Monday, October 31, 2022

Up Close, Personal, and More Profitable

    As I have watched my online royalties slip from $100 a quarter to $10 with no sales showing for my most popular series due to the Tiktok scammers who read a book, then return it, cheating the author of any royalty (I mean would they put in four or more months of work and then be okay with not being paid),I am trying to be grateful for the return of book fairs and other events that let me sell my books in person. Selling my titles that I get wholesale at a modest increase, I can make two or three dollars a book versus the one dollar in royalties I earn online. My softcovers are often cheaper than at online publishers, so nice for both seller and buyer. The words I love to hear most as I sit in my tent hawking my wares is "I bought one from you last year and loved it. Which should I read next?"  You never get that kind of feedback from online sales.
     Not that everyone who browses buys. Some are just looking for freebies or jot down a title to order as a cheaper e-book. I save them the trouble by giving out a book card with all the ordering information and a synopsis on the back plus a listing of my other titles. I even keep a short stack of the three of my books that are available on audio for those who say they only listen to books and don't read. As for free stuff, my books cost me ten to twelve dollars and I sell them for fifteen. I can't afford giveaways. Long ago, I stopped giving swag. At one time, I had posters of hunky guys and foam footballs that I gave out. I doubt they ever resulted in a sale, but they did cost money, a dollar for foam footballs and seven for a poster. Now, I only give them out with sales as I found a small amount of both when I was doing inventory of my books in storage.
     I offered a foam football to anyone buying my sports romances, The Sinners series. One woman with two sons pondered Heart of a Sinner for some time, reading the back blurb, paging through it, while her sons begged for a football.  I told her I'd give her two with a sale.  Instead she snapped at her sons, "Why don't you pay for the book then," and stalked off. I image she went home and used the Tictok scam to get it for free. On the other hand, others were tickled to get a sexy guy poster with a sale.
     Some non-sales are still interesting. One asked me if I had any books in French. Nope. I can make myself understood in Spanish and German, but am far from fluent. I suggested she try the book store in town. Turned out she was the teacher for the French immersion students in town and had come here from Paris. We had a pleasant conversation about travels in Europe which I have done during a lull in business.
     At one point, a lovely swallowtail butterfly came to visit my tent and drew a lot of attention. While that butterfly didn't sell any books, one person bought a mini-painting of a monarch and another purchased a floral painting that she said reminded her of her mother's garden. Yes, I do paint but am a much better writer. Still, a sale is a sale.
     A lot of writers are introverts who hate meeting the public. Not me. I am energized by meeting fans and future fans and even total strangers in person. I enjoy public speaking and have several topics I can speak about. A book club whether large or small, I will attend if I don't have to drive too far. My mother used to say I had the gift of gab, now shut up. And so I shall.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

A Place to Write

      I admit I admire authors who can sit down in a Starbuck's, slurp coffee, and work on their latest novel. Also those who blithely settle a laptop on their food tray in a crowded airplane and create away. While I may be forming new chapters behind my closed eyes while flying, I find it difficult to write outside my chosen space---once my daughter's bedroom, now called the computer room though it still has a bed in it.        There sits my old desktop computer with the keys that still make sound when hit reminiscent of the days when I typed on an Olivetti portable typewriter, but not nearly as loud. I have a well-worn office chair comfortable enough for napping and adjusted to my height. The desk the screen sits on has enough space for my ever-present cup of hot tea, a printer, and a stack of notes to myself at my left hand because I am left-handed. Its file drawer is overstuffed with the real paper folders I keep on each book for quick reference including a list of characters and copies of my contracts. I also have the contracts on the hard drive, but you can't be too careful with legal stuff. Yeah, I am kind of old-fashioned. I don't trust the cloud. Where is it? What is it? 

