Tuesday, September 29, 2015

BOOKBUB, BOX SETS, AND GETTING TO #1 ON AMAZON: A Q&A with Diana Urban and Christopher John Chater

   Diana Urban, Industry Marketing Manager at BookBub, did me the great honor of contacting me with these questions after I had a very successful promotion using BookBub. For her full article, please visit the BookBub Partners Blog at http://insights.bookbub.com/

Diana:      The Elizabeth Chater Regency Romance Collection #1 box set includes standalone books. What was your strategy behind bundling four standalones together?

  CJC:  I could go on for days answering this question, but there are three good reasons to put standalones into a box set.
   Number one, readers love bargains. 99¢ books are very popular, especially with Regency Romance titles. By pricing my standalone books at 99¢, I’ve been able to enjoy good sales and stay competitive. By putting those same books into box sets of four, and price it at $2.99, readers save one dollar, and (because of the 70/30 royalty split on Amazon), my profit for those same books increases (approximately) $1.00.  It’s a win-win.
   The second reason is that it creates “another book,” therefore I get more space on the digital shelf.
   The third reason is that it exposes readers to a book that might not be as popular as the other books by the same author. If a standalone isn’t selling very well, and that’s not a reflection of the book’s quality, then readers may be more willing to give it a try if it’s in a box set.

Diana:      How did you decide on the initial pricing of the box set?

   CJC: As the free market adage goes, “Price goes down, quality goes up.” When I started uploading my grandmother’s back list, I priced most of her standalone books at $2.99, with one book at 99¢. For a while this worked, but soon there were so many 99¢ books for sale that my higher-priced books weren’t selling. The 99¢ book was doing terrifically, getting into Amazon’s top 100 and staying there for months, yet the $2.99 books still weren’t selling. When I checked the top 100 lists on Amazon for Regency Romance and Historical Romance, many of the top sellers were priced at 99¢, so I changed nearly all Elizabeth Chater books to 99¢. The 99¢ price change caused my profits to far exceed what they had ever been when the same books had been priced at the $2.99.
   There are five Elizabeth Chater collection books for sale, and only one of them is $3.99, because it includes a much longer book that, as a standalone, is priced at 2.99. It doesn’t do half as well as the other collection books priced at $2.99, even though readers are still saving one dollar by buying this collection book. Pricing is tricky!

Diana:      When you bundled these books, did the box set cannibalize sales of the individual books included in the set? Or did it have the opposite effect?

 CJC:  Creating box sets did cannibalize sales of some of the standalone books, but in most cases overall profits were higher, and people were reading and being exposed to books that weren’t selling as well before. 

Diana:      What were the results of bundling these books into a box set (estimates or generalizations are totally fine if you don’t want to provide exact numbers)? Would you recommend this strategy for authors or book marketers? If so, what advice would you give them about creating box sets for standalones?

   CJC: Creating box sets of standalone titles is a great idea, but it should be taken on a case by case basis. Some authors and publishers can get away with selling box sets for a high price and can occasionally run sales of those box sets so they don’t always cannibalize sales of standalones. If standalones are selling well, then selling the box set cheaper than the individual books is only a good idea if the other standalones aren’t selling well. It’s all about experimentation and knowing what your readers want. There are many Regency Romance book bundles for sale right now that are only 99¢. They’re getting into Amazon’s top ten and staying there. The competition is fierce. It’s getting harder to sell a standalone back list title, even at 99¢.       
   As far as content goes, the books in my box sets are not only by the same author, but the books are all similar in genre, style, and theme. I’d caution publishers against creating a box set of books from different genres, or that involve radically different situations, for instance books that have graphic scenes, while the others books are more G-rated.

Diana:      How else have you promoted the box set besides running a deal on BookBub?

  CJC: Promotion is a dirty word for most authors. It’s the hardest part. When I started publishing back in the old days of 2011, all I had to do was run a sale and my rankings and sales would soar. I used to be able to do a free giveaway on Amazon and get thousands of downloads. These days it’s much harder to give away a book for free, much less run a sale without some strategic promotional planning. I’d advise using anything and everything to get the word out, but it has to be done “correctly.” Each promotional platform has its own etiquette that publishers should respect. On social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, savvy authors use the 80/20 rule, meaning that 80 percent of your posts are not related to your books, while 20 percent are promotional. I, of course, feature the books on Elizabethchater.com, as well on my blogsite, and I’ve used paid promotional sites like BookGorilla. I’ve created a presence on unpaid sites like Librarything, Goodreads, and Shelfari—and a lot of other places I can’t even remember. Amassing emails is digital gold, and to do that I highly recommend using MailChimp. My motto is, “Try it all.”

