Today I found this for my boy Campbell:
So I’ll just park it here because it’s a sweet accomplishment I didn’t expect.
And did you know I bought this cover back in 2015? Yup, it was one of my regular cover guy’s premade covers and the moment I saw it, I knew I had to have it even if it would take me three years to find the right hero for the story. I currently have about 12 premade covers waiting for their stories it’s crazy. And that doesn’t include the ones I’ve purchased from other designers as well as the ones I make myself like the Holiday Engagement series ones. Or the ones for my Naughty Pen and the PNR pen.
Juggling too many plates? Yup, that’s me.
But I did find time to do some reading between those two releases and having to plot and write the next book of my Holiday Engagement series. I just finished Gutter Medicine: Twenty-six Years as a Firefighter/Paramedic by Roger Huder and I really enjoyed it. It’s definitely eye-opening to read about his experiences on being a firefighter paramedic, in a way, helping it become what it is now. I loved reading about “the street” and how it gives and takes away, the calls he’s never forgotten, and how one call almost got him and his fellow firefighters, the one where they encountered “the beast.”
I also have been finding time to go back to walking with friends again even if they’re just for an hour each day and not the usual three-hour walks we used to take that kicked my butt every time.
In the afternoon, I returned close to the same spot with my Lil Dude to check out the Farmer’s Market. Now it’s back to trying to write again because somehow I’ve lost sight of my characters again.
Another book I’m really enjoying is Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing: You Can’t be Seen Until You Learn to See. He profiles the Open Heart Project that grew from a small number of students to thousands of members across the globe because of the following:
- Start with empathy to see a real need, not an invented one, not ‘how can I start a business.’
- Focus on the smallest viable market. How few people could find this indispensable and still make it worth doing? (Smallest viable market is the group of people that are ready and open to hearing your message versus marketing to the world – basically start small.)
- Match the worldview of the people being served. Show up in the world with a story they want to hear, told in a language they’re eager to understand. (You’re not exactly selling a product; you’re selling an emotion. How does your product make them feel when they use it?)
- Make it easy to spread. If every member brings in one more member, within a few years you’ll have more members than you can count.
- Earn and keep the attention and trust of those you serve.
- Offer ways to go deeper. Instead of looking for members for your work, look for ways to do work for your members.
- At every step along the way, create and relieve tension as people progress on their journeys toward their goals.
- Show up often. Do it with humility and focus on the parts that work.
So there you go. Guess I could call that celebrating the release of two books even if I somehow forgot. But anything that takes my mind off my books is a good thing. I even found myself a pair of reading glasses because apparently, I need them now! I’ve never realized how bright my e-reader really is until I put on a pair and read.
Now I need to go back to writing book 2 of the Holiday Engagement and hope I can get the book released before the craziness of the holidays completely takes over!
Before anything else, I’d love to wish a Happy Book Birthday to Dacia M Arnold for her latest release, REACTANCE, the prequel novella to her upcoming novel APPARENT POWER! Don’t miss her guest post following the release announcement! Congratulations, Dacia!
by Dacia M Arnold
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Release Date: August 18, 2018
Given a gift she never wanted, a young woman fights to find a place in post-apocalyptic Denver.
When a dormant gene awakens in a quarter of the world’s population, conductors of electricity are at the mercy of the DiaZem who rule over them.
After her father is killed in a thwarted plan to eradicate the population without the conductor gene, teenager Sasha Bowman channels her bitterness toward the woman she believes is responsible: The Queen DiaZem.
Keeping a journal to share with the world what really transpired, Sasha rallies the community to React against the Apparent Power.
About the Author
Dacia Arnold is an author that struggles to find a balance of work, motherhood, marriage, writing, and the occasional craft. Her first full-length novel, Apparent Power, is in the works to be released December 2018. Dacia served 10 years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and deployed twice to Iraq and often incorporates these experiences into her writings both fiction and non-fiction. She currently lives in Denver, Co with her husband, two children, and a fat beagle named Watson.
