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Corn earwormJust as I was getting ready to hit the publish button in Createspace, I realized another benefit of keeping Naturally Bug-Free in the print-on-demand sphere.  Although the color paperback turned out pricey ($16.62 on Amazon), I was able to make a black-and-white version available for only $4.99!  Both paperback editions are enrolled in the matchbook program, so if you buy either one, you can instantly download the ebook for free.  What could be better than immediate gratification, plus a book to hold in your hand for future reference?

As a thank-you for anyone willing to spread the word about my new paperback, I'm running a giveaway over on my homesteading blog at the moment.  Enter for a chance to win a signed color paperback copy of Naturally Bug-Free plus lots of other goodies, adding up to a $72.49 value.  Thanks in advance, and I hope you enjoy the print version as much as I enjoyed making it.

Posted Sat Apr 19 10:37:54 2014 Tags:
Asparagus beetles

Naturally Bug-Free coverI've been making some difficult book-related decisions over the last couple of months, and I thought I'd share my thoughts here to help anyone who might be in a similar boat.  It all started when I considered making a print copy of Naturally Bug-Free available.  The book has some of my favorite photos in it, and it's the kind of text I prefer to have on paper since the book can be used as a simple identification guide to the most common garden insects.  I figured other readers would probably want a print copy as well.

However, I soon discovered that Createspace (the print-on-demand wing of Amazon) doesn't do glossy interiors, so my photographs didn't show up quite as perfectly as I'd like them to.  Plus, on-demand color printing isn't cheap.  Giving myself a low 38 cent royalty per book, I'd still have to charge $16.99 to make the book available through Amazon.  I could buy copies and sell them myself for about $13.50 once I add in shipping, but even that is pretty high for a 120 page book.  And when I sell the book myself, it doesn't go up the rankings and reach new readers.

Back coverSo I considered the idea of doing a real print run of Naturally Bug-Free.  This would cost a big chunk of change up front and would commit me to storing 5,000 copies of the book, but I'd get higher quality paper and could send out copies for as low as $10.  However, if I want to sell any on Amazon, their fees pop the price back up to $13.62.  Meanwhile, if I want to get into bookstores and libraries, I have to sign up with a distributor (B&T), who takes 55%, requiring me to mark the book up to $21.05 --- way too expensive.

All of this math suddenly made a mainstream publisher look more enticing again.  I wondered, could I use a publisher to do the printing and distributing, keep the ebook rights, and get all the benefits of both sides of the fence?  The answer is --- no.  The editor who worked with me on The Weekend Homesteader seemed very interested in Naturally Bug-Free, but after a month of talking to her bosses, we discovered that there's no way Skyhorse was willing to part with the ebook rights.  They did, however, offer me a major ebook royalty rate increase (70%, compared to the 25% they offered me the first time around), plus a slight advance increase ($2,000 instead of $1,500, which is very low compared to the $5,000 to $8,000 that bigger publishers in the field provide).

Best-sellers in the Sustainable Living Category on Amazon, 3/14
# of titles in top 100
Average rank
Median rank
Chelsea Green

So I wavered, and decided to look around at other options.  I contacted Chelsea Green with Trailersteading (unsure about how kosher it was to shop the same book to two publishers at once).  Chelsea Green seemed tentatively interested and asked to see the current ebook, but eventually turned me down.  I'm not sure if the sticking point was that Trailersteading is far too weird for a mainstream publisher (even a cool, funky one like Chelsea Green), or whether they simply didn't want to argue the ebook rights.  (I made it clear I was looking for a publisher willing to accept the print-only rights.)

Mexican bean beetleIt was time to make a final decision, so I wrote up a pro-con list --- sell Naturally Bug-Free to Skyhorse or stay indie?  Basically, the pros of going with Skyhorse were: more money now and a boost in sales of my other ebooks when the print book comes out.  The cons were: possibly less money over the life of the book and definitely loss of Naturally Bug-Free as part of my indie marketing campaign (free periods, plugging other books in the back, etc).

Although it was a bit tough to say no, I eventually decided keep Naturally Bug-Free for myself.  Since I already had a print version nearly ready to go on Amazon, I put in the finishing touches and will be launching it shortly.  Although the book will be a bit more expensive (possibly) than it might have been through a publisher, I can let readers download a free ebook copy at the same time and they'll be able to read now rather than in spring 2015.  Hopefully that will be enough of a benefit to make up for the unglossy paper and slightly high price tag.

Posted Tue Apr 15 16:07:09 2014 Tags:

March was a good month for indie fiction!  But before I dive into my favorite March reads, I want to announce a giveaway --- Aimee will be sharing a signed paperback copy of Shiftless with one lucky reader this week!  Click on the links below to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled reviews, ordered from most to least recommended.  (Even the ones at the bottom were thoroughly enjoyed, though.)

