“Sleeping Beauty” FREE This Week

Sleeping Beauty Mark IIThe Christmas giving continues! This week’s free book is my “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale,” my contemporary take on the classic.

In this short story, the titular character is put into a magical coma by her father, who believes he must protect her from the budding urges of the boys at school. But one of them loves her more deeply than he suspects, and his wife is not interested in having her Pretty Princess lie in a coma until her husband’s handpicked suitor comes to call.

A cautionary tale that remains timeless in a landscape of purity balls and sexism, “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” is a creepy, little story that’ll give you shivers.

It’s free all week! Get it here.

Back-to-School Sale on Modern Fairy Tales

It’s back-to-school time, so I’m having a sale on my books set on my modern fairy tales — retelling classic stories but setting them in contemporary high schools. Just the thing to get your brain oriented back towards Homecoming, trigonometry, and that popular kid you really hated.

B&B Cover Lo-ResBeauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale is selling for just 99 cents for your Kindle this week. Starting today and running through next Thursday, you can get the story of Rory Bellin — a senior and editor-in-chief of the school newspaper at Lawrence High School. She wishes people would focus on what’s important for once, but LHS is fielding its best football team in a generation and has a real chance to regain its past glory. When the new English teacher gives Rory a ring of three wishes, though, she decides she’s going to rearrange everyone’s priorities. There’s just one little catch — to get what she really wants might cost her her soul!

Set in my former hometown of Lawrence, Kansas at my daughter’s high school!

Click here to download Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale for just 99 cents.

Sleeping Beauty Mark IIThe sale on “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” is even better. It’s regularly 99 cents, so the only way to mark it down was to offer it free! Yep, you can get the short story that start my bent towards retelling the classics for nothing starting today and running through Tuesday next. In this one, Beth Shipman has been a coma for two years. Her father put her in it to protect her purity. Her mother is determined to get her back. The only way to wake her is through True Love’s First Kiss, and Beth’s mother think she has the perfect boy in mind. But her husband has other ideas, and he’ll stop at nothing to keep his daughter pristine and perfect.

Click here to download “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” for free for your Kindle!

Two books for a buck? Can you find a better back-to-sale? Sure they’re not trendy fashions, but let’s face it: Everyone looks good reading a book.

“Sleeping Beauty” Free to Celebrate Release of MALEFICENT

Fairy tales continue to get the reboot treatment, this time with Disney’s Maleficent. The film reimagines Disney’s own interpretation of “Sleeping Beauty” from the villain’s point of view, with Angelina Jolie in the titular role.

Maleficent has always been my favorite Disney villain. What’s not to like about a woman with magical powers, who can turn herself into a giant, fire-breathing dragon? Okay, there’s whole evil part, but still. Maleficent (Dig that name!) is pretty cool.

"Sleeping Beauty" is free this weekend to celebrate the release of Disney's MALEFICENT!

“Sleeping Beauty” is free this weekend to celebrate the release of Disney’s MALEFICENT!

So I’m celebrating the release of the film with a little giveaway. As you may know, I too have a reimagining of “Sleeping Beauty.” In my modern take on the classic story, our heroine is put into a magical coma not by a jealous witch but her own father. He fears her budding sexuality and seeks to “protect” her from 14-year-old boys with lust on their minds.

When the story opens, it’s two years later. Beth has been in a coma for two years now and only Carl still comes to visit her. Beth’s mother thinks he may be able to break the spell. But she’ll have to convince him first. And Beth’s father has other ideas.

“Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” is an 8000-word short story, and you can get it free for your Kindle Friday through Sunday. It’s also got an excerpt from my novella, Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale, in the back matter. So you can go see Maleficent and then still have lots of reimagined fairy tale goodness to read afterwards! Click on the link below to download the short story for free!

Click here to download “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” free from Amazon.com!

KDP Select Free is Dead

The Amazon KDP Select Free Event is officially dead.

