Friday, June 14, 2019

Creating Marketing Materials

I read an interesting newsletter article this week on creating marketing materials.  It was specifically geared toward materials for that venue, but it got me to thinking.  And creating.

Starting next Wednesday, the SCIU books are on sale.  Taking ideas from the article, I came up with this:
I think it still needs some tweaking.  The white 'Bringing Killers to Justice One Book at a Time' on the gray background might have been on the no-no list.  When I made it, it looked pretty good, but seeing it now, it's kind of hard to read at this size.  Might need to outline those words like I did with the SCIU words.

Still, I think it carries the message I wanted and it's not too busy (which was another of the marketing no-nos).  You can tell that's a prison fence, right?  Yeah, not all the villains in the series make it to behind the fence, but I was trying to find one image to convey a theme for all three books and nothing says 'justice' like a prison. 

I found the fence picture at Morguefile.  Then grayed out the image because a pretty blue sky wasn't right and the colors would've distracted from the covers.  I think.  And I tweaked the brightness and contrast to come up with a sufficiently gloomy feel.

Then I added the covers and wording, moving things around and trying different fonts and tweaking everything until I came up with what you see above.

Anyway, creating marketing materials is a learning curve.  I hope this image works.  The proof is in the pudding.

So, yeah, the article said to make the image clear as to its purpose.  Prison fence... Got it.  And to not make it too busy so it doesn't distract from its purpose.  Three covers, minimal wording... Check.  And to make it easily read.  Umm, I'll work on that.  Clear, concise, intent on its purpose... check, check, check?

Now, the question for you all is: If you saw this, would you be inclined to explore the series further with the intent to buy?  Because that's really what all of this is about.  If you can't achieve that with your marketing materials, you're spinning your wheels.  And lord knows, none of us has time for that.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Gentle Reminder

Time again for a gentle reminder...

PROOFREAD YOUR MARKETING MATERIALS!

Twice in the past few days, I've seen marketing materials with typos in them.  One, the author used your instead of you're.  The other, the author used there instead of their - twice in the same blurb.  :headdesk:

Seriously, folks, this shouldn't be that hard.  I mean, we're talking a few short paragraphs.

The first one was in a Facebook group.  So, free advertising.  The second was in a marketing newsletter that they obviously had to pay for.  Which makes it doubly egregious. 

FB group marketing... Sometimes shit happens.  Lord knows I'm not perfect, and I've made mistakes.  Which I then catch and edit.  Yes, you can edit FB posts.  There's a little ellipsis looking thing in the upper right corner of your status update.  When you click it, you get a dropdown menu...
And there's an 'edit post' option.  So, if you see an error, you can fix the error. 

Once, I had to go back and fix a half dozen marketing posts because for some stupid reason the UK sales link was broken and I didn't notice until I'd posted the damn thing all over the place.  Caught it, fixed it.  It was only live to users for about ten minutes. 

In marketing efforts you've paid for, fixing the flaw isn't necessarily possible.  Here, you really need to pay attention.  Because once you've sent it out to the powers that be, it's stuck there.  Well, I guess you might be able to contact them if you have enough time.  And then you can hope someone over there is paying attention and is nice enough to allow you to fix the error.  But I wouldn't count on it.  Proof, proof, proof. 

Otherwise, you might as well put on your big red nose and floppy feet because you'll look like a clown.

In either of the above cases, the author may have proofed the holy hell out of their manuscript to make it all shiny and clean, but their marketing materials tell the world that they probably didn't bother.  All that work down the drain. 

So, yeah, a gentle reminder this morning... proofread your stuff, folks.  It's kind of important.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Watch Everything

Over the weekend, I sold a book.  Yes, I sell few enough right now that it's an event, but that's not why I bring it up.  I sold a copy of a book at $3.99.  And I got $1.40 in royalties when I should have gotten $2.74.  (When you're small beans, every penny counts.)

Basically, they gave me the 35% royalty rate instead of the 70% rate.

Once I realized this, I checked first to make sure I hadn't accidentally clicked the 35% rate at some point.  Nope.  I've got it clicked right.  Then I contacted Amazon to get it fixed.  (I'm still waiting on a reply at the time of this post's creation.)

Then I got to thinking.  I don't usually check this stuff.  Usually, I assume everything is hunky-dory until I match up the deposits with the amounts I assume I'm going to get.  Which is two months down the road from the actual sale.  So far, everything has matched up. 

But what if it didn't?

And what if I was selling way more books, so one messed up royalty percentage wasn't as obvious?

What a clusterfuck that would be.

Now, I don't believe this was intentional.  I think it's more an issue of the massive amount of calculations and code it takes to run a website like Amazon.  There are bound to be errors now and again. 

Sometimes, it's a customer issue.  In February, Amazon showed that I sold a copy of Project Hermes, but the money never showed in my Royalties Earned section.  I chalked that up to the actual payment never going through - which sometimes happened.  Sucks, but it does.  Oddly enough, I got paid for a copy of PH in April that I never showed selling.  So it all worked out somehow or other.

My point is authors really have to watch what's going on.  All of it.  All the time.  $1.34 doesn't sound like a lot, but it adds up over time.  Or think of it this way, that's a cup of coffee.  Over 100 sales, it's $134 which I'm sure none of us can afford to lose.  Over 1000 sales... 10000 sales...

:shudder:

Or think about the agent that screwed all those authors out of royalties last year because he was funneling the money into his private charity.  And somehow the authors just assumed their books weren't selling?  I'd be watching even closer when someone was handling those amounts of my money.  Embezzling... it's a real thing, folks.

I know it's a pain in the ass to have to watch every little thing.  We've all got better things to do with our time than babysit this stuff.  But not watching could really hurt the bottom line.  And I, personally, like to get paid what I'm owed.  

Anyway, I'll try to remember to let you know how this all works out.  I have every faith that Amazon will fix my little burp.  Well, not every faith.  I did screen capture how my pricing page looked for WIOH before I emailed them.  You know, just in case.  ;o)

Friday, June 7, 2019

A Business Like No Other

I've seen a lot online* recently about treating this writing/publishing thing as a business.  And I don't disagree.  It is a business.

Unfortunately, for most of us, it's a business that's not making enough money to keep a bird alive and would close it's doors in a day if it were any other type of business. So, treating it as a business... in say the same way one would look at a store or a restaurant or an accounting firm... isn't exactly feasible.

If the business my father started back in 1983 behaved the way this writing business does, it wouldn't have made it 36 years.  Sure, the first few years sucked.  That's to be expected in any new business.  But by five years in, if you're not making money, you should probably send all the employees home and close the doors.

Oh, I get how the whole 'it's a business' thing helps keep the mindset of 'show up every day, work your hours, etc.'  So you're treating this as a job and not a hobby.

But let's not fool ourselves overly much.  This is a business like no other business.  We work in our pajamas for petesakes.

We don't have employees, per se.  (Editors and cover artists are contractors, not employees.)  We are every employee wrapped up into one person.  And most of us should probably be fired from at least one of those positions.  Except we can't fire ourselves from anything because if we stop doing it, we're screwed.

We keep strange hours and they differ from writer to writer and sometimes from day to day - or to paraphrase Steven Wright "Open 24 hours... but not in a row."

We almost never know or see our customers.  "Hey, look at that, someone in the UK is reading Natural Causes. Don't know who or why or how they found it, but cool."

90% of our work is in our heads, for petesakes.

So, treat it like a business if it gets you motivated and your butt in the chair doing your job.  Personally, for me, it would be easier to treat it like a business if it was actually making money. Or maybe it would make more money if I treated it more like a business.  I'm not sure about that, though.  In the past, I've shown up and put in the hours and still no monies, which makes me less likely to want to show up and put in the hours now.  Especially when I can spend time doing spreadsheets and actually getting checks for my time.

Treat it like a business, but always remember that non-writing businesses don't work this way.

* Complete disclosure - I didn't read the online articles, so they could've said exactly what I'm saying.  These are just the thoughts I had after seeing people talking about the subject.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Pondering

I saw something yesterday that asked what current books we thought would be considered classics in 100 years.  I didn't bother seeing what other people were saying might be classic because that would just be depressing, but it did get me to thinking.

I don't write classics for the most part.  I expect that as long as I keep advertising the books, people will keep buying them for 5-10 years.  But classic?  Not really.  The SCIU series and the OUAD series are entertainment.  So's the Sleeping Ugly series if I ever get it past the first book. 

I'd like for Project Hermes to achieve the sort of status of Patriot Games, but I'm not fooling myself.  It'll never be a movie. 

If 100 years from now people pick up Blink of an I or Unequal and think 'wow', I'd be happy.  Then again, I'll be dead, so it probably won't matter much.  Still, I'd like for those to be classics someday.  Again, not fooling myself here.

I wonder what the authors of 100 years ago thought about their books.  Were they thinking 'this is going to be a classic' or were they just hoping to make enough money to pay the rent? 

A lot has changed since then.  I mean, all of the books of 100 years ago were paper.  And they all had to wait for some publishing company to recognize their brilliance so the masses could even have a chance of reading their books.  Now?  No waiting, but also way harder to get noticed and get read by even a portion of the masses. 

I'm sure there are a wealth of awesome books out there withering on the wine.  Mine could be several of them.  And the world will never know they existed. 

Don't mind me, I'm just pondering this morning.  Since I don't really read books anyone might consider potential future classics*, let me know if you've read anything new you think might fit the bill. 

*In case you don't follow The Writing Spectacle, where I talk about my reading habits, I primarily read either old books or new ones that are underappreciated.  When I do pick up a newer traditionally published book, it's from a thrift store. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

KU, Page Read Vacuum, and the Timesuck That is Writing Forums

As you know, I had the Once Upon a Djinn books on sale.  And this is the point at which I should be seeing residual Page Reads mounting.  Except I'm not. 

So, I says to myself this morning... 'Self?' I says.  "I wonder what the hell is up with Kindle Unlimited?  And finding no answer in my head, I went in search of people who were perhaps in the know about such things.  And the only place I know of to go is the KDP community forum.

Yeah, yeah, if you know me, you know I don't do forums.  At least not in any participatory way and rarely in a read-and-learn way.  (Long story... old story... blah and yawn.)

Anyway, I was scrolling though the forum, trying to discern the answer to my question.  I clicked on a post that I thought might help.  Nope.  Someone asking a question that might've been answered by doing what I was doing, and then getting a 'well, duh' answer and then getting her undies in a wad because she felt like she was being bullied.  Clicked on another... Same same.  Then I clicked on a thread because I wanted to laugh at the responses to the question of 'why is everyone so vicious here?' (and they spelled vicious wrong... on a writing forum... derp.)  Then I got sucked into a post that's subject was so horribly written it made me want to gouge out my eyes.  You know, just for kicks.

And then I remembered I was supposed to be trying to answer a question and I left because being in there is suck a huge waste of time.  Which is pretty much what happens when I go into any forum lately. 

Yes, I could've tried searching the topic.  I've done that in the past and get more useless hits than useful ones.  Sometimes it's better to just scroll down the list and hope for the best. 

Anyway... again... I did find that other writers seem to be in the same position (i.e. Kindle page reads are down), but no real clue as to why.  It could be that so much drek is floating around in the program and readers are being so consistently burned by crap that they're not using KU as much as they used to.  That's my guess anyway.  Not sure what the answer is.  I know I don't want to go wide, but it may be the only answer. 

The problem with even exploring that is my Kindle Select dates aren't up for an entire series any time soon.  And it's such a pain in the ass to go through all my books and change all the links so they don't point to Amazon.  Ugh.

I also noted, in the forums, that the general consensus is ads are paying for themselves, but no one is seeing sales like they used to.  So, I guess we're all in this together.  I'm guessing again but I think it's the glut of  potential reading material. 

