Author Interview: Debut Author Dave S. Koster

dave koster author picture

Author Dave S. Koster

Dave was kind enough to let me interview him for today’s blog! We also have a fabulous giveaway of a Kindle Fire tablet to celebrate his debut novel, Wine Bottles And Broomsticks! Click here to enter the giveway . . . . all we ask is you tweet about the interview and giveaway to help give Dave some exposure for his new book! Thank you so much for helping! 🙂 Enjoy the interview!

 


I’ve known you for a long time, though I can’t remember who introduced us, but for those new in the writing community, tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been writing since around 2002 – I picked it up when my wife and I moved back to Alaska from Maryland. I actually did a bit of writing when I was in High School, but I was mostly interested in video game storylines at the time. In any case, back in 2002, I was out of work and was sketching up ideas for a video game, but lacked the technical skills for game development, but story writing was something that seemed more attainable. I dabbled for ages, taking large breaks to build a house, learn how to make furniture, work briefly as a college teacher, and other various hobbies. Then in 2014 (I think?), I had a moment on my morning commute. It was one of those days that only an Alaskan commute can give you – loads of golden light spilling over the tops of snow-capped mountains. The moment amounted to: What the heck are you doing? Either you do this or you don’t do it. I concluded that I was entirely too stupid to know when I couldn’t do a thing, so I decided I was going to double-down and get serious about it. I finished the book I had been working on for about 10 years and later that summer started my second, Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, which was the one just published on the 5th of June.

I remember Wine Bottles and Broomsticks from way back when you tried to fund it using InkShares. Can you tell us about your experience? (To see his old campaign, look here!)

This was one of the most informative experiences I’ve had yet with the business. On the whole, it was good in that the system was easy to use making the technical bits of the process manageable. That said, I would never recommend this avenue to most writers. You have to have a following of readers or supporters first. If I were a ‘personality’ with fans, I might have made the goal, but I didn’t have that. I’m a new author from the perspective of readers even now after having done rather a lot of self-improvement and several (unpublished) books under my belt. I think it’s hard to convince readers to buy a book from an unknown that won’t be ready for weeks or months. The other part of the experience was just how much other writers tried to help.

In a blog post from a couple years ago, you said the book was going nowhere and ultimately, you chose to self-publish. It seems like this wasn’t as easy decision for you. How did you finally decide to publish your novel on your own? (To read that blog post of Dave’s, click here.)

Honestly, that post was from a pretty negative place. I’d queried 30 or 40 agents and failed the crowd-funding even after tons of help from other writers. At the time, I really wanted to get an agent and go traditional. I was hoping that I might be that rare unicorn who manages to become a full-time writer. I think this book was the first step realizing that it’s not going to happen. Anyhow, fast-forward to last fall. I decided that I wanted to self-publish the Dark Queen of Darkness. This was mostly because I’d realized that an agent won’t pick up my work, and in even if s/he did AND I got a publishing deal, I’ve got a full-time job that actually pays the bills and I couldn’t meet their deadlines or expectations. I need to keep things on my schedule and my time, so self-publishing suddenly was the only viable route. This spring, after working with an editor, and meeting with a cover designer, I started looking at nuts and bolts bits of publishing, I realized I have absolutely NO idea what I’m doing. Even with all of the advice and what-not, I still don’t really ‘get it’. I decided, around that time, that I’d quietly release an already finished book in order to learn how to operate all of the software, navigate the platforms, and generally understand how all of these things work. The whole point of publishing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks was to ensure a smooth launch for the Dark Queen of Darkness.

There is a lot to learn. Even after six books, I always make a mistake when I publish. Every time. It’s infuriating, so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Luckily there is a lot of help out there, and you’ve been part of the online writing community for a long time now. Did you find they were a help to you during the publishing process? Did the networking pay off?

The writing community has been a huge help. Everyone I’ve engaged with has had something helpful to say or offered their time to read/comment or otherwise help me do a better job at the craft. Not to mention hours of encouragement. I think I pointed out your amazing help on cover design. I’d never have been able to work that out on my own. Actually, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have even tried to self-publish without the confidence I got copying your notes. So, yes, the networking has paid off and given me the confidence I completely lack on my own. If it weren’t for the writers on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, I’d probably have given up.

