A few words of questionable wisdom from author Al W Moe - you can leave questions on each blog or go to my profile for direct email.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Why Kindle's Great

Anne Kelleher
There are certainly good points about publishing with a mainstream imprint, especially when it comes to marketing. A big first-printing guarantees a big marketing budget, often enough to catapult a good book to best-seller lists. But what about the hungry masses? What about those of us who toil all day and never get a contract? Well, that's the cool thing about eBooks and especially Amazon's Kindle.

Mainstream book publishers have definitely missed  gems on many occasions, the most recent of which is Kathryn Stockett's The Help, which was passed over by dozens of agents and publishers before being picked-up and entering the higher echelon of best sellers. It's a great read. It's also a bit pricey at $11.95 on Kindle.

That price helps illustrate that there is no better showcase in the world for your book than Amazon. The audience is huge, the page views are huge, and even without a major publisher, a good author can get their work seen - and still get paid.

Enter Anne Kelleher

Anne Kelleher is a long-time author with many popular books to her dust-jacket including Daughter of Prophecy (part of a Trilogy) that sold to Warner Books and propelled her to new fame. In turn, Anne went in search of a way to inspire new authors and co-founded the Greater Lehigh Valley Writing Group in Bethlehem, PA. It's now in it's 23rd year of drawing writers from all over the world and agents and editors from across the states. That's a legacy.

Today, Kelleher loves to teach and lecture on writing at the Writing Group and also plans a new symposium with Big Island Retreat 2016, held on the Big Island of Hawaii.  As for her writing, it's taken on a new life at Kindle.

Instead of using mass-market publishing, Kelleher has moved to her own imprint and the luxury of publishing on Kindle. With more than two-dozen books, she's certainly prolific, and with Kindle, we can all enjoy new issues like Free to Good Home at a very reasonable cost. Her writing is fluid, direct and without pretense. It's always a joy read her work. Kindle certainly isn't all there is to marketing a book, but it's the best start.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How's Your Amazon Scout Program Book Doing?

I was late to the party here, didn't know about Amazon Scout until well after it launched the first books about six months ago. If you are like me,  Amazon had a brainstorm and came up wit the idea that perhaps it would be good to have a quasi-crowd-sourcing kind of publishing deal with independent authors. Damned if I understand any more now than I did 180 days ago.

The actual Kindle Scout site with information for authors is more detailed, but in a nutshell you will have to have a completed novel. In addition, you still have to have a quality cover, you still have to submit your work, and then you have to wait for about 45-days while Amazon hosts the first 5,000 words of your book at their Scout site so readers can pick and choose which books are really worth publishing.

That's right. The readers choose which books are hot and which are not, by voting. I like that idea, but then it gets weird. Amazon makes the final decisions, regardless of how "hot" your book remains during the 30-day period it is listed. If they choose your book, you get a $1,500 royalty advance (which is very cool), but of course that is hedged against future earnings, and Amazon pays only 50% of each ebook's sales price. Right now I get 70%. Is this a good deal?

What's Good?

Well, there is the possibility that the advance publicity and extra publicity Amazon will offer the chosen few will boost sales, but who knows? And, I have to admit, I'm perplexed about whether to submit a book and then drive my list of readers to the listing to get votes. Why? Because I would want them to vote for my book. And that's bad, why?

Well, to get readers to actually vote, Amazon offers a free copy to those who vote for winners. So if I drive a few hundred readers to take the time to actually view my first 5,000 words, and they vote for it, and it wins a publishing contract with Kindle Publishing, I just lost a few hundred sales. That's right. Say 200 people were going to buy my book at $3.99 and I was going to get 70% of those sales. That's about $550 I just lost.

Sure, I've got the $1,500 advance, but I also want my prior customers to boost my book's launch and help it rise in the rankings. I won't get that if they all get free copies! HMMM.

Of the 75 books that have been chosen and published, about half that I checked are doing well enough to be ranked in the top 50,000. That's a couple book sales a day. Those with better rankings (I saw one at #8,000, one at #12,000 and one at #17,000) are selling 10 to 20 copies a day. That's great, but are they selling because of the program, or simply because they were going to sell anyway?

Overall, since I saw many books that had been out several months and were listed at above 100,000 (that's less than a book a day in sales), we can assume that neither the pre-readers nor Amazon are able to predict with any great certainty which books are really worth the $1,500 advance. Sure, some will be easily picked, but many will still fail. Interesting.

What's your experience? Anyone submit and want to tell us about your good (or bad) fortune? Anybody get passed over and find that your self-published book is doing great?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

And then there's Smashwords

So what's your experience with Smashwords? Any great stories to tell or just trials and tribulations? I put a lot of time and effort into translating a few of my books to Smash, but I forget about them until I get a notice that my check is coming each quarter.

