25.3.11

Day 20

Checking Amazon sales stats is a little bit like weighing yourself.

You know it won't make you happy; and it probably hasn't changed much since you checked five minutes ago.

But still you just can't help yourself.

Thank goodness for vacation and internet disconnection.

24.3.11

Day 19

Not even three weeks and I'm already exhausted.  Facebook posts, facebook page, twitter account, various "writers' groups", this blog... Trying to get my book out there is like a full-time job.

Which, I suppose, is why agents and publishers do still make a living.  It's also probably slightly less humiliating selling someone else than selling yourself.

So I need a break.  I have run out of ideas and inspiration.  I have run out of shameless chutzpah.  I have run out of the positive vibes needed when you realize sales have flat-lined and your Amazon rank has plummeted to below sea level.

So.... I'm going on vacation.  One week in Brazil full of NOT checking Amazon.  NOT tweeting.  NOT re-posting news items on Kindle and the advent of the e-book revolution.

One whole week of NOT being a failed writer, but instead focusing on being a failed beach bum.

Heaven.

19.3.11

Day 14

Today, I want to talk about pricing.

Pricing is, after marketing (or rather, before) one of the most complicated aspects of self-publishing as an e-book.

What price do I think is the right price?  What price will perfect strangers and potential readers think is the right price?

Here's how I went about it.  First, it makes sense to me that the price would be less than that of a paperback.  Now, I accept that others may feel differently, but to me a physical copy of the book has a higher customer value than an electronic copy.  So, using that logic, that gives us a ceiling of about $10.

But where's the floor?  There has been a trend of $0.99 e-books.  That's the same price as a song on i-tunes.  A song takes about 3 minutes to listen to.  I estimate my book will take at least 4 hours to read.  Never mind the 9+ months to write.  I just can't bear to price my baby at $0.99.

Now, Amazon's royalty structure comes in to play.  Amazon lets you choose between 35% and 70% royalties.  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  Except to get the 70%, your book has to be priced above $2.99.

Which now gives me a floor.  I have $7 to play with.  One price to pick.  It's like pin the tail on the donkey.

In the US, a grande latte from Starbucks costs $3.29.  So this is the kind of price many people are willing to pay "on a whim", and rather regularly.  Seems like a good as way as any to pick a book price.

So I picked $3.49.  A foamy whisker above the price of a latte.  I like it.  I feel good.

Until I realize that I did that all for nothing.

I think (but I cannot confirm) that In the Past Imperfect costs $3.49 in the US.  But I don't live in the US.  Nor do most of the people I know.  And outside the US, e-books cost basically whatever Amazon feels like making them cost.  Case in point: Switzerland.  Where the book costs a whopping (and random) $6.31.

And not just that, but for all sales outside the US, the applicable royalty rate is.... 35%.

Sigh.

17.3.11

Day 12

There are some interesting musings on the "real"-book vs e-book showdown by one of my favourite Paris bloggers here.

My take?  I love books.  I love the colour of them, the feel of them, the sound they make when you crack the spine, the dusty smell when you take an old favourite off the shelf, the weight in your hand, the warmth they bring to a bare wall.

But as a writer, I have to say the e-book opens up possibilities that my frustrated agent-less peers of generations past could hardly even imagine.

Two weeks ago I was just another name on the reject pile.

Today's stats?  52 sales, 3 customer reviews, several posts on the facebook page.  It's a small start, but it's a good one.

14.3.11

Day 9

I feel like I'm on a bit of a roll now.  Haven't really done anything marketing-wise since the last post (I've even stopped harrassing my facebook friends) and yet: tadda!

Current sales tally: 43!  I think in large part thanks to a darling friend who is very plugged into the literary world and who has reinvented herself as my unofficial agent.

I have also received some precious marketing advice from another friendly source, and so will soon be creating my little book's very own facebook page.

And there's going to be a competition as well.  That's right, a chance to win a PRIZE!

There's really no stopping me now...

Anyways, back to the competition.  Here's how it works:

1) You read the book (yes, that means purchase is, in theory, required - sorry)
2) You take a moment to decide what you think of it (hopefully nice things... but you can still play even if they aren't nice things, I promise)
3) You leave a review (see above for the nice/ not nice rule) - either on amazon.com or amazon.co.uk

Now comes the good bit.  If you leave your review before April 15, I will put your name in a box (or hat, or laundry basket, or cement mixer if there are a lot of you) and if you get chosen....

- DRUMROLL PLEASE -

- Oïe, I said DRUMROLL -


- That's better -

So anyhoo, if you get chosen, I will name one of the characters of my next book (coming to a Kindle near you some time in 2012) after YOU!

That's quite exciting, right?

I mean sure, it's not a new car, or a trip to the Maldives, or a gazillion dollars.  But it's a chance for posterity!  Immortality even!

Or something like that.

En tout cas it will be fun.

So get reviewing, folks!

12.3.11

Day 7

Almost one week. And my biggest problem is marketing.

How do you sell an e-book when no one has ever heard of you?  How do you sell an e-book when you don't have a publisher or agent helping you out?

Or, really, how do you sell an e-book?

