Category Archives: Strategy

WTF: Amazon, ABNA, & PW Passing the Buck?

Normally, I write posts sharing our experiences to help YOU. Today we are asking for your help. Read from the bottom up this series of contacts to Amazon Author Support, Publishers Weekly, and ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) “Admin”/Support. We are totally getting the runaround.

Someone, anyone: how do you get your author support issues addressed with Amazon?

Waiting anxiously for your I deas . . . AND WE WILL PULL THIS BLOG DOWN IF AND WHEN AMAZON/ABNA FIXES THE PROBLEM.

Eric

***************

8/21/14:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. We will investigate this request
shortly and get back to you with an update within 3 days.

Thank you,

The Amazon Author Central Team

P.S. You received this message because Amazon.com received
the following message:

***************

Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:45:31 +0000
From: Pamela Fagan Hutchins
To: “int-ac-general_amz@amazon.com” <int-ac-general_amz@amazon.com>
Subject: Other

Topic: Other

Question/Feedback:

This is getting BEYOND frustrating. At your express instruction, I tried to handle resolution of my issue through ABNA customer service, first on August 13, then on August 15, to abna-admin@amazon.com. I have not even received confirmation they received my two emails, much less acknowledgement of an issue or RESOLUTION. What the heck do I do about this??? PLEASE ESCALATE THIS TO A MANAGER. I started contacting you on August 3rd. I have made six contacts and gotten nowhere. Things you have told me to do that did not work:

1. get the review from PW (they gave me a reference number and sent me back to Amazon)
2. get this resolved through the ABNA support

PLEASE DO NOT TELL ME TO DO EITHER OF THOSE THINGS AGAIN. SOMEBODY JUST OWN THIS AND GET IT DONE, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.

The entire string is copied in below.

***************

From: Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Subject: Re: Quarter-finalist: Where’s the Publisher’s Weekly Review?
Date: August 15, 2014 at 9:58:43 AM CDT
To: Self
Cc: ABNA-admin@amazon.com, Eric Hutchins <eric@skipjackpublishing.com>

Hello, maybe you need more information, because its been 48 hours and I have not received a reply or even acknowledgement of my contact to you, so hopefully this additional information will help. I have been corresponding with Kindle customer service because no one could locate the Publishers Weekly review for my ABNA 2014 Quarter-finalist book, Finding Harmony. I have been in touch with PW at the Kindle CS request, which is how I obtained the reference number below for the review of Finding Harmony that PW says they sent to ABNA. Kindle CS directed me then to contact you (ABNA Customer Service) with this information.

I am seeking access to the review, and, given the apparent difficulty in finding it, to find out why no can seem to find it and what that meant for my book in the ABNA contest, if anything.

For your convenience, I will now copy the entire string of correspondence on this issue below my original email to ABNA Customer Service, including email with Kindle CS and with PW. Obviously, you should read from the bottom up.

Please help me. Please.

Thank you very much,
Pamela

***************

On Aug 13, 2014, at 10:26 AM, Pamela Fagan Hutchins wrote:

Hello. My novel Finding Harmony was a 2014 ABNA Quarter-finalist. Where can I view the Publishers Weekly review of it? PW said that it was sent to Amazon with reference number YFQNJ4SF.

Thank you,
Pamela

***************

From: “Amazon.com Author Central Team” <ac-no-reply@amazon.com>
Subject: Your Amazon.com Inquiry
Date: August 13, 2014 at 4:29:58 AM CDT
To: Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Reply-To: “ac-no-reply+A1MCT6Z67M54YJ@amazon.com” <ac-no-reply+A1MCT6Z67M54YJ@amazon.com>

Author Central Amazon
Your Account Amazon.com
Message From Customer Service
Hello Pamela,

I’ve reviewed our previous correspondence with you, and I’m very sorry your concerns weren’t addressed and about the incorrect information you received.

I understand that you’ve multiple questions regarding the issue with the 2014 ABNA Contest. In this case, I request you to contact the ABNA administrative team at the below given email address as they would only be able to address all your concerns and provide accurate information:

ABNA-admin@amazon.com

I realize at this point of time asking you to contact again would be disappointing, however, please understand that ABNA has its own dedicated customer service team who would be able to provide appropriate resolution.

Thanks you for your continuous patience and understanding in this matter.

General information about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, including a timeline and rules, is available here:

http://www.amazon.com/abna

If you still have questions or would like to contact us about any other matter, you can reach us by phone or email through this link:

https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us

I’m sorry I couldn’t provide more assistance. We hope to see you again soon.

Best regards,
Preethi H
Amazon.com

***************

Original Message
Pamela Fagan Hutchins has sent the following contact-us request.

