Marketing as an Indie

This is how selling books on Amazon works as an indie, after you’ve exhausted your own lovely readership.

Sales rank is like shelf space. The higher your sales rank, the more likely you are to be seen by random browsers. (This is also influenced by # of reviews, especially when it comes to browse methods other than category-wandering, like ‘also bought’ and straight up search results.)

Sales rank is obviously influenced by sales. So you need to move your book up in the sales rank so more people see it. You need to do this by selling. Or by doing giveaways that you convert to a minimal price point on the second day. And you have to promote the sales and the giveaways, so you go to various deal-promo lists and you hope to get a lucky feature or else you pay them (or you get lucky and THEN you pay them) for that feature.

And you hope like hell some of the taste-setters maybe pick up your book someday. One of the problems there is that the taste-setters are pretty courted and petted and busy, and they often have an aversion to reading books they haven’t heard other people talking about warmly. Kind of a catch-22 there, where you also have to end up lucky. But you keep trying because word of mouth matters and some mouths have more reach than others.

Meanwhile you’re of course working on the next books, which, especially if they’re sequels, provide their own boost to sales. I think they’re the longest-term thing to be accomplished, both in terms of time spent and benefit gained. But ask me about that again in a year or so!

It’s definitely a job, with expenses. Not anywhere near a full-time job, not for me and my shelf and my approach. But I can understand why a micro press without somebody armed with a budget and fully dedicated to marketing would eventually flounder. And unless you have lottery-winning luck or an existing platform with thousands of solid social media contacts, simply writing a book and putting it out there is going to result in six sales and depression.

DIVINITY CIRCUIT now available for preorder


OK! DIVINITY CIRCUIT, the 5th book (and 4th novel) in the Senyaza Series is now available for preorder on Amazon.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Amazon is likely the only ordinary book retailer that will be carrying the ebook (although there will be a paperback available as well through normal distribution). IF YOU WANT AN EPUB, the best way to get it is to sign up for my Patreon. I will also be opening a temporary store somewhere like Gumroad the first week of release in order to sell epubs directly. After that you’ll have to talk to me directly.

Go forth! Preorder! Tell your friends. Oh and I will probably be tweaking that blurb before release…

Sasquan (Worldcon 2015) Report (Wednesday)

Today was Wednesday of Sasquan, Worldcon 2015. I got to the airport around 9, spent half an hour going through security, ate breakfast at a Chili Too place, then decided to bravely volunteer to check my suitcase. Then I chatted with random other Worldcon attendees and smiled at a cute, sweet 3 month old on the plane. Whee!

Once I was there, my friend met me at the baggage carousel and her chauffeurs (parents) kindly took both of us to my hotel where I waited in line more and got to check in eventually.

After that we got a tour from another con attendee showing us how to get from my hotel to the main convention center. It was really unpleasantly hot and a little bit hazy then, around 12:45 PM.

At the con Registration, I waited in line for another 45 minutes to get my badge. Then we set out to visit the third con venue and maybe get some lunch. I also decided I needed better shoe inserts so we put a drugstore on our path. Along the way I started feeling pretty woozy– even faint. It was weird. By the time I got my new insoles we managed to realize the place we were heading for food was closed so we trudged back the way we came and decided to check out the Consuite that was opening at 3 PM. So we got back to the con hotel and I was barely mobile or upright. We went to the 15th floor where the consuite was… where we waited in line until 3:30 because the hot dogs weren’t ready or something.

After scarfing down some sandwich meat and bread, we felt better! We were going to explore the panel locations but then we wandered into the dealer’s room where I eventually lived vicariously through my friend trying on half a dozen corsets and skirts Eventually she bought two of each. It was fun! And then it was after six and we needed dinner so we decided to go try out my hotel restaurant and then head to the party venue to check out the Worldcon 2019 bid parties.

So… we went to the shuttle stop (because walking had been such a disaster before for me). On our way there we discovered that the sky was no longer a little ‘hazy’. The sky was orange as if the world had been tinted through sunscreen windows. And the sun itself was crimson like a beating heart. Because the Spokane area is full of fires.

