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Writers' Cafe / Re: Is it possible to make a living writing fiction?
« on: January 28, 2018, 10:11:35 AM »
I agree (about the trad authors having difficulty making a living...). This was the first year my indie earnings were 58% higher than my trad stuff...Yet, I still believe the safe road is to be a hybrid author...That could change however...

Being hybrid should spread out the risk, particularly if your rights have reverted for older books, but for younger authors, I doubt that option is as viable.

Edited to add--rights for older books

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is it possible to make a living writing fiction?
« on: January 28, 2018, 09:27:50 AM »
I'm not sure what you're really asking, if anything. Is it possible? Of course, you've proved it yourself, and so have lots of other authors on Kboards. But it's risky. You are subject to the whims of fickle consumer tastes and mindless corporate decision-making. I much prefer my steady paycheck from a more traditional job, but it's a matter of taste. Some people love the challenge of being self-employed and use the uncertainty to motivate themselves to better efforts.

I think the real problem with being a fiction author today is everyone wants to be one, too. There's no significant barrier to entry. Anyone can tell a story, and some folks get along well without understanding the nuances of the craft. I'm surprised and impressed at how many good stories are out there. All those good and inexpensive stories tend to suppress the prices of ebooks, and that makes it harder for someone trying to live off of writing fiction.

That said, there are lots of self-published authors with five figure earnings. I wonder, though, how many traditionally published fiction authors still exist these days. After publishers, bookstores, and agents take their cut, there isn't much left to pay the mortgage.

BUT, if you're like me and you won't be out on the street if you don't "make it" in self-publishing and you don't feel Father Time's burning a hole in your pocket, consider taking the pressure off entirely and just write the best stories you can and put 'em out there in whatever way you find non-taxing and enjoyable and hope they catch on while reconciling they probably won't.

Kboards attracts all kinds of writers, from folks who've taken five years to get a book out to folks who write one in two weeks. I agree with your approach, but in large part because I don't need to publish to pay the mortgage or put food on the table. It sounds like you have an income separate from writing, too. That really frees someone up to write without much pressure, which is great. This is a tough gig if you need a steady paycheck.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Walmart teams up with KOBO
« on: January 26, 2018, 07:24:18 PM »

But then again, I may be severely underestimating the market's appetite for books with covers of people with glowing hands.

God bless the multitudes who buy books with covers of people with glowing hands.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Are Amazon's competitors finally waking up?
« on: January 26, 2018, 05:35:25 PM »
I don't use iTunes for books, so I never noticed that. It seems counterintuitive at best. Why let Windows users buy everything except books? However, if they're trying to capture a bigger chunk of the market, they might eventually rethink that. The stats I've seen suggest that at least 80% of US computer users are Windows users. Some of those will have another Apple device, but a significant group won't. In a real fight with Amazon, why surrender a big chunk of the market.

The answer is that Apple is first and foremost a hardware company. Actually, it's primarily a phone manufacturing company and has been for years. The main reason it got in the ebook business in the first place was to give Ipad owners something else to do with their Ipad. The music download business really took off for a while. I have seven thousand songs on my Ipod, but they never pushed the ebook business as hard for some reason. Maybe because they didn't have a ereader device, just apps on other devices

Times change, and Apple now seems more interested in selling things other than hardware. I hope they will take the opportunity to sell ebooks seriously. If they create an Android app to read their ebooks, or if they allow authors to upload ebooks from a Windows computer to their store, you'll know they're serious about the ebook market.

It is a good price, but remember you need a good microphone, too. I tried using a cheap one, and it was terrible. By the way, I wouldn't bother with the pro version. I bought it hoping it would be better at recognizing my dictation, but I've noticed no difference over the home version. As for Google, I use it all the time on my phone to dictate texts and emails, but dragon seems much better at handling complicated words and punctuation.

There's a very long thread started by Elizabeth Ann West that will tell you all about Dragon. Here's my experience with using it for over a year, both Home 13 and the newest professional version. Basically, when it works, it's like magic. The words flow like water onto the page.

Unfortunately, it's the quirkiest and buggiest software I use. In fact, I stopped using it on a five year old laptop because it kept crashing. When I bought a new HP envy laptop a few months ago, I tried it again, and it works much better. But it still locks up occasionally. I've repeatedly tried to train it to my voice and fed it samples of my writing to customize it to me, but that only seems to help moderately. You can train new words, likes unusual names, but every so often it will forget even simple words with no close synonyms.

The other thing that drives me nuts is it will occasionally mishear your words as commands and do weird things to your precious manuscript, like delete entire paragraphs or formatting them as hidden text or inserting some bizarre tables.

So, for me, it's a love-hate relationship. I still use it often for dictating the first draft, but some words I have to type, and I regularly catch it doing stupid things. It seems to work best on shorter manuscripts, and it sometimes helps to get out of the program and restart it. I hope that helps.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is Barnes and Noble finally getting its act together?
« on: January 26, 2018, 06:54:26 AM »
the longer I think about this change, the more I think we're all missing the most important detail: they removed the word "NOOK' from the site.

Ha! Just like Apple removed the letter "I" from "Ibook" and Bloomberg saw that as the telling signal Apple was reengaging in the self-pub wars.

The truth is that both of these companies could become much stronger competitors against Amazon if they want to. Each has had reasons they haven't gone all-out against Bezos in the past, but that could change at any time if they want to fight for market share in ebooks. My own thinking is that Kobo-Walmart is a much more serious opportunity for self-pub authors, but time will tell. I'm optimistic that we will have lots of options going forward.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Latest Author Earnings Report has been posted
« on: January 25, 2018, 07:50:56 PM »
As a newbie entering the indie world, I have definitely been watching how successful indies do things as I prepare to launch my first series this Spring. I am not trying to steal market share any more than any other new author in the industry is by releasing a book into the market. Just like we refer to successful writers to learn writing, it seems sensible to do the same with other aspects of publishing.

In my mind the pie is big enough for us to share. I think anyone who is finding indie success is a celebration, not competition for a limited market.

Also, as Data Guy already notes in the article, the top sellers change. Many of the old big-hitters on not in the Top 50. That does not seem abnormal to me. I am guessing that the top sellers will probably continue to change, not because others are stealing the market, but because the market is always fluctuating.

And even if someone tried to emulate an author and steal their market, somehow. I doubt it would work anymore than someone who tried to do the same thing in the trad world by writing to a fad. Many found success by releasing dystopias in the Hunger Games frenzy, but I highly doubt any of those people stole HG readers. People read HG and then perhaps tried some related books...

As a new author, you have a lot of things to worry about, but worrying about "stealing market" isn't one of them. A few folks here have gotten carried away with the idea that authors somehow own their readers, like they're paid employees instead of customers free to read any book they please.

We all stand on the shoulders of the giants in the past, and we all learned from reading their books. As you begin to develop your own style and technique, the newest authors may begin to learn something from you. Write the best stories you can. That's how you earn readers not steal them. Best of luck to you.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Walmart teams up with KOBO
« on: January 25, 2018, 07:35:51 PM »
Wow. This is the first time I've seen a legitimate competitor for Amazon in publishing. To date, neither Apple nor Google have demonstrated a strong commitment to selling ebooks. Hopefully that's changing with the news today from Bloomberg that Apple is recommitting itself to selling digital books, but it's really too soon to tell if that's legitimate. B&N has squandered its formerly serious effort at digital sales. That leaves Kobo, which has suffered from serious lack of visibility and market share in the US.

Until now. Walmart customers are an entirely new market opportunity for self-published authors. I doubt that Jeff Bezos spent much time in the last year thinking about Kobo, but he probably thought a lot about Walmart. This should be real interesting. Amazon has a huge head start in the ebook business, but Walmart/Kobo could jump to the number two position within a year.

Apple has announced updates to its iBooks app and store:

Let's hope they mean it this time. This with Google getting into audio books might mean better options ahead for writers.

This is good news. In the past, Apple has focused more on hardware, but apparently the CEO has said Apple needs to develop $50 billion in service revenue, and maybe their bookstore can contribute to that goal. Apple does have its own loyal fans, completely independent from Amazon, and those fans may be a good source of new ebook readers.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Latest Author Earnings Report has been posted
« on: January 25, 2018, 08:11:24 AM »
Passive Guy, who is an intellectual property lawyer and writes a self-pub blog on the side, has just posted a detailed, and I think solid, analysis of who owns the information Data Guy collected and who can disseminate it.

The TL:DR version is that anything Amazon makes public on your author page or any of your product pages is public information. Anybody can collect it and use it for their own purposes. That doesn't mean someone can lie about an author or violate copyright laws, but don't expect to sell lots of books on Amazon and somehow keep that fact quiet.

It might be shocking to see what other information can be gleaned from what you or Amazon make public, including hourly changes in sales rankings, but that's the world we live in. The link to Passive Guy's post is:

Writers' Cafe / Re: Hi, I'm Lisa from ProWritingAid
« on: January 25, 2018, 07:53:05 AM »
If it's been a while since you used ProWritingAid, you should try the desktop version. It's come a long way over the last year or so and has the most features! It allows you to open, edit and save Word documents and you might find it less cumbersome than the Word add-in.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Lisa, is it possible to get a free trial copy of the desktop version, or is the free trial limited to the website?

I was just speculating, as really, we are all guessing.

But I do agree, the objective is to have lots of fun and open the books and Kindle Scout out to new markets. I'm having a ball of fun, connecting with people from Egypt for my entry. That was pretty cool, I have to say. Will carry that badge of honor for a while

Congratulations, ReaderPaul, you just won your Scout campaign, whether the editors eventually pick your book or not.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is Barnes and Noble finally getting its act together?
« on: January 24, 2018, 07:45:27 PM »
I actually wasn't suggesting BN operate just as a showroom. People who like to browse in physical bookstores do actually sometimes buy from them. Amazon was surprised because it expected its customers to look at things and then shop online. A much higher percentage than predicted actually bought in the store.

What I was suggested was more along the lines of what Saphire and abgwriter have also argued: someone who wants to buy a digital product and can't do it as easily from Barnes and Noble will go to someone else's digital store. They won't come into a brick-and-mortar BN and do it if they weren't already going to shop there. In other words, BN is just throwing away business, not transferring it from its own online store to its physical stores. To the extent that their in-store grew, it wasn't because they stifled their digital store.

From the outside, it's hard to tell what B&N's management is trying to do lately to turn around their slow decline. My thinking is that B&N has been purposefully restricting the online store or letting it suffer from benign neglect because they are concerned that digital sales are cannibalizing print sales. When a reader sees that a certain book on the shelves at the brick and mortar store can be easily purchased online at B& for less, that tends to encourage the reader to buy digital instead of print. If your business is mostly print sales, though, as it is for B&N, management would naturally be worried about anything that would tend to reduce print sales.

Ideally, B&N would see the writing on the wall and accept that it's main business model is out of date. But when you have already invested billions of dollars in a vast infrastructure to support print sales, it is incredibly difficult to change the overall direction of the company. Almost everyone within the company has a vested interest in hanging on to the existing business model to the bitter end, praying all the while that a miracle will save them.

Now, in a big corporation like B&N, there can be sub-cultures much more willing to change, perhaps like the people who run B& They have a vested interest in making that part of the business successful, and maybe from time to time, they get approval to try something innovative to boost online sales. But the larger they grow those digital sales, the more of threat they pose to the rest of the company. And so far, whenever the corporate management has had to choose between hanging on to the traditional approach or aggressively going digital, the company has stuck with the business model that no long works like it once did.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Latest Author Earnings Report has been posted
« on: January 24, 2018, 09:15:53 AM »
I guess I don't watch the charts enough. There were names on that list that I wouldn't have expected and others that I see at the top of the charts often that didn't make the list.

This savvy AMS person told me recently to use the top author names as AMS keywords, so I did. I found those names by looking at the Amazon bestseller lists in my genres. That person was you.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Latest Author Earnings Report has been posted
« on: January 24, 2018, 08:24:54 AM »
Is no one else frustrated that heís selling this data, but only to companies/publishers that make $10 mil or more? It feels like the Indie community has been used a bit in that respect. We were transparent and honest with our own numbers and data and now heís handing it over to the trad world. It sticks in my craw a bit.

I have no problem with him monetizing this. I know it takes a ton of work. But... ugh.

I also donít like that he made a list of authors without respecting THEIR need for privacy when he/she is anonymous. I would have preferred just the numbers and no names, but it ainít my call.

That being said, the report is fascinating.

Maybe I'm too easy to please, but I'm just grateful Data Guy is willing to give away so much information for free. He is the only person I know who is compiling detailed information about the state of self-publishing and making it available. So, thanks!

