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.

WIN A VARIETY OF BOOKS! Sign up for The Discerning Readers’ Newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/UZbE9

I Almost Married a Narcissist + Excerpt

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015. 2016

i almost married a narcissist novella lisa maligaI Almost Married a Narcissist is a new and updated story about a woman who learns the man she’s dating is more than conceited and hung up on his body image – he’s a narcissist.

When I was going through some notes about a short story I’d written “Flipping Over Grigori,” I thought that exploring his personality disorder would make this a more moving story. From 12,000 words to nearly 23,000, the expanded version reveals more about both main characters and how they get to know each other. I also changed his name from Grigori to Andrei. His last name is still Antonescu, but A.A. are now his initials; it’s symbolic of him being a source of addiction to Charlotte White, the woman who falls in love with the gymnastics coach.

Briefly, here’s what I Almost Married a Narcissist is about:

Charlotte White falls in love with a younger Romanian gymnastics coach.

Andrei Antonescu is a sexy and handsome foreigner who loves to have fun and flirt with the ladies.

The more she gets to know him, the more red flags are unfurled. Once she’s able to see past his good looks and muscular body, Charlotte is unprepared for some shocking revelations.

Excerpt from Chapter Two

Three of the coaches introduced themselves to me. I liked them right away. But there was this one, a real serious looking guy, who completely ignored me. Maybe it was his dark blond curly hair and the fact that he was so tanned and muscular. His T-shirt’s sleeves were rolled up, showing off his strong arms. He was so self absorbed that he didn’t even notice me.

Later, I got to go out into the gym, and didn’t have to remove my shoes because I was a staff member. I had to give a message to Andrei, that serious coach. That was how I finally met the younger man – right next to the parallel bars. He had just dismounted from them after showing an element to his private student, a wiry adolescent boy. After handing him the message, he grabbed it with chalky hands and thanked me quickly, not even looking at me. But I was used to being treated like that.

A few days later, I was in the coach’s lounge for my afternoon break. It was a dark, depressing day and it seemed like nothing was ever going to go right. Svetlana had yelled at me that morning for taking too long to do the reports and I wondered if I’d even last the week at the job. Andrei rushed upstairs, and I thought of how young and energetic he was. He didn’t smile at me, but he lowered his sunglasses as he asked about his schedule. All I saw were his Mediterranean blue eyes.

I wanted to take the Tuesday or Thursday night adult gymnastics class he taught. I wondered how to go about asking Svetlana about it. I knew that Eastern European coaches were able to get excellent results from their students, and by taking the class, I’d get back into shape. That afternoon, I stood near the filing cabinet when Andrei walked in, went past me, and pinched my hip! There was no one else nearby. The gesture was something most American men wouldn’t do because they’d probably end up being sued for sexual harassment.

Amazon: I Almost Married a Narcissist
Amazon UK: I Almost Married a Narcissist
B&N NOOK: I Almost Married a Narcissist
iTunes: I Almost Married a Narcissist
Kobo: I Almost Married a Narcissist
Scribd: I Almost Married a Narcissist
Smashwords: I Almost Married a Narcissist

WIN A VARIETY OF BOOKS! Sign up for The Discerning Readers’ Newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/UZbE9

blueberrymacarons2trio

Sweet Dreams and Macarons

Copyright 2015-2016

by Lisa Maliga

sweet dreams a novella by lisa maliga ebook kindle smashwordsMacarons and sweet dreams? Yes, the two go together quite well. Macarons are sweet and somewhat crispy little cookies that can be filled with butter cream or chocolate ganache or various types of jams. They’re usually made with almond flour and are gluten-free. Macarons are often quite colorful, as you know if you’ve seen them. My opinion is that they’re the best kind of dessert—small and delicate. Fancy but not outrageously so. Yes, I’m so fond of macarons that I’m including mention of them in my sweet romance/cozy mystery, Macarons of Love: The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 4.

But what started it all was a romance novella I wrote called Sweet Dreams. Brenda Nevins, the main character, is a romance author/baker. Although the macarons part isn’t at the beginning of the story, these tempting little cookies do have a costarring role. During the writing of the ebook, I got obsessed with macarons. I read several cookbooks on how to make them, visited numerous websites, and sampled quite a few tasty macarons. I bought some online and even tried the Trader Joe’s version[s] which were easy to store as they went from frozen to just right in about 30 minutes.

It was a tough job, but I gutted [pun intended!] my way through it.

macarons sweet dreams bakery fresh romance novella lisa maligaAnd now, I’ll be revisiting macaron-land for the next few months while I write my book. But that’s fine with me. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to these fine sweet treats. This board has 5000+ pictures and recipes. Check it out! http://www.pinterest.com/lisamaliga/sweet-macarons

NEW! Learn to bake macarons! Check out BAKING FRENCH MACARONS: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE.

