Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 7: Pricing

My Book

In this blog series, I’ve been going through results of a survey by Written Word Media conducted in September of 2019. In it, they surveyed Emerging Authors who make less than 60k a year and have 6 or less books in their catalog, 60kers who have 22 books in their catalog, and 100kers who have 28+ books in their catalog.

The last point in the survey is pricing.

In their findings, they discovered 20% of emerging authors have a book priced at $10.00 or more. I’ve come across this attitude many times, even from some of my writer friends. Their attitude is this: I spent a lot of time writing that book. I want to be compensated for it. The first book is always the hardest. Sometimes it takes the longest to write. But, unfortunately, a first book is usually the weakest of the collection as well.

Usually, after not selling a book for a while, or after more than a handful of people telling them that they’re crazy, those authors drop their prices to something a little more competitive. I mean, if you can sell an ebook for $9.99, would you rather sell one copy, or sell three copies at $2.99? The amount you earn is the same, but you have two more readers who may end up being lifelong fans.

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graphic taken by survey linked above

The survey also says that 50% of emerging authors think a free book is a good marketing technique, whereas 63% of 60kers and 100kers think giving away a free book is a good idea.

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graphic taken from survey linked above

Of course, that makes sense. The reasoning is the fewer books you have, the less likely you are to want to give them away.

Authors who are wide and have several series out are more likely to have a permafree first-in-series. If you’re exclusive with Amazon, if you want to do a free book, you can only do a promo with the free days KDP allots you.

Pricing low or free is helpful for a first in series, proving your first book is strong enough to entice your readers to read the rest.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that traditionally published books will have a higher ebook price because those publishers want you to buy the paperback or hardcover edition. Their whole business model is based on print. So if you’re looking at trad pubbed pricing, keep that in mind while pricing your book.

I would say the easiest way to price your book is to do what other successful indie authors in your genre are doing. A 100k word epic fantasy is going to be priced differently than a 25k word romance novella. Readers won’t show you any mercy, and they’ll be quick to give you a bad review if they feel like you’ve ripped them off.

What can you do?

  1. Price competitively. Do research and find the most popular price point in your genre, then stick with that.
  2. Realize readers don’t care what you went through while writing the book. They want a good read at a fair price.
  3. If you don’t want to give your book away, then don’t. No one’s forcing you. You may not like the idea of KU either, and that’s fine. Do what is best for you. It takes 24 hours for a price-change to take effect on KDP; you’re not bound to a decision.

As for what I do? I’ve learned giving my standalones away won’t do too much. The survey implied readers will read your other books, but that’s not always true. Especially a reader who has never read you before. They don’t feel a connection to you, or a loyalty to you yet.

Probably the most successful time I’ve ever gave my book away is when I used a free day in Select and paid for a Freebooksy. Because the book I gave away was the first in a trilogy, I made the promo fee back with KU reads over all three books. I broke even which is better than losing money, and I got some reviews out of it, too.

In truth, set a book or two at 2.99 or 3.99 depending on genre and word count, then go write more books. Worrying about the price of one book isn’t going to do you any favors, and paying to give one book away if it’s your only one doesn’t make sense.

Save the strategy for when you have a few more books in your library.

In the next blog post, I’ll wrap up this series, and we’ll explore the extra data WWM supplied after the survey came out.

See you then!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 6 Exclusivity vs. Wide

Hey writers and authors, welcome back to my blog series that is breaking down Written Word Media’s survey from October of 2019. In it they surveyed three groups of authors: Emerging authors who earn less than 60k a year from their writing and who have six books in their backlist, 60kers who have 22 books in their backlist, and 100kers who have 28+ books in their backlist.

Enrolling your book(s) in KDP Select will always be a tough decision. Have access to all the readers with a KU subscription (in a different article, WWM estimates that to be around 2,488,000) or have access to readers who read on other devices like a Kobo reader, Nook, or an iPad (one would assume readers are reading on the iBooks app, but there is a Kindle app available for iOS devices).

When Written Word Media surveyed their authors, 91% of Emerging Authors said they make the most money from their books sold on Amazon while 93% of 60kers and 100kers say Amazon is their top retailer.

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taken from survey linked above

According to the chart, that income may or not be due to KU page reads–38% of 100kers are in Select, 33% of 100kers have a mix of books in KU and Wide, and 29% of 100kers have absolutely no books in Select.

What does this mean for you? If you’re an emerging author, it makes sense to focus on one platform. Even Joanna Penn who is a multiple-streams-of-income cheerleader admits that KU has its place, and the Penny Appleton books she co-writes with her mum are enrolled in the program. If anyone in the whole world can make wide work, it would be Joanna. So even the top indies can see the value of being exclusive.

I went wide for a little bit, but I became too sales-focused and I put a lot of pressure on myself to sell books. I didn’t like feeling like that, and after two months I went back to KU. It felt like a weight being lifted of my shoulders, and I started to enjoy writing again.

There is money to be made on other platforms, but it takes time to build an audience. You need to think about what your long-term plans are.

I like having page reads. Right now I’m trading being wide for earning a couple bucks every day in KU. This might not be a sound business decision–especially since my goal is being a 100ker author–but it makes me feel better to know a couple of people every day are reading my books versus the absolute nothing I was getting being wide.

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The KDP royalties estimator says I’ll make about $12.00 from January 1-11, 2020 and while that’s barely anything I should be making with the amount of books I have out, I don’t advertise, I don’t have a newsletter, and $5.00 week is more than I was making wide.

There are cons being exclusive though:

  1. It makes marketing tricker. It’s hard to give your book away after already enrolling in Select. You can’t participate in some promotions on Bookfunnel and Story Origin, and it’s tough to give your book away on review sites and still stay in line with KDP’s terms of service. That also means if you have a book in KU and you’re asked if you want to put it in an anthology, you have to pull your book out of Select to participate. That might not be a big deal . . .  but I have a short story in an anthology, and the author who put it together enrolled the collection into KU. She didn’t buy my rights from me, so the story is still “mine” but because my short story is in KU I can’t do anything else with it. Not unless she takes the anthology out of KU.
  2. You’re not in the library system. That was probably the most disappointing thing when I took my books out of wide. Draft2Digital also had to pull my book out of Overdrive. With the crap Macmillan is pulling with keeping new releases out of the library system for the first few months of a book’s release, having my ebooks in the library system was important to me. That’s not to say you can’t order author copies and donate them to your library.
  3. You might be missing out on other audiences. There are people who read on other devices other than a Kindle. Enrolling your book into Select will keep you from finding those readers.

 

But obviously, there are pros to being in KU as well:

  1. Easy to upload onto one platform. Only dealing with KDP is nice. But when I went wide, it didn’t take that long to set up accounts and upload my books. There’s just a lot of copying and pasting. Setting prices in other countries is time-consuming because on other platforms you set the price yourself–KDP does this for you.
  2. You can get page reads almost right away.
  3. KDP gives you Kindle Countdown deals and free days to use as marketing tools. These can help boost sales. I don’t use them nearly enough and I need to make them a part of my marketing strategies moving forward.

Enrolling doesn’t have to be forever. You can always pull your books out. Just remember going back and forth between wide and Select won’t help you find readers and will only make the other platforms mad at you. D2D and Kobo are run by real people, and you’ll look like a waffling idiot if you try to go back and forth too many times. I fully admit that the two moths I was wide wasn’t enough. But I tried going wide when I wasn’t ready. When my backlist is bigger I may do what a lot of indies do–have a mix. But for now my main goal is building a readership in KU.

Personally, I don’t think Amazon is going anywhere, and some of the bigger traditionally published authors think that, too. Dean Koontz and Sylvia Day are just two of a list that is getting longer of authors who like the direction Amazon is going and the money that can be made there.

I wish the Amazon imprints were available to query without an agent. For the disdain Amazon seems to have for the traditional publishing industry, I’m surprised they won’t deal with an author directly. I wouldn’t turn down a book deal with Montlake, that’s for sure.

Anyway, being exclusive or going wide is a choice you need to make for your business and as the survey suggests, there is no wrong way to publish. Building a readership takes work, no matter where you publish.

Consistency is key. Stick with with the path you choose, find an ad platform that works and write a lot of books. It’s easier said than done! Good luck!

The in the last point they touch on, we’ll talk about pricing to market. I hope you stop in. Thanks for reading!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part four: Covers

I hope you all had a lovely holiday if you celebrated! I’m currently snowed in, and I’ve been working on some book-related stuff. I apologize for not posting last week, but let’s pick up where we left off . . .

The next installment in the Written Word Media survey looks at book covers. To recap, they surveyed indie authors to see how much time they spend writing, and how much they spend on products and services such as editing and marketing.

According to the survey, as you can see by the graphic, emerging authors do both almost equally–they design their own covers and use a professional designer. The 60kers and the 100kers use a professional cover designer way more than they design their own.

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graphic taken by survey linked above

The article says the leap from emerging authors to 60kers is because emerging authors realize that without a professional cover, they aren’t going to sell books.

Of course, that’s true, and I’m not disputing it at all. But I have another explanation to offer. I’m not saying their conclusion is wrong. Emerging authors, after a bad book launch, probably do realize that their covers don’t cut it. But when you are an emerging author, it’s hard to know where to go for help. Quite possibly, emerging authors do their own covers because it’s quicker, easier, and they don’t have to worry about whom to trust. Indie publishing is a jungle. When an emerging author spends a couple years networking, they make friends, are put in touch with industry professionals, and can form relationships with people who know what they’re doing.

