Print Editions, Mailing Lists, Special Offers, Donations & Ad Spots

A number of questions have been popping up by email and in the comments – topics I’ve alluded to here but haven’t gone into much detail. I’m going to run through them quickly today: print editions, mailing lists/newsletters, running a sale, PayPal donations, and ad spots on reader sites and book blogs.

Let’s Get Physical

As you might have guessed by the above pic, my first print edition has been foisted onto the world. If any of you are interested in purchasing A Storm Hits Valparaiso in paperback, North American readers can get it from Amazon (those in the US can also purchase from Barnes & Noble), and international readers are advised to buy from The Book Depository (who are excellent), where they can avail of free worldwide shipping.

Should you do print editions of your books? Dean Wesley Smith has a great post, explaining in some detail why you must. For the click-lazy, I’ll break it down. Eighty percent of readers haven’t switch to e-books yet, and it’s foolish to ignore that market when you can produce print editions very, very cheaply.

I used Createspace, which is free. They also provide you with a free ISBN, and don’t charge for the pro plan anymore (an old program where you paid a small yearly fee and were eligible for much higher royalties).

Your only costs will be a small charge for a proof copy (which you need to check before the book goes on sale), an optional $25 for expanded distribution (highly recommended, and will get you into stores like Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, and Amazon’s new Indian store Junglee.com), a little extra to convert your cover to the wrap-around version needed for a print edition, and a small charge for a print formatter – if you don’t want to attempt it yourself.

Irish author Catherine Ryan Howard has an excellent guide on formatting your own print editions on her very helpful blog. Even if you are going to pay someone to do it for you, I recommend reading this anyway, so you can figure out things like trim size, and what you want to have as your front- and back-matter.

I opted to pay someone to do it for me. Heather Adkins at Cyberwitch Press charges only $50/$60 depending on length. I think she should be charging more for the excellent work she does (and I’ve told her that), so I would advise you to book her services before she sees sense and raises her prices.

Print veterans may swear by Lightning Source, and there are advantages, but the learning curve is much steeper. Beginners would be better off learning the ropes on Createspace (and you can use both actually, and have two different editions taking advantage of what both companies offer).

Mailing Lists

The paperback has been out for over a week. As usual, the lucky subscribers to my new release mailing list heard about it first. If you want to sign up, and join the crew who always hear about new releases first, click here.

I’ve been meaning to post about mailing lists for some time. In short, they are an extremely powerful tool, and if you don’t have a mailing list set up, you should create one immediately. (Note: this is different to blog subscriptions. This is a separate email subscriber list who have signed up to be notified every time I release a book.)

I have the sign-up link in a prominent position on my blog, and it’s the first thing readers see when the finish any of my books. The numbers on the list are growing all the time (with no further effort from me), and provide a healthy number of sales with each new release.

I use Mailchimp. It’s free, provides handy tracking tools, and, with a bit of tinkering, produces very professional emails like this one.

There are limits to the free service – I think it’s about 2000 subscribers before you pay a monthly fee – but I won’t be hitting that number for quite a while.

January Sales Report Redux

I don’t have time to do the usual detailed sales report, so here it is in brief. I sold over 300 books and made over $800 in January – my second best month to date. UK sales were very strong, almost reaching US sales. And I gave away over 20,000 copies of my two short stories and had the #1 free short on Amazon US for four days.

However, sales came to a dramatic halt on the 31st (after ten of my best days to date), and remained very poor until yesterday. In fact, Transfection – usually the runt of the litter – is my top-seller this month. That has just come off a free run (the old way), which shows that still has some juice. My other short is clogged up in the system, but should return to paid in the next day or so.

I hear a lot of self-publishers saying sales are down this month. There were widespread reporting delays on Amazon for at least the first few days of the month. Some self-publishers saw a flurry of catch-up sales after that, but I didn’t.

Are sales down in general? Will I see a bump in the monthly report from sales that haven’t been reported yet? It’s hard to say right now, but I’m not taking any chances, and I’m running a sale this week to coincide with a marketing push.

To distract me from dismal sales, I’ve been writing like a demon – well over 30,000 words this month. It’s quite the tonic. Also, one of my books has gone a little viral on Wattpad, which may lead to great things in the future. More on that later in the month.

The Aforementioned Sale!

Let’s Get Digital has been reduced to $2.99 on Amazon US, and the catchy sounding £1.53 on Amazon UK (with similar discounts on the European sites). I don’t want Kindle owners to have all the fun, though, so here’s a coupon for Smashwords: SN82G.

