Where to begin?

No, I’m not talking about where to begin a book, although that is a really good question. It’s just that there is so much going on right now that it’s difficult to know where to begin. So, instead of drawing it out, let’s dive right in.

It is impossible to ignore what’s going on in the world right now. Without getting into the politics of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I saw a story this morning that caught my eye. As writers, I know there are a number of us who have been wondering what we can do to help the Ukrainians. Activated Authors offers one possibility. (Fair warning, I have not vetted the site or how they are dispensing any funds raised. If you are interested in taking part, you need to check it out for yourself first.)

What initially caught my eye about the site was the 1 million word challenge. At first glance, it appeared to be the writers’ version of a walk-a-thon. However–and this is why I suggest you check them out before signing up. Of course, I make this recommendation for any site that asks you to sign up and commit to their cause–they also want you to make a monetary donation as well as take part in the challenge. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. Far from it, in fact. But I am saying to make sure you are comfortable with all the fine print before you commit yourself, your time or your money.

Moving on. . . .

Audiobooks have long been a part of the market out of reach of a number of indie authors. We want to do them but feel we can’t afford to do so. The upfront money for some services gives us pause because we don’t know if we will make that money back. The rights restrictions included in the contracts and the difficulty in getting our rights back precludes us from other groups. So what’s an indie author to do?

One alternative is auto-narrated books through Google. Before you laugh and decide I’ve lost my mind, two things. First, I’m hearing really good things about the service from a number of authors who have used them. Second, I haven’t used them and give the same warning I gave above. Check it out and be sure it works for you. But, having listened to some samples, I’ll admit they sound better than I expected and, in some cases, better than some of the “real person” read audiobooks I’ve heard.

Here’s the link.

What I find interesting and will be looking into more deeply is that Google is apparently allowing authors/publishers to download the audio file and sell it on other platforms as well as on Google Books. If true, this could be a real game changer for indie authors wanting to break into the audiobook market without investing a small fortune do to so.

Finally, we’ve talked about this before, but I’ve seen a lot of chatter about it online recently and thought I’d revisit it today. What do you do to keep up interest in your older books. This article contains some good information on what to do and I can vouch for most of it. Take a look at your covers and compare them to what the current best sellers in your genre look like. This means more than just your cover image. It means your fonts, what information you include on the cover, basically everything the reader sees in the thumbnail or on the shelf when picking up a hard copy of your book.

Next up and even more important are you keywords and categories. It costs nothing to go in and tweak your keywords every few months and it is important to do so. After all, these keywords a search terms people use to find books. When you type in your keywords, do books like yours come up or are they books in a completely different genre or sub-genre?

The biggest mistakes authors make when it comes to categories, especially on Amazon, are listing the wrong categories and forgetting to contact Amazon and asking for your book to be included in more than the two or three categories you are allowed when you first set up your book for sale. The problem with having your book listed in the wrong category is you wind up pissing off your readers. If you have a book that is primarily romance and you list it as science fiction without also toggling the romance sub-genre, you are going to be bombarded with negative reviews, especially if you don’t cue the romance in the description. So make sure you are listed in the right categories and sub-categories. But please, please, please hit your sub-genre categories and get them listed. Not only will it give you more exposure in searches but it gives you a better chance at hitting that “best seller” tag because it is easier to do so in sub-categories than in the main categories.

One other thing I will note about the article before I jump off and get back to work. If you are running a limited time sale, especially if you are doing it as part of an ad campaign, be careful to keep a close eye on your sales price on all platforms if you have gone wide. This is especially important if you are offering a book for free. One of my biggest complaints about Amazon is that it doesn’t allow an author to easily list a book as a freebie. Sure, you can do it for a limited time if you are in KU, but otherwise, be prepared for frustration. You have to take the book for free on the other platforms. Then you have to ask Amazon to match the price. Then you have to keep your fingers crossed and keep an eye on your sales page because Amazon might agree but then change the price back to full price before you want them to. The author forums on the various social media platforms are full of frustrated authors and their stories about that.

And now, before I head off to work, here’s what I worked on for a few minutes yesterday. I wrote a freebie short story for my newsletter subscribers last year. I’ve expanded the story, changed the title (for reasons I’ll go into in another post) and gave it a new cover. I’m still tweaking the cover and once I’m satisfied, I will release the story (which has approximately 3k new words). Here’s the latest version of the cover mock-up.

Night of the Wolf Cover 1

9 thoughts on “Where to begin?

  1. How does one figure out what categories a story is in, especially when it’s dipping toes in a bunch of different things?

    Consider a short story about a girl and her boyfriend doing a baking contest. The main arc is the ridiculous things that happen to them trying to get the project done, but their relationship grows through the common trials. Is that just slice of life comedy, or does that also need a romance sub-tag? Or does the absence of any particular relationship conflict remove it from that genre?

    Basically, how does one figure out how much of a genre needs to be in a thing for it to also be of that genre?

    1. It is part guess work and part research. What books that are already out there are similar to yours? Once you have that figured out, check their categories. You can do that through a couple of ways. The first, which is both the cheapest but can be rather hit or miss, is to look at the book and see what categories Amazon lists it under on the product page. The second is to use a tool like that one offered NerdyGirl. Her book category hunter is an excellent tool not only for checking other books but seeing where Amazon might have shunted your book as well. You can find it here: https://nerdybookgirl.com/book-category-hunter/

      Another method is to use the very handy, but paid program, Publisher Rocket. I like Rocket because it offers a number of different tools for you to use that can help you get better exposure for your books. There is a bit of a learning curve to it, however. And, as I said, it is a paid program.

      As for your example, you really haven’t given enough to be able to tell what categories. Depending on the age of the characters, it could be YA or New Adult, it could be a coming of age story. It could be chick-lit. It could be humor. If there is any sort of mystery or family element to it, those could be included. As for sub-sub genres, there are any number it could fall into. This is where you have to know the story and the elements and you have to be able to figure out what your target audience is and what they read. I will say if you categorize it as a romance and there isn’t romance in it, you will get beaten up in the reviews and possibly reported to Amazon–and they take a dim view of listing a book in the wrong categories.

      1. Ok, that makes sense. I think I’m also going to need to do some research on how the genres are defined as well. I’m sort of thinking there is also a certain itch that any given genre has to scratch or it won’t work.

        One of the other ideas I’ve got was an arthurian transform, that had the Merlin as a girl. She and the Arthur are in love, and it ends up being an inverse mirror of the Gwenevere/Lancelot relationship. However, despite a love polyhedron being a key part of the whole story, I’m pretty sure it would not fall in the romance subgenre, because the focus is more on how much pain it causes everyone, and its contribution to the disintegration of that Camelot.

        At most, I’d think it would fall under the standard boy meets girl adventure subplot, followed by a horrific and unexpected derailment.

        1. Okay, I’ve said this before to you. Stop thinking about these sorts of nuts and bolts so hard right now and write the story. I’ve learned the hard way that what I initially envision a story to be often changes by the time it is done. That said, on your comment about romance, you need to understand that romance doesn’t have to have a happily ever after. You aren’t looking at the book being a “romance” book. What you have to look at in the example you gave is if it has romance elements. If it does, would it fall under one of the sub-genres in fantasy fiction and the answer is almost assuredly “yes”.

          If you are worried about it and want to start educating yourself on what the genres and sub-genres are, set up your KDP account and start an entry for a book. It can be a dummy. You aren’t publishing it. On the first page of the information you fill out are the section for keywords and categories. You can then scroll through what the categories and sub-categories are on Amazon. However–and this is a big however–those categories get updated on a very regular basis so what you see today very well may be different from what is there in a month or six months. It is one of the reasons why it is so very important for authors to routinely check what their categories are.

          1. But digging into the nuts and bolts of everything is what I do! 🙂 And, it gives me ideas.

            I’ll have to go see if any of the books I’ve read have that as a subgenre, and maybe pick up a couple of good examples of it if I haven’t. I had not realized its also a month to month sort of change though.

            Also, I did modify my plans somewhat. I am still going to finish off the short story arc (now at 5/8, with 6 and 8 about 20%) but will shift into one of my own stories after that. Not sure which one yet. I’ve been putting ideas in a pile and will figure out which to start first then. At current rate, I’m thinking this arc will probably be 2-3 months of writing for me to finish. (And mostly because I currently have no clue how to write a danceoff… Murder nightmares? Sure. Being stalked by an apperation that blames you for their death (and you half agree). Easy. Going on a vacation? Takes me twice as long as anything else I’ve done…)

            Will need to make sure I put my worlds together in such a way I can still do that sort of mood whiplash though. It is really fun being able to go from grim-death murder hornets to problems with cakes.

  2. I’ve gotten things listed as Dark Fantasy — One Name, A Diabolical Bargain, I think Winter’s Curse — because I listed “devil” as a keyword,.

    They’re high fantasy in which evil wizards make deals with devils.

  3. On the first part – at the bottom of their front page, Activated Authors says that the money goes to an outfit called “British-Ukrainian Aid,” a charity registered in England and Wales. I can’t find anything on them other than their own web pages.

    As for Activated Authors – it is apparently one of the “writer coaching” outfits that are springing up all over. Color me not particularly impressed. No, I don’t think it’s a scam, but probably not very useful to most writers. The founder is involved with LMBPN, but I think that 20BooksTo50K would be at least somewhat better.

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