It's a game of two halves... by Cally Phillips

A Tale of Two Cities was one of the books given away for free in this year’s World Book Night, and this post is split into two parts in tribute to Dickens (and to lesser known sporting pundits)
Beware.. there is subliminal marketing in this post (in the form of pictures!)

First half – the Great AE ebook giveaway promotion.

Well, the dust has settled and we’ve shifted a virtual mountain of ebooks and what have we learned? We gave away something over 15,000 ebooks which equates to a total cover price cost of nearly £25,000. So never say we aren’t good to you!

Now, you might ask yourself, why did we do this? Many of us asked ourselves the same questions when we did the sums (that’s the math to our American readers). The answer is actually fairly simple – in order to get ‘visibility.’

Visibility. Before... and after . It's magic 

 What writers want is readers. No one would mind making a living wage out of it, many of us don’t find starving in garrets that attractive a lifestyle– but if there is an equation between creativity and income I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know it. I only know that all creative endeavour has to be undertaken for reasons other than ‘the bottom line.’ There are very, very few authors who ‘make a profit’ in any real sense. And that was certainly not the main (or stated) aim of any authors taking part in this giveaway. No. The idea was to become visible in the market place.

or even on a tree.... but it's not as effective as Amazon. 

In the UK at the moment Amazon more or less IS the ebook shopfront, the only place where you can become visible publishing ebooks. While it’s good of Amazon to let us put our creative works in their store, just being in the store doesn’t mean people will ever find you.  Our current climate means you need to give away your ‘product’ (creativity) for that to happen. So we did.  The sobering fact is that at the moment it’s possible to download many, many ebooks for free. So even giving your work away for free doesn’t guarantee you readers. 

(though this is a perfect place to read... and a setting in Brand Loyalty) 
Consequently this was a risky endeavour. But we rose to the challenge. It developed organically. Probably just as well because if we’d thought about it too long and done the math we might never have embarked upon it! For my part, I undertook to gather data and do some research. (It was my own version of the ‘wooden spoon.’ Because yes, I managed to be the ‘lowest’ in several categories!)

Generally speaking though, the results were pleasing in terms of downloads (potential readers) and ratings.  The split of titles was pretty even between Adult and Ch/YA titles with 12 titles counted as Adult and 8 Titles as Ch/YA. We became top 20 ‘visible’ in a total of fourteen categories and with seven titles we achieved Number #1 in 10 categories worldwide.

The average downloads each title achieved worldwide was 766. Out of the 20 titles counted by me in the Kindle Select promotion, we had 4 number #1 rankings in UK and 8 in US.
A total of 20 titles were included in the promotion:
8 titles were in the Top 5 UK and 12 titles achieved Top 5 US
12 titles were in Top 10 UK and 15 were in top 10 US
19 titles were in Top 20 UK and US
All titles achieved Top 40 status.  Not too shabby! (Sorry for those who hate stats… but it had to be said). For the non stats oriented amongst you, we at least proved that if you throw enough finely honed creative mud at a wall the size of Amazon kindle store, a fair amount of it sticks. 

(I'm not throwing mud at a wall to get a picture... I'll hang things out to dry instead!) 

Perhaps a problem of the free feeding frenzy which can occur as authors (good and bad) try to get noticed (become visible) is that people’s Kindles will be bloating out with ebooks they may never read, simply because they can download them for free. As authors we have to hope that somehow, someday, these ‘potential’ readers will actually read our work and then want more of it. But a fair proportion of folk who download must read so…. And if they like us, they may come back for more. We live in hope.

It’s a bit early to see what sales result from this promotional experiment but our most downloaded title KICKING OFF (Jan Needle) is currently #1 in PAID political fiction in UK.

On top of that though, one of the most cheering things about the whole experience was the way we authors got behind each other and supported each other. There was no sense of competition, just a sense of collaborative action. This is quite different from traditional publishing where authors tend/ are encouraged to think of other authors as their competitors (after all, everyone can’t get a book deal) and it’s another good reason why AE is such a great group to belong to. It’s professional writers, with track records and awards to their names, coming together to support each other and experiment in new ways to get their work OUT THERE.   On that basis alone I’d say the promotion was a success. Time will tell how long the marketing ‘tail’ is.  But I think I speak for us all when I say, we all felt part of something quite special. 

Have a drink before you continue.... it's half time. 
Second half.

My own showings on the great AE giveaway were modest – I’d like to think mainly because (due to distributor disputes) what I had to ‘give away’ wasn’t something that would set the heather alight (well, it might have done that actually) but a collection of short stories written in Scots dialect isn’t to everyone’s taste even for free and I have to be amazed that it made it to #17 in the US rankings and #18 in UK.

So, undaunted and in the spirit of hope over experience, I’m about to do another free promotion (yes and me a Scot, I know…. Watch out for the blue moon up there) and this time (having resolved said distributor dispute) it’s for a book I do think people will want to read. I’d like them to buy it, but if I have to promote it for free first, I’m willing to give it a go.

 Brand Loyalty was published in paperback in 2010 by HoAmPresst Publishing.  It’s been out as an ebook in an edition that included commentary and history/backstory of the more than 10 years it took to come to publication. It’s been miscategorised and mislabelled by distributors and in the six months it’s been out it’s sold very few. But it’s had good reviews by people who’ve read it. You can see some HERE and HERE 
(perhaps not the best place for a book launch?) 

 So now, I’ve repackaged it – PROMOTION SPEAK COMING UP -now you can buy the original novel as an ebook– naked, slimmed down, but complete for the ridiculous price of £1.95.  HERE UK OR HERE US And from 8th through 10th May it’s TOTALLY FREE.  I’d love it if you downloaded it. I’d love it if you tweeted and blogged and goodreads and promoted and reviewed it into the bestsellers listings.  I believe it may be possible. I believe it’s a good enough book. What I have to do is make it VISIBLE and that’s where you can all help me.  

Tell everyone you know. Broadcast the news in whatever way you can!    

I think the strength of Brand Loyalty is that it’s fictionalising our lived experience (from 1960’s-2030) making a reality that can be ‘grim’ and ‘depressing’ into something that is more palatable for the average person who likes to be challenged but would prefer that challenge to be served up as fiction.  As a teaser I’ll just tell you that Helen is a projection of the woman I’ve sometimes thought I might become.  If I live to 70.  In contrast Pryce is a projection of the person I might have been if I’d made poorer life choices. They say write about what you know. So I did. I know the value of your shares in life can go down as well as up and that we have very little ‘control’ over our ‘freedom’ yet at the same time ‘reality is what you choose to believe.’

If you buy it today, I’ll be very grateful of course, and it won’t half bugger up my sales data – (I’ve only worked out how to measure free downloads and post promotion sales, not pre promotion sales) but I think I’ll live with that.  Mostly, I just hope (and indeed have reasonable confidence) that my fellow authors here at AE will pull all the stops out to LAUNCH me skywards into visibility!  You’ve got 3 or 4 days to plan your campaign for me, comrades! Strength in unity. Finally.


Susan Price said…
Great post, Cally! - Folks, Cally has put in, voluntarily and unpaid, hours of work to analyse our giveaway figures and help us understand what we're doing and where we're going. We're very grateful.
And I you've sold a copy of Brand Loyalty to me, Cally! I'm now too curious to resist it.
Good post, Cally - and the statistics are very cheering, I think. Time to draw breath and think about where we go from here. I bought a paper copy of Brand Loyalty, but think I lent it to somebody and it hasn't returned yet, so will put it on my Kindle too!
Jan Needle said…
boring to keep saying thank you, cally, but i mean it very sincerely. i've watched in astonishment how many hours you've thrown into this, as well as running the indie ebook review

this venture - iebr - is not only good, but extremely important. cally's reviewed one of my books in it, very generously, but when i confidently sent her another one to review, she basically told me it was tending towards the crappy side of not ready yet. so i pulled it (having already paid for a cover, damn you, cally!)she could be wrong - what critic couldn't? - but she was honest, and she's a crash hot writer. good enough for me.

at the risk of being boring (and holier than thou) - i think more of us gallant band of sisters and brothers need to bite on the reviewing bullet, before cally has to be committed to a home for distressed gentlescots.

we've got to get the word out, which is what the giveaway was for. keep on truckin...
I'm reading another of Cally's books just now, THE THREADS OF TIME.
One of the best, most enjoyable, exciting novels I've ever read.
A huge sensitivity and intelligence in the story.
julia jones said…
I agree wth St Jan of Needle - if most of us wrote a review a month for iebr - or even a reliable one every two months - and talked about what we were doing and the books we were reading, then the site could soon become establshed as a reliable resource for readers. I 'follow' iebr and I really like the regular, thoughtfully written reviews that arrive in my e-mailbox with the cornflakes. When I last looked i thnk there were only 6? followers ... can that be right?
Jan Needle said…
curses! that means my great review for kicking off was read by me mum (dead) me dad (dead) the dog (dead) cally, and sid and doris bonkers (st needle and his faithful acolyte). it's got to stop!

i don't think i'm a follower, tho (don't even know what it means) and i bet the people whose books were reviewed read it, plus their hordes of faithful friends. get reviewing, people. your opinions matter. we want to know what's good.
Lee said…
As regular reader here, and an obvious proponent of indie epublishing, I too am grateful to Cally for all her hard work. Would you welcome the occasional guest review over at your sister site? I'd be prepared to lend a hand (not too often!) - but of course I'm no professional, and keeping your policy of essentially favourable reviews in mind, I'd need some leeway in my choice.

And no, I'm not offended if no one is interested! If nothing else, perhaps there are others who might help out in this way.
julia jones said…
No no no - it's okay I got it wrong there are now 152 followers so room for your entire extended family to bathe in the reflected glory of breathing the same air as the celebrated author of Kicking Off. (I'm reading Albeson and the Germans at the moment, by the way. Keep worrying about the little lad. I left him in SUCH trouble last night) Being a follower means that you get an email when a new review is posted. Saves the immense trouble of having to remember to look, so not very character building. But nice.

Of course we want visitors too - I don't know what the stats are there, is the welcome mat being worn away by the virtual footfall? Cally will know.

As I understand it, Lee, what we are offering are recommendations - so if I've read something and didn't actually like it much, then I don't write about it.
Jan Needle said…
we don't breathe the air oop north, julia. too dangerous...
CallyPhillips said…
Hi, my prolonged silence was only due to being on 'holiday' (well away from home for 2 days and THAT'S our holidays.) Thanks for all the nice comments though.
I don't understand the 'follower' thing either really. I can confirm that the site gets about 500 views a week at the moment which ain't bad.I'm working on restructuring the whole submissions/review thing to streamline it while staying true to the essential principle of the thing. Watch some space (not this space obviously, just A space, somewhere, where all will become clear in the fulness of time MAY 21ST to be precise!) Before that I've got to see if I can give Jan a run for his money in the political fiction category at Amazon. Get downloading folks.
julia jones said…
In case anyone else was as anxious as I was .. little Jimmy Albeson was OKAY in the end. Had to write a review on Amazon to relieve my emotions.

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