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!

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