Tower City Romance Trilogy Cover Remake

I’ve always said never to look back, always move forward, but in this business, sometimes it’s not always feasible to keep your eyes straight ahead. As authors, we have a back list (or hope to write one) and as much as I hate to admit it, or put time into it, we do have to do a little maintenance from time to time.

My maintenance included redoing the covers for my trilogy. I needed to redo them for a couple of reasons.

  1. People were mis-categorizing them. Because the couples had all their clothes on, people were thinking the books were sweet romance. When I did my Freebooksy for Don’t Run Away, they even went so far as to email me and ask if I had selected the wrong category when I paid for my promo. Don’t Run Away‘s one star review on Amazon made it clear the woman was appalled at the swearing and the sexiness on the first page. At first I blamed her, but she judged my book by its cover and thought it would be a sweet romance. So, okay. I finally took responsibility for it and now my covers (hopefully) reflect a little more of what is inside the book covers . . . and bed covers!
  2. Kobo turned down a promo ask. I know this might not have anything to do with the cover of Don’t Run Away. I mean, it was my first ask, and Mark, in Killing It on Kobo, stresses the need to ask and ask and ask. And only when you get tired of asking maybe then reach out to the Kobo Writing Life team and say, hey, what’s up? Why am I never approved for a promotion? As I’ve said before, real people are behind Kobo Writing Life. A real person looks at the books submitted for promo, and a real person chooses what she thinks will fit inside the promo. I asked to be in a Free Contemporary Romance promo, and maybe my cover didn’t fit what she was looking for.
  3. But this will help with other areas of marketing, too. It’s not just at Kobo that I will see some benefit from changing my covers. I may snag more eyes on Amazon and the other marketplaces as well. I’ve killed all my Amazon ads right now, but it will be an interesting experiment to start them up again (if I do) with the new covers.
  4. My skills are better. I’ve said a million times it’s easy to slap text onto a cover using Canva.com and publish your book. That’s what I did with the trilogy. Found photos that kind of worked and found some font, and did the best I could. But since I made the covers two and a half years ago, I’ve learned GIMP better. I hadn’t heard about Canva. I did my original covers in Word, if you can believe it. So even just  learning about Canva’s existence helped tremendously. I pay for the Pro access, just because I love using it so much, and I figured it’s the least I can do for their team.
  5. I found other places to buy pictures. Lurking on Facebook groups aimed at helping indie authors helped me find other places for book cover photos. Using depositphotos.com helped me find the couples I ended up using for the trilogy, where before the only site I knew was safe was canstockphoto.com. Only the one for Don’t Run Away sticks out a little as it has a darker background and not a white one. While I could have snipped the couple out and pasted them onto a white background (because, yay, I have the skills to do that now), I didn’t think about it that much, and I don’t regret not doing it. The new covers are still 100 times better than what they were. So you lose a couple battles to win the war, and just be happy you won at all.
  6. I learned to experiment with font. Back then, Word didn’t have much choice, and font is like the photos–not everything is safe to use.
  7. I learned to really take a look at what is popular in my genre. Before I was publishing on a regular basis, and before I understood what indie publishing romance meant, I thought a cover was a cover, and that was it. But now I know that publishing romance is a whole different ballgame. Speaking of ballgame, want a series about baseball romance? Got it. Motorcycle club romance? Check. Billionaires? Check. Firefighters. Navy SEALS. And those are just the mainstream subgenres. Then we get into, um, dinosaur romance, Bigfoot romance, I’m-Going-To-Chain-You-Up-And-Make-You-My-Sex-Slave romance, reverse harem romance, and everything in between. So you better believe that your cover should at least *hint* at the sub-genre your book is in. And my fully-clothed happy couples didn’t depict any sexy-times. I don’t write sub-genre, though, so choosing couples that didn’t skew toward a certain sub-genre was tough. Too sexy and they’d look like erotica. If the men were too rough, the books would look like bad-boy romance, or alpha-romance. Study your book’s genre and make sure that your cover fits what is popular in your genre. Wolves on the cover equals shifter romance, and don’t forget it! 😛

    A friend pointed out that my trilogy was about running, and it is. But running isn’t sexy, and the photos of couples I found running were even less sexy, and not cover-worthy by a long shot.

    Here are a few covers from the top 50 contemporary romance right now. Guess what sub-genre they’re in.

    Lots of skin, some tats. A couple menages, if you look at the top 100 full list. Tell Me to Stay by Willow Winters seems to be the couple with the most fully-clothed. And even they are in a provocative pose. I did some homework for my covers and I’m happy with what I came up with.


I’m hoping I don’t have to go back and redo those for a long time. If ever. I redid the paperbacks for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. And in turn, I needed to update the insides. Replacing all those files is a lot of fun, said no one ever.

On the bright side, I’m getting better at handling IngramSpark, and yes, I did the full covers in Canva for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. Thanks, Canva!

