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Residual Sales and Post-Christmas Blues

28 Dec

Well, my promo is over. It finished on Boxing Day. Total units shifted during the free period – believe it or not, exactly 1,000. Not 1,001, not 999. Bang on 1,000. Bizarre. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of that was in the US. Over 800 in fact. The difference over there, I think, is the number of other sites that seem to take feeds from Amazon and promote the books for you. I found a few that Oblivious was listed on by virtue of it being free. It seems especially that the sales spiked on the first day of the promotion which must mean these satellite sites have a dedicated following that use the free listings every day. I might try the same thing in January then and see what happens the second time around. I suspect the law of diminishing returns may come into play, but we’ll see.

Anyway, it has had an effect on residual sales. Not a massive amount, but it’s up from where it was. So was it worth doing? Absolutely. I’ve gotten more readers than I had before. Also, today, I have my first ‘borrower’ who has taken the book out for their virtual ebook lending library. So that’s interesting as well. It entitles me to some miniscule percentage of the $500,000 fund for virtual lending for December. Let’s hope hardly anyone borrowed anything. In theory, if only one other book was borrowed, once, I should get $250,000. Somehow, I seriously doubt that will be the case. If a million books were borrowed, I’ll get 50 cents, but hey, 50 cents is 50 cents. I’ve been saving up for a down payment on a Cadbury’s Creme Egg…

Also, Christmas seems to be over. Hurray. Now I can get on with the rest of my life until it sneaks up again next year. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas (although I don’t really) it’s just that it always seems a bit of an anti-climax. I worked out yesterday that I really am a man of simple tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I got some nice presents, it was nice to see people pleased with what I’d gotten them, we had a nice Christmas dinner, had a good time playing with my daughter. But I took Grace to the cinema yesterday to see the Chipmunks (awful film) and it struck me that sitting in the dark eating some nachos with salsa and jalapeno peppers on them was actually up there with the most enjoyable moments of the holidays for me. How sad is that? Not sure yet whether that says more about me or more about Christmas…

What I did get though is two significant iTunes vouchers. I bought 10 albums yesterday and still have half the credit left. Some great music now on my iPod. If anyone is even remotely interested, I’d definitely recommend Big Tobacco by Joe Pernice and The Eventually Home by Right Away, Great Captain! When I’ve actually had time to listen to some of the others I might be able to recommend them as well. But because I am actually working today, I’d better go and get on with that. And I’ll leave you with my track of 2011 (it actually came out in 2006 but as per usual I came to it five years late), They Ride by The Twilight Singers:

 

The Snowball Effect

23 Dec

Well, I said I’d update the Blog on progress of the free promotion. I think it’s fair to say it hasn’t gone quite how I expected. I thought it may gather a little bit of interest, I might shift a few more copies than I usually do, and it may help raise my profile a little bit.

Yeah, I had a feeling something else was happening as early as yesterday morning when my sales (I’ll still call them sales, even though they’re technically not whilst the book is free) were up 600% for the month. At the time of writing this, just over 24 hours in, my sales are up over 8000% on the month. More people downloaded Oblivious yesterday than have downloaded it in the entire year since it was put up on Amazon. In fact, it was more than double the amount of downloads in the year. I’ve potentially tripled my readership in a single day… That was NOT what I expected.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s great news for me. I’m in the top 5 for short stories on Amazon in both the UK and the US. Top 20 for literary fiction. And that’s why I think so many have been downloaded. Amazon does have this snowball effect. A couple of people show an interest, and suddenly you’re rising up the rankings a little bit. The higher you are, the more visible you are; the more visible you are, the more people show an interest etc. It’s been getting into that cycle that has always eluded me. The free promotion seems to have done the trick.

I’m sure some people may never get around to reading it. Last Christmas I was doing what some of these Amazon customers are almost certainly doing now: that is, loading my partner’s kindle with as many cheap and free books as I could before giving it to her as her present. I wanted it to be loaded up for her. (She hasn’t read all the books I put on there for her: some of them she may never read, some of them she may get to at some point). I’m also sure that some of the people that do read it may not like it. And that’s obviously fine too. Hopefully some will like it, in which case it’s achieved what has always been my primary goal with this collection – to get it in front of people and see what they think. Making money from it was never the main concern. I want to be in this for the long haul and there’s time for that later. If I could keep the book free on Amazon all the time I probably would. But as it is, it will be free for a couple of days this month and then I’ll get the chance to see whether that has any residual effect on sales once the price goes back on. And that, I’m sure, will give me something else to post about.

Anyway, happy Christmas everyone. I’m now going to slink off and do the family celebration stuff. Cheers.

