Moving in Stereo: Stepping outside of the Amazon Ecosystem

Morning all, and a great Friday and (potentially) weekend to you. This has been a long week, and I’m glad to see its ass-end heading out the door. Let’s just hope all of March isn’t so wild and inconsistent because I may just be forced to drastic measures. Evil measures.

Dramatic_Alpaca

Today I want to talk about the Amazon ecosystem and why I’ve recently increased my distance from it. Let me first admit to some trepidation at sounding a little out-of-touch with this post, as I’m quite aware that some people out there have come to the same conclusion. That conclusion being that the Amazon ‘game’ that so many of us play either doesn’t work or keeps us from seeing the bigger picture of book promotion. I have no idea how much of a trend this movement may be, but I still see an awful lot of posts about getting reviews on Amazon/Amazon sales rankings/Amazon removing likes/Amazon killing puppies, and I just wanted to say a few things about it.

ad-amazon-180x60-blue-bub

Getting this out of the way first: I have nothing against Amazon. In fact, I use it pretty much every day for ordering Kindle books or music or vitamin supplements or what-have-you. I run a thriving Amazon Marketplace business (Brown Pig Brown what) and use Fulfillment by Amazon. This is not meant to be an anti-Amazon post in any way. They’re a pretty spiffy business, and I respect them quite a bit, but let’s face it: Amazon is not – and cannot – be the center of the universe. I suspect not even the company truly wants to be at the center of everything, for all its attempts to carry a broad selection.

Yet for many reasons, some of them valid and some not-so-valid, the indie community has hoisted Amazon as the standard bearer for our movement, the place where you have to succeed if you want to be anything at all. Amazon rankings are held up as the gospel truth and people (even myself) hand over exclusive rights to their works in exchange for a small handful of cash each month, if that. Pretty much all of us have done it, and the Amazon ranking system is set up to encourage it, even if it seems that essentially zero readers actually pay attention to that system. Most that I’ve questioned don’t even know it exists, though it would be fascinating to see a study done on the topic.

Nope2

Thinking about this led to something of an epiphany toward the end of last year: a lot of people out there don’t use Amazon, or don’t want to use Amazon. Hell, plenty of people refuse to read eBooks. I know, I know. This should be self-evident, and I knew it on an intellectual level, but the consequences of that state of affairs didn’t truly settle on my bones until just then. Even with that revelation, it took quite a bit more time to understand that my target audience might truly be comprised of a lot of those folks.

With that in mind, I reworked my approach to marketing. I eased off of the online marketing gas and put more into personal appearances and sales to test this theory. I came away with some surprising data from my first appearance in December. Did I sell hundreds of copies? No, but then it was a small local craft show and I only attended for two to three hours. I did, however, totally blow away my online sales for January in the matter of a few hours.

Encouraged, I booked time at a convention, which has also been covered on this blog. The first few days were bleak, no lie about that, but I matched my total from the December show and outpaced online February sales by a decent margin. As surprising as this might have been, it fell right in line with my experiences to date: I’ve always sold more copies in person, face-to-face, than online, and with a much higher profit margin. Unfortunately, those “didn’t count”, as they didn’t show up in the Amazon rankings.

It sounds stupid. Hell, it is stupid. Money is money, and readers are readers. Who cares if a number on Amazon goes up?

Well, I did. I still bought into the Amazon ecosystem myth, right up until a few days ago, when it became crystal clear that my audience might not be on Amazon after all. So many people who buy my books in person seem less tech-savvy and show a much greater appreciation for the works once they’ve finished them. I don’t understand the connection as I guessed that my books appealed to a more tech-savvy populace, but whatever. I’ll go with what works, and I’m especially ready to cast off the chains of what has become a traditional online marketing approach.

Could this real-world success translate to online success? Haven’t a clue, but I’m not going to worry about it. The only real metric to success is finding an audience and then focusing on it, and those folks seem to be sliding into view, one by one. I hope that more authors realize this and get out there to pound the pavement. I know it’s easier to do this stuff from behind the keyboard, but I fear that the personal appearance and real-life book tour may fall by the wayside, replaced by canned guest posts and purchased reviews. That’s a damned shame because it’s a vital part of our cultural heritage as authors, Amazon ranking or not.

This post may not be for every one of you. I know lots of people who are walking the same path that I’m walking, and I raise my glass to you. I just think that it’s time to broaden horizons and maybe incorporate older approaches with the newer approaches. Have you been pursuing this path? I’d love to hear from you and share what works and what’s proven to be a blind alley. Every writer’s path is assuredly different, and it’s always fascinating to see what folks have dug up. Let me know in the comments.

Room 3 Launch – Get the Details Here!

Hi readers! I am proud to announce that Room 3 is now available on all major eBook and print platforms – and coming to many more in the near future (including an audiobook that’s in the works).

I have a fun promotion and giveaway going on this week, but first, let’s look at the current lay of the land with where you can pick up my second full-length novel:

  • Smashwords is my current favored e-store for purchase, just because you can get it in so many formats with such little fuss. I’m offering a 10% off discount if you purchase it through Smashwords, in fact; use PL77Y as your coupon code at checkout and you can knock a little off of the price.
  • I’m sure many of you are looking for the Kindle version, and you find it at Amazon. Go go go!!
  • Barnes and Noble also offers the print edition and the Nook version, if that’s your cup of tea. I can’t offer you a discount there, but you’re welcome to check it out.
  • You can also purchase signed and unsigned print editions through my site.
  • The print edition is also available on Amazon and Createspace.
More editions are coming soon (I’m trying to work something out with Google at the moment); it’s just taking some time to get them into the pipeline, as usual. In the meantime, I’m offering a special 2-for-1 deal and giveaway. Here’s how it works:
  1. Purchase Room 3 between now and Midnight on November 18th on any qualifying site. Really, I’m happy with anything, even through this site.
  2. Send me an email at crimnos@gmail.com with the receipt and/or screenshot of the receipt.
  3. Indicate your preferred eBook format and preferred eBook (The Corridors of the Dead, The Kayson Cycle, or The Station).
  4. I’ll send you a copy of that eBook for free! I’ll also give you two entries into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card. Pretty straightforward, right?
Now, I know – I’m not just using the giveaway as a tool to puff up my sales. Since memory is so important in Room 3, all you need to do to gain one entry is comment on this post and share one of your favorite memories. That’s it! I look forward to seeing what you have to share.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Offering Yet More Proof

Mind is whirring. So many things going on, but I think the most important is the impending release of Room 3. Today I thought I’d share the outcome of last week’s proofing session and show you some of the issues that can crop up even if you’re familiar with the process and have done your level best to ensure a good first proof. These things happen; even with precise measurements sometimes things get changed and look different once you have it in hand. Let’s take a look.

First, a picture of the overall package:

Looks good, right? Well…I spotted a few issues right away on the cover, ones that weren’t so apparent on the online preview. Here’s what the online preview showed me:

Aside from my weird author picture (I don’t know what happened there but can’t be bothered to fix it since that’s a placeholder anyway), I can see that the title text is a little too close to the lines, but it didn’t become as readily apparent until I saw the actual printed version:

The title (and author name) bleed too close to the edge. This probably happened when the book doubled in size and is a fairly easy fix. You can see in the next photo and the digital proof above that I have some room to play with; the left edge of the back cover has a bit of slack and the right edge on the front cover has some room. Worst case scenario, I just take the font down a size, but that’s probably not necessary. Continue reading

Putting Forth the Proof

You want to see something that makes me giddy every time I think about it? Check this out:

That’s right. That means that the first proof of Room 3 is on the way. I couldn’t be happier about it, as I genuinely had some doubts as to whether this book would ever cross the finish line. I’m not there yet, but but this is a very clear sign that the end is nigh.

One of the most common questions that I get about the proofing process is why I begin it well before my editor has finished with the book. To understand that, you really have to be familiar with the printing process when it comes to self-publishing and especially the quirks that come along with Createspace publishing. Here’s a thumbnail of how the process works for me (I’m planning a book with far more in-depth information on my process, but this will do for a high-level view).

Obviously, formatting comes first – and this is a lot trickier than it sounds. As complicated as ebook formatting my sometimes seem, the print formatting process is far more convoluted, as you have to concern yourself with things like gutter size, available space on the page, font size considerations, pagination, and proper alignment. One of the items that most caught me off-guard on my first go-round was receiving the proof and finding that, oh yes, new chapters need to begin on odd pages. We readers just accept this as a given when reading a novel, but it’s something that had just never occurred to me in the creation process. My first encounter with proofing had a lot to do with errors like this, just common little things that you take for granted when reading but actually require some thought.

Now doesn’t that seem like it would be easier to do once you’ve received the editor’s changes? Yes, that part does seem that way. But here’s the thing – that’s the easy part. Continue reading

Indie-Pendence Blog Hop Day 4: The Difficulties of Indie Publishing and Marketing

Okay, so technically we still have one day left of the blog hop, but that’s reserved for a weekly feature on this site – a chance for you all to get to meet my writing group. Today I want to break the formula and ramble a bit about my own views on indie publishing and marketing aside from what I talked about yesterday.

