December 4, 2012

The End Is Near

No, not the Mayan stuff, that’s all rubbish (as you all know).

I mean the elusive Book 3.

Yes, really, you didn’t dream that.

I’ve said here before that it’s been a struggle trying to fit all the pieces into place, but it’s nearly there now. A few more weeks, perhaps, or even less.

There’s just one thing you need to know: it’s going to be short. Much shorter than Broken. Novella-sized is probably an accurate description.

The Long Second came in at 115,000 words. Broken was a little trimmer at 80,000. I think this one is going to round off somewhere around 50,000.

Could I make it longer? Possibly, if I really wanted to, but then it would just be filler and there’s every danger than the filler would feel just like filler, and I’d rather not do that.

So, a novella-sized final part. No doubt it will upset some people (I’ve had comments saying that Broken was too short!) but it’s important to just finish this off, to have all the ends neatly tied.

So, soon, I promise. Really.

May 19, 2012

It’s Not Just Amazon

Edit: Monday 21st May

The announcement by Waterstones – full details not yet clear – that it will sell Amazon’s Kindle has certainly taken the publishing industry by surprise. Given my findings below,I would have preferred they linked up with B&N’s Nook platform (they had been rumoured to be in discussions) as that would have brought some real choice into the UK e-reader market.

It will be interesting to see whether Waterstones will actually be able to brand the Kindle: for example, Waterstones Kindle (Powered by Amazon)

* * *

Original post continues…

 

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen me waffling on about Amazon vs The Rest the other day.

In a nutshell: I’d been looking at my sales figures (or, more accurately, my download figures) and had noticed that I was shifting considerably more books through The Rest than I was via Amazon.

This, shall I say, surprised me a little. For many months, I’d looked at my Smashwords figures and seen numbers so tiny that they weren’t even worth thinking about. Then I realised I was looking at the wrong numbers. The amount of downloads directly via Smashwords are, indeed, tiny, but that’s not really what Smashwords is about. Smashwords is about getting your book on the other platforms: Nook, Kobo, Sony etc. And this is where is gets interesting…

Unlike Amazon, I can’t get near-real-time figures via Smashwords as the retailers only report back periodically, but I have reasonably accurate figures up to the end of April. The figures were so interesting I decided to make a chart – Amazon is in red, the others (Nook, Sony etc) are grouped together in blue. I’ve removed the actual numbers as it’s the overall trend which is interesting:

Interesting, right? Downloads for all other platforms have been (usually massively) higher than Amazon for all months since August (and I’m reasonably certain that’s because I didn’t publish to Smashwords until then) except January.

What happened in January? That was when The Long Second was available on Amazon free for 5 days (using their KDP Select programme).

So, how do we explain this?

Sadly it’s not all good news.

Some time ago ( don’t remember when, but it was somewhere between August and September last year) I read a blog post about how to sell more books by using Amazon’s Price-Match strategy. In a nutshell, it seems that if you sell your books on another platform cheaper than Amazon, then Amazon will price-match (if it becomes aware of it). If you give away your books, then Amazon will reduce their price to zero too. (This was before Select went live, and was the only was for Self-Publishers to get Amazon to set a zero price). The theory then was that if you give away enough free books, then people will start talking about your book and their friends will come along and pay for them (as recommendations). Of course, you earn no money on free sales, but you supposedly more than recoup that in other sales.

So, I tried it. To my knowledge, at no point did Amazon reduce the price of my books. Perhaps my sales with them are below a certain threshold whereby they don’t bother checking. After a while, I simply forgot about it – as far as I was concerned, it had failed. No matter, I hadn’t lost anything, or so I thought.

When Select came along, I decided to give it a go. One of the conditions is that Amazon has exclusivity on the Select titles, so I “unpublished” The Long Second and Broken from Smashwords. The exclusivity deal runs for 3 months (in my case mid-Jan to mid-April).

