Tag Archives: self-publishing

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/

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/

Starting out as an indie author: Where to promote a 99c eBook sale

Starting out as an indie author

Here are some of the sites I’ve found that will promote 99c sale ebooks (and often sale books up to $2.99, as long as the books are deeply discounted). Most of them are ones I use myself. I’ve left out a number of sites that have no information on followers or subscribers, as well as those that tend to get bad marks from the indie writers on KBoards. Even so, that’s no guarantee that all of these sites will be effective. I suspect a lot has to do with genre, since sites that work for me get panned by other writers, while sites other writers swear by have been a washout for me. So remember, YMMV.

Free

Books on the Knob

Bargain Booksy (Free and paid)

Bookscream

Read Free.ly

Reading Deals – Books should be a minimum of 50 pages long and have at least 5 reviews and a 4 star average. They also have the option to pay $29 for a guaranteed listing

Choosy Bookworm – Guaranteed listings start at $25. (My results with a paid listing were disappointing, but people report good results with their free slots.)

Awesome Gang – Also offer a featured 2 day listing for $10.

The Naughty List – For romance and erotica

EBookStage – Must have at least 5 reviews and a rating of 4 or higher. Require a number cross promotions for which you receive points. If you don’t have enough points for a free promo, you can pay for a slot. Prices start at $10.

Book Angel – Book must be PG-13! Only for books under 1 British Pound that are available in the UK store.

Paid:

Read Cheaply – Prices start at $25, depending on genre. Note: Do not try to book an ad with them if you’ve had a book listed within the last month. http://readcheaply.com/partners/

Bknights on Fiverr – https://www.fiverr.com/bknights/

Book Barbarian – Prices starting at $20. Requires at least 10 reviews and a rating of at least 3.5. Only for science fiction and fantasy. Usually necessary to book at least a month in advance. One book per author within a 30 day period. http://bookbarbarian.com/ad-requirements/

Bookbub – This is the heavy hitter in paid advertising; it is also Very Expensive. https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing

Ereader News Today (ENT) – Prices starting at $30.
http://ereadernewstoday.com/pricing/

ManyBooks.net – Prices starting at $25. Requires at least 10 reviews and an average of 4 or higher. My results here used to be quite good, but recently they have been disappointing, especially given the price. http://manybooks.net/promote.php

Booksends – Requires at least 5 reviews, with a high overall average, and an attractive cover, with a planned sale price of less than $3 and at least 50% off full price. Prices start at $10 and increase according to sale price and genre. Through this site, it is also possible to advertise with EReaderIQ.
http://booksends.com/advertise.php

eReaderiQ – It is also possible to book eReaderiQ separately. Prices starting at $5. http://www.ereaderiq.com/authors/submissions/dds/

Booklover’s Heaven
– For sale books priced at 3.99 or below. Requires 10 or more reviews and an average of at least 4 stars. $5 for a listing.
http://bookloversheaven.com/authors/

Buck Books – For 99c sale books. Books must be at least 60 pages long, and have at least 10 reviews with an average of 3.8 or higher. Prices start at $9 for fiction. Must be booked at least six weeks in advance.
http://buckbooks.net/buck-books-promotions/

BookGorilla – Prices starting at $40 depending on genre and price. Usually necessary to book at least 6 weeks in advance.
http://www.bookgorilla.com/advertise

Books Butterfly – Various pricing options starting at $50, depending on how many readers you want to reach.
http://www.booksbutterfly.com/order/paidbookslots/

Robin Reads – $40.
http://robinreads.com/author-signup/

ContentMo – Various promo plans starting at $1.99 a day.
http://contentmo.com/99-book-promo-2015/

Digital Book Today – Offers a variety of advertising options, some of which are free. http://digitalbooktoday.com/join-our-team/paid-and-free-promotions/

Ebook Discovery – Prices start at $14. https://ebookdiscovery.leadpages.net/ebook-discovery-authors-only/

Ebookhounds – $10 for a listing. Extra options available as well.
http://www.ebookhounds.com/books/submit/

The Fussy Librarian – Promotional options starting at $8, depending on genre. Books must have at least 10 reviews and a 4.0 rating, except for new releases. http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/for-authors/

