Hope or train?


Writers blog: stardate: 19.04.2013

Ten days ago Amazon price-matched my book Rope Enough – The First Romney and Marsh File – to zero. It is now a free book and I will keep it that way – forever. Despite this book having cost me a good chunk of time and effort to create – not to mention the blood, sweat , tears and hundred quid for the cover art – I cannot think of a better  means of constant, free and easy self-promotion. I cannot think of any other means of self-promotion that would see me – an unknown, newcomer to self-publishing – get my book in front of the people who I want to get it in front of – the people that matter: ebook readers.

In the ten days that it has been a free ebook it has had over eleven-thousand downloads through Amazon.co.uk. Yesterday, it was at number three in the Kindle free-download chart for all ebooks, and in the last twenty-four hours it was downloaded over one thousand, seven hundred times. That book is now on the reading devices and in the homes of eleven-thousand readers. How else could I possibly have achieved that?

A big chunk of the people who downloaded it won’t read it; I know that. But a good number probably will at some point. Maybe not this week or this month, but it’s on their device. In a year they might give it a go. They might like it and they might look for the second in the series and that’s where I realise I have inadvertently done myself and my self-publishing venture the best turn that I could – I already have the next two in the series available for download.

If I had just one book available and I gave it away for nothing I might get thousands of people download it. But what then? Those that read it and enjoyed it and wanted to find something else by me would soon be disappointed and move onto the next free book. I would. I do. By the time that I got around to writing and publishing the next book, I would have to start all over again. I would have missed my window of opportunity.

If I had one book available and I was asking money for it as an unknown, I doubt strongly that I’d see many downloads. And again, those that enjoyed the read would have nothing to go on to by me. See above.

I’m no expert in self-publishing, but I’ve learned some things about it. And if there is one bit of advice I would give anyone who is looking to make money from self-publishing it is this: my self-publishing formula for a modicum of success – or better.

  1. Write a series in a popular genre.
  2. Get professional cover art that clearly links the books in a series and identifies their places within in it.
  3. Make the first in the series free to download. Just swallow.
  4. Have at least one more title in the series available to download for those who enjoyed the first  – three is better. (Look around – commercially successful series are like buses.)
  5. Make the second in the series attractively cheap to purchase.
  6. Make the third in the series still cheap for a novel but up the price a little.

I can’t claim to have invented this formula and, like I said, it is simply good-fortune that I had already written three in a series before I got around to self-publishing. Others are doing it, have been doing it, or something like it, and doing well out of it, for some time.

Example: Alan McDermott has his Tom Gray trilogy out at the moment. I understand that it’s been out a while. The first in the series is a free download. It has been at number one on Amazon’s free download chart ever since I’ve been looking. If I can crawl up to number three with seventeen-hundred downloads in a day, how many does he shift in a day? and how many has he shifted in the months that he’s been self-published? A conservative estimate would be hundreds of thousands. It could be more. Book two in that series is in the top one hundred Kindle downloads for paid books. Book three is just outside the top one-hundred. Take it from me; he’s selling shed-loads and he is making some serious money. Best of luck to him.

Part 2

I have finished what I feel strongly will be my penultimate edit of Dirty Business – The First Acer Sansom Novel. I shall now email this new version to Amazon and it will be almost immediately pinged back to my Kindle reading device where I shall then give it the final proof-read. I’ve blogged before about how useful I find it to read through my books in a variety of formats: computer screen, hard-copy, Kindle. Each new reading experience brings with it a novelty factor that provides me the opportunity for a fresh perspective to spot errors. It’s what my circumstances have reduced me to. And I think that I’m getting better at it. In fact I’m feeling so confident about my abilities these days that I might even offer a reward for any typos spotted. Then again, maybe I won’t.

Yesterday, Kit Foster, the nice fellow who did the covers for the three R&M’s, sent me some ideas for Dirty Business and Loose Ends. I was very happy with elements of them and he is going to combine these into a couple of covers that I think will be effective, strongly suggestive and representative of the genre and story.

I’m still not sure about where to pitch the price on these two. The three R&M’s are priced on a sliding upwards scale – free, £1.53 and £2.05 (I wanted £1.49 and £1.99 but Amazon did something to the numbers that I still don’t understand.) The three R&M’s are all around the eighty-thousand word mark. The two Sansoms are one-hundred-thousand words each. Should that extra twenty-thousand words justify a higher price?

I’m drawn to list them at £1.99 each and it’s not because of the extra bulk. I still don’t think that that is expensive for a decent read, which I have to hope people will think of them. I do. I also think that I’ve established myself to a very small degree as a half-decent story-teller – reviews, comments and feedback lend weight to this notion – and perhaps, as it could be argued that I have let my first three novels go quite cheaply, even by ebook standards, those who have read them and enjoyed them won’t begrudge me looking to net just over a pound a book. I don’t think that looking to make one pound a book is greedy or likely to price me out of a potential sale. Time will tell on that. Of course, if people start writing to tell me how awful they find them and how robbed they feel, I might have to reduce the price a bit.

With the self-publication of the Sansom’s will come more work. All the information on my various author pages relates only to the R&M books. The images on my Facebook page and blog banner are R&M covers. I’ve also got to write a couple of elevator pitch style summaries for the forthcoming Amazon listings. I’m not complaining – I like all that stuff. It makes a change and I’m doing it for me.

4 thoughts on “Hope or train?

  1. Hello. You asked us on Amazon to pass on any comments we have. I’ve just finished Rope Enough and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would like to compliment you on the quality of your publication. It is very professional in comparison with much of the self published dross and some of non self published currently available. I’m sure it won’t be long before you are offered a publishing deal to reach a wider audience and I wish you good luck. I don’t expect an answer to this message I just felt the need to offer support.

    • Hello Elaine

      Don’t mind me – I always reply to a reader’s communication. It’s another aspect of being a self-published author that I really enjoy.

      Thanks very much for your encouraging review on Amazon and for going the extra mile to also post on my blog. Your time and trouble are sincerely appreciated.

      A publishing deal? The thing of dreams, perhaps. And I do dream, of course, like every other aspiring author. For the moment, I’m thoroughly enjoying self-publishing.

      If you ever get around to the other two R&Ms, I’d be just as interested in your thoughts on how they all hang together as a series.

      Thanks again and best wishes.


  2. Hi Oliver,

    Thought you’d appreciate bit of consumer feedback. I stumbled on the first R&M book only thanks to it being free an Amazon; I’d had a bit of a splurge on books and decided to explore some cheaper, less wallet-busting options. I enjoyed it enough to buy the other two books straight away, both of which have now been finished (literally just pressed close on Joint Enterprise and thought, “must look him up on the ‘net”). Looking forward to any others in the series.

    One teeth-itching speeling mistoke for you; in Rope Enough when they chase across the fields at the end, they would have climbed a “stile” and definitely not a “style”….. 🙂

    Good luck, and thanks for the entertainment so far.

    • Hi Jason
      I am always happy and grateful when readers take the time and trouble to leave me some feedback on the R&Ms. Thanks for being part of that. Thanks also for contributing to the purchase of my toddler’s next pack of nappies by paying for the second two in the series. Seriously, I can’t ask for a greater compliment than people spending money on the books on the strength of the first.
      The fear of a misued homophone can keep me wake at night. I live in dread of making one of those howling errors that can flip a sentence or a scene from something engaging into something to be noted and remembered for all the wrong reasons. I am going to wear my hair-shirt for a week because of my mistake over ‘stile’. It is particularly shameful for me because I had to climb them on my way to school way back when. Thanks for pointing it out. It will be part of my next update of the ebook.
      On that topic I am reminded of another such incident, which you may find amusing. I asked my mum to read one of my books before I self-published. I phoned her for an opinion on how it was going. I hoped that she’d get some of the humour. She was laughing, all right. I’d referred to a sashay of sugar instead of a sachet. That was the last book of mine she ever read. (I smashed her glasses.)
      Thanks for getting in touch and your support.

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