Saturday, November 26, 2011

(Not So) Great Expectations

So you’ve written a book, revised it, revised it some more, had it edited, proofread. You’ve selected a cover, formatted the word file, uploaded it to Amazon. Now it’s up on the internet and available for the whole world to buy. You’ve done it. You’re published. That’s it…right?

Not quite.

In the past, in the legacy world, being published was a finishing post of sorts. A writer picked up the advance cheque and got to say they were Published. The book might flop right on its ass and sell squit all, but the writer could still say they were Published and—more importantly—keep the advance cheque.

In the modern, free-wheeling, self-published world, being published is more like the starting post. A self-published writer might have more freedom and keep a much higher percentage of each sale, but that’s worth nothing if they don’t sell any books.

This is where management of expectations becomes important. That initial euphoria on seeing your work out there in the big wide world can quickly become despair as you watch your Amazon rankings spiral down into seven figures and wonder if anyone out there gives a damn about your book.

Don’t panic!

It happens to most of us. Think of your favourite bands. Most of them started out playing in little pubs with about five people in the audience. This is the same. Unless you’re enormously talented AND lucky, a massive audience followed by bestseller status doesn’t happen overnight. In the meantime stay grounded.

1. Don’t spit in the boss’s eye and quit your day job. You’re likely still going to need it for a while. If my earnings from writing creep past my salary I might consider writing full-time. Until then I’m turning up for work at 9am same as everyone else.

2. Don’t plan to rely on the money coming in. It might not. I don’t factor royalties into my financial planning at all. It’s bonus money. I can use it for savings or splash out on a luxury item, but I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m sweating on whether it will be enough to pay the electric bill.

3. Keep writing.

4. Keep writing! Yeah, I could repeat this one ad infinitum. I have three books out and in each case a new book coming out has boosted the sales of the previous book. Don’t sit back on the first book. Work on the next ones and get them out. Doubts don’t have a chance to take hold if you’re already concentrating on getting the next book out there.

I’m not a massive success story and might never be. Since starting out last October with my first short story collection, A Succubus for Christmas, I’ve seen my Amazon sales creep up from around a book a week to a book a day. That’s still a long way off fame and fortune, but it’s movement in the right direction. It’s encouragement to keep at it and search for more potential readers.

Most of all, I’m enjoying the writing. At the end of the day, does anything else matter?

M.E. Hydra

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Thanks You Get

Thank you to those of you who have tagged Dr. Cockburn's Medicine on  I really appreciate the help.  I don't have an Amazon account so I can't reciprocate the favor.  My credit cards are maxed out.  So no more buying for me.  I really thought that writing was going to be my ticket out.  I thought so because everything that was happening happened in a magical sort of way.  I wrote a novel.  It got published.  I wrote four more.  I was full of ideas that came to fruition.  I mean, it was like a dream come true.  I have had nothing but positive feedback and I made some friends along the way.

But it doesn't pay the bills.  I remember reading this article about Sheryl Crow and how she quit her job as a music teacher to become a music star but after six months of struggling she hadn't achieved her dream and she fell into a deep depression.  But then she bounced back and within a year she had an album out and I think started winning Grammys.

Tom Cruise had a similar story.  He'd said that he moved to NYC and gave himself six months to make it in the acting business.  Or maybe it was Hollywood?  No - I think he got a Broadway show and within months got his first movie and basically achieved success in less than his self proposed time limit.

So when I started writing, I had that same approach - not that Tom Cruise was my role model or anything, but I started seeing a pattern developing.  It was something that seemed to come up in interviews with many celebrities.  Don't continue if you don't make money.

Writing is another financial dead end. 

Art isn't something I will ever give up since I do it because I have a need inside of me to create, which is not motivated by money.  And anyhow, there are thousands of success stories out there about artists who struggled their whole lives before making it.  Like Louise Nevelson who was in her 80s when she finally made it.  And Grandma Moses didn't even begin painting until she was 70 years old.

I hate the fact that I have all sorts of success except the financial kind.  It's killing me.  No matter how you try to spin it, right now that is the only kind that counts.

Thanksgiving is coming up, so I want to take this opportunity to thank you all so much for your support.

Three other books won't be released until December, March and May so technically it could still happen.  But as of now I'm contemplating bankruptcy so no matter the outcome it will be too little too late.  It just sucks because this has been fun.  I liked being a part of the erotica world and I liked having a secret life.

The end. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ebook Pricing - Redux

I’ve always been a proponent of higher ebook prices.

Not the crazy $12.99 more-than-the-paperback prices that legacy publishing is so fond of so they can continue to pay Manhattan rents—but higher than $0.99, certainly. Even for a short story.

That’s right, once upon a time, my short stories were selling for $2.99. And yes, they were selling.

But things changed. The indie market got more crowded. Authors started selling their full-length novels for $0.99 and some even gave them away for free. Blogs popped up everywhere telling Kindle owners where to find free and cheap ebooks.

So I decided to experiment with my prices. I lowered the prices on all my stories to $0.99—that was everything from 3K-15K. Everything else (some of which was priced as high as $5.99) I lowered to $3.99. And I left them that way for three months. A full quarter of ebook sales.

What did I discover?

At first, I found that lowering my price to $0.99 shot me up on a few bestseller lists. That increased my exposure, which was great. And I also found that my sales of those $0.99 titles doubled. Stories that had previously been selling 50 a month were now selling 100.

Sounds good, right?

But, of course, at $0.99 I was getting a 35% instead of the 70% royalty I’d been making when I was selling them at $2.99. I was now making roughly $35 a month on a story that had previously been taking in about $100 a month—a loss of $65 a month in income. Multiply that by twenty-five short stories (which is about what I have out there) and that’s a $1650 a month loss.

Worth it?

At first, I thought it might be, given the exposure. The higher you are in the rankings, the more people see your name, the more sales you make, right? But over time, more and more (and more!) indie authors started selling their stuff at $0.99 too, and those lists became overrun with cheap books.

I’d pretty much decided to quit the experiment when I read a comment from Konrath on his blog confirming my suspicion—that authors don’t make money at anything less than $2.99. Which meant, and I’ll quote Joe here:

“My data also shows that novels outsell short stories, even though I've priced my shorts at 99 cents. It stands to reason that if I switch shorts to $2.99, I'll sell fewer, but I bet I make more money. So the next step is to raise novels to $3.99-$4.99 and short stories to $2.99 and see what happens. Assuming I have the guts to do so...”

I’ve now changed all my short story prices back to $2.99, and raised my novel prices to $4.99. I imagine I’ll run this experiment for another three months and see what happens. If logic prevails, I’ll sell fewer books, but make more money.

But as Joe pointed out, doing this takes guts. Moving beyond the magical $2.99 price-point for novels, pushing those higher, to make room for short stories at that price, is a risky proposition. Will the market bear it?

Honestly, I think it will. And here’s why—Kindle readers are tired of $0.99 cheapies. The shine is off the new toy, people have stopped loading their Kindles up with freebies and cheapies, and have started getting more discerning about what they download. Many Kindle readers are starting to shy away from the $0.99 price point because they’ve read some stinkers and don’t want to travel down that road again. What was once a huge draw for Kindle readers—oooh, look, cheap books for my new toy!—has now become the opposite.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Which is why it’s a scary experiment!

Apropos for Halloween, don’t you think?

So let’s kick off this frightening new price point with a $2.99 story very fitting for the season, shall we?

For those of you scratching your heads, wondering how in the heck the pair of us ending up writing together, given that our genres are so vastly different, I’ll explain. Back at the beginning of the year, I’d posted some of my sales numbers on Joe’s blog, which at the time were astronomical (I was making $30,000 a month at Barnes and Noble alone!) and Joe jokingly said, “If you ever want to collaborate, let me know!”

I’d just finished reading and reviewing DRACULAS – and being the huge horror fan that I am, how could I resist? I emailed him to say, “I know you were kidding, but I’d love to collaborate with you guys.” And to my surprise, Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch actually took me up on the offer! They were planning a sequel to DRACULAS called WOLFMEN, and wanted me on board, along with a fourth writer (who has yet to be disclosed).

It made perfect marketing sense to cross-pollinate their audience and mine, which were both large, but vastly different.

Of course, no one knew if this great idea would work in practice…

So Blake Crouch agreed to take me out for a test run, and that’s how this story was born. The collaboration process was, I must say, an amazing success, and I couldn’t be prouder of the result. I really think this story is something special—but I’m probably a little biased!

If you want to know more about how HUNTING SEASON: A Love Blood Story was written, what the process was and how things developed, there’s an interview between myself and Blake included as bonus material at the end.

It’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for… you guessed it.


Is it worth it?

You be the judge!

HUNTING SEASON – A Love Blood Story by Blake Crouch and Selena Kitt

This 8,000 (approx) word collaboration by thriller/suspense/horror writer Blake Crouch and erotic romance author Selena Kitt includes bonus interview material with the authors about the upcoming sequel to the Konrath, Crouch, Strand and Wilson bestseller DRACULAS.


He’s a butcher.

She’s the trophy wife of a trophy hunter.

They used to be high school sweethearts, but that was two decades ago, and times have changed.

Meet Ariana Plano...40 years old, miserable, stuck in a loveless marriage to the worst mistake of her life.

Meet Ray Koski...40 years old, miserable, a lonely butcher who can do nothing but immerse himself in the drudgery of his work.

Once a week during hunting season, she brings her old teenage flame game meat for processing. 

They do not speak. They rarely make eye contact. Some histories are just too painful.

But this week will be different.

This week—a shocking encounter twenty-two years in the making—will change everything.

Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget