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Topics - aimeeeasterling

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Writers' Cafe / Gail Carriger's new book on the heroine's journey
« on: October 08, 2020, 05:27:34 am »
I know we don't talk craft on here much, but I couldn't resist recommending a new craft book that is blowing my socks off. Cliff Notes version: Instead of the well-known hero's journey, many stories follow a different trajectory (which doesn't have to have a female main character but often does). The heroine's journey is all about gathering collaborators rather than striking off on your own, and she succeeds with the help of others.

I'd be curious to hear what others think if you check the book out!

Writers' Cafe / Trouble with author signature tool?
« on: August 24, 2020, 04:11:15 pm »
Is anyone else having trouble updating their signature using the author signature tool at ?

I added my newest book...and all of my covers disappeared both from the preview and, apparently, from my posts.

Writers' Cafe / Barnes & Noble payment problems
« on: April 23, 2020, 09:27:31 am »
I'm direct with Nook, so I didn't receive this email (which went out to Draft2Digital users):

However, cash-flow problems are likely to impact direct authors too. Now is probably a good time to reconsider any budget that depends on Nook income.

Writers' Cafe / 48-hour lag on Amazon sales ranks
« on: December 24, 2019, 08:43:26 am »
I'd been seeing weird sales ranks on Amazon for about a month now, but it wasn't until I ran a 99-cent bookbub on my Moon Marked Trilogy that I started to get a handle on what was going on. Thought I'd post in case anyone else was scratching their heads over this.

Amazon US marketplace:
12/21 - 104 sales (Bargainbooksy), best rank: 25,665
12/22 - 1,277 sales (Bookbub), best rank: 1,426
12/23 - 176 sales (coasting), best rank: 164 (which came at midnight)
12/24 - I saw what I suspect is the rank for the Bookbub time at 7 this morning: 143

It looks like a nearly 48-hour lag.

Writers' Cafe / Are email lists still worth it?
« on: November 21, 2019, 10:53:27 am »
I see this question kicking around these boards a lot, so I thought I'd crunch some numbers comparing my most recent first-in-series launch (Moon Stalked) with my previous first-in-series launch (Wolf Dreams).

First, a note on categories:
I have way too many sub-lists, but they all fit into three categories --- organic (signups come through links in my books or via my website), giveaway (mostly Bookfunnel and Story Origin at the moment but also a few group newsletter builders, mostly from a year or two ago, and a dwindling Facebook-origin list), and new release (subscribers might have started off as either organic or giveaway, but they clicked a link in my first autoresponder asking to be shunted over to a list that only gets emailed once when a book goes live).

Click rates for the first 24 hours after my new-release email went out:
  • Giveaway - 4% for Moon Stalked, down from 5% for Wolf Dreams
  • New Release - 15% for Moon Stalked, down from 33% for Wolf Dreams
  • Organic - 7% for Moon Stalked, same as 7% for Wolf Dreams

Complicating factors:
I only had 3 people on the New Release list during the Wolf Dreams launch and currently have 13 people on the list. If you remember your statistics, you will know that this isn't nearly enough data to mess with! I include the information here only for completeness' sake.

The more important complication is that I released a prequel short story in a free anthology at the same time I launched Moon Stalked, and I emailed about both in the same email. I suspect that some people went for the anthology and ignored the new release, lowering my click rate for Moon Stalked (but possibly boosting long-term sales since I have a link to Moon Stalked at the end of the prequel short story).

Organic subscribers are still clicking on my new-release emails at the same rate they did eight months ago.

Giveaway subscribers might be clicking a bit less, but two giveaway subscribers are still better than one organic subscriber. If you're willing to consider this a numbers game (and to warm them up with a good autoresponder sequence), giveaway subscribers are well worth having!

Writers' Cafe / Prolific Works
« on: June 09, 2019, 07:57:17 am »
How are people feeling about Prolific Works (aka Instafreebie) in June 2019?

(I used to swear by them a year and a half ago. Stopped using them in favor of Bookfunnel and StoryOrigin six months ago since I wasn't making a positive ROI due to lower signups, more repeats, and a higher price compared to the competition. I'm considering giving them another shot now that I've rested them for a while, but would love some more recent feedback from people who've used them in the last month or two.)

