Tag Archives: Amazon

Why I Don’t Care About Amazon vs. Hachette

Russel Blake has given voice to something I’ve been thinking for some time now. Frankly, I’m too busy writing (and getting ready for family to visit) to read another word on this subject. When a decision is reached that actually affects how I do business, let me know.

Why I Don’t Care About Amazon vs. Hachette.

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Vinlanders’ Saga Fans Rejoice!

DEBTS, Book 3 in the Vinlanders’ Saga, is finally here!

Okay, that may be overstating your excitement a bit, but for those of you who have been waiting Debts600x900impatiently for another installment about the Talented people of Nuvinland, your wait is over. And if you haven’t read the first two books, DEBTS is a self-contained story. A few old friends from DANGEROUS TALENTS and FORBIDDEN TALENTS make an appearance, but you don’t have to have read the first two books to enjoy this one. (You should read them anyway, though, because they are pretty darn good. Just ask me! 😉 )

What is DEBTS about? Here’s the description:

LOVE vs. HONOR

Son of an Oathbreaker, Aren is desperate to restore his family’s honor, and leaps at the chance Lord Fender offers. His task seems simple enough for a Tracker: bring in a young woman accused of a vile crime. Simple, until his duty to the Jarl conflicts with a debt he owes to the Elves.

Fey-marked and friendless, Annikke flees the wrath of a vengeful lord. When Aren intercepts her, Annikke must choose: trust a stranger with warm brown eyes who promises justice, or protect her daughter—and remain a fugitive forever.

Even better, I’ve made DEBTS free for the first few days before it goes on sale for it regular price. In return, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave an honest review on Amazon. Customer reviews help other readers find books they’ll enjoy.

Also, if you’d like to be the first to know about my next release, please sign up for my newsletter. I won’t spam you or sell your e-dress.

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VEILED MIRROR Is Back!

600x900VMAfter being unavailable for a couple of months, VEILED MIRROR is for sale again on Amazon in digital format from Castle Rock Publishing. (Paper soon to follow.) I recently got the rights back and took the opportunity to update the cover (thanks to Jaycee DeLorenzo at Sweet and Spicy Designs) and do some minor revisions to make it even better.  I hope you enjoy it!

I love to hear from my readers. Let me know what you think of the new cover, and please leave a review on Amazon. It helps other readers find books they might enjoy. Thanks!

And remember to sign up for my newsletter so you can be the first to find out about  new releases.

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My Self Publishing Journey: Potholes Ahead

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image8529767One of the risks of working with vendors who are the sole proprietors of their businesses is that when they have Life Events, those bumps in the road affect me, too. The editor who was working on BLAZING A TRAIL: YOUR SELF PUBLISHING JOURNEY had such a Life Event, and that delayed her work (quite justifiably) on my book, putting me about a week behind schedule.

It was a blessing in disguise. Just as I was finishing the recommended edits, I learned from Ed Robertson’s post  that Amazon has contacted its affiliates and made some adjustments to the agreement with them, effective March 1st. The delay gave me the opportunity to revise the chapter on being exclusive to Amazon to reflect the potential consequences of this action. Amazon told its affiliates:

“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:

(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”

These changes will probably cause the sites that Kindle Select members use to announce their free promotions to drastically reduce the number of free books they feature. Bargain book sites will have to filter the submissions somehow, probably by ramping up the filters they already use, like the number of reader reviews a book has,the star rating, and early submission (1st come, first listed).  The most popular sites, such as Ereader News Today, have already been doing so.

This doesn’t mean that Kindle Select is completely gutted. Even if your book isn’t listed on one of the big sites, a free promotion will still result in more exposure, just a lot less. Your book’s post promo bump in sales will be much smaller, probably, and the reader reviews it gains will be fewer. With the utility of Kindle Select compromised, fewer authors will be interested in being exclusive to Amazon.

I’m speculating, but I think the net effect of this will be the resurrection of 99 cents as a promotional price. If a bargain site can’t get paid as an affiliate for promoting free books, then it will promote cheap books. And readers who had begun to shun .99 as a sign of inferior quality will start to see it as a deal again. The problem for Amazon is, if it want’s to keep Kindle Select alive, is that authors don’t need to be exclusive to Amazon to price their  books at .99.

Of course, this may not be a problem for Amazon. If a book is sold for .99, Amazon gets 64 cents. If a book is downloaded for free, Amazon gets nothing, and if the free book was found through an affiliate link, it had to pay for the privilege, too.

So, if you’ve been relying the free promotions Kindle Select made so easy to promote your books, keep your eyes on the road ahead. You may want to take a different route.

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Odds and Ends

In a post a few weeks ago I asked the question of whether doing public appearances helped sales. Based on a very limited sample size (one) I can address that question (sort of). The answer is a qualified yes. I spoke on a panel last Saturday with three other authors at a local library. Thanks to Amazon’s relatively new ranking info which is reported on its Author Central site, I can report that my novels enjoyed a very small bump in sales.

For a new author like myself (and I do still consider myself a new author, even though I’ve been writing for years and have four novels out) even a small bump in sales is worth celebrating. So yes, speaking locally was worth the time and effort. People who had never heard of me now know about my books. So even those who didn’t buy a book last Saturday, may recognize my name the next time they hear it. And all it cost me was a little time and minimal gas money.

I’ll still be cautious about traveling out of town for conferences, though. The benefits there are more intangible, and the costs are higher.

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http://www.dreamstime.com/-image8529767On another note, BLAZING A TRAIL: YOUR SELF PUBLISHING JOURNEY is coming back from the copy editor today. Soon I’ll be turning it over to my formatting guru, Natasha Fondren. If all goes as planned BAT will be available in mid-March.

Writing a non-fiction book has been a different experience for me, and one I would have put off if readers of this blog hadn’t asked for it. Thanks to everyone who gave me a push!

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Also in March, I’ll be teaching the class “Before You Indie Publish” for WriterUniv.com. If you’re not sure if self-publishing is for you, or if it seems like an overwhelming task, I’ll be discussing the whys and wherefores of  my decision making process.

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And if you’re in the Tucson area, don’t forget the Tucson Festival of Books on March 9th and 10th on the University of Arizona campus. Hundreds of authors will be speaking there including moi. If you’re a book lover, it doesn’t get much better than this.

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My Self-Publishing Journey: The Results of Experimentation

First an announcement:

Next Saturday I’ll be on a panel about writing at the Himmel branch library.

ROMANCE: MORE THAN 50 SHADES

The Saguaro Chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) will present a panel discussion, including:

  • 12 pm to 1:30 pm – A Q&A, lead by Jesse Petersen, Roz Denny Fox, Connie Flynn, and Frankie Robertson. Topics covered will be creating characters, starting the book, sagging middles, and ending with a bang.
  • 2 pm to 4 pm – Vicki Lewis Thompson, Mary Tate Engels, and Cynthia Garner will facilitate a workshop in which participants create a heroine.

Seating is limited to 50. Call 594-5305 to register. Registration begins January 22.

The talk starts at 12:00 noon. I hope to see you there!

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I mentioned about a month ago that the results of taking LIGHTBRINGER and WITH HEART TO HEAR down from Kindle Select and making them available on Smashwords and Nook had been distinctly lackluster. At that time I’d sold only one copy of WHTH on Barnes & Noble. Sales on Amazon weren’t a lot better. So I lowered the prices on both to see if that would stimulate sales.

The answer is: No.

What did work was running a fairly successful free promo on Kindle Select for DANGEROUS TALENTS. Sales of DT and its sequel FORBIDDEN TALENTS improved significantly, and LIGHTBRINGER ans WHTH also enjoyed improved sales on Amazon. On Nook I sold one more copy of WHTH. In two months LIGHTBRINGER sold nothing on Barnes & Noble. Even so, I was reluctant to pull the books off of Nook and return them to KS because so many authors are saying, “Diversify!”

So I asked my circle of self-publishing friends who are on several distribution platforms where their sales came from. The two who write erotica and erotic romance said a significant percentage of their sales came from Nook. The other two, who write mystery and romance, said almost 90% of their sales came from Amazon.

