Publishing Questions and Answers

Having worked in the writing/publishing world for more than ten years, I have noticed massive changes in the way publishing works for both independent and traditionally published authors. After a successful five year indie book campaign, I negotiated a deal with a UK publisher which gave me further insight into this elusive business.

But often for new writers, the area of publishing is daunting altogether, so in good faith I have answered a few questions. (Bear in mind that I am based in the United Kingdom and publishing methods can vary in other countries.)

Lastly, my thanks goes to @crites_es for posting the following questions for me to answer in Twitter, which we both agreed would be useful for others.

1. It’s my understanding that you have to market yourself regardless if you self or traditionally publish. What’s pros and cons for both?

I know that many independent publishers today require their authors to make some considerable effort towards marketing their books. If you don’t have something more to offer them other than a manuscript, i.e. time, personality, drive, confidence… it’s not the most attractive pitch.

Traditionally published authors are stepping up to doing a lot of the marketing themselves, by agreement even, and for many reasons. One is that many independent publishers don’t have the resources or time to do it for every single author they have. It can’t be a bad thing to do a few book signings yourself, talk to reader/library groups etc. So that is a pro. With a good pitch you can attend signings and festivals with a good publisher’s backing. Attending writing groups is also a good way to improve your social skills in this respect.

The con is that if you’re a particularly shy person who isn’t great at putting yourself forward it’s going to be doubly hard. This also applies if you live in a remote area and have little access to venues or locations where you could actively promote your work.

2. If you self publish can you still send the book off to publishers to see if they will accept it?

Some publishers are very strict on this. Others may be open to discussion. It really is a matter of asking.

My publisher offered me a hybrid deal. It suited me because I retain a lot of the control I already had, and get a ‘little extra.’ through true publishing channels. In effect I am both a self published and a published author. This is becoming more common today. My books were re-published with a new ISBN which is required by the publisher for his own trade catalogue. (This is how you come across books saying “First published by.. or Second Edition published by..”) Yes! Books can really do the rounds.

My books were also deposited to national libaries in Oxford/Cambridge in London and distributed in the paperback trade via companies that are ‘locked in’ to publishers only. Those aspects of marketing come under a publisher’s control. How that actually works down at admin quarters, I have little clue because I am not a true publisher, but it is their end of the deal and my book is a product. He sells a few and I get my royalty, so win/win.

At the end of the day, it all depends on what the publisher wants from you and what you are able to offer, and wish to accept. It can be a small bit of support or it can be large.

3. What are the best ways to advertise your work?

Each SP author needs to learn this and it takes a while. It took me over a year to gain traction. Some tips: Make sure you don’t spam. It never works. And it doesn’t really work selling to those who are also trying to sell to you. Seek writers for feedback, book swaps etc. If you’ve done your homework in knowing your target audience you should be looking in those places, for your customers: the readers.

Also beware of rogue marketing claims. How to write a bestseller and make $$ in 30 days. It’s rubbish. The thing with big publishers is that they spend thousands on advertising/marketing. They have experts running campaigns that they’ve been learning to do for years, throwing in vast amounts in advertising, but they also lose just as much. Most indie authors are winging it and then can have varying degrees of success.

In self-publishing standards, marketing your book yourself is a harder task because you may not have the leverage and/or funds to get your books into the mainstream, reviewed by media etc. As you can see SP books have saturated the market. Readers have abundant choice. The only way I have seen that is effective in marketing self-publishing books is by actively ‘even physically’, approaching third parties and networking with those who can extend or provide valuable author opportunities.

4. Is it best to self publish through Amazon or a private press?

I think the large quantity book production tank is a bit of a risk. I personally don’t think it’s worth it. I never did it. But as said, each SP author will have his/her own goal plan and directives.

Unless I had a significant number of buyers and/or pre-order customers it’s just not worth it. I’ve spoken to many excited authors who ordered large quantities of their book, only to still have the majority of them stacked away in a cupboard a year later and end up flogging them to family and friends. It’s deflating.

Print on Demand is a better option for unknown authors, in my opinion.

5. If you publish through Amazon, can someone search Amazon for you or can they only go through a link?

Every author on Amazon can be found on their search engine.  Today each author’s page includes a bibliography, can include a biography, author photo, plus much more. They do not allow outbound links, for obvious reasons. Amazon are getting more tuned in to providing a framework for authors that is not just a platform for book sales but also to showcase their writing careers.

6. How many books sold is considered good?

I suppose it depends on personal expectation. Initially I thought 50 sales of my first book in a year would be fantastic, but then I achieved a few thousand. I could say that was good, but not as good as those authors who sold 10, 20 or 100 times more.

What I do know is that as an independent author, at the end of the day if you base your happiness and fulfilment levels on sales figures and monetary rewards, disappointment is highly likely, and probably inevitable. To look at sales as something that is possible or achievable but not the be all and end all of your writing life, is a much healthier perspective to have. It is always best to focus on the quality of your work for the enjoyment and pleasure in creating it and sharing it with readers, building up a platform, getting noticed, then looking at any future sales as a bonus for the hard work you’ve put in.


 

6 Ways To Re-Boot kindle Sales

Just like any author out there I need to work pretty hard to keep sales of my books above the poverty line, and let me tell you that it’s a tough roller-coaster ride for both authors and publishers.

Even though I believe that Amazon’s KDP service is a great little platform for self-published authors to get their books out into the world, you’ll eventually find that you can pretty much control everything bar the customer. Nope, we can’t control those valuable entities, and so there will come a point in your self-publishing career when those lovely little spikes in your sales graph may naturally dip without warning, or just start to fall.

Such is life.

So, I’ve come up with a few methods of my own on how to get that little motor running again, (bearing in mind that they have worked for me in the past and I am sharing them here in good faith.)  Always bear in mind that if something isn’t working, push it aside and try something else.

1. DESIGN A NEW COVER

Design or invest in a  new book/kindle cover. Don’t groan at this because yes I know, making that original one was a headache in itself, plus it took forever, but sometimes a new interface is as good as a fresh start. This doesn’t mean that you should change your book cover every few weeks. Simply re-vamping something that people have already seen in their Amazon searches multiple times to something that looks new may not guarantee a new spurt of sales, but it could prick up some interest again, right?

And you don’t have to ditch the previous cover permanently either.

2. ORGANISE A GIVEAWAY

If you head over to Goodreads.com and offer a paperback giveaway competition, you may see a rise in sales. I would recommend a short burst giveaway, say two to three weeks, giving away a couple of signed copies. Include multiple countries on your list and make sure that you link your giveaway to your site and other various places FB, (twitter) #goodreads #giveaways. You won’t have earned royalties for those free copies (perhaps the royalty owed if you buy your own book from Amazon) but you have broadened the visibility of your book which encourages viewers to head back to your sales page.

3. CHANGE THE PRICE

I don’t recommend fiddling incessently with your book pricing structure, but if your book has been on sale for £2.99 for a long time and sales aren’t happening, you might want to lower the price to 0.99 for a short period of time.  Remember that there are thousands of books available for that price, and most readers will be sifting around there for good stuff first, before they consider paying any more, (that’s not to mention all FREE books they can get out there already.)

Whilst you don’t want to lessen the value of your book you’re going to have to play an experimental and angular game with the pricing market and act like those professionals do… monitoring your price structure, and seeing how well it does or doesn’t fare at any given quarter. Simply slapping a price on your book and hoping for the best for the next six months is not good enough. Whatever you do, just keep it all moving now and then.

4. CHANGE YOUR DESCRIPTION/KEYWORDS/CATEGORIES

There are many missed opportunities in sales due to lacklustre and badly written book descriptions.  If you see a drop in sales how about re-writing it with a bit more oomph! Add a review of your book to the description.

You could also try and play with a few of those keywords and re-define some categories which Amazon allow you to change in your dashboard at any time. Sometimes just a little nudge could get that ball rolling. Don’t give up!

5. ADD QR CODES AND LINK UP YOUR BOOKS

Here is something you can try for multiple books. Edit the text of your first book by adding a new page at the very end which mentions your second book, a sample of your second book’s leading chapter and a URL or a pre-order link. (Also throw in your best review here.) Link all your books together this way.

You can also add a QR Code (matrix barcode) to your kindle books. The QR code can be scanned and direct any potential customers to a book trailer, promotional copy.. etc. You can generate one right now over at this site: https://www.qrstuff.com/

6. INCLUDE READING GROUPS

I can’t believe that I didn’t figure out this little nifty idea when I started publishing my books because it really works in setting up an interesting lead for reading groups. I had some reading groups contact me via email and thank me for including some interesting notes and reading group questions inside my book. And it was so darn easy! Don’t forget that readers DO have viewpoints of their own and reading groups love to gather them around to base discussions around selected titles.

Remember, once your readers have finished the last page of your book, they are summing up all their feelings about your story. They are working out who did what… and why they did it, and generally basking in the glory of all the emotions you have stirred in them throughout. Needless to say, once they have descended from their reverie, that is the moment in which you need to grab them by the question mark! Yep, at the end of your book.

So here is what you do:

Add approximately 8 to 10 questions at the back of your book which encourage a talking point about some aspect of your theme or plot. It is easy to do this with historical fiction but even if you have say, a romance novel, you can urge readers to think upon topics of marriage or divorce etc.

Remember, ‘Reading Group Material’ is NOT a platform for you to put forward your own views.

Here is an example. My novel ‘The Whitechapel Virgin,’ bears a lot of contentious historical content due to elements based on actual events. One of the points I included for discussion in my reading group list is: ‘In Chapter 3 Annie helps Nellie abort her baby. Discuss the general attitude of Victorian women on the topic of motherhood and abortion.’

I also wanted anyone who picked up my book to see that there was valuable content. Hell, there’s juicy stuff inside that’s worth talking about! So to get them inside it made sense to grab them from the outside so I added a note to the back cover which states, (Includes Additional Reading Group Material). You will find that some very good traditionally published novels also use this technique.

Remember, inviting readers to discuss and think about your story is a sure-fire way to encourage them to review it and recommend or pass it on to the next person to read.

I hope my tips to boot your kindle sales have been of some use. If you have any tips yourself, please don’t be afraid to comment below.


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How You Can Earn Money on Amazon’s KENP

I’ve been partnered with KDP for several years now and closely followed every piece of data, chart and method they provide.

One of the questions I am often asked is: “How beneficial is KENP on Amazon, and how do you actually earn money from it?”

In this post I’ll explain just how you can benefit from the feature.

You need to be part of KDP to benefit for a start, which means signing up to the independent publishing service. KENP stands for Kindle Edition Normalised Pages  where some of your earnings are determined by how many of your book’s pages are read.

Breaking it down further, these are ebook pages which have been read by customers who have used the following service to purchase or lend your book – KOLL (Kindle Owners Lending Library) and KU (Kindle Unlimited.) Amazon determines how many pages of each book is read during each month using its own algorithm.

Below is a screengrab  (1 week view) of one of my kindle book’s KENP data.

On December 15,  2017 – (517 of my book’s pages) were read on a kindle device. Whilst I have no idea how they actually calculate the sum, (said to be something like a little more than half a penny per page) Amazon divides a fund amount by the total number of pages read and pays you (the author) a share.

Don’t feel daunted by this math. You literally don’t have to do a thing. The information is all calculated for you, and what I can say is that it really does work. Amazon paid me the sum of $1,417.50 in KENP earnings alone for one of my kindle titles over a quarterly period.

PROS: Not only can you opt in to receive up to 70% royalty ‘per book’ sale (if you price your book at $1.99 and above) but you also get paid this additional amount per pages read. KENP makes up a third of my monthly income so it certainly ‘pays’ to have as many books (pages) published as you can. Get writing, folks!

CONS: The flip side is that you must be enrolled with KDP Select to benefit, and this means making your ebook exclusive to Amazon.

My advice to self-publishing authors is to take advantage of this before some bright spark tries to abuse the system and Amazon change or clear the feature entirely. But remember, quality counts. If a reader opens a kindle title and finds a terrible book they won’t get any further in flipping more than a couple of those pages. Quality is still the key to getting readers to read an entire kindle book which is where YOU will benefit most from the KENP module.

Here is a link to a more detailed explanation of how the global fund is calculated and distributed.


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