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?

International Buy Links

At the Novelists Inc conference, I attended several wonderful workshops taught by Joanna Penn. In one of them, she talked about English-language markets outside of the US, and means of making it simple for non-US readers to buy books. Part of that facilitation comes from distribution, and part of it comes from website links. Many of the portals redirect you based upon the location of your ISP (server), but Amazon does not. Amazon has twelve regional stores, each of which has specific links for products like books. I used to have four or five Amazon links (US, UK, AU, CA and DE) but I thought those links cluttered my website pages. Joanna pointed out, rightly so, that it should be easy for non-US readers to click and buy a book at their portal of choice. Since I’m in Canada, it was particularly embarrassing to realize that I wasn’t supporting this on my sites.

And so, there has been a change. 🙂 I’ve been adding some more links to the website, specifically to make it easier for those of you (us!) who live outside the US. In most cases, my books were already available at those portals, but I didn’t have a direct link to them on my websites. That’s all changed.

When you look at any of my book pages now, you’ll see a group of links like this list on the page for Addicted to Love:

buy links for Addicted to Love by Deborah Cooke
What’s new is that the Amazon link is now defined clearly as a link to Amazon.com. It always went to the US store, but now the link says so.

You’ll also see that there’s a new link called Books2Read Universal Link. This is a pretty cool service offered by Draft2Digital, one of the aggregators I use to distribute my books. If you click on this link for Addicted to Love, for example, it’ll take you a page that looks like this:

Addicted to Love, book #2 of the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke, at Books2Read

You can see that there are more buy links here than on my page and that they’re outside the US, but that’s not all. First, if you choose the Amazon Kindle link, you will be taken to the product page for Addicted to Love in your Amazon store based on the location of your server. Yes! It will redirect! If you live outside the US, this could be any of the twelve Amazon stores. You won’t have to fish around to change the link for Canada or Australia anymore: this interface will take you to the right store right away.

Secondly, if you create an account with Books2Read, it will remember what portal you prefer. So, the first time you click a portal on the page above, you’ll see this screen:

If you leave the box checked at the bottom, then every time you click a universal link, you’ll go straight to the product page on your portal of choice. That means that if you click on the Books2Read Universal link for In the Midnight Hour, right here on my website, after you’ve followed the link for Addicted to Love to Amazon.ca, then you will redirected immediately to the Amazon.ca page for that book. You won’t see that first page with all the little icons again. You can, of course, change your preference in your Books2Read account at any time.

How cool is that? I think this is really, really sexy. The other side of this is affiliate codes. Most authors use affiliate codes from the portals, which pay a teeny tiny bonus for sending a customer to their respective store. Amazon, of course, has specific affiliate codes for each individual regional store. (The other portals with affiliate codes use a single code for the entire planet.) This service through Books2Read also supports all of my various Amazon affiliate codes, so each time you use these links, you’re adding a teeny tiny bonus for me. It is literally pennies, but pennies add up.

The final bonus of this is that I get an author page at Books2Read (actually, I get two!) where you can browse my books by series. My Deborah Cooke author page is right here.

The Cooke books are done, and the Delacroix books, though I still have to sort out my dragons and angels at Books2Read. There also are some rogue titles on my book pages that aren’t appearing in their respective series (tsk tsk) but the good peeps at D2D will help me sort this out. It looks good already.

I’ve also signed up for another aggregator to offer my books in more territories and portals beyond the big choices, and will tell you about that soon. 🙂

What Do You DO All Day?

On Thursdays, we’re talking about publishing and writing here on the blog. Two weeks ago, we talked about Tracking Your Word Count as part of an ongoing discussion about tracking your progress and speed in creating new content. Knowing how quickly you write helps you to plan your publication schedule, because you know when books will be done.

The obvious goal once you know your daily word count is improving it: it seems a particularly fitting topic for today, the first day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

btw, if you participate in NaNo, you can find me here.

