Expanded Distribution

I'll pay you $0.47 to sell my book! (No I won't)

I’ll pay you $0.47 to sell my book! (No I won’t)

I’m trying something new with my print books. I use CreateSpace to have them made and until just a couple days ago, I only sold them on Amazon. The reason for that is illustrated in the picture on the right. Through some polling I did when I first released the book, I determined that $12.95 was pretty much the max I could charge for the paperback. That was the price at which people who loved me would not balk.

If you run that through the nifty little royalty calculator CreateSpace has, you immediately see the problem with selling the book anywhere except Amazon. After the cost of production and everyone taking their cut, every book sold through another channel would cost me $0.47. As you know, I’m not a fan of paying people to read your book, and so even if CreateSpace let me do that (they won’t), I wouldn’t.

However, a couple things have changed in the year (yes! it’s been a year!) since I wrote Entropy. Sales of the print book have basically dried up. I’m selling maybe one print copy a month. E-book sales still happen, but not so much the print ones. The other thing that happened is someone suggested I look into Midwest Book Review. It seems like a great idea, but their target audience is book stores and libraries, and those folks do not buy books that are strictly sold through Amazon. To get to those places, you have to open up “Expanded Distribution” from CreateSpace, which gets you into the Ingram catalog, which gets you everywhere.

So I went ahead and bit the bullet and cranked my print list price to $16.95. That gets me out of the hole for expanded distribution, and it also gives me a really huge royalty if someone buys on Amazon (which, of course, they won’t—it’s too expensive). Fortunately, Amazon lets you set a different price for the UK and EU, so my print edition remains affordably priced everywhere except the US/Canada market.

I’ve decided to also step up guerrilla promotion efforts of my novels in other ways. In addition to trying to get MBR to review my book, I’ve started submitting it to bloggers to review. That’ll take time, but I hope that it might generate some new sales. The other thing I’m doing is pushing hard on the perma-free short story Attractions. You can get it free all over the fucking place now. The first chapter of Entropy is stuck on the end of the short story. And I’ve submitted Attractions to every “free book” listing site I can find.

I’ve suspended Twitter Ads for a while, so I can see whether I get any Entropy sales from any of these activities. The CPC on Twitter Ads has been creeping up lately, anyway, which makes them too expensive to use at my current conversion and price points.

As always, I’ll update when I have any hard data to report.

Attractions “PermaFree” Status Update

When last we met our hero, he was trying to make his short story Attractions free. This is just a little update on that. After about 8 days, Smashwords approved the e-book for their “Premium Catalog” which means it’ll show up in 16 different places over the next few days. It is already live on Apple and Kobo. Notably, Smashwords doesn’t have a deal with Google, so it won’t show up in the Play Store. In fact, when I looked into the Google Play Store, I discovered that they shut down access to new authors over a year ago, and have shown no signs of opening it back up. Rumor is they had a bit of a plagiarism problem. So I guess it won’t be there any time soon, if ever.

Being free on Apple is supposed to be all it takes to get to free on Amazon, though, so I popped over to KDP and filed a support ticket asking them to match the price. I also reported the lower prices to Amazon directly on the book page (I’ll do that again when it finally gets up on B&N). The KDP people got back to me right away (I love those guys) and said they’d tell Amazon.

One nice surprise was that being free on Smashwords for this past week actually led to about 50 downloads. That’s pretty impressive since I didn’t advertise it, and Smashwords is a store nobody’s ever heard of. No bump in sales of Entropy though, so our initial conclusion that the “First Hit is Free” sales strategy is a bunch of hooey is standing strong.

UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after I asked KDP support (love those guys!) to get my price lowered, my short story is now free on Amazon.com! It isn’t free in Canada, UK, or Australia (the only other markets where people actually buy my books), so I’ve asked the KDP support guys to pass along the request to those three Amazons.

Typical email from the best support organization on the whole internet.

Typical email from the best support organization on the whole internet.

UPDATE: And just 24 hours later, KDP support (love those guys!) came through, and now it’s free globally! Still waiting for it to appear on B&N. Once that happens, I’ll submit it to all those sites that list free books.

Attractions going “PermaFree”

Attractions - Joshua Edward SmithI’ve decided to make my short story Attractions permanently free. Or, at least, I’m going to try to do that. I did an experiment where I made it free for a little while on Amazon, and it totally failed. It didn’t convert into any sales of my novel Entropy, which is obviously my objective. So I’m making some changes and trying again.

First, I let my “KDP Select” contract with Amazon run out. That will allow me to put the book on other platforms, hopefully increasing my reach to different readers. It’s also a necessary step to making the book free.

I expanded the sample of Entropy to be the full first chapter, not just the first scene. (I also did this with the sample of Entropy in my novella Regrets.)

I’ve uploaded the book to Smashwords, and you can grab it for free there already, if you like. I now need to wait for them to review it, and hopefully they’ll decide to make it available to Apple and B&N and the other places people can buy books. If they do, then it’ll be free on those sites, and I’ll be able to get Amazon to make it free. (That’s the only way to make a book free on Amazon—make it free someplace else and ask them to price-match it.)

Read Me a Story, Siri

The economics of audiobooks are basically a disaster. They cost a lot to produce, the sellers don’t let you set your own prices, and the volumes are too low. So unless you have a mega-hit or you are doing it as a charity/vanity exercise, your book isn’t ever going to be an audiobook. But people love audiobooks. It’s so convenient to be able to listen to the book while you drive!

I decided to see if I could listen to a regular e-book by having my phone read it to me. I got it to work (I’ll explain how below, if you want to try). It was a little weird. The reading was completely emotionless. It so happens that I was “reading” Calculated Regrets by Thomas Jast at the time. And the main character in there is a sociopath. And it’s in the first person. So the lack of emotion fit the character and it all kind of worked together. But for other books it’s not such a good fit.

Anyway, if you want to try, first get an iPhone. I’m sure it’s possible to do this with Android, but I have no idea how.

Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Voice Over

Drag the speaking rate slider to the exact middle. The default rate is way too fast.

Now go back up to the Accessibility settings and scroll down to the bottom. Select Accessibility Shortcut. Set it to VoiceOver.

If you are in your car, do whatever you do to listen to music from your phone through your car speakers. Stop the music, obviously.

Now go to your e-Reader. iBooks and Kindle both work. Make the text as small as possible. VoiceOver doesn’t know how to read hyphenated words, and making the text tiny minimizes the number of those you’ll have to decipher as you listen.

Update: iBooks has a setting (over in the Settings app, not in iBooks itself) where you can turn off hyphenation. I can’t find a setting like that for Kindle, but it solves the hyphenation problem if you listen to a book in iBooks.

Swipe up from the bottom and go into Airplane mode. When you get a notification, VoiceOver will read it and then stop reading the book. That will drive you crazy. Going to Airplane mode is a quick way to stop notifications.

Triple-click the home button. That turns VoiceOver on.

Swipe down on the top of the page with two fingers. It will start reading and just keep on reading until you triple-click the home button again.

Let me know in the comments whether it works for you, and what you think of the experience.

Hey Bloggers, Please take 20 Seconds to do this Right Now

I just read a terrifying article in the NY Times about a mature blog that Google just shut down with no explanation. And it reminded me to do something that all you other bloggers need to do right now. I’ll give you the directions for WordPress, but if you are hosted on something else, I’m sure there’s a simple way to do it on whatever service you use.

  1. Go to the admin page for your blog. It’s something like:
    mygreatblog.com/wp-admin
  2. Near the bottom of the left column, there’s a section called “Tools.” Open that.
  3. Choose Export.
  4. You’ll see a free option with a button that says “Start Export.” Click that button.

That’s it. In a few seconds your browser will download an XML file that contains every word you’ve ever written.

You should do this every month. Set a calendar reminder. That XML file can be used to reconstruct your blog if anything tragic ever happens to it.