Monday, 12 March 2012


I got my Kindle in Autumn of last year, a generous leaving gift from the folks at my old workplace.

It was a very appropriate gift, given that they knew I love books and that my new job involved a substantial commute. It was pretty much perfect in fact, except that it meant my wife had to revise her Christmas plans for me.

I was surprised by just how easy and straightforward Amazon makes it to buy and download books to your device. My first purchase (as opposed to all the free classics I, like everyone else, downloads immediately and then doesn't read) was this mini-short story collection by Michael Connelly.

I got it because I'm a fan of Connelly, particularly his Harry Bosch books, and because it was cheap: 99p. This micro-collection  contained three Bosch stories, all pretty good. As much as I enjoyed reading it, though, I was more interested in the marketing strategy behind the book. One of the main reasons I bought it was the low price (interestingly, it's more expensive on the US Amazon site, at $2.99).

If I'd been totally new to Connelly, I might have bought this as a sampler, liked what I read, and been more likely to buy another of his books. Even though I'm not a Connelly newbie, and have read four or five of his books already, this was still a good opportunity for me to be reminded how much I enjoy his work, and - yep - make it more likely I'll buy more of his books. A classic example of reinforcing and expanding the reach of the brand.

The really smart thing they did, however, was to include the first few chapters of the newest Connelly book, The Drop, as part of the package. That changes the purpose of the package (apart from the 99p it generates itself of course), from raising general awareness of the author to promoting a specific product from the author.

I thought this was a pretty good idea, so of course I've stolen it.

Short stories are often the best introduction to a new author. They're like singles: you hear a couple you like on the radio, and you're more likely to buy the album, go to the concert, whatever. If I can use some of my shorts to direct some of the traffic towards my novel, I'm happy for them to be up on Amazon as cheap as they'll let me make them.

I have three short story bundles up just now. Naturally, they all contain the first two chapters of Halfway to Hell and a Facebook link at the back. They're all loosely crime stories, but they run the gamut from noir to psychological thriller to urban horror to Hitchcock riff. Rereading them (most of them are at least five years old), I'm struck by the Stephen King influence in more than one of them. I did the covers myself, so they're nowhere near as good as John's work.

A Living

The Misfortune Teller

One Shot

These are all 99p in the UK, 99c in the US. That means they only bring in 35% royalties because they're below the threshold Amazon likes to see you listing books, but then they are all much shorter than a real book. They're around 8,000 words, which should still give people half an hour of enjoyable (I hope) reading. I've been using the KDP promotion manager to make one at a time free on weekends (which seems to be the time most people shop). This weekend I'm going to make One Shot free on Sunday for UK Mothers Day.

The aim is not for these books to generate much income, it's to get people reading my stuff, and hopefully liking it enough to tell their friends and maybe buy Halfway to Hell.

I've no way of telling how many of how many book sales have been enabled by my 'singles', but I do know one thing: they're not hurting.

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