Monthly Archives

September 2017

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Arrrrr!)

Yes, today is the annual celebration of piracy, although not the literary kind (which still sucks.)

In order to help people get in the mood, I have a new ebook out, A Hand for Each!

Available via: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Others

This short story was originally published in Shimmer Magazine‘s Pirate Issue (November 2007), and is a historical fantasy about…well, what it takes to be a pirate.

So I’m going to tell you semi-amusing tales about getting this story published:

  1. I first heard of this issue being planned at the Shimmer Magazine Party at World Fantasy Con a year earlier, and immediately decided I wanted to take a stab at a pirate story.
  2. Knowing nothing about sailing, I had to research for a couple of months before I began writing, but I got the story in before the deadline.
  3. The deadline was then extended, because they didn’t feel they had enough appropriate stories.
  4. The next MAY, I was contacted by the special editor (John Joseph Adams) about making some changes. They turned out to be comparatively small changes, BUT…
    1. I was in the middle of the OWFI conference that weekend (and I was the organization’s treasurer)
    2. I was also hosting a writers group meeting in my hotel room
    3. and because JJA kept saying ‘make it more like POE’, I was frantically searching online for Poe stories to read to try to get the feel the editor wanted. (That was a little difficult, because I had worked hard to mimic the ‘voice’ of Richard Henry Dana for the story…but what the editor wants, the editor gets.)
    4. I had no idea at the time whether he actually wanted to purchase the story or whether I was spending time that would end up being thrown away.
  5. But I persisted, and he ended up buying the story (and putting it in the pole position in the issue!)

The hardest part of this whole sales process was that I knew because there were two other pirate anthologies open for submission, there would be a gazillion pirate stories floating around out there, all of which my story would have to challenge if JJA didn’t purchase it!

Anyhow, that worked out, to my great relief!

And now the story is back, haunting you from its watery grave! So go buy a copy…it’s only 99 cents!

 

Care and Feeding of Authors: Freebies

As authors, we’re constantly scrambling to find what works (promotion-wise), and one of the unfortunate truths is that the thing that worked 5 months ago might be dead by the time that we find out about it. It’s very hard to know.

One of the things in our arsenal is the ability to give away books. Over the last year, I’ve tried a lot of giveaways, searching for the right balance of free and paid…since I’m also here to make money (someday.)  Some giveaways had very specific requests attached to them, some did not. Some were successful, and some were massive failures.

So here are some of the things I’ve tried. (Remember, your mileage may vary.) 

 

Freebies for reviews:

About a year ago, I signed up for a service called Instafreebie via which readers could pick up my books and…well, do something. One of the options is a Review Request, so I tried that out first.

People downloaded over 700 copies of my book Iron Shoes for free.  A year later, I’ve only had one review pop up on Amazon. I did have 11 ratings (not reviews) show up on Goodreads. In that same time, I sold almost 100 copies of the book.  So out of 800 or so books that went out, I got a total of 12 ratings/reviews over the year. Hmmm.

Now, from an author’s standpoint, that offer of ‘free for a review’ didn’t pan out.

 

Freebies for signups:

Now this one, for me actually worked well…sort of. It’s not unusual for writers to give away a book if you join their mailing group. And following switching over to an email signup (rather than a review request), my mailing list grew substantially. In other words, giving away books for a review massively flopped, BUT giving away a book to get a new newsletter person seems to be a pretty good match….except…

There is some question as to the involvement of those new catches with the newsletter AFTER they have their free book.

Back when I had an ‘organic’ mailing list (that means only people who went to my website to sign up), I had about 30-40% of respondents open and click on a link with every newsletter. Now, a year later, it’s about 2-3%.  For example, last September, my newsletter had 22/93 people click on something (perhaps to purchase). This year? 36 out of 1515 recipients clicked.

Essentially, I’d picked up 1400 new subscribers by giving them a free book, BUT only 1 percent of those new people (14/1400) actually opened and clicked on my newsletter.

Well that ‘s rather disheartening. 🙁

 

Freebies as enticement for new readers: 

Authors want to attract new readers by giving away bits of their work as samples. Or we give things away as gifts to readers who’ve historically supported us. Or we give books away hoping for reviews (particularly when a book is new.) But we have to be judicious about this.

Most recently when I set two ebooks to free for two months–hoping to gain new readers–my overall sales dropped by half, so the quick lesson for me was that free books translated to less income.

I have been told by other authors that the free/low price book enticement works best when it’s the first book in a series. So from this point forward, I’ll probably offer lower prices only to spur a series sale…once I get this series finished!

 

Freebies to superfans:

Now this has been the most consistent thing of value to me. I have people I consider my superfans (although they probably would -never- call themselves that because it sounds silly). These are the people I interact with regularly, the patrons on my Patreon, the reviewers I know from my past work. These are the people I can count on to support me by doing amazing things like reviewing, purchasing, and talking about my books.

This, I think, is definitely the most worthwhile, so I’m going to keep giving free books to these people.

 

And that’s my summary of my freebie efforts for the last year. Not as profitable as I would like, but…that’s cool. It’s all a learning curve at this point!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Care and Feeding of Authors: Diminishing Returns

A few years back, I was at the Romantic Times convention in DFW, and a writer friend (I’ll call her CK) was complaining to us about her sales. “I used to earn $30,000 the first month a book came out,” she told us, “but now it’s $7000 at most.”

After my other friend and I managed to close our gaping mouths, we got more into the nuts and bolts of this situation.

You see, indie authors have one big problem…fluctuating income that’s totally at the mercy of an outside vendor.

Now, this is not a post about the evils of Amazon. After all, most of us make the bulk of our indie money via Amazon, and it’s one of the vendors that you can actually be certain will still exist this time next year. However, because they have the control over our fates, we end up losing our shirts periodically.

 

My friend who is suddenly making $23,000 less on her book debuts? Well, she’s being killed by Amazon KU. KU, while it makes some people lots of money, it makes others lose money. This is a basic feature of any innovation.

And while $7K is NOT small potatoes for one month (it’s more than I made off my novels with Penguin), for someone who was making $30K, it’s a pretty stark difference. It’s painful to see what was a lucrative business slashed down to a percentage of its former glory.

But this is the problem that all indie authors have to deal with.  The algorithms change.

Yes, for some reason, the rules from various publishers (not just Amazon) keep changing. It’s written into the contract that you have with the vendor, for the  most part.

Here’s an example, from way back in 2012: I went on vacation and, for no reason that I knew, downloads of Iron Shoes via Amazon suddenly exploded. I looked at my numbers, and saw that Amazon had set it to FREE. Without warning me.

It’s in the contract that they can do things like that.

Over the next two days, about 15,000 copies of my novella were downloaded, and then a bunch more after it went back to .99 cents. I MADE MONEY! More than I ever had before….but…

It’s important to keep in mind that Amazon made twice as much as I did then due to the royalty structure.  Hmm.

And I had no control over that incident. I was away from home and really couldn’t promote it, either. I just had to sit and watch it happen. 

In the same way, authors have little control over who sees their book on Amazon. We don’t control the “Also Bought”s, we don’t control the “Sponsored Products” (we can buy ads, but I don’t have the resources to track things), we don’t control the order things come up on searches.  These things all control whether people see our books…but there’s little (other than pay for ads) that we can do about it.

The pay part is important, because I’ve paid for ads in the past on Amazon, and spent more on those than I had in resultant sales.

I will pay for an ad when Overseer is about to come out, too. And probably lose money. 🙁

(This is, by the way, true across most advertising platforms for me. I honestly don’t think that any ebook ad I’ve tried has really been profitable.)

My point is that with…

a) traditional publishers becoming more conservative, and

b) ebook publishers regularly changing the rules,

…it’s very hard for authors to make real money. I’ve seen the statistic that only 40 indie authors are ‘profitable’, but that’s for a very high standard of ‘profitable’.  On the other hand, the AVERAGE statistic is that authors who indie-publish a book, only ever make $200-300 off it. So the vast majority of us just aren’t making money, a rather depressing note when most of us have put months’ or years’ worth or work into those books.

The average reader can help with that, but it’s by doing the same things we always ask: Pay for the book, recommend it to friends, and leave a nice review.

And thanks if you do! (I will now go post a review myself.)