KENP, Click Farms, Overdrive, and Hand-selling at AMA-Con

First, a couple notes on things that have been happening in the field since last column:
1. KENP 3.0 – Normally Amazon’s big changes to KU come in July, but this year it came in August. While there was much sturm und drang, really, there doesn’t seem to be much appreciable change from 2.0 for regular indies. The KENP page counts shrunk slightly, to align closer to true page counts when the story’s in paper. The rest appears to be on the back end, invisible to us, mostly targeted at click farms and bought reviews.

2. Speaking of click farms, several indies have recently reported their accounts being locked / books taken off sale after buying “advertising” with a “guaranteed number of readers.” You know that picture of Batman slapping Robin? Yeah, picture that. Here’s how NOT to get your account locked and books delisted:
A.) You cannot guarantee buyers ethically. If buyers or readers are guaranteed, that means you’re paying a click farm to run a program on a laptop slaved to a bunch of stolen iphones, each loaded to an Amazon account, “borrowing” and “reading” them. Unless you’re paying a click farm in North Korea, in which case it’s a poor schmuck pacing down a table, manually finger-swiping every iphone.
B.) If you can’t sign up for their mailing list, it’s a click farm. Real promoters want everybody to sign up for their lists, so they can grow. Click farms say they have a list, but if it’s not obvious and easy to find, then it’s a lie.
C.) If they don’t have a website, it’s a click farm. ESPECIALLY if their only presence is a “closed facebook group.” Again, if they’re not soliciting more people to join them, they’re not right.
D.) If it’s too good to be true, it ain’t true. It’s more likely to be this:

3. Draft2Digital is now able to load books on OverDrive – yes, that means Draft2Digital can now get your ebooks into a library. However, it’s not all wine and roses, and “can” is not the same as “will.” The comments at Passive Voice are illuminating:

And now, on marketing in the flesh:

The North Texas Writer’s Association, also called the Bugscuffle Shooting & Writing Club, ran a booth at Ama-Con up in Amarillo last Weekend. This means JL Curtis, Peter Grant, Lawdog, and myself caravaned up and Alma Boykin met up with us for the booth setup. We then spent two days hawking all our books (and the night inbetween, Jim & I got some sleep while LawDog & Peter were both furiously typing away on their latest books. LawDog’s “Africa & Other Stories” is now out for sale, and Peter’s “King’s Champion” is out to beta readers.)

If there’s anything more painful than an introvert trying to hawk their wares, it’s five introverts trying to hawk their wares. Fortunately, I have plenty of sales training, and everyone else has some “dealing with public” training. So Alma and I wore our spiffy dressy clothes (She went Edwardian, I went ren faire & steampunky with exterior corsetry), attracting eyes and cameras, and the guys took turns pitching in on sales. And we had a bowl with mints and bouncy balls, which attracted younger kids (and their parents, dragged along).

It was excellent at distilling books down to their essence. Jim’s Gray Man series quickly became “Modern westerns, with cowboys versus drug smugglers!” and Alma’s Alexi’s Tales became “Urban fantasy, but with Russian mythology instead! …And a texting cat!”

Interesting divide: People over 40 bought books, and people under 40 wanted to know if it was in ebook. We sold just enough physical books to cover table rent, but not enough to cover hotel, food, and time off work. If we do this again, we’ll have book cards (cover, blurb, QR code & URL to book on Amazon) for the ones on sale, as well as the ones not there!

Also, people may pick up the entire series at once (That happened twice with Jim’s series), especially if you take credit card. (Square worked fine.) So, bring bags! We ruthlessly dumped Office Depot supplies (sharpies for autographing, pre-printed business and book cards, books stand boxes, etc.) in order to present the bag to the happy customer who’d just bought stuff. On Day 2, Alma brought a handful of grocery bags, and life was better!

However, if you don’t have book 1 of a series, people will look interested, and then put the book back down. Most casual readers do not want to start in the middle of the series. I was really kicking myself for not having book one of everything there – or a card with book one to point them toward Amazon.

(I don’t have a good feel how we did on ebook sales. For one, LawDog is through a publisher, so I can’t get those numbers, they may be buried in the tail of a sucessful release anyway. For another, I’d have to get the other 4 of us to all check our KDP accounts and check in. I should do that. Instead I spent two days not talking to anyone, because I had used up all the extro in my vert, and needed to recharge.)

You can see our table setup here:

And for new releases this week, we have two!

Tom Rogneby has taken his talents into noir, with a few hints of supernatural in the background, with The BoogeyMan:

Martin Shelby is The BoogeyMan, a private investigator and fixer for folks who get into trouble too tough and too strange for the police. People only bring him the jobs that require the body of a linebacker and the face of a gargoyle.

Now, he’s been handed a job that pays double, but that can only mean double the danger.

