That Book is a Monster

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MONSTER BOOK PROJECTS

There is one book that I’m wrapping up now that has grown and grown and grown… turning into a monster.

In a good way. But it has been very time consuming.

It’s a good thing that I really love to write.

That’s why, in 2017, I didn’t blog nearly as much as in previous years. I’ve been busy with a seemingly never-ending project.

Actually, a few very large book projects.

One, which I’m in the process of completing, is Kindle Formatting Magic.

The other is a series of physics workbooks/study guides.

Both projects wound up growing much, much larger than I had originally envisioned.

It has taken much more work than I had planned, but it has been worth it.

If you’re a writer, have you become involved in any monstrous book projects?

Or perhaps as a reader there is a monstrous book or series that you appreciate.

KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

You may have noticed that my Kindle Formatting Magic book has been “coming soon” for several months now.

When I first added that note to my blog, the book was nearly complete and I was expecting to publish it in a matter of weeks.

But I realized that I wasn’t happy with the organization of the book.

So I reorganized it and completely rewrote it.

That took a long time, but then I reorganized it and completely rewrote it yet again.

Third time’s a charm.

Now it really is “coming soon,” though by that I mean it’s still a matter of weeks. But this time it will be a few weeks or more, certainly not a year.

The book feels “right” now. It hadn’t before.

Once I finally got it to feel “right” to me, it continued to grow.

I realized that I needed to add a few more chapters beyond what I had intended.

And I have spent a great deal of time putting together over 100 pictures to visually demonstrate important problems and solutions with Kindle formatting.

On top of that, I’ve been editing, revising, re-editing…

Speaking of which, over the course of this project, there have been numerous changes to Kindle Direct Publishing, including the nature of the previewer and Kindle conversion, the steps and organization of the publishing process, and the organization and content of the KDP help pages.

Which has added several revisions to my revisions.

This book has grown into a monster, but I’m taking my time. Having already put so many additional months into this book, I want it to feel as “right” as possible before it hits the market.

Almost done.

It’s a good feeling to be almost done. I’m enjoying it.

Being completely done will be a nice feeling too.

This will be far and above my best formatting book ever.

PHYSICS WORKBOOKS

If I had only been working on my formatting book, I would have finished months ago.

But I also spent much of 2017 completing my series of physics workbooks/study guides.

There are three volumes, each 300 to 500 pages. (This includes space for students to work out the solutions to problems.)

Originally, I planned for my physics workbooks to include problems for students to solve along with answers.

But they grew into so much more.

I added material to each chapter to help students understand the main concepts. I added definitions. I added full step-by-step examples for how to solve similar problems. I added tables to explain the symbols and units relevant to each chapter.

This took much time, but I believe it has made my physics workbooks much more useful.

Many of my physics students have remarked that I can make difficult concepts seem clear, and that I can make the math seem easy.

So I worked hard to try to incorporate this into my physics workbooks.

On top of this, I decided to do more than simply tabulate the answers to the problems at the back of the book.

First, I put the final answer to each problem on the same page as the problem. This way, students don’t have to hunt for answers in the back. They can check if their solution is right or wrong immediately. I want students to gain confidence by solving problems correctly, but if their solution is wrong, I want them to know it so they can seek help.

In the back of the book, I typed up numerous hints to every part of every problem, and give intermediate answers to help students see where they went wrong.

The “hints and intermediate answers” section practically walks the student through the entire solution.

Again, it was much more work than I had originally planned, but I believe it has made my workbooks much better.

Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also typed up full solutions to every problem with explanations, creating three new books.

They aren’t really intended to be solutions manuals, even though they are. These are presented as fully solved examples.

Some students prefer to have fully solved examples to read, while other students prefer to have a workbook to help them practice solving problems.

Then I have two versions of every book, one that includes calculus and one that doesn’t (I call those trig-based).

I finally completed the physics series a few months back, and now I’m finishing up my formatting book.

Sometime early in 2018, I will be able to pursue something new.

It won’t be a book monster. I need a little break from mammoth book projects. I’m looking forward to working on a project that’s more focused.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online BooksellersVolume 1 on formatting and publishing

  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.<<<<
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NY Published Author Successfully Transitions to Self-Publishing: The Amazing Story of Cheryl Holt

After Writing 24 Books for New York Publishers, Cheryl Holt Adds 24 More by Self-publishing

This amazing, inspiring author success story needs to be shared throughout the indie publishing community.

I was very fortunate to interview Cheryl Holt, who had written 24 books for New York publishers and then successfully transitioned to self-publishing.

You can hear Cheryl’s story straight from her, and there is much that you can learn from her answers to my questions.

(1) What have you done to help market your self-published books? Was this a viable option when you were traditionally published?

When I wrote for the NY companies, I was “just” a paperback romance writer, so I got very little marketing assistance from my publishers. The biggest thing they did for me was to always buy me an ad in a romance trade magazine, Romantic Times, when I had a book released. Otherwise, I was pretty much on my own as far as handling any marketing. So from the very beginning, I had to devise my own marketing strategies, and I’ve continued to use those old tried-and-true ones as well as latching on to new ones that technology has made available.