Topic: Update information about a book – Other

Question/Feedback:

Dear Sir/Madame

I am writing with regards to the 2014 ABNA Contest entry Finding Harmony by me, Pamela Fagan Hutchins, which made it to the quarter-finals. I am highly concerned that the issue that I am trying to have addressed through repeated contacts with your staff members (see string below) is not getting the level of attention warranted due to the serious nature of the problem. I respectfully request that this message be passed to a supervisor for review before another unhelpful and inconclusive response is sent to me.

In order to understand the full scope of the matter please first read through the entire string of messages that I have attached below.

Then consider this: I understand that it is a privilege (a huge one) for authors to be able to enter their books into the Amazon ABNA Contest and I am grateful for that opportunity. However, once all of the entry criteria have been met and the book entry is accepted, it is Amazon’s responsibility to ensure that all of the qualified entries receive the same fair opportunity to be evaluated, and selected to advance if worthy. This contest provides an unparalleled opportunity for authors. Books that receive the Publishers Weekly reviews, and then have those reviews made available to the public through the high profile visibility of the contest, get enormous exposure that is incredibly valuable, and that Amazon has committed to providing in the ABNA contest. In addition, books that advance beyond the quarter-finals of this contest gain additional positive exposure that results in sales and rankings unheard of for most authors. I have no doubt that your statistics bear this out.

I need answers to these questions:

#1 Was a review done on Finding Harmony by a Publishers Weekly Editor, as promised for all books which reached the Quarter-finals of the 2014 ABNA Contest? Below, PW says one was done and sent to Amazon. They provided an identifying number (below) to help you confirm and locate their review.

#2 Were the reviews performed by Publishers Weekly part of the evaluation process used by Amazon to select the books which moved on to the next round in the contest past quarter-finals?

#3 Where can people see the review by Publishers Weekly for Finding Harmony? If it is not up know, where will it be posted once Amazon locates it with the identifying information provided by PW?

#4 Why are Amazon representatives unable to locate this review after repeated requests, and why are they pushing it back on me, the author, when it was something Amazon committed to have done in the ABNA contest?

#5 If the answer to #2 above is YES, is it possible that those responsible for selecting the books which advanced beyond the quarter-final round NEVER SAW the Publishers Weekly review for Finding Harmony and therefore were not able to properly evaluate and consider Finding Harmony, in this contest?

#6 What can Amazon do to rectify this situation?

Because of the apparent breakdown in communication between Publishers Weekly and Amazon with regards to the book Finding Harmony, there is no doubt that opportunities for sales of this book have been lost. It will not be possible to enter this book in the contest in 2015. It will not be possible to announce the release of the Publishers Weekly review DURING the contest as should have been the case or for that announcement to gain the exposure created by that opportunity, because the contest is long since over, and the publicity of it diminished.

As to #6, I respectfully request that not only does Amazon find and send me the review done by Publishers Weekly, but also provide the book with the exposure that has been lost by this error. Two possible suggestions that would be of no cost to Amazon would be:

1. Make Finding Harmony a Kindle Daily Deal Book. (Please note that Finding Harmony currently has 100 reviews with a 4.9 Star average. It is an outstanding book, worthy of consideration on its on merits, at any time.)

2. Include Finding Harmony as one of the books you recommend to all of your customers by email in the periodic genre specific emails that Amazon sends to its book buying customers.

Let me reiterate that I request that this situation be escalated to a supervisor, and that I humbly ask for help in making this situation right.

Thank you very much,

Pamela Fagan Hutchins

***************

From: “Amazon.com Author Central Team” <ac-no-reply@amazon.com>

Subject: Your Amazon.com Inquiry

Date: August 12, 2014 at 12:29:40 PM CDT

To: Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Author Central Amazon

Your Account Amazon.com

Message From Customer Service

Hello Pamela,

Thank you for contacting Amazon.com Author Central Team.

Firstly, I apologies for the inconvenience caused by this situation.

Thank you very much to writing back with the reference of the reviewer (publisher weekly) and as well from the publisher.

We’ll be glad to add the editorial review on the book page. However, we at Author Central do not have the exact text of the review (from publisher weekly) to update. Please write back to us with the exact text of the review from the publisher weekly.

If we can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact us again. You can reach us by phone or email through this link:

https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us

I appreciate your patience, understandings and continues support with these regards.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Best regards,

Ghouse. G

***************

‘Pamela Fagan Hutchins’ has sent the following contact-us request.

Topic: Update information about a book – Other

Question/Feedback:

In response to my email query last week (below) about my book Finding Harmony which reached the ABNA 2014 Quarter-finals, I am now sending the information I obtained from Publisher’s Weekly at your request. Please read up from the bottom of the string:

***************

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Review for Finding Harmony by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

From: ***@publishersweekly.com

Date: Mon, August 11, 2014 1:26 pm

To: Eric at SkipJack Publishing <eric@skipjackpublishing.com>

Eric

PW definitely submitted this review to Amazon

The reference number was YFQJN4SF

I suggest to connect them with this information

Reviews Director

Publishers Weekly

***************

From: Eric at SkipJack Publishing <eric@skipjackpublishing.com>

Date: Monday, August 4, 2014 5:27 PM

To: ***@publishersweekly.com

Subject: Review for Finding Harmony by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Hello,

I am writing to you on behalf of the author, with regards to a review of the book Finding Harmony by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. This book was one of the finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards Contest in 2014 and as such was to receive a review by Publishers Weekly. To date we have not been able to locate that review. I wrote to Amazon regarding this matter and they indicated their surprise in being unable to find the review either and suggested that we write to you directly.

Thank You for your assistance.

Eric Hutchins

http://SkipJackPublishing.com/

***************

Author Central Amazon

Your Account Amazon.com

Message From Customer Service

Hello Pamela,

I understand that you are concerned about the Publishers Weekly Review that your book “Finding Harmony” earned.

To help you immediately with this issue, I checked the official website of ‘Publishers Weekly’ website, however, I regret to inform you that I was unable to find the review, which your book has earned.

Given the situation, I request you to contact ‘Publishers Weekly’ and I’m sure they will be able to provide you with the content of the review which you’ve earned. You can find a complete list of Publishers Weekly’s editorial contacts in the below link:

http://reviews.publishersweekly.com/pw/corp/contactus.html

Once you are able to content of the review which your book has earned, I request you to write to us from the below link with the content of the review and we will be glad to update the same for your book on your behalf.

https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us

Thank you for your understanding. We look forward to seeing you soon again.

Best regards,

Beaulin

***************

Original Message

Pamela Fagan Hutchins has sent the following contact-us request.

Topic: Other

Question/Feedback:

I am trying to locate the Publishers Weekly Review that my Book Finding Harmony earned as being a part of the ABNA contest. The book made it to the point where it was to receive a review but I have been unable to locate this review. Thank You for your help.

Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Indie Publishing with Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Christine Munroe, US Manager, Kobo Writing Life

Christine Munroe, US Manager, Kobo Writing Life

If you follow this blog, you know I’m a big fan of Kobo, for their international presence, their forward-mindedness with indie authors, and the human touch to their service. You can read about those things HERE and HERE.

I am also blessed to have spent time with Christine Munroe, the US Manager for Kobo Writing Life. She presented at the 2014 Houston Writers Guild Spring Conference, and we followed up with this conversation-turned-podcast a month later.

I hope some of our insights and thoughts are valuable to you in your publishing journey. Thanks, Christine, and thanks, Kobo Writing Life, for spreading the word.

To access the podcast, click below:

http://kobowritinglife.com/2014/08/15/kobo-writing-life-podcast-episode-020-with-pamela-fagan-hutchins/

Pamela

Pamela Fagan Hutchins, President of Houston Writers Guild, is an10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_o employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who by night writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (perma-free Saving Grace, Leaving AnnaliseFinding Harmony) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your KidsWhat Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others). She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. Visit her website http://pamelahutchins.com, or follow her on Facebook http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author.

 

Yes! Kindle Pre-Orders on Amazon (Finally)!

amazon-kindle-logo

Papa Amazon finally came through for the indie authors and let us participate in ebook pre-orders with Big Pub. Nevermind that Nook, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play beat them to it–Amazon got there eventually.

One wonders: might this have something to do with the FACT that indies dominate 50% of the top 7000 genre books on Amazon? Might it have something to do with the pro-Amazon, anti-Hachette petition going around that over 8000 authors have signed, including Hugh Howey, the hybrid god of the indies (and me, the also ran)? Or could it just be that Amazon got tired of all of us bitching about it?

Whatever it is matters naught.  What matters is that ebook pre-orders for indies have come to Amazon. Just log into your KDP account and set up a new book. You’ll find the pre-order option on the book details screen. You do have to upload a draft of your manuscript and an ebook cover, to prove you’ve got game, and the real ebook must be up 10 days before your release date or Amazon will ban you from the pre-order party for a year. But those are small things. Tiny gnats on the giant elephant’s tushy that is Amazon allowing ebook pre-orders for indies.

It’s like the Berlin wall has fallen. Next thing you know Amazon won’t be giving a preference in its algorithm to Big Five books during peak shopping hours. Or maybe they will. (I’m not holding my breath on that one, yet) I would take pre-orders for paperbacks if they wanted to include us, though.

I’ve already got my upcoming release, Going for Kona, live and ready for its first clickers now.

I feel so almost-equal.

Scratch that. I feel more than equal. I made $40,000 this summer and kept 100% control of my content, design, and business strategy, in my 28th month of publishing.

And Amazon opened ebook pre-orders to indies.

Woo hoo!

Pamela

Pamela Fagan Hutchins, President of Houston Writers Guild, is an10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_o employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who by night writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (perma-free Saving Grace, Leaving AnnaliseFinding Harmony) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your KidsWhat Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others). She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. Visit her website http://pamelahutchins.com, or follow her on Facebook http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author.

The Down Low on Kobo

kwl-logo

I’m a big believer in Kobo, of late. I’m not getting rich with them–in fact, they’re a distant tie for fourth in my sales, but I believe. [My sales are 64% Kindle, 24% Nook, 10% iBooks, and only 1% each Kobo and Google Play. (Smashwords isn't even in the running, with 1 sale for every 5000 on Kindle, but they're still on my list of web sales channels mainly because I need a pre-order and free ebook aggregator for Nook and iBooks, see post on that HERE, and below for more.)] The question you may be asking, is why? Why do I believe in Kobo so much?

Let me count the ways . . .

Way One:

Kobo has a fantastic international presence, especially in their headquarters country of Canada. Want to break into Malaysia? Turkey? Singapore? Kobo is your vendor. And it’s not just the smaller international markets. In the last 30 days, I sold five ebooks in Australia on Kindle. By all rights then, I should have sold like -60 on Kobo. But I haven’t, I’ve sold three in Australia, nearly as many as on Kindle. Because internationally, Kobo rocks. And I’ve sold 18 Kindle ebooks in Canada, yet Kobo kicked Kindle’s butt with SIXTY-TWO. Yeah, Kobo rocks the world.

Way Two:

Kobo allows indies to directly upload their ebooks for sale as PRE-ORDER. Guess who else out of Kindle, Nook, and iBooks allow that? That would be “none of them.” Who else does? Google Play and Smashwords. Of the big three, Kindle doesn’t allow indies to offer pre-order at all, and iBooks and Nook only allow it through aggregation, where authors lose a piece of their royalty.

Pre-order is huge, and will become even a bigger deal to an author the more complementary books they have on their sales shelf, as their numbers of readers grow, and as their sales grow. An author needs to maximize sales each time a happy readers discovers them, and pre-orders are a great way to do that. So why make it harder than it has to be, or give away a portion of your royalty when you don’t have to? Thank you, Kobo.

Way Three:

Kobo lets indies offer their ebooks free to readers, AND they run a special page promoting first-in-series-free, for which they don’t charge the authors a cent. Did you hear that? Kobo gets it that when NEW readers read a free book that they wouldn’t have otherwise picked up, that they often BUY the other books in the series, books they never would have purchased without that prod to discoverability that first-in-series-free gives them. And Kobo benefits from that.

Guess who else of Kindle, Nook, and iBooks allow indies to offer their books free, directly, all the time, to readers? That would be none. Who else does? Google Play and Smashwords. But neither of them have the first-in-series-free promotion. And, of the big three, Kindle only allows their KDP Select authors (those that sell exclusively on Kindle) up to five free days a month. iBooks and Nook allow unlimited free, but only through aggregation, where the author loses a piece of the royalty.

So, those are the three main reasons that I believe in Kobo. Plus, in the last few months I’m selling an average of more than four books per day on Kobo. That means I’m on pace to make over $3000 this year with them. In part, this is because more and more promoters include links to to Kobo book sales pages (BookBub, ebookSoda, eReaderNewsToday, Story Finds, etc.). What’s not to believe in about that?

Pamela

Pamela Fagan Hutchins, President of Houston Writers Guild, is an10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_oemployment attorney and workplace investigator by day who by night writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (perma-freeSaving GraceLeaving AnnaliseFinding Harmony) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your KidsWhat Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others). She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. Visit her website http://pamelahutchins.com, or follow her on Facebook http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author.

Kindle Unlimited: The Key Questions | ReBlog of David Gaughran

A must read: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/kindle-unlimited-the-key-questions/.

My thoughts: I’m going to have to stand down and wait to see what shakes out after the first month. I am concerned on the impact this will have on the perma-free strategy that has of late been so successful for me and Bookbub as the one truly effective means of promotion, and I abhor the strong-arm of the exclusivity requirement on e-vendors, readers, and writers/publishers/middlemen. I think this may be a cool tool for viability of shorts, and I might pull my The Jumbie House down elsewhere and test it in KU, just for grins. It’s 99 cents or free everywhere, so @$2 per borrow would be a raise for it, and since it’s a short, readers might have positive feelings about it as part of their subscription, instead of feeling ripped off that it’s not novel-length. In the end, I need to sell books, and I will revise strategy in whatever way it seems best does that.

