Managing A Big List – 1

One of the tasks that becomes increasingly more time-consuming as an indie author publishes more books is managing his or her backlist. Today, we’ll talk about tracking the ebook files that reside at the various portals. Books might require corrections or new information – like the addition of new titles to the series – or they might have new covers or changes to the front or end matter. A newsletter link or website url might need to be changed or updated. A new version of the book might be available (like audio) and you might want the link in the ebook. All of these options require the files to be uploaded to the portals again. Some authors update their ebook files on a regular schedule. I’m not nearly that organized anymore: I tend to update all books in a series when there’s a new release in that series. I try to update the end matter in completed series every one to two years. That’s a slippery objective which doesn’t always happen.

One thing I do is track my uploads and (you guessed it) I use a spreadsheet.

No matter how you generate your ebook files, it’s good to practice version control. This means that when you update the file, it has some info in its name to identify which version of the book it is. The easiest way to do this, IMO, is to add the date to the file name. I use Vellum to generate my ebook files, and it does not show the version automatically in the name. Once the files have been generated, I change the file names like this:

Just_One_Silver_Fox_Kindle_July2021.epub

Vellum generated this file name without the date and I added the part in bold. (And yes, I create portal-specific editions with my English books, and yes, I upload an epub to Amazon. If you want to learn more about that, check out this blog post from Vellum.)

Some of the portals will preserve the file name, so that when you look at the book’s metadata on your dashboard, you can see it. Others don’t – GooglePlay, for example, always changes the file name to the ISBN, although it does list the upload date.

When you upload a new version of a book file, it will be handled differently at different portals. All portals will deliver the current book file for new purchases. Some portals will push out the updated version to existing customers or (Apple) offer them the choice of updating their version. Amazon defaults to not delivering the new version to existing customers. You can ask them to push out the new version to all customers, but they may not agree to do as much. There’s only a chance of their agreement if the new file is 10% different from the old file or more. This can be frustrating if you’re only uploading a new version because you received a quality warning from Amazon about half a dozen typos: while fixing them isn’t perceived as a major update or one worth delivering to readers, that quality flag could result in the book being removed from sale if left unaddressed. The other wrinkle is Kindle Unlimited – when a KU reader adds a book to their library, I’m not sure the version can ever be updated.

To keep track of uploads without needing to click into the metadata for each book on each dashboard, I have a spreadsheet. To create a similar one, create a new workbook. You can call it Uploads or EbookVersions or something that makes sense to you. Add the year to the file name.

Call Column A “Title”. Make that column as wide as necessary to display your titles completely. Then, across the top and starting with Column B, name the columns with all the portals you use. I put the ebook portals first, then the aggregators. I have a column for BookFunnel, so I know the date of the version loaded there. It’s often an ARC, so having the date here is a good reminder to update it whenever I’m going to sell directly or give a book away in a BF promo. Last, but not least, I list the portals that serialize fiction, mostly because these are newer to me. List the portals in an order that makes sense to you.

I have a vertical line before the POD portals. In that section, I track the covers separately from the book interiors, so each format at each portal has two columns. I list all the various format options there, too, since many of my books are available in multiple print formats.

After another vertical line, I list the audio editions of the books. ACX is first, then Findaway Voices, then KOBO and BookFunnel – because I upload my non-exclusive audio at those portals.

There may be other outlets that make sense for you to add. If you have a Patreon and provide content there, for example, it might make sense to list it there.

Then, fill Column A with the titles of your books. I list them by author brand (which is sub-genre) and by series. Add horizontal dividing lines where it makes sense to you. I have them between author brands, then to delineate translations – which are listed by language.

Once you have all the books and portals listed, you can start to fill the form.

Here’s a peek at the top of mine:

Deborah Cooke's spreadsheet for tracking ebook version uploads

Just looking at these dates makes me want to update all of those files! (Although actually, this is the 2020 spreadsheet and most of these files have been updated this year.)

Whenever I know that a specific version needs to be updated, I use the highlight option and make that cell highlighter yellow. That way, I won’t forget to go back and update it. This can happen if I’m uploading a new version and one of the portals is having server issues. (That happens more often than might be ideal.) The yellow cell reminds me that I haven’t done that bit yet. You can add extra fields or columns for things that you tend to forget. I have a price column, for example, because I sometimes change prices at the end of the year, up or down, and this column reminds me to do every book at every portal.

Overdrive has a column because I used to upload directly to that portal. Now I use Draft2Digital to deliver to them, which is why it says “via D2D” in that column. I could remove it completely now, but it lingered while I made sure I changed the distribution on every single book. If you could see way over to the right, I have a similar column for NookPress POD’s – I had uploaded a few there, but now the bulk of those files get to B&N from Ingrams. The POD’s are available for sale at B&N but they go “via Ingrams”. This year, I decided to use D2D for distribution of all my translations (part of my ongoing quest to simplify) so there are a lot of “via D2D” entries further down the spreadsheet.

Since you’re going to fill dates into the spreadsheet, this can also be a good way to track exclusivity. I tend to take my audiobooks out of exclusivity after a year at ACX. This way, I can see the publication dates on them at a glance. Similarly, I have a column for KU in my Amazon section where I can list the date a book will finish its current term in KU. You see there’s a column for removing the books from wide distribution, too, as that can take some time before the KU enrollment. My translations that are published through Babelcube are licensed there for five years. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to know the date a book was uploaded.

Although this is a perpetual spreadsheet, I do create a duplicate each January and rename it with the current year. That way, I have an archival version in my files. That can be helpful for looking at the timing of previous enrollments in Kindle Unlimited or past pricing strategies.

Next time, we’ll talk about another handy spreadsheet to keep updated on your desktop. Happy publishing!

An Upside Down Month

Things have been a little quiet around here lately, so this morning, I thought I’d explain why.

Four weeks ago, my laptop booted up, then the screen went black. That woke me up faster than a strong cup of coffee! I had everything backed up (twice) and I did manage to coax it back to life intermittently, but its untimely demise forced some changes on my daily routine.

Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with my last laptop that a battery recharge wouldn’t fix – I’d upgraded because I wanted a lighter laptop for traveling. So, I loaded the old one up with the files for everything that’s happened in the past seven years. Its modem was never configured, because that used to be my trick to staying offline and getting more writing done. Now, it would need a lot of software updates to go online, and I’m not sure its OS would support them all. I really don’t have time to sort it out. Instead, it’s acting like a glorified typewriter, and I’m using Mr. Math’s computer when I need to go online.

Just One Silver Fox, book six in the Flatiron Five Fitness series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke

We’ve both discovered that I go online a lot more than suspected!

As a result, I’m behind on social media stuff, and have been quiet. I do my publishing and research work in those moments online when I get the chance. The upside is that I’ve been writing a lot, which is a good thing – and I’m loving Jacquie and Pierce’s book. Sonia has a cameo in Just One Silver Fox that has convinced me that her book will be next. (More about that in March.)

I’ve also published some new translations this month—The Crusader’s Bride was published in Spanish at the end of December, then The Crusader’s Heart followed in January. The Rose Red Bride was published in German in January and my first contemporary romance translation, Just One Snowbound Night, was also published in Spanish in January. Some of the books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Just One Snowbound Night, book one of the Flatiron Five Tattoo series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke, Spanish edition

I have two Spanish translations—one Delacroix and one Cooke—and a German one for Delacroix due in February, plus am waiting on two Portuguese translations of Delacroix books. Publishing these editions means getting the cover translated by the designer, formatting the interior, then publishing the book and putting up pre-orders when possible. I’ve also set up new website pages and newsletters for each language, with the help of the respective translators, so I send a newsletter when there’s a new release. And I’ve contracted with some new translation teams for more foreign editions. Phew! It’s a lot of work but exciting too—Mr. Math thinks it’s cool to look at the locations of the various members of my team.

You can see the current translations (and some of the upcoming ones) on each of my websites:


Translations of my contemporary romances

Translations of my paranormal romances

Translations of my historical romances

Stolen Brides, a digital boxed set featuring four full-length medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

Claire has a new boxed set coming out this week, a themed bundle of Beauty-and-the-Beast medieval romances called Stolen Brides. It’ll be 99-cents through February 15 and includes four full-length novels.

I published some of my books on Radish this month, and need to upload more content there.

And I’m participating in three BookFunnel promotions this month, too – these are the ones where readers sign up for an author’s mailing list in exchange for downloading a free book. Here’s one for contemporary romances – there will be a second one in the middle of the month. Here’s a paranormal romance one.

I’m running behind on creating memes and blog posts and getting newsletters prepped, and I haven’t created my monthly features on this blog or the Delacroix blog for trope of the month. At this point, I’ll wait until March to feature another one. I plan to be back on track by the end of the month, after Jacquie and Pierce’s book is all set up for publication in digital and print. Then it’ll be on to Max and Alys, then Sonia and….(?)

I hope your January was a little less challenging than mine!

New Pub Date for Dragon’s Mate

Dragon's Mate, book 4 of the DragonFate series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke

I’ve moved the publication date for Hadrian and Rania’s story to November 24. Dragon’s Mate has been challenging to write—these two characters have run off with the story multiple times and made it into their own. I love when this happens because it creates a better book, but I also want to ensure that the book is published as it should be. This extra month will give me time to think about the story and ensure all the ends are tucked into place. I’ll be able to get the print edition published in advance of the ebook, and will be able to give my ARC reviews more than a heartbeat to read the book.

How this will shake down for you varies by portal. Apple and Kobo allow me to change the publication date and I’ve done that already. Nook had some issues this month, but I’ve managed to update the publication date there, as well. There isn’t a pre-order at GooglePlay, so there’s nothing to change or update there. I asked Amazon if they’ll move my pre-order by a month and they agreed so pre-orders there will remain in place.

If you follow me on Amazon, you will likely get a release announcement for Dragon’s Mate next Tuesday, even though the book won’t be published. It appears that the dates on those announcements can’t be changed or updated.

I appreciate your understanding and support on this. 2020 has been quite a year so far and not an easy one for creative endeavors. I hope things settle down soon. In the meantime, I’m thinking about changing my processes for the future. More about that in another blog post, coming soon.

Missing NINC

This week, I should be at the Novelists Inc conference at St. Pete’s Beach in Florida, learning so much about publishing and promoting that my To Do lists have To Do lists. Instead, I’m home, thanks to Covid-19, and missing the conference, with reps from the portals, my writer friends and that beach.

One of the things that’s valuable about attending a conference is that I step away from my day-to-day rhythm and look at the broader picture of my publishing and writing goals, as well as learn about possibilities I’m overlooking (or haven’t explored yet). There are always a lot of those.

The Beauty Bride by Claire Delacroix in audio

Here’s an example of one thing I might reconsider after attending a workshop or having a conversation at NINC – audiobooks. I recorded a dozen audiobooks 2015-2017 (mostly historical romances) and haven’t done any since. So, if I had gone to NINC, finding out more about where the audiobook market stands right now might have been one of my action items. (I always have a list when I go to a conference.) There’s the industry at large, the trends and patterns, then there’s the strategic question of how to manage my content in that niche. Should I record my contemporary romances? Should I record my PNR? What about more historicals? Should I write and record novellas? In what sub-genre? How is the audiobook market changing? What promotional opportunities exist that didn’t before? How can I improve on what I’ve done before with audio and build for the future? I’m doing my research and considering possibilities. It’s a little harder this way than attending a session or having a drink with someone, but it’s a useful exercise. I should have a new audiobook (or two) contracted for production soon and will tell you about it when I do.

