Tag Archives: smashwords

Stock Up on eBooks

So here’s a friendly reminder that the semi-annual sale at Smashwords starts today and runs through the whole month of July. Not all authors participate in the sale (I didn’t participate in the last one because my head was up my butt and I forgot to enroll), but many do and you’ll find tons of indie ereads at discounts from 25%-100% off (for the remedial math crowd, 100% off = free). For my part, should you want to recommend these to your friends…

Impulse Control Cover

Always FREE

Hush Money Cover

FREE in July
Coupon SSWIN

Heroes 'Til Curfew Cover Art

50% off in July
Coupon SSW50

So get going and grab up books until your virtual TBR pile looks like the Buffy Tower of Crazy.

 

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Birthday Post!

Don’t worry, I probably won’t get in the habit of doing these. It’s weekend with the fam, but I just wanted to pop in and put up a Happy Birthday shout-out to my good friend and fellow indie Lauralynn Elliot. Pop over to her blog and tell her Happy Birthday, or make her even happier and check out some of her books!

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PubIt vs. Smashwords, now with numbers

First of all, sorry for the hit and run posts lately. I know I’ve been dropping these posts and then running off and not being good about responding to comments. It’s rude and I apologize. I want to thank everyone who reassured me about that email/article the other day, especially. And I’m claiming “silly season” for the rest of it.

And, not to be all about the apologies, but this is another post that’s very indie-author oriented and of limited interest to readers.

So today I found that I finally have actual numbers for my sales at Barnes and Noble through Smashwords, so that I can give a more accurate picture.

I wish I’d kept better records of this stuff, but it’s hard to keep up with everything. Hush Money was published via Smashwords on August 3rd, but I don’t think it caught a ship date to BN until the end of the month. Then it takes a while for the book to actually show up at BN. So I don’t remember the date it actually showed up at BN, but it was sometime in September.

I published via PubIt on October 14. The book went live quickly, within a day, I think, and the Smashwords version was taken down within a week.

Anyway, sales at BN via Smashwords were actually better than I thought. For the period ending October 31, I sold 13 copies and estimate royalties (because they just gave me sales, not royalties yet) at $5.59.

These last two months with PubIt I’ve sold over 1800 copies and they tell me they owe me over $700.

(Since we never get paid until 2 months after these sales, I still haven’t actually received more than $150 for my work, so all this discussion of royalties still feels very theoretical for me. Theoretically cool, but still like Monopoly money.)

Why some authors took off at PubIt right away and some haven’t is something we’ve been trying to figure out. And it’s not just one thing. I’m pretty sure price has something to do with it, as some readers have told me they picked up Hush Money because it’s cheap. It’s possible there was a problem with the searchability of the Smashwords listings and they weren’t being categorized and sorted when NOOK users wanted to search by price.

But it seems unlikely that price, and searching by price, could be all of it, since Zoe Winters’ sales make mine look like peanuts, and her work starts at $2.99.

It’s possible that BN chose to promote some authors on some kind of a “Deals” list or something of that nature, but I’ve no idea if that happened, nor how they would have selected.

But I think the point is that BN just hadn’t gotten behind the indie books until PubIt. It doesn’t seem like they took care of the Smashwords listings. Many authors have complained about not being searchable by category, and I think browsability must be an issue. Essentially, it seemed that we just weren’t being found on BN unless someone searched for our book specifically or followed a direct link. Until PubIt.

It should be noted that the royalty rate for titles under $2.99 is going to be significantly higher via Smashwords, as Kait recently explained to us so clearly in this article. However, this is like my arguments about the 99cent price point for new indies: a higher royalty on significantly fewer sales doesn’t benefit you.

And I say this loving Smashwords, and Mark, the vision of it, and what it tries to do for us. I hope we’ll come to a point where indies will have enough of the market that our listings will be treated as valuable commodities no matter how we choose to publish, and that Smashwords will gain the power to assure us of proper categorization, browsing, and searchability with other retailers, more reasonable and certain stocking times (I’m STILL not stocked at Diesel), faster reporting and payment. Because the one-stop, multiformat publishing and distribution they offer really is a great service. The ebook thing, as a whole, is still very new. Everyone’s still scrabbling to try to figure it out, and just starting to realize that it’s worth doing well.

(I mean, look, if I just made $700 at BN at 40%, that means they made $1050. Which is not huge, but I’m sure they’ve got plenty of listings that didn’t make that for them in these last two months. And I’m not Zoe Winters, Amanda Hocking, or HP Mallory who are making me look like adorable baby indie isn’t that cute. Is Borders wondering if maybe now it’s time to get a piece of these indie sales yet?)

Anyway, I hope this helps any of you who might be trying to make the decision about whether to go with Smashwords to get into BN–which I believe Konrath said he was sticking with a few weeks ago–or whether to go with PubIt. And if anyone’s still on the fence about whether they should bother with anything outside of Amazon, I hope this helps you realize the potential of sales at Barnes and Noble.

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Quick Exciting (to me) Update with Stats and PubIt Stuff

Hush Money was in the top 250 when I looked at Barnes & Noble this morning, at #246. When I looked just now it was #242. Seems like their ranks are updating more often than they were earlier in the week, or I could just be more obsessed. :eyeroll:

 

#246 in ebooks

Sales at Amazon were down yesterday, but I got back into the top 1000 this morning, at #840 when I looked earlier.

I was going to mention about that “Hot New Releases” list on Amazon we were talking about the other day. I can’t believe I never noticed this thing, but my dear reader, Marta, actually screen-shot it for me the other day. It’s a tab under the bestseller lists that I click to all the time. You know, the ones right under your rank in your listing. Dur. So anyway, as there’s plenty of stuff on the list with less than 20 reviews, I’d say it’s just based on the magically mysterious Amazon sales-tracking formula, and being on the new releases list is just a matter of…release date.

And so, another theory bites the dust.

Back to PubIt. I’ve been there for two weeks and I’m really liking it. Since B&N hasn’t reported their numbers to Smashwords since I got listed, I don’t have comparison numbers for you, but just based on ranking, my B&N ranking was abysmal before PubIt. I’ve been there two weeks with ever-increasing sales, which makes sense with that whole visibility thing we talked about recently. The more sales you make, the better visibility you get for customers who are browsing, the more sales increase.

And browsers have got to be key here, because the main difference between my Smashwords listing and my PubIt listing is that PubIt allows you to choose categories like the Amazon DTP that actually work in the store. Through Smashwords, you’re just not searchable that way. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Smashwords, am grateful to them, etc., but this step-children attitude the stores have to their Smashwords listing sucks.) And I’m sure the fact that you get more than 400 characters to pimp your book doesn’t hurt.

As a 99cent book, I’m at a 40% rate at BN. It’s about a 3 cent loss per book, I guess, compared to my share of the sales when I used Smashwords to get into BN. Who cares? I’m actually selling now.

Indies, if you haven’t gotten those EPUBs done and made your listings at PubIt, get off your butt and just do it. If you download your EPUBs from Smashwords and edit the license info using Sigil, it should go very quickly. I did four of these for a friend the other day. Besides, we need to start making enough money for B&N that other sites will want to carry us and take care of our books so they’ll sell.

Be aware that after you do your thing with PubIt, your Smashwords listing will disappear after a week or two, and eventually take all your previous reviews with it. You’ll be starting over in that respect, and there have been some delays and problems getting new reviews to appear, but I still think it’s worth doing.

P.S. I forgot to tell you, since I was on Stats and the me me me thing in this post: I’m over 800 total sales for October, across all channels and formats. I was afraid to dream about selling this well so soon as a total noob.

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Filed under books, Hush Money, Increasing Kindle Rank, PubIt, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles

Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Goodreads, Giveaways, and Reviews

I wrote recently about reaching the Kindle top 1000, 8 weeks after releasing my first-ever novel, Hush Money. This post is part of a series talking about some stuff I did that helped me get visibility and sell books.

So I said the other day that Goodreads was described to me as “Facebook for book people.” I think that’s pretty much true. It’s very social networky, and yet the only thing anyone’s talking about is books.

I didn’t spend much time on Goodreads before I released Hush Money. It’s one of those things I probably should have done, but…need I tell you again that I’m not great with the social stuff? If you’re not either, try making friends with just a few people who are active there.

One of the cool things about Goodreads are the update emails. People who get those get a digest list of things their friends are doing on Goodreads. Things like: adding a book to their “to-read” shelves, posting ratings and reviews, updating their progress in reading any given book.

Additionally, members who have their Twitter and Goodreads accounts linked are sending out tweets about books with every status update, so you’re getting your name out there on two platforms at the same time in those cases. (I suppose this is also true of Facebook? I’m not a Facebook person at all.)

If Goodreads member “Jane” decides to add my book, any of Jane’s friends who get those emails may see my book cover when Jane adds the book, when she starts reading it, anytime she updates her progress through it, and when she finishes it and leaves a review. That’s a lot of nice exposure for my book cover, and it’s exposure to a group of people who might be more inclined toward my book than the average person on the street, assuming that Jane liked my book, and that Jane’s friends know their own tastes are often similar to hers.

But how did I get Jane to read my book? Well, if you’ve spent enough time on Goodreads to make some real friends, you might have some people reading you just because they like you and they’re curious about what you’ve been working on. I had a few of these friends, but not enough to really get going.

