I achieved two new milestones recently and thought I would share them with my readers in this blog.
I finally decided to release paperback books for one of my best selling series; The Guardians - Books 1, 2 and 3. All are now available through Amazon KDP for $14.99 each.
I decided to do this after visiting Barnes & Noble to buy some gift books and noticed that most new paperback books available were all priced around $15 dollars. Wow, the retail prices have really increased since I last visited the store. I instantly realized that offering paperback copies of my work were now cost effective . I quickly checked the best sources for producing printed books and chose Amazon KDP since I already use them for my ebooks and they are easy to set up. To see the results for myself, I ordered five Author Copies for handouts to family and friends. It only cost me $30 for five printed books. The quality is amazing; just as good as what one can buy in a retail store. I plan to print more of my ebooks this year and offer them to my readers.
I just surpassed giving away over 10,000 free copies of my work through BookFunnel, which I use to build my Newsletter email list and create awareness for my writing. I do this even though I receive some critical comments on the need for more editing and proofreading on some of my stories. I am sorry the editing is not up to traditional publisher standards, but I do my best to correct any mistakes by self-editing, proofreading and updating my work every chance I can. This is one of the advantages of self-publishing.
I would love to use professional editors before releasing my books. However, since most Indie Authors cannot afford to pay hundreds of dollars for this function when the only way to get noticed is to offer Free books and only charge 99 cents per book, the decision to self-edit is understandable.
I promise to fix this issue when my books are best sellers or I find a traditional publisher for my books. Until then, I will continue to review and release new editions of my work until 99 percent of my work is error free. This may not end until the traditional publishers finally quit offering low priced ebooks from best selling author backlogs.
Writers Of SciFi has a new Sci-Fi Box Set Promotion going on for the Holidays. It will last until December 31, 2018. Prices range from $7.99 to only 99 Cents for a whole bundle. Here is the Link: https://www.donviecelli.com/holiday-box-set-promo.html
My bundle, The Guardians Series, Books 1-3, is included for only $2.99. You can review the Description on Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/659303) or Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Books-1-3-Don-Viecelli-ebook/dp/B01AMNC7IM/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529941090&sr=1-10&keywords=don+viecelli)
It took me several years to complete The Guardians Series. Book 1 took the longest time to complete and I wasn't sure I should write a sequel after waiting a long time for some positive reviews. Finally, I just decided to do it because I liked the story and the characters. It was a good decision, not because of the great reviews I finally received, but because it allowed me to find my voice as a Sci-Fi writer and Indie Author.
Since I completed the trilogy, I have moved on to other stories. I am now completing the third book in The Nanomachine War Series. It contains similar themes as The Guardians Series, but deals more specifically with nanomachine or nanobot technologies and its use in war. Once I complete this series, I plan to write a Prequel to my UTOPIAS Series, which deals with different themes altogether.
I have no idea what I will write about in the future, but I hope my work is of interest to my readers. I write to entertain, not only my fans, but myself. Writing is what I wanted to do since I was young and I plan to continue to do it as long as I enjoy it.
Enjoy the Christmas holidays and find a good Sci-Fi book to read. Here is a link to some of the best Sci-Fi stories I have read and reviewed on Goodreads: https://www.donviecelli.com/book-reviews.html
In preparation for the holidays, I released updated editions of The Guardians - Books 2 and 3, and The Guardians Series Box Set. As an Indie Author I have to do this to correct mistakes in word use not found by automated spelling checkers and prior proofreadings.
Readers point out the need in book reviews, which I read and make corrections as time allows since I cannot afford to pay an editor yet. Thank you for highlighting this need.
The Guardians books have been well received and all have earned 5 Star Ratings on Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords and other places. With the latest editions, all books are ready for the holiday season. This 950+ page Space Opera Military Science Fiction Series offers a lot of action and thrills for hard Sci-Fi readers. Books 1 and 2 are 99 cents each. The three book Box Set has been reduced to only $3.99. Please leave some reviews if you like any of the books.
I have two other series for sale as well; Nanomachine War and UTOPIAS. I am currently working on Nanomachine War - Book 3 for release in June 2019. Check out my website for all my books. Please enjoy the Holidays.
I try to participate in as many 99 Cent Sci-Fi book Promos I can as an Indie Author. I find this is a good way to sell more books and get my name out there.
Currently, I am hosting and participating in the Writers Of Sci-Fi Amazing 99 Cent Sci-Fi Promo in conjunction with BooksGoSocial, which will run for four weeks on numerous social media sites. Check it out at this link:
One final comment. I am in the process of creating my outline for Nanomachine War - Book 3. I will start writing the story in November and finish by end of May for releasing in June 2019. I have some good ideas how to complete the trilogy and end the series. I encourage you to try Book 1 and Book 2 and post a review if you like the story.
It's been awhile since I posted to my Blog. I've been busy and it's been a nice summer for me. Now that Fall is in the air, I decided to reflect on how my books are doing in the marketplace. I can't complain. According to Amazon my books rank is the top 35% for Sci-Fi Authors. It's been a long journey as a writer. My first book was self-published in 2003. Since then I have released nine full-length novels, two short stories and one three book bundle series. My next novel will put me over the one million word mark!
As an Indie Author I have to promote and market my books on my own. One way to do this is to giveaway free books. I use BookFunnel mostly. Looking at the numbers, I have given away almost 8700 free books since January 2017. Hopefully, those who downloaded my free books have enjoyed the stories and have since purchased more of my books. A few, very few, have actually posted a review to let me know how I am doing. It is gratifying to read the better reviews and know I have accomplished my purpose, which is to entertain and thrill my readers.
I write near future Sci-Fi using real science as part of the storyline and try to create characters with emotional qualities and motives readers can relate to. If I did my job right, you not only read one of my free giveaways, but actually bought the second or third book in the series and plan to post a review as soon as you are done reading the story. Thanks for your support. Hope to see you in the near future.
July is almost over. It has been a month full of Sci-Fi Free Book Promos, 99 Cent Promos, New Book Introductions and Summer Fun. As we move into August I would like to ask all of you readers out there to take some time after reading a really good Sci-Fi story, especially from a new author, to post a good review of the book on Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, Nook, IBooks or other online store in support of Indie Writers. Nothing seems to work as good to sell books as letting other readers know how much you enjoyed a book. I try to post a review for each good Sci-Fi book I read to help Indie Authors out. A short sentence or paragraph with a 4 or 5 Star Rating can make a real difference in that writer's life. Here is my own list of reviews to serve as a guide: https://www.donviecelli.com/book-reviews.html
Thanks for listening.
I just released Nanomachine War - Book 2 of the Nanomachine War Series at a special promotion price of $1.99 for a limited time only! The story continues with the Yoyka trying to eliminate the Holtu androids and subjugate all Qumru aliens and Humans to slavery using their robotic nanomachines. The Battle for Holtu results in the Yoyka threat to use their quantum link Kill Code to terminate all Qumru on their home planet. I hope the space battle scenes meet with your approval Let me know by posting a review if you like the story. Book 2 is available on Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble Nook.
I have finished proofreading Nanomachine War - Book 2 and have begun my promotion and marketing campaign. My first step is to offer a special promotion on Smashwords for Book 1 that includes a Sneak Peak of the first three chapters of Book 2. I encourage readers to start with Book 1 before reading Book 2.
I have a Special Offer for the first 15 readers of this Blog who buys a copy of Book 1. I am willing to send you a Free Gift Copy of Book 2 when it is released . I am hopeful you will be willing to post a Review if you like either book. Just send me an email showing you purchased Book 1 and I will send you a Gift Copy of Book 2 after realease in June of this month. Offer ends June 16, 2018.
Here is the Description from Book 2:The Yoyka’s attempt to subjugate and enslave the people of Earth and Mars using their nanomachine weapon failed—the first time. Rahta, the Imperil Leader, is outraged by his defeat and near death at the hands of the Holtu androids in the Mars Space Battle. Rahta plans revenge by sending another large fleet of warships to attack Earth, Mars and Holtu with a new version of nanomachines that could mean the extinction or slavery of the human race. First, Rahta must defeat and destroy the Holtu androids and the Qumru who are now in a Military Alliance with Humans against the Yoyka Empire. Rahta intends to capture the Onutu mind transfer and regeneration technology the Qumru possess, which will give him the ability to achieve immortality and rule the galaxy forever. What the Yoyka do not expect is the resolve and fighting ability of the humans from Earth to stop him with the same fierce determination for freedom against a ruthless tyrant. The Yoyka possess a quantum link kill code for all races they have enslaved with nanomachines. The battle for Holtu results in a race against time to save the lives of billions of Qumru on their home planet against Rahta’s vindictive decision to use his nanomachine kill switch one final time as an act of revenge.
Key Lessons Learned
On How To Become A Successful Indie Author!
First, let me define successful! I don’t mean rich. That happens to few writers, let alone Indie Authors. I define success as being an independent, self-published author who enjoys moderate to well-earned success in writing and promoting his or her own work without help from literary agents or traditional publishing houses.
Becoming a successful Indie Author requires experience, persistence, accepting help from others and belief in oneself; even in the face of multiple obstacles such as lack of online publishing experience, poor editing and unfavorable reviews of one’s works. You really have to want to write something and see it published to succeed as an Indie Author.
I’ve wanted to write stories since I was a young boy. I read everything I could get my hands on. Usually, this meant hand-me down magazines and books from my relatives. This included Readers Digest, National Geographic, Popular Science, Life Magazine and many others. I really enjoyed paperback books meant for adults older than I. You would be amazed at what you can learn reading Cowboy Western Books, Murder Mysteries, Detective Stories, Sci-Fi and other best sellers of the day.
Of course, there were tons of books to read in school and town libraries. I am an avid reader. I read every famous person’s biography in my school library. I loved history, science, classic tales, popular fiction, nonfiction, science fiction and other books written by popular authors who published during those days. If I didn’t have a book to read, I was bored.
Sometime in the fourth or fifth grade, our class was asked to write a story. I chose a tale about some young kids getting kidnapped who left a trail of crumbs for people to find them. After that, a childhood friend and I decided to write separate science fiction stories. Mine was about parachuting down to Venus. I don’t remember what my friend wrote. What I do remember is my Mother threw out our stories by mistake and both of us were heartbroken. Filling out thirty or so pages of handwritten sentences seemed like a huge accomplishment to me at the time.
If you wanted to be a writer back in those days, you filled out a questionnaire from some magazine and sent it in with a sample of your work. I received an answer back saying I had potential and would I like to take the course—for a fee of course! I had to pass since I didn’t have the money. Nor did I have much encouragement from working class friends or family.
Today, you have many more options to find out if you have writer potential. You write your story and submit it to a magazine, publisher or literary agent. If they like your work, they get back to you. This happens roughly ten out of a one hundred attempts. Roughly ninety percent of all writers fail to get published through traditional channels. For those who do succeed at getting published; fifty percent of these books fail in the marketplace according to public sources.
Here are some other published book statistics. Somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books are published in the U.S. each year. Approximately 70% are now self-published. A bestseller varies from 3000 to 9000 book sales the first week. The average book only achieves 250 to 300 sales per year. The U.S. Book Sale Market is forecasted to be around $44 billion by 2020. The average traditional published author makes $55,000 per year. The average self-published author makes $5,000 to $10,000 per year. As you can see, not many of us authors are writing novels for the money.
So I have to ask you—why do you want to become an author? I’ll tell you my answer—because I need to write—to express myself—if not on paper, then in digital ebooks.
I like to tell stories and I like to inform and entertain my readers. For reasons not entirely clear even to myself, I like to write Science Fiction stories. Am I successful at it? Only moderately so. My books have never hit any bestseller list, but I keep trying. I consider myself to be a successful, Self-Published Indie Author. I am on my ninth full-length Sci-Fi novel—all ebooks. You can find my ebooks on Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. I am still writing and self-promoting my books. I try to self-publish at least one new full-length ebook each year.
In this article I am going to show you what I have learned in becoming a successful Indie Author. Much of what I learned, I learned the hard way; on my own. It doesn’t have to be that way. I should have listened to others sooner, but I like to learn things on my own before asking for help. So, to save you a lot of hard work, I am going to make it easier for you. All you have to do is learn the following Eight Key Lessons:
Key Lesson Number 1: Pick The Right Genre!
You would think this is self-evident, but it’s not. Many writers start out not knowing for sure what they should write about. Some choose what is most popular in the marketplace hoping to hit it big right out of the gate. If they do, they are very lucky and talented. Others try different genres with different pen names at different times in their writing career. I may even try this at some point if I find a good story.
For now, my writing Genre is Science Fiction. What’s yours? This is very important. The two most popular writing genres in the U.S. are Mystery and Thriller stories. Science Fiction is certainly not the most popular, but it does have a growing audience. Think of some of the most popular movies made in recent years you went to see. Or, how about all the new Sci-Fi TV shows available on cable now? Sci-Fi popularity ebbs and flows throughout the decades. Everyone wants to know the future. We try to show it to our readers.
Each chosen genre has its own reader expectations. Sci-Fi readers expect World Building, Space Opera, Military Science Fiction, Fantasy and many other themes and settings. Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Detective, Western, Romance, etc. have their own requirements. Be sure to research your genre, read your genre and understand your reader expectations before writing your novel.
The reason why your Genre is important is because you not only have to write a good, well constructed story—you need to be passionate about writing it. Your passion or “voice” will show up in your writing. It doesn’t matter how well you edit your work as much as how good or special your story is. Write what you love and readers will respect that.
Key Lesson Number 2: Chose The Best Self-Publishing Services!
I use Amazon KDP, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble Press (Nook Press) for ebook self-publishing and distribution. I chose these three self-publishing services for very specific reasons after years of experience starting in 2001 with Print On Demand (POD) house services. Not all self-publishing services will be right for you for subjective or objective reasons. Trial and error and experience helped me find the services I like for my ebooks. I will start with Amazon KDP.
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is the biggest, most popular and best known of all the self-publishing online services for digital ebooks. There is no way around these facts. They sell thousands of ebooks every month. They rule the marketplace for digital ebooks. You need to have a presence on Amazon if you want to be successful.
They accept Microsoft Word documents and will convert it directly to the required Kindle ebook format called Mobi. You must add a well done book cover page, fill in the required book details and you are ready to publish. In addition, they also offer a KDP Select Program that offers special pricing and free ebook promotions during the 90 day exclusive period, but you cannot offer your ebook through any other publishers during this time.
I find using many of Amazon’s KDP program tools very helpful. Make sure you follow all the KDP detailed book entry requirements for Book Content, Book Cover, Descriptions, Keywords and Categories and ISBN assignment for the best results. You will need a completely edited and formatted Word document to upload to KDP’s Book Content section or the resulting Ereader format will be disappointing for your readers. KDP will identify incorrect or unknown words for you to correct before final publishing.
One of the most important files you will need for your ebook is the cover page. Book Covers and images must be professionally done to generate the best sales. I have tried making my own covers in the beginning, but the results were not professional enough. The best promotional tool you have is the cover page for your ebook. There are many digital ebook cover designers and the price is usually around a 100 dollars. The one I use is called Kerman Covers Designer. I recommend you find someone like Kerman to design your cover page.
Amazon will assign its own ASIN tracking number for your book if you choose not to buy or list your own. I always purchase my own ISBN numbers for distribution and pricing control purposes. ISBN numbers are recommended to identify and track your book sales. Most publishers and distribution houses need this number to distribute and sell your book. Costs are reasonable; as low as $29 dollars for ebooks and $55 for paper books that also need a Barcode. I recommend using Publisher Services for ISBN numbers. You will need a separate ISBN for each ebook format such as Mobi format for Kindle readers or Epub format for Nook readers. Many ebook publishers do not require an ISBN number and most Print On Demand (POD) houses will provide one for you in their pricing.
You will find the Amazon KDP Select program to be very profitable for successful selling authors. However, KDPS is a very restrictive program and requires Exclusivity on all ebook sales. In other words, you are not allowed to sell your ebook on any other site, including your own website. I was not happy with all the pricing and distribution restrictions and choose not to enroll my books in this program. Others, especially new authors with limited number of ebook titles and some very successfully authors with multiple titles, prefer dealing with Amazon exclusively. Be aware of the fact that the Kindle Mobi format only works on Mobi capable E-readers and thus will not work on other devices such as Barnes & Noble Nook, which requires an Epub format.
Amazon Royalties are 35% for prices between $0.99 - $9.99 and 70% for prices between $2.99 -$200.00. KDP Select offers Free pricing options during the selected 90 day period and promotion opportunities not available to KDP only Authors. Amazon distributes ebooks to many different countries with different pricing options available.
Finally, Amazon’s KDP publishing services includes some very useful Reporting tools to see how your ebooks are doing in the marketplace. It is also very important to add your Profile information to Amazon’s Author Central Page, which allows readers to Follow you. You can also promote your Author Page, see your Books and Sales information and Customer Reviews.
Once your ebook is published, you can download a copy of the Mobi format to download to your PC for promotional use, such as offering Free Advanced Reader Copies (ARC), Free Promos, Review Copies and other purposes.
Amazon KDP is constantly updating its rules, procedures and offerings so bookmark the website and keep informed of any changes.
After using several other online self-publishing services such as BookTango, Google, Kobo and others, I decided to simplify my life and use Smashwords for many of my ebooks. The primary reasons for this were to offer Epub and other formats for my ebooks and to reach more distribution channels including Libraries.
Smashwords currently has almost 475,000 ebooks published online. Their How To Publish On Smashwords information is easy to understand and fill out. By uploading a MS Word document only, Smashwords offers the following seven ebook formats for most Ereaders:
Smashwords is very particular about the Word document submitted for uploading. You must follow their Smashwords Style Guide to the letter or your ebook will not be offered to Premium Catalog distributors. Smashwords could make it easier for MS Word users by allowing the use of standard MS Word Table of Contents tools instead of insisting on using Hyperlinks and Bookmarks to make Table of Contents (TOCs) for each ebook. This requirement alone makes it hard for some writers not familiar with Word formatting rules to publish ebooks on Smashwords and decide to choose another online publisher with more user friendly tools.
Even with this drawback, Smashwords offers many other useful features for Authors, which include the following tools:
Speaking of Libraries, Smashwords offers several different ebook checkout systems for libraries. These systems include Library Direct, Baker & Taylor's Axis360, Gardners, OverDrive, Bibliotheca and Odilo. Without these programs, libraries cannot purchase your ebooks and check them out to multiple lenders.
Besides all the Pricing options Smashwords offers its authors, I especially like their Coupon Manager. This allows an author to offer any ebook at a discount, including Free, at any time and make it Public for promotion purposes. Amazon does not offer anything like it. No Price Matching by Amazon is required (so far).
Smashwords Royalties are among the highest of any online publisher for all price levels. Royalties are 60% for Distributor sales, 45% for Library sales and up to 85% for direct sales from the Smashwords Store.
Barnes & Noble Press (Formerly Nook Press)
I also recommend Barnes & Noble Press (formerly Nook Press), which use the Epub format. They also are very easy to use and easy to set up your ebook for publishing. I publish on B&N Press to offer Epub formats for Nook device users. Again, all you need is a MS Word document to upload and use their self-publishing tools.
Barnes & Noble Bookstore is one of the largest online ebook retailers who also still have brick and mortar book stores in neighborhoods near most customers.
B&N Press Royalties are 40% for ebook prices between $0.99 - $2.98, 65% for prices between $2.99 - $9.99 and 65% for prices between $10.00 - $199.99.
The Epub format is available to download to your PC for promotional use, such as offering Free Advanced Reader Copies (ARC), Free Promos, Review Copies and other purposes. However, the download format does not include the Cover Page, which you need to add on your own.
It is uncertain how long B&N Bookstores will remain in operation or, for that matter, B&N Press online self-publishing. Just for noting purposes, Barnes & Noble is currently Smashwords’ second largest ebook distributor.
Print On Demand (POD)
There are many Print On Demand publishing houses for the Indie writer. They provide most of the services beginning writers need to publish paper books and/or ebooks. However, their services can be expensive. When I started in 2001, I used a POD for my first two books. It only cost me around $350 to have the book published for distribution. Now the cost is around $1000 or more to self-publish a book in paper and/or digital formats using a POD house.
The major drawbacks using a POD for publishing your books is the cost for services, the high selling price for paper books, low royalties and contract restrictions. You have very little say in pricing options or distribution rights.
The major advantage to using a POD is they provide good copy editing services in their pricing packages, which is a distinct advantage over self-published writers who edit their own books and miss a lot of typo errors hard to eliminate. I still have problems finding my own typos and other errors. The other major advantage is POD houses provide the different digital ebook formats needed for E-readers and online sellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks and others. If you are a beginner and afraid to learn the technology involved, POD houses may be a good place to start.
Other Ebook Topics:
On my website I provide additional topics for Indi Writers. Go to Ebooks to find the following links for:
Key Lesson Number 3: Find the Best Pricing Options!
Pricing your ebooks can be a tricky business. There are all kinds of pricing recommendations from various sources that suggest the best pricing options or strategies for your ebooks. I have tried most of them. You must search for the best pricing option that works for you.
At first, around 2010, ebook prices for a normal length ebook (80,000 to 100,000 words or 266 pages to 333 pages using 300 words per page) would be priced around $5.99 to $7.99 per ebook. Today, the same ebook could be priced from $0.99 to $4.99 at most, or even—Free!
There are numerous reasons for this. One of them is the huge number of new Indie Authors self-publishing ebooks today. Another is the rapid proliferation of traditional publishing houses and bestselling authors introducing past titles in ebook format and flooding the marketplace.
A good source for pricing strategy can be found in Smashwords 2017 Smashwords Survey. It found the following most common price points:
For relatively unknown Indie Authors such as myself, I have been forced to compete in the marketplace by offering my earliest ebooks at $0.99 each or Free. Offering some of my ebooks for Free has served me well for two reasons. One, I receive more name recognition and two, I receive more Reviews than I would otherwise. Reviews on Amazon are especially important and very hard to get. More on this later.
In today’s market, it is very important for new writers to develop an ebook series, usually 3 or more ebooks in length. Series are necessary to attract and keep new readers. Once an ebook series is available, the author can offer the first book at a lower price and/or free to sell the bundle. I am using this pricing tactic every day now.
The important lesson here is new Indie Authors will have a hard time justifying a higher selling price than $3.99 for an ebook unless it’s a proven seller or new introduction to a popular series.
Using the various pricing options above will complement the most effective promotions recommended in Key Lesson Number 6 below.
Key Lesson Number 4: Set Up Your Own Website!
You probably won’t be a successful Indie Author unless you have your own website. My website is called Don Viecelli Sci-Fi. I started my website when I signed up for the earliest Comcast Internet service around late 1988. They offered individual websites until they decided a few years ago to move the business to independent providers such as Weebly.com.
In total, I have had over 7,300 Visitors to my website since the beginning. I now average around 500 Page Views per week and over 200 Unique Visitors per week. A more interesting website would attack more visitors, I’m sure, but I don’t do any direct selling of my ebooks on my website. When I do, I will seek more professional advice.
I use Weebly for all my ebook activities such as listing my ebook online retail channels, posting my latest book reviews, providing ebook resources, listing my favorite writing sites, indentifying interesting Sci-Fi sites, posting Blog updates and much more. It may not be the most professional website, but websites serve a very important function. It allows your future readers to find you, see your books and serve as a platform for advertising your work and/or selling activities.
If you don’t feel you can set up your own website, then by all means find someone who can set one up for you and do it quickly. It doesn’t cost a lot of money and it will pay for itself.
Key Lesson Number 5: Use Social Media Wisely!
Every Indie Author must learn how to use social media wisely. Since you don’t have the luxury of a literary agent or a traditional publishing house to prepare your book for publication, handle the legal aspects or provide all the marketing and promotion requirements needed to sell your books, you will have to become very knowledgeable on how to use social media effectively.
I use Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Linkedin and my Website primarily to promote my work. Each has its own strengths, which you must learn by personal trial and error.
Twitter had 974 million accounts with 330 million active users in 2017. Some writers use Twitter just to keep in touch with others. I focus on my ebooks and the books of other Team Members I ‘Follow’ with my Tweets. I joined Twitter in December 2016 and built my list of Followers to 1900+ as fast as I could. Twitter is very useful in promoting Free book Giveaways and Special Price offerings without spending any money. I have not found Twitter paid advertisements to be effective for my ebook sales, but then I am on a tight advertising budget and may not have learned how to use them more effectively yet.
Facebook had 2 billion active users in 2017, but trying to build a list of Followers is much more difficult for me than on Twitter. I use my Profile Page for family and friends only. I created a Business Page for my ebooks, which I use for promotion and sales purposes. Another great feature is the ability to create separate Facebook Group Pages and follow other FB Groups to spread the word about your ebooks. Again, I have tried paid advertisements on Facebook with little success.
Goodreads had 65 million registered users in 2017. It was purchased by Amazon in 2013. Goodreads is a very useful site to find out what other readers think about your work and other similar titles. Their book reviewers are very tough and spare no punches. Since there are millions of Goodreads members, it can serve as a test market for your ebook.
I joined Goodreads in June 2011. I needed an Internet site to publish my Sci-Fi Book Reviews. I decided to take a literary agent’s advice after I submitted my first book, The Guardians, in 2002. The agent deemed my book was not commercial enough for a traditional publisher. He said I should read what other authors are writing in my genre. I took his advice literally.
Now, I must confess, even though I loved reading science fiction as a young person, I basically gave it up after my college years and read mostly bestseller fiction from authors such as Nelson DeMille, Ken Follett, John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, James Michener, James Patterson and many others. I still read popular Sci-Fi authors, but only if it was interesting to me.
However, when the bug finally took hold of me in early 2001 and I decided to write my first story, I chose Sci-Fi. Obviously, the genre went through some changes and I had lost touch. To make up for lost time, I started reading Sci-Fi books heavily, wrote book reviews for each one and posted on Goodreads. Since then I have reviewed over 180 Sci-Fi books on Goodreads and have learned what readers are looking for. Now, I constantly read what new Indie Authors are writing and try to incorporate ideas that will benefit my stories.
Linkedin had 467 million members in 2017. I use it more for business relationships than for selling my ebooks. However, the site allows me to promote my ebooks and latest offerings whenever I need too. I post articles I write and new Press Releases on Linkedin, but I do not use the site for any advertisements yet.
I covered my Website above under Key Lesson Number 4. You won’t make much progress becoming a successful Indie Author without one.
Key Lesson Number 6: Find The Most Effective Promotions!
Now, for what I really learned about effective ebook promotions!
Most new Indie Writers struggle to be found in this very competitive marketplace. I am no exception. Remember, I told you earlier I started writing Sci-Fi books in 2001 part-time while I was working. I self-published two paperback books in 2002 and 2006, respectively, using a POD house and sold less than 65 books. The Internet was just a dream then and digital books never really took off until around 2010.
So, in 2011 I decided to cancel my POD contracts and self-publish my ebooks on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I added Smashwords in 2016. Between 2011 and 2017, I have self-published eight new ebooks, one Novella, one Novelette and one Guardian 3 Book Series Bundle. Sales have increased only marginally until 2015. I sold 79 ebooks from 2011 to 2015 and earned around $285. Not much to look at, I know.
From 2016 to the end of 2017, I got my act together. By this time I had enough ebook titles to make a difference and I learned how to use promotions more effectively. I increased my sales to 699 ebooks sold (8.85 times more) and earned around $775 (2.72 times more). Still not a lot, but it’s getting better, faster. My Amazon Author Ranking has improved dramatically the last two years. My best author ranking so far appeared on December 26, 2017 when I reached #981 out of 30,000 Authors for the All Books/Kindle eBooks/Science Fiction and Fantasy category with a top ranking of 3%. Even better, I reached #8,605 out of 400,000 titles for the All Books/Kindle eBooks category on the same date, which ranks at the top 2% of all Authors. Not bad for an Indie Author, I say.
How did I accomplish this? By using Free Giveaways to build my email contact list and collect more book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I gave away 4755 free ebooks in 2017 using online free bundled services from BookFunnel and Instafreebie.
In spite of what some writers say, giving away some of your ebooks for free help build market awareness more quickly for you and your writing. Don’t underestimate the power of free promotions. Refer to Key Lesson Number 3 on Pricing for additional reasons why this works. The biggest benefit of offering free ebooks is building your email list. On the other hand, very few readers who download free ebooks post reviews, which I find unsupportive of Indie Authors.
The most effective way to increase Indie book sales I have found out is to use Free Giveaways to build Newsletter (NL) email lists. I built my Newsletter contact list from 100 to over 2800 names within 14 months. Nothing I tried previously worked as well as using BookFunnel service.
I use BookFunnel Free Bundle Giveaway Promos to gather email addresses and contact names for mailing my Newsletters. I send out a Newsletter around two times per month. BookFunnel costs $10 per month to collect email address plus $5 per month to automatically integrate names with Mailerlite, MailChimp or other email marketing services. I sell 10 ebooks or more depending on the Promo every time I send out a NL. You can also use Newsletter Swaps with other Indie Authors to promote each other’s ebooks since it cost nothing but your time.
99 Cent Promos:
Free is great for getting your name out there, but it is not as satisfying as making real sales. I have found that offering 99 Cent Promos to be very effective in selling ebooks. Readers are willing to buy ebooks if the price is right and the ebook is appealing. I sold 171 ebooks over 22 days participating in three different 99 Cent Promos. I plan to run or participate in more of these types of Promos in the future. A free online service to use to solicit participants is available from Google Forms. I encourage every Indie Author to participate in these promos. You can find 99 cent promo groups by searching on Facebook.
Key Lesson Number 7: Join A Writers Group!
I strongly encourage new Indie Writers to join a Writers Group. It’s not just for the company or because writing can be a lonely activity for many. You will actually learn something from other team members in the group who may have the experience you need to be successful.
I joined a BooksGoSocial Authors Team I found on a Facebook Group Page in January 2017. It is a free service supported by BooksGoSocial, a book promotion company established to help Indie writers succeed and find new readers through book promotion services and training.
My Science Fiction Team calls ourselves, Writers of SciFi. We have our own Website Page, Twitter Page and Facebook Group. Writing groups support each others’ work and can provide valuable experience for becoming a successful Indie Author. Most of us have all gone through what you are going through now and are willing to share our experience and knowledge with you.
Why is joining a Writer’s Group so effective? Because Team Members will help Indie writers get more book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and other sites that will have a positive impact on your future sales. They will also support your promotion efforts on social media that is so important in today’s competitive marketplace. I had my doubts at first since I prefer doing and learning most things on my own. I know better now and you need to learn this lesson as well.
Key Lesson Number 8: Keep Writing!
My last key lesson may be the most important thing you can do as an Indie Author—Keep Writing! Never give up; not even after you receive your first 1 Star Rating. It will hurt, but you will learn a valuable lesson (pun intended). Your book may not be up to reader’s expectations. Maybe it results from copyedit errors, poor story/plot construction, bad dialog, too much tell; not enough show, boring storyline, unprofessional cover page or image; you name it. You goal is not to make these type of errors on your next ebook.
Since you believe in yourself, are passionate about your writing and persistent, you will make the necessary corrections (if not though experience, then from help from your fellow team members) and you will succeed in becoming a successful Indie Author.
Besides, your ebook is digital and not traditionally published. You can make numerous revisions and immediately self-publish a new copy as soon as you want. Once you find that “great story” and it becomes a bestseller, you can afford to let other people help you look good and become a bestselling Indie Author.
Inspirational Last Words:
I wrote an early review on The Martian by Andy Weir in March 2013 after reading it over four days. The writer was a self-published Indie Author like many of us. The author self-published his novel on Amazon at 99 cents and gave away thousands of free copies. His Kindle version sold 35,000 copies in 3 months; more than he gave away for Free. It rose to the top of Amazon’s best-selling Sci-Fi list.
His story was discovered by traditional publishers and quickly withdrawn from the Indie marketplace in 2013.
The Martian was published in print by Crown on February 11, 2014.
The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list on March 2, 2014, in the hardcover fiction category at twelfth position.
It was made into a movie by Ridley Scott was released in October 2015.
Andy Weir received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2016.
See what happens if you have a very good, well constructed story! Keep Writing. The same thing could happen to you.
That’s all the key lessons I have for now. I will update this article when more key lessons on becoming a successful Indie Author are learned. In the meantime, drop me a line and I will try to answer any questions regarding the Key Lessons Learned in this article.
For reasons why I became a Sci-Fi writer, read my Smashwords Author Interview.
Don Viecelli, Indie Sci-Fi Author.
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Self-Publishing Articles In This Series:
10 Reasons Why You Should Become An Indie Author!
Self-Guide To Ebook Publishing - Practical Steps!
Released February 2018.
Back to the beginning.
10 Reasons Why You Should Become An Indie Author!
You always wanted to be a writer. You probably have that first novel written and waiting to be published. You spent a year getting it ready. You reread, revised, edited and polished the story a dozen times. You’re ready to send it out into the world and get some feedback; hopefully positive reviews. What are you waiting for? Ah—the acceptance letter by a literary agent.
Now that may be a problem. Literary agents are very selective on whom they want to represent. They only want the best, whether that is a talented newcomer, a known author, or a proven market seller of their preferred genre of stories. It’s very hard to meet all the requirements agents are looking for in an author or story. As I have said; they only want the best and the promise of a successful outcome. After all, this is a business and everyone wants to make a profit.
For those of you who made the case and found a literary agent to represent you, this article is probably not for you. I hope your story is successful and you sell enough paper copies to make the publisher proud. You are on your way and are now hard at work on your next novel.
The rest of you are still trying to figure out how to accomplish what every published author has already achieved. You have sent out dozens of query letters and sample pages to every literary agent you could find. In response, you have received a large number of rejection letters, some of which included helpful suggestions on how to improve your story and achieve success. Many may have offered the only thing they could—HOPE.
I feel for you. Never give up; that’s my motto too. Only, there comes a time when you have to accept the inevitable and try a new approach to get your story published. That is what it takes to become an Author. No matter the reason why you could not convince a literary agent or traditional publisher to accept your story, now is not the time to give up. If you believe in what you wrote, then I urge you to self-publish your story on your own. Become an Indie Author! What have you got to lose?
Some Background Information:
Let me give you some background information on why I am suggesting you should consider become an Indie Author. I seriously started writing science fiction stories in 2001. I figured it was then or never, so I started writing my first story called Alien Storm. I was working full-time then and could only write part-time. I finished the story eight months later in 2002 and began the long process of finding a literary agent. In the end I could not find one, but I did receive some good advice from one agent. He suggested I read other science fiction stories to fully understand the genre and to see what was currently selling. Over the falling years I read numerous stories and have written over 180 science fiction book reviews now available on Goodreads.com. Just find a Four or Five Star book review and start reading if you are a fan of the genre.
After many rejection letters, I decided to publish my first story through a Print On Demand or POD publisher. I sold a few copies and started writing my second story called The Formula. I used the same POD house and tried to improve my writing and marketing efforts. I was still writing part-time and learning the business. Although the costs for using a POD publisher at the time were reasonable, around $300, I found the price assigned for a paper copy of the book was uncompetitive in the market place. The royalties per book were also marginal. And digital copies were not selling well at the time. There had to be a better way.
How Times Have Changed:
Starting around 2010, digital publishing or ebooks became the newest way to sell and read books. E-readers in various shapes, sizes and prices are now available by several manufacturers that can read ebooks. Formats vary for each e-reader, but the most common formats are Mobi for Kindle and Epub for Barnes & Noble Press (Nook). Today, digital ebooks account for approximately 25% of all books sold on the marketplace; a 20+ billion dollar U.S. industry.
Several major players selling ebooks online dominate the market today; Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords to mention a few. There are many others that can publish and distribute digital ebooks in any format and genre. Some even offer free ebooks, which serve more as a marketing tool to generate future sales and name recognition for the authors.
What I am proposing for the beginning author today who has a book worth reading and no literary agent is to publish a digital ebook as soon as you are ready. Do not be afraid to give it a try. You will finally become an Author and learn a few things in the process. To encourage you further, I give the following ten (10) reasons why you should consider doing this and become an Indie Author:
1. You will have complete control of every step in the process.
The easiest and most effective ebook publisher on the market today is Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) through Amazon. They will accept a Microsoft Word document and convert it directly to the required Kindle ebook Mobi format. You add a professional Book Cover page, fill in the required Book Details and you are ready to publish. They also offer a KDP Select program that offers special pricing and free ebook promotions during the 90 day exclusive period, but you cannot offer your ebook through any other publishers during this time.
Another good publisher is Barnes & Noble Press for Nook ebooks, which use the Epub format. They also are very easy to use and set up your ebook for self-publishing.
Smashwords offers Epub and several other ebook formats and 16 distribution channels including Libraries. Their How To Publish On Smashwords information is easy to understand and fill out. By uploading a MS Word document only, Smashwords offers the following seven ebook formats for most E-readers:
You can use other ebook publishers as well. There are many and each has a different method of uploading your stories and rules for publishing. Remember to pick a self-publisher that fits your level of expertise and willingness to help you get your ebook published.
2, You can publish immediately.
There is no waiting for your ebook to be published. It can happen within hours or overnight and the ebook is ready for sale. Working through a literary agent and book publisher or Print On Demand (POD) house could take months or longer before your story is told. You have probably waited long enough as it is. Just make sure the final document is as good as you can make it. Spend extra time reviewing and editing if you do not use a copy editor before self-publishing.
3. You set the suggested retail price.
I cannot tell you how important it is to be able to set your suggested retail or selling price and change it as often as needed. You can offer your ebook for whatever you think it is worth. Market sales will determine if you chose wisely. I recommend you introduce your ebook at a low enough price to encourage early sales. You can even offer your ebook for free for a limited time to create market demand. Just make sure your “product” is as good as it can be so as not to disappoint your readers.
4. You pick the countries to sell in.
Each publishing house will allow you to choose which countries to sell your ebook. The final selling price can be determined automatically by setting your U.S. suggested retail price, or you can set the price independently by country. Each online self-publishing service has its own list of distributors by country. Be aware of who they are and choose accordingly.
5. You offer the promotions you want.
With Amazon Kindle Direct Program (KDP), you can determine how to promote your work. I have tried many different promotions to help sell my ebooks. The best methods are to use your social media networks and try using free book services such as BookFunnel and/or Instafreebie to promote interest in your ebooks.
I have found using Press Releases also work well to promote ebooks and get your name and new ebook out in the marketplace. It is not hard to write a Press Release and each service makes it easy to prepare and distribute the release. A good list of PR companies can be found at BookDaily.com under Author Resources/Press Release Distribution. You want to find a PR service that gets your PR quickly on Google and other search engines.
6. You earn maximum royalties.
Unlike POD publishers, you earn maximum royalties using ebook publishing houses. You can receive up to 70% royalties off selling price from Amazon, up to 65% from Barnes & Noble Press and even up to 85% from Smashwords. This even makes it worthwhile to give away some of your work as Gift Copies or Free for promotion purposes since it may be better, cheaper or more effective than using other methods to promote your work.
7. You can make changes any time you need to.
This may be one of the most important benefits of using digital ebook self-publishing houses. You can update or revise your work at any time, free of cost, as many times as needed. Unless you have a good eye for catching spelling and formatting errors, you will find mistakes in most works after you have uploaded the story. Even if you use a word editor or have Beta readers, mistakes are inevitable. You may decide to revise your story months or years later to make it work better with your sequel. It is a very useful feature of digital publishing.
8. You can add cover pages and images as needed.
One of the most important images you will need for your ebook is on your cover page. I have tried making my own cover pages, but the results were not professional enough. The best promotional tool you have is the cover page for your ebook. There are many digital ebook cover designers and the price is usually around a 100 dollars. You should find a good one to design your cover page. You can even try updating your ebooks with new cover pages as time goes by to find one that helps you sell more ebooks.
9. You can assign an ISBN number for each book format.
ISBN numbers are needed to identify and track your books by format. Many ebook self-publishers do not require an ISBN number and will assign their own tracking number. Print On Demand (POD) houses will provide ISBN numbers for you in their pricing. However, I recommend you purchase your own ISBN numbers to distribute and sell your books independently in case you decide to change publishers later. Costs are reasonable, as low as $29 dollars for ebooks and $55 for paper books that also need a Barcode. You will need a separate ISBN for each ebook format. I recommend Publisher Services for reasonable cost and good service.
10. You can copyright your book.
U.S. Copyrights are important to protect your work for legal reasons if you ever need to go to court. Normally, you are copyright protected as soon as you write your book, but I always recommend getting your book copyrighted as soon as you publish, if not before. It is easy to do and only costs $35 for a Single copyright application without cover images. You can register a copyright online at the U.S. Copyright Office.
I hope I made the case for becoming an Indie Author. If you cannot find a literary agent for your story, don’t wait until you feel no one cares about your work. Be proactive and find out what the market wants from you. There will be criticism of your work. Accept it and move on. Start the next story and the one after that. If you like to write, then write and learn from your mistakes. Becoming an Indie Author may be the best move you make. If your story is really good, the market will find it and tell you. And where the market goes, so will the literary agents and traditional publishers. Believe me, they will find YOU and success will follow.
Good luck, Indie Authors. Let me know how it turns out.
The author lives in the Chicagoland area with his family. He attended Michigan State University and earned his MBA at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management in Illinois. He recently retired as a product marketing professional in the high tech industry and is pursuing a writing career. He has written eight full-length science fiction stories and two short stories. He has always enjoyed science fiction and plans to continue writing imaginative novels that explore the future boundaries of real science. He is an Indie Author.
Author’s website: Don Viecelli
Revision 2 dated February 2018.
Other Indie Articles:
Key Lessons Learned On How To Become A Successful Indie Author!
Self-Guide To Ebook Publishing - Practical Steps!
I write science fiction stories. I hope you like them.