I meant to post this two weeks ago, but life is too damn hectic.
A few weeks back, I did a three-day promotion in connection with Bookbub.com. For the benefit of the book marketing wonks out there, here is my report.
Diary of a Small Fish had received a lot of very good reviews in its time, but for some time, my book marketing mojo ain’t been workin’. Consequently, its sales ranking on Amazon languished in the low 400k area, save for the occasional ebook purchase that drives it down to the 200k’s for a day or so. Sales through Smashwords have been almost non-existent for months, save for the occasional onesie from Barnes & Noble.
When my agent submitted Law & Disorder to the acquisition people at Thomas & Mercer, she urged me to shake off the cobwebs and boost Small Fish, because the editors at Amazon (unlike a lot of TP types) pay attention to stuff like that.
My experience to date with paid book promotion had been pretty dreadful. Ereader Daily News, Facebook, Ads on the Cheap – none of them achieved squat. I was beginning to wonder if any paid promotion worked.
Bookbub’s attraction is that they have developed a huge number of actual BOOK BUYING readers who have signed up for email alerts of daily book deals. Imagine that – readers who are ASKING for email spam! All you do is sign up, give your email address, your preferred genre(s) and your chosen format (i.e., sales venue). When I signed up (to see the product as it is delivered), I soon received a nice, clean, clear and simple email with three book deals – one free, one 99 cent and one a higher price (usually, the email includes one traditionally published bestseller). I clicked on the 99 center, and it brought be right to the Amazon buy page. So far so good!
Bookbub also seems to recognize that the value in their mailing list is preserved by insuring that the products they’re selling are of good quality – so before they take your money, they check out your book. You have to have a certain number of favorable reviews to be approved. I do not know if they utilize any additional vetting criteria beyond that. Perhaps the bar is fairly low, but I know of at least one superb novel that was turned down. However, several of the free books I’ve downloaded I quit on after only a few pages. Not poor formatting or typos, just not grabbing me.
So, Bookbub accepted Small Fish, took my money, and scheduled my promotion for the date I chose. Their fee is based on two factors – your genre (which dictates the number of readers) and your price promotion: the lower your price, the lower the fee. Free book promotion is $220 for the mystery/thriller genre. At 99 cents, the fee was $440. For the traditionally published bestsellers that are lowering their $9.99 price to $5.99, the cost is over a grand.
I chose to run the email on a Wednesday, for a promotion that ran through Friday. My limited experience is that ecommerce drops off heavily on weekend days, so I scheduled the promotion to lead into the weekend.
The Bookbub email went out in tranches, the first of which appeared to land at 2:00 pm on Wednesday. I tracked the sales hourly for the first day. Here’s what they looked like (totals are cumulative):
Notice that Smashwords is not listed. Why? Because not one single unit was purchased through it during the entire three days. Not one.
So, sales chugged along at between 60 to 120 sales per hour throughout the entire day, totaling 865 for the day (Wednesday).
Sales on Thursday dropped off significantly to 153 (B&N) and 203 (Amazon), and even more so on Friday, 59 (B&N) and 41 (Amazon). Totals for the three days were 537 units at B&N and 799 units at Amazon.
Financially, things worked out fine. Obviously, when you shell out $440 for this type of thing, you’re most concerned about breaking even, which I did comfortably. The key is what happens after the promotion and you’ve brought your book back up to $3.99 (or whatever). It’s a little soon to tell, although I have sold several units through B&N today.
As far as Amazon ranking, the promotion drove Small Fish from the low 400k’s to a best of #134 overall, #38 in the mystery/thriller category, and #14 in “contemporary fiction.” Those ratings, unfortunately, did not last a long time, and I am left with the nagging reminder that online book sales require – REQUIRE – persistent promotion of one sort or another.
I’ve got this cool sandwich board I’m going to try out.
A final word about Smashwords. Does anybody, anywhere, sell any books through them? Is it really possible that a promotion of this type could sell 1300+ books without a single one of them through Smashwords?
Filed under: Uncategorized | 8 Comments
Tags: amazon, book promotion, bookbub, diary of a small fish
Early in my short political career, I learned an old adage known to politicians around the world and attributed to many: never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. The meaning is plain enough, and the advice is indelibly sound: do not start a fight with the press.
I must confess that I did not heed that advice, although not out of courage as much as a lack of fear in the consequences. I was only going to serve for a few years anyway, so how much damage could they do? It was a liberating thing, knowing I could speak frankly to reporters and editors. And boy, did I.
This strategy cannot easily be translated to an author who wishes to take issue with a reviewer, or worst of all, with the Big Ugly Goon standing right behind him. I offer as Exhibit A the unfortunate case of Jeffrey Hammer.
Hammer is a self-published author of several books, including Mind Reading in Written Form!: The Magic, Power, and Secrets of Handwriting Revealed! and An Advanced Guide to “Basic Hypnosis”.
Mr. Trendl, the Evil Reviewer (and Top 500 Reviewer, a fact of some note), didn’t think much of Mr. Hammer’s books, and said so in numerous book reviews posted on Hammer’s Amazon book pages. In the reviews, titled “Shallow Look at Hypnosis” and a “Disappointing Look at Graphology,” Mr. Trendl compared Hammer’s book on hypnosis to “the dust under my couch,” and questioned Hammer’s “spelling, grammar and teaching on the subject” of hypnosis. Needless to say, Trendl did not recommend Hammer’s books.
It is at this point that Mr. Hammer would have been well advised to ignore Mr. Trendl’s criticism and gone about his business. Unfortunately, he did not. Hammer sent a letter to Trendl, threatening future litigation if Trendl “did not stop libeling him on Amazon.com.” Trendl ignored the threat, and the next month, April, 2002, Hammer sued him in federal court, alleging that Trendl’s nasty reviews amounted to both copyright infringement and defamation. And no, he did not do so through a lawyer. He proceeded as the notorious “pro se” party.
Mr. Hammer’s (handwritten) Complaint, which can be read here [WARNING: TRAIN WRECK AHEAD], appears to put to rest any lingering doubt as to the fairness of Mr. Trendl’s criticism of Hammer’s writing abilities. Among other claims, he asserted that Trendl’s reviews illegally referred to competing works, resulted in a decrease in sales of his books, ruined his reputation and subjected him to public humiliation. He accused Trendl of targeting him and his books to prevent him from selling them, and claimed that Trendl was being paid by competitors to do this.
Well, predictably, Amazon did not take kindly to all this bad karma. In July of 2002, Amazon’s Vice President of Litigation (wow, what a corporate title!) notified him that: (1) it would not take Trendl’s comments down; (2) his lawsuit against Trendl was meritless; (3) Amazon would provide Trendl with counsel; and (4) if Plaintiff did not agree to dismiss the Trendl Action with prejudice, Amazon would remove Plaintiff’s books from their website.
“Plaintiff” did not accede to Amazon’s requests.
And Amazon removed all evidence of Mr. Hammer from their website.
Undeterred, Mr. Hammer doubled down. After he had filed more than 50 motions in the Trendl action, in January of 2003, the federal district court dismissed his complaint, and took the extraordinary step of entering the following orders:
ORDERED, that, as a result of the more than 50 motions made in this case some of which were repetitive and frivolous, Jeffrey Hammer shall not file any papers in connection with this case unless prior to any such submission: (1) he files a one-page written application to the Court for permission to file papers in this case; (2) in that one-page written application, he explains why the case should be reopened and why he seeks permission to file papers; (3) the Court grants his application in a written order; and (4) Hammer submits a copy of the Court’s order granting him permission to file papers with the papers he has been allowed to file; and it is further
ORDERED, that the Court will not accept any papers filed by Hammer in this case unless he complies with the procedures set forth in the preceding paragraph; and it is further
ORDERED, that Hammer’s failure to comply with the foregoing procedures may result in monetary sanctions including, but not limited to, the defendant’s attorney’s fees; and it is further
ORDERED, that Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case.
You can say one thing about Mr. Hammer. He is persistent. He sued Amazon in the same federal court, six months later. And what a Complaint it was, containing such provocative claims as theif [sic] of personal property, cyberjacking of his website, robbery, violation of his copyright, deprivation of his right to freedom of speech, discrimination, violation of normal business practices, and anti-competitive conduct/violation of consumer’s rights.
