Tag Archives: what not to do

My bad news confession: buried in here somewhere

There was a Konrath post in my inbox this morning. This always makes me happy as it’s a pretty sure bet my morning will be infused with some level of awesome.

So today I got to read the annual Resolutions for Writers post. I’m not going to go over it because there’s a whole lot there and you should just go read it. But I’m going to clip the little bit that really gave me a lift this morning:

DO NOT take any deal that’s less than what you believe you could earn in six years. If you’re selling 1000 ebooks a month, that means $144,000 is the minimum advance you should be offered before you consider signing.

In a way, that might seem a bit irrelevant to me. I’m not in the position of being courted by a NY publisher, and don’t believe I’m in any danger of catching their attention at this time. But it’s the other part, the 1000 ebooks a month part. This harkens back to his recent post on ebook sales in which he implied 1000 ebooks a month was a good measure of a successful, up-and-coming indie.

And I’m doing that. I’ve passed 1K for this month, I more than doubled it last month, and I almost reached it the previous month. And this is my fifth month out.

I needed this today. I needed to feel like I’m good at this, and I needed to read that from someone I respect, and know that it’s not about friendship and petting me to make me feel better. And it’s so not because Mr. Konrath hasn’t even noticed me…yet.

I’ve been putting off telling you all that things continue to not go well. And it’s not so much with the book, but with me, personally. With me, personally, there are Serious Things that are making it hard for me to put my head and my heart into the work and give it what it needs.

As kind as everyone has been to me these last months, I’ve felt an awful lot of expectation. Not only to put out a book that’s on at least the same level with the first one, which I intend to do, but also to present myself as a professional. And I’ve worried that having to tell you that I’m going to miss my own projected release date is going to disappoint you and make you see me as less than professional for letting my life get in the way of my work.

But, you know, it just is what it is, and fretting about what people are going to think of me isn’t doing me any favors. And in his post today, Konrath says this:

I Will Stop Worrying. Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It’s also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn’t the way to get ahead.
You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.

Oh snap, I been told!

And you know what else?

But most of all, being a professional means you won’t inflict your shitty writing on the public.

Um, yeah. That I’m not going to do. And no amount of stressing myself about a release date, or worrying about angering the people who are awaiting the next book, or disappointing fellow indies with my inability to write on a schedule… It’s not going to help. Contrariwise.

And a huge irony here is that part of the reason I’ve embraced self-publishing over trying to go the traditional route is because I was concerned about my inability to write to an imposed schedule at this time in my life, with the things I’ve got going on.

And then I did it to myself. Which really shouldn’t surprise me or the people who know me well. I am my own worst enemy. (WP tells me, after that line, Word count: 666. The Universe is talking to me about my beastly qualities.)

So…this sort of segues awkwardly into last night’s radio show, which I also have to mention today, and on which I had to publicly acknowledge that the next book would probably not be out in January. No, not probably. It just won’t. OMFG, just admit it already. (This has to be harder for me than it is for you.)

A few quick lines about the show, while we’re here. I was really terrified to do it, and it was not so bad. I don’t have plans to listen to it, but I don’t think I performed so badly that I would actually have made anyone put me on their do not buy list. But I don’t think I did myself any favors or inspired anyone in the other direction either. I think it was probably a wash.

As you all know, being concise is not my strong suit. The ability to craft answers that really deliver all the relevant information, or might really direct or inspire someone toward my goal (read the book!) on the fly and at the pace of a short interview–this involves a skillset that I just don’t have and I knew that going into it. I’m a writer. If I’m going to talk about DRM, I’m going to want to set up that discussion making sure the people I’m talking to understand what we’re talking about before I get into my opinion. If I’m going to talk about marketing, it helps me to talk about that from a core goal/idea (visibility and credibility, for me) and then talk about the range of controllable factors and how they all affect each other and tie into that goal. That’s what I see of value in my understanding, and just trying to throw out some things that are important–that’s just the same information we hear over and over. In a brief interview, where the there’s a smattering of topics and no time to develop those thoughts, I don’t have the skill to express what I’d like to express.

I want to thank Andrew Mocete, though, for giving me the opportunity and making it as painless as possible. I try to challenge myself on some of my phobias, but still, there aren’t a whole lot of people who would have gotten a yes from me on a request for a live interview. Promo, schmomo. One thing that’s special about Andrew is that he’s one of those people who seems to have internalized, in a very genuine way, that notion of giving to others and trusting that’s going to come back to around somehow, someday. What Kristen Lamb (among others) refers to as having the heart of a servant. I could trust that Andrew wasn’t just out to fill a slot in his calendar, that he is genuinely concerned with my interests as well as his, and that he would do his best to help me.

There’s part of this post I’ve been putting off and fretting about writing for weeks now. I started out talking about Konrath’s measure of success and ended with some  bromance tale about Andrew. Buried in there somewhere is the confession I didn’t want to talk about. You see what I’m saying? You just can’t do that shit live. That’s what I love about writing.

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Filed under Heroes 'Til Curfew, Talent Chronicles

Amazon, Censorship, and DRM

I freaking hate DRM. Hate hate hate. DRM absolutely affects my buying decisions. Absolutely. I’ve been an ebook fan for a while now. My device was pretty expensive, because the technology was newer when I bought it, but before agency pricing I was able to save enough money on my book-buying habit to make it worth the price, because back then you could get a lot of good deals on ebooks. (And you still can, if you stick to cheap, DRM-free indie reads.) What really made the decision for me to embrace ebooks at the time was how much I love getting digital books from the library. So my choice of ereader was the one that worked with the library’s DRM.

