Tag Archives: Business of writing

What I’ve Learned so far from the Temporary e-Sale Test

I’m part of a tiny press, and we’d never done a sale before where an e-book had been set for free for a short time, so doing so with Soul Cages gave us some valuable information for future temporary sales.

First off, the Sony eBookstore and iTunes were terrific in responding in a reasonable amount of time to the change of the price to Free, and then ending the sale after we raised the price back to $4.99.  Considering that the pricing was being done through Smashwords, this was an impressive turnaround time. We’d do a sale with them again in a heartbeat.

We also confirmed that it takes a while for a free version to get over to Barnes & Noble, and also confirmed that a different e-bookstore (not Barnes & Noble) tends to be irritatingly sloooooooow in responding to price hikes after a sale is over.

If you want Amazon to match the temporary sales price set at Free, Barnes & Noble and iTunes tend to be key markets that need to be part of the sale. We decided we’d learned enough already and stopped the free sale at Barnes & Noble before it could begin. We had no need to trigger a free sale at Amazon this time around.

I strongly advise any tiny press planning a temporary sale to be careful about which e-retailers you do it with. Most will honor your request to raise the price back up once the sale is over, but there’s one or two out there that will drag their feet for months, and you’ll probably have to file a complaint with Smashwords Customer Support to contact those e-retailers to get them to cooperate and raise the price back up.

So you may want to think carefully about which e-retailers have your e-book in their inventory if you’re going to do a temporary sale.  One option is to do the sale at the very beginning when an e-book has just been published, then wait until after the sale is over to ship the e-book at the regular price to those few e-retailers that have a pricing behavior problem.  That way you can do a temporary sale as a marketing strategy when the e-book is first released, then get coverage in all e-stores later on.

Another option is to avoid certain e-retailers entirely for e-books if you want temporary sales to be done for that e-book on a regular basis. But remember to weigh the convenience of doing so against the disadvantage of lost sales if that e-retailer can get you into markets otherwise inaccessible.

But no two e-books are alike, so what works best for one e-book is not the same as what works best for another.

“Parallels” Experiment Cancelled

Thanks to information shared with me behind the scenes, we’ve stopped the experiment with “Parallels.”  I was looking forward to testing out how fast price changes travel, but there turned out to be an unexpected issue.  Depending on how a sale is set up and which distributors it goes to, the sale can go on for months after it was supposed to stop.

Unfortunately, the way “Parallels” is currently distributed, that likely could  have happened to it. So instead a different experiment will be done in a month or two, where a free short story (that ties into a novel) will get shipped off into the world that will stay free permanently.

We’ve also got some ideas on how to deal with the “temporary sale price becoming a near-permanent sale price” issue and will probably try one out next year.

And yes, I’m being deliberately vague here. I will say that this is only a potential issue if the ebook is being distributed on many different e-retailers at the same time. It’s a bit like herding cats–it can be difficult to get them all to move in the same direction.

I highly recommend that a tiny press or indie author use a short story first to test where possible snafus might show up in doing a temporary sale.

More Signs of a Fun New Era for Writers

A writer friend of mine, R. G. Hart, did a blog post about his favorite memory of Halloween and listed his favorite movies and stories. Then at the end of the post he put together a collage of ebook covers in different sizes. Many of the writers in the collage are both traditionally and indie published, some have won awards, some have hit the bestseller lists on the Kindle or Barnes & Noble, and all of them are having a wonderful time experimenting with indie projects. I’m in the collage as well, but it’s the sight of so many talented writers getting to experiment that makes me smile.

Oddball and niche projects that are unappealing to traditional publishers don’t have to sit in a drawer anymore. And yet that oddball project can be the perfect opportunity to take risks and grow as a writer. Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about the importance of this in her latest blog post today, Believe in Yourself.

Barbara Freethy hits 1 million mark in self-published ebook sales for 2011

In case anyone missed it, here’s Barbara Freethy’s announcement about hitting the 1 million mark in self-published ebooks sold in 2011.  Here’s a brief quote from the PR release:

Unlike independently published authors who publish at the $0.99 price point to fuel sales, Freethy’s books are primarily priced between $2.99 and $5.99. Her self-published books come from her extensive backlist, whose rights were reverted after the books went out of print. Freethy repackaged the books and put them on sale again, finding gold in books that had been taking up space in her closet”

The full PR announcement is at:
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/author-barbara-freethy-sells-over-one-million-self-published-e-books-in-2011-132522313.html

I notice she’s selling not only through Kindle, but also made sure to have her ebooks on the Nook, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. Also has a deal with Overdrive.

Just for fun, let’s calculate what that is in cold hard cash. If we take a 70% cut of $2.99 for a self-published ebook, that’s about $2.09 per book. Sell 1 million ebooks at $2.99, and that’s $2,090,000.

Nice! This is fascinating times we live in.

Thanks to Passive Guy and David Gaughran for getting the word out.

Every Renown Writer Starts Out a Beginner

Every renown writer you love to read started out as a beginner.

This is so obvious, and yet it gets forgotten so easily since it’s the masterpieces that get remembered when we talk about our favorite dead writers…not the unpublished works and the weak stuff published early on (unless you’re an English major doing research or an obsessive fan).

Very often, people who are not artists or just starting out have this mental gap in their heads about the journey that an artist takes from beginner to master:

beginner———– > luck  ————> master

Mastery and success are attributed to luck.

Well, there’s a middle phase that gets left out:

beginner ——-> apprentice ——> journeyman —> (95% hard work, 5% luck) ——-> master

The apprentice phase for writers is equivalent to the law school phase for someone who wants to be a lawyer. This is the phase where a writer often has to get on a plane to study with a particular writing teacher or to attend a national-level writing workshop. In old novels or movies, this was the point where the young artist packed up to move to an international hub for artists like Paris or New York City or London.

And then there’s the journeyman phase, where the writer has started to sell his or her stories, but there’s still so much to learn. This phase lasts for years to decades, or even a lifetime if the writer decides to stop learning and coast.

As for mastery, it doesn’t spontaneously happen. Don’t ask me why, but people  seem to have a natural tendency to ignore the middle phase when they talk about a particular famous dead writer or fantasize aloud about how easy it would be to write a bestselling novel if they just had the time.

And yet it’s the hard work in journeyman phase that will make or break a writer in becoming a master of the craft.

I think one of the most valuable lessons a writer can do once past the beginner stage is to choose a couple of favorite writers (both living and dead) and read their early works.

So, for example, if you were a huge fan of Charlotte Bronte as a writer, you’d dig up a research book that had her unpublished first writings and probably also a copy of her first novel, The Professor.

Or how about William Shakespeare? Go read his earliest plays (researchers still fight about which play he wrote first, so I’d advise reading several). Then think about how we’d see him now if he’d stopped after those early plays and had never written anything more.

But make sure to also include some favorite recent writers who wrote over a long time frame, twenty years or more.  For example, I went out and bought collections of the early published short stories of three recent writers whose later works I loved to read:  John D. MacDonald’s More Good Stuff, Stephen King’s Night Shift, and James Lee Burke’s The Convict & Other Stories.

This turned out to be an eye-opening exercise for me as I read the unpublished  early works of old greats (such as Jane Austen) and early short stories of favorite present day NYT bestsellers.

Their early works weren’t as well-written as their later works were. They’d gotten better at their craft over time. Big shocker, right?

Of course not.

But I’ve noticed a lot of my fellow Americans like to see their artists as the equivalent of Athena jumping fully formed out of the skull of Zeus. The arts are supposed to be “easy.” You have either “got it” as an artist or you don’t. No hard work, no sweat, no tears, no frustration, no years of dedicated study–as if somehow the arts are different from every other human endeavor.

So reading the early works of these various writers impressed upon me, at a deep gut level, how craft gets better over time as one works at it. Hmm, let me put it bluntly. A few of the early works “sucked.” A few seemed like they showed “no talent.” And yet these writers persevered and became masters of their craft. It would have been a terrible thing if any of these writers had quit during the early days due to a mistaken idea that it was impossible to improve in writing skill.

Every writer starts out a beginner. Where we go from there is up to us.