Keeping Up Appearances

All the marketing advice in the self-published space states, that building a following and regular posting is essential. This creates an audience that might, just might read a book. To achieve such a following the marketeer (the author role has disappeared for now) has to use the various social media outlets and/or advertising paths to raise awareness.

Now alongside being a writer, the skills of social commentary have to be added. In addition, the writer has to become technically familiar with all the different outlets. These vary from a simple blog like this on WordPress to Twitter, PinIntrest, YouTube, Facebook, Google+Instagram, etc,etc. Then there are the sites like Amazon’s forums, Linkedin or Goodreads. I’m sure there are lots of how to books and site FAQs that can explain the best way of using a particular platform but who has time to read them!

If you are like me you will stumble through and try to figure out the best way to make use of the different functionality. You may link sites to each other as I do so that this blog appears on Linkedin and Goodreads whilst a link appears on Twitter.

Now that I have created a wonderful commentary even if limited to Twitters’ few words, which will enthral the world, people will flock to my site. As my latest offering goes viral the sales will naturally follow and soon I will have to hire a publicist, web-master etc. just to keep up. One tiny, tiny problem with this plan. The cat or dog or baby video, celebrity trending tweet, scandal or my own problem.

I simply do not have enough time in the day to read or watch all this stuff. At work I now have email, Intranet, extra-net, Instant Messaging, conferencing and a Facebook replacement called Yammer, occasionally I get some work done but normally only after responding to the email, and IM message asking why I haven’t responded to the Yammer comment.

At home when I should be writing the next chapter of my book I am reading Goodreads, occasional other blogs and trying to follow some Twitter and of course updating linked in writing and professional forums all in an attempt to get me noticed. To keep up the appearance of activity and interest in the hope that this will be reflected back. Then comes the killer blow. Nearly everyone I am in contact with is another author trying to do the same thing. Yes we are all readers too so we try and read and review and offer helpful comments.

Somewhere out there is a true reader that might write a glowing review. What? They write a review, but now they are a writer too. There are hundreds if not thousands of review blogs, all this writing and communicating all this social commentary and interaction is overwhelming. Yet this week I had one of the most pleasing and odd experiences a personal appearance at a book club. I talked to my readers! Whatever next direct social interaction the next thing you know people may use there electronic devices to phone someone. Now I need to get this published and word spread, it will go viral if I add sex or a picture of a kitten won’t it!

Kitten-prays

From http://catsinflats.com.au/adopting-kitten-cat/

 

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I Must Not Check My Sales Figures

It’s nearly three weeks since I launched my latest two attempts at world author domination. Three weeks of trying to stop myself going on Amazon KDP site to see if anyone has noticed that I have not just three but five books out now. Not just noticed of course but purchased a copy. Oh the joy of that first sale! Then waiting for the storming up the sales charts and rankings. Then there would be the interview with local press, perhaps  a national newspaper and an interview on Radio 2 as the latest greatest Internet phenomena. I mean do we really need to know about another cat or a baby on YouTube or that some Celeb has done something, potentially breathed or uttered a meaningful syllable.

I have books out pay attention to me!

Shortly after my email and phone would be inundated with demands and offers for publishing rights and of course that film deal. Just a couple more sales and it will happen. Look yesterday three copies were sold, I must be edging up the charts now. I’ll do some more adverts that will generate interest 200,000 views, 2 clicks, no purchases.

My hope is gone faster than an elephant sitting on a helium congratulations balloon. Delve into writers forums – it takes time to build an audience, I have less than you, I’m sure things will pick up the usual supportive platitudes from my fellow writers. Plus the other ones, I only had 4,000 downloads last week I wonder what I am doing wrong!

I’ve emailed and twittered, I’ve added my Goodreads folder comments, no spamming – I hate that. I’ve listed my books on sites, added to web sites and blogs. Told family and friends. I haven’t read the first one yet, I don’t have a Kindle, I’m reading war and peace, I don’t read books. Nothing like support when you need it.

Look another sale! Nearly seven billion people on the planet and I get one sale. Unfair of course on the 99.99999999% of the population who couldn’t care less. I’ll run a promotion, give it away, done that before and… That’s not a sale that’s just a statistic a free download, no reviews not even sure if anyone reads the freebies, they just collect them. Don’t log in again, don’t click on the reports dashboard to find out how many. That graph is infuriating surely it means 100’s or thousands not ones and twos. It must be more than that. Log off. Don’t look. Months of effort, hours of drafting and redrafting. On page 36 you used new instead of knew. Damn, damn, damn, correct, upload new version. Did anyone notice? Why have I found out now? After editing, beta readers, more editing, how can that happen? Is that why no one is buying the book, they try the sample and see new instead of knew glaring at them.

It’s been an hour, I haven’t checked. I can’t check at work, I don’t want to check but the bookmark is right there, I can find out in less than twenty seconds. Someone at work says, “I must give your book a try.” I check the report, nothing.

I can’t very well go and shout at them “I thought you were going to buy my book!”

I check a few hours later, one sale! Was that them, no it’s not in the UK unless they are buying from another ID on another site. I must stop this, I’ll check the reviews instead….

This way lies madness.

I need to write instead. Write something different, something better, don’t use the word knew, edit it another time or three. Spend more on advertising, blog more, comment more, tweet more. That next sales rank is just out of reach just a few more downloads away.

I’d better check the numbers I could have sold a million whilst I was writing this. I’ll check the going rate for that Hollywood deal. Log in, no change.

Repeat – ad-infinitum…

New Books – Philip G Henley

Phenweb Publishing is delighted to announce the publication of two new books by

Philip G Henley

Both available now on Amazon

An Agent’s Rise is the sequel to An Agent’s Demise

Cover Plain Front 300

Available at

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

The Observers Series Part One – The World of Fives is the first in a new science fiction series. Please also see The Interplanetary Geographic Service

World of Fives cover

Available at

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

The Population Time Bomb

After writing about numbers and calendars I got into a discussion on the GoodReads forums about dystopian concepts and backdrops and the impact of rising populations the population time bomb I might call it.

 https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1486060-what-is-the-most-overused-dystopian-cliche

The discussion some of which I have repeated in this blog was mainly with Will Once a fellow GoodReads author http://www.will-once.com/

We were discussing dystopia or utopia in the future. Will wrote:

Nano technology and stem cell research are interesting because they hint at a possible utopia/ dystopia that we may be heading for. As medicines, improve we are living longer – that much is evident. What happens when the world is full of millions of 200 year olds? Do all the young uns find that the only work they can get is as doctors/ nurses and social care workers? And that they can’t afford to buy a house because the old folk aren’t dying off to release their houses back into the market.

In 1900 the average life expectancy for a man was in his fifties. He probably didn’t get much time to enjoy his retirement. Now the average life expectancy for a man is in his 80s. Some are saying that the first person to live to be 200 may have already been born.

And now the £64,000 question. Will that lead us to utopia or dystopia?

 I responded:

This is exactly the backdrop that is driving much modern sci-fi. I am trying to see how we get to the utopia without a significant event to force change. Global warming will have an impact but forget industrial CO2 emissions, the cause of those emissions is population growth, worldwide causing demand for products and resources. Add to growth better healthcare which extends life and you have a double whammy. Previous growth led to exploration to the Americas from Europe and then to Australasia. Earth’s population is rapidly on the way to seven billion without the impact of better healthcare. Curing disease is a very noble act but there is a knock on effect.

I think there will be a worldwide food and water crisis at some stage unless food production and water preparation can be increased significantly. Of course that would mean a better survival rate thus increasing the problem. For exploration we either populate the current uninhabited areas or find more space – Mars anyone?

All those actions require energy and fuel so until we have fusion power or get over our hangups over nuclear we will continue to generate more carbon. As for renewable ever tried a dull overcast day with no wind! Unless we can store the renewable energy we will always be limited that means batteries or pumping water to use as hydro electric at night/dull/windless. Tidal barrage is a possibility near coasts but fusion holds the key.

To which Will responded

I‘m not sure that emigration to Mars (or anywhere else) is really going to be the solution. As you say, we’re currently at 7 billion population. This number is increasing by an extra billion every 12 years or so. If we assume that the growth stays the same and we want to keep earth’s population static, then we would need to ship one billion people to Mars every 12 years.

That’s 83 million people every year. Or 233,000 people every day.

Let’s say that our spaceships can each carry as many passengers as an Airbus A380 – that’s 853 people in an “all economy” configuration (and also coincidentally twice the number of passengers that Star Trek’s Enterprise could carry, but let’s be optimistic).

