Tag: Marketing

The Day I Canceled My Sales Tax License

sales use taxThis week found me in the predicament of needing to renew my sales tax license with the state. Plus I was already spending 44 cents a month to mail in a form to one of the cities to report that I have nothing to report. So I’ve decided to cancel all my licenses. I really wasn’t selling many books anyway. In addition the prices for tables at events have increased to a point where I just never saw myself selling enough books to break even. The hard part is, for a self-published author, your best bet at selling your books is to get out there and make those one on one connections with readers. In the process of that I’ve learned I’m not a very good sales person, at least not concerning my own work.

I like to tell myself that I can now concentrate more on my writing and less on worrying about selling enough books to make up the cost of getting out there to sell my books. Still it feels a little like giving up. Such are the decisions we face and the second guessing that goes along with them.

Tell Us How You Really Feel

I always enjoy stopping by Janet Reid’s blog. She recently posted an answer to a question regarding paid book reviews. While I could paraphrase it, I’ll let you read her own words.  http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2016/01/rant-paid-book-reviews.html

I agree with her 100%. There appears to be a whole cottage industry designed to separate gullible writers from their money. Writers should spend money on editing, cover design, typesetting and eBook formatting, but never on book reviews. I would also avoid, as Ms. Reid mentions, anything that bundles marketing with a book review; you’ve heard the saying don’t eat where you crap? If you want an easy, relatively speaking, way to get honest reviews, sign up for a Goodreads author account and setup a give-a-way. Sadly you will not get 100% of the people providing a review but you will get many and they will be honest.

Self-E

self e platform

I submitted my second novel, In The Presence of Gods, to SELF-e, a unique curated collection of e-books for libraries. SELF-e is a project by Library Journal magazine and Bibliolabs, a provider of digital repositories. I have been working with my co-workers at the Arizona State library to launch the e-book platform, Reading Arizona. A logical extension of that platform is to offer independent authors a place to offer their works to the borrowing public. Arizona is teaming up with Bibliolabs to do just that through SELF-e.

Independent authors know that some channels remain out of reach. The idea behind SELF-e is that libraries shouldn’t be one. The process of submitting is simple and easy to understand. Once your work is submitted it will be read by one of two editors who will then decide if it meets the level of content and quality they are looking for. If selected, the work will be added to the national collection. Even if not selected, the work will be sent on to the partner library in the state that author registers in. These works could then be added to the state’s local collection.

Right now there is no method for author compensation. The real draw for the author is the exposure to a new and wider audience. The draw for libraries is participating in a program that offers materials for all their patrons with e-readers. I, for one, am excited to see where this platform can go from here.

It’s Getting Expensive To Be A Writer

broken piggy bank

One of my favorite magazines from my days as a young Heavy Metal fan was Circus Magazine. A series of articles I always looked forward to was by Twisted Sister guitarist Jay J. French that chronicled the trials and tribulations of taking a band from the garage to the arena. Thinking back on that helped me with this post.

So, you’ve finished writing your book and have joined an elite group of writers who can say they have written a book. Time to break out the checkbook. I cannot stress the importance of paying to have your work edited. You do not have to mortgage your home but be prepared to spend around 200 to 300 dollars depending on what you feel comfortable having done. A good cover is worth more than a hundred good reviews so you will want to hire a graphic artist to do your cover. 100 to 500 dollars will cover that and give you a cover to take to the bank. Once it is edited,  you will need to format your book for printing. This too, unless you are a word processing guru, would be better left to the professionals. Prices can vary and services can cover much. Don’t forget about the eBook version as well.

By this point you have a finished product. You also have a slightly or majorly smaller checkbook balance. Now comes the part where you have to try and recoup some and hopefully all of these expenses. It’s now time to put on your snappy suit and barker’s hat and sell your work. You are going to need business cards,  bookmarks and other materials. This is also time to stake out a place in cyberspace. That entails purchasing a domain and leasing space to host your site. Hiring someone to create your site used to be a luxury that has since come down to earth enough to make it an alternative if you are not technologically inclined. Of course if you are selling your books, the government is going to want their cut. Make sure to apply for a transaction privilege license, (sales tax), in your state,  county, and municipality. You will pay a fee to start and then a renewal on the anniversary date. Some states consolidate the license across all three so check first with your state’s department of revenue first.

Now that you have your book, your materials and are square with the government you need a place to sell your tomes. Of course your book is up on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or Lulu, or any other online marketplace. You may even be lucky to be in good with a local book seller and have a place on their shelves. Personal appearances have been the most lucrative for me, even outstripping my online sales. The hardest part, aside from scheduling, is the cost involved. Different events will charge different fees for a table. Generally, and predictably, the more attended the event the higher the cost for a table. An event like Comicon here in Phoenix can cost upwards of $500. Smaller events will be in the range of $100 to $200. To get a better sense of what these costs mean let’s look at the math. For Undead Heart, if I sell a copy at $10 I make $5.79 a book. In addition I have chosen not to  charge customers for the sales tax so that comes off my bottom line taking my $5.79 down to $5 a book. To even break even at an event where I’ve paid $100 for the space I’d have to sell 20 books. Most of these event last a day, so assuming a standard work day of 8 hours I would have to sell 2 1/2 books an hour. Doing that I still have not made anything for myself, and are still in the hole for the business cards and bookmarks. I essentially spent the day working for free. There is some value in these events, I get to sit at a table with my business cards and receive the ego stroking of seeing my name listed as author on the place card. to be fair these events serve a larger purpose, so they can be rewarding even if no sales are made. Your name is out there, your books are out there, plus you can network with other authors opening up other opportunities.

Can you ever make money doing this. Sure just be ready for a long haul. I don’t mean to discourage you, but at some point reality will come around and you need to look at what you’re doing as a business. You will only last so long reaching into your own pocket for these costs. I’m not hear to burst your bubble or rain on your parade, just think of this as that little dose of reality peeking around the corner as you reach for your dream.

10 Obsolete Myths

Here is something I found from Anne R. Allen’s wonderful blog,  10 Obsolete Beliefs That Can Block Self Publishing Success.

I file this under stuff writers need to hear. In this case they need to hear again just to make the point come across. Of all these beliefs the only one I might have issue with is number 3. Personal Appearances are very important for the self published writer. I agree, as the post says, care must be taken to explore the cost of the appearance against what you can hope to recoup. Some would argue that presence is everything, but unfortunately you can’t run a business on presence alone. You can sell more books in a month by making appearances just be sure to not spend more than you can hope to sell. While that $500 table sounds like a good idea at an event like Comicon remember your’s is just one small voice in that dealers’ room. It is very easy to fade into the buzz and noise of the place and that just leads to disappointment.

We are in new territory, and the way things have always been done is no longer the way to get things done. One constant remains though. If you have any hope of selling your writing you still have it in your power and must, I repeat, must ensure that what you are selling is the best writing you are capable of delivering, then get an editor and make it even better.

It’s At the Library

Something that I think independent writers overlook is the possibility of getting their books in their local library. Whether or not this results in future sales is open for discussion but at this point it simply comes under the topic of affirmation. I have my books available in the Avondale Public Library and at the Estrella Foothills High School Library and get a warm feeling when I see them on the shelf. The link below is an interesting article with some tips on getting your books on the shelf at your local library.

http://valleybookblog.com/libraries/how-to-get-your-books-into-a-library/

Interesting Trends

The July report from AuthorEarnings.Com points out a couple of interesting trends in the market place. If you are unfamiliar, AuthorEarnings.Com is a project that reports on the Amazon eBook sales numbers of authors who have agreed to share thier sales data.

The first l interesting trend in the report concerns the earnings of independents and Big 5 published authors. The Big 5 authors lead the pact in sales across Amazon’s bestsellers list. However, when you look at gross sales independent authors show growth above the Big 5. In fact the report shows that, “Self-published authors are now earning nearly 40% of all eBook royalties on the Kindle store.” To paraphrase, the days of self publishing being a last resort are over.

The other tend that really surprised me but at the same time matches what I have seen in other digital market places, concerns DRM. Nearly all works from Big 5 authors come with some form of Digital Rights Management. You buy the book and you can only read it on your devices. Conversely books lacking DRM can be loaned to friends for reading on thier devices. The report shows that, “Indie titles without DRM sell twice as many copies each, on average, as those with DRM.” Can it be? The lack of DRM has become an in demand feature? I will be looking closely at succeeding reports to see if this continues or changes on way or the other. I suspect this gap in sales will only widen as readers buy more digital works and more importantly look to share those titles with friends who own thier own devices, as they have done with printed books.

All in all an interesting report. I urge any writers or readers interested in the publishing business visit htyp://authorearnings.com , sign up for an email of new reports or add to the numbers by taking thier author survey.

By the Numbers

You may have wondered, is it rude to ask a writer how many books he or she has sold? One might think it is more polite to ask a writer if he or she picks their nose when no one is looking than ask about book sales. Talking about things like sales numbers and returns on investment sounds more like business talk and not the usual artistic talk shared among proper purveyors of the written word.

Before one enters any kind of business venture it is prudent to inquire as much as he or she should. Just as long as that business isn’t writing and selling books. Well I am going to pierce the mists of secrecy surrounding my sales.   To date I have sold 54 copies of Undead Heart considering that it has only been out for 5 months that is an average of 10 books a month. The bad news is those numbers are going down. As expected, the longer the book is on the market the less it sells. I have also found that in person sales are much higher than anything from Amazon or Createspace.

I’m sharing this not to brag or ask for sympathy, but to make one point. By the time Undead Heart hit Amazon I had already finished the first draft of my next book, the rough draft of Undead Heart’s sequel and was about half way through my latest book. Suffice it to say to me, at least, Undead Heart was old business.

Another thing, I am not very good at marketing myself. The question I still haven’t answered is would hiring  a professional help? Would it even pay for itself? When it comes to Amazon.com my books are very small fish in an ocean that stretches beyond the mind’s ability to comprehend it’s boundaries. So let these numbers stand for what they are, whether it is a caution or inspiration. Always love what you write, love to write and don’t let anything persuade you otherwise. For me writing is something I do whether or not I sell a single book. The good news is I am just one of hundreds, thousands, millions of other writers in this same spot. Technology finally allows us to get our works on the market, sometimes we are even able to network, make appearances, give interviews and almost feel like the authors we dreamed we’d be. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t fun.

Marketing Your Fiction

Light from a show. Vector illustration.This week while going through my RSS feed I came across this little gem over at the Book Designer Blog. http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/03/how-to-keep-your-fiction-marketing-lean-and-focused/

There are so many great tips in this post that I do not have much to offer. Having a clear focus on what you mean to accomplish is important. Are you drawing attention to yourself? Your latest book? How about keeping interest in all your works going? The strategy for each of these is just different enough that you cannot do it with just one activity. You need a strategy that incorporates your blog along with other social media.

Target the right audience. Letting your friends and family know you have written a book is easy to do and will probably net you the most sales. The challenge is building your audience among the reader’s you do not know. To do that you have to start somewhere. You have to find some common ground. That is where local fan or reading groups and communities come in. Join a writing/critique group. Sure they will help you before publishing. They can also help afterward by getting you some sales.

Keep the excitement going after the book has been out for a while. This can be the most involving and for me involves soliciting reviews and or offering to talk about my work in front of various groups. This is a long process and you may find yourself feeling like you are just banging your head against the wall but you still have an audience to reach and develop so stick with it. Having said that I should also mention to leave yourself plenty of time to work on your next book. As you know the greatest thing you’ll ever write is always the next thing you write.