By Indie Authors for Indie Authors.

Category: Publishing Tips (Page 2 of 2)

How Self Published Authors Can Sell Their Books in 2017 (Part 2)

 

Part 2: Amazon Is King

 

For those of you just joining us, we’re reviewing the reported book sales from 2016 and seeing what that means for us as Indie Authors. It’s one thing to simply shout about your book into the void and hope the right person hears you, but our goal at Nothing Any Good is to be smarter about and better with our marketing efforts.

Most of the numbers we are looking at are from Author Earnings, who recently finalized their 2016 U.S. book numbers. Remember, the numbers provided by Author Earnings are U.S.-centric, but most of the takeaways extend into worldwide Indie Author strategies as well.

If you missed Part 1, I strongly encourage you to check it out. We looked at the fact that readers are making more and more of their print book purchasing decisions online and why that is a positive sign for us Indie Authors. However, as hinted at in Part 1, it’s not all good news. In Part 2 we’re going to look into Amazon’s continued stranglehold on the market and what that means for Indie Authors.

As we went over in Part 1, 43% of all traditionally published books were purchased online in 2016. This is a positive sign for Indie Authors because readers rarely consider who the publisher is in their purchasing decisions (while bookstores rarely don’t). We even saw a 15% increase of print books being purchased online over the 2015 numbers, as presented in the chart below.

 

Courtesy of Authors Earnings

 

It’s nice to see that Independent Bookstores are a growth market right now with a 5% growth over 2015, but all other brick and mortar stores are in decline. Unsurprisingly, the big winner in this market is Amazon.

Just look at those numbers. Amazon sold nearly 5 million more print books last year than Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, Safeway, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Costco, Sam’s Club, and all other mass merchandisers combined

That, my friends, is the rich just keep gettin’ richer in full effect. Just look at these market shares below. (I apologize for the blurriness.)

 

Courtesy of Authors Earnings

 

Already owning over 1/3 of the print book market in 2015, Amazon crept even closer to owning half the market in 2016. This from the same company that also owns over half the ebook market by many reports.

As Author Earnings so eloquently put it:

 

Courtesy of Authors Earnings

 

 

This has good news/bad news ramifications for Indie Authors.

What would you like first? The good news? Okay, here goes.

 

Amazon has clearly paved the way for the Indie Author and self publishing book markets. They were the first to see this shift nearly a decade ago and were somewhat of visionaries in their execution. They built the slickest platform for authors to cleanly and efficiently publish their books. The original intent, I’m sure, was to provide a way for authors to cut out the middle man (publishers) and go directly to their audience (readers), (like most business models on the internet).

They’ve done an astounding job at it too. Have a look at this market shift over a 2 year period.

 

Photo Courtesy of Authors Earnings

 

In early 2014, Indie authors had taken over small and medium size publishers for the second most ebook sales in the game. But Indie sales were still a good 10+ percentage points behind ebook sales from the Big Five.

Look what has happened since then.

Ebook sales for the Big Five Publishers have plummeted a good 15-16% from the beginning of 2014 to the beginning of 2016. In the same timeframe, ebook sales have risen roughly the same amount for Indies. Indie ebook sales and Big Five ebook sales have essentially traded places over this two year period, and Indies have added on an additional 3-4% to boot. If you add in Amazon published and “Uncategorized”, Indie ebook sales is well over half the market.

That is fantastic for us Indie Authors and this market shift is largely due to Amazon.

 

Indie ebook sales has well over half the market. #IndieAuthorClick To Tweet

 

Now, the bad news.

 

A couple interesting things happened to Amazon’s business plan as it’s market share continued to increase over the last few years.

First of all, I’m sure the original intent of Amazon’s self publishing platform was to serve a well under-served segment of the author community. They saw a void in the market where a top-heavy five publishers could predominantly dictate not only what was published, but also what readers actually read, (due to their marketing focus on particular books). This was an unacceptable market dynamic for Amazon and we’re grateful they entered into the void.

Amazon presented a way for authors to present their finished, polished books directly to the public at large. It was great.

But (and please note this is all conjecture; I have no special insight into Amazon’s book business strategies; but it is reasoned conjecture)…

But Amazon soon saw another unserved market segment. They noticed that there was a large population of people that wanted to be authors, but didn’t really want to do the work to become an author. These “authors” had the beginnings of a book idea, but didn’t really care to put in the effort to write, revise, write, edit, revise, rinse and repeat.

This didn’t matter to Amazon whatsoever. Why would it? If someone wants to take a vanity project of words, slap a cover on it, and convince their closest family and friends to purchase it, what difference does it make to Amazon? They take a cut regardless.

For those of us Indie Authors truly scrapping, clawing, and working our asses off, though, it created a huge problem.

Essentially, it watered down the Indie Author brand. If Indies want to be viewed as legitimate and to sell to a market beyond just family and friends, they need to find ways to legitimize themselves to rise above the noise of the millions (yes, millions) of Indie books in competition.

There are many ways to do this, but two are time and again the most successful. The first is as old as the day is long: Get published by a Big Five publisher. That immediately separates your book from the watered down brand that is Indie books.

The second, is controlled entirely by Amazon. You guessed it, rankings and reviews. If you want your book to get noticed by readers and rise above the fray, you need reader reviews and strong rankings, which are entirely controlled by Amazon. You know what they say, the person with all the gold makes the rules.

This is where the second interesting thing has happened to Amazon’s business plan, (at least as it appears outwardly to us Indie Authors). While Amazon was touted for a long time as THE pro-Indie and pro-self-publishing platform, there’s been a slight shift in perception recently. Over the last 18 months, it seems more and more Indie Authors have taken issue with new practices and rules.

You don’t have to go far to find an Indie Author that has had honest reader reviews deleted by Amazon.

You don’t have to strain to realize that very few self published authors actually make money.

There have been articles from The Atlantic and posts here about Amazon’s slow response and perceived indifference to copyright infringement being carried out on their platform.

Amazon’s KDP option has been wonderful for some, but has squeezed others in both obvious ways (KDP requires exclusivity preventing an author from selling their book through any other outlets) and non-obvious ways(KDP’s 70% royalty plan looks mighty enticing compared to the 35% royalty plan. That is, unless and until you realize that the 70% plan is based on net income, while the 35% plan is based on gross sales. This means that a book price at $9.99 brings you as the author $3.15 under the 70% net plan, while it would bring you $3.50 under the 35% gross plan. My thanks to Doris Booth of Authorlink for bringing this to my attention.)

 

All of this is not to say that Amazon is terrible or in need of derision. Not at all. Amazon has been wonderful for the Indie Author community.

However, it shouldn’t go without notice that Amazon has tremendous power and control over our fates right now. As that Pac Man continues to chomp up the market share of the former giants, the less options us Indie Authors will have. While we’re not there yet, in recent months we seem to be moving back to the same market conundrum with which the Big Five dominance presented us in recent decades.

The point is simply this: Be careful. Don’t view the recent market shifts with only rose colored glasses.

 

So the takeaways from today’s review of the numbers:

  1. Good News: Indie ebook sales are surging over the last three years and Indie print book sales have begun to follow a similar trajectory.
  2. Bad News: With each passing year, we find ourselves with only one sheriff in town and we have to play by Amazon’s rules.

 

Alas, it’s not all doom and gloom, though! 2016 brought some very positive trends for Indie Authors. Check back later this week as we continue to dive into the market trends further.

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

How Self Published Authors Can Sell Their Books in 2017 (Part 1)

How Self Published Authors Can Sell

 

Part 1: Don’t Ignore Print Books

 

Author Earnings finalized their 2016 U.S. book numbers. I can’t personally vouch for the veracity of how Author Earnings tracks and calculates their numbers, but I also have no reason whatsoever to question any of the numbers. I like to view their reports from time to time to see if there’s any interesting information I can glean regarding market trends and what it might mean for us Indie Authors.

So what are the takeaways from 2016? This week I would like to zero in on some of the numbers throughout the week and see what valuable information we can utilize in our own efforts as Indie authors in 2017.

Today, I would like to look at (1) where are people buying and (2) in what formats. (Note: The numbers provided by Author Earnings are U.S.-centric, so I can only speak about U.S. markets in this analysis. However, I think much of the takeaways can extend into worldwide Indie Author strategies as well.)

 

Where are people buying books?

43% of all traditionally published books were purchased online in 2016. This is a continued increase from what we saw in 2014 and 2015.

I know what you’re thinking. “I’m not traditionally published, so why should I care about this?”

Well here’s the thing. Readers purchase books for a lot of different reasons. I usually only purchase a book if it’s recommended by a highly trusted source (e.g. friend, family member, colleague, etc.). A lot of readers will have similar requirements for purchasing a book, or they will purchase based on the title, the cover, or the blurb on the back jacker.

You know what readers don’t base their purchasing decisions on? The publisher.

