Earlier in the month I released Susie Kelly's fifth Blackbird title, Swallows & Robins - The Guests In My Garden. The tactic of putting out a pre-Swallows mini-collection of her work, The Magic Of France, and offering it at the lowest Amazon price-point has been working way better than anticipated. As I explained in my last post here (What To Do When E-Book Sales Start Dropping - Panic) we didn't make The Magic Of France to sell as a main title in its own right but thought we'd get readers for her other books by offering the collection of extracts for free over the post-Christmas kindle-boom-sale period. Instead, up there at 99c/77p, it began selling and went to #1 Amazon UK French Travel where Susie proceeded to take residence. At one point she was at 1, 2, 3, and 4 and currently the new title, priced at, for us, a premium $3.99, is at #1. So the idea of making a small book (Magic is less than 10,000 words - clearly stated in the blurb) and offering at the lowest price point has definitely gone on the list of sales methods that work. (Unlike Facebook advertising, Goodreads advertising and various other methods we're gradually working through.) It helps of course if the book is an extremely good one and Swallows and Robins, the true story of the world's worst housewife's attempts at running two gite holiday homes and her chaotic relationship with her Cleaning Lady From Hell (not to mention her guests) is a very funny, moving read. We were sufficiently well-organised to have some arcs (advanced reading copies - a term, and a tactic, I only caught up with quite recently) sent out and the response from those readers has been fantastic. I can see why the experienced independent authors are always saying that write, write and write more good stuff is the top way to build sales.
The other new title, Celebrity Cat Names, is my first commission. It was a book I wanted to write myself but, with two nearly-complete novels, and still another rights-reverted novel to get digitised, I knew I'd never get to. I asked Christina Hamilton, an old BBC work mate and cat lover if she fancied it and she did. She's done a far better job than I would ever have done, her passion for cats really comes through. I'm actually more of a dog person, and as far as deep love goes, it's always going to be horses. Christina is a history graduate so the research is very thorough and she's turfed up some surprising new information in there. Standouts for me are the question of whether Isaac Newton really did invent the catflap for his pet cat Spitface; the sad tale of Thomas Hardy's heart; the evil Cardinal Richelieu's deep love of cats and his bizarre namings (Rubis Sur l'Ongle anyone?), and Marie Antoinette's contribution to American feline history. Others may find the entries on Russell Brand, Plan B and The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon naming of his 25 scientist cats more to their taste.
It's Christina's first ever book, so that's all very exciting. We kept comparing the process to making TV documentaries, and there really are many parallels. Accuracy, copyright, presentation, crediting everybody properly, rough cuts, fine cuts.. The paperback literally went up on Amazon about 2 hours ago. For the first time I've gone for a full-colour CreateSpace paperback. The profit margin therefore isn't high but, as we're hoping it will appeal to the gift market, quality had to be uppermost. We then had to decide whether to enroll it in the KDP Select system, keep it exclusive to Amazon for 3 months and gamble on the 5 free offer days raising its profile, or whether to put it out on all platforms. Unlike Susie Kelly, this is a new author with no following, so we couldn't start it at a premium price. We've decided to release it everywhere and keep the price initially low to hopefully raise visibility in the cat book charts. We're also going for traditional PR - press outlets and magazines as well as the cat blogs we've barely begun researching yet. Extracts make perfect stand-alone pieces, so if anybody wants to use them, we are free to put them online. KDP Select is VERY restrictive in that sense!