Tuesday, March 5, 2013

TUESDAY TIP #Amazon's Latest Hostile Move + 6 Tips to Revive Dead Sales Records @markcoker @Cassie629 @Dranea79

Okay, the officially Tuesday Tip is here. I am not a fan of Amazon's business practices, as regular readers will know. I don't object to the Kindle Store as a concept. I object to the way Amazon runs the business and treats the content providers--Indie Authors, specifically. I've been online "forever" and I actually remember when Amazon.com first opened. The slogan "World-Class Customer Service" was there from the start, but in the 1990s, Jeff Bezos started moving further and further away from his customer's needs and more towards his company's growth.

I don't like exclusionary or restrictive attitudes in general and especially not in an industry where openness and availability are key to success. Amazon's latest hostile move is a refusal to pay Affiliates advertising fees to any site that "primarily" promotes free Kindle eBooks, where "primarily" is a term that will be defined by data only Amazon will have access to review. This news came at the start of Read an eBook Week with tens of thousands of eBooks going on promo as free free free to drive traffic to Indie Authors' Amazon pages. Not exactly a way to say thank you to your content providers or highest referring URLs, is it?

On the upside of the coin, however, Mark Coker, found of Smashwords, decided to blog "6 Tips" of advice to Indie Authors on how to make their books more appealing--and he encouraged participation in the site-wide promotional catalog he set up for the week-long event this week. The contrast is, I hope, obvious. Click through to read more from both sides of this Digital Publishing coin.

The Issue
Amazon is in the business to make money. I get it. It's their site and they want to make a profit off of every visitor who lands there. I really do get that part. That's just basic business sense. But being penny-wise and pound-foolish is not the way to maintain a content-rich site--it never has been nor will it ever be. The internet is just too full of opportunity to support a Grinchy Scrooge approach.

Amazon isn't just restricting the marketing decisions of the content providers (Indie Authors) anymore. Now they're restricting the choices of the Affiliates (or Associates) who drive the traffic to the Amazon sites from their own web sites. One of those sites is the huge repository of Michael Gallagher's blog here. Read over his article. He's one of the Affiliates that was making a living providing Kindle readers with links to free Kindle books--and Amazon is threatening to stop paying him for the 20,000+ referrals he sends to them daily. It's just wrong.

The Solution
Happily, Gallagher like so many others, isn't folding. He's regrouping. Smashwords offers Kindle books too. In fact, a lot of sites offer free Kindle books but Smashwords is probably the most secure, best-maintained and offers the widest selection. Give Gallagher a referral fee by clicking here to shop. With that "?ref=gagler" at the end of the link, he'll earn up to 15% of the cover price for all your purchases at Smashwords in that one visit. Don't forget, this week, tens of thousands of eBooks are on promo at Smashwords in the Read an Ebook Week Catalog.

WARNING: Shameless Shelf Promotion
As you might guess, I have my books entered into the Read an Ebook Week Promo Catalog at Smashwords. I have 2 offered for free and 2 on deep discounts. All require the Smashwords coupon codes at checkout so the regular prices appear on the book pages and Amazon will not "suddenly" reprice my books. I hope! Here are my links and discount codes if you haven't seen them already:

Get my marketing handbook, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (for Indie Authors) FREE by using coupon code RW100 at checkout.

Get my Jewish Inspirational / Romantic Comedy, Coming Home (Dicky's Story) for 75% off (or only $1.50 after you apply the coupon code REW75 at checkout).

My SciFi books in The Phoenician Series are on sale, too.

Start with the short story/novella When Minds Collide which is FREE when you use code RW100 at checkout.

Then get the long novel, Conditioned Response for 50% off by using code REW50 at checkout.

In case you hadn't already heard, I'm working on the new book in the SciFi series. I've just finished the outline and its story will fall in between When Minds Collide and Conditioned Response on the series timeline. When it comes out all depends on how quickly I can find a new day job (I want a desk job this time!) to pay the damned bills so I can focus on writing. *grrrrr*  I was designed to write; it's my purpose in life but funding this habit is such a PITA ^_^

Speaking about PITA, if you want to review a book these days, you usually have to have bought a copy. Smashwords books are no exception. If you've already read and reviewed an eBook, check the Smashwords catalot to see if it's being offered free for Read an eBook Week. Then you can get a copy while it's free, thus making you a "paying customer" at Smashwords, and that in turn means you can copy your review from Goodreads or your blog or wherever you previously had it posted. This great idea of how to support Indie Authors and it came from Indie Author and semi-professional Book Reviewer, Sadie S. Forsythe.

If you have your own books in the promo at Smashwords, you can post a comment here or on Sadie's blog thread (or both!) to provide readers with the URL where they can get your free or deeply-discounted book for Read an eBook Week. You might even get a review out of it ^)^

6 Tips to Revive a Dying eBook
Related to Read an eBook Week is the subject of how to boost sales. Even if your eBook sales have been dropping off--or have stopped completely--there are steps you can take to bring the trend back to life. Founder of Smashwords, Mark Coker, recently wrote a nice blog post detailing 6 things you can do to boost sales. It's not the first time he's written one of these--nor my first time either :) so here are some tips to turn that autopsy into a publicity bonanza.

1) Set it free! Set it free! It's not just Read an eBook Week, it's Read an eBook Month! Making your book free to boost reader interest and possibly garner some reviews was Tip #1. Here are the other 5, summarized. Get the full deets on the Smashwords Blog.

2) Freshen up your cover image. I like the little test he suggested. If you removed the title and author name (all of the text) from the cover image, would you immediately "know" what genre the book was? What the story promised to deliver? This kind of a test is precisely why I'm currently in the process of cartooning new covers for The Phoenician Series. I can't really afford to hire a graphic artist to design something so I'm doing it myself.

I haven't cartooned in 30 years so it's slow-going and may not be the most expert job in the end but I find I'm enjoying it as a creative outlet just as much as I enjoy writing the books. You might find the creation of a new cover concept is fun if you're doing it a year after you released the book. Now that you've gotten a little distance from the story and aren't immersed in writing the book, you might find you have a whole new outlook on what should be on the cover. Sometimes, we authors get so focused on our story that we fail to understand what visuals will really hook the readers. No, really! (LOL)

3) Check your pricing. Too high or too low, you have to have the "right" price for your genre, book length and quality of work. If you haven't really spent time proofreading--and you know it--you can't charge $9.99 for it. By the same token, charging 99 cents for an epic-length novel devalues the product.

Mark's done a few Slideshare presentations on the subject of pricing and I urge you to review at least one of them. Also, I've got a good marketing piece in my positioning series on pricing creneaus. I've done several marketing blogs on the subject of pricing actually. Think carefully about what you're charging per unit. Don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Don't give it away too cheap either. Find the sweet spot for your specific book.

4) Consider your conversion rates. In Mark's blog, he focuses on the conversion rate from when a reader downloads a sample of your book to when there is a download of the book from a paying customer. Since a paying customer can download the book multiple times--or once, a week or a month after purchasing the book--it's not a great rule but I've found it usually takes my readers 1-3 days to convert a sample download into a purchase.

I look at the purchase events rather than the downloads by paying customers and can tell the conversion rate of my sample to book is fairly high. Usually. What's low for me is the conversion rate of click-through's to the book page into downloads of the sample. That says to me that my descriptions are still not working. If you're not even getting click-throughs then your posts providing the link aren't working. Reconsider where, when and at what frequency you post the links. If you tweet the link once an hour, forex, it's probably annoying people and you may have saturated your reading audience. Try posting the link somewhere other than Twitter. Try a different method of "pitching" the book to get the link noticed.

No matter what step in the process you look at, you have several conversion rates to examine. Look at each step to determine which one of your many sales tools is broken--and then fix it. Or try. (I'm not Yoda, I believe in trying!)

5) Target Markets. This is discussed in my marketing handbook (which is free right now!) The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (for Indie Authors).  Check out Law 13: Sacrifice. Sometimes you need to sacrifice and lose the battle to win the war. You always need to know who your target audience is, however. Pitch your book to readers who'll actually be interested. If you've just indiscriminantly been pitching your book as far and wide as possible, that might be part of your problem. Look for the "qualified lead" type of opportunity before you spin your wheels on--oh, shiny!

6) Never Give Up. I think this one is self-explanatory but just in case.... This does not mean you should keep doing the same things again and again but expect that, "magically" one day, you'll get a different result. Puh-leeeese. What you should do is not quit. If Plan A doesn't work, try Plan B. If that fails, try Plan C. If you get to Plan Z and still have no success, consult an expert--forex, hire a professional editor to tell you what is wrong with your writing. It's not a matter of proofreading; editing is far more than that! If you cannot master the mechanical skills of writing a book and weaving a story, you might be in the wrong line of work but if you have great story ideas that just won't stop, don't give up. Hire someone to help you.

I'm not just pushing my own financial interests but yes, I do developmental editing. Sometimes it's easier for an outside pair of eyes to get an objective perspective. There's a reason we writers love writers groups! Having someone else read and critique your work helps you fix your issues. That's not me pitching my services; that's just truth. Writers' groups have been around as long as writers have been writing.

So. I'll read your book before I talk to you about how to fix it and I'll try to figure out the changes to make it work--and then I'll expect you to make them. I won't do the rewrites for you. How would you learn anything that way? Besides, it's your book and your name has to go on it. I work with authors the way I'd like an editor to work with me--but I don't come cheap. Also, given I'm currently searching for a day job, I'm about to get busy so I can't promise a one-week turnaround.

There are a lot of great editors out there, though. In addition to myself, I can highly recommend Cassie Kelly McCown over at Gathering Leaves, with whom I've worked on all of my books. I can also recommend Amy Eye at The Eyes for Editing (though I've never worked with her myself, I've seen her work products). Both ladies are also open to negotiating fees for those who are just starting out.

The Indie Publishing community is a very supportive one--but you have to ask for help and not just get frustrated and give up. Writing is fun but publishing is work. To quote a bestseller (The Old Testament Holy Bible) Begin the work and I'll work alongside you. If you want to hire me, email webbiegrrlwriter at gmail dot com and put "editing" somewhere in the subject line. Give me an idea of where your project is in terms of completion and I'll give you a quote on rates and timeframe. The more iterations we have to go through, the more expensive it gets for you so I prefer to join your effort later in the process but if you've got the money to spend, I would love to forego getting a day job for another month! Drop me an email today!

What's Next....
Next Monday we'll be back to talking publicity and on Tuesday, at long last, I'll publish this tip on how to remove those nasty and annoying hidden bookmarks in MS Word before they eat up your NCX and destroy your ePub or other eBook format. Hope to see you then.

Thanks for stopping by!


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