t very expensive in the horror and science fiction categories, though I believe those fees went up since my promotion. (Click here to see Bookbub fees and stats on ROI.) If I wrote romance, I couldn’t afford their advertising program. I’ve heard some complaints about Bookbub lately, mostly about the fees for service. However, author and Cool People Podcast guest Renee Pawlish also raised questions about its reach on her blog. (Click this link to read Renee’s analysis and be sure to read the comments for a lively discussion and more factors to consider).

It will be interesting to see how prices for advertising change in a more competitive market. I advocated for Bookbub early on. However, while strategies may be long-term, tools are not. As more services like it arise, Bookbub won’t be the only free ebook promotion service on authors’ minds. In fact, many of you may already be using The Fussy Librarian or opting for the multitude of promotional services listed at Author Marketing Club. If you want more options, I suggest you support those services. For instance, The Fussy Librarian’s influence is growing and the operator has pledged to keep fees from authors low.

We don’t have to hit home runs with big services if we percolate into readers’ consciousness by hitting a lot of singles, doubles and triples. (There goes the only baseball analogy I understand.) Book bloggers and smaller, up and coming book promotion companies may be viable options or become more so. Author Marketing Club makes it easy to hit a bunch at once. 

Some book promotion services aren’t very strong, but it’s a new year and our infrastructure is deepening. Other book promotion services that have been around for a while are harder to get into.

If you get onto Pixel of Ink’s offerings, that’s a tribute to luck, your blurb and your cover art. Some services ask for so many reviews before allowing inclusion, the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in. For instance, it gets to a point where the author thinks, I needed the service more when I had fewer reviews! If a book promotion service demands fifteen to twenty rave reviews to qualify for inclusion, they better deliver sales at a reasonable rate (whatever “reasonable” is will vary by author.) 

The Ups and Downs of Amazon

Over a year ago, several gurus said the advantage of being exclusive with KDP Select was gone. In the last few months, I’ve read several successful writers again report that they’re moving books on other platforms and anyone who doesn’t broaden their reader base with more platforms is an idiot.

I guess I’m an idiot, but I’m a happier idiot than I’d be if I’d diversified as many have advised. I did experiment quite a bit with those other platforms and ended up pulling several books back after good trial runs. They did nothing for me. My books sell on Amazon and, as long as that continues, I’ll stick with it.

In my experience, the other platforms are far behind the Mighty Zon and can’t seem to come up with ways to get my books moving there. Vague terms like “establishing a presence” on other platforms and worries about putting my eggs all in one basket won’t dissuade me as long as I still see returns on my work that the other platforms can’t seem to touch. KDP exclusivity is not as lucrative as it once was, but you don’t torch the car because it’s not as good as when you rolled it off the lot. If I want to escape KDP exclusivity, the worst case scenario is I’m free of the agreement within 90 days.

I’ve talked to writers for whom diversification is working. If that’s you, carry on happily. See my screenshot of my latest news from Smashwords?Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 7.16.53 PM

No, it’s not time for me to diversify yet. When it is time, that jump can be made in pretty short order.

If Kobo were to offer to pluck me out of the rough and promote me, it would be a different story. If Apple weren’t so difficult to deal with, I might go for it. I’m not banning my books from other platforms forever, but I won’t abandon the exclusivity at KDP as long as it’s still working. It’s important to understand that other platforms work differently from Amazon. Other platforms choose what they’ll push at customers much as brick and mortar bookstores do. With Amazon’s algorithms and search engine, the customer’s choices determines what is marketed to them. The readers are the gatekeepers there.

This allegiance to Amazon is not an ideological stand. It’s accounting. The other platform paid me pennies. Amazon still pays me dollars. As soon as I’ve determined I’ve squeezed as much as I can out of Amazon promotional opportunities, I’ll give Kobo et al another try. I hope the other platforms will have stolen the best ideas from other players by then. At the very least, everyone should take something from what Smashwords does best: give us promo codes so we can better publicize out work. Amazon is the industry leader. I’m surprised the other platforms don’t experiment with emulation more.

~ As stated in yesterday’s long treatise, one author’s poison is another author’s chocolate latte birthday cake. Amazon’s still cake for me. 

Next post: What didn’t work for me in promoting This Plague of Days.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FAQs: Leverage free to move more books

The question comes up constantly: Is the exclusivity of KDP Select and giving away books (“selling” free) worth it? 

Can't have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

Can’t have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

For many, it’s not worth it, but maybe that’s because they haven’t combined enrolment in the program with other tools. When the KDP Select program launched, it was lucrative and an excellent tool for discoverability. Now? KDP Select is not easy and perfect certainly. For instance, top free books used to be listed beside top paid books. Now free ebooks are found by clicking a tab. That’s an important difference. It cuts down on happy discoveries by kismet. People who find free ebooks now are searching for free books (and quite possibly are committed to never paying for a book again.)

However, Amazon is where I move and sell books and get traction with new readers.

Some authors seem to have success moving books on Barnes & Noble if they sell romance or science fiction, but generally? The alternative sales platforms are far less helpful than Amazon and KDP Select.

For instance, sometimes I can’t find books on Apple that I know are there! It’s also a pain publishing to Apple at all unless you go through Smashwords or Draft2Digital. (I used to like Smashwords but now I’m past impatient with their failures to upgrade their site.) Meanwhile, I sell little on B&N. Sony isn’t worth the time it takes for me to format for them even though that’s just a click of a button. Kobo does some things well and they’re in many countries. However, Amazon is preferred because it works best for me. (Maybe it’s different for you but if you’re doing better on a platform other than Amazon, statistically you’re an outlier.)

The alternatives usually suck.

The other book sales platforms continue to refuse to steal the best ideas (i.e. promo coupons from Smashwords; user interface and customer focus from Amazon. And they still wonder why the Mighty Zon is the big dog eating their lunch. True, KDP Select is not a flamethrower anymore. It’s a six-gun. However, the competition is still trying to figure out slingshots, so going with Amazon exclusively 90 days at a time is still the best bet.

Yes, be careful of exclusivity.

When you in enroll in KDP Select, do not set it up to automatically renew. Reevaluate whether the program is working for you every three months and change tactics as necessary. If it becomes intolerable for some reason, we can bail out within 90 days.

To make KDP Select work, use the Author Marketing Club and Bookbub wisely to make the promotion go big.

I recommend doing no more than two days of free at a time. Have lots of other books to sell, preferably series or serials. Pump those promo days with the tools at AMC (like the free ebook submission tool.) Bookbub is probably the best PR tool available. It costs, but that’s because it targets readers interested in your genre so it works. You can promote sales of free ebooks or discounted books (under $2.99.)

If your goal is visibility, being in KDP Select is only one tactic in a larger strategy. Brace yourself for bad reviews from the one-star wonders. That tells you you’re reaching new people who don’t get you. Don’t worry. Others will get you and what you’re doing. Giving away books so new fans can find you isn’t the death of literature. Obscurity is our enemy. Get the most you can from KDP Select and use these tools to avoid wasting your promotion days.

I highly recommend serialization.

It’s working for me. Episode One of This Plague of Days promotes all the other episodes in the serial plus sales of my other books. I give away individual episodes. However, I don’t generally give away all of Season One except to book bloggers for reviews. This Plague of Days is a sprawling story that’s my investment in a long-term career so I give away the appetizer but sell the other courses. All my strategies are long-term strategies.

Who shouldn’t use KDP Select to promote their books?

I’d caution anyone with just one book to hold off on great expectations and write more books before waging major campaigns. Once readers discover they love you, have something else ready for them to buy.

Don’t go big if your book isn’t ready for prime time. More publicity for a bad book will make it go down in flames faster. Get back to the keyboard instead, develop, work with your editor or find a new editorial team.

If you already have a huge mailing list and a substantial fan base, you have more options instead of relying on KDP Select and exclusivity could hurt your sales figures (though I’d still consider it for one three-month contract period at KDP Select.)

If you find me unpersuasive and giving books away in the hope of finding new readers offends you, don’t do it. Gifts should be given with a light heart.

 

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Amazon: My last stab

GET BIGGER THAN JESUS, FREE ON AMAZON TODAY, TOMORROW AND FRIDAY

Free promotions sure aren’t what they used to be. Last December, with Amazon’s old algorithm, friends of mine made big money. Success on the free list actually translated to success on the paid list. Then everything changed and many of us have been slow to react, me included. I notice that, among my writer friends, many (most?) are selling their books on KDP Select exclusively, five free days and all, for the first three months and then they aren’t renewing with KDP. They’ll continue to sell on Amazon, but there are plenty of other places to sell besides Amazon. After that first three months of trying to take advantage of the Amazon advantage, they put their work up everywhere else, too. That’s what I’m doing with the foundation book of my crime novel series, Bigger Than Jesus.

BY THE WAY: 

Bigger Than Jesus is available for free in ebook form

until Friday, and then that’s it.

As The Hit Man Series continues, I don’t know if I’ll go exclusive at all, even for those first three months. The math just doesn’t seem to add up to a marketing strategy that’s advantageous. In truth, it hasn’t been helpful to many indie authors for some time. I stuck with it because of the timing as my previous books launched. I have three books to release before Christmas and the eggs won’t be going into one basket anymore.

Someone asked me recently, “What’s the latest success strategy for indie authors?” I encountered some resistance when I replied, “There isn’t one.” We’ve had the publicists, advertising, press releases, blogging, podcasting, Twitter (and various  derivative Twitter strategies), Facebook, Pinterest (maybe?), the 99 cent strategy, blog tours, free, Goodreads, book bloggers, etc,…. Some combination of these elements may work for someone. Though they’ve all been effective for someone individually in the past, no one strategy seems to deliver a knock-out punch. When I say there isn’t one, I don’t rule out the possibility of their effectiveness in the plural, if you have the time to do all that. (You don’t. Go write instead.) 

Which brings up the question: Will Amazon change its algorithm again so it makes sense for us to stay exclusive with KDP Select? Who knows? Amazon’s algorithms and their rationale may be deduced, but are never made explicit. That information is solely on a need-to-know basis. (Apparently, we don’t need to know.)

Amazon is good at what they do — or has been — but it’s unreasonable to expect they’ll be right all the time, even with their vast resources. More to the point, Amazon’s looking out for Amazon, not me. My evidence is they aren’t making the exclusivity clause worth it for a lot of authors (even the true believers who, in the past, made a lot of dough.) I’m losing sales on other devices because I’m not selling enough with KDP. The Amazon sales don’t make up for lost sales elsewhere. Listening to my writer buddies, it’s clear I’m not alone in that assessment.

This is a business decision and has nothing to do with damning Amazon. I’m not one of the haters whining about monopolies and painting Amazon as a bully. The market is a competition and Amazon is on top because they made a lot of great decisions early on. However, I’m not looking for a new mom to take care of me, either. Being indie doesn’t mean supplanting one boss with a new boss just because it’s easy to go on inertia and formatting anew is a pain in the ass. Next month, as soon as my three months are up, Bigger Than Jesus will be available more widely (Hello Kobo, Nook, Sony, your smart phone, your iPhone, your iPad…maybe even your toaster.)

As for book marketing’s next knock out punch? People will tell you they know what the next big thing is. Some will even try to sell you books based on giving away one ultimate secret of indie author success. I think those people are often well-intentioned and they give out a lot of good information. I’ve read a bunch about marketing ebooks lately and, frankly, I’m also skeptical about some of those easy, plug-and-play answers.

Only one strategy I know of seems like anything close to a sure thing and (WARNING!) it’s a slow, steady grind. It’s not a popular idea because it’s not easy and quick. 

Write more books.

(Do a great job!)

Put them up.

(Do what promotion you can that doesn’t interfere with your writing schedule.)

Write more books.

(Make sure they are wonderful.)

I aspire to inspire, but as for marketing? Hm. Sorry.

“Write more books” is honestly all I’ve got in stock at the moment.

I’ve said it before and it’s still all I have to say on that subject.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Amazon’s KDP Select Is God’s Gift to Authors

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

In this guest post on The Creative Penn, my buddy Jeff Bennington lays out how KDP Select worked for him, with numbers! ~ Chazz
Via www.thecreativepenn.com

Filed under: ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, Useful writing links, Writers, , , , , , , , , ,

What moves books? And what is ‘Parketing’ anyway?

Successful book marketing campaigns often do a lot of things at once, especially at first, before awareness of your book grows. Author Jeff Bennington, for instance, has noticed that online marketing of his books takes an hour out of each day or sales begin to dip. (More on getting you and your books’ global fame in a minute, but first let’s talk attitudes, parketing and my terrible personal deficiencies as a book marketer.)

Someone’s already saying, “An hour a day? Who has that kind of time? When will I have time to write?” You’re an artist, but you’re an artist in business. Businesses need to advertise. You’d make time to send out invoices, so make time to make people aware of your books unless you’re content writing for yourself and your kids. (Fortunately, lots of online marketing is cheap, free and fun, so there’s that.) Down the road, once you reach critical mass, maybe you’ll be able to get away with doing less marketing, but I doubt it. Coke still advertises. Manage your time and make it work.

Here’s one cheap way to promote local awareness of your books: I first heard of parketing (though it wasn’t called that then) at a writers’ conference three years ago. The marketing guru fired lots of ideas at us: blogging, tweeting, podcasts…the usual, though it was all newer, scarier stuff then. Then the guru asked, “How many of you have a car magnet advertising the cover of your book?” Not a single hand was raised, of course. The marketing guru snarked, “Yeah, why would you want to let anyone know you have a book for sale?” Park your car where lots of people will see it with your lovely book cover on it and voilà! That’s parketing.

It’s a digital world, so old-school attempts to market a book are often overlooked, often with justification. However, you may want to consider parketing in certain circumstances. This is one of those advertising strategies that has “short term” written all over it. It could work for the short term because no one is doing it. No one is doing it because your first reaction is that it sounds silly or maybe even naive or worse, beneath your dignity. If you habitually park your car in a high-visibility area (say, outside a bookstore at the mall) it sounds a little less silly. When you consider the number of businesses that do advertise this way, successfully, it sounds even less nuts. If your pockets are shallow, you can still do this. I got my car magnet from Vistaprint for less than $20.

Parketing works much better if you’re prepared to ask a bunch of friends to put car magnets on their vehicles, too. If your pockets are very deep, you could even go for the full paint job. Do that and you’ve got a marketing campaign started in your city and the basis for a press release to local newspapers and magazines. Sure, we market our ebooks globally, but we shouldn’t turn up our noses at getting noticed locally. That’s one way to get critical mass going. People in your own city, especially media, are more interested in local authors because they have a sense of ownership and familiarity with local authors. There’s a business in my city that seems to be everywhere because each employee gets a free paint job on their vehicle advertising the business. Everywhere they drive, they are advertising. It’s not that large a company (or even a particularly good one), but their ad-plastered cars seem ubiquitous, reminding everyone daily, “Here we are!”

The ad on my van gets attention because it’s just so damn weird. There is surely not another author advertising his or her book with a car magnet for hundreds of miles, so people slow down to read it. I’ve watched them slow down to look. Has it translated to sales? I don’t know. It’s just one car magnet for one book, but I do know people are reading the ad. For me, this little strategy is really  just about promoting awareness so I get my name familiar. For what I spent, I’m okay with that. We gravitate toward the familiar, buying name brands instead of the unknown product (which could be just as good or better but you don’t recognize the label.) When I shop the local Asian food market, I’m actually physically uncomfortable with the cans of unknown weird stuff even though I know it’s not weird. It’s merely different. (I’m weird.)

It’s all the other stuff I do that will make the difference in the long term. There is no one way to move books. Online marketing is going to do much more  because it’s everywhere. For instance, I’ve been on the air, or talked about, on six different podcasts recently (besides my own weekly podcast). That will go a lot further toward gaining some vague familiarity with my name as an author than a car magnet will for one book. Plus, I love podcasting, so I’ll always have that.

Have you guessed this post is not really about putting a magnet on your car? It’s about using multiple strategies to get attention to your books. Marketing campaigns that are single-pronged attacks do not move books. Try a lot of things, even the weird ideas if they make sense to you. Experiment and have fun with it if you can. Try to get your name out there, arriving from several places, preferably at once. We must reach outside of our circles of family and friends to move books.

I’m often reluctant to try new book marketing  strategies until I see them tested by others. That’s why I missed out on the benefit of KDP Select while some others made whacko cash last December. I haven’t jumped on Pinterest because I read one blog about their scary terms of service. These are my deficiencies. I’m often too timid about doing things that are good for me. Everything new feels weird at first. Unfamiliar doesn’t mean wrong. Unfamiliar simply means unfamiliar. In our marketing efforts, should we proceed with caution? Sure. Don’t get taken,  but do proceed and make progress.

What are the book marketing basics? Write a good book. Get it edited. Get a great cover design. Price it right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know all that.

What then? Then go buy my buddy Jeff Bennington’s new book, The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe. I’m reading it right now and I especially like the things you can do to sell your books that are free. Let him show you the way forward. The best marketing strategies are not static. They come and go and rise and fall so we have to stay current and open to experimentation with new opportunities as they arise.

That’s what I’m trying to do, anyway, and that’s what this blog is about.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of a bunch of great ebooks of suspense with titles he now realizes generally repel you. He podcasts a comedy/narrative show, Self-help for Stoners, every Thursday night. To learn more, go to AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: ebooks, Media, My fiction, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Useful writing links, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is Give to Get wrong?

Recently I saw a note from a social media guru who decreed that we should definitely not “Give to get.” I’m really not too happy with too many rules. I didn’t go indie so people

English: One of my Ferrets, his name is Cincin

Image via Wikipedia

could handcuff me and tell me what to do. That’s what Valentine’s Day is for!

Have you noticed there are too many rules and they seem to be multiplying like ferrets high on Viagra? Quirky fact I learned today: A group of ferrets is called a “business.” Is that a semantic dig at business? Are we all a bunch of grubby, musky-smelling ferrets for holding ourselves out to the world as worthy of attention? Hm.

But enough ferret talk! What about you? If you give to get, would that be so bad? I don’t think it would be so bad, if it worked. I just don’t think it works, or at least it never works in any way you expect. For instance, this week I supported the IndieGoGo campaign for Joshua Moore, a fundraiser for a young man with leukaemia. Heavy, sad stuff which we all hope will have a happy, inspiring ending. I’m trying to help with that fundraiser because cancer makes me mad. My mom died of lung cancer and she never smoked once. That’s how unfair the universe is. Recently three friends of mine were diagnosed with varying forms of cancer. (When I say “mad” I don’t mean angry. I mean the “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun” sort of insane.) We spend finite resources on the wrong things instead of using it for medical research to save us from the scourge … (very long rant abridged for your protection) …

Then, from the totally trivial department, I started a tiny project on Twitter to try to get one of my favorite comedians, Mike Schmidt from the 40 Year Old Boy podcast, on another of my favorite podcasts, The Joe Rogan Experience. Mike’s podcasts provide me with free weekly entertainment and, in a very generous move, he gave me the entire first season of his show for free last Christmas. I have a karma debt to him and I hope to make his random act of kindness pay off for him in a way he couldn’t have expected. Mike mentioned he’d love to be on Joe’s podcast and they already travel in similar circles. It’s amazing it hasn’t happened

Don't argue over parking spots with strangers. Or else.

already. I figured, “Hey! Let’s invite the next step to happen! It would have happened anyway. Let’s get it to happen sooner!”

