Monday, June 13, 2011

Reporting in from E-book Land

Keith here

John Wanamaker, the founder of the eponymous Philadelphia department store, was reputed to have said: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

I'm trying lots of stuff to publicize my ebook original and just hoping half will work. I said I’d keep you up-to-date on my adventures in the terra incognita that is ebook land and so here goes.

As soon as Drop By Drop became available on Amazon and Smashwords, I emailed just about everyone on my contact list to let them know the news. That seemed to drive a spike in sales. I later put the ebook up on, but there hasn’t been much uptake there (yet?).

Through PRWeb, I circulated a press release. It was a reasonable $40 after using a coupon. Even at that bargain price, I didn’t detect any signs it did much. It sure as heck didn’t generate any press inquiries.

I’ve blogged here and at my own blog. Over at The Rap Sheet, I recounted “The Story Behind The Story" of Drop by Drop. Here's a sample.

"The Intelligence Committee had just been made permanent based on the recommendation of the Church Committee, which had deemed the CIA a 'rogue elephant.' I started as the junior of three lawyers on the committee staff. Before the end of my first year, the other two had left. I was 27 years old and suddenly the senior attorney on the committee overseeing the government’s secret intelligence activities. Holy shit!"

The Rap Sheet is a pretty popular ezine (with good reason), and my column was picked up by dozens of other sites. A blog called Indie Bee Covers managed to make me confess that if I could be any fictional character, I'd be Frank Hardy, Fenton's son and Joe's big brother.

Garnering reviews from the regular suspects is tough. Daily newspapers have been shedding book reviewers for years. I’m a subscriber to the mags Mystery Scene and Crimespree. I emailed the editors, but they’re not reviewing ebook originals – yet. I sent out a tweet asking if any online reviewers wanted a copy of the ebook. My tweet was re-tweeted and a couple of terrific reviews resulted. Therese Poletti, the high tech columnist for Dow Jones’s Marketwatch, interviewed me for her piece called "E-books causing seismic shift in publishing." About publishing Drop By Drop as an ebook original, she quotes me saying, "It’s both exciting and scary. I am a tech guy. I like trying new stuff and figuring this out." (No news if you've been reading my pieces here.) A local newspaper and TV show will have me discussing how the ebook revolution is affecting a working writer. We should see what they come up with soon.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores like Kepler’s, M Is for Mystery, and Books Inc, were huge supporters of my first two books, but what can they do with an ebook? A signing? There’s nothing to inscribe. And they don’t have ebooks sitting on the shelves. (I am going to be on a panel at Books Inc in Berkeley next Monday, but they’ll be stocking Dot Dead and Smasher for me to sign.) The Palo Alto Library sent me an email asking if I would come by for a talk on Drop By Drop, but they need to have copies to loan out. Ebook format is okay with them, but the only way they get ebooks to loan is through a service such as Overdrive. I did fill out an online form for Overdrive, but since they seem focused on dealing with publishers than authors, I am not optimistic.

I’m doing advertising on Facebook and Goodreads, but not getting too many clicks on them. (That's one of the three ads on Goodreads above.) Since I pay only for the click-throughs, this is an experiment that isn’t costing much. I have high hopes for the advertising I have planned on an email newsletter that goes out to Kindle readers, but that won’t happen till October. No space until then.

I should have a book trailer soon and will look forward to pasting that on my website and everywhere else I can think of.

Andy Gross, the thriller writer (and terrific guy) whose books show up on The New York Times bestseller list every year, sent me a blurb: “No one puts the crosshairs on Washington, terrorism, and intrigue better than Keith Raffel. Do yourself a favor and read Drop By Drop!” I immediately put it up on my website and in the book descriptions on Amazon and Goodreads. (Andy's Kirkus-starred Eyes Wide Open is out July 12.) Hank Phillippi Ryan, who has won 26 Emmys as one of the country's top investigative reporters on Boston's WHDH-TV, has also managed to pick up a triple crown of crime fiction awards -- Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity. Hank is a class act and whip smart, but must have had a rare lapse of judgment last night when she emailed me that Drop By Drop is "intriguing, intense, and with such an insider's knowledge of the war on terror that I'm surprised it's not classified. Sinister, scary, and heart-stoppingly realistic--this is a gem of a thriller!" Can't wait to use that, too!

