Resolutions for 2013

In another post I outlined my roadmap for 2013. I talked about my current projects and what I plan to accomplish next year.

Now I want to talk about something else for 2013. A personal roadmap, if you will.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about how amazed I am that people are buying my books. Most days I still am. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about marketing, promotions, KDP Select, and all that jazz.

But lately I’ve been thinking less about sales and marketing and more about simply writing. I mentioned it here and here as the notion progressed. I found that obsessing about sales and analyzing to the nth degree isn’t exactly how I want to spend my writing time anymore. I want to write because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. I want to create. I want to entertain.

I’m tired of figuring out what promotional technique is going to bring me an extra sale or two. I’m no longer concerned about fretting over a theoretical lost sale. For the past couple of months I’ve been focused on producing. I’m convinced that what really sells books is writing a good story. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, and that comes when you write a good book. (And Amazon’s “also bought” list is simply another form of word of mouth. A person liked a book and ponied up the cash for these other books, conveniently located below and available for purchase with a single click.)

So here are the resolutions I’ve been following for a some time now, but will place front and center as I wade through 2013:

  1. I will not obsess over sales.
  2. I will make my books available on as many platforms as I can. All eReaders, in paperback (and possibly audio). I want to leave no reader behind.
  3. I will improve my writing through self-education (how-to books, style guides, and critical reading of peers).
  4. I will write 1,000 words per day of new fiction.
  5. I will ignore the things that don’t add value in my life or cause unwanted distractions.
  6. I will not rewrite my books to death.

Will I check sales reports? Sure, but I’ve already stopped obsessing over it. I check a couple times a week now, only after I’ve hit my word count for the day.

I’ve opted all my books out of KDP Select. (The Desolate lapses on December 31st.) No reader left behind.

I’ve read three how-to guides on writing in the past month. I’ll read more in 2013.

In November I averaged 1,700 words per day. Since then I’ve managed 1,000 pretty easily. No reason I can’t keep that up in 2013.

I spend virtually no time on Facebook or Twitter, I don’t watch the news, and I don’t spend time with people who don’t make my life better. I will not ignore the important people in my life, those are distractions I want (and need). But people who don’t enhance my life? See ya later.

I released a novella and a short story in December. That’s because I didn’t spend months rewriting them to death.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to self-publish. I want creative control. I still want to handle the business end of things. But now I don’t need to spend so much time on that. I already learned what I need to know. Now I can spend 90% of my time writing and 10% of my time on the business.

I’m committed to finishing two novels in 2013. With the changes I’ve already put in place I’ve been extremely productive and much happier. Writing is more enjoyable and less like a chore. And it better be, because if it stops being fun then I stop doing it. My time here on this planet dwindles each day and I’m not about to waste any of it doing something I don’t enjoy.

So if you don’t hear much from me here in 2013, it’s because I’m busy writing and living my dream. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when the books are ready. 🙂

I hope 2013 is a wonderful year for you. I look forward to seeing what you create.

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Right on.

ARMAND ROSAMILIA

Back in October, when my sales weren’t really strong, I simply figured everyone was waiting until mid-November to get their early Holiday shopping in. Once December hit, I’d be off to the races. 

Looking at my December 2011 sales, I had high hopes. While I couldn’t reach mythical figures like when JA Konrath made $100k in three weeks thanks to Amazon, I still had a great month. Little did I know, when those big sales continued into January, February, March and April, it would be my peak. 

This December sales? Not so great. OK, they are utter shit. There, I said it. And it’s not just me, it is many many of my indie author friends who are struggling. Why? Because, in part, we let it get this way. We lowered our books to 99 cents to get better spots in the intricate Amazon algorithms, getting high on Top 100…

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Roadmap for 2013

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So now comes the time to reflect on the current year and plan for the following year. 2012 was a good year for me, overall. I released a novel and a novella, with a short story due to be published before end of year. I also completed the NaNoWriMo challenge, ending with 50,326 words. I’m 11,000 words or so into my second Badlands book too. I also fully revised Into the Badlands, cleaning up a lot of my clunky “newbie” narrative.

Adding up all the words written (and excluding the Badlands revision), it comes to 157,000 words in 2012. Combined with last year, that’s nearly 300,000 words, almost one-third of the way to my first million words. Hard to believe.

What’s to come? Well, I first have to finish book two of my Badlands trilogy. A trilogy, you ask? Not simply a sequel? ‘Fraid so. After outlining the sequel I found that one character’s story just didn’t have a proper ending. It soon became clear to me that this person’s story needed another novel, so the idea of a trilogy came to mind. Besides, a trilogy will be fun. I think the third book will be called Reclaiming the Badlands, but we’ll see.

Once Beyond the Badlands is finished, I’ll be back on The Crossover Gene. I wrote half of the first draft for NaNoWriMo, so I already have a leg up on completing the novel by the end of 2013.  That’ll probably be all I can squeeze in during 2013, since I’ll already be pushing myself to meet these goals. But, if I get ahead of the curve, I might just do the NaNoWriMo challenge again. I already have an idea of the novel I might write.

This also marks the two year anniversary of my return to writing. Amazing things have happened over the past couple of years and I hope next year is even more amazing.

With the right amount of hard work and luck, I think it will be.

Lapsing Out of KDP Select

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As self-published writers, not only do we write the books, we also price them and market them. One of those pricing and marketing tools is KDP Select. I’ve written about Select before (and the reasons behind my choice to opt in), so I won’t bore you with those details here.

What I’m discussing here today is my choice to opt out.

I opted my debut novel, Into the Badlands, into KDP Select back in February of this year. Each month after it averaged around 35 borrows. I left it in Select for nine months (three ninety-day terms). I began seriously considering opting out after the second term, but I opted for a third term anyway. At the time I leaned pretty heavily toward opting in because of the poor performance of non-Amazon sales channels.

Mark Coker wrote an article about Amazon playing authors like pawns in a chess game. While he made some good points, the tone of the article made indie authors sound naive and gullible. Like we didn’t think about what we were getting into. He also did not place enough responsibility on Amazon’s competitors’ inability to step up their game and actually compete (including Smashwords).

But what really compelled me was this article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It really got me thinking about my long-term readership.

While I contend that what I’ve said about KDP Select and Amazon’s competitors is still true, I’ve come to the conclusion that Select is a short-term tool. I plan on writing for the rest of my life (and self-publishing for as long, should the existing system hold up), so the decisions I make should be geared toward the long-term.

Simply put, making my work available everywhere, to anyone, regardless of device, is a better long-term plan to acquire and retain readers.

But I had concerns about opting out of Select. Badlands is my best-selling title and I didn’t want to risk damaging that. My first concern was the fact that I’d lose all my borrows, about 35 per month on average, or around $70.

My second concern was that Amazon would “punish” me for opting out by knocking my book down in the rankings. If true, not only would I lose the borrows, but I’d lose paid sales.

I decided to risk it in the end. Long-term it was the right decision, so I allowed Into the Badlands to lapse out of KDP Select in November.

What happened was surprising.

Sales increased. I actually ended up selling more books than the two prior months. I have two theories around this. One theory is  it’s all seasonal. We are approaching Christmas and Amazon likely sold a ton of Kindles on Black Friday. Those Kindles need books.

The second theory is that borrows were cannibalizing my paid sales and once folks couldn’t borrow the book for free they simply ponied up and bought a copy. Badlands is ranking higher than it has for months. Simply stated, it doesn’t appear that Amazon is penalizing my book for lapsing out of Select.

Also, non-Amazon sales have improved since last year. Barnes and Noble, while not stellar, performed best, with Kobo ushering in a sale. Alone, these sales didn’t cover the gap I lost with my borrows going away, but combined with the additional Amazon paid sales it went a long way toward filling the gap.

Utilizing Select Short-Term

That said, I do think Select can be utilized short-term. My second novel, The Desolate, got off to a slow start when released. For three months it languished until I opted it in to Select and ran a two-day giveaway. After that sales nearly doubled. I think the trick was the giveaway, placing my book on many different “also bought” lists for other horror novels and getting it in front of more paying readers.

I think that a “Kindle First” approach might be valuable. The idea being: give the book to Amazon for 90 days and do a giveaway to seed the “also bought” lists. Let it ride for 90 days and then let it lapse out and get it into the non-Amazon stores (B&N, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords, etc).

And some books, like novellas and short stories, might be better suited for utilizing the free promotions that come with Select, since Amazon’s algorithm changes don’t boost paid sales after a free day anymore. Giving away stuff you don’t make very much on (with previews to your full-priced novels included) is like cheap advertising.

It’s hard to say how long Amazon will extend the Select program. If it goes into next year I’ll likely take the “Kindle First” approach with my upcoming sci-fi thriller. My sequel to Into the Badlands, however, I don’t plan on opting in to Select at all. The first book already has a readership, so I don’t need to seed “also bought” lists with a free promotion. The book should sell on its own.

No Reader Left Behind

So as Kris Rusch suggests, I’m taking the “no reader left behind” approach. It’ll probably cost me a little in the short term, but with the long tail of this new publishing paradigm I think that I (and my readers) will benefit more in the long term if I make my titles available to everyone, everywhere.