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Posts Tagged ‘Self-Publishing’

(Clothing optional)

My latest venture in self-publishing has been something I never thought I’d attempt. If you told me that I’d be creating audio books years ago I’d laugh and show you how I haven’t even figured out my iPhone yet. I first saw a discussion about creating audio books on the Kindlebord’s Writer’s Cafe forum (where I get on all my self-publishing information). I clicked on the thread only out of curiosity and was surprised to hear indie authors report how easy it was to create audio books and if you’re not putting one out you’re leaving money on the table.

My impression was that you needed to be tech savvy to create one or have a lot of money to pay someone else to make one. I knew a few indie authors that narrated their audio books themselves but knew that would never be an option for me. However, these much clever indies had found a site called ACX that helps indies produce their own audio books much like Createspace and KDP have made self-publishing ebooks and print books so simple. I decided to make an account and clicked every tab I could find to answer all my endless questions.

My biggest problem was that I worried my unusual reincarnation fantasy would not make a good audio book due to the fact that I would have to find one very talented narrator who could pull off different accents, different genders, and different ages in a believable way. Yet, what did I have to lose if I put a sample up? So I picked out a few pages of each life from my first book for folks to audition for.

A few weeks went by without any auditions, but then my project got selected for a stipend. I had no idea what that was at first but found out that it is an incentive program that ACX puts on certain books for producers and narrators. Not only will they get the 50%-50% royalty deal, they also get $100 for every finished hour of audio book paid by ACX. Well, the auditions started rolling in. The very first audition I listened to floored me. Completely not what I expected, this narrator took the book in her own direction and I loved it.

What to do now?

Well, I had to read more information on the site about how I make an offer and I was sure to read all the fine print about making an audio book with ACX. I decided I would go with the 50%-50% royalty deal, the exclusive distribution option with ACX that yields more profit for me, and had to select the date I wanted the narrator to complete the first fifteen minutes and the date the whole project should be finalized. Since there was a stipend attached, it was important to see when the stipend time was up since they grant them for only a few months at a time. I checked when mine was up and made sure I gave extra time for my narrator to complete it.

Well, she unfortunately responded that she was busy with another project at the moment and wouldn’t be able to finish it by that date. I was so disappointed and wondered if everyone would sound terrible next to her skill. I listened to a few more auditions and learned that I definitely didn’t like strong accents and glaring voice changes for different characters. The first narrator showed me that subtle was the way to go.

Finally, I got a message from a producer who was interested in my project and gave a list of narrators that worked for him with samples of audio books they’d completed. I picked Jessica Peterson out immediately since she read similarly to the first narrator that I’d heard. The producer had her read my sample and I made the offer which they quickly accepted.

He got to work right away and kept me informed of all their deadlines. It was so nice to work with such a seasoned professional. Since I was so inexperienced it was wonderful to have someone guide me through the whole process. He asked me to go through my whole book and pick out any words that might have difficult pronunciation. Usually there might only be a few words that need to be clarified, but with all my historic names, places, and things this took me a very long time.

An unexpected benefit to making an audio book was soon found out when the narrator found typos (a few missing words here and there). Which was shocking since I’ve had this darn book edited by at least six amazing editors! But since she had to read each word aloud I think it truly cleared up any of those last pesky typos.

The most important step is approving the first fifteen minutes, until then you can walk away from the deal without any penalty. Make sure you like everything: the sound quality, the vocal choices, the pronunciations before this stage since after you approve you’ll have to pay the narrator to end the project if you don’t get along. My first fifteen minutes was wonderful except for the fact that I forgot to specify that my main character begins old and at a certain phrase becomes much younger. It slipped my mind and I felt terrible to tell them that they wasted five minutes at the end since it had to be changed. They were gracious and went back to the studio to change it and I didn’t approve it until it was just the way I wanted.

Now it was definitely happening and I had faith in my producer’s and narrator’s abilities. They finished before the deadline and I listened to every word before I approved the final creation. I had to scramble to get my cover designer to make a square cover for the audition since they would not allow the cover I use for the ebook (so it’s good idea to get that done ahead of time).

It took much longer that I thought before the audio book was up for sale on Amazon (four weeks). I even sent an inquiry on why it was delayed but apparently that is the normal time it takes. I saw that the price was set at $19.95 (they set the price based on how long the audio is), but I wanted to be sure to get the Whispersync deal on there since it gives a huge discount to those who have already purchased the ebook (and since my ebook is free, I hoped it would increase sales). I wrote to ACX and requested the option and after a week the discount was available.

Infinite Sacrifice-Audio Cover(Click here for the link to the audio version)

So there you have it, an audio book was created by someone who never thought they could manage it. I’ve already had a few emails letting me know how much they enjoyed the audio book and were wondering when book number two will be out. I went to work on getting that one made and requested a stipend on that book so I could continue to use the same producer and narrator. They actually granted me the stipend and my producer is up for the project, so now I’m busy looking up all the hard to pronounce words…

Self-publishing is truly an adventure.

indielife7

(Check out other inspiring indie authors’ blog posts by clicking on the icon above)

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So I’ve joined a fun and supportive blog hop that celebrates independent authors that requires you write one post about anything self-publishing once a month. If you’re interested in reading some of today’s posts or joining up as well, click on the icon above.

I came across a fascinating blog post on Kboards from a best-selling, formally traditionally published author, Elisa Beth Naughton. If you have the time, you can read it for yourself here. Otherwise, I’ll try my best to summarize.

Naughton opened up about the struggles she had when she was traditionally published where she used any meager profit she made for her own books’ publicity and claimed a negative income on her taxes (even being on the best-selling list). She brings up the fact that she was so focused on the prestige of being traditionally published that she was unaware of the poor contract she signed for her books. Many times, authors will trade many of their rights and profits just to say that they’re traditionally published. As soon as she got some of her book titles back, she decided to follow a few of her successfully self-published friends and dove into indie waters. She admits it took some hard work to get her books noticed again, but is now claiming possibly seven figures this year on her income tax from self-publishing alone!

She admits that self-publishing isn’t for everyone (and I’m sure having her name well-known prior to self-publishing helped her immensely), but she makes a great point by saying that she is so glad she writes in an age where authors have these choices. It is so important to realize that self-publishing allows every author that choice.

If you don’t get represented by an agent, you have a choice.

If you don’t get picked up by a publisher, you have a choice.

If you don’t get offered a great contract, you have a choice.

If you don’t make much profit off your traditionally published book, you have a choice.

If you get your books backlisted, you have a choice.

Self-publishing gives us all a choice, even if you do decide to go the traditionally published route.  It’s in every author’s best interest to support indies so that they always have a potentially profitable alternative out there (and hopefully publishers will become wary of this and offer better deals to keep their authors happy).

When I was querying agents (and my dream agent actually was interested!) I probably would have accepted anything to just get published. I’m so glad that I did go it on my own for the very reasons that Naughton points out:

“I get to write the books I want to write, the way I want to write them, and I get to release them when I want…not when a publisher can fit me into their schedule. For me, self publishing is a perfect fit and no matter where I go from here, it will definitely be part of my career plan.

Of course, this all seems fabulous and it sounds like I’m making tons of money, doesn’t it? But you have to remember that I wrote for ten years without making a penny. Three plus of which as a published author. If you add up what I’ve made self publishing and divide it by ten years, trust me, it’s not much in the long run. But the growth potential is there, and that’s what keeps me going. There was a time not long ago when I was pretty sure I was going to have to go back to teaching because I wasn’t making any money writing. I was even looking at job postings online, trying to find a science position in my area. Now that’s all changed. I get to keep doing what I love. I get to keep writing the books readers love because of self publishing.”

I’m so happy that Naughton has found such rewarding success in self-publishing, especially after working so hard for all those years. I’m definitely content with my small successes at this point and thank the universe everyday that I had this option available. My series would never have been published and there are many fans that have thanked me for writing them.

Options are always a wonderful thing 🙂

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bookbub.com

Just thought I’d check back in after having the flu for a month and taking a break from the final edits of Infinite Loss to talk about the benefits of Bookbub.

“Bookbub is a daily deal email newsletter exclusively for digital books. More than 600,000 people with eReaders have signed up for BookBub to learn about free and deeply discounted digital books that match their interests.

Authors and publishers pay us to promote their limited-time digital book discounts and freebies to our subscribers. We can advertise promotions running at any retailer including Amazon’s Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, Apple’s iBookstore, Google Play, Kobo, Smashwords, and others.

Like other daily deal emails, BookBub is an “advertorial” newsletter. This means that although our daily email consists of paid advertisement listings, we have an editorial team that approves only the listings they think are the best deals for our subscribers.”

You can find out more information here.

I was leery of putting down money for advertising. In the past I’ve tried all the free promotion sites and a few inexpensive advertising ventures. I’ve learned  very quickly that it’s a waste of time to spend the whole morning writing to all the different freebie websites and focused on the ones that gave a big surge in sales like Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink and Free Kindle Books and Tips. The websites that charge $5 or $10 didn’t seem to make much difference for me.

Bookbub is fantastic since it targets a large readership that has signed up for specific genres of interest. Bookbub sends an email directly to the reader along with a few other deals of the day—some of which were best sellers, which is nice to get on their also bought lists!

Before Bookbub ran my promotion (December 27) my books were not performing well. Infinite Sacrifice was at #5,459 ranking on the free bestseller list and Infinite Devotion at #177,466 on the paid list with no sign of a holiday surge.

The price to run the ad (for a free book in the historical genre) was $125 and they are selective in regards to reviews and ratings. They feature both indie and traditionally published books.

Here are the results:

  • Author rank reached #16,901.
  • Highest ranking for Infinite Sacrifice ever #36 of all free books, gave away over 20,000 free copies, and it stayed under #2,000 since the promotion.
  • Infinite Devotion reached #12,646 of all paid and stayed under #40,000 since the promotion.
  • Practically doubled my review numbers and mailing list subscribers
  • I’ve sold four times what I normally bring in a month (not just on Amazon, but across all vendors)

I will definitely do it again and hope that more sites like this crop up to assist readers and authors. I can’t wait to run another ad again, since Bookbub doesn’t allow you to list the same book within 90 days. That gives me some time to decide if I should pick another genre my book falls under since it’s just been seen by the historical fiction subscribers. It might be smart to send my book out to the fantasy readers next (plus it’s much cheaper).

So, if you have a some good reviews under your belt and a nice star rating, I would definitely suggest reducing the price of your novel in order to purchase a promotion with Bookbub. The ad paid for itself in a few days. Hurry though, because prices are rising. The same ad will now cost me $130. Bookbub has steadily been increasing their fees as readership increases.

Even if you aren’t interested in investing in an ad or maybe don’t have a novel ready yet, it’s a great program to sign up for. I’ve joined and I’m filling up my kindle quickly!

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256px-Busy_desk.svg

(My editor…unfortunately)

Scary, I know, but when you’re trying to get your book out in the busiest time of year, it’s bound to happen.

After the initial shock and denial stage, I immediately tried bargaining with her that I could push back my release a few months if she needed more time and, she first agreed—until she found out the page count of the third book. Clocking in around 640 pages, she just couldn’t promise me that it would get done by March. Since it usually takes another two or three months after the editor is through to make the changes and to send it off to copy editors, I knew I couldn’t make my fans wait that long.

But how could I change editors mid-series? Would this effect the consistency of my books? Could I find someone with the same skill at the same price? How could someone jump into such a complicated series mid-way?

