Monthly Archives: April 2011

Author Promoting Book Gives It Her All

23 April 2011
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Some traditional publishing people worry that you can’t sign an ebook. Authors who have actually done very many real book signings view this as a feature.


Shortly before her reading Tuesday at local bookstore Word Mentality, author Francine Massey told reporters that she does her absolute best for everyone who comes out to see her, whether it’s just three people or a much larger crowd of nine people.

. . . .

“I have to remember that even if just one person shows up, he deserves the same passion and enthusiasm I would give to a big group of seven people or eight people,” said Massey, watching as a bookstore employee began setting up rows of folding chairs. “You just have to remind yourself that you’re not going to be able to pack the room with half a dozen fans every time.”

. . . .

When asked if she could remember the largest audience she ever read in front of, Massey instantly recalled an event at a Minneapolis Borders at which 11 people, not even counting her old roommate from college or an elderly shopper who just wanted to sit for a moment, were in attendance—a reading she described as her “ultimate rock-star ego boost.”

Link to the rest at The Onion




Probably the most intelligent thing about ebooks is that famous $0.99 selling price

23 April 2011

I recently discovered Claude Forthomme’s blog. She’s followed Passive Guy on Twitter for awhile and jumped into a discussion on Nathan Bransford’s forum I’ve mentioned a couple of times before.

I checked out her blog and discovered she’s a writer, painter, cook and economist who lives in Italy, so this all sounds good.

She also has some serious opinions about ebooks and brings her economist’s sensibilities to bear on the subject. For one thing, she understands how important the 99-cent price option is.



But what about the next stage of the e-book market? No doubt this is a bullish market, growing at exponential rates. E-book sales have already topped paperback sales, suggesting that e-books are likely to replace paperbacks in the not too distant future – particularly considering the exponential speed of growth of the e-book market (at 200% a year, and possibly much more, like tripling or quadrupling over the next couple of years). Actually growth in e-book sales surpasses print sales in all trade categories, fiction and non-fiction. If you consider that e-books on average are cheaper than any form of printed book, then it is probable that the number of book titles sold in digital form is higher than in printed form, although actual figures so far are not available (I haven’t seen any – if you have, please let me know). Since printed book sales are headed down, it would appear that people are shifting from printed books to e-books.

Another important point: driving this e-book growth is the fact that people are re-discovering back titles, classics etc, all sold at generally low prices. Lots of people are stocking up like mad as soon as they acquire an e-reader. One of my friends confessed that she’s bought some 250 titles since she got her Kindle last year! I haven’t, but I suspect that I’m a particularly finicky reader and probably not “in the norm”: I don’t go for “genre” reading and tend to download samples before deciding to buy, and very often, after twenty pages, I just delete the sample.

. . . .

Let me don my economist’s hat for a minute (ugh!) and consider the structure of the e-reading market. First, let’s remember that e-readers are bought by people who can afford them, i.e. people with a “comfortable” income, presumably with a steady job and belonging to the cultured middle classes. Second, judging from the spike of e-reader sales at Christmas, a lot of e-readers – perhaps as many as half – are bought as gifts. Presumably (again, nothing is certain) these are gifts for the family, in particular teen-agers. Since teen-agers have generally limited pocket money, one may assume they are the ones buying e-books at the low end of the price range (from $0.99 to $3.99) and possibly downloading free titles.

And this is where (perhaps) the book-reading market might be expanding: for the first time, adolescents everywhere are in full charge of their book purchases. They don’t have to go to the bookstore with Mum and Dad to buy books and have their choices dictated by adults. They learn for themselves the pleasure of reading, and hopefully that pleasure will remain with them for the rest of their lives. This might help explain the extraordinary success of Amanda Hocking’s paranormal romance titles – clear emulations of Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” which, as we all know, is currently all the rage with teen-agers. Amanda Hocking’s e-books became blockbusters last year and turned her into a millionaire in less than 9 months because in the e-book market there is a vast, new Young Adult audience looking for just this kind of book.

