Sunday, December 30, 2012

What Happened To Free Pt 2: Change or Die Pt 3

In my last post I told you how tiny Ty, the Beanie Baby company, used scarcity as a tool to distinguish themselves in the marketplace and become a billion dollar business.  Scarcity is the tool the Big 6 publishers have used for years.  By keeping most authors out of the market, and by controlling the number of books being published, the Big 6 had the market on lockdown.  Then along came Amazon with its "anyone can be a published author attitude" and pretty soon the Big 6 monopoly came tumbling down.  No wonder the Big 6 hates Amazon so much.  Amazon has single-handedly altered the way the public views buying books.

As I said in my last post, the KDP program of giving away your book on Amazon to stimulate sales was a good thing, but like all good things its effectiveness is coming to an end.  That doesn't mean it has to be the end of free ebooks.  Free is a great marketing tool... but so is scarcity.  Here's how you can use scarcity to improve your sales, grow your fanbase, and get some awesome reviews in the process.

Most of what I am about to say has been covered in several earlier posts, but today I am going to put it all together for you in one succinct post.  To begin, if you're an author and you're not on Goodreads, you need to sign up now.  Goodreads is an indie authors second most important marketing tool and it's free.  The reason you need to be on Goodreads is it's the best place to host a giveaway.  Goodreads is like Facebook for avid readers.  All you need to do is post your giveaway and they will do all the work to market it for you.  You can't beat that.

To host a giveaway, go to your Goodreads author dashboard, scroll down to giveaways and click.  Then click on "List a giveaway" (it should be on the upper right hand side) and you're in business.  Goodreads walks you through the rest of the process.  You can give away as many books as you like, but I only give away one.  Giving away just one book makes your book seem a lot more valuable--remember, we're working with scarcity here. 

The first day of your giveaway and the last two days Goodreads promotes it on lists: New giveaways the first day,and soon to be ending giveaways the last two days.  If you hold a 5 day giveaway, Goodreads will be promoting your book for you for 3 of the 5 days.  You can't beat that, either.  The only drawback is you have to give away a paper book (Goodreads is currently working to make ebooks part of the program).  If your book is ebook only, you can go to Createspace and print up a few hard copies just for giveaways.  The time and cost to set this up will be well worth it.  I've had as many as 1400 requests for a free book listed for just a few days.

In the end you've not only given away just one book, but now you have a list of readers who not only know about your book (Impressions) but who want to read your book.  I use this list to find qualified reviewers.  You can now message those who didn't win and offer them a free ecopy of your book in exchange for an Amazon review.  I did this with The Zombie Always Knocks Twice and garnered 10 excellent Amazon reviews in just a few weeks.

Finally, if you've given your book a compelling description, some of those who didn't win the giveaway will buy your book as soon as the contest is over.  So there you have it.  Just as Ty used scarcity to grow their business, and the Big 6 used scarcity to control the market, you, too, can use scarcity to grow your fanbase, your sales and your reviews.  And let's face it, you can't beat that with a stick.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Have A Hollly Zombie Christmas

I want to wish all my friends, fans, frans and anyone who enjoys my blog a Merry Christmas and The Happiest of New Years. 

On Christmas Eve night, sleep tight, don't let the zombies bite.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What Happened to Free?: Change or Die Pt 2

In this, the second of my Change or Die posts for authors, I will address the subject of free ebooks.

In the mid 90s the cutest tiny plush toy began getting a foothold in the hearts of Americans.  You could find these little devils in office cubicles, on coffee tables, and even on car dashboards.  Beanie Babies came on the scene very quickly.  Suddenly everyone had one.  People lusted after the newest characters when they were released.  The tiny plush toys were only sold in small card and gift shops.  It wasn't uncommon back then to see little cardboard signs in gift shop windows touting "Beanie Babies In Stock."  That's because Beanie Babies seemed to be always out of stock.  And when a store got their hands on a tiny shipment, they were sold out within hours.  People waited in lines; people offered bribes to shop owners to let them know when a knew shipment was about to arrive.  America had simply gone crazy over Beanie Babies.