After setting up my Goodreads Author stuff, I read about Giveaways. Unfortunately, that section of the site is only for physical books, which I didn’t have at the time. But there was the Events section which didn’t say you couldn’t use it to give away ebooks…

First, I wrote up a post for my blog about giving away review copies of my book, so that I would have something to link to when I set up the event on Goodreads. Then I wrote a brief, to-the-point, no pressure invitation:

I’m giving 100% off coupons to download Hush Money, in a variety of ebook formats, to anyone willing to leave me a review here on Goodreads, at Amazon, on a blog, etc. If you’re interested, just send message me via Goodreads or send an email and I’ll hook you up. Offer ends August 23, 2010. Please feel free to invite your friends to this event.

By the way, I think it’s better to keep things like this simple. Avoid playing the friend card, avoid sounding like a sales person. I think the only thing I would add to this would the the 400 character blurb for the book, so that the user didn’t have to click around to look for it.

Two Goodreads friends tweeted me to confirm whether I really wanted to them to invite all their friends, to which I said Yes, please! I had only 8 friends at the time. A very small reach. Once they had sent out invitation, about 350 people were personally invited to come check out my book.

That might scare you. It shouldn’t. How many people on their friend lists are actually active on Goodreads? How many read ebooks? How many are interested in spending their reading time on an unknown indie author? In my case, about 10% responded with a Yes or Maybe. And even had more responded, giving away ebooks costs me nothing. If you think of every giveaway as a lost sale, I’d recommend changing your thinking.

To each of those people, I sent a PM via Goodreads with the information to get my book with a 100% off coupons via Smashwords. While I had a form letter that I pasted in, I tried to personalize the messages any time someone made a comment in their event response, and I used different messages for those who said Yes or Maybe. I spent a lot of time that week responding to PMs and emails. All totally worth it.

By the way, very few people emailed, PM’d, or left comments to my blog. Most response I got was just saying Yes, No, or Maybe to the invitation (you get notified of each of those by Goodreads). So you’ll want to keep close tabs on that and keep track of your replies. You’ll have a few people who do not accept PMs via Goodreads, and for whom you do not have contact information. I don’t know how they expect you to give them anything, and I’m not sure there’s anything to be done about that.

Did everyone who downloaded a copy give me a review? No, not yet, anyway. I didn’t actually expect 100% on that, yet I was very pleased with how many people have come through with reviews. And think of your own TBR pile. This is going to take some time. Smashwords sends out an email to anyone who downloads a book from there, reminding them to come back to Smashwords and leave a review. I think this was GREAT, in that it reminded people they had my book and were supposed to be reading and reviewing, without me having to ask them. I got a small flurry of reviews at about that time.

The event did get a lot of people adding my book, and it did result in more ratings and reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Smashwords than I would have had without having done it. All of this increased the book’s exposure.

Another great outcome of the Goodreads event was that book bloggers hang out there, and they love books! Many of them have to buy a lot of the books they read and review, which gets expensive. So many of my responders were book bloggers! Bonus! I’ve had 15 reviews on individual blogs since Hush Money’s release, as well as a few interviews. It’s hard to approach reviewers when you’ve got no author cred, no publisher validation or reviews backing you up. But the event sort of had them coming to me, in a more low-obligation kind of way than if I gone to them and asked them to review my book for their blog.

Now, I had a lot of people read Hush Money before it was released. Eleven beta readers/proof-readers. Remember that not everyone who is your friend is going to want to read your book, and not everyone who reads and tells you they like it is going to write you a review. It’s all percentages and is not personal. But since I had eleven betas, and they were my friends, when I asked for Amazon reviews as soon as it was live, I got 4 reviews right away. So anyone who came across my Kindle page in the early days had something to look at.

Between those reviews from the betas, and the ones that started to show up after the giveaway, it became a lot easier for me to approach book bloggers and ask for reviews because, in my query, I could link to a page full of positive responses to my book. There have got to be very few book bloggers out there looking for stuff to hate. They want to have some idea that this book is for them, and that they’ll be able to recommend it. Many don’t even write reviews of something they didn’t like, so giving time to a book they don’t like is a waste for them. They want to have the sense that they’re going to like your book before they agree.

At the time of this writing, I’ve had 247 adds on Goodreads (and I think most of those have gone ahead and purchased because the price is low), 15 reviews on blogs, 20 Amazon reviews, 15 on Smashwords, and 29 on Goodreads (38 ratings). All of those, plus tweeting about them by me as well as others, have helped make me more visible.

And visibility is our biggest hurdle, seconded by credibility.

The reason that I consider the Goodreads giveaway event serendipitous, was because it wasn’t something I had planned to do. It was more something that came out of a marketing brainstorm while the book wasn’t really moving in that second week of release. And it’s really been possibly THE best thing I’ve done so far. (Well, after that whole writing a decent book and putting it out thing.)

So I hope it helps some of you as well. Sorry I’ve run long today. I’ll hope you’ll come back next time, when I think I’ll be talking about Blogging and Social Media. If you think other indies might be helped by the ideas in this post, sharing buttons are located below for your convenience. Thanks!

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Filed under book blogs, Hush Money, ideas, Increasing Kindle Rank, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing