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

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

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

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

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graphic taken by survey linked above

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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graph taken from survey linked above

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where you look to get a call back:

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

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Click the contact us.

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Choose the best way they can help you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we learn through all this?

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

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

Lesson learned for future books.

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

Have a good week, everyone!


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Another try with Amazon Ads. Am I finally selling some books?

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If you don’t follow Bryan Cohen then you should. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and listen to the podcast he hosts with Jim Kukral.

This guy knows what he’s talking about with Amazon ads, and a lot of the stuff he puts out into social media is free. Don’t get me wrong, some of what he puts out there is a hook to get you to buy some of his courses, but he’s a businessman, and well, that’s what they do. But following him on social media for the free tidbits is totally worth it if you’re starting at zero.

I was starting at zero, and even though I had read Brian Meeks’ book on the subject, trying what he suggested didn’t move the needle. But to be fair, that was a while back and I didn’t have as many books published as I do now. They didn’t have the good covers they do now, and I didn’t know how to find keywords.

Bryan Cohen has a different approach, and I totally encourage you to try different things. We all publish different kinds of books, and lots of people get frustrated when something kills it for someone but then they try it and it does nothing, or even worse, it wastes money.

I took a free 5 day ad challenge Bryan hosted a couple weeks ago on Facebook. Of course, it was to sell an ad course that I didn’t buy because I couldn’t afford it (did you know scraping a cat’s bladder for stones cost 2,600 dollars? Yeah, Harley is fine now.), but during the five days I did his challenge, I learned a lot about ads, and more specifically, where to find keywords.

Keywords will make or break your ads. And I know you’re going to call me a cop-out writing this blog post and not telling you where to find them. But in a show of integrity and out of respect for Bryan, I’ll point you in his direction and let him tell you how (or you can use Publisher Rocket, or try Alex’s K-lytics and read his blog). After all, I wouldn’t know what I know without his help, and I’m all about attribution. I will feel comfortable saying this though: all my keywords are titles of bestselling books in my genre that are in KU. How you go about assembling this list will be up to you, but using a list comprised of titles that sell that are similar to yours works.

I started the challenge on September 20th, 2019. He told us to focus on one book, so I chose All of Nothing. That still proves to be my strongest book, and it’s made me the most money with the challenge. After the 5 day challenge was over, I did ads for my other two standalone books, and All of Nothing still blows it out of the water.

Since September 20th, on my three standalones I’ve had 110,709 impressions (impressions are free), 226 clicks, and $50.29 worth of ad spend. That might seem like a little bit of money to you, but remember that you’re hopefully earning most, if not all and beyond, that money back. Those stats are based on 42 ads. All of Nothing has the most, which may be why I’m selling more of that book, at 27 ads running right now. Some are from the challenge and some are ones I did on my own. Wherever He Goes has 7, and The Years Between Us has 8. I focused on keyword ads and I wrote a couple lines of my own ad copy for each ad. Bryan said to bid low, and while that’s up to you, I’m getting clicks and impressions with bids under 40 cents, which is really good considering my genre is contemporary romance, and that is a highly competitive genre. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily pay 40 cents just because you bid it. My cost per click average is .22 cents.

Now, I’ll tell you how much I’ve made since September 20, 2019, and learning ads is going to be a slow process. If you break even when you first start out, you should consider that a success.

To accurately know how much you’ve made, I suggest you use BookReport. It’s free until

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These tips are a great reason to follow Bryan Cohen Blurbs on IG!

your monthly earnings exceed 1,000 dollars. That will tell you how much you’ve made with sales and KU READS. Your ads dashboard does not include KU reads, so if you’re in KU and you see you’ve spent 50 dollars on ads, but only made 13 dollars in sales, those are Kindle/paperback sales, and not KU reads. Bryan was very adamant about making sure we knew that. You could turn off a profitable ad not figuring in your KU page reads, so make sure you take those into consideration. After all, those are the main reason we’re in KU–so don’t forget to include them in your sales data.

I check my ad spend and sales every morning before I go into the writing, and today my ad spend is since I started the challenge, like I said, is $50.29.

What I’ve made so far since I started the challenge is 55.06. I’ve made 5 bucks. That might not seem like a lot, and it’s not. Not in the grand scheme of things. But I’m in it for more than the cash right now, so let’s look at what else we can glean from this data:

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BookReport shows me that I’m getting sales as well as page reads. This is super since I wasn’t barely getting anything before the challenge, never mind when I was wide and trying to get traction spending money on promos.

