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Posts tagged with: digital press

San Francisco eBooks for Everyone Else Conference Recap

Yesterday’s eBooks for Everyone Else conference was an amazing one-day event about all aspects of digital publishing, from formatting and uploading to pricing and marketing. The event, run by Publishers Launch, brought together approximately 100 publishers, agents, authors, and vendors for a quick and dirty slog through a very ambitious list of topics.

I could probably write a novella about this conference, but I’ll highlight a few of my key takeaways for you. If you want my raw notes, you can read my Twitter feed from yesterday (http://twitter.com/#!/Sara_Ramsey) since I wrote 100+ tweets about what I was hearing throughout the day.

One additional note: some of this is more focused, at least on the surface, around epublishing. However, I think that savvy authors should keep track of what’s happening in channels other than their own and implement approaches that work — whether that’s epubs borrowing from what traditional publishers do, or vice versa.

And finally, any errors in quotes/attribution are my own, and I’ll fix anything that is pointed out to me. Now that I’ve caveated this post to death, let’s move on!

1) Discoverability

Discoverability is all about how readers find your book. In the good old days, a reader might stumble across your book in a bookstore, love the cover, and pick it up. But people who shop for books online are less likely to impulse buy; one stat quoted was that impulse buying drops by 9% when people shop online. And if a reader doesn’t know they’re looking for you, how can they find you when search terms are usually so specific and targeted?

There are a couple of solutions for this. One is more the publisher’s responsibility (or the indie writer’s responsibility, if managing their own uploads): creating excellent “metadata” for the book. That covers everything from descriptions of the book with keywords relevant to that genre, to spelling the title and author name correctly. This information is vital to whether your book can be found — for example, if I accidentally enter my name as “Sarah Ramsey” someplace instead of “Sara Ramsey”, that book wouldn’t be found by anyone searching for me directly. So, get your data straight, and make sure you understand metadata before taking the DIY approach.

Another solution is not on the author side, but on the distributor side. I personally don’t browse much on Amazon, B&N, etc., but Book Country did a really cool presentation on how one can browse through content there. Because they’re targeting genre fiction, they’re working on making genre books more discoverable — including using a cool visualization of books, almost like a periodic table, to show you what books are clustered around a book that you already love.

Bottom line: if no one can find your book, you’re toast. Getting discoverability right is perhaps the single most important thing you can do (after you write a fabulous book, of course!).

2) Marketing

Ah, marketing. The very word gives a lot of authors hives. I suppose the good news is that no one has the perfect marketing formula, so no one can tell you you’ve screwed up 🙂

Seriously, though, there are viable options in both traditional/digital marketing and in social media, if you’re willing to take the plunge. On the more traditional, direct to customer marketing side, Michael Tamblyn of Kobo pointed to Ruth Ann Nordin as an example of someone who does almost no social media, but has built a robust email newsletter mailing list and does most of her marketing direct to her established reader base. Bob Mayer has also had success running Google and Facebook ads in an effort to build brand awareness — he gets very few clicks, but by targeting his ads at the right places, he can get readers used to seeing his name and prime them to buy his book later.

On the social media side, it isn’t as simple as going on Facebook and playing Farmville all day. It’s important to remember that you are what you tweet. Iris Blasi said that “you are advertising the best version of yourself” — in other words, be yourself, but make sure ‘yourself’ is filtered through the awareness that you’re engaging with your audience, not your mom or your best friend.

Also, you need to know where your audience is. If you’re writing historical fiction, where do the history buffs hang out online? Is your story set during the Civil War and likely to attract older men? Or is it a Jane Austen or Tudor-era story that might appeal to women? Are you writing for teenagers? You need to identify your audience, then find them online and interact with them where they already are.

Surprisingly, one market research tidbit that came out was that teenagers may spend the most time on Facebook, but they don’t engage with marketing there. They buy primarily based on reviews from their peers, not on marketing-driven interaction. Even more surprisingly (to me), women in the 40+ age bracket were more likely to buy based on Facebook interaction and discussion, even if they spend less time there than teens. This doesn’t mean you have to be on Facebook (just because someone is likely to buy on Facebook doesn’t mean your audience is there — averages don’t necessarily apply to the specifics of your niche), but it’s worth considering where your audience can be reached. The market research came from Bowker, who is doing a ton of work on genre-specific audience identification.

Bottom line: know your audience and interact with them when and where you can.

3) The future of agents

I won’t spend a lot of time on this, but it’s no surprise that agents are being forced to rethink their business models. The agent panel at the end of the day included some powerhouses (Scott Waxman, Deidre Knight, Ted Weinstein, and Laura Rennert), and they’re all working in a variety of ways to provide new ebook services to their clients while attempting to build sustainable long-term businesses.

