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 5 Marketing

Happy Monday! I hope the weekend treated you well!

If you just popped onto my blog, welcome! If you’ve visited before, welcome back!

We’ve been going through the Written Word Media Survey they conducted last year in October.

They broke down three types of authors–the ones who make less than 60k a year and have six books in their backlis, 60kers who have 22 books in their backlist, and 100kers who have 28+ books in their backlist. They broke those groups into sections on who pays how much for what.

My last blog post was a convoluted 2000 word monstrosity on how even though everyone advises authors to have a professional cover made, if you write in a genre that supports a simpler cover, there’s no reason why you can’t learn how to do them on your own. At any rate, you can read it here, and watch my rudimentary YouTube video on how to use Canva templates for an e-book cover so you don’t have to start from scratch. I hope to do a few more of those videos–if I can make a cover, anyone can.

The next installment of this blog series is marketing.

For fiction, marketing isn’t what it used to be. Even three years ago when the words “author platform” were the buzzwords in the author community, hardly anyone says those words now because nobody cares. (And this is for fiction. Memoir and nonfiction have their own rules and nothing I’m going to get into here.)

For fiction, author platform isn’t as important as a simple newsletter, and before, author platform meant your presence on everything from Twitter to Google Plus. That’s not true anymore.

If the author platform is falling by the wayside, how do you “market?” Marketing is simply finding out what kind of books people want and/or need to read and telling them about your book if your book fills that want or need. That’s it. Author platform used to do that. You would use your platform to draw readers to you and your content.

But as the survey points out, you can use promos and let them tell readers about your book. That’s a lot easier than tweeting into the void.

marketing promos

graphic taken from survey linked above

According to the chart, BookBub came in first for promos. Not everyone will be approved for a featured deal, and sometimes Amazon doesn’t like them. The too-swift uptick in sales flags their algorithms. I’ve heard from some authors that they’ve had their books frozen due to suspicious activity. They get it sorted out but it takes time and they lose sales. Also, featured deals are expensive. I know in some genres they can cost up to $600 so they aren’t an option for all authors. 

Promos like Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy work better than ads. I have found that for my own books, anyway. And as the article points out, there is no learning curve. Set your sale, set your promo, and walk away. Let the promo platform deliver your book to their readers.

Marketing-Is-Hard-graph

graphic taken from survey linked above

But what the article doesn’t say is it makes the most sense to use a promo on a book one in a series. If you run a Freebooksy promo on a standalone, yeah, you’re paying to give your book away. And contrary to that poor delusional soul on Twitter who thought being on the top 10 list of free books on Amazon made her a bestseller, unfortunately that isn’t the case. A bestseller implies you are selling books. Nice try though.

If you’re in KU, sometimes you can get some page reads from a Freebooksy on top of giving your book away because instead of downloading it for free, a reader who has a membership with Kindle Unlimited will read your book there instead.

Ads aren’t bad, but they’re complicated and keeping tabs on them so they don’t lose money is time consuming.

If you’re in KU it makes the most sense to learn Amazon ads–then you’re advertising for sales and page reads. If you’re wide and are everywhere like Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, Nook, using Facebook and BookBub ads (not the featured deal) makes sense. Though there is a way when creating your Facebook ad to choose Facebook users who like the Kindle, and that would target only those who buy books from Amazon.

I have dabbled in all the ad platforms and lost money on all of them, too. Your ads will only work if you have a killer product (cover, blurb, title, and look-inside) and it’s only after you lose money when you find out that your cover may have missed the mark or your blurb sucks.

Promos also feature your book’s cover and promos like Freebooksy and BargainBooksy gives you 130 characters or so for a short piece of ad copy so it’s worth it to take the time to write a short hook for each of your books.

Of course, the saying that the best marking marketing for your book is writing another book will never be wrong, and a steadily growing backlist will ensure your readers that you’re going to be around for a while.

Which may also take the place of author platform. Why be everywhere when you could be writing?

What can you do?

  1. Write more books. Promos only work if you have a library to offer your readers. Unless you’re looking for reviews. Freebooksy is around $100 a pop. Not in the BookBub featured deal pricing, but still spendy. Know what your goals are and make the fee count.

  2. Make sure your book is solid. It’s all a waste if you don’t have a good book to offer.

  3. Don’t be scared to stagger promos or overlap them for a longer sales tail. If you put your book on sale for .99 schedule a BargainBooksy and an E -reader News Today (also known as ENT). Authors who are trying to get in on a list like the USA today bestseller list schedule a ton of promos for the same time.

If you want to learn an ad platform there are lots of resources out there:

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For Amazon ads, the best thing you can do is follow Bryan Cohen on Facebook. Ask to join his Selling for Authors Facebook group, and do the 5 day mini challenge he’s starting on January 13th. It’s free, and he will teach you how to use the platform correctly and not go broke. Oh, but I thought you said you lost money, you ask. Yes, yes I did. It wasn’t due to following his instructions, but because an ad for The Years Between Us took off, and no one liked the blurb. So I got plenty of clicks on that super awesome ad, but no sales. I should have killed the ad sooner, but I didn’t and that’s my fault.

BookBub. BookBub has a newsletter they send out to all their subscribers. At the bottom of every newsletter are sponsored books. You bid like you would on Amazon, and if you win, your book has a place at the bottom of the newsletter.

Readers click and it takes them to wherever you linked the ad. The best resource I can direct you to is David Gaughran’s book. He knows how to run that platform, and I would’t try to do any BookBub ads without reading that book cover to cover. When I was wide for two months, I tried BookBub ads. I wasted the money to test ads, to test the graphic, whatever. Don’t Run Away was permafree, and I got a lot of downloads. That didn’t lead to sales of the other two books in the trilogy, and only after two months I went back to KU.

412mZB5USRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Facebook ads. Mal and Jill Cooper came out with the second edition of their book, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck! They explain the platform, what works, how to target your audience. I wouldn’t do a Facebook ad without at least skimming this book so you know what kind of ad to choose, how to put it together, and what kind of graphic to use. I haven’t done much with FB ads. Sometimes I’ll boost a post off my FB Author page. I did that a few times to announce I was back in KU, and I got a small bump in page reads for a little while. I also am boosting posts from my pen name author page to start a little awareness of the books I’ll be releasing in the spring. But nothing too hardcore.

They do include a page about Instagram ads. Since IG is owned by FB, you can run Instagram ads from your FB ad account. I never tried it, so I can’t tell you anything about my experience.

It’s best to focus on one ad platform and learn it really well. I’ll stick with Amazon Ads. Bryan is really easy to understand, and what he teaches you works. But he can only hold your hand for so long. You need to have a viable product or it won’t matter if you choose ads or promos. Nothing will work.

As for a list of Promo sites–people are so generous with what they know. A round of applause to Dave Chesson for putting this list together. 


That’s all that I have on marketing. No two books are alike, so no two books are going to sell alike. Find your audience. Are they like you? Where you do you find your books? Market your books there. Sounds simple, but in the end, it’s enough to make you swear off writing forever.

Good luck!


My next post talks about exclusivity vs. going wide and what the Written Word Media survey has to say about that!  See you then!

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Market or Write? If you have only one book written . . . write another book!

When I did Bryan Cohen’s 5-day ad challenge, he did some Facebook live events where he would help us in real time with any questions we had. While this challenge was tied-in to him selling his course, I still can’t believe all the work he put into the free mini-lessons, and I’m very grateful.

Anyway, I would watch along with everyone else, picking up tips where I could that would apply to my own books.

After a few of these videos, I realized something . . . so many people were worried about the fate of their ONE BOOK.

Don’t get me wrong, having written and published a book is fantastic. It’s a feat many people say they want to do, but hardly anyone does. If you’ve done that and are trying to sell it, you’re already one step ahead of 98% of everyone who wants to write a book but never does.

The problem with this, though, is that if you’re only selling one book, if you’re taking courses, learning ad platforms, listening to podcasts about book marketing, doing anything that takes away from writing your next book, you’re BEHIND 98% of the writers who are concentrating on building their backlist.

I keep up with publishing news and what’s changing in the industry; which small presses are closing, what Amazon is up to, what Draft2Digital is offering next. Ads are a little bit different. What you know today might might be different than what you need to know tomorrow. In fact, as an example, Amazon changed the way their ad platform looks right as Bryan was done with his 5 day challenge! What he taught us was still invaluable and we could put that into practice, but his segment for visual learners was almost irrelevant the minute the course was over. Anyone watching the videos would be confused because the platform doesn’t look like that anymore.

One day after his course ended! Jeez.

What I want to explain going into that is, if you’re learning an ad platform for one book, you’re wasting time when you could be writing another book because by the time you need to know it for book two, it could be already changed.

But, you’re saying, maybe it’s not a waste because their book will sell with ads.

Sure, maybe it will. If you have a solid stand alone with a good cover and a good blurb, you might make some sales. 

BUT, raise your hand if you have only one book in your backlist that

  • is a novella
  • is the first in a series but you don’t have any of the others written yet (and have no idea when you will)
  • is a mishmash of genres and you don’t know who your audience is
  • is written in a genre you’re not sure you’re going to stick with
  • your book is wide

If you have an only book that is any of those above, you are better off leaving ads alone and writing another book.

the best marketing for a book is to write another.We’ve all heard that writing the next book is the best marketing there is for the first one. It’s not just the writing, it’s social media/networking, too. When you’re on social media sharing snippets, you’re blogging about your writing process, who your characters are, etc, you’re doing more than promoting one book. You’re laying a foundation of being an author. Readers will know that you’re planning to write for a while and they’ll feel more comfortable investing their time in your book(s).

It would be interesting to know how many books on Amazon are singles and their authors aren’t planning on anymore. They’ve walked away for various reasons. Maybe you don’t plan to walk away, but a reader isn’t going to wait three years for a book 2, either.

The number of books you need to make traction rises every year. When I started out it was three. Now, the latest statistic I’ve heard is 6-10, and that was last year. This year? I’ll safely assume that you need 10+ books in your backlist before you see any kind of movement toward actual sales. Learning ads is a big part of this, of course. But the time you spent learning and the money you spend experimenting could be going toward your backlist.

I’m a member of the 20booksto50k Facebook group. Michael Anderle came up with the idea that that if you have 20 books in your backlist you should be able to make 50k a year in sales. He does some math, and I won’t get into that now. It’s an easy concept to buy into. I rather like thinking that after my quartet comes out and I’ll have 10 books in my backlist, that I could potentially make 25k a year in sales. That would change my life.

