Tag Archives: selling ebooks

How things change.

My Fire was featured on the cover of my first e-book, "Coffee Time Tales" (Now re-covered)

This was the first cover I designed myself. And it shows. The book now has a better one.

Just over two years ago I published my first e-book, “Coffee Time Tales” (http://amzn.to/16z6R9y ). It was a bit of a joke, a bit of fun, just throwing together some old short stories into a single volume and knocking up a cover pic. There was no marketing plan, just telling people I knew online about it, and doing the obligatory free five day giveaway.

Yesterday I found the blog post where I discussed the publishing of the book. A friend asked how it had gone in the comments section, and I replied that I was pleased with the modest 150 downloads.

150.

Not so long ago I re-worked “Troubled Souls” (http://amzn.to/17RZzOH), to tie in with the newly-released “Eddie and the Kingdom” ( http://amzn.to/18mSF2w) . I blogged about the re-release, went on Twitter, alerted people to the upcoming giveaway and haunted several publicity blogs, logging in to them to post details of the launch. I actually worked quite hard. Just quite hard, not actually hard.

“Troubled Souls” just about topped fifty downloads. Worldwide.

I know I’m not good at pushing my books. I know I don’t do all the right things, because this is a fun venture and I just can’t take it seriously – I get paid for my playwriting and reviewing – but I think this story does illustrate how saturated the e-book market has become. My book of drivel could garner 150 downloads with no effort two years ago. Now a book I worked on promoting sinks almost without trace (It did get a couple of great reviews, thank you!)

You don’t just need a great book, a great plot, proper formatting and an eye-catching and professional cover. You need determination, marketing, planning and the will to be in it for the long haul.

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Correlation does not imply causation

That’s my caveat for today, the last day of my free giveaway of “Troubled Souls”. I’m keeping it in mind because I’ve had FOUR sales this month (and this month is less than 10 days old) when I usually get around two or three at most. Four sales, with three being the follow-up book to “Troubled Souls”.

Available at the Kindle Store

Available at the Kindle Store

This is the first time I’ve seen any connection between a giveaway and sales, but this is also the first time I’ve given away a book with a direct link to a connected book. Previously, “Troubled Souls” mentioned that “Eddie and the Kingdom” was coming, but there was no link. Now “Eddie” is finished, published and the link is in “Troubled Souls”. And at least one person has chosen to buy another of my books.

At just over forty downloads in total (worldwide), this has been my most successful giveaway, and the one I worked hardest on. The usefulness of the giveaway gets debated a lot, but I think we can assume causation here. With a direct link between the book being given away free and the book that follows it, I have generated some sales from the free offer.

This should be good news for people writing series books – trail the next book at the end of your previous book, and include a link, and free giveaways of book one should lead to some sales of book two. Make it easy for your customer to spend their money – they get to the end of the first story, read a teaser for the second and the link to purchase is right there….Click!

I don’t think there’s ever going to be a magic bullet – something that everyone can do that will guarantee sales or success. Anyone who tells you that is likely trying to sell you their book “How to sell your e-book”. But in this case, I think there is a connection between the giveaway and the sales, and if I were a better marketer, both the number of downloads and the number of sales might be higher.

That doesn’t mean the number of sales of unconnected books of mine would be higher, though. At least one person has said they liked my short stories but weren’t interested in zombies. My butterfly attention span when it comes to genre is certainly working against me there. But if you find your niche and love living in it, you could use this tactic to add sales from giving away your older books.

Got it Covered?

Book by its coverIt’s an unfair saying : “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. It comes from an age when books didn’t have the beautiful and carefully considered jacket illustrations they have today. A book might have a plain red board cover, and if it were a particularly loved book, that cover might be creased, and stained and look more than a little unattractive. But it was that way because it was a GOOD book, because it had been read so much that the cover was in disrepair. It wasn’t right to judge that book by the state of the cover.

We’ve taken the aphorism and applied it to people – just because someone is handsome, it doesn’t mean they’re nice. Like all aphorisms, it has a counter: we’ll cheerfully tell friends going for interviews that “first impressions are important”, as if the interview panel will never have heard of judging a book by its cover.

But when it comes to publishing, the cover is much more important than it used to be. Now the proliferation of books means that more than ever an author needs a great cover to catch the eye of the reader. If you’re an e-publisher, you have only a thumbnail photo to draw the purchaser in to read the blurb and commit to a sale.

One of my better home-made cover illustrations

One of my better home-made cover illustrations

The chief temptation with e-publishing is to do EVERYTHING yourself. The writing, of course, you HAVE to do. The editing and proofreading…Well, to be honest, you SHOULD send that out. You can easily miss the same error in multiple readings because you know what it should say, and you can miss the plot holes because you’re the one who thought up the story so you already know who did it and why…. By the time you’re done with all that, the temptation to just pull up a photo and slap the title and your name onto it so you can publish is almost overwhelming.

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

Here’s the terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

Visit Eduardo’s website at www.eduardosartspace.com/

But it’s a lot harder than it looks. If you trawl the “free” section of Amazon’s Kindle store, you’ll be able to spot a large percentage of the books where the authors have produced their own covers. The funny thing is, it’s hard to say how you can tell, what it is that makes them look amateurish compared to the professionally-produced covers.

For my next book “Eddie and the Kingdom”, I had a definite idea of the cover. There’s a scene where one character is running up a street. Behind her, the whole street is filled, side to side, with a horde of zombies. I wanted the street and the horde to be in black and white, and the running woman in colour. Except I didn’t have a handy cast of extras in zombie make up, nor the ability to shut the streets of Vancouver. None of the women I knew wanted to run barefoot towards a camera either (because it’s December, that’s why….)

I tried stitching together the picture I wanted from numerous sources, but couldn’t do it well enough with photos I was allowed to use – It’s important that you hold the copyright to the pictures, or buy a license for them. Then I got in touch with Eric Hubbel through Google+ and engaged his services as a cover designer. He talked through what I wanted and agreed the cover as I imagined it would be tricky to pull off. He asked me if I had any other ideas. That’s when I remembered that what I had originally wanted was a view through a wire fence of a sign saying “Welcome to the Kingdom”…Perhaps with a zombie’s hand reaching towards the fence! This idea had been the first cover option, but I had abandoned it because I couldn’t do it. Eric returned the first version that evening and it was perfect:

Available at the Kindle Store from Monday!

Available at the Kindle Store from Monday!

Using a professional’s services is hard for the average e-publisher, because most are doing things on a tight budget. It’s not, despite what you read in the media, a great way to make money, so spending a couple of hundred dollars on proofreading, editing and getting a cover could be all your returns for the first year or more. But the higher-quality your book is in ALL aspects – content, format, grammar, spelling, plot and cover – the better your chances of making a sale and then repeat sales.

“Eddie and the Kingdom” is available through   

Amazon.com , Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk

If you’d like a chance to read a sample of the story, the first two chapters can be found at the end of  “Troubled Souls”, my short story collection, also available at Amazon.com , Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk

A friend and fellow publisher on Google+ also recommended the services of Harvey Bunda , who does some truly extraordinary and beautiful artwork.