“Degrees of Separation” up on Abyss and Apex

My short story “Degrees of Separation” was published on Abyss & Apex today. You can read it here:

http://www.abyssapexzine.com/2015/06/degrees-of-separation/

It is one of the stories in my series “Tales from Far Beyond North” set in fictional Rolynka, Alaska. I’ve published three of the short stories so far for ebook: “The Leaving Sweater,” “In the Middle of Nowhere With Company” and “Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife”:

Enjoy!

Via BookBub: “What Kind of Cover Design Sells More Books In Your Genre?”

Since a lot of my readers are indie authors who are somehow involved in their own cover design, I wanted to share this article from BookBub:

http://insights.bookbub.com/what-kind-of-cover-design-sells-more-books-in-your-genre/

Unfortunately, no science fiction or fantasy, but I still think it’s always helpful to study effective book covers. I recommend taking a look. :) And while you’re at it, this post on testing covers is quite interesting too — I think I’m going to have to try out some of their suggestions:

http://insights.bookbub.com/how-to-easily-test-your-book-cover-design-to-sell/

A Viking collaboration visit: Judson Roberts in Oregon

One of the advantages of my recent trip to Oregon and Washington was that I was finally able to meet fellow writer and collaborator Judson Roberts in person. It so happens that he lives less than an hours’ drive away from my father, so we went to his house one evening for dinner.


Me, Jud, and his wife, Jeanette

They fed us venison and showed us around their farm, where we met the energetic dog and the berserk duck (r.i.p). And it’s funny how meeting in person gives the whole project a much more personal feeling. Virtual isn’t everything.

Jud and I know each other from the Codex Workshop, and a while back, he persuaded me to translate his book Viking Warrior into German — as a collaborator. Part of the deal is that when he publishes the German books, I am listed with him as author. I get a lower advance for the translations, but a higher percentage of the royalties.

Ruth Nestvold, Judson Roberts

Since my name is also on these books (or rather, on the first one until now, Ein Krieger der Wikinger), it’s especially important to me that the translation is as good as I can make it. That in turn, however, slows down the translation process. I find myself doing a lot of research into Viking terms and historical figures of the period and have acquired several books on the subject. :)

Right now, I am not quite halfway through the second book, Dragons From the Sea / Drachen aus dem Meer. We have a lot of visits from the States scheduled for the summer, but I’m still hoping to get the translation done by October. Then my husband will still have to proofread it. If he and I can stay on schedule, the next book can hopefully be published in December this year.


I wonder what Chris REALLY thinks about all that proofreading

The Great Amazon Hysteria… Part 31

Ruth Nestvold:

There has been a lot silliness being spread about Amazon’s new payout scheme for KDP Select authors. This correction needs to be shared far and wide!

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

ChickenLittleAre you scared yet? Because you should be scared. Something really bad is about to happen. It affects all of us.

Our livelihoods are at risk. The ability to support our families. It’s just over the horizon. It could happen any minute. It’s coming for all of us!

WE ARE DOOOOOOOOOMED.

Ahem.

I’ve been around for long enough to know that authors can be a skittish bunch. Probably something to do with our over-active imaginations, with an assist from that old writers’ favorite: the whiskey brunch.

More seriously, we are going through a period of unprecedented change so it’s perfectly normal for people to be a little fearful. I think the disruption we are all experiencing is greater than that which has been faced by similar industries. In fact, I think the transition from print book to e-book is akin to going straight from vinyl to MP3, with all that…

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Second quarter accounting, and a glass coffin for #wippet Wednesday

My final update for this quarter will be mercifully brief: I pretty much failed on all fronts. I did not keep up on my word counts, either writing or translation. I did not wrap up my indie author series, although I am now at a word count above what I was originally shooting for. I did not finish Shards of Glass or revise my short story “Pool of Souls” to start sending it out.

