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Topics - Elizabeth Ann West

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Writers' Cafe / What Authors Need to Know
« on: April 11, 2018, 08:57:26 AM »
Update 5/15/2018

27 hours a week I run a FREE accountability Zoom room called Kworki. You're welcome to join us!

There are classes now running May/ June / July/ and August and we are doing anotehr conference the end of October on craft. :) More details and links to follow.

I have debated doing this for many years, but finally, I am stepping up to help offer more variety in the author education offerings.

I have started What Authors Need to Know

I've been teaching informally for years in Facebook groups, here, on other forums, and even been quoted in more than a few how-to books for authors. Every time I would start this project in the last 2 years, I'd halt for a few reasons: I didn't want to be stuck trying to update evergreen content, I didn't want my author teaching to overtake my author career.

But finally, I have a solution: LIVE training that helps authors by giving them a space to learn and ask questions.

And to the mods, I know this is my only thread on this topic and you don't have to welcome me to Kboards :)

I know LIVE won't be for everyone, many really like videos they can go back to again and again. And what's already out there like Mark Dawson's courses etc. is great for that. What I'm doing is a little different, it's more workshop. I'm a working author, like you. My retirement plan is my books, I just released #18 March 30, 2018. I am a publisher that builds sustainable systems that run with little input from me that go beyond only relying on Amazon's recommendation engines.

I'm not promising to teach anyone how to get rich quick, but how to start small and grow or optimize what you have going on right now.

UPDATE 4.12.2018: 1 purchase of $30 gets you access to ALL session offerings and videos of the sessions on May 15, 2018. If you need a pro bono spot please don't hesitate to message as I can now do that with a coupon code.

I am really proud to sponsor a digital author conference NEXT WEEK (yeah, because you can either make it or you can't, and that's okay, if you can't, it wasn't right time right thing for you, no worries).  ***update: class members will get a raw recording of their session, and announcements will be made before recording starts and stops so people can turn off their video etc. if you need to participate, but protect anonymity, that's the best I can do. I still do not have an interest this year in selling the videos separately, that's really already done well, and the purpose of this program is to get authors working together in REAL TIME to tackle their businesses. ***

The conference times are:

Thursday, April 19th 8PM-11PM EST
(encore presentation of same material is Saturday, April 21st 3PM - 6PM EST and Saturday April 28th, 3PM-6PM)

That's Session 1 where we will tackle an overview of publishing, profits and earnings (if you ever needed to learn what sales rankings = what kinds of sales numbers, we're going to talk about that), visibility, branding, and graphics.

Friday April 20th 8PM-11PM EST
(encore presentation of same material is Sunday, April 22nd 3PM-6PM EST, and April 29th 3PM-6PM)

This is Session 2, taking on reader profiles, websites, email marketing, specialization, and planning to rock the rest of 2018!

The total conference is $30, of $5 an hour. But I DO have pro bono spots planned, so feel free to message me if you can't afford a spot. This is something I am doing to HELP broaden what's out there in author education, this isn't designed to make more than my fiction books make. Why? Because when I'm 60, my fiction books will still have value, this teaching from the trenches material will not. :)

So that's the news and I'm really thrilled to finally be doing this in a formal way. I love teaching live and all the years of hopping on hangouts with other authors to teach them something in Photoshop or making a website etc. is finally going to be made available to anyone who needs it, not just people I'm close friends with. This job is hard, and there's a LOT of teaching yourself how to do something. Sometimes you just need to be able to ask a real human who's done it a question as "face to face" as technology will let us. And that's what I can do!

To sign up etc. the site is :

Or if people have questions, I will be happy to answer on this thread. Here's to the start of What Authors Need to Know!

***There is also a free Facebook group if you are on the fence where we will be doing some fun things leading up and you can stay in the loop on future offerings like direct preorders, membership sites etc. ***

Writers' Cafe / What If We Took Our Complaints to the FTC?
« on: September 20, 2017, 06:42:34 AM »
Morning, Kboards. The recent conversations in all of the indie communities I am in have been weighing on my mind. I am distributed wide, but there are still things that bad actors in our community do that affect my ability to make a living at this, and from unscrupulous book marketers to click farms, it feels like this is ramping up to where they're growing faster than we can warn anyone. Or those who know something is a bad idea from past experience don't feel they can speak up publicly... that happens too.

For example, a few months ago I received a cold email from a book marketer, Genius Media, that saw my discounted book and they emailed me. They spelled the title wrong, Whiskey instead of Whisky, so that made me laugh. It also told me there was a lack of care in reaching out to me. And they had this really obnoxious statement at the bottom of the email threatening me if I disclosed anything, which you can't impose a confidentiality agreement in one direction, Genius Media.

I've been around the block, I know often when things are hinky. Anyway, the email was vague on cost, and just went on and on about how much they help their clients. Feeling rambunctious, I emailed them back since they only talked about KDP Select.

"Um, I'm not in KDP Select, is there anything your company offers that doesn't require books to be in KDP Select?"

I got back a response right away, nope, they have NO BOOK MARKETING for books that are not in KU and they were letting me know they would be available to help sell my book IF I put it in KU. Well I wrote right back that it is my opnion that means their marketing hinges on the rank manipulation of clicks to borrows, and they should know their practices will jeopardize author accounts (this was before Amazon started suing the 5 click farms). I got back a denial and don't worry, I won't be contacted again.

Trading notes with other authors, we ALL get these emails from this company and others. Or we watch on FB other promoters use manipulation tactics to promise the moon, require payment upfront through something like Facebook send money or gift cards or Paypal's Family and Friends (to avoid fees so it can be cheaper . . . . fees are a PART of doing business and pay for the protections you NEED to get your money back if necessarry), and then in the wake is a bunch of authors too embarassed to talk about what happened to them.

I know I can't report the companies that I see are screaming all of the warning signs because I pass up their offer. And I only know better than to bite only because I've bitten on things before that seemed too good to be true and it bit me back. :) I am NOT passing judgment on anyone that falls victim to any company promising a good service, heck, there ARE companies out there that DO provide a good service. But you do not have publicly say anything to help protect others and get the situations stopped.

What if a company finds you on a bad day? What if you read their offer, buy the service and LATER find out the offer wasn't what it claimed to have been? What if you buy and ad, it doesn't run as promised, you tell the promoter "Hey, we have a problem here?" and they ignore your communication and don't issue a refund?

Well, there is a way to report that so that authorities can see if there's a pattern of bad acting and move if needed, imposing fines or seizing assets, or passing along the reports to local and state authorities. The Federal Trade Commission is the US government entity that stops the sham diet pill hockers or the exercise companies that claim they are FDA approved when they're not. You can also look at the state of the address on the bottom of the emails or where the LLC is filed and contact state authorities.

They even have a site to walk you through the types of common complaints, like not being able to get off a company's mailing list because they keep moving you to different lists. You pick the category and it will walk you through what information you need to provide:

The FTC won't solve YOUR individual complaint. That's why our courts have a lot of lawsuits, but what the FTC CAN do is if one company or entity gets enough complaints, they can look into fining them or shutting them down. Be truthful, hand over the information you have, and let the databases and experts take it from there.

The FTC also has an AWESOME 10 ways to avoid fraud and I would say #1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are really applicable to US.

#1 is be skeptical of all incoming offers you were not expecting. Bonafide companies are often very busy if they're good at what they do, they don't need to cold-email or contact people with a great offer. That's not the same as you seeing a display ad or filling out a Contact Me form. I'm talking about companies you never dealt with or communicated with reaching out to you that they have a great deal for you!

#2 Do online searches, I would say for us this can get tough. Many companies change names etc. If you get an offer, look for all kinds of keywords and type it into Google. Use searches on forums or do a search. Sometimes someone publicly said soemthing.

#4 Don't pay upfront. Don't pay anything upfront you wouldn't be comfortable losing and demand for payments to go as work or service is delivered. When I go to get a massage I don't pay in advance. :) But neither is my masseuse going to give me 10 massages on the promise to pay for them... a 5-15% downpayment to hold a spot is common for larger projects, but payments should always be as the project is progressing, not all upfront, even with people you have been working with for years.

#5 Consider hwo you pay. Debit cards do not have the same protections as credit cards. Paypal's Family and Friends and Facebook payments and giftcards have ZERO protections. It's not normal for someone to not plan on there being a cost to doing business. They are talking you into giving up your consumer protections that are there for a reason.

#6 I'm just going to copy and paste this one form the article because it's so well worded :

Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert or just tell a friend.

Again, a report to the FTC isn't going to get you YOUR money back. It won't settle a dispute. But if there is a pattern of illegal business behavior, reports from those who are conned or scammed are what the authorities need in order to act.