You’ll want to read the rest at Claude Nougat – It’s Political, it’s Artsy!

Best Practices For Amazon Ebook Sales

22 April 2011
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Author Carolyn McCray talks about the keys to successfully launching your book on Amazon and has some suggestions I don’t recall seeing elsewhere.


Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

While you cannot control this horizontal scroll bar filled with other titles directly (Amazon uses an algorithm to place the books in an order of their choosing), you can influence this greatly, especially at launch.

The longer you allow an empty or sparse scroll bar in this section, the lower your sales will be.

On scanning down, if a reader does not see that row filled to capacity, they know that your book has not been purchased very often. Therefore, you aren’t popular. Therefore why should they take a chance and buy your title?

There are a couple of ways to accelerate the filling of this bar:

  • Have family/friends/colleagues/fans buy your book during a ‘soft’ launch (pre-advertising, or promoting your book on social media).
  • Price your book at 99 cents (the lowest allowed by Amazon) and drive as much traffic as you can during your ‘soft’ launch window. Once you have the bar filled you can re-price your book.

. . . .

Product Description

This is a very poorly understood section of the Amazon page. Do NOT use this vital section for an actual product description. Think of this section as the exciting and enticing copy you would load into your ¼ page magazine ad.

. . . .

First off, note any awards or accomplishments for either the writer or the book itself. Establish yourself/book as an authority on the subject or prove that it is popular. Keep this BRIEF however. This initial portion of your “Product Description” should be at most 2-3 sentences.

If you have not won any awards or have not been recommeneded and/or blurbed by a celebrity/authority, do not worry. It is nice to have that flashy start, but you can easily just begin with the next section.

Put your best 3 quotes/blurbs/reviews for your book (punchy, short, exciting). Again, each quote, etc should not be longer than a few sentences.

Remember that most people do not scroll down past the “Product Details” to the official reviews section of the page. So unless you show a prospective reader your reviews here, they may never make it over the ‘jump’ of the “Product Details.”

You want to get your most glowing, punchy, exciting quotes out front. Don’t hold back. This is a MAJOR section where buyers abort the purchase funnel. Therefore this is where you need to really grab their attention. If you don’t excite the reader here, you will quite possibly lose a sale.

After these initial 3 quotes, put a brief style description of your book. Do NOT go into specifics about the book. You will lose the excitement you just built. Keep your energy up and driving towards a sale. Remember this is ad copy not a by-the-numbers description or even your typical back cover copy. This is a sales pitch.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

The Ebook User’s Bill of Rights

22 April 2011
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Successful indie writers understand that their interests are closely-aligned with the interests of their readers.

The Ebook User’s Bill of Rights was written by a couple of self-described “Badass Librarians.”


Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

Link to the rest at Agnostic, Maybe


Social Networking – Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

21 April 2011
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This is turning into social network day. Author Dawn McClure asks the question: How do you balance social networking and writing?

Passive Guy has to watch himself on this one. It’s so much easier to send another tweet than it is to rewrite a scene that has never worked.

Here is Dawn’s answer:

Once upon a time, Dawn McClure loved to write. Right after making her coffee in the morning, she’d shuffle to her computer and open her WIP. After a few minutes of yawning and stretching, she’d put the cursor where it belonged and let the words come.

Let’s drop third person and fast forward a few years.

I still get my coffee first thing in the morning, but now when I plop down at my desk I open Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo Instant Messenger and check emails – in that order. I hit my favorite blogs and usually work on my own blog post. Oh, and sometimes I open my WIP.

. . . .

Let me throw this out there before I go on – the BEST thing you can do to ‘get your name out there’ is write a great book. And another. And another. If you find yourself lost in the social networking conundrum, unable to tear yourself away from Twitter for more than an hour, there’s something wrong. But if you’re a disciplined little networker, read on…

. . . .

Twitter & Facebook are king of the hill right now. I can’t tell you the last time I heard someone mention MySpace, so I’m not even going there. My best advice for Twitter/FB – ALWAYS try and get your full pen name on your Twitter/Facebook account. It helps readers find you by simply searching for your name. I have DawnMcClure for Twitter and Dawn McClure for Facebook. Using WriterGurl isn’t going to get you recognized.

. . . .

Yahoo Groups. There are SO many Yahoo Groups that feature writers and authors. The good Yahoo groups will unload TONS of emails to your inbox, so tread carefully. Sometimes digest is the way to go. Wicked Writers is a great Yahoo group. Lots of readers on Wicked Writers.

Link to the rest at Savvy Authors

Your Backlist Is a Veritable Gold Mine

21 April 2011
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So, what’s a backlist?

There are really two definitions, one from a publisher’s viewpoint and one from an author’s viewpoint. For a publisher, a backlist is the collection of books the publisher has kept in print for a long time. For an author a backlist is the collection of books the author has written in the past whether they’re currently in print or not.

For indie writers, Passive Guy would like to expand the definition to include manuscripts that haven’t been published.

Amanda Hocking famously self-published nine of her novels at the same time in April, 2010. All of them had been rejected by agents/publishers.

Joe Konrath has described the role of the backlist of previously-published books for an indie author in great detail.

Author Carolyn McCray provides suggestions for how an author can use the backlist to promote sales of all her books.


With the seismic shift in the publishing industry and the explosion of the digital market, it turns out the Internet is a really big place full of people who have never heard of your book(s) and are eager to purchase it. They don’t care if the book came out two years ago or yesterday, they only care that it meets their educational or entertainment needs. This opens up an entire market for your backlist.

. . . .

What most in the industry have not yet embraced is that with digital sales platforms and the power of social media, you can now market your backlist as nearly new material (it is, after all, new to that stranger on the Internet). Not only does marketing your backlist bring in a whole new stream of sales, but someone introduced to backlist title #2 and enjoys it is then prone to buy book #1, #3, #4, and so on. Imagine your backlist titles as gateways towards new readers for your next big release.

. . . .

5 Points to Help Increase Your Backlist Sales

  1. Set goals for sales for each of your backlist title. Be realistic to start but expect GROWTH.
  2. Choose one title as your ‘gateway’ title and value price it (usually 99 cents to $2.99)
  3. Dedicate a certain percentage of your marketing budget (whether financial or social capital) to your backlist titles
  4. Treat each of your backlist titles as a mini-release and rotate them to keep your social media followers engaged
  5. Set up blog review or Internet radio tours for each of your backlist titles and keep your name/titles out there


So here’s a question from Passive Guy: If an indie author has a bunch of unpublished manuscripts of middling quality, do the positives of the “backlist effect” outweigh the negatives of self-pubbing what may not be her best work?

Link to the rest of Carolyn’s article at Digital Book World

Twitter is Like a Book Tour That Doesn’t Stop

21 April 2011
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Author and New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean started using Twitter in 2008 without exactly knowing why.

I didn’t understand what purpose it would serve or could serve. It took awhile before I could even figure out how you found people, who you’d want to follow, and why you’d want to follow them.

She’s learned how to use it to stay connected with readers during the long periods between articles. Unlike many well-known authors, she actually talks with her followers (over 100,000).

“I’ve always liked writing short pieces, and I’ve also always liked meeting readers,” she said. “I’ve always done a lot of public stuff — readings, doing Q&As — so once I figured out Twitter, the transition was pretty natural for me. It was almost like doing an ongoing book tour basically, or an ongoing Q&A session with readers. It suddenly made this new relationship that before had only existed kind of in real life, so to speak.”

But does this instant feedback distract her from her writing or inspire her to write more? Many writers complain that when writing a long work like a book it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, miring one in the malaise of what some would call writer’s block.

“I used [Twitter] as a cheerleading squad as I was struggling to finish my book and people would be interested in watching me slog through by my postings of how many words I’ve written,” Orlean said. “And it became really interesting seeing people saying, ‘C’mon hang in there, you can do it.’ I found that fascinating. I never would have expected that.”

. . . .

“It certainly gives you a pre-selected group of people who have for one reason or another decided they’re interested in what you have to say,” she said. “It’s like having a mailing list, and that’s enormously valuable, especially as we’re moving toward a world in which who knows whether we’ll eventually shift the model to people self-publishing, and then you’re really going to need that mailing list.”

Link to the rest of the article at Media Shift


Start Low, End High – A New Ebook Pricing Model

20 April 2011

A Nathan Bransford post from a couple of days ago that I blogged about here is working because they introduced me to his forums and I checked them out again.

I found an interesting post from a commenter who goes by TracyEWymer. I did a quick Google and think I may have ID’d him as a creative writing teacher and book blogger (link at the end).

Here’s TracyEWymer’s idea:

What if traditional publishers, in order to level the playing field and make their e-books more appealing to consumers, that is–more appealing than the $0.99-$2.99 self-published books, used a graduated price increase. Let’s say all e-books start at $0.99, until the hundredth or thousandth e-book sells–depending on the estimated number of sales, the author, the popularity of the series, etc.–and then when sales hit the target (dare I say, “magic”) number, the price increases to $1.99. After the next hundred of thousand books sell, the price increases from $1.99 to $2.99. Publishers could sustain this model until the price hits the current $9.99, and then cement the price there. Or… publishers don’t stop at the current e-book ceiling. Instead, it takes the price all the way up to $12.99 or $16.99 (the most common price of a juvenile hardcover). I would imagine that sales would decline around the current e-book new release average, $9.99.

. . . .

Well, the goal would be to drive readers to books early and often. There is probably a name for this type of business model, but since I teach English and creative writing and know little to nothing about business models, I’ll leave the naming to someone who knows what he’s (or she’s) talking about. Whatever the name, you’d think this approach would have to create some sort of immediacy in readers.

Take a look at consumerism the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday. It’s still the biggest, most successful, shopping day of the year almost every year. Why? Because of limited time only bargains. Half off. Seventy-five percent off. But only for a limited time. People have to take two trips home from Toys R Us because everything doesn’t fit in their van. I’ve seen it happen!

Passive Guy thinks this an interesting promotional idea for somebody who can blast the word out about a book intro in an effective way.

Let’s imagine a new Stephanie Meyer novel, Blood on the Saddle, a vampire western.

The word goes out that the ebook will be available at noon on June 1st at the Kindle and Nook stores. The first 10,000 copies cost 99 cents. The next 10,000 copies cost $1.99, then ramping up in $1.00/10,000 ebook  increments to wherever the final price would be.

What would happen?

  1. The event would generate a lot of free publicity before, during and after the launch date.
    1. Obvious stories would be how fast the Kindle and Nook stores reached every ramp point, ditzy teenagers going crazy at their computers because they got the 99 cent price, etc.
    2. Twitter and Facebook would be Stephanie World for that day.
  2. Blood would be #1 on Amazon on June 2 and stay there for awhile.
  3. A lot of people who never read Stephanie, but thought they might give her a try someday would buy Blood during the price ramp-up.
  4. Because so many people bought early, the word-of-mouth on Blood would hit fast and hard, generating more sales.

While it’s easy to visualize for ebooks, you might be able to do a meatspace analog launch at the same time by giving every Barnes & Noble a set number of books and have them ramp the in-store price up as the books sold. Query whether the BN computer system could handle it, although a different SKU for each price would probably work. Because price is a big part of the ebook story, the hardcopy books would have to hit the same pricepoints.

Stephanie may not need this for a huge launch, but somebody a couple of rungs down on the big author ladder might really benefit. You wouldn’t want to try it unless you were sure you would sell up to list price on the first day or it would backfire.

I wonder how this would work in indie world.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford’s Forums

Link to Tracy Edward Wymer’s Blog

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