Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More Free Books!

Cross-posted from the Steel Magnolia Press blog: Where Imagination Blooms.

Today only (January 31), you can get 4 Steel Magnolia Press ebooks absolutely free from Amazon. We hope you enjoy them.

by Lindy Corbin

Regency Romance

The palm reader spoke of two paths. Would one lead Juliet to her gypsy husband?
by Phoenix Sullivan

#2 Medical Thriller on Amazon for 2 weeks this past month!

10,000 years ago a pandemic wiped out much of the world. It's back. "Contagion" meets the science of "Jurassic Park" in this near-future medical thriller for fans of Michael Crichton and Robin Cook.
by Phoenix Sullivan

#1 in Veterinary Medicine and a Top 10 in Pet Essays on Amazon

A charming and insightful coming-of-age story for anyone who's ever had a pet or a dream.
edited by Phoenix Sullivan

Echoes of yesterday touch the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary ways in 18 provocative stories by 18 of the best up-and-coming authors of mainstream and speculative fiction around the world.
Remember, if you don't have a Kindle, you can still read Kindle books on just about any device, even your computer, with a a free app from Amazon.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Extinct ... Isn't. But It Is FREE!

Wow! Has it been a year already????

This time last year I was making final decisions on which stories to accept into the Extinct Doesn't Mean Forever anthology.

Last night I enrolled 17 of the 19 stories chosen with Amazon Select and uploaded a new edition of each ebook with a new cover, new front and back matter, and the odd updated author bio. Tomorrow each of the stories goes FREE on Amazon for 2 days. Almost a year later, these stories and their anthology are still alive and kicking. In fact, January has been one of the anthology's best sales months since its launch, with nothing more than some passive promotion behind it.

With the exception of "The Angel Genome," for which Chrys had already obtained a licensed image, "Blood Fruit," which Shona photoshopped and sent over, and "Past Survivors," for which Sarah submitted personal photos, the covers were all created from creative commons images and standard Office fonts. Of course, some them are also manipulations and/or blends of multiple creative commons images. For short stories that will either be free or 99c, I think they came out rather striking as a group, don't you?

I also took the opportunity to tweak the cover of the anthology just a tiny bit, making it easier to see and read as a thumbnail. I also had to reluctantly remove one of the stories that was a reprint due to a prior contractual agreement that prohibits it from being made exclusive with Amazon. This makes me quite sad personally, although in the end it was a business decision. "Too Close for Comfort" by Kyle Aisteach is still available as a stand-alone short, and I hope we can still help drive sales of his story.

Extinct Doesn't Mean Forever is free on Amazon on Tuesday ONLY. Snag a copy soon!

Want to learn more about the individual stories and the individual authors? The following blogs are spotlighting their Extinct story contributions on Tuesday and/or Wednesday. (I'll update as the authors let me know they're participating.) Go visit and say Hi! And download some free reads on Tuesday and Wednesday while you're at it. Don't forget you can get a free app from Amazon to let you read Kindle books on any device you want.

Chrystalla Thoma: "The Angel Genome"
Peter Dudley: "Distractions"
Kenneth Burstall: "Connect"
Scott Thomas Smith: "In Ring"
Shona Snowden: "Blood Fruit"
Jo Antareau: "My Own Secret Dinosaur"
Jen White: "A Dark Forest"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Filed In: A Nice Problem To Have

I continue to check the iTunes stores waiting for my book to drop off the charts there so I can feel OK about pulling it and making it exclusive to Amazon.

Late Thursday, as I write this, Spoil of War is #1 -- again -- in Historical Fantasy in the US Apple iTunes store. It's #61 in the overall Science Fiction/Fantasy genre.

It's also #1 in Canada and the UK, and #2 in Australia.

Yay, right!?

Except that's making the decision whether to put it exclusively into Amazon/KDP Select a lot more difficult. Every time it starts to slip in the rankings there, I think maybe now's the time. Then back up it climbs and I take my finger off the trigger.

As more and more time passes, I'm realizing this book has a special relationship with the iTunes stores that it doesn't have anywhere else (although OmniLit comes close).

Sure, I could probably boost its sales over on Amazon enough to compensate for the lost sales on Apple were I to remove it from iTunes distribution. Apple isn't Amazon, and making the iTunes charts doesn't have the same financial impact. Not anywhere close.

But you know what? I LIKE clicking over to Apple and seeing my book being embraced by the readers there. I LIKE seeing that it's gotten nearly 200 ratings across the stores and that the majority of those ratings are 5 stars. I LIKE visiting my book's product pages there. And I LOVE that my book has found an audience that appreciates it for what it is. Having Spoil in iTunes just makes me feel good.

My business brain says to pull it. My heart says no.

