Instafreebie Promotion! Young Adult and Teen Fantasy Books!

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Book lovers may well know about Instafreebie. There are loads of authors now participating, and you can pick up a lot of really great books, both previews and full length books. All you have to do to get them is give them your email address, and they send the books right to you.

This Instafreebie promotion is the first one that I am personally participating in. This is a great opportunity to pick up The Inventor’s Son, along with some other beautiful books. The promotion started on April 14th, but it will continue through May 14th. Enjoy!

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?

 

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!

The Facebook Boosted Post

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You know how it is: you post something onto your Facebook Page, and no one sees it. It’s not like no one cares, its that your post is not showing up in their Facebook News Feed. It makes you want to do a frowny face 😦 !

Facebook obviously became really all about the money when it comes to Facebook Pages. Nowadays, it’s basically expected that you’ll pay some money to “boost” a post or your page so that someone will see it. This is really obnoxious, unless you realize how to make it work to your advantage rather than against you.

Facebook Post Boosts can work if you plan them the right way. They can even work if your Page doesn’t have a lot of Facebook fans yet. In fact, doing a post boost can mimic having your post shown in front of an audience that is targeted (not as fine tuned as a Facebook Ad in Power Editor, but good enough for the usual intents and purposes) and, depending on your budget, hundreds or possibly thousands of people that would be fans of your page if they had clicked the Like button. This is the reason why most people tell you it’s not that important to have a lot of Facebook Page fans anymore; you can’t get too many posts in front of them for nothing any more anyway, even if they are fans.

Now I’ll explain in detail what I have been doing the past 3 out of 4 weekends and give you some idea of what to expect. Last month I ran a deal on my first book and on the “box set” of books 1-3. I designed a Facebook Page post that looked like this:

FB boosted post 1I created the graphic according to Facebook’s normal guidelines for ads. Then I just put the link to the page I wanted people to go to (which was a special sale page on my blog with links to all the sellers, rather than a direct link to Amazon) and Facebook got the text generated from WordPress. I went in and changed a bit of it so it looked a little cleaner, and then I published the post.

The next thing I did was click the “Boost Post” button. If you don’t have an advertising account with Facebook, they will have you set it up before boosting your first post. If you are working on the desktop, a smaller box appears in the middle of the screen. It’s essentially Ads Manager Lite. You have the choice of a few different budgets (I picked $5.00 over 2 days, which was pretty much the minimum) and you can choose whether you want the post to be boosted to people who have already liked your page along with their friends and family, OR you can choose an audience that is targeted toward demographics and location, like with normal ads. The latter is definitely your better option, as there’s no guarantee that people who liked your page necessarily have friends that would like your content, and that would be a big waste of money. Not only that, but people who have liked your page might not appreciate that “Jane Doe liked this page” posts are showing up in their friends News Feeds. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know… Anyway, you have a minimum of four interests to add to your targeting, along with the country or countries, and the age group  and gender you want to target.

I easily ended up with about seven interests. Again, it’s not as micro targeted as Ads built in the Power Editor, but actually, I think the boosted post ought to be shown to as many people as Facebook thinks it’s possible. Also, with Boosted Posts, there is no choosing the aim of the campaign like website clicks, website conversions, or any of that. Instead, Facebook just boosts the post, and if people interact with it with post likes and shares, then Facebook makes it look like they are “charging you” for those interactions. Frankly, I didn’t much care about likes or shares (although the version of the post I used the second week got about 13 likes), I cared more about clicks to the page and how many people bought books and where they bought them from.

Facebook then boosts your post after they approve it. Yes, they have to approve Boosted Posts just like any other ad, which is why I made sure the graphic was up to specifications. If you use the Facebook Ads app for your smart phone, you can check on how your post is doing on the go. Facebook will send a message through Messenger when the post is approved.

The first Boosted Post I did with the budget of $5.00 over 2 days was 801 people reached (people who I never would have reached, even when Facebook wasn’t throttling Page posts to death like now). That resulted in about 3 post likes and one new Page like. The next one was shown to far fewer people (289) but it got 13 post likes. I noticed the correlation between more page and post likes = less exposure for the post.

I skipped last week, since the sale was ending and it was Mother’s Day. This weekend, I did a bit of a different post boost: I have a link to a blog post I did about the difference between Steampunk and Gaslamp fantasy, and I have a CTA at the end of the post for mailing list sign ups. I’m hoping to get a couple of new mailing list sign ups and a few new free book downloads with this boosted post, but since it’s not done yet, I don’t have much to report about the success of this one, aside from that I already have 3 post likes, one new Page like, and some more traffic to the actual blog post. We’ll see if the approach I’m taking with the mailing list sign ups is too subtle (I don’t have the über obnoxious pop up box on my site yet, but I’ll do it if I have to!)

Do you have any experience with Facebook Boosted Posts? Do you prefer just straight ads instead of the light version you get with Boosted Posts?

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How to create a great box set

All interesting ideas I hadn’t thought of when creating my cover for my box set!

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Kobo Writing Life

By Tara Cremin

Box sets are hugely popular on Kobo at the moment. Our best selling titles on Kobo Writing Life are nearly always ones that are part of a greater series. It’s important to note that we have no limit on the price that you can set your box set. You can set as high as you’d like and still receive 70% royalties! Here are some tips to help you create a great box set.

