Selling direct to avoid bias

book-storesI enjoy watching videos on Youtube when I need a short break from my writing. The site offers something for everyone, but that may be changing. Some content creators have been talking about how Youtube is demonetizing their videos or changing the search algorithms so that their videos are only being seen by a fraction of the viewers their videos typically get. This is having a big effect on their bottom line.

What if that were to happen with the online bookstores? Amazon has banned some books from their sites while not applying that reason uniformly to the entire site.

This is the reason I have been trying to build my mailing list. It’s something that I wish I had done years ago. I don’t know who buys my books on Amazon, Kobo, or iBooks, so if those companies were to make a change that harms my sales, I wouldn’t be able to contact my readers to let them know about new releases. On the other hand, I can stay in contact with my mailing list readers to update them with news.

This works fine unless my book is one that an online bookseller doesn’t like and bans. In that instance, notifying readers that a new book is available won’t help me one bit if the book is not available. I need to sell my books directly from my website to combat this.

This means creating a store on my website. I already have this, and it allows me to sell physical books directly from my website. Readers can click on the book they want, pay via PayPal, and I ship the book out. The drawback is that I am involved more in the shipping and ordering process. The advantage is that I keep more of the purchase price, and I also have the buyer’s e-mail address for future contact.

I still haven’t created ebook files that I can sell directly from my website. I see this as trickier. One advantage of buying your ebook files from a particular retailer is ease. For instance, I have a Kindle. While it is easy for me to download my books to my Kindle reader and sync up my different devices, it is much more difficult to do if I buy a Kindle-compatible book. That inconvenience factor discourages sales from a different retailer other than the manufacturer of the ereader.

One reason I became an indie author was because I wanted to have more control over my books, such as deciding when to pull a particular book from sale. So why would I want to give that control to someone else and their biases and policies? I don’t.

I am an indie author, and I am working toward that goal. I don’t see that I will ever stop using other retailers to help sell my books, but being able to sell directly from my website is a protection for me and my work. It keeps me from allowing the distribution of my work to be in someone else’s control.

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Have you ever done a blog tour?

Have you ever done a blog tour?

I decided to hire someone to help me set up a blog tour and I’m nervously awaiting the start of it not knowing what to expect. However, although I maintain a blog, I have very little clue for how to set up a tour. It seemed like a lot of groundwork would need to be done and, quite frankly, with my crazy schedule, I was willing to hire someone to do it for me. Plus, I figure it will get me exposure with some new blogs.

I actually was surprised at the different types of tours available. You can get tours that focus on reviews, interviews, excerpts, giveaways, and articles. I selected one that is a mix so I can get my feet wet with everything.

I’m curious if any other writers have done a blog tour. How long did it last? Was it useful? What did it involve? This is all new to me so let me know your experiences.

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When your family doesn’t read

I saw a Facebook post this morning from an author asking how other authors feel when their family members don’t read their books. That started me thinking because I have that problem.

It is frustrating that my family doesn’t read. They used to. My wife used to read a lot, although she never read my books. My oldest son was never a reader. My youngest son read a lot until he discovered video games.

I’ve asked them to be beta readers to encourage them, but they never take me up on my offer. I dedicate some of my books to them, hoping they will want to read them. Nope.

I have a son who is in prison. It is a sad situation, but my non-reader son has taken up reading. He even read War and Peace! Once, I found this out, I started sending him books by some of my favorite authors to keep him interested in reading. When I talk to him, he tells me about some of the books he has read, what he likes, and what he doesn’t. It’s a nice connection to have with him in sad circumstances.

Now, if I could just get my youngest son and wife to read without something bad happening to them.

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Are you a marketing tortoise or hare?

blue-growth-chartWhen my book, The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg, launched, I worked to promote it and get it into bookstores. It felt like an uphill battle at times. There’s a lot more bookstores than there are me and my co-author.

This leads me to an observation that I’ve found as an independent author. The difference between independent authors and traditionally published authors is like the story of the tortoise and the hare.

Traditionally published authors are looking for their books to take off with a quick start. They have to have strong sales right from the start in order to keep their book in stores and in print. Independent publishers certainly would love to have strong sales up front, but tend to see steady sales that stretch out over a much longer life for the book.

I’ve seen that with many of my titles. They may be 5 or 10 years old, but they still sell well.

I think this is because while I can’t put an army of sales reps and publicity people selling my book hard for a couple months before they move onto their next project, I can continually work on promoting my older titles along with my newer ones. The efforts build on themselves, expanding the books exposure and sales.

The key to promotion is to keep at it. Do something every day to market your book. It adds up in the end.

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  • The birth of a story idea
  • Write & Wait vs. Write, Write, Write
  • Time to get busy!

The birth of a story idea

Yellowstone 10I just got back from a two-week-long family vacation that hit 15 states and covered 5,800 miles. It was wearying, but I saw a lot of things that I will always remember. I’ve written in the past about how going on vacation helps recharge my creativity. That remains true.

During our long driving stretches through stretches of Kansas, South Dakota, Colorado, and other places where there was little to see, I had two different writing projects I worked on. One was a novel and the other a novella. Both were historical fiction. I didn’t complete as much as I would have thought for being on the road at least 100 hours. I did move both projects forward, though.

My surprise, though, was that I came up with an idea for a children’s book. It was a total surprise since I’ve never written a children’s book.Yellowstone 34

We were driving though Yellowstone National Park when we got tied up in traffic because of road work in the park. I saw a slope that led to the road that was covered with lots of flat, loose rocks. I also noticed that the edge of the slope was barely taller than a dump truck stopped on the road.

Now, we had also been watching for bears in the park. For one thing, the park has signs posted all over the place about leaving the wildlife alone. However, we had also been looking for animals. We had already seen bison and elk. My wife said she wanted to see a bear and mountain lion, so I was searching the woods as we drove along looking for bears.

When I saw the rock slope, an image flashed in my mind of a bear cub at the top of the slope losing its footing on the loose rock and tumbling down the hill into the dump truck just as the truck drove off. That became the nugget for my story.

Yellowstone 42Once I realized that was what it was, I had a few stray ideas about possible scenes in the story, but it wasn’t until we reached the New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia, nearly a week later and halfway across the country that the story gelled for me.

My wife and I were getting ready to climb a steep, rocky trail to an overlook when the story suddenly came to me. I whipped out my smartphone and turned on the recording app. I dictated the outline for the story as we began the climb.

I tell you this story just to show you that you never know what is going to inspire you to write a story. Look around you. There are stories everywhere.

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Facing the skeletons in my writing closet

skeleton_in_closet_74214583

I used to wonder how a centerfold or porn actor explains their past to their children. In today’s age of the Internet, it seems all of those past skeletons in the closet never stay there. Just look at what happened a few years ago when all those celebrities’ phones got hacked and someone posted embarrassing photos of them on the internet.

The writer’s version of this must be when old novels or articles come back to haunt them. One of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz, wrote lots of novels until pen names when he was struggling to make a living. Apparently, some were even softcore porn. He has said in various interviews that he has bought back the rights of those novels and they will never again see the light of day.

However, the novels were published and copies are still out there if you know what name Koontz used when he wrote them. I’m not sure if all of his pen names are known, but if they are, then it’s just a matter of someone finding one of those pen names of a book cover.

When I started out freelancing years ago, I had to scramble to make ends meet. One way I did this was to write for web sites called content mills. They are websites that provide content for a lot of other web sites like eHow.com and Livestrong.com.

The articles didn’t pay much, but they also didn’t require a lot of work. I could turn one article around in an hour, and to be sure, that is what I did. Since content mills didn’t pay well, I wasn’t going to put hours of work into the story. I got $20 for a 500-word article, on average.

So I didn’t put a lot of work into these articles. Turnaround was important, and I tried to do 3 or 4 a day before I went onto the work I really wanted to be writing. These articles weren’t ones that I put a lot of effort into, but I tried and research them to get them right.

On top of this, the articles were vetted by editors who also weren’t putting a lot of time into their work because they got paid by the number of articles they edited. That means, sometimes, even when I had something right, the editor changed it to something that was inaccurate.

I wrote most of these articles around 10 years ago. However, every once in a while I get an e-mail from someone with a question about the accuracy of one of the articles. Most of the inquiries are from polite people, but some are aggressive, accusing me of all sorts of things.

I try my best to answer the questions politely (even the mean ones). However, honestly, I don’t remember these articles. By contrast, I remember the articles I cared about. So I cannot answer these questions fully, which is not a position that I enjoy being in.

I am embarrassed that these older pieces are still out there after all this time. They certainly don’t represent my best work, but they are still out there representing me. I don’t even have any rights to the work because they were all done as work for hire. That means I can’t ask for the articles to be taken down when I come across one of them.

If there is a silver lining, though, these articles show me how far I’ve come since I started on this freelance writing journey.

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Does a change of scenery boost your creativity?

1Someone asked me yesterday if I was a coffee house writer. I thought about it and told her, “Maybe.”

I hadn’t really considered it before, but once I did, I realized that the coffee house writers are, at their essence, writers who need the change of scenery to stimulate their creativity.

While going to a coffee house wouldn’t do me any good since I’m not a coffee drinker, I do think going to a fast-food restaurant, park, or some other different place might help me write more.

  • I have found that I often start to envision scenes and dialogue while taking a long walk or drive. (This week, I even dictated ideas into my phone while riding my bike.)
  • Last summer, during some very nice days, I took my laptop into the sunroom attached to our house to work and found it didn’t disrupt my productivity.
  • When I’m on vacation with my family, I am up hours before they get up in the morning. I typically get a lot of writing done during those times.

These things lead me to believe that maybe a change of scenery a few days a week would help me up my game. There are quite a few places where I could test out this theory and all of them are nearby my house:

  • Fast-food restaurant.
  • Library.
  • Hotel lobby.
  • Park pavilion.

I will try these places out and see which ones work best for me. The added benefit I see is that it will get me moving around, and in the case of a park pavilion, I’ll be outside and enjoying the nice weather.

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