Enterprising companies began making knock-offs of the characters.  Not so much counterfeits (although there were many) but similar products that could be sold in larger department stores.  At first these knew knock-offs surged in popularity.  Beanie Baby-like plush toys were in abundance in my city of LA.  Yet after a few months, the knock-offs fell out of favor.  During this surge in knock-off popularity the Beanie Baby company (Ty) never veered from their business model: only make a few, only sell them in small stores.  They did not succumb to the urge to make more babies.  This strategy propelled Ty to become a tiny empire worth more than $ 6 billion.  Ty realized larger companies could have better designs, cheaper labor, better pricing, and easy availability.  Ty couldn't compete on that level, so they stuck with the only thing had going for them--scarcity.

Early in 2011 many authors began touting their success with Amazon's KDP program.  This program allowed them to give a book a away for free on Amazon for a few days.  The end result was always a wave of sales.  Free is a great marketing tool, and these early adaptors used it to rack up big sales.  By March there were over 3000 free ebooks on Amazon on any given day, as authors who'd heard about the free bonanza flocked to Amazon's KDP in hopes of big sales.

I heard about the program in April.  I begged my publisher to try it with one of my books for the summer.  In June we enrolled Boyfriend From Hell in the KDP program, and in our first giveaway we gave away over 10,000 free ebook copies... and sure enough, when we put the book back up for sale, my sales climbed.  I didn't achieve the amazing results I'd heard about, but it was good.  In a month, however, my sales had dropped back to their normal level.  We gave the book away again in August with less than stellar results.  In September my new publisher (Imajin) gave away my then new book, The Zombie Always Knocks Twice to disastrous results.  I'm sure the book and our marketing plan was part of the problem, but the real problem was clutter.  By June there were over 5000 free ebooks available on Amazon on any given day.  As of this past Monday there were 5587 free ebooks on Amazon.  647 new books were added since the day before.  Almost 700 new people were screaming "download my free book" on Monday. And guess what?  Most of them had disastrous results.  The 32 books that had 18 or more 4.0 + reviews made it onto a list.  The others didn't and probably won't.  Welcome to the world of the cluttered marketplace.

Are the days of free over? No, not by a long shot.  Free is a great marketing tool. But with at least 6 websites posting their free ebooks of the day each morning, it's hard to get seen through the clutter.  It's hard, but not impossible.  In my next post I'll tell you how to take a tip from the Beanie Baby company to distinguish your next free giveaway and make it more valuable. 


The statistics come from my publisher, White Whisker Books, who got them from Anthony Wessel at Digital Book Today.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Indie Authors: Change or Die Pt 1

I have so much I want to say that I'm afraid I may ramble, so I apologize in advance.

When I was a young man living in The Bronx, New York, I had an apartment in a lovely two family house on a beautiful tree-lined street (Yes, trees in The Bronx. Who knew?). The house had a garage, but we never used it to park our cars. That's because the family who owned the house had filled the garage with--excuse the term--crap. We kept the snow shovels at the lip of the garage so we could find them when we needed to dig out the driveway. To find anything else stored in that garage could take hours and sometimes even days.

I remember one time looking for a box I had stored there (Yes, I stored some of my own crap in the garage as well), it took me nearly an hour to find it. The box couldn't have been more than a few feet from the front of the garage, and yet it took forever to find it because of all the clutter.

I'm sure many of you can relate as you have your own clutter in drawers or closets or even your garage. The thing about clutter is, it makes it difficult to find things--even important things that you're looking for. Unfortunately for the modern author, indie or otherwise, this is what has occurred with today's book marketplace. It's filled with clutter. If it was difficult to market your books last year, this year is even more difficult because of the clutter. Now the holiday season is upon us, the perfect time of year to market our books. BUT BEWARE. There are probably 100,000 more books in the market this year than last year. Perhaps your new novel is one of them. So how can you get noticed with all this clutter?