FreebooksHub.com – Promotions starting at $10.
http://www.freebookshub.com/authors/

Kindle Books and Tips – Prices starting at $25. Books must have at least 8 reviews, at least 4 of which must be Amazon Verified Purchase reviews. No short stories. http://fkbt.com/for-authors/

GenreCrave – Prices starting at $50.
http://www.genrecrave.com/schedule-today/

OHFB (One Hundred Free Books) – Prices for a guaranteed listing start at $75. https://ohfb.com/advertise/

The eReader Cafe – Advertising options starting at $25. http://theereadercafe.com/sell-more-books/

Free & Discounted Books – Promotion for eBooks from 0.99-2.99 starting at $8. http://freediscountedbooks.com/99-cent-sales/

Hot Zippy – Various promo plans starting at $23. http://hotzippy.net/feature-your-book.html

Ebook Soda – Prices starting at $15. Kboards authors report that it isn’t particularly effective. http://www.ebooksoda.com/

Bargain Booksy – Prices for an ad start at $25 and depend on the genre. http://bargainbooksy.com/sell-more-books/

Book Goodies – $10 to promote a Countdown Deal.
http://bookgoodies.com/bargain-books/kdp-countdown-bargain-books/

eBook Betty – Listings with various review criteria starting at $18 http://bettybookfreak.com/authors/

Book Raid – Prices are per click. Don’t take Paypal, only credit card.
https://bookraid.com

Facebook

It is also possible to list your book on a number of Facebook groups specifically for 99c eBooks, usually while it is on sale:

Author 99cent Book Promotions: https://www.facebook.com/groups/444695995585913/

Addicted to eBooks: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Addicted-to-eBookscom/277297772316389

EReader1-US: https://www.facebook.com/eReader1.US/ Instructions are here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/ereader1-us/book-promotions-including-self-promo-by-authors-and-publishers-and-their-friends/448662358501661

If you are intending to do a free run for one of your books, check out my article on where to promote free books here, and permafree books here.

If you know of other effective sites for promoting a 99c sale, please let me know in the comments!

If you found this blog post helpful, perhaps you would be interested in the book, Starting Out as an Indie Author! You can learn more here.

Starting out as an indie author: Guest post on A.M. Leibowitz’s blog on the advantages of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author

Today, for the publication of Island of Glass, my fellow WIPpeteer A.M. Leibowitz hosted me for a guest blog post on the advantages of self-publishing. Here an excerpt:

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 up to a day from the time you hit the publish button until the time your book is available. 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.

You can read the rest of the article here.

To balance it out, I will eventually have to do a post on the disadvantages of self-publishing. But for now, all you get from me are the positives. 🙂

Potential Self-Publishing Mudholes: A guest post on Beth Camp’s blog

In connection with the blog blitz for the upcoming publication of Island of Glass, fellow writer Beth Camp hosted me on her blog to talk about some potential mistakes indie writers can make. Here a short excerpt from the introduction:

The beauty and the curse of self-publishing is that it is so much easier and faster than going the traditional route, which can take years and (most of the time) still result in nothing. A fact that is often ignored is that self-publishing — while faster — most of the time also results in nothing. Which leads me straight to the first mistake made by indie authors.

You can read the rest over on Beth’s blog:

http://bethandwriting.blogspot.de/2014/10/potential-self-publishing-mudholes.html

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Getting Your Books into Google Play

Starting out as an indie author

In an earlier post in this series, I mentioned that since I’d heard so many horror stories about Google Play randomly cutting prices of indie books, and Amazon subsequently following suit — with serious consequences for the incomes of the writers involved — I decided not to try to sell my books through that venue.

But then I learned (on Kboards of course) that the stories I’d heard, while true, could be avoided with creative pricing. Apparently Google discounts all books in pretty much the same way. But while the percentages hover around a 23% discount, the discounts jump around a bit, and don’t apply to the lowest price points (supposedly). Luckily, the smart folks on the Internet have figured out what you have to do to get your book priced the way you want it. This in turn will keep Amazon happy and they won’t discount your book below the 70% royalty sweet spot of 2.99.

Here is a compilation of some of the suggestions I’ve found around the Internet for how to price your book on Google Play to make it end up the price you want:

Desired price / Price you need to enter on Google Play:

99c / 99c
1.49 / 1.49 (Apparently Google does not discount these)
1.99 / 2.54
2.99 / 3.93
3.99 / 5.18
4.99 / 6.48
5.99 / 7.78

I don’t know if all of these are actually 100% correct; you might need to experiment a bit within the price range to get the results you want.

Becoming a “partner” on Google Play

You cannot publish with Google Play without a Gmail account, so if you don’t have that yet, it’s the first thing you need to do. Once you’ve signed up, you can go here to get started publishing:

https://play.google.com/books/publish/

The Google Play dashboard is much less intuitive than Amazon, B&N, Draft2Digital and Kobo, the sales sites I have primarily used until now. On the left you have the following options: book catalog, analytics & reports, promotions, payment center, and account settings. Today I will only be going into “book catalog” and “payment center” since that is what you need in order to publish a book. (The “account settings” automatically gets populated with your Google account info and any publisher info you add when you sign in.) You do the actual publishing from “book catalog”:

Google Play

But although it is farther down in the list, I suggest starting with the item “payment center”: if you don’t, your book will not be published. The fist couple of times I tried to publish Part I of my serialized version of Yseult, I kept getting the error message “PRICE MISSING OR NOT APPLICABLE” which didn’t make a lot of sense to me, since Google allows you to set the price to free. Finally, I googled the error message and found out that Google Play would not allow me to publish until I entered my payment info. So maybe that should be first in line … ?

Anyway, in the payment center, click “Payment Profiles” and enter your bank account info. GP does not allow PayPal, unfortunately. If your bank is in the US, for Sales Territories select “WORLD – US/USD” and under “CURRENCY CONVERSION” TURNED ON.

Once you’ve saved your payment information, you can go to “Book Catalog” and actually publish your book. Click on the “Add book” button. If you already have an ISBN for your book, enter it here, otherwise check the box that you don’t. The “Book details” pane opens, which should be largely self-explanatory. One thing that bears mentioning, however, is that for GP you have to enter you bio for EVERY BOOK. Interesting, huh? The leading search engine in the world can’t find the biographical info for for a single author account …

Once you’ve entered the book details, in the next pane you upload your ebook and cover. The book itself can be either EPUB or PDF. In order to save yourself grief and repeated uploads, if you are uploading an Epub file, I suggest testing it with EPUB Validator first:

http://validator.idpf.org/

The next pane is for pricing. No dropdown menu for the currency, unfortunately, so if you’re in the States, enter USD manually. The box after “for” should be WORLD. For the price, see the list above. 🙂

The “Settings” pane is for metadata. The format is of course “digital” and for the subject, enter keywords that will get your book into the appropriate categories, such as “fantasy” and “historical.” The form then makes suggestions that you can choose from. For most of the other options, you’re fine with the defaults, at least as far as I could determine.

The final pane is for publishing, where you can decide whether to publish only to Google Books or also to Google Play as well. Seems a no-brainer to me to choose both. 🙂

I have only just started publishing with Google Play, so I can’t say yet whether all the work will actually be worth it. But it was fun finding the free book with my smartphone and downloading it. If you have Google Play, please do so as well! There don’t seem to be any Nestvolds other than me in the GP store, so the free book should be pretty easy to find.

Once I’ve been on Google Play longer, have published a few more things, and understand the system better, I will post more.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Starting out as an indie author: Interview with Kate Sparkes

On splitting up a big book: Turning Yseult into episodes

As many of you following this blog know, I started my career as an indie author after I got the rights back to the original English of my novel Yseult, which was published in German as Flamme und Harfe by Random House Germany in 2009.

Flamme und Harfe, Ruth Nestvold

I published the English original in January 2012 on my own with this cover from the talented Derek Murphy of CreativIndie Covers:

Yseult, Ruth Nestvold

Since the original publisher of Yseult / Flamme und Harfe, Random House Germany, told me they were interested in a sequel (which they decided they were not interested in after all), when I published Yseult, I already had the next doorstopper waiting in the wings, Shadow of Stone, which I published in June of 2012.

