Guest Post: Good News for Indies by Sheron McCartha

Sheron McCartha is a science fiction author, reader, and reviewer who blogs over at Scifi Book ReviewShe does a great job keeping track of what’s happening in the indie publishing world and has stopped by to share some good news. Take it away, Sheron…

Numbers. Bah! I work with words. So what can a bunch of numbers tell me that could help with my writing?

Well…

The Written Word (Freebooksy, Bargain booksy and other ad sites for authors) surveyed 38,000 authors. They compared a group of authors who made $100k or more a year (called $100k Authors) to authors making $500 or less a year (called Emerging Authors). Note that their group of authors are skewed toward the romance genre. Also note that a portion of the blockbuster authors didn’t engage in the survey as they were out on their boats drinking champagne, but still some interesting facts emerged that you as an author can take to the bank.

What made the difference?

1. The longer an author has been writing, the more money they tended to make. So if you’re struggling with a book or two, have patience. Persistence is the key. (I needed that. I so needed to hear that.)

2. Publishing Indie is a viable way to success. Self publishers get a much larger percent of royalties. Does it matter how you publish? Most authors in the survey were Indie authors. Only 5% were traditionally published authors, and none of those made the $100K group. Of those in the $100K subset, 72% were Indie and 28% Hybrid.

Interestingly, another survey, May 2016 Author Earnings reports that “the vast majority of traditional publishing’s mid-list or better earners started their career over a decade ago. Their more recently debuted peers are not doing anywhere near as well.”

Within the hybrid subset, 100K authors are present at a higher percentage than Emerging Authors (28% vs 17%). This may be a result of traditional authors taking their books back from a house and self-publishing them, or a self-publisher getting a large platform that attracts a traditional publishing house. Many successful authors are taking advantage of both worlds. Confused by numbers and want a picture? Here’s a visual:

3. “Going wide” or limiting to KDP Select didn’t make a difference in how much money the authors made.

4. The $100K group spent more than $100 for a professional cover. None spent over $1000. Looking professional is important, but you don’t have to break the bank.

5. Also important is spending your money on a professional editor. In the $100K group, 96% spent money on an editor while half of those spent from $250-$500, at least 20% shelled out $500-$1000. In the Emerging Authors camp, 56% spent up to $50, but everyone admitted it was important to have another pair of eyeballs read over the work.

6. In both $100K and Emerging Authors categories, the author handles the marketing. Those authors making more money often hire assistants to help them with this fun chore. Also, everyone in the survey used ad sites as a means of marketing, so other forms weren’t really studied.

7. Don’t quit your day job. For Emerging Authors, 66% still have a day job and 28% of the $100K authors have one.

8. Finally—the more hours writing=more books=more payout. Emerging Authors wrote 19.8 hours per week while $100K spent 28.5 hours per week writing.

9. For you data hounds, here’s the link: Written Word Media Survey

All right, so surveys and numbers aren’t all that bad and may tell us something. Here’s another while I’m at it. Are you game?

Mark Coker does an extensive survey once a year. He is the founder of Smashwords that competes with Amazon and distributes books over a wide range of platforms. You go through his meatgrinder and he spits out your book to iBook, Kobo, the Nook, his own site and many others. This is what is called, “going wide.” Smashwords’ catalog is strictly eBooks and 127,000 authors make up his catalog of 437,200 books.

The fiction category makes up 87.5% of his sales with 45% of that going to the romance genre. Unfortunately for me, in the top 200 best sellers, 73% are romance while 3% are science fiction. Having said that, Mark talks about some new marketing innovations.

1. Pre-orders are appearing as a tool to launch a new book. However, only 12.23% of books at the time of the survey were born in a pre-launch. Yet, in the top 1000 sellers, 61% used the pre-launch to get things going.

2. Box sets are becoming popular with 90% as single author box sets. Multi author boxed sets aren’t as popular as yet and may have royalty tangles.

3. As to pricing, Mark urges Indie authors to up the cost to $4.99 from a lower price. $3.99 and $4.99 got more downloads than $.99 pricing. If you price it too cheaply do readers think the book is not as good and hesitate?

4. Average word count for the romance genre is 113,803. This may vary from genre to genre as fantasy is expected to be longer and maybe other genres are shorter.

5. Keep the titles fairly short. In the top 100 sellers, character titles were kept to an average of 24 characters while in the top 1000 range, the characters averaged 37.11.

6. Series sell. Top best sellers show that they are likely to come from a series. In the top 100, a free starter book increased sales of the series by 80%

7. Where did Smashwords sell the most? The United States garnered 69% of sales, far outdistancing Great Britain (8%), Canada (11%), Australia (5%).

Here’s the link: Smashwords Survey

Okay, so you have had enough of numbers, and your head is spinning, but some interesting facts have been revealed that any author can use in earning more and becoming famous. At least to your mother-in-law or distant cousin.

How about some words to even things out? I just released my 2nd book in the Terran Trilogy called Somewhat Alien. As an incentive, I’m offering the first book, A World Too Far for free for a limited time only…starting today for Diana’s amazing blog followers. (I read your comments and you are awesome). And remember Mark’s advice about offering the first book free in a series. We’ll see how effective that is.

 

To sweeten the pot, I will price the new release of Somewhat Alien for three days at a discount price of $.99 in the hopes that I will get some honest reviews from you all. As of now, I have none…none…and I would love to hear from you and how you liked this new series.

Enjoy.

More about Sheron: 

I grew up with my father saying that he was going to write a great science fiction book one day. He talked a lot about it.

He loved science fiction, and often on a Sunday morning when we were all lined up and finally ready for church (three of us were girls which took a while), father would be missing. Mother would find him hiding in the bathroom reading like it was a forbidden pleasure.

After he retired and embarked on his great writing endeavor, he came to me and confessed that he had tried to write and couldn’t. He wanted to, but the words weren’t there. He threw the torch in my direction and became my inspiration.

My father has since passed away, but the day I proudly held that first book in my hands, I just knew, that while others were headed out to sing praises somewhere; he was ensconced on a cushy cloud, hiding out reading my book.

You can follow Sheron at @Sheronwriting

and her website: Scifi Book Review

 

 

Sunwielder Gets a Makeover

EBOOK low res

As part of my conversion to indie publishing, my books are getting new covers. Once again, Jennifer Munswami of Rising Horse Creations has done her magic. This was a much more difficult cover because finding an image of Gryff as I pictured him in my head was impossible. Isn’t that funny? Writing and reading is so visual, and we become hopelessly attached to the pictures in our heads!

Now, what kind of author would I be if I didn’t try to hook you?

Prolog

The warrior rode in silence. Black oaks and silvergreen, dark with summer leaves, swathed the trail in shifting shadow. Shafts of sunlight speared the forest floor, altered only by the graceful sway of branches in the heated wind. She directed the mare with her knees, an arrow nocked in the recurve bow, a full quiver hanging from her pommel. A short sword with a breath of a curve rested in its scabbard at her belt, the ornate guard and curling quillon studded with moonstones.

Even this far from the battlefield, the land of Aldykar was riddled with brigands, deserters, and the soldiers hunting them. Yet she wore no armor, only the leathers of her homeland, tawny jerkin and breeches, soft-soled boots laced to the knee. Her hair, the red of old blood, flared in the filtered light, brushing her cheeks. Slanted gray eyes, pale as winter clouds, scanned the dark recesses of rock and fern in the hollows beneath the trees. The meeting place lay in a foreign wilderness, a place not unknown to her for she’d traveled the roadways and trails between Edriis and Mastrelle before, as maiden and warrior. Why the old woman chose the woods of Casbonny caused her wonder and filled her with wariness.

An owl’s solemn voice hooted in the moving shadows. The clearing lay ahead through columns of black bark, the round glade sunbathed and thick with fine grass. A young silvergreen grew in its center, branches filigreed steel in the pool of light. Her grandmother stood before the tree, arms at her side, gray hair plaited at her back. An odd expression imprinted her smooth face, a blend of relief, hope, and terrible resignation. “I am alone, Estriilde,” she said.

Songbirds quipped and called in the trees, offering no warning of predators. Estriilde relaxed her bowstring and slipped the arrow into her quiver. A long leg swung over the saddle, and she landed lightly at the shadow’s edge. “We live today, Grandmother,” she said in greeting.

“We live today.” Again the sorrow.

“Why all the trouble to meet at this place?” She tethered Morning Dove to a branch at the glade’s rim. “I ride to Angefell in eight days.”

That she’d received her grandmother’s missive at all seemed a toss left to chance, though she knew better. The old one glimpsed the endless arrays of time, how each moment unfolded like a fan with infinite future possibilities. She traveled them, followed their paths, tracked the splintering of lives, chose and chose through the moments to see where they wended and died.

“You know I bear a vision, my little one.”

Little one? Estriilde smiled. They were Edriisan, statuesque compared to the women of Aldykar, and she stood a hand taller than her grandmother. “This place is part of a path?”

Clasping her hand, the woman drew her into the glade’s light. “Every moment is a path. Yet this is the only one that will save you. The only one I could find. You have died a thousand times.”

Estriilde sighed. “Only today exists.”

“Only now exists, Estriilde. Only now, but I cannot help seeing what I see.”

“What will happen here?” She withdrew from her grandmother’s grasp and walked the edge of the grass in a slow circle, her right hand fingering the hilt of her sword.

The old one’s reply laced the air with ice, “The stranger will come when he hears you scream.”

“Am I to die today?” Estriilde slid the blade free, sunlight glinting on watery steel.

“It is the only way,” the gray woman whispered.

“You invite me to my death, Grandmother.” Estriilde gazed at the forlorn eyes, so like her own. “I will not die easily.”

“You will scream.”

Eyes closed, Estriilde raised her face to the cloudless sky. “Will you stay to see me fall?”

“I cannot, my child. But I will sing for you when you’re dead.”

The birds stilled, their calls frozen in the thick air. The debris of the forest floor rustled and snapped beneath the soft thud of approaching hooves.

“It comes now?” She cast a sideways glance through a wisp of blood red hair to find her grandmother gone.

Bearing weapons of war, the riders reined their mounts at the rim of the glade and slid from their saddles.

Then the screaming began.

Thanks for reading!

Amazon USA    Amazon UK   Amazon Canada    Amazon India

pixabay

pixabay

 

The Melding of Aeris goes Indie

TMOA EBOOK

A month ago, I wrote a post about my decision to cancel my publishing contracts and go indie. The reason for the decision was two-fold. One, to gain control over the actual book: fix typos, edit back matter, and update covers. Two, to gain control over pricing, both retail and promotional.

The first contract came up, and The Melding of Aeris has new life.

Ta da!

Aeris4The most exciting part of the process was popping on the new cover designed by talented artist Jennifer Munswami. The new one is above and the old one at left. Sort of a no-brainer. Of all my books, this is my brother’s favorite, and he’s a wonderful supporter of my work. When he worked for the Navy in Alaska, the old cover presented a challenge. He couldn’t give it away. Covers matter!

How did the rest of the process go, you might ask? A breeze.

The downside? Yes, there is a downside, which I knew in advance. I lost my ranking and most of my reviews. (Amazon moved 6 to the new book. Why 6 ??) Despite the downside, I’m doing a happy dance!

(UPDATE 4/1/16 – All my old reviews have now returned. I seemed to just need some time. I did it by asking Amazon to combine editions. The result: no downside at all.)

Prolog – The Melding of Aeris

Lasandra’s new lips curved in a bow, blood red and as plump and luscious as a bruise. Barely clad, she posed before her silvered looking-glass, glimpsing in her reflection the potential for perfection. Her transfiguration was almost complete, the last scars faint red seams that would fade in a matter of weeks.

She wanted new eyes, green ones, the bright emerald of spring grass or fresh limes, and a cascade of long curls as black and thick as a moonless sea. She’d spotted the ones she desired in the marketplace. The woman sold yellow onions from a crudely woven basket. Poor and barefoot, she would sell hers, surely. Lasandra could afford whatever the woman asked, and she’d purchase replacements. She wasn’t merciless; she wouldn’t leave the woman bald and blind.

Her fingers traced the tiny jewels arching over her eyebrows, four on each side. She’d decided on fire rubies with simple gold settings, nothing ostentatious. Bone-studding was nothing new, but with the other modifications, the gems dazzled the eye. And it hadn’t hurt at all when Syr Sorelis drilled the dainty screws into her forehead. Thank the alchemists for that little miracle.

A sultry pout over her shoulder, she turned in the mirror, admiring her skin. The designers had schemed with her for more than a year, visualizing something asymmetrical yet precisely balanced. And the Bestiary had grown the species exactly to her specifications, no easy task. The serpent skin scalloped like black lace over fresh snow: sheer, delicate, and soft to the touch. It curled across her skin, beginning behind her ears and swirling across her breasts and belly, down the inside of her thighs where it tapered to slender points near the knees. It sheathed her hands and forearms like fingerless gloves.

The fur alone had required years to cultivate for she desired fine black and white stripes with the texture of velvet. The first animals had been deplorable, their pelts coarse, the fur long and thick. When finally a creature met her expectations, the transfiguration melded its skin to her shoulders like epaulets, formed a curved V down her back, and covered every inch of her legs where she hadn’t already melded the snakeskin. Stripes ringed her long, silken tail.

Undeniably stunning, a human art form…almost.

As she studied her composition in the mirror, it was all too evident that her brown hair and brown eyes simply wouldn’t do.

USA – UK Canada – Japan

(sorry it’s not available everywhere yet)

(BTW in Japan, the title is translated as The Melting of Aeris 🙂 )