Gather family and friends round to share in the quiz, but remember that speed is important too.
If you love books and Christmas, you will love this quiz.
Best wishes for 2014.
John Mountford has been a keen commentator on this blog for many months. Has has just published his first novel, and I asked him to share some tips about his experience with us all.
I have just Amazon-published my first novel, KILL MANDELA, two years and ten months after writing the first word. Despite the plethora of help for new authors on the web, I took my fair share of wrong turns along the way.
And so I decided to give something back by adding my bit to that vast pool of self-publishing help – and where better than the blog of one of the most helpful writers in the business, Rachel Abbott.
A quick disclaimer: these tips are from my personal experience, and may not perfectly match your circumstances. Nonetheless, I stand by them.
The Back Road was originally published as an Amazon exclusive – an arrangement that lasted for six months. I’ll be talking more about that experience in a subsequent post, but now it is available in all formats and on most ebook websites.
Waterstones has proved to be a particular great company to work with, and they have kindly featured The Back Road on their e-books home page and asked me to write a blog post about my experiences as a self-published author. I’ve copied it here to share.
Since writing the post I am happy to report that The Back Road has already hit the top spot on the Waterstones’ ebook chart. Only the Innocent has also crept back into the top 10 at number 5.
Update: Waterstones confirmed that despite The Back Road only being launched in September, it is the 4th highest selling ebook for the whole of 2013. Only the Innocent is the 3rd highest – having been 2nd highest in 2012!
If somebody had told me five years ago that by 2013 I would have had two best selling novels and have just completed the final draft of my third, I would have thought they were joking. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about defining a winning strategy. I laid out my ideas, and explained my thinking about pricing. I decided that today it was time for an update. (You can find the original post HERE if you haven’t read it.)
Some of you eagle eyed readers may have noticed that – contrary to my last post – from 1st May the price of Only the Innocent and The Back Road both dropped to £0.99. You can check them both out by clicking the title links, but I thought I should explain what has happened.
This is an intrinsic part of my strategy, and not a change of heart!
I have to admit that after my last post, the temptation to drop the price of The Back Road to 99p did prove quite hard to resist, once I’d realised that only books that were either extremely well known or under £1 had much of a chance in the Amazon chart. But I did my sums, and I decided that 70% of £1.99 would overall bring me a better financial return than 35% of 99p – despite the much higher sales figure of books in the top 5. Quite how long I would have hung on to that stubborn resistance if my book had fallen out of the top 100, I don’t know – but fortunately for me, it didn’t. For any of you who aren’t aware, Amazon has two different royalty rates depending on the price of your book. The lower prices attract a 35% royalty, whilst anything over £1.49 is paid a 70% royalty (less a few pence for distribution costs).
So why are both books 99p now?
One result of maintaining the higher price has been that I have been selected for an Amazon promotion. There is a “100 books for under £2.99” promotion each month, and to be selected, a book has to have a price that Amazon can effectively reduce. They select the price point, so I waited with bated breath to find that they have reduced both The Back Road and Only the Innocent to £0.99.
The advantage of this promotion is that even though the price is reduced and my royalty is based on 99p, I still get 70% of that price. I was delighted that they agreed to do this for Only the Innocent as well as The Back Road, because to be honest I had decided that Only the Innocent was now an ‘old’ book, and had more or less stopped promoting it. The major discovery in all of this has been that the books really do sell each other – when The Back Road hit the number 2 spot, Only the Innocent raced up the charts to number 30.
The timing for the price reduction is good. The Back Road has been out for six weeks now, and has started to be mentioned in a few forums. It has been selected as one of the four “Books for May” in the Goodreads UK forum, and been awarded “A MUST READ” status by the reviewers. It’s had a few reviews on blogs – and great reviews on Amazon. However, I have to say that it’s been more difficult to generate buzz about the book than I would have expected. Much of this is down to the changing face of the forums.
When Only the Innocent was launched, I know that some of its success was down to lots of chatter on key forums – but it all feels a little different now. People used to chat a lot, get to know each other, buy each other’s books. Now it seems that most people just post their promo and move onto the next thread where they can post exactly the same thing. I was suckered in to doing something similar – it seemed the way to go. But it’s not particularly effective, because few people are reading what other people post.
As a result, yesterday I set up my own discussion group on Goodreads, and there are already 41 members. We can chat about books, and other authors can join in too. You can check it out here if you’re a member of Goodreads. I’m going to generally stick to places where I can chat and share information and thoughts with others now.
I have to admit that in spite of not achieving the buzz that I had hoped for in the forums, the result of dropping the price has been pretty impressive. The Back Road has gone from around position 70 in the charts to number 11 today. Only the Innocent has risen from 277 to 24 since the 1st May – just 4 days ago.
It would, however, be a mistake to suggest that this is purely down to an Amazon promotion. The third highest rated title (after my two) in the Crime, Thrillers and Mystery category of the promotion is at number 157 in the charts, so currently quite a way behind.
The stark reality is that to gain visibility for a book, the vast majority of the work is still down to the author. Once it gets into the top 10, I think an author can have little impact, because the sales numbers are high, and it’s unlikely that a Twitter or Facebook campaign would significantly impact upon those numbers. But to get there in the first place, there are no short-cuts. Amazon promotions will undoubtedly help – particularly if they are tied into email campaigns – but any hopes I had of forgetting all about marketing and getting on with the next book have actually proved to be little more than a pipe-dream.
So – that’s my update. The key findings are:
The conundrum comes in the last two, of course, because whilst marketing – I’m not writing the next book!
As always – comments, please!
And if you would like to benefit from the current 99p price point, click on the book covers below to go to Amazon.
I have been questioning the impact of video trailers on book sales for some time. I’ve seen some very good trailers – usually with specially shot video – and some very poor ones where scrolling text describes the whole story for seemingly endless minutes.
I played around a bit with some utility apps that I had on my Mac (and I do love messing around with software), but I really didn’t know where to start. I checked out Animoto – a free app – but although it was quick and easy I didn’t really like the fact that I had no control at all, and with little more than the cover of my book to work with, it just didn’t seem to deliver – so I temporarily gave up.
However, I was impressed with the impact that a good trailer could have when I went to one of S J Bolton’s Amazon pages and saw a video taster for one of her books. Once I’d got over the fact that the actor chosen for her leading man was nowhere near as sexy as he seems in the book, I watched the video and I was hooked. I’d gone there to purchase the book, as it happens – but if I had stumbled across that page by accident, I would still have bought it. The video worked.
I knew that I couldn’t produce anything as professional because S J Bolton’s video was made with specially shot footage, but I thought I might be able to put something together that gave a flavour of my book.
First of all I explored Adobe After Effects. I have a subscription to Adobe Creative Suite and I thought that my knowledge of Photoshop would help. It didn’t. I spent a whole day trying to get to grips with After Effects, and while I am certain that it’s a fantastic piece of software in the hands of the right person – that person isn’t me!
I then discovered an app called iMovie on my Mac. There were no clues about how to work with stills – but I thought I would just have a go. It’s not super-sophisticated, but it did exactly what I wanted it to do. (I understand there is an equivalent for the PC.)
Check out the video here so that the following might make more sense.
These were the steps I took:
Manipulating images in iMovie
The first thing I did was to add all the images that I wanted to use. Each of these is nominally given an on-screen duration of 4 seconds, but that’s a long time to look at a still image. Fortunately in iMovie there is an option to set the time to fractions of a second. There is also a great feature that allows you to select an area of the still image shown at the start of the shot, and the area at the end. The software creates a moving image of the still by zooming in or out accordingly. The selections don’t have to be centred – you can start in the bottom left corner and end in the top right, if you want to. This adds movement to your still images without resorting to effects. In the example below, I chose to start wide, and end where the red rectangle is. This happens over a period of 4.9 seconds
There are a number of different transitions between images to choose from. They are a bit limited but you can wipe screens, spin things in and out, fade, dissolve etc. Most of these transitions weren’t really relevant to the type of story I was trying to tell.
After all of the transitions are in place, you may want to add some words, and iMovie offers several title options, from ‘sideways drift’ to ‘boogie lights’. In general I wanted them to be quite simple in my trailer – I didn’t want loads of flashy stuff to take away from the message. What I did find, though, was a lens flare option. This normally flares around the title words, but I’ve used it a couple of times without any words at all. This tied in nicely to the car headlights which feature in the movie.
Finally, the music track can be selected from wherever it is stored on your computer. I downloaded mine into iTunes. When the track is added, you can start tweaking so that the dramatic moments in the music are matched by changes to screen images. This can be achieved by shortening clips, playing with transition times, increasing the duration of titles, etc. Some people would probably choose to put the music track down first, and then match the images to the track – but I had a clear idea of the structure of the images, and then I tweaked until I was happy. You can see where the peaks are in the music, so that you can match up transitions.
You can apply different video effects too – such as changing to a sepia effect, a negative, etc. I didn’t use any of these – but they’re there if needed.
So there we have it. One video, which – if I hadn’t faffed around playing with tools that were far too sophisticated for me – I could have done in about three hours. An expert would do it in about 20 minutes.
I have now been bitten by the bug. I would like to use moving footage next time, but I’m not good enough to shoot it so I will have to buy some clips. I reckon that to create a 30 second video using the clips I have found will cost me around £80 (including the music that I’ve already bought).
So we have to ask – is it worth it?
If the video is just going on YouTube, I doubt it’s worth it at all. If you have a website, and it’s getting a decent amount of traffic, it’s certainly worth considering. You can also add it to a Goodreads page and your Amazon Author page.
My video is on my book page on Amazon. An author can’t upload video in this way as far as I’m aware, but this was organised between my agent and Amazon as part of the Amazon White Glove programme.
I don’t think the video has driven more people to my product page, but I do think that it may well have converted more page visitors into purchasers.
Click the book cover to go to the book page and see the video.
I was fortunate enough to come across Victoria as recently as a couple of weeks ago. She runs a great site, which is dedicated to books with more than 25 Five Star reviews – a great place for readers to visit, and a brilliant opportunity for authors. I invited Victoria along to tell us all about it.
Thank you for inviting me to talk about this new free promotion opportunity for authors, Rachel. My Five-Star Book Corner is growing fast, and that’s thanks to fellow authors like you who are being featured and telling others.
Just to introduce myself, I’m a British author living up a mountain in Spain. I’m supposed to be writing the fourth book in my Two Old Fools series but have got a little sidetracked with this Book Corner project. But I’ll begin at the beginning, and explain how it all began…
I was shocked when I was browsing an Author Forum a couple of months ago. I read the comments in disbelief. Amazon now has five million books for sale? And they are publishing another 10,000 every month? My heart sank. I couldn’t even imagine that many books… How does an author get noticed amongst that lot, and how will anybody ever find my books?
As many regular readers of this blog will know, my second novel – The Back Road – was launched just four weeks ago, and being my usual obsessive self I had a carefully considered (and very long) marketing strategy.
Based on my experience with Only the Innocent and its startling success, I had tried to analyse what made it shoot to the top of the charts and stay there for so long, and my plan was based on identifying those key points and making them work for me again.
My expectations were lower. There are not only more books out there now, but other authors are much more savvy about how to market them (I knew I shouldn’t have blogged about my methodology! :-) ). On top of that, until the day of launch there were still lots of 20p books in the charts, and my book stood no chance against them. Fortunately for me, the era of the 20p books ended (for now, at least) just as I was about to publish – but had left in its wake a plethora of books at 59p or 65p. The desperation to get into the charts and get noticed gave authors and publishers little choice and due to Amazon’s price matching policy and the will of other distributors to discount heavily, the days of cheap books are not quite over – and indeed, might never be.
So what did I expect?
I am sure many of you will have heard of Mel Sherratt, whose book Taunting the Dead was a bestseller in 2012. She’s a great supporter of other indie authors, so I have asked her to share some of her knowledge and experience with us all.
Since my novel, TAUNTING THE DEAD, became one of the top ten self-published Kindle bestsellers of 2012, I’m often asked how did I do it. The answer could be one of a few things: did I get lucky? Did I get noticed in some way? Did I have a marketing strategy? Did word of mouth take over once people started to read it? The answer is obviously the latter one – joking! In truth, it’s probably a bit of all of them. So I thought I’d share a few tips with you:
1. IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: Cover, cover, cover. Personally, I think covers are everything for e-books. I know they’re not seen as often as on a printed version but online they are crucial to catch someone’s eye, just as much as walking into a book shop and spotting one on the shelf that sticks out from the many.
I am delighted to be able to report that next week sees the long awaited launch of Only the Innocent in paperback and audio formats in the US. And to celebrate that fact, 25 copies are being given away in the Goodreads Giveaway.
A brand new cover has been designed by my publishers, Thomas and Mercer, and I think it really does the trick. It creates exactly the right atmosphere, and those who have read the book will know what I’m talking about.
As those of you who follow my blog know, I write mainly about marketing with the aim of sharing some of my experiences of getting to the top of the UK charts with Only the Innocent.
So I’m going to be following this giveaway with interest, to see if it does actually impact upon the early sales of the book. And I’ll report back.
If you fancy trying to bag yourself a free copy, click here. For those of you in the US who may not know much about Only the Innocent, it historically made most of its sales in the UK but has been a steady seller in the US, and has achieved an average star rating of 4.5 from 59 reviews – so we’re looking forward to its launch in paperback.
If you don’t want to wait until the end of the giveaway period (it ends on the 18th February, it is available for pre-order from Amazon now, with a release date of 5th February – that’s next Tuesday!
Just three weeks after its publication date, I am planning to release my second novel for ebook readers in the UK. The Back Road is another thriller / mystery, and I’ll be talking more about it later. But I am considering blogging on a daily basis for about three weeks leading up to the launch to talk about the marketing activities I’ve been involved in on each of those days. I’d love to know if you think that would be interesting to other self-published authors.
Finally, The Back Road will be published in the US in paperback in October this year – so it’s going to be a busy year.
Writing a novel is hard. Writing a good synopsis is really hard. Writing a great blurb for your novel is harder still. And writing a fantastic single tag-line is almost impossible.
It seems that the shorter the piece of writing, the more difficult it is to do it well. Everybody will tell you that the most important thing is to write a good book, and that is true, but the sad truth is that good books don’t sell themselves. Great books do not sit on Amazon, or on bookshop shelves, emitting rays of goodness, drawing people towards them. You have to work to let people know that your work exists – only then, if people like it will they write reviews, tell their friends and do the hard work for you.