Category Archives: INDIE PUBLISHING

Covers, promotion, being an Indie

SUCCESS: the Image

A new indie writer’s image of success looks a lot like the thing in the picture above. Let’s add the year before the two showing:

LIFETODATEaug2018

So, starts out kinda empty. That’s reality for most everyone who doesn’t start with some sort of following.

In case it’s helpful, here’s how I got from the left to the right. The left side I titled Stumbling Onstage with No Script in an Empty Theater. The right is Beginning to Figure it Out.

APRIL 2016

I opened a KDP account and started writing my first novel. I’d been a writer for a long time, but not of prose fiction.

JULY 2016

Sometime in July I published a book titled Surrender to Ecstasy. I know this because I sold a book in July. To myself.AAKISSCOVER300px

I not only no longer have a copy of the cover, I don’t recall what it looked like. Here’s one of the many new ones I created because so many people told me the first one sucked.

In August I sold 6 books and 4 of them weren’t me or my friend. I had 2500ish page reads but didn’t see that because I was busy changing the title and redoing the cover.

I didn’t realize KDP was putting money in my bank account to the tune of $1.17 and not putting in the .09 from Japan or the $2.83 from the U.K. because the bank I picked to handle book business didn’t take foreign deposits.

I didn’t look at the reports page on KDP. I didn’t really know it existed. I was too busy writing book 2 and trying to figure out how to make a cover that didn’t look like shit and trying to separate the total bullshit advice from the makes sense advice.

Four months later I had sold 13 books and had about 5500 page reads. If that seems like a lot, I had one book that was a little over 300 KENP pages which is about 18 books. Some blowhard on Reddit informed me if my book fell below the 100k mark in ranking it was unsalvageable and I should move on. It fell a hell of a lot further than that. I think well below 500k.

DECEMBER 25TH, 2016

I published Desire for Bliss. This also isn’t the actual first cover.BLISSworking3crop

It’s almost impossible not to sell a few books Christmas week and I sold 20 and had 7k page reads. So I did more business in a week than I had done in the previous 4 months. I took Surrender off KDP and republished it as Desire for Touch, book 1/3 of the “Desire for” series.

If there was momentum to take advantage of, I didn’t know how. I was exhausted trying to learn six different professions and still write a book, which was my actual job. I also wanted to explore more aspects of sexuality than were part of Ben and Avia’s relationship.

One of the characters in Bliss I wanted to write about was the homicide detective, Hunter Dane. I also wanted to follow what happened to Talia and do a new adult story using one of the lawyers. Vaguely, the themes were femdom, foot fetish, first time anxiety and PTSD.

Bliss is an exponentially better book than Touch. That’s because we get better. At least we do if we write seriously and not as a hobby or a social club exercise. You want to get better. You know you suck. You also know you have something to offer.

I still hadn’t found the KDP page with the sales and page reads. I didn’t look at the bank statements or balance.

But now I had two books and had discovered free book promotion. Figured out you were supposed to use those hashtags on Twitter. And something happened: I stopped having months where I didn’t sell anything.

JANUARY 2017

I brought out Submitting to Talia and A Thing for Feet. You can read Feet here on my site for free, now.

Talia - Feet combo

I really liked, and still do, both these short stories. Anyway, I discovered Instafreebie and got a Facebook account (no idea what to do with it, but I friended or accepted friendship from everydamnbody). I started a mailing list with four names and put links to it at the end of the titles and was surprised when I got up to 50. Fifty!

Most people don’t join your newsletter so that meant like, maybe a couple hundred people read my books. Still not looking at KDP, still clueless about the bank. I wasn’t going to use any of the few dollars that might be in there, and I was still buried under being a graphic designer, a social media expert and writer.

You remember I was writing, right?  So then this happened:

MARCH 2017

AAHUNTANDCAM60x90300px

I had this picture and I loved the light/dark. The guy. I loved him. This is the first cover where I didn’t really struggle with anything but the font. I always knew what it would be: him. Hunter Dane.

I’ve spoken before about the writing, how the characters took over, how I could only finish it by telling myself I never had to publish it.

I launched it and did the few things I knew how to do and forgot about it. Except I’d joined GoodReads and some self-styled BDSM “expert” attacked the book and a lot of  his followers …. followed.

So, him being completely FOS didn’t really help me feel better, esp because you aren’t supposed to correct their ignorant asses. But then someone posted this review on Amazon. And it didn’t matter what anyone else ever said. For me, Knees was a success. Because of this:

on March 29, 2017
Its rare to read a m/m BDSM story and find so many truths. I read the book and heard the voices of my peers and my community. For those living in the kink culture, this sweet story of power, control and surrender echo’s our stories. Outstanding writing, I hope the author will continue to explore this genre as she has a gift.

DOUBLECOVERS300I put it behind me and started a novella about Ben Hart’s early relationship with J.J. Johnson. I did put Knees in an Instafreebie giveaway.

I published Writing for Ben, which became Thank You for Your Submission, which I thought was kind of droll.

So, where was I with the money?

Amazon got my attention, finally, about these royalties they couldn’t deposit and I finally looked at the bank account.

Whoa.

There was like, a couple hundred dollars in there. People were reading my books! Sweet!

I started Matchstick Men. Not because I thought Knees was some great success, but because Hunt and Cam were my Sherlock and John and I’d always wanted to write police procedurals. I felt like maybe I should finish the “Desire for” series, but, no one seemed to really care.

SO HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED …

An absolutely lovely mm/bdsm author read Knees and liked it and recced it to some book bloggers (I always wondered how you got a book blogger to cover youAAAMMCOVER090517250) and one of the bloggers read it and liked it and put me in all these groups on Facebook (I had no idea there were these kinds of groups on FB) and suddenly I was publishing Matchstick Men and getting reviewed and my newsletter list was in the hundreds.

This, BTW, is the original Matchstick cover. Matchstick Men came out almost exactly twelve months after Desire for Touch. I’d spent a year writing. I’d also learned a crapton about graphics and programs and how to cheat ’cause I’ll never be able to Photoshop.

I learned more about marketing and social media-ing (not so good at that).

NOV-DEC-JAN  2017/2018

$500 A MONTH. And I had hardly any expenses. You ain’t gonna get rich that way, but you could make payments on a new car.

I brought out Dancing Men and the boys insisted I write Snowed-In. Readers were talking to me and I had a group and a brand and a name and almost a thousand people on a mail list.

It scared the living crap out of me.

MAR/APRIL/MAY 2018

But then I had an epiphany. I had a series. I was writing Psychic Men, which would be book 5. People liked them. I mean, I liked them, so why did that surprise me?

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What I had to do was find my audience. If I had all this support just from Twitter and FB and some amazing book Bloggers, aren’t there more people who’d like Hunter Dane and Camden Snow? So I set out to discover where I could take the money I’d made and invest it in advertising that wouldn’t sell my books to someone, but would tell them what they were.

My Book Bub Ads Experience.

I had 186,000 page reads and sold over 600 ebooks in June. Sylvia Day I’m not. But I am, in my own mind, a successful indie ebook author. Because I’m getting what will be for me a very substantial paycheck? Not exactly.

I produced a set of titles I’m proud of and people like. AT THE SAME TIME.

So I’m beginning to figure it out. I succeeded. Anything more is bonus time.

I wanted to tell you that. You who are new. Maybe it’ll help.


 

To be or not to …. uh-oh…

Inspired by an article on Dale Cameron Lowry’s excellent writing blog, I decided to check out making an audio version of On His Knees.

Besides the cost, and how daunting and complex it all is, I just can’t imagine anyone but a professional actor I can’t possibly afford being able to do it. And then there’s the fact I’d have to write an audio version. I already have way too many things on my TBW list.

Still. I thought I could at least listen to a few of the sample readings posted on ACX.

No…..no…..no…..nonononoNO!

 

Hang on …. yes? Finally! So I check him out. A pro! Won an Emmy at some point and he’s in my projected price range. Aw – he’s from Denver.

Kismet, I tell you!

So I search for his studio on Google—nothing. Search him by name—nothing. ??? He has a bunch of credits. ….

I look him up on IMDB—

 

dead

 

Not kidding. Died. A while back.

I’m taking it as a sign. If audio is in Hunt&Cam’s future, they’ll let me know.

Great Advice 1: Hugh Howey

The interview is here:

https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/newswire/for-authors/2018/06/18/author-qa-hugh-howey

The excerpts are here:

I planned from the outset to languish in obscurity for ten years before I assessed my progress. This gave me patience. 

I made sure that I enjoyed what I was writing, that I loved the process. This gave me an appreciative audience. 

Finally, I told myself that everything I published would be available for thousands of years, so success and appreciation didn’t have to occur in my lifetime. That gave me hope.

About Kindle Unlimited:

 I tried Kindle Unlimited. Then I pulled out and went wide for a year. 

Then I went back to Kindle Unlimited. I get more readers being in KU than being on all retail outlets. … 

Amazon ebooks are available to every reader on pretty much any device that has a screen. … My books are available in every home, anywhere that there’s a whiff of cellular or WiFi. 

If someone makes a personal decision not to shop with Amazon, then I lose that reader. But in my experience, I’ll have gained nine more.

Hugh Howey’s work is here:

https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B002RX4S5Q


HERE’S HIS BLOG:

http://www.hughhowey.com

TRADEMARKING WORDS

WHOPPER    BURGER KING    BK    JR

Those words are all trademarked. That doesn’t mean I can’t write “That fish he caught was a real whopper!” It means I can’t call my burger that if I own a restaurant. Here are some more presently trademarked words:  bubble wrap, dumpster, jet ski, memory stick, lava lamp.

No one gets a trademark by accident because a clerk in an office wasn’t paying attention.

There are so many. It’s not easy to get a trademark. It takes months or sometimes years.  There are a lot of legal hoops to jump through. You usually need a lawyer.

There’s actually nothing wrong with an author trademarking a word in a series title. In fact, it’s a standard thing to do in the industry. (See header image – source: http://www.sylviaday.com/best-selling-books/ ) Or trademarking the repeated word in the series titles. It’s similar to trademarking anything that identifies your product.  It isn’t immoral, illegal or unethical.

What is unethical, although not illegal, is copying a more successful author’s series title, using a similar font, naming your series the same thing as theirs in hope of getting their readers to read your books. The ones you can’t manage to sell on their own merit.

It’s cheating. It’s what makes authors trademark their series names and title words. Worse, it’s unprofessional, juvenile and simply the mark of a bad writer. But it’s not new.

Picking a pseudonym of KING is common for a newb horror writer. Putting it in all caps at the top of the cover, doing any of this tricky stuff that’s supposed to get you readers instead of just working hard to become a good writer, is all part of why indie authors get so little respect in the industry.

The author who trademarked “cocky” isn’t the problem.

My Book Bub Ads Experience

BOOKBUBcampaignNOTED

FINDING MY READERS

To me, that’s all promotion is about. IF I have done my job, written as well as I can, designed a decent cover, written some ad copy, a blurb, then I just need to put that in front of a group of people who already want what I have.

I figure, if they like MM BDSM, they already like Hunt and Cam, they just don’t know it. My job is to tell them who my guys are and what the books are about. BUT I HAVE TO FIND THEM, FIRST.

I decided to give Book Bub a shot using money I made from book sales. BookBubnewletterAD

I didn’t realize you could just buy an ad on Book Bub to go at the bottom of the newsletters.  Here’s an example of the bottom of a daily newsletter so you can see what it looks like. The ads are 300px by 250px and they have a template so you don’t have to do anything graphics-like yourself.

You decide what budget-per-day to spend. It’s an auction model. so you make a bid. They tell you what the bid range is from other authors. Testing it all out, I started at $5, bumped it to $30 and settled on $10 a day continuous. (See graphic for days at each.)

I did a different design for the $10 series that I made myself. (see below) Not sure it performed any better.

The results are in the top graphic, obviously. I only gave results for the title I promoted. I did not discount it. I didn’t do one thing but put it on Book Bub, limit it to U.S., and target my audience. They walk you right through this—very simple, all on one page.

KENP READS ALL BOOKS

For all U.S.titles, my daily page reads went from an average of 1576 to 1970 during the campaigns. Those dropped off gradually over the last week. The book sales almost disappeared.

I did get a very big increase in Facebook page visits. It’s too bad I don’t bother with my  Facebook page.

Did I make money?

BOOKBUBknees1300
My $10 campaign ad.

The total cost of my experiment was $159.36. My U.S.-only royalties were $187.94 for all titles. I estimate my KENP payment at about $175 for the period of the campaign. So I made $203 and change.

In a fourteen day period earlier in March, I made $24.40 in royalties and estimate about $63 in KENP.

That’s $87 profit with virtually no advertising compared to $203 profit using Book Bub, alone.

I don’t know that a featured ad (The kind you apply to them to be allowed to pay them for – see price list.) would do better for me than the same amount of money spent on a better organized campaign of a discounted or free book. I do know that I’m only looking at immediate returns in this post and not factoring in retaining the readers as Hunt and Cam fans.

And that’s really the biggest profit of all, finding my readers.