I market my self-published books in exactly the same way that I marketed my books that were published by the NY companies. My biggest marketing tool, and the one I spend the most time on, is growing my mailing list. I started my mailing list with my very first release, and I constantly work on it. I have sign-up forms posted all over my web site, and I run contests several times a year, where I give away autographed print copies of my novels as the prize. The entrants’ email addresses are added to my mailing list. I work on the list constantly; I work on it everyday. The number one way to sell something (in any field) is through direct marketing to your dedicated customer base. So I keep track of my readers, and when I need to notify readers about a new release, that’s where I start. They’re loyal and voracious, and they’ve been very kind to me in sticking with me through all my career ups and downs. I’m always so grateful to them, and they’re the first to hear about everything that’s happening with me and my books.

There have been changes to my marketing that have come over the years. I have a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account, but I don’t use them for personal postings. I simply post about my books, what’s coming, and what’s happening. I’ve always had a web page, ever since it became a “thing” that people could have (around 1999). I’m meticulous about keeping it updated. My readers like to know what’s coming next and when it’s coming, so I try to make it easy for them to log on and quickly see what’s happening. If you’d like to take a peek, the URL is www.cherylholt.com.

When I have a book coming, (in the month before the release date) I do a ton of promo to get myself noticed. I do blog tours at the big romance reader sites, I run contest giveaways, I do interviews, I buy banner ads, I buy spot ads, I do reader promotion at reader sites. I’ve even hosted Facebook parties with lots of guest authors and prize giveaways.

The main problem for self-published authors is that we’re being buried by a wave of content that’s swept over all of us. So it’s a hundred times harder to get noticed than it was ten years ago. There are so many books out there now, and even with my name recognition and dedicated fan base, it’s an enormous and exhausting challenge to get people to notice that I have a book coming.

For example, this was the first year since 2005 that I didn’t produce a book trailer for my new series. The web is so overloaded with video content that it’s just about impossible to justify the expense of creating a book trailer. Even with expanded distribution by a video company, any video is thrown into a sea of millions of other videos. So I’ve stopped doing them.

But otherwise, each and every year, I do more promo. It’s a constant battle to stay ahead of the game, and that hasn’t changed with self-publishing. I’m doing more and different types of promo, and I’m using more intense marketing than ever before.

(2) What advice would you offer new authors who are just learning the self-publishing ropes?

My biggest advice would be to read all about self-publishing and to learn as much as you can about it before you jump into it. And once you get going, keep reading and keep learning. The publishing industry—both on the NY end of it and in the self-publishing world—is changing so fast, and you have to keep up, or you’ll get crushed in the wave of what’s happening.

I heartily advise people to join a writer’s group (both a local one and a national one). At the local one, you can hang with other writers once a month and listen to how they’re working and adapting to this strange, new world we’re in. There are also big national groups you can join in various genres, such as Romance Writers of America or Sisters in Crime. You’ll get a monthly newsletter that contains articles about markets, trends, and changes.

If you can afford it, try to attend a big national writer’s conference. They’re always held once a year. Take all the classes and chat with other writers so you can absorb some of what they’ve figured out.

There are publishing companies, such as Writer’s Digest Books, that publish tons of “how to” books about writing, publishing, and book marketing, particularly e-book, self-published marketing. Start buying them and reading them.

Go out on the web and find some good blog sites (how about Chris McMullen’s blog?!) and other sites where authors provide guidance and advice. If you’re a tech dummy, as I am, find companies that can help you figure out how to format and publish on your own. I always use BookBaby to format and distribute my novels. I met them in the vendor’s room at a national writer’s conference, when I was first trying to figure out how I could start publishing my own books. I had no idea how to do that, and it seemed really complicated. I’m not much of a computer person, and all the processes seemed beyond my ability to figure out. At one on-line site, I was told to read their 85-page formatting manual before I tried to post anything! It was all so bewildering.

When I talked to the Book Baby book rep, he said, “We can do all that for you.” I about fainted. It had never occurred to me that there were companies out there that could provide exactly the sort of services I needed.

There are all kinds of companies now that help authors get their books published. When I first started writing novels, the web wasn’t a “thing” yet. I lived in a little town in rural Oregon, and I staggered around for years, trying to figure out how to start. It’s so much easier now to get information. Join a writer’s group! Attend regularly! Find several good blog sites, read them religiously, and absorb every bit of advice that’s offered! Read books about marketing and trends! Do some research and find companies that can help you. Read, read, read. Learn, learn, learn.

That’s always the best advice. Learn—and get smarter and better.

(3) When you made the switch from writing for NY publishers to self-publishing, what changes (if any) did you make to your writing?

I started writing manuscripts in the late 1990s, and my first books were published in 2000. For a decade, I wrote for various NY publishers, and I was a genre paperback writer. When I started out, paperbacks were really long. I’m dating myself, but do you remember books like SHOGUN? They were massive in length. So my first novels were really long, but “book length” was a factor that changed significantly in the decade that I wrote for those NY companies. And that’s precipitated the biggest changes to my current writing.

Book length is measured by word count, and my early novels were around 110,000 words. But starting about 2004, the price of paper shot up dramatically, so the NY publishers responded by shortening the length of books that they published. This caused a significant abbreviation of the size of novels, but it also caused authors to adopt major stylistic changes in our writing as we had to be able to tell much more story in a much shorter span of pages. Authors had to cut descriptive prose and tell the story using more dialogue. This brought us fast, fleet stories that were much easier (quicker) to read, but for many readers, they’ve gotten much less satisfying.

My early paperbacks were around 110,000 words, and when I finished writing for those NY companies a decade later, my books had to be between 80,000 and 85,000 words. That’s a considerable drop in book length, which brought about significant changes stylistically, so my early NY-published books are very different from the later ones.

I liked writing longer novels, and my biggest NY sales came in the beginning of my career when books were much longer and I was able to write long, emotional stories. I’m great at using emotion and drama, and I feel like I’m better at a longer length—and that my readers enjoy a deeper, more satisfying emotional story. So I’ve gone back to writing long books. With my self-publishing of e-books, I don’t have to worry about the price of paper or of page length. I’m typically writing books that are 120,000 words now, and my readers seem to really enjoy the longer length. I’m able to give them a “bigger”, more involved story with more in-depth characters and interesting plots.

My longest books, the ones I’ve published on my own, have been my biggest sellers in my career.

Cheryl Holt’s Story: The Transition from NY Publishers to Self-publishing

BookBaby author Cheryl Holt made a name for herself, as well as a respectable living, writing historical romance novels, first for a dedicated paperback publisher, then for several big mass market publishers. Her books did well, though Holt often had to come to terms with market forces beyond her control, that didn’t light her creative fire.

Holt had started writing as a young mother in her 40s. At home with small children, she wanted something to do, something that earned some money. She landed on novel writing. “I was clueless about how the money worked, or how the business worked,” she admits. Inspired by stars like John Grisham, she drew on her legal training to craft her first books. Her forays into suspense didn’t pan out, so she decided to look elsewhere.

“The romance companies back then used to find their new talent among moms who were at home and writing to earn a bit of extra money. They were essentially paperback mills who ran romance book clubs. They bought straight from the writer. ‘I’ll sell these romances,’ I told myself, ‘then I’ll go back.’”

Her seventh manuscript, a Regency-era romance, finally sold. Holt didn’t go back, but dug in, writing and editing steamy tales in the car, at soccer practices and swim lessons, whenever she had a few spare moments. She discovered something she never suspected: She could write really, really good love stories.

At the time, romances ran longer and readers devoured elaborate storylines. “When I was starting and reading, historical romances were just massive,” Holt recalls. “They had wild love stories, when the heroine was, say, taken to harem after being kidnapped by pirates. I’m not a particularly romantic person, but I got hooked on them. Romance readers have certain things they love, but I didn’t know what they were. I had no preconceived notions. Readers loved that.”

Holt’s unconventional takes on the genre led to her selling book after book to publishers. One of her early books sold out nationwide due to a hot cover that connected with fans, and soon she built herself a sizeable following. As tastes changed, Holt learned the hard way to adapt. By 2000, erotic romance was the rage, and Holt wrote what publishers asked for. But her readers longed for the sweeping romantic tales that had launched her career.

“Books were getting shorter, more erotic,” Holt says. “It was leaning toward pornographic really fast. I wasn’t into that. My sales were starting to fall. My hardcore fans kept asking why everything was vampires and erotica, instead of real love stories.”

Then 2008 hit, the economic downturn that kicked the legs out from under many mass publishers. Holt had a deal in place, but her publisher faced a daunting reality: the overwhelming majority of bookstores closed as the economy faltered, stores where her publishers had banked on selling Holt’s work. “They wrote me off as a loss,” she sighs.

Holt found herself unemployed, with a family and a mortgage in Los Angeles, one of many workers in their 50s looking for a job, any job. She was so discouraged, she thought she’d never bother with writing again, though writing had been her profession for years. “The recession cut a swath through the ranks of paperback writers,” she says. “I took it personally. The universe was telling me to go get a real job, but there were no jobs.”

Time passed, however, and Holt noticed that fans were still out there, hoping for new reads from their favorite authors. Kindle came onto the scene, and Holt began to reconsider. “I asked myself if I should start over. I was good. I was popular, but the companies didn’t really care. We writers were a dime a dozen in their eyes. There was no chance to go back that way.”

Self-publishing beckoned. The project management and production side of things still seemed daunting, however. Then, at a romance conference, she ran into some people from BookBaby, who helped her see how simple publishing her work independently could be.

After writing 24 novels for publishers, Holt has put out 24 of her own, letting her own interests and fan response determine when and how she publishes her work. An example: She gave her readers all three books in a trilogy at once, where a traditional publisher would have doled the books out over several years.

Like love, an independent career is not as easy as it seems at first. It takes work. Holt still struggles to find the right supporting team, and income isn’t what it once was during paperback publishing’s heyday. But Holt is glad she’s still able to write and reach readers, now on her own terms. “It’s a blessing to be on my own. My best sellers are ones that the publishers rejected,” she laughs. “My Lord Trent trilogy, for example, have been best-selling books of all.”

You can find out more about BookBaby and their recent Independent Authors Conference.

More about Novelist Cheryl Holt

CHERYL HOLT is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon “Top 100” bestselling author who has published forty-eight novels.

She’s also a lawyer and mom, and at age forty, with two babies at home, she started a new career as a commercial fiction writer. She’d hoped to be a suspense novelist, but couldn’t sell any of her manuscripts, so she ended up taking a detour into romance where she was stunned to discover that she has a knack for writing some of the world’s greatest love stories.

Her books have been released to wide acclaim, and she has won or been nominated for many national awards. She is considered to be one of the masters of the romance genre. For many years, she was hailed as “The Queen of Erotic Romance”, and she’s also revered as “The International Queen of Villains.” She is particularly proud to have been named “Best Storyteller of the Year” by the trade magazine Romantic Times BOOK Reviews.

She lives and writes in Hollywood, California, and she loves to hear from fans.

