About two years ago (holy cow, this blog is old…), I hosted author Michael G. Munz as he debuted his novel, Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure. Fast forward a few years through the ever-changing, entropy-laden atmosphere of the modern publishing industry, and Michael found himself in a position that may be familiar to more than one Indie Author out there. I invited him to stop by and talk a bit about how the closing of his publishing house affected him, and how he is working through that to continue his writing career. Sit back, grab a caffeinated (or non-, that’s cool too) beverage of your choice, and check out his take on overcoming disruption in the publishing biz.
Take it away!
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Two years ago, my comedic fantasy adventure Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, entered the world. While I’d self-published two novels previously, Zeus was my first book to be picked up by a publisher: Seattle-based indie publisher Booktrope. The book opened to great reviews. It gained momentum through word of mouth, association with other popular books in the Amazon system. Zeus Is Dead received multiple book-of-the-year honors last summer, which boosted its visibility even more. Things were going great!
Okay, you know that part in a movie where someone says, “Things are going great!” and then, say, zombies with flamethrowers burst in and wreck up the place? Well, last April, Booktrope sent word to all of its authors: the company was going out of business. All books would be removed from publication as of May 31st.
I won’t go into the circumstances of Booktrope closing its doors here. The good news was that I retained the rights to my books (Booktrope had later republished two of my self-published sci-fi novels as well). The bad news is that all of Zeus Is Dead’s associations on Amazon were just gone.
I didn’t realize that at first. In its final days, Booktrope gave its authors a lot of guidance on republishing their novels. We received the layout files and other things necessary to make the process of publishing under our own label as easy as possible. After creating my own label of Red Muse Press to give the republished versions a greater air of legitimacy (registering the trade name, setting myself up in Washington State as a sole proprietorship, etc.), I got the ebook versions back up. For Amazon, I used Amazon KDP. For Nook, NookPress. For Kobo, Kobo Writing Life, and for iTunes… Well, apparently you can only publish on iBooks if you have a Mac, so I and my PC went through Draft2Digital instead, which is an accepted third party aggregator for iBooks. There was a bit of a (re)learning curve, but it went smoothly enough. I opted to worry about paperback copies later, as my ebook sales had always dwarfed the paperbacks.
So, back to that thing I didn’t realize: While Amazon was great about porting over Zeus Is Dead’s 157 reviews and 4.3 average star rating from the Booktrope version to the new version, there’s something they don’t—and claim “can’t”—port over: the sales rankings and search associations. Zeus Is Dead had a lot of fans who also liked books by more famous authors (e.g. Christopher Moore). You know that “Customers who bought this book also bought…” section? Before, you’d see Zeus Is Dead in that section on some Christopher Moore novels, as well as plenty of other authors. Those associations, built up over two years of marketing, contest awards, and word of mouth, were feeding Zeus Is Dead’s sales.
I tried to get this changed. I emailed Amazon’s Author Central. The answer was apologetic but not helpful: Those things cannot be transferred. Their computer system doesn’t even allow for it. Undeterred, I actually picked up the phone and TALKED to someone at Amazon—which, if you know my introverted proclivities, tells you how desperate I felt. Still no dice. It seemed I would have to start from scratch and crawl my way back into visibility.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve reached out to bloggers (like Infamous Scribbler!) who featured Zeus Is Dead during its initial release. I did a re-release announcement through BargainBooksy, which resulted in enough sales to at least cover the cost of the announcement. I’ve experimented with Twitter ads to drive people either to a page on my website or to the book’s Amazon page, but haven’t had much success. I’ve got an add running on Facebook, targeted toward fans of similar authors to try to regain the lost associations. These seem to be helping, so far, but it’s slow going. My big goal at the moment is to secure a Bookbub promotion for a 99 cent sale, which is always hugely helpful to sales rankings if you can get Bookbub to run it.
Zeus Is Dead’s sales numbers for June are about 30% of what they were just before the Booktrope editions went away. I choose to believe that means I’m making some headway, but only time will tell. What stings the most is knowing that the boosts the book had gotten from book of the year contest honors aren’t something I can recapture again. I can’t re-enter the same book, after all. But I suppose I’ll just have to keep working on the Zeus Is Dead sequel, won’t I?
For the record, I’m thinking of calling it Zeus Is Undead.
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About Michael G. Munz
Michael G. Munz is an award-winning fantasy and sci-fi writer who is fascinated with Greek mythology. He also possesses what “normal” people might deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though he prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none. Or mostly none. There are exceptions. He dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguini. Follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, and on his website, michaelgmunz.com.