It’s definitely something to work toward.

But you can’t make that a goal if you’re going to waste time marketing one book.

james scott bell marketing

Click on the photo for a link to the book. It’s a good read and worth your time. 

James Scott Bell has a great book out right now called Marketing For Writers Who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind. In it, he talks a lot about marketing books, (and I did say this in my review on Goodreads) and he does spend a great deal of time talking about writing. Write the next book, and the next and the next and the next. In my review, I pointed out, well, you gotta learn how to market at some point, or you’ll have a big backlist and no one reading it.

I think that’s true. Natural momentum only goes so far.

And while I’m happy to spend some money on ads, to try them out, get a feel for them, I have six books in my backlist, I have 4 more coming out in the next couple months, and I’m 30,000 words into a secret project.

My writing time is not taking a hit.

It’s a mindset. There’s no harm in getting your feet wet. There’s no harm in being curious. But when you publish a book you’re not a writer anymore, you’re a business person filling a need (readers of your genre). Remember that when you’re selling one thing in your store, and you’re spending money on ads.


That’s all I have for today! Likely, my blog posts will be hit and miss for the rest of the 2019. I’m editing my quartet and books one and two will be off to the proofer soon. I have three and four that I’ll be diving into soon, and my secret project is well under way.

I love to share whatever is on my mind, though, and I’ll try to keep up my posts!

I’ll be updating you with my Amazon Ads adventures over the weekend. Let’s just say . . . it’s been quite a ride, and not all together inexpensive, either, but that’s what you get, I suppose.

All of Nothing ebook coverI can share this little bit with you . . . All of Nothing, before I started Bryan’s 5-day ad challenge was at 81,xxx (dont remember the exact number) in the Amazon Kindle Store. Since promoting it with ads since September 20th, it’s at 16,399. I know rank doesn’t mean much, not really, but it is kinda cool to see people are reading it.

I think the new blurb and cover have made all the difference!

 

Until next time!

 


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Mid-August Check-in and What I’ve Been Doing

August 2019 blog photo

I usually have some writing-related blog post today, or commenting on something in the publishing or independent publishing space, but today I’ll just update you on what I’ve been doing, what I’m reading, and the things I’m going to try to do before the holidays hit. Christmas is in 128 days, if you can believe it!

It’s hard to believe summer is almost gone, and my daughter (maybe your kids already are) is going back to school in a couple weeks. I’ve done a bit of back to school shopping for her and ordered her pictures online.

I live in Minnesota, so I’m not looking forward to summer’s end. In fact, it’s always nice if the snow can hold off for as long as possible. Last year, we had a bad winter while I was recuperating from surgery and if we only get half the snow that we got last year, I’ll be happy. I’ll be figuring out my new writing rhythm when my daughter goes back to school, and that will take a little time to adjust to, but it shouldn’t be that bad. My work schedule won’t change, so that’s nice.


I changed All of Nothing‘s cover, blurb, and keywords. It’s still too soon to say if they made a difference.

But I am also doing the same for Wherever He Goes.

This is the old cover:

wherever he goes old cover jpg

Pretty and sweet. I have no qualms about it, but it also doesn’t give off the steamy contemporary vibe. So I changed it to this:

wherever he goes new cover jpg

They are both dressed, but I feel it ups the steam factor a bit. I also rewrote the blurb, but I won’t get into that, eventually I’ll get to the keywords. Looking for those will be interesting, as it’s a road trip romance, and that’s a sub-genre I know exists, but I haven’t seen the category for it on Amazon. I ordered a proof so I can see how it looks in print, but the ebook cover is already live. I’ve gotten great feedback on it, so for the skill I have and for the cost I paid ($7) I think it’s a nice change.

Of course, IngramSpark is giving me another pain in the ass about it. Since I published on Amazon, they are saying my ISBN is in use and not mine. I didn’t click on expanded distribution on KDP Print, so the ISBN should be (and is) available for other retailers. It’s just more going around in circles I’m going to have to do with them. Plus they keep insisting I didn’t build my cover within the correct guidelines, but I did. So, I think after I get this book straightened out with them, I won’t be using IS for expanded distribution anymore. Until they can become more indie-friendly, I’ll stick with Amazon.

I can honestly say that through all this wide business and going back and forth, I’ve learned what matters and what doesn’t.


Now that all my covers are how I want them to be for a while, I’ll be focusing on finished up my quartet. Officially called A Rocky Point Wedding (Books 1, 2, 3 and 4) I started book four a couple days ago, and I’m 10,000 words into it. At this point I’ll be trying to figure out covers and get a more concrete idea of what I want. I don’t know what I want yet, and when I don’t feel like writing I poke my eyes out look at stock photos. If I thought doing my trilogy was a pain, this quartet will be the death of me.

I am planning on a slow release . . . possibly one book a month, and while I’m releasing I’ll take a break write a new standalone that I’ve been planning for a while.

But first, book four. This book has its own plot to figure out, plus wrapping up wedding stuff. I do have a book 0 I could write if I ever feel like revisiting Rocky Point, or if I ever feel like starting a newsletter, I could write a prequel novella and offer that as a newsletter sign-up cookie. So there’s that potential, anyway.