Step 1: Facebook

I have 194 facebook friends (I purged last year - maybe that was a mistake).  I have posted about the book 9 times since it "came out".  I've managed to convince 7 people to re-post the link.  In technical market terms, my conversion rate is crap.

Step 2: Author page

Amazon told me to make an author page.  I made an author page.  Didn't quite know what to put on it.  Is the idea that people will buy and read the book because they like my picture?  Does anyone actually choose books based on author photo? (seriously, do they?)  Besides, in order to see my photo, they would first need to have found the book, a current impossibility (unless you're my facebook friend and therefore, I assume, remember what I look like).

Step 3: Shameless publicity

Mention my book in Amazon forums (fora?).  Mention my book in a cheeky Jane Austen list.  Create an entire blog devoted entirely to myself and my budding novelist career.

Groan.

So, let's take a look at the stats so far:
- Sales on US website: 22
- Sales on UK website: 4
- Reviews: 2
- Amazon sales rank: whatever

Desperately needed: a legendary marketing guru who can make me achieve my full potential and reach what I have now decided is my goal of 300 sales in 100 days... What do you think?  Are you the one for the job?

(Please pop a photo on your application please - heck, if I have to do it...)

8.3.11

Day 3

Today I succumbed to temptation and bought my own book.  I don't have a Kindle and can't purchase one since I live neither in the US nor in the UK, so I bought it through the Kindle app for iPod.

Which means I am now the proud owner of something that looks like this:



That's the first page of my book right there.  All yours.  For free.  Well, actually it's only about the first twenty words but that counts as a page in iPod-land.

And that brings me to what, so far, has been the most difficult part of promoting my e-baby.  It's not that my friends don't want to do something nice for me (and get a sneak peak into my twisted mind); but most of them have no idea that you don't actually need a Kindle to read a Kindle book.

In fact, until yesterday, neither did I.

Why does Amazon keep this so hush-hush, I wonder?  The only explanation would be that they are trying to encourage people to buy their device rather than use Steve Jobs' version.  But that explanation makes absolutely no business sense.

Surely Amazon makes far more money off sales of the e-books themselves than off sales of the Kindle? 

Let's take your average best-selling e-book at a price of $10.  Amazon makes at least $3 off that price (a bit more, actually, but we'll get into that another time).  At around $140 per Kindle, and a generously estimated margin of 40%, that means Amazon makes more money from the sale of 19 e-books than from the sale of 1 Kindle.

Now let's think how many e-books one Kindle owners is likely to buy.  Probably more than 19, right?  And now let's think of all the e-books non-Kindle owners are likely to buy (especially if they actually knew they could).  The numbers are stacking up now.

The device is not where the money is.  The money is in the content.  So please, people, spread the word.  And buy an e-book!

7.3.11

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books: newyorker.com

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books: newyorker.com

A little background reading.

Day 2

I'm at work today.  Meant to do work-related things.  I mostly manage, in between sneak peaks at my amazon page.

That damn stats counter is incomprehensible and plays with my nerves.  I went to bed on Day 1 around the 14,000 mark and twelve hours later I'm down in the depths of despair at 22,000.  Surely none of the books have been returned?  (I now suspect it has something to do with the time of day as by the evening, I'm back to 14,000 and change.)

Do the stats actually mean anything or are they simply intended to drive authors mad?  My self-worth is now encapsulated in that single number.  Like a junkie, I hit refresh repeatedly.  My mouse doth protest.

The afternoon brings me my second review.  Another friend who is far too kind.  I start thinking maybe someone should say they hate it just to make the whole thing a bit more realistic.

Then total happiness.  I've been linked on friends' facebook pages (Mr Zuckerberg, I love you) and two people (two!) I have never met say they will buy my novel.  One even proclaims an intention to introduce it to her bookclub.

I do a little dance in the office.  Then I panic when I consider the possibility that these new readers, these readers who owe me nothing, may hate it and trash it on amazon.

People, I have a perfect 5-star record to uphold.  Please.

It's the end of the day and I have sold 10 copies total.  That means 6 the first day and 4 the second day.  The downward spiral has begun.

Day 1

Last night, I whipped up a cover using my mac and an old holiday snap.  I debated whether or not I should give the manuscript a final proofread.  At 235 pages and given the hour, I went with not.  Then I clicked upload.

And that was - not quite it.  There was still the small matter of the price.  Which inevitably sparked a heated internal debate about value.  I lost.

There.  Now we wait.  Well, we go to bed first, and dream of hordes of adoring fans screaming our name like tweens at a Justin Bieber concert.

On Day 1, the book is on Amazon.  It has my name on it.  It has the title on it (hats off to the girl who came up with it during a random frenzy of creativity).  Absolutely nothing is happening.  The viral marketer in me screams "facebook" and I obey.  I receive several "likes".  I feel pretty giddy.  Then I realize I've sold two copies before lunch.  And it's not even my mother, since she doesn't have a Kindle or know what one is.

I am definitely on the fast track to success.

Next comes the clincher.  My first review.  No, it's not cheating since the person who wrote it helped with the proofreads all those months ago, so she has actually read it.  Whether she really thought it was worth the 5 stars is another matter.

By the end of the day I have sold six copies and checked twenty-five times.

What I haven't done is buy a copy of my own book.  Especially since I don't own a Kindle either.