Archive for the ‘On Writing’ Category

Indie Thoughts: Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on June 17th, 2014

Your First 1000 copies by Tim GrahlDo you know what’s awesome about Your First 1,000 Copies by Tim Grahl?

He bases his advice on tests. Tests he’s performed with other authors and tests he’s performed with his own book.

For example, what’s more effective: advertising and posting our on places like Facebook and Twitter or a mailing list? Do authors really need to have a social presence? Or is that a bunch of bunk?

Tim has tested this question and shares what he’s found.

What about marketing? What’s the best approach to take to win new customers?

I think you’ll find his answer surprising. As a side note, I have to say I find his definition of marketing more insightful and practical than any I’ve come across. And I got a business degree!

How do you set up mailing lists and which ones should you use?

Tim tells you.

What should you blog about?

Tim shares his front-line insights.

What’s the quickest way to find new customers?

Tim discusses that as well. And it’s all put together in his framework or system he calls “Permission, Content, Outreach, Sell.”

If you’re an indie author, I think you’ll want to hear what Tim has to say. There are three books on indie publishing that I’ve found super useful. Your First 1,000 Copies by Tim Grahl is one of them.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Tags: ,

Indie Thoughts: Lessons from Heather Justesen

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on June 1st, 2014

From Heather Justesen, who writes clean romance.

Two years ago I was working full-time for peanuts (seriously, it didn’t even cover the mortgage–and we didn’t live in a palace.) I quit to write full-time before I went completely insane. By December 2012 I had replaced my c-store income. By April 2013 I earned enough to pay ALL of our bills. Since then I’ve been the primary wage earner for our family, allowing my husband to close the business that was sucking all of the life out of him, and for us to move halfway across the country. He does bring in some money still, but even in my worst month we can pay all of the bills from my writing income. I’ve sold (real sales, not counting freebies) over 60K books in the past eighteen months. I’ve got audiobooks for most of my indie titles and I’m starting to see sales into bookstores. I would have to have one heck of an offer to even consider a traditional publisher’s contract. I’m very happy the way things are.

* * * *

Kevin, don’t lose hope. I have books that sell in the single digits every single month despite great reviews. And I have books in a different genre that sell really well every month (not blockbuster well, not top 100 well, but enough for us to get by on.) I didn’t do it with the first or second book, or the fourth book, I had nine books out before I started to make pay-the-bills money, and most of the money, even now that I have 18, comes from a single series. The others make very little [emphasis added]. Maybe give the genre a twist and try something a little different, but still in your general area of interest. Try a different genre that interests you, or just hang on and keep writing. Get feedback, learn more, and keep working at it. I wrote for nearly a decade before I had a book good enough to be in print (before Kindle really took off, or I had enough trust in myself to go it alone, so it was with a small press.) This is a craft, you can’t learn it overnight and success rarely comes overnight[emphasis added].

Having three books out making six figures a month is crazy good, and definitely not the norm, and yeah those kinds of numbers can be discouraging, but a lot of the other stories here show that it can come. Most people who persevere eventually start to make decent money in indie publishing if they’re doing everything else right. Your covers are pretty good, so try changing up the descriptions and see if that helps. And keep writing.

More on The Passive Voice.

A series, lots of product, and an audience that has been under-served for years.

Tags:

Indie Thoughts: Lessons from Marie Force

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on May 31st, 2014

Some promo tips from mega-seller Marie Force.

I just changed the cover of a book (Maid for Love, book 1 in my McCarthys of Gansett Island Series) that’s been on sale for three years and free for two as a loss leader for a series that has 11.5 books (as of today–release day for book 11). I changed the cover (of books 2 and 3 as well) just ahead of a BookBub ad for Maid for Love. This book has been on BookBub quite a few times since it’s been free and lately, I could expect about 25,000 or so downloads across the platforms after a BookBub ad. This time, the number was closer to 70,000 downloads with a huge conversion to books 2 and beyond. Another thing we did before the BookBub ad was drop the prices on books 2-3 from $4.99 to $2.99 and books 4-6 from $4.99 to $3.99, leaving the front list at $4.99. I realized with 11 books and a novella in the series, it would cost a new reader more than $50 to buy the full series, thus the price break on the earlier books. Both the new cover for Maid for Love and the new pricing for books 2-6 yielded very impressive results. The series has sold more than 1.3 million ebooks since it debuted in 2011 and the last three have been top 10 NYT bestsellers. I was hoping to gain many more new readers from these strategies, and so far, it seems to be working just as I’d hoped it would. I love being able to try these things as an indie author!

Another poster congratulated her and said he’d gone and purchased the book. It was free; why not give it a shot?

Thanks, Bill. Hope you enjoy Maid for Love, and thanks for the congrats. The 1.3 million sales is especially thrilling when you consider that Maid for Love was rejected all over the place. Except by the readers. :-)

Find more at The Passive Voice.

What’s Marie using? A series with a number of titles in it, competitive pricing, loss-leader sampling that sometimes includes a free book, and BookBub.

More about Marie and her books on her website.

Tags:

Indie Thoughts: The Kind of Competition Publishers Want

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on May 31st, 2014

David Gaughran puts it all into perspective.

Since the huge shift to online purchasing and e-books, a common meme is that there is some kind of “discoverability” problem in publishing.

The funny thing is readers don’t seem to have any problem finding books they love. Any readers I talk to have a time problem – reading lists a mile long and never enough hours in the day to read all the great books they are discovering.

The real discoverability problem in publishing is that readers are discovering (and enjoying) books that don’t come from the large publishers. What these publishers have is a competition problem not a discoverability problem.

They have reason to. I had a stab last year at estimating how much of the e-book market self-publishers have grabbed in the US, pegging it at around 25%. The much more rigorous Author Earnings reports have confirmed that estimate, showing that self-publishers had captured 30% of the unit sales on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

* * * *

So when large publishers say that the discoverability puzzle hasn’t been solved online, they are really expressing despair at retailers recommending books not published by them.

And when large publishers say that online retailers haven’t matched the experience of buying in physical stores, they mean that they wish there was some way to relegate all that stuff from small publishers and self-publishers to the warehouse, and have tables piled high with James Patterson and Snooki.

* * * *

The fear-mongers always forget Amazon’s core philosophy: recommend the product the customer is most likely to purchase. It’s interesting to note that this is the exact opposite of traditional co-op: recommending the book that the publisher wants purchased.

While it’s revealing to look at sites like Bookish and consider what Big Publishing would do with retail or discovery, we already know what it does with self-publishing. Exploitative vanity press Author Solutions runs self-publishing companies for HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Harlequin, is owned by Penguin Random House, and is now recommended by Publishers Weekly.

Large publishers want to decide what gets published, what gets distributed, what gets recommended, what gets discovered, and what gets sold.

Amazon – and the digital revolution it instigated – has made that impossible.

Anyone can publish. Distribution has been blown wide open. Large publishers have lost power over what books get recommended and discovered too, with the agnostic approach of sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub. And large publishers have definitely lost control of what is getting sold: self-publishers have grabbed a huge chunk of the market, and more and more writers are beginning to realize they don’t need a publisher to reach readers and make money.

This is the real reason why Big Publishing hates Amazon. Large publishers face real competition for the first time and they don’t like it one bit.

More at Let’s Get Visible.

Publishers have lost the barriers to entry that used to keep most of the competition out. Amazon set up a totally new distribution channel that has grabbed at least 41% of the book market.

Forty freaking one percent!

And of that 41% percent, it appears self-publishers have about as much of that channel as traditional publishers do.

Think about that for a second.

Almost half of book distribution is now out of publisher control. With no barriers, the hordes are running in to sell their books, pushing publisher books out of the good spots. The number of competitors is growing. And the publishers can’t get Amazon to relegate the riffraff to the back rooms. Can’t get them to feature only their books.

Worse still, it appears lots of readers don’t mind that at all.

Tags:

Edward Bear Shares More Proofreading Secrets

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on May 29th, 2014

Mr. Edward Bear (pseudonym) shared an awesome secret for sussing out quote issues in a previous post. He’s back with a nifty way to help spot spelling issues.  It helped me spot a number of inconsistencies in Bad Penny, which I recently fixed. Take it away, Mr. Bear.

* * * *

Augmented Proofreading 2

Last time, I mentioned checking spelling and spelling consistency, and this note is to fulfill my promise.

To begin with, I’ll admit freely I do not recommend just running a spieling chucker over the text. And yes, I’m using the phrase deliberately. The spelling checker in the program I’m using to write this just waltzed right past it, despite the fact that neither word makes sense in this context. I got started trying to get some mileage out of spelling checkers a while back, when I realized that OCR scanners will work like hell trying to find a word and probably will come up with a word, but it will be the wrong word. Over at Project Gutenberg, they use the term “scanos” as an analogue of “typos.”

The other adversary is consistency of spelling and usage. Examples might include “canceled” and “cancelled” or variant possessives, such as “Jones’” and “Jones’s” in the same text, or simply variant spellings of the same character’s name, such as “Erik” and “Eric.”

So what do I do for these sorts of problems?

What you need is a list of all the unique words in the story, and it’s easy with a dollop of regex. (See the first post on this topic. The one I’ve taken to using is the following:

[^-'‘’\w\d\r\n]

This one I can explain, since I wrote it. :)

What it says is to look for any individual characters within the brackets([]). The leading caret (^) says “Nope, they should not be in this list.” Following that are the hyphen(-), the straight  quote(‘), and the opening and closing curly single quotes(‘’). After that, it’s any character that would normally be in a word (\w), any digit (\d), any carriage return(\r) or any new line aka paragraph terminator (\n).

And what you do with the above is to set Textpad (see previous post again) to replace all of them with a newline (\n) character.

Here’s what the search and replace box in Textpad looks like for this:

Augmented Proofreading image001

 

Notice that the “Regular expression” box is checked. And then you choose “Replace All”.

The result is to turn this:

Once upon a night we’ll wake to the carnival of life
The beauty of this ride ahead such an incredible high
It’s hard to light a candle, easy to curse the dark instead
This moment the dawn of humanity
The last ride of the day

into this:

Once
upon
a
night
we’ll
wake
to
the
carnival
of
life
The
beauty
of
this
ride
ahead
such
an
incredible
high
It’s
hard
to
light
a
candle

easy
to
curse
the
dark
instead
This
moment
the
dawn
of
humanity
The
last
ride
of
the
day

 

For a book, this means what you have as a multi-thousand line long document and LOTS of repeated words. The next step is to lose the repetitions by sorting the list. For TextPad,  you’ll find Tools->Sort on the menu bar, and I generally set the sort up as the following:

Augmented Proofreading image002

This is a case-sensitive sort and “Delete duplicate lines”, of course, gets rid of all the duplications of words like “a”, “an”, and “the”.

For the above text, you get:

It’s
Once
The
This
a
ahead
an
beauty
candle
carnival
curse
dark
dawn
day
easy
hard
high
humanity
incredible
instead
last
life
light
moment
night
of
ride
such
the
this
to
upon
wake
we’ll

34 unique words.

And here’s the payoff for all this funky text munging: Run a spelling checker over this, and it will find typos, of course, but it will also generally complain about most names, which aren’t generally kept in spelling checker dictionaries, and it will also show you words and their variants, nestled fairly closely together. Here’s an example from one of my projects:

Swiss-born
Take
Talking
Tallmadge
Tallmadge’s
Tarelton
Tarleton
Tarleton’s
Tavern
Tecumseh
Tell
Ten
Thames

The spelling checker landed on Tallmadge and its possessive form, but do you notice the “Tarelton” on the list? That’s the time for the Aha!, and you can fix the “Tarelton” form. The same thing applies to possessive variants and any other variant form you find.

As with the last post, I’ll be peeking in on the comments and answering any questions that come up.

Tags:

Indie Thoughts: Resources for Indie Writers

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on May 28th, 2014

About this time last year I got the last of my rights back to the Dark God properties. I thought it would take twenty or thirty hours to figure out the whole indie publishing thing. And then the awesome John Brown story machine would kick in gear.

Reality promptly woke me up and slapped me around a bit. This last year has been quite the learning curve. Here’s what I’ve had to pick up:

  • Designing book covers
  • Finding artists
  • Working with artists in a way that actually works
  • Copy editing
  • Formatting book interiors
  • Fonts, fonts, fonts
  • Using ISBNs
  • Using InDesign to create files for both POD books and epubs
  • eBook structure
  • Editing ebooks (okay, just get Calibre ebook editor right now. We luvs it, Precious)
  • Validating ebooks (http://validator.idpf.org/)
  • Converting epubs to Amazon’s mobi format
  • Uploading ebooks to the various ebook retailers: Amazon, NookPress, Kobo, iTunes (I upload via Draft2Digital), Smashwords
  • The pros and cons of CreateSpace vs Lightning Source
  • Using CreateSpace to publish POD books
  • Registering books with the US Copyright Office
  • Writing better book descriptions
  • Using keywords and categories on Amazon
  • Setting prices in the indie market
  • Creating an email list (I love MailChimp. They make me happy every time I go to their site)
  • Advertising and promoting as an indie

One of the things I love about this business is that there is always more to learn. But I’m happy to be over that curve. For folks just starting out, let me share some of the resources I found super helpful with a number of the things listed above.

Posts by a mega indie-seller Russell Blake to give you the right perspective about indie publishing. I’ve read a lot of posts the last few years about being an indie author. These are the best I’ve come across.

Online courses to help you on the publishing side.

  • Designing Book Covers and Designing Book Interiors with Dean Wesley Smith (look for “Online Workshops”). I don’t agree with Dean on all his ideas about pricing and promotion, but these two courses helped a great deal.
  • InDesign CS6 to EPUB, Kindle, and iPad with Anne-Marie Concepción at Lynda.com. Awesome.

The most practical and clear-headed books about indie promotion I’ve read. For other clear-headed advice, see the Russell Blake posts above.

The most helpful book on copyright.

The most helpful book on copy editing as well as info to put into front and back matter.

Helpful threads on Kindle boards

Other great resources

Good luck!

Tags: