The YA Author Club has a LOT going on right now! Several of our members (including myself) have new releases coming out, so keep watching for those. You might notice when you click through the links this week that some of our pages aren’t quite up to date with this week’s topic of book pricing. I figure you’ll forgive us since most of our readers would rather see what’s hot and new this summer in YA. But for those of you who are searching for a little advice on how to price your books, or are just wondering how on earth we decide whether a book should be free or $3.99, here’s my take on the subject.
An author spends months, maybe years, getting a book ready to sell. First, we poor ourselves into writing the darn thing. Then, we edit and revise (hopefully) followed by paying someone to edit it so that we can revise it some more. Next, many of us will pay someone to design our cover. For Seen this was actually a multi-step process. I first paid an artist to do the art, then paid a photographer to take high quality photos of the art. Then, I sent it all to my cover designer who turned it into the final product. A lot of authors will then pay someone to format their documents so that they look nice in all the different ereader apps. Finally, we pay for advertising materials like bookmarks, postcards, maybe even some awesome book swag. All out of our own pocket before the book is even in your hands only to find that we can hardly GIVE the book away. I’m not talking about bad books, either. GREAT books go through this same process in the indie world. It’s heartwrenching and bank account draining. Seriously.
So, how does an indie author go about pricing their masterpiece? Let’s look at some options.
Free Isn’t Free
When I first started downloading ebooks I went nuts for all the free books out there. I downloaded several a day for weeks, filling up my iphone with dozens of classics – and a whole lot of crap. I’m sure you can relate. In the end I went back and deleted most of them without even reading them. Now it makes me sad to find a book with a great cover and a clever story concept only to discover the author was too lazy, too cheap, or too self-indulgent to have it properly edited. I’m not even talking about typos, people. There is so much that goes into good editing besides proper grammar and spelling. I don’t get angry when I read a poorly written ebook that was clearly self-published, I just want to call the poor author and say, “Here, honey, let me help you. Let’s not waste any more of your fabulous ideas on bad writing.”
But I can’t do that because it sounds condescending. So, instead I did what a lot of readers did and stopped downloading free books. Now I spend a little more on my books, especially since I have such precious little reading time available. This is why I say, free books aren’t free. They’re usually a waste of my time.
99cents is the New Free
So, if a good author has poured actual money into their work and believes it to be valuable, you can see why they may not want to throw it in the free book bin at Amazon. They want to be taken seriously, right? (Let’s just pretend KDP Select doesn’t exist here, okay? That’s a whole other mess.)
The next best option must be 99cents! Well… not necessarily. I mean, sure, we all love a good bargain. But there are a few reasons why you might not put your book at this lowest price point.
For example, if you’re looking to get back the money you put into the book, you might decide to price it higher to take advantage of the higher royalties. For those of you who aren’t aware, Amazon offers a higher royalty percentage to those who price their ebooks between $2.99 and $9.99. This is a difficult decision, because you don’t want to price your book so high that no one buys it, but you want to make the most money possible for all your hard work. This is why we see many more books being listed at $2.99. It’s the compromising price point.
Also, many readers consider books priced at 99cents to be in the same quality category as free books. I don’t always agree, but that is still a growing attitude. Personally, I consider 99cents an excellent sales price if the book is normally priced higher. Also, I love the trend of pricing the first book in a series at 99cents (or even free) if the subsequent books are priced higher. This makes sense to me both as a reader and as a writer. It allows readers to try our work with minimal risk in the hopes that they’ll enjoy what they see and come back for more. That, my friends, is a win-win.
Wonder what other indie authors think about book pricing? Check out the blog links below from the fabulous authors at the YA Author Club.
Darkness is covering the land. As the city of Mezrah grows with power and greed, the rest of the world can only stand by and wait for their inevitable destruction. The only hope against this growing power is an ancient prophecy that people have stopped believing in.
Liz Long is lucky enough to have a dream career in magazine publishing as an editor and writer, yet still have time to create adventures on the side. If you catch her staring off into space or talking to herself, don’t worry – it’s just her imagination at work.
Liz graduated from Longwood University with a BA in English, though her professors might be disappointed to hear she reads more fantasy fiction than literary novels. She also loves action and thriller genres. This book probably won’t change your life, but she hopes it steals you away from reality for a while.
To learn more about Liz, we asked her a few questions:
1) What is your all-time favorite book and why? I think that would have to be Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. To me, it’s the first book in that series that really shows emotional angst for Harry between being a teenager, dating your first crush, and of course, being hunted by Lord Voldemort. We get to see our characters developing into real wizards with the DA (like Neville growing into being a badass), plus the introduction of accepting those deemed a little strange, like Luna Lovegood. We feel our first real loss with a major character as well as the real danger now that dark wizards are out in the open by the end. It’s a full scale of emotions and really sort of sets the rest of the stage for the series, IMO.
2) Is there an author you could be compared to or popular fictional characters your book’s characters could relate to and why? Oh gosh, it’s probably still a little early in the game for me to presume I can be compared to another author. BookBub compared my Donovan Circus book to the Hunger Games, with a female character destined to discover who she is and stand up for her world. I’m sure my circus folks could hang with any X-Men character, while my characters from WITCH HEARTS would get along well with the Halliwell sisters from Charmed or Sookie Stackhouse and her friends.
3) Can you give us your favorite quote from one of your books and explain it?
One of my favorite lines is one Lucy says in the first chapter when explaining why she’s rejoining the Donovan Circus:
“I wanted to be normal amongst the freaks.”
Family and a sense of belonging are heavy themes in my first book and this line sums Lucy up perfectly. Lucy has never been “normal” anywhere in the human world. She thinks – hopes, really – that she can find her place in the gifted world in the circus she used to know. She’s been a loner her whole life because of her gift and now that there’s an opportunity to be a part of something, she’s happy to include herself in the strange gaggle that is the Donovan gang.
4) What types of things/people/music inspires you and makes you want to keep writing? I listen to a lot of soundtracks, especially movie scores, like Avengers, Sherlock Holmes, and anything else that contains some action type of music. Honestly, nothing has been more motivating for me lately than to hear a reader I’ve never met before tell me how much they loved my work and can’t wait for another book to read. It’s such an amazing feeling to affect someone’s book list and I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s a total kick in the butt to know people are eagerly anticipating another title and makes me want to write that much faster.
5) Describe your typical writing day or week. I work full time, so I write when I can in my spare time. Often my husband will go to the gym for a couple hours after work, so I take advantage and try to crank out a few hundred words. I also give him lots of time to play video games or watch NBA so I can sit on the couch with him and write. And of course, the weekends contain my biggest chunks of writing time, so there’s nothing I like better than a rainy Sunday with coffee and my laptop.
6) Is there a food or drink do you have to have when you’re writing? I love Skittles to snack on during the process, though my teeth beg me to stop. I’m also never opposed to a fresh new 20 oz. Diet Coke within reach, but that’s only once a week at most. The rest of the time it’s H2O!
7) Can you tell us what you’re working on right now (& possibly provide an excerpt & cover)? I am currently working on the second book in the Donovan Circus series. Next up is an NA fantasy novel with a unique twist on Reapers.
Want to know more about Liz or grab a copy of her books? Here’s where you can find her:
Liz’s Website: http://lizclong.com
Twitter: (Handle: @LizCLong) https://twitter.com/#!/LizCLong
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/lizclongauthor
Amazon (ebook): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CIKKEV0
Many first time authors struggle with word count. How long should my novel be to get published? Is my novel too long? Is it too short? What the heck is a novella and what’s the difference between that and a short story? If you’re an indie author, does it even matter?
Excellent questions. The YA Indie Carnival decided to tackle this confusing topic this week in our Indie Author Series. When I was starting out, I didn’t even know it mattered. Seriously! I had no clue about things like word count and publishing industry standards. Why would it matter how long a book is? Well, like most things, it’s all about the money. Word count in the publishing world affects both the cost of the book to print, and it’s likeliness to be sold to readers. I won’t go into too much detail on this topic because my fellow indie author club member, Bryna Butler, has already covered the basics in her article Do Word Counts Count?
