Monday, January 17, 2011

Guest Post by Aaron Patterson

Surfing the interwebs, I've found that the most vocal opponents to writers self-publishing seem to be:

Writers.

When I began self -pubbing two years ago, I had my reservations. I didn't believe it would ever be my sole source of income (especially one where I make $1200 a day, which I'm currently doing.)

But many writers have shown this to not only be an obvious alternative to traditional publishing, but a preferable one. There is money to be made, readers to be discovered, publicity to be garnered. All it takes is trying it.

And yet, all over the world wide web, I see writers repeating and restating the same tired argument against self-pubbing: If you do it, you probably won't sell many books.

What amazes me about this is it is coming from traditionally published authors who fail to see the irony of that statement.

If you've been traditionally published, you have first-hand experience about how truly few books you can sell within the system. You also know the hard work, sacrifices, tireless promotion, and luck it took to sell in those paltry numbers.

But Stockholm Syndrome reigns supreme in this business. Writers cannot wrap their minds around the fact (and it is a fact, not a hypothesis) that publishing houses aren't needed anymore. They make excuses for publishers, and call writers like me exceptions.

While I've never said that self-pubbing is a guaranteed ticket to wealth, I've seen enough evidence to realize that writers can and will make more money self-pubbing than they will going the traditional route. You have just as much of a chance selling a book on Kindle as you do signing with one of the Big 6 and selling a book in a bookstore. And actually, according to my numbers, your chances are better on Kindle.

Some writers have conducted their own experiments, putting up a single ebook, pricing it too high, and after a month have concluded there is no money to be made.

That isn't following the formula. And there is a formula. The majority of those who succeed are publishing multiple titles at low prices with good covers, and it is taking several months, or even years, to find an audience.

Until you've done that, you can't say self-pubbing doesn't work. All that doesn't work is your poor attempt at an experiment.

But don't take my word for it. In the past few days, I've featured guest posts from self-published authors selling as well, or better, than I am.

Today's post is from Aaron Patterson, who regularly smokes me on the Kindle bestseller lists.

From Rags to Royalties
by Aaron Patterson

I believe eBooks are the future for publishers and authors alike. I find many in both camps are resistant to the idea; some are outright against it. I hope my story will shed more light on the subject and will inspire other authors and aspiring writers.

I am 31 years old and worked in construction for eleven years. Reading has always been an addiction. Growing up, I was the stereotypical odd duck—home schooled, introverted and painfully shy. I was the kid who read two to three books a day, the kid who wanted to be a writer but never thought I had what it took.

In 2008, I decided to try my hand at a novel. I sat down with no formal training, no writing experience or any idea what I was doing. I just had all these stories and I knew they had to get out. A month later, I finished my first book, Sweet Dreams.

I set out to learn everything I could about the publishing industry. After a year of research, I almost gave up; the publishing world was a mess! I didn’t want to waste two years sending out query letters with little guarantee of success. So I decided to self publish and started my own company. To this day, I haven’t submitted a single query letter. I figured the best thing to do was start selling some books to see what the public thought of my writing.

In December 2008, Sweet Dreams was officially published online and in print. I uploaded it as an eBook on Amazon, not really understanding the potential of such a market. The initial eBook price was $14.99; and I sold only 12 a month for 6 months. But, because I was a new writer, I believed building a fan base was more important than the bottom line, so I dropped the price to $4.99. That month I sold 48 eBooks.

This is when my little brain started working. I released my second book, Dream On, in December, 2009 and dropped the price of Sweet Dreams to $0.99. This is when many authors begin to roll their eyes and mutter that my shenanigans were “devaluing the market.”

Here is a breakdown for Sweet Dreams:

In the first month at its new price point, I sold 102 eBooks.
The next month, 250.
Then, 340, 550, 700, 850, 900, 1000 and 1200.

I eventually readjusted the prices of both my novels to $2.99. I expected my sales to drop, but my numbers went up instead: I sold 2600. In December, I sold 3200, and my sales continue to climb.

I never really thought anyone would read my book, let alone publish it. But here I am, making a living as a full time writer and helping others do the same. My story is proof that you don’t need a big publisher to be a successful author. J.A. Konrath is not “an anomaly.” Anyone can do what we have done. By means of online marketing, blogs, Facebook and Twitter, we are able to reach out to fans. And because of eBooks, I’m building my own future.

To you, the author: The power is now yours if you choose to take it. The question is, will you?

Aaron’s blog: www.theworstbookever.blogspot.com
Twitter: @mstersmith
Web site: www.StoneHouseInk.net

Books:
Sweet Dreams
Dream On
19 (A Digital Short)
The eBook on eBooks (a Digital Short)
In Your Dreams (Coming 2011)
Airel (Coming 2011)

Joe sez: Patterson did what all writers should be doing. He tried it for himself, then experimented over a long period of time in order to find the sweet spot that maximized sales. He also continues to innovate, and has rereleased Sweet Dreams as a double ebook, pairing it with The Remains by Vincent Zandri. That's a smart way to cross-pollinate fans, and also doubles Aaron's virtual shelf space, allowing him to be more easily discovered.

So to all the naysayers who continue to beat the tired drum of traditional publishing, and continue to insist that self-pubbed author will sell in tiny numbers and never make any money, I say: try it.

You may not hit a homerun. But many baseball players have long and lucrative careers hitting infield grounders over and over again, and over the years those stats accrue. If you write good books, with good covers, and release them at low prices, you WILL make more money and you WILL sell more books than you would selling traditionally. Ebooks are forever. Print books are not. Infinite will earn more than finite. Just be in it for the long haul, don't shy away from experimenting, and start now.

Forever is a long time. But if you don't start until tomorrow, you lost the money and the head start you could have had today.

189 comments:

Daniel W. Powell said...

Hi Aaron,

Congratulations on your success! Your hard work certainly has paid off, and this post is an inspiration.

Those last two paragraphs are, I think, a particularly important part of this discussion. It takes time to build that audience, so writers need to get cracking. And the point that digital books remain in print is huge. These revenue streams can be long and wide.

Best of luck in 2011, and thanks for the post!

An Autumn Harvest

Rabid Fox said...

Another very good guest post. I too am hesitant with the idea of self-publishing over the old-fashioned method, but as time creeps on I keep thinking that by the time it comes around for me to send out that novel for consideration, self-publishing will be the more advantageous option.

Thanks for the article. All of these have been great reading.

Jorgh said...

Hey Joe(and Aaron), I've been lurking for a while and figured it was time I commented. These guest posts are great, and it's awesome seeing all the success that people are having with self publishing.

As soon as I bought an e-reader mid last year I began considering self publishing, then shortly after I found your blog and that just cemented it.

Of course, I have to finish a book first before I can take advantage, but I'm really excited about the e-book journey.

Scott Marlowe said...

Hi Aaron. Congrats on your success. I like the cover and was wondering, if you wouldn't mind, who designed it? I'm considering hiring for own eBooks and need some names! Thanks. (Joe, yours is already on my list. ;-) )

Jussi Keinonen said...

I nice guess article as normally, although they mostly seem to have the same theme. :)

I don't know how much it has been covered, but one reason the traditionally published authors are sceptical of self-publishing, is that they themselves have been protected by the gatekeeping of the publishers.

Many midlist authors probably realise that their competition has now grown not ten, or hundred, but probably to thousand-fold in comparison of the previous situation.

Now every manuscript is being published. THAT is the biggest change in my opinion.

This will make "free" a big marketing tool, not 0.99. As "free" is not a concept Amazon, Apple etc. want to support, I presume there will be many websites offering free books for all platforms.

Which, in turn, takes away some of the advantage the closed-store model has had so far.

Now that I think of it, there MUST be sites already embracing the "free model". Any links?

Ellen Fisher said...

Thank you for sharing your story, Aaron, and I hope your sales continue to go up!

"You may not hit a homerun. But many baseball players have long and lucrative careers hitting infield grounders over and over again, and over the years those stats accrue."

Well put, Joe. This is what I think a lot of critics of self-pubbing fail to understand. They think that for an indie to be considered successful, his or her first effort has to do great right away. But sometimes it takes a while, and that's okay too.

Jussi Keinonen said...

PS. Please don't let the first and third words of my post affect your reading. Most of the others have been spellled liek thye shouldn't. ;)

Manley Peterson said...

Congratulations, Aaron. Awesome success.

I find that very interesting that your sales went up after you raised your price from $.99 to $2.99 - do you think that is because of perceived value? Or just because the word was getting out about your books?

Manley Peterson
Manley's Bookshelf

Frank Marcopolos said...

Aaron, That is one shweet cover! I, like Scott Marlowe, would like to add your designer to my list, if you'd be so kind.

Congrats!

Douglas Dorow said...

Joe, thanks for putting the spotlight on some other authors. And Aaron, thanks for sharing.

I think you both hit on this point, in the old publishing model authors were afraid to try and fail. the timeline was so long from query to publish for the lucky, talented few.

In the new ebook model you can get out there faster and see some results, whether it's at the level of Aaron, Joe or less sales. It's something.

I'm one of those making the transition working hard to get my own ebook out there soon to be followed up by others. There's a new excitement in my writing.

Doug
www.ThrillersRus.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Just curious, but why do you care so much about what traditionally published authors think of self publishing? You throw out Stockholm syndrom and preach about how clueless traditional published writers are for sticking with publishers, but I can't understand why their opinion matters, or why you're pushing so hard to get them to abandon publishing in favor of uploading their manuscripts to the internet as ebooks.

Why do you care how they publish?

Steve said...

Good on you Aaron. I've had my novel up at Amazon for less than a month. One sale in the US and one in the UK. I'm not discouraged and I'm not looking for overnight success. I am pleased to read about the good fortunes of others.

Joe Konrath said...

Why do you care how they publish?

That's a fair question.

First, and most importantly, this blog is A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.

Since I began blogging in 2005, my goal has been to help writers. I know how difficult this biz is, and when I was trying to break in there was no tell-all blogs explaining how things worked, no insiders who shared numbers and sales figures, no industry pros who explained how coop or ax meetings worked.

I tried new things, shared what I learned, and have tried to make it easier for writers than it was for me.

Now this self-pub thing comes along, and I want all writers to know they don't have to go through what I went through (which was considerable) in order to find readers. This is a Very Important Message that needs to be heard.

I also like being right, especially when so many others believe I'm wrong. Call it egotistical, but selling 700 books a day on my own--books that were rejected by traditional publishing--is very satisfying to me on many levels.

It is also personally gratifying to see that the message I'm trumpeting is being heard, and spread. It's a topic I feel passionate about, and it's great to see others finding success in this new market.

If my traditionally published peers--many of whom have been rejected, treated poorly, dropped, and mismanaged--followed this route, they'd be happier and financially better.

Go to a writer's conference. Belly up to the bar. Listen to the tales of woe.

I'm in a position to help, if they're willing to listen.

Tim Riley said...

Congratulations on your success Aaron. I'm just about done with my first book, and your experience gives me hope. I wish you continued success.

Joe, thanks for giving all these self pubbed authors a voice here. Keep 'em coming. Their experiences are informative and extremely motivating.

Moses Siregar III said...

Good stuff, thanks guys.

I was at a writing seminar this week put on by six bestselling authors, including Sherrilyn Kenyon, Brandon Sanderson, Kevin J Anderson, David Farland, and others. I attended their same seminar last March.

They're very much proponents of the traditional publishing game, but it was interesting to see how much their attitudes on ebooks had warmed over the last ten months.

Brandon Sanderson's advice was interesting. Keep in mind that he's someone who gets 7-figure book advances, but he said that if you have two books, try one with NY and try e-publishing the other one. He said he thought the best money is still with NY, but that things are changing so much that you should be trying both avenues.

Knowing where he is at, I can understand him giving that advice. And it is true that if you make it really big in SF/F and start selling 100,000 or more hardcovers, you'll be doing just fine.

I see the upside of traditional publishing where you can obviously hit a grand slam, but as I look at it the indie route seems like a more manageable game, one where you keep slapping those singles past the infield. But talking to him made me consider that I might want to swing for the fences on occasion, too.

Andrew said...

The one key commonality, and key bit if missing information in all these guest posts and your own seems to be this: "I drummed up an audience via Facebook" or "I got an active community of readers" or "I used social networks to get fans". Can you please write a post sometime soon about this? It seems so critical and represents the crucial difference between just selling 10-20 copies, and selling 1000-2000...

wannabuy said...

@Aaron:"You may not hit a homerun. But many baseball players have long and lucrative careers hitting infield grounders over and over again, and over the years those stats accrue."

That is a phenominal analogy, for it captures the book market on so many levels. One must put out good works (bat well) and do so again and again.

Moses: Thanks for the info on the seminar.

And Daniel is right, it takes time to build that audience. I would note that the Kindle audience isn't the bookstore audience. They have bifurcated into two markets. Success in one doesn't mean success in the other (yea... bestsellers do well in both, but that is so few books...).

Neil

wannabuy said...

@Tim:"Joe, thanks for giving all these self pubbed authors a voice here. Keep 'em coming. Their experiences are informative and extremely motivating."

Hear hear!

Neil

Anonymous said...

Joe, another great post and thanks for all the advice.
Great story Aaron. Do you have any thoughts on YA making a slam in ebooks? Congrats on all the success.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

gniz said...

I for one am very thankful that Joe K. cared enough to create this blog and speak frankly about what's happened for him.

He could keep a lot of this info to himself at this point and I think he'd still make plenty of money selling ebooks and have a lot less competition to boot!

E-publishing has been an amazing and invigorating experience for me so far. I got into it because of this blog. So far in my first month of publishing I've sold over a hundred books.

I just raised the prices from .99 to 2.99 for my novels and I'm both nervous and excited to see what happens as a result.

Thanks for keeping the word out there, Joe and Aaron!

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

Raquel Byrnes said...

Beautiful cover and a thought provoking post. Congratulations on all your success.
Edge of Your Seat Romance

P A Wilson said...

My observation has been the same. It includes small presses - or e-publishers. Some people are so caught up in the validation of having an 'expert' choose their work for publication that they don't give credit to anyone trying a new approach.
Oh, well. I guess that means a lot of good books that don't find a reader.

Jennifer Becton said...

I am intrigued by the 2-in-1 book idea. That certainly has some merit. I would love to know how the 2-in-1 sales compare to the individual sales of both books.

Jennifer
http://www.jenniferbecton.com

Jon VanZile said...

Joe,

I've been fence-sitting for a long time. Well, that's not entirely fair to myself, I suppose, because I had several novels in development at various places for a few years. But finally, I've decided you're right (and I've got nothing to lose), so I'm going to give a run at e-pubbing a few titles.

The catch: they are MG titles.

Part of the reason I've been fence-sitting is because there hasn't been a decent market for MG titles as e-books, a fact I've mentioned here a few times. There still really isn't, but I have a feeling there will be pretty soon, and I want to make sure I'm there when it happens.

So the upshot is this ... I'll probably launch my first title in a week or two, followed by a second title in a month, and possibly a third title a few months after that. With a fourth in the works so we'll see what happens.

Wish me luck.

Daryl Sedore said...

Another hit! Great post!

I'm happy you posted your month to month numbers. It gave me hope because my numbers go higher every month but in my third-fourth month they aren't shooting through the roof yet and I was starting to wonder if I was doing something wrong.

I just redid four of my covers and rewrote some of their blurbs. Sales got better on those titles right away as my wife and I have learned more about what makes a decent cover.

We're in it for the long haul so only time will tell. I have eleven titles out now with four more coming in the next two-three months.

Thanks again...

Daryl Sedore
www.spotlightonindies.wordpress.com

bowerbird said...

aaron said:
> In the first month
> at its new price point,
> I sold 102 eBooks.
> The next month, 250.
> Then, 340, 550, 700,
> 850, 900, 1000 and 1200.
>
> I eventually
> readjusted the prices
> of both my novels to $2.99.
> I expected my sales to drop,
> but my numbers went up
> instead: I sold 2600.
> In December, I sold 3200, and
> my sales continue to climb.

you see that "numbers went up"
after you raised your prices...

i see a blunder, a _big_ blunder,
a blunder of major proportions.

you had a good december, yes,
where sales "went up" to 2600,
doubling the november number.

had you left your book prices at
the lower level, though, just like
amanda hocking, you might have
seen a december like she had --
where sales rocketed from the
10,000 she had in november to
_100,000_ during december...

oops...

like they say, live and learn...

-bowerbird

p.s. you _did_ do the right thing,
by raising your price to $2.99,
because that gives a 70% share,
as opposed to just 35% at $.99...
but you did it at the wrong time!
in retrospect, hey, nobody knew
december would show a bump...
everyone will know it next year.

Coral Russell said...

This stuff is soooo interesting and the comment I hear from other authors is that if they self-pub then they will never be able to get a real "traditional" publishing deal.

If you're able to make that much, why do you NEED a real (traditional) publishing deal?

Derek J. Canyon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lundeen Literary said...

Congratulations, Aaron!!!

Lately, I've been hearing this wheeze from some traditionally published authors that it costs too much to get their self-pubbed ebook going, and that they have some of the skills, but not all, to make self-publishing a reality. Their argument is that they cannot design a cover, do the formatting, do all the different types of formatting, upload, publicize, market, and promote without help. They admit to not having the expertise, and they claim they cannot do it without help. They also claim that the help is far too expensive, and they could not possibly afford it.

Personally, I try not to have that attitude. I sell stuff off, do extra part-time work, forgo coffee drinks, etc. in order to pay for what I need to do for my growth. But some folks have been so downtrodden, they forget that they still have power.

Here's what I'm going to do: I'm giving away free formatting and cover design, along with some promotion and marketing ideas and upload help. I haven't got the rules finished and posted just yet, but I will within the next couple of days.

If you're interested in entering, or want to mention this to someone who should enter, then follow @lundeenliterary on twitter or check
http://lundeenliterary.blogspot.com/ or www.lundeenliterary.com . Forward questions to lundeenliterary@gmail.com

I'd like to do a seperate giveaway of formatting and cover design to Newbie's Guide To Publishing readers ONLY, but I'm still working on those logistics. Personally, I think readers here should be particularly rewarded for their forward thinking, and this might nudge some of you laggers to take the plunge! ;)

I hope this is OK, Joe. Let me know if it isn't, and I won't post this kind of stuff again. :)

Derek J. Canyon said...

I'm also interested to find out how the 2-in-1 book goes. A dozen other indie newbie authors and I are working on a combined short story anthology in an effort to cross-promote all our works.
Adventures in ePublishing

Ellen Fisher said...

"i see a blunder, a _big_ blunder,
a blunder of major proportions."

I wouldn't call that a "blunder." If Aaron had left his prices lower, maybe he would have sold more books, maybe he wouldn't have. It's speculation either way *shrugs*. But it IS certain he would have made less per unit sold.

bowerbird said...

aaron-

crap, i just noticed that i
got your numbers wrong.

november was when you
raised prices, and your
november was the 2600
which doubled sales of
the month before (1200).

(it takes a bit for a price
increase to cause its lag;
a decrease works faster.)

in december, your numbers
only went up by a paltry 25%,
from 2600 to 3200, indicating
that you robbed yourself of
momentum, at the very time
when other authors were
experiencing a big _jump_
in their own momentum...

so your timing was even worse
than i had thought originally...

sorry about that.

oh well, the good news is
amazon is reported to have
ordered 4.5 million chips for
the first quarter of 2012,
so they are expecting that
kindle sales will stay robust,
so you will continue to build,
albeit from a lower level and
with a smaller acceleration...

timing is everything...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

ellen said:
> If Aaron had
> left his prices lower,
> maybe he would have
> sold more books

maybe?

_maybe?_

are you really trying to tell me
he can sell as many $2.99 books
as $.99 books. is that what you
are trying to tell me? seriously?


> maybe he would have
> sold more books,
> maybe he wouldn't have.
> It's speculation
> either way *shrugs*.

well, the nice thing about
"speculation" is that you can
believe whatever you want...

of course, if you're gonna
believe whatever you want,
there's no need to pay _any_
attention to the real numbers,
is there?


> But it IS certain he would have
> made less per unit sold.

so what?

who cares about "profit per unit"
if the variable cost of production
and distribution is zero? no one.

if a lower royalty produces more
_profit_ than a higher one, only
clowns and fools take less profit.

(which doesn't mean that it's
not ok to be a clown or a fool,
sometimes, for good reasons.)

and that reminds me, ellen...
didn't you just argue, in another
thread here on this very blog,
that it was worth it to you to
pay amazon its 30% cut because
they made more sales for you,
and thus produced more profit,
in comparison to selling books
on your own site where you'd
keep 100%, but sell far fewer?
yet here you are, in this thread,
making the very opposite point.
what's up with that?

-bowerbird

Mike Dennis said...

Another great success story, Joe, and more evidence of the power of e-self-publishing.

But I run into the same roadblock that I ran into in your HP Mallory piece. Aaron writes a novel in one month, puts it up on Kindle soon after, and for no discernible reason, starts selling 12 copies a month right away (at $14.99, no less). Then all he has to do is lower the price and it takes off.

This flies in the face of your oft-repeated mantra of patience over a long, long break-in period. My book is up on Kindle at $4.79 (my publisher's price, not mine) and it's going absolutely nowhere. It's currently #274,790 and falling fast. This is despite eighteen months of work on my part building a website, blogging, leaving comments on many blogs, being active on the Kindle Boards and Goodreads. If I sold 12 copies a month, I'd be ecstatic, but everywhere I turn, there are hundreds if not thousands of other unknown writers cramming the internet with ebooks.

I still can't see how Aaron broke through initially. What sold those first six months worth of books at $14.99? How did readers find out about him so fast? This single element of these success stories continues to elude me.

Lundeen Literary said...

Mike - Why don't you post a link to your book on Amazon, or tell us the title, so we can have a look?

Jenna
@lundeenliterary

Anonymous said...

"I still can't see how Aaron broke through initially. "

Change your last name to Patterson.

From the review comments on Aaron's book:

" I had downloaded his first book Dreams my accident. I thought that I was getting James Patterson and just started reading and loved the book."

Using a pen name to be "shelved" close to a famous or bestselling author is a common trick of the trade.

Julia Quinn chose her name so that she'd be shelved next to best-selling romance writer Amanda Quick.

http://www.juliaquinn.com/images/news/time-specific/time-magazine/JuliaQuinn.pdf

It appears Aaron Patterson did the same, but in the internet world you have to use the exact same last name so as to come up when anyone searches for James Patterson.

Smart. Did I mention my new name is Jodie Ann Konrath?

;-)





and

"I downloaded this book also by mistake and found that it was a better read then some of the James Patterson books."

and

"I was looking at James Patterson books and one that caught my interest took me by surprise "

and

"I bought this book by accident, thinking I was getting an incredible deal on a James Patterson book."

and

"I was looking for a book from James Patterson when Aaron's name came up. I decided to purchase this book on my Kindle since it was just selling for $.99."

Anonymous said...

Search on "James Patterson" on Amazon. Note how Aaron's book has his first name in small obscure type, and how the cover is the same style as James Patterson's cover.

Very, very clever.

Joe Flynn said...

Congratulation on your success, Aaron, and thanks, Joe, for another inspiring post.

My story is a bit different from Joe's experience with other traditionally published author's who are reluctant to make the jump to self-pubbing. I only wish that I'd heard of Joe's blog a year earlier than I did. And guess who it was that finally put me on to him? My former publisher!

Better still, that publisher, Variance Publishing, has dropped the ebook price of The President's Henchman, the first book in my Jim McGill series — featuring the first private eye to live in the White House — to $2.99.

This was a smart move for both of us as the second book in the series The Hangman's Companion also priced at $2.99, will probably climb into the three-digit sales per month this January. People who read Hangman first can now go back and buy Henchman at the same price.

This comes after I've patiently, happily been watching it put money in my pocket with two-digit sales for four months.

Writing still gives me more pleasure than anything else I do professionally, but self-pubbing is inching closer.

Anonymous said...

Also, look at the "Customers also bought" section on the "Sweet Dreams" product page. Many books listed are by James Patterson.

I'm sure Aaron has a good book, but this is an interesting "riding coattails" marketing strategy.

Ellen Fisher said...

"are you really trying to tell me
he can sell as many $2.99 books
as $.99 books."

Some people seem to be selling more books at higher prices (see Robin Sullivan's post). It's counterintuitive, but it does seem to sometimes be the case. Of course, there are other variables, which makes it hard to know exactly what accounts for improved sales. But armchair quarterbacking is a lot easier when you're talking about someone else's book:-).

bowerbird said...

ellen said:
> It's counterintuitive,
> but it does seem to
> sometimes be the case.

believe whatever you want.

and price however you like.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

mike said:
> My book is up on
> Kindle at $4.79
> (my publisher's price,
> not mine) and it's
> going absolutely nowhere.

your publisher is
killing your book.


> It's currently #274,790
> and falling fast.

your publisher has
killed your book.


> This is despite
> eighteen months
> of work on my part

you are doing c.p.r.
on a dead book. stop.

write another one
and self-publish it;
price it at $.99 to
give a boost to sales
and your flagging
self-confidence...

then write another,
and self-publish it.
and then another,
and then another...

then, once you have
_"enough"_ sales that
you won't have your
self-confidence dashed
by a sharp sales decline,
raise your price to $2.99.
(but do not raise the price
in november or december.)

another clear signal that
you can raise your price
is when your current book
starts to show a new life.

notice that i am basically
telling you the same thing
that joe told you when you
asked the question initially.

-bowerbird

Mike Dennis said...

Lundeenliterary--
Good idea. Here's the link to my noir novel, THE TAKE.

http://www.amazon.com/Take-Mike-Dennis/dp/1603182764/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295295914&sr=8-1

(well, I guess it didn't come out as a link)

Anon (or should I call you Jodie Ann?)--
The Patterson connection makes perfect sense. And all the comments about mistakenly downloading it and being in James Patterson's large shadow would completely explain it. Thanks for pointing it out.

Joe Konrath said...

I was just talking with my buddy Blake Crouch, and we're both pretty much befuddled by pricing.

On one hand, we're both considering lowering all of our ebook prices (it would be close to 40 of them combined) to 99 cents. It would no doubt boost both of our sales numbers, though I think we'd take a hit financially.

On the other hand, we're both considering upping our ebook prices to $3.99. It would no doubt kill some sales, but we might actually earn more money.

Currently, we're both thinking "don't mess with success" and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." In other words, we don't have the stones to mess with price at this point.

But Blake said something interesting. Other than me, is any indie have major success without a novel priced at 99 cents?

It might make sense for me to drop one of my novels to 99 cents, raise the others to $3.99, and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

"write another one
and self-publish it;
price it at $.99 to
give a boost to sales
and your flagging
self-confidence...

then write another,
and self-publish it.
and then another,
and then another...

then, once you have
_"enough"_ sales that
you won't have your
self-confidence dashed
by a sharp sales decline,
raise your price to $2.99.
(but do not raise the price
in november or december.)"

Just out of curiosity, is that what you did to achieve all your success?

Ellen Fisher said...

"Other than me, is any indie have major success without a novel priced at 99 cents?"

Christopher Smith's Fifth Avenue is currently priced at $1.99 and is #139 in the Kindle store. It's his only book, I believe.

Joe Konrath said...

And all the comments about mistakenly downloading it and being in James Patterson's large shadow would completely explain it. Thanks for pointing it out.

It makes sense, but it doesn't explain everything.

In the 90s, there was a novelist named Steve King--different than Stephen King. Didn't sell much. Neither did Tabitha King--Stephen's wife, who wrote a few novels.

Yet Joe Hill, who took a different last name, sold like crazy.

There are a few writers with "Higgins Clark" in their names, and that no doubt helps their sales.

My last name is Konrath. I often get shelved between King and Koontz. It didn't do anything for my sales that I can tell.

While having Patterson as a last name can't hurt, I don't believe it is solely responsible.

Joe Konrath said...

Christopher Smith's Fifth Avenue is $1.99

Was that 99 cents at one point?

Joe Konrath said...

Just checked--Smith was originally 99 cents.

The Daring Novelist said...

Mike Dennis:

Watch out for getting wrapped up in the exceptions. Right now, this blog is highlighting the very top performers. At the top, there are always some exceptional elements, including just plain dumb luck.

You said of Aaron's experience: "This flies in the face of your oft-repeated mantra of patience over a long, long break-in period."

Yep. The long, long break-in period sets you up for the lucky breaks. Some people have those lucky breaks sooner. And some genres are luckier, or more lucrative than others.

The key is to watch the principles, and watch what is going on between these top, stellar performers and yourself.

Note that you only have one book. That isn't much for readers to latch onto, especially in a genre like mystery. They did an informal poll on Crimespace and found most mystery fans don't like to even start a new series until there are six or seven titles.

Maybe you need to write some novellas or even short fiction and publish it yourself for a lower price to get some attention. Give your readers someplace to go if they read something of yours they like.

Ellen Fisher said...

"Just checked--Smith was originally 99 cents."

Yes, I know. I wasn't sure if you meant "currently at 99 cents" or "at one point 99 cents."

The Daring Novelist said...

Joe:

I think pricing is a mess right now because there has always been many price points for a single book before. Hardback, tradepaper, mass market, used, library. We have a whole lot of different audiences, each with a different price point.

The "loss leader" idea of one book at 99 cents and the others higher does seem to work for some people, but I wonder if the conversion to the higher prices actually really works. That is, the lower price hits all audiences, but the people who wouldn't buy at a higher price may NEVER buy at a higher price.

Maybe what some of the traditional publishers are now doing might work better: Price all the books at the price that seems fair to you, say $3.99 or $4.99, and then run sales which allows you to hit the more price sensitive audiences. (Or give new releases a higher price and older books a lower one.)

Moses Siregar III said...

Christopher Smith changes his price fairly often. I've seen his at 99 cents and $2.99, and now $1.99 as well.

Joe Konrath said...

That is, the lower price hits all audiences, but the people who wouldn't buy at a higher price may NEVER buy at a higher price.

That must be true sometimes, but is it true for the majority?

I also wonder about repeat customers, i.e. fans.

At 99 cents, what is the ratio of buy/read, vs. the $2.99 ratio of buy/read.

Being bought is great. But if you have a lot of books available, you also want to be read, because if your book is good those readers will buy your other books.

There is a lot to experiment with here, and it might not all balance out for years, if ever.

STH said...

Thanks for the great info Aaron. Love this board.

If I throw some info from my own brief history out there, I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts, advice, or opinions, good or bad. I'm here to learn and truly appreciate the help.

I'm publishing a genre-hopping serial that I'm calling an epic "paranormal thriller." It's part noir detective story, part swashbuckling historical fiction, with those two separate stories connected by a unique take on reincarnation. So... there is a fantastical element, but just barely (meaning no vampires or ghosts, etc.).

First, I'd love anyone's input on what genre that really is, and which audiences I should be trying to reach out to the hardest.

And second, I'm wondering what my initial numbers really mean.

I put the first of 4 books up on Dec 15th, and the last of 4 up last Thursday. So that's 4 books online at 99 cents each. I've sold 140 books in the first month. Have also gotten some terrific reviews (although one of them is from my mother, of course).

What I don't know is - how many of those books are just being bought by friends and family, and how many are actually coming from people I don't know who have genuinely gravitated to the book? Obviously the vast majority in the first month is coming from the former. The only hint, (other than positive reviews that aren't from my Mom) are that I've started seeing other books from Kindleboards authors showing up in the "people who bought this also bought..." ticker on my product page. For example, someone bought me AND Scott Nicholson. Kinda proud of that.

I'm just wondering if these numbers will die off, or if people are actually finding my book. 65 of those sales are of the first book. I'd guess that's maybe 15-20 people I don't know.

Also - To the point Andrew and Mike made about generating interest online...

I'm reaching out through Facebook and commenting a few times a week on Kindleboards. No twitter, and only one paltry blog entry so far.

Thanks, Steve

Here's the link if anyone wants to look.
­King's X

evilphilip said...

"Yet Joe Hill, who took a different last name, sold like crazy."

Let us be fair here -- Joe Hill got a major six figure advance from a Big 6 publisher BECAUSE his father was Stephen King and word had been out on the 'net for over a year that he was Stephen King's son before his first novel was released.

That novel also got front of the store placement and it got those big cardboard standee's full of books -- all because he was Stephen King's son.

To his credit, Joe Hill is actually a much BETTER writer than Stephen King, so I'm sure by now he has his own fans based on his talent and not who he is, but he got what he got and he got where he is at because of who he is.

Joe Konrath said...

To his credit, Joe Hill is actually a much BETTER writer than Stephen King

I can only say that I loved early Stephen King, and haven't read later Stephen King. But I did give Heart Shaped Box a shot for five pages, and the whole damn thing was telling rather than showing, which I dismissed as a newbie mistake, but never finished the book.

bowerbird said...

"anonymous" said:
> Just out of curiosity,
> is that what you did to
> achieve all your success?

nah. i still give away my art.

i'm an old man, and i have
little need for any money...

of course, if you wanna _own_
my stuff, you'd have to buy it,
and -- as the saying goes --
if you have to ask how much
it costs, you can't afford it...

(6-7 figures, if you must ask;
and don't lowball me, either.)

but the young'uns tell me that
i'm an inspiration and a model,
and they make a ton of money
out there in the "real world",
as _poets_, whoda thunk it?,
so that all makes me happy...

still, i could never compare to
_you_, "anonymous". _no_one_
has given more to the world
than you, without asking for
any money or credit in return.

all the phrases you've turned!
the songs you have composed!
(some of 'em with your buddy
who's known as "traditional".)

you are prolific and profound.

so stand proud, "anonymous"!
ignore those ignorant people
who label you as a "coward";
they haven't given you credit
for all your accomplishments,
maybe since they don't know
who you are. still, you can
walk tall among us mortals...

plus you're the most selfless of
_all_ of us, so let me just say
"thank you" for all you've done.
we're all richer because of you,
yet you still labor in... well...
in anonymity. how ironic, eh?

heck, you were probably the
person who first uttered that
old saying that i quoted above.

now here i am, using it freely,
without even giving it thought,
and you never got paid a cent
in royalties, or even a personal
"thank you", since nobody knows
exactly who you are, do they?

and now you are gracing _us_
with your presence right here.
everyone should be so honored
to witness all your brilliance...
glad i'm one of the lucky ones!

-bowerbird

Selena Kitt said...

Go Aaron! and to hell with the naysaying sour-grape eating anonymousers... If your name is actually Aaron Patterson, then it was coincidental. And if it isn't, man it was freaking brilliant! ;) I have your book on my Kindle... I really have to get around to reading it!

----

@Joe - give Heart-Shaped Box another try. It doesn't start with a bang, like yours do, but man does it have a creep-out factor. That book SCARED me. I read horror a LOT and I don't get creeped out leave-the-lights-on when I'm reading very often, but that one did it for me. BTW, I just started "Afraid" and I'm enjoying thoroughly! ;)

About pricing - I was making just as much when my short stories were priced at $2.99. And I had NOTHING priced at $0.99 at the time. Nothing. Nada. Now they're at $0.99 but making me about the same amount of money. So yes, I did have success without a starter $0.99 novel. In fact, the one that took off was priced at $5.99 originally. It was @ 35% though, so when it started selling, Amazon discounted it to $3.99 and that's where it sold the most.

The Daring Novelist said...

STH -
I'm really jazzed about what you're doing. I have a cross-genre serial I am preparing to write, and I will also have a hard time naming the category. (I'm calling it "jazzpunk" for now since it's early jazzage, alternate world, but not much other in the way of fantasy elements. I want to play with the strange reality of movie and pulp serials of the time.)

I bought your first one to give it a read. I think yours - because of the reincarnation - could still be considered fantasy. But I'll let you know what I think when I've read it.

Gary Ponzo said...

I've had my one novel on Amazon for $1.99 the entire time, but for 2 days in November when I raised the price to $2.99 and sales practically came to a standstill. I immediately dropped it back to $1.99 and sold 800 in December and already over 700 so far this month. I'm too spooked to change it now. It'll probably be $1.99 for eternity.

STH said...

Daring, thanks a lot, I'm looking forward to hearing what you think!

Genre naming, I think, is an interesting problem for independents. On the one hand, we are permitted to indulge our artistic senses and write whatever we want without someone telling us we can't because it doesn't fit into a genre. But on the other hand... those people telling us that aren't stupid. It really does need to fit into a genre if you are going to properly use the tools that Amazon and the others provide to market the book.

But, as has been mentioned so often on this site, the field is wide open for people to make their own path.

I think that "paranormal thriller" describes my book well enough. But the word "paranormal" does create expectations. The trick is in not disappointing fans of the genre who expect a certain thing, while at the same time not shutting out people who might love your book, but be turned off by what the genre implies. It's a tight rope.

Selena Kitt said...

@STH: Try "supernatural" thriller maybe? Although that sets up other expectations... it's a tough call.

Kristin Lynn Thetford said...

Mr. Konrath,

I have written two novels and am currently working on a third. I have queried extensively for book one and received all the polite "thanks, but no thanks" letters. I did receive one request for a full and one for a partial, but nothing came of it. I just started querying for book two a few weeks ago, and so far have received the same polite rejections.

I have been reading your blog and looking into self-pubbing. I am concerned that if I wait for an agent to pick me up, then a publisher, it might be years before I can get my books out there.

However, I have some concerns about self-pubbing as well. Chief among these is the cover. I know that the cover art is key to drawing a potential reader, but what is the best way to produce clever and/or dramatic cover art?

I find myself going back and forth a lot. I see truth in the argument of those like you telling of the benefits of self-pubbing, but then I also read author bios proclaiming that they are so glad they waited for an agent and big publisher. They are glad they have "legitimacy" in the publishing sphere.

Anyway, I am really unsure of what to do. I am afraid that if I wait to self-pub, I'll miss my "moment," so to speak. And if I focus on trying to find an agent, etc., it could take years and years. Meanwhile, my novels would just be sitting idle with no one to enjoy them.

Do you have any advice?

Thank you.

Lundeen Literary said...

Kristin

You haven't mentioned if you have vetted your work through a critique group.

I would get a bunch of beta readers to read, preferably ones willing to write reviews. Listen to their opinions, and revise if needed.

The best way to make a cover is to hire someone (disclaimer: I do covers and formatting for books. ;) ), or the other, cheaper way is to learn how to do it yourself. Keep doing it until you get better. This will take many, many, many, many, many hours, more if you have no artistic training, more if you don't know the programs. Get opinions on the covers repeatedly. Google is your friend for finding info on this. Kindleboards is good for getting opinions. Be willing to remake a cover if it doesn't work.

You could spend years getting an agent, getting a publisher, and get a contract, and then there might be no open bookstores to get the book in. If you signed with an agent today, you're looking at 2-3 years for a release date if you're pretty lucky.

I say self-publish, then continue to try to find an agent with a different work. Better to try both routes at once, if your work is ready.

Jenna
www.lundeenliterary.com

no-bull-steve said...

@Joe, give Heart Shaped Box another chance. Seriously, one of the better horror books I've read in years. Or maybe just not your style. Seems in writing there's often writers some people rave about that others see no value in.

Selena Kitt said...

Seems in writing there's often writers some people rave about that others see no value in.

Everyone's got their own preferences of course. I don't mind the fast-paced horror (like Draculas was) but I REALLY like being scared. F Paul Wilson's The Keep, which I read after that, really got me for the first half (then fell off a little when the monster started talking... :)

I highly recommend Heart Shaped Box for a scare AND I agree Hill's a better writer than King. I'm not sure he's a better storyteller, but writing for writing's sake, yeah. Better. Horns (Hill's 2nd novel) was also good, but it's more magical realism (which a lot of people don't like but I love) so very different. And not as good at the first, I didn't think.

/end tangent... :)

Chryse said...

Incredibly eye-catching cover art, Aaron. I'd also be curious as to who did it. Congratulations on your success, and thank you for sharing some indie knowledge :)

STH said...

@ Selena, thanks, sometimes I do say "supernatural." The truth is, I don't really know what works and what doesn't yet because the books are too knew to analyze the data.

@ Kristin - everything Lundeen Lit said is true. Especially the part about beta readers and an editor. Joe would probably add something like "self-published books earn money forever, so every day you are not published, you are losing money."

I'm not speaking as an expert, just someone who started working towards self-publishing my book in August. There is a lot of vetting you must do that a traditional publisher might have covered. You're the last line of defense in making sure your book is perfect.

But for me? The choice became clear pretty fast. I have more ties to LA than NYC, and have already entered into two option agreements for King's X, one for TV and one for a feature which I am writing right now. This was before I decided to publish it myself, mind you. I only queried a few agents in the publishing industry in '09 and '10. Some requested the manuscript, most sent form rejections.

I realized pretty quickly that the publishing industry is just glacial. There were people interested in my story "now" and it wasn't even a "real" book. So honestly, unless there is a 1-in-a-million sized advance coming, what is traditional publishing even offering that would make me go through those hoops for god-knows-how-long?

One reason for the slow pace is that it's in such a state of flux. Two of the handful of agents I queried aren't even in that business anymore. So thank God they rejected me. I've had agents in other fields drop out before and it's a big setback.

Anyway, those words I'm claiming Joe would have said are very wise. Whether our books sink or swim, I don't see much point in waiting.

Of course, it's different for everybody. That's just my 2 cents. Good luck to you.

Ian Edward said...

Tanks Aaron, Selena, Joe et al for sharing your path to publication. After many months of writing, rewriting, editing and file prep, I have this week joined the sel-pub ebook thingy with my novel, The Delta Chain, and all your posts and blogs have been a great source of assistance.
cheers

Jamie Sedgwick said...

It seems that one of the variables here that hasn't been discussed much is the snowball effect that occurs with Amazon exposure. Is it correct that an e-book comes up in Amazon searches more frequently (and higher up the list) if it has a better ranking?

It really seems like most writers with these impressive numbers had a 'break-in' period while they climbed up the ranks. Of course it also seems to help if the author is ready at that point with additional titles and/or sequels.

Anonymous said...

evilphilip said: "To his credit, Joe Hill is actually a much BETTER writer than Stephen King..."

EP, if you really believe that, then you honestly don't know good writing. How anyone can read Heart Shaped Box and walk away thinking that's well written is beyond me.

I'll agree that 20th CG has it's moments, but every trick and lit device he used is taken straight from his father.

Stephen King has had his low points, but when the man was on, he was light years beyond his sons at their best.

Mark said...

