Tag Archives: amazon

Poll – why do you like self-publishing (if you do)

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I’m curious why so many writers go directly into self-publishing rather than trying to find a traditional publisher or an agent first. How do you feel about it?

Note, with a mainstream publisher, you don’t pay for editing or cover design and you may have a shot at major review sites and interviews that are difficult for self-published authors to get.

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That Elusive Writer’s Platform

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Big name writers have writing platforms called the big name writer’s platform.

When James Patterson comes out with a new book, you know who he is and what kinds of stories he tells, so he doesn’t need to go on blog tours or work in a hardware store to stay solvent.

If your name is Joe Doaks, are 43 years old, and live in your parents’ basement where you play video games and hack into the dark web, you only have a writer’s platform if you write a tell-all book about the dark web, especially one that the FBI tries to get banned. Otherwise, you can send the best novel in the universe to a big New York publisher and they probably won’t take it on because you don’t have a platform. That is, nobody has heard of you and you aren’t maintaining a business of some kind that will draw readers to your books.

Most of us who write self-published or small-press books need a platform. Nonfiction is easier than fiction, because our books can be an outgrowth of a strong, nonfiction website that gets thousands of hits a month. That is, if you maintain a popular website in which you provide the real stories behind major crimes, your novel will be seen as part of this and will probably sell well.

If you’re on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest, and have lots of followers and comments, you’re better off than those who have no online presence unless you have a high-profile teaching position or other offline work that has made you widely known to many people.

Many of us imagine our writer’s platform looks like this:

When, in reality, it looks like this:

 

But then, for example, after hearing a lot of positive comments on, say, Facebook about a new novel we’re about to release, we realize after it’s been released that very few people on our friend’s list actually bought a copy, and that of the small number who did, few (if any) of them posted an Amazon review.

There have been–and still are–a variety of authors’ networking sites. My experience with these is that most authors are there to sell their own books rather than to buy the books of other unknown authors. While “networking” on the authors’ sites, those people are buying James Patterson, Donna Tart, and John Grisham novels rather than fiction nobody’s ever heard of.

Many small-print and self-published authors depend on Amazon. Some books–mostly nonfiction, it seems–have made a lot of money there. Most fiction by unknown authors doesn’t sell well there because most people never see it and those who do would rather buy books from known authors. While Amazon helps self-published and small-press authors to some extent, it’s still a business that makes more off James Patterson than Joe Nobody.

As others before me have said, those of us who don’t have platforms that get the attention of Oprah’s Book Club or a New York Times reviewers basically have to be content to write in the shadows and earn our money from other jobs. Over time, we may be able so build platforms that attract more prospective readers. My last three novels, for example, were about hoodoo. If I were a hoodoo practitioner (I’m not), then my hoodoo site would be a natural place to promote my book. The same can be true for any other field where you have credentials and a following. Those who have come to your site for facts, are likely to enjoy fiction based on those facts.

You can also build your platform by submitting short stories to literary magazines, including those who only pay in contributor’s copies. The credit line at the end of the story that says something like “Bob Smith is the author of the Andromeda Series of fantasy novels” is a good way to spread your name around to prospective readers. Needless to say, magazine credits, including any where your short story or poem won a contest, give your website something to mention.

I remain skeptical of the paid-for-reviews from the well-known sites who provide these because the reviews are expensive and when published, you cannot be certain those reviews won’t be segregated into a “self-published reviews” category. Labeling them like that pretty much negates the value of the review. Also, if you look at the statistics about the probable sales of a self-published book, the cost of that paid-for-review may wipe out all your profits. So far, I haven’t been willing to roll the dice on reviews or book-of-the-year contests that cost a lot of money and/or advertise the awards are for indie books.

Unfortunately, blogger reviews seem to be of limited help because those blogs don’t attract a lot of attention when compared to the value to a review on a mainstream, traditional newspaper or site. A review from “Bob’s Blog” isn’t really something that’s going to lure a lot of readers away from your mainstream competition. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t solicit such reviews, only that you recognize going in that they aren’t the New York Times or The Christian Science Monitor.

You can, to some extent, widen your platform by engaging with readers and writers on sites like Facebook. It’s easy to log on to Facebook and upload the same old stuff every week: notices about your books, shared pictures of animals, jokes, and an occasional political rant. It takes more time to go to the sites of those on your friends list an actually say something there rather than simply clicking LIKE. The same is true of the bogs you read where you can click LIKE and also read a comment. When you find books and viewpoints you like, you are building your platform by leaving comments so that the writers/bloggers start recognizing your name.

If you’re on Pinterest, you can post links to your own blogs and the sites you like about subject matter that may interest others. You can also PIN some of the links other people share that fit into the various niche areas that fit your interests and your novels. The thing here is: engage with the users about things that interest them.

Many authors think their novels require and “all about me” approach to promotion and interaction on blogs and social networks. Really, they’re an “all about you” kind of promotion. Talking about why you wrote those books is not nearly as important as showing prospective readers what’s in it for them to read those books.  Your platform needs to be an invitation rather than a memoir about you and how hard it was to write your novel.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

Linking Book Editions on Amazon’s Author Central

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In case you’re not aware, Amazon’s Author Central is a FREE service. If you missed our very first tutorial on setting it up, see that HERE. If you haven’t already, read it. Do it. Then come right back here and I’ll show you how to merge your books. I heard that grumble. Yes, you need to merge your books. Here’s why.

via How to Link Book Editions on Amazon’s Author Central ‹ Indies Unlimited ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

Here’s a handy tip for using Author’s Central. If you’re an author and don’t have an Amazon author’s page, you’re missing a free opportunity for publicity. The page displays when a prospective reader clicks on your name on any of your book’s listings. The page not only shows readers all your books, but bio information and your latest blog post.

Naturally, as K. S. Brooks suggests, if you have multiple editions of a book, it helps to link them together on the page.

–Malcolm

Don’t cheat your muse

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“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.” – William S. Burroughs

In Casablanca, Ilsa says, “Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.”

I wonder if we should write like that, as though the story or novel in progress is going to be the last thing we do before we retire to Hawaii or the asylum or bee keeping. If we wrote like that, we’d make everything matter, the best we could do, like kissing a lover for the last time.

Burroughs says you can;t fake a good meal. Sure, we can throw something together in the kitchen or nuke a TV dinner or stop by a fast food place on the way home. It saves us a lot of trouble. I see a lot of advice on the Internet that urges us to write like that: write a novel in a month, turn out multiple books in a year, getting from nothing to a bestseller in 30 days. You can even get plot generators at some place called McNovels (or whatever it is).

What’s the hurry?

Myth: The sooner the book gets on Amazon, the sooner you’ll be famous. The money and the five-star reviews will come rolling in. A big publisher will send you $250,000 for your next book. Agents will actually call you.

Writing in a hurry as though that myth is true might be one way to cheat your muse. Or, possibly, cheat on your muse by sleeping with scam artists who make more money selling books and webinars that promise you ways of writing faster and faster and becoming famous before the ink dries.

It’s tempting, I know. A program or a method or a recipe usually promises us the world. It even comes with a lot of testimonials from writers that–guess what–you’ve never heard of. Nonetheless, when somebody says, “Last year I was digging graves in the rain at minimum wage, but then I saw Joe Smith’s miracle writing plan and I put down my shovel and followed his advice and became richer than J. K. Rowling.”

If you haven’t heard of the former grave digger’s books, Joe Smith is selling broken shovels.

The Muses Clio, Euterpe, and Thalia, by Eustache Le Sueur – Wikipedia

The alternative is listening to the inspiration we have, that we know we have, and writing that story word by word by word the way we know we can do it even though the first draft might take months or years, and then the second draft might take more months or years. And even though we’re not on Amazon yet, we know the stuff we write when we write like that is good because we’ve read through it late at night and felt a chill run through us as we wondered where it came from and how we pulled it all together.  When we re-read it just to make sure we’re not dreaming, it reminds us of the last kiss we gave somebody that we cared about who–for reasons unknown–disappeared from our lives as soon as we stepped away from each other.

Our muses get stronger when we try to write pages than send those chills through us or make us laugh harder than we did the last time we saw a Robin Williams comedy bit or make us shed more tears than we did when Ilsa got on that plane and left Rick standing there in the airport in “Casablanca.”

If Joe Smith reads this post, he’ll probably say, “Don’t you believe that goody-two-shoes stuff.” (Does anyone say “goody-two-shoes” any more?) Well, Mr. Smith, it doesn’t take much to see that the opinions of all the get rich quick gurus don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday we’ll understand that and write everything we write as though it’s the last time.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Do you remember the ‘concordance’ Amazon used to provide for notable books

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Amazon used to include a so-called concordance that listed words, phrases, and other information deconstructed out of a novel on the book’s sales page. What were Dan Brown’s favorite words? What were Tom Clancy’s favorite phrases?

When I saw those concordances, my first thought was that they sounded very close to author Italo Calvino’s parody of literary deconstruction in his novel If on a winter’s night a traveler. The gist of the parody was that one would be able to enjoy an entire novel by simply reading lists or words and phrases along with other tips uncovered through computer analysis.

As we have seen, computers have been used to read texts to validate whether those texts are within an author’s style or were written by somebody else. I can see the value in that far beyond the anti-plagiarism software used by some universities.  That is, what’s the likelihood that a newly discovered book was written by a great master?

I read Calvino’s book long before Amazon was a gleam in anyone’s eye. So, when I first saw those Amazon concordances, I immediately thought of the parody in the novel. We’re almost there, I thought. We can almost read the concordance and get the same amount of enjoyment out of the book we would have found had we bothered to spend many hours reading it. Maybe this is why Amazon removed the feature: it reduced sales.

This all came to mind this morning when I read “From ‘alibi’ to ‘mauve’: what famous writers’ most used words say about them”  in The Guardian. We learn here that Bradbury’s favorite word was “cinnamon,” that Rowling likes the phase “dead of night,” that Dan Brown uses “full circle,” and that Nabokov used the word “mauve” forty four times.

Now we know what the novel really means.

Computers will tell us amazing things. I don’t really want to know them unless I’m writing satire. (I once proposed using the Amazon concordance to The Da Vinci Code to write bestseller novels with the right stuff in them to get big reviews, loads of money, and movie deals.) I will confess that when I find myself using a word or a pet phrase too many times in a story, that I do a search for the suspected word or phrase to see how often it appears. If I don’t like what I see, I get rid of it.

I don’t think I want to know how often Nabokov used the word “mauve,” much less what a computer or an expert in literary analysis thinks that fact means. I don’t even care if James Patterson uses 160 cliches per 100,000 words or consider it a plot spoiler to hear that Donna Tartt uses “too good to be true” more than somebody in an ivory tower deems appropriate.

When computers and their deconstructionist slaves finish with a novel, the story, I think, gets lost in the shuffle rather like learning that you love your spouse due to sequences of binary reactions in your brain rather than  the fact they listen to what you say and care about you and support even your worst faults.

The Amazon concordance had its amusing feature, telling us the number of words the books gave us per dollar and per ounce. The value of that can’t possibly be underestimated.

Too much information, and to what end?

Malcolm

 

Amazon Give-Away – ‘Conjure Woman’s Cat’

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CWCcoverI’m giving away 5 free Kindle copies of Conjure Woman’s Cat on Amazon via a give-away. Hurry if you want a chance to win one of them because these things go by really fast. Here’s the link.

Enter for a chance to win.

Source: Amazon Give-Away – ‘Conjure Woman’s Cat’ | The Sun Singer’s Travels

Good luck.

Is having your book ‘out there’ enough for you?

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This article (Only 40 Self-Published Authors are a Success, says Amazon) has prompted some people, including me, to ask why Amazon defines financial “success” as having sold a million e-books over the last five years. Self-published writers tend to price their books between $3 and $5, and often at only $0.99. They can earn up to 70% of the retail price. In my view, one can sell a lot fewer than a million copies and still be earning a decent income.

amazonlogoAt the same time, the article has prompted others to say that just having their books “out there” is all they need to feel successful. They feel that if they do a great job of writing a story, have a great editor and a wonderful cover artist/designer, they are fine with the results of their avocation. Far be it from me to criticize that view. One might have similar feelings about creating music, making art, sewing quilts and other creative arts and crafts.

I am grateful for each reader, for every honest reviewer, for having a wonderful publisher and editor, and for all of those who’ve interviewed me, talked about my books, and otherwise been supportive. All of that is a viable form of success.

If you sense that a “however” is coming, you’re right.

However

Even the IRS considers that if we never show a net profit as a writer, we aren’t really a business. Writing books isn’t a free undertaking. One has to buy reference books, a computer, an Internet connection, office supplies, travel to locations where the novel is set, and (if self published) pay for your editor and cover designer. If these costs exceed the amount of money from royalties and direct sales, then one is running at a loss. Whether one calls his or her writing a business or an avocation, those costs can reduce the happy feeling one gets for having his or her books in print and getting some good reviews.

The people who run stores will seldom hear about self-published books.

The people who run stores will seldom hear about self-published books.

I grew up in another era, long before e-books and Kindle Direct Publishing, so I believe writing (fiction, especially) is always a long-shot proposition. One can never expect to earn a John Grisham or a J. K. Rowling income, or even enough to write full time. Most writers can’t survive on writing income alone and, as more and more readers expect 99 cent or free books, it’s getting harder and harder for most writers to cover costs, much less see real profits. So, my “however” is that if one wants to have a successful writing career, that “success” has to at least provide enough income to cover expenses.

Creative people are somehow expected to take pleasure in the work they do even if they are bankrupt. I suppose you can say that writing passion exceeds having a viable business, or that we feel at our best when we’re creating what we create. However, while I don’t need to sell a million e-books to feel successful, I do need not to be running in the red. I don’t think that’s too much to ask in order to feel successful in a career where–some have said–winning the Powerball is a better bet.

So, having my books “out there” is not enough. It’s wonderful, but if “out there” is all there is, it’s not paying the bills. Worse yet, it’s costing writers money and taking them away from their families.

If you’re a reader and/or a writer, do you think it’s possible to feel successful as a writer–or any other creative artist–if you’re expenses are higher than your sales?

See alsoFalling book prices could force authors to abandon their keyboards – The article notes Amazon’s penchant for running at a loss with low prices and low payouts to writers.

–Malcolm