Advice, Marketing, My Books, Publish, Social Media, Writing

Just say no more!

Publishing The Brevity of Roses was the fulfillment of a dream … and then it became a nightmare. It’s been nine months since publication day, so I’ve had time to gain a new perspective on what I did wrong. One thing I’ve learned is that marketing advice—like writing advice—should never be swallowed whole.

Those of you still looking forward to publication are probably working to “establish an online presence” because that’s usually #1 on the advice lists. If you, like me, are not a social butterfly, you’ve probably discovered that being a social media butterfly is no easier. Well, maybe a little easier because you don’t have to worry about your hair and clothes—unless you go all out and do video interviews. In any case, it takes a lot of your time.

While I should have been putting all my time and energy into writing another book, I spent gobs of it on Twitter. Gobs. What did I accomplish? I amassed almost 1,700 followers! YAY—um, no. Most of those followers are other authors hoping to sell me their books. Yes, I have a few friends there. That’s good. That’s also maybe 2% of my “followers”. I don’t think Twitter has helped me sell many books.

I also created a Facebook Author Page. I’ve never really done anything with it. Who am I supposed to connect with there? My target readers? Nope. Haven’t seen any. Mostly it’s authors supporting other authors. That’s wonderful, of course, but I already have that here on my blog.

And I joined SheWrites, Women On the Verge, Google+ and LinkedIn because I was advised to get my name out there. Be visible is the command. And what about Tumblr? Hey, there must be a way to use Pinterest as an author. What next? What next? What next?

How much of the last nine months did I spend writing my next book? Not a lot. Here’s what I’ve learned: I put the cart before the horse. Maybe when I have three or four or five books published (and another nearly ready) THEN I should spend a big chunk of my time “socializing” as an author.

Until then, I’ve picked the single online place where I’m comfortable, which is right here, and I’m letting the rest languish. I’m the real me here. And just being me feels great.

If you’re an author, have you found significant time spent on social media to be a benefit or a drain?

Author, Books, Opinion, Read, Reader, Reading

Should authors have concerns about e-book lending?

Part One of this article received so little response I’m doubtful there’s reason to post the second, but for the one or two people who might be interested, here you go. As promised, I’ll tell you why I had doubts about two of the e-book lending sites I found. In a word … money.

I won’t name these two sites, or link to them, because I don’t want to publicize sites I have reservations about. If you search out e-book lending sites, I suggest you read their policies carefully and make up your own mind.

One site uses a credit system: each book you lend entitles you to borrow one book. BUT, if you don’t want to lend your e-books, you can buy a credit for $2.99. Wait! Isn’t that an illegal resale? What about the licensing agreement you make with Amazon and Barnes & Noble when you purchase an e-book? Well, you see, the site owners didn’t buy the book, they didn’t “sign” that agreement. They’re just acting as the middleman.

And never mind that thousands of authors, myself included, have e-books priced at $2.99, and by the reader paying the owners of the site for the book instead of Amazon or B&N, the author gets cheated out of a royalty. Hush, silly author. Quit being petty. Just consider the word of mouth potential.

The other site I have bigger doubts about. I’m not concerned about the way they operate the actual book loan, which uses the lending features of the Kindle and Nook, but I have questions about their policy of asking the lender to request the borrower pay for this loan—not pay the lender, but the site owners. The borrower has the option to pay the requested amount, or more, or less, or nothing at all.

The homepage blurb states that “100% of profits in 2011 go to charities promoting childhood literacy” and in one section of their Guide it tells the lender to enter “the amount you’d like to see a borrower contribute to charity for this book.” However, I could find no statement of what percentage of the money they collect is considered profit. What if you pay $3 for the book and only 3 cents of that goes to charity? Would you feel deceived?

Sprinkled throughout this site’s user guide and FAQ are statements that are somewhat misleading, such as these (emphasis mine): “We hope that you’ll be willing to pay something to support our cause, support the authors who bring us such great books, and do some social good!” And, in answer to the question why they don’t set a price for borrowing, they say, “Because it would likely lead to market fragmentation as other markets arose to compete on price, decreasing the benefit of secondary markets to consumers searching for a specific book and authors who deserve compensation for the content they create.

Am I wrong, or does that sound like they are sending the deceptive subliminal message that authors receive a portion of the fees borrowers pay?

If you read their FAQ, you’ll see that their aim is to see Amazon and B&N change their policies to allow reselling of Kindle and Nook books. They say (emphasis mine): “By contributing to eBook Exchange when you borrow a book, you’re helping us work to change that.” My question—how? How would my paying eBook Exchange any amount of money to borrow a book change the licensing agreements?

Again in their FAQ, they state: “Ultimately, by opening up the ebook licensing restrictions that publishers currently impose, we’ll be able to make ebooks available to an expanded number of markets. We’ll be able to reduce ebook prices to many while helping authors earn more.” Truly, helping authors earn more sounds good to me, but I find it hard to believe a third party is interested in helping me earn more. Helping themselves earn money off my work … yeah, I believe that.

Am I missing something? Please, if I’m too dense to see how this is in my best interests as an author, help me understand.

To be clear, I am NOT identifying the above sites as bit torrent piracy sites. For now, they only exchange books through the authorized lending features at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But the whole issue of e-book lending or selling makes me nervous for one good reason—abuse. How so?

E-books are intangible.

If you buy a print book, you have the right to loan it out. You buy one book, you loan one book. Of course, assuming it’s returned, you can loan it out more than once, but look at the most popular print book you own and tell me how many times you’ve loaned it out over the years. Three, four, ten times? Fair enough. An author would consider that word of mouth.

Now, consider the forums where, via email attachments, people trade files copied directly from their e-readers. Disregarding the licensing statement they agreed to when they purchased those e-books, they say, “I have the right to loan out my print books to as many people as I want, so what’s the difference?”

Let me tell you the difference. If you share your “e-book shelf” on one of these unscrupulous trade sites, how many times do you think you’ll be “loaning” each of those books? Not three or four. Not even thirty, forty. A hundred times? A thousand? Where’s the limit?

Bit torrent (peer-to-peer) sites essentially force e-books into public domain—meaning the authors receive not another penny for their hard work after that initial sale. And yes, people do that with music files too, but most musicians make the bulk of their income from live performances and merchandising. Only the big-time authors make real money from public speaking engagements.

As for reselling books, that’s a bit different. Reselling a print book is still within the realm of word of mouth. Books deteriorate after awhile, so its resale can continue for only a limited time. BUT e-books don’t deteriorate. If sites spring up to resell ebooks with no licensing limits, they could duplicate and sell as many copies as they want.

How is that fair to the author? That goes beyond “word of mouth”. That’s theft.

I perused one of these bit torrent book sites once and read an author’s plea after finding her e-book available for unlimited free download. She asked that it be removed and tried to explain that writing was her career and unlimited “sharing” deprived her of income. The response? They told her to go f**k herself!

What say ye?

Author, Book Reviews, Books, My Books, Reading, Writing

Do you know the LibraryThing?

I’d read reference to LibraryThing several times before I finally checked it out. I had imagined it as a hangout for professional librarians, but it’s actually a place to catalogue your library and connect with other readers and authors, similar to Goodreads. Though not quite as intuitive, in my opinion.

Accounts are free, but have a limit of adding 200 books to your shelf. A paid account is $10 a year or $25 lifetime, with no book limit. I set up a free account and imported my book list from Goodreads, but I’m still learning my way around. I’ve considering doing a giveaway there.

If you have a published book, it’s probably listed at LibraryThing, so you might want to check out your book and author pages. I haven’t added much to mine other than a photo, but evidently, any member can fill in information on your author page, so I check occasionally to make sure someone hasn’t entered wrong information about me. 🙂

The Brevity of Roses page is rather sparse with only two reviews, so I’m asking for your help. If you’ve reviewed my novel somewhere else, I’d be grateful if you’d copy and paste it to my book’s page at LibraryThing.

And while you’re at LibraryThing, please add me as a friend!

Fiction, My Books, Novel, Promotion, Publish, Reader, Writing

The agony and ecstasy of self-publishing a book!

Let’s discuss the ecstasy first. You publish a book. Yay! Family and friends read it right away. Then a few acquaintances read it. Finally, a few friends of friends or acquaintances of acquaintances discover it. You receive glowing reviews. People tell you they love the book. Your writing is a success!

Thank God for those early readers, but family, friends, and acquaintances are a limited number. For many of us, that’s a very small number. Naturally, we want more readers. And more. And more. Think potato chips … or Junior Mints.

I confess my impatience. I want everyone to read The Brevity of Roses now … today … right this minute! Of course, that’s not going to happen. I don’t remember any of the self-publishing advice naming Patience as a required virtue. If it was mentioned, I must have glossed over it in my … um … impatience.

Now, we’ve reached the agony. You have a book you love and want to share, but have to wait for readers to find it. In my ignorance, I imagined that word of mouth would spark a firestorm of readers burning through the pages—and I imagined that chain-reaction would start immediately. Didn’t happen that way. Still, there’s hope because I know that people intend to read it. How do I know this?

A few people have directly told me they intend to read my book. I believe they will. Last month I gave away a copy of Brevity on Goodreads. Hundreds of people entered the giveaway, but I would be naïve to think all those people actually intended to read the novel. However, over eighty of those people also added Brevity to their To-Read lists on Goodreads. Will they all read it? I doubt it, though a percentage of them probably will.

Then I got a boost from Women on the Verge. Each month they select members’ books to highlight on their front page, and currently The Brevity of Roses is one of those. Every day since WOTV highlighted it, more Goodreads members have added it to their lists. Some of them will surely read it.

There’s no way to know how many people might have added my novel to their “want lists” at Amazon or any other online bookstore,  or even jotted it down on a to-read list at home, but I’m sure some have. On a good day, I imagine hundreds have done so … and untold thousands may do so from future promotional efforts.

These people are my eventual readers. These people keep my hopes up. These people—potential bearers of ecstasy—make the agony of having a published book easier to bear.

Patience.

Books, Feedback, Marketing, Promotion, Publish, Reader, Tips, Writing

Tag, you’re it … at Amazon!

Consider today’s post a public service announcement. At least, it concerns something I didn’t know, so I’ll assume one or two of you don’t. (Please, someone say you didn’t know.)

Because too much sensory input overwhelms me, when I go to a website with fifty things going on at once, I tend to focus on the main thing and tune out the rest. So, until my novel appeared on Amazon, I ignored the sting of words below the reviews on each book’s page.

The label above this section is: Tags Customers Associate with This Product. These words should be key words descriptive of a book’s genre and subject matter. Amazon uses them as search terms. Were you aware that one of your search choices is: Products Tagged With? I wasn’t. But why does that matter?

For many (most?) of us who write books, we’re responsible for promoting them. We do that, of course, because we want people to read our books. It’s no fun writing books no one reads. So making readers aware that our book is out there is serious business.

On Amazon, the more clicks a book’s tag receives, the higher the book will rank in results when a customer search uses that tag. Obviously, books by famous, top-selling authors won’t go undiscovered if no one tags their books. But high tag counts can definitely help a debut author’s book get noticed.

From now on, especially when you buy a debut, or indie, author’s book at Amazon, remember to click their book’s tags. (And don’t forget to click to see ALL tags.) In fact, you can do that even if you read it as a library book or bought it somewhere else. Consider this a chance to create good Karma. What goes around …

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