Yeah. I know. It’s about time, huh! So, I’m working on EJRuek.com and CountryJames.com, then it will be DLKeur.com right after. Then, I’ll see about revitalizing Aeros’ site. Meanwhile, I did release another E. J. Ruek book. I just never got around to posting it up here on this, my main website. It’s titled Slightly Disturbing Stories and those folks who’ve read it seem to really, really like it.
Way back before I set a moratorium on publishing my novels because of piracy, I set out to write at least two books a year. And did it. In fact, all three of my Montana Love Story novels were written in a month and under, with the second and still unpublished third book drafted in seventeen days and sixteen days, respectively. It was something which I hadn’t thought myself capable, that is to write a good book — one of my books — in shorter than a year. I proved to myself that I could …only to quit publishing in a fit of temper about all my books having been pirated, even those exclusive to Amazon.
Now, a full two years plus since my last novel’s release, an author friend’s needs prompted me to put my process down in an orderly, organized guide. Here it is:
I had an interesting discussion last night that made me think about the books I’ve written, the published and those sitting in files, real and virtual. An author friend, Laura Belgrave, whose website I manage, admitted that, yes, her books matter to her. I admired that when she said it.
I’m not sure why, but, for me, while the books I’ve written and published delight me when I happen to reread them, I don’t place them as ‘important’ in things I actively care about most: my husband, the animals I care for, the land and trees, friends, my husband’s musical compositions and his instruments, my brain, body, knowledge and skills, maintaining my father’s house, my own musical instruments….
The books I’ve written? They’re just things I’ve done and released into the world. So, too, when it comes to my artwork, and my musical performances.
Laura’s caring about her creative works in contrast to my own curious attitude about my creative outputs gives me pause to wonder at myself. It especially makes me wonder why I write.
I do feel quite happy, even proud, of the books I’ve self-published (not, though, the ones previously published by others). In my opinion, my books — the ones I’ve authored without interference from money men — are very good, despite errors missed in editing, some due to Microsoft Word’s auto word-replace penchant, errors that I should, but don’t, make the time and effort to go back and fix. They’re great stories, written with passion and skill. So why, I wonder, don’t I place them high on my ‘most valued’ list?
I’m not sure of the answer to that question, but I think it might be something of the zentaoist in me. Those books, though brought into existence by my hand, exist completely independently of me, their author. They are, in essence, each their own entity once created. I own copyright, but they are not me, nor I, them. I certainly delight when someone enjoys them, but not because I wrote them. Rather, it is a delight in someone appreciating them, the books themselves, and the animals, aliens, and people, that live within their pages.
And, now, I think I’ve touched on something pertinent: I write to bring the characters within to life, so you, too, can meet, greet, and appreciate them, whether they’re people, animals, the land and its lore, or aliens from other worlds and cosmoi.
I just read an article about professional self-publishing authors versus hobbyists. I thought it was reasonably presented, well-written, succinct, and to the point. There were a couple of things, though, that niggled at me, mostly because my brain is always adding in the qualifiers, quantifiers, and outliers — the means and the extremes. First, though, a short synopsis:
The author, Peter Mulraney, first defines professional versus hobbyist quite nicely. There can be no argument from the tax authority, which is where the distinction is most critical, much as many a self-published author will dodge that comprehension until after they’ve gotten themselves stuck in some auditing mire.
From there, we get a quick summary of product-based business basics:
- the business plan
- the product and its marketing
And, of course, this is where my brain releases devils within details, the first and foremost being that, in order to do #1 on the list, you have to have previously mastered #5, no small feat for many. Heck, for the majority, it’s tough to even muster enough self-discipline to get up in the morning in time to shower, dress, and head out for the day job with enough time to spare that some unforeseen delay like a train at a railroad crossing doesn’t send them into a frothing frenzy because they’re going to wind up fifteen minutes late for the job …again. Hence, you see that frenetic driver, their body leaned forward in urgency as they weave in and out of traffic to then cross three lanes in a dive for their exit, tires smoking as they round the last corner to scream into the employee parking lot.
Luckily, Peter lays out a nice road map, though, defining a business plan as “setting measurable goals.” He then gives a tidy example:
- writing and publishing a book every year – that means scheduling time to write
- building a body of work within a defined timeframe, for example, ten books in five years – that means committing to the long term view
- setting sales targets, for example, selling 10,000 or 100,000 copies – that means scheduling time for marketing
Let’s take a look at those, shall we? Write and publish a book a year, and — very important this — scheduling the time to write that book. Okay. Do-able. …For some.
But, wait. Check out bullet point number two: Build a body of work within a defined timeframe — ten books in five years.
[Sputter.] That’s two books a year, something even big-name, trad pubbed authors often sweat to accomplish …and they (supposedly) have editors and agents to help them along in meeting that goal.
But there’s help once you’ve got number one out the door. It’s NaNoWriMo!
Voilà! That should get you book number two for the year.
Okay. Onto the second part of bullet point number two: committing to the long-term view. Now, I ask: How many folks can you name, including yourself, who can make a monthly plan and stick to it?
How about just a weekly plan?
A day plan?
Okay. Let’s lower the bar: How about just making and fulfilling a monthly shopping list of everything needed in your household for the month, vowing to never venture out to the store again until thirty days hence? …How about just a week’s worth?
I’m sorry, but most everyone I know these days, save myself and Bill next door, can’t even manage a full day! And you think a five-year plan is going to be a functional reality? Do you remember that research paper you had to turn in by the end of the month in high school? How did that work out? That book you were assigned to read and give a book report on? That chapter of reading for History class?
If the honest answer is, “Great! No problem. Always got my goals and assignments done” or, even, “Usually got my goals and assignments done,” then, yes, do give long-term goal-setting the go. If not, practice completing short-term goals, increasing the length of time for each practice goal by twice every time you succeed. Once you have managed to succeed at setting and accomplishing a yearly goal, then, okay, give longer-term planning a try.
And now we come to bullet-point number three: “setting sales targets.”
In a word, don’t. Not even if you’re a best-selling, trad pubbed author with an awesome advance release team and publicist, plus an in on Oprah …unless,of course, you’re the mob boss in some mafia, syndicate, or cabal with enough influence that will guarantee the numbers you set yourself, by hook or by crook.
As to some of the details Peter mentions, I’m only going to address this one, because it’s to-the-point and on-target:
“Being in business means being flexible with what you write and publish. There is no point in persisting with a product line that does not sell.”
And here’s the translation: If the books you’re passionate about writing don’t sell, are you willing and able to write what does? Because that’s the difference between being a professional self-publisher and being a writer. The bottom line drives the former; passion, the latter. I count as the latter, which, because I do make a profit, because it’s work, not a hobby, makes me, not a professional self-publisher, but a professional author who now just happens to choose to self-publish rather than go back with the trads.
“Dawn, why don’t you…”
“Because it’s a waste of my time.”
There are no ‘but’s.
What the hell am I talking about? Book promotion, that’s what.
As an author, specifically and mostly a novelist, I write ’em — books, that is, (used to publish them, too …until the pirates pissed me off) — but I’m not interested in spending my life chasing futility, much less paying for the dubious honor of being stupid …which is what happens when and if you fall for all the bullshit out there about book promotion.
Oh, sure Number One: Release a new book, and, maybe, a past reader will care, if they see the promo, always chancy because emailed announcements get ignored, posts on social media don’t get seen, ads get missed and blocked.
Release new books regularly, as in every three months, and, yes, you’ll sell some, both the new and some from your back catalog. It’s all predicated on luck and happenstance, though. There are no guarantees.
Oh sure Number Two: Facebook advertising works and doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg …or, maybe I should say, will cost only an arm and a leg, depending on your target demographics.
And, yes, oh, sure, Number Three: Amazon advertising works, with the same caveat as with Facebook.
Newsletters? Oh, sure Number Four: You’ll sell some books because you dun your mailing list subscribers, but you’ll also net a whole bunch of ‘unsubscribes’ in the process, people who will never, ever buy another book from you because you pissed them off by hitting their inbox at the wrong time.
Reality: A check of the numbers, especially when penciled out against time and money spent, means that you are, literally, paying for the privilege of irritating people who may be somewhat interested in your new release …maybe, but, mostly, are irritated by getting yet another “See? Look! I just released another novel” dun on their social media notifications or in their inbox.
