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For a limited time all three books in the Architects series are on sale for $0.99!

The series is a blend of Epic Fantasy, political intrigue, mystery, and sharp humor (and a pinch of sci fi) that follows the stories of deeply flawed heroes as they struggle to save humanity. You'll meet a gay alcoholic wizard, a fallen priest turned assassin, and a sentient sword... to name a few.

  1. The Queen of Lies

  2. The Mirrored City

  3. The Blade of Betrayal

I won't lie, praise is great, and especially welcome to be included in a GLBT review site. Most of the books reviewed are romance. I think it's great that there are so many readers out there interested in M/M romance. I think it's equally encouraging that people of all orientations are open to more mainstream Sci Fi/Fantasy that includes diverse characters.

I think that's a good sign for a healthy expansion of the readership out there.

Rainbow Gold Reviews

The review is up on Rainbow Gold Reviews along with a short piece about the importance of inclusivity in fantasy fiction. It's actually been up for a while but... I've been getting my shit together on a lot of various levels lately and blogging has fallen by the wayside.

 

Perhaps, like me, you will find yourself drawn into an exciting new fantasy world that feels like a mix of G.R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and Terry Prachett’s ‘Discworld’ novels, while retaining a fresh and unique quality that will make you unwilling to put down the book for even a second.

Queercentric Books

I was also treated to another 4.5 star review on Queercentric Books. In addition to reviews, they also feature a weekly mailing list highlighting free and bargain books for authors and readers.

The whole concept of The Queen of Lies was brilliant! A very original and unique story line. I really liked that the story was told from everyone’s POVs. If you’re a fantasy lover, this story will not be a let down. There’s straight lovin’, M/M lovin’, drugs, drinking, and plenty of magic to go around.

 

 

 

 

I started a campaign on Thunderclap. Basically it's an easy way to get the word out about my book on launch day. I just need 100 supporters and Thunderclap will make the announcement for you on October 29th.

Click Here to Support. It's totally free.

Also if you haven't, the electronic version of the Mirrored City is available for preorder. Those sales count on October 29th and go a long way toward making my titles visible to the Amazon algorithm on launch.

A few other odds and ends.

My knee continues to improve. I made it through Dragon Con but I was pretty wiped after Friday and Saturday. Didn't get much accomplished from a business side of things. I think I definitely got a lot more out of the smaller, intimate panels at Outlantacon.

I had my first day of work today. It was an hour and a half of orientation. I go back in Friday.

And finally... I'm doing an audiobook version of the Queen of Lies with Vance Bastian. That should be due out before the holidays.

I'm in the midst of editing the final revisions for the Mirrored City so I should really get back to work 🙂

Kindle AdI ran an ad campaign since the beginning of the month on Amazon. Here's what I learned.

  • Amazon's ad campaigns take DAYS after approval to actually start serving impressions. Give it time. It took me 4 days.
  • My sales rank was in the 20k-30k range, some all time highs for this book. I did not see that volume in sales, which indicates to me that the majority of engagement came through borrows. (People can borrow through their kindles)
  • Amazon's reporting is Horrible. To the point that it's nearly impossible to judge the success of a campaign. You get impressions, clicks, spend, and sales but the data is not broken down by day and there may be up to three day lag before a sale ends up in the report.
  • They don't do any calculations. There's basic stuff like conversion rate or click through. To calculate conversion % you have to divide the total sales by the royalty for the book and divide that by the number of clicks.
  • Borrow activity (KENP) does not show up in the sales data at all. But based on my sales rank, I know for a fact that it's there.

Use Case

I'm promoting a $4.99 title by interest (Science Fiction & Fantasy: Adventure, Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery) at ten cents per click. Run time 8/1-8/15. 

I'm a debut author with no broad following or name recognition.

Why ten cents? Well because I didn't know that it would take four-five days to start seeing activity. More on pricing below.

Performance

I had immediate good performance and strong sales rank (for me, anyway) throughout the early part of the campaign. Here I measured click through (How many people clicked on an ad), conversion (how many people bought an ad) and net profit %.

Performance

Note: These are the aggregate rankings on each day, not the daily activity. Sample: 40k impressions 470 clicks

 

Click Through: This number was the most solid and predictable of the three. It started at 1.7% and ended at 1.2%, steadily declining day over day. This tells me that my ads hit a point of saturation quickly and the quality of leads diminished over time as people became inured to the ads.

