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Smashwords kicked off its 8th Annual Read an Ebook Week yesterday. It’s a giant promotion of ebooks published on its platform. Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of ebooks are discounted anywhere from 25 to 100 percent from March 5-11.
It’s a great opportunity to get a great deal on ebooks from new authors. Because Smashwords is an aggregator, meaning they distribute their books to around two dozen ebookstores, you can find an ebook that fits your ebook readers.
I checked the promotion and saw that 10 of my books have been included. I’ve got history, historical fiction, biography, young adult, and horror titles that are part of the promotion. So if you are looking to stock up on some of my titles, here’s your chance.
50% Off Books
In fall turned to winter in 1949, the residents of Shallmar, Maryland, were starving. The town’s only business, the Wolf Den Coal Corp. had closed down, unemployment benefits had ended and few coal miners had cars to drive to other jobs. When children started fainting in school, Principal J. Paul Andrick realized the dire situation the town was in and set out to help.
In October 1918, Spanish Flu left behind 40 million dead. In Cumberland, Md., Dr. Alan Keener wants to take steps to prevent its spread, but he is met with resistance from old-school doctors who believe that the flu’s deadliness is overblown and easily treated. His work is complicated as a street preacher named Kolas aids the flu’s spread.
Beyond the Battlefield is a collection of 47 true stories and 56 photos that tell the history of Gettysburg and vicinity beyond the famous Civil War battle.
Chris Alten’s world is limited to the wheelchair that an accident has confined him to. He is lucky, though. The same accident killed his father. Chris also has a mysterious new friend whom he meets online and shows him a brand-new world where he can once again walk. This new world comes with its own dangers when it is discovered that Chris’s new friend is an artificial intelligence program.
25% Off Books
Chuck Caldwell is a WWII vet and Purple Heart winner who has met Civil War soldiers, fought at Guadalcanal and Tarawa, and studied atomic bomb explosions in Nevada. Through it all, he painted and sculpted miniature figures that have become sought after by collectors around the country. Clay Soldiers is the story of a man who became part of the history of America and chronicled it through his art.
Janet Sinclair is not looking forward to her first Christmas without her daughter. Janet still doesn’t know how she will go on without Danielle. Then Janet receives a beautiful porcelain angel that looks so much like Danielle that she can’t bear to look at it. As Janet tries to deal with Christmas, she finds out that the angel is more than just an ornament.
“Babe” Ruth was a baseball legend. You can find out why in “When the Babe Came to Town.” This book shows how the Babe connected with the fans through his many exhibition and barnstorming games.”When the Babe Came to Town” is a collection of some of these stories highlighting games that Babe Ruth played in Emmitsburg, Maryland; York, Pennsylvania; Oakland, California and Cumberland, Maryland.
Follow the lives of the Fitzgerald family on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal as Tony and Thomas Fitzgerald race their canal barge against a train. If you enjoyed “Canawlers” and “Between Rail and River” by James Rada, you’ll want to follow this adventure set a few years after the Civil War during the canal’s heyday. Originally published as a limited-edition chapbook for CanalFest 2003.
A collection of short stories featuring the most-unusual funeral home you will ever see. Welcome to Peaceful Journey Funeral where the journey from life to death can be anything but peaceful.
David Purcell was on his way to meet his girlfriend when he fell into a cave. Now he can’t remember the five weeks he spent in the cave. With the help of Adam Maho, a Hopi, David discovers that he must remember that lost time if he if he going to stop the ancient Hopi evil, the dark kachinas, from being released into the world again. To do so, David will have to find his way back to Kuskurza.
Having a strong backlist of books is great for a writer. When I sell books at festivals, I am able to have a large display of different covers, genres, and sizes of books to attract readers. In fact, last year my show display grew from one table to two tables. A backlist also means that I have multiple ways to attract readers. Each title gives me a new opportunity to catch a reader’s eye.
That’s all great.
However, I’ve run into a drawback with having a library of 18 books, and it has been driving me crazy this past month.
I have started running all of my books through Grammarly to catch any mistakes my editors, readers, and I missed when the book was originally published. Surprisingly, given how many eyes were on the manuscripts, I have found too many. Running 18 books and a half a dozen e-books through the program takes times. I started doing this in December, and it could very well continue until next December.
