Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Is There Gold In Them There Hills? Part II


by Connie Flynn     
The second in a three to four part series on the wisdom of pouring your heart and soul into an Indie Publishing business on Amazon.
Since you're back I'm assuming you decided a Kindle career is worth the effort or at least the exploration of it is. That means that you now have a slot in the Kindle bookstore. And an aggressive writing plan because there's strong evidence that it takes a minimum of four novels to build traffic to your books.

If you're a published author who regained publishing rights on your earlier work, you're now entering a world much more daunting than writing a book. You now have to convert them to Kindle format. If they are from pre-digital times, you'll have to scan in and convert them.  You can hire someone to do this work, but the expenses add up quickly and you aren't yet making money. Eventually you might choose to do the work yourself. Hello, learning curve.

But you're still in this, right? In that case this is a good time to investigate social media and how it will work for you.  The big three are Facebook, your personal blog, and Twitter.  These links will take you to the sign in pages and you can follow their instructions after that.

I advise you to start with a Twitter account. It opens up the whole internet world if you take time to browse and to click on links that call to you. Do take time to consider the questions you're asked before providing the information. I discourage cutesy or social commentary names. Your real name or your well-thought out pen name works the best.  Keep it short. - seven to twelve characters is great and, yes, spaces do count as characters. Hopefully there isn't more than one of you using that name because then you have to use numerals or dashes. For instance, my pen name is KCFlynn2 because someone beat me to plain old KCFlynn. My business partner, Linda Style is @lindastyle_. Very smart choice, most people put the underscore between the two names, but that's harder to remember. The rule for social media names is simplicity and remember-ability.

Facebook truly is a time-suck but it's where you can build personal relationships fairly quickly. The link for signing up is above and the site will tell you what you need to do. Again, give the questions some reflective thought before you answer. Once you get in . . . well, you're just there and here are a couple of things you need to do.  First, put your picture in the small box, then start trolling for friends. Why in that order? Well, people are much quicker to friend you back if they know what you look like. Yeah, it's no reliable proof that you're a good person, but people are funny that way. I know I am. I'm very reluctant to follow anyone on Twitter who doesn't have a photo up.

So, okay, you're nervous about everyone knowing your face. In that case do a slice of your face, preferably showing some eyes. I'm serious, because now you need to reel in those friends. And that, if you want to sell books, is what Facebook is all about. Here are Facebook's guidelines on how you go about it finding these friends.

This leads into the third of the big three, the blog or web page or both. Unless you're an internet whiz, and I'm guessing you aren't because otherwise you wouldn't be reading this post, I advise you to skip the web page and just do a blog. There are two major free blog sources, Wordpress and Blogger, which is provided by Google.

The free Wordpress is very basic and doesn't even let you change fonts without paying for the privilege. It's also very complex, and while the simple things are still simple, it takes some time to find that out. But some people swear by Wordpress. I suggest you talk to several types before you decide.

I've tried both. Started with Blogger, went to Wordpress, then back to Blogger. The 'blog' link above goes to Blogger. You have to establish an account with Google before you can use the Blogger function. Here's a tutorial to help you get started. Keep your first blog simple. You can always update your design later.

Blogging is not for everyone and how often you need to post becomes an issue. But frequent blog or web page posts are one of the most reliable ways of getting high search engine placements.. If you choose not to do regular posts, then let the blog serve as your quasi-webpage. List your books, your accomplishments, your bios and use it to draw in Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

While I obviously haven't touched on the many new social media sites opening up, and might do that in a later post if time permits, there is one last place I need to send you before you have your social media tools fully in play: Amazon.com's author page.

This little tool is often overlooked by Kindle authors and it offers so much. Click on the link and explore. You'll discover a place for your bio, which can be a chatty little mini-blog. You can link in your blog and Twitter posts so new content automatically posts to your 'page.'  There's a section to list your booksignings and appearances, and you can personally insert your book descriptions. The authors page links to every book you list and many readers click in to see what the author has to say.That's just a glimpse of what the author page offers, so take the time to at least peruse the basics.

Next month's blog will touch on the basics of tweeting and how you actually use these tools to make money without getting everyone ticked off at you for always promoting your platform. 
Click For Free Download



If you've been thinking about becoming a fiction writer, the 30-Days of Free eBooks marathon is ending this week with BOOTCAMP FOR NOVELIST Basic Training Manual. It's a eyes wide open view of entering publishing today and is exactly what you need to know BEFORE you start you book.



