Thursday, 10 August 2017

Anybody filled your parking meter lately?

The cheapest way to sink your book to the bottom of the ocean is to publish it online for free. Great!
It really is easy to get an eBook online. There are a lot of platforms you can access but let's just look at amazon kindle and smashwords because they cover most of the market. Of course both of them will give you some shining examples of people who have made it as authors. Success is usually defined by number of copies sold, praise in the traditional print media and yes, almost ready to give up the day job. If nothing else, this is the keyword that seems to define an author. If so, the unemployment rate amongst writers must be in the high 90s.

No wonder. Think about it. Everybody with a word document is now a published writer. That's the curse and the blessing those free platforms have added to publishing. Everybody just throws their piece in the pot. Gems and garbage, all melted into one big fat stew. Still, it's free as long as you don't sell. Once you start selling you'll have to pay your way.
Remember, writers are in the business of make-believe. Few will actually tell you how miserable their sales figures really are. It can be pretty embarrassing - even for the big shots who have their autobiography ghost-written by capable hands.

Publishing platforms are the kings and queens of fiction. Pay close attention: when they show off their success stories they'll show you a young woman sitting in a cafe, musing about how beautiful life is now that she is a published author. Ask yourself: do I fit her profile? Do I have the same background in marketing and sales? Have I been published recently and actually sold a thousand copies or more? Do I have a thousand friends on Facebook? Do I present like her, talk like her? Where are the annoying kids?
 "This is so boring, can we go now, Mum?" 

Amazon is tricky in so many ways... Easy to access and easy to use but they keep their cards so close to their chest that nobody in the universe actually knows what they are doing, how they rate sales, how many downloads, visits and so on. I guess they didn't want to repeat the mistakes Google made by giving away the recipe for everybody's favourite cookies.  Ok, they are mostly computers, apart from Tarzan and a board of humanoids who actually run the Amazon. I have no problem entering their jungle. It offers a free platform for all takers.

Change providers to Smashwords.
They are not as big as Amazon but they do cover Kobo and Barnes & Noble and they are growing.  I strongly suggest you go on smashwords right now and publish something. Anything. You can publish a movie ticket of ten words. In any language. For an author, this really is great entertainment value.
If ever there was a reality check on what e-publishing really means, smashwords will pop your eyes!
You publish your masterpiece on smashwords and it will come up on top of the screen in all its virginal glory. Don't blink. Ten seconds later you have lost the top spot to something you think is a book but it could be a railway timetable. It's in Arabic so you'll never know. You don't have much time to worry about it because the next book scrolls up. Twenty thousand words  with a bare-chested six-pack young man on the cover. See how many of them you'll find in the amazon top 100 but don't change the screen to count them, by now your brand new eBook exits the screen and disappears out of sight. 

And that is where most eBooks stay for good.

The few eBooks that were successful in their own right, i.e. not spin-offs from print books, never made anybody rich. To make a sustainable living out of writing you'll have to get into print.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Reality Check 2 – three months in. A lesson in book promotion.

I ran a promotion through Amazon last week and to my big surprise it actually worked! Over 34,000 people watched the promotional video for my book on YouTube and 90 of those viewers went ahead and bought my book. This brings my total paid for copies in three months up to 220 which is what I would call a respectable start for my alter ego.

What does it all mean? Well, the rankings say it all. For a brief moment I made an under 4,000 overall ranking which translates to around 40-50 sold copies per day. At the time of writing I’m back at 25,000, which averages at around 4-5 sold books per day. I expect this to drop lower again, soon. It’s not what you might call a big deal but it is a milestone all the same. I have now well and truly crossed the major Amazon hurdle that spells death for most writers: You need to sell a certain amount of books (I believe 50-100) before Amazon starts to actively promote you. If you linger in the high hundred thousands with only a few sold copies you don’t exist. Once you cross that line of recognition, the automated Amazon promotion starts kicking in. From now on your book will be listed under the also reads. This is free advertising and the single most important target for new authors.
Forget hunting for reviews. It’s irrelevant. The myth of 50 reviews has long been debunked. Amazon doesn’t care about feedbacks, nor should you. What counts are sales and short of a miracle you can only get them with a successful promotion. No, I did not pay anybody a lot of money to get my sales up with questionable email carpet bombing. I did all this on my own, by using the tools Amzon puts on our disposal and an investment of $ 130. It just goes to show you that you don’t have to pay the snake oil sellers and promotion sharks to run a very successful campaign on your own.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Your Chance to win a brand new Kindle paperwhite

Seven days only... your chance to win a brand new Kindle reader from Amazon, valued at $ 120

This is a promotion for my novel Fish from the Sky. Purchase of the book is not mandatory but would be greatly appreciated. Minimum requirement for participation is to watch the promotional book video. 

The winner will be picked randomly by Amazon after the end of this promotion on July 31, 2017. The device will be shipped to US addresses only.


Saturday, 15 July 2017

How to make an Amazon # 1 bestseller with one click and a credit card

If you are prepared to enter the murky waters of paid promotion there is no shortage of sharks that promise to float you to the top. Some undoubtedly deliver but is it really worth it?
Please don’t try this at home!
If you hire an outfit with access to a click farm or mass email delivery you can easily buy a number one spot. Just make your book available for 99 cents or less and let the click farm buy a thousand books or more.  It’s been done time and again and Amazon seems to be unable to stop the practice, despite constant complaints from many fellow writers.
I lodged such a claim last week when Tim I Gurung  bought himself a number one spot for THE BROKEN PEOPLE FROM GOD'S LAND  and boasted about his success on Books go Social. Neither the administrator of the site nor Amazon answered my complaint.
Again, is it really worth it? I doubt very much. In fact, it could backfire and in this instance it actually did because the dubbed readers fought back with a phalanx of one star feedback.  If we can kick Amazon awake they might actually intervene and stop the click farming once and for all. Not only is it against Amazon rules to engage in such tactics, it’s also unfair to every honest author.

