Tag Archives: self-publishing

Facebook: Une Génération Perdue?

The time has come as with all things to move on. In this particular case I want to use the next few posts to examine the utility of Facebook for writers. To be honest I spend little time on Facebook. Instead, I am more occupied with Twitter and blogs. I feel certain that social media experts would tell me I am under utilizing a valuable tool. This is why I thought it appropriate to ask a knowledgeable social media person to start a discussion about Facebook. I naturally turned to someone I trust to write a guest post. I am extremely appreciative to Nancy Burke Barr, aka Mentor Mama. She agreed to share her some wisdom Nancy is both a professional and a sincere person. I know this because I relied on her mentoring during my first few, frustrating months of learning social media.  After reviewing her submission for this post I realized that I need to have missed Mentor Mama’s friendship and should make the time to get her help to step things up to the next level. I think you’ll feel the same way after you read Nancy’s post, Facebook: Une Génération Perdue?

“You are all a lost generation.”

–Epigraph, The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

In the years following World War I, the term, “the lost generation”, believed to have been coined in France, came to represent a generation of young writers and artists travelling abroad, connecting with other creative pioneers. Counted among these “lost” youth, were the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemmingway and Gertrude Stein.

Like Jean Paul Sartre and the era of existentialists before them, these budding geniuses centered their activities around the excitement of Paris.  Writers, in particular, flocked to Paris for the intellectual interaction, the inexpensive cost of living and the ease of publication.  While Paris served as a muse for some, the decadent lifestyle of cafés and cabarets functioned as the undoing of others.

Throughout history, talented sorts have always loved to gather together to share ideas, to debate, to challenge each other, to collaborate, and to change the world.  Think of the distances that scholars traveled to work together at the ancient Library in Alexandria.  This is a vital part of the creative process.

With the amazing technology available today, it is no longer necessary to travel great distances to commune with other intellectuals. A modern day “Alexandria” or “Parisian café” is as close as your computer, where you can exchange ideas with like-minded people from around the world.

An important part of that paradigm is the social media platform, Facebook.  Facebook is, according to its own site, “a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. . . . Facebook is a part of millions of people’s lives all around the world providing unparalleled distribution potential . . . and the opportunity to build a business that is highly relevant to people’s lives.”  (http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?factsheet)  It is the hub of the online social scene, the “Paris”, if you will, for today’s creative elite, with intellectual interaction, inexpensive access, and ease of exposure.

Not unlike the artists of the “lost generation”, your strategic use of this hub affords you the ability to interact with people who have a specific interest in the products or services that you offer.  Whether you are creating an online presence, offering consulting, or self-publishing a book, use of Facebook is a critical piece of your online strategy.

Used correctly, this platform establishes an opportunity for you to open a window into your life.  This glimpse behind the scenes affords a level of authenticity that was missing from commercial interactions in the decade preceding online social media.  During that time, TV and radio commercials essentially told the consumer what to do if they wanted to be smart, beautiful, healthy, or enlightened.

Despite its seeming anonymity, today’s strategy strives to return to the model where a buyer knew the vendor well, and could base his buying decisions on trust.  Using Facebook as a place to develop real relationships with people in your industry is a long, tedious process, much as it must have been in ancient Alexandria or early 20th century Paris.  The difference is that your social circle consists of 400 million active Facebook users. The potential is staggering.

Obviously, you cannot personally interact with 400 million users.  You can, however, develop serious friendships with hundreds of those people. Thousands of others can follow your Facebook group or community page and gage whether you are a person with whom they want to interact or do business.  You have the opportunity to reach out to people around the globe, offering them the kind of information, interaction, and support that builds lasting bonds.  Those bonds will encourage a person not only to buy your ”product”, but to follow your career, tell others about you, and to ultimately help you change the world.

Used indiscriminately, Facebook can be your undoing, as addictive as alcohol was for F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It can become an obsession, causing you to disengage with the real world and live in a Facebook fantasy.  If you are a writer or other artist, you must limit your Facebook time, ensuring that you spend adequate time pursuing your craft.  Facebook is, after all, only one online tool, not the product itself.

Many people worry about this online generation.  Will too much time online hinder their social abilities? Reduce their creativity?  Will they become another “génération perdue”?  If you use Facebook, will you become “perdu”?

