First Chapters

Fellow author Malcolm Turner has started a website called First Chapters to promote independently published books by sharing (yes, you guessed it) the first few chapters for free. It’s a great initiative, and right now Silent Symmetry is the featured novel: http://firstchapters.net/2013/07/31/silent-symmetry-a-young-adult-novel-by-j-b-dutton/.

First chapters

I’m a firm believer in giving away the beginning of a book for free, especially if you’re an unknown quantity. After all, if you were in a bookstore you could flip through the first few pages and get a feel for the story. Thanks, Malcolm!

Look… a Nook Book!

Unbeknownst to me, Silent Symmetry sneakily popped up in Barnes & Noble’s online store for Nook books sometime over the weekend. For those of you outside the US, Barnes & Noble is a humongous bookstore chain and the Nook is their ereader. (Canadians: think Indigo and Kobo.) Nook gives authors tremendous reach, but since lowly Canucks can’t distribute directly to the Barnes & Noble online store, I needed help from the helpful folks at Smashwords. Here’s a clickable screenshot that will take you to Silent Symmetry’s page on BN.com.

BN screenshot

The New Sense – free on Amazon!

My psychological mystery The New Sense is a free Kindle download today. Montrealers who read it will recognize a host of places (and maybe even some people).

The New Sense cover_72dpi

I have to get back to promoting the promotion now but if you want to know more, either click on the cover to read an excerpt on Amazon.com or watch this interview I did last year: LINK TO ME TALKING IN FRONT OF MY BOOKCASE.

If you’re looking for the Canadian Amazon link, click here.

For the UK Amazon link, click here.

And, what the heck, if you’re in Japan, click here.

The iBookstore is now Symmetry-cal

Yes, that was the best headline I could come up with on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It took a week, but someone at Apple has finally run over to the iBookstore and breathlessly handed the shiny new Silent Symmetry EPUB file I uploaded last Sunday to the iBookstorekeeper, who then lovingly placed it in a prime spot on their shelves while wearing white kid gloves.

This is an Apple-esque screenshot. I must now go outside and enjoy the sun with my kids.

iBookstore screenshot

Blurb reveal!

Although the words “blurb reveal” sound kinda icky, like discovering goo oozing out of a mystery bag in the fridge, please don’t stop reading. Because this is the exciting moment when a drum roll happens in your mind (I just triggered it through the power of suggestion, didn’t I?) and I present the promotional text for my contemporary fiction novel The New Sense. So, without further ado (this having been a rare case of “goo ooze ado”) here is the aforementioned blurb:

The New Sense cover_72dpi

Summer, 2002. Single, carefree Montreal waitress Sara meets an intriguing out-of-towner whom she calls B― in her quirky private journal. They hang out. They get close. He’s like no one she’s ever met. In fact… there’s something very strange about him, almost as though he’s psychic. She probes deeper. He finally opens up to her: he’s a genetic oddity with an extra sense acquired through a twist of evolutionary fate. Although initially skeptical, she soon falls in love with him and starts to believe his story.

Shortly after Sara unexpectedly becomes pregnant, B― reveals that a former friend is pressuring him to undergo genetic testing at a pseudo-governmental research lab outside Chicago. B― is tempted to go there. What if there are others like him? Could their unborn child have the same “new sense”?

Suddenly, B― disappears without a trace. Sara puts her journal online as a blog in the desperate hope that someone, somewhere can help her find him. As her pregnancy progresses and the days turn into weeks, she is forced to ask herself if anything she knows about him is really true, and whether their son will ever know his father. Realizing that the lab’s shady operatives are now following her every move, Sara begins to fear for her own safety. The suspense mounts as she wonders: is it me they’re after… or my baby?

Part journal, part blog, part email chain, The New Sense is an unusually structured page-turner with a unique mystery told from the perspective of an engaging female character.

I also have a shorter version of the blurb for various purposes, but this one certainly captures the content and spirit of the book. It was much, much harder to write than the blurb for Silent Symmetry because The New Sense really is quite an unusual book. If I had said that it’s an epistolary epistemological novel, I’m pretty sure that no one would ever read it, no matter that it’s an accurate description. I’ve also written a one-liner (sometimes called a strapline or logline) that goes like this:

What if the man you love isn’t who he says he is? Or worse… he really is.