  • The Medium by C.J. ArcherThe Medium by C.J. Archer --- Free!Wow!  This book really hit the spot with its spunky young heroine and Victorian setting.  Plus it's perma-free, although you'll probably end up wanting to pay for books two and three.
  • The Neanderthal's Aunt by Gina deMarco --- This book was both fascinating and fun, following the life of a scientist whose sister has chosen to adopt the first recreated Neanderthal.  This is indie publishing at its best --- zany enough that a mainstream press would probably shoot the idea down, but in a good way.
  • The Zombie She Carried by Cate Marsden --- Now I know what contemporary romance is missing --- zombies!  Despite the crazy premise, the story is excellent, and the characters really suck you in.  Another book that could be indie published.
  • Heist School Freshman by Alan Gallauresi --- I love heist stories, and although this isn't really quite a heist, it pushes all the same buttons.  Plus, a story by a man that still captured the emotional punch I look for in a good book!
  • Free!Camille by Tess Oliver --- This is a werewolf book, but a very abnormal one, which made it all the more interesting for me.  It seems to be perma-free, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot.
  • Free!Hyde by Lauren Stewart --- This is another abnormal werewolf book, also perma-free and fascinating.  Be warned, though --- cliffhanger ending!Free!
  • An Unlikely Match by Barbara Dunlop --- This perma-free chick lit book is light and fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the geeky bits.
  • Laura's Wolf by Lia Silver --- This is more of a typical, sex-filled werewolf book, but it's quite a good one.  Plus, the author is a therapist specializing in PTSD, and that gives a certain depth to the book that it might have otherwise lacked.
  • When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak --- Contemporary romance often feels a little lacking to me, and this book didn't quite surpass that hurdle.  However, it was a fun ride, and if you are less annoyed by straight romance, you'll probably love it.

Want to check out more excellent indie titles?  You can see past months' reviews here, here, and here.  Enjoy!

Posted Sun Mar 30 16:32:45 2014 Tags:
Indie author

Mark and I enjoyed getting to hear Lakisha Spletzer speak about her books and self-publishing experiences at the local library this week.  A southwest Virginia native, Lakisha moved to Florida in 2004 and soon joined a writing group that nurtured her interest in books.  By late 2009, she had self-published her first book via Createspace, and soon thereafter began publishing ebooks as well.

Jewels by Lakisha SpletzerFour and a half years later, Lakisha has published nine books, and her best-seller has sold 6,000 copies.  Although she spreads her books around to multiple sellers (using Smashwords to get into most of the e-catalogs), Lakisha admits that she sells more books via Amazon than through any other retailer.

Self-promotion is the name of the game for indie authors, and Lakisha is a pro at leveraging social media and in-person events to sell books.  She got so good at book promotion that she started her own company, Indie Hoopla, to help less savvy authors get their books out there through blog tours, giveaways, and other virtual outreach programs.  The site even offers some free services for authors, which I plan to try out.

If you ever get a chance to hear Lakisha speak, you should jump on the opportunity.  She's a vibrant presenter who held us all spell-bound with her stories, and I'm  looking forward to dipping into her books.  Thanks for such a fun evening, Lakisha!

Posted Fri Mar 28 14:33:52 2014 Tags:

A huge thank you to early readers and reviewers who have shared such kind reviews of Shiftless!

Black and white wolf"Couldn't put it down!" --- Emily Monroe

"This isn't an instant smell and mate type shifter romance....  This is the type of book for someone who enjoys wolf shifters, pack dynamics, a strong female lead, and the ability of that female to move on with her life and mature into who she was meant to be.  It is well plotted and written.  There's a decent amount of shifter moments, no sex at all, which was different but welcome.  Overall a good read." --- Dan's Wife

"A must read if you're interested in how the wolf and human would interact within a character." --- S

Book two has been percolating in my mind over the last couple of weeks and I'm nearly ready to put pen to paper (or, rather, fingers to keyboard) and let the story continue.  Your reviews help galvanize me into action, so thank you!

Posted Tue Mar 25 13:36:57 2014 Tags:

ShiftlessI'm very excited to be able to share Aimee Easterling's first novel!  Those of you who read and enjoyed Bloodling will be itching for this full-length addition to the Aimee's werewolf universe.  (And if you haven't read Bloodling, just fill out the second form on the sidebar to join Aimee's email list and download a free copy.)

I have to admit that werewolves are my favorite fictional heroes at the moment, so I was thrilled to meet a spunky female werewolf with a lot of challenges to overcome.  We'll probably raise the price later, but for now, you can download Shiftless for the introductory price of 99 cents, definitely an impulse buy.  I hope you'll take the chance and give it a read (and then help Aimee out with a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads).  Thanks for your support!

Posted Sat Mar 22 18:41:00 2014 Tags:

Bloodling WolfI 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 right there). 

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:

"Aimee 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!

Posted Sun Mar 9 20:08:16 2014 Tags:

Delirium QuinnIt'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.
  • Held 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.
  • Smolder 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.
Posted Thu Feb 27 20:40:22 2014 Tags:
Word count

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:

Middle readers
Young adult


Chick lit
Literary fiction
Science fiction/fantasy

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:

Young adult
Paranormal romance
Paranormal fantasy

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.

Favorite booksThis 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?

Posted Tue Feb 25 00:54:11 2014 Tags:

The Weekend HomesteaderThere'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.)

Sales venue
Net # sold
Net income
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.)

Ebook revenue
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 from Weekend 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 ebook version.

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%.

Overall earnings
Despite 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  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.

Amazon sales

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 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 about you?

Posted Fri Feb 21 01:21:35 2014 Tags:

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