This exercise also means re-evaluating my audio distribution, which I changed in 2019. I’m mostly happy with it, but think it needs a tweak or two. For example, KOBO has opened the option of publishing audio directly to their portal: I’m going to take my audiobooks direct to them instead of using an aggregator. That means lots of uploading for me. The KOBO links for my audiobooks will change as a result. The other change I’m considering will be invisible from your end, but you can see how my To Do list is growing, just from this one item.

There are more ways to promote audiobooks than was the case four years ago, as well, and I’ve added regular promotion of my audiobooks to my monthly To Do list. You might want to follow the Delacroix blog if that interests you, because my audio backlist at this point is pretty much all historical romance. I’m sending some emails and exploring some websites and updating my idea of what’s possible to formulate a new plan.

You can see how my To Do list grew, just from that one item. I’d do the same for translations, for print editions and for getting my work into libraries. I’d probably learn more about subscription services and the exploitation of performance rights, as well as see trends in ebooks. I’d attend workshops about sending newsletters and managing social media and a host of successful marketing strategies—as well as running CPC ads. Watch that To Do list grow, even though I’m not at the conf this year.

I like how conferences like NINC compel me to plan for the future and look ahead. I bought my 2021 planner this week and have started to fill it in, both with writing and with promotion. Another thing I’m going to do this week is review the financial reports for my various book sales over the past year and look for patterns. What strategy works best? Does the answer vary by sub-genre? Does it vary by portal? It invariably does, so choosing the best path forward isn’t as easy as it might sound.

Just One Fake Date, book one of the Flatiron Five Fitness series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke

Another big responsibility for me is managing my backlist, to ensure that it continues to perform in a changing market. I repackaged three series this year—The Champions of St. Euphemia, Flatiron Five Fitness and Flatiron Five Tattoo. I rewrote the series starter for Flatiron Five Fitness, giving Tyler a new story. How did those efforts influence results? Was it worth doing? (Yes, it was.) If I intended to repackage another series, which one would it be? If I was going to rewrite a book, which one would it be?

One Knight's Desire, book #3 of the Rogues & Angels sereis of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

Which series do I need to complete next? I already made a move on this one and set up a pre-order for book 3 of my Rogues & Angels series of medieval romances, One Knight’s Desire.

Which new project should I undertake next? How do I take what I’ve learned and apply it to future efforts?

You can see that my list of things to do and explore has grown by leaps and bounds, just by composing this post—and compelling myself to take the time to take a bird’s-eye view, just as I would when attending a conference. It’s not the same. I’m not hearing the news from the portals or hearing from other authors about what’s worked for them, but it’s not all bad as a compromise. I still miss attending NINC, but these items will keep me busy for a while.

Welcome to 2020!

It’s a brand new year! What will you do in 2020? What will you change? What will you accomplish?

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions but I’ll take any opportunity to review and revise. The start of a new year is a good time to do that. First, let’s take a look at things I learned in 2019.

Bad Case of Loving You, book #6 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeAccomplished in 2019
• I published four new books last year: Bad Case of Loving You, Under the Mistletoe, Maeve’s Book of Beasts and Dragon’s Kiss.

• I also published revisions of three titles: One Knight’s Return, Unicorn Bride and Pearl Beyond Price.

• I published four new Dragonfire boxed sets: Dragonfire Quest, Dragonfire Elixir, Dragonfire Reunion and Dragonfire Triumph.

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah Cooke• I started to initiate translations of my historical romances and published my first two Italian translations. (You can find Claire’s translations here.)

• I attended two conferences, a reader conference (Romancing the Capital) and a writers’ conference (Romance Mastermind). I taught a workshop at RTC.

Lessons from 2019:
Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new edition• A year ago, I was wondering where my days were going. It seemed that I didn’t have much time to write, even though I planned to do so every morning and spent all day at my desk. So, I started a spreadsheet, documenting exactly what I did every day and how long it took. The answer became clear very quickly: I knew that being my own publisher took time, but those publishing jobs were taking a lot more time than I’d realized. Part of this was because I’ve republished a lot of older books in the last couple of years. I’ve been streamlining my publishing processes, experimenting with timing – either a publishing day per week or a few publishing afternoons in a row seems to work well.

Dragonfire Quest, volume one of the Complete Dragonfire Novels digital bundles including Kiss of Fire, Kiss of Fury and Kiss of Fate from the Dragonfire novels series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke• I experimented again with KDP Select and was underwhelmed again by results. Switching between wide distribution and exclusive-to-Amazon distribution is a lot of work, so I’m sticking with wide distribution for the foreseeable future. I may write some projects specifically for KDP Select, but we’ll see.

• Recognizing that my focus had shifted from writing to publishing, I started a creativity journal last winter. I bought a planner and a lot of stickers, then tracked and celebrated how much I wrote each day. Having it open on my desk helped me to write first, then turn to the other jobs after the writing was done. I really like the stickers, which is silly but it’s effective. I wrote 700K words last year, which is really a lot for me. I’ve already set up my new journal for 2020. (And it has stickers in it already!)

One Knight's Return, book #2 of the Sayerne series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix• Those are pretty big take-aways from 2019, but there was another big one. A year ago, I thought I could republish some older Claire Delacroix titles easily. I knew I had a full schedule with launching DragonFate, plus finishing up Flatiron Five and Secret Heart Ink, and didn’t want Claire’s readers to be neglected. I chose three books that had been published by Harlequin, blocked in a week to proofread the scanned book files, and scheduled them for publication. That plan had worked well for the Bride Quest and Dragonfire. It didn’t work for these books. They needed revisions to the point that it would have been easier to just write new books. Those revisions added a ton of stress to my year, because I miscalculated and hadn’t left enough time for them. There isn’t a lot of upside to doing these revisions either – while it’s nice to have the books available again, they aren’t the stories I’d write now and they don’t have a huge following. My time really would be better spent writing new books. At this point, four of Claire’s eleven Harlequin Historicals have been revised and republished in new editions, and there won’t be more in the foreseeable future.

Pearl Beyond Price, book two of the Unicorn Trilogy of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix• Another milestone from 2019 was initiating translations of my books. My Italian translator and I are making good progress on the Jewels of KinfairlieThe Beauty Bride is available and The Rose Red Bride is publishing, while she is translating The Snow White Bride. I’m waiting on the Portuguese (Brazil) translation of The Beauty Bride and will have the German translation this winter. It’s been a very interesting process, with lots to learn, and many new connections to make.

The Year Ahead
Dragon's Kiss, book two of the DragonFate novels, a series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeFor the past year or so, I’ve been aware that I’m coming to the end of existing series for each of my author brands. Last year, I launched DragonFate for my Cooke paranormals, and I’m really pleased with Dragon’s Kiss. I’m having fun with that series and looking forward to its continuation. I’m in a similar place with my contemporary romances – Secret Heart Ink is done and after Some Like it Hot, Flatiron Five will be done. (Maybe. I’m not sure where Nate’s story fits yet. It might be a novella at the end of the series.) And Claire needs a new series, too. So, I’ve been planning and dreaming. The hardest part is always deciding between competing ideas.

Here Be Dragons: The Dragonfire Companion by Deborah CookeRight now, these titles are scheduled for publication in 2020:
Here Be Dragons: The Dragonfire Companion – January
Flatiron Five: The First Collection – January
Some Like it Hot – February
All’s Fair in Love and War – March
Dragon’s Heart – May
Dragon’s Mate – October

That’s about 300K of new words right there.

Some Like It Hot, book #7 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeI really want to get ahead of the publishing cycle this year, and get back to having books done and uploaded at least a month or two before their publication dates. I also want to publish linked books more closely together. That means the calendar is going to look empty for a bit as I write and work to get ahead of the curve. (You can see that gap in the schedule above.) The plan is that by the time you see the cover reveal and the pre-order, the book will be complete.

I’ll be filling some of those inevitable gaps with boxed sets. The new Flatiron Five bundle Flatiron Five: The First Collection comes out this month, at a special price. Claire has a new boxed set, All’s Fair in Love and War, coming in March and there will be other trope-based bundles. I’m hoping to write and publish some shorter works, too, to keep you reading while I write away.

Dragon's Heart, book three of the DragonFate Novels, a series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’m also revising my schedule to keep my focus squarely on writing. I’m not teaching anymore or making treks to writing group meetings. I attended two conferences last year and while they were great, this year, I’m staying home to write.

This year, it’s all about the words—and the self-care. A year and a half ago, I started walking 4 km every day and that’s become a habit. I really miss it if I skip a day. I’ve added yoga at least three times a week, too. I’m still not very good at it, but it does make me feel better. 🙂 I’ve cut back on social media commitments, too.

Of course, there’s still knitting and crafting. I’ll show you a new sweater tomorrow on Fiber Friday.

I hope you have exciting plans for 2020. Let’s make it a great year!

More Paperback Editions

Bad Case of Loving You, book #6 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeUntil about two years ago, I was creating two editions of each of my paperbacks. One was published through Createspace (an Amazon company) and made available to Amazon stores. The other was published through Ingrams and made available everywhere else. The two editions were the same, except that there were slight differences in the width of the cover spine, probably because the two print-on-demand outlets use different paper for the interior pages. (At one point, I also created editions at Nook of some books for B&N stores, which also have slightly different spine widths, but don’t see enough sales on those editions to justify paying the designer to tweak the spine, so I’ve stopped doing them.)

About two years ago, Amazon began merging Createspace (the POD publishing platform) into KDP (the ebook publishing platform) which made a lot of sense. Many indie books are available in both POD and ebook, and creating both through the same portal, with the same metadata, and reporting sales for both in the same place was a good plan IMO. Also the Createspace interface was older. The KDP interface was being updated, so the print update was rolled into that. Authors could migrate their titles from Createspace to KDP. There were some (inevitable, in such a big transition) hiccups, but ultimately, Createspace was closed to new content.

Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new editionSince then, I chose to create my print-on-demand editions only at Ingrams, and have them distributed everywhere. Another variable was that I’ve been creating mass market sized paperbacks and during the initial transition, KDP didn’t support this format although Createspace had.

Recently, writer friends have shared that their Ingrams-print edition is showing a delayed delivery on Amazon – of about 60 days. Also, the Ingrams editions aren’t eligible for free shipping through Amazon Prime, which is a big deterrent to Amazon Prime shoppers. So, this week, I added KDP print editions for the books that didn’t have them before, just for the Amazon stores. They’re all going live now, and as they do, the Amazon edition will replace the Ingrams edition on the same link in the Amazon store. (This is because they have the same ISBN.)

So, if you’re an Amazon Prime customer and you’ve been holding off on buying print copies of these titles for your keeper shelf, now’s the time!

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah CookeBad Case of Loving You

Snowbound

Spring Fever

One Hot Summer Night

Under the Mistletoe

The Mercenary’s Bride

The Runaway Bride

Unicorn Bride

Maeve’s Book of Beasts

 

Checklist for New Authors

Wyvern's Angel, book #9 of the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeIndie Thursday is back! I’ve met a lot of authors lately who are starting out on their publishing adventure, so thought it would be a good idea to create a checklist (rather than saying the same things over and over again). This also works for new author brands.

This post looks like a wall of text, so I’ll pop in some of my book covers to brighten it up. 🙂

First, you need to make some choices.

Decide where you intend to publish your books and in what formats.
Most authors who are indie-published create digital editions of their books first. You can also create print-on-demand print editions – in mass market size, trade paperback or hardcover – and audiobooks. For each format, you’ll want to choose where to make your books available. There are two big options: exclusively at Amazon through Kindle Unlimited, or at all portals (commonly called “wide” distribution). There are marketing advantages to each choice, and what you decide will depend upon your genre, your preferences and what other authors in your genre tend to do. Following the established pattern will help you to find new audience. Some niches, for example, are very well-represented in KU, which means the readers are there. Because they are subscription readers, they are more inclined to try you as a new author if the book is available in KU. Here’s an article from another blog about KU and how it works, geared to consumers. There are other subscription services that don’t require exclusivity: Kobo has one called Kobo Plus, and there are subscription portals like Scribd that you can reach via aggregators.

Assess where your strongest market is likely to be.
For many new writers, this will be the American portal of Amazon (.com), but if you are in Canada, for example, like me, you might have strong sales in Canada. If you’re a Canadian writer and a new writer, you might not expect strong sales at Barnes & Noble/Nook which sells only in the US. If you’re a new writer, you might not expect strong print sales – unless you’re going to do a lot of booksigning events. If you write in German and live in Germany, you might expect strong sales at Amazon.de and Tolino. Every author has a unique footprint in the market and the better you understand yours, the better you can market to it. You’ll want to make decisions that ensure the availability of your titles to consumers in that territory so give this a think. At the very least, you can use it prioritize what you do first. Keep an eye on your sales as they come in and refine your idea of your strongest market, making changes to serve that market as necessary.

One Knight Enchanted, book #1 of the Sayerne series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixDecide how you will get your books to each retail portal.
You can create accounts and publish directly to Amazon via Amazon KDP, Apple via iBooks Author, Kobo via Kobo Writing Life, Barnes & Noble via NookPress and (sometimes, when they’re allowing new accounts to be opened) to GooglePlay.

You can also use an aggregator, like Smashwords, Draft2Digital or PublishDrive, to deliver your ebooks to these portals. Most authors go direct as much as possible – it means more uploading but also more control and faster changes to pricing and meta-data. If you choose to use an aggregator, I’d strongly suggest that you upload directly to Amazon at the very least. Your target market may influence your choices here – again, for an author in Canada, it’s a very good idea to publish directly to Kobo. There is a promotions tab on the Kobo Writing Life dashboard and you can’t apply for these portal-specific promotions if your content is delivered to Kobo from an aggregator. In contrast, Apple will merchandise any books in their store, regardless of how they’re delivered. If you want to reach libraries, aggregators are an excellent choice. I keep life simpler by using one aggregator for all library feeds. All three of these aggregators let you cherry-pick which portals should receive your content from them, so you can ensure that your book has only one delivery path to each portal.

Be aware that if you change your method of distribution, you may lose consumer reviews at the portal. This is especially true at Apple – they consider an ebook coming via another delivery route to be another product and will not transfer reviews between products. The other portals will link editions, so that reviews are displayed for all editions, but sometimes you have to nudge them to do it. So, it’s a good idea to choose your distribution plan and stick with it.

For print editions, many indie authors choose print-on-demand options. Both Amazon and Nook offer POD options through their dashboard (for paperbacks and hard cover editions). These editions will be available only at that portal – and at Amazon, they may not be available at all geographic stores. Another option is Ingramspark, which offers wide distribution for print-on-demand titles. For those of you in Canada, Ingrams is an excellent way to get your POD titles distributed to Chapters-Indigo – they may not order your books to stock in their stores, but they will list them on their website for sale. (Ingramspark also offers ebook distribution as an aggregator, but I don’t know anyone who uses this service, mostly because it’s all-in: you can’t choose which portals receive your content and opt-out of those you wish to reach in another way.)

For audiobooks, you can use ACX to contract with narrators, produce audiobooks and distribute them to Amazon, Audible and Apple. You can also distribute audiobooks through Findaway Voices and Listen Up, among others. This niche is expanding right now and you can expect to see a lot more options appear. There are also subscription services for audio and you can opt in (or out) of them at the various aggregators. You can also use these aggregators to make your audiobooks available to libraries.

Decide how you will do business.
If you intend to incorporate, this is a good time to do it. If you do it later, you’ll have to open new accounts (since publisher accounts are keyed to the tax information) and transfer everything over. Set up your banking and your tax identification, too. If you are a sole proprietorship, you’ll use your personal identification for your taxes. It’s a good idea to have a bank account for your writing income, to keep it separate from your personal stuff. You may need a sales tax number in your jurisdiction, too. You might want to use a P.O. Box to keep your home address more private, and if you intend to do business under another name, you’ll need to register that, as well. Get it all sorted out in advance. If you’re going to use a pseudonym, check the availability of the most obvious domain name.

Going to the Chapel, a short story and #5 in the Flatiron Five series by Deborah CookeAnd now, we get to the checklist.
1. Open accounts at the portals selected above and fill in all the forms. Supply all the tax documents. Set up all the payment information. You only have to do all of this once.

2. Buy your domain name, get your website hosted, and start building it (or hire someone to build it). Remember that domain name registration is public and can be seached on sites like WhoIs, unless you buy the privacy option. You might want to use your P.O. Box as the address. As for your website, you may want to have a blog. You may want to have a store on your site. (Okay, there are more choices to be made here.) You can set all of this up before you have a book published, and start gathering followers and newsletter subscribers. A blog is a good way to generate interest while your book is on pre-order or before it’s available – you’ll see some suggestions for that below. If you’re going to have a store, you’ll want to compare options and decide how you’ll deliver your ebooks to customers. BookFunnel offers a number of integrations to do this.

3. Choose your social media, set up your accounts and brand them to match your website. You don’t have to use all social media, but should focus on the services most popular with your target audience, or the ones that you enjoy the most. (It shows when you have fun!) Put the links on your website for readers to follow you. Some obvious choices are Facebook (you’ll want to create a page for your author persona), Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. If you have audiobooks, you might want to have a Soundcloud account, where people can listen to samples. Some authors (esp those who do podcasts) have YouTube channels. I share my Ravelry link. Your website template may have widgets to display any or all of these in the footer or sidebar. If you have a blog, you can have your posts automatically be shared with your social media. One word to the wise, here – begin as you mean to continue. It’s really easy to over-extend yourself, but you need to defend your writing time. Start small instead of trying to do everything.

Serpent's Kiss, a paranormal romance and Dragonfire #10 by Deborah Cooke4. Sign up for a newsletter service, build your sign-up forms, and get them on your website. Popular options are Mailchimp, Mailerlite, Constant Contact, and Mad Mimi – among others. They all have pros and cons, and most have a free option. You’ll want to add a welcome email that goes out automatically to new subscribers, or even an onboarding sequence. You may want to offer some special content for signing up. One tip – build a template that you can use for each newsletter, with your social media links and other info. It’ll save you time. Also make sure that the branding is consistent (and appropriate) between your social media profiles, your website and your newsletter. Again, start as you mean to continue – don’t promise a weekly newsletter unless you think you have enough news to share weekly and enough time to create a weekly newsletter.

5. If you are going to use ISBN numbers, then purchase a block of them. If you are in Canada, you can get them free, once you open an account with the Canadian ISBN service. Ensure that the ISBN is in your book interior when it’s formatted.

6. Create affiliate accounts. Affiliate links pay you a teeny tiny bonus for directing a consumer to a portal’s website, if they make a purchase after following your link. You can open affiliate accounts at Amazon, at Apple, at Rakuten for Kobo and at B&N. (I think it’s run by Rakuten, too.) Again, your idea of the location of your target market will affect your choices here because affiliate codes are a bit of a pain. If you’re going to make three cents a month, you might not want to bother. Once you have an affiliate account, there will be instructions on modifying your buy links to include the affiliate. Smashwords gives you an affiliate code automatically – once you’ve published a book, log in to your SW account and scroll to the bottom of that book’s product page to find the affiliate link. Here’s Amazon’s affiliate program – if you apply for them, you’ll get a different code for each Amazon geographic store. You also can only use Amazon affiliate links on your website, not in newsletters or on social media, according to the Terms of Service. Here’s Apple’s affiliate program, run by Performance Horizon, which you can use anywhere, plus here’s Apple’s nifty linkmaker. It’s very handy for building links for any product in any territory. And here’s Rakuten’s Linkshare, which is the affiliate program at Kobo.

7. The book! Get your book edited professionally and commission a professional cover. Either buy Vellum to format your own books or hire a formatter. I love Vellum. You can use it for format ebooks and print books, and it makes it easy to update book files quickly. I did use a formatter for years, though, and I learned a lot from her. Either way, make sure your book interiors look good. You’ll also need to decide if you’re going to create generic ebook editions or tailor the end-matter to each retailer. Vellum will support the use of your affiliate codes in all links. There’s more on that below.

8. Upload your book at the portals of choice. Ensure that your metadata is consistent across all platforms. It’s a good idea for your pricing to be consistent, too. Each portal has its idiosyncrasies, but the uploading process is fairly easy. It will take 24 to 72 hours for your book to go “live” in the store if you upload directly, and may take longer if you use an aggregator. (Check their site FAQ’s for info on that.) You’ll want to add the buy links to your website for the book.

You can use your newsletter and social media to start building interest in your book. I don’t share covers until I have buy links, but you might choose to do otherwise. For a first book, I probably wouldn’t bother with a pre-order, but the sooner you can get your pre-order up for book #2, the better.

Abyss, #4 of the Prometheus Project of urban fantasy romances by Deborah CookeYou may notice that I use a service called Books2Read for links. This is because Amazon doesn’t re-direct buy links based on the geographic territory of the consumer. Apple, GooglePlay and Kobo all do, and Nook only sells content in the US. What does this mean? Amazon has a number of different geographic stores that exist as separate entities. for example, I live in Canada. I can look at the Amazon US store (Amazon.com) but it always suggests that I shop in their Canadian store (Amazon.ca) because it detects the location of my ISP. The problem is that when I follow a link to a book in the US store, Amazon might just tell me that the book isn’t available to me, instead of re-directing me to that book’s product page in the CA store. This is happening more and more often for those of us who live outside the US. I can then search for the book in the CA store, but people don’t. They want to click to the book product page. (You also can change the url, since the book will have the same ASIN in all Amazon stores – just change the om in Amazon.com to an a to get the Amazon.ca link.) Books2Read is a free service from Draft2Digital, which allows you to create a product page for your book that includes all of the buy links, including those to smaller portals. This is important for readers outside of the US. Even better, when the reader clicks the Amazon link, Books2Read will send them to the product page for that book in their geographic Amazon store. The other really nifty thing is that Books2Read supports affiliate codes – so instead of having numerous Amazon links on every landing page of my website, I can put the .com link there with its affiliate code, and let the other geographic affiliate codes work through B2R. Ha.

9. Register your copyright on or before the on-sale date of your book. (It costs more if you pre-register it.) Some authors don’t register copyright, but it gives you defense in any instance of plagiarism. You should register your copyright in either the nation of first publication or the nation in which you reside. Here’s the website of the Library of Congress for US copyright registration.

10. Once you have one book uploaded and published, you can add some additional links to your website and your books. (Remember your affiliate links.) Claim your author profile at Author Central, in order to customize your author page at Amazon. You can include an RSS feed from your blog on your author page. Readers can follow you on Amazon and Amazon should send them a notification of any new releases from you. And yes, Amazon supports author profiles in other territories (FR, DE, UK, Japan) so if you expect to have a strong audience in Germany, for example, you’ll want to claim your author profile on the DE Author Central. (Other geographic stores will display some information from your US Author Central page.) You’ll also want to claim your author profile on GoodReadsAmazon now feeds book information to GR directly, so your book should be there – and you can add the RSS feed for your blog to that page, too. Claim your profile on BookBub, too. This is a different account than one you might hold as a reader – it’s called BookBub Partners. You can customize your author profile to some extent and check that your books are listed. BookBub will send a new release notification to your followers. Add all these links to your website. If you click on your name in the Apple Bookstore, you’ll also discover the link for your author page there.

11. Alternative editions of your book (audio, paperback, hardcover) should automatically link with the ebook edition and share reviews at all portals. When you’re starting out, though, you might need to give the portals a nudge. There are no print editions at GooglePlay or Apple, and the Kobo ebook will be linked with the print edition at Chapters-Indigo. (From Chapters-Indigo, you can see both, but you’ll only see the ebook on Kobo.) If they don’t link up at Amazon within 72 hours of publication, check that the metadata is identical on both. If it is, send a message to KDP Support requesting that the editions be linked. They’re pretty quick. At any portal, if your books aren’t linking up correctly, contact Support.

One Hot Summer Night, #3 of the Secret Heart Ink series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke12. When you publish a second book in a series, you’ll want a series page so that readers can find the next book in the series. This is separate from your author page. At Kobo and GooglePlay, this happens automatically if the metadata is identical. (The series name has to be spelled exactly the same.) NookPress has a series manager on their dashboard, as does Smashwords. At Apple, you have to request a series page if you upload directly. If you deliver via an aggregator, it should happen automatically. Once the page is created at Apple, subsequent books should be added automatically – again, if the metadata is identical. At Amazon, you have to request a series page. Sometimes new titles are added automatically within 72 hours of publication and sometimes you have to ask. You can share the series link on your website etc. – just copy it from the navigation bar on your browser – but remember that Amazon will change the url with every book added to the series. (Yes. Really.) Also, series numbering at all portals has to be in whole numbers. Although it’s intuitive (at least to me) to use a decimal for a short story or novella that appears between two full-length books, series pages will only accept whole numbers and the lowest possible number is 1. Remember also to go into Author Central and claim each new book you publish so it appears on your Amazon author page. You’ll want to double-check that your new book appeared on your BookBub profile, too.

13. Update your end-matter in your ebooks regularly. Most authors start out updating it with every new release, but as your list grows, you might come up with an alternate plan. You should have a newsletter sign-up in your ebook interior, as well as links to find you online. Each portal allows “neutral” links – your website url, for example – but will reject a book file with buy links for other portals. One of the nifty things about Vellum is that it allows you to build versions of your ebook that are customized for each portal. The Apple edition, then, has Apple buy links and Apple is good with that. You have to be uploading directly to use these versions, though – if you’re using an aggregator, you’ll probably want to upload a generic ePUB edition, which points back to the landing page on your website rather than product pages at retailers. The same is true of library editions. When you publish a new book, you’ll want to go back to your first book and update the file so that there are handy buy links for that second book, especially if the books are in a series.

Phew! That’s a good start for setting up your online presence as an indie author.

You can find this post again by either bookmarking it or by following the hotlink on the Author Resources page.

©2019 Deborah A. Cooke

A BookBub International Featured Deal

The Princess, book #1 of the Bride Quest trilogy of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

Original mass market edition

The Princess, book #1 of the Bride Quest series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixEarlier this week, I had a BookBub Featured Deal for The Princess, book #1 of my Bride Quest series of medieval romances. The book is discounted to 99 cents. The Princess was my very first book to land on the USA Today list – it was #93 in its first week on sale, way back in 1998. In those days, of course, it was a mass market edition. That’s the original cover on the right.

This was the first time I had a featured deal for international markets only, and I was curious about its effectiveness. This week’s Indie Publishing post is about my results.

My previous BBFDs have been for all markets. At BookBub, this means US, UK, CA, AU and IN. An “international-only” deal means that BB will only email the deal to readers in the UK, CA, AU and IN, not those in the US. The book doesn’t have to be discounted in the US, but I discounted it there anyway – that discount was promoted only on my website, newsletter, and social media.

There are two variables here: the relative size of each market itself, and the number of BookBub subscribers in each market. My Claire Delacroix BookBub profile shows that I have 18,780 followers.

BookBub profile for Claire DelacroixWhen I sign in, BB tells me that 15,618 of those followers are in the US. That’s 3,162 non-US followers or 16%. I know that I have a lot of audience in outside of the US market so the BB follower list isn’t reflecting that. (Click that link above or the graphic to follow me on BookBub, regardless of where you are.)

(In contrast, and just for comparison, my Deborah Cooke BookBub profile has 87,884 followers, and 55,579 are in the US – which means 32,305 (or 36%) are international followers. That’s a break that fits better with my own perception of my audience and their location.)

Since these four English language markets are much smaller than the US, the assumption is that resulting sales will be lower than for a full deal and the ad is priced accordingly. Here’s the pricing chart for BookBub ads – the prices listed are for full ads. If you scroll down to Historical Romance, the featured deal for a 99 cent book is priced at $692 US. If that ad only runs internationally and not in the US, as mine did, the price is $108. So, $584 is for the US market, which gives you an idea of comparative reach.

For $108, I decided to give the international deal a try. The deal ran on Monday, December 3.

So, what happened?

The Princess, #1 in medieval romance in the Amazon.ca store on December 4, 2018

At Amazon.ca on Tuesday morning, The Princess had a #1 bestseller ribbon for medieval romance.

The Princess, a number one bestseller at Amazon.ca in medieval romance on December 4, 2018It was also #52 paid in the Kindle store overall, which is pretty cool.

The Princess, a number one bestseller in historical romance in the Amazon.AU store on dEcember 4, 2018It also had an orange #1 bestseller ribbon for medieval romance in the Amazon Australia store.

The Princess at #1 in medieval romance in the Amazon Australia store on December 4, 2018

It was #119 paid overall in the Amazon Australia store on Tuesday, too.

In terms of raw units moved, the traffic was almost equally divided between CA, AU and UK, with slightly more units sold in the UK. There were a few in the US, too. The halo was strong in these territories: at 8AM on Tuesday, sales for the day for The Princess were already 1/3 of what they had been on the day of the feature. The Damsel, book #2 in the series, and The Heiress, book #3 in the series, began to sell at full price on the day of the ad.

At Kobo, which has a large customer base in the territories covered by the international deal, The Princess was listed as #2 in historical romance on its product page on Tuesday morning.

The Princess, #1 in historical romance at Kobo on December 4, 2018

But when I clicked through to the bestseller list, it was actually #1 🙂

The raw units at Kobo were less than at Amazon, of course, but almost half – and more than sold at Amazon.ca. This is a very good showing at Kobo for a BookBub ad and likely a result of the territories matching Kobo’s market footprint. (Although I have had some BBFDs show very strong results at Kobo this year.) Kobo customers do love their boxed sets and Kobo does display them on the series page (unlike other retailers), so the first products to move in the halo at Kobo were the two boxed sets: The Bride Quest I Boxed Set and The Bride Quest II Boxed Set.

At Apple, The Princess popped onto the First in Series Bestsellers list, but without the US market, there weren’t enough units moved to place it high on any of the charts. The halo there will only be from links in the books that were sold and probably won’t be that significant.

In terms of money, there were enough units sold of The Princess on the first day to cover the cost of the ad. And as noted above, there is a halo, both in sales of The Princess in those markets afterward where it had visibility thanks to its placement on the charts and in the linked books. (There are five more titles in the series.)

One of the interesting things was that the book’s appearance on the charts was stickier in those smaller markets: typically, in the Amazon US store, a BookBub feature makes the book spike for a day, hitting high on the charts, then it drops hard. If it remains on a list for three days, that’s cause for celebration. But in these smaller markets, probably because there are fewer units being moved, the book stayed on the list longer.

On Wednesday, The Princess was at #2 in Medieval and #215 overall in the Amazon.ca store.

The Princess at #2 in Medieval romance and #215 overall in the Amazon.ca store on December 5, 2018

Similarly, it was still #2 in medieval romance in the Australia store on Wednesday, though it had dropped to #508 overall paid in the store:

The Princess at #2 in medieval romance in the Amazon Australia store on December 5, 2018

This is a good thing. One of the benefits of running a promotion like this is the visibility that the book gets on the bestseller lists, and more visibility is better.

In conclusion, it wasn’t a failed experiment, but it wasn’t such a success that it left me dizzy with joy. I don’t think I’ll run a BookBub featured ad in the international markets in historical romance again.

By the way, the book is on sale until December 8, so you can still pick up a copy on sale.

Buy The Princess
Amazon.com
Apple
KOBO
Nook
Googleplay
Books2Read Universal Link
(Find international stores and other Amazon stores here!)

Avoiding Writers’ Block

Today, we’re going to discuss some tips and tricks for ensuring that you always know what comes next when you sit down to write.

I don’t love the term “writers’ block”, partly because it sounds insurmountable. Like so many things, being “stuck” can be overcome with a little preparation and several little steps. You could think of these as good practices.

• Review what you wrote the day before
This is a tried and true strategy used by many writers I know. Job one of any new day of writing is to edit what was written the day before. This is a neat trick because you polish your work so that it’s clean behind you, and it also fills your mind with the story again. You might even see details or directions to explore which you missed the first time around.

• Leave a hook for the next scene
When you stop for the day, choose a deliberate point for stopping. I find that if I write everything I know about the story, the next day I might come up dry. I also find that I see two scenes very clearly and often a third one a bit less so. So, I write those two scenes, then hold back on the third. I’ll write the first sentence of that scene, to pull me back into the moment, but then let that scene stew in the back of my mind for the remainder of the day. Combined with the review suggested above, this is a surefire way to get me writing again each day.

• Retrace your steps
Most authors write a story in a linear sequence. This means that if the next scene isn’t clear to you, you’re stuck, as if you encountered a closed road on your map to the big finish. For me, this often indicates that I’ve taken a wrong turn or painted myself into a corner. The first thing I do in this situation is delete the hook on the end of the last scene I wrote. I then go make a fresh pot of tea, thinking about what else that hook could be. Often that sets me straight on the path again.

• Write out of sequence
Sometimes another scene than the one I know comes next is clear in my thoughts when I sit down to write. This might be the ending, which is a useful thing to write in advance of getting to the end of the book. Many authors find that writing the ending gives them a more clear sense of their destination and the feel of the end of the book, and that helps with the pages in between. You might feel compelled to write the big finish, or the dark moment, or a comparatively minor scene between secondary characters. As a general rule of thumb, if something is burning in your thoughts, write it down, whether it comes next in the story or not.

• Write a synopsis
The most obvious way to ensure that you know where the story is doing (and how it’s going to get there) is to write a synopsis. I’ve yet to meet a writer who loved creating a synopsis. It can be a painful process. But the fact is that once you have one, you have a map of your book. It’s very easy to put your finger on your location in the synopsis then read on to see where the story needs to go next.

• Stock your well
Julia Cameron talks about this in The Artist’s Way. It’s a strategy for ensuring that you always have new images and ideas to draw upon, so that your work continues to evolve and stay fresh. For me, this kind of creative thinking is completely opposite to the kind of planning I do as a publisher. Stocking my well is dreamy and irrational, meandering, and often seems like daydreaming or “wasting” time. The less free time I have, the more critical I am of the kind of play that stocks the well—but if I don’t do it, I get stuck.

I suspect that part of the reason I’ve been less productive creatively this year isn’t just a lack of time to write; it’s a failure to leave time to play and dream. I play with textiles and color to let my imagination wander off and explore the next part of the story I’m writing. I knit and quilt and bead and garden and cook, and this review has reminded me that I need to defend the time to do that, as well as the time to write.

So, the final tweak that comes out of this entire review is to protect the time I spend mucking about with creative endeavors. When I protect my writing time and my source of ideas, the routine of publishing must be pushed out to occur last in the day instead of first.

This is an intriguing idea and one I’ve already started to put into action. I’ve already seen an improvement in my productivity: in October, I wrote 54,000 words, which blasts me past my high count in May of 43,000. Now I just need to make these changes into habits. I’m curious to see if my word count increases in the next six months – I’m curious to see if it will help me succeed in NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words this month would be a victory!

Do you have any tips or practices that help you avoid writers’ block?