Pamela

Pamela Fagan Hutchins, President of Houston Writers Guild, is an 10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_oemployment attorney and workplace investigator by day who by night writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (perma-freeSaving GraceLeaving AnnaliseFinding Harmony) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your KidsWhat Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others). She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. Visit her website http://pamelahutchins.com, or follow her on Facebook http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author.

 

So Is Google Play Worth Your Effort?

google-play-150x150If you’ve ever tried to load books for sale on Google Play, you know it ain’t easy. In fact, it’s by far the hardest venue to upload onto, and I don’t think Apple iBooks is a walk in the park. I tried it once about a year ago, and I booted. Then Molly Greene posted this very helpful blog, and, while the directions still didn’t work completely, I was able to figure out the 2-3 additional steps/need-to-knows and ended up successful. Rather than just regurgitate her instructions, I’d suggest you use her post as your general guideline for uploading. Then, when you hit a snag, which you will, come back here, and I’ll post my additional need-to-knows in a postscript to this blog post (that means scroll to the bottom, people).

Why did I go to all the trouble I did to get on Google Play? Mainly because Bookbub promotes Google Play links (I love promotions that target sites beyond Amazon, and one day soon I’ll give you a run down on all my favorites), and because I’d heard that it’s a fast-growing sales site that can quickly become a significant part of an author’s revenue. As to the latter, I had no solid proof. But there was only one way to find out for myself and my ebooks.

So I loaded all my books onto Google Play. Immediately I appreciated that they allowed me to offer free ebooks. I knew of no other way to get sales traction on a new venue than to entice readers with a few free books. One point Molly made in her post is to price your books at a minimum 25% above your retail price on Kindle. Don’t fail to do this, because Google discounts your price, and then Amazon price matches. In fact, I found I had to raise my price even further on Google Play to keep them from undercutting Amazon, so keep an eye on your actual Google retail price.

I had a few weeks before my Bookbub promotion ran, and very modest downloading of my free novel and short story occurred during that time. At that point, I was selling about 35-40 ebooks a day across all sales venues. Then Bookbub ran. Since my Bookbub day (which promoted my free novel Saving Grace), I have averaged 350 ebooks sold per day across all sales venues, and 7838 free downloads per day. And I started making sales on Google Play. Mind you, my Google Play sales are an average of three per day, or 0.4% of my sales in any one day. But over one year, three sales per day is 1095 ebooks, and for me that translates into royalties of more than $2200. (Now, I just have to sustain those sales, or something close to them, to see that kind of revenue stream!) Also, I had a high of 774 free downloads in one day and now am seeing about 35 per day.

For me, the answer is YES, Google Play is worth it.

The bigger question, I guess, is whether I would be selling at all on Google Play without my Bookbub day. And that gets back to all that I have done to position myself for that particular Bookbub day (my third one) in the first place. And as I think back on my efforts and strategy, I can’t untangle the ball of yarn and isolate any one factor as determinative of my current sales, so the best I can do is tell you that even if it were three years ago, and I was just starting out, I would load my books onto Google Play in hope of building a market through them while I started laying the groundwork that would eventually position my books for the kind of traction they now enjoy.

How about you guys–any other pointers for or thoughts on Google Play? Any success stories to share?

Pamela

p.s. Things you need to know to upload successfully to Google Play: When initially setting up a book, Molly advises you to Save when it’s in draft form. This is good advice. I encountered one problem however. In doing my 10 ebooks, each one only gave me an option of Ready to Publish when I first created them and was on their General Details page. On my first ebook, that’s what a clicked. Yikes! Thereafter, I clicked refresh on my browser, and that Ready to Publish button changed to a Save Button. Sweet!

If you accidentally upload too many files–let’s say you upload an epub with an error and then a perfect epub–Google Play works with the last uploaded file of that type. You don’t delete the previous files.

