Why I Unpublished My Art Books

The driving force behind Indie Plot Twist has always been to help you write and publish the best books possible using the tools that are the best fit for you. From before the first post, Danielle and I intended to share our experiences in creating and marketing books.

Part of that picture is something most of us never think we’ll do. Unpublish something we’ve published.

But lets face it. Even the most popular bestsellers have a shelf-life. New books are published and rise to bestseller status. Old bestsellers fade down the list and eventually drop off it.

Traditional publishing houses eventually stop publishing books. That’s where the out-of-print list comes from.

We’ve all thought that independent publishing means you never have to unpublish a book and that’s true. You can leave a book published for as long as you like.

But there may come a time when the better course of action is to unpublish a book.

why-i-unpublished-art-books

My Story

I’ve always been both an artist and a writer. The two don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, but they are both creative outlets for me. And lessons I learn in one area often translate into better work practices in the other.

I’ve been a professional artist since high school. Suffice it to say, a long time.

carrie-lewis-art-blog-headerIn 2007 or 2008, I started my first art blog and it gradually transitioned from being about me and my art to being about how I draw and paint. In other words, it became a teaching blog.

The how-to demonstrations in which I described how I drew various drawings and painted portraits were so popular that I decided to publish a couple of books. That happened in 2013.

Last month, I unpublished all of them from Amazon and I removed the permafree book from Smashwords and their distribution chain. This month, I unpublished one of two remaining books.

Why?

There are two primary reasons for this decision.

snickers-mini-candy-barsFirst is the fact that while I’ve sold enough books to earn royalties from Amazon almost every month and from Smashwords every quarter, the books have never been as popular as I’d hoped they’d be. My last royalty payment from Amazon was 21 cents. Not even enough for a candy bar.

Mind, I’m grateful for every penny that comes my way. They do have a habit of adding up.

But the tax paperwork involved with Amazon required a lot more time to assemble than those pennies paid for. My time can, quite frankly, be better used elsewhere.

Second, my primary marketing push is now and has always been the art blog. The more it has grown, the more more true that has become. Yes, I had MyBookTable installed on the art blog and yes, it did get traffic. Unfortunately, that traffic did not translate to proven sales.

I could have spent time marketing books through Amazon and Smashwords and in other ways, but I didn’t think that was the best way to market this content.

Nor did it advance my overall goal with the blog.

A Better Alternative

The Complementary Method for Colored Pencil 600Given my readership and their needs, the best way to make sure this content got into the hands of the people most likely to find it helpful was to present it as a series of lessons rather than as books.

I decided to offer content as PDF documents students could download and print. I had reason to believe that would work because I’d purchased that type of content myself.

I started with the permafree book. I unpublished that in late June, updated the content, removed some of the book-specific content, and offered it as a free downloadable PDF formatted so it could be printed.

I will soon be selling the unpublished book in the same way.

I’ve also begun converting existing content into lesson downloads, beginning with the most popular post. But that’s a post for another time.

How Things Are Going

It’s still too early to tell you how things are going. I uploaded the first two documents Monday of this week.

But I am hopeful.

After all, this method of content delivery gives me more control over what’s published, offers a much higher profit margin than self publishing anywhere else, and makes my blog the point of sale on everything I have to offer. What’s not to like?

Conclusion

This marketing tactic isn’t likely to work with most fiction, since so many readers use ereaders for pleasure reading.

But if you’re writing and publishing nonfiction content and especially content that is designed to be educational, you might want to consider this option in addition to publishing more traditional books.

It can be a great source of more direct income and can also be a great marketing tool to point people to books available in other formats.

Kindle Scout – Another Publishing Option for Authors

A Guest Post by Teresa Roman

2016-05-11 book write writing magnifying glassIn 2015, I finished writing my first book, Back To Us. I combed through it repeatedly looking for errors, and finally sent it to an editor. Then I found a book formatter and cover artist. A few weeks later I had a fully edited and formatted book along with a cover I loved. I was ready for the next step, which at that time I thought would be to self-publish.

But then I got an email from Kindle Scout. According to their website, “Kindle Scout is a reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.”

2016-06-06 Kindle Scout

The Process

2015-07-13 Handwriting2Here’s how it works: You go to the kindle scout website – www.kindlescout.com. From there, click on the Submit Your Book link, which will take you to a page that explains the process of submitting your book. At the bottom of that page you will be invited to start your book submission. To proceed you will need an Amazon account.

One of the things that attracted me to this program was the promise of being informed whether or not my book would be selected in 45 days or less. For those of you who have ever tried sending out query letters, I’m sure you can relate to how frustrating it can be to wait and wait and wait, not knowing when or if you’ll receive a reply from an agent or publisher.

In order to submit your book to Kindle Scout, you will need to have a fully-edited manuscript as well as a book cover. Once your book is submitted it stays on Kindle Scout’s website for 30 days. During this 30 day nomination period the goal is to get as many people to nominate your book as possible, and keep your book on the coveted Hot and Trending list.

For some writers, myself included, this part of the process was the most difficult. I worried about crossing that fine line between asking for nominations and bugging people. Some ideas to garner nominations include announcing your Kindle Scout campaign on social media, emailing your friends and family, and sending out a newsletter from your website.

While having a good number of nominations, and being on the Hot and Trending list is important, these are not the only determining factors Kindle Scout uses during their selection process. In fact, which book gets selected and why is still sort of a mystery, as some authors with a huge number of nominations haven’t had their work selected, while others with far fewer nominations have.

A few days after my Kindle Scout campaign ended, I received an email informing me that my book was selected. I was beyond thrilled. As a then debut author, this news was huge for me.

The Pros and Cons

How to focus while you're writing

How to focus while you’re writing

Fast forward ten months…Since the time my book was selected I’ve been able to observe some of the pros and cons to choosing Kindle Scout as a publishing option.

For one thing, your e-book royalty rate is lower, which means less money for you. If you wind up selling more copies because of the marketing you receive, the lower royalty rate might be worth it.

While your book will be eligible for pricing promotions periodically, not every Kindle Scout book gets the same promotions. Some fellow Kindle Scout authors have found not having control over their book’s pricing to be a big negative. Essentially you are counting pretty heavily on Amazon to market your book. However, if you are lucky enough to have your book chosen for a promotion, it can have a major positive impact on your sales.

I truly believe that without Kindle Scout I would not have sold nearly as many copies of Back to Us as I have.

So if you’ve been struggling to get your books noticed, or are a debut author intimidated by self-publishing in such a hugely competitive market, Kindle Scout is definitely an option worth looking into.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them below and I will get back to you.

About the Author

2016-06-06 Teresa RomanIf it was possible to be born with a book in her hands, that’s how Teresa Roman would’ve entered this world. Her passion for reading is what inspired her to become a writer. She loves the way stories can take you to another time and place. Teresa currently lives in beautiful Sacramento, CA with her husband, three adorable children and a dog named Parker that her son convinced them to adopt. When she’s not at her day job or running around with her kids, you can find her in front of the computer writing, or with her head buried in another book.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

About Her Book 

2016-06-06 Teresa Roman - Back To UsAbandoned by her abusive parents at fourteen, Jessica knows what it means to struggle–and she’s tired of it. Though Jessica’s vowed that getting her college degree is the only thing she has time for, a summer internship brings Justin into her life, and she can’t stop herself from falling in love with him.

But Justin has scars of his own. A tour of duty in Afghanistan has left him with wounds–some visible, others not. A medical discharge from the Navy leaves Justin struggling to make sense of his new reality. Then he meets Jessica, who brings him more happiness than he thought possible. But can two broken people leave the past behind them to make a new future together, or will the pain they’ve fought to free themselves of tear them apart?

Buy It on Amazon!

Why Failure Is Awesome

2016-05-18 happy dance joyHow do you feel about failure?

I grew up believing that failure was not an option. You had to do stuff right the first time, every time, and it was better to do nothing at all, rather than try and fail. An attitude like this is obviously a massive road block for anyone who wants to be an author. There’s a lot to learn–from the actual writing of the books to the marketing that sells them. What to do about failure?

2016-05-18 Why Failure Is Awesome

Embracing Your Mistakes

2016-05-18 happy joy stars successFortunately for me, I didn’t truly believe in my heart of hearts that failure was a bad thing. Honestly, how realistic is it that you’ll be able to do everything perfectly the first time? Everybody does it wrong the first time. Well, nearly everybody. We can’t all be Nancy Drew, after all.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, failure is hard-wired into the success process. We try, we fail, we try again. That’s just how it works! And those who don’t try again are those who don’t reap the top successes.

But most importantly, I saw from my life experiences that I learned more from my mistakes than I did from my triumphs. Once I knew how to do something wrong, it was easier to figure out how to do it right.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Far from it! Read the inspiring stories from these other authors who also embraced the process of failure.

What Author-Publishers Can Learn from Their Mistakes

by Samantha Warren on the Alliance of Independent Authors website

Samantha had unexpected initial success, raking in $12,000 off an ad on Pixel of Ink. But, by her own admission, she took it for granted and didn’t continue her promotion efforts. Was she devastated? No! She picked herself up and tried again. Read more!

The Two BEST Reasons to Fail as a Writer

by Marcy McKay on The Write Practice

The creative process can involve trial-and-error, too, as Marcy McKay says in this post. “My books feel more like I’m assembling a jigsaw puzzle without the box top showing the final photo.” Who else can relate? (Raising hand!)

McKay draws examples from the book Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. Catmull clearly embraces failure, as well. “Stop panicking that you’re doing it all wrong,” McKay says. “You’re not. Keep writing.” She gives two excellent reasons why you should fail. Read more!

Building a Business One F*** Up at a Time

featuring JB Glossinger on the Self Publishing Podcast 

2016-05-18 happy joy laugh smileI’ve included this one for those of you who prefer audio. (Though if you couldn’t tell from the title, I should advise you that there is explicit language!) Glossinger works for an hour every day, then plays golf. How did he get there? One failure at a time. From the show notes: “What’s the ratio of failure to success? 90/10: can you guess which is which?” Listen Now!

