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.

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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. 🙂 

 

Shop local, they said. It will be fun, they said.

I went to the local bookstore today. Not the big box Barnes and Noble I promised to take my nephew to later this month, but a small independent bookstore located in downtown Fargo, ND.  My sister and I did a little shopping, and after we ate lunch.

This doesn’t seem like such a big thing. Maybe because we were out and about on Tuesday when most people are at work. Maybe because you can usually find me on Tuesday morning/afternoon hunkered in with a cat writing because my daughter is in school, I’m off work, and I can be a writer instead of Mom for a few hours. 

But today my sister had a dentist appointment so afterward we hung out a little bit. And like I said, it wasn’t a big deal.

Until.

I love our indie bookstore. It’s where I could ask them to carry my books if I were brave enough. They have other things like ladles in the shape of the Loch Ness monster that I regret not buying. Or the measuring spoons with the kitten toppers, that I also regret not buying. They had a couple books that I picked up. Lauren Groff’s Florida, Jodi Picoult’s A Spark of Light, and Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers. All lovely books. All of them I’ve wanted for quite some time. I was pleased . . . until I had to pay. 

Shop local. Support local business. I was proud I was. Until I was charged $82.00 for three hardcover books. It’s hard to be pleased when you’re paying $27.00 a book. I get where the money is going. As a published author, I totally get it. The shop owner draws a paycheck, pays his rent, pays his staff. The publishers and printers and agents take their cut. Whoever else takes a little until the author ends up with the pennies at the end. I get it.

But you know what else I get? To make $84.00, I have to work for six hours. $82.00 will buy me and my two kids groceries for a week. 

So what is the blog post about? That shopping local is expensive? No, not really.

Let’s back up a minute here. 

There’s been a lot of disgust about what Amazon has been up to lately with regard to our (“our” meaning indie authors’) ebooks disappearing and being made unavailable in certain countries. Amazon released a statement about it saying they knew what was going on and they were trying to fix it. This isn’t the first thing Amazon has done to make indies mad (like the hassle of switching from CreateSpace to KDP Print), and it won’t be the last. There’s been a long love/hate relationship with regards to Amazon and books, both from the authors who sell on the platform, and the readers who buy their books from there, be it paperbacks, Kindle, or paying for the subscription for Kindle Unlimited. 

Is Amazon the Devil? We can all say derogatory things about any business. Walmart treats their employees like crap. Hobby Lobby won’t support birth control for their employees. Choose a company,  you can find something bad about it. That’s real life. But you know what else? Walmart is affordable. Hobby Lobby carries art supplies no one else in the area does. Amazon sells cheap books. 

Amazon sells cheap books.

I looked on Amazon, added the books I purchased today at my indie store to my cart, looked at the tax. I have Prime (and I won’t add the cost of that to my total as most people do have Prime these days and I use free shipping on more than just books) so shipping was free. Had I purchased my books on Amazon, I would have saved $30.00. That’s two hours of work. That’s two hours in my pocket I could spend writing my own books. That’s maybe two other books to read. Two other authors I could have supported. 

This subject has gone around and around, and the truth is, there’s no easy fix. Bookstores are on their way out. Blame Amazon, or the publishers, or whomever you like, but that’s the reality. And it isn’t any wonder when a full price hardcover book is almost $30.00.

So, what could I have done? I could have purchased from Amazon instead. I could have waited until all the books came out in paperback. I could have waited even longer and hoped that one day I could find them in one of our thrift stores. But by then, I would have forgotten that I wanted to read these books. Because as every reader knows, there’s always another book.

I guess I don’t have a point to this blog post except to say, I can’t afford to shop local, at least, not consistently. I can’t afford to support small business, not every time I want to buy something. And that really sucks, because as a publisher of my own books, I am a small business. I know how cool it is to have people support me when they buy my books.

How do you support local business? Let me know your thoughts!

Whine a Little . . . Over There

There’s been lots of whining on Twitter lately. More specifically, authors whining about not seeing books sales. Even more specifically, authors not seeing their books sell.

Maybe it’s because we’re in the dog days of summer, or people aren’t looking forward to school starting, or the crap we’re all going to have to deal with when THE HOLIDAYS start in full-swing October first.Dog Days of Summer

But whatever it is, it needs to stop. Because YOU, and nobody else but you, can make sales happen for your book.

Mostly, this is on Twitter. I can say it louder for the people in the back. TWITTER ISN’T FOR SELLING BOOKS. If you’re a member of Writer Twitter, you’re a member of WRITER Twitter. There’s a reason why it’s called that. Because we’re writers. Join READER Twitter. It’s gotta be there somewhere. Maybe #amreading is wedged between #IhateTrump and #turtlesareweird. If you’re convinced Twitter is the only way to sell books, or it’s the only way you want to try, break into the #amreading crowd. Or try. I’ll leave a light on for ya.

But if you want to take stab at moving books instead of whining about it, explore these ideas. First though, you need to take a look at your book.

  • Cover needs to be decent. Needs to depict the genre, needs to fit in, but stand out (in a good way.) Join an FB cover group and get some critiques. Taking a second look at your cover and if it’s not up to snuff, fix it. It’s killing your sales before they start.
    Books to consider:

    Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices
    Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes (Writer’s Craft)

  • Make your blurb awesome! This is easier said than done. Bryan Cohen is great at this. He teaches webinars and he runs a business doing this. And he makes very good money doing it. But he shares his knowledge, so don’t just moan you don’t know how to do it. Read about it. You’re a writer. Research. Here’s his book. He breaks it down so you can do it, too. With his guidance, I write my blurbs in half an hour. Here’s a Book Description Critique with Bryan Cohen hosted by Reedsy. Watch it.
  • Make sure you have a decent title. No one told me this before I published, and now my very first book has a stupid title I can’t change because I don’t want to waste the money I spent on my ISBN number. If you don’t have any reviews and didn’t purchase your ISBN number, you can change your title. Changing your title and ISBN number will lose you reviews so if you only have one from your best friend Angie, she’ll probably post it again if you republish with a better title.
    Grab some ideas from Dave Chesson; he’s got some good ones.
  • Make sure your “look insides” (first sample pages) are decent. This can make or break you if all the other parts about your book are spot on. If you don’t have a solid POV, if you have typos, if your formatting is messed up, the best cover in the world won’t save you. Try to get your hook within the first few pages of your book so it’s included in the look inside. Turn that browser into a buyer!

Now that we covered that and your book is up to par, you’ll need to ask yourself what you’re doing to help your book sell. Tweeting every day isn’t going to help. So what can you do to spike sales?

  • Are you spending any money?  You have to spend money to make money. I’m not kidding. Lots of people are like, “I don’t have any money to put toward selling my book.” Then you’re not going to sell your books. No business has ever opened that didn’t need seed money. Investors. Start-up money. You buy stock for your shelves, you fork over for rental space. You pay for wages for your employees before you’ve even sold one thing. Your book isn’t any different. Nobody ever went into business for themselves because they needed money yesterday. Starting a business is a lifelong endeavor. What can you put your money toward?

    *Pay for promos. I spent 80 dollars to give away 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away in a free book promo for FreeBooksy. It got me some reviews, and lots of KU reads for the whole trilogy. I made my money back and then some.

    *Pay for giveaways. Goodreads did away with their free giveaways but because you have to pay, the market for giveaways isn’t so saturated. People have debated as to whether or not it’s a good thing, but I think it is. I haven’t tried them yet, but in the spirit of trying one new thing with each new release, I’ll be trying it when I publish All of Nothing this fall. Read about them here.

    *Pay for ads on Amazon. This isn’t as scary as it sounds. I’ve been blogging about my experience. It won’t break the bank to give it a try, but it’s important to do it correctly. Brian Meeks has a wonderful book about it. Amazon changed the platform a bit, so his instructions are already outdated even though his book is only a year old. But his advice is still as good as gold, and just as valuable.

    *Pay for ads on Facebook. These are trickier than Amazon ads. At least, I’ve read that they are. I haven’t tried Facebook ads, and if you don’t have the money to spare, I would suggest going with Amazon ads first. I’ve spent under five dollars experimenting with Amazon Ads. But if you want to try FB ads, again, do it correctly. Michael Cooper has a super great book about it. It’s important to try ads correctly, otherwise you’ll blow through money, claim they don’t work, and you may write off a great way to let people know about your books!

    *Pay for a blog tour. I used to hear a lot about these two years ago when I joined Twitter, but not so much anymore. You don’t have to pay someone to set up a blog tour, but if you pay a legit person they’ll know the best blogs to submit your book to. I’ve never tried one of these. They’re time-consuming. Either you have to fill out an interview sheet or compose a guest post for that blog. If you’re doing a full tour, that could consist of anywhere between 5 to 20 or even more blog sites. That’s a lot of guest blogging and interviews when maybe you should be writing your next book.

    *Reviews. If you do this in a legitimate fashion, this can be a coup for you. I have not tried it because the service I wanted to try distributes the books to readers through BookFunnel and that goes against KDP Select’s terms of service. I pulled Wherever He Goes out of Select to try this review service, and it comes out September 3rd. It wasn’t doing well in KU anyway, so I didn’t see the harm in trying. I’m going to try Happy Book Reviews. I’ve heard good things and so-so things about results. But if you have a good book with a good blurb and good cover, and the plot/genre isn’t too weird, you may get good results. Give it a shot.

  • Are you writing more books? The best marketing you can do is release new books. Lots of debate on quality versus quantity, but if you just can’t scrape up the cash to put toward your book’s promo, at least writing and releasing is free. *As free as you can get without spending money on cover, editing, etc. I’ve heard you drop off the Amazon algorithms after three months, so you want to release something every three months. Try releasing tie-in novellas. Or just dig in your heels and write the next book. I see lots of people trying to build careers on one book, and that only works if you write a non-fiction book and your career is already based on that book. Readers expect more from you. Keep them happy.
  • Offer to guest blog on other people’s websites in your genre. Ask “up.” Someone in your genre who has more followers than you. Someone whose website gets a bit more traction than yours. This is where your tweeting should come in handy–you’ve made connections, don’t be afraid to ask. Most people would love to host a guest blogger. It frees up their schedule for the week. But make sure your book is up to snuff or they’ll turn you down. And be prepared to giveaway a book. That seems counterproductive to sales, but lots of bloggers want to reward their readers for showing up.
  • Think local. Ask your town’s newspaper’s lifestyle section to do an article on you. If you have local small magazines, ask them to do a profile. Ask your indie bookstore if you can do a signing, or if they’ll sell your book. Heck, maybe get together with a couple of indies in your area and ask Barnes and Noble if they’re willing to do an Indie Night. Asking is hard. We’re introverts at heart, but even if the answer is no, at least you can say you tried.
  • Take a hard look at your book. Besides the cover, the editing, the blurb, the title, ask yourself, is this something someone would want to read? Especially if this is your first book. Indies like to experiment when they’re starting out. We’re finding our niche; we’re finding our passion. Experimenting with your hamster detective series is cool, but can you get sales? Maybe not. So take a hard look at your book before you throw money at it. It may not do any good. And that’s the sad truth. If you can be honest with yourself and say yes, my book has readers, all I have to do is fine them, then good luck!

Whining about lack of sales isn’t going to help you sell books. After a while it becomes annoying, and you end up tarnishing your reputation. If your first book isn’t working, then move on. Write something else. Write something better. We get better at our craft with every book we write.

book marketing challengeRachel Thompson says we don’t get traction with our careers until we have at least 6-10 books under our belts. As the self-publishing industry gets more competitive, that number may get higher. If you’d like to read her awesome book about marketing, you can look for it here.

Book sales are subjective. What works for you may not work for someone else.

The best advice I can give you is write well, and publish often. Stay consistent. Build your brand on a genre you love to write.

Sales take time.

Have patience, and good luck!

 

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