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.


  1. Excellent article. Thanks so much for saying what I have always believed.

    1. Thanks for coming by, Betty! Glad you liked the article. I learn a lot through Hope's newsletter. Be sure and sign up for it!

  2. This is a post to share far and wide! Thank you.

    1. Betty, thanks for the feedback. Yes, we as writers need to accept what is the reality so we can make smart choices in changing our career paths. Appreciate the comment!

    2. Thanks Cynthia. Linda and I both appreciate it.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Bethany! We've missed you!

  4. Is this your first or second book? As a long-term proposition, you probably need the exposure more than the cash.

    1. If you're talking about Hope, she's an established, award-winning Mystery novelist.

      But you have a point, pricing strategies work both ways--for exposure and for cash. Fortunately, there are also strategies that allow for both.

      Thanks for coming by!

    2. Steven, I have five novels out with a sixth expected this summer and a seventh early 2017. Brand and platform building take time and many people don't have the patience to walk that long road. You have not heard of me after 5 books. That is the norm with the market glutted like it is. So it is tempting to a newer writer to want to do freebie to be seen. I a still building platform. And I have heard from more established authors that it takes 8-10 books to develop a decent platform. Patience has always been a part of this profession.

    3. 8-10? I'm only halfway there. Sigh.

  5. But you'd be writing anyway, Linda, so just keep doing what you do. Keep promoting daily. Keep writing daily. It's a profession, not a hobby. Many hobbyists complain they aren't making money. Well, how many hobbies generate a full-time income? It's a serious business with serious challenges, but dang the success along the way is just intoxicating.

    1. Good point, Hope. The best way to make money at a business is to first consider it a business.