Friday, December 31, 2010

My ebooks now available on Smashwords and Nook

This week I worked on getting Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds and Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance up on other platforms besides Amazon Kindle.
I manually formatted Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds for epub and you can buy it for Barnes & Noble Nook right here. Boy, was that epub formatting a chore. But, I got it to look good. If there’s any interest, I might post about the epub formatting process. It is a long and laborious process.
Then, I went to Smashwords and used their system. It’s much easier. Just put your book in Word, make sure it complies with their style guidelines, upload it, and your done. The Smashwords MeatGrinder converter tool converts your Word doc to HTML, Javascript, mobi (Kindle), epub (open industry format), PDF, RTF (most word processors), LRF (Sony Reader), PDB (Palm reading devices), and text. Nice! Unfortunately, some of the converted types have little problems in how the book looks.
Smashwords is also good to use because they have a deal with B&N and other sellers that the Smashwords price will not be discounted. This prevents B&N from discounting my $2.99 novel to $2.00, which will prompt Amazon to also discount my book, which means that I go from making $2.00 per sale on Amazon to only making $0.70 per sale. That was the only reason I was reluctant to put my books up on B&N. But, that won’t happen now so I can go ahead and publish everywhere.
As soon as each of my books is approved for the Smashwords Premium Status, they will start appearing on other ebook sites.
But, you can buy my ebooks in all places now:
Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds
Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

There's a new career in town - self-pub authors

In his blogpost "Should You Self-Pulish Your First Novel?", Jude Harden has advised that authors should get a print publishing deal before trying to self-publish.

I don’t disagree that getting a print deal is a great thing. For many authors, it might be the right path. However, at least for me, self-publishing is better.
I'm a new author and I just self-published my first full-length novel, Dead Dwarves Don't Dance, I've sold 72 copies in 5 weeks. Nothing to jump up and down about, but I'm confident sales will continue to increase.
My novel is a science fiction cyberpunk action-adventure. Not something NY is looking for. But, it’s what I wanted to write. NY wants vampire romances. I don’t want to write that. Why should my creativity be forced to comply with the demands of a few people in NY? I want to write what I want to write. Then, let’s see if the reader, not NY, thinks it’s worth reading.
To Jude’s points:
1.       A print publishing deal proves you’re writing is good. I don’t know that my writing is good enough to be print published. But, it is good enough to be self-published. I’ll let the millions of Kindle owners decide how good it is, instead of a few people sitting in New York. If I fail on Kindle I wouldn’t have made it through NY. However, I don’t have to wait 3 years while print publishers consider my work.
2.       Print publishing = notoriety. I agree. However, that notoriety will arrive in 2-3 years when the print publisher finally gets my book on shelves. Instead of waiting that long, I can self-publish now and start building my own notoriety. The question is: can I earn more notoriety by myself over time than the print publishers deliver 2-3 years hence? I guess I’ll find out.
3.       In-house editors = better writing. I don’t need print publishers to work with an editor. Instead of paying a print publisher 85-94% of my revenue for all time, I can pay a professional editor $1000 to edit my book now. I still work with an editor, so my writing still improves.
4.       Print publishing deal acceptance call is nice. Yeah, that would be cool. But, I’ve learned that I don’t need the validation of one agent or publisher to boost my ego. I much prefer the validation of the readers. I sold 101 books so far in December. Not much, but it’s only my third month selling. You know what? It felt great! And it’s all thanks to 101 readers. I’ll get another thrill when I sell 200 books in a month, and then 500, and so on.

Another difference between print publishing and self-publishing is the revenue path.

Revenue path with print publishing: If I find an agent and publisher within a year, I can (probably) get an advance of a few thousand dollars. Definitely nice, but that’s a year away, minimum. Then I have to earn it back. Is my book a best-seller, probably not. So, it could take some time since the book won’t hit the shelves for 2-3 years. So, in a good case scenario, I get $3000-$5000 a year from now, and 2 years later my book comes out and I might start earning some more.
Revenue path with self-publishing: I have an initial outlay of $1500 for cover art and professional editing. That’s a big hit right up front, and it is a bit hard to swallow. But, then I am selling books and making money. I’ll need to sell 750 books to recover those expenses. After that, it’s all profit. Question is, can I start making a profit within a year? Can I make a better profit self-publishing at 70% royalties than at print publishing with 6-15% royalties? If I can sell 3200 copies in 3 years, I equal the print publishing revenue stream. I’m betting that I can do better than that.
Up till now, if you wanted a career as an author you had to go through print publishing and the gatekeepers in NY. That’s the print publishing author career.
But, there’s a new career in town. The self-pub ebook author career. It takes more than just writing skills, but it’s full of opportunity. Many authors will flourish in that new career (like JA Konrath and others).

If you're an author, the question is: which career do you want?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Authors trading short stories in ebook anthologies?

Option #1: Trade a short story in each other’s collections
In the comments section for another post, KevinMc suggested that indie authors could trade short stories to include as samples in each other’s anthologies.
For example, I could give my short story “Angel” from Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds, to another author to put in their short story anthology. In return, that author would give me a short story to put in my Dead Dwarves, Don’t Dance anthology.
In this way, we could cross-pollinate our audiences.
Option #2: New short story collection with multiple authors
A bunch of us indie authors each contribute a short story to a new anthology. The goal would be purely to expand our audiences. An indie ebook author sampler.
If we get a dozen or so contributors, we could have a nice book. Maybe we could arrange with Amazon to let us give it away for free. If not, we could charge $0.99.
I volunteer to do the formatting for Kindle (and hopefully Smashwords once I get the hang of it).
We can hammer out some basic requirements for length, editing, etc.
If anyone is interested in either of these options, or if you have suggestions, comment below.

UPDATES: The following authors have expressed interest in participating:
Kevin Mclaughlin
Tara Maya
Edward L. Cote
Manley Peterson
Tony Lavely (website?)
BC Woods
John Hartness
Kelly Gorman
Brian Drake

Total authors = 10 so far, 2 more to find

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is it worth spending $$ to advertise a self-pubbed ebook?

I’m advertising on Bing, Google, and Project Wonderful. Project Wonderful is by far giving me the best impressions, clicks, and cost-per-click so far.

I am not, however, selling enough books to pay for the advertising yet. I spent $205.34 on advertising, but only earned royalties of $135.27. Hopefully, that’ll switch to a profit someday.
I am not experienced in online advertising, so I’m probably not optimizing my search or image ads as much as I could. However, here are my numbers and evaluations of the 3 ad efforts I’ve made.
Google Adwords
It took Google 3 weeks to approve my 13 image ads. That’s way too long!  I contacted support and they basically said “you’ll just have to wait.”
The cost-per-click for my Google image ads is between $0.38-0.49. This is too high since I only make $2 per book sold. A click only means someone went to the Amazon purchase page for Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance. It doesn’t mean that they actually bought the book.
The cost-per-click for Google search ads is also too high. It ranges from $0.09 to $0.86.
I have suspended my Google advertising because it is too expensive per click.
Bing adCenter
Bing has better cost-per-click numbers than Google, but it’s still a lot compared to Project Wonderful. Therefore, I suspended my Bing advertising.
Project Wonderful
PW gives me the best impressions, clicks, clickthrough rate, and cost-per-click. However, it takes a lot of effort to stay on top of all the bids and make sure that expensive sites are winnowed from my campaign.
Also, the average clickthrough rate and cost-per-click don’t tell the whole story. My CTR ranged from .01% to .48% and cost-per-click ranged from $0.03 to $0.78. By monitoring my ads closely, I can advertise on websites where my clickthrough rate and cost-per-click are very good.
Project Wonderful has excellent customer support. I found a bug and PW customer support responded to my email in one day and fixed the bug in 2! They are very responsive, helpful, and friendly. The customer support rep I worked with, Linden, even provided suggestions and solutions above and beyond what I asked in my questions.
Advertising is expensive, especially for low profit products like my ebooks. Google and Bing are not optimized for tiny $ advertisers like me, so I probably won’t do much advertising on them.
Project Wonderful has a vast number of participating publisher sites, and thousands of tags ( to find a relevant website to advertise on. I can target specific sites and closely monitor my cost-per-click to visit the Amazon book page down below $0.10.
But, did I actually sell more books by advertising? I have no hard evidence that I did. Amazon does not provide conversion rate numbers for originating websites. However, my sales did seem to increase a bit when I started advertising. Was this due to my ads, or due to the Christmas shopping season?  I don’t know.
I spent $205.34 advertising Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance.
Over 2 million people saw my ads.
Over 2,300 people clicked on the ads to visit my Amazon book page.
I sold 53 copies of Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance.
Just looking at the numbers, it doesn’t seem like advertising is worth it. I mean, 2 million people saw the ad and I only sold 53 copies? That’s pretty grim.
However, just because 2 million people saw the ad, doesn’t mean that 2 million people read the ad. Also, most of those ads were on relatively untargeted websites not specifically dealing with cyberpunk or science fiction. I’m sure I could improve the clickthrough rate by better targeting. But, then I would get fewer clicks, because cyberpunk sites don’t have as much traffic.
For the time being, I think I have to continue advertising. One month of advertising won't give me a full picture of how well it's working. And, hopefully, as people who saw the ad and bought the book finish reading the novel, they'll tell friends and sales can snowball.

And, hopefully, my advertising skills will improve.
Someone once said "you have to spend money to make money". 

Merry Christmas to all!

PS: Here are some examples of the image ads I'm running (click to see full size):

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

November sales, total revenue and expenses so far

 (Amazon November sales reports came in today.)
Here are my sales numbers so far:

I hit my goal of selling 30 copies of Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance in the first month on about Dec 15! Excellent! I’m average 2.3 books sold per day in December! Mucho excellent!
The release of the DDDDance novel has definitely increased my DDDDeeds anthology sales. Since the novel was released, sales of the anthology have tripled! I frequently see sales for each go up at the same time. I’m guessing that people are buying both because of the low price of the anthology ($0.99). That’s a good omen for when I get more full-length novels published.
My revenue since I started epublishing
49 copies of Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds = $17.15
53 copies of Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance = $108.12
Amazon Associates earnings = $33.49
Total Revenue  = $158.76
Unfortunately, my expenses far exceed that:
Production costs for Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds = $612.50
Production costs for Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance = $1,477.50
Miscellaneous expenses = $30.84
Advertising expenses = 205.34
Total Expenses = $2,326.18
Net Loss = $2,120.84
Still in the red, but at least now I’m also making some money. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to break even. If I don’t spend any more on advertising (freezing my expenses), I would have to sell 1060 copies of the novel to break even. I’m hoping I can sell that many in 2011.
As you can see, the self-publishing route has a lot of up front costs that can take a long time to earn back. If you take the traditional publishing route the publisher pays those expenses, plus you get an advance (generally up to a few thousand dollars). However, it takes a lot longer to get published, and the author has to give up a bunch of rights - the publisher sets the book's price, chooses the cover art, chooses the title, and pays the author 6% - 15% royalties on the cover price (compared to the 70% that Amazon pays ebook self-pub authors).
On the plus side, I have two books in the pipeline. A how-to book on formatting ebooks for Kindle and a YA action-adventure novel. The former has zero production costs, so it’ll be a good way to increase my profit. The latter, however, will require another $1,500 or so to publish.
So, here’s hoping that all those new Kindle Christmas gifts will provide a good boost to ebook sales!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Quick sales update

Alas, Amazon’s monthly sales reports for November are delayed until the 24th, so I won’t have exact numbers until then.
But, based on my estimates, it looks like I’ve sold 48 copies of each of my ebooks! That means about $115 in royalties since October. Woot!
After Christmas, I’ll post exact numbers with charts and also talk about expenses and advertising.
Have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Broke the top 100 in Amazon's Bestseller High-Tech Scifi list

A bit of a milestone for me. Both  Dead Dwarves Don't Dance and  Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds are in the top 100 best-selling high tech science fiction Kindle books (#64 and #67). They've been selling pretty good this month (21 and 16 copies sold, respectively, as of the 13th). I should be able to meet my goal of selling 30 copies of the novel in December.

If you'd like to help me get in the top 20, why not go review the books on Amazon? Kevin and Burritoclock already did and thanks a lot! Reviews can help me get more readers which gives me the energy to write more books quicker! ;)

Thanks to everyone who buys the book!

Monday, December 6, 2010

How to stay motivated to write

Here are several ways I keep myself motivated to write novel-length fiction, in no particular order:

1. Have a dedicated location where all you do is write. You do not do anything else in the location. And if you find that you have writer's block, you leave the location until the block passes. You have to train your brain that the location is for writing, so when you go there your brain says "it's time to write!"

2. Have a music playlist that motivates you to write. I have a different playlist for both genres I write (YA fantasy and scifi).

3. Keep a great book that you would love to have written, or would like to emulate, in your writing location. Look at it often. Dream of achieving that level of success and realize that that author was once exactly where you are.

4. Keep a terrible book that you can't believe got pubilshed in your writing location. Look at it often. Realize that if that piece of rubbish could get published, you darn well know that you can!

5. Outline your novel. If you know where your chapter is going, it's so much easier to write the actual paragraphs.

6. Do not try to make the first draft perfect. This is a big one for me. If I try to make the first draft perfect, I won't ever get past chapter 5. I have to hammer through the whole story with minimal revisions until I finish the first draft. This usually results in my first draft being pretty bad. Don't sweat it. It'll get up to snuff by the seventh revision.

7. Don't get mired in difficult passages. If you have an outline, you can skip over difficult parts of the story and come back to them after you finish the first draft. It's so liberating to know that I don't have to spend days trying to resolve some dialog or minor plot point right now. I can skip past it and come back to it. If it's taking you too long for to get past a problem, ignore it and move on.

Does anyone else have any good advice to stay motivated and keep writing? If so, add it to the comments.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Examples of editing remarks from my editor

Stitch and Burritoclock requested some examples of the editing comments Joel made on my Dead Dwarves Don't Dance manuscript.

Of course, he made innumerable revision marks with respect to word choice, grammar, spelling, word repetition (I used shards and slammed too much, and reworded or deleted most of them), and so on. But, he also commented on a number of other issues. Here are some examples:

Referring to the conversation between Grue and Munk in the first chapter, Joel said: "This next section of conversation has a number of elements of exposition that seem more for the reader’s benefit than the characters’. It seems like these facts and speculations would be well-understand among the men, and not so explicitly stated." I changed the conversation to be less expository.
In reference to the sentence "He gazed through the cracked duropane, he looked down across Dresden Drive at a lone dwarf walking along the opposite sidewalk." Joel had this comment: "Is there a more precise word? In what manner was he walking?" I changed the sentence to: "...striding up the sidewalk."
In reference to the final words in the following paragraph: "Munk opened another case and removed an Akbar man-portable surface-to-surface missile launcher. He hefted the military weapon on end beside him." Joel said: "I'm not picturing this; suggest rewriting." I realized I didn’t' need the last sentence, so I deleted it.
Joel pointed out that I had no foreshadowing of what Noose had to tell Cori about Pamela. It came out of nowhere and it seemed like Noose wasn't concerned about it. He suggested I go back in and add some foreshadowing to Noose's behavior, which I did.
Referring to the sentence: "Smith stood in front of a dark blue BMW Silhouette aerodyne parked amidst the junkers." Joel had this to say: "Awkward. Suggest rewrite." I rewrote it to say: "Smith stood in front of his dark blue BMW Silhouette skycar." I didn't need the "amidst the junkers" because I had already described the junkyard.
When I first introduced District Manager Vanders, I did not include his first name or his district name as I did for the other two politicians in the scene. Joel noted this oversight and I fixed it.
In chapter 14, even though Wade Winthrop-Worrelly began the chapter inside his office trailer, I later said he "walked into the office trailer." Joel noticed this continuity error and I fixed it.
In chapter 16, the newsbabe originally spoke as if she didn't know who Chico was. Joel noted that she probably would have done the research about the Spitting Neurofrog band before the interview with BangBang. Joel was right, so I changed it. I also didn't give Chico a last name at first, but, again, Joel was right that the newsbabe would give his full name. (I actually used Joel's placeholder text, XXX, as Chico's last name! I thought it sounded good for a scum-sucking, racist, murderous rocker type.)
BangBang's name was originally Largo, but I changed it at some point. Joel found Largo twice in the manuscript and I changed it to BangBang. I was surprised because I thought I had done a global search and replace on "Largo" but I apparently had not. Just another good example of why we writers should always get editors to look over our content.
At the end of chapter 18, I originally had no explanation of how Munk escaped from the Niskey Lake compound after the shootout in Ulric's apartment. Joel was right, I need to explain how Munk would get out of the place since police would be swarming it in minutes. However, I did not want to spend several more paragraphs describing Munk avoiding the police. So, I decided to make it more like a complaint in the last sentence: "He'd probably have to spend another hundred grand bribing his way out of the compound before the real cops arrived." I thought this came out pretty good. Terse, believable solution to the problem that related back to the fact that Munk was carrying a lot of money. Also revealed that Munk was smart enough not to always rely on violence to solve a problem.
Joel provided a lot more revisions and comments. These are just a few examples from the first part of the novel.
I think Joel did a great job of helping me improve the entire book, from mundane grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors to word choice, plot inconsistencies, character behavior, and so on.
My advice to every writer out there is definitely get an editor before you publish!