 

Now you tell us: How do you feel about failure? Do you feel any better about it now that you’ve seen a number of authors who actively embrace it?

Brew Your Own Success: Aspirations of a Millionaire

2016-02-01 latte coffee laptop computer tableIt’s been a month, folks, since the first installment in the Brew Your Own Success series–documenting my journey toward making a full-time income indie publishing. (I decided to change the name to “Success” instead of “Adventure.”)

Let’s review the goals I set at the beginning of March and see how I did.

2016-04-06 Brew Your Own Success Post 2

Finish Edits on Book One of the Mailboat Series

DSC03349 (640x480)Apparently I’d planned on finishing all edits–second draft through final version–in the month of March. Did I? Nope. However, I did finish second draft and ironed out several plot holes, and I’m pretty darn proud of myself!

What did I learn?  Just like I tend to write one scene a day, I tend to edit just one scene a day. I’d like to see if I can double that number for faster editing as I work on Third Draft.

Invite 50 Bloggers to Read and Review Journaling to Become a Better Writer

Journaling Front Cover lores (432x648)Once again, I set the bar high for myself. I calculated that I should be able to contact five bloggers every day–a goal that doesn’t sound all that hard. How many bloggers did I actually contact? Only 14! That means that out of 23 working days in the month of March, I let 9 slip by without contacting any bloggers at all. Somebody please slap my wrist.

What did I learn?  Lots. I’ll be writing an entire post on this subject. For now I’ll say that reaching out to bloggers is time-consuming, but not at all hard. And while it takes very little time or effort to make the initial contact, your time investment increases as you have return email to respond to!

Mess Around with a Facebook Ad for Signups to my Personal Newsletter

2016-01-06 Facebook Icon (made by me)All I did with this was to think about what I wanted to use as a lead magnet to get people to sign up to my mailing list. I’ve narrowed it down to either the first few chapters of Mailboat or interviews with the four main characters or a combination of both. I just haven’t gotten around to making that magnet! Once I have, I can create a lead generation ad with Facebook to exchange the book for people’s email addresses.

What did I learn?  That if you don’t make something a priority, it will slip through the cracks.

Add Freelancing Back Into the Mix

Fountain pen and spiral journalThis wasn’t originally on my list of things to accomplish in March, but I decided to add it at mid-month. It’s important sometimes to roll with new ideas!

I’ve done various forms of freelance work before, and I decided to add it back in for some extra income. I decided I’ll probably focus on copy editing and proofreading, but I’m willing to take any number of odd jobs.

The hard part is finding clients. I made it my goal to pitch at least one client every day. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to making a spreadsheet, so that was more of a soft goal. For April, I’d like to make this a hard goal, start a spreadsheet, and be able to report back some solid results to you guys.

What I learned:  It takes a lot of pitching before you get a bite, and your first offer may not be your dream job. My initial pitches kept getting turned down in a deluge of competition. I finally landed my first client on the last day of the month! But it was for designing some simple book covers–not editing. However, the client loved my work, so it’s all good. But freelancing is another area where I’ll probably write an entire blog post. Stay tuned!

A Note from My Uncle

2015-02-20 Guy in Coffee Shop (2)I had a great conversation with my uncle over coffee the other day. He’s a businessman, and he’s done very well for himself, and I look up to his example. So I was extremely pleased when he set a bar for me: He told me to become a millionaire.

What did I learn?  I’ve known all along that I have a strong lazy streak. I’ve also known all along that the only person standing between me and success is me. That means that if I want to become a millionaire like my uncle recommended, I need to overcome me and work as hard as he does. I’ve been waking up in the mornings and thinking about the expectation he set for me and imagining that a million dollars will be mine tomorrow if I get through the goals I’ve set for myself today.

Because in a sense, that’s true.

April Goals

2015-11-18 target bulls eye darts arrowsThese are mostly variations of my March goals.

  • Finish second and third drafts of Mailboat: Book One
  • Invite 21 bloggers to review Journaling to Become a Better Writer
  • Create a lead magnet to use for my Facebook ads
  • Pitch one freelancing client every day
  • Put in 10 hours a day instead of 8

You’ll note, I expanded my expectations for editing, but cut back on my expectations for reaching out to bloggers. I did well in editing one scene per day with Mailboat, so I’m “rewarding” myself by increasing my expectations. Maybe I can edit two scenes per day?

I did poorly in contacting bloggers, so I’m lowering my expectations to a new goal I think I can reach (just one blogger every single working day). If I succeed, I’ll have done better than I did last month, where I missed 9 days altogether!

Also, I’ve added a whole new task: freelancing. In addition to the list above, I have plenty of smaller responsibilities—like two blogs, various social media accounts, etc.—that eat up a lot of time. I’ve decided to expand the number of hours I work every day to fit it all in. My new goal is to work 10 hours a day.

After all, I have a million dollars to earn.

What are your goals for April? Let us know in the comments! I’ll check back in May and we’ll see how we did.