Yeah, I don’t think the moderator of that group liked my how-to tutorial. She shut down comments not long after I posted the entire thing. To be fair, yeah, I should have posted on the other FB page they have for the how-to stuff for cover design, and not the feedback page. But I hoped it helped a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have known. Anyway, this is your first book! What would you say was the hardest part about the publishing process?

I’ve got a whole bunch of ‘hardest parts’ I could go on for days. I was very nearly in ugly man-tears mid-day Tuesday over it. By far, though, trying to get all of the accounts set up and stuff uploaded. I still don’t have my book uploaded to Ingram Spark yet, because it won’t save the title and I haven’t got the foggiest clue as to why. Runners-up include: paperback layout (InDesign is spendy for me, and Vellum doesn’t work on my computer). The third is the business side. I’m still absolutely mystified about what royalty plan I should be taking. I got spooked by 70%, so went with 35% because if I’m making less money it must mean I’ve got less liability? I don’t even know. Those are just the starting points.

Definitely take the 70%. What Amazon allows you to take depends on how much you’re pricing your book for. Grab whatever you can!

Indies talk a lot about going wide. Is your book in the Kindle Unlimited program? Or did you choose to publish on other platforms like Nook and Apple Books?

I plan to go wide, but it’s going to be step-by-step so I can figure it out. When I do The Dark Queen book, I’m hoping that all of the pieces will be in place and it’ll go relatively smoothly across all platforms at once so I don’t have any terrible delays. Essentially, the goal is to add a second book to an existing platform rather than try to get it all set-up and hope I don’t experience any unexpected snags on launch day.

A) How did you come to that decision?

The decision on Kindle Unlimited is based on the hugely restrictive nature of KU. Plus, it’s possible to be completely banned from Amazon’s platform if you violate their TOS, which is a lot more restrictive in KU. After I saw Adam Dreece’s situation a few years back, I don’t know if you remember that, but I concluded that it just wasn’t worth it. Plus it leaves me with questions on stuff like: Can I sell locally at book fairs and things? What’s more, I’m not really sure it’s any more lucrative for someone who isn’t particularly prolific.

I remember Adam’s situation; it happened to a couple other big-time authors around that time, too. That would be scary–especially if you’ve grown to rely on that income. Joanna Penn encourages first time authors to learn Amazon first and then after the dust settles, so to speak, learn the other platforms. Which makes sense. Adam Croft endorses going wide from the get-go. They are two different animals, for sure, but depending on the kind of publishing schedule you have to stick with because of personal obligations, learning Amazon first may be an easier task.

B) If you’re wide, what aggregator did you use, and how was that experience?

I haven’t set up with an Aggregator. This is 100% because still totally new to this and just learned about that right now. Even then, I’m a bit of a control freak and would likely prefer to release per-platform on my own, where possible –at least at first. I don’t know much about Kobo, but B&N is trying to put together a system similar to Amazon for authors. I’ll use Ingram Spark to publish the books outside of Amazon’s platforms and they seem to have services that’ll get me there. I’ll likely change my mind after I research aggregators more and start to understand all of this better.

There is a lot to learn. Some would argue that Barnes and Noble is sinking, and fast. It’s probably one of the reasons why authors stick with Amazon. I have good feelings about Kobo, and you should go direct with them so you have access to their promotions tab. You have to email them for it, but you can only access it if you go through them directly. I use Draft to Digital for places like Apple Books, and yeah, Nook. They upload my book to a few places I’ve never heard of, as well. IngramSpark will publish your ebook too, if you can get them to work for you.

You released the paperback after the ebook. What was the reason for that?

In a nutshell: Impatience. I hadn’t planned on saying much or letting folks know it was out there until everything was ready and I could see it myself. It seems that every time I press a new button in this world, I learn something, new, profound, and sometimes expensive. I’m the sort of person that has to do a thing before I can really learn it, and getting things all ‘set up’ but un-launched is like a task waiting for a problem that will take 2 weeks to sort out. The paperback is ready, I just haven’t seen the proof yet. I was having trouble with the gutters, so I’m not convinced the printed copy will turn out – plus I’m concerned about the cover quality. When I hit the button to publish, I was really thinking that once it’s available on Amazon, I have something to point to in setting things up for Goodreads and the Amazon author page. Plus, I thought it might help a bit in getting Ingram Spark going. There are so many things to do in launching a book and this is all my first time.

You mentioned once you thought self-publishing would be expensive. Was this true in your experience? How did you save money? What was the biggest expenditure in the process?

My experience is that it can go both ways. Wine Bottles and Broomsticks cost a couple of hundred dollars when all costs are taken into account, before advertising. I didn’t get an editor, and I did my own cover. I’m not convinced this was the right decision. Dark Queen of Darkness has been very expensive so far. The dollar figure is likely to be a few thousand to get professional editing, cover, layout, and other things. I’m 95% certain I’ll never make that money all the way back.

Do you have any plans to market?

Yes, but not until I get everything in place. I want to do some testing with Amazon promotions and advertising on other platforms. When I launch Dark Queen of Darkness, I’ll do local events as well and will try to launch with a bit more fanfare than a retweeted post from my wife. I want to see what sort of return on investment might be reasonable.

I understand. I’ve gotten grief for pushing publish and walking away. But the community on Twitter is fabulous–there is so much support there. Every seems genuinely happy for you and cheering for your success. I usually tweet out a little something, but as you write more and publish more, you’ll find you need to break out of writer social media and find that reader social media. Easier said than done!

Thank you for chatting with me! If you have any issues with anything, let me know how I can help!


Check out Dave’s book cover . . . isn’t it great?! You can click the cover and it will take you to Dave’s Amazon page. Give him a follow there, and at Goodreads! Dave blogs too, and you can follow his website here.

wind bottles and broomsticks book cover

Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway! Good luck!

 


My books are wide! Don’t Run Away is free forever. 🙂  Give my books a look!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

My messed up route to (non)success.

Mostly self-publishers self-publish because we want to make money. A lot of authors will deny this–art and commerce do not mix well. You can say all you want about self-satisfaction, fulfilling a dream, what have you, but when you list a book on Amazon, you want to make money. And maybe I’ll concede people reading your stuff might come first, but that royalty check comes in a very close second.

I want to make money. I want people to love my work. I want to make a list. The USA Today would do, thanks. I want to be able to quit my day job, sit in my pajamas with my cats, and write all day, every day, for the rest of my life.

And you do too. But not with my cats. Adopt your own.

But this blog post isn’t about the why, it’s about the how. success-what-people-think-it-looks-like

There are only two ways to publish a book. You either get a book deal or you self-publish. There are grey areas–smaller presses, crowdfunding, whatever, but essentially those are your choices.

I chose to self-publish.

You all know I went to the Sell More Books Show summit in Chicago last month, and I listened to Jami Albright talk about the (low) six figures she made on three books. When authors throw numbers around like that, there are a lot of feelings that run through the crowd. Awe. Surprise. Admiration. Respect.

Notice I didn’t add envy. Or jealousy.

I don’t envy Jami. I’m happy for her.

And I’m happy for every author who does the same.

What I want to chat about is how she got there.

Because she explained she made 65% to 80% of her income being enrolled in Kindle Select. That means her books are available in Kindle Unlimited. That means her books aren’t available for readers who read on a Kobo ereaders, Nook, or an Apple Books app.

Sorry for the mini lesson in going wide, but I just wanted to hit home how much Jami made having her books in KU. That’s a lot of page reads. That’s a lot of trust in one platform for so much money.

I’m so happy for her that she knew her path and was comfortable taking it.

It paid off for her. In a big way. And her talk came at a horrible time for me because the month before the summit, I had pulled all my books out of KU and put them wide.

Let’s be honest here. I wanted to cry.

I’m obviously still grappling with the decision.

But I’m grappling with it because I don’t know if her path is my path.

That’s the frustrating thing about self-publishing. There is no one true path to success. There are too many variables:

  • Cover
  • Blurb
  • Editing
  • Genre
  • Your voice/writing style
  • Your connections
  • A newsletter or lack thereof
  • Social media presence

You could follow a successful author’s choices to the letter, and you still will never be able to duplicate someone’s success. You may have your own success following someone’s advice, but as they like to say in the groups I’m in, your mileage may vary. Success depends on several different factors, and these factors cannot be measured.

There is no way to know if my books would do as well as Jami’s. She writes rom com. I write serious contemporary romance. She has professional covers done. I don’t. I do them myself in Canva. She scrimped and saved for an editor. I edit my books with the help of beta readers. She went to an RWA conference and networked. I’ve never been.

Even if I did some of what she’s done, I may never stand a chance of doing as well as she.

And that’s what drives all of us crazy.

There are too many choices.

Jami used Amazon Advertising which worked for her because her books are in KU. But there are other ad platforms you can try: Facebook. BookBub. Instagram. Even Pinterest and Reddit.

Then there are newsletter swaps (I don’t have one) Facebook Author page take-overs, blog tours, etc.

There are a million little things that add up to a book’s success, also known as the author’s bottom line.

I mention the 20booksto50K group a lot because that group is known for authors sharing their successes. (And I love them for it!) They are very open about numbers and where that money comes from. (Also if you want to listen to author success stories, listen to the Sell More Books show podcast. They feature successes on their top five news stories every week.) I also mention them a lot because they are a fabulous group, and they’ll let anyone join as long as you promise not to be a jerk and not promo your own books (those posts are taken down almost as soon as they are posted, and you’ll get kicked out, too). They are very strict because they want the group to stay enjoyable and a place where an author can learn, and for a group that size, the moderators stay on top of it.

Anyway, Brian Meeks wrote an open letter of sorts saying people who hate on the authors posting big numbers could and should leave the group. And I’ve seen a little of the resentment and jealousy. Even Craig Martelle said Michael Anderle doesn’t post his numbers anymore because all it does is evoke a tsunami of hate.

I don’t hate those authors for making it. I’m not jealous either, or resent them, because I know how much work it takes to make that much money. People who hate on these authors know they’ll never be able to make that kind of money with their own writing. Their writing is sub-par, or they don’t want to spend the money to test ads. They can’t afford editing or professional covers.

I agree with Brian. They should leave the group if they are going to feel that way. They’re playing with the big kids, and they are getting trampled.

My problem with the people flashing their numbers? They are posting screenshots of their BookReport summaries. BookReport keeps track of Kindle sales and KENP page reads. So you know these authors are making big money on Amazon. I have yet to see anyone in that group post Kobo sales, or Nook. Or Apple Books. It’s all Amazon.

And that makes me question my own path to go wide.

How much money am I leaving on the table?

This is my BookReport from January first to now, just to show you what it looks like. If you have Chrome or Firefox and want to add the extension to your browser, look here. It’s free until you start earning a certain amount of royalties, and in the group, being asked to subscribe is a milestone of sorts.

book report graphic

No doubt about it, looking can get pretty addicting.

Because of course, when you see big numbers, you think, if they can do it, so can I.

And I can’t lie. I’m wondering how I’d really do if I put all my strength behind my books if they were in KU. How much money I would make had I TRIED.

I didn’t try before. I was too focused on building my backlist. I have six books out now. By the end of the year, I’ll have ten.

Authors have made a lot of money on less.

Thinking about all this is maddening.

But I also remind myself that publishing is a long game. Where will I be five years down the road? Ten? Do I want to trust only Amazon to pay me thousands forever and ever? I don’t know. My gut says no because I’ve heard of Amazon cutting off authors for no reason (though admittedly, those stories are a year or more older now) therefore turning off the spigot that has been spewing out thousands of dollars a month.

Then what?

One of the first rules of the 20books group is not to talk smack about Amazon. I get that. Amazon has created an opportunity for indies to publish their books when otherwise those authors wouldn’t be published at all.

And as an author, it is an individual choice whether or not to have all of your eggs in one basket. Sure, they might crack, but sometimes you can still end up with a tasty omelette. (I must be hungry when I blog; I’m always comparing Amazon to food.) There’s no denying it’s worked for many authors.

To say I wasn’t envious of the confidence of those authors’ decisions wouldn’t be true. I’m not envious of their success; I’m envious they found a path that worked for them, and they had the courage to follow through. Maybe you say it’s the same, but I feel there’s a distinction.

courage fish

I want to be confident in my choices and obviously, I’m not. Which is why I wrote this rambling blog post of thoughts. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m kind. I’m always giving back, offering to help in some way. I’m editing for someone for free right now. It isn’t the first time I’ve given my time away, and it won’t be last. I’m regularly interviewing new authors for my blog because I’m hoping the exposure will help. If I’m pointing a finger at someone, or giving someone the stink eye, it’s always going to be aimed at myself.

Was going wide the right choice?

I have no clue. You can see in my wide update that I haven’t gained much traction so far. And it’s hard to think about how much money I’m leaving on the table pulling my books out of KU.

The bottom line is I would never resent anyone for their success.

I’m just bumbling along like crazy trying to find mine.

I have fun writing. I enjoy trying new things to see if they will promote sales. I love blogging about it.

But that sure doesn’t pay the rent.

Let me know your thoughts!


Craig Martelle and Company give back too. They put on a wonderful 20books Vegas conference every year. You can read about it here. The conference for 2019 is sold out already, but this would be a good time to save up if you think you might want to try for 2020. To get a taste of what the speakers are like, look at this YouTube Channel of the speakers from November 2018.

I’m already committed to doing a different summit, though it is changing hands for the year 2020. Joanna Penn and Lindsay Buroker, two ladies I chat with on Twitter, will be speaking, and I wanted to meet them. (Other great speakers will be there too, like Mark Leslie Lefebvre.) At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to go, what with all the trouble I had networking last month, but I did have fun and learned a few things, so that has to count for something. They are already 75% sold out, so if you want to see me in Nashville of May 2020, act fast! Look here for the newly named Career Author Summit.

Thanks for reading!


Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

My Promotion for All of Nothing with Freebooksy

It’s rather counterproductive to pay to give your book away. But Freebooksy isn’t the only place you can do it. There are numerous places to promote a free book, but I like Freebooksy because they seem to have the most reach. 

What can you hope for when you do a promo for a free book?

  1. It will drive traffic to your other books. This makes a backlist key.
  2. That someone will actually read it and post a review.
  3. It will boost your KU reads if you’re in Kindle Unlimited.

I guess that’s it. Mainly, you’re hoping for reviews and that people will like you enough to pay for your other books. Sometimes you get a bump in KU reads, but you definitely don’t have to spend what Freebooksy charges you for that. 

I ran a different Freebooksy ad a few months ago for Don’t Run Away, and you can read about here. Anyway, this ad did better in downloads, but we’ll see how it does over all, since Don’t Run Away is the first in a trilogy, and I got some decent read-through for that book with the ad. It came later, as some people take a bit to read a book or two or three, but after a few months, I was pleased with the results.

Anyway, so I also put my book free for the next day, in case there was anyone who maybe opened their email late and went to see if maybe the book was still free. I gave away 5,351 books on the real free day, the day the promo ran, and 867 books the next day, for a total of 6,218. (Too bad those weren’t sales.) I’m hoping that some of those will turn into reviews, but I may not know that for several months. Here is the graph of the downloads and what I got in KU reads from the date of the promo, until today, 11/17:

As you can see, there was a pretty big bump in KU reads for All of Nothing, but the promo did nothing to help with sales after the promo was over. That’s just for the one title though. Do we see a bump in sales for all my titles? Did the promo increase my visibility at all?  Let’s look:

Nope. But that’s okay. You have to start small, and for an indie, I don’t have many books out, anyway.

Everyone wants to know how much cash that equals out to, and let’s just say, I spent $100 on that promo, and I’ve only made a little over half back. I might, in the long run, but for right now, 8 days after my promo, that’s a no. 

Here’s what my promo looked like in the newsletter.  I was pleased I was at the top:

I love my cover; I loved the blurb I had to abbreviate from the longer one I have on Amazon. I’m really proud of this book, and I think it showcases how far my writing has come since I released 1700. 

If you downloaded All of Nothing, thank you! If you downloaded it but haven’t read it yet, I would love to know your thoughts when you do! And if you’ve read it, I would really appreciate the review, like this lovely one I got on Amazon:

We’re not supposed to respond to reviews, so reader, if you happen across this blog post, thanks for taking the time to review! I appreciate it. 

Would I consider the promo a success? That depends on what your version of success is. Giving away 6,000 books made good for my ranking:

But as we all know, free doesn’t mean too much. But all in all, I’m happy with the promo. I do want to try a Goodreads giveaway at some point, and they cost as much (or as little) as the Freebooksy ad. Maybe I’ll try it with my next book. But I have to pace myself since I won’t be publishing anything for a while as I write my Bridesmaid Quartet. I’m going to rapid release those, and I won’t be publishing them until all four books are done.

I would recommend doing a Freebooksy ad. So far I’ve liked the results of mine.

Until next time!