Tag Archives: Amazon

Get your FREE copy of “With This Shield”

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As promised, I want to inform readers that The Wandering King (Book 2:  With This Shield), will be available for free from July 21 through July 25.  This applies only to the ebook available through Amazon.

While I made The Wandering King (Book 1: Summer, Harvest, War), available pretty much everywhere, one of the things I’ve learned over the past two years is that Amazon is king when it comes to book distribution.  Therefore, I’ve decided to offer book 2 through Amazon only. This allows me to take part in their Kindle Select program which makes the book available to readers enrolled in Amazon Unlimited.

While these are not exact figures, here is a rough estimate of the ebook sales book 1 has received from the following booksellers:

Amazon:  2,000+
Barnes & Noble:   20
Apple iBookstore:  10
Kobo Books: 5
Smashwords:  2
Scribd, and all others:  1

These are all ebook sales.  One of the big surprises in writing The Wandering King is that hard copies of books are slowly going the way of the CD, videocassette and the poodle skirt.  In comparison, roughly 50 paperbacks have been purchased through Amazon, 3 through Barnes & Noble and 10 at my local booksellers.

Also impacting my decision is that book 1 received 50+ reviews on Amazon, 1 review on Barnes & Noble, and no reviews on any of the other online sites.  Although I would like to place book 2 in as many outlets as possible, it just doesn’t seem worth the time and effort.

My apologies to all those who own a Nook.  If there is a bright side, CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution has placed the paperback version of book 2 for sale at Barnes & Noble.  I am unsure whether or not they make it available on any of the other bookseller sites.

If you pickup a free copy of book 2 and enjoy what you read, would love to know about it.  Even better, post a review on Amazon.  Your comments have the power to contribute greatly to the success of the book.

Just to mention it, a paperback version is available for $15.95.  It pains me to have to offer the paperback of book 2 for $1 more than book 1, but unfortunately the additional 60 pages of text added to the price.

Most paperbacks today fall in the 13.95 to 17.95 range.  A 375-page novel costs an average of $16.95.  Book 2 is 444 pages long, so although $15.95 is high compared to the $3.99 cost of the ebook, hopefully readers still find the cost reasonable compared to other books.

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It’s here! Book 2 of The Wandering King published.

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Apologies Department

I owe readers of the the first book in The Wandering King series a sincere apology.  It was a huge mistake on my part to think I would have the second book done by the end of 2014.

As you may well imagine, a book is, quite simply, finished when it is finished, nor will that conform to a set date.  Rather than rushing out an inferior story, I felt it was more important to get the job done right.

Book two, subtitled, With This Shield, is a longer than book one, Summer, Harvest, War, by two chapters.  Which I did not anticipated when I started writing back in the summer of 2013.

Book two is a more complex book.  Not that you need an engineering degree to read it, it’s just that the story line and characters are more multifaceted.  Whereas, book one was at its core, an adventure story, book two continues in the same vein, but also gets into areas of Greek philosophy, politics and religion, that I hope readers enjoy.

Too, I have also been remiss in keeping up with this blog.  When given the option of working on the book or creating a blog post, the choice was easy.  I devoted all of my free time and put all of my efforts into finishing the book.

So I hope my readers will forgive me.  The good news is:  the book is done.  It was placed on Amazon this afternoon.  By Monday, it should have been approved for sale by Amazon.  If book two is received half as well as book one, I will be immensely satisfied.

Appreciation Section

Several thank yous are in order.  A shout out to my friend and mentor, Dr. James Morris, for assisting me with the proofreading.   Though I probably gave him an ulcer by spelling many names using the Greek form when he preferred the Latin, such as Heracles for Hercules, and Asclepius for Aesculapius, I appreciate his ability to back off when needed.

Sincere thanks to Jean Cauller, at Green Eye for Design, for helping me with the book cover.

In addition to producing the cover for With This Shield, I also asked Jean to redo the cover for Summer, Harvest, War.  The primary change was to enlarge the book title, so that it’s easier to read as a thumbnail on Amazon’s website.  Jean did a great job, and will be assisting me with the paperback covers as well.

Anticipation Sector

While the book might be up for sale June 29, you might want to hold off for a few days.  My intention is to offer the book for free for 5 days.  When I do, I’ll tip people off here in my blog.