Experiment

22 Dec

This is almost certainly the wrong place to advertise it, but I’ve made use of the new KDP promotional tool to make Oblivious free for the Kindle for the next 5 days. That takes me through to Boxing Day which I figured might be a good time to get people picking it up. Yeah, I don’t make any royalties on it during this period, but it was never about the money anyway (good job really as it doesn’t make any) and it might increase its exposure a little bit with new Kindle owners looking for freebies.

So far today, hours after the promotion started, my ‘sales’ have rocketed. Will keep the blog updated on the outcome. A little promo experiment…

T-Shirt Giveaway

12 May

I got a review on Goodreads the other day and it got me thinking. These immortal lines are from that review:

“The book was bleak, dismal. It’s characters were simmering in a stew of doomed sexual passion; they were buried in meaningless work; it was always raining, or about to rain… I didn’t really like the book. But I couldn’t stop reading it.”

Believe it or not, this is a positive review. I know, this is just what my book does to people…

There is a now a growing, but still rather exclusive, club of people who have read Oblivious and survived. So in honour of this fact I’m running a competition. If you’ve read Oblivious, or have bought it and are about to read it, YOU can win a t-shirt. No, seriously. This is it here:

This high quality cotton item is available in one colour only – grey, obviously – and features the slogan “I read Oblivious…and didn’t drink bleach”. I said to someone earlier as a joke that I should print a t-shirt with this slogan on, and I must suffer from some sort of compulsive disorder or something because I then just HAD to do it. It’s sitting in my basket ready for order on a printing website so will be available in whatever size the lucky winner happens to be. All you have to do to enter is to post a comment on this Amazon Forum thread – can be anything at all you want, a joke, some abuse directed towards me, maybe something bleak and dismal, whatever. And the only rule is, you have to own Oblivious. On Monday next week I’ll pick one person at random, and I’ll ask them a question about the book that they have to answer correctly in order to receive this most unique and covetable of prizes. (It’ll be an easy question, something like what’s the first sentence of a particular story – it’s only to sort the true survivors from the pretenders)…

So if you need something to wear for decorating in, if you rent your last t-shirt in two with the sheer angst of reading my short stories, then I might be able to help you.

I know there are some of you out there – Amazon sales reports tell me so.

Another Stupid Promo Thread

28 Apr

I’m too cowardly to put this one up on Amazon, I’ll admit. I had it all written out and then I just cancelled it. I’m not a glutton for punishment. I know how easily people can get offended over there and I figured it would be just too simple to take this wrongly and decide it was in bad taste. And then I’d have to point out I donated all proceeds to charity last month and was almost certainly going to do it again this month, and I’d end up talking myself into a corner and looking like even more of an idiot.

I’ve written it now though, and as I mentioned before – I’m a frugal bastard. So I’m going to put it up here in relative safety…

The title would have been “Please help the writers”:

Every day in the UK there’s a writer who gets no sales. For these poor souls, the endless hours linger on with nothing to break the monotony but the futile, compulsive checking of Amazon reports. Neil is one such writer. He was thirty six when he self-published his book and it went out into a world of hardship and indifference. Nobody cared. He craved the love and support that people like you could have helped provide.

But it’s not too late. For just seventy pence, you could help people like Neil. Help them put their lives back together and repair their shattered self-esteem.

Seventy pence is all it would take to buy a copy of Oblivious. For one pound forty you could ease further pain with a copy of The Haiku Diary too.

People like Neil hate asking for your money. They’re a proud group who are simply lost and confused in the chaos of the modern world. Please help them acclimatise. By working together we can reintegrate them into society, we can help them become productive members once more.

Whether it’s seventy pence, or one pound forty, or whatever you can give, you can make a difference. One click now on 0800-0b1iv0u5 and you can help give an ailing writer a chance at happiness.

Thank you.

Pulp Idol and Interview

27 Apr

I’ve just received my heat notification for Pulp Idol. At sometime between 6.30 and 8.30 on 5th May I’ll have three minutes apparently to read from the first chapter of my novel to a panel of judges, and two minutes to answer any questions they want to throw at me. The submissions had to be single spaced, and even so my first chapter came in at six pages. I’ve just timed myself and in three minutes I can read page one and the first couple of sentences of page two. Hmmm. Obviously, everyone else will be in the same boat but I’m not sure I can sell the idea in that short a space of time. With five minutes I’d be able to read the full first section (which in reality is more of a prologue). With six minutes I’d be into the narrative proper and I might stand a better chance. Three minutes is just a bit too meagre I think…

Ah well, I wasn’t pinning much hope on it anyway. If I get the chance to tell the judges about Oblivious, it might lead to a sale from someone in the room I guess. At the very least it will give me some experience of reading to a room of people I don’t know. I’ve been reading each week in my writing group and have already become much more confident in doing that than I was at first. So we’ll see what happens. Some of the competitors may be really good too so I might manage to make some more local contacts. I just hope there is a Simon Cowell type judge who comes out with something completely random so I can turn it into an anecdote…

Also, I’ve done another interview on Iain Manson’s No-Hoper Blog. So you can see that by clicking on the Blog link. I was a bit more succinct in this one. But while you’re there, please do check out the rest of the Blog, it really is excellent.