Since I was reviewing each book, I also decided to make sure that all of the electronic editions had a review request at the back. I haven’t worried up until not about getting readers to post reviews of my books online. That delay has come back to bite me recently as I have tried to expand some of my marketing efforts. Some places that I have wanted to use to market my books want to see more reviews of the books. So I’ve had to detour some of my marketing in order to increase my Amazon.com reviews.
Last month, I learned some new techniques for writing book descriptions that I have also started applying to my book pages as I update them. This is not a single update. I need to make changes to a book on four different websites (Amazon, KDP, Smashwords, and Bowkers) to make sure the descriptions are all the same.
I recently discovered a way to accomplish two things that I have wanted to do for years. When I switched from doing offset printing to print-on-demand through Createspace, I stopped being able to get my books into physical chain bookstores. The three reason I heard for this were that the stores couldn’t get their typical discount when purchasing the books, they didn’t want to support Amazon.com, and stores can’t return print-on-demand books.
Up until now, I haven’t worried too much about it. I have been making most of my sales through other channels. However, as my marketing efforts expand, I have started running into this roadblock more often.
I have discovered a way to use Ingram Spark and Createspace together. I can still get the books that I sell through Createspace, and customers purchasing books on Amazon will still see the books always in stock. Meanwhile, I can use Ingram Spark to get my books into the chain stores and offer a hardback edition.
I have wanted to offer hardbacks since I wrote No North, No South… It is an oversized book, which is typically printed as a hardback. Since that time, I’ve written another tabletop book and a couple novels that I would have like to offer as hardbacks.
All of these are useful things for me to do. They each will have benefits to help me continue moving my career forwards. I recommend authors do all of these things. It’s just that having to do all of these things for all of my books is very, very time-consuming.
It’s happening, albeit slowly, but I’m excited to see the results.
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I had the opportunity to run the same promotion for two different books this month and have been evaluating the results.
The Books: Canawlers and The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe. Canawlers is a historical novel that was first published in 2001. The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe is a horror story published last year under my J. R. Rada pen name.
The promotion: I decided to use my five free days on KDP select on a Monday through Friday promotion.
The Marketing: I blogged and tweeted about both books through my accounts. I advertised the books on Facebook groups that I belong to. I used the Author Marketing Club promotional submission tool to have my promotions listed on 31 free book sites. I can’t say how well the book sites worked, but I did see a sales surge with both books after I posted a listing in my Facebook groups.
The Results: Canawlers had nearly twice as many downloads as The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe. Does the number of downloads indicate that there’s a larger audience for historical fiction over horror? I think it may. This seems to dovetail with some things on paid promotional sites that charge more for historical fiction than horror novels. Most of the downloads for both books came during the first two days of the promotions, although Canawlers had a surge of downloads during the last 10 hours it was on sale.
Since there is no direct return on investment because the books were free, I had to estimate sales that the promotions generated for my other books both with actual sales and pages read. My indirect sales were three times higher Canawlers than The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe. The fact that it was as profitable as it was surprised me a bit because a ran a paid promotion for a 99 cent version of Canawlers last year that turned out to be a loss.
The profits weren’t tremendous, but they were profits. It also gives me a baseline going forward.
My Conclusions: It pays to promote books in a series. They have some coattails. Canawlers has three sequels and an omnibus edition. All of them saw sales during and directly after the promotion. The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe was a stand-alone novel.
Don’t ignore the Kindle pages read during a promotion. They jumped significantly for both promotions. It was a big enough jump to make me consider adding more books exclusively to Kindle. I still considering this. I probably should just find a way to market my non-Kindle ebooks better.
I will definitely run future promotions, although I will break my five free days into two or maybe even three promotions. I will continue to use the Facebook groups and perhaps try a paid site for the free promotion. I will do it with Canawlers, though, since it generated a greater return. I realized that I should be asking for retweets of the promotional tweets I did. I forgot.
I want to try a promotion for a non-fiction history book and a middle-grades series I’ve started. Then I will compare those results against the results I got for Canawlers and The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe.
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- Why Kindle’s paperback option doesn’t work well
- Using Smashwords to reach untapped audiences
- Low-priced books vs. Competitively-priced books
If you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe solves the mystery of the great writer’s murder, and you can get it FREE on Kindle until Jan. 13.
You might be thinking that Poe wasn’t murdered. He died in a hospital. You’re wrong.
