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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.

CanawlersThe 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.

UntitledMy 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.

Also, it helps to have a backlist. I have 14 ebooks available as James Rada, Jr., and only five ebooks available as J. R. Rada.

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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UntitledIf 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 …

The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe.

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.

Get Your Copy Here

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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I noticed that recently Kindle publishing started offering an option to produce a paperback version of your e-book once it is uploaded. That seems only fair. Createspace, another Amazon company, has been offering to produce the Kindle version of paperback books for a while.

I’ve never taken advantage of either option. Why? Because despite the convenience of having to do set-up only once and working with a single publisher dashboard, the finished versions aren’t compatible.

I discovered a long time ago that the best way to ensure that my Createspace-printed book looks just the way I want it to is to upload a .pdf version of the interior. I discovered this after spending a couple hours trying to tweak a Word document that I was uploading. Even though I was using a Createspace template and everything looked fine, when I reviewed the uploaded document before publishing it, something had always changed. For instance, a line would roll to the next page. This caused a domino effect that threw off the pagination throughout the document.

 

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Screenshot of Kindle Direct Publishing offering to publish the paperback version of an e-book.

 

My solution to this problem was to save my Word file as a .pdf before I uploaded it, and the problems I had vanished. I’m not sure what the difference was between me saving the document as a .pdf first and then uploading or Createspace saving the document as a .pdf after I uploaded it, but it made all the difference in the world.

Somehow the uploading process changed my document. Saving it as a .pdf first locked everything into place. The pagination, images, and fonts were all saved and fixed in place.

While this works great for getting my paperback layouts right, it isn’t so nice for e-books. E-book documents need to be able to change fonts, point size, and margins. Sure, Kindle can publish a .pdf, but with everything locked in place, your Kindle or e-reader is going to show each book page as a screen page. I do some of my reading on my phone. Just imagine how a page from a book would look if it was condensed down to a 2×4 inch screen. To make an e-book work best, I upload a Word document.

Since I need to upload two files—one for my paperback version and one for my Kindle version—, I need to publish both separately.

If you don’t have problems with uploading Word files on Createspace, then publishing your e-book should be no problem. However, I’ve run into other writers who have had the same problem I’ve had with Word documents. I told them my secret of saving it as a .pdf, and most of their publishing issues have disappeared.

So while it’s another option to have with Createspace, you may cause yourself more headaches if you aren’t careful about how you use it.

 

swlogoWhen 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.

new-amazon-kindleI was out enjoying the beautiful weather yesterday afternoon when I dropped my Kindle. It had a cover so it didn’t shatter the screen. That was the good news. However, I couldn’t get the text-to-speech function to work anymore. I tried a variety of things, but I’m pretty sure the audio is fried.

I’m pretty disappointed about it. I use the text-to-speech to read books to me when I’m bicycling, walking, and working out. It’s a nice way to multi-task. I can be active and still keep up with the pile of books that I want to read.

Now I’ve got to get a new Kindle and they no longer make my Kindle Keyboard. It was the perfect Kindle for me.

None of the current Kindle e-readers have a text-to-speech function. I’m going to have to switch to a Kindle Fire. I like them, but then they don’t work so well outdoors and I do like reading on the beach or in the park.

I spent the morning pricing Kindle Fires and I was surprised to find that many of them are cheaper than the Kindles. Why does a devoted e-reader, i.e. the Kindle, cost more than something that pretty much a table, i.e. the Kindle Fire?

Anybody have any thoughts on their preferences? I could use some input.

new-amazon-kindleI came across this article in the UK Guardian a couple weeks ago. Writer Paul Mason contends, “Yet with the coming of ebooks, the world of the physical book, read so many times that your imagination can ‘inhabit’ individual pages, is dying.” He cites a couple examples of how in just about any edition of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow or Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, he can easily find certain key scenes that stick in his mind.

I became curious about this because if it’s true, it might change the way that writers write ebooks eventually. I know I’ve run into certain issues as a reader and a writer with ebooks that make me think that they are not suited for every book. For instance, table top style books I’ve written (No North, No South… and The Last Fall) have formats that don’t translate well to ebook styles. Their two-column formats aren’t linear and sidebars don’t seem to work well on smaller ereaders.

Mason’s article talks about the short attention span people have developed and because of the Internet and their tendency to skim read web pages. He feels that both of these factors play into reading ebooks, particularly when it’s on a device that many times can also play movies and games. I agree with this. It’s one of the reasons I’ve resisted to urge to get a Kindle Fire. My Kindle Keyboard is just an ereader so I know when I pick it up, I’m going to read.

In response to a readers having a short attention span, Mason writes, “Every major publisher has experimented with short stories, serialised fiction, anthologies and mid-range ‘e-only’ books. By contrast, experiments with fictional forms that only work for ebooks and hypertext have failed to make the big time.”

The context of the article made me think that Mason’s doesn’t think this is the best approach. While I’m still a big reader of novels, I love the shorter novellas that some authors put out. For one thing, it’s very inexpensive and allows me to decide whether I like the writer’s style. I also think that it has led to a resurgence of short fiction in a manner that actually is profitable for the author.

Mason then suggests that the ereader is beginning to change reading habits. “It’s probably too soon to generalise but my guess is, if you scooped up every book – digital and analogue – being read on a typical Mediterranean beach, and cut out the absolute crap, you’d be left with three kinds of writing: first, ‘literary’ novels with clearer plots and than their 20th century predecessors, less complex prose, fewer experiments with fragmented perception; second, popular novels with a high degree of writerly craft (making the edges of the first two categories hard to define); third, literary writing about reality – the confessional autobiography, the diary of a journalist, highly embroidered reportage about a legendary event.”

So do you think ereaders have changed your reading habits? I don’t think mine have changed too much. However, I am much more willing to try out new authors and I have found some that I enjoy and have left their books on my Kindle along with my favorite authors that I used to read in a physical editions.

Here’s the link to Mason’s article if you want to read it yourself.

Pawn_of_Prophecy_coverI like David Eddings’ early fantasy series, but until last year you couldn’t find them on Kindle. So I was very excited when they became available for download. They were even reasonably priced at $4.99. I downloaded Pawn of Prophecy, the first book in The Belgariad last September and put the rest on my wish list to read later.

I went to download the next book in the series, Queen of Sorcery, the other day and it’s not available. Nor are any of his other books in his most-popular series.

What a disappointment!

So does anyone know what happened? I’m hoping that they will be listed again soon, but seeing as how it took so long to get them listed in the first place I wonder. Why are his other novels listed and not his most-popular ones?

So now I have a lonely Eddings’ novel on my Kindle and I’m wondering when and if, I’ll ever be able to get the rest of the series.

Cover     For a nice Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone in your life, you can get A Love Returned free on your Kindle from Feb. 13-15.
A Love Returned is adapted from an award-winning article I wrote as a newspaper reporter and one that I’ve always liked. When Steve Shaw found a 30-year-old girl’s class ring at a Boy Scout Camp in 2003, he set out to find who it belonged to. He began hunting down clues and slowly uncovered a love story that takes some surprising turns before its surprising conclusion. Steve also finds out that some loves never die.​
Take a look if you get a chance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

rail-river coverTo celebrate Canawlers coming back into print in paperback, I’m offering the second book in the Canawlers series, Between Rail and River, for free on you Kindle from Jan. 22-24.

Between Rail and River picks up where Canawlers ends. As the Fitzgerald family struggles to make it through the winter of 1862-1863 and what has been a poor boating year on the C&O Canal, the Civil War is drawing ever closer to being fought aboard the Freeman. George Fitzgerald’s unexpected return from the war pits him against David Windover, an ex-Confederate spy, who now works and lives with the Fitzgeralds.

Alice Fitzgerald struggles to hold her family together as a vindictive sheriff and a haughty doctor’s wife work to tear them apart. Tony, the street urchin from Cumberland, has found a life aboard the Freeman, but Sheriff Lee Whittaker has other ideas for the ex-thief. Elizabeth Fitzgerald is growing older and finding herself torn between the canal and becoming a lady.

Together the Fitzgeralds have faced every obstacle, but how will they fare if the divisive forces around them separate them?

Midwest Book Review said of Canawlers, the first book in the series, “A powerful, thoughtful, and fascinating historical novel for high-schoolers and adults, which relates the adventures, hardships and ultimate tragedy of a family of boaters on the C&O Canal. … The tale moves quickly and should hold the attention of readers looking for an imaginative adventure set on the canal at a critical time in history.”

Take a look if you get a chance.

Also, keep watching for new of the third Canawlers novel called Lock Ready! It should be released this year.

I wrote My Little Angel as a Christmas novella in 1996 and it’s been out of print for a few years. I decided to publish it as a Kindle e-book in time for Christmas this year.

My Little Angel is the story of Janet Sinclair, a mother who is not looking forward to her first Christmas without her daughter. Danielle Sinclair had died earlier in the year and Janet still doesn’t know how she will go on without her. The littlest things bother her, such as the beautiful porcelain angel she receives as a mystery gift. The little angel looks so much like Danielle that Janet can’t bear to look at it.

To make matters worse, just when Danielle begins to pull out of her depression, she begins seeing Danielle’s ghost. Or is it just her mind playing tricks on her?

The halluncination appears at odd times and always beckons Janet to follow. When Janet does, the hallucination vanishes. However, the hallucination leads Janet to three new friends: Janet’s next-door neighbor, a homeless young woman and an expectant mother.

It will take these three special friends to teach Janet the meaning of love’s true sacrifice and the mystery behind my little angel.

The book is available on Amazon.com for $1.99 and you can send copies as Christmas gifts to the people on your gift list with Kindles. For other types of e-readers, you can find the book on Smashwords.com.

Get 3 FREE E-books!

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