Tag Archives: self publishing

One Space or Two?

Indie LifeIndie Life is a monthly feature hosted by the Indelibles.

You may have seen this post already. Last month I accidently scheduled it for today of 2013. Oops! I quickly rescheduled it, but it showed up in some inboxes. Sorry about that!

I planned on posting about time management today, but I found myself in a bit of a rush, so I picked an easier topic. ;) Today I’ll tackle that great debate, that issue dividing writers everywhere—should you insert one space or two after a sentence?

According to old school typists (like me) who were trained to punch that space key twice after every period, we hear a resounding, “Don’t change things!” If you were one of those students who had to type that old adage “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” a thousand times in typing class on a manual typewriter, you probably find yourself among this crowd. Old habits are hard to break—believe me, I know!—and we’d prefer to go on as we have for twenty years. You know, if it’s not broke…

There was a reason we learned to double space. Manual typewriters assigned the same amount of space to large and small letters, for example, an “l” and a “w.” This gave type a very even-spaced, monotonous look. To create a visible break, two spaces had to be put at the end of a sentence. However, when’s the last time anyone used one of those old dinosaurs? Nowadays, most computer fonts space letters more proportionally, which creates a much more eye-pleasing line of text and eliminates the need for double spaces.

This has prompted changes in the literary world within the past few years. Proportional text takes up much less room than monospaced fonts, which results in cut costs. So most businesses that produce literature in some form now require a single space between sentences. So do most style experts, including The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook, and the Modern Language Association. So, too, do most publishing houses.

So what does this mean for indie writers? After all, we don’t send to publishing houses. We print our own books on our own dime. It means that we don’t have to double space. It’s totally a style choice, and indies are free to make their own choices. However, single-spaced text is so overwhelmingly common now that double-spaced text almost has an old-fashioned look to it.

I still have a few lingering copies of two of my books with double-spaced sentences, and my eye catches them right away. The copies are new and perfectly fine. I’ll continue to sell them until I run out. But when I have to print new, I’ll be eliminating the doubles. I already changed over all my other books and uploaded new ebooks more than a year ago. I think they look more professional and in keeping with the times. But switching my brain and finger patterns over to a new way of doing things proved much more difficult.

When I first started single-spacing, I only remembered about half the time. The result was hideous. I still find errors in some of the blog posts I wrote during that transitional time. I finally got in the habit of doing a search for double spaces and replacing them with singles every time I finished a piece. Even though the new pattern did finally wear a groove in my brain, I continue to search and replace. I always catch a few mistakes. It’s a simple guarantee for professional looking text. And as an indie, professional quality is always my goal.

So, do you singe- or double-space?

So, You Want to Book a Blog Tour

tweentheweekends1Tween the Weekends is a hosted by Emblazon. Check out all the other tween posts, then join us the fourth Wednesday of each month.

You’ve written a book and you’re ready to get it before the eyes of millions of ebook readers. You just know it’s going to be an instant best-seller. You’re on fire. You’re ready to promote. And you’ve heard blog tours are a great way to get your book in front of would-be adoring fans. How do you begin?

Instead of giving a tutorial, let me share my experience.

First of all, what is a blog tour? It’s simply a consecutive run of posts about a particular book on a variety of blogs with an aim to give your book as much exposure as possible. I organized a month-long blog tour for the final novel in my Divided Decade Trilogy. Since I write in the children’s genre, the first thing I did was compile a list of blogs that review middle grade fiction. They’re easy to find, especially when you find one with a long blog roll of similar sites, but I was a bit choosy. I wanted active blogs with a fair-sized audience to get the most publicity for my efforts. I also searched out a few blogs by kids.

It took much longer than I thought. Only about a third of my queries were accepted (or even answered). Also, many of the larger blogs do not review self-published work—but they often accept guest posts. So, in addition to soliciting reviews, I wrote a variety of articles, including character interviews, a post about lumberjack lingo, a few aimed at teachers. I even put together a handful of lumber camp recipes on a cooking blog. With a little creativity, you can find many “angles” to write about.

As the tour progressed, I learned to never assume things will run as planned. Several bloggers backed out or forgot to post. Some didn’t include links. A few needed further explanations. A couple rescheduled. And two dropped off the face of the earth; I never got another response after their initial agreement. My advice is to stay organized and keep in touch with your bloggers as much as possible. Send out reminders, graciously untangle crossed wires, link to their posts, follow up with thank you comments, and roll with whatever happens.

Here are some of the benefits I reaped from my tour:

  • feedback from many different reviewers
  • lots of eyes checking for any last elusive typos
  • new contacts
  • reviews posted on Amazon and Goodreads
  • thirty different blog audiences exposed to my name and work
  • interaction with my audience through blog comments
  • a small spike in Newsletter sign-ups
  • a few more followers on Twitter and Facebook

But what about sales and Amazon rankings? The increased sales of other books? That’s really what all the effort boils down to, isn’t it?

Honestly, my blog tour did not sell many books. I must take into consideration that I was promoting the third book in a trilogy, and even though they are each stand-alone novels, I’m sure that put some people off. I did, however, see a slight increase in the sale of book one. I got some exposure. I got my name and titles in front of a lot of people, but I sold a ridiculously low number of books.

Will I do a blog tour again? No. The energy I spent organizing the tour could be better applied to writing my next novel. Instead, I’m pursuing promotional efforts that require much less time and energy. For example, setting the first book in the series free on Amazon has sold exponentially more copies of books two and three than a tour ever could.  Also, occassional advertising or KDP Select free days take only minutes of effort and reap much larger rewards.

In conclusion, if you want to get your name out and make connections in the blogosphere, a tour is a great option. If you’re looking to sell lots of books, you may be disappointed.

5-Q Interview with Lars Hedbor

I haven’t posted a 5-Q interview since last year. It’s time I ended that streak. Joining me today is historical fiction author and Revolutionary War buff, Lars Hedbor. If you missed it, on Monday I posted a review of his novel, The LIght, which is the second book in his Tales of a Revolution series and his first self-published title. I’m so glad he made the transition. I’ve been waiting a long time for this one!

Lars HedborHi, Lars. The Light is your second stand-alone book in a series that explores little-known corners of the American Revolution. What inspired the Tales of a Revolution series? And what do you hope your readers take away with them?

I have always loved history, but not as it’s taught in classrooms. The exigencies of grading dozens, even hundreds of tests cause most history instructors to resort to focusing on tidbits that can be reduced to multiple-choice questions–dates, names, casualty counts and the like.This approach to history is inherently boring–it’s no wonder that so many students hate history classes!

I find that I learn history best through spending some time in the shoes of those who lived through moments in time that turned out to be pivotal–and for that, the American Revolution is tough to beat, as it represents a shift in the entire relationship between government and society.

The main thing that I’d like my readers to take away from my stories is that, while there were great figures who shaped the Revolution, the real shift–from British subject to American citizen–took place in the kitchens and fields of everyday people, folks whose names are largely lost in the mists of history.

Too, I think it’s crucial for my readers to understand that great events in history can be deeply affected by the actions of just a few people. While The Prize‘s Caleb Clark and The Light‘s Robert Harris didn’t make it into the history books, actions of people like them were instrumental in the outcome of the American Revolution. We don’t have to have our names on monuments to leave a legacy.

Can you tell us how much time it takes to research a book in such a long-ago era? What are some of your favorite sources or methods?

I’ve done a great deal of general reading about the era, so I’ve got a solid grounding in the events surrounding the Revolution. I love it when I come across some aspect of the Revolution that I’d not previously encountered. My best story ideas tend to come from this general reading.

I write extremely quickly–I started my novels as part of the National Novel Writing Month–and I do much of my research just as quickly. The resources available online are incredible! Given that my focus is on Colonial and Revolution-era America, there are many primary sources available through Google’s book scanning projects, and a great many terrific histories, many of them written in collaboration with the still-living participants in the events being documented.

Because it’s a time period that fascinates a wide audience of reenactors and armchair historians, there are many terrific articles available, and no small amount of scholarly research. It helps that I’m a voracious reader, as well–as I was preparing to write about Captain Mallett’s experiences as a French privateer, I read an entire thesis about the economics of Caribbean piracy of the 1750s in a couple of hours!

Verisimilitude is of great importance to me, so as my characters move through their world, I am prone to stopping and chasing down details that they’d see as commonplace, but which would interest and inform my readers as to the flavor and texture of their lives. It may not fascinate everyone that the transition from charcoal to mineral coal-fired forges revolutionized the blacksmith’s life, but it’s of deep interest to a working blacksmith, so it gets a mention in Robert’s story.

I’ve also been very fortunate in finding folks who have personal knowledge of the details of my characters’ world. For example, this past summer, I had the opportunity to speak with a blacksmith doing demonstration work at an historical museum, and I was able to watch his work, and ask him directly about details that I wasn’t sure I’d gotten right from just reading about it. Subject matter experts are generally thrilled to find out that I’m not only writing about their area of interest, but that I’m determined to get it right for my readers.

the lightIn The Light, I was intrigued by the plight of the colonial Quakers. They were opposed to conflict, yet to do nothing might mean the loss of their freedom to worship as they desired, as in England. How did you come up with this unique scenario?

I decided to look at the experience of the Quakers primarily because my own family goes back to members of the Society of Friends who lived that challenging question personally. When I began my research, it didn’t take long for me to find references to the Free Quaker movement, and from that schism, the rest of the story coalesced.

The setting of Trenton came about almost by accident. I knew that my family had had a large house in Camden, New Jersey during that period–indeed, it’s still there!–but the research I did about New Jersey Quakers seemed to place more of them in Trenton. Given that there were some interesting events of the Revolution there, I settled on Trenton and let the rest of the story form on that basis.

I do tend to keep the well-known historical figures “off stage” in my writing, as their stories are, by definition, already thoroughly told, and I’m trying to tell new stories. So General Washington’s presence in Trenton is seen, but mostly in reference to the way that the residents would have experienced his passage through the area as he routed the Hessians.

I love the way your books bring the human story of the past to life. I’m curious how many more books are planned for the series? Can you give us any hints as to upcoming titles or subjects?

Thank you! I work hard to project the basic human needs and emotions that we have in common with every person who’s ever lived onto the tapestry of the society and events in which my characters found themselves. For most all of us, we’re motivated less by a sense of historical purpose than we are by what’s immediately before us, and I strive to write my characters in a way that reflects that.

My plan is to write a novel for each of the original thirteen states, plus a few bonus volumes, such as The Prize, which is located in the Republic of Vermont (which was disputed between the New Hampshire and New York colonies prior to declaring its own separate independence in 1777). I think that it’s important to remember that the Revolution didn’t take place just within the confines of Philadelphia, Boston and New York City. It was, in fact, the first global war, though I’ll probably content myself with just examining the events of the American colonies themselves.

I’ve already drafted The Declaration, which details the experience of an upland South Carolina tobacco farmer as the brutal British occupation of that colony began. I just finished the manuscript for The Wind, covering the amazing exploits of the Spanish forces in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the British loss of East and West Florida to Spain. The next volume in the series to be published will be The Smoke, which looks at the experience of the Tuscarora tribe as the Iroquois Confederation in modern-day upstate New York splintered under the pressures of the Americans and British to take sides in the Revolution.

After that, I haven’t decided quite yet which of a couple of stories I’ll be writing next. I’m particularly intrigued by the experience of the Loyalists, who backed the Crown against their friends, neighbors and family members, and were ultimately on the losing side of the war. I’ve come across some really compelling incidents, which I think will make for terrific novels…

And finally, I always love to ask authors to list a few of their own favorite books and authors.

I grew up primarily reading science fiction, believe it or not, and Robert Heinlein remains one of my absolute favorites. He got his science as right as was possible when he was writing, but never lost sight of the fact that his characters needed to be fully human (even when they weren’t). His character-driven approach sets his work apart from the gadgeteers and the slobber-fest writers who have come to represent sci-fi today. In many ways, my own writing is informed by the same basic needs of getting the facts right, and then letting my characters experience them.

In terms of non-fiction, I’ve lately been reading a lot of cookbooks–or, in the parlance of the time, “receipt books”– that document the cooking that would have been done to feed the people of the Revolutionary era. I’ve been writing a regular column for the Journal of the American Revolution derived from what I’ve learned about the foodways of the time, which have been both very rewarding to create, and popular with their readers. Hannah Glasse, Elizabeth Smith and Amelia Simmons are in pretty frequent rotation on my e-readers as a result.

In my own genre, I’ve long been a fan of Michener’s deep-roots approach, and I fairly recently discovered (and devoured) Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin series. O’Brien’s incredibly detailed and historically-correct writing is a great inspiration–and had me pretty intimidated about writing anything naval, although I wasn’t able to entirely avoid it in The Wind, and will probably have to touch upon it again in future volumes. As an “indie” writer, too, I make an effort to seek out new authors whose works I haven’t previously encountered. Some of the best new books out there are being self-published or released through small publishing houses, and it’s a treat to find a new and vibrant voice among our number.

Thanks, Lars! I’m looking forward to the release of more books in the Tales series!!

________________________________________________________________

Grab a copy of The Light:
Paperback
Kindle ebook

Visit Lars at…
Web: http://LarsDHHedbor.com
Twitter: @LarsDHHedbor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lars.D.H.Hedbor

A New Marketing Plan

After adding up last year’s successes and failures, it became apparent that I’m a horrible marketer. I have vowed to change that this year. By including some advertising, setting a book free on Kindle, bumping my prices just over the 2.99 dead-giveaway-that-you’re-an-indie-author and avoid-it-like-the-plague price range, and upping the number of bloggers I contact for reviews, I’m taking baby steps in the right direction.

It’s time to share how my first foray into advertising went.

I just learned how to take screenshots. Pretty cool, huh?

I just learned how to take screenshots. Pretty cool, huh?

Early in January I took out a $60 promotional ad for The Quill Pen with BookBub. They are a website that sends out one daily ebook bargain for each of its genres. Members choose their favorite genres and get only the notifications of interest to them. So my promotion was emailed to readers who expressly wanted to read teen books. Kind of a clever way of doing business, isn’t it?

When you sign up for your ad, BookBub predicts an average number of sales for each genre. It’s not a guarantee, but it gives you an idea of what to expect and helps you gauge whether the expense is worthwhile. My given average was 200-300 sales.

Now to advertise on BookBub, you have to mark your book at least half off. I marked mine down to $.99 from $3.95. That’s a nice, hefty 75% off for readers. Tough number to resist, isn’t it? Everyone likes to feel like they’re getting a deal. But when I drop my price below $2.99 on retail sites like Amazon, my royalties drop from 70% down to only 35-40%, depending on the site. That means I only make about $.35 to $.40 per sale. So I’d have to sell roughly 175 books to break even.

My ad went out on Wednesday, January 9 and advertised a deal that ran until Monday, January 14. Most of my sales were made on that first day, but they trickled in all during the following weekend. Here are the numbers on Monday morning:

Amazon: 229 books = $80.15

Barnes and Noble: 111 books = $44.40

Kobo: 3 books = $1.37

The promotional ad also included a link to Smashwords, but figuring out Smashwords reports is sort of like “figuring your income tax with an abacus,” to quote Catherine Ryan Howard. I have no idea how many or what books I sold, but my total sales figure went up about two bucks over the weekend. Assuming they were the result of my ad, that brings my grand sales total to about $128.00 (345 books). My net profit, therefore, would be about $68. Not a huge amount, but worthwhile. The surge in sales also seemed to up visibility on B&N and Amazon as sales on each site continued to dribble in for the rest of the month. They even continued on B&N after I raised the price.

Unfortunately, I learned a valuable lesson concerning sale prices on Amazon: Discontinue Smashwords’ other sales channels.  When I dropped the price on Smashwords, it spread throughout their distribution and Amazon price matched, so I have been unable to raise the price back up to 3.95. I will have to wait for the sale price to filter out of all distribution sites before Amazon will raise theirs back to normal. (It went back up yesterday.)

All in all, a successful venture. I will certainly list another book with BookBub at a later date.

Of What Value is Free? (Unmasking an Author Series, #3)

This is the third in a series about author visibility. First I discussed some challenges indies face. Last week I discussed some beneficial and some not-so-beneficial ways to use freebies. This week I want to consider the value (or not) of free.

Everybody loves freebies. We try them because there’s no risk involved. We’re not out anything if we’re disappointed. So it makes sense that authors would want to use this natural draw to gain new readers. Think about it. How many of us have found our favorite books and authors this way? Did you purchase your first book by a favorite author? Or did you check it out at the library or borrow it from a friend? But there are two schools of thought on this, and I’ll admit, both have valid points.

Probably the most famous advocate for giving work away free is the English author Neil Gaiman. In fact, he’s the one who drew that analogy to library books. Then he pointed out that most of us who found a favorite book or author for free then went on to purchase additional books by that author. Very true. I’ve done that.

In a video I’ve seen on several blogs now, Mr. Gaiman tells how he grew alarmed when his work was being heavily pirated. Then he noticed he was selling more books in those areas than anywhere else! Freebies, he came to realize, are actually excellent advertising. He then encouraged his publisher to release his book, American Gods, for free for a month. As a result, sales of his other books went up 300 percent the following month.

Last fall I read an article by another biggie author who now releases all his digital content for free. All of it! I know this is horrible, horrible journalism, because I can’t remember the fellow’s name, and I have totally failed to track down that article again. The link is buried somewhere on the BookBlogs forum, but in it the author mentioned how he’s making a killing off his paperbacks.

Most of us middle-of-the-road authors (okay, us in-the-grass-somewhere-beyond-the-sidewalk authors) wouldn’t benefit in the same way these successful, established fellows have. Personally, I like my Kindle check too much each month–small as it is–to give up all digital profits. So we experiment with free on a lesser scale. That’s been the draw of Amazon’s KDP Select program. Authors are able to make their work available for free on Amazon for five days every three months. Such exposure on the marketplace giant has been a reliable method for boosting sales in the past. (Note: In the past–but that’s content for another post.)

Not everyone agrees. Author and game designer Guido Henkel had this to say about KDP Select: “To put it in plain Kindle language, if everyone is offering their book for free, it is once again disappearing in the glut and no longer special.”

And there are many who argue that making work free is actually detrimental. The market is over-saturated. Free isn’t appreciated. Free cheapens your work. Free cheapens everyone’s work. Free too often means a poorly written, unedited book. Free is dragging down the establishment. Free negatively affects authors who must charge for their work. Free is lowering the standard across the entire industry.

Okay, so I do have to agree with some of that.

I posted a discussion on the BookBlogs forum about this issue. Here are some of the responses I received:

“Everyone is thankful for a freebie but it is soon forgotten. Anything given away freely is not appreciated, examples,’welfare, some ebooks, salvation.’”

“There’s an awful lot of slop for sale at Amazon.”

“I like to get free books, unfortunately I tend not to read them because I’m reading stuff I actually paid for.”

“Writers must establish an audience, and probably should do so before offering free books. Otherwise the book could be swimming in the sea of books for some time.”

Hmmm. There are certainly a lot of opinions on this topic, and I’m really curious to hear what yours are. I tend to fall in the middle of the extremes. I have no intention of giving away all my work, and I don’t download many freebies because the quality is usually substandard, but I still think giving away some work can be useful. If you tuned in last week, you’re still waiting for that last suggestion I promised–that great brainchild, my new strategy. Sorry! You’ll hear it in my fourth and final post in this series which will appear here the first Friday in September. Next week I’ll be guest posting a blog tour wrap-up on one of my favorite blogs.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on free? Is it beneficial to a new, unknown author? Or does it contribute to a declining quality of literature?

Challenges Indies Face (Unmasking an Author Series, #1)

Today marks the first of a four part series I’ll be doing on author visibility.

The single most crippling obstacle all new authors face is invisibility. No one has ever heard of us before. Our work is untested, unfamiliar. Why would anyone chance good money on a newbie? That highlights the single most advantageous reason, in my opinion, to land a contract with a major publishing house—the marketing team. It’s their job to convince all those would-be buyers to part with their money. We indies must take the mantle of marketing upon ourselves. But a secondary problem soon presents itself for those of us in the children’s genres: Who to market to?

See, children’s authors like myself are in a unique pickle. The kids for whom we write do not own credit cards. They don’t have jobs. They can’t buy our books for themselves. They depend entirely on adults to purchase literature for them.

In addition, most children don’t have ereaders; therefore, they have no way of reading ebooks, the mainstay of most indie publishers. How many kids do you know who own a Kindle? A Nook? Not many. These gadgets are expensive, and kids tend to be irresponsible. Not a good combination. My kids don’t have ereaders, either.

Not only can kids not purchase or read our books, they don’t even have a way of hearing about them! Not many kids hang out book blogs or bookish sites like LibraryThing, Shelfari, or Goodreads. Technically, they’re not even allowed to participate on most of these sites.

So what’s a children’s novelist to do?

1.  Obviously, we have to tell the adults. Most of them don’t care a whit for children’s literature, however, so we have to hunt down the ones who do. These include parents, teachers and librarians. We can find them on homeschool sites, on teacher’s blogs, on librarian book review blogs. They’re in forums on Amazon, in groups on Goodreads. They are out there.

2.  We also have to keep a sharp look out for kid bloggers, reviewers, and writers. They’re out there, too, just not in the same numbers as adults. After all, kids are our target audience. They’re a great source of information, feedback, and contacts. They are a unique window to the kids “out there.” (Not to mention, they’re the up-and-comers, and I think it’s our job, it’s our pleasure, to encourage them. Guess that’s the teacher in me again.)

3.  Next, we have to make our books available in many formats and inform our readers. Kids may not have ereaders, but a good percentage of them have ipods or cell phones. Do they know about the Kindle app? Do they have a home computer which will open a book in pdf format? It’s also a very wise idea to have paperbacks versions of our work available for those who simply can’t do digital.

4.  Last and perhaps most important, we have to make sure our work is absolutely the best it can be. Only then will our efforts have a chance of snowballing. No one will pass on a recommendation for slop.

I know this post is a little shy on specific solutions. In fact, it probably prompted more questions than it answered. This time around, however, I mostly wanted to point out some basic challenges facing indies, specifically children’s lit indies, and let them stew in your minds for a time, as they’ve been stewing in mine. As the series continues, I’ll be arriving at more answers.

In the meantime, I’d welcome your comments on this catch-22. I’m curious, do you market to kids or adults? What has been your best strategy? What hasn’t worked at all?

My Experience With Giveaways (Unmasking an Author Series, #2)

Sales Equation: Cheap + Bulk = Profit

Last week I argued for the creation of paperbacks even in this digital age. If you do have a paperback available for sale, you can benefit from a sales technique often overlooked by indie authors–bulk sales.

But bulk sells at a price lower than what I hope to get for my work, you may be thinking. And you’d be correct. Selling in quantity means selling at a discount. But it also means more sales.

How about I illustrate this with some actual figures? I’ll plug in my own. My paperbacks all sell at $10. My profit on the sale of a single book ordered through Amazon is determined by my cost, which is determined by the length of that particular book, but it hovers around $3. We’ll use that nice, round figure. If I sell one book, I make three bucks. But I’ve decided to set discounts for bulk purchases. Here’s my sliding scale:

3-10 copies: $8 per book
11-25 copies: $7 per book
26+ copies: $6 per book
 

How can I afford to set a $3 or $4 discount when I only make $3 per book? Because $3 is the profit I make when a customer purchases my book through Amazon. There is a cost for Amazon’s distribution services. But if I order my own books from the printer through my own account, I can get them for about $4 a book. I can then make a profit even if I resell them more cheaply.

Let’s run the numbers.

So let’s say someone orders 10 copies. That will cost me $40, but I’d resell them at $8 per book, or $80. That’s a customer discount of twenty bucks, and I actually make a higher profit than I would off Amazon, $40 compared to $30.

Let’s try 20 books. That would cost me $80. If I resold them at $7 a piece, they would cost the consumer $140, a savings of $60. However, I would still be making a profit of $3 per book, or $60, which is exactly what I would make selling 20 books through Amazon.

Let’s run the numbers again at 35 copies. That would cost me $140 to order but would be resold at $6 per book, or $210, a profit of $2 per copy. That’s a consumer savings of $140 and a profit of $70 for me. I’d even be willing to sell at half price if the order was large enough. One hundred books at $1 profit is still $100!

So you can see that each time, everyone wins! By having a bulk sale policy in place, buyers might be more inclined to purchase more than one book. Even if your profits per book grow smaller, quantity assures they still beat out a single sale. In addition, bulk sales result in more visibility. Notice, however, that I have to do the ordering and distributing and the collecting of funds, which is a small time factor and a larger risk factor. Also, I pass on the shipping costs to the customer, which, incidentally, average out to be MUCH less per book than Amazon’s single-book rate of $3.99.

But who would buy that many books? Classrooms are the most obvious answer. Bookstores, too. But I’ve also been contacted by a reading group who would like to include one of my titles on their list next year. And I made a bulk sale to an organization that was considering my book for an award. (I didn’t win, but I was thrilled to be nominated, and not too disappointed in a 25-book order.) You never know who might become interested, so it’s wise to have a bulk order policy in place.

Now you tell me…have you had any experience selling in bulk? Would you consider it?

Paperbacks–So Last Century?

Lots of indie authors are getting in on the ebook craze, and why not? It’s affordable, doable, and just so cool to see your novel up on Amazon. But fewer authors, it seems, take the time to create a paperback version of their novel. I’m here to say, you’ve gone through all the trouble of writing your masterpiece. Make it available to everyone!

Why paper?

Ereaders have been all the rage for awhile now, and ebooks are capturing a greater share of the market each year—I saw 25% in 2011! But you’ll notice that still leaves 75% squarely on the paperback side. You see, not everyone has an ereader. Not everyone wants and ereader. In my not-so-scientific observation of the blogging world over the past year and a half, perhaps half of the book reviewers I run across still accept only paperback. And these are people fully immersed in the digital world—bloggers and writers. What about all those people who don’t live online? What about the older generation which is much more hesitant to sell out to the computer age? What about those younger-than-forties who still like the feel and smell of paper in their hands? Yes, you’re missing a huge audience by not creating paperbacks.

But paperbacks are so 1990’s, you say. They cost more. They take up space. They use up natural resources. They wear out. They’re heavy. They take more time and effort to produce. They require different formatting than ebooks. They require different software. They’re tying me to an old project when I want to move on to a new one. They’re an ever-living pain in the you-know-what!

Agreed.

But my former arguments haven’t gone away, have they?

Why not paper?

Let’s look at your accomplishments so far. You’ve already spent years writing a book. Then you paid for editing and created a cover image. You’ve spent time creating blurbs, tweeting, and asking for reviews. You’re on Goodreads and Facebook. Why not put in a little more effort and reap bigger rewards? It’s not as intimidating as you might think.

So how do you do it?

Sorry. This post isn’t meant to be an in-depth tutorial. (But I have written one of those, if you have time to look it up.) This is simply a consideration of the pros and cons and an encouragement to get out there and learn the process for yourself.

A Few Considerations Before Starting

If you do choose to go the paper route, I would strongly recommend pay-on-demand. This means a digital copy of your book will be stored on your printer’s database so readers can order as few as one copy at a time. Prices will be slightly higher than mass-produced books—and the longer the book, the higher the cost, but as children’s books hover in the 50,000 word range, my prices have always remained fairly reasonable. Pay-on-demand also means that you, the author, will not be responsible to pay for, store, and distribute a 500- or 1,000-book print run.

Also, I advise not rushing, no matter how strong the urge to get your book out there quickly. New formatting requires further editing. Order a proof copy. Check and double check for errors, particularly spacing and page breaks. When you find them, fix them and proof it again. It may take a few tries, but having an error free book is worth it.  Get it right the first time.

And finally, don’t expect your paperback to be a best-seller. It won’t be on the shelves of Walmart. It won’t travel through the avenues the big six publishing houses use. You may be able to convince the local bookstore to stock a few copies, but most readers will not find your book. However, if you’ve created a clean, professional ebook and done your marketing homework, you will create more and more demand for your paperback.

Have them ready!

Now tell me your thoughts. Would you consider creating a paperback? Have you already? Was it worth your time? 

Slow and Steady Writes the Novel

In my last Friday Freebie, before I vacated for the Smokies, I posted about trimming our writing schedules to avoid burnout. Today it may seem like I’m talking out of the other side of my face: quit procrastinating and write!  But I don’t think these two bits of wisdom are contradictory at all. You see, writing, like anything else, requires balance. Too much is not good, and too little is just as bad. And it’s real easy to get in a vicious cycle that includes both.

I shared a little about how obsessive I get in the winter, pushing my WIP till I want to scream. Then in the summer, once the novel is wrapped up, I take it easy. Before I know it, the kids are starting school and I’ve done nothing but read for months! Don’t get me wrong, I like to read, I want to keep up on the children’s market for professional reasons, and maintaining a book review blog requires a certain amount of reading, so it’s not exactly a waste of my time. But it sure is hard to abandon the months-long leisure habit and return to the hard work of producing my own stories.

Because hard work it is–only non-writers will tell you it’s not–and that’s why we find so many reasons not to do it. But writing is the key to our success. Few of us will experience the instant wealth and mega-stardom of J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins (not to minimize how hard these ladies worked to get there). But for most of us, generating a fan base and an income is a slow process that requires producing, producing, producing. So we need to identify those things that hinder us.

I already mentioned burnout as a huge obstacle. Another hangup, in my case, is the internet. It’s so easy for me to pop online when I sit down to write and waste an hour checking my sales reports, reading through the handful of blogs I follow, returning emails–sometimes I even get absorbed in research. Again, these are all necessary activities, but they need to be controlled. I like to set time limits for myself. Fifteen minutes and I’m on to writing. I might even disable the connection so I’m not tempted to hop back on.

Another thing that hinders my writing is a busy family schedule. Sometimes there’s not much you can do about that: everyone has to eat and likes clean clothes. I’ve been fortunate to be able to stay home with my kids, who are still quite young, so I needn’t work around an outside-the-home job (I’m trying to make writing my career), but motherhood comes with a pretty big job description all its own. However, when additional activities arise, ask yourself, do I need to help with every classroom party? Must I teach Sunday school and Wednesday night  Bible club? Can Daddy coach AYSSO himself? I will never advise putting career ahead of family, but occasionally making time to write comes down to hard choices.

A third hindrance I run into is the sheer number of projects I hope to accomplish. My blog tour (next month) took an amazing amount of time, upwards of 80 hours. I’m currently recording podcast episodes of The Candle Star and it, too, turned into a real beast. I took time this spring to publish most of the Christmas plays I’ve written for church over the years. I also like to create and publish materials to help teachers use my books in the classroom, but I haven’t even had time to think about doing that for my new release yet. In the meantime, I really want to develop the story arc for a new series I’m planning. So how much time have I spent on my WIP this summer? Not enough to release it in November as I hope to if I keep this pace. Now that the blog tour is a wrap, I plan to hit the manuscript hard.

One final thing that keeps me from writing is my blog. Yes, my blog! While I love it, I keep a close eye on how many weekly posts I can sustain. I’ll never abandon my MMGM Monday posts, and I’m trying really hard to build the instructional nature of my blog with these Friday posts, but if I have to, I can always cut my Wednesday book reviews (and the hours spent reading for them) temporarily or long-term. My books have to come first.

We are all busy, but if we are going to make a go of this writing thing, it’s going to require, well, writing! Like the tortoise, we’ll only finish if we keep plugging away. So let’s get to it!

Now you tell me…what hinders you?

Balance vs. Burnout

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

That’s pretty sound advice, wouldn’t you agree? After all, it was given by a man with a brilliant mind—the one who drafted the Declaration of Independence, served as president of the United States, instigated the Louisiana Purchase, and sent out the Louis and Clark Expedition. He was a man of foresight, wisdom and action, and the many writings he left are still highly regarded. But I take issue with this one. I think it’s possible to do too much in a day, particularly if you are a writer. I’m a prime example.

I am a highly energized, highly motivated person. I’m mom to three young children who have homeschooled in different configurations for the past six years. I’m responsible for family meals, shopping, taxiing, cleaning, laundry—everything but lawn care and repairs. I exercise pretty faithfully. I plant and preserved a huge garden every year. And I’m involved in several church ministries. My typical day starts at six thirty and I hardly sit down until my youngest is tucked in bed at eight. Then I have time to blog, read, or write.

For the last several years, my writing has been very seasonal. I read in the summer (because we do a lot of camping and because I usually have sixteen thousand out-of-school neighborhood children in my house at any given moment, neither of which are conducive to writing), and I write in the winter when Michigan days are short and cold and routine. I get obsessive about both. In the summer, especially since I began my book blog, I try to read the vast majority of the yearly 104 books I review. And in the winter I try to finish writing an entire novel. When you only have four hours to write each day, that’s a real challenge. I tend to not have a life from October till April. I don’t watch tv. I rarely go out with friends. I hardly ever pick up a book. I write. And I write. And I write, with the exception of the nights I simply fall into bed exhausted.

Let me put out there that I wouldn’t recommend this schedule.

This spring, I’ve vowed to start “putting off until tomorrow.” I’m calling it balance. Rather than simply cramming a hundred books into my noggin during my homeschool break, I have several projects I’d like to accomplish, including the creation of audio books, planning a story new arc, and rewriting a manuscript. I’m allowing myself to be obsessive about any of them for no more than two weeks at a time. Then I put them off and switch to something else. By alternating projects with reading, I won’t get all my books read, but now I’ll have time to read during the winter. Likewise, if I lay down my winter manuscript in favor of a book, I may not get it all done by spring. But neither will I be exhausted, burnt out, and grouchy. As an indie author, I have the freedom to extend my own deadline.

We’re all busy. I only know one writer personally who writes full time. The rest of us must balance our writing with jobs, family, and real life. My schedule will not lighten until my kids are grown up, and I in no way am trying to hasten that. Parenting is the sweetest adventure of all. I want to enjoy these years that are over so quickly. But if I’m serious about writing—if we’re serious—I think “putting off,” taking breaks, and finding balance is a much more sustainable approach.

It’s your turn. How do you balance writing with real life? Can you tell me the identity of the man I quoted without Googling it?  I’m currently lost somewhere in the Smokey mountains on one of our family camp-outs, but I’ll respond to comments when I get home in a week or two.