I don't want to sound catty, but Aaron certainly has benefited from his last name. I did a search on "Patterson" on Amazon and Aaron's book came up on the first page right sandwiched between books by Patterson, James. At a glance you had no idea his book wasn't a James Patterson book.

sean said...

Great article. I think that we are on the brink of a complete shift in publishing that will leave all us with a dramatically different landscape and is more than dotted with ebooks.

Edie Ramer said...

Another great guest post. I've sold three times more already this month than I sold in the entire month of December.

I did change the price of my book Cattitude to 99 cents, but I kept the price of my other book, DEAD PEOPLE, at $2.99--which I think is a very reasonable price. Though Cattitude is selling a lot more, I'm not ready to lower the prices for both of them. When I upload my new book, I'll switch the prices of Dead People and Cattitude and see what happens.

James Harden said...

I am loving these guest posts. And I love this blog.

The information that Joe provides on a regular basis is invaluable. A few people have mentioned earlier that Joe could've kept all this great info to himself. But I'm sooooooo glad he decided to share everything he has learnt. If this blog didn't exist, I'm not sure I'd have the knowledge or the cahonies to self publish (is that how u spell cahonies?).

I'm pretty sure I'd still be querying agents. The last rejection I received from an agent (which was in December last year) came with the agent's feedback and an invitation to resubmit. Instead of resubmitting, I listened to Joe's advice and self published to the Kindle.

That was a big step for me. But now I'm selling ebooks (a novella at 99c and a novel at $2.99) and I couldn't be happier. Not huge numbers yet but it's still exciting.

Joe Konrath said...

Stephen King has had his low points, but when the man was on, he was light years beyond his sons at their best.

I think King is one of the best short story writers of all time.

Of novels, I like Salem's Lot, Misery, and The Stand. The Stand, especially, is so epic and sprawling that I gotta give the guy props.

I may give Heart Shaped Box another try, but the start is so bad that, had I been judging it for a writing contest, I would have failed it by the second page.

Joe Konrath said...

Just reread the beginning to HSB.

It's just not good writing. You don't start a story with a grocery list, not if you want to hold the reader. Reciting a litany of odd items a rock star owns is gimmicky and doesn't set the scene, offer any immediate conflict, or allow the reader to picture either the protag or a sense of place.

Then, a few pages in, we get a long description of an office, and internal monologue.

And then--a monologue by Danny, reading the auction.

More telling. Meh.

No envy here. It just isn't compelling, polished prose that hooks. Hill could have opened much better, in the middle of a conversation between the two characters, or with the protag bidding on the item. The giant infodump that is the first thousand words could have been done in the middle of action and characterization.

But it's just an infodump, and that's bad writing.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> I was just talking with
> my buddy Blake Crouch,
> and we're both pretty
> much befuddled by pricing.

um... earth to joe konrath...
you're making $1200 a _day_.
that is over $400,000 a year.
i think you've got it down pat.


> On one hand, we're both
> considering lowering all
> of our ebook prices
> (it would be close to
> 40 of them combined)
> to 99 cents. It would
> no doubt boost both of
> our sales numbers, though
> I think we'd take a hit
> financially.

i think it would be a bad move.

but not necessarily financially.

i think that'd come out a wash.
much less profit per unit, yes,
but moving _lots_ more units...

plus gaining more fans and
obtaining higher rankings...

plus making your customers
happy due to getting bargains.

so, given all of that, why do
i think it would be a bad move?

because you'd only get 35%,
and that's giving _too_much_
of the overall pie to amazon.

why should _amazon_ make
$1200/day selling your books?

no good reason that i can see.
that would be almost _twice_
what you make. it's not fair...

i scold authors who do not
give amazon enough credit
for what it does, but i also
think you need to avoid an
imbalance on the other side.

$.90 on a $3 book is a _fair_
cut for amazon to be taking,
good return on its investment.

$.65 on the same transaction
for a $1 book is _too_much_,
and i do not think you should
let amazon take it from you.

if you were brand new and
needed its help, this might
be a slightly different story.

but you've already paid your
dues as an amazon beginner.
(and remember that amazon
only offered up the 70% rate
_after_ apple gave it first.)
you have proven your value
as a partner in its business.
it's time for you to get paid.

if you want to sell books for
a dollar, take 'em off amazon
and sell them on _your_ site;
maybe limit 'em to fans only.

one easy way to do that is to
offer a fan-club membership
-- let's call it, say, $10 -- and
then throw in 10 free books...

wean yourself off middlemen,
don't give them a bigger cut!

-bowerbird

Selena Kitt said...

I think King is one of the best short story writers of all time.

His latest short story collection (Just After Sunset) really harkens back to his earlier stuff. I enjoyed that one a lot.

Forgive Hill his early trespasses, Joe, and keep reading. Not every writer has to show instead of tell. I think it's been overly stamped into writers' heads as an unbreakable rule. Any rule can be broken if it's done well.

Joe Konrath said...

Any rule can be broken if it's done well.

I agree. But reread the first 1000 words and tell me with a straight face that it's done well.

I'll give it another shot. Lots of folks rave about it, and they can't all be wrong.

But, boy, someone should have talked him out of starting a novel that way...

Russell Brooks said...

Great stuff, Aaron. I'm happy for you. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Ellen Fisher said...

"If this blog didn't exist, I'm not sure I'd have the knowledge or the cahonies to self publish (is that how u spell cahonies?)"

I think it's "cojones." It's Spanish.

"um... earth to joe konrath...
you're making $1200 a _day_.
that is over $400,000 a year.
i think you've got it down pat."

I don't say this often, Joe, but I think bowerbird's right:-). You do seem to have found the sweet spot for your own pricing. I wouldn't mess with it were I you. But I do understand the temptation to adjust it, so... *shrugs*.

James Harden said...

Ah cojones. Of course! Thanks Ellen. That was killing me. And it's good to see you know your spanish anatomy. I would expect nothing less from a writer of romance ;)

Tim Myers said...

Joe, the pricing ideas you brought up intrigued me, so I decided to offer one of the first books in one of my backlist cozy mystery series for .99, with the rest remaining at 2.99. I've seen an immediate spike in the sales of all three books, as well as the other 40some books I have on Kindle, IPub, etc now.
For me, it's generating some really healthy sales increases across the board already!
Next up, I'm lowering the price of one of my stand alone suspense novels to .99 to see if I get a bump in the half dozen or so of those I offer for sale as well.

Tim Myers

Lynda Hilburn said...

Joe: Thanks for another great post.

I wonder if anyone knows of a good blurb writer (for hire)?

Lynda

Anonymous said...

I'm going to pump out a generic, amateurish thriller and release it under the name Jane Patterson; Jane in small type, Patterson in large type. I'll make sure the cover looks like one of James Patterson's covers, then I'll sit back and soak in the sales on my sub-par self published novel.

So far the blueprint on how to succeed in self publishing has been either to write porn or paranormal romance, but this leeching accidental sales off the biggest writer in the world is pure genius.

Mike Dennis said...

"Maybe you need to write some novellas or even short fiction and publish it yourself for a lower price to get some attention. Give your readers someplace to go if they read something of yours they like."

Camille--
I have a trilogy of novellas ready to go (they're each between 40-50,000 words. That would make them novellas, right?), but you know, I fear they would meet the same fate as THE TAKE, my novel. That is, they might languish, despite my best efforts to get them noticed. I put in a lot of work on them and I don't want to see them stillborn in some obscure digital back alley.

"write another one
and self-publish it;
price it at $.99 to
give a boost to sales
and your flagging
self-confidence...

then write another,
and self-publish it.
and then another,
and then another..."

Bowerbird--
As I mentioned to Camille above, I have more books ready, but I'm just hearing footsteps from the experience of my novel, that is, plunging in (even at 99 cents) and failing to break through the glut of self-pubbed writers out there.

But I will give it plenty of thought, I promise.

The Daring Novelist said...

Mike: Those are short novels. I was thinking somehting closer to 10-20k if you're only going to charge .99. Three shorts in a collection, a longer one by itself.

But even so... your first child is languishing for inadequate food, so you decide not to feed the other children at all?

If you have something better to do with those other books, do it. But honestly, having more out there will only help.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm going to pump out a generic, amateurish thriller and release it under the name Jane Patterson; Jane in small type, Patterson in large type.

No you're not. You don't have the stones to comment without being anonymous, let alone the stones to write a novel.

Tone it down and be polite, or go play elsewhere.

Joe Konrath said...

Got through the first third of Heart Shaped Box, and stopped when I hit a head-hopping POV problem. The pages-long interior monologue flashback about the suicide girl also stopped the story dead in its tracks.

But it does have some fun, creepy scenes.

Helen Hanson said...

Joe said:

You don't start a story with a grocery list, not if you want to hold the reader...

I've heard many King fans say they would read anything written by King, including a grocery list. Maybe Mr. King set out to prove the theory.

Great post. Great story. All the best to Aaron Patterson!

And if he did siphon any readers due to the last name, they will only stay with him if they enjoy what they find. JP doesn't write every word between his own covers.

Hmm. Helen Grisham. Has possibilities.

STH said...

Mike: Camille is exactly right. No guts no glory. But also, I thnk it;s important to point out that you aren't fighting "through the glut of self-pubbed writers out there." That's next to nothing. That's like saying you want to play in the NFL but you don't know how to get through the glut of people playing flag football on the weekends.

You have to fight through all those traditionally published authors occupying the top lists on Amazon. You have to fight through the self-pubbed writers who are are quite good and work harder at promotion. And you have to fight through the entire internet to find people who will pay attention to your book. If the book is really good, then getting past the "glut of self-pubbed writers" should be the easy part of that equation.

You have to find a way to show your book to people who are most likely to enjoy it. There is no better place than the internet to hone in on a "community" like that. There are places on the net where our best potential audiences gather to specifically and enthusiastically talk about things like what we write. We just have to find them. For ideas, try Seth Godin's blog.

Obviously, I'm trying to figure it out myself. But one thing I think I "get" is that marketing my books will be an ongoing process. Perpetual, as long as you're in the game. Look how hard Joe works at all this. When does he write all those books?

Rob Cornell said...

I agree with Andrew: "The one key commonality, and key bit if missing information in all these guest posts and your own seems to be this: "I drummed up an audience via Facebook" or "I got an active community of readers" or "I used social networks to get fans". Can you please write a post sometime soon about this? It seems so critical and represents the crucial difference between just selling 10-20 copies, and selling 1000-2000..."

What of this? Because I have a book on Amazon that has gotten raves from the people who read it, including a 5-star review on Amazon from a complete stranger, but I've barely sold a think. I've tweaked the cover and the description. Right now I'm priced at $2.99. Might have to experiment with that.

Rob Cornell

Red Run

Joe Konrath said...

but I've barely sold a thing.

The secret isn't facebook or twitter. The secret is writing more.

List more stuff on Kindle, month after month, year after year, and you'll find your audience.

Kathleen MacIver said...

I think that, once more, we need a simple reminder that the book has to be well-written. Aaron Patterson's definitely was, or those people who accidentally downloaded it would NOT have come back to offer great comments!

So...if your book isn't selling, no matter what you do, no matter what price you put it at, etc... then you've GOT to do yourself the favor of considering that it might not be written well enough. Go find some very picky beta readers who like your style of book, thicken your skin, and ask them to be brutal.

Finally...anyone wanting a cover designer can probably find one by going to a website designer whose work you like. I do primarily websites, but designing a book cover is VERY similar to designing website graphics. Many website designers are probably clueless that this market is going to open up soon...but if you like the graphics so-and-so has created for somebody's website, then ask them to do a cover for you. Ask your own website designer. ('cause you do have a website, right?) I don't do murder/thrillers well...that's not my style...but I can do Inspirational covers and lots of other covers where a beautiful, graceful look is desired, because those are the books whose covers are similar to my website designing style. (Google KatieDid Design if you're curious.)

Once you realize this, you'll realize there are millions of potential cover designers out there, and many of us who don't have huge names and massive businesses aren't going to charge you very much, either.

WARNING: Make sure you double-check the copyright restrictions with whatever designer does your covers. Stock images have limits that aren't going to matter to a website designer, but which MIGHT matter if your sales take off like some of these people's.

Suzanne said...

Aaron, thanks for your insights. Love your cover!

Lynda Hilburn asked, "I wonder if anyone knows of a good blurb writer (for hire)?"

On her Write2Publish blog, Robin Sullivan breaks down the creation of good back cover copy and shows you how to create your own a headline and blurb. Check it out here.

There's lots of good marketing info on her blog. Now that she and Michael are in Big Advance Land with a trad publisher :-), I hope she keeps posting to the blog.

Suzanne Adair

Ursula said...

If you've been traditionally published, you have first-hand experience about how truly few books you can sell within the system. You also know the hard work, sacrifices, tireless promotion, and luck it took to sell in those paltry numbers.

I don't think more truth has been spoken than in these above lines. Small or big press, doesn't matter, more and more the authors are expected to shoulder the promotion boulder. So much of what passes for publicity is scattershot, or should I say 'what passed for traditional publicity'. That picture, like the publishing picture, is rapdily evolving.

You make an interesting point, re: stockholm syndrome. I'm going to throw out another idea: if I stick my head in the sand, this will all go away. People get into a groove, it's hard to break out of that groove/rut, harder still to admit that maybe it's not the only way. You know that old deal about holding paradox in your head - two ideas equally valid at the same time that on the surface seem mutually exclusive. It is not an easy thing, but it is what stimulates paradigm shift. Not everyone wants that paradigm to shift. I know, you're thinking, but that's madness!!!! In a way, yes, but it's a comfortable madness. I was cruising a section of kindleboards where folks were talking about rejection - and some authors had labored at the wheel for 10 - 20 years. Time they'll never get back. So they picked up and moved on. Said so long to bad rubbish and found a new game that's working better. For every one of those, there are a hundred others who can't make that shift because that would validate the wasted time, and the vagaries that exist in the publishing industries. It's funny because I think Jim Baen saw all this coming, he was a visionary (some, like the bean counters at Tor said a mad man). But he was a lone voice at the time. He passed on sadly, and the market concepts evolved. Now there are not so many lone voices, and more and more authors making the shift every day. Trust me, authors are taking note of all that's going on, especially midlisters, and it won't be long until the second wave goes. Those that can't aren't ready to embrace change or the future, and may have grooved so far down into the rut laboring at the wheel, they can't do anything else because to do so is to admit what was put forth as 'the only and best way', no longer applies and all they've known is out the window. Brave new futures freak the average Joe out.

Moses Siregar III said...

The secret isn't facebook or twitter. The secret is writing more.

List more stuff on Kindle, month after month, year after year, and you'll find your audience.


You, sir, have just been quoted on, well, Facebook and Twitter LOL!

Merrill Heath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Msthriller said...

I read Aaron's blog post and checked out his website StoneHouse Ink. I am a little confused. Is this his "publishing" company that seeks other writers to submit their book proposal for consideration? Which came first, the self publishing or the publishing company?

Scott William Carter said...

"It might make sense for me to drop one of my novels to 99 cents, raise the others to $3.99, and see what happens."

Wait at least a month. Too many writers try price experiments and panic after a week. I raised two of my titles from $2.99 to $3.99 and sales doubled, but it took a couple weeks. Neither of them are even close to what you and Patterson are doing, but since my little publishing company has gone from pizza money to getting closer to paying my mortgage in three months, I'm pretty happy about the growth.

Nobody paying $2.99 is going to blink paying $3.99. You talk about Stockholm Syndrome, but there's way too many "indie" writers (a term I hate, since it's self-limiting) infatuated with price as the determining factor in why readers buy books. Anything under $8.99 is a decent price for readers. $4.99 is a good price and anything under it is a bargain or sales price. That's my sense.

Nothing wrong with pricing at a sales price, but man, you can barely buy a cappuccino at Starbucks for $3.99. I don't even blink if I want to try out an author at that price. But then, I won't even pay 99 cents for something I don't want to read. But I do think a loss leader strategy can pay dividends if used in a limited way -- not this giving away the only book you have month after month for 99 cents as I've seen some writers doing. Just head shaking crazy.

Why on Earth you would lower all your books to 99 cents is beyond me. I know not all writers believe this, but the explosive growth in e-readers will slow down in the next year or two, so why burn up all your readers now?

What gets me are all the writers who use their own experience and try to extapolate that into a strategy for everyone else, when they can't even prove their experience worked for them. Low price, lots of promoting on social networks, nobody can prove that works -- it's a tangential relationship. What works is a good book with a good cover and a catchy blurb. That's the only thing in common I can see among all the writers doing well publishing independently. There's writers who promote, writers who don't promote, writers who price at 99 cents, writers who price at 5.95.

Last thing: Personally, Joe, I love your blog, you've helped a lot of us see the light, but you're promoting a myth all on your own -- a false choice between traditional and independent publishing. Why not do both? That's what I'm doing. Just evaluate the choice for each book based on all the factors.

Great post, though. You always get me thinking even when I don't agree.

~Scott
http://flyingravenpress.com

Scott William Carter said...

"It might make sense for me to drop one of my novels to 99 cents, raise the others to $3.99, and see what happens."

Wait at least a month. Too many writers try price experiments and panic after a week. I raised two of my titles from $2.99 to $3.99 and sales doubled, but it took a couple weeks. Neither of them are even close to what you and Patterson are doing, but since my little publishing company has gone from pizza money to getting closer to paying my mortgage in three months, I'm pretty happy about the growth.

Nobody paying $2.99 is going to blink paying $3.99. You talk about Stockholm Syndrome, but there's way too many "indie" writers (a term I hate, since it's self-limiting) infatuated with price as the determining factor in why readers buy books. Anything under $8.99 is a decent price for readers. $4.99 is a good price and anything under it is a bargain or sales price. That's my sense.

Nothing wrong with pricing at a sales price, but man, you can barely buy a cappuccino at Starbucks for $3.99. I don't even blink if I want to try out an author at that price. But then, I won't even pay 99 cents for something I don't want to read. But I do think a loss leader strategy can pay dividends if used in a limited way -- not this giving away the only book you have month after month for 99 cents as I've seen some writers doing. Just head shaking crazy.

Why on Earth you would lower all your books to 99 cents is beyond me. I know not all writers believe this, but the explosive growth in e-readers will slow down in the next year or two, so why burn up all your readers now?

What gets me are all the writers who use their own experience and try to extapolate that into a strategy for everyone else, when they can't even prove their experience worked for them. Low price, lots of promoting on social networks, nobody can prove that works -- it's a tangential relationship. What works is a good book with a good cover and a catchy blurb. That's the only thing in common I can see among all the writers doing well publishing independently. There's writers who promote, writers who don't promote, writers who price at 99 cents, writers who price at 5.95.

Last thing: Personally, Joe, I love your blog, you've helped a lot of us see the light, but you're promoting a myth all on your own -- a false choice between traditional and independent publishing. Why not do both? That's what I'm doing. Just evaluate the choice for each book based on all the factors.

Great post, though. You always get me thinking even when I don't agree.

~Scott
http://flyingravenpress.com

Scott William Carter said...

"It might make sense for me to drop one of my novels to 99 cents, raise the others to $3.99, and see what happens."

Wait at least a month. Too many writers try price experiments and panic after a week. I raised two of my titles from $2.99 to $3.99 and sales doubled, but it took a couple weeks. Neither of them are even close to what you and Patterson are doing, but since my little publishing company has gone from pizza money to getting closer to paying my mortgage in three months, I'm pretty happy about the growth.

Nobody paying $2.99 is going to blink paying $3.99. You talk about Stockholm Syndrome, but there's way too many "indie" writers (a term I hate, since it's self-limiting) infatuated with price as the determining factor in why readers buy books. Anything under $8.99 is a decent price for readers. $4.99 is a good price and anything under it is a bargain or sales price. That's my sense.

Nothing wrong with pricing at a sales price, but man, you can barely buy a cappuccino at Starbucks for $3.99. I don't even blink if I want to try out an author at that price. But then, I won't even pay 99 cents for something I don't want to read. But I do think a loss leader strategy can pay dividends if used in a limited way -- not this giving away the only book you have month after month for 99 cents as I've seen some writers doing. Just head shaking crazy.

Why on Earth you would lower all your books to 99 cents is beyond me. I know not all writers believe this, but the explosive growth in e-readers will slow down in the next year or two, so why burn up all your readers now?

~Scott
http://flyingravenpress.com

Scott William Carter said...

And because I'm too damn wordy for one post . . .

What gets me are all the writers who use their own experience and try to extrapolate that into a strategy for everyone else, when they can't even prove their experience worked for them. Low price, lots of promoting on social networks, nobody can prove that works -- it's a tangential relationship. What works is a good book with a good cover and a catchy blurb. That's the only thing in common I can see among all the writers doing well publishing independently. There's writers who promote, writers who don't promote, writers who price at 99 cents, writers who price at 5.95. Sure, do a little of that, not hard to do a website and create a Facebook account, but more than an hour a week on that stuff is probably too much. If anybody can actually *prove* otherwise, I'd change my mind, but there's so much evidence of writers doing zero promotion doing well that I can't see how you can.

Last thing: Personally, Joe, I love your blog, you've helped a lot of us see the light, but you're promoting a myth all on your own -- a false choice between traditional and independent publishing. Why not do both? That's what I'm doing. Just evaluate the choice for each book based on all the factors.

Great post, though. You always get me thinking even when I don't agree.

~Scott
http://flyingravenpress.com

gniz said...

Joe,

I am right with you on Stephen King's short story writing. The Mist, technically a novella, and pretty much every short story in Skeleton Crew and Night Shift are some of the best short stories of all time. I've re-read those books over and over. Word Processor of the Gods...amazing. Same with Mrs Todd's Shortcut.

I am an "old" King fan for novels too. Right around the time of Needful Things and Gerald's Game he started to lose me.

But I agree with Selena that his newest collection of stories is almost (but not quite) back to the level he reached in his prime.

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

BTW, I had just put my books up to 2.99 and then immediately pulled a few back down to .99 after reading Joe's latest comments...whichever way the wind blows, I go apparently.

Aaron Patterson said...

Thanks for all the great feedback. I do feel the need to say something on the James Patterson connection. Nothing slow about you!

I am no dummy, I have a great last name and just happen to write the thrillers as well. I say use what you got. If I ride the wave he created and steel some fans I am good with that. Do you see how my covers look and feel like James Patterson? I did not do that on accident.

He has big titles... I have big titles. He puts his name at the top... I put my name at the top. This is being smart and trying to make the connection for the reader. We see a book and should know what we are getting the second we see the colors, style etc.

The other thing I do is TAG. I tag my books to his and back to him with mine. This has a huge impact on my numbers. I encourage other authors to band together and tag yourself to a bestselling author in your genre and try to get your readers to make that bond.

I don't think James Patterson really cares about me as I am pushing him and his books as well.

Next I think that my numbers are going higher due to blogging, Facebook and such. i do whatever I can to get out there and I also know I have a lot to learn. I am not worried about if I would have sold more at .99 or 2.99. The fact that I will be getting a 7500k check next month is good enough for me. So far this month I am over 3000 sold and we are only half way through...

YA market. I will let you know as my first YA book will be out next month.

Cover artist: email me and I will get you in touch with him. pattersonbooks@hotmail.com

Thanks all...

Aaron

Aaron Patterson said...

P.S.

The 2 in 1 book is doing great as well. Who knows, maybe we will see more authors getting together and cross marketing. I say, why not?

Anonymous said...

Amen to that brother, or you can listen to the sheeple and find out for yourself. Do what I did! Spend a great deal of money going to a conference, waste more "learning how to pitch, a critical skill," wait a year and get a two line rejection for someone else's book. Too funny. I tried several times to send my own two line response so she would know that a second person ( I assume) had also gotten the wrong response, but the address she had given me kept rejecting it. Talk about a clue.
Whenever I see the industry line
e, endlessly repeated,that writers should
"keep writing queries and going to conferences to meet agents," I instead hear, "go away and don't ever bother us again."
I'm not made of money. Don't need to attend one more expensive seminar on "how to pitch," or "how to write an effective query."
Agents are completely overwhelmed already. How much time and money do you want to spend writing another pointless query? "Practicing your pitch in front of agency insiders"?
It's a fine deal for the conference organizers. Near total waste of time for the actual writer, me thinks.

bowerbird said...

hey, joe, i was thinking...

you're working with amazon,
so you talk to people there
and they might listen to you.

so how about you nudge 'em
into giving a better "royalty"
at the lower price-points?

i would suggest that _50%_
is a fair split on a $.99 book,
as it gives amazon 49 cents,
and 60%/40% author/amazon
is a fair split on a $1.99 book,
as it gives amazon 80 cents...

eventually they will do this
anyway, as they sharpen up
their procedures and lower
their costs, but given the
huge boom we already see,
i'd think they can do it now.

so hey, run it by them, ok?
even if they say "no" initially,
it will give 'em something to
think about, and that's good.

***

mike dennis said:
> I have more books ready,
> but I'm just hearing footsteps
> from the experience of
> my novel, that is, plunging in
> (even at 99 cents) and failing
> to break through the glut of
> self-pubbed writers out there.
>
> But I will give it
> plenty of thought, I promise.

well, actually, mike, you should
probably stop thinking about it,
and just go _do_ it.

because, believe me, there are
gonna be _10_times_ as many
self-published writers fighting
for a piece of the big money pie
in 2011 as there were in 2010.

so every day you wait puts you
another day behind _that_ glut.

besides, the reports are pretty
much unanimous so far that
multiple books improves sales,
even of each _individual_ book.

makes sense. the best customer
is one you've already satisfied...

(joe thinks that it's "shelf-space",
as if this was laundry detergent,
but i say it is repeat-customers.)

-bowerbird

Mike Dennis said...

STH--
I agree that the ultimate target is the group of traditionally-published authors at the top of the Amazon lists, but to get there, don't I have to first break out of the "glut of self-pubbed authors"? Right now, because my novel is going nowhere, it's completely indistinguishable from every other self-pubbed novel out there, good or bad.

Obviously, the trick is to break out of that crowded pack. And that's what I can't get my arms around. If the novel is good, then as you say, getting past that crowd is the easy part. But I wonder, and correct me if I'm wrong here. It seems not like some simple formality you go through once you have a good book, but rather like the very key to the kingdom.

Only when you consistently start selling to people you don't know, or so it seems to me, would the novel take on a life of its own and truly soar.

Mike Dennis said...

Bowerbird--
You're pretty persuasive.

Selena Kitt said...

i would suggest that _50%_is a fair split on a $.99 book

B&N gives 40% for anything below $2.99 or above $9.99. It's a little better.

Watcher said...

Just my two cents on pricing. A .99 cent price would probably turn me off from buying a book. I realize there are many readers out there for whom it's a huge incentive, but bear in mind that there's at least some (ok, maybe just me) for who that price point suggests a shoddy product. I like the idea of a range of prices. You hook some people on the .99 cent book and maybe they'll upgrade. Then I suspect much of the rest of the population is fine paying $2-5 for a book from an author they like.

The Daring Novelist said...

Mike said: "Only when you consistently start selling to people you don't know, or so it seems to me, would the novel take on a life of its own and truly soar."

Yes! Exactly. And that takes a while. And you increase your odds dramatically when you have more books for people to discover.

What we're talking about here is 'critical mass' - where enough people who have heard of you and your books to create a self-sustaining reaction. Some people are lucky and hit it sooner. Most have to build it, slowly, over time.

There is no magic bullet. There is no secret handshake.

Scott William Carter said...

Ug. Now I look really wordy. Just noticed the double posts. Blogger kept giving me an error, so I assumed the post was too long and tried to break it into two. Sigh. Feel free to delete, Joe.

I take this as a sign that even the small amount of time I'm spending hanging out on blogs and forums is too much. :)

And I forgot to add: Congrats to Aaron! The best thing about this brave new world of publishing is that great writing will rise to the top.

~Scott
http://flyingravenpress.com

Terrance Foxxe said...

Breaking out of the pack, that takes some thought. Some marketing acumen. A hell of a lot of creativity. There are no platforms for most of us to stand on, and we don't have an in . . . anywhere. How do we get into reader heaven? How creative can we get? Ideas? Anyone?

I've asked these questions several times, different places. I get nothing. Blank stares.

The Daring Novelist said...

Terrence:

I'm giving you a blank stare right now. You don't seem to have heard anything mentioned on Joe's blog or in the discussions here.