Let’s also be really generous and say that the trip takes just 48 hours, including loading and reloading the passengers at either end. That is definitely into NC1701 levels of speed and probably needing transporter technology to get folks through the transit lounges.

We would need a fleet of 550 of these spaceships operating 24/7.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Mars would be filling up at a rate of 1 billion people every 12 years – for the first few years, but then accelerating to up to 2 billion every 12 years thereafter (their own 1 billion growth plus the 1 billion shipped over from earth).

If we started this programme tomorrow and assume that Mars was instantly colonisable, then within about 60 years Mars would be as full as the earth is now.

Oops.

A more likely scenario is that we are either going to have to learn how to live with hyper-population and/or start talking about euthanasia/ population control – eg the Logan Run idea of death at the age of 30 and/ or the Chinese one-child per family policy.

The future may well be one of minimalism. Fewer possessions, less energy consumption per person, smaller homes, less travelling, Hong Kong style city living.

 So much for my Mars idea…As I like numbers I thought I would explore the discussion with some statistics. The World’s population has increased from 2 Billion (probably under reported in the developing world) to 7 billion in a little over eighty years.

The statistics of course hide a lot of variations from life expectancy. The numbers and extension of age has a primary causation of living beyond age 1 and then age 5. Public Health improvements are the main reason life expectancy has increased and the reason life expectancy in the developing world is still so low relative to Western Europe and Japan. The number of 100 year-olds is doubling every 13 years and this rate is increasing.

Public health will improve in large potential population areas in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Asian populations of India, Pakistan, Indonesia etc. and South America continues to expand. We will have a double whammy not just in terms of greater birth rates but better and longer survival rates. More children will survive to adulthood, to produce more children and those same children will live longer.

Now tie the population to carbon emissions, I’ll use the USA and India as examples. The USA has 4.4% of world population in 2010 figures. India has 17.4%. Respectively they produce 17.3% and 6.4% of carbon emissions. Therefore USA has a quarter of the population but produces three times the carbon for it’s higher standard of living. The population in the USA has a greater life expectancy than India therefore they not only produce more carbon per head per year but for longer. If India was to raise it’s public health and consequent carbon emissions to US standards of survival and consumption, their population would nearly double, average age would increase and consumption would increase by nearly 300%. To achieve that consumption without different forms of energy is simply unrealistic. We do not have the fossil fuels on earth to produce that much energy. The impact of the carbon emissions on global warming would be well in excess of the predicted temperature rises.

I’ll not get into the argument of whether this is man made or not. It’s a pointless discussion. The rise is happening. Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit a coral reef can see the impact of pollution on coral over the last thirty or forty years. Call it temperature rise or just pollution in the water, the coral is dying regardless. Fish stocks are declining in virtually every species.

The loss of fish as a food has been largely offset by the growth in agricultural production. Most of this food has gone to people who can pay for it rather than who need it to survive, because the cost of production has to be paid for somehow. The World’s altruistic efforts to provide Governments, NGOs and the UN with funds to help famine victims only increase the pressure to grow and distribute food.

Unfortunately, I can see a future of famine for much of the Earth’s population. The West maybe partially immune because we have money to buy the resources, but that is until the demands outweigh the resources around the world. We must discover either new energy or new ways of producing and distributing food and water. We could use desalination plants for water but they need energy to run the process and create other waste in the form of carbon emissions and other toxic waste. Once salt has been removed where is it put…

We could irrigate the deserts. This would require massive investment in digging, and then pumping water, more energy and would have it’s own impact on local climate. If you visit southern Arizona (Yuma to the Californian state line) you can see this in action, desert turned green but the locals will tell you the climate has changed from dry desert to humidity. Of course the ancient Egyptians did this with the Nile so it’s nothing new.

So all we need are:

  • Clean renewable energy
  • More food
  • More water
  • Or population control

Otherwise we will have famine. We already do! It just doesn’t grab the headlines everyday although South Sudan was in the news this week. We have battles over resources around the world. They can be dressed up as political arguments and religious disputes but the underlying causes are frequently resource driven. Food, water, energy or control of these.

The Colorado River used to flow into Mexico; the trickle at Yuma that crosses the border had been used for farming, recreation, and power generation in the USA. This leaves very little for the Mexican neighbours. Water resource is already a huge issue in parts of California. The growth of Las Vegas as a city impacted the available water resource for Los Angeles and the available power generated by the Hoover Dam hydroelectric power plant. California’ population has been growing 6.3 million in 1910 census to 37 million in 2010 census. In one person’s lifespan, albeit a centenarian, a 600% population increase. As far as I am aware no new natural resources have been created in California for several billion years. Human beings have found some, maybe all, imported even more.

Droughts and floods in the UK have been met with equal levels of surprise because we cannot fund water distribution or flood defences within current tax, or payment levels. In a drought we can’t move water to drought areas and in a flood we cannot pump it away for storage. We do not want to build reservoirs, which could provide hydroelectric power. We seem to lack the vision or will for large infrastructure projects especially in the crowded expensive south of the country. The very area where demand for power, water, sewage is the greatest and growth is the highest.

To solve this will take massive sustained long-term investment, but the world does not seem to be awake to the issue. After all it will take more time than the next election window. As a final example of the absurdity of the situation I’ll pick on Coca Cola (no offence to CC but they are big enough not to care). It spends $2.9 Billion per annum on advertising its products. The largest Fusion Research effort, ITER, is costing approx. $15 billion for it’s 35-year lifespan and is 11 years late so far. In other words Coca Cola spends more per year advertising its products than the world spends on fusion research. In fact CC’s advertising spend is larger than the GDP of thirty of the poorest nations. Yet CC will need water, ingredients, and power to produce its products for the expanding world population. Where exactly are these resources to come from? This is not a rant on the failures of capitalism, socialism, communism or any other ‘ism. Where are the answers to the problem? We need food, water, and space to live and breathe clean air. We need to distribute it as fairly as possible.

Unless we can discover ways to produce more with less then the population time bomb will continue to tick. On the forum, Will finished part of the discussion mentioning Human Rights – one child per family as China experimented to reduce it’s population growth. That’s another whole realm of discussion and for the fiction writer another opportunity for stories on dystopias. I haven’t sneaked a book link in until now so hear it is – My To the Survivors story has a virus do this correction… I can’t see many utopias awaiting the human race. Mother nature/God/evolution has in the past sorted the problem out. If one species grows too big it starves or a disease reduces the levels. For the last few thousand years human beings have strived to overcome the balancing act that naturally occurred. Perhaps another major balancing act for human beings is overdue.

The Blog I Should Be Writing

I should be writing a blog.  A blog that allows me to link to my books in some way or adds to the greater good (IMHO) with a commentary on passing affairs.

Yesterday I had an idea about writing one describing the reasons why I have given up playing golf, perhaps another day.

I could add more on a whole variety of subjects that I would like to write about, Scottish Independence, the NSA, more on the hacking trial, even the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight.  Lots of things to talk about.  Instead what have I done?  Editing of my sequel to An Agent’s Demise (managed to get a link in somewhere).  I have lost track of how many times I have read and re-read sections, trying to hone the plot, justify character’s actions and get rid of the allowed for aloud stupid mistakes. I of course have written about this before, here, but, now I have an editor.  I hope I have also learned some rules even though some go against what I was taught years ago.

For example starting sentences with conjunctions like and and but is apparently allowed (not aloud). I was always taught to use two spaces after a full stop (not a period – sorry USA it’s called English for a reason) but apparently that means I am a dinosaur left over from the typewriter age. Professional publishing with its typefaces never used two spaces anyway, allegedly.  Now we have serif and sans serif fonts to worry about. With an ebook the publisher has no control over what font the reader uses on whatever screen resolution, in whatever colour (It has a u in it WordPress, Goodreads, et al) or not is used.  The quick brown fox Microsoft Word test is always fun in different fonts.

I’m rambling again, I still have another five chapters to edit in An Agent’s Rise before a Beta Reader test then an edit or three.  I’m also waiting the return of To The Survivors from a professional edit of the MS.  Then I have The Persuasive Man to send off and The World of Fives  .  I think it’s ready, having incorporated some Beta reader feedback. Maybe one more read through, then I’ll have to start Part Two of the series.  I was again asked if I would write a sequel to To The Survivors.  I am still not sure, I have to have an idea for the sequel, where does it go? The story I mean, I’m in need of inspiration.

