Archive for category Self-publishing

Smashwords Adds New Distribution Channel

Regular readers of this blog will know that one of the reasons I chose to distribute Bedsit Three via Smashwords is the access it gives to Overdrive, a platform which supplies e-books to public libraries. My original blog post can be read here.

Recently Smashwords announced the addition of a new library distribution channel via Bibliotheca. Bibliotheca is the operator of the cloudLibrary™ digital lending platform which is used by over 3,000 public libraries in America, Canada, U.K. and Australia. So the Smashwords distribution network now includes almost all major library e-book platforms including OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Gardners UK (Askews & Holts and VLeBooks) and Odilo. Those of us indie authors choosing to distribute our e-books via Smashwords can now reach 30,000 public and academic libraries across the globe.

Many libraries today lack the funds to buy print books. E-books are a cheaper option and can offer a way into the library system for indie authors. Unfortunately e-books do not qualify for PLR payments so writers only receive their standard royalty on the e-book sale. But being in the library catalogue generates exposure that may lead a reader to purchase other books (print or digital) by the same author.

The biggest factor in the indie author’s decision about whether to take advantage of Smashwords wide distribution channels is the abandonment of Amazon KDP exclusivity and the potential benefits that scheme can bring.

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Branding a Book Series

I recently came across Anne Allen‘s wonderful Guernsey series of novels, in the form of the fifth book, Echoes of Time. It was a great read with alternating chapters set in WWII and 2010.

What particularly struck me about this series of books was the cohesive, professional branding across all the book covers.

Anne Allen Guernsey Novels

I wondered whether Anne had started off with this brand in mind or whether it developed as she went along. This is what she told me:

Authors are often encouraged to create a ‘brand’. To be distinctive. To stand out in the crowd; never more important than now when thousands of books are added to Amazon on a daily basis. I knew nothing of this when I published my first book, ‘Dangerous Waters’, a romantic mystery/family drama set in Guernsey. Then came book two, ‘Finding Mother’, also set on the island, but there was little cohesion visually between them, although they shared characters and setting. By the time I wrote the third, ‘Guernsey Retreat’, I had realised (somewhat belatedly some might say!) that I was writing a series. The covers of the books bore little resemblance to each other, except for my name, although I had chosen a strong image of Guernsey as the background for book 3.

These are the original three covers:

Dangerous Waters by Anne AllenFinding Mother by Anne AllenGuernsey Retreat by Anne Allen

Then came the enlightenment, in the form of a successful American author I met at an Indie event as part of The London Book Fair. She told me I had no brand and the genre of the books wasn’t clear. But she did like the covers, particularly the third. Sooo, it was back to the drawing board.
I decided I needed a fresh approach and engaged a cover designer who came highly recommended, Jane Dixon-Smith, who also writes books. Together we worked on producing four covers, three replacing the old ones and one for my nearly finished fourth novel, ‘The Family Divided’. I knew the backgrounds had to be of Guernsey as I now had The Guernsey Novels series. The new branding was launched in 2015 to coincide with the latest book and, boy, were they well received! Even Amazon liked them, creating a little series motif on my books page, so anyone buying one of the books could see it was part of a series, even though each book is a standalone story.

If an author isn’t writing a true series, I think it’s still important to have a cohesive look for their books, unless they write in multi genres. I’ve often noticed how the books of top-selling authors frequently receive new covers to emphasise their ‘brand’ in line with current fashion. Speaking to insiders of the Big Five publishers, I learnt huge sums are spent on cover design and redesign to keep the brands fresh; something independent authors would be unable to afford.

To find out more about the Guernsey novels, visit Anne’s website. The first book in the series, Dangerous Waters, is currently only 99p on Kindle – why not give it a try?

 

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Smashwords Coupons

Self-publishers who have opted out of Amazon’s KDP Select are free to distribute their e-books via other platforms, as well as Amazon.

As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, Smashwords offers an easy way to make your e-book available through many retailers such as  Apple, Barnes & Noble and the library supplier, OverDrive.

Individuals can also purchase e-books directly from Smashwords, from where they can choose to receive the e-book in a variety of formats, for example .mobi for Kindle and epub for Kobo, Nook and tablets.
In order to encourage these individual purchases, Smashwords lets authors create money-off coupons to distribute directly to selected readers (such as book reviewers, competition winners etc.) or more generally via social media. The author selects the discount percentage (up to 100%, thus making the book free), the expiry date and the number of redemptions (for example only the first 100 customers using the coupon will get the discount). Smashwords then generates a discount code for the author to distribute as he chooses.

I’ve been playing around with the Smashwords Coupon Manager and have created a 50% off coupon code VZ95D for Bedsit Three. It’s valid until 31/10/2016 or for the first 50 people – whichever comes soonest.

So, if you’re fed up of Amazon’s supremacy, try buying your Kindle e-book from Smashwords and save some money too!

Bedsit Three

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Rosie Amber – Book Reviewer

Rosie Amber is a reader extraordinaire, in August alone she read and reviewed thirteen books, ranging from The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson through The Honey Trap by Mary Jane Baker to Wild Boys After Dark by Melissa Cooper. Rosie also has a team of reviewers and book bloggers whose reviews appear daily on Rosie’s blog.

So last month I approached Rosie and asked if she, or her team, would like to review Bedsit Three. She agreed to offer it to her reviewers and three .mobi files (for Kindle) went off to her team. Two of those reviews have now been completed.

Both reviewers awarded four out of five stars.

If I was doing my sales pitch now I’d just quote you the good bits but I’m going to be honest and quote the constructive criticism too – criticism that I’ll be taking particular note of as I work on my second book.

On the positive, Terry Tyler said, “… the characterisation is extremely good – I loved the parts about the increasingly disturbed Ignatius, and Sandra and Ian are both real and likeable, the sort of characters you root for. The plot is perfectly paced, alternating between the three main characters, with no boring bits; I was not tempted to skip read at all, and read 80% of it in one sitting.”
On the negative, she said, “On occasion I felt the dialogue was a little unlikely, and I thought Ian’s story was too speedily and rather drearily wound up in the epilogue (I hoped for so much better for him!), but these are my only complaints, and they are but minor.”

On the positive, Judith Barrow said, “I really enjoyed this novel, it’s a good psychological thriller that steadily builds in tension until the end. Sally Jenkins’ style of writing is easy to read without being cosy. Her words take the reader steadily through the plot without revealing too much, yet there is also subtle foreshadowing. .”
On the negative, she said, “My only disappointment in the whole of this book was with the dialogue. Sometimes, with all of the characters, I thought the dialogue was stilted (perhaps a little contrived?) and didn’t fit their portrayed personalities. Every now a then a section of speech felt as though it was there, not so much for exposition, but for explanation to the reader.”

Thank you very much Terry and Judith for your comprehensive and helpful reviews (I’ll definitely be watching my dialogue next time!). And many thanks to Rosie for setting the whole thing up and tweeting tirelessly!

Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins

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The Questions Asked of Writers

Earlier this week I gave a talk to a local neighbourhood forum group. They are a mixed bunch of people who meet every couple of months principally to discuss what should be done to improve our locality. But before their business meeting they often have a speaker – hence my visit with my pile of books to speak about my experience of self-publishing.

When I’d finished my spiel there was time for questions. This can be the point when things go awkwardly quiet because no one likes to be the first to speak. But the forum chairman was great at getting things started. He’d been scribbling as I talked and had noted several points to raise with me. His questions got the audience relaxed and soon everyone was asking things.

I’m pleased to report that no one came up with the old chestnut ‘where do you get your ideas’ but here are some of the things I was asked:

  • What do you think of ghost writers? (in relation to books by celebrities)
  • How many words can your write in one hour? (I’d told them about NaNoWriMo)
  • Could your book be made into a film?
  • How many books have you sold?
  • How much did it cost to have the novel professionally edited?
  • Would I consider writing a historical novel?
  • Could I make my book available in Waterstones?
  • Did JK Rowling and EL James find it difficult to get published?
  • Would I be willing to go and talk to two reading groups that a couple of the attendees were members of? (Yes!)

It was great to get people engaged, pass on the message that self-published books can be just as good as traditionally published works and sell some copies of Bedsit Three.

Author copies of Bedsit Three

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Catching Up

Over the past couple of months I’ve mentioned a few of my writing-related activities and I thought it was time to give an update.

At the beginning of April, I announced that I was going to use April as a ‘private’ NaNoWriMo and try to write a rough first draft of my next novel.  This actually took longer than planned. Partway through I realised that one of my minor characters had much more potential than one of my main protagonists. So I had to re-work much of what I’d done. I killed off the boring main protagonist (when he was only a baby!) and brought the minor character to the fore. I now have 58,000 words and a LOT of work to do.

At the beginning of June, I wrote that I’d uploaded Bedsit Three to Smashwords in order to get it into the Overdrive store, from which many public libraries purchase e-books. Once I could see it available in Overdrive, I went to my local library to ask for the contact details of Birmingham’s e-book buyer so that I could make myself known as a local author. Unfortunately, I was told that there was no budget at all for new books – not even e-books. On the plus side, they were receptive to the idea of an author event and (fingers crossed) will be contacting me in September when all the school holiday activities are over.

A couple of weeks ago, I launched a price promotion on Kindle for Bedsit Three. I reduced it from £2.25 to 99p for 2 weeks. I calculated that I needed to sell 4.5 times as many books at 99p as at £2.25 to make it a viable long-term price point. That number of sales hasn’t materialised so, barring a sudden surge today (30th June 2016) the price will rise again tomorrow.

And finally, I was pleased to receive a gift from Iain Pattison this week – a paperback copy of That’s Why The Lady is a Vamp. It’s a collection of off-beat comedy tales, full of unexpected twists and lots of humour. Plus, the high spot is a guest appearance by yours truly! If you’d like a free e-copy of one of Iain’s books pop along to his website now.

So that’s me. Anyone else got any news?

That's Why The Lady Is A Vamp

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Grab Yourself a Bargain!

The psychological thriller, Bedsit Three, is now 99p/99c on Kindle until the end of June!

Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins

Since publication last October the e-book has been priced at £2.25 and I’m experimenting to see how price sensitive demand for the book is. As the price falls to less than half-price will sales rise sufficiently to make up for the vastly reduced royalties I will receive?

Bedsit Three is not in KDP Select because it’s also on sale via other e-book channels such as Kobo (where, surprisingly, it sells better than on Kindle) so this is not a Kindle Countdown deal. I have simply dropped the price across all Amazon territories.

Selling at 99p, I will receive 29p per book royalty compared to £1.29 per book when selling at £2.25. So I need to sell at least 4.5 times more books at the lower price to make me keep it at that price point. I’m interested to see what (if anything!) happens.

Extracts from Amazon UK reviews for Bedsit Three:

A psychological why dunnit reminiscent of Barbara Vine/ Ruth Rendell. Highly recommended!

I picked Bedsit Three up late on Friday evening. I had finished it by the following Sunday lunch time and I absolutely loved it. The last book that held my attention like that was Stephen King’s Misery.

Believable, empathetic characters and exciting tensions and resolutions in the fast-moving plot.

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