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

woman wearing purple shirt holding smartphone white sitting on chair

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:

Screen Shot 2019-12-18 at 10.46.31 AM

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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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 3

Hello writers and authors! This is the third blog post in this series that is exploring the findings in an author survey conducted by Written Word Media, the company that brings you Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy and other promotional tools.

You can read the intro to this blog series here and read the second part about how much time career authors spend writing here.

The third thing this survey found about these authors is that they invest in professional editing.

hand holding red pen over proofreading text

Editing can be costly and scary, but it’s much needed by every author.

Remember, emerging authors have six books in their catalog, have never made more than 60k in a year, and spend on average 18 hours a week writing.

60kers have 22 books in their catalog, and, on average, spend 28 hours a week writing.

100kers have 28 books in their catalog and spend, on average 32 hours a week writing.

As we can see by the graphic below that accompanied the original survey, all three kinds of authors use a professional editor the most. But when it comes to editing, new authors have it tough. We’re not making money yet, but we never will if we’re not selling a good product.

Marketing-Is-Hard-3-768x494

And while technology makes it easier than ever to find typos (thanks, Grammarly) technology makes it easier for readers to complain. When you read a book on a Kindle, for example, a reader can highlight a typo or mistake and report it.

Crazy, huh?

It stands to reason a well-edited book will earn you more money in the long run. But when you have no money, it’s hard to come up with the fees.

Not to mention, there are different types of editors, and you may not understand what kind you need, and the cost can add up if you need more than one kind.

If you’re a new writer, you may want to invest in a developmental editor. They’ll weigh in on character arcs, character development, plotting, and pacing. Readers aren’t going to like a book with flat characters and plot holes. Learning craft is hard, but you may only need to hire a developmental editor once to steer you on the right path for the rest of your writing career.

A line editor is different. They check facts (does your sun set in the west and rise in the east?), word usage, and syntax. They’ll correct you if you used the word sporadic when you meant erratic. If you’re not good with details, this kind of edit can help you a lot. I still use advice and tips I learned from the people who beta read and edited my earlier books. I used a lot of garbage words and learned how not to echo words in the same sentences and paragraphs.

Proofreading is a quick read through of the book as a last step for typos, missing words, etc. before publication. This is also the cheapest kind of editing.

If you can afford editing, make sure you ask for a sample first. The indie community is full of people charging for services they have no business providing because they don’t know what they’re doing. Be smart. Reedsy offers a list of professional editors, as well as Joanna Penn.

As for me, as I said above, early on I asked for lots of feedback and I took a lot of their advice. My first beta reader, Joshua Edward Smith, gave me invaluable advice that I still use (and I still laugh over some of my mistakes and his comments).

These days, against popular opinion, I do a lot of my own editing. I have nothing in my defense except that so far I’m not making a lot, and it’s hard to justify the expense. I do use beta readers, and they’ll look for typos for me after I run my manuscript through Grammarly.

2019-11-24You could argue I’m not making any money because my books aren’t edited properly. Maybe. But I’ll use this reasoning instead. Remember Alex Newton’s K-lytics report from one of my previous blog posts? I prefer to blame the saturation of the industry. Shh! I don’t spend much on marketing, so I would prefer to think people don’t know my books are out there.

Can you get by without an editor?

That depends on where your skills are with the craft, how much writing you do, how much feedback you listen to and apply. It depends if you can catch all your own typos, or if you know enough to use Grammarly effectively. (Not everything Grammarly flags needs to be fixed, so you can’t trust it blindly.) Usually the answer to those questions is no.

Would I advise a new author to publish without an editor? Nope. There’s no denying a book will sell better with a strong plot, three-dimensional characters, great grammar and punctuation than one without those things. And if you’re a new author, you’re unlikely to catch all those things on your own, or even know what to look for while editing.

You can building a writing career on a bad book, but it will take you longer than if you start strong.

What can you do?

