Tag Archives: promotion

It really is a business

Maybe it’s because taxes are due today. Maybe it’s something else. But, for whatever reason, the last few days have been spent looking at my writing from a business standpoint. I try to do this on a regular basis, but I know I don’t do it nearly as often as I should. Part of the reason is because I would much rather write. After all, I am a writer, not an accountant, etc. But the business aspect is a necessary evil.

It also includes much more than simply looking at sales and making sure taxes are paid.

But it does include numbers — ick — and looking at trends, seeing what other authors are saying about their sales and making determinations about what needs to be done, if anything.

So, the short version of what I’ve done over the last few days is simple:

  • Reviewed my sales for the last year
    • by title
    • by genre
    • by price
  • Looked at pricing for similar titles, including age of title
  • Reviewed blurbs and keywords
  • Reviewed covers and compared them with what is currently selling well, indie and trad published
    • looked at the art elements
    • looked at the font
    • looked at overall cover design
  • Reviewed my publication schedule for the next year
    • made determinations about what should be released when
    • made determinations about new titles (unrelated to current series)
  • Reviewed my meager promotion operation with an eye to expanding it

Now, don’t start running to the hills. I’m not going in-depth into what I did and what my plans are. For one, a lot of those plans are still being made. For another, right now a lot of it is subject to change, at least until I work some more on it. Still, some of the things that are factoring into my decisions are, I believe, things each of us need to look into when it comes to our writing.

Because numbers (ick) are involved, I’m still looking at my sales figures and comparing them with the last several years. In some ways, this is an exercise in comparing apples to oranges. In others, it is interesting. For one thing, I can definitely see a trend. Once I hit 10 novels, my sales across the board went up. Also, once I started linking my pen names with my name, sales across the board went up. Still, numbers are involved, so this will take several more days for me to winnow out all the information I’m looking for. (sorry, I’m a writer, not an accountant and numbers make my head hurt.O

The next thing I looked at happened to be my product pages. Oh my, there is so much there we have to take into consideration and we don’t tend to. At least I don’t. Sure, I want to have the best possible cover to draw the reader’s eye. I want a snappy and interesting blurb to grab the reader and make them want to buy the book. But I don’t tend to check the product page on anything other than my laptop. I forget to look at it on my Kindle Fire or Mom’s iPad. I sure forget to look at it in my phone. Or, more accurately, I used to forget it. After the last few days, I won’t. What I learned is that the longer blurbs will work on a tablet or computer screen but, on a phone, they are a pain because you have to keep scrolling. Not good. Scrolling for a screen or two is one thing but for screen after screen after screen — nope. Not gonna happen. Fortunately, most of mine weren’t that bad and those that were happen to be on two titles I am going to withdraw because they were supposed to be short term promo titles initially.

Another thing I don’t always do, and it is now on my list of must do, is check the preview function for my books. I’m not talking about the downloadable preview (although that should be checked as well) but the “click to see inside” preview. A number of readers, myself included, use this to determine if we want to buy or borrow a book. This is where they will get their first real impression of that particular title. It’s important to make sure the preview doesn’t appear to be poorly formatted. Even more important is making sure there are no misspellings or outrageous grammatical errors present. I can’t stress this enough. This is a free promo and so many of us don’t bother checking to make sure it is accurately representing our work and that, in turn, can cost us sales.

All that showed I have some blurbs to update. As a reader, one thing that will stop me from buying a book is a badly written blurb. If I find misspellings or poor grammar or punctuation in a blurb, I’m going to assume the book is written in much the same way. Also, look at the formatting of the blurb. If there is no white space between paragraphs, you are basically screaming one of two things. Either you are in newbie who doesn’t know how to format blurbs or you are careless and don’t care. Either way, it isn’t the image you want to put out for your readers to see.

I also need to update my keywords on several books. This is important because the keywords help with the search function. Also, in case you didn’t know it, keywords can also help determine what genres and sub-genres your work is listed under. Amazon is starting to crack down on what keywords you use because they had so many complaints by readers about searching certain keywords and finding books that were not “romance” or whatever. That means I need to go back and make sure I have not run afoul of the rule by mistake.

Also, the keywords change from time to time. So to sub-genres. That makes it imperative to regularly make sure we are using the best keywords we can. It helps sales by helping readers find out books.

While doing this, I also looked at my covers. Now, I’m not going to spend any time on the making of covers because, duh, I’m not an artist. I will say this. Don’t be afraid to periodically change your cover. Now, I’m not talking every month or even every six months. But, just as sub-genres change and expand, covers for those genres change as well. As indies, we need to be aware of what the trads are doing in our genres, both with images and with fonts. While we don’t have to copy them, it never hurts to at least have the same “feel” as they do. Why? Because if you write books with the same feel as the Mercy Thompson or Jane Yellowrock books, it will only help for your covers to have the same feel. Why? Because readers of those series will see something that is familiar when they look at your work and the cover might just entice them into reading the blurb and buying the book.

But there is something else to look at as well. If, like me, you write series, your covers within the series have to relate to one another. It is another way of cuing your readers that the new book is part of the series they are already reading and enjoying.

Finally, even if your cover worked when the book came out two years — or ten — ago, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will now. So look at what is selling well in your book’s genre and sub-genre and then look at your book cover with a critical eye. If it doesn’t feel fresh, if it looks and feels dated (or worse, amateur), then change it. But do your homework. Know what works — both in images and in fonts — in your genre and sub-genre.

