Monday, September 20, 2010

Viva la revolution baby…

Okay, so when I first heard of ‘self publishing’ the old quote of “She/he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” came to mind. Why? Well it’s all about knowledge and knowing how to apply it in order to succeed. If you have no knowledge you have the amazing ability to bugger stuff up. This is why most writers latch on to a publishing house in order to get their epic saga to print. The idea of having no clue and being unaided in getting a book out there is daunting. But then there’s the flipside. This writing gig can be a minefield. How so? Dodgy publishing houses, suspect royalties and in-house fighting between writers/editors/publishers. Yeesh. Go with that or take a crack at self-pubbing?

Essentially writers are quite mad. No really. Who else is going to sit on their arse for hours talking to themselves as they bang out a stream of vaguely coherent words into a computer? Yet as mad as we are we retain stuff to be used later on…like in stories…or in business. We watch, we gossip, we listen. We look around and think ‘well crap, they suck as a publisher. I can do what they’re doing.’ Let’s face it – most of the e-book publishing companies out there were started by people who took a chance and had a go. So why couldn’t anyone do that? You don’t have to be a genius – just a risk taker.

So – thinking about self-pubbing? Go for it. As for revolutions? I love a good stousch. Put my name down for the next one…

Amarinda Jones
Penn Halligan
Be an Amarinda book

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ebook Price War Solution

I've got a lot of friends in the UK who were very excited to see the addition of Kindle to the UK store. Kindle, I've noticed, has separated out the UK sales from the US sales in our royalties - probably because authors are still getting 35% on their UK sales, while from the US sales, they're getting 70% (as long as the book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99).

In spite of low author royalties in the UK, Amazon is scrambling to deep-discount books before agency pricing starts to take effect in the UK, as it did in the US (much to most consumers' chagrin!) It seems that Amazon wants to brand the consumer's brain with the idea that books should be priced on average at $2.99 - and certainly no higher than $9.99. And while I certainly agree with the latter, I'm not so sure about the former $2.99 price point.

Besides, it looks like Amazon wasn't quite fast enough. Hachette, the UK's largest publisher, is taking the same route the Big Six publishers in the U.S. have taken - they are demanding agency pricing from Amazon on Kindle books sold in the UK.

And the price-wars continue...

Will the investigation into price-fixing by the Texas Attorney General come to anything? Who will win in the end? Who knows?

But we all know consumers and authors both lose if books continue to be over-priced the agency way. Some of the forums on Amazon are eye-opening, with consumers threatening boycotts of overpriced books (and their authors). Granted, I happen to think some Kindle folks are a little extreme about ebook pricing, thinking full-length books should be priced at $2.99.

Because ebooks are such an ethereal sort of thing, people are loathe to pay much for them. I get that. After all, you can't share them with a friend, and there's always the fear your hard drive may crash (or your ebook vendor will go out of business) and your e-library might disappear. Ebooks don't seem quite "real" - even if you're actually getting the same amount/time of entertainment with them that you would with a hardcover.

It's hard to wrap our heads around paying $9.99 for something that doesn't quite seem "real." But think about it - we do that now when we go to the theater to see a movie. (In fact, if you're into buying popcorn, you pay quite a bit more). And you don't get to take that movie home with you, or get to watch it again, the way you get to read an ebook.

Now, granted, if you're a bargain-hunter like me, you can go see a matinee show for $3.75, or the twilight show for $4.75 (your mileage may vary depending on your state - or country - of origin). Or you can wait to buy the DVD and have it to watch over and over (at least until it gets all scratched - am I the only one who misses VHS for that reason?)

So why should a bargain ebook be $0.99 and a full-length novel ebook be priced at $2.99? Could we be down-valuing the medium?

Personally, I think ebooks should be priced based on length. This model has been used by indie ebook publishers for over ten years. (Yes, it's true, there were thriving ebook publishers and distributors before Kindle!)

Our own eXcessica pricing is based on length:

$0.99 Short Shorts: Under 3K
$1.99 Shorts: 3-7K
$2.99 Stories: 7-15K
$3.99 Novelettes: 15-35K
$4.99 Novellas: 35-50K
$5.99 Novels 50-70K
$6.99 Super Novels: 70-140K
$7.99 Super XL Novels: 140-250K
$8.99 Super XXL Novels: 250K +

It's a good, and I think fair system for both authors and consumers. I mean, come on - the average candy bar costs $0.99 - and I think a short little story is probably more nourishing than a Snickers.