On a similar note, A Storm Hits Valparaiso is also reduced to $2.99 on Amazon US, and £1.99 on Amazon UK. And here’s the Smashwords coupon: GH45L.

But the bargains don’t stop there! Oh, no. This is probably your last day to pick up If You Go Into The Woods for free on Amazon US and Amazon UK. And because I’m feeling particularly kind-hearted today, Smashwords peeps, have at it: CZ58B.

Sales like this are great, can really boost your numbers, and gain you extra visibility in genre bestseller lists and the like. It’s also a fun way of testing other price points. They are simple to set up. Simply drop the price the night before in KDP, and in the morning, go into Author Central and add a note to the blurb announcing the sale (you can click on my Amazon links to see what it looks like). Then, blog about it, and send out a tweet or two.

If you’re really lucky, the price drop might even get picked up by one of the reader sites, like is happening for me later today with the fine folks at Pixel of Ink.

Ad Spots

I knew in advance that Pixel of Ink would be featuring my sale today, so I decided to capitalize on any sales momentum by running a few ads this week. I’ve got one in EreaderIQ on Wednesday, and another on Kindle Fire Department on Thursday.

I’ll let you know how those ads go, and what they do for sales. For me, though, Pixel of Ink is still the top dog. I’ve tried a few different sites now, and nothing came close to the boost I got there. Others swear by Ereader News Today, but they are booked up now for all of 2012 and aren’t taking any more bookings, so I won’t get to test them out.

Should you run ads? Should I be even running ads? I’ll break it all down afterwards, but there are a few criteria I use when evaluating these sites: price, what you get for the price, whether they have a Facebook page (and how active it is and how many “likes” they have, which is becoming very important), how many email subscribers they have, and what results others have achieved.

For example, some say Kindle Nation Daily has lost its mojo, but others have (still) seen stellar results there. For all sites, and especially with all the options on KND, it’s good to keep track of what results people get in places like Kindle Boards Writers’ Cafe, where there appears to be huge variance depending on where you advertise, the genre of your book, and the promotion you opt for.

There are no simple, quick answers here. Do your research. (And don’t forget that there is little point advertising unless you have the basics in place.)

Donations

I fund all of my ads through the PayPal donations I receive from the free PDF version of Let’s Get Digital. This allows me to avoid the (often hefty) charges of pulling that money down to my bank account, and the exchange fees from converting those dollars into Euros.

A (blog) reader contacted me the other day asking why I don’t have a similar PayPal donation button under my blog posts, like some other bloggers do.

I’ve no issue with other bloggers doing it, but I don’t feel comfortable with it. For the same reason, I’ve turned down a couple of advertising opportunities I’ve been approached with. I had 35,000 views last month (the only metric I get on the free WordPress set-up), so I could make a little money from ads, but I’m never keen on it when I see it on other blogs.

Besides, the prime spots are advertising my books.

As for the idea of a PayPal donation button, I would feel like I’m passing a hat around, which I don’t want to do. My blog readers – you guys – support me in lots of other ways: buying my books, getting the word out about a new release or a sale, or just helping me spread my ideas through sharing my posts. And you are my sounding board, giving me advice on covers and blurbs and pricing, and helping me hash out the issues of the day.

Most of my blog posts spring from the great discussions we have in the comments, and I think if I started passing the hat around, it would might seem like I don’t value all the above. So, in short, no PayPal donation button here (or ads).

Happy Monday!

About davidgaughran

David Gaughran is a 34-year old Irish writer, living in London, who spends most of his time travelling the world, collecting stories. He is the author of the South American historical adventure "A Storm Hits Valparaiso" and the short stories "If You Go Into The Woods" and "Transfection" as well as the popular self-publishing guide "Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should."
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45 Responses to Print Editions, Mailing Lists, Special Offers, Donations & Ad Spots

  1. Great post, Dave. I’ve never bothered doing a mailing list, but it sounds like something I should be doing. Yesterday.

    • With your sales in the last few months, you would have a killer mailing list if you had set it up before, and each new release would make a serious attack on the charts on launch day. But, regrets are for lounge singers. Get on it today, and you will start seeing results almost immediately.

      Some are reticent to sign up because you think you will either share their email with companies, or send them lots and lots of messages. I say something like “I only send out very occasional emails (one every month or two), so I won’t fill up your inbox with junk, nor will I ever share it with anyone else. You can unsubscribe at any time. I won’t take it personally.” That seems to do the trick.

  2. Thanks for the post, thanks for the integrity re: paypal button. I managed to format my create space title myself, but I pulled out fists full of scalp in the process. Would have paid for it had I more sense, and will do so next time.

  3. Sara Flower says:

    Great post, David. I appreciate the info on print books. Very informative as I plan to also have a print copy of my book. A large number of people still prefer print novels so it is good to make an effort to make them available. Thank goodness for the simplicity of Create Space!

    And congrats on a good book sales month in January. I am sure that sales will pick up in March! February can often be a but of a slump for a lot of things.

    Happy writing!

  4. TimGreaton says:

    David, you and I currently have similar unit sales, though I have been plugging away with 99-cent prices up until this month. I always learn a ton from your site and really appreciate all the time you invest. I send out a daily email to author/publisher peers, but mine is not nearly as in depth (though maybe over a week’s time it has value :-)) In any event, thanks again for keeping the rest of us in mind!

  5. Paolo Amoroso says:

    If you wish to create an email newsletter, expect to grow your subscriber base beyond what is allowed by free plans of newsletter providers, are on a shoestring, are not afraid of the old school, and want to think different, you may consider Google Groups: http://groups.google.com

    As far as I know, Google Groups is free for an unlimited number of subscribers. I have seen mailing lists with several thousands subscribers. In the lingo of Google Groups and other mailing list services, a newsletter is an announcement list.

    Subscribers can read newsletter issues both via email and at the list’s web page on the Google Groups site (list archives can be public, which is good for SEO). There are a couple of handy features. Users can subscribe (and unsubscribe) via email, not just by filling an online form, by sending any email to YOURLISTNAME+subscribe@groups.google.com. Also, the list owner can export and import the subscriber list.

    Google currently doesn’t include any ads in Google Groups emails or in list archives.

  6. laurenwaters says:

    Excellent post, David. You never fail to break down the most important issues that self-publishers are asking themselves. And anyone who wants to thank David for his amazing advice can do so by picking up one of his fantastic ebooks! Trust me, it’s a win-win situation. (Note: he did not pay me to write that sentence)

    Congratulations on your January success and writing surge! I can’t wait to see what you’re working on now :)

  7. James says:

    I run two blogs, and readers can subscribe via e-mail or RSS. But–though 172 people have subscribed via e-mail to the techsavvywriter.com (god knows why), I haven’t e-mailed them.

    As a reader, I don’t subscribe to blogs or websites by e-mail. It doesn’t make sense for me. I’m not interested in a marketing relationship with the writer, I’m interested in reading what they have to say. A carefully crafted e-mail with sales messages tucked around other info doesn’t make me more likely to (a) read the writer or (b) buy their stuff. RSS, though, allows me to control what, when, where, and how much I read, and preserve the privacy of my e-mail address. I can even filter what subjects pop up in my reader.

    Why do I do this? Because (a) I get too much e-mail, (b) I want complete control over what lands in my inbox, and (c) I’ve got way too much stuff to read as it is.

    By all accounts, there’s a steep trend towards RSS and other email-less methods of reading online writings. One study of craft blogs, for example, says that fewer than 1 in 100 regular readers give their e-mail address–the other 99 use RSS or just visit. I’d be interested in finding data about this trend (or that counters it).

    • I’m one of those 172 :) (btw it sends out an email when you post)

      The last time I checked, I had about 700 email subscribers here, and my traffic isn’t that different to yours – so maybe it depends.

      In any event, I’m *specifically* referring to a mailing list for readers of my books, not my blog. This blog is not for readers, it’s for writers (some of whom also happen to be readers).

      My New Release Mailing List is for *readers* who wish to be notified when I release a book – it’s completely distinct from my blog subscriber email list, and I don’t mix the two. I only hit that list when I have a new release, or some other *major* news like a crowdfunding initiative. In nine months, I think I’ve sent six emails.

      • James says:

        “In any event, I’m *specifically* referring to a mailing list for readers of my books, not my blog. This blog is not for readers, it’s for writers (some of whom also happen to be readers).”

        I like that idea, because it’s focused on one message, and subscribes asked for that one message. I haven’t done that yet, but I may soon for an upcoming e-book.

        “My New Release Mailing List is for *readers* who wish to be notified when I release a book – it’s completely distinct from my blog subscriber email list, and I don’t mix the two.”

        I like that idea too.

      • If I had more time, I would have spent a good deal more space talking about what a powerful tool this is. If you can capture a decent percentage of your readers’ emails, you are golden. And making the proposition simple and hassle-free (I think I pitch it as an email every month or two, and only when a book is released etc.) makes the sign-up much more attractive to them. MailChimp has great stats on who clicked what, where and when, and you can really get a clear sense of how to lay out the email in the most effective way.

        And having a clear channel where you talk exclusively to those interested in buying your books (as opposed to those who might be just blog readers, or just Twitter followers, or whatever) is so useful.

  8. James says:

    And one anecdotal data point about the “visitors vs. e-mail subscribers” I mentioned–on my own main blog last month, there were 16,280 unique visitors. 172 of those are e-mail subsribers. About 350 (varies by day) are anonymous RSS subscribers. I use analytics that count both as unique visitors.

    The other thousands? The majority came from Google and Bing searches, but a sizable number came from Twitter. Commenters are almost exclusively RSS readers or non-subscribers.

  9. Red Tash says:

    I had the privilege of having pancakes with the CyberWitch yesterday, and I do believe she’s come to her senses! I will be springing for her services, as well. She does a lovely job.

  10. Agree about the print still being a necessity. I sell a decent amount from book fairs and signings. It’s still important to have that physical copy. I am putting out a three-in-one edition of my first three books only in eBook format. It would be over 900 pages printed and I don’t know many teens who’d want to lug that around!

    RE: Wattpad – I’ve started there myself and have yet to figure out how to submit my book for “featured status”. I’ve read the FAQ on it but haven’t found any place to actually submit for consideration. Have you participated much in the discussion forums there? I’m having a hard time finding traction on that site.

    Thanks for all your insights and honesty David! They are much appreciated!

    • James says:

      The short answer about Wattpad featured status is: you can’t. Here’s the latest answer I know of:
      http://support.wattpad.com/entries/406990-how-do-you-get-your-book-featured

    • I think they pick a group of writers to feature each quarter. I know one, other than me. She was on Wattpad when she was approach, and I wasn’t. I think they are both picking writers to feature who are already there, and reaching out to others to bring them on to Wattpad.

      I don’t know what criteria they use to select writers, but I can say that they are superb to deal with: smart, innovative people, open to listening to new ideas (and they have plenty themselves). I had to give a commitment to serialize my complete book there, and leave it up for six months, to responde to reader comments etc. regularly (which is hardly a chore), and to let them know when I had any big promo running in advance, so that they could align their efforts (which is just great).

      I’ll post on the whole experience after a bit more time. I haven’t participated in the discussion forums at all – I’ve simply been too busy – but I plan to at some point. I do respond to any reader comments on my story or profile straight away, but haven’t done any of the networking that some writers do to get eyeballs on their work. I had about 3,000 reads on that story before they shone their big spotlight on me, so it makes quite the difference.

      And there’s plenty of more stuff planned over the next six months. It should be exciting. I should mention, though, that this isn’t something you can do if your book is in KDP Select. So I’m don’t have that big tempting tug towards that KDP Select roulette wheel that many of you are wrestling with :)

  11. Another great post. Thank you, David. I’ll look forward to hearing how you make out with your advertising ventures. As always, I’m playing catch-up. I’m just starting to get my books into print, and I guess I’ll have to get busy and start a newsletter.

  12. Paul Dillon says:

    This blog is a great resource – thanks David. I’m investigating print options. I used lulu.com for some beta-reader copies of my debut novel. I’m experimenting with typesetting using InDesign and will see how that works out on Createspace. Looking forward to more of your posts.

    • I haven’t tried Lulu, but I think the general consensus is that the quality on Createspace is a good deal higher. Plus, Lulu will charge your readers quite hefty rates for shipping.

      • James says:

        I agree with all that, though I’d say Lulu is still easier to use for newer and less tech-savvy folks (especially those that want help making production choices).

  13. Great post, and I agree whole-heartedly about still having a print presence in the marketplace… and taking advantage of CreateSpace to get those books out there is very necessary, and something I used to think as secondary until my print sales from it started catching up with eBook sales on Amazon. It’s about a 2/3 with eBook sales, which isn’t a small thing.

    Armand Rosamilia

  14. I can’t say I have been very successful in building a mailing list, but I have been making some effort that way. I know it’s what some of the most successful indie authors have done.

    I have no idea what has happened in Feb but everyone seems to say sales have dropped drastically. I know mine have. January was by far my highest month by a multiple of 3 and February has been — low. Not my lowest but certainly lower than January.

    Do let us know how the ads go, David. Getting advertising information is so difficult.