Now you see why I said I wasn’t going in-depth today about everything. All this was just off the product page. More than that, it was off the product page of just one one-line store. More than that, it isn’t everything off the product page that I’m looking at as an author. By the way, I am also looking at it as a reader, trying to think about what strikes me and grabs my attention when I’m looking for a book to read. If you guys want, I’ll continue with this next week. Otherwise, the next scream of frustration you hear is me when I once again return to the task of looking at my numbers and trying to see if I can make sense of their arcane magic.

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Preorders

Having a South African spouse, I’ve found that our greatest misunderstandings come not from the obvious differences in culture, but from the things you expect are the same… and aren’t. British English and American English are just divergent enough to get a poor unsuspecting soul in a lot of trouble, when they thought they were being perfectly straightforward and honest.

So, too, “preorders” in the language spoken by indie and the language spoken by trad pub.

At first glance, you look at the word, and say “Orders for the book before it’s released!” Everyone nods sagely, and then assumes that we’re all on the same page as to their importance and timing across all publishing platforms and retailers. But it’s not, not at all.

For trad pub, preorders are massively important. You see, trad pub wants to make their money immediately on a book, so their focus is on the first flush of sales. Because their measure of success (NYT Bestseller List, USA Today Bestseller List, etc.) goes by books sold in a week, the name of the game is to get as many books to ship in an initial week as possible. Back before credit cards were as common in the USA as shoes, customers would order books not yet printed, and then come in on launch day and pay cash for the book in hand. Thus, preorder sales were always attached to the launch week sales, boosting the book higher on the bestseller lists, and providing the immediate return up front.

Because it’s very difficult to coordinate humans to all go buy something at the same time, authors, publishers, and bookstores alike started leaning on their fans to preorder books. For authors, it gave them months to do their marketing, energize the fanbase, and get the word out, while providing greater visibility in the bookstores and the chance that they’d do well enough their book wouldn’t be stripped and returned after two to six weeks. For publishers, the more they could move people to preorder, the more they could predict the size of the needed print run, and also get all their money in one chunk that looked good to the corporate overlords before dropping all support for the book a few weeks later. For bookstores, preorders are already paid for, so it’s certain cash in hand without any need to display the inventory or potential need to return. If there are enough preorders, it can turn the whole thing into an event to attract more buyers (and coffee, snacks, and incidental sales)! In trad pub, where the readers don’t count, everybody wins with preorders.

Thus, for trad pub, the longer the preorder, the better – and the size of the preorder is extremely important.

And then came Amazon & Indie.

Several years ago, indie publishers put up quite a hue and cry about not having preorders available to them on Amazon, unlike their trad pub competitors. Amazon listened, and made preorders available, with a few caveats to ensure that indie pub would indeed have the product ready on ship date, and not leave Amazon holding the bag while angry customers yelled at them.

With glee, indie pub rushed out to put things on preorder…. and promptly found it wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. It’s a useful tool, but it isn’t nearly as important to them as it’s made out to be.

The critical differences:

1. Amazon counts a preorder toward the item’s sales rank the day the order is placed.

This makes logical sense in the non-publishing world, as the “sale” happens the day a contract to sell is agreed upon, not the ship date, not the date money changes hands, nor the date the customer receives the item. This is pretty standard whether ordering a run of shoes manufactured in China, selling wheat futures in Chicago, or a racehorse in Kentucky.

The trad publishing world, though, is wrapped around counting sales on release day. As a result, when they set preorders starting at a year out, the public spreads their buying out over a year, and there are rarely enough sales on a single day to push the book onto the charts, or gain visibility.

In indie publishing, we know visibility and discoverability are a function of sales velocity and trajectory – not only how many you’ve sold, but for how long you’ve sold that many. Therefore, we must balance the size of our reachable fan base against the length of our preorder.

2. Trad pub peorder emphasis leans heavily on networking with your current fans for preorders, while indie pub relies on their reachable fans to springboard sales into visibility for not-yet-fans and other readers.

Trad pub is known to base their print run for midlist on the size of the preorder; they look at what orders the fans make, and estimate that’s the size of the market. They don’t expect many sales after the initial few weeks available, and expect the bookstores to strip covers and return the books within six weeks of release. (in fact, there was a news article a while back about an author getting cancelled mid-series based on poor preorders: they didn’t even wait for the book to come out.)

Indie, on the other hand, wants to put its intellectual property out on the market and keep it out there, year after year, gathering more readers and sales. Launches are important because they’re the best opportunity to gain visibility. Lots of readers browse the Hot New Releases list, looking for something to read – so we don’t have to make a high spot in the overall bestseller list, if we can get on the HNR list.

On the one hand, if your cover and blurb are compelling enough, and your price within the impulse purchase range, you can pick up extra sales by HNR browsers willing to speculate that you’ll be good. On the other hand, when you have few to no reviews, browsers tend to weight the sample much more heavily. Since you don’t have a look inside sample when pre-ordering, only when live, sales to non-fans often won’t really pick up until after the release date.

….
Case studies:

Yes, I can see you up there, demanding that I convert this into numbers and figure for you. And I’m going to frustrate you by saying “That depends.” On what? On the size of your fan base, what you already have out, and how much outside-of-Amazon marketing you’re doing.