People answer your questions, but you ignore the answers. The answers are what they are. And it's pretty much the same as it was when Heinlein told us the rules of writing:

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you start.
3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
4. You must put it on the market.
5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

The market now is directly selling to the consumer. And yes, you have to put it up and leave it there, and get back to writing.

Sure there are marketing things you can do. But you know what, nothing builds a platform like persistence and time. That's what Google loves, that's what works in the online world. Persistence and time. Slow, steady accumulation of "presence."

Lundeen Literary said...

@ Lynda Hilburn said...

"I wonder if anyone knows of a good blurb writer (for hire)?"

Hi Lynda! I'll be glad to give it a go, and if you don't like it, don't use it or pay for it...

lundeenliterary@gmail.com is the best way to contact me. :)

Jenna Lundeen

Kristin Lynn Thetford said...

@ Lundeen Literary and @ STH,

Thank you both very much for your input. It is greatly appreciated. I will definitely be taking your advice into consideration.

Kristin
http://kristinlynnthetford.blogspot.com

Ty Johnston said...

Watcher, you're not the only reader who shies away from 99-cent e-books. I've had more than a few tell me in person or online that they won't buy 99-cent books because they believe those books must be bad.

But I don't think that's a majority of readers, though I could be wrong.

Terrance Foxxe said...

I guess I wasn't clear. Marketing for the little person is more than just posting to the Kindle boards, which Joe mentioned. Joe has his platform, his fans, and I wish him the best of luck. I wish Aaron and every other writer here luck. Many of us are trying to build our platforms, and do so outside of social networking. My first book is up, my second is on the way, and there are six more to go. I'm not a convert, I believe. Have for many a year. Twenty years, if you must know. I blog about marketing, trying to figure out how to reach readers. I understand the numbers tossed around here, and I know they could be better. Kindle runs television commercials for their product, you must have seen them, so with so many machines out an about, there has to be more we can do. Most of what I see (from other sites, not here) is a polite flame war between believers like us, and other authors and agents who are skeptics, and perhaps in denial. I'd like to see us move on.

I realize I have to put in 150% effort on each novel I write and edit into print. I know our words matter to our readers. I try to be 99.8% perfect for my readers. I have pro credits, semi-pro credits, other credits, lots of reads, only to have missed things by this much. Not a new story to some of the readers (perhaps I should have said writers) here. Some here have shared that boat with me. We float on a sea of rejection slips.

Marketing our work outside of Internet social circles. Searching for and targeting readers. Books, time, certainly. Word of mouth, certainly. What else could we as a group be doing? Sharing information on marketing? I want to see more of what we can all do as a group, sharing ideas on how we can reach readers other than what was mentioned in the comments. I'm asking how creative can we truly get. Anybody? Marketing is our personal wall. All of us have a stake in tearing that wall down.

Lundeen Literary said...

DAMMIT! I wrote a fabulous, long response to Mike Dennis yesterday, and it looks like Blogger ate it... here is my recreation of it, take two...

Mike, about The Take:

(and this is just my opinion, please take with a shaker of salt. Some of these things you have no control over, and I do realize that.)

-The cover is kind of awful. I wouldn't buy this with all the bad photoshop and the random disembodied dude's head at the side.
-your publisher has not uploaded a product description on either version. This costs nothing to do, and it is BAD that there is no description.
-the Amazon editorial review is just vague enough to not reel me in as a buyer, hence the need for the description.
-You said this has been up for 18 months? Why are there only 3 reviews, and all of them only put up 1st week of last December? The reviews are vague, few, and too short, and therefore unconvincing.
-You have no Amazon author page
-No one can tell you have another book, unless you search really hard on the page for the kindle version of The Take. Hence, the need for the Amazon author page.
-You have no other works up, other than the nearly unfindable one.
-Price point is kinda bad (but you said that your publisher did that)
-Your tags are nonexistent

My solutions:

-Go on Kindleboards, here, etc. and find beta readers who are willing to do an Amazon review in return for an ecopy of the book. Do this until you have at least 20 long reviews with substance and good, qualitative info on the book.
-get your publisher to upload a description, back cover copy, and blurbs. There really is no excuse for them to have not done that.
-Contact Amazon and get them to make an Amazon author page for you.
-Finish, format, and upload your other books ASAP. Attach them to your Amazon author page the moment that they're available.
-Upload a photo, bio and other info to your author page. Run an RSS feed from your blog to the page as well.
-Create a list of 15 applicable, evocative and appropriate tags for The Take. Tag both versions with those tags. Join an author tag exchange (there are some on Kindleboards) and do some tags for others so they will tag you. This helps hugely. (Let me know if you are confused by any of this) Repeat for all other titles.
-compare your cover with those of the top-rated books in your category. For instance, in the "hard-boiled" category (Joe's at #1 & #19), your cover would not compare well to these. Try to get the publisher to change the cover. At least remove the dude's head.

I did all the above things for a book which I believe to be expensively priced for Kindle. That guy has made an average dollar amount per month equal to my rent. He's only been posted since October.

I hope this helps. If you need any further explanation of my points, please do ask. I think you can do a lot for your book in just a few days, and I also think you'll be surprised!

Lundeen Literary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lundeen Literary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lundeen Literary said...

....and now duplicate posts... Oh, Blogger, how you torment me...

@ Kristen - no problem! I just hope it helps out. :)


@Terrance Foxxe

"Marketing is our personal wall. All of us have a stake in tearing that wall down."

Beautifully said! If marketing were easy, everyone would do it. Perhaps we should organize a chat, and everyone meets up to throw in wild and crazy ideas. We can try a few things, and hone the ideas. Get several of us involved in a brain trust and make this work.

Douglas Dorow said...

@The Daring Novelist Thanks for sharing Heinlein's Rules for Writing.

I hadn't heard them before. Timeless in their power and simplicity.

Terrance Foxxe said...

YES! Somebody understood me.

Distribution is not our problem. We can be read by anybody in the English reading world, on any device they have. We can price ourselves as we wish, keeping in mind selling at lower prices mean selling in volume. $2.99 for a novel seems right. Social networking for most, myself included, isn't happening. I'm getting all my novels out, but they have to edited. Personally, I shoot for perfection. I know our abilities as skilled storytellers will make or break us in the long run. Having said all that, marketing ourselves is nothing but hit and miss. We need to throw a lot of ideas around. Get crazy and creative. Share ideas that have worked in the past. Maybe these ideas will work for others. We have a whole world of Kindles to reach. And, on a odd note, Nora Roberts is the third author to reach one million in overall Kindle sales.

The Daring Novelist said...

Terrence, I get you now.

However I think that we are doing what you say, but it's larger than a discussion on the comments on a single blog. We share and discuss it in a larger way through posts on our own blogs.

The discussions float from Kindleboards, to here, to Dean Wesley Smith's blog to Amazon Communities to Twitter and other blogs.

This is a whole new world. There's a LOT to explore. There are all sorts of things we can do to market... but IMHO, the need is overblown. Cracking this market is like busting down a dam. If there is no water behind the dam, it's a nearly impossible task. If the dam is full, all you need to do is make a little crack and the water will bring it down itself.

Hence why I say WRITE. The other thing I believe is that Heinlein and the old pulp writers were right about rewriting. (Dean Smith is a proponent of this one too.) Put more into greatness and pushing boundaries and less into perfection.

There are some books, of course, that require more polishing. But all of us could benefit from the experience you get by writing more, writing forward, pushing the envelope. The old time greats learned their craft that way.

evilphilip said...

Joe, you need to read Joe Hill's Horns.

Amazing novel. I love the new way Hill reveals everything in the first 50 pages and still manages to make the novel compelling from beginning to end. Gillian Flynn does the same thing in Dark Places.

Peter Straub tried to do the same thing in Dark Places and failed miserably.

Christopher Bunn said...

Aaron, thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts down. Much appreciated.

Joe, thanks for running this blog. I've been reading here a while and have learned a lot to my advantage. If I could send you a box of doughnuts as thanks, I would (I bought your publishing book, but that's a heckuva lot cheaper than a box of chocolate old-fashioneds).

Jason said...

Congrats Aaron - looking forward to reading Sweet Dreams.

I disagree that the $.99 price point is a turn-off. It doesn't signal poor quality to me at all. To each his own, but many agree with me (Amanda Hocking's fans for example).

The $.99 price point simply signals an author trying to get attention for a book to gain a following. I personally think all Book #1's from an author should be priced at $.99 with subsequent books set at a higher price.

Once I'm hooked with the first book I'll gladly pay a higher price for other e-books by the same author. And if I didn't like the book...no big deal since I only paid $.99 for it.

Rabid Fox said...

As someone who pinches pennies, I'm not deterred by a cheap e-book, either. The determining factor for me is word of mouth. No matter what the price, I'm hesitant to pony up the dough if I'm totally unfamiliar with the author. I need at least some kind of recommendation, whether from an author whose work I like or a fellow reader whose opinion I hold in high regard.

STH said...

The comment board is on fire with incredibly useful posts!

@Lundeen Lit - thank you! That was tremendous.

@ Daring Novelist -

"Put more into greatness and pushing boundaries and less into perfection."

I'm writing that down and putting it on wall next to my desk where I'll see it everyday. I'm the type that can't let go of something, ie, the type who takes too long. Thank you for that.

Seth Godin has advice about this very thing for entrepreneurial writers - paraphrasing here but, "Set a date to ship, and when that date comes, ship it."

Combine that with what Camille said and suddenly... "hey I'm being productive! How'd that happen?"

David A. Todd said...

The Daring Novelist said: "3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order."

I'm not sure I quite understand that, or the logic behind it. Could you elaborate some? It seems to be saying "go with your first draft, except to correct typos."

Thanks.

Selena Kitt said...

Hence why I say WRITE.

The single biggest marketing tool you have is MORE BOOKS. A backlist. I work with 100+ authors who always ask me, "How do I market my work?" And then, after I give them my answer, "But I've done everything you suggested but my book still isn't selling, now what?"

Yes, a web presence is important, but the people who focus on marketing their product will rarely find the audience they're looking for. Look at all the authors who postpostpost on the Amazon boards saying "Buy my books!" This turns more people off than on.

This isn't about "marketing" - it's not a magic potion or a formula. It's about BEING. It's about being a writer. If you're a writer, you write. And you talk about writing and the things that interest you on places like Facebook or your blog.

That's what Joe has done here. He talks about writing and publishing because it interests him and you can tell it does in how he comes across. He isn't just posting, "Hey buy my books!" posts. He offers something of himself, and THAT is what is valuable.

That's what's valuable in our books as well. People will pay for those things they find valuable. So write more books and get them out there. Talk on your blog and other people's blogs and boards and social networks about those things that interest you. Stay out of drama and flame wars and take criticism with a smile.

If you build it, and it's VALUABLE, they will come. Eventually.

That's that second caveat that many writers don't want to talk about, though. :x

The Daring Novelist said...

David:

I think a lot of people have trouble with Heinlein's third rule -- but he meant what he said. (Although he did not tell people to refrain from proofreading.) Many of the golden age writers learned to write by writing a lot and not rewriting. You couldn't make a living if you messed around too long. You might well be on deadline too.

So by writing more and writing forward, you learn to write with more sureness. That's why writers like Rex Stout and Isaac Asimov never rewrote at all. What came out of their typewriters was what went to the publisher.

I did a series on Heinlein's Rules on my blog a while ago.

http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2010/10/robert-heinlein-and-getting-back-to.html

Camille

David A. Todd said...

TDN: So was Hemmingway wrong when he said the first draft of anything was s———?

Kendall Swan said...

Such good discussions above and beyond the great posts by JAK!

Self Publishing, as of today, is all about real estate. I may be biased since I have a real estate background. But Konrath and others make this point as well:
GET MORE TITLES OUT THERE!!

Remember to think of this self publishing in longer terms beyond the novel you just wrote.

This really is the land grab time in the publishing world. The next couple of years will bring about similar ereader growth (a lot of it outside of amazon, I think -see Selena Kitt's pt 2 post for reasons why) before things slow down. The more titles you publish, the higher your overall rankings (assuming quality, of course). Higher rankings equals awesome title real estate.

And the more titles you have, 1) the more opportunities for repeat buyers and 2) the more opportunities for new readers to find your work in the first place. It's awesomely exponential.

SHORT STORIES ARE WHERE IT'S AT:
I personally believe that ereading will bring back short stories to their former greatness of a generation ago. Printing and distribution were the main obstacles they faced in the first place, but, hey, wait a minute... we don't have those problems anymore.

Self-publishing will only give momentum to this shift. It is much easier for a writer to churn out some short stories than novels. And with attention spans shortening each year, it just makes sense for readers to check out short stories more and more to gauge a writer-- especially at the free and 99 cent price points.

**I'm not saying to not write your novel. Novels are and will continue to be the main storytelling vehicle for the written word in the near and probably far future.

(Hopping off my soapbox now.)

Selena- I just bought Full Dark yesterday!

Re: HSB- I also started and stopped it. Sorry.

I did read a couple of the stories from 20th Cent Ghosts. I liked them, but found myself returning to "Thriller" and "Thriller 2" for a horror/suspense short story fix.


Great post as usual, JAK. Thank you.

Cheers to your success, Aaron!!

Happy Writing, Y'all!

Kendall Swan
Erotica Author

Kendall Swan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kendall Swan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
STH said...

Speaking of people randomly finding you without marketing... Hey! I just sold 4 books in England!

I had stopped even checking on sales for amazonUK because for the first month it was 0,0,0...etc.

But then, I looked yesterday and it was 3! 2 people bought the first book of the series and then, apparently one of them came back for the second. Then, this morning, another UK sale of book 1.

I'm taking this as definitive proof that people other than my friends are beginning to find my books.

Unfortunately, it's 8 AM here and all this champagne is already going to my head. Oh well, cheers everyone!

Kendall Swan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Burton Robinson said...

@Selena: Yes, a web presence is important, but the people who focus on marketing their product will rarely find the audience they're looking for.

I've had a PR4 website since 2006, offering tons of free reading material to my visitors. I get 5,000 visitors per month. How many books does this sell for me? Very few.

I used to think I was doing a great job marketing my books via my website and free monthly flash fiction short stories. But after analyzing the data repeatedly, I can tell you that these efforts result in almost no sales. People just enjoy the free stuff.

So, why do I bother? Because I do pick up a few new fans each month. And some of these people will end up buying one or more of my books and/or posting a review.

But I've come to realize that the booksellers (particularly Amazon) are the marketers. They are the ones who promote and sell my books. All I need is a few sales to kick things off, and they will do the rest. Of course, I do everything I can to help them, with good covers, descriptions, tagging, and, most importantly, writing an entertaining book.

The Daring Novelist said...

David,

Yes and no. Yes, you can improve things with rewriting, but while it improves the work, it doesn't do as much to improve your skills as pushing on to new works.

The thing about rewriting is that it improves your prose, but not your concept. The more time you spend rewriting, the less time you spend pushing on to new thoughts.

There's a reader/critic on the Amazon communities who is really annoyed at indie writers, but he's even more annoyed at his fellow readers who spend a lot of time talking about how Indies aren't properly edited. He points out that the problem is not editing but characterization, ability to carry off an idea, plot.

You get better at things like concepts and plots by pushing the envelope at concepts and plots. You get better at follow-through by following through more of those concepts and plots.

Maybe you want to depend on inborn instincts and talents. There's an audience for everything. Finding it will be harder if you don't write much, but that's your choice. Me, I consider this to be a craft, and crafts require practice.

Explorer said...

Years ago while lurking in writer's chat rooms, I watched a huge number of aspiring authors insist that writers should share their talent by giving their work away! Maybe they've just switched that write-for-free viewpoint to thumbs-down-on-self-publishing ... which could be the reason they're still aspiring.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you can improve things with rewriting, but while it improves the work, it doesn't do as much to improve your skills as pushing on to new works.

It's not at all clear that handing in unpolished material is somehow more self-developing than handing in a thoroughly polished work of art.
(One wonders how one might ever learn to polish without ever polishing.) Plenty of great, not to mention, successful contemporary authors, labor over a single novel for years. Twain's lightning versus the lightning bug saying comes to mind.

EC

Ellen Fisher said...

"think a lot of people have trouble with Heinlein's third rule -- but he meant what he said. (Although he did not tell people to refrain from proofreading.) Many of the golden age writers learned to write by writing a lot and not rewriting. You couldn't make a living if you messed around too long."

I'm a huge Heinlein fan, but I have to say say that IMHO, virtually all of his later work could have been improved by a great deal of editing and cutting. It's a mistake to think your words are golden and can't be improved. I personally would not emulate Heinlein in this particular area. Admittedly his tendency to ramble didn't hurt his sales any, but he was Heinlein, and I am not:-).

That being said, I do agree with what I think the gist of the rule is, which is, "Don't spend so much of your life editing one piece of work that you never move on to another." A lot of authors do spend so much time on their first baby that they never get going on their second, and that's certainly a mistake, too.

J. Viser said...

Aaron - Congrats!

Yet another self-pubbed success story to motivate the rest of us.

I am wondering if the fear of self-publishing is one of a deep-seated inferiority complex? That is, many of us want to be "validated" by someone "in the know," like an authentic NYC agent and/or big publisher. To be part of the literary club.

To me, nothing says "validated" more than selling $1,200/day in books!

I am nowhere near that level...yet. However, month-to-date January sales for Lie Merchants (only 11) have no surpassed all of December. No returns. The book has been available for sale for approximately 60 days.

That means people I don't know are buying Lie Merchants and reading it. Lie Merchants has no vampires, no paranormal love interests or snazzy city-chick dialogue. It's about deception, drug cartels, terrorism, war and right-wing talk radio. In this environment, no agent will take a risk on controversial content, let alone on me - a first-time author without a platform on talk radio or cable TV. Even my modest sales are more meaningful to me than having the manuscript sitting on some agent's desk gathering dust.

I am working on my second and third ebooks now and when those are released later in the year I'll have a self-generated base of readers to market to.

Joe, thanks for giving these success stories a stage and spotlight.

www.LieMerchants.com

Selena Kitt said...

Selena- I just bought Full Dark yesterday!

Four dark novellas. They were alright for me, dawg. ;) Just Before Sunset was better.

J.Hill seems to hit or miss. Interesting. His appeal is less massive than King's obviously. I think because he's a much more "literary" writer than King. King is a born storyteller.

@ Kendall - love the real estate analogy. :)

The Daring Novelist said...

Ellen: yes, that's exactly it. I rewrite, all authors do. But I think the culture of writing has changed so much in the past thirty years. I see so many young writers hung up on polishing mediocre work - because that's what the books and the crit groups and the classes concentrate on.

The reason I brought it up here is that I sense this fear of failure that is holding so many people back. And I want to bang my head against the wall: Okay, you want to break out of the pack. You aren't going to do it by hanging back.

This isn't theory time any more. You can't use the odds of the slush pile as an excuse any more. There is no safe harbor. If you don't think you're ready, then okay, take your time to learn, to develop, to rewrite, to contemplate your navel. But don't whine about the result if that's your choice.

Jason said...

Re: the $.99 discussion...B & N has the first e-book from Lillith Saintcrow's Jill Kismet series on sale for $.99 for January only.

Checked it out and it looks entertaining, but before I bought I decided to see how many more books are in the series - and that made me decide against getting any of them (even the cheap one). The rest in the series sell for $7.99 each, which is too high for an e-book imho.

Had the rest of the books been $2.99 it would have been a no-brainer for me to buy them all if I like the first book. If I really like it then $3.99 or even $4.99 for the rest would be doable.

But since I don't want to pay $7.99 each for the rest of the books in the series I'm going to pass on the cheap one.

bowerbird said...

> Obviously, the trick is
> to break out of that
> crowded pack. And
> that's what I can't get
> my arms around.

this isn't some mysterious
set of black boxes that you
are interacting with here...

they are sentient humans,
who will tell you _exactly_
how they decide to buy...

they get recommendations,
they look at bestseller lists,
they read the samples, and
then look at prices, and buy.

so really, it's all pretty simple.

there is no special trick
that will break you out
from the pack because
if there were, everyone
in the pack would use it.

the only thing you can do
is write good books and
give good long samples,
so just by reading them,
people will have made an
"investment" in the books,
which leads them to buy...

then, if they're any good,
people will like 'em, and
come back and buy more.

it's always encouraging to
see when amazon tells you
that "people who bought
book 1 from this author
also bought book 2 from
this same author", because
that means a happy buyer.

so that's where it all starts.

then other recommendations
will begin coming your way,
and your sales will go up,
and maybe you'll hit a few
of those bestseller lists, or
maybe not, but either way,
before you know it, you will
be on an upward sales trend.

and, because e-books are now
taking off, _most_authors_ will
enjoy the nice luxury of trends
that go _up_ for a long while...

even if it doesn't start right off.

so jump in... the water's fine...

and you've got nothing to lose...

-bowerbird

Suzanne said...

many of us want to be "validated" by someone "in the know," like an authentic NYC agent and/or big publisher. To be part of the literary club.

Those validation experiences come in many forms. Winning a traditional industry award such as the Edgar or the Hugo is a big ooh-rah that's denied those who self-publish. When it comes to traditional influential reviewers such as Kirkus and Library Journal, even traditional small presses have trouble getting a review from them, so you know that self-published books are really on the outs there. Prestigious writer organizations might have a membership category for you if you're self-pubbed, but your coin won't buy you a directory listing or voting rights. Desire for these sorts of validation experiences lures many writers into chasing after literary agents and the Big Six.

Suzanne Adair

bowerbird said...

all of you people with
duplicate posts _can_
delete the duplicates...

at the bottom of each
of your comments, by
the time, there's a little
garbage-can which you
can click, to delete it...

you must be logged in,
so the system knows
that it is _you,_ since
you can only delete
your own comments.

also, when you get the
"too long" message,
open the main entry
in another tab and
see if your comment
was posted anyway...
a lot of the time, it is.

-bowerbird

Selena Kitt said...

all of you people with
duplicate posts _can_
delete the duplicates...


And all of you
who keep breaking up
your lines like
you're writing poetry
can...

oh...wait...

:P

The Daring Novelist said...

The end of my previous post came off snarky. I got interrupted while typing it so I ended it fast. I said:

"But don't whine about the result if that's your choice."

What I meant to say is: If you don't feel ready, do what you need to do. If you are ready, then don't mess around as if you aren't and then whine about the result.

STH said...

"Those validation experiences come in many forms. Winning a traditional industry award such as the Edgar or the Hugo is a big ooh-rah that's denied those who self-publish. "

yes, and acclaim like that also pushes sales.

So, along the lines of the "what can we do to help each other...?"

Why don't we start an Indie Award of some kind? Why don't we chose catagories, submit our books to each other, and pick winners?

Then ANNOUNCE winners.

A lot of talent frequents this page. A lot of genres too. Maybe enough for a jury?

Selena Kitt said...

Why don't we start an Indie Award of some kind? Why don't we chose catagories, submit our books to each other, and pick winners?

EPIC has been running the "Eppies" (Now the "Epic Award") for ebooks for over ten years.

http://www.epicauthors.com/epicawards.html

bowerbird said...

jason said:
> But since I don't want
> to pay $7.99 each for
> the rest of the books
> in the series I'm going to
> pass on the cheap one.

that doesn't surprise me...

i'm leery of the notion that
you can change your prices
willy-nilly, or do the other
pricing tricks that are often
discussed here, _without_
alienating the customer-base.

if -- after carefully reading
your sample -- people decide
to come buy your book and
they find a different price
than the one given earlier,
that can be a bit unsettling.
especially when the price is
more expensive. but even
if it's cheaper, it's a surprise.
and customers don't generally
like to be "surprised" by stuff.
shifting ground is unpleasant.

if it's a "sale" (i.e., temporary),
then fine, they even feel lucky.

but if it's just because you are
doing price experiments, it can
make 'em feel like a guinea pig.

and the "strategy" that jason
discusses above feels just a bit
too close to "bait and switch"
for my mind to be comfortable.
maybe some of your potential
customers might feel the same.
even if they don't agree, they
might still opt out, a la jason...

so if your impression is that
you can pull in a lot of readers
at the cheap price, and then
convert them to paying more,
you might be the one who is
in for a surprise...

(besides, shouldn't your fans
and repeat-customers be the
ones who get to pay _less_?
what kind of club do you run?)

***

also, while i'm on the topic of
"experimentation", it's fun to
watch what some of you do,
and how you discuss all of it.

because you make _all_ the
mistakes that are covered in
classes on "scientific theory".

where should i begin? ...first,
without a "control" condition,
you don't have an experiment.

and even farther, if you do not
assign to conditions randomly,
you can't draw any conclusions.

third, you need to be "blind" to
the experimental conditions...
otherwise, there will certainly be
_huge_ "experimenter effects"...

(wikipedia explains these things.)

but i'd say the thing that's _most_
striking is how quickly you jump
to conclusions. most of you seem
to realize quite well that there is
a lot of day-to-day variability in
your sales. one day you sell a lot,
yet the very next day not a lot...

nonetheless, some of you tell us
how you changed your price, as a
test, and got immediate effects,
one way or the other. odds are,
that was _not_ a real effect, just
the random day-to-day variation.

you were primed to see an effect
-- that's why you did the test --
however, so you "saw" one that
wasn't really there. this happens
all the time with humans; that's
why scientists had to develop
strict criteria to help avoid it...

besides, even if there _are_ some
short-term effects of the change,
it's long-term ones that matter...
it can take _months_ for the true
and meaningful effect of a change
in a price to fully manifest itself.

of course, if ya don't even have a
control condition, ya won't know.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

selena said:
> And all of you
> who keep breaking up
> your lines like
> you're writing poetry
> can...

i _am_ writing poetry... :+)

-bowerbird

STH said...

Interesting, Selena. Thanks for the link. love the name "Electronically Published Internet Coalition" An EPIC award has a nice ring to it.

And I see that you've got entries in the finals! Congrats and good luck!

Jeanne Tomlin said...

Joe, thanks for all your posts on this topic. I never thought that I would see the day when self-publishing would be "the way to go" but you've convinced me that it is.

Sure, it's not free of pitfalls and to be successful you have to work at it. But did anyone ever say that sending out a kazillion queries, tracking them, sending out sample chapters, submitting the MS, etc., etc. isn't also DAMN hard work?

I can't believe I am posting this, but I am a convert. :-)

And thanks for the guest post as well. Those are really helpful.

Anonymous said...

"all of you people with
duplicate posts _can_
delete the duplicates..."

We know that. The question we have_ is_
whether there a way for us to delete
_ your posts_.

Selena Kitt said...

i _am_ writing poetry... :+)

In my best Crocodile Dundee voice, "That's not poetry. THAT'S poetry." :P

(http://www.williamstafford.org/spoems/index.html)

STH said: "And I see that you've got entries in the finals! Congrats and good luck!"

Last year too. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride... *sigh* :)

Kendall Swan said...

@Selena - Congrats on the EPIC finalist.

@STH - Even tho the Eppies exist, we should still start one here-- all inspired by JAK, of course. Also, electronically published doesn't mean indie/self-published, just ebook. Let's take it further. Self pub entries only. 2010. Now all we need is a coordinator and a very large number of volunteers to blindly read entries. Who is in? (I am.)

@bowerbird - you make so many good points. It's just kinda hurts my eyes to read them.

@ all : potential names for our new indie pub awards?
--Awesome Indie Awards?
--Self Published Genius Awards?
:)
Happy writing all.
Kendall

Rebecca Stroud said...

I totally agree with a few posters here that marketing is a bear when you're starting from scratch. I also totally agree that the more work you have out there, the better the odds of "breaking through."

And patience is indeed key. Although I've only been publishing independently for a few months, it seems like much longer as I'm trying to do it all: the writing, the covers, the Facebooking, the blog posting, etc. and still have time for that thing called "life."

However, the way I look at it is this: I'm not yet paying the rent with my ebook sales but, at least, I'm actively in the game and not just a bench-warmer.

The Animal Advocate
Devil's Moon

Joe Konrath said...

We know that. The question we have_ is_
whether there a way for us to delete
_ your posts_.


Be nice.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone want to comment on the launch of Bookbaby, whose site says they give authors 100% of the royalties, offer free conversion to multiple sites, for the initial fee. Too good to be true?

Joe Konrath said...

Finished Heart-Shaped Box. I wound up enjoying it. Good ending, some creepy scenes. But it needed a better editor. The endless flashbacks were irritating, and the beginning was weak. Overall, though, a pretty good debut effort.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Doesn't anyone want to comment on the launch of Bookbaby, whose site says they give authors 100% of the royalties, offer free conversion to multiple sites, for the initial fee. Too good to be true?

Am I understanding their terms correctly? They seem to be saying that if you sign with them, they will distribute your books to ALL of the dealers with which they have a contract.

Does that include Amazon? If so, they are dead in the water. Nobody is going to allow themselves to be forced to leave DTP.

Suzanne said...

STH said:

along the lines of the "what can we do to help each other...?"

Why don't we start an Indie Award of some kind? Why don't we chose catagories, submit our books to each other, and pick winners?

Then ANNOUNCE winners.

A lot of talent frequents this page. A lot of genres too. Maybe enough for a jury?


This has been my thinking for several months.

Yesterday there was a thread on Kindleboards about a site called the Indie eBook Hall of Fame. For info about your book to be posted there, it has to be available in at least one other online location beside the Kindle Store (ex. Smashwords), and you have to supply urls to 3 reviews from independent reviewers. This is certainly a start at accreditation for books by indies.

However...

The lady running the site declined to add my 3 books to the site because all the reviews I provided were given for the print versions of my books, and she wants the reviews to be specifically for the electronic versions. I emailed her that I'm awaiting new cover images for the books before I submit them to ebook reviewers. I hope she reconsiders. I've received 1 book award and been nominated for 2 others.

Her intention appears to be to provide ebook readers with a list of titles that have been vetted with other readers as decent reads, and thus bring credibility to books in electronic format. But it seems counterproductive to not let potential readers have access to book information on an author's backlist that's received good reviews, just because the electronic versions of those titles haven't yet received reviews. Maybe she needs a "pending" category that's accessible to viewers?

Suzanne Adair

Kendall Swan said...

re bookbaby

100% of the royalties after the $99 signup fee.

Interesting, tho. Smashwords competition? If they have a better accounting interface than smashwords, I might consider it.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> Be nice.

it's ok, joe, "anonymous" is just
having a little fun poking at me.
i can take it. :+)

***

"anonymous" said:
> We know that.

well, you and i might know it,
but there are some people here
who _didn't_ know it, because
they were asking joe to delete
their duplicate comments, or
just bemoaning the duplicates.

i thought i'd empower them...


> The question we have_ is_
> whether there a way for us
> to delete _ your posts_.

ok, you're doing the emphasis
thing all wrong, so let me teach
you how to do it correctly...

an opening underbar should
have whitespace to its left,
with punctuation excepted...

an closing underbar should
have whitespace to its right,
with punctuation excepted...

all emphasized spaces are
represented by underbars...
(in other words, underbars
are _not_ simple toggles.)

you'll have to learn this if you
want to use my free e-book
authoring-tool formatting app.

you also said "there a way"
instead of "there is a way"...

if you want to throw jabs at me,
you're going to have to step up
your whole act, attention-wise.

or you'll be mincemeat pie...

***

selena said:
> In my best Crocodile
> Dundee voice,
> "That's not poetry.
> THAT'S poetry." :P

crocodile dundee is funny, but
i stopped listening to people
telling me "that's not poetry"
a very, very, very long time ago.

just like you stopped listening
to people trying to tell you that
"self-publishing isn't publishing"
a very, very, very long time ago.

> http://www.williamstafford.org/spoems/index.html)

there's some nice work there...
not all to my taste, but i'm glad
you found a poet that you like...

putting the text up as images
is kind of a drag, because one
cannot copy out the words...

which was probably the intent,
but wrongheaded nonetheless.
especially in this day and age of
o.c.r. offered up in the cloud...

i'm also bothered by errors like:
> in stillness they jostled.
> the traded meanings while
> pretending to have only one.

"the traded"? show more care...

> http://www.williamstafford.org/spoems/pages/wordshappened.html

-bowerbird

Lundeen Literary said...

@STH - no problem! Glad I could be useful. :)

@Bowerbird - Thanks for the info! I really appreciate it!
BTW, I do usually check whether the comment posted before I try to re-post. I did that last time, and it showed up that day, then didn't the next. That prompted the re-post, which got dup'd. *facepalm* Can't freaking win!

@All - Let's start the Joes!!! Like the Oscars, but for indie books which don't suck. Hey, if the Nebulas can be decided by 3000 folks who bought a convention ticket, surely we can come up with some awards which don't require some kind of popularity contest.
I think the award should be a custom-designed piece of e-art, which is done new every year, and the winners can post that as page 2 (after the cover) in their ebooks and on their websites. The piece of art should always include somewhere a picture of a greying dude with a beard & shades.
there should be multiple categories for genres & lengths. What do we think??? I'M IN!!!!

Leigh Saunders said...

Going back to the editing part of this discussion, how a writer interprets Heinlein's Rule #3 will vary based on their personal writing method. I write in a loop-back method, cycling back through the ms-in-progress and fixing the logic/plot issues that arise as I introduce new plot elements. By the time I'm finished with my "first draft", I've probably been through it a bazillion times - but I still give it to a trusted first reader who will find the things I've missed. Once I've fixed them and had the ms proofread and fixed any lingering typos, etc., the ms is out the door - thus bringing an end to what might otherwise become an endless revision cycle.

Doesn't matter who you are or how polished your prose, you need to have another person's eyes on your ms before it goes out. For short fiction, find a friend, a fellow writer, a family member - someone who can be objective enough to spot and flag the minor errors that will drive readers nuts. For novels, it's worth the investment to get a more experienced pair of eyes - someone who will read for plot flaws, logical errors, and and other issues with the *story* as opposed to problems with the *manuscript*. You might trade editing services with another writer whose opinion you trust (you read their ms, and they read yours of comparable length) or you might have to hire a professional editor for the job.

The thing to keep in mind with editing for e-publishing is that you're going back and forth between wearing the writer hat (when you create the story and fix issues the editor/proofreader finds) and the publisher hat (when you perform the tasks related to actualy publishing the story), and unless you have a professional editor "on staff" (ie a close friend or family member), outsourcing this work is now part of your job. Otherwise you run the risk of putting up a tarnished version of your work, garnering complaints, poor reviews, and lackluster sales as a result.

YMMV, but that's how I, as an indie writer, interpret Heinlein's rule on editing.

Selena Kitt said...

OMG "The Joes" - that is freaking AWESOME! If I didn't have 100,001 things on my plate right now I would totally volunteer to organize. But it's probably better it's not me anyway. ;)

----

Finished Heart-Shaped Box. I wound up enjoying it.

Yay! :) I always have some little criticisms, sometimes big ones, when I finish a book. King's needed a better editor for ten years. But I still read him because I know I'll get a good story.

p.s. Bowerbird - I have lots and lots and lots of favorite poets. Rumi and Rilke and Sharon Olds and Mary Oliver and of course William Stafford, who wrote a poem every single day of his life. When someone asked him, "How do you do that?" he replied, "Lower your standards." Love that man. :)

bowerbird said...

lundeen said:
> I did that last time,
> and it showed up that day,
> then didn't the next.

been there too.
done that too. :+)

***

selena said:
> and of course William Stafford,
> who wrote a poem
> every single day of his life.

i write a lot of these comments.
often more than one per day...
sometimes even _much_ more.

have you noticed? :+)

bukowski wrote about booze...
i write about electronic-books.

but seriously, the poems i write
to be performed for my people,
out loud, on a stage? i refuse to
write them unless they wake me
up in the middle of the night and
make me get up and write them,
or they will not let me go back
to sleep. i've learned to cave in.
but that's literally what it takes.
any sooner, i say it ain't ready...

so otherwise, i don't write any.
the world has too many poems
already; don't need no more. ;+)

-bowerbird

B.J. Keeton said...

Joe Konrath said: "The secret isn't facebook or twitter. The secret is writing more. List more stuff on Kindle, month after month, year after year, and you'll find your audience."

I've been wondering something about this idea. I mean, I see the logic in it, and I honestly worked the same thing out for myself. I expect to have 2, maybe 3, novels ready for publication before I throw them out into the world. I'll set release dates, do the PR I can through social media, send out e-ARCs, and everything else I can read to drum up pre-release hype for them.

My concern is how many books by the same author within a certain time-frame is "flooding" the market. My goal is to eventually be able to make what I do at my full-time job from writing, so I know the more books I have the easier that will be. But how quickly should I work on getting those books out? What is the magic number--or has anyone found a magic number?--for releases during a given year? Should a self-pub try for 2 a year? 3?

Steve Malley said...

Thanks, Joe! Your adventure in ebooks, and the stories of others you put on here, has been totally inspiring. As a result I've not only taken the plunge into e-publishing but I've torn a page out of your 'Draculas' promo and I'm giving away advance copies of my latest thriller for FREE!

If any of your readers are interested, details are on my blog or my website http://stevemalley.com/

Again, thank you.

Kendall Swan said...

Livingsocial.com has a $20 Amazon gc for $10 for the next ten hours.
Now everyone can buy Aaron and Joe's books!

@ all- the 'Joes' is so excellent. I can't wait till I win my first one!!

pagerd said...

As a reader, if you are an author I like, there is no such thing as "flooding the market".

There is such a thing as "pricing yourself out of the market", though.

Robin

Brian Drake said...

Hi, everybody--
I have been reading these posts with great interest; I have two ebooks out right now with another on the way. I had no sales through October, November, and December. Tonight, I decided to drop my prices to .99 and posted a single ad on the Amazon reader forum. Sales are jumping--about six copies each this first night. It works, my friends!

Robin Sullivan said...

Another great post. Joe is right in that the ones most opposed to indie authors are other authors. Many are so ingrained with what publishing has been for the last several centuries that they are not able to see the change in trends and adjust accordingly.

I've said all along that BOTH options have plusses and minuses. It all depends on what your goals are.

There is a lot of data that suggests that the big-six are at least starting to see the light - for instance publishers querying authors rather than the other way around (Random House is knocking on H.P. Mallory's door).

All in all...never been a better time then now to be in this business - we'll look back at this as "the golden age".

Write2Publish Blog

Robin Sullivan said...

@Jussi Keinonen said...
I don't know how much it has been covered, but one reason the traditionally published authors are sceptical of self-publishing, is that they themselves have been protected by the gatekeeping of the publishers.


Actually, the ones I see who are the biggest nay-sayers are NOT published at all. They are still on the query merry-go-round and hoping the next pass will let them grab the brass ring. I think in many respects is that the notion has been ingrained for so long that they can't conceive of anything else and they cling dearly to their outdated beliefs.

Write2Publish Blog

Robin Sullivan said...

@bowerbird...had you left your book prices at the lower level, though, just like amanda hocking, you might have seen a december like she had -- where sales rocketed from the 10,000 she had in november to _100,000_ during december...

There is NO WAY you can substantiate that statement. Unless able to spawn an equal and identical alternate reality where the prices stayed the same any speculation on whether his sales would have increased or stayed the same or lowered is nothing but opinion.

Write2Publish Blog

Robin Sullivan said...

@Coral Russell said...
This stuff is soooo interesting and the comment I hear from other authors is that if they self-pub then they will never be able to get a real "traditional" publishing deal.


Actually, I think that "was" true but as this blog shows - times are a changing. My husband received a 3-book six-figure contract from a big-six publisher BECAUSE of his success at indie publishing. Whether we'll take the deal or not...don't know - we are waiting for the nitty gritty details in the contract.

Also H.P. Mallory has been approached by Random House after her books have hit home runs on the Amazon Best Selling lists.

Write2Publish Blog

bowerbird said...

robin said:
> There is NO WAY you can
> substantiate that statement.

pardon me?

my statement, as you quoted it,
pivots around the term "might"...

so i wonder exactly what kind of
"substantiation" you are seeking?

i didn't maintain it _would_ have
happened, i said that it "might"...

are you trying to tell people that
it _could_not_have_happened_,
that it is a sheer impossibility?


> Unless able to spawn
> an equal and identical
> alternate reality where
> the prices stayed the same
> any speculation on whether
> his sales would have increased
> or stayed the same or lowered
> is nothing but opinion.

which means you have nothing
but "opinion" and "speculation"
to offer in return. well and good.

but let's dig just a bit deeper, ok?

because if all we're doing here is
exchanging meaningless opinions,
then it's a big waste of time, not?
everybody already has an opinion,
so they don't need yours or mine.

so let's try and sort this all out...

i'll go find quotes to back it up
if you feel that i need to, but i'd
think i can just say outright that
lots of authors had _dynamite_
sales in the december just past.
it wasn't just amanda hocking...

although let's remind ourselves,
because it really was _shocking_,
that ms. hocking increased her
sales from a _healthy_ 10,000
to a mind-boggling _100,000_
-- a 10-fold increase on a sum
which was quite big to begin! --
so december 2010 was a stunner
just on the basis of _that_ alone.

but it wasn't just ms. hocking...
tales of jumps not just in sales,
but also the _increase_ of sales,
were reported across the board...

and face it, that was no surprise.
the kindle is at a very low price,
and the holiday gift-giving was
upon us. there was one kindle
under the christmas tree where
i saw presents get unwrapped,
a gift for a 16-year-old girl...
i wouldn't be surprised if any
of you saw one get unwrapped.
i wouldn't be surprised if any
of you actually received one...

so it's not surprising _at_all_
that e-book sales _jumped_
in the last month, not to me,
and probably not you either.

but aaron's chart _leveled_off_
in december. he'd had a 200%
increase in sales in november,
but managed just a 25% increase
in december. so, what happened?
why was his december experience
so different from everyone else's?

well, he raised prices, for one.

what else? nothing i know of...

he was on a great upward trend,
but zapped it with a price-raise.

and yes, that's just "my opinion".

so what's _your_ opinion, robin?

put it out there, so people can
see whose "opinion" they most
resonate with, whose "opinion"
rings their tuning forks of truth.

***

i am continually bewildered and
perplexed by you people who
seem to live in your very own
"equal, identical alternate reality"
where low prices seemingly do
_not_ fuel greater sales volume.

because in _this_ world i live in
--here on planet earth -- that
is pretty much an iron-clad rule,
according to our economists,
and amazon is one of the prime
examples (right behind walmart)
that is held up to prove that rule.

-bowerbird

Bookmark said...

Great post Aaron. You really hit the nail on the head with that formula and the reason most self-published authors fail on Amazon, Smash Words, etc. is that they don’t follow it. I also have to say that’s a great cover design!