Writers' Cafe / StoryOrigins' new review feature
« on: June 05, 2019, 10:46:08 am »
Is anyone else trying out StoryOrigins' new method of hooking up books in need of review with reviewers? It looks like it'll be interesting if it gains momentum (thus my reason for making this post!). As an author, I list a book there for free. Then, if anyone wants to review it, they apply for a review copy. I get to see which percentage of books they've requested they actually reviewed, then decide whether to share an ARC.

Here's the link:

Writers' Cafe / Overdrive file formats
« on: February 04, 2019, 12:26:35 pm »
A thread on here last week got me thinking. I do a lot of reading via Overdrive (checking out ebooks from my local library), and I've noticed that most (but not all) books make it easy to read on a Kindle. If the Kindle format is available, I can check out the book, click over to Amazon, and the file shows up on my kindle just as if I'd bought the book.

Occasionally, though, a book is available only as an epub. I haven't figured out how to read those on my kindle since they're DRM protected and I can't simply sideload them. So I don't check those books out.

I don't want potential readers to skip my book for this reason! So I emailed Kobo, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords asking them how books bought through their site show up on Overdrive. All three told me they only ship the epub to Overdrive, so their files should only show up as epubs --- just the way I *don't* want my books to be.

On the other hand, I know at least one of these customer service reps is wrong. Because my local library has two of my books in ebook format and both are available to read in kindle format.

The trouble is...I've been hopping between providers, trying to decide which one is the best to use for listing on Overdrive. So I actually have no idea which distributor is listing in Kindle format and didn't bother to tell their customer service reps about it. Maybe all three are!

Has anyone here been less fickle than me and thus knows which distributor your Overdrive books went through? I figured I could see if they're in my library, and if they are I'd have some data points for how books from various distributors show up. For example, I looked up C. Gockel, and her Fates is available in my library in both Epub and Kindle format.

Writers' Cafe / Pass through business tax cut for authors
« on: January 23, 2019, 05:03:54 pm »
I know we've discussed this before and wondered whether the tax cut would be relevant to authors. The IRS has now put out their explanation and this article makes it sound like those of us who are moderate to low earners are eligible for deducting up to 20% of our business income:

Writers' Cafe / Apple preorder rules
« on: November 18, 2018, 12:04:40 pm »
Does anyone know the timeline for Apple preorders? I'm asking because they have a very draconian holiday schedule:

If you plan on releasing a book on Apple Books between November 2018 and January 2019, remember to check the following delivery deadlines:

Release Date    Delivery Deadline
11/30/2018    Friday, November 16, 2018 (PST)
12/7/2018    Friday, November 30, 2018 (PST)
12/14/2018    Friday, December 7, 2018 (PST)
12/21/2018    Friday, December 7, 2018 (PST)
12/28/2018    Friday, December 14, 2018 (PST)
1/4/2019    Friday, December 14, 2018 (PST)

Books delivered after these deadlines may not be available on the desired release date.

Due to the high volume of deliveries and updates we receive during this time of year, we do not recommend making changes between December 21, 2018 and December 28, 2018. Make sure to submit any important content, pricing changes, or clearance changes by the respective deadlines noted in this message.

I want my book to launch on December 31 (squeezing the last book of the year in under the wire!). It sounds like I could set up a preorder by December 14 and that would launch as planned? But how many days before the launch date do I have to upload the finished book? Is four days (like on Amazon) sufficient?

Writers' Cafe / Amazon price matching slower and more fickle than usual
« on: August 06, 2018, 10:23:25 am »
This is just a headsup in case you're wide, are planning a promotion, and are trying to decide how much time to give Amazon to price match.

I'm currently getting two books price matched --- one under a pen name that was already supposed to be free but popped back to paid a few weeks ago and one under this name that has been paid for a while. In both cases, I wrote to Amazon with specific links to other retailers where the title was free in each relevant country...and in both cases Amazon price matched half or less of their stores. Followup emails resulted in their promise that, yes, they really do plan to price match each country. But it's been five days on one book (3 stores still not price matched) and four days on the other (8 stores still not price matched.)

I'm sure Amazon will get there eventually (if only because I intend to nag until they do). But, if I was on a deadline, I'd be chewing off all my fingernails. So, if you're in the latter scenario, maybe give yourself a week to price match. And check each Amazon store carefully to make sure the new price stuck.

In the past, I've done kitchen-sink, 99-cent, KU launches, spending hundreds of dollars with the goal of breaking the top 1,000, getting lots of reads, and staying sticky on Amazon. Those were quite successful!

But this year, I decided to stop windowing in KU and to instead launch wide from the get-go. To cut a long story short, after much soul-searching, I opted for a no-paid-advertising launch at nearly full price, holding price breaks and promos in reserve for the launch of book three.

It's nail-bitingly scary to depend entirely on my newsletter and on Bookbub's new-release emails, knowing that my rank won't be anything impressive. But I'm doing it! Wanna watch? Here goes!

Cover: $315
Beta reads: $280
Proofreading: $185
Advertising: $0
Total cost: $780

First step came months ago when I had to decide on cover specs. I used to trawl Amazon's bestseller lists to get an idea what was selling before choosing a new cover. Since I'm launching wide, though, and currently get nearly half of my income from non-Amazon stores, it made sense to look at the other retailers, specifically at Nook (my next biggest earner). I discovered that trad-pub books were dominating the bestseller lists in urban fantasy there, so I tried to emulate a trad-pubbed cover. (See below to decide if I succeeded --- the book is Wolf's Bane on the far left.)

Next, I put the book up for a one-week preorder while sending it to my ARC crew. Price --- $2.99 with a plan to yank the price up to $3.99 one week after launch. ($3.99 was the median price on the various urban-fantasy-related bestseller lists on Amazon, Kobo, and Nook when I did my research in April.) I told nobody that the book was up but did claim it on Author Central.

Amazon: 16

When the book went live on June 10, I emailed my ARC crew. Two of them bought the book, and presumably some other people found it organically.

Amazon: 14
Apple: 2 (These might have been preorders. Can't tell through D2D.)

Today is launch day. I added the book to Bookbub, hoping to get a new-release alert tomorrow. (We'll see!) Then I divided up my email subscribers and sent out  alerts from 9 am to 1 pm. I'll update this tomorrow with today's sales!

Writers' Cafe / A case for step-up pricing
« on: March 29, 2018, 11:49:37 am »
I currently have two very comparable series, one of which is priced at $0, $2.99, and $2.99 and the other of which is priced at $0, $3.99, $3.99, and $3.99. I was crunching the numbers this afternoon on non-promo sales of the two series and found something interesting.

Series 1 -
14.6% of those who download book 1 buy book 2
74.6% of those who buy book 2 buy book 3

Series 2 -
7.4% of those who download book 1 buy book 2
94% of those who buy book 2 buy book 3
(Sell-through to book four isn't available yet since the book launched a few weeks ago, but I'm guessing it'll be 95% or above.)

Noticing half the buy-through at the first tier for series two was a bit shocking, so I started guessing at reasons. It's possible people just don't feel as hooked by series two, although reviews are good. Another possible explanation, though, is price --- it's a big jump to go from a free book 1 to a $3.99 book 2.

So I started thinking about step-up pricing. Currently, each organic download of book one in my new series brings in 84 cents as readers work through the rest of the series. But if I assumed lowering the price of book two to $2.99 would double sell-through to book two (while slightly lowering sell-through to book 3), I estimate I could be making $1.28 from the series after each organic download - nearly half again as much income!

Time to see if my hypothesis makes sense on the ground. I lowered the price of Huntress Bound and will try to remember to update this post at the end of April with new sell-through numbers. Now I finally understand why I see so many series with step-up pricing....

Writers' Cafe / Bookbub recommendations
« on: March 20, 2018, 04:30:10 pm »
Has anyone else gotten the email from Bookbub about their new recommendations section? Here's the text:

We’ll soon be announcing Recommendations, an exciting free way for authors to engage with their followers on We’re telling you about this new tool early so you can be one of the first authors to try it out!

Recommendations lets you suggest books to your followers on These recommendations will appear in their feed on, and they’ll be alerted to unseen recommendations each week via email. This tool offers a great way to:

    Stay top-of-mind with your fans
    Cross-promote fellow authors and help each other get discovered
    Engage with BookBub’s community of enthusiastic power readers

We’re thrilled for you to be one of the first authors to try this new tool. Get started by sharing your first recommendation here!

I went ahead and added a dozen must-reads and am curious to see how others are using the new feature.

Writers' Cafe / Launching at full price versus launching at 99 cents
« on: December 21, 2017, 04:37:01 pm »
Over the last year or so, I've heard more and more authors sing the praises of launching at full price rather than at 99 cents. So I figured I'd give it a try. After crunching the numbers on two full price launches, though, I'm going back to 99 cents. Here's why....