That too sold quite well, and I began to imagine that I was on my way to a wonderful career as an indie author.

Halt.

Readers started wanting to know when the next “installment” would be available. Of books that were both close to 200,000 words, or over 500 pages long. Unfortunately, I don’t write fast enough to produce novels of that size every year, and I lost readers.

I started writing a prequel to The Pendragon Chronicles, Ygerna, hoping to make it free and attract more readers that way, but I soon noticed that the story of Arthur’s mother was too complicated for me to finish off in a couple ten thousand words, and it ended up on the back burner. I do have a free short story from the second novel available, Gawain and Ragnell, and that has helped my sales somewhat, giving potential readers a taste of the world of The Pendragon Chronicles. So I know for a fact that permafree can help your sales.

Then at some point I started noticing something new happening in ebook publishing: it seemed as if a lot of the most successful indie authors were publishing their ebooks in episodes or as serials, in chunks from between 50 to 200 pages. Like with a TV show, each episode might bring a single plot thread to a conclusion, but there was also often some kind of cliffhanger to make sure the reader came back for the next installment. An added advantage of the episode format is that the author can make the first “book” of the novel free in order to entice readers to give it a try.

Slowly an experiment started to take shape in my mind. I had these two Big Fat Fantasies, after all, together close to 400,000 words. But in the era of ebooks, when the reader can’t judge a book by how heavy it is in her hand, books seem to be getting shorter. And while the true short story has yet to make a comeback, readers appear to be increasingly accepting of novella-length books. (This is all totally subjective and unscientific, so don’t quote me on it.)

Anyway, as a result of these observations, I have decided to launch an experiment. I am going to take the four books of Yseult apart — which, btw, is how I organized the novel long before the advent of ebooks — and offer them separately. I will try to make the first book free on Amazon as quickly as possible. Here is the pricing structure I’m considering for the serial version:

Part I: FREE
Part II: 99c (my take, 30c)
Part III: 2.99 (my take $2)
Part IV: 2.99 (my take $2)

My goal is not to make more money than with the complete novel, although that is what would happen if readers were only to buy the individual parts. But when I do this, I do not intend to unpublish Yseult. That will still be available for 4.99 for anyone who is enjoying the series enough to want to buy the novel. Mostly I’m just hoping that with parts 1 & 2 at free and 99c respectively, a few more readers will try out the series.

So recently I’ve been working on a template for the covers of the individual episodes. I wanted to use the cover of Yseult as a basis, to make sure that no one bought any of the episodes thinking it was a new story in The Pendragon Chronicles. At the same time, the covers should be distinctive enough to stand out from each other. Given those considerations, here’s the template I came up with for the series:

Yseult template

And here’s my first attempt at a single title:

Yseult-Part-1

My thought is to use different colors beneath the “celtic fringe” *g* on the left / west side of the cover as a visual signal of the differences between the books. And now, as I write this, it occurs to me that the color for the first book, which takes place in Ireland / Eriu, should be a dark green rather than the dark purple I have now. *g*

Anyway, I welcome any thoughts / feedback you have in the comments below!

I might land flat on my face with this experiment, but I’m not out of much more than a couple days worth of work making the new covers, formatting the individual sections, and uploading them to the various venues. Wish me luck. 🙂 And do please let me know what you think!

Starting out as an indie author: Interview with Kate Sparkes, author of BOUND

For this week’s installment of “Starting out as an indie author” I offer you an interview with new writer Kate Sparkes, who — to judge by her rankings in the Amazon store — “did it right.” She published her first novel, Bound, in June 2014. The novel is a YA fantasy and the first in a trilogy – and has a beautiful cover that makes me drool. 🙂

Kate Sparkes, Bound

As of today, the book already has 88 reviews with an average of 4.7. The rankings in the Amazon US Kindle store are also impressive:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,212 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery
#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Coming of Age
#17 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery

Especially for an author just starting out, those are excellent numbers. I think we can all learn from Kate on what and what not to do when self-publishing. On to the interview. 🙂

Welcome, Kate, and thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. First off, please tell us a little bit about your work.

