Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tips to eBook Success

There was an old article Nigel Mitchell linked to on Twitter last week, but I think unlike a lot of other articles there was some good practical advice in it.  Too many of these articles suggest that the author should spend hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars on covers, editing, and marketing.  At least this author is smart enough to realize your average indie writer isn't flush with cash like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

Since everyone here writes "speculative fiction" I hate to agree with the point that thrillers, mysteries, and romance are the best genres to write in--but it's true!  Those are the ones that make the most money, along with YA.  Sure certain sci-fi or fantasy books, or speculative stuff concerned with zombies and the like can make money, but most don't.  So if you're simply trying to get into it for the money, those big three genres are where you should put your chips.

And it is good to write lots of books.  It's kind of like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.  You don't know which books will do well and which won't if you don't put them out there.  And I guess some people like to know there's more by the author for them to buy, though as a reader that never really enters the equation unless I really like a book.

The social media point I don't really agree with.  I haven't found social media to be all that useful, though I suppose it is better than nothing, which is what I can afford otherwise.  Part of it is probably that like that other point I can't invest my whole day in it, nor would I want to.  I do have to work a real job for money to live on yet since I'm not making $100,000 a month like Konrath.  Other people have kids and spouses and all that too that means they can't be Tweeting and Facebooking and so forth all the time, or even most of it.  And that is why you fail, as Yoda says.

I was intrigued about the idea of selling books myself to cut out Amazon and the like.  When I was setting up my new website on Wix I got thinking about that because it has the kind of tools where I could probably do that.  An advantage is that then you get 100% of the money instead of only 35-70% of it like going through an intermediary.  The idea of then being able to create a customer database didn't occur to me, but that is an interesting idea.

The only problem is when YOU become the seller that means you essentially have your own business.  This could lead to much greater complexity concerning taxes.  In theory you'd probably have to collect sales tax, though Amazon gets around this.  But you're not Amazon so you don't have that kind of market muscle.  My operation is small enough that it's probably better not to worry about it, even if that means I don't find out what random lunatics buy my books.

Hopefully now you've learned something.  Want to know more?  Check out my author blog!


  1. So your site still goes through to Amazon, right?

    The thing about Amazon is that it offers visibility. In exchange for 70% of the royalties, Amazon puts your book on a site where pretty much anyone who shops for books will shop. I'm not sure who buys books anywhere else, but I'd bet most book sales start with Amazon. If you can get your book to be in the "People Who Bought This Bought..." stuff, that's pretty valuable.

    Amazon does offer a way to buy your way higher onto lists. It's too expensive for me, but just as retailers would sell shelf space to booksellers, so would Amazon.

    Sci-fi, though, is a pretty easy sale on the Amazon Indie market. While erotica and romance dominate (and YA is big now) sci-fi is pretty steady. Scifi readers aren't as discriminating about who the publisher is, I think.

  2. I'm surprised mystery is considered a good genre for self-publishing. A quick survey of the top 100 bestsellers in several genres shows that thrillers/mysteries significantly lag behind romance, SF, and fantasy in the number of self-published bestsellers. Here's the link: http://www.thepassivevoice.com/05/2014/self-publishings-share-of-the-kindle-market-by-genre/

    I agree the more books the better, but I disagree that social media is an effective way to market books. It's much easier to place ads on sites and mailing lists for readers.

    Briane, it is possible to sell books directly on your own website, but to me, the lack of visibility and the complications of figuring out sales tax aren't worth it at this time. But no matter if you're indie or traditional, selling on your own website or Amazon, all authors trying to sell their books are businesspeople.

  3. I have some other thoughts about this that relate to not selling through Amazon, but they're not fully formed, yet, so I'll hold onto them for a while.

    Having run an Internet business in the past, the sales tax isn't that big a deal. At the moment, you only have to collect it for sales that ship within the state you live, and most seller interfaces will do that stuff for you. You do, however, have to have a business license if you do it that way, and that hassle is probably more trouble than it's worth.

  4. Mailing lists is something I haven't tried much (other than to VERY occasionally use the list of emails I've compiled over the years). The more books the better is what I theorized worked, too -- that binge publishing post I wrote made that point.

    The series/thriller idea seemed weird to me, but I was looking at the top 100 Free Kindle books this weekend, and many of them are series books, which makes sense: write a series, give away the first one, and hook readers in.

    The main thing I have to remember is that I'm not a very good model for sales; I don't buy books the way i want people to buy my books, so I have to try to market to someone that's NOT me, which is weird and hard to do.

    I think the trouble of setting up your own website is probably not worth the extra commission until you get into big numbers. I made $9 from November-April, or $1.50 per month at the 30% commission rate. That means I sold $27 worth of books. At $10 per hour -- the going rate for labor around here (I make more per hour at my job, but that's the starting point) if a website took me more than 2.7 hours, I'd lose money on it.

    But let's say I sold $100,000 worth of books, netting $30,000. I'd pay Amazon $70,000 just for hosting my books. I could set up a website for less than $70,000, of course -- hire a programmer and do it right and get an accountant, all for $20,000-$30,000, tops, counting taxes I'd pay. Should I do that first? Or wait until I sell $100,000 worth of books on Amazon and then go solo?

    Put another way: think bricks-and-mortar. You could sell your books in Barnes & Noble and Target & Wal-mart, or you could open "Andrew's Books" and sell them there. Which would you rather do? Because once you're running a store, you're running a store, not writing.

    That's his best tip: Writing, like any job, is a full-time job. The reason we all make more money in our day jobs is because we do those 40+ hours per week. I might make more if I committed the 50 hours per week I use on my job now, but that's too risky for me to fully commit to. So I make $1.50 per month at my 'side' job.


    Everyone else: Sweetie has a very good, fancy, touch-screen computer that I bought her last summer. It is state-of-the-art and has even its own place in the house, over on her desk. My old laptop with the sticking W key and comma problems sits on the kitchen table amidst the Crunch Berries. Guess which one she uses all the time?

  6. I've decided not to even think about it until I sale a bunch more books. But I enjoyed the post and the conversation.

  7. Just from my observations science fiction and young adult are the least popular on Kindle. I have some writer friends who have switched to romance and are doing much better in sales. You pretty much have to write to a formula if you really want to sell books....unfortunately. That's why I haven't done it. I hate having to follow someone else's plan.

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