While he did die at the Washington Medical Center, before that, he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore and wearing clothes that were not his own. He was admitted to the hospital where he died without explaining what had happened to himself. One clue to what happened to him was that he shouted the name “Reynolds” before he died.
The hospital and its records were later destroyed in a fire, so we’re left with theory and conjecture about how the Master of the Macabre died. One person knows how the Father of the Modern Mystery died, and that person is …
This is his story, although it reads like one of Poe’s horror tales.
Alexander Reynolds has been known by many names in his long life, the most famous of which is Lazarus, the man raised from the dead by Christ. Matthew Cromwell is another resurrected being living an extended life. Eternal life has its cost, though, whether or not Alexander and Matthew want to pay it.
Alexander has already seen Matthew kill Edgar’s mother and he is determined to keep the same fate from befalling Edgar.
From the time of Christ to the modern days of the Poe Toaster, The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe is a sweeping novel of love, terror, and mystery that could have come from the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe himself.
From the reviewers:
- “Impressively original, exceptionally well written, absolutely absorbing from beginning to end, ‘The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe’ showcases author J. R. Rada’s outstanding skills as a novelist. ” – Reviewer’s Bookwatch
- “…this fictional nail-biting account of the two men whose blood feud brought about Edgar’s death. … it’s a great ride through suspense, horror, and mystery – worthy of the writer for whom the novel takes license.” – Allegany Magazine
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When I started putting out my books as ebooks, I was initially overwhelmed. Just consider all of the platforms that sell ebooks: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks and Overdrive to name a few. Was I going to have to prepare my manuscript to meet the standards of each one?
Then I discovered Smashwords.com. It’s an aggregator of e-book platforms. I could upload my book once and have it converted to all of the necessary e-publishing platforms and then appear on the different sites. It was a godsend.
The site is pretty easy to use, too. You fill out book information and then upload a cover and the interior of the book. Smashwords converts the book into the appropriate platforms and then sends it out to the different retailers.
The one problem I have found myself having of late is that to qualify for a listing with all of those retailers, you have to format your book to certain specs. It was no problem for my novels. I just followed the tips that Mark Coker, the owner, posts for formatting and the process went smoothly.
The problem I run into is with my non-fiction books, which contain pictures. The pictures apparently cause a lot of problems in the conversion process. I must have tried six times to get my last book uploaded properly, but something kept going wrong. I think I may have it figured out, though, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for the next book I upload. (FYI, I will be setting my pictures at 96 dpi instead of 300 dpi. The latter is the standard for print publication. Since I’m not doing the print version, the web standard for pictures works fine.)
I haven’t made as much use of Smashwords as I can, which is something I’m trying to remedy. The site offers some useful tools for indie authors. You can easily change the book pricing. Unlike Amazon KDP, Smashwords allows you to make your books free of charge for an indefinite period. You can also alter how much someone can read of your book for free.
You can also use a set of marketing tools. Create coupons. Post an author interview. Link books in a series together.
These are just a few things that I’ve discovered so far.
Despite the advantages of using Smashwords, I also use Amazon KDP for the Kindle versions of my books. It does require some extra work to prepare the manuscript again, but most Kindle users buy their Kindle e-books from Amazon. I found that when I started publishing directly with Amazon KDP, my Kindle sales jumped considerably.
Still, uploading two versions of my books is a far cry from having to upload six versions. Now I just need to find the best ways to use the marketing tools at my disposal.
I was listening to another indie writer talk about her business model that allows her to be a full-time writer. Besides books, she gets income from selling writing courses, speaking, and affiliate marketing.
That got me thinking about my business model. About 45 percent of my income is from book sales and another 45 percent is from articles. The other 10 percent comes from speaking. While I would love to see the book sales percentage much higher, I don’t think the article writing will ever disappear from my business model.
Article writing for me is obviously an income stream, but my articles are also seeds. I spread them liberally. Some will take root and grow. That growth might be humungous or it might be moderate. Some might sprout and die while others might not sprout at all.
Let me explain.
Many of my articles have become the source for books that I have written or other articles. For instance, my book, Saving Shallmar: Christmas Spirit in a Coal Town, grew out a pair of newspaper columns that I had written years earlier.
Another way that my article seeds have grown is when I gather some of my favorites for a collection.