Writers' Cafe / End of the Year PUSH!
« on: September 02, 2017, 02:23:52 PM »
It's September, and I just sat down to do another full picture of all of my business expenses, rest of the year liabilities, and income outstanding.

The good news is I have clear monetary goals to push for our last 2 months of earnings for the tax year IF you like in the US AND you use the calendar year as your reporting year. Surprised I say there are only 2 more months?

September's Amazon earning pay out end of November.
October's Amazon earnings pay out end of December (possible into Jan IF they are late, only seen that happen on a single foreign country).

Shocking, isn't it?

If you are wide and direct with Google and Kobo you also get Google's November earnings mid-December, and for Kobo you get a mid-month payment as well in December.
Plus ACX which also pays like the 23-25ish of the month.

Either way, the time is tick-a-tocking for 2017 INCOME because all of the vendors hold back 15-60 days.

I am pushing the goal of 2 books. We will see.

Writers' Cafe / dare. (Pronoun and testing $14.99 pricing)
« on: July 17, 2017, 08:32:14 AM »
Disclaimer: Friendly, neighborhood experimenter here, EAW :) I am sharing this so others may watch the experiment if they would like, I am in no way saying EVERYONE has to do what I'm doing. I share what I do and test and try so there's more than one playbook out there of tips, techniques, and results. Savvy? :)


$14.99. Even just to type it still makes my adrenaline rush a bit. Before anyone yells I'm gouging anyone, remember this book is still 100% free to read on Fanfiction and my readers know that.

On a lark last week, I applied for a Bookbub on The Whisky Wedding which, bless its heart, has had a bit of a haphazard launch. I had to cancel the original preorder of over 400 orders on Amazon at $9.99 right after Christmas. I will get it tattooed on my FOREHEAD that from now on, my publishing empire is CLOSED to all publishing from November 1 to Jan 1 other than publishing already written stuff. So all of that failure on this book, much to my surprise 6 months later, this book has earned over $10,000 on just Amazon, and it's my 3rd overall bestseller. Even though it's the baby of the bunch.

Bookbub picked up the book for an August 4th .99 sale. So I stopped everything I was doing and moved the book to Pronoun so I could at least get 70% on .99 sales. This isn't a series book, so there is no harm for me to have it on Pronoun, I can't even run AMS ads on it because it has "whisky" in the title. But I also don't like AMS ads. Anyway, since I was going to go ahead and move the Amazon and Nook listing to Pronoun, and pick up Overdrive and Bibliotecha, and the book has already "earned" out what I wanted from it, I decided to go ahead and try $14.99.

When you move a book to Pronoun, if you make the title and author name the EXACT same, the old reviews pick right up. I messed up my boxed set I also moved over, but I'm not too worried about that. But it also makes the book a "new release" again as far as Amazon is concerned. I haven't told my mailing list about the move. I did mention it on the last chapter I put on Fanfiction, but to my utter surprise, the book is charting on the HNR list for clean and wholesome and inspriational. I asked Pronoun for Scottish Romance and Regency Romance, they put me in Regency Romance, and 3 other categories. TBH, I never really thought to put my books in YA, but Pride and Prejudice is HS curriculum, and my books are clean, so that may be another boon for me that I didn't think of before.

So why $14.99? Why do I need to test the higher prices?

I know some get tired of hearing about it, but I write in a niche, it's a subcategory of a few genres: British Classics/Regency Romance/ Sweet Romance/ Derivative Fiction/ Inspirational Romance ( you can't really remove religion from that period in history). It's a big VENN DIAGRAM where all of those are circles of various sizes and my reader pool is that small bit in the center, about 10,000-20,000 readers in the whole genre. And they don't all like the same things. The biggest "team" seems to be Team Darcy and Elizabeth Regency, but there's also Team Jane and Bingley and Team Modern, and Team No Angst and Team Super Angst. These are good things to learn about your own genre, where do readers break and go "I want space opera governmental subplots/I want space opera with more romance/adventure" or "Team Pets" in contemporary romance vs. "Team Baby" in contemporary romance. Call it what you will, preferred tropes, trends, or teams, but like you learn about voters in a campaign, people have criteria that they ascribe to and will break them down into demographics.

In the long term, I have series novellas and novels. I also now have stand alone novels, and I've always had stand alone novellas. In my genre, getting a 450-500+ page book is one of the most highest sought after products. By making mine free to read for all and $14.99 for the collector's edition, I'm not out of line with other titles in my larger genre where NY publishers put out 1-2 titles a year. It also allows me to keep writing the stand alones because they don't get a boost like my series books do when I put a new one of those out. Their launch is pretty much their big push unless I run like a Bookbub ad. And even this one, I am planning to leave the .99 price for 14 days, August 1-15th. Because the end of the ebook pushes my other .99 boxed set that's both Book Ones of my Series. The goal is to get readers into my series. :)

This might all go kablooey. Math speaking on my $9.99 titles in a release month I sell about 1500-2000 copies of the stand alone novels. I won't be testing a $14.99 stand alone release until 2018 from the start. But on that project, I would have to lose 500-700 readers over the $14.99 pricing. I might. But I don't think I will. And then, as titles age, I can reduce the prices down and run sales to meet the needs of other readers who want to own a copy, but don't want to pay a premium price for it.

The reason I am not planning to use Pronoun for Google, Kobo, and Apple is because they already all pay the same rate on prices over $9.99.

So there you go Kboards, there's the experiment. I will book mark this thread and keep results updated, especially what happens with the Bookbub and how that goes. And I have to get hot and finish up my WIP because I'm releasing Book 4 in my novel series at the end of this month and it has the same 4 last scenes to write that have been taunting me for 3 weeks. :) With any luck, the release + .99 bookbub will make August/September 2017 the months I can pin point as where I took my career to the next level. In 4 years when hubby is retired from the military, I won't be able to risk as much experimentation, so it's time now to make sure I know all of my limits and the inside, upside, downside of my market. :)

Writers' Cafe / The Next Phone Call Will be a YES! (The Book Speaks)
« on: June 09, 2017, 01:30:17 PM »
When I did sales over the phone, I would pump myself up that the next phone call would be a YES. It's a trick that actually helps, I was cold-calling alumni for my university and was one of the top fundraisers because even if I got 20-30 hangups in a row or No or yelled at because of something that happened with their time at my alma mater, I took a deep breath and would tell myself "The next call will be a yes."

A few weeks ago, one of Kboards' own cold messaged me, asking me if I wanted to be on his podcast. I missed the message for a few days, but then I said "Of course!" and got to know Benjamin Douglas a bit. And here's the cool thing: he is working on his debut release! :)

So he created a blog/podcast where he is reading chapters of a book with the authors' permission. He talked to me about the project as a way for him to #1 just get started and learning from those already writing and doing this regularly, and #2 to network. Which is BRILLIANT. He could have asked me for just about anything at that point and I would have been like "let me see what I can do" because when I was aspiring in my author status, I did the same thing. I was a part of author groups and Twitter hashtags so that there are people I "know" in the digital sense from 8 years ago. And many I still work with and help and remain friends with to this day. And knowing people in the industry made it so when I did publish, I had a little bit of momentum to get the ball rolling.

THIS is what is meant by make your own luck. Benjamin knew what he is good at (podcasts and audio editing) and decided to use those skills to start his career as an author before even getting his first book out there.

I am only #13 but I can recognize Benjamin's spark... he's going to go places. If for no other reason that he's going to be creative it approaching the concept of visibility, he's going to be A-OK. I think I am the only interview (the rest are hearing the writing of many people on Kboards, like Elle Casey, Chris Fox, etc. all with their permission).... but the podcast is really neat, and I am very honored to have been a part of it.

If you want to check out The Book Speaks podcast, it can be found here:

I confess I talk a lot about Mr. Darcy.... LOL..... but bravo to Benjamin Douglas who is getting to know other authors and laying the marketing groundwork for his own release in such a clever way. It's a lot of work on his part, for sure, but I'm sure it will pay dividends in the long run.

Writers' Cafe / The Jungle of B2B (business to business)
« on: May 22, 2017, 07:32:55 AM »
Morning! Or Afternoon or Evening where you are! It's 10 AM my time. :)

I wanted to share a few tips and tricks to help other authors and publishers do their own due diligence when they are evaluating other businesses to purchase services or advertisements from because I'm getting bombarded lately with "Elizabeth, do you know this site?" "Have you heard of this?" In most of the cases, no, I haven't heard of them . . . but that doesn't MEAN it's a scam or a bad entity to work with! Other times, a little bit of sleuthing, and yeah, you can see it's just another service that's changed the name and the domain name. :(

So, first of all when you are looking to do business with another business, start with the site. Do they clearly have a bio/aboutus/contactus/physical address? Do they have an SSL Certificate? (if they do not, DO NOT ENTER ANY CC INFORMATION!!! There's a little lock in the top of address bar and the http is https if there is an SSL. A site without an SSL that is using like Paypal is secure, but ALWAYS look up at the top, the second you leave the site to the paypal portal your address bar should show you are now on a secure site.)

Any website that doesn't have a bonafide About Us should raise alarms. You should know who is running the service. :) And never pay through Family and Friends on Paypal, that's been well discussed here :

So what if you still really want to try the service and there's no real About Us page? Well, try a WhoIs query. WhoIs? displays who owns a website unless that person paid for privacy protection. But it will at least tell you when a site was put into service. So something that's just this year? Yeah, I'd be nervous....

You can do a whois query here:

I just looked up my site, I really need to update those addresses and phone numbers for the other contacts LOL. Yes, I could have paid to keep my information private, but I am a business woman. I do not mind legitimate contact for business matters, and I ignore the spam etc. that's pretty easy.

There's also affiliate code trails if someone is using Amazon affiliates . . . when you click on a link that takes you to Amazon, look for a -20 in the link. The keyword before it is the affiliate tag: like one of my affiliate tags is lifafthigsch-20 (I don't use this one anymore, my very first monetized site was lol). Amazon affiliates are limited to 50 tags or affiliate IDs and smart affiliates use different tags for different programs so they can track ROI . . . but sometimes less than scrupulous site owners are too lazy to change the tag. So if one advertising service made you unhappy take a look at the affiliate codes and conventions they used, they will probably reuse them. It's not foolproof though. Oh, and Amazon codes are unique, like no one else out there has lifafthigsch-20 only I do.

Bottom line is don't be distracted just by pretty images and a professional looking template on a site. :)

* Check out the WhoIS and see if they are concealing who owns the site proper. Sometimes there's a legitimate reason for this, but if a site is taking money, there really should be a CLEAR business name and address.

* Do a google search on the address . . . is the business even still there? Does the phone number work? Back when I ran author ads, my phone number was listed for people to reach me and it took me YEARS to get my stupid voicemail fixed from saying "Hi, you've reached Elizabeth at" LOL.

* Check the footer. A site that properly discloses they are using cookies, affiliate links, and any other advertisements is dotting their i's and crossing their t's. These are a good sign the site owner is attending to all details, and it's required by programs like Google Adsense and Amazon Affiliates. If they won't do what's required, remember, they might cut corners with you too. Just because they haven't been caught/or stopped doesn't make it right.

* Question everything :) If a site talks about sister sites, or newsletters but gives no concrete name or data as to reach, be suspicious. Real marketers give very clear information: reach, cost, and good places a CPM (cost per 1,000 reached). Use Bookbub as a good example, it doesn't take much digging to find where they have information about their mailing list size and prices.

* Remember to use a credit card if possible. You have very little recourse if an LLC runs off with your money, other than sue them in court, if they can't be contacted and you can't get a refund and should for failure to deliver. I am not advocating you demand a refund after an ad runs. But, if you paid with a credit card and it's within the right window for your service provider, you can possibly dispute the charge or file a fraud report with them. Credit cards companies are VERY interested to shut down unscrupulous vendors, so if they get a ton of reports about one specific company, they have far more muscle than you do as an individual to alert authorities and/or pursue damages. There's a REASON interest rates on credit cards are so expensive . . . just make sure you keep the limit low if you are a spendy person so you don't get over your head in debt. You do not have this same kind of protection with just a debit card or ACH transaction with your bank.

HTH and be wary out there. :) There's always people out there anxious to sell their services to you as indispensable when they really might just be a glorified, self-appointed middle man/woman who is merely hiring other freelancers you could have done yourself.

« on: April 10, 2017, 06:58:56 AM »
I am twisting the usual productivity challenge into something that works for me, and I am extending the invite to anyone else it might help.

I struggle with daily word counts, mostly because a word count is not a consistent thing for me. 1 scene might be 2,000 words, another might be 1,000. And I really never know until I write the scene what's going to happen. Those pesky characters!

So I am embarking on a fairly simple challenge: 1 hour.

That's right, just 1 hour of dictation (or you can type) per day means I am being a good worker bee.

Now I homeschool, am a military wife, and even I can find 1 hour a day. Can you? What kind of writer can't write 1 hour a day? (Ok, arguably, someone may need to start off with just 30 minutes a day).

So here's the math:

I average about 3,000 words per 1 hour of dictated material. I know this challenge isn't addressing editing needs, but that's generally a separate thing from writing productivity anyway. There are 25 weeks left between now and Sept 30.

25 x 5 days a week x 3,000 words = 375,000 words
25 x 3000 x 7 days a week = 525,000 words.

ONE HOUR A DAY. That's the challenge. If you would like to participate, comment here and we can use that to track.

MY progress:
4/9/2017    1 hour   3200 words
4/10/2017   1 hour   2800 words
4/11/2017   15 min  640 words

4/19/2017 I hit a wall and thought it was all my fault. Follow up with my doctor shows I have some health issues that need resolution (severe vitamin D deficiency, high fasting glucose and higher than normal blood pressure reading) that I need to take care of in conjunction with my writing goals. This isn't to mean I can't still DO my 1 hour challenge, I did bring my manuscript up to 29,000 words when it was at 22k, but I also have to add in a workout as a higher priority than writing, and then writing. Happy Planner is helping me as well, which is a whole thing where you make planner pages that are pretty. This is bringing down stress and keeping me getting stuff done. Therefore, for the next 4 weeks, under doctor's orders, I'm going to get my Vitamin D levels back under control, BREATHE, and work on writing in a very non-confrontational way. The next 4 weeks will be about capturing what happens more than what I have planned to do. :)

Writers' Cafe / UDEMY is $10 all courses today only!
« on: March 22, 2017, 09:26:04 PM »
Pretty much anything you ever wanted to learn, be it Photoshop, coding, marketing, business, graphic design, etc. has a course or a dozen on Udemy.

And today everything is $10. If it doesn't show for you try coupon code PTOLEMY10

Writers' Cafe / Homeschooling Applications for the Indie Author
« on: January 27, 2017, 12:46:24 PM »
Hi everyone! My brain is mush, little one is sick (hello 3 get ups last night with her every 2 hours to alternate tylenol and motrin) so no school today and I did edit 3,000 words and get them up on Fanfiction. WIN!

So I jotted that win down in my planner, a planner that is just a different color cover than the one I use for homeschooling. And that made me realize sharing this might help another.

In the state of NY, where I temporarily live, to homeschool you must submit what's called an IHIP, an individual home instruction plan. The IHIP is usually a 1-2 page document with the child's information, and then what curriculum and course materials will be used in each subject. Like for her in Mathematics it lists the 3 workbooks I am using with her. And you have a line that says "Including but not limited to:" and for the most part you are expected to cover 80% of the material you set out to cover OR have a reason why something wasn't done.

Okay, with me so far?

Next you have to submit quarterly reports that detail the progress made in each subject matter. For me, the writer Mom, this is a 5 page report, LOL, but for others it's again 1-2 pages, with a paragraph to highlight the wins and progress in each subject.

I started doing this for my writing business, too, such as getting up at 5:30 AM. My goal there was to do it 60% of the days planned, and for the first session I made that goal. This month has been majorly derailed by sickness and hubby travel, but I'm still documenting my wins, so on my quarterly report for Jan - Mar, I can still achieve a 50-60% benchmark on that metric M-F with a NOTE that major illness and hubby travel impacted January.

My "IHIP" is divided into 4 subjects:

New Material Written:



Continual Education:

And so far I only sort of checked up on myself after 2 months, but my planner mimics hers in that I document actual time spent working, just like I keep track of her hours for school, and I track sales in there, when I post stuff on my blog or fanfiction (marketing), and what I write etc.

This is NOT a planner where I put a lot of "what will be done." Same with her homeschool planner. Lesson plans are entirely separate from what was actually accomplished, it's like lesson plans and grade book. So for my indie publishing stuff, same thing. I have a monthly calendar where I'm constantly projecting stuff out into the future . ..  the planner I have that's moleskin style with left side days of the week and right side a blank journal page is my "what actually HAPPENED" log. I have found when I try to combine them, well #1 my projection thing changes every month or so, so I now just print out monthly sheets from, but back when I kept everything in one place that was my Uncalendar, it was too much pressure. I didn't want to be in my planner. So now, I have a planner that's just victories, and the planning sheets that are what I'd like to have happen, and the guilt of life happening doesn't pollute the victories planner. :)

But this system that naturally emerged in September when I got buckeld down and writing again has worked for me to juggle more plates. I have my teal planner for homeschool and my peach planner for publishing. Both books make me smile because they are chock full of accomplishments.