Remember what you're paying for - the amount of time you get to be entertained by a book.

In a world where everything has gone Supersize for so little investment - where you can get a Gazillion Ounce Big Gulp Slurpee for $0.99, but "real" food (i.e. an organic apple, for example) costs so much more - we have developed a Wal-Mart mentality where we want everything for nothing.

But the reality is you still get what you pay for - a $0.99 Slurpee is something that took very little energy to produce. The apple, on the other hand, took a long time to grow, and under the loving, watchful eye of an organic farmer.

So with ebooks. A $0.99 book should be a short-short - something it took an author perhaps an afternoon or two to write and polish. A 100,000 word tome that took a writer half of his life to complete, might, perhaps, deserve a little more investment.

There has to be a middle ground between the price-gouging of agency model and the deep discounts of Amazon and Wal-Mart. I think basing ebook price on length might just be the place we're looking for.

-Selena Kitt

A Second Bite of the Cherry

Times change and when they change, they often change fast.

I’m M.E. Hydra, writer of twisted succubus tales, and what’s happening for me at the moment is the fulfilment of a dream. I imagine a lot of people have the same dream. They want to write and they want that writing published and out there for people to read. Too often those dreams end up dying alone and forgotten in the slush pile of an uncaring publishing house.

When I first started out I was very sceptical about Self-Publishing. It seemed like...well, cheating. Sure, you could go to a vanity press, dump a wad of cash and then see your words in print, but did it really count? Who would read it? Who would want to buy it? How would you know if you were any good or not?

That was an important distinction for me. I didn’t just want to be published; I wanted to be published because I was good enough to be published. So I did the obvious thing every budding writer does and researched how other writers got to where they were. My genre of choice was Horror. I started out a Sci-Fi and Fantasy junkie, then moved onto Horror and never really left.

A lot of horror writers—Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, etc—all followed the same path. They wrote short stories, shrugged off the inevitable barrage of rejection slips, got their work published in the small press magazines, then the higher profile magazines, before finally landing the book deals and cranking out novels.

I tried the same and at the start it seemed promising. Sure, I picked up a ton of rejection letters to start with, but I’d been warned to expect that. I dutifully filed them away, learned what I could and focused on honing my craft. It paid off and I started to get acceptances from small press magazines, although some of those magazines were so unstable they folded into oblivion before the publication date.

Then I smacked into a wall.

The problem was moving up to the next level. A friend of mine had similar ambitions, but in Sci-Fi. He took out a year’s subscription to one of the premier UK magazines for science fiction short stories. One year later and he’d seen only one story written by a writer not previously published in the magazine.

This is not a fault of the magazine, or any of the anthologies that were floating around at the time. They’re in the business to sell copies, and stories by established and recognised authors are more likely to do this. The flaw in my route became apparent. To get there, you had to already be there.

Even once you got there it didn’t seem so rosy. The horror section in my local bookstore was starting to look a little anaemic. Outside of the big names, who are admittedly massive for good reason, there was little in the way of fresh meat. Where were the new writers?

Then there was no more horror section. King and Koontz departed to the K section of general fiction and I browsed bookstores less and less often.

The message seemed clear enough. If I wanted a future that involved being able to eat and pay bills, then it probably didn’t involve writing horror books.

And that might have been it. I’d given it a shot and it hadn’t panned out. Time to move on to other things.

It was finding online sites like Literotica that rekindled the flames. I went back to basics, wrote some short stories, posted them and—encouraged by the positive feedback—wrote more. That feedback is invaluable, as is knowing there are readers out there enjoying your work. In this respect the internet is a fabulous opportunity for new writers. The old routes don’t work anymore, but writers still need a training ground to hone their art. Online story sites can help with this in a similar way to receiving a good review for a story in a small press magazine. They can also reach a much larger audience. Yes, it does involve giving some of your work away for free, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you can’t get people to read your stories when they’re up there for free, you sure as hell aren’t going to get them to pay for them.

And now I’m here, with a collection of my short stories coming out in October, a second collection scheduled for next February and a third collection nearing completion on my hard drive. I’ve held the print versions of the first two books in my hands already, and it’s a wonderful thing I can tell you.

What happens next I don’t know. I’m happy to get a second chance to finally do something I’ve always wanted to do. Not many people get to rescue a dream from the scrapheap. I might sell well enough to consider taking it up full time or I might only sell a few copies. Either way, it’s still more than would have read them had the manuscripts been buried in a slush pile somewhere.

The times are a changing. They barred the gates so now we’re climbing over the walls.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Selling Out

About a year ago, Fictionwise was acquired by bookseller Barnes and Noble. This is old news. The reaction was mixed, positive and negative. Some thought, well it had to happen some time, as ebooks became a bigger part of the market share, and if Fictionwise was going to be acquired by anyone, at least it was by someone who actually cared about books. Some, though, hated to see the biggest independent ebook retailer sell out to one of the big boys. Up until the surge of Amazon's Kindle (followed by Barnes and Noble's Nook and Apple's iPad) they were the considered THE place to buy ebooks.

But in a free market system, competition is good, right? The consumer never benefits from a monopoly, and in some ways, before the acquisition, Fictionwise was monopolizing the ebook market. Sure, some other distributors (most notably All Romance Ebooks and Omnilit) had come out to challenge them, and were even making some headway, but Fictionwise still had a lion's share of the market.

Then the acquisition happened, Kindle exploded for Amazon, and the world turned upside down.

Fictionwise had already begun to have some major customer service issues. They were getting pretty big for their britches before the acquisition, ignoring customer and publisher complaints, all the hallmarks of a company who thinks it's the biggest bully on the block who can get away with it. (Anyone hear Lily Tomlin's cackle, followed by, "Because we're the PHONE COMPANY!" in their head, or is it just me?) But even big ol' Fictionwise saw the writing on the wall about the future of ebooks and sold out to the highest bidder.

They said selling out wouldn't change anything - Scott Pendergrast, head of Fictionwise, was quoted as saying, "Barnes & Noble (is) fully behind Fictionwise’s philosophy of 'platform neutrality and eReader everywhere.'"

Hm. Really? A big corporation holding the same philosophy as an independent retailer? Who was he trying to convince exactly?

Then came the extinction of Fictionwise's Buywise program, due to agency model pricing. It was a great program for consumers, offering 15% off books for members, along with special “micropay rebate” offers. Of course, it wasn't always so good for the publisher. Fictionwise standard contracts said that royalties to the publisher would be 50% of the sale price, or 25% of the list price, whichever was greater. And the "sale price" was defined as "the price paid by the customer." Of course, Fictionwise stipulated that the price "may be less than the List Price because of coupons, promotions, or other discounts."

Promotions like the Buywise program.

The small independent publishers had always complained about Fictionwise's deep discounts of their books and the smaller percentage of royalties that they received based on those discounts. Unlike Amazon, who only gave a 35% royalty rate to publishers, but always based that rate on the publisher's set list price even when they discounted a book, Fictionwise passed that consumer savings on to the publisher, much to the publisher's chagrin. But at the time, Fictionwise was the biggest dog on the e-book block, and volume of sales helped alleviate some of those consumer incentives. You don't bite the hand that feeds you, and small independent ebook publishers were loathe to complain.

The Big Six, though, weren't having any of it. With the typical arrogance of the "too big to fail" philosophy of most big corporations, they complained. They wanted to sell their books and receive royalties based on the price they listed. And now that Fictionwise had been acquired by Barnes and Noble, they didn't have much say in the matter. And the Buywise program bit the proverbial dust.

But that was just the first indication that the biggest independent online retailer's selling out to one of the big boys might have been a mistake - at least, if they wanted their philosophy about ebooks to continue into the near future, let alone a long-term one.

Then, Fictionwise closed applications to any new publishers wanting to publish directly with them - I was told they were "indefinitely on hold." I was also told to inquire with Barnes and Noble instead. I know of several publishers who applied and had been waiting six months or more without any response from Fictionwise about their applications, in spite of numerous attempts to elicit one.

And now, Fictionwise is closing all of its branded stores. According to Publisher's Weekly, Fictionwise boasted about 500 of these store-fronts that were hosted by Fictionwise and enabled customers to view only a publisher's own titles rather than the entire list of all ebooks sold by Fictionwise. EPIC's (Electronically Published Internet Connection) own bookstore was powered by Fictionwise - but has since been redirected to All of the branded stores will reportedly be closed by the end of September.