This writer asserts that “the lost generation” was never really lost at all and neither is our generation of Facebook fanatics.  The early era produced great genius, as will our present era.  How and where these geniuses connect and share their brilliance simply changes with the times.  Until the birth of the Internet, it was impossible for many to afford the luxury of travelling to the great cultural centers.  Facebook now offers artists everywhere the opportunity to reach out and interface with the world.  If you are disciplined and diligent, this can only result in a generation that is universally connected and perhaps the very first “génération trouvée”.

PLEASE FRIEND ME ON FACEBOOK!

http://www.facebook.com/nancy.burke.barr

Nancy Burke Barr

“Mentor Mama”

http://www.ishouldhavelistenedtomymother.com

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click to Living in the Heartland video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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Filed under Amazon, blog, book, digital, Facebook, good read, media, networking, social media, Twitter, Uncategorized, writers

Time to Shop My Book? Advice from Three Who Know

With more than a half dozen great reviews of my book up on Amazon and a successful book signing last weekend, I wondered if I should take John Austen’s advice to shop my book. I have had increasing evidence that I have produced a quality product. People appear to connect with Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on a variety of levels. Maybe if I put together a press kit with book reviews and newspaper articles my book would be well received by a publisher. Having the assistance of a established publisher should make it easier to get Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories into bookstores and gain greater attention by national media outlets.

I queried Jane Friedman at Writer’s Digest. I was interested to hear her opinion? Can you guess her answer?

She recommended I keep focused on my indie route. Friedman’s counseled it wouldn’t be time to shop the book until I could claim a couple thousand copies sold.

Question: When I sell a couple of thousand books should I consider a publisher? It seems too much like the story of the Little Red Head. Remember the story of the farmyard shebird who planted wheat, nurtured it, harvested and then baked it into bread before any other farm animal was willing to help. When the bread was baked they all volunteered to help the hen eat the bread.

Surrendering my book to a publisher after I’ve sold several thousand copies on my own doesn’t make sense. The primary reason is that many books are considered a success if they generate a couple of thousand sales. If that’s the expected limit why would I want to share any of the profit with people who haven’t done any of the work?

Kathleen Okeefe Kanavos, author of  Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing, pointed out: “Big publishing houses are not in the business to publish books. They are in the business to make money. Until the day that you become an author of Dan Brown’s caliber, you will be required to show the steps of how you plan to market and sell your book beyond what the publishing houses can or will do.”

Okeefe Kavanos says authors need a business plan in order to interest an agent or land a publishing contract. One of the first steps in developing the plan is to identify the audience. Authors need to identify their target market and demonstrate that they are equipped to capture that audience. Those are the two most important components of a successful marketing platform.

Friedman responds to the obvious question: “Why don’t publishers market and promote the books on their list? According to Friedman the answer is that publishers don’t have enough money, time, or staff to target books to a variety of audiences. Publishers are good at putting books into physical and retail distribution. Once there the hope is readers will find the books.

In October I made the decision to pursue indie publishing. I believed in the power of the Internet, digital publishing, and the value of the message contained in my book. I hadn’t bargained on the amount of work and time it would take to make a success of Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. I admit I was naïve in this regard. In the first two months after the book appeared on Amazon.com I experienced a number of frustrations with little success. I have just finished the third month. As I said at the start of this post the book has received good reviews, some media coverage, and I can attest to forward movement.

Marketing is HARD work. There is a LOT more work ahead. However, I see only two options: digging in for the long haul or shelving the book.

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Filed under agents, book, book signing, distribution, frustration, good read, guarantee, hopeful, indie writer, media, on demand publishing, on publishing, Pamela Ferris-Olson, publishing, self-publishing, social media, success

What is the Measure of Success for Self-Published Authors? The Numbers are Shocking

A while back someone asked me: What would you consider a success? I had contacted the woman in mid-January after I published my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. She was local, and had a social media consulting business. Carole was eager to help. As she’d never used social media to promote a book Carole contacted a colleague for advice. The contact wanted to know if I’d only view myself successful if I reached my stated goal of 100,000 book sales (something I thought at the time was reasonable given the power of the Internet) or if I’d be satisfied signing with a traditional publishing house.

I suggested a third option. After some thought I decided I’d feel successful if Living in the Heartland was picked up by a publisher who also offered me the opportunity to do additional books about extraordinary women living in America’s heartland.

It’s approaching three months since Living in the Heartland appeared on Amazon.com. Has my personal measurement of succession changed? In a pie-in-the-sky world I’d say ‘No.’ I’d love to sell lots of books. I wrote Living in the Heartland because I wanted people to read about these extraordinary women, and because I wanted to promote dialog about issues faced by contemporary women and about diversity.

