Sunday, June 28, 2015

Go Wide or Be Paid Per-Page

Amazon will be making a big change that is now only a couple days away. Authors who have their e-books exclusive on Amazon by enrolling in KDP Select, making those books eligible to be borrowed through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited, will be paid per page instead of per book. This has caused a lot of controversy and consternation as writers try to figure out what they should do. Exacerbating the problem is the lack of hard details, such as exactly how pages will be calculated and how much is a likely per-page payment.

"Going wide" (making books available everywhere possible) instead of being exclusive to the Kindle platform has the obvious benefit of reaching readers who use other e-reading platforms. While the future of the NOOK platform has looked fairly shaky for awhile, there are many NOOK readers still in use, they're still being sold, and it's still a viable channel for now. Some authors have found Google Play Books to be a lucrative platform, and the Apple iBookstore is also a favored channel by many. Kobo is another e-reading platform that is apparently stronger outside the US. All other factors aside, the more platforms your book is available through, the more people you can reach.

Having books exclusive on Amazon also has benefits, because Amazon has long been a powerhouse for e-book sales and they are often where authors will have their best sales. Books that are only available (in e-book form) on the Kindle are given additional exposure by Amazon, so the sales potential of the Amazon powerhouse can directly benefit writers who get that extra exposure. On the other hand, if my own experiences (and experiences I've read about elsewhere) are any indication, the real value of that extra exposure—especially for writers who are not already making regular sales and are trying to build up to that point—has dropped drastically over the past few months. In the past, I was able to give away dozens or hundreds or even thousands of copies of books during a short free-download promotion, but lately I've been lucky to give away even one dozen.

There are many factors to consider, and a lot of uncertainty at this point. For a short while, Amazon will apparently allow people to pull their books out of KDP Select before the normal 90-day enrollment expiration, as a result of this change. That is what I'm leaning toward doing with the few books that I still have in KDP Select. You're welcome to share your plans in the comments.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Project Wonderful? Go Ape!

In my first post here, I mentioned Project Wonderful. If you look on the right side of this page, you'll see one Project Wonderful ad, so you can see I'm still using their service. There's a lot more to say about it than that brief earlier mention, however, so I wanted to share my good and not-so-great experiences.

Positive Results

I think I've sold a book...
I think I've sold at least one book as a result of advertising through Project Wonderful. However, most of my sales are on Amazon and tracking sales there is tricky at best. It would be easier if I could just use Amazon affiliate links through Project Wonderful, since I could then assign a tracking code just for Project Wonderful ads, but this is prohibited by Amazon. Despite the many good things that Amazon has done for indie writers, enabling us to track sources of sales is not one of them (other than via affiliate links on our sites, which—at least in my experience—is not where most sales come from).
I've gained new mailing list subscribers.
This was the inspiration for this blog post and thus its title. I use Mailchimp for my newsletter... chimp, ape, get it? OK, not the greatest. Anyway, Project Wonderful has helped me get new subscribers. My list is still very small, but those that I've picked up by way of a promotion on Project Wonderful are good subscribers—they open my messages! Others on my list are not so interested and often don't open my newsletters–or if they do, they're blocking my awareness of it (which I don't disagree with, even if I like to see the stats).
I've earned a little money by hosting ads.
I've never accumulated enough to withdraw money, but I haven't really intended to do that either. What money I do bring in from other advertisers ends up going back out to promote my books (and other things) on other sites. I suspect this is not uncommon for Project Wonderful users, especially those on the low-earning end. Sites that bring in solid revenue every day already have substantial traffic and presumably don't need to cycle funds back into advertising.
I can use it "for free" if I want to.
I've deposited I think a total of $5 there, but there are many sites in their network where you can advertise for free (depending on current bidding). Most of the ads I run are bid at $0/day. You can also do as I've done, running my own ad blocks for other advertisers and then using revenue from that to pay for my ads to show up elsewhere.

Negative Experiences

The ad network seems heavily oriented around comics.
It seems difficult to find useful places to advertise books, and part of this is an apparently strong bias in the ad network toward Web comics. By "bias" I don't mean that Project Wonderful is doing that intentionally, it just seems to have developed that way. If I search broadly (i.e., all banner sizes, etc.) on the two categories related to comics, I get thousands of results. If I search on two categories related to books, I get a few hundred. I'd love to see more diversity in the network for more variety in relevant ad placement options.
The site itself is buggy.
There are enough flaws in the Project Wonderful site that I have a hard time trusting the accuracy of anything, which keeps me from depositing more funds for ads rather than just re-using ad revenue I earn. Even seemingly-simple things like correctly ordering things numerically, such as sorting current ads by impression count, have been broken for as long as I can remember.
They regularly "delist" my ad blocks.
Supposedly to protect advertisers (who can't manage this themselves?), they periodically disable "underperforming" ad blocks. This means if you run ads on your site and your site doesn't meet their performance criteria (which, admittedly, are fairly generous), they "delist" your ads so that you can't accept any ads or earn anything more. You can re-enable the delisted ad blocks, as I did today for the ad block shown here, but that's a hassle. If your site traffic is steady, this might be added incentive to strive for an overall traffic boost. If your site traffic is spiky, however, you might have your ad block delisted just before a spike and that exposure would go to waste, at least in terms of statistics that other advertisers see when evaluating your site. I think they should drop this and rely on advertisers managing their own performance requirements.

Have you tried using Project Wonderful to promote your books? You're welcome to share your results in the comments.