On the other hand, I did submit 10 short stories to traditional markets this round, the most I have managed in one quarter in years. Perhaps I can make it the basis of a new, better submission practice (not in the Shades of Grey sense …)

I also wrote the report for the most recent Villa Diodati workshop. And while my list of unfinished publishing goals remains much too long, I am getting nearer to a collection of my previously published short stories set in Oregon, where I grew up. The Scrivener file is nearly good to go, and here is the cover I put together the other day:

oregon elsewise

The photo was taken on the trip home in April, a big part of the reason I’m so far behind on all my goals. Do let me know what you think of the cover!

My update thankfully out of the way, we can move on to WIPpet Wednesday! That’s another thing I’ve been very bad about this round, so far behind on everything as I’ve been. Two weeks ago, I left you in Facets of Glass with Gaetano lying to the Dowager Princess. Today I give you 6 paragraphs from where we left off, 2+4 for the day of the month — and a brief reprieve for our hero:

She waved one graceful hand in the air. “It is no matter. You did your best. I have another task for you now. Minerva sleeps as if dead, showing no signs of waking, although she still breathes. The prince would like a glass coffin made for his sister-in-law, in which all can see her until that time she should wake.”
What a strangely morbid thing to do. Gaetano doubted if the prince had anything to do with this particular plan — if nothing else, he probably lacked the creativity to come up with such an idea.
“As the glassmakers of Murano specialize in fine, delicate glass, we have decided to commission a glassworks shop in Bohemia with the job,” the dowager princess continued. “They are much better in creating the hardier glass necessary. I have heard that many of their famous glassmakers are gem cutters as well as glass cutters.”
Gaetano nodded dutifully. “As you say, Your Grace.”
“Once we have worked out the details, we would like you to travel to Bohemia to an appropriate glassmaker there.”
“Alone, Your Grace? Or with a detail of Foscari House Guards?”

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Starting out as an indie author: Rolling with the changes

Starting Out as an Indie Author

Last week, I posted about eBook pricing in the “Starting out as an indie author” series. Among other things, I mentioned a strategy often used by erotica authors: publishing short stories with KDP Select, charging $2.99 per story, and relying on borrows through Kindle Unlimited to make money.

Shortly after I had finished that blog post and published it, I received an email from Kindle Direct Publishing announcing new Amazon payment per borrow calculations — a payment scheme that will make the above-mentioned strategy for erotica authors obsolete. Here the pertinent passage from the email in question:

As with our current approach, we’ll continue to offer a global fund for each month. Under this new model, the amount an author earns will be determined by their share of total pages read rather than their share of total qualified borrows. Here are a few examples illustrating how the fund will be paid out. For simplicity, assume the fund is $10M and that 100,000,000 total pages were read in the month:

• The author of a 100 page book which was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

• The author of a 200 page book which was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

• The author of a 200 page book which was borrowed 100 times but only read half way through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

Right now, no one knows what Amazon’s per page price will end up being, but with the monthly pot being divvied up by pages rather than borrows, it is safe to assume that 20 page erotica short stories are going to end up with significantly less than $1.40 per borrow, the payout in previous months.

What that means is, the authors who were relying on the above business model to make money are going to have to react to the changes and come up with new strategies, such as pulling their stories from KDP Select and going wide, or bundling their short stories to make longer works and take advantage of page count, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this — I actually think the new payment structure for borrows will be much more fair than the previous model.

But there’s a lesson to be learned from this that’s important to all indie authors, whether they write erotica or not: the “rules” of self-publishing are constantly changing, and we have to learn to adapt as we go.

An example: I pulled my monster epic fantasy novels, Yseult and Shadow of Stone, from KDP Select some time ago, because I didn’t feel like “giving them away” for the minimal amounts made by a borrow. But if Amazon is now paying per page read, it makes KDP Select much more interesting for a 200,000 word novel. So I went back and counted my sales on all other venues for the last year and a half, and it comes to a little over 60, less than half of which are for Yseult and Shadow of Stone.

As a result, I will be reacting to the current changes by pulling my Pendragon novels from other retailers at the end of the month and putting them back in Select for at least a while to test the waters. On Kboards, people are speculating that the per page payment for borrows could be higher in the beginning, in order to entice people with longer books back to the fold. If that’s true, it would be nice to be able to take advantage of it.

I don’t know yet if this is actually going to be a change that will be good for me, but it’s worth a shot. I’ve gotten to the point now in my indie career where I’ve realized everything is in flux, and I have to learn to roll with it.

It wasn’t always that way. When I decided to go indie with the English original of Yseult, after I had gotten the rights back from Random House Germany where the book had been published in translation, I got incredibly lucky. Amazon had just introduced KDP Select, and I decided to go with it, since I still needed time to learn how to publish with other retailers. In order to get some initial traction, I did a free run shortly after publication, once I’d gotten the first couple of reviews. Yseult was picked up by Pixel of Ink, which back then was what BookBub is now, and it was downloaded almost 10,000 times — a lot in early 2012.

That put my book in several bestseller categories and made it a hot new release. As a result, in my first months as an indie author, I was easily selling hundreds of books a month. I had plenty of previously published short stories, and I bundled them in collections, which I regularly offered free while I worked to get Shadow of Stone ready for publication. For that first year, with staggered free runs and no paid advertising, I was able to continuously increase sales.

Then Amazon changed their algorithms. A book that was downloaded for free no longer counted as much towards “bestseller” status and thus was not as effective in making me and my books visible. The strategy that I’d been using to sell my books was no longer working the way it had been, ever since I first started self-publishing.

I started using paid advertising. I managed to get a couple of BookBub ads. I had a couple of amazing months as a result — but there was no longer any lasting effect, as far as I could see, at least not compared to those first months.

A couple of things happened. Short story collections no longer helped in getting eyes on my novels, and I realized I had to get more longer works out.

And I got frustrated. My sure-fire strategy had turned into a limping loss leader. So I basically gave up, which led to my “year of marketing dangerously,” which I’ve mentioned before.

The moral of this little story is: if you ever have any success, put it in the bank, because you will need it when success leaves you again. (James Lee Burke once said something along those lines, but I can’t find the exact quote, so I have to paraphrase.)

The other moral is: try to keep abreast of changes in the market and adapt accordingly. What worked all through 2012 no longer works mid 2015. While some will say – DUH – we are only talking a little more than two years here, not a lot in the big scheme of things.

I have no idea if this brave new world will ever settle down — but if you want a comfortable life, you shouldn’t be a writer in the first place. :) That basic fact has not changed with the self-publishing revolution, despite the few exceptions. The responsibility is ours now, more than it has been in a long time.

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Ebook Pricing

Once you’ve written your book, had it beta-read, edited, proof-read, what have you; once you’ve got a great, eye-catching cover and gripping book description; once you’ve formatted the interior (or had someone do it for you) so that your book looks professional on an eReader; after all that, then you are ready to publish.

Only: what price are you going to charge for your book?

There are many philosophies out there regarding eBook pricing, from those who are offended by the idea of pricing their book for less than a Grande Caffe Latte, to those who who advocate “price pulsing” (raising and lowering prices on a regular basis in response to sales, or lack of same), those who swear by 99c to reach as many readers as possible, or those who set a price without much thought and never touch it again.

What it comes down to is: what is going to make you as an author the most money and get you the most readers?

Of course, like all things, it’s not quite as simple as that. There are a number of things to take into consideration when pricing your eBook. Here are some of the questions to ask yourself when determining the prices for your eBooks:

– What royalties will the price point earn you per book?
– How long is it?
– What genre is it in?
– Do you already have a fan base?
– What are you personally comfortable with price-wise?

You may have noticed that I didn’t include the question, “What prices are readers paying?” The variables for that are so huge, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to try and base your pricing decisions on that. There have been several surveys done on what readers are willing to pay, such as that by the Fussy Librarian.