Especially with book covers, it’s imperative you find someone who knows where to find stock photos, and what fonts are okay to use and why they’re safe. There are so many people getting into the business who shouldn’t. They use free pictures from free sites like Pixabay or Unsplash and that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. I still do my own covers rather than trust anyone else. Some people are idiots, and I’m not paying for their stupidity or mine for hiring them.

I think another reason emerging authors do their own covers is because they like to be 100% in control. It feels good to publish a book you did cover to cover. Espeically if you can design a decent cover that earns you compliments. Granted, the emerging authors who can make genre-appropriate covers are few, but no one is saying they still can’t be proud. It’s a learning process.

What the survey does say though, is publishing a book with a bad cover will set you back, and you’ll end up redoing it at some point anyway. (Which is a good reason, in my opinion, not to pay for a high-priced cover. You may want to refresh after a couple of years.)

Of course, the 60kers and 100kers don’t have time to do their own covers. These guys are writing, and they probably don’t have interest in cover design beyond that it looks good and will sell their books. I would also hazard a guess that by the time you have twenty books out, you’ve developed a relationship with someone, or at least found a premade site that sells decent work.

The survey then goes into the cost of book covers. As you can see by the graph, 100-249.00 is the most popular price range for all three types of authors. $100.00 for a cover is at the lower end of the scale for something that needs lots of manipulation, and at that price, it may not include a full wrap for a paperback.

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graph taken from survey linked above

The authors paying 0-49.00 might only be having the e-book cover made. Most, if not all, designers charge extra for the spine and back cover if you’re also publishing a paperback.

The genre you write in will also determine the cost. A fancy cover for an epic fantasy or a tricked-out cover for an urban fantasy or paranormal will cost more than a romance cover. There are simply more elements needed to have a girl wearing a plaid skirt holding a fireball in front of a haunted high school for an urban fantasy academy novel than for a couple kissing in field for a plain contemporary romance novel. That’s just the way it is. If you write a genre that includes any kind of magic, you’ll be looking at having a cover made (providing you have zero photo manipulation skills). You need to blend in with the other books in your genre and finding a stock photo that contains all the elements you need is probably slim to none. Especially if you’re writing in a series.

It would be to your advantage to look for a cover designer while you are writing your book if you’re writing in one of those genres. Collect covers you like for a frame of reference. Create a logline (also called a six second elevator pitch) so your designer knows what your book is about and then go ahead and start looking. Join book cover groups on Facebook and ask for recommendations. Sometimes putting your budget out there will help so you don’t fall in love with a designer’s work you can’t afford. Find out where they buy their photos of models. If any of them mention a free site, pass them by. Your fee should include the cost of a photo. Cover designers charging you for a free photo is nothing but a scam and it’s dangerous too.

What can you do if you are absolutely stuck making your own cover?

  1. Look at what makes a good cover in your genre. It’s not only the photo, though that’s a good part of it. Its font placement. Where the author name is on the cover. If there’s a tagline and where that is.
  2. What are the elements in your genre? Sci-fi needs spaceships. Fantasy–dragons. Chris Fox calls these symbols. What symbols do your readers look for in your genre? Look at what is selling on the top 100 in that genre on Amazon. List the elements they all have. Yours will need them too. This isn’t the time to be different or to “stand out.” Sorry.
  3. Realize you may be able to offer only an ebook for the short-term. Learning how to do a full cover wrap isn’t as easy as an ebook cover. You need spine calculations based on how thick your formatted manuscript is, and what you want for the back cover. Blurb? Author photo? Imprint logo? It’s best to give yourself plenty of time to practice and itching to press publish when your book is done being edited isn’t the time to teach yourself.
  4. Search stock photo sites to see what’s out there. My tips are for the person who has little to no experience with Photoshop or GIMP. The easiest way to do a cover is to find a photo that you can use without a lot of manipulation. My go-to sites are depositphotos.com and canstockphoto.com.
  5. Watch tutorials. There are a ton of tutorials out there for both Photoshop and GIMP. I have GIMP (which is a free download) on my laptop and there are tutorials out there ranging from isolating a color in a black and white photo to gradients to font manipulation. People are generous with their time–take advantage.

I’ve been told, and have seen other people be told, that if they can’t afford a professional cover, they shouldn’t bother publishing. That’s not particularly helpful, but you do have to consider what your goals are. Do you want to make covers for all your books going forward? Then you’re going to have to learn how. If you’re writing in a genre that requires fancy covers, you’ll be creating a cover to squeak by until you can afford something better.

I do everything myself, and over three years I’d like to think I’ve developed a bit of an eye. It takes a long time, and practice. Instead of watching another show on Netflix, open Canva, put on some music, and practice. Canva isn’t just a software for design, they also offer “classes” that will teach you the elements of a good cover.

I do covers in my spare time. I practice font placement, choosing a cover-worthy photo, that kind of thing. I mess around with concepts for my friends. Even if they don’t turn out that great, practice is never a waste of time. You never know what new trick you’ll pick up. I scroll through stock photos and favorite photos that have potential for future covers. Mine or someone else’s.

Cover design is a career on its own, and you can spend as much time messing around with font as you do writing and editing.

But the point is, if you put enough time into it, you can make a passable cover yourself, if the genre you write in supports it. Women’s fiction, romance. Some mystery thrillers.

If you put out a homemade cover that doesn’t meet reader expectations, or doesn’t fit in with other books, realize that’s going to effect your sales.


Here are a few covers I’ve done, both for myself and others using Canva.com. I pay for a pro membership, and if you plan on doing a lot of covers or using it for graphics for marketing materials, it’s worth the fee. They add new features all the time.

I did these for the first two of my quartet. I haven’t done the third or fourth ones yet:

When you do a series, it’s important they look like they belong together. And before I ordered the proofs, I put the covers on top of another to make sure the placement of all the elements are the same. I might do a blog post explaining how I did them.

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Daisy Parker isn’t real. I was fooling around one night and came up with it. The photo is as-is and made in Canva.

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Stealing Home is one of my favorites. I learned how to do shadows watching a webinar hosted by James Blatch from Mark Dawson’s self-publishing podcast who was chatting with Stuart Bache, a professional cover designer. They were doing a kind of infomerical for a course, and you can check out the course here. I’d never done a thriller before, but I think it turned out rather nice, and when David did a book signing at a Barnes and Noble in Savannah, GA, everyone was surprised it wasn’t professionally done. (This book is real and you can buy it on Amazon or borrow it in KU.)

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Do You Trust Me took a little work as this photograph was in color and I isolated the red blindfold in GIMP. The font needs work, but I was playing one night and came up with this in about an hour.

So far I haven’t bothered to open a premade business, or sell covers on the side. I help out my friends when I can, and I like to play when I don’t feel like writing or there’s nothing going on online (I’m not a big TV-watcher). I know what my limitations are, and when anyone asks me for help, I make sure they know it, too.

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I was playing and did this concept for a friend. While she went in a different direction, I think this is a classy cover for a women’s fiction piece. (This is a real book; you can buy it on Amazon and it’s available in KU.)

The point is, like learning craft, if you want to make your own covers to save money, keep control, whatever, you need to practice.

I did a video I posted to YouTube showing you how to use Canva template elements to start you off with creating your own ebook cover. I hope it helps!


 

Next up, the survey goes into every author’s favorite topic–MARKETING! See you then!


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Sometimes to get your issues worked out, you have to get on the phone. And trust me, I know how much that sucks.

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She looks happy–she must have gotten her issues worked out. Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

As a business owner, you have to do some things you don’t wanna do. Switch graphic artists for your covers if yours isn’t working out. Fire your virtual assistant if you’re paying them to hang out on Facebook instead of doing what they’re supposed to do. Running your own business can be unpleasant. And one of those unpleasant things is having to make a phone call.

You all know I’m right. Calling sucks. But it’s so much more efficient than sending an email or doing, you know, nothing, and complaining about your issue instead.

We all have a love hate relationship with Amazon. Love them for letting us get our books into the world, hate them for making the process difficult (I’ve heard lots of complaints about KDP vs. CreateSpace and printed author copies that don’t look good, to name a couple of issues). But you have to take the good with the bad, and well, not having gatekeepers is pretty damned good, I say.

But you definitely have to deal with the bad, and I had to call this morning to figure out what in the heck was going on with my ISBN numbers and my imprint.

I bought a pack of ten ISBN numbers not long ago. I am the publisher, because I’m me, but I also have an imprint I created with mystery/thriller author D. R. Wills. Not only is he a fellow writer, he’s my fiancé and we’re getting married next year. That has nothing to do with the story, I’m just happy.

Anyway, we’ve had this imprint for three years, and I’ve published all my books under it just fine until yesterday.

I’m trying to upload my files for books one and two of my series and order proofs. It’s a common thing for us indies, right? But I had to call this morning because I kept getting a warning/error message saying that my ISBN does not match my imprint. Why this is happening now, I have no clue, so I called KDP, or rather requested they call.

This is where you look to get a call back:

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Click on the unhappy face in the upper left hand corner. I go this route so you’re still in your bookshelf in case you need to reference something while you’re on the phone.

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Click the contact us.

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Choose the best way they can help you.

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I chose ordering proof copies because that was one of my concerns, but they’ll help you with anything once you get them on the phone.

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If you choose CALL ME RIGHT THE F NOW, be prepared for them to call you right away. I was still untangling my earbud cords when my phone rang.

All the reps there are very polite, and you should be polite too. It goes without saying that the rep who is talking to you is not responsible for the problems you’re having with your books. Remain friendly, and they’ll be friendly in return. And besides, who knows how they can mark up your profile. You don’t want them noting your account that you’re a big dick because then other reps won’t be so happy when you call in with something else that needs attention.

Anyway, so I did ask about why I wasn’t able to order my book proofs right now, and he said they were having system issues and no one is able to order proofs or author copies at the moment. He said they had techs working on the problem, but I didn’t ask if he thought he knew when the issue would be resolved. I figured it’s Christmastime, and I’m not going to bother to order proofs until after the new year. There’s no point in banging my head against the wall.

Then I asked him about my imprint issues. I bought a pack of ten, and listed the imprint as Coffee & Kisses Press. I’ve been publishing this way for three years, and never had a problem until now. When I talked to Kyle at KDP, he said my imprint name is actually my name. He suggested I call Bowker (My Identifiers). So I did and was amazed I didn’t have to wait on hold forever. The rep at Bowker said that the reps at KDP have limited information, and they see my name as the publisher name and that’s all. So if I really need to list my imprint name as the publisher, I need to screenshot my account information on Bowker and send it to KDP.  I asked him if I would have to do this for every book I publish and he said yes.

Now, I know you’re going to ask me two things:

  1. Why am I still buying my ISBN numbers instead of a new Coach bag, and
  2. Is having my imprint listed as the publisher really that important?

The answers are simple, my vices are chocolate and champagne, not purses, and no, it’s not that important.

I buy my ISBN numbers for the protection I feel it gives me and my work. I know some authors do the copyright thing, some don’t do anything accept take the numbers Amazon gives them, press publish, and walk away. But I want some control over my work, so I protect my books with ISBN numbers. I don’t know if this makes a lick of difference, or if I’m just wasting money, but I’ll probably always protect my books with ISBNs. I don’t apply for copyright . . . I email myself as a backup, and go with the “poor man’s copyright” that way. But at least there is a record that the work is mine, and I paid to have that work be considered as mine. In some other countries, it’s not even an issue. Like Canada, for example, ISBN numbers are free. It’s the United States that has to make everything for-profit, or this wouldn’t be a problem. It’s the fact that they are so dang expensive, too, that makes it hard for authors to afford them.

It doesn’t make that much of a difference who is listed as the publisher of my books. I’ll keep the imprint on all my stuff. That won’t change. And Coffee & Kisses Press is listed at Bowker as my imprint, so officially that hasn’t changed, either. Sometimes you just gotta lose a few battles to win the war.

Anyway, so I got the answers I needed, and for now my series is stalled out. I’m waiting for two betas to get through books three and four, I still have Autumn’s blog posts to write, which I will this weekend at work, (though I may not get through all of them), and proofing the proofs is really important to me this time around though I don’t know why. I’m just going to keep listening to my gut.

And what does this mean for paperbacks? I know Amazon’s preferred method is Kindle books. And not just Kindle–they love it when you’re in KU, and they love readers who read books from KU. Author copies and paperback sales may not mean that much to them. Especially since that’s the old-school way of doing things, and Amazon is all about moving forward.

Some indies don’t bother with a paperback version of their book, and that may be a decision more indies are going to have to make as time goes on.

So what can we learn through all this?

  1. Have patience. Sometimes that’s hard if you’ve promised a release date to your readers, but the fact is, things happen. Keep your schedule flexible, or having your publishing date a ways into the future so if you hit any snags your release date won’t be affected.
  2. Call if you need help. Calling took me five minutes, and he told me what I needed to know. It was easier than emailing, and it was a lot easier than just stewing about it. And you can pass along the information once you have it. The first thing I did was tweet it out, because you are probably not the only one wondering what is going on.
  3. Dealing with unpleasant things is part of being a business owner. Can’t get around it. Creating is fun, but we must take our creative caps off at times and put on our business hat.

Hopefully what I found out has helped some of you. If you’re having an issue uploading your files and you’re getting an error message about your ISBN and imprint name, more than likely they have your name listed as the imprint name because you are the publisher. I changed my imprint name from Coffee & Kisses Press to Vania Rheault in the imprint field in my KDP dashboard, and it all worked.

Lesson learned for future books.

I’ll have one more blog post on Monday, and then I’m going to take a small break for the holidays!

Have a good week, everyone!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes?

In this blog series, I’m breaking down Written Word Media’s author survey. They released their findings in October 2019, and I’m breaking down their points as an emerging author who has six books in her catalog and has made less than 60k a year from her writing. In all total, I’ve made less than 2,000 dollars in the three years I’ve been publishing.

In their first point, they said emerging authors, on average, have six books in their catalog, authors making 60k a year have 22, and authors making 100k a year have 28.

In their second point of this survey, WWM focuses on time.