 

eBook Cover Design Tips

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013

I don’t usually write about creating an eBook cover because it’s a different process for each title. It’s not just the initial canvas–what color is the background? Will I use a photo? Another important consideration is the font. And what color will that font be, what size, etc. Creating my first romance novella’s cover was simple: I wanted something to reflect the title and that was a cupcake with sprinkles. I thought it emphasized the title along with the fact that bakeries and baked goods are featured in the storyline. I bought a six-pack of cupcakes from the supermarket and took a few photos. They looked good. They looked better after I enhanced the cupcakes with extra multicolored sugar sprinkles. Cupcake photo ready to go, I thought I’d try Amazon’s Cover Creator. Here’s the result after ten minutes of fiddling about with it: [NOTE: click to enlarge image]

sweetdreamsmockup

I wasn’t too crazy about the vertical lettering but I like the Cinzel Decorative font.

There were two issues. The Cover Creator is designed for eBooks sold on Amazon, not those sold at other online stores like B&N Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, or elsewhere. Also, while cupcakes played a part in the story, so did a fancier French pastry: the macaron. That idea for a book cover popped into my head – a stack of macarons. Not just a single stack of strawberry or chocolate macrons, I envisioned pastel colors of pink, yellow, green, and orange.

Why not try a stock photo? I discovered these: http://www.istockphoto.com/search/text/french%20macarons/filetype/photos/source/basic#17bcc90

So many macarons! So beautiful, bright, luscious looking! I was hungry after clicking through the assortment. I found just the right photo for my cover. Until I tried to buy it. I couldn’t get just one, I had to buy several. So, I decided to do it my way—take my own photos of the lovely photogenic macarons. I bought the fancy French cookies knowing I’d have to eat the results of my sweet photo shoot! 🙂

I opted for yellow and green – lovely colors. A little subdued, though. This was taken indoors in natural light but it wasn’t bright enough to show the white background.

ebooksd1

I clicked on the auto enhance button and the background turned a nice shade of sky blue.

ebookSD2

It looked good at 25% but at 100%, I saw a lot of background noise.

Scratch that cover idea.

I got creative and decided to do two stacks utilizing all the colors—totaling seven macarons. Seven almost perfect macarons. I later noticed the little crack in the left Key Lime macaron but thought it looked even more realistic. After all, these are very delicate cookies. They’re made with egg whites, never any yolks, granulated sugar and powdered sugar and finely ground almond flour.

There were three different backgrounds: white, pink and a soft blue. I thought white was too stark, pink too common, and the blue was enough of a contrast to make the bright colors pop.

Keep in mind I’m working with .PNG files at a 300 dpi capacity and the dimensions are 1600 x 2400—standard eBook cover size. So I take the double stack of macarons and remove the background thanks to the handy Magic Wand tool that Fireworks provides for people who are too lazy to actually cut out the background. With the white background, I can stay with that look or add color. As you can see, I added color. I also fiddled around with the settings so that I got brighter shades for more visual impact, although they’re actually quite close to the original colors. As I photographed them indoors I used as much lighting as possible. 

macaronstack1MED

After taking 200+ digital photos, here’s the final result: 

sweet dreams a novella by lisa maliga ebook kindle smashwords

Sweet Dreams – A Contemporary Romance eBook

SWEET DREAMS By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013 

sweet dreams a novella by lisa maliga amazon kindle smashwordsFormer bakery employee Brenda Nevins is now a successful romance author of the Yolanda’s Yummery book series. Best friend and agent, Samantha Ho, has gotten her a movie deal and a reality TV show about her forthcoming bakery, named after her bestselling series. The frosting on Brenda’s cake is her engagement to handsome and sexy Warren Stillman, a Beverly Hills attorney.

Complications arise whenever any communication she sends or receives turns into snippets of a cheesy science fiction story. Her agent, fiancé, movie producer and anyone else on the receiving end thinks she’s playing a stupid joke. Brenda is trying to track down the person responsible for hijacking her career, her finances, and even her fiancé.

For Brenda, finding the culprit is necessary to make sure that her dreams aren’t derailed. In the process, she wonders if her aspirations are as dreamy as she’s imagined?

This novella is approximately 30,000 words.

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/355959

Amazon Link: Sweet Dreams

Kobo Link: Sweet Dreams

Barnes & Noble Link: Sweet Dreams

Read a review of Sweet Dreams at Cheryl’s Book Nook.

“As a book reviewer I couldn’t help but find a few of Brenda’s inner thoughts just a tiny bit snarky. A reviewer who claimed your request for a book review got sent to their spam folder, and all that frilly stuff Brenda spouts off on her blog had me in stitches. Sounds like our author knows from whence she came. This is a delightful novella and I am for sure going to keep my eyes open for more from this author.” Julie, Romancing the Book

Read full review here: http://romancing-the-book.com/2014/08/review-sweet-dreams-by-lisa-maliga.html