Visit her website at www.cherylholt.com.

Follower her on Facebook.

Check out her latest series:

Forever Yours by Cheryl Holt

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Optimistic Authorship

THE OPTIMISTIC AUTHOR

You can approach your writing with optimism or pessimism—your choice.

(Though complaints, worries, and frustrations may become more of a habit and less of a conscious decision.)

Optimism can be an asset to your authorship.

When you believe that your book will be successful, you are more likely to:

  • motivate yourself to work hard
  • stay focused while writing
  • do the necessary research
  • proofread carefully
  • put time and effort into cover design and formatting
  • put a small investment in cover design or editing
  • make a full effort to market your book
  • find a way to harness your creativity in your marketing

On the other hand, if you are pessimistic about the outcome of your book, you are less likely to put in the work needed to help make your book successful.

Thus, your outlook may pull a pivotal role in the success or failure of your book launch.

Once you start getting sales, if sales are slower than you expected, optimism can carry you through the slow times. If you are optimistic that you can improve your sales, you are more likely to try new marketing ideas and eventually discover strategies that work for you. You will be more likely to write additional books—and put the proper effort into those, too—if you remain optimistic that your writing will take off (and it sometimes takes multiple good books to gain traction). But if you are pessimistic, it’s easy to give up without really putting the effort into it.

The optimistic author will find the good in a bad review, while the pessimistic author will see something bad in a good review. The optimistic author appreciates the neutral review, whereas the pessimistic author is upset that it wasn’t a five-star review.

When a potential customer visits the optimistic author’s social media sites and blog, the customer has a positive experience.

When a potential customer sees complaints and frustration in the author’s social interactions, the customer is seeing publicized negativity.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

2017 Writing Goals #PoweredByIndie

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock

2017 WRITING GOALS

I’m trying to focus on my main writing goal for 2017:

DEVOTE MORE TIME FOR WRITING!

I think it’s a pretty good New Year’s resolution.

And I’m off to a good start, wearing out my seat cushion and rubbing off the letters from my keyboard as I pound away.

Mostly about physics for now, as I’m wrapping up a BIG project, but I have many writing plans for 2017, and I’m anxious to start on them.

I also hope to spend more time on my blogs in the near future.

A couple of other related goals include:

  • read even more indie books
  • find more time to write reviews

I have a lot of specific goals, and timelines for projects. Goals and timelines help me be productive and stay motivated.

But I’m trying to focus on the main three, posted above.

What are your writing goals for 2017?

Remember to use the #PoweredByIndie hashtag when you post about them on social media.

Amazon is sponsoring this hashtag and supporting indies.

I was lucky, as KDP mentioned my main goal (to devote more time for writing) on their Twitter site.

Check out Amazon KDP on Facebook and Twitter. You can see other great writing goals, and they often share links to valuable publishing tips.

Amazon also has indie New Year’s stories to share: http://www.amazon.com/newyearnewstories

HAPPY 2017!

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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Write Selflessly… to Sell More Books #WriteWithCare

Selfless

SELFLESS WRITING

By selfless, I don’t mean giving away your books for free.

I mean a distinction between selfless versus selfish in how you go about the writing, publishing, and marketing.

Really, there aren’t two extremes: one who goes about this 100% selflessly or 100% selfishly. Everyone is apt to fall somewhere in between overall.

But let’s look at one possible extreme. Let’s label this as completely selfish (even though from some perspective, one might not agree with this label—don’t worry, we’ll explore this perspective, too):

  • Write whatever comes to mind.
  • Don’t write for a specific audience.
  • Write however you feel like writing.
  • Focus entirely on writing, if possible.
  • Give as little attention to formatting, cover design, marketing, etc. as possible.
  • Avoid interacting with readers or potential readers.

One way this might seem selfish is that you would be writing for you, not necessarily for the benefit of any particular reader. Will any readers actually appreciate what you’ve written?

Another way is that this ultra extreme example doesn’t entail learning or at least exploring the craft of writing itself, such as the elements of storytelling or characterization or making the writing flow.

Finally, this extreme is selfish in not wanting to meet or interact with readers, not to take a vested interest in marketing, not to add a personal touch to the reading experience, not to be willing to get out of one’s comfort zone with marketing, or to not want to take a more authoritative role in cover design, formatting, or the blurb.

Let’s compare with the other extreme, completely selfless (in a sense):

  • Considering your abilities, knowledge, experience, creativity, etc. and how to harness these to match up with real readers.
  • Thinking of ways to attract, engage, and please (or perhaps better, to wow) your audience from the front cover (the moment the reader lays eyes on your book) to the ending (that fulfilling climax and beyond). (Oh, yes! The writing and selling process is a romance, even if the book isn’t.)
  • Researching, learning, and exploring ways to apply elements of effective storytelling, characterization, communication, etc. with a style that suits your writing.
  • Looking beyond the writing itself, appreciating the challenge of trying to hook the reader with the cover and blurb, taking an interest in how the design of the book can supplement the feel of the story, and feeling motivated to share your passion with readers through marketing.
  • Wanting very much to meet readers and potential readers, and to interact with them.

To be fair, there is another perspective to consider.

If you write so much for the readers that you lose yourself… you sacrifice your own style… you write about topics that don’t strongly interest you… your writing goes against some of your own beliefs… you write in ways that you hear are best, but you don’t really believe in them… your motivation becomes to sell as many books as possible, whatever it takes… or worse, you engage in unscrupulous behavior to reach more readers… then you are apt to feel like you’ve sold out.

But somewhere in between is a happy medium, where the author retains a strong sense of identity, but where the author writes more selflessly, trying to put the author’s talents, experience, knowledge, background, style, etc. to effective use to please actual readers.

C.A.R.E.

  • C-are
  • A-bout
  • R-eaders’
  • E-xpectations

Back to the romance analogy with writing, publishing, and marketing, you don’t want a one-night stand. You’re looking for readers to commit to your book. Your series. So you need to commit to your readers. It’s mutual.

Think about how much you C.A.R.E. and how showing this impacts sales, not just now, but in the long run.

  • C.A.R.E. enough to make it easy for your audience to tell what kind of book you’ve written from a glance at your cover.
  • C.A.R.E. to dress your book up in an attractive cover, one that tells readers, “Hey! This author C.A.R.E.s.”
  • C.A.R.E. to stimulate the reader’s interest in the blurb, to not ruin the story for the reader by giving too much away, to show what kind of book the reader should expect.
  • C.A.R.E. to learn and perfect the craft of writing to become an effective storyteller, to create strong characters, to communicate clearly, etc.
  • C.A.R.E. to put the best possible book on the market, one that you will be proud of, one that readers will feel was well worth the money and time spent.
  • C.A.R.E. to find out what readers think, to meet readers, to interact with potential readers, to let your passion show, to get out of your comfort zone and help readers discover your book.
  • C.A.R.E. to think about how readers shop, how they will discover your book, what will pull the reader to your product page, what will make the reader take a chance on your book, how the beginning of the story will hook the reader, whether or not your story will engage the reader throughout, and whether your story is powerful enough to make the reader crave more.
  • C.A.R.E. to make your book so good that it leads to word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • Just C.A.R.E.

This works beyond writing books. How selfless do you write for social media? How selfless or selfish is your blog, for example? Is it meeting the needs of actual readers?

#WriteWithCare

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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Fun with English

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

FUN WITH ENGLISH

Language can seem funny sometimes.

§

Did you know that left can be right?

Left is right when right is dead wrong.

On what side of your body is your heart?

Left is right. Right is incorrect.

§

Similarly, wrong can be right.

Wrong is sometimes correct.

What’s a synonym for injustice?

Wrong is a correct answer. Right is dead wrong.

§

Even the word literal can’t always be taken literally.

Sometimes, we use literally to mean figuratively.

I’m hungry enough to eat an elephant.

Literally! (Just not in the literal sense…)

§

I is speaking with poor grammar, right?

You can’t say, “I is.” It has to be, “I am.”

But check this out: I is a pronoun.

Find the mistake in that.

§

Everything is something.

Nothing is something.

If A=C and B=C, then A=B, right?

So everything is nothing! (Not quite.)

§

I can be here and there at the same time.

I think of myself as being here.

You think of me as being there.

So I am both here and there; it’s all relative.

§

If you don’t have anything, you have naught.

The number zero is called the nought.

The opposite of having something, of course, is not.

It’s enough to tie your brain in a knot.

§

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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Kindle Unlimited Pages Read Rate for August, 2015

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ

Amazon paid $0.00514 per KENP read in August, 2015.

Compare that to the $0.005779 pages read rate in July, 2015.

That’s a drop of 11%. If you had 10,000 pages read in July, would earned $57.79, but for the same 10,000 pages read in August, you only earned $51.40.

On the one hand, an 11% drop is significant, but on the other hand, unless you had a million pages read through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime, that 11% doesn’t amount to a whole lot.

And if you had a million pages read, you’re thriving in the program (compared to most authors).

But the concern really isn’t over one drop in the payout of 11%.

The concern extends beyond that. 11% is a pretty sizable change. It’s not a small fluctuation.

So one concern is stability.

If it drops 11% in August, another 11% in September, another 11% in October, and so on, that would really add up.

Since these are the early days of KENP, we don’t have much data to go on. We don’t yet have a pattern of KENP payouts established to lend us a feeling of stability.

What we really need is more data. But authors also want to make sound decisions now. And it will take a few months to get solid data.

I expected the pages read rate to drop toward $0.0050. What I didn’t expect is for it to jump straight there in one fell swoop.

And hence stability is in question.

But I think it’s premature to run for the hills.

One drop of 11% isn’t too much for me. Maybe stability will be there. I need a few months’ more data to assess this.

If it levels off around $0.0050, that will be what I had been expecting anyhow; it will just have gotten there faster than I was predicting.

If it drops even below $0.0050, the question will be how much below. What’s your magic number, where if it goes below that, you feel like KDP Select isn’t worth it? This magic number will be different for everyone, but it’s worth thinking about. We’re not near my magic number yet.

And what’s your backup plan for the worst-case scenario? It wouldn’t hurt to sketch out a backup plan and store it in a safe place. If you’re not below your magic number, I wouldn’t initiate the backup plan yet. But it’s smart to have a plan in mind, just in case.

I feel I’ve given too much attention to this lone 11% drop. Who knows what next month will bring? We don’t have enough data yet to see a pattern emerge.

POSITIVE INDICATORS

But there are other positive indicators that may help offset that 11% drop. Let’s look at a few of these.

GLOBAL FUND STABILITY

The KDP Select Global Fund is suddenly more stable than ever.

It was approximately $11M for May, June, July, and now $11.8M in August.

It’s starting at $11M for September.