It’s terrific that Jess, Gin, Karen, and Joanna's ebooks published by Midnight Ink are doing so well at prices under $3. I just wonder what MI is doing to publicize them. With a couple of the books in the top 100, they are doing something right!

When you get a paper-and-ink book out, you have a pretty limited time to make a splash. After a few months, bookstores send their stock back to the publisher. With an ebook, things can take time to ripen. It’s against my nature to be patient, but I do believe more reviews from readers will come and word-of-mouth will build. Or at least I hope so!

As always, I’m open to comments and words of advice. Please send them along!


Beth Groundwater said...

You're really pushing hard on promoting this ebook, Keith, and are covering some bases that I hadn't even heard of yet. Not having an ereader myself limits my exposure to some of the means for targeting this audience. I wish you all the luck in the world, and I'll be watching to see what your results are.

Keith Raffel said...

Thanks much, Beth. I'm kind of making it up as I go along. BTW, you can download software to read Kindle or Nook files on your PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone from or

Lisa Bork said...

I applaud your efforts, Keith. I don't have a ereader yet, either, but I think it's great that you're mastering the technology now because it's undoubtedly only going to get more popular.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Love the Wanamaker quote. I don't know a lot about this stuff, but I salute you for forging ahead!

Is it possible to print a few copies of the book? A friend of mine who published through Amazon did this. Most of her sales are e-book, but she does have some printed to take to events.

Darrell James said...

Keith- Thanks for letting us trace the path with you. We're all waiting to see the outcome and wishing you luck.

Alan Orloff said...

Sounds like you're touching all the bases. And you have a couple great blurbs to use. You're quite right about the different sales trajectory of an ebook. That's one thing that makes it so attractive--the long (upward?) tail. Please continue to keep us posted!

Jessica Lourey said...

Those are awesome blurbs, Keith. I also wonder what MI is doing to promote the ebook deals. You should find out, tell me, and do some of that for yourself, as well.

p.s. I recommend putting a woman's behind on your front cover, in jean shorts, natch. Sales should spike.

Keith Raffel said...

Lisa, I like trying new stuff. We'll see how it goes. So far so good.

Kathleen, I have printed a couple of hard copies for reviewers. Lulu and others will do that. But I'm trying to resist hard copies for signings. I want to focus on ebooks.

Thanks, Darrell. Feel free to spread the word!

Alan, One of the great features of ebooks is being able to track sales in something close to real time. So far so good. Thanks.

Keith Raffel said...

Jess, I had a friend whose book sold to a German publisher for six figures. The book was published. Nada. They redid the cover with a topless woman. Top 10 bestseller. Please send along suggested cover redos.

Robin Allen said...

Ditto what everyone else has said about doing all the right things.

Is it too early to sell foreign rights, either for ebooks or physical books?

Alice Loweecey said...

Keith, your energy amazes me. I wish you sales to match.

Keith Raffel said...


The way this e-publishing is working for me is I'm being paid about 2/3 of the sales price for each book no matter where in the world it is sold. I might publish a physical book, too. We'll see.


Energy, shmenergy! I just want to sell books. Thanks for the good wishes.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Thanks for keeping us updated, Keith. I'll have my own e-venture coming out soon, but it's a short story. Am anxious to see how well it does. Will the readers of my novels follow my short stories, or not... only time will tell. But I jotted down a lot of your promotion ideas.

Deborah Sharp said...

Fascinating post, Keith. You're our own pioneer in e-pubbing, and I'm grateful you're putting your experience out there for us to learn from. It all seems so overwhelming to me, but I can see where your tech and biz background puts you in a great position to spread the word on Drop by Drop.Good luck!

Keith Raffel said...

Sue Ann, Good luck.

Deb, you learn from me? Hah! you are my hero when it comes to getting the word out about your books.