Experiments, Marketing Strategies

A Review of NoiseTrade

About a month ago, David Gaughran blogged about his experience with NoiseTrade. Gaughran’s marketing tips are generally worth consideration, so I thought I’d give it a go. I pushed the NoiseTrade site to the limits and beyond, and found the site lacking.

Here is my review.

First, a word about my marketing strategy: I license all my work, both ebooks and audiobooks, with a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. My goal is maximize the number of readers/listeners who consume my work for free–because these people will, in turn, promote my work to others, some of whom will pay money for my work. (Those of you who work in Free Software will be familiar with this model: 90% of your users pay nothing. 10% pay for support/upgrades/etc.)

So I figured, I’ll add NoiseTrade to the long list of sites through which I distribute my work. Why not?

Some background. NoiseTrade started off as a site for indie musicians. Upload your album (at 64kpbs, the max the site allows, just low enough quality to be annoying, so that you’ll want to buy the album), and ask for an email or tip before a user can download your work. Consumers get free music, bands get listener emails and/or tips. What’s not to like about this model?

A couple of things, actually. First, before you get your hopes up, don’t expect much in the way of the tipping department, at least for audiobooks. I’ve had three audiobooks up on Podiobooks.com for a couple of years now, and in all that time I’ve had one person tip me $3 ($2.65, actually, after Podiobooks’ commission). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’ve had tens of thousands of downloads from Podiobooks, and the site has been huge in raising my visibility as an author. The point of publishing your work on Podiobooks or NoiseTrade isn’t the tips, but the publicity.

So NoiseTrade recently branched out into ebooks and audiobooks as well. It’s still obvious from their site that this is the case–the great preponderance of titles are from musicians, not authors. Like musicians, authors get tips (yay) and readers have to leave an email address before getting a download link. How can this be a bad thing, you’re wondering?

Let’s look at this more closely. There are plenty of free disposable email services on the web, and I used several of these to test-download other authors’ work. These email addresses are worthless to authors.

Worse, it is not clear that adding the email addresses you acquire through NoiseTrade to your mailing list is even legal. In many jurisdictions, double opt-in is mandatory. And, even setting these legal restrictions aside, sending email to people who are likely to flag your newsletter as spam–thus damaging your newsletter’s spam reputation–will have a seriously negative effect on deliverability.

There is a long discussion of this in the comments to Gaughran’s post. Basically, most of these email addresses are going to be crap, and you have to do a lot of work to make sure they really want to be on your list. Do so at your peril.

This leaves us with the free publicity / Creative Commons angle, which we started with. Surely there’s no way NoiseTrade can screw that up, right?

Right?

You would think. So here’s what I did: I uploaded five ebooks, in epub, mobi, and pdf format. Then I uploaded three audiobooks, which, for obvious reasons, share the same title as three of the ebooks.

Disaster ensues.

For instance, when I search for my last name (“Porup”), how come only one title appears in the results? Why not eight?

And since the audiobooks have the same name as the ebooks, the NoiseTrade backend assigns them the same URL. For instance, check out my title “The Second Bat Guano War: a Thriller”:

http://books.noisetrade.com/jmporup/the-second-bat-guano-war

So where’s the audiobook? Where can I download it? Guess what: You can’t!

Thanks, NoiseTrade!

Oh, and check out this fine example of top-quality layout:

http://books.noisetrade.com/jmporup

Someone failed to remember that audiobook covers are SQUARE and ebook titles are RECTANGULAR. Hmmm. Maybe NoiseTrade should fix this?

So, being the diligent little ex-hacker that I am, I bombarded NoiseTrade support with helpful bug reports. Here’s some problems, but I bet you can fix them easily. Right?

Right?

But no. It has been a long time since I suffered customer support as poor as NoiseTrade’s (and having suffered Amazon KDP support, that’s saying something). Support staff who close tickets–without solving your problems! Who ask ridiculous questions, seeking information already supplied in the bug report! Developers who write me one-line emails: “We’ve addressed the issues you’ve raised.”

Except you haven’t! Not one of them!

Then, cherry on top: I get an email from their sales dude. We like that last ebook you just published, he says. For $250, we can promote your work to our 100,000 email subscribers. But for now it’s on special, just $125. Sign up now!

Right…you can’t even install an SSL cert for your site. I have to login over plaintext HTTP, for chrissakes, and you expect me to PAY YOU MONEY? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FRICKING MIND???

Final judgment: NoiseTrade, as of now, is a fine place to distribute your work for free. Just don’t upload an audiobook the same title as an ebooks, don’t expect decent customer support or developers with any clue about security, and don’t, for the love of God, spam the email addresses you may (or may not) acquire as a result.

VERDICT: Thumbs down.

Update (2014-06-29): NoiseTrade has made a lot of progress in a short period of time fixing many of the issues I’ve identified above. They’ve still got a long way to go, and I still wouldn’t give them money for advertising, but I do list all my books and audiobooks for free on their site, and recommend others do so as well.

Written by: J.M. Porup

Novelist J.M. Porup is An American Dissident in Exile. Read More

Recommended

3 Comments

  • Amanda Meuwissen June 23, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    This is an extremely helpful review. I have only placed a few eBook blurbs on Noisetrade so far (the first three chapters only, to entice buyers) and have earned a few bucks. However, I was planning on adding the audio versions as well. Maybe now I won’t and will stick to just the eBooks. At least it isn’t much work to get things on there, and I’ve made some change, but that sounds like an awful experience. Poor customer service is always a death sentence. I’ll have to wait and see how many more books I add over time…

    Reply

  • J.M. Porup June 24, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Amanda.

    My impression is that NoiseTrade are running a prototype as a business.

    I shouldn’t be too critical of that model, as it’s really the only feasible way to run a startup. Throw shit at the wall, see what sticks, and sweep up the mess later.

    I’ve uploaded five complete ebooks and three complete audiobooks to NoiseTrade (one of which remains “in limbo”). The devs have tacked on -ebook and -audio to the title URLs to differentiate them. Total hack, but it doesn’t the job on a per-title basis.

    The question is, how do you scale that?

    NoiseTrade is working hard to improve. Whether they get there or not remains to be seen.

    JMP

    Reply

  • Charles Fudgemuffin March 5, 2015 at 3:11 am

    My own experience of Noisetrade has been positive so far, although admittedly I haven’t uploaded any audio books or had any need to contact their customer service department.

    However, I agree with your comments about email sign-up, and personally I would prefer it if Noisetrade included an option to allow readers to download your book without providing an email address, as I had the same concerns regarding worthless temporary email addresses/getting flagged as spam, etc.

    Overall though, I’ve been pleased with my experience with Noisetrade so far and I think your final summary, ‘NoiseTrade, as of now, is a fine place to distribute your work for free’ is a fair comment.

    Reply

Leave a Comment