  1. Join a writing group on FB and swap with someone in your genre. Just be careful and have a thick skin. Ideally, you’d want to form relationships with people in those groups before you ask. At least if you’re more than acquaintances they’ll hopefully be kind and actually be helpful. People can be cruel, and some just like to tear others down out of their own self-esteem issues, or they think they’re better than everyone else. You may need to pick through a few people before you find a good match. Twitter is also good if you search #betareader with maybe a hashtag of your genre. There’s been lot of activity on the #writingcommunity hashtag in the past six months or so. Just look for someone who will be willing to give you some real and useful feedback.
  2. Do what you can on your own when it comes to craft and grammar. The cleaner your manuscript when you hand it off, the less time an editor will have to spend on it, and that can cut down on costs. There are a lot of books out there that can help. Two of my most favorite books are James Scott Bell’s VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Sit down and read it just like you would any other book. Mignon is funny and very easy to understand. She didn’t write it like a reference book, and you’ll be amazed at what you didn’t know. Another good editing book that everyone at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference I attended a couple years ago said was a must have is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. How to Edit Yourself into Print. 
  3. Publish on WattPad for feedback. I don’t really condone this, as I feel that if you’re going to use the platform as a publishing site, putting up work only to take it down to publish it elsewhere might not sit well with your readers. On the other hand, I’ve heard from other writers that do this, and it seems to be an acceptable thing. If WattPad has turned into kind of a testing site for books and stories, then I’m not one to say anything. It’s something to consider at least, if you think a plot isn’t working, or you want general feedback overall.
  4. Keep an open mind. When you ask for feedback you need to keep an open mind. I hear some writers say they would never change their plot/characters/POV whatever based on feedback alone, yet they say they’re querying. A book being published without needing edits is almost unheard of, so if you’re querying without an open mind, you’ll never get published and you’re wasting everyone’s time. If you are honest and know that you’re not going to take people’s valid opinions into consideration, you’ll never grow as a writer. There is always room for improvement.

This wraps up the editing portion of the survey. Smart authors get their books edited/apply feedback, and the authors who don’t will deal with the consequences (ie, bad reviews and poor sales).

Next up, the survey asks about book covers and what the three levels of career authors do in that instance.

See you then!


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

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

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

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

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

Marketing-Is-Hard-2-indie author writing time

graphic taken from survey article linked above

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

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

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

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

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

personal organizer and pink flowers on desk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you do?

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

 

Reading is inhaling.
Writing is exhaling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you then!


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

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

Quartet Update

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

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

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

a rocky point wedding book cover mock up for blog

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

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

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

First person trilogy

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

Other Bits and Pieces

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

photo of snow field near trees

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

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

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

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

shallow focus photo of woman sitting on couch

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

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

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

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


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

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

Untitled design

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

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

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

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

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

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

graphic taken from the survey linked above

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

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

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

According to the survey, (stats are median):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you do?

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

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

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

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

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

See you then!


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Author Panels, Advice, and Mixed Messages. What works for a different author might not work for you.

A while back I joined an author group on Facebook. I’ve blogged about them before, and they are great for motivation, tips, tricks, the list goes on. They also hold a huge author/marketing conference in November and even though I haven’t been able to attend in person, I watch the videos on YouTube. It’s really interesting to hear about how some of the indies making a living wage writing speak about their journeys.

This isn’t without its pitfalls. Listening to several different speakers tell you how they made it, as you can imagine, well, you’ll get several different results.

I have noticed though, how there are some mixed messages, even among the speakers on some of the same panels.

magic spell

It’s proof that there is no magic bullet, and what works for someone might not work for you. As I watch more of the videos from the conference, I’ll let you in on some more of the things I find, but for now we’ll start with a couple that popped into my head this morning while I was in the shower mulling over part of a romance panel I watched last night.

Disclosure:
These are my thoughts on public YouTube videos. The group very generously puts them out so authors who can’t attend can still benefit from the speakers and panels. I love this, and I am in no way saying derogatory things about this group, nor am I sharing information that isn’t available to everyone who is willing take the time to watch them. 

1.  Enroll your books into KU, but take advantage of Prolific Words (AKA Instafreebie) and Bookfunnel to build your email list and take advantage of genre promos.

l hope new authors understand that your book can’t be available anywhere else if its enrolled in KU. KDP’s terms of service is a bit hazy . . . you are allowed to give your book away for free for review purposes, and you are allowed to have up to 10% of your book available in other places. If you want to ride the edge of KDP’s TOS, good luck to you. I prefer not, and when I used BookSprout for reviews, I pulled my books out of there before I enrolled in KU.
How do you get around this? Make your book available on those sites before you publish and then take them down when you’re ready to publish, or use those sites before you enroll in Select. (You can publish with KDP and not be in Select.) If you have the time, and I prefer this method, write something that is only available to newsletter subscribers. If you’re taking advantage of a genre promo on Bookfunnel or Story Origin (I have done neither), it’s better to have a book that’s wide or not in KU so you don’t have to worry about it.
As far as the KU opinion goes, Alex Newton of K-lytics did a lovely talk about who is making the money (out of any author: traditionally published, small press, indie, and other), and it’s indies in KU. Alex is funny, and you’ll enjoy his presentation. You can watch his talk here:

2. You don’t need money to advertise/launch a book, but it’s really best if you have some money.

One romance author said her books depend on Facebook ads. Another said if she’s not advertising, her sales die. But I don’t think it’s fair when an author making money tells you that you don’t need to invest in ads and that investing time on free social media works just as well. They say starting small on ads works, too, and I will spend five dollars here, five dollars there. But do I have steady sales? No. What you need to keep in mind is a lot of these authors have been writing and publishing for years. Five dollars a day here and there probably did work for them five years ago, but that’s not true today. To have a good launch, you HAVE TO be able to throw some money at your book. To have steady sales, you have to be able to invest a little. Hopefully your book is solid (good cover, good blurb, good writing on the inside) and you always make more than what you spend.

3.  You shouldn’t be wasting your time on social media instead of writing, but you should really be on social media.

This one kind of drove me nuts because what some of those authors did on that romance panel made me want to puke. I saw hours and hours of writing time go up in smoke as one author said you should start your own reader group, and join other reader groups (in your genre) to get your name out there. Mostly it was all Facebook-centered, and that goes against almost everything I have ever heard about depending on another platform for your real estate. Drive everything to your website is what I’ve been told time and time again, but a couple romance authors swore up and down that they would not be where they are today had they not joined and started reader groups.


So what should you be doing? What did they agree on?

1.  Start a newsletter. While there was some disagreement on the best way to gather email addresses (some said to do the promos like Bookfunnel, StoryOrigin, and other means that require giving away a piece of writing in exchange for an address) others said that they do paid promotions on Facebook to gather email addresses, and another mentioned adding an opportunity for your readers to have access to secret content  to the back of a book that they’ll only receive if they sign up for your newsletter. An alternate ending would be an example. Or an epilogue. No matter which way you decide to start your list, that is top thing they all agreed on.

2.  Network. So far there have been quite a few authors who said their careers wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t networked. They made friends “higher up” in the publishing totem pole, and it paid off for them. That’s not to say you’re networking to use people. People can spot false friends and you’ll be outed fairly quickly. But networking and getting to know other authors in your genre could pay off in the end with newsletters swaps, being asked to participate in a collection/anthology/promo, etc.

3.  Fulfill reader expectations. They couldn’t emphasize this enough in one of the romance panels I watched. You need to make your readers happy, or it’s all for nothing. Read in your genre and understand what your peers are offering their readers. If you decide to break a trope, do it in a way that won’t piss off your readers. The moderator of that panel used the example of a billionaire romance taking place in a small town. She said she was disappointed because the premise behind billionaire romance is that it takes place in a big city. He’s usually the head of a giant corporation. If you go against this trope and place a billionaire in small town (for example, maybe he’s on the run or in the witness protection program) perhaps it’s not a billionaire romance you’re writing but a romantic suspense. Give your readers what they expect out of the genres and sub-genres they enjoy. It’s why they picked up your book. Because your marketing/title/cover/blurb told them that’s what it is. Your insides have to match your outsides.