It is interesting data, and certainly worth taking into consideration. But you and I are never going to earn anything off of the 9.4% of readers who only download free books (and those are only the 9.4% who admit it.)

Ebook Royalties

One of the first things to take into consideration when pricing your book is: What percentage are you as an author going to earn of the cover price? (As an indie author, you are the publisher and what you earn from your books are not royalties, strictly speaking, but for the sake of simplicity, I will use it as an umbrella term for the percentage the author earns from a sale.) Here is a breakdown according to eBook retailer:

Ebook Royalties

Most retailers require that you set the price the same with them as with all other stores where you sell the eBook. From this table, it’s fairly obvious that the best price range for your book is between $2.99 and $9.99. But the percentage the author earns is only part of the picture. Although the royalties are lower, many authors swear by the 99c prince point, saying that the volume makes up for the lower royalties. I have had little success at 99c, except for short-term promotions, but as with all things, YMMV.

Length

An eBook does not have the same weight and heft as a physical book, so that readers do not have the same immediate signs communicating length. I personally suspect that this is one of the main reasons I see a certain reluctance among the eBook audience to pay more for longer books. While this might feel unfair to the author, to the reader, an eBook is an eBook is an eBook — at least in my experience.

As a result, I have ended up pricing most of my books at $2.99 — from collections of short stories, to novellas, to novels of over 100,000 words. Only for my “doorstoppers” of nearly 200,000 words each, Yseult and Shadow of Stone, do I charge more than $2.99.

While many readers are unwilling to plunk down much more for twice as many+ words in digital format, at the same time, it is still going to be hard to try and get 70% royalties from your readers for short fiction — with certain exceptions, which brings me to the next point, “Genre.”

Genre

When deciding how to price your eBooks, I highly recommend conducting some research to see what other eBooks in the same genre are selling for. I write primarily in science fiction and fantasy, and I am only one author among many, and my experience is limited by what I write. In other genres, readers are willing to pay very different prices.

Take for example erotica. In erotica, a common practice is to charge $2.99 for short stories, and rely on borrows through Kindle Unlimited to actually make money. Readers put up with this because it’s smut, and they don’t care what the price is because they’re getting their reads for “free.”

In most other genres, if you charge more than 99c for a short story, you will either get 0 sales or be vilified in reviews — unless, of course, you already have a fan base that will snap up everything you write.

Another example: there are a number of New Adult, Romance and Paranormal writers who are releasing short episodes of their books in serial for $2.99 each, with the first episode free. So if you have the right product and can reach the right audience, you will also be able to demand very different prices than what I have described here.

What price are you comfortable with?

While some authors just starting out may think $2.99 for a full-length novel is equivalent to giving their work away, let me put it in perspective briefly. My novel Yseult was originally published in translation with Random House Germany as Flamme und Harfe. It was over 700 pages long and sold in hardcover for €19.95. And I was making less per book on that €19.95 hardcover than I am making now on the eBook at $3.99.

On the other hand, I no longer care to give away my Big Fat Fantasies for free in the hopes of seeing more sales at some future date. That may be a decision that is costing me sales in the long run and that I will eventually have to revise, but for now I am trying to find other ways of getting eyeballs on my big books.

Conclusion

For the most part, I think it is safe to say that readers expect eBook prices to be lower than for a standard paperback. And for an unknown author with no fan base, the lower the price, the better. If you are considering publishing a first book and have no other works ready for publication, it might be wise to wait until you have a couple more books almost ready to go. Having one book free to entice readers to try out your work can be a powerful marketing tool.

But keep in mind, all I can give you in these posts on “starting out as an indie author” are tips based on my own experience. Before you decide on prices for your eBooks, do more research, especially in your genre. And good luck!

Further reading:

https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/the-great-e-book-pricing-question/

A disappointing update and a return to the Dowager Princess

Even before the trip the the States, my desktop computer (aka my workhorse) was starting to act funky. It wasn’t any better when we got back. So last week, I finally gave in and ordered a new machine.

While I get a big kick out of new hardware, setting up a new computer with all my files and all my programs is a lot of work. And as far as progress is concerned, I’m back to where I was when we returned from the trip: barely making progress on the translation, and only getting around to writing a couple of times a week.

But I am writing this post on the new computer, so there is hope. I keep discovering programs I didn’t install yet, or peripherals that aren’t working for some reason (today it was the speakers, yesterday it was the printers), but those kinds of distractions should crop up less and less the longer I’m using this machine. Cross your fingers for me that next week I’ll have more to report than 7 pages of translation and 3 pages of fiction!

On to WIPpet Wednesday. Two weeks ago (before the new machine arrived …), we left Gaetano in Murano where he had just pricked his finger on the stem of the glass apple, with some interesting consequences. In this scene from Facets of Glass, he is reporting back to the Dowager Princess. I give you 10 short paragraphs for the 10th day of the month:

Gaetano gazed just past the top of Princess Zilia’s head and out of the high arched windows of her retiring room, his back straight, his hands clasped behind his back. He hoped he still looked like the devoted Foscari house guard the Dowager Princess took him for.
“I am sorry to say that I was unable to find the apple, Your Grace,” he lied.
He detected the faintest purse of her lips. “Did you look everywhere?”
“I hope Your Grace will forgive me, but I had no opportunity to look everywhere. The prince’s sister-in-law has been removed to a day bed in a small room off of the audience chamber where she fainted.”
“And where she must have lost the glass apple,” Princess Zilia murmured.
Gaetano nodded. “There was a constant stream of guests in and out of the room, coming to pay their respects to the signorina. I could only examine what was in plain sight. Please forgive my honesty, Your Grace, but I fear it would have looked suspicious if I had gotten on my knees and started crawling around on the floor.”
That got an unwilling smile out of her. “And I fear you are right, Gaetano.”
He resisted the impulse to heave a sigh of relief. “There is also the possibility that the apple was retrieved by servants cleaning the room, or broke when Signorina Dragoni fell.”
“But then you would have heard the breaking glass, would you not?”
“True. I had not considered that, Your Grace.” He hadn’t heard the leaves and stem break off, but that might well have been more of a tinkling than a crash. And by that time, he would have already been kneeling next to Minerva, calling for help.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Cthulhu and Globosome

A couple of things today that I just have to share. We had the granddaughters overnight the other day, and in the morning, the five-year-old was running around the house yelling, “Cthulhu! Cthulhu! Cthulhu!” I realize that it is indicative of a rather warped sense of priorities, but it makes me happy and gives me the feeling that we’re doing something right.

Of course, it’s really all Sylvia Spruck Wrigley’s fault and the crocheted Cthulhu she gave me at the last Villa Diodati workshop …

The other thing I wanted to spontaneously share is this stunning video, produced just down the road aways from me. :)

The Rise and Fall of Globosome from Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg on Vimeo.

Enjoy!

Digging Deeper Into Author Earnings

Ruth Nestvold:

An interesting analysis of the influential Author Earnings reports by the very savvy Phoenix Sullivan.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

authorearnings

The Author Earnings team are attempting to do something which hasn’t been done before, and their work can’t be refined and improved unless there is some intelligent criticism of their approach and findings.

Today I’ve invited Phoenix Sullivan to blog on the topic. I’ve known Phoenix for a few years now, and if there’s a smarter person in publishing, I haven’t heard of them.

KBoards regulars will already know that Phoenix understands the inner workings of the Kindle Store better than anyone outside Amazon. And I can personally vouch for her expertise: she was the biggest influence on (and help with) Let’s Get Visible and also the marketing brains behind a box set I was in, which did very well indeed.

Phoenix offered to take the raw data from Author Earnings, drill down and analyse it, and then see if her conclusions differed from theirs, and whether there were any…

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