Tag Archives: Smashwords

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: Q1 Numbers

Happy New Year!

I promised a while ago that I’d share with you how the numbers are adding up for me on the self-publishing journey. I think it’s WAY too early in the journey to draw any conclusions about potential success. As Dean Wesley Smith observed in this post, it takes time to build a self-publishing business. But I also know that before I started, I’d have loved to know what to expect at the beginning. So here’s how things are going for me. Remember, your mileage will vary.

On the small press front, VEILED MIRROR  came out on August 25th in paper, and on September 21st in digital on the Wild Rose Press website and Nook. It didn’t become available for Kindle until mid October. I don’t know how many copies, in which formats, were sold from the Wild Rose Press site, but now that the holidays are past, I’ll be contacting them for that info. Royalties through the end of December: $26.37. Six additional copies were sold by hand, or on commission by Mysterious Galaxy Books at TusCon for additional income of $12.80

LIGHTBRINGER came out in digital format for Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords in mid October, and in paper early November. It was listed on All Romance Ebooks in late November. Digital sales from all sources are 19, for an income of $46.74. I sold 12 paper copies from various venues, including Mysterious Galaxy for an income of $53.32.

WITH HEART TO HEAR, an erotic fairytale short, was released on December 22nd in digital format only. I sold 16 copies on Kindle and Nook in the last ten days of the year. There was a glitch (now fixed) with the listing on All Romance Ebooks which resulted in no sales. I haven’t put it up on Smashwords yet. 2011 income from WHTH: $6.40.

Grand total from all sources for 2011: $145.58

It’s important to understand what effort has been made to encourage these sales, too. During this time I’ve given 16 books to reviewers, family, and friends. I see this as an investment in word of mouth. It’s already paying off in reviews. I have continued blogging twice a week (with my blog linked to facebook, linked in, and twitter) but very little other social media activity. I spoke at my local RWA chapter, TusCon, and at World Fantasy Convention.

These numbers will look pitiful to those accustomed to the traditional publishing pattern of sales in the thousands right after release, which then trail off over the next few months. As I understand it, the sales pattern is exactly opposite with self-publishing, with the number of units sold per month increasing over time, especially as new books are released. That being said, I’ll need to expand my exposure if I want that to be true.

Next time I’ll write about how I plan to grow my self-publishing empire.

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My Self-Publishing Journey: The Muse We Really Need

I love this cartoon by Jim Hines. It is exactly the kick in the pants I need right now. I’m nearing the end of my first foray into self-publishing. I’ve uploaded LIGHTBRINGER to Kindle and Nook and Smashwords. Early next week I’ll be uploading to CreateSpace and hopefully I’ll have books in hand for TusCon .  Then I’ll start contacting reviewers. In the meantime, I’m working on my next book, FIRSTBORN.

Or trying to. I haven’t been making swift progress. There always seems to be something else that distracts me. (SQUIRREL!)

The problem is, there are two things alone that seem to have the most impact on growing a career.

  1. Word of mouth.  Multiple surveys of readers indicate that the two things that influence readers to buy an author’s book are previous experience with that author and a recommendation from a trusted source. Thus my interest in contacting reviewers. (I also welcome reader reviews. :-))
  2. Multiple books for sale. When a reader acts on that recommendation, buys, and loves my book, I want to have something else available for her to buy when she asks, “What else has Frankie got?”

Ideally, I’ll have lots of something else for her to buy, but I only have two more completed novels. John Locke didn’t start his campaign to sell a million copies until he already had five books available. Readers read much faster than most of us write. I have to keep the pipeline full if I want to build momentum. I intend to bring out two to three new books or collections each year, and that will be a stretch for me.  Most professional writers have taught themselves to write fast. Dean Wesley Smith writes more than four books a year, and he’s not alone in that. Me, I’m not there yet.

Obviously, to maintain that kind of speed we can’t wait upon some ephemeral muse for inspiration. What we really need is the kick-ass muse from the comic. Until she shows up: WRITE!

 

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Plagiarism in the Digital Age

Plagiarism isn’t a new problem. (The Ten Commandments bear a striking resemblance to the Code of Hammurabi.) But while changing technology has given people the opportunity to publish independently and get their work in front of the reading public, it has also made it easier for other  people to steal entire books from authors.

Writing is generally not a way to get rich, and it becomes even less of one if thieves sell your work as their own, or buy it not caring if it’s pirated. As reported in The High Low
an alarming number of people are knowingly buying pirated books, and a significant number of them (25%) do so unrepentantly, with a clear intention to continue doing so. Broken moral compasses aside,  (precious few pirates will mail guilt money as one reader did to Mary Roach) this is a direct assault on authors.

Unfortunately, Kindle Direct Publishing apparently has few protections in place to prevent this beyond requiring customers to declare that the work being published is their own. Ruth Ann Nordin reported on Self-Published Authors Lounge that two of her books were co-opted by a thief. The same thing happened to Shayne Parkinson’s Sentence of Marriage. More cases have been reported on The Book Market. Amazon’s response, as reported by the authors, is inconsistent. Some report Amazon taking down the offending books, others say Amazon hasn’t taken action in their situations.

Part of the problem is that Amazon is being spammed with cobbled together books created using Private Label Rights content. There’s even a product available called “Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word.” With this much content coming in, it’s not surprising Amazon is failing to police itself. What there’s no excuse for, is their apparent disinterest in solving the problem, as some authors have reported. Cynically, but also accurately, they’ve noted that Amazon gets its cut whether the book sold is stolen or not.

But before we get out the pitchforks, Amazon can hardly be the only offender. This is probably happening in the Barnes & Noble ebook stores, and Borders, and Smashwords. Amazon is just the biggest market, so it attracts more thieves.

Does this mean that it’s too risky for authors to self-publish? No. This isn’t a self-publishing issue alone. Traditionally published authors are vulnerable to this as well. It does mean we have to be vigilant. (There is no automated way to screen for pirated content that can’t be easily circumvented.) Will we lose a certain amount of income to piracy? Of course. Brick and mortar bookstores lose money to pilferage too. I like Ruth Ann Nordin’s idea of an Indie Author Defense League, perhaps as an arm of a professional organization for indie authors like the Association of Independent Authors. In the meantime,

As for what authors can do if their book has been pirated, I recommend reading The Passive Voice  and benefitting from Passive Guy’s legal knowledge.

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