How to Bundle Your Books on Amazon

The-Conjurors-Series-3D-Omnibus-300x200After publishing the final book in The Conjurors Series, Edge of Pathos, I decided to look into the benefits of bundling the books in my series. I read a great blog post by Lindsay Buroker on the subject, which convinced me to package the first three books in the series together for marketing purposes. Bundling my books wasn’t difficult, but it did involve a learning curve, much like everything in the self-publishing world. To save you some time figuring it out on your own, below is a practical overview of how to build and publish a book bundle on Amazon based on my research and experience.

Creating and Formatting the File
If your book bundle will be on Amazon, you need to create a separate document with all of the books you are bundling combined that you will post as a new book. Include the title page for each book, but make sure that you don’t paste your back matter (e.g. About the Author, Afterward, Acknowledgements) more than once, so the bundle appears cohesive. For your table of contents, I recommend only linking to the titles of each of the books in your bundle, rather than listing all of the chapters.

Cover Art
Most authors who bundle their books create a 3D image of their books as cover art. Some have an entirely different and new cover image to entice readers, while others recycle one of the images from their series for the cover art. Because the cover for the first book in The Conjurors Series, The Society of Imaginary Friends, has been well-received, I chose to use that image with a new title (The Conjurors Collection, Books 1-3). The 3D image also showed the spines of the three books in the bundle, so it was clear what is included.

Bundle Blurb
If you’re like me, writing the blurb for your book is a kind of torture. I spend more time crafting those 150 words than I spend crafting 5,000 of my novel. But it’s still valuable to create a unique description for your book bundle, rather than just repeating the descriptions for each of the books within the bundle. You want to hook readers with a pithy description that will draw them into your world and help them quickly identify what kind of series they’ll be reading. Also be clear about what is and isn’t included in your bundle. I specifically mention that the last book in the series is not in the bundle, so they aren’t disappointed or angry when they realize they have to purchase the last book separately.

Pricing
When it comes to pricing your bundle, don’t sell yourself short. Your bundle should offer a significant savings from buying your books individually, but keeping your price higher will make discounting your bundle more powerful. I priced my bundle at a couple of dollars cheaper than the cost of buying the books individually. I chose this tactic not because I’m expecting to make a lot of money off of the bundle, but rather because if I give it away for free or at $.99, I’m hoping that I’ll attract a lot of readers who will go on to try out the last book in my series.

Reviews
The last thing that you need to do once your bundle is published is to get some reviews for it, which can be the most difficult step. But in this case, you don’t need to find new readers to write your reviews. Tap existing readers who have written reviews on your books to write a review for your bundle, or even copy the review they’ve written for individual books for your bundle. I recommend providing bonus material, such as a short story, to boost your chances of having readers post their reviews. I also decided to solicit reviews through Story Cartel, because I had good luck with that venue in the past (check out my post on the subject here), as well as host a LibraryThing giveaway, which yielded a few reviews for me with prior books.

Have you bundled your books? If so, what tips do you have for creating and marketing your bundle?

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Edge of Pathos, Final Book in The Conjurors Series, Now Available

Edge-of-Pathos-300x200After hundreds of hours of writing, hundreds more of editing and marketing, and almost 400,000 words, The Conjurors Series is complete. I self published the final novel in the series today, Edge of Pathos. You can buy a copy here, if you’re interested, or you can email me through my contact page and I’ll send you a free review copy in any format you request.

I can’t swear that I’ll never return to the world and characters that I built in this series, but for now, I’m looking ahead to a new project and a chance to create something from scratch that incorporates all of the things I’ve learned writing The Conjurors Series.

You can check out the blurb for Edge of Pathos below. For those of you who follow my blog and writing, thank you for your support. Every positive email I’ve received has made me happier than I can express, and every negative review has made me a better writer. I’m grateful to you all.

Edge of Pathos

Never pause, never doubt, never yield. Rise and fight.

Valerie thought she understood loss. Her entire life has been defined by it. But now, she is facing the most frightening loss of all. Her own mind is slipping away, consumed by the power that burns through her every time she saves a life.

As the Fractus sweep across Earth, using the strength of their magic to subjugate the powerless, Valerie struggles to lead the resistance, constantly one step behind her enemy. When Reaper taps into a powerful new source of magic, Valerie knows that solutions that worked in the past won’t be enough to defeat him. She’ll have to reimagine how magic can be harnessed in order to combat a force dark enough to dark enough to enslave all of humankind.

In the final novel of The Conjurors Series, Valerie must bury her pain and uncertainty deep inside of her and make the hardest decisions of her life with no one to guide her. The fate of two worlds depends on it.

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How to Weave Believable Technology into Your YA Dystopian Novel (Part 2)

file000898499863As I mentioned in my last post, Part 1 on this topic, it is with glee that I leave behind the world I’ve been writing about for years to enter a new one. It’s radically different than the one I left behind, not even set in the same time. I’m visiting the future, and am learning about the technology I’ll find there. For the first time, my day job is kinda helpful, as I work in Silicon Valley at a high tech company, where we geek out about what the future will look like all the time.

I’m a believer that the best place to generate ideas for plausible ideas of future technology is to check out cutting-edge technology from today and extrapolate. Below are some resources that might trigger ideas for you.

Technology Websites
No surprise, there are a lot of online resources to sift through if you’re interested in technology. They range from those too mundane to yield exciting inspiration to those so futuristic that they don’t feel plausible. The sites I regularly check out are TechCrunch, which covers the latest technology news, and Fast Company, which doesn’t exclusively focus on technology, but rather innovation. If you’re interested in learning about how electronics function in a little more depth, check out the text and videos on SemisMatter to become more knowledgeable.

Technology-Focused TED Talks
If you haven’t heard of TED talks, they are awesome. Some of the most brilliant people alive share their expertise on everything from writing to technology to business. These brilliant people deliver short (18 minutes or less) talks on all kinds of topics, like robotics, biotechnology and space travel. And you can watch the videos of these talks for free on their website. They have a great search feature, including a way to filter by topic. Check out their most viewed talks and their technology topic talks. You’ll be educated without realizing it, and I defy you not to be inspired by some of the technology that you’re introduced to.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES)
CES is perhaps the most famous technology trade show, where the coolest up-and-coming technology is on display. Unfortunately, this is an industry event that isn’t open to the public, but there is a lot of media coverage of the event. If you do a search for the 2015 show, you’ll hear about the hottest technology that was present. I got distracted by a 3D printer that prints dessert, but that’s another story. Search for new coverage of CES for the past three years or so and you’ll start to notice trends that you can weave into your story.

Reference for the truly geeky.
For those interested in a dense but thought-provoking read about the extremes of what our future might look like, my favorite book, which I encountered in my day job, is The Singularity Is Near, by Ray Kurzweil. It blew my mind and made me grateful to be living in an age of exponential growth of technology. Maybe I’ll have a chip in my brain before I die (by choice!) or tiny robots will be released inside me to cure me of diseases. I sure hope so.

If you’re interested in how some famous ya dystopian authors have handled technology in their novels, check out my last post on the subject.

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How to Weave Believable Technology into Your YA Dystopian Novel (Part 1)

CityI’m in the process of closing my current series and beginning a new one, and I’m thrilled at the chance to create a new world from scratch. My next series will be dystopian YA, and in preparation I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the kinds of technology that I want to incorporate into the world. When I’m engrossed in a well-written YA dystopian novel, the technology never feels foreign. I think that’s because it’s a natural extension of technology that exists today, and therefore feels so plausible that it doesn’t give me pause. On the other hand, when technology is not done well, it often feels superfluous, like a special effect that isn’t really essential to the plot.

Below are some of the ways that successful YA dystopian authors seamlessly integrated technology into the worlds they created.

Have relevant technology interact with the setting of your novel in a way that shapes your protagonist’s mental landscape.
Under the Never Sky, Veronica Rossi
In Under the Never Sky, the heroine, Aria, lives in an enclosed city because the outside world is considered toxic. As a result, space is at a premium. So that people don’t go crazy by being trapped in tight quarters, the Internet and virtual reality mingle to create a world of infinite space. As a result, in reality people may be weak or even malnourished. So when Aria is cast out of the city into the toxic outdoor world, she is more vulnerable than the “savages” who have spent their lives fighting for survival, and are therefore in prime physical condition. This unique use of technology and setting feels like a natural extension of how the Internet works today, and it isn’t superfluous. It’s essential that it exists in order to drive the plot forward.

Modify an existing technology by taking it to the extreme.
Unwind Dystology, Neal Shusterman
Today, kidneys, hearts, lungs and other organs can be transplanted, but imagine a world where that technology is taken to the extreme, and eyes, arms, even brains can be transplanted. One of the creepiest YA books I’ve encountered was Unwind. The premise is that parents can choose to have their kids “unwound” when they’re teenagers – have every single body part donated to science, so their troublesome teen is effectively gone, without officially having been murdered. Most of the technology in this series isn’t creative, but this one strong premise makes it feel wildly futuristic and spookily familiar at the same time.

Have your young protagonist interact with technology of the future in a way that adults wouldn’t.
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game is a classic, and a longtime favorite of mine. The setting, though it is in a very futuristic world complete with space ships and flashy weapons, is also not particularly unique. It’s technology we’ve seen in Star Trek and a number of popular sci-fi books. What makes it unique, however, is that the protagonist is a kid, and he reacts to it differently than any of the adult protagonists of other books and shows do. He finds creative ways to manipulate this technology, and ultimately is himself a victim of his own innocence when it comes to the power of the technology he wields. As a YA author, considering how your young protagonist will inhabit the world you’ve created is crucial. Remember that they are learning about it alongside you and your reader, rather than guiding you through it.

MedicalInvent a medical technology that solves a current problem in a way that creates a new one.
Uglies, Scott Westerfeld
There are a number of effective uses of futuristic technology in the Uglies series, but the most dramatic is the extreme plastic surgery that everyone undergoes to be made beautiful as they enter adulthood. Aside from looks, this also includes messing with the brain so that people are placid drones who don’t question the status quo. What worked well with the way the technology was handled was that the author didn’t over-explain it. The mechanics were hinted at, but specifics were left to the reader’s imagination.

Incorporate technology that affects the social structure of your world.
Matched, Ally Condie
In Matched, it is less the physical technology that takes center stage, but rather software that matches soul mates to each other that forms the premise of the series. It’s easy to think of futuristic technology in terms of things, like hovercrafts, but this more subtle use of technology can be even more believable and compelling. Matched, like Uglies, seamlessly wove in technology without over-explaining specifics of how it works. In hardcore sci-fi and fantasy, this would never fly. But with YA readers, it works well. Imagination supplies answers where needed, and readers are more interested in the character development than geeky details.

For those interested in learning more info on how to create believable technology for your dystopian YA novel, my next blog post shares resources that can inspire you if you’re having trouble envisioning what the technology of the future will look like.

Posted in Craft of Writing, Insights from Popular YA Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Best Places to Advertise Your $0.99 Ebook Promotion

As my adventures in advertising and marketing my self-published books continue, I thought I’d share some lessons from my latest $0.99 promotion of the first book in The Conjurors Series. For this attempt, I clustered five different advertisements within one week in an attempt to push up my ranking and visibility on Amazon, particularly for certain subgenre lists.

I was reasonably successful (by my modest standards), and for the week that I ran the promo, I had 87 people purchase my book. My highest ranking was around 6,000 for paid books on Amazon, but I was in the top 20 of three key subcategories that my book fell into.

A good percentage of the people who downloaded my book have now purchased the second (and even third) book in the series. Overall, I have recovered the money I spent on advertising with sales, but not with much left over profit-wise. But I consider the promo a success, because I now have a better idea where to focus my limited budget for future ads.

Below are the sites I used to advertise, and the success I had with each one.

The Fussy Librarian, $14
I’ve used this site for various free promotions, and it usually gives me a noticeable bump in downloads. For the day I advertised on Fussy, I had 7 downloads of my book at $0.99, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it did help push me up in the rankings. Overall, I would use this site again, especially in conjunction with other advertising as a way to increase my visibility on the Amazon lists.

Free Kindle Books and Tips, $25
This was my first experience with this site, but it came recommended from a fellow author so I decided to check it out. On the day I advertised, I had 15 downloads of my book, a decent percentage of which I assume are from this listing. For my meager budget, I found this a little pricey, but ultimately worth it, as it helped push my ranking in Amazon’s paid lists up to about 17,000 (from 100,000).

Ereader News Today, $15
Without question, this was the most valuable advertisement I’ve paid for. It’s hard to say exactly how many people came from this source, but I estimate around 30 downloads, which brought my rank up to around 6,000. It was in the top 20 of three subgenre lists, which may have also increased downloads.

Bookgoodies, $35; Bookgoodies Kids, $35 (home page feature for one week)
Bookgoodies was my biggest investment, and also my biggest disappointment. I estimate that it drove a couple of sales of my book a day, which isn’t nothing, but didn’t have the same impact as any of my other advertisements, in spite of being more expensive. This surprised me, because I’ve found Bookgoodies to be very helpful in driving traffic for the free promos of my books.

Are there any places where you’ve had great success with ads? I know Bookbub is awesome, but I haven’t managed to get them to agree to list my book yet.

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In Quest of an Honest Review

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When I began my self-publishing journey a few years ago and sent my novel into the world, I’ll confess to being shocked when anyone didn’t like it. My first 3-star review led me to eat five peppermint patties in a row. That’ll show ’em. But 3 years and 40 reviews later, I have a very different take on reviews. I’m happy to see them, no matter what the star rating is. The people who don’t like my writing teach me at least as much as the people who do.

Think my dialogue is trite? Allow me to rewrite it. The opening of my book didn’t hook you? Let me add a scene. My book reads like it was written for a younger target audience? Maybe it’s time to market it to middle grade instead of young adult.

Now that I’m almost done with the last book in my series, I know that I’ll take all the lessons that my readers taught me and apply them to my new series from the get-go. And my attitude toward reviews has completely changed. When it comes to reviews, no matter how critical, I say bring it on.

I have gone from wanting people to like my book to wanting to know the truth about my writing. No matter what people think, I’ll probably always write, but I don’t want to be deluded about it. When readers give me the truth, I relish it, even when it’s criticism.

For that reason, I decided to have the first book in The Conjurors Series reviewed by Glenn Hates Books – Brutally Honest Book Reviews. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants an honest assessment of their book. He won’t pull punches, but he’s not out to eviscerate everyone, either. If you’re ready for the truth, give it a try.

If you have any other recommendations on places to get legitimate reviews of books, let me know. I’ve tried Story Cartel with some success, and reaching out through social networks. Have you had any luck with other sources?

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Lessons from a Failed KDP Select Free Promo

shutterstock_120732190In the new year, I used three of my KDP free days to promote the first book in The Conjurors Series, The Society of Imaginary Friends. I was determined to put everything I had into the campaign in order to maximize downloads of my free book and hopefully convince readers to continue with my series. I’ve been exclusively selling my books through Amazon since I began self-publishing, and have been toying with the idea of making my books available with other retailers (and thereby enabling the first book in the series to be perma free). This promotion was my final push to see if I could get a serious number of downloads of my free book using Amazon alone.

I’ve never spent more time (or money) promoting my free days, than this round. I submitted my book’s info to more than 70 sites that list free ebooks, and paid for placement on Book Goodies, Book Goodies Kids, The Fussy Librarian, Genre Pulse, Free Books Daily, FK Books and Tips, and through Fiverr with bknights. None of these ads were expensive (almost all were under $10), but it’s still more than I’ve ever spent promoting my book.

So what was the result? A lot less downloads than I had when I ran my last free promo in the summer (when I submitted my information to about 30 sites that list free books, and that was it). Same cover, same blurb, more positive reviews than ever. Below are my stats from my last two KDP select free promos.

March, 2014 Free Promo (minimal effort):
3,041 Downloads
Highest Rank Achieved on Amazon’s Free List: 96

January, 2015 Free Promo (major effort):
1,924 Downloads
Highest Rank Achieved on Amazon’s Free List: 220

I don’t think it’s worthwhile to make guesses about why my promo was so weak this time around (or lament how hard it is to give a book you’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on away for free). Instead, I’ve assembled a list of do’s and don’ts for your next KDP select free promo based on all of the free promos I’ve run since I began in 2011, in hopes that your next promo goes better than mine.

DO be flexible about what days your book is free if it means being listed on a major site like Bookbub or Pixel of Ink.
I wasn’t lucky enough to snag a spot on either site, but authors who have report thousands and thousands of downloads, which pays for their free promos many times over. But they have a limited number of slots, so be willing to work your schedule around theirs. The impact will be worth it.

DO track where your book was actually posted, to the best of your ability, and see if you notice any trends/spikes based on when different sources posted your book.
Whether you run your next free promo through KDP select or make your book perma-free, like I’m planning to do this year, you will have future promos of your free book. It’s worth it to track which sites gave you the most love, so you know where to focus your attention for future campaigns.

DO your due diligence on having a professional cover and blurb.
Spend the money to have a strong, professional cover created for your book, and make sure your blurb has been run by an editor, as well as a good number of readers you trust. For a relatively unknown writer, having a weak cover or book description will break your promo.

DON’T spend a lot of time submitting your information to the dozens of small sites that list free and discounted books.
Many sites will only result in a download or two, nowhere near what you need to rise up the rankings (where your visibility will begin to drive your numbers). Finding these sites and submitting your info is a surprisingly huge time sink, that would probably be better spent writing your next book. Note: For a paid promo of your book, it might be a different story. Sites that are willing to post your paid book and yield a couple of downloads can be hugely impactful for your numbers.

DON’T inundate your Twitter and Facebook feeds with your freebie announcements.
Experts suggest posting links once or twice a day, but don’t be sending notices every hour. Not only is it annoying to fans and friends who follow you, but it isn’t an effective strategy. For most authors, sales are not driven through these mediums. That’s not to say it isn’t worth getting the word out, but keep it simple.

I’d welcome any additional tips you have on how to run a great free promo of your book.

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