Sunday, July 28, 2013

Authors: My Amazing Amazon Free Promo

Last September, I tried my first free promotion on Amazon with my debut novel from 2011.
The book had been out for a year and I thought I'd see what all the talk was about running limited free access to a book. Several people will ask why authors do this and I think the answer depends on the person.
  1. To gain new readers. Authors write because they want people to read. The hope is to find those people on kindle looking for free books and get them hooked on your writing style.
  2. To gain more sales. I know this may sound strange since it is free, but for authors will multiple books - the hope is a reader will look up their other books and buy another.
  3. To climb the Amazon chart and get noticed. There was a time this may have made sense, but it seems the Amazon landscape changes monthly and I'm not certain climbing a free ranking really does anything for an author any more.
Still, I thought I'd try it again with my 2nd novel that came out on 4/15/12. But this time, it was 4 & 16 that were important numbers. For another three days, I placed Patchwork of Me as a free download. I called it "Christmas in July" as I was giving away a gift (of a book that actually has Christmas in it), but in the end I was the one to gain a huge gift.

 So I wanted to share my findings with those authors reading my blog and who may be thinking of doing the same.
  • I planned better this time out. I notified (a month early) some of the sites that promote free books. On top of this, I noticed by day two (with a google search) that my book was listed on another seven sites.
  • The climb up the charts happened much more quickly this time than it did last fall. I used the same days (Thurs/Fri/Sat) and on the first day I went from 926 in all Kindle Free books to 145 by the end of the night. I went from #39 in Women's Fiction to #8. 
  • While I can't share the actual number of downloads, I surpassed the number of downloads from the 3 day promo in the fall in the first day this time.

I woke Friday morning to this.

I was #4 in Women's Fiction and was #116 in all Kindle Free Books. Just 16 from that 'elusive Top 100 Books'. Naturally the competitor in me wanting to get to that number, but I've learned the closer you get - the harder it is to make those rankings move. The top ones are hanging on tightly to their spots and I actually expected to wake and be higher than Friday night and not be at #4. The amount of downloads over night was a 14% jump from the previous night.

And then, like last fall, the climb changed and I assumed I had seen my best ranking as I watched it head the other way. Downloads slowed way down from the average it had been each hour. I managed to stay in the top 200 Kindle Free Books for a while and then it climbed back up to 345 through Friday night into Saturday morning. And yes, I slowed down my 'social media' sharing of the promotion.
Did it! Made it into the top 100 Books

The final day, it is hard to describe what happened. By midmorning I had jumped 25% in downloads yet it didn't alter the rankings (which continued to climb but never over 350). Then throughout the afternoon, the downloads were coming fast and furious. It was back to the speed of day one and then surpassed the speed of that first day. I had three times as many downloads in day three as I had received in days one & two combined. By 3:30, I had done it - I had busted into the top 100 Free Kindle Books at #86.

The entire third day afternoon/evening was a complete whirlwind of activity. By midnight (NY time) of that last day of the promotion, I actually climbed even more to #25 Free in Kindle Store. And the rate of downloads per 1/2 hr was out of this world for this indie author. I was completely blown away! (If only Amazon allowed authors to share that info.) Knowing Amazon counts Pacific time, I did wake and grabbed this screen shot at 2:40 am (my time). 

There on the screen was my best ranking. #16 of all Free Kindle books and back in #4 in Women's Fiction.

My Best Ranking During The Promo

In the end; do I think it's worth it?

Absolutely! I do. I was able to reach readers that I would never be able to get otherwise. Sure, I made no money, but there are soooo many more people reading my words; my story. Just maybe they'll like it so much they'll try Cool Side of the PillowWell With My Soul, or Proud Pants. The entire three day promotion garnered an 86% increase in downloads from that of my last promotion in 2012 (and I thought I had done well THEN). By Sunday, it is all a blur, completely gone and I'm back up in the high numbers in the paid store.  I lost 10 twitter followers in the process - one of which started following me during the promo, but the ten probably got sick of my tweeting about the Free Book - but the loss was well worth it for this author wanting people to read what he has written. If 1/3 (or even less) of those downloads turn into reviews and/or new readers, I'll be thrilled!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Discussion of Summer Reads with YA Authors

Summer is the time when teens are out of school and to keep their minds working, many continue to read (some required reading, some for fun). I decided to reach out to two fellow ASD Publishing authors that both write YA novels to ask them some questions. Two wonderful women I've been able to 'virtual meet' all because of our shared love of writing (and yes...I'm also working on a YA novel...shhhhhh...don't tell anyone).

Meet Karen DelleCava and Selene Castrovilla!

Greg: Thank you both for taking the time during this warm summer week in the Northeast (great time to curl up with a book) to join me on my blog. Let's start with your favorite all time YA book.

Karen: I scanned my bookcases and so many titles jumped out and shouted, "Pick me!" I love YA novels that march fearlessly into difficult, taboo territories and give voice to a teen who may have thought they were all alone dealing with the same kind of issues. I can't choose one all time favorite but I'll say that Laurie Halse Anderson's and Chris Crutcher's brilliant novels never disappoint. 

