Tag Archives: self-publishing

Starting Out as an Indie Author published! This month only 99c

Starting Out as an Indie Author EBook

Starting Out as an Indie Author has finally been published as an eBook! It took me longer than I expected, but then, what doesn’t, right? 🙂 It’s available now at most major retailers:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Apple
Google Play

You can find other retailers on Books2read: books2read.com/u/4jKvPY

For the month of March, I’m offering a special introductory price of only 99c to get the ball rolling. I can’t reduce the price on Kobo yet, however, because I signed up for a promo where the minimum price must be at least 2.99. Writing this blog post, I also noticed that the sale price has not gone through everywhere. Soon, I promise!

Here’s the book description and table of contents:

Starting Out as an Indie Author
A Beginner’s Guide to Preparing, Publishing and Marketing Your EBooks

Have you written your first book and are considering self-publishing? Perhaps you have started looking into the possibility and are feeling overwhelmed by all the options, all the things you need to do and learn in order to become an indie author? Or maybe you aren’t even sure yet whether self-publishing is for you or not, and you want to find out more of what is involved before you decide.

STARTING OUT AS AN INDIE AUTHOR was written for beginning self-publishers and covers the basics on where to sell your books, formatting for eBook and print, and developing marketing strategies. It includes a number of step-by-step instructions for everything from cover design, to setting up eBooks for various distributors, to creating ads with Facebook and Amazon Marketing Services. In addition, there is advice on any number of topics: eBook pricing, using distributors, how much to spend on self-publishing, and writing blurbs for your books.

With this sanity-saving book as a guide, you will have a much better grasp on what is involved in self-publishing and will be able to approach the task realistically and with eyes wide open.

Including an interview with Kate Sparkes, author of the bestselling Bound series!

Contents:
Part I: Is Self-Publishing for You?
Chapter 1: Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing
Chapter 2: Potential Self-Publishing Mudholes
Chapter 3: The Costs of Publishing as an Indie Author

Part II: Getting Ready to Publish
Chapter 4: Why Editing is Important – and Who can Probably Skip the Expense After All.
Chapter 5: Preparing Your Manuscript for eBook Retailers
Chapter 6: Cover Options for Indie Authors
Chapter 7: Writing Blurbs and Descriptions for your Books
Chapter 8: Amazon Delivery Fees and Reducing the File Size of Your EBook

Part III: Publishing Your Book
Chapter 9: EBook Pricing
Chapter 10: To KDP Select or not to KDP Select
Chapter 11: Using Distributors for Getting into Online Bookstores
Chapter 12: The Importance of Keywords
Chapter 13: Formatting the Interior of your Book for Print
Chapter 14: Creating a Wraparound Cover for your Print Book

Part IV: Marketing
Chapter 15: The Big Challenge: Becoming Visible
Chapter 16: How to Develop a Strategy for eBook Promotions
Chapter 17: Alexa Rankings for eBook Ad Sites
Chapter 18: Advertising Sites
Chapter 19: Social Media and Cross Promotion
Chapter 20: Newsletter Basics

Part V: Final Thoughts
Chapter 21: Why “Write the Next Book” isn’t Enough; Or: What to do if your Books aren’t Selling
Chapter 22: Rolling with the Changes

If you’ve enjoyed the series here on my blog, please do share and spread the word. 🙂

Pronoun Redux

I recently posted about a certain amount of frustration involved in publishing to two new distributors, Streetlib and Pronoun. Well, it looks like I’m going to have to give Pronoun another chance. They have announced a number of changes, including better royalties (70% for everything up to $9.99), and more flexibility as to where you publish your book. Whereas you used to be required to publish your book on all the retailers Pronoun supports, you can now choose which ones to publish to. The only requirement is that your book be on Amazon, whether through them or directly is up to you.

I will definitely be giving it another shot in the next couple of days.

More here:

https://janefriedman.com/pronoun-distribution/

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Social Media and Cross Promotion

I’m almost there on getting the book version of my series “Starting Out as an Indie Author” ready for publication! I’ve put together some new material on subjects I hadn’t covered in my posts. Today I would like to share a new chapter with you, “Social Media and Cross Promotion.”