It’s my small way of attempting to repay my loyal readers and thank them for being patient with me.  Can’t wait to see how the story is received.

 

The Good, the Bad, the Mediocre: Amazon Reviews

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Good Reviews: The Bubbles in the Champagne

Since publishing The Wandering King in April of 2013, approximately 2,000 copies have been distributed through various booksellers.

Ninety-seven percent of the sales have been e-books rather than hard copies, and 99% have been through Amazon. A distant second is Barnes & Noble (20 sales), and behind them is Apple iBookstore (2 sales). Dead last is Smashwords (1 sale).

The success The Wandering King has received on Amazon has been largely due to the reviews.  The average rating of your combined reviews gives your book a ranking under the ‘top rated’ listing and a special spot on Amazon’s web page.  This ranking has placed my book in the #1 to #3 spot under the Ancient Greek History category for the last 9 months.

To date, the book has received 40 reviews on Amazon.  Here is a breakdown of the number of 5-star through 1-star reviews:

                (28) 5 stars
                (9) 4 stars
                (2) 3 stars
                (1) 1 star

It has been a delight to read reviews such as:

  • Turning the last page of a good book, ending a good read, is like saying goodbye to a dear friend. One relishes the experience of both and longs for more time together…                    

                                       Dianne Smith

  • Many thanks to the guy who wrote this book. Really enjoyed it and have recommended it to all my friends. The book is something special, great character development; this man can really write.  

                                      Steve Fowler

  • Well-crafted historical fiction both educates and entertains the reader. Stephen Marte’s ‘The Wandering King’ achieves those goals. I’m looking forward to reading more of his story…

                                      Gregory Stoltz

  • Fantastic story, absolutely loved this. It is the story of a young Spartan growing from boyhood to manhood. The author portrays a character raised in a harsh world, but who still dares to defy tradition and what is expected of him. Brilliant, I cannot wait for the sequel…

                                      Tomas

A heart-felt thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write a review.  You have greatly contributed to the success of The Wandering King.

I do not know Dianne, Steve, Greg or Tomas, or the vast majority of my reviewers, which makes reading their reviews immensely gratifying.  Knowing people you’ve never met in Pittsburgh, Dallas or Portland enjoyed the story so much they can’t wait to read more, is music to any writer’s ears.

Admittedly, I do know four of my reviewers. My mom, my brother and two friends have reviewed The Wandering King, but they all read the book and enjoyed it, so their reviews are legitimate. Knowing Amazon will delete your book and toss you off their site if you try planting fake reviews, is all the motivation any author should need to play it honest.

I wish I could get more of my family, friends and co-workers to post reviews. When someone tells me they’ve read the book and loved it, my stock response is: “Put it in writing. Post a review.” Unfortunately, the majority of people who have told me they’ve read the book, never post anything.

Bad Reviews: The Worm in the Apple

The Wandering King has received only one bad review. After a year of nothing but good reviews, I received this in May 2014:

  • This is one I put down early. I’ve read Herodotus a number of times and have wondered what Doreius [sic] and His [sic] adventures to the lotus eaters could have looked like. The author tells his story rather than shows. The writing lacks even basic description. I do not have any idea where the other reviewers gave this book even a score higher than 2. It’s that briutal [sic].

                                    Sparta Fan

If Sparta Fan had an axe to grind with me, he succeeded.  His 1-star review succeeded in knocking The Wandering King off its perch as the #1 top-rated Ancient Greek History book on Amazon.  Seems hard to believe one review could knock me out of the top seat, but it did, which has adversely affected book sales.

As a professional writer who has spent a lifetime researching The Wandering King and three years writing and polishing his work, it is distressing to read, “the author tells his story rather than shows” and “the writing lacks even basic description.”

I refer Sparta Fan to the first chapter of the book, which appears here in my blog, The Planistai. To quote a sample of showing versus telling:

  • While we waited, I noticed Gorgo was trembling beside me. “Are you all right?”
    She looked at me wide-eyed. “I am so excited!”

If I wanted to tell the reader how Gorgo was feeling, all I had to do was say, “Gorgo was excited.”  Instead, these two lines show her trembling and wide-eyed.