I’m reading a really great book right now called Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living Paperback by Manjula Martin. It has a lot of great essays in there by authors like Cheryl Strayed. They talk about giving work away for exposure and opportunity, living in poverty while trying to make it big, what they do with their advances if they do. I’m enjoying it a lot so far, and I recommend it if you’re interested in the money/business side of writing.

If you like books like that, I also recommend The Business of Being a Writer (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) by Jane Friedman. She breaks down the publishing industry and what you can do to make money off your writing. Being that it’s always being said writers can’t make a living wage anymore, I like to hear other people’s opinions.


August 2019 podcasts graphic blog post

I listen to a lot of podcasts, too, and here are some of my favorites:

Joanna Penn. The Creative Penn Podcast

We know she’s a powerhouse in the indie space, and she has a lot of great guest interviews. I don’t listen to every episode, and I have to pick and choose what tips I jot down for my own use since she’s a big believer in being wide, but overall I her podcasts are very useful.

***

The Sell More Books Show hosted by Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen

These guys used to talk about the news, and they still do, but they have started to pad their podcast with “news” of indies making money. They don’t get into the hows or the whys (not in great detail, anyway), and if you’re not a member of the 20booksto50k group on FB (where they cull these stories) you’re not able to dig out the nitty-gritty details for yourself. I understand there are slow news days, and I listen for the big stories like Dean Koontz moving to Amazon from a Big Five. They pull stories from other places like the Hot Sheet by Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson, and if you don’t subscribe to that newsletter, this is one way to hear about the stories they report.

***

Stark Reflections by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Mark’s a super nice guy, and I can’t wait to meet him at the Career Author Summit in Nashville in 2020. With so much history in the industry, his podcasts are very interesting to listen to, and he also has a bevy of author and publishing expert interviews. In the last podcast I just listened to, he interviewed Craig Martelle, who puts together the 20booksto50k conferences with Michael Anderle.  As with Joanna’s, I pick and choose what I want to listen to. Mark moved from Kobo to Draft2Digital, so it goes without saying he’s a big cheerleader of also being wide.

***

Self-Publishing Formula hosted by Mark Dawson and James Blatch

I listen to this one off and on. He has great interviews with authors and industry professionals, too, and again, I just pick and choose what I like to listen to by reading the details of the podcast episode. Sometimes they can get a little heavy with advertising their courses, but they all sell something, so listening to them tout their wares is going to be part of listening to a podcast.

***

Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast hosted by Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo and Jeffrey M. Poole and Laura Kirwan.

These guys took a break this summer, and so far Lindsay hasn’t said when they are coming back. She alluded to them changing their format, so I’m looking forward to them doing more episodes. Even if you don’t write Fantasy or Sci-fi, this is a great podcast to listen to. Keep an eye out for new episodes.

***

Print Run Podcast hosted by Erik Hane and Laura Zats

Erik and Laura are agents at a literary agency in Minneapolis, MN, and that was one of the primary reasons for listening. They talk about a lot of the literary stuff in the state, and if I had a more dependable car, I would go to some of them (the Twin Cities is a 4.5 hour drive away from where I live). But anyway, being that they are agents, they give an inside look at the traditional publishing industry. The last episode I listened to, though, they talked about Dean Koontz and his defection move from the traditional publishing marketing space to move to Amazon. They didn’t say very nice things about it, or about Amazon in general, and be aware, if you’re an indie making money off Amazon, that that is their stance. If you can look past their bias, their takes on books and publishing can be interesting at times, though they defend traditional publishing and an agent’s place in it (of course). Publishing is publishing though, and whether indie or trad, they all fit together, so keeping an ear to the ground isn’t a bad thing.


ku graphic

My books have been moved back to KU since the first of August. I boosted an announcement to that effect on from my FB author page and that grabbed a little attention. I used the audience I created for one of my ads for The Years Between Us that didn’t do anything because my ad copy was poor and the pictures I used weren’t the best. I ran two ads for three days a piece and I think I got one sale. But I blame the ad and the copy and the fact I was just messing around to get a feel for the platform. Anyway, so I already had an audience I’d created for that, so I used it and I think I got about 150 likes ad and a little engagement. It will take some time to let people know my books are in KU again, and I haven’t been very vigilant about it because I’ve been changing out covers.

Seeing page reads again is fun, I’ve made $21.00 since moving my books back to KU. You can look at my numbers in this blog post, but I can tell you that during my two months wide I made $66.00. So in a week with just a little boosted post on FB I’ve made 33% of what I made with wide while spending money on a Freebooksy ad. I feel better being in KU and I don’t check my numbers all the time like I was doing when I was wide. That is all KU reads though, not sales. I think I may need to research price more as maybe $4.99 is a bit too expensive for books by an unknown author. I said in a previous post that it was freeing being back on one platform and it is. I feel like I can focus more on the work instead of sales, and with a small backlist, writing is more important to me right now.


Well, that’s the personal update I’ve got for you. In my next blog post I’ll tell you about my experience with Booksprout, and if it’s useful or not.

Thanks for reading!

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Keywords for your books. What are they and how to find them.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know anything about keywords. People may have differing opinions on where to find them, or how to use them, but one thing everyone can agree on is that they are pretty important. They help readers find your books, and in this age of publishing, our books need all the help they can get.

In this last mini-series post about how I revamped All of Nothing, I’m going to explore keywords and if I change anything in regards to my book’s keywords.  For a quick recap, if you want to read about how I changed the cover, you can click on the picture of the full wrap. (I still think it’s lovely!)

all of nothing second coverjpg

I also rewrote the blurb, and that garnered some interesting discussion. If you want to take a look at my process and how I did that, you can click here to read about editing the blurb.

So, keywords.

Like I said, I know next to nothing about keywords, so what are they, exactly?

According to an article on IngramSpark, keywords are “One or more words used to indicate the content of your book.” How do we choose the right ones?

The easiest, and cheapest (read, free) is searching on Amazon in the Kindle store. When you publish a book on Amazon, KDP gives you seven slots. That doesn’t mean that you are limited to seven words, and I only just learned this not long ago. (Evidence that you always need to keep learning because you don’t know what you don’t know, and something you learn in passing could change your whole life business.)

You can add more than one word to a space by separating words with semi colons or commas.

kdp keyword screen

It looks pretty intimidating, and if you look at this not even having one idea what to put there, the first thing you need to do is revisit the genre you’re writing in. There should be at least a few words that pop out at you, even if they’re generic and not that specific.

Anyway, so like I said in a previous post, I didn’t know bully romance was thing until recently, and it turned around the way I’m going to approach keywords and marketing for this book moving forward.

When you go to the Kindle Store (Dave Chesson of Publisher Rocket suggests using an incognito window for this) you can plug in some keywords and/or phrases to see what comes up.

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You can see in this incognito window that I started searching enemies to lovers. But you can also see what comes up that could work as keywords as well. Enemies to lovers romance kindle books would be a good phrase to use. Add free if your book is wide and permafree. There might be other phrases in there that could work depending on what your story is about. Enemies with benefits doesn’t quite fit my book, so I’ll leave that alone. What else did I search for?

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I searched for alpha next thinking I could go into alpha romance, or alpha dark romance. Alpha male romance works, maybe if, it isn’t associated with shifter romance. When you click on it, what kind books do you find? Will your book fit in? When I click on Alpha Male Romance, some books that pop up that All of Nothing would fit in with, and that’s the goal, so we can add that to the list.

What else can we search for?

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I can go with the tried and true contemporary romance, but that is a generic term and using up a space in your keywords may not yield results. We can always keep it in mind though, and plug up a space if we happen to have room at the end of the experiment. Not to write off the list entirely, if you happen to have a new release, it might be worth adding.

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I went a bit further and added “rom” for romance, and nothing extraordinary popped up, but contemporary romance with sex was an interesting return. That seems to be quite specific considering Sweet/Clean romance is having it’s 15 minutes and doing well; this would set my book apart. The word “contemporary” takes up a lot of space though, so I’m going to try to narrow it down before resorting to using it.

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But if you look for kindle books, adding that your book is in Kindle Unlimited may not be a bad idea.

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But let’s keep trying to narrow it down. Jax in All of Nothing is a millionaire. I toned it down, didn’t make him a billionaire. Sorry, Jax. But looks like that search may have had a good return, and I could add millionaire romance, even millionaire romance alpha male. Lots of characters though, so we need to watch our words.

What else can we look for?

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Dark romance gives us some return. Bully romance dark romance pops out at me. But there are some that would be good to keep in mind for other standalone books down the road like mafia, books where the heroine has been kidnapped.  Jeez, these sub-sub-genres are something, aren’t they? What could I choose from the list? The bully romance dark romance for sure.

At this point I think I’m running out of search terms.

2019-08-13

Bully pulls up a lot of terms that don’t particularly fit my book either, like high school, college, or reverse harem. All of Nothing isn’t paranormal, so I think besides the top search term, there’s nothing we can take away from this list.

But I have a few characters left. What else can we look for? I tried bully sex, but those kinds of books I don’t need my book associated with, so we’ll skip that. (Yeah, it’s important to click, and find out what kinds of books are coming up in the search, too. Especially in romance there’s quality, and then there’s quality. I’m not going to call anything trashy as we all have our things.)

We haven’t tried the basic steamy romance and this is what we get:

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Not much comes up here, accept bully romance again, and that can’t be discounted. There are a few more genres that we’ll need to avoid, but the list is interesting, and it gives us something to play with.

This is the cheap and easy way to figure out a limited amount of keywords.

What’s important to note too, is that based on keywords, Amazon may slot your book into categories that are not available to choose from when you publish. If you have a category that you would like your book listed under, you can always email them. But that’s why it’s important to know what genre you’re writing in, even the sub, or sub-sub genres to help narrow down your audience.

It’s obvious that I didn’t have any of the correct keywords for All of Nothing, since Amazon has left it in the most boring and generic category of romance books. That doesn’t do me or sales any favors.

all of nothing rank

Pretty freaking embarrassing, if you ask me, and now that the cover, blurb, and keywords are fixed, I’m hoping that I’ll see some traction in the coming months.

What did I come up with for keywords then?

keywords KDP filled

I think I filled up the slots pretty well, and if my book starts selling, they give Amazon a few sub-genre categories to put my book into, too. I do have to warn you that even if you change your keywords, and you hit Publish thinking that they’ve been accepted, they may not be. I hit Publish after filling those spaces out, but I won’t know they’ve been approved for a little while. I may be able to edit this blog post to let you know if they have been, so I’ll keep my eye on my email to see if they publish the book or they flag any of these words.

Edited to add: They did accept all my keywords without a problem! 


What’s the deal with programs that will pull keywords for you if finding free keywords is so easy?

When you start using programs like Publisher Rocket (this isn’t an affiliate link–I get nothing for telling you about this program. All I know is Dave Chesson is a really nice guy and works hard keeping this software working and up to date) you’re looking for a lot of keywords . . . for ads. When you start looking for keywords for Amazon Ads keep in mind they give you room for 1,000 words. You need a lot of help coming up with that many words, and using a software that can scrape your words together for you can save you a lot of time.

Keywords can make a huge difference if your ad converts to clicks, and using keywords is a way to help with that. I barely dipped my toes in the water when it came to Amazon Ads way back when I was trying, and I wasn’t using a program like Publisher Rocket to choose keywords, either. You’re leaving money on the table if you’re not utilizing all the space Amazon gives you.


 

So there you have it. How I revamped my book All of Nothing.

For some of you, this would include an edit as well, and if you want to learn more about relaunching your book, either read Relaunch Your Novel: Breathe Life Into Your Backlist (Write Faster, Write Smarter Book 6) by Chris Fox, or Ads for Authors Who Hate Math: Write Faster, Write Smarter.  In the latter book he goes a little into how much you should do to revamp your books (time vs. cost) so the ads work, because if anyone has heard Chris talk he is always very clear you need to start with a good product. (These aren’t affiliate links either, but I have read both of those books, and they are worth your time.)

Will all this work? Only time will tell. The cover is better, the blurb an improvement (I think, but that remains to be seen) and we’ll see if KDP approves my keywords and go from there. Could the book use an edit? In terms of getting better as a author, any past book an author writes won’t be as good as the newest release. That’s how it is, and I’m not going to stress about it. It’s a solid book in terms of plot and story. I’m sure it has its share of filler words, or a garbage word slipped by me here and there that I didn’t find and delete. But I did run it through a couple of betas who didn’t have anything bad to say, so I’ll take that as a small win and keep on going.

If you want more information about keywords, Dave Chesson has his own channel on YouTube, as well as Chris Fox. Taking time to listen to what these guys have to say is never a waste.

Thanks for reading!


If you want to know more about Dave and his thoughts on keywords and categories, you can listen to his interview with Joanna Penn here.

Here’s another article by the Book Designer on KDP keywords. Words Gone Wild: KDP Keywords Revisited


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Differences Between Your Kindle Books and Your Paperbacks, and What the Heck is Kindle Unlimited?

There have been a few questions from people I’ve spoken with lately about the difference between ebooks and paperbacks with regards to Amazon and their Kindle Select Program.

Amazon is the number one ebook seller in the United States. Everybody who has published books will sell their book on Amazon, and they offer some benefits for authors who publish exclusively with them.

Let’s go back to basics first.

What is Kindle Direct Publishing?

KDP is the publishing arm of Amazon. This is confusing because Kindle Direct Publishing supports more than just the Kindle version of your book now. Since CreateSpace, the old platform for paperback creation, closed, KDP is where you publish both Kindle and paperback version of your book. Some refer to this part of KDP as KDP Print.

What is CreateSpace?

CreateSpace used to be the self-publishing arm of Amazon for paperback books. If an author used the free CreateSpace ISBN their book would be listed as published by CreateSpace in the product information of the book. Using CreateSpace is no longer an option.

createspace product info

What is Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Unlimited is a reader subscription service Amazon offers readers. Readers pay $9.99 a month to read as many books as they like. They are able to borrow ten books at a time. Readers can use a Kindle e-reader like a PaperWhite, a tablet like a Kindle Fire, or the Kindle App on their smartphone or iPad. If you like reading on a device and read several books a month, this is a good deal. Independent and traditionally published books are available.

What is Kindle Select?

Kindle Select is a program Amazon offers authors if they want their books available in Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon will let readers know if a book is available in Kindle Unlimited. I suppose it’s not a surprise that the top ten books in Contemporary Romance are in KU. (But let’s not get me started on that again.)

top ten contemporary romances on amazon

When you enroll your book in Kindle Select, you are giving Amazon exclusivity of your titles that you enroll.

What does that mean?

It means your ebooks cannot be available anywhere else. Once your book is available through Kindle Unlimited, your ebook cannot be sold on other platforms like Apple Books, Kobo, or Nook. You cannot sell your ebooks on your website. You cannot blog huge portions of your book to build buzz. You cannot list your book on review services like Booksprout or Netgalley. You cannot give away your book on places like Bookfunnel as a reader magnet for a newsletter sign up.  You cannot give your book away on Instafreebie.

If you want to give away a large amount of copies or list your book on a review site, you need to do that before you enroll your book. So be sure you know what kind of marketing plan you want for your books and how you want to find reviews before you enroll.

But you can take your books out of Select, so don’t think you messed up on any promotional opportunities if you click enroll and want to change your mind. Select enrollment lasts in 90 day increments. Just remember to uncheck the enrollment box or KDP will automatically enroll you for another 90 day period when it runs out. If you really want out before your time is up, you can email them through your Author Central account, and they will take out your books. I asked them to do that for my trilogy, and they did the next day without any problems. I was polite, and so were they. Probably the reps answering your email don’t give a crap what you do–they just wanna go home like everyone else who’s at work.

There is some confusion now about your paperbacks because it used to be paperbacks were separated from your KDP account. Amazon doesn’t care what you do with your paperbacks. You can sell them at book conventions and farmers markets, sell signed copies from your website. You can publish them through IngramSpark to take advantage of expanded distribution. You don’t even have to offer a paperback. Amazon doesn’t care.

How do you get paid if your book is available in Kindle Unlimited?

Authors don’t get paid the same way as if someone buys a copy of your ebook. If your book is in KU, you get paid by the page read, and your page read royalties come out of the Global Fund. This is the banner at the bottom of the Kindle Select information page.

global fund banner

The page read rate can and will fluctuate, but the average is about .0045 cents per page. (If you ever want to know just do a Google search of Kindle Unlimited KENP rate plus the month and and year. For May of 2019 it’s .0046.) You need to do a little math if you want to know how much you make with page reads. You can see on your dashboard how many page reads you get per day/month/year.

For example, if you have 417 page reads like I did in this graph (someone was reading All of Nothing after I pulled it out of KU because they still had in their library) you multiply 417 by .0045 and you get 1.87.  So I made $1.87 for those page reads. page reads ku and koll

There’s a way to calculate how many actual book pages will equal KU page reads, but I can’t find it. Maybe someone reading this blog can post the formula in the comments. Because KU page reads aren’t the same as the actual book pages. There’s also ways to figure out how many page reads will equal one person reading your book all the way through, etc, etc, and if you want to know more and geek out on that data, you’ll have to do a little Googling to see what you can find. Because even thinking about it makes me wanna drink, and knowing how much I’m making is good enough for me.

If you write in a series and want to extrapolate read through and sales, there are ways to do this too, and Michael Cooper explains how to do it in Help! My Facebook Ads Suck!

It makes sense longer books do better (hence the popularity of bookstuffers)–the more pages read, the more you get paid.

But it’s also essential you write a good book–so readers read to the end and you are paid for the entire book. You are not going to make much in KU if your first couple of pages are boring. No matter how many people borrow your book, if they can’t get past the first couple pages, that means no page read royalties for you. That also means you want a good strong first book in a series, otherwise you’ll have no read-through and all the other books in that series will have been written for nothing.

Are there any perks for authors who enroll in KU?

There are perks, and I miss having my free days. I never did do a Kindle Countdown Deal, but those are two great ways to market your books when they are in KU. Every time I used a free day for one of my books, my KU reads always increased because of the exposure.

Anyway, that’s how Kindle Unlimited works for authors. If you read my post about Jami Albright, you can see there is potential to make a lot of money this way. It will always be up to you how you want to run your business. Many authors like Jami have no qualms about going all in with KU and reaping the rewards.  Here’s an article by Hugh Howey who did the same.

If you have a larger backlist, you can even have some books in KU and some out. I may put my Wedding Quartet into KU for the first three to six months to see how that works. I have heard of a few authors who will use KU as part of their launch strategy, and then when the page reads decrease pull their books out and offer them wide.

If you feel overwhelmed with the choices, it never hurts to just stay with Amazon. After all, it’s been proven time and again that you can make good money in KU, and I still struggle with going wide. (Which I have blathered on about enough.) Enroll in KU, enjoy the pages read. Get used to that platform before expanding your business.

As for paperbacks, I publish with KDP Print and let them fulfill to Amazon. Then I publish to IngramSpark and use their expanded distribution. I don’t mind warning you that messing with Ingram takes a little know-how, and you have to buy your own ISBN numbers to publish with them. If you don’t want to fork out for ISBN numbers (in the States) then going with KDP Print will be all that you will want to do anyway. There are days I wish I never would have started publishing with Ingram, and The Years Between Us is still not available there. Which is something I need to fix soon because I didn’t check the expanded distribution box when I published on KDP. You can read about my IngramSpark adventures here.

Indies have a lot of choices and sometimes it’s just nice to stick with one thing that you know so you won’t feel like your books are scattered all over the place like seeds on a dried out dandelion.

I hope this information was helpful to you! If you have any questions, KDP’s customer service is very nice and they are quick to help. You can also shoot me a question, either here in the comments, or my DMs are open on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Until next time!


My books are wide! Look for them at your favorite digital retailer!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

My Wedding Quartet Update

I haven’t been doing much with my series, so there’s not a lot to say about it (she says but after she’s finished typing she has a 1400 word blog post about it).  I have finished book two, which will now be book one. To stop having to give that convoluted explanation, I’ll just refer them by the order they will be published. I changed them because I realized the second book I wrote was stronger, and it would make for a better first book in the series. This will take a little rewriting, as I started the book thinking readers were already going in knowing who characters are, but that’s okay.

I finished the first read-through of book two, and after I finish the read-through of book one, I’ll print them both out and add to book two since I know more about what’s going on with the story.