I write stories.

More specifically, I write stories that I want to read, and that usually means there’s a good dose of magic or other-worldliness in my stories. I’m easily bored by real life, so I write Fantasy and Urban Fantasy. The first series I’m publishing is the YA Fantasy Bound Trilogy. Bound (book #1) came out at the end of June, and Torn (book #2) should be out in late February or early March.

How do you go about plotting and world-building?

It took me years for “my” world to come together in my mind. For the physical aspects of the world, I used a heavy dose of Earth, and Newfoundland specifically. It’s not my home province, but it’s where I live and where it feels I was meant to be. The landscapes here are rugged and beautiful, and seem to already be filled with magic. Geography doesn’t translate directly, but people from here who read Bound sometimes comment on how familiar the land seems. Things like cities, the Grotto, buildings and such come from my imagination. Often it feels like I’m exploring them as I’m writing, which is fun. As for the creatures in that world, I use many that are familiar from our legends and stories, but try to put my own unique twist on them.

What kind of magic systems do you use?

I suppose I use something between a hard and a soft magic system. Things tend to be well-defined, but there’s still a sense of mystery and wonder. Magic as it relates to humans is something like electricity. It’s there and available to be drawn on, but the amount a person can use and what they can use it for depend on the individual. Most magic-users will have at least one natural gift, but they can work and study to learn other skills. They do have to be careful, though; trying to work unfamiliar magic can lead to unexpected and even deadly consequences.

I could go into a lot more detail about ways that magic can be used and controlled, how Potioners differ from Sorcerers, how lineage affects power, and the effect of ambient magic, but it would take forever! And that’s just humans. Creating the magic system was a huge challenge, but a rewarding one.

Do you have a writing routine?

I hope to soon! Up until now, my routine has been “fit it in whenever I can.” I have two kids, and even during the school year always had at least one home most of the time. It made it difficult to set a routine. Starting this month, I hope to write in the mornings (plotting, drafting, revising, editing), and work on business and promotion-related things in the afternoons. My routine could also use a tweak in that right now it tends to start with WAY too much distraction before I get down to work.

What made you decide to go indie with your first book?

A lot of things factored into that decision. I thought I stood a better chance of finding an audience and making decent money by publishing independently, even if it meant never seeing my books in stores. The odds of getting an agent and a good contract were just too slim for me to invest time into that path. It was also important to me that I have full creative control over my work, that I be able to choose the cover and decide which advice to take from an editor. I also knew that as an unproven author I wasn’t likely to get a big advance or much promotional help from a publisher. There are risks and benefits with any road to publication. It’s a personal choice, and indie isn’t right for everyone. I respect and support writers in whatever path they choose. I certainly have no regrets about my choice for this trilogy.

How did you prepare for getting ready to publish a book on your own, i.e. what resources were most helpful for you in learning the ropes?

Ooh, big question! I list a lot of resources on my blog that helped me make the decision to go indie and that taught me the ropes. I read a lot of blogs and a few books, listened to podcasts, and asked experienced authors questions when I needed to. I didn’t focus on publishing too much while I was drafting. In fact, I didn’t know anything about indie publishing until less than two years ago, and assumed I’d go the traditional route. The information is all out there, and I’ve found indie authors to be incredibly helpful.

What services did you outsource before publishing Bound? (editing, formatting, cover) Were you happy with the results? Would you do it the same way again?

I hired an editor (Joshua Essoe) for developmental and line editing, and I will absolutely be using his services again. I knew I had a good story, and my beta readers were amazing, but I also knew it could still be better. My editor saw opportunities I had missed, helped me get my magic system in order, pointed out errors and character inconsistencies that I and others had missed, and slapped my fingers when things got too melodramatic. I’m glad I went for the full editing package, even though it was a bit of a financial gamble at the time.

My cover artist, Ravven, was amazing. I had no idea of what I wanted, except that I didn’t want a character on the cover. We tried to find something symbolic that worked, and she did mock-ups, but it just wasn’t working. She suggested a few ideas and we talked about how character covers might sell better, and worked together to come up with a cover that I love. I’ve lost count of the people who have said they gave the book a chance because of the cover. Obviously it was money well spent, and I’ve already asked her to do Torn.

I was going to do my own formatting, but when the time came, the learning curve was just too steep and I couldn’t get the professional look I wanted. Colin F. Barnes is an author and a friend of a friend who stepped in and gave me a beautiful book for a reasonable price, and I’m so grateful for that. I still want to learn the skill some time so I can go in and make changes myself (adding links, fixing typos, etc), but for now I’m happy using someone else’s skill.

The one thing I’ll do differently next time is that I’ll pay a proofreader. ARC readers were helpful with that, but a few typos still slipped through.

What steps did you take leading up to the book launch of Bound? Did you contact book reviewers? Use Facebook? Twitter? Blog? Did you organize or book a blog tour?

I didn’t plan a lot of promotion. Bound was my first book, and it didn’t make sense for me to put a lot of money into promotion when I had nothing else to offer to people who loved the book, or a lot of time that I should have spent writing the next one. I contacted a few reviewers, but most advance copies went to blog readers, book-loving friends and acquaintances, and fellow authors. Several wonderful author/blogger types helped host the cover reveal and announced the release to their blog followers, which was wonderful. I posted chapter one on my own blog, and set up a Facebook author page about a month before release. I shared that first chapter and cover image on Twitter and Facebook (and the cover copy when I finally had it), but was careful not to spam.

There was no organized blog/book tour. I think the best promotion was word-of-mouth recommendation from people who read the book early on and loved it. I frequently thank those people, but it never feels like I manage to express just how grateful I am!

I did have a launch party, just for fun. I live in a tiny town and don’t have enough local friends to have an in-person party, so Facebook it was. We had a great time, I gave out some e-books and a signed paperback. It might not have led directly to sales, but I think it helped drum up some interest in reading the book, and got the ball rolling on recommendations and reviews.

I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway for a signed paperback now, and that’s got a bunch of people to add it to their TBR list, but I’m not sure whether it’s had an impact on e-book sales. I think reader awareness is always a good thing, though.

What are you working on now?

I just sent Torn (Bound Trilogy book #2) out to beta readers. Now it’s on to planning and drafting Book #3, which is both exciting and terrifying.

What advice would you give to an author considering going indie?

Do your research, and then follow your instincts. I did a lot of things “wrong” (I actually have a blog post about that), but it has all worked out so far. I didn’t let myself feel pressured to do it anyone else’s way, but I did keep my eyes and ears open to learn from other people’s experiences. I would also say to try to put out the most polished, professional work you can, out of respect for readers if nothing else. This is your career, and it’s worth investing in.

Thanks for the informative and inspiring interview, Kate! I wish you the best of luck with Torn. 🙂

Kate Sparkes

How to get in touch with Kate Sparkes:

Blogs: – Disregard the prologue- http://disregardtheprologue.com
– Sparrowcat Press- http://sparrowcatpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katesparkesauthor
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8282527.Kate_Sparkes
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kate_sparkes
Google+ page: https://plus.google.com/+KateSparkes
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/KSparkes
Pinterest board for the Bound trilogy: http://www.pinterest.com/k_sparkes/bound-trilogy/

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Battling Plagiarism: The case of Rachel Nunes against Tiffanie Rushton

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to another blog post regarding a very blatant and nasty case of plagiarism. At that time, the author who had been plagiarized, Rachel Ann Nunes, did not know the identity of the person behind the the pen name of Sam Taylor Mullens, the author who had plagiarized her work.

Now she does, and she has filed suit against her. Passive Guy linked to a copy of the complaint here.* Despite the fact that it is legalese, it makes for very interesting reading.

I can only hope that this case is a resounding and much-publicized victory for Nunes, putting fear into the hearts of potential plagiarists. These kinds of cases seem to be increasing lately, and I suspect they will only let up if there are some prominent cases of plagiarists brought to justice — making it clear how expensive the consequences might be.

* I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again: I highly recommend following The Passive Voice to anyone interested in self-publishing.

