Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Sometimes you go through the wringer...

Well, I've had an interesting last week-or-so. On Thursday there was a hell of a party. On Friday, there were at least two hells of a hangover. Then over the weekend I quit my band (amicably and by mutual agreement, for the best interests of the band, but it still takes some getting my head around).

As a result, I didn't write this blog post on Saturday, when I should have. I also didn't plug this interview that I did on Thursday nearly enough (apologies, Anne!). Which means the answer to this might be obvious:

Why aren't you buying my book?

Well, apart from my shameful lack of self-promotion over the last few days, anyway. I'm not actually being as petulant as that sounds, either. What I mean is, what would convince YOU to buy my book? I've sold 2 copies in the 17 days the book's been on sale, and I can't help thinking that even a brand new starting author should have managed a bit better than that.

Here are a few things I think have been holding me back thus far. I'd really appreciate it if you could tell me which, if any, of these would encourage you to buy.

1 - Availability on the Amazon Kindle store. I'm guessing this is the biggest thing holding me back. I launched on Smashwords first because the royalties are so much better there and I wanted to be able to see how much of a difference Amazon availability made. Obviously, I won't know until I get the book up onto the Kindle store, but I'm hoping I'll at least see some progress. I was hoping to do this late last week, but obviously circumstances intervened. I hope to find time before the end of the month, but that's beginning to look a little optimistic.

2 - Hardcopy. Kindle penetration isn't anything like as widespread in the UK as in the US, and I think a lot of people over here don't realise that you don't actually need a Kindle to read ebooks. Of the people who do know that, however, many aren't keen (and who can blame them?) to read a whole book off a computer screen. Certainly, I've had several people tell me they wouldn't read an ebook. Unfortunately, hardcopy is going to have to wait, at least until I can afford the entry price for CreateSpace's premium service. I've done some playing around with the royalty calculator and such, and I think I can put the book out for about £7/$11. Would you be interested in a dead tree (edition) at that price? Also, what's the going rate for a trade paperback in the states? Here they tend to be £8-9.

3 - Reviews. I haven't organised any yet, because I feel really awkward (and slightly terrified) approaching reviews. Sidebar: if you're a YA and/or fantasy reviewer and you'd like a copy, let me know. I'm painfully aware of all the places where my book is showing up as 'unrated' or '0 reviews', and it can't look terribly professional.

4 - Price. I remember reading a J.A. Konrath article that said that $1.99 seems to be an unpopular price point, though I remain unconvinced that price alone could put someone off a book. It happens to be my ideal price at Smashwords' royalty rates, but if it's holding people back I might go to $2.99 when I move to Amazon. Or I might move in the other direction. I've blogged long and hard against high prices for ebooks (and I have another in the works, I think), but I'm really tight for cash at the moment. Either way, do you think about price points when buying ebooks?

5 - Writing a different book. I know YA fantasy isn't everyone's thing. If you wouldn't buy a YA fantasy book regardless of any of the above, please disregard this message. I think as YA books go, 'Heaven Can Wait' reaches pretty far outside its core target audience, but it's still a story about a teenager in love, even if he does have to fight a bunch of ghosts and demons along the way. I will be writing other, less-YA-ish projects once I'm done with the Non-Agency, so there'll be something for you eventually. Bear with me!

Please, please, please, leave any advice you can. Balancing promoting my book with not failing my PhD is hard, I need all the help I can get!



  1. Here's my assessment, give it time. You can do some promotion and such, but only time will help you. I've been doing this a year and a half, I have 5 shorts, 5 novelettes, and 1 novella available. In that time I've sold 97 eBooks as of August 31st. All your points above might be valid, however, I can say that when I adjusted my pricing scheme in late July 2011, I saw 22 eBooks sold during August 2011, my highest month yet and a quarter of all my sales.
    Right now, you only have one work out there and it's on Smashwords. Make sure you are setup to go to distribute to all the vendors they send to and get it on Amazon. Keep writing and publishing, and the sales will pick up. Right now, there's only one way for the general population to find you. As you get more works out their, you increase the chances of coming up in a product search or suggestion.

  2. Rik, I feel your pain. I will offer one suggestion in direct relation to your #1 (and BC knows my thoughts on this - and a lot of what I'll say ties into his comment above). And this it totally my opinion. Don't bother trying to sell through Smashwords. You need to be where people who own e-readers shop, and that ain't it. It's convenient, the royalties are a couple of cents higher, and it's easy for the most part. However, think about it from a reader's perspective. If they own a Nook, they go to bn.com to buy a book. If they own a Kindle, they go to amazon.com to buy a book. Who buys from Smashwords? Other authors.

    This is the trap I feel a lot of self-published authors fall into - selling to a few dozen other authors, then petering out and wondering what happened. If you want to get your book in the hands of *readers*, you need to make it easy for *them* to find and buy. A typical Kindle owner simply will not go to smashwords.com, download a file, plug in their Kindle, drag the file over, eject the drive, then reboot to see the book. They go to amazon.com, shop a store with hundreds of thousands of books, then One-Click buy, and it's on their Kindles in seconds. And then they can read it on their Kindle, their smartphone, their iPad, their PC, and now their Cloud Reader, all with one click.

    Seriously - you need to be where the readers shop. I can't speak too much to out-of-US (I know Canada is a big Kobo market) but get the book where it's easiest for the reader to buy. Use Smashwords to feed through to iBooks, Kobo, Sony, etc. But make sure your book is in Amazon and BN for sure.

    Again, YMMV.


  3. I'm not an indie author and I don't have an e-reader yet, but I have to say I agree with the other comments--definitely put your book up on Amazon.

    After you've done that, you'll need to try some self-promotion. No one can buy your book if they don't know it exists! If you're not sure where to start, surf around the blogosphere--there are tons of posts out there about how to do self-promotion without annoying people.

    As for reviews, I imagine it'd definitely help to have a few of those, so try to contact reviewers who look at indie books as well. It's scary, but probably necessary.

    Also, you didn't mention this, but do you have a sample download of your book? I've read a lot of posts that suggest you offer a free sample (like a chapter or so) to encourage readers to give your book a try. Like I said, I'm not an indie so I don't know how much it helps (or doesn't), but that's something I've seen.

    Finally, a theme I've seen a lot out there is just that it takes time. These things tend to build and sometimes waiting is the hardest part.

    Best of luck!

  4. Thanks for the feedback, guys. Amazon store edition is definitely on its way, as soon as I get my brain back together.