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.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Evolution of World's End: an interview on dystopian fiction

Pop over to the Academia blog to read an interview with yours truly about dystopian fiction, and my recently released novel, Wild Children:

"I believe that, though literary trends may fluctuate, and though many will argue that no dystopian novel can equal the scary reality of today’s world, dystopian fiction will always have a place, because it enables us to play out horror scenarios and deal with the worst in the safety of our imagination. It’s like a kid making up stories about monsters under his bed, and being comforted by knowing it’s just a story. Dystopia allows us to ask ourselves, “what’s the worst thing that could happen, and how would we deal with it?”


Saturday, 17 June 2017

How I learned to say No

Image result for just say no

Taking my writing to a professional level had moved me quite out of my comfort zone. By going public, I exposed myself to criticism, rejection, frustration, and the need to hit deadlines. I have had to say yes to so many things: to improvement suggestions that don't come from me, to editing that takes twice as long as writing the first draft, to appearing uninformed and naive on occasion.

With three kids and a household to take care of, however (and let's not forget the garden and chickens), I also had to learn to say no.

No to another social media account, to another blog interview, to reading and reviewing another book. To beating my own word count for the day. To bringing the release date of my next book just a wee bit closer.

I also provide freelance editing and proofreading services, and though it's something that I enjoy doing (not to mention that the extra income is very helpful), I had to temporarily close to requests, as I was becoming stretched too thin.

I do fill with awe and wonder when I hear about authors who put out regular newsletters, podcast, vlog, tweet, Pin, and whatnot. More power to them! But I can hardly keep up with Facebook, Goodreads and Wattpad, and I know taking on more would be unwise.

Ultimately, what makes me a writer is not how often I update my status or revise other people's books, but what and how much I write. And to keep this writing going, I cannot let my time get all clogged. So I say no, and feel more comfortable about it as time goes by.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

When you run out of agents to query

Image result for pile of rejected manuscripts

I have been seeking an agent to represent my Middle Grade fantasy novel for some time now, and have contacted over half a hundred agencies so far. I have received little interest and lots and lots of silence, which doesn't mean I should give up, of course, but the trouble is, I'm seriously running out of agents to query, as I need to find someone who represents both Middle Grade and fantasy.

I might have mentioned my system of querying once a month, usually on the first of each month, and then forgetting all about it for the next 30 days. It's a good system which allows me to preserve my sanity.

Usually I send out my queries in batches of 8 to 10. This month I only sent 6, as I couldn't find any more agents to reach out to. Each time I verified with my list, it would turn out I have already queried this particular agency.

Form rejections suck, but total silence is worse. It's not only disappointing, it's just plain rude. I realize agents are swamped with emails, etc, but it only takes one second to send a pre-written No.

By the way, I've also submitted directly to several small independent publishers who appear to be reputable, but those are few and far between. I had not heard back from any of them, but as everything in the publishing world moves forward at a glacial pace, something may come out of this yet.

The obvious question, of course, is - what if my book really isn't up to scratch? What if it isn't good enough, engaging enough, original enough?

I just have to say that in children's literature, many of the new books that come out each year are such that I wouldn't want my children to read. Many are just plain disappointing. They are prettily illustrated and beautifully bound, but the content leaves much to be desired. When reading to and with my children, we mostly stick to classics - Winnie the Pooh, the works of Astrid Lindgren, Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit. The newest book my children know is Harry Potter.

I believe in my book. I know my children were genuinely delighted with it (and they aren't the flattering kind). I know that, if given the proper exposure, it can entertain many others.

Why not self-publish, then? I have considered this, but as a rule, children's books do less well as self published projects, and I see no reason why I should be an exception. So while I might do it eventually, so far I'm going to hold out and keep looking.