Business Plan

KDP’s New Age Range Features

I got an interesting email this morning over breakfast. Apparently KDP Amazon has added a new feature or two which is supposed to help market your e-books. You can now select an age-range and (if you’re marketing your books to schools) a grade-range for your works. The former goes from 0 to 18+, the latter from “Board books” and “Picture books” to “Teen and young adult chapter books”. The people who wrote the email recommend you generally space your minimum and maximum ages or grades within 3 to 4 years.

I have to say, it sounded intriguing and decided to try it. Neither the email nor the new options on KDP (listed where you can put and change your e-book’s general information) list how exactly these ranges help get your books to your customers, but I think Amazon probably knows the ages of its customers, and can target books to their customers based on age and past buying experiences. In any case, I thought I’d give it a try and see if anything happens.

The one thing I can see wrong with this new feature is that they don’t go higher than 18+ or “Teen and young adult chapter books”. It would be convenient to have options that go higher, seeing as 18+ is a pretty wide range and I’m sure plenty of people would like to put a range on their books that’s closer to college-level or higher.

Then again, this is the early stages of these options and there’s room for improvements. Maybe in a few months they’ll adjust the ranges to allow for more diverse ranges.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing how author’s book sales are affected by this. Will you be doing these age ranges? Do you see any problems with these new options? And do you think they’ll affect sales that much? Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Categories: Amazon store, Book Promotion, Business Plan, Digital & ePublishing, Marketing & Promoting, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saying No Can Be Your Best Business Move as a Writer

Today I’m going to a post on the business side of writing.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to skip.

I’m going to discuss how to maximize your income potential by saying no to those things that  get in the way of being able to do this.  Every time you say “yes” to an activity that doesn’t earn you money, you are saying “no” to something that will earn you money.

1.  Picking what to write.

The goal is to pair up what you love to write with what people are willing to buy.   The two don’t have to be exclusive.  Perhaps there are elements you enjoy that can work into a plot or genre that you’d either like to experiment with or are already selling better at.

For example, I started writing Regencies because I noticed those sold pretty well overall in romance.  I picked elements I already enjoyed (a marriage of convenience and a hero and heroine who didn’t initially want to be together) and wrote the romance in that time period.

Another example, I am quickly realizing that (for me) contemporary romances are not my better selling books.  I was thinking about writing a short story (which would have been about 15-20K words) to go along with a recently published contemporary that wasn’t doing as well as I’ve historically done.  But I realized I was about to spend time writing a short story in something that wasn’t doing so well when I could be using that energy into writing a historical western or Regency (which sell better for me).  So I made the decision to nix the short contemporary romance idea.  Why waste time on a project that you already know doesn’t have a good chance of succeeding when you could be spending the time writing something that might have a better chance?

I don’t know what the situation is for you, but hopefully, the two examples above can help you figure out where you can make the best use of your writing time.

2.  What activities to do.

Writing groups are great.  They can help us learn and grow as writers.  Some of my favorites are conferences which focus on writing fiction.  We want to grow as writers.  Writing compelling stories with emotionally engaging characters is still (in my opinion) the best use of our time.  But in order to do this, we need to keep learning the craft.  No matter how much you’ve improved, you can always do better on your next book.  You don’t want to stop growing.

But when you choose conferences and writing groups, you need a place that is safe.  You need to be able to be with people who are supportive, who care about helping you, who can also benefit from your experience, and who will build you up.

When you spend time around people who tear you down or make you feel like you’re inferior, this weakens your ability to be creative and it hampers your energy when you are trying to get out there and engage with others in a positive way.  I suggest staying away from these toxic situations.

3.  Non-writing Stuff

Yes, it’s good to have a life outside of writing.  You want to be a well-rounded individual.  But, if you are making it a habit of spending your time doing too much stuff that doesn’t make you money, you’re running into the danger of limiting your income potential.  It’s fine to take a break and spend the day with a friend.  It’s fine to set aside a block of time where you focus on your family.  It’s fine to catch up on a favorite TV show or do a hobby.

But if you want to make money writing, you need to write.  Some writers do make additional income by speaking and consulting others.  Some do cover work, formatting, or editing.  So you might want to focus on these areas more if they are your greater income stream than writing books.  This post, however, has been focusing more on the writer who makes the bulk of their income by selling their books.  Or if you want your main income stream to come from selling your books, then you will need to do whatever you can to focus the most time you possibly can on writing in addition to some marketing, but marketing can’t get in the way of writing.  The rule I’ve often heard is you need to focus 80% energy on writing and 20% on marketing when you are engaging as a writer in this business.  (That’s a ratio you can go by to gauge if you’re doing too much–or too little–marketing.)

I understand if you have a day job, it’s going to be harder to get as much written as someone who stays home all day and can write.  But I bet there is some area in your life you can give up in order to write more.  Even if it’s getting up an hour earlier to write on the weekends.  Or maybe you need to say no to your cousin who wants to go to another movie.  Or maybe do some writing or outlining during your break.  Or maybe giving up on reading a book so you can write one instead.


