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Topics - erikhanberg

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Writers' Cafe / xkcd nailed star ratings
« on: August 21, 2012, 09:18:44 pm »
I'm not saying it's true, but it's certainly how everyone views star ratings.



Writers' Cafe / StoryBundle: pay what you want for 5 indie books
« on: August 08, 2012, 10:07:39 am »
I'm intrigued by the site that just launched today.

They are offering five indie books for a "pay what you want" price (between $1.00 and $100). The first bundle is mostly sci-fi, judging by their covers.

But if you pay $7, you get two extra books. It's a 70/30 split for the author, too.

Would you try it out? I think it looks like a fascinating idea. Radiohead did really well with their album done this way. Could it work for books?

Writers' Cafe / Kobo Writing Life is out of beta!
« on: July 16, 2012, 12:26:26 pm »
Just got the email that the KDP for Kobo is out of beta and open to all writers!

Writers' Cafe / What to expect from a Goodreads Giveaway?
« on: July 06, 2012, 09:50:24 pm »
What generally happens after a Goodreads Giveaway?

I have eight days to go and 192 people who have entered the contest, so I feel like it's going to build a lot.

But what's the endgame here? The people who don't get it who marketed it as "to-read" go and buy it? Anyone want to sound off on how it affected sales?

Or did I sign-up to giveaway 5 books for no good reason.

Writers' Cafe / I've been political cartoon-ized!
« on: July 03, 2012, 08:14:57 am »
So when I'm not writing novels, I'm an elected official on the Metro Parks Board of Tacoma. (note for some: in the Midwest and West, it's not unusual to have parks be run by a separate junior municipality and not the county or the city).

And recently I took a stand in a long-running local fight about billboards in Tacoma (long story).


A local political cartoonist featured me kicking out the billboards in his comic this morning as a Tacoma Action Figure:

I am particularly excited though to see an "eReader" as one of my "accessories" in the illustration! The author branding is slowly getting out there!


Writers' Cafe / Audiobooks in proportion to your ebook sales?
« on: July 02, 2012, 02:48:27 pm »
I've just finished eight hours in a professional studio for an audiobook and hope to have it live on Audible via by the end of the month. I've been trying to get a sense of how it might do.

I've been searching the Writer's Cafe and found some numbers of how people have done with their audiobooks. But I haven't found comparative numbers: ie, how many sales people get in a month on audiobooks vs. how many sales they get in a month on ebooks. Genre might be a helpful note to make as well!

Anyone want to chime in? This could be a good resource thread for people thinking about making the leap in the future!

Writers' Cafe / A great success story for a niche "how to" book
« on: June 03, 2012, 12:37:43 pm »
Last year I released a small book on fundraising for small nonprofits on Kindle and CreateSpace. It's written as a primer for people who end up working at a nonprofit but have almost no experience fundraising.

Since it's such a highly specialized niche, and the information in it is (hopefully) very valuable to its intended audience, I decided to charge $9.99 for the Kindle version (and $14.99 for the CS version). Even at that price, the book has stayed in the top 100 Kindle books for nonprofits for the last 5 months! CS sales have consistently matched Kindle sales too, something I know is unusual, but makes sense for the audience.

But the real exciting news was that when I was testing Select in December, I set it to go free for just ONE day. And on that one day, it just so happened that a VP of a major company that provides online donor databases for nonprofits was looking for a book about small nonprofits. She found it, loved it, and emailed to say they wanted to feature my book to their (thousands and thousands) of clients!

After a lot of back and forth about how to do this, we've settled on them distributing a free chapter from the book--an idea I previously would have dismissed out of hand, had I not seen the success of free promotions using Select.

And the big day is finally here! They are emailing out a PDF of the free chapter this week!

I'm very excited to see how this works--I've got some links in the PDF to test click-throughs and of course will be closely monitoring KDP and Createspace for sales. :)

At the back of the free chapter, I included a link to a new forum I built for Executive Directors and Board members of small nonprofits to talk about fundraising: (I call it the Fundraising Hat Forums, as in "people who work at small nonprofits wear a lot of different kinds of hats.") The idea to create a forum was in no small part inspired by the great help I've gotten from other self-pub authors here, and I hope nonprofit leaders can use it in the same way we all use the Writers' Cafe.

Right now, the forums are basically just me and a few other nonprofit friends hanging out and answering each other's threads. But if anyone here works for a small nonprofit as part of your day job (or you know someone else who does) I hope you'll stop by! I'd love to have some more conversation before the chapter launches. :)

Should be a big week!

Writers' Cafe / Do you market short stories different than novels?
« on: April 16, 2012, 02:30:18 pm »
I'm curious what kind of success people have had in the short fiction market. I have one that's about 6,500 words. I think there's potential with it and would probably price it at 0.99. I don't have others though, so no chance to bundle them. I wondered what people have seen work for marketing short works.


I just checked my sales and put the new data onto my spreadsheet. And I just crossed a major milestone! Between my three books on Kindle, I have just hit 1001 sales!

(Those are legitimate sales, not counting the giveaways I've done.)

So ... woot!  ;D

It seems like it wasn't that long ago I was just excited to cross 100 sales ...

Even though the two mysteries are the biggest sellers, the fundraising guide sells well enough that my average royalty per book is an incredible $3.70. So it's not always a race to the bottom! And it helps to have a high ticket item that returns $6.97/sale.

What's the next major milestone do you think? 2,000 or 2,500? :)

I hadn't thought about how the "one borrow" per month would change purchasing. But I noticed first in February and now again in March that my books are borrowed a lot more than sales at the beginning of the month.

As more and more people take advantage of the lending library, I wonder if this will become more and more common, to see a spike in borrows at the beginning of the month, followed by a slow decline as sales increase again.

I'm getting ready to publish a $0.99 short story (it's about 35 pages) that's a part of my mystery series.

Obviously, I want it to be in the style of the other two mysteries. But does anyone recommend giving their short stories a distinctive cover? My wife is a professional graphic designer, and we were tossing around some ideas like putting the cover in a "frame" so it's a little smaller, or doing an only-image cover.

Anyone played around with this or seen authors who have done interesting things with it?

Last night, the Colbert Report has on it an author who opened an independent bookstore because her hometown had lost both its bookstores.

It's gotten me thinking about how indie author and indie bookstores can work better together. Is there a service that connects them? Where an indie bookstore and select from some of the best indie books? I would love my writing to not only give Amazon 30%, but other bookstores as well. I have print books at my local bookstore, and the bookstore my aunt works at a few hours away, but there should be some networks out there somewhere.

Or am I missing a service that already does this?

One of my favorite mystery authors, Reginald Hill, recently died at 75. His Dalziel and Pascoe series were always a treat. Funny, literary, thoughtful, compelling ... they were fabulous.

I didn't read them in order, so allow me to recommend one from mid-series: Pictures of Perfection. Not on Kindle unfortunately.

But it's a book that few authors could pull off: the central mystery is trying to figure out if a crime has even been committed.

Reginald Hill taught me a few good things about writing a mystery series.

1) Try not to write the same thing twice. Some of the mysteries are grim and disturbing, some are light and hilarious. Some are both. Write compelling characters, and people will enjoy seeing them in whole new situations.

2) Don't be afraid to swing for the fences. He writers some scenes and mysteries a lot of writers might have shied away from. Sometimes he fails (I couldn't stand The Price of Butchers Meat, an audacious experiment in narrative, voice, and finishing Jane Austen's unfinished book). But he tried.

3) I appreciate his comments about "aging" your characters. He estimated that his characters aged 1 year for every three "real" years. This meant that he could have characters age and grow, but he didn't have to worry about the fact that one of his lead detective wears a denim suit and bell bottoms in early books and now has a smart phone. It's convenient and feels "right" to me.

He taught me a lot more but those two, especially the first two, really stand out.


The Little Blog of Gold is dedicated to helping small (and very small) non-profits unlock their fundraising potential. Avoid common pitfalls and get tips on proven methods that work.

This short guide helps new Executive Directors, active board chairs, and other key staff in charge of fundraising to learn the basics of professional and sustainable fundraising. Geared specifically for non-profits with small and very small budgets (a few hundred thousand dollars a year, down to the smallest budgets).

Revised and expanded in 2011!

"It was a perfect primer for me as I prepare for a new role in my agency." -- Anne Maack, Child Start, Wichita, Kansas

"A valuable contribution to our colleagues in the nonprofit world--especially those of us in smaller organizations that do not have dedicated fund development staff."-- Jose Martinez, Executive Director, Food Bank of Yolo County, Yolo County, California

As of this posting, the book has spent the past two weeks on the Amazon Top 100 Kindle Books for nonprofits!

About the Author

When he was just 23, Erik Hanberg was hired to run a non-profit arts organization with an annual budget just over $600,000. Two years later, he had increased the budget to $800,000, and increasing fundraising more than 400%.

Since then he has worked in development at a multi-million dollar non-profit, and has volunteered on many boards.

He is currently the Executive Director of a small civic non-profit and sits on the distribution committee for a foundation that gives away more than $200,000 a year. In 2011, he was elected to a six year term on the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners.

At $9.99, this book is an incredible value for those looking to start true professional fundraising at their nonprofit.

Here's the link to Amazon:
Here's the link to the Little Book of Gold Blog:
And here's the Kindle Boards book profile:

Writers' Cafe / Selling your ebooks directly from your smartphone
« on: December 06, 2011, 03:43:25 pm »
I figured out something kind of cool that I wanted to share with me fellow authors. Here's how you can sell books directly from your iPhone, iPad, or Android phone.

The two apps involved are

1) Square. I use Square to process credit card transactions. This is a free app with a free card-swiper. It's tied directly to my bank account.
2) Sugarsync. I use, and the mobile app, to backup my computer. But I can also email files that have been backed up directly from the phone. It can generate a public link for each saved document.

Using these two apps, selling my books gets really simple:

1) They tell me which books they want, and I bill for the total using Square.
2) I take the URLs for the books and email them the download links for the bokos from my phone. The books are waiting for them in their inbox immediately in either .mobi or .epub formats, whatever they prefer.

I tested this out at a recent panel on self-publishing that I was on and it totally worked.

I realize now I could make this even easier by pasting the links directly into Square, since it can send them a receipt, those links would be in it. Next time.

Writers' Cafe / Mistakes that were so helpful I wouldn't take them back ...
« on: November 21, 2011, 08:29:01 am »
Yesterday I lead a panel about "non-traditional publishing" as part of the Tacoma Arts Symposium. There were four authors there, counting myself, and between us we'd published in pretty up every way possible--from traditionally published to ebook publishing to blogging an entire book.

The most interesting part I thought was that we all cited some big mistakes along the way. Money spent, time wasted, too much naïveté about the process. But there were no mistakes anyone would take back.

So I'm curious about other authors here. Do you have any great mistakes? So helpful you wouldn't change them?

The Book Bazaar / 5 mysteries ... for whatever you want to pay for them
« on: November 18, 2011, 01:37:37 pm »
THE PLOT: A grown man living in his mother's basement, disgraced detective Arthur Beautyman knows his life has fallen off a cliff. But that doesn't mean he has to be happy about his mother's solution to his woes: volunteering him to solve a case for her favorite bridge partner. Oh, and to make matters worse, she wants to be his partner on the case as well ...

Three early reviews:

"Again Erik Hanberg has produced the sort of book it is easy to get into and fly through." -- Booked Up.

"You will not be disappointed." -- The Book Diva's Reads.

"A very enjoyable read and [one] I found very hard to put down." -- Miss Lynn's Books & More.

Note: this book has a prequel, The Saints Go Dying, but it's written to stand on its own.


(My wife designed the cover, but I got to splatter the sauce myself :) )

THE PRICE: $3.99

Purchase Link:

Writers' Cafe / Any writers here try any color print-on-demand books?
« on: November 18, 2011, 01:23:09 pm »
Has anyone found a useful service for a print-on-demand service that can do color photos or color pages? I'm looking for something that isn't as fancy as a photobook, which is priced pretty high. Any advice would be appreciated.

When I emailed my close friends that "The Marinara Murders," my newest mystery novel, was live in the Kindle store, I also asked them to do me a favor. I asked them to purchase another kindle book at the same time: "Catering to Nobody," by Diane Mott Davidson, which she wrote in 1992.

Mott Davidson has been writing culinary mysteries for years, and I thought that if I could get my culinary mystery onto her book's page, her readers might come to check my book out. It consistently sells pretty well (but not well as to mean I would have no chance), it's priced similarly to mine, and I thought it was a nice read.

It might be interesting to some of the authors here that the first step has (partially) worked. "The Marinara Murders" is on the 8th tab of the customers also bought list. The first couple tabs are all full of her later books in the series (I probably should have taken that into account when I picked this book to target).

But the premise still seems to be sound: less than 10 friends purchased both books, but it was enough to at least get on the low end of the list on her book. More friends doing it might get me higher.

If other authors wanted to try this, I'd recommend not targeting a book in a series and making sure to keep the books comparable. I'd also recommend using a book tracker on the target book for a while so you can watch its sales rank. The other book I was thinking of targeting was Anthony Bourdain's mystery "Bone in the Throat," but right before I was going to do this, the price dropped to $0.99 and the book shot up high enough I didn't think I would have a chance to get on the list. Having a few weeks of data to know that Catering to Nobody had consistent sales was helpful to know that it was a good book to choose.

Writers' Cafe / How much do you judge the author based on content?
« on: October 31, 2011, 10:27:23 am »
If an author writes about something bad--murder, corruption, what have you--do you ever wonder about the author?

I ask because I'm faced with a bit of a quandary. I'm a novelist, and I'm running for office. Can these two things co-exist?

For example, in the novel I'm releasing in two weeks, one of the characters is a (possibly) corrupt politician. If you knew that the author was a politician (I serve on the Park Board here in Tacoma and am up for election) would you think "I wonder if he's writing from experience?"

Now, granted, I've sold less than 500 books. So it's not like there's a lot of voters out there who this applies to. But I would like to sell thousands and thousands of copies obviously. And I've wondered if being a novelist is compatible with trying to run for office.

Any thoughts?

Writers' Cafe / Anyone tried to "game" the customers also bought section?
« on: October 22, 2011, 01:30:25 pm »
When I published The Saints Go Dying last year, I invited all my friends to buy it on one particular day, trying to see how high it would climb (#9 on Police Procedurals, for about an hour, but it stayed in the Top Ten newly released police procedurals for a week).

I'm launching a new book, The Marinara Murders, on November 15, and I have an idea I'm going to try.

In addition to inviting all my friends to purchase it, I'm thinking about also asking them (nicely) to buy another book at the same time: a $3.99 culinary mystery that has consistently maintained a sales rank. It's a book I would recommend anyway, but the obvious idea here is to get my book to show up in the "also reads" list of another much more popular book in the same genre.

If I chose too popular a book, reading tastes probably wouldn't match, and it might take too many purchases to get the book to stand out. But I feel like this is a good match for my book and a good level of popularity that I could probably affect it.

Anyone ever tried something like this? And if so, did it work? I'd be interested to hear any experiences.

Writers' Cafe / Is the new book the sequel? Or is the old book the prequel?
« on: September 23, 2011, 11:07:51 pm »
When I wrote The Saints Go Dying, I needed a detective for my book, so I pulled one from The Marinara Murders, a half-finished novel I'd been writing on and off over a few years.

I wrote The Saints Go Dying, learned a lot about my main character that set me up really well for revisiting The Marinara Murders with a better understanding of the book and the stories I wanted to tell about my hero.

Now that The Marinara Murders is a few weeks from being published, I'm in a bit of a quandary. The book introduces a lot of players and it puts my hero in a context I really liked. He has a lot more to react to, and he's far more interesting. The side players all have back stories that I really foresee being able to mine for more books along the way in future books.

So now the question: I feel The Marinara Murders is the start of the series. It's written in a way that you would not have to read The Saints Go Dying, which I now think of as a prequel to the series. But how to show that on Amazon? Or should I even try to bother?

I'm thinking that I should just not number the books and let people discover them as they may. And only when the next book in the series gets published will I start a numbering system.