I don’t really believe in karma because, from what I’ve observed, the universe just isn’t that well organized. However, I did feel instant karma with the first project. It feels good to give and Joshua’s family is in need. It’s a worthy cause and any time you’re feeling down, helping somebody else in any way you can makes you feel better. (Want to feel good, too? Go here.)

As for the second campaign, it’s pretty straight forward: If Joe Rogan and Mike Schmidt get in the same room for a podcast, the entertainment value alone is plenty reward. I love comedy and comedians (though, of course, the latter somewhat less so since many are big trouble up close and personal.) I have nothing to gain by trying to help Mike except more laughs. Show of hands: Who doesn’t think more laughs are worthy of our time? (Okay. You and you? Get out and don’t come back!)

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

People wringing their hands about the devious and ulterior motives of Give to Get needn’t worry. Giving to Get never really works in my experience. We can construct fancy plans to promote our ends, but there are many paths up the mountain and they are all hidden.

Case study: Once upon a time, I moved a thousand miles to a new city to open a new business. I didn’t know anyone, so I had to step far out of my comfort zone. I volunteered at a veterans’ home. I did free demonstrations and gave lectures. I taught classes and spoke to strangers in elevators. It was disgusting how hard it was on me. I was an introvert pretending to be an extrovert. (“Ahem. Still am,” said a small voice. SHUT UP!) I did a ton of charity work. I was out there with a missionary zeal and I was trying to meet as many people as possible so I could help as many people as possible. Much of it went under appreciated, under the radar and from my accountant’s perspective, was a waste of time and energy. Each morning I woke up very early, worried about where the money was going to come from. (Just like now.)

All that outgoing energy was sort of like Twitter, except back then I had to be annoying in person and some people were actually helped. Well…a few people. Mostly, all my plots and plans didn’t work the way I thought they would. People weren’t charmed. I did not form a swooning cult clamouring for appointments to spend time with The Magic That is Me. For quite some time, I got the feeling that, as a human being, I’m bad at being human. I suck at making new friends. I am, apparently, an acquired taste.

The business didn’t grow because of my plots and plans. The plots and plans travelled with reality, but in parallel. All my manufactured extroversion did nothing for me directly. I really didn’t know what I was doing. The word “flailing” comes to mind. Everything I thought should matter? Didn’t. And yet the business grew. Our plans do not matter. What matters is that we offer ourselves up and make ourselves available so connections we couldn’t have foreseen will emerge. I’m not talking about that Law of Attraction stuff. I’m talking about writing more books and being available so opportunity finds you ready.

Readers discover our work in organic ways not meant for mortals’ puny understanding. You dohave to put yourself out there to be found, yes. Write more books. Tweet. Help

What if God gives you what you want? What if you win an argument against God?

somebody out. Whatever. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re out there in the world—preferably the cyberworld for me—writing anew and doing things and doing your best. The organic growth (call it luck if you like) will happen in ways you can’t now imagine (or at least in ways I can’t imagine because you’re smarter and braver than me. I’m winking at you, brother.)

What worked? In the case of my business from long ago, I met a special person at a lecture. She hired me and I managed to help her. I didn’t know how influential she was at the time. However, once I helped her with her problems, she sent a lot of people my way looking for the same service. Today she’d be my dream book blogger from Publisher’s Weekly who discovers my lowly existence and campaigns to lift me from obscurity’s muck and declare me worthy. Or, it could be something completely different. My point is, all that dreaming of perfect, beneficial synchronicities is pretty much useless. Just show up and something will happen. (Woody Allen once said a high percentage of his success was attributable to just showing up, which of course discounts his genius behind a camera immensely.)