Social Media and Cross Promotion

Social Media for Writers

If you are forced by financial difficulties to keep your expenses for advertising as low as possible, social media and cross promotion may be the only effective avenues open to you until you have made enough from your books to reinvest in more expensive ads (or better covers, or whatever you have decided you might need to move your writing career forward). Because when it comes right down to it, most of the cheap advertising sites are cheap for a reason. And many of those that are more expensive have priced themselves so high that you’re never going to get a positive ROI using them. Luckily, there are plenty of authors out there willing to share their results with other authors, so we don’t have to throw our money away, at least not too much.

But to figure that out, you need to network with other indie authors. A great place to start is the Writers’ Cafe on KBoards, which I’ve mentioned before in this series.

So how should you spend your time on social media as an author to sell your books? My answer: don’t. Yes, I know I started this post suggesting it might be one of the only ways for authors who don’t have the money for advertising to “get visible” (to quote David Gaughran, who you should read, by the way.)

But the thing is, you don’t sell your books on social media, not really. You offer content (like me with my Indie Author series), or you become an Internet personality (like Chuck Wendig), or you join groups and start up conversations with readers who are fans of the genres you write in. No one likes authors who are only posting “BUY MY BOOK” all the time.

I’m in the camp of those who believe that social media only sells books indirectly. If you have established relationships with readers through social media, then they might be curious and pick up one of your books to see if they like it. Admittedly, I am far from being a social media guru. I’m not a big fan of FB and Co., since it can be such a time sink. But just consider how you react when “BUY MY BOOK” shows up in your Twitter feed. I bet you’re a lot more likely to click Unfollow than the link to buy the book.

Consider as well that the time you spend on social media is time you could be spending writing. If you only have one or two novels finished so far, it probably makes more sense to concentrate on writing the next one before you go searching for an audience for books that aren’t there. One book does not a career make (except if you’re Margaret Mitchell).

Basic Internet Presence for Authors

There are plenty of recommendations out there, but here are mine:

– Amazon Author Page
– Facebook Author Page
– Goodreads Author Page
– Twitter
– Blog or static web page

One of the reasons I suggest making sure you have at least the above is because many of the advertising sites I have recommended on this blog ask for links to web page, Twitter, and Facebook when you book an ad.

Here a short rundown of those that might not be quite as obvious:

– Amazon Author Page

The Amazon Author page is important because if you don’t set one up, all a reader gets when clicking on your name in the Amazon store are the search results. If your name is Jane Smith, this is not going to help you a lot. I’m lucky that my name is not all that common — not even in Norway. But even for a Nestvold, an author page is still a big advantage over a page of search results. It allows me to have links to book trailers, my blog, author pics, and all of my books:

Amazon Author Page

To create your author page on Amazon, you need to go to Author Central: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/

– Goodreads Author Page

The importance of a Goodreads Author Page is similar — it allows you to link all of your books, as well as your blog feed and whatever book trailers you might have in one place. And that on one of the most important sites for book addicts in the world.

To create it, you need to set up a Goodreads account. Once you have that, all you need to do is find one of your books, click on your name and scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find “Is this you?” When you click on the link, you can send a request to join the Author Program. Complete instructions are here:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/program

– Facebook Author Page

To create an FB author page, click on Create / Page on the left hand side of of the screen in your news feed and follow the instructions. The “Writer” category is under “Artist, Band or Public Figure.”

If you’re a bit of a social media grump like I am, you might be wondering why I recommend so many things to sign up for. While on the one hand I don’t like spreading myself too thin, at the same time, I have fans on all of these sites who only communicate with me through whichever happens to be their favorite. Without those sites, I would be missing out on communication with readers who want to contact me.

While I advocate making sure you have a presence on all of the sites listed above, that doesn’t mean I think you should be hunting down followers or friends on Twitter or Facebook or anything else. That way lies madness, and many hours of wasted time. Believe me, I’m as guilty as anyone of being addicted to numbers when I first started learning about all this stuff. But believe me as well that chasing followers is not going to do you a bit of good. Yes, you should be on all those platforms, but no, following or friending in the hopes of selling more books will get you nowhere and will only eat up time better spent writing.

