Author Archive | Andrew

The Great Google Book Ad Experiment

(aka Can a Google Ad Sell Books)

Week 1

Cover of Nightfall by Andrew J Harvey

I have previously blogged about the failure of online advertising to sell books. My most recent blog on this was in September 2015  and entitled: “Does online advertising work for books?” This blog was based on an IBPA survey, and our own experience in 2014 with a series of blog-ads that cost us $330. For this we got 86,000 views, which gave us slightly over 43 click-throughs, and which in turn resulted in two sales. Given other examples quoted by the IBPA it was clear that online advertising doesn’t work for books.

About two weeks ago, however, I received a phonecall from an individual working for Google to inform me that because I had registered Hague Publishing as a business on business.google.com  they would be providing technical and artistic assistance to me for three months to develop and tune a Google advertisement.

That generated a conversation that went for 1.5 hours as John and I tried to work out what products Hague Publishing produced (Science Fiction and Fantasy books), and what type of advertisement might actually result in us selling more books (probably none). However, during that conversation it occurred to me that online advertising of non-Fiction books such as self-help and DIY might result in some sales if the search terms were narrowly focussed on those areas the books were about. And then flowing on from that perhaps people searching for ‘alternate history’, which is a pretty niche genre, might be interested in an alternate history book. And so I agreed to advertise my most first book “Nightfall”, published by Zmok Books.

The first thing was to come up with the search terms that would be used. This is set by a combination of the ‘business’ and the services/products being sold. This was the first problem as describing the business as a ‘publisher’ gave terms that focussed on ‘printing’, not ‘books’. Changing the business to ‘bookseller’ created more useful categories, although even here terms such as ‘new books for 2016’ isn’t going to get your ad in front of the right people. Luckily Google lets you turn search terms ‘off’ which resulted in me turning off all 221. It was more useful however when I listed the services/products as ‘alternate history’. This gave me 20, very specific search terms.  

As the advertisement links direct to the paperback listed on the Hague Publishing site, and postage overseas is a real killer I set the advertisement to initially only be offered in Australia. A further restriction is that the advertisement will only run Friday-Sunday, hopefully putting itself before people who are in the mood to whip out their credit cards. In an effort to increase conversion rates, however, I also updated the listing to include links to eBook distributors, including Kobo, Google, Apple, and Amazon.

So will this advertisement actually appear before anyone, and if it does – will it result in any sales? I’ll keep you informed.

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Book reviews are important

Reviews - thumbs up

The following was extracted from Judith Briles' guest post entitled 'As the Author World Turns on Amazon Book Review Policies' on Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer. The Blog was posted 21 March 2019.

Authors need reviews on their books. Lots of them.

Once, there are 25, the [Amazon's] robots warm up. More than 50, expect to see cross promotion: book covers pop up on “like” books … “Customers who bought this item also bought …” meaning that your book cover gets displayed on other author pages.

As your reviews build up (think more than 75), Amazon does email blast, suggesting your book cover with the live link to viewers of the site that have shown an “interest” in your category with their searches. How cool is that?

So yes, reviews do count. Big time.

While Judith has anecdotal evidence supporting her claims about the effect of Amazon reviews the comments under the post make clear that this is a contentious area, and even if Judith is correct, as she wrote in response to one comment: "Guaranteed – Amazon always changes its system. What is good today, may not be next week."

Anecdotally, however, I just got an email blast from Amazon.com suggesting I might like Melissa F. Olson's new book Boundary Broken which had, when I checked 69 reviews. OK, OK, Amazon knows that I've bought the previous three books in the series, but still ....

Anyway, regardless of how important reviews are, I think any author would agree that any positive review is helpful, and the more the better.

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In L.I.E.U. - coming soon

Librarian, thief, or time-cop? Sometimes, not even those concerned can tell the difference — particularly when time-travel is involved, and things happen in order, out of order, and simultaneously at different times.

Welcome to the time travelling world of L.I.E.U. A future world where nothing is quite as it seems.

Pre-order: available 2 April 2019

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The What and Why of Pricing

In the process of releasing Barry Dean's latest book In L.I.E.U. (due out 2 April 2019), Barry asked the excellent question as to how we set the price of the ebook against its paperback companion. While a simple question the answer is more than a little complicated.

