Notes from the Self-Pubbed #7 (addendum)

Addendum! Fancy, right? I’m all about the class and the sophistication stuff. But why the addendum? Well, I just got the sales report from Apple and Kobo from my February 6th BookBub promotion of the Grant Scotland omnibus and I’m happy to report they held mother’s milk. I sold enough to recoup expenses and even make a small profit! Read on for numbers! Numbers for the Number God!

 

 

APPLE: (as reported through Smashwords)

Apple sales are reported in a monthly dump, so no per-day sale info available.

44 Units sold during February at $1.99 each (so we can surmise all sales were during promo period).

60% royalty to author yields $1.20 each less Value Added Tax (VAT) on applicable sales. I think this is about 15% before royalty is figured, but it only applies to select overseas sales. So, to err on the safe side, we’ll call it a buck a book.

44 Units @ $1.00 = $44

KOBO: (as reported through Smashwords)

Kobo sales are reported on a monthly basis with day-by-day break down, but all the days were within the promo period.

67 Units sold during February at $1.99.

60% royalty to author yields $1.20 each. No VAT with Kobo, so we get the full $1.20.

67 Units @ $1.20 = $80

REVISED BOOKBUB PROMO NUMBERS:

Expense of Promo: $261

Total royalties from Promo: $283

Profit: $22

 

 

How do you like that?

 

“You might not be as useless as you were before. But you’re still a long way from an invite to Mar-a-Lago”

 

Now, I know these numbers combined with the Amazon numbers result in a quantity and profit margin that is extremely small in comparison with the sales of most other authors, but that’s how it starts.

 

“But that’s how it always begins. Very small.”

 

Additionally, I’m not including sales beyond the promo period which have been not insubstantial and at full price. So, if you throw those in, the profit margin is quite a bit wider. But now this leaves me in a quandary. Sales of Greedy Villain (the only book NOT in the omnibus) have been slow but steady on Amazon since the promotion, but the book is only available on Amazon right now because I wanted to keep it in Kindle Unlimited library to get the sweet, sweet borrowed page reads. However, those haven’t been that impressive and I’d hate to lose the opportunity to get some Kobo/Apple sales on it. I guess I just decided, didn’t I? Greedy Villain is up for renewal in KU in early April. I’ll decline renewal and see if I can get some follow up sales on Kobo and Apple. I can always put it back on KU later.

As for BookBub, my faith has been restored. I can now confidently tell you that if you’re looking to promote a book it is the best advertising option out there. And their follow-up survey is great! I shared my data with them and I’m hoping since my ROI was pretty low it will encourage them to lower their entrance fee a bit. Regardless, I’m looking forward to trying to get the omnibus on a domestic (U.S. only) BookBub promotion in the near future.

I’m in a good mood!

 

Have a drink? ‘Cause I’m having a drink.

 

Oh, and I’ve started receiving my rejection letters from the short stories I’ve sent out! They’re great! Can you tell I’m in a good mood? No, seriously! I feel even more like an “official” author now. My self-published books are making money and my short stories are being turned down by magazines. This is a very exciting time!

Cheers!

 

——————————————————————————————————-

 

Holy crap! This whole thing might actually pan out! Can you believe that? No, don’t answer that. It’s the suspense that’s delicious, isn’t it?

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

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Notes from the Self-Pubbed, (Issue #2)

In the last exciting issue of Notes from the Self-Pubbed, I had been disappointed in the results from my $0.99 promotion of Wayward Daughter, but had decided to soldier on and attempt a cross-platform $0.99 promotion for Dead Empire. Well, I did just that and was able to sign up not just two but three recommended book deal newsletters: EReader News Today, Fussy Librarian and Bargain Booksy(Free Booksy). I had used Free Booksy before, but had never tried their Bargain listing. The other two sites were completely new to me and only available for Dead Empire because it had received more than 10 reviews. Actually, EReader News says they don’t have a minimum review requirement, but since they had passed on Wayward Daughter and accepted Dead Empire, I am inclined to think otherwise.

Anyway, before I get to the results, about which I’m sure both of my readers are on pins and needles, (no, literally – I know you’re both part of a mental rehabilitation experiment for internet trolls, forced to read the most uninteresting blog on the internet while sitting on a chair whose seat is made of standing pins and needles… it’s just… well, I wanted to contribute to science in some way and… OK. Fine! It’s a paid trial and I volunteered my blog because I needed the money!) I wanted to point out something I had forgotten to mention last issue. I have actually done a few paid promotions before the ones I talked about previously. In fact, I’m pretty sure I ran them before I even had a blog. Mainly they were free giveaways and aimed simply at getting my books in front of as many eyeballs as possible. I talked about it in a somewhat dry (PINS!) and boring (NEEDLES!) fashion a little while ago. I just wanted to set the record straight that there was a Notes from the Self Pubbed issue before the first official one – HIGHLY collectible! Not worth much now, but when my audience reaches a critical mass and…

 

OK, Batman, OK. Sheesh! Like I'M the one who dwells too long on his own personal struggle. (Don't hit me)

OK, Batman, OK. Sheesh! Like I’m the one who dwells too long on his own personal struggle. (Don’t hit me)

 

So! To the Bat Stats!

I ran a week long $0.99 promotion for Spy for a Dead Empire from 8/19 to 8/26. The book was available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords. It’s also supposedly distributed through Smashwords to sites like FlipKart and OverDrive among others, but I’ve seen little evidence and even less sales to prove it. Anyway, here are the promotion expenses:

Fussy Librarian newsletter ad space for 8/19 – $23

Bargain Booksy newsletter ad space for 8/20 – $40

EReader News Today newsletter ad space for 8/22 – $20

Facebook community page promotional post boost for two days starting 8/19 – $5

Total marketing expense: $88

——————————————————————————————————————–

And lets take a look at those sales from 8/19 to 8/26 (PINS AND NEEDLES!!!):

Spy for a Dead Empire Amazon sales: 36 copies @ $0.99

Spy for a Troubled King sales: 2 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Wayward Daughter: 3 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Dead Empire Nook sales: 5 copies @ $0.99

Total Sales: $61

… and perhaps a sale or two from Apple and Kobo, but they haven’t reported in yet, so I have no idea. Maybe a sale or two, maybe not. But, in total, not bad. Certainly better than the last effort, but let’s check with the Donald:

 

"I only read authors who can turn a profit."

“I only read authors who can turn a profit.”

 

Wow. Rough, but I guess I always knew the Donald would be a tough one to please. Anyway, let’s look at the sales breakdown by newsletter run date. In previous promotions I had tried to stack newsletter run dates on top of each other to try to game Amazon’s ranking system, but there’s some debate whether that’s still possible. In prior years, you could push yourself up Amazon’s sales ranking by having a bunch of people download your book on the same day and get an additional advertising boost from Amazon, but it’s unclear if that’s still the case.

8/19 (Fussy Librarian & Facebook) – 8 total units

8/20 (Bargain Booksy & Facebook) – 14 total units

8/21 (Nothing) – 1 unit

8/22 (EReader News Today) – 17 total units

8/23 (Nothing) – 2 total units

8/24 (Nothing) – 2 total units

8/25 (Nothing) – None

8/26 (Nothing) – 2 total units

Well, EReader News Today definitely showed a return on investment. That’s pretty cool! It’s a little unclear about Fussy Librarian, but I know next-day sales are real, so it’s probably close to a wash. Bargain Booksy seems like it was more expensive than it was worth.

So, overall I’m still disappointed, but not disheartened. I briefly considered ditching the $0.99 promotion thing and fleeing back to Kindle Unlimited, but I think I’ll do one more cross-platform run for Troubled King. It’s almost certain it’s going to lose money, since I likely won’t get a spot on EReader News Today with the six reviews I currently have, but I gotta run it anyway. It’s the last promo I had planned for this round! I gotta do it! I may be losing sales and borrows the more time I spend away from KU, but this is my personal quest we’re talking here. I gotta get the ring to Mordor. Que music: Don’t say – I didn’t tryyy…

 

Thank you, Emmi. Seriously, this song makes me weep with creepy-haunted-haunts. Yeah, that's a thing. you can look it up.

Thank you, Emi. Seriously, this song makes me weep with creepy-haunted-haunts. Yeah, that’s a thing. You can look it up.

 

So, I’m planning the next promo for late September. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll probably post some silly nonsense about tropes and shenanigans in popular pieces of film, TV and “print” in a jealousy-fueled, contempt-riddled attempt at comedy. Be sure to check back soon.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to tip your driver!

 

 

 

Self-publishing services: mind your e-business

There seems to be a lot of concern in the self-publishing community that indie authors are being taken for a ride. There are some unscrupulous people out there who are offering “packages” of “self-publishing services” for exorbitant fees. What services? Well, basically, some of the things they are offering to do you can do yourself for free, like uploading a file to Amazon and Smashwords. So, that’s pretty bad. Still, some people don’t want to be bothered and are willing to pay for the privilege, but in that case I’d recommend those people take the time and patience it takes to find a traditional publisher, since they are obviously not interested in actually self-publishing, just in getting published. People who self-publish without wanting to bother with the details of that decision are kind of like “big game hunters” that are willing to pay for everything just so long as they don’t actually have to do any, you know, hunting.

 

"This sucks. I don't know why I couldn't have shot him from my laptop. Worst. Safari. Ever."

“This sucks. I don’t know why I couldn’t have shot him from my laptop. Worst. Safari. Ever.”

 

And yes, there are services that will even write the book for you. Don’t get me started.

However, these package sites are also offering to do services that most authors can’t do for free. Namely, proofreading, editing (line/copy), formatting and cover design. So, while you might be throwing some money away on buying the free stuff included in one of these “packages” you will be getting some things you’d have to pay for anyway. Therefore, the bone of contention is mostly over how much they charge and less over what they are charging you for.

Now, I’ve read a couple other blog posts about this by other self-published authors and they come across as indignant over this slight to their profession and outraged by the actions of these “vultures” who prey upon the innocence of the naive. More or less, I agree with them, but I’ve also noticed something about these authors. They tend to do their own editing and also have access to extraordinarily cheap formatting and proofreading and art services. They usually proudly list the people who they use and the low prices they pay.

I don’t know how they found these people, but I’m willing to bet they hooked up with them a few years ago, before the big boom in e-book self-publishing. Thus, they got some good prices for their services. Now that these services are much more in demand, new authors are facing higher prices. That’s just how it goes. An author who has been self-publishing with his editor and artist for a few years is likely still paying the same amount he did when they started, but that doesn’t mean that editor and artist are charging OTHER people what they charge him. Even if they are, I guarantee you they are overloaded with work.

For instance, I tried to secure the services of Konrath’s editors and artists when I finished my internal revisions on Dead Empire. First of all, it took each of them at least a month just to reply to my email. Secondly, they told me they would be happy to work for me, but they were booking three months in advance. Lastly, they quoted me prices that were more than what Konrath was paying them (although not much more, to be fair).

One of the main selling points of self-publishing is not having to wait to publish, so I was not inclined to book with them. Also, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the services, quite frankly. Konrath pays (the last he mentioned, at any rate) about a hundred bucks to each of his contractors, give or take. He has three. One does proofing, another does formatting and another does cover design. While I found the formatting of his e-books quite good, the proofing was of debatable merit since he does his own editing and the cover art wasn’t at all the kind of thing I wanted. I had a very vivid image of my book’s cover in my head and I knew a typical one or two or three element e-book cover wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted the reader to get in my head and see my world the way I see it right there on the cover.

 

Okay, maybe not all the way inside my head.

Okay, maybe not all the way inside my head.

 

So, I went to E-Lance to search for contractors. I never considered looking for a package deal. Wasn’t even aware they existed. I just wanted to hire professionals to do a professional job. Guess what? That’s what I found. I’m not trying to sell people on using E-Lance or anything, I’m just going to say that I could put my projects (one editing/formatting/proofing project and one cover design project) up for bid and then looked at all the contractors’ profiles as they bid on them. I eventually chose the best candidates that did the best work at the most reasonable prices.

I guess my main point that I would want anyone who is interested in self-publishing to realize is this: It’s a business. On the one hand, if you shovel a lot of money at someone else to do your business for you (like these packaged services) then you’re most likely going to be disappointed and frustrated. On the other hand, if you insist on doing everything yourself or using bargain basement contractors, you’re probably also going to be disappointed and frustrated. But the reality is, it’s what’s right for you. Just don’t let anyone else tell you the “right” way to publish your book, because the truth is there isn’t a “right” way currently. The market is growing and changing on an almost daily basis. If you have a great idea for your cover, but don’t have any design skills, then don’t skimp on the artist. But at the same time, maybe you feel your writing is strong enough so you don’t need an editor and you can save a couple hundred bucks skipping that expense.

I will say you should always (always, always) get your manuscript proofread. Spend money on that at the very least. Your proofreader will be the one who will make sure every “too” isn’t a “to” and every “you’re” isn’t a “your.” Think you can do it yourself? You’re wrong. You always see your writing the way it is meant to be read, not actually how you wrote it. Important difference.

 

"Did you mean to use the word egregiously thirteen times in this paragraph or were you just having a seizure?"

“Did you mean to use the word ‘egregiously’ thirteen times in this paragraph or were you just having a seizure?”

 

But seriously, you should probably hire an editor. Just my two cents. Because, if you’re like me and you’re not confident in your grammar and punctuation and you don’t have design skills and you still want to publish a book that people will take seriously, then set aside some money to hire professionals. You have to keep in mind that these people are running their own businesses just like you. It’s not unreasonable for them to demand adequate compensation for their services. If you want to give money to one company to take care of everything for you, then go ahead and do that, but for the love of your friends, family and supporters CHECK THEM OUT. Make sure you talk to customers and get a look at their work. Whether or not the books they help people publish actually sell is besides the point. Just make sure you like the work that they do and that most other customers are satisfied with their experience.

But seriously, if you can’t be bothered to find your own editor and artist and you don’t want to deal with the insanely easy KDP program or the Smashwords interface, then just be patient and find a publisher to publish you. Don’t pay anyone. If you’re in earnest about being a writer, eventually someone will publish you.

However, if you’re in earnest about self-publishing, then do yourself a favor and put the time in and do your homework and also realize it’s going to take some money. Even Konrath had to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees just to get the rights to his books back before he could self-publish them. Know what happened to him? Millionaire. Just saying. That’s business. You have to spend money to make money.

Oh, and I guess I should close with the important disclaimer that you shouldn’t do what I’m doing, because I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m beginning to get the sneaking suspicion that most other people don’t either. Cheers. 😉