Sometimes my Kobo epubs worked, and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes my Smashwords epubs worked, sometimes they didn’t. Same for Nook. Same for even my clean “Pressbooks” epubs. You can’t argue with Google Play, however, so just keep trying files until you get one that works. Don’t know how to download your epubs from these sales sites? It’s not hard. Consult help on each site while you’re logged into your account, or just carefully peruse the screens associated with the ebook in question. I learned I could use an epub-checker software to ensure I had good files, and that saved me some heartache. Also, for whatever reason, I was able to upload files for a friend from my machine that didn’t work for her on her machine. Moral of the story: if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

When I had finished my ebook, I had to click on the Processing button to find the option to Activate it for Google Play. I sat and stared at the screen for a long time before I figured that one out.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins, President of Houston Writers Guild, is an10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_oemployment attorney and workplace investigator by day who by night writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (perma-freeSaving GraceLeaving AnnaliseFinding Harmony) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your KidsWhat Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others). She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. Visit her website http://pamelahutchins.com, or follow her on Facebook http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author.

 

Launch Your Book Right

Six Month Launch Promotion Timeline for Print and eBook[1]

Traditional Pub: You’ve got from launch through six months for your book to take off, otherwise your books will be pulped and you’re done. You can do most of the items in this timeline, but the ones that require price changes you will have to do with your publisher.

New Pub: READ Hugh Howey’s “Author Earnings Report” (http://authorearnings.com/the-report/) for stats on online sales especially non-traditional. Sales are driven by the 5Rs: reviews, ratings, recommendations, rankings, and readers. Not sales and dollars. Result: you have all the time in the world. You can launch and re-launch. But, whenever you do it and however many times, make it count. Consider launching series in quick succession. Consider making first-in-series free, very quickly, to help the launch and ongoing sales of the later books.

L-3M (item and cost):

Ongoing: create opt-in email list: your time

Ongoing: promote others

Set goals; pick promotion activities to reach goal: your time.

Work with editor on book blurb/description: @2.5 cents per word

Identify book bloggers and advance reviewers: your time, consultant/publicist, or secure a blog tour like Pump Up Your Book (http://pumpupyourbook.com)

Identify major reviewers: your time

Finalize cover(s): cost of digital artist

Order ARCs: 25-100 books ($3-6/book w/shipping)

Research and enter appropriate contests: your time

Secure templates/samples for review requests, bookstore proposals, etc.: your time

If not already in place:

Design and create website: @$150 for webhosting service plus your time or hourly designer fee

Establish Facebook and Goodreads accounts (consider Twitter and LinkedIn, too): your time or hourly publicist or social media consultant fee

L-2M:

Mail “major” review requests: your time and supplies (include ARC and letter)

Send queries (Author Marketing Club (http://authormarkeingclub.com $105 for premier membership), book blogger sites following their instructions): same

Mail distribution proposals to chains (only if your book is available and fully returnable through Ingram/Lightning Source) and indies (consignment, usually): same

Obtain review quotes from betas/advance readers for book copy/marketing materials, if desired: your time

Start a Mailchimp (http://mailchimp.com) account, create a newsletter template, and collect and load contacts into Mailchimp: your time or hourly fee

Select site for launch party and begin planning: your time

Create bookmarks and other promotion pieces if desired: your time or digital artist

[Cadillac version: Consider/schedule AuthorBuzz/Shelf Awareness (http://authorbuzz.com), @$1550]

L-6W[2]:

Try to coordinate book bloggers in first month of your release: you time

Mail smaller publication (local) review requests: your time and supplies (include ARC and letter)

Set-up Goodreads giveaway: your time (runs for 30 days)

Order of bookmarks and any other desired early promotion materials: http://printrunner.com or http://vistaprint.com @10-15 cents apiece

[Coordinate with AuthorBuzz: your time]

L-4W:

Ongoing: Make corrections to your books: your time

Answer requests (always says yes to giveaways) of book bloggers (cover reveals, reviews, spotlights, guest posts, interviews, character interviews, ANYTHNG is good): your time

Schedule online promotions, like World Literary Cafe New Release (for a list, see Loser or The Kindle Book Review): $25-200 apiece, most are @$40

Launch party? Send “save the dates” Evite: your time

Schedule additional local events if desired (three to five weeks lead time), think outside the box: your time

L-2W:

Send announcements to alumnae and organizations of affiliation: your time and supplies (include ARC and letter)

Set up “events” for virtual launch (Facebook, Goodreads): your time

Set up “event” for real launch party: your time

Mail books to Goodreads winners with review requests: your time plus postage and supplies and one book

Prepare/Build robust Amazon author and book pages (may not be able to go “live” with Author page until book is “live): your time

L-1W:

Test enewsletter: your time

Go “live” with CreateSpace version: your time

Request posting of reviews from beta and advance review readers as soon as book page goes up: your time

If a member of Author Marketing Club, notify of new release: your time

L: Launch

eNewsletter to all your contacts concurrent with launch: your time

Press release concurrent with launch: your time or publicist

Media requests concurrent with launch (and ongoing for events): your time or publicist

Local event (bookstores, libraries, book clubs, writer groups) requests concurrent with launch (and ongoing): your time or publicist