Starting out as an indie author: Creating a welcome page for your newsletter with free tools

Starting out as an indie author

My goal for today originally had to do with redesigning my blog and adding progress bars, using the wonderful tips I’ve received in the comments here. But before tackling the whole adding-progress-bars / blog-redesign challenge, I wanted to make what I thought would be a simple change, from a tip gleaned on David Gaughran’s blog on building a killer email list.

As a result, I have to share some experiences regarding my own email list before they disappear out of my tired old brain. I thought I would “start” my marketing day off today by adding the incentive of a free ebook to my newsletter signup widget. As soon as I started writing down the steps I would need to complete in order to do so, it began to occur to me that it would take me a bit longer than I originally expected. But even then, I totally underestimated the time involved.

Um, like — hours???

I realize that I have not yet posted about setting up a newsletter in the first place, but this particular aspect of the whole business is a response to immediate experience and fresh in my mind. Which is why I decided to tackle the subject on my blog arse-backwards. 🙂 (Not that I’ve ever done that before …) I promise that when and if I put these posts together as an ebook, I will sort the chronology out to make it more logical.

Here’s my original to-do list for the simple task of adding a free ebook to my newsletter signup:

– Make PDF of Never Ever After

– Upload PDF

– Make welcome page for free download

– Set up automated response for Mailchimp

– Edit widget for newsletter signup

And this is how it went:

1) Make PDF of Never Ever After

This proved to be more complicated than anticipated. Scrivener has an option to compile a book as PDF, but when I tested the file, Acrobat wouldn’t open it. So I compiled the collection as a DOC file and made a PDF from that.

Which looked kinda cruddy, without page numbers or table of contents and with single-space tiny font. All things that do not matter in a mobi or epub file — TOC is generated automatically, page numbers are unnecessary, and font is adjustable. (This step would not have been necessary if I already had a PDF for the book for Print on Demand publishing, but I haven’t published any of my short story collections for print yet, except for the one I did with Jay Lake.)

Anyway, it was back to the DOC file to add a TOC and page numbers, and reformat the text. While I was at it, I updated the links in my back matter — which also ended up giving me a lot of grief, which I won’t go into here in detail. Let’s just say, it took me over an hour until I was happy enough with the PDF to upload.

Upload PDF

Make welcome page for free download

These two steps were simple enough. I originally intended to make a hidden page for the download, but since that option wasn’t available via WordPress, I decided to go with password protected. You can read here about how to do that.

Set up automated response for Mailchimp

Another roadblock encountered. I find Mailchimp extremely difficult to navigate, about as counter-intuitive to my way of thinking as things get. But it’s one of the few free options still out there, and I already started my list with them, so I’m committed for the time being. When I first tried to find a way to send automatic response emails, I ended up on the “Automation” page — which is only available to holders of pro accounts.

A comment on this blog post sent me in the right direction. From the “Lists” page, click on the dropdown menu under “Stats” (for some reason). There you will find the link to “Signup forms” — which also include automated response, opt-in, and welcome emails. You can learn more here.


Creating my Mailchimp “Thank you” response email.

Now I have an automated welcome email and a page for the freebie set up. 🙂

Edit widget for newsletter signup

The last step only involved editing the widget for my newsletter (which on my page is a WordPress link) to add the cover of the story collection and change the description to emphasize that something FREE is involved. Part of me still has a problem with all these incentives I have to keep adding here and there, but I am slowly accepting the fact that I am never going to be a bestseller on the basis of my personality and my blog alone, unfortunately (unlike John Locke — right).

Lesson here: Everything takes way longer than you expect.

I would be extremely grateful if anyone so inclined would click on the link, help me test the process, and report your results in the comments below. I promise I won’t be offended when you unsubscribe. 🙂 And even if you don’t, you’re pretty safe from spam from me. Although I set my Mailchimp “campaign” up as a new release newsletter, I haven’t even sent out an announcement of my last book yet, which was months ago. :/ As much as I enjoy being an indie writer after my experience in traditional publishing, I still have a lot of internal blocks regarding marketing that I need to work on. Wish me luck!

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers