Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts

Thursday, April 13

4 Reasons to Write Fan Fiction

4 Reasons to Write Fan Fiction

Fan fiction, for many people, is ... a gateway drug to all other fiction writing.”
—Emma Lord

Before Amazon came out with Kindle Worlds I never seriously thought about trying my hand at writing fan fiction. This blog post was inspired by a podcast I listened to a couple of days ago: NPR 1a: Fans And Fan Fiction (I've also embedded the podcast, below). It got me wondering: can fan fiction help writers hone their skill and, if so, how?

Why write fan fiction?

We’ve all heard of fan fiction, or fanfic. Fan fiction is just what it sounds like, fiction written in an established universe which features characters and settings from that universe.

For example, the TV show Supernatural has a LOT of fans. I’m one of them, but certainly not the most hardcore. Over at Supernatural has the biggest community in the TV show section. Supernatural has acknowledged their fans by making fanfic the subject for a couple of episodes (my favorites!).

But, why write fan fiction? 

4 Reasons to Write Fan Fiction

1. Personal fulfillment.

You love a particular narrative world and there are stories you’d like to read which aren’t being written.

Have you ever wanted characters to do something that you know can’t happen on the show? For example, you want to tell a story about the main character’s death or you would like two characters (possibly the protagonist and antagonist!) to begin a romantic relationship. Or perhaps the stories being spun in a particular universe are strictly PG and you want to take things in a more NC-17 direction. 

2. Change part of a story

You might love a particular story but hate the ending. For example, I’ve always LOVED Bram Stokers Dracula. If any of you haven’t read the original, please do. But I’ve never been a fan of the ending. I’ve always wanted to take Stoker’s story, put it in a modern setting, and—while  leaving the beginning more or less the same, change the ending. 

3. The series is finished

No more shows are being produced, no more books are being written. The only way you’re going to get a new story is if you write one.

4. Mashup

You want to mash two narrative worlds together. For instance, Buffy wakes up in Mordor and takes on Sauron.

The Advantages of Writing Fan Fiction

Writing fanfic has definite advantages for new writers—I wish I had written fanfic when I was a kid; I think most of my stories would have been set in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia!

Another advantage for new writers is that they don’t have to create everything—the characters, the world—from scratch. They can work with fully developed characters that work and they can draw from LOTS of examples. It’s a bit like being an apprentice writer.

That said, I don’t mean to suggest fanfic is ONLY for new writers! 

The Rhythm of Story

Just today I was listening to an interview with one of Stephen King’s children, Joe Hill (10 Minute Writer's Workshop: Workshop 18: Joe Hill). He mentioned a time when he was blocked. To push through he wrote out, longhand, great chunks of a story by one of his favorite authors. It helped him internalize those story rhythms. (Incidentally, several best selling authors have also given this very same advice; it’s what they did at the beginning of their careers.) I think fanfic can help writers in a similar way. By trying to write in the same voice (or a similar one) as a more experienced writer we can internalize the rhythms of successful storytelling.

Tags and Traits

Established characters generally have well-defined tags and traits and seasoned writers deftly weave them into character introductions and reintroductions. This, however, is one of the things it is sometimes difficult for a beginner to pick up, even though it's one of the most important. There are several TV shows that do this exceptionally well. In my opinion, one of the best shows for this is Archer (<-- NSFW). That show continually amazes me! See also: The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Supernatural

Watch or rewatch an episode of one of these shows and pay attention to how the characters are introduced, how tags and traits are used to define the characters and hook viewers, as well as how they hook into the story arc for that season. Also (and this isn’t specific to tags and traits) notice how these shows get right to the inciting incident with minimal preamble.

Where to publish fan fiction?

The legalities are beyond me but if you would like to read about this I suggest the wikipedia article on Fan Fiction.


It seems as though copyright holders will not prosecute if a work of fan fiction is published on a site devoted to that purpose, for example


In the case of commercial fiction things are much different. Generally speaking, without some sort of prior understanding between you and the copyright holder, one cannot write in another author’s universe and get financial remuneration. But some authors do allow others to write in one of their fictional worlds AND receive compensation for their efforts.

For instance, Kindle Worlds offers writers a place to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. Of course there are conditions and restrictions which you can read about here.

Tips for Writing Fan Fiction

Voice. If your goal is to write in the voice of the original author then you must get the atmosphere right. In this context Ian Sansom’s positive review of The House of Silk (a Sherlock Holmes novel) might be of interest: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.

Characterization. Even if your goal isn’t to write in the voice of the original author and even if you intend to transform the characters in some way or other, be careful to make your characterizations are consistent. Of course this applies to ALL writing but chances are your readers will already be fans of the characters and may be even more sensitive to inconsistencies. Further, if you change any of a character’s traits be careful that the characterization you settle on doesn’t ‘break’ the character.  

For example, in the 1992 retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula on the big screen, Lucy was depicted as more sexually inquisitive than in the book. Even so, she was recognizably Lucy. I’m not suggesting that each character has a core set of characteristics that any fan fiction must adopt—I rather doubt this—but that’s part of what makes writing a deliciously dark art. Keep in mind that IMHO no matter what you do, no matter what decisions you make in writing (as in life), there are going to be folks who vehemently disagree with you.

List of Fan Fiction Sites and Resources This is a huge site that serves the interests of a vibrant community. If you’re at all interested in writing fan fiction I encourage you to wander down its highways and byways.

The Writers’ Area. This is a master list of miscellaneous resources devoted to fan fiction. 

Harry Potter Fanfic Resources. There are many sites devoted to all things Harry Potter and this is by no means the only fan fiction resource for that universe but it’s a place to start. 

Every post I pick something I love and recommend it. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post.

Today I’m wholeheartedly recommending The Fantasy Fiction Formula, by Deborah Chester. DC taught Jim Butcher in university and he dedicated his first book, Storm Front, to her. I’ve read DC's blog for years and love it!

From the blurb: “There's more to writing a successful fantasy story than building a unique world or inventing new magic. How exactly is a plot put together? How do you know if your idea will support an entire novel? How do you grab reader attention and keep it? How do you create dynamic, multi-dimensional characters? What is viewpoint and do you handle it differently in urban fantasy than in traditional epics? What should you do if you're lost in the middle? How do you make your plot end up where you intend it to go? / From the writing of strong, action-packed scenes to the handling of emotions, let award-winning fantasy author Deborah Chester guide you through the process of putting a book together.”

I’m curious, do you write fan fiction? If so, when did you start? Do you also write original fiction? What do you love most about writing fan fiction? Is there anything you don't like about it? I’d love it if you posted your comment for all to read but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can also contact me directly. I’d love to hear about your experiences! 


