Amazon KDP now showing all-time “historical” sales in the dashboard!

Is it just me? I logged into my KDP dashboard last night and noticed a new feature – “historical” sales. This is something authors have been crying out for so it’s brilliant that Amazon have listened. It’s also great for me because I was able to count up my all-time sales from back in 2013 and realised I’d sold a thousand more books than I’d calculated previously!

Up until now I’ve been adding up my monthly sales with a calculator and keeping track that way, or, latterly, using a service like Book Tracker or Book Report, neither of which worked that well for me personally. So to be able to have this information directly on my KDP dashboard is great.

Well done Amazon!

Check it out indie authors and let us know what you think in the comments section!

kn

complete series

Indie authors and reviews

I recently read a post on Facebook by one of my favourite historical fiction authors, where he said he can’t wait to get the manuscript for his new book back from the copy-editor. His copy-editor is a historian – a scholar – so any mistakes the author made will be picked up on and fixed for the final draft.

This obviously makes perfect sense. When I read his books (which are traditionally published by Corgi), I want them to be as accurate as possible as well as being great reads.

The thing is, though – indie authors don’t have the luxury of a raft of editors, proof-readers and fact checkers like traditionally published authors do. Some might, but the majority, like me, are lucky to have a professional editor, cover designer and perhaps a proof-reader. Some can’t even afford that much and have to do the lot by themselves.

And yet, many times I’ll read a review of some major author’s new book where the reader will mention how the history is impeccable and assume it’s all down to the writer doing months of gruelling research on their chosen time period as if the book was a one man/woman operation. I’m sure in some cases those authors  genuinely know their subject inside out*, but even if they do make a mistake – just as an example say they mention potatoes in Saxon England – one of their many editors will notice and correct it.

The reader doesn’t see all these corrections going on behind the scenes, they simply enjoy a good book that’s historically accurate, assume it’s all down to the author being great, and a potential 4 star review becomes a 5.

dragonlance

Oi! Potatoes weren’t introduced to England until 1586 you fool!

Contrast that with the reviews you see of many indie books which happen to make a slight historical mistake: The author hasn’t bothered to research the period; they don’t care about what they’re writing because they’re just jumping on a bandwagon to cash in on a current trend; they rushed the book; they suck in general and probably kick puppies in the nuts too. Oh and they should take a leaf out of that famous author’s book – he NEVER gets his facts wrong! And a potential 4 star review becomes a 3.

Honestly, I haven’t noticed any major complaints about historical accuracy in my own books – generally readers seem to think I’ve researched medieval England pretty well, so this isn’t a rant in response to any reviews I’ve had personally.

I’m also not in any way trying to make excuses for badly written or researched indie books, not at all. I’m just talking about minor factual errors that lead to poor ratings for a book an author has slaved over for months that the reader has otherwise enjoyed. We may not get every fact right, but if the story kicks ass, the characters are good and overall you really enjoyed your £2/$3 purchase then that has to count for something in your review right? Think twice before you dock a star for that rogue Saxon potato!

Okay, enough of this, time to get back to work on my new Robin Hood book, Blood Of The Wolf. The lads have just escaped the dastardly sheriff and are about to share a pizza and a few cans of lager around the campfire…

 

blood of the wolf

 

BTW, the author that sparked this little post was Douglas Jackson (who I’m certain knows the Romans as well as anyone!), and his Gaius Valerius Verrens books are fantastic. Check out one of my reviews here.

 

avenger cover

 

* Writers like Ben Kane, Andrew Latham and Robyn Young, for example, probably know their stuff better than any historian.

The art and magick of…pricing eBooks!

Sorry, if you were looking for a definitive, comprehensive guide on how to price your ebooks I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. Because, just like art and magick, there’s no one right way to do things – it’s about experimentation and finding a balance that works for you.

So, rather than me being some guru about to tell you how to do things, I’m actually looking for input from YOU, as readers first and foremost but also from other authors who’ve tried different prices for their work.

When I first started writing my novella Knight of the Cross I planned on selling it for 99p/ $0.99. I hoped the tiny price would draw in new readers who might not take a punt on my full-length, full price novels. Unfortunately, that really hasn’t happened. In my experience readers don’t really want to buy a novella from me. By pricing it so low I also only get 35% royalty from Amazon – that amounts to just 23p for each sale. Considering I paid to have the cover art made (twice, since I wanted to update it) and hired my usual editor to work with me on it, you can imagine how many thousands of copies I’d have to sell to make back my outlay, never mind actually make a profit.

Knight Of The Cross-pb-eb-des2

But, despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews and that bargain low price, people just haven’t really bought KotC the way they’ve bought the other, “full-price”, books.

Today I was looking at the prices of other ebooks on Amazon and noticed that there’s loads of people selling similar stuff for £2+. Even books that are the same length or even shorter than KotC‘s 23,300 word count!

There is an argument that selling your work for 99p devalues it, and readers assume it must be crap or it wouldn’t be so cheap – and that results in few sales.