Also in the same chapter appears:

  • “No girl is going to tell me what to do,” my cousin Pausanias snorted. Especially not the daughter of Cleomenes. Pausanias was a husky boy, with a thick neck, gloomy, deep-set dark eyes, a face full of pimples and a broad, pug nose that had always made me think of him as a wart hog.

If I wanted to tell the reader Pausanias did not like Gorgo, all I had to say was, “Pausanias did not like Gorgo.” Instead you see how Pausanias feels through his dialogue. Also in the paragraph is a brief description of Pausanias’ appearance. Why Sparta Fan would state the book “lacks even basic description” makes me wonder if he even read it.

Rather than continue to quote additional excerpts from The Wandering King, if you want to make up your own mind on the matter, please read the sample chapter on this site: The Planistai. It’s free.

I apologize if I sound defensive. I am. Writing is an intensely personal experience. Your books are like your children. Insult my son and like any good parent, my reaction is to leap to his defense.

A friend who read Sparta Fan’s review called it a ‘hatchet job.’ In looking over the other books Sparta Fan’s has reviewed on Amazon, I see he’s highly rated a number of books by British author David Gemmell. I’ve tried to read Gemmell’s work, but I don’t care for his style. I would describe his writing as, ‘historical fantasy,’ which doesn’t interest me. To be fair to Sparta Fan, I am guessing he was expecting historical fantasy like Gemmell’s work and instead got historical fiction. 

In the end, what I’ve learned from reading Sparta Fan’s review is that everyone has different preferences, and you can’t expect to please everyone.  It’s like looking at a painting by Picasso. One person sees an odd collection of blocks and colors that remind them of fingerpainting, while another person sees a woman weeping that is so evocative the viewer is moved to tears.

I suppose all I can do is be thankful that the majority of my readers appear to enjoy my writing.  On the flip side, I’ve learned that reading negative reviews can destroy your motivation.  Who wants to spend all of the time and energy required to write a book if some stranger with an axe to grind is going to piss all over your work?

Mediocre Reviews: The Flavorless, Chewy Steak

The Wandering King has only received two 3-star reviews. In one, the reviewer had nothing but good things to say about the book.

  • The Wandering King is an entertaining read that paints a different picture of the principal families of Sparta than other books of the same genre. Interesting stories, good detail, and enough action to keep the pages turning.

                                          David Nolletti    

David appears to have enjoyed the story.  Why he gave it an average rating is a mystery.  Perhaps to him a 3-star rating means it met his expectations or maybe some people are just tough reviewers.

The only other 3-star review commented that the book was “entertaining” but he found it troublesome that I used some modern language that he did not feel was appropriate to ancient Greece. Wish he had given some examples. If he had, I would have corrected them.

* * * * *

Where initially I loved seeing a new book review appear, I am now a lot more tentative about reading them.  It’s tempting not to look them at all lest it sap my energy to keep writing.  That said, I have no intentions of quitting.  Yes, I write so others will read what I’ve written, but first and foremost, I write to create something I would enjoy reading, and that feeling is not likely to go away.

If others have had similar experiences or advice regarding book reviews, would be curious to hear them.

Stealing Helen

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Co-Authoring a Work of Fiction

In March, I placed a new short story titled, Stealing Helen, for sale on Amazon.  It was co-authored with my cousin Richard LaVerghetta.  I wrote about growing up with Rich in my blog post, The Calling.  Rich’s mother and my mother are identical twins, so Rich and I spent a lot of time together when we were young.  In the process we developed some similar interests, such as our love of ancient history.

One night while Rich and I were watching the movie Troy, we spent the majority of the time groaning at all of the movie’s errors.  For instance, in one scene the Greek city of Sparta appears on the coast.  In actuality, Sparta is inland, about 30 miles from the sea.

Sad to say, Troy is about as accurate as Sarah Palin’s 2011 comment that during the Revolutionary War, Paul Revere rode to warn the British, not the American colonists.  While laughing at the movie’s many gaffs, we wondered if the film had a historical consultant (it doesn’t).  If it had, we postulated that the poor fellow probably demanded his name be deleted from the credits as it would serve as a black mark on his career.

Thus the idea for Stealing Helen was born.  It’s main character, Donald, is a fictional history professor at Princeton University, and the historical consultant on the film.  Most of the characters are based on real people involved with the film, including; Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Peter O’Toole, Diane Kruger and the director Wolfgang Peterson.