First, though, a reminder that we’re still giving away loads of books for free. Let’s review what you stand to win this week:

-eBooks of the Corridors of the Dead (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Kayson Cycle (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Station (limit 5)
-Advance eBook of Room 3 when it releases (limit 2)
-eBooks of the Newfoundland Vampire (limit 3)
-eBooks of Marie Loughin’s Valknut the Binding (limit 5)

That’s 25 free books ready for folks to win. And all you have to do is comment. Once you’ve commented, you’ll go into the drawing spreadsheet. On Friday, I’ll draw your number from the hat (a random number generator), and notify you of what you’ve won. Your odds are really, really good, and I know the involved authors would love your comments on our posts. I’m hoping this will be fun for everybody and spur some discussion.

All right, so. Where do we go with this post? Good question. I had originally envisioned this post as a recap of what the other authors shared this week, but I think those posts stand on their own and there’s no need to rehash and bore all of us. The answer, I think, is to take a look at my own attitudes about indie publishing and marketing, outside of writing. I went with four additional questions to probe some of my own attitudes.

The most difficult part about being an indie publisher

Hands-down, the marketing. Formatting is a chore and can be a slow, frustrating pain (doubly so when you’re working on a print book), but when it’s done, it’s done. Marketing drags on and on and can suck up every moment of your waking life if you allow it to. Not to mention that, as I said yesterday, you can develop this real casino mentality to the whole thing, hoping that the big payoff is just around the corner. All the while it drains your money (creativity) with no real return. Everyone claims to have the answer, but by the time that person shares her answer, that approach has likely dried up entirely, and that’s not mentioning people who have an angle just to make money off of desperate authors. Continue reading

The Station Cover Reveal and Details!

With a release date fast approaching (I’m hoping sooner rather than later, but I want to have this coincide with a re-launch of Corridors of the Dead with a new cover and new print edition), I think it’s time to get The Station’s cover out there, along with some details of the story and what you can expect in terms of launch support – I’m having a pretty big sale to celebrate its release. First, the cover!

Ryan from Novel Branding took the concept of creating old-school-style covers for the entire Among the Dead series, including its short story offshoots and really ran with it. We’re currently in the early stages of working on the cover for the Corridors relaunch, but you can expect something in the same vein for both the ebooks and print editions.

I’m currently crafting the Amazon blurb, but in a nutshell, the story goes like this for those who are familiar with Corridors:

9,000 years before the events of Corridors of the Dead, the Watchers ran the world with an iron fist; they controlled all methods of transportation, policed 90% of the Earth’s surface, and carefully scrutinized the activities of humanity. While not completely on par with our current technology, they had done quite well and even gotten as far as flying airships, which allowed humans, Watchers, and their Nephil offspring to both travel and consolidate power across the globe.

Our story begins with a logician (read: librarian) academic who has been sent to the Forbidden Lands in the Antarctic to find the lost remnants of an even more ancient civilization and locate a relic that could turn the tide of humanity’s secret rebellion against the Watchers. With some hard work, he finds a near-mythical location: The Station, where the relic is said to lie.

What he finds there will change his life forever.

For those who have read Corridors, this story also explains the background of a character in that story who will play a far larger role in City of the Dead, forming a bridge between the two novels. An edited version will also appear as interludes in City of the Dead.

Now, the support. On Launch Day, you can expect to find my story, The Kayson Cycle, for free on Amazon. I’m also dropping the price of Corridors of the Dead to 99 cents, matching the launch price of The Station. I hope to have some new promotional items in around that time, too, as well as a trivia giveaway. Don’t worry about missing it, I’ll put it up here again.

Enhanced by Zemanta

*F*R*E*E* for Three Days Only: The Kayson Cycle

That’s right, for three days only, the Kayson Cycle is available for free on the Amazon Store. You can go here to pick up your copy.

The Kayson Cycle introduces the Kayson Brothers, a pair of faith healers who once wowed crowds in a traveling show but went their separate ways after a night in which a healing took a dark turn. Jeffrey Kayson disappeared into the wilderness and William Kayson, wracked by guilt, moved to the failing mining town of Calico Hills to build a nice, quiet life – one that has lasted for over ten years.

His quiet, predictable life crumbles when a mysterious stranger walks into his tavern bearing a proposal to find his long-lost brother and do the one thing that William has sworn to never do again – have his brother heal a woman. William soon learns that he can’t escape his family – or his destiny.

Includes an exclusive sample chapter of The Corridors of the Dead. Please note that this is a Kindle Single, and around 6,000 words in length.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Best Things in Life…: Publication as a Service

First things first, I want to address this as my 200th post on this blog. Nice milestone, but I’m still close to 600 behind my old Washington Nationals baseball card site (one of my dirty little secrets), so I clearly still have some way to go.

Oh, and one other announcement – there will be no new content on Friday of this week, as we will be transitioning the website to a new server, which will allow me to offer a lot of fun new content, as well as a way to pre-order copies of books. Look for more information next Monday, when I’ll have an “official” launch and plan to open up pre-orders.

