Monday, 31 August 2015

Cleaver Square Promo: August 31st 'til September 6th

To celebrate the launch of Ten Guilty Men, we’re offering you the opportunity to pick up Cleaver Square at a discount.

From today until the 6th of September, Cleaver Square will be on a Kindle Countdown deal.
Still free.
In the UK, the price will drop from £1.99 to £0.99 for the whole period, while in the USA it’ll drop to 99c before climbing back to $2.99.

After that our pricing will still be cheap –“Three for three quid (and 98 pence)”.

That’s Dead on Demand for free, Cleaver Square for £1.99 and Ten Guilty Men for £1.99 (launch special). Total cost for the three: £3.98.

That’s days of reading (nearly a quarter of a million words, over a thousand print pages) for the price of a pint of beer (not that we’re knocking the beer).



Launch price £1.99
Usually £1.99 but 99p from August 31st 'til September 6th.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Ten Guilty Men Launch Marketing Plan

Back in 2012 Dan and I launched Dead on Demand free for 5 days, and every step of the way we told you what we were booking in terms of adverts, when and how much it cost.

We then shared the results.

At the time we were aiming for 10,000 downloads.
We managed 55,500. Happy days.

This time around, we’re going for a triple whammy of deals:
  • Dead on Demand for free.
  • Cleaver Square on Countdown for a week
  • Ten Guilty Men for £1.99/ $2.99 (launch price).
This makes the whole DCI Morton series incredibly good value – and no part works, no samples pretending to be books, no hooking you in then jacking up the price. What we’re aiming for is everyday good value, and a risk free sample so you can try before you buy.

I want you to keep us to that. If you ever think we’re being unfair, tell us. Let us know if we’re not delivering the value you deserve, and we’ll see what we can do. We got asked about Kindle Unlimited a while back – and we’ve delivered. Front and backlist, books new and old, are all free for subscribers. If you’ve got Kindle Unlimited (or take out a free 30 day trial) then you don’t have to pay a penny to read our books legally.

So onto the marketing plan. We don’t like spending oodles on adverts. Realistically a big spend will result in big sales – but it won’t necessarily result in a positive return on investment, and someone has to pay for advertising (either by cutting our already-slim profits, or by increasing the price), which means sensible investment is the order of the day: we need to get back more in sales than we put in.

This isn’t long term brand building. It isn’t throwing money at the wall and hoping it sticks. In a market with razor thin margins, that sort of thing would be reckless. Our brand building comes from our books. If you enjoy them and think the price is fair, then you’ll come back.

We hope.

So far readers have returned. Most of those we’ve spoken to have said Cleaver Square is vastly better than Dead on Demand (we think so too), but Ten Guilty Men is at least as good if not better.

I’m hoping for a strong launch. We’ve had a fairly good preorder run, especially in the UK, but we think once we’ve got a sample up, reviews flowing in, and the instant gratification via kindle, that Ten Guilty Men should do reasonably well.

Here’s how we’re going to do it:

Firstly, we’re promoting Dead on Demand at the end of August and the start of September. Free books are easier to sell to people who haven’t heard of you. That hasn’t changed since last time. The big risk is that we might suffer some list fatigue as Dead on Demand has been downloaded so many times, and we’ve used all the major advertising venues before.

Secondly, we’re going to 99c/99p for Cleaver Square for one week from August 31st til September 6th. That’s all of next week. That means new readers can have two full length novels for under a dollar.

Third, we’re promoting Ten Guilty Men. It’s hard to advertise new eBooks, but we’ve got a few adverts booked. By the time we get to the TGM adverts, we should have some early reviews up (both as a result of preorders and because we’ve been sending free review copies to anyone that would take one!).

So without further ado, our draft advertising schedule. We’ll be adding more to this as we go, so come back and check it out in a week or two. If you want to see how successful this run is, feel free to track our book rankings.

Schedule:
Aug 25th:
Flurries of Words (Dead on Demand)

August 28th:
BKnights free book promotion (Dead on Demand)
Kathleen Ball Blog Feature (Dead on Demand)

August 29th:
KUForum Ad Day 1 (Cleaver Square)

Aug 30th:
Kindle Nation Daily free eBook highlighter (Dead on Demand)
KUForum Ad Day 2 (Cleaver Square)
BookButterfly (Dead on Demand)
Mailshot goes out to my mailing list: combining New Release notification with Countdown announcement plus a reminder that DoD is free (Dead on Demand, Cleaver Square, Ten Guilty Men)
KUForum announcement post

Aug 31st:
BargainBooksy (Cleaver Square)
DigitalBookSpot/BKnights (Cleaver Square)
KUForum Ad Day 3 (Cleaver Square)
GenrePulse (Cleaver Square)
Kboards 'Bargain Book Promo' (Cleaver Square)
Kboards announcement post
BookHippo.co.uk (Cleaver Square)

September 1st:
Flurries of Words (Cleaver Square)
KUForum Ad Day 4 (Cleaver Square)
FKbooksandTips (Dead on Demand)
Booksends (Cleaver Square)
Pixel of Ink (Cleaver Square)
eReaderIQ (Cleaver Square)
eReaderNewsToday (Cleaver Square)

September 2nd:
Fussy Librarian (Cleaver Square)
KUForum Banner Day 5 (Cleaver Square)
Dailyfreebooks.co.uk (Dead on Demand)
BookButterfly (Cleaver Square)
Cintascorner.com (Ten Guilty Men)

September 3rd:
KUForum Ad Day 6 (Cleaver Square)

September 4th:
KUForum Ad Day  7 (Cleaver Square)
BookBub (Dead on Demand; UK, USA, Canada, India)
http://authorsyouwanttoread.com/ (Dead on Demand, Cleaver Square, Ten Guilty Men)

NB - The Spanish version of Cleaver Square goes free on the 4th for 5 days.

September 5th:
Flurries of Words (Ten Guilty Men)
KUForum Ad ends (Cleaver Square)

September 6th:
FKBooksandTips Deal of the Day (Cleaver Square)
FKBooksandTips New Release (Ten Guilty Men)

September 12th:
Robin Reads (Ten Guilty Men)

September 13th:
Kindle Nation Daily Book of the Day (Ten Guilty Men)
BookGorilla (Ten Guilty Men)


Saturday, 22 August 2015

9 Days to Go

Dan left on his trip this morning. Thanks to you guys, he’s off on a three month culinary adventure in Copenhagen funded by royalties from Cleaver Square.

While Dan is off learning, I’ll be here in the office working away on DCI Morton #4. Before he left, we plotted out most of the storyline, and we’ve written the first few chapters to make sure it feels right.

But after this point, DCI Morton #4 is likely to be a bit of a solo effort. We’ve got to keep up the pace of production, lest we lose the momentum the series has going, so we’re aiming for a (slightly ambitious) early 2016 release. We’ll confirm more on that in a few months’ time as #4 moves into the editing stages.

Before that, DCI Morton #3, Ten Guilty Men, launches at the end of the month. Many of you have pre-ordered it already which is awesome (so thank you very much). Those early purchases make a big difference to the momentum we’ll have as the books launches, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the take up as I know pre-orders are a hard sell. I’ve bought several thousand eBooks in the past few years but there are a grand total of zero pre-orders in my Amazon account history.

Pre-orders should be a hard sell. No samples. No reviews. No word of mouth. And in our case,very little paid advertising (because, let’s face it, we have to build that cost into the price of the book so you guys would be paying for it!).
Despite that we’ll launch with sales that exceed the lifetime average for an eBook. Yep. Day zero, and we’ll have more than the average eBook typically sells (which isn’t much – 2.6 million eBooks on Amazon, thousands more every month, equal very few purchases per title for those below the tip of the iceberg that you can see in the charts).
What we really need are reviews. We’ve sent out a lot of free ARCs to reviewers, but we’ve still got time to send out a few more. If you want a free copy, send us an email before the end of the month with your preferred electronic format (sorry, no paperbacks – the costs of shipping globally eat up too much of the budget… and we’d have to build that cost into our pricing so they wouldn’t be truly free unlike eBooks).
And on the subject of print, we’ll have the trade paperback version of Ten Guilty Men available asap. If you’re after a signed copy, shoot us an email. For obvious reasons it’s me or Dan (as I’m in the UK and he’s in Denmark so it wouldn’t be practical for us both to sign copies).
Thanks again for your support. I hope Ten Guilty Mend does it justice.


