Posts Tagged ‘indie’

Check out this great and data rich article on indie author earnings.  Eye opening!

http://jakonrath.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/me-hugh-howey-and-legacy-john-on.html

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So, I just read this article by Derek Haines, which is edgy and maybe a bit over the top.  But, a lot of it resonates with me at the same time. Specifically:

(1) Reduction of the value of our free downloads.  This 100% happened.

(2) The Amazon review purge.  This 100% happened.

(3) Changing of algorithms to reduce the success of indie books in comparison to big six books, including Amazon’s new imprint (Thomas and Mercer).  Remains to be seen.

Read the article by Derek Haines, entitled “Self Published Authors Get Ready, You’re Being Dumped” http://www.derekhaines.ch/vandal/2012/11/self-published-authors-get-ready-youre-being-dumped/

Ask yourself this at the same time.  Have the price of indie books, including the fact that we are flexible enough to offer our books for free, forever changed what consumers are willing to pay for books?  Stated otherwise, will consumers still pay $12.99 for an ebook, which is the thievery rate the big six charge?  It would be nice to know that, at a minimum, we changed that.

Why do you tweet?  It’s pretty established that Tweeting does not necessarily increase sales in a substantial fashion.  H0wever, there’s no doubt that it keeps you and your work at the shiny front (rather than the cobwebbed rear) of minds.  Read this NY Times article entitled “Why Authors Tweet,” and then let me know why you tweet.  Very interested to hear!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/books/review/why-authors-tweet.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Has anything shaken up the book industry as much as KDP Select in recent memory?  Low sales in December are being blamed almost entirely on the KDP Select program.  Despite admonitions regarding joining the Select program, I decided to roll the dice and see what good, and bad, would come from the program.  Here are the early results.

BRIEFLY, WHAT IS KDP SELECT?

I don’t want to spend much time on this, because all the information is available on your KDP page.  Basically, the Select program is this: (1) you give up all rights to distribute your EBOOK anywhere but on Amazon (does not apply to paperbacks, doesn’t apply to any ebooks which are not enrolled); (2) consumers with Amazon Prime and a Kindle device can borrow your book for free (has to be a Kindle device, not just a Kindle app); and (3) based upon the number of times your book is borrowed, you get a slice of the monthly pie, which is currently $500,000/month.

TIMING IS *ALMOST* EVERYTHING

Part of the Select program is the ability to choose dates on which you want to promote your book for free.  (As an aside, you can just change your price to $0.00 in KDP.  I believe the only difference is that you won’t know, with exactitude, when the price change will take place).  I chose December 27-28 to have two free days.  Did I base my selection on extensive market research?  Wish I could say yes.  Rather, I picked those days because it seemed logical to me that people would have new reading devices from Christmas, and would want to download new books.  Call it prescience, call it dumb luck, but people downloaded Enemy in Blue like it was a new Grisham book.

Enemy in Blue had around 800 downloads as of 8am MST on the 27th.  Literally, every time I clicked the refresh page on my KDP monthly report, the number seemed to go up by around 100 downloads.  I can tell you it was a feeling like no other, and I envy the big time writers that are used to this type of success on a yearly basis!

I think this issue of timing begs the question of whether now is a good time to run your free days?  If push came to shove, I’d say hold off for a bit until people have had a chance to run through the books they just undoubtedly downloaded.  How long is that?  No idea, but my gut says that people’s readers are loaded with books right now.

IF TIMING ISN’T EVERYTHING, WHAT ELSE IS THERE?

I honestly believe timing was not everything.  If my book had a big goose egg for reviews, I don’t think people would have downloaded it, free or not.  If I hadn’t started #AmazonLikes several months ago, Enemy in Blue wouldn’t be liked and tagged as much as it is.  If I hadn’t done the countless other things (blog tours, interviews, building a Twitter following, etc.) written about here on my blog in other posts, no 5,141 downloads.  Finally, one more thing because this post is just as much about me assuring myself that I had some part in this near-miracle, but if I hadn’t taken optimization classes for every detail of my Amazon page, then “no go,” my friends.

In short, way back when I started writing this blog, I analogized the writing process to building a house.  I started the analogy with a reference to putting in your foundation.  All those efforts listed in the last paragraph?  The foundation.  Without it, simply no way people would have downloaded Enemy in Blue so much.  Remember, even a free book costs time.