Conversion Rate: I averaged about 3%. This also went down with the click through. Again I suspect the window for quality leads closes pretty quickly, especially if impressions are served multiple times. (i.e. if I didn't buy it the first time I'm not going to buy it). On my best day I converted at 5%, other days I had zero sales. Again the data was delayed so it's impossible to say which number is accurate save for the aggregate.

Net Profit: Based on the hard number of books sold I spent 6 dollars on my campaign. However... there were definitely borrows. With the KENP payouts I will never, ever know how many pages read over the coming months-years how many of those were from this campaign. I do feel confident the campaign has been slightly profitable when factoring those in.

Cost Per Click

Toward the end I lowered my bid to five cents and still got impressions. At that point however I wasn't getting sales. If I started at five I would have seen 50% profits. Since I was curious I put together a CPC matrix based on book price.

If you expect to sell 5 books for every hundred clicks at 2.99, then a ten cent CPC is your break even point. (I would add 5% conversion seems pretty optimistic for an ad) .If you want to make 50% ROI then you need to cut the numbers in the table below in half.

I've highlighted where my title sits in the chart below.

CPC Bids

Conclusion

Amazon PPC ads can be a tool for modest success with the right inputs. Bidding as low as possible seems like a safe strategy.

They set a minimum budget of $100. It's difficult to see spending all of this (at least in the sci fi/ fantasy interest bucket). So this was not a scaleable solution for me. It would take months to spend $1000 and even at 50% profit... it's not a money machine.

I would use it again to goose my sales rank or lead people to a particular title. It paid for itself, mostly and got me exposure.

So like every good aspiring novelist on the fast track to instant success, I did my research before jumping into the world of self-publishing. I read blogs, listened to what the people who make money said... all that business. I was a sponge, eager to absorb the ocean of knowledge into my body.

It wasn't all good or relevant.

The field of dreams is a lie. Like the literal movie premise ("build it and they will come") is a lie. If I built a baseball diamond in some cornfield the likelihood of being visited by a team of ghostly baseball players is only slightly less likely than hitting the NYT best seller list. In real life you've just fucked up a cornfield for baseball, the least interesting American sport.

No one will discover you if you don't put yourself out there. Amazon is very good at selling shit. They collect tons of data on everything. Based on my purchases they probably know who my soulmate is... But they don't share or use that for anyone's benefit. You will not get algorithm mojo until you awaken the beast with some sustained sales.

Family and friends are not an audience. Most of my friends don't read epic fantasy and the ones that do don't use social media. When I started out I thought small and focused on my social acquaintances. Now if someone seems excited about my book I give it to them if they mention cost as an issue.

I'd give a free ebook to anyone who asked me if I knew they'd tell their friends and give an honest review on Amazon. Honestly at this point in my career the review and sales rank is a better investment. In fact... if you want a copy here it is.

I love that a few of my friends have gone above and beyond to support me, (Thanks Michael and Lindy!)  but in the business world we call that scalability. I can't make a million friends and pressure them to buy my book... at least not without being a hot nerdy Asian girl with a million + viewer you tube channel. (And given the level of sexism and racial fetishization Asian women experience in white geek culture I'm not sure that popularity is entirely positive. YMMV-- you do you for the fans that matter, ladies.)

Behind every bestseller is a marketing engine. Sometimes it's the author (E.L. James) and sometimes it's the publisher (Suzanne Collins) but the bottom line is that if no one knows who you are, you have some work to do. It does not just happen. You have to know somebody important.

You need to be prepared to lose money on your first book. New big 5 ebooks are now around $11. It's the same rate for established and debut authors. It's tempting to hike prices but you will never make money as an unknown debut indie author at those rates.

The only way you have to draw attention is to make your book free and publicize. Unless you're a marketing genius or you know someone influential. Chances are you're not and you don't.

It's a small consolation that at 3.99 I'm probably making equal royalties to a debut big 5 author after publisher and agent expenses.


 

Mike bode is the author of The Queen of Lies Opens in a new window, the first installment in the ongoing series, Architects of the Grand Design. His next book comes out October. Sign up for the mailing list for more info.

You can find him on FacebookOpens in a new window, TwitterOpens in a new window and Pinterest Opens in a new window. (You can also follow him on GoodreadsOpens in a new window and even AmazonOpens in a new window)

 

Here are some of the top ways you can support your favorite authors (myself included) along with unrelated photographs of Chris Pratt. Most of these things are free and simple to do (even if you haven't bought the book) but they can still have a great impact, especially for new authors, or authors in very narrow genres. Many of these things may not seem like a big deal but they really truly are.

Please enjoy one and/or the other.

1. Review a Book on Amazon (and Goodreads for extra credit)

If you love it, why not put a ring on it? Or in this case stars. Honest reviews help authors with being discovered as well as qualify us for marketing opportunities. If there are enough good reviews the author can get picked up by Amazon publishing.

Did you know that customer reviews influence sales more than reviews in literary journals? It's 97.5% true. Think about it-- when is the last time you read Publishers Weekly? The more positive reviews a book has the better the likelihood someone will buy a book. Authors live and die by our stars. So if you liked a book by an indie author and/or this picture of Chris Pratt, why not take a few minutes to give it an honest review?

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2. Tell your Friends

Word of mouth is still the best way to sell books. And the best word of mouth comes from someone who isn't the author of that book. Many authors are limited in how much we can promote our own work in social media. Saying "BUY MY BOOK" ten thousand times annoys the living shit out of people, believe it or not. Literary communities (book forums etc.) often have very strict guidelines about self-promotion. They do not, usually, have an issue with non-writers making spontaneous recommendations about something they enjoyed... or inspiring selfies of Chris Pratt after his weight loss. (So go ahead and tell Reddit!)

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3. Join the Mailing List.

Email, really? That's so 20th century.... Still mailing lists are huge for authors. They allow us to reach out to our fans directly and let them know about upcoming events. Some authors even offer free eBooks and other incentives to people who sign up. Visit your favorite author's website and you should find a sign up form. Chris Pratt does not appear to have an official mailing list but he is very dreamy in other ways.

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4. Like, Follow and Subscribe

Add your favorite author to your social media channels, follow their official pages and subscribe to their blogs. It's super easy and followers build influence, helping to raise visibility, like Chris Pratt when he goes to the beach. Also you can stalk follow Chris Pratt on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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5. Crowdfund an Author through Patreon or Kickstarter

Giving money to projects can help ease financial burden and support better quality in the finished product. Crowdfunding allows for the support of a project with a small donation.  A lot of indie authors starting out don't have the fan base to bring in the big money on Kickstarter so every bit helps. It's an easy way to support authors you enjoy, much like this image of Chris Pratt is easy on the eyes.

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Mike bode is the author of The Queen of Lies, the first installment in the ongoing series, Architects of the Grand Design. His next book comes out September. Sign up for the mailing list for more info.

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, along with many other photographs of Chris Pratt. (You can also follow me on Goodreads and even Amazon)

Up until May 28th I've been offering the Queen of Lies eBook for FREE on the Kindle Market. (If you haven't picked up a copy, there's no better time-- every download boosts my seller ranking).

I'm pleased to say the result first marketing campaign has been a huge success in getting visibility for my work.  With a little publicity, I made it to #4 in epic fantasy. I also made the #2 spot in LGBT Fantasy, beating out a ton of MM romance and werewolf erotica.

How hard is it to make the top 10 lists with a free promotion? Harder than you'd think. There thousands of promos running daily in addition to free books established authors use as funnels into their series. Making it tot the Top 10 means that my cover and description are solid enough to merit interest.

This has been and continues to be an ongoing process of learning and discovery.

 

 

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It is a scary thing to face the unknown in exchange for security.

I used to write about frugality on a money blog. I was good at saving and living below my means, habits I more or less retained to this day. When I got my big break in corporate America I didn't go out and buy a new car or get myself entangled in a mortgage on a high rise condo. I spent frivolously on some things, but never more than I made and I always put something aside which enabled me to make this change in my life.

But nothing quite prepares you for the anxiety that comes with leaving behind a steady income for something completely unknown. As of today, I don't have an income unless someone buys my book, which is not something I can easily predict. The money I have now could well be all the money I will ever have and I have to think about that every time I buy something. It's easy to blow through cash on daily expenses. Plus there's costs like marketing, editing, and cover  design that need to be budgeted.

Suddenly that pile of money starts looking very small. It's not like living on fixed income. It's living on no income.

There's a part of me that still can't believe I'm actually doing this.

The biggest lesson I've had to learn so far is patience. With books, nothing moves quickly. Even with books that have great first day sales, those were probably in the works at major publishing houses for a year. It's been a month and there have been modest sales through friends and family. But that organic sales channel is dying out. In the mean time there are literally millions of ways to market books. It's a slow process of trial and error to see what gooses sales.

Waiting for the book to take off is the hardest part. If it flops, gets tons of one star reviews, then fine-- I've learned something and I can chalk this up to a life experience. Hey, at least I tried, right?

 

 


Mike bode is the author of The Queen of Lies, the first installment in the ongoing series, Architects of the Grand Design. His next book comes out September. Sign up for the mailing list for more info.