But when the things that go bump in the night look under their bed for HIM, how hard can it be? To The BoogeyMan, it’s just another job.

Alma Boykin has released hilarious and lighthearted stories of witches and wizards dealing with the parts nobody ever mentions in urban fantasies: taking your familiar to the vet when it’s a 100-lb skunk, the IRS won’t let you deduct robes as professional expenses, and typos in the spellbook’s latest edition mean that students get some spectacular results from the example!

Familiar Tales, by Alma Boykin!


    1. When I saw “click farm” I thought the link would be to China Mike’s.

      I must say Big G has been very quiet since then. Its been very restful.

  1. The one key change in KeNPC 3.0 was a fix for the ebook page bloat scam (it might be what you are calling the click farm scam).

    References to this change were removed when Amazon realized it didn’t quite work.

  2. Yes – exotic or period dress in a room full of other authors is guaranteed an eye-ball catcher, and a way to start conversations with readers. Yes, bring bags, and if you have a series, have as many copies of all volumes available – and offer a special price for people purchasing all of them! (Knock a couple of bucks off the total, if purchased separately.) I worked up a flyer listing all my Texas historicals in chronological order, which was something a lot of readers were asking about. (website version of this flyer here –
    Having a Square of Paypal widget makes sales so much easier, as long as there is good reception at a venue. Sometimes this cannot be guaranteed. One can really never tell which method of payment will be more popular with the crowd in any given location. There are some markets where we walked away with mostly cash, and some where most purchasers paid with plastic. Best to be able to accept either, and even those who still prefer to write a check. (I have never been stiffed by a check-writer, BTW.)

  3. At Libertycon we did three author alleys, two autograph sessions, and a vendor was kind enough to give us a corner of her table in the dealer room. Most of what we brought was the new series, four in print so far, with the last two not yet released officially for sale. Sold something like 75 copies, a number of four book sets, but at least twice as many of just book one as the rest. And we went through a ton of postcard book markers with the website URL, and saw a significant bump at Amazon in the week after.
    As an added bonus, one of the book vendors took a chance and stocked a few of our books and sold out. Same thing happened with a different vendor at a con in June. Exactly the sort of reputation you as a publisher are looking for.

  4. Gotta say, covering the table rent but not the gas is not a great result for a whole weekend of sitting at a con.

    Would having a laptop for instant downloads make much difference?

    1. I doubt it, just under…who would want to log into their amazon account on some stranger’s laptop, in order to buy something? That’s a level of trust that most folks (rightly) don’t have. Fortunately, a lot of people have smartphones with amazon kindle apps and one-click buy, which is bad for their impulse control and good for sales 🙂

      1. I was thinking of giving them the file, no link to Amazon. I suppose I am insufficiently paranoid. ~:D

      2. One thing to do is to make larger (8.5X11) standers with book cover and QR code for e-book impulse purchases. They whip out phone, click, and buy. (And probably get fussed at for blocking the passageway or something.)

        1. You know, given the way the books eventually start to sag & covers curl on the stands, I like this even better than having the actual book up for display. You think the customers will like it, too? I do believe we should try at the next LibertyCon, at least…

          1. Why not? Have a single sample copy out for those who want to look through, and standers. With a fan of book marks in front of the standers (H/T James Young).

          2. My publisher just had a convention where a serious postal mixup meant that the stock *wouldn’t be there*, so as a desperation ploy, they printed up cards with the book artwork and “sold” books that way, having the person get the book sent directly to their house and walking away with the card. Apparently that went really well; in the future she plans to have some stock on hand and some “that you don’t have to carry.”

            If you are the author or have the author on hand, you could do the same thing with bookplates, so that someone could get a signed copy without having to carry it around.

            1. I’ve seen artists do well at that “And $5 more for shipping, and I’ll mail it at the end of convention, so you don’t have to risk X in checked luggage.”

              No reason why authors couldn’t, as well! Makes perfect sense to me!

              1. Since my publisher is already a POD client, the cost of shipping is the same as if you purchased on Amazon, which means folks with Prime can probably get the free shipping. 🙂

    1. You can just barely see me in the white and green, and alma in the red, in the link to NFO’s blog.

      1. Yeah, I saw THAT, but it doesn’t count. It’s not that I object leaving things to the imagination, but that doesn’t even qualify as…what’s the word…horse’s doover.

  5. Thanks, D. I put out about 50 buttons at the LibertyCon swag table, and they all got taken. I saw a small bump in sales the week after. I like the idea of the QR code directly to the book’s sales page, and I’ll incorporate that somehow next time.

  6. I went back and looked, I’m guessing a got between 20 and 30 book bump from the Amazon sales after the weekend. Still didn’t cover everything, but it was a good set of lessons learned! 🙂

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