Formatting your book with Vellum: Why I love it and why haters gotta stop hating.

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Vellum is expensive–$250.00 for unlimited ebook and paperback capability–and I never recommend it because I’m sensitive to people not being able to afford it. Also, it only runs on a Mac and if you don’t want to pay to use MacinCloud on a PC, Vellum won’t be an option for you anyway.

But for those authors who can afford it, or hire a formatter who uses it, it can be a wonderful software that can generate book files in just a couple of hours. (Some authors say minutes, but I’ve found it can take a little longer than that–especially if you have to create the front and back matter from scratch.) I’ve formatted all my books with Vellum–even backlist titles got a facelift when my fiancé purchased a Mac and Vellum for me.

It’s amazing, and I absolutely have no argument with it.

But some authors do. They say they are disappointed in the limited capabilities and I’ve heard the familiar refrain a few times. Enough to make me mad. I take offense when someone feels the need to nitpick this software. Brad West and Brad Andalman did the indie community a huge service designing this software and continually updating it and adding new features. Still, this isn’t enough for some authors.

When I’m feeling particularly spunky, I’ll challenge them with this: a reader might appreciate the little extras you can deliver, but the real reason readers buy your book is for the story. Have you written a good book? That should be your main priority, not moaning because you can’t add color chapter headings, or fancy maps, or any other crazy stuff you want to add in a lame attempt to hide a mediocre story.

That might seem a little harsh, but it seems to me the writers who complain the loudest are the first time authors who haven’t understood that they are going to have to fight tooth and nail to sell their book and formatting is the least of their worries. (During COVID a whopping 88,000 books are being published very MONTH! — source, Alex Newton from K-lytics.)

Of course you want the inside of your book to look professional and in my mind you only need four things:

  1. Full Justification
  2. Drop Cap for Chapter Starts
  3. Professional Chapter Heading
  4. Appropriate page numbers and author name/title in headers and footers

That’s it.

Readers aren’t going to care if the chapter headers are colored images, or if they take the whole page. What they’re going to care about is if the story grabs them from the first sentence, or if there are typos or other mistakes that will pull them out of the story. They care if your story will engage them to the very last line.

Can you guarentee your readers that?

I bought a Jodi Ellen Malpas book on Amazon and I was surprised to see it came from Ingram Spark’s print on demand. She self-published this book. She’s a New York Times best-selling author. She can afford a team that can put together a beautiful book. And the formatting inside is plain. As plain as you can make the inside of a book. Because she knows her fans are not buying the book for how it looks, but for the story inside.

Here are my list of reasons why I do the minimum formatting in my books:

  1. Kindles can only handle so much. Not everyone reads on a tablet. Some people really do read on a Kindle Paperwhite, or a Voyage (that has been discontinued), Kindle Oasis, or other e-readers with limited functions. Readers can set the font so who cares if you’re bitching Vellum has a short list to choose from? Some e-readers are black and white so what does it matter if you insist on inserting colored chapter headers? E-readers strip a book of almost everything but the actual text that makes the story. If your story isn’t engaging they’ll return your book and read some thing else.
  2. Fancy formatting is a paperback perk. How many of those do you sell? Unless you write non-fiction or children’s books, then that’s something different. If you want to write in commercial, mainstream fiction, your e-books will far outsell your paperbacks. If you’re going to a convention, fine. But your cover is going to be on display more prominently than your formatting.
  3. Fancy formatting takes time. Pay for it if you insist on having it. There’s no reason to gripe in Facebook groups about how Vellum won’t suits your needs. There are other programs that will, like InDesign. If you don’t know how to use it, either learn or hire someone who does. You don’t need to complain in forums about a software you’re unhappy with. Deal with it because for every person it disappoints, it makes twenty others happier than hell.
  4. Story will always come first. Yes it’s exciting to publish and you want your book to be perfect. But your story should be the most perfect thing about your book followed by the cover. Readers will appreciate a cleanly formatted book. I know I have tossed books aside that are not formatted properly. I appreciate a plain format and a compelling story much more than a boring story with pretty chapter headers. I’ll know what the author cared more about and I won’t be impressed.

I’ll defend Brad and Brad. They did the indie community a huge courtesy developing a software that makes book formatting easy. The software produces a .mobi, epub, and generic epub for Nook, Google Play and Apple Books. It produces a PDF for the paperback. Vellum creates a beautiful book and when you’ve written a beautiful story, what it offers should be enough.


Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time!


The authorpreneur I am versus where I was five years ago.

It’s never fair to compare yourself to where you were five years ago, or more precisely, four and a half years ago, unless you haven’t changed and you can’t see in your rearview mirror through all the regret of wasted time.

16114241When I joined Writer Twitter, I was writing a huge epic fantasy and I thought I needed to be on social media to sell those books. Independent publishing was always a no-brainer, even when I didn’t know exactly what it was, and how I’d heard of it, I have no idea. Probably the one thing that pushed me along was a friend from work who was majoring in publishing at our local university. She gave me one of her textbooks, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book, by Shawn Welch and Guy Kawasaki. It was my first taste of independent publishing, and being independently published fed into my control-freak nature. (I try to keep that under wraps, so don’t be surprised if it’s the first you’ve heard of it.) I don’t recommend the book now–this industry moves too fast for a book that’s eight years old to hold much relevance.

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These are delightfully naughty stories, and I highly recommend them!

Back then, I was a wide-eyed, starry-eyed girl. People were publishing, they knew a helluva a lot more than I did, and they made the industry sound exciting. I wanted in. I read indie. Lots of indie. Bought lots of indie paperbacks, some from people who don’t write anymore or who have dropped off the grid because other things got in the way. I held books in my hands from people I knew, actually talked to online, and I wanted to hold my books too. One of the very first books I read was by Jewel E. Leonard, Rays of Sunshine. She did everything herself. Her husband helped her with the cover, but she wrote it and edited it, formatted the insides. She was my inspiration, and I started 1700 to publish like she did. (And can you read a blog post I wrote about writing to write and writing to publish here.)

Except, I had no idea how much work it would be to be let in. Because if it’s something that I’ve repeated on this blog for as long as I’ve been blogging, is that behind the cover designers and editors, the huge Twitter accounts, behind the shop talk, and Twitter chats, and blog tours and cover reveals, is this very one important thing. None of that matters if you haven’t written a good book. 

And this isn’t going to be another one of those blog posts. Everyone is going to publish crap. No one is immune from it, and very few are exempt. I’m no exception.

But the thing that probably saved me was the fact that I didn’t know it was crap. I went on my merry way, writing and writing and writing, and publishing and publishing and publishing and blogging about it, too! It was cool. I was a loser who didn’t know I was a loser.

Eventually, I got better. It’s just something that happens if you write enough words. You get better. Since I’ve started publishing, not including the fantasy still on a memory stick that I go back and forth between deciding to edit or not, I’ve written 1,227,000 words. Some of those aren’t published yet, as they belong to a first person trilogy that I haven’t edited. I’m going to write the sister trilogy to that before I release them. But they are written, and I’ll include them in my word count.

That figure isn’t to brag. I know I have a lot of time, and I do use the time I’m given.

But I think back to almost five years ago and how much the industry has changed. I did my book covers in Word. I used a free photo for The Corner of 1700 Hamilton, which I learned is a huge no-no. I formatted my documents myself using the templates KDP still has available though Vellum is so easy to get your hands on these days.

Besides the few people I had help me in the beginning, once I got the hang of writing again, I started editing my own books and for others.

There is something to be said for going back to basics. I learned a lot. I learned what a cover consists of, what bleed means. I can spot extra spaces between words in sentences in a manuscript and how not to put two spaces after a period. I know how terribly a Tab can screw up formatting, and even still today, I’m still learning how important it is to back up files (thanks disappearing Vellum files).

I’ve always moved forward, never gone back too often. Dean Wesley Smith calls this “overwhelming” your book. I call it burying it. But that’s hard to do if you want all your books to count. I say The Corner of 1700 Hamilton and my erotica novellas don’t count toward my backlist, but they have my name on them. They count. Even if I’ll never promote them. I put them out there, they are mine, and I own them.

For me, the glitz and glamour of being an independent author has gone away. You can scroll through writer twitter and maybe see some of those writers who haven’t published yet interacting with other writers with the same wide-eyed look. It’s not that I’ve become jaded–I still get teary-eyed whenever I finish a book and press publish–but it’s not long after that I’m on to the next thing, because there will always be another story.

What is this blog post about? It was supposed to be about how I revamped The Corner of 1700 Hamilton, but I’ll save it for another day.

I guess being quarantined has made me a bit nostalgic. I’ve come a long way in four and a half years. I’ve cried over lost files and bad reviews, I’ve virtually high-fived other authors and shared in their successes. I’ve shaken my head at others who keep making the same mistakes, and I feel bad for them because I don’t see their careers going anywhere. I know authors who are still working on the same story as the one when we met. This isn’t the career for those who can’t be tenacious, who can’t look ahead, who can’t see what they want in ten years and put in the work now. This industry isn’t for the faint of heart. Or for the weak.

I’ve come a long way in the almost five years I published 1700, and I plan to go even further in the next five. I WILL have a bestseller. Just wait and see.

What have you accomplished in the last five years? How has the industry changed since you’ve joined the writing community?

Let me know!


I read more than just Jewel’s book when I first joined Writer Twitter. Take a peek at the books I read that I very much enjoyed, and that I still recommend today. If you’re interested, click on the cover and it will bring you to Amazon. Some of them are in KU if you have a subscription. Some of the publishing dates reflect earlier dates, and I can only take that to mean that the authors have gone in, made changes, and republished. That’s one of the perks of being your own publisher. 🙂

I can’t link you to What Boys Are Made Of and the other books in the series because I think Stephanie is redoing them. It’s too bad she unpublished while relaunching them though, because they were really good. Probably some of the best indie work I’ve ever read. I hope she gets them put back up really soon. They deserve to be out in the world.

