Author Archives: Ruth Ann Nordin

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out http://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.

The Changing Landscape of Publishing: How To Cope

Intro

While Scribd and Oyster have been offering subscription-based services to readers for a while now, Amazon has just come out with their version under Kindle Unlimited.  Upon reading some discussions on all of this, I came to the conclusion that there is nothing set in stone in the publishing world.  It is always evolving, always changing.  And no one can tell with 100% certainty where it’s all headed.

For example, back in 2009 when I started publishing ebooks, I never imagined I would earn more than $30 a year (if I was lucky) with my work.  And today when new authors publish, they are disappointed if $30 is all they get in one month.  Then in 2010, the big thing was $0.99.  It was easy to gain a new readership at this price point.  Today?  Not so much.  Though, pricing the first book in a series at free seems to still work.  But with big name authors lowering their price points, it’s not wise to price too high either for your non-free titles.  With subscription services taking off, I’m sure it’ll have some impact on how book prices go.  But it’s too soon to tell just how things will shake out.

The point to all of this is that nothing stays the same in this crazy up-and-down roller coaster world of publishing.  I’m not going to say what will or won’t happen.

Main Post

But what I can offer are some ways to cope in this volatile market we’re in, so hopefully, we can all stay sane.  :)

1.  Keep writing.

Blank notebook and pen.

 

Why?  Because this is what we love to do.  It is our passion.  This is why we get up in the morning.  Writing is our escape from the outside world when it presses in on us.  Sometimes you have to turn off the TV, get off the Internet, and shut the door on people who are trying to distract you.  If you’re like me, you feel anxious when you don’t write.  I can go for a week without writing and be fine, but after that, I get irritable and stressed out.  I need to write to stay level.  It’s how I relax.  If writing doesn’t relax you, then I suggest finding something else that does, like going for a walk or seeing a movie.   You need a way to step away from stressful situations.  And, if you’re relaxed, you’ll write better.

2.  Keep publishing.

publish

There are certain times of the year I find it better to publish than others, but I don’t limit myself to only those times.  I publish even on months that historically have sucked for me.  Publishing on a regular basis helps to steady out the money you bring in.  The more books you publish a year, the better your chances are of making money and staying “new enough” so people don’t forget you.  I realize everyone’s life differs.  Some people can write fast; others can’t.  But if you can get something new out on a predictable basis or when you promise readers you will, it’ll help.

Keep in mind that not all books will sell well, and there is no way to predict which will do better than others.  But when you keep getting books out there, you increase your chances of being noticed and staying relevant.  And you never know.  Some day your work might take off.  If you took the time to lay the groundwork and acquire a nice backlist, that could work in your favor.

But most of all, one more book finished and published, is a satisfying feeling all on its own.  I’m working my way to the goal of 50 romance books. (I just published my 42nd one.)   The best rewards are those where we set a goal for ourselves that we can control.

3.  Be aware of sales but don’t obsess over them.

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I do think it’s important to know how your books are doing, but try to limit how often you go to check your dashboard or sales rankings.  Some people can check their sales once a day and not agonize if they are losing momentum.  Some people can only check their stats once a month.  It depends on your comfort level.  If you’re obsessing over them, then it’s time to back off.  I realize it can be hard to do that, but it’ll help you keep sane if you do.

The picture above with the up and down chart is very much like my own dashboard.  From month to month, it can be an extreme up or down, and this occurs even in months when I publish a new book.  What I usually do is track my sales for the first two months on any book I publish.  What I’m doing is gauging which type of romance I’m writing that resonates best with my readers.  I write Regencies, historical westerns, and contemporaries.  I usually write them around the same time so I can publish them around the same time.  Why do I do this?  To get a better idea of what I should write more of in the future.

My overall sales seem to be better in the first part of the year.  October through December are awful for me.  January through March are best.  April through September are pretty stable with a regular up and down flow.  By publishing in all these time frames, I am able to get a better idea of whether my reader base prefers Regencies, historical westerns, or contemporaries that I write.  I know there’s good money in contemporaries, but these are not my best selling books.  I do best with Regencies and historical westerns because that is my particular reader base.  I write contemporaries to get a break and do something different.  If you can write fast, you do have the luxury of writing a couple books that you think won’t do well with sales.  But overall, you want to try to aim your books for your readers, if your goal is to make some money off your work.  If your goal is to write solely for enjoyment (and that is perfectly acceptable), then you don’t have to take sales into account.

