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

woman inside studio

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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Formatting Your Book Descriptions on Amazon

When you add your book’s blurb to the description field on KDP while publishing your book, you may add spaces between the sentences/paragraphs only to find after your book is published they didn’t take on your Amazon’s product page.

Anytime you hear advice about your Amazon product page, you hear that a lump of text is not conducive to sales. Meaning, readers aren’t going to wade through a huge block of text to figure out what your book is about.

I didn’t use a generator for one of my paperback books, and this is how the description looks for the second book in my series:

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That doesn’t look good. Maybe the first sentence is enough of a hook for potential customers to keep reading, or their eyes will glaze over before they even read the first word.

It’s also confusing because when you do the description for your KINDLE book, usually the spaces will stick. And that makes things weird, too, because now your descriptions for your KINDLE book and your PAPERBACK don’t match.

How do you want your description to look?

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This is my description for All of Nothing. I used an HTML generator to make the spaces between the sentences and the paragraphs, and I also added bold which is eye-catching to a potential customer.

How can you do that?

Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur has a FREE Amazon Book Description Generator, and all you have to do is copy and paste your description into it, and generate the text with HTML code for spaces, bold, italics and more. Then you copy and paste the new generated code into your KDP dashboard under your book. KDP makes making changes a headache, and some authors get confused with the process because KDP calls making changes “publishing” but it only takes a day for the change to go into affect.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to https://kindlepreneur.com/amazon-book-description-generator/
  2. Paste your unformatted description into the box.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.29.07 AMAdd the spaces you want and the bold, italics, or other formatting to your text. This is where you make it look like what you want it to look like on your Amazon product page.

    Like you would in Word, highlight the text you want to change, then click on the Style and Structure to apply the formatting.

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  3. Then click GENERATE MY CODE. Your description will have a ton of HTML attached to it, but you want that. KDP will read it and put up your description the way you want it on your product page.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.44.07 AM
  4. Go to your KDP account, find your book in your BOOKSHELF, and click on edit book details. This generated code works Paperback only. If you try to use it for your Kindle book, you’ll receive an error message saying invisible characters cannot be accepted.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.36.04 AM
  5. Delete the description you already have there, and paste in the HTML code you generated from Dave’s description generator.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.36.47 AM
  6. Go through the steps to re-publish your book. The changes take affect in about 24-36 hours depending on how fast KDP gets around to it.

Then your description will have the spaces and bold that you want to catch a potential reader’s eye when they browse your product page.

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This is the description for the first book in the series. It looks like I missed some spaces between periods. But the bold and the spaces between lines and paragraphs look better than the block of text from book two.

Of course, the actual writing of the blurb is another headache that I won’t get into now, but with Dave Chesson’s Amazon Book Description Generator, at least it will look pretty!

Thanks for reading this tip, and I hope you can make it work for you!

Until next time!


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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:

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 9.45.15 PM

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.

Marketing-Is-Hard-book covers 1

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.

Cost-of-Covers-2

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.

kdp contact me screen

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?

amazon advertising logo

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

bryan ad on instagram

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.

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    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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