Amazon Completely Revamps KDP Publishing Reports… and shows something interesting

Literally as I refreshed the page, Amazon completely redid their KDP publishing reports. Previously, there was only a table list of all your titles and the amount that had been sold, borrowed or given away free. This list still exists, but now there’s also a “sales dashboard” that shows your free books, sold books and borrowed books over a period of time.

Prior to this, there was really no way of seeing what books you had sold on any given day–or if there was, it was buried pretty deep. The new system makes it pretty clear, which is good… but it also revealed some strange statistics. I immediately noticed a pattern, which was so startlingly apparent that I had to come here and post about it: as the amount of free books increased, the amount of sales decreased.

You might be thinking “well, obviously,” but it actually isn’t obvious. My books aren’t fiction, they’re non-fiction; it’s not like you can replace one by getting the other free. Like you’re going to say “Well, I wanted to learn about content marketing, but this SEO book is free, so I’ll take it instead.”

Or at least, that’s what I thought.

My free promotions are only for books that I’ve just released. Theoretically, they shouldn’t be cutting into sales because they are new to the library; it’s not like I’m putting up an old title for promotion and thus losing out on the sales for that title. Even those who are skeptical about free promotions tend to say that they work out well for writers that have multiple books, but this isn’t what my numbers are showing me.

This is where I began to realize that I’m a bit of a short-sighted idiot.

The pattern is most visible in late March. From March 21st to March 24th I didn’t publish any new books and I didn’t put any new books up for free promotion; during that time I sold 30 copies of my freelancer book a day. From March 25th to March 29th, I gave away 2,000 copies of a new title, Lazy Income, which is about passive income and was not, at the time, related to any of my other titles. My sales plummeted to 10 a day for that five day period.

Directly after the promotion ended, my sales increased again!

That’s not the only area in which this occurs. The stiffest peaks in my sales always occur when I don’t have anything up for free, the exact opposite of what I had anticipated and the opposite of what others had reported.

So what’s going on?

Well, my basic premise was wrong. My premise was that people are purchasing books that they’re interested in, but this might not be true. I suspect if a writer does have a free book out–any free book–that people will pick up that free book even if it has nothing to do with the book they were going to buy. They’ll think to themselves “I’ll read this first, and if I like it, I’ll go back and buy that other book I was interested in.”

Then, of course, they get distracted and they never come back. Or they get bored with the book they downloaded because it had nothing to do with the topic they were actually interested in.

So having free books could in your current library could actually be harmful to you, and not just because it’s robbing you of the sales of your current title. It could actually be preventing people from purchasing completely unrelated books from your library! With that in mind, I’m not even certain that KDP Select is worth it anymore; though, of course, more experimentation will be needed.

Why Writer’s Domain is an Excellent Example of the Benefits of Diversification

When I first started writing at Writer’s Domain, I told all of my friends to come aboard. Writer’s Domain has always had a long waiting list, and I wanted to get them in on the ground floor. Most people scoffed at this, because at the time Writer’s Domain paid a mere $3 a post. (Well, $3.30, but you get the point.) Sure it was $1,600 a month, but only if you wrote five hundred posts, which not everyone wanted to do.

However, the work was consistent, the platform was clean and–most importantly–they had (and still have) one of the best and easiest payment systems out there. A simple click of the “Pay Me Now” button and you had money in your PayPal (once you hit $100). Even if the posts were dirt cheap, there was still something solid there as a side job.

Many of my more savvy friends had already been on Writer’s Domain for some time, knowing what I did–that diversification is incredibly important for a freelance writer.

Now in 2014, Writer’s Domain has completely transitioned. It’s now $20/400 words, one of the best rates in the content mill industry. Even better, the work is easy to get; you just sign in, select one of the many posts available and start writing. Now that the editors have ironed out their issues, they are approving work consistently. I’ve been hitting the “Pay Me Now” button every day.

However… people who want to get in now, now that the platform pays more, can’t. The Writer’s Domain waiting list is now longer than ever–and it used to take four or five months to get through.

If I hadn’t stumbled on a random post on Writer Access many months ago, I would never have even heard of Writer’s Domain and I wouldn’t now have access to a great source of revenue. If I had judged Writer’s Domain based on its initial merits and not given it a chance, I also wouldn’t be able to take advantage of its new changes.