Based on this info I made the decision to pull LIGHTBRINGER  and re-enroll it in Amazon’s Kindle Select program. (WHTH is still available on Nook.) I wish KS didn’t require exclusivity. I wish I could use their tools and still have my books available for all of the readers who chose Nook or Kobo over Kindle. But the Nook and Kobo readers aren’t buying my books. The Kindle readers are. Now.

At some point in the future I’ll probably try diversifying again. At a different time of year. With different books.

This is the nature of experimentation. You try something. You measure the results. You create a hypothesis, change a few variables, and experiment again to refine the hypothesis. Eventually you develop a theory that guideS future experimentation. And if you’re lucky, you become wildly successful along the way. 🙂

I’d love to know what results other writers out there have had. Over the last year, where have most of your sales come from?

 

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My Self-Publishing Journey: Ongoing Experimentation and A SALE!

If you’ve been following this blog series for any time, you know that the essence of indie publishing is experimentation. Nothing is written in stone as THE way to proceed to achieve guaranteed success. I’ve recommended certain paths as being better than others, but one thing you can be sure of is that there’s an exception to every “rule.”

FrankieRobertson_Lightbringer_200pxSo although I’ve done well using Kindle Select I decided to remove two of my titles from that exclusive relationship with Amazon and put them back up on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. I did that a month ago for LIGHTBRINGER and three weeks ago for WITH HEART TO HEAR. I intended to leave them up there for several months, so I could gather data to see if alternate distribution platforms would sell enough copies to compensate for the increased sales that come with a successful free promotion on Kindle Select and the paid borrows from Amazon Prime members.withhearttohear7_850

So far the answer is: No. I’ll ignore Smashwords because their reporting is SO much slower than B&N and Amazon, and because it can take weeks or months for their affiliates to list a book. What I can tell you is that to date I’ve sold one copy of WITH HEART TO HEAR  on Nook.  One.

But that’s not enough reason to go rushing back to Amazon where the sales of those books hasn’t been much better. I have friends whose books have sold well on Barnes & Noble. I’ve said often enough that indie publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. The problem is, at this rate of sales these books aren’t even getting off the blocks. The ranks of these books won’t allow them to be discovered. So what’s a girl to do?

Since I can’t run a free promotion effectively, I’ve decided to lower the prices of these two books across all platforms. One of my favorite indie romances, A BED OF THORNS AND ROSES is priced at $2.99 and is currently ranked at about #30,000 on Amazon. This book came out in May 2011 and the author does NOTHING to promote her book. She has no other books, doesn’t tweet, doesn’t facebook, doesn’t have a website that I’ve found. She just wrote one fabulous book. (It’s also available on Nook.)

Whether or not my books are fabulous is up to the readers to decide, but I can play with the price and see what happens. For the next month (or so) I’m lowering the price of LIGHTBRINGER  to $2.99 (also on Nook) and WITH HEART TO HEAR to $1.99 (also on Nook).

It’s up to each author to figure out where the best price point for her books is and the only way to do that is with experimentation. Joe Konrath likes $2.99, Jennifer Roberson priced her indie Kindle releases at $3.99 for LONNIE and $4.99 for THE IRISHMAN. Dennis McKiernan priced the digital version of  AT THE EDGE OF THE FOREST at $5.99. DANGEROUS TALENTS and FORBIDDEN TALENTS are doing okay at $4.95, but LIGHTBRINGER  is not.

So I’m shaking things up a bit, price wise. Now the readers get to speak, and tell me how much price makes a difference to them and how eager they are to buy my books in the Nook format.

Authors, how have you priced your books, and why?  Readers, what do you think about book prices? Does 99 cents say “trash” to you? Does $2.99 say “bargain” or “beware”? Does $4.99 say “quality” or “overpriced”?

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My Self Publishing Journey: Second and Third Guessing

As I’ve been revising my blog posts into a book about my first year of independent publishing, I’ve found a significant amount to revise. Mostly its because I’ve learned more about the process since I first wrote various posts. Usually I know what changes I need to make, but on the topic of self promotion my choices are less clear.

As I’ve written before, there are many who say that the use of social media networking is the author’s friend. At first this seemed like a no-brainer to me. It’s FREE, and provides a means to connect with readers and establish a relationship with them so that they’ll be more interested in buying books. It’s important to be genuinely friendly and not just say, “Buy my book,” over and over again. One method to do this is to find a topic you really enjoy and discuss that, not your book. It’s a pretty well established principle that people prefer doing business with people they like, so all this makes sense.

Except there are people and surveys that suggest that spending time on social media networks isn’t really very productive, as measured by sales. Joe Konrath reports that after watching his sales very carefully in relation to when he did blog tours or gave national interviews, he found that his sales barely moved. Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch both recommend spending your time writing the next book rather than promoting the last one. In a survey done by Bowker and Romance Writers of America, readers reported that they were not influenced to buy by reading an author’s Tweets, Facebook, or their blogs.

I know I’m not. But even knowing this, I still find the the idea that using social media is the author’s ticket to big sales seductive and hard to ignore. It suggests that we have some measure of control, that we have a way to directly influence buyers. If even traditional publishers expect their authors to get out there and hustle, it must work, right?

So what’s an indie author to do? Does social media work, or not? How do we tell the world our book exists? How do we find our audience?

I feel a little disingenuous telling you that social media doesn’t work when I haven’t given it the full court press myself. Even though various surveys’ data suggests it’s not much use, I use Twitter occasionally for a brief announcement that a book is free (not what social media experts say you’re supposed to do), and Facebook a little more because it amuses me. But does it help my business? I think a few people have found my books because of it. Is that enough to justify the time spent? That’s harder to say. When you’re starting out every sale is a singular and special event. An author friend says she notices a small spike in sales when she occasionally mentions her books. Two others have used Goodreads’ contests to good effect.I blog because I read advice two and a half years ago that said I should build my online platform before I publish. I enjoy the blogging, but has it helped my sales?

I can answer the last question with a qualified yes. I’m pretty sure I’ve made sales because other writers found my blog. That led to me being invited to guest post to a wider audience because, and to teach a class on indie publishing. So that, at least, has been worth the time invested.

I’ve also used price manipulation to attract readers. At various times I’ve made my books free on Kindle Select. (You can make your books free without being exclusive to Amazon, but it’s a little more complicated, and you won’t have as much control over the dates. I use KS because Amazon has, for the moment, the biggest share of the online market by far, and I like making money from Amazon Prime borrows.) I firmly believe that many, many more people have discovered my books because they were free than would have through social media, and it took up much less of my time.

What I’ve concluded from reading various points of view is that authors need to use different tools when they’re at various points of their careers. A brand new author with no publishing history most needs to write and publish multiple books, but they also need to do a little social media to at least let their friends know they have a book out. Once a writer has a few books out, then it might make sense to spend a little more time promoting, like soliciting reviews. But even then, writing should be the top priority. I, for one, am not a fast writer, so the best use my time is to create the books that my fans are asking for. Later, when an author has an established following her need for social networking diminishes again, as word of mouth is her primary and most effective promotion.

That’s the plan I’m using for now, until I see data that convinces me to change course. Because in the end, it’s our books that readers want most, not our Tweets.

 

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One Year of Indie Publishing

This month marks my one year anniversary as an indie publisher. LIGHTBRINGER:  A Celestial Affairs Novel was the first of four self-published titles I’ve released since last October. It has been a busy year, and while I’m usually focused on the next goal I’ve set for myself, this seems like a good time to look back and see what I’ve learned and how well I met my goals.

In terms of sales, I didn’t really have any specific goals. I had no idea what an unknown author like myself could expect. I had read about a few phenomenal success stories, but I figured they were from the far right edge of the bell curve. I hoped that I would join them there, but I didn’t really believe I would. Not in this first year, anyway. My minimum was that I wanted to break even within a year.

LIGHTBRINGER started slow, selling only about 12 copies a month for the first five months. I wasn’t doing a lot of promotion other than blogging and facebook (and not much of the latter).  At this rate of sales I figured that it would take me 2 1/2 years to break even. I was a little depressed. Even the holiday bump only increased my sales to 22 in December, and half of that was because I’d introduced a second title, WITH HEART TO HEAR. But I’d only been at this for a little over two months. Way too soon to get discouraged.

Then I decided to try Kindle Select and use the free promotion after a friend reported significant success with it. Amazon was already changing its algorithms by then, but I still experienced a 650% jump in sales to a little over 80/month. A few months later when I found more sites to notify about my free promos, sales jumped again by 250%. By this time I’d published a third title, DANGEROUS TALENTS.

Overall, in this first year I’ve sold just under 1000 copies of my self-published books (and given away over 35,000). That doesn’t sound like much, but sales are trending upward. I’ve achieved my minimal goal, breaking even on my investment. And I’ve achieved something else that is worth more than money to me: empowerment. I am happy doing what I’m doing. It’s challenging to balance production with promotion. I firmly believe that getting more great books out is the single best way to improve my sales. Beyond that, it’s a challenge trying to determine what works and what doesn’t, and what I’m willing to spend my time on to improve my books’ performance in the marketplace.

Here are five things I’ve learned this year, in no particular order:

  1. Expect to learn as you go. You can’t know it all before you begin.
  2. Be nimble and willing to experiment. Indie publishing is shifting rapidly. Vendors and distributors keep changing their ways of doing business, while new promotional opportunities seem to arise daily.
  3. Keep writing. You never know which book will be the one that catches on. The more books you have out there, the more opportunities readers have to find you.
  4. Think hard about where you invest your time. There will never be enough of it to do everything you want to do. It’s a finite resource. However you spend it, make sure what you do is either productive or fun.
  5. Listen to others, then make up your own mind. It’s your career.

For next year? At minimum I expect to triple my sales. But my goal is to sell ten thousand copies. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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My Self-Publishing Journey: 2012, Part Deux

I was recently discussing the need authors have for Business and Marketing plans with a few other writers. We all agreed that having them is a good idea. It’s like carrying a map with you on a cross country trip. You may not always follow the planned itinerary, sometimes you decide to take a side road, and sometimes there’s an unexpected detour, but having a map (or a business plan) helps to keep you from going in circles.

Most writers don’t have rigid or formal plans. And given the new information that seems to come out daily about what does and doesn’t work to build sales, that’s probably a good thing. Based on recent information, but mostly on my own observations, I’ve made some changes to my plan.

Back in January I told you about my plan for the year. Here’s how I’ve implemented my plan, and how I’ve changed it.

  • I brought out DANGEROUS TALENTS in April. I completed the first draft and first revision of FIRSTBORN which is now titled BETRAYED BY TRUST, a book set in the Celestial Affairs universe in 1979. I won’t be releasing BBT until next year, though. Instead, I’m bringing out the sequel to DT, FORBIDDEN TALENTS, in October. I’m also working on a non-fiction book derived from this blog. That will be released next spring. I also hope to release GUARDIAN, the sequel to LIGHTBRINGER, next fall.
  • Social Media: I’ve recently seen data that casts doubt on the effectiveness of using such sites as Facebook,Twitter, and Goodreads to promote sales.  On the other hand, there’s anecdotal evidence that suggests it does help. In the meantime, my use of such sites remains minimal. I will continue to blog, however, because I enjoy it.
  • I haven’t followed through very well on submitting my books for review. I plan to do more of that.
  • I have done the personal appearances and speaking events I planned to do.
  • I haven’t sent out postcards to conferences or conventions. I no longer believe that to be a cost effective means of advertising, except as inserts in books in the same series.
  • I’m making use of Kindle Select’s free promotions to increase awareness of my book and improve sales. So far, that seems to be the single most effective tactic I’ve used. The 80/20 Rule dictates that I should do that and forget the rest. I’m not sure I’m ready to do that, however.
  • I will gradually move books to other distribution platforms.

That’s the essence of my business plan for what’s left of 2012 and early 2013. I’ll let you know if anything changes.

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