Readers couldn’t care less who the publisher is in most instances. It’s the bookstores that care. Bookstores use the publisher as a sign of quality and a benchmark for making it into their brick and mortar stores. Even as the quality of Indie books has increased exponentially over the last five years, essentially making the difference between self published books and traditionally published books indiscernible, bookstores haven’t seemed to adjust their buying practices accordingly.

So if readers are now buying nearly half of all traditionally published books online, (in addition to all the non-traditional purchases they make), as Indie Authors we’re no longer relying on bookstores to put our books in front of readers. Most readers don’t care about who published it, which increases the probability that they’ll be buying an Indie title rather than a title published by one of the Big 5. This is good news.

 

What format are readers buying?

Author Earnings reported over 16,000,000 self published print books were sold in 2016. Most of these were via Amazon’s Create Space.

Look at this chart from Author Earnings on traditionally published books:

 

Courtesy of Authors Earnings

 

Over 75% of all traditionally published books purchased in 2016 were print. The numbers Author Earnings provides are that 793M traditionally published print books sold in the U.S. last year. Here’s how the numbers adjust when we take into account both traditionally and Indie publishing:

 

Courtesy of Authors Earnings

 

These numbers could mean a couple things. You could look at the uptick of 264M ebooks contributed by Indie book sales and contrast that to only roughly 16M in Indie print sales, and you could conclude that, as a self published author, you should be focused on ebooks. That’s a reasonable conclusion given this data.

I don’t  think that is an accurate take away, though. I don’t have the numbers to support this, but I suspect the reason that there were only 16M Indie books sold in print last year is because very few Indie authors actually choose to publish their titles in print. My take away from this is that self published authors should continue to aggressively explore print for their books.

Well over half the books sold in the U.S. last year were print books. We also just learned that nearly 50% of traditionally published books were purchased online, so we don’t have the bookstore hurdle staring us so squarely in the face anymore. To me, this disparity of 264M Indie ebooks to 16M Indie print books means not enough of us are exploring print as a publishing option, and I think we’re missing out on a large readership opportunity.

Know your audience friends! If you have an erotica book, you’re probably just fine focusing on the digital market because almost 70% of erotica books purchased in the U.S. last year were ebooks.

However, if you’re like me and have a book that is literary fiction, or if you have a young adult fiction book, or any other number of genres, you are missing a large potential readership if you’re only publishing digitally. You need to seriously consider self publishing in print via Create Space or Ingram Sparks. (I published my book in print through Ingram Sparks.)

(Note: There’s a quickly growing market in Audio Books that traditional publishers are capitalizing on that Indie publishers have failed to grasp yet. I think it would be wise for us Indie Authors to look very seriously into Audio Books. However, I have not had the time to do so myself yet, so I don’t feel I can adequately contribute to the discussion. Looks like I have some homework to do, though.)

 

So the takeaways from today’s review of the numbers are two-fold:

  1. Don’t ignore print books! The numbers continue to point to Indie success in print books.
  2. Readers are unsurprisingly making more and more of their print book purchasing decisions online. This is good news for Indie published titles. However, it’s not the entire story, and it’s not all good news.

 

Don't ignore print books! The numbers continue to point to Indie success in print books. #amwritingClick To Tweet

 

Tomorrow we’ll look into Amazon’s continued stranglehold on the market and what that means for Indie Authors.

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

How to Design a Cover to Make Your Book Sell

 

Design the perfect book cover

 

The Dos and Don’ts of Designing a Cover That Will Bring Attention to Your Book and Create More Sales

by Tabby Stirling

 

Anyone can design a book cover. But not everyone can design a GOOD cover.

What do I mean by GOOD?

Well, of course, it is very subjective, but I always try to design a cover that would sit well on the shelf of a major bookshop. A design where font and graphics work together to demonstrate the themes of the book, while also saying something about the author. Where color balances with everything and a few risks are taken in the spirit of artistic endeavor.

I don’t believe that you must have been to Art School to get it right, but an “eye” is very useful. Much like finding your “voice” in writing, having an “eye” for covers cannot be taught (in my opinion).

So how can you design a cover that will be the envy of your friends and appear professional and creative? Here are a few tips that I’ve discovered during my time as a designer.

 

Font

There are a rich variety of free fonts that are accessible to the designer, so be bold and don’t just stick to the fonts that come with Word. Here are two of suggestions for places to find free fonts to start you off:

Fonts can make or break a cover. Just because you love the swirling, medieval capitals sprawling across the cover of your historical romance, it doesn’t mean it works. Don’t ignore the importance of a font!