At the shuttle stop we waited for about thirty minutes. It was kind of fun watching con-people wander by. At one point, an older fellow with a twinkle in his eye bent down to where I was sitting beside the stop and pressed a penny into my hand. “Get a job! But don’t change your hair.” The penny was a 2015 one and I’d never seen one side of it before. Coins keep changing, people, it’s weird.

Anyhow, I giggled at this and it kind of made the wait worth the time.

Finally we got the shuttle, went to my hotel and had a dinner of rather odd wraps and excellent fries, for not too much money. And then we took another shuttle to the amazing Historic Davenport hotel where we pretended to belong to furniture like they have in the lobby and then toured the various bid parties, trying food and drinking drinks. I have to say while I sort of loyally favor Helsinki, they had the most crowded and disorganized party and the least appetizing food. The straight-up best organized and presented party was DC. Japan was charming, with weird Japanese snack food and lots of local alcohol and pretty Japanese boys handing it to me (what can I say I’m a pig). And Montreal’s bid party had a really great ambiance and food that looked good (but by then I was done).

At one point I saw a guy wearing a sign that said, “Looking for Interactive Fiction Writers” and I chased him down, recognized his name from Choice of Games and introduced myself to him with, “I wrote part of a game for you once.” And he recognized my name and we chatted a bit before I moved on. Honestly I would have been happy to chat more except I was tired and on a mission so maybe I’ll run into him again.

And now I am back in my boring hotel room soaking my feet. 13600 steps today.

(More) Experiments in Marketing

Lots of book sales and promos. One day I’m going to write up a post on all the services I’ve used. Not quite yet, though.

Meanwhile, partially due to lack of movement outside of Amazon, I’ve put all the Senyaza books up on Kindle Select, to see how access to the Kindle Unlimited audience works out for me. What this means is if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read them for free.

I know not all of my readers are Kindle readers. Divinity Circuit, the 4th full Senyaza novel, will be available as an epub for at least a limited time (and maybe an unlimited time; it all depends). Preferentially if you’re eager to get the ePub (or PDF) you’ll go back my Patreon for $1 a month. Otherwise I might do a temporary publish on Smashwords, or maybe use something like Gumroad as a distribution method. We shall see. I’m going to aim to have DC out in November, hopefully coinciding with the end of my current Kindle Select term (so I can take all the books out for bundles.)

In tangentially related news, I’ll be attending Worldcon in Spokane next week! It’s terrifying, even though I’ll have friends there. I’ve been a big emotional bundle. Probably this is also related to what I’ve been working on recently, which is a new YA novel written as a gift to my fifteen year old self.

I will try to take some pictures and make a post from the convention. It’s good to have records of first times and this is my first time at any Worldcon. It certainly looks to be a unique one…

A graph

Many jagged lines, trending up near the end.
Amazon Author Rank Chart

Amazon offers various metrics and services to authors: a glimpse into their own Bookscan numbers, a quick look at sales ranks and new reviews, a way to update their bio. It also offers something they call ‘Author Rank’, which is sort of like ‘sales rank’ but takes into account all your books (or so I assume).

This is a snapshot of my sales rank since the beginning of the service, which was about 8 months after Matchbox Girls came out. Book sales rank charts look fairly similar, with the same kind of downward curves and spikes. Each spike represents a sale (or maybe more than one sale, on good days.) As more books get uploaded into the system, existing books have to work harder to get the same spikes.

The Senyaza books reverted to me April 1; I uploaded Matchbox Girls at the $2.99 price point and the others at $4.99.

Citadel of the Sky was released May 15, which is also when I started actively advertising Matchbox Girls, with periodic $.99 sales.

Independence Day, Book Sales, Updates

My sons have been watching lots of YouTube videos, because that’s the modern state of summer daycare around here, and thus I feel an almost overwhelming temptation to start my post with, “Hi everyone, Chrysoula here!”

One day I might get around to posting more of my thoughts on current events in this blog. I DO talk about things other than books, but mostly on Twitter at the moment. But there’s definitely a lot to think about this Independence Day.

Or not think about! Here’s the book sale blurb! Matchbox Girls is 99 cents, down from 2.99! Citadel of the Sky is $3.99, down from $6.99. In the case of Citadel of the Sky if you don’t have it may I encourage reading it so you too can see what all the fuss* is about?

*The fuss: Citadel of the Sky tends to inspire strong opinions, some good, some bad. I had a review tour last month. It was… tempestuous.

As for Matchbox Girls there’s no better time to get started with the Senyaza series. The short story collection Etiquette of Exiles will be appearing in ebook form in less than two weeks and the 4th full novel, Divinity Circuit,  will be showing up in the autumn.

Ahem. I’ve been experimenting a lot with marketing, as you might guess. I’ll have a blog post at some point on the various services I’ve tried and the response I’ve seen. Some of my theories are not panning out. Other things are basically working. I would like to point out that Citadel of the Sky has a quarter page ad in RT Book Review, an actual print magazine, which is a small dream come true.

I’ve also been finishing up a round of revision on Divinity Circuit. After that my plan is to outline and generally do pre-production on a whole bunch of different novels:

  • Senyaza #5, tentatively called Hybrid Spirits and a direct sequel to Wolf Interval. I’d like to write and release this by autumn 2016.
  • Thrones #3, listed as Shrine of Summer in Citadel of the Sky. I’d like to write and release this in spring 2017.
  • Nightlights #2. I’d like to plan this extensively then write it slowly for Wattpad across 2016. We’ll see what happens. The toddler starts preschool so hope springs eternal!
  • Astromantica. Good old Astromantica. I meant to devote the whole year to you. Let’s see if we can at least produce an outline draft, eh?
  • High School Werewolf Unicorn Romance, possibly called Fangs 4 Flowers. This is an experimental book that I’d like to write and release fast. Although I’m not quite sure when…
  • Unnamed Space Opera. Sailor Moon meets Warhammer 40k. Another experiment, this time in finding out if I should be writing science-light SF. I’d love to write this one in November and December, for an early 2016 release, but we’ll see because it needs a lot more worldbuilding and thread-weaving than F4F will. On the other hand, my space-obsessed 8 year old is eager to help.

You’re thinking: Wow, that’s a lot! And it is, which is why I’m planning a good solid few months outlining. Honestly, I have three goals that all have to squeeze in together:

  • Continue on with my existing commitments. For Thrones of the Firstborn, that’s three more books. For Senyaza, it’s… a lot more books. Let’s call it ‘indefinite’. And Nightlights kind of deserves a sequel.
  • Experiment with writing a fast, emotional romance. One of the stories I wrote for the Senyaza collection was an attempt at mimicking the style of little kid chapter books. I found that the focus on clear, simple images and straightforward language was really addictive and quick to write. I’d like to see what happens if I do that again but with more adolescent subject matter. Also, romances sell better than everything.
  • See if I can find a niche where what I write is more in line with reader expectations. I… I can go into this more later in another post if anybody is curious.

My strategy for writing all these outlines will be a round-robin snowflake style. Very top-down, go through each of the projects for each design step. And I’m not quite giving myself as much time as I think I need, because you know what happens when I give myself plenty of time? I find ways to Not Work until I no longer have quite enough time. It’s ridiculous.

There’s a heat wave on here. It seems to be the new form of Seattle summers. We have no AC. And now it is time to take the children to a lake. So, uh, later!

Loss Leaders

Today because of some paid promo, I sold 39 copies of Matchbox Girls. This is a new high (on Amazon)! And I totally didn’t expect it since my paid promo last Tuesday (different promoter) sold… 9 over 3 days.