For one case, take Hank Shaw. Hank is the blogger behind the fairly high-traffic Hunter Angler Gardner Cook. He has been blogging for years on his journey to make all of his meat and most of his food come from the land around him, whether through his garden, hunting, fishing, or foraging. Including recipes, yummy, yummy recipes.

Hank has two books out: Hunt, Gather, Cook and Duck, Duck, Goose. He’s got a third on pre-oder, names Buck, Buck, Moose. He’s releasing recipes and bits cut out of the final version, stories behind the making of, etc. on his blog. That’s where most of his marketing is. Secondly, he’s doing a book tour – but as a chef, this is not just at bookstores. This is also a series of venison-themed dinners and talks at upscale restaurants. See: http://honest-food.net/2016/03/17/buck-buck-moose-book-tour-schedule/

In Hank’s case, a long preorder is a good thing, as the irregular visitors come to his blog in waves with each hunting and foraging season, following search engine returns for recipes, and he’ll drum up his publicity in the tour itself, with the help of local newpapers at each stop if he can. The word of mouth from the tour will help penetrate his target markets who don’t tend to browse hot new releases in cookbooks – namely, hunters and their partners who want a new way to cook their hard-gotten meat, and the locavore / sustainability crowd (there’s more overlap than you’d think).

For a different case, Take J.L. Curtis, also known as OldNFO. OldNFO started writing, essentially, modern-day westerns (same grit, dust, ranching, code of honor, love of family and fighting crime, but modern day Texas, somewhereStan, and other points east and west) while working a job that dragged him from one end of the earth to the other. (Most of The Gray Man: Vignettes was written in airline seats). He had no time to market, nor did his job per-zactly encourage authorial self-promotion.

OldNFO’s promotion is mostly on Amazon and somewhat on his much lower traffic blog, so he’s not going to be well served by a long preorder. Instead, for him, three days is probably optimal, and a week would be stretching it.

—-

Why preorder:

For those of you who are more in OldNFO’s side of the fence, then, why pre-order at all?

1: Release Promotion

Many of you are familiar with the hair-tearing dance of getting your ebook live, and your createspace live, and then trying to get the two linked, while your fans are asking why you don’t have one or the other. Preorders let you get both products up and linked before the release date, so when you’re ready to announce the new story, the page is up, proofread, linked, and looking professional.

2: Early Reviews

Fun fact: if you have the dead tree edition available before the ebook, people can buy and leave “verified purchase” reviews on the print edition, so your ebook launch starts with reviews available.

Another fun fact: Preordering delivers your story straight to the fans who want it most right away, so they can start the read & review cycle the second it’s available.

3: Managing the visibility spike

Say you have multiple pools of people that you’d like to notify about your new story. Well, if your fans are the first folks – and they preorder the books – you may start getting reviews as early as the same day it’s out. (These fans, they’re out there. We love them. They cause a few white hairs when they tear through a book that took 6 months to write, and leave a review in 6 hours saying “Where’s the next?!?!?” but… we love them. )

Say another one of these pools is a forum, or a facebook group, of people who share your interest in $StoryTopic. You don’t necessarily want to announce to them that you’ve released the story on launch day. Just like a stacked promo raises visibility, so does a stacked launch announcement. And if you wait until there’s a review or two, then the vaguely interested who click the link will have something to help sway them that it’s a good deal and an entertaining story.

In fact, a little pre-order lets you split your fans and stack them, which results in a lower sales per day, but in greater sales trajectory and more staying power on the charts. This is because the preorder lets the “I’ll buy anything by her!” fans place their orders first, then the “I like some of her stuff” fans follow once the look-inside & send sample to kindle-app tells them they’ll like it, too. If you follow that with outside announcements, you can get three or four waves of launch sales, boosting you up the sales ranks and holding you there longer.

(Trad pub, meanwhile, is still stuck on getting the most sales possible on Day 1. Talking about drawing out the launch announcement is a foreign language to them.)

4: Also-boughts

Amazon’s also-boughts are on of the great undersung tools of discoverability. Even if you don’t land on the Hot New Releases or Kindle Bestseller in Subgenre lists, making enough sales to show up on other book’s “People who bought this also bought” is enough to get many a browser to go “Oh, that looks promising” and check it out.

It takes both sales and time for also-boughts to populate, so if you have the preorder go up 3 days early, then by launch day, the also-boughts from the preorder customers will have populated, and you’ll start to appear in the also-boughts of other books.

5: Time in Lists

The hot new releases is a time dependent list: thirty days after release (roughly), your book is no longer “new” and will age out. However, your story is also eligible for the list the entire time it’s on preorder. If you could sell enough to stay on the list with a six-month preorder, then you’d be on the list for seven months (6-months preorder + 1 months after release).

For most of us, that’s not a practical time limit, but even an extra five days on the HNR list is an extra five days of visibility, and that’s worth a few sales.

—–

Why not Preroder:

1. Deadlines

If you can’t make a deadline, don’t try to make the preorder deadline. The beauty of indie is that it’s very flexible. If you’re a week late on release (non-preorder version), as long as you haven’t promised your fans a specific date, you’re good. On the other hand, if you can’t make a deadline you set with Amazon, well, they’re very against vendors skipping out on promised goods and leaving them to face angry fans. Read the TOS for the penalties.

