Posts Tagged With: getting books in libraries

CreateSpace’s New Distribution Options: Pros and Cons

Recently, CreateSpace added several new free distribution options to their distribution channels. This includes distribution to bookstores like Barnes & Noble and your local bookshop, academic institutions and libraries, and to CreateSpace Direct. These options, once available only to authors who were able to afford them, are now available to self-published authors with all sorts of incomes, writing styles, and fan followings.

Now there are definite perks to doing this. Authors would love more readers, and if they are able to reach readers in places previously unavailable to them due to monetary concerns, this can only be good for them. And bookstores, which have been suffering with the rise of the e-book and online distributors, will probably benefit being able to cater to the fans of authors whose works were before only available on certain online retailers. In a way, it’s a symbiotic relationship, both for authors and booksellers.

Not only that, but the books of self-published authors are sometimes rejected by libraries and academic institutions because they are self-publsihed in the first place, or their self-published status means that the books don’t come from certain distributors. If authors are able to get their works into libraries, that means people who don’t own e-readers or who can’t afford to buy books online can now read the books of self-published authors through this new distribution system.

And, using the expanded distribution channels means a potentially higher royalty rate for every copy sold.

However, there are drawbacks to this. Amazon, which owns CreateSpace and it’s print-on-demand services, determines minimum prices for all works published through them. They calculate these minimum prices by determining the length of the book, how much it’ll cost to print, how much they get from the sale of the book, and how much they need to give the author. Recently when I published my novel Reborn City, I saw that the minimum price they gave me was a little less than nine dollars, much higher than I’d expected. I wasn’t happy about it, but I decided to go with it and make the best of it.

When today I decided to try these expanded distribution options on RC, I found out that in order to use these expanded distribution channels, the list price would go up to at least thirteen dollars. In other words, the increase didn’t cost anything for the author, but it did cost extra for the reader.

I decided not to take these extra distribution channels because of the price hike it’d require. Some of my friends and family would not be able to afford a paperback copy because of a list price, or they’d be much more reluctant to buy it because is it not  their genre in addition to being over thirteen dollars. Plus, I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t want to make people pay too much for his work more than he wants them to actually read his work. Terrible character flaw, I know, but I live with it.

However that’s my own personal choice. If you wish to, go right ahead and sign up for these new channels. It’s your choice, which as I’ve said before is one of the best perks of self-pbulishing.

And who knows? You could see your sales go up dramatically, and your fanbase expand like a hot-air balloon. Not to mention the joy of telling friends and family that your work is now available in bookstores and libraries.  That’s always something to make you feel good. And for some books, the increase in the list price might not be too high, so if you have my problem with pricing books too high, it may not be so bad after all. I might still use these channels for my collection of short stories, which is already very low-priced.

What do you think of these new distribution options? Are you planning on use them? If so, why or why not?

*Note: Since this post’s publication, I’ve had a change of heart and I’ve decided to try distributing my books through these new channels in the hope of reaching more readers. Whether or not I’m successful, we shall see. Wish me luck, as well as everyone else using these options for the first time.

Categories: Amazon store, Author Platform & Branding, Book Pricing, Book Promotion, Business Plan, Createspace, Digital & ePublishing, Marketing & Promoting, Print-On-Demand, Self-Publishing, The Reader, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Resources For Researching The Unfamiliar

In every writing class and seminar we take and every book on the writing business we buy, they tell us over and over again, the same piece of advice: write what you know. Judging by the content of popular fiction today, either people are very experienced with supernatural creatures, are involved in romances that take on all forms and in all time periods, and have been to dystopias that kill off their own citizens, or authors of all types are disregarding that write-what-you-know rule.

But what if you want to write about something you don’t know very well? What if you’d like to know more about the White House, neuroscience, or the life of Leonardo da Vinci, and incorporate it into the plot of a story? Then as an author, the thing to do is to research the subject in question. It may be one of the least exciting parts of the writing and publishing process, but often it is one of the most important parts and usually highly necessary.

Here I would like to offer some ideas for resources an author may use for their research, as well as some tips on things to watch out for or some smart habits to do when you do your research. First, I would like to point to some resources and ways of going about researching a topic:

If you’re researching something, visit it. If you’re planning on setting a story in Florida, then take a trip to Florida and do a little sightseeing. If you want to do a story involving an anthropologist as your protagonist, then meet with a few anthropologists and interview them on their jobs. If your latest thriller involves a modern art caper, visit a few museums and galleries to learn a little bit about what they display and sell.