This is why I feel it’s important to maintain a presence on all of the sites that you can. I try to keep all my accounts active on a monthly level–yes, even TextBroker–for this reason. You never know when a good egg might hatch. Or evolve. Or something. That analogy failed, but don’t worry, I have more…

How to Upload Your Self-Published Books to Google Play

I recently researched the process for self-publishing on Google Play and the first few results on Google were “oh, you upload it and then pray really, really hard.”

I was skeptical that this could actually be the case until I actually logged into Google Play. Dear God, what an unadulterated mess. I have a feeling the interface was a Google 20 percent project where a high-functioning autistic such as myself designed it for other high-functioning autistics.

Anyway, it actually ISN’T as hard as it looks. It’s actually easier than publishing on Smashwords, thanks to Smashwords’ incredibly insane auto vetter. The only reason it feels hard is because Google gives you absolutely no feedback about your changes and allows you a significant amount of freedom, so it feels like you’re sending a binder off into the void.

1. Navigate to http://play.google.com/books/publish and sign into your Google account.

screenshot12. Click on “Book Catalog,” and then Add Books -> “Add Book.”

3. Usually, you’re going to want to click on “The book doesn’t have an ISBN or other identifier” unless you already have an assigned ISBN through Smashwords or Amazon.

4. Now you’ll be at the actual page. You need to fill out all the information on the left side before clicking the publish button. Again, it’s very easy it’s just strange because it gives you virtually no guidance.

screenshot2

 

General Details: Your book type is likely “Digital,” and the Related IBSNs allows you to connect your book to hard cover and paperback versions. After that is your author name (which I have a typo in for this screenshot, naturally being the consummate professional that I am) and biographical note. After this, you can add as many categories as you want — which is different from Amazon and Smashwords, and it’s in your best interest to add all of the applicable categories.

Your language is self-explanatory. Age groups, you need to select each one if your book is good for all ages. Publication date and page count are added in manually. Then you add the description, series, volume and publisher name.

Google Play Settings: Google Play is the actual publishing section. You will need to click on “+Add a new price”, then put in your currency type (probably USD), the amount and “WORLD” for the location (unless you want to price differently throughout varying regions.) Here you can also control the DRM and whether people can copy and paste directly from the book (useful for non-fiction).

screenshot3Google Books Settings: Google Books is separate from Google Play, in that it simply provides a list of books that are already published on the web. You can select the amount of preview, the territories (“WORLD” means all), and where the book can be purchased (possibly your own site, likely Amazon or Smashwords.) This is interesting because, if you want to capture all your profits, you could theoretically sell and distribute your book on your own.

Content Files: This is the section that confuses the most people. Primarily because it just has an “upload” button, lets you upload literally anything applicable and then doesn’t tell you what it’s doing. Also, it looks like this:

screenshot4Don’t panic! All you actually need to do is upload your cover file in a JPG format, and then upload either a PDF or an EPUB file of your manuscript. That’s ALL you need to do. The reason it’s intimidating is because it doesn’t tell you that that’s what you need to do.

7. Once you’ve uploaded your documents, you can hit the “Publish Now” button and then the files will appear to be processing for some long, indeterminate amount of time; that is only another part of this exciting, feedback-less product and it’s completely normal. Don’t worry.

So, Should You Publish on Google Play?

Well… why not? Google Play gives you access to the Android platform, which is currently the largest mobile platform in the world. If you’re giving away free books especially, like I like to do, I think it’s a great choice. That said, I haven’t experimented with it too much yet so I don’t really know the volume — I’ll be sure to update when I do.

 

 

 

CPR: a free short story about things that happen

91UrxvpgNuL._SL1500_This one just popped up in my head fully formed. I think it’s a solid little story, but it’s short (10k) so it’s free. Enjoy!

Robert can see hundreds of similar homes, all in a row. He imagines they are the same: empty, lonely—quiet. If he crosses his eyes slightly, the homes merge in together and form a 3D effect. When he tilts his head, they shift incomprehensibly.

There are mice in the walls. He bought them a toy, with his own allowance. It’s just a little wire wheel that goes squeak, squeak, squeak when the house is dark and no one’s around. But he thinks they like it.

Robert’s stomach was now a hollow, fierce, empty thing. He imagines a small animal within it, turning around and trying to crawl out through his throat. His gaze shifts to the stairs.

He hasn’t been to the first floor of the house for three days. He knows this because the sun rises and sets and people come and go. He sneaks up slowly against the railing, and peeks through the rails, tilting his head down. Black fur appears on the very edge of his vision, and he yanks his head back with a sharp intake of breath.

The dead puppy has been on the 8th stair of the house for 68 hours and sixteen minutes. It wasn’t always on the 8th stair. It was on the 6th stair just 42 hours and six minutes ago. Robert knows that it was probably moved by one of the other dogs, but he’s not sure, and that uncertainty scares him.

 

The Valuation of Content: Why Content is Considered Free

The Internet has extremely devalued content. We are used to free. Comics, blogs, books, advice and more. We expect that anything valuable will be free. (Of course, content isn’t really free. When there is no obvious profit, the profit is usually in advertising dollars. When you procure free content, you’re the product; you’re being sold to advertisers.)

When it comes to publishing, perceived value has been shot to hell. The problem is not really with the market, the writers or even the audience, but rather the publishers.

Publishers have consistently pushed book prices upwards while giving writers less of a cut. As a child, I couldn’t even afford new books — I had to go to the used book store. Even as an adult, my book purchases are minimal because I really can’t afford the prices that are being asked for. With as little going towards the writers as it is, the publishers could cut prices to get books into more hands — but they have no interest in that. Publishers have a vested interest in increasing the perceived value of books. And it worked. Until online publishing.

Online publishers went in the opposite direction. With their low overhead and easy deployment, online publishers drove prices into the ground. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that Amazon actually didn’t anticipate how much of a hold that they would have on the market. They pushed prices down to the very bottom and are  only now trying to increase their pricing models. When online publishing and web content work in tandem, it creates the belief that content is essentially valueless. Good content is valueless, exceptional content is valueless — all content is valueless.

When it gets to that point, there is nothing the writers can do but wait for standards to be enacted. That is why publishing exists. As writers, we get frustrated and irritated with conventional publishers because we can’t get a foothold in their market. The reason we can’t get a foothold in their market is because we don’t meet the standards of their brand. Conventional publishers have committed many crimes against both writers and readers, but we shouldn’t forget that they serve an actual purpose. They guarantee the quality and pricing of content.

A self-publishing market like Amazon.com is basically there for content that has no price control or quality control. There are untold thousands of publications today that are really just blogs with a cover slapped on. Writers entering into this market should understand this because that is essential to the entire industry.

The crude fact is that I could be making much more money by actually producing work of far less quality. It may seem like I’m already scraping the bottom of the barrel, but I’m really not. The books I write are backed by 12 years of experience in the industry and a significant amount of personal research. While it might not be ground-breaking, it’s solid. That’s not to say I’m not sometimes wrong, but I’m never intentionally wrong.

Of course, I could increase the quality of my work substantially, but there just wouldn’t be a return on it. It would be purely for passion, which — as a person who has a family who depends on her — is a nice idea, but not financially feasible.  And to be honest, if I did do that, I would probably move to print.

The unfortunate truth is that if you want to be in a market where quality truly matters, you would first need to create that market. There needs to be something between Amazon (a wild marketplace) or Print Publishing (virtually impossible to break into unless you know someone). We’ve proven time and time again that the free market doesn’t actually work.

There are many fantastic, compelling and exciting writers on Amazon who can’t get a print deal or just don’t want to get a print deal. Some people even prove themselves on Amazon to get a print deal. It can seem insulting to these (again fantastic) writers to say that Amazon is a market for people who have no standards, but that’s kind of what it is. When there is no way to get the bad writers out, there’s no reward for being exceptional. There’s no way for this market to change unless Amazon changes it — and once Amazon enacts standards they become just like the print publishers.

I’m not going to say this is an ideal situation, it merely is as it is. You can’t really obtain the benefits of print publication (widespread distribution, quality control, more pay for better work) while still retaining the freedom of online publication (fast deployment, complete control).

Freelance Writer’s Guide Was Just Updated — Check Your Copies

If you have an electronic copy of the Freelance Writer’s Guide, it has been updated! You can update your copies of the book through Amazon; there’s an additional 60 pages or so. My goal was always to support the book as I learn more and as things change. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s also sliding out of Amazon KDP Select next week, at which point it will be available for free on Smashwords for anyone who hasn’t gotten it yet.

The updates are basically some detailed information about online marketing and the changes Writer Access and Writer’s Domain have gone through in recent weeks. They’re meant to address some questions that people have asked me over the past couple of months.

