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).
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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).