Category Archives: Book sales

Ay-Mazing! When you give, maybe you DO get…

I have a friend, Ken Johnson, who is in the business of formatting manuscripts for e-book publication — a service that is eminently useful when you have a complicated book with a lot of illustrations or many levels of heads and subheads. Ken used to say, in the marketing department, that you should go along with Amazon’s constant hustle to cut your prices and even to give your books away for free, because “when you give, you get.”

His theory was that giveaways and ridiculously low prices would ultimately give you a higher return than offering your book “on sale” at a break-even price or at a small profit, because it would pay you back in higher numbers of sales.

In the past I’ve never found that to be true. I’ve done giveaways at Amazon. I’ve priced my books at rates that would never pay for my time and investment — assuming a minimum wage — even if I sold enough of the things to fill a Mac truck. And I’ve put the bookoids in Amazon’s “lending library” scam, one of the biggest rips for authors that ever came along.

Every month Amazon sends a “royalty” notice — though “royalty” is not, strictly speaking, what Amazon emits. Every month the amount ranges from $0.00 to about one or two bucks. Whoop-de-doo.

Well. I figured if I was going to give my writing away, I might as well look at it as a hobby — not as a perennially losing business — and just give it away. From my site, not from Amazon’s. Hence: the freebie downloads for The Complete Writer, Ella’s Story, and If You’d Asked Me.

But now, out of the blue, along comes a check from Amazon in the munificent amount of $18. Be still my heart… And yet…WTF?

Couple, three weeks go by, and next, what should waft into the snail-mailbox but a royalty check from Columbia University Press, which published The Essential Feature. This check is for actual money. Funds. Remember those?

It’s for a moderately respectable amount of money.

The Essential Feature was published in 1990. That’s right: in another century. For several years, it returned decent profits, because it was used in college journalism courses as a textbook. That means if one person — a professor — uses it for a course, 20 or 30 people buy it, because the students are required to buy it.

It hasn’t returned a cent in years. Nor should it: except for the chapters on writing skills, the thing is pretty much out of date.

At the risk of repeating myself…WTF???

Yea verily, what the freaking F?

Took awhile, but eventually a dim light dawned.

Apparently, visitors to P&S Press were reading installments of The Complete Writer and liking it. Not realizing they could buy the whole book directly from me — or possibly not wanting to pay for a PDF but hoping for a Kindle version — they were looking for it at Amazon, where they were finding The Essential Feature. Amazon gouges spectacularly for the book, charging ten dollars more than you would pay if you went direct to the publisher to buy it. So…that would explain a) the startling increase in Amazon payments and b) the unexpected resurgence of royalties from Columbia.

If that’s the case… It suggests that offering parts of a book serially, for free, may lead people to buy that book or related books, if they’re available through retailers.

Well. The Fire-Rider series is all over Amazon.

Since I’ve run out of gas with Ella’s Story (not for lack of ideas but for lack of time and energy to write), why not post bits of Fire-Rider, same as I’ve been doing for three other books?

So…that’s my plan.

Mounting an entire book online and setting up the site to auto-publish a post every few days is a large, time-consuming project. It will take a few days to get this started. But get it started, I shall.

Watch this space!


Pitch Your Book to 10,000 of Your Closest Friends

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


Pitch Your Book to 10,000 of Your Closest Friends

Prevailing wisdom has it that social media are the key to marketing a book. Your company is requested on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, even YouTube. The folklore contains a germ of truth, given that as a book author, you personally are the main marketing engine for your products.

Along with this advice, we often hear legends of authors who have sold thousands of books by running campaigns on various social media. This, too, may be so. But with a caveat.

Social media marketing requires you to build large followings of real people—not the kind of bots that show up on Twitter and emanate computer-generated “follows.” You need human beings who recognize your name, whose names you recognize, and with whom you have something resembling conversations over the Internet.

You find these people by tracking down and “friending” (or “following” or “connecting with”) everyone you’ve met since before you were in preschool: classmates, fellow workers, friends, relatives, friends of relatives and relatives of friends . . . and on it goes.

It’s best to have built a large following before you have something to market. If you submit a book proposal to an agent or to traditional book publishers, they will want to know where you’re active in social media and how many followers you have. It’s a selling point in trying to persuade a mainstream publisher to buy your book. If you’re self-publishing, you want to have created a pre-existing interest in you and in your subject, so that you have an established audience for your book.

