Why I Unpublished My Art Books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why-i-unpublished-art-books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Last month, I unpublished all of them from Amazon and I removed the permafree book from Smashwords and their distribution chain. This month, I unpublished one of two remaining books.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!

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.

Targeting Genre

2015-11-18 target bulls eye darts arrowsI’ll say it upfront, I don’t know much about genre targeting. I also have a funny feeling I’m doing pretty poorly at it. (Although I had another author suggest that what I’d done was create my own sub-genre, “family suspense.”) I guess time will tell whether the reading public are interested in my family drama/suspense style of writing–cuz I’m also stubborn-minded enough to pursue this idea. Everything’s worth a shot once, right?

However, I really ought to learn a thing or two more about proper genre targeting. And I’ve found a great way to do that!

2016-03-30 Targeting Genre

What Is Genre Targeting?

2016-03-30 weather vane, arrow, target, direction, sky, windAs I understand it, targeting a genre means you learn your chosen niche well enough that you understand reader expectations for that genre, then you write to satisfy those expectations. That doesn’t mean writing to fill a cookie cutter; just that there are certain rules–from cover art to plot line–that should be followed to cue your reader in to what kind of story this is. For instance, it wouldn’t be romance if the primary plot weren’t about two people falling in love.

Where Can You Learn More About Genre Targeting?

2016-03-30 target bulls eyeI’ve just admitted, I don’t know much about the topic. But fortunately, I know someone who does, and her course looks pretty darn interesting! C. S. Lakin of the popular Live, Write, Thrive blog is the instructor on a new course all about how to sell better through targeting your chosen genre. Here are seven new skills you’ll learn in her course:

  • identify top-selling genres
  • pick a genre to write in that you’ll love
  • deconstruct best sellers in your target genre
  • structure your novel to fit perfectly into your target genre
  • pick a perfect title and cover design for success
  • prepare your online product pages to jump to the top of best-seller lists
  • price your book for your target market

As mentioned by one of her testimonials, she even goes into the very important topic of how to land your book in the right categories at Amazon!

If that looks as interesting to you as it does to me, I’d recommend you go check it out.

Targeting Genre for Big Sales

P.S., that’s an affiliate link, so Carrie and I will get part of the proceeds if you use it. But I know you love us. (Grins.)

So tell us, do you use genre targeting for better book sales? How does it work for you? Or are you going to give C. S. Lakin’s course a try?