PS: 22/7/17 I'm pleased to report that Amazon yesterday took down the ratings of that particular book. It looks like all our combined protests finally were heard. One small battle won, many more to fight.
PPS: 23/7/17 a lot less happy to see the book re-instated after one day - alas without ranking. Amazon will have to get their house in order or risk losing scores of quality writers who don't want to waste their time competing with the frauds on Kindle KDP.
If you’re interested in the subject, here is a superb piece from somebody who is even more frustrated than me.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Bestseller that wasn't

by Tim Gurung, Amazon  Kindle

I bought this book because the author posted on social media that it had just scored an overall Amazon 1 ranking, literally out of the blue with just 5 feedbacks. I had to read this. I had to find out how an average Indie author managed to ace it with such ease. I’m sorry to say that it is bad news on all fronts.

The story sets out describing an idyllic place in a valley by a river with cute little houses “the areas such as kitchen, living and sleeping areas were delineated by a simple curtain hanged on a single string” and “goats provided the necessary intake of milk.....”

“Some young girls were washing clothes at the riverbank, the occasional sounds of domestic dog, cat, and rooster were heard here and there, and the gust of wind walloping down from the great mountain was the only disturbance that the place had to endure for now.”

Then out of nowhere, a group of five appears “their attires were heavy, showing no differences between men and women’s clothing, which radiated sophistication and hence respect.”

Ever so slowly the intruders take over until “The hierarchical position at God’s lands had been reversed, the original masters were dethroned by the outsiders and it was at their mercy the former masters had to live now.”

I tuned out soon after. This book sounds like a bible story for children, translated by a pedantic accountant. To be brutally honest: by whatever mysterious constellation of the Amazon star rankings – this book never, ever merited bestseller status – even if it was for just one day. I will follow up with a deeper look into how it is possible that books like this one can sneak their way into the Amazon No 1 bestseller list.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Fake Bestsellers in the Amazon Jungle

If I told you my new book just hit ranking two on Amazon (see picture) I would not by lying – technically speaking.  If I was honest I would have said my book ranked 103,000th on that very day at that very moment. One hundred thousand books did better than mine at that moment;  two or three million others did worse.

There is a great lack of honesty amongst the eBook writing folks. Most of it hinges around Amazon rankings and what they actually mean. If somebody tells you about their "bestseller" on Amazon go and check the overall rankings and compare! But beware where you go looking! Overall rankings on the Australian, UK or Canadian Amazon sites mean little because they are based on just a fraction of the action. If you want to know how a book is doing you'll have to go to the US site.
Here is why: There are two different Amazon rankings. Just about all authors who use the #1 Amazon ranking in their blurb talk about the category ranking i.e. the genre, sub genre etc. their book is listed in. Hardly anybody ever mentions the other ranking which is the overall ranking of all books in all categories based on all daily sales.
Here are some real numbers, based on my own sales. Note that the rankings will fluctuate a lot, depending on what day the actual sales are recorded. Also note that print books need more sales to match the ebook rankings. The figures therefore are only averages - the daily totals can jump as much as 100,000 with a single sale!!
You rank 300,000 in the overall rankings if you sell in the order of 10 eBooks per month. Your category ranking will be a lot lower, depending on the sub genre you are listed in. 
15 sold books per month deliver an overall ranking of under 200,000.
One sale per day or 30 per month puts you in the under 100,000 ratings overall and you might crack the under 10 rating in some genres.
Two sales per day will get you in the under 50,000 rankings and # 1-10 in some niche genres.
Three per day 40,000 , four per day around 30,000 ..... fifty per day will put you in the under 4,000 rankings and an almost certain 1 in the niche genres and almost certain under 100 in the more crowded genres
To hit the 100 top sellers overall you'll need to sell several hundred copies per day.
These rankings are not just straight sales of Kindle ebooks. They also include page reads from subscribers. Amazon has a huge subscriber base - probably twice as big as the paid Kindle base. Amazon pays the authors around half a cent per page – which usually is a lot less than they would get selling the ebook.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Margot Honecker The Purple Witch of the East

Post aus Chile  ISBN 978-3-360-51041-9
Schumann, Frank; Honecker, Margot. edition ost. Kindle Edition.
I bought this book as part of a background research for a planned Cold War novel and as a follow-up to Erich Honecker’s biography. I was really excited by the prospect of finding a glimpse of the real Mr stony-faced Honecker, a wisp of humanity and humility in the memoirs of his wife Margot, mellowed maybe by all the years in Chilean exile? I didn’t hope for much. A sideline maybe, a small sign of redemption to show me that there actually were two humans under that impenetrable ideological crust. No such luck!

This exchange between Frank Schumann and Margot Honecker is nothing but an embarrassing whitewash attempt for an utterly rotten and failed state, its architects and hangers-on; the tedious correspondence between two old hard-line Marxist/Leninists, counting the mourners at the funerals of their ever dwindling numbers, looking for an angle to present their long lost cause to another publisher. Schumann at least can see the irony in it. As for Margot, she went down fighting windmills to the end. “Wir haben von unseren Gegnern kein Entgegenkommen zu erwarten.” We can’t expect any favours from our enemies. Sadly, she gave none and got none back.

Margot Honecker was sometimes called the purple witch because of her tinted hair. She died May 6, 2016 in Santiago. She never accepted any blame for her or her husband's part in the East German state sponsored killings of "escapees" or the Stasi inflicted torment of families separated by the wall.