Monday, May 28, 2012

Top Ten Observations on Amazon Promotions

Top ten observations from selling book two of a series at different times and prices.
1. at 99 cents, 1 in 14 people will buy book one right away.
2. at $3, only 1 in 25 will buy book one. In the UK, however, this is closer to 1 in 10.
3. giveaways on Mondays have 2.5X the volume than weekends for my genres. I think my target demographic is now computer people surfing to avoid work.
4. Volumes on UK weekend sales are so low, anyone can hit top twenty in a category. (17 a day)
5. there are browsing categories for e-books that e-books cannot select (like Arthurian), as well as categories you can select that don't show on browsing (like paranormal). Some of these dead categories have so few books they can't even make a top twenty and should be trimmed.
6. The easiest categories to score in are the least trafficked at therefore sell the least. Do a comparison of number twenty on each target front page. [ see table below. ]
7. Big publishers get to cheat and put their book in 3 or 4 categories, not just 2. (Does "Game of Thrones" really belong in Sci-Fi adventure as well as the other categories?)
8. Past the top hundred in browsing, your book's sales rank number is meaningless. #109 could be 2000, while #110 100K and #111 4000. They are RANDOM.
9. I tend to get better reviews and more loyal fans from weekend readers.
10. there are a lot of quirks in the system. Several paper books show up multiple times in a list, and a lot of books cheat on the category. Several of the Arthurian books are actually "erotica". Some of the anthology books haven't sold a copy yet this year and are still on the list.

GENRE                 RANK of book 20
action adventure 668
children's literature 726
romance fantasy 802
sci fi adventure 879
fantasy epic 1003
fantasy contemporary 1070
world lit mythology 1865
horror occult 3000
fantasy historical 3191
sci fi high tech 3237
mystery thriller tech 4275
horror ghost 4853
short stories 6416
fantasy series 10759
horror dark fantasy 15558
sci fi series 16398
religious sci fi 16666
sci fi anthology 180287
fantasy Arthurian 369692
horror anthology 472480

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How to Upload Pretty Books to Amazon

If you upload pure word docs, the Amazon parser will insert/delete tabs at random and trash the professional look of your book. Despite what they claim, they no longer handle DOC files. Neither can they find the pictures if you point to the working HTML. Here's what you need to do instead:
1. format as before in Word, similar to Smashwords but with page breaks for each chapter.
2. add the HTML table of contents at the top
3. compress all images to web size -- this will raise your royalty on every purchase!
4. save the Word file off someplace safe -- mybookPubv1.doc
5. save As filtered web file (same name as above)
6. scan over the result to make sure there are no extra spaces between sections/chapters, repeat till good.
7. exit Word
8. open 7zip application. set format to zip compression
9. click on mybookPubv1.htm, control click mybookPubv1_file folder (with the pictures), and drag both into 7zip window.
10. save as
11. upload this file to Amazon as the book content.
12. download the mobi to your PC and use the kindle fire simulator that Amazon supplies.

If you don't have pictures, just the HTML file will work.
In one hour, I reformatted all 6 of my books, and they look a lot nicer!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Odd Launch

By the time most of you read this on Monday, "Sirius Academy" should be posted on Amazon. I had several last minute edits and the previewer didn't work well, so I hope the story looks good on the real Kindle. I only had 4 font settings and two indentations (none and .3"), and the output indentation was all over the place. I want to give this away as book two in the series, but I don't want to flood the market with defective merchandise.
(My next post shows how to fix this.)

For my weekly Amazon report, I was disappointed in several ways.
1) they neglected to give me the 70% royalty on 66 "Dreams" sales two weeks after the change was made. Oddly, over a hundred other sales got credited to me the week before. Still waiting on that explanation, that's about a hundred bucks worth.
2) Five copies of Jezebel had the wrong price, a really strange one. They only shorted me 1.10 on that, claiming a price match of 1.89. The only outlet is Amazon, there is not matching to be done.
3) Of the two paperback sales I made after reducing the prices, for Jezebel, they kept the price $3 higher, $4.50 of which was Amazon share, costing me about $1.50. They claim it was my first Extended Distribution sale, but show no record of payment.

I sincerely hope this is not an indication of nickel and dime fights to come.
PS. After two days of discussion, I've found that a) the weekly reports erroneously lump free books together with paid, and b) 1/6th of my sales for my epic series may be to an unknown foreign country. I'd really like to find out who. c) it will take them 3 more days to get back to me on Jez.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2 pictures = 2 kilowords

Here's a link to the story the local news did on my books:

Here are the maps of the island from Sirius Academy. Mira's meta-pod was the last addition.
Island Diagram

Women's Meta-pod

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Riding the Wave

This past week has been awesome! The "Dreams" giveaway helped "Doors" make #16 on the epic list twice. I sold seven months of books in that week. To strike while the iron is hot, I'm pushing to get "Sirius Academy" out as soon as possible. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.

Due to a Createspace-Amazon glitch, the paperback wasn't visible on the same page. So my big sellers had zero paper sales. I went to some local bookstores to tried to parlay this ranking into a few sales. I was told that small stores won't order from Ingrams because the margin is too small and the required order too large. The chain store I went to, the ladies behind the counter transformed into furies, just like in "the Lightning Thief." Amazon and everything associated is their sworn enemy. They'll never buy from that channel. The library has free copies but no budget to catalog them till June. Libraries won't buy a book unless it is well-rated in one of the three library journals. One of my relatives is a librarian and she won't read them. My local librarian doesn't want to waste time/money on reviews either. In short, the $40 a book I spent to open channels up was a colossal waste. All I did was make all my books cost $3 more to meet the required Amazon minimum.

As of today, my books are all priced between $9.99 and $12.99. Maybe I'll sell more than one a month now. My profit for each paper book is now the same as an e-book.

In preparation for the sequel to Jezebel, I'm removing the Icarus novella from Amazon and making it free on Smashwords. It was only getting 3 downloads a month--about a dollar. It's worth more as advertizing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Every Girl Needs Her Own Theme Song

When I was watching Disney's "Sky High" and the main character sees a girl for the first time, "True" plays in his head. However, when writing a character of my own, it's more useful to hear the song that's the touchstone for that person. For Jotham in my epic Traveler fantasy series, that theme was "While the Earth Sleeps" by Peter Gabriel and Deep Forest. [ The Dreams of the Fallen promotion just hit #4 on the Amazon epic list and #67 on overall ebook free fiction! ] Any time I wanted to get the feel for his martial arts and magic, I'd listen to that song and reconnect--even after more than a decade.

In my newest SF "Sirius Academy," I make up a song for the antagonist Kaguya, named for the beautiful Japanese goddess. A group called the Purple Rockets wrote a song about the sensuous way she walks. The female lead, Red, is much less sexually-charged, more energetic, confident, and violent. When she makes her entrance into the pool party after two years of hiding behind flight suits, Collective Soul's "Shine" blares from the speakers. The male lead, Zeiss, has the breath knocked out of his during "Heaven let your light shine down on me" as he watches her. I build for 27 chapters for that payoff.

I've used other songs at touchstones. "All Around Me" by Flyleaf (during romance) and "I Still Believe" (pre-romance) were good for Aaron in "Foundation for the Lost". The demon Merodak was "I Can Explain Everything" by T-bone Burnett, a song about politicians. Whatever helped me envision them is like a tuning fork to recapture that tone. Do your characters have a theme song?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dreams Giveaway and Alchemy

Well, for the $2 books (selling on the order of 10 a week), there was no change for sales when I raised the price to $2.99. The effect on "Dreams" the sequel to "Doors" from 99 cents to $2.99 cut actual sales by 35 percent and projected by 50 percent. This resulted in an increase in royalties. What did the fall mean, though? Were a third to half of the people only willing to buy at 99 cents, or was the 99 cent list that much better a form of advertizement? Because the other books didn't decline, my guess is the second. How can I prove this? I intend to give exposure another way--the free give-away. I find that the two day give away number divided by ten is a good estimate of how much a book can sell in a week on the 99 cent shelf.
Therefore, I am giving away "Dreams of the Fallen" Monday and Tuesday to give it a boost. Hopefully, all the titles will get drag from this.

What this means long term is that I need to double my sales volume and get health insurance before "full time writer" is an option.

On the new writing front, I'm polishing "Sirius Academy" with help from my friends and inventing new magical rules for "Queen of the Pirates." In the light from the Doors to Eternity, different materials transmute in different ways -- Alchemy. White lotus petals become the precious spirit metal Sesterina. Amber items become hard, unbreakable by spirits. Tiger's eye gems glow for hours when exposed to sunlight. Many things degrade to dust/slime.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Price Points and Trolls

After success with my epic fantasy, I am struck by several facts. The primary one being, at under 2.99 a book, Amazon keeps most of the take. Even with a good performer, you can't make a living on the 99 cent shelf. So this week, I'm going to test the elasticity of my prices. I'll keep the best seller the same, at 99 cents, but price book 2 in the series at the sweet spot. This price point would put me at half the price of others on the same search page for "epic fantasy over 4 stars", and still give me 6 times the royalty amount. At the same time, I'll also raise the price on my 1.99 books to $2.99 to see is there is any reduction. Will the trade off make more revenue or kill the climb of the sequel? Stay tuned.

Why is this important? Because at $2 a sale, I could consider doing this full time if my volume got to only 250 a week. I'm at 175 consistently now, the epics are climbing each week, and I have two new releases planned in the next month or so. I can reach this goal, but how many titles will it take? This experiment will help me plan. Right now, there are a lot of opinions but few answers.

If raising above 99 cents kills the climb, should I try to take the current success of "Doors" and "Jezebel" to a traditional publisher? Do I lobby bookstores and more libraries to stock it? Sell it at conventions? What combination would enable me to take the next step? Don't forget that I'll be watching the kids three days a week this summer. What does playing with children have to do with epic fantasy? We read out loud--Sisters Grimm/Fablehaven/Percy Jackson. I play the troll on the trampoline, and they're the goats.