I’ll tell you that I really struggle to get a book over the 60K mark. My stories tend to be action packed and fast paced. My editor always turns in a stack of notes on where I can expand scenes instead of the standard cut and slash method most authors have to endure. In real life I’m obnoxiously verbose, but in my writing I tend to race from one plot point to another. That keeps my word count down. The day I finish a book above 100K, I’ll be calling it “epic” whether it deserves the title or not!
In my opinion, this is just one of the many fabulous reasons I call myself an indie author. I don’t have to worry too much about word count. I get to tell my story, mold it and sculpt it into something I can proudly share with all of you, and then set it free. I don’t have to worry about whether it is meeting some marketing team’s standard, or the printing budget. I know authors who are traditionally published sitting at their desks right now trying to find an extra 30,000 words to cram into their story or a sum of 50,000 to tear out just to meet that industry standard for a publisher. In the end I think the reader suffers most because we don’t see the story as it was meant to be. What a shame that we let business people determine how our stories are crafted. At least if it is a professional editor, we can trust that they care about the integrity of the story, but what does a CEO or a financial team know about our stories? They’re job is to watch that bottom dollar.
Let me tell you how indies are using this freedom to do incredible things for readers in this modern age. We’re seeing the resurgence of the short story and the serial novel in the literary world thanks to indie authors around the globe. With ebooks, authors can share their work so easily, that a reader can now get shorts without having to buy an anthology or search through literary magazines to find them. Some of my favorite authors are even including short stories in their marketing plans these days, fitting them in between their longer novels in a series. For instance, Aaron Pogue has published several short stories to go along with his Taming Fire series, including back story and short stories to give more detail into side characters from the series. As a reader, I love this concept! If I’m engrossed in a world of characters, you can bet I want more of it! This is an area I think I’ll be dabbling in this year as I fill in the missing years between Seen and Wandering in The Wanderer Series.
Another concept I’ve been watching is the use of the serial novel in the ebook world. Once upon a time many of the world’s best stories were written this way and published in local newspapers or magazines. Now we’re seeing this traditional form of story telling reemerge. Wool was crazy successful from author Hugh Howey, netting the author millions of dollars and a ground-breaking publishing contract. Now my friend, author Susan Kaye Quinn, has created her own incredible serial titled The Debt Collector. I’ve been watching her progress very closely as I consider how I might use that model in my own work. She’s set a crazy pace, releasing a new episode in the series every few weeks! Wow! I’m not sure I could keep up with that pace, but I’m inspired to look at my list of future writing plans and see what might work best as a serial. I especially like the value this offers both to the reader and to the writer. Readers can catch smaller chunks of a story at a low price or choose to purchase the entire series for a discount. It’s amazing how this old form is making a new comeback on the modern stage.
What do you think? Does word count matter in this modern age and in the indie publishing scene? What trends are you seeing? Do you have a word count preference? Let us know what you think and then check out the opinions of other indie authors in our YA author club.
The YA Indie Author Club is having another great week of releases. This week, we are going to ask you to join us in supporting K.C. Blake. She’s as dedicated to writing great stories as any author I’ve ever met in person or virtually.
Don’t you just love new books? This week the YA Indie Carnival is celebrating one of our fellow carnies, Suzy Turner, in the release of her new book, The Temporal Stone.
It’s been a couple of months since Emma and Lana entered the Praxos Academy and life has been hectic ever since. What with regular A level classes combined with learning all about the supernatural world, control classes, self defence and fight night, the girls are constantly busy.
But when their world seems to stop right in front of them, they and their fellow Watchers, have a huge mystery to solve. A mystery which leads them on a long road trip across south west England where they meet all kinds of strange creatures, some intent on causing harm and others desperate to put a stop to the problem.
The Temporal Stone is the second full length novel in The Morgan Sisters series. The first book is entitled The Ghost of Josiah Grimshaw. There is also a free novella, Daisy Madigan’s Paradise.
(other sites and paperback coming soon)
Suzy Turner has worked as a journalist, assistant editor, features editor and magazine editor. Early in 2010 however, she began writing full time and has since completed a trilogy for young adults, The Raven Saga, as well as several books in The Morgan Sisters series.
Although Suzy is a Yorkshire lass at heart, she left her home town of Rotherham, UK, to move to Portugal with her family when she was ten. The Algarve continues to be her home, where she lives with her childhood sweetheart and husband of 15 years, Michael.
Happy Friday, friends! This week the YA Indie Carnival is discussing the complicated topic of book categories. If you’re an author, I’m sure you know how hard it is to fit your book into just one (or even two!) categories. For the rest of you, please let me explain…
When I finished writing my first book, A Light In The Darkness, I called a fantasy. And it is a fantasy novel. Characters with magical powers, fighting an evil sorcerer, set out on an impossible quest across the kingdom only to battle the very essence of darkness. Add a few dragons and we’d call this thing an epic fantasy.
Well, the problem is…it’s not an epic fantasy. As a matter of fact, die-hard fantasy fans would say it’s hardly a fantasy at all since I didn’t use a lot of the traditional and expected elements of a fantasy. No wizards, no elves or dwarves, no dragons. Even the magic is very different. So, is it really a fantasy?
And another problem – I call this series “young adult” (YA) because the main characters are older teens. When I started shopping it around to agents the year after I finished it, I labeled it MG (middle grade) because it isn’t very “mature”, meaning there isn’t any bad language or sex or even much violence despite several battle scenes. It’s safe to hand to a 5th grader who loves to read adventure stories and you won’t be corrupting their brain or giving them anything too heavy to handle. Still, this creates a problem. Which category is it? MG or YA?
Then, the problem gets messier. Several people reading it started to comment about how “religious” the story was in their opinion. I knew when I finished it that the theme of the story was faith and how it affects our relationships and our choices. Although I had set out to write a fantasy adventure, I somehow ended up with something a lot deeper. It wasn’t really intentional. I wish I could credit for it, but I can’t. It just sort of happened along the way and then as I’m reading through the book, I kept thinking, “Wow. Is that symbolism there? Huh.” Apparently other readers felt pretty strongly about it. Some were even offended, as though I were using the book to trick them into believing my own beliefs. I wish I were that clever! Instead, it looks to me like the book could be speaking about any sort of religion or belief system that someone really held on to. For that matter, the way the main character, Merrilyn believes in Loian doesn’t seem that far off from how some people might believe in aliens or big foot or fairies if they claim to have seen them. The difference is, Loian is telling her to do something and she does it. You can imagine the problems this creates around her when other people don’t understand her actions. THAT is what I believe the story is really about – how a person’s faith in something affects their relationships and the choices they make for their own lives. That seems interesting to me. Anyway, you can see how some began to categorize the book as “religious” or “inspirational”.
So what is it? An action adventure set in a fantasy setting with some magic and still some possible inspirational meaning that chronicles a “coming of age” between middle grade and young adult. Wait. That seems too long. Amazon only allows me to choose one main category. I can tag it in a few more categories. What should I choose? Ugh! This is tough! And for every single book I write, I find myself in the same predicament. How do I narrow this story down into one category?
For many of us indie authors, that difficulty may be one of the reason we’re indie authors in the first place – our books just don’t fit in with the mainstream books you’ll find on bookstore shelves. They won’t be chosen by agents or publishers because they cross enough genres to make marketing a little tricky. Does that mean the story isn’t good or that the writing isn’t excellent? No! It just means that we don’t fit in their nice little boxes that they’ve created to label stories that earn them the big bucks. For a publisher, it all comes down to the money. They must choose books that they can sell quickly and with the least amount of effort or investment.That’s business.But as a reader, that isn’t what I’m looking for exactly. I want a story that intrigues me, that pushes the boundaries of the expected. If you only publish books that fit into 4 or 5 categories, eventually all the books look the same.
Do you ever feel that way? Like all the books and tv shows and movies are all the same? Well, there’s a reason for that! But the indie writers are shouting, “It doesn’t have to be that way!” Give us a chance and we’ll knock your socks off! Grab an indie book and see the diversity you’ll find in our stories. We’re not offering you the same old boring product. We’ve got new things to share and we’re just looking for a few good readers. If that’s you, then check out my books and the books of these other fabulous indie authors listed below. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite and give up the same old boring for something new. Then, be a good friend and share it with others. An indie author will be forever grateful.
