I have done a lot of thinking over the last few days. Even for me, an inveterate navel-gazer.
I just did this:
And I’m nail-gnawingly nervous about it. I love this book. It was just so much fun to write. Although I’m proud of my first couple of books, thinking about them brings up a lot of stressful memories of battling endless problems and an overwhelming sense that I was out of my depth. But this one was different. Writing this one, I finally felt like I was doing okay.
Of course, even writing that, I’m thinking “I’ll look like a real idiot for having said that if this one falls on its face.” And that’s what I’m worried about, really. I thought my second book was better than the first, and it made, uh… *furious calculator work*… 7% of the money the first one did.
Aside: AHAHAHA I actually didn’t realise it was that bad until just now, oh no
And I think this one is even better. So, extrapolating from previous results, I can probably expect my total takings from this one to be, like, 1p and a small collection of lint. And that would make me really sad.
Still, I think I’ve dodged most of the things that may or may not have tanked the last launch, so there’s that. And now, with our expectations suitably lowered, I guess I should tell you about what I’ve been doing to try for a better launch this time.
Hello! How are we all? Is it just me, or has it been February for a good couple of decades now? I’m cold and sad and I miss daylight.
Things are happening. Book things.
Here they are, in no particular order.
Yes, I know, I have a problem. I have to say, though, I’m pretty pleased with these:
They’re an evolution of the ones I showed you in this post, which I decided just weren’t quite right. I liked the images, but wasn’t quite happy with how I’d used them. These just look a bit more professional, I think – plus they coordinate with each other a little better.
Brief but mostly-relevant digression: I recently saw this chart (definitely click that link if you’re an artist or creator of any kind! I found it really thought-provoking). It’s really about visual art, but I think it applies to other kinds, too. Basically, it explains that, as your ability to produce good art improves at a slightly different rate to your ability to evaluate art, there will be times when you can create better than you evaluate (where you think “Wow! I’m amazing at this!”) and times where you evaluate better than you create (“Wow, this sucks…”). This certainly explains a lot about writing for me (like how I can feel worse about my writing while being sure I’m getting better) but it probably also plays into my feelings about my own cover designs.
I have far, far less experience as a cover designer (or a designer of anything) than I have as a writer, and I learned everything I know about graphic design by fumbling around in Photoshop until things somehow look a bit better. I only have a very vague idea of what good design is supposed to look like. So, when I produce something that looks half-decent, I feel great about it, and will all but drag people over to the screen like “Come and see this AMAZING THING I made.” Conversely, I actually know quite a lot about writing (some of that English Literature degree must have sunk in), so my ability to evaluate literature is probably better than my ability to create it. So I often feel pretty terrible about my ability as a writer – even though I’m much better at that than designing covers.
The obvious conclusion to this is that I should really pay someone else to design my covers, but I’m a) chronically short of ££ and b) deeply stubborn, so that’s not on the cards for now.
If you’ve been following along here for a while, you’ll know that I originally released my two books exclusively on Amazon. This was in order to join the Kindle Unlimited program, where your books are available for people to borrow with their KU subscriptions and you get paid a small amount (around $0.004, four-tenths of a US cent) for every page they read. Your books have to be Amazon-exclusive to be eligible. For a while, I was doing pretty well on KU – in fact, I’d guess that a good half of my earnings from the books have come from those page-reads. But I was starting to get uncomfortable about relying solely on one retailer for that income – especially when there’s very little transparency about how KU works.
So, I’ve pulled the books out of the program. They’re still available to buy on Amazon, of course, just not to borrow. And they’re now also available on Apple’s iBooks, Kobo and Google Play. (I’m working on Barnes & Noble, too, but I’ve run into some issues getting an account set up.) If you want to see how they look in those stores, all the links are on my author website, which I just revamped again. The old layout didn’t really have space for all the retailer links. That’s proving to be one of the challenges of “going wide” (the term a lot of indie authors use to describe using all major retailers instead of just Amazon), actually: it’s difficult to manage all the links. If you’re an author struggling with this problem, by the way, I recommend this WordPress plugin!
I started the process of “going wide”, uploading the books to all the different stores, on the 3rd, and the books went live pretty quickly. So far, I have to say, I haven’t made a single sale on any of these new retailers. That’s not terribly surprising, since I haven’t done anything to let people know they’re there, but you often get a surprise sale or two on Amazon before you even know a book’s gone live, so I guess I was secretly hoping for that to happen! I have, however, had a few more sales than normal on Amazon, which is interesting. One theory about KU is that it “cannibalises” your sales – that is, people borrow your book when they would otherwise have bought it (which generally nets you less money, depending on the sale price).