Further social media sites for authors

– Google+
– Instagram
– Tumblr
– Pinterest
– Reddit
– LinkedIn

I am on all of the above, but with the exception of Pinterest, which I love, I don’t really use any of them. And despite my love of Pinterest, I have no idea whether it can work as a marketing tool. What I mostly use it for is a place to collect links for books in progress, as you can see from this board for Ygerna, a prequel to my Pendragon Chronicles series:

https://www.pinterest.com/ruthnestvold/ygerna/

As for the rest, I signed up for them because I read somewhere that you really had to have a presence there as an author, so I went with the flow. Of all of them, Reddit appeals to me personally most, but at the same time, I know that I could get lost in the discussion threads if I allowed myself to, so I just don’t go there in the first place.

For all of these sites, the main thing to remember is to be on those that appeal most to you. Use them in a way that feels natural, stay authentic, build a presence, and interact with like-minded readers and fans.

Cross Promotion

This is where the real genius of social media for marketing purposes lies. If you can find a good group for cross promotion, when you all have a sale, instead of yelling “BUY MY BOOK,” you will be sharing an amazing deal with dozens of eBooks on sale for only 99c!

Which would appeal to you as a reader more, HUGE SALE or BUY MY BOOK?

In my opinion, group promos are pretty much the best way of getting the word about your novel out to a wider audience for free. The idea behind cross promotion is that all of the authors involved share the information on their blog, mailing list, Facebook page, etc., and the more authors involved, the wider the reach. So it requires some effort on your part in helping to spread the word, but not much more than if you were lambasting Twitter with tweets most people will ignore.

But how do you find out about groups like this in your genre? One of the best resources I know is Kboards, which I mentioned above. I no longer spend as much time there as I did when I was first starting out, but it is an incredible resource for indie authors.

Aside from Kboards, another way of finding group promos in your genre is through Facebook. Try searching for “group promos” or “group promotions” and see if anything shows up that fits with your genre. The group I participate in most regularly, “Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Promotions” organized by Patty Jansen, is on Facebook — although I found it through Kboards. If you also write SFF, you can find the link on the right sidebar of my blog. Join, introduce yourself, help promote in any way you can whenever there is a group sale. If you have found a good community, I am sure you will see results.

But remember, putting a lot of effort into promotion isn’t really worth it if you only have one or two novels out. Concentrate on getting a couple more published before you start spending too much time trying to draw attention to yourself and your books.

New distributors for indie authors: Pronoun and Streetlib

Starting out as an indie author: distributors

I have recently become aware of a couple of new distributors (also referred to as aggregators) on the self-publishing scene, Pronoun and Streetlib. Some time ago in “Starting Out as an Indie Author,” I covered the topic of distributors in general, and Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii in particular:

Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Today I would like to share my experiences with these two new aggregators with you — as a late Christmas present, if you will. 🙂

Pronoun

Pronoun is a relatively new aggregator that claims to not charge any distribution fees, allowing authors to keep 100% of the revenues from their books. I have no idea how they intend to make money off of this business model. While going through their help files, I found something about all their partners and how that allowed them to give their services away for free, but it was rather vague — hardly enough to satisfy this particular curious mind. Personally, I tend to think that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Which is why I am immune to shady get-rich-quick schemes. 🙂

Pronoun publishes your eBook to Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play. It will not publish an eBook that is already available through any of those vendors — it always distributes to all five of its retailers and will not carry a book that has duplicate listings. This means that if you want to test the waters, you will have to unpublish one of your books from the retailers covered by Pronoun or upload a completely new book.

In order to test Pronoun, I attempted the former, unpublishing a small short story collection that had next to no sales anyway. Pronoun claims to take both epub and docx files. I tried multiple times uploading an epub file, without success. One time it told me to run it through the validator (it passed), another time it told me the file did not include a cover image (it did). Which leads me to the conclusion that Pronoun doesn’t really want anything other than a docx file formatted according to their guidelines, which can be found here:

http://support.pronoun.com/knowledge_base/categories/manuscript-formatting-guidelines

But since life is too short to spend too much time messing with a service I’m a bit skeptical about anyway, I have not bothered trying to follow their docx guidelines. As a result, I have no real publishing experience with Pronoun to report, only a failed publishing experience.

Royalty structure:
Authors keep 100% of eBook revenues.

Channels distributed to:
Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play.

Pros – Generous royalty structure; slick looking site

Cons – No opting out of any of the retailers they distribute to; do not accept double listings; major difficulties in uploading epub files; long docx formatting guidelines

Streetlib

Streetlib is a new aggregator based in Italy, and the vast majority of the vendors they distribute to are Italian. But they also offer all the major eBook retailer such as Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, B&N, and Google Play — at least hypothetically.

The site is not very intuitive, and I found it confusing to navigate. It’s very obviously still suffering from its own newness: not only was it difficult to figure out how to get around, I kept coming across Italian words and phrases, even though I chose English as my language. Incorrect English crops up here and there as well, and when I tried to get help on various topics, I frequently got an error message. As a former localization tester, it looks to me as if the translation went live without being thoroughly tested.

As with Pronoun, I ran Streetlib through its paces by signing up and uploading the epub of my collection Story Hunger. The uploading itself went more smoothly than with Pronoun, and I was informed that my book had been published. But it apparently takes some time for it to appear in the stores they distribute to — I did the Streetlib testing yesterday, and Story Hunger is still not available anywhere. One of the help files I was able to access says it takes 24 hours for books to go live, but it appears to be more.

For now (Dec. 2016), I would recommend that authors wait on trying to use Streetlib until they get the wrinkles ironed out. It might work better for someone who knows Italian and can use the Italian interface.

Royalty structure:
Authors receive approximately 60% of the eBook cover price. More details here:
https://help.streetlib.com/hc/en-us/articles/200521091-How-much-will-I-earn-by-publishing-my-book-through-StreetLib-

Channels distributed to:
Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, 24symbols, 9am.it, Artcivic.com, bajalibros.com (worldwide), bidi.la, bookmate.com, bookolico.com, bookrepublic.it, casadellibro.com, decalibro.it, dottorebook.com, ebook.it, ebooklife.it, evribook.com, feedbooks.com, Gandhi, harmankitap.com — and many more.

Pros – Ease of publishing; many retailers

Cons – Site difficult to navigate; English translation of pages sometimes poor or incomplete; difficult to find a way to opt out of certain distributors

Update: After a couple of days, Story Hunger finally did show up on Google Play. So for those who cannot publish directly, it would be an option, despite the problems with the site, which will hopefully get ironed out someday.

Conclusion: As of this writing, Draft2Digital wins hands down for me as the best aggregator. I will continue to use Smashwords as well, since I sometimes sell a book there directly, and I like the option of being able to offer coupons. I will eventually give these newer aggregators another shot, but at the moment they are more trouble than it’s worth for me.

I hope everyone is enjoying a great holiday season! And if anyone has more or better experience with Pronoun or Streetlib, do let us know in the comments.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

I am finally (finally!) compiling my “Starting Out as an Indie Author” series into a book, and since I started this weekend, I’ve noticed a couple of things I still need to add. Since the first part of the book revolves around the question, “Is Self-Publishing For You?” I realized I had to write my own version of the consideration of the pros and cons of indie and traditional publishing. (I have a few more things up my sleeve that I will probably blog about in the next week or two.)

So with no further ado, here’s my take on the debate:

Advantages of Self Publishing

– Speed

A traditionally published novel can easily take up to two years from the time it is accepted to the time it actually comes out. And that isn’t even counting the years of sending the manuscript out to agents and editors.

By comparison, self-publishing is almost instant. E-publishing may take a day or two from the time you hit the publish button until the time your book is available, but rarely more. Print on Demand (PoD) takes a little longer, but in my experience, the physical copy of your book is available in less than a week. Of course, that doesn’t include editing and cover design, but a self-publisher can probably have that completed in weeks rather than years.

