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December 30, 2012 / benrovik

FREEDOM– The Thrilling Conclusion

There we have it!

The free promo for Aloft has ended, and it’s back up to being a regular ol’ ebook that you can buy on Amazon.

First off, I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who found the book and downloaded it during the three-day promoganza.  It was really exciting to watch Aloft rise up the rankings, and to think that there were people on the other side of each of those transactions who would be reading my stuff and (with any luck) enjoying it.  Thanks for getting curious and snatching up a book by an indie author like me!

Special thanks, too, to all my friends and supporters who took a moment to share the links around and spread the word.

All told, there were just under 400 copies of Aloft downloaded during this period.  The book reached around 1,500 in the overall free rankings, and peaked at #49 on the Romance > Fantasy & Futuristic Top 100 Free list.

I feel great about reaching more readers, and I’m very curious to see how sales of the other three Ben Rovik Books do in the next month, as people finish reading Aloft.  There are links in the ebook itself to Arm’s Length and The Wizard That Wasn’t, and a nice exciting sample from the latter.  If a percentage of the free readers start buying the other books, and reviewing and recommending them, I’ll be delighted.  I’ll keep you updated as the weeks go by.

There are authors who have a bigger impact from their promo days– who give away thousands of books during their promos, not hundreds.  I’d like to shoot for that next time. I have another two free days to use in the next couple months, and I have a few thoughts:

  • Promo sites are telling the truth when they say they might not post your free listing.

Snickslist, Zwoodlebooks, Author Marketing Club, Free Kindle Fiction and Book Deal Hunter are places where I know my entry for Aloft showed up.  There were also a number of other sites where Aloft appeared once it got on a Top 100 romance list.   But as for all the forms I filled in, requesting free publicity? Many wound up not having space, just like they said they would.

This might have been a symptom of doing a promo between huge holidays.  A great idea on paper, since so many people were getting new Kindles after Xmas, but if I had the idea then everyone else did too.  These sites openly declared themselves saturated by promo requests.

  • Paying a little money for guaranteed listings, especially on the bigger sites, might be worth it.

Some of these sites ask only $5 to guarantee that your title shows up, and prominently, with a cover image.  If it’s a site with tons of visitors, that might actually be meaningful.  Jeff Bennington budgets a couple hundred dollars for each of his promos to make them work.  Putting in time to request free listings that don’t happen might not be a good use of resources.

Then again, maybe the free listings were just impossible to come by during the holidays, and in another time of year it would work better.

  • KDP Select isn’t a deux ex machina.

That’s the final takeaway for me.  I wanted to play around with the program, and, again, I’m delighted that it’s helped me reach more people, especially if a few of them leave reviews or buy another book.  But one short promo was never going to be the tipping point that set me up with a full-time income from the things I’ve written.  I’ve got to keep working on my series, and reaching out to readers and peers whenever I can, and keep putting out more good products.  This is a long-term process; my wife says I’m working on our retirement plan with the books here.  There are certainly plenty of cases of great authors whose works took that long to catch on and get noticed.

  • Watching the rankings was super-fun.

Number-obsessed much?  I loved checking how the book was doing, and continued to have fun doing so even after it plateaued.    Now climbing the Top 100 Paid books; that’d be really fun to watch.

Gentle readers, thanks again for checking in during all this promotion, and putting up with seeing this link and this cover for, like, a million posts in a row.  I’m going to put down my entrepreneur’s silk top hat and put on my writer’s tousled hair and stubble now, and get back to work on The Fate of the Faithful: Mech Wiz Book Three.  Writing!  What a ‘novel’ thing for a writer to do!
*snickers, stuffs face with butterscotch pie, clicks ‘publish’*


December 29, 2012 / benrovik

An Open Letter to the Masters of the English Language 5

Dear Overlords,

What’s the name for the category of words that sound nothing like what they represent?  That create an impression directly counter to the associations of the things they define?

Contranyms?  Wrongophones?  Malalogues?