Click to Download

THE FIRE OPAL
A Cajun woman returns for her mother's funeral to a bayou she fled from so long ago. Unspeakable evil lives in that swamp and he only hope for the town residents is the Fire Opal that she must get back. But not alone. The childhood sweetheart she deserted has returned to stand by her side. $2.99

Connie Flynn is a bestselling, award-winning author of ten novels and several short stories. She has been putting her legacy books on Kindle as time allows and is also working of several new novels. She writes in multiple genres, including paranormal romance, romantic comedy and action/adventure, contemporary fantasy. She also writes mystery/suspense as K.C. Flynn. Look for several new releases in 2013.

Monday, March 25, 2013

3 Days (Left) of Free eBooks

THE END IS NEAR

Of the 30 Days of Free eBooks, that is. As some of you may have noticed my good intentions to do continuous blogs on this project dwindled noticeably by the twelfth day.  There are many reasons for that, not the least being my tendency to procrastinate. But in my own defense, I seriously underestimated how much time it would take.

While I released the titles as scheduled, I found that submitting notices to the various sites that publicize free books was more complicated than I ever imagined. Each site required different time frames. Some wanted full promo copy, bio, full story description, and extensive contact info, while others were quite happy with name, title, book cover and buy link.  Some wanted up to a month's notice, others wanted the titles posted the same day they went free. For an Arizonan, doing that efficiently meant getting up way before my wake time. Oh, yawn, whine, whine, whine, coffee, more coffee ending with, whine, now that they're done it's too late to go back to sleep. I'm beginning to realize that I'm about to borders on too much information, so let's move to the stats for a while. 

Total Free Downloads Over 27 Days: 

5,954 or 220-1/2 eBooks per day


By Title: 

Chills & Thrills Box Set:  865 downloads + 239 = 1104
Murder at the Toadstool Café: 330 downloads + 486 = 816
The Fire Opal: 1291 downloads. + 1837 = 3128
Old Bones: 287 downloads + 365 = 652
Dead Elf in Santa's Workshop: 254 downloads. Only one free run.
So where did these numbers come from? Danged if I know. Just kidding. I already stated that Chills & Thrills had no reviews and was also hampered by a hastily constructed cover, but it still did a respectable eleven hundred plus. Old Bones, also scarce on reviews, did reasonably well for a short story and drew in two glowing reviews. Not too bad for an under-appreciated short. Murder at the Toadstool Cafe did better than Bones and my former bestseller, Dead Elf, which pulled in nearly 8,000 downloads on my group effort last November, was way low on the totem pole. Then again, it is, after all, a Christmas story. The biggest surprise was The Fire Opal, which pulled a total of 3,128 downloads.

Your question at this stage is probably, has the free blitz increased sales?  Would you be impressed if I told you it doubled them - which indeed it did. Alas, my February sales were so dismal a doubling is not cause for celebration, but it looks like it's about to double the double and it's possible I'll see rising numbers through the end of the month.

What I find most interesting is that almost every title performed better in the 2-day second-round release than in the 3-day first round. What's even more interesting is that my posts to the free ebook promo sites got fewer as the blitz progressed and for many of the titles I did no promotion at all during the second round.

Most of all, I learned a few things. First, as I've already complained, I learned it is a big project to post to the many promo sites. I was particularly pleased with Awesome Gang, Indie Book of the Day and Pixels of Ink. I'm not sure how well the other sites performed for me and this whole area of publicizing through book sites is still a mystery to me. There are lots of them right now and - no surprise - some are more effective than others.

What worked best for me was Twitter. I'm already a Twitter fan but I was unaware how many free Kindle and eBook sites maintain a Twitter address where people go to read and retweet your posts. This is best kind of word of mouth promo and it has traffic both ways - people coming into see what's there and people re-tweeting promo on books they find interesting. Start collecting addresses for free Kindle and cheap book accounts because they'll cross over and give you tremendous expose to a large number of readers. Each day, I sent a tweet to these sites, but I had in now way collected enough of them. I had no idea how valuable these Twitter sites were until I did this promo.

So what would I do differently if I were ever crazy, er, I mean ambitious enough to repeat this project? First I'd compile my advertising strategy before I began because now I know I need one. I also would never run one for an entire month, which means that I'll have to manage my free days better so they don't pile up again.

