Smashwords Author Alerts

Smashwords has added an awesome new feature: Smashwords Alerts. When readers sign up, Smashwords will send them an email alert whenever the authors they’re following publish something new.

To send alerts an author doesn’t need to do anything; they just happen, thanks to Smashwords’ system. To follow and author, readers need to log into their Smashwords account at http://Smashwords.com, then find their favorite author’s page. On the left side, under users who’ve favorited the author,there’s a button to favorite the author and one to subscribe to author alerts. Right now Smashwords has automatically subscribed readers to all their favorited authors, but they can go in and unfollow.

Untitled

 

But what if your readers don’t buy books from Smashwords? What if they like Barnes and Noble, or Amazon better? I can’t speak for all authors, but when I publish a book or story on Smashwords, I also publish it on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and all the others, so an alert from Smashwords would still let readers know that a new story was out there, waiting for them on their platform of choice – and I wouldn’t need to harvest their email addresses or send that notification manually.

In a business that increasingly sucks time for promotions, networking, newsletters, and more, any little thing can help! I’m encouraging all my readers to sign up for the alerts. whether they purchase from Smashwords or not, and hopefully that will save me some time and get the word out easier about new stories.

What do you think of the new alerts? As an author? As a reader? Are you planning to make use of them, or do you find it just more email for your inbox?

signature for white

Amazon Lowers Unlimited Payments

no moneyI don’t personally have anything enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (or Kindle Select, or anything else exclusive), so I can only share what I’ve read.

Apparently Amazon has expanded the Unlimited subscription service (which normally allows subscribed readers to read as many enrolled ebooks as they want for the $9.99 monthly fee) to India where they are only charging $3.00 a month to subscribers, meaning that authors will make less on an enrolled book read in India than if the same book was read in the United States or another country. (I don’t have Amazon’s numbers but I would guess since the fee is roughly 1/3 the cost of the normal subscription, reads would be worth 1/3 as well – again, this is only a guess on my part.)

If you don’t have many Indian readers, you may shrug and say “so?” But the worry of many indy authors enrolled in Unlimited is “What’s to stop them dropping the price to $3.00 everywhere?”  And then cutting the author’s paycheck. This is of especial concern when 1/3 of ALL authors already make LESS than $500 a year. 

The effects could be farther reaching than just author’s Amazon paychecks. As books are devalued – worth less to readers who are used to getting them for free – sales drop on all platforms. I’ve personally seen several reviews on Amazon that state something to the effect of “Wait until the book goes free” – as if the reviewer “knows” that ALL books will eventually be free. Mark Coker of Smashwords (who posted a very good blog about the Unlimited effect) quoted Randolph Lalonde who despite getting good reviews on his $2.99 to $3.99 books has gotten angry mail from people demanding that he make his books free. 

Am I advocating jumping ship from Amazon? No. I don’t advocate abandoning ANY platform.

Exclusivity is a personal decision for an author, and while I refuse to ever do it, someone else may be happy that way – and that’s great. What I think is sad, however, is how many authors I’ve spoken to who AREN’T happy but feel like they have no choice. “Amazon is the biggest.” That’s true, but Amazon is only the biggest because we make them the biggest – not just as readers (quick, and be honest, where do you buy books at?) but as authors. When we list our links most of us (myself included) list Amazon first. We submit books to email lists that cater exclusively to Amazon links.  When we post a link on our twitter profile (or our tweets) we use the Amazon link rather than a personal webpage that has links to all retailers. And I know, if I’m in a hurry in an email message or Facebook comment, I will ONLY give someone the Amazon link because I think “It’s the biggest. Everyone buys there”. Much like reading Twilight, we’re all doing it because “everyone else is” – and everyone else is because that’s where all the links point – that’s where the top link is, that’s where we’re told is the best place to go – either literally or subliminally.

If you’re happy reading Twilight (and some people are – there’s nothing wrong with that!), then you should keep doing it – stay exclusive and post Amazon links everywhere. But, if you’re only doing it because “you have no choice” or “everyone else is”, remind yourself that you DO have a choice. Either way, go check out Mark Coker’s great article. 