I’m going to want a new device down the line. I’m already looking. But in purchasing a device, I want to concentrate on device quality and features–not the quality of the store to which the device is virtually tethered. A main reason I don’t buy DRM-encumbered books is because I want to be sure my library is as future-protected as possible, and that I’ll be able to read all of those books on my next ereader.

There may be some of you who are confused about what I’m saying here, so let me pause to explain. But do keep in mind that I’m not a technician and I don’t play one on TV, so my understanding and explanation may be technically flawed. An ebook is a file. When you purchase an ebook with DRM, that file is locked by the DRM. You need to have a program that contains your (or your device’s) individual license in order to unlock that file and enjoy your purchase. That program and information is contained in your device, and you may or may not also have that on your personal computer as well. As long as the DRM encumbers your purchase, you will need to rely on that program and license info any time you want to experience the media you bought. Depending on how much you buy, that can start to require a lot of faith on your part. Faith that your license will always be honored.

And the fact is, a lot of people just don’t think about or care about actually owning what they buy. But I’m not one of those. Books have never been throwaway purchases for me, and I don’t have a different attitude toward ebooks. All my ebooks get saved to my hard drive, backed up, and the selection I want to keep on the device gets side-loaded (moved from PC to device by cable) on and off.

So guess what’s not going to happen to my DRM-free books. And here’s where the inspiration for today’s post comes from: I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and find that the willy-nilly Amazon censorship committee has dicked with my personal library. Unless I very much mistake how the world works, if it’s DRM-free and I’ve backed it up, they can’t take it away from me. And, of course, I can convert it to any format I want, to read it on whatever device I choose to purchase going forward.

It’s my money and my purchase. I deserve that security and that freedom to be able to own what I buy. And my readers deserve it.

All the DRM has been cracked. The amount of effort it takes for a pirate to strip a book of DRM and fileshare it is about as much effort as it takes you and me to check our email. Yes, DRM will prevent casual sharing. It will prevent Sally from telling Jane, “OMG, I just read the greatest book. Read it nooowwww,” and attaching the file, in the same way she, and probably you, have lent out paperbacks in the past. And yes, I agree that there are no controls on the number of copies the enthusiastic Sally can fileshare, and that’s a problem inherent in digital media.

But at the end of the day, I trust Sally, my reader, more than I trust the corporate entities that are currently screwing around, back-room dealing in DRM to control my purchases and spending. And I’d kind of rather be a little dicked over by Sally’s enthusiasm than dick her– and my other readers, scrupulously honest readers– over by not allowing her to take my book with her to her next device purchase or to find it no longer available to her when the retailer from which she purchased it decides to remove her access.

Want an example of the controlling bullshit going on with DRM? Sony Reader reads EPUB, and DRM’d content for the Sony is “protected” by Adobe. Wow, same with NOOK! So that means Sony owners have a whole new store to shop! Um…no. Notice how Sony’s not on the list of supported devices. Why? It makes no sense. Same file format, same program for licensed content. What’s the deal? I NEVER got a straight answer out of B&N customer service. At first I think they wanted to talk about the wireless stuff. Um, I don’t CARE abut the wireless stuff, my device is pre-wireless. Why can’t I just purchase the content, open it in Adobe Digital Editions, and side-load it? And I actually think that customer service just wasn’t educated enough to answer my questions.

A lot of Googling finally informed me that just because both devices go through Adobe Digital Editions, doesn’t mean it’s the same DRM. I read somewhere that NOOK DRM is a variation on the previous Adobe DRM, and that’s why it won’t work for the Sony Reader. Why? Or maybe because they’re following Amazon’s model: if you want to shop our store, you’re going to have to buy our reader (we’re just not even going to talk about smartphone or PC apps because who wants that?). Maybe because everyone else who’s been dealing with Adobe got together and pressured Adobe: No! Don’t let them have the same DRM as us or we’ll lose all our ebook customers to B&N! Who knows?

But what’s any of that got to do with piracy?

Nothing.

Indies have the choice to DRM or not to DRM with some retailers. Many DRM without even thinking about it. Oh yes, protect me from the dreaded pirates! when it’s got so little to do with piracy and so much to do with controlling the market. We can’t always control what happens to our uploaded content at all retailers (I’m sure Hush Money is DRM-encumbered at Kobo, Sony, and Apple, for example), but we can give our customers choices.

My readers don’t deserve to be encumbered by bullshit DRM, and I won’t choose it.

PS. Everyone who commented yesterday was a winner. I’ll send those prizes out today. Thanks, guys!

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Filed under rant

Giveaway: My favorite book marketing how-to guide

ETA: Read on for more about this very helpful book, but please note that this giveaway is over and comments have been closed.

My daughter’s scheduled outpatient surgery (getting a bunch of gum-chewing teeth taken care of because she tried to sock the dentist, even with laughing gas), was canceled due to snow. It’s certainly not a ton of snow by our standards, but for this part of the country, everything has to shut down. I hate snow, I really do, and my daughter told me, “If you hate snow, you hate Christmas.”

But, I really don’t. I’ve “Bah Humbug”ed more than once already, and I’ll do it again, but underneath this stress-ed out exterior, I really do love Christmas. And to prove it, I wanted to give away something I’ve found very useful this year.

