Update on the Naughty Pen

naughty-pen-post-feature

After my attempt to write erotic romance under my Liz brand proved to be a big fail in May 2017 when I released Need, I knew that in order to continue writing erotic or dark romance, I needed a secret pen name.

But… there was one challenge: I could not in any way promote Naughty Pen’s brand with Liz even though it would make things easier. Basically, Naughty Pen would start at nothing. Zero fans. Zero platform. Plain and simple: she was a new author.

So in July 2017, I released Naughty pen’s erotica story and it went straight to Kindle Unlimited. Without any advertising or promotion, it promptly sank into obscurity. That book was meant to be a standalone story but with the word count being about 13k or so, I thought it was too long for an erotica short. And so with nothing to lose (and the characters weren’t done, they told me), I continued writing their story.

I released their second book in October and just like the first one, it sank into obscurity. Again, with no advertising or promotion, no book will ever get noticed. It’s just the way the game is played.

But I continued on simply because I love this couple and I can’t wait to write more about them. It felt like going back to basics when I simply wrote for myself and not anyone else. This time, there were no alpha or beta readers to critique the story*. I ran the stories through Grammarly and published them.

By December, I had their third book and I published it. The first part of my naughty couple’s journey was complete at around 47K words or so. Just like the first two books, the third book sank into obscurity. The same thing happened with I bundled the three stories and published it to Amazon although this time I didn’t enrol it in KU.

Anyway, I made a total of $56 for those three books and the bundle from July 2017 – December 2017.

At first, I laughed. Then the business side of me said one word: Pathetic. This was shortly followed by four other words: You can do better.

The bottom line was this: naughty pen or not, this is still a business. This ain’t no hobby.

So it was time for Plan B.

In January 2018, the first book’s exclusivity contract with Amazon expired and I didn’t renew it. For the first time, it was free to be sold elsewhere like iBooks and Barnes and Noble. But to do that meant the other two books had to be out of KU as well and so after I published the first book “wide,” meaning on platforms outside of Amazon, on January 7, I requested to have the other books removed from exclusivity and Amazon granted my request.

The first book went free for two days, just enough time for me to go into iBooks and download a copy. The following day, I put it at $2.99 and it remained at that price until January 12th.

On January 12th, the two other books left KU and I uploaded them to iBooks, B&N, and Kobo. That same day, I priced Book 1 at 99 cents and the other books at $2.99 each.

It’s January 20th as I write this and so the charts will feature books sold until yesterday, the 19th. Book 1 was set free last night and so part of the copies sold include both 99 cents and free downloads from the iTunes store.

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From here, with Book 1 free, it will be interesting to see what the sell-through is for the other 2 books in the series. The series continues but I have my own Liz books to write so this will have to wait until I have the time. I just hope the week’s sales aren’t a fluke and that they’ll continue but I also know that I need to write more books in the series. So it’s a catch 22.

As far as retailers, all sales have come from iBooks.

A new book I released hasn’t gotten any sales yet but that’s okay. I might un-publish it because the sequels aren’t done yet and I’m better off waiting to release them when everything is done like my first set of three parts.

*I finally gave the story to my proofreader last week 🙂

So You’d Like To Have An Audiobook For Your Novel…

I started writing this post months ago around the time when I was having two of my books turned into audiobooks.  The first one was PFH which stands for Per Finished Hour and that’s when you pay the narrators an hourly rate for the finished product. ESEW ended up costing me $2400 for two narrators at $300/hour. My royalties under a 7-year exclusive Audible contract is 40% from whatever price Audible sells the audiobook for. I have no control over pricing. At all.

The second audiobook is a royalty share or RS agreement after the narrator approached me about turning LA into an audiobook. In hindsight, I was in a high from having approved the initial contract for ESEW that I barely even looked at the terms of the agreement between me and the narrator. She told me she’d charge me $100 per finished hour (reduced from her regular PFH rate) to cover proofing, editing, and whatever else. I didn’t even think much of it and said yes so out of pocket, that cost me $900 and we still have to split the royalties which means we both get 20% for each audiobook sold. Like the PFH book, I have no control of pricing at all for 7 years.

Three months after the first audiobook was released, I’m realizing that it’s going to take me some time to recoup my investment on ESEW. Probably two years at the minimum, maybe five years maximum. For LA, since it’s RS, that means I split royalties for seven years and that $900 I’ll probably get back in a year and a half at the earliest or up to three years.

Yes, audiobooks don’t sell as much as people think they do. Not mine, at least.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but audiobooks belong to the realm of those who are established. Unless I put my books in the Romance Package where it may be added to the romance collection of books, rated according to “heat level” and I get paid for minutes listened in a KU-like arrangement and get paid quarterly starting 2018, I won’t really see much profit for at least two years.

It doesn’t help that customers can return audiobooks for up to ONE YEAR of purchase and so my sales stats always has negative figures to represent each return. One day I’m up two sales, the next I’m down three. It’s frustrating but what can you do?

Does this make me want to rush out there and have more audiobooks done?

Nope.

Not unless I come up with the money first and pay narrators up front in a PFH arrangement. With union minimum being $225 PFH, I’m looking at, at the very least, $250 PFH.

Narrators also don’t want to do RS deals unless it’s hybrid. But even then, they kinda take on that project with a healthy dose of cynicism that it’s turned me off from having any more made. That’s what happens when you’re in an FB group of narrators and authors. You learn just how terrible many narrators see authors – that we’re clueless and want them to work for peanuts or hardly anything at all. Or that we just take advantage of them or that they deserve more credit than authors give them.

Whatever.

I know it’s a business deal and while, sure, I can raise the money for LR to be turned into an audiobook but to wait at least two to three years to see a return on my investment? I don’t think so.

So if you’re wanting to have an audiobook made of your novel, save your pennies and choose a PFH arrangement. Or better yet, wait until a company like Tantor approaches you about turning your book into an audiobook. Sign their contract and focus on writing the next one.

Unless you’re lucky finding a good narrator with a following not minding a Royalty-share agreeement, it’s all PFH they want and I don’t blame them. If I were a narrator, I would, too.

Orange Banner, Yes!

This morning I woke up to this:

And it was still there two hours later. With Bookbub hitting emails in the past hour, I haven’t checked if it’s been unseated but it doesn’t matter. I have the orange banner for Amazon US and finally, I was actually online to snag a screenshot.

Success Story #1

Faleena Hopkins post from 20Booksto50K

Okay, success story comin’ atcha. And I’m terrified to share BUT BUT BUT I know this is not Kboards where trolls live to write 1-stars on your books after you share a story in order to inspire other authors and are making a good living. This healthy group has helped me so I want to help you. This photo is from an hour ago, Jan. 5th.

2015 I switched from contemporary romance to paranormal because I love supernatural stuff. Went well for a while, but sales dropped from 8K with C.R. down eventually to less than 1k with P.N.R. in both Jan. & Feb. 2016. Just last year, you understand, making not enough to pay rent, eat, nothing. I was sweating, in fear, in debt, chucking money at promos, and borrowing against credit cards. I grabbed a couple books from my pen name, revamped with my real name and republished from scratch. I’d learned this strategy from a blog on Hugh Howey’s site. Sales went up, back to 3K and then 5K with some promotions. Turns out I need to stay out of Paranormal. Lesson Learned.

But I needed something new because I need to write or my demons get very, very loud. And I write fast. I’m a pantser (god I hate that term but that’s what they call a person who writes by the seat of the pants, doesn’t outline) so I sit down and go. But I needed to know which WAY to head long term so I didn’t flounder, lose momentum and fall into poverty again. NO f*ing thank you! I was determined – DRIVEN – to never go down that rabbit hole again.

I asked myself – what is it people like about my books? They’re steamy, yes, but they’re not just about the sex, that’s 1. They love that they’re like real life, that’s 2. They love the friendships, that’s 3. With the successful wolves story (WW of NY series) they loved the pack, the brotherly family feeling. I’m good at loyalty, writing about people with strong character and values, people you want to see happy. Sometimes they’re so good they fight crime. That’s 4, or maybe 3.5. They like my sense of humor, that’s a big fat 5. And they like my books to be longer, that’s 6.

What do I like? And yes I asked that question last because I don’t just want to write, I want people reading what I write. I want to entertain people. Make them laugh. Brighten up their days a little. It makes me happy.

The main thing I knew is that I like to write different stories, bouncing around sub-genres, almost. Some romance authors write the same story-ish with different names and places. My mother’s favorite author did that, even though she denied it vehemently when I pointed it out. I can’t do that, even if successful. I get bored. I want to write about all types of people with different sets of problems blocking them from finding love, like real life!

I had seen Michael Anderle ‘s post on Kboards where he said don’t stop at three books in a series. And I remembered Bella Forrest and how I’d noticed she certainly did NOT stop at three. Three hundred, maybe that’s where she’ll stop, God bless her inspiring a**

😉 So I knew I wanted more than three books. The Cocker Brothers was born. Six very different men.

I published Book One, Jake Cocker’s book, in June, and then a book a month until now. How’d it go? 10K, 14K, and now for the last two months I’ve been making over 20K each and this will be higher. That’s from around $600.00 in Feb. to over $20K in November.

YOU CAN HAVE SUCCESS IF YOU WANT TO. IT IS POSSIBLE. YOU MUST BELIEVE IT. That’s the first step, then do the work. And there’s a lot of work.

How did I do this? Besides readers liking the books, here’s my marketing, sharing because I want those struggling to keep typing away despite the Resistance:

* My stand-alone romance that is NOT in this series, but is fun, is set to permafree. It’s still being downloaded on Amazon at about 400-900 a day for the past three months. It is not at all related to this series, but it shows my writing, and the backmatter has links to all my Cocker Brothers books. Also for some reason unknown to me, iTunes featured it in Oct. and it was downloading at 3-4K a day there. The backmatter sent readers to my website which I made myself with Wix.com after a ton of f*ing research, and they followed me to Amazon:


http://www.authorfaleenahopkins.com/

* I have had free promos for all the titles, not just book one. The promos draw readers to the others if they liked the one.

*** ADDED>>> PREORDERS: Forgot to say this valuable tool. I post a preorder for the next book when I launch the book before it. I started this at book three. I sell preorders for $0.99 as a thank you to readers for staying with me, and incentive for new readers to join the ride. Huge benefit for all because it keeps the readers engaged with a series they’re enjoying while you type away, and they’re off reading other books by other authors. It also sets a deadline I MUST meet or I lose my rights to have preorders for a year. Book 6 currently has 2500 preorders on it. When I did the first (book 3) it had about 750.

Even if it had 30 preorders it would be worth it. Those 30 people gave me a chance to entertain them, which is an honor I fight (my demons) to earn.

* I advertise on Amazon (AMS) with what I’ve learned here, using Also-Bought authors and titles as my keywords. I tinker with these daily and am currently spending about $100 a day, which went up when I was able to afford it because the series was doing well. Before Sep. it was about $50 a day.

* I advertise on FB with what I learned from this post on Kboards:
http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,236725.0.html

That post changed my life. Thank you Michael John Grist if you are here. I have three ads, $5 a day, all for book one that cover AU, UK, and CA. Right now I’m not using FB for USA, but I was until FB went bonkers with high CPC in Dec.

* The books are about 55K-65K each, and they’re so very, very me.

I write what makes me laugh, what makes me cry, what makes me interested in writing more…and then as the saying goes: Your vibe attracts your tribe. Some people have lacerated me in reviews but so what? The majority are having a fun time, and readers from the craziest places around the world are emailing things like, “Life has been so hard, and then I got your book. You made my day. Please keep writing! Your friend in Romania.”

So yes, I’m very VERY happy I’m making money and will be debt free by Feb. But what I really love is what we’re doing here. We make up stories that entertain people. We don’t have to ask permission to do it. Thank you Amazon! Thank you iTunes! Thank you B&N! Thank you to all of you 20to50K authors who’ve shared your insight and helped me learn. I love you beyond words.

How cool is it that we never have to ask some big mucky muck, “Will you please publish my story?”

For those of you struggling, keep going. Read all the great insight shared in this healthy and supportive group. Everyone is sharing a wealth of knowledge. Learn from the most successful authors in your genre, study them on Amazon and then make it your own.

Be hungry enough to learn, drop what doesn’t work immediately, and leave egos in the corner where they belong. And write fast. Work hard. I work 10 hours a day most days and a lot of that is on studying, massaging ads, reading posts here, sharing what I know, learning more, repeating it all. And I voice my own audio books because I’m a trained actress and VO actress, have been for many years.

This is how I did it, everyone has their own path. I’m not saying this is the only way. It’s just my way and I hope this helps you. I have a date tonight. Wish me luck!

Ad Placements

Today, while deciding whether to buy We Own the Night by Corinne Michaels, I decided to see whose books show up at the bottom where the paid ads go. I couldn’t remember if I had added her name to my AMS keywords or not, or if I did, if I inadvertently turned the ads off because I was kinda starting over with my ads in September. I’d just bought Dear Bridget I Want You by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward yesterday so now that I’m on a tight budget and need to make my Kindle Unlimited subscription work for me more (after not reading a single book for a year while I was subscribed to it at $10/month), I figured I’d check it out a bit more.

Well, I scrolled the ads at the bottom instead and found two of my books among the 17 ‘pages’ of ads. My bids for these two ads are probably between $0.16 – 0.18 and it I’ve just begun another ad just with Corinne Michaels’ keywords and We Own the Night at $0.25. We’ll see how that goes.

We’ll see how that goes.

