70% of Nothing: The Reality of Indie Publishing

By Lisa Maliga, Copyright 2015

computerscreenI barely passed basic math in seventh grade, but I’ve learned a lot about numbers, percentages and book rankings since 2010.

On October 21, I released my $2.99 novel, Notes from Nadir, which I had serialized via my blog of the same title. The price was chosen because I would earn a 70% royalty rate. I sold four copies the first month, the same number in November, and soon the book was ignored.

By February 2011, I had five novels on Amazon and a few other stores. The titles were previously published online and I had regained my full rights. Sales in the dawn of e-publishing [2000-2004] were minimal and I noticed nothing had changed, except that I was now doing all the work.

I self-published my nonfiction titles as I had extensive experience making soap and bath and body products. Over time, my eBooks were available on 12 other Amazon marketplaces like the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany, etc. I uploaded titles to B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, CreateSpace [paperbacks], iTunes, and Draft2Digital. I joined AuthorsDen, Manic Readers, Twitter, Face Book and WordPress. I’ve had my own website since 2001 and this year I launched a newsletter and offered free eBooks. I have two instructional videos and two book trailers on YouTube, and I joined Pinterest because I like photography.

When it comes to nonfiction books, I’ve discovered that it’s exceedingly difficult to get linkbacks/mentions from companies/sources that are listed. I revised one of my titles to include several photos and interview some suppliers. While I provide their links and contact information, they won’t add a link to my eBook on their website, nor mention it in a newsletter/blog.

Why are those listed suppliers unable to provide a link? I’m asking for no money and in many cases have even spent money on their product[s]! I offered them a free copy of my eBook in their preferred format.

Don’t these suppliers realize that they can make money from eBooks? Should a consumer read it and want to buy supplies, that supplier has just picked up some biz? Also, if a supplier has an Amazon or B&N affiliate link, they’ll get money for each copy sold from their website. [I realize that not all websites sell via Amazon/B&N].

Indie writers are easy to ignore. They have no agents, managers or publicists to get the word of their eBooks out there. Ironically, while many of the bath and body suppliers are fond of the term FAIR TRADE, they won’t do a simple link exchange which would actually benefit their own company!

But I kept writing until my titles increased from 1 to 32, almost evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction. Contrary to the myth that more books equal more sales, I’ve found the opposite to be true. As of August 2015, I have 7 more titles yet I’ve earned 30% less than I did in June 2014 on Amazon.

Approximately 90,000 eBooks are released on Amazon every month. The chances of any book being seen are in the league of unlikely to very unlikely.

How does a writer earn a decent living by writing eBooks? Four years ago, I saw a pattern. They wrote an eBook or two, especially a series or serial, blogged, went to other authors’ blogs and left comments. Those other authors had a larger following, so the neophyte eBook author sucked up to the “bigger authors” and dished out excellent book reviews, hoping to get the same treatment for their books. Even after that exhausting circle of writing, praising other writers, and occasionally having other writers praise you, they still hadn’t seen an increase in book sales. Others have speculated that at the start of the self-pubbing boom, some authors bought dozens of good reviews on Fiverr, thus launching their careers.  A self-published author/blogger exhorted their followers to write a book, write a second book, a third, and repeat indefinitely. Unsurprisingly, that author wrote a book about how to write and market books.

After releasing my twentieth title, I thought there would be more sales. I uploaded a horror novella that had small blocks of white spaces appearing randomly throughout the book. No one contacted me about it because I never sold a single copy of the aptly titled An Author’s Nightmare.

Since then, I’ve changed how I perceive indie publishing. Whenever I upload an eBook, or even a paperback edition, it’s not publishing, it’s uploading a manuscript. I also uploaded three freebies; hoping readers would discover my other titles. Occasionally, they did.

So, how does an “indie” author get noticed? By advertising?

Advertisers are popping up all over the place like psychedelic mushrooms. They’ll send your book’s links to the best potential customers — readers. Sometimes grand promises are made of thousands of readers willing to download or buy your book. I tried getting a $2.99 novel out to 106,000 Face Book fans. The result? Zip. I could have done that myself, as I’m a member of more than 50 book-related groups. In fact, I have. The result has been similar. With some advertisers, you’ll get a few sales or a few hundred downloads for a freebie. Then what? Not much. Your book plummets in rank, maybe you get a review or two, and the title rests in obscurity with hundreds of thousands of unread eBooks on Amazon, B&N and other online bookstores.

Getting lots of downloads of freebies is meaningless if no one buys your other titles. There’s another myth about more reviews attracting more sales. Sometimes it’s true, especially if they’re legitimate reviews by readers. Yet how many people actually read and review those freebies?

After my years in indie publishing, I’ve learned that only a few authors can make a lot of money. I’ve earned far less than I did when I was temping.

Being an author isn’t unique any more. Self-publishing is for anyone who can process some words, design a book cover or have one made for a few dollars. Many books aren’t even proofread, let alone edited. With the glut of available reading material, it’s almost impossible for an author’s book[s] to stand out. Most eBooks will plunge to the murky depths of internet bookstores far, far away from the best sellers. They’ll wind up with six or seven-digit rankings, doomed to obscurity.

Most people don’t read. Most people don’t buy eBooks or prefer downloading freebies. And most readers don’t review books.

And that’s what I’ve learned about selling eBooks [and paperbacks] for almost half a decade.

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Memories of Bakery Bleu

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015

bakery bleu pie notes from nadir lisa maligaConsolidating my archived emails, I came across some that were labeled Bakery Bleu. Ah yes, the first bakery I ever worked at, the one described in my novel, Notes from Nadir. The one where I met Gordon, the owner and baker. A quick Google search revealed that things had changed since that interview back on a beautiful warm and sunny April day. No longer was the bakery there—it had vanished. 

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 19 ~ The Boss of Bakery Bleu

Upon entering the bakery, I noticed a bin of unwrapped baguettes on the counter. I saw a variety of rolls and sweet rolls on the shelves, and behind the man who stood at the counter, were rows of different kinds of breads.

I met Gordon, a tall auburn haired man bordering on pudginess. He wore a navy polo shirt with the golden-brown Bakery Bleu logo [a pair of crossed breadsticks] above one of his manboobs. He shook my hand and sat down across from me so he could see both me and all the baked goodies to the north.

“Do tell me about yourself,” he said in a hearty voice. His accent wasn’t local, that’s for sure. He sounded English. Of course, I didn’t think he wanted to know about my personal history but about how valuable I’d be as a minimum wage slave, I mean, employee. I smiled, and for once, I wasn’t unhappy about sitting across from the man even though he could only offer a part time job. I pulled out a pale blue resume and handed it to him. He nodded and looked at it. I knew he was probably surprised when he saw the word Dreamweaver on the bottom where I listed a few web related things.

“You had your own business,” he studied that piece of paper atop the black table. “You lived in Los Angeles…what’re you doing here?”

Much as I want to, I couldn’t avoid that question. The man was scrutinizing me now. I looked at his dark eyes, then down at the table. “Cheap rent. I live with my mom.”

He had a genuine, hearty laugh. It sounded so wonderful after not hearing much of it that year. And I laughed out loud myself. It was true, that cliché about laughter being healthy.

“I did too when I first moved here from London.”

“Not London, Kentucky?”

He smiled broadly and I was feeling more comfortable with this man I had just met. “England.” He replied, though I knew the answer and he knew I knew that he was from across the pond.

“The people are so boring here,” I said. Oops, not the kind of thing to say in a job interview, especially as I was applying for a job where I’d be waiting on those boring people. But this didn’t really feel like one. “I didn’t say that,” I said.

He leaned forward a bit, covered his ears and replied, “I didn’t hear that!”

God, we were like teenagers on a first date.

He began speaking of the duties. The first date was over; it was a real job interview. He went over them: waiting on customers, taking calls, helping out with orders, mopping up… “It’s not General Motors,” he said. “We’ve all got to pull together.”

Like team spirit? I thought, but left that unsaid.

He complained about how slow business was. And the customers’ taste in bread. “The baguettes are too hard!” he mocked, using a higher pitched voice. He shook his head and in his sexily deep voice said, “I lived in France for eight years. A baguette is CRISP. Here they think it’s burned. I offered to sell them dough if they want soft baguettes.”

I chuckled at that image.

“Look, I only have one important question for you…” he paused with the drama of a stage actor.

Hmm, this was getting interesting. 

To read more, click NOTES FROM NADIR.

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notes from nadir lisa maliga ebook cover

“Notes from Nadir” 4 Years Later

notes from nadir lisa maliga ebook cover

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2014

On October 21, 2010, the first eBook edition of Notes from Nadir was published on Kindle. Written as a series of blogs, Notes from Nadir made its online debut on March 3, 2010. My blog gradually began to attract readers. They seemed interested in reading the forthcoming novel that Notes from Nadir would later become.

Last year I published the second edition of “Notes” and even with a book tour, sales and reviews weren’t happening. The problem may be the title – nadir isn’t a common word. So, if you’re curious, and haven’t already gone to Dictionary.com to check it out, here’s the official description along with a summary of what Notes from Nadir is all about.

If noon is zenith then nadir is 6:30. And it was 6:29 and counting down. Way down. Merriam-Webster defines it as: “The lowest point.” Nadir – it was the place where I was inevitably going. Lots of stuff got me headed in that downward direction. Decisions made too late. Unmade calls. Calls made that weren’t answered. Missed connections. Being at the right place at the wrong time. Excuses. I was caught in the web of my own cause and effect and the resulting karma was ripening. Ripening of karma meant that payment was due pronto. And who paid for my own karma? Me. No checks accepted. No credit cards. And there sure as heck weren’t any I.O.U’s.

Only one place left to go. Back east. Back to a place I no longer called home. Back to a mom I hadn’t lived with or seen in many years. She had a new house in a quiet semi-retirement community. She had a spare room. Two-car garage. Free internet. And a few conditions…

Chapter 5 – Arriving in Nadir

In the morning, I awoke before sunup, knowing that it was my last day on the road. I didn’t want to hang around a motel room when I still had a few hundred miles to go. Soon I’d cross the Mississippi River and be in another state. I’d see things that hadn’t been seen in years: Hardee’s, Sunoco, Steak ‘n Shake, and White Castle.

Driving into the rising sun. Crossing into a state that had a top speed of 65. I saw more snow. When I was partially through the state, I stopped and got gas. It was definitely colder and I stepped over some snow to get to the pump. Being almost “home” was starting to suck.

The end stretch of the 2,000-mile journey led through flatlands and farmlands with intermittent groves of trees to eradicate the geographical monotony. How dull and colorless compared to the dramatic scenery of Arizona and New Mexico. Those miles rolled by as I reluctantly headed east to a “home” I had never seen since Mom moved to her one-story dwelling eight years ago.

The miles vanished. My arrival was imminent. I glanced at traffic heading west and recalled how it was when I was driving in that direction—full of hope. Now, I was full of despair, full of failure. Each mile led me closer to the “cornfield with lights” as my father, who had escaped before me, referred to it.

I changed to a smaller two-lane road that would lead me to within a mile of Mom’s new house. I had long ago memorized her address and she’d told me which streets to take and how easy it was to find. The new subdivision was called Hampton Lake and it was for older people. She’d sent me some pictures of her house and it was as generic as any modern one-story frame house with neutral colors and a few windows offset by some shrubbery and trees. Passed a place where I used to work and saw it had been replaced with a mart type store. Couldn’t help noticing the traffic signals were the old fashioned kind that were strung on wires rather than posts that extended across the intersection like they did in L.A.

I took a wrong turn and had to go another mile in some suburban/country area before I found the right street. I drove slower than normal until I saw the large wooden Hampton Lake sign. Next to it was an American flag. As I drove to the end of the cul de sac I had reached the End Point of my journey.

 

notes from nadir paperbackAmazon Kindlehttp://www.amazon.com/Notes-from-Nadir-ebook/dp/B00486UDJA

Paperbackhttp://www.amazon.com/Notes-Nadir-Lisa-Maliga/dp/1493519077/

B&N Nookhttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/notes-from-nadir-lisa-maliga/1100144163?ean=2940012697790

More links can be found here: http://lisamaliga.com/notesfromnadir.htm 

Diary of a Hollywood Nobody ~ New Cover + Excerpt

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2014

In Hollywood, nobodies are as disposable as toilet paper.

diary of a hollywood nobody lisa maligaAlthough I’ve written a little about Hollywood in NOTES FROM NADIR, the majority of that book takes place far, far away from Hollywood.

What really happened in Hollywood? How easy is it to sell a screenplay? Did I work in the entertainment industry? Did I meet lots of celebrities?

DIARY OF A HOLLYWOOD NOBODY is partially based on my years working in wonderful world of showbiz. My character, Chris Yarborough, is someone who might have a few similarities to me. This book is based on people I met in Lalaland. I’ve also incorporated other peoples’ stories to make this a better read. Some of the characters names have been changed to protect the innocent … and the guilty. The following excerpt takes place in 1993.

***

I arrived at the studio and parked in visitor’s parking. I went to the admin. building and the person who was in charge of processing over 2,000 invitations wasn’t located in the studio head’s office.

Marybeth, my contact, was a gregarious young woman in a cream colored pants suit. She smiled and escorted me into a little room containing a copier and office supplies. There was a typewriter on a folding table along with an ancient plastic chair. My job was to type the addresses directly onto the envelopes. No labels were used. The typewriter was old enough to vote and whenever I got any speed going, it jammed. I felt like I was in a bad movie. Every time I hit the CAPS key, the machine locked up and spit out different letters than what I typed! Finally, I told Marybeth about the Jaws-like machine and she tried it. The same thing happened to her.

It was lunchtime, so I could use another typewriter at the opposite end of the building. I grabbed the list, the envelopes, and my tote bag containing my purse and sneakers, and set up in another area. I was a portable temp. Cramped copier room, lunch-going secretary’s desk. Didn’t matter. Chris, the port-a-temp. Then Marybeth emphasized the obvious:

“Don’t get too comfortable.”

I nodded and continued lining up the tabs on the typewriter. It was the story of my port-a-temp career–I wasn’t ever comfortable. I got told what to do by secretaries and junior secretaries. Even clerks. I did other people’s work for less money.

Read the book’s description here: Diary of a Hollywood Nobody

“Notes from Nadir” is Here – Includes New Excerpt

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013

It’s official—the SECOND EDITION of Notes from Nadir is available online in both eBook and paperback formats. This edition is almost 130 pages longer – yet the price remains the same! However, it is in a handy paperback version for those of you who prefer turning pages instead of hitting an arrow key!

Here’s a new excerpt:

Chapter 23 – The Factory in the Armpit of Nadir

I applied online for a job in a place I’d call The Factory. It was a creative job in that it dealt with listing auctions online, so I needed some writing and photography ability. Today I got an email from them and I wrote back that I was available for an interview. It was located in the stinky, hairy armpit of Nadir – the warehouse district on the south side of town.

Like the bakery, this wasn’t a place where I needed to dress in my white summer suit or wear those black and white sandals with insoles that read Made in Italy for Neiman Marcus. I was to meet Cheryl, the head of the online division that afternoon to discuss the job.

Driving across the large pot holed parking lot signaled that I was in the depths of Nadir. To the east was a rambling mart store and on the other side I groaned when I got a strong whiff of the Hardee’s fried grease.

I walked inside The Factory and saw large bins and steel shelves filled with scrambled junk. Lamps, toys, shoes, clothes, clocks, books, kitchen appliances, all manner of stuff just tossed or shelved with no sense of order. One area was packed with furniture; none of it suitable for Mom’s place—not even the garage. There was a small area where you could test the appliances and from what I saw of the hunks of junk they looked like they’d short circuit the place. I approached a cashier in a red T-shirt and asked if the head of the online division was in. “No, ma’am, she’s in a safety meeting,” the cashier glanced at her watch. “But it should be over in a minute.” Okay, I guess I’d look around … well crap my panties, what did we have here?

We had two middle-aged women sporting a few chins and several stomach rolls bringing in bags of fresh Hardee’s food. They set the greasy bottomed bags on a pockmarked old plywood end table, pulled up a pair of mismatched kitchen chairs, and consumed their burgers and fries. Right in the middle of the store but neither employees nor customers said anything or paid any attention. Geez, didn’t know this was a restaurant, too.

Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Notes-from-Nadir-ebook/dp/B00486UDJA

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Notes-Nadir-Lisa-Maliga/dp/1493519077/

B&N Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/notes-from-nadir-lisa-maliga/1100144163?ean=2940012697790

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/books/Notes-from-Nadir/du3hDkmS6ku7BTL-MCWctw

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/35983

notes from nadir paperbacknotes from nadir lisa maliga ebook cover

Notes from Nadir ~ An Excerpt

notes from nadir lisa maligaWeek 9 April 2009 – Mexican Fiesta 

On Friday night I celebrated getting a job. Mom was reluctant for me to spend money but she was also tired of my cooking which was about as versatile as hers. She knew I liked Mexican food but had never tried “real” south of the border cuisine other than those Ortega taco kits she used to whip up for us back in the day.

Oh yeah, nothing like making tacos out of the box. You got to brown that ground meat yourself and add overly preserved and processed dried seasonings. It was recommended you add some cheddar cheese, lettuce and sour cream, after the mess was piled into those crunchy taco shells that were a few years old. There wasn’t much difference between that dinner and a Kraft Tangy Italian spaghetti meal that also originated from a cardboard box. What else did we dine on other than that delectable duo? Well, readers, we had various flavors of Hamburger Helper to add to our evening meals which included Mom’s favorite: Cheeseburger Macaroni. There was also the infamous Kraft Macaroni & Cheese at least once a week. Could I stand any more diversity? Sure! What else could enhance suppers with Mom? Tuna Helper, that’s what! And, since we both loved pizza, we’d spruce up a frozen Totino’s with a dash of seven-year-old oregano from the spice rack. It was a credit to my metabolism that I didn’t end up obese.

So I’d do the honor of allowing Mom to try some real local food at a nearby restaurant that was called Terry’s Tex-Mex Restaurant. Promising name, I thought sarcastically.

Looked like a Denny’s inside. There were jaunty red booths and a few of those booths were augmented with wide swaths of electrical tape. Maybe the reason was due to the clientele. Well, the few people who populated the place on a Friday night seemed to be diners who had what Mom called “healthy appetites.”  The couple nearest me easily had a combined weight of 500 pounds and a few booths to the north were a mother and daughter team busily sucking back big drinks and consuming their nachos and dip at an alarming rate. The almost albino waitress wearing shorts and white blouse appeared as Un-Hispanic as you could imagine. When I asked for a to go menu I got a blank look for a second, then realization dawned across the red-haired gal’s features. I was handed a food splattered plastic covered sheet of typewritten selections like “Terrys Chicken Burito” and “Tacoes + Enciladas Special”. I figured I’d go for those two tantalizing options.

Arriving back home with a bag full of hot Mexican food was a bit of an event that Mom looked forward to as “it’s something different.” She’d even set the table, using plastic table mats instead of cloth ones, and gotten herself a cold can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer that she sometimes allowed herself as a treat. I was curious as to how this restaurant’s offerings fared against native Los Angeles Mexican food.

I discovered a difference as soon as I opened up the Styrofoam container. It began with the salsa. Pico de Gallo wasn’t a complicated salsa to make and consisted of fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime, chilies, salt, and pepper. Maybe Terry thought that tomatoes equaled salsa. Canned tomatoes.

But the star of the show was “Terrys Chicken Burito” a bland flour tortilla that contained shredded chicken, at least they got that part right, shredded iceberg lettuce, chunks of tomatoes, a dollop of sour cream and still more shredded iceberg lettuce. Oh, and a smidgeon of coagulating American cheese. If there had been a pet dog then I would have exchanged the canned dog food for the burrito. It was a mighty slap in the face of fine Mexican cuisine. Even roach coaches back in L.A. served better burritos. You might be racing to the bathroom soon afterwards, but at least they were real burritos.

After we sat down and put the suspicious looking “Tex-Mex” food on our plates, Mom noticed my look of disappointment and had another sip of beer. I cut the thing in half and when she got her portion she took her knife and fork and delicately sliced off a small piece. After consuming a mouthful, she had a bigger swig of brew. “I think Taco Bell is better,” she stated.

“I think you’re right.”

“Lisa, next time ask for a sample or something.”

“Mom, there won’t be a next time. Next time I’ll try that Chinese restaurant.”

To read more about this novel, check out the page dedicated to Notes from Nadir

Notes from Nadir

“Notes from Nadir” is a wacky and poignant look at a Los Angeles-based writer who is forced to return to her Midwestern home due to financial difficulties. She moves back in with her Mom in a semi-retirement community, works a couple of dead end jobs, and meets a sexy British bakery owner. An opportunity to freelance for Gordon or work as a writer/photographer at The Factory in the armpit of Nadir ensures an income. But how long will she be confined in a lifestyle that she has long outgrown?

If noon is Zenith then Nadir is 6:30. And it was 6:29 and counting down. Way down.

Some Reviews:

“The writer is an amazing story teller. The way she describes even the most mundane events drew me in. I had to know what was going to happen next. I can’t compare this book to any other books I’ve read because it isn’t. If this isn’t a true story, you’ll believe it is.” Clarissa Draper author of The Sholes Key

“I first started reading this memoir through the author’s blog, and I was quickly hooked by her conversational, down-to-earth style. The book – with lots of new content not featured on the blog – follows the author as she leaves behind her LA life and returns to her roots, with lots of vignettes and familial snapshots along the way. A very enjoyable read about trying to fit back into a mould you no longer fit.” Talli Roland author of The Hating Game and Watching Willow Watts

“The author created an interesting story with her notes, the flow is not broken with the short snippets. We see the changes in the relationship between a romantic crush on a boss, and new affection between mother and daughter.” Glynis Smy author of Ripper, My Love and Maggie’s Child

Notes from Nadir links: Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Smashwords and Kobo