Emerging authors, on average, spend 18 hours a week writing, 60kers, 28 hours a week, and 100kers 32 hours a week.

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graphic taken from survey article linked above

And this makes sense if you’re going to call yourself a career author, or if you want to be one. Treating writing as a job isn’t something you can just say you’re doing–it’s something you have to do.

A while back, I listened to an indie author interview and it might have been Adam Croft who said before they started earning career-author-money he worked 16-hour a days: Eight at his day job, and eight hours a day writing.

This doesn’t come without sacrifices, and this is one of those things where you have to ask yourself how bad do you want it, and how long are you willing to work at it until you succeed?

I don’t watch much TV. If I read, it’s at work during slow times. I’m a single mom of two with a job, three cats, a clunky car and I live in a place where the clouds dump snow on us four months out of the year. My time can fill up if I let it.

We all have lives, but the fact is, writers who write 20-32 hours a week just aren’t finding time. They’re MAKING time. And once you start making a bit of money, if you don’t make time to write, your royalties will dry up and what you were using to pay the rent will be gone.

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Ink in an hour every day.  Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

The math is pretty simple. If you can write a 1,000 words a day, in three months you can write a 90,000 word novel. Rinse and repeat three times a year, and you have a steady publishing schedule. The writers who write 20-32 hours a week honestly love to write. They don’t have to force themselves to write. They don’t have to bribe themselves. They love it. They don’t HAVE TO write. They GET TO write.

If you’re someone who needs to be on Twitter sprinting all the time, who needs one of those apps that start deleting your words if you’re not typing, if you’re on Facebook three hours a day when you could be writing, then be honest with yourself.

As Kristin Kathryn Rusch says in the high-powered author panel at the 20booksto50k conference last month, there’re easier ways to make money. If you don’t like writing, figure out why. Maybe you don’t enjoy the genre you’re writing in, or maybe you’re a pantser when really you would work better from an outline. Maybe vise versa and you find an outline too restrictive. Maybe you’re new to writing and you’re struggling with craft. Whatever the reason is, get it figured out–if you want to call yourself a career author and start making career-author money. (If you’re happy writing five hours a week, putting out a book a year, if that, then obviously, this post isn’t for you.)

(Here’s the panel if you’d like to watch it. It’s very informational!)

I write whenever I can, and if life events take me away from it for too many days at a time, I get crabby. I get life interferes, and I’ve never been one to promote writing every day, but I don’t waste the time I do have binging Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos.

I don’t keep track of how much time I spend writing, but I do produce 10-15k words a week without fail. Since January 1, 2019 to right now, December 9, 2019, I’ve written approximately 385,000 words.  I’ve completed 4 books in a series (they are being edited and proofread even as I type), and I’ve written one and a half books that will be a trilogy under a pen name I’m going to start next year. That number doesn’t include the blogging I do, either.

What can you do?

  1. Keep track of your time. Are you napping when you could be writing? Watching a movie? Where can you make time to write?
  2. Figure out why you have to force yourself to write. If it’s not enjoyable to you, you won’t want to do it.
  3. Find a partner. We all need support. I have a couple people who love read what I write. That helps.
  4. Realize that writing and publishing is a profession just like any other: doctors, lawyers, teachers, HR directors. Listen to podcasts, go to writing conferences if you can. Network with other writers. Join an organization like RWA, or the IBPA. Act professional, be professional.
  5. Read good books. Reading fuels your brain. Don’t worry about copying another author’s ideas or style. That’s crazy. Read for pleasure and just enjoy yourself.

 

Reading is inhaling.
Writing is exhaling.

What it boils down to is mindset, and there are a few great books out there on the topic:

The Indie Author Mindset: How changing your way of thinking can transform your writing career by Adam Croft

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream
by Craig Martelle

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey (Books for Writers) by Joanna Penn

I’ve read all of them, and they’re great. (These are not affiliate links; I do not benefit from your purchase of these books.)

Thanks for reading the second post in this series! If you have a unique way of making time to write, let me know!

Next up is the survey’s third point about using an editor! Don’t miss it!

See you then!


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End of the Year, Where I’m at with my Wedding Quartet, and more.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, we only have 21 days until the New Year. That means wrapping up a few things, freaking out because my writing time is suddenly gone because of Christmas, taking time to enjoy the holidays, and figuring my plan for 2020.

Quartet Update

My books are technically done. I’m waiting for my proofers to get through them all. One is almost done with book two, the other is closer to being done with book two, and this leaves me with what I’m going to do with beta-ing/proofing/editing moving forward. The two proofers are friends of mine, and they volunteered. That means I’m working on their timetable, and they both know how impatient I am. When you hire someone to help you, you are working on their timetable, too, being sandwiched in with their other clients, Hopefully they feel they must work a little faster to keep their clients happy. This isn’t a brag at all, and I’m sure other indies who write quickly are in the same position: I write too fast to depend on free help anymore. So in 2020 I’ll be looking for an affordable beta- reader/proofer in my genre who can help me polish my novels before publication.

In the meantime, I’ll put out the quartet with the resources and friendships that I have and decide what I’m going to do with the 1st person trilogy I’m writing that will be released under a pen name in the early spring of 2020.

As far as the quartet covers go, I received good feedback on the mockup for the first one, and I will definitely be keeping this couple as I haven’t seen them on a cover of a book before. (If you have, don’t tell me!) I have a few more couples bookmarked on Deposit Photos, I just need to see how they look shoved into the template. I thought I found one, but the way he was positioned put his nipple in the exact center of the front cover. Once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it, and I know a lot of people would have noticed it too. Finding couples is hard!

a rocky point wedding book cover mock up for blog

I’ve been looking at fonts and buying a few to try during the holiday sales to replace the bad Scriptina font, and at work one day I did take about six hours to brainstorm titles for all of them.  I just need to find the notebook they’re in now. Jeez. Blurbs are next, and I wish I had 1,000 dollars to hire Bryan Cohen and his blurb writing business to crank them out for me. I also need to get going on the blog posts a writer character writes for her newspapers blogs. I haven’t gotten many of them written yet, and I don’t know how many I’ll do. With what goes on in all four books, there is a lot of subject matter to choose from.

I should just make a list and get going because I missed the deadline of when I wanted to start publishing these. But taking my time will be worth it. I don’t want to have to fix anything after these are out in the wild. And feedback is pretty important, too.

It seems surreal to me I started writing the first book in the series around this time last year, trying to get as much done before my surgery as I could. Now they’re done. I worked really hard this year, and I’m going to have to think of a special way to celebrate once they’re all ready to go.

First person trilogy

I’m experimenting with first person for my next romance, and I’m going to publish under a pen name. I know authors who go back and forth with POVs under one name, but I’d like to keep them separate. In the little research I’ve been doing, it feels to me like the audiences are different (first person present readers seem younger to me somehow) and that might affect how I do some marketing. Eventually I might reveal what my pen name is, but the plan is to keep the launch separate and see what happens. Vania Rheault doesn’t have much power anyway, so it’s not like I’m missing out by not using my readership to launch a new trilogy. Joanna Penn and her mother released Penny Appleton books without telling anyone. Joanna just used what she knew of marketing, and it sounds like she did okay. I feel like these are better for the market right now, so I won’t be shy with throwing a little money at the first book’s launch and see how they do. I’m excited to try this different path in my writing career.  Stay flexible!

Other Bits and Pieces

It’s cold here now. It seems like winter decided to smack us in the face a little earlier this year.

photo of snow field near trees

It’s pretty until you have to live in it.   Photo by Burak K on Pexels.com

It makes the winter months drag, and I’m already tired of the bitter cold and snow. Seasonal/situational depression sucks, and there’s nothing you can do except keep chugging along and trying to take more good out of the bad. I’ll be writing as much as I can, of course, trying to go outside when frostbite isn’t a sure thing, and just trying to keep my sanity until the weather warms up in four long months.

This time last year I was also dealing with two sick pets, and my kitties seem to be doing okay now. Blaze and Harley still don’t get along, and that will always be a stress in the back of my mind. (If you want to see pictures of them on a fairly regular basis, follow my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vaniamargenerheault/ where you’ll also see I have a penchant for martinis.) Harley’s stress made her pretty sick, and 2,500 dollars later she seems to be okay. So I can count my blessings in that regard, anyway.

Still thinking about doing a newsletter, and looking at aggregators for that. MailChimp still seems to come out on top because of their free service up to 2,000 subscribers (even after their changes) but I’m also hearing good things about Mailerlite. Mailerlite is free up to 1,000 email subscribers, and that seems to be the one a lot of indie authors use. You

shallow focus photo of woman sitting on couch

can change aggregators, but I would prefer to choose the one I’m going to stick with for the long haul. I know that my blog is for indie writers looking for publishing advice, and a newsletter needs to be for your readers in the genre you write in. So I need to decide if I can scrape up content for a newsletter that would go out about twice a month and still have the time/energy/brainpower to keep my blog going. I love blogging. It gives me a chance to switch gears from fiction to nonfiction. So in 2020 we’ll see what happens.

I suppose that’s about it for now. Just wanted to catch you guys up. I’m still working really hard on the quartet, though things seem to be at a standstill as I wait. There are background things I should be doing, and I’ll focus more on those in the coming weeks. My second book in my first person trilogy is at 63k, and I have to admit, I work on that when I shouldn’t be; I’m just having so much fun! I have about 15,000 more words to go and it will be done. I know what I need to write, I just gotta do it. I primarily write that in longhand at my work so I don’t think I’ll have a problem finding the time to finish it before the end of the month. Bits and pieces of the third book come to me, and I’ll have to plot that out a little more when I’m ready to write it. Writing in 3rd person and 1st person are very different, and writing 1st person (to me) seems easier.  But, if it’s any good remains to be seen! Ha!

