Getting Back on the Horse.

swearing_3421243Last week I wrote a rather depressing blog post about the ups and down (mostly the downs) of being an independent author.  It was nasty, dark, and true. But is also awoke something in me. Something that I hadn’t really had in a long time.

The writing muse.

Muses are funny is the way they come and go.  They also have a weird way of being awoken at the most interesting of times. But this little muse snuck right in and wacked me over the head with a frying pan.  I’m not sure why a writing muse has a frying pan, but it worked at getting my attention.

My writing days started way back. But the real passionate writing that I enjoyed started in 2003.  I was finding myself stressed out beyond belief.  And escaping to the world I had created, the world that Dissolution of Peace is set in, relaxed me.  It relaxed me to a point that I could sleep well and face the next day ready for those challenges.  I’d put down 2,000 to 4,000 words a day and I loved doing it.  And when I did it, I had a small hope that someone else would read it and find themselves escaping into my world to relax.  But that was never the point, the point was a lot simpler.

I wrote for me.

There was that damn frying pan to the back the head again. That was what the muse had came to lecture me about. I wrote to relax, and now here I was stressing about how to get more book sales.  I’m stressing about the very thing I used to do for fun. And if I was no longer doing it for fun, what’s the point?

Every story teller just wants to be heard (or read in this case).  And I still very much want readers to escape into my worlds and relax.  But I have always written for me first.  And fortunately this muse, and the frying pan, reminded me of that.

So I started a new novel project the next day. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t the next book in the Dissolution of Peace series.  Though I think that will be my first ever NaNoWriMo project.  I digress.

This new project has spoken to me for a while and it touches very deep on some of my own life trials and tribulations.  And, it has had me writing 2,000 or more words a day.  Yesterday alone I put down over 6,000 words. And you know what, it feels good to be writing to relax again.  It feels good to be telling a story that makes me happy, and it feels great to get back on the horse.  If I keep my focus on what I love, my books will eventually sell themselves.  And, eventually readers will find relaxation in the pages of my worlds.

The best part is, I feel better.  I feel like I can take on the world with my keyboard and computer.  And the muse has finally put the frying pan away.

And with my new positive outlook, something did come my way.  Samantha LaFantasie, another author is going to do an Author interview with me in October.  And she got me thinking.  Why can’t I post things on my blog to help out other authors?  So I will. Starting in August.  I will be posting some things for other authors.  If you want to join in, you can contact me here.  Just fill out the form and we will be in touch.

Here is what I am thinking:

1st Friday of every month: Author Interview

2nd Friday of every month: Guest Post

3rd Friday of every month: Book Review/Feature

4th Friday of every month: Author Spotlight (Brief Bio, List of Titles and upcoming releases)

This is free.  I won’t charge anyone for doing this, I just want to help promote others because that is what we should be doing.  So Please sign up to participate.  I’ll do my best to accommodate everyone.  It will likely have to be on a first come, first serve basis.  But we will see how it all goes.  So head on over and contact me.  Won’t cost you anything. It just might be what gets you back on your own horse.

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Novel Announcement: Volition Agent

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen a few teasing posts about my next novel project.  I’ve teased with a few hints, surprises, and more.  Well the teasing can come to an end, I have decided to finally let the cat out of the bag.

My next novel, titled Volition Agent, is a fast paced SciFi Thriller set in the near future.  The highly secretive Agency has a Volition program.  They take everyday people who are physically fit and recruit them as Volition Agents.  They are implanted with a control chip so that a highly trained “handler” can control their every action.  If a Agent is captured the loss to the Agency in minimal.  Agents are sent on missions from intelligence gatherings to assassinations.  Volition Agent followed Lexia, one of the agents.

Here is a tentative blurb:

Lexia Santarelli is part of a top secret group of Volition Agents.  These untrained, unremarkable, everyday people are recruited by the agency to be literally controlled by their “handler” through a device implanted in their necks.  It is an exciting life, and despite some of the annoyances, Lexia enjoys it.

That is until the Agency decides to let Lexia take the fall for a mission gone wrong.  Her link with her handler, Lance is severed.  Suddenly Lexia finds herself alone, unprepared, and hunted by the very people she trusted.

With few clues, minimal training, and an unlikely ally Lexia sets out to discover what really happened on that botched assignment.  Determined to set right the wrong she created, nothing can stand in her way.  Not even the Agency itself.

I have some great cover art for this novel, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.  So here it is:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons Photography

KIPThe cover art is shot and designed by Kristin Irons (website).  I’ve worked with Kristin before, she designed the logo for Plasma Spyglass Press. Kristin is a very talented photographer and when I explained what I was looking for she said she had an idea.  The next week was a bit of a whirlwind.  Kristin found a model, the very beautiful and talented Joy Anna, to play Lexia in a photo shoot.  She then teased me relentlessly with images from that photo shoot before showing me the image she had in mind for the cover art.  I am a very picky and hard to work with person when it comes to cover art, but she kept taking my ideas and reworking them until we came up with the cover above.  And I couldn’t be more thrilled by it.

Let me tell you why this cover is so special to me.  This is the first time I’ve had anyone “play” one of my character in any way.  Joy Anna, whose modeling pictures I had only seen briefly before this, jumped into this project head first.  I understand they captured a ton of images and I’ve only seen a few of them. As a writer, I was excited to see what might come from this.  I’ve never met, or even talked to Joy Anna but I thank her for her time because the results are absolutely amazing.

A big heartfelt thanks to Joy Anna, Kristin, and her assistant William Harris.  So many folks use stock art, or stock photos to make custom cover art.  But I have a real custom cover for this novel.  Please take a moment to check out the people that helped with this cover, give them a like, follow, or whatever else to show them some support.  Kristin Irons: Facebook, Twitter, Website  Joy Anna: Facebook William Harris: Flickr

This is the first story I have written where it had a title before I ever wrote it.  The whole idea came from hearing the word volition and it’s meaning; the ability to make a choice or decision.  So Volition Agent was an easy enough title for me to come up with.  I think it works well given the themes in this novel.

So when is the release date for Volition Agent?  One hasn’t been set just yet.  But I have a deadline of the first week of June 2013.  So expect to see it no later than this.  I hope to have it out a little sooner, but you can’t rush these things.  I’ll be sending it out for Beta Readers in the first two weeks of April.  Then my editor will get this.  I’ll be working with a new editor this time, since Robert is booked up for the foreseeable future.  As always, watch this blog, my Twitter and Facebook for updates.

I’ll leave you with a few other images from the photo shoot:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Editing (and why you need an Editor)

I am blogging a lot later tonight because I spend my day time editing Dissolution of Peace.  Though I finally went through all my editors notes, I am not finished.  My editors made nearly 3,000 line by line comments on my manuscript and also provided me with four full pages of comments and suggestions.  I still have 70 to correct, but I made the decision to fix what was easiest first.  The points of story and character, I’ll go back and review.  It was a lot of work just to correct those other 2930 comments, but many of those were punctuation mistakes, grammar mistakes, and typos.

Grammar is a touchy issue with me.  It is also a pit fall of mine.  I’m not afraid to mention that.  But I do become incredibly grouchy when grammar mistakes are pointed out to me, especially in social settings.  And while a few simple mistakes may not ruin a story for a reader, major slip ups will.  And a pile of minor slip ups can make a mountain that becomes distracting.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, and for that reason I dreaded reading these comments.

But if grammar bothered me, I was more worried that the editor would have listed a huge amount of plot problems.  Or tell me he hated the story line all together.  Thankfully I didn’t get that.  There were even some plot points I was worried about that my editor made no comments on.

But in the end my editor caught 3,000 mistakes (in his opinion) that my three beta readers missed.  That is 3000 things that were not brought to my attention before I hired an editor.  And this is exactly why you need to hire an editor, especially for your longer projects.  I don’t hire an editor for my short stories, it doesn’t make financial sense to me.  But I will hire an editor for all of my novellas and novels.

Beta readers help you find those plot mistakes, story flow problems, and gauge overall reader enjoyment.  Editors break out the find tooth comb and check for all the little mistakes (and even some big ones).  Think of Beta readers as sand paper, they smooth out the story.  And Editors are polish, they make the story shine.

There are some things you have to look for when you hire an editor:

First, do they have any editing experience.  Don’t be afraid to ask them what they have edited.  Don’t be afraid to ask other writers for recommendations.  And do a search for information about that editor.  Check out their website and other people’s posts about them.  Ask for references.  Remember you are hiring them.

See if you can get a sample.  Many editors will provide a small sample of their work.  Some won’t but I’d suggest they do.  Even if it is just a few pages.  If not, but you know they are a good editor.  Find out what you get for the money you are paying.  Some editors charge a lot of money just to give you a summary of thoughts.  While others will offer line by line edits.  Always ask if it includes proofreading.  Some editors don’t consider proofreading part of editing.  It is semantics if you ask me, but that is why you should always check.

Find out a deadline.  Make sure the editor gives you a timeline.  Don’t dump hundreds of dollars on an editor that plans to take an excessive amount of time on your manuscript.  You may have to pay more if you want a rush on your edits, and you may pay less if you allow the editor some extra time.  Again, establish that up front.

Last find out if your editor will continue to help you if you fail to understand his notes.  Some editors charge for the markups and a separate fee if you want further opinion later.  Others are willing to help you through the whole process up to publication for no extra charge.

Tips for handling editor markups:

Just like when you get feedback from Beta Readers, the feedback from an editor does not mean you have to change something.  There were a number of suggestions my editor made, that I won’t be changing.  Most of these are a simple matter of opinion.  But, remember you are hiring an editor to provide you a professional opinion.  So if you are not sure you agree with an editor remark, look it up for yourself.  For example, my editor marked that “sickbay” should be “sick bay”.  I won’t be changing that because my research shows that many naval traditions refer to it as one word, sickbay.  So I will keep it that way.  My editor is not wrong for marking that, I just prefer it the one way.  The plus side is that by him pointing it out, I realized that in some parts of my manuscript I had it as two words.  So for consistency I fixed that.

That being said, never ignore an editor’s comments.  They marked it for a reason.  Good editors will also explain why they marked it that way.  Mine did.  I was also able to research it myself.  I learned from it and now I know a lot more than I did in the beginning.  There were a few times I thought I had done something right, but when I went and looked it up I was wrong.  Don’t ignore a comment, learn from it even if you don’t change it.

Next, bit of advice is not to be overwhelmed.  It is pretty scary when you see all those red markups on your manuscript.  At first I didn’t really want to move forward on the edits.  I was intimidated by the volume of notes.  But I told me self I’d start working my way down.  Anything that required extra thought I would skip.  I would fix all the typos, punctuation, and grammar errors and other simple fixes.  That got the ball rolling.  And soon you realize that you repeat a lot of mistakes.  For me, punctuation at the end of dialogue was a pit fall for me.  That was probably the number one punctuation fix for me.  A few spelling errors.

And a lot of repeated words.  When I started to find out my editor was marking repeated words, I was a bit mad.  I didn’t see the importance in it.  I thought it was something trivial and a matter of opinion.  But when I got back my manuscript I found that my characters “smile” a lot.  They “stated” everything.  And they “look” all over the place.  And a lot of the time I used all three of those words as a filler.  Something a simple “said” would work for.  Or sometimes the sentence could be removed with no effect on  the story.

My last tip for handling big project edits is not to read while you edit.  If I had reread my entire novel while working on the edits it would have taking far longer.  I simply went from comment to comment and corrected what was wrong.  I only read the area of the comment to get the context.  It helped me power through those thousands of comments leaving the real meat of the edit there.  I will now read through the novel and as I hit the comments left behind I can decide how to best correct those.

I don’t need an editor.

If you are writing a novel (or even a novella) you are wrong.  You may plan to publish the traditional way, or you may plan to self publish.  Either way you need an editor.

If I was submitting my manuscript to an editor at a publishing house, I’d have just submitted them a manuscript with 3,000 errors on it.  That is 3000 things the publisher will notice.  I think my current manuscript would have a better chance of being picked up simply because I correct so many errors.

If I self published my manuscript, it would have went to readers with 3,000 mistakes on it.  That could very well add up to low sales.  And the number one way a self published author gets (or loses) sales is word of mouth.  There is rarely a large marketing budget for the self published author.  So hiring an editor is the best way to invest what little money you have available to improve your work.

Every writer needs an editor.  At least one.

Who did I use?

I am sure you wonder who I used for my editor.  I used Robert Wilson, editor for Nightscape Press.  Robert is a self published author of multiple top rated novels and novellas, including the only Vampire novel I have truly enjoyed: Shining in Crimson. Robert was also an editor for Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology and is a freelance editor.  His rates are reasonable (you can contact him about that).  His work is very in-depth.  He even took time to look up facts about how military ranks are capitalized, since this was his first story that dealt with so many ranks.  I think that speaks volumes right there.  He took the time to make sure he has it right.  He provided me broad notes and line by line edits/proofreading.  As I mentioned he took the time to point out repeated words.  He did this by highlighting them a different color than the comments, and that was really helpful.  It made them stand out and I really saw how much I was using some words.  Overall, I highly recommend him.  And I will use him again (provided he can stand working with such a needy writer again).

The Different Publishers

It is funny that most people ask me the question:  Should I self publish or should I try the traditional publisher?  There are other options for publishing your book that just those two options.  We’ll explore some of those with this post.  I’ll give you my thoughts on each of these, and you can give me your thoughts in the comments.

The Conglomerate Publisher

We like to say “Traditional Publisher” but truthfully traditions are changing and the term doesn’t really fit anymore.  And, truth be told, traditional publishing can be divided up.  So we’ll talk about the conglomerate publisher.  These are the big guys in publishing.  Orbit Books, Tor, Del Rey, Bantam, Baen, and Scholastic are just a few examples.  And, if you look most of those up you will find a parent corporation they are under.  The parent corporation often has a number of press names they use depending on the genre.  They employe a ton of editors, copywriters, printers, and basically just a lot of employees that work to publish books.

Advantage: Well they are the big guys.  Land a deal with them and you are likely to get exposure in a wide market area.  They will handle most of your book’s marketing.  They have the ability to print out mass copies.  They may offer you a higher advance and royalties too (maybe).

Disadvantage:  Getting accepted is hard.  Many talented authors spend a lot of time just to get rejected from these guys.  Nearly everybody submits to them.  You often have to sell off a lot more copies to pay off your advance (they have a higher overhead then any other option).  Even if you do get published you tend to find that it takes a long time to get anything going.  And, I see a lot of people published by these conglomerates that are still marketing the heck out of their own works.  The other HUGE disadvantage is that authors often think getting published by these guys guarantee a hit novel, it doesn’t.  Plain and simple these guys can do little to make you any better of a writer and story teller.

The Mid-level Publisher

A lot of sites go straight from Conglomerate to Independent when they talk about types of publishers.  But there are a few mid-level publishing companies.  These companies may be only big in one genre, or maybe are big in one country.  The main difference here is that they tend to publish more books then the independent publisher, but not as many as the conglomerates.

Advantage: They handle the major marketing.  They can produce a moderate amount of books at one time.  They offer you a good advance and royalties.  They tend to have a smaller overhead which means more profit margin and hopefully more money in your pocket.

Disadvantage: Acceptance is still hard.  Exposure is not as big, but in the days of the internet and Amazon it is getting much better.  There can still be lengthy delays from acceptance to publish date.

The Independent Press

This is often confused with someone who sits in their basement printing books.  That is not the case.  These are simply smaller companies working to publish books.  They tend to specialize is a genre or two.  They often only have one or two editors (sometimes more).  They often don’t work to make huge profits.  Sometimes they are Sole Proprietorships (one owner) or Partnerships.  But many are now LLC, LLP, or even incorporating.

Advantages:  Acceptance times are often faster.  They are far more approachable.  They will market your book as well.  And, with the internet as big as it is.  They are often on the virtual shelves of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and their own private stores.  They often pay lower advances but higher royalties (though not always).  It often takes less sales to “burn off” the advance and start earning royalties.  They are in the business of getting good writers out to the readers that other presses are simply over looking.  But, you will find more and more authors are going with smaller presses to get their voice heard.  First, you still have to market your book no matter what way you go about this.  Here you get a little help.  Plus, even if your Novel is rejected.  The smaller presses are far more likely to tell you why.  Giving you a chance to fix the mistake and try again.

Disadvantage: They simply aren’t the big guys.  Most don’t stock book shelves of brick and mortar book stores.  But, some do.  But with how many books are purchased on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.  It is starting to be irrelevant.  Last, many authors worry about using a Independent press simply due to brand recognition factors.  But, I frankly never looked at who published a book until I started writing.  Most readers don’t care who published it, only how the story is written.

Vanity Press

A vanity press is often confused with a Independent Press.  But they are vastly different.  A vanity press publishes almost every thing they are sent, provided you cut them a check.  That’s right.  You pay them to publish your book.  They offer many of the services other presses offer, editors, marketing, ect.  But you have to pay for it.  They slap a publishers name on it and sell it.  They came is to play when self publishing was hard, and carried a much more negative image then it does today.

Advantages:  Frankly it is hard for me to think of any.  Money should always flow in the direction of the author.  I suppose if you wanted to self publish, but didn’t want to let people know you did it.  This is the way.  But why?

Disadvantages:  It’s a rip off.  Frankly they over charge for just about everything.  You may as well hire a good independent editor, and publish it yourself.  Or better yet, give a few of these Independent Publishers a shot and not have to pay a dime.

Self Publishing

This is just as it sounds you self publish your works.  You pay for the cover art (or make it yourself), you solely market, you format it on Createspace, KDP, or where ever.  You are the publisher of your own book.

Advantages:  No middleman to work with.  You get final say on everything.  You do it all.  You are guaranteed to get published.

Disadvantages:  You do it all.  Self publishing is the most underestimated form of publishing.  It is by far the most work.  You have to pay for an editor (and you really need to do that if you plan to self publish and maybe even if you plan to use a different method).  Sure you could just take your story, look it over and then throw it together on KDP and tell you friends to go buy it.  But, is that really getting published?  Or just perpetuating the stereo type that nothing good is ever self published?  Of everything I mentioned here, self publishing is the hardest.

 

You can see there are a lot of options, you can choose what works for you.  I strongly recommend that you look at them all.  I think Independent Presses give you the best balance between self publishing and “traditional” publishing.  That is just my opinion though.  Perhaps in another post I’ll highlight a few independent presses that specialize in certain genres.  If you know of one, visit the contact page and let me know.

Self Publishing

Should I Self Publish?

I get at least one email a week asking me about self publishing.  Some are frustrated with the submit and reject cycle.  Others feel it might bring them more money.  And others think it may bring in more readers.  Most of all everyone wants to know if they will be successful if they self publish.

I don’t know much about self publishing because I have never done it.  So I have asked other writers to completed a survey on the matter.  I think a survey offers the best advise on whether or not you will be successful.  Success is a self defined quality.  You can look at these survey results and view them with your own view on success.  For example if selling 10 copies is successful to you, then look at the percentage of people who have sold more then 10 copes.  Hopefully this helps.

My friend and talented Author, Robert S. Wilson (@EmpireOfBloodRW) will be helping me as I write this.  Robert has self published a number of works, and was already kind enough to point out a forgotten company in this survey (more on that later).  I feel he has been successful in his endeavors to self publish, and he certainly has worked hard to get the success he has had.

In this blog, I will give you the results on the survey.  The survey results are separated into several categories.  At the end, I will provide my thoughts on the results.  I will give you my insights as an author who hasn’t self published, but is considering the idea.  Then, Robert will give you his thoughts.  He can give you some insights as an author who has self published.

The Respondents:

Two hundred and fifty nine (259) people completed this survey.  This does not count all the people who started the survey, but where unable to qualify based on their answers.  I posted links on my Google+, the Hatrack Writers Group, My Twitter, and My Facebook.  From there it was circulated by fellow authors.  Here is some information about the people who responded to the survey:

94% write fiction, the other 6% did not.  Those 6% did not finish the rest of the survey, as my concern was with fiction Authors.

51% where Male and 49% were female

78% where from the US, 6% Canada, 9% UK, and 7% where from someplace else.  Those places include: New Zealand, Australia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, and Bosnia

One person was under 13 years old and did not continue in the survey.  The rest breakdown in the following age groups:  2% were 18-20, 18% 21-29, 24% 30-39, 25% 40-49, 25% 50-59, and 6% where over 60.

89% write in English, 4% in Spanish, 2% French, 1% German

100% write primarily in English

84% spoke English, 4% Spanish 2% French, 3%German, 1% Japanese

94% spoke primarily in English

About the Writers:

Please note this was not exclusive to Self Published but rather information for both self published and “traditional” published authors.

The Genres broke down as followed (survey takers could select multiple selections):

Horror – 16%

Science Fiction – 18%

Thrillers – 11%

Fantasy – 21%

Romance -8%

Children’s Picture Books – 3%

Young Adult – 10%

Literary Fiction – 5%

Westerns – 1%

Other – 8%

68% had works published, 26% have not, and 6% were accepted but waiting publication

10% had 1 work published, 25% had2-3 published, 11% had 4-5, 4% had 6-7, 2% had 8-9 and 14% had 10+

10% had flash works published, 31% had short works published, 13% had Novella works published, 4% novelette length, and 24% Novels

How were your works published:

Short stories, including Novelette, Novella, Short, and Flash broke down as follows:

26% None published

7% Pro Rate Markets (6+ cents per word)

11% Semi Pro Rate (1-5 cents per word)

12% Token Markets (less then 1 cent per word)

23% Non Paying Markets (no monetary payement)

20% Self Published

Novels broke down as follows:

55% None published

5% Professional Publishing Houses (Random House, Orbit Books, and other big publishers)

11% Independent Publishing Houses (Regional or “small” publishers)

30% Self Published

My Thoughts:

I was surprised at how high the Self Publishing number where.  This was publicized as a “Survey on Self Publishing”  but I think it still shows a trend that moves towards self publishing.  Only those who marked self published in either of the last two questions continued with the survey.  Roughly 48% of the people who started this survey were Self Published (126 people).  That’s nearly half, which is surprising.

Robert’s Thoughts:

I’m not at all surprised by the percentage of people who have self-published. More and more people are self-publishing all the time. Writers are finding that they can find an audience by self-publishing whereas before they were spending so much time submitting their stories/novels and getting rejected and not reaching an audience at all. Now, whether this is a good or bad thing depends on many factors. I will be posting a blog post of my own for a more indepth look at that.

Self Publishing Results

Now I am sure you want to know what people had to say about Self Publishing.  There were a 126 people who continued to this section of the survey.  Here are the survey results:

How many works have you self Published:

26% – 1, 10% -2, 23% – 3, 6% – 4, 3%- 5, 6% – 6, 10% – 7, 6% – 8, 3%- 9, and 6%- 10 or more

Novelette or Shorter Break down.

26% had not self published any short works

29% said 1, 16% 2, 6%-3, 13% – 4, 3% – 6, and 3% said 10 or more.  5, 8, and 9 had 0%

Novel Break Down:

29% said they had not self published any novels

39% said one, 13% said 2, 6% said 3, 10% said 7, and 3% said 10 or more.  The others had 0% (4, 5, 6, 8, 9)

How they self published:

On a website, PDF or other electronic means 6%

Paperback and/or Hardcover 3%

Anthologies 3%

E-Reader Formats (all types) 26%

Both Paperback and/or Hardcover 38%

Multiple formats listed above: 23%

And which of these resulted in the most readers?

10% only used one format

13% Paperback

3% Hardcover

74% E-Reader

My Thoughts:

Clearly e-Readers have opened the door to new Authors and the ability for them to self publish their works.  From what I have seen, getting your works out in an e-reader format is easy, fast, and relatively cheap.  This means you can list your work for a better price and attract more readers that way (more on that later).  Perhaps I am the only one who doesn’t own an e-reader.

Robert’s Thoughts:

I agree with you on this one, Richard. Not to mention this data is completely consistent with what I’ve already seen with my own work and with other self-published authors I know. I have sold very little paper copies of my books. Even with setting them at low prices for print books. It really comes down to the fact that you really can price really low with ebooks and readers are much more likely to take a chance on an unknown if they don’t have to pay much for their work.

But how many works are selling when you self publish?

On Combined Total copies (or downloads) for all works was:

6% said under 10

6% said 11-50

13% said 50-99

6% said 100-199

3% said 200-299

3% said 300-399

6% said 400-499

3% said 500-749

6% said 750-999

13% said 1000-1999

3% said 2000 –  2999

0% said 3000-3999

0% said 4000-4999

13% said 5000-9999

16% said 10000+

The work that gave them the most copies sold (downloads or prints):

6% said under 10

10% said 11-50

13% said 50-99

10% said 100-199

10% said 200-299

6% said 300-399

3% said 400-499

0% said 500-749

6% said 750-999

13% said 1000-1999

0% said 2000 –  2999

3% said 3000-3999

0% said 4000-4999

6% said 5000-9999

13% said 10000+

My Thoughts:

Well really it means that the range is vast.  There is no clear dominate number of copies you can expect when you self publish.  It could very depending on how the work was promoted (more on that later).  I don’t think this is a far cry from Traditional Publishing.  They don’t really know how many copies they will sell of your book.  This is why they can be so touchy about what they publish.  You might get an advance if you go with traditional publishing, that would be the big difference.  Of course, that is if you even get accepted.

Robert’s Thoughts:

This data really does come 100% down to good promotion. But don’t let that statement fool you. Good promotion isn’t just getting the word out to readers who will like your work. Having a good product is a large part of promotion in and of itself. If you have a story that no one likes that can be the worst promotion you could ever have. The more the right market(s) for your work finds it, the more likely that work is to sell. Simple as that. The cover, description, title, story, and how you present all these things to your market are all factors that can make or break a self-published work just the same as a traditionally published work. Difference is, you’re SELF-publishing. You have to learn and execute the promotion yourSELF!

Self Publishing Companies

I forgot to to list Kindle Direct Publishing, however my survey responders didn’t forget.  They listed it in Other so many times.  I blame ignorance, I thought Createspace and KDP were the same thing.  Oops, consider me educated.

Published themselves (on their own website or printer) 11%

Createspace 21%

lulu 6%

Smashwords 40%

Kindle Direct Publishing (write in) 20%

Pubit (Write in) 1%

Other write ins 1%

Which Company did they like best:

19% said doing it themselves

23% said Createspace

3% said Lulu

22% said Smashwords

22% said Kindle Direct Publishing (Write in)

2% said Pubit (Write in)

9% listed other companies (write in)

My Thoughts

Clearly I am living under a rock to have not heard of KDP for one.  But, it seems Smashwords is very popular with 40% of survey takers using it.  I think the results would have shown a higher KDP rating had it been included, especially with how well Amazon does in the company ratings (see Rating Below).  I suppose that it is because it offers a diverse set of formats, but Createspace and KDP are also very popular among the survey takers.  When it comes to a favorite choice all three are nearly equal in popularity.  You may want to take a look at the company rating before choosing one.  Of course, it will also depend on you needs too.

Robert’s Thoughts

Honestly, Richard, when I took the survey, I didn’t know that you had made it. I thought you were just passing it along. If I had known, I would have contacted you asap and said, “Woah, you’re forgetting the biggest chunk of the market!” Because in my experience KDP really does have the self-publishing ereader market cornered. More authors may be using Smashwords, though I highly doubt those results would be the same if you were to manage to get a larger study pool, but more books are sold to a staggering degree through KDP than on Smashwords. Every self-published author I’ve spoken with and my own results both reflect that. We’re talking something like a 96/4 or higher ratio. That’s a significant difference. It’s as simple as this: MORE READERS BUY FROM AMAZON.

Promotions:

Yea, that’s right.  One of the biggest differences I see between using a Publishing House and Self Publishing is promotion.  You are in charge of getting your work out to the people.  Here are some of what the Survey Takers used:

1% had other works published traditionally

9% used promotional pricing (temporary discount prices)

8% low pricing (pricing the book low permanently)

3% said making the book free (permanently)

11% said they promoted on their Facebook Site

4% said they promoted on their Google+

10% said they promoted on their Twitter

10% said they promoted on their website

12% provided free copies for reviewers (6% for professional reviews and 6% for amateur reviews)

6% provided free copies to try and generate word of mouth

8% posted on sites designed to promote independent authors

5% did giveaways or contests

3% did paid advertising on Social Meda

0% (1 taker) did paid advertising in literary magazines

1% uses other online advertising (paid)

3% did book signing events

1% did booths at fairs or events

3% created a book trailer

3% used Youtube videos

2% listed other means

What way worked the best for them?

32% didn’t keep track

3% had other works published traditionally

3% used promotional pricing (temporary discount prices)

3% low pricing (pricing the book low permanently)

0% said making the book free (permanently)

13% said they promoted on their Facebook Site

6% said they promoted on their Twitter

6% said they promoted on their website

6% posted on sites designed to promote independent authors

6% said book signing events

6% listed other means

I removed the answers that got no votes.

How much did you pay for advertising?

45% said $0

48% said $1-$100

6% said up to $500

No 0ne said more.

Will paying more get you more?

3% said yes

35% said no

61% said they were not sure.

Will promoting one work get more readers for all your works?

13% said Yes and they wouldn’t have to promote the other works

58% said Yes but they should still promote the other works too.

3% said No

26% said they were not sure.

My Thoughts:

First of all, KEEP TRACK OF WHAT WORKS!  If you are not keeping track of what advertising worked, you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.  This can mean wasted money and wasted time.  I was really surprised how little use social media had.  It is 100% free and takes little or no time.  The same goes for your website.  Sure, websites can take some time, but they are worth the effort.  I get anywhere from 10-100 new visitors to this site a day.  That’s new visitors that have not ever been here before.  That’s a lot of people I can promote my new writings with.

I think Authors forget that writing is a business too (I know I do).  And, for better and worse,  when you self publish you take the whole business aspect on alone.  Business is tough work, I owned one.  Keep track of what is working.  Use different codes for certain coupons so you can track what worked.  Offer 10% off if they mention a certain ad.  For example you might post exclusively on Facebook a coupon code that gives 10% off to Facebook Followers.  Then a little later cancel that coupon and post another one for 10% off to Twitter Followers.  Perhaps you make signed copies only available direct from your site.  Perhaps all your Giveaway contestants get a code for a discount.  This way you can track who heard about you from where.  If the Giveaway didn’t work, you won’t waste the time next time.  But if the Facebook ad was a huge success you may want to run one once a month.

Advertising is hard work.  I had a hell of a time with it in my business.  I learned a lot.  Perhaps when I get done with my first novel, I will blog about what advertising I used and how well it is working.

Robert’s Thoughts

Unfortunately, Richard, it’s just not that simple. You can’t give away coupons on Amazon. The only site you can really do that with is Smashwords and unfortunately, MOST READERS DON’T BUY FROM SMASHWORDS. Now, I wish that weren’t true. Smashwords is a great company for authors and publishers. But it just doesn’t get the commercial traffic that Amazon does. And any little thing you do can make a difference in sales. Things other people or things that the different distributors like Amazon, Lulu, Smashwords do can make a difference and you won’t even know it. There’s no real clear way to find out for sure as far as I know. It’s like blind voodoo. So, your best bet is to just do everything you can. If you’re doing something and sales go up, keep it up. If after a while of doing that sales go back down try something new. It’s a crazy game of cat and mouse, but if you want to sell more books, it’s what you have to do.

One thing that does work tried and true is to have an online presence and be in touch with possible readers. They will respond to you and you will meet new friends and everyone wins all around. They find new books to read, meet a new friend, you sell books, and also meet some great people as well. You don’t have to be terribly charismatic, just be yourself. Treat your readers as your friends because frankly. The people who like your work are more likely to be the kind of people you can be real friends with.

My Reply:

It is unfortunate that there is not better tracking for these self publishing solutions.  But what Robert describes is still tracking of some sort.  It is certainly better then guessing.  When I launch my first advertising campaign for my son’s Children’s Book (which will be self published this year).  I will post a blog on how I tracked what was working and what wasn’t.  Advertising and publicity is something I have worked with for some time, so I am a bit excited to see how I can apply it to this industry.

Pricing:

How much is your writing worth?  Well, I would say mine is worth a lot more then I would probably realistically sell it for.  Here is what the Survey takers had to say:

What prices have you priced your e-books at?

2% didn’t have any ebooks

19% said Free

27% said $1 or less

37% said $1.01-$2.99

14% said $3.00-$4.99

2% said $5.99-$9.99

What they thought was the best price of an e-book:

2% didn’t have any ebooks

0% said Free

10% said $1 or less

68% said $1.01-$2.99

19% said $3.00-$4.99

3% said $5.99-$9.99

What prices have you priced your Paper Copy Books?

28% didn’t have any paper copies

3% said $3-$4.99

23% said $5-9.99

28% said $10-$14.99

10% said $15-$19.99

10% said $20+

What did they think the best price was for paper copy books?

28% didn’t have any paper copies

3% said $3-$4.99

46% said $5-9.99

23% said $10-$14.99

0% said $15-$19.99

0% said $20+

How important is pricing to the self published Author?

Very Important – 71%

Somewhat Important – 28%

Neutral – 3%

Both Unimportant Categories received no votes.

My Thoughts

I have to say I agree with what I see here.  I have a huge problem with Kindle e-book pricing even from the big name Authors.  I will save that for another time.  The prices Self Published Authors are setting seems to be reasonable.  I don’t agree with making your book free to all forever.  A limited discount maybe, but give yourself some credit.  Surely your work is worth more then $0.  Don’t go crazy either, you are a new author and a self published author.  Consider how much you would be willing to pay for a work put out by an author you don’t know?  For me, I like taking a chance on new authors both self published and published by the Publishing Houses.  I have rarely been disappointed.  But I put little value on an e-book, therefore I am not likely to spend more then $3 on an author I haven’t hear of.  That’s me.

Robert’s Thoughts

Most self-publishers and independent publishers are competitive enough to price reasonably if not all out low. Most of the ebooks you find online for outrageous prices are the big publishers trying to push people into buying paper copies. You see they win either way: People want to read the authors they’ve come to know and love and now they either have to continue reading paper copies and not move on to an ereader or they have to start paying more for ecopies. That’s what these larger publishers are trying to do. So, either way, they win as long as people are willing to pay these outrageous prices. The best way to stop it is to NOT PAY SUCH RIDICULOUS PRICES. And one free work can be a great promotion for your other works. It’s all in how you do it. If you have a series, I could be great to have the first work free and then when the readers are done and want to read more in the series they are likely to buy your second and third and so on in your series. Of course there’s also a nice simple short story that just shows your skills. It may seem like a big loss to give one of your best works away for free, but when someone reads one of your best works and is impressed by it, they’re more likely to buy other works by you.

Companies to Use:

The last part of the survey was designed to give people an idea what companies work well with self published Authors.  Not just for publishing but for the all around needs of the author.  I have ranked them based on the survey responses.  For each vote in a certain catagory I assigned them points.  Then I divided the points by total survey takers, and I ranked them Highest to Lowest:

Companies in terms of Ease of Use (out of 4):

1. Twitter (3.46)

2. Facebook (3.39)

3. Amazon (3.22)

4. Blogspot (3.14)

5. WordPress (2.94)

6. Smashwords (2.88)

7. Google+ (2.87)

8. Barnes and Noble (2.7)

9. Lulu (2.67)

10. Createspace (2.63)

11. Goodreads (2.35)

12. Live Journal (2.29)

Companies rated on their ability to promote Self Published Authors (out of 4):

1. Twitter (3.17)

2. Facebook (3.08)

3. Goodreads (2.7)

4. Amazon (2.65)

5. Google+ (2.57)

6. Createspace (2.54)

7. Blogspot (2.5)

8. Smashwords (2.44)

9. WordPress (2.38)

10. Barnes and Noble (2.05)

11. Live Journal (1.76)

12. Lulu (1.71)

Companies Rates on Ability to Generate readers (out of 4)

1. Facebook (2.92)

2. Amazon (2.89)

3. Twitter (2.88)

4. Goodreads (2.55)

5. Google+ (2.5)

7. Blogspot (2.43)

8. Tied Smashwords and WordPress (2.29 each)

10. Barnes and Noble (2.19)

11. Live Journal (1.71)

12. Lulu (1.14)

How likely are you to recommend these companies to other Self Publishers (out of 5)

1. Amazon (4.63)

2. Facebook (4.26)

3. Tied Smashwords and Twitter (4.19 each)

5. Goodreads (3.82)

6. Barnes and Noble (3.37)

7. Createspace (3.22)

8. Google+ (2.96)

9. WordPress (2.74)

10. Blogspot (2.26)

11. Lulu (2.15)

12. Live Journal (2)

Companies rated based on ability in the e-reader market (out of 3)

1. Amazon (2.85)

2. Smashwords (2.28)

3. Barnes and Noble (2.27)

4. Tied Createspace and Lulu (1 each)

Companies rated based on ability in the paper market (out of 3)

1. Createspace (2.64)

2. Amazon (2.31)

3. Barnes and Noble (2.1)

4. Lulu (1.88)

5. Smashwords (0.57)

My Thoughts

These are people’s opinions on these companies from the perspective of being a self published Author.  Take it as that.  You may find you like one of these companies that was low rated here.  But, this might give you a starting point if you are not sure where to check out first.  I was surprised, as I expected Createspace and/or Lulu to dominate these numbers.   Clearly I was mistaken.  If print is what you want you might consider Createspace, but when it comes to the e-reader market Amazon and Smashwords seem to rate the highest.

When it comes to social media, Twitter seems to be the preference.  I can’t say I am surprised.  I have a lot more followers on Twitter then any where else.  I have seen a lot of writers say how much they like Google+, though I will be the first to admit I think it is useless.  Facebook is popular seems to rank well too.

If you like to blog, clearly Live Journal is not a good choice.  However WordPress and Blogspot seem to be equally popular.  It seems to be true of the Authors I know.  I would guess that about 50% of them use either site.  I picked WordPress.  It works for what I need and I find it really easy to use.  It allows the custom content I want, and in the future I can import/merge this blog with my own website.

In the end, the company you use depends on what you need and want.  Read all the Terms of Service/Use.  I hope this information will at least shorten your trial and error routine.  Check them all out.  Otherwise you might miss Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

Robert’s Thoughts

I self-published my first work in July of 2011. In the not even six months since then, I’ve gathered a great deal of my own sales data. And I’m here to tell you Ereaders are the future of books. Especially for self-published books. There are thousands if not millions of readers out there looking for their next favorite indie author.

I do find myself surprised on the social media front. I’ve found Facebook to be much more helpful for me. Or it could be that I’m still new to Twitter and haven’t put enough into using it to my advantage.

I use blogspot myself and have enjoyed that it is already connected with my Google account and is very easy to use and maintain. And with being free and having almost all the options you would have with a standard website, it works great for most everything I need in a website. Now, if only I could get it to make blog posts for me as I seem to neglect it all too often.

Overall as Richard has said already, your mileage may vary. It’s best to cover all the avenues you can. Clearly, you’re not likely to have multiple blogs but if you’re planning on self-publishing definitely cover all your distribution options and all the social media and free promotional options you can make time for. Because in the end what works best for one person may differ proportionately to another. So, in order to reach the most possible readers you should highly consider putting your work out at in all possible venues and in all possible formats and of course have an online presence in all the different social media sites. These thing can only add to your chance of becoming a successful self-published author.

What does this all mean?

Well it’s the results of a survey on self publishing, with the thoughts of two authors.  I hope you find this a helpful insight if you are planning to start, or even continue, in self publishing.  It has certainly shined some light on my own ideas in self publishing.  It is a viable means, and slowly the negative perception of self published works has dissolved away.

I am a paper book lover, but you can’t deny that e-readers have opened the door to the self published author.  The ability to reach readers worldwide, at a low cost, has allowed talented authors to emerge.  These are talented authors who have made the choice to control the process of their writing from creation to sale.  Perhaps that is more difficult when compared to waiting for an editor at a publishing house.  At the least I would say it is equally challenging.

If you found this helpful feel free to share it, re-blog it, or post it on your social media site of choice.  Thank you to all the survey takers and thank you to Robert Wilson for sharing his insights.

About the Authors:

Richard Flores IV

Richard is an author of Speculative Fiction who lives in California.  He fits his writing time around being a father of three young boys and a husband to his beautiful wife.  He has been published in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction and Liquid Imagination.  He has a Children’s Picture Book, that he wrote with his oldest son, set to be released in early 2012.  For more information on Richard Flores IV, you can find him online at https://floresfactor.wordpress.com/.  You can also find him on Twitter @Richard_Flores4

Robert S. Wilson

Robert S. Wilson is the author of the Kindle bestseller The Quiet: A Novella and the critically acclaimed Shining in Crimson: Empire of Blood Book One as well as co-editor for Horror For Good: A Charitable Anthology, an anthology which includes stories by international bestselling authors and horror legends. All proceeds from Horror For Good will go toward amfAR, an international AIDS research foundation.  For more information on Robert S. Wilson, you can find him online at http://shiningincrimson.blogspot.com/.  You can also find him on Twitter @EmpireOfBloodRW

Robert lives in Smyrna, Tennessee with his wife and two children while he attempts to make time for everything and utterly fails constantly.