    Thanks for sharing as always. :)

  15. Fabulous post David!
    I wish I had read it years ago.
    Well, maybe back in May last year when I Kindled my first book.
    Print has been an experience but people like Athanasios and Heather Adkins have been great helpers!

    Thanks for the info on LightningSource, eReaderIQ and Kindle Fire Department.

  16. Cora says:

    I only started building my mailing list less than two months ago. I never subscribe to newsletters or mailing lists, so I didn’t really believe that others would. Eventually, I gave in and started a mailing list, but the response is low so far. The idea to add the sign-up link to the books is good. Maybe that’ll do the trick.

    My sales are down in February as well and it seems that way across the board. Though I finally seem to have cracked the German market, i.e. my home market, and sell one or two copies in Germany per month.

    • My logic was this: I heard a lot of readers complaining that there was no notification system for when their favorite authors had a new book out. So I thought, well, a mailing list could be pitched like that, if you promised not to bug them about other stuff. My sign-ups increased dramatically when I both put the link as the first thing readers see when they finished the book, and when I reworded it to be clear that I would only mail them when I had a new release. Maybe try rephrasing it.

  17. Neil says:

    I LOVED “A Storm his Valparasio.” One more 5* review on Amazon. Hey, it took me a little while to read it! And… I stand behind every one of my reviews (no freebies).

    Neil

  18. The book looks great! There’s something about holding a print copy in your hand, isn’t there? I don’t know if it will mean anything to future generations, but for most people it still means something.

    • “Children, you don’t understand. In my day we had these things called “print” books. They were real objects you could hold in your hand, solid too, like this holo-viewer.”

      “Mom, Grandad’s awake.”

  19. Thanks for the shout-out, Dave. Storm looks fabulous :)

  20. Another useful post, David. Thanks! And congrats on that cool thing in the box ;)

    Re Createspace: I’m just putting my newest book out in PB, and so your comment about Expanded Distribution is timely. I opted out of it for my first book because I would have had to set the price higher than I wanted. I’ll give that option more thought this time around.

    • If all your readers are in the US, then there is a good argument for opting out of it. However, Expanded Distribution gets you into all sorts of places. Barnes & Noble (who can then slash the price of your book, and Amazon price-match, and you keep your royalties based on the original price), The Book Depository (I’m selling lots more there right now than on Amazon), and then places like Powells.com and I’ve heard others say their book popped up on the Harvard University webstore etc. It can take time for it to filter out to all the various sites, but B&N and TBD are very quick – a few days.

      Also, the print market is falling pretty fast in the US, but there are many parts of the world where digital is slower to get off the ground. Ireland, for example, is at least a couple of years behind the US, and I sell a fair few paperbacks there. They wouldn’t be able to purchase from Amazon (either $30 for priority shipping, or wait seven weeks), so I like to give them the option of The Book Depository. Even though I make a good deal less per sale, it’s far more important for me to keep them happy.

  21. MarinaSofia says:

    Wow – that’s the most comprehensive and informative article I have read in a long time! Thanks so much for doing all the research for me and sharing all your links and tips.

  22. Matt Larkin says:

    Great post, Dave! Some wonderful info for us.

  23. J. R. Nova says:

    I should look into the Paypal donation button for my own blog…I don’t see how it could hurt, and using the money wisely could be the best gift of all. But I see your point about it. I don’t use ads, nor will I, at least until I’m getting boatloads of hits a month, which may or may not happen. I think we can get ourselves in trouble if we try to go the get-rich-quick route. Kind of takes the focus off of what is important. The stories and the readers.

  24. mashadutoit says:

    Fantastically useful :) Am just dipping my toes into the Createspace waters and appreciate your tips on access for international audience – over here in South Africa that is an issue!

  25. Pingback: Blog Treasures 2-25 | Gene Lempp's Blog

  26. I’ve been using LightingSource for years (switched from Lulu way back before CreateSpace was even around), and I’d love to see a comparison of LSI/CS from an indie perspective. I’ve heard a few people say that LSI has unique strengths and it can be worth it to use both services, and I’m just wondering why.

  27. Pingback: February Sales Report: Amazon Up, Everywhere Else Down | David Gaughran

  28. Sarah at Freebooksy says:

    Hi authors,
    You can submit your books to Freebooksy (http://freebooksy.com) when they go free to have a better chance of being featured! That way the ‘getting lucky’ part is less of a factor :-)

  29. Pingback: Making Money From Paperbacks | David Gaughran

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