Thursday, July 30, 2015

The .99 boxed set: trends in e-book pricing

Several months ago, the prolific Laurel O'Donnell reached out via e-mail to invite me to join in a boxed set with her and two others, Elizabeth Rose and Kathryn Loch. The offer was quite flattering...they've all released many more books than I have (so far), and are bestsellers. I'm not...yet? Also, Laurel's The Angel and the Prince is on my keeper shelf, so I was honored that she wanted one of my books sold with hers.

The process of putting the set together was easier than I'd expected. Fortunately her talented husband did all of the formatting, so the only expense was the set's cover.

We needed to decide on the title, pricing and release date. And how much promotion we were willing to pay for. After tossing around some ideas, we agreed on Castles, Knights and Chivalry.

I struggled a bit with pricing. Many, many boxed sets are priced at .99 these days, and usually range from three to 10 full-length books. Amazon gives 35% royalties for .99 books, or approximately .09 per author per sale. Recently I saw a set with 11 books...for free!

I see both sides of the issue. On the one hand, it's easier for readers to give unfamiliar or newer authors a chance if they're part of a low priced boxed set. Then, perhaps, they'll go on to buy the author's other books. On the other, what's happening to the value of books? My contribution, At His Command, currently sells at $2.99, and has only been available since January. Would joining the box cannibalize individual book sales? The other three books have been available longer. Do e-books have limited shelf lives (pun intended) at a regular price (already significantly lower than their print counterparts) nowadays because so many new releases? As of this writing, Amazon show over 10,000 new romance the past 30 days, including just over 800 historical romances.

CKandC has been on preorder and officially releases August 1st. I'm thrilled to say it's been climbing the Amazon's Hot New Releases charts, currently #2 in Ancient World, #7 in Medieval, and #54 in all Historical Romance. Out of the top 100 Historical Romance Hot New Releases at the moment, only seven are boxed sets. In terms of sales, we're at
We'll be doing a small amount of promotion in addition to Facebook and Twitter. How will the set do? Many have become bestsellers, so there's that dream....Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Best intentions vs. pushing yourself

Yes, I really want to finish revisions on book #3 so I can release it. And I want to move on to my next trilogy (or series) and perhaps contemporaries, too. Despite my best intentions, I've been getting "must" tasks done, and simply running out of brain space for "really want" tasks. Or should I push myself harder to get more done faster?

This has been a feast week as far as acting is concerned (for which I'm grateful, owing to recent weeks of relative famine). I drove to Grand Rapids (3+ hours) and back on Saturday for a role in the indie feature, WIND. I had an on-camera audition Sunday, two at different casting agencies on Monday, plus several VO auditions throughout the week. I don't do much extra work any more, but I'd heard that a great director was filming another movie here...and I was able to work on that Tuesday. I'm getting coaching for a play audition next week and needed to start learning those lines. Plus I'm taking a class and have two scripts to prepare..and a casting director will be attending our "audition." And I got the proofs of my new headshots, some of which needed to be disseminated to my agents and casting sites.

Meanwhile, I needed to spend a bit of time promoting my current books, because Follow Your Heart received a great Publishers Weekly review, and Castles, Knights & Chivalry, the boxed set At His Command is in, is doing well on the Hot New Releases lists. And I've received several projects from a new freelance writing client, and must meet those deadlines.

All of this elucidates a key difference between an indie and a traditionally published author. If I had a contract and an editor (and agent, perhaps) expecting my next book, I'd have to find a way to fit in more fiction writing, no matter how tired I was, how much other work I had to do or how much I wanted to take a night off for a social event. On the one hand, there's no external pressure to produce. On the other, it's all on me to make new books a priority.

Maybe I should go on a writer's retreat!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book promotion -- what works, what doesn't?

Since releasing AT HIS COMMAND in January and FOLLOW YOUR HEART in April, I confess to a-throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks-like effort at promotion and marketing. I'd guest blog here, submit for a review there, take out a listing in what my research said was one of the best book promotion email/websites, buy an ad, submit for a review.

I may work with a PR/marketing firm in the future, but because of cost and things I've heard I haven't yet. Such as: some don't take self-published authors, many require monthly retainers, others promise results that don't sound or weren't attainable (based on friends' reports). I also didn't want to make the time to research recommendations, in part because, as with a lot of promo, what works for one author may not work for another.

My time and energy has value, too. So before I release medieval #3 in the fall, I wanted to assess what has worked for me so far.

1) Goodreads giveaways, like the one I'm running now. Hundreds sign up during the month (it went live last night and already 140 people have registered, I select the number of winners of a paperback book. For a month of visibility in the giveaways, all it costs is the purchase and mailing cost of the books. I know that hundreds of readers are now at least aware of my book. I may also gain new adds to "To Read," readers, reviews and even sales in the process.

Goodreads Giveaway

Passion makes their marriage of convenience inconvenient....

Follow Your Heart by Ruth  Kaufman

   Follow Your Heart

   by Ruth Kaufman

 Giveaway ends August 14, 2015.

 See the giveaway details
  at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

2) A Kindle Countdown Deal. Lower your price while retaining royalty rates and have a countdown on your book page. It took some doing to set up the KDC and coordinate listings with promo tools such as Ereader News Today (known as ENT) and several others. My goal was to earn back what I spent. And I did.

3) Facebook. Not Facebook ads or "boost this post,"...though I got sucked in to trying a few. No visible results and very few clicks.

What hasn't worked as well as I'd thought it would:
1) Twitter. I've been fortunate to have blog posts and all kinds of things retweeted many times, including one blog post with a potential reach of over 200,000, but I haven't been able to discern any sales increase. Perhaps the tweets could have had fewer hashtags and more content. Were those who saw them uninterested in my genre?

Of course, we can't measure the cumulative effect is of getting our books, reviews, and info about ourselves out there. I believe everything helps in the long run, but managing time and money spent on effective marketing/promo is more important.

2) My first Amazon Giveaway. I reviewed the process and settings and read a couple of articles. I decided to offer 1 printed copy of FYH to the 100th, 200th and 300th person who signed up. And assumed it'd be out there at least a week. Nope. Within a few hours, the books were gone, at a cost of around $50. So, yes, more than 300 people now know of my book. Three will receive a copy. But a few hours, IMO, wasn't enough exposure. I'd set the parameters much higher if I did another.

What works/doesn't for you as a reader? As an author?

Friday, July 10, 2015

10 Feelancer Motivation Tips

(No, feelancer isn't a typo. The word freelancer, IMO, implies that the Gainfully Unemployed are willing to work without recompense. So I prefer feelancer.)

Some days being a feelancer is the most enjoyable career. I work the hours I want. There's no boss breathing down my neck. On the other hand, there may not be a structure to my day. It's all on me to get revisions done, complete the information form for my next book cover, write that article and submit for and/or record auditions. etc. So there are times when my motivation lags. Perhaps I've been super busy, or have a bunch of random things to do and feel scattered. Perhaps I feel the efforts I'm making are floating in the ether, with no responses or incoming opportunities. So why do more?

This morning was one of those times. I'm creating a list of motivation tips I hope will help me in the future, and you, too.

1) Increase your discipline. Sometimes you have to talk to yourself and remind yourself why you need to work.

2) Conversely, maybe you need to decrease the pressure you put on yourself for a bit. Accept that you're simply unmotivated right this minute instead of trying to force better feelings. Maybe you need to take a walk among the flowers, as a Facebook friend suggested. And you may need to refill the well, even during prime work hours.

3) List every task you need to do, by when and prioritize. Then, as Nike says, Just Do It. Taking the first steps and getting started on something can be the catalyst to continue.

4) Get a pep talk. I asked Facebook friends to share how they maintain a positive attitude. And two close friends saw my post and called.

5) Focus on what you can do in the present moment. Don't let things that didn't work out in the past weigh you down.

6) Read or review The Artist's Way, or other books/articles that enhance your perspective.

7) Keep your eye on the prize, as they say. What will be your reward: the satisfaction of completing a project or checking something off your list, or an actual reward?

8) Work with a friend so you both stay on task and have a sounding board. I've done this with several friends

9) Change your environment. Working from a coffee shop or anywhere that's not my desk at home, even for a few hours, can freshen the process.

10) Instead of getting nothing done, take a short break. Run an errand or two, walk around the block. Sometimes the best ideas pop into your head when you're not trying so hard.

Any other ideas? Which sounds best to you?

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Castles, Knights and Chivalry box set is live!

I was pleasantly surprised and honored when Amazon best-selling author Laurel O'Donnell invited me to be part of a box set with her and two more best-sellers, Kathryn Loch and Elizabeth Rose. Thus, Castles, Knights and Chivalry was born! 

Why was I honored? Because a) they're all best-sellers, and I'm not...yet? b) so far I've released the fewest books by far (#3 should be available before the end of summer...I'm adding another scene dealing with the subplot, which both of the editors I sent it to suggested). The other three authors have been much more prolific.

My first medieval At His Command (set in 1453 England) joins Laurel's The Lady and the Falconer (1373 England), Elizabeth's Lady of the Mist (1330 England)and Kathryn's Demon Laird (1286 Scotland). The set went live last night on Amazon for preorder at just .99. 

Given the popularity of TV series based on books, such as The White Queen, which begins in 1464 England, and Game of Thrones, which incorporates many medieval elements, I hope our box set gives medieval readers the opportunity to enjoy four books set in an era they love, and that the .99 price entices those who haven't read medievals to give the subgenre a try.

What's not to like about castles, knights and chivalry?