Saturday, February 27, 2016

Money-Making Madness

Photo by Dannelle Woody

Our theme for the month of February is "making $$ with your writing," and who better to discuss dollars and sense with us than Linda Kozar and Janice Thompson?

Janice kicked off the discussion with a reminder that we should prayerfully set goals. Where do you want to be in a year? Two? Five? Keep those goals in mind and within God's will.

She reminded us that traditional publishers would be around for quite some time--true, the industry is a bit shaken up right now, but traditional publishers are appearing almost daily. She also candidly revealed some numbers from her experience with the larger traditional houses.

As she discussed advances ranging from four to five digits, I couldn't help thinking of my own advances with small publishers, which never advanced over two digits and were certainly far easier to earn out. In defense of my publishers, though, most of my royalty rates are considerably higher and book purchase prices are generally lower.

The advantages of large publishers include some free books (around 50, according to Janice) and marketing material, never having to go through the headache of formatting your own book, and better physical distribution. The never-having-to-format advantage also applies to smaller publishers.

For both sizes of publishing houses, though, you often lose artistic control over formatting and cover design. Purchasing your own books can be expensive (she quoted $8/book plus shipping; I've paid $4-8/book plus shipping).

The biggest disadvantage she mentioned of being with a traditional publisher is having to fight to get her backlist rights.

But her suggestions for making money as an author--indy or trad--were noteworthy

  • Write to a theme. That way, you can link books--characters from one can land in another, which could provide a built-in readership. Provide working links in each digital book to the others.
  • Write series, and link characters from one series to another. Provide working links in each digital book to the others.
  • Join other authors in anthologies or sets. Have "teaser" stories that tie in to your newest release or WIP. And again, provide working links.
  • Pay attention to pricing strategies. Consider making the first book in the series free as a way to build up a readership for the rest of the series.
  • Consider other formats, like Audible, and consider writing for hire--denominational magazines, for example, are always looking for articles.
Linda contributed to the list of great ideas, reminding self-publishers to consider themselves, as Joanna Penn says, "authorpreneurs." This is a business, and indies have to learn every aspect of it. One of the best things to do, Linda says, is to network with other indies.

One of the worst things to do is to get involved with Author Solutions. The day before the meeting, I had read about this organization in David Gaughran's Let's Get Digital. On page 75, Gaughran actually lists the companies under the umbrella of this predatory company:
  • AuthorHouse
  • Xlibris
  • iUniverse
  • Trafford
  • Partridge
  • Palibrio
  • Dellarte Press
  • BookTango
  • Westbow
  • FuseFrame
  • Archway
  • Balboa Press
  • PitchFest
  • Abbott Press
  • Author Learning Center
If you come across these while you're skimming for publishers, keep skimming.

Linda mentioned that the indie royalty can be around 70%, and Amazon will take taxes out (but you have to check for each country you sell to), but Smashwords doesn't. 

She and Janice both are huge fans of BookBub and warn about your pricing strategy if you want to advertise through them. Your 99c special must actually be a special before they'll pick it up. So, BookBub, yes; Google Adworks, no. At $500/month, Google Adworks is a tad steep. 

Don't forget to pick effective key words too, to increase your visibility in searches. 

And, along with Janice, she agrees with Audible--ACX. There is no payment up front, and the royalties are 20-20-60: 20% for you, 20% for the reader, and 60% for Amazon. Be sure to audition the reader! A bad reader can wreck a good book.

Finally, Janice and Linda mentioned what investments are worthy:

  • A website host and design, and a newsletter. The money is in the newsletter, but the link to get to it is on the website. The site is "home base."
  • Ads from BookBub (and a list of others that you can find in Let's Get Visibleby David Gaughran).
  • Conferences--which I should've listed first. It's difficult to put a price on something as valuable as the connections you can make at a conference. Worth every penny. 
To toss in my own two cents: The best investment I've made this year is in David Gaughran's books to supplement the newsletter I get from Joanna Penn. These two sources take you beyond the typical advice and delve into the nitty-gritty of pricing strategies, returns on investment, etc. Since I spent most of my early career learning how to write, I neglected this part of my education. Believe me, it's an eyeopener. 

I think you can tell, if you missed this meeting, you missed a lot of good info. Hope to see you at the next meeting!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Insights from "FundsforWriters" blog owner, C. Hope Clark

C. Hope Clark is an award-winning author of mainstream mysteries and the owner of the uber-popular "FundsforWriters" blog, which is a regular on the Writer's Digest 100 best blogs list.