The first thing I want to tell you as an indie author is that people don't buy books--they buy authors. They lust after Stephen King's or James Patterson's latest. If J.K. Rowling published a napkin fans would buy it. Why? Because your fans, like your friends, want to hear more from you. It is important to cultivate fans--especially in a cluttered marketplace. And I know some of you are thinking "but I'm not Stephen King." Well, I'm not either, and I probably won't ever get close to being like him. Most of us won't. And that's okay. Anyone can cultivate fans. But you can't if you don't realize that that is what you should be doing. You have to think beyond your book or books.  Think fans.  I feel my fans are my friends and try to treat them as such.  My fans aren't just people who buy my books, I care for them.

As I've said on many occasion, Goodreads and Twitter are an author's greatest marketing tools. And both of these awesome tools are free. BUT BEWARE, as the market changes, how we use these tools has changed as well. Less than a year ago I wrote in my very popular post on Impressions how I used Twitter to increase sales.  Back then, 10 to 12 well placed tweets in a day would practically guarantee me a few sales.  But that doesn't work today.  It doesn't work because thousands upon thousands of authors are tweeting "buy my book." Both your tweets and mine are getting lost in the clutter or noise.  When 1000 people are saying "buy my book," you might buy it.  When 100,000 people are saying "buy my book," you wish they'd shut up... that is, unless they are your friend. 

So while I think you should still tweet "buy my book,"  I believe the bulk of your tweets should have another purpose.  That purpose is to make a connection with people. I like to help people.  It's my personality to help, so I tweet information or advice for indie authors (like this post).  I also have a sense of humor, so if I find something funny, I RT it.  Eventually my personality begins to shine through in my tweets.  At least I hope it does, because, remember, fans aren't just buying my books, they're buying me, and they can't buy me if they don't feel a connection with me.  Your personality is your first defense against getting lost in the clutter.  Decide who you are, and then blog and tweet through your personality, and pretty soon you'll have fans who'll want to know when your next book is coming out--fans who will be able to spot you through the clutter.

The writing's on the wall.  Things are changing quickly in the indie book world, people, and we're either going to change with them, or get left in the dust.

More to come.  Peace.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Heaven Sent Arrived This Morning

If you're a fan of The Falling Angels Saga, I am so happy to announce that Heaven Sent the third, and next to last book in the saga, arrived this morning and is looking for a little attention.  My latest book comes with the same page-turning drama and sense of humor as the earlier books as Megan Barnett attempts to get herself out of yet another sticky situation.  Earth Angel (the 2nd book in the saga) ended in a stunning cliffhanger.  If you are one of the fans whose been waiting an entire year to find out what happens next, your wait is over.  Check out the back cover blurb:

What Does It All Mean?
Readers who devoured Boyfriend From Hell and Earth Angel will be captivated by the third book in the Falling Angels Saga.

As summer break for Glendale Union High begins, heartsick Megan awaits Guy's return while struggling to control her emerging abilities.  Love is in the air, but can the new loves in Megan, Maudrina, Suze and Aunt Jaz's lives be trusted? Nothing is what it seems.  Meanwhile, the Satanists are set to hatch their most diabolical scheme ever, and if it comes to pass, Satan may finally win out.

Megan has precious little time to unravel the cryptic message hidden in the riddle she received at the end of Earth Angel. If she doesn’t, the life of someone most dear to her will be lost forever, and Megan may yet find herself living in HELL.

“The third book in E. Van Lowe’s Falling Angels Saga is his most thrilling yet.”

I am so excited about this latest book in the saga.  It was the toughest to write, but I believe it will be the most satisfying.  And if you're satisfied, you know I'm satisfied. Kindle owners can get it here: HS For Kindle.  Nook owners can get it here: HS For Nook.  It will only be available as an ebook for a few weeks, but in January you should be able to pick up the paper copy as well.

If you're a fan and would like to become a member of my fran club The 25, please click here: The 25 and read the post that explains what you need to do.  Members of The 25 get special announcements, contests, and a FREE novella, and other goodies.  So if you've been reading and enjoying my books, please take the next step and join my little insider group.

It's morning here, time for me to go for my celebratory cup of coffee.  That's how I'm celebrating, Cindy.  Coffee.  Yum!  Happy pub day to me.