Dead Bird Gets The BookWorm

cropped-level9paranoialogo.jpgIn the first few weeks after putting a book into the world, I’ll admit there is very little I won’t consider in the name of pushing my blather into the psyche of friends and strangers. I used the word “consider” because ultimately there are umpteen-million services (free or paid) that all claim to be the magic bullet you need to climb the charts. It’ll come as no surprise that I’m suspicious of most, as that part of the self-publishing world has become a repugnant place for the shysters who pray upon the desperate get-read-quick-get-rich-quick hoards. Like the paid programming infomercials of the ’90s that promised steady income via tiny classified ads, the internet is littered with Don Lapre style boasts about how to get read and reviewed fast.

If you aren’t reading this because you, like me, have managed to make it to even the fifth or sixth page of Google search results for things like, “blogs that write reviews for the self-published,” than you might be utterly put-off by the idea that the world is abundant with writers teeming at the gills to feed the review machine that Amazon has created. I won’t go into too much, if any, detail on how that all works, and some of its absurdities, because I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds. Without them, I’d likely have one-hundred or more paperbacks in the trunk of my car that I’d long given up on hocking to local bookstores and co-workers. All you need to know is that for a new book, getting read and reviewed, mostly reviewed, feeds the machine. More reviews, higher the better, but any of it will eventually work your sweet words into the system that shovels suggestions to buyers at a better clip. Or so I’ve been told.

I returned from an early morning run yesterday, my brain spinning delightfully as is usually the case. Random bits of inspiration all vying for my attention, colliding with each other, often this is the moment where the most original of ideas are born. The pattern to my thinking at this time is far less structured, and the absurd often gets married to the logical. So it’s really no surprise that I hatched the ultimate plan of plans. Let’s call it the Stieg Larsson approach: basically, it became crystal-clear to me that, in fact, the best and easiest way to get But I Love You screaming up the charts, would be to be dead. Yes, yes—the book still has to be good for that plan to work. Trust me, my own assessment of the writing might be the only thing keeping me from seriously contemplating an alternative version of that plan that is far more attractive and egomaniacal: FAKE MY DEATH! Ah-Ha!

Now, I’ve no idea the lengths one must go to in order to successfully fake their demise in the most public of fashions, but I can assure you that it might be on par with the effort it takes to get people to part with the price of a cup of coffee to take a chance on your book. And, the best part of faking my death as opposed to actually dying (beside not being dead), is that I’d get to see the impact of those efforts as well. Would the news of my demise make a significant difference? Could I manage to log into one of the half-dozen or so cruel author-helper-sites that Amazon so dutifully puts into our hands to watch our babies flounder in real-time? Doubtful. And even if I did, from some internet cafe in the deepest regions of Columbia, I feel certain that my Amazon author-rank tracking graph would still leave me feeling utterly defeated. Hourly updates, seriously guys?

Truth is, I’ve no idea how to fake my death to begin with. The truthier-truth is, I won’t be Googling it to find out because I’m certain that the very act would bring black suits to my door quickly and put a white padded room into my future.

Oh, also, just between us, it’s interesting how much less I like poking fun about my own real-world ending now that I’m six or seven or eight weeks removed from having a son. So, you know, wood knocks and what not. After all, it’s just a book.

 

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90 Days in the Amazon

It’s pretty common for people to write blog posts about their failures and successes using Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and CreateSpace services. I figure, without having ever interviewed a single other blogger about it, that a big part of their decisions to write about the experience is nothing more than a ploy to get more eyeballs on the book or books they, like me, are so desperately trying to get people to read. The results of such bloggings I do not know–and originally I had planned on never writing such a post, out of some sort of misguided desire to keep the goings-on of my own publication a mystery.

Shameless self-promotion that this type of post can be, I’ll try to do something I believe a few might haven’t–and that’s be totally honest about what exactly has happened with my own publication thus far because of Amazon’s services. Clarity is not always my speciality, so let me expand a bit on that last inference: I truly believe that in the interest of propelling their book(s) even further, that some people have drastically inflated their sales numbers in the hopes of making it seem like the book is a smashing success to that post’s readers, believing that very misdirect will spur an immediate sale by the unsuspecting dupe taking that misinformation in. I’ll admit, it is also possible a few of the existing blogs that have covered this same subject were dated in that they used KDP in its earlier stages, before Amazon tweaked it, and as a result did, in fact, garner larger volumes of sales despite also being a first time unknown author.

Writing about Amazon has me feeling a touch of the willies, because while I am extraordinarily grateful for their services and what it has allowed this guy to do, I also find them to be a tad frightening in regards to how much information they compile on each and everyone of us–not to mention, what the company’s contributions to the publishing world might ultimately spell out for various others in the profession. The topic of Amazon Publishing Services itself can lead to some very heated conversations, and for some it is an exceptionally polarizing institution. But, like my politics, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with bits and pieces presented by both sides of that conversation. Doesn’t mean I’m not a little paranoid that some nut-bag who truly hates Amazon isn’t going to use the other big brother of the world, Google, to hunt me down and put my head on a stake in front of Amazon’s offices as a warning to any future writers thinking of travelling the same path I have thus far–and yet, I press forward with some details for the casual reader of long-winded drivel. Lucky you.