Diana:      After your BookBub promotion for The Elizabeth Chater Regency Romance Collection #1 box set ended, did you see an increase in sales for any of your grandmother's other titles?

   CJC: The BookBub promotion greatly increased sales to all Elizabeth Chater books for the entire month (more than 30 titles), and the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) were fantastically high for the month. I’d like to point out that, because of the BookBub promotion, The Elizabeth Chater Regency Romance Collection #1 went to #1 for Historical Romance on Amazon, and garnered over one million pages read on KENP. Thank you BookBub!
   I’ve written more about my BookBub experience, including all the sales numbers, on my blog: www.christopherjohnchater.blogspot.com.

- END Q & A -

   For those of you new to publishing box sets, you'll have a decision to make regarding covers. Some retailers and distributors, like Smashwords, won't accept 3D covers. Personally I think 3D covers are more eye-catching and I've always used them on Amazon, but when I was going through Smashwords I had to create additional 2D covers. It's generally a good idea to have the same cover on all platforms, but I've never been good at following generalities. Also, I make my own covers, so I don't have to worry about the cost. Whether or not you chose to use only one cover, I'd still recommend having a 3D cover. They look great on blogs, websites, Facebook pages, ect.


   I also included the standalone covers to each book in the interior of the digital books. I thought that added a nice touch. It does increase the megabyte size of the book and therefore the digital shipping charge, but we're talking micro pennies at this point.  

   Another great reason to create a box set (or publish any book with a high page count) is because of the Amazon Kindle Unlimted program and the new payment structure. From what I can tell, the new system does seem to slightly favor longer books. I published my KENPC below and as you can see my KENP numbers are really more impressive that my sales figures. 

Those of you following Joe Konrath’s blog post asking for author rankings and Page Per Day numbers, here they are:

My BookBub promotional sale was from July 1, 2015 – July 7, 2015.
Author ranking reached a high on July 2, with #122
Author ranking for Historical Romance reached a high of #2
Author ranking on July 31 was 4,732
Total pages read (KENPC) for the month of July: 2,113,914. (1,092,778 from promotional book).
(On a side note, the promotion only marginally increased traffic to the author’s website.)

   As you can see from the graph below, on the first day, books sales were an incredible 2,412. The vast majority of the sales, probably 85% or more, came from the book being promoted. The book went into the top 100 for Historical Romance on the first day, and by the second day it was #1. It also went to #1 on Amazon.UK for Historical Romance. It went to a high of #30 for all Kindle Books. Elizabeth Chater’s author ranking went to a high of #2 for Historical Romance and a high of #122 for all authors. By the second or third day, the other four collection books went into the top 100 and enjoyed a brief stay there.

   The first day of the KENP program didn’t start off too promising with a modest 10,469 pages read, but things got much more interesting as the month went on. While sales dropped after the first day, pages read per day continued to go up. As you can see from the graph below, by day 3 KENPC had gone up to 47,552. KENPC reached a high on day 13 with 101,209 pages read. Total pages for the month were: 2,113,914; an average of 68,190 for July.

   My conclusion: Kindle Unlimited coupled with a Bookbub promotion make boxsets a great idea.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Harley Baker's obsession with the afterlife leads him to experiment with astral projection, but when he doesn't take the necessary precautions before an OBE, he comes back to find that a demon has taken over his body. While in spirit form, Harley watches the impostor romance the girl he's crushing on, ace his college exams, and impress his best friend with opportunities for wealth beyond his wildest dreams. Not only does Harley have to figure out how to get his body back before he's trapped in the astral plane forever, but he has to stop the demon from a plan that will veil the world in darkness and enslave the human race.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Father's Day - Free Book!

There's a strong father/son relationship in my novel, Aquarius Rising, so in honor of this Father's Day, I'm putting the Kindle version up for free from June 21 - June 25.

Out-of-work architect Nick Fellows never suspects a job interview will lead to a fight for his life. It begins when he receives an email he discovers is encoded with numerological numbers, sent to him from a mysterious company named Atlantis Revisited. Against his better judgment, he accepts an interview with them in a park in Manhattan. He's met by their strikingly beautiful recruiter, Lisa, who's only allowed to tell him that the company's primary focus is civilization building . . . and that their last architect was murdered. Immediately following the interview both of their lives are put in danger. But what could the company possibly be building, and who wants them dead because of it? The only thing Nick and Lisa know for sure is that they need to get to a place called Aquarius and Aquarius is rising.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Three Generations of Writers, One Sale

Three generations of Chater books are on sale December 15th-19th 2014!

The Elizabeth Chater Regency Romance Collection #2

The Gamester,
 The King's Doll, 
Lady Dearborn's Debut, 
Lord Randal's Tiger

The Traveler's Companion

After the death of his wife, Dr. Ryan Iverson turned love into a weapon. His creation, Angela, is an android that fools her targets into falling helplessly in love with her. As Deputy Director of Science and Technology at the CIA, his mission is to use Angela to seduce and destroy internationally wanted playboy and illicit travel book writer C.C. Go. His series of books,The Traveler's Companion, is an infamous guide for wealthy hedonists to indulge their every whim. The newest edition, however, only has one destination: the Zone, a place where mind creates matter, where the sick can be healed with a thought, and where a man's fantasies are made manifest. Dr. Iverson may be the only one who understands the potential dangers in a place C.C. Go calls the womb of creation: Reality doesn't stand a chance. 

Blood Debt 

In this dramatic sequel to KILL POINT, Agent Thomas Kelly and Jesse Fortune-Kelly are thrust into their worst nightmare when their newborn, Braden, is kidnapped by the ruthless drug lord Enrico Serva. In a desperate attempt to save her baby, Jesse is taken—and now Agent Kelly must travel to a Colombian compound to rescue the two most important people in his life. But while in the depths of a South American jungle, not only does Agent Kelly discover a plot of revenge against him, but a conspiracy of global proportions. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


"Villain: a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel."

"Hero: a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities."

"Antihero: a central character in a novel, play, etc, who lacks the traditional heroic virtues."


In the last couple of weeks my friends and I have been having an interesting debate about what makes a good hero or villain. The debate started when one of my friends told me a story he was working on that included, what he referred to as, “a complex villain.” Not the run-of-the-mill, two dimensional villain, but a complete, true-to-life villain. He explained his villain as a God-fearing boy who grows up in impoverished circumstances but who later suffers a tragedy that turns him bad, really bad. After he told me the story, I said that I didn't think this character was a villain. He sounded like a hero who had lost his way. He shrugged and said that he had another character that was even worse. This, I explained, was his true villain. The first character he described engendered sympathy, because, through no fault of his own, he had lost his way and became bad. Generally, that is not a villain.

This started the debate.  

What’s the difference between a hero that’s lost his way and a villain?

When I was growing up, no one was worse than Darth Vader. He was the baddest mother in the galaxy, nothing at all good about him. But if George Lucas would have started the series with Episode One, we wouldn’t have thought of Anakin Skywalker as evil, per se. He is born immaculately (like Jesus) and is brought up in impoverished circumstances, and yet he is still a nice kid who loves his slave mother. He has a penchant for electronics and is a top notch racer. Does that sound like a villain? Later he's seduced by the dark side, but only because he's fooled by the true villain, the Senator/Emperor. In the last episode, Return of the Jedi, Anakin finally becomes the hero by killing the villain, saving his son Luke, and bringing balance to the force. He has to pay for his crimes by dying, but Anakin has redeemed himself and is given a place in the force afterlife with Ben and Yoda. He’s a hero.

Don Vito Corleone and Michael Corleone of The Godfather.
This could be argued all day because in real life the mafia is probably much scarier, but the Don and his son Mike are not villains. Technically they’re anti-heroes, but heroes none-the-less. The Don does what he has to protect his family. Of course he’s not perfect, but he does have standards of justice and he loves his family. At first, Mike seems to be the better hero. When he returns from the war (a hero), he vows to never get involved in the family business because it's bad news. But through a series of events that aren't exactly his fault, he gets sucked in and becomes the new Godfather and begins a lifetime of doing bad. But he never loses his ultimate goal, which is to make the family business legitimate. In the final installment he achieves his goal, but he has to pay for his sins, which he does when his daughter is murdered.
The trickiest by far is Blade Runner.
Who’s the villain? The replicants? I don't think so. The replicants are self-aware A.I.’s who were designed by the Tyrell Corporation to live a life of suffering and slavery. The lead replicant, Roy Batty, played brilliantly by Rutger Hauer, is the protector of his replicant family who are being hunted down and killed by bounty hunters. Any act of violence the replicants commit could be seen as an act of self-preservation against a society that rejects them. The true villain is the CEO of the Tyrell Corporation, Dr. Eldon Tyrell, who is killed off early by Roy. Did the CEO deserve to die? What if I ran a puppy mill and sold the dogs to slave drivers who would kill them if they weren’t useful, and one day one of the puppies ate me? Who’s the bad guy, me or the dog? I am. I got what I deserved and so did the CEO (In real life maybe it's not so black and white, but in story mythology characters get what they deserve). But what about the Harrison Ford character? Isn’t he the hero? He’s more of a hero who lost his way. He’s a ruthless bounty hunter hired to kill replicants, though he’s struggling with it in the beginning, which shows his humanity, but then he gives in to his dark side because he needs the money.

