Back to work. Right after that last Results Post was put to bed – I changed everything. Because I learned how to promote ethically – and where they are actually interested only in book sales.
The Great Writing Business Challenge – Week 33 Results
Instafreebie/PW: 22/95 (Actual vs. Reported: 23.1%) 2 non-IF subscribes. 17 no-openers moved off.
Overall Total: 3252 (not really holding its own. New giveaways producing new readers. 3 new giveaways starting Sept 1.)
Published Words Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 0, Medium: 0, Wattpad: 0
– paid – Book Outlets: 54342, Medium: 0
Published Words Non-Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 841 this blog, Else: 0 (Medium)
– paid – Book Outlets: 0, Medium: 0
Fiction Books re-published with updates:
- Total: (maybe) 167 to go. (sigh. No recent progress – still back-burnered.)
Books In Progress:
- “Their Eyes”
- “Walkaway Blues” sequel
Courses in Progress:
- “Strangest Secret”
Book sales this week:
Note: Amazon Fiction – 1/21: 4.7% (Amazon still in summer doldrums. Email traffic still didn’t produce.)
Lulu sales for June: 4 ebooks, 141 paper/hardback (avg per week – 35 | avg. royalty – $3.40) only one fiction out of that, and only reprints (none mine). Next report (for August) Sept 15.
New Podcast Episodes:
Haven’t run my “how many are really left” annual analysis – 3,044 I can verify are still on my mailing list from IF/PW, which includes newbies. Total from IF is 9608. So that’s nearly 32%. That holds the point that you will wind up with about 10% of your IF/PW claims after a year. (30% opt-in, 30% of those stay.) Moved 17 no-openers to unsubscribed this week. I haven’t overboarded my inactives in awhile – 104 90-day inactives sitting there.
No sales is due to no promotion. Fiction is a vast dead zone. Again: Amazon works as well as you drive traffic to it.
Breakthrough: Ethical Advertising
The scene on Amazon is that their ebooks are in doldrums. The books I regularly sell are still selling regularly (in small amounts) without any advertising.
The trick is to improve what is doing well. It’s far too easy to get discouraged with fiction.
For instance: IF/PW I get 10% of their claims resulting in readers that stick around for awhile. Of these, 70% never buy or intend to buy anything. But that figures: I was starting with freebie-seekers.
This is the problem that Amazon has created. They train their users to seek out bargains instead of value. KU readers are notorious for never buying books, just borrowing them. (Hint: use your local library – most are online – and save that monthly fee…)
Now, the freaky stuff is how it’s hitting indie authors and publishers. The anecdotal figures I’ve run across say that authors who are wide in their distribution, not exclusive to Amazon, make 50% of their income outside of Amazon. On top of that, KU payments per page have dropped 50%. And, as I said, promoting to KU users doesn’t particularly get your backlist sold – and increasing page-reads is dubious. Plus, the top-earners are scammers, per David Gaughran.
This used to be my own understanding. I’ve usually made less than 50% of my income from Amazon. Slightly better these days on Amazon with their ebooks, but my figures from Kobo, ITunes, Nook, Streetlib, Publish Drive not considered in the above (but…)
Lulu for 2018:
- Amazon: 636 paperback books, not quite $4 royalty per book.
- Elsewhere: 1327 book sales, not quite $3 royalty per book
Amazon ebooks for 2018: 1231 ebooks, about $.6 royalty per book.
Grand difference is $486 in Amazon’s favor – 6% higher than paperback income – but with that bargain basement approach.
Now… I went to get my aggregators’ ebook sales for the same period and:
- Publish Drive – 134 books, over $270, and an average royalty of $2.06
- Street Lib – 74 books sold for over $130 and an average of $1.79
- Draft2Digital – 86 books sold for over $120 and an average of $1.40
- Then I went to Kobo, where I publish direct, and: 197 books for over $230 and and average of $1.20
- For grins, I picked up NookPress, another direct publishing, and: 55 books for over $180 and an average of $3.35
- And Gumroad (direct sales, 90% royalty): 35 sales, just over a $100 for 2018, and an average of $3.16
- Total sales are then 581 books, over $1,000 with a $2.16 average royalty.
- (Only left out iTunes, which is a royal pain to access – I have to use a MAC to do that most of the time.)
So, yes – the anecdotal reports are true for me. More than 50% of my income coming from other than Amazon. All without advertising.
