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had planned to polish up some of my favorite stockpiled manuscripts to
share with you, but a new story pushed its way to the front of the line
instead. By the end of March, Shiftless
will be available on Amazon, and while you wait, you can enjoy a
prequel short story (with a solid ending, so if you want, you can stop
Bloodling Wolf is
my free gift for everyone who signs up for my email list using the
second form on the sidebar. Here are what a couple of early
readers had to say:
Easterling’s world building was very interesting, with a 'bloodling'
being a type of werewolf I’ve not run across before. Bloodlings
are rare shifters who are born in animal form and can’t shift into human
form until they become teenagers.... It’s always interesting to
see the world through the eyes of someone not exactly part of it in the
same way we are, be it aliens, children, or bloodlings.... Kudos
to Aimee Easterling for a job well done." --- M. Meara
I'm hooked! I love the main character and his 'milk brother' is awfully sweet too. Can't wait to read more!" --- S.
I plan to only use my
email list to announce new books and giveaway periods, which means it'll
be extremely low traffic (maybe one email per month). So you have
nothing to lose by giving Bloodling Wolf a try. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it!
It's time for another round of favorite indie books! You can read about previous favorites here and here. I stuck to reviewing fiction this month since I was working hard on writing non-fiction of my own,
so the books below are simply listed in order from most to least
recommended. (Even the "least" ones were quite good, or they
wouldn't be on this list.) Enjoy!
- Delirium by Susan Kaye Quinn. This perma-free short ebook (44 pages) is the first installment in the dark sci-fi Debt Collector
series. I have to admit that the first installment was so stellar
that I bought the whole thing, then regretted it since the rest of the
book didn't quite live up to that potential. But if you think you
can stop after one "episode," Delirium is highly recommended.
- Mine to Tarnish
by Jeneal Falor. This fantasy book's description really doesn't
do it justice, but I can't think of a better way to sum up the novella's
simple beauty. Suffice it to say that the book reminds me of
Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea trilogy.
- Enchantment by Charlotte Abel. This perma-free young-adult fantasy compares favorably to Patricia Wrede's Frontier Magic series.
by Jessica Pine. This is a new-adult novel, which means the book
feels a lot like young adult but has explicit sex. If you enjoy
Jodi Picoult's issue-oriented heart-string-tuggers, you'll like this
book, which focuses on the aftermath of an abusive relationship.
by Penelope Fletcher. This perma-free paranormal romance is
heavier on world-building than most romances, which floats my
boat. Unfortunately, Smolder
ends on a major cliffhanger, book two is reported to have a cliffhanger
ending as well, and book three isn't out yet. If cliffhangers
didn't drive me so crazy, this would have been my second-favorite book
of the month, so use your own judgment.
- Hope(less) by Melissa Haug.
This perma-free werewolf book is heavy on the world-building, which
always makes me happy, but not quite enough to make me overlook the slow
pace of certain parts of the book.
- Tempted by the Pack by Anne Marsh. This perma-free novella is worth reading if you enjoy werewolf books, although it does tend toward the bodice-ripper and thus lacks substance.
Many writers are obsessed
with page and word counts. I suspect that some of this obsession
is the writing equivalent of "Are we there yet?", but it's also tough to
know what kind of story to tell until you figure out how many pages you
have to tell it in. Plus, publishers reputedly want books that
are very close to the average length in each genre, so the advice to
make the story as long as it wants to be doesn't hold water if you're
writing for publication. The internet abounds with recommended
word counts for various genres, such as:
What I find fascinating
is that the trend among indie authors on Amazon is to write books at or
below the low end word counts in at least some genres. And readers
lap these small books up. Yes, some readers complain in the
review section that the book feels short, but best-sellers continue to
clock in with low word counts. Here are some estimates for indie
word counts on Amazon's bestseller lists:
Although indie young
adult actually seems to be longer than mainstream young adult, it's
interesting to see so many books on the paranormal bestseller lists that
don't even really hit novella length. The two paranormal
bestseller lists are so well-stocked with indie titles that I only
inventoried the top 40 indie titles in each, but among paranormal
fantasy books, 15% came in below 40,000 words (estimating 275 words per
kindle page). It seems that as long as the price is 99 cents, just
about any word count goes.
got me wondering whether the page counts that publishers want are based
on storytelling...or on printing and bookstore economics. Since
most indie authors sell nearly all of their books in e-form, they have
no incentive to pad a novel to make it look better on the shelf.
Is it possible that, without the shackles of print to hold them back,
the best stories are on the short side? Maybe the reason indie
authors are pushing mainstream authors off the best-seller lists in
certain categories is because their shorter works are more appealing to
the masses...especially with the resulting lower price tag.
The photo here includes some of the books that I can't live without, which run the gamut in size, but tend toward short. I'd
be curious to hear about your favorite books as well. How long
are the ones you love the most? Do you find short books lacking in
substance, or do they often capture a more simple, spare story that
sticks with you for days to come? Are the best novels short?
There's a big debate at the moment
among authors about whether they make more money by signing on with a
mainstream publisher or by going the indie route. As part of that
debate, some of the "traditional" authors are publishing their royalty
statements online...and many readers are surprised by how little the
authors made. I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and share the
results of my first royalty statement for The Weekend Homesteader, published by Skyhorse Publishing. (You can read also my thoughts before the statement came by following this link.)
For the period of November 2011 through the end of June 2012, my net
sales were as follows. (I've factored out the returns that
inevitably come from bookstores, so these are net figures.)
|Net # sold
|Profit per copy sold
|Amazon and other discount paper retailers
|Bookstores selling at full price
|Tractor Supply and sales outside bookstores
(Just so you know, I don't get a check for 6k. First, the
publisher deducts my advance ($1,500) and then they deduct the reserve
for returns ($2,000 in this case, usually about 50% of print book
sales), then they send me what's leftover. And all of that
immediately went to fix my mom's teeth, so don't go asking for a loan on
the $2,800 I actually got either --- it's all gone.)
The first thing I noticed when looking at my royalty statement is that
the ebook sales were a net loss. I have an interesting set of data
because I originally self-published The Weekend Homesteader
in twelve short ebooks on Amazon, and when the publisher approached me,
they allowed me to keep those books up there, although they reserved
the right to publish their own merged ebook including all twelve
sections. Before signing on with the publisher, I made $6,267.10
Homesteader ebook sales on Amazon during the same eight-month period the
previous year, and only $4,531.45 from my indie Weekend Homesteader
ebooks after Skyhorse's ebook version became available, for a net loss
to me of $142.82 after adding back in my royalties from that official
This brings up one of the big arguments authors are having at the moment
with mainstream publishers. Authors contend that publishers are
getting an unshare portion of the pie from ebook revenue since the
publishers don't have to pay printing costs but still take big cuts of
the profit, and my data backs up that assertion. If I ever signed
on with another publisher, my
results show that I should refuse to part with my ebook rights, or
should at least negotiate a royalty higher than 25%.
being less than pleased with ebook revenue from my traditionally
published book, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my royalty
check was larger than expected. Traditional publishers contend
that indie authors are losing a significant part of potential revenue
since we can't really compete in the print market, despite
print-on-demand books through createspace. And they're right --- I
definitely wouldn't have reached all of those print customers without
the publisher's help. However, when you compare what I made the
year before on Weekend Homesteader
self-published ebooks to what I made from my publisher, you'll see that
the publisher only brought in an additional $93 for me --- hardly worth
the weeks of effort on my part finding print-quality images and jumping
through the other hoops necessary to produce a print book.
On the other hand I did learn a lot by watching the
pros solicit reviews, send the manuscript out for copyediting, and make a
cover, so I'm glad I embarked on the experiment. Still, my gut
feeling is that if I now put a bit more time and money into those parts
of future ebooks, they'll be more lucrative if self-published than if I
went to seek out another book deal.
The bigger picture
While I'm on this topic, I thought I'd crunch some numbers from the 931 authors who have submitted their royalty data to authorearnings.com.
On average, traditionally-published authors made $11,565 each year
while self-published authors averaged $53,565 per year. These
figures are quite a bit skewed by the best-selling authors in each
category, though, so I thought it would be interesting for us little
guys to see the averages of the lower 90% in each category: $17,868 for
traditionally-published authors and $11,746 for self-published authors.
Of course, that data is based on the authors who felt like reporting their results, so perhaps a better perspective comes from this report (also
by authorearnings.com) which sums up all 54,000 ebooks found on
Amazon's best-seller lists. A program trolled all of the publicly
available data on Amazon's website and determined that self-published
authors bring in at least 35% of the author revenue from Amazon ebooks,
with their big chunk of the pie explained by their higher royalty
percentages (no cut to the publisher, of course). It's possible
that many of the small and medium publishers are also indie authors in
disguise, so our chunk of the pie might be even higher than it
seems. On the other hand, this report only focuses on ebooks,
where indie authors have quite an advantage, so it doesn't speak to the
overall issue of whether you'll make more money with a traditional
publisher or by striking out on your own.
The take-home message ---
you might make a bit more from going with a traditional publisher than
by self-publishing (or maybe not), but you'll probably have to jump
through a lot of hoops to find that publisher, it will take much longer
to get your money after writing your book, and you'll put in a lot more
effort throughout the process that could be used to write and
self-publish an extra book or two. I plan to learn from the
experts, but keep my book rights in the foreseeable future. How
"Movies are intricately made emotion machines," wrote Blake Snyder in Save the Cat. Although
the book is meant to guide screenwriters toward producing works that
will appeal to both the public and to movie executives, it also has some
tips that carry over to the world of novel-writing, so it's
unsurprising that many authors now sing the book's praises. The
best stories --- either in book form or on the screen --- are the ones
that take you on an emotional journey, and Snyder is an expert at guiding the audience down that emotional path.
One of the most interesting parts of Save the Cat
is the way Snyder divides movies up into so-called genres...but ones
that don't match the categories you're used to like romantic comedy,
action adventure, and horror. Instead, Snyder uses Joseph
Campbell's concept of archetypes to separate stories based on the main
character's inner journey. I was intrigued to discover that even
though Snyder lists ten genres, all of my favorite stories fall into
only three categories: Golden Fleece (quests, road movies, and other
stories of self discovery); Rites of Passage (coming of age stories and
other life transitions); and Institutionalized (tales about the struggle
between self-interest and loyalty to a group). Just reading over
Blake's list of genres can help you figure out which archetypes speak to
you as well.
The most touted section of Save the Cat involves Snyder's beat sheet, the idea being that you make
your story fit a set sequence with mirrored opening and ending scenes, a
high point in the middle, and an "dark night of the soul" 75% of the
day through. He recommends using notecards to set up forty scenes,
arranging them into four quarters to help you visually imagine the
story. Although I was a bit dubious, I had a story niggling at the
back of my mind as I read Save the Cat, so I figured, why not give it a try?
My conclusion was that the beat-sheet method of story development has
pros and cons for a novelist. First of all, even a short novel is
much more in-depth (and longer) than the average screenplay, so after I
started writing, forty scenes left me with a lot of gaps to fill
in. I also got stuck about two-thirds of the way through the book
since my the characters had developed enough by that point that they
informed me the ending I'd charted out was just plain wrong, which sent
me back to the drawing board. Those negatives aside, though,
starting with a beat sheet did help me counteract my urge to infodump at
the beginning (Snyder just doesn't allot time for that in his beat
sheet) and it helped me figure out who my character was and what she
wanted to do at the beginning much more efficiently than my usual method
of just writing until the protagonist develops her voice.
I'd be curious to hear from others who have used Save the Cat
to write a novel instead of a screenplay. Which parts of the book
do you feel carried over well and badly? In the meantime, stay
tuned for the results of my experiment, which will hopefully be ready
for you to read in the next six weeks or so. I'll also be sharing a
free short story teaser soon.
Naturally Bug-Free is now live on Amazon! This ebook is the second installment in my popular Permaculture Gardener series, which shows you how to grow a vegetable garden in harmony with the natural world.
The first book in the series, Homegrown Humus, has already demystified cover crops for 2,500 people. Naturally Bug-Free
is a complementary look at how to keep pest invertebrates at a dull
roar in your garden without spraying anything. With a price tag of
only $1.99, the ebook will pay for itself with the first head of
organic broccoli you grow in your garden this spring.
Thanks for reading!
Those of you enrolled in Amazon's KDP select program
probably noticed a new feature popping up a few months ago. Now
you can choose whether to use your five promotional days per three-month
period with a freebie or with kindle countdown deals. The idea with the latter
is that you discount the price of your book (which has to be between
$2.99 and $24.99 pre-discount) to boost interest. As you can see
in the screenshot to the left, during the sale, there's a little note
beside the price of your book telling potential customers that they only
have a limited time to take advantage of the discount.
A possible selling point
for countdown deals is that you get to stay at the 70% royalty rate even
during the sale period. This works much better for fiction (with
no photos) than for non-fiction (especially mine, which tends to be very
heavy in photos). In the former case, if your book was originally
$2.99 and you discounted it to $0.99, you'd get 70 cents per download
during the sale period. Unfortunately, in my case, Amazon still
takes out a significant chunk from that 70% royalty due to file size, so
I was only getting 18 cents per download, far less than I would have
gotten if the book had simply been priced at 99 cents.
Many people who write
fiction report that a well-publicized countdown-deal period can bring in
the same amount (or more) money compared to a period when the book
wasn't discounted. But as you can see from the screenshot above, I
lost about $40 from downloads of Trailersteading
due to the sale period. On the other hand, as with any promotion
like this, the main point isn't so much immediate income as to boost
your whole list of books and the future sales of the promoted
book. To that end, I crunched some numbers to see:
- ...whether increasing the price of Trailersteading from 99 cents to $2.99 (the prerequisite for enrolling in the countdown-deal program) decreased revenue
- ...whether the countdown deal impacted overall sales
To answer the first question, I came up with the number of copies of Trailersteading I probably would have sold and had borrowed
in January without the countdown deal, then compared that figure to the
number of ebooks I sold in November when Trailersteading was priced at
99 cents. Now, keep in mind that Trailersteading is an established
ebook with lots of good reviews, and I probably underpriced it to begin
with, but the results were startling --- I did see a 29% decline in
total number of sales, but also saw a 187% increase in revenue after
increasing the price. Clearly, 99 cent ebooks aren't always the way to make the most money on Amazon.
As a caveat before I move on, I should consider the other two ebooks whose price I raised to try out the countdown deals --- Microbusiness Independence and Permaculture Chicken: Incubation Handbook.
With the Incubation Handbook, I saw a 49% decline in number of
downloads, but a 139% increase in profit. With Microbusiness
Independence, I actually saw a 38% increase
in number of sales after I increased the price and a 715% increase in
profit. (I'm assuming the increase in sales after increasing the
price of Microbusiness Independence is due to the launch of a new book in the series, which always boosts sales of other books in the series.)
so on to question two --- did the countdown deal itself help in any
way? I already showed that I lost money on sales of
Trailersteading during the deal itself, but the countdown did move
Trailersteading way up the rankings. All of the email lists I
submitted my sale to declined to share Trailersteading with their
readers, but I did email my fans, and the book moved upwards in the
rankings throughout the week. When Trailersteading first went on
sale, it was ranked about 10,000 in Amazon's kindle store, and by the
end, it was close to 3,000. By the last day, Trailersteading was
showing up number 3 on the ranked listing on Amazon's countdown deal
page, which helped boost exposure even more.
After a free period, books
that moved way up the rankings drop back down to close to their previous
paid ranking, but I don't see any reason Trailersteading's ranking
should decline right away after the countdown deal ends. That may
be where I make the most money on the countdown promotion --- while
Trailersteading is still ranking as #2 in Sustainable Living but is back
up at its list price of $2.99.
It's harder to figure out
how much Trailersteading's high ranking is pulling up my other books,
but I'm sure there's some effect there. If I remember, I'll post a
followup in a month or so letting you know how the overall sales for
January (with the excellent countdown sale at the end) compare to
November (in which I only did free periods).
So, the bottom line is that
I'm cautiously optimistic about the benefit of Amazon's Countdown Deal
feature. However, I have to admit that it didn't do much for
Microbusiness Independence, which only barely rose in the rankings
during its countdown period and then plummeted to below sale
levels. I suspect the countdown-deal feature is only effective if
you use it on a very strong ebook, or if you're able to get into one of
the ebook newsletters (but that's nearly equally true with free
I hope this
excessively long post gave you some grist for your mill as you consider
whether to try out Amazon's countdown deals. Feel free to mention
your own experiences in the comments section!
It's time for another round of favorite indie books! Like last month,
I'm going to break this up into three categories. And to repeat what I said last month, I downloaded
many of these books for free. Below, I'll note which ones are seemingly
permafree, but please do check the price before you click to buy.
In addition, if you have Amazon Prime, most of the
books below are enrolled in the lending library (along with all of my
so you can borrow one per month without paying. This is actually
an awesome way to support indie authors since we get a whopping $2 per
borrow most months and you pay nothing. Happy reading!
- Thy Hand Hath Provided: Recipes and Preserving
by Jane Bryan --- I enjoyed a gifted review copy of this
homestead-style cookbook. Click the link for my full review, with
- Tree Morphogenesis
by David Lloyd-Jones --- You can see my full review by following the
link. This is an interesting book for anyone who spends time
working with trees in any capacity.
Fiction with redeeming value:
- Lollipops, Garlic, and Basement Salamanders by Aimee Easterling
--- Vivid nature imagery will suck you in, and you'll keep reading for
the fun fairy tales.
- Quail Crossings by Jennifer McMurrain --- Fans of Little House on the Prairie will enjoy this family-oriented book set on a farm during the Dust Bowl.
- Here With Me
by Megan Nugen Isbell --- This New Adult book is very helpful for
anyone who is a caretaker or who knows a caretaker --- it's a tough job
by Karen Prince --- I actually gave up on this book, but really enjoyed
the first part due to its fascinating peek at African life.
Fiction purely for fun:
- Lady of Devices
by Shelley Adina --- My favorite book of the month! This is such a
delightful steampunk adventure that I slipped and bought the next three
books in the series. Which is all a long way of saying, even
though I think this book is perma-free, if you start reading it might
- Kiss Me, I'm Irish by Bella Street --- Fun, easy chick lit.
- Chasing Sam by Krystal Shannan --- A fun werewolf novella (and I think it's permafree).
- The Line
by J.D. Horn --- A male author who really captures female characters is
unusual, but I most enjoyed the world-building in this book.
Stay tuned for more selections at the end of February!
Lollipops, Garlic, and Basement Salamanders is now up on Amazon for 99 cents! I hope you enjoy this short story collection as much as I do.
If you missed my earlier post, you can read Aimee Easterling's introduction here.
We're working together on sprucing up her first novel at the moment, so
you should expect more fantastical fairy tales coming down the pike in
Thanks for reading!
I recommend that ebook authors take a look at this study of optimal ebook pricing,
from which the chart above is excerpted. When people ask me the
best price for an ebook, I'd previously been sending them to a previous study,
which suggests the lower you price your books, the more money you
make. The old hypothesis appears to still be true in Great
Britain, but I think the surge of subpar 99-cent ebooks in the U.S. has
turned many readers off the lowest priced offerings. Meanwhile,
some indie authors have been producing high-quality ebooks that are just
as good or better than anything published by a mainstream publisher,
and readers are realizing those works are worth a higher price.
a result of these changes, you now seem to make the most profit by
pricing your ebook between $9 and $10 if you live in the United
States. Since Amazon allows you to choose a 70% royalty for ebooks
priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and only a 35% royalty above that price,
the sweet spot is probably actually between $8.99 and $9.99.
Despite this study, I
think there's a real danger in pricing your ebook too high, especially
if you're a new author without an established fan-base. 99 cent
ebooks do get snapped up much more quickly than more expensive
offerings, which moves them up the rankings, and I think any author's
first goal when selling on Amazon should be to have your book show up in
the top 100 in at least one category so that strangers will find your
writings. In addition, you get a lot of benefit from offering
multiple books in a series, and with non-fiction, that's easy to achieve
by writing shorter books that you price lower. I figure 10,000
words per dollar is a pretty good price point for making readers feel
like they really got their money's worth, although I do price higher
than that if a book is very picture heavy.
So where will I price my upcoming ebook, the cover of which is shown above? At the moment, Bug Theory for Gardeners
is slated to launch at a price between 99 cents and $1.99, depending on
how big the file is with pictures and text. (You can no longer
sell ebooks with a file size greater than 3 MB for 99 cents.)
However, I may raise the price of the ebook later once it's well
established in the rankings, since that strategy has increased revenue
for Trailersteading recently.
What are your experiences with pricing ebooks?