Of course, this suggestion isn’t always feasible. Most self-published authors can’t take off on a research trip when they want. Luckily they are alternatives:

•Read about the subject. One of the best things about authors, we are voracious readers, which is an asset when it comes to research. Read as many books as you feel you need in order to familiarize yourself with a subject. When I was researching my science fiction novel Reborn City, I read several books on gang violence and the Islamic religion in order to be as well versed as I could be on the subjects.
And it’s not unusual for writers to read more than just a handful of books. Some authors will read one thousand books, letters, manuscripts, diaries, and other sources in order to find information that both agrees with and disagrees with a point they will make in their story.

This brings me to my next subject:

•The library is your new best friend. Whether it’s a university library with thousands of tomes in its stacks, a city library with branches all over town, or a local library that hasn’t changed much since it first opened, libraries are great places to go and get your research materials. It costs no money to join or be a part of a library, and you can often hold onto the books you need for long periods of time.

And should your local library not have the books you need, many libraries these days have InterLibrary Loan programs, which allows your library to ask other libraries if they wouldn’t mind lending out the book you need. You won’t believe how many books I’ve been able to find just by using InterLibrary Loan.

•Ask the experts. I’ve often consulted with experts on subjects for details both minute and major in my stories, and you can find them just about anywhere. I’ve asked teachers at my university about various subjects from healing loss to psychogenic fugue to Russian transliterations, and they always seem happy to help.

And you don’t have to limit your inquiries to university professors. When I needed help with creating the psychological profiles for my novel Snake and learned that none of the professors at my school dealt with that sort of thing, I contacted a clinical psychologist at a local psychiatric firm and asked if he wouldn’t mind helping me. Sure enough, he gave me excellent psychological profiles which I incorporated into the story and which also saved me from using pop psychology to explain my killer (which apparently would’ve been so off the mark, it’s not even funny).

Other experts you can ask for help in understanding unfamiliar subjects include doctors, lawyers, clergy, and anyone who’s experienced with a field or business to the point they can answer obscure questions about the field. And they’re usually glad to help without any compensation (though it’s considered polite to cite them if they contributed significantly to your research efforts).

•Use the Internet. Yes, I know using the Internet isn’t always the safest way to get information, but if you know the right websites, there is plenty of useful information that you can use, even if it’s just quick facts you’re looking up.

And now for some tips that help with the research process:

Be careful what websites you use. Yes, I know I just said using the Internet isn’t as hazardous as it’s made out to be, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one must be careful with websites, especially with websites like Wikipedia, where anyone can create an account and edit an entry or article on the website. You could read about Elvis Presley on that site and read a passage that says he was investigated for Communist ties in the fifties, never realizing that was added in by a conspiracy theorist in his mother’s basement.

In addition, sites that seem reputable may not be. The website martinlutherking.org claims to be the site for Dr. King, but in actuality the site is run by a white supremacist group. The real site for Dr. King is actually thekingcenter.org, though most people don’t realize. Like I said, be careful what websites you look at and who you listen to on the Internet. Otherwise one risks looking like the girl from the State Farm commercial below.

Check your sources. When I was researching Snake, I read a book about psychopathy and mental illness called The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. I thought it was awesome and I learned a lot from it. I was devastated to learn later on that Ronson, the book’s author, edited or made up several of the interviews he used in the book in order to further his point. So whenever you use any book/person/website/etc., make sure there’s not a scandal behind it or there’s any other reason you shouldn’t use the item in question. You’ll save yourself my embarrassment.

Keep a list of the sources you use. If you do a lot of research on your story, the kind that involves more than ten books, keeping a list to cite your sources so you can add them to the end of your book will not only show how much work went into the research and writing of the book, but it’ll keep the people who go to great lengths to fact-check and disprove your book that you’ve got your bases covered.

Research is an important aspect of writing, and if one goes about it correctly, one can create a wonderful story. And even if it’s a pain to do sometimes, it is well-worth the effort when people say they loved your book and thought the level of detail seemed so real.

Good luck with future research projects, everyone.

* If there are any other resources or tips you think should be included in this list, please let me know. I’ll add it in at a later time and date if I think it could be useful.

Categories: General Writing, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 Tips to Marketing and Promoting on a Shoestring

Last night I thought about posting a question on the Amazon forums asking readers for help on writing this article. I wanted to know what they liked and didn’t like about Authors’ marketing and promoting their books. I decided against it about three seconds after I did a search on author’s marketing themselves. What I learned shocked me, but didn’t really surprise me that most efforts Author’s utilize to sell their books really annoy readers.

