Letters to the Editor :) Q&A

(c) Garry Wilmore, Flickr

I gathered a decent collection of questions over the last few weeks/months, and while I try to answer them individually, some questions an answers are worth posting in public for the benefit of others.

Here are a few of them.

My first book has been out for less than a month, with KDP select. (…) Supposing I have another book out in a few months, which I will, do you think it’s worth waiting until then to do the second promotion?

Definitely. A book in a series is far more popular with readers. The possibility to try the first volume of a saga is irresistible; a stand-alone book is just not rewarding enough for the effort of downloading.

Did you try to have your free promo days coincide with author interviews, or guest posts on blogs?

Not really. Unless you can secure a place on a blog with several thousand daily views, the boost from these is insignificant. You really need to reach thousands of readers; even if you gain a hundred downloads from a guest post (which I find unlikely – the conversion rate for blog posts is minimal) it’s nowhere near enough to make a difference.

How long do you stay on KDP select before the returns diminish? I’d like to leave them after six months.

I did not yet get to that point. There are millions of readers out there, and I feel I’ve only really scratched the surface.

What does diminish are returns from paid ads. The Big Four (PoI, ENT, KND and BookBub) serve an audience that is relatively big, but not infinite. Sooner or later everyone who’s subscribed to these services will have seen your ad, and then you have to come up with another way of reaching your audience.

Note that many writers have one of their books free permanently – and the popular ones keep being downloaded just as they have been on day one. So the potential for giveaways is enormous.

How did you get a review from Publisher’s Weekly? I thought they only did trad pub books. 

I’ve reached semi-finals of ABNA in 2012. A reward for that is a review from PW.

That said, PW now offers paid packages for indies in their “PW Select” program, which include an official review. They are a bit too expensive for my taste, though. If you’re interested, you can find the details here.

Did the promos and free downloads result in more reviews for your books? And did those free downloaders have good things to say, or was it, “I like romance! This isn’t romance! One star!”?

Yes and yes. I got three times as many reviews for Vol. 1 as for Vol. 2 and 3, which were never on Select, so it certainly helped. And yes, I got some bad reviews for vol. 1 from people who obviously didn’t care for the genre or the type of the story, and happened upon my book by pure accident.

I want to know who did your book covers. I love the pseudo-anime art style! I’d like to hire them for my own book covers, if possible. 

I’ve worked with three great artists so far. The covers to “The Shadow of Black Wings” and “The Warrior’s Soul” was drawn by Sakimichan. The cover to “The Islands in the Mist” (and upcoming “The Rising Tide”) was created by Sulev Daekazu, and the cover to “Dragonbone Chest” was drawn by Collette J Ellis.

I’ve just begun using Goodreads as a serious method of promoting my writing, and as a fellow writer, I was wondering if you have any advice you can provide regarding obtaining more reviews and reads?

These days there are many places where you can look for reviewers; simply Google “indie book reviews” and follow the first few links. You can also look for dedicated groups on Goodreads, like Making Connections.

Two things to keep in mind: 1) good reviewers will always be busy (booked for months ahead). Be wary of anyone who has free slots immediately (unless they’re just starting) or even solicit reviews themselves. There’s always a catch. And 2) never pay for reviews. The only acceptable fee is a free copy of your book. (unless you’re fully aware of the dodgy moral implications of the move and decide to do it anyway. Then my only advice to you is: make sure you get good value for your money).

I offer poetry collections that are available in full on Goodreads and a couple external sources, as they’re non-profit. Any tips?

I’m afraid I know next to nothing about selling poetry. I can only guess that unless you’ve won some prestigious contests and started featuring in magazines, it will be impossible to earn anything decent (and even then it will be difficult. Poetry does not sell).

As a fellow author I’d be really interested in any advice or tips you could offer. Thanks a lot and great job!

Keep reading my blog! 😉 I’ll be writing about giving good and bad advice in my next post (and a list of places where you can find good advice), so that may be useful for you.

Please let me know when “The Rising Tide” is available.

I’m aiming for an April release, but whether it will be nearer the beginning or the end of the month, I cannot say (but let’s assume the end, to be on the safe side :).

I have a query concerning formatting ebooks. When I paste in the code above the body tag as per point 3 in the first article, I get the following I/O error message: Cannot save: java.io.CharConversionException: Failed to encode the character ‘″’ (U+2033) at column 19 in line 1 with the encoding “windows-1252”. Have you any thoughts why this might be?

In JEdit, go to Utilities -> Buffer Options -> Character Encoding – Switch to UTF-8

Contact phone number. How long have you been business . Number of books you format each year. Thank you Odinhouse.

Uh… I’m sorry, do we know each other? Also, my name is not Odinhouse…

Formatting an eBook in 10 easy steps – part 2

Welcome to the second part of my Book Formatting Tutorial. The first part (steps 1-5) can be found here

Things get a little complicated from now on. Note that this is not the only, or even the best, way to make an e-book. There are simpler methods, detailed on countless other websites; there is software that almost fully automates the process. Some providers even do all the converting for you. But the instructions given below, I believe, will allow you a greater degree of flexibility and give a certain “je ne sais quoi” quality to your e-book which (so I’m told) makes it stand out from the rest. Continue reading “Formatting an eBook in 10 easy steps – part 2”

Formatting an eBook in 10 easy steps – part 1

A certain well-known self-published  author had recently requested me to present a brief tutorial on how I format my e-books.

This tutorial assumes a minimal knowledge of html, but I will try to go through the use of CSS without going in depth into what it is and what it can do. Now, I’m not the best of teachers and I don’t plan to go through everything you can do with ebooks; there’s just too many options. The below is simply a step-by-step description of what I do with my novels. Use it as basis for your own explorations, or take it straight. Continue reading “Formatting an eBook in 10 easy steps – part 1”

Paperback Writer, part 3

The paperback version of “The Shadow of Black Wings” is now available on Amazon (.com and all the European ones)

Here’s the final part of the story of how it became a reality. Read the previous instalments here and here.

The cover, distribution and the final product.

Continue reading “Paperback Writer, part 3”

Paperback Writer, part 2

The paperback version of “The Shadow of Black Wings” is now available on Amazon (.com and all the European ones)

Here’s the continuation of the story of how it became a reality, which might serve as a guide for those who would want to follow my footsteps. Read the previous instalment here 

Formatting the manuscript in three headaches.

Continue reading “Paperback Writer, part 2”

Paperback Writer, part 1

The paperback version of “The Shadow of Black Wings” is now available on Amazon (.com and all the European ones)

I’ve chosen CreateSpace for paperback edition. Ben Galley has a good write-up of all the Print-On-Demand solutions available in UK, but to me it was a toss-up between Lightning Source and CreateSpace, as these were the two that did not require huge up-front payments.

In the end, CreateSpace won because of its close affiliation with Amazon. As a beginner, I want as little fuss as possible, and CS’s automatic Amazon listing and support was just what I needed.

Continue reading “Paperback Writer, part 1”