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?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Moving the Also Bought needle

I'm not giving away any secrets if I tell you I've become obsessed with my Also Boughts on Amazon, and in particular how my ads can influence them. My last post, earlier this month, was an in-depth breakdown of all 97 books linked from my third novel, Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed, in its Also Boughts. At that point, the books linked to were still almost exclusively--well, there's no polite way to put it--shit.

They were showing the scantest glimpses of life. But for the most part the books that were being linked to had no logical ties to my novel. There were cookbooks, romances, psychological thrillers, and World War II sagas, particularly of the "escape from the Nazis" variety. And I don't mean to cast aspersions on any of these (other than the cookbooks, which appeared to be a little on the sleazy/scammy side), but none of those fall within the sweet spot for my book.

Fast forward two weeks and change and ... things are moving in the right direction. My sales have been consistent in February. Not spectacular, but nothing like the anemic totals I saw the last two years or so. The Amazon keyword ads I'm running definitely work. I've learned and tinkered and learned and tinkered, and I've finally hit upon a formula that is cost effective. My ads no longer run at a loss. And that's huge.

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.