Any thoughts from those who have written series?

The Plot
Arthur Beautyman, a computer hacker turned detective, is hunting a serial killer targeting modern day saints. Against him is an unscrupulous reality TV show and a member of his own department, who doesn't know the hacker she's tailing is in the office next door. It's a deadly cat-and-mouse game set against the lights of Hollywood.

The Price: $2.99

Purchase Link:

Some reviews:

"Fast paced, with a bit of gory detail (not too much though), a likable lead detective, and some smart twists." -- Booked Up Reviews.

"Erik had us reading every word till the end. It was such a thrilling ending." -- Tammy Gould, News & Reviews.

"The Saints Go Dying is a quick read that packs a suspense-filled punch to the end" -- The Book Diva's Reads.

The Cover:

The Saints Go Dying

Chapter 1

Only on TV do people get to look good at three in the morning, Arthur Beautyman thought. He dragged himself out of his car and into the Santa Monica police station, feeling like his soul was on strike, his body left to fend for itself.

One look at the bags under the eyes of the desk sergeant inside the door and Beautyman wondered if anyone ever really got used to being up at this hour. He flashed the sergeant his detective’s badge. “I’m here to see the suspect you’re holding in the Babylon murders.”

The sergeant looked at the badge and the ID photo next to it, and back to Beautyman’s face. He lingered on Beautyman’s features for a moment and checked again. Have I really changed that much?Beautyman took the opportunity to look at his own photo. It was more than the weight loss. The light pockmarks scars from his teenage acne looked deeper now against his tightened cheeks. The photo also showed no sign of the gray strands that had invaded his dark brown hair.
His green eyes were the same; other than that Beautyman was starting to feel like he was walking in another man’s skin. He closed the leather over his badge and looked back up at the desk sergeant. “You were here when they brought the suspect in?” Beautyman asked.

The sergeant nodded, reaching for the phone.

“Why was he picked up?”

“A tipster called the Watchdog hotline. We followed up and apprehended the suspect in a parking lot off the Pacific Coast Highway. He matched the description, so we put him in an interrogation room and gave him a bottle of water, just as you asked.”

The sergeant dialed the phone and left Beautyman brooding. If he’d known this had been a tip from Watchdog, he might have stayed in bed. Beautyman hated the weekly show.

Watchdog had taken the basic premise of documentary justice shows like Unsolved Mysteries and American Justice but with a new twist. Its central premise was that cops were crooked, incompetent, and possibly as bad as the criminals themselves. The show existed to expose the police’s bumbling efforts to solve crimes, when they weren’t actively covering them up, and bring the weight of public opinion down on them. It masqueraded as a public watchdog—hence its title—seeking to reform all L.A.-area law enforcement through the “light of public scrutiny.”

Had the show’s recklessness stopped there, Beautyman might have been able to tolerate it. But they started advertising their tip line as “the number to call when you just can’t trust the police.” Since the show became a hit, Beautyman knew he was not the only detective in L.A. who had run into witnesses who remained tight-lipped during questioning and declared that they would only talk to Watchdog.

The sergeant hung up the phone and said, “They’re in the back.”

Beautyman nodded. He felt the early hour creeping back over him as he waited for the buzzer that signaled he could get into the back offices of the station. He had already given up hoping that the man in custody would be a possible suspect, let alone the killer himself. In the last month alone the Sheriff’s Department and the municipal police departments had collectively fielded hundreds of tips about the Babylon murders. They never led to the man he was looking for.

A detective and a uniformed officer were waiting for him when he came through the glass door. The young officer asked, “Any chance this might be the guy?”
Beautyman looked past the young man, staring off into space. On a good day and wearing boots, Beautyman was all of 5’6”. The officer next to him had at least eight inches on Beautyman, which gave him the option of either craning his neck to see him or—Beautyman’s preferred option in these situations—looking pensive and thoughtful. He put on his best grave and serious face. “Routine police work is always bound to turn something up eventually. Does he match the description?”

“He looks like the guy on TV,” the officer said, shrugging a bit.

“Well, that’s a good start then,” Beautyman said, meeting his eye solidly this time. Calls to Watchdog had increased substantially once the show started staging reenactments of the Babylon murders. In Beautyman’s opinion, it just got them more suspects who looked like the actor on the show, not the killer. But he held his tongue in front of the young officer.

“Can I get a bottle of water for myself before I go in?” The officer ran to get one and Beautyman turned to Sam Reynolds, a Santa Monica detective Beautyman had met a few times before. “Is there a file?”

There was. Beautyman glanced through it. It contained the transcript of the call to Watchdog and the report of the officer who apprehended the suspect in the parking lot. “Is this guy even likely to be our Babylon killer, Sam?” Beautyman asked, not looking up from the file.

“About as likely as my chances were of getting laid by Farrah Fawcett in high school.”


“I think you’ll have to chalk this up as another bad reason to get out of bed at 3 am.”

“I didn’t need another.” Beautyman put the file down on the desk. “By the way, your man at the desk … has he had his training yet?”

Reynolds shook his head. “The Chief didn’t want to spend the money for something as stupid as media training, but I’ll bet tonight’s going to change his mind.”
Most of the L.A. area police and sheriff departments were mandating media training classes. In a surprisingly insightful move, the lowest ranking officers were enrolled first as they were the most likely candidates for Watchdog to target for gotcha-style interviews.

The young officer returned with a plastic bottle of water that felt like it had been stored on top of a radiator.

“Was that your arrest report, Officer?” Beautyman asked, unscrewing the bottle despite its warmth.

“Yes, sir.”

“And he didn’t try to run at all? No sign of attempting to flee.”

“No sir. He was about the easiest collar I’ve ever had. Just said you’d get a laugh out of it when you got here.”

Beautyman looked up from the report sharply. “He knew me? Did he say my name?”

“He called you Beautyman, except he pronounced it Beauty Man, like you were a superhero or something.”

Beautyman put the water back on the desk. “That should have been in the f***ing report, Officer. F***! Sam, open that door for me.”

Reynolds went across the room with Beautyman on his heels and typed in a code on a keypad next to the Interrogation Room door. Beautyman threw the door open and saw the suspect kicked back in his chair, legs up on the desk, arms behind his head, grinning like a devil at Beautyman.

“Evening, Arthur. Or is it morning already?”

Beautyman turned and whistled to the young officer behind him. “You! Officer! You see this man?”

“Yes, sir,” the young man said. He dwarfed Beautyman, but you wouldn’t know it now; Beautyman’s wrath had him cowering.

“If you’re going to watch a s*** program like Watchdog, then make sure that you watch it more closely,” Beautyman spat. “This guy looks like the guy in the reenactments because he is the guy. You arrested the f***ing actor.”

Finish the book on Kindle for $2.99!

The Book Corner / Books you most wish were on Kindle?
« on: July 15, 2011, 04:48:10 pm »
Hands down, for me. This is my favorite book to recommend. It always catches people by surprise because they aren't expecting to like it. But it's got magic, the secret service, vaudeville, Houdini, historically accurate characters, and a 3rd act that really takes it to a whole new place.

Problem is, it's long. Which makes it perfect for Kindle! Too bad it's not there yet.

Link to the paperback:

The Book Corner / What book do you think a whole city should read?
« on: July 15, 2011, 12:58:21 pm »
Hi all, I'm the chair of Tacoma Reads Together--pretty much the best job in the world for an English major. I get to recommend a book to the Mayor and the whole city to read!

Last year I recommended William Kamkwamba's true story, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. (and I would recommend it to everyone here too! Very inspiring). Link to the Kindle version if you're interested:

But I'm looking for some book recommendations for this year (to be read in early 2012).

So here are the qualifications:

Should be short (ish).
Should be readily available in paperback as well as Kindle (no Kindle-only books).
Should be accessible to a young person (but that doesn't mean it has to be YA)

It would also be nice if:

It were fiction, the author were alive, and ideally this year I'm looking for something that would deal with community and/or multi-generational families. Doesn't have to be funny or inspiring, but those are always pluses. Anything you would call "A fun read" is good. No need to have it be "literary" either.

Who knows of something good? Would love to hear your suggestions!

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