Tag Archives: Markets

Links: the extrordinary poet Ruth Stone, and Barnes & Noble

In case anyone missed it back in November, you can read about the extraordinary poet Ruth Stone in the New York Times. I call her extraordinary not only because of her talent, but also because of her steadfast refusal during her lifetime to quit doing what she loved most: writing poetry.

She finally achieved literary success at the age 87 when she received a National Book Award in 2002. She’d been a poet for over 50 years by then and despite all she had been through had kept writing.

I couldn’t help thinking as I read about her life–what if she had given up on poetry in her fifties and sixties when things were rough? What if she hadn’t kept going? It was in her seventies that she began to break through.

In other links, Digital Book World has two great articles: one on Barnes & Noble’s strengths, and one on Barnes & Noble’s weaknesses. The article on the weaknesses includes a look at Amazon’s KDP program to contrast it to Barnes & Noble’s Pubit that is well worth the time to read.

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.

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.

Writing the Unmarketable Novel

Almost two years ago I finished a YA novel, Soul Cages, that I knew in my heart of hearts was going to be a nightmare for an editor to get past the sales & marketing department of a traditional publisher.

That’s because in my gut I knew it was going to be difficult to get any readers to even want to pick it up. I knew the book was in trouble sales-wise as soon as my usual first reader burst into tears while reading the synopsis, and then refused to read the manuscript. I had to get other readers to take over for that book. Most ended up loving the story, but I never forgot the response of that first reader.

Seeing your first reader cry in sorrow really sucks.

Let’s face it. Most of the time, readers are coming to a story to mentally relax for a while. They’re coming for entertainment. I’d written a story that was a weird horror/romance/special issues tribute to Judy Blume, C. S. Lewis, and Stephen King in one go. It dealt with ugly nasty stuff like family abuse, the way kids with Asperger’s sometimes get treated badly, the abuse of Scripture in the Bible to justify cruelty, and anti-Semitism…among other things.

None of that stuff is appealing for entertainment. Ugh, who wants to read all  that after a bad day?

The novel went through several rounds of editing, but there comes a point when you realize as a writer that you can only make a weird “Frankenstein” novel  marketable by censoring your protagonist and mutilating the story by chopping it up. Chop out the romance, or chop out the horror, or chop out the Asperger’s.

In the end I decided to leave the main character alone. It was her story, not mine, and I decided to let her story stand as she’d told it to me, and I went on to write new stories.

And it was the best decision I ever made. I’ve written another novel and many  short stories since I put Soul Cages to rest, and a lot of exciting things have been happening behind the scenes these last six months. Things that would not have happened if I had attempted to keep rewriting Soul Cages to death.

Soul Cages itself has been released in e-book form, and it is still under consideration with a certain midsize traditional publishing house (though I suspect in the end the editor will fail in getting it past marketing).

I’ve done no email blasts, no blog tours, no ads, no book launch party, no “push” of any sort. And I don’t intend to. My limited work time is better spent writing new stories to improve my craft, and some of those new stories will prove to be more marketable–i.e. more appealing to readers–than Soul Cages is.

But am I sorry that I wrote Soul Cages? Do I feel I wasted my time by working on an unmarketable novel?

No.

I think it’s good for an artist to write at least one story where it feels like you’re spitting in the eye of the market. Writing that unmarketable novel made me a better writer by making me a gutsier writer, and I think I’ll be reaping the benefits for decades to come.