Tuesday, April 4

8 Ways to Get Honest Reviews for Your Books

8 Ways to Get Honest Reviews for Your Books

It will come as no surprise that the number one way to get reviews is to ask for them. Today I talk about, first, who to ask and, second, how to ask. Let’s get started!

1. Use focus books to find reviewers.

Ask yourself, “What other well-reviewed books is my book most like?” Go to your book’s product page and scroll down until you see the heading “Customers who bought this item also bought.” This tells you what other books your customers are interested in. For our purposes here, what we’re interested in is who reviewed these books.

Step One: Filter the reviews.

Go to the page of a book similar to yours. As an example, here’s a link to the review page for Jim Butcher’s Changes. You’ll notice, near the top of the page, Amazon gives you the option to both sort and filter the reviews. I used the following settings:

- Sort by the MOST RECENT:

I chose to sort by the most recent reviews because CHANGES was published in 2010. I suspect some folks who left reviews in 2010 don’t review books anymore, or perhaps their tastes have changed.


The other option is “verified purchase only.” I didn’t choose this because reviewers who were given a copy won’t show up under the verified purchase option.

- Filter by 5 STAR ONLY

I’d suggest concentrating on 5 star reviews because you want to reach out to reviewers who love this sort of book.

- Filter by Kindle Format

Personally, I find it easier to give reviewers an electronic version so you will want to find reviewers who read digital books.

Step Two: Choose 10 reviews.

10 is an arbitrary number; choose whatever amount works for you.

The process:

Look at the list of reviews you’ve discovered and read the first. Was it well written? Did the reviewer demonstrate she has a clear understanding of the book reviewed? Did you think the review was well written?

If the answers to the above questions are yes, then right-click on the reviewer’s name to bring up her page. Look at other reviews she’s written (sometimes the reviewer’s profile contains a list). What you’re trying to assess is whether the reviewer has done a good job. If the book under review was poorly written then a negative review is warranted. (If you don’t want to buy and read the book reviewed, think about reading the sample.)

Also, and perhaps more importantly, pay attention to whether the reviewer is careful to separate the writer from their work. After all, even a good writer can produce an awful book.

For example, though I admire Stephen King’s work, he’s written at least one clunker. It happens. But just because King wrote an awful book doesn’t mean he’s an awful writer; you want to try and get an idea whether the reviewer respects the difference between the author’s work and the author.

Why is this important? After all, your book isn’t an awful book. Your book is well-written, well-formatted and has been copyedited.

Here’s why: Everyone is different. Ask 10 people what they think of something and you’ll get 11 opinions! Because taste is both idiosyncratic and quirky it’s inevitable that someone, sometime, is going to think your story is complete and utter dreck. When this happens you hope they will review the work not the writer.

Step Three: Contact the reviewers.

Sometimes reviewers give their email address in their profile. If the reviewer doesn't, you can leave a comment on their review. If you feel comfortable, leave your email address in the comment so the reviewer can contact you. (Amazon will notify the reviewer that a comment has been made.) If you don’t want to leave your email address for all the world to see, come back in a week or so and either delete your comment or edit out your address if the reviewer hasn’t responded.

How to ask for a review

At this point you’ve got a list of 10 people you want to ask to review your book. How do you go about contacting them? Joanna Penn in How To Get Amazon’s Top Customer Reviewers To Review Your Book) has you covered. She suggests sending an email that includes the following information:

  • How you found them.
  • Why you think they will like your book. Mention you’ve read another review of theirs (include that book’s title) and mention that your book is similar.
  • Offer them a copy of your book, free of charge. You’re not offering the book in exchange for a review. You’re offering them the book and if they choose to review it then great. If not, that’s okay too.
  • Thank them for their time.

For example:
Hi [Name], I read your review of [book title] on Amazon and noticed you liked [list points]. Given this, I thought you might like my book, [your book’s title], since they’re both [list similarities].

[Include a one paragraph summary of your book].

I’ve included a link to it, below:

[Link to a downloadable version of your book.]

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. If you read [book title] I would love to know what you think of it.
[Your name]
[Your email]

2. Offer your book, free of charge, to anyone on your mailing list who would like to write a review.

Another way to get more reviews for your book is to offer it to anyone on your reading list who would be interested in reviewing it.

If you don’t have an email list then forget about soliciting reviews, set up a mailing list! Here’s a terrific article on how to do this from Joanna Penn: How Authors And Writers Can Build An Email List For Marketing.

3. Develop a list of dedicated readers, people who will receive a copy of your book before it’s published.

The next time you send out a newsletter you could mention you’re looking for dedicated readers. These folks would get a copy of your upcoming books before they’re published. The main purpose of such a list is for you to receive feedback about a book BEFORE it’s published, but dedicated readers often end up leaving a review as well.

4. Offer a free review copy to your contacts on social media.

If you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., don’t be shy about asking the folks you’ve connected with if they would like a review copy of your book.

5. When someone leaves a review, thank them publicly.

Use social media to share each positive review you receive. I think this is a lovely way of thanking the reviewer for taking time to write a review as well as subtly encouraging anyone who has read and liked the book to leave a review of their own.

6. Ask book bloggers to review your book.

Years ago, this was one of the better ways of getting reviews. Recently, writers I’ve spoken with have reported mixed results. If you do contact book bloggers for reviews it’s important to record which ones you were able to contact, which ones read your book and posted a review as well as any personal details about them that will help break the ice and show them you’re not a bot! Keeping a spreadsheet of all these details will save you a lot of time in the future (I talk about this, below, as well). Here are a few directories that contain links to a number of book blogs:

The Indie View
Karen Tilton
Directory of Book Bloggers on Pinterest
YA Book Blog Directory
The Book Blogger List
Book Reviewer Yellow Pages

7. Ask Amazon’s top reviewers if they would consider reviewing your book.

To read more about this I recommend, “How to get reviews on Amazon once you’ve launched your book,” by Milena Canizares. Here is her advice:

  • Make a list of reviewers. If you want 10 reviews, MC advises compiling a list of 40 names.
  • Put these names into a spreadsheet. Include the reviewer’s email addresses and personal interests. (KW: If they have a website or blog I would list that as well as their social media accounts. You don’t want to stalk them, but any information you can obtain will help you tailor your pitch.)
  • Put together a template you can send out to reviewers (see above), making sure you personalize it for each reviewer.

Pertinent links:

This is a lot of work, but it's difficult to overstate the importance of reviews to book sales.

8. Offer reviewers your book in the format of their choice.

Although digital publishing is easiest, some reviewers prefer reading physical books. Using a print on demand (POD) service like CreateSpace you can order a book and send it directly to the reviewer: this has the advantage of being easy, quick and not very expensive.

Tip: Say Thank You!

When you approach someone to review your book it’s nice to give them something, a small gift.

For instance, if your book—the one you want reviews for—is fiction then perhaps put together a short document that contains information about your characters’ backstories. Or perhaps write a short story, perhaps even a piece of flash fiction, about a crucial bit of your most popular character’s backstory.