I'll aim my marketing efforts at the places where people actually download free books - the Twitter sites. That means I'll have to start collecting the Twitter addresses for those peeps.

I'm now convinced that free days do not produce the up-tick in sales they once did. While I have no hard evidence, my research has indicated that Amazon now only gives free uploads one credit for every ten uploads. When the KDP Select program was first launched, free books were credited one for one, giving authors a huge boost.in sales ranking, which also translated to post-event sales.

I'm also taking my short stories out of KDP Select so I can expand their exposure and earn a higher royalty. I may eventually pull some novels out of the program, too.

But overall I see some silver linings here. Kindle publishing isn't a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it's more a yellow brick road to building a business and a following for our books and stories.  But more on that in my next blog for Much Cheaper Than Therapy Is There Gold in Them There Hills, Part 3, which will post on April 9.

In case you missed it, I'll repeat part 2 of . . . in Them There Hills on Wednesday, and if you also missed Part 1, you can find it in the index to your left.

My last free giveaway in the 30 Days of Free eBooks will be the Bootcamp for Novelists, Basic Training Manual, a collaboration between me and my friend and business partner, Linda Style. We'll be all over Twitter reminding you that the book will be free Monday, March 25 through Wednesday, March 27.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS

Click Here to Download

Have you always wanted to write a novel, but don't know where to begin? Have you wondered why there isn't one simple, easy-to-read, down-to-earth explanation of the basics--what you need to know BEFORE you start writing?

Award-winning authors of over two dozen novels, Linda Style and Connie Flynn, co-founders of Bootcamp for Novelists Online, created the Bootcamp Basic Training Manual: What you need to know BEFORE you write your novel, specifically to give their writing students a down and dirty introduction to the language of publishing and the core elements necessary to create a cohesive story. Linda and Connie condensed all their Bootcamp Basic Training information and knowledge, from genre definitions to manuscript formatting--and everything in between--into one brief, reader-friendly manual. Learning what you need to know BEFORE you write your novel will save you time and energy as well as laying the foundation for a successful writing experience. It's never too late to learn the basics!












Friday, March 8, 2013

18 Days (Left) of Free Books

FINAL RESULTS: THE FIRE OPAL

3 Day Total: Free downloads:  1291 with impressive triple digit downloads in the UK and Germany.


Bestseller list rankings:
Highest Rank in Free Kindle Store: #239 on day 2
Highest Rank in Horror/Occult #3 on day 2
Highest Slot on Romance/Fantasy #4 on day 2
I'm reasonably pleased by these results. I would, of course, have preferred to have made the top 100 in the Free Kindle Store and #1 on both lists, but this is worth the effort. Even more, I was please that my non-free books were also selling during this free promotion, which doesn't happen so much.

A factoid I'll take with me from this experiment is that the second day seems to get the biggest hits. Day one is obviously for building momentum but the third day free hasn't added downloads at the same level as the first two days. Since the Kindle free program gives us 5 days and 2 days seems to generate the most activity, we should schedule two 2-day promotion a quarter. But what do we do with that single 5th day? I'm pondering.

Another factoid is that I now have no doubt that reviews do make a huge difference. The Fire Opal has 12 reviews with an average 4.2 star rating while both of the former offerings had no reviews and the downloads were considerably lower. Perhaps confirming my theory that the "free" giveaways are losing their cachet and free buyers are getting pickier. What do you think? If you have a theory or opinion I invite you to post it in the comments section.

And now, the current free book which remains free through tomorrow . . . OLD BONES, a short story.

FREE THROUGH SATURDAY
Click for Free Download
a terrifying romp through Chicago's Museum of Natural History
All she wanted was a beautiful remodeled home, but when digging brings up a skull of unknown origin and her rebuild is put on hold, she finds herself racing for her life inside the museum with no idea who or what was chasing her.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS




Other K.C. Flynn stories available at Connie Flynn.com


Monday, March 4, 2013

24 Days (Left) of Free Books

Yesterday was the last free day for Murder at the Toadstool Cafe. 

Its best rank in the Kindle Free Store  never made it below one thousand like I predicted on my last post. Although it failed to top the 1226 rank, the bestseller lists still hit some impressive numbers: #2 in Men's Adventure; #28 in Women Sleuths.

The Paranormal Boxed Set did better overall. Of course it was a set of two novels and a short story, where Toadstool is a stand-alone short story. But I was even more pleased to see that the free days have kicked up the sales on the set, which was doing pretty poorly. Goes to show that you can't just put a book up there without promo anymore and expect readers to eventually find you.   

