Strategies To Consider for 2014

So I was gone for a while and then came across some stuff that’s been going on and realized I needed to come back.  🙂

I’m not sure where to start.  I have a lot of things on my mind, and it’s been (what feels to me) a long time.  Probably, the most pressing thing on my mind is what’s been happening to a few authors I know.  Some authors who did well in 2012 have seen a drop in income this year.  I’m not one of them, but I have noticed my new releases don’t sell as well as they used to.  The only thing that might be buffering me is the fact that I am able to write fast.  But that doesn’t mean writing fast will always mean that income will continue to go up, or even that income will stay steady.

Writing books is one of those businesses where income is a roller coaster.  Some months are better than others.  You can’t predict which books will do well and which will bomb.  Attractive covers might help but they don’t guarantee success.  The same is true with titles or even the type of book you write.

I’m inclined to agree with an author friend who says the self-publishing bubble has burst.  What worked effectively back in 2010-2011 doesn’t have the same effect as it does now.  2012 was a good year when I look back on how things played out.  For some, 2013 was better or just as good.  But I’ve talked to enough authors who did very well in 2012 who didn’t do so well this year.  I understand the influx of free books, cheap books, and increased supply of books has played a part in it.  I’m not going to argue the pros and cons of those things.

What I’d like to do is try to find some strategies to help us as we venture into 2014.  I’ll do a couple posts in the upcoming weeks to better explain these.  I don’t want this post to get too long.

1.  Map Out Your Goals

Yes, this is a simple step, but I think this is a good starting point.  I notice if I don’t have a list of goals, I get less done.

2.  Form a Daily Routine.

The best way to reach goals is to try to find a routine.  I know someone who has to adjust her routine on a monthly basis.  For me, it’s based on the school year.  What I do in the summer when the kids are out of school is different from what I can do when they’re in school during the day.  If you can find your routine, you will have a better time finding time to write.

3.  Track Your Progress Every 3-6 Months

There will be some setbacks.  The unexpected will come up.  People get sick, someone throws a wrench in your plans, etc.  These can’t be helped.  But overall, what is working and what isn’t?  Look at your list of goals.  What did you accomplish?  What didn’t you accomplish?  Why?  Is there anything you can do differently or can you keep doing to maximize your ability to reach your goals?

4.  Reward Yourself For Small Victories

It’s okay to celebrate the small things.  I know the public tends to glorify the major league players (like Amanda Hocking and other authors who make it big), but the small victories is just as important.  (And sometimes the top comes with a lot of hassles that’s not worth it.)  Embrace the small steps that lead you on the path you’re walking.

5.  Keep Learning

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Research what you want to know.  Talk to others in your circle of friends.  Read through threads and participate (if you have time).  Talk to your readers to find out what’s working and what isn’t.  Some conferences can be good for keeping abreast on the changes going on with the world of publishing.  Some blogs and websites track trends.  Some books also do this, but books can also get outdated quickly in this area since the face of publishing is changing fast.

***

Those are five points I think that can help as we go into 2014.  I’ll take a look at all of these more closely in the upcoming weeks.

42 Comments

  1. Ruth, I think part of the problem is that there are a lot of very poorly written ebooks out there, and a lot of people find it very tiring sifting through the junk to find well-written works.

    1. I think this is because some people treat books as a get-rich-quick scheme. We hear so much about the authors that made it big that it seems easy to be a big seller. Then these people think, “It’s easy to write a book. You just put words down on paper and publish it.” They don’t see the rounds of edits that are supposed to go into the whole process. I’d like to say this is limited to self-published books, but I’ve seen some poorly written and poorly formatted books by small publishers, too. I wonder if the average author with a small press does any better than the average self-published author.

  2. I think a lot of it has to do with people not reading as much or not spending as much money on reading. That, and a lot of really poor ebooks writeen by authors who throw grammar and editing to the wind in order to “focus on the story” has turned off potential readers to ebooks written by self-published authors.