– Rights Retention

Many publishing contracts are not designed to benefit the author, they are designed to benefit the publisher, as numerous legal battles in recent years have shown. All rights to self-published books belong to the author. She can do whatever she wants with the book and does not have to consult a publisher about it.

– Control

This is probably the advantage most frequently cited by indie authors. As an indie author, you have complete control of deadlines, editing, formatting and cover design. You control the price and can adjust it up or down in reaction to sales numbers. It is easy to implement changes, including changes to the text. You could even pull the book for a rewrite if you so choose. Or if the cover doesn’t seem to be working, replace it.

In traditional publishing, an author usually has very little say in cover, design, or marketing strategies. A case in point: my novel Yseult, a retelling of the legend of Tristan and Iseult, was originally published in translation with Random House Germany. They provided stunning cover art, which is now being shared all over Pinterest:

Flamme und Harfe

The problem? It looks like the Lady of the Lake, not the tragic love story of Tristan and Iseult. Not only that, the book came out in a fantasy imprint for mostly YA readers, because the publisher wanted to cash in on the popularity of Harry Potter. But — the book has a number of graphic sex scenes. Publishers sometimes make strange marketing decisions which are more concerned with where they think the money is than what would be best for the book.

– Your book has all the time in the world to catch on

Traditional publishing houses will give a book around half a year to see whether it’s going to become a bestseller or not. If it doesn’t, it will soon be remaindered. Your book had its chance, and now it’s dead.

With self-publishing, the “shelf-life” of your book is as long as you care to keep trying to put effort into marketing it. Even if it has dropped into oblivion, you can always try some new marketing strategies to bring it back to life. As long as you want to keep it alive, it never has to go “out of print.”

– Larger percentage of the profits

In traditional publishing, the royalty rates tend to be between 6% (for audio) and 25% (for e-books). As an example, for the hardcover of Yseult in German translation, which sold for 19.95 €, I earned under 2 € per copy. (OTOH, I did get a big advance, the most money I’ve ever seen for my writing.)

By contrast, Amazon pays Kindle authors 35% (for books under $2.99 or over $9.99) or 70% for everything in between. Most other ebook vendors have similar rate structures. Selling Yseult for $3.99 for the e-book, I am earning a little bit more per book than I did with the 19.95 € hardcover of the German translation.

– More frequent payments

Most traditional publishing houses (like Random House) send out account statements twice a year and the payment shortly thereafter.

All the digital distributors I have dealt with until now send payments monthly, with a delay of about a month after sales were made — assuming sales have surpassed a certain payment threshold, which in my experience is between $10 and $50.

– Getting around the blockbuster mentality

One of the difficulties in getting a book published in traditional markets these days is the perceived need on the part of many publishing houses that a book has to have the potential to be a bestseller. This is often referred to as the death of the midlist — those books that sold regularly, but were never expected to produce runaway sales.

If your book is in some kind of niche category, sometimes your only chance is either self-publishing or publishing with a small press specializing in the kind of fiction you write.

Disadvantages

– More Work

Let’s face it, finding editors and cover designers, writing the book description, formatting your book, and uploading it to retailers are all tasks that a publisher does for the writer. But if you decide to go the traditional publishing route, don’t assume the publisher will also do advertising for you. The amount of marketing your book will get tends to correlate to the size of the advance an author is paid for her book: the smaller the advance, the less likely the publisher is going to do anything for your book other than announce it in their catalog.

– No Advance Against Royalties

While in recent years advances have been dwindling, most traditional publishers still pay authors an advance against royalties up front, based on how many copies the book is expected to sell. This can be several thousand dollars at once, something it might take a beginning indie author a long time to see. On the other hand, a traditionally published writer will not get any more payments on her book until it has “earned out,” or in other words, made the equivalent in royalties that the author received as an advance. Still, many authors see it as an advantage to receive a lump sum rather than small checks and money transfers here and there.