This is indeed a learning process which I think I'm probably enjoying more than those of you who are reading this blog.  So let me present your award for sticking with me.
 
FREE THROUGH WEDNESDAY -- TELL YOUR FRIENDS
THEY CALL HER GUARDIAN OF THE FIRE OPAL.
Click Here for Free Download
  • A runaway teenager returns to the Cajun roots she fled in terror to attend her mother's funeral and learns that some destinies cannot be escaped.
  • A bounty hunter goes back to the swamps in search of his brother's killer and discovers the girl he thought was dead is now a full-grown woman who never gave him a second thought after she ran away.
  • Le phantom noir, the dark entity who killed her mother and grandmother, resides in the swamp. Her father is in pursuit, intent on getting the fire opal back, their only chance of defeating this evil. 
You can check out my other books at Connie Flynn.com


Since this is a month of my total immersion into the mysteries of the eBook Indie publishing world, I'll be writing part 2 of my series Is There Gold in Them There Hills? which is about whether it's possible to make a generous living from eBook publishing. I'll be examining the methods, the effort required, the rewards, and possibly ways to augment income by writing for other sources. Part 2 will be published on the blog Much Cheaper Than Therapy this coming Tuesday, March 5. To read Part 1, scroll down to the next blog.  I'm repeating it here so you can catch up.if you want.

Till later,
--Connie

Is There Gold in Them There Hills?

Part I

by Connie Flynn
This is the second in a series of three  to four posts about how to 
succeed in independent publishing on Kindle.  

When it comes to promotion, one of the most powerful tools for an Independent eBook author is Amazon's (KDP) Select program. In case you've never heard of it, this is the programs where authors are allowed five free promotional days if they participate for a minimum of ninety days in Amazon's Kindle Select Library Lending Program.

Giving away books is a time-honored tradition.  When Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER was first released, the publisher flooded the Chicago, Illinois RWA conference with several thousand books. It paid off because OUTLANDER became a runaway bestseller.

But is that true of Kindle giveaways? When Kindle first introduced the "free book promo" days, authors were delighted. Downloads of free books often hit ten, twenty, even thirty thousand copies or more. When these e-books return to paid status, the sales generally remained brisk and lifted the sales of other titles (assuming they had them). This happened because high activity churned the free titles so that they appeared more often on random pages (you know, the recommendations that say that people who bought a particular book also bought yours).

Lately, though, authors have noticed a definite dip in the sales boost of the "free book promo" days. Rumors abound about why this might be. Maybe the novelty value of free books is decreasing. Maybe some of the books out there weren't worth reading even if the price was right. Maybe the goose that laid the golden egg has died. Maybe — and this appears to be a favorite —  Amazon has changed the formula (you may have heard it called algorithms) they use to churn the titles.

Nobody is actually sure. What they are sure of, though, is that the value of the sales boost has declined since the first "free promo book" days.

So why this little slice of KDP history? Because it's heralding a period of uncertainty. We don't have much information to explain why eBooks sales are fading or to know if it's simply a natural phase in the cycle of a new product world.  We simply don't know what the futre will bring. So we must plan our own strategy today, based on what we do know.

What do we know?  Well, first, we know what kind of writer we are. Are we solely self-published, previously traditionally published or still traditionally published while putting our out-of-print titles on Kindle?  Are we famous, or not so much? Do we have internet skills? Social networking skills? Book design skills? Computer skills? Are we good at planning, managing money, managing a schedule? Are we diligent about doing boring day to day tasks? Do we have a large production budget or are we chef, cook, bottle washer and server all in one?

If you're already established and earning a steady income on Kindle, then you can probably move onto another blog. But if you've had brisk sales that have dropped, or poor but steady sales, or have been on Kindle so long without action that you're collecting cobwebs, you probably want to keep on reading. And also write down the answers to the questions above because when you know the answers you'll know what to do next. What comes after that may still be unknown but you'll have made the step that begins the journey.  This post will quickly cover what you'll need to know to establish yourself on Kindle so I'm going to assume you're just stepping into the self-publishing experience or are moving forward from a small presence that you want to expand.