I've received her "FundsforWriters" newsletter for quite some time now, and know that she's a strong advocate for writers getting paid for their work. Her newsletter includes lists of writing jobs, contests, and grants for authors. Worth looking into.

Also worth reading her opinions on the one thing we're all interested in: making money in this business.

Do you think giveaways, 99c sales, and writing for exposure are effective tools for authors?

Oh wow, this is a subject about which I am rabid . . . and torn. There is no doubt that the use of giveaways and 99 cent books garners extra attention. The bigger question is whether those readers then decide to buy your other works. The excitement of grabbing all that attention has made writers "go with free" way more than they used to, for that instant gratification, telling themselves it will raise their income, and from then on the reader will buy all their books for full price. But what has been happening of late is that with so many books for free and for 99 cents, that this great sea of readers can simply wait for free and 99 cent books to cross their screen, giving them more than enough books to read while decreasing their reading budget. I only subscribe to BookBub, only under mystery, yet they feed me and my Kindle way more free and 99 cents books than I can ever read. And since BookBub is so discriminating, the book quality is superb. And therein lies a main reason that writers are not earning a decent wage anymore.

Let's just say a writer receives 40 percent of an ebook sale. When it's at full price of $7.99, that's $3.20. When the book is 99 cents, that's 40 cents. Let's say that book is popular. 1,000 books at full price is $3,200. 1,000 books at 99 cents is $999. One could argue that sales will skyrocket at the lower price. That means sales for that book would have to reach 3,200 to make the same as 1,000 books at the regular price. For a long while, the quantity has made up for the difference plus there's the argument that those obscure books and new authors may have found a home in the hands of new readers that otherwise wouldn't have known about them. Sounds logical. Until the market is glutted with 99 cent and free books, and books are less than a dime a dozen, and readers just skim from freebie to freebie, not feeling the need to remain loyal, maybe even feeling oppressed by so many books they can't possibly read. Authors can only write so fast, and between books, thousands of other books/authors step in, filling up a reader's time and Kindle.

The tool of FREE works, until it becomes common. I'm waiting for this sales tactic to backfire, toppling not only writers, but also publishing houses. Personally, as my own stance against the whole freebie fad in place these days, I refuse to take a book for free. I will pay for it or do without it. Why? Because I respect writers. And because there are so many good books out there, I can afford to pass up the freebies. It lets me sleep better at night. I accept I'm not the norm.

A writer doesn't want a reputation of being easy and free, and it's gotten to the point when I see an author selling, I study price. Good quality isn't so eager to give it away. Desperate is. And writers are getting more and more desperate all the time.

Writing for exposure is a cousin to the free ebook. We think that if we write for exposure, that someone will see our credentials and portfolio of publication credits, and then be willing to pay for our services. Problem with that logic is that the people paying writers know those markets that don't pay. And the paying markets see the writers who write for free as lacking self-respect, unable to pitch or write well enough to break through to the paying markets. When someone pitches me at FundsforWriters and only list freebie markets in their credentials, why should I feel the need to pay? The person writes for free, and there's an instant lack of credibility.

In the rest of our lives, we preach "you get what you pay for." It should not be surprising that it applies to writing as well.

What do you think of sites like Bookbub, Ereader News Today, Free Kindle Books and Tips?

First, I have used BookBub for one of my novels, and it worked well. However, I recognize the fact that BookBub is difficult to get into. Why? Because they want a reputation of quality reading material. They are in this cheap/giveaway business to make money, and by establishing itself as a
"gatekeeper" by editing and selecting books that have already proven themselves with sales, they assure their readership that it will only receive notices about quality books and authors. It's a level of trust. They are smart. They also are not cheap. It's common to spend four figures to get a book into BookBub. For now, it works. If they maintain that sense of quality control, they'll last longer than other such services. However, even their sales numbers aren't what they used to be as recent as a year ago.

All such sites are not equal either. A giveaway on a site that is not discriminating is worthless. Readers will eventually leave, disgruntled at the quality offered. Or they'll just take all the freebies they can get, load up their Kindle, and forget about them. People these days have hundreds of books on their readers, obtained for free, yet still read no more than a book every one to two weeks. Your book can get downloaded but will it get read?

Amazon and its one to five-star review system is somewhat of a gatekeeper in itself, though. Readers can always see what other readers have ranked the book, how many times, and then make what they deem an "informed" purchase. So Amazon notices (Kindle) are backed by their public review process. But get outside of BookBub and Amazon, and I'm not sure how long such ebook services will last. It ought to be an honor to be selected, so that the reader develops trust.

