There Is No Magic Bullet in Self-Publishing

Today’s post is based on this video I watched yesterday on You Tube:

I really like Dale’s videos. He’s usually quick and to the point, and I find that he does a good job of offering a balanced view of things.

That in mind, he also did a video on why you SHOULD publish on Amazon, too. Here it is so you don’t have to rush over to You Tube to find it:

For today’s post, I wanted to piggyback off of the first video because a few thoughts came to mind as I was watching it.

Quick disclaimer: I believe you should be on Amazon with ebooks. Dale brings up a situation where the author did better not going on Amazon, but most of us will have ebooks under $9.99 to sell over there, and in that case, it’s wise to be on Amazon.

That disclaimer aside, let’s get into the content of this blog.

There is No Magic Bullet in Self-Publishing

1. Just because you write it, it doesn’t mean people will find it.

I know this isn’t exactly breaking news, but there’s still this idea floating around out there that if you’re on Amazon (especially KU), you’re going to be earning a livable wage in under a year. Yes, there are people who are killing it on Amazon. I’ve met them. But it takes work to get noticed.

Dale is right about 2015. Before 2015, it was super easy to get noticed over there. You pretty much could write the book, publish it, and go off to write the next book. The algorithms on Amazon pushed you up without much effort on your part. It was a beautiful thing. Early on (like 2011 to 2012), Kobo and Barnes & Noble would push up indie books, too, but that lasted for maybe a year. So Amazon was definitely the indie author’s friend.

Despite everything, Amazon is still the friend of the indie author because even if you aren’t in KU, it’s still easier to get noticed over there. There are some authors who make more wide, but a lot of authors still make more money on Amazon than the other wide retailers. I’m one of them. Even not being in KU, I still make more on Amazon. That’s why I suggest being on Amazon with your ebooks. It’s one more piece of the pie you can have.

However, you have to do some marketing to get noticed. You can’t write the book, slip off into a corner, and watch the money come in. You have to work at it. The term “pay to play” fits. I don’t run a lot of ads. An author friend I have ran Amazon ads on her KU books and her wide books, and she found that Amazon pushed the ads with the KU books a lot more. So I don’t bother with Amazon ads.

I do, however, find success with Freebooksy ads, and I’ll run those to help give my backlist a boost. The first in a series free strategy still works, thankfully. I’m not a heavy marketer. That’s why I don’t make the kind of money I did back in 2013-2015. But the ads and permafrees do keep me afloat.

I’ve also found some success with pre-orders on Apple. This isn’t a big and wild success, but it does help to pay the bills. The longer you can have a pre-order up at Apple, the better. I even find that I make more on a new release on Amazon if I have it on pre-order for at least one month before it comes out. But again, you have to let people know about these pre-orders. You can’t just put it up and never mention it.

You should pick the marketing method that best appeals to you. I hate marketing. I find it physically draining. That’s why I use the path of least resistance. (Freebooksy ads, permafrees for Book 1 in a series, and pre-orders.) And guys, my strategy doesn’t yield megabucks. It’s enough to get by if you are getting books out on a consistent and frequent basis. The minute I go longer than two months between new releases, my income takes a nosedive. In my opinion, fresh and new content is a necessity if you’re not very good at marketing. If you are good at marketing, you can utilize your backlist to your advantage if you don’t want to be writing all the time.

2. Amazon has strict and ambiguous guidelines. Being on all retailers is, in my opinion, the best strategy.

Dale mentioned this in the video at the 3:49 mark, and he’s right. Things change. Nothing stays the same. You have to be flexible.

One of the benefits to being in this business for a little over a decade now is that I’ve seen things change across multiple retailers. I remember when Barnes & Noble wouldn’t publish an indie book. I remember when Kobo was created. I remember when you could make paperbacks on Amazon using CreateSpace. I remember when Amazon didn’t require exclusivity in order to get special visibility on their site. I also remember when authors weren’t able to do pre-orders unless they were with traditional publishers. Heck, I remember when traditional publishing was considered way better than indie publishing. I’ve been around so long, I even remember when MySpace was the place to go! 😛

During all of these changes, I have found Amazon to be the most punishing retailer out there. Sometimes it is the author’s fault when they get banned or have titles removed from sale, but sometimes the author did nothing wrong and it was a “glitch”. I had a title that went “off sale” in the US store for a week. When I mentioned this to KDP support, they put it back up without telling me why it had been removed. I had a few titles that were unavailable in Australia. I have NO idea why it happened, and my publisher was never able to reconcile it. So any time, for whatever reason, stuff happens on Amazon that you just can’t predict.

This is why I refuse to be exclusive on Amazon. I believe in being over there, but I don’t want to trust my entire author life to the whims of one company. As the financial advisors tell investors, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Some authors will put some titles in KU and have the rest of their books wide. I prefer to have all of my books wide. That way if, for whatever reason, Amazon decides to pull my books from their site, I still have my books on the other retailers. I’m willing to take less money from not being in KU in order to have the safety net of knowing Amazon can’t single-handedly destroy my years of hard work.

3. Not every book will be a hit.

For whatever reason, some books take off better than others. Even if you get emails from people telling you that they are eager to read a certain book, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a big seller. Then at other times, you write a book that doesn’t seem to be interesting to your readers, and that’s the one that takes off. Feedback from people does not equal sales.

That’s one of the reasons why I finally decided to write the books I wanted to read. I had pushed myself into writing a few books that I wasn’t all that interested in because I was getting feedback from people who wanted to read those stories. And there were times I didn’t go far out enough and take a story in the direction I wanted it to go because someone told me they wanted it to go in another direction instead. I even rewrote a few books early on to please my critics. Then I got comments from my readers who wanted the original versions, so I reverted the stories back to what they once were. Despite their many flaws, those books are in their original form today. Lesson here: don’t try to please the critic. You’ll only end up pissing off people who love your books.

We all want people to fall in love with our books. It’s natural. But at the end of the day, these are your books. You’re stuck with them. Everyone else can move on to other books, and they may even write their own books. However, you will always have this book in your backlist. Years from now, do you want to go back and read your books? If not, then feel free to write for other people. But if you do, then I think it’s best to write the books you want to read. That’s just my opinion based off writing books that I have written and have no desire to ever read again.

Anyway, the fact that not every book is going to be a good seller is why it’s important to keep getting books out on a regular basis. When you have books coming out regularly, it helps to keep the income steady. One bad release can be propped up with a good one. The money you’re bringing in isn’t so much like a roller coaster. It’s nice and steady.

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So that’s my two cents on the first video I posted on this blog. If anyone has thoughts they’d like to share, I’d be more than happy to listen. 😀

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Forced Into Marriage Trivia

This is Book 4 in the Pioneer Series.

While I was writing Groom for Hire, I had a secondary character who had to be dropped off in a small town in the middle of nowhere because he was unfit to help lead the wagon train. In the back of my mind, I thought, “It’d be a shame to leave the poor guy there forever.” And so, I decided to write another book in the Pioneer Series.

In the book, Brandon is an alcoholic who needs to overcome his dependency on liquor. I grew up in a home with an alcoholic father. He was a functioning alcoholic, meaning that he was able to hold down a steady job despite his addiction. My mother almost left him because it put a strain on their marriage, but in the end, he was able to quit drinking. My dad was the quiet type of alcoholic. He never screamed or threw things. I did some research into alcoholism during the writing of this book. Mainly, I was interested in what alcoholics go through as they stop drinking, and the symptoms widely vary. So I picked the stuff that best fit Brandon’s personality. My dad never talked to me or my sister about what he went through, but I imagine it wasn’t too different from what Brandon went through. (Side note: my dad went to be with the Lord years ago. Even if he had been alive when I wrote this book, I wouldn’t have asked him about it.)

I got the idea for Lokni’s character after all of the spaghetti westerns my husband watched. These westerns are more nitty gritty than your typical western. There are a lot of brutal scenes in them. (Brutal for the 1960s and 1970s.) I have yet to see one of these movies end with a genuine happy ending for all of the main characters. I mean, they might live, but the main love interests never ended up together. One movie in particular involved a white man with a Native American woman who fell in love. Being a spaghetti western, they didn’t end up together. The romance writer in me hated that ending. So I decided to write this book where a white man and Native American woman would be forced together and end up together. This was my own “spaghetti western” without getting too far into the brutal aspects of it, though I did give Lokni a nitty gritty backstory.

While I did have characters on the wagon trail in two other books in the Pioneer Series, I wanted just the hero and heroine to be out in the wilderness as they made their way to the next town in this particular story. I thought it would be the best way for the two to get used to each other.

In some instances in my romances, I use the birth of a child to represent a fresh start in life. These are typically for characters who are struggling for a second chance but are unable to find the hope for a second chance any other way. The other book where I used this strategy was The Marriage Contract. In that book, it was the hero who needed it. In this book, however, both the hero and heroine needed it. This was why Lokni was pregnant at the beginning of the book, and she had to be ready to give birth.

In my research of the Wyoming Territory, I found out that there was a good mix of white people and Native Americans, and quite a few of these people married and had children. The stigma associated with whites and Native Americans marrying didn’t exist in these small towns. So this book had to be different from the Native American Series in how interracial couples were viewed. What I couldn’t do in Bismarck, North Dakota for Chogan and Julia (in Brave Beginnings), I could do in this book.

I’ve been in hotels with my kids when they were babies, and it’s a huge pain in the you-know-what. I never want to go through that ever again. It’s so much easier when they’re potty trained and old enough to sleep in a bed. Every time I wrote a scene with Lokni and the baby in that hotel room, my mind went back through all of those past trips I had to take because my husband was still in the Air Force, and we had to move around.

I felt it was important to give Lokni the option of being able to leave Brandon at some point in the story, so I did plan for that scenario when I started writing the book. After everything she’d been through, she needed to have a moment where she could finally pick what course she would take in her life. Since this was a romance, I already knew she’d stay with Brandon. The question was “how”. The “how” is what makes writing fun.

Though it wasn’t intentional, Brandon’s middle name “Clint” now makes me think of Clint Eastwood. 😀

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Random Stuff

November Newsletter on my newsletter blog is “missing in action”.

So a long time has passed since I’ve posted anything. I didn’t even realize how long it was until I checked my calendar. I even forgot to make a post for November on my newsletter blog. I’ll try to remember to do the blog post for December.

Writing discrepancies might lead to pre-order dates moving back.

I have done very little writing. This has been the case since mid-September. There’s been a lot of back and forth with whether the kids are home or in school, and on top of that, I have the one I’m homeschooling. Plus, we’ve have two snowstorms in the past month. Since we live off of a dirt road outside of town, the snow drifts can make it impossible for us to get anywhere until someone plows us out, so I’ve had everyone here on and off during the last few weeks. I think all of that just threw everything up in the air.

So if I end up pushing a pre-order back, this is why. I’m on track for publishing A Deceptive Wager on January 17. That book is already done, and I just need to give it another round through in edits. The other books, however, are up in the air. I have tentative release dates on them, but if I have to, I’ll move them back. I refuse to rush a book. I want each book to be the best it can be.

I won’t be putting any more audiobooks on Amazon or Audible.

Over the past few days, I’ve been studying up on Audible’s return policies. I already mentioned this on Facebook, but for those who haven’t seen it over there (or aren’t on Facebook), Audible is allowing its subscribers to return any audiobook for up to a full year for any reason. Audible will then return the credits (or whatever those things are called) to the customer.

Authors in a Facebook group I’m in have said they’ve noticed up to a 50% return rate on their audiobooks. A couple of them say they average that 50% in returns. So last month, I made $30. What if, in February or even June, 50% of the people who got my audiobooks decided to return them? That means I would then owe ACX (which uploads to Audible and Amazon) $15 because they already paid me the $30 back in October.

I get that they’ll probably wait until I sell $15 more worth of audiobooks to collect on that money, but the point is, they will demand I pay them that $15. This is like being in debt, except I have no control over who buys or returns my audiobooks.

What Audible needs a more author friendly return policy. There are two requirements I would like: 1.) The customer did not get to listen to the entire audiobook. I’d suggest no more than 40% listened to. 2.) The customer should be required to return it within 2 weeks. Two weeks is plenty of time to decide if someone likes the audiobook enough to keep going or not. Plus, I wouldn’t have been paid already for the sale. Then I don’t have to owe ACX anything in some unknown future.

Until there’s a more author-friendly situation for authors, I’m done. But I’ll still claim my books over there to stop thieves from taking them.

Speaking of audiobooks, it’s slow going on getting one done.

It looks like I can’t do more than one per quarter. My focus needs to be on my family, and after that, I need to write new books. That puts audiobooks at #3 on the list of priorities. I enjoy doing them, but I find the more I do this, the more I pick up things I didn’t before. I’m hoping that the new microphone I got will be way better than the one I used on Meant To Be. If it’ll cut down my editing time by half, then it’ll have more than paid for itself. On average, each chapter is taking me 6-7 hours to do.

Unfortunately, I got into this after I put out over 100 books. As of right now, I have 105 books and 6 short stories. This includes all of the genres I’ve done. I have done 91 romances (including A Deceptive Wager) so far. So basically, this means I’ll probably never be able to do my entire backlist. I can only do my personal favorites.

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I’ll leave it here for now. I’d like to get another trivia post up next. I think I’ll do Forced Into Marriage for that. 😀

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