Granted, I don't give the site the kind of marketing I give my books on Amazon. And, my best selling book (Vegas and the Mob) is only on Amazon because I still think I like the KDP deal, but Smash grinds along and they are growing. Why miss out on an opportunity to sell more books?

I do remember when they had 80-million words printed. Today August 20, 2015, they boast:

Words Published: 13,474,208,470
Books Published: 372,137
Free Books: 56,376
So we can look back in a year and take a peek. In the meantime, you should make sure your books are in every possible sales opportunity there is. The more options, the better. And, so you understand how Smashwords works, they allow you to sell Ebooks. Sounds simple, right? It's not, because you have to follow their rules for changing the format of your book which is a big pain the ass. On the other hand, follow the advice (TO THE LETTER) and you'll eventually manage to get it all right. My books took several tries.
Smashwords accepts most everything, from novels to personal memoirs, to short an long fiction (which I did have some early success with). And, when you get all the kinks out you'll find that your book is distributed to "Apple iBooks (51 countries), Barnes & Noble, Kobo (which powers the bookstores of multiple other retailers such as FNAC in France and WH Smith in the U.K.), OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, txtr, Baker & Taylor (Blio.com and the Axis360 library platform), and others."
And, you get to set your prices, the size of each book's sample read, and you receive 85% of the net sales proceeds from your works (70.5% for affiliate sales) for sales at Smashwords.com retail operation, and authors earn 60% of the list price for sales though their distribution network
Really, it's worth the work. Just don't for get to follow the directions carefully (and completely) and advertise to your books at Smashwords.  Is there a catch? Well, if you use the KDP system and then use KDP Select, you can't publish anywhere else. So there's the rub. If you aren't selling too many books via KDP Select, the decision is easy to add more sales venues. If you are, you've got to weigh your options.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Failing for Success

If you don't quite get the logic of the title Failing for Success you are either extremely successful and never fail, or you are failing to learn. You should embrace your errors, own up them, and learn from them. Nobody does everything right, at least not the first time, so go ahead and fail, just make sure you do it in the name of future success!
Now the truth of the matter is that failing is learning, and learning leads to improvement if you let it. As you begin marketing your book, keep notes about what works, what approach gets you good contacts, what websites can help, which can't, and who can do you a favor (like a review). Don't feel bad about things that don't work, you'll know better the next time. And, make plans for your success.
Anyone can say "Gee, I want to sell 100 books this month," because that's probably an achievable goal, but it's just a desire, a wish, until you tie it to an action. Unfortunately that means you have to actually do something to achieve the goal you set, so make your wish and then set your goal.
A Wish: sell 100 copies of your new book in one month.
A Goal: contact two bookstores in your area and one media outlet (newspaper, magazine, TV, radio) every single day until you have sold 100 copies.
Does that goal seem managable? Sure, it's work, but you can do it. It's just four phone calls, 10 minutes of your day, for a month, maybe less. Of course once you reach your goal you'll want to set an even better goal!
Kindle Dreams
If you are selling only Ebooks, preferably on Kindle where you can take advantage of the KDP benefits, set a different kind of goal.
Same Wish: sell 100 copies of your Ebook in one month.
New Goal: contact two book review blogs everyday begging for a review of your book, find one cheap (free is always good) advertising program beyond book review blogs each day until you have sold 100 copies.
Now that you've got the idea, go give it a try. Make a wish, set a goal, and keep going until you get there. You can do it!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Well Kindle Me Happy

After a year of marketing research based on three different authors (and their nine different books), their marketing plans, their previously hard-earned money spent (mostly from non-writing jobs), and their overall goals and aspirations, I have come to one very simple truth: Kindle.

While most of you already know that Kindle is King for many authors, the overall power of selling on Amazon in digital format compared to actual softbound (Think: Create Space) format is profound. And it doesn't seem to matter what the book genre was. That's what is a bit confusing and strange. But there's a reason: self-published authors aren't any better at getting their books into bookstores today than they were 20 years ago!

Still not surprised? I guess I shouldn't be either, but at this point I really can't see the good side of spending the bulk of your marketing and advertising budget on softbound or hardbound book sales, regardless of who prints 'em. Using Create Space from Amazon is easy and costs virtually nothing, and it doesn't get any easier, since once you finish getting your book formatted it can go live in a few days.

However, you'll probably find that no matter how much you press your marketing towards the softbound books that Create Space will ship to your customers, your Kindle orders will outshine your softbound books. Of course this assumes you'll put a reasonable price on both of your products. A softbound book that sells for $14.95 may get outsold by your Kindle edition at $4.95 by five to one. If you knock the Kindle price down to $2.95, you might see your sales of Kindle at 10-1 for softbound sales.