Now, most of these paperback and ebook sales are coming from non-fiction books. And paperbacks together dwarf ebooks. There was one report from K-lytics.com about the genres that sell more print versions than ebooks. Meanwhile, due to Amazon’s bully-tactics on public domain books, it’s much simpler to get the same text into a Lulu paperback and sold there. (Obviously, if you give KDP Print a digital version of a PD book, then you’re going to be hassled by some version of those same bots as well.)
I just got this ReaderLinks.com subscription this week and barely got the shrinkwrap off it. Adding some 160+ books into it is a bit daunting, so I haven’t gotten around to getting all the paperbacks in there for these various books – which will confuse the Lulu data with double-reporting other than my handful of KDP Print books. So, that’s for another day.
What? Is that even possible? Isn’t that an oxymoron like “military intelligence” or “political science”?
Look – I hate being on the dirty end of advertising like anyone else. I use the Brave browser and ad-blockers on everything. And Duckduckgo for a search engine. Just so I don’t get ads, or very darn few of them. Because I didn’t ask for them, and most of the time, their targeting is way off. (Like late-night TV infomercials.)
Advertising is like feeding crack cocaine to addicts. If you’re not an addict, then you’re offended and go elsewhere. If you do need a fix, then you’ll take about any quality of anything you can get. The rationale is that all buyers are fair game. They want “stuff” in their lives. Something that will make them feel good about themselves. Advertising feeds low self-esteem. There – I said it. Like “social” media, it gives you a fake “high” and makes you want more. So you stay depressed otherwise. (Oh – and Facebook not only rips off your personal data, but sells it to Amazon, which is how they figure who can’t write reviews for you.)
But what if you really wanted someone to send you emails just about special book offers? Not the 200+ offers for other stuff on Amazon when you go to order a book there. (You already know what you want, but they monkey with your browser to feed your addiction to buy stuff. Oh, and did I mention that both Facebook and ‘Zon have the lousiest interface – like that IOI executive on Ready Player One saying they can obscure 80% of the player’s vision before causing seizures.)
Bookbub has a huge mailing list and a business of mailing offers to readers who want them – according to the genre that reader selects. And you can shut down any or all of their emails any time. They market book deals to readers.
So I picked up David Gaughran’s book, “Bookbub Ads Expert” and studied it. He’s mostly Amazon-centric, so you have to take that into account. But he also deals with the “wide” author.
How about a book distributor who only sells books?
Heard about Kobo? They only sell ebooks. Really. And I picked up another book from their former marketing head, Mark Lefebvre, “Killing it on Kobo”.
So that now makes a lot of sense. Lots of promotional tips you can use there which are human-based and not some weird algorithm.
Look – Amazon sells everything. Facebook and Google sell ad space. Amazon started out with paperbacks and now is worse than eBay about pitching anything you could ever want at you. None of these guys care whether you write a book and publish with them or not. (Even Apple – they sell their high-priced brand of computer gizmo’s, not books as any priority.) Amazon has recently gotten implemented their “author tax” as well, which narrows the field of what books you’re going to “discover” on their site considerably. (Again, you get some 200+ ads for other books on any book page. So when you buy a FB ad and send people to Amazon – you’ve got serious competition for their eyeballs. Serious.)
On Kobo, you’ve got some “also recommended” at the bottom of that page, but it’s just a few (less than 10) other books. Nothing on the sidebar, nothing above or below the book you want. Most often, another book in your series is sitting in there as well – and you don’t have to pay someone to put it there.
And – you can download your book to anywhere. You can get one of their spiffy ereaders, but you can also drop that download right onto your computer hard-drive. Any format. They don’t punish you for going to a foreign country and firing up your ereader – only to find some or all of your books are now gone, possibly forever. (Who ever had that bright idea? Something to do with tax avoidence, if memory serves.)
A perfect combination for your book discovery
Look, people won’t find your book until you start promoting it. Not in any serious fashion. Once you do effectively promote it, then you’ll find a lot of help – because a good book brings more profits to book distributors.
So we can now advertise just to people who want to find good books like the authors they have bought in the past – Bookbub. And we can channel those purchases to a site that’s devoted to just helping people find great books they’d like – Kobo.
Now you don’t have to feel bad about enabling Facebook to rip off people’s private data, or Amazon’s greed to sell them what they don’t want or need in their life. (For that matter, you can send them to buy it on Walmart, and get a small carousel as well on that book-buying page. They get their books through Kobo – and probably Ingram for print versions.)
