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Author: Karen Myers

Karen Myers is a fantasy and science fiction author, best known for her heroic fantasy novels. Her stories feature heroes in real and imagined worlds filled with magic, space travel, and adventure.

More on eBook Bundles

Posted in The Chained Adept Bundle (1-2), The Chained Adept Bundle (1-4), The Chained Adept Bundle (3-4), The Hounds of Annwn Bundle (1-2), The Hounds of Annwn Bundle (1-5), and The Hounds of Annwn Bundle (3-5)

Image of Hounds of Annwn Bundle 3-5 - BOX SET - Ebook CoverSome belated news about ebook bundles…

In 2016, I created and released ebook bundles for The Hounds of Annwn series:

  • Books 1 & 2
  • Books 3 & 4 & the story collection
  • Books 1-5

They're great deals for my readers, especially the last one, which is a savings of more than 50% over buying the ebooks separately. I recently broke down and included that last one on Amazon, despite the disadvantage of how Amazon penalizes royalties for books priced higher than $9.99.

But I realize I haven't made the equivalent announcement for ebook bundles for The Chained Adept series:

  • Books 1 & 2
  • Books 3 & 4
  • Books 1-4

Image of box set of ebooksThose are now all available everywhere, and with the same great savings.

They haven't been out for long, but I find that a significant percentage of my readers are taking advantage of the savings. Better for them, and better for me, too.

I'll be doing the same for The Affinities of Magic series, lagging a bit behind the publication of the individual books, so that by, say, book 4 there may be a bundle for books 1-2, etc.

 

Integrating technical systems

Posted in Just for Writers, and Marketing

Image of puzzle piecesLast year I spent many months upping my game with regard to building technical engines around marketing. I tackled a lot of new tools and systems, but I ran out of steam before I got to Facebook Ads, the most complex system of them all, and one that's critical to international and target marketing.

Well, I'm paying for it now. I got revved up, re-listened to my Mark Dawson “Ads for Authors” course for Facebook (highly recommended) and started putting mailing list (subscriber) ads together.

I have a new series coming out circa year-end and a German translation in the works, and I've been unserious about my mailing list (200 people), so I'm way overdue for winding this all up again and getting back on the newsletter horse.

I'm not going to complain about the general complexity of the Facebook ads system (and it's equally impressive power as a platform for ad management). No, today I'm going to rant about the integration of technical systems that's required to actually make all of this happen.

Last year, before I wound down, I made some tool choices which I didn't put into use, but I did the research well and now I'm, as it were, unwrapping the packages and digging into them. I feel fortunate, a year later, that I'm still happy with my choices.

But look at what it takes to run a simple mailing list ad for Facebook, from the perspective of all the pieces required, esp. if you're as obsessive as I am about tracking as much data as possible.

Tracking your book sales

Posted in Business, and Just for Writers

An image of chartsOne frequent question from new independent writers is “What tool can I use to track my book sales?” They're looking for the right tool to fetch and consolidate all of their sales data.

In genealogical circles, a similar question is “Who can tell me about my family's ancestry?” and it's the subject of an amusing and sardonic tall tale that tells of the search for the file that contains all the answers.

The same answer applies to both: “Sorry, buddy, you gotta do all that work yourself. Nobody's already done it for you.”

If you're only distributed by one retailer, like Amazon, or you're using one of the current tools that make a serious effort to capture some (but not all) of your unit sales — and that satisfies you — then this is not the article for you. I won't be critiquing the currently available tools because none of them can provide a single platform for tracking ALL your sales in ALL your channels, nor provide you with all the information you want to track, if you can.

You're going to have to build that yourself.

Let's start by exploring what, in an ideal universe, you would want to track about your book sales over time, and why.

Goals

The devil's in the details…

Sales by month (units and $)

Surely it's not too great a burden to go to each of your channels just after the end of the month to get your basic numbers. For me, that's

  • Direct: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords
  • Distributors: (Kobo, Smashwords), PublishDrive, StreetLib, IngramSpark, and AuthorsRepublic (audio).

But that doesn't really tell you much except what to expect on a royalty statement when you get paid. Nor does it account for other kinds of sales, such as direct sales at a book fair, books sold on consignment in local stores, or your ecommerce sales. So that's incomplete.

And it also doesn't provide the information you need to draw trend and analysis data, unless you keep such details as Title, Format, Price, Language, etc.

For marketing and promotional purposes, you also want to see the details of “which retailer” for the distributors, as well as the country.

Financial Systems

Then there's the question about what level of detail should get into your actual accounting system, vs tracking and analysis. After all, when royalties arrive, you have to record them somewhere. Your accounting system is where you track money, but it's not a good place for all the non-financial detail. It cares about monthly sales by royalty payer, not the details about individual channels.

You need two levels of information:

  • Simple per-royalty-payer financial information and physical inventory tracking (those book boxes in your garage)
  • Highly detailed sales information at the deepest level available from your channels and distributors

Fortune cookie

Posted in A Writer's Desk, Just for Writers, and Marketing

Image of a fortune cookie I'm currently knee-deep in improving my complete mailing list and newsletter setup so that I can start to launch improved marketing via Facebook ads. This requires all sorts of retooling for digital stationary, branding, automation, landing pages, onboarding… the whole megillah). Lots of learning curves and emails-to-customer-support to clear up the messy details.

The result will be better newsletters for everyone, significant incentives and offers for signing up, and hopefully a larger group of more engaged readers. If you're already a subscriber (one of my select few) I'll be telling you separately in more detail. (Once I figure out how to, using all-new tools…)

In the midst of all this productive diligence, just the sort of message that every writer of fantasy likes to receive was sent my way via dinner tonight:

“A way out of financial uncertainty is discovered as if by magic!”