Lazy lazy lazy

20 Apr

This is probably the laziest post I’ll ever put up, but I’m in a crappy hotel in Newport, South Wales, and have just eaten a pretty terrible, but large, dinner in the pub next door. (If that steak was medium, then well done must literally come out with laces and a shoe shine kit).

Anyway, all I’m going to do tonight, before logging off and reading a book while the traffic whistles past on the A-Road, is put a link up to the interview I did with Maria Savva, another indie writer and reviewer at Book Pleasures. If you want to read me ramble on, it’s accessible here: interview. Actually, if you do read it and post a response you could be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of Oblivious, with free postage and a black and white silhouette of me on the back and everything…

(And if you came here from the interview, you can click the link back and lose yourself in a never ending cycle, a virtual vortex of online navigation).

Good night, and good luck.

The Thin Grey Line

7 Apr

In my best Blog persona I think I’m going to let out a stream of consciousness post about self-promotion. Who saw that one coming? Ok, probably everyone.

I’ve read a few things on promotion in the last couple of days/weeks/months – it’s a hot topic for indie authors. The thing is, on the one hand it’s virtually impossible (but necessary to try and attract a few readers at least) and on the other it goes against the grain so much with the kind of people drawn to writing that it physically hurts. I’ve never been one for shouting “I’m great, I’m great”. I left a good job because the corporate structure of the place meant that career progress depended on doing just that. I’ve always preferred to do my job, put work out, and let it speak for itself – good or bad. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a big self-doubter, so shy away from committing myself to an opinion about me in case I end up looking stupid.

The thing is, without a publisher, I can’t really do that with my book. Well, to be more accurate, I CAN, but word of mouth has to start with at least one person knowing the damn thing exists. I’ve put up some non-committal promo threads on Amazon and even while doing that I felt like a stereotypical film cliche prostitute from a Vietnam movie “mister – you buy book, you love it long time”.

Yesterday I had one of my ‘great’ ideas. I’d write a funny promo thread. It would be a bit tongue in cheek about the perception some readers have of self-published writers (a perception which in some cases is spot on because there ARE some terrible self published writers). I’m a big champion of all things indie, but there’s no point hiding from the fact that not everyone is great. I just think it’s a shame that, as is human nature, the good ones get swept up in the generalisation. So anyway, I put up this thread titled ‘Promo – Woud anyone like to reed are books?’ and satirised myself by mangling a paragraph from ‘Oblivious’. I’d had a couple of glasses of wine, I admit, but it seemed funny to me at the time. I obviously then pointed out on the thread I was joking and put the real text in as well as a pointer to some other good indie books I’ve read. Oh dear, I think it’s fair to say it divided opinion.

Within about 10 minutes I’d been voted down by the equivalent number of thread readers. Which is fine, I don’t have a problem with people expressing their opinion. I’ll admit though, for a moment there, with the No votes stacking up and no other comments, I felt like a stand-up comedian being silently heckled. As the day’s gone on, luckily a few people have seen the funny side of it so I feel slightly less out of step with the world, which is nice :)

The most bizzare thing is though, my sales have rocketed today. I know it sounds strange to say that wasn’t my intention, but I kind of thought maybe one person would give it a look and the rest would mildly chuckle or roll their eyes at me and move on. Instead, I think I touched a bit of a nerve. Oh god, not sure I’m happy with putting myself out there like that. The first response to the opening post was me again, kind of half embarrassed and kind of wryly laughing at myself that I’d been voted down 3 times in as many minutes. It wasn’t a sarcastic or challenging remark, it was what I always do in slightly awkward situations – point out the elephant in the room and laugh at it. When that got massively voted down as well it had people vowing to check out the book to get back at the people who didn’t agree with my thread. At this point I had visions of lightning flashes and endless copper tubing and me standing prone in a sudden wind “MY GOD, I’VE CREATED A MONSTER!!!” I like my movie cliches today don’t I?