– Perceived Stigma of Self-Publishing

This one can get indie authors very up-in-arms, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Despite the fact that a number of hugely successful bestsellers were originally self-published, (for example, Hugh Howey, Wool, Andy Weir, The Martian, E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Lisa Genova, Still Alice) many readers still cling to the received notion that anything self-published is bound to be crap. If you go the route of an indie author, you are bound to be confronted with this at some point — and it would be best to remain graceful and not lash out if you do.

By the same token, many writers still long for the legitimacy of a traditional publishing contract. I know several writers in the SFF community who have no interest in self-publishing, even after shopping a novel around for years without success, and despite enthusiastic feedback from other writers. The legitimacy of a traditional publishing contract is more important to them than any income they might make self-publishing.

– Wider Distribution

It is still harder for self-published books to get into physical bookstores and libraries. If this is where you want your books to be, you might have to try the rounds of traditional publishing, and start submitting your manuscript to agents.

In conclusion

Each writer has to decide for herself whether she wants to pursue the traditional publishing path, or whether she wants to go it on her own. Self-publishing is definitely more work, but it can also mean more freedom and more profit in the long run. But it can also mean nasty comments from readers who won’t even bother to look at your book. Just remember what they say about success — it’s the best revenge. 🙂

So weigh the pros and cons before you take the first step in either direction, and remember, neither path is exclusive. I still publish short fiction traditionally: submitting to an editor, being rejected or accepted, being paid up front. My novels are all now self-published, however, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But for all I know, somewhere down the road, something in my situation will change and I will publish a novel traditionally again. Authors should do what they are most comfortable with, or what promises the most advantages at any given time.

Jutoh Page-Flip Hack

If you need to make your books non-page flip compliant in Jutoh, here’s a quick lesson.

Source: Jutoh Page-Flip Hack

Note: I haven’t tried this myself, since I don’t have Jutoh, but I have unpublished Yseult for now, since Amazon hasn’t allowed me to get out of KDP Select. I can’t do that with Shadow of Stone, since I have a promo I’ve committed to coming up. But for me, Yseult is the main culprit for lost pages, since it is over 900 KENP long. That’s a lot of money lost when reads only count for one page. 😦

My emails to Amazon still haven’t garnered any more than canned responses, and I haven’t yet decided what else to do, other than go wide when my books are freed up from Kindle Unlimited.

Possible glitch in pages read (KENP) for Kindle Unlimited books

Since the beginning of the month, the numbers of pages read of my Kindle Select titles has gone from a daily average of about 800 to a measly 50. Okay, it’s only one week, I kept trying to tell myself, it will pick up again — and then I read this thread on the Kboards: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,242225.0.html

It looks like it’s an actual glitch on the part of Amazon, and one that they’re denying, to boot. Which means that a lot of us may be out of a lot of money, and no way to fix it or be reimbursed for our losses.

So instead of writing, I composed a letter to Jeff Bezos and KDP Support:

Hello,

Since the beginning of the month, I have a seen a dramatic drop in the number of pages read (KENP) of my books that are in Kindle Unlimited. My averages vary widely, from a few hundred pages on a slow day to several thousand pages on a good day. Since the beginning of the month, however, my best day was 123 pages, with most days being below 50. (See attached screenshot of my dashboard.) This is a particularly strange development for my long fantasy novels: several days in a row one page read per day, when I usually have several hundred pages read a day.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could look into this for me. Pages read are a significant percentage of my writing income, and without them, KDP Select would no longer be interesting for me financially.

Thanks in advance,

Ruth Nestvold

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Nestvold/e/B0045AWCHU/

KENP Nestvold

If you are a Kindle author with books in KDP Select, I strong recommend taking a look at your KENP averages for the last couple of months. A number of authors on the Kboards have been seeing problems since September and even earlier. The only way to get this fixed is for all of us speak up.

Kindle Unlimited KENP Read up 17%!

Good news for a change! Via Chris McMullen:

IMPROVEMENT IN KENP READ RATE Here is some good news for KDP Select authors and for Kindle Unlimited subscribers (indirectly, since this good news for authors benefits the readers, too). The KENP p…

Source: Kindle Unlimited KENP Read up 17%!

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Be Willing to Make Changes

More than once in this series, I have pointed out the things an author might want to take a critical look at if her book isn’t selling — assuming she is doing the marketing work to get the word out in the first place, that is. 🙂 Without regular marketing, all the fabulous book blurbs and pretty covers are nothing, since no one will see them. (If you have not yet read my post about what to do if your books aren’t selling, it’s available here.)

The simple summary is this: in my opinion, the most important things standing between an author and a sale are:

– A less-than-gripping book description
– A cover that isn’t compelling enough
– First pages that don’t make the reader eager for more

I admit up front that I have never rewritten the first pages of a novel to give it more of the character of a hook that will lead to a sale. But I have switched stories around in a collection to see if the new first pages will result in better sales. And I have revamped descriptions more than once, along with keywords and all that comes with it.

But changing descriptions and keywords is relatively easy. The work (and possibly expense) involved in changing covers is something else again. Nonetheless, I have done it a few times. Here are a couple of covers I’ve changed:

The cover for Mars was a new one when I finally published the short story to Amazon, so I have no comparisons there, but with The Future, Imperfect, sales increased dramatically after I changed the cover.

If you are doing regular marketing and your sales are still flagging, I strongly recommend running your covers by a new site, Rate Book Cover, to see what readers totally unconnected to you think of your cover.

Naturally, I have to test these things myself. Since sales for Chameleon in a Mirror have been limping along recently, I decided to upload it.

It flunked out.

Okay, not completely. It got an average of three stars out of five. But that is not good enough. Over a third rated the cover average, and even more rated it either poor or awful. Most of the readers in the last two categories are probably not going to click on that cover, and I’m assuming quite a few who rated it average are lost to me as well.

I still like the cover. But I can see how it might be too busy for some readers. And since Chameleon in a Mirror is a book of my heart, I think it deserves some experimenting.

I started out with two considerations: 1) The book plays with literary history; 2) It’s a time travel.

For #1, it occurred to me that a number of novels that revolve around thought experiments involving historical figures use art in the public domain in their covers. So I started searching for paintings of women gazing into mirrors. I would have preferred something from the same period as the novel, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. Instead, I went for John William Waterhouse. The result is the cover at the beginning of this post.

For #2, I went to Amazon and searched for “time travel.” Going through several pages of results, and ignoring the time travel romances, I noticed that a lot of the better selling books have a background with clockworks or a clock face. So for a cover emphasizing time travel, here’s what I came up with:

I don’t regard either of the covers as “finished” yet — I still need to work on type and layout, among other things. But once I’m satisfied with them, I’ll upload both to the Rate Book Cover site to see if they can get better reader ratings than what I have now. I also intend to upload all three to the cover comparison site, Help me choose a cover. Unfortunately, that one doesn’t get very much traffic.

If all of the covers get bad ratings, I will keep trying. My goal is to come up with a cover that gets an average rating of at least 4, meaning more positive reactions than negative. Once I have a compelling cover, I’ll upload the new one and then schedule a promotion for the book, so I can see if the results are better than with the previous cover.

I’m not looking forward to another rash of “awful” ratings, *g* but I figure if I can get an idea of reader reactions before I upload a new cover, it might save me time on the promotion end. The truth can be harsh, like the reader feedback I got for our first Chameleon cover, but now that I know, I can work on coming up with a better cover for the book, one that grabs the readers CIAM was meant to reach. 🙂

One of the freedoms of being an indie author is that we have control over every aspect of the book, from editing to appearance to marketing. By the same token, we also have responsibility for every aspect of the book.

For that reason, we need to be willing to recognize errors in judgment and make changes accordingly. I intend to slowly start uploading all my covers to the Rate Book Cover site — one at a time, since I don’t have tons of extra time to start working on new covers or finding new cover artists.

Oh, and please feel free to let me know what you think of the new designs. For the sake of comparison, here’s the old:

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/