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Messages - Russ Munson

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Writers' Cafe / Countdown Deal Glitch?
« on: July 02, 2018, 03:57:36 AM »
I went to schedule a new Countdown Deal, but noticed that the dates I wanted were not available. Why not? Based on Amazon's stated rules, I can only assume it's because of a price change within the last 30 days.

We can all guess the punch line here: I didn't change the price. It's been the same for well over 30 days. How do I know? Because a few days ago, the dates I wanted for the Countdown WERE available.

What I did do, was upload a new version of the ebook--I kept the price the same though. After uploading the new version, the next available Countdown date was exactly 30 days later.

So it seems that when you update ANY of your book details, Amazon automatically thinks there has been a price change and will not let you run a Countdown Deal for 30 days. This makes me think that their system doesn't actually look at price changes when deciding Countdown availability, but only if changes in general have been made.

The takeaway? Don't plan a Countdown Deal within 30 days of changing your ebook details.

Has anybody else seen this before?

Writers' Cafe / Re: On the topic of Pen Names
« on: July 01, 2018, 04:44:21 AM »
Me neither, but what difference does the pen name make? If someone's real name was Hilary Clinton (name already taken) and they loved and wanted to write about goldfish breeding because that was their passion, it would make no difference if they wrote under the name Goldie Fish. Would their writing on goldfish be less credible? I think not.

Eric Blair wrote fiction and nonfiction under the pen name of George Orwell. Does that discredit his nonfiction? No, I don't think so.

Agree. The name itself makes little difference. It's the experience that matters. I don't think someone writing nonfiction under a pen name would be less credible, provided he or she could establish credibility without using their real name--which might be more difficult to do.

Writers' Cafe / Re: On the topic of Pen Names
« on: June 30, 2018, 07:15:36 PM »
If you believe lying is bad then it's a pretty simple equation.

Pen name = lie.

Everything else is just fluff. For me the fact is that I work damn hard at writing and I won't write something I'm ashamed of. I also won't lie to my customers, more than that I'm not going to lie to people.

But if you are writing fiction, you are lying to your customers. Fiction is made up. It's a falsehood, told deliberately. Nobody (unless delusional) buys fiction thinking it's true. Nobody (unless delusional) goes to the movies thinking they are real. For fiction, it's inherent in the contract between writer and reader.

Lying is not universally bad. It all depends on the situation. Sometimes a lie is the most moral course of action.

Writers' Cafe / Re: On the topic of Pen Names
« on: June 30, 2018, 01:21:01 PM »
But in fiction... well, we make stuff up for a living!


When someone writes a work of fiction, they have NO obligation to get their facts right. They can describe CPR anyway they want to, mangle police procedure, or invent new traits for vampires. The readers will decide whether or not they want more realism in their fiction and purchase accordingly. Because the entire work of fiction is a lie, I see no problem if the name is a lie too.

In nonfiction, however, you are publishing under the assumption that you are a purveyor of "truth." A pen name to hide your identity is fine if you deal with delicate subject matter or whatever, but you darn better well have some experience in what you are writing about.

If you are a fiction or nonfiction author who befriends your readers and interacts with them on a personal level, then I think you have an obligation to be who you say you are, or else risk the consequences of being deceptive. I certainly wouldn't want my friends lying to me about who they are.

Writers' Cafe / Re: On the topic of Pen Names
« on: June 29, 2018, 07:39:29 PM »
I can't see why it would make any difference.

Uhh..cuz I'd prefer not to read a book about brain surgery written by a brick layer.

Writers' Cafe / Re: On the topic of Pen Names
« on: June 29, 2018, 01:09:08 PM »
We are talking about fiction, correct? If the entire book is make-believe, then why does it matter if the name is real?

Nonfiction, where the author's ethos is an integral part of the book's credibility, is a different story.

Anyone who expects to publish a book and see it start to sell on it's own is living in a dream world.

This simply isn't true. I've had a book go to a rank of 7,000 by merely pressing "publish." It happened within 2 days. The only reason it died was a bad review came in  :) In my experiments, I've had a few other books go to 30,000 with no ads, no email list, no pre-existing audience, no nothing. Brand new pen names. I'm sure many others have gone even higher.

It all depends on genre, cover, and blurb.

Releasing books quickly may help books that sell sell better. However, it will do nothing for books that don't sell. Sadly, it's not a magic formula; the algorithms won't look at you and say, "whoa! three books in a row? let's promote!"

After listening to too many people preach "release fast!" I learned the hard way.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What is a realistic series read-through rate?
« on: June 19, 2018, 08:29:25 AM »
Under another penname i had a series with results very similar to yours. I ended up dropping it after trying to do everything under the sun to fix things. In the end, it was an issue with the writing/genre and story structure. I got lots of 5 star reviews too, but not many and that's the key. The number of reviews matter far more than if they are all 5 stars or not. People wont waste time leaving a review if they didn't like it that much. If they really hate it, they might leave one, though.

I wrote my current series specifically to have high read through with a long over arching storygoal that wont end until the series ends. I wont be able to tell if it's successful in doing that until book 3 comes out, but thus far the read through is around 55% between 1 and 2 and growing higher as I sell more book 2's than 1's most days.

But purely by the math, anything with lower than 60% read through from 2 to 3 onward is not really worth continuing. The ROI just isn't there. Much better to start a new series. You could try and fix the issues too, but because they are likely story/genre/tone problems it might take way more time and effort than its worth versus just starting something new.

Agree 100%. With so many variables, the only obvious thing is that something simply isn't working as well as I'd like it to. Trying to figure out exactly what that is might be next to impossible. Much wiser just to buy another lottery ticket :)

Writers' Cafe / Re: What is a realistic series read-through rate?
« on: June 18, 2018, 06:00:17 PM »

With series, someone who's read book two will almost always go on to read book three unless you're doing something to lose them.

I agree, but there's also the unknown Amazon factor. Since my mailing list is very small (I'm building it organically without offering incentives), I have no way of knowing if Amazon has sent out notice of the newest release. (I should add that my Book 3 has only been out for a month).

I could be wrong, but when voracious readers are consuming multiple books per week, they are probably not checking in regularly to see if a new book by so and so is out unless the writer is one of their absolute favorites.

Obviously, I wish the read-through rate was higher (who wouldn't?!), but given the fact that there are so many variables and my sample sizes are relatively small, I'm not sure that reworking book 2 is a good use of time (especially since it has a Goodreads rating average above 4.5). Why mess with something that some people are liking very much? If I "fix" the wrong things, I run the risk of pleasing no one.

Another factor which I hadn't considered before this thread is the speed of release. Voracious readers who pick up books 1 or 2 before book 3 is out may very well have forgotten about the series by the time the later books are out--and they may not "check in," unless reminded to do so. This is where a lack of a mailing list may affect read-through.

As someone mentioned upthread, perhaps the only true read-through rate should be calculated for the months when all three books are out. That way, a reader who starts book 1 knows there's a book 3. If that's the case, then I have a 110% read-through :) I'm being facetious, of course, but my point is that there are so many unknown variables that trying to quantify some of these things may be an exercise in futility.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What is a realistic series read-through rate?
« on: June 18, 2018, 02:52:24 PM »

How tight are the books in the series? Are they mostly standalones or do they have a strong series arc to prod people to want to read the next book?

The books are all tightly connected. There is an overarching storyline that borders on a cliffhanger at the end of each, but the central storyline is resolved.

I was just listening to David Gaughran on the Creative Penn podcast and he said something to the effect that most books (including bestsellers) have, at best, a 50% finish rate. If that's true, then it suggests that series read through over fifty percent is very atypical.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What is a realistic series read-through rate?
« on: June 18, 2018, 03:19:55 AM »
It's normal to have higher ratings on later books in series. The people who leave low ratings on book 1 often don't go on to read book 2. Except occasionally you'll get the masochist reader who reads the entire series though they hate it and one-star every book.

I hear you there. I only mention the ratings on book 2 as being insufficient to explain the drop-off to book 3. At this point, all I can really surmise is that I've missed the genre mark.

I changed all the covers after book 2 came out to something that represented the content of the book a little bit better--but in doing so, I was fully aware that they were less on-point for the genre. I'm wondering if I'm now suffering the consequences. With the original covers, I initially pulled in more pure-genre readers, but turned them off later with the change.

Still, the new covers seem to deliver better stats with AMS ads. Oh well. I'm left to conclude that, as William Goldman said about success in Hollywood, "nobody knows anything"--meaning nobody knows what's going to be a hit beforehand (of course, if you've already built your brand, you can make every release a hit).

Self-publishing: the world's most time-intensive lottery ticket  :) This is why I'm such an advocate for authors learning how to do their own covers. Even though I missed the mark with these books, I've still made a nice little profit. If I had dropped a bunch of dough on them, I'd be pulling my hair out.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What is a realistic series read-through rate?
« on: June 17, 2018, 07:18:46 PM »

If you are getting low read-through from book two to book  three there is something going very wrong. Your readers have already made it past the initial book and have bought/borrowed again.

I'd suggest looking closely at the books and working out whether you broke genre. Perhaps check the reviews.

I don't do ARCs, so the books have very few reviews. So far, none negative. Strangely enough, Goodreads ratings on Book 2 are even better than Book 1--mostly all 5 stars, so book 2 itself isn't the issue.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What is a realistic series read-through rate?
« on: June 16, 2018, 04:29:34 PM »
Thanks all for the great responses  :)

My sales only rate is 40% for book 1 to 2 and 26% for book 2 to 3, so essentially the same. Ironically, the highest Goodreads ratings are on book 2, so I'm surprised that there is so much drop off (although Book 3 does veer more from genre expectations than the first 2, so that might account for it). Still Goodreads ratings have been good for book 3.

My prices are 3.99, 4.99, and 4.99. I've never done a freebie, nor gone down to .99, so I don't think the pricing is to blame

I'm starting to wonder how much genre affects sales read-through. Because I haven't written the series strictly to genre expectations, I'm wondering if the pure genre readers are finding the series less to their taste while those who are more adventurous are the ones who are enjoying it. Pure speculation, of course.

I do have links to each book in the back matter. I've kind of been trusting that readers who really like the book will be able to find the sequels. I should add that the third book has only been out for a month. Does it usually take longer to get better stats? Based on how quickly the pages come in, KU readers seem to be reading through each book in a day or two.

Writers' Cafe / What is a realistic series read-through rate?
« on: June 16, 2018, 12:13:22 PM »
"Gurus" such as Cooper and Anderle boast about series read-through rates of almost 100% to 70%, respectively. To me, that seems high, but I have no idea. Is a read-through rate this high a realistic rate to shoot for?

I have a 3-book series under a pen name that is getting mostly 5-star ratings on Goodreads, but only has a read-through rate of 39% from Book 1 to Book 2 and 28% from Book 2 to Book 3. This is after calculating both sales and full KU reads and with a very small AMS ad spend (less than $100 for 3 months).  Readers seem to like the books, but the numbers aren't reaching my goals yet. I'm wondering if this series (and pen name) is worth continuing and increasing my ad spend, or if I should be reevaluating my approach to the genre.

Because my mailing list is very small, I can't tell whether or not the read-through rate is because people don't know about the later books in the series, or because they're not interested in reading them. It's making decisions of where to spend my time very difficult.

What kind of read-through rates do other successful Indies have?

Thanks in advance for any insight!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Mac owners---is AppleCare worth it?
« on: May 22, 2018, 03:36:30 AM »
I've been using Apple products every single day for the last 16 years and have never purchased AppleCare. The MacBook Air I'm typing this on has been turned off less than 10 times in the last four years. Rock solid. Money spent on Apple Care can go toward a new machine when needed. Macs hold value, so I usually get 5-6 years out of a computer, sell it, and then upgrade.

Writers' Cafe / Re: About those also-boughts...
« on: January 07, 2018, 04:56:09 AM »
I've never had anything but strange behavior with also boughts.

One of my titles didn't get also boughts for about six months. I suppose this is because it took that long to get 50 sales. Fair enough.

HOWEVER, one of my other titles shot up the chart organically. It only sold about 7 books, but had lots of KU reads and got tons of also boughts almost instantly. In this case, it looked like KU reads DID affect also boughts since I had way more also boughts (17 pages of them) than I had sales.

Also, I have found that when you republish a title, Amazon sits on it forever. I've had them upload a new book to the store within hours, but a republished one took nearly the full 72 hours. I don't know if the republished material was triggering internal checks, their way of discouraging republishing titles, or just the luck of the draw.

My sample size, of course, is small, but those have been my experiences.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Amazon Removing Arc Reviews (thread no. 2)
« on: December 01, 2017, 01:09:17 PM »
Glad to see this thread, but not glad it's happening. I had 2 reviews disappear in the last two days (they had been up for months). The reviews were also ARCs, these ones through Hidden Gems. I have no idea if they were good reviews or not, I just noticed my number of reviews dropping. These reviews came from total strangers. I sent an email to KDP early this morning, but haven't heard back yet.

Make sure your download page is set up to REQUIRE email addresses (if I remember correctly, they encourage you not to click this button when you sign up). When I signed up for my free month, I was bummed I wasn't getting any signups. Then I realized I hadn't checked the box and people were in fact signing up at a rate of 1-3 per day--with no promotions.

Writers' Cafe / Re: New release flop = rest of series flop?
« on: July 24, 2017, 04:48:47 PM »
I spent the most I've ever spent on promos for this one because I knew I had to find new readers as my previous readers were from my PA series. I did a bunch of the mid-high promoters like GenreCrave mini book blast, kindle daily deals sponsorship, I love vampire novels, etc. but they were all with the bad blurb :/ so I might as well have tossed the money out instead.

Unfortunately, GenreCrave does not deliver readers. That might contribute to the problem. There are lots of threads covering the issues with that particular service.

I love heists. Unfortunately, I noticed the problem in this category over a year ago. It's been a problem for a long time.

As a reader, the entire catalog here is off-putting.

As a writer, the problem is that I'm not competing against the books in this category for eyeballs, I'm competing against EVERY book on Amazon for eyeballs in this category--so my heist book (a small audience) would have to sell better than all of these romance books (a giant audience) for a place at the heist table. Sigh.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How to REALLY succeed as a full time author.
« on: June 26, 2017, 03:37:18 AM »
The GenreCRave was $400 and worth every penny in terms of performance. I think I got like 160 sales that day. But I don't think they were high value sales as there wasn't a lot of follow through after it.

Not to derail the thread, but I feel it must be said: sadly, GenreCrave will give you sales (at a discount), but no readers. Because of the methods they are using, there's a long thread about the dangers of that particular service. I used it for the relaunch of one of my books and it was one of the reasons I am now starting over.

Despite getting a 100 "sales" GenreCrave's promo didn't translate to pages read, sign ups, follow-through, or fans. And this is a book that had performed well with other promos in the past. I felt embarrassed and frustrated at getting duped, not to mention the waste of all that money. I will NEVER use GenreCrave again and will be doing serious research before I book any services other than ENT, Bookbub, or BargainBooksy.

Sorry to be a downer here, but what's the point of spending hundreds of dollars for a loss if none of those people read your book?

Same here. Out in Loudoun Co. Its pretty expensive in this area. I'd have to find a way to replace my income as well as 40-50k extra. So right around $150-160k consistently to feel like I could quit my day job.

I'm also in Loudoun. Must be something in the water.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Whispersync for audiobooks--exact match?
« on: May 06, 2017, 11:05:25 AM »
Thanks for the replies!

So just to clarify, if the audio is more than 10% different, it won't sync? That seems like a pretty liberal margin.

If that's the case, I'd imagine you could get away with making a whole bunch of little changes in the ebook without affecting the audio?

Writers' Cafe / Whispersync for audiobooks--exact match?
« on: May 06, 2017, 07:35:19 AM »
I'm in the process of proofing an audiobook against the actual text and noticed that the narrator has made a number of unconscious changes to the text (small things like saying this instead of those). I'd estimate there are between 5-10 such small discrepancies per chapter. The audio itself sounds good and you can follow the story just fine when you listen to it--it just doesn't match the book 100%.

My question is, how exact must the audio be? Does anybody know at what point the audio might be too far from the text to get Whispersync enabled?

Thanks in advance!

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