Now, on to the subject at hand. I’ve been wanting to talk about Amazon’s new lending library for quite some time, but I wanted to gather my thoughts before I just barfed something out onto the page. At first it seemed like indie authors would be put at an extreme disadvantage – how could we compete, or even expect to expand our efforts, with books becoming free? I was a bit angry and it seemed unfair. Continue reading

The Hardcover

Walking to the car this morning, I received an email alert: one of my favorite authors (and a budding new influence), China Mieville, has a new book out. Great! How exciting. Click the link…and seriously.

12.99 is well beyond the price range of what I personally consider reasonable for a file that has had only a minimal amount of post-writing labor put into it, but okay, the publishers have a lot of overhead, etc. It’s not a *smart* policy and I disagree, but I at least get why the publishers are doing it. But look at that, the paperback is cheaper than the Kindle file! Not just the discounted Amazon price or the price from other retailers, but the actual paperback retail price.

This raises the question, why is the publishing industry so dedicated to preserving the sanctity of the hardcover? I know this has been visited a lot, by writers who are more well-versed in the industry than I am, but it feels like it bears repeating here: price-protecting the hardcover is a product of the exact same thinking that has kneecapped the music industry and left it perpetually behind the 8-ball, reactive rather than proactive. I had high hopes that the publishing industry was going to learn from their mistakes, and while it seems like some of the companies have (see a company like Angry Robot Books who not only focus on ebook releases but are DRM free), the Big 6 seem to be having trouble coming to terms with what they represent in this new world.

Full disclosure – there was a time that I believed in piracy as an effective means of distribution. Of course, I was a much younger, more naive person, but I don’t think that’s entirely an excuse. It’s become clearer to me over the years that it’s not entirely a victimless crime (though still not theft – that’s a misnomer).

As a way of making up for that period in my life, I have made it my personal mission to support fellow artists where-ever possible. I not only don’t download free stuff but also contribute to artists who make their works available for free and allow an avenue to donate to them. The problem arises when there may be an artist whom I feel is worthy but the price range is cost-prohibitive and just doesn’t make sense – as with China’s new book. Does that mean I’ll pirate it? No, of course not. But it does mean I’ll move on and check out the work of some other author who is charging more reasonable rates for their stories.  I know I’m not the only one in this scenario, either.

Therein lies the crux of the problem: a worthy artist is denied some income simply because of this artificial scheme to protect an anachronistic medium. It’s infuriating, but what can you do other than go down your own path and hope that things change even more soon?

Along this same path, today’s link is The Digital Reader, a fellow blogger who looks at the trends in digital publishing these days and has written up a similar rant on this very topic. I especially enjoyed his review of The Dumbest Generation. Check it out!

Points and Points and Points

Morning again? Didn’t we just leave this party? It feels like the craziest, most hectic of weeks for me. I suppose because I have a confluence of events coming together. There’s the birthday of a friend’s relative, and I’m somewhat involved in her gift to him; there’s the weekly podcast; there’s all the stuff I have to do to get onboard with a new job; there are some things due at work; there’s my Amazon store doing well the last month or so; and my writing career. Oh, and my birthday this weekend with a three-day weekend which is accelerating some work projects. Madness, I tell you, madness.

So I’ve mentioned the book that I’m reading, Write Good or Die. I found a particularly apt section last night that I want to share with you today, regarding self-publishing. This is from an article written by Robert Kroese, whose novel Mercury Falls has been a particular success within the Kindle self-publishing community (by the way, he has also written a guide to self-publishing that is on my Amazon wishlist). What I’m saying is, check his stuff out!

Okay, this first one is not about self-publishing, but is a damned important point that I try to keep in mind every time I write:

And now on to some really good stuff….

I like this definition of “published” a lot. I think that it’s high time we re-evaluate what the term even means, and whether the old definition was truly even useful in the first place or an artificial construction designed to weed people out. He makes a great point about the sale of the first Harry Potter series and how the publishers who passed on it raise some suspicion about the entire publishing process in general, and it’s hard to argue with it. Hell, I’ve thought the same thing not just about the publishing industry but music and movies as well – the vetting process that businesses use aren’t geared toward true quality and show a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes for compelling reading/listening/viewing. I’m starting to realize some of the layers of red tape keep that stuff obscured.

I thought this was an especially interesting point of view, and I may have been guilty of being that unpublished author who thought in a similar vein.

Anyway, I don’t want to give away the keys to the story – definitely pick up the book, it’s well worth a read. Hell, it’s free, so what are you waiting for? Go there now.

I posted this because this plus another entry on success have made me realize that I really need to evaluate my own personal definition of success with my writing. It’s something I will write more about in the near-future.