Monday, September 26, 2011

Are Free Books Worth The Cost?

In the beginning of July, I had an idea to help promote my books. I decided to make Copy Bird free on Amazon. It's quite a process to get Amazon to offer your book for free, because they require a price of $0.99 US or higher to sell eBooks with them. I got around this by putting the story up for free on Smashwords, which in turn makes it free to the retailers that Smashwords distributes to, such as Apple, Sony, and Kobo. When Amazon's bots find the book cheaper on other sites and/or you tell them that another site is selling the book cheaper on the book's Amazon product page, they will match it.

Copy Bird went free on Amazon in the beginning of August. I thought it was a resounding success! So much so that I made this face:

Note: Photo not taken at actual time of free offer.

During the time that it was free, about a month and a half, around 4,800 eBooks sold. Of course, the money I made on those sales was a big, fat zero. But, I reasoned this would give me good exposure, and hopefully lead to people buying my other books.

Did this happen? I'm not sure. I can say that August was my highest selling month for paid books ever. But, between 4,800 free sales and 22 paid sales, if it did have an effect it was extremely small. Also, if you look at the Copy Bird product page on Amazon, check the "People Who Purchased This Also Purchased..." section. As you can see, all the eBooks, save a few, are free.

Which means this: People looking for free books are only looking for a handout! I do not believe that these people intend to buy other works by the author if they like the free book. Most likely, these people only want what is free, and that's where they go. Not a problem, I understand that, but I do not think offering your book for free on Amazon will help your long-term sales.

I also wonder how many of the 4,800 people who bought Copy Bird actually read it. I received four fresh reviews from the sales. One was 2-Stars and the others were in the 4 to 5-star range. Those who reviewed it appeared to like it. Did they buy more from me? I doubt it. Because again, I believe they will find what they want for free because there are a lot of authors willing to throw their books up for reading at no cost because they think it will gain an audience. I was in this same camp. But not anymore. Part of me feels like I've been taken advantage of by the readers I long to gain. I devalued my work for their benefit, and they don't care. They just wanted what was free. That caused me to make this face:

Note: Again this represents emotions from the past.

To put it simply: I want to get paid. From this point forward, if I do work, I expect to receive payment. Because when a reader parts with their money to be entertained by me, it shows that they care. They invested in what I write. Readers who pay for their books care about the writer and value their efforts. That's the audience I want to gain; one that understands the hard work. (Don't even get me started on Pixel Of Ink and their "hard work" to find whatever free eBooks they can and broadcast it to the world. Great job there! I'm sure that system's going to keep people writing and self-publishing. Please note my sarcasm.)

I'm urging every reader to consider what it means when you get something free from an author, and you never intend to show them you're appreciative. If you aren't going to buy anything else from them, fine. At least write a review to help them out. But don't take advantage of them.

I'm urging every author out there to not sell yourself short. You might think it's a good idea to release a free book, and maybe it's worked out well for others. At the end of the day, what are you saying about your writing? You might gain an audience that you don't want. That audience is looking for a free handout, and they won't come back if you charge them at any point.

If there is a silver lining in any of this, it's that Copy Bird got boosted in Amazon's system. Because so many people "bought" it, once it went back up to $0.99, it started getting recommended to people browsing for books. Copy Bird is finding an audience, and there is some benefit to offering the book for free, despite my complaints above. In the nine days it has been "revalued", I've sold a good number of copies (Look for my September sales numbers posts this Saturday for specific numbers). That's the audience I want. The people who see a short story, think it looks interesting, and they buy it. Really buy it, too. To those people, I say thank you. Thank you for taking a chance on my hard work and showing that you're willing to join me on a journey with my fictional tale. Those are the real readers that care. Those are the people I want reading my books. Those readers cause me to make this face:

[caption id="attachment_1992" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="Note: This is how I currently feel!"][/caption]

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Miscorrection: Preludes

It is a time of great change for the solar system. A group of rebels called the Karhath plot to take control of the planets.

A man named Daniel threatens to make the Karhath mission a failure by means of his wise, yet risky political moves.

Even if Daniel should succeed, the Karhath will stop at nothing to attain the power they strive to attain.

Available at the following locations:

Click To Buy   Click To Buy            

Print edition available at Amazon and CreateSpace.
Miscorrection: Preludes


Over the course of three to four years, I came up with a story during my commute to work. As I thought about this story, I came up with the major plot points, cliffhangers, characters, and so on. But there was one problem: I never wrote the story!

Then, in early 2010, I noticed that Amazon offered the ability for any writer to self-publish their works on the Kindle. This excited me as I realized this would be a great avenue (along with all the others I have discovered) for me to write my story. I didn’t want to write a novel though. I wanted to do something different. I came up with something I really liked: I would tell the story in an episodic type format, much like a television series. Each story would take around an hour or so to read, would stand on its own, but when combined they would tell a bigger story.

That’s exactly what I did. In May 2010 I published the first story in the series. Based on events that would take place, I entitled the series Miscorrection and the first story was called Sunrise.

As I think back to that first story, I had some great dreams for the series’ direction and where it would go. But I never considered that over the course of writing the series, and other stories that I have self-published, that I would learn so much. It’s for this reason that I think that Miscorrection: Preludes is a testimony to the progress I’ve made as a writer. As you start with Sunrise and make it to the last story, Sundown, you’ll no doubt see improvement in the storytelling.

Which leads me to a challenge for you as the reader. This book goes from story one to story six, the order that they were released. But I always felt that they could be read in any order the reader wants. So if you want to start with story six and go backwards, do it. If you want to skip around, maybe go two, five, four, three, one, and six, do it. While the stories stand on their own, they refer to each other in different ways. In this way, you as the reader have an opportunity to make Miscorrection unique. You can experience the story differently based on the order you read it.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you enjoy reading the stories. I hope they capture your imagination, make you think, and keep you talking.

Have fun!

Available at the following locations:

Click To Buy   Click To Buy            

Print edition available at Amazon and CreateSpace.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Forever Process

There's something that has happened as I continue to write my long story. Each day I chip away at finishing it, averaging around 1,000 words per day. It's amazing to think I have crossed the 30,000 word threshold now. Looking back at the past month of writing, it feels like forever ago that I started. How much closer am I to the finish? I'm not quite sure because I don't know what the final word count will be.  I could be halfway done or a third done. Who knows? I'm writing the story to its natural length and not setting a specific word count for completion. If I do this, I may add or subtract from the story, which in my opinion would be detrimental.

Here's a case in point. My last post mentioned that I have found I'm deviating from my original outline for the story. This is not a problem, because the story has become better because of it. This past week another similar breakthrough happened. As the story took shape in the writing, I realized some of the plot points I intended to use in the story were unnatural. If I put them in there, they would ruin the flow of the story. So about 20,000 words in, the story transformed once again into something better.

Does this mean my plot points are dust? No. Fram Gage will be a series. That was always my intent. So those plot points I've thrown out for this story, will come at the correct point, because they are crucial to the story of the characters development.

It's possible that you are wondering what the story is about. Don't worry, I'll get to that eventually. Right now, I'm still revealing parts of the title for the story, so don't expect anything until after that. Until then, here's what I have given you so far:

Fram Gage & The Infinite A.

Ready for the word that the 'I' stands for? I hope you are, because here it is: Infinite.

Monday, September 12, 2011

eBook Subscription Service

UPDATE: I contacted Amazon about this rumor, and their response was that they have not announced anything about a subscription based service at this time.

There is a rumor going around that Amazon is in talks with publishers to create a subscription based service for the Kindle. This would most likely mean that for a monthly fee, you could download and read an unlimited number of books. Here's the article if you're interested: Amazon In Talks To Launch Digital Book Library: WSJ.

Of course,  the big publishers are probably going to scoff at this. They will probably see it as a money loser and something that could devalue books. This is rubbish thinking though. Look at Netflix, Zune, and Spotify. They have subscriptions for movies and music, yet I don't see it hurting their value. DVDs, MP3s, and CDs still have the same value.

That's why self-published authors need to jump on this bandwagon now. Better to be on in the beginning of a major change than the end. This is a great way for us to get exposure, and get our stuff read because it takes the risk out of it for the reader. I'm not sure how Amazon will address royalties with a service like this, but I do know I want my stuff to be a part of it. That's why I've contacted Amazon to let them know I'm more than willing to do it.

Would you be interested in making your eBooks available for a subscription service? Then let Amazon know. Contact them from the KDP contact page, and tell them they don't need the big publishers to agree to this because they have a multitude of self-published authors who are ready to do it now!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The "The"

[caption id="attachment_1929" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Adding on the layers..."][/caption]

Here's a thought: Write an outline for your novel idea. Make sure you have the characters clearly in mind. Make sure you have your plot points to the fore. Start writing that novel. Look back at your outline and ask "Why are these two things so different?" In your best Sesame Street tune sing, "Does one of these things not belong here? Is one of these things not the same?"

That's what I'm going through now with Fram Gage & T.I.A. I mentioned this in my previous post, but I thought I would expand on it here. While my outline helped me focus the story, it was abstract. I hadn't dived into developing the characters, the scenery, and so on. I had a shell or bowl. The ideas that would hold the story and cradle it gently. Let's face it though, an empty bowl is boring. Nobody wants to be handed an empty bowl. They want chili, soup, or cereal and milk in it. They want substance.

If I wrote exactly to my outline plans, the story would feel hollow and choppy. I'm glad I haven't gone this route. As I started writing it, the natural flow of the story became apparent to me. I didn't need to force certain parts of the plot. I could hint at them and build them up.

A major change to my outline is the timeline of the story. Without giving too much away, I planned on spreading out time with each chapter. But I found the story works better if the timeline is tighter. Then the characters come into play, of which one (maybe even two) is already revealed in the announced portion of the tentative title. Writing a novel has given me the opportunity to do something short stories and novelettes haven't. I can develop the characters fully.  Adding layers of depth to them makes for a more interesting tale to write. It's kind of like going from spaghetti in a small bowl, it's just pasta and tomato sauce, to lasagna in a large dish, layers of pasta, meat, cheese, and vegetables.

Needless to say, I'm having a lot of fun writing this story.

Now, with this post I will announce the next word in the title of the book. This really shouldn't come as a surprise. Maybe you even figured it out already. Whatever the case, here's the current revealed portion:

Fram Gage & T.I.A.

The 'T' above stands for 'The'. Pretty original right? I knew you'd agree.

Until next time...

Friday, September 2, 2011

How to Publish and Distribute eBooks with Smashwords

Many people are diving into the field of self-publishing. And why not? It is so simple to do this now. Between Smashwords, PubIt, and Kindle Digital Publishing, there are plenty of ways to get your eBook put out there for millions of people to discover.

Of the three platforms, I'm a huge advocate of Smashwords. Even though they have a smaller market share than Amazon, Smashwords is set up with the indie author in mind. They give you the biggest commissions, they covert your eBook to just about every format you could want, and they distribute your eBook to other retailers like iBooks, Kobo, Diesel, and more. They offer all this service at no extra cost.

But your real question is probably, "How do I publish and distribute my eBooks with Smashwords?"

It's easier than you think.

First, go to Smashwords home page and click on "How To Publish On Smashwords" along the top of the page. This will walk you through the steps of creating your author/publishing account. It's pretty straight forward. From there, customize your author page with your photo, blog feed, Twitter feed, biography, and more options that will give potential readers information about you.

Once you do that, you're ready to publish. The most important thing with publishing is that you format your cover art and book file properly. A great read for this is the Smashwords Style Guide. This eBook walks you through the steps for formatting your work so that it looks good, and qualifies it for the premium catalog, allowing your eBook to be distributed to other vendors. Keep in mind that you have to upload a Microsoft Word document, and it must be from before the Microsoft Word 2007 version (just make sure the extension on the end of your file is ".doc" and not ".docx".)

Here are a few key things I make sure of when formatting my books:

  1. My cover art is usually 6 x 9 inches and 150 dots per inch.

  2. Make sure your format the book text for easy reading. Instead of using spaces to indent, set up paragraph styles in Word to keep everything consistent. Also, justifying the text makes it a lot easier on the eyes for reading than flush left.

  3. Make a Table of Contents for your eBook. This is really important to get right because if you don't, it will get rejected for approval into the premium catalog. Keep these things in mind: Delete all hidden bookmarks in Microsoft Word. Make sure you link all bookmarks to the Table of Contents. Make sure the links in the Table of Contents go in the order of the chapters.

After, you've made sure of these things, you're ready to upload your book. This is all done on a single page. You'll enter your book title, a short description, a long description, categories for the genre, tags, formats, and sampling sizes.

For the sampling size, I suggest 50% for short stories and 10-20% for anything longer.  I do this because 10% for a short story won't give the reader enough of a sample to read the story. Also, for the formats, I select all of them because then it gives the reader every option they might need.

Once you have everything to your satisfaction, submit your book. Smashwords will then place it in a queue for conversion. This use to be a one to three-day process, but recently they upgraded their system. Now it only takes a few minutes and your book will be available for the world to read.

When the conversion is complete, make sure to go to the ISBN manager on your Dashboard and assign an ISBN to your eBook. Some of the vendors Smashwords distributes to will not accept an eBook to sell if it doesn't have an ISBN. Don't worry though, they're free! Yet another benefit of working with Smashwords for your eBook distribution.

The above are the basics for publishing and distributing on Smashwords, but I can't cover it all. Check out these helpful links for more information:

I've also taken the time to make a template for you to work from. This is directly from the Word document for my book Unspoken Stories, but each story only has the first few paragraphs. This should save you the trial and error of getting it right.

Do you have any suggestions? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August 2011 Sales Numbers

Another month has passed, and another month of book sales has happened. This month looked bleak, especially when compared with last month. But, in the last week of the month, things picked up. I sold more in the last week this month than any week before. Needless to say, this made me very happy.

During the month, I had three releases. They were Unspoken Stories - Volume 1 (eBook Edition), Unspoken Stories - Volume 1 (Print Edition), and the last story in Book 1 of the Miscorrection series, Sundown, which I published during Hurricane Irene (pretty impressive, right?).

Another signficant number not listed below is the sales for Copy Bird. For about a month, I attempted to get Amazon to put the short story up for free, and they finally did! Current sales stand at almost 4,500. That number makes me very happy because it means I got some of the exposure I wanted from the sale. Had it gone free and I only sold say 400, I would have considered the marketing attempt a dud. If you haven't read Copy Bird, it's still free on Amazon, so pick it up before they start charging for it again.

I'd like to send a big THANK YOU to anyone who bought my books last month. Y0ur support of my writing brings a huge smile to my face, especially since you're letting me entertain you with my writing. If you did buy one of my books and read it, feel free to write a review on your own site, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords. Your doing so would be greatly appreciated!

Now the moment you've been waiting for. Here are my paid book sales numbers for August 2011:

Total Paid Sales For August: 22

This total is double what I sold in July. Now, if sales keep doubling each month, I'll be one happy guy!