Ted Weinstein laid it out very clearly: he thinks that agents will either become a) Hollywood style agents who only work with the biggest, splashiest clients on the most surefire projects; b) small publishers themselves; or c) more like a CEO/career manager who works with a much smaller subset of clients but manages all aspects of their career (such as building a speaking career for an author who is already a successful nonfiction expert). Every agent will choose a different path that suits them, but eventually most agents will have to make hard choices about what their business will look like.

Bottom line: Agencies are in flux, but any agent worth his/her salt is thinking hard about what the future looks like for them. My own personal opinion (not endorsed by anyone) is that it’s still worth signing with an agent depending on your goals, and I would sign with mine all over again in a heartbeat. But if the agent isn’t willing to have a conversation with you about the agency’s future (or predicts something that feels totally crazy), that would be a major red flag for me.

—–

That’s the bulk of the recap. There was a lot more detail about technological solutions, pricing, conversions, more on metadata, etc., but this post is too long as it is. I’ll check in throughout the day on the comments here and answer any questions, or feel free to tweet or email me (dearsara AT sararamsey DOT com) directly!

Cate Rowan Talks Indie & Writing

“Rowan is definitely an author to watch!”
~  Alyssa Day, New York Times bestselling author.  

Cate Rowan is a successful Indie author whose latest fantasy romance novel, THE SOURCE OF MAGIC, releases today.  Cate has generously agreed to share her knowledge of the much-discussed, little-understood world of Indie publishing and her accomplishments in that arena. 

In addition to a Ph.D. in the biological sciences, Cate has washed laundry in a crocodile-infested African lake, parasailed over Cabo, had monkeys poop in her hair, and swum with dolphins, but she says her best adventures occur in the worlds she creates in her lush fantasy romances.  Her novels about magic, danger and passion in faraway realms have won more than thirty awards, including the esteemed Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® contest—twice! 

I was eager to discover just what magic Cate had discovered in this new realm of Indie publishing and she was generously eager to share. 

 


WIN:  Comment to enter the drawing to win 1 electronic copy of The Source of Magic or 1 3-day coupon for Smashwords discounting The Source of Magic on that site.
 

Joan:  Cate has won enough awards to make me dizzy!  Between 5 manuscripts, she’s placed or won in more than 35 contests, including a double RWA Golden Heart finalist with her previous release, Kismet’s Kiss.   

Cate, what experience have you gained from your successes with contests?  What advice would you give other authors in consideration of entering or not? 

Cate:  I’m a very practical gal, so after the first few times I entered, contests became a means to an end for me. I entered them to try to get my work in front of particular editors, so I choose contests based on the final round judges. Even though feedback and suggestions weren’t my main focus, they were a terrific bonus.
 
I never entered contests judged by agents because I wanted to enter ones in which the final judge could actually buy the book. Query letters were my solution for agents, and over the years I received six agent offers and hired three. I also sent queries to editors and didn’t rely solely on the contest circuit. Those queries got me two small press contract offers, though in the end I decided to self-publish.
 
 (Joan:  I also have to add a note from Cate’s website that states “…when NYT and USA Today bestseller Alyssa Day read the opening of Kismet’s Kiss in a contest, she loved it so much she offered a cover blurb for it.”  Definitely a fringe benefit of contests, IMHO.)

 Joan:  I have to admit, I know very little about “Indie” publishing.  Not for lack of interest, but for lack of time to investigate.  Can you give us the nuts and bolts of it?  What it is exactly?  How does it differ from self-publishing, small-publisher publishing and/or e-publishing? 

Cate:  I’m an indie author, which means I’ve chosen to self-publish my books. Some people feel that the word “indie” should be reserved for “indie publishers”–that is, small publishers outside NY–but, well, that battle over semantics seems lost already.

Joan:  I have heard very positive results from authors who have gone the indie or self-publishing routes.  What benefits do you feel you’ve experienced by going the indie route over traditional publishing?  

Cate:    

(1) Control. For example, I get to choose the title and have total say over the cover. Of course, having full control also means full responsibility! If something goes wrong, it’s up to me to fix it. 

(2) Flexibility. I actually can fix it! If I decide to tweak a wording or I spot a typo, I get to change it. I don’t have to worry about whether there will be another print run so it can be corrected. I simply do it, and the update will be available within a day at most of the e-stores. 

(3) Information. I know my sales figures at the major stores to the minute and can see if a marketing strategy is working and would be worth pursuing again. 

(4) Money. At Amazon, for example, I get between 35 and 70% of the purchase price for every copy sold. For books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon pays 70% for every US, UK or German sale, and 35% for sales to other countries. (Rumor has it that Canada will be added to the 70% list soon.) 

I don’t have tens of thousands of books available on physical bookstore shelves, but I do make a larger chunk of money per sale and need far fewer sales to make X amount of money. Many romance readers have fallen in love with their e-readers now prefer digital books, so it works out well. Although I have a print copy of my first book available, I sell about 100 digital copies for every print sale. That kind of ratio is pretty common for indies. 

(5) Focus. I don’t need to spend time seeking agents or editors now. The time I invest in my writing pays off directly in sales. 

Joan:  Who would you say indie authordom is suited for?  

Cate:  Do-it-yourselfers like me love indie–but I think every author should keep an eye on the benefits of modern self-publishing. Cover art and formatting can be done through freelancers if you don’t have the DIY gene. Established authors can make great money with their backlists and other books NY doesn’t think it can market, and newer authors (with polished and edited manuscripts, ahem!) can now reach readers directly.  

For me, that’s the very best benefit for authors–readers gaining access to the work we’ve loved and slaved over. After more than a decade of writing alone, my first fan letter sent me into joyful sobs for a good fifteen minutes. Talk about validation! And I didn’t need an agent or a publisher to get it. 

Because of the proliferation of self-publishing, I see many genres shifting and blossoming and marketing boundaries breaking down. Readers can now find a much wider variety of storylines than there used to be, and I think that change will continue. 

But I beg of all the potential indie authors out there: please don’t put your book up for sale until it’s ready! Get some professional editing, or at the very least a really thorough critique group that pushes you about things to correct and improve long before you consider going indie. Yes, you can fix things later if you must, but you don’t want to ruin your reputation with readers before you have that chance. 

Joan:  If you’re willing, Cate, would you give us more information on your sales figures for other authors considering the indie route?  

Cate:  I’ve had an interesting time with sales. (In a good way, not in a “may you live in interesting times” kind of way.) It took me a little over five months to sell 557 copies of Kismet’s Kiss and earn my first $1000. Sales were accelerating, and it took me only a month and a half to earn the next $500.And then something even more fantastic happened. I needed surgery and was going to be away from home for a few weeks, so I worked hard to get The Source of Magic up before I left. I wasn’t planning to do any marketing for it, or really even to tell anyone until today during the official release; I mainly put it up in case readers wanted it as soon as they finished Kiss. I uploaded it on April 17 and basically left it alone. It sold a few copies, probably based on the excerpt in the back of Kiss–and then somehow the B&N sales fairy blessed it. Suddenly I was selling 70 copies a day there. With no marketing at all, and no reviews up. I still don’t know what happened, but I’m grateful!

 The surge didn’t last forever, but now I’m selling four times as many copies each day as I did with just Kismet’s Kiss alone, even though I only have two books available. Put up a second book and get four times as many sales? I like that math.

 More math: As of yesterday, I’ve sold 2181 copies of my books (1330 of Kismet’s Kiss and 851 of The Source of Magic) and made close to $4000. The vast majority of those copies have been ebooks sold at $2.99, though I’ve toyed briefly with $.99 and $3.99 for Kiss. That’s fantastic to me, but if you want to see more numbers, check out those of my friend Theresa Ragan. Prepare to have your socks blown to the stratosphere!

 So even though this is the official release day of The Source of Magic, I guess it’s an early bloomer. Or a late one–see below!

 Joan:  What is it about the genre of fantasy romance draws you? 

Cate:  I’ve always loved the idea of magic in alternate worlds, not to mention the idea of how inborn magic could change the interpersonal dynamics between a heroine and hero. Plus, with fantasy romance I get to make s…, um, stuff up. It’s pretty freeing. (grin)

Joan:  What heat level would you rate The Source of Magic? 

Cate:  On a scale of 1-5, it’s a 3 or 3.5. It’s definitely not chaste, yet the main focus is on the love story outside the bedroom. That being said, the particular inborn magic of this hero and heroine, um…adds to the flavor of the love scenes. 😉 

Joan:  How long did it take you to write The Source of Magic? 

Cate:  Gosh…great question. I might need an outside verdict on that.  

It took me a week or two to write the opening chapters, which I then entered in the Winning Beginnings contest (now known as The Sheila). That was my first contest, and I was gobsmacked that Source became a finalist, and then placed second and got a request. 

I like having outside deadlines, and suddenly I had one! I got my butt into the writing chair and finished the book in about three months. I stocked up on microwave dinners and literally didn’t leave my house for a month, except to walk downstairs to the first floor of my apartment building to get my mail. When I was finally done, driving to the post office to send the manuscript to the editor was a freaky experience. Suddenly I was reminded that other people existed in the world! 

Of course, that was in 2001, and I’ve made plenty of revisions to it since then. So to answer your question, the writing time could either be a few months or more than a ten years. 🙂 

Joan:  Are Kismet’s Kiss and The Source of Magic linked?  How? 

Cate:  The Source of Magic is a prequel to Kismet’s Kiss, though both stand alone. They take place a couple of decades apart and in different settings on the same fantasy world–in a medieval “Europeanesque” realm for The Source of Magic and a medieval “Middle Easternesque” realm for Kismet’s Kiss. Because the people on this world live long lives (hundreds of years), I was able to share some characters in the two books. 

Joan:  Would you say The Source of Magic is the book of your heart?  Why? 

Cate:  Hmm, I’d probably have to give that mantle to Kismet’s Kiss, just because it’s such an unusual romance in terms of setting and storyline. But The Source of Magic was my first book, so it’s definitely my baby. Heck, if it hadn’t been for Source, I’d never have dreamed of this particular fantasy world, and now I could easily write twelve or thirteen books in it! 

I’d like to thank Cate for her insight into indie publishing and her candid information regarding sales figures–valuable information to authors which is notoriously difficult to come by–but most of all, congratulate Cate on her new release: The Source of Magic. 

Enter to win a copy by leaving a comment.  Cate will be popping in and out to respond to questions and comments.

Debut Author Alison Henderson on Electronic Publishing

Today, my friend, Midwest Fiction Writers chapter mate, and debut author (yay!) Alison Henderson is here to talk about her experience with electronic publishing. Take it away, Alison!

— Tamara

Hi, Rubies and friends! A big thank-you to my friend, Tamara Hogan, for inviting me to talk about a subject that’s on everyone’s mind these days. E-publishing is THE hot topic among writers today. Blogs and articles abound with opinions and prognostications. The print book is dead. E-publishing is the way of the future. Print publishers serve as the guardians of quality. A writer can’t make enough from e-publishing to feed her pet flea. Each of these statements has some merit, but I’m not here to weigh in on either side of the debate. I’m just here to share my personal experience over the past year with e-publishing. You can take what you will from it and add it to all the other voices out there.

Ereader Devices & Prices Update & a Free eBook!

Ghost Exterminator**ATTENTION BOOKLOVERS!**

TODAY is the last day you can download The Ghost Exterminator: A Love Story from Borders.com absolutely free!  Hailed as “funny, sexy, and all over a good read” by Paranormal Romance Reviews and awarded 4.5 Stars by Romantic Times Reviews, the print edition of The Ghost Exterminator: A Love Story will be coming to a brick and mortar bookstore near you November 1st, but you can get your FREE digital copy today, courtesy of Borders & Samhain Publishing.

And, later this week…

The ebook of The Ghost Shrink, the Accidental Gigolo & the Poltergeist Accountant will be free for a limited time only from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, courtesy of Samhain Publishing.  In the mood for a quick, light-hearted read?  Just download the first story of the Karmic Consultants series for Nook, Kindle, or Kindle for PC/iPhone (so even if you don’t have an ereader yet you can snag a free copy!).  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen!  From October 15th thru 28th, the first novella of the Karmic Consultants series is absolutely free! Tell your friends!  Your copy is just a click away. Thank you and happy reading!


We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

Ereaders!

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About E-Pubs (But Were Afraid to Ask…)

I’m hijacking Free-For-All Friday today to have an open forum discussion about e-pubs.  Lots of aspiring authors are hearing about the opportunities for writers in ebooks, but hesitant to take that direction and uninformed about what it entails.  Today I’m here to answer any question you’ve got about e-publishers and I hope other electronically published authors will jump in with their two cents on these issues as well.

Guest Blogger: Emily Ryan-Davis on The Speed of the E-publishing World

I’m very happy to welcome our guest blogger for today as she’s both a personal friend and a writer I greatly admire. Emily Ryan-Davis writes erotic romance and is multi-published with Ellora’s Cave, Liquid Silver, and Freya’s Bower. You can visit her online at: http://scorchedsheets.com

“e”-cologically Friendly: A Look at eReaders

Pocket.  Touch.  Kindle.  Nook.  Cool-er.

Random word association?  Nope.  Those are the names of some of the hot new e-readers on the market right now.

Holding Out: Why the GH is One Factor in My Decision Not to E-Publish

I’ve been on my road to writing’s Emerald City for a decade now.  Every so often I’m presented with a tantalizing morsel of temptation: publication.  But wait, you say.  Isn’t that your goal?  Not so fast.

The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: You’re very welcome. I learned a lot.
  • Bev Pettersen: Such a helpful post, Thanks Autumn. And also thanks to Vivi, Rae and Judy!
  • Autumn Jordon: Everyone of these cover designers is so talented. I wish I had their eye for detail.
  • Autumn Jordon: I totally agree, Kate. I think it takes a certain eye to make an awesome cover.
  • Autumn Jordon: They did a amazing job answering my questions, didn’t they. I also learned a lot.

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