Sunday, 2 August 2015

Four weeks/ pre-order time!

Four Weeks to Go!

There are just four short weeks until Ten Guilty Men is out.

Which means it is pre-order time. We sent off all the files to Amazon less than an hour ago, and we’ve already got a page on Amazon UK. We expect to have pages elsewhere within 72 hours.


Price

We’re launching, as promised, at £1.99 GBP/ $2.99 USD and $3.99CAD/AUS. That’s roughly the same according to today’s exchange rate from xe.com

Amazon do allow us to fix just the USA price and allow the others to float according to the exchange rate, but that means that one day the book would be £1.98 and the next it could be £2.02 which is plain daft. We hope you don’t mind the ~1% variation in pricing. We’ve tried to be as fair as we can with pricing – which is very difficult with international taxation being so variable. In the UK that £1.99 includes 40p of VAT, while in the USA you’ll get sales tax added at checkout.

This weekend we’ve done our final check of the file – and, as usual, fixed a few issues that have slipped by multiple rounds of copyediting. And, as usual, there are probably some we haven’t spotted. If you spot one, let us know and we’ll fix it ASAP. As ever, we do write in British English and we copy-edit to New Harts Rules/ the Oxford Dictionary so our apologies to those that prefer American English, but if we tried to localise we’d probably get it half-right and that looks worse than leaving it as intended.

So go check out the sample (once Amazon have it up), pre-order if you like it, or wait and read it with Kindle Unlimited for free if you prefer.



We’ll update this post as more store pages come online, more versions (paperback etc) are available but if you’d like us to let you know about a specific language/ edition feel free to email us with your request and we’ll personally notify you when that version is out.

FAQs:

When will I be charged?
Amazon charge on release - so expect a charge to be made on or around 31st August.

How will it be delivered?
Amazon will whisper-sync it to your kindle the first time you connect after release.

How much is it?
£1.99 or regional equivalent.

What order should I read the DCI Morton novels in?
Any. They're stand alone so you can pick which one you like, but the chronological order is:
1. Dead on Demand
2. Cleaver Square
3. Ten Guilty Men

Can I have a free copy?
Yes - if you're willing to give us an honest review in return. Send us an email if you'd like a review copy.

Can I interview you on my website?
Yes. Send us an email.

What if I don't like it?
You'll have a full seven days from release to return it for a full refund, no questions asked. Just use the 'Return' option within Manage My Kindle.

Will Ten Guilty Men be included in Kindle Unlimited?
Yes. For at least the first 90 days, you'll be able to read for free if you've got a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I've read Ten Guilty Men. When's the next one out?
We're aiming for early 2016. Watch this space.

Who made the cover?
Nadica Boshkovska. She's excellent. I highly recommend her.

Can I get a signed paperback?
Send us an email, and we'll see what we can do.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Money – What did we do with it?

We’ve now been in publishing for a smidge over three years. Each year we’ve had a fair number of sales resulting in a modest profit. We’re not making mega money – but with only one full-length novel priced above £0.00, we wouldn’t expect to. Our aim has always been to look at the long run – lots of cheap copies means more readers for books 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 etc. We think the best chance of success is to provide books people want to read at prices they want to pay.

As you guys knows our third DCI Morton novel, Ten Guilty Men, launches on September 1st. We’ll have a pre-order page up in a couple of week’s times, and we’ll post the link up here when it is live. 

Launch price - £1.99! Or read it for Free with Kindle Unlimited.

Today I want to talk about what we’re spending our royalties on. Your purchases of our books are funding Dan’s other passion – cooking.

Last month Dan took his final chef’s exam (called a synoptic). He was given a bunch of obscure ingredients and tasked with creating a Fine Dining menu for four guests plus his examiners to be cooked under exam conditions (i.e. with people watching his every move!).

We’re delighted to say he passed with flying colours. Yay.

But just going to catering college only gets you so far. Becoming a chef means studying under the world’s best chefs as an intern. Dan has done work experience already in some of the finest restaurants in the UK.

For him to learn any more, he needs to go to Michelin-starred kitchens abroad, and he has been fortunate enough to secure an internship with one of the best restaurants in the world starting next month, so he’ll be off to Copenhagen for 13 weeks – which means he’ll be paying out of pocket for the costs of travel, accommodation etc while working an unpaid internship.

And that’s where your purchases come in. By buying Cleaver Square, you’ve given Dan the opportunity to pursue his dreams without having to resort to loans or working extra jobs while he does his internship.

It still seems so incredible that two guys with a copy of Word can go from a silly bet about writing a book to earning enough to finance life-changing trips in a few short years. It's nothing short of miraculous and we really appreciate your support so thank you. Thank you for reading our books, for taking a chance on two unknown authors, and for helping to make a dream become a reality.


P.S. Dan’s trip will mean that I (Sean) will be taking over all emails/ tweets/ facebook messages and everything else while he’s away.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

What happens when a retailer of eBooks goes out of business?

The folks over at Ink, Bits & Pixels have reported today that Nook may be about to cease operations in 38 out of 40 international territories (everywhere except the UK and the USA).

It’s almost eerie how close the timing of this announcement is to our last post (‘You Never Owned It Anyway’) because it demonstrates that when you have a licence, you can be dependent on the other party’s existence for that licence to be worth anything.

We joked that some of us might well outlive Amazon. If Nook does to the wall as Ink, Bits and Pixels have suggested then we’re going to see the potential ramifications of that store closure. 

They might:
a)  Cease sales and downloads of new titles

b) Cease downloads of existing titles

c) Both

The danger is that readers may lose content they have legitimately purchased, and be prevented by Digital Rights Management software from ever using that content elsewhere. 

Now, for Nook, it’s not as bad as it could be – because they use .ePub which is, while not totally fungible in terms of presentation (as code can be interpreted in proprietary ways), an open source format.

If you’ve got books with them, I suggest you go and download them all to a nice folder on your desktop – and then back it up. Insurance doesn’t hurt.

If they do go bust, and readers lose access to purchased titles, then I suggest contacting your bank/ credit card provider for any recent transactions (as you might be able to reverse them). 

Failing that, have a word with the publisher/ author. Anything we’ve sold, we’re happy to email out a backup file in case of loss. It’s not ideal, but it’s a fall back. Our stuff is all DRM free anyway so if you’ve got it downloaded anywhere then you should be able to copy it / modify formats as you need to.


With a bit of luck, it won’t come to that. There’s a fair chance Barnes and Noble will simply sell off Nook – possibly to Kobo. I’m not a huge fan of consolidation in the market generally, but we’re miles away from a monopoly. Amazon, Google and Apple in particular are clearly in this for the long run.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

You Never Owned It Anyway

In all of the furor over subscription models, it’s easy to overlook the most fundamental part of the eBook system: you don’t own an eBook.

We have never ‘sold’ eBooks. They are merely licensed. Readers pay for the right to read the eBook
Sure, you own the kindle itself but that’s it. The books on there are sold in the same way software is sold. It’s a sale of a licence, the terms of which are defined by the contract. In the case of Amazon that contract is defined in s1 of the Kindle Store Terms of Use which says:

...the Content Provider grants you a non-exclusive right to view, use, and display such Kindle Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Kindle or a Reading Application or as otherwise permitted as part of the Service, solely on the number of Kindles or Supported Devices specified in the Kindle Store, and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider. The Content Provider may include additional terms of use within its Kindle Content.


Let’s break that down a bit.

“Non-exclusive” – not just for you

“View, use and display” – read

“an unlimited number of times” – but you probably won’t want to…

“solely on the Kindle or a Reading Application” – you can’t use DRM stripping tools to convert it for another eReader

“solely on the number of Kindles or Supported Devices specified” – good luck finding that in the store. It should be somewhere on the product page.

“solely for your personal, non-commercial use” – just you, not your Mum, not your best mate, and not your dog (sorry, Lassie).

“Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider” – you own a license subject to these terms. You don’t own the book.

“The Content Provider may include additional terms of use within its Kindle Content” – This one I find perplexing. I’ve never seen a publisher add any extra terms. Perhaps I should include some in our next book (similar to Gamestation’s “we own your soul”stunt).

So we now know that instead of buying a book, you’re basically renting it for as long as you want it (or as long as Amazon remain in business; it’s not impossible that you might outlive the corporation providing the content, as big as they seem right now). You can’t flog it. You can’t use it in another format. You can’t lend it to a mate.

