The Power of Promo: Post-Mortem

Without further ado, here are the results from the Causal Nexus launch week! As a reminder, the launch plan was essentially this:

On launch day, make Ascension Point free for 5 days, run a concurrent 99¢ Countdown deal on Venus Rising, and advertise both on Ereader News Today.

So how did we do? Here are the results–courtesy of the wonderful BookReport app–for August 31st through September 7th, i.e. Launch Week™:

promo

Highlights:

  • A whopping 1,500+ giveaways of Ascension Point! I’m delighted by this. That’s a huge number of potential new readers for the series, who will (artistic hat) have a chance to fall in love with the story and (business hat) potentially buy Venus Rising and Causal Nexus.
  • I’m slightly disappointed by the number of sales of Venus Rising, but there are a few mitigating factors that I can learn from in future:
    • It’s the awkward middle child in the series, and these are always tougher to promote than a book one with no barrier to entry, or a shiny new launch to existing fans.
    • The promo was priced at $0.99 rather than free, as KDP Select only allows one free promo per 90-day period and I was using that on Ascension Point. Any price is more of a hurdle compared to a freebie.
    • I didn’t realize when I booked the promo that it would run on Labor Day. Oops! Fewer book buyers are online on holidays (other than Christmas), so fewer eyeballs on my ad. Lesson learned.
  • I don’t have much of a mailing list at present, so most sales of Causal Nexus would be to friends and family. Given that, 24 sales ain’t bad.

More interesting in some ways is the period after the promo, where I’m seeing a steady, albeit low-level, stream of continuing borrows and page reads for not just Ascension Point–courtesy of its ranking boost–but the later books in the series. Encouraging stuff!

What’s next? Well, back to writing. Book four isn’t going to outline itself, and the sooner I get it done the sooner I can get back to the really fun part of being an author–marketing!

I kid.

Take it easy, folks.

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The Power of Promo: Top of the Charts

Just a quick one: as I mentioned in my post on marketing a while ago, for the release of Causal Nexus I decided to come up with an actual, honest-to-God Launch Plan™. Namely:

  1. Delist Ascension Point and Venus Rising from the non-Amazon stores.
  2. Enroll both in KDP Select.
  3. Finish Causal Nexus, upload it to Amazon at a discounted launch price of $2.99 and enroll it in KDP Select.
  4. On launch day, make Ascension Point free for 5 days, run a concurrent 99¢ Countdown deal on Venus Rising, and advertise both on Ereader News Today.
  5. See how it goes!
  6. At some point, revert all three to the usual price of $4.99.
  7. Profit?

Excitingly, we’re currently in the midst of step 5, ‘seeing how it goes’, and the signs are very promising! So far I’ve had about 650 downloads of Ascension Point via my Ereader News Today promo, and that’s been good enough to launch the book to the upper reaches of the Alien Invasion and Space Opera charts on the Kindle Store:

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Number one with a bullet!
ranks
Number two with a… slightly slower bullet?

I expect the downloads to begin to tail off later today, at which point Ascension Point will start its slow descent back down the rankings. It’s the pace of that descent that’ll be interesting: the more successful the promo, the ‘stickier’ in the charts the book will be, hence more eyeballs, more sales, more follow-through to Venus Rising and Causal Nexus. I’ve been delighted with how the promo is going so far, so fingers crossed for an extended chart-topping stay!

In other promo news, I’ve also recently started experimenting with advertising, both through Amazon’s own AMS platform and through BookBub ads. More to follow on those once I’ve let them bed in for a few weeks, and had time to draw some conclusions.

Onward and upward–to book four! Cheers.

Featured

New Release: CAUSAL NEXUS is Out Now!

Folks, I’m delighted to announce that CAUSAL NEXUS, the long-awaited third entry in my series THE UNITY SEQUENCE, is out now! It’s available for Kindle at a special launch price of only $2.99/£1.99 (http://getbook.at/Causal-Nexus) and in paperback (http://getbook.at/Causal-Nexus-Paperback).

To celebrate the launch, and welcome new fans, I’m also running a sale on the Kindle editions of the first two books in the series: from now until September 5th you can get ASCENSION POINT for *free* (http://getbook.at/Ascension-Point) and VENUS RISING for just $0.99/£0.99 (http://getbook.at/Venus-Rising).

To my long-suffering fans: thanks for your patience. And to everyone: happy reading!

Causal Nexus - High Resolution - Version 1

…And Back To It

It’s been a while. When I last posted–an unseemly four months ago–I was still eagerly awaiting feedback from my editor, Misti, on the first draft of Causal Nexus. She got back to me not long after, but unfortunately for my long-suffering readers, Life Intervened©

Without getting into tedious detail, it’s been a busy time: Mrs. Dan and I have bought our first home, had several house guests to stay, been on a few of our own trips, and finally got our green cards. Hurrah!

All of which meant Misti’s diligent and insightful edit was left untouched until just last week, when I blew off the metaphorical cobwebs and got to work.

After a scrub, a polish, a fine tune, and the addition of a tantalizing prologue, the new draft is in her inbox, meaning we’re looking at an August publication. Double hurrah!

Stay tuned, for I will return–and not in four months.

Dirty Nine-Letter Words, Or: Why I’m Trying KDP Select

Whisper it: ‘marketing’.

Gross, right? Well, it depends. Sleazy popup ads using scantily clad women to trick you into downloading a tedious castle building game? Absolutely.

Shameless, I tell you.

But trying to put a product you’re proud of in front of an audience that you think would enjoy it? Seems… reasonable.

Up to now I’ve been treating writing as a hobby, by and large. Don’t get me wrong, I do my very best to produce high-quality novels: I work on my craft, I edit thoroughly, I use beta readers, I employ a professional editor and cover designer, and I use the best available software to produce a well-formatted and professional-looking final product that I can be proud of when I hit the ‘Publish’ button and see my books go live.

Then I squawk happily about it to you–the fine readers of this site–along with my friends and family, and…

That’s about it.

Not so professional.

The reason is pretty simple: right now, I’m not actively trying to be a full-time writer. I’m a full-time customer support manager for a telecoms software company who, in his spare time, channels his wildly overactive imagination into writing action-packed, mildly amusing and not-terribly-scientific science fiction novels.

But long term? Sure, that’s the dream. And I (think I) broadly know how you go about getting there.

  • Write a lot of good books. The more you have, the more chance readers have of discovering you (then buying all your other books).
  • ‘Do marketing’.

Hmm. Maybe I don’t know. It’s that second part which is a bit of a black art. Luckily, there are a whole bunch of friendly, helpful and successful indie author-publishers who are willing to share their expertise and experience, and chief among these is the author of the excellent Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish, and Why You ShouldDavid Gaughran.

Snazzy.

With the imminent publication of Causal Nexus, I’ve been doing some reading and thinking about the whole launch process, what I might try to achieve, and how there’s no time like the present to start getting the hang of the part of being an indie author-publisher that I’ve been completely ignoring.

All this pondering naturally led me to David’s site, and two articles in particular.

In ‘A Tale of Two Marketing Systems’, David discusses the always contentious (among indies) topic of ‘wide or exclusive’. Which will mean nothing to most readers, but in essence means deciding whether to publish your work at all available retailers–Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iTunes, etc.–or enrolling your work in Amazon’s KDP Select program, which requires you to make the ebook edition exclusive to Amazon in exchange for some tasty benefits:

  • Your book is added to Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner’s Lending Library catalogs, earning ‘page read’ revenue;
  • Every 90 days you can run special promotional deals to either make a book free for five days, or discounted for seven–which, in theory, leads to a boost in downloads, a shot up the charts, and bigger sales when the price reverts to normal.

The obvious downside is that any readers who prefer to get their ebooks from non-Zon retailers are out of luck. At least until you unenroll that book from KDP Select and ‘go wide’ again, which can be done after any 90-day period.

In that post David links back to another article of his, ‘The Visibility Gambit’, which digs into the gritty details of how indies these days might go about maximizing the benefits of being enrolled in KDP Select. The key chunk–for me, at least–of which was this:

A more complex example: let’s say you are launching Book 4 in a KU-enrolled series, and are wondering how to build a decent launch. A good approach might be to make Book 1 free for 5 days, and run a concurrent 99¢ Countdown deal on Book 2, and a $1.99 Countdown on Book 3. Maybe load all the ads on sites like ENT and Robin Reads on that free Book 1 and then give the whole series a push with a carousel ad on Facebook.

That’s already a pretty aggressive launch but further boldness is likely to be rewarded. I’d also suggest launching Book 4 at $2.99, even if you normally price and launch at $3.99 or $4.99, and also throwing all sorts of ads into the mix at places that might normally not give you the best ROI.

Because KU is all about visibility.

Me.

‘That seems straightforward enough,’ I thought. ‘I could do that.’

*scratches nose, frowns*

‘Why don’t I do that?’

*coughs, looks out of the window, distracted by a bird, scratches nose again*

I’m going to do that.

And just like that, I have a Launch Plan™ for Causal Nexus. 

  1. Delist Ascension Point and Venus Rising from the non-Amazon stores. (Done.)
  2. Enroll both in KDP Select. (Underway as soon as I’ve confirmed step 1.)
  3. Finish Causal Nexus, upload it to Amazon at a discounted launch price of $2.99 and enroll it in KDP Select.
  4. On launch day, make Ascension Point free for 5 days, run a concurrent 99¢ Countdown deal on Venus Rising, and advertise both on Ereader News Today.
  5. See how it goes!
  6. At some point, revert all three to the usual price of $4.99.
  7. Profit?

Who knows. This is all a bit of an experiment to start finding out how it all works, but I’m quite excited now that I have an actual plan. I’m still expecting to have Causal Nexus ready to go in April, so there’s not long to wait.

Longer term, I expect I’ll experiment again and unenroll my books from KDP Select to share them more widely, perhaps dipping back in for launches of new books, or not, as I see fit. The exciting thing is that as an indie author-publisher I have these options at my disposal, and all the time in the world to try different approaches and see what works best.

What a time to be a writer!

It’s The Final Countdown… To Book Three!

After many posts about random science and technology news, it’s nice to get back to writing about writing, i.e. The Original Point of This Blog. Excitingly, we’re into the business end of the creation of my third novel, Causal Nexus!

I sent a reasonably polished draft to my beta readers a week before the holidays, and after two months of this…

Impatient bunny.

…the feedback arrived!

Pro writer tip: don’t give a draft to beta readers a week before the holidays and expect to receive prompt feedback. You won’t.

The happy news was that I appear to have written a solid, entertaining story with compelling characters that flows well. (Their words, honest.) Hurrah!

Happy bunny.

I had a chunky slate of minor changes to make, to tighten language, clarify points, and improve flow, but overall I couldn’t have been happier at the positive reception.

Thus it was with great enthusiasm that last night I submitted my revised draft to my editor, the charming and eagle-eyed Misti Wolanski (http://mistiwolanski.com/), who I also worked with on Ascension Point and Venus Rising. The typical cliche would be to say that Misti has forgotten more about the English language than I’ve ever learned, but as far as I can tell she hasn’t forgotten anything. On top of that, she’s also deeply versed in science fiction and fantasy, being both an author and avid reader of those genres herself.

I should receive her first edit in 4-6 weeks or so, then we’ll have two to three rounds of back and forth to polish the novel into sparkling, publishable shape. If the process goes as it did for the first two books, we’re looking at a May publication date.

Watch this space!

Falcon Heavy: The Biggest Thing Since Saturn V

Regardless of how many you’ve seen before, there’s always something magical about watching a launch–and even more so when it’s this damn big.

SpaceX successfully launched what is now the world’s most powerful rocket Tuesday, a towering behemoth known as the Falcon Heavy that tore through the sky with the thundering force of 18 747 jetliners.

Lifting off at 3:45 p.m. from the same launchpad that sent the crew of Apollo 11 to the moon, the rocket sent up a mountain-sized plume of smoke and a rattling roar across Florida’s Space Coast, where thousands gathered to watch. The mission represented the first test of the massive rocket, powered by 27 engines in three, first-stage boosters that are essentially strapped together.

Well done, Starman.

Full write up at WaPo here.

Sunday Roundup

Let’s start with a fun–and super-geeky–rundown of all the military vessels in Babylon 5, over at The Wertzone! I love Babylon 5; it gets a bad rap among some SF fans for being a touch soapy in parts, but the series was remarkable for deeply exploring important themes, its commitment to ambitious, multi-season storylines and character arcs, and an extensive background lore covering thousands of years.

Plus: Vorlons!

Vorlon Heavy Cruiser

The Vorlon heavy cruiser is one of the largest ships in known space, at almost two miles in length. The heavy cruiser is equipped with a massive forward beam weapon, a scaled-up version of that on the transport. This weapon has never been seen to fire at full strength, but is considered to be unsurvivable.

jUJ5W
Ambassador Kosh, looking badass as usual.

How did you get into Star Wars, folks? For me, it was seeing Empire on TV at Christmas when I was about nine years old. And yes, I saw the second movie in the series before the first one, which is absolutely anathema to my current adult self who can’t watch anything he hasn’t seen from the very beginning.

“Who’s that little green man, mum?” “That’s Yoda, Dan.” “Cool!”

NASA photos of Antarctica–get them before it melts! (Sob.)

Jude Law’s going to be in Captain Marvel, which seems…fine? Brie Larson will be ace, though.

Law is playing Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel, a mentor to Larson’s character. Also of note, Keanu Reeves was being considered for the role before passing.

While Larson is the lead, Captain Marvel will co-star Ben Mendelsohn as the leader of the Skrulls and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. The film takes places before the events of the first Iron Man and will, at least partially, take place in outer space.

Finally, a lovely and smart review of Iain M. Banks’ 1994 essay A Few Notes on The Culture.

This particular moment in history—when unfettered capitalism, oligarchy, and toxic forms of nationalism all too often tend to be the order of the day—is quite a time to be reading about a socialist post-scarcity interstellar civilization, and one can definitely be forgiven for approaching the novels in a spirit of escapism. But one can also find inspiration in the progressive and optimistic worldview that underpins Banks’s novels, which was neatly summarized by the man himself.

I miss him. Happy Sunday, folks.

You Beta Be-read It!

If you deciphered my clever pun, you’ll have worked out that Causal Nexus is in the hands of my lovely beta readers! They always provide excellent feedback to strengthen the story, make the characters more interesting and point out those pesky plot holes that it’s easy for the writer themselves to miss after being down in the weeds of the story for so long. I can’t wait!

In the meantime I’ve started the groundwork for Untitled Book #4! Step one is to go back over Ascension Point and Venus Rising, and to compile a list of all the open plot threads that I’ve set up in the series so far, that I may want to pick up and complete in this, the final book in the series. I have a habit of semi-casually tossing little elements into my stories that hint at potential goings-on, so I daresay that I won’t choose to follow up on every single possible plotline that I sketchily set up; but in addition to the exciting new major story arcs I’ve got planned, I am planning to tie off at least the big loose ends from prior books and wrap up key character arcs, and thus generally bring The Unity Sequence to a satisfying close.