Neptune Crossing Makes the Top 100 Free Books at Kindle!

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It’s amazing what you have to go through to give a book away for free. I’ve been working at doing that on Neptune Crossing (first of the Chaos Chronicles), and I’ve now mostly succeeded. The thing is, you can’t just do it—not in the Kindle store, or the Nook store. What you can do is make it free at Smashwords, then wait for the free price to migrate out to Sony, Apple, and so on—and then get your friends to visit the Kindle store and report a lower price elsewhere. If you’re lucky, Amazon will pick up on it, and your book goes to free in the Kindle store, the most popular by far of all the ebook stores. (So far, the Nook store hasn’t picked up on it; still $.99 there.)

Why go through this? Well, it’s no secret. I’m offering it free in hopes people will like it, and will want to go on to read the rest of the series, and then perhaps some of my other books, for which they’ll pay me. (Though they’re all pretty inexpensive.) Neptune Crossing: gateway drug.

The other thing is, if a lot of people take your free book, it improves your ranking at, for example, Amazon. The reason that matters is that Amazon gives better exposure to books that have higher rankings—and by association, more exposure for all your others, too. So it can be really good for business to give away a lot of books. A few hours ago, I checked and Neptune Crossing was in the top 100 free books in the Kindle store! It was also #2 in free science fiction!

So if you haven’t already downloaded Neptune Crossing from the Kindle store (or the Sony store, or Apple, or Smashwords), now’s the time! You’ll be helping me out by taking my free book! And send your friends!

Because, you know, I really don’t want to have to carry all these ebooks home after the sale!

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  1. Anonymous
    | Reply

    *woo-hoo!* – Marco

  2. Harry
    | Reply

    I still haven't picked up an e-reader so I'm just trying the various readers out on my PC and phone for now, mostly with free books. Actually I wanted to compare reading e-book and book so Neptune Crossing is great! I still have my hardcover on the bookshelf in the basement.

    Looking at various readers, the prices are all over the place! Sunborn is $10.44 at Kindle or $8.99 at Kobo. Neptune Crossing is $0.95 at Kobo but free at Kindle so I picked that up. Outside of the US I can get a Kindle reader for my PC but not my phone which is kind of bizarre.

    For you, Jeff, what makes you the most money or does it matter? Me buying your hardcover, softcover, Kindle, Kobo, or sending you Paypal for your Sunborn PDF which is what I did if you recall. I assume sending you Paypal actually gets more money to you but barring that, which one puts more money in your pocket, if you don't mind saying?

    The new readers like the Kindle Fire and Kobo Vox really just seem to be tablets. Color which is cool but not e-ink so in some ways it makes me wonder why I'd buy one.

    For the moment I still like a real book on a plane. They ask me to turn off all devices for take-off and landing but a real book is OK for some reason (actually I suspect there is no real reason, just a policy they don't feel like letting go of). Call me a luddite if you like but I still seem to prefer a real book…


  3. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Hi Harry. Every time I turn around, something has changed in this business. But I can explain at least a few things. (And need to ask you something.)

    The price discrepancy between Sunborn and Neptune Crossing is because Tor/Macmillan publishes Sunborn in the U.S., and because of the agency deal with resellers, they set the price–basically to the same as the paperback. It should be $7.99 everywhere. I, on the other hand, am selling my reprints for a lower price, which I can do because I get a much bigger portion of the sale. I make more selling an ebook for $3.99 @ 70% royalty than I do on a cut from the publisher edition at a higher price.

    But where did you see Sunborn in the Kindle store for $10.44? The Tor (U.S.) edition should be $7.99, and that should only be in the U.S. store, because I have my own edition in all the stores outside the U.S. If you can find it again, could you provide me with a link?

    Anyway, I'm selling Neptune Crossing for cheap (free where it's allowed), to let people try it. If they like it, they can go on to the others (or buy the omnibus, which is $6.99 for three books). Sunborn is a little different. Because it's hard for me to apply strict geographic controls (I'm not supposed to sell it in the U.S.), I've taken care not to undercut the Tor price at, for example, Smashwords, where the geographic restriction is on the honor system.

    Anyway, to answer your question, I generally make the most money (in descending order) from Paypal donations, Smashwords sales, Kindle sales, BN/Sony/Apple/Kobo sales, sales of Ereads titles, and finally sales of the original publisher edition (but that only if/when the advance earns out). On the latter, I make most from hardcover sales, then ebook, then paperback.

    Of course, it's not really as straightforward as that. I get value from the publisher edition that isn't measured strictly in dollars and cents. But that's the snapshot. I should probably do another post on this whole subject soon.

  4. Harry
    | Reply is where I see the price though it seems to know I'm not in the US so perhaps the difference is the 'whispernet' fees? It should be interesting to see what price that link shows for you as it might be different than it shows for me. For me it says:

    Kindle Price: $10.44 includes applicable taxes & free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
    Sold by: Macmillan
    This price was set by the publisher

    Though if I click the + beside the Kindle Edition it also lists a "Kindle Edition, August 10, 2011 $7.59" as the Amazon price and if I click that it takes me to this page which is $7.99 discounted to $7.59 including whispernet. Very odd:

    I'm not sure why the August 10 edition is special and cheaper.

    Oh, and I'd misremembered. When I went to my bookshelf I discovered that I'd only bought a softcover edition of Neptune Crossing back then, sorry! An actual book for $5.99 ($7.99 CND), how about that?

    Must go compare some e-ink and new-style tablet e-readers soon…

  5. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    When I go to that first link, I see the Tor edition for $7.99, which is correct. I'm guessing the price difference is conversion to Canadian dollars? The thing is, the Tor edition is not supposed to be sold in Canada, so I'm not sure how that works.

    The second link is my edition, which isn't available in the U.S. store, but is up in the UK/DE/FR stores. Outside the U.S., that's the one you should buy. Now, why you see that in Canada, I don't really know, as there's no option in the Kindle publishing system for a Canadian store. Very odd.

    My advice to anyone inclined to buy it is to buy it at Smashwords, where you can download multiple formats at once and be done with it. Kindle, Nook, Sony, whatever you want.

    Let me know what you think if you check out the various readers. I'm still doing much of my reading on a Dell PDA, because it's small, and also good for reading in the dark. But I like my Sony e-ink reader under the right conditions, and my new Android tablet is awesome!

  6. Harry
    | Reply

    Kindle seems less convenient overall in Canada so I'm not going to worry about it. No Fire here either.

    I checked out tablets and readers yesterday and e-ink still doesn't look great to me.

    Kobo Vox appealed to me so I got one. So far as a reader I really like it. Web pages, Android apps and so on are good. Screen is very bright, usable at night and in sunlight. I prefer the Android's virtual keyboard input to Apple's typing method. The social media and Reading Life hooks are very slick.

    Youtube videos won't play yet so I have sent email to support. But I just wanted an e-reader anyways so the rest is more a bonus than a necessity.

    Smashwords epub files work well but are not as convenient as the Kobo store unless i can figure out how to losd them without the help of a laptop or desktop to load files via USB or microSD card.

  7. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    I hope you like your Vox. I take it you really want to be able to download your purchases directly from the source into the reader? I'm just the opposite; I keep my master ebook library on the computer in Calibre (and keep that backed up with Dropbox and synced to my laptop), and I load books I'm most immediately interested in reading to the various devices.

    Two Android reader-apps that I know of (Aldiko and FBReader) allow you to download wirelessly from your Calibre library, using a Calibre feature called the content server. It's a little tricky to set up, but works great once you have the magic greeting.

  8. Harry
    | Reply

    I do like the convenience of instant book loading but I'm going to ask Kobo support about the downloads too. I'm not sure why they time out and they should really let me download files. Perhaps just a setting or something.

    Nice reader but since I can surf and play Angry Birds I probably read less than I would with a real book which has less distractions.

  9. Harry
    | Reply

    Kobo tech support hasn't helped with settings for the stock browser or anything but by installing the Dolphin HD app I can download epubs from Smashwords and play some youtube videos too so it seems both issues were just failures to download. After downloading an epub with Dolphin I can ask my Vox to search for imports and it finds and adds them to its library for reading so I seem to be set there.

  10. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    I like the Dolphin browser very much. Especially the Swipe method of going to favorite sites. But… this came across my desk a few days ago:

    That has made me less enthusiastic about using Dolphin.

  11. Harry
    | Reply

    Hmm, that is not good. Might have to keep it in reserve for downloads until I figure out the built-in browser. Thanks for the heads-up.

    Your free Neptune Crossing epub from Smashwords is black on black in night mode but Sunborn from the Kobo store is proper white on black. Any idea why?

  12. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Ah, blast. I need to look and see if I had the font set to "automatic" or "black" in the source Word doc. One or the other can cause that, and I don't remember which, but apparently I need to change it. Thanks for letting me know.

    I'll have to check and see if the same thing happens in the Kindle edition (which is where most of the free downloads have been). It wouldn't affect the display on e-ink, but might on the Kindle app.

  13. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Dang, I've just checked some of the other Smashwords builds on my Droid tablet, and they all seem to have this problem. %&^*$#!

    Now, I have to figure out if it's really what I said above, or some bug in the SW conversion that's beyond my control.

  14. Harry
    | Reply

    Other epub files seem to have the same problem. Using the same conversion software, perhaps a bug in there.

  15. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Do you mean same problem with epubs from other sources than SW? Have you checked the settings in your reader? I found, on my droid, that the problem occurs with the Aldiko reading app, but not with other apps I tried. And in Aldiko, I could change a setting related to overriding publisher's formatting, and that fixed the problem (while causing others).

    OTOH, the problem did not occur when I opened other builds of my books, such as the ones I made using Calibre software for the Nook.

    On the other other hand, I tested some of my books in the Nook app for Android, and found completely different formatting aberrations that occurred only in that one app!

    It's insane.

  16. Harry
    | Reply

    All the free epubs from Smashwords seem to have the same problem. I haven't actually tried epubs from anywhere else, but I will. There aren't many settings in the Kobo standard reading app but no font setting I try fixes it in night mode. They're fine in non-night mode however.

    Free or pay stuff from the Kobo store works fine of course (and the social reading stuff works too, a little silly but fun to see how many other people are reading the book at the same time, comments and highlights, etc.).

  17. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Free or pay at SW, they all go through the same conversion program. I did a little dissecting of a couple of epubs and found the cause: the font is defined as black, rather than left undefined. So overly-literal reading apps will display nicely as black-on-black, just like the album cover in the movie This Is Spinal Tap.

    Some apps have settings for "override publisher formatting" or something like that, not necessarily under fonts. In any case, this particular issue looks to me like a bug in SW conversions, and I've submitted a query about it.

    Unfortunately, at SW, you have to take what the converter (the Meatgrinder, as they affectionately call it) spits out. Authors can't upload their own epubs.

  18. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    BTW, I'll send you a different epub build of Neptune Crossing, if you email me. Or you can download it free from Sony, or an earlier version from or or I'm trying to get it free at BN, but so far no luck.

  19. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Well, Jeff, your strategy succeeded with me! I started with the free download, then purchased all of them in sequence and read them on the Kindle, and finished Sunborn today dying to read the next one where Julie and John re-unite in Shipworld and John figures out what to do with with her AND Antares… nicely played!

  20. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Thanks! 🙂

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