After breathing into a paper bag for a few minutes and then self-medicating myself with too much chocolate, I realized that this might be meant to be (what I always say to myself in difficult situations). My editor recommended a few editors she works with (at a small press publishing company) and said there was one in particular that had a strong background with historicals. I contacted this person, sent off a sample chapter, and was so pleased to see that their styles were incredibly similar (at the same price to boot!).

She seems wonderful and she not only said she’d get right on the project, but that she wanted to read the first two books so she could understand the third book that much more!

So, just a word of assurance to any of you that might get the same shock, there are plenty of fantastic editors out there and situations might arise where you need to find an alternative mid-series. Take a deep breath and send out sample chapters to other recommended editors and feel around for one with a similar style. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to touch base with my editor a month earlier so that I could have had more time to find a good fit, but this time I was lucky to find someone so fast who was willing to start the project immediately. So keep in touch with your editors!

Happy Holiday everyone!

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Thanks to an insightful post by the talented Yesenia Vargas, I decided it would be a good idea to create a separate website for my series. Yesenia does an amazing job discussing the pros and cons of creating a separate website, and even though she ultimately decided to keep one website, I decided that it would be best for me to create two for the following reasons (you know I love bullets).

  • This website is a place to share my trials, triumphs, and observations with other writers. I need you all for support and advice, and hopefully, I might be able to help others as well.
  • Every time I host a giveaway, market, run a promotion, or I’m featured in an interview, I don’t want to spam all my writer friends.
  • If I had a few standalone novels then I would most likely keep them all here, but given that this is a four-book series, it’s probably best to create a separate site.
  • My other site has less followers, but readers don’t seem to want to follow a writer’s blog. They want information about your books, background, promotions, and releases. It’s good to give them what they want. Instead of clicking around on your writer’s blog, lead them directly to your books.
  • I wanted to separate each book on its own page, where I can list everything pertaining to that book (cover, blurb, historical background, and book trailer). That way, the reader only views information about the book they’ve read. I wouldn’t want to spoil the next book in the series for them.
  • I also started additional pages on my other site where I feature fun things such as information about past lives and my favorite reviews left by readers and bloggers.
  • I still have an Infinite Series tab at the top of this blog that leads you to my other site (and vice versa) so they are not completely separate.

Through WordPress site stats, I see that people who search for my books or author name go directly to the other website. This blog gets more views by people looking up writing topics. So I do think it was a wise choice.

Here’s the link if you want to stop on by. On a side note, I’ve released the cover to Infinite Loss, so go check it out!

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I’m waxing sentimental at the moment and heard this song on the radio. Thought it works well as a writer’s theme song.
So, take a writing break, blare this song, and twirl all your query fears or sales woes away!

 

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Happy anniversary to me!

A year ago today I bit my lip and pressed ‘the button’. After many days of shrieking as my finger hovered over the bright yellow ‘Save and Publish’ button on KDP, I finally joined the published masses. Oh, I have learned so much in this last year. Let’s see how my expectations last year compares to where I am now.

Here is the post I put up discussing all that was needed to publish my first novel–I’m adding my updated thoughts in red:

Since posting up my book trailer and releasing my launch date (11-11-11!) I have to be very sure that I’m going to make that deadline. Originally, I thought I could release the book in early September since I wanted to get it out before I had my second child, but with all the work required for launch promo it’s probably best to wait a couple of months to get a handle on the baby blues and sleepless nights. And 11-11-11 is way too cool of a date to pass up!

Well, I’m a list maker (you probably could tell by all my bulleted previous posts) and something about this stacked plan makes me rest a little easier.

1) Get the MS back from the editor-make all changes and send it back out for second check (Still a good idea, but send it out to as many beta readers as possible prior so that you don’t make costly changes after you sent it to the editor…found this out the hard way…i.e. pricey way)

2) Create LLC and small press publishing name: Rock Castle Publishing (Many do not take this step although I’m glad I did.)

3) Send blurb out on forums to get feedback (Folks at the Kindle Board Forum are especially helpful for blurb critiques.)

4) Send cover out to forums to get feedback (Again, see Kindle Board Forum.)

5) Make final changes to book and send out to second copy editor (it’s always good to get two pairs of eyes to catch everything) (Actually, I’ve now decided that three sets of eyes are needed. Even after two fantastic editors, I found a few glaring typos after publishing. It cost me double to have my formatter make the changes. It’s cheaper to pay for another proofreader than to have things reformatted, not to mention the embarrassment of having typos.)

6) Make final changes and read through to make sure it’s perfect (Last chance!) (See notes above about betas and a third proof-reader)

7) Sign up and register for copyright (You actually need to do this after you have the print copy in your hand since you need to send it to them and you only have thirty days to do that once you’ve filed.)

8)  Buy 10 ISBNs (I’ll probably get 10 since I have a series and many more books planned) (Many use ISBNs from each distributor, but I find it is much more convenient to have one number for all vendors)

9) Work with my graphics designer to make the POD cover with author photo and book description (Can’t do this until you have the exact page number from the formatter. Plus, have an interesting chapter vignette made to use at the start of each chapter.)

10) Send out to book formatter for B&N, Smashwords, and POD (Createspace) formatting (I know now they’re called epub, mobi, pdf files. If you’re technically skilled, buy a formatting book and do it yourself. It will save you a lot of money for all the books in the future and it’s much easier to make changes.)

11) Send out to book reviewers to review around launch date (Definitely a good idea except that most of your reviewers have long waiting lists. Query as many as you can, but you can always do this after release. Blog tours are a good idea before a release, but only if they specialize in your genre. I used a book tour and should have done more research on the hosts. Many of them were Romance and YA genre fans.)

12) Get quotes from positive reviewers to put on the back of the book & website (Still haven’t done this. I find it is sufficient enough to include my favorites under the blurb.)

13) One month before release send out trailer on all writer’s forums (Make a book trailer if you enjoy it, but it’s not necessary for release, and I didn’t see any sales from posting on the forum. Anything directly promoting your book doesn’t get many views there. I get at least one view of my book trailer page every day so it does get attention on my website at least.)

14) Ask close bloggers to review my book on their blogs or send out the word of the release (My blogger friends were the best! Definitely try to network among other bloggers and authors and trade guest posts for new releases.)

15) Look up all relevant blogs and ask to guest post (I really should do this more when I find the time.)

16) Put up the book for pre-order on Amazon.com (What was I thinking? Amazon does not grant indie authors pre-orders.)

17) When it’s released send out notification on forums, blogs, and websites (Great idea if you have the time, but I found that free promotions are the only thing to affect sales)

18) Get second book out in a few months! (This is critical to building a platform and driving sales…write more..more..more!)

So there it is. I’ve picked a date and I’m going to stick to it. This is actually real…this is going to happen :)

Yes, it did happen and I’m so proud that it has. I’ve accomplished so much. It may have come by trial by fire, but I’ve reached my first goal. I posted up my expenses after the first release (here) and all I wanted was a couple of sales a day to get back the money I put into the book by my first year. Good news is that I have reclaimed my expenses to date (in addition to the money I invested in my second, longer book). Again, I had to do this by putting the first novel free, but I am very happy with my sales. Now, I’m definitely not topping any best seller lists, but the steady sales and positive reviews keep me going. I’m just now bringing in profit to use to get my third book out.

If I could go back one year would I tell myself to send out more query letters? Should I have listened to my dream agent telling me that true series don’t sell? That I should wait a few more years to get reviews that send me bouncing around the house for days? Delay the ecstasy of holding my first book in my hands for another five years?

No way. I might like to whisper a few secrets I’ve learned along the way (uh um…do NOT sign up for KDP select!), but I would push that publish button days earlier.

What an awesome journey this has been! Can’t wait to see what next year—and another release—brings 🙂

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