So, here's the thing! I know I haven't written a blog for awhile. And I also know that you've been getting the tremors, that your mouth goes dry at odd times, you toss and turn at night and wake up screaming my name, and you keep checking my blog every five minutes. These behavioural symptoms are manifestations of withdrawal - going cold turkey! I can only apologise, but I was all written out. Oh, I'm all right now, so don't go rushing round here to feel my pulse, or put a cold cloth on my sweating brow, or other demonstrations of affection - you know how I get all embarrassed when people say nice things about me!
Anyway, I know I've harped on about my American sales before, which have been fairly abysmal to say the least, but now they've ground to a halt. What's going on? Let's investigate this phenomenon, and get to the bottom of the murky issue. In the UK my sales are pretty good, but I've had no sales in the US of A for 3/4 days (and we won't talk about Amazon.de because I have no idea what's going on there! In fact, I'm clueless about a lot of things!)
Are all the Kindles broken over there in America? Has the satellite for the 3G wireless network run out of gas? Have all the American people decided to down Kindles and stop reading at the same time? Please feel free to chirp in at any time with a more rational scenario, or if you know the answer SHOUT IT OUT! (Cups hand to ear - hears nothing - no shouting, whispering, or muttering). Now, strangely enough, as soon as I wrote this - and I haven't even published it yet - my US sales started to creep up - is that spooky or what? Well, I did go on Kindleboards and make merry, so maybe that's the answer - making merry!
Another thing is, I don't do any promotional activity, but then if I did where would I do it? Well, that's not strictly true - I tweet now and again through Bookbuzzr, but I'm not a great believer in Twitter. I mean, a tweet only goes to the people who follow me, and all three of them would have to be glued to Twitter at the time that my tweet appeared for them to notice it. Now, the idea would be that one of those three people miraculously notice my tweet and retweet it, which then goes to their three followers, and one of those kind people re-retweets it - ad infinitum, so that the old lady in Alaska who's 105 with black whiskers on her chinny chin chin and has just got broadband in her igloo in the frozen wastes, reads the tweet, but decides she doesn't like crime, scifi, fantasy, or historical fiction and instead of downloading all of my 11 books she downloads one of Mel Comley's, or Stuart Land's, or Rick Murcer's books because they have better covers, blurbs, prices or, liking the look of Stuart Land's cat she rubs her tummy and says, "Yum, yum!"
So, there's my disjointed thoughts on the matter! But anyway, here's another thing! I've just created a new website! You're thinking, "Wow! Something else of his to read - can't wait!" What I've noticed is that my fantastic fantasy book Orc Quest: Prophecy isn't selling - I know, you're thinking, "How can that be when he writes so well?" Well, I can assure you it's true, so I thought I'd give it a website as a present. I haven't put anything on there yet, so be patient. I've just been choosing the design, creating pages, and generally messing about, but tomorrow - tomorrow I'm gonna do it!
Out of the many books you've written, why choose this one to give a website to? I hear you ask. Well, I just had so much fun writing it. Let me tell you a bit about it: The main character is an Orc. Now, Orcs are usually the baddies (think Lord of the Rings), so I thought let's make one a goodie. Grog - that's his name - quakes in fear when he's fighting some Ogres and fails his passage to adulthood (Hey, there's a lesson in there somewhere!) So, the Council of Elders banish him from the Bloodwolf clan - uh oh, what's he gonna do now? Well, his father tells him about a human beyond the Veil of Mists who knows witchery - the trouble is, there haven't been any humans on Garagol since anyone can remember because the Orcs hunted and ate them all (and wouldn't you know it, the Veil of Mists is at the other end of Garagol that is swathed in mist), but if he wants to be a true Bloodwolf warrior he must get back his courage. So begins his quest, but that's not the end of it... I could tell you about his friends and his adversaries such as the baby Dragon called Mimeo, or about Alfick the grumpy Dwarf, and then there's Nub the sneaky Goblin... It's chock-full of memorable characters and places like the Tunnels of Skygge, the Hall of Secrets, the Necropolis of Lost Souls, the Isle of Charon... And don't make the mistake of thinking that it's just for young adults, this book is bursting with humour. If you like my blogs, you'll want to cuddle this book and take it to bed - well, your Kindle anyway! That's it! If you don't love my book then you're not human!
Here's the thing! It seems that only 52 people own a Kindle in America and 199 in the UK! "OK," I hear you say, "please explain?" Well, let's do the numbers. (You know I'm good at numbers from my brilliant mathematical calulations in the last post!)
So, the population of the UK is estimated at 62M (give or take a few illegal immigrants, an old bag lady called Daisy with two front teeth missing pushing an Asda shopping trolly around Hyde Park in London, and a family of half-humans living in the sewers beneath the British Library). So, that's a lot of people! Let's take 10% off that figure rounded up to the nearest million - Call it a cool 50Mil - there's lots of people in the UK who can't read (because they're too young, too old, crazy people, etc - you were thinking I was going to say because they were stupid weren't you? - Shame on you!)
Now, there are 307M people in the US (you needn't check, I've done my research - both sets of figures are from the 2009 Census!) So, that's a ginormous amount of people (can you wrap your brain around a figure like that?) Anyway, let's dispose of the same 10% and round up - and call it a humungous 250M (give or take those damned surfers who never register for the Census, a bag lady called Moffat who wanders around a Mall in Pensylvania dodging the CCTV cameras, and a family of rednecks who survived Burt Reynolds in the film Deliverance - that was an awesome film - and live in the backwoods somewhere in north Carolina!)