Here are my old covers:

One thing you can probably notice is Nikki and Dane are a bit back. Then Alyssa and Brett are a little closer, and then Marta and Ian are in your face. LOL  When you’re doing a series and you don’t have much skill, it’s extremely difficult to make your covers look like they belong together. It’s why I wanted to hire out this time around. It would have made things so much easier if I could have just shoved this onto someone else.

While I was looking at the top 100 in contemporary romance, I began to notice a trend and I started playing with photos and text. Keeping in mind that every second I was “playing around” I wasn’t writing my current series. Blah! But I came up with some mock-ups of how I wanted the trilogy to kind of look:

These were just concept, and I didn’t notice right away that it looked like the same guy. Not a terrible thing if the trilogy was about so gigolo or something. Also, the backgrounds are a little cluttered with items like the faucet and sink, and items like that don’t make the covers look clean. I really like the couple I found for Chasing You, but in the end I didn’t use them either. You can see what I was trying to get at, anyway, and this first attempt brought me a little closer to what I was looking for. And they are far from what I had originally.

This is what I ended up with:

They look like they belong together. The men are shirtless, and the women all have long-sleeved white shirts on. That was very lucky for me. They give off a sexier vibe, and the font fits in. Do they look 100% like what is on the Amazon top 100? No. But they don’t look as if they belong on the Amazon Top 100 of Sweet and Clean Contemporary, either. I paid for the photos from depositphotos.com and I was lucky enough to find the sexy font free for commercial use. I never realized before how brunet men with scruff could look the same, but I’m hoping people can tell they are a different guy (at least, I hope he is!). Doing these has really made me wonder what I’m going to do with the four-book series I’m writing right now. It’s enough to give me hives, that’s for sure!


I guess what you really want to know is if I’m making any sales off the new covers. The answer to that would be no. Not any measurable improvement. Don’t Run Away is permafree on all platforms, and I consistently give away 1-4 copies every day on Amazon, and a handful here and there on ibooks, Nook, and Kobo. So far that hasn’t led to actual sales for the other two books in the trilogy on Amazon, or for the others in my backlist for that matter, but the first book isn’t as strongly written as the other two, so that’s to be expected, I guess.

I’ll throw some money at them and see what happens.

At some point, I’ll be redoing the cover for All of Nothing, too. Though I have gotten GREAT feedback, it doesn’t fit in with what’s hot right now, and that’s the name of the game. Fitting in while standing out!

Tell me what you think!

If you want to try Don’t Run Away, it’s free on all platforms, and you can find it by clicking this link. It will redirect you to any platform where you buy ebooks.

Thanks for reading!

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

 

 

Mid-March progress . . . going wide . . . The Years Between Us . . . series update

The Years Between Us and E-book Update

The Years Between Us

The tentative front cover for The Years Between Us. Tired of looking at it yet? 

Slowly but surely I’m making progress with The Years Between Us. I’ve been having Word read it to me to catch typos and concentrating to find discrepancies and inconsistencies. I’m trying not to get bogged down in little stupid things, and when I take out a comma then put it back in then take it back out, I can only assume my brain is tired of the story and it’s time to pass it on and publish already. I feel like I have been working on it longer than some of my other books, but only because I’ve dealt with so much while writing and editing it. Had I not had surgery and not had to deal with this crappy weather, I would have had it out long ago. But, in any case, I have a proofer lined up and rarin’ to go, and using Vellum and making a cover in Canva won’t take any time at all once the book is ready to be published. I was thinking of doing a pre-order, but there’s already been enough time between The Years Between Us and All of Nothing, so I’ll just put it up for sale. I don’t have any promos or marketing lined up at the moment. I’m reluctant to do that since all my ebooks are everywhere and nowhere. Going wide is a stupid waiting game that has been made even longer by the fact mistakes were made.

All of Nothing and Wherever He Goes are up on Kobo, and doing a bang up job with no promotion:

2019-03-12 That is as far as I’ve gotten so far. I should put them on Nook and iBooks, and Draft2Digital for the rest. Then I’ll have those two done at least, and do The Years Between Us when it’s released.  It will be a couple months before I can do my trilogy, but it is what it is.

Paperback Updates

Things are moving slowly with paperbacks. Ingram isn’t as hard to work with as everyone says they are, yet they present challenges in their own way.

One of the first things they dinged me for was having a price not match what was on the back cover. I put all my prices above the barcode. I think it looks professional, and I just like to do it. But, Ingram looks, and if your retail price does not match what you put on the cover, they won’t approve your files. So, note to self for future books–remain consistent. That’s a good policy to go by, anyway. You want to look professional, and you want your books to be the same across the board.

Consistency is key.

So after I received that warning, I thought, how do I want to price my books going forward? I redid all my paperback covers (tweaking them in Canva is really easy) and changed the prices on the back. I needed to price my books in a way I’ll remember, and I decided to price books in a series at $9.99, and stand-alones at $12.99. I don’t sell many paperbacks anyway, but I thought if someone were to want to buy them, buying a series shouldn’t break the bank, stand-alones can be priced a bit higher. After printing and distribution costs, Ingram barely pays you anyway, so I didn’t feel the need to worry about cost. I just needed something I could remember so when it comes to pricing books I remained consistent.

That holds true for covers, too. I had lightened up All of Nothing‘s paperback cover for printing reasons, and I uploaded that file to Ingram without changing the one in KDP Print. So, again, my covers looked a bit different. At one point, Ingram DID accept that file for my cover, but I didn’t order the proof. I wanted my books to look the same, no matter where someone ordered it, so I changed the brightness back to the original and resubmitted the cover file.

But after I resubmitted, they emailed me an error:

ingram errror email

Of course, I had no idea what this meant. When I read the GENERAL INTERIOR ISSUE I thought I had formatting issues. But that couldn’t be the case, since I formatted in Vellum, and that program is very very good. Then I saw that I didn’t own the SKU. That SKU is incorrect–the front part of the number is missing. So I had to chat with an Ingram Spark associate. It was quick and easy, but I still have to wait for my issue to be resolved:

ingram chat

I buy my ISBNs from Bowker. There’s no reason why my number should have been rejected. Especially since it had been accepted once before.

She was nice, but running into issues isn’t fun, and I can see where people would be intimidated by working with Ingram. It’s a benefit real people are behind the scenes working on your books and making sure all is well. But there is a certain simpleness when all you’re dealing with is an automated system like KDP Print. The automated system also allows for scammers to publish their books, so you have to take the good with the bad for each company.

Anyway, I want to get All of Nothing figured out and a proof ordered. I’m doing the covers in GIMP working with their template, and I want to make sure it will print well before I do the others. I’m hoping by spring this will all be over, and when I decided to go wide, I had no idea it would take so long or be such a pain in the ass.

Lessons learned so far:

  1. Be consistent. Prices, how your covers look. You want it all the same across the board. Not just for you and your readers, but because in the end, it’s just easier to deal with.
  2. Be patient. In the scheme of things, how much money am I losing not having my books for sale while I’m messing with Ingram? Not many. How many sales am I missing not having my e-books everywhere I want them to be? I don’t know. I’m waiting for my books to be where I want them to before I invest in any more promos. I’m losing sales, I’m losing sales. Once my books are wide I can concentrate on finding a readership on all the platforms. Will I miss KU money? Sure. But while this isn’t a debate on KU vs. Wide, I would never be comfortable trusting one source for all my royalties.  I already do that–it’s called my day job.
  3. Keep looking forward. I’m still working on The Years Between Us, and I’m looking forward to opening Jared and Leah’s file again and filling in some blanks. Besides blog posts, I haven’t written for a while, and I’m starting to get antsy. I did edit for someone, and she’s been going through them. After she makes the changes and does some rewriting, I’ll probably do a second sweep. That’s okay. I adore her, and I don’t mind at all helping her out.

I’m a bit closer to do some tutorials about doing a full paperback cover in Canva. I found a software for recording screen time I think that will work, and I’ve started watching tutorials on how to use it. I’ve been posting a couple covers I’ve made in a FB group dedicated to indie covers, and they’ve all said a tutorial would be helpful. My friend Aila said I should start selling them, but my range is very narrow, and for now I just prefer helping a friend here and there when I can, and practicing to make my own covers better.

losing her breath fake cover

Do you trust me fake cover

Mostly it’s finding a good photo in canstockphoto.com. I have fun, and I’m developing an eye. Now I only wish it were so easy to do my own covers.  Doing my cover for my series is going to give me hives.

What do I want to get done before March?

I’d like to have a proof of All of Nothing ordered through Ingram. I’d like to have The Years Between Us published. But we’ll see. When you are working with other people, you need to be flexible, and like I said, in the scheme of things, waiting isn’t going to make my whole career fall into shambles. I’d like to have Jared and Leah plumped up and maybe an editing pass completed. We’ll just have to see how things go. The weather here seems to be perking up a bit, with highs in the thirties all week. The sunshine will help. I just hope it doesn’t storm again. We’ve had enough snow.

What do you want to get done before March?

Let me know!

 

jared and leah for end of blog posts

 

 

 

More of My Adventures Going Wide (Paperback Update)

going wide girl on tracks blog post

Like a clock with dying batteries, my wide adventures are moving, but at a snail’s pace. That’s okay. I think about all the time that’s being wasted, but I’m not sure what I’d be doing anyway, besides what I’m already doing–writing the next book.

While nothing can happen with my ebooks–all I can do is wait for my trilogy to drop out of KDP Select–my paperbacks have seen some movement.

It may not seem like anything happens when you fill out forms and send emails, but people read them, and one day, out of the blue, they respond. I heard from both KDP Print and Ingram asking for permission to move my ISBNs and confirming my decisions, respectively.

Courteous and friendly, I responded to both inquiries, and as of writing this, my ISBN numbers have been moved from KDP Print Expanded distribution and are now available to be published by Ingram Spark.

What this means, however, is now I need to adapt each paperback cover to the Ingram Spark book cover templates as the templates between KDP Print and Ingram Spark vary slightly–enough to throw the text of your spine off. Only because Ingram’s paper quality is a bit better (so I’ve been told), making the spine measurements differ. You can see the templates are a bit different, just enough to make it a pain in the butt.

ingram all of nothing template for blog post

This is a screenshot of a PDF Ingram Spark sends you when you ask for a template book cover for your book.

 

5.5x8.5_Cream_290

This is the PNG of a KDP Print template.

Adapting covers seemed like a huge undertaking, and I asked a friend to do it for me. Since then she’s had a family emergency, and I’ll be doing them myself after all. That’s fine. I should know what I’m doing for future books. I thought I’d do all of them at once, but then it occurred to me I should only do one and order a proof to be sure my process works. It can’t be much different than submitting to KDP Print, but my covers are already done. The trick is to make them fit on the new template without rebuilding them from scratch. I have an idea on how to do this, but being I have never submitted to Ingram before, how I think I can get it to work will be an experiment.

So, progress is being made, but it is slow going, indeed.

I’m looking forward to the process , as it will bring me closer to my goals: asking the indie bookstore in my city to carry my books and possibly Barnes and Noble, even if it’s just in the local author’s section.

So, that’s the update. Once I start adapting the cover for All of Nothing, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Questions for me? Drop them here, or reach out to me at my email, vaniarheault at gmail dot com. While I can’t give you a full tutorial on how to do this, if you have a specific question you can’t find an answer for, let me know. I might be able to help.

Thanks for reading!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

Book launches, book anniversaries and other musings about three years of hard work.

This morning I was reading a blog post my by friend, Sarah. It’s her book baby’s birthday today, and she’s celebrating her book turning one! And while I admit I’ve never celebrated a book’s birthday–hell, I rarely announce a launch–her blog post encouraged me to take a look back at my publishing milestones.

I don’t have my publishing dates memorized or anything like that, so I’ll need to go on to Amazon and take a look:


Under lock and key

I thought The Corner of 1700 Hamilton was my first book I published, but according to the dates, I actually published Under Lock and Key a week before on July 7th, 2016. It’s a novelette that I wrote from a writing prompt a dear friend of mind, Liz, tweeted one day. I haven’t read it for a long time, and no doubt it needs another edit. When I go wide, I’ll put it everywhere for free. It’s gotten some so-so reviews, but I can’t expect anything too great as it was the first thing I published.

 


the_corner_of_1700_h_cover_for_kindle

A week later, I published The Corner of 1700 Hamilton. This is a trainwreck of a book, as first books are wont to be. The original cover was horrible, and even with a beta reader and an editor, it still wasn’t up to par. Recently I went through one of my old paperbacks and edited both novellas, but I’m not sure if or when I’ll ever put them in. Even the “new” cover needs work,  but my mantra has always been “always look forward.” Having a sub-par book for sale doesn’t make me want to celebrate, however. So I may try to find time one day to fix it up.

 


I was still in novella mode when I decided to try my hand at erotica, and I wrote six novellas back to back for a total of (approximately) 155,000 words. I wrote all of them at once, hired an editor and published them together. Summer Secrets is about a group of friends who have sex, party, fight, and make up at a small lakeside resort during their summer vacation. For what they are, I’m actually quite proud of these; I had found my voice, and the interconnecting plots stand even without the sex.

Summer Secrets was a lot of work, but they made me a better writer. While I won’t be writing any more erotica, I don’t have any regrets taking the time to write these. They were published in August, 2017. I guess I didn’t realize I took a whole year to write them, edit them, format them, and do the covers, but at 155,000 words, I guess that’s not so bad, either. I redid the covers not long ago, and reformatted the insides using Vellum. I was even able to add the embellishments I tried for the first time around. They are pretty, and it’s too bad they aren’t in a genre I want to write anymore. I don’t consider them part of my backlist, but I won’t bury them the way I kind of blur over 1700 when asked about my backlist.

The covers look better, and the paperback covers look a lot nicer. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, and I think it shows.

Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3 New Cover

summer secrets new cover 4-6

 

summer secrets chapter starts


I had Don’t Run Away done while I was doing these, and I can’t even say when exactly I fixed it up and decided to make it a trilogy.  I published the first on November 17th, 2017. I do remember while Summer Secrets was being edited, I wrote the second book of the trilogy. Later that became Chasing You which was published on December 14th, 2017. Running Scared was published in January of 2018. All I can say is when I look at those dates is holy crap. It helped I had Don’t Run Away done, and that was one tough book. It went through a lot of edits. I added POVs, took them out. Rewrote large sections. This was before I started listening to my novels as part of my editing routine, and I have no idea after the first one was beta read/edited, what I did with the others. I think by then I was confident in my own editing skills, but I doubt I was at the point I am today.

At any rate, they do okay, and during a Freebooksy ad, I gave away over 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away. That promo led to the first wave of readers whom I hadn’t met via social media (AKA strangers), and I’m happy to have done it. I also proved that even though it feels like a quilt, all patched together, the book was strong enough to get decent read-through to the others. If you want to read about my Freebooksy promo results, look here. If you want to read some of my reviews on Goodreads, look here.

The best lesson I learned from writing the trilogy is to MAKE THE FIRST BOOK STRONG TO ENSURE READ-THROUGH. It won’t matter how many books you have in a series if your first book won’t carry them.

I’ve redone the covers, though they aren’t a drastic change, and I reformatted the insides using Vellum.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I can tell you I was done with those characters by the time I finished Running Scared, and I didn’t think I’d ever do another series. I don’t want to say I was bored, because what would that say about my writing? But I will admit it’s nice to move on.

Wherever He Goes was published on June 1, 2018. It was the first stand alone novel I’d ever written–up to that point, even my novellas had been connected stories. I haven’t done much promo for that, though I did do a paid Bargainbooksy that didn’t do anything. Looking back at stats, I don’t even think the sales paid for the promo. If you want to look at my blog post about my results, look here.

There were a few firsts with this one: I had more beta readers, and I did the entire paperback cover in Canva. It looks amazing, and is still one of my favorite covers to date. I’ve had good feedback about the novel, and I enjoyed writing it. I need to do more promo for it, as I think it’s an enjoyable contemporary romance that should have more readers than it does.

Wherever He Goes (1)


All of Nothing, I feel, is my strongest book to date, and I believe in it so strongly, I entered it into the RWA RITA awards contest. It can more than hold its own against some of the traditionally published books out there, and when I did a Freebooksy promo for it, I gave away over 6,000 books. (If you want to read about those results, click here.) I love the way my ad for it looked in their newsletter, and bless them for making it the first book!

freebooksyadallofnothing

It didn’t place as high as Don’t Run Away on the free lists, simply because they are in separate categories. (Don’t Run Away is a sports romance.) But the book has more reviews than any other of my books. Published on October 16, 2018, it took me four and a half months to write it, edit it, format it, and release it. I had it beta read and proofed, and I’m very proud of how it turned out–from cover to cover.

All of Nothing Paperback Cover


The Years Between UsI don’t have any more published work out right now, though The Years Between Us is finished. I could have had it published already, but I’m working on a series that I won’t release until they are all done. I’ve been taking my time editing The Years Between Us, but at 74,000 words, it is a complete and finished novel. I don’t have the full cover completed, nor has it been fully edited, but I do plan to have it out into the world maybe by the end of March, or early April. There is no rush, as I don’t see my series being released until Christmas of this year. The first draft of the first book is finished, however, though I admit getting out of my recovery rut has been harder than I expected.


Anyway, so looking at those dates, seeing how hard I’ve worked . . . what have I learned through these two and a half years of publishing?

  1. Not many people care. Sure I may have a lot of followers on Twitter, may be a part of a lot of writing groups on Facebook, but unless your books are actually doing well, and you can prove it through sales, no one cares what you’re doing. Only a handful of my friends have patted my back, and that’s fine. My progress is for myself. I know I’m working hard, and I hope I can be an inspiration to others, whether my books are selling or not.
  2. You have to keep moving forward, or you’ll feel like you’re on a going down escalator trying run upstairs. With indie publishing, everyone is faster, quicker, doing more than you. Some are doing this in a legit way, and some are not. But for you, yourself, if you want to make any headway in the industry, always be moving forward. Don’t get caught in a rut because days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Just like my friend Sarah says in the blog post I linked to at the beginning, all of a sudden a year had gone by and she has nothing to show for it. 500 words a day over the course of 365 days in a year can net you 182,500 words in a year.
  3. Even when you’re doing the work, it will feel like you’re in quicksand. The harder you struggle, the faster you sink. I’ve done a lot of work these past couple of years, and if I kept track of my hours worked versus the time and expense, I would be negative in return on investment. You can’t let this get you down, or you’ll stop. Write for the joy of it first, so you always keep working at your dreams. And let success be a secondary motivator. My success will come–I’ll make sure it does. But I can’t guarantee when it will. All I know is if I stop working for it, I definitely won’t have it.
  4. It might be your baby, but after you publish it, it’s not your baby anymore. MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU. This reasoning is probably why I don’t celebrate my book birthdays. I don’t think of my books as babies. I think of them as products to be sold to help me make money. I do enjoy writing, or I wouldn’t do it. But I also want to make a profit so I can keep doing this, for the long-term. While I’ve stated I like my job, and yeah, my free time at work as helped me with my publishing speed, I would love to earn a living on my writing only. I can’t be precious with my work. I’m always learning about craft, always keeping up with the latest thing about publishing. Even if you’re persistent and want to keep comparing your books to babies, eventually you expect your children to go out into the world on their own and make their own money. Even real-life children grow up.