Two weeks ago, I showed you how I tracked my monthly word count. My counts for each month this summer were lower than I’d like, though, so I had a closer look at my data. I tend to write 3,000 words in a writing session at my desk. My tracking results show that clearly. So, I can divide out one month’s word count and see that I’m only having one of those writing sessions about thirteen times a month. Since I’m in my office six days a week (at least) that means the publishing and production part of my job is eating a lot more time than I’d realized. I should be doing at least twenty sessions a month – 5 days a week for 4 weeks – which would net me 60,000 words a month. This isn’t wildly implausible – my word count for May was consistent with the other months but was only for two weeks. I worked every day for those two weeks, which was a push, but I could easily write five days a week.

Why don’t I? What else am I doing? I’m in my office, working. Are there any patterns that differentiate the days I don’t write from the days I do? Once I know what those distractions are, I should be able to manage them better.

The easiest way to discover what leads you astray  is to keep track of your day in a spreadsheet, then look for patterns. You could just scribble it down on a list as you change tasks, but a spreadsheet will help you find patterns in timing. Block it off in half hour intervals from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. When you do write, add a word count of what you accomplished in that block.

This is similar to keeping a list of exactly what you eat before starting a diet, to look for habits (like that mid-afternoon chocolate bar) that you could do without.

Just like that chocolate bar, you’ll probably notice quite quickly that there are some habits that affect your writing output. (One might start with “Face” and end with “Book”.) I find it very easy to get sucked into social media or the myriad little jobs of publishing—I might think it will “only take a minute” to update an item in my metadata, or respond to an email, or book an ad, but in reality, that task sends me off on a tangent that leads away from writing. It’s usually just the first breadcrumb in a line I follow, steadily moving away from writing my book. It might be hours before I work my way back to my work-in-progress again and I certainly will have lost my train of thought.

Most of the tasks that distract me from writing are legitimate ones that need to happen: the trick for me is managing when I do them. If I write first, then I don’t mind following those tangents. Managing my time means opening my email for the first time in the late morning (or even later). It means not checking social media until my word count is done. It means leaving the endless tasks and updates of publishing until the afternoon or evening. New content is what keeps my little publishing machine profitable, so I need to write first.

It’s easier said than done.

I find that making lists in the morning helps. If I make a note that something needs to be done, then I’m less likely to just do it, assuming it will be quick – and risking that I’ll fall down a rabbit hole for a couple of hours as one quick task leads (Inevitably) to another. It also helps if I write down the scenes I intend to add to my book in the morning. Then I can tick them off when they’ve been written, and also know the next one to write. I also need to manage my reading, although this makes sense when I think about it: if I read books about the nuts and bolts of publishing, I end up with a list of things to do that aren’t writing. The natural course is to do those things right away, so I only read those books after my daily word count is written.

If you write your best at night or in the afternoon, you’ll have a different daily rhythm than mine. The point is to figure out what works best for you in terms of getting words on the page, then make that your daily routine. On the flip side, you’ll also figure out the best time for doing a lot of other jobs so that you don’t waste your most creative periods on grunt work.

This brings us neatly to knowing what comes next in the book. Another thing that leads me away from my writing in addition to distraction is not knowing what to write. There’s nothing worse than having a block of time all scheduled, then staring at a blank screen (or sheet of paper). We’ll talk next week about avoiding writers’ block.

Until then, happy writing!

Tracking Word Count

I’ll be doing my Thursday posts about writing and publishing again, although they’ll be less about changes at the portals now and more about resources and strategies for indie authors. They’ll now be tagged Author Resources instead of Wild West Thursday. We’re in the midst of a fabulous time for writers, filled with both opportunity and challenge. I find it exciting, but sometimes overwhelming, too. So, on Thursdays, we’ll talk a bit more about that.

There’s a new tab on the menu bar called Author Resources. I’ve added two tutorials there, as of now: one explains how to create an Excel spreadsheet for tracking book sales by month, year, etc., and the other explains how to create an Excel spreadsheet to track the results of a shorter promotion. Of course, there are other ways to track both of these items: I’m just sharing my method (mostly because writers in my local group asked me to do so.) You need Excel or another spreadsheet program to set up either or both, and a little bit of time.

Of course, there are more things to track, and one of them is daily word count. How long does it take you to write a book? This is a particularly important piece of information to have when planning a publication schedule. I’m in the middle of planning the next few years of work, since I’m finishing up a lot of series.

Earlier this year, I recognized that my idea of how quickly I write was formed when I was writing for traditional publishers, which meant I didn’t have all the extra jobs of being my own publisher, too. These days, I can spend an entire week updating files or metadata or websites – especially when republishing a backlist series – and not write one word of new content. That happened with the republication of the eight Dragonfire novels and the three Dragon Diaries books. Even on a daily basis, there are publishing crises to solve and jobs to get done, all tasks that distract from the business of creating new stories.

It was clear that I needed to recalibrate my expectations. How fast do I write, in this new situation?

The easiest way to do this is to – surprise! – keep track of daily word count in a spreadsheet, then total the word count of the month. Since there will be variations over time – as I attend conferences or have other obligations outside my office – it’s best to track over a number of months, then average out the results to get a more accurate picture of what’s happening.

I started to keep track in the middle of May, and am pretty tough about counting only net word gain. If I chuck 4K words and write 5K, my count for the day is only 1K.

My results look like this:
May – 37,000 (a half-month)
June – 33,000
July – 43,000
August – 40,000
September – 37,000

That gives me an average word count per month of 38,000 words, and I’ll use that as a working number, even though May was only a half-month. I used to write closer 50,000 words a month – plus I spent a lot less time in my office – so that’s a big difference.

There are two things that shake out of having this number. Let’s talk about the first one today.

1. Now, that I have a number and it looks pretty consistent, I can use it to plan my production and publishing schedule for the year(s) ahead. 38K words a month is about 450K words per year. That’s five 90K novels or nine 50K novels – or eighteen 25K novellas. You get the idea. I can look at my book plan and decide how many titles I can realistically write per year.

I also can balance out my content. I know, for example, that you all prefer my longer books. I know this because they sell better and have better reviews. And the truth is that I’d rather write a short story of 5K to 10K or a book at 90K to 100K, and not mess with the lengths in between. This market is skewed to more frequent publication, so there’s a balance to be struck. If I write five 90K novels and nothing else, will I lose visibility (especially if they’re divided between author brands)? How can I do a fast-release launch of a new series with this productivity level? I’ll have to stockpile books until I have a few completed. Hmm. Can I balance long and short stories in the same fictional world?

Should I write in fewer fictional worlds? This is the inevitable question, but I like writing all the things. I think it keeps me fresh creatively to move between sub-genres, so you can see that there are other considerations as well as raw word count. Planning a publication schedule is not for the faint of heart, but when you know how quickly you write, it’s a lot easier to make a plan you can keep.

The other obvious thing to talk about is how to improve current productivity. I’m going to save that for a separate post, since this one is pretty long already. Next week, I’m going to tell you about an exciting book I’ve just read, so we’ll talk about improving word count in two weeks. Happy writing!

Novelists Inc 2018

©Deborah A. CookeLast week, I attended the Novelists’ Inc conference, which is held each year. This year (as in many recent years) it was in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida. This conference brings together a lot of incredible people and is a terrific gathering of ideas and energy—plus it’s at the beach.

These beachy pix are from recent years. This year, I didn’t take more because they would have been similar, but also there was a red tide. This is an algae bloom which is detrimental to fish near the beach and I believe it had begun after hurricane Florence. At this particular point on the beach, there weren’t so many dead fish—they do clean them up every day—but a lot of dead crabs. While it was intriguing to see how many kinds of crabs there are in the gulf, it was sad to see them when they were dead. There were also a lot fewer birds, probably because the death of the fish meant there was less (or nothing) for them to eat. I love seeing the pelicans and they were a bit scarce. I didn’t see any dolphins this year either, but that might have been timing – in previous years, I saw them in the afternoon or early evening. I walked first thing in the morning, and the smell from the red tide wasn’t too bad. Mr. Math suggested that the algae needs the sunshine and warmth of the day to bloom, which would explain why people had troubles later in the day with eye and throat irritations.

©Deborah A. CookeAnd then there was the conference itself. As always, NINC brings together an amazing group of workshop presenters, but this year it was particularly hard to choose between sessions. There were four tracks and it seemed that I wanted to attend two workshops in every time slot. I learned a tremendous amount and made a huge To Do list (this is typical). Highlights for me included David Gaughran‘s workshops – because no matter how often I go to his workshops, I always learn more. (Plus he has a wonderful Irish accent 🙂 that would be easy to listen to forever). He taught about BookBub ads and more about Amazon’s algorithms. Joanna Penn taught two fantastic workshops, one about content-based marketing and the other highlighting global English-language markets for books and strategies for reaching them. I learned a lot in Mark Dawson‘s session on strategies for AMS ads. A surprise hit for me was Dr. Jennifer Barnes and her workshops about the psychology of fiction and of titles. Representatives were also in attendance from almost all of the portals, and all of them had interesting information to share. It’s a fantastic conference to discover new opportunities and strategies.

Jewels of Historical Romance at the Novelists Inc conference September 2018The truly fabulous thing about this conference, though, was that this was the first time I attended as one of the Jewels of Historical Romance. This fantastic group of historical romance writers invited me to join them last spring, and I was thrilled to do so. Although I knew most of them from online, I hadn’t met many of them in person – and there was going to be a big confab of Jewels at this conference, so I went. Here are nine of us at the gazebo in the hotel courtyard. From the back left, that’s me (not smiling. LOL) then Erica Ridley, Lucinda Brant (who came from Australia), and Cheryl Bolen. In the front from the left, Lauren Royal, Darcy Burke, Tanya Anne Crosby, Glynnis Campbell and Cynthia Wright. Brenda Hiatt was also at the conf, but isn’t in this picture. Kimberly Cates and Jill Barnett were the only two Jewels not in attendance this year – there are plans for all of us to make this conf in 2020. Meeting these women in person and having the chance to not only get to know them better but to plan some joint promotion for the future was certainly the highlight of the conference for me.

And then there was karaoke night… This is the second year that Draft2Digital has hosted this event, and it wrapped up the conference this year. It was such a success that I suspect they’re going to need to do it every year.

I suspect I need to go to NINC every year, too.

Home with Lists

The exciting thing about attending a conference like Novelists’ Ink is that I always end up with so many action items. Novelists’ Ink is also unusual among the conferences I attend because it’s only for published authors, most of whom write genre fiction. (A high percentage of members write either romance or mystery.) So, there are no reader events like booksignings during the conference (although Jodi Vaughn and I made an exception and met with some readers for lunch on Saturday. It was such fun – Jodi is lovely and it turned out that her fans were also some of mine!) So, NINC is about the business of publishing. In this still-changing market, there are not only new options available, but better ways evolving to get things done. I always end up making lists on the flight home. You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes.

You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes. For example, I need to review my notes from Erica Ridley’s wonderful session on newsletters, and decide what to improve first with my monthly newsletter. (There are LOTS of things to be improved there!)

Wyvern's Mate, book #1 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’ll also be changing the numbering of the Dragons of Incendium series. Amazon doesn’t allow incremental numbers on series pages and I’ve been stubborn about changing my idea of the book numbers to fit theirs. 🙂 In talking to other authors, though, it’s clear that there are tangible benefits to having all of the books on the same product page. I’ll make them the same at all portals once they’re reformatted. The short stories will be given whole numbers in this arrangement, so the book order will become:

  1. Wyvern’s Mate
  2. Nero’s Dream
  3. Wyvern’s Prince
  4. Arista’s Legacy
  5. Wyvern’s Warrior
  6. Kraw’s Secret
  7. Wyvern’s Outlaw

Love Potion #9, a paranormal romance and romantic comedy by Claire DelacroixI’m going to commission new covers for my time travel romances, and probably move Love Potion #9 over to the Deborah Cooke side of things. It is a contemporary paranormal romance, after all. I do love the cover image, but it doesn’t communicate the subgenre clearly enough to do its job well – if you love this cover and want a print copy, grab it soon!

There are dozens of other tweaks and changes to be made. I attending workshops with tips on productivity and on strategies for publishing. I learned about conferences that I haven’t attended before and revisited the idea of attending some others again. I’ll let you know when any of these items impact what you see on your end of the publishing biz.

The second exciting result of going to conference is meeting new authors. I always meet some authors I haven’t met before and learn a bit about them during the conference, then come home with a huge shopping list so I can become acquainted with their books. No matter how avidly I read, there are always new voices and new fictional worlds to be discovered – that I’ve sat with the author in a workshop or had lunch with him or her is icing on the proverbial cake. I’ve already added a dozen books to my reader and am looking forward to digging in. When I find some I particularly love, I’ll share them with you here.

The third and maybe the biggest benefit is creative. Walking the beach is certainly a contributing factor, plus I went offline for the week. I came home from NINC recharged, with my imagination full of new stories. I did a lot of plotting, which surprised me but that’s all good. I also have more ideas to connect my existing stories with each other. I have started to do this (as some of you have seen in A Duke By Any Other Name) but the possibilities multipled for me when I gave them the opportunity.

Whisper Kiss, #5 in the Dragonfire series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeIn the Midnight Hour, book #3 of the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeFor example, I need a tattoo artist based in New York for the Flatiron Five series and realized that Rox’s tattoo shop, Imagination Ink, which we encountered first in Whisper Kiss, is in NYC. Rox has a partner and friend named Chynna (as well as one named Neo). I decided that Chynna would be perfect. She’ll turn up at F5 in Damon’s book, In the Midnight Hour and become a continuing character in that series. Flatiron Five doesn’t have any paranormal elements, but Chynna isn’t paranormal. Even Rox isn’t paranormal herself—she’s just partners with Niall, a dragon shifter. This kind of cross-pollination between series is particularly fun—I went back and read what I’ve said so far about Chynna and got excited about the possibilities. I remembered writing a scene with Chynna that didn’t make it into the final book and had to hunt it down. I posted it as an out-take right here so you can meet Chynna. (She doesn’t actually appear in Whisper Kiss.)

There are wonderful plans in the works already, and I’ll share them with you as soon as I can!

Since we’re talking about conferences and reader events, tell me whether you attend any reader events. If you don’t go to reader conferences or events, is there a reason why? (Some readers like to save their money for books, which is good, too.) If you do go, where are the events located? Do you attend for workshops or signings or both? What’s your favorite part?

 

ACX for Canadian Authors

Today’s the day so many Canadian indie authors have been waiting for! ACX is now open to authors in US, UK, Canada and Ireland. 🙂

ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is a portal that helps indie authors create audiobooks of their work and distribute them. There are many many (many!) voice samples there from narrators all over the world, and you can request auditions – that’s when narrators read a sample of your book, so you can hear their interpretation of it. You can contract for the audiobook through ACX and once the book is done, distribute it to Amazon, Audible and iBooks.

ACX has a blog post today about this new opportunity for Canadian and Irish indies: you can find it right here.

The Bride Quest

As I told you recently in Exciting News, the rights to my original Bride Quest trilogy have reverted to me. The trilogy includes The Princess, The Damsel and The Heiress. This means that I’m in the midst of creating new editions of these books for publication, which means that they need new covers.

The Princess, book #1 of the Bride Quest trilogy of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix  The Damsel, book #2 of the Bride Quest trilogy of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix  The Heiress, book #3 of the Bride Quest trilogy of Scottish medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

I decided this was an excellent opportunity to update the covers of the second Bride Quest as well—The Countess, The Beauty and The Temptress—so that the whole series has similar graphical branding.

The Countess, book #1 in the Bride Quest II trilogy of Scottish medieval romances, by Claire Delacroix  The Beauty, book #2 of the Bride Quest II trilogy of Scottish medieval romances and a NYT bestselling title, by Claire Delacroix  The Temptress, book #3 of the Bride Quest II trilogy of Scottish medieval romances, by Claire Delacroix

As of today, the house has removed their digital editions from sale, so it’s time to move forward!

My plan is to relaunch the first Bride Quest in August. I’m in the midst of removing the digital editions of the second Bride Quest trilogy from sale, so that I can relaunch the whole series with shiny new covers and updated interiors.

The new covers will be revealed in my May newsletter.

So, if you’re looking for these titles, don’t think your eyes are deceiving you. They’ll be back!