This is perhaps not news. Amazon has been changing and adjusting its algorithms all year. As with many things Amazon-related, it’s difficult to know what their true motivation is. (Beyond profit, of course. Everything Amazon does is designed to sell merchandise, so you have to figure their changes to algorithms follow that model, but, given that free events used to sell lots of books, it’s hard to know how this benefits Amazon.)

Regardless, free downloads of books in KDP Select went from being counted as a full sale to one-tenth of a sale to . . . no one is sure what, but not even a tenth of a sale.

Sleeping Beauty Mark III ran a free event for “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” last month. My goals were twofold. All of my sales had fallen into torpor and needed some stimulation, and, I was launching Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale, so I was trying to raise its visibility.

In a five-day stretch, I got 1967 free downloads of “Sleeping Beauty” — not bad for a non-BookBub or ENT-featured event. After the book went back into the paid store, it sold eight copies. That’s four-tenths of one percent.

I also sold eight copies of Beauty & the Beast after the event. So much for the rising tide lifting all boats.

Back in March, when I ran my most successful free event, “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” had about 2500 downloads, which then resulted in 16 sales and 11 borrows. (The numbers were considerably better in the U.K., but this time I got almost no traction in Britain). That’s a little over one percent.

Other authors had reported better numbers from their free events, and it was pretty evident that there was a snowball effect — the more downloads you got, the higher the percentage of sales to free copies moved you had. My numbers were respectable but not outstanding.

SoG Cover Mk III 2Last week, I ran a second free event, this time for State of Grace. The Wolf Dasher books seem to have a different audience than the modern fairy tale ones, so I wasn’t too surprised that “Sleeping Beauty” didn’t do a lot to improve the Dasher novels.

In three days (as opposed to five), I saw 1769 free downloads. Again, pretty respectable for a book not featured by one of the big services. Since it went back into the paid store, I’ve sold three copies of it, and one of the sequel, Red Dragon Five. That’s two-tenths of one percent.

The one caveat to all this is that, while State of Grace was free, it fueled downloads of “The Darkline Protocol”, which is permafree. So, since the two books were in the same series and both free, they helped each other get more downloads.

State of Grace saw one other benefit — it picked up another review, a four-star one. But otherwise I didn’t see a whole lot of action from giving the book away for free.

Here’s why this matters. The key for every author’s success — whether they are traditionally published or an indie — is visibility. The free events in Select used to offer that. Your numbers shot up as a result of free downloads, and then you went back into paid with some momentum,which helped sell books for 30 days. That made money for authors, and it made money for Amazon.

But the new system doesn’t work that way. You gain visibility while you’re free, which increases downloads. But once you are back to charging, the vast majority, if not all, of that visibility is lost. Thus, free is not working anymore.

In one respect, Amazon should be lauded for making this adjustment. The old system had been conditioning readers not to pay for books. Why buy it when it will eventually go free? That would have been no good for Amazon or the authors who publish through it.

Moreover, Amazon has launched its Kindle Countdown Deals program, which allows authors to put their books on sale without sacrificing their royalties. So Amazon is definitely trying to find ways to sell books and cut authors in on a piece of the action.

These are both good things. But it leaves us indies trying to crack the code on how to maximize the program again. Because, whether we give our books away for free or put them on sale or charge full price, the key to success is still visibility, and Amazon is a very, very, very crowded market.

With the holiday shopping season almost here, it’s going to be very interesting to see what works and what doesn’t.

Do KDP Select Free Events Still Work?

One of the things about being an indie author is the constant need to review, analyze, and alter your strategy in the face of a changing market. Since the introduction of Amazon’s KDP Select program, multiple changes have been made. Amazon keeps tweaking it, trying to make it work best for its true customer — the book buyer. To be sure, they’re interested in it working for authors too, but that’s the secondary concern. Authors are not their real customers.

This past summer Amazon made several adjustments to how free events work. Authors started reporting fewer downloads and, more importantly, smaller post-free sales bumps. That’s been concerning on two fronts. The main reason to do a free event is to boost a book’s visibility in the Kindle store. The more sales you have, the more Amazon features your book. The reason is pretty simple. Amazon wants to sell readers books. So if a book has sold a lot of copies, chances are good it can sell another copy to the reader who meets the profile of the people who have previously bought it.

In the past, free downloads helped kick a book up the charts, so that more readers could discover it. When the book went off free, it generated a lot of actual sales. That was good for Amazon and for authors.

But the metrics have changed. Amazon’s algorithms have been adjusted. And, while I hesitate to say the changes are bad for authors, they are forcing us to learn how to play the game all over again.

There are fewer downloads per free event, which lowers discoverability. There are fewer sales — so it’s been reported — after the event, which lowers profitability. That raises two important questions:

  1. Is there a new way to maximize the results of a KDP Select free event? In other words, can it still be used to give a book’s sales a shot in the arm?
  2. Is it still worth it to enroll a book in KDP Select? After all, you have to sell the eBook version exclusively through Amazon if you’re enrolled. The principal benefit had been using those free events to kick up your paid sales. If that doesn’t work anymore, is it still beneficial to enroll in Select?

Sleeping Beauty Mark IIWith all that in mind, I ran a five-day free event for “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale.” I had two major goals for this event. First,  I wanted to boost my overall sales. While I’d done well earlier this year, things had really fallen off in the summer. I was looking to kick-start my numbers.

Second, I was releasing my new novella, Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale,the first week of October. I put an ad for the book in the back of “Sleeping Beauty” and then set the free run to occur the week after the release. I was hoping to raise the visibility of the new book by giving away an older but similar book free.

I confined my advertising to only a few venues. BookGoodies.com and Bargain eBook Hunter have both garnered good results for me, and their rates are reasonable. I experimented with FreeBooksy.com. I’d not tried them before, because their rates are considerably higher. I got good recommendations on them, so I decided the money was worth it.

The first day of the event was fantastic. I gave away over 1500 copies of “Sleeping Beauty” on the first day alone. That was far and away the best first day I’ve ever had. The book hit #1 in two different categories, and peaked at #170 overall in the free store.

The results fell off sharply after that. The next day, I only had about 200 downloads. Over the next three days, I got another 200 or so.

By the time it was all said and done, I got 1967 downloads in the U.S. Foreign markets were pretty insignificant. That’s the second best I’ve ever done on a free event. So, at least for me, I didn’t find that the new system had significantly reduced my downloads, although I used a new advertiser for the first time, and I think it definitely gave me some rocket fuel.

However, there were two other significant things of note about this event. First, the rapid decline of my numbers after only one day. So far as I could tell, as soon as Free Booksy moved on to another client, my numbers tanked. So it seems the right advertising is still (if not more) critical to running a successful event.

Second, I experienced the lack of post-event bounce other authors reported. I’ve sold five copies of “Sleeping Beauty” since offering it free. In the past, if one were to count on a 2-3% bump (which is fairly conservative), I should have netted at least 39 U.S. sales. Five sales is a .025% bump. That’s a significant difference.

Other authors I’ve spoken with report they saw a very slow climb in their total sales but that they did see increases in their backlist sales. I was hoping for this result — it’s one of the reasons I ran the promotion.

B&B Cover Lo-ResTo an extent, I’ve seen it. I’ve sold six copies of Beauty & Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale since the promotion and gotten one borrow through Amazon Prime. I sold a copy of “Passion Play”, which had been totally moribund, and one copy of State of Grace. I’ve also seen a significant increase in the downloads of my perma-free short story, “The Darkline Protocol.”

It may be too early to gauge this, since it hasn’t quite been a week, and other authors have reported their gains took  time to realize. But, at the moment, it does not appear that a successful free event leads to a solid sales bump.

And if that’s the case, I need to be able to answer the two questions the new system raises. Is there a way to make free events work, and is it worth it to enroll in KDP Select anymore?

I don’t know the answer to either at the moment. Both bear further investigation.

“Sleeping Beauty” Outperforming FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA

In honor of the release of my new novella, Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale, I’m giving away my short story, “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale”, free on Amazon.com this week! If you haven’t had a chance to read it, now is an opportunity to do so at no cost. “Sleeping Beauty” was an Indie Book of the Day pick, and it’s garnered a number of very nice reviews.

Yesterday was pretty exciting. I got nearly 1200 free downloads, pushing “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” to the top of two categories in the Amazon Free Store and getting it all the way up to #177 overall.

But even more exciting than that for me was where it landed in relation to some of the other books available. In the Science Fiction & Fantasy>Fantasy>Fairy Tales category, it was at number one for awhile yesterday before slipping back to number two. But look at the Top Five in the category:

Sleeping Beauty Free Screenshot

Number five is Dracula. Dracula! Number four is my all-time favorite novel, Frankenstein! Number one is Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know, and, given that I was number one in this category for awhile yesterday, I was “outselling” it too.

Obviously, it doesn’t really mean anything. Shelley and Stoker are going to be doing better than me long after “Sleeping Beauty” goes back into the paid store, and being able to give away more books than those two greats doesn’t say anything significant about my literary prowess.

But wow. I’m in a Top Five that includes Frankenstein and Dracula. I could not be more flattered.

You can help keep me there for a little longer. Head out over to Amazon.com and grab a copy of “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale.” Tell your friends too. After all, it’s free.

Need more convincing? Here’s the book blurb and cover.

Sleeping Beauty Mark IIHe wanted to save her. He got it all wrong.

Carl is the only one left. All Beth’s friends were sad when she fell into a coma two years ago at the age of fourteen. But life moved on, and so did they. Except Carl. He still comes to see her. He still visits two to three times a week, talking to her and hoping she will wake.

Her mother, Marie, is insane. She stares constantly through a thick haze of cigarette smoke at Carl whenever he visits Beth, watching him, evaluating, plotting.

Marie knows the truth. She knows why Beth is in that coma. She knows it was Rex, Beth’s father, who did it. She knows he hired a witch to cast a spell on her Pretty Princess until she is old enough to marry, until his hand-picked protégé wakes her with True Love’s First Kiss.

But if whomever Rex chooses can break the curse, then so can Carl. He’s loved Beth since he first met her in Sixth Grade. Marie knows. She has a plan. And maybe she’s not as crazy as everyone thinks.

First, though, she’ll have to convince Carl to believe in magic. Then she’ll have to encourage him to defy Rex. That won’t be easy. Rex hates Carl. He put Beth into that coma to keep Carl away from her. And Rex has a wicked temper.

Marie is determined, though. She’s going to get her Sleeping Beauty back. And Carl is going to help . . . whether he likes it or not.

Can True Love’s First Kiss really break the curse, or are darkness, insanity, and self-doubt too strong?

Set in modern times, “Sleeping Beauty” is a creepy re-imagining of the original fairy tale. Much like ABC’s Once Upon A Time, it offers a fresh look at an old story.

It explores what happens when parents go too far to protect their children. All parents struggle deciding when to hold on tightly to their children and when to let go. Rex and Marie get it all wrong. A cautionary tale, “Sleeping Beauty” reminds us there is a fine line between love and obsession, between care and cruelty.

Click here to download “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” for free through October 11, 2013.

“Sleeping Beauty” Free this Week!

Sleeping Beauty Mark III’m running another free event on Amazon this week. “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” — my creepy re-imagining of the classc story — will be available free all week long. Yep! I’m using all five of my KDP Select free days at once this time. So all this week, you can get my most successful book absolutely gratis!

If free isn’t enough of a motivator for you, consider some of these reviews:

Clever! 5 stars

A compelling short story that blends just a little bit of magic with a true-to-life modern day twist on the original Sleeping Beauty. I loved the original story as a child, and this was a GREAT new version of it!!

–Kendra L. Metz

Amazing 5 stars

I like modern fairy tales and this one is amazing. It leaves you wanting more. It’s interesting and shocking at the sometime.