To let people know this is not journalism, this is farce, we added a sub-title on the cover, “A satire about the movie Troy,” and we added a disclaimer on the copyright page stating, “This is a work of satire.  All characters and events in this story, including those based on real people, are entirely fictional.”

To write the story, Rich and I adopted a technique we used when we were teenagers.  I wrote a scene of the story, sent it to Rich, who wrote the next scene, and so forth.

What began as a project to poke fun at Troy, became something else as the story progressed.  I’m not sure how it happened, but as we were writing we began drawing parallels between what was going on in ancient Troy and what was going on in Donald’s personal life.

The end result, particularly the ending of the story, was a surprise to Rich and I, as it concluded with a scene we had not foreseen when we initiated the project.  Chalk it up to the magic of writing.   Sometimes delightful things happen that you hadn’t anticipated.   What started out as comedy, ends with something poignant to say about relationships.

Decision to Place only on Amazon

The story appears only on Amazon.  At this point, I see no reason to place it on Barnes & Nobles or Smashwords, as neither book seller yields anywhere near the number of readers as Amazon.  From what I’ve noted over the past year, Amazon truly is king.

One additional note.  It appears that Amazon’s ‘free book’ promotion is drying up.  It’s no where near as effective as it was a year ago.  In April 2013, when I offered The Wandering King for free for five days it yielded approximately 900 downloads.  When I did similar with the short story Inherit the Flames early in 2014, it yielded about 150 downloads.  Stealing Helen yielded only 75.

From what I’ve read, Amazon has woken up to the fact that they don’t make any money by offering free content.  So it seems they’ve changed their mysterious algorithms related to book rankings yet once again.  Where in the past, after offering your book for free it ended up placed high in its book category, now there is no lift at all after the book’s free promotion is concluded.  Which gives authors one less reason to give their book away.

What Amazon is now pushing is their new ‘countdown deal’ promotion.  Instead of offering your book for free, this new deal enables you to lower the price of your book for 5 days.

I imagine these changes will help Amazon accomplish its goal of eliminating the mountains of free content on their site, and make them more money.

My apologies for not posting something here in my blog to let people know when Stealing Helen was free.  If you are interested in reading an amusing short story, the good news is that it’s only .99 cents.  That’s a bargain in any historical epoch.

Smashwords: Access to Multiple e-Bookstores (sort of)

smashwords

Though initially excited about getting my book, The Wandering King, onto the web site of the e-book seller Smashwords, ultimately the results have been disappointing.  To explain…

Getting your book on Smashwords is an ordeal akin to one of Hercules’ labors.  Like Amazon, they provide you with a free guide on how to format your e-book for Smashwords.  Unlike Amazon’s clear, concise booklet, the Smashword’s manual is over 100 pages long.  Oi.

Not wanting to go through their novel length ‘how to’ book, I tried uploading my existing e-book file that had worked with Amazon.  No luck.  Tried the same with the file I used for Barnes & Noble’s Nook.  Strike two.  All right, time to crack open their 100-page opus.

Smashwords’ distribution channels

One of the things I didn’t realize about Smashwords, is that when you format your e-book for their site, if you do it according to their specs, you can qualify for something called ‘premium status.’  If your book makes the grade, not only can you put it for sale on Smashwords, they give you access to 12 sites like Apple’s iBookstore, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, even public libraries. 

The first thing they recommend in their formatting guide, is to strip out all of the current formatting in your MS Word doc.  You can do this by copy/pasting the entire book into a program on your computer called WordPad.  Putting it into WordPad knocks out all of your italics, tabs, links, font styles, etc.  Then all you do is select your entire document in WordPad and copy/paste it back into MS Word.  Then you begin the laborious process of adding back all of your formatting. 

Smashwords’ guide walks you through each step, including how they want you to set up the links in your table of contents.  As every ancient Greek word in my book was italicized, it took me a long time to get all of the formatting back in my book, but according to Smashwords, by starting with a clean copy, you eliminate any possible quirks that may have wormed their way into your original MS Word doc. 

Too, because every e-book seller seems to use their own format (such as ePUB, PDF, MOBI, LRF, RTF, etc…) it’s wise to follow Smashword’s instructions to ensure it meets their formatting requirements, because when you’re done, if successful, once you upload the book to Smashwords, their internal programming automatically saves your book in multiple formats (such as ePUB, PDF, MOBI, etc.) giving you access to Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, etc.

Though it took a while to fix all of the formatting in my book, it was well worth the effort.  The third time I tried uploading the book to Smashwords was a charm.  It passed their internal checks and even qualified for their premium status, giving me access to a number of new booksellers.

Should you format your book first for Smashwords instead of Amazon? 

In hindsight, I wondered if I should have started working with Smashwords, instead of Amazon, as both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are among the distribution sites that Smashwords gives you access to. 

Once my book was on Smashwords and they began distributing it to other e-book sellers, I realized, no, I was glad I started with Amazon and did it myself with Barnes & Noble.  Why?  The main reason is you have more control over your book and how it appears for sale on those sites.

Amazon is the biggest bookseller on the planet.  That’s where I’m getting 95% of my book sales, both e-book and paperback.  If I want to change my book description or the search engine keywords, it’s a snap on Amazon.  You make the changes online, and within hours they are live.

This is where I have a problem with Smashwords.  Yes, my book appears on their site and they’ve gotten it on most of the sites they advertise, but I’m guessing they don’t send along the keyword search string to these sites.  For instance, when I do a search on Kobo or Sony under ‘ancient Greece’ or ‘Sparta’ my book does not appear.   In fact, the only way you can find my book on these sites is to do a search for my name or the book name, ‘The Wandering King.’  Otherwise, my book is invisible on those sites.  Nor has it ever shown up on the Apple iBookstore. though Smashwords claims it is there.  I guess I just need new glasses.

To smash or not to smash?

I don’t know that Smashwords’ services are quite as good as advertised.  Nor are the sales.  In the 2 months my book has appeared on their site and the multiple other sites they distribute to, I’ve made a whopping single sale.  Whoopty-do.

The other area where I have a problem with Smashwords is the description of the book that appears on sites like Kobo and Sony.  Smashwords asks you to write a long book description and a short one, both of which appear on their site.  Unfortunately the short description is about three sentences, and that’s what they feed to most of their distribution partners.  Make a change to your book description on Smashwords, it’s hit or miss whether it gets posted on the other sites.

So although it sounds great that Smashwords will help you get onto all these other e-bookstores, you end up with no keywords for people to find your book, and you end up with a minimal book description.  No wonder I have not received any sales from these sites.  Readers have no way of finding my book, and when they do, there is very little to tease them into buying a copy.

About the best thing I can say about Smashwords is that they format your book into multiple e-book fomats for free.  If you need an ePUB or MOBI file of your book, Smashwords does the heavy lifting for you.  Other than that, my experience with them thus far has been far from a smashing success.

Publishing Your Book in Paperback and on the NOOK

self-publishingUsing CreateSpace for Your Paperback

Wanted to keep people abreast of the latest developments with my historical fiction novel, The Wandering King.

Since self-publishing the e-book version on March 29th, the paperback version came out a month later on April 29th.   For the hard copy, I used Amazon’s company, CreateSpace.  Similar to self-publishing for the Kindle, CreateSpace is fairly easy to use, it simply involved following their formatting guidelines.  As I’ve stated previously, you can pay people to do all of this for you, or you can do it yourself.  I’ve done the work myself, and believe that if you have half a brain you can pretty much do the whole thing on your own.

Book Size

CreateSpace gives you a lot of options for publishing your paperback.  Almost everything to do with printing your book is under your control.  For instance, the book size.  There are 15 different sizes to choose from, the smallest being 5” x 8” and the largest 8.5” x 11”.   Though you might think a smaller size would yield a cheaper book price, not necessarily.  The smaller the book, the less words you can fit on a page, hence the more pages you’ll need.  The more pages you use, the more expensive it is to print your book.  After fiddling with several sizes, I settled on 6” x 9.”

Formatting

You also get to select which fonts you use, along with the spacing between lines and paragraphs, again, all of which affect your total number of pages.  Just by tweaking these parameters, my book could have been anywhere from 250 to 500 pages long.  As readability was important to me, I used a 12 point font, and 6 points of leading between the paragraphs, all of which looks quite pleasing to the eye.  Since the book is about ancient Greece, I used the Papyrus style font for the chapter titles.  These might seem like rather small details, but it’s actually rather cool to have that level of control over what your book will look like.

As a novice, about the most difficult part of the formatting process was breaking the book into two sections, so that I could use Roman numerals for the pre-book materials, like the maps and table of contents, and regular numerals for the text.  Might sound silly, but perhaps the most maddening thing about the process was getting the headers set up correctly.  Once I got those parameters straight, the rest was a snap.

Creating a Cover

The only thing I could not accomplish myself was creating the book cover and the maps.  Once you have all of your formatting issues resolved, you upload your book file into CreateSpace’s cover creator.  In the end, The Wandering King weighed in at 378 pages, which determines the width of the spine of your book.   Their cover creator program kicks out a PDF template that gives you the exact dimensions of your cover.  As I work with a number of graphic designers, I asked a co-worker to put together the cover and create two maps.  Though I wanted to pay her, she refused to take any money from me, so I gave her a $100 gift certificate to a nice Italian restaurant,  She was pleased, and I came away feeling that I got all of the book’s artwork done rather cheaply.  I placed the maps in my Word doc and uploaded the cover into CreateSpace.

All of this might sound rather complicated.  It’s not.  You simply follow CreateSpace’s online step-by-step instructions.  If you’ve done anything wrong along the way, they tell you exactly on what page you can find the error so you can correct it and move on.

Proofing

The next step is simply proofing your final manuscript and cover.  CreateSpace’s tools for proofing are excellent, as they give you a snapshot of what your finished book will look like online in a PDF format that you can download and review at your leisure.  They’ll even mail you a printed version for you to proof for a small fee.  After you’re finished proofing your book, you release it to CreateSpace and they check to make sure it meets their requirements (i.e., no pornography).  They get back to you within 24 hours and if all goes well, the book is ready for publication.

Print-on-Demand

CreateSpace works on a print-on-demand basis.  As orders come in through Amazon, they print out the books one at a time and mail them out.  Unlike traditional publishers, they are not printing out an initial run of several thousand books, which would have to be catalogued and warehoused.  It also means you don’t get stuck with a bill or an angry publisher if your books don’t sell.

CreateSpace takes care of getting the book onto Amazon for you.  If you have an e-book version out there already, as I did, within 72 hours, Amazon marries together the two books so that they are for sale on one page.

Distribution Channels

Among the last things you have to decide is the distribution channels where you want the book sold and how you want to price your book.  CreateSpace distributes through Amazon US, Amazon Europe and the CreateSpace e-store for free.  The CreateSpace e-store is a page on CreateSpace’s web site, similar to Amazon’s web site where people can buy the book.

For an additional $25 a year, you can opt for CreateSpace’s expanded distribution.  CreateSpace does not explain how it works, all they tell you is that by using their expanded distribution the book will be available to online retailers, libraries and academic institutions.  The problem with expanded distribution is that CreateSpace charges them more for your book, so if you decide to use it, you have to raise the price of your book, otherwise you’ll be selling them at a loss.

Pricing

One of the cool things about the entire process is pricing your book.  CreateSpace has an online calculator that allows you to plug in a price, and they calculate your royalty.  You can modify the price of the book for each channel, and will make the most profit by selling it through the CreateSpace e-store, which is also where you’ll want to order copies for yourself, as they give you a reduced price (about 30% of the retail price).

I don’t know how other people go about it, but as I was making roughly $2 per e-book through Amazon, I priced the paperback at $12.50 because that yielded the same royalty per book, $2.  I realize at $2 per book, I’m not going to get rich on The Wandering King, but that was never my goal.  My goal was simply to get read.

To make the book as inexpensive as possible, initially I did not opt for expanded distribution.  This meant I was able to sell the book for $12.50, which is cheap for a paperback.  According to my local independent bookstore, books like The Wandering King typically sell for $16.95.  Hard to believe, but true.

For the first three months, I kept the e-book for sale on Amazon for $2.99 (the cheapest price point that yields a 70% royalty) and kept the paperback at $12.50.  I took a handful of the paperback around to our local independent bookstores and was happy to learn that they were glad to support local authors and willing to sell the book on a consignment basis.