I’m sorry, but my time is worth money, plus, I’m not interested in providing folks an extra excuse to dislike me more than they already do because I’m a mouthy, opinionated so-and-so. I especially am not interested in alienating those who do appreciate me because I am a mouthy, opinionated so-and-so, but who don’t like having me push my novels at them. And I’m certainly not into paying for people to unlike, unfriend, and unsubscribe …which is what happens, much as the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus don’t share that consequence — a real consequence!
And that brings me to the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus.
Did you ever notice that the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus never offer to use their “guaranteed formula” they claim works so well to sell your book? That’s because they know that their “tried and true” system doesn’t work. Did it and did they offer such a service, there isn’t a book author out there who wouldn’t part with 50% or even 100% of their royalties for becoming a ‘known’ author to readers. Heck, wannabees would flock to cash in on the service at 1k, 2k, maybe even 5k in USD $$$$ per book. Heck, the gurus would be rolling in the dough, wouldn’t they?
But, no. That’s not what the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus are selling …for a good reason. They couldn’t do it. Their tried and true method would not work, even for them. It’s all smoke and mirrors, and they know it. They know they’d be spending innumerable futile hours, getting way less than minimum wage trying to, no matter how many starving third worlders they employed at pennies a day to plug in their magic formulas.
Instead, they take the easy route to fame and profit. They sell their “guaranteed formula” for success to hungry-for-fame-and-profit book authors, their guarantee only valid (read the fine print) if you meticulously follow all their rules and keep at it …forever. Oh, and buy their latest how-to book, because, y’know, don’t you? The market is always changing, so you’ve got to have the latest greatest along with their previous books on the subject. (“Secret #4 referenced in book 1, secret #9 referenced in book 2… .”)
Here’s the deal: Most all the folks who claim to have the inside edge on how to sell your books make their livelihood and niche best seller fame by selling “How to Sell Your Book” books to pantingly desperate and gullible authors. Now, while some of those methods worked for the instances shown, they don’t work by the time the “How to Sell Your Book” book hits publication. It’s a done deal, that strategy only working for a few weeks, maybe months at the outset for the strategy’s originator and a handful of others who immediately copied them. After that, nope. But the ‘how-to’ formula is still saleable, of course.
Well, what about services like Book Bub and Book Gorilla?
Book Bub is expensive and a PITA to get into (See concluding sentence of paragraph below.); Book Gorilla, inexpensive. But you know who signs up to those mailing lists? Authors interested in checking out those services as a possible path to more sales. (It’s part of the sign-up process, getting you on their mailing list.) The other most notable demographic are Bargain Basement book shoppers, mostly those who read lots and lots of Big R romance. Oh, sure, Number Five: Bargain Basement book shoppers will always grab freebies and, maybe, 99 centers. But that’s it. They ain’t into payin’ for books. It’s gotta be free or dirt cheap.
Onto oh, sure Number Six: There are a minuscule percentage of readers on those Book Bub and Book Gorilla mailing lists that actually are interested in discovering new authors and are willing to actually pay for subsequent books from an author’s catalog, but those folks are rare as hen’s teeth (and, for those not in the know, hens don’t have teeth. Hence, their ‘rarety’. That’s the irony embedded in the saying.) Oh, and, PSST! Book Bub has now become the tool of Trad Publishing, don’t you know? Indies really need not apply, please.
I’ve already covered “How to be a Hugely Successful Published Author“. If you want to know my secret for promoting my books, it’s this: I occasionally and prudently advertise. I put my dead tree books in shops I know will attract buyers. And how about on the Net? My advice: Be yourself. Be active and interesting. Don’t badger people with duns to buy your books or keep announcing them over and over, ad infinitum. It’s enough to put the covers there for the seeing. Folks who become interested in you, the person, might happen to finally decide to read one of your books. And, if they like them, they might buy more of your titles.
If you seriously want to write books for a living, I suggest you either write the consistent best selling genre on Amazon — erotica/BDSM — or find some hungry non-fiction, self-help niche …like book authors seeking the magic secret to fame and fortune, then pump your books out at a rate of one every couple to three months, because, anymore, that’s about what you’re going to have to do for folks not to forget you and your books exist.
So, a bunch of “legitimate, hard-working ‘authors'” are in an outrage. Feathers are kerfuffled, bent, even broken. Tsks, clucks, cries, and screams of outrage (text-style) flood the cyberlanes. SJW-style calls-to-action abound. Hands grab virtual pitchforks, clubs, hoes, and hatchets.