As for listing the top authors, that's the one part of his report I can pretty-much figure out on my own without a lot of effort. All I have to do is to watch the top 100 paid ranks on Amazon over time. Some folks come and go quickly, but many of the same names, including a lot of Kboards authors, keep showing up. Or I can look at other retail outlets, like local bookstores, to see who is really killing it these days. That's one thing about writing as a business. You have to show your work to the public, and every other author can see it, too. And maybe learn something in the process.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is Barnes and Noble finally getting its act together?
« on: January 24, 2018, 07:59:28 AM »
I wasn't aware they were trying to shrink their online business. If so, I think they're missing the point: avid readers often prefer to browse in a brick-and-mortar store, at least some of the time. Those people will keep shopping in the physical store if one is available. It's true that a lot of people are drawn to the convenience of online shopping, but shrinking their own online business just sends potential customers to someone else's online business, not to their physical stores.

Perhaps the upgrade to their indie publishing operation means they are reconsidering their original position.

I agree that B&N could benefit from people shopping in their stores and buying from them online, but the problem is those big showrooms are really expensive to maintain. Amazon is creating showrooms of its own, but they're tiny by comparison to most B&N stores. That difference in cost is what's dragging B&N down, although it's happening slowly.

In 2010, B&'s sales were $573 million and overall sales were $4.3 billion. In the most recent report, B&'s 2016 sales had declined dramatically to $192 million, but it's overall sales grew to $5 billion over six years. From the company's perspective, it might think it managed the digital revolution pretty well. Although it lost more than half of its digital business, it has managed to grow as a whole.

I expect that if you looked at the financials for the Big 5 publishers, you'd see something similar. By suppressing ebook sales, they've managed to eek out a bit of growth or at least keep their sales stable. That's why we keep hearing all these comments from traditional publishing, like "whew, we dodged that bullet."

As the new Author Earnings report shows, though, traditional publishing has  survived so far by giving up on genre fiction sales, which have moved strongly into ebooks and self-publishing. If you write genre fiction, like I do, you're publishing options have been dramatically reduced.

The real question is where does B& go from here? This most recent signal might be the first sign that the company has decided to embrace the future rather than hanging onto the past. I really hope that's true. Amazon needs more competition.

But look at the disparity in B&N sales figures. Would you risk hurting an already weak five billion dollar company to increase sales in its digital outlet that makes up less than five percent of the overall business? That digital part may be the future of book selling, but I suspect B&N is too heavily invested in the old ways to change.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is Barnes and Noble finally getting its act together?
« on: January 23, 2018, 03:28:34 PM »
Anything that looks like a legitimate investment in online infrastructure from B&N would be a positive step.

I agree that more investment in the B&N online store would be great for self-publishing authors. Stronger competitors to Amazon would benefit us authors, but the problem is B&N's online business will inevitably compete against B&N's brick and mortar stores, thereby speeding the decline of the larger part of the business. That's why the longtime management of B&N has worked so hard to shrink the online store, which was once a genuine threat to the Kindle Store.

Like Jim Johnson, I think a sale of B&N to new management would be best, but that new management will be stuck with the same internal conflict the existing management has mismanaged since the Kindle came on the scene. The better option would be for B&N to sell the online business to a business that could enthusiastically grow online sales, but then the rest of B&N would be creating another competitor like Amazon.

The end result is I think B&N has no good options for the online store. Hopefully, they'll prove me wrong and build it back into what it once was.

Congrats on the excellent feedback! Youíd think they could have accepted it and just changed the categories. But I guess they may not have been looking for an adult sci-fi this month or something.

I think a lot of the feedback Scout authors are getting is intended to be helpful but not necessarily to explain why a book was rejected. The editors aren't stupid, and they have to know when a simple fix is available that they could accept the book subject to it being fixed. In my case, the critique pointed out a dozen things that could be improved, and it took me less than two hours to address those issues.

Instead of seeing the critique as an explanation, maybe it's better to see it as a gift to help the author self-publish more successfully.

Writers' Cafe / Re: In Need of Encouragement
« on: January 19, 2018, 03:23:25 PM »
Dear All,

I'm hoping for some encouragement - or just the hard, cold facts. I published some non-fiction books, and without a launch strategy, they kind of withered at the vine. That's fine, re-launching is always possible. Chris Fox has written a book about that. I am getting ready to get serious about writing for a living, hoping to be able at some point to ditch my day job and devote myself full-time. But I'm halfway through Brian Meeks excellent book on AMS ads, and I feel seriously discouraged. It seems you need to be a data scientist to succeed on the Zon. A few years ago I took Mark Dawson's course as well, but since my book was a stand-alone non-fiction, I did not panic when I did not get any positive results from my FB ad experiments. For fiction, I understand the need to write in a series, or at least with the same characters as say, Janet Evanovich does. But with discoverability being the major obstacle (assuming good writing, copy, cover, etc), it appears to me that there is no hope for success as a writer until one is able to master running multiple ads, mastering Excel, constantly measuring data, etc... Seeing that people run 50+ AMS ads at a time, or that FB can wipe out hundreds of dollars, I'm feeling quite down. My plan was to write a series in the middle-grade genre (and I'm still trying to understand if it's a hungry market, as Chris Fox teaches). The upside of that market - writing books in the same category as Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja, who have done so well, is that I can publish multiple books in one year (average word count is only 14k). But even if I write quality stories, am I doomed unless I master FB and AMS? I just don't know if I am capable of becoming good at online marketing. Top authors spend hours and hours on it. I find the prospect of having to master display ads - which seems very complicated - quite depressing. Thank you for any advice.

