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Category Archives: Social networking

Two surveys highlight the “satisfaction divide” between indie and trade-published authors

There’s been a lot written about the so-called divide between trade-published authors and indie, or self-published, authors over the blogosphere, and I’m afraid to say I’m about to add to the reams of virtual paper devoted to it. Two recently published surveys combine to underscore some of the key problems traditional publishing houses, or the Big Six (as these large publishing conglomerates are commonly known) might face when it comes to hanging on to their authors. They also draw stark contrast between the satisfaction levels of self-published and trade-published authors.

The first survey, the Taleist Self-publishing Survey, truthfully titled Not a Gold Rush, collated the results of 1007 self-published authors and asked about practices, attitudes, pricing, sales, and their satisfaction with their publishing efforts (Catherine Ryan Howard does a good break-down over on Catherine, Caffeinated).

The second—conducted by Harry Bingham’s editorial consultancy The Writers’ Workshop (with the help of the Society of Authors, The Crime Writers Association and The Romantic Novelists Association)—was based on the answers of 321 trade-published authors, asking them how they felt about publishers’ editing, cover art, and marketing. It also asked several telling questions about whether those authors would stick with their current publishers, and found that 40% of the respondents said they would move to a new house if “a reputable publisher offered [the] same advance”!

All in all, the Writers’ Workshop survey appeared to suggest that trade-published authors are happy with the editorial and creative input of publishers, but that the marketing and communication aspects seemed to leave a lot to be desired, and the way of the future, for the majority of authors, appears to be self-publishing (although for some, there was only a grudging acceptance of that).

The Wash-up of the Writer’s Workshop Survey

The participants’ biggest complaint seemed to be about marketing (and, unsurprisingly, indies like to moan about marketing, too). It seems from the study, that one of the major drawcards of going with a trade publisher—the marketing and publicity—may have been taken off the table. The marketing may be marginal or less than an author would do themselves as an indie (although given the lack of consultation and communication, it may be true that authors were simply unaware of marketing efforts). Only 19.7% of respondents said they were closely consulted about their publisher’s marketing plans, and 33.0% (the most respondents for that question) said “there was no attempt at consultation.” Worse still, in another marketing question 38.4% of respondents answered the question “Did you feel the eventual marketing campaign made good use of your skills, knowledge, passion, contacts and digital presence?” with “What marketing campaign? I never noticed one!” And a paltry 14% said they were “very happy” with their publisher’s marketing campaign.

Long lead times were problematic (46.6% rating it as the aspect of trade publishing they most disliked) as were “inadequate payments” (45.8%) and “insufficient consultation over the process (“42.4%)—something that self-publishers certainly can’t complain about! Communication was also a point of contention for some, with a combined 47% of respondents saying that communication was either “poor” or “tailed off” following publication of their book. 45.8% of participants were never even asked for feedback about their experience by the publishing house, answering “Nope. No one ever asked me what I thought” and guidance about the process at large was also on the slim side, which disgruntled 36.7% of participants.

And, in case you were wondering: the all-hallowed advance, for 40.1% of respondents, was not a multimillion dollar affair but a meager $5000.

When respondents were asked whether they might consider “cutting out a publisher altogether” to self-publish on Amazon, a whopping 74% appeared to be in favor of it (although, of those, 37.4% would be hesitant and saw it as a serious step to take). That left just 26% committed to having “a publisher to guide [them].” Dark days indeed. I, for one, can see why. If all the big publishers really have to offer is editorial, jacket and design influence, which savvy freelancers are now providing at reasonable rates to self-publishers, and a $5000 advance on royalties with little or limited marketing or input to back up sales, then they’re in trouble, big trouble.

In contrast, 44% of the self-published authors who participated in the Taleist survey said they found their self-publishing venture successful (with a further 51% admitting it was too soon to make that judgment). Only 5% were dissatisfied enough to call their venture “unsuccessful.” More telling, when the Taleist participants were asked, “Knowing what you know now, would you self-publish again?” an overwhelming 90% responded, “Yes, definitely” (no jumping ship here) and 93% of participants also said they would recommend self-publishing to other authors.

For me, it represents a real shift in author thinking. Where once the benchmark for author happiness was getting a trade publishing deal and holding a print book in your hand, it now appears that doing it yourself, and selling books online or in print, may be more likely to keep the smile on your face.

I have also been conducting a survey of my own on indie publishing promotional practices, and you can participate here. So far, more than 117 people have responded, but I would love more. The results will be published free in future on a new promotional website that is currently in production, and will help guide relevant content on that site. With just ten quick multiple choice questions, it takes minimal time to complete, and I’d welcome your feedback. Who knows maybe we can add more data that will help other authors decide which route they think will benefit them the most?

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Promotion and other evils

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Cage Life has had a facelift

Promotion is a funny thing, isn’t it? So time consuming. So draining. And yet, so very necessary for indie authors. I tallied up my total sales last night from the time I first put Cage Life out there on display as a kind of e-publishing experiment. With three books for sale, less than a year after my “experiment,” I have managed to place more than 29,000 books in the hands of readers. To be fair, the vast majority of those (easily 90%) were giveaways, with Growth having always been free and both Cage Life and Hey, Little Sister enjoying good free runs (either as part of Select or pre-select in the FREE boom days).

While that may look like a lot of books, my earnings have been less spectacular, hovering at just over $120. Part of that is because of the freebies, part is that I priced at $0.99 for a long time before I decided to trial a higher price, and part of it is that I’m far from selling the number I would like to be shifting each month. Had I released a novel by now, I might see more of an upswing in sales. It is difficult, I think, to sustain interest in short stories, poetry and children’s books, and the only solution is to ensure I take more time out for me to write. But … I have been countering that with consoling myself that if even one percent of those readers return when I next publish a book, that will be 290 readers I might not have attracted before. I’ve also changed Cage Life’s cover a little in an effort to boost sales, and have been busily sending off more review requests. As a result, I’ve received some wonderful reviews this week (which couldn’t have come at a better time, as health issues have made it a tiring, long and emotional week for me). The lovely mother and daughter team over at Parent’s Little Black Book of Books have reviewed both Cage Life and Hey, Little Sister for me and have given both five-stars, which was a fabulous surprise. You can see the review for my children’s book here, and if you write for kids, young adults or adults, I highly advise you to contact Loretta or Karen, who are both extremely quick and professional.

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It’s been a tough week, but 5-star reviews for Hey, Little Sister have helped put a smile on my face.

To counter my own little promotional dilemmas, I’ve also been hard at work compiling information for the free review sites ebook (which keeps getting pushed back but should now be a goer for June) and also the Indie Review Tracker Website, which is under production with a web guru at present. It should make it much easier for everyone to find reviewers, relevant forums and facebook pages, advertisement space, indie service providers and a whole lot more … yes, it just keeps getting bigger and better, and I just keep getting tireder and tireder. No matter, it will be well worth it when it comes out and I really hope others see it as a valuable tool that reduces their promotional time and “takes the puzzle out of promoting.” I’m currently looking for authors willing to guest post about their promotional experiences, so if you’re a strong blogger and you have great advice for authors, email me on karinwork@hotmail.com with “Indie Review Tracker Guest Blog” in the title.

The question is: would I have it any other way? The past ten months have been among my busiest ever (not least due to motherhood), and I’ve written more work for me and been more proactive at promoting my books than ever before. I’ve given a lot of thought this past month to what I aim to achieve with self-publishing. It started out as an experiment, and to be honest it still feels like one some days. Sometimes it feels incredible. Sometimes it feels like the goalposts are constantly shifting. Sometimes it feels like a crapshoot. A recent survey I wrote for indies discussing promotion, which you can go and complete here if you like, currently shows that of the more than 100 respondents 86% were either Extremely Satisfied or Moderately Satisfied that they self-published. (Note: All results of the survey will be published on the Indie Review Tracker site as soon as it goes live.) At present, I fall within the Moderately Satisfied crew. I know there is more I can to do to push my level up to Extremely Satisfied (more guest blogging, for instance, paid advertising, and more blogging in general, forging stronger connections, being involved in more indie community initiatives, and writing more books!) and that my promotional efforts will win out in the end, and if they don’t, I also know that books that ten months ago were available only on my computer hard-drive, now grace the libraries of 29,000 ebook readers … and surely that is worth something. 🙂

 

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Spam-I-am. [My Dr. Suess-style homage to anti-spam]

That Spam-I-am,
That Spam-I-am,
I do not like that Spam-I-am.

Buy it! Buy it!
Won’t you try it?
You may like it. You will see.
Buy it! Buy it. Buy my book.
You can read it on a Nook.
You can read it on a Fire.
Buy it—it’s my heart’s desire.

I will not read it on a Nook!
I will not read it on a Fire!
I will not read your stupid book!
Revulsion’s all that you inspire.

But you can read it on a tram!
Would you read it on a tram?
Or on the train? While giving birth?
Anywhere on God’s green earth!

I will not read it with a baby,
that’s definitely, not even maybe!
I WILL not read it on a tram!
Please fuck off with all your spam.

You’ll read it on your Mac, I think.
Just go here, download this link.
Buy it! Buy it! Just you try it!
Or I’ll drive you to the drink.

On my Mac I will not read it!
Really, I just do not need it!
Quit it! Quit it! Just you look.
I will not buy your stupid book!

But I’ve reviews—reviews, you see!
Not one or two or even three.
Four stars—five after another.
Some not even from my mother.

I will not buy your stupid story.
I am not a fan of gory,
nor of romance, or of chick lit.
Seriously, I WILL NOT BUY IT!

But I self-edited several times,
removing all the indie crimes.
It’s good! I think it’s even GREAT.
Try it. Buy it, won’t you mate!

I’m not the mate you think I am.
Stop tweeting me your frigging spam.
And did you post it on my page?
That really put me in a rage.
Your bloody, shitty Spam-I-am
is all over the web. Goddamn!

Sample! Sample!
Please, I’ve ample.
You could even win this car,
if you give it a five-star.

I will not sample, nor review.
You cover seems to make me spew.
Your author profile’s just not cool.
And did you finish primary school?

Buy it! Buy it! Now it’s free.
Try it now, and you will see.
I know my grammar’s slightly shocking,
But I WILL BE Amanda Hocking.

Not paid. Not Free. Not with a Kindle.
Your spamming really is a swindle.
Your work sucks BAD, take it from me.
I’ll return it even when it’s FREE!

Well, here’s a gift. I DM’d you.
Pass it on to someone new.
Or read my blog and you’ll agree
The next big indie hit is me!

A gift! Well thanks, that can’t be bad.
I’ll use the voucher for my dad.
Buy him something else for Nook.
I will not, WILL NOT buy your book!

Like it! Like it, then. Or tag it.
Tweet it! Goodreads it! Just snag it.
Get it now—99 cents.
Come on, you’ll like it. It’s intense.

I will not like it! I won’t tag it!
I’d much rather just to bag it.
Might even put you on the list.
Of authors ALWAYS to be missed.

Try it on Sony? Mobipocket?
Come on! Help me to “John Locke-it”
Two more reviews and then I think,
I’ll put it on Pixel of Ink.

Not PoI, not KND.
I will not buy your book, you see.
You’ve done your dash.
You’re much too rash.
Why must you keep on spamming me?

You think I’m spamming?
Wham-bam-mamming?
I thought we were interacting.
My whole mail list I’m contacting.

Sigh! Just listen Spam-I-am,
You’re shouting, trolling, drive-by-shooting.
All I hear is your horn tooting.
All you do all day is cram,
my inbox full of all your spam.

Here’s a thought: just let me be.
Stop blasting your damn book at me.
If it’s worthy of my shelf,
I’ll find your bloody book myself.
Then if I like it, I’ll review it.
Honestly. There’s nothing to it.

Blog or tweet some other links,
stop spamming groups with stuff that stinks,
quit being pushy in your greed,
and I might keep you on my feed.
Just be truthful and polite,
and I might buy your book
… just might.

 

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The power of connection

Even writing can't compete with this little wonder.

Yesterday several people read this fledgling blog and shared my “Indie publishing: perspectives on abundance” post with others. I was thrilled, and it got me thinking about the power of words and how we use them to connect both thoughts and relationships.

Words have so many purposes, but, for me, the real reason for writing, and the true power of words, comes in connection. If I can make a reader relate to my words and connect with them, to the extent that they feel something, be it joy, wonder, nostalgia, humour, surprise or fright, then I am satisfied. Generally speaking, I’d prefer my readers felt, joy, wonder or humour than anger, disgust or disdain, but when writing fiction I know it is my job to make them experience the gamut of emotions so they can live vicariously through my characters and empathize with them. It is harder, in my experience, to coax a tear than it is to conjure up a smile, so making a reader connect enough that they will cry for a character, or for a concept, is a talent indeed.

Yesterday I read a post by Cheryl Shireman that made me weep. It untapped a well of emotion in me partly because of its subject matter, and partly because it was so beautifully, honestly written. It made me stop and think about my life and how my desire to fit so much into every day, and to connect with others through my writing and through social networking, may have been compromising the one connection I hold most dear: my relationship with my baby daughter.

Sure, I do most of my work when she is sweetly sleeping, her little lips drawn up into a slightly parted cupid’s bow, tiny eyelashes shadowing a flushed cheek, and dainty little baby snores floating up from her port-a-cot at my feet, but at other times, times when I’m balancing her on my shoulder while I blog, or jiggling her bouncer with one foot while I edit, I feel guilty about multitasking. I feel guilty for being out there in the world (however virtually) when in truth my world is right here gazing adoringly at me. Right now.

Sometimes, even if I need just two minutes to finish an email, I force myself to stop. I step away from the laptop, and I devote my attention to a little heart that needs a hug.  My writing will always be there, but she will not always be this tiny, this vulnerable or this much “mine.” The world, with it’s many connections, will one day take her away from me. Perhaps not far—maybe just to playgroup, to school, to ballet, to pajama parties, to university, to a nearby suburb, to another city … but maybe to Europe, to Africa, or to America. God forbid circumstances ever lead her to places where I cannot follow. Who knows where her connections will one day take her, but for now her major point of connection is me.

I know my success as an author, as an editor, even as a friend, comes through making those external connections, but my success as a mother comes from putting this, dearest of all connections, above all others. So while I’m thankful that the internet allows me an untold number of ways to connect with others worldwide, I also know that each thread can unravel to another, and then another, until it seems almost impossible to escape the labyrinthine web even when there are other things to do or the one hour I’ve allotted for networking has slipped away.

Online connections are all well and good, but to maintain a real connection with his or her audience, a writer needs to spend time in the real world. Time sipping coffee. Time chatting with friends. Time helping an old man at the post office struggle with a large box, and time wondering what it holds. Time sleeping. Time reading. Time cuddling babies. Time making babies. And, most importantly, time writing. How else can a writer really connect with the minds of his or her readers?

For that reason, for the next week I’m checking my facebook, twitter and forums for strictly half an hour each morning so I can concentrate on two of my most important connections: my family, and my writing.