This week the YA Author Club is sharing insights into the editing process. All the authors in the YA Author Club are indie authors, so our experiences apply most especially to those authors looking into self-publishing. I’m a few weeks behind thanks to my little sabbatical, but I’ll do my best to catch up now. Here are my quick thoughts on formatting and editing:
I hate editing. I really do. However, an author who wants to be taken seriously will invest both time and money in the editing process. Even the most famous authors you could name have been through rigorous editing and may have worked with multiple editors before their books became best-sellers. My first search for an editor landed me a fabulous developmental editor who worked with me on the fundamental story structure and character development of A Light in the Darkness and To Light the Path. She was very thorough and I ended up with a line-by-line edit of my final work. She is incredibly talented and I came away from that experience a better writer. THAT, above all else in my opinion, is the mark of a gifted editor. Then again, it only works if you are paying any attention to what they are doing and actually taking their advice. Many writers want to fight every step of the way which is immature and ultimately bad for your business. Stop fighting and trust the person you are paying. If you don’t trust them, then find someone you can trust and then soak up every word they shower upon you and your manuscript. Even the criticism I found most painful and hard to swallow I ended up using to strengthen my book. For example, my editor disagreed with the premise of my second book, arguing against the very point I was trying to make with my main character’s actions and beliefs. I literally sat and cried over her comments, frustrated and confused about how to move on and doubting my own conviction in the power of my story. I sat trapped in this doubt and dark depression for weeks before I was finally able to move forward. I began to see that her comments were exactly what I needed to strengthen another character, Justan, who was himself doubting the validity of the main character’s plan. Justan is the character I least identify with and so his dialogue is always the hardest for me to write. When I realized that my editor was asking the same questions he would be asking, I knew just what to do. I followed her train of thought, her emotions, her frustration, and I used it to build a stronger character, intensifying the drama. When I’m writing the rest of the series, I’ll be able to come back to those conversations and see a bit of his side peeking through. That is invaluable!
In the end my editor and I discovered that we didn’t have the same vision for my work. She couldn’t appreciate the direction I was going with it and I respected her enough to not force her to see it my way. Books, like so many other art forms, are subjective. What inspires me may not inspire you. So, we parted ways and I moved on in search of an editor who could embrace my hopes and dreams for the series. I agonized over that decision, but in the end it all comes down to “who will help me reach my goals?” That is a question you must always ask as you choose cover artists, editors, graphic designers, marketing people, and a slew of other people who will become your team on this journey.
If you are looking for an editor, I happen to know a fabulous freelance editor who is available. Jessie Sanders from Stormy Night Publishing is a very talented editor with experience in small press and self-publishing. Maybe she’ll be the right fit for you!
Formatting & Self-Publishing
I won’t say much about formatting because I am still learning. Here’s my advice if you aren’t naturally gifted in this area: Use Draft2Digital. It will cost you nothing to sign up with them and you can thank me later for introducing you. Many self-published authors use Smashwords because they were the first big guy on the scene to hold authors’ hands as they made the leap. However, Smashwords is messy and infuriarating! Skip the style guide headache and the weeks/months of waiting for your work to be approved by Createspace and iTunes. Go straight to Draft2Digital and you will be so glad I sent you. Seriously! I upload my file, fill out a short form online, review my document and click approve. Done! Within 48 hours my book is live and available across the globe. Amazing! And I didn’t have to know a thing about formatting to do it. They have complex computer coding that cleans up my messes for me. I love that! Also, their reporting is beautiful! Real-time charts show me how many books I’ve sold across all titles and they’re adding more sales charts/graphs as they go. Tax time was easy with Draft2Digital thanks to their accounting system. Do I sound like a paid advertiser? Sorry. I just really love them and can’t imagine trying to do this all without them. They make it easy and I love clicking over to my account and watching my sales numbers climb.
Curious what other authors are saying about editing? You will find other experiences, tips, and advice from the YA Author Club. Just click on the links below. Best of luck finding what works for you!