4.  Most of all, remember to enjoy what you’re doing.

think forward

I do believe it’s okay to step away from writing if you have lost the joy in it.  Maybe you need a break.  Maybe you need to evaluate whether or not this is what you really want to do.  It’s hard to be a writer when people are highly critical of books.  Some people will email you, leave comments on your blog, or write reviews about your book, and they will be rude.  It happens to all writers sooner or later.  We can’t please everyone.  It’s impossible.  The work we do is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a lot of thick skin to be in the public eye, and that thick skin takes time to develop.

There were a couple of times when I wanted to give up.  I stepped back and took a month off to figure out if I wanted to keep writing books for the public.  (I don’t think I can ever get away from writing.  It’s who I am.  But I don’t have to publish what I write.)   There were times when I stood in the shower for a long time and cried or needed to talk to other writers because I was down in the dumps. (Believe me, non-writers have no idea what it feels like to get hateful messages telling them how much their books suck.)  Two times, I almost unpublished everything I’d ever written.

Only you can decide if you want to stick with it.  Don’t let someone else tell you if you should or not.  This is your decision.  And if you want to quit for a while, there’s no reason why you can’t come back later and start again.  I don’t know what the answer is for you if you feel like taking a break or quitting.  But I can tell you that you can get thick skin.  Hurtful comments will always hurt.  They might not hurt as much.  But the pain does go away.  You do get stronger.  You will get over it faster.  The positive will come in.  Life is a cycle of ups and downs.  Nothing stays constant.

Conclusion

Being an author in an ever-changing publishing world can be rough, but if you focus on things you can control, then the path gets a lot smoother.  You can’t change what the trends are.  All you can do is keep writing, publishing, take everything in stride, and, if necessary, take a break to get your mind back into the game.

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photo credits:

image 1 (pen and paper): ID 2947054 © Richard Thomas | Dreamstime.com

image 2 (publish): ID 39234114 © Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Dreamstime.com

image 3 (stats): ID 18004323 © Daniel Draghici | Dreamstime.com

image 4 (think forward): ID 39709981 © Libux77 | Dreamstime.com

These pictures were purchased by Ruth Ann Nordin, one of the administrators of this blog.

Categories: Psychology of Writing & Publishing | 24 Comments

Combatting the Fear of Failure

I read something a while back on a forum where someone thought something was wrong with their book because Bookbub didn’t take their book for a promotion.  For anyone not aware of Bookbub, it’s a marketing service for authors who will take the book and send out an email blast to everyone who subscribes to receive daily notices of sales.  The best thing about it is that it pairs up the genre of the book with readers interested in that particular genre.  The ads can be expensive, but I hear it pays out in results.  Here’s the link in case anyone’s interested: https://www.bookbub.com/home/

Well, I recently submitted a book in hopes of promoting it and was turned down.  I thought if I came out and publicly said my book wasn’t accepted, it would help someone who might be wondering if they are a failure because Bookbub didn’t take their book.

The truth is, Bookbub can’t take everyone who submits a book.  I can only imagine how many submissions they get a day. Considering its popularity, it’s a lot.  There’s no way they can take everyone’s book.  They have to make the hard decision on which book to take, and I bet a lot of books they receive are professionally done.

But the key is that they can only take the books they believe will have the best chance of satisfying their subscribers.  It’s not personal.  It’s business.  If Bookbub didn’t accept your book, please don’t take it as a reflection of your book.  This is not a failure on your part.

And this leads me to other things you shouldn’t take personally.  Don’t assume you’re a failure because you didn’t get an award, didn’t sell a certain number of books, or get on a USA or NYT Bestseller list.  You are not a failure just because you don’t get these things.  These things do not accurately reflect the quality of your book.

So how can you combat the fear of failure if it stars rearing its ugly head?  Here are some ideas:

Define What success Is For Yourself

I think one of the worst things we can do is let someone else define what “success” is for us.  The world has its own ideas on what makes a writer successful.  We have to make a conscious decision to tune this out.  I know it’s hard.  It’s why I often go offline or stick to a very small part of the Internet.  It helps me keep in touch with that part of me that started writing books to begin with.

Do Things You Enjoy

Also, we’re all different.  We aren’t all meant to hang out on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn.  We’re not all meant to blog or hang out on forums.  There’s no way we can do everything.    Life is too short to spend your time doing things that you hate.  For example, I hate selling books at a table.  I’m an introvert.  I would much rather be at home writing.  But I have a friend who loves selling books at fairs.  She is a people person and loves to engage them.  I’d much rather blog, and she doesn’t like blogging a lot.  What’s the point in me trying to convince her to do things my way or vice versa?

We have our own interests based on our comfort level and personalities.  Life would be very boring if we all did the exact same thing.  Pick what you enjoy, and do that.  And if someone tries to make you feel like you’re a failure because you aren’t doing something they want you to do, run away from that person as fast as you can.  They will only drain you.  Stick with people who are supportive.

Only Make Goals You Have Control Over

My favorite goal is, “I will write X number of books a year.” Then I go through and figure out how I can realistically make this happen.  Writing books is what I love doing most, and I can control it.  I can’t control if others like it or how many will sell.

Don’t make “I will sell X number of copies” a goal.  Instead, do something like, “I will contact X number of bloggers about my book to see if they’ll review it” or “I will submit a book to Bookbub to see if they’ll let me run an ad” or “I will put a link to my website at the end of my ebook” or “I will write a 1-3 sentence blurb about my other books at the end of my ebook to help advertise them” your goals.  These are concrete things you can do.

Goals that rely on other people to do things for you are bad goals because you can’t control what they do.  For example, “X number of people will tell Y number of people about my book” isn’t a good goal.

Recognize the Blessings When They Come

Not winning an award, not making it to the Top 100 on Amazon, not selling a certain number of books, or not reaching some other landmark you were aiming for can be a bummer.  It’s okay to be disappointed.  You’re only human.  You can’t be happy all the time.  But don’t stay in the funk.  Recognize the other things that are working in your favor.

Good things do come along, and sometimes they come in the most unexpected ways.  My suggestion is to make a list of the good things that come along.  Maybe you got an email from a reader who said they loved your book.  (I suggest printing it out.)   Maybe you found out someone said something positive about your book to someone else or on a blog or in a forum.  Maybe there was someone whose marriage is better off today because they read your books and took the time to thank you.  There are many things in this world we don’t control but do happen to make our days brighter.  If we take the time to appreciate them when they happen, it helps to combat the “I didn’t get X” feeling of despair.  I know it’s human nature to focus on the negative, which is why I suggest making a list of the positive and referring to it often.

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This list doesn’t cover everything, but  hopefully, this will help someone who might be in need of some encouraging words.  I want to thank Stephannie Beman for helping me come up with the list.

Categories: Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Writer & Author

Tips on Making Covers or Working With a Cover Artist: Part 2

I’m going to cover the viewpoint of the author, and Stephannie Beman will cover the viewpoint of the cover artist.

Today, we’re going to talk about what to look for when choosing the “look” for your cover.

1.  Less Is More (Or Keep It Simple Silly)

Ruth’s Thoughts:

There is a tendency to want to put as much on covers as possible.  The problem is you can only fit so much on a cover.  I like to think of the cover as a snapshot where you give the readers (at a glance) what kind of book you’re giving them.  In my case, I do romance, and in romance there is usually a woman, man or the couple is often the focal point.   But you don’t want the background to overpower the cover.  I could have a cover with a bride, a stagecoach, a horse, a dog, the hero, a couple of kids, a mercantile, and a lasso on it.  But just how attractive would cramming all that stuff into one cover be?  Maybe all of those things have something to do with the book, but it’s not necessary to put it all into the cover.

My advice is to pick 1 focal image and 1-2 images for the background.  This could be a bride for the focal point, a carriage and a field for the background.  Of course, you can get away with using just one picture.  Some of my most popular covers are ones with a single stock image.

