Wednesday, September 4, 2019

FREE! isn't free, but sometimes it's worth paying for

There was a point in the early days of indie publishing when the FREE! book promo was one of the go-to gimmicks. Tales spread among the author blogs about huge sales tails that would follow a 3-4 day run on the Kindle free lists. These surges would more than pay for the advertising required to spread the word back in the glory days of free in 2010-11.

I released my first novel, The Greatest Show on Dirt, in February 2012. I ran a free promo on Amazon, gave away 5,124 copies in April of that year, and saw a modest sales bump when it returned to regular price. Maybe I missed the window on free, maybe my book wasn't quite the right genre to ride the wave. I wasn't sold on free, but I wasn't ready to completely write it off, either.

In July 2015, I dabbled with free again with my second novel, Nine Bucks a Pound, also a baseball-themed story. According to my records, which I have no reason to doubt, I didn't spend anything on advertising this time. I moved 1,147 units. I sold a handful at regular price afterward. Again I was left wondering whether there was more potential for this. Certainly advertising would have helped generate interest, but would it have meant more paid sales after? And how many free downloads would be required to result in a bona fide sales spike? I could only guess.

The last time I bothered with a free promo was March 2018, when I ran one for my third novel, Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed. This time I spent $78 on a total of three ads, and I saw 3,668 free downloads as a result. Sales spike? Not quite. Depends on your definition of spike. I was disappointed enough that I figured I wouldn't bother with free again.

Yet here I am, giving it one more try. This time I'm giving away The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, my fourth novel, from Thursday (9/5) through Sunday (9/8). And I'll be honest, free is something of a desperate measure here. This book just hasn't seemed to catch on. It's received some decent reviews (and a couple of lame ones), but not enough overall.


Monday, May 6, 2019

All booked up with books

I like books.

There, I said it. Yeah, crazy that someone who writes books would like to read them too, right?

Books seem to pile up in our house. Every bookshelf we have seems to have more books on it that it was meant to hold. When we moved in back in 2005, I bought two 6-foot tall unfinished pine book cases, stained them, and then filled them with books. When we finished off our basement, they moved down into the library. Yeah, we have a library. What of it?

I have two more bookshelves in my office, another smaller one in the library. A small one in my son's room, a fancy one with a glass door in our bedroom, and ... somehow we still have more books than shelf space.

For several years now I've been meaning to add another big shelf to the library, to eliminate the sideways lying books that block the ones that are properly shelved. It's actually tough to find a solid wood bookshelf these days that doesn't cost a fortune. The store where I bought most of the others is long out of business, and I can't find any others in the area that stock plain wood shelves. So I decided to make my own.

With a little help from my dad, who has all the tools not to mention all the wood-working skills in the family, I constructed something solid that will alleviate our overcrowding problem. At least for the moment. Check back in a year or two.

Friday, April 12, 2019

New books available in old-school format

Exciting news in the world of print books! The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo and Dispatches from a Tourist Trap were both released in paperback format today. So if you don't Kindle and want to read them, you can now order them on Amazon.

I held off on formatting First World Problems for print when I released it last fall, mainly because sales of my other books as paperbacks were so sluggish. But they've picked up quite a bit over the past four months, enough to motivate me to make all five of my books available as both ebooks and paperbacks.

I was also a little hesitant to deal with the conversion process, as I've struggled with formatting for print some in the past. But I have to say this time it was much easier than I'd feared. Maybe I'm learning a thing or two along the way.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Dispatches has been dispatched

Today's the big day for the new book. Dispatches from a Tourist Trap released today on Amazon for the Kindle. Yes!

Here's the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Q2DRWH4

Only $2.99. A bargain at twice that.

At one time last year I had hoped to release this book at the same time as The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, the first book in the series. But then the reality of editing and rewriting hit and it became obvious that would only push everything back. I was also hoping that by releasing Book 1 in the fall, there would be a rabid corps of Jason Van Otterloo fans salivating for the second book by now. That hasn't quite happened. This series is more of a slow burner, I guess. We'll get there in time, but for now still building one sale at a time.

I'm in my last week of unemployment before starting my new job next Monday. I've been busy, busy, busy with book stuff over the past few weeks. The top priority was getting Dispatches ready to go, but there's been a lot more going on.

Paperbacks

Yes, I have finally gotten the formatting done to release both The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo and Dispatches from a Tourist Trap in print. I am in the process of getting the covers created. Once those are ready I'll just need to upload my files to Amazon, order proofs, make sure everything came out right, and release. I'm hoping to have them ready for public consumption by the middle of the month.

Reviews

In addition to doing review copy giveaways on Library Thing and Booksprout, I had a very long, detailed review run on a site called The Irresponsible Reader. And I don't know if I really understand the name, because the guy who runs it seems quite responsible, as well as prolific in his reading. He had some nice things to say about The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, and will also be reviewing Dispatches from a Tourist Trap soon.

An Author Q&A

In addition to reviews, The Irresponsible Reader also runs author Q&As. Mine was posted this morning. I've done a few of these in the past, but this one was great because he seemed like he put some serious thought into the questions, instead of simply sending the same handful of questions he asks everyone else.