What's it all mean? It means that as a self-published, short-bankrolled author, your best bet is to put 90% of your marketing efforts into selling your Kindle product. Ignore this advice at your own risk!

As an aside, once your Create Space layout is approved, spend the $69 and let them format your Kindle book. Yes, you can do it yourself, but you'll spend a lot of hours getting it just right, and you're a writer, not a designer. I've done it both ways, and I'd rather spend my time writing, than saving the $69.

Don't be afraid to ask for reviews of your book! You might want to look at Good Kindle Reads, they'll get you started.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Local Launch for Your Book Marketing

If you like movies you might have read that Walt Disney Pictures spent several hundred million dollars making The Lone Ranger. You also might have heard they spent $100 million marketing it. The film hasn't had $100 million in ticket sales yet.

I've seen several different styles of advertisements for the movie, some making the movie look more serious than the others, some pushing the idea that it might be a comedy, and the film has been pushed on TV talk shows, in advertisements, in magazines, billboards, and certainly on the Internet. So were did the marketing do wrong? Maybe it didn't.

There is every chance that if only $20 million had been spent on marketing the movie would only have grossed $40 million in sales instead of the $80 million it has achieved. What's the point? You have to have marketing to get the word out about any product, but there are three things that are true in book marketing:

  1. You have to balance your marketing between different media to get good coverage and attract readers from a wide spectrum of the population.
  2. You have to spend cautiously so you can actually bank some money from the sales you get after your initial push to tell the world about your latest work.
  3. No amount of marketing will sell a bad book.
Local Marketing

Unless you actually have a $100 million budget for marketing your latest book, consider starting with a local campaign. This will involve more of your time than your money, but the results can be quite extraordinary. And, books (and movies) sell because of word-of-mouth. If nobody knows about your book, how is anybody going to find it and buy it?

Your plan is to be on the phone and in your car every day for the next month. Can't commit? Don't expect to sell many copies. Follow this list of ten things to do and you'll get a great start on selling your book. I'm going to assume your book is available somewhere on the internet, Nook, Amazon, your own website (all, if possible), but even a book that comes out in softbound and is sold only locally can start well, but with no other sales outlets it will wither on the vine and die. You have to have a way for people out of your local area to buy your book!

  1. Call every radio station in town and tell them you are a local author with a new book and you want to bring in some copies for the DJ's and as giveaway's for the station's listeners. The promotions department or a sales associate may arrange for you to do an interview, probably over the phone, and you are on your way!
  2. Call every newspaper or print media outlet in town and tell them you just finished your book, you are a local author, you'd like to bring a copy to the entertainment or book reviewer. You might do this in person, but it's tough to catch these people actually at their desk!
  3. Go to every bookstore in a 100-mile radius and introduce yourself, maybe even buy a book, and bring a copy of your new book for the store owner or manager. And, ask about doing a book signing. The store may be willing to accommodate you, and it might even pitch-in to pay for part of a snappy ad in print that you use to announce your book signing. Nice posters that can go in the store's windows will help. When you do the signing, bring a friend who will stand by the table and talk with you, holding a copy of your book as though they just had it autographed - this greatly increases the chances that other people will stop by. People are a bit intimidated by meeting an author and don't want to be the center of attention when they stop to look.
  4. Talk with everyone you know at work or in your social circle. These people are your first link to book sales in other areas and in different groups. You may want to give away a dozen or more copies of your book to these people, and if you are lucky, you may be able to set-up a short talk about your book with a church group, gardening club, women's club - whomever you can connect with through your first circle of friends. This is a great chance to sell lots of books directly to buyers.
  5. If you have gotten some mentions on radio stations, in local print media (oh, maybe even TV news shows), you've gotten a great start on marketing your book locally. And, while you may have spent the bulk of your marketing dollars, you hit a wide spectrum of the population. Now, your book has to go to the next step on its own merits. If it is a good read, your friends, neighbors, and buyers from local book stores will spread the news about your book and new sales will come from outside your local area. Good for you!
You can accomplish all of these steps in just a month, and you can sell a good number of books, many at full retail price directly to buyers. That makes a big difference. I remember selling two cases (96 books) to a plumbing supply company because the owner's wife liked the story and she wanted to give the books away to their best customers. And, she insisted on paying full retail. Selling $1500 worth of books to a single buyer is a nice rush!  You can have similar success.

By the end of the month you want to make sure your book is easily found online, so new customers referred to your work can buy copies. For new authors it's tough to turn around and spend 50% or more of your earned income to start marketing in a new area (the internet), but that's the next step! Balance what you are earning and what you are spending. Although a book launch may lose money, you've got to start earning a profit after six or eight weeks, so start banking some of your income.

Your internet launch will probably include a free giveaway, especially if you go with Kindle and KDP. Don't worry, it's a good thing.