The point is that it’s often unproductive to ask someone for something without first giving them something. I’m not talking about payment or tit-for-tat, this is just being considerate.

Here’s my own (not terribly subtle!) pitch: If you would like a review copy of my book, The Structure of a Great Story: The Structure of a Great Story: How to Write a Suspenseful Tale! please contact me and I'll send you one.

Every post I pick something I love and recommend it. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post.

Today I’m recommending The Author Startup: A Radical Approach To Rapidly Writing and Self-Publishing Your Book On Amazon, by Ray Brehm.

From the blurb: “[T]he truth is, you do 20% of the work for 80% of the result (The Pareto Principle). How does one accomplish this? By streamlining all the tasks down to the minimum requirements, and focusing on those. The Author Startup is a process to create a minimum viable product for your book. It is used to get your book out there and build momentum for you.”

That’s it! Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you again on Wednesday. Till then, good writing!

Friday, January 13

How to Pick Categories for Your Amazon Book

How to Pick Categories for Your Book

This blog post is a continuation of a series I began on Wednesday (Write a Book in 15 Days). Today I talk about a topic entire books have been written about—how to select subcategories for your book—so I can't go into anything in depth but hopefully I’ve been able to communicate something helpful.

In what follows I only talk about Amazon. That said, I’d wager what I say, below, is true of any online retailer.

One more thing before we get started. There’s an invaluable (free!) resource I’ve found on the web called the Amazon Sales Rank Calculator. It will do exactly what the name says. If you give it the Amazon Sales Rank of a book it will tell you approximately how many copies of the book are sold per day.

The importance of categories and keywords.

The single most important thing you can do for your book is choose effective categories and keywords. You could write the best book in the world but if folks can’t discover your book, they’re won’t be able to buy it!

Genre and categories.

By this time you should have an idea for a book. Your idea will no doubt be refined over time, but you should have some notion what general topic you want to write about. For example, let’s say you want to write about how to start a website.

1. Think up search terms.

We want to find books about how to start a website. That is, books that are similar to the book you want to write. Why? Because we want to (a) see what keywords these sort of books use, (b) what categories they’re in and (c) how well they’re doing.

Bootstrapping: To start off, we need to think of a few possible search terms. Let’s try “website.” If that doesn’t work we can use “website create” or “website launch.”

2. In the categories “Books” and “Kindle eBooks” search for the keyword.

In our case this keyword is “website.” So head over to Amazon and search for “website” in the category “Books.” If you just want to click a link, here it is.

2a. On the left-hand side of the page you’ll see “Show results for.” Just below this is “Any Category” and under that is “Books.” Under this you’ll see categories listed. For example:

Computers & Technology
Web Development & Design
Blogging & Blogs

And so on. Now pick a category—something you think might be a good fit for your book—and drill down (by which I mean, click on the category to expose its subcategories). What sort of books are coming up? Are they similar to the one you want to write? If so, you’re on the right track, keep drilling. If not, try another category.

2b. Now do the same thing we did in 2a only change the parent category to “Kindle Store.” Here’s the link.

As before, take a look at the categories returned. Which ones stand out to you as being the best fit for your book?

After playing around a bit, looking at various categories, I chose these two:

Subcategory One: Books > Business & Money > Small Business & Entrepreneurship > Home

Subcategory Two: Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Business & Money > Entrepreneurship & Small Business > Small Business

3. Find example books: For each subcategory you chose, search on your keyword, sorting by RELEVANCE.

The keyword I’ve been using for my example has been “website.” If you’re not sure what I’m talking about just click the links, above, and you’ll see what I mean.

Now look at the books that came up. Note: These won’t be ordered by how well the books are selling. Don’t worry about this right now. We’re looking for books like the one you want to write because we’re interested in what categories they’re in.

For example, for “Subcategory Two” the first book listed (this will change over time so the first book might be different when you try it) is “Websites: How To Generate Online Income While You Sleep.” We’ll look at this book in more detail in (4), below.

4. For each example book look at (a) its Amazon Best Sellers Rank and (b) the categories it’s doing well in.

For instance, “Websites” has a Best Sellers Rank of 276,667 and is doing relatively well in the following subcategories:

  • Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Business & Money > Entrepreneurship & Small Business > Small Business
  • Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Business & Money > Entrepreneurship & Small Business > Home-Based
  • Books > Business & Money > Small Business & Entrepreneurship > Home Based

You’ll want to do this for AT LEAST 10 books. For each of these 10 books write down their title, their Best Sellers Rank and the subcategories they’re doing well in.

5. For each subcategory, find out which has the most popular books.

How do you do this? Well, frankly, it’s a bit tedious. That said, this is the most important step.

Go to each subcategory. On the first page, the books will be numbered from 1 to 20. The number 1 book will be the best selling book in that category while the number 20 book will be the book that sells worse than number 19 but better than number 21. The thing is, the number one book for a subcategory can have a really bad Best Sellers Rank. It can be, say, 200,000! If that’s the case, this isn’t a category you want to write for because even if your book lands at number 1, chances are you’re not going to sell a whole lot of copies!

On the other hand, if the number 1 book has a Best Sellers Rank of, say, 200 then that means that books in this category might be popular. Now you want to look at the Best Sellers Rank of the number 20 book. What is it? If it’s 200,000 then it looks like only one or two books are going to be lucrative which makes this subcategory not very attractive.

But imagine that the number 1 book has a Best Sellers Rank of 200 and that the number 20 book has a Best Sellers RAnk of 8,000. That’s good! Keep going. What’s the Best Sellers Rank of the 40th book? If it's under 50,000 then it looks as though this category is popular with readers.

In general, for each subcategory, compare the Best Sellers Rank of the 1st book to the Best Sellers Rank of the 20th book. If the 20th book has a sales rank of LESS THAN 50,000, then look at the Best Sellers Rank of the 40th book. If that book has a sales rank of less than 50,000, then look at the Best Sellers Rank of the 60th book. And so on.

But, we're not done!

6. For each subcategory, find out how many books it includes.

If a popular subcategory has oodles of books then that subcategory becomes less attractive because the competition is fierce. On the other hand, if a popular subcategory has the same amount of books (or fewer books!) as a less popular subcategory then that’s an opportunity. These books are popular and, relatively speaking, there’s not much competition. I’m not sure how long that state of affairs would last, but it’s something to notice.

How you can tell if a book is selling well.

The lower a book’s Amazon Best Sellers Rank the better. A Best Sellers Rank of 1 is the best selling book on Amazon. A rule of thumb is that if a book has a Best Sellers Rank of 100,000 then it sells about one copy a day.

Let’s say that after you’ve done all this research you determine that the categories your book fits with the best aren’t that lucrative. Even the best selling book sells only about one copy every three days. Here are your choices:

a. You could write and publish your book. 

The topic you’ve chosen could be one you’re passionate about and you don’t care how many copies it sells. If this is the case, go for it! Or it could  be that you have a popular website and feel confident that you can drive traffic to your book. Again, if this is the case, go for it! That said, one thing you might consider is that if the overwhelming number of sales are going to be driven from your website, why not sell the book from your website? That way you don’t have to pay Amazon a royalty!

b. You could go back to the drawing board.

You could go back to your essential concept and tweak it until you find a more lucrative category.

There’s no wrong choice, it's completely up to you and what your goals are.

Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post.

Today I want to recommend, How To Podcast 2016: Four Simple Steps To Broadcast Your Message To The Entire Connected Planet ... Even If You Don't Know Where To Start, by Paul Colligan. I’ve wanted to start a podcast for a while now, but I've found the prospect daunting.

Although I appreciated Paul’s tips the thing I liked most about his book was its encouraging tone. If you’ve never created a podcast the prospect can be intimidating so I loved that Paul constantly stresses how simple it can be. From the blurb: “You don't need expensive equipment and an audio engineer to make a podcast that people will love and listen to. People want to know ... what you have to say and it is easier than ever before to let them.”

Looks like I won’t be able to finish this post today! I’ll wrap the series up on Monday when I’ll discuss how to choose a title, how to actually write the book. I’ll also talk about the pros and cons of using a pen name as well as how to create an eye-catching cover.

Stay tuned and good writing!

UPDATE: For your convenience, here are links to the other articles in this series:

Part 1 of 1: How to Write a Book in 15 Days
Part 2 of 3: How to Pick Categories for Your Amazon Book
Part 3 of 3: How to Choose a Title, Create the Artwork and Write the Darn Book!

Sunday, August 18

A Publishing Checklist: What To Do When You Self Publish

A Publishing Checklist: How To Self Publish A Book

This month, one of my favorite mystery writers, Elizabeth Spann Craig, shared her checklist of things to do when she publishes a book: Release Activities for the Reluctant Promoter.

I was SO happy to read Elizabeth's post; I did the Scooby dance. I love checklists, I'm always forgetting something, and it never occurred to me to print out a publishing checklist and tack it to the back of my office door.

So, without further ado, here's Elizabeth's checklist for self published books. By the way, for your traditionally published authors, do head over to Elizabeth's blog, she has a checklist for you as well.

Elizabeth Craig's Indie Publishing Checklist


1. Upload your book to the online retail stores of your choice. For me, that means: Smashwords, Kobo and Kindle. Elizabeth Craig puts her book in Nook as well, but I let Smashwords take care of that for me.

2. Create a POD version of your book. Two great services for this are CreateSpace and Lightning Source.

3. I check Smashwords to make sure there were no issues with the upload and the meatgrinder didn't choke on my manuscript. I keep checking back until I see my book made it into their Premium Catalog.

4. Elizabeth Craig creates an audiobook version using Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX).


1. Update website.

Put a thumbnail of your cover up and link it to a book page on your website with a larger image and an excerpt from the book as well as links to everywhere folks can purchase a copy. If you get a great review, don't be shy about putting that up as well!

2. Update your social networks.

- Blog about your new release. This is one of the main reasons authors need to have blogs! It's a great way to let your readers know you've written another book.

- Tweet about it. Tweet your blog post and let all your Twitter followers know you've released a wonderful new book.

- Facebook. Elizabeth Craig posts a publication announcement on Facebook.

3. Amazon Author page. Don't forget to add your new publication to your list of books.

4. Goodreads. The wonderful folks at Goodreads will want to know about your latest book. (By the way, if you don't have an author account on Goodreads drop by their Author Program page and get one.)

5. LinkedIn. I don't use linked in, but if you do it's a good idea to update it.

6. Update bios. I haven't done this lately and probably should. Remember to keep your bios up to date, including the photo!

7. Tell your newsletter subscribers about your new book. Perhaps tell them a bit beforehand and offer them a promo code to either get free copies, sale copies or something cool like a mug or t-shirt.


1. Goodreads Giveaway. Elizabeth Craig writes, "Once I’ve got CreateSpace live, [I] order copies for a Goodreads giveaway." This probably deserves another blog post and, of course, a link on your website.

2. I've mentioned this, above, but you could let your newsletter subscribers know in advance about your book coming out and perhaps have some sort of a giveaway.

3. Many authors find blog tours productive. If you don't have time for a blog tour, you can always write a few guest posts.

4. Some authors use Amazon's Select program to promote their books. I've written about that here and here.

As Elizabeth Craig says, the number one thing you need to do when releasing a book is keep writing!
Best of luck, may all your book releases be smooth. Cheers!

Photo credit: "London: Tower bridge and the Thames" by Caroline under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, August 12

Amazon Sales Ranking Explained

Amazon Sales Ranking Explained

Theresa Ragan has written the most useful article I've read concerning what Amazon's sales ranking means: Sales Ranking Chart.

Theresa's entire article is well worth the read, but here is an excerpt:
Amazon Bestsellers Rank is the number you find beneath the Product Description. Every book on Amazon has an Amazon Bestsellers Rank. Click on any title and then scroll down until you see it.

March 2013 update: rankings have changed substantially in the past few months and I am making changes to reflect rankings and book sales as information is given to me.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 50,000 to 100,000 - selling close to 1 book a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10,000 to 50,000 - selling 3 to 15 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 5,500 to 10,000 - selling 15 to 30 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 3,000 to 5,500 - selling 30 to 50 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 500 to 3,000 - selling 50 to 200 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 350 to 500 - selling 200 to 300 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 100 to 350 - selling 300 to 500 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 35 to 100 - selling 500 to 1,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10 to 35 - selling 1,000 to 2,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 5 to 10 - selling 2,000 to 4,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 1 to 5 - selling 4,000+ books a day.
Once again, Theresa Ragan's article is: Sales Ranking Chart.

I came across Theresa's blog  because I've started reading The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing, a book she contributed to. So far it's been informative.

Photo credit: "verfremdeter lavendel" by fRandi-Shooters under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, May 6

How To Get Over A Destructive Critique

How To Get Over A Destructive Critique

Have you ever quit writing for a period of time? Perhaps for years?

I did.

I was a teenager and had written a story I was particularly proud of. I'm not sure why, after all these years the memory is vague, but I remember being pleased.

Then I made a mistake. As it turns out, a huge mistake.

I gave it to the wrong person to read and then I asked them for feedback.

It's not just that the feedback stung. It's not just that this person's list of things wrong with that story was as long as my arm, it's not just that they clearly felt resentful that I'd wasted their time. No, it was that my own judgement had been so far off, that I'd been proud of a story that was so clearly crap.

I hope you folks see the flaw in my thinking. I'd asked one person.

Yes, sure, that person had read most of what I wrote, but I failed to ask myself whether they could have had a bad day, whether they were going through something in their private life which might have made them a tad grumpy and irrational. Which, as it happens, they were.

But let's imagine that my critiquer had been having a great day and wasn't the least grumpy and gave the same devastating critique. In retrospect, what should I have done?

Ignore it.

Here's what I think: if anyone gives you a critique so scathing that, were you to take it seriously, you'd never want to put pen to paper again then ignore the critique! Do NOT take it seriously.

Even if you gave the story to 10 people and they all thought it was fit for nothing but lining bird cages that doesn't say anything bad about you as a writer. You liked the story, that's what counts. And, sure, there's probably something about the story that's personal to you that makes you love it, but that's not a bad thing. Save the story, cherish it. That one's for you.

Now move on and write the next story. Do it NOW! Right away.

I've only ridden a horse once, so I don't know from personal experience if it's true that after being thrown you have to get right back on, but I think if a person has a horrible experience with a story they have to write another one right away. But, please, be sure to give your new story to someone who isn't having a bad day and who seems genuinely happy to give you feedback.

Also, it can help to be clear about the kind of feedback you'd like as well as what you consider constructive as opposed to destructive criticism.

As long as you're writing you're getting better. Not writing never helped anyone become a better writer.

What to do if your story is given a devastating critique

1. Talk about it

Having friends is great, having friends who are writers is a must.

Embarking on a career as a writer without having a network of writing friends and acquaintances is like going on a deep sea voyage during hurricane season without lifeboats or a personal flotation devise.

2. Write about it

I think this is a great way to turn a bad experience around. Especially if you can sell your story. Turn your horrible experience into creative non-fiction and then send the piece out or indie publish it.

You might want to write a first draft and then let some time pass--weeks or even months--before you read it again. Make sure it's not a rant. (grin) Or, if it is, make sure it's a rant that would be entertaining to others.

Making money from the experience may not be the best revenge (Joe Konrath had a few tongue-in-cheek suggestions a while back) but it's still darn satisfying.

3. Learn from it

As I mentioned, often destructive criticism has nothing to do with the merits or demerits of your story and everything to do either with an agenda the poster has (some reviewers enjoy dumping on anything they perceive as indie), or the kind of day they're having.

Since you've read the critique the damage has been done so try to determine if there's anything you can learn from what the poster said.

Were they irritated because you'd used a mirror to describe a character? Were they perturbed that you didn't tell anyone your protagonist's name until well into the story? You don't have to change something just because a reader or three was upset about it, but sometimes the information can be useful.

Sometimes it makes one feel better to know why a critiquer had the negative reaction they did. "This story is a pile of crap" isn't helpful, "This story is a pile of crap because X" helps put the review in perspective.

4. Do NOT respond

Whatever you do, don't respond to the negative critique.

I once had a crank caller who I suspect was my ex-boyfriend. This person would call at all hours of the night, wake me up, then make gibbering noises into the phone.

At first I politely asked the caller to stop. Then I shouted. Then I used a loud whistle.

Nothing worked.

Then I stopped responding in any way and just hung up the phone and disconnected it from the wall for the rest of the night while I slept.

The calls stopped.

Responding to negative reviews just wastes your time--time that could be spent writing--and it can  make one look unprofessional.

5. Don't look

Don't look at your reviews.

(This point only applies to reviews on social media sites and retailers like

I know, I know, this is much easier said than done. We want to know what other folks thought of our work.

Actually, that's not true. We want to know that readers loved our books. Chances are most will but it's inevitable you'll get a bad review if you keep writing for any significant amount of time.

And you can't do anything about it. You can't respond to the reviewer (see point 4, above) so what's the point of looking?

If we write hoping for the approval of others we set readers up as our judges, which isn't how it should be. Yes, we want to share our stories with others--that's a big part of why I write--but I write primarily for myself.

If I think I've written a great story, if I had fun writing it, that's all I can ask. Of course I give it to my first reader, and I usually do another draft after that in response to their feedback (they seem to always catch something I missed) but, fundamentally, I write for myself.

6. Eat Chocolate

Chocolate is good. (grin)

Question: How do you get over a destructive critique?

Other articles you might like:

- Writer Beware: Penguin And Author Solutions
- Creating The Perfect Murderer
- How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

Photo credit: "Galapagos Sea Lion's Baby Portrait" by A.Davey under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, April 27

New Minimum Length For Ebooks On Amazon: 2500 Words

New Minimum Length For Ebooks On Amazon: 2500 Words

This is from Galleycat:
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is reportedly planning to remove Kindle books that have fewer than 2,500 words.

At the KBoards site for Kindle readers and writers, one author shared a letter from Amazon that explained: “Content that is less than 2,500 words is often disappointing to our customers and does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.”

... A few of writers responded to the post saying they were selling books that were under 2,500 words at Amazon, including a speculative fiction author and a fantasy writer.
You can read the complete article here: Amazon Cracks Down on Kindle Books Under 2,500 Words.

Here is the letter that Amazon sent out:

During a quality assurance review of your KDP catalog we have found that the following book(s) are extremely short and may create a poor reading experience and do not meet our content quality expectations:

Name of Short

In the best interest of Kindle customers, we remove titles from sale that may create a poor customer experience. Content that is less than 2,500 words is often disappointing to our customers and does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.

We ask that you fix the above book(s), as well as all of your catalog’s affected books, with additional content that is both unique and related to your book. Once you have ensured your book(s) would create a good customer experience, re-submit them for publishing within 5 business days. If your books have not been corrected by that time, they will be removed from sale in the Kindle Store. If the updates require more time, please unpublish your books.
(Amazon going after short shorts)
Question: What do you think? Should Amazon leave it up to authors to determine the minimum length of their stories or should there be a minimum length so readers don't pay, say, $2.99 for a 1000 word story?

Other articles you might like:

- Word Processing Apps For Writing On The Go
- Dean Wesley Smith, Harlan Ellison, The Internet, and Writing A Book In 10 Days
- Prada Writing Contest: Winner receives 5,000 Euros

Photo credit: "Untitled" by Mark Wooten under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, April 11

PubIt! Rebranded as NOOK Press

PubIt! Rebranded as NOOK Press

PubIt! Is Now NOOK Press

Update (April 12, 2013): This is from David Gaughran:
Barnes & Noble re-launched PubIt! this week as Nook Press, a largely superficial makeover which failed to address some fundamental problems, like restricting access to US self-publishers only, and introduced new howler: updating existing titles causes the loss of all ranking, reviews, and momentum.
That's a huge bug! To find out more: Self-Publishing Grabs Huge Market Share From Traditional Publishers.

My original article:

Barnes & Noble PubIt! Platform has been rebranded at NOOK Press.

Lit Reactor's Dean Fetzer writes that author numbers have gone up by 20%, and titles by 25%, from the previous quarter.

Wow! That's quite an increase.

But it's not just a change of name. Improvements include:
Ebook creation and distribution
Live chat support
A light mode for authors who want to try out the tools before committing to anything
Collaborative tools for workshopping
Sales dashboard (PubIt! Replaced by NOOK Press)
Barnes & Noble have also made a change in their royalty structure. They now give authors a 40% royalty on all books priced below $2.99. Amazon only offers 35%.

However Barnes & Noble lags behind Amazon in other ways, only offering 65% royalties on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Amazon offers 70%.

Many New Users Have Had Trouble Registering At NOOK Press

Dean Fetzer warns that new users of NOOK Press had some problems registering.

Question: Have you published through NOOK Press? What was your experience like?

 Other articles you might like:

- Every Buffy Needs A Xander: What Makes A Great Sidekick
- Writing Trilogies & Keeping Track Of Characters
- Help Raise Money For David Farland's Injured Son, Ben Wolverton, On Wed April 10

Photo link: "Bookstore" by ReneS under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, April 3

C.J. Lyons Discusses Whether Amazon KDP Select Is Worth The Price Of Exclusivity

C.J. Lyons Discusses Whether Amazon KDP Select Is Worth The Price Of Exclusivity

Amazon KDP Select

C.J. Lyons, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, describes the Amazon Select program:
In exchange for giving Amazon exclusive use of a piece of digital content for 90 days, you receive five days (any five you choose) to make your digital content available for free, and you also get paid for any of your e-books that are lent through the Amazon Prime library.
But is the price of exclusivity worth it?

Here is C.J.'s conclusion based on her experience in the program: For the two 90-day periods I was in Select, it was a virtual wash financially.

Should You Try Amazon KDP Select?

Although C.J. Lyons didn't make any money through Select, you might be able to. Here are three questions C.J. suggests you ask yourself before enrolling a book in the program:
1. Can I obtain the level of engagement I’m looking for via Select? For a standalone book with lagging sales or to bring new readers to an established series by giving away the first book, the answer might be yes.

2. Will enrolling in Select anger my readers? Know your audience and have a plan in place to gift them a version if they shop at a different venue.

3. Will this help me increase sales/make a bestseller list/grow my audience? Don’t try to do all three at once, but instead choose one goal for this particular title at this particular time.
C.J. Lyons concludes: "Keep your options open and don't be afraid to experiment."

Great advice!

All quotations are from C.J. Lyon's guest post on Jane Friedman's blog: Amazon KDP Select: Is It Worthwhile for Authors?

Have you ever used Amazon KDP Select? Would you recommend it?

Other articles you might like:

- Chuck Wendig On Straight Lines, Story Structure And Why Storytellers Need To Be Unconventional
- Short Story Structures: Several Ways Of Structuring Short Fiction
- How to record an audiobook at home

Photo credit: "I want to play a dijo el gato." by Rodrigo Basaure under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, March 28

Amazon Is Acquiring Goodreads

Amazon Is Acquiring Goodreads
Amazon is acquiring Goodreads.

This news shocked me. I hope the wonderful book culture that has developed over at Goodreads doesn't change.

Why Goodreads Wants To Join Amazon

Otis Chandler, Co-founder of Goodreads, says he is excited about the development. He writes:
1. With the reach and resources of Amazon, Goodreads can introduce more readers to our vibrant community of book lovers and create an even better experience for our members.

2. Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time. Now we're looking forward to bringing Goodreads to the most popular e-reader in the world, Kindle, and further reinventing what reading can be.

3. Amazon supports us continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Goodreads brand and with our unique culture. (Exciting News About Goodreads: We're Joining the Amazon Family!)
The folks over at The Verge point out that ...
Amazon already owns Shelfari, a social and information network described as a "community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers." Together with Goodreads (as well as its own lightweight / somewhat anemic social notes network) Amazon will soon own the major online recommendation and commentary engines for new and old books. (Amazon to acquire Goodreads, a social network for book recommendations)
I guess, also, Goodreads represents a wealth of data on readers preferences and reading habits.

This story is still developing so stay tuned for further news.

(Thanks to +Andy Goldman for mentioning Amazon's acquisition of Goodreads.)
Question: What do you think about this merger? Will it be good or bad for readers and writers?

Other articles you might like:

- Janice Hardy Teaches Writers How To Be Their Own Book Doctor
- How To Write Description
- Mark Coker, Founder Of Smashwords: Six Ways To Increase Book Sales

Photo credit: "The dawn of freedom - digital-art" by balt-arts under Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivs 2.0.

Thursday, March 21

Joe Konrath says KDP Select Made Him $100,000 In 6 Weeks

Joe Konrath says KDP Select Make Him $100,000 In 6 Weeks

Joe Konrath Made $100,000 On Amazon Over 6 Weeks Through Using Amazon KDP Select

That's right, Joe Konrath made $100,000 over at Amazon in the last 6 weeks and he says that's because he enrolled his books in Amazon's KDP Select program. Joe writes:
I just checked my 6 week KDP total, which updated yesterday, and I've made over $100,000.

More than ten grand of that is from Prime borrows (assuming $2 a borrow for March). That more than makes up for my loss of sales on other platforms.

But while the borrows are nice, it's my free ebooks that are helping me sell my backlist. My first Jack Daniels novel, Whiskey Sour, has been free for the last four days, and I've given away over 100,000 copies.

That's the most I've ever given away during a free promotion, and I'm really curious to see how high I bounce back onto the paid bestseller lists tonight. The second in the series, Bloody Mary, has earned me over $8k this month, many of those sales in the last four days because of Whiskey Sour being free.

So I gotta say I've been extremely happy about going all-in with KDPS, even though I did it with some reservations.

Why The Change Of Heart?

That's quite the about-face. Last year Joe Konrath warned indie authors not to enroll their books in programs that demanded exclusivity. In Joe's July 2, 2012 post he writes:
A lot of people ask me my opinion about KDP Select, and I made it known that I have opted all of my titles out of it. I dislike Amazon's desire for exclusivity, because it limits my readership. (Exclusivity and Free)
Why was Joe against enrolling his books in KDP Select? Joe explains his reasoning:
So how effective is exclusivity as a sales tool for Amazon? I've had people email me who bought a Kindle just to read Shaken. But how many more of my fans are annoyed because they own a different ereader that doesn't allow for a one-click purchase of Shaken? How many sales are lost?

My guess is: a lot. Shaken and Stirred have done well, but Blake and I have done better on self-pubbed projects.

For me to be exclusive with a retailer, I have to know the sales I'm going to lose will be made up for with increased sales on the exclusive platform. Long term, that's risky. After the big initial sales push, sales will even out, and years from now the lost sales will really rack up. (Exclusivity and Free)
So, what's changed?

Joe is making a heap-load of money by keeping his books enrolled in Amazon Select. He writes:
As new data comes in, I adjust my opinions. I'm currently making $2400 a day on Amazon. About 10% of that money is coming from borrows. I have years of data from the other platforms, but I've never earned $240 a day from them, even on all of them combined.

Right now, KDP Select is giving me the opportunity to make more money, and I'm taking that opportunity.
Wow! $2,400 a day. I did the math and that means he's making $876,000 a year--just shy of a million dollars!--from his Amazon sales. Any way you look at it that's a lot of money. It's hard to believe that he'd be doing better, even in the long term, if he kept his books with other retailers. What do you think?
Has Joe Konrath's experience with Amazon KDP Select changed your opinion of the program? Would you use it? Have you ever used it?

(Except where noted, all quotations are from Joe Konrath's article Exclusivity.)

Other articles you might like:

- Book Cover Design: Free Programs For Choosing A Color Palette (Adobe Kuler & Color Scheme Designer)
- Story Structure
- Hugh Howey's 3 Rules For Writing

Photo credit: "the thrills:one horse town" by visualpanic under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, March 4

Moby Dick And Amazon One Star Reviews

Moby Dick And Amazon One Star Reviews

What would I do without The Passive Voice Blog? I shudder to think! Passive Guy (aka David P. Vandagriff) tweets the best, most interesting stories.

Stories such as ...

Did you know Moby Dick--a treasure of world literature--has garnered many one star reviews on Amazon?

The following is from bibliokept: Selections From One-Star Amazon Reviews of Melville's Moby-Dick, thanks to Passive Guy for the link. (By the way, I found the original reviews on and expanded the quotations used for the article.)

One Star Reviews Of Herman Melville's Moby Dick

Title: Incredible story. What a lousy writer. Name: A Customer
4 of 22 people found the following review helpful
When I think of anyone being FORCED to read this novel (poor students, whereever you are) I want to fall on a harpoon. Ray Bradbury, who wrote the screenplay for this novel, (a la Gregory Peck) couldn't even finish the damn thing! He too just read bits of it ...  He recognized it's inner greatness, its actual grandeur absolutely mired in prose that makes you want to gnaw your foot off...
Title: Moby Dick: a tiresome book, Name: A Customer
1 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Moby Dick, was a horrible waiste of time. Along with its wordy paragraphs, it also talked about uninteresting issues. It is also to long, and you don't hear of them encountering the whale until the end of the book. Heres a good idea, after you read this book, go buy a vile of arsenic, drink it and you will be much happier. The only monster was the book itself. It leaves you with that, "I hate myself" feeling you get after accidentally destroying a major city with a hydrogen bomb or something, anyways, do not read it!
Title: Have trouble getting to sleep at night? Get this! 
Name: A Customer
9 of 38 people found the following review helpful  
[I]f your looking for a good book, dont read this, you will only become agitated. Such was the case with me. I am quite the fan of stories which involve man eating sea creatures, such as Jaws. Moby Dick is nothing compared to such classics, I fear.

In fact, it is boring with a capital B. What is the whales motivation? You dont know. There is no suspense, and I find the idea of people hunting whales offensive. 
Title:A tired old tale - Save the damn whales already!!!,
Name: Gracie Lou Freebush
2 of 21 people found the following review helpful  
This book is HORRIBLE! Classic, my eye! I would love to know what's so great about this book. I have seen better writing in a Hallmark card! Boring! Give me a good ole copy of Elvis and Me! A true story that really tugs at your heart strings! I sleep with that one under my pillow!

Ray Bradbury's Comments On Moby Dick

Since Moby Dick is undeniably a classic of world literature, these are deeply satisfying reviews for any author who has gotten a one star review on Amazon! Though, I should note, what the anonymous commenter says about Ray Bradbury seems to be true, though Mr. Bradbury's remark may have been due more to pique than honesty. The following is from the Wikipedia on the 1956 film Ray Bradbury collaborated on.
During a meeting to discuss the screenplay, Ray Bradbury informed John Huston that regarding Melville's novel, he had "never been able to read the damned thing". According to the biography The Bradbury Chronicles, there was much tension and anger between the two men during the making of the film, allegedly due to Huston's bullying attitude and attempts to tell Bradbury how to do his job, despite Bradbury being an accomplished writer. (Moby Dick (1956 film))

What Critics Initially Thought Of Moby Dick: Not Much

Initially Moby Dick had a rocky reception in America. It was not love at first sight. Although Melville considered Moby Dick his magnum opus the work received scathing reviews when it was first published.
He [Melville] considered Moby-Dick to be his magnum opus, but he was shocked and bewildered at the scathing reviews it received. Instead of bringing him the literary acclaim which he sought, this masterwork started a slide toward literary obscurity in his lifetime. This was partially because the book was first published in England, and the American literary establishment took note of what the English critics said, especially when these critics were attached to the more prestigious journals. Many critics praised it for its unique style, interesting characters, and poetic language, but others agreed with a critic with the highly regarded London Athenaeum, who described it as:
"[A]n ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed."
One problem was that publisher Peter Bentley botched the English edition, most significantly in omitting the epilogue. For this reason, many of the critics faulted the book, what little they could grasp of it, on purely formal grounds, e.g., how the tale could have been told if no one survived to tell it. The generally bad reviews from across the ocean made American readers skittish about picking up the tome. (Moby-Dick)
I wanted, for the sake of balance, to include 5 Star reviews of a horrible book but it seems easier to agree on what constitutes great literature than what constitutes drivel.

Any author who has received a one star review on Amazon--and I would hazard to say that practically all published authors have--take heart! You're in excellent company.

Have you ever thrown a book across the room on frustration? What book was the worst book you've ever read? What was the thing you disliked most about it?

Other articles you might like:

- The Writer's Journey: Writer As Hero
- Hugo Gernsback And The Future That Might Have Been
- Writing And The Monomyth, Part Two

Photo credit: "A Storm of Swords" by flossyflotsam under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, February 25

Joe Konrath Talks About How To Sell Books On Amazon

Joe Konrath has been trying numerous strategies to increase his sales--including reducing the price for Whiskey Sour, the first book in his Jack Daniel's series, to 99 cents. He also made Shot of Tequila free until the 25th.

Here are his results, so far:

Free Books Sell Books

Joe has found that free books sell books. He writes:

A few days ago, when I had three freebies, I was selling 1000 ebooks a day. Since coming off the freebie period, sales have slowed to 600 a day. I find that interesting, considering I'm now selling three more titles. (Ann Voss Peterson's Big Regret)
So making three of his books free increased his other book sales during the sale period. That's interesting. Several other authors have said the same thing.