Now, I've got 11 books for sale (yeah really - you obviously haven't looked at My Books! Do that now before we move on - Okay?) So, as of today (and I'll leave you to work out when today actually is) I've sold 52 books in the US and 199 in the UK (not a lot spread over 11 ebacks really! Clearly, I am not a self-publishing phenomenon yet like Amanda Hocking or JA Konrath!) Anyway, if every one of those 50M in the UK bought a copy of each of my books that would equate to £143M (Now we're talking figures I can curl my tongue round! And that's just for me - no agent's cut, no publisher's cut, no production manager's tea girl cut - all mine, mine, mine!) But... (there's always a but) that's not an end to it! If every one of those wonderful 250M people in the US bought a copy of each of my books that would be (lines dogs up and starts counting paws) - $960.25M! - Say what? I didn't know figures like that existed. Bill Gates better keep looking over his shoulder at the top of the Forbes super rich list, that's all I can say!
I'm not even going to convert the £'s into $'s (or vikki-verki). Lets face it, when you've got that much money you don't need to get your hands dirty working out how much you've got in the bank, what the exchange rate is, or if you can afford the latest Kindle, do you? So, now that we've worked out how much I should be earning as an author, let's look at the actual figures and try to determine where its all gone wrong, shall (I love that word) we?
I'm not going to give you percentages either because you can easily see that a 199 books as a percentage of 50M people in the UK is a lot more than 52 books as a percentage of 250M people in the US. But... and here's the thing, because people in America aren't buying my books it makes it look like they haven't got a Kindle. Now, I hear you hollering from the rooftops that there might be other reasons such as... (you better be careful here - I don't want to hear you suggest that my books might be crappy stories, or suffer from poor writing and abysmal characterisation because I can assure you...) Anyway, it might be that only 251 (199 + 52) people (assuming that separate people bought a book instead of one person buying multiple books - how sad would that be!) have a Kindle - I expect Amazon will be dumping it as a failed experiment soon! Or, it could be that my marketing strategy is about as good as a baseball bat made from jelly!
Well, before we move on, lets examine the Marketing Mix (or the Four P's) for P's benefit (He knows who he is even if you don't!). Price - I spoke about this in my last blog, and at 99 cents it's competitively priced - some people might say a bargain! Product - superb stories, well-written, edited to a professional standard, eye-catching covers, attention-grabbing product descriptions, sample download problems sorted out, what more could I possibly do? Distribution - Amazon deal with this, but downloading an eback is a pretty simple activity for 99 cents! Which leaves Promotion! I spoke about this in my first post on social networking, but let's go there again and talk specifics. And to start with, here's Beth Barany from the Writer's Fun Zone.
Promotion! Let's unravel this Gordian knot. How can I promote my books, so that 50M people in the UK and 250M in the US buy all of them, and I become a legend in my own padded cell? As usual, things are never as straightford as they seem - that's why I've referred to promotion as a Gordian knot (Click on the picture to read the story of this bit of rope).
What we're trying to do when we promote our book is influence, inform, or persuade a potential buyer to purchase it. If we were rolling in those greenbacks (are they still green?) we could promote our book(s) on the TV or the radio, take out full-page advertising in newspapers and magazines, create an all-singing all-dancing website (like this one), pay to send enticing messages to mobile phones, employ an advertising agency to create an ad campaign like the Guinness Evolution advert (see the video below - brilliant. You Americans don't know what you're missing. I love Guinness, and I love this advert).
Anyway, we ain't got no money, so let's look at what else we can do to get our magnus opus to the unwashed masses. Much has been said (see my first post on social networking) about subtle promotion - going onto the Kindle forums, discussion boards, or other places where readers congregate, and joining in conversations as if you were just a regular guy. The idea is that the readers frequenting those places (and its debateable how many actually do because all the authors go to these dens of iniquity smoke hashish and annoy everybody) are unaware that promotion is taking place because you drop hints, slide oblique mentions into the conversation, have a link underneath your name, but for goodness sake don't ever say: "Buy my book." For one thing, that's not very subtle is it? And not only that, you'll get an email from Amazon saying: "Blatant self-promotion is not permitted."
Next up, we can get reviews done and posted on our books (from family and friends, readers, book review sites, and anyone else that will read your book and give you a review, because these tell the purveyor of fine ebacks that you've got the best book since the invention of the flushing toilet. Then, you can get your book placed on relevant sites. Here's one I prepared earlier: The Knowledge of Time: Second Civilisation. You can start a Blog like this one, but its no good writing drivel. If you're going to draw the punters in off the street (metaphorically speaking), you've got to make the site attactive, the writing scintillating, and it should smell and sound like you know what you're talking about.
You can Guest Blog, and here's a couple I prepared earlier: Mine and Josh Stallings. You can run a Featured Author programme on your site, which will attract visitors through tweeting on Twitter and liking/sharing on Facebook, as I'm doing here. You can give some books away, and here's another one I prepared earlier: Free eBacks. You can also give books away on Goodreads and a lot of other sites I might get round to if I ever stop writing blogs! Finally, there's special events like #SampleSunday, Murder Monday, Thrifty Thursday, and Freaky Friday. Yeah, there's probably something on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday as well, but hey... And, you could offer discounts, run a contest to get free copies of your book, the list is long and requires some innovative ideas.
So, let's get back to the 249.999M people in America and the 51.999M people in the UK who don't own a Kindle - because if they did have one of those nifty little ready things, they would have already bought and downloaded all eleven of my books, devoured them in a readathon, written their reviews as the reader agreement requires of them, and more importantly - I'd be eating a cheesburger and drinking a lime milkshake with Bill Gates in Planet Hollywood. The promotion - it can only be the promotion that's gone wrong! Note to self - must be more subtle on forums and discussion sites; must spread myself and my books about a bit more on other people's sites; must beg, steal and kill for more book reviews; must write more blogs and subtly direct people to My Books! Must...
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.