book promotion

The Spider is Coming

Spider2-web

I’ve just uploaded Spider for pre-order on Amazon, and it will be released March 4. I’m really happy with how it came out, and though it’s not for everyone, I think many of my regular readers should really enjoy it. If you liked the creepiness of Vector and some of the darker stories in The Wisdom of Dogs (especially “A Needle through the Heart”) you should like this. One of my beta readers insists it’s the best thing of mine she’s read. Hopefully you’ll agree.

I’ve got some notes and initial ideas down for a sequel (tentatively titled Scorpion), but it’s off to The Knight’s Folly (the long-delayed third installment in Twin Magic) after this.

Dealing with eBook Piracy

So, it’s been a bit quiet here lately, a fact I will attribute to some post-release burnout and a new book I started last week. (Not Twin Magic 3—I’m letting that percolate in my head for a bit). But I wanted to relate something I’ve been dealing with for the past couple of months.

If you’ve published any ebooks, especially if they’ve sold well, there’s a pretty good chance they’ve been pirated somehow. If they’ve sold well enough to get on a bestseller list, they’ve almost certainly been pirated.

Pirating ebooks is not difficult, since it’s a matter of pulling the .mobi or .epub file off your reader, something that is easy if you know what you’re doing. The various forms of ebook DRM that exist are basically worthless and can be removed easily with the right software.

What happens then depends, but most often the files get uploaded and shared much like pirated movie and song files. In my experience, the worst offender is a site called Mobilism, where people can share pretty much any kinds of files: videos, songs, apps, books, and so forth. The quirk of Mobilism is that it doesn’t actually host the files. Instead, people upload them to various file sites and post links. This, you might guess, is supposed to get Mobilism off the hook when it comes to accusations of piracy.

The ebook section claims to host somewhere around 2 million ebook files. Just glance at the front page, and you’ll see a long list of obviously pirated content. What happens is usually that people will post requests for one book or another, and someone else will post it. There is a mechanism by which you need credits to download things, but we don’t really need to go into it.

I first came across The Wizard’s Daughters on Mobilism in February. I wasn’t terribly surprised, but it was still annoying to see that more than 300 people had downloaded it. I’ve been in the publishing/copyright field long enough to know that 90% of these people (at least) likely would not have bought the book anyway, but still.

What can you do when this happens? Well, fortunately, the download sites that host these files are used for hosting all sorts of things, many of them legitimate. The people who own them are in the business of making money from banner ads and such things, not to get sued. So every one I’ve come across has a straightforward DMCA takedown process. If you follow their instructions, the file will get yanked, sometimes in minutes.

The bad news, however, is that as easy as it is to get your files removed, it’s even easier to put them back up again. In my case, I’ve been playing a game of whack-a-mole with the person who uploaded TWD to Mobilism. The links in the post are currently dead, but they’ve been changed twice so far and I suspect will be replaced again. I check every day or so to see what’s going on.

If you’re wondering about sending a DMCA notice to Mobilism, I’ve tried, twice. They seem to have ignored them even though they claim to accept such requests.

There are plenty of other places that host ebooks, often as torrents. I’ve been successful getting them removed from everywhere I’ve found them except The Pirate Bay, which, if you’re familiar with it, you’re aware is a lost cause in that respect. But you’ve got to find these files, and Google is not always the best approach because some of the worst offenders (like Pirate Bay) have been removed from Google’s search results.

Still, unless you’re prepared to give up and let people steal your books, you’ve got to do the grunt work to protect them.

[Update 4/9/15] I finally heard from one of the mods at Mobilism and that post is now gone. But in true whack-a-mole fashion, I found that someone has posted a request for The Witches’ Covenant. I asked for that to be taken down as well; we will see.

The Witches’ Covenant Launch Tour Starts Today

Between now and April 6, I’m going to be promoting The Witches’ Covenant with guest posts, interviews, excerpts, and more across the book blogosphere. The tour is being organized by Enchanted Book Promotions, and you can find the schedule here.

The book will be released March 20, and I’ll have a special promotion running March 15 through March 21. More on that later.

Should You Join KDP Select?

Like most indie authors, I had to make a decision when signing up with Amazon whether or not to enroll my books in KDP Select. Not knowing what to do, I did some searching and reading to see what other authors thought. The consensus I seemed to get was that it may not be worth it. Quite a few authors feel that getting your stuff out on as many platforms as possible is the best bet.

So I took that route initially. I put my stuff on Smashwords and Google Play, and sat back to see what happened. The difference has been rather striking.

Now, before I get into any of this, let me stress, as I’ve done with my posts on Twitter, that I don’t pretend to know everything on this subject nor that my experiences are definitive. They’re just that—my experiences. And, to preface all this, understand that I promote only my Amazon book pages on Twitter. I have links elsewhere on my blog, but I don’t tweet to SW or GP.

It’s probably no great revelation that 95% of my sales are on Amazon. I sell no more than a few books a week on Smashwords, maybe one or two elsewhere, and I’ve sold exactly one on GP.

So when I got ready to launch The Witches’ Covenant, I began thinking that having access to Amazon’s promotional tools might be worth giving up those few extra sales. The Wizard’s Daughters had been trending downward anyway, and had finally starting slipping off the Historical Fantasy bestseller list. I figured it would be worth seeing if enrolling those two in KDP Select was worth the exclusivity.

I pulled TWD down from everywhere but Amazon, and began working on my promotional strategy for TWC. But a funny thing happened when TWD went live in Kindle Unlimited: A whole bunch of people began downloading it, to the point that it shot back up the bestseller list, settling in around 5,000 overall, a point it hasn’t been at since January. And, interestingly enough, the sales haven’t appeared to change—the KU downloads don’t seem to be cannibalizing them.

What this suggests to me is that there are an awful lot of KU folks who just don’t buy books anymore. They only read things that they can download as part of their KU subscription. And if your book isn’t in KU, you’re cut off from that readership. Not fair, perhaps, but there it is.

That being said, I suspect this doesn’t apply for all books. It could well be that the previous prominence of TWD gave it some built-in visibility in KU when I signed it up. Still, the boost has been enough that I’m contemplating putting some of my other books in KU to see what happens.

I’m not ready to call myself a KDP Select convert, but this has definitely changed my thinking.

The Witches are on Tour Starting March 6

witchescovenantbanner

I have—appropriately enough—engaged Enchanted Book Promotions to help me launch The Witches’ Covenant. The promotional tour will begin March 6, leading up to the book’s release on March 20. I’ll be doing some promotional specials to support the tour as it progresses—more on that later.

If you’re interested in being a tour host or reviewer, please contact Enchanted Book Promotions on their web site via the tour page.

Is Social Media Overrated for Authors?

Seth Godin thinks so:

In Godin’s view, the emphasis on building author platforms has gone too far. If so many authors now approach social media as a part of their jobs in the digital era, it’s at least partly thanks to their publishers, who have assiduously told them it is.

As have a great many others.

But does it really work? From a talk at the Digital Book World 2015 conference this morning:

For one thing, that can make it hard to build a following, Godin says, and for another, doing so isn’t just about driving engagement on social channels, anyway.

Establishing and maintaining a loyal audience is by its nature a long-term investment, and what loyalty looks like online can sometimes differ considerably from what it looks like offline, “where the real work” gets done.

I’ve previously offered my thoughts in this vein.

I’m not sure I agree author platforms are unnecessary or pointless, but I think Godin is 100% right that they’re not an end in themselves. Bottom line, you’ve still got to write good stuff.

FWIW: Godin has a pretty impressive platform.

FWIW2: I came across the DBW piece in my Twitter feed.

More on Tweeting Links to Amazon

As I mentioned last week, I decided to rethink (again) how I used Twitter to promote my books. I found the first day that I was getting a lot more clicks on book links than when I first started doing it. Tracking things through the weekend suggests that wasn’t a fluke.

The last few days, I’ve been getting around 50 to 70 link clicks on my Tweets, of which around 20 are going to Amazon. That’s not as much as that first day, but it’s a significant trend. It suggests that, in fact, you can drive traffic to your book pages on Amazon through Twitter.

What’s the difference? I think, as with all social media, an awful lot depends on how you do it. Initially, I was doing nothing but book link tweets, and doing it as often as three times in an hour. For this latest project, I was mixing them with tweets to my blog, and tweeting no more than one link per hour.

Going forward this week, I’m going to be spacing them out even further, since it’s also clear that tweeting more often is not generating more clicks. My clicks, retweets, and favorites did not change appreciably even though I was tweeting three times an hour (two blog links and one book link). So I’m going back to no more than two per hour, with a generally equal mix of blog and Amazon links. I’ll report again if I see any meaningful changes.

What’s harder to say is if this is affecting my sales. I haven’t seen any major changes, but it appears the downward trend since New Year’s has leveled off. Still, more traffic to Amazon can’t hurt.

Tweeting Links to Amazon, Day 2

As I noted yesterday, I’ve begun tweeting links to Amazon again, despite railing about them in the past. I made this decision mainly to gather some more data and see if my December sales boost was related or an anomaly.

It’s too soon after 36 hours or so to gauge the effect on sales (yesterday was weak and I’ve already beaten it so far today, but my midweek sales are usually erratic so that doesn’t mean anything). I can, however, report the effects on Twitter.

Checking my stats in my ads.twitter.com/user section, I can report that adding book link tweets to my regular blog and review tweets seems to have caused an interesting spike in engagement. As I’m typing this, I’ve gotten 60k impressions today, which is not only an all-time high but is also almost 50% higher than my previous record (~43k). I also doubled my previous record for retweets and favorites. That’s good, but also partly attributable to the fact that I’m now tweeting 72 times a day instead of 48.

Total link clicks—the most important stat, as far as I’m concerned—are high but not a record. So, key data point here: Tweeting more often does not appear to be getting me more clicks. (This is actually no surprise if you have a background in social media marketing.) However, the real key is where those clicks are going. And here is where I see a big change from the last time I tested this.

Today, I got 65 link clicks from my 72 tweets, but WP tells me I got only 33 inbound clicks from Twitter. That’s a significant difference. While I also tweet to my reviews on Christina Harding’s blog, checking the data for those tweets shows me they got only two clicks today. That means the other 30 clicks went to Amazon.

If you’ve been following this series, you may recall that the last time I tried this, almost all of my clicks were coming here. Now, half of the traffic is going to Amazon.

I’m definitely going to track this in the next few days to see if the trend continues—then we’ll talk about why.

Yes, I’m Tweeting Book Links Again

After discussing the Twitter Book Link issue with some other authors, and reviewing my sales for January, I’ve decided to give it another try with tweeting links to Amazon. But I’ve changed my approach from how I was doing it before. Initially, I was doing it almost constantly, at times as often as every 15 minutes, with nothing else to break up the stream of book promos. This time, I’m going to be more sparing, no more than once an hour, and I’m going to continue the blog and review tweets as I’ve been doing.

Why the change? Well, in the back of my mind all along was the knowledge that my uptick in sales could have been due to something completely unrelated, like the holiday sales season. So I was watching to see if things slowed down after New Year’s, which they have. So in the interest of gathering more data, I’m going to conduct another experiment.

I’ll be updating this week if there are any significant changes in my sales patterns.

More on Treating Writing as a Business

I was planning another post on this subject, but then this post by Kris Rusch came across my Twitter feed. Here’s the money shot:

[W]hen you do what you love, you learn all aspects of it, from craft to business. You do what you need to in order to continue doing what you love.

I’ve been an indie author for only a couple of months, but I’ve been in publishing for nearly all of my adult life, and everything she says strikes me as true. Boiled down:

  • Writing is a difficult trade, always has been, and always will be.
  • You survive and succeed by respecting the fundamentals of the business, not by looking for shortcuts.

Go read it now. Really, go. It’s long, but worth it.