You will have a big advantage if you already have . . .
1.    A Kindle account
2.    Two or three finished novels or two novels and a novella.
3.    A working knowledge of how to set yourself up on Facebook, create a Twitter account, and design a simple blog or website.
4.    The funds to pay for book conversion and cover design or the know how to do it yourself.
5.    A willingness to learn whatever is needed.

Assuming you have none of these, set up your Kindle account first. https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A37Z49E2DDQPP3

Next, finish, revise, or polish your books. Take time to have several friends read, proofread and give you feedback.

Simultaneously, set up your social media (Facebook/Twitter/blog/website) and get comfortable in the environment.  Begin cultivating future reviewers and fans.

Scour the internet for sources to convert your books to eBook format or read up on how to do it yourself.

Okay, this is only the start. Next month I'll go into more detail on how to set up your blog, customize your Twitter page, get friends on Facebook and so on.

Website, http://connieflynn.com               Subscribe to: Connie's Newsletter


The books of Connie Flynn, a bestselling, award-winning author of ten novels and several short stories, are getting some positive attention from eBooks readers these days. She writes in several genres, including paranormal romance, romantic comedy and romantic action/adventure, contemporary fantasy, and mystery/suspense. Look for several new releases from her and her alter-ego K.C. Flynn during 2013.

Look for Part II at Much Cheaper Than Therapy on Tuesday, March 5

Saturday, March 2, 2013

26 Days (Left) of Free eBooks

The short story Murder at the Toadstool Cafe will be free for today and tomorrow.


Click here for Free Download
A hunt of amusement parks as the perfect venue for a wedding ends up at Faerie World and is interrupted by a fatal shooting.  Not only are the loving couple's wedding plans shattered, they get arrested for the crime. But that's totally crazy. Any fool can see the pixies did it.
Yesterday was its first day and the rankings are making me proud. At 1226 it's prepared to break the top one thousand barrier of the entire Kindle list. And it's on two bestseller lists.

#6 in Men's Adventure; #24 in Women Sleuths.

It's a short story, around 20 pages, so if you get a chance to download and read would you mind stopping by the Amazon page and write a quick review.

Here's a little snippet from Toadstool Cafe:

"Seven states, Derek. Seven. Sixteen venues, three months of searching for just the right place." Clara pulled our car out of the park onto a narrow public road that led to Faerie World, or in our case, away. "We can't discard perfection without a backward glance."
     "I understand, sweetheart, and I was on your side until the murder. I'm telling you there's something wonky going on in the land of the magical and it ain't Puff the Magic Dragon. We can come back after it's all settled."
     "Postpone our wedding?" she wailed. "Oh, Derek, that breaks my heart."
     "Then let's stop in Vegas on the way home. I have a friend who's an Elvis impersonator and a minister. We can have a classic Graceland wedding."
     "Why do you always joke?" Stiff anger replaced her tears and she stared straight forward. "I want Faerie World and you know it. So don't even talk to me."
     Clara has shorter legs than me and I'd been leaning forward to see her face. Now I flopped back, feeling as pissed as she did. For one thing, I wasn't joking about Vegas. Plus, the way she acted, you'd think I'd murdered the tax man myself. Still fuming, I happened to glance in the rearview mirror. The reflection of flashing lights did nothing to lift my mood.
     "Sweetheart," I muttered, "It looks like you're getting your wish."





Friday, March 1, 2013

27 Days (Left) of Free eBooks

FINAL RESULTS: Chills & Thrills Paranormal Boxed Set

3 Day Total: Free downloads:  860 Daily downloads 135

Bestseller list rankings:

Highest Rank in Free Kindle Store: #647 on day 2
Highest Slot on Mystery Women Sleuths list: #17 on day 2
Highest Slot on Fantasy Paranormal list: #18 on day 2
None of these are ranks to sneer at, but from this single example I might conclude that anything over two days is a waste, That may be a rushed conclusion.  And while these numbers are disappointing, it's the lack of "bounce" into paid sales that's troubling me right now. It's still early, so I'll wait and see what happens.

Click Cover to Download
The good news today is the short story Murder at the Toadstool Cafe will be free for the next three days.

A hunt of amusement parks as the perfect venue for a wedding ends up at Faerie World and is interrupted by a fatal shooting.  Not only are the loving couple's wedding plans shattered, they get arrested for the crime. But that's totally crazy. Any fool can see the pixies did it.
Hope you download and enjoy. This was a fun story to write.






See other titles by Connie and K.C. Flynn at Connie Flynn's Website at connieflynn.com