Saturday, 12 August 2017

The things my kids say

I think I've mentioned before that I work on the family computer in the living room, which means I often have a kid or two peering behind my shoulder and making comments on whatever I'm doing. Here are some examples:

"Is this the book about dragons?" (No, it's a Regency era novel) "You should put some dragons in all the same!" Did Jane Austen ever hear the like, I wonder? Probably not. She didn't have kids.

"Who is going to buy this book?" (Boy, am I asking myself the same question) "I hope loads of people do!" (I'm with you on this one, kiddo). "I hope you sell millions of copies!" (A coupla thousand would be nice as well).

"You should have the text in purple. It's way prettier" (That's an idea I haven't tried yet). "Actually, you should put in all sorts of pretty colors and fonts" (I'm sure the literary agent I'm sending this to will appreciate it).

"This cover doesn't look good" (Thanks for your honesty, baby). "You should put a fairy on it" (that would be an original element for a Viking novel). "Why are you putting your name on this?" (You know what, sometimes I'm not sure if I should).

Working in the same space with my kids may be a lot of things, but it's never boring.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

When Your Client Doesn't Pay

Image result for client doesn't pay

If you are an indie writer, chances are you aren't getting a six-figure income from your books alone. It is possible that at some point, you will decide to supplement your income by freelancing, whether it's writing articles,  ghost writing, being a virtual assistant or, like me, providing editing and proofreading services.

Thankfully, up until now I have dealt with nice people who are very scrupulous about paying on time. Having gotten used to this, I admittedly became a little lax about payment terms and conditions, at some point not even clarifying exactly when I expect to be paid. A recent experience with a client who has been dodging my emails for weeks now promptly cured me of this negligent attitude.

Let me just say it once: there are few things more rotten than neglecting to pay a hard-working freelancer who has toiled for weeks or months over a difficult project. There is no excuse to cheating someone just because you can get away with it.

There is some potentially helpful advice on dealing with a client who avoids paying, but it doesn't really apply in my case. The best thing I can do is probably just write this client off, never work for them again, and resolve to be clearer and firmer about terms of payment in the future. Oh, and possibly warn other people about them, because dishonesty is a habit, and if someone cheated you, you can be almost sure they had more people taken in in the course of their career.

So here is my future work policy: I'm not going to just assume everyone is spotlessly honest, especially because I also get commissions from sites like Freelancer, where all sorts of people hang out. I'm going to ask for half the payment once half the work is done (or I might even make third or quarter milestones for larger projects); until that arrives, I will do no more work. I will also limit payment methods to direct transfer and PayPal, to eliminate excuses such as "the check must have been lost in the mail".

Having three young children at home, I am extremely busy, and freelancing for other people cuts into my already limited writing time. The least I can do is ensure that I get paid for every hour I invest in someone else's work.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Ditching KDP Select: First Month

Image result for kdp select

I thought I should write a follow-up post about my opting out of KDP Select with my latest book, The Landlord. Now that almost a month has elapsed since book launch, how are the results?

Well, not very dramatic, to tell the truth.

To be precise, I have only sold a few copies so far - and all of them through Amazon. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why, either - if I have a Facebook ad, a promotional post, or any link space anywhere, I have to make a choice of what link to my book page I put in, and practically, I will almost always opt for the Amazon link, because I know most people shop there. So at first glance, it doesn't look like I gained anything by going for wide distribution.

On the other hand, it's not like I lost anything significant, either. My KU reads aren't very great for the books enrolled in KDP Select. If I want to run the book at a reduced price for a while, I can do it manually, without Kindle Countdown. The only thing I appear to lose is the promotional free days, but I find this more useful for series (make first book free and hook readers that way) than stand-alones.

So I guess my conclusion, so far, is pretty bland; as an author who, let's face it, doesn't sell tons of books, I might as well make things easier for myself by choosing KDP Select and not bothering with other distributors. On the other hand, I'm not discounting the potential benefits of wide distribution just yet. I have made The Landlord available on Payhip, at a lower price than on Amazon, as my small way to support this very convenient and author-friendly platform.

KDP Select or not, getting your name out there is a slow uphill journey, and there are no miracles - just lots of hard work and, hopefully, some satisfaction... eventually.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Payhip: an undervalued platform

I decided to write this post in order to raise awareness of Payhip, a direct sales website which, in my opinion, has great potential for increasing authors' independence.

Payhip is by far the easiest and most convenient platform for selling digital books online I have encountered so far. It's neat, simple and quick; it allows you to set any price with no restrictions, including permafree; it enables you to instantly generate coupons for any or all of your products. And there's very little interference - just upload your product file and a cover image, insert a description, and you're good to go.

And the best part? It only takes a 5% commission, compared to Amazon, where you can get at most 70%. And you get paid by PayPal instantly, every time someone makes a purchase. There's no waiting or threshold sums. This is the most author-friendly arrangement I know.

I realize that Payhip isn't a mainstream book retailer, but if you have a good-sized platform, and don't opt to have your book enrolled in KDP Select, you can advertise your Payhip sales page through your blog, social media and newsletter, and entice readers to buy from there by setting a slightly lower price on Payhip than on Amazon. You can also mention that by choosing Payhip as their purchase website, they make sure more money comes directly to you, rather than to the Amazon Godzilla.

Naturally, on Amazon you can have both your digital and your print book conveniently together on the same product page, but if the bulk of your sales comes from ebooks, as it does for most indie authors, this is not very significant.

We can all help make Payhip more popular by choosing to support authors we love by buying books from them via Payhip, bypassing Amazon and the thick slice of pie it gets from our book sales.

Also check out (on Payhip, of course) my free ebook, Writing Tips for Busy People.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Can you edit your own books?

Image result for book editing

Writing, in a large measure, is rewriting, revising and editing, and if you aim to be a professional author, you are going to do a lot of that, possibly spending more time on revision than on writing that first draft. But you can't do it alone.

Even if you happen to be a very skilled editor, none of us has the objectivity to properly evaluate our own work. We all absolutely need another pair of eyes, preferably many pairs of eyes, to help us take it to the next level.

What about beta readers, then? Is it enough to send your manuscript to several of those? Beta readers can be worth their weight in gold, but at best, they will point out plot inconsistencies or say they have noticed some minor typos. You can't expect beta readers to actually sit down and correct every grammar awkwardness and insert or remove a comma whenever appropriate. This is work that takes a high level of commitment and many hours, and people generally won't do it for free.

But I can't afford an editor, or even a proofreader, you say. I get this; sometimes this is an excuse, but sometimes it isn't. I recently had to face a choice between buying a 45$ book cover or a pair of shoes for one of my children whose old shoes were falling apart, and I think you can all guess what I chose. The advice of putting off your dream of publishing a book until you have enough money to pay for professional editing, cover design, formatting, etc, can be very cruel. At this rate, some of us will never be able to get our books out into the world.

Editing is probably the most expensive part of getting your book ready for publication - and, in my eyes, one of the biggest advantages of traditional publishing is that someone else takes care of this - but if you can in any way afford a good editor for your book, by all means make that investment. If you can't, try partnering with another author for a critique and proofreading exchange. This will only work if you are both equally committed and don't cut corners.

Being an author on a tight budget myself, and knowing the need of authors for committed copy-editors and proofreaders working for reasonable rates, led me to open Word for Word Editing and Proofreading Services. I feel tremendous satisfaction in knowing that I helped someone clean up their manuscript or avoid a plot hole. I like to work in close reciprocation with authors and see my clients succeed, and consider my business to be part of the great author network that is so important to our mutual support.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Changing book cover after release: yay or nay?

Prior to the publication of Wild Children, my publisher and I put a lot of thought into the book cover, considering various options and consulting people via a poll. Finally, we chose something that everyone seemed to like:

When things came to actually selling the book, however, we realized that something isn't working. While people who had read the book loved it, for the most part, the views/clicks rate on our Amazon ads was unsatisfactory. To put it simply, hardly anyone was clicking on to the book's Amazon page.

This led us to think that the cover, while perfectly fine in itself, does not quite fit the book. The cover, together with the title, might create a mistaken impression that this is a children's book - which it is emphatically not. We wanted something that would spell out "dystopia" more clearly, and give some sort of hint as to what goes on in the narrative. Finally, we decided on a new cover:

The girl against the background of the ruined city is quite representative of the plot, and the cover, overall, fits the genre better.

Once more, this incident makes me feel thankful for digital publishing and print on demand. Changing your cover or correcting mistakes is quite easy, simple and free of hassle. Authors and publishers can play around and see what works, what doesn't, and what just needs to be tweaked.

Also see Joanna Penn's excellent post on changing book covers.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Landlord: New Release, New Strategies

The Landlord by [Ross, Hannah]

With the release of my latest novel, The Landlord, I made two changes in my usual publishing strategy.

One was choosing wide distribution through Smashwords, rather than opt for KDP Select. My goal was, first, to experiment and see whether the benefits of multiple online retailers outweigh the perks of KDP exclusivity, namely optional promos and Kindle Unlimited; and second, encourage healthy competition in the book distribution currently monopolized by Amazon.

The second change in strategy related to pricing: until now, I have always initially priced my Kindle books at 2.99-4.99$, and ran a discounted promo later. This time I chose 0.99$ as my starting point, with the view of increasing it later to 2.99$. This goal is to encourage an early sales boost.

Will these different tactics prove worthwhile? It's too early to tell, perhaps, but I will keep you posted.

PS: if you are looking for a light summer read, and are into ghost novels and Regency era England, you might want to give The Landlord a chance. It is a relatively short, fast-paced novel with the story arc swerving between present day and rural England of two hundred years ago.