Cover Reveal – Out of the Past, A New Mystery

Here’s the new cover for the fifth novel in the acclaimed Reed Ferguson mystery series!  I’m so excited about this new novel.  Reed is growing as a detective, the plot is suspenseful and tense.  Here’s the blurb:

Compelled by a dark secret from his past, Denver detective Reed Ferguson takes on his most unique case yet – bodyguard for young, spoiled trust-fund baby Stephanie McMahon – and gets more than he bargained for.  As Reed tries to protect Stephanie from an unknown assailant, he realizes that things are not what they seem, no one can be trusted, and the past has a way of coming back to haunt us.  And when suspicious deaths begin piling up, Reed knows he might be next.  With a twisting plot and film noir fun that readers have come to expect, Out of the Past is Reed Ferguson at his best.

Out Of The Past - Reed Ferguson mystery series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m running a contest!  I am giving away one signed, trade paperback version of Out of the Past (US residents only).  If you read and review the novel, let me know and you’ll be entered into a drawing for the paperback copy.  When the novel has ten reviews on Amazon, I’ll do the drawing (one in ten odds, not bad :) ).  Email me at renee@reneepawlish.com to let me know you reviewed the book and I’ll enter you into the drawing.

Thanks to everyone for supporting this series!

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Indie Authors – The Future of ACX and Audiobooks

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Indie Author Handbook

In late February, ACX, Amazon’s audiobook division, changed its royalty rates, and I immediately wondered how the changes will affect indie authors.  I have recently contracted with a narrator to produce the first Reed Ferguson mystery, This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies, and as I’ve read more about this move by ACX, I’ve wondered about how viable it will be for me to move into more audiobook creation.

Indie Authors – ACX Changes

ACX used to have royalty rates that started at 50% of sales, with the possibility of increasing to 90%, but now ACX offers a flat 40%, with no escalation.  Now, this may sound great, but you have to keep in mind how many authors create ebooks.  An author can choose to pay a narrator and/or producer to create an audiobook, and this can cost thousands of dollars.  Or an author can choose a 50/50 split of profits with a narrator.  This is the options I’ve chosen.  So the new royalty rate means the narrator and I get 20% on every sale of my audiobook.  This is getting into territory more like traditional publishing contracts…

And, many authors get the bulk of their sales from an ACX program which heavily discounts books cross-platform, with audiobook sales as low as $1.99.  Now that 40% royalty split two ways is really low….

Indie Authors – The ACX Bounty Program

Another change to ACX is the bounty program.  ACX pays a bonus for new customers who acx promotiondownload your book first.  The bonus payment used to be $25 per download, but it’s been upped to $50 (or from $12.50 to $25.00 on Royalty Share deals).  A lot of authors, bestsellers certainly, make more from the bounty program than they do from their royalties.  So this helps them.  But what about others, who aren’t on the bestseller lists?  Some, like Publishers Weekly, speculate that this will force indie authors into promoting their audiobooks more:

The move, Amazon said in the post, which takes effect March 12, 2014, will, in part, encourage authors to become more aggressive marketers.

Indie Authors – What Does This Mean For Ebooks?

It’s important to remember that ACX is an Amazon company.  Remember Amazon, the company touted by so many as savior for indie authors?  They’ve given us so much and isn’t it great and all?  And it has been.  But is Amazon showing its true colors?  Amazon can and will change its royalty structures how they see fit.  Never forget that Amazon is a business, and that they care about themselves, not indie authors.  Will Amazon reduce the royalties for ebooks?  Who knows?  I can tell you this, if they do, it won’t surprise me…

Indie Authors – Uncertainty Leads To Distrust

This move leads to distrust in a company, in this case, not so much ACX, but Amazon.  Don’t believe me?  Here are some comments from big names in the indie publishing world:

Chuck Wendig:

Amazon is not your friend, author person.

Amazon is a giant corporation. It serves itself. You might think, It serves its customers, which is only true in that to serve itself it generally has to serve its customers. And this is entirely fine and normal. To reiterate: Amazon is not your friend. Its job is not to be your friend.

Hugh Howey:

Personally, I’m shocked that Amazon would do anything to fuel the speculation that once they grow big enough, authors will suffer. Whatever margins they hope to improve by this 10% move can’t possibly be enough to cover the damage they’ve caused in public relations or the power they’ve granted to their detractors.

Russell Blake:

It really comes down to a question of trust.  Trust is fragile, and requires a leap of faith when those required to trust are small, relatively helpless, and at the mercy of the large entity they trust.  Trust is very hard to build, and extremely easy to lose. And once lost, it can never truly be recovered.  It’s a sad day for a lot of reasons.

acxAnd here are some other comments:

I’ve shelved my plans for audiobooks. What I thought was a great program now doesn’t seem worth the trouble.

***

I cannot see how I can justify more money thrown to ACX.

***

In my talks with my narrators, it’s clear this will hurt both sides of the creative package, narrators and authors.

Neither side, myself included as a writer, will have as much incentive to create new audio books.

***

This is a horrible move by ACX. Their rate structure already wasn’t setting the world on fire. Now they’ve made it downright unappealing. I especially enjoyed how they seem to think this crappy new rate structure will bring in new authors in droves.

***

I personally would like to thank Amazon and ACX for making me realize just what a fool I’ve been to put all my eggs in one place. My Select period is coming up and I won’t be enrolling any of my books in with Amazon again. Giving them exclusivity, despite all the benefits of borrows, etc, is just not worth putting your career in one mega giant’s hands. Diversify, people. Diversify, diversify, diversify.

***

Amazon is not our benefactor, our patron, or our friend. It is important to always stay aware of that. And it is important to always stay aware of how much power we give Amazon. If this change from Amazon today just bankrupted a couple of authors, or even made it suddenly difficult to pay their rent, then they were giving too much power to Amazon.

Hugh Howey has an interesting post on ACX, and take a look at this post by Jane Friedman.  I took a sampling of these comments from those two posts.  And I found very little positive in the rest of the comments.  This doesn’t seem to bode well for ACX and Amazon, but the questions are: are they listening? and do they care?

It’s important to note, you are in control of your writing career, not Amazon, or any other company.

What are your thoughts on the ACX royalty changes?

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Indie Authors – Indie Publishing Versus Traditional

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

The other day I read a blog post by Toby Neal, where she addressed whether indie publishing was worth it, and if she had to do it all again, would she still indie publish or try the traditional publishing route.  It’s a fascinating post and I encourage you to read it, and Toby asked me my thoughts, so I’m doing my own post.

Indie Authors – What Started You On This Path?

As I read Toby’s post and she talked about how she’d written 179 query letters, it took me back.  You see, I’m a writer who started on my journey a long time ago.  I sent out my first query letter in 1995.  I’ve queried a number of different books, and I’ve come close to getting an agent multiple times (I heard things like your book shows promise – if I had more time, I’d take you on and I like the book but horror doesn’t sell).  I knew I was close to getting an agent (which told me my books were worthy of publication as well) when I decided to self-publish Nephilim Genesis of Evil.  This was before Amazon and the Kindle.  And I sold over 500 copies and even got the book into Barnes & Noble (it’s sold a lot more since the ebook came out a few years later).  I learned a lot through that, wrote some other novels (one of which is sitting on a shelf that I will someday edit and publish), and then I read about Amanda Hocking and I decided to take the leap.

Indie Authors – Jumping In To Self-Publishing

I was not like Toby, who spent a lot of money producing her books.  I was unemployed at the time and I had to do almost everything myself to keep my costs down.  If I had to do one thing over, I would get more feedback on my covers.  Nephilim’s cover was already done (see above) and I believe it’s very good, but the Reed Ferguson mystery series was new and I had to hire a graphic artist for that.  Unfortunately, the one I chose did an okay job with the covers, but not nearly as good as the new ones I had done about a year later (he did a great job with The Emerald Quest, but I knew then how to direct him better so that he created a better cover).  The new ones capture the film noir feel much better.  If I had more money, I’d consider hiring out more things because it would leave me time to write, but I don’t :) .  One thing that struck me with Toby’s blog was she said that she spent $12,000 to produce and market her first book, but made that back in two months.  I would love to know what marketing she did to get those kind of results, as most indie authors, even with a great product, don’t see that with a first book (and neither do traditionally published authors).

Indie Authors – The Business Of Writing

I love that Toby speaks to the business side of publishing, as this is an area that many new authors neglect.  They write a book, assume it’s good (maybe, maybe not) and they put it up on Amazon with little thought to how professional the book is.  Toby notes it as the difference between being an author/publisher versus a hobbyist.  This is a great point.  Unfortunately, too many people are hobbyists, not taking their writing or publishing seriously, and it makes it more difficult for those who take writing and publishing seriously (more on that in another post).  If you’re someone who puts yourself in the first category, then treat it as a business.  In a business, you have to spend money, and spend it wisely.  This isn’t magic.  It’s hard work.

Indie Authors – Hard Work

I also agree with Toby on this, and I’ve been preaching this on my blog since I started it.  indie author and hard workWriting it hard work.  It takes time to learn your craft, to know how to write a good book, and it takes time to market books.  It takes time to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the publishing world.  New authors need to know what works now.  What worked for me early on to help sell a lot of books doesn’t work now.  Social media doesn’t work to sell books like it once did.  Free isn’t working like it once did.  This comes back to spending your dollars wisely.  Research before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars.  And be careful of quitting your day job.  I’ve heard of many indie authors who have a great few months or year and they quit their day job, only to find out that sales tanked down the road.  Fluctuating sales are normal – be aware of this before you assume you can make a living with your writing.  And if you can, congrats to you!

Indie Authors – Resources

As I said above, I tend to do everything myself if I can.  I hire two editors for all my books (and they edit for both grammar/spelling and content/story structure etc), and I hire out most of my covers (although I’m looking at doing this myself in the near future).  I use CreateSpace for print books (don’t buy into those that say you don’t need print books – many, many people still buy print books), although I do hear that LightningSource is great as well.  And CreateSpace does distribute worldwide and to libraries.  I’ve learned to format both ebooks and paperbacks, and I now consult and help others with this.  It’s not hard, once you know what you’re doing, and it’s an area where I can save money by doing it myself.

Indie Authors – Marketing

kdp selectWhen I first published, I was on Amazon only, and I tried KDP Select.  In looking back, I might’ve given that more time but I bowed out, then got back in when I heard about Bookbub.  But I’ve since bowed out again and I’m distributing all my books everywhere I can.  I look at it as every place I can sell is a potential revenue stream.  I’ve sold well at Barnes & Noble, and my sales at Apple and Kobo are picking up as well.  At this point, it wouldn’t be worth it to go back to just Amazon (especially since I’m exploring more foreign distribution, where sadly, Amazon is greatly lacking).

As I said before, what once worked for marketing doesn’t necessarily work now.  And what works for one author won’t for another.  There is a lot of luck involved in this, but if there’s one thing that stays the same it’s reaching readers.  That’s why Bookbub has worked, because they reach a lot of readers.  I wonder if in the future the old way of doing things, where an author actually went out and met readers, will become the thing again (going to libraries, schools, book clubs, anywhere where you can connect with real people).  Who knows?  This again is where new authors have to be aware of what’s going on around them.  Sometimes those that utilize a new thing first (like KDP Select or Bookbub) see the most success, and those that jump on the bandwagon later are too late.  Stay connected and ask around.

Indie Authors – Earnings

It’s funny when I read a post like Toby’s.  I have so many mixed emotions.  I’m incredibly happy for her and the success she’s having, but I find reading the posts authors write about their successes somewhat discouraging.  Yes, it’s amazing that in this new age of publishing that indie authors are doing this, but I keep waiting for my ship to come in.  Sure, I’ve made money at this, but not to the point where I can quit my day job (and yes, I finally have one again, thank God).

I question things I should’ve done differently, and then have to refocus to what I can do now.  And it’s not all about the money (don’t get me wrong, it would be nice).  Ultimately I love to write and create stories, I love to see a project come to fruition, and I love to connect with other authors and readers.  So I won’t stop until those things cease to be fun.  And I do make some money at this.  If the big money comes, that’ll be great, but for now, I keep plugging away.  But would any of this make me decide to go the traditional route?

Indie Authors – If I Could Go Back, Would I Go The Traditional Route?

No, absolutely not.

Because I’ve done more than I ever could have with a traditional publisher.  I’ve published more stories than I would’ve with traditional publishing, I’m teaching a class on self-publishing at a local college and I likely wouldn’t have done that unless I’d gone this route, and yes, I’m making some money – more money – than I would’ve with traditional publishing.  Novels that agents said wouldn’t sell do sell, and I’m creating a fan base.  And for all my self-doubts, amidst the times I get discouraged, there is one constant – I have an incredible amount of fun doing this.

The only thing that a new writer might consider when questioning what route to take is genre.  In all the hoopla about Hugh Howey’s report about sales data, not a lot focuses on genre as it pertains to traditional publishing.  What genre you’re in makes a huge difference in your potential sales, especially when considering indie versus traditional publishing.  Edward W. Robertson has a great post on this, and how those of us who publish mysteries have a much tougher time with sales than other genres.

That being said, I still agree with the indie authors who say they would only sign a traditional publishing contract if it was for a lot of money, was print-only, and was slanted in my favor.  Will that ever happen for me?  Who knows?  But in this new age of publishing, I do know this – anything can happen.

One thing I do think should be noted, and that’s that there is some benefit to getting a traditional deal.  Like it or not, it still gives an author credibility (although this is changing), but beyond that, it allows for consideration in major awards (many associations still won’t consider indie authors, although hopefully this will change), and it’s harder to get speaking engagements at major conferences as indie authors (I’m talking about unknowns here, not those who’ve sold a lot of books and have established a name).  And these are ways of connecting and gaining more readers.

Thanks again to Toby Neal for her great post, and for reaching out to me for my thoughts.  I hope you find both posts helpful.  Okay, now I need to get back to writing the fifth novel in the Reed Ferguson mystery series…

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Indie Authors – Bookbub Explains Their Pricing

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

Recently Bookbub wrote a blog post about their pricing strategies and I thought it was interesting, especially for us indie authors.  I’ve used Bookbub a few times for advertizing, and I’ve been turned down by them once.  I have mixed feelings about Bookbub (you can read it in my post Indie Authors – Questioning Bookbub), and this new post addressing questions about their pricing (we authors and publishers are called partners – hmm, given what I pay for an ad, I don’t feel much like a partner) did little to change my opinion.  Read on…

Indie Authors And A Positive Return On Your Investment

According to Bookbub, their goal when determining pricing is:

to ensure that the vast majority of our partners receive a positive return on their investment

They also state:

we do our best to price our lists fairly and to select only deals we believe will perform well, so that authors and publishers have the best possible chance of making a profit

On the face of it, fair enough.  But my questions are what is a positive return and what constitutes making a profit, in their eyes?  If I make one dollar more than what my advertizing cost, I made a profit (unless I’ve just published the book and I’m still in the red in terms of paying editors, cover artists, etc.).  Does this mean Bookbub succeeded?

Indie Authors And Optimal Pricing

Bookbub adjusts their pricing twice a month (seems excessive to me, but what do I know).  bookbub logoThis is in order to reach an optimal pricing framework.  What does this mean?  That they’re covering their expenses and making a little profit?  An exorbitant profit?  Or what?  Just asking…

They say this is calculated by sales data, average sales number, and expected royalties.  From Bookbub:

To determine the price, we employ a model that uses the factors above to calculate a listing fee for each category and each price bracket. It suggests an amount that will allow us to continue to support the Bookbub service, while on average generating a profit for most of our partners.

Indie Authors And Profit

Okay, makes sense, except determining what constitutes profit for them versus the partners (authors and publishers).  I get their email and if I calculate what they’re charging (and I’m only listed in a few categories), they’re making thousands of dollars each day.  Hmm, how much does it really cost to support the Bookbub service?  I’m in IT and I know it can’t be that much to run their operation.

Bookbub also factors in average purchase rate, not just subscriber counts (which I’ve heard is a somewhat iffy count because one subscriber is counted in multiple genres).

Indie Authors And The Breaking Point

I appreciate Bookbub trying to be transparent, but the post still left me wondering how they can justify continually raising their prices.  At some point this seems like it will come back to bite them.  Should their pricing continually be adjusted so that the authors barely makes a profit (I realize there are exceptions to this)?  At what point does this strategy turn on them, where authors say the investment isn’t worth it anymore (or will it)?  It’s becoming harder to get your book accepted, and we indie authors are now up against Big Five published books.  I’d like to try a listing higher than 99 cents, but I can’t afford the investment, and I’m sure there are many others like me.  Will we get priced out at some point?  Given that many indie authors are feeling like free isn’t a good strategy anymore, and 99 cents and above is where the future of a bargain is headed, this makes the cost of their advertizing even more an issue.  I’ve read on more than one site (if I can find the links, I’ll post them), that authors are speculating about how effective Bookbub will be in 2014 and beyond.  It will be interesting to see.

What do you think?

PS – one speculation about Bookbub’s effectiveness is on a Russell Blake post – 2014 Predictions.  In the comments, one author says:

Bookbub was great at the beginning — but less effective as 2013 winds down.

And I’ve read this sentiment elsewhere.  Again, what happens remains to be seen…

Posted in Indie Author Handbook, Promoting Your Books | Tagged , | 8 Comments

The Author Blog Chain

I was contacted a few weeks back by a wonderful author, Christina Carson, who asked me if I’d like to participate in an Author Blog Chain.  I met Christina through her husband and another fantastic author, Bert Carson.  This is a simple idea: I answer four questions and then I ask other authors to participate.  So I’ll answer the questions and then introduce you to another great author.

What Am I Currently Working On?

I am working on the fifth novel in the Reed Ferguson mystery series.  In this novel, Reed is hired as a bodyguard for a snobby rich girl.  I like the concept and it’s giving me a chance to explore more of who Reed is, and to develop his character and back story.  I truly enjoy writing this series, and I hope to have this novel published in a couple of months.

How does my work differ from others’ in the same genre?

This is tough to answer because I write in so many genres.  One of the things that sets my mystery series apart is that we get to meet Reed as a new detective – we get to see him develop his detecting skills and learn about the business side of things.  My other series, the Noah Winter adventures series (The Emerald Quest) is one of the few that I’m aware that has sea exploration as the primary focus.  Nephilim Genesis of Evil creates a different kind of horror versus others in the genre (no zombies with this one :) ).  One thing I love about self-publishing is that I can write in so many different genres.

Why do I write what I do?

I write the stories that come to me.  My mind is constantly working and constantly thinking.  I’ll hear something or see something and I’ll think about how a story can be wrapped around it.  The bad thing is that I don’t have enough time to develop everything.

How does my writing process work?

My process is varied.  Sometimes I have a few words or a sentence that will end up being the beginning of something.  Codename Richard (a ghost story) came about because of something I saw on television.  I enjoy the process of shaping a story.  Once I get going, I try to write every day, even if it’s just a paragraph or two, or editing what I wrote the day before.  I’m trying to be a faster writer as well, but the challenge is to not sacrifice quality.

I asked a few people to participate in this chain; a couple were not able to commit at this time, but one author did.  I met Rob Guthrie through social media, and I’ve been impressed with his blog and thoughts.  Here is more about him.

R.S. Guthrie grew up in Iowa and Wyoming. He has been writing fiction, essays, short stories, and lyrics since college.

“Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel” marked Guthrie’s first major release and it heralded the first in a series of Detective Bobby Macaulay (Bobby Mac) books. The second in the series (“Lost”) hit the Kindle shelves December of 2011. “Reckoning” closes out the trilogy. For now…

Guthrie’s “Blood Land” is the first in the Sheriff James Pruett Mystery/Thriller series and represents a project that is close to his heart: it is set in a fictional town in the same county where he spent much of his childhood and still visits. The sequel, “Money Land”, hit the shelves Christmas Day, 2012. “Honor Land”, the third in the bestselling James Pruett Mystery/Thriller series is due out in 2014.

Guthrie lives in Colorado with his wife, three young Australian Shepherds, and a Chihuahua who thinks she is a 40-pound Aussie!

Readers can catch up with what’s new with R.S. Guthrie at his official site, http://www.rsguthrie.com , or discussions related to writing at his blog, Rob on Writing (http://robonwriting.com).

I hope you’ll check out these great authors.

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Do You Like And Support Indie Authors? Then Don’t Do This

I normally try to be careful about what I say about things like reviews, but I noticed something that really gets my goat.  On Barnes & Noble, someone left this one-star review for my mystery novel This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies:

This may be a great book. I read another Reed Ferguson, but this one came out with the typography all garbled so it could not be understood.

Seriously???  Where is the review of the book?  Where’s the discussion of what you liked (or didn’t like) about the story, the characters and so on?  This review has nothing to do with the book…and that’s what a review should be about.

All this reviewer has done is hurt me as an author.  Why?  Because that one star affects my overall rating, which other shoppers see, and it affects my ability to advertize, as many sites want a minimum review rating (usually 4 stars or higher).

I’m all for honest reviews…of the book!  You want to tell me I stink as a writer, that’s okay.  I can take it.  If you say that I have typos or grammatical errors, that’s a fair critique.  I’ve learned things from reviews, both positive and negative, and before someone says I’m saying don’t give negative reviews, let’s be clear.  I’m not.

What I am saying is that if you have a problem with an a book’s formatting – it’s garbled, didn’t get delivered correctly, etc. – things the author has no control of – then the complaint should be taken to the company.  Why?  Because Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites don’t read the reviews!  They have no idea that you’re upset, like this reviewer was.

I get it – you’re upset that the product you bought wasn’t what you expected.  And here’s the thing: I’m just as upset as you are that you didn’t get the ebook delivered correctly.  That stinks.  But again, to leave this kind of review only hurts the author.  It doesn’t help you get the issue straightened out.  It doesn’t help Amazon or whatever site improve their systems.  They do need to know, but trying to alert them with a negative review isn’t the way to do it.

So, a plea from an author, if you run into this situation, please think about the author before you write this kind of review.

What do you think?

Posted in Indie Author Handbook | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Indie Authors – 5 Predictions For 2014

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

As we move into 2014, I thought I’d give some predictions for indie authors in the coming year.  Who knows if I’ll be right or not, but it’s interesting to speculate on what might happen this year in the publishing world.

Indie Authors – Will Barnes & Noble Or The Nook Disappear?

This is one many authors are debating, and I’m going to weigh in.  I don’t think the Nook disappears, at least not this year.  It’s second in sales, and expanding its sale distribution outside the U.S.  And many readers prefer the Nook over the Kindle.  A change in how they try to sell the Nook would do wonders for it.  As Dean Wesley Smith states, the Nook does need some refocus, but it’s not going anywhere.

Along the same lines, some, like JA Konrath, predict that Barnes & Noble will go away.  I don’t see this happening.  Paperback book sales are fine, and Barnes & Noble is doing everything it needs to in order to stay viable in the book business.  For more on this, and for some great counterpoints to JA Konrath’s predictions, read Dean Wesley Smith’s blog – it’s a wonderful synopsis of where he thinks Konrath is correct, and where he’s missed the mark.

Indie Authors – Amazon’s Pull In The Market Will Diminish

Amazon took ebook publishing by storm, and they did a lot to try to corner the market amazonwith KDP Select.  But more and more authors are reporting that free isn’t what it used to be, and they’ve left KDP Select (for more on this, read Indie Authors – Is Amazon Kindle Countdown Deals Beneficial?).  That’s one factor in what I see as Amazon’s losing it grip on the market, although it will be slight.  Another factor is overseas sales.  Even though Amazon is publishing in many other countries, it’s difficult to make any headway in those markets.  And readers in other countries aren’t necessarily gravitating toward the Kindle (can anyone say Kobo?), and this doesn’t bode well for Amazon either.  I’m sure Amazon will come up with something else to try to lure authors back into exclusivity with them, but I don’t see many coming back because they don’t want to forfeit the traction they’ve made in other markets.

Indie Authors – Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Each year we see more and more people try their hand at writing, many (if they’re honest with themselves) with the dream of hitting it big.  But one thing that hasn’t changed over time is that few will do that.  Sure, it’s easier now to make a living at this writing thing, but it still takes a lot of work, dedication, more work, sacrifice, and more work to get paid a livable wage on a consistent basis.  Many people don’t have the stomach for this.  And many will realize that, although they’re doing okay in terms of sales, it’s not enough to make a living.  The old adage don’t quit your day job will remain true.

Indie Authors – Mainstream Publishers Will Reshape And Reform

Mainstream publishing isn’t going away.  The Big Five (or whatever it is now) will still produce books, still live off some big name sellers, and still be in the marketplace.  They do know now, more than ever, that publishing is changing, and they’ll change with it.  It may mostly be in negative ways, but it’ll be enough so that they stay around.  I do think we’ll see more indie authors get hybrid contracts, where the big publishers produce their print books, but the authors retain ebook rights.  And that’s a good thing.

Indie Authors – Do You Need An Agent Anymore?

Agents will continue to lose relevance.  Now, I’m not saying there aren’t good agents, or that they aren’t helpful to authors.  But the old way of publishing, where you generally had to have an agent in order to publish, is long gone.  In its place are agents who are trying to figure out their role in all this.  I also think we will see a rise in agent scams, so it behooves indie authors to vet agents very carefully (this should happen anyway, but unfortunately it doesn’t).

One thing I do know is that I’m grateful to all my readers and supporters!  I hope you all have a wonderful year.  What do you think will happen in 2014?

On a side note, it’s Elvis Presley’s birthday!  If you know me, you know I’m a huge fan.  I wrote a blog last year, Five Things Authors Can Learn From Elvis Presley, and I hope you’ll give it a reread for some inspiration :) .

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Indie Authors – How To Make It In Self-Publishing

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

I saw an interesting business article this morning called 9 Ways to make a Million and as I read it, I was struck by how much of the advice applies to indie authors and self-publishing.  I’ve been working at my craft for many, many years and at times I get discouraged that I don’t have the success of some others.  And there’s always more I should be doing:

  • writing faster and publishing more books
  • getting my existing books in more markets
  • pursuing other avenues to sell books
  • figuring out other ways to market my books online
  • and on and on

I’ll talk to friends of mine (who aren’t authors) about all this, and many will say but you do so much, and you work so hard at it, it will come.  I sometimes lose sight of what I have done, and that this whole journey is part of the process to get me where I want to be.  And that’s where the article has value for indie authors…

Indie Authors – Start With Nothing

Most of us indie authors don’t just have a gift for writing a bestseller on our first attempt.  We learn our craft, practice, get rejected and more before we hit it big (and many of us will never hit it big, it’s just the way it is).  But, as the article points out, adversity and competition breed great leaders, or in this case, great authors.

Indie Authors – Do What You Love And Hope The Market Is There

For me, writing is more than just a business, or a way to make money.  I love everything indie authors earn moneyabout writing and books.  I love plotting stories and creating characters.  I would never do this if it was just about money, because let’s face it, there are a lot easier ways to make money (I just want to someday make enough money that I don’t need a day job :) ).  Indie authors also have to consider that the story they loved creating may not have a market.  That’s part of this journey as well.

Indie Authors – You Own It

The really cool thing about self-publishing is that we indie authors are in control.  We get final say over editing, covers, where we publish, how much we charge, and so much more.  But with this comes the need to be prudent with our budgets and our resources.  Most of us don’t have tons of money for advertizing, publicists and so on.  We have to be creative in all areas of our publishing endeavors.

Indie Authors – Take Risks, Make Mistakes, Trust Your Gut

As the article states, wildly successful people take calculated risks.  Sometimes you’ll fall flat on your face, but to be successful, you’ll pick yourself up and keep going.  And you’ll learn from your mistakes.  Indie authors also learn to trust their instincts, and beyond that, we have another great resource – each other.  This is such a supportive community – tap into it.

Indie Authors – Hard Work And Sacrifice

indie author - hard workThis piece of advice has been around for centuries, and it applies to indie authors.  It takes a lot of work to write and publish.  I think we’re already seeing many indie authors leave the business because they thought they could just write a book and it would instantly be a bestseller.  What the successful indie authors know is that it take a lot of hard work, and sacrifices in other areas of our lives, in order to write and sell books.

Indie Authors – Make Your Own Luck

There’s been a lot written about manufacturing your own luck.  Yes, there is such a thing as luck, but putting yourself in situations where luck can occur is prudent.  Get out and meet people, talk about what you do, look for opportunity to connect with readers and other authors, and things will start happening.  For example, I started teaching a class on self-publishing at a community college and it’s led me to wonderful new opportunities, some of which may help propel me into a household name.  If that happens, it will be because of luck and my putting myself out there…

Indie Authors – Diversify

At this point, if you’re staying exclusive to Amazon, you’re probably making a mistake.  And if you’re only selling ebooks, you’re probably making a mistake.  Look to diversify into paperbacks, audiobooks, boxed sets, serials, collaborations and more.  Get your books out in as many markets as you can.

What do you think it takes to make it in publishing?

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Indie Authors – 2013 In Review

Another year has come and gone, and it’s time to take a look back at 2013.  It’s been an interesting year for indie authors, and for the publishing industry.  Here are some things of note that occurred…

January – What Does The New Year Hold For Indie Authors?

January imageThe indie revolution continues.  The previous two years have seen double-digit gains in ebook sales from previous years.  Will this happen in 2013 (more on this below)?  On another note, Guy Kawasaki publishes APE How to Publish a Book with amazing success.  Unfortunately many indie authors don’t have the kind of brand he has, but it can be an inspiration to us.

February – Changes To Amazon’s Affiliate Program Affects KDP Select

Amazon, yet again, makes changes that affect indie authors who give away free books.  Sites like Pixel of Ink and ENT have to adapt and feature paid books as well as free.  How much did it affect indie authors?  Hard to say…

March – Bookbub Explodes On The Scene

Okay, maybe I’ve got the month wrong, but somewhere early in the year Bookbub took hold of indie author hearts.  Bookbub (at least initially) seemed to really help authors boost sales, even though their prices were (and are) high and continued to rise.  Finding where to effectively advertize is still a challenge.

Amazon buys Goodreads.  From comments on many of the articles about the sale, readers aren’t happy.  Goodreads says it won’t change…we’ll see.

April – Nook Ebook Sales Are Up

David Gaughran notes on his blog, self-published titles at Barnes & Noble account for 25% nook bookof their sales (Amazon sales are about 30%).  Kobo’s fan base is growing as well, especially in Canada, where publishers estimate Kobo has 50% of digital sales.  Indie authors, take note…

May – Author Solutions Is Sued

Author Solutions, known as a scam agency, is finally sued.  If you’re not familiar with Author Solutions, just google Author Solutions scam and you’ll find a plethora of information about how this agency is scamming folks out of their money.  It’s about time someone took them to task.  And watch out for Archway Press (operated by Author Solutions).  It pays to educate yourself in this age of self-publishing…

June – Indie Authors Report Free Has No Value Anymore

free tagAh, did we finally come to this?  No, not really.  Many indie authors report that Amazon’s KDP Select isn’t working anymore (i.e. no post-free sales bump or jump in popularity lists), but many turn to permafree as the new way to work free.  Free can still bring in fans, but capitalizing on KDP Select seems to be a lost cause for most.

July – Ebook Sales Experience Minimal Gains

A report states that the Association of American Publishers, ebook sales increase 4.8% in the first six months of the year.  Children’s ebooks skew this a bit because of the sales in previous years of The Hunger Games series.  How accurate is the survey?  Who knows…but we do know an indie author can still sell plenty of ebooks :) .

On another note, Penguin and Random House complete their merger, creating a giant in the publishing world.

August – Is Amazon Messing With Rankings?

Is it a glitch with Amazon?  Authors report that sales rankings on Amazon are jumping all over the place.  Categories seem to be messed up as well.  Kindle boards are abuzz, but things seem to stabilize quickly.

September – Amazon Changes Categories, And Kindle Matchbook

Amazon changes their categories.  From their site:

The number of browse categories allowed for Kindle titles was changed from five to two in order to provide our customers with a more relevant searching experience and achieve parity with our guidelines for physical books.

Books published before this change will retain their original category assignments of up to five.  However, if a publisher chooses to change their category assignments after this change was implemented, their title will be restricted to two categories.

We can add a total of two Kindle store categories that aren’t currently available to select in your KDP Bookshelf, as long as they already exist in the Kindle Store.  If you’d like us to manually change your category, you’ll first need to remove one of the current categories.  Also, for the books having more than two categories, please also confirm that we can delete the third category that we added for you.

The changes affect keyword searches, and more concerning, author sales.

kindle matchbookAlso, Amazon introduces Kindle Matchbook, and authors don’t have to be exclusive to Amazon to join the program.  If you purchase a paperback book from Amazon, you can now buy the Kindle ebook version at a discount.  And what’s nice about the program is that Amazon is promising that even if you bought a book from Amazon years ago, you can still get the ebook now at a discount.

October – Goodreads Changes Review Policies In Response To Bullies

Goodreads changes its review policies.  Apparently someone wasn’t playing nice with their goodreads logoreviews, prompting Goodreads to step in.  It will be interesting to see how this change impacts indie authors.

Kobo pulls titles after a backlash about them publishing indecent material.  It affects many indie authors whose titles weren’t violating their policies.

November – Amazon Introduces Kindle Countdown Deals

Kindle Countdown DealsAmazon’s latest program to lure authors into exclusivity with them is Kindle Countdown Deals.  But since so many authors have left KDP Select, will the program work?  It does seem like a great way to influence buyers, but the exclusivity piece may signal its downfall.  Only time will tell…

On another note, print books aren’t going away.  According to the latest stats, hardcover books sales outpace ebook sales in 2013.  Of course, stats can be manipulated, but it’s probably fair to say that print books are doing okay.

December – Boxed Sets Are In

From browsing the bestseller lists, it would seem that boxed sets are in.  Back in my day (oh, I’m getting old :) ), we called it the Omnibus, but regardless, boxed sets are selling.  Take the first three (or more) books in a series, bundle them together and sell them at a discount.  It seems to be working.  Many indie authors are also creating boxed sets with others in their genres, creating a sampler for readers.  And a takeaway from this: how creative indie authors are about their marketing.

And that’s my takeaway for 2014: we indie authors are a creative bunch, not only with the books we sell, but with our marketing, too.  Mainstream publishers and book agents should take note.

What things did I miss?  A lot has gone on this past year.  For some in-depth analysis from an industry pro, read Dean Wesley Smith’s post.  It’s enlightening.

Thank you ALL for your support this past year.  I hope you all have a blessed New Year and I’ll see you in 2014!

Posted in Indie Author Handbook | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Indie Authors – Questioning Bookbub

By now I’m sure just about every indie author has heard about Bookbub.  I seemed to have heard about them later than others, but I’ve used them a few times now for advertizing.  And although their results are better than anywhere else, I believe that there are some concerns with their site.  Read on…

Bookbub – Bookbub Indie Savior?

bookbub logoI’m stealing that headline from Rob Guthrie.  He wrote an interesting post a while back about Bookbub and their editorial staff.  If you haven’t read the post, it’s worth getting another indie author’s perspective on Bookbub.  One thing Rob notes is:

The Bub better be careful.  The window of success for businesses who treat their clientele like meal tickets rather than valued partners is very small.  Microscopic in the long run.

I’m feeling a bit like Rob these days, especially as Bookbub continues to raise its prices, reject books that should be accepted, do very little to answer questions, and does not verify that their mailing list is indeed as large as they state (more on this below).  So what’s my deal with Bookbub?  I’m glad you asked…

Bookbub – Bookbub’s Numbers

Bookbub claims to have over one million subscribers for their daily email blasts.  That’s quite a number, one that they never verify (believe me, authors have asked them to but never get an answer from Bookbub).  Bookbub also has a page that breaks down their pricing (you’ll choke when you see it) and averages on book downloads.  Let’s take the mystery category.  Right now, Bookbub states that this list has 770,000+ subscribers.  Free book downloads average 17,000, with a range of 8,000 to 25,800.  Discounted books average 1,730 sold with a range of 250 to 4,720.

Bookbub – Breaking Down The Numbers

Let’s say that Bookbub’s numbers are true.  What then should the indie author be able to click-through rateexpect?  In email marketing, a decent click-through rate would be 1% to 2%.  Really good click-through rates would be 5% or higher.  So, is Bookbub delivering?  We should expect at minimum 1%.  Let’s check it out, using their highest numbers in the mystery category:

4,720 / 770,000 = 0.0061298701298701

Wow.  Bookbub delivers at a whopping 0.6% rate.  Not good at all (especially for the price they charge).  And herein lies my main issue with Bookbub…

Bookbub – The Cost

The main complaint I hear from indie authors is that Bookbub is SO expensive.  And rightly so.  Don’t believe me?  Right now, to advertize a 99 cent book is $520.  To advertize a book at $2+ is more than my mortgage payment!  Think about that.

Bookbub price imageOf course Bookbub can charge what they want, but wouldn’t you expect that such a costly site would have a better click-through (sales) rate?  Now I’m sure many of you are saying but I’m getting more sales than I have anywhere else.  Yep, me too.  But don’t be fooled.  You should be expecting more from Bookbub, and they need to hear this.

On a side note, I fill out the feedback form every time I do a listing.  This last time was the first that I had a book offered on other sites, and when I gave Bookbub my numbers, I forgot to include Barnes & Noble.  And I also quoted my numbers based on the one day that the Bookbub listing ran.  Boy, their staff came back within minutes that I’d reported the numbers wrong.  And they were only partly correct.  They’d included all sales since the listing, not just for that day.  So they are sensitive to their numbers, but I also think they are erroneous in how they figure out what they charge.  Here’s why.

Bookbub – What They Should Focus On

Bookbub focuses on the wrong thing, in my humble opinion.  They look at their email list (questionable, and some are wondering if they’re buying their lists, which would be really bad for them if that ever comes out) and say wow, we’ll charge you based on how many people are on the list.  Then they say the author get 35% or 70% of the listing price, which is also not true.  Authors pay a delivery fee, depending on the size of the ebook, and royalty rates are also dependent on whether an author is enrolled in KDP Select or not.  But Bookbub doesn’t care.  And finally, just looking at the download numbers is wrong, again, based on the royalty rate.  It take a lot more downloads to break even if you’re royalty rate is 35%.  Bookbub should be thinking about this.  But again, they don’t.

And this is all wrong on their part.  They should be charging on the click-through rate, which would be more fair to those advertizing on Bookbub, and it would encourage authors to continue using the site (without the growing grumbling).  But again, they don’t care.  They should (read Rob’s post for reasoning on this), but they don’t.  They should be concerned that authors are only breaking even or barely making a profit.  Why?  They want authors to come back, and the more authors don’t make money, the more likely they’ll look elsewhere.   Yes, it may take some time, but it will happen.

Another concern is that the more readers see the same books on Bookbub (i.e. an author advertises the same book every six months), the effectiveness of the listing could go down.  Now, maybe not.  Maybe a reader who passed the previous time decides to buy the book this time.  I don’t know, but at $260+ on up for advertizing, the risk becomes greater.

Bookbub – Indie Author Expectations

breaking evenOne thing I also wonder about is our expectations as indie authors.  I can’t tell you the number of indie authors who say:

Well, I’ve broken even or made a little money on most of my Bookbub listings.

Call me crazy, but wouldn’t you want to do more than break even or make a few dollars when you advertize?  Yes, I realize that we’re looking for new readers and new reviews and more exposure, but at what point do you want more than a break-even scenario?  This isn’t a good long-term marketing formula.  And yes, I know some of you have done very well, but I suspect this isn’t the vast majority, or Bookbub’s numbers would reflect this.  And again, using the same site over and over again to boost your sales or keep the sales high may lead to ineffective advertizing there.

Bookbub – The Editorial Team

Another issue I have is their selection/editorial process.  I recently submitted The Maltese Felon for consideration.  It’s the third novel in the Reed Ferguson mystery series.  It should be exactly what Bookbub is looking for, as their readers would want more in the series.  Bookbub should be looking at the whole series and making their decision based on that, not just that The Maltese Felon only has 5 5-star reviews.  But the book is not what their readers want…really?  And, as others have noted, some of what they accept seems pretty sketchy, so you wonder if they’re looking at anything but the money.  Not good if you’re advertizing there.  For the cost, we should expect more from the editorial team.

Bookbub – Their Help

And lastly, I think for as much as we pay for listings, we should expect more from Bookbub when it comes to support, and our questions.  I realize they get inundated with listing requests, but there ought to be a bit more feedback on why a listing was denied.  If an editorial team really is checking each book, it wouldn’t take that long to send standard emails that break down why you’re listing was rejected (not enough reviews, poor quality etc.) instead of one standard email.

Will I continue to use Bookbub?  Sure, with reservations.  I’m also looking for other sites to give Bookbub competition.  If you haven’t checked out The Fussy Librarian you should, and you should get all your readers to sign up there.  More competition will force Bookbub to be more equitable.  And that would be good for all indie authors.

Alas, Bookbub will be around for some time, but it will become more and more difficult to get a listing there.  From what I see on my daily emails, they are focusing more on mainstream-published books (they get more money that way), and as more indie authors submit, the higher competition will mean many get rejected.  I do hope sites like The Fussy Librarian take off (especially because The Fussy Librarian vows not to charge mortgage prices to advertize there), but that remains to be seen.

I’m sure many of you will tell me how great Bookbub has been for you, that you’ve had great results, and that’s fine.  Just remember, the numbers in and of themselves isn’t the point of the post :) .

Does anyone know of other sites to advertize where you feel that you’re getting good results?  Let us know.  Thanks!

Posted in Indie Author Handbook, Promoting Your Books | 32 Comments