Andres, you're getting a lot of good advice about how to sell better. I have a slightly different perspective on the dilemma you're facing in trying to find paying readers.

Writing can be a lot of fun, but beware of relying on it to provide a steady income. As you've seen, the competition is intense, and many authors do this as a hobby, like me. We aren't as sensitive to the cost-benefit part of the writing business. That means some of your competition is willing to accept starvation wages for their work, and they make it harder for full-time writers to price their books high enough to make a decent living.

In my experience, writing can be immensely satisfying, and it might even pay for a week in Paris every now and then or a new boat, but most of the time, it's no substitute for a steady paycheck month after month. Best of luck to you in the future.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Been out of the game a while - Free Ads still work?
« on: January 15, 2018, 07:04:48 PM »
The strategy worked well for me last year with an urban fantasy series, so I'm doing a five day promotion right now with the first book of a new urban fantasy series. The book is currently ranked #47 in the free Kindle Store. Who knows how long it will stay high in the rankings after the free period and stacked promotions end, but it seems to be working so far.


Before I go, one of the books I've nominated, when I got the thank you letter, it stated that the author
would make sure that everyone that had nominated would get the book even if it wasn't selected. (Just send an email...)

What do you think about that?

Kind regards from this happy camper!


I did make the offer of a free book to everyone who nominated my book, based on a suggestion by Lincoln. My campaign was for a first in series urban fantasy, Forged in Fire, and I'd give it to everyone if I could. It's in Kindle Unlimited, so that's not possible.

Anyway, I put my email address in the message Scout sends to everyone at the end of the campaign, and I was surprised that several dozen people took me up on the offer. I promptly sent the mobi file out with instructions on how to sideload it.

And that was that. As far as I can tell, only one of those folks left me a review. But as I said, my main purpose was to introduce as many people as possible to the series, so I don't regret giving the first book away at all.

For those who followed my Scout campaign for Forged by Fire, I wanted to provide a follow-up. The campaign ended at the beginning of December, and because of some confusion within Scout, they had to kill my book twice. By then it was mid-December, and I published Forged by Fire on KDP and put it in select.

That was obviously right before Christmas, and I opted for a soft launch, which turned out to be ultra-soft. The book debuted with a ranking of #4.8 million. Thanks to some love from Kboards and a small mailing list, it zoomed up to the low five figures. It bounced around the 20K-50K range with almost no promotion for a month until I launched the second book in the series on 1/12/18. I put the first book free for five days, and by the way, if anyone wants one who didn't get it earlier, the link to Forged by Fire is in my signature.

The current launch is going great. I arranged for five days of email promotion through Book Rank, which is on Kboards, at a cost of $400. Forged by Fire is currently ranked #59 in the free Kindle store and is #1 in both free Dark Fantasy and Paranormal.

Some of that success in the launch I attribute to the visibility I got from my Scout campaign, so thanks to everyone for their support. And best of success with your efforts.


The strategy is one of volume. When you give away a prize that has monetary value, and then team up with other authors, you naturally attract more entrants. A lot of these will be cold leads or totally uninterested in your work. Some of them, however, will be big readers and looking for new work in your genre. So if you get 1,000 people and, say, 300 stick around, and it cost you $25 to enter, than each lead cost you less than $0.10. Which is pretty good. Where it all breaks down is if you get 30 spam complaints, too, which is what seems to be happening.


Okay, I get the idea that some of these people maybe are big readers, but don't those people already sign up for emails about free and discounted books with BookBub, Freebooksy, and a hundred other companies who compile genre reader mailing lists? Is this giveaway approach supposed to be a cheaper way to reach those big readers? It would seem to be more likely to clog an author's mailing list with a lot of folks who don't want to be there.

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