For Cover designers and Formatters

Image representing Smashwords as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

I know this blog is primarily aimed at authors, but many of us moonlight as cover designers or formatters (such as myself and Stephannie Beman) so I wanted to share this from Smashwords:  (I copied it directly from their site updates page. If you have any questions please contact smashwords as I don’t have the answers. Sorry. )

 

**Mark’s List open for new applicants**  It’s been over a year since we added a new batch of cover designers and formatters to Mark’s List, our list of low-cost service providers.  For a limited period of time, I’m accepting a small number of applications for new freelancers.  If you’re considering applying, please carefully study the information below.  Incomplete or inappropriate applications will be disregarded.

Background on the list:  I created the list in January, 2011 as a public service for our authors and publishers.  It’s currently available via autoresponder when someone emails list@smashwords.com.  A newer version of the list will be made available on the Smashwords web site.  We don’t charge for listings, and we don’t take a commission.   Every individual is a freelancer.  Each freelancer provides excellent customer service, which is why they continue to be on the list.  We appreciate the great, low-cost services these freelancers provide to our authors and publishers.  We’re also pleased to know that for many of the Mark’s List freelancers, their inclusion on the list has provided them much-appreciated supplemental income.  Some have even made it their full time job.
How to apply:   First, email list@smashwords.com and study the email you receive so you can get an idea how other service providers are providing and pricing their services.   Apply to only one category, cover designers or formatters.  You must be the person who will provide the services.  We will not accept service provider firms, or individuals who farm out their work to others.  Note that I expect to receive many more applications that I can accept in this round, so please accept my apologies in advance if you don’t make the cut this time.  Maybe next time.
Okay, you’re ready to apply.  Compose an email to me at listapp@smashwords.com.  Use the subject line, “Mark’s List.”  Answer each of the questions for the category for which you want to be considered (cut and paste these questions into your email and then provide your answers inline):
Cover designers:
  1. Provide me a complete hyperlink to your author/publisher profile page, which you’ll find by clicking “My Smashwords.”  Preference will be shown to Smashwords authors and publishers.  If you’re opted in to all our distribution channels (not counting Amazon), that’s a plus.
  2. Provide a link to your online portfolio.  I’m looking for designers with a track record of producing high-quality, professional covers.  It’s also very important that Smashwords authors and publishers can evaluate your portfolio before they hire you.
  3. Provide me hyperlinks to up to five covers you designed for Smashwords books.
  4. If selected, will you provide all your Smashwords clients a listing in your online portfolio, as well as a live hyperlink to their book’s listing at Smashwords?  Such portfolio listings are appreciated by our authors, and a plus for your application.
  5. What is your design fee, and how many revisions does that include?  Most Smashwords designers are in the range of $35-$100.  If you charge more, that’s fine as long as the price is justified by the quality.  We’re looking for great designers!
  6. Do you agree that you will not try to market or upsell other author services?
  7. Why do you think you’d be a great addition to Mark’s List?
Formatters:
  1. Provide me a complete hyperlink to your author/publisher profile page, which you’ll find by clicking “My Smashwords.”  Preference will be shown to Smashwords authors and publishers.  If you’re opted in to all our distribution channels (not counting Amazon), that’s a plus.
  2. Do you consider yourself an expert at the Smashwords Style Guide?
  3. How many books have you personally formatted that have been accepted into the Smashwords Premium Catalog?  The more the better.  Provide direct hyperlinks to up to 10 of them.  Preference will be shown to formatters who employ smart use of linked Table of Contents, intra-book links (endnotes and indexes), and who provide clean, professional formatting for novels.
  4. How many years have you been using Microsoft Word?
  5. Do you Nuke every project before you begin it?
  6. Do you know how to preserve italics and bolds post-Nuke using CTRL-H wildcards?
  7. Will you guarantee Premium Catalog inclusion for your clients?
  8. Will you perform all the work yourself?
  9. Do you agree that you will not upload client works to Smashwords?
  10. Do you agree that you will not attempt to upsell Smashwords authors to other formatting or ebook design or distribution services?
  11. What would be your approximate rates for a novela, a full-length novel, and a more complex non-fiction book with an extensive linked Table of Contents, or index and endnote links?
  12. Why do you think you’d be a great addition to Mark’s List?
Thanks, and good luck!
~Mark

How to Get a Cheap Book Cover… UPDATED!