4.  Keep in mind your competition. This is a still from Alex’s talk, and if it doesn’t give you nightmares, nothing will. You HAVE TO FIND A WAY to push to the top. And if that means learning an ad platform, learn it. If that means starting a reader group, start it. If that means starting a newsletter, start it. I think some writers/authors live in a bubble, and they don’t realize just HOW MANY books are out there.

2019-11-24

 


At some point Craig Martelle said there is close to 50 videos on YouTube you can watch from the conference last month. It will take a while to get through the ones that interest me. Follow my blog and I will keep you updated as I parse through them!


I hope you had a wonderful holiday, and enjoy this last month of 2019!

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Amazon Also-Boughts. Just a quick word about why they’re important.

Not many first-time authors know how important their also-boughts are on Amazon sales page.

I didn’t either.

When you’re a new author, and your friends are published authors, your also-boughts probably reflect that because you’ll buy each other’s books. Chances are your friends write in different genres so your also-boughts are full of steampunk, urban fantasy, and fantasy when you write romance. We laugh and take screenshots because Amazon has linked us to our Twitter friends.

That’s less than ideal because this is Amazon telling you they don’t know where your book goes on the virtual bookshelf. This is bad.

If Amazon doesn’t know what your book is, they can’t recommend it to readers in the correct genre.

This is why when someone on Twitter says they have birthday money and want to buy a couple of indie books, I get mad at all the people who try to entice them into buying their books. When it comes to Amazon, the biggest book retailer in the United States, a sale isn’t just a sale. I stopped advertising my books on writer Twitter a long time ago.

 

Why do you care what the also-boughts are on your books product page? Because when Amazon knows what genre your book is, Amazon will put your book in other authors also-boughts. This is really powerful. This is like free advertising. Amazon recommending your book on another books’ sales pages? Yes, please.

This is why you don’t want just anyone buying your books. You want readers in your genre buying your books.

This also goes for the first wave of sales that go to your family and your friends. Don’t ask them to buy if that’s not what they read and buy from Amazon on a regular basis. I know it’s hard, but training Amazon to know what you’re selling is beneficial in other ways. Mainly, ads.

Did you know Amazon won’t show your ad, no matter how much you bid, if the algorithms say no one is buying it? Amazon wants to make money. If they can’t make money selling your book, they’ll bury it.

But, you might say, they’re getting my money from ads with cost per click, right?

Yes, but that’s only 50% of what they can make if people are clicking and not buying. Amazon wants their 30% of your book royalties, too, and they go with the sure thing.

Training Amazon to know what genre you publish in is half the battle. That’s why you hear from established authors that say you shouldn’t genre-hop until you have an established audience.

Loading your book into Yasiv if to see if your book is connected to others in your genre is a good start. If it’s not, buy some promos. Your first order of business is getting readers of your genre to buy your book.

The second is to write more books.

The 3rd is to stop asking just anybody to buy it. If you’re hoping for reviews, give your book away.

You want Amazon to show your book to people who read in your genre. They’ll even email readers suggestions of books they might enjoy. We all get those emails. It takes a little work, but in the end it can be worth it.

What are my also-boughts like?

all of nothing also boughts

All of Nothing‘s also-boughts are solid. It’s my biggest seller (which isn’t saying much) but I’ve done the most ads for it.

The Years Between Us needs some work, apparently, and I’ll be doing a promo for it for my birthday coming up. I still need to change out the blurb though. This isn’t good, and I’ll be taking my own advice.

also boughts for the years between us


Want to learn more about also-boughts? Read Chris Fox’s Six Figure Author. He goes in depth with also-boughts and the Amazon algorithms.

What to hear more about how Amazon sells your book? Listen to an interview with author Russell Blake and Michael Beverly who runs AMS Ad Werks, an Amazon Ad management company. Listen to Joanna’s podcast here (or read the transcript).

Michael was also on the Self-Publishing Show with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. You can listen to the podcast, or watch them on YouTube.

 

That’s all I have for today! With the holidays coming, I can’t guarantee I’ll stay on a consistent schedule, but I’ll try.

I hope you all have a splendid week ahead!


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