Indie publishing began as an effort to get away from gatekeepers, but in reality, readers want gatekeepers. Especially with so many books out there, and so many people thinking they want to be authors.

Let’s talk marketing budgets—Should an author have one? How much?

Absolutely. I'm forever calming authors who blame their publishers for lack of sales. But publishers are clamoring how to earn a living in this crazy environment, just like authors. Indie publishing has taken a chunk out of traditional publishing's pocket. Authors should expect to purchase an inventory of books for hand-to-hand sales, for reviewers, for contests. They should purchase their own swag, travel, seek advertising. I teach that at least 10 percent of a writer's income ought to be designated for marketing. At least. Be seen. Be heard. Sound reputable. And most of all, keep producing. Your book from two years ago is stale, unless you have three coming after it, making someone who just discovered you want to read all your works. But you have to be forever in the public's eye. Market daily as you write daily. Not to do either is to backslide.

Do you see value in participating in social media?

Agents, editors and marketing gurus go back and forth about this, but from personal experience, I know that my most rabid readers and fans follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I wish I had the time to do Pinterest. I have a huge following on LinkedIn but see little use for it. Nobody should be doing it all. There isn't time. You have to keep putting work out there. Claim two, three tops, of the social media sites, and own them. Work them a little every day in the name of marketing. Everyone does social media, and you need to have a presence there. Just don't get stuck there for hours at a time. Work it as a tool.

More About Hope:

C. Hope Clark was born and reared in the South, from Mississippi to South Carolina with a few stints in Alabama and Georgia. The granddaughter of a Mississippi cotton farmer, Hope holds a B.S. in Agriculture with honors from Clemson University and 25 years’ experience with the U. S. Department of Agriculture to include awards for her management, all of which enable her to talk the talk of Carolina Slade, the protagonist in most of her novels. Her love of writing, however, carried her up the ranks to the ability to retire young, and she left USDA to pen her stories and freelance.

Hope is married to a 30-year veteran of federal law enforcement, a Senior Special Agent, now a contract investigator. They met on a bribery investigation within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the basis for the opening scene to Lowcountry Bribe. Hope and her special agent live on the rural banks of Lake Murray outside of Chapin, South Carolina, forever spinning tales on their back porch, bourbon and coke in hand, when not tending a loveable flock of Orpington and Dominiquer hens.

You can find both her Carolina Slade and Edisto Island Mysteries on Amazon.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Annette O'Hare: Strong and Courageous

Her favorite season is fall, but her favorite holiday, Christmas, occurs in winter and her favorite activity is deep-sea fishing--great summer fun. Her favorite time of day is morning, but then, she likes to nap until night.

I think it's safe to say she likes all seasons (though she didn't mention spring), and most hours of the day (particularly the ones in which she can sleep).

She's fun and fun-loving, a sweet and sassy goof-ball. She's our very own Annette O'Hare.

Her favorite verse is Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

"I’ve faced a lot of fears in my life," she says, "especially in my journey to become a published author. This verse has always given me comfort to know that God is always with me even if I fall flat on my face I know He will be there to pick me up!"

Let's get to know her better:

Who (or what) influenced you to become a writer?

I’ve always been a lover of story, especially in the form of skits and plays. I wrote my first play as a high school freshman, complete with its own musical score. Believe me when I say it was over-the-top corny! But my creative writing teacher liked it, and I got an A. I’ve written loads of skits for my church and that led to me writing my first novel. It was a great story, but very poorly written. A friend encouraged me to join a writers group, where I learned the craft of writing, and the rest as they say, is history.

What do you consider to be the perfect conditions in which to write?

I have a beautiful home office with a desk, a nice view and everything else a writer might want, but I hardly ever write there! Instead, I write on my living room sofa. Why? Because when I’m on the couch I can be accompanied by my nine-year-old Weimaraner, my year and a half old Jack Russell mix, and my eight-month-old Chihuahua mix grand-dog. Surrounded by my dogs with either soft music or a TV program I’m not interested in, playing in the background is how I like to write.

How did you come up with the concept for Northern Light?

I really love Texas history, and the Bolivar Point Lighthouse has a fascinating history dating back prior to the Civil War. Also, I have a family connection to the lighthouse. My great aunt was married to the man who bought the lighthouse at auction in 1947. One of the two houses adjacent to the lighthouse bears the name “Maxwell” which is my great aunt and grandmother’s maiden name. I feel like it’s a part of my own history!

How much research went into this story?

I never knew how much research was required to write historical fiction until I started writing one myself. It’s important to me that the time period I’m writing about has been well researched. There is so much information out there about the Civil War. That can be good and bad. Good because it’s easy to find the information you need and bad because if you make a mistake your readers will surely call you on it. One of the things I’ve realized is that many of the words and phrases we use today weren’t around during the Civil War. My new adage is: If you’re not sure…look it up!

What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?

One of the big reasons I wanted to write this book that takes place in the South during the Civil War is to clarify some of the reasons the war took place, besides the big issue of slavery. Most people don’t know that the main reason the South went to war was not because of slavery, it was because the southern states were denied their rights. During this time period congress favored the industrialized North, demanding the South sell their raw materials exclusively to the North. The North would in turn tax the finished goods so highly that the agrarian South couldn’t afford what they needed. This is something I would like my readers to learn from by book. Of course another poignant issue addressed in the book is the horrific plight of the slaves, and how my heroine comes to understand how awful it really was.

What you’re working on now?

My current work in progress is a historical romance set during the Great Storm of 1900. This hurricane hit Galveston Island in September of 1900 and still stands today as the deadliest natural disaster to affect the United States.

What is your publishing history?

Northern Light is my first published novel. I have a short story, "The Perfect Storm, Our Perfect God" in a collection called Hurray God (compiled by Janette Sharp), and I have my story “Tempest Tossed” in our WOTS anthology, Out Of The Storm. I also have a skit called “That’s Not Funny Annie” published on the North American Mission Board Website.

About Northern Light:

Margaret Logan detests the North, having suffered the loss of her fiancé at the hands of Union soldiers. She is uprooted from her home in New Orleans and moved to the desolate Bolivar Peninsula where her father is commissioned to man the Bolivar Point Lighthouse. 

The family arrives to find that the Confederates have dismantled the lighthouse for its iron to make artillery with. 

Things get worse when Margaret finds a wounded Yankee washed ashore, and her parents insist on bringing him to their home to recover. The sailor, Thomas Murphy, is immediately attracted to Margaret. 

Despite all that she’s been through, and how she feels about the North, Margaret falls for him. 

A jealous younger sister makes a selfish choice. Will her decision cost Thomas his life?

You can find Annette here: 

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Theme of the Month: Making that money!

Are we in this for love or money? 

More than likely, it's for the love of writing, because if it's for the money, most of us are in the wrong business. We're not Stephen King or James Patterson, so the hopes of becoming financially independent are dim stars in the midnight sky. 

Or are they?

For our meeting on February 20, Janice Thompson and Linda Kozar are going to discuss "Dollars and Sense: Earning Money in Today's Crazy Market." They'll discuss the traditional and indy publishing and touch on the audio market.

Don't miss it!

Member News

New Releases

By Janetta Fudge-Messmer

Historical Romance
By Annette O'Hare

Book 2 of the Marriage & Mayhem Series
By Crystal L. Barnes

Up for Award!

Cynthia Toney's 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status is up for the Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) award for YA. Your vote will help boost it toward its goal!


Carla Koch is doing good and is relatively painfree. In case you missed it on Facebook (and if you did, you need to join our WOTS group!), she had surgery on her spine. Here are the pics she shared with us.

Glad she's doing better. A little titanium to supplement the bones is a good thing, right?

Introducing The Creaky Fossils of Fossil Creek

Left to right: Anthea Kotlan, Linda Yezak, Kathrese McKee, Elizabeth Elliot, and Lisa Godfrides. We're the handful of writers who took up Gillian Adams's invitation to have a writers' retreat at Frontier Camp in Houston County, near Crockett, Texas.

L-R: Lisa, Anthea, Gillian, and Elizabeth
(I'm represented by the coffee cup underneath the TV set, back-right)

We worked, we played, we ate, we slept. That pretty much covers it. But it sounds considerably more bland than what it was really like. We enjoyed the company of others who understood us, who "got it." We could crack jokes that wouldn't be funny outside the realm of writing; we giggled at our screens, comfortable with the fact no one would consider us strange; we interrupted everyone else so we could read what we'd just written and get their input. 

For me, it was sheer heaven. 

Funniest thing was the impression those who set up our workstation had of us. Originally, we were to work under the "Fossil Creek" sign. All the chairs were set facing the wall, and a trashcan sat beside each chair.

So, it's true. Outsiders believe we're all just a bunch o' Jessicas.

Gotta laugh.

Here we are. Maybe next year, you'll join us.