I can say now that I'm glad I followed my instincts in dealing with Fictionwise from the beginning and didn't invest the $1000 (that's right, it cost those who wanted a branded store $1000 for the privilege) to power Excessica's storefront. Although I feel sorry for those who did make that investment.

I'm also a little sad, in spite of my difficulty in dealing with Fictionwise over the past few years, to see the end of an era. This, to me, more than the explosion of Kindle, the Coming of the iPad, the scrambling of Borders and Barnes and Noble to keep up, marks the true beginning of the end. Fictionwise, once the largest and most profitable ebook retailer, isn't going to survive the ebook boom we're facing, and certainly not in the way they claimed to have hoped.

Perhaps Fictionwise saw the future of ebooks and sold out at just the right time. It was inevitable, wasn't it, that once ebooks reached a certain share of the market, that the "little guys" just wouldn't be able to hold their own anymore? Even the biggest "little guys" were going to take a hit or disappear altogether.

But why all the smoke and mirrors? Why not just admit that you sold out, that the impending change in the market necessitated the sale? Instead, we heard platitudes about things staying the same.

I don't know, but it seems to me the winds of change have taken on the distinct odor of manure.

-Selena Kitt

#1 Be Not Afraid

So I’ve decided to do a little fly-by-night, seat-of-my-pants list of stuff I feel people interested in self publishing should know. I’ll do them one at a time and try to keep them short. The point is to illustrate that it’s not as scary as you might think and it can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be.

First, I’ll do an about me in a nutshell. I write for several publishers, including Excessica. When I found Excessica I wondered how in the hell anyone was making any money if Selena was giving the writers their money. Allllllll their money. But slowly I followed along and saw the genius of what she was doing. Excessica went from that weird little publisher that I wrote for, to that stupendously brilliant publisher run by that phenomenally smart woman. My only question when the company moved to 10% off the top was ‘what took you so long?’

Somewhere in there, I decided to try my hand at self pubbing my own shorts here and there. Mostly reprints from one of my favorite places Ruthie’s Club (now defunct). Then later I got super brave and I tried my hand at a short antho. Now, what was once terrifying to me is not a huge deal.

The most important thing to remember is to not panic. Be not afraid! Yes, you will screw up. Yes, you will have to learn as you go. But if you are in this industry, you can’t jump overboard at one mistake. There will be typos, bad blurbage and questionable covers (dear lordy, yes). There will be things that do not upload properly or missing prices or instructions you do not understand at first. The thought of reading a style guide (a la Smashwords) will seem super daunting. But do. Not. Panic.

The bottom line is this: ask questions. You can Google things, buy short guides to self publishing, follow blogs such as this one. You can ask other writers and you can ask on group lists found on Yahoo! and various chat groups. But the most important of all is you can ask the vendors where you will be listing your work. You see that section labeled Help or Contact us? Click it! Ask them if you don’t understand or something won’t work. Because if you make money on their site, they make money. And it is in their best interest to aide you in getting your work up properly.

Of course, that’s assuming you’ve even gotten to the uploading stage. We haven’t even talked about the other stuff like naming your press, covers, editing, anthologies. But we will. Soon.

For now, start saying it: Om…om…There is nothing to fear. All you need is the willingness to learn and not give up. That’s step one. Intent.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Short and Sweet (or Naughty)

Hello fellow authors, artists, and readers! Ava James, your genre whore extraordinaire making my first appearance here.

I concur with my blogging comrades - epublishing is booming and you get what you give when it comes to advertising. That being said, I'll get to the point of my post; epublishing gives those of us with a flare for short stories a real chance to shine.

A little history on me, I'm that child in school that was constantly harassed by teachers to quit doodling. The one who, instead of taking real notes, was writing a story about tigers who turned into people under the full moon. (Yes, I wrote that story when I was 12, but it still holds promise.) I like being able to sit down to my computer the moment a new idea strikes, write until 2a.m., then start editing the next day on the 5,000 words I churned out.

I write for those of us with limited time, the ones who need a quick fix. Think about all of those great short stories that epublihsing brings you. The short, sweet ones that make you smile with their warmth or the blisteringly brief naughty encounters. With epublihsing, you don't have to leave the house to get fantastic short reads at a great price - it's immediate reading gratification. You want something you can read from start to finish in under an hour, we've got it. You want to read a pirate romance now and maybe a shape shifter erotic tale later, go ahead an download each. Who says a story has to be 200 pages to be rewarding? Sometimes all we have is a few minutes to devote to ourselves, so why not spend it in the middle of someone else's tryst?

Okay, my post has turned into the short ramblings of a distracted writer. But then again, isn't that why you looked at this blog today?

See you again on the 9th!
~ Ava

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Some Whys and Hows of E-Publishing

Those on the following list of authors have something in common: Douglas Adams, Winston Churchill, Lee Child, Carl East, Elizabeth George, Stephen King, Selena Kitt, Stieg Larrson, Carole Lynn, Anne McCaffrey, Brynn Paulin, Oscar Wilde, and P. G. Wodehouse. They are all best-selling authors of e-books. The subset of East, Kitt, Lynn, and Paulin are distinguished from the rest in that they write erotica. Well, there's also Oscar Wilde, I guess.

For more than a decade readers and writers have been hyped by the anticipation and claim of a great wave of e-book sales that was just out there on the horizon. Well, that great wave is crashing on the shore now, and the genres that are benefiting the most from the first wave to land are Romance and erotica. It's not something to be predicted or anticipated or wished for or wished against—it's here.

The British newspaper, The Guardian, reported that Amazon's e-book Christmas-season sales overtook their print sales for the first time in 2009, and in June 2010, Steve Haber, president of Sony's digital reading business division, predicted to the Huffingtonpost that total e-book sales would be overtaking total print book sales within five years. E-book sales subsequently were reported as already having overtaken hardcover sales.

Even a recent Newsweek feature, "Who Needs a Publisher?" by Isia Jasiewicz, focuses on—and celebrates—the droves of authors who are bypassing the frustrating and highly iffy process of submitting to mainstream print publishers and going straight to putting their works out on their own, most of them via e-book publishing. And selling the books. The "and selling the books" is the shocking change that has swept over the world of publishing.

Many authors these days are also bypassing the self-publishing print world (you can almost hear the screams of angst in the halls of such self-publishing packagers as iUniverse and of LightningSource, their main print-on-demand manufacturer) and are seizing the world of e-publishing. And actually making money doing so. Until very recently, it was right to scoff about "cigarette money" in discussing the potential for profits from e-publishing (or POD self-publishing, for that matter), but as thriller author (Whiskey Sour) J. A. Konrath was quoted as noting in the Newsweek feature, there are authors who are now paying their mortgages—and more—with their e-book royalties.

It isn't the purpose of this essay to get into the argument of print versus e-book as desirable or preferable to either the reader or the author—especially when now you don't have to make a choice; via Amazon's CreateSpace program you can cheaply put an e-book into print. You can have both worlds. The purpose of this essay is to help get authors of Romance and erotica—the two "first takeoff" genres of e-booking—to consider whether e-booking is for them—and, if they think it might be, to help get them on the road to getting it done.

Why E-Publish?

The quick and simple (and still true) answer to the question of why e-publish rather than attempt to print publish is that it is quicker, simpler, easier—and, for Romance and erotica, at least—more potentially profitable and enjoys a more larger market in e-books than in print. Beyond that, for many authors it is, realistically, the only option to seeing their work for sale internationally under a book cover.

What is the advantage of e-booking over print submission/why has the "great wave" arrived? The computer and electronic reader have progressively moved into the center of people's lives. And this has been goosed along by faltering economies that favor the cost effectiveness, ease, and convenience of electronic shopping over stocking and operating brick and mortar stores. There will always be people who "just gotta" stand in the store and feel the book in their hands before buying, but natural attrition is doing a job on that subset and, proportionally, there are increasingly more people who are comfortable with—even preferring—to do their browsing and shopping in electronic stores. In responding to this trend, the electronic and publishing worlds are providing e-reader devices that are getting cheaper and more acceptable to use. And (surprise!) the mainstream publishers are branching out to electronic publishing themselves.

Individual readers and authors grouse about this not happening in their lifetime—and certainly not to them. But if they'll take a look around they'll see that mainstream publishers and best-selling print authors have seen and are melding to the trend—and are riding the e-book wave themselves. Name a best-selling author and/or a major print publisher and then go out and check for yourself what they are doing in the realm of electronic publishing.

For readers, e-book devices are getting easier and more acceptable to use—and cheaper. E-books are also convenient; they are mobile and disposable, easier to acquire, and don't take up the space that print books do. And, as noted already, readers increasingly are growing up adapted to centering their life on electronics.

For authors, it's easier, faster, and cheaper to put out an e-book over a print book (even a self-published print-on-demand book). It's also easier and cheaper and more convenient (and takes up less storage space) to market, sell, and distribute a book via the Internet than through traditional marketing. And because of all this, there is a greater per-unit profit margin at a lower reader cost for an e-book over a print book. On top of this, an e-book doesn't go off the shelf like a print book does. The publishing industry-standard of the shelf life of a print book is two weeks. At some point e-books will probably have to be pushed off distributor's Web sites—but there's no indication how many decades down the line that will have to happen. In the meantime, the e-book is on display across the Internet—on equal footing with mainstream publisher books (did I mention that the number of e-book stores is increasing as well?), whereas most print books are gone (although Internet distributors such as Amazon and B&N are now helping to give print books longer shelf lives than in past centuries).

And for those who simply must have a print book in their hands, Amazon's CreateSpace program makes that option more cheaply available than the prior wave of print-on-demand self-publishing does. And you get the Internet marketing and distribution services to go along with it.

For the author (and the reader) there are creative advantages of e-books over print. There are cost-effective limitations with print books—they can't be too short or too long, or there's little or no hope for them to pay for their production, marketing, and distribution costs. In e-publishing, there are no lower or upper limits to the words in a work. The e-book industry might, in fact, be the savior of the novella—which can't be cost-effectively put into print through mainstream publishing processes unless your name is Steve Martin. Also, although it hasn't been fully exploited yet, e-books can be multimedia in content—and they can be constantly updated, corrected, and evolving. It's actually an exciting publishing realm for author and reader alike.

But why is e-booking especially attractive for writers/readers of Romance and erotica? For erotica writers, it's attractive because the e-book market is bigger and more accessible for Romance, and especially erotica, than the print market is. And it's far easier and cheaper either to find a publisher or to publish it yourself (and, if you are publishing it yourself, you encounter far fewer self-publisher barriers in e-publishing than you do in print publishing). It's attractive to the writer, because it's attractive to the reader, which proves out by the simple fact that readers are buying e-book Romance and erotica hand over fist. And the writers who are profiting from that wave are the ones offering new e-book titles to the buyers.

For the reader, buying e-book Romance and erotica is especially attractive, because e-buying and e-reading are more private than book store buying and print reading. You can easily and privately buy e-books on the Internet, you can more privately read them in public on an e-reader, you can store them more privately in a computer than on a book shelf, and you can more easily and privately dispose of them when you are finished. And they were cheaper to buy to boot, so you can buy and read more of them in comparison to print books. (This is especially attractive to Romance buyers, who are voracious readers.)

How to Get Your Erotica E-Published?

In every dimension—time, cost, submission acceptance, marketing, distribution—it's easier to get e-published than published in print. And, luckily for you, if you are writing Romance or erotica, the e-book market for those genres is much, much (much!) larger than the print market is.

First and foremost—and possibly the hardest for a budding writer to swallow—you need to write something readers want to read. At least if you want a second go at it. If you want to start making money at it, you need to invest the time, effort, and storytelling and presentation talent to play in the market. The e-book market is larger and more forgiving, but even it has standards and preferences (although here, too, e-booking makes niche subject publishing far more possible than print publishing does).

The good news is that you have a development platform at Literotica. Write, submit, and seek feedback for works right here on this and at other story sites. As you add to your portfolio, you will develop skills and build confidence—and, if you are or can become a good writer and storyteller—you'll start gathering that all-important fan base that will transfer over to be your buyers/readers in the marketplace. Seek out editors (who, as far as you can determine, know what they're doing) and beta readers. And possibly the best thing you can do is to read stories on the story sites not only to learn from them what to do/what not to do but also to pick out writers who write well and write stories you'd like to be writing. When you identify them, contact them directly to see if they'll read something of yours and give you advice.

Don't worry about giving your "precious babies" away for free on free-read story sites—or having them stolen because you laid them out where it's easy to snatch them. Writing is a renewable resource. The more you do of it and the better you get at it, the more inspiration will open to you for new and fresh stories and approaches to old themes. And the more marketable you'll become for profit sharing from your stories. (I use "sharing" on purpose. Anyone who helps you get a story published becomes part owner of the success of that story and deserves a piece of the profit as well. Thinking of a story as solely yours stops at the point that you need help from anyone else to get it published.)

When you have works you would like to see covers slapped on and competing in the marketplace, it's time to do a little research. Browse through the listings at such Internet distributors of e-books as Amazon, Fictionwise, All Romance E-books, Smashwords, Bookstrand, etc. and so forth, looking for books similar to yours. Take note of the e-publishers for these books (they are easily found in lists at Fictionwise and All Romance E-books with click throughs to the publishers' home pages) and check out their book lists (for compatibility with your works) and their submission guidelines. You could also check how their books do in the marketplace—where they rank in the distributors' best-selling and highest quality rating lists.

Then prioritize the most desirable e-publishers and start submitting to them, following their posted guidelines. Don't be discouraged by initial rejections. If they point out why they don't wish to publish what you sent, learn from those suggestions and adjust. And move on down the line in submissions. Be comforted in the knowledge that it's much easier to find an e-publisher than a mainstream agent or publisher for a print book.

If you want to ease into the process, try out a coop publisher like eXcessica, which flowed out of the large fund of authors right on Literotica and that continues to welcome writers from the Literotica pool.

If you wish to publish yourself—and, especially, if you have talents and abilities in setting up files for publication and designing covers—check out the Kindle and CreateSpace services at Amazon and the programs at distributors like Smashwords and All Romance E-books. With talent, skills, and patience you can publish on a near-equal footing with established e-publishers. When shopping on Internet distribution sites, readers rarely look at who the publisher is. They are looking for an evocative cover, an inviting blurb, an engaging excerpt, a cheap buy, and, ultimately a good reading experience.

The cover design is all important—maybe even more so on the Internet than in a brick and mortar book store. Whether you go with a publisher or are publishing yourself, you can find the same cover designs most others use on such photo service Web sites as 123 Royalty Free or Dreamstime. Peruse and dream about what would look great on your book and help bring it to life—and sell it.

The Bottom Line

The great wave of e-booking, especially for the Romance and erotica genres, has arrived at last. You can catch the wave if you put forward effort and talent. You can either stubbornly say that you won't be any part of anything but writing for print or reading books in print. OR you can do what best-selling authors and mainstream publishers are doing and broaden your potential readership to the extent possible, playing in all markets that are selling what you write well.

This essay isn't meant to be comprehensive in either arguing why the time for e-booking erotica is now or fully instructing writers on how to break into the market. But, if it's gotten writers to consider the possibilities and how these apply to their own writing goals—and given them some idea how to get started on the path—it's done its job.

Barbarian Spy

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Welcome to the Revolution!

Hi folks, my name's J.E. Taylor or JET for short and thanks to eXcessica, I'm now a published author learning a crazy amount of information on how small publishers work thanks to Selena and company.
Before eXcessica, I didn't realize how much goes into publishing e-books.  From editing to formatting to uploading to the diffrerent sites and even review coodination and advertising that happens after the fact.  Some of this is carried by the publisher, but the marketing efforts land in the lap of the writer these days.

I did a fair amount of research into what works and what doesn't on the marketing front and given my books aren't on the shelves of the big distributors brick and mortar stores, signing stock wasn't an avenue that I had at my disposal, so the greatest incentive - face time with potential readers - was limited. 

Of course the networking sites out there are a great tool, but beating someone over the head with your product is a total turn off - at least it is for me, so while I have a decent following, and I occassionally tout my wares, I am usually not talking shop - at least not in the buy me, buy me sort of way.  Even my blog is a soft sell type endeavor, where I focus on other authors, finding out what makes them tick and driving traffic to their sites as well as mine.   

So what DID I do to market my debut?  I focused on a self produced blog tour with several stops throughout my release month and while it is fun, I'm not sure what the return on time investment was. Of course, the biggest incentive I gave also garnered the biggest blog turn out - a $50 Amazon gift certificate and that brought over a hundred active commentors, but again, I still don't know the turnout to sales ratio.   I'll find out when I get my third quarter royalty statement and then adjust the plan for my November releases.  

The one bit of advice I'd give novices out there is find a good support group.  I have been blessed with a support group of great writers here at eXcessica as well as over on the Backspace forum and their experiences on both the writing and marketing front have helped shore up my own plans and kept my head together even during the darkest days. 

Thanks for swinging in and taking a gander at my post.

See you next month!



Saturday, September 4, 2010

Live from the Book Blitz Trenches

Hi, I'm Zoe Winters. Yeah, that sounds like a very support group thing to say, but as it's my debut post here I thought I'd introduce myself. I sell a lot more books as an indie author than many, and a lot less books as an indie than others. Yet, no matter what my numbers are, one thing I've always been, is vocal.

This causes me a lot of stress at times because while I have fans, I also have a few hecklers. And I know the hecklers sit around waiting for me to fail. Any time I try something new I know I might be giving the hecklers more to laugh about. And yet, at the end of the day, I'm still Zoe. So I'm going to say what I have to say.

One of the things I've done is blog and talk not only about my successes but about my failures and mistakes. I think it's easy to see someone doing pretty well and not know the hurdles and obstacles they climbed over to get there. I'm always surprised by the indies who want to throw in the towel after a month or two because they aren't selling big numbers yet.

Making mistakes and having some failures doesn't mean you can't get where you're going. I've done my fair share of stupid things, such as licensing cover art, instead of getting work-for-hire. (With a series I could think of a million ways that could go badly.) I lost a few hundred dollars and found a fantastic new artist. Lesson learned and completely not the original artist's fault. Cost some money and some time.

And I have another stupid error to bring to you today. We might print up some T-shirts later that say: Zoe Winters: She sells books even when she's a moron!

Today I'm coming to you from inside the Book Blitz trenches to talk about my first ever book blitz and what I've learned and am continuing to learn through this week's experience.

I planned my book promotional blitz months in advance. Then as the time got closer, I planned 2 guest blog posts a day for this week. I had an incentive to buy Blood Lust "now" on Kindle by making it 99 cents for the first part of the blitz. I had a BIG prize: A Kindle... with an even bigger incentive attached to buy the book... If Blood Lust gets into the top 25 of the overall Kindle store, I'll give away a second Kindle.

The way I saw it... if I didn't make the top 25, I wouldn't have to buy a 2nd Kindle to give away, and if I did, I wouldn't care that I had to buy another one. :)

The incentives were in place to make it go viral, everything was as it should be... then I made my error.

I published the Kindle edition in the DTP system on Saturday morning before the contest at 6 am. The plan was to announce the upcoming contest on my blog when the book became buyable and run it through today.

In my experience even though it says 48 hours, I've never had it take longer than a day and a half for my book to be totally live and buyable. When I got up late Saturday evening (because I'm on a vampire sleep schedule right now), I went to check progress. The Kindle page for Blood Lust was up! Whoo Hoo!

Time to send out my emails and make my blog post and tweet and get this party started.

But here was my error... the book wasn't buyable yet. I'd forgotten that the page can be up before there is a buy link and pricing information. I was so glad to see it already up there that I didn't really look as hard at the page as I should have.

So I blogged and emailed and tweeted... I opened the Pandora's Box on the contest. Immediately I started to see a much bigger and more enthusiastic response to the contest than I imagined I would get.

But... then I found out nobody could buy it. Suddenly I was losing money because not every single person who saw the offer was going to come back and check things out a second time. I was promoting and having other people promote a book that wasn't there yet... at least not on Kindle... and most people don't want to pay $13.95 to buy a print book of an author they've never tried.

Which is understandable.

Eventually the buy link went live. My sales weren't as great as I'd hoped they would be. Part of it might be that it was 4 days into the contest before people could buy the book. Part of it might be that the book was a compilation release of previously released material. A lot of it was likely timing: school starting back, labor day weekend, major publishers releasing their fall catalog, this is the part of the year my sales start to dip anyway, etc.

I also feel that giving away a Kindle was both distracting (such a big prize it overshadowed what I was actually promoting), as well as not demographic-specific. A Kindle IMO is too broad of a prize because it doesn't narrowly target enough. For my next book blitz I think I'll give away several print paranormal romance books, including signed copies of mine. That should keep the contest more tightly focused toward readers of my genre.

But it's all live and learn. Sometimes failures are what help us to figure out what doesn't work, so we can tweak and hopefully have a more powerful strategy the next time. A lot of people who know me consider me to be a "successful indie author" (I've sold over 23,000 ebooks on my own.) Well, now you know, that even "successful indie authors" don't win every single battle, and you don't have to either!

Zoe Winters is an indie author of quirky paranormal romances. Her favorite colors are rainbow and clear.