Thanks for sticking with me–this is probably one of the longest blog posts to date. I doubt I’ll do a recap again; as my backlist grows, it will just get too time consuming. But the look back was fun, and thank you again for joining me!

If you  want to read any of my books, you can check out my Amazon author page, here.

Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing have recently been added to Kobo, and you can find them here and here.

Thanks for reading!

Where do you find readers? Part 2

finding readers for your books blog posts part 2

 

In part one, I wasted your time went over a few things you can do to draw in readers. Starting with a quality product. That’s mandatory, but not everyone does. You’ve seen the poor covers, bad blurbs, and horribly written look insides. But no one is immune, and if you’re not selling books, or not selling as many books as you think you should be, try to find an unbiased opinion and see if you can find where the problem is.

Now, with that being said, readers are out there. But how do you find them?

Start Small

There are promo sites that don’t cost an arm and a leg. How well they work, I have no idea. But if you listen to lots of podcasts of author interviews like I do, you’ll slowly build a list of promo sites that are used by other authors. Some of these require a certain number of reviews. Almost all of them vet books so if your cover doesn’t look nice, or the person who runs the promo site thinks your writing is terrible, they won’t promote your book, no matter how much you pay them.

eBookSoda. Their prices have gone up since I’ve checked into them last. They review your book before they promote, and they do have a few guidelines you have to meet for them to accept your book.

ebook soda promo site

ebook soda promo site2

At twenty dollars to give it a try, that doesn’t seem like a huge investment. I’ve spent more and have gotten nothing in return.

eReader News Today.

They are a little spendier, but I’ve heard good things about them. They also vet, so be prepared for an actual person to look at your book.

ereader-pricing-table-heading

ereader news today requirements

I’m not going to go through every single promo site out there. I’ve only used Freebooksy and BargainBooksy for my promos, but when I release my next book, I may spread my wings a bit. There are promo sites out there that cost less than what they charge, and they may expose me to new readers.

Dave Chesson has a very large list of promo sites if you want to browse. But the main idea is that putting money into the marking of your book doesn’t have to break the bank.

Paying to Play

Indie readers don’t want to accept that to find readers (especially if they are on Twitter and tweet about their book for free all the time) that at some point you are going to have to invest in your books. There is no other way for anyone to know your books are out there. There’s billions of people in the world. How are you going to reach them if you can’t break out of Writer Twitter? It’s next to impossible.

Richard Blake had this to say about the current state of advertising:

2018 ushered in a time when visibility we used to take for granted on Amazon basically disappeared. The long tail on new releases has been compressed to only weeks, and with the elimination of free books from the also boughts and from the search functions, it’s almost impossible to get any free visibility now on the largest seller of books in the world.

So what’s left?

Paying to play, also known as advertising. The rest of this blog will be devoted to my experience with Zon advertising, and the conclusions I’ve drawn after reluctantly beginning a concentrated effort about mid-year.

If you’re interested in what else he has to say, you can check out and subscribe to his blog here.

I’ve written about my success, or lack thereof, about Amazon before, and you can check out my blog post here. So I’m not going to bother rehashing old ground. If you want to learn how to do them, there are a lot of authors who provide courses and books. My favorite is Brian Meeks. He has a book about Amazon Ads, and I used to recommend it a lot. I’ve heard that Amazon has changed the way they do ads, so his step-by-step instructions are no longer applicable. Concepts of patience, testing, and slowly building your ad, however, are still great advice. Despite not being able to point you in the direction of his book, he’s done several interviews for podcasts as well, and he spoke at the 20 Books to 50K Conference in Vegas this past November. Check out his talk!

 

If you want more details, check out Chris McMullen’s blog post about the recent changes and how to work with them.

I’ve had a little success–meaning my bids are getting clicks, I’m seeing some buys, and I’m not spending a huge amount of money (not in enough to put me in the black with ROI, but you have to start somewhere). Figuring out ads is like learning to swim. You’re going to get a lot of water up your nose before you can float without drowning. This is a bad metaphor for me, as I still only know how to doggy paddle, but such is life.

I haven’t tried Facebook ads, mainly because I’ve heard they will take your money and run, unlike Amazon. Plus, I don’t have that many books out yet. I’ve read Michael Cooper’s book, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck! and that was extremely helpful. He, too, was at the 20 Books to 50K conference and you can watch his talk. 🙂

I’ll do a Part 3 later. I’ve given you lots to consider right now. Please go through those promo sites. If you can save five dollars a week and buy a $20 dollar promo for a reader newsletter once a month, that’s a great start when you thought you couldn’t afford to run ads at all.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any thoughts, ideas, or things you’re going to try going in to 2019 and selling your books!

 

Good luck!

Where do you find readers for your books? Part 1

finding readers for your books blog posts part 1

This question sucks because 1) no one knows the answer, and 2) even if they do, their answer might not work for you.

What are the variables that make one person’s amazing results different from someone else’s?
* Genre. Thrillers. Contemporary Romance. Urban Fantasy. Epic Fantasy. Someone might have just had a great launch of their Suspense novel and you want to duplicate that for your Bigfoot Romance. Their methods probably won’t work for you.
* Quality. Your friend may have paid out $400 for a quality cover, had two editors edit it, and used a professional formatter to make their insides look as professional as they can look. You don’t have a budget like that. If you don’t, you’re already a million miles behind your friend–even if you write in the same genre.
* Your friend has a backlist and you don’t.

If you take into consideration these three things, answers to the question, where do you find readers, are going to be incredibly different.

A quick note about GENRE before we move on: you’re writing what you want, but you do have to keep in mind that the more niche you write the more you shrink your audience. On the other hand, you have a better chance at standing out in a smaller niche. At any rate, here’s a nice chart. If your goal is finding readers in a bookstore (you’re probably querying then), you need to know where the little high school girl who stocks books after classes is going to put yours. Knowing your genre also makes marketing a bit easier because, hey, no one reads all the books, and you only want people who read your genre to read your book.

Literary_Genres

click the picture to read about the 17 literary genres

Quality

You know how in the grocery store you have to choose between a dented can and a can that’s not dented? Which do you choose? The undented one, right? Because we’re trained to look for things that are perfect. We don’t buy apples with bruises, we buy the milk behind the first one. When you are asking your potential reader to choose between your poor-quality cover, bad blurb, and insides with typos against a book with a nice cover, an intriguing blurb, and insides without typos, who do you think they are going to choose?

This seems like a no-brainer, but authors are too close to their own books to see if something is working, or, more specifically, not working. I’ll show you what I mean:

amazon sell page of a book

This is the sell page of my book, Don’t Run Away. It’s the first in a trilogy. People look at these things when they bring up your book be from an ad, from a friend’s recommendation, whatever.

  1. A good cover. You need one. YOU NEED ONE. I’m not saying mine is the best, but hoo-boy, it’s better than some out there.
  2. A nice author photo. No one talks about these, but with social media, readers want to interact with their favorite authors. They want to see you are a real person. If they tweet to you that they enjoyed your book, or if they say Hello on your FB author page, they think it’s really cool when you say thank you, or Hi! back.
  3. Well-written blurb. You need a good blurb to draw them in.
  4. The reviews help. The more the better, obviously, because. . .
  5. Amazon is more than happy to show your potential reader something else they can buy instead of your book. If your cover and blurb miss the mark, they offer another choice in the same genre your potential reader can click on.

If you take a look at the screenshot above, you can see the book they are advertising at the bottom has a nice cover and more reviews than mine. At that point, I’m hoping my blurb brings them in, or the first couple sentences of the look inside if they make it that far.

If you’ve written a strong blurb and you make your potential reader click READ MORE look what happens:

screen for blog 2

The ad disappears. We don’t have very long attention spans. A good blurb could mean the difference been a sale and a pass.

I watched Bryan Cohen and Chris Fox tear part a couple of covers and blurbs on a recording from a 20 books to 50K conference this year in Vegas. Take a look and see if you can make your selling page better:

Backlist

No one thinks about backlist when we look for readers. But the fact is, self-publishing is a vicious and competitive environment. These days to find any traction, you need to have about 15-20 books written already. When I first started publishing, that number was six. Self-publishing has exploded to the point where 50,000 books are self-published every month. (That stat was pulled, I think, from Michael Anderle during this same conference.)

The most important thing that self-published authors have is a backlist of 15-20 books. This is because most self-published authors make the bulk of their money on their backlist.  — The Complete Creative

The idea is that if you manage to pull one person into your readership, you can offer them more than just one or two books. You want them to read them all.

You can liken finding readers to any cliche you want. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. Start at the base of the mountain and work your way up. It all amounts to the same thing–finding readers takes a lot of time.

book-publishing-quotes-by-jo-linsdell-315693

No one disagrees it starts with the best book you can produce. And then write another.

the best advertising you can do

Stay tuned for part two of where to find readers!

Until next time!

