Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kindle Unlimited: My Thoughts

When the news came out last week about Kindle Unlimited, I had mixed feelings. For those not aware, Kindle Unlimited (KU) is sort of a Netflix for books. For $9.99/month, Amazon readers can read all the books they want from a special library of participating books. Right now, Amazon says the library has 600,000 books, but I have no doubt that will grow.

I wasn't sure I wanted to pull my books from other vendors because with the success of Thrilling Thirteen, I was finally getting some sales at Barnes & Noble, and even a few at Apple and Kobo.
The last thing I want to do is alienate readers, but with the VAST majority of my sales still at Amazon, I took a deep breath, and pulled four of my Mark Taylor books from other vendors. (The only one still available is Mark Taylor: Genesis, which is perma-free on, and also in the UK, Canada and Australia.)

That's the rub for many authors and if I had a ton of sales elsewhere, I would hesitate to put my books in KU also. However, there's another issue for some authors. The fact that Amazon is paying the full purchase price on a 10% read for a traditionally published book, while indie authors only get a cut of a pool of money that will be divided by the total number of books downloaded and read past 10% and the amount Amazon put into the pool that month. That will probably average out to about $2 per KU download. (based on current average paid per Prime Lending Library borrow)

At first I was ticked about the unfairness, but now I'm okay with traditionally published works receiving the full royalty. For one thing, many of those authors are already getting less per sale than I'll make per borrow. I would hate for their cut, after the publisher and agent gets their share, to be something like a dime or a quarter. That would be terrible. The other reason is a little more selfish. The KU library NEEDS well-known books and authors to attract readers to enroll. Once they enroll, my books will have more eyes on them and more eyes mean more downloads.

I know that if KU proves successful, getting in early could be key. I want to have my books in there when there's still buzz and people are joining up. That's when the most exploration will take place. Without the fear of being stuck paying for a book they don't like, a reader is much more likely to give unknown authors a try.

It's only been a few days, but the first two days, I had no increase in sales and no borrows. I was second guessing myself and wondering if I made a huge mistake, but then I made No Good Deed free for a few days. It was a spur of the moment move as I had no promotion set up for a free day. In fact, I barely got the promo set up in time for it to go live the next day, but I did, and the free days did fairly well. No Good Deed even made the top 100 free. (barely, lol. it reached 99 for a few hours). At the same time, I started tallying up KU downloads--even on NGD. Instead of losing ground as I have other times my books were free, when the book returned to paid, it had a better rank than before it went free. Since then, I've had more than a dozen borrows, and my sales of the other books have creeped up to where I'm no longer second guessing my actions.

The one book not doing well, is Seeking Vengeance. It is my stand alone romantic suspense that is not enrolled in KU yet. I had already arranged some promotion for a 99 cent sale, but I'm thinking of writing the few places I applied for promotion and telling them that it will still be 99 cents, just not available anywhere but Amazon. I'm not even certain that they plan to run my book even if I don't put it in KU, so it seems like a no brainer to pull it from other vendors.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Self-Publishing Was a Great Investment For Me

For those considering self-publishing (or even those considering submitting to agents/publishers), check out Joe Konrath's blog. When I finished my first book and sent it out to dozens and dozens of agents without any luck, about three months into the process, I found Joe's blog. He had been self-publishing a few books he got the rights back from his publishers and posted his sales numbers/earnings. Wow! That opened my eyes. After reading more, and about Karen McQuestion's success, I finally self-published No Good Deed in June 2010. What made me think of it today is that in the most recent post of Joe's, he emphasizes findings of a UK study (referenced in the above like to the blog):

"self-published authors surveyed made money -- a 40% profit at the time of this study"

Whenever I get down about my sales, I'm going to remember that--because, well, I put in maybe $10 for the stock photo for the cover, and over four years, a few hundred bucks in promotion and I made WAY more than a 40% profit! Math isn't my best subject and I'm too lazy to pull out a calculator, but if I did, the % would be in the thousands. I did not hire an editor at that time--it wasn't in the budget, but even if I had, I'd still be in the black by thousands of dollars. 

 In fact, my latest two books returned a profit in just a few days. Even factoring in 'labor' costs of writing the books, I've done okay. It would be like if my job gave me an $11/hour raise if I worked full time. But of course, I never spent 8 hours a day writing. More like 8 hours a week. That's not a bad return on time invested. It also inspires me to make better use of my writing time because every day that I let slip by without writing is lost earnings. Yikes! It's like calling in sick to work without any sick time pay. 

Would I have earned more traditionally publishing? I guess I'll never know because I wasn't ever given the chance to traditionally publish. Sure, I could have continued querying, but after 100 agent refusals, I I was pretty pissed at traditional publishing. 

Maybe they could have sold more than I did on my own, but that still is no guarantee that I would have earned more. Remember, selling and earning are two different things. I don't need to sell as many as an indie author to earn more than I would with a traditional contract. Also, my first book took a year to hit the top 20 Bestseller List on Kindle. I doubt it would have ever had the chance to do that while traditionally published. Heck, it probably wouldn't even have been published yet, if the trade publishers accepted it!

Also, as of this posting, No Good Deed is free and will be for two days. Mark Taylor: Genesis, is free for another six weeks. 

Seeking Vengeance is on sale for 99 cents for a limited time. One more thing, Mark Taylor: Genesis is also part of a boxed set anthology of thrillers. It will only be available for the summer and is a great deal for only 99 cents. 13 thrillers for under a buck: Thrilling Thirteen

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Disney Shows and Reading...Do They Discourage Reading?

My daughter has been a big fan of Disney shows since she was little. She's almost fourteen now, and now she's noticing some of the things I've begun to notice in the last year or so. I actually like many Disney shows even though they are often silly--that's what makes them fun. But lately, it seems the trend is to have characters subtly or not so subtly, disparage reading. I have no clue why Disney would do that. So, I wrote them a letter today. I doubt I'll hear anything back and I'm not even sure I sent it to the right place, but I thought I'd post it here on my blog, too. 


As a parent, avid reader, and an author, it concerns me that so many Disney shows discourage children from reading. You're probably thinking, 'No way do we do that!'. However, I've noticed it over and over in various Disney Channel shows that my daughter watches. Case in point, Dog With a Blog recently had an episode where the power went out and the parents were shown sitting at the kitchen table whining about having to read and longing for the power to come back on so they could watch television. Not only does it make parents look stupid, it sends the message that reading is something to be done only when there are no other entertainment options. 

The very same morning that episode was on, the show 'Jessie' showed had an exchange where the 'cool' boy character says something along the lines of, "I wrote the book on it, and that's surprising since I never open books.'

Gabe, on 'Good Luck, Charlie', equates reading a book with punishment. Need I go on?

Selena Gomez's character in Wizards of Waverly Place also hated reading. She was considered cool one the show. When a Disney character does enjoy reading, they are ALWAYS the uncool, nerdy character. Does Disney consider people who love reading as socially inept people? It's pretty ironic since so many Disney movies are based upon various fairy tales and books. (The Little Mermaid and Bambi come immediately to mind.) 

My daughter is outgrowing Disney shows but thankfully,she loves to read--no thanks to Disney! She discovered The Warrior Cat books when she was ten, and has been an avid reader ever since,  but I have a grandson who may be exposed to them in a few years--will he also be sent the subtle (or not so subtle message!) that reading is punishment, boring and something only nerds do?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Free Craziness

A week ago, on a whim, I made Seeking Vengeance free on Google Play. I was surprised to see that the price change showed up within the hour, so I figured I might as well send a request to Amazon to price-match the book to free on their store. I was in a silly mood and sent them a really over the top email that was super polite and friendly. I wasn't too worried about when it would go free. I guess the email worked because when I happened to click on my Amazon author page an hour or so later, I did a double take. Seeking Vengeance was FREE! ALREADY! Wow! Talk about fast! Needless to say, I had no promotion lined up. Gulp.

No matter. I was only hoping for a few hundred downloads over the course of a week or so. Just something to maybe get a few reviews and onto some more 'also boughts' on Amazon. However, I had about 190 downloads that day. The next two days were almost dead even with about 700 downloads each day. Already I was thrilled because other than a few tweets and FB posts (and we know hardly anyone sees them, right?) there had been no marketing. Not a single free kindle book site picked it up. I was kind of surprised because usually at least one of the sites finds my free books. However, Seeking Vengeance only had 3 reviews at the time so maybe those sites have some kind of filters for only books with so many reviews. Whatever. I had no help. 

Monday, downloads came even faster. I kept checking google to see if the book had a mention somewhere, but nothing. I had a FB page called Just Booked share my Facebook post about it being free. They did this twice, in fact as they shared a post the next day as well. My posts typically get a few hundred views if I'm lucky, but after both posts were shared, each received over 2200 views. I'm sure that had something to do with the downloads, so thank you very much to Just Booked. :) 

When I went to bed Monday, Seeking Vengeance had cracked the top 100 in the Free Store and was sitting at about 84. I fully expected it to fall out of the top 100 the next day without a big site picking it up, but this book has surprised me at every turn! It's stubbornly clinging to its top 100 Free status! It's mostly been hanging out in the 50s-70s occasionally resting in the 80s. I'm still flummoxed. At the time of writing this post, it's #63 and has racked up over 11,000 downloads. 

Silly book. Didn't it know it was only supposed to get a few downloads? I better keep on this one--it has a wild, independent streak. I wonder where it will go next?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Bundles, aka, Boxed sets

In early March, I was asked if I was interested in submitting a book to a bundle of thrillers. I had been hard at work on the latest volume of the Mark Taylor Series, March Into Madness, and not paying too much attention to publishing trends, so I was mostly oblivious to the whole bundle phenomenon. Once I was asked, I did some research and was shocked at how well many of the bundles were doing.
It was a no-brainer for me to say yes and add my book, Mark Taylor: Genesis, to the set. We came up with the name, Thrilling Thirteen, which was perfect. Simple, powerful and right to the point.

Of course we all hoped for lots of sales and have been working hard towards that goal, but nobody worked harder than Ty Hutchinson, who organized the bundle. He contacted the cover artist, the formatter and came up with an intriguing teaser concept. However, what has been really amazing is that spirit of cooperation and selflessness by other authors with books in other boxed sets. It's one thing that has always amazed me about indie authors and even four years into my own journey as an indie author, I'm still finding that there are many more authors willing to help others than those who aren't.

In our case, I think we all knew someone who had a book in a boxed set and so we went to those authors and asked questions. Now, they could have been stingy with their help--after all, why give a 'rival' key information that might help them outsell you? But I've never found that to be the case. Usually we got answers like, 'We did this and that, oh, and don't do this--it doesn't work, but we also got lucky...' Personally, I think they contributed to their own good luck. I mean, the covers have to be great, the message good, and of course, the offerings in the bundles have to be top notch.

So, with their experiences in mind, we were able to craft our own marketing campaign.We did teasers leading up to launch, and Pixel of Ink gave us a great push out of the gate with a promo the day before our official launch. Even though we have a killer cover and great books in our set, we have to market heavily. Sales are not a given.

About a month after we published, a funny thing happened. First, we had a great promo from Free Kindle Books and Tips, but then we had sales start increasing even when we didn't have a scheduled promotion that week. What could be happening? It turns out that several other boxed sets in the same or similar genres were also showing improved rankings and we were all in each other's also boughts.

Phoenix Sullivan, a self-published author who also runs her own publishing company, Steel Magnolia Press along with romance author, Jennifer Blake, is an amazing resource as she's probably the reigning expert about boxed sets. She's organized several of them and all have done extremely well. She spoke to one of the authors in our boxed set, Toni Dwiggins, and said she thought that the Amazon algorithms had put all of our books together, and that was a great thing. We weren't competing with each other so much as raising each other up. I think she's right, and what's more, she's been generous with her support of Thrilling Thirteen.

Currently, Phoenix has several boxed sets she's organized through Steel Magnolia Press: Mortal Crimes: 7 Novels of Suspense Adrenaline Rush: 7 High Octane Thrillers, the NY Times Bestseller, Deadly Dozen and we are thrilled to be keeping such great company.

I don't know what our final sales will be with Thrilling Thirteen, but participating has been an amazing and exciting endeavor. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Prime

I love Amazon Prime and I just saw that Amazon has a great deal right now for an HDX 7 AND the new Amazon FireTV for total cost of $249! That saves $79 and like getting the FireTv for $20. I almost wish I didn't have an HDX already because I would jump on this offer.

I don't have FireTV (yet!), but is sounds like a fantastic little gadget that lets you stream all kinds of media services through your TV. Sort of like a Roku, but it does a bit more and is supposed to be super easy to set up. Here's what a reviewer on Amazon said about it:
I've tried Roku, Apple TV, and my smart TV. Nothing works as well as the Amazon Fire TV! I have a pretty lousy broadband connection and other devices were always buffering. Somehow Amazon TV manages to provide a top quality picture with NO buffering! Nicely designed interface too!

I've been a Prime member now for three plus years, and I'm not sure I could do without it now. The free two day shipping is worth it just for that. After the hard winter we just had here in Wisconsin, I was never so grateful for Amazon Prime. I certainly didn't want to bundle up and go out shopping when it was -15 degrees F outside. Brrr...I also hate looking for parking and fighting crowds. So, enough about the shipping. It's great but not exciting, right? What about the free book you get to borrow from the Kindle Owners Lending Library as a Prime member? I've read several from there that turned out to be favorites. Most recently, I read Sand by Hugh Howey. Excellent book and it cost me nothing. I don't even feel guilty about that because I know the author was still paid by Amazon.

Some of you may know that I am a huge Kyle Chandler fan. I LOVE Friday Night Lights, and that series is free streaming as a Prime member. Right there, I was sold! So, last fall, a movie came out where Kyle Chandler had a small role. It's called The Spectacular Now. As much as I'm a fan, I didn't want to spend the money to see it at the theater. I'm cheap that way. It came out on streaming video for Amazon for purchase, but even the $3.99 didn't entice me. I mean, really, for three minutes of screen time? Eh. I watched some clips on youtube instead. But, last week, I noticed that The Spectacular Now was made free streaming for Prime members. Woo-hoo! No excuses now, so I sat and watched it the other day. It was an excellent movie and I didn't even mind that my favorite actor was only in a few scenes. Out of guilt for not paying for it, I left a really good review on Amazon.