All of Nothing has had 10 sales, and 7,894 page reads. All of Nothing is 420 KENPC, so if you divide 7894 by 420, you get the equivalent of 18.79 (almost 19) books read. For me, that’s pretty good for sales.

The Years Between Us is less at 420, so without doing the math, 603 is the equivalent of about 2 books read. Wherever He Goes, I can say just one book in KU page reads was read.

At this stage of the game, I’m happy with breaking even. Why?

  • Readers are seeing my ads. With a low bid, this is a big deal. Lots of people think they need to bid high to be seen, and clearly, that’s not the case. Bryan did not tell us to go after the big-named trad authors in our genre. He told us to target authors that are in KU in our genre that are doing well. Should I target Lauren Landish or Nora Roberts? Which obviously would be cheaper? Lauren is in KU and number one at the time of writing.
  • I’m getting clicks. This is also a big deal. Why? Because it tells me my covers are good and my ad copy is pulling readers in to click my ad and take a look at my product page.
  • I’m getting sales, though small ones. Part of ad maintenance is making sure your clicks convert to sales. If they aren’t, then something is wrong with your sales page. Maybe your blurb is bad, or your look inside doesn’t sound good. You’re losing readers between the click and the sale. Maybe your cover doesn’t hit the mark after all (or maybe you’re not in KU and readers were hoping you would be). Maybe based on your cover they thought it would be about one thing, but then they read your blurb and thought it was about something else. It could be anything, so make sure you keep up with clicks and if they are turning into sales.
  • Hopefully some of these sales and KU reads will turn into more reviews. I need reviews and if people enjoy my books, maybe down the road they’ll leave a review.

Ads aren’t always about making money. When you’re starting out you don’t want to lose money, but you’re also paying for exposure and hopefully reviews.

What am I going to do moving forward?

  • Keep an eye on my ads. Obviously a five dollar return can quickly go from plus to minus, so I will need to make sure I’m always earning or at least breaking even.
  • Work on my ad copy. Find a hook and reel in your readers.
  • Do more ads for All of Nothing. If that book is going to be my biggest earner, I need to exploit that.
  • Explore ads for my trilogy. Someone read Chasing You, so my trilogy has read-through potential. I always forget that they are decent books and people are reading all three of them. In my head I’ve kind of written them off as average, but maybe if I throw some ads at Don’t Run Away, the trilogy will make me some money. (I’ll need to rewrite the blurbs for those books and put in better keywords in my KDP dashboard before I try ads with those.)
  • Look for more keywords. New books pop up on the bestseller list all the time.  Keep adding titles to your keyword list.
  • Have patience. It’s easy to want to bid high, but Bryan has taught me that I can get impressions and clicks and not go broke. I’m going to follow his advice and keep my bids low.

I feel like that 5 day challenge was successful. His ad course digs a lot deeper into other things but I’ll take what I can for now. Learning ad copy and not being afraid to create more ads is what I’ll be focusing on for the next little while.

What do you need to do before you do ads?

  • Know your genre. If you don’t know your genre you don’t know what authors to target.
  • Make sure your cover is genre-appropriate. If you don’t run ads with ad copy, all your potential readers will see is your book cover. A picture is worth a thousand words, and it really is if that’s all your using to draw readers in.

    ads without ad copy

    The ad without ad copy sticks out, huh? But she’s got a hot cover, so it’s not so bad. 🙂

  • Make sure your blurb sounds good on your product page. Make it look good too with bold and spaces between paragraphs.
  • Make sure your price is genre-appropriate. Before the challenge, I lowered my prices from 4.99 to 2.99. Without testing I won’t know for sure if the lower price is helping people buy. That’s marketing strategy, and you’ll have to decide for yourself.
  • Fix the keywords in your KDP dashboard. I did a blog post about how to find real ones for your books. You can also search blurbs of books that are similar to yours and if the same words keep popping up (like action-packed) then include those too. You’re not limited to 7 just because there are seven spaces.

I’m not an expert at any of this. All I can tell you is what is working for me. Slow or otherwise. In the past 21 days I feel like I’ve finally found something that might work to get my books in front of readers. Hopefully it will help you too!

Thanks if you’ve made it this far. I’ll keep plugging away and I’ll start giving you guys monthly updates! Have a great 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.

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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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Kindle Create: for Kindle and Paperbacks for KDP

kindle create for blog 1Formatting for an ereader and paperback grows easier and easier all the time with the tools that are continually created for indie authors. These days it’s easier than ever to pay someone for their time if they have Vellum, a formatting software available on Mac computers.

If you don’t have the connections or the cash to pay someone to do it for you, or you want to remain in control (it’s hard and maybe costly to approach your formatter every time you want to make a change your to your book; for instance if you want to update your back matter, or you swapped out your cover and need to change the attribution to the photographer and add a new photo id) Draft2Digital offers a free formatting on their website that also formats your book for paperback and ereader. Draft2Digital creates a .mobi file and an epub you can download so you can go wide with your files if you like.

But if you are only going to publish on Amazon, there is another software you can try. Kindle Create offers both Kindle and paperback formatting, and both files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard enabling you to publish quickly and easily.

There are drawbacks to the software however: the files can only be used on Amazon. Since the finished files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard, they are not “yours.” When you format with D2D, you download the files they generate for you, and you can use them wherever you please. With Kindle Create, that is not the case. Also if you make ANY changes to your document, those changes are stuck inside the software, but that might not matter to you if you’re only uploading changes to publish on Kindle. It is something to keep in mind, though.

How do you get started?

Download the Kindle Create software. Download how you would normally download new software. Sometimes that means finding the file in your Downloads and clicking on it to start the install process if it doesn’t install automatically. Accept terms and conditions. The install process only takes a few moments.

Then it will ask if you want to resume an existing project or start a new one,  but first you need to enable Early Access so you can create paperbacks with the software.

Click on Help in the upper left hand corner, then Settings. Check Enable Beta Features.

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Then you can import your Word File. It only takes a moment.

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Click Continue when you’re done.

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Your Word file for your book should have your Title Page, your Copyright Page, Dedication, Acknowledgements, and any back matter you want. The only thing Kindle Create will generate for you is the Table of Contents.  Click on Insert in the upper left hand corner and it will look like this:

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When you upload your file, what you see is very generic, and it’s up to you to design your manuscript how you want it to look. This is the first page of The Years Between Us.

Choose a Theme by clicking on the THEME in the upper right hand corner. Unfortunately, there are not many to choose from, but actually, there are not many to choose from when you format in Vellum, either, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you use Kindle Create.

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The rest is a bit time consuming as you have to go page by page and add the things you want. For example, changing one scene break does not change them all:

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So you may just want to stick with asterisks when you format, unless you are formatting something a little on the shorter side.

The same is true for the chapter start drop caps. You need to put your cursor at the beginning of every paragraph and then choose drop cap on the right under Formatting.

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Kindle Create will nudge you to save every so often, and it’s in your best interest, in any case. It also has a handy UNDO feature in case you mess up somehow.

Like any software, there’s a small learning curve, but it didn’t take me long to play around with it and begin formatting my manuscript how I want it to look.

Once you’re all done, there’s a Preview feature where you can take a look at your book page by page. This is a good idea while you’re still in the software and not in the online previewer on your KDP Dashboard.

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Go through your book page by page. Make sure you didn’t miss any scene breaks, or anything else you’re going to want to change. Flipping through it will take some time, but remember that poor formatting can pull a reader from your story, so you want it to look its best.


Unfortunately, I cannot take you further than this. Pressing Publish will move the files to my KDP Dashboard, and The Years Between Us is already published. But KDP has several tutorials you can watch to see how the process is done. They have a fabulous help section, and you can find anything else out that you’ll need to know.

Look at a typed tutorial here.

Here is a tutorial by KDP on YouTube about Kindle Create. 

Here is another blog post by Just Publishing Advice on their blog. How To Use The Amazon Kindle Create App For Better Ebooks

There are a couple other tutorials that look okay to watch on YouTube, if you search Kindle Create tutorials. The best thing you can do though, is experiment, use the undo button if you do something you don’t like, and save often.

After you publish your files to your dashboard, they will give you options for your paperback such as trim size, and if you want cream or white paper. Your choices will determine the template size for your cover. And you can use the Kindle Cover Creator if you want, to generate a cover for both your Kindle book and paperback, too.

KDP is your one stop shop to formatting, cover creation, and publishing your book!

Have fun!


I wasn’t aware that Kindle Create generated a paperback file until I saw that Daniel Mattia was able to offer a paperback of his book, In Crows’ Claws. We went through some issues he had using Kindle Create in my interview with him a while back. So a big thank you to Daniel and his tips!

Check out his amazing work linked above, and he’s also the creator of an Indie book database called Indie book DB. Check out that site for your next awesome read!


There is a lot that goes into publishing a book, and I hope this can be a starting point if you are new and have no idea where to begin. If you have any questions drop them below, or my DMs on Twitter are open, though it can take me a day or two to get back to you–especially if I have to work that day. Thanks for reading, and good luck to you!


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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.


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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.


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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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