These are .99 cent sales, which means I get .34 per sale. Not good money. Not even a good investment so far, unless people move onto sequels, which are full-priced. But I make back investment pretty quickly if they do. For the Fussy Librarian promo, last Tuesday, let’s see… yeah. If 1 of 9 moves onto the sequels, I’ll make back investment. For today… (well I usually count the 3 days after a promo but today so far) I’d need 2 people to pick up the sequels. And that may drop over the next couple of days…

Frankly, the 1 of 9 isn’t very likely. I wouldn’t expect more than 1/4th of the purchasers to ever even open the cheapo book and I certainly don’t expect half of all readers to turn into fans. But today, 2 of 39? Much more plausible!

Unfortunately you can’t actually precisely measure if sequel sales come from promo purchases….

Fantasy and Science Fiction: Defined

Twin genres! Tied together!

I don’t quite divide them up the way lots of people do, by tropes. You know what I mean: SF is spaceships and future stuff and lasers and ~technology~; F is magic and impossible creatures and the medieval-esque.

Interesting fact: ‘technology’ isn’t about machines. It’s not about iWatches and LightSails. Technology is process. It’s algorithms.  It’s knowledge. The 3-field system is technology. So is bureaucracy.

For me, ‘fantasy’ uses the trappings of SFF–spaceships, magic, impossible creatures, whatever–but those trappings don’t have any impact on the fundamental human condition. There may be miracles and wonders but they either mostly address other miracles and wonders, or they provide, at best, a short-term solution. Fantasy is about coming to terms with what is unalterable. Fantasy brings you courage to face the ordinary hidden in the stories of gods.

In fantasy, when magic could save somebody’s life at the expense of changing them forever (or even without consequences), they instead come to terms with their death, because that’s what we all have to do, eventually. Magic restores the natural order and the most important magics do things like bring hope, or peace: achievements we can all strive for, right now.

In science fiction, the tropes do change things; science fiction explores how. The trappings aren’t miracles or wonders (except maybe at first). They touch many people’s lives and people respond and adapt to them. Whether the magic is sorcery or pocket computers, society adapts to it. It may become something strange or alien, or it may be just a little bit different from what we know.  But the tropes aren’t just trappings. They’re (at least partially) the point.

In science fiction, when magic could save somebody’s life at the expense of changing them forever (or even without consequences), many people will face that choice. Some people will choose life. Society will change. There is no ‘natural order.’ (Some of) what is done is nothing more than thought experiments, beyond our current reach. But the ‘science’ in science fiction is methodology. Questions are asked and answers are proposed. Ideas are applied to a world.

Even defined this way, many stories straddle both fields, of course. But a lot don’t.  And sometimes fairy stories are science fiction, and we all know science fiction that is really fantasy.

I think it’s an interesting enough way to approach how I read and how I write that I wanted to share it. 🙂

New Cover Direction for Senyaza Series

I have loved the Sean Dietrich covers for the Senyaza Series. They’re inspired works of art that usually touch on the very core of the stories and if I could have continued using him for new books, I would have.

But that wasn’t happening. I had to switch artists for the new books and I decided to listen to all the feedback I’ve been getting and switch up the old covers, too. The Dietrich covers were sharp and striking and didn’t tell potential readers who were scanning a list of thumbnails a damn thing about the books. They were so confusing that even after reading the blurb and being informed the books were for adults, one noted reviewer said she wasn’t certain they weren’t Middle Grade novels. Covers have that much influence.

I know many of my current readers have loved the old covers. Believe me, I have too. But I also love the new covers and I hope you’ll be willing to give them a chance. My new artist is Ravven, who also did the Citadel of the Sky cover. The new covers will be available on the ebooks going forward. Print books with the new covers will become available perhaps within a month–and for a while yet the old covers will also be available. It’ll be a Pick Your Favorite Cover situation.

So… presenting the revised Senyaza Series covers:


And introducing the cover for the forthcoming collection of short stories, Etiquette of Exiles. It mostly covers the first year after Infinity Key ends, and features stories about Penny, William, the Queen of Stone, Severin, and the twins– among many others.