Ebook pricing

Hague Publishing initially started as an exclusively ebook publisher and set the price of its books on what I believed an ebook should sell for, which was $5.00 Australian. This was at a time (way back in in 2011) when the Australian dollar enjoyed relative price parity with the US dollar. Basically I set a price which I believed set sufficient value on the author's time and effort in writing the book. This was also in the early days of ebook publishing when those releasing the ebook (e.g. publishers and self-published authors) were still experimenting in price.

When the Australian dollar fell we were able to drop the price to $3.99 US without affecting our author's earnings (as $3.99 US equated to $5 AU and most of our ebook sales come from the US). More recently we have continued the trend and dropped the price to $3.50US. This is slightly higher than the $3-a-book price point independent publishers appear to have settled on (Forbes), but in my view is within shooting distance. The $3 price point is actually a result of Amazon, and Barnes and Noble adopting $2.99 as the point where the royalties paid increase from 35% to 70% for Amazon, and 40% to 65% for B&N. Adopting a general rule of $3.99 also allows us to lower the price we sell the first book in series at while retaining access to the higher royalty rate.

Others have pointed out to me that many ebooks are selling for $8 US or more. However, Adam Rowe (writing for Forbes) pointed out in December 2018 that this pricing was the result of the Big Five publishing houses raising their prices and as a result suffering a 10% drop in epub sale in 2017 (i.e. pricing themselves out of the market).

Paperback pricing (print on demand)

Paperback pricing is a little more difficult as instead of just the 'fair' value to recompense an author you need to consider :

  • the cost of printing, packaging, and postage, and boy is this a killer! Bottom line is that while POD is a wonderful thing you don't really start turning a reasonable profit on anything less than an order of ten books.
  • the cost of the bookseller's discount (somewhere between 45% and 55%)
  • the cost of holding stock, and
  • the cost of posting books to purchasers ($5 for postage within Australia if you can meet the printed matter criteria)

One thing that is worth pointing out is the advice that I received from one bookseller which was: that if no-one wants to buy your book you won't be able to sell it regardless of price. Against that is anecdotal feedback that pricing a book at more than $30 is going to reduce the number of people interested in buying it.

Until recently Hague Publishing has been selling its paperback at between $18 and $21. After reviewing our pricing structure we will be moving to setting an initial list price of around $25. This will permit us to increase the standard booksellers discount from 45% to 55%. It won't affect the price books are provided to our authors (which is set at cost plus 20%), and will allow them more flexibility in what they set their own sale price at.

Profit margins compared

Before finishing a quick aside. Our royalty rates are generally:

  • 45% on ebook net sales
  • 15% on paperback net sales

So for 10 ebooks, selling on Amazon.com at $5AU the author might expect to receive $15.75.

For the same 10 paperbacks, selling at $25 each the author might only receive $11.50.

Based on the above you can see why I prefer ebooks!

Ingram Spark's calculators

For those of you interested you can then use this link to IngramSpark's website to calculate:

  • The amount of compensation from sales to booksellers (you will want to set the wholesale discount level at between 45 and 55% if you actually want a bookseller to stock your book.
  • The cost of actually printing and shipping books.
  • The weight and spine width. To be able to post a book at the letter rate of $5 it must weight less than 500 gm and be thinner (including the packaging) than 20mm.
  • To create a cover template.

I hope this has proved helpful.

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7 steps to easier editing revisions

Person editing paper manuscriptYou've just got your Word file back from the editor. You open the file and blanch at the number of changes they've recommended. Certainly you can just accept them all - but don't. It's your book and we editors don't always get it right.

Based on Lisa Poisso's much more detailed post, however, the following 7 steps will speed up the process of moving to the final version.

Before you begin, remember that you really can’t go wrong if you save early and often. Keep saving regularly as you go so that if you make a big mistake (easy to do in the era of global search and replace), you can step back to a recent version.

7 steps to easier editing revisions

  1. read your editorial report
  2. get ready for your first read-through
    1. learn how to use Word’s Track Changes. For help on this see  Track Changes video tutorial
    2. save your edited document with a new name. Use a descriptive file name for your new file that includes the title, editing status, revision status, and date: GirlLineEditedRev1_0613
    3. turn off the Revisions Pane.
    4. change the colour of the edits. Set Insertions to Teal and Deletions to Grey – 25%. Then set Moved From to Grey – 25% and Moved To to Teal (this makes the grey deletions fade away and the teal insertions pop out).
  3. deal with your editor’s comments on a first pass through the manuscript
  4. on the second pass
    1. Reject any edits you do not want to keep (i.e. things you want left as you originally wrote them)
    2. revise edits your editor has made that you’d like a different way
    3. skip over the corrections and edits you like and want to keep. Simply pass them by with no action.
  5. accept All on the rest of the edits
  6. check for remaining comments and edits
  7. get a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript to proofread it before you publish.

For more information, with step by step guides, visit at Lisa Poisso's original post.

 

Track Changes Guide: Tips and tricks for handling revisions

 

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Latest review for Jon Puckridge's ON

Blue bleeding down a white cover with ONThe Future is ON by Joel Smith

Goodreads review

I very much enjoyed this book, but it seems to me, (and maybe only me), that you have to read a "quantum-speculative-cyberfi" book differently than you would a traditional, or normal, novel. I'm a huge fan of writers like Hannu Rajaniemi, ("The Quantum Thief"), and everyone else who tries to predict the electronic, cyber and social media future and who tries to translate quantum principles and theories into "sciencey" plot points.

The basic thrust here is that humans are moving from wireless headsets connected to the grID, their current reality of choice, to neural implants that completely tie them in to a hive mentality. (This is what it means to be ON through One Network.) The question is, what will this do to any human sense of past and future, as opposed to the purely now. Additionally, what becomes of reality, individuality, free will, privacy, moral responsibility, and the like. It's a dystopian, (or utopian, depending on your point of view), variation and elaboration on where we are now. The author sweetens, and confuses, the deal with a few other lines.

In addition to humans the world is populated by rooins, who are completely sentient robots with equal civil rights. Since humans are Darwinian, (evolutionary chance), and rooins are Lamarckian, (each new generation acquires improvements made to the prior generation), there is fear that rooins are outpacing humans developmentally. (BTW, they are.)

On top of that, and this may be the bridge-too-far that has lost some readers, all of this is destabilizing the boundaries of space-time and there are disturbances at the quantum level. I like this fluffy goofy pseudo-quantum stuff, but if you don't like playing along then it could easily get old.

We also get a huge cast of characters, and a murder mystery, but that seems to be there so the main characters can go places and do things, and it would probably be a mistake to go into this thinking it's just a futuristic mystery thriller.

What it mostly is, though, is a thought experiment World's Fair. Remember those fairs and expos in the 60's and 70's, (New York, Montreal), that showed us that the future is now? Jetsons cars and color TV and Dick Tracy wristphones? Well, that's sort of what you get a tour of here. Every page, (I mean that almost literally), mentions or includes or describes some odd futuristic electronic, social, communications wrinkle. Almost none of them have anything to do with the story, but when all is said and done they really are the story. As we follow the characters, everything they eat, drink, see, hear, wear, or talk about or talk into, is next-level stuff. It's all wild but plausible. It's the next-gen extension of what we have now. And it's all just a little twisted, or dark, or dehumanizing, or pointless, or meaningless.

So, this author has a firm grasp on the world he sees. He writes, and describes, great main characters and pretty interesting supporting and incidental characters, which helps to put the vision in context. He doesn't miss the little details that sell this sort of world building. Plot and resolution? Not so much. But, as I say, it seems you have to read these novels a bit differently.

So, are you ON?

Links:

http://www.haguepublishing.com/sample/ON.html
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1973513767

Cover of ON

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Faithless - released 21 April

Welcome baCover of book showing a shadow of a man against a bridgeck to the frozen and devastated world of Shaune's Safe Harbour.

Ten years ago Rab learned the secret of the planet he calls home - and lost the young girl he'd vowed to protect; traded for a sweater, a set of gloves and a second-hand pair of boots. Since then, he's wandered the barren surface alone searching for her, returning to the tunnels only when hunger, exhaustion or the inconstant seasons offer him no choice. When a freak accident occurs during the harvest, the death of an old friend finds Rab agreeing to abandon his search and guide Fin, now a tunnel-dweller, and Cloud, a former captive of the Top-siders, back to his old village to deliver a macabre and precious cargo. Although reconciled to honouring his word, Rab is convinced that their reckless journey south will tell him nothing he doesn't already know and that the secret he has dutifully guarded all these years is in no danger of being exposed. He is wrong.

"I really enjoyed this book. Even though it's the middle one in a trilogy, it stands alone perfectly. There's always a sense of mystery in Lafferty Webb's work, a mystery that seems to be conveyed between the lines rather than in them. This sense of mystery gives an extra dimension to everything she writes. The plot has some lovely, imaginative developments, and the ending left me keen to read the last book in the series when it comes out." Danielle de Valera

Read Sample

 

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