Maybe -- just maybe -- I've finally developed enough wisdom to know that following your heart is sometimes the best business decision you can make.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Caution: Trend Analysis Ahead

I honestly was not going to post another sales/money update this month, but a few of you have asked. Plus I think it's important for anyone just getting into self-publishing and trying to decide how -- or even IF -- to use the promotional tools Amazon offers to understand that a trend curve is becoming apparent with many of the books that do get a boost, so I want to share some observations on that.

The first thing to remember is that in the environment as it is today there are 3 possible short-term results from a free promo period at Amazon:

Category 1: The book comes off free with high visibility and resonates with people browsing the lists for a good read. Those sales then help populate the book into the "Also Bought" lists of other like-minded high-visibility books so even more readers can find it. Many hundreds of copies of the book are sold and/or borrowed in the first week back in the paid lists.

Category 2: The book comes off free with moderate visibility, populates into the Also Boughts of moderately selling titles, and has many dozen sales/borrows in the first week.

Category 3: The book simply doesn't resonate with readers because of any number of reasons (title, cover, description, price, topic, time of the year, phase of the moon, who knows?). The book may or may not see even a blip in sales.

The second thing to remember is that people LOVE to share their successes. Not so much their disappointments. One thing I've noticed is that many, many authors are excited to share how many books they've had downloaded for free and to note they've made a bestseller list or two on the free side. Only a small percentage of these folk are willing to share what happened once the book went back to the paid list. That means for every success, big or moderate, there are a lot of books that didn't live up to expectations. It's a gamble. Occasionally you win. Most of the time the house wins. Even so, I've not heard of a case where anyone's walked out with less money than they came to the table with, so I consider it a "safe" gamble.

I've been following the rise and fall of a number of books that have done well coming off free, and the pattern is pretty consistent, give or take a day or two, across the board. Whether this pattern is planned into the algorithms Amazon uses to identify and churn bestsellers or is simply a phenomenon of buyer behavior in response to the way the free promotions are used, I don't know. What's important is that we recognize it and plan for it -- until something changes the pattern.

SECTOR C fits the pattern pretty well. It's in the smaller percentage of books that see some really nice success when they come off free, but it's by no means an outlier. If your book falls into Category 1 from above, this is the pattern you're likely to see over the first two weeks. If it's in Category 2, the order of magnitude will be smaller, but the same trend will usually be evident. So, moderate sales the first day off free; followed by sales spikes on Days 2, 3 and 4; followed by sinking sales thereafter but no precipitous drop-offs in the first couple of weeks. That drop-off usually occurs somewhere in Week 3.

The remedy for that drop-off currently seems to be to put the book back up for free to goose sales again. The question is how many times will that be successful? Does the free promotion work on the law of diminishing returns? For now, this is unexplored territory that the mapmakers are hurriedly charting. I'll be setting SECTOR C and Vet Tech Tales (a Category 2 book that saw a similar sales pattern) free again for one day at the end of the month. I'll of course report back with maps in hand.

As of Thursday morning, SECTOR C has dropped to a rank of #4091. It saw its precipitous drop yesterday with only 15 copies sold and 1 borrow. Still, I have very little to complain about. I gambled with Amazon and more than quintupled my earnings so far this month. And best of all, my books are being read by marvelous readers!

In real dollars, that's about $4242.62 earned so far in January across 3 books and all venues except iTunes (Apple reports are delayed).

Next month, that could drop to $400 or $40. If I still had a day job, I wouldn't be ready to quit it on the strength of one month that could prove to be an anomaly.

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments. Or is there a topic you'd like to see a post on?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Score Another Launch!

The reward for hanging out with talented neophyte writers is that said writers tend to finally publish and lose all that neophytedness.

I first "met" Peter Dudley over at Evil Editor's place more years ago than I care to recall. When he submitted "Distractions" to the Extinct anthology, I was delighted to include the short story, not because I had ties with Peter (there are some lovely, lovely writer-folk who I also know whose work I didn't accept) but because the story was witty, fun and well-written. Even if it was a story I had to bend the theme a bit to accommodate.

Now, Peter has released Semper, a YA dystopian novel that I'm super eager to read. Judging from the Acknowledgements page, this should be a truly fantastic book :o).

You could wait for the book to go free next month on Amazon for a short window of time, or you could pick up a copy now for just $2.99. A print version will also be available soon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kudos And A Giveaway!

One of our alumni has sold their book and will see it in print June 1. How exciting is that?! We saw the query for TJ Robinson's THE ACADEMY DEFENDERS just over a year ago.

The publisher, Rhemalda Publishing, is holding a drawing at Goodreads for 5 free advance copies.

There are already 178 readers who've entered. By that indicator, this book should be a hot read for summer once it's officially released.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pulsing Free, Repricing, And Tagging For The Future

I was going to tease by putting the mid-month sales update at the end of this post, but then decided my observations might mean more if you know better where I've been and where I am.