Ongoing: Consider strategically placing “pay it forward” copies when you visit coffee shops, lobbies, or when you travel on airlines: your time and cost of book: your time

Ongoing: Promote contest wins, reviews, blogs posts, interviews, character interviews on social media and your blog: your time (and promote others; never say buy my book): your time

L+1M:

Ongoing: Research and contact book clubs sites/groups: your time

Ongoing: Never stop looking for reviewers; never say no to free copies for them: your time

Ongoing: Promote others: your time

Ongoing: Build superfans

[Cadillac: Mailout of gift copy to indie stores (can target by multiple criterion): cost of list, $10/package, your time]

L +2M:

KDP Select Free Days with promotion through BookBub, eReader News Today, Bargain ebook Hunter, Pixel of Ink and several others: $25-600 apiece, most are @$40; BookBub is the best (use KindleCountdown)[3]

Use social media to promote this and any success, too: your time

L+3M and ongoing:

[Cadillac: Consider AuthorBuzz ads (expensive, but effective) if book is showing signs of being successful: $1500]

[Cadillac: Mailout to libraries (can target geographically, tax deductible): cost of list, $10/package, your time]

[Cadillac: Mailout as waiting room copies at local doctor’s offices (requires research): $10/package, your time]

Nonfiction Considerations:

Harder to find book bloggers. Start earlier.

Harder to secure effective online promotions.

Author platform is key, which is your expertise and acclaim in your field. Measured by enewsletter subscribers, website traffic, speaking, publications, etc.

Build as much public speaking, conference appearances, and article writing into your plan as you can. Do it free. (Sell books at seminars and workshops).

Cultivate an “expert” relationship with media.

Provide review copies to professionals in the field you’ve written on.

[1] If you are concurrently doing an audiobook, you’ll want to select a narrator (probably through http://acx.com) six months before, leaving three months for recording, one month for proofing and corrections, and one month for ACX processing. They send you coupon codes for giveaways to help you promote/get reviews.

[2] For later releases in your career, consider releasing pre-orders at some point one to three months before launch, using Smashwords for Kobo, Apple, Google Play and Barnes and Noble and moving promotion activities up one month. The advantage of pre-orders is they all “drop” on launch day, which has a positive effect on your initial sales rank. Or not :-).

[3] I’ve assumed debut books, which I think do best exclusive to Kindle, but for later books, I choose wide distribution and thus would not do KDP Select Free Days but instead would, as soon as I had 30+ 4.0-star rated reviews or better, try for BookBub, which is currently the best place to promote online sales, bar none, and the only place I’ve found that drives Nook and iBook sales, too.

 

10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_oPamela Fagan Hutchins, President of Houston Writers Guild, is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who by night writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Grace, Leaving Annalise, Finding Harmony) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids, What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others). She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. Visit her website http://pamelahutchins.com, or follow her on Facebook http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author.

 

 

IBPA Magazine Quotes SkipJack Publishing on POD

Congratulations to Eric of SkipJack Publishing for this shoutout in IBPA Magazine, June 2014:

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To read more on Eric’s stance on print-on-demand books, check out Print Books: Eric Makes His Case.

 

 

What’s Smashing About Smashwords, And What’s Not

It’s no secret I’m not the world’s biggest fan of aggregation. I totally get that some people aren’t gifted with large quantities of time or tech know-how, but I don’t like sharing my royalties (Smashwords takes 15%). I figure the benefit of indie-dom is sole claim to that percentage, and I’m not giving it up without damn good reason.

Well, there are some. Damn good reasons, I mean. I’ll just talk about Smashwords, because I like them best, but I am told you should check out BookBaby and Draft2Digital as well. They both take royalties cuts as well. BookBaby 15%, Draft2Digitial 10%.

1. Library access: Smashwords distributes to libraries through three channels, one of them brand new big news: Overdrive. I copied the following in straight from Smash so you could see their words:

  • “Library Direct is for large bulk opening purchases by individual public libraries who operate their own library ebook checkout systems (the act of a library operating their own ebook checkout systems is typically referred to as the Douglas County Model, which named after the large library network in Colorado that pioneered this model. Click here to view our Library Direct announcement.
  • Baker and Taylor’s Axis360 operates hosted library ebook checkout systems.  Libraries purchase the ebook from Axis360 and Axis 360 hosts the book for the library, and manages the ebook checkouts.
  • OverDrive (New!!!) - Smashwords announced distribution to OverDrive on May 20, 2014.  OverDrive operates the ebook checkout and procurement systems for more than 20,000 public libraries around the world.  OverDrive accepts all Smashwords Premium Catalog titles except erotica.”

I haven’t seen anything come of it with my books since I’ve had them on Smash from Library Direct or Axis360, and unfortunately if you read the fine print, you only make the potential cut for Overdrive (the big player in library ebook lends) if you’re part of the Smashwords-curated “most popular” titles. So, while you’re “available” for distribution, you don’t actually get distributed unless you are a big seller on Smash. Which you won’t be if you opt out of the major channels like Nook, Kindle, Kobo, and iBooks.

So, theoretically Overdrive sounds great. And I’ll opt in and hope for the best. In actuality, I don’t expect for my bestselling, award winning books to make the cut. Not that I’m bitter about it or anything, LOL.

2. Perma-free: One darn good way to stimulate sales of your indie series books is to offer the first book in the series free, permanently, also known as perma-free. Kobo, who I adore, let’s you do this directly. And they promote first-in-series-free books, too, which is very forward-thinking of them. As a result, when my book Saving Grace of the Katie & Annalise series went free on Kobo, my sales increased by 1000% there. And no, that isn’t a typo.

Smash also lets you offer your books free, permanently. However, they don’t promote them for you. They do however aggregate them free to Nook and iBooks, who won’t let you price your directly uploaded indie books at $0.00. So to get Saving Grace free everywhere, I put it on Smash and opted in to iBooks and Nook (and everywhere else except Amazon), and I put it up directly on Kobo.

I’ll post next month on HOW to go permanently free on Amazon, and on how perma-free “month one” went for me everywhere (preview: fan-fucking-tabulous).

3. All-you-can-eat retailers, maybe: Oyster, Scribd, and a few others are offering all-you-can-eat ebooks for a monthly subscription price. I’d love to get me in on some of that action. So I opted in to both on Smash. After six months, even though I had AMAZON REVIEWS telling the world the readers read my books on Oyster, Oyster reported I had zero reads each month and thus paid me zero dollars through Smash.

I had family members decide to test the system and pay for one month subscriptions and download and flip all the way through my books (Oyster purports to pay full royalties after a small percentage of the book is viewed). Oyster reported I had zero reads and paid me zero dollars. This began to feel like piracy to me. I already had the willies, so I pulled all my books off of the Netflix-type vendors, except my perma-free books. You can’t pirate what I’m giving away, so have at it, Oyster.

4. Pre-order: Both iBooks and Nook will allow pre-orders of your ebook if you aggregate to them via Smash, even though they won’t allow you to do it directly with your indie book. Yeah, you know Kobo lets you do it directly, because they rock. (Kobo, I love you, and I’m posting all about it next month.) Amazon won’t let dirty, nasty indies pre-sell at all.

My last novel, Finding Harmony, had hundreds of pre-orders via iBooks and Nook thanks to Smash. While that isn’t huge, I learned from it and plan to add a zero to the end of that number with the pre-order release of my next novel, Going for Kona.

So, my strategy these days for Smashwords is that for my pay-per-unit books I aggregate only to the library services, and to those pay-per-unit services that I don’t want to monkey with elsewhere because they aren’t worth my time. Kobo, iBooks, Nook, and Amazon get my direct uploads so I can keep all my royalties, except when when I’m offering my ebooks for sale in the pre-order phase–then I use Smash for iBooks and Nook. For my perma-free books, I aggregate them everywhere but Amazon and Kobo via Smash. It works for me, y’all.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_o mysteries (Saving Graceand hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) and was named one of Houston’s Top 10 Authors by the Houston Press. You can pre-order/back her next novel, Going for Kona, HERE. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

p.s. Smash doesn’t aggregate to Google Play, so I upload direct there as well. And I’ll post on how to do it someday soon because it is so very NOT simple, and I am already seeing sales traction there after only a week.

Pre-Order Going for Kona

Well, it’s official. Like we told you we would in our crowdfunding post last Spring, SkipJack is launching the Kickstarter campaign for Pamela Fagan Hutchin’s fourth novel, Going for Kona. But we don’t want anyone giving us money unless they get more than their money’s worth back from the project. That’s why the awards at each level of backing have a higher dollar value than the funds pledged.

Yep. We want you to get more out of this than we do.

So, if you want to

  • be part of the launch of Pamela’s fourth novel,
  • support the independent arts, 
  • find an inexpensive way to scoop up a library of her books (& more),
  • or help keep Pamela available to donate half her professional time to the nonprofit support of other writers in the indie community,

then this is the Kickstarter project for you.

We’d sure appreciate it if you’d check it out, even if just to emulate for your own project someday. And more than anything, we’d love it if you share it: this blog, this link, this project. Via email, social media, or Pony Express.

Many thanks!

Eric