If I can’t lay claim to 100,000 book sales, I am willing to redefine my personal success in terms of securing a publisher for Living in the Heartland with hopes of future contracts to write more books.

Am I giving up on self-publishing? The answer is, “No and yes.” At the moment, I am not actively pursuing a publisher. Unless one reaches out to me, which isn’t likely until I sell enough for them to consider me a success, I’m committed to working to make my book a success. I believe that the future for books lies in social media especially as more books are sold in digital format. One thing I can say for certain is that I am positioned for the future, and ahead of authors who aren’t developing knowledge and skills in using social media.

Why then would I be happy to embrace a traditional publisher if one came to me and asked to handle my book? This blog presents some of my experiences in self-publishing. In doing background for some of my posts I’ve also come across some unsettling data. I’ve used excerpts from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of American 2-1-2010 article Print-On-Demand Self-Publishing Services below. See if you don’t reach a similar conclusion.

E-commerce currently accounts for approximate 20% of book sales. Brick-and-mortar bookstores, especially the large chains, represent the most significant single sales source, and most of these don’t like dealing with print-on-demand self-published authors. Most books require a balance of online and offline presence to have sales of any significance.

Here are the eye-popping, gut-wrenching statistics that the article present: “The average book from a POD service sells fewer than 200 copies, mostly to ‘pocket’ markets surrounding the author–friends, family, local retailers who can be persuaded to place an order–and to the author him/herself. According to the chief executive of POD service iUniverse… 40% of iUniverse’s books s are sold directly to authors.

POD services’ own statistics support these low sales figures. AuthorHouse’s..reveals that it has signed up more than 40,000 authors, and issued more than 60,000 titles… AuthorHouse reports selling more than 2.5 million books in 2008–which sounds like a lot, but averages out to around 41 sales per title…

Stats for Xlibris were similar. According to a Wall Street Journal article, 85% of its books had sold fewer than 200 copies, and only around 3%–or 352 in all–had sold more than 500 copies. Things looked up in 2007: according to Xlibris’s own internal reports, obtained by Writer Beware, 4% of its titles had sold more than 1,000 copies. However, the averages still aren’t good. As of mid-2007, Xlibris had 23,000 authors and had published 23,500 titles, with total sales of over 3 million–around 127 sales per title.

Once independent companies, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and Canada-based Trafford Publishing are now all owned by Author Solutions Inc… the average sales of titles from any of the company’s brands at around 150.”

Wish I’d read these numbers before deciding after only about two dozen rejections − some were actually handwritten and supportive – from agents and publishers. If I known what I do now I think I’d still be sending out manuscripts as opposed to complimentary copies of my book trying to establish a foothold in the market.

Read more at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Filed under agents, book, distribution, dreams, editors, frustration, indie writer, media, on demand publishing, pay-to-publish, publishing, self-publishing, social media, statistics, success

What’s the Best Way to Sell Your Book? Are Giveaways Worth It?

A recent post at NovelHelp.com consisted of an interview with purported indie book publishing guru Todd Rutherford at Yorkshire Publishing. The March 5 post gave a list of 11 actions an indie writer needs to do to promote their book.

I’ve discussed some of these already, so I decided to address item #8 entitled, Is it important to give books away? The answer given: “It is the most important thing to do, as long as they are being given to influential people or wholesale book buyers.  Most major publishers give away 3000 to 5000 books when they release a new title.”

Let’s get the math out of the way first. To give away 3000-5000 books, you’d need the distribution network of a major publisher. In practical terms for an indie writer, you’ll have to give out books to anyone you are hoping will review the book – online, radio or print reviewers, bookstores where you’d like to do signings, people with connections.

The cost of a complimentary copy for me is: $4.71 (my cost for a book) + $0.50 (roughly the cost of postage for shipping from publisher. I buy in lots of 50) + postage to mail the book to person receiving the complimentary copy (about $5 as the USPS has a limited tier of rates. If the difference between slow boat to wherever and priority is $0.25 I chose to show the recipient I care and spend the extra quarter). This adds up to nearly $10.25 per book.

Free books are definitely part of the public relations campaign. I agree books should be distributed to influential people, people who are likely to result in multiple sales of your book. I don’t agree this is the most important thing you can do to sell a book. YOU are the MOST important equation in book sales. How much energy, heart, time, perseverance you put in IS what counts. Of course, this is providing you have a good product, you are a TERRIFIC salesperson, or have a GREAT incentive gift to accompany sales.

I have friends who are giving free books away on their Web sites and blogs. I’ve been encouraged to do the same. I haven’t yet. Why? A giveaway isn’t worth much unless there are enough people competing for the freebie. If you don’t already have an audience interested in your product, it’s unlikely you’re going to generate one simply by offering a free book, even an autographed book, if no one has heard of the book or the author.

Being a writer and one’s own public relations staff is tough. I don’t want to be a salesperson. When I wrote my book, I didn’t envision myself in a full-time sales position. I was foolish enough to think that when my book appeared on Amazon.com, the power of that bookselling titan would be sufficient for my book to fly off the digital bookshelf. It didn’t work that way. Building a SM platform, working the traditional public relations routes – newspapers, radio, TV, bookstores – takes a lot of time. There are repeat calls, looking for new ideas, and work, work, work. They all take time. Time I’d prefer to spend on writing my next book.

There’s no question that an indie writer has to spend money to sell a book. Where and how you spend it will, most likely, depend on trial and error. There is no single method that is guaranteed to be a success. Unless you have an endless supply of cash you’ll need to determine what avenues you need to pursue on your own and where you can get help. I chose to employ a SM coach.

I’ve written and distributed my own press releases, and have been following up on my own. I can tell you from years of working with a newspaper, follow through is VERY important. A press release whether by email or snail mail gets lost in the clutter of a blizzard of PR. That’s why follow threw is important.

To turn a phrase: You wrote your book now you’ve got to live with it. You’ve got to work it every way you can.

I’ve got a friend who’s just beginning her own indie published journey.  I’m going to ask to relate her experiences in a future blog post.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Filed under 32896516, book, cost, distribution, guarantee, indie writer, on demand publishing, pay-to-publish, publishing, social media, success

Self-Published Author Caught in a Squeeze Play: Costs up, Royalties Down

I’m caught in a squeeze play and it isn’t even opening day! That’s how I feel because the cost of my book has gone up 27 percent while the royalty payment has plummeted 30 percent. This financial debacle has taken place since December.

What’s the reason? Ah, that’s a great question. There’s no straightforward answer. It’s evolved as I’ve exchanged emails and phone calls with the publishing company. I rarely converse with the same person twice. My account manager, who was supposed to be my go-to gal, seems to be AWOL much of the time. When she does respond her answers don’t specifically address my question. She merely replies with something easily found under the company’s FAQs. Frustrating? Hell YES.

Bottom line, the company I signed with in October to publish my book, announced soon thereafter that it was morphing into another company to better serve ME. My costs were supposed to go down, my royalties up. When the one company became the other, the transition didn’t move seamlessly. The responsibility fell to me to reauthorize the distribution of my book. This is why it has taken so long for distributors to show my book title among their listings. Many things were unstated prior to the transition or even now. My account manager who was supposed to work FOR me is anything but proactive. I’d say she’s inactive. More characteristically: UNRESPONSIVE.

As to the financial squeeze play let’s look at the numbers. My book sells on Amazon.com for $15.99. The printing of the book NOW (it was less in quotes back in December) costs $4.71. The publishing company takes $5.68 and gives me a royalty payment of $5.60. (BTW it takes them an extra month to pay this to me. I don’t get a royalty payment until March for books sold in January) I’m not upset about the 50/50 split since the publisher is in charge of shipping and handling. Just for the record it’s going to take a lot of book sales before I break even. I’m talking more than a 1000 books. That’s means recouping prepublication and promotion costs, not time and expense for researching and writing.

Here’s the shocker: If the book is sold through a bookstore or any organization that buys through the “ independent distribution channel” my royalty is only $1.68!!! I’ve been tearing my hair out to get my book listed on this channel without realizing that while there is potential for additional sales, there is a veritable cliff from which returns plummet.

Here’s the math. The book buyer gets a 40 percent discount. Their cost is $9.59. The printing cost remains constant at $4.71. The value left in the book is $4.88. The publisher takes $3.20 leaving me with $1.68. There’s been no explanation why the split is 50-50 when the book is sold on Amazon and only 65/35 when sold through other channels.

Obviously my earlier posts that tell people to write because they love to write and not because they expect to make money are on target.  I am aware that mine is but one experience. I’d like to find a self-published author who can relate a success story.

People tell me to be patient. After all, my book only made its debut on January 11. Let’s see what happens. There may be a success story down the road. I’m certainly working hard enough.