     I also like peace and quiet when I write. I don't listen to music because it distracts me. I have to hum along or even sing if I like the song which is not conducive to getting words down on a page. I might leave a TV on in another room for white noise, and if any big event takes place I will be alerted by the blast of sound saying Breaking News or Tornado Warning! Sadly, this is why I saw the events of January Sixth and am aware of every school shooting. After watching those, going back to writing seems trivial, but ultimately, I need to escape into my books and craft a story that will give readers some relief from the real world. A fan recently told me that when they are down, they pick up one of my titles and always feel better at the end. A happy ending is guaranteed with every title. I was also touched when I checked my blog stats that someone in Ukraine was reading my post. I try to make them useful and amusing, but bless their heart that in an unjustly war-torn country they can give me even a few minutes of their time.

     Recently, we had some renovations done on our forty-year-old house. Every shot of the nail gun make me jump even though I'd closed the door and tried to immerse myself in writing. Can't be done. So, there is always Facebook in cases like this. I also lose lots of time to travel which I love to do. When I am on vacation I vacate my writing and simply enjoy that jet boat ride down the Snake River or the depths of Mammoth Cave. The guilt comes later when I get home and am way behind my self-imposed writing schedule.

     Then there is the struggle of sharing my favorite space with my husband who has a very nice laptop but prefers the comfy chair and the desktop, too. No problem before he retired. I used it all day, and he got it all night because I wind down around three-thirty, watch Jeopardy, and make dinner. After that, I stay off the computer. I find it makes for a better night's sleep to pack it away, watch TV, read someone else's books, or do crossword puzzles. Fortunately, my husband is an astronomer who loves to use the computer far into the night if he isn't outside observing a transit of Venus or a flyover of the space station. Still, even though he occasionally bumps me off for a zoom meeting with his planetarium friends, we still manage to get along, though I will get aggressive if I feel the need to write while he is facebooking.

     Did I mention I did not start writing until my children were grown and gone to college?  Try sharing your writing space with a teen, but now they would mostly be obsessed by their phones so not a problem. As for writing with small children around. Just forget about it.



Friday, July 8, 2022

Before you return a Book, Think

 The latest thing in the cult of free is to take advantage of Amazon's seven day return policy on books. Ha, ha! You paid $5.99 for an e-book, devoured it in two days and returned it for a refund. Do you think Amazon cares? They are a huge, rich organization and would hardly notice or care. Who does? The author, who would have earned $1.68 in royalties on a work that took months of research and writing, then editing and doing all the little details needed to get that book out from cover selection to the blurb on the back, does. That is a year's worth of effort blown off by a person who could surely afford the $5.99 or they would be using the library to get books. Even a library app pays the author ten cents for each usage, not much, but something.

Of course, these are the same people who take advantage of the page reads, paying less than a penny a page. They read all but a few pages, get the deep discount, and a royalty for that book goes from 84 cents to 48 cents. I've asked for my books to be taken out of this program, because, well, it cheats authors many of whom have to earn at least $25 in royalties just to get a quarterly check. If not, the tiny earnings are held until the end of the year, not worth the paper four checks would be printed on and mailed. These are the majority of authors. I am sure Nora Roberts doesn't feel the pinch or any of the other big names in writing. When you sell millions of copies and probably get a big advance before the books comes out, who cares about a little cheating on behalf of the reader.

Generally, I make the $25 cut, but when I see that one of my books was been returned, no idea why but I am just guessing-getting it for free, I do notice the hole punched in my royalty statement--and yes, returns are reported. It is possible to end up in the hole. On my best year, I was able to afford a new French door refrigerator by saving up all my royalties. Another year I paid my half of a trip to Alaska. I sometimes refer for this account as my travel money. Both re lovely things, but I certainly am not making a living at writing. 

I write because I enjoy it and hope my readers do, too. If borrowed from a library or scammed from Amazon, even a review would be appreciated in lieu of payment, assuming the reader did not hate the book, but we never know the why of it. Consider, do you give a panhandler begging outside Walmart and holding up a barely legible sign a dollar out of pity. I guarantee some of these folks take home more in a day than I do writing. So, have some compassion for writers, too. Pay for the damn book and put $1.68 in our pocket.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Cost of Everything

      The cost of everything is going up. Same goes for books with paper being more expensive. I find I now have to ask $23 for a book I previously sold for $19. Most of my $15 books now go for $19 or $20 as I have to reorder new copies to place in bookstores and sell at events. Higher costs are not helping my sales as people are always reluctant to try a new author for a higher amount. I do offer some of the oldest for $12, ordered in quantity back when I thought I'd need 100 copies of every book to sell. Ha! But these these still sell at book fairs. When I must reorder, they too will go up price or I will earn nothing selling them. 

     Another blow to the indie and small press authors such as myself is the drying up of events to offer their books to the public. I mentioned before the entire cessation of events during Covid, but few are coming back yet. Libraries were holding mass authors' rows to accommodate all who wanted book signings. During Coivd, more people than ever got around to writing that first book. The demand for outlets is still there, but few exist. So far, none of the libraries in our area who did this have restored the events. Books don't sell well in libraries where people expect to get them for free in-house or online from Hoopla and Overdrive. I know I sell books in this way from the modest royalty I get from each read. Mostly, I go to these in events just to get my name out there and hope they do use one of these services or buy from Amazon later.

     The greatest blow came recently from our own state library association who usually sponsors an authors' row at their annual conference in the exhibits. A table and chair is provided, and because of the demand for space, each author gets two hours to peddle their wares. Again, not much is sold there, but you do have a chance to give out information on your books to librarians. Still a member of our association, I often visit with librarian friends and even some of the sales persons.  The conference is back after two years, and I was looking forward to it, even willing buy the high-priced gas to get there, only to discover that indie and small press authors must now pay $200 for a booth around the rim of the exhibits. I suspect new people are in charge of the conference, but really, are they delusional that 99% of us can afford that much in order to sell two or three books after traveling a long distance?  Maybe if four authors can cram into a booth, it could be done, but personally, I will rarely spend more than $50 for a space anywhere. Just can't afford it and the results are usually poor.  Might as well pay Amazon more for sponsored advertising.

     I will be at the Hot NOLA Summer Author Event in Harahan, LA on July 30th at the VFW Hall. No need to fight New Orleans traffic to be there. Sixty authors are attending, and to keep expenses down, I will share a table with an author friend. It runs from noon to five. Food will be available. Gift baskets will be raffled and along with mystery boxes sold. Sounds like fun and affordable. I do hope my three hour drive to get there will be worth the effort. The writers of NOLA are putting a lot of effort into this event. I hope it goes well for all of us. Hope to see some of you there.

     

Thursday, April 28, 2022

If I Could Help, I Would, but...

       As I noted last month, opportunities to sell my books by hand are gradually returning. I've done several arts and crafts fairs, a literary festival, and an art walk that also required me to schlepp some of my paintings along to show--but I really wanted to sell books.  I always meet interesting people, just wish more would buy a book and not ask me for advice on getting published. I write mostly romance, historicals, and some main stream with romantic leanings. My output seems impressive, three racks of books holding thirty-two titles.  But as I have to explain, I am not prolific. I've been writing for eighteen years. That comes to about two books a year.. Being e-published means they never go out of print, that's all, unless the small press closes.

     I have no idea why would-be children's authors approach me.  That's a whole different world from mine, but as a former librarian, I can say they need great illustrations and an original story that will appeal to children.  My press doesn't do this kind of work nor do most e-presses. Getting on with a major publisher is a long hard road full of rejections. Then, I refer them to others who have self-published this kind of material, which is what they usually end up doing. Along the way, they discover it ain't cheap to get a full color picture book printed..