An Update From Melinda DuChamp

Late last year I blogged about Melinda's foray into erotic writing and her initial success (she made $15,000 in 20 days). Since then I've often wondered how well her books have been doing. Joe Konrath asked her for an update and Melinda was happy to oblige. Joe writes:
Melinda: ". . . The two ebooks have made me over $65k in seven months. I'm working on a third, then I'm going to follow your lead and make a trilogy boxed set and a paper version via Createspace. Considering how quickly I wrote these books, this is the highest paid I've ever been as a writer per hour, even with traditional paper sales in the millions under my other names."

Is Self-Publishing More Lucrative Than Writing For Harlequin? Anne Voss Says: Heck Ya!

Readers of Joe's Konrath's blog will remember Ann Voss Peterson's post, Harlequin Fail, where she talked about her decision to stop writing for Harlequin and start writing and publishing for herself. Here's what she has to say about her decision:
[A]fter nine months, do I regret my decision?

Let me share some numbers:

Last May 8 through 12 using KDP Select, I gave away 75,420 copies of Pushed Too Far.

In May and June, I sold 11,564 copies, netting me $22,316.30.

I also had 874 borrows during this time for another $1902.30.

So in a bit over six weeks, Pushed Too Far earned $24,218.60 and was downloaded onto 87,858 e-readers. My highest earning Harlequin Intrigue earned me $21,942.16 in the last twelve years.

Verdict: In less than two months, Pushed Too Far became my highest earning book. EVER.

As Joe has said many times, sales ebb and flow, and PTF has been no different. But for May through December of 2012, this one book (Pushed Too Far) has had a grand total of 15,257 (paid) sales and borrows, netting me around $31,179.03.

Of course there's no guarantee. I've known authors who have done better. I've known authors who've done worse. But the question is, do I regret my decision to self-publish?

Are you kidding?

I regret I didn't do it sooner.
Well, there you have it! If you're writing for Harlequin, think about writing and publishing a book yourself and see how it goes. You might do better on your own.

What is the best way you've found to market your books?

Other articles you might like:

- Exposing The Bestseller: Money Can Buy Fame
- The Importance Of Finding Your Own Voice
- Write A Novel In A Year, Chuck Wendig's Plan: The Big 350

Photo credit: "182/365 Sparkle (+2)" by martinak15 under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, December 30

How To Sell Books Without Using Amazon KDP Select

How To Sell Books Without Amazon KDP Select

This is a continuation of yesterdays post, Edward Robinson And How To Sell Books Using Amazon KDP Select, but today we're going to talk about how to sell books either without using Select or by using a hybrid approach.

2. Selling Books Without Select

a. The power of permafree

There are many ways to use the permafree strategy (see: Writers: How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales).

- Make the first book of a series permanently free

- Write a book intending to make it permanently free

For instance, if you have a few blog posts you're especially proud of, compile them into a book and make it permanently free. I think you'd be guaranteed to get more traffic to your blog.

- Make one of your short stories or novellas permanently free

This should be one that you feel showcases your ability. Yes you'll lose some potential revenue but you could also think of it as passive marketing. After you publish the book you can and then completely ignore it and it does it's work without you having to tweet or blog or do absolutely anything! That's attractive to all writers who feel their most valuable asset is their time.

b. How to make a book permafree

This part is easy. Publish it through any and all online bookstores you can but make sure that at least one of them will allow you to sell the book for free. (I know Smashwords will let you do this.) The other bookstores will price-match and, eventually, make your book free as well.

I want to mention that I don't know how Amazon, or any other online retailer, feels about this.

3. Going Hybrid

a. Grow an audience for your series using select then pull it out of the program and publish it as widely as you can

Ed suggests starting your first couple of books in Select then transition out once you have 3 or more books in the series.

After you've written 3 books take them out of Select and, as a group, place them in all the online bookstores. Readers often want to know an author isn't going to promise the next book in the series then get busy with another writing project and never deliver.

Also, bookstores such as Barnes and Noble often promote new books. Ed writes:
... if you've got a squad of books, they help each other out. They pull each other up when one of them stumbles. BN, for instance, has a new releases list that goes back 90 days. You have a much better chance of climbing high up this list if you fire three titles at it all at once--giving browsers three chances to find your series--rather than hitting it with a single book at a time. There are cases in which books enter a state of positive reinforcement where they haul each other faster and faster down the track.
Great advice.

4. Experiment: Find What's Right For You

In the beginning I said we'd look at Ed's ways to sell your books without you doing a lot of promotion. This way involves trying a bit of everything, including promotion. He writes:
... when you move your books out of Amazon [Select], advertise or promote your books in some way. If you know a site that advertises to Nook users, book an ad for soon after your books go live on BN .... Do something. Anything at all to get some initial sales and, with any luck, provoke your books into continuing to sell.
Ed writes that in October he was dissatisfied with the sales of Breakers and its sequel Meltdown (both terrific books by the way). Here's what he did:

- A guest post on his friend's popular blog.
- Took out an ad.
Reduced the price of both books to 99 cents.

Ed kept the books at 99 cents for 5 days and, in that time, sold hundreds of copies. After the 5 days he raised the price of Breakers to $2.99 and Meltdown to $3.99. That was 6 weeks ago. They continue to sell at a rate of about 3 per day which works out to around $200 a month. Not bad at all!

All Things In Moderation

Perhaps the best strategy is to move your older books, books that have begun to build an audience, out of Select and distribute them  to as many online bookstores as possible. Put a new book, or one that is under-preforming, in Select to see if that will help.

As Ed says, Select is a tool that a writer can use. It's up to you.

Summing Up

Experiment and find out what's best for you. As Ed says, other folks can say whatever they like, but their experiences aren't your experiences. This is still the wild west of writing and publishing so all anyone can do is pass along what has worked for them.

No one knows what will work for you. You don't even know what will work for you, not unless you experiment.

As Dean Wesley Smith says, there's only one way to kill a career: Stop writing.

I know it's scary. I've been setting my writing and publishing goals for 2013 and I've felt an iron weight in my stomach, my heart starts to beat quicker when I think about putting my work out there. What if no one likes it?

These days I don't need a horror story to keep me up at night!

But that's all part of being a writer, and as I've mentioned to others, you don't have to publish under your own name. If you're nervous, create a pen name, put your work in a program like Select and see if it sells. If so, great! If not ... well, that's good to know. That's great feedback.

No matter how your work is received, if you follow Heinlein's rules then you're a professional writer and that's a pretty terrific thing to be.

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What is your strategy for selling your books? Where do you tend to sell the most books (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, etc)?

Other articles you might like:

- How To Earn A Living As A Self-Published Writer
- Writers: How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales
- Amazon's KDP Select: The Best Long-Term Strategy?

Photo credit: "Winterlight" by Pink Sherbet Photography under Creative Commons Attribute 2.0.