    1. I can see people not reading as much or spending as much money on books. The economy isn’t helping in either situation. At last check, traditionally published romance ebooks are pretty cheap. I don’t know how the other genres are with pricing.

      Sadly, some authors don’t think grammar and editing is necessary. While you don’t want to lose your voice, the work should be polished. I don’t know why some people think editing and grammar automatically means they’ll lose their voice. I would say arguing that editing and grammar interfere with the story is another way of saying, “I’m too lazy to do the work.”

      1. Try telling that to these same authors. They’re usually the types who get resistant to anyone trying to tell them how to do things correctly until it’s smacking them right in the face.

        1. You can’t reason with them because they tend to think they know everything. I don’t think they are serious about their craft. If they were, they’d look for ways to improve, but they tend to think that grammar books, editors, proofreaders, beta readers, and others who can help them aren’t necessary. Sometimes I wonder what they’re like to be around in person. I suspect they are “always right” whenever they have an argument with their loved ones and never apologize. (This is a hunch on my part.)

          1. I used to follow the blog of a guy like that. He once asked his followers to help him get a plane ticket after his French wife decided to stop supporting him and he wanted to come back to the States. He got really nasty when nobody donated to his PayPal account.

            1. Ick. That’s one of my pet peeves. I’ve seen those blog posts where authors ask their readers to fund something for them. I have a feeling these authors wouldn’t like getting emails from people asking them to hand out their books for free.

  3. I think number 1 is SO important. With this last book, I’ve flailed around like a ship without a sail because I didn’t define my goals, therefore, I didn’t have anything to work toward. 2013 was a terrible sales year for me. I’m hearing that a lot.

    There’s this trend to do Facebook launch parties now. I keep joining those when I get requests, hoping that when the time comes for me to do one, others will come to mine. 🙂 Whether or not they garner sales, well I don’t know the answer to that.

    1. If you do a Facebook launch party, please let me know how things work. I’ve been doing an email list, and it doesn’t do anything. I mean, there’s a small spike of sales for 2-3 days but then the sales tank. I’m wondering if it’s better to let sales slowly build. Maybe it helps the also boughts to stay in place.

      I’m preparing for a loss in income next year. I think the bubble burst at some point (not sure exactly when), but there might be a leveling off point where things are more steady. We’ll see if that scenario plays out.

      Just think, someday people will write articles about this time period in publishing history. 😀 It’s weird to think that we were in the middle of it as it’s been playing out.

  4. M T McGuire says:

    That’s a great post.

    My sales were dire in 2013 too. Since 2010, I’d only had two months when I didn’t sell any books. Along comes 2013 and it’s July, August and September in the UK and I thank the kind soul who bought one book in the US in September so I didn’t have a totally barren month. I have two coming out next year, I hope and when I have 4 books out I’ll be interested to see if it makes a difference.

    However, I have to say that I have noticed that prices are rising. Money isn’t going as far. I would say the world economy is playing its part. So I am definitely going to be looking at the trad route, not publishing but brick and mortar stores rather than ebooks, going forwards. Because if I’m going to slog at marketing for a couple of hours a day, I really think that I will get further, that way. People out there in the real world still enjoy books and don’t care who published them if they are good. People out there in the real world still like authors. Independent book stores will act as that missing crap filter we need online. And I am happy to earn less per book if I shift more. And trust me, I’ve sold more books out of my handbag than I have on line.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your sales. I’ve noticed mine tanking around the October time period (and this is with two new books out). Even this month with another book out in November, they haven’t improved. This has never happened to me before. Since 2011, I’ve always seen a boost in sales on my other books when I have a new one out. And having an email list to let my fans know the book is available hasn’t helped (like the social marketing experts say it will). I’m fully expecting a loss in income for next year.

      I agree about the rising prices. The world economy has dinged a lot of people. I completely understand why people are watching their spending and choosing ways to pay off debt or save money.

      I have a friend who does much better selling her paperbacks in person and going to bookstores. I think so much is going on online with authors promoting their books that people start ignoring it. It’s just too much input going on at once and filtering it out comes more naturally.

      I signed up with a small publisher in October. I’m thinking it might be a good idea to at least be a hybrid author, where you publish some books on your own and some with a publisher. I’ve always believed you shouldn’t put your eggs in one basket, and I see no reason to think it’d be different with the method of publishing.

      I hope 2014 is better for you. It’s scary when I hear that authors are losing sales.

      1. M T McGuire says:

        Interesting to hear you say that. The only places on line where I sell books are places that have absolutely nothing to do with writing or books where I happen to mention what I do to people who have never been anywhere online where books are mentioned and talked about. It’s the sad truth that authors are not looked on favourably and I must confess that the behaviour of some of them has deservedly earned us our reputation. Unfortunately, those of us who try to behave honourably get lumped in with the others. I’ll still do stuff on line but I’ll limit it to getting my work reviewed on book blogs and doing the odd interview.

        Cheers

        MTM

        1. The way some authors have behaved has hurt the rest of us, and what’s worse is that we can’t control how they act. All we can do is act professionally and hope that we can undo some of the damage. But I also know that it’s easier to remember the negative instead of the positive. I didn’t think about it before I read your comment, but I can see how self-publishing has been hurt by the negative things some authors have done.

          I think you sell books in those places because people are attracted to you. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I remember some conversations where I’m just talking to someone about something unrelated to books when they ask me what I do and then I tell them and they check out my books later on.

          I limit what I do online, too. I used to participate in a lot of places, but so much of it has turned into unnecessary drama where people get upset over the slightest thing. I stick to my own corner of the Internet and leave the rest alone.

          1. M T McGuire says:

            Yeh, I think sticking to a sensible corner is a good plan. Come April when my trilogy is done, I’ll see how it goes with selling to brick and mortar stores, if I fail, I’ll have to make sure the next book is about 70k and try again, everything I’ve read says that so long as the first book gives bookstores a price they believe they can sell at, subsequent books can cost more and be longer if the first book sells well.

            Cheers

            MTM

            1. I didn’t know that about the first book. Thanks for sharing that information. It makes sense. People will get attached to the characters in the first book and will be more likely to pay more to find out what happens to them in the books that follow.

              I hope the brick and mortar stores work for you. 😀

      2. Ruth, what do you feel a publisher can do for you? The reason I’m asking is that I know someone who has a publisher, and that publisher told them it was the author’s responsibility to do the marketing. I’m not being snarky, I really want to know. The marketing part is what I would need the most help with.

        1. I expect to make less money with the publisher. The publisher needs their cut. I fully expect to do all the marketing myself, but I’ll do the same things I’ve been doing for my other books. The book is the anthology I’m doing with Janet Syas Nitsick. The publisher is doing both of us a huge favor because Janet and I won’t have to worry about dividing up the royalties. We have a neutral third party between us, and I think that will keep our friendship intact against any possible “royalty” discrepancies that might have popped up. You don’t think such things would happen, but I like to err on the side of caution.

          However, I am thinking of giving this publisher another book that is solely mine. The reason isn’t for money or help with marketing. I’m thinking that having a couple of books with a publisher might give me more credibility as an author since I will be vetted by a third party. I don’t know if the move will pay off in the long run. It may not matter. But I’ll be putting some of my eggs in another basket and at least I’ll get a reprieve from the KDP Quality Reports, have help defending myself if my traditionally published books get stolen, and won’t have to worry about the new tickets from Apple. Did you see that Smashwords update? I understand why they do quality reports, but some of the stuff they pick on have absolutely no bearing on the book (like “put in a table of contents” or someone didn’t like a word choice I made). A publisher would help me in those situations.

          1. You know, I used to always look at the Smashwords updates, but I haven’t in awhile. Maybe that’s why I’ve never heard of KDP quality reports. And I don’t know what you mean by the new tickets from Apple, either. I must find out.

            1. I’m not sure how the tickets work. They’re in our dashboard. If the Apple Tickets column is green, then there’s nothing we need to change to the book. I’m guessing if it turns that reddish-orangish color that we get if our book doesn’t get premium distribution approval, then we have to click on the link in that box and find out what the issue is with Apple. I do wonder if they’ll email us. I don’t make it a habit of checking my Smashwords dashboard all the time.

              1. I found out that my short story, The Beast in the Mirror, had a ticket. It’s because Smashwords has to create a TOC if you don’t put one in your book, and it just points to the midpoint of your book. With a short story, it doesn’t work as well. So they suggest putting in a TOC…in a short story. It was supposed to be free on Apple anyway, so I might just not fool with it. It’s everywhere else.

            2. How are you supposed to TOC a short story? Put in Title Page, Copyright Page, Story, and any back matter you have to promote other books? Sounds like a huge waste to do that. Did they remove the book from Apple because of the Ticket or are they threatening to remove the book if you don’t put in a TOC?

              I wish TOCs weren’t necessary. I can understand it in nonfiction, but in fiction, it doesn’t make sense. I know some people think they are more professional if a TOC is in there, but as a reader, I couldn’t care less. And for a short story, it shouldn’t even be an issue.

              Apple has been on my case in the past about the resolution of a book cover because I changed the price of my book (I didn’t do any other changes to it) and I took a couple months to get around to fixing it. I don’t think Smashwords pulled my books from Apple during that time.

              BTW, I have seen traditionally published books without a TOC. I wish Apple and Amazon would go after them, too.

              1. It’s ridiculous. A short story with a TOC. It’s not on Apple, so they either pulled it or it was never on there. I just don’t get TOCs in fiction. As a reader it annoys me to have to click through them.

  5. I would like to add, share what you learn with others

    1. Good point! I think this is an awesome thing authors can do.

      1. I found a good site that does an ebook giveaway, in exchange for a review, Storycartel.com. I am currently writting a review on it now. I used them twice and got some nice results.

        1. I didn’t know that site existed. It looks like a great way for authors to legitimately to get reviews. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Reblogged this on ninepublishing and commented:
    I think step #1 is the most important. You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t have a map and a plan.

    1. Thanks! I didn’t think to make goals right away. I wish I had. It would have helped me be a lot more focused and effective with my time.

  7. Hope to have first 100 cartoon book out by end of month. I have my blog but no real marketing set up but to begin I can have free announcements/photo in alumni association newspaper of two colleges where I went-that is a vast audience. Probably get a piece in local section of Miami Herald, and submit to chamber of commerce publication and all the small free papers available at grocery store stands. So my advice is don’t be afraid to start little, use what’s easily available but just don’t sit there. Blog followers have promised twitter and facebook blurbs to their networks. Best of all none of this will cost anything.

    1. I love your plans! I hope you’ll let us know how things go for you. You’re doing things that I never tried or remember hearing another author try. It’d be interesting to see how things play out.

      I agree on starting small. Too much at once becomes overwhelming and suddenly it’s hard to get anything done.

  8. Thanks for your continued motivation Ruth … another interesting posts and some great comments. I am going to check out Steve’s idea too … about Storycartel.com … ebook giveaway in return for a review which i never seem to get! (Obviously selling no books lol -not! ) Anyway … positivity rules … ‘write on’ everyone!

    1. I think Storycartel.com sounds like a great way to get reviews, especially since the person getting the book is encouraged to give their honest review and is also not obligated to review if they decide not to. And, as a bonus, you don’t know this reviewer so there can’t be the cry of “but this person knows the author.” I’m thinking about trying it myself.

  9. Hi Ruth Ann, it’s been a while and great to hear your thoughts!

    As an author in the UK, I would add to your points – authors need to stop being so US centric. I think the US , and UK market, are mature now, and stabilizing at ~40-50% ebooks in some genres, but more authors obviously mean too much product and overwhelming choice.

    BUT/ the rest of the world has barely even started in terms of online sales of ebooks, and THAT’S where the opportunity lies. There are 300 million educated, English speaking Indians … there are more English speakers in the Philippines and Nigeria than in the UK … and the proliferation of smartphones means that ebooks will take off in these markets. My books are now selling in 30 countries and although they are all a trickle of sales, in 2014/2015, the rest of the world will start on the ebook upwards curve. My strategy is about learning to get into those markets …

    Let’s look at the rest of the world and get excited about the possibilities for indies ahead – I am bouncing up and down with excitement 🙂

    I also have interviews on publishing in Germany and also in India on my blog, if people are interested, with more specific country focus coming in 2014.

    Thanks, Joanna

    1. Hi Joanna!
      It’s great to talk to you again. 😀
      You make a great point about the foreign markets. I hadn’t even considered those. I have received a good number of emails from people who live in India, and one person told me they are encouraged to learn the English language by reading books. Her thoughts were to learn the language while enjoying it so she picked out romances written in English. Even after getting such emails, I’m guilty of thinking within a bubble. 😀
      I’m going to post a link to your blog so others can check it out: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/blog/.
      I have the paperback copy of your book How to Market a Book and am looking forward to reading it after I finish two other books I currently have on my list. I know I could have gotten the ebook, but when it comes to nonfiction, I prefer paperbacks.

  10. Great post! I totally agree on the first one– having a clear-cut map will definitely keep you on task. If I don’t do this, I am pulled in so many other directions that I lose sight of what my true goals are. So you’ve got that as number one for a reason. I know a lot has been mentioned about social media, but I’d also highly recommend Pinterest… yes, even for your books. Come up with a fun and/or provocative image tied to your book with a catchy tagline and post it on one of your Pinterest boards. I did this for my blog (KidLitDish.com) one fine day and I actually did get traffic from it! Granted, I write and illustrate picture books (for now– one of my goals for 2014 is to write a YA novel I’ve outlined), so it wasn’t difficult to come up with an image. But I also plan on developing one for my proofreading site (KimProofs.com) and, although that’ll be a bit more challenging, I’ve seen ALL kinds of great “business-related” images on Pinterest… so I know it can be done. (By the way, Carl, a cartoon book would be PERFECT to market on Pinterest.) Good luck, everyone!

    1. I love your Pinterest idea! I think you can do things for any kind of book. You can have pictures of your characters, your book covers, pictures of the place you’re writing about, clothes for that time period (and I wish I had paid better attention to this earlier), and other neat things. I used to have Pinterest but someone hacked into my account. I removed the account. I might get a new one next year. It was a lot of fun to have.

  11. Excellent advice! I’m planning on writing a post for my blog about New Years’ Resolutions and will probably use some of the advice in this post in my post. I’ll give you full credit of course 🙂 Feel free to check out my website at myebookjourney.com

    1. Thank you. 😀 That’s very sweet of you. I’d love to check out your post and see what you write about New Years’ Resolutions. I’m going to bookmark your page. Thanks for the link!

  12. I’m always amazed at how many “writers” can’t even put together a coherent sentence. I see Facebook posts with horrible spelling and grammar and there, on the person’s profile, “author.” Okaaaaay….

    There are exceptions, though. When we first met, I remember thinking one writer wrote the most atrocious Facebook posts I’d ever seen–using phrases like “me eyes” and such. But she turned out to be a very good writer, once one gets past her rather quirky posting style!

    1. I assume these authors are consistently using poor spelling and grammar. I can understand a typo from time to time, but if it’s something they do all the time, that would get annoying.

      If I’m guessing right, it sounds like the author uses phrases like “me eyes” to bring humor to her posts? That’s an intriguing way of posting, and I can see how that would appeal to some readers.

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