Monthly Archives: November 2015

Another (designer) bites the dust…

Oh, the angst of book cover design! I have previously posted several times about my first experience with a designer, such as I need your help! and When does it pay to pay a pro? After a couple of attempts, we’d parted amicably and I then proceeded to design the cover myself, blogging about the continued angst in Do you prefer the apple or the orange? and The never-ending cover story. The final result is now on Amazon Kindle. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on it, including from The Book Designer’s ebook cover awards!

Then, for whatever reason, when the time came to turn the ebook cover into a paperbook cover, I lost my cool. I decided to pay someone to make it better. What kind of pills do doctors prescribe for perfectionism combined with self-doubt?

Anywho, I’d contacted several designers and asked them to turn the existing design into a wrap. They all promptly turned me down, as they would prefer to do one from scratch and ram their ideas down my throat, but then one agreed. I was so excited! I thought it would be easy, too – I had the exact idea in mind, just wanted someone with excellent Photoshop skills, experience, and a keep eye to polish it.

The designer had one go and sent me a jpeg to review. I very politely explained that I wanted the rip to look realistic and that I wanted some kind of a cool treatment to the title. The designer had another go, slapping a stock-standard title font on and making a complete mess of my photo and bio. She finished the email with “let me know if this is good to go”.

I again politely explained that no, it wasn’t “good to go” and made a dot point list of what I wanted changed, attached photos of examples, and even a link to creating a realistic paper rip.

I got back an invoice with a link to download the final file upon payment. I replied that I was not going to pay, unless I had a look at what I was getting. I got a jpeg. Still a mess.

There were a couple more emails back and forth, rapidly decreasing in politeness, and I think we have now parted ways, albeit not so amicably. I have not paid, so I won’t reveal the designer’s name (unless we continue to battle over this). Instead of battling, I did the wrap myself today, in about three hours. Turns out, CreateSpace have a template creator which automatically makes a pdf with exact dimensions for you. Then it’s a matter of dropping in your existing cover layers, extending the background, and adding the blurb and bio. I’ve even bought a new paper rip photo from Shutterstock. What do you think?

Shizzle, Inc paperback cover 14 November

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Don’t hate me cause I’m marketing!

My previous post on pricing a first self-published book at $0.99 generated quite a discussion! Once again it shows just how many opinions are out there – some support my strategy, other authors are unhappy with having to give the work away practically for free. My personal view is “this is just what it is” – a free market, where prices are set by the laws of supply and demand. I do think my 2.5 years of hard work are worth more than $0.99, but I will just concentrate on promoting it so hard that before you know, it will be a series and a movie, and I will buy a pair of Manolos, just to see what all the fuss is about. My goal is to get the book into hands of as many readers as possible, with the hope that one of them knows Coen brothers. Seriously, does anyone here know even one of those guys?

Back to the argument of $0.99 vs $X.99. My limited research of two or so months shows that you will get not only better sales, but also better royalties with the $0.99 pricing. How can I prove it? With the power of screenshots and basic math.

Here is the snapshot of my sales and pages read for the last month:

12 Nov sales

For simplicity, let’s concentrate on sales alone (it looks like “pages read” was pretty even over time). During the first half of the month, my price was at $2.99, and it was $0.99 in the second half. I sold 1 copy at $2.99 and 27 copies at $0.99. The royalties were $2.04 and $0.35, respectively. The math, ladies and gentlemen!

1 x $2.04 = $2.04

27 x $0.35 = 9.45

During the second half of the month I did run a disappointing BargainBooksy promo, which resulted in 10 sales. Let’s take them out of equation:

17 x $0.35 = $5.95

I’m depressed now, because the numbers are so dismally small, but that’s besides the point. The point is that I had 17-27 times more sales and about 3-5 times more royalties when I’d dropped the price. The hope is that some of those people will talk about it to their friends. The goal is to get a snowball rolling, so that I (eventually) get a million of these tiny sales.

I guess the time will show if this is overall a winning strategy. The only concern is the inability to advertise with some of the websites that require the book to be discounted by at least 50%, but I hope that by zig-zagging the price, I will comply with that requirement.

Oh, and I have a very exciting update about Bargain Booksy! I’ve emailed them, asking if 10 copies is what I should expect from a promo, and they responded! Not only that, they apologized, said it was too low for the quality of my novel, and offered a $25 credit towards another promo! I was speechless and promptly scheduled a promo for 5 December with a different audience, this time with Chick lit/Romance readers, at a cost of $70. I’ve updated my post on The Most Super-Duper, Exhaustive, Comprehensive, and Current Listing of Free and Paid Book Advertising Websites and Ideas accordingly.

Once again, only time will tell if that was a good decision 🙂

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The Price Is Right – right at $0.99

This is a question that tortured me in the days prior to release of Shizzle, Inc – how to price it? I’ve read numerous blogs on the subject and shifted through the bestseller lists – prices were all over the place. Several blogs insisted that pricing your ebook too low would devalue it in the eyes of readers. Surely, that made sense, considering how expensive are all the famous authors’ Kindle editions – often just a few dollars cheaper than paper copies.

One blog in particular stuck with me, with the author insisting that pricing his (now bestselling) novel at $3.99 was the best idea he’d ever had. It stuck with me so much, that I’d released Shizzle, Inc at $3.99. I sold about a dozen copies, enough to get me on a Top 100 list in Humor. I was so ecstatic about it that I made it free for a weekend. Well over a hundred downloads. How exciting!

Then the sales dried up.

I then decided to lower the price to $2.99. No impact on the sales whatsoever.

I did a paid promo with eReader News at $0.99. Over 60 downloads! Woo-hoo! When I put it back at $2.99, there were a couple of purchases on that day.

Then – silence. Like, dead silence, with a week at a time with NO SALES.

I then did another promo, the disappointing one with Bargain Booksy, and in my malaise, sorta didn’t get to put it back to $2.99. It’s like I just could not face the Amazon page.

To my surprise, the sales did not stop, like all the previous times after giveaways. They kept on drip-drip-dripping in at a rate of 1-2 books per day. When you look at the “Units ordered” chart, the impact of the lower price is quite obvious:

Units ordered

On the left you can see the peak after the eReader News promo. You can then see that I had one sale (at $2.99) in the two weeks that followed. The bump up of 10 sales on 31 October is due to Bargain Booksy promo, and the slow but steady sales after that are due to my usual social media promos (I am now twitting 3 quotes per day), this blog, and the price being $0.99.

Of, course, the royalties of 35% on the $0.99 sales are nothing to write home about, but at this point it’s all about getting readers and getting motivation to keep on writing. So what that I came to this realization via the procrastination path? It’s still research…Therefore, here is my very strong opinion, based on a sample of one published book:

First-time self-published authors should price their ebooks at $0.99.

Feel free to rip into this with your own strong opinions 🙂

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I’m gonna beg you like you’ve never been begged before…

If you’ve read Shizzle, Inc, you’ve probably recognised the above as an almost direct quote…and if so, you’re the one I’m gonna beg – could you please, please post a review on Amazon, Goodreads or both?

I already have 13 reviews on Amazon, all positive, so it’s not about that scary initial silence, where you’re not sure that publishing your book was a good or even decent idea. It’s just that there has not been a new one posted for several weeks, I’m tired, it’s raining, and to be honest – just feeling a bit blah about everything. I need your help pushing along with my writing plan and you have no idea what a boost of energy it is to wake up in the morning to find out that a new review has been posted.

So if you’ve read Shizzle, Inc and liked it, could you pretty please write a few words about it? Of course, on other hand, if you’ve absolutely hated it, then I’m sure you have better things to do. I bet there’s dust behind that fridge and your sweaters need re-folding.

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Bargain Booksy ain’t no bargain

Happy Melbourne Cup Day! And if you’re anywhere else in the world – sorry for rubbing in that here we have a public holiday in honor of a horse race. Only in Australia can everything stop in the middle of the week, so that everyone can get wasted and bet on horses without taking a sickie. Not only that – this year Australian government introduced another public holiday – Grand Final Day, so that everyone can get wasted and watch football without…you get the idea.

I’m however, completely sober. I’m actually at work, trying to put finishing touches on a presentation, which is proving extremely hard. Not only that my heart is no longer in systems, data, and risk management – I’m really disappointed with the results of the latest promo and just can’t get excited about presenting to a room full of senior bureaucrats.

As you may recall, I’m going through my Most Super-Duper, Exhaustive, Comprehensive, and Current Listing of Free and Paid Book Advertising Websites and Ideas. This past weekend I’ve run just one promo, to test how well Bargain Booksy performs on its own. This is because previously I’ve made a mistake to run two promos on the same day and can’t be perfectly sure whether eReader News Today was responsible for the 63 sales, or if some of it was due to Awesome Gang.

I had big, delicious hopes for this promo – after all Free Booksy and Bargain Booksy seem to be very popular and have a great reputation. They got crushed, big time. How many sales did I get?

12.

Yep, that’s all. Not only that, two of them appear to be due to social media marketing, so the grand total made from the promo is about $3. I’ve paid $25, so I’m $22 in the hole. Not that it’s a lot of money, but I guess my expectations were not met, and it seems that all the unhappiness in the whole entire world stems from crushed expectations.

Anywho, I’m not giving up – still huge hopes for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, with multiple promos over four days. I guess this latest experiment did exactly what I’d set out to do – separate the “worth it” promo sites from “nah” ones. I have to say that the audience may have been wrong – I chose the YA sub-group. I may still try Romance/Chicklit one, at a separate date, to really test this service. It’s $70, though –  more than Book Gorilla.

So there you go – Bargain Booksy for now goes to the “nah” pile. Of course, the results may have been different with a different novel or even on a different day – I don’t yet know if a major weekend is a good or a bad idea. I’m here to share my very personal experience – you get to make your own decision. Now I have to go work on this presentation. Anyone knows how to make risk mitigation “sexy”?

 

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Another experiment with marketing, a $0.99 sale, and alcohol-induced pledging.

Happy Haloween!

I hope you’re looking forward to tonight’s festivities, but a word of warning from Australia, where we’d already been there and done that – try not to drink too much! You’ll just end up where I am now, and where you’ve probably been yourself – regretting that last glass and swearing off the alcohol forever. For once, I’m dead serious. Here’s my new pledge:

During the six months I plan to spend as a full-time writer, I will not drink at all.

I have not been drinking much since I’ve met Josh, who (unlike most Australians) doesn’t really drink. We have a glass of wine with dinner probably once or twice a month. So you can imagine how three glasses of wine from last night have ruined my day today. I’d still made it to the gym, but that was the only thing I’d managed all day – no writing yet. Needless to say, incompatible with what I am setting out to achieve.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun! My sister managed to take a long enough break from her two little kids so that we could talk about our writing dreams. Yes, she’s a writer too, almost finished with the first draft of her YA novel. We kept drinking, talking, and laughing till just after midnight. We talked about why it feels so wrong to take half a year off work, and why it feels so absurd to attempt yet another career switch, this time to a profession where the odds of “making it” are about as good as they are in the lottery jackpot.

Then we started going through our memories and remembering when we’d “won the lottery” before. Like when I’ve announced back in Ukraine that I was going to win a scholarship to study abroad and was ridiculed by everyone for a year, until I left on a full scholarship to the US. Or when my sister said that she was going to move to Australia and even I did not believe her, until she got into the second selection round. We came up with a long list and they all had something in common – a vision, a plan, and a lot of hard work. There was also something else – not giving up, no matter how hopeless things looked. It’s all too easy to swear off dating, once you’ve been on about fifty first dates, but I got my prize, and he still makes me breakfast in bed almost every day, even after all these fifteen months…

Anyway, I still have a lot of work to do in terms of arranging such a long leave – I’ve already talked to my immediate manager, but now I have to convince his boss, who can be a tough nut. He’s back next week and I’m going to bring it up on Friday, after he’s had a chance to settle in and is less likely to shoot from the hip. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, there’s some excitement on the marketing front – Shizzle, Inc is on sale again this weekend, and I have a Bargain Booksy promo scheduled – will update in a few days on the sales numbers. The paper version formatting is almost finished, the first draft of the paper cover is done, and I have even purchased a bar code! There will be Goodreads promotions and bugging all the local bookshops with free review copies. Also, I’m up to 14,000 words on the sequel draft.

Enjoy your candy. I’m off to add another thousand to my word pile.

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