So, plenty going on here. I keep thinking I'll wake up one day to a short to-do list and have time to lounge on the couch watching TV, but it keeps not happening. And we're down to three days of "vacation," so it's looking less and less likely. Oh, well.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Dispatches from a Tourist Trap now available for pre-order

At long last, I'm pleased to announce the second book in the Jason Van Otterloo Trilogy is available for pre-order on Amazon. It's called Dispatches from a Tourist Trap and will release in Kindle format officially next Tuesday.

What's it all about? Glad you asked. Here's the blurb:

Thanks to his parents' separation, Jason Van Otterloo is starting his sophomore year of high school three hours away from all his friends--including his new girlfriend, Sian. Tiny Icicle Flats is a quaint Bavarian-themed mountain village that has been trapped in time since long before his mother grew up there. That she was willing to return is all down to her new boyfriend--who also happens to be her new boss. And judging by all the makeup found in his bathroom cabinet, Jason's dad isn't wasting time waiting for her to return.

Jason begins a blog to share details of his new life with his old friends, but some news isn't meant for wide distribution. Fortunately, his sage-but-sarcastic best friend, Drew, is always just an email away. Would it be so wrong, Jason wonders, to ask a local girl named Leah to the Homecoming dance? "Just as a one-time date, nothing more, obviously." "Why are you asking me and not Sian?" Drew replies. "Wait, I think I know the answer." If only Jason would ever take his friend's advice, he might spend less time climbing out of the holes he digs for himself.

Pressed into afternoon and weekend duty at his grandpa's hardware store, Jason still finds time to join an after-school book club that specializes in controversial classics. When Leah's brother reports the book club to the school board, Jason and his fellow readers are forced underground--until they emerge again to enter a protest float in the Icicle Flats Christmas parade. The ensuing brouhaha makes for the most exciting holiday season Jason can remember. And for once, it's not his parents' arguing that takes center stage. With the new year comes a new scheme: If the local busybody brigade was upset by a few old books, pirate radio will surely blow their minds. Who ever said life in a small novelty town would be dull?

Told entirely through Jason's email exchanges and blog posts, Dispatches from a Tourist Trap picks up where The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo left off. Come and spend a little time in Icicle Flats--just don't forget to pack your lederhosen.
Well, there it is. Order your copy today for just $2.99. Or read it free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. And tell all your friends. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Take my book--please! (a.k.a., the review conundrum)

There's a distinct Catch-22 when it comes to promoting a new book. You need reviews in order to run most promotions, but you can't get reviews if you haven't promoted the book. This leads many desperate authors to harangue their family and friends into reviewing their latest release, and some unscrupulous ones into buying reviews, a practice that Amazon has banned, though it's practically impossible to stamp out.

For those who want to play it straight, the options are limited. It would be great to have a big enough mailing list to shoot an email to your followers and simply offer review copies to anyone willing to write an honest review. At the pace I'm building mine, I might get there by 2050. (This is the part where I include a link so you can join my mailing list. Please.) Failing that, you're left to try some of the sites that offer ARCs (Advance Review Copes) to willing readers. The largest of these is probably NetGalley, though there's another called Hidden Gems that may rival or exceed it.

I only recently learned of Hidden Gems, and while I'd love to try giving away review copies there, they're booked through December, so I'd need a time machine in order to set something up. NetGalley is easier to get into, at least if you use the side entrance. For an independent author like myself, the way in is through a co-op, which buys up ARC slots in bulk and resells them to individual authors. This actually puts indie authors on even footing with big publishing houses, because reviewers who use NetGalley will see your book listed among the big press titles. I had good success with NetGalley when I released Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed back in 2015. It was reviewed by a number of book bloggers, who had at least enough of a following that their reviews reached people I couldn't myself.

Unfortunately, I had less success with The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo when I tried NetGalley last October. I got two reviews on Amazon and a couple more on Goodreads. And that was it. Boo.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Print is undead, long live print!

When I first saw the notices last summer that Amazon's CreateSpace publishing arm for print books was going away and I needed to migrate my titles to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Print, I did what I often do when bombarded with unwelcome information: I ignored it.

The notifications kept coming, however. Every time I logged into CreateSpace to check my nonexistent sales, I was hammered with more messages. Move your books now! Eventually, I did click one of the links and made a half-hearted attempt to migrate one of the three titles I had published through CreateSpace. But the options I saw on the screen didn't match what Amazon said I should be seeing and I literally couldn't submit the changes. So I gave up.

After procrastinating a little longer, I tried again, ran into the same roadblock, and ignored the entire thing again, as if it might somehow go away. No surprise, it didn't. Finally, I contacted the KDP Help with my question, was told how to get past the obstacle I had encountered, and ... well, it wasn't so hard in the end. By Halloween I had moved all three of my books.

I'll chalk up my reluctance to bother with the entire migration ordeal to my pathetic print sales. Over the first 10 months of 2018, I had shifted a grand total of six print copies of my three books. Combined. That came after a whopping eight units were moved in 2017. To say print sales were a sore subject would be an understatement. While my Kindle sales were nothing to brag about, the futility of print was downright laughable. So why bother, right?