Saturday 26 May 2012

Being Featured on Pixel of Ink: What that Really Means for Sales.

As many of you probably already know, in order to create interest and gain readers for my vampire 'Serenity Series', I give away the first book as permanently free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. I also have a short story prequel, 'The Vengeful Vampire' which is also free.

Giving the books away for free has been a great marketing strategy for me. However, recently both sales and free downloads have slowed down. I'd still been doing pretty well and while more sales are always appreciated, I was earning enough to live on, so I couldn't complain.

Then last night I discovered 'Alone', together with the rest of the series, had been featured on Pixel of Ink. We all know how important it is to get onto sites like Pixel of Ink when we've got freebies out, but I was still shocked when I got up this morning. As expected, free downloads for both 'Alone' and 'The Vengeful Vampire' increased, and I gained over 5000 downloads overnight. 'Alone' is now #2 in Contemporary Fantasy and #111 in the whole of the kindle free store.

What I didn't expect was the huge jump in sales for the other books in the series.

Over the past month I'd plateaued to around 10-15 sales each night on Amazon for each book, which isn't bad, but could be better. But this morning I discovered sales had shot up, with 'Buried', the second book in the series selling over 80 copies overnight and 'Captured' selling 70! Both books are back in the top 100 for Contemporary Fantasy on Amazon!

These results have proven how important it is to get your free books onto sites such as Pixel of Ink, not just for your free downloads, but for the rest of your books as well, especially if you write a series. It also proves that 'free' is still a great marketing strategy, despite the downturn in results people are seeing from KDP Select.

I don't know how long it will last, but for the moment I'm thrilled.

Friday 18 May 2012

Tips to Writing a Novel in 90 Days.

We all have our different strengths when it comes to writing. Some of us are amazing at the promotional side of it, others create spectacular prose. My strength is simply getting things written. To this date, I have four novels published, plus numerous short stories. I have three other novels which are written and just waiting for the editing process, and two WIPs. And that's all just in my Marissa Farrar name!

From start to finish, I give myself three months to write the first draft of a novel. This is a pretty reasonable time frame as a full length novel (for me) is anywhere from 70 - 95K, which means I really only need to write 1K a day in order to have a first draft completed within a 90 day time frame.

So if you're struggling to get your novel finished, take a look at some of my tips for getting words on the page.

1.) Set yourself a realistic goal. If you aim too high, you'll end up failing. If you feel like you're failing at something, then you won't go back to it. I think 1000 words a day is pretty do-able for most people and can be written in about an hour or so. If you don't manage your 1000 words for the day and only do 500, well then you need to be aware that you'll need to catch up the next day.

Break down your novel into 10K chunks. I never think OMG, I've got to write 80K on this book. How the hell am I ever going to get there. I write 10K first and then my goal is to get to 20K. When I hit 20K I'm heading toward 30K, and so on. Again this helps to make the goal of writing a whole novel feel more achievable and less overwhelming.

2.) Sit down with some idea of where you're going. I don't plan my novels from start to finish, but I'll know what's going to happen at least a couple of chapters ahead. If you have no idea what you're writing, you'll sit and stare at the screen.

3.) If you get really stuck, jump ahead! I often write scenes as they come to me and then have to piece them all together at a later date. By doing this, I'm always able to stay motivated about what I'm writing and I get my word count done for the day.

4.) Switch to a notepad. I find scribbling notes and ideas about problems I have in my novel really helps me work them out in my head. The change in medium allows a different thought process and things spring to mind that I wouldn't have thought of if I were sitting at my computer.

5.) Don't worry about the technical side of writing on the first draft. Leave all that worrying about over-used words, grammar and sentence structure to the editing process. Just concentrate on getting the story out!

6.) Above all, be hard on yourself. You're tired? So what? Imagine this were your actual job. If you went in complaining you were tired and you really didn't want to do any work today, what would your boss's reaction be? I bet they'd tell you to suck it up and get on with the job you're paid to do. That's exactly what you've got to do to yourself. Quit making excuses. If you sit and watch tv for an hour in the evening, but then complain you've not got time to write, you have to start asking yourself if you're serious about your writing. If you work a day job every hour God sends, take in a notepad and write during your lunch break.

Follow all these tips (especially the 1k a day) and there is no reason why you shouldn't have completed your first draft in 90 days. Then starts the hard part - the editing - because after all, if you want to be a writer, the actual writing of the book should be the fun part!

Have you got any great tips? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday 17 May 2012

Writers Beware - Things Newbie Authors Need to Consider Before Signing a Contract.

This week the social networking sites have been rife with tales of Anthony Giangregorio and his multiple presses (Living Dead Press, Open Casket Press and Undead Press). One very brave newbie author, Mandy DeGeit, spoke out about her issues with this 'editor' because he completely butchered her story.

I've had my own bad experiences in the past with small presses, from being asked to pay for editing after I'd signed a contract, to non-payment of royalties, to publishers trying to change contracts on me and producing sub-standard paperbacks. Unfortunately anyone can start up as a publisher now without offering any kind of proof that they actually know what they're doing and it's the new writer who suffers.

I know when I was offered my first publishing contract, I was so starry-eyed, I'd probably have signed over my first born if I thought it would help to get my work out there. This was back in 2009 and the wave of self-publishing/e-books hadn't yet taken off (or at least it certainly hadn't in my rural little part of Spain). There were things I didn't even consider. I simply saw that other authors had been published and seemed to be doing well, with blog interviews going on and lots of other promo ops that I hadn't even thought about before.

Although I made mistakes by jumping in too soon and taking the first contract offered to me, I still wouldn't change the route I took. I learned a lot about the industry and my own abilities and worth. Things I was clueless about before. I also got to meet a whole heap of fantastic authors who have done more for my career than any publisher ever has.

However, while writers are continuing to write, there will always be publishers who will be happy to take advantage of them. So what are the things newbie authors need to think about before they jump into a publishing contract:

1.) Google the publishing house. This may seem like a simplistic thing to do and you should really do this before you even submit. If a publishing house has issues behind it, there's a good chance someone will have already written about it.

2.) Ask other authors. If you're not already part of the numerous author groups on facebook, get in there now! It's highly likely someone will have either worked with, or know someone who worked with that particular publisher.

3.) Again, this might seem like an obvious one, but for God's sake, don't give them any money! While many small presses don't pay advances these days, the last thing they should be doing is asking you for money. The moment someone does that, run for the hills.

4.) Don't jump at the first opportunity that presents its self to you. While it is very exciting when someone finally sees something in your work, there may be several more out there who will also be interested in your novel but just haven't had the time to get back to you yet. If a publisher is genuine and really loves your book, they won't mind you taking a few weeks to think it over.

5.) Ask what the publishing house can do for you that you can't do for yourself. Remember self-publishing is still a valid option. You're the master of your own destiny. At least when you self-publish, if a poor product is produced, the only one you'll have to blame is yourself.

6.) Read the contract! How long does the contract last for - two years, five years? Remember this should be negotiable and above all, make sure they specify the length of their rights. I had one contract that didn't do this and the publisher just decided it would be five years from the time I asked about it. Publishers can't do this. If it's not in the contract you signed, they can't just add it in later. Same thing goes with other changes in a contract. Once the publisher has changed or broken their side of the contract (i.e. changing royalty rates) they can't then expect you to uphold your side of the bargain. Remember the contract is there for you as well as them.

7.) Finally, REMEMBER YOUR WORK IS WORTH SOMETHING! You may have spent years working on your 'baby' so don't just give it away. Imagine your book actually is your child. Would you just hand it over to anyone, or would you check out every single avenue to make sure the right person was looking after your offspring? Because believe me, if you've picked the wrong person, you could be in for years of heartache.

I'd just like to end this post by saying that not all small presses and publishers are bad. There are plenty out there who are doing loads for their authors. Just make sure, when someone shows interest in your book, that you don't just say 'yes' because they're the only one to ask.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

The End of my Affair... (With KDP Select!)

As I've mentioned in a previous post, the effect of KDP Select on boosting sales has been getting less and less as the months pass. Even those books still getting decent download numbers don't then go on to see the huge spike in sales that we were seeing at the start of the year. Apparently this has something to do with a change in algorithms or some kind of other technical thing that Amazon has in place (which I don't fully understand!).

Because of this, I've made the decision to remove my books from the program at the start of next month. I've been  in KDP Select since the moment it started, and I've definitely made some money and gained a great number of readers from the program, but I'm no longer in a place where it fits with my plans.

Last month we made $2.48 for every borrow, which is great as long as your book is priced at $2.99 or less. Any more than that and the author earns less per borrow than per sale. This amount has gone up, which means there are fewer authors in the program and fewer borrows, so the pot is being divided between a smaller number.

Don't get me wrong - I still think 'free' is a great promo opportunity and there are still authors (particularly those who are still trying to build up a reader base) who will benefit from KDP. However, I no longer think I'm one of them. I have several books out which are now permanently free, but the payoff of being exclusive to Amazon now simply isn't worth the five free days they offer. The freebies I have are across most sites (Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords) and over the recent months I've watched my sales increase as a result of this. I regularly have readers contacting me, asking for my other books to be available on those sites as well, so I'm going to bail.

As I mentioned, my opinion on 'free' as a promotional tool hasn't changed. I plan to put a freebie out next month entitled 'Go Back' which will be a short story prequel to my novel 'Underlife' (due out in August). But unless Amazon comes up with something new and shiny to keep me interested, I'm afraid my love affair with KDP Select has come to an end.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Five tips to sell more eBooks!

2011 was a huge year for the indie author, and 2012 is so far looking strong as well. Unfortunately, ‘indie’ still has a bad name, with people who are just hoping to earn a quick buck or two hopping on the bandwagon. So in this new publishing world, free of gate keepers and quality control, how can we make our eBooks stand out in the ever-growing crowd?

1. The Cover.

Anyone in the publishing industry (and readers alike) know the old adage ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ is rubbish. A cover is the very first thing your book will be judged on. If your cover isn’t eye-catching—particularly as a thumbnail—then the reader will by-pass it without a second glance. You can buy a decent eBook cover for as little as $40. if your eBook isn't selling, why not try a new cover? Money well spent!
    2.  The Price.
      This has always been a controversial topic. Many indie authors have seen success because we’ve been able to undercut the big boys. The $0.99 price tag has been losing some of its allure as readers are lining cheap up with rubbish. However, the $0.99 price tag does have its place, as does the ‘free’ price tag. I’ve had great results offering both the first book in my series as $0.99 and now as free. Short stories involving the characters from your novel can also be offered for $0.99 and free in order to drum up interest in your novels. However, don’t under price your work. I now offer all of my novels for $3.99, my novellas and short story collections for $2.99 and short stories for $0.99.

         3.  The Blurb.
       So your cover has enticed the reader in and the price tag has them thinking they might just take a chance on an unknown author. Now they’ll move on to check out the book itself. The first thing they’re going to read is the pitch. You want to sell your book to that reader. Make it concise and exciting. I read too many blurbs that start with ‘this is a story about...blah blah blah’. Seriously? Read some of the blurbs of best-selling novels in your genre and copy their style!

     4. Formatting.

       Most likely the next thing a reader will do is check out the ‘look inside this book’ option Amazon offers. Make sure your book looks like it’s been put together by a professional. Include a proper title page. Check your formatting hasn’t gone screwy during the conversion process, leaving gaps and different font sizes where they shouldn’t be. Smashwords has a good guide on formatting which is free to download.

         5. Write Another Book.

     One of the great things about the eBook market is that readers can get a quick and immediate fix and when they’ve read something of yours they've enjoyed, they can easily buy something else at just the click of a button.  A collection of short stories at a low price is a great way to introduce readers to your style. Not only that, it doesn’t cost a fortune to have a short collection edited and doesn’t take the best part of a year to write. Short stories will increase your virtual shelf-space and make you more noticeable to the reader.

I hope these five tips have helped if you’re thinking of getting into the eBook market or if you’ve got a book which hasn’t made many sales! Happy writing everyone!