Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Start

In a few days time I’ll be entering the next phase of my writing adventure. On Friday my first book, “A Succubus for Christmas and other tales of Devilish Delights”, will come out from eXcessica. In one respect it’s the finishing line of a long-cherished dream, in another it’s only the beginning. Now I have to sell it...

This is the hard part. There are a lot of books out there and tons more being published all the time. Somehow I’ve got to get my book noticed amongst all those and then persuade YOU to part with your hard-earned cash to buy a copy. Some writers only get as far as selling to friends and family before drowning in the forgotten 1’s and 0’s of search result page #101. I don’t even have that to fall back on as my friends and family don’t know I write this kind of thing and I’m not about to tell them either!

It’s not all black. There are a couple of things which will work in my favour. I hope!

I’m not a completely unknown first-timer. Okay, I’m an almost completely unknown first-timer, but it’s still a start. For the last three years I’ve been writing and posting stories up on the internet at sites like Literotica. Some of these stories have picked up a lot of views. One of them placed in one of the regular contests. I’ve topped Lit’s All-Time list in the Erotic Horror category for the past year and a half.

Okay. I know, I know. In real life terms this is all small beans, amateur coupons, or whatever you want to call it. No matter, it’s getting my stories read. That’s the important thing—finding readers. I think of it as kind of like a new rock band touring their local pubs and clubs to build up a name. If people like what they read (and I know some have) then maybe they’ll buy the book (and I know some have said they will)

It’s a start.

The other thing going for me is I’m targeting a fairly unexploited niche and I know it fairly well. If you want to write about vampires, zombies or werewolves then you’d better roll up your sleeves and get ready to swing your elbows and bellow your lungs out to get noticed amongst the thousands of other people writing about vamps, brain-munchers and woofs.

I specialise in succubi. They’re familiar enough to be a recognisable horror trope, but they rarely show up in books or films, despite being popular in both computer games and Japanese anime/manga. I have more elbow room. It’s easier to get spotted by the web sites and forums that are interested in this kind of thing. These are the same places that potential new readers will stumble upon during random internet searches. So, getting this kind of write-up from possibly the most comprehensive information repository on succubi in media on the internet is fantastic word-of-mouth (thanks Tera!).

Will it translate to lots of sales?

I don’t know. I’m still a newbie at all this. There might be a very good reason why the niche is unexploited—there isn’t enough interest. I don’t know.

At the moment I’m trying to keep myself grounded. The book might only sell a few copies. Short story collections are traditionally hard sells.

I don’t care. It’s mine. It’s out there. I’m looking forward to the next stage of the adventure.

M.E. Hydra

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Who Knew by Amarinda Jones in Romance

By way of an experiment, when I couldn’t sleep last night, I ventured into Lulu self publishing territory. Why? Because I could and because Pallavi Agarwal inspired me to do so when she put her book Slow Burn on Lulu. What will be the result into self-pubbing? Not sure but it’s the first step into having my own publishing site and what the hell – life is a risk so why not take a chance on all things unknown? And now I'm hooked. Yes, correct I'm completely out of control with self publishing. I got over my vistaprint addiction and now this is my drug baby....

Go on - give it a go...

Amarinda Jones
Penn Halligan
Be an Amarinda book

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

#2 Think It Through, Genius...

Step two of self publishing is to name your site/publishing ‘house’/store/blog what have you. I named mine for a joke in my family. I once had a friend who called me unco or spaz. I am the girl known for tripping, falling, whooping, hollering and dropping stuff. It’s part of who I am and a running joke that I’m the klutzy one.

So I named my press Spastic Girl Press. Um…turns out this wasn’t such a good idea as overseas, it’s not really okay to say that. Or at least to some folks. Even here, it’s iffy, but since the girl being referred to was myself, I never gave it a second thought. When polled when the issue came up, most readers and friends mostly said: The name made me think of Lucille Ball…Stepanie Plum…You…

But the name did come up and some people were put off by it and I had been playing with the idea of changing it for various reasons. The point of this blog is name your site with care. Google it first, ask folks if you suspect it could be iffy. You don’t want to offend potential customers (though you do want to be true to yourself and your vision, so walk that line however you are comfortable). Do your research. Look into names and phrases and then find one that makes you happy.

When the name issue came up I recalled sitting at the dinner table with my family and my son telling me how they had to change a video game cover because the hand gesture on the cover was fine here, but in the UK it was basically the eff you finger. So that stuff does crop up if you want to sell your work across the board (USA, UK and beyond). Try to keep it in mind.

And me? I ended up being December Ink (named by my husband ‘the man’ no less). I ended up being happier with my new name than my original, but it was a PITA (pain in the ass) to do all the changing at vendor sites. So if you think it through right out of the gate you can save yourself a lot of fretting, paperwork and brain cells!

Back next time when we discuss art or as I like to call it: Oh crap! I need a cover!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Chinese Ebooks

Is anyone else glad we don't live in China?

"(A)mateurs involved in digital publishing must register with local authorities by the end of September for permission to publish."

Thank you, first amendment.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Piracy Isn't "Truly Criminal" - In What Alternate Universe?

Whether you believe piracy is a necessary evil or you fight it tooth and nail, I think it's comments like these, from an article about website filtering, that drive me to drink: 

True criminal activity means making a profit on the backs of the hard work of others. If file-sharing was “stealing” from these union’ members then why is is that the motion picture industry has enjoyed year after year of record breaking profits? 

Wow. Really? If you make an increasing profit over time and someone steals from you, you shouldn't care? That's not stealing? It's not criminal behavior?

So if my local drugstore makes increasing profits over time, I should be able to go in and steal a candy bar occasionally. That's the logic here, isn't it?

No? What do you mean, I'd get arrested for shoplifting? What the heck? I thought, if a business had increasing profits over time, that stealing from them wasn't really "criminal!" 

So why is it okay to steal from an author or an actor, but not okay to steal from the drugstore?

This belief stems from our idea that creative endeavors aren't valuable. I was in a graduate program that allowed us to do "art projects" in lieu of a final paper or exam. Many people chose this option, and many professors grumbled about it. Why? Because the perception of creative endeavors is that they aren't "real work." Somehow sitting down and writing a paper was more valuable than doing a painting, or a sculpture, or writing a poem.

The reality is, it's not true. In fact, I'd argue that being creative and imaginative takes MORE discipline and work than not. I know I learned more about myself and my subject doing an art project than I ever learned sitting down and writing an academic paper.

Writing is work. It's hard work. It requires thought and effort. Why is it we believe people who write, or act, or paint, or do anything that involves creativity, shouldn't get paid? I've made an increasing profit over the past two years since I've started publishing my work. So does that mean it's okay for people to pirate my work?

I don't think so.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Censored by Amazon

I found out today that I've been censored by No, they didn't remove my book. And no, I wasn't censored because of the content of it according to my publisher. I was censored based solely on the basis of its cover.

Several things to point out here.
  1. This title with this cover had resided happily on Amazon for a year prior to this happening. It continues to reside on other sites at this time without apparent concern.

  2. What Amazon has done is to remove my book from the "All Departments" search. So far, if you search by title in just the Kindle Store, you can find this title -- but who knows when that could change. What has happened is that I have been taken out of the most common search results utilized by visitors to the website.

  3. The irony of this is that no actual woman was involved in the creation of this cover. This is a pencil sketch transformation of an image of a doll.

  4. No official notice of this action by Amazon was ever received. In fact the only way it was discovered was when another author asked why their work had suddenly disappeared from the All Departments search and, after much prodding, was told that the cover would have to be changed without saying exactly how.

  5. No changes of actual content have been requested -- again, so far.

  6. Could Amazon's action have been prompted by this Attack Article that recently appeared in Slate - an article that was, btw to my second-hand knowledge, a trojan horse in the way it was sold to the interviewee who didn't realize that it would be used to attack her largest distributor.
So it looks like I'm coerced into creating a new bookcover just for Amazon to meet unspecified criteria from an unpublished policy. Call that one more item that I can check off of my Bucket List. Shouldn't everyone be censored at least once in their life? After all, you don't know where the line is until after you've crossed over it.

Amazon, you could have just come to me and asked for a new book cover.

D.B. Story

Friday, October 8, 2010

Crime/Mysteries Edge out Romance/Erotica - Really?

According to a Harris Poll published by Publisher's Weekly, crime and mystery novels have edged out romance, chick lit and erotica. Of course, they only interviewed 2700-ish people.

Personally, I think there are far more people willing to ADMIT they read mysteries, crime novels and sci-fi than there are people willing to ADMIT they read romance and erotica.

In that sense, the study is probably accurate! :P

Selena Kitt

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Amazon Kindle is Doing Wrong

I had a conversation today that got me thinking about what Amazon Kindle might be doing wrong.

I think we can all agree that they have done a lot right, in terms of selling ebooks - as their 70-80% of the market share proves. The Kindle is a fantastic e-reader, and as a dedicated device, I wouldn't recommend anything else. They make buying books ridiculously easy with 1-click (i.e. 1-crack). They make publishing books easy, too, for the big six, indie publishers, and self-pubbed authors alike. 

Aside from eliminating the agency pricing model, which is a given -  for me, there are two things that come to mind that would make the experience at Amazon a better one for readers and authors alike.

First would be allowing self-published authors to offer books for free. I understand that there's bandwidth and delivery issues involved as a cost, but they offer it to the Big Six publishers (and others as well - you'll notice Samhain Publishing offers free titles, and they're an indie) why not to self-pubbed authors? Even if we had to pay a fee for doing so, I think we'd all agree the boost in exposure would be worth it.

The second thing would be to give away a free ebook to everyone who buys a print version. As a reader, I know there are certain books I will always buy in print, as long as print exists, because I'm a fan and collect them. Stephen King books, for example, in my case. But I also want to read that book when I'm sitting at my son's wrestling practice or waiting at my daughter's orthodontist appointment, and I don't want to have to carry a huge hardcover with me. (Have you ever lifted one of the tomes SK has written? They're like doorstops!) I want it in ebook form, too. But if I want it...I have to pay for it. Again. And of course, because of the agency model, I may have to pay just as much (or more!) for the ebook version as I do for the hardcover! That just makes me mad.

I think Amazon Kindle is in a unique position to offer this option. Excessica publishes all our print books through Amazon's CreateSpace, and it would be easy, I would think, to link the systems together and give the reader an ebook version when they buy a print version. And it would also marry the idea of print-and-e together. It would send the message that they're not mutually exclusive, and Amazon isn't trying to "kill print books" with ebooks. (Even if they are... shhh!)

I also think they're setting the bar too low setting the price point at $2.99 for a full-length book, but that's something I've talked about before - and I'm gathering data together to see if my theory that pricing full-length books at $3.99 and $4.99 and even $5.99 doesn't hurt (and may even help) sales. That's something that Amazon doesn't really control, aside from the royalty option they've set up. It's the thrifty Kindle readers who seem to think that, after paying $200 for an e-reading device, content should be "nearly free."

I think Amazon Kindle has done a lot for ebooks - but I also think they need to pay attention to the trends and possibilities. The good news is, I think they are, and they will. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw them offering the "free" option to self-pubbed authors and a complimentary copy of ebooks with a print sale as well. After all, they're now offering their popular 70% royalty rate on books sold in the UK.

The good thing about Amazon is they pay attention and listen to authors. Which is more than can be said, it seems, for big publishing.

Selena Kitt

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October experiment

I decided to do an experiment with my short story sales during the month of October.  I posted them on Smashwords over the last couple of months at a price of .99cents and made 4 sales over that course of time.  

On October 1, I reset all the titles to "Pick your own price" and sold three times as many within a couple days as I had within the last two months.  Of course, pick your own price also includes free as a price tag - but if people find a writer they like, they tend to continue to read other stuff by that same author.  I figured this was the best way I could get these stories into the hands of readers, to get folks to take a chance on me.

I'm not sure if it will translate into real sales when this is all said and done, but my hope is that it will raise awareness and open more doors for my work. 

There has been a great debate on what the golden price is for an e-book and I've seen $2.99 thrown out there a fair amount  of times.  Is that the magic number?  I don't know, but from a consumer standpoint, I'd more readily take a chance on an unknown author if the price was $2.99 as opposed to $6.99 or higher.  I'd also be more likely to impulse buy at the lower amount too. 

Perhaps this theory has creedence.  What would happen if a publisher set the price of a new release as $2.99 for a full length novel - even if it only lasted for the first month along with an advertisement of new releases on sale.   

After all, it is amazing what the label "sale" does to the purchasing mentality.

Until next time . . .

Monday, October 4, 2010

Baby Got Back... List

Lately I’ve gotten into laser-focus mode. I comment on blogs less frequently than I used to, and when I do, I don’t tend to keep coming back or engaging in debate. I’m spending a bit less time on Twitter and Facebook as well. Why?

Besides being burned out...

Marketing is important, but the most important thing is backlist. Selena Kitt and Joe Konrath are selling like crazy crack-monkeys not only because they can write, but because they have monster backlists. As you start to build a name for yourself as an indie, the best thing you can do is have more work for your fans to consume once they finish whatever they’re reading of yours now.

The more times someone clicks a buy button for a book with your name attached to it, the more buying from you becomes a habit and the lower the wall of resistance for them to buy something from you in the future.

My focus right now is on writing more and putting more work out into the world so I can build my backlist. It may take awhile, but it’s my goal to get to the point where I can release a book every six months without quality suffering. Since I don’t have a job outside of this, it should be doable eventually.

It’s my belief that when you’re starting out you hit a bit of a plateau where, unless you have a huge marketing budget where you can spend actual money to bring readers to you, you’ve exhausted your current reach.

It’s not your total reach. There are probably many people out there who would like your work that you just haven’t reached yet. But, without the marketing dollars, there is no good way for you to reach them.

I did a big Kindle giveaway recently. I had a rush of blog visitors and a lot of contest entries, and several new readers, but it still didn’t broaden my overall platform gigantically. The only way to move forward at this point is to release new work, and then build platform from the momentum of that release. Then do it again. And again.

I know many indies feel sort of adrift because they’ve told me so. And I’ve felt adrift as well at times, not knowing where to put my focus. It seems absolutely necessary to stay plugged-in constantly with people so they don’t forget who you are and you don’t fall off the map. But unless we’re talking about your hardcore uber fans who will pimp your work until their dying day, there is a law of diminishing returns here.

I’m starting to believe that the best strategy is a big marketing push at the beginning of a new release, followed by consistently (but moderately) getting your name out there and focusing most of your effort on building your catalog of work.

The more books you have, the more opportunities people have to find your work, and once hooked, the more chance you have of repeat buyers who become serious fans.

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