Sunday, October 30, 2011

Still free

Well, I'm still waiting for the Amazon computers to put a price back on Sweet Ophelia, so in the meantime it is still free to download in both the U.S. and UK.  During the week and a half or so of this experiment I've had a total of 39,815 downloads and counting.  I'm still pretty amazed at these numbers!  I hope people are liking the book. :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Experiment in Free: Update

Well today is the second day with my novel Sweet Ophelia available free for Kindle on  So far it has been free there for 32 hours and I've had 12,490 downloads, or 390 per hour.  Not too bad.  It has gone from #35,000 on the free bestseller list to #4.  It is also free on Amazon UK, where it has had 7233 downloads in six days and is now at #5 on the free bestseller list.

I have to say, I find these numbers somewhat astounding.  Now comes the next part of the experiment.  Tonight I will switch my price back to .99 cents on some of the other sites and see how long it takes Amazon to match.  After that I'm hoping the momentum will carry through to some sales, but we'll see.  It is just an experiment after all, but so far it has been quite an interesting one!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On going free

Well, they always say that the most powerful word in marketing is "Free," so I decided to try out the strategy of going free on Amazon with my newest novel, Sweet Ophelia.  So far the results have been interesting, so I thought I'd share them here.

One thing about going free on Amazon is that they don't make it easy.  Publishers are allowed to post books for free, but independent authors like myself are not.  We are required to list our price at a minimum of .99 cents (or roughly.71 pence in the UK).  We also must agree that we will not price our books cheaper anywhere else, so that Amazon has the cheapest available price.  But, if we break this agreement and post our books cheaper someplace else, Amazon has the right to price match.  Is this confusing enough yet?

The bottom line is that if you post your book for free on some other sites, then Amazon may or may not match it and post it for free as well.  You can help your case by having friends click on a link to report a cheaper price to Amazon.  And then you have to cross your fingers and wait...

So now you might ask, why would I be so eager to give my work away for free?  Well, I will use the example of another independent writer to illustrate.  Like me, this other writer came out with a book in early August.  Like me, she was selling about 1 copy per week.  Then she put had her book listed for free on Amazon for the first ten days or so of the month.  She gave away 25,000 downloads during those ten days.

What happens in this case is that the book climbs the rankings of free books and starts to show up on various Amazon bestseller lists.  Once it is on these lists, you can put a price back on it, and with some luck it will now show up on the paid bestseller lists.  The author in my example sold 1,500 books in the two weeks after she put a price back on it.  Better than one sale per week...

So I'm hoping for a bit of the same kind of luck here.  Five days ago, my book went free on Amazon UK, and I've had about 7,000 downloads over there since.  This morning my book went free on Amazon and so far I'm averaging 500+ downloads per hour in the U.S.  Not too shabby.  Even if I don't get any sales boost out of it, I'd rather have people reading (and hopefully enjoying) my book than simply have it die in obscurity.

So there you have it so far.  The book has gone from #35,000 to #56 on the free bestseller list in just five hours.  I figure I'll keep it free until the end of the week and then see what happens.  Of course, you can't just switch the price back.  You have to switch it back on the other sites and then wait for Amazon to match it again, but for the time being, let it roll!  If anyone out there wants to pick up a Kindle copy, now would be a good time. :-)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another cafe for the list...

As a fiction writer, one of the main reasons that I came to Budapest was to explore all of the great cafes.  I’m always on the lookout for good places to write; cafes with an easy-going atmosphere where one can linger for hours over a coffee without feeling like you’re simply taking up space.  There are cities I’ve lived in that are full of such cafes, both in Europe and the U.S.  San Diego, for instance, has a great number of independent coffee houses with tons of character sprinkled throughout the city’s more eclectic neighborhoods.  Seattle as well.  In Europe I’ve found Tallinn in Estonia to be particularly well-suited for a writer.  And Budapest is not half-bad either.

Historically, it seems that writers who frequent cafes have tended to pick one as their favorite and virtually set up shop there, visiting the same place every day.  At least that is the impression that I get from reading of the literary café culture around the previous turn of the century.  Writers here in Budapest were known to literally write for their lunch.  The grand cafes that hosted them would accept a poem or story penned in the establishment for payment.