I’ll have more of my Written Word Media survey blog posts coming out in the coming weeks, too, so look for that. If you missed the first one, you can read it here.

Thanks for checking in with me, and I will talk to you soon!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes?

When we think of being a career author, what do we picture? Sitting in our pajamas all day with a pet at our feet, snacking and drinking coffee all day while we do what we love: write.

Untitled design

he’s loving all the royalties pouring in (taken from Canva)

We don’t often picture what it takes to get us there–we only dream we’re earning enough to pay our bills and buy a lovely writing retreat in the woods sans mosquitoes and flies.

In October, Written Word Media, the company that brings you Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy promo tools (both services I have used) put out an author survey. (You can read the whole survey here, but don’t forget to come back to the blog!) In this survey, indie authors weigh in on everything from how much they make to how much they pay for services.

They breakdown their survey into categories, and in similar fashion, I’ll breakdown my thoughts in this blog series.

To start us off, they brokedown the authors they surveyed into three categories:

  1. Emerging Authors
  2. 60kers
  3. 100kers
Marketing-Is-Hard-average number of books per author

graphic taken from the survey linked above

My views will be as an emerging author who, in total, in the three years since I’ve been publishing, has made less than 2,000 dollars.

This brings us to their first point, and the only one I’ll be covering today, though we do touch on their second point just a little as they are related.

The first point the survey goes into is the number of books you have your catalog matters to your income.

According to the survey, (stats are median):

  1. emerging authors have 6 books in their catalog
  2. 60kers have 22 and
  3. 100kers have 28

The numbers of books for those authors making some actual money look pretty intimidating. But I’ve blogged about this before: books are not necessarily full-length novels anymore.

The survey didn’t break down the length of these authors’ books, but I doubt that when we talk numbers of books published, that all of them are full-length novels of 70+ words.

I know this is also genre-specific. Romance in particular is a good genre for spin-off novellas, shorter-in-length prequels, and more. Look at the catalog of any bestselling romance author. When you find the print-length of their work, you’ll see some as few as 16 pages to as many as 400. Companion pieces and side stories of favorite secondary characters can be moneymakers, too, if your readers are invested in your characters (although I can understand using these projects as newsletter presents for your subscribers).

I’m not sure about other genres, and interestingly enough, this survey did not breakdown the authors by genre.

So if you’re thinking to make 100k a year from your writing that you need 28 or more full-length novels, that may not be true. Especially since the very definition of a full-length novel differs from person to person, genre to genre. I’ve seen 40,000 words described as full-length! If you can write 1,000 words a day, that’s only a little more than a month to produce a book. [How you can make a living writing short stories, novelettes, and novellas, and things like serials are out of the scope of this blog post.]

I wrote novellas for a little bit. On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton (what an atrocious name, blah) is made up of two novellas, and Summer Secrets, my experiment with erotica, is also made up of six novellas, packaged three in one book and three in another (plus an ebook box set of all six).  These are not in the genre I chose to make as my career, and I do not count them in my backlist (though writing them was fun and good practice). The six books I do count are full-length novels of 70k words or more, but in the series I’ll be releasing soon, there is room for a prequel and short stories about other characters that didn’t get their time to shine. Whether I’ll take the time to write them is a different matter.

What can you do?

  1. Add to your catalog. Obviously, the more books the better.
  2. Do your research. If your genre supports short(er) works, pepper in novellas and short stores if you like. Just keep in mind that if you’re in KU, you earn more in page reads for longer books (providing a reader reads the entire book) so you need to decide if it’s worth your time to write shorter pieces or if you should focus on writing full-length books.
  3. Plan a publishing schedule and stick with it. A friend of mine said the other day if he can’t write two books a year, he might as well forget it. I’m not sure how true that is. Jami Albright is famous in the indie community for publishing one book a year and she’s a 100k/year author. Now she has four books in her backlist, and she says she depends heavily on ads between releases. But she does it. Does that mean you can, too? That’s the nightmare of indie publishing. No two books are the same. Authors and their connections are different, and it could just be that people love her voice and what she writes about (romcoms).

Here’s Jami’s talk from the 20booksto50k conference in Las Vegas last month.

I’m of the mindset that if you want it bad enough two books a year is doable for most people, though I might just need a reality check. But it’s hard to argue with the math. 1,000 words a day for 200 out of 365 days a year, [no one can write every day] is 200,000 words. That’s a lot of words.

If you always see 28 books as an unclimbable mountain, you’ll never be able to make it to the top.

Next, the survey goes into how much time authors put into their writing. I’ll weigh in on that next time!

See you then!


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