Yep, I’m talking about We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb. I talked about this book when I was reading it back in September, but I just got around to writing an Amazon review yesterday. Bad Susan.

I’d like to believe you all hang on my every word and that, when I mention a book, you all run right out and buy it. But hey, you don’t, and this one’s 8 bucks for the Kindle version! And we’re all starving artists, aren’t we? But thanks to the magic of Amazon’s Gift as a Gift button (how much does that rock?) (and my magical Amazon credit card), I can easily offer you this book that I found so helpful, encouraging, and entertaining.

Note that this is the Kindle edition, and is DRM’d, so you’ll have to read it on a Kindle-compatible device or on your computer.

It would be lovely if you’d use the sharing buttons below to mention this to your friends and get more people to check out Kristen’s book, but I’m keeping this simple and all that’s required is that you leave a comment, saying that you’d like to win the book (to distinguish you from the other people who have to comment to gush about how great Kristen is). Let’s have an end to entries at 9am Eastern on Friday, since I’ll have another 1-day giveaway for you on Thursday. That should jog my memory to, you know, pay up. Then I’ll choose one random winner from among the entries. (ETA: it looks like I’ll be doing that other giveaway tomorrow, FYI. Doesn’t affect anything for this one, though, except my ability to remember to hand out a prize.)

And if you already read this book, will you please drop by Amazon and leave a review? Just your 5-star rating (I assume) with the line “I found this book really helpful” or “Great introduction to social media for authors” or something like that. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but ratings really help. In a world of corporate-branding For Dummies and Idiot’s Guide how-to books, let’s help out one of the little guys who deserves it.

27 Comments

Filed under Contests

Beware Groundhog Day

Probably the thing I loved most about this movie was just getting a new term for the same ol’-same ol’ phenomenon.  My husband walks in. I say, “Hey, sweetie, how was your day?”

The movie gives him another option to choose from:

  • Grunt
  • Same shit, different day.
  • Groundhog Day

What was cool in the movie, though, was that it wasn’t ACTUALLY the same day over and over. Not for the viewer. Part of what makes it enjoyable is looking for the things that are the same, and for the things that Phil does differently and the way that changes events. So Groundhog Day, the movie: sweet, funny, entertaining.

Groundhog Day

  1. A movie in which a character must relive the same day over and over until he gets it right.
  2. A description of a day, or other experience, that feels tediously repetitive.

Movie = good, in life = blah, more often than not. But what about books?

The reason I bring this up is because lately I’ve noticed a personal intolerance for Groundhog Day.

The way a lot of books are written now is very visual and very TV/movie-like. Which I like. And in TV and movies, there are often only so many sets. So in a story, there are going to be places that are familiar to your characters and your reader, places they keep going back to because they have to (like school), or because they’re comfortable there (like a favorite coffee shop). Some familiar places that come to mind would the Sunnydale High library, Roswell’s Crashdown Cafe, Keith Mars’ PI office, Clark’s loft in the barn.

Having these kinds of familiar places in books is good, partly because it provides a kind of shorthand for the reader. We once we’re into the story, we don’t have to keep describing places as much because the reader already knows where we are, what it looks like, and how it relates to the life of the character. We can all concentrate on what’s happening.

But I think I get fouled up when there’s too much sameness. When there’s a combination of same place and similar sequence of events that feels like a Groundhog Day. When I feel the characters and I are experiencing a similar set of events, a change affects a different outcome to the scene, but the scene itself doesn’t give me enough that’s unique to make me feel the gift of having read it. (I’m big on gifts to the reader. Don’t get me started because I have to out this morning and there’s a towel on my head.)

I’m lazy. Even in my head. If you take me from one location to another, I like there to be a reason. Because, yes, people meander and take drives and go to coffee shops for no reason (even though they invariably stink like coffee). But characters aren’t really people. That’s why we don’t need to be in on their brushing and flossing habits either, unless it has something to do with the DNA trail or there’s a zombie behind the shower curtain.

So if we have to go into school again because that’s the time of day this scene takes place, that’s cool. I get the necessity of that. But I don’t need to go through the whole approach to the school, the bell rings, visit my locker, get a dirty look from the same person in the same place as yesterday. Too many same place, same sequence things feel like tedium, rather than a gift. Start where the new stuff happens. If there was something important in that sequence for me to see or experience, it’s important to find a way to make that new for me.

This is on my mind because I’ve complained about it a few times recently, and I’ve got a Groundhog Day twin-set of scenes in Heroes that I know will have to be combined or in some way fixed. It’s such an easy thing to fall into when you write because you know it’s different this time, and sometimes don’t realize–it’s really not different enough.

So what about you, readers? Is this all in my nit-picky head, or do you experience Groundhog Day when you read too?

12 Comments

Filed under tips, writing

Lessons from the Universe Continue to Plague Me

Some days are just full of headaches and embarrassments.

The headache is mainly just that I’m sick with one of those nasty, painful colds. At least we didn’t have a snow day for the THIRD day in a row. I know I’m not supposed to consider school my babysitter, but come on.

Anyway, I feel terrible about this, like I just have total promo fail. I can’t believe my reach is still so small that I can’t even give away 10 copies of a book. And it may be partly that Imogen and I have been doing cross-promo and she’s already tapped as much of my small network as she’s gonna. And it’s probably also that I had to go our around 12:30 yesterday, didn’t get home until 8pm, and then just crawled into bed, so the PM world didn’t really know about the giveaway. So basically, everyone who commented yesterday wins, and I appreciate it. I’ve already sent those out.