It's not magic — it's bloody hard work!

Bears, orchards, taigans — part 2

Posted in A Writer's Desk

Image of sitting black bear

Yesterday afternoon, the mama bear put in an appearance and our taigan leaped into “defend and insult” mode again.

Alas, this is not my own picture — I never seem to have a camera handy when wrangling dogs and bears — but it's close. Instead of woods, picture the edge of the mowed ground around the buildings. She was so full of stolen apples and pears that she didn't want to move and was calmly sitting below the first row of the overgrown orchard, admiring the view down to our cabin.

And ignoring the dog, restrained (miraculously) by the underground dog fence not 25 yards away. And the human, who added her own “Get out of here, bear!” to the ruckus.

Finally, slowly, she shoved herself up and walked upslope to the tall grass, and out of sight. I've had overindulgent dinners like that myself.

I don't mind their depredations in the orchard — we're not using those apples and the critters might as well eat their fill — but I'd be happier if her family kept a bit more distance as they ravaged the apples. What happens in the tall grass stays in the tall grass.

Maybe I should give her something to read inbetween meals.

A quick look at the news — writing and publishing

Posted in Artwork, and Publishing

Cartoon of a busy writerI haven't been able to produce much in the way of blogging for the last couple of months because I've been buried in writing and publishing work (and that's the way it should be).

Writing

On the writing front, I'm just about done with the Fragments of Lightning, the second book of The Affinities of Magic. The webpages will be updated when the final scene is written and I have time to do the book description, images, and so forth. I plan on writing the third book, and starting the fourth before I begin releasing them in quick succession, starting circa December/January.

Publishing

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm also beginning to publish the works of some colleagues of mine and tooling up as a small publisher. This means, in several cases, the creation of new imprints, since the works aren't necessarily appropriate for Perkunas Press, not being fantasy or science fiction. Last fall saw the first release for Bent Twig Books, a memoir My Bipolar Life.

Right now, I'm working simultaneously on publishing two works. One is a bit of Christian visionary fiction for Sound the Trumpet Press, called Comes a Redeemer, by Tolkien scholar Jared Lobdell. And the other is a work by the great naturalist writer, Steve Bodio for Behind the Ranges Press — his first novel, Tiger Country.

In each case, these three works are the first for their imprints, so there's very little information for the imprints and, in the latter two cases, the book pages are under construction pending release. But you can take a look at the draft covers (mockups), and there will be more to tell you as each book is published this year.
Image of 2 draft book covers

Bears, orchards, taigans

Posted in A Writer's Desk

Painting of a black bear under an apple treeWe have bears, and we have old orchards. Naturally, we also have bears in orchards. And among the distractions for writing and publishing, we have fierce Central Asian sighthounds seeking employment.

Normally the nocturnal set and the diurnal set don't meet, though the dogs are very interested in the scent trails they can reach, within the several acres around the cabin enclosed by the underground dog fence. The main dog field out front is also the main traffic area for all the critters, as one of the highways to the stream that waters the farm where they have a good view for predators. Most of them are smart enough to check to see if the dogs are out first before dropping by. And on those occasions where we let the dogs out without checking first ourselves, they're all quite capable of running, flying, or going to ground, according to their kind.

We get a regular daytime show of deer, turkey, and groundhog. At night — who knows what they all get up to? Certainly we have raccoons, possums, and porcupines (just to cite the larger mammals), along with the occasional coyote passing through. And we have black bears out back, like most of the wooded and mountainous areas in Pennsylvania.

This year, we've been seeing a sow and two cubs. They're regulars — our bird feeders are trashed annually, and the garbage cans are a challenge. Seeing them by daylight, though, isn't so common.

But it's August… and all the trees in the old orchard that still bear fruit (apples and a few pears) are heavily laden.

The great Amazon reviews drought

Posted in Just for Writers, and Readers

Image of 5 product ratingsIt has seemed to me lately that I'm getting far fewer reviews on Amazon than I used to, considering the number of units I sell. The thought has been nagging at me for some time, and I'm not alone — others seem to be observing the same thing and speculating about causes.

So — you know me. Time to actually crunch a few numbers and try to see if it's true and, if so, why I think it might be happening.

I started running Amazon AMS ads about 15 months ago, and my units sold have shot up gratifyingly. But not my reviews. My ratings are stable and the reviews I get are much the same as they've always been, but there are just fewer of them than I would expect.

First steps — collect the data

I've been meaning to copy my reviews off the retailer sites, especially Amazon, lest they vanish in one of the periodic Amazon purges. So far I've been lucky and haven't lost any, but that can change. It's useful to have them available, not just for ratings on the retail sites, but also as sources of blurb and other publicity text from real readers.

I checked my retailers and confirmed that, yep, I have almost no reviews except on Amazon, and almost all of those on Amazon USA, of course. That made it easy.

I set up a spreadsheet like the one I use for tracking unit sales to track reviews: month/year, source, rating, product, retailer, headline, review text, etc. Then it was off to the races with pivot tables.

Do I have enough data?

I don't make any big push for reviews, just a modest suggestion in the backmatter of the books. I don't have a ton of reviews, but they do keep coming in (slowly), so I'm going to assume there are enough for some valid conclusions. In any case, I don't have any special marketing that might confuse results.

Next — connect the review data to the units sold data

I put a worksheet up with one pivot table for the reviews-by-month, and another with the units-sold-by-month. Then I ran out the data for a comparison from the date my first book came out, in October, 2012.

A model to compare data

The question I wanted to answer was:

Has the percentage of reviews per units sold been declining lately?