 

Will Amazon Ever Even Out? Success in Self-Publishing

The interesting thing about self-publishing is that the more you read about it, the more it drives you completely insane. No one knows what price things should be, downloads fluctuate wildly, promotions may or may not work — the entire thing has a sort of voodoo atmosphere where everyone’s just sort of trying things and no one knows if their results are strictly correlation or causation.

For sheer downloads, I have noted so far that your success on the platform tends to be largely determined by your success off platform. Authors who don’t have any type of social media traction or social currency simply don’t go anywhere — period. The actual strength of a book cannot carry it to success on Amazon.

I noticed a lot of discrepancies when I was doing research. Some writers launched their very first fiction book to 12,000 free downloads, others wrote tome after tome and got nowhere. With the quality being about standard across the board, the question became — what was different?

The difference was that most successful writers had been blogging and building up anticipation for many years. Most of them were firmly entrenched in the community before they even started putting down their words. Writers who came out from the ether with a manuscript in hand got nowhere. And this is, to some large extent, fair. The successful writers were marketing their books all along — even during periods they didn’t realize they were.

Self-publishing doesn’t mean being a writer. All writers are writers. Self-publishing means taking over the role of a publishing company, and this means being aggressive with your marketing techniques and building a brand. Writers that simply want to be writers don’t get anywhere regardless of quality, and that’s an inherent part of the market.

The mistake many people make when approaching Amazon publishing is believing that they can do everything within the platform. Amazon doesn’t help this: the ability to run promotions and count down deals sort of implies to them that they can launch a book on Amazon, and the requirement of exclusivity through KDP Select further embeds this in author’s minds.

For a large part, everything else — price, quality, even topic — seems to be secondary to solid marketing campaigns and the ability to drum up excitement. And isn’t that always the way?

And with that in mind, I’ve published a quick and short primer on search engine optimization that will be available for free tomorrow. If you download it for free, please review it! 2, 3, 4, 5 stars, I don’t care — Go for it. This book is short because honestly, there’s not that much to the topic and I wasn’t willing to pad it out. I’ll likely keep it on Amazon as a free title and loss leader by price matching with Smashwords later on.

seo

Building Passive Income Online

A lot of my writer friends have been concerned with passive income these days. This is, frankly, astonishing because you would think as writers we’d be concerned with any income at all. I’ve started a new site that’s going to chart my explorations into passive income. It’s called Passive Income @ Home, which is actually a completely redundant name — but you know, it’s 2014 and there really are not that many domains left.

Every week I’m going to explore a different type of passive income generation and post to the blog about it — I’ll also publish books occasionally which will be distributed for free to subscribers. The content on the site right now is for a large part — though not completely — from my most recent book, Lazy Income. I’m going to be updating it fairly extensively, however, because I’m using it for personal motivation reasons.

This week, I’m discussing affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is something that I’m excited about because it’s one of the main revenue sources for ProBlogger and Smart Passive Income. Interestingly, I’d never even heard of Smart Passive Income until a few days ago when it popped up as a source for something I was researching for my last book — and then it was everywhere.

Both ProBlogger and, though to a lesser extent, Smart Passive Income got their start back before blogging was the “in” thing — they were at the forefront of the industry (if I recall correctly, SPI got started a bit later). A decade ago you could throw a site up and be seeing substantial traffic by the end of the week without any paid advertising because people didn’t yet realize how profitable traffic could be and weren’t smart about monetization channels.

My core interest is in finding out if you can still get in on the ground floor or if we’re all simply chasing ghosts. Online, there’s much to be said about being at the forefront of a new content and revenue model rather than trying to hunt down the old ones.

As a side note, I mentioned that I’d never heard of SPI and then suddenly started seeing it everywhere. Apart from that, I’ve noticed that my Google results are getting extremely bizarre. It’s not a cookie issue, because it’s like this on any computer and any account. When I search for results, I’m finding myself struggling to get results that are actually applicable. I don’t know if it’s just something I’m noticing now or not, but it’s incredibly weird and irritating.

Review Swap Time! I Need Book Reviews!

If anyone’s interested in swapping reviews, I’m your gal. One place I tend to fail is in reviews; I get tons of downloads, especially during promotional times, but I feel like I’m being held back because I don’t have any actual ratings.

I need reviews on the following titles:

Lazy Income

The Blogging Barons

The Essential Guide to Social Media Marketing

Content Marketing for Freelance Writers

Were You Raised By a Narcissist?

The Essential Freelance Writer’s Guide to 2014

Mira, Mira on the Wall

Honestly just a short rating would be nice. I’ll review anyone who reviews me!