Because you can point your Bookbub ad anywhere with a link. (Like Gumroad, where royalties are 90%.)
My new recommendations for authors starting out or re-starting – Bookbub, Kobo, Wattpad
Wattpad is added as the one simple way to build audience. Because they are there to help readers find new books to read. And they’ll come to your site to (hopefully) sign up to your mailing list. I had 15 come this month, which is starting to get comparable to IF/PW, where I’m paying them for the honor.
The general sequence is to write, review, proof, publish your fiction book, then syndicate it by chapter to Wattpad. If non-fiction, you compile it into a course and syndicate those text lessons to Medium. While the main course is probably on Teachable, you can make mini-versions for Udemy and Skillshare. (And sell your courses directly on Gumroad.)
So those are my plans this week – get my non-fiction books (the best-selling series) worked up and ported to Kobo if not already there. Build up the courses for it, and update the backmatter in each one so that they have a reader magnet, request for reviews/recommendations, discount coupon for a course based on the book, an ad for the audio book, and a linked list of other books in that series.
Once I have the backend set up for that series, and all the books republished/updated, then I start working on my Bookbub ads to get the intro book to that series promoted to Kobo. And when it’s tweaked for optimal conversion, then I let it drip sales in the background while I start the next series.
The fiction version for book promotion is mostly the same, but not as much back-matter options. No courses, but you run ads to get them to buy more on Kobo – and work with Kobo on their features (as I forgot to tell you about above.) Your ads push the starter of a new series which is .99 or free – figuring you’ll make it up in the sales of the other back-list items. But at .99, you’ll make 45% on Kobo (instead of that 35% on ‘Zon) and can make those ads profitable by themselves.
All it takes is to start throwing out the idea that Amazon is all there is, just because you live in the U.S. From my experience, there are far more authors who are wide. I haven’t had any trouble buying the same book through Walmart, or direct from Kobo. (And my browser doesn’t automatically dump me into the reviews – try to figure why Amazon want’s me there? Maybe because I say they are the only ebook also-ran who insists on reviews driving their recommendations – when most people won’t leave them and don’t used them for purchasing decisions.)
That is another point, entirely. Sure, Kobo accepts reviews, but as a writer you’ll do better to get Bookbub recommendations, since their ad platform hasn’t been continually trashed by scammers with fake ones.
In short, use Amazon as an also-ran and build your international audience on Kobo first. Once you’re amazingly successful there, then tweak your ads for the ultra-competitive Amazon. And meanwhile, save money.
Note: That’s all just spouting my enthusiasm for this simple idea – that us authors should be using online platforms who really support readers and authors (per Gaughran and Lefebvre.) I’ll let you know more when and as I test these.
The additional point is that this starts you on advertising with easy steps. Bookbub ads are very simple, as they are only a single graphic. Kobo is very simple to use as well, very straightforward. Simple is better. Complicated is easy to break, difficult to master. So: master Bookbub with ads to Kobo buyers and then expand to Amazon and tweak your ads there. If you even need to. I’d probably work to get my book series out into the rest of the US “distributors” via Draft2Digital, and Europe and China via both Streetlib and PublishDrive.
Once you have your first series going on a profitable drip campaign, then take up your next series, and so on. Easy-peasy.
For fiction, it means writing more books and getting audiobooks made (which aren’t all that profitable in fiction for the investment). For non-fiction, it’s recording the audiobook yourself, making that audio into short videos for courses, and publishing the paperback as well as hardbacks.
(And in theory even public domain is profitable in non-fiction. You’ll make your money back by selling the paperbacks and courses and audiobooks while you are penalized on the ebook version. The ticket is sticking to evergreen books that have little competition. PS. You can sell the other versions directly with author discounts – just put that link into the book back-matter, and even into Bookbub ads.)
Last week’s to-do’s:
- Emails out – blitz (Mon) Fiction, Course, LS – YUP
1 day posting to Wattpad. – Rest building courses. (Includes Thurs. auction.) –
- Study up on BookBub, Kobo. YUP
This week’s to-do’s:
- Emails out – blitz (Mon) Fiction, Course, LS –
- Verify email basics through references
- Strategy laid out for Bookbub, Kobo, Wattpad –
- In any spare time: Courses built for SSColl and revised backmatter laid out –
Also published on Medium.