Tag Archives: Starting out as an indie author

A Good Resource for eBook Sale Sites

I haven’t had a lot of time recently to update my various pages for places you can advertise eBook promos, so I thought I would share this site I found:

https://blog.reedsy.com/book-promotion-services/

It has an especially nice feature that you can click a button to only show free sites.

I should soon have news on the publishing front regarding Ygerna. Just waiting for the file back from the editor. 🙂

Ygerna cover

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How Amazon continues to do its best to piss off its writers: The odyssey of establishing my rights to Looking Through Lace

I’m sitting here listening to a yellow jacket determined to commit suicide in one of my wall lamps, and wondering why Amazon seems so hell-bent on annoying its authors these days.

This weekend, August 5-6, Patty Jansen is hosting another big 99c promo with 100 books in various science fiction and fantasy genres. I entered my boxed set of Looking Through Lace, Books 1 & 2, and was accepted. Only now it looks like my book won’t be on sale — at least not on Amazon. And it’s anyone’s guess if I will have to take the book down or not entirely (on Amazon), for reasons no one has seen fit to provide me answers with.

But let us start at the beginning, shall we?

Early this week, I lowered the price of the Looking Through Lace boxed set everywhere it was available, just like I always do for a promotion. Price changes went through fine — except on Amazon. Instead, I got this:

Hello,

Thank you for publishing with Amazon. Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else. To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming your publishing rights within four days:

Looking Through Lace Boxed Set: Books 1 and 2 by Nestvold, Ruth (AUTHOR) (ID:7106553)

Acceptable documentation can include:

– If you are the author and you are republishing your book after your publication rights have been reverted to you, a signed reversion letter from your former publisher
– If you are the author and you are publishing under a pseudonym, a copyright registration using the pseudonym
– If you are not the author, a signed contract between you and the author granting you the rights to publish the book in the territories, languages and formats you have selected
– If you are not the author, an e-mail from the address listed on the author’s (or their agent’s) official website confirming that you have the rights to publish their book in the territories, languages and formats you have selected
– If you are a literary agent, a signed contract between you and the author or an email from the address listed on the author’s official website granting you the right to act on the author’s behalf with respect to the book

Documentation we cannot accept includes:

– A statement by you that you have the publishing rights without verification by the author/copyright holder
– A copyright application for which registration has not been confirmed

If you publish books for which you do not hold the publishing rights, your account may be terminated.

Thank you,

Amazon KDP

I wrote back, asking why they were requiring confirmation of publishing rights for a book that had been published with them for over a year and a half. I listed some of the publishing credits of Looking Through Lace and explained why I still had the rights to my own novella, which was originally published in Asimov’s in September 2003.

Instead of any answers, I got almost exactly the same email, with one small change at the beginning:

During a review of your KDP submission(s), we found that content in the below title(s) has been previously made available on Amazon. Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else. To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming you have the necessary publishing rights within four days:

Looking Through Lace Boxed Set: Books 1 and 2 (ID: 7106553)

Please provide any documentation or other evidence that proves you have retained rights for the book(s) listed above.

This, of course made me even more frantic. I could hardly imagine that anyone was trying to steal my novella, since it wasn’t exactly selling like gangbusters. Most of the time it just sits there, selling a few copies a month, except when I do some kind of promo. But why would Amazon keep insisting I prove my rights to my own work if someone hadn’t tried to steal it? And why wouldn’t they respond to my questions and tell me what was the specific problem so that we could clear things up? None of what they required as “acceptable documentation” applied to Looking Through Lace or the boxed set.

Every time I tried to write them to try and find out what was going on, I got one of the above canned responses, about a half-a-dozen in all — and me becoming increasingly aggravated.

Finally it occurred to me (no help on Amazon’s part) that this weirdness regarding Looking Through Lace might have to do with the fact that it was recently reprinted in a new anthology, Galactic Empires. I sent them the PDF of the contract with Neil Clarke, and pointed out the clause indicating non-exclusive rights.

They haven’t sent me any more stupid canned emails since. But they also still have not gotten around to lowering the price of the boxed set for the promotion. I used to be a huge proponent of Amazon, but since the page flip controversy, I’ve changed my ways — more and more with each passing conflict.

I feel like I’m in a Kafka novel — which, incidentally, is not by me. 🙂

An Initial Attempt at Rebranding: A New Cover for Yseult

As much as I like the cover I already have for Yseult, the conversion rate for my ads is going from quite respectable to abysmal. Not completely understandable, since I haven’t changed the book description or cover for a long time, but given how many clicks I’ve been getting recently without sales, I decided it was time to experiment again. So without further ado, here is the first cover experiment for Yseult:

Yseult

The idea for this cover is that it maybe / hopefully fits the epic fantasy conventions better, which often have one decisive image rather than an illustration, like the original cover had. The other consideration is that the first cover might be too romantic in tone to draw the right readers. While Yseult is based on a tragic love story, there is a lot of political intrigue and loads of battles. A bad-ass sword just might be the better image for that than a gal and a moon, even if there is a sword on that cover too. But most people don’t notice it until I point it out to them.

Anyway, wish me luck. This may not be the first, since I’m determined to work on this until I get a better conversion rate for my ads. 🙂

Testing new Covers for Chameleon in a Mirror

Since I’ve recently had rather disappointing click-through rates for Chameleon in a Mirror, I decided to try testing some cover designers through Fiverr, just for fun. I wrote about the option in my book Starting Out as an Indie Author, but I had never used it myself. There’s a saying here in Germany, “Probieren geht über studieren.” (Trying is better than studying.) So here I am trying! Here are the cover designs I got from my first Fiverr foray into covers:

Chameleon in a Mirror cover

CIAM cover

For the sake of comparison, here’s the present cover:

And here’s the very first attempt:

What do you guys think? I have to admit, I had the feeling the new covers stood out better in thumbnail for sure, but I’d love a bit more feedback before I finalize. Thanks in advance to anyone who responds!

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. 🙂

Back to the (cover) drawing board

A friend of mine with a background in PR explained to me in detail why the covers I posted a little over a week ago don’t work from an advertising and branding perspective, so I’ve gone back and created a couple more with her advice in mind. For the sake of comparison, I’m also including the winner of my last poll, the more serious cover based on the graphics I used for the blog posts. Here are the covers:

Indie author covers

Do please take the poll or let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks!

Covers and Book Description for “Starting Out as an Indie Author”

I’m almost there! “Starting Out as an Indie Author” is nearly ready for publication. But first, I need some feedback on covers and the book description I’ve come up with. The first cover is based on the graphic I’ve been using for this series for some time now, with stock art I’ve already purchased, so it is more finished than my other two designs. The others have more the character of mock-ups, since I thought it would be fun to attempt something more playful as well. And as you can see in the covers, I haven’t purchased the art yet. They might be too playful, after all, and I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to purchase the art.

Starting Out as an Indie Author

And here’s the book description I came up with:

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.

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

Do please let me know what you think!

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.