–Miss G. Willis

A great read! 4 stars

Sleeping Beauty is an enjoyable short story with character development that defies its length. It’s a quick read, but the tale lingers. Unnerving, haunting and well worth the purchase price.

–Runninginheels

A tale of greed and hope. 4 stars

Well-timed, well-told, neither longer nor shorter than it need be, Sleeping Beauty is indeed a modern fairy-tale, with all the gruesome cruelties of the old set in the world of the new.

–Sheila Deeth

TDP Cover Mk IIAnd if you want another free short story, don’t forget you can download “The Darkline Protocol” free from Amazon and Smashwords. It’s a short, exciting adventure designed to introduce Wolf Dasher, and you can get it for nothing!

As long as I’m engaging in shameless self-promotion today, did you know you can sign up for my new releases mailing list? Click this link, and you’ll be able to register to be the first to know about cover reveals, release dates, and other nifties in conjunction with my newest books. Don’t worry. I won’t spam and I don’t sell or share your email.

Two free short stories — is there a better way to start the week? Perhaps, but this one sure doesn’t suck! Enjoy!

“Sleeping Beauty” Wins Indie Book of the Day Award

ibdbadgeI’m very pleased to announce that “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” has been selected as the Indie Book of the Day by indiebookoftheday.com. The award is voted on  by readers of the site.

Naturally, I’m incredibly flattered. “Sleeping Beauty” is most-reviewed and bestselling work, and I’m very grateful for it to get further recognition.

You can check out the story’s award page here: http://indiebookoftheday.com/sleeping-beauty-by-john-phythyon/.

Click here to purchase “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale from Amazon.com.

Sleeping Beauty Mark II

People Like Free

My friend and former business partner had a saying, “Where’s there free, there’s me.”

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by a lot of consumers. There’s nothing like a free sample or other little gift to interest people.

I know this from experience. Last month, I offered “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” for free on Amazon.com. By spending a little money to publicize that event, I gave away 4130 books in three days in at least seven countries.

People like free.

Shortly after that event, I blogged here about my results and how I got them. That saw me get the most number of hits and views I’d seen since launching “Pleading the Phyth” back in 2011. After all, free advice on how to get more sales is the sort of thing that draws attention.

Because people like free.

I do not claim to be a genius. However, I do like to think of myself as smarter than the average bear. I read a lot of other people’s experiences and adapt and apply them to my own business to see if they’ll work for me too. That’s how both the free event and the blogs about it were successful. Being, if not a genius, no dummy, I was able to draw a pretty easy conclusion.

People like free.

So as of today, I’m evolving my website again. I’m trying to drive traffic here, so I can sell more books. Thus, I’m going to focus on putting up more free content.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be putting up sample chapters. When I’m blogging about the writing of a book, I’ll upload some sample text. I’ll be blogging about characters, and offering sample chapters that demonstrate what I’m talking about. I’ll even put some website-exclusive content up.

For the next few months, I’ll be running free events on Amazon.com too. I’ll announce them here and put some teasers up to go with them.

RED DRAGON FIVE is free on Amazon.com April 22-24!

RED DRAGON FIVE is free on Amazon.com April 22-24!

Starting Monday, you’ll be able to download Red Dragon Five for free from Amazon. This is the first time this novel’s been offered for free. The event lasts April 22 through April 24.

I have no idea what to expect on this one. I’d love to do as well as “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” did last month, but there are so many x-factors at play. The market is very different for Wolf Dasher’s adventures than for a re-imagined fairy tale, I’m not running a Facebook event this time (so as not to go to that well too many times), and I reduced the number of sites I paid for listings, since I could not directly attribute results to some of them.  I did add a couple of UK-specific sites to try to stimulate that market even better than I did last month, but we’ll see. Red Dragon Five also has fewer reviews than “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale”, so I’ll have to see if that has an impact. So maybe I’ll do better. Maybe it’ll be worse. Maybe, it’ll be about the same.