It might not make your local news, but, in the online author circles, the ripples are palpable, the temblors quaking their virtual landscapes. The headline reads: “Scammers Break The Kindle Store”. (If you’re interested, DuckDuckGo it, because, no, I won’t link to it or any of its reblogs.) What that headline should read is: “System-Gaming ‘Authors’ Beaten at Their Own Game,” because that’s what’s happened.
Authors ‘serious’ about getting their ‘eBooks’ noticed in the hopes of making both money and a name for themselves as ‘successful indie authors’ collect and then mine their followers, email list subscribers, author pals and cooperatives, friends, relatives, and anybody else they can to try to get their books highly ranked on Amazon and other online book selling venues. Calls-to-action abound with
- Urges to read a provided eARC (eBook version of an Advanced Review Copy) then post reviews of the book on its release date or very soon thereafter. (Of course, four and five star reviews are expected.)
- Coordination of blog posts among genre-similar associate authors promoting the book are pre-scheduled, as are blog tours.
- Subscribers and followers are urged to buy within x days of release or an older release’s new promotion, with specific dates sometimes assigned.
- Social media pals are sent copy to post pre-release, on release day, and the few days following that release.
- Seeking permafree status on Amazon of an author’s first book or, better, of the first of a series, is something pursued with vengeance and artful manipulation.
- BookBub campaigns, Book Gorilla campaigns, eliciting votes for best cover contests and best book contests….
- et al. ad infinitum.
Here’s the reality: Legitimately good books written by legitimately good authors don’t usually make it to the top of any rankings, because most legitimately good authors don’t have the crowd charisma and marketing gumption (and, yes, I said ‘gumption’, defined as ‘boldness of enterprise; aggressiveness’, because that’s what it is) necessary to hold sway. Success in eBooks, especially on Amazon, regardless of actually how good the book is (and most of them are, in fact, schlock) is based on how well the author of that top-ranked book has gamed the system, which is dependent upon ‘likeability’, luck, skill at manipulating the various ranking algorithms and, more so, skill at convincing others to raise you and your book’s popularity and sales/download/pages-read numbers.
So, indie authors are in an uproar …because outsourced clickfarms have stolen their tactics of inner circle clickfarming and are ruining their game-plan. Truth is, all the outsourced clickfarms are doing is exactly what the authors were doing, only much more effectively, it seems.
Me? I don’t find the outsourced clickfarming any less ethical than author-run efforts. In fact, I think I find them less offensive. Of course, my opinion is that of a tiny minority, and, I guess, it’s extremely offensive to people like Stuart Whitmore over on G+ who decided to resort to insults and trolling me over it. That’s okay. I expect that. I’m not and never have been willing to just go along to get along, embracing the most popular opinion just because it’s socially advantageous.
First off, you have to write a book …or get somebody to write it for you, but it has to be one that is going to strike the fancy of ‘the mob’. (Think 50 Shades….) If you don’t have something that’s going to strike a chord with the masses, then you’re just one insignificant among the millions of others publishing in the U.S., never mind globally.
Now, before doing anything else, and I mean anything (no queries to literary agents, no submissions to publishers, or, if self-publishing, no announcements, no pre-publication notices or pre-release sales, no cover reveals…NOTHING), lets go down the checklist:
- Are you an extrovert? Yes? Good. Continue.
- Are you part of one or another ‘in’ crowd, hugely popular both in the real world and on social media, and do you have a frenzied bunch of followers who dote on your every word, video, and image share? Yes? Good. Continue.
- Do you have a bunch of money to fling to the winds? Yes? Good. Continue.
- Are you already famous? Yes? Excellent. If no, continue at your own risk.
- If self-publishing, get a really good cover made for your book. If going the literary-agent-to-big-traditional-publisher route, start querying the big agents, but, after landing one who actually manages to shop your book to one of the big five, expect to wait about 1.5 years before going to the next step.
- Whether self-publishing or going with one of the big trads, hire a top-of-the-line publicist, buy lots of advertising, and get on with it.
And, no, this is not tongue-in-cheek. And, yes, you’ll come out behind for the first book, but, if it’s a hit like 50 Shades…, no problem. You’ll make it back on books 2 and 3. If it’s not a hit, continue with books 2 and 3 at your own risk …and, yes, if it’s not a hit and traditionally published, your publisher may very well dump you; your agent probably will, too.
One more thing: If you do make it, hire a financial adviser and learn what NOT to do so you don’t wind up blowing your wad and end up in the poor house.
Whenever I open my mouth to say what I think…or, rather, type on my keyboard (because the Internet is where it happens most, now), feathers get ruffled. What I consider a common sense viewpoint is, more often than not, objected to by a specific mindset owned by those who claim entitlement to any and everything, and by those whom the entitlement claimers have brainwashed into believing their pap.That happened this morning when I posted a rather mild rant about attitudes about piracy, specifically piracy of eBooks and audiobooks–piracy of my books.
Enter the self-appointed publishing expert who, after chiding me on the use of the word ‘bullshit’, claiming it to be cursing (an antiquely Puritan viewpoint, IMO) ‘informs’ me that:
- of course I’m wrong;
- of course the statistics gathered from an eight-month study that I instigated last year in my private webmaster group of skilled and learned people is also erroneous;
- of course it’s not costing anyone really–no, not at all.
- And, he insists, after all, according to [reference] and [reference], it’s no big deal.
(Remember The Emperor’s New Clothes? Remember Stone Soup? Obviously, he has deluded himself into seeing the emperor’s clothes and thinks hucksters are heroes for tricking people into sharing their hard-earned assets with clever vagabonds. …Remember The Ant and the Grasshopper?)
…Then there’s the gamer who somehow added 1 and 1 and got 31, claiming that I must be against friends loaning to friends.
Ah, duh, that feature is enabled on my eBooks, and you can, with a click, share your eBook purchase through Amazon with a friend or several, albeit one at a time…and Amazon is the only place I publish, right now.
Then he added that I must have a problem with libraries, too.
No, not, and never. It’s stealing I have a problem with, dufus. Jumping to erroneous conclusions that have nothing at all to do with the topic demonstrates, at least, your level of desperation to support your stance, never mind your lack of foundation.
There’s a whole generation of you–comprised mostly of youth and Gen-Y-ers, who believe you’re entitled to access anything on the Internet for free. You claim It should be free, and, one way or another, you’re trying to force it to be free. Well, it’s not free…just like the clothes on your back, the shoes on your feet, the food that you eat, and drinks that you swallow aren’t free, much as you’d like them to be. My book sales are my income. It’s the work I do. I should be paid for that work, and, in fact, I insist on being paid for that work. If you don’t want to pay, then go entertain yourself with one of those ubiquitous free books out there. (Psst! There’s a ton of them, with slack-skilled authors just begging you to download them, all for free. In fact, they’ll even pay you to read their books! Have at it.)
In point of fact, I’ve loaned or even given my eBooks and print books away. Yep. But that’s MY choice to do it…when and if I choose to do it, which, admittedly, isn’t often. But it’s MY choice of when to do it and upon whom to bestow my gifts–my right as the intellectual property owner. It’s also MY choice to set a price that I think is fair and reasonable…just like it is YOUR choice to choose whether to pay for the privilege of reading my novels and books. (“Oh, gads,” they mutter. “She has the audacity to say ‘privilege’!” …Yep, I do. Because it is.
You don’t want to pay the price?
I’m not begging you to read my work. Not at all. The key word there is CHOICE—MY choice not to let you read my work for free, and YOUR choice not to pay my price for the privilege of reading it. But a lot of you want to take that right away from me. You object to the very fact that it is my right, a right you don’t think that I, as the creator, should hold. You actually promote and sanction a policy that I, the creator, should be denied that right, not just nationally, but globally!
You think you are somehow owed the right to consume whatever content you want to and not be required to pay for it. And when somebody says, “No!”, you throw a hissy fit. (You should see the private messages…or should I say the private scolds and castigations I received. Too bad they weren’t posted publicly. I would have loved to share them, especially the ones decrying me as a “capitalist [c-word]”, “a selfish control freak”, and…well, we won’t go farther than that, thanks.)
I knew when I posted that editorial, I was going to get the rats, termites, and maggots crawling out of the walls.
And crawl you did.
I was prepared for that, and was, actually, quite surprised I didn’t receive more text-lashings. The few I did receive just prove my point. You’ve proven to me just how stupid and unabashedly hypocritical you are–you who demand fair wages for your work, but would deny me mine. And you’ve convinced a lot of gullible authors of that, too, demonstrating just how well the very people getting ripped off by your ‘content-should-be-free’ meme–authors who accept and even sanction it–can convince themselves that they’re so very lucky to be getting hung with a new rope, rather than a used one.
Of course, on the up side, I got nice support, too. Not so many in private messages, but in the sharing, plussing, and the few brave souls who commented. Thanks, all.
Meanwhile, of course, the response I got allows me to separate more chaff from wheat. I love pruning out the dead wood and keeping those who hold a vital mind.
Most of you know that I quit publishing more books because of piracy problems. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research on the subject.
The common indie author response to this problem is (paraphrasing): “Piracy is okay, because the people who download your book wouldn’t buy it anyway, so you’re not really losing any revenue, and, besides, it’s actually good because your work is being read and you’re potentially gaining fans.” Then, of course, there’s the ‘content should be free’ people–people who think that ‘liberating’ (stealing) intellectual property isn’t wrong, at all–that any creation that doesn’t require tangible resources should be given away, the creators not compensated except maybe for voluntarily dumping some pennies into a tin cup…if that.
To which I now, after a whole year’s worth of intense research, say ‘bullshit’!
In March of 2016, I discovered that I had over fifteen thousand illegal downloads of two of my books. (The number has gone up a lot since then, btw.) And my numbers aren’t but a scratch to what other authors, both indie and trad pubbed have suffered, even from just a single torrent site. For just one novel, from just one site, their numbers rank anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of downloads–that’s for a single title. (Luckily, my books appeal to very narrow niche of readers.)
Figure that out, even at pennies in royalties per copy, rather than several dollars in royalties, like my books are set,
So, a couple of days ago, I found out that my audiobook of OHL has also been pirated, an audiobook only available, supposedly, from Audible, an Amazon company that is very keen on protecting that content…and their attempts to foil pirates still failed.
So, now, after a year of research, picking the brains of experts in encryption, licensing, and in protecting against piracy, including the top, most successful company at protecting games, at least during the game’s initial month of release, which is all they’ll guarantee, it comes down to this: There is absolutely no way to prevent piracy, not of eBooks, not of games, not of music, videos, audiobooks, artwork…nothing…when they are offered for sale online.
One expert suggests that the best answer to combating piracy is to create a better delivery service to consumers. He cites Netflix as an example of his thinking–that Netflix makes it so cheap and easy to watch just about any movie or TV program you want with their huge catalog that you don’t bother trying to locate pirated versions or pirate them yourself. I can see the logic, but, again, I say bullshit.
My take, after a year’s worth of research, is that It’s a mindset we’re doing battle with, the mindset that says “I should be able to get it all for free, and, if I can’t get it for free, then I’ll steal it and release it to everyone because content should be free.”
I wonder how these “content liberators” would feel if someone broke into their bank account and liberated all their cash to anybody and everybody. You can bet they’d be REALLY upset. Well, that’s exactly what they’re advocating, that’s exactly what they’re doing and supporting with my own and every other creative artist’s intellectual property when you and they pirate it, distribute it, and when you and they download those pirated copies.
Meanwhile, I’m still working on a solution to my dilemma of how to publish and release my creations and at least net enough to live on without my husband having to put his life in jeopardy every bloody day so we can make ends meet…and, yes, I do think I’ve come up with a solution. It will take planning, it will take effort and time, but at least I won’t feel violated by hypocritical assholes.
Novel trailer for the epic sci-fi novel, A Gathering of Rebels by Aeros (D. L. Keur pen name). This science fiction novel is by, for, and about aliens, a space opera that will take you deep into the real cosmos. The books–there are two volumes to the epic–are available in eBook and print at Amazon here: Volume 1 (Part 1): https://www.amazon.com/Gathering-Rebels-1-ebook/dp/B00LQZM9H0/ and Volume 2 (Parts 2 & 3): https://www.amazon.com/Gathering-Rebels-2-ebook/dp/B00LQZMATM/
A Gathering of Rebels will be available in audio and in audio/visual later this year.