Steph’s Thoughts:

As a cover designer, I run into lots of authors who want to add all the key elements of their stories on the cover. While in theory it might sound like a good idea, it isn’t. Keeping your design simple does two things for the cover design:

  1. It doesn’t confuse the message you want to give the readers
  2. It allows the image to be better seen when it is shrunk down.

Too many items and people clutter your cover. It’s best to pick one main element from your book to place on the cover design. If you aren’t sure what that item should be, ask someone who reads your book to tell you. Or you can do as I suggest to my clients and describe your book in one sentence. This will give you a better idea of what you should place on the cover.

2.  Use Professional Images

Ruth’s Thoughts:

Don’t hand draw something.   If you want an image is drawn, get a professional artist to do it for you.  Most of the time, though, you’ll be looking for pictures.  Unless you are skilled with a good camera, I would advise you to choose a stock photo site and buy a royalty free image.  Your cover doesn’t have to look just like a big traditional publisher’s book, but it should be attractive.  I would advise authors to buy the images and send them to the cover artist.  Stephannie can explain more of “why”, but in a nutshell, it helps to protect your right to have those images on your cover.

Steph’s Thoughts

I know that wanting to I save money on a cover and scouring the Internet for free images to use might sounds like a great idea, but it’s not. I suggestion using professional images from a stock-photography site, hire a photographer to take pictures, or hire an illustrator to draw your cover. Yeah, it costs money, but in the long run it can also save you thousands of dollars.

You should purchase professional images because:

  1. It would really suck to find out later that the free image you used was uploaded to Flickr by someone who didn’t own the rights and now you have to pay $8,000 for its use. (True story)
  2. When you purchase the licensing rights this allows you to use the image according to the stock provider’s terms of use. Please read the licensing terms of each site carefully. You don’t want to find out later that you have to pay a percentage of your royalties or that they can demand that you remove your cover with the image on it and purchase another at a later date.
  3. You can download your proof of purchase so when someone comes to you for using the images and the option for going to the designer there because they’ve gone out of business, cannot be reached, etc., then you have proof.
  4. There may come a time when you need an extended license because you want to use the images on other items, you might not have the option of going to the designer because they’ve gone out of business, cannot be reached, etc., and with an account you can manage this yourself.

Unless you are really good with a camera or know how to enhance the pictures you take, I don’t suggest using your own images. Most amateur photographers aren’t aware of the tricks that make a picture useable. Including and not limited to lighting, shape, direction, color, balance, position, etc. Does this mean you can’t use them? Not at all. Just that you should know more about photography before you use one of your own.

3.  Listen to Your Cover Artist (if you hire one)

Ruth’s Thoughts:

While you should have an idea of what you want on the cover so the artist knows your vision for the cover, there are times when the artist’s experience can be beneficial.  The artist has worked with a lot of images.  They’re familiar with fonts, colors, lighting, and how things line up.  This comes from experience.   Maybe you wanted to use a certain picture on the cover, but it turns out the photo is at an awkward angle that makes the way you want to use this image a bad idea.  The artist will probably see that right away.  They may suggest you find another picture or maybe they’ll find one that is better.  Be willing to take their advice into account.  If you are in serious doubt, have them do both pictures–one yours and one with the way they think it looks better.  Then pick the one you want from there.

Artists usually allow you 2-3 rounds of proofs for free so you can give them feedback on what you like and don’t like.  If you keep changing things though, be prepared to pay for the additional proofs.   But go ahead and do as many proofs as you need to get the cover you want.

In the end, it’s your book and the artist will consent to your wishes, but be open to new ideas and at least take a look at what they suggest.

Steph’s Thoughts

To add to what Ruth said above, if you are hiring a cover artist to create your book cover design, chose one whose design portfolio has covers you like. This will go a long way to getting a design you like.  A good designer understands the trends in design. They know the little tricks that make a design better or suggest the right genre.

It’s your job to have an idea of what you want, it’s the designers to create a cover that reflects your vision. However, be open to suggestions. A good designer will protest a bad design choice and explain why it would be bad. They will suggest a better choice and tell you why it would be better. If their suggestions makes sense, listen to them. They are doing what you paid them for and trying to make a great cover. Remember this is their job and a bad cover reflects poorly on both of you.

Categories: Book Covers | Tags: ,

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