At any rate, here are a few words on which you completely dropped the proverbial ball:

  • Crepuscular.  I don’t think Twilight when I hear that, I think Feed.  How can a word for a time of day sound like a word H.P. Lovecraft would use to describe one of his slithering horrorbeasts?
  • Pulchritude.  If I thought someone was beautiful and I called them pulchritudinous, I guarantee I would be slapped and possibly cried at.  And I would curse my SAT prep classes for having ever made me think such a defective word could actually work in the real world.
  • Xenial.  I just don’t associate the letter X with friendliness.  And I’m angry at this word in general ever since someone used it against me in Words With Friends.

Please expunge these words from the lexicon forthwith.



PS Hey readers– any words out there that grind your gears?

December 28, 2012 / benrovik

FREEDOM– Day 1 Recap

Just a quick note to say how the Aloft three-day free promo is going so far.

First, the biggest problem with these KDP promos is that it’s incredibly addictive to keep checking on how it’s going.   I could keep refreshing the page endlessly to watch new sales come trickling in moment by moment.  Who says numbers can’t buy happiness?

The book began the day at around the 8,000 rank in free books.  The only thing I did, in addition to my earlier promotional prep, was to post updates about how the book was doing three times during the day to Facebook, encouraging my friends to share the link and download the book to drive it up the rankings.  I got several likes and a number of shares (thanks, everyone!), and quite a few people clicked the link (I can track that sort of stuff through bitly.)

At my last check last night, it was in the 2,000s.  That’s in free books overall, all across Amazon.

The more exciting thing was that the book settled into a category: Romance > Fantasy & Futuristic.  And in that category, it started doing pretty well.  By the end of the night, the book was in the TOP 100 at 68.

There are about 40,000 books on Amazon tagged as Fantasy Romance, and 14,000 tagged as Futuristic.  That’s both free and paid; the number that are free at any given time is smaller.  But still, that’s a bunch of books, so I was quite happy that Aloft showed up in a place where casual browsers might actually see it.

As of this writing, the book is around 1,600 free overall, and it’s at 52 in the category’s Top 100 Free. CAN IT REACH #1?

Today and tomorrow, the book is still free!  Please grab a copy if you haven’t done so already, and enjoy!



December 27, 2012 / benrovik


Please grab a free copy of Aloft on Amazon, now until Saturday!


Junior technician Ensie Thalanquin is the odd girl out in the Aerial squad. When she falls for a civilian machinist, can they keep a relationship afloat despite the differences in their backgrounds, the meddling of their superiors, and the pressure of a dangerous flight test a few short weeks away?

Petronaut Tales tell the stories of the Petronauts of Delia, inventors and adventurers who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of knowledge. From the mighty motorized suits of the Shock Troops, to the flying machines of the Aerials, to the everyday breakthroughs of the Civics, each of the eight squads has its own specialty and its own culture. And the ‘nauts and technicians who make up the eight squads all have their own adventures…

A companion series to Mechanized Wizardry.

December 26, 2012 / benrovik


12-27 to 12-29

Tomorrow until Saturday


Aloft will be free on Amazon!

As I mentioned earlier in the month, I found Jeff Bennington’s post on how he makes KDP Select work with his books.  I decided to take a spin through the promotional sites he mentioned.

So I’ll go ahead and walk you through the places I visited, and the programs I decided to take part in (That is, all the free ones).  After the promo ends on 12/29, I’ll post a summary of the results, and we’ll see how it all shook down.  Next time I do something like this, I might decide it’s worth paying to be a sponsor of one of these sites to feature my book more prominently.

I’ve also listed about how many Facebook likes/Twitter followers these various sites have, so you can get a sense of what their reach is.

Author Marketing Club

The single best thing I did was to visit these guys.  In addition to being a place to list promo days, as they have a comprehensive list of other places to list freebies, and lots of other services for authors.   Several of the entries below I reached through them.  It was the only location that required setting up a free account.  ~7,300 likes.


I added all four current titles to their database.  Promotional stuff cost money, so I didn’t try it this time. ~500 likes.


Submitted the freebie dates!  We’ll see if they actually feature the book.  Let me know if you spot it over the next few days.   Guaranteed free listing would have been $5.  ~12,000 likes.


I requested ‘editorial submission’ for Aloft.  That’s their way of asking for free featured space.  Advertising was $50 otherwise. ~70,000 likes.