Promoting Your Book

I also joined the websites Goodreads and LibraryThing.  In a way they are social networks like Facebook, but with a twist: they are devoted to reading books.  I discovered that both sites allow you to raffle off a couple copies of your book, which gets them noticed by thousands of readers.  I gave away 5 copies of the book on each site, and was delighted when over 450 people wanted a  copy on Goodreads and 200 people wanted it on LibraryThing.  This turned out to be a fairly good marketing strategy as both sites allow you to place a book on your ‘to read’ list.  Just by throwing a few copies into these free raffles, several hundred people added The Wandering King to their ‘to read’ lists.  Of course they might not get around to buying and reading the book for a year, but it still helps generate interest.

At the end of the free promotions, Goodreads and LibraryThing randomly selected 5 winners and sent me their names and addresses for me to mail them a copy of the book.  As privacy is always an issue, part of the arrangement states that you will not try to mail these people or give out their address.  As you are giving away your book for free, the unwritten agreement is that the raffle winners will write a review of your book.

Thus far, out of the 10 free copies that I mailed out in May, only one person has given me a review.  A Goodreads member named Glen gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.  In his review he wrote:  “This is a superior novel about the life of a young Spartan prince as he grows up and travels the world on various adventures…  All in all, a great novel.  I can’t wait for the next volume.”

Amazon Reviews

Speaking of reviews, in three months time I’ve received 15 reviews on Amazon.  Fourteen of the reviewers gave the book 5 stars, while one person gave it 4 stars.  All in all, some very encouraging comments.  A man named Steven from Houston, TX, wrote:   “Many thanks to the guy who wrote this book. Really enjoyed it and have recommended it to all my friends. The book is something special, great character development; this man can really write. Its historical fiction with some cool romance. A whole big bunch of book for the money.”

Someone named Dianne wrote:  “Turning the last page of a good book, ending a good read, is like saying goodbye to a dear friend. One relishes the experience of both and longs for more time together. This author quickly pulls the reader into the story and maintains the suspense and action throughout the story. The author did a terrific job of weaving his story around the Hellenic era and including their gods in the story. I highly recommend this book.”

Click here to read all of the reviews for The Wandering King on Amazon.

Kindle Select

When I first released the e-book, I signed up for something called Kindle Select.  I did it for two reasons:  1) they allow you to run a promotion of your book giving it away for free for up to 5 days to help spread awareness and gain reviews, and 2) you get paid when Amazon Prime members borrow your book.  The downside was that Amazon had exclusive rights to your e-book for 90 days.  In other words, no selling it to their competitors such as Barnes & Noble for the NOOK.

During that 90-day period, I ran a free promotion and over 5 days 886 people downloaded the book for free, over 100 of them from outside the U.S.  How many have resulted in reviews on Amazon, I’m not sure.  During those 90 days, about 15 Amazon Prime members borrowed the book and I got paid a little under $2 per borrow.  Supposedly, Amazon totals up the amount of money they make selling Amazon Prime memberships during the month and hands a portion of it back to Kindle Select members.

In the end, I decided that the small amount of money that I made through borrows did not justify giving Amazon exclusive rights to my book.  My hope is that by opening it up for distribution on other sites like Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Smashwords, ultimately I’ll net more readers.  Of course, that remains to be seen.

Barnes & Noble

At the end of June when the 90-day Kindle Select period was over, I opted not to re-up.  Instead I formatted my book for the NOOK and on July 1st it went up for sale on Barnes & Noble’s web site.  As an aside, though not difficult, the self-publishing instructions provided by Amazon were a lot more extensive than those provided by Barnes & Noble.  Having gone through the process for the Kindle, admittedly it was not that hard, but I was a little disappointed by B&N’s scanty instructions.  Still, the NOOK Press step-by-step online instructions made the whole thing fairly simple.  Just to mention it, Amazon pays a 70% royalty on their e-books, while Barnes and Noble pays a 65% royalty.   Not a big difference.  On an inexpensive e-book it only comes down to about .20 cents per book, but it’s still worth noting.

Adjusting the Book Price

At the same time that the book came out for the NOOK, In an effort to increase distribution of the paperback, I decided to spring for the $25 and opt for CreateSpace’s expanded distribution.  Unfortunately, to keep from losing money, I was forced to raise the price on the paperback from $12.50 to $14.95.

At the same time I decided to raise the price on the e-book from $2.99 to $3.99.  On one hand, I did not want there to be a widening disparity between the cost of the e-book and the paperback, plus, I‘d read a blog recently that made the argument that if you price your e-book for $2.99 you are waving a big, red flag that says:  BEWARE!  NOOB!  SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR AHEAD!  This blogger claimed that the $2.99 pricing can actually be a detriment to getting your book read.  Some buyers will view the $2.99 price as a sure sign that the book is by an inexperienced writer, meaning the book could be riddled with typos, formatting issues and misspellings.  The blogger claimed that by raising the price of her book from $2.99 to $3.99 and then $4.99 her book sales actually went up!  Therefore I decided to experiment with the e-book price by raising it to $3.99.   Though it’s only been a week since the change, I can’t say that I see an increase or a drop in sales, they’re pretty much holding steady.

The good news is that the book is now available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  The expanded distribution through Amazon must also be kicking in, as I’ve also noticed it for sale on online retailers like Tower Books, AbeBooks, Dealzilla and Alibris.

Sales Results After Three Months

To share with you the sales results I have thus far, in a little over 3 months there have been 180 e-book sales and 16 hard copies sold.  Since putting it up on Barnes & Noble on July 1, there have been 2 NOOK sales.  Yeah, I know, my novel about ancient Greece isn’t cracking up big numbers, but I rather expected that.  I’m just happy that anyone is reading it, and that the initial reviews are all positive.  About the only other point I want to make about the numbers, is that it’s interesting to see that the e-book is out-selling the paperback by 11 to 1.  Because the e-book is cheaper, I had a feeling it would sell more, but not by that margin.

That’s the latest.  Once I get the book onto Google Play and Smashwords, I’ll let you know how the process went.

Book Sales Thus Far

Thought I would post some of the results The Wandering King has been getting now that’s on Amazon.

During the 5-day period that I gave the book away for free, approximately 700 people downloaded it in the U.S. and 100 people downloaded it overseas.  Over the approximately 10 days that it’s been up for sale, it has sold 54 copies, and 13 people have borrowed it from Amazon’s library.

When you sign up for Kindle Select, they automatically offer your book to Amazon Prime members to borrow it for free.   Surprisingly, the author actually gets paid when people borrow your book.  Amazon takes some of the money they make from Amazon Prime memberships and distributes a percentage of that back to authors who sign up for Kindle Select.

The downside to signing up for Kindle Select is that Amazon has exclusive rights to your book for 90 days.  Which means I can’t sell it to Barnes & Noble for the Nook.  Which is fine for now.  In 90 days I’ll re-evaluate and either stick with Select or make it available to Nook owners through SmashWords.

One of the things I’ve been watching is where the book falls in Amazon ranking system, which determines how visible your book is on their site.  Initially the book was ranked approximately #95,000 out of probably hundreds of thousands of books.  When I gave it away for free for 5 days, it rose up in the rankings to #1,200 under their ‘free book’ listings.  It was ranked #1 under Ancient/Greece, #5 under History/Ancient and #10 on their Historical Fiction pages.

Once the book goes up for sale, it switches over to the ‘paid book’ listings, putting you in competiton with the Ken Follett’s, Bernard Cornwell’s and Cormac McCarthy’s of the world.  Immediately the book dropped in the rankings to about #20,000.  It stayed in the top 5 under the category for Ancient/Greece and History/Ancient, but disappeared entirely from the Historical Fiction page.  Over the past week the book has bounced around in the rankings from #16,000 to #80,000 and on the Ancient/Greece page from 1 to 20 on their ‘top 100’ list.

The things that seems to affect your ranking are reviews and sales.  Each time someone has posted a review of the book it has inspired additional sales, which has boosted the book’s place in the rankings.  Thus far the book has received 6 reviews, 5 of whom gave it 5-stars and one of whom gave it 4-stars.

Can only hope that some of the 800 people that downloaded it for free post reviews.  At least that was the plan.  Let’s see if the plan works.

Next step is to get the book on Amazon as a paperback.  Am hoping that happens in the next few days.  When it does I’ll blog about the process and how prospective authors can make it happen.
Kindle-Book-Sales