I will add a small to do list IF it's day of in the publishing win planner but never more than 1 or 2 items and ONLY if they are critical things so I don't forget.


This is the planner I use for both homeschooling and publishing. I bought mine at a BN, but you can get them on Amazon. They are REALLY tough too, like you can throw it, drop it, toss it, and it won't fall apart. I stay away from spiral planners because they always come undone on me. :) The keyword for Gallery Leather Maine is the Academic planner IF you want a journal page on the right side.

Writers' Cafe / DANGEROUS: Employee State of Mind
« on: January 06, 2017, 05:23:11 AM »

It's a new year, and many of us are starting to ramp up production and make plans for the year. I did most of this activity back in October because I start my new year November 1 (because Amazon, my largest vendor, holds monies of 60 days, the first payment in 2017 is what I sold in November 2016, and my tax year is the conventional Jan 1 - Dec 31).

I know more and more authors are seeing money and it's fantastic, but 2016 was marred by the loss of 2 large players in the romance world : Ellora's Cave and now, AllRomanceEbooks. I cannot tell you how ANGRY both situations have made me feel, but I wanted to do something to help. First and foremost I reached out to a few authors heavily affected by aRE stealing from the till and gave what money I could not fear never getting back. It wasn't much, but I've been there before where I was down to my last $20, less than actually, and as I think it was Chris Rock who put it, "the ATM didn't even want to talk to me."

Second, I thought long and hard about what I'm about to share . . . and many already know it, but some may not. If you run your business with an employee state of mind, you're going to run into the same problems that plagued aRE and EC causing them to shut down.

What is an employee state of mind?

First and foremost is looking at your royalty check as a paycheck. It's not. Now, once it hits your business bank account, and ONLY THEN, and after you pay expenses and keep some for business needs, then the money you withdraw for yourself (your bills, your family, your fun, whatever) THAT last amount is your paycheck. And oh yeah, from that you need to pay your own taxes.

A huge mistake I see author publishers do is buy advertising on credit with the expectation to pay it off when the royalties come in. THIS IS DANGEROUS.

#1 You never know the advertising is going to make you the money you think it will. Not even a Bookbub. Seriously. Amazon can glitch on the day your ad runs and you don't get the visibility bump your were counting on, I've seen it happen too many times. A whole host of things can go wrong.

#2 The money isn't coming in until it's there. Accounts Receivable is always a conundrum for many businesses and we are no different. And yeah, I'm including Amazon in this. People have had their royalty monies halted while they sorted out wrongful accusation of breaking TOS. Yep. And even LATE payments can be a problem for your cashflow. If you were counting on that payment on the 28th to pay a bill due the 29th, guess what? It might not come in until the 30th, or even sometimes after the first of the month.

Another employee state of mind danger is acting from a reference that something is owed to you in terms of fairness. In the business world, fairness really only happens when competing interests keep entities in check. But to be honest, there are many sharks out there with an ethical compass that needs help. They will push the very limits of legalities and play offense, meaning to make things right you have to play defense and seek legal representation.

Let's take the aRE situation for example . . . the ONLY way those authors are going to get their money is through expensive litigation, maybe they can get a criminal investigation if a crime occurred. In the United States at least, though, the laws are rarely on our side as victims of business scams. Oh, they'll protect a consumer, but B2B (business 2 business) is usually played out in the lawsuit game. It's one reason why all of the major corporations are routinely suing each other, it has nothing to do with emotion and just how business is done. Many are settled out of court, again, because the only way things stay FAIR in business is when there's competing interests. The only way a larger corporation is going to capitulate to a little vendor like me is IF it's less money to make me go away than it is to fight. With in-house legal teams, it's going to cost me to push things to that point.

When you are an employee of a business though, you have labor boards and legislation that protects you. You can appeal to other state actors to take up your case and it's their job to do so. As a small business, you can try to find a lawyer willing to take you on pro bono or for a percentage of the settlement, but it's unlikely unless something is class-action status AND the person/entity who did the wronging has a good chance of paying. In other words, a class-action lawsuit against Amazon is likely to get paid out, Amazon is big enough to do that. Same with Apple. A little LLC who spent the money as it came in and is now saying she's broke? Not likely. That's why communities have said you can't squeeze water from a stone, a little LLC is like a rock, it's done. A big corporation like Amazon is like a sponge, you can squeeze money from that, again, I'm only advocating this in the event of wrongdoing.

Does this mean you shouldn't do business with smaller LLCs? That's for you to decide, but it's a business owner state of mind to take into consideration a risk assessment. If I spend $100 to advertise with a website's mailing list, and they don't run the ad, and they don't answer emails, I can share that experience to warn others, but I'm pretty much out that $100. It would cost more to try to get in back through litigation. I better NOT spend my LAST $100 on an ad like that because there's a big chance it can be completely wasted.

It's very easy to have an employee state of mind when it comes to running a business because many of us either have a 9-5 job or other hours job or came from one. Being a good employee is what was engrained into us from the day we were told to sit down, be quiet, and raise our hand to be called on to talk. :) Here are some ways to break out of that:

  • Have a healthy fear of stuff hitting the fan. Don't spend your business account down to the last penny which can take time to do. Trust me, my first 2 digit royalty checks went to dinner on me! And it's good to have a celebration once in awhile, but you need to quickly move to a place of keeping every penny you can, just in case.
  • Know what you have more of: time or money. If it's time, take the time to LEARN as much as you can to wear as many hats as you can. The easiest way to stay in business when the storm comes of reduced revenue is to cut costs. Formatting, covers, marketing you can do yourself costs time, not money.
  • Look closely at your expenses and try to convert as many monthly subscriptions as you can to a flat fee. I can't remember the name of it, but there was an online solution similar to Scrivener for outlining. I admit it looked slick shared here and I wanted it. But Scrivener was a one-time cost that is over time becoming more and more affordable, as I've now done 10 books with it, that's what, $4 a book? as opposed to something that costs me $9.99 a month, even assuming I can get 1 book out a month that's $10 a book, and a book every 2 months which is more my speed right now, that's $20 a book. Why would I increase my outlining costs by 500% per book? Because I was thinking like an employee and I wanted pretty and new and told myself it would make doing my job easier.
  • Play the game of DISASTER . . . seriously. Pretend the absolute worst thing happens tomorrow. You wake up and every single title has been kicked off your biggest vendor. What's your game plan? You don't have to do this everyday, but doing it periodically gives you a great tool for when less than the worst happens, a plan for if the worst happens, and can help you identify critical weaknesses in your business before they become Achilles' heels.
  • Brush up on business lingo and concepts. Cash flow for example is a serious topic, and while it sounds simple, the rate at which money comes into the business, it can be the difference between keeping the lights on and not. Or taking a penalty on that business credit card you missed the payment on . . .  If you don't have business education, and hey, that's okay, there's lots of free stuff out there. From We the Economy videos to explain complex micro and macro economic ideas to free courseware from major universities. Again, it's a time vs money thing. If you don't have TIME, then buy a business book or something that will give you the nuts and bolts in the shortest time possible. Here's an INCREDIBLE list of free business courseware:    ***** But what if you listen to self-publishing podcasts and blogs? Those are great, too, but I still encourage everyone to branch out to business podcasts and classes in general because industry-specific learning sources can leave out something that might work for you. For example, I started my free chapters on blogs and fanfiction not because of a self-publishing guru but because of experience and studying internet marketing as a whole. Get business inspiration everywhere! ***

It's 2017. Go get at it as the business owner that your ARE and shed the trappings of thinking like an employee. You can do it!!!

Writers' Cafe / Superstructure Worksheet
« on: October 15, 2016, 07:20:24 AM »
I shared this on a few other forums, but thought DUH! friends on Kboards might like it too!

Blame my homeschooling tendencies . . .

But I made a James Scott Bell worksheet for the SuperStructure plotting method. If you haven't read his book by the same name, I highly recommend it, but it DOES go better if you also read his book on Plotting and Fiction Attack or Writing from the Middle.

The worksheet can be used to track up to 3 major story threads and how they move through what Bell believes is the major highs and lows of a classic 3-Act. These story beats can be used in romance, thriller, mystery, etc. and are fairly universal but called by all different names depending on the plot system maker.

No, you are not restricted to just using 13 scenes, lol, or even 39 scenes if you have 3 story threads going at once, definitely feel free to add scenes into the middle etc. But I have found doing my 13 or 14 point checklist on my plots always makes sure I am not missing something critical.

Add in our own Libbie Hawker's Take Your Pants Off and Write to develop some real character motivation, and you will have one powerful punch of a plotline going, my friend. :)

***Don't get too excited it's just a table on a word document with all of the 14 beats in the left column and three columns blank. ****

Good morning!

I have followed the KU Page read/Page Flip/Algorithm? changes thread intently and full disclosure, I am part of a boxed set that is in KU (wanted to see how the program is performing, to say I am underwhelmed is putting it lightly).

My books have been wide since February 2015, after I tried KU 1.0 for six months when it first came out.

If you are planning to go wide here are some things you can expect:

Every little thing adds up.

When you go wide, I highly recommend you start a spreadsheet that you fill in daily or a few times a week with what you're earning on all vendors. I have 13 or 14 books right now and MOST months, my other vendors all added up account for 15-20% of my earnings. In a release month, Amazon actually takes a bigger share of the earnings, but I am working on that by starting preorders on all vendors in 2017. I haven't put out a proper release since April 2016 (I had a minor character novella go out in August with no real launch, just clicked the button), and my August earnings for example were $3500 total, $850 of that not Amazon.

If I look at my other vendor earnings across the last six months, it is a steady $800-$1200 a month. Compared to Amazon, which fluctuates from a high of $12,000 in May to a low of $2200 in September, in my opinion that is another benefit of being wide. Amazon fortunes come and go, but when you put systems in place to cultivate an audience on other vendors, you have a steadiness of earnings to use as a baseline. I personally keep my business operating expenses 50% or less of my other than Amazon vendors just in case I ever lose Amazon.

It takes some time to figure out how the other vendors work

I would highly recommend signing up as a reader on all major vendors you will sell on and downloading some free books so YOU get an idea of how the shopping experience is on each. For example, keyword phrases still really bring up books on BarnesandNoble. If someone starts typing "pride and prejudice va" to put in variations, 3 of my titles are in the autocomplete. The competition is lower on other vendors, as is the overall ebook marketshare audience, but your personal earnings are a micro economic factor, while overall ebook market audience is a macro issue. GooglePlus may have less than 10% of the overall ebook market share, but that's still more than enough readers to make up more than 10% of your earnings if you optimize for that vendor. (Since posting my stories on my google earnings are over $200 a month for the last 3 months, I have found I sell more internationally on Google compared to like Amazon's ratio of US readers to foreign markets. With Google, I have sold books in Malaysia. Seriously. MALAYSIA :) )

You need to be familiar with HOW a reader shops on those vendors, just as well-versed as the knowledge base is for Amazon. For example, KOBO has almost a continuous coupon code going that applies to the whole store. I point that out to my readers ALL THE TIME. Favorite book not on sale? There's a 30% coupon code, you can use it on my books or any other in the store! Etc. Google has this wicked cool feature where I can add a person's email address in my dashboard and POOF, my book is in their Google Play app! Yeah! They can read it online, and if I remove the email address? POOF! It's gone. That's pretty slick, if you ask me. Apple has a program for exclusive preorders. And preorders on other vendors count twice for sales ranking, once when it sells and again as a massive dump when the book goes live. That is the program I am looking to leverage the most in 2017. If I do a 99 cent boxed set, it will be all of MY books :)

You can't be Amazon-centric

Sharing a book link? Share a link to a page with all of your buy buttons. If you're just sharing Amazon links on social media and in your newsletters guess where you're going to sell? Amazon. That's A-OK when you are exclusive to Amazon, but if you're trying to make it on other vendors you're going to need to share links elsewhere just as much. If you have a sizeable catalog (I'd say 5 or more books) contact support. Reach out to authors who are already wide. They can tip you off to who to talk to about getting promotion on various vendors. Kobo for example is famously inclusive for indies and when you publish through writinglife you have access to those promotions right up top. I am accepted to those promotions about 20% of the times I apply, but that's a lot better than the 0% of time Amazon has asked me to join in any promotions. :)

More publisher, a little less author.

So our dream publisher would give us an advance, have a killer marketing plan, and awesome layouts for ebook and paperback, right? Be that publisher for yourself. Invest in ISBNs, these are the primary identification for the other vendors. Get print books out there. Research and find the tools you can afford to use. I use Adobe Creative Suite and Vellum and Scrivener. Vellum and Scrivener was a one time $240, Adobe Creative is $80 a month for me because I keep stock on there too. Yeah, $80 is 10% of my other than Amazon earnings, funny that. :) (not really, by design). And this is not going to be popular but this is personal experience talking: GIVE YOURSELF MERCH SPACE. What do I mean by that? No one cares when a $2.99 book goes to $.99. And most readers do not comparison shop, if you make a book $4.99 on Kobo and $2.99 on Amazon, no one will ever know. Amazon sends out spiders to undercut, but Nook, Kobo, and Apple do not. Google will, if you can get into Google. Now, when you are 99 cents from $4.99 it's a much bigger deal. Or, you know. BE $4.99 on Amazon, too.

No one gets to have it ALL no matter what system they choose.

I am never going to be an All-Star making 5-figures or 6-figures in a month. And there is nothing wrong with people aspiring to BE that, but the very nature of that program requires someone to fall off the mountain for another to take the spot. I HAVE made 5-figures in a month being wide with my JAFF multiple months now, so far in release months, but I have repeated it which is a huge PHEW for me :).I watched my little empire grow to that, slow and steady, release by release.

I don't get to write full-time, I write part-time. Since 2014, my JAFF books have grossed $95k (on Amazon alone, including other vendors it's over $120k now) and I figured out that out of 26 months, I only worked 19. Only 11 were months where I was anything resembling disciplined (writing most days of the week).

From the very beginning even when I was in KU for 6 months, I created my own lead capture systems which were pretty darn simple: blog chapters at the bottom of the chapter had a CTA to join a mailing list or buy a preorder. That was it. I posted chapters as I wrote, took them down when I had to for exclusivity. Now I keep them up as much as I can. To Capture Mr. Darcy is still up on Fanfiction in its rough draft state, book has sold $15k worth of books on Amazon alone at the $9.99 price point. I don't share that to brag, just presenting an alternate reality than what is mostly talked about here and in other communities of the page reads + royalties systems.

I have a lot on my plate still homeschooling my special needs daughter and moving all the time plus an older child who is a junior in high school and starting the launching process. :) I have days of dark woe when I sit and try to compare myself to All Stars and most of them are super kind and wonderful authors. Many are my friends. But I have accepted that their path is not for me, and vice versa. And that is okay.

I have bought Facebook ads and Google Adwords Express to drive traffic to blogged chapters to great success. Readers seem to like getting put right into a "Chapter 1" experience vs landing right on a buy page, and I have buy buttons at the bottom, so if they want it after Chapter 1 they can grab it, if they want it after Chapter 4 they can wait until then. If they walk away, they were probably not my reader to begin with, and that's okay. It's okay as a publisher to work to a reality that is not every reader will want my book.

I have heard many times only JAFF can sell at $9.99. And maybe that is true. Though Joe Nobody's books seem to be doing really well as well, and I know there are others here that are anonymous who price high, but never talk about it. I can tell you that at no point did someone come tell me I COULD price at $9.99. So the idea that someone is or isn't big enough to price at $9.99? Not true. No one gets the nod, they decide to nod themselves. I started with a $8.24 price point in December 2014 on a preorder. A preorder is a safe way to test a higher price point, granted your mileage may vary if you've already TRAINED your readers to expect a certain price window from you, maybe try a boxed set of books? You start getting a few preorders at the higher price point and suddenly your confidence boosts! What if you don't? Well, that's probably an indication you need to troubleshoot your listing or ask your readers why they aren't preordering. I talk with my readers all the time, and realized that if I put a lower price on a book, I can't ever get a "tip" from them if they were willing to support my business with more. But I can ALWAYS reduce the price down over time to a level others can support my story service. :)

And my first $9.99 boxed set didn't sell as many copies as the first novel I priced at that. And that first novel at $9.99 didn't sell as well as the latest novel I have priced at $9.99. And for the record, I do run sales and readers gobble those up, too. So just having a regular price point of $9.99 doesn't mean I can't run a 99 cent week. I have never heard from a reader either that they were mad they bought the book at $4.99 or $9.99 and then found out it was on sale later. I'm sure some may have been upset, but it's really not my job to give them my books at the lowest price possible when everyone already gets them free. :) This is a very different model than what most publisher use, it just happens to be a model that has worked for me.

I just wanted to reach out and offer a friendly face and helpful hand if other authors are wondering what else is possible? I had to really hunt to find models of publishing that I wanted to emulate and I co-opted them to my strengths. That's the real secret I think to anyone's success. If someone figures out regular releasing brings them the most sales, then that's what they leverage. I did that for a time, then couldn't sustain that, and had to regroup. I put together systems like a catalog page that's linked at the back of every book and has links to all of my author pages on various vendors so I never have to update files. I just update a single web page (which I haven't in a while and am in the process of redesigning anyway). But that catalog page I wrote about here over a year ago gets over 600 people a month visiting it and over 1,000 clicks. I don't do a thing to make that happen, it's just what has organically grown from the books out there in circulation. I've done free runs (2 on A Winter Wrong, both times reach top 100 in the Kindle Store), and like most, I just keep at it, a little at a time. I love data because it's the thing that allows me to do the seemingly dangerous/weird things like high price points and not get distracted by anecdotal accounts (which all of the above is MY anecdotal account, so really and truly take time to map out paths that are best for YOU, everything I do may not be the best fit for you).

Sorry for the long post. I should be writing fiction, but I wanted to share in case it helps another out there. None of us are alone. HUGS.

Writers' Cafe / Gentle Reminder The Earning Year Is Coming to a Close :)
« on: September 01, 2016, 05:40:54 AM »
I posted about this last year and I know it helped some, so I will post it again this year.

HAPPY SEPTEMBER 1st! You have 60 days to earn money for THIS year.

Huh?  :)

If you are in the U.S. (I'm sure other countries are similar, but I don't speak for them), your taxable earnings unless you file to change your earning periods is from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016. As many of us receive our royalties a few days before the end of the month or on the last day of the month from Amazon, your October sales are the last payment you will receive THIS year.

Why does this matter?

Well, you might want to look at your earnings so far and check if you are nearing a new tax bracket and if so, consider moving a late October release to November 1. Those monies will come in the end of January, but you won't pay taxes on them for 2016. (You will pay taxes on them in 2017, so don't think you escape taxes, it just might be better tax planning for YOU).

If you are procrastinating on writing and releasing ::holds up a mirror, winks and smiles at herself:: you have 60 days to get the butt in gear! Get that book done and dusted and out there!

If you are counting on money for the holidays or other situation, it can be a nice reminder so you do not think you still have November and December to get books out for this year's bills.

Other vendors are different, for example with Google, November earnings will be paid mid-December. But as far as Amazon earnings go, September and October is all we have left to make 2016 better than 2015!

Good luck everyone and happy ink-slinging!

Supplies Needed:

Facebook Author Page account / Wattpad account

Chapters of a manuscript that ties into a pre-existing story world (we'll get to that)

Good morning! :) I have mulled over this post for a week now and decided it needs to go up. I hope it can help someone coming into writing find some sure-footing, help a struggling writer find a path to sustainable growth, or just add a new trick for the established writers looking for some new challenges or lifeblood/inspiration. At no time do am I saying this is the ONLY way to get readers, okay? :)

Right, so let's start with what is fanfiction? Fanfiction is giving readers another trip into their favorite story worlds that they CANNOT get because the author is dust. Fanfiction also includes amateur (meaning not paid, not describing the writing chops because believe me some fanfiction authors are phenomenal!) stories about recent fiction worlds that fans cannot get because the original creator hasn't written them, won't write them, or has completed the story. I am not going to suggest ANY commercial author touch the second part of fanfiction because even if your Star Wars fanfiction is not for sale, any link to your commercial author name could be seen as trading on the other creator's property. So HG Wells Time Machine modern twist? OK. Modern twist on Outlander with Jamie? Not good.

if you want to be snooty/shut up the naysayers, if you are writing the first definition of fanfiction you can call it a derivative work. It sounds more elegant . .. I write historical fiction that is a derivative of jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. See? But that's for cocktail parties, for my advertising so readers know what I am I say I write jane Austen Fan Fiction. ;)

But I can't write any fanfiction, my genre doesn't HAVE any public domain works . . . Sure it does! Take ANY public domain staple in the canon (anything published before 1923 in the US, if it was written but not published until later, the copyright is different) and make it modern. Write billionaire romances? Well why not do a modern twist on Hamlet and Ophelia?  get dark with it, have her OD and come back etc. etc. YOU CAN CHANGE ANYTHING. I know, crazy, right? Write science fiction? Oh there is a treasure trove there my friend! H. G. Wells alone has a slew of works published before 1923 that could be updated. Horror? So easy. Dracula, Frankenstein. Mens' Adventure? Gulliver's Travels. Folk lore? All of the greek myths, Sleepy Hollow, etc.

You can even take a character YOU have already created and put them in a fan fiction work. Let's say you write modern spy thrillers, what if your main spy was hired by his or her government to take on a 20,000 leagues under the sea type mission going after what's thought to be a genetically mutated "monster" with security implications? Like I said, you can literally change ANYTHING.

Romance is easy too, from Shakespeare stories (puhlease, how many Romeo and Juliets do we have?) to Jane Austen to Bronte to heck, even Les Mis! You can take pieces and part and rewrite and reimagine!

Respect the community

There are a few rules. Just like you bought a Gizmo in a strange shop in NYC. :) #1 is respect the community. This means do not think you're going to put up half a story and not get major, major backlash. If you are worried about theft, then post as much as you can, publish, the post the rest. My most recent book is up not copy-edited right now and the book has been out since April 28. Has not hurt sales at all (I have sold over 1,000 copies, not bragging, just being clear that the way fanfiction works is SOME will buy the book even if they read the whole darn thing, MANY will not but were never going to and they give back in other ways). #2 Writing fanfiction for a community gives you social validation. There is a social contract in fanfiction of author writes, readers write reviews. About 7,000 readers have read all 40 chapters I have posted from all over the world, and I have 500+ reviews. The vast majority of these reviews are gushing "OMG please, please keep writing!" You want to talk about inspiration to get hot writing? Fans. Best thing EVER! only allows links to Facebook, hence why you need an author facebook profile people can follow you on, and that can go on your profile page. I don't know about wattpad.

If you want to be strategic about planning your foray into fanfiction, try to pick a popular public domain property. And you can always share LINKS to your chapters or fanfic profile on social media. Also, writing fanfiction gives you natural keywords when you DO publish to help readers find you that way. And you can always take a popular public domain property and reinvent it in your genre. What does Alice in Wonderland look like as an epic fantasy? What does Huck Finn look like as a grown man private detective? Either historical OR modern?

What about ethics, how is it okay to rip off of public domain content?

It is not ethical to rip off stuff still under copyright. But the classics? You're helping to keep them alive. Sherlock the show, Elementary the show, my 6-year-old knows who Sherlock Holmes is because Daddy watches those shows and she know he's the smart detective who doesn't make friends very good (her words, HA!). You think we'd still be talking about the Wicked Witch of the West without MGM's Wizard of Oz and all of the incarnations since then? Shakespeare? How many other 17th century playwrights can the general public name? Sure, Christopher Marlow got a mention in Shakespeare in Love but I can't walk into the grocery store and ask people to name one of his plays. But I bet they can name a Shakespearean play! See?

Some readers will not like your liberties. That is okay, though. Look at your story stats and take comfort in the people are reading your chapters. Yesterday 134 people read chapters of To Capture Mr. Darcy and I didn't do ANYTHING to promote that. The day before that, 138. And they see my name in my A/N at the bottom and thank you page. They google me to find more stuff they will get all of my published stuff. :)

Hopefully some of you will find a fanfiction base as a way to find a readership for a project of yours. :) Just 10-20 extra sales on a new release can be the difference between hitting your Hot New release list or not.

Writers' Cafe / SHARE: What Happens When You Have to Slow Down
« on: January 27, 2016, 10:31:22 AM »
Hi everyone!

I am here to share my experiences about what could happen if you have to slow down your publishing schedule. I have not published an Elizabeth Ann West book since July 2015. Here's the sob story: family had to move in June, so Jan - June we were rehabing our house to put it on the market (I published books in Feb, March, April (boxed set not new content) and July). May, kiddo one has emergency appendectomy. Our CT house had to rent out, so we did not buy a house in NY, we moved into an apartment that was almost 1/3 of the house we had in CT. That's not always a bad thing, but we were a family that has no experience living small, which I think takes a lifestyle change, suddenly living always hearing each other, the neighbor next door, the neighbor below, and with every single space crammed with stuff. Forget hallways, every room had paths. LOL. Then, the neighbor across from us got roaches, which came over to hang out with us, and so we had to take the whole apartment apart every 2 weeks to be sprayed and still lived with them for 3 months. New school district completely failed my youngest, with 4 accidents in 4 months with the final one being they nearly lost her at recess (As in she walked away and they didn't find her until line up). So now I homeschool her. To put it mildly, from about July until December, my life was a day by day make it work exercise of epically exhausting depths.

But, this can happen to anyone. We get sick. A family member gets sick. Our house catches on fire. We have an accident. Whatever, many of us live in realities that are quick to rob us of time to write, so what can we do?

Here are a few things that allowed me to weather the slowdown financially:

#1 - If you can't produce at the brand level of your main name, consider taking on a smaller or shorter project to keep morale up and a small boost to the earnings. I have a small pen name that I've used to put out some short stories in my same genre, VERY different than my EAW titles (EAW is my real name). Was it super earnings? No. I tossed them in KU and took the few hundred dollars I could make because I KNOW my genre inside and out. Granted, not everyone writes in a genre that has a built in fanbase, certainly niche genres work best. But I think the scale is still similar. If your books regularly make a $100 a month in your genre, then a few shorts get you an extra $10-$20 because you're still working on a novel on the main name, that can pay for a small bill the business has.

#2 - Reach out to other authors. Last year in March, I asked another author to give me her first chapter of an older book so I could stick it at the back of my own. I reached out to her. When she released a new book in September, guess what she did? She put a first chapter of MY older book, The Trouble With Horses, at the back of HER new release. And Horses was like a new release again, a whole NEW set of readers discovered it and gobbled it up. A Book that made $300 on month made $900 the month it was in the back of a New Release! That was a huge weight off my financial shoulders when that happened. Now, in the best case scenario, you've fostered these relationships before you hit harder times, by being helpful to other authors without immediately demanding in-kind something. It's like a social savings account. It can feel like you're always helping others, but trust me, do that, and when you need help, SOME of those you helped will come to your aid.

#3 - Set up some automation to keep your books selling. As crazy as life got for me, I did find some time to promote here and there. Because my backlist is decent sized, just an hour of making some memes, Facebook posts and tweets, ALWAYS boosted my day's earnings. Not always much, but here and there a few times in a month you can't seem to get ahold of a consistent anything makes a difference.

#4 - Keep your readers informed. I wasn't the greatest with this, but I did put some chapters out, and kept them up to date as much as I could. People still want my head for the delay on A Blessing of Marriage (now 7 months overdue), but I am human. Keep showing you are moving forward and the core fans will stay with you.

#5 - Start cutting expenses. I am down to $330 in my monthly expenses. I swapped a $140 a month stock photo account to a $10 add on for my Adobe service. One gave me 50 photos a month, Adobe gives me 10, but I never use all 10. And they do stay there for me to use later. I think I'm up to 23 credits. When I realized I was derailed longer than I thought I was going to be, I started really looking at everything I was paying for. As you grow, you start buying services to save you time. And when you're actively producing, that makes sense. But when you have to retrench for a bit, suddenly those monthly services to schedule social media, or have a mailing list you aren't sending anything to (you can download your list and have it for when you are ready to get back online if you need to), add up. If you are not already, sit down with everything listed out and don't let anything be sacred.

#6 - Build the perpetual machine. When you're actively publishing, and feel you are doing well, that's the moment you want to start planning for that rainy day. :) Savings also helps, and I had some business savings to help weather this storm. But if you don't HAVE savings, you need sales even when you can't write and publish. Making sure your books lead readers to a logical place to keep shopping your books is vital. I have a catalog page, but even a wordpress page with buttons to the rest of your books on the venues you sell on ( I link to my author pages), keeps readers in your "store" so to speak. This way, when you get ONE new reader with a book, maybe an ad, maybe the vendor recommending your book, they have an easy opportunity to go one and bur or borrow the rest of your books.

#7 - Don't be too hard on yourself. The longer and longer the dry spell goes, it's easier and easier to fall into that mental quicksand of CAN'T. I have stopped saying CAN'T and made it WON'T. Suddenly I sound ludicrous to myself. "I WON'T write right now because I need to do laundry." "I WON'T write right now because I am stressed out." So what? Everyone is stressed. A big part of my slow down wasn't just chaos around me, but me allowing that chaos to give me a loooong list of excuses. Now, I pat myself on the back when I get anything done. Instead of "GRRR, I didn't write those 5,000 words I wanted to today," I remind myself, "Hey, you emailed your mailing list and you hate doing that, good job."

And it's hasn't been all bad. One part of my chaos that I can't really share publicly involves adjustments in my marriage. In December, as we prepared to move (I forgot to mention that, Dec 23 I said I want out of my lease, we found a house to rent and moved second week of January), hubby and I were going over the finances. And I sighed and said "Yeah, I need to get back to writing books, I haven't put out a book since July." Hubby's head snaps like in the exorcist, "Wait, what do you MEAN you haven't published a book since July? Where has all of the money you've been putting into the checking account been coming from?" I laughed and said "Well the books do still sell a little everyday," and if we had been cartoons, the lightbulb would have gone over his head. He finally GETS what I've been saying for nearly 2 years that if I can work hard NOW, in 6 years when he is out of the military, it won't be just his pension we have. The slowdown has brought a tangible understanding about my writing to my partner, who mostly tunes out when I try to explain the ins and outs because he's got his own career that's a handful and he's not a part of my day-to-day operations.

I guess that's #8. Don't let go of any silver linings you can find while your back is against the wall. Optimism will carry you through. :)

Writers' Cafe / New Ways of Thinking
« on: November 07, 2015, 02:03:24 PM »
I am working my way through the course work on I am not saying everyone should go join, quite frankly, most of the material is probably beyond what the average author wants to do with their books, and I am not saying that meanly. It's just a site that specializes in plans for true digital marketing, the kind of stuff that you and I see when we click ads for wordpress themes or social media services. They do have some great stand alone "executive plans" they call them for email marketing and other stuff.

What I will say is the coursework is really inspiring me to think differently about my publishing company. Because we are all publishing companies, party of one. :) (though some here publish other authors, too). And I am also in the position to have 18 months of data, from sales to site visits. :) One challenge I had was really grasping how small I am . . .

"How small are you?" everyone says in unison.

Since January 1, 2015, over 7,000 unique visitors have come to my site. Now, I know Google Analytics is flawed and that also includes robots and multiple visits by the same person if the cookie expired, and doesn't capture those browsing incognito (though I don't write erotica, so probably not many of my visitors are browing incognito). But it gives me a figure to work with.

Since Jan 1, I have sold over 25,000 copies of my books between ebook and paperback. That's across 7 novellas, 1 boxed set, 2 novels. 10 books. Let's take out the boxed set, 9 books.

IF I had converted all 7,000 people to buy all 9 of my books, that's 63,000 sales.
IF I had converted half, 3,500 people to buy all 9 of my books that's 31,500 sales.

These are not realistic targets, but it's about expanding my own mindset about what IS possible to get a better idea of what is PLAUSIBLE. It's so easy to fall into the mindset of "This book is old, everyone who could want it already has it." Hey, I now have a little pie-in-the-sky security blanket to hold onto that says "No, Elizabeth, everyone who is interested in you DOES NOT have all of your books!" :) :) :) And sometimes, those pieces of "big thinking" is all you need to really go after the next level.

And if you really want to have a mind blown, that's just traffic to my site. I can't even calculate how many people went to my Amazon pages and didn't convert. But it's a BIG number. :) Across all vendors, 75,000 free copies of A Winter Wrong went to readers, if half of THEM just bought 3 of my books that's over 100,000 book sales.

On digitalmarketer Ryan Deis says most businesses he works with don't have a traffic problem, they have an offer problem. I am starting to grasp what that means and work on planning my website and catalog page for 2016 in still an elegant way but one that works harder to CONVERT visitors to a sale somewhere rather than just a "this looks pretty and is functional." 2016 will be a year of optimizing. :)

Anyway just wanted to share, and this is NOT a humbrag. I am very proud of my results, I know others here can blow me out of the water. And that's ok. The important part is ANYONE can look at their site stats or Google Analytics or free downloads or sales figures and go "Wow, I have a LOT of opportunity here that I'm not capitalizing on." I know I get easily overwhelmed with thinking I have to do it ALL. I'm starting to realize to survive to 2020, I need to maybe not try to make everything happen and work on making the best out of what IS happening right now. :)

Hey -ho, howdy do!

I am in the middle of turning OFF my Permafree and that involved changing my price everywhere. And everywhere, except Amazon, including "nearly dead" Nook published through Draft 2 Digital, has complied. But not Amazon.

So I emailed them, with the links, showing that the free price is no longer at any other place would you please stop price matching a book that is no longer free anywhere.

I received an email back within 8 hours that price matching is at their discretion and they would need to do some more research before they could price match A Winter Wrong . . .

No, No I say, politely, I am NOT asking you to price match, I am asking you to CANCEL the price match. So I wrote them back again. Also today I tried unpublishing the book and republishing but that didn't work either.

Hopefully I can get this sorted before one of the vendors I changed price matches Amazon's non-price match.

So I hear you all asking "Why is Elizabeth canceling her permafree?" Wellll it's like this. After six months of experimenting including a wonderful Bookbub, the return is just not there. I have a 3% conversion rate on my permafree to Book 2 or the Boxed Set. I cannot speak to the effectiveness of other people's permafrees in other genres but in my genre it appears to have less of an effectiveness than I thought. Prior to going free, my series had a 63% conversion from Book 1 to Book 2 and an 83% conversion rate from book 2 to Book 3. I think a permafree just puts my book in front of too many readers are genuinely not that interested in my book. And i want to go back to more targeted and focused marketing.

Now, it's not a loss, I have had over 75,000 downloads of A Winter Wrong by readers across all of the channels in six months. So yay for that. But with a 3% conversion rate, I can get that with a well designed Facebook ad on a $9.99 boxed set . . . and one actually makes me good money doing so AND cultivates an audience of paying customers.

Also, the effects of those 75,000 downloads aren't going anywhere. As I release more books, those readers will be considered my customers on those vendors and perhaps will be alerted about my new releases. There is still a chance for more of them to become fans and who knows, with my book being back to paid status, the "free" book will be a value to them.

Either way, I am satisfied with my decision and I think it will make my life easier moving forward advertising-wise. Since March I have felt like I was trying to straddle the price points of 2 different worlds and just sticking to one will be a lot easier planning. I know I can sell some books. :) I just prefer to not have to sell so many to pay all my bills each month. :)

If permafree is working for you, I cheer you on. It wasn't for me, so time for a change up. :)

Writers' Cafe / Going After Print Sales . . . Anyone Have Tips?
« on: October 16, 2015, 07:11:12 AM »
Good morning, or evening as it were if you are in another time zone. :)

I was scarce for a while because of RL and preps for my first author signing. With REAL readers. In person! :) It was a blast and I made sure my table was a party (and gave away chocolate) and I ended up signing 5 books, selling nearly $100 in print books my profit (which isn't bad for the size of conference I was at), and learned a ton. I was blown away when one woman came up to me with Book 2 of my novel series. I politely smiled and said "This is Book 2, did you know that?" To my GREAT surprise she laughed and said "Oh, I know Ms. West. I have Book 1 at home and I LOVE your stories. I bought it from my local bookstore because I only support indie bookstores and it was in his catalog and I saw Jane Austen so I bought it. I didn't know you'd be here or I would have brought it."

Yeah. A reader, a real reader bought MY paperback in her local bookstore. I handed her my business card and said if she will email me the name of that bookstore I will send them a box of signed books and swag as a thank you.

After the news (which I already knew, but didn't really carefully consider) that 70% of the reading market is still reading paper, I am energized to pursue paperback sales. I KNOW it will take work. I'm not afraid fo that. But to me it seems like first I need to get my ducks in a row, so here is my plan:

Step One: I just bought 100 ISBNs from Bowker so I can 100% control my titles and have my sales tracked properly on all editions. Yes, before this I was part of the shadow indies selling books with no ISBN other than the Createspace freebie. Going forward and redoing my backlist, I will have an ISBN for ebook, paperback, large print paperback and hardback. I will be using Createspace for Amazon and Ingramspark for other expanded distro without returns. (Thank you everyone who PM'd me before).

Step Two: I am signing up with Netgalley to properly promote review copies with booksellers, bloggers, and libraries. Yes, I know it's not a magic thing, it's a tool I have a good idea how to wield, and I will be sending my early readers through there or Gumroad.

Step Three: I will start with upstate NY and put together a promotional package to send to my local stores. Still thinking on what to do for that, but I have ideas that include a papercopy, swag for readers to hand out and a poster and offer to come for an author signing. I know most of these will be chucked, but you never know. And now I have an author signing I can reference in my letter with photos to show I am bright, energetic and will do my best to be an attraction for the store. :)

Step Four: I am starting a Swag Club with my readers where like Loot Crate, they can sign up for quarterly mailings from me with print materials to take to their local library, coffee shop, or book store. If they take photos and tag I will share them, and I will come up with rewards to thank them for being a real street team. Seriously, if you share my book's post card at your PTA meeting, or scrapbooking get together, I will love you forever and a day and gift card and signed book to you! :)

So that's as about as far as I have got. I also plan to pursue some of the electronic catalog listings and have begun investigating joining ABA as an associate member. I'm a little daunted, and my kiddos will be helping me stuff envelopes I can see, but I think it's time I think bigger than just digital. You never know what kind of opportunities will come if you just put yourself out there. And it's fun! :)

Anyone with experience querying or reaching out to bookstores I would LOVE to hear tips and tricks. Thanks!

Writers' Cafe / New Kobo Promotions Beta
« on: October 15, 2015, 05:23:51 AM »
Check your email if you are direct with Kobo to see if you've been selected for beta testing the promotions interface that is now part of their dashboard. I am in LOVE. They are making it super easy to submit titles to things like editor's picks, free features, and daily deals. I have LOVED the other promotions Kobo has done for my books, making a high of one month over $400 in sales. I know, it does not compare to some authors' earnings on Amazon in KU, but for me, it 100% fits my goal of building two Amazons, one actual Amazon, the other everything and everywhere else added together. :) I am probably about 18 months out from realizing that goal, but that's okay, we all have to strive to get somewhere. :)

Anyway, I have to go write. Now I have an incentive to get that 3rd book in my Marriage series out by October 29 when hopefully book 1 will be promoted for 99 cents for the first time ever.

Writers' Cafe / BEA/ Bookcon 2016 in Chicago
« on: September 21, 2015, 02:13:03 PM »
Anyone planning on going? Anyone go last year? I am pouring over the information now and in communication with the conference company about definitely participating in Bookcon and just attending at BEA (not sure I want to do the Author Marketplace).

Must say I am VERY impressed with the conference runners so far in terms of time to answer questions and personal service. :)

Morning all!

Just a gentle reminder, there are only 46 earning days left in 2015 for Amazon. I know, crazy! October 31 is the end of our earning because they are paid end of December.

I have a number of releases I've been working on hodge-podge all summer long I am working on buckling down and finishing. I should have 2 novels at least to put out. How about you? Any holiday inspired fiction in the works? Freaking out because you didn't realize it was this close? Me, too! Me, too.

Go get those goals and tackle them!!!

Writers' Cafe / Has Anyone Ran a Google Play Promotion with the CSV Files?
« on: September 11, 2015, 03:38:21 PM »
I know you can set promotional prices to run with a csv file on Google Play. Has anyone ever used this feature? Are there benefits to doing it that way?

Hi everyone!

This is probably going to sound hokie, but I am just coming off a long "break" of writing since my release July 4 and gearing up for another school year of production. :) Woohoo, kids go back on Tuesday!

The problem is lately I've become so overwhelmed by the MANY ideas and projects I want to do. I know. How many you ask? Well my master list of titles is over 40+ including the 17 titles for my current 2 series left to do and 13 of another series idea I have . . . you get the picture. And I won't lie, this has sapped so much FUN out of the process that I've been brainstorming on how to get it back . . .

So I am changing my job. :) I will be making more of an effort to translate the movies that play in my head to my books. I don't have a screenwriting degree, but I did do years of theater in high school and in college and will be reading some screenwriting books this month to add to my bag of tricks. But I want to costume design and set design and even cast my characters.

Some writers already do this, I never did. I never liked character sheets or the nitty gritty details that were too much, too much for me. My brain and outlines kept all of the details straight for a long time with no issues, thanks to my memory. And even now I don't want to waste time falling down the rabbit hole of research on a specific type of brocade or silk fabric. I just want to really start doing more planning and ideas and inspiration before I dictate scenes and while I outline. I want my outlines to be more like screenplays "Ext shot, sun just sparking over the horizon, grand estate in the background, Darcy riding his horse" so I can start integrating more of those rich details into my writing and have more fun with this.

I feel I have OD'd lately on the business side of things and counting all the data and I need to revive and release my wild creative side. :) Anyone else do this / have other ideas to jog that creative side of your brain after a break?

Writers' Cafe / Must Read if you publish through WritingLife for Kobo
« on: August 28, 2015, 11:23:08 AM »
There is a huge sale this weekend on ALL Writinglife titles, paid for by the Kobo company. This weekend you can tell readers to use coupon code SALE50 to take 50% off unlimited writinglife titles this weekend. Promotion is valid for US, Canada, UK, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand.

Check the email you publish with for more details.

Writers' Cafe / Derivative Works Workshop
« on: August 16, 2015, 10:02:30 AM »
If you wrote a Wizard of Oz sequel, can your Dorothy wear ruby slippers?

Come find out today at 4 PM EST as part of the eFestival of Words run by Kboards own Bard and Sages Julie. I'll be there talking all about writing derivative works not so much just the legalities, but also fan expectations, being good stewards of original content, and more!

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