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Entropy is the first in a trilogy, and I’ve read them all. I’ve mentioned before Joshua helped me by beta-reading Don’t Run Away, and we formed a friendship after meeting on Twitter. He has quite a few books in his backlist now, and if you want to read his next book, Perplexity, he’s blogging the scenes for a little entertainment due to COVID-19. You can find his blog, Perplexitybook.com, here.

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I love Aila with all my heart, and she knows her stuff. She introduced me to Canva, knows her way around IngramSpark, and is all around a fantastic writer. Sex, Love, and Technicalities is the first in a duet, and I helped her edit the second (which is why I’m attached to it, not because I helped her write it). Aila and I have been friends for a really long time.

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One of the first indie books I read was David’s Lonely Deceptions. Originally published as a novella trilogy, Austin Macauley squished them together and published them as a whole. Not that I would recommend going with a vanity press, David was fortunate and they paid him, not the other way around. Just recently he wrote the sequel and sent it off to Austin so the books would be consistent (they gave him an advance for that book also). Right now he’s working on something new that will be published under a pen name because he says he’s tired of people thinking he’s a doctor. LOL

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Tom is another writer who kind of fell off the grid, though I think he’s active on Goodreads. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but I’ve read all of his books, and he was one of my first Writer Twitter friends. I think Jewel introduced us. His books are hilarious, but dark, and I recommend empathetic all the time. It’s laugh-out-loud good.

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Indie Publishing Predictions for 2020: Audiobooks

If you read Mark Coker’s predictions back to back with Written Word Media’s, you’ll see they have two very different ideas about what audio is going to do this year for us indies. According to Mark Coker, audio for indies has come and gone. According to Written Word Media, audio will continue to grow and more indie authors will invest.

Which is it?

I guess the more important question is, do you have the money to care?

Audiobook creation is expensive, and there are a couple of things you need to weigh before choosing to spend thousands on an audiobook.

  1. Where? Amazons ACX will trap you in a seven-year contract, and you do not have control of your own pricing. Seven years is a long time. You can create an audiobook through ACX and opt out of exclusivity to Amazon, but your royalties are lower through Audible. Findaway Voices is another place for audiobook creation, but once again, if your audiobook is wide, you’re looking at lower royalties from Audible, though there are more places to sell audio than ever before.
  2. How much will it cost? Lots to consider here. How long is your book? I’ve heard you want to give listeners their bang for their buck. Credits on Audible will buy any book, so listeners are more inclined to spend their credits on longer books. But for indies, these are more expensive to produce. It makes no sense to pay a narrator to narrate your novella because production will be cheaper for you. Audible subscribers won’t waste a credit on it.
  3. Distribution and marketing. You decide to go wide with your audiobook and opt out of exclusivity with ACX (Audible). That’s cool, but if you’re strapped for cash and you were searching couch cushions to pay for your voice actor, you won’t have money to market your audiobook. If you can’t market it, no one will know about it. Kind a like your ebooks, huh?

Written Word Media predicts the audio market will grow. Mark Coker says the audio market will become saturated and indies just starting out have already missed the boat. What does that mean? Audio will likely remain out of your reach until you start making money on your e-books. If an average indie can’t make a regular income until they have 20+ books published, audio in the near future isn’t likely.

Finding a narrator who will do a royalty split with you instead of being paid upfront is getting harder and harder. As Bryan Cohen, on a recent episode of the Sell More Books

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Voice actors have their own audience and have to take care of their own reputations.                     Photo by The Teens Network Daytime Show Studios on Pexels.com

Show says, voice actors are becoming savvy. They know they won’t earn their time/money back if they do a royalty share and will only do work paid upfront. Voice actors have their own wallets and reputations to look out for. If your e-books aren’t selling, you’ll have a difficult time finding a reputable narrator to work with you.

What does this mean for an indie starting out? For audio, at least for now, we feel rushed because we are. If the audiobook industry is saturated now, what will it look like in 2025? There’s no way to know, but you’d be better off writing than worrying about trying to find a foothold you can’t afford.

What if you really want to get in on the action? You don’t have to be completely left out, but even if it doesn’t cost money, it will cost you some time. As an emerging author, you have to decide if it’s worth it, or if you’d be better off writing.