Many of my articles have spun off other articles. For instance, after I wrote about the Tuskegee Airmen from Maryland for the Maryland Life Magazine, I wrote similar articles for Wonderful West Virginia and Pennsylvania magazines.
Then, of course, the articles help keep my name in front of readers. I have even gotten speaking invitations from my articles.
If I were to give up article writing, I would be giving up a lot of the inspiration for my books. So if I’m going to grow my book business, I’m going to have to do it without cutting into my article writing much.
I recently met another author at a festival where we were both doing signing. I was impressed when she mentioned the number of books she had been selling at some of the festivals in the area. Then she told me that she only made an average of $2 a book, meaning after she deducted the cost of the book and any promotions from what she received, she was left was $2.
She also said that her goal was to be able to be a full-time writer. I asked her why she didn’t raise her book prices then. She said she wanted to get the books out to as many people as possible.
I was struck by this. I am a full-time writer and I would like get my books read by as many people as possible. However, if I reduced my paperback prices so that I was making only $2 a book, I doubt that my sales would increase enough to make up the difference.
My average gross profit per book is $10. So the author who I met would have to sell five books for every one that I sold. During our time at the festival where we met, I sold 17 books. Now I don’t know how many books she sold. It may have been more than 17, but I doubt that it was 85 or more.
Plus, we’re only talking about gross profit. You still have to consider booth costs, transportation, hotels (in some cases) and other business costs. No wonder she can’t make the jump to full-time. It’s doubtful that she’s making enough to cover her costs.
It also sounds like her publisher is making more per book than she is, which is sad, because it doesn’t sound like the publisher is doing much promotion for her books. She said that one title had sold 1,300 copies in a year, but she had hand sold 1,200 of them at festivals.
She definitely has the energy to do the marketing and is doing it. It has also paid off in more reviews for her books on Amazon. She is also getting her name out there.
I have a festival promotion that I use, which is “Buy 2, get 1 free.” I’ve tried a lot over the years and that one works best for me. It encourages more purchases and I’m offering a better deal than the reader can get on Amazon or in a bookstore. Not to mention, that it’s a signed book. It definitely moves more books than I see other authors selling who offer no discount.
What are your thoughts about pricing of books? Should it be very low or competitively priced? Does selling physical books at deep discounts lead readers to expect all books to priced at that level?
The odd thing is I am all for using low-price promotions for e-books. For one thing, there’s no base cost that needs to be covered by the sale when you sell digital versions. Plus, low-pricing along with strong marketing has shown sales not only for your promoted book but also back list books at the regular price.
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I was looking at some of my reviews on Amazon the other day. Sure, the four-star and five-star reviews are nice to read, but some of the other reviews are frustrating. They make me want to scream because they are contradictory or just plain wrong.
Saving Shallmar probably gets the most undo criticism because it is coming from people who lived in Shallmar when they were children when the story took place or they heard things second hand. Because my story doesn’t agree with their memories, I’m wrong even though my information is all sourced. Some of it comes from people who were adults at the time so they have a different perspective then people who were children. I know because I interviewed people who grew up in Shallmar and they have plenty of gaps in their childhood memories. I also have contemporary sources for information that isn’t dulled or altered by time.
I am tempted to respond to some of these reviews when I read them, but I have learned from previous experience that most of these people when given the facts, simply find something else to rail on you about.
I’ve had a book get a bad review because someone thought the title was too close to the title of another book that I had never heard of or because a book didn’t have enough pictures. Worse yet, I had a three-star review from a reviewer whose actual review of the book was positive. These types of reviews just leave me shaking my head.
I can stand criticism. You don’t get to be a full-time writer without having gotten criticism and rejection, but what galls me is that some people feel the need to be mean or get personal about it. It’s like they want to get into an argument and they don’t even know me.
I was lucky enough to have a festival to attend the weekend after my most-recent perusal or reviews. I had a lot of people come up to me and say that they had this book or that book of mine and had loved it. Many of them even bought another title, which certainly backed up what they were saying. It’s one of the reasons that I like selling books at festivals. I can talk with my readers and if they do have an issue, we discuss it calmly and politely.
Now if I could only get all these people to leave reviews on Amazon. That’s a drawback to selling at festivals. Because people didn’t buy the book from Amazon, they don’t think to leave a review there.