He shared his deep suspicion that, had Amazon not provided Trendl with legal counsel, he would have recovered a default judgment of $ 5 million, and speculated that “if the matter . . . would have been allowed to go to trial, the plaintiff would have won and Mr. Trendl would have lost! (Big time!).”
He insisted that Amazon was aware of Trendl’s unfavorable reviews and “should have removed [Trendl] from their system[,] but they refused and uped [sic] his ranking as a top book reviewer.” Because the “reviews” of parties become the property of Amazon.com upon submission, he asserted, “Amazon.com clearly becomes a party to these attack essays by allowing [Trendl] to alter [sic] attack essays.” In short, Plaintiff accused Amazon.com of colluding with Trendl.
Unfortunately for Mr. Hammer, Judge Seibert did not share his suspicion. She dismissed his case against Amazon.
And Mr. Hammer’s books? Well, there is dust under the couch.
One might think this is a wild exaggeration, an outlier. But there have been others who’ve claimed contacts with the FBI over reviews as nasty as Trendl’s. These bogus claims have been accepted as gospel by members of a shadowy website claiming to be supporters of authors “bullied” by nasty reviewers, who have recommended to their readers that contacting the FBI is a good idea.
YES! The NEW PARADIGM!
We are dealing in the Wild Wild West again, where the crusty old laws of tort and contract are not quite attuned to the internet behavior of authors and reviewers. Where the DMCA takedown provisions are used as weapons and swords by battling contingents.
There is one lesson to be learned about all this – besides “a man who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
It is this:
Do not respond to negative reviews (unless it was a particularly excellent negative review, and you can pull off “boy, you got me on that one!”
Filed under: Book Marketing, law and fiction, Peter Morin | 11 Comments
Tags: amazon, negative reviews, self-publishing, suing reviewers
At my first Bouchercon (debrief here), I met the charming and bubbly C.L. Phillips, who wasted no time recruiting me to participate in a blog “chain” in which authors discuss their Next Big Thing. C.L.’s is called Second Drink, and you can read about it in this post here.
But there was a catch, you see. I had to recruit five others who will keep the chain alive. At this rate, I anticipate that every published author in the world will have been solicited by February 11, 2014.
With luck, you’ll be able to find their blog posts next week.
So, my next BIG THING (sounds dirty) is LAW & DISORDER, which sits at this very moment on an editor’s desk at an imprint whose handcuffs I would gladly wear.
One Sentence Synopsis
LAW & DISORDER is the story of Marty Bishop, a recovering sex addict whose homicide investigation of a murder implicates politically powerful people and leads to revelations he wishes he’d never had.
Marty Bishop’s family and career are in tatters after the discovery of his tawdry sexual liaisons with his boss’s wife – and dozens of others. Called to the home of a notorious drug kingpin, he finds the subject dead among teeming evidence of a wild party that likely involved members of the District Attorney’s staff. But the one piece of evidence that is missing – a laptop computer with video images of what occurred in the kingpin’s master bedroom suite – holds the clues to not just the murder, but to secrets that hit too close to home.
Marty’s witness interview of the elderly socialite across the street plants a seed he cannot shake, leading him through an investigation that ends with dirty laundry very much like his own.
What is the hook? What’s this book really about?
As the title might suggest, LAW & DISORDER is a story about the dysfunction that accompanies power and privilege, and what the ruling class is capable of doing to preserve their reputations.
What inspired the book? Where did you get your idea?
In the early 1980’s, the gruesome murder of a Cape Cod drug dealer during a wild party fostered many rumors. None of them were proven. This is a fictional tale about the worst that might be imagined.
What genre is this book?
It is straight up crime. There are bits of police procedural, bits of mystery. But there is a dead body on page one, and the objective is to solve that murder. In the end, the murders themselves are inconsequential. It is what is behind the murders – retribution, and the motive for it – that is the revelation.
Where and when can I read the book?
That depends entirely on how my wonderful agent, Christine Witthohn, fares in her tireless efforts to sell it. But you can read the first chapter, which is appended to the end of Diary of a Small Fish.
Make sure to check out what my friends are doing next week!
