Saturday, March 23, 2019

Walk Around Batavia, Illinois: March 23, 2019

I decided to spend some time on Saturdays taking pictures. The weather was wonderful today, so I walked around town.

Batavia Depot Pond

Gazebo outside the Batavia Historical Museum

One of the painted Batavia Bulldogs around town

The Peace Bridge over the Fox River

Looking north from the Peace Bridge: the old Challenge Windmill factory

Looking south down the Fox River

Looking north up the Fox River - the dam is in the distance

Looks like this section of the bike path won't be used much today

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Indie Publishers: Find Your Niche!

Indie publishers have to find their niche. Your readers are out there and your job is to find them and interact with them. One of the biggest problems with indie publishing is you are unknown – the potential readers don’t know your book exists.

Think small and specialized. You don’t need a lot of readers to do well. Your niche does not have to be millions of people. If you had 2,000 devoted readers you could do all right if you write enough books!

Spend the time to figure out who your reader is and where, online, they might reside. For example, one of my clients writes cozy mysteries and the titles are all based on food. In fact, the author includes a recipe in the back of each book! So, I went on to Google and searched “cozy mystery and baking.” In less than a minute I found two websites, both with lists of cozy mystery series related to baking and culinary topics. Obviously, she should be on those lists. Sometimes it’s not hard to find potential groups of readers. More often it is difficult and takes time. Once you find a group, participate! Contact the website owners; comment on posts – get involved. How else will your name, and eventually your books, get known? Here are some articles on the topic:
"Thus, before we hop onto the latest marketing/promotion fad we’re wise to understand why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books. Books are not like cups of coffee or breakfast cereal, and thus require a different approach.

Yes, ads, marketing and promotion campaigns sell toilet paper, soap, and toothpaste because seriously…who is NOT USING this stuff? When it comes to influencing what folks do with their free time, however, it’s a whole other game.

Reading for pleasure has been steadily declining since the 1980s, and now that our culture is firmly entrenched in the new digital paradigm, this number is dropping off…a cliff. Back in 2004, roughly 28% of Americans over the age of 15 read for pleasure. As of 2017, that number was down to 19%, and for good reasons.

There’s Netflix, Fortnite, YouTube, Instagram, Tinder, and Candy Crush. Also, the final season of Game of Thrones in April—Spring is Coming—and we need to refresh our memories and who exactly all three hundred four characters are. Right?

Alas, what frustrates so many authors (and traditional marketing/advertising/PR people who still think it’s 1997) is that social media is the modern version of ‘word of mouth.’ Unlike direct marketing, social media efficacy can’t be precisely measured or controlled.

The more niche we can become, the less competition we have to outmaneuver and outdo."
Read the entire article.

* * *

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Way to End Corruption: Represent.us

This isn't about publishing. It's about ending corruption in our government. It's about truly draining the swamp in Washington and our state capitals. Please take the time to watch this. Thank you.





Thursday, March 14, 2019

Book Review: I, Lucifer


I, LuciferI, Lucifer by Glen Duncan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great book. I really enjoyed it. Lucifer is funny, flawed and just as messed up as all of us. The book has a real cynical grasp of human nature and is full of funny lines:

"Astonishingly gorgeous people are rarely good, for the simple reason they don't need to be. Hell's absolutely stuffed with the souls of ex-stunnas and hunks, whereas Heaven's been in a more or less perpetual state of talent-famine since human beings first started biting the dust. "

I liked this line too:

"Hell is two things: the absence of God and the presence of time. Infinite variations on that theme."

Nicely done.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Publishing Odds & Ends: Planning vs. Not Planning, Book Sales Up

I ran across a couple of blog posts that I found interesting.

First, Jane Friedman talks about the myth of planning vs. pantsing. I am attracted to the concept of outlining and planning, but I rarely actually do it - which is pretty much what her article says.
"Plotting versus pantsing is one popular version of the plan first/write later myth. This myth basically would have you believe that generating ideas, planning, writing, redrafting, submitting and publishing happen sequentially, in that order, in a linear fashion.

The myth also has its mirror image, the idea that there are some writers out there (for some reason I’m picturing them with flowing scarves) who simply cannot plan first and must write a draft then turn it into a novel. To me, this mirror image (although it’s the opposite) is simply part of the same story."
Read the entire article.

* * *

This article angered me a little because the author conflates reading with physical books. It’s as if reading on something besides paper is not valid. If ebook sales were decreasing (they are not), it’s not because people are switching to paper, it’s more likely that they’ve stopped reading books altogether. There is too much crap out there, both in print and ebook formats. E reader sales are down? That's not a problem. People are reading on other devices. I get angry when print-book bigots feel gleeful when they read bad news (usually incorrect news) about ebook sales. We should be pushing for more readers, whether paper, ebooks or stone tablets! Nonetheless, there is good news in this article for indie publishers, and in the first paragraph I quoted a valuable perspective.

"Not long ago, I came across an article with the headline “Reading is a rapidly depleting form of entertainment,” which cited recent findings from Pew Research Center that 24% of Americans didn’t read a book in 2017. Now, what I saw was that 76% of Americans did read a book.

The American Booksellers Association, which promotes independent bookstores, says its membership grew for the ninth year in a row in 2018. Sales of physical books have increased every year since 2013, and were up 1.3% in 2018 compared to the previous year." 
Read the entire article.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Why Your Amazon Book Reviews May Disappear

I wrote a review of Ray Ziemer’s book, The Ghost of Jamie McVay, for Goodreads and Amazon on March 7th. I received an email from Amazon on the 7th that said my review had been accepted and that it was live. There was a link to the review, which unfortunately I did not click. Today I went to see if the book had received any more reviews (a friend of mine indicated she reviewed it and I wanted to see her review), but there were no reviews – mine, if it was ever there at all, was no longer showing. (My Goodreads review is still there.) I know that Amazon has a policy that family members or close friends cannot write reviews for your books. But, how do they know? It’s a secret, but the articles linked below speculate that Amazon is scouring our social media accounts to determine who knows who. I am friends with Ray on both Goodreads (Amazon owned) and Facebook. This may have doomed my review.

We’re being penalized for developing a network! All the so-called gurus tell us that authors have to be on social media, that the more “likes” we get and the more “friends” we accumulate the better our books will sell. It seems that strategy, as it applies to reviews, works against us.

I don’t have an answer here. It’s frustrating. The only thing I can offer at this point is to review books on Goodreads for authors who you may be connected to on social media. I looked at the Goodreads review guidelines and there is restriction on friends posting reviews. At least Goodreads reviews, for now, don’t get taken down if you have some online relationship with an author.

* * *
“We don't allow individuals who share a household with the author or close friends to write Customer Reviews for that author’s book.”
From Amazon’s Customer Reviews Guidelines Frequently Asked Questions from Authors

* * *
“Amazon knows who your writer friends are and no, you can't post reviews for them. 
Amazon somehow knows people you know personally or as acquaintances is troubling. And that Amazon keeps how it knows this under a pall of secrecy is even more troubling, especially when there's nothing in its privacy policy that explicitly addresses this.”
Read the entire article on motherboard.com.

* * *
"If you interact with an author in any way online, beware: Amazon might decide that you’re 'friends' and ban you from leaving a review of their latest book.

But how does Amazon work out their definition of 'friends'? It looks likely to remain a closely-guarded secret."
Read the entire article on The Guardian.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Book Review: The Ghost of Jamie McVay

The Ghost of Jamie McVayThe Ghost of Jamie McVay by R.G.  Ziemer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Ghost of Jamie McVay is a great read. As the back of the book says: Brian has problems. He has to adjust to a new town and school. His father is an unemployed drunk. His neighbor is a pyromaniac bully. All these problems combine with a ghost who was involved in a gruesome train wreck in an intriguing and quick-moving plot. The book is categorized as young adult, but I feel it has appeal to a wider range. Recommended.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Email Marketing for Authors

Authors, both indie and traditionally published, face the same challenge: getting the word out, letting the potential readers of your work know it exists. The challenge there is made far more difficult because there are so many writers. How do you stand out? How can you cut through all the noise and get noticed? Here are a couple of articles about e-mail marketing that might help.

"An email list is your secret weapon for selling books—it is a direct connection to your reader."
Read the entire article from Jane Friedman.

* * *
"First, we need to identify the problem, and the problem is (mostly) that no one is opening your emails. If no one opens, no one clicks. If no one clicks, then no one buys. Getting the subscriber to open the email absolutely has to happen before you can deem your email campaign a success or a failure.

Consider this, email open rates are down across industries, and the reason for it is because there’s far too much noise in readers’ inboxes. That’s why email marketing for authors doesn’t work. BUT, and it’s a big but – 80% of retail professionals indicate email marketing as the single biggest driver of customer retention. Plus, email subscribers will spend an average of 128% more on products than customers who do not receive emails from a business. And if you’re really looking for exposure, email subscribers are 3X more likely to share content on social media than people who are not on your email list.

… you need to think about how you can cut through your subscriber’s inbox noise and gain their trust. They need to see you as not another boring author who just wants to hock their own eBooks.

79% of customers prefer watching a video about a product compared to reading about a product.

By 2020, 80% of content consumed online will be in the form of videos. It’s what your viewers are going to expect in the near future.

Companies that experiment with interactive content marketing strategies see their conversions improve up to 28% within a mere two weeks." 
Read the entire article by Lucille Moncrief.

A couple more:

https://booklaunch.com/email-marketing-101-for-authors/

https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/2016/07/21/email-marketing-for-authors/

Friday, March 1, 2019

Be Prolific and Find Reviewers

I have read, over and over, that you will sell more books if you write more books. It does make sense. The more products you have to sell, the more you will sell, whether that be books, cars, or any widget. This post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about that, but also that it’s time to get rid of the notion that fast writing is bad writing.

This post also talks about influencers. She doesn’t go into much detail about how to find them, so that will be an area I explore in a later post. Reviews of your book are important, but some reviews are more important than others.

From the article:
"Micro influencers are more important than one-fits-all curation.

Writers need to figure out two things. First, they are micro influencers (with their worlds and their brands and their newsletters and all of that fun stuff). Second, writers should value the micro influencers who already love their work. If writers do those two things, then they won’t chase those pipe dreams of instant fame and success. Those pipe dreams are the most deadly dreams of all, because they make writers give up important things like copyright in order to make those dreams come true.

Being prolific is good. It’s not only good, but desirable.

Remember when writers suffered through that hogwash of 10 or 20 rewrites and one book every five years?

No one could make a living at that, but it sure worked well for traditional publishers, because they didn’t have the attention span, marketing budget, or ability to publish writers quickly. Professors, who also shoveled that BS, didn’t have to grade as many papers if they made their students rewrite things to death."
 Read the entire article.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Book Reviews: How to Get Them

Reviews. We’re told we have to have them. No one will take a chance on a first time indie author without some reviews. Maybe once you have a few books out there and have established a reader base they are less of a need, but for that first book – you’re going to need them.

But, how to get them? I ask. I recently sent out an email asking anyone who bought Book Formatting Demystified to review it. I see nothing wrong with that. Though, Amazon says that friends and family cannot review your book. When it first comes out, who else is going to review it? I saw the following article recently and the author addresses that issue, and others.

From the article:
"You need to focus on reviews and getting the ball rolling. You don’t need to manufacture hundreds and hundreds, but if you don’t get people to review your book, it will be next to impossible to gain momentum and your book will sink. 
Getting reviews must be a part of your launch and book marketing strategy—plain and simple. 
* * * 
Amazon Verified Reviews vs. Unverified: Verified reviews are the cream of the crop. They show up higher in your book reviews list, and from all that I have seen and heard, they count for more in the mysterious Amazon algorithm that ranks your book vs. other books."
This means that if you send out advance copies, or use giveaways, the resulting reviews are not nearly as valuable. Also, another reason to get people to buy your book online as opposed to attending readings, signings… (KM)
"Amazon’s TOS (terms of service) state that no friends and family can review your book."
How do they know? Social media. (KM)
"Paying for Reviews: Don’t do it! There are definitely people out there that will take your money and leave a review. 
To sum up, don’t pay for reviews, don’t swap reviews with other authors, and don’t heckle friends and family to leave reviews (if it happens naturally so be it). Don’t wait for reviews to come in, go out and get the ball rolling. 
By all means read Amazon’s TOS, but follow the above advice on what not to do, trust your gut if something seems off, and you should be okay."
What should you do? The author lists 7 strategies. (KM)
"1. Put a Call to Action in the Back of the Book 
2. Search for Readers that have Reviewed Similar Books on Amazon 
And ask them to review the book. (KM)
3. Send Emails and Set Follow ups. 
The author recommends Gmass. This only works for 50 recipients or less. I say go with Mailchimp. (KM)
4. Use an Email Follow up Sequence
Incentivize people to give you their email address by offering a “bonus” in the back of your book and then aske them for reviews. (KM)
5. Go Beyond Amazon and Find Book Review Blogs on Google
You find the blogger, send them an email talking about the book and offering to send them a copy if they would review it. (Could be a digital copy. Keep your costs low and send out digital wherever possible!) (KM)
6. Book Review Sites? (Be Wary!) 
There are services that will request reviews for you. But, like everything in the indie publishing world, you have to be careful. There are scammers out there who will take your money, but then not do the work. (KM)
Concept: The reviewer is not compensated other than receiving the free copy of the book, and they are not required to leave a review. 
What’s not allowed is paying directly for folks to review your book, or providing any type of incentive to do so. (Again, any incentive other than a digital or print copy of your book.) 
7. Have an Audiobook? Get that Reviewed Too!"
Seems kind of stupid to me. Indies should not go to the big expense of audio if the ebook or printed book isn’t selling. (KM)

Read the entire article.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Copyright: Protect Your Rights!



Hang on to your rights when you publish your book. Apparently, many traditional publishers are now trying to grab all the rights as part of their arrangement. According to this post, you should avoid that!

Think this isn’t an issue for indie publishers? Wrong. The services I utilize do not take any of my rights. By using KDP or Draft2Digital, I license those services to host and distribute my ebooks. However, I still own the copyrights. Those terms can change at any time though, so when I get an email from them indicating the terms of service are changing, I take the time to go see what they are up to. For those of you who have decided to go with hybrid publishers, check the terms of service or your contracts very carefully! Your copyrights are your property; do not give them away without being compensated!

You do not have to register your book when you indie publish it, and pay the $35 fee. You do have to register it prior to filing a lawsuit for infringement however.

From the article:
"If you have published a novel, traditionally or indie, and you do not understand copyright, you are volunteering to get screwed over and over and over again. I say this often, and I’m saying it loudly again, because the trend for 2019 and beyond is that every organization you do business with will try to take a piece (if not all) of your copyright on each and every one of your projects. 
I recommend publishing indie, because that’s the best way to protect yourself and your writing income. You’ll have a career if you do that. Your career might vanish on you if you try to remain traditional. Or, rather, you will write as a “hobby” while you make your living doing something else. 
The more IP a company acquires, the more its value goes up. Your novel is IP. If they acquire it, their bottom line goes up, even if they never do anything with that IP. 
Those conglomerates put all of the intellectual property on their account books as an asset. So your novel—even if it’s more or less out of print (or has a $19.99 ebook like my novel Fantasy Life)—has a value assigned to it that reflects not only its earnings right now, but its potential earnings in the future. 
*** 
In fact, we just had interest on one of my books from a Hollywood production company. They wanted to “see” the book—from me or my representative. However, before letting them “see” it, I had to sign a document giving them some copyright in the book—even if they chose not to option the book. Not kidding. 
This, a book they could have bought on any one of a dozen sites or stores. They came to us directly so that they could sneakily get a slice of copyright, just in case I wasn’t paying attention to the legalities and niceties of copyright law. 
I refused to let them “see” the book, and did not bother to tell them they could buy it themselves, just in case they would take that as an acceptance of their stupid little legal ploy. 
Sneaky! (KM) 
This, by the way, was not a fly-by-night production company, but one of the largest in the world, fronted by two very famous hyphenates you would recognize. I always wonder, when I see things like this, how many writers were flattered that representatives of these two famous people were interested in their teeny tiny book."
Read the entire article.

For more information on copyright:

Copyright Basics: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

Copyright Registration: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ02.pdf

General information about copyright: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/

Friday, February 8, 2019

Writing a Great Book Description

Three things are critical to your success as an indie publisher: the book, the cover, and the blurb. Last week, I posted information I found about cover design. This week I found some good articles about book descriptions. As I said in my presentation at the Elgin Literary Festival, I believe that authors should not write their book’s description. Authors tend to write descriptions that describe the book, not sell the book. So, given we all don’t know a copywriter, or have the funds to hire one, how can we write a better description, one that compels the potential reader to buy the book?

I found three articles that address this issue. From the first two articles (a part 1 and part 2 setup):
"There’s a common bit of advice that authors need to “grab readers by the throat” with the first paragraph. 
I fear writers who take that long are already struggling to play catch up. 
For me, as a reader and now as a publisher, more important to me than first paragraphs are titles and book descriptions. 
It used to be that readers would browse books and pick one up based on a title. They might look at a cover, but after the title, most readers checked either the inner dust jacket (remember those?) or the back cover of the paperback (remember those?). 
Nowadays there’s no such browsing. You get thumbnails and titles, and then a book description, all while that “Buy Now” button hovers so prominently as to be rarely seen at all until you need to click."
The examples he cites in the article are very long descriptions; perhaps descriptions don’t need to be short anymore. I think people are now so used to scrolling that the “keep everything above the fold” advice no longer applies. (KM)
"You DON’T want to give away major plot points. You DON’T want to reveal twists that are going to dig your hook deeper into your readers to ensure the HAVE TO keep turning pages. 
But you do want to allude to them.

You don’t want to give away the ending of your book, or even major plot points. What you DO want to do is two-fold: indicate what’s at stake and why it matters, because that’s where the emotions come from. You don’t want to tell your readers what obstacles your character needs to overcome and how they’ll do so; what your character is trying to achieve that those obstacles are in the way of, and why those achievements matter to your character."
Read both articles: Part 1 and Part 2.

I also came across this great article on the Draft2Digital site. As my blog readers know, I recently put one of my books on Draft2Digital to test the process. It worked great. No sales yet, but without advertising (or a decent book description, do as I say, not as I do), that isn't a big surprise.

From that article:
"You may call it a ‘blurb’ or ‘back cover copy’ or ‘all that text I have to paste into my book page.’ Whatever your name for it, you can’t afford to ignore it. After your cover, the product description of your book is the first experience the reader has with you as an author. So getting it right is the proverbial ‘big deal.’ 
Most book descriptions have less to do with the story of the book, and more to do with the story of the reader. Tell the reader about the journey they're going to take, rather than trying to create a shorthand or synopsis of your book. 
People forget this all the time, but you have to remember that you're writing marketing material, not a short story. And you always have to ask for what you want.
It's a psychological trigger."
Also, the online book description is what really matters, not what is on the back of the book. Since so few indie published books end up in bookstores, the back of the book could be blank! The online description can change as often as needed. It is now what sells the book in our digital age! (KM)

Read the entirety of this great article.


Friday, February 1, 2019

How to Design a Great Book Cover

This is one of the best, and most comprehensive, articles I have read about book covers.
"Covers are the first bit of customer-facing marketing that your reader will ever see. They’re a shortcut—telling the reader in shorthand that they’ll like this book, that it’s in the genre they love to read, and that the person who wrote it is someone they can trust with their valuable (often limited) reading time.
[No pressure though! KM]
We can scan an entire digital page or an entire physical display of books, and in seconds we’ll spot the one or two that make us feel that little twinge of excitement. Something about the cover—the tone of it, the action and drama, the artistic style—gets us to pick it up or click on it, and learn more.

Your cover is its own story, and readers are looking at it as a way to help them make a purchasing and reading decision.

The cover is designed to entice the reader, to get them to pick up the book. But it doesn’t tell the story in and of itself. It provides a scene—a hero in jeopardy, or performing some heroic act, or simply surprised by some off-screen revelation. That cover is there to get the reader to pick up the book and open it, and the story inside takes care of the rest. 
***
… one of the unconscious signs of an “indie published book” is the size and treatment of the author’s name. And though we all have immense indie pride, we still have to try to meet the expectations of our readers. And readers want to think of authors as being grand and larger than life. 
[Don’t make your name too small on the cover. KM] 
*** 
In our digital age, the first time someone sees your cover is most likely in a grid of other covers, and at the size of a postage stamp. That tiny little rectangle is all your reader gets to make their very first decision about you and your book.

So everything else aside, one of the most important aspects of cover design is the answer to this question: How well does it scale down?
*** 
… do yourself and your readers the great favor of letting the professionals do their job. Your cover and your book sales will be the better for it. And you’ll have the even greater benefit of having more time to write books, which is better for everyone."
There is quite a bit more, definitely worth reading. Read the whole article!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Moving Your Ebook Beyond KDP


I put one of my books on Draft2Digital today. The process wasn’t too bad. It was easier than KDP in some respects, but messier in others.

1. Putting the files on the D2D system was easy. It asks for the standard stuff: Title, author, category, price… I found it odd it didn’t ask me for tags like KDP does, so that is something I have to explore. Perhaps it uses the tags in the file itself. If that’s the case I’ll have to add input tags to my checklist!

2. I tried a number of file formats during the upload process. D2D lets you upload any file that Word can read. So, I loaded a LibreOffice file and it worked OK. I loaded a Word file and it worked OK. Both of those options did one thing I didn’t like: it insisted on putting indents in the paragraphs on my copyright page, no matter how I set the original document. I’m still not convinced I’m not doing something wrong – I’ll keep fiddling with it, but if that’s the way it works I’m not pleased. The rest of the book looked fine, including the table of contents.

3. I also loaded a pre-formatted epub file. That worked the best. The layout turned out great, but I would expect that as I can assert a high degree of control in an epub file. That’s ultimately what I ended up using for my upload.

I chose all the options available to me, except Amazon. Here is the list of where my ebook will end up:

I did not publish on Amazon because this book is already there. But, based on the royalties I’m better off publishing direct on Amazon anyway. The royalty at D2D for my $2.99 book is $1.78. My royalty for the same book, same price, at KDP is $2.07. That’s a $0.29 difference! (Of course $0.29 x 0 = 0.)

The royalty situation at the other publishers is also $1.78, except for the library-based distributors. At Overdrive, bibliotheca, and Baker & Taylor I get $2.80 if the library buys the ebook on a one checkout at a time basis. Only Overdrive gives the libraries the option to purchase the ebook on a per-checkout basis, and that number is $0.46 every time someone checks it out.

I’ll check in about a week to see if there is any activity. I really don’t expect there will be as I am not advertising or anything.