2. But I finished it!

This one bites one artist I know hard: As soon as he has a manuscript ready, the artist in him wants to fling it immediately out into the world, pressing it into the hands of eager readers. He’s even been known to release the ebook before he’s formatted the print version, despite all the advice he sought from me. If you’re going to approach the business of indie pub as an artform and charity to readers, then… don’t expect to reap good business returns.

—-

In summary, Preorder is a useful tool. However, for indies, it isn’t nearly as critical as for trad pub, and your goal isn’t to maximize your sales on Day 1. Contemplate the size of your fan base, and the structure of your launch, and how many places you’ll announce it. That’ll let you know how long a preorder you should set.

One last note: This is Amazon-focused because that’s where I’m focused. Over at Apple, and Nook, pre-orders are structured like the publishing industry, and therefore count sales rank on the day of release. So if you’re wide, and you have substantial sales outside of Amazon, adjust your strategy accordingly.

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Filed under FYNBOSSPRESS, MARKETING, PROMOTION

When a book becomes a series

Jason is being held hostage by work this week. He mumbled (can you mumble via IM?) something about 120 hour work week. So I said I’d stand in for him. The following post is one I wrote for Nocturnal-Lives a couple of months ago (with a few updates today). I thought I’d run it here today because Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) will go live in a little more than two weeks.

How did I find myself writing a series? Usually, I don’t set out to do so. Honor and Duty (3 Book Series) was the exception. I knew it would be a series. The initial plan was for two books, three at the most. I wanted to do a story arc that took the main character, Ashlyn Shaw, from betrayal to redemption. I wanted it to be a mix of space opera and military science fiction. What I didn’t expect was that it, too, in many ways would take on a life of its own.

The first inklings of the plot for Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) took root some time ago. A hint of a plot here, a glimpse of a character there. When I finally decided it was time to sit down and see if I could get it all to gel together, I had the basic premise firmly in mind. What I hadn’t expected was that this would be a book that resisted all attempts to outline, basic or in detail. It had a way it wanted to be written and nothing else would do.

So, after fighting it for a while, I gave in and let the muse — I have mentioned before she is not only evil but stubborn, or maybe evilly stubborn or stubbornly evil — have her way. What came out is a novel I’m proud of. It is also one I had fun writing, once I quit fighting it. More importantly, Vengeance does exactly what I wanted it to do. It is peopled by characters who aren’t perfect. They are flawed and know it. Sometimes they fight those flaws and other times they give in and do things they will come to regret. The heroes make mistakes and have “bad thoughts”. The villains might enjoy what they are doing but they do, on the whole, have some redeeming qualities. Not all of them mind you. After all, there needs to be at least one sociopath in any evil scheme, right?

Ashlyn Shaw has been betrayed by the Corps she devoted much of her life to. Worse, that betrayal led to the deaths of some of the men and women who had been under her command. The result was that she had been court martialed and, along with the survivors from her team, sent to a penal colony where brutal conditions would be an improvement most days. When she is returned to the capital without warning, the last thing she’s willing to do is trust those who now ask for her help. That changes when the capital is attacked and she slowly begins to understand that things have changed and those who turned a blind eye to the way she and her people had been betrayed were no longer in power. Not that she is willing to put aside all her doubts and suspicions, even when her people are freed and every one of them receives not only a pardon but full exoneration of all charges against them.

After all, she has a duty not only to the Corps or her homeworld but to those who had looked to her for leadership and protection. She would discover who had betrayed them and that person (or persons) would face justice, even if it came at her hand. Especially if it could come at her hand.

Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) picks up where Vengeance left off. Ash is starting to settle back in to her role as a Marine. She watches closely as the investigation into the events leading up to her court martial continues. Trust is slowly returning but that niggling voice of doubt is still there. It is something she fights on a daily basis, except when she is with her son. He is her anchor and her reason for not doing anything foolish. They had been separated during her time at the penal colony and she would not let that happen again. Duty might take her away from him for extended periods of time but, short of death, she would always return home.

War is now a way of life for Ash’s homeworld and its allies. The enemy is one they know well, one they have fought before. But there is something different this time. Tactics and strategies have changed. More importantly, the enemy now has ships and weaponry it hadn’t had just a few years ago, before a ceasefire had been agreed upon. That bothers Ash as well as some of her superiors. Is the enemy receiving aid — or more — from a third party they have yet to identify? Or is this simply a case of them putting to use material gained as a part of the renewed hostilities?

In spite or, or maybe because of, her time at the penal colony, Ash and her Marines are sent on a mission to help liberate one of the systems seized by the enemy. Finding allied prisoners being held in conditions similar to those she had endured almost sends her over the edge. The only thing that keeps her from killing the commandant of the camp were her own people stepping in. That, and seeing how they understood and agreed with her but how they were also determined not to let her do anything foolish, causes her to step back. It is hard and she knows how close she came to breaking. More importantly, she is ready to face the consequences when she returns home, not that she wouldn’t do it all over again because it helped get them the information they needed to not only save more POWs but because of the possible intelligence it led to.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is currently available for pre-order. In this book, the war is in full swing. As the intelligence Ash and her people found, as well as that being sent from other units, is reviewed, it becomes clear that their suspicions were correct. There is a third party involved in the battle, one no one suspected. Add to that the fact the third party has operatives on-planet who are determined to make sure those who set up Ash and her people never reveal what they know.