I’m not doing that great on ads in general right now, at least, not with AMS ads. I have FB ads that I think are doing okay although they’re not doing Loving Ashe/Loving Riley books any good for wide sales. I got one sale yesterday for Loving Ashe and that’s after 2 – 3 days of no sales at all for both books with the wide vendors.

I’m going to announce that Loving Ashe/Loving Riley are going into KU for the holidays and it is what it is. We’ll have to see what happens then. Will it increase its income from what I’ve earned so far with it in the past year? Or will it not?

My theory is that KU will help it, if I’m doing ads across the board, whether it’s AMS or FB or doing promos KU promos for it. Cross my fingers!

Raising the Stakes

RAISE THE STAKES BY MAKING IT PERSONAL

IF THE CHARACTER FAILS, HE WILL:

Look bad in the eyes of those he cares about.

Disappoint someone who he is responsible for

Trigger a cascade of events that cause others hardship

Create fallout leading to another paying for his mistake

Need to make a sacrifice that hurts to give

Cause a grave injustice to occur.

Ruin his reputation

Lose someone he cares about

Cause himself great emotional pain and turmoil

Cause another (an innocent) pain or strife

Be forced to give up on a treasured goal or desire

Need to take a big risk to right the situation

Force another to take a risk with danger has increased

Be directly responsible for another’s death

Source: http://onesteopforwriters.com

Never Gets Old

I saw this last night in the Amazon Canada store and just had to take a screenshot. Right now, I checked and it’s back to #2.

But for now, seeing that orange banner feels pretty good.

In other news, my new release is SOL. Hopefully I can finish it before September 10. If not, then I will need to move the release date. I’m cutting it pretty close but the kid doesn’t go to school until tomorrow which means until then, my brain is fried with him with me the whole summer. Even weekends.

Beyond FB Ads

I scheduled these promos after Facebook disabled my ad account the first time. They’d end up disabling it two more times and luckily activating it again after I emailed them asking why. They never gave me an answer but when it first happened, I figured I’d put my ad money elsewhere to the tune of $175 (from the transactions I remember).

Robin Reads: $60 (I would need to sell 161 units to break even at 0.35 royalty per book)
BargainBooksy: $80 (I would need to sell 288 units to break even)
LoveKissed: $15 (22 books sold to break even)
LitRing: $5 (14 books)
LoveKissed (NEED): $15 (22 books)
TOTAL: $175 (500 books total to break even at 35% royalty per book)

Let’s see what happens. I’m writing this around 10:50 am and will update below with the final numbers. I don’t even spend this much on my FB and AMS ads, just saying…

Verdict so far: it does NOT look good. 

Loving Ashe was supposed to be promoted on BargainBooksy at its regular price ($2.99) back in July 30, but because I had scheduled a 99 cent sale on August 14 because Robin Reads was available (and I wanted to try them out to the tune of $60 after Facebook disabled my ad account and I freaked out), it was then moved to 8/14. I also scheduled Love Kissed Author Promotions for this and with Robin Reads and Love Kissed newsletters having gone out before 10 am and with only 28 sales (this includes a bump in sales from my own newsletter sent out at 4am), let’s say my $60 to Robin Reads was better spent on Facebook or AMS ads on a FULL PRICED book.

Robin Reads
Love Kissed email post

Bargainbooksy just confirmed their post via email after 10 am so it remains to be seen how that does. That cost $80 and honestly, it’s money best spent on AMS and FB ads next time. Honestly, if I’m spending close to $180 in one day for these newsletter “boosts”, the only worthwhile one is really Bookbub. I could have just handed them my money and called it a day. Instead, this is a very expensive lesson learned.

Bargain Booksy listing which is placed towards the bottom of the email. Easily lost after people go through about 10 other books before they see this one.
Ranking close to 11 am

And then there’s Need, my Drazen World novella discounted to 99 cents for the month of August by Kindle Worlds (I have no control over this) and so I signed it up for Bookzio which came out today but the rank hasn’t budged so that’s a fail.

Bookzio’s email post
Ranking as of 10 am this morning. No change.

It’s going to be featured by YourNewbooks.com on 8/18 so we’ll see how that goes. That’s a free listing by the way – and this goes for Bookzio as well, courtesy of my KDROI add-on.

FINAL RESULTS ARE IN:

Amazon: $18.31 (65 sales)

D2D: $6.06

TOTAL: $24.14

Loss: -150.86

FINAL VERDICT: If I’m doing any newsletter promo, I’m better off saving for a Bookbub OR just advertising steadily every day via FB and Amazon. Also, be quiet in the forums. Don’t ruffle any feathers and keep writing and publishing more books.