The Debut Novel | Q&A Tag

This is my very first, but hopefully not my last, author tag post. Suggested by the lovely Niamh Murphy, author of Escape to Pirate Island, I’m starting with a question and answer session on the subject of my debut novel.

If you’re an author and you’d like to get involved, check out the end of the article for instructions on how to participate!

What is the title and genre of your debut novel?

My debut novel was strangely enough called Flight SQA016. It’s a story about a rich businesswoman who meets a flight attendant during her weekly commute from New York to London.

The book title refers to the number of the fictional flight they travel on, at least during the outbound leg of their trip. It’s an ex-fanfiction piece and so the number contains a reference to that fandom, as well as a reference to my own honeymoon flight.

What gave you the idea to start writing it?

As with most of my favourite stories, Flight just came to me one day with no explanation as to why or where it came from. I know that’s not very helpful for budding authors but sometimes an idea just pops into your head. I’m a bit of a day-dreamer so I come up with different scenarios in my mind and let them sit and see what happens.

The heart of the matter was that I pictured a professional business woman in a first class seat, looking across the aisle and wondering why a five year old boy was staring back at her. From there, Flight was born.

How long did it take you to finish?

Not long! As I said above, I originally write Flight as a fanfiction piece. I was updating the story almost every day and it easily got over 100,000 words within a couple of months. The real pain came later when I had to professionally edit it. But more about that later.

What was the biggest challenge you had when writing it?

I felt that I couldn’t write quickly enough! I had the idea in my head but I had little time to get it out. The first online version was published very quickly and was full of mistakes. The majority of Flight was, somewhat ironically, written on a train. I used to commute two hours each way to London, three times a week. I would be on the 6 am train and quickly opening my laptop and hammering out the next chapter before I got to my stop, or worse, the train became busy with commuters who wanted to look over my shoulder at what I was typing.

How did you get it published, Indie or Trad?

I was contacted by the Managing Director of Ylva Publishing and asked if I would like to have Flight published. At first, I thought it was a joke or some kind of vanity press deal. But I looked up Ylva Publishing and saw they were a real publishing house. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, I had a busy day job and I’d never had a desire to be a published author. But I spoke with Ylva and decided to go ahead, if I didn’t enjoy the process then I wouldn’t have to do it again – and at the end of the day, it was an adventure!

What was the most important thing you learnt from the process?

It’s hard to pick one single thing that I learnt from the process because I learnt so much. Firstly, I learnt how to be a better writer. I also learnt a lot about the editing process. But I suppose the main thing I learnt is that I enjoyed publishing and I wanted to be a hybrid author, someone who partly publishes through traditional publishing presses and partly as an Indie. Each has its place in the publishing world and I’m loving how much I learn about craft and business by being a hybrid author.

What are you working on right now?

Flight 3! Flight SQA016 was so long that it had to be chopped into two books. And doing this gave me the opportunity to give something back to the fans who had enjoyed the fanfiction version of the story. I turned the second book, Grounded, into a mostly original story, I took the skills I had lernt from publishing the first book to make the second book better than what happened in the fanfiction version.

I had intended to stop at those two books. I even published two other books after Grounded, a cozy mystery called Huntress and an office-romance called Mergers and Acquisitions. But people wanted more and an idea came to me and I had to write Flight 3, which as you can tell is still unnamed.

So, there you have it! My first author tag Q&A. If you have any other questions about my writing, or publishing, then ask me in the comments and I’ll try to answer. 

If you’re an author, why not play tag?

Cut and paste these questions into your own blog with a link back to me, and provide your own answers to the questions. Then drop me a comment below with the link to your own blog.

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Calculating the cost of marketing your book

Everyone knows that producing a novel costs money. You have editing costs, cover design costs, proofreading costs, printing costs… but once your book has been released you stop paying, right?

Well, the answer is that you can but you probably shouldn’t.

As with anything worth time and effort, marketing costs money. Be it email marketing services, website hosting fees, promotional giveaways… these all come with an associated cost. The question is, how much would you pay in order to sell a copy of your book?

Putting a price on a sale

At first glance, assigning a value to a sale seems like quite a difficult thing to do. But, in reality, this is something we easily do in other areas of our life.

If you own a house and you decide to redecorate, at the back of your mind you are probably considering the resale value of your home. While you may want to convert a bedroom into a working model of the death star, not everyone is a Star Wars fan and it might make your property more difficult to sell should you decide to move in the future.