Then maybe in a month or so I may be ready to publish my fourth and fifth books, different genres once more. Cover design, formatting, uploading (Smashwords I’m looking at you) then marketing.  I was not going to do any links but here I am.  A page of non-blog rambles with links to all my current and next two books neatly embedded.  Anyone would think I had done that deliberately.  Now where’s those badly used discarded golf clubs, I hear there are good prices for scrap metal!

A Year of Writing

I   have now completed my first year as an author. My first book An Agent’s Demise was not actually published on Kindle until the end of January 2013. Paperback and hardback versions followed via Lulu.  Even writing the words I am an author still seems strange. I prefer the term writer but that also seems pretentious. Not as pretentious as I felt when friends and family asked me to sign my first editions!
 

IMG_0146
New Author
IMG_0147

I currently have three books published and available. To The Survivors and A Persuasive Man followed An Agent’s Demise in May and August respectively. To say they were all written in 2013 would be misleading. An Agent’s Demise was originally started in 2006 then disappeared until November 2012, when a change in work circumstance led to what was supposed to have been a three to six month break but turned into nearly a year. Writing filled my time, and frequently took over all my time outside of hunting for work, but that is another story and not the purpose of this blog.  Then there is the joy of that first review (good) the despair at the first bad which meant that someone other than friends or family had actually ready my scribble.  Of course making number one in free downloads was fantastic however short-lived!

I wrote back in September in a blog called Advertising for the Self-Published Author of my experiences in trying to sell my books; I thought it would be worthwhile to share my sales figures, not as a way of boasting (there is little to boast about and I don’t want to discuss A Persuasive Man) but as information to my fellow new authors, I have excluded all physical copy sales (nearly all directly to me) – they don’t change anything and SmashWords sales which total less than 10 – so here goes.

Book Stats 1

I have cut off the first couple of months of An Agent’s Demise as this distorts the charts due to the number of Free Downloads and my brief number one position, using KDP Select so here it is on its own.

Book Stats 2

The impact of various advertising campaigns I have run has been disappointing to say the least. I have not been able to attribute any increase in sale to promotions through:

  • Book Daily
  • Project Wonderful
  • GoodReads

These campaigns have cost hard earned money, which can only be recovered through higher sales. So far I would have to say they are a pointless waste of time and money.  I cannot even be bothered to list the actual statistics, number of views (allegedly hundreds of thousands) the number of clicks (tens) then the number of attributable purchases (0)

I did save money initially, by not Professionally Editing (in progress as I write) nor did I pay for cover design, promo video (I only have one) web site design or formatting. I purchased Scrivener and Aeon Timeline software after trying others.  Add in costs for ISBNs, review copies to approve physical output, then there are the library copies British library and the others.  I may never publish a physical copy again simply because of the cost.  In other word I have to purchase 7 copies of each book version just to fulfill these requirements.

I have set up two blogs, this one and one for the forthcoming Sci-Fi series The Interplanetary Geographic Service, a Facebook page and tried Twitter as guided by my betters. For book two I created a YouTube video. I have attended one writer’s workshop but personal selling has been non-existent much like my paperback and hardback sales. I did not join GoodReads until March. I updated my LinkedIn profile to include my new status.

So after my first year what are my conclusions?

KDP Select worked (for the downloaders) for An Agent’s Demise but of course free means nothing for the author.  I am not convinced free actually leads to any reviews or even readers. Amazon knows whether someone downloaded for free but do they know if they have read it?  Does a free download lead to a greater likelihood of a review?  I left KDP Select alone for To The Survivors it has never been free except for a couple of Review Copies but remains my best seller.  For A Persuasive Man it has been very difficult.  It has had more advertising then any of the others, and KDP Select Free promotions and recently a KDP Countdown.  I recently received some personal feedback on the book, which may explain its lack of sales or at least partially explain the reason.  I shall be addressing that over the next few months.