Overall, this could well prove to be a mistake – especially when so much of my income was previously coming from KU. Then again, both sales and reads had dwindled down to virtually nothing, so I didn’t have that much to lose. In fact, it seemed like a good idea to try it now, with these two fading books, before deciding what to do with my next release. And there is some good news…
Despite the lack of sales there, so far I’m very impressed with Canadian retailer Kobo. (Here’s the link to their self-publishing arm.) While I’m very glad of the work Amazon did in opening up ebook publishing to indies, there’s no getting away from the fact that Amazon is so huge that any individual author is just an ant on the pavement to them. Most of us aren’t even ants. We’re like… microorganisms. They just don’t know we’re there. In practical terms, this means that there’s pretty much nothing you can do to make your book more visible on Amazon: most promotion is driven by algorithms, and those will only push a book if it’s already selling.
Kobo, on the other hand, offers promotions that you can actually submit your book for. If accepted, you either pay (usually not much) or agree to let Kobo keep a larger share of the takings for the duration of the sale. I applied for one of these almost immediately, just to see how it worked – and got accepted! The Murano Glass Slipper will be reduced to $3.99 (Canadian)/$2.99 (US) on Kobo from Feb 15 to 19. In return for including it on a sale page and an email (note: I’m not totally sure if the book will be in the email or if it will just advertise the promo as a whole), Kobo will take an extra 10% of my royalties. Since, at the moment, I’m getting a whole 70% of nothing on Kobo, this definitely seems worth doing!
I’m pretty excited to see how this turns out. In fact, until a few days ago, this was the biggest news I needed to share with you.
Okay, have you guys heard of Bookbub? Basically, it’s a place to find ebook deals. You sign up, choose the genres you’re interested in and, every day, you get emailed a selection of free and discounted books in your genres. You can also browse deals on the site.
That’s from a reader’s perspective. From a writer or publisher’s perspective, it’s a highly sought-after promotion opportunity. See, there are tons of newsletters you can pay to advertise a discounted book in, but most of them don’t produce a positive return on investment. That is, the newsletter doesn’t sell enough copies of a book for the royalties to cover what the author spent on the promo. People still book these promos, hoping that they’ll make their money back on other books in the same series, or benefit from increased visibility when the book goes back to full price, but that kind of freaks me out. I don’t mind taking the occasional calculated risk, but I can’t bring myself to spend money on a promo that I know won’t make a profit. That’s why I chickened out of running a 99c promo on The Rose and the Mask when The Murano Glass Slipper came out, the way I originally planned to: because I couldn’t afford to advertise it.
Bookbub is different. Bookbub has a huge, highly-engaged audience, and almost always produces positive ROI. It’s also incredibly competitive to get into. They’re very selective about the books they promote, which makes them more popular with readers, which means that they can afford to be more selective. Getting an all-territories Bookbub promo (US, UK, Canada, India, and Australia) has been known to make an author’s career, and many people submit their books endlessly in hope of getting one.
You’re probably guessing at where this is going, so let me head you off at the pass: I did not get an all-territories Bookbub. HOWEVER. I did get an “International” one, which includes all the countries above except the US. This is a much smaller audience: the number of subscribers to Historical Romance, the genre I applied for, is quoted as 1,330,000+ in the US, compared to 300,000+ internationally. But still, I mean… Yay!
The Bookbub promo is for The Rose and the Mask, and will go out on Feb 26. The book will be reduced to 99p in the UK, 99c in Australia and Canada, and ₹65 in India. Apparently, the average number of sales for one of these promos is 440 which… I mean… wow. It’s sold 575 copies (admittedly, at full price) over the last year, so to sell that many in a day is just unimaginable. Also? It’s sold virtually squat outside the US. This has always puzzled me. I mean, I get that the US is the biggest market for English-language ebooks. But I’m British. My writing is, I think, overwhelmingly British. I kind of expected it to appeal to British people. And yet, it’s made almost no impression over here. I think that’s largely because the US store has something the UK one doesn’t: the option to run pay-per-click ads. I think those really helped me to find an audience early on, whereas there was nothing I could really do to promote to UK readers. Maybe this Bookbub will turn things around!
Of course, I wouldn’t be me if good news didn’t freak me out a bit. All along, I think I’ve been a little afraid of these books being read by too many people. It’s an imposter syndrome thing: the more people read them, the more chance there is that someone will (metaphorically) stand up, point and me and yell “She’s not a real writer!” Because I’m not, really. I’m just some twerp with a keyboard. This fear is also not totally unfounded, since writers often find that running discount promos on their books leads to a flurry of bad reviews – perhaps because the promo tempts people into reading books they otherwise wouldn’t have chosen.
But, still. This is exciting, and I’m excited for it. And now this blog post has swallowed my entire morning, so I’d better go. I’ll be back soon – hopefully with good news!