 

Font Matters a lot

 

Design Principles

A good idea for cover design is to remember an old adage about women’s fashion. You can show off your legs or cleavage, but never both at the same time after a certain age.

This is also true of design. If you want a 1000-volt cover, you can achieve it by using graphics that pop with a plain font and colors that balance. But don’t try to do all of it at once.

Experiment with graphic placement. Sometimes a slightly off-center graphic can distribute menace much better than those Horror Fonts that are great on a 40’s film posters but not much else.

Less is more.

Go with your instincts. Being bold doesn’t mean that you must have outrageous fonts, color and graphics simultaneously. Experiment with color and font. Always back away from something you are not quite sure of. And don’t ever feel that something isn’t quite bright enough without the hot pink graphics, (especially if it’s a book on chemical engineering).

Here’s two graphics programs to consider to get you started:

Color

Probably the trickiest cover item to handle is color. I love color and often find myself cavorting with highly inappropriate Pantone colors for long periods of times. It’s good to experiment, this is how we achieve the final result, but don’t let your experiments get the better of you.

One of the easiest ways to spot an amateur cover is the color scheme used (or not used).

Great roaring oceans of color spewing like a Finnish volcano is not always a positive thing. Think about how it will be perceived by others. Try to become less self-indulgent about what you like and what you think will sell, and focus instead on what your readers will like.

 

 

Lastly, Cover Revisions

Be prepared to put time and effort into your design. A full book-cover may take me 12 hours just for the initial mock-up before it goes back to the client. Then there’s the inevitable to and fro where ideas are discussed and the design begins to come to life. This is one of my favourite bits—being creative with the client.

What I start with is invariably nothing like the final, approved design and it can be frustrating at times.

I think it is important to treat the author with great respect because writing a book is no easy thing and their “baby” deserves attention. However, I would not be doing my job if I didn’t gently point out an idea that I don’t think would work. I will always try it, if the client insists, because book cover design is a collaboration and a journey. A quite magical thing really.

 

An Example

So, let’s take this book cover design advice out of the theoretical and into the actual. Consider the following two covers. I chose these two because they both have “bird” in the title and yet they are at completely different ends of the spectrum. Take them in as a reader. What do you think about them?

 

 

 

 

First of all, look at the bestselling All the Birds in The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. Everything about it screams an angry, magical, fragile beauty. The book is about all those things and is a cross-genre masterpiece. Look at the way the birds are placed—random, but balanced. Look at the font used. The color and placement of the text behind the images make the cover resemble glass shattering. As one of the themes of the book is about the earth dying, it is very effective.

Now consider the second cover—Bird of Prey by Steven Ryan. The cover is a disaster. A kitten in black and white, with a cheap font, badly spaced and horribly placed. I have no idea what this book is about because the cover is so amateur. (Editor’s note: The book is apparently about a serial killer seagull that is killing cats.)  The cover is so creatively limiting that I wouldn’t buy it even it was reduced. Harsh words, I know, but your cover is all about getting your book noticed and making that sale.

 

The first cover does this perfectly.

 

The second cover does not.

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

Tabby Stirling photo

 

About the Author

 

Tabby Stirling is a published writer, poet and designer living in Edinburgh, Scotland with her family.  Her publishing credits include Mslexia, Feminine Collective, Twisted Sister, Literary Orphans and Camroc Fiction Press. In July 2016, she signed with Unbound, the literary crowdfunding platform with her novel, Blood On The Banana Leaf, about maid abuse in Singapore. Funding currently stands at a healthy 55%. Pledges are very welcome for some great rewards.  Thank you!

You can follow Tabby on Twitter @Volequeen.

 

5 Hard Truths About Self Publishing

Self Publish

Photo Courtesy of U Self-Publish

 

If you are thinking about self-publishing or you have just begun your journey in the self-publishing wilderness, there are some hard truths you should understand beforehand.

My new book Pieces Like Pottery was published by DJB Publishing at the beginning of October. Yes, DJB Publishing is me. I am self-published.

Self-publishing wasn’t my first choice when I began this process. I explored finding publisher through a variety of avenues. I contacted well over 100 agents. I also put together nearly a hundred submissions for literary and creative writing magazines, the idea being that a publication in a magazine would lend additional credibility when speaking with agents. I knew I had a difficult path in front of me. As if being an outsider to the industry wasn’t enough, my first fiction work was a collection of short stories. Not good.

If you are not aware, publishers don’t like short stories. In fact, they look down upon them with disdain. Despite being a collection of linked stories that create a larger picture when pieced together, despite the book receiving high praise, and despite having my non-fiction works published in a variety of print and online media, publishers and agents were uninterested in my book. My memory may be faulty, but I am pretty sure this is actual video footage from one of my pleas to a Big Five publisher.

 

 

I found zero success with agents or traditional publishers. This left me with three choices: (1) Give up, (2) Go back to the drawing board and write something else, or (3) Self publish. I chose option 3, and I am so glad I did.

Self-publishing has been a long and difficult journey, and I suspect there is a long road ahead of me still, but it has been extremely satisfying. I have found self-publishing to be a far greater gift than I suspect a traditional publisher would have offered. However, there are some hard truths anyone considering self-publishing needs to consider. I don’t want to deter you, because I have loved being a self-published author, but I also don’t want you to go into this process with your eyes wide shut.

 

1. Decide Why You Wrote Your Book Right Now.

You need to decide why you wrote your book in the first place. Or for those of you considering writing a book–decide why you want to write it. If you want to write a book to become rich and famous, you may want to find a different avenue for that. Reality television stars are al the rage these days.

For most of you, however, I suspect you write for a different reason. Yes, we would all love to become rich off our books. We would all love to have every critic praise our books to the heavens. I’m guessing that’s not what drove you to write your book in the first place, though. What inspired you to partake in this creative journey? Decide that now and remind yourself everyday.

 

Decide Why You Wrote Your Book Right Now. Don't forget it later on. #writerslife #indieauthorsClick To Tweet

 

2. Set Attainable Goals

Again, we all think it would be incredible to get rich and be well-regarded as authors, but let’s separate our dreams from our goals. Dreams are good to have, but you should have goals too. My goal? I want to sell a hundred copies of my book by spring. Yep, you read that right. One hundred copies. I’m getting closer every day.

No one is getting rich from one hundred copies, not unless your Nathan Myhrvold selling a cookbook collection for $625. When I reach the goal of selling one hundred copies, I’ll reassess and set a new goal. Maybe that new goal will be a higher number of sales. Maybe that new goal will be seeing my book in print. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

What are your goals? Remember #1 and why you wrote your book in the first place. Set goals that are realistic and attainable.

 

3. Your Cover Matters.

You know the old adage Never judge a book by its cover? Well, it’s a lie. It’s a nice platitude, but it’s just not the way the world works, at least not for authors. Everyone judges a book by its cover. People will most certainly judge your book by its cover. Spend the time and money necessary to create a good cover. (The photographer and the designer for my cover were excellent. I am happy provide recommendations if anyone would like.)

 

You know the old adage Never Judge a Book By Its Cover? Well, it’s a lie. Your cover matters.Click To Tweet

 

4. Editing Matters.

I know, I know. You have spent hundreds of hours editing your own book. You have had a half dozen friends and family read your draft as well. They provided great feedback and edits. One of them has even taught high school English and grammar for over twenty years. Do you want the hard truth? You need to pay to have your book professionally edited. Unless your mother does this for a living, I don’t care how long she has taught high school English. For every dollar you spend marketing your book after it’s published, editing will help ten-fold.

 

5. Get involved. 

One of the biggest difficulties for self-published authors, (one of many), is that we have to be our own writers, publishers, entrepreneurs, and marketers. It’s a lot of hats to wear at once. Don’t go at it alone.

Get involved in author and writer communities on social media. Facebook and Goodreads are good places to start. Get involved with other blogs and websites that surround your interests. You’re here reading this, so you have a leg up on 90% of the writers out there, which is great. Ask questions. Post comments–on my site and others. I love to hear from readers and other authors. Reach out to me if you have questions or comments.

Don’t limit yourself to just online communities either. Find local book groups or author groups in your city. There are plenty of authors that have plowed this road before, don’t reinvent the wheel all by yourself. Use the community and resources you have around you. I have found the self-publishing community to be beyond generous. I am sure you will too.

 

Hope these hard truths don’t discourage you, but help set your mindset. Keep writing away, friends! Keep at it and you’ll reach your goals!

Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter, share on social media, and provide feedback below if you agree or disagree. I love to hear from you!

Looking for more tips to inspire you and kick your writing into gear? Get Dan Buri’s 40 Tips On Creative Writing now. Don’t miss another opportunity to take your writing to the next level.

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Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

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