It's been a slow climb, but December made me finally believe indie publishing can personally be worth the time invested. Earnings certainly wouldn't have paid the mortgage if I still had a mortgage to be paid, but it did mean enough for an extra treat or two for the beasties. With Apple iTunes numbers now accounted for, here are the totals for December:

$ 382.23 - Spoil of War: 489 copies at $1.99
$   85.40 - SECTOR C: 244 copies at 99c
$ 108.85 - Vet Tech Tales: 311 sales at 99c
$ 149.60 - Vet Tech Tales: 88 borrows at $1.70

$ 726.08 - Total

SECTOR C obviously didn't pull its weight in December. A 2-day free run on Jan 6-7 and a featured spot on the Kindle store front page Jan 10-11 helped turn that around. Eyes off the other books, though, meant they turned into slackers instead. At least at Amazon. Spoil continued to rock it in the iTunes stores. Since the Apple report won't be available before mid February, the sales cited below do not include whatever Spoil has made at Apple. For the first two weeks in January:

$     17.50 - SECTOR C: 50 sales at 99c
$ 2549.19 - SECTOR C: 1326 sales at $2.99
$   353.60 - SECTOR C: 208 borrows at $1.70 *December amount used to estimate
$    45.85 - Spoil of War: 78 at $1.99 in US, 86p in UK
$    45.15 - Vet Tech Tales: 129 sales at 99c
$    32.30 - Vet Tech Tales: 19 borrows at $1.70*

$ 3043.59 - Total

The question, of course, is how to maintain the momentum. And this is where things get interesting.

Pulsing Free

Authors are just now starting to make a book that's gone through a free promotion in the past few weeks free again. The jury is still out as to how effective a second and/or third pulse to free might work. Will it generate less interest? More? How does an author reach a new audience to market the free book to? When is it best to pulse the book a second time? While the book is still doing fairly well or wait till it's dropped back to a mediocre rank?

As I write this, on Sunday evening, SECTOR C has just fallen out of the triple digits. Books that have followed the same free route it did are now clamoring for the same spotlight it had. Talk about volatility! Of course, I predicted it would fall back to a 4-digit rank by the end of the day last Thursday, so it's actually kept its head above water 3 days longer than I thought it would. I'm already looking forward to doing this again! I just wish I had a clearer idea of when best to time the next promo. In the meantime, I'm keeping an eye on other double-dippers and their results.

Category Tagging

I mentioned in a previous post a mistake I made in tagging. It wasn't that I didn't think carefully about what I was doing, I simply didn't think big enough.

When you publish a book through Amazon, you are allowed to choose two genre categories for your book from a predetermined list. There's an issue, though. Amazon has two separate catalogs: Books (which includes all books and all Kindle titles) and the Kindle Store. Not only that, not all the subcategories Amazon allows customers to browse by are author-selectable.

So when I first published the book, a near-future medical thriller, I chose the following category paths:

     Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Medical
     Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction > High Tech

Amazon helpfully added the Books equivalent of the Kindle Store category:

     Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > High Tech

My dilemma was this: I wanted the book to be in a thriller category. Thriller by itself is a HUGE category and uber-competitive. I was pretty certain the book could never make it into the Top 100, which meant I needed it in a smaller sub-category. I had the choice of "Technothriller" in the Kindle catalog or "Medical Thriller" in the Books catalog. Gah. Why is there no "Medical Thriller" cat in the Kindle Store? I chose:

     Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Medical

To add this category, I had to contact Amazon to do it for me as it's not a choice on the author-selectable list.

This past week, SECTOR C rose high enough in the rankings to be where I thought it never would be: on the Thriller bestseller list. And not just the Thriller list, but the umbrella bestseller list of Mystery, Thriller and Suspense. The problem: It was in the Books catalog, not the Kindle Store, so folk looking specifically for Thrillers in the Kindle Store would not see it.

I realized the mistake as the book was climbing up the ranks. I was afraid to try to change anything about the book's details myself because there is some anecdotal evidence that while the book is republishing it loses some of its momentum. I emailed Support and asked them to change Fiction > Medical to the Thriller > Technothriller category in the Kindle Store and was told I had to go in and remove the category myself -- that by policy they couldn't do it.

I opted to wait until the book started losing rank. Tonight, when it dropped into the low 1000s I removed the one category and have asked Amazon to include the other. What this will do at least is set the book up in front of another potential audience when it comes off free the next time even if it has little impact right now.


Yeah, I figured while I was republishing the book's details, I might as well raise the price of it by a dollar.

So I guess I'm not really doing anything to help it reclaim its momentum now, but I am setting it up for a possible replay of this past week's success in the future.

And a final observation: It's funny, isn't it, how quickly we accept a better level of something? Ten days ago, I would have been ecstatic to sell a dozen copies of the book in a day. Today I'm sad that I've only sold 65. So far. There's still a few hours left ...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Polishing The Apple

If you trawl the interweebs looking for information about sales stats and promotion for indie books, you're going to find, I dunno -- 98% ? -- of the posts discussing Amazon. It isn't that other venues don't sell books. In fact, for certain titles in certain genres -- erotica and romance, in particular -- Barnes & Noble outsells Amazon. It's just that BN doesn't seem quite so welcoming toward their indie authors. And I've yet to meet anyone who understands BN algorithms and rankings and what influences them the same way savvy self-publishers understand Amazon.

And if we're going to be honest, most readers (buyers) don't have a love affair with the BN online experience either. Just about everyone who mentions shopping BN online says they've given up on browsing at BN altogether; instead, they do their browsing at Amazon first, find the titles they want, then head over to BN to get the exact books they're looking for. BN is losing out on a lot of impulse buys that way, I think. And now that there are 75,000+ titles exclusive to Amazon, BN customers who browse through Amazon may be disappointed when they find BN doesn't carry some of the titles they want.

All to say, traffic at BN for my personal titles and for SMP titles in general could be better, but I am clueless how to increase it. The handful of sales I've historically made there makes the decision easy for me to offer all my books exclusively through Amazon.

And I would -- except for the wrench that is Apple. Between April and November, the only intersection I had with Apple was 12 sales. I don't have Apple hardware, so I can't upload directly through their store. That means going through Smashwords and their meatgrinder and sales reports that are 4-6 weeks behind. Aarrgh. I set Spoil of War free on iTunes at the beginning of November. I will never know how many downloads it had because while Apple reports those numbers to people who upload directly, the Smashwords reports don't include the free downloads. Nevertheless, I assume the figures were impressive enough for Apple to feature the book prominently in various places through its various regional stores.

When the book went to paid status, it nabbed the #1 spot in Historical Fantasy for much of December in all 4 English-based stores: US, UK, Canada and Australia. Granted, the HF category isn't the most popular category in Fantasy, but it still hung out in the Top 30 in Fantasy and the Top 100 in SF/F. Made for some lovely screen captures, but all the while I was clueless as to how many copies it was selling. Well, Apple finally reported to Smashwords who reported to me and the results are ... better than the 2 sales per month I'd been averaging, but far fewer than the 400+ sales across the other venues after coming off free in December.

US: 50
AU: 23
UK: 5
CA: 7

85 - Total

If the story ended with these figures and Spoil fading fast on the charts, the next-step decision to make it exclusive to Amazon would be easy. But three things mean the story isn't done.

1) During the first week of January, Spoil was still clinging to a Top 10 spot in the US, #3 in Australia and #1 in the UK and Canada. Last week, it dipped to #11 in the US and #3 in Australia, and I assumed it was beginning its slow slide into oblivion. Not so. This morning, it's back at #3 in the US. And it's in the Top 100 in Fantasy and is #131 in all of SF/F. Plus it's still being prominently featured in the What's Hot sections.

It's still #1 in the UK and Canada, and in Australia it's back to #1 in Historical Fantasy, #23 in Fantasy in Australia and, most amazingly, #24 in all of SF/F.

2) Spoil has over 176 ratings on iTunes now that average between 4 and 4.5 stars, with over 100 5-star ratings. I'm considering mentioning these ratings in the product description on Amazon to offset the 1-star reviews there. But if I pull the book from iTunes, I'll lose those dear ratings.

3) The rumor mill is abuzz with speculation about what Apple's big announcement at the end of this month will be. All clues lead to big news about its ebook program. And if perks are going to be offered to authors, Spoil is a great candidate to test the waters with if it continues to have rank and visibility there.

So for now, I've pulled Spoil from those venues where it wasn't performing and which are slow to respond to remove requests (Kobo, Sony and Diesel) so I can be ready to position the book wherever it makes the most sense come month's end.

If your book is with an agent or publisher, decisions about which venues and which programs will be in their hands, of course, not yours. If you're with the Big 6, it probably makes little difference unless you've been relegated as a mid-lister before you even start out and there are no marketing dollars being put toward your book. If you're with a digital-only publisher, they likely don't have the resources to consider what's best for each book on an individual basis, especially one that's been out a few months.

If you're poised to sign with a digital-only publisher, a good conversation to have with them beforehand is whether you can have any input in how the book is marketed in order to take advantage of the various boosts available. Between a savvy author and an experienced marketing department, a "small" book by an unknown author can get off to a very good start. But it takes work and cooperation to make it happen.

I'll update how SECTOR C is faring tomorrow.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

For Every Season -- Churn, Churn, Churn

Lots of updates to discuss over the next few days, including lots of talk about money. (Dear readers who are not writers who are visiting here, please understand this blog is about the business side of publishing. Readers are ALWAYS the primary equation in any book's sales, and you are never, EVER lost sight of, despite how impersonal the business side can feel.)

Amazon Announces KDP Select Payout Totals

First up is Amazon's announcement as to what the payout per book borrowed will be for its KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select program.

You'll recall having a book in this optional program not only allows the author to set when and how long they can promote a book for free (each author is alloted 5 days out of the 90 the book is contracted to sell exclusively through Amazon), it also places the book in the Prime Lending Library from which Prime members may borrow one book per month. One month of Prime membership is included free with the purchase of a Kindle Fire, so December and January totals will likely be a bit skewed as Fire owners discover and act on their trial membership. The book borrow is just a little added perk for members. The real draw is free 2-day shipping on any purchase plus streaming video for the $79 per year membership fee.

Speculation was rampant as to what the payout per book borrowed would be. The payout, we were told up front, would be an equal pro rata share applied against the total number of books borrowed. List price on the book would not factor in.

I enrolled Vet Tech Tales upon its release in mid December. List price: 99 cents. I enrolled for the benefit of making it free so this new release could gain some visibility. I honestly didn't believe anyone would bother to use their free borrow option on a 99c book. If anything, I thought maybe it would get a few impulse buys and readers would opt for another, more expensive title instead.

When I got my first borrow on it, I felt a little heart tug. Someone thought enough of it to borrow it! When I got my second borrow, my imagination fired up, and I pictured a younger reader with a limited amount of money drawn to the cute kitten on the cover, believing the book would be all about animals (which it is and it isn't). Of course I think my book is a worthwhile read, but it's novella length and who would want to borrow it over a full-length bestselling book about, say, Rin Tin Tin? That initial heart tug turned into a heart constriction.

By the end of the month, 88 wonderful readers had borrowed the book. I couldn't be more honored or surprised or conflicted by that gesture. (I have since enrolled SECTOR C and, it being the book it is, I have no such ambiguity about it being in the Lending Library.)

In all, 295,000 books were borrowed during December with each of those borrows receiving an equal share of $500,000. That means the author will be paid $1.70 for each borrow. While that's nearly 5 times the royalty this 99c book would have earned for a sale, it's about 35c less than what a book selling for $2.99 would earn as a royalty. In December, I sold 311 copies of Vet Tech Tales and made $108.85. On 88 borrows, I made $149.60.

Every self-pubbed author has to decide what they want most from a book: readers, ranking, dollars. Even for my $2.99 book, I think the trade-off in perks -- for now -- is worth staying in Select. For another author, it may not be, and that's OK. The last I checked, it's still a free market out there.

Churned Off of the Kindle Store's Front Page

After a lovely 2-day run of hanging out with the likes of The Help, The Hunger Games, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I now realize what SECTOR C needed to stay featured there: a title that starts with "The."

Indie titles on the front page churn a bit faster than the perennial bestsellers, especially in the genre fiction categories, so it's no surprise really that SECTOR C fell off the page to be replaced with a much better-selling book by Mainak Dhar, an author I'm acquainted with through the Kindleboards forum. In fact, SECTOR C originally replaced his book to begin with, so it was more like I just borrowed the space from him for a couple of days.

It took initial sales to gain that spot, of course, and, once there, being featured kept its sales on an even keel. I'll have more insight by day's end, but it looks like being featured was contributing quite a bit to yesterday's sales as things seem to be tapering off rapidly this morning.

Here's a quick recap of the activity between the beginning of the day last Friday and end of day yesterday.

Friday: First day of a 2-day free promo. By the end of the day, the book had been downloaded 6780 times and reached #47 overall in the free store in the US, including being #1 in Science Fiction.

Saturday: Got as low as #25 overall in the free store and #14 in all free Fiction in the late afternoon. Ended its free run at #36 overall. Total downloads for both free days right about 13,000.

Sunday: 103 Sales / 18 Borrows; ended the day at #2049 overall and #66 in Science Fiction

Monday: 308 Sales / 67 Borrows; ended the day at #277 overall and #5 SF in the Kindle store / #8 SF in the overall Books store, and was the #2 Medical Thriller in Books

Tuesday: 295 Sales / 51 Borrows; book appeared on the front page of the Kindle store; ended the day at #258 overall and broke into the Top 100 of Thrillers at #55

Wednesday: 322 Sales / 30 Borrows; had a best rank of #224 and ended #230 overall

Best ranks attained in the various categories:

#1 High Tech SF in Kindle and Books stores
#2 Medical Thriller in Books
#3 Medical Fiction in Books
#5 SF Kindle
#8 SF Books
#20 SF/F Books
#34 Genre Fiction
#43 Thiller in Books
#77 Mystery/Suspense/Thriller in Books

It's at #255 late morning today, but if sales continue as is, it'll probably be around #1100 or so by day's end. I'll do a follow-up in a day or two, but it's been a fun 15 minutes! I think breaking into the Top 100 in the uber-competitive Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category was the most amazing bit about all of this.

And as savvy as I felt I was about properly tagging a book, I still made a mistake that likely cost me some sales. I'll have more about that -- and help with how you won't make the same mistake -- in a later post.

Oh, and a side note. The above is for US sales only. Total paid sales over the same 4 days in the UK: 7.

Through Jan 11, then, the totals for SECTOR C are:

13,000 - free downloads
50 - sold before going free at 99c
1028 - sold after the free promo at $2.99
166 - borrows

The royalty side is a little complicated. Math-a-phobes may want to just skip to where it says "total" below. At $2.99, Amazon pays a 70% royalty on books sold through certain countries, such as the US, the UK and Canada. For other countries that buy through the US store, such as Australia, the royalty drops to 35%. Amazon breaks down the royalties in a weekly report that comes out every Sunday. So until then I won't know how many of those 1028 books earned a 35% rate or a 70% rate. On top of that, Amazon charges a delivery fee of about 15c per megabyte (the file size of the book) at the 70% rate (there is no additional charge at the 35% rate). SECTOR C is about a half a megabyte, so it earns about $2.03 per copy at the 70% rate and about $1.04 at the 35% rate.

For guestimate purposes, I'll use a 9:1 ratio of books selling at the 70% rate vs the 35% rate to come up with an estimated total for the first 11 days of January.

17.50 - 50 copies at 35-40% royalty rate (BN has a 40% rate and I sold 10 before removing the book from sale there)
107.12 - 103 copies (10% of 1038) at 35% rate
1877.75 - 925 copies (1038-103) at 70% rate
282.20 - 166 borrows (this is figured at December's payment of $1.70 per copy; January payment may vary)

$2284.57 (1483.58 GBP) - Total

iTunes Sales

Apple sales have been a bit of a mystery until the report finally came in yesterday for December sales. I'll save those totals for you for our next discussion ;o).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Window Shopping

SECTOR C is on the landing page of the Kindle ebook store today! How cool is that? No clue as to how long it may remain. It proved itself yesterday to get that placement today; now it has to prove itself today to keep it. The live shot is here. Amazon bounces the order around some to keep things interesting.

It started the day with a rank of #278 in the overall store, based on its 308 sales plus 67 borrows on Monday. I don't know what it needs to keep on the front page (which may be a manual placement by the Amazon "editor") or to keep its current ranks. I'm pretty new to sales at this velocity and have nothing to compare to, although I am getting some advice from a couple of other authors who have books that are laterally or better ranked than mine.

To be honest, I'm more nervous about today's sales than yesterday's. Yesterday, anything was better than where SECTOR C had already been. Today, it has expectations to do at least as well, if not better, than yesterday. It's already slipped rank from #278 to #294, and sales feel slower today. Although if I compare the first 8 hours of today to the first 8 hours of yesterday, the book has had only 1 less sale, and that was over the last hour. This upcoming hour yesterday had even fewer sales. Is that normal? Was yesterday a slow sales day? Is today? WILL THEY PULL THE BOOK OFF THE FRONT PAGE IF IT DOESN'T MEET A CERTAIN UNKNOWN QUOTA?

The butterflies are multiplying.

Now, I know that many books coming off a free ride rocket up then fizzle fast. I expect that. I also know what an incredible opportunity this is -- one that is handed to only a small percentage of authors. I'm grateful for whatever time this book has. And I'm even more grateful to the 600+ readers who have taken a chance on SECTOR C this month outside of its free run. I haven't lost sight of who I owe any amount of success to.

Here's where it's starting from now. Feel free to follow along.

#294 Overall

#2 Medical Thrillers - All Books
#59 Thrillers - All Books
#3 Medical  Fiction - All Books
#42 Genre Fiction - All Books
#1 Hi-Tech SF - Kindle Store
#5 Science Fiction - Kindle Store
#1 Hi-Tech SF - All Books
#8 Science Fiction - All Books
#21 SF and Fantasy Combined - All Books

Monday, January 9, 2012

Gypsy Bond - Debut Novella

Update: During its free run, SECTOR C topped out at #25 in the Amazon free store. It was #16 in overall Fiction and #1 in Science Fiction.

After having its algorithms readjusted after making its way back into the paid store yesterday, this morning it was sitting at #952 in the overall paid store, #3 in Medical Thrillers and #38 in Science Fiction. I don't know if it can hold those ranks, but for now at least, what fun!

In other news, Steel Magnolia Press has a brand-new novella by an almost brand-new author. Lindy Corbin had a book traditionally published many years ago, but like many of us, life and bills got in the way and writing had to take a backseat for awhile.

Gypsy Bond is a Regency Romance with a steam rating of about 4-ish out of 5. Her cover is by Hot Damn Designs. And it's on offer at the special introductory price of just 99 cents.

Interestingly, Gypsy Bond seems to have found an audience in the UK already, having much better success in that market than SECTOR C is having, despite SECTOR C's strong showing in the US. You would think the English liked their stories set in England or something :o).

The palm reader spoke of two paths. Would one lead Juliet to her gypsy husband?
At sixteen, Juliet Bailey was hand-fasted to the gypsy, Marko, but when the tribe moved on, she was left behind. For years, she has endured snubs and snide remarks whispered behind lace fans. Now that the gypsies have returned, she demands her rightful place beside her husband.

Marko, who returned to Derbyshire to lay aside his memories of their rash affair, refuses to acknowledge the union. Though attracted to her still, he is convinced that her happiness lies in taking a husband who is her peer.

Stung by Marko’s rejection, will Juliet choose the path that will separate them forever?
Novella. About 16,000 words / 60 pages.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Free Is Good - And So Are Author Interviews

I so promised myself I wasn't going to do screencaps every few hours during SECTOR C's free run on Amazon and that I would keep it a low-key affair. But that was before I saw this.

Not only this, in the wee, wee hours (where we again see the importance of commas) of Saturday morning, it hit:

#33 in the free store overall
#16 in Genre Fiction
#19 in All Fiction

7931 downloads in just over 24 hours.

Update at 4:00 PM: SECTOR C is now #27 in the free store overall with over 10,500 downloads since yesterday.

And the icing (because some days you get iced cake and other days you get the shaft): an author interview to cap off my stay over at the shiny new Indie Books R Us review site.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Sales Voyeur: December Sales

Whether it's for the beginning of world domination by Amazon or merely the first volley in a new battle for customers, December 2011 will be remembered as a watershed moment in ebook sales. Amazon's Select program with its ability for authors to now promote their book for free for up to 5 days at author discretion has already changed the way books sell on Amazon. That, coupled with strong sales of classics and traditional bestsellers at Christmas-time, has made it at once easier and tougher to send a book up the rankings.

Easier because, in many cases, free sells. Right now, today, free can be a powerful promotional tool, and the ability to control the promotional timeframe for the right book at the right time can pay off handsomely. How? By giving books and authors that "chance" everyone whines about. It can get your book noticed. What it can't do is sustain that notice. As an exclusive partner, this is what Amazon can offer. It isn't right for all books, but for the books it is right for, free can put an otherwise obscure book on the charts for its 15 minutes of fame. The unknown factor is whether or not free as a promotion will continue to work in the long term. Being flexible in this environment is the name of the game.

Harder because 1) if you don't want a book exclusive to Amazon, you lose the advantage of the bump free can bring, and 2) the divide between the bestsellers and the under-performers is widening. Where once selling 10 books a day could get you a ranking of, say, 10,000, it now takes 15 or 20 sales. The rankings -- and, in turn, the bestseller lists -- are more volatile than ever.

The Numbers

Anecdotal evidence on the Kindleboards and elsewhere seems to indicate in December that the rich got richer and the poor stayed poor as the gap started gaping. Many authors report double and triple their sales average over the last months. In any other month, my own sales would have been Good ++. As it is, they only merit a Good rating.

Spoil of War came off a November-long free ride at Apple and Amazon. I'll update with sales numbers from Apple whenever they come in, but Spoil enjoyed being the #1 Historical Fantasy in the US, UK, Canada and Australia iTunes stores throughout much of December. No matter how many or few sales were made, the real joy there was in seeing it go head-to-head with the big boys and to come away with over 150 ratings averaging 4 to 4.5 stars across all the sites. As of Friday morning, Jan 6, it's at #8 in the US store, (OMG) still #1 in Canada, (*swoon*) #1 in the UK, and #3 in Australia.

After its sales bump coming off free in Amazon with over 25,000 copies downloaded, Spoil settled in at Amazon selling 5-10 copies a day.

In a milestone month, it passed its 1000th lifetime sale in December.

The breakdown:

285 - Amazon US
.92 - Amazon UK
..4 - Amazon FR
..9 - BN
.14 - OmniLit

404 - Total + Apple Sales

SECTOR C didn't go free, but early in the month it did get a lovely free mention from Kindle Books for a Buck and had a paid sponsorship (a $60 ad) on Kindle Nation Daily on Dec 28. In this particular instance, the free feature pulled in more short-term sales than did the paid spot.

The breakdown:

228 - Amazon US
.10 - Amazon UK
..6 - BN

244 - Total

Vet Tech Tales: The Early Years debuted on Dec. 13, and I immediately enrolled it in Amazon Select. I offered it for free for 2 days, Dec 22 and 23, and 1347 readers picked it up for free. Once off free, it quickly became the #1 bestseller in Veterinary Medicine and went on to become the #1 or #2 bestselling Hot New Release in 3 separate categories: Medicine, Science and Animal Care & Pets. It's only eligible for the Hot New Release lists for a few more days, so I'm hoping its visibility remains high for those last days.

Being in the Select program also means the book is available to be borrowed through Amazon's Prime Lending Library. Still waiting to hear how much each borrow earned for the month of December and will update as soon as we know.

The breakdown:

270 - Amazon US
.41 - Amazon UK

311 - Total Sales
88 - Borrows

What's Next

This past week I removed SECTOR C from all retailers save Amazon and entered it into the Amazon Select program. The reason is pretty obvious: 6 sales at BN and no or neglible sales in the other stores vs 238 sales in a month through Amazon.

Today and tomorrow SECTOR C is free. I've requested mention on a couple of the major books-for-free sites, and a feature on Free Kindle Books and Tips has already given the book a nice bump. As of noon today, it's already #292 in the free store, #1 in Hi-Tech SF and #4 in all of SF.

A new release from a new Steel Magnolia Press author, Lindy Corbin, is also free today and tomorrow. It's a Regency Romance novella: Gypsy Bond, and it's already #23 in free Historical Romance without any extra push. If you miss the free period, you can also pick it up later for just 99 cents.

The contemporary novella, A Vision of Sugarplums, by Jennifer Blake that Steel Magnolia offered free throughout December finally got price-matched to free on Amazon on Dec. 27. It had over 12,000 downloads, and in the 2 days it's been back on the paid list has made the best-seller list for Contemporary Romance in Amazon, and is hovering around the #1300 rank. Even backlist titles get new life sometimes.

Last year, many indie authors saw sales pick up mid-January after new Kindle owners downloaded their favorite authors then got adventuresome looking for more, and then continue high for a couple of months. One year, however, does not a trend make. I'm as eager as the next author to see what this new year brings.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Double Yay!

Whew! It's like a week-long reviewfest at the Indie Books R Us blog. Cate posted her review of SECTOR C there today, and I'm happy to say it's a double Yay from the team. I'll be wrapping up my spotlight week there on Saturday with an author interview, and the questions they're asking are pretty awesome and insightful. I only hope my responses do the questions justice!

That said, I've made the decision to put SECTOR C into Amazon's Select program. One of the cool things about having control over a digital book is that you can make changes relatively quickly to match changes in the marketplace or in your own marketing plan. Conventional wisdom tells us we should make one change at a time to better track the effectiveness of each change. Well, I'm thwarting conventional wisdom, knowing full well I'll be sorry about it down the road when I'm forced to look at lessons learned (obviously I learn the lessons, I just don't implement the learned part).

Not only is SECTOR C now exclusive with Amazon, it has a new cover, a new title page and new back matter. Soon, it will have a new price ($2.99). And it's going on its first free run for 2 days on Friday and Saturday. The only thing that hasn't changed is the story itself. Nothing like a facelift to fall in love again with obsessing over what's working and what's not.

Tomorrow, I'll have the December sales wrap-up, along with some numbers from how others did.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


There's a new book review site in the blogosphere and I have no doubt it's gonna be killer.

Ooh, pretty,wispy, ethereal site!

Indie Books R Us is the brainchild of two dedicated author/reviewers, Cate Peace (aka Lexcade) and Landra Graf (aka Rise of the Slush). Separately, these ladies rock when it comes to putting out reviews. Together ... well, settle in for the ride. Depth and insight and a knack for getting to the underlying intents and issues of a work are their hallmarks. I enjoy reading their reviews even though they almost always make me interested in a book I figure beforehand will be an easy pass. If I have any complaint about them as reviewers, it's that they're awfully hard on the wallet.

Go. Put the site in your RSS feed or have their posts emailed to you.

I've been following their individual blogs and reading their reviews and other posts for ages now. All to say I've been a fan of their work for a long time, and the fact that their inaugural review is of SECTOR C in no way influences the admiration I have for these ladies.

Plus, Landra and Cate are both HUGE advocates for animals. Landra contributes a monthly post to the Confessions of an Animal Junkie blog about a small rescue organization -- Pawsibilities -- she belongs to and the important work they do in finding foster and forever homes for the dogs in their care. Cate tweets and posts links and videos that help raise awareness about animal neglect and abuse.

Oh, what rating did they give SECTOR C? A "Yay!" How cool is that?!  

Look for my author interview with them on the Indie Books R Us site this weekend.

And look for my December sales roundup here soon! (It's a cautious "yay" too.)