KDP Select/KU vs. going wide, IngramSpark and other musings

GOING WIDE VS KDP SELECT

The other day I pulled my books out of KU. For those of you who may not know what that is, Kindle Unlimited is a program through Kindle Direct Publishing that is offered to authors who don’t publish their ebooks anywhere else. They get paid from a giant slush fund for “pages” read.  Some authors think that Amazon is the best, and there isn’t anywhere else to publish. But where is there to go if you decide you don’t want to give Amazon exclusivity? Kobo, Books (aka iBooks), Nook, Google Play, and a few others that can be reached through an aggregator like Draft2Digital or PublishDrive are available for indie authors. Thank goodness indie authors have a choice.

choice street signs

It’s a little scary, since I have been getting a few page reads here and there, mostly since I paid for a FreeBooksy promo not long ago. Usually that will put my book on the radar for a while, but tends to taper off. Like today, I’ve only made $4.81 in page reads, compared to my highest day ten days after my promo, which made me $56.80. That’s just for All of Nothing, when I ran a free promo for it on November 9th. It’s been a pretty long tail, still getting page reads more than a month after my promo, but I’m thinking I can do better.

It is scary, thinking about losing even those meagre page reads, but there is one thing I have to remember: even if my books aren’t in KU anymore, anyone shopping on Amazon who wants to read my books, can still buy them. What I’ve made today in page reads would calculate into 2.5 people buying my book at $2.99. Sometimes I think authors forget about that part of it. Just because you’re not in KU anymore doesn’t mean authors can’t buy your book. That is really a powerful thing for me to remember, and it makes it easier to feel better about the decision I made to go wide.

I’m really excited about the opportunity publish my books on Kobo. Kobo is growing and right now, according to an old 2016 stat, they have 26 million users worldwide. That’s a lot of readers. And with Kobo Writing Life, I’ve heard they are very friendly and want to work with indie authors.

Some indies go wide from the start, but lots more, not knowing how or where to publish, stick with only Amazon. Neither of these paths is wrong. When I first moved into publishing, I was happy to deal with one vendor. I only had to deal with one file to format, and one upload. One price. I stuck my books in KU and mainly forgot about them as I wrote the next.

But as you publish more books, and you start to learn what other successful indies are doing, you have to think about where your want your business to go. You hear about the risks of putting all your eggs into one basket. But then you hear about authors making hundreds of thousands of dollars in KU reads. (And you also hear about how Amazon can, at random, target one of those authors and essentially take all their income away with a single push of a button.)

Joanna Penn continually says you need to think about more than one stream of income. For her that means speaking gigs, writing non-fiction, her podcast, and other things she has going on in her career, but for indies who don’t do as much as she does, it could simply mean not counting on one company for all your income.

I’ll be going direct with Kobo, since that is how you access their promotions tab. But I’ll likely use Draft2Digital to publish my books everywhere else.

If you’re interested in going wide, and you want to learn what Kobo can do you for you, Joanna Penn recently had a guest on her podcast who works at Kobo, Camille Mofidi. You can click here to listen to it. Mark Lefebvre used to work at Kobo, but now has moved to Draft2Digital. I love Mark and used to listen to the Kobo Writing Life podcast where he would frequently talk about what works on Kobo to sell books. He also wrote a book, Killing It On Kobo: Leverage Insights to Optimize Publishing and Marketing Strategies, Grow Your Global Sales and Increase Revenue on Kobo (Stark Publishing Solutions) on how to use Kobo to sell your books. Mark also did a recent interview on The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast hosted by Lindsay Buroker, Jeff Poole, and Jo Lallo. You can check it out here

My books won’t completely drop out of KDP Select until February, so I have to wait. You don’t want to make Amazon mad at you, so if you decide to go wide, please make sure that your books have completed their three months within the program. If you have several books like I do, you’ll need to wait until they have all dropped out before going wide, as their months could overlap. Plus, they don’t do that automatically–you have remember to uncheck the box in your KDP dashboard.

As for my paperbacks, I am changing that up, too. I’ve seen first hand that if you don’t use KDP Print to distribute to Amazon (or CreateSpace before) Amazon can play hardball and sometimes make your book unavailable or out of stock. To me, this would be a pain in the butt because who has time to police their books all day? I’ve published all my books through CreateSpace/KDP print, and I have found no issues with quality as I’ve heard some complain about. But I have moved my books out of Expanded Distribution on KDP Print and only use them to supply to Amazon. Then, after they drop out of their system, I’m going to publish my paperbacks with IngramSpark and use them for Expanded Distribution. The reason I’m doing this is because I want to approach my local bookstores about carrying my books.

Seeing the benefits of going wide may take a while. But I’m in this for the long haul, and I don’t mind waiting. I need to start thinking about what I want for my business as I grow my backlist, and going wide and using IngramSpark for paperback expanded distribution feels like the right way to go. But only time will tell.

Wish me luck!

Blog signature

for a little while longer. 🙂