Series comparison:
While you can never compare two books or two series, I feel like my Alpha Underground (2016) and Wolf Legacy (2017) series are roughly comparable. Both are spinoffs of my best-selling series and both hit about 75% of the urban fantasy tropes.

Differences: My Alpha Underground books are a bit longer (although my best-selling series is actually the length of my Wolf Legacy books, so this shouldn't be a point against them). Launch seasons differed. I launched books 1 and 2 of my Wolf Legacy series at the same time while the Alpha Underground series had a few months between releases. I used a Rebecca Hamilton new release blast on my Alpha Underground series that I have since decided not to use any more. And book 2 in my AU series went up to $3.99 at full price (due to its length) while book 2 in my WL series only went up to $2.99.

Launch data:
June 2016, book 2 in my Alpha Underground series launches at 99 cents for a couple of weeks while book one has a five-day free period. Ad spend is $544 ($244 advertising book 1 and $300 advertising book 2). Although this period was actually 15 days long, I've changed the data to match the 13 day launch period of the other books, resulting in a gross income of $741, a net (subtracting ads but not considering production costs) of $270, 1,139 total sales and read throughs, and a 25% borrow rate.

September 2017, books 1 and 2 in my Wolf Legacy series launch at 99 cents and $2.99 respectively. Ad spend $255 (all toward book 1). Gross income of book 2 is $609, net would be $355 if you consider all of the ad costs as going toward book 2, 403 total sales and read throughs of book 2, 53% borrow rate.

December 2017, book 3 of my Wolf Legacy series launches at $2.99 while I run a five-day free period on book 1. Ad spend $400 (almost all on book 1, with about $8 of facebook ads pointed at the series as a whole). Gross income of book 3 is $319, net (ignoring production costs and subracting ad costs) is negative $81,188 total sales and borrows, 35% borrow rate.

(As an aside, the launch of book 3 actually ended up $91 ahead on day 13 once you include increased sales and reads of books 1 and 2. But I'm keeping this analysis focused only on the full-price book being launched rather than on the way a free period boosts a series as a whole.)

Longer range data:
Net (now including production costs) for book 2 in each series for month 1 / Percent of copies moved as borrows:
AU - $32 / 25%
WL - $74 / 34%

For month 2:
AU - $2,963 / 74%
WL - $727 / 73%

For month 3:
AU - $947 / 68%
WL - $280 / 68%

It's very possible that it's not fair to compare a book launched in 2016 to one from 2017 even if both are by the same author in the same genre and with a similar readership. However, if you take this comparison as valid, my readers (yours might be different!) are price conscious enough that a 99 cent launch more than makes up for itself in the resulting visibility boost. While I might make a bit more during the initial launch month on a full-price launch, higher-ranking books from a 99-cent launch end up raking in quite a bit more during the first few months. Meanwhile, a full-price launch creates a bottleneck which makes each subsequent book have less and less chance for success.

The solution:
In the short term, I plan to run a countdown deal on each book in the series during the launch of book 4 to try to get more eyes on the earlier books. In the longer term, though, I'm going back to 99 cent launches. They work for me, so why mess with a good thing?

Writers' Cafe / Launching into the top thousand with $250 ad spend
« on: September 23, 2017, 04:06:17 pm »

Ready for another launch sumup! This was a very different launch for me, so I thought some of you might be interested in how it turned out.

What was so different? I spent very little cash on promos --- just over $250, and only about half of that went to newsletters. Despite the low spend, I still stayed sub-2000 for a week and broke 1000 a couple of times. Pretty good return on my investment!

So how do you move lots of books with little outlay of cash? Probably a third of the required sales came from my list, which has 8,000 subscribers. Maybe a fifth of those are organic, some from giveaways, and most from instafreebie. Despite the non-organic nature of most of the subscribers, a long autoresponder sequence and hard scrubbing means that most of them have read at least something by me before. As a result, I can count on a first-day sales rate between 1 and 3% on a new 99-cent release. I know that sounds terrible to folks with organic-only lists, but the math works out well for me even when you factor in monthly hosting fees. Being able to move 130 to 240 books at the press of a button really helps with a launch.

The second biggest part of my launch was newsletter swaps. I'm very careful about this technique because I don't want to burn out my list, so I only swap a few times a year and I hand-select authors whose books I enjoy and/or whose books stay near the top of my also-boughts. Assuming you keep your list happy and realize you need big numbers to make it work, this technique is very effective. Figure on a 0.25% sale rate on a 99 cent book (one book sold for every 400 people on the other authors' list). Yes, that makes swaps about a tenth as effective as sending an email to my more nurtured list of subscribers just in case you're keeping track of the math at home, but that's still worthwhile.

So where did the actual promo money go? I usually go all-out on paid newsletter sites like Booksends, etc., during a book launch. But I'd landed a Bookbub on a different book (which went out today) and had stacked around that date with most of the sites that have short turn-around times. It didn't seem cost effective to run another book with the same advertisers in the same week, so I only spent $137 on Bargainbooksy, I Love Vampire Novels, Awesomegang, and Bknights.

All-told, paid newsletters were the least cost-effective part of my promotion. A new release with just a few reviews from my ARC crew is a bit of a dicey proposition for random readers to take a chance on, so I usually figure on spending $1 for every sale I make. I stacked and can't give you definite numbers, but I'd say that's about what I got out of these sites. (They were still worth it, though, to stroke Amazon's algorithms and keep rank up for an extra day or two. Plus, borrows and sell-through make them at least come out even.)

On the dud front, I also spent a whopping $10 bucks on an AMS ad that has sold two whole books. I obviously haven't figured out the way to break even there yet. I'll be turning this off tomorrow.

What was surprisingly cost effective? Facebook ads.

I keep seeing people use facebook ads during launch and assuming those folks were hemorrhaging money in the interest of keeping rank up. But then I realized that I have a couple of well-tuned ads that are doing well for other books in the same genre. Why not pause those ads and steal their audiences to make new facebook ads for my new book?

Using that technique, I came up with one ad that did quite well (cost per click 7 cents (at $5/day) to 15 cents (at $7/day)), a boosted post that performed very well (5 to 16 cents per click at $2.63/day), and a so-so ad that I'll be canceling tomorrow (15 to 18 cents per click at $5/day). To my surprise, using multiple small ads with pre-tested audiences has provided a positive return on investment on a 99 cent book even before I consider borrows...mostly because a lot of buyers snagged the $2.99 sequel at the same time. (Yes, having the sequel out at the same time as book one is a huge part of the positive return on investment of this launch.)

Did you skim to the end? Here's the summary:

Total spend --- $241.56. Net income from book one and book 2 (subtracting out ads, but ignoring covers and editing, assuming borrow rate of $0.004): $318.38. Peak rank so far: 922.

I've got one more ad coming up (ENT tomorrow), then I'll raise the price of book one to $2.99. Despite the hiccup with "wasting" most of my newsletter oomph during preorder, this has been a good solid launch for me. Here's hoping Huntress Born will stick high enough to keep visibility after the price hike!

Writers' Cafe / Not quite the launch I'd planned....
« on: September 18, 2017, 08:49:25 am »
So, I had a launch all planned out with a gradual build intended to hit around a rank of 800 in the kindle store on day 6 and hopefully get the same stickiness as this launch of a related series:

Then I made a mistake.

I like to tease my readers in the weeks leading up to a launch with the first chapters from the new book. Usually, I do so without any call-to-action. But I'm planning a two-book launch this time, so book one was in the can earlier than usual. I figured --- why not put the book up for a ten-day preorder and include the preorder link at the end of the teaser chapters?

I didn't really expect many people to buy --- after all, the chapters were the focus of my email, not the preorder link. To my chagrin, 72% of the sales I'd expected from my newsletter came in during the teaser-chapter day and my launch emails are similarly showing much less effect than planned.

On the plus side, that preorder email raised my rank to 2,095 at the high point and gave me also-boughts two days later. And I've got some paid ads and newsletter swaps lined up to fill in some of the gaps later in the week as well, so hopefully the book will get its legs under it even if the rank doesn't break 1,000 as planned.

Moral of the story: if you tell your fans about your book (even about a preorder), they will buy it then rather than waiting. Be prepared!  :)

Writers' Cafe / Kobo Plus payout
« on: May 22, 2017, 05:13:50 am »
I usually don't open my Kobo spreadsheets, but I've been curious whether Kobo Plus was doing anything for me. As best I can tell, the results came in a separate spreadsheet this morning --- one book read to the 20% threshold in April. Normal price is $2.99, payout was $0.67. Anyone else have data to share?

Writers' Cafe / Optimizing a box set cover to sell more books
« on: April 17, 2017, 12:37:55 pm »
I'm running a 99 cent sale on my Alpha Underground Trilogy this week. Since the price break is big enough that it actually hurts a little bit to think of, I decided to optimize as much as possible to make the most of my price break.

There have been hundreds of posts about advertisers, so I won't repeat all that info. But I thought some of you might get a kick out of the split test I ran to decide which box set cover to use. Here are the options my awesome cover artist came up with:

In the past, I've always assumed that the image on the right (a box set) would sell the most books. But multiple retailers are really down on the box-set image, so I decided to test and see who was right. I set up facebook ads while the book was still at full price ($8.99), leaving the ad untouched but changing out the cover image on the Amazon page itself every two days. Interestingly, the resulting conversion rates weren't at all what I expected:
  • Flat - 2.2%
  • Combo - 3.2%
  • 3D - 1.5%

Yes, you read that right --- the 3D box-set image had the worst conversion rate, with the combo image in the middle selling over twice as many books for the same amount of ad spend.

Now, before you go and change out your box-set covers, here are some mitigating factors:
  • The audience I chose was that of a trad-pubbed author and the book price was pretty high. So the combo image might be most appealing to that type of reader while bargainhunters might like a different cover.
  • This is a single author box set with "only" three books in it. Those huge multi-author box sets probably do better with the 3D cover since it's a very quick visual indicator of the immense value of the larger box set.
  • I wouldn't be surprised if cover preference is also genre specific.

Has anyone else tested different box-set covers to see which one sells more books? I'm kinda wishing I'd done a second week of testing at 99 cents, but ads start today so I've lost my window of opportunity. Maybe some of you can fill in the blanks with your own results?

Writers' Cafe / Three reasons for a Bookbub
« on: March 31, 2017, 01:22:21 pm »
I finally landed my third Bookbub (yay!)...and now I'm floundering, trying to decide what my purpose here is. The way I see it, you can use a Bookbub to:

  • Hit a list. In which case, throw every other promo in there that you can afford, regardless of return on investment. Depending on who you talk to, you should either frontload the campaign (so the book is at a higher rank when the Bookbub hits and thus maximizes its eventual rank), backload the campaign (so the Bookbub peak sticks around longer), or do both.
  • Maximize revenue. In which case, you probably don't want to add anything to the Bookbub since none of the other sites give nearly the same return on investment.
  • Maximize exposure. The goal here is to sell as many copies as possible, figuring this is a long-term investment in sales of your backlist and growth of your newsletter. In this case, I think you'd probably add on some additional ads, but wouldn't delve into the pit of known money losers (which, for me, involves facebook ads and some of the less powerful promo sites).

I'm leaning toward the third option with some frontloading and some backloading, but am very open to being swayed. What kind of strategy have you used when you landed a coveted bookbub?

(By the way, if you're itching for a Bookbub and keep getting turned down, the sure-fire solution seems to involve creating a box set then lowering its price to 99 cents. In the last year, I've been rejected 16 times and accepted twice by the all-powerful bookbub. The two acceptances were both for box sets, and I've yet to receive a rejection on those. Yes, it's painful to lower the price of a complete trilogy to 99 cents...but it sells lots and lots of books. I used strategy 3 last time around, spending about $1,100 on ads, and ended up netting (sales minus expenses) $4k on that series that month, up about $2k from the month before. Definitely worth it!)

Writers' Cafe / Another year, another first-in-series launch
« on: March 02, 2017, 02:09:27 pm »
Last year, I had big goals with the launch of the first book in my second series. I wanted to break through the 1,000 ranking barrier and stick for as long as I could as high as I could in the kindle store. You can see my post on the topic here: (Spoiler: it worked!  :) )

This year, I'm aiming a little higher (can I break 500?) and thought you might like to bite your fingernails through the launch right along with me. I set the book up for preorder on February 26 at the same time I sent the finished draft to my advance readers, then spent the next few days setting up promos. This time around, I'm going heavy on newsletter swaps rather than on paid promotions in hopes I'll get very focused also-boughts. But I'm still planning on a gradually increasing slope to stroke Amazon's algorithms. Here's the schedule:

3/1/17 --- Email half of my list (in increasing increments throughout the day), facebook post that I ask readers and fellow authors to share
Sales: 68
Full read throughs: 1.1
Best rank: 4,175