In the marketing world we call this Return On Investment, or ROI for short.

ROI sounds boring

ROI does sound boring. But think of it this way, how much would you pay for someone to buy your book? While the concept of paying someone to sell your book may sound strange, it can be very beneficial. 

If you’re selling your book for $7.99 would you pay $0.30 for someone to buy a copy? $1? This may change over time, what would you pay in the first weeks of sale? What would you pay after the book has been out for a year?

Knowing this threshold is an important first step in understanding marketing techniques that may be appropriate for you. 

Deciding what works for you

Different marketing techniques have different associated costs. And also different ways of calculating ROI.

For example, if you send email marketing you need to take into consideration the cost of your time and the cost of the email marketing software.

Let’s say you pay $50 a year, and you send around one email a month and you make two sales from each email you send. That’s twenty-four sales per year for $50. This equates to $2.08 per book sold before you take into consideration your time.

Have a look at how much you are willing to pay for a book sale, does this add up? If it doesn’t, is there a way to either reduce your email marketing costs or increase the amount of sales?

The easiest way to see the cost of marketing a book

Working out the cost of different marketing techniques varies. Some are more complicated than others. For example, do you know the exact monetary value of having a Twitter account? Most people don’t. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time, but it’s worth looking for a way to check if it is.

The easiest way to assign a cost to your marketing is paid advertising.

Services like Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) provide you with an exact cost per click on your ads. For example, one of the books I’m advertising at the moment has recently sold a book at a cost of $0.13. This falls well beneath my threshold and I would happily pay $0.13 per book sold.

If you’re not using a service like Amazon Marketing Services then you are really missing out. I advise anyone to have a try, it’s easy to set up, costs are low and easily manageable and the transparency of costs and sales is fantastic.

Simply go into your KDP portal and click on Reports and then Ad Campaigns and go from there.

As with all marketing, be sure to keep an eye on the costs versus the income to ensure that you are selling at a cost that you feel is worth it.




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Kindle Unlimited and the fast moving train of subscription-based media, what it means for Authors

When I first became an author, I asked what Kindle Unlimited was. The question was met by a lot of huffs and sighs and, eventually, proclamations that it was no good for authors. It was even referred to as the devil once or twice. The general consensus was that no author is lesbific ever made money in KU. In fact, I was more than once quoted that authors made “pennies” in the Amazon subscription system.

As a marketer, I wanted to check this out for myself so I’ve spent the last month talking to a lot of people and conducting a lot of research on the matter.

But, what is Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription based service offered by Amazon which offers access to over a million eBooks and thousands of audio books.

In short, readers pay a subscription of around £7.99/$9.99 a month and in return, they get access to a vast library of reading material and audio books with the option to cancel the monthly fee whenever they choose.

KU also offers members access to a number of newspapers and magazines.

How do authors make any money?

While a lot of people will use the phrase “read x book for free on KU” the books aren’t actually free.

Authors get paid by Amazon based upon the number of pages read. Every month KDP, Amazon’s publishing company, will announce the KDP Select (KDP’s name of KU) Global Fund. They will also announce how many pages have been read by the membership that month. Through the magic of mathematics, a price per page is announced, or KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages). In case you hadn’t noticed, Amazon loves to name things in the most complicated manner possible.

KENP is quite low at the moment and currently (June ’17) stands at $0.0038 per KENP read. But, and it’s critical to remember that KENP is not the same as print pages or even eBook pages. A print book with 312 pages could come in at 440 KENP pages.

$0.0038 per page, isn’t that kinda terrible?

Yes and no. Because authors are paid per page read, they are paid for books that aren’t finished. And books cannot be returned so authors don’t have to worry about readers returning books.

But the absolute best thing about KU is the ability reach new readers. While a reader may not be willing to pay $5-10 for an author they don’t know, they are more than happy to pick them up at no additional cost on KU.

This means that KU books receive vastly more traffic than non-KU books and almost always dominate the top charts. Because of this visibility in the charts, books are “bought” more often and authors can make more money through KU than they do through normal sales.

When I put Huntress into Kindle Unlimited last month, I expected a drop in sales. I was pleasantly surprised to see that profit made remained broadly the same. In the chart below you will see an example of this with the red area of the chart representing usual sales and the blue part representing KU pages read. The chart shows overall profit made and, as you can, there’s not a lot of difference between before KU and after KU.

Obviously this is a small test and I would recommend you conduct your own tests in order to establish if things are the same for you and your auidence before making any major decisions regarding KU.

Kindle Unlimited, some things to know

Enrolling a book into Kindle Unlimited requires selling that book exclusively through Amazon. This means that you are not allowed to sell your book through any other distributor while your book is enrolled in KU. When you enrol in KU you are signing up for a minimum of three months.

Although in KU, your book is still available to buy as a normal eBook through Amazon, and as a paperback.
You will not know what money your book has made until the KDP Select Global Fund has been announced. This happens on the 15th of the month. For example, the June amount was announced on the 15th July.

KU is an unknown quantity but can provide huge rewards. I’ve spoken to many lesfic authors who claim that they make more money since putting their books into KU than ever before. Other lesfic authors say that KU has given the access to new audiences who they wouldn’t have reached before. And KU books dominate charts, to get your book into the Top 10 of any lesfic category for a prolonged period without being in KU is a very tall ask.

The change in media consumption and the subscription model

For every one person who says that KU is devaluing books, there are twenty people signing up and enjoying cheaper access to books. I’m not going to debate the devaluing of books and whether that is right or wrong, I am going to talk about the subscription business model.

Subscription is the in thing right now. Take Netflix, pay under $10 a month and you can have access to all the movies and box sets you like. Do you have a dog? Sign up to a dogbox service for $10 a month and every month they will mail you a box filled with treats and toys. Do you or your children identify as geeks? Then sign up to Loot Crate and have crates of unknown, often exclusive merch sent to you.

Society is getting used to paying a small monthly fee to have wider access to products. It’s becoming the way we shop, or, in many cases, don’t shop, for things. People enjoy gifts being sent to them. A Loot Crate appearing in the mail with all kinds of goodies feels like a present, one you bought yourself without even realising it. Signing up to KU means you get notifications about all kinds of books and audio books just waiting for you to download.

There’s a psychological satisfaction in having paid up front and feeling that you are getting products for free… even if you know you’re not really getting it for free.

KU membership is growing and it’s a model that is going to be pushed and incentivised, by Amazon. As more, younger, shoppers start to sign up it will start to become the norm.

Soon authors who aren’t in KU will start to suffer. Especially those charging a premium for their books. If readers have a choice between accessing books in their “free” library or paying $5-10 for a book outside of their library, which do you think they will choose?
As a genre, we need to catch up to this trend and be aware that it is happening. We can’t sit on the fence and complain that KU is devaluing our books, well, you can… but I wouldn’t recommend it.

It wasn’t long ago when publishers could say that no big author is in KU and it’s only real benefit was to unknown authors. Not anymore. J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter and Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games are both now in KU, though, presumably, they have different deals regarding exclusivity. Mainstream publishers are catching onto the subscriber trend and they don’t want to be left behind. They are having to re-work their royalty structure to encompass the confusing world of KU and exclusive deals, but it’s worth it because… like it or loathe it… subscription based models are the future of book buying.

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eBook piracy vs clickbait

I’ve recently seen quite a few authors discussing that their book has been found on various piracy sites. I wanted to write a blog explaining a little bit about the difference between piracy and clickbait, as often, these piracy sites are not entirely what they seem.

If you go to Google and type the word “free” as well as a book title and an author name, you’ll be presented with pages of websites, claiming they have a link to a free copy of the eBook. Naturally, many authors see this and take it at face value and assume that their book is being pirated.

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The Novel Journey: Pricing

As part of my Novel Journey, I have been researching the world of lesfic publishing as a whole. Marketing and business consulting is my day job so it’s second nature to me to explore and investigate the industry and ask questions. Recently, I’ve been looking at a key component of book buying and selling: price.

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The three most misunderstood letters: SEO

If you’ve ever taken a gander at my FAQs, or spoken to me, you will know that writing is not my primary trade. Thankfully. I make my living through marketing, specifically, digital marketing.

Since publishing my first book, I’ve spoken to a lot of writers. Some are self-published, some are professionally published, some hope to be published. Some have written a shelf full of books and some are working on their first. The thing that seems to connect many of them is that they freely admit that they have a lot of trouble with marketing their books.

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