Imagine you're in a stadium full of people and you're trying to find one person you might want to be friends with but you've never met them and you aren't sure what any of them are like.  That one is wearing a brightly colored shirt, but when you step up to him, you discover he's boring.  You overhear a woman talking and she sounds interesting, so you step up and find out she's kind of repeating the same things you've heard over and over.  There might be a good one in there somewhere, but finding them is hard and the harder things are the less likely we are to do them.  And so you get a headache and you go home.

I imagine that's kind of like what being a reader these days is like.

Wish I had better information for you this morning.  Like I said, I tried.  I may try to research this more after I've had some more coffee and the memory of the forum timesuck has faded a bit.

What say you?

Friday, May 31, 2019

Another Marketing Post

Marketing... For indie authors, it's sort of a throw it at the wall and hope it sticks kind of thing for the most part.  I mean, if we had publishers worth their salt, we'd know what marketing worked and aim at the wall better with stickier stuff.  But we don't.  It's all on us to figure this stuff out.

So, this year, I've been trying some things to see what works for me and what doesn't.  And I'm trying to share that with all of you because we're in the same boat and what the hell, right?

One of the things I've done is tracking.  Everything.  Sales - in quantity and dollars, ROI (Return On Investment), page reads in relation to marketing...  I have spreadsheets and graphs.  It's all very pretty.
See?


We already know one of the things I've discovered and talked about ad nauseum.  Ads increase sales... err, during promos.  (Ads without promotional pricing are pretty much duds.)  I paid for ads in February, April, and May.  No paid ads in January or March.  The graph shows how all that worked out, eh?

Another thing we all pretty much know is promos increase sales quantities.  But we also need to remember that they decrease the dollar per book averages.  I know, it's sort of a 'well, duh' moment.  It's all well and good to move a lot of books at 99c (which during a promo nets an average of 65c per), but if you're not selling books at regular prices, the average tanks.  I'm sitting at an avg of $1.02 per book this year and $1.21 per over the past four+ years.

This year, I've also been tracking my book downloads and purchases.  I was doing this mainly so I'd know what books I have, what I've read, and what I didn't finish.  Also, it helps me keep track of my book buying budget.  $31.83 spent this year so far. 

But yesterday, I thought it might help with something else.

I was thinking about where to market books next month.  Should I go with Robin Reads?  Ereader News Today?  Book Adrenaline?  Where would my money best be placed?

Historical data on ROI points to ENT.  Of course.  But when I checked, I discovered my own reading habits also point to ENT.  Of all the places I've discovered books this year, ENT wins hands down.  Then Freebooksy/Bargainbooksy.  Then Reading Deals.  Book Gorilla and Robin Reads are down near the bottom.

Now, this is just anecdotal evidence.  And you have to remember, I'm downloading mostly free books right now.  And with a lot of marketing venues, ads for free books cost more than ads for 99c books.  I don't know about other authors, but I have a tough time paying for an ad for a book that's not going to make me any money.  So I assume there's fewer people who put free books in places like Book Gorilla and Robin Reads, which would lead to a lower download rate from me.  Still, it's something to think about.

Then there's the fact that some venues are harder to get advertising with that others.  I've been using BargainBooksy a lot lately because they have an easy policy and it's clear what dates are available right when you sign up - and you get to choose your date.  No waiting for someone to get back to me with a date or a rejection.  Bing bang boom.  The problem is I think BargainBooksy is almost tapped out for me this year.  I mean, both ads this year paid for themselves, but this recent one paid a lot less than the last.  Of course, that was for OUAD.  Might still be some readers who haven't seen SCIU yet.

It's all a balancing act.  :cue circus music:

Anyway, I hope some of this helps.  As always, if you have any questions, let me know.  If you have anything to add, feel free.  Good luck in your marketing efforts and I hope you sell tons of books!

Update:  I guess I wasn't the only one thinking about this stuff today.  If you're interested in more info go over to Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog where she talks about Amazon's new KDP Beta reports.