Monday, December 1, 2014

Free Stephen Leather eBooks - Why I'm A Big Fan Of Free!

I was one of the first authors to give away free eBooks. It always seemed to me that it was the best way of bringing in new readers.

It was deodorant that first give me the idea, believe it or not!

I was walking through a train station in London and a couple of pretty girls were giving out samples of Nivea deodorant, small, dark blue cans.  Now at that point I wasn't a fan of spray deodorants. I prefer aftershave and don't like mixing the two.

But the girls were pretty and smiling and before I knew what had happened, I had a can in my hand.

I went home and next day I used it. And I immediately became a fan. It stops you sweating and it smells great. That was about five years ago and I have used their product regularly ever since. I used it this morning, and again in the gym this afternoon.

The lesson I learned was that if you give someone something for free and they like it, they will become a fan. And it seemed to me that you could do the same with books. So I started giving away free short stories as eBooks and over the last few years I have probably given away well over 100,000 copies a year. And the graphs suggest that when downloads of my free books goes up, shortly afterwards my paid-for sales also rise.

You can now see all my free eBooks on one site - HERE IT IS

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Howard Jones, Councillor For Leatherhead North, Is At It Again

There have been a number of high profile trolling cases in the media over the last few days. TV presenter Richard Madeley had to contact the police after his wife and daughter were threatened by Twitter trolls following his wife's "controversial" comments on rape during a live TV show.

The trolls came out in force after Judy Finnigan appearing to defend a convicted rapist by saying "the rape was not violent".

And in another high profile case, a troll who was caught attacking the parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann committed suicide, unable to live with the shame of being outed as an internet troll.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, by far the best way of dealing with trolls is to ignore them. Generally they are looking to provoke a reaction, and if the don't get a reaction they'll eventually get bored and turn their attention elsewhere.

The problem is, that doesn't always work. Sometimes they never give up. The question is, what do you do then? I have had a number of trolls over the years and as I don't engage with them, most eventually get bored and move on to other targets.

But some just won't give up. Howard Jones, Conservative Councillor for Leatherhead North, has just tweeted this:

In the Tweet he accuses me of being an Amazon fake reviewer.

That is not true. I don't review many books on Amazon but when I do they are not "fake". And I do not post reviews of my own books.

Maybe he is confused, or maybe he is deliberately lying. I don't know. But the statement he made is a lie. And a lie told in public is a libel. As a barrister he would know that.

His attacks are also highly personal. Here, for instance, he calls me a narcissist and a sociopath. Yet Howard Jones does not know me. He has never spoken to me. He knows nothing about me yet he continues to mount personal attacks against me.

I'm not sure what to do. Howard Jones has made a habit of attacking me in public and generally I have just ignored him. That's the best way of dealing with trolls.  If you get a malicious review, just ignore it. If you get trolled on a forum or a blog, just ignore it. And if a troll vents his spleen on Twitter, just block the person and they won't bother you again.

The big question, though, is how long you have to ignore a troll before they move on and pick on someone else.   Most trolls give up after a few weeks. A few will persevere for a month or two, especially on Twitter because Twitter makes it so easy for trolls. Howard Jones, though, just won't stop. I don't know why he has decided to pick on me, but he clearly won't give up.

Here's the thing about Howard Jones. He is a barrister and barristers are governed by the Bar Code of Conduct which requires barristers to be courteous at all times. Clearly in my case he's being far from courteous so maybe I should complain to the Bar Standards Board? Or maybe I should ask the Conservative Central Office if they think he is behaving in a manner befitting an elected official representing the Conservative Party. Or get a lawyer to send him a "cease and desist" letter. Or do I just continue to ignore him? I just don't know. I just wish he would leave me alone.

Recently Howard Jones publicly tweeted another allegation about me, claiming that I was behind a sock puppet account on Twitter.

That is an absolute lie. The account is nothing to do with me. I Tweet through two accounts and both are clearly labelled with my name on the profile page, @stephenleather and @firstparagraph.  Those are the only two accounts I use.  

I don't know why Howard Jones decided to make those allegations in public, but they are lies and I deserve an apology. I doubt I will get one, because Howard Jones has demonstrated an unwillingness to engage with me directly, he prefers to Tweet insults and lies. What should I do? I'm giving the matter some serious thought.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pricing - the $3.99 Sweet Spot

Some fascinating information from Mark Coker at Smashwords here -   CLICK FOR SMASHWORDS SURVEY

I'm a huge fan of Smashwords and have been since they started.  Smashwords probably accounts for 15 per cent of my self-published eBook sales at the moment, and that percentage is growing.

In the survey Mark talks about pricing, which is one of the main marketing tools open to a self-published writer.  Mark sees $3.99 as the sweet spot, i.e. where earnings are maximised.

It certainly seems to me that the rush to buy cheap books - 99 cents to $2.99 - is over. Buyers now realise that most low-priced books simply aren't good.

I'm still trying to work out the sweet spot for my books. I recently raised the price of several of my books from $4.99 to $5.99 and sales pretty much halved overnight. I put them back to $4.99 and sales recovered almost immediately.  I'm now wondering if I drop the price further - to $3.99 - will earnings rise?  Watch this space!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Free eBooks Website

I don't know any writer who has given away more stories than me. Long before eBooks I used to give away free PDFs of my book Private Dancer - more than 40,000 copies in all.  I believed that the free copies would expand my readership base, and I'm sure that is true.  And I've met a lot of readers who have told me that they went on to buy a copy of the paperback after they had read the PDF, either to reread themselves or to give to friends.

Once eBooks took off, I realised that free stories were the best way of attracting new readers. It's a win-win situation all around. Readers get free books that they can just throw away if they don't like them. I get to show my work to a potential new reader. The cost to me is minimal. The cost to the reader is zero. To date I have given away more than half a million stories.

