Today I welcome Mark Green, author of THE TRAVEL AUCTION to Booklover Book Reviews.
BLBR: Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you on breaking through the very competitive indie book market with a self-published title Mark. I must admit that in addition to the intriguing synopsis for The Travel Auction, what gave me the confidence to give your novel a spot on my review schedule was the very professional looking cover art. How much consideration did you give to the cover art in the publishing process?
MG: Thank you, it’s been quite a learning curve! All the research I did before self-publishing suggested a professional looking cover was critical to getting an ebook noticed.
I didn’t really know where to start, but fortunately a fellow rowing club member, Lloyd Randall, is a graphic designer so we sketched out a few ideas and he came up with the cover design. Personally, I really like Lloyd’s artwork, because it’s not targeting gender specific readers, but some reviewers (including my wife, Nicky!) have suggested the cover is a bit too formal and could be brighter with a cartoon sketch type theme to appeal more to the mass market.
It’s a tricky one – I am considering revamping the cover, but I’m unsure what sort of design to go with. If any of your website followers have any comments, I’d welcome their feedback.
BLBR: Although now available in ebook format for UK£0.99 (a steal in my opinion), for quite some time you had The Travel Auction ebook listed on Amazon for $0.00. Can you tell us a bit about your strategy there?
MG: Of course, although it was more of a lucky accident than a marketing strategy. Originally when I self-published the book in August 2012, I tried pricing the book at US$2.99 because I’d put a lot of hard work into the book and I thought that was a fair price. Then when sales didn’t do very much, I reduced the price to around US$1.55.
With sales still slow, I did some more research. Most web forums suggested making the book free for a promotional period which would hopefully gain more reviews, which would in turn attract paying readers. I’d published the book with Amazon and a company called Smashwords, who distribute to all non-Amazon retailers. (iTunes, Kobo, Sony, B&N etc.) Because Amazon won’t allow authors to sell for a promotional period for free unless you sign up to a 3 month exclusive period, I left the Amazon price as it was, but changed the Smashwords price to ‘free’ to see if it generated more interest.
Unbeknown to me, Amazon has a price matching policy. I guess a reader must have emailed them to say The Travel Auction was available for free elsewhere, because a month or so after the Smashwords promotion began, I started to notice lots of free book sales on my Amazon authors dashboard. These free book sales dramatically increased the number of reviews, but for some reason only on my Amazon.co.uk webpage, which leapt from around 7 reviews to the current total of 280. You can imagine the thrill of my (free) book sales going from a few hundred in a year to several thousand in the space of only a few weeks.
I held on for as long as I could before I put the price up to UK£0.99, which converts to the current price of US$1.55. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there’s enough momentum and reviews to attract readers to the book now it’s no longer free.
BLBR: I read somewhere that you had the opportunity to pitch The Travel Auction movie. I’m interested to know what that experience was like?
MG: Very nerve wracking! I adapted the book into a feature length screenplay earlier this year and submitted it to a production company who were advertising for new writers to pitch their idea via the BBC’s Writers Room website. I had to submit the first ten pages of the script together with a brief synopsis to be considered for round two, which was a fifteen minute pitch in front of three people from the production company. I prepared an in depth story summary, but when I practiced delivering the pitch to my wife, we both agreed it was too long and detailed. We hastily prepared a simpler, punchy pitch the night before and I’m so glad we did. On the day of the pitch I did my best despite being nervous and don’t think I could have done any more. Feedback was generally positive: they liked the premise and characters, but couldn’t see where the humour was going to come from.
A couple of days later I received a friendly but reluctant email ‘pass’. With hindsight, I probably concentrated too much on the dramatic side of the story during the pitch, rather than the humour – I was there to pitch the film as a romantic comedy, after all.
However, that’s not quite the end of the story. Once I’d got over my initial disappointment, I emailed back a very polite thank you for the pitching experience and mentioned – just out of interest – that I’d only recently realized where my ‘price match’ free book sales were displayed. At the time I emailed, the book was ranked #2 in the humour category and #6 overall in Amazon.co.uk’s top 100 free download chart, having sold over 6,500 free copies. A few days later I received a follow up email from the production company requesting to see the rest of the script.
As far as I’m aware, the film version of The Travel Auction is still under consideration…
BLBR: I have my fingers crossed for you Mark! And now the final, but all important question – do you have any other books in the pipeline?
MG: I do! I’m currently working on a book that tells the story of two other characters who appear in The Travel Auction, sort of a spin off sister book. It’s a similar travel based concept, but with a completely different premise and storyline. The backdrop to the story is likely to be Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos) because my wife and I have just booked flights to Bangkok for a two month backpacking trip early next year. After that, I have an adventure based thriller book series in mind and lots of other ideas that need developing. I think the next few months are going to be very busy…
I’d like to take this opportunity if I may to say thank you for reviewing my book and for helping to promote The Travel Auction with this interview, I really appreciate it.
BLBR: It’s been our pleasure to have you with us on Booklover Book Reviews.
Author of The Travel Auction, a relationship comedy about a guy who advertises on eBay for a travel companion with the same name as his ex-girlfriend.