I am so excited Liz Durano let me take over her blog for the day. My novella, REACTANCE just went on sale on Amazon and she wanted all of you to know about it. I have been a fan of Liz for a few years now and she has been extremely helpful to me and my career over those years. Thank you, Liz.
How fitting in the wake of Breaking the Rules, she would have me on her blog to talk a little about my personal military experience and the representation of such in literature. I served in the US Army, Active Duty for ten years. I deployed twice to Iraq in the medical field and witnessed both miracles and horrors of war. While my experience as a woman in the military differs from Sawyer’s, it is always important to remember women do serve and have served in the military for a long time.
Gender differences and representation in literature is not what I want to talk about though. I want to talk about my experience at war, PTSD, and losing dear friends.
I worked for fifteen months in the busiest trauma center in the world, Baghdad ER. Books were written and documentaries were filmed about Ibn Sina Hospital located in the Green Zone of Baghdad. I assisted in the birth of healthy babies and witnessed the death of young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to their country. I also fought for the lives of other men and women who felt they could no longer go on and decided to take their own lives. In the absence of understanding I was often angry when we would fail in our attempts to resuscitate my fellow brother or sister in arms.
We also treated children, criminals, terrorists, murderers. And we treated them all the same. A man, who was shot for creating an explosive which killed five Americans, received the same life-saving measures as a child who was considered collateral damage and was injured for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I saw a lot. I let for Iraq at 23 and returned home when I was 25. I left far more than a birthday and year worth of holidays in that marble clad medical facility. I left nearly every memory I had and held onto the feelings of comradery, the twisted sense of humor one often finds in an emergency room, and pride in the work we did and care we provided. When our mission was done, our emergency room held a 98% survival rate. If you made it to the Combat Support Hospital, your chances of living to see your family again were pretty good. We still managed to lose so many.
All of this happened over a decade ago. I am older, have kids, and left the military when my contract ended four years ago. I do not have post-traumatic stress disorder. This simply means when these memories come back and affect me negatively, I am able to successfully find a coping mechanism to file the memories back in my mind. An inability to do so does not make a person weak. There was a time where I drank too much, cried a lot, and felt guilty about those lives lost in my care. I am, after all, still a human being.
My second deployment to Iraq, I was asked to manage the outpatient clinic (a position multiple levels above my pay grade) while my peers were shift leaders in the emergency room. They wanted the guts and glory. I had seen enough gore by then and was happy to have my quiet predictable corner of the hospital. On Christmas morning (was Christmas night in Iraq), my best friend back home was murdered by her boyfriend with her six children in the home. Because she was not family, I was not granted the opportunity to go home to pay my respects or offer assistance to her children. She was also a veteran. Her boyfriend was still in the military at the time. He was sentenced to a mere fifteen years of prison because he was clinically diagnosed with PTSD. He’s halfway done with his sentence already.
All of these experiences bleed into my writing. Articulating the feelings of loss, pain, guilt, the emptiness one experiences when someone they love is no longer there helps me in filing those hard memories in my mind. It helps me make sense of situations and the grieving process. Everyone has a “fight or flight” reflex and it never occurred to me that flight was an appropriate road to take in such matters.
As a mother, my knowledge of terrorism, guns, and survival are always thoughts running in the background of my mind. I was working in a major hospital when someone called in a bomb threat. Patients and staff alike were notified. Many patients wanted to leave against medical advice. After we received the all clear, some of the nurses, knowing my background, asked me what I would have done. I simply said, “I really just depended on what happened, but either way, I’m going home tonight.” While I knew I had no control over the situation, I needed to maintain the confidence of my ability to fight.
I often call my time in the military “the best worst time of my life” I do not regret joining, serving, deploying OR getting out after ten years. Every experience added a layer of clay to my skeleton and molded who I am today. It gives depth to my writing and a strength I know even the most likely of characters can muster.
And with that, I present my novella, REACTANCE.
Reactance is written in the form of a journal. The story runs the timeline of my novel, Apparent Power, and the sequel, Shifting Power. Though Reactance is meant to be a teaser to the main DiaZem Trilogy, readers can either pick it up while they wait until Apparent Power is released in December 2018 OR they can read it between books 1 and 2. Either way it wets your pallet for the dystopian world I have made.
The last week in Romanceland has been rife with controversy. I kinda got caught up with it emotionally because I knew people in both camps, and as a result, I’ve fallen behind on my word count.
Like, really behind.
I had originally thought about not writing about it but at the same time, I thought, why don’t I want to write about it? It’s important, isn’t it?
Well, maybe not to the regular person it’s not, so this may not be of interest to you as a casual reader. But for an author like me who writes in the field of romance, the implications are pretty huge.
You see, a fellow romance author trademarked the word “cocky.” She writes a series that started out as the Cocker Brothers of Georgia (or Atlanta, I can’t remember now…), about seven brothers with the last name Cocker. And so each book in her series starts with the word Cocky. Cocky Roomie, Cocky Heart Surgeon, Cocky Cowboy... you get the drift.
So with 17 or 18 books now in her series, I guess she figured besides trademarking Cocker Brothers of Atlanta (or Georgia), she might as well trademark Cocky because, well, it’s her “brand” now.
She applied for the trademark in September 2017 and was granted the mark last month. Then she started sending C&D letters to other authors who had Cocky on their titles or series, mostly released after she published the first Cocky book (Cocky Roomie). She told them to change their titles and series names or she’d sue them for monies owed to her. She told them she would win. She told them retitling would take a day, nothing more.
The backlash? HUGE.
Her response? “Branding.”
Amazon’s response to her trademark infringement claim? Removing the “infringing” authors books along with a note stating that they may owe the cocky author monies earned.
Other people’s response? Meh? Who cares? Just a bunch of women fighting with each other. One misogynist dared “spiteful jealous mean girls” who had a problem with it to suck his cocky.
Words were exchanged. Emotions got heated. Parody cocky books popped up and are selling like hotcakes…
I mean, things escalated quickly.
But the precedent set over the trademarking of a single word that is a huge part of romance? Dangerous.
It was exhausting.
But now it’s back to work.
I need to write more words. Maybe I’ll even throw cocky in there just to be sentimental about #cockygate and the weekend when I should have been writing.
***Romance Writers of America (RWA) has stepped in to stop the take-down of affected books and the rest (petition to cancel the trademark, maybe) will be handled legally.
So I’ve been publishing Naughty Pen’s stories now since July 2017 and so far, these are the lessons I’ve learned so far (these are just the things that apply to me so YMMV). I’m going to list the things I’ve learned below but you’ll need to click on Page 2 at the bottom of this page to get to the rest of the post (because it’s a lot!).
- Write more than one story before you hit that Publish button.
- Formatting and Cover Design
- Should I write a series or do standalone books?
- Exclusive to Amazon or Wide Distribution?
- How to Promote my Erotica books?
- “The Filthy Fifty”
Write more than one story before you hit that Publish button.
It’s tempting to publish that first story the moment you get it done and edited and proofed. But before you do that, imagine this scenario: your reader finds your book in the store and buys it, reads it and loves it. He/She then goes back to the store to see if there are any more on the shelf but there aren’t. There was just that one book, and so the reader shrugs his/her shoulders and moves on to the next book by someone else.
Chances are, they may remember you. But they may also not remember you.
And so to counter this supply and demand problem, wait until you have at least six stories ready to go before you hit publish. Build your backlist of other titles that the reader can buy when you’ve hooked them with the first book they discovered. Supply and demand. It’s also a matter of keeping that customer’s attention long after they’ve closed the first book.
Formatting and Cover Design
Even though I have just about every fancy word processing and ebook formatting app under the sun (Ulysses, Scrivener, Vellum, Writer, IA Writer, etc), Word actually does a good job. So if that’s what you’ve got, that’s okay. Write your stories in Word, save them as .doc files and back them up.
As far as covers go, I highly highly recommend you hire a cover designer to do the covers of your book. When you feel you understand the expectations of the genre and are proficient with some graphic design software, then go for designing your own. Inexpensive options include GermanCreative on Fiverr. She can do a basic cover for $5 to $10; $25 if you want the source files. And you may want the source files if you plan on creating a series and just changing Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, etc. to the existing cover although you will need to have Photoshop or some app that can open .psd files.
I also buy from GoOnWrite although I wait when he has a half-off sale which brings covers down to $25. But I have over 23 covers now so I have to stop buying and write more…
For ebook formatting, you can splurge $250 on Vellum or you can get Calibre for free. You can also use Draft2Digital‘s FREE formatting options with templates you can choose from. There really isn’t any need to invest in pricey apps like I did to create these books although my favorite for writing is Ulysses and for formatting into ebooks, Vellum. For the heck of it, I tried formatting with Word last summer and then uploading to Amazon and I survived just fine. And boy, did I feel such a sense of accomplishment for doing it without any fancy programs!
When it comes to formatting, don’t forget to include a CTA (Call to Action) at the front and back of your books. Usually, this includes a sign up to your mailing list (which is essential, before even a website) in exchange for a free story. Write another story just for your mailing list. If the other books are already up, then link the crap out of them after including a preview, usually a chapter or two, making sure it ends at a point where the reader asks, so what happens next? Sometimes it works and they go straight to the second book and sometimes it doesn’t.
For the CTA, I usually write something that goes:
This ends Part 1 of [title].
A preview of Part 2 [title] follows after this section.
To be notified of my latest books, please join my mailing list.
I also create an About Me (or Naughty Pen) section which includes the sign up to your mailing list again, as well as Other Books By Naughty Pen, a page of the other books you’ve got available. If it’s the end of that series, then I include a preview of another series starter.
Series or Standalones?
Good question. After beginning my publishing journey with standalones back in 2014, I learned the hard way that writing a series is the way to go. But what about erotica where the focus is on the action? Well, I decided to do both. My series follows a set of characters from one encounter to another. Although m intention was to focus on the action, that didn’t work out.There’s tons of angst and drama in my erotic stories but that’s because I am hooked on the characters. And it’s my hope that the reader gets hooked on their journey, too.
When I have at least 3 books written with the same characters, I bundle them together so readers who want to buy the bundle straight can do just that. I price bundles around a dollar less than all three individual books combined.
As far as the standalones go, they’re fun to do. 6K words of an encounter and the story’s done. Maybe I’ll revisit the same set of characters later and put them in another situation, but I try to keep the short pieces under 10K words. Maybe even less, like 6K, especially for erotica. Erotic romance requires longer works, like 15k to 20k words.
Kindle Unlimited or Wide Distribution?
This is a tough one. Kindle Unlimited is like Netflix for books. As far as Amazon goes, books on Kindle Unlimited get way more visibility than books that aren’t. Instead of buying each book, subscribers pay $10 a month to borrow an unlimited number of books (up to ten books at a time) from the Kindle Unlimited or KU library. It’s a great program and perfect for readers who read prolifically. From the author side, the program is called Kindle Select and you have to agree to have your book exclusive to Amazon for 90 days (so no iBooks, Nook, or Kobo sales) and you get paid per the number of pages read, the amount determined from the overall pool of books every month. The rate ranges from $0.0040 to $0.0050 per page. This arrangement works great for books with a higher page count (or KENP which stands for Kindle Edition Normalized Pages and is a set number that Amazon determines with each book which isn’t necessarily the same as the number of actual pages for your physical book or whatever your e-reader tells you) so if your book has 300 KENP pages, then every time a subscriber reads your book from cover to cover, you make $1.20 to $1.5 per book.
This is why some books in KU can have 500 pages and higher sometimes (up to 3K KENP pages, which is Amazon’s maximum) yet cost 99 cents. The target customer, in this case, isn’t the buyer (the author only gets 35 cents per sale off 99 cents); it’s the KU subscriber. A book up to 3K KENP pages can net the author between $12 to $15 a book. For reals. This is why there are “single story” books that can have up to 5 bonus novels included, but I digress.
But what about erotica books that may only have 20 pages, for example, for a 6k word story? That would net you between $0.08 to a $0.10 PER BOOK. You’d have to sell a lot of erotica books to make any form of money. Sure, you can price it at 99 cents but interestingly, erotica has a set standard when it comes to price and that’s $2.99. You price your book lower than that, it’s bad for the rest of the players in the erotica genre.
Wide distribution means your book is available on iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other retailers. This also includes Smashwords which has a pretty healthy storefront of erotica books and I often buy erotica from them (that way no one knows what I’m reading since I share my Kindle library between 6 other devices and 3 people). You can publish your stories directly with iBooks, B&N, and Kobo, but for beginners, sometimes it’s best to go through an aggregator or a middleman like Smashwords and Draft2Digital. They upload your book to other retailers and take 10% out of the royalties of 70%. Because I write erotica under a secret pen name, I can’t publish directly to iBooks or Kobo without revealing that I am the same person who publishes Liz’s books, and so I currently use Draft2Digital as my aggregator and am getting ready to set up a different account to sell her books on Smashwords.
So, yes, Naughty Pen’s books are now wide with all wide sales coming from iBooks.
How to Promote?
Eventually, you’re going to need to promote your books. I say book(s) because you definitely need more than one book published before you can start promoting, that way the reader can check out your other books after they finish the first one. I recommend at least 3 books done whether they’re each 5k – 6K word stories or a full book (maybe total 20k words and up) that you’ve serialized into 3 parts or more.
If you’ve written a series, you can offer the first book at 99 cents and the rest of the books at $2.99 each. You can also set the first book free so that it will lead to sell-through to the rest of the books in the series, also at $2.99 each. Don’t lower the price on those later babies. You can keep the first book shorter than the rest but make sure there’s a big hook for the reader to continue with the rest of the books. The first book being 99 cents or free is called your Loss Leader. A “loss leader” is basically a product that’s sold at a loss to attract customers. Many authors hate this and I used to hate it, too, because darn it, my writing has value! It’s a work of art!
But I’ve come to realize that while that story I’m writing is a work of art, once it’s done and put on the virtual shelf that is the marketplace, it needs to sell. From here on, that work of art is now a product.
Unfortunately, FB doesn’t allow ads for erotica (although I’ve seen a few that made it through) and Amazon Marketing Services are a guaranteed no-go either. So you’ll need to pay for dedicated promo services to promote that free book. I’m saying the “free book” here and not the rest of the series because, again, that first book is your loss leader. Hook them with the first book and hopefully, there will be sell-through to the rest of the series. Not all promo services will take erotica so read their disclaimers. Services like Erotica Nation on Twitter and Bknights on Fiverr are ones I’ve tried. Track your results. I’m still figuring this part out so YMMV.
But do you know what the most effective form of promotion is? It’s writing the next book… AND your newsletter.
The Filthy Fifty
I’ve heard this saying banded about and it basically means that if you want to make money in erotica, you need to keep writing and publishing. Shoot for 50 shorts. When you’ve hit that goal, write 50 more. One author I know has written over 100 stories, mostly under 8k words each and he’s now just starting to branch out to erotic romance and longer works. You just gotta keep writing and building that backlist. If you love writing stories, then why the heck not? One author I know hasn’t published a new story in two years but he still gets money coming in from Amazon and Smashwords from those books he wrote years earlier. Another author makes a ton of money writing erotica shorts patterned after Penthouse Letters format (if you remember that one; I don’t, but I’ve read them and they’re interesting). Come to think of it, even Penthouse has brought those old letters online in the form of ebook collections!
Whew! So that’s about it for now. If you’ve got any questions or if I’ve missed something, let me know. My mind runs a mile a minute (technically I should really be writing the next book) and so it’s easy for me to miss a thing here or there.
But I do hope all this helps. Read it in bites because there’s a lot to process in one sitting.