Over the years, I’ve studied different methods of marketing that fit what I’m comfortable with and below I’ve compiled a list of non-aggressive marketing tips that are budget friendly. I hope these helped and good luck all of you.

~Know your target audience and create a brand that appeals to you and projects the image you want for your writing career. With your brand in mind, repeat yourself in all your ads, webpages, etc to establish that brand in the minds of readers. For example: My author brand is “Where myths live, where legends walk, and where love is eternal.” I write Speculative fiction.

~When you finish a book, write the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Keep writing books. Create a backlist. The authors that sell well are the ones that write. It doesn’t cost much more than time, effort, and maybe paper.

~Upload to every book site available and fill out their author profile pages. Some readers like to know the author. My favorites are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Not only do you get better royalties by doing this, but you can also track your sales.

~Create a print book to go with your eBook. Some readers still like to hold a book in their hands, or like the eBook enough to buy the print book to have for their collection. You can carry it around with you in your purse and answer people’s questions when they ask about it. You can donate a paperback copy of your book to your local library. (I think most of the SPAL author’s use CreateSpace. This Amazon based service allows you to create a book with no out-of-pocket expense. The paperback will be linked to your eBook on Amazon. Another good printer is Lightning Source.)

~Offer Readers something for free. When readers receive something of value for free, trust and good feeling naturally arise. It is a very effective marketing strategy. This doesn’t have to be a full length book. Write a short story geared toward the readers you want to attract and offer it as a free read or bonus material at the end of a related book. Give the people on your mailing list or newsletter sneak peeks at a story. You can give them a coupon or some type of special they can share with friends.

~Run a contest giving out free e-books. Or have a treasure hunt where they buy the books to find clues and win something big. Or do a giveaway and ask everyone who downloads the book to please leave an honest review.

~Blogs and websites are free ad space on the web that creates a constant link between yourself and readers. It is there 24/7. This doesn’t mean you should treat it like a billboard. Share things that are meaningful to you and your readers. Blog about your book as you write it. Share character interviews, short stories, or news about the book. (There are many platforms to choose from. Weebly offers a blog for your website. Bloggster, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr are all blogging sites, some of which can be transformed into websites.)

~Social Networking with Twitter, Facebook, and GooglePlus and the hundred of other sites out there are great ways to stay connected and keep your name active. Also sign up for reading sites like GoodReads and Shelfari, or creating a Youtube channel with a list of songs that go well with your story or author interviews is a great way to get people to notice you. You can then get widgets for all of these sites and place them on your website so people can easily find you on the web.

~Book trailers are a great way to show readers what your book is all about. You can upload it to Youtube and Tweet the link with relevant hashtags to get it out to people with similar interests.

~Join forums if you dare. Forums and group discussions can be great places to meet people. But be sure not to self-promote. Not only will it turn readers off, it can turn nasty fast. Amazon has created a special ‘Meet the Authors’ forum where authors can promote their books and talk about their work.

~Most people won’t give a book a second glance if it has not received any reviews, good or bad. I found that offering your book for free and asking for honest non-biased reviews can get you those reviews. But don’t expect them to be all nice. You can also send your book to bloggers and reviewers.

~Make flyers, brochures, postcards or pens with information about your books. I’ve never tried this but it could be worth it to make a flyer or brochures and place them in public places, giveaway flyers, brochures, or postcards to people who ask about your book, etc. Please make sure it’s okay with the owners first or it’s at a place where it is okay to put them. Bathroom stalls, libraries, and bulletin boards are good places. Network with another author and do an exchange of flyers. Pens can be given away, or left for people to use. I don’t know about you, but I do read the writing on the sides of pens.

~Find creative ways to use your business cards and leave them in unexpected places. Some authors like to print a brief book excerpt on the back, titles of your book or book cover, the table of contents, the characters, a rave review, or your elevator pitch. I prefer the list of books or leaving it blank. If blank you can write a specific book for the person or even write a coupon code for a free or discounted book on it. You can leave your card with the tip for the waitress, in the envelope if you pay your bills via snail mail, in library books, in the change room at your

~Create relationships with readers, writers, reporters, book sellers, book clubs, bloggers, teachers, etc. Word of mouth is still the most cost-effective way to advertise your books.

Categories: Author Platform & Branding, Book Promotion, Marketing & Promoting, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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