BTS038, Story Origin Newsletter Swaps, Price Matching an eBook on Amazon and Lifting a Preorder Penalty on Amazon | November and December Author Diary Update
BTS038, Story Origin Newsletter Swaps, Price Matching an eBook on Amazon and Lifting a Preorder Penalty on Amazon
I hope you are all well and are staying safe.
The results of my very first story origin newsletter swap are in, and it’s not what I expected. As I cast my mind back, I decide whether I will do another newsletter swap in the future. And I share my biggest lessons learned. In November, I managed to secure another free mystery and thriller eBook promotion on Kobo. Due to this change in price on Kobo, I decided to change the price to free across all other platforms. This led me to send an email to Amazon asking them to price match Missing on their store. And, this request had surprising results. While we’re on the topic of Amazon, I finally felt brave enough to ask Amazon to lift the preorder penalty on Duplicity. Just in case you’re wondering, yes, I managed to make progress with the revisions for Duplicity.
On top of all of this, I share details on how you can be a guest on the Authorpreneur Podcast.
So stay tuned for all of this and much more.
About the Episode
Just to let you know, this episode was recorded on Monday the 24th of May, so this show is primarily me looking back at November and December 2020. Even though I’ve figured out how to work from home with my husband, it’s still difficult to record these podcast episodes with someone walking around the flat, having meetings, and making everyday noise. Along with the traffic outside, these new noises make recording and editing difficult. But, today, my husband is not at home, so I’m going to try and record as many episodes as possible.
If you’re on YouTube you’ll notice that I’ve gone back to an audio-only version of the podcast. I’ve had to pull the plug on the video podcast episode because I couldn’t do everything and something had to go. Realistically, it’s two rounds of editing, and I can’t rip the audio from the video because it doesn’t sound nice. But the audio-only version will be made available on YouTube for you to listen to in the background as you work.
What Do You Want Me to Discuss on the Show?
Before I dive into the main content for the episode, I want to share a few ideas I have for the show. In essence, I’m looking for feedback about what you want to hear about going forward.
Ideas for the future of BTS Author Diary
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m getting a little bored sharing the author diary updates style episodes on the podcast. I like sharing what I’m up to with you, but I don’t want to devote an entire episode to discussing the previous month. This new feeling led me to brainstorm a few ideas for future instalments of my author diary; I’m thinking of creating the episodes around the following topics:
- Lessons learned writing, marketing, and self-publishing a first-in-series novella.
- The Cost of Self Publishing Your First Book.
- How to Get Your First Ten Book Reviews.
- The Real Costs of Free Books (including my real downloads vs reviews, costs of marketing a free book using paid sites).
Which of these episode ideas would you like to hear about the most? Let me know by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below or over on Facebook.
How Do You Write?
Another thing I want to get back to with the podcast is the writing tip episodes. In season three, I want to start discussing how to outline or the pre-writing phase. Because I’m an outliner, that’s all I can talk about, but I realise that this is not everyone’s writing experience. But you get it. I can only talk about my own experience.
To give this show a more objective view of the prewriting phase, I want to interview other writers on the podcast about their prewriting process.
The question I have for you is, how do you write?
Are you a pantser?
Do you outline? Or, does your prewriting stage resemble a mixture of both?
I’m particularly interested if you’re a pantser or do something that resembles both plotting and pantsing because I don’t know how someone can open a computer and start writing without a plan. That’s not a judgement on my part; I’m genuinely curious about how you pants your novels.
If you’re interested in coming on the show to talk about how you write, here is a shortlist of what I’m looking for in a guest:
- Fiction authors only.
- Published at least three books in the same genre that are novella length or longer.
- You’ve published your books to a high standard (professional-looking cover and professionally edited).
The reason behind these requirements is I’m looking to interview other authors who have more experience than me. So far, I’ve written two novels, one of which is 75% of the way through the rewriting process; both are not published. And, I’ve published a novella and a short story. I want to talk to authors who are a little further ahead and have or are figuring out what works for them. If this sounds like you, and you want to be on the show, click here to fill out the Be on the Podcast form.
Story Origins Newsletter Swap for ARC’s
In the previous episode of the podcast, I mentioned that I had signed up for my first newsletter swap on Story Origins. The swap was free to enter, and it was a read and review promotion for stories in the crime and mystery genre. For the sake of clarity, when you sign up for a newsletter swap, you agree to share the books with your list and on social media on a specific day. Even though I had a small list of forty-eight subscribers with a good open rate, I was still accepted into the swap. From the 3rd of November to the 27th of November, the promotion ran, and everyone shared the read and review list with their subscribers.
One of the things I didn’t like about this swap was that the artwork you were supposed to share was misleading. To me, it appeared to be a list of free books, even though the swap was for Advanced Reader Copies or Read and Review Copies. Fearing this would be an issue, I created my own artwork that I felt accurately reflected the swap. Despite my efforts to change the artwork, I still had a couple of readers on social media complain that it was a read and review scenario and not a free book offer. I tried.
By now, you’re wondering, was the swap worth it? The short answer is no. And, now for the long answer. During this three week period, I only received three arc reviewers. As of today, I have no reviews as a result of this newsletter swap. In essence, I gave away three copies of my books for free. If I knew that was going to be the result, I would have rather uploaded my book to the swap with no read and review strings attached. I would’ve received more downloads. However, let’s address the elephant in the room. The results of this swap could be attributed to running a promotion during a US election. An election period is usually when book sales plummet because people are more interested in the political environment. And, that’s something I’ve recently learned from a course called “How Can Your Business Survive the Downturn” by Dean Wesley Smith.
I have to admit, I’ve discovered that I don’t like sharing books that I’ve not personally read. It feels a little icky. Even if the downloads were better, this style of newsletter swap is not something I will do again in the future. To be honest, it doesn’t feel right for my author brand.
Kobo Free Promotion
As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of using the promotions tab on Kobo. If you’ve published your books on kobo and you don’t have access to the promotions tab, all you have to do is send the kobo team an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and request access to the tab. There are no requirements to get access to the tab that I’m aware of; when I requested access, I had only published a long novella and a short story. Once again, I enrolled Missing, in a free promotion for the mystery and thriller list for the very low price of £3.00. During the 23rd of November and the 29th of November, I received 149 downloads.
During this period, I received one five-star and two four-star ratings, which bring my average up to 3.6 for Missing. On Kobo, I have four two-star reviews, which are bringing my average below four. It’s worth pointing out. All the reviews are from free downloads. I’ve noticed that freebie seekers will complain about interesting things. I’ve had someone email me and say they didn’t realise my book was a novella and went on a rant about why they don’t like shorter books, even though the word “novella” is in the story title, and the number of pages is clearly advertised. Sure, some of these two-star ratings come from people who didn’t like the ending but it’s hard to know why with this rating system.
During November, I completed fifty-six hours and fifteen minutes of revision across fourteen sessions or days. This time led me to contribute 7,302 new words to the revised draft of Duplicity. These new words were added to chapters twenty-seven to thirty-four. I’m happy to announce that I’ve reached the 72% mark in the revised draft. On a more fun note, I researched autopsies and autopsy suits within a morgue. In my quest to research all things autopsy related, I came across a couple of interesting books that helped me outline my autopsy scene and get the details correct. Autopsies for Writers by Geoff Symon, * which is a part of the Forensics for Fiction series, turned out to be a valuable resource. The book is available on all ebook e-retailers
My writing progress for November.
Planning the Scene
To outline the autopsy scene, I first had to plan the autopsy and what the forensic pathologist discovers and in what order. As I planned the autopsy, I made a decision about how much gore I would describe in the scene. My decision came down to what was necessary for the reader and at times. I found it would be more interesting to show how the detective and crown prosecutor reacted to the autopsy viewing.
In these planning stages, I reached a point where I need to ask a pathologist questions to clarify a few issues that came up for me. With the help of my husband, I interviewed my father-in-law, who is a retired pathologist who performed autopsies for the French police on a contractual basis. It was during this interview that I realised I had to move a scene forward because the autopsies are only performed during certain hours of the day, and in my book, it was occurring late at night. And, on top of this, I had to add extra time into the crime scene timeline for the pathologist to wait for certain tests to be completed before the autopsy took place.
My Writing Update for December
In December, I planned to have the month off to relax and maybe do a little bit of admin related tasks. Around the Christmas period, I decided to start working on Entitled to Murder, which is the prequel novella for my murder mystery book club series. Over a three-day period, I completed eight hours of writing. And, I’ve included two hours of research because it helped me to outline a scene. Included in that two hours of research is time I spent on Google casting the characters in my novella. I’m glad that I made this decision because it helped me write better descriptions of the characters. At one point, I felt the characters all looked the same.
After the casting was complete, I outlined an important scene in my story. This scene contains a series of moments where the reader sees all of the characters interacting with the victim before the crime occurs. It’s important that I start layering hints at motives, red herrings and other subtle clues. Outlining and scene blocking helps me to achieve this.
Before I started writing this scene, I realised that the story needed a character scene where the reader sees my protagonist react to the events that had taken place up to this point. On top of this, I shared the revised draft to chapter three over on my blog and Wattpad. As of May 2021, over on Wattpad and my blog, I’ve shared chapters one through to ten. Now that I’ve said this, I need to go back to juggling Entitled to Murder with my current project.
Paid and Free Beta Readers
After letting the feedback from my alpha reader from Fiverr sit, partly due to fear, I went through the feedback and applied the changes that I found useful. Before I submitted my manuscript to the paid alpha reader, I changed the victim’s name from Maxwell to Manesh to better reflect his heritage and avoid confusion with another character with a similar name from Missing. I also started noting the beta reader feedback from the readers in BetaBooks in a spreadsheet, just to see any common themes arising. The story isn’t as bad as I first thought, which is a huge relief. Over in Scrivener, I highlighted the chapters that need to further revisions by changing the scene icon from the default to a pen.
Dealing with Feedback
My biggest issue with beta reader feedback is readers telling me what they personally don’t like. For me, the point of hiring beta readers was to figure out whether the story works, not whether a reader doesn’t like how my french character curses in his head in his native language. I’ve chosen to ignore comments like this because this habit is something I’ve observed in people who speak English as a second language. It’s quite natural for someone in times of distress to revert to their native language. When my husband and I first started dating, I have fond memories of waking up at 3:00 am to hear him saying “merde” over and over again while searching through a box for his snow socks. He was doing a bit of last-minute packing before a ski trip to Austria.
Yes, those were the days.
While we’re on the topic of feedback, I also got a comment about a neurodivergent character in my story. I was accused of adding the character as a way of ticking boxes, when in reality, as I rewrote the scene, I discovered that my character was most likely on the Autism Spectrum. In the end, I chose not to defend my non-neurotypical character because it started to feel as if I was writing to a committee, and I didn’t want to unintentionally start a fight.
Pricing Matching a Book on Amazon When Your not in KDP Select
In November, I emailed KDP customer support. To email customer support, you need to click the Help tab located in the top bar in your KDP dashboard, then scroll down and click the yellow contact us button. The button will bring you to a new page, where you need to select the pricing topic and then select price matching. For the sake of full disclosure, I used a template that I learned from the SPF 101 course, and I tweaked it to suit my situation.
However, Amazon does provide a loose template that highlights the information you need to provide for the price match to be successful. My book was price matched to free in the US, UK, CA, and AU stores. But, it did take some time for the matching to take place. From memory, I think it took five days for all the stores to show the price as free.
During my free promotion, Amazon did not change the book back to its original price. A few days later, after the promotion had come to an end, I sent the support desk an email and requested the price match to be removed. The change back to its original price did take some time, but it wasn’t a big deal.
The Results of My free Promotion
From the 4th of December to the 12th of December, I listed for Free on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and via expanded distribution through Draft2Digital. During this time, I used Facebook Ads, Awesome Gang, and My Book Place to promote my book. My goal for this promotion was to generate more book reviews for my first-in-series novella. I want to preface this by saying these results are not spectacular and I didn’t spend a lot of money on these advertisements.
I’m going to dive straight into talking about the reviews I received during this period. After that, I will discuss how the individual ads performed.
At the end of the promotion, I had a total of 15 ratings and reviews on the Amazon US store. I received two five-star ratings on Amazon during this promotional period. And, one four-star review from an arc reviewer that I’m assuming is from Lola’s Blog Tours Review Opportunities. In the review the reader doesn’t say where they received the Advanced Reader Copy, the review doesn’t have a verified purchase label.
Over on Kobo, I had a total of 20 ratings and reviews at the end of the free promotion period. This was not an official Kobo promotion. All I did was set the sale price to free for a particular period. During the promotion, I received four extra ratings and reviews. I received two four-star ratings, one of which was a short but positive review. And, I received two three-star ratings. The issue I have with this rating only system is I don’t know the reasoning behind the rating. To be honest, I can only assume they didn’t like the ending of the story.
On the Google Play store, you don’t get a breakdown of the reviews and ratings, all you see is an average. At the end of the period, I had two ratings and reviews on Google for Missing. I receive one four-star rating with no review.
In terms of downloads, my biggest store was, Amazon, Kobo, and Google. And, I received a total of 209 downloads during the period.
- Kobo, 123 downloads
- Google, 40 downloads
- Amazon, 31 downloads
- Apple, 8 downloads
- B&N, 7 downloads
To be honest, the downloads on Kobo were received at the back of a free promotion which ended on the 29th of November. My book continued to sit on the free page on the Kobo store because I didn’t change the price back after the sale. For some reason, I find it easier to give away a free ebook on Kobo with very little effort. Even on Amazon, I find giving away a free ebook a challenge but that’s because of the number of books available to readers. In December, I received delayed reporting from Barnes and Noble for September, October, November, plus the current period on Draft 2 Digital.
In this section, I’m going to briefly discuss the performance of the ads, including cost, downloads, and click-through rate if it’s available. At this stage, I’m not interested in breaking even or making a return on investment. The only thing I’m interested in is trying to get more reviews for Missing. And hopefully, fingers crossed, I improve the average rating on my novella.
Over on Facebook, I ran a boosted post from the 4th of December to the 12th of December with a link to my books2read page for Missing. The daily budget for the ad was £5 per day. And, the ad had a total budget of £40.00 for the entire period. Those prices I’ve just mentioned do not include sales tax. At the end of the advertising period, I received 427 clicks with a cost per click of nine-pence. Before I ran the ad, I tweaked my existing audience to English speaking countries beyond the UK and USA. According to the Universal book links, 84 people clicked on one of the store links, once they reached the books2read page. Only 19% of people went on to the store. After this, I have no idea how many people went to buy the book.
On the 7th of December, I purchased an Awesome gang promotion for ten USD. During the promotion, I received twenty-seven free downloads across all platforms. I didn’t include any sales from the next day. It’s hard to say whether all of these downloads were from Awesome GHang because I had other promotions running on other stores at the same time.
My Book Place
On the 11th of December, I paid for a free eBook promotion on My Book Place. The promotion cost twenty USD and thirteen free downloads. I’m going to be honest, sharing these statistics is embarrassing because the numbers are small. But, I’m being honest. And, I believe there’s value in sharing these numbers because all you ever hear about are the big sales figures by moire established authors. If you are a new author like me and you’re experimenting with advertising in the hopes of getting more reviews, then I hope this helps you out in some way.
Asking Amazon to lift a Pre-order Penalty
In September, due to the availability and struggling to write during the pandemic, I cancelled the pre-order for Duplicity. Immediately, I received an email from Kindle Direct Publishing letting me know they are “temporarily adjusting our policies for pre-orders to allow you to cancel your pre-order without penalty.” And, all I had to do to lift the stated penalty was contact KDP with the ASIN of the pre-ordered book. I know it’s a little late, but I finally got around to sending them an email. A member of the KDP customer service has emailed me back and lifted my pre-order ban. It was much easier than I first expected.
If you’ve received one of those emails after cancelling a preorder and you’ve on the fence about taking them up on the offer, then I highly recommend you email Amazon customer service back.
So, that’s all of the tasks I completed in terms of writing, book marketing, and email marketing. During the few next months, I want to divide my writing time between my prequel cozy mystery novella, Entitled to Murder and revising Duplicity which is the second book in the James Lalonde series. The next episode of this podcast will be in two weeks time and I will be discussing my author diary update for the first four months of 2021
If you have any questions or have tips on book marketing that you would love to share with me, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Thank you for listening, and happy reading and writing, everybody.
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I’m Amelia. I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Missing, the first book in the James Lalonde series. On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process. Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.