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A while ago, I was about to change a cover for a book, and wanted to re-examine the Amazon keywords and the blurb to see if I could strengthen them.

I realized that, off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember exactly where I’d put that info for this particular book.

Then I realized: this stuff should go in Scrivener. You know, right along with the manuscript itself.

Add a Marketing Folder to Your Scrivener Project

Next to the Research folder, I created a Marketing folder.

What goes inside?

  • Blurbs
  • Amazon keywords (relevant only if you’re self publishing)
  • Any other marketing copy used
  • Relevant URLs (for where to buy the book)
  • Excerpts (for longer work)

Note that, apart from Amazon keywords, these work for traditionally published authors too. If you are publishing in multiple languages, it may make more sense to break out these files by language.

Speaking of which, other languages may also have substantially different covers. I wouldn’t keep these in the main language’s Scrivener document; instead, I have a directory on my hard drive for all the original image files (i.e., the Photoshop PSDs). I only put the current, final JPEG in Scrivener. Otherwise, the Scrivener documents become unmanageably large. Since I work on a MacBook Air with an SSD drive, it also allows me to store rarely-used resources on an external hard drive.

Also, it may make more sense to create a separate Scrivener project for each language if you’re self publishing.


This file’s not just for current versions of blurbs, but also for previous versions.

If you have A/B testing data for whether one blurb is more successful than another, you can also keep notes about that in the blurb file. (Personally, I use a spreadsheet for this, and I don’t keep the spreadsheet in the Scrivener project.)

Amazon Keywords

Amazon keywords are a dark art: without them, your book isn’t discoverable through organic search. I talk about KDSPY, an Amazon keyword research tool, here.

Once you’ve done your research, you’ll need a place to save your notes about that research as well as what your current keyword string is. And why.

Also, over time, market conditions change, and it’ll be easier to revisit how you might want to tweak your Amazon keywords if you can easily re-review why you made the choices you did before.

Other Marketing Copy

Long description, descriptions you’ve used on blog tours, etc. Anything that mixes it up and offers fresh takes.

Relevant URLs

Perhaps you’ve got a blog tour.
Perhaps your book’s available on 27 (or more!) different sites.

Sometimes it’s useful to have all that information handy. If I asked you what your Powell’s link was, how long would it take you to find that?


Especially if you’re doing a blog tour, you’ll want to have different excerpts for different sites. That way, people won’t be seeing the same old same old every time they go to read a different post about your new book.

Don’t Have Scrivener?

Scrivener’s regular price is $45, and it’s available for Mac and Windows. If you use both platforms, it’s worth noting that the Mac version is usually significantly ahead of the Windows version feature-wise.

Got Other Ideas?

What else would you put in your marketing folder for your writing projects?

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Ellora's Cave: Don't Bet on Black

Every single time I’m convinced the Ellora’s Cave situation can’t take another weird turn (I mean, c’mon, Ebola strippers? What are the freakin’ odds?)—well, let’s just say that I’m rarely disappointed because there’s always something new and strange.

I found out about this side project of Jaid Black’s two days ago, and I can’t help but shake my head repeatedly over it. On the bright side, at least I’m getting my neck exercises in.

Here’s a screenshot of the latest project, Bet on Black Books, which has a header link proudly titled “Self Publish With Us.”

bet on black homepage

So. Tone. Deaf.

Does Jaid Black have any idea how tone deaf this comes across?

Why would anyone need to “bet on” anything?

If this were a portal for, say, books about gambling strategy—it would be a great site name. As something that’s ostensibly otherwise, though, it’s like you’re supposed to bet on her reputation. Which, when it comes to women’s reputations and betting, it’s just skeevy to me.

Furthermore, expecting customers to bet on Jaid Black’s reputation just seems incredibly strange.

Also, the timing of this is interesting. If you look at the domain screencap further down, the domain was registered a couple of days before the mass layoffs at Ellora’s Cave last August. And this is supposed to inspire confidence to “bet on” Jaid Black?

And yet, at the same time, it’s less appropriative a name than Ellora’s Cave, which also appropriates a second culture of color with its logo. So, um, better? Differently wrong?

I don’t even.

Wait, What, Self Publish?

Basically, it’s an electronic store for books. You know, like Amazon. Except this one’s newly-built with outdated technology on a free website builder with a cart service several of us (who have spent more than our fair share of time with shopping cart services) have never heard of.

Yeah, you also have to sign a contract when you submit.

There are a lot of interesting nuances in the FAQ that are not in the contract.

Things like:

When you buy a book from Bet On Black Books, you own it permanently.

Unlike, say, every single other ebook agreement, possibly making new case law in doctrine of first sale as it applies to ebooks.

Courtney Milan had a few comments as well:

This one is particularly important as it involves a significant downside risk:

There Are Illegitimate Sites Selling Books Out There

Modest though my own sales are, I’ve found my own books on sites selling them for $—sites that never had any intention of paying me any royalties. These sites are often based on the same kind of free site builders and payment gateways.

Note that I don’t believe Black’s intentions are untoward here, it’s just that, were I a potential customer who didn’t know who she was but happened across the site, I wouldn’t assume it’s legitimate. I admit that the gambling metaphor would be my first red flag.

But there are times when I was buying things in market sectors I knew less well than publishing, desperately wanted something, but didn’t buy it because it just didn’t feel entirely above board.

If You’re an Author, Should You Sell Here?

I’m going to say it: I believe it’s a bad idea to sell your books through this site.

If you want to sell your books off of a web site other than Amazon, you can sell them off your own site, get the money more quickly, not have to contract with another company, and make more money. Oh, and note that the Bet on Black contract does not specify when or how frequently you will be paid.

Let’s say you have a book you’d like to sell for $1.99, and you sell it today (April 12th, as I write this)

Sales Outlet You’d Receive When
Bet on Black Books $1.49 Undefined
Amazon $0.70 end of June
B&N Nook $0.80 end of June
iBooks $1.39 mid-June
Kobo $1.39 (monthly or semi-annually)
Smashwords $1.69 mid-July
Your Own Site $1.63 Today

And let’s look at the $2.99 level, too:

Sales Outlet You’d Receive When
Bet on Black Books $2.09 Undefined
Amazon $2.09 end of June
B&N Nook $1.94 end of June
iBooks $2.09 mid-June
Kobo $2.09 (monthly or semi-annually)
Smashwords $2.54 mid-July
Your Own Site $2.60 Today

(Note: Google’s also a book vendor, but their terms of royalty amount are unclear, so I’ve omitted them. I believe they’re in the 52-55% range.)

The whole thing: freebie website builder, cheesy cart system, unexceptional royalties, no defined payment schedule, peculiar legal terms—add up to nope.

So How Hard Is it to Set Up an E-Commerce Store?

This answer assumes that you want to sell directly to readers, in addition to other outlets such as Amazon and iBooks.

If you want to accept PayPal (typical transaction fees of 2.9% + 0.30 for premier and business accounts), then here’s one way to get what you need:

  1. A self-hosted WordPress account (varies widely, but I’d be looking in the $12-20/month range)
  2. A domain name for said account ($15/yr)
  3. Easy Digital Downloads or WooCommerce
  4. A theme that is compatible with your storefront of choice.

Because PayPal handles the payment information, you do not need an SSL certificate. The beauty of it: once you set up the site, when someone buys a book from you, you get your money right away.

For very little cash (~$27 initial outlay, same as a WordPress self-hosted site with no e-commerce), you can sell your digital goods, and you can have your own shop. Plus, you can add other things to your little store, too. Like maybe you want to recommend books, and get affiliate commissions on those. Maybe you’re part of a writing group and you want to exchange ad space on each others’ sites.

Without having done it before in WordPress, I found that it took me about 30 minutes to set up either Easy Digital Downloads or Woocommerce for the first time. (Granted, I’m very technical.)

Examples: currently has Easy Digital Downloads on its front page (that will change in a couple of weeks). uses WooCommerce. ( is changing simply because WooCommerce is something I’m also using on other sites, and I’d rather have one ecosystem to maintain.)

Okay, Maybe I Don’t Want to Go That Far

Let’s say you don’t want to fuss with WordPress. You want your own domain, you want a lovely pre-rolled solution.

I’d recommend Squarespace. Fees start at $8/month; with that plan you could sell one product. The next plan is $16/month, which allows up to 20 products.

For two examples of Squarespace author sites, Tiffany Reisz and her husband Andrew Shaffer’s site.(Note that they don’t sell directly off their sites, but they do have different-looking sites from each other.)

Is This Independent? Ellora’s Cave? WTF BBQ?

The domain registration says the registrant organization is Ellora’s Cave, and uses the exact same street address that EC does, even though the bottom of the web page says “Jaid Black Productions.”

bet on black domain registry

Jaid Black Productions is indeed an LLC in Ohio, but I didn’t find a DBA for Bet on Black books. (I have had issues figuring out where the UI is for that, so this may be my fault. It’s been a few months.)

So: I don’t know? Maybe Ellora’s Cave just owns the domain?

One Hilarious Thing

One thing I do find hilarious, though: she’s using the classic 70s typeface Avant Garde for the header.

This is the same typeface that Marc Randazza—you know, opposing counsel in the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case—famously uses for his pleadings.

Was there no better choice of typeface? Personally, it’s not one I warm to very much, which is why I don’t have the same thinner weights that either Black or Randazza use.

Got Comments? Questions?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. I do have a planned topic about the specific problems of author websites, so questions on that topic will help me formulate that post.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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A few weeks ago, I slipped in a stealth screencap from an Amazon keyword research tool I use—Wesley Atkins’s KDSPY (formerly called Kindle Spy).

Amazon searches provides a lot of interesting information if you’re an Amazon customer, but if you’re an author or publisher, KDSPY will let you know a lot more than Amazon will tell you. Like:

  • Not only how well your own marketing is working, but you can track how much any Kindle author’s marketing converts into Kindle sales with the Rank tracking feature.
  • Look at entire groups of books, their rankings and estimated revenue at once.
  • Export information to a spreadsheet so you can watch over time.

You can use it as a tool for estimating whether to write book A or B next, for example. Or whether now is a good time, market-wise, to publish something you’ve been waiting for the right time to publish.

Get KDSPY Here

Amazon-Keyword-Tips-smIf you buy KDSPY through my link, you’ll also get my own short PDF: Amazon Keywords Tricks & Tips, which will give you some insider secrets into making your book more findable via Amazon’s search. And we all know, you can’t buy something you can’t find….

The Obligatory KDSPY Screenshot


This is the top 20 Amazon hits for the phrase “new adult romance” on Amazon as of the time I took the screenshot. After I loaded the page in Amazon, I clicked on the KindleSpy icon in Chrome’s toolbar.

There are a few interesting things to note:

  1. The bestsellers don’t always come first. The top hits, especially the top 2, are ranked based on newness, generally. Half of the first sixteen hits were released in the last few weeks. This “new book” preference rank ensures a lot of freshness at the front, which makes it more interesting for buyers who are, as many romance readers are, heavy readers. The effect lasts 30 days, and it really hurts when that wears off. Also, relevance counts for a lot, and relevance is partly based upon keywords.
  2. The T, S, and C columns aren’t self explanatory. T means look at that single title in Amazon, S means do a web (Google) search with those terms, and C means do a Google image search on the cover image.

  3. The estimated sales is just that—estimated sales, based upon an educated guess and the book’s current sales rank. It is a moment in time.

  4. Sales revenue is the estimated sales times the current sales price. Note that this is also a guesstimate: that high-ranking book with a big sales revenue may have been free until yesterday, and may still be coasting on a big free bump.

    Also worth noting: a borrow for a Kindle Unlimited book will bump your sales rank, but it won’t actually pay out until the reader’s read 10% of the book, which may never happen. The amount it pays out is not fixed. Essentially the pool of payable borrows is divided into the subscription fees for KU—and every author gets a surprise.

  5. Columns are sortable. So if you really want to see how well a book of similar length to yours are doing, you can sort on that.

  6. KDSPY loads 20 books at a time, but you can load 100 total.

KDSPY’s a Chrome or Firefox browser extension, and it works on any Amazon Kindle searches.

Get KDSPY Here

Amazon-Keyword-Tips-smIf you buy KDSPY through my link, you’ll also get my own short PDF: Amazon Keywords Tricks & Tips.

Note: Wesley’s other products are really more for non-fiction writers wanting to write to profitable niches.

Also, there are other tools for Amazon keyword research, and I’ll write about them at some other time.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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sfwa-indies-bphSFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has just changed their membership rules. There will be some speedbumps, as this is a major structural change.

Effective March 1, both indie and small press authors will be eligible for SFWA’s Active and Associate memberships.

For Active (full) membership:

  • One novel-length work for which the author’s earned at least $3,000; or
  • At least 10,000 words of shorter work for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

For Associate membership:

  • At least 1,000 words of shorter fiction for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

And then there are those of us bound to break the system because we’re already associates, but before the 6 cents a word went into effect.

Not Just for Gearheads

SF/F is a bigger tent than you might think. If you write a number of romance genres (e.g., paranormal romance), you’re also arguably writing SF/F.

I look forward to our Amish science fiction writer members.

More details here.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Speaking as someone who’s bought a block of 100 ISBNs….

Don’t let Bowker (the exclusive US seller of ISBNs) take your money for stupid reasons.

Bowker recently sent out an email with a “sale” notification, and the ad had the following text:

Most publishers produce at least five versions of a book (in print and electronic formats), each of which requires an ISBN.


From the latest Author Earnings report:

30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S. do not use ISBN numbers and are invisible to the industry’s official market surveys and reports; all the ISBN-based estimates of market share reported by Bowker, AAP, BISG, and Nielsen are wildly wrong.

Further on:

In the January 21 dataset, we found that:

20% of Amazon’s overall Top-10 selling ebooks did not have ISBNs.

16% of Amazon’s overall Top-100 selling ebooks did not have ISBNs.

34% of Amazon’s overall Top-1,000 selling ebooks did not have ISBNs.

37% of Amazon’s overall Top-10,000 selling ebooks did not have ISBNs.

But…Don’t E-Book Vendors Require ISBNs?


Exactly zero of the major e-book vendors require an ISBN. Even Apple, which used to require one, no longer does.

So When Do You Need an ISBN?

Short version:

  1. Some people who know their ebooks may land on major bestseller lists use them to make their books more trackable for said list maintainers. And then there’s the rest of us.
  2. Print books sold in bookstores, as they are ordered by ISBN.
  3. Library books (print, not e-book).
  4. Audiobook if you’re going to sell physical media.

For most print books, you’ll need an ISBN from somewhere in order to get into libraries or bookstores. If you only ever intend to sell direct, then you may not need one.

However, there are nuances.

  1. If you want to make your book available to libraries and you intend to publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace, you’ll have to use their ISBN to use their service to market to libraries. I’m not sure this is the best route, frankly, because CreateSpace only publishes trade paperbacks, and libraries strongly prefer hardcover.
  2. If you publish through CreateSpace and also publish an e-book through Amazon, you can get real page numbers. This is very useful if your book has any sort of academic interest (even if it’s fiction), because that allows for better citations in homework and papers.

  3. If you publish through Ingram Spark, you can get hardcovers, and they have great distribution through bookstores and libraries.

Let’s Use a Classic Publisher Example

Let’s say you want to publish in hardcover, audiobook (digital only), and e-book first, then release trade paperback. How many ISBNs do you need?

Outlet/Format Need ISBN? Notes
Ingram Spark (hardcover) Yes 55% discount (45% royalty to you, less production costs) for widest distribution
Ingram Spark (softcover) Yes 55% discount (45% royalty to you, less production costs) for widest distribution
CreateSpace (softcover) Yes 40% discount (60% royalty to you, less production costs) for within-Amazon distribution, can use same ISBN as Ingram Spark softcover
Kindle No 35%-70% royalty
iBooks No 70% royalty
Nook No 40%-65% royalty
Kobo No 45%-70% royalty
Google Play No 52% royalty so long as they don’t discount your retail price, for which they are famous

So, how many ISBNs do you need for that scenario? Two.

I honestly haven’t looked into audiobooks enough to know what the situation is there, but I’m guessing that Amazon covers what you need if you want to sell through ACX.

Should You Use an ISBN Provided by a Service?

If you don’t buy the ISBN yourself, you are not the publisher of record.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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So I decided to pull up the map, then got on searching a few combinations of other interesting things.

There are a few things we can glean from this chart.

  1. Google searches for “Ellora’s Cave” peaked in 2006. Note that I don’t disambiguate between the publisher and the caves in India, so this is combined.
  2. Interest in self-publishing has been in a slight decline over the last few years, but EC’s Google trends are in a far more marked decline.

  3. Indie publishing as a search term is now also about as common as Ellora’s Cave.


Even though search trends for DA start two years later, DA’s been consistently more popular since 2012. Which is interesting.


Erotic romance had a dip, and during that dip, it was occasionally a less popular search term than Ellora’s Cave. However, it’s stratospherically more important a search term than Ellora’s Cave is now.


Erotic romance is a popular search term in the Philippines.

It does surprise me that the second most popular country for this search term is Pakistan. Anyone have any theories on that?


Meanwhile, Ellora’s Cave is only of trending-quantity interest in the US and the UK. Not Canada, Philippines, Australia, Pakistan, Malaysia, or India (the other popular countries for the search term “erotic romance”).


Self-explanatory popularity map for self-publishing as a search term.


So I looked into several EC authors and this chart including Laurann Doehner is particularly interesting. She’s far more famous than her publisher. (This does tend to happen when an author becomes particularly popular.)


Taking Laurann out of the equation, EC and Jaid Black have tended to trend similarly over the last three years.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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So you’d figured out how to sell your book on iBooks. Now you’ve got a different problem: what if you need to remove your book from sale?

There’s been an assertion that this is a difficult thing to do.

Not so much.

With iBooks, You Publish Via an App

I use iTunesProducer to package and upload my book and make it available for sale. It makes a manifest file around the EPUB that includes product and sales information, then saves it in your iTunes Playlists. (Yet another WTF? from Apple, albeit a minor one.)

However, so far as I can tell, you can’t remove it from sale that way.

There’s a reason for this, I suspect. Since someone who’s purchased the book has the right to redownload their purchases, that means that Apple’s system still need to keep that record of you having published it even if you are no longer the publisher of record for new sales.

Use iTunesConnect to Stop Selling

Here’s the https link.

Log in, and you’ll see this home screen. If you haven’t logged in in a while, it has changed.

iBooks - iTunes Connect Home

Click on My Books. A publisher with a lot of books will need to use the search page. I, uh, don’t.

iBooks - iTunes Book List

Click on the relevant book and you’ll get the book page.

iBooks - Book Page

Click on the Rights and Pricing and you’ll get the sales territory management page.

Click the Select All button above the pricing matrix.

Select No next to Cleared for Sale on the top form.

iBooks - Select No under Cleared

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Continue.

iBooks - Continue after changing sales info

There’s probably another step or two, but I don’t happen to want to take my own iBooks items off sale for this experiment.

Still, it’s just not that difficult.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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As I’ve stated before, and you’ve no doubt picked up, I’m quite the fan of Tim Grahl. I got to meet him at the World Domination Summit this year. One of his mantras is: focus on being relentlessly helpful.

He’s done book marketing for a lot of really big names, so I listen to him. He makes sense. He sounds like a really nice person (and has been in all my interactions with him).

Back when I was in Dublin, I attended one of his first Indie Secrets workshops with Michael Bunker, an indie author who writes Amish science fiction.

They are now doing that workshop again, and it now has an additional three-hour session.

The single thing that struck me the most can be summed up by contrasting it with a snippet I pulled into a post yesterday from Carolyn Jewel’s post The Flush Pile:

Do not assume a publisher has an interest in your book selling well. They should, but they don’t. Their interest is in seeing which books unexpectedly hit. That’s it. If it’s not you, you’re screwed.

Does your book make an immediate hit? Because if it doesn’t hit fairly quickly, then it’ll be brushed off the shelves to see if next month’s book offerings do better. How your last book did will affect your next book’s orders—especially for a series.

Bunker’s approach is different. Measured. Long-term. Something that seems positively relaxed given what I’ve heard about first-day craziness. And yet, he does have launch success, too.

I mention all this because Grahl and Bunker, along with Nick Cole, are running another set of the Indie Secrets Workshop on October 16th and 23rd. Check it out.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Tim Grahl of Outthink, and Michael Bunker, one of his clients, are giving a three-hour training session next month.

Tim’s had five authors on the New York Times Bestseller list simultaneously, and indie author Hugh Howey is one of his clients.

However, for this particular workshop, he’s using another, lesser-known author who still has unarguable success as an indie. Michael Bunker writes Amish science fiction, which you could argue is a limited market. It’s the kind of specificity that indie was designed for.

Michael’s latest book Pennsylvania Omnibus sold 4183 copies in 48 hours.

Michael’s latest book Pennsylvania Omnibus has sold 13,000+ copies since its launch in January 2014.

$4.49 * 70% * 13,000 = $40,859 (assuming the price has stayed constant)

Not shabby at all, especially for a single title.

If that’s not for you, Tim’s got a ton of free resources on his site for both indie and traditionally-published writers (and aspiring writers).

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Please feel free to repost. Or, if you know of other, similar posts/threads, to link to them in comments.

If you’re an author doing direct digital sales from a web site you manage/control (meaning in addition to whatever you’re doing through Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Direct2Digital—or whatever)…

Questions for Authors Already Selling Directly

  1. What method are you using? Gumroad? Shopify? Easy Digital Downloads (plus WordPress)? WooCommerce? Sellfy? Some other?
  2. How’s that working out for you, and why did you make the choice you did?
  3. If you’re willing to share this information, what percentage of your total sales are direct sales?
  4. Has it been worth the hassle for you?

Questions for Authors Considering Selling Directly

  1. What programs have you looked into?
  2. Do you have any questions about the process?

For those who wonder why one would do such a thing, there are two primary reasons:

  1. If you have more than one thing to sell, you can offer custom discounts.
  2. You can offer them subscriptions to your email list; third-party vendors are completely transparent to you.
  3. Higher pay and faster payment.

For example, selling via EDD on my own site for a $3.99 book, I’d take home $3.52 today. If I sold the same book on Amazon, I’d receive $2.79 sixty days after the end of the sales month. For Nook, I’d receive $2.39 sixty days after the end of the sales month. For iTunes, $3.52 45 days after the end of the month. For Kobo, if the amount owing is > $150, then they pay monthly, otherwise every six months.

Obviously, $3.52 today sounds better, but it does require a savvy enough customer to sideload the book (drag to their reading application).

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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I haven’t updated the spreadsheet I pulled a few weeks ago, but here are the numbers from the last I pulled.

There are some data quality problems here. The low end of people who say they’re making a living writing? I don’t think $450 is a likely real response. Likewise, some of the higher numbers from people who say they’re not making a living writing would be perfectly respectable incomes for many. I’m not judging people’s responses here, just pointing out that there may have been some incorrect yes/no responses.

And, as always, this is self-reported data, so take it with a grain of salt.

Authors Saying they Make a Living Writing

Type # 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
Self 160 25,000 51,000 140,000 305,000 500,000 13,000,000
Hybrid 103 55,000 103,000 235,000 540,000 1,025,000 3,663,000
Trad 27 18,300 55,000 100,000 215,000 250,000 450,000

Authors Who Say They’re Not Make a Living Writing

Type # 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
Self 571 150 800 5000 15,000 24,000 113,000
Hybrid 78 2,300 10,200 20,000 40,008 50,000 89,150
Trad 54 500 4,000 17,500 35,000 50,000 60,000

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Publishers Weekly has been publishing the top 25 bestselling self-published works on Smashwords each month. Here’s February’s list.

I’m not the least bit surprised that Romance is the top-selling category in terms of those top 25. What does surprise me, though, is the overwhelming percentage of those titles that are romance: 2/3 if you include the related genres of YA Romance and Paranormal Romance. I’m also surprised that Fantasy does as poorly as it has been.


Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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This page is not affiliated with Rails app to generate this can be found on GitHub. Some earlier charts are here.

Table columns are percentiles: 25% means that, if you line everyone up in order, 25% made that or less.

Self-Published Earnings, 2013

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
914 300 3000 24000 91000 200000 13000000

Traditionally-Published Earnings, 2013

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
265 800 7000 38000 100000 200000 1200000

Self-Published Earnings by # Books Self-Published

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
0-2 100 500 3200 15000 30000 130000
3-5 200 1600 14000 46000 70000 500000
6-10 1000 10000 45000 140000 200000 500000
11-25 3000 19000 78000 270000 380000 3500000
26-50 3000 24000 100000 400000 1000000 13000000
51-9999 5000 20000 80000 102500 1000000 1000000

Traditional Earnings by # Books Traditionally Published

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
0-2 200 1000 7876 50000 100000 190000
3-5 2000 17500 40000 150000 380000 500000
6-10 1500 10000 40000 100000 100000 200000
11-25 4214 30000 70000 250000 450000 550000
26-50 2500 10000 60000 153000 200000 1000000
51-9999 35000 65000 100000 1200000 1200000 1200000

Self-Published Earnings by Cover Art Type

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
My Own 150 1500 15000 50000 104000 3500000
Pre-Made 100 500 2000 11500 60000 100000
Hire a Pro 500 5000 35000 113232 250000 13000000

Self-Published Earnings by Editor Type

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
None 200 3500 20000 38000 165000 1000000
Friends & Family 150 1200 12000 70000 100000 567000
Critique Group 125 800 6000 50000 64000 1000000
Freelance Editor 600 6000 40000 140000 300000 13000000

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Context: this post from Cassie Alexander.

Cassie, I’ve known you for a long time. We’ve spent nights writing in chat, on Twitter, at conventions, all kinds of things. I remember you bringing your (impressively large) box of rejection letters to BayCon one year before you had a pro sale.

I love you so much I even set foot in a Scientology building for you (because I said I’d be there for you for Writers of the Future) even though I hadn’t done that in many years.

I’m sorry that St. Martin’s has dropped your series, which I’ve loved. (And I feel guilty that I didn’t do as much as I’d have liked to help promote it, and I’m a shitty friend that way. Sorry.)

I’ve never known anyone as dedicated to their art as you are. You’ve written nine novels in the same time I’ve written four (and a half). I keep getting novel ideas, though, and series ideas.

The early days of self-publishing (via POD) were fraught with peril. I remember when I worked at Kepler’s that we wouldn’t order them because they were often so poorly produced (and I’m not just talking badly edited, I mean the covers would fall off, etc.) that they were just too problematic.

The world has changed, though. The production values on POD are now indistinguishable from traditional printing, and e-books have available samples, so there’s little risk. Now you can look and determine if it really is something you want to buy.

There’s a very, very real market and some good strategies for reaching it. And, I’m finding out, that the strategies that work for that are those that don’t work for the traditional market at all.

The Dip

One of the problems with The Dip is that you tend to look at your failures, but not your successes. Losing a book contract is a hardcore dip point.

What’s easy to overlook is that you’ve had amazing success as a writer. You were contracted to write a five-book series—and you did. Four of the volumes are in print and one will be out soonish.

Moving on to Indie Publishing

A few thoughts:

  1. Out:think has some great resources. Read everything.
  2. Reading all the email I got from Out:think led me to start reading Write. Publish. Repeat. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it’s an amazing book.

Many of the successful indie authors have an seasonal/episodic approach to books. It’s a familiar paradigm in this culture of TV viewers. Instead of one longer novel, the books are novella length, and released as episodes. A season is often six episodes. Because they’re novella length, three makes a nice size paperback.

So the marketing goes like this:

  1. Publish and sell episode 1.
  2. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 1 when episode 2 comes out.
  3. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 2 when episode 3 comes out.
  4. Create an omnibus of episodes 1-3. Create a print book to go with.
  5. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episodes 1-3 omnibus when episode 4 comes out.
  6. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 4 when episode 5 comes out.
  7. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 5 when episode 6 comes out.
  8. Create an omnibus of episodes 4-6. Create a print book to go with.
  9. Create an omnibus of episodes 1-6. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of that when episode 7 (aka season 2, episode 1) comes out.

It’s rather brilliant, actually.

I was thinking about the whole idea of episodes, and, personally, I’m a fan of thirteen episodes to a season. Gives a great chance for reversals of fortune, too. Two six-episode arcs, a thirteen-episode arc, and a standalone in the middle.

The real point, though is to publish and market fairly consistently: have a predictable release schedule.

A Comment on “Real Writer”

But at the time, I thought, oh, no way, that’s too silly. I’m a Real Writer and I shouldn’t concern myself with smut…even though I happen to be perfectly good at writing it, heh!

Faruk Ateş raised the “real” issue on Twitter today, so I’m going to quote two of his tweets (the first not being aimed at you, obviously, it just gives context as he was wound up about someone’s writing):

“Real” as an attributive adjective has taken on the meaning of revealing that the author doesn’t know what they are talking about. link

“Real women” — meaningless; every woman is a real woman. “Real work” — no work is more “real” than any other. “Real game” — please shut up. link

It’s all real.

So do some cool stuff. I’ll be along for the ride.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

E-mail from Apple:

We have released a new version of Sales and Trends on iTunes Connect that introduces interactive features to help you better understand your sales data.

You now have the the ability to:

  • View sales within a selected time period
  • Group your sales data (for example, by territory)
  • Filter sales by one or more values (for example, by book title and transaction type)
  • See your estimated proceeds (in U.S. dollars)
  • If you have any questions, contact us.


The iBooks team


I love charts and graphs.

So I log in.


Sad panda.

Wait, there’s now a lifetime tab….


So. There you go.

Love the update. Thanks, Apple!

This post has the iBooks numbers in context with other sales outlets. For context, this is a republication of a short story which I also sell directly.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

Both are good news. I like good news.

First, Kobo payments are monthly if—and this is kinda confusing so I’m just going to quote them directly:

Payment will be issued on a monthly basis if your content has generated over $100.00 USD. If after 6 months, your content has not generated over $100.00 USD, we will deliver all of the earnings your content has generated at that point.

Hat tip to reader Jerry for that. Thank you!

I’m not sure what “content has generated” means here, though. Sales? Royalties? I have a cold and just don’t have the energy to read the other pages in the document right now.

Source: pp. 29-30 of their User Guide

Second, I’d had on my pages forever that Apple’s iBooks paid out only once you reached $150. Then I noticed I’d had a payout of a bit over $5 a few months back, so that’s not the case. Yay.

I have updated the notes page accordingly.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

There’s a lot of interesting information in the Author Earnings survey that Hugh Howey and others are working on. Hugh’s posted a preliminary link on Twitter, and you can watch the live data coming in.

I decided to do some breakdowns of the really early data: self-reported 2013 income.

  Trad Self
Median 6,000 3,000
Mean 37,000 67,000

Let’s look at the self-published percentile numbers a little more (and the clever plug for a forthcoming book that neatly echoes the graph’s shape). (Click to embiggen)


Above 97.5%, everyone’s over $200k, and the top 5 reporters are over $1M, with the tippy top at $13M.

Me? I’m still at the “carryable number of lattes” phase and I haven’t yet entered my data. Soon.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

Things coming out Real Soon Now, in probable release order.

Coffee & Canopy

Coffee & Canopy is a forthcoming book about our experiences in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Monkeys! Crocodiles! Bats! Venomous sea snakes! Volcanoes! Cover photo is one I took of Nicaragua’s Masaya volcano.

The “travel diary” series will be novella length, have selected color photos (as well as the occasional black and white), and will be digital only. I’ll also have PDF as a format option for this series. Price will be $2.99.

So You Want to Travel the World

Would you like to travel more? See the world? Get discouraged by how many things there are to do and see? So You Want to Travel the World will help you divide and conquer the problems so you can get more of your travel goals accomplished. The cover photo was one I took in Venice, Italy in December, 2011.

This book will be in both digital and print. Pricing will depend upon final size, so I’m waiting to announce that.

Deep Pacific

Deep Pacific will chronicle our journey from San Francisco to Valparaiso, Chile to Easter Island, Pitcairn, Moorea, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and finally back to San Francisco. The cover photo is one I took on Easter Island.

This is also a digital-only member of the “travel diary” series. Price will be $2.99.

For more titles coming out later in the year, see my home page.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

Chuck Wendig has a great post out: Self-Publishing Is Not the Minor Leagues

I have to admit something: I’ve only ever submitted fiction to a semi-pro market once.

The letter I got wasn’t a rejection, it was more “You misread the guidelines, but if you do A, B, and C, I’ll publish it.” Though I don’t think the publisher figured out that I’d misread the guidelines. I wrote a near miss story despite that.

I withdrew the story, because what they wanted wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to write.

It’s a good thing I did withdraw, because the story happened to have an unfortunate trope in it, and now I can cringe at the Bad Trope in the drawer and not be embarrassed every time someone calls me out on it. Some day, I may pull the stuff I like out of that story and evict the Bad Trope.

In all other cases, I held my stories until I thought they could go to a pro market, and basically wasn’t going to go to semi-pro markets until I was selling more consistently to pro markets.

It really only was for the reason of wanting to avoid the obvious stupid mistakes. I figured I’d probably learn something by then, and there might be more pro markets–or at least some different editors at the same pro markets. I’ve avoided having a lot of stupid stuff published because I haven’t bothered digging down to the “Bazooka Cannibals in Space” tier of possibilities.

I’m at the stage of personal rejection letters, which is a nice place to be, but it hasn’t been translating into sales. That is likely more a function of my paucity of submissions.

On the other hand, because I am really selective about submissions, I can say that “A Sword Called Rhonda” sold both the first and second time I submitted it anywhere.

So you can imagine how I felt, given that I’ve just confessed to basically being an obsessive perfectionist, when I was at a NaNoWriMo meeting and someone said they wanted to self-publish their book because they “didn’t want to do all that extra work readying it for market.”

You’ll be very proud of me: I did not leap over the table at the pizza place with an editorial pen of my own devising.

Meanwhile, for a book I’m planning to come out with later in the year that’ll be both in paper and e-book form, I realized that Pages wasn’t going to cut it, and it was driving me crazy anyways. Pages does allow you to save to EPUB, but the book templates are really only designed for PDF books, and no one’s making ones for common trade sizes.

Which leaves InDesign, and I have forgotten so much about using production aspects of PageMaker/InDesign it’s not even funny. Back in the day when I worked at agencies in between contract programming gigs, I would frequently wind up at a specific ad agency doing page layout. I’ve always enjoyed it.

I’ve continued doing it over the years, but some of the advances in book publishing in InDesign were features I’d never learned. I’m not going to argue that it’s brain surgery, but it takes a non-zero amount of time to pick up.

There’s also a lot of frustration to it. Like, say you want a PDF version of your book. Your main book design has spreads so you can have odd/even pages (because odd/even headers are A Thing). By default, that means you can’t make an interactive PDF (with live links) that doesn’t have spreads.

Honestly, if you think editing your book is all that complicated, you shouldn’t be self-publishing. There’s a lot to it, and it’ll show if you don’t respect that–and I’m not just talking typos or grammar.

For the same reasons, I’m delaying production of a couple of other titles by a bit until I can finish up the conversion to InDesign. In one case, I got pretty close to final draft before realizing I was barking up the wrong toolchain.

So that will be fun.

On the other hand, I’ll have lots more experience with current multi-document production in InDesign, and that could come in handy.

One never knows.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

Bonjour to all my Francophone visitors!

A French site has linked to my E-Book Royalty Calcumatic, and there are a couple of points I wanted to address.

First, it is US-based, and it is my intention to expand it to other regions and vendors. It’s not my intent to be exhaustive, though.

One of the comments on the above link says (Original in French first, then a rough translation):

Etant donné que les ventes sont imprévisibles et aléatoires, ça en fait un outil complétement inutile!

Given that sales are unpredictable and random, that makes this tool completely useless!

Okay, it’s a fair point. Let’s look at why I did write it and get back to what it does and doesn’t mean.

There were a few reasons I wrote the tool the way I did (remember, I first wrote it in 2011):

  1. I worked on the Safari team at Apple and there was a cool new input element—range sliders—in HTML5. Every new toy must have a use case, right? This was mine. (I’d really love to have a pie chart slice draggy thing, honestly, but I’m not going to write one.)
  2. I wanted to convince some friends not to leave money on the table. Specifically, as someone who uses the Kindle format as my “last resort” choice, I wanted to convince them not to leave my money on the table. To this day, some people still only publish through Kindle’s program. Look, I get that there are compelling reasons for introducing books through Kindle’s store and giving them a 90-day exclusive. Truly I do.
  3. I figured I might actually educate some people who were readers, not writers—people who might think to take that extra moment to get the book from a different source that pays the authors better next time they were purchasing a book and had a choice of vendors.

However, there are always things you can’t control, right?

  1. You can’t control whether someone buys your book. Or not.
  2. You can’t control where someone buys your book (unless you sell it only in one place, which is a poor choice).

There are things you have some control over, though.

  1. You can put your book in multiple bookstores.
  2. You can preferentially feature stores that offer you better deals on your website. You don’t have to list Amazon first. (Yeah, I used to work at Apple, but this is just me being me, not me being an Apple alumna.)

See, I read in iBooks. I only read in iBooks.

Why? I think the layout and rendering is the best there. I like Apple’s choice of fonts. Iowan/Night theme gal, here. I like having all my books together in one big happy library.

I have a handful of Nook books. They are now in iBooks. I have a handful of Kindle books. They are ignored.

If you want me to purchase and read your book, you’ll put it somewhere in an EPUB. It’ll be available without DRM or it’ll be available in the iBooks store.

I don’t mind going to Smashwords to buy your books if I know they are DRM free. Heck, I’ll buy them off your website if I want to read the book and you sell direct. It doesn’t cost me anything extra, but you get paid faster and more money. Sounds like a win win to me.

Just don’t send me to the Kindle store, because you’ll lose the sale. Well, unless you write something so spectacular (like QF32) that I can’t resist buying the book. Still haven’t read it, though. But—you go ahead and land the biggest passenger airplane after an engine blows out and I’ll go to the Kindle store to buy your book, okay?

For years, I didn’t read The Hunger Games. Not available non-DRMed or on the iBooks store. Same thing with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when it was hot. I think we actually bought that one in paper—and Larsson’s heirs lost a few bucks accordingly.

I’m sure there are people equally fervent about their reading app of choice. Sell to them, too.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.


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