I’ve got a friend who’s just beginning her own indie published journey.  I’m going to ask to relate her experiences in a future blog post.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Filed under book, cost, distribution, frustration, on demand publishing, pay-to-publish, publishing, royalty, self-publishing, success

Down the Rabbit Hole continued – The Effect of the Internet on Writers

…As a freelance writer for a traditionally published newspaper I have never been assured a paycheck or a given pay rate. I have always served at the whim of my editors, and I DO mean whim. Some editors are more generous than others. I have never been clear on how they determine the value of an article. There are, of course, less material returns. My work IS published. Some of my stories are a form of community service. Many of the human interest stories I write are likely to go unnoticed. I enjoy meeting a diverse range of people, especially the kids, and giving them a few inches of fame in the paper. I get no rewards from the Internet sites that use my stories without my permission or royalty payment. The Internet has caused me to lose control of my material. I’m not sure if there’s much recourse for writers.

I know people who write for online sites. These writers are getting fractions of cents on the dollar for their content.  One writer said: “I CAN tell you that hard word, talent, and an insane number of submissions to mags equals publication –and some small amount of recognition. I don’t even know if I register on the radar screen, but I am making a teesny-weensy blip somewhere. After something like 900 submissions last year (sixty acceptances.)… I know the world is stacked against us, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just ALMOST impossible! You keep trying!”

You do the math. 900 submissions in 365 days. 60 acceptances out of 900 submissions. If Phoebe isn’t prone to hyperbole then she is writing her heart out every day with little reward. Her time spent writing is matched, I am sure, with cruising the Internet to find places to submit content.

Content has also been changed by the Internet. In this digital age people want quick reads. Articles are shortened. Language is morphing. There is more jargon, abbreviated words, less grammatical rules. It might be argued that this laissez fair world makes it easier on writers.

As the craft of writing is morphing into shortened forms, I wonder if there won’t come a point when our written language returns to symbology, becomes the modern equivalent of hieroglyphics. I also see video images replacing the written word. For example, I have noticed an increase in the number of video tweets on Twitter.

I think writers are in the midst of a free fall. Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, we don’t know what lies at the bottom. I’m using this time to learn how to maneuver in the social media world.

I want to discuss the notion that in the not too distant future that all books will be digital, but in my next post I want to return to looking at the trials of self-publishing.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Filed under art, editing, editors, on publishing, on writing, publishing, self-publishing, social media, technology, writing

OMG What Will You Do, cont…

The saga continues… I get a call this afternoon from John. He is the bookseller who called last week because he was unable to obtain a copy of my book for a customer. John says he’d like to see if I’m still agreeable to send him a book. The bookseller says the forms the “publishing” company aka printer sent him aren’t worth the effort. John wants to buy 1 book. To me even one book sold is golden. But it is only 1 book to the bookseller. One $15.99 book. The publisher sent John’s store forms to set up an account in order to buy the one book. John says he will do it (this man really wants to satisfy his customer. Now THAT’S customer service) if that is the only way to get the book, but if I’m still willing to send him a book he’d be grateful. I tell John I wish I was in Washington. Firstly, because I think it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Secondly, because I’d like to take him out for coffee. We could have a gripe session. We’re both  indie’s – he’s an indie bookseller, and I’m and indie writer/publisher – and both finding it difficult to stay afloat. We could commiserate about the state of the publishing industry. I assure John that it will be no problem for me to wrap the book and mail it to him today. After mailing a number of books out for promotion and review I know that priority mailing will cost about $5-6. BTW the USPS isn’t making it any easier on authors to distribute their books. Can you believe the price of postage? John says the cost is no problem. The customer is responsible for shipping costs. Hurray for the customer. This particular customer chose not to buy on Amazon. With a minimum purchase the customer could have saved postage and sales tax. But, NO, they wanted to support their local bookstore. Insert APPLAUSE here. I suggested to John he call his customer and ask if they’d like me to autograph the book. John suggests I simply sign my name. DONE! Book is in mail. John has sent me a check! One book sold.

So that’s what this author is doing to get her book out. It’s ONE book at a time. My original goal was 100,000 books. It’s going to be a LONG time at this rate. However, you know that each book is being sent out with a lot of love and effort.

BTW John said the customer heard about the book on TWITTER!!! Guess I’m going to keep my efforts up with SM a lot longer.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Filed under book, editors, publishing, self-publishing, social media, success