I’ve recently updated my how to book How to Get a Cheap Book Cover by Joleene Naylor. Updates include:

  • A tutorial on how to use Create Space’s cover creator
  • A tutorial on how to make an ebook cover in Paint.Net
  • Fixed broken links
  • Added new links
  • Fixed a couple of typos
  • Updated information on acceptable file types

If you’ve already purchased the book through Smashwords, I believe you can download the updated version for free. I don’t know about the other sites, such as Barnes & Noble, though it will be a few days before the changes filter through the expanded market, anyway.

Here’s what people are saying about How to Get a Cheap Book Cover:

“VERY helpful! I was like a raft adrift on the adriatic and this book was the ocean liner that came to my salvation.” –  Robin Donaruma on March 07, 2012 (on Smashwords.com)

“I downloaded this book to help me design the cover for my novel, A Military Republic. The book has excellent advice about licensing photos, websites for buying photos and above all an invaluable guide to using gimp for designing the cover. I definitely recommend this to cover designing beginners.” – Haythem Bastawy on Feb. 25, 2012 (on Smashwords.com)

“This was a huge help when we were creating covers for my husband’s e-books. This is the first time we’ve done any sort of e-publishing, and we were pretty ignorant of even the basics. I especially liked the information on licensing and sources for images.” –  Marjorie Farmer on Nov. 10, 2011 (on Smashwords.com)

Formatting Your Ebook for Kindle, Barnes and Noble (or Epub), and Smashwords

Thanks to tips from Melanie Nilles, Stephannie Beman, and Rose Gordon, I was able to put together this post.

I start out with making my book a paperback version for CreateSpace, so my original formatting looks like this:

I have tabs, monotype corsiva font size 24 for the chapter title, use a picture I buy from a stockpohoto site, and use garamond font size 12 for the text.  I have headers (alternating between the title of the book on the odd pages and my name on the even pages) and use page numbers at the bottom.  I also like to show the formatting symbols.  These don’t show up in the paperback or ebook, but I like to know if I’m missing a paragraph because if I do, when I make the ebook, then there won’t be a separation from one paragraph to another.  I don’t know if that makes sense, but I rely on the formatting symbols while working on the book.  😀

Okay, so now that you know what I start out with, I’ll go into how I format my paperback version into an ebook.

For Kindle

The first thing I do is make the Kindle version because I can incorporate the images I have at the beginning of each chapter into it.  Here are the steps I use:

1.  Save the document as a Kindle ebook in Word 2003.  (I don’t know if Amazon or Smashwords will allow for Word 2007 or 2010, but I do know they will take the Word 2003 version.)  I usually save the version as “Title of Book Kindle Version”.  (Ex. Shotgun Groom Kindle Version)

2.  Delete headers and footers.  I do this by clicking inside the space where the header and footer is and deleting what’s in there.

3.  I select the entire book by going to the toolbar and select.  Under Select, you can pick “select all”.  I change the font to Times New Roman and pick 12 for the font size.

3. I get rid of all of my tabs by going to find and replace.  I type ^t in the find box and leave the replace box empty.

This is what you should get:

4.  I show the ruler on my toolbar.  Go to View (on the toolbar) and “show ruler”.

5.  I select all of the book using the Select option on the toolbar.  I use the top half of the hourglass icon at the left side of the toolbar to set the indent for the first line in every paragraph.  Move the top half about 0.25 spots to the right.  You might want to do 0.30.

6.  Now I make the Table of Contents.

A.  Put the cursor at the beginning of the chapter.  Do NOT highlight the chapter.

     B.  Go up to Word’s Insert menu and click the “Bookmark”.  Enter a name for the bookmark and click the button to add it.  Do this for every chapter.

D.  After you set up bookmarks for all the chapters, go to the beginning of your document and create a Table of Contents page.  I do this after the copyright page.

E.  Highlight the first chapter name (all of the text this time).  Go up to the Insert -> Hyperlink.   On the left side of the little window, click the “In this Document” option and look for your bookmarks. Click the bookmark link and click “ok”. The text will show as a hyperlink.

