Showing posts with label Writing Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing Tips. Show all posts

Friday, April 6, 2018

Six Rules of Author Self-Promotion


Whether you are with a big five publisher or publishing a novel yourself, you must promote your book. I’ve learned six rules to do it right.

Rule One: It’s not all about YOU

Self-promotion should be about building relationships. As an author, your goal is to build long-term relationships with your readers. Naturally, your writing is what ultimately makes the difference, and you need to make it as compelling as possible. That does not mean you start building relationships once you have something about to be published. That would be all about you.

Relationships are two-way streets. If self-promotion is you force-feeding your promotions, you will not be effective for long.

Rule Two: Add Value to the Relationship

You have experiences and expertise that you can share with others to make their life [fill in your adjectives here.] Try to provide value within any promotion. Entertain, provide new insights into your writing, your work, your life—help others improve their writing, their work, their lives. Let people know what didn’t work and why so they can learn from your mistakes.

Help them along their paths without asking for a return favor. I will be forever grateful to Hank Phillipi Ryan and Steve Hamilton, two high-powered authors who took the time from their busy schedules to write blurbs for my books. Don’t you think I let people know about their helpfulness? (You bet. I just did, didn’t I?)

Rule Three: Be Yourself

I am a math guy; always was, always will be. I know that’s not everyone’s cup-o-tea, but it is mine. With my math background and ability to translate complicated concepts into English, I can help people understand the world in a different way. That’s my niche. And I write financial crime novels, so there is a practical tie-in.

Show your sense of humor. Some won’t get it—they never do, do they?—but those who are tuned to your sensibilities will form a stronger link with you.

Rule Four: Have Permission

How do you feel when a robocall interrupts your family dinner? For me, that’s a perfect reason to never buy the product, vote for the politician, or do whatever they had in mind for me to do. All because they did not have my permission to interrupt what I was doing.

I receive unsolicited author newsletters and email promotions all the time. The first time it happens, I chalk it up to inexperience. But when it keeps happening, I employ email junk filters to toss them into the spam pile that is deleted without delay. How likely am I to buy their books or retweet that their latest is on sale? You guessed it: not likely.

Make sure you have permission before sending newsletters. When someone like the ELF asks you to write a guest blog, follow their rules regarding content and promotion. It’s a courtesy to the blog’s owner, and its readers will be more apt to appreciate what you have to say.

Rule Five: If you don’t ask for assistance, you won’t get it.

If there is something you would like people to do, you need to make a direct, clear ask. I’d like you to buy my book, and maybe you would based on this blog. What I will ask you to do is to read the first four chapters of Empty Promises for free and decide for yourself if you enjoy my kind of writing. (If you prefer starting a series with the first book, Ant Farm’s first four chapters are here.)

Nothing works as well as a direct ask.

My order of preference is to ask in person. If that’s not possible, then by phone where two-way communication is still possible. Email or your favorite messenger app is a distant third because it is more distant. Of course, in a promotional situation like this, you need to incorporate your ask in a way you think makes sense.

Rule Six: Thank People When They Help You

Strangers, friends, and family do not owe authors their support. So when someone offers it, tell the individual or community that you appreciate the time and effort they took to help you out. This common courtesy goes a long way when people know you mean it.

That’s it: six rules that make self-promotion acceptable to my sensibilities. What’s been your experience?

A version of this blog appeared as part of the Empty Promises Virtual Book Tour (4/2/18 - 4/20/18)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Sense of Place

Clifton Area of Cincinnati, OH

If you are going to be a successful liar, you need a great memory. Lies accumulate over the years, and it takes more and more effort to keep them straight. By the time I started writing the Seamus McCree novels, (Empty Promises is #5), my steel-trap mind was already suspect. I reasoned that if I wrote using settings I knew, it was one less thing I had to worry about remembering. Oh sure, I could have developed a detailed series bible with all the invented places and so forth, but that’s a lot of work—and for me, organization is more a wish than a reality. Since it’s easy to forget where the closets are, I housed characters in residences I used to inhabit.

For Ant Farm and Bad Policy, I gave Seamus my house in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati (but moved it to another street). Uncle Mike, a continuing character, resides in the apartment complex in Waltham, MA where I lived in 1978.

Cabin Fever is set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where Seamus happens to have a camp located on the same lake where I have my home. For Empty Promises, I wanted to return to the U.P. and the story was willing. Our place—er Seamus’s place—is fifteen miles from the nearest place you can buy anything. Fourteen of those miles are gravel or dirt roads. Cabin Fever was set in the dead of winter and in that story weather and the gradual movement toward spring were their own character. Empty Promises occurs during summer, and although our place is not as isolated as in winter, it is still remote, which is an important ingredient in the story. And best of all, I don’t have to think about where the doors are or which side of the house has the screened porch.

I’ll be interested to hear in the comments how as readers y’all feel about using real locations for novels. Do you enjoy reading about real places, or would you prefer authors construct their own locations?

This blog was originally published as a guest post for part of the Empty Promises Virtual Book Tour.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Author’s Toolbox: The Auditory Read Through


Every author develops a toolkit of writing skills and techniques, preferred software and hardware, and proven processes to develop a polished manuscript. In my online course, Revision and Self-Editing (next month-long class starts October 1 if you are interested), I suggest authors add the Auditory Read Through to their stockpile of available tools.

If you are like most modern authors, you compose your first draft using a word-processing program, which means you first see your words on a screen. You may rewrite your manuscript using a screen to display your text, or you may print out a copy of your manuscript, make handwritten corrections and then convert those back to an electronic form.

Many authors have learned that they find different problems when they view their manuscript on the screen compared to what they find when using a hard copy. I know authors who change from their standard font and a single column printout and use a different font and two columns to make sure nothing looks “familiar.” In addition to these techniques, I suggest that you will discover different issues when you read your manuscript out loud.

Even if on previous read throughs you silently sounded things out in your head, you were not using your sense of hearing. Before the written word, stories were spoken, and you should listen to yours to discover a few last issues you may have missed.

Approaches to the Auditory Read Through

#1 I read it myself

One key to this approach is I try to mimic a reader’s experience.
I print out the manuscript single-spaced applying the same font, type size, lines per page and page size as the publisher uses. As I read, I’ll see, for example, a long paragraph that needs splitting or dialogue that runs unbroken for two pages. [I do not worry about exact layout, orphan lines, where words break on a line, or anything like that.]

What do I listen for? Anything that doesn’t sound right on a sentence-by-sentence basis, or as part of a paragraph, or the entire page. Whenever I stumble or trip over a word, there is a good chance I need a rewrite. This gives me the opportunity to straighten convoluted sentences and exchange flabby diction with precise wording.

I often discover I used a word several times within a short span. I might not see the multiple uses on screen or page, but my ear picks them up. Reading often reveals double words: detritus remaining from earlier rewriting (the the is my most common).

I pay attention to adverbs: are they covering for a flabby verb? Make sure every adverb is necessary. As an example, consider the line “She quickly walked to the sidewalk.” With the multitude of verbs available to describe exactly how she moved to the sidewalk, this sentence employs a lazy approximation for what the reader should visualize as they read.

Where I used multiple adjectives, can I replace them with one perfect descriptor?

Have I noun-ized verbs (xxxxx-ness) or verbed nouns (xxxxx-ize)?

Are verbs that end with “ing” appropriate?

Have I fallen into a repetitive pattern? Do too many sentences share the same form? Are sentences all the same length?

#2 Use software to read the manuscript

I used this technique with Empty Promises (Seamus McCree #5) this week as the final step before sending the manuscript to my editor. I allow the software to read the words (fully engaging my ears in the process) while I follow along on the computer screen. A variety of free and for-purchase software exists to read documents. I use the voices incorporated in Microsoft Word.

Most of my POV characters for this story are male, so I chose Microsoft’s David Mobile. Unlike a voice actor, or when I read my WIP aloud, this electronic reading does not provide inflection, which allows me to pay more attention to the actual words. It does take a bit of getting used to. Microsoft mangles many proper names because it tries to pronounce them phonetically and guesses at syllables. One character is Frank Cabibi. I’ve pronounced his last name in my head as Că-BEE-bee. Microsoft David chose CAY-bǝ-BY. David also doesn’t correctly enunciate the difference between the “live” in live bait versus the one in live and let live.

The occasional auditory jar startles me back to listening with careful ears. When I read my own work, I read through typos. (I know what the word is supposed to be.) Microsoft David reads what’s there, catching, for example, “habit” in a sentence where I intended “habitat.” (The error had survived two earlier drafts.) He always reads double words, something I sometimes miss when I read my own manuscript.

Some things are more obvious when I listen to my writing rather than read it myself. I can’t catch words or sentences I stumble over—Microsoft David is too competent to stumble. However, I do catch more clunky sentences when hearing his monotone—words, not inflection, must carry the meaning.

#3 Record, then listen

I have not tried this technique, but I know authors who swear by recording themselves reading their manuscript out loud and then listening to the recording. While they record their words, they muzzle the internal editor. (This is the part I find impossible.) Once they start the playback, they are truly listening (since they are not also reading).

When to perform an Auditory Read Through

My current workflow incorporates two Auditory Read Throughs. The first is as I described in my use for Empty Promises: when I think I have a manuscript ready to send to my editor. I know the editor will find many things for me to change, and much of this polishing will be wasted effort. However, if I’ve corrected all the problems I can see, it allows my editor to spend her time spotting things I haven’t seen. For me that is worth the extra time.

I perform a final Auditory Read Through on the final, final, final, manuscript. It’s my last bit of quality control before I approve the manuscript for publication. I admit it’s probably a belt-and-suspenders approach to a clean read, but hey—it’s my name on the cover!

If you’ve tried the technique, how did you think it worked for you? If you haven’t performed an Auditory Read Through, do you think you might?

~ Jim

There is still time to register for the Revision and Self-Editing class, which you can do from Jim's website.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Two Keys to Page-Turning Novels

Even Bears Sometimes Get Lost in the Wood

Reviews of my Seamus McCree novels suggest many readers find them to be page-turners. Some even “complain” that they lost sleep because they couldn’t put the story down. I can sympathize. There are certain authors whose books I can’t put down—and it’s not necessarily because they are action thrillers.

I researched the issue and paid attention to how authors I can’t put down reel me in to reading just one more scene. “I’ll put the book down at the next white space,” I say, and two hours later I’m still reading. (White space is the term I use for a scene break or chapter break where there are a few blank lines separating the scenes (sometimes it includes a glyph) or—like with chapters—a new page where the next scene starts.)

I incorporated what I learned into Lesson 6 of my online course “Revision and Self-Editing.” Books that capture my attention and don’t let me go have two key components that books I can easily put down do not.

To keep me reading past the point I planned to stop requires a terrific “prompt” at the end of the scene. What makes a good prompt? There is no one way to do it, and if an author uses the same technique at the end of every scene, it could get as obnoxious as the cliffhangers of the 1914 serial Perils of Pauline flicks, where at every break the heroine is about to die.

The ending can be loaded with emotional punch, or a hint or premonition of change, or a question the reader wants answered. The scene can end with a line of dialogue that provides a twist or surprise. The POV character can make a promise (to another character or to herself) and we wonder whether she has really turned over a new leaf or what disaster will come from that decision. Whatever the actual content, it’s important to keep things open-ended. If there is no further suspense, there is no reason to keep reading. And if an author puts their POV character to bed and turns off the light, readers may decide to do the same. Zzzzzzzz.

An intriguing prompt is only half the battle. The terrific scene ending induces the reader to turn a page they didn’t intend to, but they aren’t yet committed to the next scene. That’s the job of that scene’s first few lines. They must set the hook to retain the reader while at the same time orienting him regarding who is in the scene (and who the Point-of-View character is), where and when it takes place, and what the first action is.

Lots of authors (including me in my early drafts) want to make sure readers understand the mechanics of the transition from one scene to the next. But, readers are smart. They know if the character was in California and plans to fly to New York, and the next time we see her she is in New York, she probably took the plane. Unless relevant conflict is involved, we don’t need to get her to the airport, through security and onto the plane, served tomato juice, deplane, grab a taxi, ring the doorbell, go through a long recitation of the last few days in California, etc., etc.

Let’s say we left our heroine worried about whether she was wise to dye her hair purple without letting her lover (who claims to adore her dirty blond hair) know. If the next scene opens with her lover throwing a fit about the dye job, the reader doesn’t care about the details of the trip. Or if the author wants a reaction scene to deepen reader connection with the character, she might cut directly to the heroine’s increasing anxiety as she self-talks her way through doing the laundry, waiting for her lover to get home.

Here’s another example to illustrate the point. Let’s say a scene ends with Barbara slamming out of her sister’s house (an action scene; her sister is named Molly). The next scene is set in a pub where Barbara meets her best friend, Trish, to kvetch (a reaction scene setting up the next action scene). Many authors would take the reader from the sister’s house to the bar: Barbara gets in the car, drives, parks, walks into the bar, her eyes have to adjust to the light, finally sees her friend in a back booth, smiles and waves and walks over, sits down and orders a beer.

I don’t know about you, but I start reading all that and think, “I don’t need to read this now,” and slip my bookmark in place (or close my Kindle).

But if the next scene began with dialogue like this (which assumes we’ve met Trish before), I could be kicking myself a half hour later because I still don’t want to put the book down.

“Next time,” Barbara said, “I’m going to rip her hair out and test her DNA.” She raised her mug high over her head to order another.

Trish’s hoot temporarily drowned out Lyle Lovett moaning from Lefty’s jukebox. “Oh, Molly’s your sister, all right. No one else can jerk your chain so bad. It ain’t even three o’clock and you’re already doin’ shooters with your beer.”

“You say so.” Barbara rolled her shoulders and a bit of tension released from her neck. Thank God she had called Trish. She had been in such a blind fury she didn’t even remember driving here. God, she hoped she hadn’t run that red light with the snitch camera like the last time she was pissed off at Molly. “Mama always said, ‘Don’t get mad. Get even.’ I owe her big, and I got a plan.”

“Oh Lordy,” Trish said. “What do I have to talk you out of this time?”

I’m sure the authors reading this blog could make this snippet stronger, but this example has accomplished a lot in a few lines. The author has defined the POV character (Barbara) and provided additional characterization.

We have a setting (Lefty’s — probably a bar, some place that plays Country music.)

There is a transition from the prior scene to this one as Barbara reflects on how she got here (and provided a speck of backstory about getting nailed for running a red light).

We know the scene objective (Barbara is trying to solicit Trish to carry out revenge).

We have evidence that Trish is going to resist Barbara and so we anticipate conflict between them.

Wouldn’t you want to know what the scheme is and whether Trish can talk her out of it. Of course, good authors make sure to vary their scene openings as well as their scene endings to keep them interesting and fresh.

Readers, does this jibe with your experiences, or is there something else that makes you read late into the night?

Authors, if you’re interested in learning more about Revisions and Self-Editing, the next month-long course starts October 1. You can find more information on my website at https://jamesmjackson.com/2017-course.html You’ll receive a discounted fee if you sign up before September 5.

This blog first appeared on Writers Who Kill (8/27/17)



Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cowriting a Short Story

As a writer of the Seamus McCree Mystery/Suspense series, my marketing aim is to expose more potential readers to my novels. When Teresa Inge asked if I’d be interested in submitting a story for the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology, I immediately agreed. It fit my marketing needs: a Seamus short story in an anthology with lots of excellent writers that would expose a new group of mystery readers to him. [Pre-order links for Amazon and B&N.]

Over the last few years I had worked closely with Tina Whittle in founding the Low Country Sisters in Crime Chapter and become a fan of her Tai Randolph series. In the back of my mind, I hoped we might find an opportunity to work on a joint project. After receiving permission from Teresa to submit a cowritten story, I approached Tina and she agreed. Now we had to figure out what to write.

Tai is a southern girl born and raised. Seamus is a guy of the north and was going to have to travel south for this adventure to happen. Tai buys and sells Civil War antiquities in Atlanta; Seamus is a Civil War buff. That was enough of a nexus, and at the end of two email exchanges, we had the basic outline of the story. Now, how to write it?

Having talked to writing duos at mystery conferences, I knew there were as many ways to approach the writing as there are pairs who write. Tina’s series is written from Tai’s point of view in first person. My series often uses multiple POVs, but scenes in which Seamus has the POV are also written in first person. We agreed to write the first draft of those scenes in which our character was the more important POV character. We’d write the scenes in order of the story and write everything in first person. To remove reader confusion about who the “I” in the scene was, we stole a technique from the 19th century and introduced each scene with a very brief descriptor. For example, the opening scene is introduced as Seamus McCree Meets a Daughter of the Confederacy at a Soiree.

Tina Whittle
I had responsibility for writing the first scene. Tina provided me background information on what Tai and Trey would wear and how they might act in the setting I planned. After I completed the first scene, Tina composed the second, at which point we agreed to straighten out little plot inconsistencies after we had a first draft completed. (I was happy with that solution because even though I outlined the story, I’m a pantser by nature and don’t want to be strictly constrained by any outline.)

After we wrote “The End,” it was time to revise. I took the first crack to straighten out a couple of plot bobbles and smooth our first draft writing. We traded the manuscript back and forth until we both liked what we had. Version four became our submitted.

The editor had only small suggestions. Looking through the edits, it was as if we had performed a Vulcan mind-meld. (Which you understand if you are a Trekkie fan; otherwise replace with “we thought exactly alike.”) Tina and I were pleased to discover we agreed on which of the editor’s suggestions to take, which to agree she had diagnosed a problem but to develop our own solution rather than accept her suggested approach, and which ones we felt needed push-back. One sentence proved particularly troubling, and we batted that one back and forth in a series of emails until we wrestled it to the ground.

Bottom line, would I do it again? Any time Tina wants, I’m up for it. I not only enjoyed working with her, I believe that our combined story was stronger than either of us might have produced on our own. (Now, of course, she might think that’s because I dragged her brilliance down, but if she thought that, she was kind enough to never mention it!)

Would I partner with anyone? I’d be open to discussing a project, but I’d have to feel comfortable that our styles were compatible. Check out how we did. [Pre-order links for 50 Shades of Cabernet: Amazon and B&N.]

~ Jim

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cover Wars


For the past week, I have been filling out a questionnaire that will provide the basis for an interview to appear in a magazine later this year. I’ll leave you in suspense about the details so I have fodder for a future blog. One of the questions was, “How did getting/being published change your life?” My response was that after publication I spend much less time on pure writing and significantly more time on sales and marketing activities.

To my way of thinking, it’s all about exposure. I have faith that my novels are well-written and a certain segment of the reading public will like them—but only if they get a chance to read them. The problem is to find ways to make those potential readers aware of my books so they can find out for themselves just how good they are.

Since you never know what works until you try it, I experiment with different promotional opportunities. One I tried last year is called “Cover Wars.” The concept is simple: every week fifteen book covers are displayed on a webpage. The public can vote for the best cover, and the winner receives some free promotion on the website that sponsors the contest. It costs nothing for an author to participate.

Now, I think my Doubtful Relations cover is a really good cover – the kind of cover that makes you want to pick up the book and find out more. I’m prejudiced, of course, but you can judge for yourself. I signed up, waited a couple of months for my turn to participate, and early one Sunday morning the contest including my book opened.

I checked out the competition. There was only one other book that I thought was a contender. Now, those of you who personally know me know I am a teeny, weeny, bit competitive. I wanted to win. The rules were that repeat voting was allowed, but no more than once a day. But the reason I had signed up wasn’t to win; I hoped the exposure would intrigue some folks who did not know my books to give this one a try.

I posted about the contest on Facebook and mentioned it to the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, where I am currently the president. And, of course, I voted once a day for the best cover!

The other cover that should have been my competition garnered very few votes. The book that turned out to be my major competition was not a particularly strong cover; it was so busy the key message (title and author) was lost.

Some of my Guppy chapter associates got behind the contest in a big way, voting daily and encouraging others to vote. Had each of the chapter’s 700 members voted for my cover just once, it would have won by a landslide. Which tells you the contest exposure was small. The fifteen contest authors ginned up various amounts of support from friends, but there wasn’t a large group of folks out there in cyberland using this contest to find some great new books.

And that led to the marketing result: During the week of the contest, sales of Doubtful Relations declined compared to the average for the previous few weeks.

I also quickly recognized that the free contest was only free in terms of me not spending any money. I spent lots of time thanking people who let me know they had voted for my cover. And Mr. Competitive wasted mucho time tracking how my cover was doing compared to the competition.

I went to bed Saturday night with a very small lead, and woke up Sunday morning having lost by a bunch of votes. The winner had rallied her troops or bots or whatever for a last-minute push.

Lessons for me: Measure all the costs of a promotion, not just the cash outlay. Check some prior results to see the number of votes – that would have given me a clue that the contest was thin on reader engagement. Remember that whatever I tell myself about being disengaged from the result of a contest, I won’t be, so make sure to factor in all that wasted time checking to see how my entry in the race is faring.

So dear friends who are readers, where do you find out about new-to-you books that seem to be worth trying?

A version of  this blog was first posted at Writers Who Kill on 2/26/17.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why I Am All In with Amazon for Ebooks

Every Indy Author (a.k.a. Self-published Author) must make a fundamental decision about how to market their electronic books. Do they jump in bed solely with Amazon or play the field, allowing readers to purchase books from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play and others?

Authors must evaluate many factors before coming to a decision about how to sell a particular book. The size and breadth of their following, including the percentage of readers in the U.S. compared to other parts of the world where Amazon is less dominant can impact their choices. The price of the book can also matter, since Amazon will only pay 70% royalties for ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99, inclusive.

Print editions have other considerations. Today I want to concentrate on electronic books.

A year ago I regained rights to Bad Policy from a small publishing company whose philosophy is to go wide, making ebooks available on every platform they could find. During the three years they controlled the distribution and pricing, 80.3% of electronic sales by both volume and royalties were through Amazon and 19.7% through other outlets. My second book, Cabin Fever, (currently, with nearly three years of sales data with the same small publisher) has Amazon at 81.9%, with 18.1% for all others.

For simplicity let’s round the split to 80/20. Choosing to become exclusive with Amazon for Bad Policy, I’d potentially give up 20% of my sales. What would I get from Amazon that could justify reducing revenue flows by 20%?

The main advantages of going exclusive with KDP (Amazon’s self-publishing platform) are (1) simplicity in the publishing process, (2) the use of a limited number of days to use countdown deals/and or give the work away for free, and (3) access to Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL).

Simplicity is nice, but not a very high hurdle. With a broad distribution, you can (with work) nearly duplicate the effect of Amazon’s countdown or free days. The difference-maker from my perspective is access to KU and KOLL.

Ant Farm, the first Seamus McCree novel, was published by Kindle Press (an Amazon imprint), so the ebook is Amazon-exclusive. KU and KOLL revenues for it represented 29.9% of revenue—greater than the 20% I was losing by cutting off alternative sales outlets.

Now, the first thing one must realize is that the extra 10% is not all additional revenue. Some people who read the book would have purchased it from Amazon had it not been available on KU. I cannot quantify that number, but my gut sense is that it is very small. In talking with people who subscribe to KU, they claim to rarely buy books, preferring to read exclusively those available through KU. Amazon probably knows for sure whether that is true, but it seems unlikely those people buy many books from non-Amazon sources—which is why Amazon pushes KU subscriptions.

Offsetting that “double-counting” are people who prefer to read electronically using their Nook or Kobo, but have a Kindle reading app they use when that is their only choice.

I decided the gains would outweigh the losses, so when I reissued Bad Policy, I made the ebook exclusive to Amazon. It’s been less than a year since the reissue. During that time, KU has generated 30% of revenue—the same result I have had for Ant Farm, which has always been exclusive to Amazon.

When I published the fourth Seamus McCree novel, Doubtful Relations, in August 2016, my experiment with Bad Policy was already producing positive results. But I was reluctant to write off the 20% of my readers who were reading my books on non-Amazon platforms. I chose to go wide, using Draft2Digital to distribute to the other platforms. Instead of the expected 20% of sales from the other retailers. I earned less than 10%.

The reasons are not all that clear to me. Perhaps since Bad Policy’s original release in 2013, fewer people are reading on alternative platforms. (I know I initially preferred Nook, partially to help keep competitiveness in the ebook market, partially because I could turn my Nook into a tablet. I gave up on using my Nook as a tablet when much more powerful tablets became ubiquitous, and because it was so difficult to navigate B&N’s website and so easy to find what I wanted on Amazon.) Although I do enjoy detailed numerical analysis, I have not taken the time to do a month-by-month comparison to determine if the Amazon ratio had been increasing in the past year.

After three months with the same low rate of non-Amazon sales, I made Doubtful Relations exclusive to Amazon and enrolled it in KU. It’s too early to know for sure how that decision will play out, but in that partial first month, KU revenue was twice what I had earned from all other retailers in the previous three months.

This past Tuesday, LowcountryCrimes: Four Novellas made its debut. I polled the other three authors to determine if they had very strong readership on non-Amazon platforms. Everyone was noncommittal, so I went with my gut, which said KU readers would be willing to take a gamble on our four novellas. It only cost them reading time to try authors they might not know, and I (technically my publishing arm, Wolf’s Echo Press) made the ebook exclusive to Amazon.

But I also decided to publish each novella separately. And there I went wide! My thinking was that if you could get all four for free in KU, there was no advantage to having individual novellas enrolled in KU. If someone wanted to read (say) Tina Whittle’s “Trouble Like a Freight TrainComing” they could order up the entire anthology and read her story. Maybe they’d give the others a try. But, if Tina did have fans who read exclusively on Nook, I’d give them an opportunity to acquire her novella at B&N as well. Plus, I found a publisher (Pronoun) who pays 70% royalties on books priced less than $2.99, double Amazon’s policy of paying only 35%. The total anthology ebook is priced at $3.99; each novella at $1.99. (So you can purchase the entire anthology for the price of two separate novellas.)

That’s my current thinking. Will it change in the future? You betcha. The publishing industry remains in flux, and any business (and being an author is a business) needs to continue to keep on top of trends and experiment.


I’m curious, dear blog readers: has your way of reading changed over the last few years? Do you expect it to change in the future? Those of you who are authors, what are you finding with your sales?

~ Jim

This blog originally appeared on Writers Who Kill (2/12/17)