Closing thoughts

This all boils down to opportunity cost.  It means that you need to choose one option or the other.  You can’t do both.  Sometimes you have to tell yourself or people you care about in order to get your work done as a writer.  If making money writing books is a priority, you need to make it a priority.  It  must be first on the list.  You need to find time to get it in.  Otherwise, it won’t get done because other things keep popping up, and you will limit your potential to maximize your chances for making your dream a reality.  That’s not to say it’s a guarantee.  Nothing in life is a guarantee.  But you can increase your odds of winning if you say no to the right things.

Categories: Business Plan, Writing as a Business

Writing a Series

A lot of authors write series. Some make all their money writing long series rather than stand-alone novels. A few are even paid by their publishing companies to keep writing series even after the story has gotten old and there are no new ideas or places for the characters to go (*cough* *cough* James Patterson and the Alex Cross books *cough*). But writing a series is a lot tougher than it looks. Rather than keeping a reader’s interest for about 300 pages, you have to keep it for several times that amount and over several books too.

While there is no one way to write a series (is there ever “one way” to go about anything in this business?), there are some tips and strategies that can make writing a series a bit easier. Here are some of mine, gleaned from years of writing various different series in my teens and publishing one of them once I got into college.

Decide who your main characters are and what sort of story you’re going to write with them. I feel that it’s important to nail down who your main characters are pretty early on, because they often end up influencing where the story goes through their actions. You don’t have to go into each character’s entire history at this early stage, but you should have an idea of who they are, what they like and dislike, maybe what sort of environment they grew up in, and what they want and what you from them in this series. That information will come in handy when you’re planning out the series.

Make a roadmap. When you have your characters (and if you’re writing this story in a world different from the one you and most of your readership live in, a general idea of this world), then you should plan out the series and what is going to happen. You don’t need to go into every single detail on what happens in each book, you can save that for when you write each individual book. Just have a general idea of what will happen in each book, how that might fit into a greater arc if you have one in mind, which characters you might introduce or kill off or whatever, etc. It’s kind of similar to outlining a novel, in a way (for tips on outlining, click here), only for several books. Creating a roadmap can also be helpful in keeping a record of what and when you need to research a subject and can allow you to keep notes of what’s happened in previous books in case you need to refer back to something for the current book.

Immerse your reader slowly. This is something I’ve learned over a long time, but it’s useful to remind some writers of it every now and then. Let’s say your story takes place in a fantasy or science-fiction universe and you’re the only one who knows the entirety of the world, its various pieces and factions and groups and aspects. You’ll have an urge to make sure that your reader is immediately caught up with everything, so that they know all there is to know about these worlds. I’m telling you now, resist that urge! Updating them about everything in this world of yours too early would be overloading them with information. They wouldn’t know what to do with it and they’d put down that first book before getting very far in it.

Immersing a reader in your world is like teaching a kid to swim.

The best way to go about introducing readers to this world is to imagine it like teaching a young child to swim. Naturally you don’t start with the deep end. What if your pupil drowned? Instead you start with the shallowest end of the pool. It’s good to start without overwhelming the kid, and they can get a sense and a working knowledge of how swimming works. Later you move them into deeper waters, teaching them new techniques and watching them adjust to the greater depth of the pool. As time goes on, your pupil moves deeper and deeper into the waters, learning new knowledge along the way, until they’re swimming fine in the deep end and able to handle all you’ve given them.

In a similar way you should treat the reader. Slowly take them in, giving them the bare minimum to get along in this world and how to live and maneuver through it. As time goes on, you’ll add more information and they’ll be better prepared to handle it all, so by the end of the series they’ll be able to handle all that information really well.

Keep a guidebook. This can also be helpful, especially for series in fantastical worlds. A guidebook (or whatever you want to call it) contains information on the many aspects of your world, from characters to places to objects to story points and everything in between. If you need to organize a very complicated world, a guidebook can be helpful. Or if even the world is very simple, having a guidebook could help you keep track of things. I recommend using some sort of 3-ring binder for your guidebook, so you can add more information as time goes on. Dividers will also be helpful, so get those and categorize entries as you need. Using a guidebook can also prevent any ret-conning that could annoy and upset your fans.

Writing a book, and writing a book series, is often like this.

Remember the bigger picture. This is always important in writing, but it is especially important in a series. Writing a series is like working with several hundred or even several thousand puzzle pieces, but you have to focus on both the puzzle as a whole as well as the smaller pieces. It’s not easy, keeping track of the smaller stuff as well as keeping aware of the whole arc of the series, but it’s something you’ll have to do if you want to successfully pull off a series.

Each book has a purpose. If your series has an overall story arc, then not only should each book tell an interesting story (or a segment of the larger story), but it should maybe serve a purpose. For example, the first Harry Potter novel introduced us to the Wizarding world, and to the boy we root for the whole series; Book 2 hinted at the existence of Horcruxes, explained the concept of Wizarding blood purity, and introduced other important elements that would later appear in the HP books; Book 3 gave more information on the night Harry’s parents died and their relationship with Snape, as well as introducing how Voldemort would come back to power; Book 4 brought back Voldemort in an elaborate plot as well as hinted at the denial the Ministry would be famous for in Book 5; and so on and so forth. You don’t have to, but it might be helpful to think of assigning your books a purpose in the overall story arc of the series.

What tips do you have for writing a series?

Categories: Book Formatting, Book Setting, Book Setup, Business Plan, Characters & Viewpoints, Editing & Rewriting, General Writing, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Reader, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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