I have several new projects underway:

  • The first part of my proposed Sci-Fi tale The Observer Series – The World of Fives has had a couple of Beta readers
  • An Agent’s Rise the sequel to An Agents Demise is nearly done.
  • New editions of An Agent’s Demise and To The Survivors after editing will be out soon
  • Adjustments on The Persuasive Man
  • My collection of short stories
  • A thriller on revolution
  • More ideas in outline or just paragraphs
  • More ideas about other genres
What have I learned:
  • Building an audience takes time – if I wanted patience I’d be a doctor
  • Advertising has little if any effect – If an advertiser disagrees then put your money where your mouth is.
  • Marketing in any form, including writing this blog, significantly reduces available writing time
  • I’ll never understand how the algorithms that Amazon uses to rank sales actually work
  • Nor which Amazon search expression should be used to describe the books
  • We need more books in more varied categories
  • Too many writers, not enough readers, and even fewer reviewers
  • I have interacted with hundreds of new people around the world making friends with many – may that continue and expand
  • I love writing!
  • That being ranked in the hundred thousands is OK when it’s out of several million!
  • Pushing Publish is always going to be scary.
What would I do differently?
  • Professional editing before launch – if only it was financially feasible for many new authors.  Payback could take several years.
  • Think about a marketing plan, but don’t expect any return
  • Don’t check sales everyday, write more instead
  • Learn from fellow authors – thanks GoodReads – but not all advice will work and don’t pay for the advice.
  • Get more Beta Readers – contact me if you would like a Kindle copy for private review.
  • Blogging and commentating is OK but that is not writing
  • Keep writing!

New Year Of Writing

Adapted from Goodreads forum my New Years Resolutions.  I’m reminded of an old joke from my forces days regarding annual reviews which I have amended:

This officer sets ridiculously low expectations and consistently fails to achieve them

So with that in mind:

  1. Write more – in action with An Agent’s Rise and the first of The Observer Series
  2. Write better – I live in hope
  3. Use an editor! – Trying to get one or afford one which amounts to the same thing
  4. Try writing different genres or at least reading them – have been doing both but will try harder
  5. Be positive – Not my normal behaviour the glass is normally half empty but not next year
  6. Don’t worry about reviews or sales – that may not last until the 2nd!

Happy New Year to one and all

The Rejection Letter

Following a GoodReads discussion forum about the relative merits of Professional published writers, Indie Published writers and Self Published writers I dropped in the following Rejection Letter from a leading publishing house to a Mr Bill Shakespeare.

Dear Bill,

We are sorry to tell you that you proposed work of Romeo and Juliet is not acceptable in its current format. Significant changes are required to the plot such as the removal of the under-age sex, violence and suicide. This is not the type of work we can currently carry. As you know we already have similar writers such as Robert Marlow on our books and we would not wish to impact his potential sales.

Writing in verse is of course challenging to many readers,however, clever it may appear to you, it will significantly limit your potential sales. Your poetry is simplistic and lacks rhythm and we have no interest in your collection of so called sonnets.  As for your proposed plot outline for A Midsummer’s Night Dream, we are not a fantasy publisher but we doubt very much whether such a story with a lead character of a donkey would appeal to anyone!  Please don’t trouble us again

Yours etc.

Hope that made you smile now it’s time to

<<START RANT

Now I appreciate that I am be a little harsh on major publishing houses but… why not.  They like the music and movie/film industry still haven’t woken up to the new technology driven world.  The best live news is now provided by mobile phone footage.  Music is prepared and published in home studios and the methods of distribution have changed dramatically.  The production of books, certainly in electronic format is a significant departure from the previous business model.  This does not mean that traditional publishing houses, music producers or movie studios cannot continue to exist, but in recent years they seem to act as no more than marketing companies rather that a sign of a quality gatekeeper.  Other better commentators have written about this and the snobbish way many publishing houses behave, I refer you to this excellent blog as an example.

My point is, and I do have a point,  Publishers need to wake up and smell the roses/coffee.  Employing interns to write reviews for their authors, bribing media reviewers via social book launches, gala nights access to advance copies is just that a bribe and could be considered a giant fraud perpetuated on the actual buying public.  Who should I trust?  A reviewer to attended a drinks and canapés book launch ,got a free copy, maybe stayed in a nice hotel who then writes gushingly about a book, or the avid reader who paid for a book with hard earned cash.  Should I believe a book labelled as The No: One Bestseller when it has only just launched to hundreds of immediate online reviews, or the slow burning self published book with mixed reviews that hasn’t had a single advert.  If Bill was writing today how would he publish his plays and sonnets?  How would Charlie Dickens?  Would he be serialised in a newspaper or on a blog that he created for himself.  Would they be allowed onto a TV Show to promote their latest ghost written work or would they be stuck hoping that someone selects their latest kindle offering potentially as a freebie in the hope that someone may download it, read it and even review it or tell their friends about this little gem they have discovered.

I hope, and let’s face it I am in business of the latter, that my few readers read my book, whilst secretly hoping some major publisher will give me a call offering that publishing deal or that movie screenplay.  With9,000 competitors each month, I know I have more chance of winning my prize on the lottery! So instead I’ll try and write some more self published fiction, I’ll try and promote my book by this and other social media, maybe even a self produced advert, although they hardly seem worth the effort.  I live to see reviews good or bad because it means someone has at least taken the time to read my offerings.

What I am not going to do is submit my books for some publishing house to decide whether they are good enough to market, notice I said market not publish because lets face it.  They don’t give xxxx about the quality of the work.  They just want it to sell at their over inflated prices.  STOP RANT>>

OK, back to the day job and even some writing, I have a story that Bill has asked me to review about incest and murder in Denmark, I’m just going to check with Bill whether with this plot outline a publisher will touch it.  What was it called Bill?  Hamlet or something, you’ll have to change the title I think they have it trade marked for a cigar, no I don’t care that you’ve spent years writing it, you cannot have that scene talking to a skull it’s just not realistic.  Could you stick a car chase in in the opening scene, TV won’t touch it otherwise….

HTML in Amazon’s Author Central

As I briefly blogged yesterday I have been playing or more accurately trying to play with my book descriptions on Amazon.  This follows several GoodReads forum discussions on marketing and how we as authors, can persuade you as readers, to buy our books.  The flat nature of a typical Amazon book description does not help to catch the eye of a passing potential buyer.  On one particular forum, here,  it lead to the author of a new book on the subject both promoting his book but also talking about how it was done.  I even became a test case for him and he has kindly shown on his blog where I ran into trouble, which we both then spent some detective work trying to sort out.

My experience shows up in screen shots on Marcus’ blog here.  You can get the full down and dirty in his book here which discusses the how to and gives practical examples.  This though is about the problems we overcame initially.

Problem One

I didn’t have the same lay out on my Amazon Author Central account as discussed in the book.  Following an exchange of Goodreads messages with Marcus I approached Amazon support and received a completely unhelpful response which told me what I already knew.  I had an Amazon.co.uk Author Central Account not an Amazon.com one.  What they didn’t tell me was that I could get a .com one just as easily.  Marcus told me that follwing an alternative suggestion, which I also couldn’t do, about noms de plume.

Problem One was then solved by creating an Amazon.com Author Central Account and claiming my books on sale in Amazon.com.

Problem Two

Each version of the book has its own details section, which are not pre-populated.  I was horrified to see for example that the hardback description for my first book An Agent’s Demise had no description despite the editions being linked.  Likewise my author profile for each edition was missing.  Several frustrating hours later all were populated.  There is also another section to fill in for Shelfari which also needs to be filled in but only on their site and again it doesn’t copy from editions so I haven’t finished doing that yet.  The screen shot below show the unfilled in sections but you have to go to Shelfari and open an account (you can use your Amazon author account) to fill this in and then it backfills – what a pain.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 08.32.07Problem solved with a lot of copying and pasting

Problem Three

Now I can actually get round to doing the thing I went on Author Central to do, namely use some of the clever stuff to enhance my book description.  Now I’m not an HTML genius and my eyes aren’t as good as I wished they were, especially when I forget to wear my reading glasses.  Some parts seemed to work fine.  The formatting of text is fine.  My main problem was the more advanced elements like video and Amazon widgets.  I managed to get both working at one point but not formatted position wise.  When I adjusted they all stopped.  After some further action I have managed to get it all working, but you do have to be very careful and precise.  If you visit To The Survivors on Amazon.com, you can see all the elements working.

Problem solved after some fiddling and correcting my errors

Problem Four

Not really a problem but the process does take a lot of time, copying, editing, pasting, checking and then waiting for Amazon’s servers to deliver the new code because the Author Central platform doesn’t show you what it actually looks like.   You have to wait about 30 minutes for it to upgrade, then find out that something isn’t right, then check the sales site, then re-edit and start again.  If you think this will be a quick process then think again especially to do several books then get all the descriptions sorted.  Then there is the author profile which can also be adjusted…

Verdict

The techniques do work although they could be overdone if you are not careful.  From my personal design perspective the Amazon page is already crowded with Amazon stuff like recommendations OneClick and so on.  I’ll be experimenting further if I have time to get other changes made like font colours and so on.  I know it’s my errors, but I’m supposed to be working, or writing my next book, not playing with HTML code.  If Amazon were a little more forthcoming on the formatting of Product Descriptions then maybe we wouldn’t have to bother in the meantime give it a try.  Marcus’ book is not cheap but it is worth it.