So, as a little experiment I’ve put the price of that particular novella up to $2.99 US/ £1.99 UK (also opening up Amazon’s 70% royalty rate). Or, if you buy the paperback you get the Kindle version for free, and, if you buy the Kindle version first you can add the Audible version to it for a much reduced rate. So there’s still value to be had.

My other novella, Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil is still only 99p/99c – as that’s part of the Kindle Singles Programme I get 70% royalty on that one even at the lower price. Furthermore, new readers looking for a great way to try out my work can get the completely FREE Little John short story “The Escape” just for signing up to my Email List.

Perhaps my experiment will fail miserably and the low sales of KotC will drop even further with the higher price. Time will tell.

Let me know what you think! If you’ve already read Knight of the Cross, do you think it’s still fairly priced at £1.99? And if you haven’t read it yet, would you be much less likely to buy it for that price than 99p?

And other authors – what say you? Have you found the ideal way to price your ebooks? If so – please share it with us!

necronomicon

Amazon KDP – to use the pre-order option or not?

robin hood

This is actually the second draft of a post I wrote three weeks ago, before the publication of my new book, Rise of the Wolf. I’ve had to completely change the post in the near-three weeks since Rise has been available as things didn’t quite go as I expected!

My previous book, The Wolf and the Raven, which came out in April 2014, was available for readers to pre-order which was excellent as – at that point – indie authors weren’t able to do that. Amazon allowed me to do it because I was going to be publishing the novel while I was part of their team at the London Book Fair. On day one, The Wolf and the Raven hit number 1 in the WAR chart while Wolf’s Head reached number 2. It was fantastic to see, as you can imagine.

So that was my prior experience of using the pre-order facility. It was exciting to see the book listed for people to buy before it was actually available, but when it came out and I thought about it, and spoke to a couple of other authors, it seemed to us like a pre-order might actually be counter-productive. The best promotion for your Kindle book is to get it as high in the charts as possible, right? Then the Amazon algorithms apparently start showing it to lots of readers, who in turn go and buy it, and it snowballs, we hope.

So, I thought it might perhaps be better to NOT do a pre-order for Rise of the Wolf, but instead to try and get as many people as possible to buy the book on the day it came out. THAT, I was sure, would fire it higher up the charts than sales coming in in dribs-and-drabs over a period of two weeks or whatever it might be before it was actually published.

Well, my plan didn’t quite come together, despite lots of my readers doing their bit by buying and sharing the news on social media etc.

You see, Amazon’s system, while being fantastic, doesn’t work instantly. When you hit the “publish” button on your book it doesn’t appear at that moment on Amazon, all nicely linked in to your paperback edition and your other books in the same series. All that takes a matter of hours or even days! Ditto your chart placing, and your author page and the various different international Amazon sites… The system takes a while to catch up and put it all together. In the end, although Rise of the Wolf has been sitting at number 1 in the “Historical biographical fiction” chart on Amazon UK for a few days now, it did NOT make that big, day one leap that I’d prayed for.

What I failed to realise is that Amazon has changed since I published The Wolf and the Raven a year ago. Now indies can do pre-orders. Just take a look at the WAR chart, “Hot New Releases” section. See a pattern? That’s right, none of the books are out yet. They are ALL pre-orders. It’s a whole chart promoting books that aren’t even available. And people are buying them in huge numbers.

When those books come out and are actually available to read they will have hundreds, thousands of people getting it straight to their Kindle and the reviews will start to flow in within a day or two. The paperback and ebook (or audio if it’s available – Rise of the Wolf is in production but won’t be ready until about September) editions will all link up, the series will show nice and neat on your author page and they are ALREADY in the charts so if you DO manage to get your most loyal readers to buy on day one you might just get that hoped-for spike that breaks the charts.

robin hood audiobook

We’re continually being told the publishing business is constantly changing but I hadn’t really seen much evidence of it myself until now. I made an error by not using the pre-order facility, an error which I won’t make again when I put out my next novella, The Christmas Devil, this December.

I just hope the system doesn’t change again in the next couple of months wrecking my plans once more!

I’d be very interested to hear from other KDP authors who’ve recently used the pre-order system. How did you find it? Any tips you can share with the rest of us on how to use it effectively? Please leave your thoughts as a comment or email me!

Need a cover designer? Q&A with More Visual

Today I’m talking to the guys that have created all of my fantastic covers. If you’re an indie author and need a striking image that will attract readers then you should really check this out and get in touch with More Visual Ltd once you’ve read the interview!

morevisual

First of all, you’re a two-man team, is that right?

Yes that’s right, we’ve been working together for nearly ten years now so we have a great working dynamic. I think it makes us both stronger to have another set of eyes critiquing our work.

How long have you been designing book covers?

I [Olly] started when we were at our previous company, so about ten years ago. Richie (Cumberlidge)’s been doing them for over 15 years.

Did you study art at school/college? What inspired you to become a designer?

Stunning cover for one of David Pilling's great books

Stunning cover for one of David Pilling’s great books

I did Art and Design at college and also went on to do photography as well. In fact, both of my brothers are graphic designers as well and my dad studied graphic design at college, so I guess I was inspired by my own family in a way, it’s sort of in the blood. I’ve always loved playing around with graphics, manipulating images, drawing and sketching ideas, I feel incredibly lucky to have a creative job, especially one where I work with writers. I find my clients very inspiring too; their excitement about their books and ideas is often the best inspiration for my design work. There is nothing more satisfying than when you create a cover that does justice to an author’s idea and helps with the book’s success.

What’s the cover you worked on that you personally like the best?

That’s impossible to answer; I usually prefer whatever I am working on at the time. Seriously I could not pick out one cover. Some I like because they fulfilled a challenging brief, some I like because they are technically strong, some I like because the book’s premise really caught my imagination and I am pleased with the artistic outcome. I can’t pick a cover I like best, but I can say which genre – personally I prefer working on sci-fi and fantasy the most. It’s a genre where you really have to be innovative and imaginative to make a cover stand out.

The Knight of the Cross cover for the Audible version.

The Knight of the Cross cover for the Audible version.

Have you ever read any of the books you designed a cover for? If so, what did you think of them?

I read a lot, but I am a sucker for older classics like War of the Worlds, Day of the Triffids, I Am Legend and Dracula. But yes, sometimes I will end up reading a book because I have felt very close to the cover design, or because the writer’s idea really intrigued me. But look, you can’t ask me to start reviewing my clients! I think they all deserve their success; it can’t be easy to write a whole book.

How does the process usually work? Obviously, for my last couple of books I emailed you a sketch of what I wanted and you brought it to life, but the cover of my debut novel, Wolf’s Head was just an idea I gave you and you did the rest. How do authors normally work with you?

I do like it when writers send sketches but it can be even more challenging than a blank slate. You have an idea but I have to make it look as good as it does in your head! It’s quite good when someone knows what they want it gives me a good starting point, as long as I can get an insight into what they’re visualising. Other than that, I just work with written descriptions and sketches with a general plot line to the book.

Has anyone been a real pain to work with (no names needed, just the story!)?

Everyone’s different really and everyone has quirks that are challenging and enthusiasm that’s catching. If you’ve been writing a book for some time and you have lived and breathed the characters and architecture of your novel, it’s hard to pick a visual for the front cover which explains your book and which is understandable to someone glancing at it on the shelf. Sometimes I have to point out that my client needs to step back and not try and explain the entirety of the book in the cover, ideally you want something visually appealing that will bring your reader to your book.

Was my sketch for The Wolf and the Raven the worst an author has ever sent you?

To be fair, a lot of the sketches are quite similar to the one you did! It’s fine; it gives me a good idea of what you want, which saves a lot of time. And if you can’t draw, remember that I couldn’t write a book.

My wonderful concept art for The Wolf & The Raven...

My wonderful concept art for The Wolf & The Raven…

How does it feel when you hold a paperback with one of your covers on it? It must be pretty cool to know thousands of people all around the world have your artwork in their houses!

Yeah definitely it’s good to see it printed, although nowadays quite a few are just seen online.

What other services do you offer? You had a vinyl decal made for me using the Wolf’s Head text for my guitar which was great – what other stuff do you do for authors? Posters? Business cards? Flyers? Mugs?

We originally started out doing stationery, point of sale and brochures whilst doing the covers at the same time. Although we try to specialise in the covers, we can provide other services from printed material to even websites.

My "Wolf's Head" Jackson Randy Rhoads guitar with custom decal.

My “Wolf’s Head” Jackson Randy Rhoads guitar with custom decal.

What are some of your own favourite book covers (ones you didn’t design I mean)?

I use to like those point horror book covers when I was about 12. You know the ones I mean, the they looked a bit like those illustrations by Drew Struzan (Star Wars, Indiana Jones poster artist). I really like the front cover to the hard back version of The Martian by Andy Weir, the one where the astronaut is being blown through a sand storm.

the martian

Do you take inspiration from other places, like album covers?

Probably more from film posters I’ve always been intrigued by them; I’m always looking at apple.com/trailers and Imdb at the new film posters. Saying that, I really like the photography and imagery that Storm Thorgerson created for Pink Floyd, Muse, Biffy Clyro and Mars Volta album covers.

Pink_Floyd_-_Dark_Side_of_the_Moon

Storm Thorgerson’s iconic (and wonderfully simple) cover for Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.

Thanks to Olly for talking to me. I think you’ll agree the covers these guys come up with look fantastic. I’m pretty sure a large part of Wolf’s Head‘s success was down to the great artwork.

If you’d like a quote for your own project, you can find the guys HERE.

This incredible cover was the one that caught my eye when I was looking for designers. Gordon's books are also great reads!

This incredible cover was the one that caught my eye when I was looking for designers. Gordon’s books are also great reads!