Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writing to Infinity...and Beyond!

When I started writing my first novel a few years ago, I was determined to publish the traditional way.  But I didn’t know anything about anything.  I only knew how to write and what was relevant in my own genre.  I started a blog and interviewed several famous authors, asking what advice they would give to an aspiring writer.  One of the authors I interviewed had indie published with huge success, and after twisting my arm a bit, she convinced me to indie publish my first novel.  I literally read every post on J.A. Konrath’s blog (A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing) to get me up to speed and then took the plunge.   And I’ve never looked back.

When you’re first getting your feet wet, the best thing you can do for yourself is this: be the sponge.  Soak up every bit of knowledge and information you can from successful indie authors who have gone before you.  You need to understand what you’re getting yourself into and decide whether you have the time to be so much more than a writer, because you’ll have to be your own publicist too.  Here are a few things that worked for me:

Indie Writers Unite

I didn’t know many authors in the beginning so I created the Facebook group Indie Writers Unite.  I wanted a place where authors could get together to exchange ideas, questions, and information with each other while getting to know one another in the process.  This has been the best thing I’ve done for myself.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.  Some of the friends I’ve made on there have become like family to me. 

My suggestion is to seek out groups like this, join, and get involved.  Get to know your fellow authors.  Believe me when I say, it IS who you know in the book business, and having great author friends to hold your hand when you’re just getting started could mean the difference between a book that’s ranked 200,000 or 2,000.  Knowledge is power.

Blog, Tweet, Hang Out and Hustle with your Friends


I have two blogs, one for readers, one for writers.  I keep them separate because my readers aren’t really interested in all my tips for writers, and they aren’t coming to my blog for posts like that either.     

I started the writer blog first.  While I was writing my first novel, I spent a lot of time learning about writing.  I read everything I could get my hands on, attended seminars, paid attention to what other writers were doing that worked for them.  I wanted to share all the information I’d learned, and a blog was a great way to do it. 

I suggest starting a blog if you haven’t already, but you need to also figure out ways to drive traffic to it, or no one will see your posts.  Interviewing successful authors helped me because once the post went live, the author tweeted about it and shared it, and this attracted attention to my blog as well as new followers.  Don’t be afraid to ask a best-selling author to do a guest spot on your site.  Most times, they are grateful you asked and won’t turn you down. 

Once you get your blog going, get creative with it.  I recently started a monthly contest called “Chapter One” where I look over fifty first chapters, choose the one I feel is the best, and then I interview the winner and tweet about them.  I also offer an Amazon gift card to the winner.  It’s one way I can give back.  And I love it.  Making new author friends is one of the best things you can do for yourself when it comes to promotion. 

I started my reader blog after getting a bunch of emails from impatient fans anxious to get their hands on my next book.  I really loved their enthusiasm for my writing and their interest in getting to know me better, so I created a blog where I could write about random things that happen in my life.  It’s fun and keeps them connected to me while they are waiting for my next book to come out.


I’ve had so many authors ask me this: What’s the best thing you’ve ever done to promote yourself?  In the internet world, it would be Twitter.   I have a few rules I follow with Twitter.  One is not to spend all my time pimping my books and instead to interact with my followers.  I make exceptions to this rule only when I have a promotion going, like a free or discounted book, and let me tell you, Twitter really gets the word out.  But you need followers in order to do that. 

I follow most people back who follow me and do my best to respond to anyone who tweets me directly or RT’s one of my tweets.  I had a promotion going the other day and tweeted it several times.  Over the course of the promotion, it was retweeted about 100 times, and I tried to personally thank all the people who took the time to RT my tweet.  Why is this important?  Because it shows you care.  When someone does something to help you out, they deserve to be recognized for their efforts in a personal way.  Think about it.  I tweeted to all my followers, who retweeted to all their followers, and so on and so forth.  It definitely makes a difference in getting your name and your brand out there until you become someone like Stephen King who only needs to write ;).


I’m a multitasker who likes to have several irons in the fire at the same time.  I try to keep an ear latched to the writing world so I know things like when an excellent website is opening for promotions, or when a blog tour is starting that I want to participate in.  Speaking of blog tours, I usually run two every year on Indie Writers Unite.  Blog tours are excellent ways to introduce new readers to who you are.  I have sent signed books to winners who have gone on to give me five-star reviews because they liked my books.  For me, right now, they’re worth it.

Being a writer takes time.  Newbies are often overwhelmed when they realize how much work it really takes to keep your books moving, but you need to ask yourself what your goals are as a writer.  You probably started writing because of your passion for words.  Don’t you want to share that passion with the rest of the world?  I imagine you do.  With the right tools, a good book, and a lot of dedication, you can achieve great success as an indie writer.  Best of luck to you all!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pricing Your eBooks -- What Works, What Doesn't

I get asked a lot for my opinion on eBook price points, so today I'll talk about what works for me. 

When I first published, I started out at .99 and I kept my books at this price for one year.


A few reasons:

1. I didn't have an established fan base.
2. I was just creating my brand.
3. At the time, .99 eBooks were hotter than the Vegas strip in July.

Note that third one.  And not the "stripping" part ;) One year ago, a majority of books in my genre in the top twenty were .99 books.  And many of those were John Locke's novels, but there were several other 99 cent books as well.  Then something happened.  Amazon changed their algorithms (in my opinion) and now many of the .99 books aren't being promoted like they used to be.  I do still see them pop up now and again on my "recommended book" lists, but not like they used to.

One year ago, half of the top twenty eBooks in the mystery & thriller genre were .99.  Not only that, to see a book priced above $3.99 was rare in the top twenty.  Now, (August 2012) here's how it shapes up:

#1   $12.99
#2   $12.99
#3   $12.99
#4   $1.99 (this is a 60 page Kindle Short)
#5   $12.99
#6   $12.99
#7   $9.99
#8   $4.99
#9   $14.99
#10 $.99
#11 $12.99
#12 $4.99
#13 $9.99
#14 $12.99
#15 $14.99
#16 $4.99
#17 $13.99
#18 $12.99
#19 $12.99
#20 $3.99

There's only one .99 book in the top twenty, and it's so short, a person could finish it in thirty minutes, hence the price.  There's not another .99 book on the list until #69.  In fact, in the top #100 right now in mystery & thriller, only three novels are .99.  Hmm. 

Amazon does an excellent job at promoting indie authors, and they have outstanding platforms as well such as their Thomas & Mercer imprint, among others.  But I heard a rumor last year that the "Bix Six" publishing companies were a little miffed their books were being outsold by indie books.  While I'm not sure that's true, one look at the difference in the current top 100 list makes me wonder what happened and why...

But let's get back to my thoughts on eBook pricing.  When I first started out, for me, .99 was the way to go.  At that price readers who'd never heard of me weren't afraid to "take a risk" and check out my books.  They didn't have much to lose.  Many newbies either don't grasp the importance of this concept or don't care.  They price their book at $5.99 or whatever amount they think is fair, telling themselves their novel is worth much more than a mere .99.  And although that's probably true, here's what ultimately happens: no one buys their book. I wouldn't even spend $5.99 on a book by an unknown unless I'd seen rave reviews or heard about it. I'll admit it--I'm a tightwad.  But how many others out there are like me?  More than you think.

It's hard for me to say if the same strategy I used is as effective now given all the recent changes this year, but with the right promoting, I still feel it's the way to go.  At first.  Not forever.

Once you develop a fanbase, I suggest raising your price.  Especially as you continue putting more books out.  This was really hard for me.  I kept worrying about what all indie writers worry about--what if no one buys my books when I raise the price?  I went from .99 to $2.99 with the release of the third novel in my Sloane Monroe series.  I priced all three at $2.99, and ever since then I've made more money than I ever did at .99.  Now I'm gearing up to price one of my books at $3.99 to test the waters.  I'll put one little toe in at first, swish it around, and see how it goes. 

eBook Price Sweet Spot

Are there certain prices that seem to keep readers buying more than others?  Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, seems to think so.  In a recent inteview he said books priced between $2.99 to $5.99 are selling better than .99 to $1.99.  Click HERE to read the rest of the article.

Of course, free books sell better than anything else, but I would only suggest doing this for short periods of time as an incentive and to build your brand and get your name out there.

Don't Be Afraid to Try New Things

My birthday is in August.  I'm always looking to try new and exciting incentives, so I decided to make all three novels in my Sloane Monroe Series .99 for one day only on my birthday. 

Before I get into the results, I want to suggest you put your price change in the afternoon before your incentive to ensure enough time is allotted for the change.  And then at that same time the day of the promotion, you need to change your price back on Amazon.  Barnes&Noble and Sony Kobo updates a lot faster. 

Now to the results.  Here's how many more books I sold than the day before the incentive:

Black Diamond Death +66

Sinnerman +77

I Have a Secret +400

Whispers of Murder (Novella) +17

So in one day, I sold 560 more copies of my books than the previous day.  And yes, they were .99, BUT I still made more more money than the previous day.  That wasn't my goal though.  My goal was to improve my rankings, and I did.

Better Ranking = More Sales

I Have a Secret outsold everything else, seeing a ranking increase from 6,346 to 281 in the kindle store because I ran a promotion on eReader News Today to go along with my own promotion. 

Good luck everyone, and may your books do well at any price point :)