Friday, February 8, 2019

Has Kindle Unlimited cooked my Also Boughts?

I've become obsessed with Amazon's Also Boughts, mostly because the ones appearing for Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed have been so random/nonsensical recently. I posted about this last month, when the first three books appearing were cookbooks. At that time, none of the Also Boughts that I clicked on linked back to my book. Not good, right? I mean, the point of the Also Boughts is, "Hey, you there, shopping for books, if you like this book, you might want to check out this other, somewhat similar, book." But if these relationships are a) broken, and b) only flow in one direction, there goes one of the most valuable discovery tools in book-selling.

I strongly suspect I'm paying the price for not being more active about marketing my books last year. I was seeing less and less return on the pay-per-click ads I had up on Amazon, so I gave up on them early in 2018 and figured I'd wait until I was ready to release The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo in the fall before investing any more. More books = more bang for the buck, at least in theory. If a reader clicks an ad and buys a book and enjoys it, maybe they'll seek out another of an author's titles.

So I waited it out as my sales shriveled, with as much as 50 percent of my Amazon revenue coming through KDP Select, the program where Kindle Unlimited subscribers can download your book for free, and you get paid for the number of pages they read. And even that wasn't anywhere near what it was a couple of years ago. It was so lame, in fact, I decided to drop out of KDP Select in the fall. I removed my first three books by November, and never enlisted First World Problems.

And now that I'm digging into these Also Boughts, I'm even more convinced leaving KDP Select was the right move. Because I suspect most of these shitty Also Boughts that have nothing whatsoever to do with my novel came about because of indiscriminate Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Barnes & Noble's new ad portal too rich for my book

Ever since I opted back out of KDP Select on Amazon last November, I've been searching--fruitlessly--for ways to kick-start my sales on other platforms. I've had sales here and there in the past on other retailers, in between my KDP Select stints (which require exclusivity to Amazon for ebook sales). Barnes & Noble's site is one I've had a trickle of purchases in years past, but since making my books available for the Nook this past fall, the royalties there have added up to a nice, round number.

The roundest.

Yes, zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

So when I saw Barnes & Noble was offering a new advertising option, I was intrigued. I have had some success with Amazon's pay-per-click ads, particularly for my third novel, Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed. If B&N was going to offer something similar, at perhaps a slightly lower price point, considering the relative unit-shifting potential compared to Amazon, well, that might be just what I needed.

Um ... not quite.

Friday, January 18, 2019

My also boughts are cooking

One, potentially, helpful mechanism for selling books on Amazon is the Also Boughts. As in, "Customers who bought this item also bought" all this other stuff. As an author, you're hoping your book gets linked up with some other similar titles so readers might find your book while they're browsing selections in your same genre.

At the moment, my also boughts for Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed are not really what I need. The top three are cookbooks.

This mystifies me a little. I first noticed the cookbooks there a month or so ago. Admittedly, I had somewhat given up on my sales last year while I was working to get The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo ready to release. These days, to generate much in the way of sales on Amazon, you have to play around with Pay Per Click ads. I've had mixed success at best in the past with those, and by early last year they were no longer cost effective. So I stopped advertising for most of 2018 and my sales swirled the toilet bowl.

I found a helpful blog post on Amazon PPC ads a few months back and gave them another go in November. I've had better luck than I did previously, at least with Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed. It does much better than my other books, probably because it's reaching into a more vibrant readership band, where fans of Jonathan Tropper, Matthew Norman, Jess Walter, and others hang out. Ideally, those would be the books that show up in my also boughts.

And maybe if my sales keep growing over the next couple of months as they have in December and January, we'll start to see those associations taking root--as opposed to the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook and Fruit Pies. Which are probably lovely books. But not really what I need.

Of course, what I really need are enough sales for my books to show up on their also boughts, so their readers see mine. But that's two steps down the road. At the moment, I'll settle for the first step of booting the cookbooks out of my kitchen.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Dylan Thomas, detectives, and a depressing dentist: my 2018 reading list

One of my favorite posts from last year (and let's face it, I probably read this blog as much as anyone else, just shuffling back through to keep track of what I wrote about X months ago) was my year-end racap of what I read in 2017. I was actually surprised when I wrote that up how few books I'd made it through. This year's list will nearly double it, though we did have a few shorties in 2018, so apples/oranges, etc.

This list is in roughly chronological order of when I read each book, but neither you nor I know how precise that is. I can remember the last one I read and the one before that, and maybe the one before that, and then things go fuzzy.

A Man with One of Those Faces, by Caimh McDonnell. This is an Irish detective/adventure/humor that I stumbled across last year and added to my Christmas list. Got it and read it soon after the holidays. Loved it. Then found Caimh McDonnell had several other books, which will appear later in this list, all featuring the same characters. 

Adventures in the Skin Trade; Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog; Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas. Three short books, all received for Christmas in 2017. Along with the Welsh music and football, came an interest in the culture generally, and Dylan Thomas has to be a jumping off point for that. The first two books were mostly short stories, some of which were humorous, some quite religious, others just generally freaky, bordering on some kind of mythological horror (or horrifying mythology). I can't say I loved them all. I did enjoy Under Milk Wood, though I had the sense I only ever picked up on about 35-40 percent of the actual meaning of things. It's one I'll have to revisit sometime, though the proper way to absorb it would be to hear the original radio play.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Merry Christmas from me to you

My uncle from Connecticut came to visit last month, staying for a week at my dad's house. He's a reader, and having not brought enough reading material to last him the week, he borrowed a couple of books from my dad. My books. My first two, to be specific, The Greatest Show on Dirt and Nine Bucks a Pound.

I spent six years from start to finish on each of them, with some overlap when I put the first aside to attempt to find a publisher. Poured everything I had into them, and then moved on. I read The Greatest Show on Dirt a couple of years ago, just to refresh my memory on what I had written. It will always have a special place in my writer's heart, having been my first, but reading back through it confirmed to me that it's not my best, even though it has sold better than all of my others.

No, my best book, in my opinion, is Nine Bucks a Pound. Though four years after its release, I seemed to have forgotten most of the nitty gritty details and could only answer my uncle's questions to the best my fuzzy memory would allow. Which was made the worse by the humdinger of a cold settling into my head the night I saw him. Later that week, when I finished the book I had been reading, I decided it was time to dust Nine Bucks off and give it another go.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Book Designer awards gold star to cover of First World Problems

The Book Designer unveiled its October 2018 e-book Cover Design Awards today, and you'll never guess who garnered an honorable mention gold star. Okay, maybe you will if I give you a big enough hint: It was the author's second such honorable mention in a row.

Ringing any bells? Okay, it was me. Well, I didn't design the cover, so credit goes to Ebook Launch, the company that designed both honored covers (as well as the next one, so maybe there will be another gold star coming next year). But it was my concept. And I'm the one who had to go back and forth, saying, no, not quite, change the lettering, change his face, change the color, etc.

We got there in the end.

Joel Friedlander, who runs the Book Designer site, made this comment about the cover for The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo: "Charming and well integrated, the hand lettering helps to create a unique look." He makes comments on most of the entries, saying what worked and what didn't. Some of them are quite entertaining (read: brutal) when he's not in love with a particular cover. For example, "Terminally boring. Why would anyone care?" Ouch. That would smart a bit.

Amazingly, each month a handful of authors will submit covers they designed themselves. As if they haven't learned over the years to hire this job out from all the previous critical comments.

It's hard enough catching readers' eyes with a professionally designed cover. Why anyone would go the DIY route is beyond me. I'm sure glad I didn't. I'm happy with the covers of all four of my books. The first two were done by a graphic designer I worked with at Baseball America. Considering she didn't specialize in book design, I thought she did a great job with them. I particularly love the bobblehead on the cover of Nine Bucks a Pound, which was created by another designer and then used as the focal point of the book cover.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Help me help you help me

Did you know it's just six (6) weeks until Christmas? Yeah, sneaks up on you fast, doesn't it? It's easy to keep track of the holidays where I work, because it neatly coincides with layoff season. For the past 10 years, November has been the month to keep your head down. I've seen them come, I've seen them go, and somehow I always survived.

Until today.

Yep. My number came up today. Seventeen and a half frickin' years, and I got called into the 9:00 meeting with HR. It wasn't a surprise, necessarily. Well, the part where they're closing our entire office (400+ people) was kind of a stunner. But there have been enough warning signs that I saw this coming. I've seen it coming for several years now. And after all the gallows humor and hallway chatter ... it still kind of hurts.

Even though it may be for the best in the end.

Funny how life imitates art. Or maybe art imitates life imitating art. I started a blog to make the marketing of The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo a little more fun. It's Jason's blog, but shhhhhhhhhh, I write it. Last week Jason got laid off. I had to use my imagination a little to picture how it would all go down for him. I don't have to imagine it any more. I lived it this morning.