3/2/17 --- Email the other half of my list and Bookbub new release email (to 327 followers)
Sales: 102
Full read throughs: 5.1
Best rank: 1,686

3/3/17 --- Tasha Black's list and half of Lisa Blackwood's list
Sales: 101
Full read throughs: 6.7
Best rank: 1,296

3/4/17 --- Half of Lisa Blackwood's list, Emma Alisyn's list, plus resending to my non-openers
Sales: 130
Full read throughs: 8.9
Best rank: 1,084

3/5/17 --- Ashley Meira's list plus Sweetfreebooks, Booksends with EreaderIQ add-on, Bargainbooksy, and Awesomegang.
Sales: 155
Full read throughs: 13.6
Best rank: 1,041

3/6/17 --- I Love Vampire Novels

3/7/17 --- nothing

3/8/17 --- Wolf Pack Newsletter

3/9/17 --- nothing

3/10/17 --- last chance email to list

3/11/17 --- raise price

To set up newsletter swaps, I first asked a couple of author friends whose books I enjoy and would likely recommend to my newsletter anyway. Then I trolled through some newsletter-swap groups on facebook, reading samples of people's work if I wasn't familiar with them and only choosing authors whose books matched mine in many ways and that I thought my readers would particularly enjoy. Since I sent out weekly newsletters and throw in recommendations from time to time, I don't have a problem swapping...but I only do it in extreme moderation because I want my readers to continue to trust me to recommend books they'll enjoy.

For planning purposes, I figure 1% of the people on each swapper's list will likely buy my book at its 99-cent launch rate. That's the same rate I get from my own subscribers who recently joined through a giveaway and is also the purchase rate I've seen for others' books I've recommended through my own newsletter. (In contrast, I see 3 to 4% sales on the first day from organic newsletter subscribers.) This fuzzy math is the weakest part of the launch, though and could easily cause the house of cards to fall down around my ears. Wish me luck!

Writers' Cafe / Taxes/accounting for anthologies/box sets
« on: December 26, 2016, 04:40:13 pm »
On a whim, I decided to pull together an anthology of urban fantasy and paranormal romance Christmas stories this month (the last book in my signature). We launched pretty late --- December 9 --- and our goal was exposure more than profit. But Christmas apparently sells and we've already gone into profit territory. Which is good --- pretty, pretty money! But also bad --- now I have to figure out taxes.  :o

I've considered talking to a local accountant, but I have a sinking suspicion they wouldn't have a clue about this kind of endeavor. So I hope someone with more experience here can give me advice to at least start the research process.

I remember having to send in a W9 for a box set I took part in last year. So I'm assuming I should ask US participants for a W9 and potentially plan to send 1099-MISCs to the IRS in 2018 on their behalf. If I pay via paypal, do I still have to do this? How about if I use the friends & family payment method for paypal? Anything else I should know about US taxes on split anthology money?

International people look like they might be trickier. I understand I need a W8BEN from each of them. For the folks who live in countries that have tax treaties with the U.S., I assume I can then smile and ignore them (hopefully?). (Well, I mean pay them, but then ignore the tax burden.) But for folks who live in the dreaded Australia, do I have to send their withholding to the IRS myself? With which form? And can I legally put that duty on the Australian authors, as one of my participants suggested, if we both sign a contract saying they're taking responsibility for their own tax duties?

Finally, does anyone have an accountant you can recommend who takes online clients and who understands this stuff? I think the group would be willing to pay a pro to make sure none of us get into hot water if they know what they're doing and the price isn't too steep.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give! (And I hope you had a great holiday!)

Writers' Cafe / When and how to utilize a permafree box set
« on: August 29, 2016, 08:12:28 am »
My first trilogy was written slowly and not really to market, so by the time the third book came out they'd all mostly run out of borrow steam. I was making about $900 per month on the series, Amazon-only, at that time and decided to start pulling the books out of select, going wide, and making the first book permafree.

Permafree turned out to be just the ticket for that trilogy. I used a different paid advertiser weekly to boost the first book in the series, and my net income settled in around double the previous monthly income. However, after about six months of permafree love, I ran out of new advertisers and had to cycle back around to ones I'd already used. Permafree downloads decreased and I could see the writing on the wall --- income would soon decline as well.

So I decided to follow the lead of several other kboarders and create a permafree box set, enabling me to advertise something new while resting my permafree first in series. A permafree box set also has the advantage of having the name recognition and marketing muscle of several different authors behind it, so I'm guessing we'll each be spending less time and money on the bundle once produced than we would have marketing individual permafrees.

The permafree box set has only been wide for a week, so time will tell whether my hypothesizing is correct. Plus, I got a Bookbub on my bundled trilogy two weeks ago, completely confusing current sales numbers. While I wait for all that dust to settle, though, I thought I'd share some of the things I've already learned in case you want to follow suit:

  • Keep the included books tight and high quality. I read a lot of permafrees before selecting the other five books included in our box set, choosing them for similarity to my own book and for readability. I'm hopeful that will attract readers who naturally enjoy my work and who will be thrilled to find a cache of similar titles all in the same place.
  • Beg for reviewers to copy their reviews of the individual books over onto the box-set page. That gets the review section off to a good start with some honest social proof.
  • Launch by having each contributor email their list and post on facebook. We're saving the paid ads for next month once the organic downloads slow down.
  • Save the permafree box set for when your solo permafree has run out of steam.

Anything else more experienced permafree box set people would add?

Writers' Cafe / Building up to a Bookbub
« on: August 12, 2016, 11:18:28 am »
I finally got selected for my second-ever Bookbub, so I decided to go all-out and make it count. For the sale, I'm discounting my Wolf Rampant box set from $4.99 to $0.99 with the primary goal being gaining traction on non-Amazon retailers and the secondary goal being boosting my spinoff (Amazon-only) series. To that end, I wanted to make my Bookbub spike as non-spiky as possible by simulating a gradual build of sales throughout the preceding week in hopes the high Bookbub rank will stick longer.

That said, I was only selected on Monday for a Saturday sale. So I had to do some scurrying to set up the other ad sites and wasn't able to book everyone I wanted. Here's the lineup (with results as of Friday morning):

Monday: Lowered prices on all retailers. Sales: 16 on Amazon, 0 on nook, 2 on Kobo (because I was coming off a Kobo spotlight of my permafree that ended the day before), 0 on Apple

Tuesday: Barnes and Noble and Kobo prices didn't go through until this morning, so my only push was a boosted facebook post ($5 per day for 6 days, and an email to my list (1,769 organic subscribers and 3,877 from facebook ads and various giveaways). Sales: 105 on Amazon, 5 on Nook, 1 on Kobo, 3 on Apple

Wednesday: Ads: Awesomegang and Bkknights. I also posted an unboosted facebook post and begged for shares ( Sales: 134 on Amazon, 14 on Nook, 6 on Kobo, 10 on Apple

Thursday: Ads: I Love Vampire Novels, Ebookhounds, Booksends + Ereader IQ, Free Kindle Books and Tips. Plus a new facebook post that got many more shares than previously ( Sales: 272 on Amazon, 31 on Nook, 12 on Kobo, 7 on Apple.

Friday: Ads: Digital Book Today, Read Cheaply, Bargain Booksy. Instead of a normal facebook post, I ran a quick Amazon giveaway to thank readers for bearing with my constant sales posts. Sales: 156 on Amazon, 42 on Nook, 9 on Kobo, 6 on apple.

Saturday: Ads: Bookbub, Books Butterfly. (I didn't intend to have anything else on Bookbub day, but that was the only day Books Butterfly could fit me in and their push continues through Sunday and Monday.) Sales: 2,820 on Amazon, 552 on Nook, 190 on Kobo, 313 on Apple.

It's a little terrifying to know that I need to sell about 3,827 copies just to break when I'm only at 16% of that figure on day 5. Wish me luck! And if anyone feels inclined to like, comment on, or share my facebook posts, I'll be in your debt. Thanks in advance!

Writers' Cafe / Bad experience with Book Gorilla?
« on: July 21, 2016, 12:29:04 pm »
In early June, I booked an ad with Book Gorilla for July 18 ($50). On the morning of July 19, I checked my stats to see how the promo went...and saw no bump at all. So I went to their site and couldn't seem to find my book listed.

I figured it was an honest mistake, so I contacted them using the form on their website. When I didn't hear back from them by the next day, I tracked down the email address associated with their paypal account ([email protected]) and asked them about the issue again.

Now it's yet another day later and I still haven't heard back. So I thought I'd post a buyer-beware for other authors who might end up in my shoes, while also asking if anyone knows of a better way to get an answer from Book Gorilla. Has this problem happened to anyone else? Were you able to get it resolved?

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