This is where we return to something I’d mentioned earlier – as far as I was concerned, Smashwords had been a waste of time, shipping virtually no copies of my books. Thus, unpublishing was no big deal. Of course, I can only tell Smashwords to do that, and they pass it on to the channel, who don’t always respond very quickly – having subsequently discovered the real download figures I realised that Smashwords had actually been quite valuable. I also discovered that most of the retailers were continuing to ship the books despite them being supposedly unavailable.

I did OK out of the Select promotion (as mentioned in other posts) and the knock-on effect of sales was reasonably positive (though it has completely tailed off now). When the 3 month exclusivity expired, I withdrew from Select and republished at Smashwords – this time setting an actual sale price.

And so here’s the nub: I may have shipped many more copies via Smashwords (Nook is far and away the biggest player here) but the vast majority have been free downloads. In fact, if you put those on a chart, this is what you get:

As you can see, I might have shipped twice as many copies via Smashwords/Nook/Sony, but I’ve actually sold nearly four times as many via Amazon than Smashwords et al.

It’s all terribly confusing. Figures for May to date – all actual paid-for sales – have Smashwords et al outselling Amazon by about 3:1 (these are still very small numbers, though – it would take many, many months of these figures before Smashwords catches up).

One other thing to remember – while Nook is the biggest of the Smashwords channels, it is very much a US only platform. If Nook were as well-established in the UK, how would that affect my sales? To compare: I sell roughly 3 books on Kindle UK to every one on Kindle US. If Nook were sold in the UK, would my sales be the same? If so, that would effectively put Amazon and Nook neck-and-neck.

A few more points of interest: Broken (book 2) has many more downloads on Nook than The Long Second (book 1). This might have been because they weren’t clearly labelled as part of a series (I’ve corrected that now). As a result, there are many more reviews/ratings of Broken than The Long Second on Nook. (A little annoyingly, B&N allows you to leave a star-rating without a review. I’ve just seen a 1-star rating on Broken, but without any explanation. I don’t object to the 1-star rating – you can’t please everybody – but it would have been nice to have known why).

There are, overall, more reviews on Nook than Amazon, too. Again, that’s probably in proportion to the higher number of downloads.

Finally, Adam’s  Game is still available on Nook etc. but not on Kindle. I’m still wondering whether to republish it on Kindle, albeit at a very low price. The difficulty is that it will probably appear at the top of any lists (if listed alphabetically) and I’d rather people came to it last…

In summary, then: I’m sticking with Smashwords and its many channels – and as a result I won’t be rejoining Kindle Select as I’d definitely be cutting of a potential revenue stream. And that would be very silly indeed. If you’re not publishing via Smashwords, you really should reconsider that decision.

April 12, 2012

Still Writing

I feel terribly guilty for not posting anything here for so long, but I am going to use the excuse that I’ve been working hard on the new book (the final part of the trilogy).

Of course, I haven’t just been doing that, but I’m still going to use it as an excuse.

Sales have remained reasonably buoyant since the give-away, slowly tailing off as time passed – as you’d expect. I’ve heard mixed reports from other writers who have tried the scheme, some very positive, some much less so. Overall, I’d say it’s been positive.

The third book is still tentatively scheduled for Summer 2012. I did make a rash promise of June at one point, but that’s looking a little unlikely. I might have finished writing it by then, but by the time it’s been to my proof readers and been through a couple of rounds of edits, it’s likely to slip back a month or two (and – shock! – I’m going to be on holiday for a couple of weeks, and I doubt I’ll get anything done during that time). So, apologies if you’re champing at the bit for the final instalment, and are desperately wondering what happens to Tony and the rest of the family, but I hope you’ll think the wait is worthwhile.

As usual, you can keep up with me on Twitter – @MarshallBuckley

The books are all available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo (for some reason only Broken is showing there at the moment, that should change soon) and the Sony Reader store.

Finally, if you’ve read either of the books, it’d be great if you could leave a review (on Amazon or where-ever) – reviews are so important for new authors. Thanks.

February 1, 2012

Was It Worth It?

Along with, it seems, most of the self-publishing world, I’m  now assessing what happened in January. In particular, following the 5-day free book give-away on Amazon of The Long Second, what impact did that have on sales when the free promotion ended?

I discussed in another post the total sales of The Long Second in the previous 7 months (100 copies).

In the few days at the beginning of January before the promotion started, I sold a paltry 3 copies of TLS and no copies of Broken.

During the promotion, 1618 copies were downloaded (in my previous post I said 1621 but that included the 3 copies previously sold). During this time, sales of Broken also picked up (though I didn’t keep a day-by-day tally of that).

Following the promotion, a further 84 copies of TLS have been sold. Of potentially greater interest, in January Broken sold 60 copies – more than its entire sales in the previous 6 months.

As I’ve already said, these are still small numbers, but they represent a massive increase compared to previous months. I doubt February will be as good (though I’m hopeful that Broken will stay steady as more people finish reading TLS and choose to buy the sequel) as the sales numbers have certainly slowed over the past few days.

But I’m happy. More people know of the books and are reading the books than last year (and a few are even leaving reviews. Hint: if you’ve read the book(s), please leave a review!). From an author’s perspective, what more could I ask?

January 14, 2012

Free Book Giveaway Result

Last Saturday, for five days, The Long Second was available for free download from Amazon. As promised, here’s what happened.

The giveaway started at midnight PST – that’s 8am UK time. As is normal for a Saturday, I wasn’t up then – in fact I had an usually long lie-in and didn’t surface until nearly 11. I don’t take my iPhone to bed, so had no sneaky peaks before I got up.

The first thing I saw when I did finally switch on the phone were 2 Twitter Direct Messages from my online friend Joanna. The first told me she’d finished reading The Long Second, had hugeky enjoyed it and wanted to tell everybody but had noticed that the book was free, and did I want her to hold back? The second, about an hour later, stated that she couldn’t hold back and had already started telling people.

At this point, I checked the Kindle Downloads page and, to my surprise, saw that the book had already been downloaded 200 times – without me having to mention it.

Over the next few days I posted prompts on Twitter – hopefully not alienating my friends along the way – as well as Facebook, and watched as the downloads grew beyond belief.

I make no bones about it. I’m small-fry, an unknown. While I’ve seen authors claiming to ave given away 30,000 copies, I was never going to anywhere near that. Catherine Ryan Howard gave away 3,000 copies of her book. That was a more sensible figure but still, I thought, unlikely for me. In set a target of 1,000.

Let’s put that into perspective. The Long Second was published on 1 June 2011. In seven months I sold a grand total of 100 copies (on Amazon). Not terribly impressive, though still more than many achieve. In less than four hours I had given away double that. By Sunday morning, 500. By midday Monday I had reached my target of 1,000 with over 2 days remaining.

In the end, a total of 1,621 were downloaded; at one point The Long second reached number 134 in the UK free download chart and number 745 in the US chart. I would have loved to have hit the top 100, but it wasn’t to be.

As an added bonus, sales of Broken have increased by a small but significant amount. Since the end of the promotion, sales of The Long Second have been steady (though obviously much smaller).

I’ve no idea, at this stage, what longer term impact this will have. Will it have been enough to begin building the momentum, or is this destined to be the highest point for this book? Only time will tell.

January 7, 2012

FREE book!

As part of Amazon’s Select Promotion, THE LONG SECOND is now FREE on Kindle for a limited time (5 days, to be exact).

Why am I doing this? Because it has been shown to raise the profile of a book quite dramatically. Everyone, it seems, loves a freebie.

Won’t I be losing money? Strictly speaking, yes. But not much. And the value of more people knowing about (and reading, and then – hopefully – reviewing) the book dramatically outweighs the small amount of money I’d lose.

I was going to say that I’ve no idea how successful this will be, but the promotion has only been running for something like four hours and already (1) I’ve shipped more books total in four hours than on any individual previous month (2) I’ve shipped more books in the US than the TOTAL US sales over the past six months. So, on that basis, it’s probably proved its success already.

We’re still talking quite small numbers, but if I can ship over 1000 (and, at the current rate, that has to be achievable) then I’ll be really happy. It’s interesting that the ones shipped already have been despite that fact that I hadn’t announced it to anybody…

So, snap up a free bargain while you can. And, if you enjoy it, please consider posting a review (there are no reviews on Amazon US at the moment, so a review there would be really appreciated!)

The link for the US store is here and for the UK store is here. (It’s also available in Spain, Italy, France and Germany but I’m not expecting anything to happen there).

I’ll report back next weekend on the results.

November 21, 2011

New Review!

My thanks to the lovely people at Our Book Reviews for reviewing The Long Second.

It’s a short review, and quite honest in that they admit that the book isn’t perfect – which is fair enough as I’m happy to admit that myself (with the benefit of hindsight, at least!).

I do, though, have to quote my favourite part of the review:

“A very clever idea … and possibly one of the best endings to a novel that I’ve read”

I’ll admit I’m pretty happy about that.

The review is here

November 2, 2011

A Decision on Adam’s Game

After much consideration I have decided to, possibly on a temporary basis, remove Adam’s Game from Amazon and Smashwords.

Adam’s Game has consistently failed to receive the level of interest, sales and – most importantly – positive feedback that the other two books have received. It’s not that I think it’s a bad book, but I have begun to wonder if it is a less “complete” book than either The Long Second or Broken.

At some point I may sit down and conduct a massive edit/rewrite, but I don’t expect that to be any time soon. Other projects need to be completed first: namely the third in the TLS series, and at least one new YA (Young Adult) book – which will hopefully be submitted to publishers, assuming my agent likes it enough.

TLS3 is currently on-hold while I concentrate on the new YA. I am using National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to kick-start this project – though I’m not holding myself to either the daily word-count (1667 per day) nor the total size (50000 words) nor to the deadline of completion by the end of November. I would like to have the first draft finished before the end of the year, if possible – as a YA novel it is likely to be around 60000 words so that should be achievable so long as the story remains strong and focussed in my mind. It’s an idea that’s been kicking around for a while, is currently codenamed WIW8, and will hopefully be a lot of fun.

Once WIW8 is completed, I intend to turn back to another unfinished YA, codenamed DD. Both YA novels will be submitted under a new pseudonym to avoid confusion with Marshall Buckley books, which will always be more focussed on an adult audience.

Only once WIW8 and DD are complete will I return to TLS3. That most likely means Spring 2012 at the earliest – so, apologies to the small but dedicated group of followers who are desperate to find out what happens to the Cole family. I hope the wait will be worthwhile.

October 6, 2011

BROKEN paperback now available.

After what seemed like the most painful proofing process in the world (at least partly, and probably entirely down to my own errors), I’m now happy to announce that the paperback of BROKEN is now available to order. Best of all, unlike The Long Second, I should be able to send these out very quickly – delivery is expected next Tuesday (11th October).

You can use the link on the right or just click here.

October 4, 2011

Broken

It’s all been a bit quiet around here lately. Summer seems to do that.

The paperback of Broken is now very close to being available. I’ve been through two sets of printed proofs – the first I managed to set the wrong page size, which gave me some lovely big margins in which to write the corrections… The second set were on the correct paper size but still contained the old version of the interior. I can’t be certain where the error occurred as I thought I had uploaded the new file, but I can’t prove it.

The (hopefully) final proof should be here on Friday and, all being well, I’ll be able to approve for printing. I’ll post a link to the page to order your copy as soon as I’ve confirmed it.

In other news, Amazon are now listing the paperback of The Long Second in the UK as well as the US. It actually works out cheaper to buy direct from them than it does from me. So, if you fancy a copy, the link is here.

Finally, work on part 3 is progressing slowly… I seem to be spending more time reading than writing at the moment, but that’s just allowing all the ideas to develop and mature, so I now have a much better idea where to take it. It’s still a while away, though.

As always, all three books are available for Kindle from Amazon US and UK, and for other readers via Smashwords.