You can give to get if you want, but for all its effectiveness, you may as well give for the sake of giving without counting the cost. I don’t think anything specific will help much. I used to watch Survivor. I learned two things from that show:

1. No one can pretend to be nice if they are not. Not even for a week, let alone a month! Not even for one million dollars.

2. Whoever wins attributes their win to their godlike intellect and meteoric guile. This, despite ample evidence throughout the television season, that they could have failed miserably but didn’t because someone else made a bigger mistake; dumb luck was involved; possibly divine intervention hit; or the crafty machinations of others came into play. When we win, we think it’s all on us. When we lose, we look for someone to blame who is not us. And if we win, who is to say the same path will still be open to those who follow you? (Modeling a good bet. I’d take that path, but there are variables. One indie author success won’t necessarily translate to another success. If that were true, we’d all be at number one already.)

Author Devin O’Branagan said something pithy to me in her forum the other day.She commented that no predictable marketing patterns are emerging that show a clear path to

Asia_Unbound

Are we ever free from our secrets? Find out here.

indie success. Several authors who hit it big did so in very different ways. Some people are sure they know the way up the mountain. Maybe they’re even right, but the paths are hidden and there is no one right way. I propose that their are too many variables to make broad statements about The Way. We’re going to have to Jeet Kune Do this problem, be like water and adapt as Bruce Lee insisted we do if we want to kick ass.

Get Vengeance and get surprised.

For Scott Sigler, the way up was free podcasts. Now there are so many podcasts and Podiobooks and Audible.com, that may not be The Way anymore. It might still be A Way, for some. I’ve discovered I love podcasting so I do it for the love and maybe some influential reviewer will find me that way. I do my weekly podcast for the joy, so I’m in Follow Your Bliss Mode on this one and if it gets more people to read my books? Gravy!

Some authors are convinced Goodreads is their salvation while Amanda Hocking found it didn’t do a thing for her. Some have found great success with KDP Select while Joanna Penn posted this week that she tried it and she won’t be doing that again.

If you give to get, are you a bad person? No. No one’s totally selfless and martyrdom is overrated. In giving, you will get something in (almost) any case. I’ve discovered there’s great satisfaction in sending out a free copy of one of my books to book bloggers. It’s of immediate benefit because it’s an immediate, easily achievable, finite task. (Meanwhile, editing and revising is forever.) Maybe they’ll give it a good review or maybe it will languish unread for months. Shrug. You might as well enjoy the moment. Last week I detailed my many forays into press releases and book marketing to find what worked. Nothing really did. Yet. (And that local newspaper columnist still hasn’t called about profiling me!)

So stop trying to control the universe! That’s right. Let go. Just flail. If you flail enough, you won’t sink. Get out there. Get wet. You might even end

The Dangerous Kind

Let's get dangerous. And kind.

up swimming.

Oh, I almost forgot: The other problem with Giving to Get is that if people think that’s all you’re about, they will write you off as a bad, opportunistic  person. You no doubt noticed by now that my book covers and their links to sales platforms are plastered all over this particular blog post. Ironic, no? (But I’ll save that discussion for another blog post since this is so long, no one is reading these words: Squirrel, skedaddle, opossum, leather fetish, pistachio, surreal, Topeka. See? Nobody read that. By now you’re just skipping down to the red letters, like in the Bible. If I’m wrong, post a non sequitur in the comments and see how long it will take for others to catch on. Haha! I’m so full of old rope and blue piss tonight, as my mother used to say.)

Have a charitable and compassionate day. Or make it one.

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Unintentionally hilarious, Useful writing links, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

Write to live

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