By the way, when I have come across a specific criticism, I check it out (even the ones from angry reviewers) and when needed, I make changes. Unfortunately, the reviews don’t reflect the change. That’s not the reviewer’s fault. They don’t know about the corrections. I could e-mail them about, but I’m afraid that could lead to the reviewer going and nitpicking things about my other books to see if he or she can get me to make more changes.
I like this quote from actress Octavia Spencer:
“You cannot live to please everyone else. You have to edify, educate and fulfill your own dreams and destiny, and hope that whatever your art is that you’re putting out there, if it’s received, great, I respect you for receiving it. If it’s not received, great, I respect you for not.”
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With the supposed arrival of spring, my busy time starts. I attend a lot of outdoor festivals to sell books. These can be enjoyable events when the weather cooperates. However, this year, spring has been slow in coming. The temperatures have been cool and rain has soaked to ground. Not the optimum conditions for an outdoor festival.
I attended the Gaithersburg Book Festival this past Saturday. It was my first time there so I didn’t have any past experiences to draw upon for how I would do. I had heard that the festival had very good crowds and I could see that they had extensive and well-known roster of speakers. I went with great hopes.
The day before the festival was bright and sunny and I crossed my fingers that weather forecasters would be wrong.
It rained all day during the festival. At least it wasn’t a heavy rain, but it was still rain, which keeps people inside side. On top of that, it was cool all day. I found myself shivering most of the day.
I was disappointed with the turnout, although I expected it when I saw the rain. I did manage to sell a decent number of books. This gives me hope enough to return next year and hope for good weather. If so, I should do a brisk business.
I have found that outdoor festivals are great places to sell books.
- They get a lot of traffic. I attend not only book festivals, but craft festivals and Christmas bazaars, too.
- People like to get an autographed book as a gift for friends and family.
- Since I’m not a household name (like J. K. Rowling and Stephen King), my books tend to stand out as unique to festival visitors.
- I’m independently published so I can offer great sales at festivals, which helps increase my sales. I experimented with different offers over the years and have settled on one that works best for me.
- I always see an uptick in online sales and e-book sales after a festival. I understand the e-books, but I’ve never understood why someone who can get my autographed books at a great price at a festival, pass on that, to go home and buy an unsigned book at a higher price. I’m glad they do, though.
I’m always on the lookout for how to make my booths more attractive to pull in more passersby. Then once I get them to stop, I’ve got to find a way to get them looking at my books and interacting with me.
- I have definitely seen big banners catch people’s attention. They stop walking to read the banners and look at the pictures. That gives me a chance to step outside my booth and speak with them.
- I have expanded the types of books that I offer. For years, I sold only history and historical fiction. I have started offering a historical fantasy novel and I will be offering a young adult novel later this year. This should increase my potential pool of buyers.
- I keep experimenting with counter displays. I am going to offer a larger book display rack that should hopefully attract more attention.
I know authors are always looking to do book signings, and they can be great. For independent authors, you can make more money and sell more books if you make the most of festivals. Don’t let the rain discourage you.
When I first started independently publishing, I had my books printed by a traditional book printer. They did good work, but it was a big upfront cost for 1,000 copies at a time. It also gave me headaches when I tried to decide whether to do additional printings.
These early books were listed on Amazon, but under their Advantage Program. You couldn’t tell the difference on the Amazon page, but my net profit was far less than it is under the Createspace Program, which I’ve used to print my books for the past few years.
As I’ve been selling out of the traditionally printed books, I’ve been switching them over to Createspace. It hasn’t been a problem until now.
October Mourning is ready to be switched over, but unlike the other traditionally printed books, I don’t have a cover to use for the new printing. I tried to scan one of the books, but it’s not working. Each scan I try was some problem with it.
So I decided to do a new cover.
That’s not too big an issue because I was never really thrilled by the old cover. However, I decided I didn’t want to use a cover designer because the book is now 10 years old. I wasn’t sure that I could make back the cost of the cover.
So I worked up a cover. Actually, I came up with two, but this is the one that I decided I liked more. How do you like it compared to the current cover? Do I nail it or do I need to go back to the drawing board?
I’m really curious to see if the new cover will breathe some new life into the book. If it does, I have a few older books that I may recover.
So my need to create a new cover for one book has turned into a marketing experiment that can help multiple books.