They used to commit a mere $3M to the pot, and then raise it to $8M or more.

Now they commit to $11M on a regular basis.

So while the pages read rate may have dropped 11%, the KDP Select Global Fund has been very stable, more stable than ever.

KINDLE UNLIMITED IS THRIVING

KDP Select authors are earning a combined $10M per month just from KENP read.

Amazon has paid out over $100M in royalties just for KDP Select borrows in 2015.

Approximately 2 billion pages of KDP Select books are read through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime per month.

That’s a huge readership. And it’s been a consistent readership (if anything, it appears to be growing).

And this readership supports indie books. Not every indie book, but the top KDP Select books are thriving in Kindle Unlimited.

Most of these readers are reluctant to buy books any other way.

AMAZON PAID MORE ROYALTIES OVERALL

Although the per-page rate dropped from $0.005779 to $0.00514, the KDP Select Global Fund rose from $11.5M to $11.8M.

Amazon paid $300,000 more in KDP Select royalties in August than they paid in July.

Overall, KDP Select authors earned more than ever.

So although they paid 11% less per page, there were more than enough additional pages read to compensate overall, enough such that Amazon actually paid more money in royalties overall.

Either there were (A) more Kindle Unlimited subscribers or (B) Kindle Unlimited customers are reading more than usual.

Either way, in general, KDP Select books benefited from this additional reading and the extra $300,000 paid in KDP Select royalties in August compared to July.

MORE BOOKS IN KINDLE UNLIMITED

Another sign that the program is thriving is that the number of books in Kindle Unlimited steadily rises.

Even through the new Kindle Unlimited 2.0.

Even through the 11% drop in the per-page rate.

The number of books in Kindle Unlimited keeps climbing.

It’s up to 1.1M presently. It was about 1M just a few months ago, but despite the new program and even the drop in the per-page rate in August, still 100,000 more books have added in the past few months than have dropped out.

127,000 books were added to Kindle Unlimited in the past 90 days. Whereas only about 27,000 have dropped out during this same time. For every book that has dropped out, 4 more were added in.

44,000 books were added just in the last 30 days. The number of books added to Kindle Unlimited each month keeps rising.

There is plenty of content for customers, and plenty of new content each month.

The top KDP Select books are thriving with millions of pages read per month, and the customers enjoying those top books want more top books to read. And those authors feel motivated to write more similar books. And other authors want to become KDP Select All-Stars, so they’re working to try to please Kindle Unlimited customers.

Many books benefited from the extra pages read and higher KDP Select Global Fund for August.

For many books, overall, this made August better than July, even though the per-page rate dropped.

WHAT IF YOUR BOOK DIDN’T BENEFIT?

If your book didn’t benefit from the extra pages read and the higher KDP Select Global Fund, there are a number of possible reasons:

  • There are many complicating factors involved in a book’s sales. Most books go through sales slumps at some time all on their own. If your book’s sales slumped in August, it’s quite possible that it had nothing to do with Kindle Unlimited. In fact, more pages were read through Kindle Unlimited than ever, and the payout was $300,000 more than in July.
  • August is typically a slow season for very many books. If your book’s sales slumped in August, it may just be a seasonal effect. The interesting thing is that more pages were read in Kindle Unlimited in August, even though sales often slump in August. Overall, this seasonal effect didn’t impact KDP Select borrows (although it surely did for some KDP Select books, overall there were more pages read in August than July).
  • Many authors changed their publishing and marketing strategies when Kindle Unlimited 2.0 rolled out. Many authors believed that Kindle Unlimited 1.0 favored short books, and now many authors believe that Kindle Unlimited 2.0 favors long books. What Kindle Unlimited 2.0 favors is reader engagement. As many other authors adjust their marketing strategies, that impacts other books.

Here are a few proactive ideas:

  • Marketing, of course. For a book that has appealing content, the trick is to get more customers to learn about your book. Learn free and low-cost marketing strategies, and try them out.
  • Marketability is another factor. Are you writing the kinds of books that appeal to Kindle Unlimited customers? Are the cover, blurb, and Look Inside helping to close sales? If so, your book is more likely to benefit from KDP Select borrows in addition to sales, and those borrows can help your sales rank.
  • Are you making the most of Kindle Countdown Deals? Just scheduling the promotion isn’t apt to be as effective as searching out websites that can help you promote the Countdown Deal.
  • Are you using AMS wisely? Most authors tend to overbid. The safer route is to bid very low, wait a few days, raise your bid only slightly if necessary, wait a few more days, and use patience and frivolity to your advantage. It may take a month or more to generate significant activity, but it’s less risky that way. Also, once you have several similar books out, with good marketability, that improves your prospects for advertising success.
  • Personal interactions can go a long way. When you interact with your target audience, a personal interaction is more likely to inspire a sale during a slow period, and it’s also more likely to lead to a review. Get a few sales in a slow period and it can help you rebound.
  • Write more books. And do some research to see what kinds of books are selling. Which are a good fit for you to write. For which customers are likely to support indie books.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE

Is the grass greener in KDP Select or outside of it?

That’s a good question, and it may depend in part on the particular book, as well as the marketing capabilities of the author.

If you can build a strong following all on your own, you stand better prospects of growing a readership outside of KDP Select. But it’s not easy to do.

Another big factor is sales momentum.

If you start in KDP Select, once you get initial borrows and sales, you have sales momentum. Each Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime borrow helps your sales rank.

If you now opt out of KDP Select, you lose that benefit on sales rank. You lose your momentum.

Sales momentum is really tough to build. Once you have it, you don’t want to lose it. But you lose part of it when you switch to the other side.

Similarly, if you have sales momentum on several sites and join KDP Select, you lose it on those other sites.

Kindle Unlimited has a huge readership (2 billion pages read per month of KDP Select), which supports very many indie books (through KDP Select).

This audience can potentially benefit new authors. (But it takes a marketable book and marketing to improve your chances.)

Hence, it’s appealing to start out in KDP Select.

You can opt out after 90 days (but you must uncheck the auto-renewal box to do this successfully). But you risk losing that sales momentum.

Unless, of course, you hardly have any sales to speak of. But Kindle is the main market. If you hardly have any sales to speak of, the sales aren’t likely to be found elsewhere. But it can happen, and you might feel like there is nothing to lose in trying. (The real problem may be with the marketability of the book, or with marketing.)

One intriguing idea floating around is to write multiple series (or similar books) under multiple pen names, and rotate one (or more) of these series in and out of KDP Select. One idea behind this is diversification, and to try to reach customers on the other side of the fence.

But the risk in this strategy is that rotating a title in or out of KDP Select will hurt sales momentum.

It is wise to have a backup plan in place. But I wouldn’t do anything to risk hurting sales momentum unless and until the per-page rate goes below your magic number.

I’M STILL IN

KDP Select has been good to me.

I have pages read, but where I’ve seen the largest increases are (A) Kindle sales and (B) paperback sales.

I have no doubt that this is largely due to KDP Select.

First, all those KDP Select borrows improve my sales ranks.

Secondly, I’ve learned how to make effective use of AMS. It took a couple of months of overbidding to develop my low-bid strategy, and to refine my targeting, and it’s begun to pay dividends.

Not every one of my books has benefited (nor are they all in ‘my’ name), but overall my Kindle sales and paperback sales have improved.

Not all authors are thriving in KDP Select. But many are, and the potential is there.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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Puzzle Post: Three Words You Should Never Say…?

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

PUZZLE POST

What three words should you never say?

Let me clarify: You should never say these three words in succession.

It’s been a while since I’ve made a puzzle post.

I put some lines of text here.

To try to create some space between the puzzle…

…and the answer.

So if you don’t want to bump into the answer…

SPOILER ALERT

…then scroll back up until you’re ready.

🙂

HISTORY

There is a little history to this puzzle. Let me describe this to provide a little extra space between the puzzle and the answer.

Maybe it will also provide a bit of a hint, if you want one.

When I was in junior high school, one of our teachers preached to us to never say these words.

Unfortunately, it was natural for us to say these words.

Quite often.

So we heard his admonishment regularly.

And it worked. I remember it today whenever I hear these three words.

It’s a very common expression.

ANSWER

Ready or not, here comes the answer.

Perhaps with a bit of irony.

If you felt that you couldn’t figure it out, you probably did.

Did you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know”?

If so, then by not knowing, you actually solved the puzzle.

The answer is: I don’t know.

Those are the three words you should never say.

WHY NOT?

Why should you never say, “I don’t know”?

Let me first explain what the answer isn’t. It doesn’t mean you should know the answer to every question. That would be impossible.

Sure, you should strive to be well-prepared so that you don’t find yourself thinking, “I don’t know,” when your credibility is at stake.

But the reason that you should never say, “I don’t know,” goes much deeper.

These are wasted words. I don’t know. If you don’t answer the question directly, it’s obvious that you don’t know.

It’s not helping the inquirer advance toward a solution.

Be resourceful. Think of ways to help. Consider how to go about finding the answer. This kind of thinking is productive. Thinking, “I don’t know,” isn’t productive.

Suppose you have a problem and you really need help finding the solution. But you’re pretty sure nobody you know has the answer. Who will you ask for help?

The kind of person who always has helpful advice, even when he or she doesn’t know the answer. That’s who.

Not the kind of person who instinctively answers, “I don’t know.”

It’s about credibility, branding your reputation, feeling self-confident, improving your resourcefulness.

These are all valuable skills. If you avoid those three words, “I don’t know,” it helps you build these valuable skills.

MY NEW PUZZLE BOOK

Do you enjoy puzzles?

I do. I love puzzles, especially math puzzles.

So it’s no surprise that I have a new book of math puzzles, the latest in my Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks.

It includes quite a variety, such as visual puzzles, prime numbers, the Fibonacci series, and much more. It starts out easy and the challenge grows steadily.

Available both in print and for Kindle. Cover designed by Melissa Stevens at theillustratedauthor.net.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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Research & its Value for all Authors

Image from Shutterstock

Image from Shutterstock

RESEARCH FOR AUTHORS

Every author can benefit from research in multiple ways.

Research isn’t just for nonfiction authors. It’s not just for the content of the book.

There are many kinds of research relevant for authors, including:

  • Researching the mechanics of grammar or style, or the art of storytelling, for example.
  • Researching historical, geographic, language, or other elements relevant to your plot.
  • Researching how people react to names, places, and ideas you’re thinking about using in your book.
  • Researching how beta readers react to your story.
  • Researching the potential market for your book concept.
  • Researching reader expectations for your genre.
  • Researching helpful marketing strategies.
  • Researching publication tips, like writing the blurb or designing the cover.
  • And, of course, researching content for nonfiction, educational books, or historical fiction.