Because it is war, people die. Ash is going to face the loss of not only some of those under her command but of people close to her. The first is expected. They are Marines and their unit is the one often sent into the worst possible situations, the unit expected to do the impossible. The latter is something she has always known to be possible but never something easy to take.

Here’s the blurb:

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Honor won’t be the last book in the series. There will be one more to complete this story arc. However, my evil muse is already telling me that there will be more stories written in this universe. Some will have Ash and company as supporting characters. Others will focus on some of the characters we’ve met but who didn’t play major roles in this series.

Or, my muse could fool me again and decide that there will be another two books in the series. I just have to remember to remind her that there comes a time when all series, no matter how much she loves them, must come to an end.

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: LIFE, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Cranky Writer is, well, cranky

When I went to bed last night, I knew exactly (kind of, sort of) what I was going to write about this morning. It was a toss-up between a post on some comments about the cover of Black Tide Rising, an anthology based on John Ringo’s  series of books, and a response to an article The Passive Voice linked to about how real writers don’t go indie. As you can imagine, I had plenty to say about both topics. That doesn’t even begin to go into my thoughts about the condemnation and disrespect that has been flung Kate’s way because — gasp — she respects the wishes of readers more than the gentile feelings of some authors who are apparently worried that they have been recommended for a Hugo because — gasp again — the wrong sort of fans might have made the recommendation. But all of that seems minor in light of what has happened in Brussels this morning. That does not, however, mean it shouldn’t be said.

So, here goes.

Starting with the attacks on Kate and the desire to be removed from the recommended list Get over yourselves. Kate has run SP4 exactly the way she said she would. It has been in the open. The recommendations have been made on the SP4 blog. Kate herself spent more than a month here on MGC discussing each of the major — and some not so major — categories people could nominate works in. Those posts were not closed to comments. They were not hidden from view. They were, in fact, promoted on Facebook and elsewhere. No one was asked if they were Puppies, sad or otherwise. No one was told that only a certain kind of book could be recommended.

Did some people campaign to be included on the list? Sure. Not that it is anything new. Authors have, for years, reminded people what work they had that was eligible for the award. Funny how no one objected until folks outside of the “in club” started doing it. I guess it is a prime example of that old adage of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

As for those who don’t want to be associated with SP4, I suggest you go back and look at what Kate has done throughout the year. The list is not something she pulled out of thin air. This is a list that is based solely on recommendations made by anyone who wanted to take part. By telling Kate you don’t want to be associated with the list, you are basically telling your readers — your fans and the people who buy your work — that you don’t value their support. You are letting fear of what a few in the industry might think of you override what should be important: keeping your fans happy. Unless, of course, you don’t give a flip what your fans think and you like slapping them in the face for daring to support your work and recommend it for what has been one of the most prestigious prizes in the industry.

Which leads me into the article I saw listed on The Passive Voice. This oh-so-elite author doesn’t care if she starves. She will never, ever sully her writing by going indie. Serious authors shouldn’t even consider joining the unwashed masses, at least as far as she is concerned. She raises some of the same tired excuses we have seen for years. No gatekeepers to keep the dreck out. No editing. No good covers. Indie authors can be obnoxious with their constant promotion. You need to suffer for your art — oh, wait. That’s my take on what she has to say because she is the one who put a dollar figure on everything.

Look, I don’t care what course you take, be it indie or traditional. Both have strengths and weaknesses, although the line is thinning between the two. The reality is, if you go indie and you are serious about it, you will treat it as a business. That means you will get professional looking covers for your work. You will have it edited. You will develop a platform that will help get word out about your work. The hardest thing you will do is get your books into physical bookstores. That, too, is the one thing that traditional publishing makes easier. But, as I said, that is becoming less of an issue.

The second reality is that traditional publishing doesn’t always give you everything the article’s author seems to believe they do. The vast majority of traditionally published authors don’t get the type of promotion they expect. They, too, have to create their platform or “brand” to promote their work. Editing isn’t what it used to be for a number of houses. Yes, it can vary from editor to editor but it isn’t of the quality, on the whole, of what it once was. Ask Sarah about some of the copy edits she had from a non-Baen house where the copy editor apparently didn’t understand what a sword arm was and how it was suggested she “correct” the problem.

Read the article and let me know what you think.

Finally, the cover for Black Tide Rising. I hadn’t paid that much attention to it when the cover was first released. Then I started seeing the cries of outrage, first on Facebook when some of the usual crowd started crying over the fact that their hero, John Scalzi, would deign to allow his name to be associated with such a horribly sexist cover. The complaints continued across social media. Evil Baen! Bad John Ringo and Gary Poole! Evil, mean men using sexist covers. How dare they!

The problem is, the ones screaming and pointing fingers made one big mistake. They condemned the cover based on their own prejudices. They didn’t wait to see if it had anything to do with the anthology. All they saw were cheerleaders with guns and they made that weird, non-logical leap they have gotten so good at. Even when their mistake was pointed out, most of them continued to point fingers and scream “Misogyny!”

So here’s the deal. Black Tide Rising is, with one glaring exception, a great read — and this comes from someone who is not a fan of zombie books. (Ringo’s series is different from the other zombie books I’ve tried to read and a series I have very much enjoyed.) If I remember correctly, there are 12 stories in the anthology. One of them, Not in Vain, was written by Kacey Ezell and is the inspiration for the cover illustration. For those not familiar with Ezell, here is an excerpt from her bio: Kacey Ezell is an active duty USAF helicopter pilot. When not beating the air into submission, she writes military SF, SF, fantasy, and horror fiction.

Her story centers around a group of cheerleaders, their coach and what they have to do when the ZA happens. They are on their way home from a competition — hence the uniforms. They are, as most serious cheerleaders these days, true athletes and anything but the empty headed bimbos cheerleaders have been stereotyped as. Sure, they get scared because of what is happening but they adapt and cope. It is that or die. And yet, to those complaining about the cover, none of that matters. Cheerleaders, you know. Short skirts and bare midriffs and guns. Must be nothing but a bunch of old white men deciding on a cover that “excites” them.

Grow up and quit making yourself look bad by condemning something before you do your homework.

I guess what I’ve done is spend a little over 1,200 words proving that I’m cranky. I’m tired of people condemning things about my profession and about my friends without doing at least a minimum of research first. I’m tired of being called names and condemned because I don’t fall into lockstep with those who are trying to hold onto a professional business model that is outdated and that threatens the industry because the suits are too scared or too tied to their ways to adapt to changing times and demands. I’m tired of authors forgetting that they need to please their readers first and foremost or their books won’t sell. I’m tired of being told I’m doing it all wrong because I haven’t served my “apprenticeship” and bowed down to the gatekeepers.

Guess what, times change. The apprenticeship can be served in different ways now. Yes, it can be served by trying to break through the walls of the gatekeepers. Or it can be served by ignoring the gatekeepers and going straight to the customer. Please the customer and you make money. Don’t please them and you either have to learn your craft better or move on to something else. It is that simple.

So is the adage that the customer is always right — something certain authors have forgotten or have decided they don’t care about.

And, since I am one of the unwashed indie authors the blogger for the Guardian complained about, here is my bit of self-promotion:

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) will go live in less than a month. It is available for pre-order now.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is part of the Honor and Duty (2 Book Series) series. Click either the link or the image to the left for more information on the series.

Thanks and now back to work for this writer who, for the record, does better as an indie than the blogger does as a traditional author. But then, I look at this as my business, as my profession and treat it as such.

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Some thoughts, some promo

After the usual suspects came up empty when I asked for blog topics last night, I found myself wondering just what to write about today. It would be easy enough to do a riff on the “outrage” over Neil Gaiman’s Clarion tweet. But that’s been done by better folks than me (waves at Brad). I could do a post on critique groups but, again, it’s been done before by several of us here. So what to do, what to do?

Then I came across the latest kerfluffle in the industry. Once again, there’s a debate going on about whether or not author’s should be paid royalties for used book sales. I touched on the topic earlier but it seems that this is the topic that won’t go away, at least not right away. So, here is the question: should authors be paid royalties for used book sales?

Kristen Lamb comes down on the side of paying royalties for used book sales.(Edited to add: while Ms. Lamb does not specifically say this, I felt it was inferred. As always, I leave it to our readers to go see what she had to say and make their own decision.)  It seems Ms. Lamb was up in arms over the fact that “like TEN writers” had linked to the Washington Post’s article about the resurgence of used bookstores. Worse, those writers were excited by them. Her biggest issue with used bookstores is that writers don’t get paid for books sold through them. She goes on to say that if she does buy a book through a used bookstore, she does her best to also buy the digital version so the author gets money. Her main point, if you haven’t already guessed, is that writers should be paid for their product.

Now, I like getting paid as much as the next writer. I’m not in this to suffer for my art. I have bills to pay and animals that really do start looking at me funny if they don’t get their kibble on time. But, as nice as it sounds to be paid for second sales, I’m a realist as well. It’s hard enough to get actual sales numbers from traditional publishing without worrying about how they will account for used book sales. Let’s face it, authors right now are only getting paid for books it is estimated are sold and it is going to stay that way as long as publishers use services like BookScan to tell them how many books are sold at certain stores and then — thanks to handwavium — this is how many books we think were sold system-wide.

So, say you do get through a clause in your publishing contract that says you will be paid for second sales of your books. How is that going to be handled? How many mom and pop used bookstores are there out there? Are you going to require them to put in the hardware and software necessary to scan every book that comes through their doors and then upload that data to some central server — ala BookScan — so publishers can then figure out what the royalty amount should be?

Next question: if you do that, are publishers then going to try to put limits on what the price for these used books might be? After all, publishers aren’t going to want to be left out of this equation. Neither are the agents. Do you see what I’m getting at? That royalty you, the author, were looking forward to is now a pittance of what it might have been because of all the other folks with their hands out.

Question the third: if you start tracking used book sales, will that impact the definition of “in print” for conversion purposes?

All of that is something to consider before we, as authors, start making demands where used bookstores are concerned. But there is more.

As I said, I’m not in this business just to give away my time and my work. This is my job just as much as it is my calling. If I wanted to just write, that’s what I’d do and I would return to the corporate world. After all, I spent years writing for my own entertainment and then shoved all that work under the bed, or in the closet or used it to build bonfires. Then someone — Sarah — applied pointy boots to my posterior and I haven’t looked back. I like the money I make from this gig and I like it when people tell me they have read something I wrote and enjoyed it. Getting those emails or PMs asking when the next book comes out gives me warm tingly feelings.