  1. Do live recordings. Go on Facebook or YouTube. Save the recordings and post to your social media and blog. True, you’re not going to make money with free recordings, but at this point you’re building your back list and audience and/or hoping for a newsletter subscribers. My son is listening to free Witcher readings on YouTube. Sometimes it’s not all about sales but exposure, which at this point is what you want.
  2. Create your own. Joanna Penn used to narrate her non-fiction in a closet. Winter jackets can create a soundproof room. But you’ll still have to figure out some kind of editing software because a listener isn’t going to want to hear you flubbing every other line. (By the way, ACX and other platforms have quality control. Even if you happen to have the patience to read your whole book aloud, that doesn’t mean it’s good enough for sale.) Narrate your book in chapters and put it on Patreon, or hope for traffic on your blog. You don’t have to be left out of the audio loop, but you’ll be going about it in a different way.
  3. Explore AI. Audiobook distributors don’t accept text to audio files right now, but that’s not to say you still can’t create an AI file. Be careful using text to voice software because sometimes they aren’t available for commercial use unless you pay their fee. I tried to find something to link up to this blog, but the voices  sounded bad, or the fee was too much to bother with, usually both. Maybe you’ll find something if you decide to go this route.
  4. If you want to offer different mediums, publish your books in Large Print and hardcover. Find someone with Vellum; Large Print is a formatting option with that software. Adjust your cover to a larger spine, and you’re done. KDP has a Large Print box you can select when publishing, and your book will be labeled that way on your book’s product page. Pretty simple to offer your book in a different way. If you buy your ISBN numbers, you can publish your book with a hardcover on IngramSpark. Not necessarily a HARDCOVER that requires you also design a jacket, though that is an option, but you can publish your books with a harder cover like a children’s book. You don’t have to offer audio to sell your books in different ways.

I haven’t done anything with audio yet. Anyone who knows me knows my favorite part of all this is the actual writing and anything that takes my attention away from it I have no use for. The pragmatic side of me knows I need to explore more ways to sell books, but my stubborn side says screw it. I can’t afford audio, and even if I could, my books aren’t selling well enough to warrant it. Maybe in my case, Mark Coker is right – I missed the audiobook opportunity. Or maybe something else will come along. At some point AI text to audio will be acceptable. Us poor indies can wait for that day.

In the meantime, keep writing. You can only have an audiobook if you have a book in the first place. When it comes to this prediction, keep your eyes on your own paper and don’t worry what other indies are doing. As an emerging author, you can only do what your situation allows you to do.

As for me, I don’t care. I can’t afford audio. I listen to my book through Word’s text to voice during my editing process so I know how it will sound spoken aloud if I can ever afford it. At least lay the groundwork for a successful audiobook in case the opportunity ever presents itself.

For more resources on audiobooks, Joanna Penn is coming out with Audio for Authors, it’s on preorder right now, and you can take a look at it here.

She is also interviewed by Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea on the 6 Figure Author podcast, and you can listen to it here.

If you’re interested in tips on how to vlog, or do live videos, in the past I’ve recommend Amy Schmittauer’s book, Vlog Like a Boss. She gives you lots of practical tips for looking and sounding good on camera.

Next we will explore Written Word Media’s second prediction – indie authors and organic reach.

See you then!


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2020 Indie Publishing Predictions Blog Series

2020 indie publishing predictions

Sometimes when you’re just beginning, you don’t pay attention to the world around you. You think most news doesn’t pertain to you, or if something cool is happening, you can’t participate anyway.

Maybe you feel ill-equipped to do anything with new information, so why bother to know it? Or you automatically think you’re not going to be able to afford it, because let’s face it, us indies don’t have a lot of money to put toward our books.

With indie publishing, something changes every second, and it’s hard to keep up, weed out the useless information from what could help you get ahead, and apply those things to your career.

This is the the first week of the second month of the New Year. 2020 predictions have come and gone, but we still have a full eleven months of the year to go, and as any pregnant woman knows, eleven months can be a long time, and lots can change.

So let’s not ignore the predictions of the indie publishing industry because there is a lot of time for some to pan out, and time for you to apply some of these tips to your own career if you’re so inclined.

Written Word Media put out its own predictions with some of the indie heavy-hitters weighing in, including but not limited to Michael Anderle, (creator of the 20booksto50k Facebook group and conference, not to mention head of his own publishing empire) Mark Lefebvre, Bryan Cohen, David Gaughran, and Mark Dawson.

Their predictions touch on audiobooks, author collaborations, pay-to-play marketing, and much more.

I’ll also be combining Mark Coker’s 2020 predictions for the indie-publishing industry. Founder of Smashwords, an e-book distributor and publisher, he weighs in on what he thinks is going to happen to the indie-publishing space, and his dire predictions when it comes to Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

I’ll be looking at these predictions through an emerging author’s eye. Remember from previous blog posts, Written Word Media classifies an emerging author as an author with six or less books in their backlast who makes less than 60k a year. Transparency–I made less than $2000 in 2019 with KDP, my short stint wide, and my paperbacks through IngramSpark.

As a beginning author, I’ll give you my opinion on what’s important and what you can put on the back burner in favor of writing more books. Which is usually a better choice.

When you don’t have much money to spend, you need to choose carefully where you throw your money. Not everything is of equal importance, and only when you’re near burnout do you realize how true this is.

Thanks for joining me on this next blog series. I’ll try to keep posting these on Mondays and continue giving you personal updates on Thursdays or Fridays. I haven’t had much to say on those days as you can just assume I’m plugging away at my wedding party series I’m finishing all that up so they are finally published, or working on book three of my first person trilogy.

In the back of my mind with all this going on, I’m wondering what I want to write next. I hate thinking that I’ll either write third person past stuff if my series sells well, or first person present stuff if my trilogy sells well. You should never write for money, and that is not something I want to encourage to my readers. But I have always had the opinion that you need to write what readers want, and it’s always the best when you can combine what you love to write with what readers love to read. In that sweet spot you’ll find your career. I have enjoyed writing first person present. I didn’t think I would, but it was a pleasant surprise. I am also only reading first person present books right now, so I don’t confused myself with other tenses.

Writing to Market

In these days of pay-to-play, I know books only sell as much as you market, and that is one of the predictions Written Word Media goes into that we’ll talk about.

So, sit back, relax, and don’t worry. You won’t need your sunglasses. According to Mark Coker, our futures aren’t that bright.

We’ll be exploring audiobooks first! See you then!


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Is IngramSpark distribution pricing causing problems for authors on Amazon?

I don’t know when IngramSpark started distributing to Walmart.com.

A few weeks ago I saw someone post about having trouble with the pricing of their books  on Amazon because they were on sale on Walmart.com. At the time I thought the only way you could have your books on the retailer’s site was if you published your ebook with Kobo. With their partnership with Walmart, Walmart sells Kobo ebooks in their books section. I didn’t think anything of it, attributed it to the operator and not the machine and moved on.

But then I listened to an episode of The Sell More Books Show podcast, and they also featured an author who was having pricing problems on Amazon due to their paperbacks being on Walmart.com. (I tried to find the episode that news clip was featured on and I don’t remember when I listened to it.)

Of course, then I had to look for my own books. If you remember from a past blog post, I did have my ebooks on Walmart.com when I was wide through Kobo. That didn’t last long, and as I far as I know, I didn’t sell one through that channel either.

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The problem that’s been going around online now is that Walmart.com is willing to take a loss on books, and they have no problem discounting them. The person who does have a problem with it? Amazon. They’ll get on your butt right away for having a cheaper product than them somewhere else, and they’ll price match as soon as they find out. Some authors are even being told to contact Walmart and ask them to not discount their book(s), but of course, that’s impossible.

To combat this, authors are upping their prices on IngramSpark. That seems crappy though because 1) your book is suddenly more than you wanted it to be and 2) if you have your price anywhere on your cover you have to adjust your price on the cover so the prices match. I ran into that problem more than once, so I know first hand that Ingram won’t let you update your files unless they match.

Is publishing with IngramSpark worth it? I don’t know. It depends on what your goals are. How many books have I sold through Ingram? I only have my paperbacks there to take the place of expanded distribution on Amazon. I don’t go onto my dashboard very often because print isn’t part of my business model, but let me check:

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I’ve sold five copies. I’m not even sure where to look to find out where those copies were sold from. Maybe it was Walmart, maybe Waterstones, maybe Barnes and Noble. Not sure, and to be honest, five copies? I guess it doesn’t really matter, either, does it?

So what am I going to do? At this point I’m not going to do anything.

It used to be a big draw for me to have my books available to be sold in bookstores. A lot of times authors don’t understand that if you want your books in bookstores or libraries it has to be available through IngramSpark. You can always sell your books on consignment or donate your book to a library, but if you want them to order your book properly, it needs to be available through the Ingram catalogue, and that is the sole reason I published there. I still haven’t approached my Barnes and Noble or local indie bookstore to ask if they’ll carry my books–even in the local authors section. I haven’t bothered to ask my library to carry it. (If you want your ebook part of a borrowing app like Libby, you need to be wide and published through OVERDRIVE which is an available option through Draft2Digital.)

But since my ebooks can’t be in libraries because I’m in KU, and taking into account my dismal paperback sales on other platforms, it makes me wonder just how worth it is to publish on Ingram if I’m going to have to go through the hassle of keeping my eyes on my prices. I don’t want Amazon mad at me. They are going to be a huge part of my income once my books start moving and I would prefer to stay on their good side.

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As for me, maybe the sale on All of Nothing doesn’t have anything to do with prices on other platforms. Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with Walmart. I know Amazon will occasionally run sales on certain titles, and I never had a problem with that because I know that if AMAZON runs a sale on your book that you’ll receive full royalties. But do you if they price match behind your back? Hmmm.

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Here’s the first row of my books on Barnes and Noble. Everyone wants to discount All of Nothing it seems.

A list of retailers on Ingram’s website indicates they distribute to target.com and also Chapters/Indigo bookstores in Canada. I’m not going to go through the whole list, but I find it interesting, and I haven’t bothered to really look before. Some of my books are available on chapters.indigo.ca but some of the covers aren’t available, and a couple books in my trilogy have the old covers on them. You can look. here if you’re interested.

Well, I’m not going to freak out about it until Amazon asks me to stop offering my books at a lower price on other platforms. I don’t know if this sale is by them or not. Usually these flash sales don’t last long, and I’ll just keep an eye on my prices.

But it is something to be aware of all the same.

Thanks for reading the ramblings of this woman, and if you specifically want to see if my book is still on sale at the time of your reading this or perhaps by yourself a copy, the direct link is here.

Thanks for stopping by, and have an amazing and productive weekend!


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Print Quality KDP Print vs IngramSpark. Spoiler alert–there isn’t a winner.

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I bought book stands for the event! I have to admit, this is a lovely cover!

I was invited to an author event that took place last week. I had several weeks to prepare for this, i.e. find my willpower/energy to face a crowd, figure out what I was going to wear, and the most important thing . . . order author copies.

I was in the middle of redoing the covers for Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing. I’ve worked with KDP long enough that doing a cover in Canva and submitting it is a piece of cake by now. IngramSpark is still taking some time to get used to, and when they flagged Wherever He Goes, I left it alone because I didn’t want to deal with it.

I happily accepted the invitation to sell my books at a librarian convention that took place in West Fargo, North Dakota. Admittedly, I should have ordered author copies the moment I was invited. But as I said, I was redoing my covers, and I thought, hell, I have plenty of time to order copies.

Note to self: don’t ever think that again.

I redid the covers submitted them to KDP, ordered my proofs and approved them.

The event was held on September 26th, and ordered my author copies August 26th. I thought a whole month would be enough time, because in the past it has been. Usually it takes about two and a half weeks. But not this time.

With two weeks left before the event, I received and email from KDP and they told me my order was being delayed. I fixed the file for Wherever He Goes in Ingram. The next day they approved the file, and in a panic, I rush ordered author copies from IngramSpark.

Now, I haven’t heard many stories, good or otherwise, about the quality of copies from IngramSpark. Mostly I’ve heard if you want better quality, you order from them. So needless to say, when my author copies came from them and they didn’t look good, I was crushed.

I received my author copies from Ingram a full week before I received them from KDP because not only did I pay for expedited shipping, I paid for expedited printing, too. You can argue that could be the reason for the poor quality, but in my opinion, you’re paying for the copies, so there should be no reason for poor quality books, period. Especially from a company who prides itself on quality.

If push had come to shove, I could have sold the books Ingram sent me. But I didn’t want to. They didn’t look professional. I could have said it was printing error, but that would still reflect bad on me as a professional author.

Luckily, my KDP Print books came, and they looked good. I realize that was also a gamble. Had those come in poor quality as well, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the book signing.

As it turns out, I didn’t sell any books anyway, but I did receive several compliments on my covers, so it was worth the crap I went through to get them.

Today I put in a request for a refund for my books from Ingram. Take a look a the pictures I submitted as proof they did not look good:

poor quality cover the years between us ingram spark

This is a copy of The Years Between Us from Ingram. Can you see the line through my name? At first I thought that was my fault because the template was showing through, but I checked the file, and even if the template was showing through (for some messed up reason) there is no line there. So it wasn’t that. The same thing happened to Wherever He Goes, but it’s more pronounced near my first name, so I only have the sliver to show you for emphasis:

poor quality cover ingram wherever he goes


All of Nothing
was the most messed up. Wherever He Goes wasn’t centered that well, but All of Nothing looked horrible:

poor quality cover all of nothing ingram spark

The title was almost cut off , and the couple is obviously not centered.

So I put in a request for credit to my account, and if you ever need to do that, you look under Orders, and under Submitted, click on Report an Issue for the order that needs to be refunded.

2019-10-01.png

I’ve never returned books to anywhere before, so I don’t know if they’ll want the books back, or if they’ll let me keep them or what. I’ll let you know. I can tell you that there was a spot for you to download pictures of the books, so be prepared to show them proof of the messed up author copies. I’ve heard KDP wants proof of quality/damage, so that’s not unusual.

The book signing went okay. I never sold any books, like I said, so all this hoopla with the author copies feels like a whole lot of work and money for nothing, but it was a fun experience, and it didn’t take me very long to realize I was the only author there who didn’t have a Square. That didn’t make any difference in the end, but next time I’ll be more prepared.

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The moral of the story is this: always keep author copies on hand if you have regular opportunities to do this, either from KDP Print or IngramSpark. You need lots of time to receive them, and more importantly, you need time to return them and/or order replacements if necessary.


Special thanks to Tina Holland for inviting me to participate in this event. She’s a romance writer involved with the RWA and other writing groups in my area. You can follow her on twitter here @haveubeenaughty and her website tinaholland.com.


Thank you for reading, and may the month of October treat you well!

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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.

2019-08-13 (1)

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?

2019-08-13 (2)

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?

2019-08-13 (3)

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.

2019-08-13 (4)

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.

2019-08-13 (5)

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

2019-08-13 (6)

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?

2019-08-13 (7)

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:

2019-08-13 (8)

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!

 

Author Interview: Debut Author Dave S. Koster

dave koster author picture

Author Dave S. Koster

Dave was kind enough to let me interview him for today’s blog to celebrate his new release! Enjoy the interview and we hope you learn something from his rocky path to publication. Because, you know, nothing can go smoothly.


I’ve known you for a long time, though I can’t remember who introduced us, but for those new in the writing community, tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been writing since around 2002 – I picked it up when my wife and I moved back to Alaska from Maryland. I actually did a bit of writing when I was in High School, but I was mostly interested in video game storylines at the time. In any case, back in 2002, I was out of work and was sketching up ideas for a video game, but lacked the technical skills for game development, but story writing was something that seemed more attainable. I dabbled for ages, taking large breaks to build a house, learn how to make furniture, work briefly as a college teacher, and other various hobbies. Then in 2014 (I think?), I had a moment on my morning commute. It was one of those days that only an Alaskan commute can give you – loads of golden light spilling over the tops of snow-capped mountains. The moment amounted to: What the heck are you doing? Either you do this or you don’t do it. I concluded that I was entirely too stupid to know when I couldn’t do a thing, so I decided I was going to double-down and get serious about it. I finished the book I had been working on for about 10 years and later that summer started my second, Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, which was the one just published on the 5th of June.

I remember Wine Bottles and Broomsticks from way back when you tried to fund it using InkShares. Can you tell us about your experience? (To see his old campaign, look here!)

This was one of the most informative experiences I’ve had yet with the business. On the whole, it was good in that the system was easy to use making the technical bits of the process manageable. That said, I would never recommend this avenue to most writers. You have to have a following of readers or supporters first. If I were a ‘personality’ with fans, I might have made the goal, but I didn’t have that. I’m a new author from the perspective of readers even now after having done rather a lot of self-improvement and several (unpublished) books under my belt. I think it’s hard to convince readers to buy a book from an unknown that won’t be ready for weeks or months. The other part of the experience was just how much other writers tried to help.

In a blog post from a couple years ago, you said the book was going nowhere and ultimately, you chose to self-publish. It seems like this wasn’t as easy decision for you. How did you finally decide to publish your novel on your own? (To read that blog post of Dave’s, click here.)

Honestly, that post was from a pretty negative place. I’d queried 30 or 40 agents and failed the crowd-funding even after tons of help from other writers. At the time, I really wanted to get an agent and go traditional. I was hoping that I might be that rare unicorn who manages to become a full-time writer. I think this book was the first step realizing that it’s not going to happen. Anyhow, fast-forward to last fall. I decided that I wanted to self-publish the Dark Queen of Darkness. This was mostly because I’d realized that an agent won’t pick up my work, and in even if s/he did AND I got a publishing deal, I’ve got a full-time job that actually pays the bills and I couldn’t meet their deadlines or expectations. I need to keep things on my schedule and my time, so self-publishing suddenly was the only viable route. This spring, after working with an editor, and meeting with a cover designer, I started looking at nuts and bolts bits of publishing, I realized I have absolutely NO idea what I’m doing. Even with all of the advice and what-not, I still don’t really ‘get it’. I decided, around that time, that I’d quietly release an already finished book in order to learn how to operate all of the software, navigate the platforms, and generally understand how all of these things work. The whole point of publishing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks was to ensure a smooth launch for the Dark Queen of Darkness.

There is a lot to learn. Even after six books, I always make a mistake when I publish. Every time. It’s infuriating, so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Luckily there is a lot of help out there, and you’ve been part of the online writing community for a long time now. Did you find they were a help to you during the publishing process? Did the networking pay off?

The writing community has been a huge help. Everyone I’ve engaged with has had something helpful to say or offered their time to read/comment or otherwise help me do a better job at the craft. Not to mention hours of encouragement. I think I pointed out your amazing help on cover design. I’d never have been able to work that out on my own. Actually, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have even tried to self-publish without the confidence I got copying your notes. So, yes, the networking has paid off and given me the confidence I completely lack on my own. If it weren’t for the writers on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, I’d probably have given up.

Yeah, I don’t think the moderator of that group liked my how-to tutorial. She shut down comments not long after I posted the entire thing. To be fair, I should have posted on the other FB page they have for the how-to stuff for cover design, and not the feedback page. But I hoped it helped a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have known. Anyway, this is your first book! What would you say was the hardest part about the publishing process?

I’ve got a whole bunch of ‘hardest parts’ I could go on for days. I was very nearly in ugly man-tears mid-day Tuesday over it. By far, though, trying to get all of the accounts set up and stuff uploaded. I still don’t have my book uploaded to Ingram Spark yet, because it won’t save the title and I haven’t got the foggiest clue as to why. Runners-up include: paperback layout (InDesign is spendy for me, and Vellum doesn’t work on my computer). The third is the business side. I’m still absolutely mystified about what royalty plan I should be taking. I got spooked by 70%, so went with 35% because if I’m making less money it must mean I’ve got less liability? I don’t even know. Those are just the starting points.

Definitely take the 70%. What Amazon allows you to take depends on how much you’re pricing your book for. Grab whatever you can!

Indies talk a lot about going wide. Is your book in the Kindle Unlimited program? Or did you choose to publish on other platforms like Nook and Apple Books?

I plan to go wide, but it’s going to be step-by-step so I can figure it out. When I do The Dark Queen book, I’m hoping that all of the pieces will be in place and it’ll go relatively smoothly across all platforms at once so I don’t have any terrible delays. Essentially, the goal is to add a second book to an existing platform rather than try to get it all set-up and hope I don’t experience any unexpected snags on launch day.

A) How did you come to that decision?

The decision on Kindle Unlimited is based on the hugely restrictive nature of KU. Plus, it’s possible to be completely banned from Amazon’s platform if you violate their TOS, which is a lot more restrictive in KU. After I saw Adam Dreece’s situation a few years back, I don’t know if you remember that, but I concluded that it just wasn’t worth it. Plus it leaves me with questions on stuff like: Can I sell locally at book fairs and things? What’s more, I’m not really sure it’s any more lucrative for someone who isn’t particularly prolific.

I remember Adam’s situation; it happened to a couple other big-time authors around that time, too. That would be scary–especially if you’ve grown to rely on that income. Joanna Penn encourages first time authors to learn Amazon first and then after the dust settles, so to speak, learn the other platforms. Which makes sense. Adam Croft endorses going wide from the get-go. They are two different animals, for sure, but depending on the kind of publishing schedule you have to stick with because of personal obligations, learning Amazon first may be an easier task.

B) If you’re wide, what aggregator did you use, and how was that experience?

I haven’t set up with an Aggregator. This is 100% because still totally new to this and just learned about that right now. Even then, I’m a bit of a control freak and would likely prefer to release per-platform on my own, where possible –at least at first. I don’t know much about Kobo, but B&N is trying to put together a system similar to Amazon for authors. I’ll use Ingram Spark to publish the books outside of Amazon’s platforms and they seem to have services that’ll get me there. I’ll likely change my mind after I research aggregators more and start to understand all of this better.

There is a lot to learn. Some would argue that Barnes and Noble is sinking, and fast. It’s probably one of the reasons why authors stick with Amazon. I have good feelings about Kobo, and you should go direct with them so you have access to their promotions tab. You have to email them for it, but you can only access it if you go through them directly. I use Draft to Digital for places like Apple Books, and yeah, Nook. They upload my book to a few places I’ve never heard of, as well. IngramSpark will publish your ebook too, if you can get them to work for you.

You released the paperback after the ebook. What was the reason for that?

In a nutshell: Impatience. I hadn’t planned on saying much or letting folks know it was out there until everything was ready and I could see it myself. It seems that every time I press a new button in this world, I learn something, new, profound, and sometimes expensive. I’m the sort of person that has to do a thing before I can really learn it, and getting things all ‘set up’ but un-launched is like a task waiting for a problem that will take 2 weeks to sort out. The paperback is ready, I just haven’t seen the proof yet. I was having trouble with the gutters, so I’m not convinced the printed copy will turn out – plus I’m concerned about the cover quality. When I hit the button to publish, I was really thinking that once it’s available on Amazon, I have something to point to in setting things up for Goodreads and the Amazon author page. Plus, I thought it might help a bit in getting Ingram Spark going. There are so many things to do in launching a book and this is all my first time.

You mentioned once you thought self-publishing would be expensive. Was this true in your experience? How did you save money? What was the biggest expenditure in the process?

My experience is that it can go both ways. Wine Bottles and Broomsticks cost a couple of hundred dollars when all costs are taken into account, before advertising. I didn’t get an editor, and I did my own cover. I’m not convinced this was the right decision. Dark Queen of Darkness has been very expensive so far. The dollar figure is likely to be a few thousand to get professional editing, cover, layout, and other things. I’m 95% certain I’ll never make that money all the way back.

Do you have any plans to market?

Yes, but not until I get everything in place. I want to do some testing with Amazon promotions and advertising on other platforms. When I launch Dark Queen of Darkness, I’ll do local events as well and will try to launch with a bit more fanfare than a retweeted post from my wife. I want to see what sort of return on investment might be reasonable.

I understand. I’ve gotten grief for pushing publish and walking away. But the community on Twitter is fabulous–there is so much support there. Every seems genuinely happy for you and cheering for your success. I usually tweet out a little something, but as you write more and publish more, you’ll find you need to break out of writer social media and find that reader social media. Easier said than done!

Thank you for chatting with me! If you have any issues with anything, let me know how I can help!


Check out Dave’s book cover . . . isn’t it great?! You can click the cover and it will take you to Dave’s Amazon page. Give him a follow there, and at Goodreads! Dave blogs too, and you can follow his website here.

wind bottles and broomsticks book cover

Thanks for reading!