Some say that Goodreads is the most effective social medium for self-publishers. This was true before Amazon acquired it, and it apparently remains so. You can establish a presence at Goodreads as an “author,” thereby giving yourself a little cachet. But that will not excuse you from working steadily to build and maintain your readership there.

Social media marketing requires you to post something almost every day on every platform. But what you post cannot be blatant advertising for your books or products. You must create the effect of real-world conversation on a wide variety of topics, most of them immaterial. Think of social media as small talk, translated to the Internet. It’s a vast cocktail party, without the highballs and canapés.

Unless you serve them to yourself, that is.

At Goodreads, the topic is usually books and book reviews. Conversations may spin off a book discussion, but most people seem to haunt Goodreads because they like to read and talk about what they read.

Because it brings you a built-in audience of book readers, Goodreads is potentially your richest field among the social media. Like any facet of doing business with Amazon, it can also be intensely frustrating.[15] Personally, I gave up on Goodreads after it repeatedly rejected an ISBN that I copied directly from Bowker’s website, making it impossible for me to market the book there.

In the past, too, Goodreads has suffered from very nasty trolling.[16] As a result, some authors’ book sales have been irreparably damaged.[17] Amazon has taken steps to deal with the abuse, apparently with some success. However, you should be aware that the potential for personal attacks, blitzes of negative reviews, and faceless bullying exists and probably will never completely disappear.

Facebook has “Groups” whose topics focus on a wide variety of subjects. If you’re a genre writer, you can find people who love your genre, be it science fiction, romance, detective cozies, or whatever. You’ll also find groups of aspiring writers and groups of publishers. These represent ready-made potential readerships.

However, know that you cannot simply advertise to members of such groups, any more than you can on your own timeline. You have to engage them in conversations. This is time-consuming and creates a significant distraction from the real writing that you’d like to do. Nevertheless, if you want to market your book, you don’t seem to have much choice, unless you hire someone to do the job for you.

FaceBook does sell advertising, notoriously now that the company is overriding the adblockers of people who prefer not to be subjected to that kind of intrusion, and even more notoriously after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Because Facebook Ads can, in theory, be closely targeted to specific interests and demographics, some people say they have good results. This claim, however, is controversial. A number of customers have complained that Facebook Ads represent a bottomless pit into which to throw cash.

I hired a marketing agent to create and manage a Facebook Ads campaign for my novel, Fire-Rider. It sold exactly zero copies. The cost was high, and I felt the money was wasted.

In any event, you certainly should make your publishing efforts known on your personal timeline. Those who are most likely to buy your book are people who know you in person.

Twitter has hashtags to attract subscribers’ attention. Use the platform’s “Search” function to find active hashtags (#amwriting, for example) and include two or three relevant tags in each post. As I write this, Twitter still limits post length to 140 characters—the hashtags, the URL you post, and each image soak up some of those characters.

Thus, speaking of time sucks, creating a Twitter post that works can be a time-consuming challenge. Here, too: if you’re corresponding with real people, you’re better off to emit small talk rather than obvious sales pitches.

A drawback to Twitter is the number of machine-generated tweets, likes, and follows. Several apps exist to automate tweets and post them at optimal times of day.[18] You also can install a WordPress plugin that will automatically tweet each new post.[19] These aren’t necessarily bad things. But they do indicate that some portion of the traffic at Twitter isn’t entirely human.

LinkedIn can be useful, because it not only allows you to blow your own horn in a resumé-like context, it connects you with people in the publishing industry and enables a kind of high-level shop talk that can let you highlight your topic or discuss issues related to writing and publishing.

The level of conversation at LinkedIn differs from all the other social media sites. This is not the place to post photos of your kittens. Think of it as social media in a business suit. You want to come across as professional and serious. That characteristic makes some kinds of books eminently marketable on LinkedIn, just because of their nature. (Think books related to business marketing, for example.) With other kinds of books (fiction, inspirational, cute kitten stories), you’re probably better off to deflect the subject of your LinkedIn content to business aspects of your endeavor (what marketing ploy just worked successfully with your collection of inspirational sayings? What demographic buys the most cat books?).

Blogs are another form of social media. If you write engagingly enough and often enough, over time you can collect a surprising number of followers. And you can use your blog openly to plug your books, either in a given post or by installing widgets in a sidebar with links to your book’s Amazon address.

The whole idea of participating in most other social media is to drive readers to your blog, where you can entertain them with lively posts and showcase your wares. Often I post links to posts at the Plain & Simple Press blog, hoping to draw readers to the website, where they can find out more about all our books.

In that line, Pinterest is said to be especially effective. Experienced bloggers will often say that Pinterest drives more traffic than any other social media.

Pinterest features nothing but images with links to personal and business websites. The appeal escapes me, but it is very popular. Lacking any capacity to appreciate the marvels of Pinterest myself, I hire an expert who optimizes my site for Pinterest, creates correctly formatted images, and posts them on Pinterest so as to bring readers over to the Plain & Simple blogsite.[20]

Similarly, it’s possible to automatically link your blog posts to Facebook and Twitter. Networked Blogs[21] is one way to accomplish that.

Your blog can tie into another form of social media: the newsletter. Add a “subscribe” function, and you can easily gather viewers’ email addresses. A program called Mail-chimp[22] will vacuum up the addresses, create a master mailing list, and allow you to send newsletters to everyone who has subscribed. Some people believe a newsletter is the most effective marketing tool for businesses trying to reach customers—and that includes authors trying to reach readers.

YouTube is another popular social medium. Probably the most effective way to reach viewers here is to post how-to-do-it videos. This requires you to have an adequate video camera and learn how to post the file, which is not very hard. I’ve posted lectures for my online students there and found it an easy way to personalize the message. To create the degree of professionalism needed to sell a book, though, you probably should consult with a videographer: someone who has some training in making polished, stumble-free videos.

Podcasts are popular among many social media users. These are comparable to old-fashioned radio talk shows, only without the annoying ads and untethered to a time slot. You do need some broadcasting skill to create an effective podcast. Take a course or hire someone to help produce the thing.

In my experience, the best bet is to reach out, in the persona of a human being, to as many “friends” as you can gather on LinkedIn and on Facebook; to try to capture as many email addresses as you can from your blog; and to send out a newsletter as well as blogging regularly. And hire a social media marketer who really is an expert on how the systems work.

The Complete Writer: Selling It

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


Selling It

Whether you publish through a mainstream press or whether you self-publish, the bulk of the promotion job falls upon you, the author. One fairly easy way to promote your book is to volunteer to do a presentation on some subject relevant to a group’s interests.

For example, my friend, journalist and blogger Donna Freedman has offered to speak to a large writer’s group about strategies for creating popular, readable blog entries. Because the group’s main thrust is not craft but marketing, members will be very interested in what she has to say—and we hope, in her new online course[14] on writing a blog people will read.

Similarly, I talked to a business group about donating directly to breast cancer research centers rather than to self-perpetuating organizations that function as middlemen. Members of this group are active in public service and donate generously to worthy causes, so I knew they’d be interested in the subject. And speaking about the Susan G. Komen foundation and similar institutions gave me an opportunity to plug my upcoming book on the decisions women face after they receive a breast diagnosis.

Some people believe face-to-face and radio show presentations are the most effective tools for marketing a book. One member of a writer’s group in the Phoenix area used her vacation time to visit friends and relatives in five cities, taking crates of books with her. Before leaving, she arranged to do short talks in bookstores and community centers in each town. She sold so many books, she had to order more and have them shipped ahead of her as she proceeded.

My coauthor for Math Magic, Scott Flansburg, made it a regular practice to approach radio talk show producers across the country. A “guest” appearance on one of these shows can be done over the telephone—no need to travel. He discovered that a radio show is a bottomless pit waiting to be filled, and many hosts were delighted to interview him. This, he discovered, was the single most effective way to sell the book, which became a major best-seller for William Morrow in the year we published it. His marketing agents told me that in the first year, his revenues from sales of the book and ancillary products came to $1.5 million, and a million in the second year.

Scott was a very powerful marketer, a good speaker with an engaging product. Most of us, obviously, are not going to become millionaires with our fantasy novel or detective story. But we’re a lot more likely to see some sort of profit by reaching out to the public. People can’t buy something unless they know about it!

A successful presentation can’t just have you step up to a podium and plug your book. You need to offer more than that.

Bearing that in mind, it’s pretty easy to create a public presentation that works, if you follow a few basic rules.

Consider your audience

The talk I made about breast cancer addressed a group of small business owners and executives. They’re committed to charitable works and, since most of them are middle-aged, they’re interested in health-care issues. Those who are not women have wives they care about, and so they can easily be engaged by the hot topic of breast cancer.

The material I put into the presentation may not go into the book at all, since its topic primarily concerns the kinds of choices women have to make, often on short notice and under a great deal of stress, about any number of proposed breast cancer treatments. On reflection I realized this angle would interest group members more and make them less uncomfortable than a frank discussion of what goes on inside the operating theater. For a different group, a different aspect of the topic might fly just as well or better.

Prepare your presentation thoroughly

Check and double-check your facts, and be prepared to answer any questions audience members may ask. Be sure to cover all the ground, even if briefly, within the time limit you’re given. Respecting the time limit is part of your preparation—don’t neglect this key aspect.

Write out a script and rehearse it, preferably in front of a mirror.

You should practice delivering your presentation several times—at least three, and maybe more. Ideally, your presentation should be memorized. Of course, sometimes that’s not possible—too little time is given for preparation, or you have to present complex data that’s hard to remember accurately under the stress of public scrutiny.

In rehearsing, pay attention to the amount of time it takes. It’s far better for your presentation to run shorter than the allowed time than to run over. A long-winded presentation makes the audience restless, even if it’s interesting; most people have someplace else to go. Be considerate of your audience. You can use the extra minutes for a Q&A session, which always engages people.

Don’t read your script to the audience!

Deliver your presentation as though you were speaking to a small group of friends, as off the cuff as you can make it appear. If you need a cheat sheet, list the main points in outline style and let these remind you of the content that you’ve rehearsed. Print out your notes in 18-point type, so you can read them easily under any lighting conditions.

If you use PowerPoint . . .

For hevvinsake don’t read the captions and notes in the slides to your audience! Nothing puts an audience to sleep faster.

Watch a few TED Talks or listen to NPR’s TED Radio Hour.

Study the style and demeanor of presenters. Note how the speakers move and how they engage their audiences.

Provide useful information, preferably in the form of a handout.

In my talk about the controversy around the Susan G. Komen foundation, I provided a one-page list of cancer research institutions to which anyone can donate directly. This was worked into the spiel, but it was offered separately to the group members, as a take-home.

Try not to be crass about plugging yourself.

Instead of reminding listeners repeatedly about the wonders of your new book, mention it in your bio and—ideally—get the person who introduces you to remark on it. Use your time to provide valuable and interesting information.

But make it easy for audience members to find your book.

Have a website that’s easy to find, preferably as your name— or some such—and place a link to Amazon or your own store so readers can buy. Bring business cards that carry your book’s title and a link to your book on Amazon or your website. And if you have copies of the book, bring a stack to the meeting, hand them around as a show-and-tell, and let audience members buy direct from you.

Look for the right audiences

This of course depends on your subject matter. A church group might be right for a discussion of some moral issue or—say—of philanthropy. Business groups are interested in a wide variety of subjects that bear on daily life and the well-being of members’ cities and commerce. Do a subject search on for groups that meet to talk about or participate in whatever your book concerns.

Don’t be shy about asking

The worst that can happen is they’ll tell you “no.” But you won’t get an invitation to speak if you don’t ask.

Speak early and speak often

You don’t have to wait until your book hits print to speak on your subject. If you have some expertise that you’re working into a book, begin giving presentations before the book comes out. Then when it’s published, you can go back to the group, remind them of your existence, and proudly announce publication.

Once you have a good presentation, recycle it

Massage it to fit the interests of other groups, work it into your newsletter and send it out to your subscribers, or revamp it into a post for your blog.

Take the opportunity to build your mailing list

Hand around a sign-up sheet and ask audience members to share their e-mail addresses. A quid pro quo is nice: you may offer them, for example, a special deal on the book or a chance at a free giveaway.

With names and email addresses in hand, you can send a newsletter to remind potential buyers of your existence. If you give a presentation before publication, a list of audience members will allow you to send them an announcement of the Big Reveal. Here, too may pitch an opportunity to buy the book at a special discount just because they were at your presentation.

Remember to give mail-list members an opt-out choice. It’s a basic courtesy, especially since some people do not appreciate finding sales messages land in their e-mail in-boxes. A number of mailing list programs will do this for you automatically.

Happy New Year! 2018

Been too quiet in these parts. When my nose hasn’t been on the grindstone, the hours have been consumed in lassitude.

Great word, eh? Trans.: Too darned lazy to wiggle.

Yesterday I finished edits and returned another of those wonderful Chinese math papers. This particular set of authors has been popping like a panful of Orville Redenbacher’s! They churn out a new paper every time you turn around.

And you can’t accuse them of dwelling in the Ivory Tower. This latest magnum opus? Tracking and predicting the spread of influenza epidemics. Damned if they haven’t come up with a method that works.

LOL! I should have majored in math. These things are great fun, sort of like fiddling with some kind of online puzzle-game, complete with its own arcane language.

Unfortunately, back in the day girls were not invited to study math and science…but, as I was told, you’d make a great secretary.

The two large indexes that were promised have not been forthcoming. Too bad: we could’ve used the income. But on the other hand, I must allow to feeling relieved that, for a change, we did not get a freaking MOUNTAIN of ditzy, mind-numbing work to complete on a December 31 deadline.

That does tend to put a damper on the holidays…

Has any progress been made on the noveloid in hand?

Well, yeah. A little. Some in writing, most of it inside the noggin. Our heroine Ella now has a plot to deal with, complete with two life-threatening complications. I have yet to figure out how she’s going to resolve the second one. But she’s coming along.

Here she is, finally meeting a man she’s noticed in the past and admired silently from a distance.

After her shift one evening she wandered over to the lounge where the great arm of the galaxy sparkled through the clear domed roof. She’d missed the chow line’s last full meal of the “day,” but she could get a hearty snack at the lounge’s food bar. If she wanted an alcoholic drink, which she did, she’d have to pay for it from the pennies she was given for consistent good work, but that was fine. She had quite a few such pennies.

Plenty of other workers were sitting around, taking in the slack. Formless music and relaxed chatter filled the air. Stars like sand scattered across black velvet glittered overhead. She sat at one of the small bars intended for singles or small groups, nursing the remains of a bowl of stew and a mug of dark ale. Tired, she wasn’t ready to go to bed but neither did she feel like socializing. She just wanted to eat and sit quietly for awhile.

No such luck.

She felt him come up to her before he pulled out the chair next to her and sat down.

“Hello, babe,” he said.

She looked at him, surprised. “Hello there, butch,” she replied. “Do I know you?” She did, of course – everybody knew who he was. Everybody knew who everyone was: the colony* was like a small town.

“Well, we haven’t had a formal introduction. Your name is Eliyeh’llya, right?” He spoke Samdi with a smooth NorthCity accent. “They call you Ella here.”

“Mm hmm,” she gave him a vague smile and an assenting nod.

“My name is Lo’hkeh jai-degh Inzed Mafesth. ‘Lohkeh’ to the overseers.”

“I’ve heard the name,” she allowed. “Good to meet you, brother.”

Handsome fellow, this one. Sandy hair spread a golden late-afternoon shadow across his sturdy jaws, his green-flecked brown eyes framed with black lashes under dark brows. He wore a red gem in his ear-stud. Whether it was real or not, she could not tell, though she assumed it was glass.

She wondered at this. The blacksuits took away every piece of jewelry or decoration on a newly convicted felon, especially the ear stud that marked a Samdi** man’s coming of age. Once in service, he could buy another one – if he managed to earn enough…if his owner agreed to it.

So…sure, he bought himself a stud. But did they – the overseers, the management here – know what the red jewel signified?

Depended on the shade of red, o’course. His had some deep orange overtones: imitation garnet, she figured. That would make him…what? A midlevel boss in the Syndicate’s transport and communication business. Way over her head, that much was for sure.

But why would they let him make a statement like that, about his past life? They must not know, she thought. The blacksuits and the overseers were always dumber than you expect, Teryd used to say. Once again, he was right.

“Would you like another drink?” he offered.

She would. Careful, she thought…take it slow. “Thanks,” she said. “But I’m pretty beat and it’s getting late – don’t think I should.”

“Next time, then.” He smiled and leaned back in the chair, displaying a finely muscled torso.

“All right.” She returned the smile, trying not to look over-eager.

“So, Ella. You’re pretty well settled in by now, no? You’ve been in-colony for awhile.

“Yeah… I’ve kind of lost track of time, without real days or months.”

“Mm hmm. It’s been a year or so, give or take. Samdi time, that is. How are you getting on? Service suiting you all right?”

“It’s good enough,” she said. “I’m getting used to it. They treat me pretty well.”

“Yeah, they do. If they like you.”

She made no attempt to answer this odd remark.

“The work’s decent. The bed is warm. The food’s edible. What more could you want?”

He laughed. “What more?” He raised his mug to her.

He continued, after a swallow of beer. “I understand you were a lieutenant in the Tullsta Band. Back on Samdela.”

“Well, yes. I worked for the Zaïn. For B’jadaram.”

“Mm hmm.”

“How did you find that out?” she asked. One’s past life, as she had been firmly instructed, was to be left in the past: dead and buried. Never mentioned again.

“I know a guy who knows things.”

“Nobody has any secrets, hm?”

He smiled and allowed as to how that was so. After some small talk, he said, “I’m going up to Takrai in a couple of days. Would you like to come along?”

The mining colony was at Takrai, and Ella had also heard there were some exotic extra-planetary geological features near there. “Sure,” she said. “If we do some sight-seeing, too?”

“Absolutely. That’s the whole idea.”

“I’ll have to get time off from my boss. And I guess I’d need to clear it with my overseer, too.”

“Don’t worry about that—I’ll arrange it. Ask Vighdi for a pass tomorrow – wait till after mid-day. I’ll meet you here first thing, next day after tomorrow.”

He had noticed her.

*They live and work on the largest of Varnis’s two moons. They are both convicted felons, sentenced to lifetime slavery.

**They’re Samdi — natives of Samdela, an urbanized world largely dominated by criminal syndicates.

So it goes. Slowly. Very slowly.

What about 2018? Do I  have any goals?

I guess…

Develop a new business line: writing grant proposals. I do have some experience along those lines — quite a lot of it, matter of fact. The idea is to help develop proposals for nonprofit organizations.

This will require some work. Unfortunately I’ve developed an allergy to that, so…

The alternative is to continue puttering along with the novel, which mimics work but which is…not.

Find a writer’s group, I guess, that’s closer to where I live. The group I belong to, which I’m very fond of, is based in a suburb that’s halfway to Yuma. And over the past few months I’ve developed quite an aversion to driving around lovely Phoenix, an activity that gets more and more unpleasant as the roads get more and more crowded and drivers get more and more hostile.

So I’m hoping I can find a group that meets in town, but on an evening other than the one occupied by choir rehearsal. Which I ain’t givin’ up for nothin’ nohow.

Another potential goal: Consider putting one or more of the existing bookoids out through CreateSpace, which apparently can give you better distribution options than I have now. Admittedly, I haven’t worked very hard at marketing, an activity I profoundly dislike. I’m not convinced using CreateSpace would help much, but apparently it’s linked with Amazon, which would make it easier to distribute and sell print copies.

Looking into that. Eventually.

And speaking of distributing but not selling: I’m seriously considering using a blogsite to distribute the next little fantasy book. Gratis. Read it who may. And bully for them.

The God’s truth is, I just don’t want to work that hard anymore. Now that I have a new(ish) car that probably will not crap out in the middle of the desert, I’d like to spend a great deal more time making road trips around the Southwest. Maybe go back to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, which is a great deal of fun. Down to Tucson for some of the excellent cultural events that occur there. Back to Santa Fe, the retirement venue of my dreams.

If only.

Exploring the Amazon for Obscene Riches…

“Obscene” may be the operative term, all right. “Riches” certainly ain’t.

The S-corporation’s May bank statement came in and then sat on the desk for some time waiting for the proprietor to get around to examining it.

Lo! Here are not one, not two, nay not three but four deposits from Amazon: Two from what I assume is the US branch of the empire and one from Deutschebank, whose provenance I do not understand and do not want to understand. All I know is that both sources reflect book sales.

The grand total of all four deposits? $14.06

Wowsers. At $14 a month, the annual revenues of my little company’s book sales would come to all of $168. A year. Yeah. Such a deal!

Let’s see…how many books does P&S press have up on Amazon right now?

If you enter my name as author, you get a series of books whose titles read “Have Victory” in Spanish. Then you find four books I edited but have no author’s credit. Then you come to Math Magic, which I cowrote with Scott Flansburg (actually, I wrote it, but it’s his story and his profits). Then one of my books and then another that I edited. Finally, near the bottom of the first of 8 pages of hits, you come to the Plain & Simple tomes: Slave Labor, 30 pounds/4 Months, and the second of the boxed Fire-Rider sets (???). Then ONE of the short out-takes of Fire-Rider. (??? I thought I took all of those down!).

Second page of hits: not one of them has anything to do with  me or with anything I’ve written or edited. Third page: the third volume of Fire-Rider followed by the second volume of Fire-Rider, followed by 9 of the 18 short out-takes that I thought had been removed, all of them listed “for sale” at $0.00. Isn’t that cute? Fourth page: a bunch more of those plus two old editions of Math Magic. The rest of it, far as I can see, all irrelevant.

How annoying. No wonder I can’t sell anything at that place.

At any rate: We have five full-length books with Slave Labor, 30 Days, and the three installments of the Fire-Rider saga, plus 18 throwaway segments of Fire-Rider as shorties. That’s TWENTY-THREE PUBLICATIONS. On average, on 23 books and bookoids, then, Plain & Simple Press has earned 61 cents a piece.

Talk about your minimum wage…

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Adventures in Self-Publishing: Kindle “Preview” Tool

About two o’clock this afternoon I started on some of the publishing-related chores filling the To-Do list, after having completed some morning tasks that slopped over the noon hour. Several things really needed to get done today. None of them did get done, alas. Because… In the email came a notice from the Kindle folks bragging about their new “Preview” tool: a snippet of code that you can install in your website to direct readers to a fairly lengthy peek at just about any book published at Amazon.

Well, the sales potential is obvious, no? Since copying and pasting code into a WordPress page is fast and painless (usually…), I decided to belay the scheduled jobs and instead post “Preview” ads for key books I’m trying to peddle at Plain and Simple Press, at Fire-Rider, and at Funny about Money. This shouldn’t have taken longer than about 45 minutes or an hour. Max. With dawdling and Murphy’s Law figured in.

It’s now after 7:00. I never did get the Fire-Rider website updated or a page of reviews posted there. I’ve gone around in circles uploading data, making a horrifying discovery, and deleting data. And I. am. mad. as. a. CAT!

To make a long story short, after I had posted a “Preview” link to 30 Pounds / 4 Months, the new diet-cookbook that has been selling moderately well, compared to the other opuses we have online, I belatedly took it into my hot little mind to click on that link by way of testing it. What came up was a gawdawful formatting mess!

This, after I had checked, checked, checked, and re-checked that .mobi file in the large, clunky Kindle Previewer that you can download from Amazon and save to your hard drive. The one that downloads files and opens them in about half the time it takes for your hair to turn gray. In that Kindle previewer, downloadable from your Amazon Author “Bookshelf” — where you go to publish your golden words — the formatting appears to be PERFECT. But when you see it in Kindle’s fine new marketing tool, it’s sh!t.

The other books looked OK — I checked them at the time I uploaded the “Preview” links and foolishly assumed all was well. But this one is a screaming fiasco.

And of course, this happens to be the book that I expect will sell. Indeed, in hard copy it is selling rather briskly.

By the time I went back into all my websites, deleted all the “Previews” of the cookbook from every page I’d put them on, changed the links on the cookbook widgets away from the websites’ new PREVIEWS! pages and back to Amazon’s pages, and revised and updated a Funny about Money post burbling on joyfully about the new fine opportunity, I’d killed the entire afternoon struggling with this little headache.

If that weren’t enough to push the blood pressure into the ionosphere… At this point I have no idea whether 30 Pounds appears to be properly formatted when it’s loaded into a Kindle device or whether it’s a jumble of wacked-out heads, subheads, and wrong paragraph formatting.

I could, in theory, drop the price to 99 cents for a day or two or three (or however long it takes to return the price to the $9.99 that will return almost a whole dollar‘s net profit on the thing). Then I could pay Amazon for the privilege of letting me download it into my Kindle device so I can see what it actually looks like. But you wanna know what? I ain’t a-gunna do that!

My position is that Kindle should be able to provide publishers with a previewer that actually shows what our customers will see! And if they’re going to promulgate a previewer to be used as a sales tool, they should provide one that doesn’t make hamburger stew of formatting that looks fine in the previewer they claim shows what we’re publishing.

Ham and eggs? Or corned beef hash?

Ham and eggs? Or corned beef hash?

Woo Hoo! Cookbooks SELL!

Wednesday evening our redoubtable choir director agreed to let me wave the new cookbook around during the break at rehearsal. And by golly! SEVEN PEOPLE bought a copy on the spot!

And I don’t even have the hard copies yet! What I showed was a page proof from the previous PoD printer.

Down at the new guy’s plant, we saw that his software (which differs slightly from his competition’s) left a quarter-inch border along the bottom edge of the cover, so he suggested I bleed the image further off the edge. So instead of ordering a bunch to fill the requests already lined up, I had to traipse back to the office, fiddle with the cover art, and order a new page proof. {gronk}

So: if you’ve ordered a copy of 30 Pounds / Four Months, be assured yours is on the way. I expect we’ll have them in another week.

And if you’d like a hard copy, which is not available at Amazon, leave a comment to that effect at this post or at the Plain & Simple Press “contact” page.

Discounted $3 for blog friends and choir members only, the price is $10 plus shipping.

Dark Kindle LoRes

This, That, & Publishing

Busy day coming up, but wanted to post a couple of updates:

The plan to publish a hard-copy version of the first Fire-Rider collection (books I-VI) developed into a more complicated project than expected. To make a long and exceptionally frustrating story short, the Wyrd template I used to lay out the pages corrupted — or else it’s PDF, which is unknown. It took quite a while to identify the problem, and once the problem was discovered, the solution required rebuilding a 371-page document from scratch.

Once that was done, though, the PDF and the cover loaded fine, I think. LOL! We’ll find out soon enough: when the page proofs get here, we can actually put our hot little hands on them. That should allow us to see any problems and fix.

The final cover came out reasonably well, I think.

FR Hard Copy 1 Take 3 LoRes. jpg

I cut the back cover blurb considerably; added a short pull-out (the italic passage). Instead of arranging the titles of books 1 thru 6 in a vertical list on the front cover, I set them horizontally, separated by bullets. They seem less distracting that way, yet they’re readable.

This book will not be sold on Amazon (at least, I have no plans to do so at this time). I’m having it printed to produce something to take to a shindig next month, where we’ll be invited to present our works.

However, if you would like a copy, I’d be happy to sell it from this site. Just leave a query as a comment to this post. It was expensive to produce — the page proofs, which are printed and bound like a final copy — came to over $11. So I’m afraid that retail price is going to have to be a little more than $11.99. However, JUST FOR YOU, and just for a limited period, I’ll offer it at that price through this website.

In the Racy Books for Racy Readers department, we’ll also have a hard-copy collection of the Family stories:

FAMILY pkg cover LoRes

This one is at the printer, too, for production of a proof. LOL! The book actually contains eight stories…that will have to be corrected on the back cover. And there, my children, is why we have page proofs! As you can see, I haven’t even placed a bar code on it, so little do I have any intention of peddling it on Amazon. Or in hard copy at all.

The final version of this one, which also will go to the December chivaree with me, probably will have the author’s byline centered above the title, with the words Eight and Stories shifted rightward accordingly. And I think I’ll put the imprint’s name — Camptown Races Press — in small type at the lower margin of the back cover, since I’m less than 100% thrilled with the logo I came up with.

At any rate, soon the book will exist. It’ll be a COLLECTOR’S ITEM, by golly! What a Christmas present!

If you’d like a copy of it, let me know — again, contact me through the comments section to this post. Printing cost for this was a little more sane. I think I can afford to sell it for about $10, providing about $2 profit.

So, come one, come all! The first Fire-Rider collection, $11.99 (a give-away!) and the first Racy Books collection, $10.

Making Money on Amazon?

The other day I learned of a gentleman who earns $30,000 a month on sales of Amazon e-books. As it develops, what he writes is erotica, which he markets in 5,000-word novelettes selling for $2.99 apiece. He cranks these things out as fast as he can, targeting a rate of one a day…at this point, he has 265 racy bookoids posted on Amazon.

Holy mackerel.

Well. I don’t need to earn 30 grand a month. Twelve hundred would free me from adjunct bondage, and that is all I want.

What I learned about the man’s enterprise inspired some insight into how to turn one porn author’s experience into the next scribbler’s profit. This morning I held forth at my personal-finance blogsite on the subject of how to accomplish this.

Right now I have to get to work for a client, and besides, I really don’t want to reiterate what I just wrote in all new words. So, if you’re interested in what I think would work to generate profit in the Amazon retail environment, come on over to Funny about Money and check out the proposed new business model.