So a friend of mine, who is somewhat down, has written to me with some questions about self-publishing. And like the indie fiend that I am, I’m responding with a long letter, attempting to take advantage of his frustration and bring him over to the Dark Side.

And while I’m doing this, an email I wrote a few weeks ago come back to haunt me.

While I was away for that reunion thing over Thanksgiving weekend, I got this email from the people at BookBuzzr, basically saying: hey, since you’ve been with us, your rank has gone from this to this. Do you know how that happened and have any marketing tips we could share with our readers?

Well, now, you guys know that I am always happy to babble about that stuff, so I did. With my husband tapping his foot, I furiously typed this really long email in which I brain-dumped everything I could think of, most of which you guys have already read. Only, you know, I thought I was just talking one-on-one, and I was pressed for time, and I left out the self-effacing humble stuff that I actual feel, but just didn’t have time for that morning.

So in the middle of what’s supposed to be a kick-ass, indie-rah email to my friend, I get a promo in my inbox that mentions my name in a link. And follow it to the reprint of this previous email.

Now, don’t get all mad on my account. I say I didn’t know it was coming out, but I’m sure it was a misunderstanding on my part and I’m not mad. You’d be AMAZED and frightened by the amount of stuff that goes over my head and that I just plain forget. If you’re one of those writers who goes about in a fog most of the time and makes the absent-minded professor look like Franklin Planner-Man, you know what I’m talking about. (I am, actually, the antithesis of Kait Nolan. And suddenly the Anti-Kait has a ring to it…) But it leaves me sort of nonplussed and kind of embarrassed, and concerned about whether, perhaps, I came off as a big no-it-all with a huge, bloated head. Plus I might have tried to sound more smarter than I do around here, talking with you friends.

The lesson here, for all of us, is to remember to be careful in our communications with others, to pay attention to whether or not we’re projecting what we intend, and that what we say electronically can live on for a long time in ways we didn’t originally expect.

Heroes ‘Til Curfew, for enquiring minds who want to know, is going fairly well this week. I enjoyed the 2500+ words I wrote yesterday from Dylan’s perspective, many of which were written in Burger King, with its wonderful indoor playground. You know, when I mention fast food playland, NO ONE takes their kids to unhealthy places like that. Oh well. Deal. I got words down and no one had to die, and if someone had to suck down some chicken and fries for the cause, so be it.

I have now exercised two days in a row, and three times within a week. Now, I will grant you, it hasn’t been a lot of exercise, but I have turned on the Wii and done something, and I demand at least partial credit for this. Plus, there was water consumed that was not even carbonated. I know, right? But I did it anyway.

That’s it! That’s all the babbling you get for now. I have things to do, tissues to destroy, and vulnerable writers to corrupt, and I must move on.

15 Comments

Filed under Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Increasing Kindle Rank, Laws of the Universe, links, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, what not to do, word count, writing

Rantus Interruptus Continuous: In which the Universe has a lesson for me

Arg, I am an idiot.

I do things I know I shouldn’t do, because I know I’m just going to frustrated and pissed off, and that’s just going to make my whiny and depressed. And I have no right to be whiny and depressed.

But then, as I was writing this post about how I wasn’t going to rant about this, the world shifted again. And people, when the Universe gives you a sign, you need to work through what it means. Which is what I’ll be doing, should you choose to continue reading this.

And now that we’ve had THE most confusing beginning to a blog post EVAR, I’m going to go back to the beginning.

Last night, in my email, a Twitter notification of a new follow by @JamiGold. So because Twitter can’t just give me everything I need in the email, I have to actually go to Twitter to read her bio and follow her back. And what’s her latest tweet?

I know, I know! I should never have clicked that. What was I thinking? I was thinking that I should not be clicking that. But I’m just going to peek.

And then it’s scroll scroll scroll through a lot of opinions that are making ZERO sense to me, and I am taking it WAAAAAY too personally. And it wasn’t a mean, nasty angry thing AT ALL. It was just…insensible.

I mean, what I kept reading, over and over, is that because the books aren’t vetted, self-published books aren’t a good risk for these readers. They acknowledge that there might be great indie reads out there, but trad-pubbed books, while not a sure thing, are a safer bet. Ok, yeah, that’s totally logical, if you’re looking at a new trad book vs. a new indie book, all things being equal and no buzz, no reviews, etc. But here we have people saying I wouldn’t buy a book by an indie unless I met them first.

So you can see how this would make me sad. I just don’t get out much.

And the problem is that when I read this stuff I take it whack-job personally. In my head, I’m whining at these people going, what the hell? Compare my sales rank, compare my cover, compare my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, check out the page of links to blog reviews I have on my website, READ a few pages to see if I’m literate. Judge my book on the things that matter in a book. And then decide if you want to sink the whole 99cents and a few more hours of your time into it.

Maybe it just comes down to this: no one likes to be dismissed. And I think that part of the way these comments touch me is because that feeling of dismissal, that what I can do (write an entertaining book) doesn’t matter because of what I am (an indie author), feels so much like the frustration of being a powerless child.

Here’s what I came to when I decided I wasn’t going to harp on this– and I’m sorry to cuss because that makes me sound angry, but I’m trying to have a personal power moment over here, so indulge me: This shit does not apply to me. Not in some way of I put the awesome IN the mutha-fuckin’ sauce! and this shit don’t apply to me, but more in the way of this is not my readership right now, and their opinions are not relevant in my world right now.

I’m not going to win these readers over by arguing with them. (Oh don’t worry, I didn’t get involved.) There are so, so many literate people in the world today, you guys. Do you know what’s been the most surprising thing to me since publishing? How many non-writing readers are out there embracing indies, supporting indies they love, and how many more just aren’t aware that we’re even out here, that there’s really a difference. If a book looks crappy, they avoid it. If it looks good, they try it. So many readers out there judging books on the book stuff. I think you’ll find, overwhelmingly, that the people who are most negative about indie books are other writers, for whatever their reasons, which are not my business.

Part 2

So yeah, all set to just let this all go and write you this quickie post about how I wasn’t going to rant about what I was going to rant about. And then the Universe stepped in.

Last night, after reading a lot of those disheartening comments I got whiny and tweeted (is there a word for a whiny tweet, like twined?)

A few friends showed up to say cheering things to me, and remind me that I had nothing to be depressed about and I did feel better. And while I was worrying about this crap that I can’t fix, I sold my 3,000th copy of Hush Money and totally missed it. I mean, how far up your ass does you head have to be before you notice you’re being an asshat?

Nevertheless, this morning, I found myself still ticked off enough to be composing a ranty post in my head. Then I got hold of myself, decided to post the Rantus Interruptus instead, and move on with my life. And then, as I was writing this post, @JamiGold shows up. And she says,

And I’m like…Really? Seriously, I was rendered kind of panicked and speechless. Which, if you’re an introvert or social phobic, you might understand. Or if you can imagine Joss’s reaction to, Well heck, Joss, everyone knows who you are. [cue garbled choking sounds]

And also a little…Really? Like, I’m doing this right, this marketing/platform stuff that I was so sure I fail at and would be the ultimate reason for my bookfail?

Oh yeah, dude, it’s totally all dramarama like this in my brain all the time. You do not want to live here.

Ok, so now my brain is totally melted. There are people on Twitter I want to attempt light banter with, but everything’s scrolling by while my mouth is doing floppy fish thing. And @JamiGold says,

(There was one in between where she said she hasn’t read mine yet due to the scary TBR pile from Hell with which we are all familiar.) Wow, Jami, condense all my effort into 140 characters of pure validation. :sucker punch:

No, this is not hyperbole. I’m very emotional. Quit rolling your eyes and embrace this special moment we’re having together, dammit.

Because this is why I decided to tell you the whole story of my stupidity in reading that comment thread. Because we don’t ignore the things the Universe tries to tell us. Especially when the Universe talks via Twitter, because then you really know it means business. Maybe. Whatever. Fine. Have we learned anything?

1. I must not read comment threads about prejudices against self-pubbed books/authors. Evar.

2. Those are not my people. You are my people. Later on, some of those people will hear about my books, be intrigued. They’re NOT the unreasonable people I thought I saw last night. That’s silly. They’re people who love books. They’ll look at my books, at the fabulous cover art, at the reviews, and they’ll judge us on the book stuff. Someday.

3. Until they do that, I’ve got a lot of other things I need to put my energy into. Like getting you guys Heroes ‘Til Curfew. And, to that end, I’m leaving you with a link while I go work on finishing the shit that I started.

The above link is mandatory for all writers, although adult language and beverage warnings do apply.

27 Comments

Filed under book blogs, books, goals, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, me me me, rant, self-publishing, Signs, what not to do, writing

1000 Sales, Giveaway, Mini Writer Conference, and a Puzzle Piece

Hush Money went over 1000 total sales last night, within 12 weeks of release, and, naturally, I’m very happy about that. I’ve passed my break-even point as far money I’ve put into the book. Next financial goal would be to earn enough to pay for the art and copyright for Heroes ‘Til Curfew.

That’s going a little better, in that I think I’ve figured out why anything I manage to write has been so chock full of suck lately. Now that I know the problem, if I can figure out how to work through it, I should be able to get back to writing like crazy to get this book out by late December/early January.

I was really inspired by our mini conference over the weekend, which some people would call lunch, but whatever. Those of you who follow Kait and Lauralynn will already know that we drove from all directions to a central point to have lunch and spend a few hours talking about writing and indie stuff. Then Lauralynn and I met Zoe, who wasn’t able to make it to the lunch, and spent some time with her, too. I had a lot of fun. More importantly, I have been living so mojo-free since September, that it was a really big deal for me to get inspired by all the writer talk and actually whip out my notebook to jot down some ideas for my WIP when I got home.

The last bit of news I’ve been meaning to come and tell you comes from a lovely email exchange I had with one of my readers who is also an ebook enthusiast, just as I am. Except that, rather than stamp her feet over availability issues like I do, she just has multiple e-reader devices. Possibly this makes her my new hero.

Anyway, I’m not going to clip the email because I neglected to ask her permission, but she told me that she found me in a “Hot New Releases” list on her Kindle. I was on the romance list, on the 41-60 page when she found me, read the excerpt, and bought the book in mid-October. This coincides with the period of crazy sales I had on Amazon at that time.

Thank you, Amazon!

