An Experiment With Kobo

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As many of you who follow my blog may know, I use a distributor for my eBooks for many sales channels outside of Amazon. Draft2Digital is my key to getting into stores I know I’d never get into myself (like the Tolino dealers). However, I’ve been hearing a great deal about how much better it is to “go direct” with Kobo in particular. The reasons vary, but I hear that Kobo offers some good promotional opportunities. So, this morning I went ahead and delisted my boxed set from  Draft2Digital. That will be the first book I will take direct to Kobo.

This actually happened by accident. My boxed set (which consists of The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning, The Inventor’s Son, and The Scientist’s Son) is proving to become a really great promotional tool for me at Amazon. With the introduction of Amazon Marketing Services available to any book seller, not just people enrolled in Select, I had an opportunity to see what this set can do. Priced at $3.99, it’s not the bargain price of a Book Bub boxed set, but it’s making me money while getting a number of my books into readers’ hands, and I like where it’s going.

I recently did an author cross-promotion with a group of other Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors which promoted the permafree The Inventor’s Son. What was my follow up sales from Kobo? The boxed set. Even though the book they had downloaded is in the boxed set, they were still getting the prequel thrown in for the price of what The Scientist’s Son would have cost purchased on its own.

Apparently, there’s a boxed set culture at Kobo, more so than at Amazon. And I want to be a part of it. So, the ability to promote my boxed set directly on Kobo could be a big boon to me. I may never delist any of the other books from Draft2Digital, and who knows, I might go back to listing the boxed set with Draft2Digital if this doesn’t work out the way I hope. But I think this is a great thing to play around with and see what happens.

 

UPDATE: After delisting the boxed set and trying to start the process to upload my book to Kobo, two issues came up that stopped me, and frankly, I should have considered these things sooner. The first issue was the publisher name. Right now, when you go to Kobo and look at my book listings, there is no publisher name. This is because, presumably, Draft2Digital takes care of that field on my behalf. I will probably have a publisher name in the near future, but not just yet, so I didn’t know what to put in that field. They wouldn’t let you leave the field blank, so I just put in something that I know I’m wanting to name my company when I form it. The other thing that stopped me was the ISBN issue. Draft2Digital gives out free ISBN numbers, but they own them. I cannot use that ISBN for any edition other than the one distributed through them. While you don’t necessarily need an ISBN to publish through Kobo, they strongly recommend you get one. In the US, ISBN numbers are pretty costly, and not worth the money unless I was selling a lot of books. Then, I’d have to go direct with everybody I could, and buy my own ISBNs and start from scratch, basically.

My objective for getting Kobo readers for my boxed set hasn’t changed, but my strategy has. I think my best bet might be Facebook ads directed to Kobo readers in countries outside the US. This will be a worthwhile, do-able experiment!

(Don’t worry, I will have the epic AMS ads blog post soon. I’m still testing one or two more things.)

Amazon’s Hammer Strikes

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This is just one of many stories swirling around the indie publishing community today and for the past week about Amazon’s apparent crackdown on scammers.

In a blog post from yesterday, indie published author Adam Dreece tells his story which would strike a lot of fear in anyone, but particularly someone whose books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited…

Last week (Thurs – Jan 12, 2017), I received an email from Amazon around 11pm. They were “reaching out to me” to inform me that they had detected something called “system generated accounts” and thus, were immediately deleting my account. I’ve recently learned that there were a number of us hit, and all of us had the same thing happen.

Dreece had his books widely available for a while, but had taken this one series off the other eBook retailers and put the books into KDP Select, hoping to gain some traction there for this one series. He did a couple of promotions through December, and this resulted in improved rankings and higher page reads. Although he noticed that there was something strange about those page reads, and he emailed KDP about it…

I’d noticed a weird spiky behaviour in KU reads, 25k, 0, 10k. It looked suspicious to me, so being the boy-scout that I am, I raised it. I even posted about it on FB, as it was really weird.

The KDP Support person’s response was clearly they thought me cute and naive, and they assured me there was no problem. I said I was scared that the Fiverr promo I’d used (which was new to me, but had over 650 reviews and was a top seller) could have been a scam or something, and they told me no. I even DOUBLE checked with them to please check everything, and I was told everything was fine.

Obviously, there was a problem, as far as Amazon was concerned; a few weeks later, they deleted his account and unpublished all his books from their Kindle store (He notes that his paperbacks were still available, as were his stories featured in anthologies). While Amazon “investigated the matter” and thankfully, ultimately restored his books (but not his ranking, which I noticed when I went over to his page to see if they were actually back), all he could do is freak out, then wait.

What are the things I’m taking away from this most recent tale?

  • Dreece also reported that he had issues with Amazon bothering about his copyrights on those books.  This is something I heard happened to another author whose story was highlighted on the Sell More Books Show Podcast last week. Is it a coincidence?
  • Amazon has had to delete a lot of books and a lot of fake Kindle Unlimited subscriptions in order to start dealing with the brazen scamming that has been going on with the program, especially once some work-arounds with inflating page reads were discovered and exploited. The click farms are striking back by now covering up their fake book page reads with real book page reads. This is why Dreece had the trouble with the “system generated accounts.” Apparently, Amazon realized that the bots are page-reading legit books in order to throw off Amazon and somehow fool them into thinking the click farm fake KU subscriber is a real account. As Dreece points out:

 I’ve since learned that scammers have been pointing their bots at other authors, often targeting the #1 in smaller categories, so to throw suspicion away from their fake books.

  • Fiverr seems to play into this in some way. I have used Fiverr in the past to promote The Inventor’s Son, in particular I’ve used BKnights gig a few times, both for free and paid book promotions. The effectiveness of the paid book promotions was diminishing, however, in 2016, and so I have stopped using them for this purpose. A lot of indie published authors, however, still use Fiverr gigs for promoting their Kindle books, and those books tend to be in KDP Select more often than not. They are hoping to get page reads, since that boosts their rankings just as much as if someone bought their book, just as much as they are hoping people buy the book for 99 cents. The books are legit, and possibly even the promoter is legit, but the click farms know those sites and seem to be preying on those books featured on them. I have heard they were even targeting books featured on BookBub, and that’s pretty brazen, IMO.
  • Amazon really, really wants you to use AMS ads  (I’ve got an epic post coming up about them, stay tuned)!  I think they got tired of Facebook and BookBub sending so many people to their site, so they decided to get into the PPC (Pay Per Click) game and upped the ante by allowing all authors to participate, not just those enrolled in KDP Select. Use of other book promo sites seems to be raising their blood pressure these days…
  • I think Kindle Unlimited may be seeing the final year of it’s existence. I had noticed that Amazon has been advertising HARD to get new subscribers into the program (possibly to make up for all the fake accounts they had to shut down) but at the same time seem to be trying in a very clumsy manner to plug the holes. Since some of the subscriptions they might have sold during Cyber Weekend were for a year or even a bit longer, Amazon might try to hold out and keep it running until those subscriptions run out. They may integrate it into Prime once again, or have an expanded KOLL program to take it’s place, to allow Prime members to borrow more than one book a month and allow even people without Kindle devices to take advantage of the program, but I don’t see Kindle Unlimited surviving as it is too much longer. Authors who might have been considering putting books into the program (and let’s face it, three months is a long time in the world of the indie author) can read tales like this and it makes them think long and hard about it!

Dreece himself put it best in his own blog post:

In December, I’d decided to enter their KDP Select program. This was my reward.

Some authors I’ve already heard from are wondering about which Fiverr gig he’d used, and are wondering if there isn’t more to this story than we’ve heard. Although, since Amazon did actually republish his books, there must have been some evidence of this author’s innocence. What do you think of all this?

 

My Plans For This Blog In 2017

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It’s official: 2016 is over!

Like many people I know, I’m still coping with 2016 and the events that have happened. We had a difficult summer in Florida this year, and just missed having terrible damage from a hurricane in my area. My dog passed away in October. November, and the eighteen months leading to it, featured the most toxic US presidential election I think we will ever see in our lifetimes. In December, I got very sick (a kidney infection) and though I’m feeling better now, I still have to have some tests done to make sure there were no lasting effects from the infection I had. These experiences made me realize that I had to prioritize my efforts and conserve my energy for the things that matter the most to my writing.

This blog matters to me a great deal. I do not want to give it up. In fact, this blog is one of those things that I want to expand! I want to be sharing my indie publishing experiences with others. It just so happens that I have a website that’s been pretty quiet but just ripe for a blog…

Now, there technically is a blog on the website, but it’s used very sparingly ;). The subject matter on there is pretty much only useful to readers of my books. This blog, Doing the Write Thing, started to take on a purpose after the first year, as more mature blogs tend to do. Doing the Write Thing is much more an author-centric blog than I had originally conceived it to be, and I’ve been chronicling my indie publishing journey here for almost three years.

I have a load of material I’d love to blog about here, but it just seems dumb to blog about it on a WordPress dot com site when I have a perfectly good website to host a blog.

Remember that last year, I had started a third blog, The Author Social Media Deep Dive, and you’ll notice that I migrated those posts to this blog. Even though it’s not formally done as of yet, I basically closed down that blog. I am thinking of doing something similar with Doing the Write Thing, by migrating posts from this blog to the SB James Author and Artist website. From there I can put those posts into their own category, to be accessed by the menu like the Author Social Media Deep Dive is on this blog.

To ease the transition, I will cross-post for a while, so anyone subscribing to this blog won’t have to go to the website to read the posts right away. I have some work I want to do on the site anyway, so this will be an ongoing transition. But I do want to be fully migrated by the summer of 2017. It’s not the highest priority project, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for quite a while and I think I’m at a point where I just need to do the things I feel like I need to do.

There are far more things someone can do on a self-hosted WordPress website that they just can’t do on a blog hosted by WordPress dot com. That being said, I don’t foresee closing this site down in 2017. It may be next year that I formally shut it down, if at all. But I just wanted to let you all know what I’m planning to do, and like I said before, I am hoping that this will ultimately prove to be an enhanced experience for the people who read my blog. I hope you all have a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year, and I am very grateful to my readers!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I am grateful for all my readers, followers and fans!

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Promotion for Fans of Instant Gratification!

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All the books in the promotion are participating in Kindle Matchbook: the paperback book purchase entitles you to the Kindle version at a special discount. In this case, the Kindle version is FREE! Hop over there and check it out!

Putting the Paperback Book Theory to the Test!

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Actual photo is coming soon!

For a really long time, I’d put off creating paperback versions of my books. Conventional wisdom was that having them was really for a lark, and that very few people ever sold an appreciable number of them. I’m going to get the chance to see whether they are correct about this or not, because as of now, The Inventor’s Son is finally available in paperback!
Readers can buy it through CreateSpace, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and likely a number of other places (which I’ll probably have to track down). Just a side note to the authors who read this blog: I noticed that Amazon did NOT link the paperback to the Kindle edition until I wrote to KDP, while Barnes & Noble (who I didn’t even publish the eBook directly with) was able to link the paperback to the eBook with no problem whatsoever. It also appeared at Barnes & Noble far more quickly than I was led to believe it would. One more thing I noticed: Apparently, there are 3rd party sellers already listing the book to sell on my Amazon page, though they definitely DO NOT have the book in their hands yet! One of the perils of Expanded Distribution, I guess. If I see the book starting to sell in paperback format, then I suppose I have to be a little more concerned than I am now.

Once I have links for The Scientist’s Son and The Explorer’s Son, naturally I will put them in as well. Until then, watch for the cross-promo I’ll be doing with some other authors around November 23 to promote the paperback version (the hook being that you can get the Kindle version for free if you buy the paperback book as a gift for the holidays through the Kindle Match program). I’m glad for this promo because frankly, it lit a fire under me to get the book finally done! In the meantime, I’m working on NaNoWriMo 2016, which means I might or might not be posting a whole lot more here this month, but you can watch every weekend for some new posts being added from the Author Social Media Deep Dive.

I’m Finally Almost Done With My Paperback Versions of The Inventor’s Son!

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Mock up provided by the super awesome Covervault! These will soon be a reality!

I may seem to have been missing lately, although some of my fellow indie authors might see me in groups or on the usual haunts. I’ve had a few setbacks with getting my projects going. I work full time at a day job, and this writing gig is now assuredly a part time job. I’d far rather be doing this than working part time at Starbucks or McDonald’s! But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Along with the day job being more taxing than it should have been during the summer, I also lost my last remaining greyhound last Monday. He was my pal, and I’m still having a hard time. Although now I have a cat. The last time I did serious writing with a cat around was years ago. I think it’s an adjustment.
As for the print books project I’d been putting off and putting off, I now am fully involved and made a deadline for November 1 to have The Inventor’s Son at least in the publishing stage. I started the project in CreateSpace, and those of you who frequent kboards or some of the other indie author hangouts online know that some of us have had the option to publish a print version of our books directly with Amazon through KDP. When the option magically appeared last week, I thought about it for about 5 minutes, and then decided to proceed with my original plan to use CreateSpace, at least in the short term. I figure I can always change the trim size and get a new ISBN in the future if I decide to go fully with Amazon, and who knows, maybe CreateSpace is getting melded into Amazon’s KDP service in the near future. For right now, I’m only concerned with getting the book ready for the holidays.
Initially, I will offer the first three full-size books in print. I don’t plan on making the prequel novella available in print unless there’s some kind of demand for it. I tend to use that book as a lead magnet anyway, so it’s really better as an eBook, in my opinion.
I’ve had a few issues that I ran into while making the print book files. It’s not as simple or as easy as some people would like you to believe. I tried using a file that I compiled using Scrivener, and I thought that would work, until I started getting “fancy.” I wanted to use Goudy Trajan Regular font for the chapter titles and for the headers and footers. That font just would not embed, which, if you want to create a pdf file, is essential to be able to do. And so I tried to remove it from everywhere, substituting with another font… Yeah, that wasn’t working. So I took the drastic step of “going nuclear” and making a fresh, unformatted file (no italics!) and started with the CreateSpace provided 5.25 X 8 inch template. I’m pretty sure this is going to work. Hopefully once I upload the new file the previewer on CreateSpace won’t spit out any issues. Once that’s all done, it’s time for the cover!

Speaking of the cover, I did something really dumb last year when making up my spiffy covers; I flattened all the layers before I saved the file, making the original cover files essentially useless. I can pretty quickly fix that problem, though, and make up my cover files once I know what size the spine needs to be. I’m much faster with Photoshop this year than I was with GIMP last year, and I can do a lot more with Ps than GIMP, so I’m optimistic that I’ll get that phase done quickly.

I want The Inventor’s Son finished in time for a cross-author promotion I’m planning to be part of a little later in November. The idea being “Buy the print book and get the Kindle version for free instantly (instant gratification)” and the author running it seems to do really well with the print books, so hey, I say let’s give it a shot. You’ll be hearing more about it soon.

Also, on an unrelated note, I will be taking the Author Social Media Deep Dive and moving it to this blog, so I’ll have just the two blogs (this one and the one on my website). The theme of SB James Doing the Write Thing has morphed into a more author-centric blog, and I find I have no need for the separate Social Media Deep Dive blog anymore. You’ll start seeing those posts and a new category here soon!