Here are some examples of how research can help:

  • Any kind of research can be a helpful marketing point.
  • It demonstrates your motivation to write your book well.
  • Character sketches, idea bubbles, maps, etc. make for nice bonus material on your website.
  • Writing-related research helps show readers that a great deal of work goes into preparing a book.
  • It helps you develop a professional image as an author.
  • Research helps strengthen your author biography.
  • It gives you useful content to post on your blog or author website.
  • Bits and pieces of research here and there can help you build buzz or create a content-rich website.

Many of the things writers already do and take for granted can be presented as a form of research. And when presented as research, they can make a favorable impression upon potential readers.

PERCEPTION

The last fantasy and sci-fi novels that I read were immediately followed by about the author sections, and in each case the author section each author mentioned a great deal of research that had gone into preparing the book.

In one case (Jeff Wheeler’s Legends of Muirwood), even though it was a fantasy novel, I was intrigued to learn that the basis for much of the magic in the book related to Medieval Europe. It wasn’t just random. Most chapters of the book begin with a fictional “quote,” while the author’s note at the back begins by describing the author’s passion for collecting quotes.

In the other case, (Bob Mayer’s Area 51 series) the author had blended actual events with fiction. The author also demonstrated how the military component has authenticity and described his obsession with mythology.

Reading about how these authors had done their homework just after I finished reading their books:

  • It made me more eager to check out the next book in the series.
  • It made it easier for me to recommend their books to others.
  • It left a favorable impression just as I was about to head over and review the book.

Does your book involve other cities? Don’t you have to research the layout of the city? Don’t you have to research the culture, lingo, and accents?

Does your book involve a military component? Don’t you have to research the military? Don’t you have to research the technology?

How do readers know if your book is realistic? Showing that you did your homework helps. It can also help inspire reader interest.

Showing that you’ve done your research also helps to create a positive perception about you and your book. It helps you build a strong brand as an author.

Marketing that perception helps you play to your strengths. Have you done anything to master the art of writing or storytelling? Do you have firsthand experience regarding the setting of your book? Do you have any expertise relevant to any of the subjects involved of your book? If you do, it may pique a reader’s interest.

MARKETABILITY

Some research can help you make your book more marketable:

  • Keyword research. Visit Amazon.com and start typing keywords into the search field. You’ll see popular searches. Note that the results are different depending on whether you search within all departments, books, the Kindle store, a category, or a subcategory, for example. Results are also different for searches on Kindle devices. You should try a variety of possibilities. You want keywords that are specific (to help you stand out better), popular (so they get searched for), and highly relevant for your book (so you don’t get overlooked in search results).
  • What to write. Search for books that you might be a good fit to write. See what’s selling, what’s not. See if the market’s already flooded, or if there is a need that you can fill.
  • Packaging ideas. When you search for similar books, you come across a variety of covers and blurbs. These can help you get ideas (but don’t be a copycat), and can help you gauge what customers expect to see (though there isn’t just one kind of cover that signifies a particular genre). Follow other authors and you can learn some of their marketing ideas.
  • Content expectations. Read similar books to learn what readers are accustomed to in your subgenre (that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do the same; but there are some features that most readers of a subgenre strongly want, so that can be helpful to know).

MY RESEARCH

I publish nonfiction, including math and science books. My background is physics, which I teach. I do all sorts of research for my books.

But, as you may know, I also have a sci-fi series that I’m working on. I’m in the beginning stages, and as I come across publishing decisions that I must make—like research—I’m sharing these experiences on my blog (with all the other kinds of posts that ordinarily write here). The image that I included with this post gives a subtle visual clue (though it will be set in modern times).

I’m doing much research to help write my series, such as:

  • Researching actual scientific data that may relate to extraterrestrial visitations of earth (in the past or present). Puma Punku in Bolivia, for example, has some fascinating finds. Most of such “evidence” isn’t necessarily “conclusive,” but can seem compelling and I find it fascinating. I want to know what my audience might know, and I want to make possible connections (after all, it’s fiction) that seem both deep and plausible.
  • Researching differences between writing fiction and nonfiction. I’ve been writing nonfiction avidly; obviously, fiction is quite different. I read a ton of fiction, especially sci-fi, fantasy, and classics, which will help. But writing isn’t quite the same as reading. For example, if there is a fight in my novel, I’ll need to describe the fight scene. (Fantasy author Charles Yallowitz gave me a great suggestion for this: Research some choreography.)
  • Researching sci-fi books in my subgenre that my readers are likely to be familiar with. I’ve already read some, but I’ve found several others. It’s kind of cool that the series that I’m writing is helping to fuel my own reading list.
  • And much more. I’ll save much of my research, including the details. It’s not just for writing the series, but much of it also figures into my marketing plans. You’ll see if you follow along.

CHANCE TO WIN 4-BOOKS-IN-1 ON SELF-PUBLISHING

You can win my 4-books-in-1 paperback book on Self-Publishing with Amazon.

This is an Amazon Giveaway hosted by Amazon. If you win, Amazon will fulfill the order and ship your prize directly to you. Click the following link for your chance to win. Every 300th entrant will win. Up to two winners.

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3f7daee9a66b9548

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Mar 25, 2015 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See the Official Rules at http://amzn.to/GArules.

READING SURVEY

If you haven’t already done so, please participate in a survey on how people read books. The more participation we get, the more meaningful the results will be.

Here is one question, for your convenience. (If you’ve already answered this before, please don’t answer it a second time.)

You can find more questions here:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/surveys

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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