F.  Now repeat for every chapter down the list.  Afterwards, your table of contents should look like this.

7.  I go back through the document to make sure every chapter starts on a new page.  I use page breaks between chapters.  I also go and back and make sure all my drop downs (*** is what I use) is centered and only has one space between it and the text.

8.  I save my changes and upload the book to Amazon KDP.  I check through the Kindle previewer and make any changes necessary.

For Barnes and Noble

1.  I save the document as Word 2003 and label it “Title of Book Barnes and Noble version” (Ex. Shotgun Groom Barnes and Noble version).

2.  I remove all graphics because I’m not sure if they work as Epub.  I know they work in mobi.  I like to put a graphic image under each chapter title in my paperback versions.  It’s not necessary to have graphic images in your book.  This is a personal preference.  (My knowledge does not extend to inserting charts, graphs, etc into a book, so I’m not commenting on graphics beyond this point.)

3.  I bought a program called Word Atlantis.  I close the Barnes and Noble version of my book.  I open Word Atlantis and then open the Barnes and Noble version of my book.  From there, I go to File -> Save Special -> Save As Ebook.  This will save your document as an Epub file, and it’ll save all of your formatting so it’s clean in PubIt.

4.  Upload the book to PubIt and go through it to make sure it’s formatted right.

Smashwords

You can use the Barnes and Noble version (prior to making it an Epub file through Word Atlantis.

What you’ll need to do is change the copyright page so it reads like this:

Title of book – Smashwords Edition

Published by Author Name at Smashwords

Copyright © Year of Publication by Author Name

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes:

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please do. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Nuclear Method:

If all else fails with Smashwords and you can’t the document approved for premium distribution, I’d take the entire book and put it in Notepad to eliminate all formatting.  Then copy it and put it back into Word 2003.  I’d make sure there is a space between all paragraphs, center the title page, center all chapter headings, make the table of contents, make page breaks at the end of each chapter or insert a symbol at the end of each chapter.  I’d also use a page break or symbol after the title page, copyright page, dedication page, or any other page that comes before the beginning of the story.  You’ll have to go back and underline or italicize anything you had in the book prior to putting it in Notepad.

When in doubt, make the book as simple as possible.  Some people think it has to be fancy to sell, but the truth is, if the book is clean and easy to read and readers enjoy the story, all the bells and whistles in formatting aren’t necessary.

******

If anyone has any formatting tips they’d like to share, please do.  The more input we have on this issue, the better.

What’s in a Genre?

complete collection of John Grisham fiction an...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s in a genre, or even better, what IS a genre? Simply put, a genre is a “category” such as sci-fi, mystery, romance, paranormal, and fantasy to name a few. (You can find  a much longer list here – http://www.bubblecow.net/a-list-of-book-genres). However, just because every book written will be crammed into a genre, it doesn’t mean the author is a genre writer. Literary fiction is generally considered non-genre writing, while the usual suspects (some of which I listed earlier) are considered “genre books”.

Confused yet?

So what is the point of genre? Logically, it’s to help a reader find a book they’d like. If you like mysteries, you want to check the Mystery shelf in your book store. If you like chick-lit, you want to hit up the chick-lit section, etc. etc. But, genre is more than just a helpful category, it is also a calling card.

Take a look at these authors below and see if you can match them with their genre:

  • Stephen King                    Sci-fi
  • John Grisham                   Comedy
  • James Patterson              Non-Fiction
  • Anne Rice                         Christian Fiction
  • Neil Gaiman                      Children’s
  • JK Rowling                       Black Comedy

How did you do? Were you able to line them up? Hint – I already did it for you. Stephen King’s time traveling sci-fi book 11-22-63 is a departure from his usual horror novels, while Skipping Christmas is far from John Grisham’s normal thrillers, and of course JK Rowling is breaking away from her young adult wizarding series with her forthcoming black comedy.

So what happens when an author writes outside their genre? That depends on many things, such as how established the author is, how far removed the new genre is from their old one and even whether the resulting book is any good. Some fans will follow an author into the adventure of a different genre, while other fans are left feeling betrayed and angry because they didn’t get exactly what they expected.

But wait, isn’t that the point of genre classification in the first place?

Yes, it is, but some readers have a habit of snatching up the newest book by their favorite author (or any author) without actually reading the description.  Why? Because they expect certain things about the book to tell them what they’re going to find inside, and one of those things is the author.

For instance, I long ago made the mistake of uploading an old children’s book I’d written to Smashwords as an example of formatting ebooks with images in them. It’s not an amazing work by any means, but it did the job. I was able to show people what an ebook with colored pictures looked like and it even got some pretty decent reviews. Fast forward two years. Despite changing the author name on the book, and attempting to move it from one author to another on Smashwords (I am going to try again soon), I’ve gotten several reviews on my short vampire stories on Barnes and Noble complaining because, unlike the other, it is “not a children’s story”.  Yes, the description clearly states that it is not a children’s story, but readers have downloaded it anyway and been disappointed, and those disappointed readers left a one star review, and enough one star reviews will drop the overall ranking. And when the overall ranking drops, your target audience, who has clicked over to check out your work, will just as quickly click away because the book/story only has one or tow stars over all and…  It turns into a quagmire.

But what if you want to write in a different genre?

You can do that. Lots of authors have done it successfully, but many use a key tool – a pen name. Sure,it’s okay, and might even be a good idea, to tell your fans “Hey, this is really me!”, but a pen name helps to keep your readers from being confused about what to expect. If you use a pen name be sure to make a SEPARATE account on Smashwords/Amazon/B&N/etcf or EACH pen name, otherwise the meta data will still list your primary author name as the publisher as you’ll be right back where you started.

How do you feel about genre? Do you think it’s a handy “tool” for quickly finding books or authors you might like, or do you think the literary world has let the tail “wag the dog” so that genre writing has become a trap?

14 Tips to Marketing and Promoting on a Shoestring

Last night I thought about posting a question on the Amazon forums asking readers for help on writing this article. I wanted to know what they liked and didn’t like about Authors’ marketing and promoting their books. I decided against it about three seconds after I did a search on author’s marketing themselves. What I learned shocked me, but didn’t really surprise me that most efforts Author’s utilize to sell their books really annoy readers.

Over the years, I’ve studied different methods of marketing that fit what I’m comfortable with and below I’ve compiled a list of non-aggressive marketing tips that are budget friendly. I hope these helped and good luck all of you.

~Know your target audience and create a brand that appeals to you and projects the image you want for your writing career. With your brand in mind, repeat yourself in all your ads, webpages, etc to establish that brand in the minds of readers. For example: My author brand is “Where myths live, where legends walk, and where love is eternal.” I write Speculative fiction.

~When you finish a book, write the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Keep writing books. Create a backlist. The authors that sell well are the ones that write. It doesn’t cost much more than time, effort, and maybe paper.

~Upload to every book site available and fill out their author profile pages. Some readers like to know the author. My favorites are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Not only do you get better royalties by doing this, but you can also track your sales.

~Create a print book to go with your eBook. Some readers still like to hold a book in their hands, or like the eBook enough to buy the print book to have for their collection. You can carry it around with you in your purse and answer people’s questions when they ask about it. You can donate a paperback copy of your book to your local library. (I think most of the SPAL author’s use CreateSpace. This Amazon based service allows you to create a book with no out-of-pocket expense. The paperback will be linked to your eBook on Amazon. Another good printer is Lightning Source.)

~Offer Readers something for free. When readers receive something of value for free, trust and good feeling naturally arise. It is a very effective marketing strategy. This doesn’t have to be a full length book. Write a short story geared toward the readers you want to attract and offer it as a free read or bonus material at the end of a related book. Give the people on your mailing list or newsletter sneak peeks at a story. You can give them a coupon or some type of special they can share with friends.

~Run a contest giving out free e-books. Or have a treasure hunt where they buy the books to find clues and win something big. Or do a giveaway and ask everyone who downloads the book to please leave an honest review.