So last week I lamented my lack of motivation to write. It made me sound lazy (I am but that’s beside the point) and in need of validation with every chapter I wrote. Then I took a closer look and realized that it’s not exactly true.
One reason why I haven’t been into my Liz books is because I’ve been paying more attention to Naughty Pen’s books. Yup, she’s got three of them. Four, if you count the one I just unpublished because it’s only the first part and no sense in releasing that out there if I don’t have the second one ready to go.
I’d published the first of Naughty Pen’s books in July and then I went about my merry way not paying attention to it until I released the second and third parts in October and December respectively. Enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, they did poorly. So poorly, Naughty Pen’s total income for all three books for the 2017 was $56 and change.
This month, I decided I had to stop playing around with Naughty Pen’s fate. Secret pen or not, it’s still a business, right?
So the three books left Kindle Unlimited at the beginning of this month and went out to the world of wide distribution like eager eighteen-year-olds. Happy to say that Naughty Pen’s readers were never on Kindle Unlimited but in iBooks. In the last week and a half, the series has made way more money than it did during its first six months in KU. If I’d known… but then, hindsight has always been 20/20.
So that’s where my head’s been at all this time, and all the while my own characters suffered.
So now that Naughty Pen is kinda set with her three books for now, I’m finally ready to dive back into the world of my own characters. I did a poll on my Facebook Reader Group, asking them which character they’d like to see first. Hands down, the winner was Sawyer, Dax’s friend in Everything She Ever Wanted. Running second was Gareth of Loving Ashe, and third was Blythe from Collateral Attraction. Blythe doesn’t get a lot of love but that’s okay. She gets enough love from me and these three books are on the docket for 2018.
I just need to figure out which one to write first.
In my heart, I know whose book to write. I’ve only been agonizing his fate for the last two years, too afraid to go against what readers want versus what I’ve wanted from the very beginning. But this book had never been written to market and so the third book will be written the same way: not to market.
For those unfamiliar with the term written to market, it basically means writing what sells. If you’re an author with books in KU, it can be bad boy romance, urban fiction, fantasy, space marines or whatever else. It takes studying the Amazon algorithm to know what sells before you write the first word.
But the book I’m going to tackle is not to market and that’s a challenge to business me. Still, I can’t delay it any longer and so back into Gareth Roman’s world I go. It means diving into Barbed Wire, the short story from his POV of what happens in Chapter 24 of Loving Ashe and moving on from there. I wrote this short story two years ago and it’s my most polarizing story so far. You’ll need to have read Loving Ashe to get its context, and as I edit the story to fix a few things, it feels like I’m home again.
Guess my vacation has finally come to an end, and back to work I go.
And do you know one thing that gets me back to work mode? It’s this video, a tribute to the chase scene from Ronin, one of my favorite movies from the 90’s (or was it the 80’s?). The title of the music used is perfect, Inertia Creeps, and it’s exactly what was happening to me last week even if I was distracted by Naughty Pen’s business end.
This video features the best movie chase scene EVER. Hands down. You got to crank up the volume for this one…
Yup, just like the titles says, I got featured over at Instafreebie and I forgot to tell anyone all about it. And then I realized nine days later, that because they post every day, if I didn’t at least find the link to it, then I’ll never find it!
So here it is, and I even have an author picture to go with it, although this one was taken a few years ago in our garden gazebo and there was even a makeup artist in attendance. But then, my brother is a professional photographer…
They sent me a questionnaire first and here are my answers:
Any (not-so-secret) pen names: haha it’s a secret!
Favorite genre to write: Women’s Fiction and Romance with hints of mystery
Favorite genre to read: Mystery/Suspense
My readers would be surprised to know that I draw. It makes my mom happy to know that if this writing “gig” doesn’t work out, I can set up a stand at the park and draw your portrait for a fee. My favorite medium is graphite and colored pencils as well as digital art using a tablet although these days, I just draw straight on my iPad or iPhone. Whenever I’m stumped on my books’ arc, conflict or plot, I’m usually drawing away and posting them on Instagram. If you don’t see my drawings, that means I’m busy writing!
You should pick up “Loving Ashe” because it’s a sweet chick lit romance between a sweet barista named Riley Eames and the swoony British actor she gets trapped with in a Midtown Manhattan elevator. It’s about opening your heart again to love even when your personal world seems to be falling apart.
Describe “Loving Ashe” in one word: swoon
Speaking of drawing, these are a few and they’re all drawn in a red art journal. My favorite medium are graphite pencils, colored pencils, and ink. I started doing portraiture but love line drawing so much I used to just do the line drawing and fill it in with color. I struggle with shading still and can’t, fo rthe life of me, do hair. Sometimes I color it on my iPhone like I did the one of Jim Morrison of the Doors.
This morning, I learned all about segmenting my subscribers according to their e-reader choices. This was from one promotion that I participated in where it was one of the questions: What device do you use to read your e-books?
Out of about 890 or so subscribers, I got the following information:
776 read on a Kindle
21 on Google Play
43 on iBooks
33 on Nook
19 on Kobo
It’s definitely something to think about, given that Amazon/Kindle represents about 75% – 80% of the ebook market. It certainly is the case for my books that are available “wide” (they’re available everywhere like iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Google Play and Amazon) with Amazon still taking 80% of the sales.
It made me wonder, as far as readers who stumble upon this blog, where everyone gets their books. Are you a Kindle reader, a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, or Nook, Kobo, or iBooks user? Are you with Google Play which I just learned is the default bookstore for android devices?
When I was much younger and a regular staple at the library or Borders, I used to judge books not only by their covers but by the words NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. It made me attend conferences with notable guests like Pulitzer Prize winners and Poet Laureates. I learned, maybe erroneously, that “By New York Times Bestselling Author” were not hits compared to the ones that held the label, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. I mean, dang, that book was the bestseller so it must be good.
Funny thing, though – when I started publishing, I never paid any mind to making “the list.” It was stressful enough just having your book edited, packaged with a nice cover and then released, even if it was to crickets. And there are two more lists, by the way. The USA Today and Wall Street Journal.
Late last year, I learned about the ways to make it onto a list, along with calls to join box sets designed to make “the list” and thus have the privilege to call myself a USA Today or New York Times Bestselling Author. It’s definitely more eye-catching than just seeing just Liz Durano on the author line, right? And with indies showing up on the lists for a few months now, it’s definitely an accomplishment especially when primarily traditionally published books make most of those lists since the day were published. It was a chance for indie authors like me to catch that elusive label and, in the case of box sets, for much less than if I were making a run as a solo author.
Well, as of today, fellow indie authors are noting the absence of the E-Books list (the easiest entry to the list via ebook sales versus paperback sales) from the New York Times.
It may just be temporary. (EDIT: it’s not) Maybe the list is late, although I doubt it. But whether it’s late, intentional to exclude or make it harder for indies to make the list or not, it made me wonder just how important it is for me to make “the list.”
It would be nice, right? And I’m not going to deny the chance if it were offered to me. But writing my stories, I’ve discovered, is stressful enough. I don’t write them as fast as I used to, or would like to, simply because real life is just too busy for me.
For one, my 7-year-old is acting out in school and I don’t have the luxury of deciding whether I should complete my novel or find ways to get him more active with after-school activities or socialization. It’s not even a question. I have a mother who loves to scare the bejeesus about my choice to be an author because she insists every week when I call her that the “recession is coming” and that my choice of vocation is poverty. It’s enough to make this indie author paranoid of everything, much less spend thousands of dollars to make a list so you’ll pick my book over everyone else’s.
Some days, I think, life is just too short to worry about such things just so you’ll pick up my books. I just want to write my stories and hope that whoever reads them finds joy in them.
… though I’m sure making any of those three lists would be a nice bonus.
One of the things I love to listen to while doing stuff around the house (i.e. not writing) is The Author Hangout: Book Marketing Tips for Indie & Self-Published Authors podcast. Towards the end of his interviews, Shawn usually asks what three things his guests would do if they were starting out again.
It got me thinking about the three things I’d definitely do if I were to do it all over again.
- Write a series of at least three books and don’t publish until the third book is DONE. That way, you can release each book in 30 or 60-day intervals at the same time writing your next book. It’s less stress and the job’s already done, basically. All you have to do now is get them out the gate in 30, 60 and 90 days. If you happen to be writing a really wrong novel, like one that’s over 100k words, I’d definitely break it down into two or three books, again with each one releasing in 30 or 60 days.
- Start building your email list NOW. There are some amazing providers to start with like Mailerlite, which is free to use for up to 1000 subscribers. And unless you’re using Instafreebie which is an aweesome way to build subscribers by offering free content like a free first book (it could be that first of three books you just wrote in #1 or a short <10K word prequel), your subscriber list will be slow and more organic. Maybe people who find you on your blog and like what you write, whether it’s short stories or that free first book (that’s not free anywhere else but via your mailing list; it’s still for sale in all the outlets).
- Set aside a budget for marketing your book. So what if you wrote the best book ever? If you don’t tell anyone about it, or unless people start talking about it, no one will know. So you’ll need to have a budget on hand to start with advertising. It could be setting up a blog tour for a cover reveal before you release that first book and then a release blitz, or if you’re patient and willing to sit through countless Facebook how-to’s on making your Facebook ad, you could put a minimum of $5/day into advertising. You can also set up sale promotions (free or discounted price sales) and promote it through newsletter services. I’ll detail #3 below because the formatting for extra paragraphs under lists drives me batty.
I didn’t do FB ads for two years and when I started doing it in September/October last year, it was a total game changer for me. It meant that I had to budget my money because I had NO budget set aside for advertising, especially after I purchased my exclusive cover photo. It meant not buying that grande mocha latte at Starbucks if it meant I could apply that money to $5 of daily advertising instead.
What’s a reasonable budget? If you can spare it (remember, this is for long-term), set aside $1K – $2K to tide you over for 30 to 60 days while you’re helping your newly released book build up steam, get reviews, and also be more visible. At $5/day of advertising, I started seeing sales on a year-old release on all platforms (Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Barnes & Noble) and it was definitely one of those “why didn’t I do this sooner?” moments, but it’s better to do it now than never.
If you don’t have $2K, then do it the way I did – no, not credit cards although I’ve seen authors do so much better with higher budgets, more than $50/day per ad. Being broke, I budgeted $35/week to ads and went one week at a time while I fine-tuned my ads to get the best click-through rate and cost as well as ROI (return on investment) that translated in sales… all while making sure I had the money on hand when Facebook billed and took the money automatically on the 29th of each month. Sometimes I paid every week so I wouldn’t be a nervous wreck towards the end of the month, especially considering Amazon’s 60-day net (I don’t get my royalties until 60 days after the sale). Don’t get me wrong: while FB ads worked for me right away, it may take some time for FB advertising to work for you and what works for me just might not work for you. But that doesn’t mean you don’t go into self-publishing without a budget, even if so many people say you can do it with zero investment. You may sell a few books to your friends and family, but you’ll need to sell more books to people you don’t know in order to keep at doing this (writing and publishing) for a long time.
What’s an alternative to FB ads? You can raise visibility for your book by holding sales promotions like free book downloads or 99 cent sales. To promote them, try newsletter services for your book promotions like BKnights (on Fiverr) which works for free books (free download days if you’re on KU), Fussy Librarian, Ereader News Daily (or ENT as they’re mostly known), Robin Reads, and more.
So those are the three things I’d do if I were to do this writing thing all over again. There are so many more things I’d do but for now, it’s a good start. What about you? What are the three things you’d do if you were to do this writing thing all over again?
When she’s not blogging about self-publishing, writing poetry or hanging out with her 7-year old little prince, Liz Durano writes women’s fiction and romance. Her latest novel, Everything She Ever Wanted, is available on Amazon and free to read on Kindle Unlimited.