Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Tool for Cross-Pollination

You may not be interested to know that my personal site has a new theme and it's now mobile-friendly, but a new addition on the left sidebar might interest you. That section now shows two Kindle book covers from other indie authors, courtesy of This is a nifty tool that is built to provide cross pollination among indie authors, and it's free to sign up to participate.

Cross-pollination makes a lot of sense as a way to build awareness of books. That service is only a few days old and I've only been signed up a couple days, but already my book covers have shown up on the sites of other authors dozens of times. As of this writing, there are 46 authors signed up to participate, with over 150 titles that are randomly selected. Adding books is as easy as pasting in the ASIN, and you can narrow down the genres of books that show up on your site if you want.

If you want to increase the exposure of your indie books—and what indie author doesn't?—I recommend taking a look at this new service! And my site too, 'cause, ya know, new theme and all. ;)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Arguable Value of Free

It's a common theme in business, including in the indie writing business: Give something away to get noticed, and then (hopefully) cash in on those who like what they see and come back for the non-free products or services. Even for those who don't take the time to get the free whatever, the appearance of the word "free" can be enough to get attention. Increased visibility leads to increased sales. When was the last time you shopped at that one local business that you can't see from the road but can only see their sign? Or, check out your Web-based map service of choice and see how many businesses are near you that you've never heard of because they have no visible storefront or signage.

A typical—maybe even cliché—approach to free books in indie publishing is to make the first book in a series permanently free ("permafree") with the hope that readers who like the first book will pay to continue reading the series. It's not hard to find indie writers sharing their stories of success with this approach.

Another common approach is to use the free-download days that are offered for books enrolled in KDP Select (limited to 5 days per 90 day enrollment). This was very lucrative at first, but changes made by Amazon substantially reduced the effectiveness of this approach. One such change, which had far-reaching impacts, was to give Amazon affiliates ("Associates") a disincentive for promoting free Kindle books.

There are other approaches, of course. Some writers post their work for free on Wattpad. Others make their books available for free download directly from their own site. As I've mentioned here before, I have experimented with distributing free copies of Wolf Block via BitTorrent. Writers selling books directly on Gumroad can use "pay what you want, or nothing" pricing. Free copies can be given away as an incentive to subscribe to a mailing list. Print and/or electronic copies might be given freely, on an individual basis, to bloggers or others with influence. And so on.

This is all done, of course, with the assumption that there will be some value returned from giving books away. The value might be sales of non-free books, or it might be reviews, or something else. It clearly works for some. However, that definitely does not mean it will work for everyone. What little value I can measure from giving away books has been an increase in reviews, but not all of those reviews have been positive.

Part of my lack of success getting value from giving away books comes from having difficulty giving them away to begin with. Despite trying to give away many more, I've distributed less than 10,000 free copies in almost five years since my first book appeared on Amazon. There are writers who can distribute that many free copies in a day or two. So, maybe my writing is just that bad? And, part of it is strategic. For example, Wolf Block—permafree everywhere other than Amazon—is not the first in a series. It is a stand-alone science fiction short story. I had hopes that readers who liked it might then seek out Journey to Yandol, and other stories but, as far as I can tell, that has not happened.

Do you offer a book for free? If so, I invite you to promote it here by linking to it in the comments. I also welcome your thoughts on whether giving books away has worked for you or if it seems to be a dead end.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Second Rumble: Another Completed Thunderclap

After my first Thunderclap to promote the launch of Extra Credit: Loyalty!, I wrote a post here about the mistakes I made and lessons I learned. Shortly after that, I created my second Thunderclap to promote this blog. When I did, I mentioned on Facebook (in the ThunderClap Campaigns group) that I would post another "post-mortem" here. The following is my analysis of the results of the second campaign and how it compares to the first one. In general, I'd say the lessons learned were valuable indeed!

First, some basic numbers:

  • Supporters: 137
  • Claimed reach: 562,159
  • Clicks (as of this writing): 211

Unfortunately, to really compare, I should have taken note of the click count at 24 hours. I believe it was around 190.

The claimed reach for the second one wasn't much higher than for the first one (a difference of less than 20,000, i.e., only a few percent), but the number of supporters was—percentage-wise—more significant, and the clicks on the Thunderclap link were almost 10 times higher. It's still remarkably low, with a click/claimed-impression ratio less than four-hundredths of a percent, but it's better than the approximately five-thousandths of a percent of the first campaign.

To consider the mistakes/lessons from that earlier post...

Header design. I designed the second header to be useful both for recruiting for the Thunderclap and for the messages sent out in the Thunderclap itself. I won't claim to be a graphic designer, but I believe that just understanding how it would be seen by others helped.

Participant motivation. The different purposes of the campaigns make this a bit of an apples/oranges comparison, but I think I did a better job of tuning the promotion to what would benefit participants. Before it was just getting a free copy of a book from a relatively-unknown author (me). This time it was improving book marketing, in a campaign oriented toward writers.

Audience of supporters. In this, the two campaigns were more alike than I originally intended, because the bulk of the supporters were other Thunderclap users sharing support. Since they may be pumping out a lot of Thunderclap promo posts, their followers are less likely to notice yet another one. So, more noise among the noise. If I ever develop enough of an audience to have 100 Thunderclap supporters among people who never post promotional posts, I think the reach will be much lower but the engagement much higher. This should take the CTR from tiny fractions of a percent to a more reasonable rate (maybe 2-5 percent), and those who click may be more open-minded about what they will see.

I hope this information is of interest and/or use to other writers. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, May 8, 2015

You Must Have a Blog! Or...?

It's pretty standard indie marketing advice: You must maintain a blog and post to it regularly. But is it really necessary? What if you do spend time and effort on that, but get zero results?

That's pretty much the case for my "Writing News" blog, from which I've taken an unintended hiatus since late March. About the only real value it ever had was getting the word out about my book formatting services. That was mainly regarding children's books because I posted some basic do-it-yourself instructions (now outdated) directly on the blog, but I haven't had any new customers from that recently.

Has my "blog for readers" worked to build the audience for my books? As far as I can tell, no. That's not an assumption based on lack of tracking, that's an assumption based on lack of sales. My sales stats are grim enough that if I did get a boost from something, I'd see it.

I haven't decided what to do with that blog. It might end up becoming dormant, like a couple other blogs I have (one about my photography, and one about an esoteric bit of computer hardware). I've pondered some ideas for reinvigorating the blog by shifting the content, but so far… well, I'm still undecided.

So what do you think about the "requirement" to maintain an active blog as part of your marketing mix for promoting your books? If you have a blog, active or otherwise, feel free to leave a link in the Comments.