Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Publishing

Proof Day

Proof 1You know the adage, “the proof is in the pudding?” Well, that’s how I felt when I received my proof of Bureau 39 in the mail today. It’s a big day when you see the physical copy of your book for the first time.

It’s a thrill that never gets old.

Even though I had already seen the eBook version, nothing beats holding your book in your hands; the one you worked on for so long; the one written with lots of sweat and torment when certain scenes didn’t always turn out the way you wanted.

This time, I went for a matte finish instead of a glossy one. Although I’m not too happy that the print is not too sharp, I do like how the cover feels.

Like I said, “the proof is in the pudding.”

For Crying Out Loud!

For those of you facryingmiliar with Amazon’s new payout scheme for Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP), authors get paid for the number of pages read versus books sold. It theory it sounded like a good idea for authors who would write very thin books and then get paid the same rate as an author who wrote a much larger work. In the past, an author could expect around 1.14-1.35 for each borrowed through KDP Select.

Yes, in theory, it sounded like a good idea, but, to excuse the pun, it’s not paying off in the long run.

When Amazon started this last year, I was paid .0056 per page read. Then it was .0049 per page. Last month, it was down to .0046 per page.

The bottom line is that an indie author cannot make it out in the cruel, cold world of indie publishing without a friend like Amazon. Even though my books could be bought at other online sources, most people feel very comfortable and secure with buying only from Amazon. When I had my books at Smashwords, hardly anyone bought them. However, my top selling books continue to do quite well at Amazon with or without promotion. Also, reviews left on Amazon do drive sales.

I look at any sale, whether a book is purchased or borrowed, as a way of getting more exposure. On average, readers read approximately 900 pages a day, which comes out to about three books a day. That might not seem very much, but for an indie author, it’s a fantastic day. I will continue to stand by Amazon because there is no alternative. However, one has to wonder if Amazon’s KENP is really worth it.

Book Marketing Strategies: How Much Should You Charge?

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I’ve read a number of articles and blog posts about how much to charge for an eBook. Most of these articles suggest setting the price between 1.99 to 3.99 and I would have to agree, though I think the 2.99-3.99 range is most appropriate for most self-published authors.

Of course, no one wants to sell their book too low and face the stigma that the reason the price is too low is because the book is not good enough. And of course on the other end, selling the book at a higher price means that you deserve to make as much as you can for all the hard work you put into your literary achievement.

When I wrote my first novel, War Remains, A Korean War Novel, I set the price at 5.99. I thought that was a fair price for all the work, energy, and time, I put into writing it. However, sales were dismal despite everyone who bought it telling me that it was a good book. When I lowered the price to .99 cents for a promotional campaign, suddenly my sales rocketed and continue to do quite well, when I decided to sell the book at 3.99.

I do believe that more people will buy a book for a lower price and take a chance with an unknown author than spending over 5.00 for a book with an author they are not too familiar with.

Now I set the price for all my books at 3.99 and sales have been quite good. I’ve also experienced a halo effect. Whenever I sell any of my books for .99 cents, days and in the case of When A Hard Rain Falls, two months after the book promotion, I continue to sell a couple of books a day.

Although selling your book at .99 cents means a profit of .35 cents per book, I believe the exposure the book outweighs the profits made. However, because of this halo effect, I do make up the difference immediately.

What’s the Best Way to Promote your Book: Word of Mouth!

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Let’s face it, folks, in today’s competitive eBook world, trying to carve out a niche in the market can be quite a daunting, not to mention time-consuming experience. And if you are on a tight budget, which for some people means no budget at all, trying to market your book becomes all the more daunting.

However, there is hope.

Without question, Word Of Mouth Advertising (WOMA) or Word Of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) are a self-published author’s greatest tools. But it takes more than telling your friends on Facebook or other social networking sites that you recently published a book. Most of your friends will immediately “like” your post and that’s about how far it will go. REALITY CHECK: Sadly, all those people who said they would buy your book, if you ever sat down and wrote a book, are not the ones lining up to buy your book.

First of all, if you want to promote your book you need to have a platform, e.g. a Facebook page, blog, or a website to start spreading the word about your book. Of course, most people who have already published a book know this, but there are some important tips to remember:

  • as much as we want to tell everyone about our books, don’t  inundate your friends and acquaintances with one status update after another about your great literary achievement
  • don’t be afraid to talk about your achievements. If your book goes from number 42 to 41, TALK ABOUT IT
  • promote other authors. Read their books and review them. The authors will love you and just may tell their friends how cool you are
  • If you are a member of Goodreads, offer some book giveaways
  • Be a guest blogger for another author’s blog or website (but don’t request a link back to your blog or website)
  • Write about things which are connected to your books. For example, my first novel was about the Korean War, so I often have posts related to the war and its consequences, e.g. when the remains of a US service member have been identified
  • promote other authors; yes, it’s important to mention this twice.  I sometimes use Twitter to rave about a fellow author
  • Don’t offer free book downloads. Sadly, a lot of people are takers and not givers, and may not talk about your work as much as you hope they would.

Hopefully some of these will work for you. It just takes time for you to establish yourself and for people to start spreading the word about you and your books.

How to Avoid the Self-Publishing Blues #2: You’re So Vain

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You probably thought this book….

Let’s face it, one of the biggest challenges with self-publishing, other than how to best market your book is how to overcome the vanity press stigma which many people have with authors who self-publish.

Back in the day, an author would write a book, go to a local printer and print a couple hundred copies and then pawn them off on family and friends. If an author was lucky, they might get close to recouping their original investment, and perhaps, if luckier, break even. Those that didn’t ended up with a garage full of books and their dream of becoming a writer shattered.

Fortunately for authors, one doesn’t have to shell out a couple hundred or even thousand dollars to get published these days. In fact, one could publish an eB0ok or a paperback through places like Createspace or Lulu for nothing and depending upon the book’s subject matter, start making a profit within hours of the book going live. And if the book is good, an author could enjoy a brief run of success, perhaps even land a lucrative contract from a publishing house.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Anyone now can publish anything he or she wants and call themselves a published author.

However, that vanity stigma is still with it and from time to time, raises its ugly head again.

I recently published my sixth book, When A Hard Rain Falls, and I was all set for a good run. As soon as it went live on Amazon, I posted a photo of the book on Facebook and instantly the post received over 100 likes. That’s about as far as it went.

You see, people know the drill: author publishes book, author promotes book on Facebook. Friends like that the author has published a book. And sadly for many authors this is the cold, hard reality with self-publishing: it doesn’t go any further than that.

Some people will tell you that the best way to sell more books is to write more books with the idea that the more your name is bandied around as an author, the more likely folks will gobble up one’s books. On the other hand, there is the chance for overkill: can too many books spoil the author?

I’m not sure what to think two weeks into the publication of my sixth book. My first book, War Remains was received quite well, but I think a lot had to do with the novelty of the idea of one publishing his or her first book.

So, how do you avoid the self-publishing blues and escaping the vanity stigma?

That’s hard to answer given the preponderance of books being published around the clock. Obviously, there is a demand for some books, though for the life of me (no pun intended) I can’t figure out why books about zombies sell well. I think the biggest problem is that world has gone mainstream. It’s getting harder and harder to compete with a lot of crap being written these days which means it’s getting harder and harder to get noticed. I once had an agent tell me that she loved my first book War Remains, that it was a good story, but she felt that she couldn’t sell it. She suggested that I write a mystery or a thriller; so I wrote When A Hard Rain Falls.

Although the advice I am about to give might not help you if you have a book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble and your sales have convinced you not to give up your day job, but if you are going to self-publish, PLEASE make sure you have invested some money into editing and design. It might not help you sell a thousand or more books, but if we are ever to escape this self-publishing stigma we have to make sure our books are just as good as ones being turned out by traditional publishing houses.

Another thing you can do, and this is some advice I have seen a lot of published authors give, and that is to choose your categories wisely. That is one way to get a little more exposure to sell more books and free you from the shackles of the self-publishing stigma. I know an author who published a book a few days ago and already the book is in the top ten because of the category. People see that and they probably don’t care if the book was self-published or not. That my friends is another hard reality about self-publishing.

There is hope for us, though. We just have to keep on doing what we love and believe in the dream.

How to Avoid the Self-Publishing Blues

JM_WAHRF_eBook_finalSo you’ve self-published your first, second, third, or whatever number book. As soon as you hit “enter,” “send,” or “submit” that’s when the real fun begins!

I’ve recently self-published my sixth book in four years and though it might seem easier when it comes to marketing and promoting your book, there are always new challenges with each new book.

As soon as you publish your book and send it out into the world, your friends and family quickly rally to support you. But then once that pool begins to dry out the reality sets in that you have a lot of work to do. There are many ways to market and promote your book. Here are some ideas which have helped me:

Thanks to having already created a website and Facebook Page most of the hard work has already been done. I have an established network of friends, acquaintances, and readers who follow my updates regularly and know when I have come out with a new book.

However, once you get past that initial sales spike from those friends and readers, that is when the fun begins. How do you get them to work for you?

It goes without saying that reviews drive sales but there is no substitute for word of mouth. What I do is when one of my friends publishes a book, I talk it up a lot on my Facebook page with my friend (after I have read and reviewed it). This can be a little time consuming because you do have to read a lot, but it has helped me to get more exposure for my books. In addition, people take notice if you promote other authors. You would do the same if you went to see a great band over the weekend. On Monday morning, you would tell everyone about that band.

Hmm…do the math. Two or three bucks for cover charge. A couple drinks. More than what you would pay for an eBook, right?

Another thing you can and should do is write/blog about things which are related to your book without mentioning your book other than in the introduction or the conclusion. For example, some of the action in When A Hard Rain Falls takes place around the Hennepin Canal, so I plan on writing about the canal on my blog. I’ve done the same thing for places in South Korea (Waking Up in the Land of The Morning Calm).

A Little Rebellion Now and Then is a Good Thing

iceCreamHeadache Smash 5Even when it comes to self-publishing.

There’s a really good article on the Huffington Post which you can read here. Essentially it’s about the self-publishing industry and the stigma attached to those of us who have self-published and are trying to get the word out about our books.

I’ve heard it all. When I told some of my friends and colleagues that I was going to self-publish my first novel, War Remains, their first reaction was that the only people who would buy it would be my family and friends. One former colleague, a writer himself, said that no one will ever take me seriously as a writer. That was three years ago and as far as I know, he still hasn’t written the book he said he was going to write. I’ve written five in that time.

And yes, some bookstores will show you the door if you walk in with a load of your books and ask to have them sold or even set up a book signing. However, thanks to Ingram and word-of-mouth, a bookstore would be crazy not to carry a book that people want to buy. (Something I need to work on for my books. I have had a number of people who have asked me if Ice Cream Headache is available at a bookstore in Seoul.)

Self-publishing is easy. It’s having to deal with promoting your book and having people talk about it what takes the most time and work. However, in order to help chip away at that stigma, you need a little help along the way. I know that with each sale of one of my books that stigma is slowly being removed. Just this past weekend, War Remains was up to Number #8 on Amazon’s Kindle list. It might have only been for a few hours, but you know that has to count for something. That’s why I work so hard to trying to promote and market my books. A sale here and a sale there and people start to take notice.

And if it’s a good book and the author tells a good story it doesn’t make any difference if it was self-published or not. That’s the bottom line.

Why Book Reviews on Amazon Matter

You’ve written and self-published the Great ______ (fill in your country’s name here) novel and now you’re ready to share your book with the world. What do you do first?

One of the most difficult, if not challenging aspects of self-publishing—whether it’s an eBook, a POD(Print on Demand) or a book published with a traditional printer—is how to market and promote your book.

Unless you’re willing to drop a couple thousand dollars for a marketing package through some of the more popular self-publishing houses such as Lulu, Dog-Eared, or Author House, you are left, if you can excuse the pun, to your own design.

How then do you promote the book you spent x amount of weeks, months, and in some cases, years slaving over? How do you get your book out in the public eye once you have sold all the copies you could to family and friends—either in person or through social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace? More importantly, how do you generate an interest in cyber space for your book without breaking the bank—your bank, that is—and spending all that hard earned cash from your book sales?

Years ago, when I visited Barbara’s Bookstore in Chicago for the first time with one of my very close friends, who at one time worked for the store, one of the first things I did (per his suggestion) was ask one of the clerks, what books he recommended. After I listened to his list of books he had read recently, he pointed me to a display of books that were the staff’s picks.

This is what we might do when we visit a traditional brick and mortar book shop when we’re looking for a book. And it’s not that different online. If you’ve been involved with self-publishing for any length of time, you’ve probably already know the importance of having people who’ve read your book, write a review of it for such places as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Without question, it is the most direct way of getting your book noticed once it is out there in cyber space. Having a review of your book posted online is like those staff picks at Barbara’s—steering readers in the right direction.

How important are reviews? This past weekend, my Korean War novel War Remains shot up the charts to Number 9 on Amazon’s Top 100 Korean War books for a brief period. However, what was even more remarkable was that my novel was one of the most top-rated books. That’s how important reviews are for generating interest and creating more visibility for your book. For a few hours, my novel was getting a lot of visibility, and thanks to those reviews, more people bought my book.

Of course, getting people to write reviews is not always easy. Many people are either too busy to sit down to take the time to write a review or perhaps, they are worried about their writing ability. If either one is the case, you might want to create some sort of a contest, like having a drawing for a free autographed book to those who write reviews. And if you have a little money to spend, you might even have a drawing for a Kindle or Nook reader.

Another thing you could do, though it is a little time-consuming, is ask certain authors for a free copy of their eBook to review and in return, share a free copy of your book for them to review. Many authors are more than willing to share a free eBook for a review. What makes this option appealing is that on Amazon, you can list your book in the review—thereby increasing your book’s visibility through your review.

Do all these things work? Yes, they do. I know from my own experience that I have been able to sell more books and create more interest in my books through reviews.

These are just a couple things you can do to promote and market your book through reviews—whether the reviews people write about your books or the ones you write. In the marketing and promotion game, it’s all about visibility and getting your book and your name out there. Good Luck!

How to promote your book

That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out: the best way to promote my book. I’ve done pretty much everything I could do with Facebook and my blog and now I’m trying to find other ways to promote the book. Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed that the book has not done as well as I thought it would in South Korea or my hometown where a lot of the drama takes place.

This could be one of the pitfalls with self-publishing. Some people might not take you as seriously as they might if you were with a more recognizable and established publisher.

It’s been suggested that I make up some flyers and send them off to organizations like the VFW. I think this a good idea.

I am also looking into this site called Book Buzz, where for $99 they will do some promoting for your book.

I am still counting on “word of mouth” promotion for my book; that’s why I’ve put a lot of stock into Facebook for spreading the word is it were.

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