The mystery of the refunded sales

A few weeks ago I did a five day free give away of The Rage on Kindle. During that period there were about 2000 downloads and a steady trickle of sales thereafter. Amazon provide statistics on the Kindle Direct Publishing page including a button to download a report. I hadn’t looked at one of these reports before so I decided to check it out.

The report gives a daily breakdown of the sales by book and by region. I have only the one book at the moment so all rows were for The Rage. As I studied the report, my first reaction was I haven’t sold that many. Upon further inspection I noticed a column called “Units Refunded”. In the week after the free give-away this accounted for about 30% of total sales. So what’s going on?

I did a search on Google and discovered several articles from people who had discovered the same thing. There seemed to be three main schools of thought:

  1. People had downloaded the book thinking it was still free only to realise that it now cost them the huge amount of £1.99 and had requested a refund from Amazon. Possible, but some were a good five days after the end of the give-away so unlikely in all cases.
  2. People felt that the description did not match the product. One example might be that the book was far shorter than expected. Not applicable in my case at about 115,000 words.
  3. Dishonest people download the book, strip off the protection then ask Amazon for a refund. You would have thought Amazon would pick up on this practice as the perpetrators are likely to be repeat offenders.

So basically I have no real plausible explanation. It’s not enough sales to get excited about but if anybody can shed light on this I would be interested to hear from you.

 

There’s more than one author called Richard Burke

Many years ago (12 to be exact), my wife came across a book whilst shopping in Devizes. The book was called Frozen and the author shared my name. She wrote a message inside the cover and gave it to me for my birthday. Well yesterday I discovered the other Richard Burke’s website (www.richardburkeward.co.uk/) and decided to send him a message.

Two books
Two authors, one name
Frozen
My wife’s message

Richard responded almost immediately and offered some very interesting insights into the life of a published author. After the success of the first book, published by Orion, he struggled writing the second but eventually published Redemption through the same publisher. Interestingly his third book, Payback, was self published and Richard says that he would go down this route again for any future books. In his words, “far easier and potentially far more lucrative”.

You can find Richard’s books on Amazon here.

In a show of solidarity he also bought a copy of The Rage and offered to act as a sounding board if I wanted to bounce any ideas off him – a generous offer for which I am very grateful.

These days Richard earns a living working mostly on factual film scripting (details on his web page).

When I read Frozen all those years ago (I recall that it was very good), I never thought that I would ever write my own book and exchange emails with my namesake.

Hopefully we will now stay in touch. After all, us Richard Burkes must stick together!

Experiences with fiverr

In a previous post I mentioned that I was going to use the services of somebody on fiverr to help promote my book during my Kindle free promotional days.

First the statistics:

Kindle Free downloads 2016-02-13

Over the 5 days approximately 2000 free copies were downloaded but can you spot the days when the book was being actively promoted? They were in fact the first three days shown. Yes, Sunday the 14th was the day with the highest number of downloads but in terms of overall numbers the first day was also the lowest. It’s also interesting that there were a few free downloads on the 6th day – I assume this is something to do with different time zones.

I read somewhere that the best promotional days are Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and this is borne out by the figures although I didn’t actually include a Thursday.

Another point of interest is where the downloads came from. Approximately 95% originated from Amazon UK but I guess this is hardly surprising since to date that is where all of my reviews have come from. Also the story is set in the UK and might not appeal so much to your average American reader.

So what are the conclusions?

  1. I need to get more good reviews on amazon.com.
  2. The guy from fiverr was totally ineffectual – I might have been unlucky but I can’t help thinking that I would get better results from adding the book to the free book websites myself. Having said that, it didn’t cost much.
  3. Sunday seems to be the best day to promote on, followed by Wednesday and Thursday.
  4. In future I would divide my promotional days into single days rather than offering five consecutive days.

Now all I need to do is wait for the deluge of sales to come rolling in!!!

 

The Rage – An update

So The Rage has been available on Amazon now for just over two months and it’s been a mixed bag. The feedback so far has been very positive – six out of six five star reviews (update – now 10 out of 10) including some from people I don’t know. I’ve sold over sixty copies in hardback and about a quarter of that in Kindle format but things have stalled a bit at the moment.

I need to promote!  KDP Select offers the option of five days of free promotion during each three month period. You might wonder how giving a book away for free can improve sales but the idea is that you promote your book on free book sites and get the numbers of downloads and reviews up. Once you pass a certain critical mass, Amazon starts promoting your book when readers are looking at details of other books in the same genre or at least that’s the idea.

There are numerous lists on the Internet of free book sites but I came across a website called fiverr where there are people who will promote your free book at the top 25 free book sites for $5. It would take me several hours to enter details on all the sites so it seems like money well spent.

The promotion runs from February 13th to 17th so I will see how it goes. If you can’t wait until then I urge you to get a copy at a very reasonable £1.99 on the Amazon Kindle store!

Lulu – you make me want to scream

You may have read my praise for Lulu in an earlier post (Lulu – you make me want to shout!). I might also have criticised CreateSpace. I now find that my opinions have changed somewhat. Having decided to self-publish, I uploaded my latest draft to Lulu and started looking at how to sell through Amazon and other outlets.

And that’s where the first shock came. The minimum – and I should say again *** minimum *** – I could sell my book for on Amazon was over £10! You’ve got to be having a laugh, Lulu. £10.76 and at that price I make precisely nothing for every book I sell. Yes, it was cheaper to buy on the Lulu website but when was the last time you heard anybody say “That book I bought on Lulu was really good”?

So back to CreateSpace. I modified the manuscript to the size that CreateSpace prefer (6″ x 9″) and uploaded it. A minor whinge about flattening transparencies, easily ignored, and CreateSpace seems happy. I spent a day or two on cover design (which I was going to do anyway) and I’m good to go. The minimum price on CreateSpace, £7.24. At this price, again zero commission on every sale but considerably better than Lulu.

So the book is currently advertised at £7.99 for the paperback and £1.99 for the Kindle edition (again really easy from CreateSpace).

In conclusion, if you don’t mind changing the format between draft and final version, use Lulu for review copies and CreateSpace for the final version.

If only CreateSpace could ship review copies from the UK.

MOOC Ow!

Note that the “Ow!” is intended in the style of Michael Jackson rather than an indication of pain.

So what is a MOOC you may well ask. Well, a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. The reason I mention it on this blog is that a new course called Start Writing Fiction commences on 12th October. This free course is run by the Open University and lasts for eight weeks. Various authors have been conscripted to provide guidance and advice including Alex Garland, author of The Beach.

Even though I have completed my first book, I still have a huge amount to learn about writing so free advice is always welcome. If some of the input from the successful authors involved in the course rubs off, it will be well worth while. The details page suggests that course work will take up approximately three hours a week so it doesn’t require a huge investment in time.

I took part in a MOOC on a programming language last year (I work for a high technology start-up company during the day) and to be honest it was a bit of a mixed bag. The course started well but then lost pace after the first few weeks. I am hoping that this course will maintain my interest until the end. I intend to go into it with an open mind. If nothing else, it will make good material for a future blog!

Another good source of advice about writing is Marg McAlister’s Writing4Success site. There are literally hundreds of articles about all aspects of writing, many of them thought provoking.

Publishing – the synopsis

When you want a publisher or agent to accept your book, generally you need to submit a synopsis. The synopsis should be a basic summary of the plot and is written in the present tense. That should be easy, you might think, after all you have just written a hundred thousand words or more. Different publishers and agents have different constraints on the length of this document but for most of them it needs to be no more than 600 words long.

Now try and cram your well crafted novel into that number of words. I have to say that it’s not easy. My first attempt came to about 2500 words – only four times too large. After some fairly vicious cutting I was down to about 1200 words – still twice what it needs to be.

Time for a different approach. I found a good guide at publishingcrawl.com that uses the plot of Star Wars as an example. One of the main pieces of advice is to only name three characters. When you think about it, it’s kind of obvious. If you’ve only got 600 words you can’t describe all your characters, their motivations and their actions throughout the book.

Another recommendation is to stick to the main plot and omit sub-plots. In the context of The Rage, this meant omitting all the stuff that explained the cause of the outbreak.

The final major guidance was to ensure that you reveal the ending. Well I was going to do that anyway but the temptation is there to embellish the finale.

So, after taking this advice, I was left with 620 words. After rewording some parts and culling a few unnecessary details I came in at 598 words.

Maybe next time I’ll write the synopsis before I write the book!

The Reviewing Stage

So, that perfect work of fiction that I have created, it contains … wait for it … errors. Yes, you read that right, errors. There are the typos, the missing words, the missing punctuation, the inconsistencies, the implausible behaviour and several other mistakes of one form or another. The question is how to weed them out.

You may have read in an earlier post (Lulu – you make me want to shout!) that I bought four copies of the first draft for review purposes. Well those books are now covered in pencil, red pen and various other almost illegible scribbles. Many thanks to my early readers including Judith, Emily, Tony, Tim, Chris and Ted for taking the time to help me resolve many of the problems.

The second draft of the book is certainly not perfect by any means, but most of the obvious issues have been ironed out and the reviews so far have been very complimentary. So if friends and family like it, a publisher is sure to want to take it. The only problem is finding one who thinks the same way that I do!

More about that in a future post.

Lulu – you make me want to shout!

… in a good way. So after wrestling with CreateSpace, I turned my attention to Lulu. The idea is the same – print on demand and sell through Amazon if you want.

I could probably have found a 6″ by 9″ template but the site recommended A5 size so I patiently converted the text into one of their templates. I uploaded the Word document and … no problems at all.

Now for the cover. I have to say the online cover designer isn’t as good as CreateSpace’s version but it’s adequate for the job. If you are an expert, you can download a template and design the cover offline.

I save the design and .. the web site is satisfied – happy days! I order four books (for the price of three) and wait for them to arrive. They tell me they will be delivered after printing time plus four or five business days.

Four days later I get a parcel. My books have arrived! I open the package with bated breath and … Wow! These are really professionally printed books. The cover looks a bit dark compared to what I had envisioned but the quality is excellent.

For about the same price each that you would buy a bestseller from a book store, I have four books that look like any book that you would pick up in a um … well a book store.

Now for the reviewing stage …