The festival ripple effect

I’ve been increasing the number of book festivals and other festivals I’ve been taking part in for book signings. Some are very successful for me. Some I just barely break even at, and others, are complete flops.

The flops can be soul-crushing, but I have realized something as I’ve increased my appearances. The number of page views of my books and online sales increase after a festival, even a festival that’s been a failure. That doesn’t mean that I’ll go back to the flop festivals. However, it makes attending break-even festivals more attractive to continue attending.

Another benefit that I’ve found in attending these festivals is that I get leads and offers for speaking engagements. These speaking engagements are always successful. Even if I don’t get paid a stipend for speaking, I sell my books afterward.

The third benefit of these festivals is that I sometimes get leads for future story ideas.

On the flip side, festivals take up a lot of time and cost money to attend. This summer, I have a festival every other weekend, on average. The costs definitely add up as I do more festivals.

Overall, I think writers should definitely put themselves out there in the public and doing book signings at festivals where your potential readers attend. Just remember that sometimes the best festivals aren’t book festivals. You may find a craft or street fair that draws in many people who like your books.

You might also enjoy these posts:

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.

You might also enjoy these posts:

Changes coming

Watch for changes coming to this blog beginning next week. For more than 9 years, this blog has featured different aspects of a writer’s life. I’ll be the first to admit that it has wandered at times. Beginning next week, I’ll be renaming the blog: Write Now!: Secrets and Tips to Make a Living as a Writer.

I am narrowing the focus of the blog to focus on how to make a living as a freelance writer and/or author.

Judging by my interactions with other authors and responses from students I teach, I believe I have good information to share with new and experienced writers. I’ll write about freelancing, getting assignments, running a business, indie publishing, writing, marketing, and other issues. As I read books helpful to the writer, I will pass those recommendations along to you.

I may not appear on bestseller lists all the time, but I am making a living as a full-time writer. Here’s my background that has brought me to this point:

  • I have worked in full-time positions as a copywriter, marketing writer, reporter, and editor.
  • I have had two freelance writing careers; one was more business oriented, and the second is the one I am doing now.
  • I became a freelance writer in 1988, which is probably before some of you were born.
  • I have over two dozen writing awards.
  • I teach college writing courses and workshops at writers’ conferences, which gives me insight into what writers are questioning.
  • I continue to learn and improve.

So, watch for the changes beginning next week, and let me know about topics you want to read about, questions you might have, and changes you want to see to the blog.

The ripple effect in marketing

320004_10150370257646867_270838901866_8795066_1718063802_nYears ago, there was a popular commercial for either shampoo or hair dye. The woman in the commercial was so happy with the product she said, “You’ll tell two friends about it, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on.” Meanwhile, the image of the woman kept doubling and doubling until there were a couple dozen images on the screen.

It’s a great effect to have duplicated in your marketing efforts. Nowadays, it’s called going viral, and if you can achieve it, the results are phenomenal.

The problem is that there’s no sure-fire way to achieve it.

I have found one way that puts me in a good position to have things happen, though. It’s going to festivals to sell my books.

While selling my books, I almost always get requests to do talks, book signings, or other festivals.

If attending the festival is equivalent to dropping a rock in a lake, then each book I sell is a ripple. Each additional event I attend because of the festival is another rock in the lake. With enough rocks and ripples, soon that lake is looking like boiling water because of my books.

 

While I love selling my books at these shows, I delight in the additional opportunities that come my way. It’s like getting bonus sales.

It makes it hard to measure the effectiveness of a show, though. A show might only be average in sales, but perhaps, it yields a talk where I sell another two dozen books. How do I measure those sales regarding the original show?

To set yourself up in the best way for these opportunities, make yourself approachable. I always try to talk to people who stop by my booth. I am not hard sell. I point out which books are fiction and which are non-fiction. I ask what they like. I may comment on a shirt they are wearing. I will ask if they are enjoying the festival. I am trying to strike up a dialogue so they feel comfortable talking with me. I also try to stay positive and be diplomatic about controversial topics.

The key is I listen and react to what the customer is saying. One of my school teachers used to have a poster in her room that said, “If you’re talking, you’re not listening.” If you are continually pitching a potential customer to make a sale, you might not give them the opportunity to ask you about another opportunity.

If you really want to encourage these opportunities, add a line to your business card that says you are available for presentations and workshops. You can make it more obvious by creating a sign to sit on your table that says you are available.

 

So, attend a show, sell a book, give a presentation, and have the reader tell two friends about you and so on and so on.

You might also enjoy these posts:

Using multiple publishing platforms (part 2)

 

Publication1

Last week, I wrote about the advantages of using multiple publishing platforms for e-books and how to use them. This week, I want to look at how and why you should use multiple publishing platforms for physical books.

Years ago, I printed my books with a book printer. The per unit price was better than I could get with print-on-demand, but to get that better unit price, I had to make a large upfront investment. I didn’t mind that so much for a first printing, but on subsequent printings, I had to decide how fast I sell a new printing and whether it would be worth the upfront costs.

Around the time, I was struggling with paying for a second printing, print-on-demand quality had improved enough it was cost effective to use print-on-demand services. I ran the numbers to see how much I would make printing and selling paperbacks versus having Amazon send me a purchase order and fulfilling it.

KDP (incorporating CreateSpace)

CreateSpace is now part of Kindle Direct Publishing, which means I can print my paperback and Kindle books from the same platform.

Tip: While the site offers to convert your paperback to a Kindle file, don’t use it. For one thing, I always upload my paperback files as .pdfs and .doc files work best for Kindle. This is because .pdf locks in the fonts, point size, and placement on the page. Kindle needs to be flexible, which a .doc file allows.

In pricing print-on-demand, Amazon offers the best price as far as I can see. Plus, once you enter they also create all the information for your book project. It takes about a week to get books you order (depending on the season), and this is quicker than I can get books from a traditional printer.

I really enjoy making more money for doing less. With my books on KPD, Amazon takes care of everything once an order is placed. I only know of the sale when it shows up on my dashboard. Previously, Amazon would send me purchase orders, I would have to process them, package the books, and pay for the postage.

The few times I have had trouble with my order, it has been quickly resolved.

IngramSpark

As much as I like KDP paperbacks, I have three problems with the platform. Let’s look at each of them and how I have solved them.

  1. Some stores won’t stock books published by Amazon. This is only a problem if the wholesaler shows Amazon or an Amazon imprint as the publisher. The solution to this is to purchase your own customer ISBN from Bowkers.com.  Then you or your company show as the publisher. You can purchase a single custom ISBN from Amazon, but it is expensive. Once you register with Bowkers, 10 ISBNs cost about $225.
  2. Amazon doesn’t print hardbacks. I switched to IngramSpark, the print-on-demand arm of the distributor Ingram, for hardback editions. It’s not cheap, but on the titles where I think it’s worthwhile (4 titles out of 25), this option is available. Because of the expense to print, I also make a little less on my hardbacks than I do on my paperbacks. This is because I needed to keep the retail price market competitive.
  3. Bookstores don’t get their typical retailer discount. Bookstores are used to getting 40 percent off retail prices of books, which they can then sell at the retail price. A couple bookstore owners have told me that my paperbacks only came with a 25 percent discount. As an indie publisher, I don’t want my books to stand out from other books in a negative way. So, I took my paperbacks off of expanded distribution with KDP and uploaded them with IngramSpark. When a bookstore now orders one of my books, IngramSpark prints it. If the book is ordered on Amazon, Amazon prints it. I make less per copy from IngramSpark, but I believe the trade-off is worth it.

That’s my plan for using multiple platforms and the one I use. 

 

You might also enjoy these posts:

 

Using multiple publishing platforms (part 1)

I taught a workshop this past weekend at a writer’s conference and I got more than a few questions about publishing on multiple platforms, which wasn’t even the topic of the workshop. It shows me that there is still a lot of curiosity out there about whether an author needs to publish on multiple platforms.

In discussing this, most authors are referring to e-publishing. However, there is a case to be made with publishing physical books with multiple printers.

I’ll tackle this in two different posts.

E-books are published in different formats sort of the difference between a .jpg image and a .tiff image. What type of e-book you need as a reader depends on the type of e-reader you use.

Amazon-Kindle-3-567x588KDP Select

As an author, you might publish your e-book only on Amazon’s Kindle platform. In fact, Kindle encourages you to solely use Kindle by offering special marketing tools that you can only use as a member of KDP Select.

By clicking the box for KDP Select, you agree that your book will only be available on Kindle for three months. The membership continues to renew every three months unless you uncheck the box.

The incentive to enroll is that Amazon increases the foreign markets where your e-book will be available. You can also use countdown deals and free book days, which are only available if you are part of KDP Select.

The biggest advantage I have found is that your book becomes part of the Kindle Unlimited program. This allows readers who enroll in this program to read select e-books without purchasing them. You, as the author, get paid per page read of your book.

swlogoGoing Wide

If you choose not to be a member of Kindle Select and instead want your e-book to appear at other retailers, such as Kobo and iBooks, then you need to go wide. This involves publishing your book in different formats and making it available on those retail platforms.

You can go crazy trying to prepare manuscripts for each retailer. It might be worth it if you realize that your books do particularly well with a retailer. Depending on the retailer, it might also offer special tools for authors who work directly with them.

For most authors, using an aggregator site is the easiest way to go. I use Smashwords. Another popular site is Draft2Digital. These sites allow you to upload your manuscript and have it converted to various formats. The book is then made available on dozens of e-book retailers.

My Experience

When I published e-books, I went with Smashwords. It’s a great platform and easy-to-use. It also offers a .mobi format, which Kindle e-readers can read. I figured I didn’t need to use KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) for a Kindle version. However, after months of having my e-book available, I was disappointed with sales, particularly my Kindle sales.

So, I signed up for KDP and put my book up in its Kindle version. My sales immediately jumped. I realized that it had other advantages besides the ones I mentioned. For one, it was easier to connect the e-book to my paperback version. Also, having my book available as a .mobi book did not mean that it was available on Amazon, which is the largest book retailer in the world.

I now sell about five times more e-books on KDP than I do on all of the other platforms combined.

You might also enjoy these posts:

 

Working through issues with Kindle paperbacks

SGBWhen Kindle absorbed Createspace last year, I didn’t have a problem with the process. Kindle seamlessly transferred my existing paperback books over to their system. The ordering process was a bit different. When I order copies, the system transfers me over to Amazon where I complete the order. This works well for me because I get a discount when I use my Amazon credit card. I only wish I could use my Amazon Prime free two-day shipping.

That said, I’ve run into my first problems with uploading a paperback to the new system. Yesterday, I finally completed the process for uploading Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield. It was a small nightmare. Not the whole process, mind you, but just with cover.

My issue is that it shouldn’t have been a problem. Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield is my fourth Secrets book. The covers all have the same basic design so all of the fonts, placements, and sizes are set. My cover designer has already done the first three covers, and we had no issues after the first cover uploading covers.

Since those same covers transferred with no problems, we didn’t expect an issue with the Kindle upload.

WRONG!

When it was uploaded, some elements were too close to the cut line. We used the Kindle template and still got the same results. We tried a couple different times and got the same results.

Finally, the designer had to move individual elements that shouldn’t have needed to be moved.

Another difference we discovered is that with Createspace, the printer puts the ISBN barcode in the box you provide. With Kindle, the system kept putting the ISBN barcode in its own box in a set location whether or not it matches the box you leave on the back cover for it. Once we figured that out, we removed our box. It was a simple fix that no one explained beforehand.

So, after a few headaches, the book looks good and will go live today or tomorrow.

You might also enjoy these posts:

Getting global appeal

I started to pay more attention to my monthly statements from Kindle Direct Publishing and IngramSpark. It’s not because I want to see how much I made (that’s a given). I have become more curious about where my books are selling.

CanawlersOne of the reasons that I decided to start indie publishing years ago was because the book project that I had in mind to do (Canawlers) was one that I thought would sell primarily in communities along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal with secondary markets in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Back then, I worked directly with Baker & Taylor as my distributor. They would send me purchase orders, and I would ship them off to wherever the PO listed. I noticed that I was shipping books all over the country, including to a lot of places where I doubted the people knew about the C&O Canal.

Then, when I started Kindle publishing, I would look at my statements in detail and notice that I was selling books in England, Canada, and India. Some of the titles that were selling overseas I would not have imagined having an international market.

Now, I’ve started looking at the statements in detail again for my paperbacks, and I see that copies are selling in Australia, Canada, and Europe.

I don’t know about you, but I find that amusing. I am writing books with global appeal.

How are those readers finding my books? That’s the next thing that I want to figure out.

Some authors may take it for granted that everything they write will have worldwide appeal. I’m not at that point yet. I work to improve my writing with each book, and I try and write stories that excite me.

I hope it means that I’m doing something right as I see my reach expanding because it is something that I want to continue to grow.

You might also enjoy these posts:

Which book are you most proud of?

CanawlersI was at a festival the other when someone who was looking over my book display asked, “Which book are you most proud of?”

That was a tricky question to answer. I have 22 books that I have indie published so I have a few from which I can choose. I often get the question: Which book is your favorite? I’m ready for that one with my favorite fiction and non-fiction titles.

“Which book are you most proud of?” seemed like a different question to me. It was also a tougher one to answer.

Canawlers is the first novel that I indie published in 2000, and I’m proud of that accomplishment. It wasn’t the first novel that I had published, but it was the first one where I took control of the process. I’m proud fo the final result.Last To Fall Cover

The Last to Fall is a true story that had been forgotten in history for the most part. I was proud to tell the story of the 1922 Marines at Gettysburg. A lot of my non-fiction explores a forgotten historical story, but this one led to an effort to create a monument to the fallen Marines. When the monument was dedicated, I felt the book had proven its worth, and I was proud.

Clay Soldiers is the only biography that I’ve written to date, and it tells the life story of a man whose life I felt needed to be remembered. I didn’t want Chuck Caldwell’s experiences to be lost as my grandfather’s were because he didn’t write his stories down before he died. Seeing the emotion on Chuck’sClay Soldiers face when he saw his life story in print made me very proud.

So I have three books that I’m proud of for different reasons. How do I pick between those three, or do I just allow it that I’m very proud of three different books?

I chose the latter because I don’t think I could really choose my one book of which I’m the proudest.

 

You might also enjoy these posts:

The before and after of a book cover

2766So here’s the first draft of a cover for my upcoming historical novel Smoldering Betrayal. This particular draft is missing a couple elements – author name and that it is book 1 in the Black Fire Trilogy.

While I thought it was a good start, a lot of people, including me, had issues with how the men looked. They are coal miners, but they almost seem to appear as if they are wearing clown make-up.

I searched out some new pictures. I wanted to have a coal miner on the cover since the book is set in a coal mining town, but I also wanted to have someone who looked like a mine superintendent and a woman who could represent one of the female leads in the story.

SB Cover

I sent the options I found off to my cover designer. Then I sat down with her a few days later after she had picked out the people she thought would work. We spent about an hour placing the people on the cover, looking at fonts, and adding the missing elements.

She added a bit more after our meeting, and then fine-tuned the cover to come up with this version.

I think she hit the right look. It shows that the book is about coal mining, and for those in the know, the town in the background is the actual town where the story is set. Three different types of people hint at the characters in the book and the drama between them.

I think it’s leaps and bounds beyond the first version.

Just like your book’s text, don’t be worried that your book cover needs to go through multiple revisions to get right.

You might also enjoy these posts: