Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mortal Steps Amongst Leviathans by Ruby Barnes

Just before the start of my three weeks of summer leave from the day job, my leviathan employer decided to reorganize. Again. This is the third time in the seven and a half years I've been with them. 100,000 employees in a giant game of musical chairs, some running for the exit and picking up an envelope on the way, others looking to get a softer cushion and a nicer office. I've left my mobile phone switched on so I can see the e-mail indications of frantic energy expended by all involved without having to engage personally. These are decisive reconfigurations that result in us all singing a different theme tune and not daring to utter the unmentionable jargon of the previous regime. It seems like an Orwellian opera on a three year cycle. I quite like it and wonder what project-type job I'll do for the next 24 - 36 months until the next time. Here in my little house, on the sidelines, I can't whisper in the ears of the corporate architects or try to influence the senior stakeholders. If I could then that would be dangerously close to the hub of top bods who tend to be the first night of the long knives victims of cyclical change. No, I shall go with the flow. What will be will be. I look for the shadow of the leviathan's feet and make sure not to get flattened as they stamp the ground.

I take the same view of developments in the publishing world (described in entertaining fashion by Lev in his AE post of 23rd August below). As the Amazonian outlet wrestles with the big name publishers my faint voice will not affect the outcome. The publisher rallies its cavalry and they follow the beat of drum into battle. The outlet attempts to outflank the attack with large numbers of foot soldiers. The air is thick with propaganda. Amazon isn't very nice to its employees is one clarion call, an article originating from a book that is actually for sale on the Zon (although not doing very well in hardback, Kindle or audio formats!) From a safe distance I watch these monsters throw brickbats and I dart in for any crumbs that fall from their jaws. What interests me is that Amazon has opened up its pre-order facility to indie authors and micro-publishers using KDP. Also that the Zon has been beta-testing paid advertising for authors. Also that there is more to Amazon than books. A chap who lives across the road sells costumes. He took a consignment of several thousand lace gloves from a US supplier last year but the timing was wrong and they sat in his warehouse for months. Then he managed to get them on Amazon UK in time for Halloween and they flew off the shelves. A lot of small companies are leveraging Amazon's reach to achieve product exposure for everything from morphsuits to martial arts equipment.

Product exposure is the Holy Grail for micro-publishers and indie authors. For those with the cash flow to support an advertising campaign the challenge is to secure effective advertising placements. This currently means placing a title in a mailout to a large database of ebook customers. The big boys in this business are BookBub - an ad with them to sell a thriller at 99c will cost a cool $500. But it’s not easy to get a placement with them. Another reliable advertising platform is Ereader News Today (ENT). They used to charge a percentage of sales resulting from clicks through their link but have recently moved to a pay-up-front model. Kindle Books and Tips are another. Booksends is also in the running. The buzz on the grapevine is that these advertisers may be losing traction – some recent ads placed by indie authors have failed to break into profit. If Amazon does come up with an effective paid front-of-store advertising model then might that be the answer to the exposure micro-publishers and indie authors crave?

6 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

Interesting post, but it made me wonder if the change from a percentage model to a pay up front model by Ereader News Today, was perhaps a sign that these adverts are no longer working in the way they used to?

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I wondered that too, Chris. I'd looked at them in the past but wouldn't go with the percentage. Hate giving anyone a percentage these days for anything except distribution! Good post as ever. We do duck and dive around the feet of these wrestling monsters, don't we - pouncing on whatever comes our way? I can't get Bookbub to take my money, I'm afraid. I've pretty much given up trying. Although I know some people have had huge success with it. Countdown has been good to me though - very good in one or two cases.

Nick Green said...

In book marketing, one thing and one thing alone has ever been proved undeniably to work... and that is word of mouth.

Of course this isn't a helpful observation, as the burning question remains: how do you GET word of mouth?

I think when we take out an advert / blog tour or whatever, our ultimate hope must be that it will catch the attention of the mouthiest, most overbearing, insistent and obsessive book fan in the nation, who will then be the first tremor that starts the avalanche.

So it's like trying to win the Lottery, basically. So many things are like trying to win the Lottery!

@Ruby_Barnes said...

Chris, ENT switched to paid up front just days after I had a very lack-lustre promo with them. I wouldn't have made breakeven with their new up-front payment. So yes, I suspect things have gone off the boil for them.
Catherine, I found ENT's percentage a good deal before - had a very nice promo with The Baptist earlier this year. I've also had trouble getting some of my titles into BookBub, but one or two have made it after multiple subs.
Nick, that's very true when it comes to lasting impact. Even books that achieve a great paid ranking with a BookBub ad often slip back into obscurity after a few weeks. Of course it depends upon the appeal of the book.

Lydia Bennet said...

Good post as ever Ruby, my heart sinks rather when I see 'now available, pay for twitter/amazon/whatevs as it means the free service might be a bit duff in comparison, they'll be prioritising the paid stuff - and it's not worth it if it costs that much and doesn't pay off in sales. there are just so many books, and lots of people willing to pay for ads. Nick's analogy is spot on.

Wendy R said...

Thank you. I was wondering where to get some ideas about selling other than from people who are selling their own services to boost their sales - often, from my observation, with lack lustre effect.
For my novels I have used Amazon Countdown to a small effect. Also my blog where my books are featured. Also to a small effect, I also mention the booksin an unaggressive fshion now and then on Twitter, I dislike Pulp Fiction type Twitters promoting books. So I don't do them. I agree with Nick's comments above about word-of-mouth being most significant.
And I do my best on that front.
We haav to lov writing our stories and stick with them, And wait for the avalanche.