What’s been dragging me down has been looking at stock photos for the covers. I briefly looked into hiring them out, and depending on how much hair I lose between now and when they are ready to publish, I still might. The problem is, and the problem most indies have, is figuring return on investment versus cost. I found a site that will do custom covers for 350 dollars a piece. Now, if I were only doing a standalone, that would be more than manageable. That also includes a full paperback wrap, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that, either. But being that I’ll have four, well, you can do that math. (In case you don’t want to, that’s $1400.) You can see how I would maybe balk at that. Now, I’m not saying I can do as well as that artist can, probably (most certainly) I can’t. But I’m poor, and I have no problem with saying so. I would have to work a lot of hours to cover that. And with the way my books are selling, I would never recoup that cost.

So, for the past few nights, instead of writing, I’ve been researching wedding covers, looking at stock photos, and slowly losing my mind.

To make matters worse is that yes, there is going to be a wedding in this story, but the bride and groom are not a featured couple in the any of the books, so does it make sense to put a bride and groom on any of the covers?

My books all end with some kind of a wedding proposal or a promise to love forever, so implying my couples will get married at some point isn’t a lie.

Another reason I have so much pause is something someone said in one of those FB book cover groups I keep talking about. Someone said that indies are held to a different standard than trad-pubbed authors are. And I guess they are right. Our covers better be pretty damned special to catch a reader’s eye because we can’t depend on our well-known names to make the sales for us.

nora roberts quartet

I think of Nora’s quartet when I’m looking at my own covers. If I thought I could get away with it, I would definitely do something similar. Look here for the article accompanying the image I borrowed.

If I go with this way of thinking, I most definitely need couples on my covers. Maybe not locked in a steamy embrace, because these books are the same as other books I’ve written. Not a lot of sex, but there is some.

What does that mean for me? Can I put bridesmaids and groomsmen on my covers? Singly? Because I’ve looked through a lot of photos and I can barely find one good couple that looks part of a wedding party, much less four.

Can I put a bride and groom on all my covers?

Items don’t seem to go over as well with indie authors, so choosing bridal bouquets or other wedding paraphernalia may not be enough to make a sale. (See the dreamy covers on Nora’s books above.)

If I take the wedding element away, that gives me more choices, but that still leaves me

Elegant couple posing together.

The plastic, vacant looks on their faces do not match how I feel my characters are portrayed in my books. (Photo purchased from depositphotos)

digging through photos of pretty girls with dorky-looking guys. I don’t know how that happens, but it’s weird. (Out of respect for the men, I won’t post an example here.)

Or I get too “plastic” and they look kind of fake. Definitely not the kind of book I’m writing.

I mean, you know the book covers this couple would end up on. Mega rich, lots of hot sex. And maybe one day I’ll write something like that, but I need down-to-earth couples, and sometimes that means the people look just a little too “real” for a book cover.

It’s a balancing act that makes me want to poke my eyes out.

And while it’s a necessary part of the creative process, to keeping trying, that is, it does make me feel like I’m wasting writing time. Anyone can tell you  that you don’t need book covers if there’s no books. But I’ve blogged about book covers before, and figuring out what looks good, and finding the right photos, takes a lot of time. Not only time, but practice. I have Canva open all the time, shoving photos into their templates, experimenting with font for the titles. I did find this beautiful photo and I thought right away she reminded me so much of Leah, the female main character of my second book. She looks so much like what I envisioned, she literally took my breath away. You might say that would be a sure sign to use her for the cover, because if she evoked that much feeling when I took a look at her, hopefully she would for other readers.

Wedding bouquet in girl's hands.

Leah! Isn’t she gorgeous? 

But, don’t forget she would only be one cover of four. And she is cover worthy, so it’s not that she wouldn’t be perfect. But is she perfect for a series, and more importantly, is she perfect for a contemporary romance cover? Unfortunately, she doesn’t pose with a man in the series of photos that were published on depositphotos with this one. But I have purchased her, (that’s why she doesn’t have a watermark) so I may decide to use her somehow.

Anyway, I have 6 pages of book 3 I have written out longhand that I’ll be transcribing after I finish out this blog post. I still hope to have all four books done by Halloween. Probably not fully edited, but close enough that I should still be able to start publishing them around Thanksgiving. I read Craig Martelle’s book on Rapid Releasing, and to be perfectly honest, what he wrote didn’t give me much hope for a good launch. I have no readers. No one waiting for these, so to tell you the God’s honest truth, it doesn’t matter when I publish. I do know that after they are done I’m going to take a short break because these are going to drive me nuts between now and the end of the year.

I’ll keep you updated on progress though, and next week I’ll share a snippet or two of my favorite scenes so far. I’m glad that Autumn and Cole are the last couple because I’m very much looking forward to getting their story out, and as of right now, it’s what’s keeping me going. I love all my characters, but the sheer scope of writing four books and producing them all at once is daunting and I’m overwhelmed at times. But because of consistency issues, I’m glad I’m taking things slow and writing them all first before I publish.

As for Autumn’s blog posts, I need to get on with typing those out and writing more. As the stories go on, and she interviews more people, her list grows longer, and I’m falling behind. Still not sure what I’ll do with that extra content. It’s looking like more and more they’ll end up on the website to maybe drive some more traffic here. Not sure.

If you’ve stuck with me, thanks for reading! I’ll be visiting Tybee Island as you’re reading this, on a vacation with my sister. After I take a week to breathe and see the ocean, I’ll come back with a clear head and hit the ground running on the second half of my series.

I hope you all are having a great summer!


My books are wide! Check them out at your favorite retailer!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!