~Blogs and websites are free ad space on the web that creates a constant link between yourself and readers. It is there 24/7. This doesn’t mean you should treat it like a billboard. Share things that are meaningful to you and your readers. Blog about your book as you write it. Share character interviews, short stories, or news about the book. (There are many platforms to choose from. Weebly offers a blog for your website. Bloggster, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr are all blogging sites, some of which can be transformed into websites.)

~Social Networking with Twitter, Facebook, and GooglePlus and the hundred of other sites out there are great ways to stay connected and keep your name active. Also sign up for reading sites like GoodReads and Shelfari, or creating a Youtube channel with a list of songs that go well with your story or author interviews is a great way to get people to notice you. You can then get widgets for all of these sites and place them on your website so people can easily find you on the web.

~Book trailers are a great way to show readers what your book is all about. You can upload it to Youtube and Tweet the link with relevant hashtags to get it out to people with similar interests.

~Join forums if you dare. Forums and group discussions can be great places to meet people. But be sure not to self-promote. Not only will it turn readers off, it can turn nasty fast. Amazon has created a special ‘Meet the Authors’ forum where authors can promote their books and talk about their work.

~Most people won’t give a book a second glance if it has not received any reviews, good or bad. I found that offering your book for free and asking for honest non-biased reviews can get you those reviews. But don’t expect them to be all nice. You can also send your book to bloggers and reviewers.

~Make flyers, brochures, postcards or pens with information about your books. I’ve never tried this but it could be worth it to make a flyer or brochures and place them in public places, giveaway flyers, brochures, or postcards to people who ask about your book, etc. Please make sure it’s okay with the owners first or it’s at a place where it is okay to put them. Bathroom stalls, libraries, and bulletin boards are good places. Network with another author and do an exchange of flyers. Pens can be given away, or left for people to use. I don’t know about you, but I do read the writing on the sides of pens.

~Find creative ways to use your business cards and leave them in unexpected places. Some authors like to print a brief book excerpt on the back, titles of your book or book cover, the table of contents, the characters, a rave review, or your elevator pitch. I prefer the list of books or leaving it blank. If blank you can write a specific book for the person or even write a coupon code for a free or discounted book on it. You can leave your card with the tip for the waitress, in the envelope if you pay your bills via snail mail, in library books, in the change room at your

~Create relationships with readers, writers, reporters, book sellers, book clubs, bloggers, teachers, etc. Word of mouth is still the most cost-effective way to advertise your books.

I Met Mark Coker at the Nebraska Writer’s Guild Conference and Some Stats He Shared

I wrote this on April 17, but I wanted to wait until Mark Coker put up his presentation on a slideshow to share with everyone. As usual, I give my thoughts on this further down in the post for anyone who’s interested.

 First, the slideshow:

Now for my thoughts:

I attended the Nebraska Writer’s Guild Spring Conference on April 14, and I’m still excited that I got to meet Mark Coker in person.  It was my dream for over a year now to shake his hand and thank him for creating Smashwords, and I finally got to do it.  He is a really nice person, and it was an honor to meet him.  Like I said, I’m still excited.  It was definitely one of the highlights of my life as an author.

I also attended his two presentations.  One was on E-Publishing Trends and the other was based off his free book The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  In addition to sharing the Secrets, he also gave some interesting numbers he recently calculated on the overall success points like price and book length for the authors at Smashwords.  I think the total of books on Smashwords is about 115,000.  But I didn’t write the exact number down when he said it, so I could be wrong.  On the Smashwords site, it only has numbers of words published. 

I’ll start with the basics from the stats he shared while it’s fresh in my mind and add my two cents.  (I wish I had taken notes.  I took them for the E-Publishing Trends but not for the other, which was a mistake but hey, live and learn, right?)

Anyway, overall this is what I took away for the overall stats:

1.  Full-length books sell better. 

And overall, it looks like it’s at 120,000 words in a book.  However, when he looked at the romance books, it was more in the 60,000 to 80,000 range, and it didn’t vary a lot.  Erotica was only a little less than romance, which surprised me.  For some reason, I thought erotica shorts would do better than longer books.  He didn’t break down sci-fi and fantasy, but I’m guessing the sci-fi and fantasy sells better over the 100,000 word point since it seems that a lot of those books seem to be longer than the average romance novel (at least from what I’ve observed).

2.  Don’t price your book at $1.99. 

Weird, I know, but when he showed us the chart, there was a high point for $0.99 and $2.99, but the price between those two points showed a surprising dip.  Why?  I don’t know.  I thought it was the oddest thing.  So don’t price $1.99.  If you’re going to the low end either do $0.99 or $2.99.

$3.99 through $5.99 looked decent.  $0.99 and $2.99 were higher but not as much that I think there’s a significant “wow” factor.  The “wow” was the $1.99 price point.  I do wonder how many of the higher priced books that sold well were part of a series with the first book in that series being free. 

Adding my guesses (with no proof at all to back this up):

  • Though he didn’t break price down according to genre, I’m going to guess that romance books typically do better at $0.99 and $2.99 overall.  In my experience, romances seem to be priced at those points as a whole with Regencies being higher.  That’s not to say that non-Regency romances sell better than the $2.99 point, but I’ve noticed that Regencies tend to be a bit higher than the other romance genres from casual observation. 
  • However, I am guessing that sci-fi and fantasy tend to sell better at a higher price, but then again that might be because the first book in the series is free and people want to finish up the series so they’ll buy all the books at the higher point. 
  • Other genres?  I have no idea since I haven’t tracked them at all.  I’ve tracked romance and sci-fi/fantasy because I’ve written in those areas.

3.  Most readers find books from their online communities, not from family and friends.

I thought this was interesting, but it’s something he’d already covered before online.  But it bears repeating.  Readers rely heavily on their online communities where likeminded people are hanging out to get recommendations for new books.  This is probably why we need that word of mouth so much.  Those people are hitting our target audience a lot better than we can.  If you think about it, when we go into a community and pitch our book, it’s probably not as effective as a fan of our work who does it.  Of course we’ll think our book is worth reading; we wrote it.  But for someone who is a complete stranger to do it is going to carry a lot more weight because it represents an unbiased source.  If anyone has ventured into the Amazon forums, you know why the unbiased source is getting to be more and more important.

Now, if an author has established a fanbase and comes across another author with a similar writing style and the same genre they think their fans will enjoy, I think that kind of recommendation works well.  I’ve gotten the best feedback from my readers when I tell them about an author I discovered who has books that are similar enough to mine that I think they’ll enjoy it.  My readers thank me for this, so I think this is a great way to not only help your fellow author out but to also share something your readers can enjoy.  A win-win.  I’ve also found this doesn’t work as well if you pass on a book that isn’t similar enough to yours.  I’m not saying my readers say, “No thanks”.  They don’t say anything, actually.  But this didn’t do the author I pitched any good because there was no difference in their sales.  With authors who were similar to me that I pitched, I later found out they got a boost in sales.  So now I try to watch who I pitch and who I don’t so it’s as effective as possible.

A secondary way readers find new books is through searching online bookstores for books, which is why that “customers also bought” list is helpful.  But again, this doesn’t seem to be something an author can control.  I mean, how can any of us boost sales enough to be put on lists?  We can’t.  We have to wait for enough people to buy our book so that we end up being linked up to other books that are similar (as long as those customers are buying books similar to ours).  Then that helps new readers discover us. 

From this, I take away how little we can impact sales based on our own efforts.  I mean, we can do something to reach out and find a few readers, but it takes others we don’t know to really spread the word on our behalf.  I think that’s why JA Konrath keeps saying we need a lot of luck.  All we can do is write the best book we can, put a great cover on it, get the best description we can, and price it at a point that is competitive with other books in our genre.  Then we hope for that luck.  I will add here that Mark Coker said if you have a couple thousand dollars and have to decide between paying for editing and marketing, he said to choose editing.  He also said to never get into debt or pay for anything (book related) if you need that money to pay the bills.  When strapped for cash, barter for services.  If you have cash, do the editing, cover artist, etc costs first.  Then after that, worry about marketing, but in my experience there’s really nothing a marketing person can do that you can’t do yourself so I hesitate to spend money on marketing at all, except for a $10-$20 ad on a site that caters to your target audience (and even then, it helps to already have a name some people will recognize).  When I was a nobody, no ads ever worked for me.