However, I recognize that used bookstores serve their purpose. Much like libraries, used bookstores allow people who either can’t or won’t pay new book prices to discover the work of authors they hadn’t tried before. We might not make a few pennies in royalties from that “sale” but we gain something else: word of mouth. That is our most important and powerful form of promotion. If someone likes something we write, they will tell their family and friends. Those folks, in turn, may very well buy one or more of our books, be it in print or digital. These same used book purchasers do still leave reviews on Amazon and other sites. That, too, is important. Sure, they don’t show up as “verified purchasers” but a good review is always something we should welcome.

Eric Flint has addressed this issue at length and, while he and I might not agree on a lot of things, this is one topic we are pretty much in agreement on. Go take a look at what he has to say.

Now for the promo, because I am in this for the money. For those who have been following my blog, you know that this last two months have been busy ones for me. I’ve managed to publish two novels and put a third up for pre-order.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is now available for pre-order. Release is set for April 18th.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Slay Bells Ring is a mixture of mystery and romance, with the emphasis more on mystery. This is the book that forced me to write it.

Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.

Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.

Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.

And finally, Nocturnal Challenge, the fourth book in the Nocturnal Lives series.

Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4)

By Amanda Green

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

The first three volumes (Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude
are available individually or as the Nocturnal Lives “boxed set”.) are also available.

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Some thoughts and pimpage

Recently, there has been renewed outrage at Amazon. I know. I know. When isn’t there outrage from some quarters about anything Amazon does? In this case, it has been centering around Amazon’s review policy. Needless to say, authors and readers have been lighting torches and marching down the narrow, winding road toward the Castle of Bezos.

This latest round of outrage actually started this summer with articles like this one from Gizmodo. The article is based on a blog post by a third party complaining that a review they had written had been rejected by Amazon because Amazon thought the reviewer “knew” the author. Oh the outrage that followed, the worry that Amazon was reaching into our social media and more to find out who we might or might not know. Worse, it meant — gasp — family and friends would no longer be able to review books by their loved ones.

At that time, both Cedar and I wrote on the issue. I can’t speak for Cedar but I have yet to have a review rejected because I know the author — and because I review very infrequently, those reviews are usually for folks I know. I have yet to be contacted by friends, either face-to-face friends or social media friends, to say they have had reviews rejected under this policy.

This past week, the controversy has been renewed. The hue and cry has been strong on Facebook as outrage built. Then Chris Meadows from Teleread took matters into his own hands and went directly to the source. He emailed Amazon and asked the very simple question, the question at the heart of the controversy: Will Amazon remove or refuse to post reviews from it “thought could be potentially biased”?

The response Chris received was simple, direct and to the point.

“Following an Author does not indicate a ‘close personal relationship’ and does not violate our review guidelines.”

So, following an author on social media will not automatically mean you can’t post a review of that author’s work. As long as you follow the guidelines Amazon has for reviews, don’t worry. Don’t decide not to review something simply because you have heard Amazon is doing something “evil”. As authors, don’t panic over something YOU READ IN SOCIAL MEDIA. If you receive notice that a review has been rejected, ask why. Be persistent because you will initially get canned results. If you continue to be unsatisfied, well, it isn’t difficult at all to find Jeff Bezos’ email address.

In other words, quit jumping on the wagon with the rest of those who react before finding out all the facts. And read the review policy because, dollars to doughnuts, if a review is rejected, it is probably not because you follow an author on social media but for some other reason.

Now for the pimpage.

Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4) has gone live. That means those of you who pre-ordered it — and thank you so much for doing so — should have it on your devices this morning. If not, it should be delivered shortly. The funny thing is, it wasn’t supposed to go live until today and I started receiving notices that people had downloaded it last night. I’m not complaining, mind you. But I was all set to do by gleeful “It’s live!” combined with the terrified “OMG, it’s live!” this morning. So I wasn’t ready for all that last night.  😉

Any way, Challenge is the fourth book and fifth title in the Nocturnal Lives series. It is also, in all likelihood, the next to the last book in this story arc. I love these characters. So I doubt this book and the next will be the last time we see them. But the events the series has been leading up to have come to a head and the next book is when everything gets resolved — one way or the other.

But, for now, Challenge is out in the world as an ebook and the print version will follow next month. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the corner, biting my nails and waiting, praying that everyone loves my book baby.

 

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Filed under AMANDA, PROMOTION, Uncategorized, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Are you ready?

Edited to add note on Apple losing its appeal. Scroll to bottom of post for more.

Obviously, I’m not. It is Tuesday morning and I haven’t clue one for a blog topic this morning. So, I let my google-fu do the walking and found several posts of interest. Well, to be honest, I let my fingers virtually walk over to The Passive Voice and, as always, PG was a trove of interesting posts and I’ve pulled a couple of them for discussion. If you aren’t already following PG, I highly recommend you do so. It is, in my opinion, the best site for gathering news and information about the publishing industry out there. You can find the Passive Guy here.

The first post that caught my eye was an excerpt from The New Yorker. In A Book Buyer’s Lamet, the author discusses how difficult it is to know where to go to buy a book these days. The stores are almost identical in how they look and in what they stock. The author looks at the decision of where to buy a book as an “ethical” decision. In other words, where would it do the most good since literary culture is “under threat from several directions,” and “every opportunity to come to its relief should be seized”? In short, the article is a love letter to independently owned bookstores.

I’ll admit, I love the indie bookstores and miss those that fell victim when Borders and Barnes & Noble came into the area and drove them out of business. I applaud those that have cropped up in recent years, finding their niche market and building a clientele to keep their doors open. These stores have, as I said, found a niche market and cater to it. They have employees who love books and love working with their customers. That is something that is all too often lacking in the big box bookstores.

However, as much as I love the local indie bookstores, I will not jump onto the Amazon is evil bandwagon that the New Yorker’s columnist dances around. As Passive Guy points out, “[t]he exquisite moral balancing described seems to ignore one big reality – most bookstore employees are working at minimum wage with little hope of being able earn enough from their employment to live in a pleasant residence, support a family or enjoy the even the most modest trappings of a middle-class life. They are the ultimate wage slaves.”  As Colonel Klink from the old Hogan’s Heroes TV show would say, “Very interesting”.

Another post that caught my eye was this one from Patricia Wrede. In it, Ms. Wrede relates an incident at a book signing when she admitted to the person behind her in line that she was working on her next book. That person, also a writer, proceeded to want to know what conferences Wrede had been to, if she was on Facebook, blogging, etc. Everything the other person was asking about were things she thought Wrede should be doing to promote herself.

Gather a group of writers in a room and ask them about promotion and you will get as many different answers as there are writers and then some. That becomes especially true if you have a mix of traditionally published authors and indie authors. As Wrede points out in her post, there are some authors who make as much, if not more, from their blogs and lectures and courses as they do from their writing. There is nothing wrong with that. Absolutely nothing at all.

The post is interesting in the questions Ms. Wrede asks. “What, exactly, is it that you hope to sell? Yourself? Or your books?” But the bottom line is simple and she wastes no time in pointing it out. No matter what you are hoping to sell, if you are a writer, you need to remember this. “[F]undamentally, the only thing that every writer has to do is write.” Everything else is a tool to make your work more visible. It is up to you to decide what you are going to do and how much. No one besides yourself can make that decision for you.

Elizabeth Hunter has a great post about the upcoming changes to Amazon’s payment policy for borrows/loans under the Kindle Select/Unlimited programs. Much as I said last week, there is no reason to panic yet about these changes. For one, we don’t know how these changes will impact anyone. We can speculate, especially where shorter works are concerned. But that’s about it. As she points out, no one is making you take part in the program. You can opt out, and Amazon has made it easy to do so, if you are currently enrolled in KDP Select. Or you can stay in. The decision is yours. Don’t let yourself be swept up in the panicked reactions that we are seeing from some folks about these changes. As Ms. Hunter says:

You are the one who controls your books.

You’re it. You’re the boss of your work. You.

So please stop bitching and just take the reins.

Read the post. Not only is it spot on, in my opinion, it has a GIf of Beaker. Anyone who uses Beaker in their post is all right in my book.  😉

Finally, there is this article. At some point, Amazon took down “A Gronking to Remember”. Now, the title alone is enough for me to raise an eyebrow but, well, I guess even Patriots fans need their erotica. Anyway. . . .

The issues with the book basically come down to this. First, the cover had an image of NE Patriots player Ron Gronkowski on it, in uniform. Needless to say, the Pats weren’t happy. So the author removed that “offending” part from the cover and republished. What the author apparently didn’t do was get permission to use the image of the couple seen embracing on the cover. Folks, this is why you always make sure you have the rights to all elements of your cover and any other images you use BEFORE you hit the publish button. I haven’t had a chance to read the court filings but, if the cover story is correct, the plaintiff is suing Amazon, saying Amazon should use facial recognition programming or something similar to check covers before allowing a book to go live.

Uh, no. Not only no but hell no. It is not Amazon’s responsibility — or Apple’s or B&N’s or any other site where we can sell our books — to make sure we have done what we are supposed to do. It is our responsibility as authors to make sure we have the rights to use the images we’ve chosen for our cover. Not only the image but the fonts as well. If you want to call yourself a writer and you want to go the self-published route, then remember that you are also a businessman and act accordingly. This isn’t grade school where you can say you didn’t know better or no one told you you couldn’t use that image. Grow up and take responsibility for your actions.

Ms. Hunter put it best in discussing whether or not a writer should go with the changes at Amazon — and they apply to every aspect of being an indie author:

At the end of the day, I keep coming back to the concept of choice. Writers have more choices now than ever before. We can chart our own path. With all those choices comes a lot of confusion. Some people want a road map for how this is done. And the fact of the matter is, in this new publishing landscape there is no road map. We’re all stumbling along. But it’s not nearly as complicated as the hand-wringers want you to believe.

  • Write a good book.
  • Present it in a professional way.
  • Find places to sell it. (There are lots.)
  • Charge whatever price you want.

You are in control. You don’t like how a retailer is treating you? Don’t sell there. You don’t like the idea of subscription services and how they pay? Then don’t enroll your books. You don’t like giving books away to readers? Don’t.

I couldn’t have said it better.

So, what do you think?

Edited to add:

Word has come from Publishers Weekly that Apple has lost its latest appeal to overthrow the decision holding it responsible for price-fixing. “We conclude that the district court correctly decided that Apple orchestrated a conspiracy among the publishers to raise e-book prices, that the conspiracy unreasonably restrained trade in violation of the Sherman Act, and that the injunction is properly calibrated to protect the public from future anti-competitive harms,” wrote Debra Ann Livingston, for the court. “Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.” 

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