At any rate, if you’re the kind of person who likes free, you should check out Red Dragon Five the first half of next week.

In keeping with my new strategy, you can download a sample of the first chapter right now! Just click here, to get a .pdf of the book’s opening scene in which Wolf Dasher has penetrated a secret Sons of Frey base. It’s action-packed!

You’ll also be able to get that sample chapter and a complete short story, “The Darkline Protocol”, over on the brand new “Free Stuff” page. Check it often for new material!

There are millions and millions of books available through Amazon.com, and at least tens of thousands of authors trying to sell them. I’m all for readers getting a sample to see what they like, and I’m confident my material will appeal.

So keep following my blog (and start if you’re not following it now). I’ll let you know when there is more free material available.

Because people like free.

Why I Write Fantasy Literature: The Magic of Reading

There are moments you treasure as a parent. First steps, first days of school, music programs, sports games — all the precious moments that make you proud of your offspring.

What I like best about children is the sense of wonder they have. Children believe in magic. On some primal level, they believe the extraordinary is possible.

Seeing that faith in things unseen but understood always takes me back to my own childhood in the most pleasant way. It reminds me of being a kid and how much fun I had. It reminds me I too used to believe in magic.

Sleeping Beauty Mark IIThis is an especially potent feeling for an author of fantasy literature. In a sense, the purpose of fantasy is to inspire that sense of wonder. In a fantasy novel, whether is it is set in a faraway land from long ago or on the mean streets of a modern, real-world city, there is an element of magic. Something inexplicable and wondrous occurs. My short story, “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale,” has the least amount of magic of any of my published works. It’s very much a modern piece. But there is a witch with a magic potion that causes the titular character to fall into a deep sleep from which only True Love’s First Kiss can wake her.

Monday night, I began reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s immortal classic, The Hobbit, to my stepchildren. They are just about the perfect age for it. They are old enough that they grasp most of the fancier language. Tolkien was, after all, a linguistics professor from another country living in a very different age. But my kids are educated enough that they get most of it.

They are also, though. young enough that the fairytale-style of the narrative appeals to them. Reading The Hobbit aloud has all the feel of cracking open a leather-bound tome and starting, “Once upon a time . . . ”

Hobbit CoverIndeed, my edition of The Hobbit is leather-bound and fancy-looking. I found this green-leather covered version (in a slipcase!) first when I was in high school. My tiny little school of only 360 students had an awesome edition of The Hobbit, and, after reading it, I swore I would not own that book in any other edition. It took me years to find one — I was well into my 30’s when I did.

That book, with its leather cover and gold embossing, makes the feel of reading it that much more magical. I read this same copy of The Hobbit to my daughter years ago.

And so, as I cracked open the fairytale-looking book and read, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” two children sat on a bed enthralled. The youngest held her blanket to her chest. Like the grandfather in the film version of The Princess Bride, I wove a spell more potent than anything Gandalf could imagine.

Watching those children as I occasionally looked over the top of The Hobbit while I read reminded me why I write fantasy literature. I don’t write the kind of fiction that appeals much to children. My books are for adults. But that sense of wonder — that belief in magic — is real and palpable.

I write fantasy literature to remember how it felt to be young and reading it. I first encountered The Hobbit in the Ralph Bakshi animated version. That inspired me to want to read it. Finding a magical, leather-bound edition in my high school library burned it into my imagination forever.

My children have no inkling yet of ferocious trolls that turn to stone in the sunlight, of giant spiders that come down from the trees to capture sleeping dwarves, of riddle contests with horrid creatures that live under the mountains, and of greedy dragons lying on mounds of treasure.  But just reading them the first chapter over the course of two nights invoked all those memories in me. And seeing the excited looks of rapt attention on their faces tells me they will thrill to Bilbo’s adventures and perhaps — just perhaps — the spell I weave on them will leave them with the same passion for magic I have.

Magic is real. I write fantasy literature so I can keep creating it.