The New Sense is only available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook for now, but don’t forget, if you want to read it on some other device, the Kindle software is free and works very well on a phone or tablet (I test all my books on various devices).

Phew! I’m glad that’s done. Now to write the rest of the lyrics to my upcoming international club hit Goo Ooze Ado. Say it out loud a couple of times and you’ll start moving to the beat, guaranteed.

Thanks to Alex and Jen for invaluable input on my blurb. I mean valuable input. I mean, I didn’t pay them but it was worth it. For me.

Smashwords on Publishers Weekly

Further evidence of independent publishing being treated as a legitimate segment of the industry arrived earlier this month as the first monthly Smashwords indie bestseller list appeared on the Publishers Weekly website and in the PW print magazine. 

Pwtiny

Publishers Weekly has been the North American industry bible for almost 150 years, so its recognition of indie published books is hugely significant. Here’s a link to the announcement on the Smashwords blog.

The only downside to this news for a self-published author like me is that Smashwords sales figures are only a portion of book sales. For example, any sales of Silent Symmetry through Amazon, Apple or the Kobo store aren’t reflected by Smashwords since I chose to distribute my book to those retailers by myself. So it remains to be seen whether the mainstream media can figure out a way to truly capture across-the-board sales figures for independently published ebooks. Until then, this is a huge step in the right direction.

Publishers Weekly logo is protected by copyright and reproduced here under a fair use provision under Canadian copyright law.

Goodreads, USA.

In this post last month I commented on the fact that my Silent Symmetry free Kindle ebook promotion was far more successful in the US than in Canada and the UK:

On another note, if any self-published authors out there have the slightest idea why the Silent Symmetry ebook was downloaded over 2,500 times last week in the US but only 9 times in Canada and 58 in the UK, I’d love to hear their theories! Since Facebook,  Twitter and blogs are essentially international, I can’t for the life of me figure out why these figures are so disproportionately skewed in favour of the US. More copies were downloaded in India than in Canada where I live and wrote the book! As Jerry Seinfeld used to say, “What’s up with that?”

Well, Jerry, I think I’ve found the answer. I had never tried out website ranking site Alexa.com before, but yesterday I used it to check on the readership stats of a couple of indie publishing blogs (basically to figure out the potential reach of writing a guest post for them). Then, for the heck of it, I entered the Goodreads URL. Within seconds I had the answer to my conundrum. And I might have found an extra answer too! Scrolling down the Alexa page for Goodreads, I saw this graph and accompanying information:

Goodreads Alexa stats

I don’t know why this appears so small. Just click on it to enlarge. Sorry!

There you have it! 42% of Goodreads visitors come from the US, while only 3% are from England and 2% from Canada. Tellingly, giving my original observation, 16% come from India. All this leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Goodreads ad campaign that I ran during the promotion attracted far more readers who then downloaded a free copy than all of the tweeting and coverage on blogs combined.

Hold on a second, I hear you say – if that’s the case, and there are about 10 times as many Goodreads visitors from the US than the UK, how come the book was downloaded 50 times more often by Americans?

Good question! And the answer is also the extra bonus answer to my original question: First off, a chunk of those 2,500 Americans might well have heard about the freebie through sources other than Goodreads. Fair enough. And maybe Silent Symmetry also appeals more to Americans than to Brits. Also fair enough. The crucial thing is that Amazon’s free ebook charts create a chain reaction that tips the balance further and further in favour of a popular book (or at least their charts did until they were nerfed earlier this month; a topic I’ll be blogging about soon) because once a book appears in the top 10 of one of their charts, its visibility increases exponentially, which leads to more downloads until a critical mass is reached and there’s a nucl-ebook explosion. Groan.

Since Amazon’s charts are separate for each territory, the exponential impact of Silent Symmetry’s top-10 appearance in the US due to the higher Goodreads ad visibility wasn’t mirrored in the UK, where the Goodreads ads didn’t reach nearly as many people in the first place and the book only hovered in the top 100 freebies on Amazon.co.ok, thus creating no critical mass.

As for Canada, it just shows how Facebook isn’t really all that powerful for a free ebook promotion.

If anyone’s still reading at this point… well done! You deserve a free ebook. Sign up for my mailing list using the link at the top-right of the page and I’ll send you one.

Koboed Symmetry

Is “to Kobo” even a verb? Well, it is now because I’m a writer and I just wrote it. (It’s one of the perks of the job, you know!)

What this means is that my Young Adult novel Silent Symmetry is now available in the Kobo online store here: bit.ly/SilentSymmetryKB. Kobo is a very popular eReader in Canada and other countries, so I’m looking forward to seeing where sales originate. Speaking of which, I received this cutesy email from Kobo yesterday afternoon:

Kobo email

Of course it wasn’t my first book sale, but it was my first on Kobo, so I probably will remember it until I get super senile. And thanks to their beautiful, user-friendly dashboard I can even see that the sale came from… Canada! This isn’t exactly NSA Prism levels of tracking, but it’s a step beyond Amazon’s rather dry KDP reports.

So self-publishing on the Kobo platform has gone about as smoothly as it did on Amazon. I wish I could say the same for Apple. The only positive I took from yesterday’s teeth-grinding experience uploading my book to the iBookstore was the speedy email response to a support question I had. But… why, oh why does Apple insist that writers download Mac-only software to upload a book, while Amazon and Kobo (and I think Barnes & Noble) use a simple, intuitive browser interface? Not only did I have to co-opt my cover designer’s sleek and lovely Macbook Air for several hours, but the process itself was fraught with issues that didn’t seem to come up when I published for Kindle and Kobo. (Example 1: Instead of simply writing my own genres or keywords, I had to go through a series of incredibly long drop-down menus of pre-approved labels. Example 2: Specifying that the book is for sale worldwide was clunky at best. Example 3: Several other steps.)

The upside of my struggle to get Silent Symmetry into the iBookstore was that I started drinking wine at 5 pm. The downside was pretty much the entire experience, including the fact that I don’t really know whether my efforts were successful. Steve Jobs used to say when presenting a new iDevice: “It just works.” Honestly, that’s what I would say about self-publishing on Amazon and Kobo. As for Apple, “It just about worked. I think.”

Yesterday FREE, today free!

It’s a subtle, but important distinction. Yesterday was Silent Symmetry’s last FREE day on Amazon, and today the book is free to be downloaded in other formats on Smashwords here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/334979. So just to recap: it’s free, but you have to pay for it.

I’m putting the finishing touches to publishing for Kobo, and it will hopefully be available shortly through Apple and Nook (Barnes and Noble). I say “hopefully” because Apple makes content creators jump through several Apple-shaped hoops that the other vendors don’t, while B&N seems to not want me to enter my bank information because it’s in Canada. Worst case scenario, I use Smashwords to distribute there too.

SSSmashwords

Here’s what part of the Smashwords Silent Symmetry page looks like. The only drawback to buying through this site is that you have to register, which some people are wary of because Smashwords isn’t a humongous corporate behemoth like Amazon, Apple and B&N that they “trust”. But you have to register on those sites too to be able to download books, and the kicker is that I get a higher commission per book sold through Smashwords. So go ahead: Rage against the capitalist machine! Buy through an indie site! Make me rich!*

Seriously, it doesn’t really matter to me where you buy Silent Symmetry as long as you open the book and start reading it. I’ll keep you posted on the Apple and B&N shenanigans.

*I probably make about 25 cents more per book through Smashwords, but that could buy a starving author like me extra foam on his latte or something.

Silent Symmetry’s final Amazon KDP Select free promo

Tomorrow marks the 180th day since Silent Symmetry was published on Amazon. In that time I’ve used eight of the ten KDP Select free days allowed by Amazon to get the book into the hands of about 6,000 targeted readers. As I wrote somewhere else, for an unknown novel by an unknown author, this is the equivalent of major radio airplay. Is it translating into sales? Slowly but surely. And as the first book in the Embodied trilogy, I’m looking at the long-term picture in terms of building an audience.

summer-sound-large-view_l

Summer sounds of Silent Symmetry

I’m using the last two free days today and tomorrow, so we’ll see how many new readers will come on board. I’ve also taken the first steps towards publishing Silent Symmetry for Apple iPads and iPhones, and for the Nook, Sony and Kobo ereaders (I have to wait till at least Thursday to publish according to the KDP Select agreement) so I’m excited to be able to get the book into the hands of a bunch of people who might have been missed so far.

It’s all about the readers. And the ereaders…

Photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren / Foter / CC BY-NC