Today several of these grand cafes still exist in Budapest.  I never go to them.  I just don’t feel comfortable in them at all.  These include the New York Café, Gerbaud, Lukacs, and some others.  For one thing, they tend to feel quite pretentious, with white table cloths and crisply dressed wait staff whisking through the room.  How could I possibly relax when I feel like they constantly have an eye on me, waiting to turn the table?  Then there is the clientele, seemingly consisting of nearly all tourists.  And lastly there are the prices, which are twice as much as an average café.

No, the “grand cafes” are no longer a writer’s paradise.  Sadly they are now more of a tourist curiosity, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t vestiges of elegance where a writer can still feel comfortable.  The Alexandra Bookstore café, which I’ve mentioned here before, is one such place.  And today I’ve found another. 

The Urania Coffeehouse is upstairs from the lobby of a majestic old movie palace.  This room itself is early 20th-century elegance defined, with an ornate ceiling and intricately carved pillars.  The coffee is cheap and good, and in the hour that I’ve been here today I am the only customer at all.  No rushing me out the door here.  True, a few other customers would add some life to the place, but I’m not complaining.

I’m not like those writers of yore who choose a favorite café and stick to it day in and day out.  I like to mix things up a little, having a string of favorite cafes that I visit once every week or so depending on my mood, but I’ll definitely add this place to the list!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vienna Calling...

I first came to Budapest to spend some time writing a novel in 2009.  On that trip I stayed for about two months.  I'd always planned to go visit Vienna, which is less than three hours away by train.  I never made it.  This time I've been here in Budapest for more than three months, and I'm happy to say I finally made the trip over this week to check out the land of Mozart, Freud and Viennese coffee.

I have to say, it was an awfully nice few days.  One thing I'd heard ahead of time from several Hungarians was that Vienna was "too clean" and therefore "boring."  Definitely there is a marked difference between these two capital cities.  In Budapest the deterioration from 50 years of communism is still painfully evident.  It feels like an Eastern European city.  Vienna, on the other hand, is firmly rooted in the West.

In some respects, this had me feeling like I was taking a small step closer to home.  Maybe it was just my imagination, but the people seemed a little bit more upbeat as well.  I saw plenty of people smiling in public, which seems to me a rarity in Budapest.  Or course both cities have their own charm; capitals located on the Danube, three hours journey by train and yet in many respects a world apart.

Back when they were joined together as the Austro-Hungarian empire, Schonbrunn Palace was the center of it all.  Today this imperial palace and its extensive grounds are open to the public.  I spent the better part of a morning wandering around and taking a look at the place.  As the saying goes, it's good to be king.  Or emperor in this case.  Here are a few more photos of the grounds:

Back in Budapest now, the warm fall weather has finally given way to the first signs of winter, with cold, wind and rain.  In the market today I saw the first Christmas candies for sale.  Could snow be far behind?  And will I last here long enough to see it?  Or will the mild California winter draw me back home at last?  It's hard to say at this point.  To be continued...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sweet Ophelia

Well, for those who follow this blog, you might have seen an occasional post in which I've considered different title and cover combinations for my latest novel.  The first title, Sweet Ophelia and the Tinseltown Blues, along with the cover image of a heavily made-up woman's face, obviously didn't connect with readers.  In fact, I only sold one copy of this novel in the last three weeks, and that was with the price set at .99 cents!

I had tried changing the cover to put up an image of a broken heart, but that didn't fare any better.  In a week with that cover I didn't have a single sale.  I switched back to the original and then started advertising three days ago on Goodreads.  It ends up that my ad had 9,090 page views, resulting in a grand total of two clicks!  And zero sales.  Wow.  Talk about striking out!

So I woke up this morning and decided to try something else.  First, I've cut the title down to just Sweet Ophelia.  Second, I've put together a new cover, as follows:

Now I realize that it still doesn't tell the reader much about what type of book this really is.  To address that issue, I've added a clarification on the Amazon and B&N title pages.  When you see the title on those pages, it says Sweet Ophelia (A Romantic Comedy).  So will this all finally turn things around?  Only time will tell.  I figure if I can manage one a week I'll have tripled my sales!  Fingers crossed, anyway.  :-)