Pixel of Ink

Submitted dates! No paid advertising available that I could see.  ~300,000 likes!

Kindle Book Promos

Submitted dates!  Ads were $10 and up.  ~200 likes, but ~88,000 Twitter followers.

Daily Free Ebooks

Submitted dates and said I’d be willing to do an author interview. No paid sponsorships.  1,500 likes.


Submitted dates, and also requested reviews of a few titles.  No paid sponsorships.   16 likes, 800 twitter followers.

Books on the Knob

Submitted dates. No paid sponsorships.   1,880 likes.

Centsible ereads

Submitted dates.  Various sponsorships from $5 to $25.  504 likes.


I listed The Wizard That Wasn’t as a freebie on Smashwords, actually!  This is one of the few sites I found that allowed for listing promos in addition to KDP Select freebie days.  I didn’t list Aloft here because thought they only had paid listings for KDP promos; I think I was in error.  Sponsorships from $5 to $25.  1,000 likes.

Book Deal Hunter

Submitted dates.  No paid sponsorships, but plans to add them.  1,300 likes.

Free Kindle Books And Tips

Submitted dates.  Book needs an average of a 4-star review to be included.   No paid sponsorship. ~28,000 likes.

Free Kindle Fiction

Submitted dates.  Guaranteed inclusion for $5, book features for $12.  ~3,400 likes.

Indie Book Of The Day

Submitted dates.  This site also features recently expired deals, and upcoming ones, giving authors more exposure.  Cool times!  No paid sponsorship. ~760 likes.

Free Book Dude

Submitted dates.  No paid sponsorship.  ~430 likes.

Ebooks Habit

Submitted dates.  “Book of The Day” freebie promo for $10.  1,200 likes.

So that’s 17 different sites I went to to announce the promo days.  It took maybe 3 hours to do all of this, and I think it would take far less time to do it for subsequent freebie days, since I know exactly how the sites are laid out now.

I can’t wait to get some data about how it all goes, and let you know how effective these various site are at reaching readers, AND how effective the non-paid promotional tools are for making the best use of these sites.

Be sure to check out Aloft tomorrow!

December 22, 2012 / benrovik

More KDP Select talk

From LJBOOKER in the comments:

“No one seems to be mentioning the fact that the bestselling books that are in Amazon’s select program are not exclusive, like, for example, the Harry Potter books. Those are for sale at Barnes and Nobles Nook store. It seems that there are two sets of rules. Only the indie authors have to give up their rights to sell elsewhere. This way Amazon gets to brag ‘exclusive’ books, while undercutting the other stores with free popular books. And those free bestsellers are getting all the funds in the pot. This whole promotion is about putting everyone else out of business. Has no one else noticed this?”

  • “Bestselling books… are not exclusive”

That’s an important point. J.K. Rowling is clearly not an indie author, nor are her books exclusive, and yet they’re free to Amazon Prime subscribers.  Ditto with Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games books.  They didn’t have to pay in exclusivity to get included in the library.  On the contrary, Amazon pursued them and paid (through the nose, I’m sure) for the licensing rights to add those books to the lending library.  They want the Lending Library to look attractive to land more $79/year subscribers to Prime, and acquiring the licenses to those bestsellers is the best way to do it.

  • “Only the indie authors have to give up their rights…”

It’s undeniable that Amazon created the Lending Library to get a competitive advantage over B&N and the other publishers; “Putting everyone else out of business,” as LJBOOKER said.   It’s a clever scheme for them to make money.  It’s not designed first and foremost to help indie authors out of obscurity.

Though of course it’s to Amazon’s benefit if a 5-day KDP Select promotion is what lifts an indie out of obscurity and into best-seller territory. That author is likely to feel a debt of gratitude to Amazon (legitimately, I’d argue) for giving his/her career that sudden oomph. When the book garners crazy sales while locked into exclusivity, Amazon wins; and if the indie author decides to stay in KDP select afterwards because of gratitude and reciprocity , Amazon continues to win.

But nobody’s holding a gun to the author’s head and making them stay in KDP Select after any given three-month period is up. The promotion could be just that– a promotion– which ends like any ad campaign might.

  • “Amazon gets to brag ‘exclusive’ books”

Hmm!  I don’t think this is a point they emphasize too much, actually.  In the FAQ on the Kindle Lending Library , intended for Amazon Prime customers, they boast how they have “thousands of books to borrow for free, including 100+ NY Times bestsellers.”  I haven’t seen Amazon say that a big advantage of the Lending Library is that it has indie titles you can’t find anywhere else.  Exclusivity is just the currency Amazon happens to want indie writers to pay in to access KDP Select’s promotional tools.

That said, publishers like Smashwords rightly see it as an attack on them.  An author who is exclusive to Amazon deprives Smashwords of traffic and sales.  Amazon’s definitely not sitting on its laurels when it comes to courting indie writers; they want to stay as the place where indies first publish and reach most of their audience.  (The KDP login page recently became even cuter-looking, by the way, with a homey stick-figure intro video.)

  • And those free bestsellers are getting all the funds in the pot.

Interesting– do you know this for sure?  Does J.K. Rowling get a piece of the same pot as the rest of us every time a Harry Potter book is borrowed?

Because I’d think it depends on which program these bests-selling books are participating in, since there are two.  There’s the Kindle Lending Library– the big collection of books Amazon Prime users can get for free.  And then there’s also KDP Select, a special program through which (indie) authors uploading their books through Kindle Direct Publishing can enroll their books in the Kindle Lending Library in return for a 3-month period of exclusivity.

So the Lending Library is a bigger thing than KDP Select alone.

I mean, since clearly the big best-selling authors haven’t been required to be exclusive to Amazon, they’re playing by a different set of rules.  That could easily mean they’ve got their own pot of money too.

In the tiny bit of research I’ve done, I haven’t been able to figure out of those big bestsellers are also drawing from the same fund that determines how much indies make per borrow.   Amazon’s terms of service for KDP Select says the fund applies to “all participating KDP titles.”   So is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a KDP title?  Or is it a Pottermore title?  I don’t know.

Here are some numbers about KDP borrows for each month of 2012.  So, for example, in November 2012, there were 368k borrows of books in the Lending Library, and each time one was borrowed Amazon paid its author $1.90.

If (say) 50,000 of those borrows were of a Harry Potter book, and they are subject to the same pot as everyone else, J.K. Rowling personally took $95,000 of the $700,ooo monthly pot.  That makes the pot the giveaway to bestselling authors that LJBOOKER is implying it is.

That said, if an indie author got 100 borrows from Amazon Prime customers–who have a borrow they need to use or lose every single month– and those were customers who wouldn’t have bought their book otherwise, that’s still $190 that the promotion of being in KDP Select sent their way.

Of course, did being exclusive to Amazon cost that author $190 in sales at every other ebook retailer in the world?  What was the opportunity cost of closing out those markets for 90 days?

If an indie author is selling well through Apple and B&N and Smashwords, then KDP Select is probably a bad deal; especially if they’re established enough that the free promo days aren’t helpful, and, as the commenter suggests, the KDP fund disproportionately goes to the best-selling authors who don’t need the cash.

For my purposes, at this moment, making one of four titles temporarily exclusive to Amazon in the hopes of drumming up business and visibility for the rest of the series seems like a reasonable thing to try.   And as for the KDP Select Fund, it seems plausible to me that Suzanne Collins has her own arrangement and isn’t dipping into it with each copy of Mockingjay that gets borrowed.

Anybody have additional info on this?

Thanks for keeping the discussion going, LJBOOKER!

December 17, 2012 / benrovik

The Other Ben Rovik

I was googling myself recently and noticed that there are several videos out there of Ben Rovik making some lovely music on the euphonium.

But here’s the kicker. I don’t play the euphonium. And I only spelled it correctly on the second try.

It turns out there’s another Ben Rovik out there, and he’s quite a musician!

Ben Rovik is probably his real name too, unlike me. So I have to confess to you that I am The Other Ben Rovik.

Enjoy the video above of The True Ben Rovik performing J.E. Barat’s Introduction and Dance for baritone euphonium and piano.

Congrats, Ben!

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