I think I may stay away from the Kindle forum a bit today. Hopefully the thread will experience a brief existence and a pretty quick demise. I do really appreciate the sales, obviously, and thank you to anyone who decided to give ‘Oblivious’ a go – I hope you like it. I don’t think I’ll be doing any more promo threads for a while though. As happens so often in my life, I’ve spent some moments in the last 12 hours wondering “what the hell was I thinking?” :D

No Rhyme or Reason

6 Apr

I was reading a great interview with fellow indie author and all-round nice bloke James Everington about promotion where he indicated that some months he puts a lot into getting the word out about his work and achieves few sales, and other months he puts no effort in and sees sales creep up again. I’m now into the fifth month of trying to identify a sales pattern for my work so I can try and target my efforts, and I’m getting nowhere. It’s an exercise in futility. My sales are chaos theory given form…

For example, for two months straight I outsold in the US by a margin of almost 2:1. Why this was I have no real idea as my work seems very UK centric to me. I did find that there were a few sites in the US that streamed books from Amazon so I can only guess the extra exposure on these helped. Last month, however, US sales almost completely dried up. Why? I haven’t a clue.

Throughout March I sold steadily on Amazon UK – the beginning of the month saw the greatest flurry of activity but I was selling at least one or two copies per day if not more. From about the 20th of the month, this slowed to (even more of) a trickle. Nothing for about 5 days straight at the end of the month and then suddenly a late surge of a further 3 on the 31st. (I advertised that proceeds for all sales were going to Japan for March and if anything that seemed to slow things down, which was a shame as I wanted to donate as much as I could).

When I went to bed last night I had sold 3 books – UK only – in April. When I got up this morning it had doubled. One of them was someone in the US obviously taking pity on me. It’s just bizarre. I’m an analyst by trade so I remain convinced there’s a discernable process and underlying cause to anything. But with this I’m at a complete loss. There are agencies out there who will charge you a nice fee to sort out promotion for you, but I find it hard to believe they’ll be doing much more than pissing in the wind based on the incomprehensibility of the appeal my books seem to have, randomly, at times, and in places unknown.

Life as an Indie Author

1 Mar

I posted up my two books for Kindle in December last year, so I figured three months on I should probably reflect on the experience.

On the one hand, it’s easy to summarise: I’m happy I did it. I’m selling copies, I’m getting some feedback, I’m enjoying participating in forum discussions with other authors, and I’m getting out of the house regularly to a writing group now.

How successful have I been so far? Well, that’s kind of hard to say. Partially because I don’t really know what the benchmarks are and partially because, taking cash to one side, how do you define success in something like this?

Let’s be honest, I’m not achieving the kind of sales Stephen Leather published on his Blog. He made somewhere around £10,000 in ebook sales for January. I probably made around £5 or £6. And I could go into a long explanatory whine about how he’s an established author with an existing fanbase, and that he employed viral marketing techniques to get his work into the top 10 for Kindle where his sales then took off over Christmas – which is all true. But here’s the thing: I was inspired to give it a go more by musicians than I was by other authors. Two of my favourite musicians keep releasing CDs when either their audience has shrunk, or as an alternative to the successful career they were having in big bands. Grant Lee Buffalo was a band I followed in the 90’s, and their lead singer still releases music to a smaller audience now because, well, because he’s a musician and that’s what he does. Jon Frusciante from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers – the greatest living guitarist in my opinion – released 6 indie albums in a year with music that didn’t fit the band’s genre and then turned his back on them to follow his own course.

These guys inspired me. They don’t do what they do because there are untold riches and worldwide fame in it. They do it because they enjoy it, it’s what they feel they have to contribute, and they do it on their own terms. So I put up my indie books and am happy to see some steady sales and am proud of what I put out. It’s spurred me on in a way I didn’t think it would.

I read somewhere that a bestseller can be categorised as such when sales hit 35,000. But the same article said there are 500,000 books published a year and less than 2% of them will sell more than 500 copies. So if you hit that magic 500 you’re actually doing ok. From the last two and half months it looks like I may hit that -admittedly in about 12 to 18 months time, but there was no timescale to it. And ok, the article was about paperback books, I’m not sure whether the bar would be set higher on 70p ebooks. But hey, I read it and I’m sticking to it as a target, even if that is just because it seems potentially achievable…

At the moment, I’m setting little targets month on month to see if I’m getting anywhere. Target 1 was to sell more in month 2 than I did in month 1. I achieved that quickly, so I edited it to a target to double the sales of month 1. I exceeded that by 4 sales too. So far so good. Because February was a shorter month I set the target lower, but hit it before the month was out. The next target in line was to sell the equivalent of a book per day. I did that in February too – 28. So now I’m hoping to hit 31 in March to surpass that book a day idea by virtue of it being a longer month, and the next target is to sell more than a book a day (even if it averages out at 1.001 or something). Of course, I’m probably setting myself up for a fall as I’ll be disappointed when it all goes pear shaped in April and my sales evaporate completely. But with the paperback coming out, I might be able to push it in other sales avenues now and hopefully keep building.

It might all seem a bit modest to some, a cottage industry I’m running here, but as they say, every long journey starts with the smallest step. Hopefully I’ll still be in the race at the 24 mile mark, we’ll see. (How about that for a couple of mixed metaphors)…

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