He shows how lost he is when he goes to visit the stripper replicant. She’s minding her own business, trying to make a living with her pet AI snake, no harm to anyone, when the Harrison Ford character hunts her down and shoots her in the back. Does shooting a woman in the back sound like a hero? Hell no. But she’s an AI and AI’s are bad, you say? No. She didn't deserve that, AI or not, and the voice over by Harrison Ford’s character confirms it. Harrison’s character continues to hunt down the rest of the replicants, but there’s a twist. In the end of the movie, the lead replicant, Roy, redeems himself and shows his true hero colors by saving the Harrison Ford character from falling to his death. In the voice over, the Harrison Ford character says he doesn't know why Roy saved him. Roy's arc was to prove to the world that he was sentient and therefore deserved to be treated with respect, and by saving Harrison Ford's character he becomes more than an AI, more than human; he has become a transcendent being, which is often what happens to superior heroes. Yes, we were scared for Harrison’s character as he was fighting the lead replicant, but we should have been afraid for the replicants as well. What redeems the Harrison Ford character is falling in love with the Sean Young character. By saving and running off with her, he becomes the hero he is supposed to be, going from a killer to a lover. It’s a fascinating switch. The villains are not the ones you’d expect.

General Francis X. Hummel in The Rock
A former war hero and army general has taken over the tourist attraction Alcatraz and is threatening to release poisonous gas that will kill hundreds of thousands of people. We learn that the General feels that the soldiers under his command and their families were treated unfairly by the government. He wants them to be financially compensated. As an audience member, it's hard to hate this character because he has a legitimate gripe. We might feel the same way under similar circumstances, but we wouldn't go to such lengths to right the wrong, and that's the undoing of that character. Later on, when the character is shot, he shows he's a lost hero by coming to his senses, admitting his misdeed, and, just before dying, redeeming himself by helping the heroes get the true villain, Major Tom Baxter.   

In a story a character can be bad, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's the villain. A character with a good heart who does bad things will often be redeemed by the end of the story, like Han Solo for example. Han starts off as a selfish smuggler who's running from unpaid debts, but by the end of the movie he comes through to help the hero save the day. Anti-heroes may be bad people, but there's still something likable and redeemable about them despite their flawed character. Yes, they should have to pay for the flaw, (which Han does in the second installment by being frozen in carbonite), but they can still be redeemed.

What is a good villain?

Generally the villain is stronger than the hero, or has some obvious advantage over the hero. He's also ruthless and cannot be redeemed.

Terminator: A ruthless killer. Can’t be reasoned with. Doesn’t feel pain or remorse. Nearly impossible to kill.

Jaws: A man-eating shark. Can’t reason with a shark. Hard to beat it on its own turf.

What if Jaws saved Roy Schneider at the end, flipping up its tail like Shamu and chirping out, “You’re welcome Roy!” That would've been weird. Villains are ruthless. They should inspire hatred and fear, not sympathy.  

Alien: A killer with acid for blood that will eat you.

If you have any other examples or you disagree, I'd love to see it in the comments!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Gallant Lady on Sale for 99c!

Gallant Lady is on sale this week for only 99c.

 She paid him to rob her of her jewels, and he stole her heart…. 

 On Yvette’s seventeenth birthday, she’s visited by five men and presented with a dowry from the recently deceased mother she never met, a box of jewels. These men have come to claim guardianship of the beautiful waif, which would give them access to her inheritance. When she’s told the gems are made of paste, she plots to gain her freedom from the greedy guardians by hiring a highwayman to rob her of the jewels, but this handsome rogue wants something more from her—and so does she from him.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Gallant Lady is now Available!

Elizabeth Chater's Gallant Lady is now available on Amazon.

She paid him to rob her of her jewels, and he stole her heart…. 

On Yvette’s seventeenth birthday, she’s visited by five men and presented with a dowry from the recently deceased mother she never met, a box of jewels. These men have come to claim guardianship of the beautiful waif, which would give them access to her inheritance. When she’s told the gems are made of paste, she plots to gain her freedom from the greedy guardians by hiring a highwayman to rob her of the jewels, but this handsome rogue wants something more from her—and so does she from him.