RESULTS SINCE THE TWO FREE DAYS

Obviously, a huge question is whether the success in those two free days has spilled over to the following paid days.  Short answer, it has.  Enemy in Blue was ranked #552 in paid books at its peak, which amounted to over 200 books/day.  Sales have slowly decreased each day thereafter, with some of that necessarily flowing from the New Year’s break.  (I don’t think many people wake up on January 1 with whiskey on their breath and say, “Durnit, I wanna read a book!”).

It remains to be seen what impact all the downloads have on Enemy in Blue.  Hopefully, it will result in reviews, and word of mouth.  Seems like a given, with that number of downloads.  Also, I’m currently ranked #31 in Action and Adventure as a result of the whole effort, and peaked at #19.  I believe that a big list such as A&A can drive further sales, as opposed to some of the strange, extremely niche lists that I see next to other books.  I’m keeping track of sales on a daily basis, and will update the blog with that information in the future.

IS IT WORTH IT?

I’m frequently getting asked how Enemy in Blue shot up the charts, and whether Select has been worth it.  Obviously, for me, it was.  However, I would stick to my caution that without the proper elements (good cover, great reviews and not just 5 of them, likes and tags, best product description possible), I don’t think you will see tremendous success with the Select program.  Plus, you will be limited selling on Amazon for 90 days.  My suggestion would be to build that foundation for your book, and once you get there, pick a couple weekdays to offer your book for free.  I have seen my best sales figures on Thursdays/Fridays.

One more tip from my time spent analyzing all this–having multiple books is another catalyst to success in using free days.  Point in case?  J.A. Konrath.  The guy is a beast of an author.  He has nearly written more damn books than I have on my bookshelves!  A couple of his books were free at the same time as Enemy in Blue.  I watched all of his books, free and paid, rise to the tops of their various bestselling lists.  And, they’ve stayed there.  So, if you can use the free days to help promote multiple books in a series, for example, then Select absolutely seems worth it.

LINGERING QUESTIONS

I would be remiss if I sat here, writing this post, and failed to disclose that I’m hesitant to even publish it.  I mean, I’ve just experienced success, but who’s to say that wasn’t a flash in the pan?  Some cosmic alignment.  I’m certainly not sitting here with any notion that “I’ve made it.”  In fact, if anything, I’ve got more of a knot in my stomach now, as I watch my ranking oscillate.

That disclosure aside, here are some of my unanswered questions:

(1)  How do you get the initial “burst” of downloads when your book goes free?  This is the burst that puts you on a bestseller’s list, and being on those lists undoubtedly builds your momentum.

(2)  How often should the free “tool” be used?  As a part of the Select program, you can schedule five (5) free days in a 90-day period.  Should that be your limit of free days in a quarter?  At what point is more not better?  I’ll be testing this in the next few months to further hone the results.

(3)  The critical question–what is my royalty going to be calculated at for the borrowed books?  If I’m making 40%, instead of 70%, is it worth it?  Will it just result in a way for Amazon to pay lower royalty rates, while at the same time locking up its monopoly?  Call me neurotic, but businesses exist to maximize their own profits.

WRAPPIN’ IT UP

If you came here looking for an easy answer and now hate me, don’t forget your New Year’s resolution was to go easy on other people, k?  Bottom line though, and we always know it, is that hard work underlies nearly all success.  Take some time to read the other blog posts on here, put some sweat and blood into your foundation, and then give Select a shot.  If you have any questions/additions/comments, please add them to this blog post, and I’ll try to respond as quickly as possible!

Here’s to our mutual success in 2012!

This…will…not…be…easy.  I’m going to admit something to you all.  I didn’t think it’d be this hard.  Call it naivete.  Call it optimism.  Call it the sheer ridiculousness of thinking, dammit, that what I wrote would take off, like a rocket ship to Planet Lottery Ticket.  Anddddd, yeah. Four months after the release of Enemy in Blue, let me give ya some thoughts and insights into what this process entails.  The hope is that this will help some understand what’s coming their way if they publish, and help others who have done so realize, “I’m not alone.”

  1. Writing was the easy part.  Huh?  I just finished 80k, 90, 120k words!  It took me 2 years to write my baby.  What you mean that was the easy part?  Writing is a joy, in my opinion.  I hardly ever had a day where I cussed and wished I was doing something else.  And, if those days came along, I just didn’t write.  No sense forcing something crappy onto paper.  On the other hand, once you’re published (by whatever means), the marketing, sales and promotion begins.  And, I can assure you of one thing–once you start those ghastly machines up, they don’t allow breaks.  You’ll be tweeting, updating your website, updating your status on Facebook, trying to get signings, trying to get your books on brick and mortar shelves, etc. etc. etc., NONSTOP.  Be prepared to work your ass off in the name of promotion.
  2. This will undoubtedly be a long, strange trip.  Do a Wikipedia on your favorite band.  Most likely, they spent years toiling in small venues.  They pumped out album after album before one hit song took off.  Realize that your journey will probably be the same–with the superstar ending, we all hope.
  3. There are tens of thousands of people trying to do what we’re doing.  Okay, not trying to be Captain Downer here, but this post is a small dose of reality, if anything.  Look at the sheer number of books on Amazon.  Look at all the authors Tweeting about their books on a daily basis.  This is a SEA, not a stream.  You’ve got to tread water, then build a super attractive yacht for people to hop onto.
  4. The hard work will make it worth it.  Growth does not come through constant success.  When you get the first review of your book from someone you don’t know, and it’s a positive review, you will glow.  When someone asks you for a signature on their copy of your book, you’ll glow.  When you see your book on a bookshelf in a bookstore, you’ll glow.  But, each one of those things will take a tremendous amount of effort to achieve.
  5. Patience is a virtue…and will be key to your sanity.  Seemingly, nothing in the book publishing world moves quicker than a snail’s pace.  You building your empire of words isn’t gonna be any different.  Just like when you wrote your book, do your best to recognize the small steps, otherwise the pace of the whole venture will make you mad!
In short, if you’re just starting out, please, please recognize that your success is commensurate with your effort.  And, if you’ve been playing the game, know that you aren’t alone!  Success has started to come to me and Enemy in Blue, but only with a tremendous amount of hard work. Best wishes to you and your fantastic book!

If you’re an independent author, and are focused solely on getting to traditional publishing houses someday, you may be missing a BIG BOAT.  (I tried to write that like John Candy says, “Big…big bear!” in “The Great Outdoors.”)  Here’s an article with some background on the shifting landscape of publishing industry:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/technology/amazon-rewrites-the-rules-of-book-publishing.html?_r=1

You’ve got an account, you’ve chosen a background, and you’re ready to start telling the world your DAMN thoughts!  Eh, the world looks like that egg in your profile picture, right?  Zero followers.  I remember when I started my account, I was like, what the hay, who am I tweeting to?  Even at about 25-50 followers, I still felt sheepish about it.  The following tips are designed to help you build your following.  Or, if you’ve already got a decent start, to help you augment the foundation you already have!

A QUICK NOTE ON TWITTER ETIQUETTE

This has got to go first, because some people just dun get it.  Bullet point style, just in case you forget how to be a nice guy/gal in the future:

  1. Try to thank every person that retweets your tweets, or that mentions you in a positive way.  Seriously, people don’t have to click that retweet button for you.  And, when they do, they are amplifying the scope of your tweet by hundreds or thousands of people!  For free!  You can’t get exposure like that anywhere else, that I know of.   If I retweet for someone and they don’t take the time to say thanks, guess what?  No mas retweets. So, make sure you give a gra-cee-as to those people, and try to do it shortly after they retweet, because people forget what they’ve done.
  2. Be positive.  No one likes a downer.  Try to keep your conversations with people upbeat and try to engage in content that is helpful to others.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you become a lackey to happiness.  Sometimes this world can get a bit dark.  But, snap out of it and bring some exclamation points and smileys back to your tweets, aight?
  3. Do NOT DM (direct message) people with a link to your book, blog, website, personal bank account (I will accept the bank account info) right after you meet them.  I’ve never clicked on one of those links, find it highly annoying, and tend to put those people on quasi-ignore.
  4. Respond to your DMs in a timely fashion.  Again, people have taken the time to reach out to you, so take the time to engage in a little conversation with ’em!
  5. FOLLOW BACK.  This is probably the quickest way to get unfollowed.  You aren’t Alyssa Milano, you aren’t “Ocho Cinco,” you aren’t Ashton Kutcher.  Remember then, people are following you to hear your tweets, but they also expect to get some reciprocation.  I follow almost everyone back that follows me…common sense and a little humility.

