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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Me and Julia and Tony!

While the rest of New York frets about their possible impending death under the steady drizzle that portents a hurricane the likes of which have not been seen since Biblical times, I am charging my Kindle and looking at how I may be doing in my book sales.

Before business, I wanted to see if there was anything at the Kindle store I’d like to pick up, but was curious to see how the cookbook (my own bestseller) was doing. Things have changed because it is no longer free. New ball game.

It is rated #7 in gastronomy essays. You’d think that would be the exciting part, but to me it is the fact that I follow Anthony Bourdain and Julia Child. To me, that’s a home run!

Two weeks ago Kindle sales were 134 units. Not a bad showing, but it is time for another surge of marketing to see if I can make those numbers go up a little bit. It is a time consuming process, but well worth the effort.

Self-published authors can never rest on their laurels. I will likely be knocked off this list a few times. Still, it is sweet to see your name in such good company. If I accomplish nothing else, this moment was awesome on a very personal level. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The story so far...

The second week in August hasn’t been too cruel in terms of units sold at the Kindle Store. It’s down but only by about a dozen copies, so I guess the downturn predicted by many in the Kindle Boards did not really apply to my title.

Again, there is absolutely no action at Barnes & Noble, just as if the titles did not exist at all. Frankly, I don’t know what to do about it. Since April there have been exactly four sales for different titles, so I know they are listed.

My own theory is that there are far more Kindles than Nooks, but this theory is suspect in that it has no basis in anything other than a quick judgment.

At Smashwords, the action has slowed down, but there are still downloads. The cookbook is up to 1547, the novel has 72 downloads of the sample (and a potential for sales when the readers dig into it). The short story has 37 downloads.

Since the last update none of the titles seem to have shipped to the other retailers and reporting is rather slow in coming. I’m patient, I can wait it out.

Over at the Kindle Boards, I tested a cover that I wasn’t so sure about and apparently my initial misgivings were right on the money. It confused the heck out of some and, generally they disliked some or most elements of it.

That old adage about not judging a book by its cover is silly because the cover is the first thing we see and what compels us, along with the title – if in the right category. We all judge the book by its cover. It conveys what we might find inside, visual clues of where the story might take us. If the cover sucks, many of the readers will quickly bypass it and its description and move on. This is no way to do business in an ebook market.

Ultimately, what I find truly valuable here is a community that is open to offer help and advice. Instant, intelligent panels. Priceless!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Future is Here. Or a Dream...

There is an interesting piece in The Guardian about the business of publishing, ebooks and Amazon as a factor driving prices down. I don’t particularly agree with all the author’s conclusions, but it is worth a read and further discussion.

The blog piece titled “The true price of publishing,” pretends to have the answer to whether ebooks have reignited the question of what we're really paying publishers for – the physical product, or what's written inside?

Personally, I think Mr. Skidelsky simplifies the matter to an extend that it ignores several market factors – not the least of which is that a good number of writers have shun the traditional publishers and opted for self-publishing, and these have in some respects helped set the prices and expectations of readers.

To say that this alone has served to bring prices down for ebooks is also an oversimplification. It is, however, a factor that must be considered.

I do find it almost comical that Amazon seems to strike the fear of an unforgiving god into the industry, but it remains slow in adapting to this new world that has opened before them and grows stronger by the day. I have often argued that the biggest hurdle the publishing industry must defeat is its own insistence on perpetrating this Victorian model of business that has been increasingly failing them for the last few decades.

Then again, maybe they’ll wish upon a Perseid Shower and this will have been nothing but a trendy phase, a fad…

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kitty's Rolling in It Now!

Reading some of the comments on Kindleboards would make anyone cringe. The summer months tend to mean lean sales for many. As I read the authors’ comments, the idea that everything in life has its cycles danced around my head.

Especially in a day and age of e-readers, it stands to reason that people have stacks of unread offerings waiting. Summer reading then becomes a matter of enjoying your own backlist. I prefer to think that folks would rather spend their time doing that and enjoying what limited good weather they are afforded by nature than searching for new books to buy…

I could be wrong.

Some books have a shelf-life (but these would be vanity pieces by celebutards). My titles aren’t dated and I expect that they’ll sell for quite a bit, if I’m fortunate. Patience is a very real test when self-publishing.

I just got paid my first royalties and it feels awesome! It’s not a fortune but it is all mine. This is only part of the reason I did the work. It is a good foundation to what I wanted to create before I went back to work.

Jobs should start opening up en masse in publishing in the next few weeks and this is when things turn around for me. That’s also very exciting because while there are many jobs out there, the ones for me are somewhat limited right now (and the competition is killer!).

Meanwhile, I have created a nice little niche for myself and can build on it. That was part of the plan, so I am very satisfied with the first benchmark.

I can save this chunk of change or spend it at Trader Joe’s for an end of summer spread. The point is that I accomplished something I can be proud of and that I can expand upon for the rest of my days.

The Family Tree is finally finished and all that remains is editing. The memoir short is ready for editing as well. I’ll share news as it develops. For now, I will allow myself a moment to celebrate; but only a moment, can’t rest on your laurels in this business!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"I ain't gonna eat that!"

Since April, when I began this experiment in self-publishing, I have had relative success at Smashwords.

The short story has 35 downloads. The novel has 66 downloads and 7 units sold. The cookbook has sold 8 copies (since I put it up as a “set-your-your-price”) plus 1,526 free downloads. It has been a slow but relatively steady progress.

At least for the moment, I can conclude that I may not be able to retire on my self-published work, but I can expect modest royalties. Not bad given the effort, but I can up the ante by tweaking my marketing plan.

It all remains very interesting and exciting – especially because the market is still evolving.

I was very excited this afternoon when I got an e-mail notification about a review for the cookbook. My heart sank when the first word was a typo (This can’t end well!).

She hated it. She did not like the way it was written, she did not find one recipe worth a try. You know that proverb about how you can’t please all the people all the time? This reviewer is their leader.

I appreciate her opinion, even if I do not agree with her (obviously). A collector of cookbooks, she especially disliked the structure of the book – I supposed she wanted a more traditional Western format. But what really saddens me is that she couldn’t find a single recipe to inspire her.

With this particular reader I failed. What I wished for more than anything was for someone to read the essays or even the recipes and want to taste, to cook, to experiment with ingredients.

I was hoping that I could take the criticism, when it inevitably came, and be able to use it constructively towards other projects (like I am doing by compiling the Family Tree edition). I’m not sure what to do with this review other than feel bad she couldn’t find one thing to try out. She mentions a 30-year-old book she loved. She knows what she likes. I simply did not wet her palate.

Am I upset she gave the book a bad review? Not really. She tried it and it wasn’t her cup of tea. I can live with that.

I would be upset if someone tried one of my recipes and it killed them.

Folks offering up their opinion are just exercising an inalienable right. And there’s no accounting for taste, is there?