     Memoirs and/or ghost writing memoirs is another thing I have no experience in doing. Lots of people want to write about their wonderful mothers, and I can applaud that even though mine wasn't.  Unless their mother is the love child of Elvis, big presses aren't going to be interested.  Although once I was approached about getting a family story out and after telling them how hard that would be, they finally revealed their uncle was a major mobster. Well then, pitch that to an agent and off you go. Saddest of all an elderly woman wanted me to write her story of being in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.  I encouraged her to record her story and put it into good hands like the Holocaust Museum.  I had no skills in that area, but do hope she did as I suggested.

      Then there was the eighty-two-year old woman who hobbled up to my booth and asked me to write an expose true crime story about her neighbors who were upsetting her life by running a drug operation that might be undercover next door. I had to tell her I thought that would be both dangerous and possibly illegal, something the police should handle, but she said they won't listen to her.  As I pointed out, I only write fiction, and sorry to say, suggested she ask a judge who was at the festival for advice. Passing the buck.

     A friend asked that I give some advice to a relative who had a book she wanted to publish, and could she contact me.  Oh, sure. Turned out to be erotica, which does have a market, but again, not my style. I informed her that my publisher did have an erotica department that might be interested, and learned she'd already self-published with Amazon and had a better PR campaign going than I did.  Nice talking to her, however.

     I've had to tell numerous people I don't read or edit manuscripts and certainly wouldn't do the last for free which is very time consuming.  I suggest they hire a real editor and do what they say.  Do they?  Nope.  Most just go ahead and self-publish some very bad books. Frankly, people don't take advice well, but still they ask a person who is no help at all.

     

Thursday, March 31, 2022

On the Road Again

   With some trepidation, I boarded an airplane for the first time in three years. Masks required in the airport and on the planes where I swear the seats and aisles were even narrower than before--or maybe I gained weight during Covid. My destination was lovely Savannah for a mother/daughter trip. Once landed, I saw few wore masks which made me glad I'd been vaccinated and boosted as the city was crowded with traffic and tourists.

     Now, when I travel I always carry with me a selection of book cards, postcard-sized with my book covers on one side and a blurb, a listing of all my titles, and contact information on the back. I give these out at every opportunity. Before I got off the plane, I'd handed one to my seatmate who had an actual book in her hands. Generally, I ask what a person is reading, explaining that I am interested because I am a retired librarian. Gradually, I work my own books into the conversation and try to pick out a card the reader might be interested in. Not everyone wants a sexy guy card, so I also carry pretty covers for others. Occasionally, I am rebuffed, and if so, simply go back to reading my own book. 

     By the time my daughter picked me up, the day had turned rainy. We decided to get a hot cup of tea and shortbread cookies at the Tea Room. We took our time, talked to the very knowledgeable server, and stayed an hour and a half because no one else was in the place, though seeing us having such a good time, customers did start showing up, getting tea to go. The conversation turned to reading, and as it turned out, our server loved romance novels. Needless to say, I gave her a card, too. 

     Next stop, the indie bookstore just around the corner as it was still raining and not great for strolling on brick sidewalks. At Shaver's, two fluffy cats greeted us or at least deemed to accept a pet. We read the witty cards to each other and browsed the many small rooms. I did purchase one of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton novels and could absolutely envision my new Regency series shelved near them. As I checked out, I left another card for the manager in case she might want to consider adding my books to her inventory. Back home, I did follow up with an email and got a most gracious no due to limited shelf space which was kind of her. But, she had checked my web site and told me about a literary festival I might want to attend next year. Probably too far to travel and too expensive, but I'll consider it.

      That evening with the rain still coming down, we met up with the rest of our mother/daughter group. Other than going out for dinner rather late, we stayed in and played UNO. I offered one of my books that I'd brought along as an UNO prize. I won the first hand, my daughter the second, until we finally got a winner on the third round. I personalized the book for the winner and gave out cards to the rest.

      Next day, more rain. We got tickets on an on-and-off bus to get around, toured the cathedral and had lattes at a little coffee shop across the street before hopping on the tram again to get to the waterfront for shopping and a late lunch of shrimp dishes. Still raining,. my daughter was sheltering me with a little, folding umbrella. Out of the blue or rather gray sky, a man with a much larger umbrella offered to trade with her. He said he had plenty as his company gave them out. We took his offer. 

     Despite the weather, we were not deterred from going on our Ghost Tour that evening. The rain added to the ghostly atmosphere, dripping from the Spanish moss and slicking the gravestones in the cemetery. We weren't required to get down, but did have a rest stop at a bar and were allowed to bring drinks aboard. I heard a few tales I could work into plots if I ever do another ghost story other than The Courville Rose. The guide loved to read. I left a card for her along with a tip for a fun experience.

    The sun returned on our last day. All wanted to go to the beach. I am not fond of hot sand, murky water, and sunburn. I elected to stay in the beach pavilion where I had food, water, a bathroom, and plenty of people to talk to--about books. Also amusing, the pigeons and grackles courted and stole food from the unsuspecting. A fisherman pulled a three-foot shark from the water near my friends. We rejoined to go to a great pizza dive for dinner, then a cocktail-making class at the Prohibition Museum, fun and interesting though I don't drink much. By the time, I boarded the plane to return, I'd nearly run out of book cards.

     Some people are tickled to meet a real author. Others might just be polite enough to accept a card and throw them out first chance, but some will use them as bookmarks. No telling if I will get any sales out of this. But I would say don't leave home without yours.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Where have all the Copy Editors gone?

      If you are a published author, you already know what a line or copy editor is. They work in the third phase of getting a book published. By the time a book reaches this vital person, it has been gone over with the proverbial fine tooth comb by the editor and the author to create the cleanest, most cohesive copy possible. The line editor then goes over it one more time to flush out any remaining grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors that remain. They might also check for accuracy and consistency. Every word must be read and considered. While I pride myself on submitting clean manuscripts, I have been saved a time or two by a sharp line editor, one who caught my misspelling of a pin worn on clothes as a broach when it should have been brooch.

      Usually, these people work without making comments, but once I received a remark through my regular editor that the copy editor said she'd never had a manuscript with fewer errors. Quite the compliment. However, I recently got a suggestion for a person whom I think aspired to be a regular editor suggesting a change in plot.  Nope, not at this point in the publishing process. The next step is sending a galley or final proof of the book for the author to approve. I usually still find a few errors, but things a reader would most likely miss. In general, I don't notice any subtle changes a line editor might have made which is as it should be.

     I have no idea if copy editors enjoy reading books on the cusp of being published. They would certainly have a first look at a variety of genres. No idea either if they get to choose the types they want to read, but I doubt they do. This job could be fun for a person who loves to read and pick over grammar and spelling errors. Now, I imagine big New York publishing houses have a whole slew of copy editors tolling away for a decent salary with benefits. Not so in small press e-publishing. I only recently learned when I got a little testy about a line editor holding up my book for six weeks (which delays publication) that these folks are not paid. They get a tiny percentage of the sale price of the books sold. I receive a thirty to thirty-five percent royalty, and believe me, that can be way less than a dollar per book depending on its price. Also, the copy editors, like the authors, are paid only quarterly. Surprise! You earned very little for your hard work. Most might do this in their spare time for a little extra cash. With so many books being written during the Covid seclusion, a big backlog exists in every point of publishing, but we cannot move forward without the vital work of the copy editor.

    If not totally discouraged by now, I know Wings ePress is looking for copy editors. Contact Jeanne Howard (executive-editor@wingsepress.com). A Google search would reveal plenty of these jobs is my guess. I did contact a friend who delights in correcting people's grammar (former English teacher), but she gave me a firm no. She only likes to do it orally. I can only say if you find any errors in this blog, I did not have a copy editor to go over it.