Selene: The Catcher in the Rye. I read it when I was about nine, because Tiger Beat Magazine listed it as my idol Parker Stevenson's favorite book. It was impossible not to feel Holden Caulfield's loneliness and pain - his yearing for acceptance and love. I completely identified with it. Teens are struggling to find themselves and their place in the world, and The Catcher in the Rye helped me do that. I wasn't alone at being alone. This theme carries through in my novel, Saved by the Music

Greg: Awesome! Can you talk about the state of YA novels today?

Karen: Back in the day, I relied on a friend's breathless recommendation: "You have to read this book!" At school visits, I meet students who get pumped up about a book by hearing about it from friends, their school librarian and teachers. Word of mouth is still gold and today the Internet makes mining that much easier. Goodreads and YA bloggers connect readers with similar tastes and tons of breathless recommendations from those who've discovered a YA treasure.

Selene: I don’t remember anyone using the term “YA books” when I was growing up. Books were books. I like that teens have their own category, but everything is over-labeled, in my opinion. Why can’t an adult enjoy and identify a book about a teenager? They were once one, and I’ll wager it was the toughest time in their lives. YA books – and books in generally – are up against so many more distractions from when I was a teen. Social media, video games, twenty-billion cable stations, and of course texting...All of these distractions vie for teens’ attention. That’s why I wanted my books to be available for download. Today’s teens read most things electronically, whether we like it or not. We have to make sure our books are available for them on their terms.

Greg: I'm amazed by the diversity of themes and issues covered in YA. What are your thoughts?

Karen: YA authors must tap into the uncertainty, inexperience and raw emotions of the teen years with brutal honestly and at times a touch of humor. When they do, the work will resonate with teen and teen-at-heart readers. In A Closer Look, 14 year old Cassie has alopecia areata, a hair loss disease, which strikes during her first budding romance. The novel also explores the universal need to fit in. I do not have AA but I had an accident with boiling water as a kid and know what it feels like to be painfully self-conscious and uncomfortable in my own skin. Teen readers who write to me always ask if I have alopecia--guess I did something right.

Selene: To me, the biggest theme in YA is coming of age: alienation and trying to fit in, feeling somehow wrong but not knowing how to fix the problem, grief over loss of innocence, and trying to cope in a world where anything can happen. My novel Saved by the Music addresses the dilemma of not fitting in, and the measures one girl takes to try and be popular and the universal problem of loneliness. I think all good YA literature addresses teen angst. The trick is to be real, because teens can spot phoniness a mile away. When I write my novels I go back to being a teen and write from her perspective, and frankly, it’s not that far a journey into my psyche because I still have so many unresolved issues. The other theme I identified so strongly with as a teen was trying to function in an unpredictable world. How could I feel safe when at any moment, anything could happen? This is the theme in The Girl Next Door.

Greg: Do you find the time of year has any effect on the reading of YA? (Is summer
stronger than the school year?)

Karen: With all the enthusiastic teen librarians, Goodreads, countless YA bloggers and their followers out there, YA readers seem like they're on the hunt for titles to devour year round.

Selene: I think teens who enjoy books read more in the summer, because they have free time and choose to fill it that way. Teens who don’t like books will read more during the school year, because they have no choice. I still believe that a teen who doesn't like books just hasn't found the book that turns him or her on yet. I’m proud that my nineteen year old son Michael has been reading a book a day since his summer break began.

Greg: This has been a great conversation! Thank you. Before you go…tell me what you are working on now.

Karen: I'm nearing the end of a first draft for my next contemporary YA. Then onto revisions! Greg, I so enjoyed your adult books Patchwork of Me and Well with My Soul, I can't wait to see what's next from you in YA. Thanks for having us here today!

Selene: I am addressing the theme of abuse and its consequences in my next teen novel, tied in with the overall confusion of coming of age. This novel is dark and gritty, but it also contains a love story. Love is the ultimate redemption, is it not?

Greg: Thanks for those kind words, Karen and so true, Selene. Please visit these amazing authors on their websites!

Karen DelleCava 
Selene Castrovilla

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Journey with An Old Friend

In the musical Violet, a young woman goes on a pilgrimage to find a TV evangelist to heal her from a scar she received in a horrible accident. I had the privilege of playing that preacher man in a production in 2001 at 4th Wall Theatre and tonight, I returned on that journey with Violet once again for a one night only concert at City Center in NYC presented by the Encores! Series.

Sutton Foster has been a Tony award-winning darling on Broadway for many years and when announced she would be playing the 25 year old lead in this show, I will admit my first thought was "25?" - boy was I mistaken. Even sitting on the 2nd row (where I had amazing seats), she read so young, so vulnerable and sang the heck out of Jeanine Tesori & Brian Crawley's fabulous show. I have never seen Joshua Henry before and I have been missing out. Somehow, I've missed every Broadway show this man has done, but as Flick in this show - he brings the house down! My former next door neighbor, the wonderful Christopher Sieber plays the role that is near and dear to my heart and gives a great performance as the man that Violet is so desperate to meet. The church number literally shock the stage at City Center when a choir from Harlem joined them on the stage. The entire ensemble of 11 performers and entire pit were all wonderful and I count myself lucky being able to experience this explosive night.

Encores is known for presenting Broadway shows in a concert setting, but kudos to Jeanine Tesori (the Off-Center Artistic Director) for including off-Broadway shows such as this to give it another life. It is truly incredible to watch how much actors can get into a production they are only doing once and carrying scripts. It says much about their abilities as well as what is happening with this series.

Greg as Preacher-man '01
It is always something to return to a place from an earlier point in your life: however you may do that. Going back home after years, going to a high school reunion or in this case...a show that we were rehearsing during 9/11. Sitting there tonight, I remembered what it was like to decide to continue on and do this show back in Sept '01. You are not only moved by what is happening on stage, but you are moved by the memories you recall as well from when you were working on it. And to return there with cast members from our show 12 years ago, even more special.

It was a true joy to be able to go back there tonight and one I'll remember for a long time.

Great job to everyone involved in this show!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An Addict is More Than Their Addiction

The news of what took Cory Monteith's life at such an early age really hit me. No, I have not battled with my own demons of drug addiction - but I do know others that have. Before the coroner's report ever came out, people were already speaking of Monteith's past with addiction and that he admitted himself into rehab this spring. I would read on forums where some did not realize the tragedy involved because they felt addicts bring it on themselves.

The truth is, he was a young man that was someone's son, brother, friend, partner and was loved by many. To those that see another Hollywood type with fame and fortune - I say you miss the point. It takes many people years to get that monkey off their back and for others; they don't always achieve it. 

My half brother was also in his early 30s when he passed and fought his entire adult life against the voices that plagued him. I spent so many years upset with him about the life he chose to lead until I finally let go of my anger and wrote a book about his life.

I don't look down on an addict and point fingers in shame over their life. I ache for them in their pain. That they can't let go of what holds them down. That many can continue to go through their days and appear as if all is normal only makes it all that much harder in their quest to rid themselves of the addiction. Because it appears as if they can live a regular life and continue to do it - makes it more difficult to let go.

My heart goes out to the Monteith family and yes, his Hollywood family as well. But I hope that people do not simply write him off as one more crushed by fame. 

A person is much more than their addiction.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Music Does More than Soothe a Soul

It's a pretty well known fact that music can be used to change our moods. From a peppy song that gets you rocking in your car to a somber one when you're already feeling low. The shift in beat and lyrics can alter how we feel. Hollywood gets it. They use it all the time to manipulate us into feeling a certain way during a scene of a movie. I'm not complaining. It has always been such an important part of my life that when playing the game "what if you lost one of your senses" - mine has always been I couldn't handle losing my hearing for fear of missing music. But I'm most fascinated by the sensory mechanism of music. Our ears can receive the music and shoot our minds back to another place in time.

That's how you can be listening to a song and all of a sudden you are standing near your car at the high school football game. Or another can take you to that sophomore year of college. The day your child was born. The moment you first laid eyes on the love of your life. (I have several that take me back thirteen years ago when I was first met my other half.)

And the funny thing is, Celine Dion seems to play a huge part of the soundtrack of my adult life. "I Want You To Need Me" comes on (the uptempo version) and I'm on the dance floor at our local NJ bar. "Have You Ever Been In Love" and I think of my anniversary. Or I can go all the way back to the early 90s to her first two CDs I ever owned (Unison and her self titled album) and recall a period where I was dumped and played her sappy songs over and over.

Yes, one of those came on the radio on the way to work this morning and I found myself laughing at that particular memory. That my younger 20-something self felt so devastated by this particular person is completely ridiculous to me in hindsight.

 So do you have one of those music memories that seems laughable now? 

And who is the soundtrack to your life?

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Few Social Media Tips

Now and again, people know I like to share helpful hints that I've found useful when it comes to social media. Usually these are geared towards my author friends, but can actually work for others as well.

Social media is about being "social" - but too many new authors (myself included when I started out) think of it as a place to scream about their latest book. While this is a wonderful way to reach an audience, people want to know they are interacting with someone real and not just a peddler. I have a couple thousand followers on twitter and I know I can't interact with all of them, but I try my best to get to as many as possible.

  • Interact on topics other than your book.
  • Watch your favorite TV show with twitter and see the hashtags around that show. A GREAT way to meet new people that enjoy similar things.
  • Respond to People. 
  • Retweet some favorite tweets.
  • Retweet some tweets about other author's books.
I tend to use Facebook as my place to announce things happening with my writing or where I'm going to be for a book signing and then use twitter more as interacting and meeting new people.

The bottom line: if you are an author looking to get people interested in something you've written, getting to know the person first on common ground before trying to sell them something can go a long way.

Oh - and a huge pet peeve of mine: the moment I follow someone back on twitter that has followed me and I get an instant "Direct Message" or reply with a sales pitch to buy and retweet about their book...a huge turn-off.