Monday, March 24, 2014

Finding Traction in Other Markets

Good Morning. I've been watching my sales figures since the day I first published (Sept. 28, 2011). I have spreadsheets galore, tracked sales numbers incessantly, checked my stats two, three, four times a day. Yes, I am somewhat OCD about this. (I wish I could say the same for housework, but that's another post.)

I found my footing at Amazon back in the hey-day when indie/self-published authors were given the same algorithms that every one else had. If more than 10 people bought your book on any given day, you shot up in the ranks, and if you made it into the top 100, you were SEEN and BOUGHT and all was glorious in your little world.

I'd also published on Smashwords, not wanting to limit myself to only Amazon. Once I figured out how to format properly, it was just a matter of uploading. However, back then, they weren't a major player. Smashwords was considered an upstart and would fail within the year. (HA!)

Then in February of 2013 all that changed. Amazon changed its algorithms, pushed the indies out and concentrated on the BIG 5 books. I had just released THE EARL'S ENGAGEMENT and watched it go from #19 on its debut to #3,798 in a matter of days. I was crushed, floored, and had no idea why. Then I read a blog where an insider told us all that the Mighty Zon was pushing us indies out. We had done our duty to the megalith by giving them cheap books to fill the coffers of their e-readers thus giving them the monopoly on e-reading.

Okay. Well, it's business. People ranted and raved how unfair it all was, how the Zon was going to destroy publishing, destroy indies, destroy the universe. I got over it. It's business. Jeff can run his business any way he sees fit. He's a smart man, did what he had to do, and is now a multi-billionaire. Good for him I say. He had a clear vision of his company and knows how to make his machine work.

On the other hand, I am a smart woman. This new e-publishing thing has a long tail. We've all heard that at one time or another. What you publish today may not find readers for two years, or ten years. What you publish today is just the beginning of, hopefully, a long and fruitful career.

When Amazon changed its algorithms, I changed my tactics. I had also published on Smashwords and gotten into Barnes & Noble through them. However, I wanted more control over my books. (Not that Mark Coker isn't as brilliant as Jeff Bezos -- more so I think because Mark gives us more venues to publish with, more international stores, more of pretty much everything us indies need -- and if you're not publishing on Smashwords, well, you're losing out). However, I opted out of B&N through Smashwords and published through B&N PubIt!

Sometime late last year, PubIt! went through a restructuring and became Nook Press. Same store, only better. They built a model for uploading, with the added bonus of being able to correct mistakes in your book right there on the page -- instead of fixing the ms. uploading through various epub machines, and then reviewing everything all over again and waiting the required 48-72 hours for the book to publish. I just used this feature the other day when I found the last (I hope) mistake in the Captain's Coincidence. I went to the page, fixed the mistake, and voila, the book was reviewed in less than an hour and the new version uploaded. No fuss, no muss, and I sold a copy the same day.

Nook Press has also just expanded its market share and gone global. Not only are they selling in the UK, but now they have stores in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and Belgium. (I've always wanted to go to Belgium.) The outlook for this expansion is phenomenal. I've been reading about Barnes and Noble's imminent demise for years, but this expansion shows they're not going anywhere.

In thinking about all this, and looking at my numbers for the last few months, I've found that I've sold just as many books on Nook, as I have on Amazon. (US only). On some days, quite a few more. I don't know if they have algorithms. I don't know if they feature new books on their website or flash "new releases" in front of your face. (I've never bothered to actually go to the Nook Store and look.) I don't really care. All I know is the margin between both stores is closing in. And that, my friends is the name of the game.

The way I look at it is, if I can't keep my traction at Amazon, then I need to find someplace else to get it. This is business. Kobo is going through another major restructuring with the takeover of Sony. (I am installed over there, but haven't published through them as yet.) Apple is great if you can get through the Mac hoops to publish. Smashwords is a great aggregator for other markets, (Apple itunes and Kobo, not to mention B&N, FlipKart, Oyster, and Scribd, and I think six more) and they have a nifty gadget on their dashboard that tells me how many times my 15% sneak peek has been downloaded.

Therefore, for me, Nook is the up and coming place to be. I remember the Barnes and Noble store at the mall when I was a kid. I'd go through the stacks, wishing and hoping someday I'd be published. Okay, fast forward 30 years, and there I am. Yes, I understand it's only virtual reality, but hey, if it pays my electric bill, I'll take it.

Tell me -- Do you publish through other companies or are you only at Amazon? And if you are, why? Do any of you keep track of your sales figures or do you just not care as long as the money flows in?

I have not been endorsed by any company. This is strictly business opinion/observation. .

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Am I Successful?

Good Morning. Ten years ago, I had the inkling of a story. Nine years ago, I started writing it down (pen and paper mind you.) Seven years ago I got my first computer. (Yes, only seven.) Five years ago, I finished writing my first book. Four years ago, I finished my second. Three years ago, I self-published my third book. Two weeks ago, I published my fourteenth.

(And yes, some of those books are novellas, some short stories, however, they are still mine, and were published by me. Written, formatted, and uploaded by me. I had help of course, by amazing critique partners, beta readers, and my fabulous cover designer.)

I'm a little stunned with that timeline. If you take out the short stuff, that's still six novels in three years. Two a year, with a couple of novellas thrown in for good measure. That's a lot. Well, for me anyway. I know a few writers who can bang out a novel in three months. (Personally, I think those people are aliens with super hand/mind/eye coordination, and a built in dictionary/thesaurus/encyclopedic brain.)

Having said all that, I have to wonder if I'm successful. I'm living the dream so many of us had. Read any interview with an author, and they always say, "I've been writing since I was a kid."

But what determines our success? Is it money? I've had good months, I've had not-so-good months.

Is it reviews? Some authors have thousands. I have several handfuls. Some fabulous, some not-so-much.

Is our success determined by how other people see us? I don't get out much, so my contact with the outside world is limited to mostly the Moms at Monster's school. Some of them are pretty impressed with my writing ability. Others, not-so-much (when you consider there are a couple of doctors, lawyers, a brain surgeon, an astro-phycisist.)

Is success determined by what we have? Cars, houses, vacations, shoes?

I can't go by what the outside world, or even other authors, think, do, have, or say. I am the only judge of my success. And I'd say I'm pretty damn successful. I'm doing what I want to do, living my own fantastic dream. Sure, I'm still struggling for footing in this ever changing publishing landscape, but for someone who's built some name recognition for herself, by herself, I'd say I'm doing okay.

But now what? What does the future hold? Yes, I will still write. I can't not write, it's like breathing for me. But there has to be more. The question is -- more of what? More money? More fame? More reviews? I don't know. What is it I'm missing, or THINK I'm missing? Or am I just delusional thinking there is MORE?

Do I continue to build my "platform"? Join other social media? Join writing groups? Find new followers, new readers, new ways to make myself known? Or do I keep on doing what I've been doing -- quiet promotion -- because it seems to work -- and if it ain't broke don't fix it.

Or do I take chances, step out of my comfort zone and find something else? I've been writing Regency for most of the last decade. I do have a contemporary romance out there too, and that has also been met with quiet success. Do I pursue that avenue as well, or just stick with what I know, and obviously love. Do I become the next Jane Austen? or the next Danielle Steele? Or both? Do I want to try for an agent now? Do I want to be a hybrid author?

Can I have it all? I don't know. Or, as I've been thinking lately, do I just leave it all, finish up this series of books and call it good? End on a high note. Walk away from writing as my work and get a job in the real world? Publish what I want in my own time as a hobby. This new publishing dynamic has a long tail, and as long as I don't un-publish, I'll still get paid for years to come. Instead of two novels a year, just one every two years or so.

Or do I measure my success by how I FEEL? If that's all it truly is, then by golly gumbo, I am at the top of the charts. I couldn't have asked for a better life. No, I don't have a new car, or groovy new shoes, but I can buy Monster what she wants for Christmas, and I can go to the beach this summer.

Tell me -- Are you successful? What determines your success?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Quiet Promotion

Good morning. In the last few weeks, I have been crazy nuts trying to do several "big" projects at the same time, as well as keep up with the blogs, and writing. I guess I've been focused elsewhere because I forgot to mention that the next book in my Regency series -- THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE is about to be published. Oops. How could I have forgotten to mention that?

Well, it's kind of easy. See, I don't market, promote, do blog tours, or any of that stuff. Yes, some of you may think I'm stupid not to, but I don't think it gets me anywhere. For the last several years, I've held a strictly "quiet promotion" stance. I may Tweet once or twice, I post it once on my Anne Gallagher blog, and then let it go. I refuse to ram my book down your throat at every opportunity.

Now I've been blogging for four and a half years. (I actually did check this. It was a surprise to me it's been that long.) And in all this time blogging, I've seen all kinds of promotion -- blog tours, interviews, cover reveals, "splashes" (whatever those are), Twitter spamming, give-aways, you name it, it's been done. And what I've found, is that, the more I see the same book being promoted, the more it annoys me.

And if it annoys ME, then I'm sure it must annoy some of you as well. Which is why I don't do any of that. I hate to annoy people. Yes, I used to. Sort of. I'd mention the book more than once. Yes, I did do a couple of interviews. Once I even Tweet/spammed for a whole weekend. Did any of that work? No, not really. Which is why I don't do it anymore.

I will now share with you the two secrets I've learned to promotional success...Ready?

Secret #1) Word of Mouth. Oh yes, we all know it's no secret, but it's one of the best marketing/promotional tools in our arsenal. If two of your "fans/readers" tell two of their friends what a great book they've just read, they will tell two friends, and those readers will tell two friends. And so on and so forth. And it doesn't matter when they read the book, or when they tell their friends. This new e-publishing thing is all about the "long tail". We've heard that mentioned time and again. Ten years from now, if someone reads one of my books and tells their mother, aunt, bff, or sister-in-law, and they buy my book, it's a win.

And I'm going to tell you another secret that relates to the above -- if you write more than one book, and the reader likes it, they will usually always buy another one. If you write a series, they will most often read the whole thing. The first time this happened to me I was floored. I got a letter from a "fan" once, who told me she enjoyed one of my novellas so much, she bought the whole rest of my series in one buying session. (And this phenomena has happened again and again in the US. And now I've found it's global. It's happened in Germany, in New Zealand, France, and even in the UK.) I still can't believe it.

Secret #2) Write the next book. Yup. It's just that simple. I feel it would better serve my readers if I spent all my time writing and not bothering with promotion. And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. There are several "big name" authors and guru-bloggers who say this as well. If you've written a compelling story, have a couple of decent reviews, then your job for that book is done. Just write the next one. Rinse, Repeat.

Yes, it really is just that simple.

Okay, so here's my one bit of promotion for THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE.

Decorated war hero, Captain Richard Gaines has given up his commission in the Royal Navy. He stalks the docks at night seeking relief from the nightmares of Trafalgar. One night, he happens upon a woman who captures his attention, and his heart. In a series of random coincidences, Richard is compelled toward Mrs. Wood, just as circumstantial evidence suggests that Mr. Wood may be a seditionist.

Returning to England after a decade away, Amanda Wood is on a mission to save herself and her daughter from the prison of her marriage. Meeting the Captain seems heaven sent when he reveals an acquaintance with her only friend and brings an invitation for a visit – and a chance to escape. Her joy is short-lived when her husband insists on going with her.

The situation takes a grievous turn when Amanda’s husband kidnaps their daughter. Richard must save her, but to do that he must engage the enemy at sea. And it appears Amanda’s husband may be a nefarious pirate. With limited armaments and a damaged vessel, Richard knows he has only one chance to rescue the little girl.

When the battle is over, to the victor, go the spoils. Yet, Richard must overcome his tormented past, in order to begin a future with the woman he loves. However, Amanda holds a secret that could destroy that very same future.

Release date -- March 15th. It's available for pre-order on Smashwords and itunes (so far). Look for it everywhere else on the 15th.

Tell me -- What do you do for promotion? Does it work? Do blog tours annoy you? What about cover reveals? Would you rather write the next book than promote?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sustaining your Soul

Good morning. Since I took the job at Monster's school, I've had the opportunity to meet lots of people. Most of them Moms. Some of them work, some of them don't. Lots of them volunteer at the school like I do. (There's lots of stuff to do.)

I've always worked. All my life. I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't. Writing is a job. So that's what I do now. I had an interesting question from one of the Moms last week. She asked, "What do you do when you're NOT writing."

I kind of laughed. "What do you mean? I clean my house." And you guys know what I'm talking about here.

She said, "No. Not like that. What do you do for fun?"

I said, "I write."

She said, "No, I mean, don't you do other stuff? Like scrap book, or bake cookies, or paint. Surely, you can't write all the time. Doesn't that get boring?"

How could I explain it to her. Even when I was working all those years, even when I worked 2 and 3 jobs at a time, I always wrote. (I have a cedar chest full of manuscripts -- all of them garbage, but mine nonetheless.)

I can't NOT write. I think if someone took away my keyboard I would die. (Yes, the same goes for pen and paper, chalk, crayon, pencil, hieroglyphics.) I cannot ever think of my life in any circumstance and not write. Sure, I may not have written every day when I was younger, sure, I have many many unfinished manuscripts, but I always wrote. It's not something I DO, but rather, it's part of WHO I am.

It sustains my soul.

I'm sure if I searched I could find oh-so-many-quotes on the subject with words to describe it like passion, fulfillment, joy. It completes me.

When I was younger I always maintained, that when a job stopped being fun, I would quit. No matter the pay, the hours, the benefits. And I did. If I can't have fun at work, then why bother. I'm not going to my grave like my forebears before me, working 40 hours a week at a job I despise just to put bread on the table and hope for two weeks off in the summer. Sure I made money, sometimes lots of money, but that's not what it's all about for me. I've also been poor as a church mouse and happier than I could ever be.

Now that I'm here, in this job as a writer/author/publisher, sure it gets to be trying at times. Sure, working through a block, or a formatting issue makes me want to scream sometimes, but I could never give it up. Never Never Never. Only when it stops being fun.

Writing sustains me. Without it, I wouldn't know who I am. And just for fun, I did another experiment. We know that I just finished writing the end on my latest novel. It's now with critters and readers and I just have to wait until it comes back until I can further it along. I officially sent it out on Monday the 17th. For the rest of that week, I cleaned my house. (Yes, it took that long.) Once that was finished, I looked around for something to do.

I thought about reading a book. (How long has it been since I read for pleasure and not critique?)

I thought about going shopping and picking out some new clothes. (My wardrobe is atrocious. I should be on that show What NOT to Wear.)

I thought about ripping the wallpaper down in my bathroom and painting.

I thought about rearranging the furniture again.

Guess what I did? Nothing. I watched the Downton Abbey marathon a few Sundays ago and that was pretty much it on my fun-scale. Monday morning I found myself back on the computer, scratching out an outline for another title.

Some people say I'm dedicated to my craft. Some people say I'm crazy. Some people say I'm boring because that's all I do is write.

I say I'm sustaining my soul.

Tell me -- Can you not write? Does it sustain you? Is there something else you'd rather be doing than writing? (And yeah, we all have dreams of winning the lottery and traveling the world, but after that? What then?)

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014