Today will be my 90th day with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. And in order to take full advantage of a few key services they provide during that time, I had to agree to only sell the ebook version of my novel exclusively through Amazon. I wasn’t even able to sell it on my own website, by which I mean, I wasn’t able to make an actual transaction, money for book, using my various blogs. Linking to the book’s page on Amazon was totally fine, and that’s precisely what I did. Now, bare with me, as I deliver some numbers and a bit of the everything that I did to achieve what I am confidently deeming a successful first 90 Days in the Amazon.

Total copies of My Dead Friend Sarah OBTAINED by readers via Amazon only, ebook and paperback, as of today and at various price points set by yours truly: 13,136

I think this is incredible by the way, but before we get our collective panties in a wad completely, let’s take a look at that number in more detail shall we?

Total copies of My Dead Friend Sarah PAID FOR or CHECKED OUT using Kindle’s Lending Library by readers via Amazon only, ebook and paperback, as of today and at various price points set by yours truly: 688

If this number impresses you, as it sorta does me, then you are in the right. Why? The average traditionally published book, in all forms, sells about 500 copies in a year–or so I’ve read. I won’t be linking to facts, but you are certainly welcome to fact check my facts yourself. On top of that, the average book self-published in paperback using CreateSpace sells a scant 25 copies in a year. So, I welcome any kudos you might want to throw my way, because, as you might have surmised, just putting my book onto Amazon is NOT what led to 688 actual sales, nor is it even solely responsible for the success I had giving away 12,448 copies using exactly two of the five Free Days that Amazon KDP allowed me to use. On that second day of the promotion, for most of the day, My Dead Friend Sarah was the number one most downloaded book in suspense/thrillers by the way, and it felt awesome. It should be noted though that ereadernewstoday.com was kind enough to include my title in their morning post of 5 freebies, and without that having happened, I believe the total of books obtained for free that weekend would have been far less–somewhere around 3,000 to 3,500 I think.

I was quite hesitant to use any of the Free Days at all, people should be paying for the creative output of others and all that, but I do believe that because of whatever algorithm Amazon uses to feed Free Books into the display system titled “Customers who bought X also bought Y and Z,” that it most definitely boosted exposure to My Dead Friend Sarah. No question about it really, but while that certainly put my title in front of new eyes, I can honestly say that I don’t believe it was primarily responsible for my books sustained momentum of roughly an average of 7.6 sales/day. Not completely, and maybe not at all.

I’m run various self-administered tests using different combinations of Facebook ads, Google Adwords, blog posts, my own participation among other blogs, boards, etc. And, during the times that I have had absolutely no time to perform those mixtures of hocking my wares, there was a markedly drastic decline in daily sales. Many days, as few as zero. On the days that I have found the time to institute one, two, three or more of those efforts towards promoting my book, the sales have always been better. Even as I work in advertising, I was surprised to see what a difference it tended to make with regards to selling books, when i shouted about the book from digital rooftops.

Total books sold via all methods of selling, including the original paperback run-turned-failure with LuLu, paperback sales made by hand to co-workers and friends, and one or two via Amazon’s expanded distribution offer that put my book onto an infinite number of other online retailers: 720 books I believe.

Given the disappointing figures of other self-published and traditionally published works, and I’m talking the numbers that are far lower than that earlier mention of the industry average of 500/year and the self-published 25/year, I’d have to call the early stages of my self-publishing career a success. In my mind, 1000 units PAID for was a realistic goal for the end of 2012, and I’m not that far off from there. I’ve got a few other promotional tricks up my sleeves that I’ll be unleashing into the world during July and August, and I have a tremendous amount of positive energy going forward, as so many of the reviews for the book have been overwhelmingly positive.

Now, as long as Amazon doesn’t get cranky because of this post, and decide to yank me from their service entirely–I’m off to work on my next book, that, unless I ink a deal with a traditional publisher, I will most definitely be putting out using KDP and CreateSpace again. For me, the 90 day exclusivity clause didn’t really hinder sales. Most of my friends, family and other immediate buyers were cool to take a chance on downloading The Kindle App for their iPads and computers, if they didn’t already have it, or in fact have a Kindle. And for their continued support and purchases I am forever grateful to all of the people helping push my book out there.

Will I do another 90 days with Amazon KDP? I’ve got a little bit more time to hem and haw over it, but as of right now, I can’t honestly say that being able to put My Dead Friend Sarah out on Nook or iBookstore would make a noticeable difference. Not yet anyway.

Hope this answers some questions for some folks, and if you hear in tomorrow’s papers about a suspicious accident involving your favorite paranoid writer, please do be a dear friend and if you haven’t read My Dead Friend Sarah, give it a shot, tell a friend, or in lieu of that, mount up and concoct some charges against the beast that is Amazon–after all, my cat will need some diapers, and kitty diapers aren’t cheap.