Advertising for the Self-Published Author

Accoring to some sources there are 9,000 new books being published each month.  Most of these are new books from self-publish authors like me.  Sometimes we get called indi’ authors as in independent, but whatever the tag line we all face a huge challenge in getting out masterpiece noticed.  Lots of other companies vie for our trade to take our promotions further.  From blog sites like WordPress offering named domains to Publishing companies offering to promote the new tome for a fee.

For this blog I wanted to review my own experiences of several of these services in relation to my different books.  Like all reviews it’s my own opinion.

An Agent’s Demise

My first book received no publicity at all on launch as frankly I didn’t know how.  I did create a Facebook page and set up my website, but there were no Ads.  It was enrolled in KDP Select and had over 3,000 downloads on its free days.  It even got to number one in its genre in the USA for a couple of days.  After it was no longer free it disappeared from the rankings, currently number 272,000 in the rankings on Amazon.com.  More recently it did share advertising space via Project Wonderful.

Result – No publicity worked, no change in sales with Project Wonderful – I put this down to beginners luck and a popular genre. I am now looking to re-edit professionally, if I can justify the fee.

To The Survivors

When my second book launched I was on Goodreads and I joined Bookdaily.  The book has sold steadily.  It has featured on the Project Wonderful Ads and I even did a You Tube Trailer.  Sales have been steady, currently ranked #12,935 the UK Kindle Store and #43 in it’s genre.  It has never been in KDP Select although it did launch at the 99c price point.  The only formal push through advertising was Bookdaily, although it was featured with accompanying articles on two blog sites, which prompted the creation of this site.

Result – Despite a more realistic price and no further advertising, the book continues to sell.  I am now looking to re-edit professionally, if I can justify the fee.

The Persuasive Man

For my third book I have tried, Project Wonderful, Ask David (Twitter), and it has even featured on Goodreads.  It is in KDP Select but sales have been exceptionally disappointing, even with free days on KDP.  Given the amount of publicity I hoped to at least get several hundred free downloads, but no less than 100 worldwide.  It’s now at 99c on KDP.  I have joined Twitter, blogged and talked about it. If I had done nothing there would be no change.  It has one 4-star review, not from anyone I know, and that’s it.

Result – Unclear, it may be the genre that makes it a difficult pick up, perhaps the cover, who knows.

The Methods

KDP and KDP Select –

The jury is out, yes I had a lot of downloads with An Agent’s Demise but virtually nothing with The Persuasive Man despite the publicity.  In the end what is the point of free downloads if it doesn’t generate future non-free sales or lead to reviews.

Project Wonderful

Budget set and controlled by me – 232,000 views of my ads, 81,000 unique, 51 clicks – no attributable sales

BookDaily

Fixed price per month – Featured book in emails, two months of cover to 23,000 emails.  1,500 allegedly read my exert – no attributable sales

Ask David

Cheapest method – 10 tweets to 19,000 followers each Tweet, – no attributable sales

Goodreads

Most expensive per day – 56,000 views of ads, 20 clicks, no increase on to-read lists, no more reviews – no attributable sales

Others

I have looked at vanity publishing houses, paid reviews, author exchanges and most look like scams with no solid results.  Lot’s of blog review sites all fighting for the same audience.

For one of my new books, I am trying a different approach with a story background blog already in place.  Just got to get some people to look at it let alone buy the book when it comes out.

Conclusion

It appears that advertising is a waste of money with these services.  Your advert cannot compete with the expensive adverts from the publishing houses on Goodreads let alone Amazon.  The list of services for Self Pub authors is expanding but getting a reader of a web site to actually purchase is not something any of the advertisers want to talk about.  For the Author it’s very much buyer beware.  The services mesmerise you with statistics on followers, viewers, page impressions, but don’t tell you the results.  The only information needed is how many people buy the book as a result of the advert.  On my evidence it’s virtually none.  Save your money.