Pretty naff, right? If you buy a book you can do what you want with it. You can flog it on second hand. You can burn it in disgust (please don’t!). You can use it as a doorstop (here’s looking at you, Blackstone's Criminal Practice) . Give it away. Recycle it. Whatever.

In the USA, you’ve got the First Sale Doctrine which basically says “Pass it on as you bought it” (not legal advice, I’m oversimplifying).

Of course, books still have some legal blurbage in them. From one on my shelf, chosen at random, the copyright page says:

this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed upon the subsequent purchaser.”

Restrictions are nothing new. I think of it like buying a DVD. I’m buying it to watch at home – but not to use to run a bootleg cinema. It’s not a clear cut issue – there has to be a divide somewhere between “you and only you, alone, in your own home, while no-one else is watching” and “running the new big sceen multiplex”.

With books, that line is well established. There have been numerous cases. You do own a physical book. That doesn’t mean you own the intellectual property that goes with it, but that specific rendition of the words onto that paper? It’s yours. Do with it what you will.
And that works.
But it works because books are hard to copy. Imagine if you had to photocopy every page of a novel (or, if you’re a student, a whole textbook). Nightmare. It just isn’t worth it. And that’s basically been the bulwark against mass-copying. People can’t be arsed.

With eBooks, it’s too easy to copy. I can email you books in a heartbeat. There are cheeky gits selling CDs full of eBooks on eBay for a few pence (perhaps not all of them legal – though public domain books can be resold freely). That’s the fundamental difference. Because you can copy it, publishers restrict your legal rights because they can’t physically stop you.

It isn’t legal for you to decrypt the DRM on an eBook. But it is easy. Ten seconds with a widely available eBook management program and you can take off any restrictions currently employed. The lock is a warning that you’re breaking the rules, but it isn’t much of an actual deterrent.

I don’t use DRM. Dan and I think its waste of time. Pirated copies are already stripped of DRM, so the only people hurt by employing DRM to protect eBooks are those that have actually paid – and you deserve better.

I’m also pretty unlikely to sue anyone lending a book out. It might be technically illegal to email a friend a copy of my book (though there is a ‘Kindle Lending’ option for those who want to stay within the rules) but it’s not going to hurt anyone if you do. I’d appreciate it if people thought of eBooks like books – that lending out your copy to one friend is fine, but emailing twenty at the same time is taking the proverbial (as with a book you couldn’t physically do that).

It comes down to respect. Authors and publishers need to respect that readers consume content how they want to consume it – and will pay accordingly. Readers in turn will appreciate that authors need to earn money for their work. Writing a book is a labour of love, but paying the bills isn’t, so there has to be a fair bargain.

For us, that’s simple. Here are our rules for trying to be fair to readers:

1.  First book free. Every series we publish we try to work on a ‘first book free’ basis. Obviously, this applies to series – so the first one is only the first (and thus free) once a second book exists. That gives you a fair, free, no obligations chance to find out if you like it.
2.     No DRM. Who are we to tell you which device to use?
3.     No part-works. No cheating by selling you 1/3rd of a book for free, and then extorting you on parts two and three.
4.     The best books we can write. That doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect. No book nor author will ever be loved universally, but we’ll give it our best shot every time.
5.     Clear, fair pricing. We want to charge a fair amount. We need to cover our costs (which are basically: editing, art, promotion, translations, audio recording, formatting, and, most of all, time). That’s it. We keep note of the time taken to produce a book, ascribe that a notional hourly rate and thus come up with a ‘Total cost’ figure which is what we aim to get back. It’s then a case of working backwords from there to determine what we can reasonably charge that fits that goal and makes it fair for you. We’ve gone with £1.99/ $2.99 (after the first one free – so right now the two books in the DCI Morton series will set you back a whopping £1.99 total!).

Or you can read for free with Kindle Unlimited. It’s a subscription service. You don’t buy a book. But you do rent access to a whole collection. The author then gets paid on pages read (at about half a cent a page by the looks of things). I’ve had a few people say “I’d rather own my book” – in which case, print is still the medium of choice. KU is a rental – for the duration of membership. Then again, eBooks are just rentals too – for the duration of Amazon.