So why did Amazon put me there? Why Amazon does anything could probably be its own In Search Of… style TV series, but my theory here is about reviews. There’s been a rumor going around that 20 is the magic review number that gets Amazon to start recommending your book to others. I don’t know if that’s true. But I looked through my reviews and I can see that I got my 20th review on October 4th, so just after 8 weeks. I had also broken into the top 1000 for the first time by September 28th. Maybe it was a combination of those things that inspired Amazon’s algorithms to choose my book for that list.

I don’t know anything about the list itself, like how long I was on it, how often it updates, etc. I had broken into the top 1000 a two weeks before my reader saw my book on the list, but the sales I had around that time I know I was on it were the days I was firmly in the 600-700 range, when I hit my current best of 623.

Long story short, those reviews really count, and that’s as much of a lesson for readers as it is for writers. If a book made your day, if you want an author you enjoyed to succeed so she can keep writing, an Amazon review is a big deal and something that doesn’t have to take a lot of time.

Writers, make it easy. I should start counting the number of sites and blogs I visit where authors talk about their books and don’t link directly to the book on Amazon, or even mention anywhere one can purchase it. Admittedly, half of these are traditionally published authors who may think facilitating purchases is not their job for some reason. I don’t know. I’m not suggesting pop-up ads (don’t make me hurt you), just don’t make me search. I’ve got a lot on my plate.

[ETA: Now that PubIt! is finally here, a lot of us have been looking to generate more reviews over there for the Nook crowd. If you’d like to copy and paste your Amazon review to the PubIt! listing, I’d be grateful.]

Oh, did I say giveaway? Ok, in honor of the 1000 sales, how about if I send out a signed, paperback copy of Hush Money to someone who leaves a comment between now and October 31st.

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Filed under book review, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, Increasing Kindle Rank, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, what not to do, writing

Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Pricing

Yeah, I don’t like to talk about money. Like politics and religion, it can ugly. That’s why this post is longer and rantier than usual. But it’s part of this whole series I’m taking you through this week, and it’s my opinion. I’m keeping it. If you don’t like it, just go do your own thing, ok?

Ok, so the series, if you’re just joining us… Last Saturday I talked about reaching the Kindle top 1000 and some things I think were helpful,  and now I’m going through and expanding on those ideas.

When most of my friends put out their first books, everyone was all about 99 cents. It’s the lowest price an indie can set on Amazon. And there were a lot of 99 cent ebooks out there, competing for space. At the time, it was even harder for the 99 cent books to get found because, when searching by price, you had to start with the freebies that the trad publishers are allowed to run, pages and pages of freebies, many of which were merely excerpts from books.

The two things happened: first, Amazon broke the freebies away from the rest of the Kindle store so that they could be searched and ranked separately (yay!), and they went to the 70% royalty rate for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.

Since that time, $2.99 has been on its way to becoming the new 99 cents, possibly in the same way it seems that just yesterday a regular sized Milky Way bar was under 50 cents and the “fun size” was a whole lot funner. /accidental chocolatey tangent.

And I’ve certainly got no beef with anyone who wants to make $2 off their book instead of 35 cents. What I do have a problem with is people implying that I am doing something wrong by pricing my book at 99 cents. That I am undercutting other authors, devaluing my own work and books as a whole, and somehow behaving as a bad citizen of the indie author community. In a sense, reading (SOME and not all of) these articles on why we should all move on up to $2.99, feels a lot like reading some of the not so nice things the trad authors have said about the indies.

Last month I sold over 300 books through all channels. This month I’m on target to sell that many by halfway through the month. But I’m making 35 cents per book, or a bit over $100 when I could, in theory, be making $600. OMG, why don’t I raise that price.

Because there is no way on this Earth that you are going to convince me that, as an 8 week old, baby author with NO name, NO ad budget, and one title, that many people are going to buy my book at $2.99.

But Susan, it doesn’t matter if 300 people buy your book. At that rate, fewer people can buy your book and you’ll still be making more money. Great. If making money were the most important thing to me right now, I’d be all over that. Would I like to be able to make back what I paid my cover artist, the copyright registration, the paper copies I’ve sent out? Would I love to be able to give away more paper books, t-shirts and other swag, do the Kindle Nation sponsorship thing, have contests that give away Kindles? Hell yes! Am I there yet? No. I haven’t earned that yet. Would I love to be able to pay some bills, figure out what’s wrong with my car, and not have to roll down the window to open the door from the outside? Yes. But I haven’t earned that yet either.

I’m pretty sure I once read where Holly Lisle (who has many smart and helpful things to say to writers) said that you shouldn’t quit your day job until you have 11 books published. Because that’s the point at which your royalties may be stable enough to support you writing full time. Now that was a few years back, and the industry has changed boatloads in that time. I have no idea what she’d say about that now. But that has really stuck with me.

So what do I think I’m getting at the 99 cent level? Sales and rank. Rank comes from sales. Once I started to push up from the middle of the category lists I was on, sales increased. See, I had trouble figuring this out because, remember all those reviews I had? Well, things had a been really quiet on that front. And then sales, like, doubled. Not that that was totally crazy, because it wasn’t a huge number either way. But I’d Google myself and no one was really talking about the book. I wouldn’t be able to put my finger on what prompted someone to check me out. But the thing that had changed was my placement in the Kindle rankings, which was moving me up those category lists.

The biggest hurdle is visibility, the second is credibility.

There are some people out there saying that people who buy books for 99 cents are then not motivated to read them. That’s their loss. It’s a fun book. I believe that plenty of people do read it and are then unmotivated to tell others about it. So in that way, as far as sales of this book are concerned, non-reader and reader have done me the exact same service. They’ve registered a sale that has increased my rank, and therefore also my visibility. When they come across another blogger talking about it, maybe they’ll move it to the top of the TBR list.

I know people are searching me by price, and I’m pretty sure some are choosing free reads over mine. And this is because, on my Kindle page, I can see What Do Customers Ultimately Do After Viewing This Item? Most of them are still buying me. That percentage, often referred to as “conversion rate” has gone down a lot since I started. That’s because, in the beginning, people were going to my page via direct link because of me, a tweet, a review, etc. They went with the purpose of buying my book. As I got out of that, and browsers became a bigger part of my sales, that rate goes down, because some browsers by you, and some pass you by. The browsers who do not buy Hush Money generally buy other free reads or other 99 cent ebooks. So far, I don’t have a lot of people looking at my book and walking away to buy a $5 ebook instead. Because I’m only 99 cents, so why not try it?

When people come across me, unknown, under-vetted, baby indie author, it’s a lot easier for them to throw 99 cents at Amazon than it is $2.99. It just is. It may very well be that $2.99 is no big loss for lots of people if the book doesn’t suit them, but it’s still more than 99 cents, and any increase in price has the potential to increase customer resistance of the Buy button.

Yes, there is more to marketing than just a low price point. We need to learn to market effectively, build a brand, build a readership. But it has to start somewhere, and I think new authors who start higher are denying themselves some perks of the 99 cent slot.

I said on the Indie Reader blog recently that I don’t devalue my work. That makes no sense to me. I don’t have an ad budget, so a discounted price for the work is what I have to trade with right now in order to develop an audience for my future work. If my work had no value, that wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t net me anything. I’d get no word of mouth, and no one would come back for the next book. If I didn’t believe my book was going to earn me some loyal readers, and if I didn’t believe in my ability to produce good work in the future, I’d set a higher price, take the money and run. Wouldn’t I?

Authors talk about all the work they put in. The years they spent honing their craft, the months they put into this book, the planning, the writing, the editing, money they put into producing and marketing. They deserve to get paid for that. Well yeah. And so do all the artists selling over at Etsy who have done the same thing. And a lot of them realize that they have to sell at a break-even point for a while to build a brand and a business.

That’s all I’m saying. I believe in my future work. Hush Money is an introduction to my writing and my world, and it comes at a discounted rate. I earn very little on it in cash terms, but that gets made up to me in other ways that I hope will help me in the long run.

Will it be 99 cents forever? I don’t know. I’m still feeling my way through. What I do know is that the first books in Amanda Hocking’s My Blood Approves series and Imogen Rose’s Portal Chronicles series are both currently priced at 99 cents and both have been very high on their category lists for quite some time. I’ve also seen new printings of first books of some series, like Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, reprinted with $2.99 on the cover as an incentive to draw new readers into the series.

To review:

  • Your share of your 99 cent price is more than 35 cents. It’s just not all in cash.
  • Despite what others are saying, a low price does not mean “lack of faith in the work” to all people. Don’t be bullied. Do what’s right for you.
  • Biggest hurdles? Visibility and credibility. Think of those when thinking about pricing.
  • Remember that, in many professions, it can take years to begin to earn what your work is really worth. We may do it faster, but maybe not right of the gate.

My recommendation to other new indies is to price at 99 cents. I feel it’s been very beneficial for me, and plan to leave the price at this level at least until after the release of Heroes ‘Til Curfew, if not longer.

No matter how much I really want to buy six seasons of Supernatural on DVD.

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Filed under books, Hush Money, Increasing Kindle Rank, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing

Kindle Rank: Unknown to top 1K in 8 Weeks

Not saying that’s unusual or stellar. I actually don’t know what average is. For those of you who are not writers, and/or not especially into the indie scene, this may not be of much interest, for which I apologize in advance. When you’re preparing your first book to go out into the world, and just after it goes out there, there are so many questions that go through your mind.

  • Are people going to like my book?
  • How am I going to get people to read my book?
  • Am I doing well compared to everyone else?

While I won’t say that I have the answers to these, I do believe it’s about time for me to put my experience out here alongside so many other indies who share their results so that we can all get a better idea of things that work and how to gauge our own success.

Hush Money went live on Amazon on Thursday,  August 5, 2010. That puts its 8-week birthday on Thursday, September 30. I am frankly thrilled at how it’s done, and yet, “satisfied” is not a word I can use. Because I’d love to see it do even better.

At the time I’m composing this post, Hush Money is holding around 1000 in the Kindle store. It had been holding firmly around the 2K mark, with fairly consistent daily sales (which I don’t think I’m allowed to actually tell you under the new Kindle rules). It then started a slow climb toward 1K, also climbing the Kindle store category charts that it had been on and off since its first week of release. It’s been on page 2 of its category charts for a few days now, with a significant increase in sales.

It did break into the top 1000 on September 28th, and its highest rank has been 699.

Since I think this is pretty good, I want to share with you some things I’ve done that I think have worked in my favor–beyond writing a decent book. Partly because I consider myself a lousy self-promoter, and marketing was something I was very worried about. I’m going to go into more detail about these things in later posts, so as not to overwhelm, but for now, here they are, in no particular order:

  • Good, genre-appropriate cover art– I think my cover works for me in a lot of ways
  • Website– that’s easy to read, all my info and links in one place, updated content
  • Goodreads– Goodreads was originally described to me as “Facebook for book people.” Hush Money has been added by over 200 members. I’ve absolutely no doubt that exposure there has helped me.
  • Giveaways– I gave away a lot of books, especially in the first few weeks the book was out.
  • Reviews– I got a fair number of reviews on Amazon right away, and also on Goodreads. This gave me something to show both potential readers and book bloggers I approached later, which I think is especially important for an unknown indie.
  • Good friends– This was really important in that first week, especially, because I went out of town the day after Hush Money went live and was offline for a week. I’m sure that Kait Nolan, who is effective at blogging and tweeting, pimped me out in both places.
  • Pricing– Despite the fact that so many people are saying that $2.99 is the new $0.99, and the temptation to make decent money already, I’ve reason to believe that raising the price would do me more harm than good at this point.
  • Cross-Promotion– At the back of my ebooks are excerpts from the ebooks of a few other indie authors in my genre, and I am in the back of theirs. I also have a line at the end of my product description on Amazon, recommending other indie authors, and some of those authors have returned the favor for me.
  • Blogging, Twitter, and other social media– I’m not very good at social media, I don’t have a large following on any platform, and lots of days go by where I can think of little to say. I generally feel like I don’t get much out of it in terms of sales for the time I put into it. But I do get some, and when others allow me access to their networks, it makes all the difference. No matter how fish out of water you feel at it, no matter how much you think it’s all a waste of time, I don’t think blowing it off entirely is a best practice.

Coming up this week, I’ll be trying to cobble together some posts that get into these things more specifically, for those who want to know.

P.S. If you think this might be helpful info for your indie friends, please feel free to hit that tweet button. Thanks!

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Filed under goals, Hush Money, Increasing Kindle Rank, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing

Love and Romance: Do You Believe in Magic?

Before I get onto this, a few things:

  • Hush Money is featured today at Indie Books Blog
  • It’s doing really well. It broke into the Kindle top 1000 early last week and though it’s fallen out a few times, it’s been holding position fairly well (it’s at #888 while I’m writing this).
  • Coming up, I’m going to have a post on getting to the top 1000 within the first 8 weeks of release, talking about some things I did that I think helped and a series of posts that concentrates on those things in a bit more detail.
  • Still have the Help Me Find My Dylan contest going.
  • You know the paperback is out, right?

And now, on to the post…

When it comes to Love and Romance, I absolutely believe in magic. Here are some things I believe in:

  • Love at first sight
  • True love
  • Fate
  • The idea that there is a perfect mate for every person
  • The idea that you can fall in love in a week, in a day, in a moment

And I’m going to cut that list off there before the sweetness of it gives us all cavities.

For me, these, and similar notions found in romance lit, are true possibilities in our world. Even if some of them haven’t happened for me, I can still believe in them in the same way I can take your word for it that things are made up of molecules, or that the Earth orbits the Sun.

  • I don’t have to experience everything in the world in order for it to be true for someone out there.
  • I know that people experience different things, and experience the same things differently.
  • I WANT to believe.

And so do other people. For a lot of them, that’s why they read romance.

Some people absolutely do not believe. These things haven’t happened for them, or, if they have, they didn’t see it that way. After all, love and romance, like anything good in life, require effort, work. And when you frame love as something purely mystical (which I don’t think it is), it confuses the issue for some people. It’s doesn’t make sense for their somewhat more practical take on matters.

In fiction, a disconnect between author and reader often comes about when the story falls too close to one end of this magic to pragmatic continuum.

You have that story where two characters meet, they feel this immediate, overwhelming attraction, connection, and even things like devotion and intimacy, which possibly should grow and evolve out of what they experience with each other, just kind of magically exist between them. This kind of romantic setup will be accepted by readers far at the magical end of that spectrum, but you won’t go far along the line before readers are finding this weak, thinking the author was a bit lazy in supporting the romantic elements, and the pragmatists are throwing the book at the wall and using words like “tripe.”

For me, the incredibly logical characters can be just as maddening. These are characters who are SO practical, who need everything proven to them, everything spelled out. They can be so unwilling to just feel. To take leaps of faith. Isn’t love worth taking a leap? Sometimes they come across, to magical me, as so ungrateful of the gift they’re being offered in the story. They’re so unwilling to allow themselves to feel within a context that (to me) is supposed to be about feeling.

Just because there are two people with relationship potential, doesn’t make it a romance.

What I’m getting at here, is that there’s a middle ground. A good romance finds it, finds a way to please the widest range of readers. Showing the evolution of a relationship, supporting the True Love and Fate angles with moments that allow the readers to say “this is when she fell for him” (and “oops, I just fell for him too”), deepens the experience of the romance even for the reader who would have accepted the magic of it. Allowing the characters to just feel things because they feel them, even if they need to question those feelings, allowing them to sometimes act on things they don’t quite understand yet, and to just go with the flow once in a while, can create and ebb and flow of tension, rather than frustration for the reader. It can make the characters seem more real, since sometimes people have unguarded moments, sometimes they do take chances, just because they want to, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Romantic elements, unsupported, can seem ridiculous. Characters who approach love like Mr. Spock can be maddeningly unromantic and frustrating.

But in the middle ground, between the ridiculously love-struck and the frustratingly logical, there’s room to create something special, something more than just magical.

Romance.

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Filed under books, characters, love, romance, tips, what not to do, writing