Sunday, December 28, 2014

Is Amazon Turning On Self-published and Indie Authors?

Amazon is one of the best friends a self-published or indie author can have. Amazon gave authors a way to make their written works available to millions of potential readers, sold the book, in paper or ebook format, collected the money, shipped the book, and at the end of the month deposited the author's share in the bank.

Self-published authors are beginning to question, and question loudly, if Amazon is still their friend.

What has caused the change in attitude on the part of self-published authors?

Kindle Unlimited.

David Streitfield takes a look at why authors are unhappy with the Kindle Unlimited program in his piece titled Amazon Offers All-You-Can-Eat Books. Authors Turn Up Noses in the December 27, 2014, issue of The New York Times.

If you have books enrolled in Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program and have seen a significant drop in your earnings, this article may provide you with some insight into why this is happening.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pondering the Decision to Self-Publish or Publish Traditionally? Data to Help You Make Your Decision

The battle rages in the publishing world. Without a doubt, there are many in traditional publishing who feel threatened by what is happening in the indie, or self-publishing, world. There are many who wish to be published but do not want the "stigma" of being self-published.

In the past the stigma of being self-published might very well have been justified. Vanity Publishing carries with it the stigma of its very name, vanity.

If you want to make a living from your writing, or at the very least, pay some bills on a regular basis, you need to stop and seriously consider self-publishing your work. I got my start in self-publishing through POD paperbacks. Now the majority of my sales are ebooks.

I still make a lot more per sale with my POD titles, but make up for the lower revenue per unit from my ebooks with the sheer volume of sales. If I could figure out how to make the same total number of sales, but all POD, I would be deliriously happy! I digress.

To make a significant choice between self-publishing your work or pursuing a traditional publishing contract, it is important to try to set aside the propaganda from both camps. Make a decision based on sales data.

While this seems much easier said than done, there is a source of sales data that allows an individual author to make the correct, for that author, decision about how to publish their work.

One data set worth examining, and a telling one at that, is the Print vs. Digital Report for May of 2014.

Another interesting data set is the 2014 Barnes & Noble ebook report.

Finally, I would like to suggest taking a look at October 2014 Amazon ebook (estimated) sales data. 

All of these reports I have linked to are from the Author Earnings site.

Catching Up

It's been awhile since I last posted and quite a bit has gone on in the world of self-publishing. Amazon's very public, or so it seemed, dispute with Hachette is over and time will tell who won that battle. If you want to read up on that entire debacle, visit J.A. Konrath's blog and you can read more than may want to about the entire negotiation and the various mudslinging battles that transpired. It's interesting reading, particularly if you are torn between self-publishing and attempting to obtain a traditional publishing contract. Simply start with one and work your way back, either one at a time or through links in the various posts.

Morris Rosenthal has returned to blogging and providing data about the world of self-publishing, particularly as it relates to Amazon and self-publishing. The latest incarnation of his blog is titled Publishing 3.0: Books in the Age of Amazon.

My current projects have included non-fiction in a brand new area for me in a topic I am passionate about, Italian Greyhounds! This project probably will be a success if it simply breaks even, but I feel like I need to diversify the types of books I write and self-publish in hopes to continue to earn a decent extra-income.

Finally, in what is probably a misguided effort on my part, is my attempt to sell paperback books directly from my own website using a Shopify store. It was easy to set up, but so far I have had very limited success in selling any books.

I hope everyone who visits my site has a GREAT Christmas this year!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Amazon Adds Valuable Features Likely to Aide Self-Publishing Authors - Kindle Pre-Order Buttons and Beta Kindle Pricing Support

Amazon has added two new features to its Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard, both of which should be a boon to authors choosing to self-publish. Self-publishing, or indie, authors can now had a pre-order button to their Kindle books, allowing readers to purchase the book before its publication date.

Authors now have the option to publish their Kindle edition immediately or use the pre-order button. In the example above, my book will go on sale on September 2, 2014. This has given me four weeks to promote the publication of the book.

To my delight, at the time of this blog posting, the book in question had an overall Amazon sales ranking of 190,012! Hardly a New York Times Bestseller, but given I am a niche author of non-fiction, it might be a good indicator this title is going to do well.

I have no idea exactly how many copies have been pre-ordered as these transactions do not appear on my KDP sales page. I will just have to wait until September 2nd to find out.

The other new feature is the Beta version of "KDP Pricing Support. This feature provides data from Amazon to help guide authors find the most profitable price point for their new Kindle title.

Amazon provides a little drop box that provides very limited information on how it calculates the estimated optimal price, but given the company's normal secrecy about data, it does provide a little insight into what helps drive sales for a title.

In addition to the graphic data, you have the ability, it appears, to do some research of comparable titles and to simply select the price Amazon believes to be the optimal price point for your book. You are also free not to choose the price and determine your own price.

This is the Beta version of this feature, but for those authors looking to maximize earnings, it could take the guessing and experimentation needed out of the pricing process, allowing authors to obtain the best possible earnings from the start.

Since you can have the KDP feature estimate your optimal price for your without having to adopt the price point suggested, you can go through your backlist and see what Amazon KDP thinks the optimal price for any single title is. To my delight, it suggested I raise some of my prices by a considerable amount!

For other titles that I have been struggling to promote, the feature not only suggested a lower price in an amount I would not have guessed, but provides estimates of how the price change will raise profits or impact sales in the form of +/- percentages. It is interesting to note how lower prices increase sales and profits. For some books, high prices decrease sales, but increase profits. 

Both of these features, particularly the pre-order button, are welcome additions for self-published and indie authors.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Making Your Own Cover - The Book Designer's Cover Templates - A Quick Review

Covers sell books. It is that simple. After good editing, a great cover is essential and in the case of marketing, it might be one of your most essential items. The cover has to grab your potential reader's eye in about two seconds. This is even more difficult given how small the images Amazon and other online retailers provide.

One of the easiest ways to spot a self-published book is its cover. Bad covers on self-published books not only hurt sales, but give the legacy publishing crowd food for their arguments against self-publishing and serves as further proof that Indie authors have no business publishing.

CreateSpace and Amazon's KDP both offer cover templates which are better than what many authors come up with left to their own devices. I have used these for some of my books and these covers were "OK" at best. You can tell they are templates and having used them, I can spot with ease covers using these same templates just by browsing Amazon.

The good folks at The Book Designer now offer a solution to the problem of creating your own cover and having it look like an expensive custom designed cover.

The image above shows the design I came up with for my next book. Now, you might not like the looks of the cover and that's fine, but DO NOT hold it against The Book Designer. Any design issues with the cover are because I have very limited talent for this sort of thing.

I was able to calculate and set the width of the spine, enter all of my back cover information and quickly insert the cover image in about 20 minutes. I spent another hour creating different versions by moving text boxes, changing text color and fonts. 

All told, in about 2 hours I read the directions and created 20 different possible versions of my cover. Granted, the time invested did not include writing the back copy or selecting the my photo from my collection.

The best part was I did not lose my temper once, feel the need to threaten my computer or feel my blood pressure increase, all of which are normal when I have to learn how to use new software or a new item on my computer. That's how easy the directions were to use!

You may purchase a license for a single-book, multiple-book or a commercial license, just like with their interior design templates. Purchasing several templates at a time will also allow you to take advantage of a significant discount. Two templates will garner you a 25% discount and three will earn a 35% discount. You can save considerable money by getting your cover and interior templates at the same time.

The cover templates come in a variety of common book trim sizes and designed for use with CreateSpace, IngramSpark and Lightning Source.

This neat tool also allows you to do some neat design tricks such as using a "wrap around image" on the cover. It comes with some 20 loadable custom fonts to allow you to create just the right look with your text.

I will be taking advantage of this great tool to revamp several of my less than desirable covers in the not too distant future!

<a href="" target="ejejcsingle">Click here to visit Book Design Templates.</a> 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Following the Amazon-Hachette Dispute? Here are a few interesting posts!

Just trying to keep up with what is going on in the Amazon-Hachette contract negotiations can make your head spin. Amazon is being vilified by Hachette and some well known authors and author groups. Since high stakes contract negotiations are very seldom carried out in public, Amazon's letter published today is enlightening.

For some informative reading about this dispute and what it may mean to authors, both traditionally and self-published as well as the publishing industry in general, you may want to check the blog posts I have linked to below.

Konrath Takes on Chuck Wendig

This fight seems to have divided authors and there is plenty to be concerned about for our industry in the long term. Even for those of us who are indies or self-published, the outcome of this fight will have some kind of impact on our publishing efforts down the road.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Making a Living as an Indie/Self-Published Author

At best, it was always a guessing game about how many books self-published or indie authors sold and how much money has been earned. For authors who would like to make a living as writers and are considering self-publishing, this is a huge issue.

Below are a pair of links that you need to visit if this topic is important to you. Both are essential reading. Rather than talk about what each has to say, I encourage you to leave this site and visit the two sites linked to.  Here they are:

I promise you, this will be time well spent.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Improve Your Amazon Search Results

As self-published or indie authors, almost all of us rely heavily on Amazon to sell our books. Anything we can do to improve the search results for our books on Amazon is something we as authors have to consider. For many of us the biggest part of the marketing/sales battle is helping readers who would enjoy or benefit from reading our book finding the book among the millions of titles available on Amazon.

A new tool is available for sale that can help authors improve the search process for readers who use the Amazon search engine to locate books that might interest them. The tool, AK Booster, is now available for sale and allows authors to determine the best search words to use for the seven keywords Amazon allows authors to provide for their Kindle books during the uploading and publishing process.

Rather than duplicate a detailed review of the product, simply visit this review. I have purchased AK Booster and was surprised by the keywords it provided for some of my books. I experimented with a couple of my Kindle books and to my surprise, both of them moved up in the search results as a result of changing one, or in some cases, two keywords recommended by the results of AK Booster.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Current Topics of Interest in Self-Publishing

Here are a few recent blog posts I have found of interest as related to the business of self-publishing. Hope they are of interest to the readers of this blog.

Great post on J.A. Konrath's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing

Questions from Steve Zacharius, CEO and President of Kensington Publishing

From Morris Rosenthal - data on Kindle sales and Kindle borrows - Self Publishing 2.0

Prime Holiday Usage Data

Kindle Sales Comparison for Fiction and Non-Fiction sales

From Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer

Forming a self-publishing cooperative

Update on the Ingram Spark Program for Indie Authors

More on IngramSpark from Aaron Shepard

The 40% Error 

Marketing tactics and strategies from The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn

Info. on the task of marketing for authors

Thursday, January 2, 2014

eBook Architects - Customer Service You Can Count On

Any author who has dealt with "author services" in an effort to self-publish their work is well aware how many companies are out there, competing for our limited and hard earned dollars. Many of those companies are best described as "wolves" looking to prey on unsuspecting authors.

Others are reputable and provide excellent service and a reasonable price. One such company is eBook Architects.

I have reviewed them in the past and posted a positive review.

Recently I needed to have two of my files sent to me again, and to my horror, I found a misspelling on the title page of one of my books. It was my last name no less.

I e-mailed the good folks at eBook Architects and asked for the files and how much it would cost to have the misspelling corrected.

Not only did they resend the files I requested at no charge, the made the correction in spelling at no charge and sent me the corrected file.

Keep in mind, I offered to pay for the correction as I considered it my fault.

If I wasn't already a loyal customer when I need to pay for a book to be converted to Kindle and ePub files, I am now.

eBook Architects could have charged me or taken their own sweet time in getting the files and the corrected file to me. I received the files within two days of my request. In this day and age, when getting the run around is the norm, it is nice to get that kind of service.