The Content

Whether your box set is three books or ten books, you should really spend time ensuring that it’s easy to navigate through your finished ePub. You want your reader to be able to easily go through each title so it’s important that you check your Table of Contents. Maybe you don’t need to include a specific link to your acknowledgments or about the author section for each book. You may want to consider…

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I Have Commitment Issues

Oh, lordy, all of the above sometimes! An awesome post!

These Writerly Conundrums

Hey everyone!

So These Writerly Conundrums has been on a bit of an unexpected hiatus… which is largely my fault >.> But this month we have some things in store for you, and I am looking forward to getting this blog back up and running again.

Now… the main reason this whole hiatus happened is because sometimes, I have commitment issues. I decided I was going to commit to this blog but then I got a little lazy and had the mindset of ‘I’ll add this to my list and get to it later.’ Which, evidently, I didn’t do. Until now.

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But that’s not the point of this blog post. Because, ladies, gentlemen and all my fellow writes – We all have commitment issues!

They come in all different forms and sizes. I’m going to run through a couple of them here, and then I will mention the solutions too.

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Amazin’ Amazon? Or Unlimited Fail? Part 4

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The Amazin’ Amazon, or Unlimited Fail Series:

This is a part of what appears to be an ongoing series about Kindle Unlimited, the program Amazon has in place to take care of subscriptions. Authors who participate definitely tend to have better exposure, but at what cost?

Authors are now being paid per page, rather than per book, and for some, this has been a terrible change. Others, however, are able to take advantage in a way that Amazon had not forseen.

I myself have a collected edition of the first three books in The Inventor’s Son Series. If it was in Kindle Unlimited, and was borrowed and read all the way to the end, I would get about 465 pages read, and the payout would be fairly “decent” as far as standards for pages read payouts seem to go. And like most authors of collected editions, I have a Table of Contents at the beginning of he book. I felt to have a Table of Contents was essential for a collected edition, for a reader to be able to navigate, especially if, by some chance, they had read the first book.

Some people have been able to scam this experience, and the results are turning catastrophic, both for the program itself and for fellow authors participating in the program legitimately. Rather than use a proper Table of Contents at the beginning of the book, scammers have been advising readers, when the initially open the book, to “Click here for important information.” Readers then get taken to the end of the book through a link placed n the begnning, and because Amazon does not have the technology apparently to realize that the person borrowing the book has merely tapped a link, Amazon pays the author for a full book read.

The most unscrupulous of scammers take this one step further. Instead of merely writing material and having people go to the back on the book, they stuff the eBook with thousands of pages worth of scraped or stolen content, books in other languages, virtually anything they can find, and place all this material between the beginning and end, and the borrower unwittingly triggers Amazon to pay this scammer far more money than the book would have ever gotten had it been bought.

I will propose that this goes even further. Scamming Amazon has become so lucrative that these people band together, borrow each other’s books, and trigger massive page read counts and thousands of dollars in illegitimate payouts, putting each other on the Kindle Unlimited All Stars every month. This not only steals money rom Amazon, it steals money from honest authors by forcing Amazon to lower its Kindle Unlimited payout. The payout, as of February, has been something like $0.0041  per page read. When the program first made this change, the payout had been something more like $0.0058 cents per page read. If someone has lots of pages the lower payout rate is immediately apparent.

Amazon has slowly begun to try and crack down on this business, once it was brought to their attention. They have capped the KENPC to 3000 pages for any book. That still puts the payout at the present rate to $12.30 for a completed book (and now makes boxed sets like the one I have of the first four books of A Song of Ice and Fire extinct). Now, the presence of a Table of Contents anywhere than the beginning of the book seems to trigger Amazon to take the book down, as well.

So, a word of advice to any authors publishing books to Amazon’s platform; put the Table of Contents at the beginning of the book, regardless of whether you’ve heard advice to the contrary in the past, that have said that eBooks should have the Table of Contents in the back. This of course presumes that you’re putting an HTML Table of Contents in your book at all. Many authors, especially if they use Word to write their book and then upload it directly to Amazon, tend to be following this protocol anyway. With my method of using Scrivener to compile to EPUB, the “logical” Table of Contents is automatically generated, and I can opt to create an HTML Table of Contents and place it anywhere. I usually put it right after my blurb in the beginning and my title page.

I am uncertain if this will be the only changes Amazon makes to what we need to do in order to assure them we’re not trying to game the system. Some theories about what they might do include preventing links of any kind in eBooks on Amazon (which would destroy the user experience completely and would probably be impossible) to getting rid of boxed sets. Or, worst of all, limiting Kindle Unlimited in page reads. If a reader mistakenly borrows one of these scam books, and blows through their entire month’s worth of pages read on one book by clicking a link that shoots them to the end of a 3000 page long mess, you can bet that Amazon will hear the complaints!
For more information on this issue, I recommend David Gaughran’s blog post about this topic. I think he gets it more than most people.

My take on this may be controversial, but I’m now of the mind that Amazon needs to get rid of Kindle Unlimited. This may be unpopular for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that many of my author friends have adapted to a career which includes the program in their marketing and their income. But I cannot really see any sort of solution that will eliminate the scams that are hurting those very same authors’ income so badly. I am uncertain if this will be the only changes Amazon makes to what we need to do in order to assure them we’re not trying to game the system. Some theories about what they might do include preventing links of any kind in eBooks on Amazon (which would destroy the user experience completely and would probably be impossible) to getting rid of boxed sets.

Do you have any ideas about what Amazon should be doing to combat the trouble that has besieged their Kindle Unlimited program without doing significant harm to legitimate authors and their books? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

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