At present I have six books for free on Amazon and on all other retailers through Smashwords. Two of them - Short Fuses and More Short Fuses - are collections of short stories and tasters of other Stephen Leather best-sellers.  Blood Bath is a collection of Jack Nightingale short stories all using that title and based on the cover. Contributors include my fellow Hodder and Stoughton author Matt Hilton.  One of the free stories is an Inspector Zhang locked room mystery, and I'm also giving away a free Thailand story, Banging Bill's Wife. And finally I'm giving away the first in the Spider Shepherd SAS short stories.

I have just put all the free eBooks together on a new website, designed by my friends at WHITE WAVE WEB SOLUTIONS.

You can visit the new Free eBooks website BY CLICKING HERE

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Power Of Amazon

How cool is this? Today I am the third most popular horror author in the US - behind the amazing Blake Crouch and the even more amazing Stephen King. I'm not worthy.

It's all down to promotion by Amazon on their US and Canadian sites.

I've been a huge KDP fan ever since it started, and am hugely grateful for the way KDP and Amazon have boosted my sales over the past three years.

As well as self-publishing several books through KDP, I gave two of my books - Once Bitten and The Basement - to Amazon to publish through their Thomas and Mercer imprint.

That was three years ago, and yesterday - yes, yesterday - Once Bitten was in the US Kindle Top 100. How cool is that? It's nothing to do with me, it was simply that Amazon decided to promote the book. And wow, does their promotion produce results!

Within hours of Amazon starting their promotion, Once Bitten was in the US Top 20 chart. As of today, it's just outside the Top 100. And it's the top selling vampire book which is way cool when you consider what the competition is. 

The book is even higher in the Canadian charts! Number 73 as we speak, though it was higher!

Publishing is a funny old game. One of the things I've learned over the last twenty years as a published author is that the difference between an author who sells just a few books and an author who sells a ton of books is promotion, pure and simple. And no one does promotion better than Amazon!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Amazon - The Good And The Bad

Amazon revolutionised the publishing world with its KDP Kindle-publishing program, which allows pretty much anyone to publish pretty much anything.

It's transformed the way I work and made me one of the top UK eBook authors. Generally KDP is fast and efficient and works without a hitch.

Amazon is able to boost sales in a way that the regular publishers can't, in particular with its Kindle Daily Deal promotion, where they reduce the price of an eBook and promote it like crazy.  It's an awesome marketing tool, and it can take a book from nowhere to the top of the bestselling charts. Yesterday Amazon did just that with my book Once Bitten, which they now publish through their Thomas and Mercer imprint.

It usually sells for £3.49 and languishes down in the 5,000 level of the bestseller charts, selling just a few copies a day.

Yesterday Amazon cut the price to 99p and promoted it, and within hours it was at Number 11. That means it sold at least 1,000 copies, which is great going.

The sales boost of the Kindle Daily Deal program runs for more than the one day the price is reduced because it raises the profile of the book.  Amazon have done this several times with another of my books they publish through Thomas and Mercer, The Basement.

When Amazon does something well, it does it really well. I can't think of a better way of promoting a book than the Kindle Daily Deal.

But when Amazon does something less than well, it can be really, really annoying.  I've had an ongoing problem with releasing free books on the Kindle, and the problem is getting worse over the years.

When I first started self-publishing on Amazon, I realised that giving away books and short stories for free was a great way of raising my profile.

Amazon generally has a minimum price of 99 cents and won't allow you to automatically list a book for free. But they do carry out what they call price-matching, where if the book is available anywhere at a lower price than it is listed on Amazon they will reduce the price accordingly.  When I first started self-publishing I was able to email contacts at Amazon's head office in Seattle, tell them I was making a book free on Smashwords and they would pretty much immediately make it free on the Kindle. It was a great system and I put up several books for free. It paid off, brought in new readers, and lifted sales of all my books.

As the months have passed, Amazon has become much less approachable, and these days writers have to wait much longer for price-matching to occur. And email requests to speed up the process are usually met with a standard response, along the lines that it is up to readers to point out a cheaper price and that if enough do so, price-matching might take place.  I have to say I find that very frustrating. If Amazon was serious about price-matching, and offering its customers the best deal, then surely it should enough that the author tells them about the lower price?  But no, it's not enough. Even when I have sent them the link to the free book elsewhere they have still refused to immediately price-match.

I'm having that problem now with a compendium of short stories I have just published - More Short Fuses.  It follows on from a similar book I published last year, Short Fuses, which is already free on Kindle.  I know that more than a dozen readers have already pointed out to Amazon that More Short Fuses is already free on Smashwords, but they have yet to price match. I've emailed Amazon but that hasn't got me anywhere. Like I said, I don't know why they make it so difficult, but from my experience complaining won't get me anywhere.

Anyway, you can see More Short Fuses for the Kindle  HERE

But if it's not free, please don't buy it!  Just report it as cheaper elsewhere and get it free from Smashwords  HERE

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How A Cover Revamp Can Boost Sales

A month I ago I decided to revamp the cover of my book of free short stories - SHORT FUSES.  There wasn't much wrong with the first version, I just felt it could do with freshening up.

The old version is on the left, the newer version, by designer DEREK MURPHY, is on the right.

The revamped cover had an immediate effect on downloads (I can't really call them sales as Short Fuses is free) as you can see from the following chart.

It looks to me that in March I was averaging between 60 and 70 downloads a day. In April that had fallen to about 50 a day.  But following the cover revamp on April 24, downloads rose quickly, to a peak of 112, and overall seems to be averaging about 90.  That seems to me to be pretty conclusive - revamping a cover can boost your downloads. I guess the big question is does it work as well with paid-for titles. We shall see!

You can download Short Fuses for FREE by clicking HERE