Filed under: crime fiction | 6 Comments
Tags: crime fiction, law and disorder, next big thing, work in progress
So says Melissa Foster in a post over on Huffington Post. Her primary thrust seems to be against the 99 cent novel. (I had thought it might be aimed at the atrocious conduct of too many SPAs (spamming, attacking reviewers, amassing paid and shill reviews etc.), which continues to be a concern.)
To which Passive Guy makes the following retort:
PG suggests the evidence demonstrates that traditional publishing grossly mishandled literature in the United States as it moved from a diverse collection of small publishers to a few large publishers owned by even larger international media conglomerates that care for nothing more than quarterly revenue and profitability. The combination of price increases substantially outstripping the rate of inflation and a stifling environment of homogenized me-too copycat titles was destroying the culture of reading in the United States.
Indie publishing has reinvigorated American publishing and is rebuilding the publishing industry in a different, author-centric form. Big Publishing has devalued the author of the written word. In a thousand different ways, megapublishers disrespect authors, forgetting that books don’t come from editors and agents and vice-presidents and bribes to the New York Times to obtain favorable reviews.
Twenty-five years from now the creative destruction of legacy publishing we are witnessing today will be regarded as a major cultural turning point, a literary renaissance. We will celebrate countless brilliant books created by authors who would never have been published by the corporate cretins that slithered into control of the levers of Big Publishing.
I tend to agree.
Filed under: Uncategorized | 8 Comments
Tags: book marketing, free, self-publishing
At this moment, I sit at a bar in JFK awaiting my connecting flight back to Boston after 4 days at Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland. I am physically and emotionally exhausted. It’s a great feeling. I submit my report:
Day One –
My late afternoon arrival allowed me just enough time to check into The Ritz (yes), clean up, register at the conference hotel (The aptly named “Renaissance”) and hit the hotel bar to scope out the scene. [NOTE: no matter what book conference you choose to attend, if you want to meet the denizens in their milieu, find the lobby bar, take a corner stool, and don’t relinquish it.]
Within minutes, I am engaged in a conversation with the only two people in the hotel who are not there for the conference. Then I tell them that Lee Child is present, and they get all giddy like fangirls and run off to find him.
Just as they leave, I am joined by Valerie Douglas, the host and founder of the Indie Author Group, a versatile, multi-published author in several genres, and just an all-around classy, down-to-earth Midwestern lady with a persistent smile.
I’m telling Valerie of my earlier twitter contacts with Jason Ashlock about his new noir mystery label, The Rogue Reader, and the launch party they had planned for Friday night. The Rogue Reader is the baby of Jason and Moveable Type partner Adam Chromy. So, as I am saying the words “Rogue Reader,” two guys walk into the bar and sit next to me – Adam Chromy and Ro Cuzon, author of Under the Dixie Moon, Rogue Reader’s debut release.
Are you sensing a little bit of synchronicity here?
Both of them recognize me – simply from the two or three tweets I’d exchanged with Jason about Rogue Reader. Adam’s first response: “I just followed you on Twitter!”
It’s a new day, my friends.
Shortly, Jason joins Adam and Ro. I had chatted briefly with Jason six months ago – the sort of “polite exchange” an aspiring writer like me could only hope to have with the president of a major New York literary agency. I chose to mention to him then that my daughter, Kate, was the managing editor of a lifestyle website in New York. (Aren’t I a good daddy?)
Jason’s first words to me (after hellos) are these:
“Tell me more about what your daughter is doing at The Greatist. I looked at the website, and it looks like they’re doing very well.”
I do not fool. He really did.
Adam Chromy and Jason Ashlock are pretty damn big deal agents, but they sure don’t “act” like it. They are curious, inquisitive, and just downright genuine folks.
At this point, I have goosebumps.
Ro Cuzon is a French citizen, born and raised in Brittany, transplanted to New Orleans after stints in San Francisco, St. Barts and elsewhere. He has (if I recall) 8 novels in his desk, the first six in French. He is self-taught, amazingly perceptive, humble, and very proud of his status as a stay-at-home dad for his daughter.
After this weekend, Ro’s debut ebook, Under the Dixie Moon, was ranked # 34 on Barnes & Noble, thanks to a B&N email to all customers of Laura Lippman and George Pelecanos (both New Orleans friends of Ro), and surely some savvy social media flogging by Adam and Jason.
Okay, so this is my intro to Bouchercon.
Off to the Grand Opening of the conference, aptly venued at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. At least a thousand people, rabbling in the huge open space of the main hall. I move around, meet my panel’s moderator, Lisa Brackmann, have an excellent chat with her, introduce her to Valerie (who happens by). Then, I am overcome with the sudden realization that I AM IN THE FREAKIN’ ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME! So I slip off on my own to experience 40 years of nostalgia.
I am wandering through the exhibits, getting chills as I see all kinds of retro stuff (how about Jimi Hendrix’s lime green suede boots, with skuff marks?), and then I realize something. Everyone else is by themselves, too. It’s as though a silent siren song lured dozens away from the throng of revelers. I came to discover the next day, asking around, that this was a common occurrence.
Back at the hotel bar after R&RHOF, there are dozens and dozens of authors, in various states of lubrication. Shamus Award winner Reed Farrell Coleman (who appears to be a gin man) is regaling us with hilarious arguments he’s had with his characters. Edgar Award winner Bruce DeSilva is telling me about his friendship with former Providence Mayor and felon, Buddy Cianci. Mike Cooper gives me blanket authentication of my Boston accent. Cara Brookins – the only person within two blocks who is completely sober – tells me her life story, which leaves me feeling insignificant, unaccomplished and weak. That’s about as much as I can remember, and I hit the hay at about 2:00 am.
I come to realize that for some Bouchercon attendees, the morning panel discussions are just a way to pass time until the bar opens. I wander in and out, recognizing some of the panelists from the night before, impressed at their resilience. When lunchtime arrives, a grave tragedy is discovered. The bar has been staffed by one person, and she’s unfamiliar with the cash register. Service moves like cold molasses. But no one panics, and when the afternoon crew comes on, the oil starts flowing. I join Jason and Adam while they feverishly twitter away while eating health food. Afternoon panels are palpably more lively, their participants more exuberant.
At cocktail hour, a bash is held at the House of Blues, at which Dan Palmer shows off his chops on guitar and harp and Heather Graham performs with her own band, aptly called “The Slushpile.” I wasn’t invited. Sniff.
Friday night is The Rogue Reader bash, held offsite in an appropriately seedy basement bar called The Map Room. The party is celebrating their release of Cuzon’s debut novel, Under the Dixie Moon, and the November release of Mike Hogan’s newest novels, Dog Hills and Sistine. There are vats of special concoctions named after Cuzon’s books (the “Dixie Moon” and the “Carib Sun”). They taste fine and the vats are quickly drained. At this venue, I have amusing conversations with Mike Hogan, Andre Frieden, Cara Brookins, all authors who’ve published more work than I’ve got a right to expect I can ever match, and fellow newcomers Stuart Smith and Stephen Zippilli. But they’re all great, great people with fascinating life stories, and I am giddy to be with them. Another white flag is waved at 2:00 am.
Unlike Friday, I had no trouble going back to sleep when my eyes snapped open at 7:00 am. Much more civilized at 10:00. I turn on my computer to check mail. Oh, look, Mike Hogan has sent me an email! He’s bought my book and wants to stay in touch. Wow, I seriously like this guy and attempt to buy his first two novels, but they are out of print (Random House, ahem) and there are no ebook versions. Note to self: WTF?
I check out a few of the panels. Lunch with the fabulous Rochelle Staab, writer of clever cozies and chief crit reader for moi (she is a lovely person, and a brutal reader). She scoffs when I tell her I don’t know if I can write more than three novels. “Get in line,” she says.
Mid-afternoon, and the bar is filling up earlier than yesterday. The problem lady has been relieved of her duties. The crowd is appreciative. Eric Christopherson (an old Authonomy pal and author of the seriously good novel, Crack-Up) shows up, I introduce him to Valerie Douglas and her husband, David. Pretty soon, through the permutations of bar osmosis, a critical mass is reached on a plan of attack for dinner, and off we go to Morton’s – me, Eric, Valerie, David, Cara, Andre, and our latest victim, Brad Parks, the Shamus Award and Nero Award winning author of the Carter Ross mystery series. At some point during the dinner, I realize that he’s a big deal, and he’s sitting with us. He realizes it too, because he starts to get antsy as the dinner plates are cleared.
Back to Mission Control for more loudmouth soup. Stories are told. Peals of laughter are heard. Tip jars overflow. Complete strangers are bosom buddies. Reed Coleman calls me “Pete” without looking down at my nametag. Bruce DeSilva tells more stories about Buddy Cianci. Ro and his buddy, Mario, are cracking the place up. I hit the wall. It must be 2:00 am again.
I have requested a wake-up call at 8:30, because, of course, I am a panelist on “The Politics of Murder,” which begins in the Grand Ballroom at the ridiculous hour of 10:30. I shower, throw everything into my bags so I can scram to the airport when I’m done. I am bleary-eyed, hoarse and by now, seriously doubtful about the legitimacy of me sitting on a panel with all of these amazingly talented and successful authors. How the hell did I get onto this panel? I better deliver to this huge crowd of…
… about two dozen, three of whom are barmates from the night before who’ve made book on whether I remain upright.
Good thing Moderator Lisa Brackmann knows (first hand) of my condition.
My fellow panelists are Allison Leotta (how do you get Lisa Scottoline, David Baldacci and George Pelecanos to write blurbs?), Mike Lawson (six award winning novels, including one named a top thriller by three publications in 2009) and Stuart Neville (a Northern Irish author of immense talent whose novel, The Twelve, was in the Best of 2009 lists of NY Times and LA Times and reviewed everywhere). If they suspect I am a poseur, they’re not showing it. I manage not to lose my train of thought or insult anyone. The small crowd seems to enjoy it, and it’s over before I know it.
Bouchercon is known as a “readers” event. While there are over three hundred authors participating, there are many more fans, and although they’re looking for the big names (Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Mary Higgins Clark, Charlaine Harris, Sara Paretsky), they love crime fiction and they love meeting new authors.
Here’s what impresses me more, though. There are an incredible number of published crime authors out there whose names are not shown front cover-out at B&N. They write dozens of novels because they love what they do. They come to Bouchercon because they enjoy being with other writers and their fans.
And they are, by and large, a special bunch of people.
Bouchercon 2012, down. Bouchercon 2013, Albany New York.
See you there.
Filed under: Book Marketing, literature, Writer Conferences | 4 Comments
Tags: Adam Chromy, Andre Frieden, Bouchercon, Brad ParksAllison Leotta, Bruce DeSilva, Buddy Cianci, Cara Brookins, Charlaine Harris, Daniel Palmer, Eric Christopherson, George Pelecanos, Heather Graham, Jason Ashlock, Jimi Hendrix, Laura Lippman, Lee Child, Lisa Brackman, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Connelly, Mike Cooper, Mike Hogan, Mike Lawson, Movable Type, reed coleman, Ro Cruzon, Rochelle Staab, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rogue Reader, Sara Paretsky, Stephen Zippilli, Stuart Neville, Stuart Smith, The Greatist, Valerie Douglas
There’s been an awful lot of bandwidth used lately over the subject of fraudulent book reviews and book marketing tactics.
One fellow in UK has admitted inventing sock puppets to write both gushing reviews of his own work and critical reviews of his competitors’. I find that sociopathic.
Another highly successful American author has admitted to paying for reviews (and no, not of the Kirkus variety). I find that devoid of ethics.
Then there is the ever ongoing tug of war on Amazon (The “Badly Behaving Authors” thread in the Kindle Book Forum is now 227 pages) and Goodreads over shill reviews, vengeance reviews, etc.
It is inconceivable to me that any reasonably mature, well-balanced writer could become so consumed by the necessity of good reviews or the harm of a bad one that he would resort to (a) contriving false praise or (b) attacking a reviewer or competitor. And yet, it happens, and not seldom enough. So much for maturity and balance.
I know that a good number of subscribers to this blog are not writers but just friends and readers. So I would like to turn this post over to you folks in the comments section.
Do you buy books from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.? How do you choose what books to read? Do you pay any attention to reviews at all, and if so, in what way? How much weight do you give them?
Talk to me.
Filed under: Book Marketing, Internet | 12 Comments
Tags: amazon reviews, book marketing, shill reviews, sock puppets
Filed under: Uncategorized | 5 Comments
Tags: Border Road, Chuck McDermott, Chuckapalooza, diary of a small fish, Patrick McDermott, South Boston