FOLLOW 25-50 PEOPLE/DAY

On to the meat of building those followers!  I’ve gained about 500 new followers in the last two weeks simply by performing this daily task.  Where to find ’em, you ask.  Hashtag searches.  Assuming we’re all authors here, search things like #authors, #amwriting, #writing, #amreading, #thrillers (or your respective genre, or not), #books.  Then, you can search some of the more specific writing handles such as #IBCBookCollective or #IAN1.  Obviously, there are hundreds if not thousands of handles you can search, and I couldn’t possibly list them all.

Once you get into the search results for the respective hashtag, start clicking on people’s names to pull up their profiles.  If people have a lot of tweets but not many followers, may not want to follow them, as they are not taking the time to engage new people.  And, quite honestly, you want people with networks.  If people have the opposite, i.e. a lot of followers and not many tweets, again, that’s a reason not to follow them.  Finally, if the people have a lot of followers, but aren’t following as many people, then you may want to skip them.  There are some exceptions (i.e. high profile people in publishing, agents, etc.), but not too many.

Stick to this discipline as if you were training for a marathon, and I guarantee you’ll see results in times as short as 1-2 weeks.

POST THINGS THAT MATTER

Your book matters…to you.  Yeah, yeah, it will matter to some people, but NEVER as much as you.  So, if that’s all you tweet about, guess how much people are gonna care about your tweets?  Instead, take the time to read articles and post the helpful ones up.  Read blogs and direct your followers to them.  Start programs that help build other authors up.  For instance, I started the #AmazonLikes hashtag, where an author can tweet their book’s Amazon link and get free likes/tags on their Amazon page.  This has helped many authors build up their book’s stats, and has correspondingly helped me form many new relationships.

You can connect with someone like @RachelintheOC (an excellent author and very helpful one, at that) about your content to promotion ratio.  In a nutshell though, you want to be tweeting more about content than promo, because people get sick of nonstop promo.  More on @RachelintheOC below!

YOU CAN UNFOLLOW PEOPLE, TOO

When I first started using Twitter, I would try to compare my “following” and “followers” lists, manually, to see who was not following me back.  Apparently, I like using the abacus for math as well.  There’s a simple service at www.justunfollow.com which will analyze your account for you, and identify the people who have not followed you back.  Depends on your tolerance for jerks (kidding, kinda), but you may give people anywhere from 3-7 days to follow you back.  At that point, consider giving ’em the boot!

TAKE SOME CLASSES ON FURTHER TWITTER DEVELOPMENT

The most helpful class I’ve taken on this topic yet is one led by @RachelintheOC of the Indie Book Collective.  It’s called the “Social Media for Writers” workshop, it’s free, and Rachel is cool as all heck.  Here’s the direct link: http://indiebookcollective.com/IndieBookCollective/Workshops.html.  She will literally walk you through, step-by-step, how to set up your account, pick a background, optimize your profile, start working with hashtags, and start setting up lists (something I intentionally did not address in this blog post, because lists are their own demon and may be addressed separately in the future).  In short, take an hour and a half of your time, and avail yourself of this great workshop.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or successes on Twitter, so comment or contact me if you are so inclined 🙂

You can do a ton of online marketing, but in my mind, nothing substitutes for meeting a person face-to-face, discussing what they want to discuss, and selling ’em a book.  Obviously, you can’t do one to the complete detriment of the other, but it seems that in this age of a trillion online marketing prospects, we need to highlight the benefit of in-person events.  With that context in mind, I’ve just had successful signings for my new book, Enemy in Blue, and wanted to share some of the keys that made them work out for me.

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE AT A BOOKSTORE

I will admit, I fell into this trap.  And, I consistently hear of other authors falling into this trap as well.  Somehow (at least in my mind) having the signing/event at a bookstore gilded the entire thing with more prestige, more glamor.  That’s the same rationale that drives so many of us to pursue traditional publishing, and is similarly faulty.  Here are some “negatives” I found with trying to hold my events at a bookstore:

  1. Bookstores ain’t gonna serve food or booze: I don’t know about the circles you run in, but in my circles, lubing the wheels of conversation with some alcohol is always welcomed.  Add to that, the events I had were shortly after a 9-5 workday ended, so people were hungry.  These two facts meant a bookstore would actually have been a terrible fit for me.  I would have had to pay for both food and booze–not a cheap venture.  Plus, end of the day, our goal here is to make money and increase exposure.  At a minimum, breaking even so that we don’t have to pay for that exposure, other than with time.  So, consider other locations, where you don’t have to pay for space, food, or booze, and you could end up maximizing your profits while creating a fun environment for your potential readers.
  2. I think bookstores, simply because they are in the industry of “no response,” take the same course as some editors, publishers, agents, etc.  If you aren’t Patterson or Grisham, there’s no impetus to get back to you.  And, when you’re trying to schedule something with some semblance of a deadline, no responses or delayed responses are going to throw a wrench in your plans.  On the other hand, I have found that industries which recognize they can make money from your event, and that you won’t cost them anything (i.e. restaurants, restaurants/bars, art galleries) are responsive to the possibility of someone bringing them income, especially on slower nights.
  3. Bookstores aren’t that much fun or lively.  People are compelled to keep the noise down, even if a bookstore has a separate event room.  I believe fun attracts more participation/attendance, and more participation/attendance leads to more book sales.
  4. Space.  This entirely depends on the bookstore, but some are small and/or laid out in a limiting fashion.  I want my attendees to be able to interact with myself and other people, and a cramped space does not promote that interaction.

DAY AND TIME MATTER, A BUNCH

Choose your date/time wisely.  For signings in the summer–don’t do ’em on weekends.  No one is around.  Probably, don’t even do them on Fridays.  Wednesday and Thursday have worked out well for me so far.  Wednesday is “hump day,” and people are looking for an excuse, any excuse, to get out.  Now, people are probably more inclined to do some drinking on a Thursday, which lends itself to a more lively environment, in my opinion.  And, by lively, I mean a more open wallet and conversation.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THESE THINGS

You organize a signing, and a day before it you’re racing to get everything together in preparation for the event.  Don’t forget these things:

  1. Make sure you have enough books in advance.  If you are a POD author, priority mailing your books costs a fortune.  Plan to order books 3-4 weeks in advance for the event.
  2. Sharpies for signatures.  Pens.
  3. If you’re doing an outdoor signing, like a booth at a festival, bring things to weigh down your materials.
  4. If you have reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., create a one-page sheet of excerpts from your best reviews.  It goes a lot further to have recommendations from people other than yourself.  Make it easier for potential readers to see what other people have said about your book.
  5. Have flyers for your book that include a summary of your book, your author bio, and how to buy your book.  You aren’t going to convert every “up” or contact to a sale.  Make sure they can leave with something in their hands to read, and to hopefully buy the book later.
  6. A sign up sheet, or a nice journal people can sign.  Get email addresses and mailing addresses.  Use this to start building a mailing list of your fans.
  7. Consider giving something away for free in exchange for people signing up to be on your mailing list.  It’s kind of amazing what people will do to get something for free, regardless of how mundane the free item is.  Giveaway a few books, an iPod, or something relatively slight in cost, and you’ll get a significant amount of interaction.
  8. Bring change.  Most people aren’t going to pay in checks. I have made many trips to the bank to get $100 in one dollar bills.  They look at me weird, and have even said, “Gonna be a fun night for you!”  Fughetaboudit.  I ask them to buy a book.
  9. If you have a business established, but don’t have a business bank account, don’t let people write checks to your business.  You can’t cash them without the business account.
  10. Bring a camera, and someone to take pictures.  It’s great to have pictures with your readers for a variety of reasons.  Not the least of which is to update on your Facebook fan page.  Check out my fan page for examples of photos from signings: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rogue-Books/189351461083083  People love them, and you can tag them, which brings people back to your page.
  11. Have a blowup of your cover made to use as a poster.  First, it’s cool, and you’ll feel like a stud or studette because you essentially have a movie poster of your book.  Second, it makes you look professional to have something like this at your event.  Of course, don’t forget to bring an easel to display it.
I’m sure there are many more suggestions some seasoned authors can offer.  If you want to add to the list, send me an email or comment on the post.  Finally, have fun!