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Publishing and Marketing Nerds

Publishing questions

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  • #115611
    Rebekah.Elizabeth
    @rebekah-elizabeth

    Hello SE!

    My name is Rebekah, and a year ago (next month) I self-published my book on Amazon through KDP.

    Initially I was really proud of myself, but now I wonder if I’ve made a mistake.

    You see, the book is $9.99, and I receive less than $3 in royalties. I don’t care too much about that, other than the fact that they do not advertise for me. They are taking 70% of the money from the books, and I’m still only reaching the people I know personally and can share info with through word-of-mouth. KDP does have an advertising option, but I would end up losing a lot of money doing that.

    I believe that the words I have been given are there for a reason, and I’m meant to share them with the world. But I don’t believe that I am achieving this with KDP, despite all efforts to make it more easily found. (A relative of mine has a program that shows them all of the most searched keywords on Amazon, and they helped me set up the page so that people should come across it more often.)

    I don’t know for sure what to do. I have the idea that I should pull my book off Amazon, polish it up along with the other two books I’ve written in the series, and send it to publishers.

    Honestly, I don’t know how the professional, not self-publishing route works.

    Any advice?

    Thank you!

    -Rebekah E.

    ~Rebekah E.
    “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

    #115649
    Linyang Zhang
    @devastate-lasting

    @rebekah-elizabeth I believe that the way traditional publishing works is that first you find an agent, who will then contact a publisher for you. There’s probably other people in this forum who know more than me, though.

    "I set a melody upon the scenery I saw outside my window;
    It's beginning in my spacy world."
    - TK

    #115705
    Taylor Clogston
    @taylorclogston

    @rebekah-elizabeth Hey, congrats on putting your work out there.

    First and foremost, Amazon does advertise for you. As people buy your book it appears in the “other people also purchased” section of similar books. So long as you are serving a sub-genre faithfully, this is pretty good advertising. You are absolutely right that KDP ads are not a good choice for where you’re at, though. Those don’t start being worth it unless you have several books out, preferably in the same series.

    What is the length of your book? I have a novella out (13K words) and the converted file size is only 0.28 MB. This qualifies me for a 70% royalty rate at up to $9.99 USD. I have it priced at $2.99 because that’s what’s worked the best in my particular case.

    $9.99 is a ton to ask for any ebook unless you’re a big name author. Would you mind telling me the name of the book so I can take a look at it?

    It sounds to me like your basic approach to KDP isn’t as effective as it could be and your expectations might be a bit skewed, but I’m really interested to hear more about what your goals are and what you’re trying.

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

    #115713
    Rebekah.Elizabeth
    @rebekah-elizabeth

    @taylorclogston

    Thank you!

    You can follow this link to Katana Khan.

    My book is 50-55k words, 162 pages long, and released on July 29, 2019.

    I have the paperback version listed at $9.99, and the ebook at $2.99. (It has 1373 KB)

    After double checking, I recieve 60% royalties ($3.20) on the paperback, and 70% on the ebook ($2.06)

    I’m not concerned about the money, and I do realize it comes across that way, but I do hope to reach people with my book. I don’t know how to put myself out there without losing a ton of money I dont have, so I’m looking for the best options.

    Thank you for responding to me. 😁

    ~Rebekah E.
    “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

    #115714
    Rebekah.Elizabeth
    @rebekah-elizabeth

    I am not opposed to the idea of spending money on advertising, the problem arises that I have a job that, because for COVID, is hardly paying the car/phone bills each month, so I don’t have a lot of extra money on hand.

    ~Rebekah E.
    “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

    #115715
    Taylor Clogston
    @taylorclogston

    @rebekah-elizabeth No worries regarding sounding like you’re in it for money. If you create a product, it’s not wrong to want money for it. It just means you value your time and effort.

    Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here XD

    1. Middle grade is an infamously difficult genre to publish in, especially for self pubbers. Middle grade books get read because teachers make their students read them in school. Middle schoolers themselves typically have no money and there are a million amazing middle grade books at the library, so very, very few people are browsing Amazon for middle grade books to buy. And of course teachers tell their students to read books when they get attention and awards from other organizations and it’s this whole huge thing. If someone knows about this better than me, feel free to correct me. So while trad pubbing is not by any means a sure thing, if you are looking to get the intended audience and not just adults to read it, maybe you should indeed take the book down and move toward trad pubbing.
    2. As it stands now, you are not doing yourself favors in the self pubbing space. You want absolutely zero people who are not your ideal customer buying your book, because the Amazon algorithm aggressively targets your book toward people similar to those who have already bought it, especially if they’ve reviewed it. Unless the ideal customer is identical to the people you’ve been asking to buy and review your book in person, they’re polluting your also-reads and therefore your chances of getting the right people to see your book without spending money on ads.
    3. Your marketing and keywords seem like you’re targeting young adult, but this is a clearly middle grade book. Even if the protag is nineteen, she acts like she’s ten to twelve, and honestly the reading level and life issues the characters seem to be dealing with is just much lower than I’d expect from a YA book. That’s not a bad thing at all if this is the story you want to tell, it just would be a much better fit if aimed at a much lower audience.
    4. That said, your marketing on KDP needs an overhaul. Your cover looks nothing like the best sellers in your competitive field (for future reference, you might be able to find usable, cheap covers at goonwrite dot com) and your blurb is far, far too long while not stimulating much interest. In the short term it’d be immediately more effective by starting it at “Kamera Oyama’s dad died…”, line breaking with “Kim Higashi’s parents…” and “When rumors arise…” and then putting a period at the end of it all.
    5. Your editing needs a lot of work. You need many more paragraph breaks, need to format your ebook better (I’ve heard Reedsy works really well. If you want someone else to do it, plenty of people on Fiverr do excellent formatting for cheap).
    6. This is the really tough part, and I’m sorry in advance >.> Um, considering the story is about Japanese people, the authenticity of the setting and characters seems lacking to me. My only experience with Japanese culture and language comes from 9 years in karate, 2 years in BJJ, and an embarrassing number of years as an utter weeb. I’m not exactly an expert on Japanese living, but a lot of things stood out as glaringly wrong to me. From her saying “Sendai, Japan” while ignoring the prefecture, to her putting on shoes inside the house, to the fact she refers to a couch and not a bed as a futon, to Shinto being described as a religion, to her making an English-based pun on Akio’s name while ostensibly thinking and speaking in Japanese, to estimation of hundreds of yen being a lot of money instead of, like, a few bucks, to her acting as though sushi is the quintessential Japanese dish and pizza is a strange and wondrous thing, to referring to people’s first names as if it were nothing… This feels like you really like Japanese culture but need to do a lot more research as to how people live from day to day in the place you’re writing about. As an aside, I think the use of Japanese terms in the middle of all the English text would be fine if you were intending it as a chapter book or as middle grade, but when you’re using words with very simple English translations (konnichiwa, ohayo gozaimasu) and you’re not trying to educate kids about a different culture, it comes off as odd. Not to mention the PoV just doesn’t seem very Japanese to me. I have no perspective to say that as someone who knows no Japanese people and has only read a handful of books from like four Japanese authors, but to me Kamera felt like an American girl undercover as a Japanese girl. PoV seeming Japanese or not, if you do submit this to a lit agent, it is essential you address the authenticity first. Ideally you should corner some people who actually live in Japan and force them to be authenticity readers.
    7. Aaaaaaaaall that said… Japanese kids love cheesy vigilante superheroes who fight evil. The look-inside didn’t show me far enough that I could see what the action would look like, but I’d expect something way more Kamen Rider and way less dress-up-in-a-ninja-gi-that-probably-has-no-root-in-historical-reality like the cover shows if it were authentic to kids in Japan.

    I… hope some of this was helpful. Sorry to be so negative -.-

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

    #115716
    Rebekah.Elizabeth
    @rebekah-elizabeth

    @taylorclogston

    Before I get into some of the explaining parts, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to help me out. You are literally the first person who has given me constructive criticism on my writing, adressing problems and such, and I was getting tired of people giving me the fluffy-bunny thoughts of my book. And you don’t come across to me as negative, but as someone who realizes that I’ve put effort into it and care, and just hope to show me how to make it better. I feel like someone who can’t hear where their writing is flawed isn’t truly serious about it.

    1. First to address the middle-grade part of it, calling KK middle grade is not something I am opposed to, but when talking to the guy who helped me choose keywords, I mentioned that this will be the lowest level book of the series. Now that I think about it though, the other 2 that I have so far are still not at a level that I wouldn’t want my middle-grade siblings reading, so I definately need to address that.

    2. The cover: after more often perusing bookstores around me, I have come to realize that the cover doesn’t look fantastic (or even that good, to be honest), and I already have cover ideas to fix that problem.

    3. Most of the problems with culture that you have addressed are absolutely correct. Little details that will trigger people who know more about Japanese life.

    I think I have come to terms with the fact that is was completely and utterly impulsive with my choice to publish already. 😞 That’s a really hard thing to admit for someone who has spent the last year being proud of themselves. 😅 But pride won’t help me reach people, will it?

    Again, thank you for your criticism.

    I do have another question, I have quite a few copies of KK on hand. Do you think it would be wise to send copies to other writers to gain criticism, despite my plan to unpublish it?

    ~Rebekah E.
    “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

    #115797
    Taylor Clogston
    @taylorclogston

    @rebekah-elizabeth Thank you for taking it well =P You do seem serious about writing, for whatever it’s worth.

    I just want you to know I did the exact same over impulsive publishing thing. I published mine after a bunch of years of casual writing, without learning anything about doing it properly, let alone marketing. I put out a too-short book in a subgenre I knew nothing about (and didn’t care about) without good structure, with an off-genre cover, with no plan for marketing.

    Last year I gave it a much better (but still off-genre) cover, a better blurb, and an editing pass that gave it a better structure and a more acceptable length.

    It’s been really tough not just pulling the trigger and putting a bunch more books out, but I know I’m not ready for that yet. I want people to read my stuff, but I want my stuff to be worth reading first.

    So if that’s close to something you’re struggling with, just know you’re not alone.

    As for your question at the end, I think sending your copies as critique copies might be the best current use of them, even if you plan to unpublish. Otherwise they’re just going to be recycled or whatever, right?

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

    #115799
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @rebekah-elizabeth Taylor’s already given good advice, but I just want to say I’ve been in the same boat and it’s all for the best in the long run. The most important thing to focus on is your product. Building a platform, paying for ads, and all that are secondary and really just drain your energy until you’ve got the foundation laid. The good news is, once the foundation is laid, everything else becomes easier. 🙂

    😀
    👕👍
    👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢

    #115842
    Josiah DeGraaf
    @josiah

    @rebekah-elizabeth I agree with a lot of @taylorclogston’s feedback. Not sure if you’re looking at traditional publishing or re-trying self-publishing right now, but if the latter, I’d definitely invest in a professional cover (as it sounds like you’re already considering) and also work on building your personal platform so you’re able to reach a larger audience. While hoping that people come to your page via keywords can work at times, it often works more effectively when it’s a part of a larger strategy (focused on your personal platform) than just by itself. Do you have much of a personal platform yet?

    Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.com

    #116338
    Rebekah.Elizabeth
    @rebekah-elizabeth

    @josiah @taylorclogston and @daeus-lamb

    I’m so sorry for the late reply. I wrote a response that didn’t post, then have had an incredibly busy few weeks, and didn’t think to check to make sure it posted. ): But I do very much so appreciate that you have taken the time to help me out and give me advice.

    To keep you updated, since I last posted, after talking with my family, lots of thinking and praying, I have unpublished book 1, so I am working on re-polishing book 1 and the 2 follow up books.

    I’ll work on getting a list of people together to send copies to. I also have a close friend who knows a lot about Japanese culture, and has even been to Tokyo in the past. I will be asking him to read through the series.

    As Daeus suggested, I am focusing on the books themselves right now, and I will work on a platform afterwards. During this time I also hope to write some articles to post on different blogs that I am already connected with. (I have a blog post already published on theReb.)

    To answer your question, Josiah, no, I don’t have a personal platform at all. Not too long ago, I did have a personal social media account, but my life has gotten really stressful, I got really stressed, and I found social media to make me feel even more alone in all of this. So I took a pause from that, and, honestly, life has been so busy and I am still struggling a lot, so I don’t believe I am ready to be back on social media, even if it is just to build a professional platform.

    So here is what my plan is right now:

    1. Finish writing KK3

    2. Re-polish book 1, edit the entire series, and make sure that the story-line all flows well together.

    3. Send original copies to more experienced writers and people who know more about Japan than I do and will catch details that I miss/mess up on.

    4. Write articles that I can send to different blogs, therefor building a platform.

    I will also be taking writing classes at college this year.

    Anything you think I need to add?

    I also feel the urge to ask this: do you think that I should just work on the books right now and not publish for a while? I have inspiration for 2-3 more books, and I almost wonder if I should stick to blogging for a while while I grow a collection of books, then later on start the process of publishing.

    Here are a few reasons why that appeals to me: I live an absolutely insane life. I am the oldest kid out of 5 in my house, not including 2 foster kids. I am also the only one of the kids who is willing to give up their time to help around the house. Throughout helping my parents with giving a home (albeit, for most a temporary one) to 12 different kids over the past 2 1/2 years, I have, essentially, self homeschooled my way through high school, graduated with a 4.3 GPA, and I am going to college this year. I have also worked a catering job I love for multiple years now, and after graduating I intend to take over the business for my boss.

    Writing is a huge part of my life. I find books to be a way to inspire people to grow in Christ, and I intend to be a part of that.

    Have people written books and just waited a few years before publishing? Does that idea sound reasonable, or even like a good idea?

    Again, thank you for the time and input the 3 of you have given me. It means more to me than you could imagine.

    ~Rebekah E.
    “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

    #116405
    Josiah DeGraaf
    @josiah

    Hey Rebekah!

    Great questions. My personal opinion for some time has been that I think a number of writers feel a need to publish a lot sooner than they need to–or than it’s necessarily wise to do so. Truth be told, there’s no rush to get published and if the additional time allows you to better hone your craft and put together a smashing first novel, that’s time well spent. Daeus gets into this idea some in a post he did on the topic a while back on our blog: https://storyembers.org/are-you-publishing-your-book-too-soon/

    You can definitely build a platform without social media as long as you have a website to direct people to so you can begin building a mailing list by offering subscribers some free digital bonus–whether an exclusive short story, a checklist, or something else you think your audience will like–whenever they subscribe to your newsletter. Email lists are one of the best marketing tools out there, so I would make sure you have that in place as you work on getting published on another sites (which is another solid practice!).

    Brandon Sanderson wrote a number of books before he got the first one published–and many of his later books were ones he’d written earlier (although some of them were significantly revised pre-publication to better reflect where he was at that point as an author). Kara Swanson, who’s our marketing strategist here and who just published her first novel Dust with Enclave yesterday, also had written a number of books before she published Dust! In fact, she’d attribute some of her success in landing a literary agent & publisher to the diverse book concepts and works she had that she could shop around to them. Traditional publishing and self-publishing are certainly different venues, but there are definitely authors who have followed that approach!

    Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.com

    #117274
    Zee
    @zee

    I’m new, so I hope you all don’t mind me jumping in to comment. Just wanted to say thanks to you, Rebekah, for being so willing to share your struggles and questions, and for having the humility to take even the painful advice in the spirit it’s meant. And to the rest of you, thanks for sharing your wisdom! I’ve also recently self-published (perhaps, in hindsight, a bit too quickly as well) and now I’m playing catch up as fast as I can.

    #120770
    R.M. Archer
    @r-m-archer

    I just want to pop in to echo @zee. This has been a really informative thread thus far. 🙂

    And @rebekah-elizabeth, you’re doing a great job of gracefully taking feedback and building a stronger plan! I wish you all the best as you continue to work toward an end result (both with your project and the trajectory of your writing journey in general) that works for you and achieves the impact you’re going for. 🙂

    Fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi author. Mythology nerd. ENFP. Singer.

    #122291
    Rebekah.Elizabeth
    @rebekah-elizabeth

    @josiah Thank you for the advice! I appreciate all that you do for SE members, and, though I don’t often have time to be active on the SE forum, the influence you and the other staff members have had on me over the past few months through the podcast, summit recordings, and emails has been invaluable. Thank you so much!

    ~Rebekah E.
    “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

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