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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.

Using Schema.org for books – an example

Posted in Just for Writers

This topic came up in conversation elsewhere, inspiring me to do an annotated post of how I use Schema.org information to partially control how my book's metadata is presented on the Internet.

Intelligence for search engines

In an ideal universe, search engines would understand the context of the data that they retrieve. They would just know that a recipe is a recipe, that a book is a book, that a business location is a business location, and so forth. To the degree that they have gotten as far as they have, it's because of metadata — data about the data that they retrieve — that allows them some intelligence about presenting the information that they find.

To do this requires a combination of descriptive metadata from the data owner, and collation and presentation work from the search engine presenter. As in most such things, Google seems to be leading the way.

Google's Information Cards

When you search on a restaurant using Google, you get not only ranked links scrolling down the screen — you also get a nicely formatted “information card” on the top right of the screen that collects the information you would find most useful in an intelligent way.

Invest in your business

Posted in Just for Writers

A version of this article was first published here.

There’s more to being an indie than the writing

We come to self-publishing out of a love of writing, but if we stop there, and go no further, then we risk never developing our writing into a full-fledged business. Writing itself can be such a challenge that it’s tempting to postpone dealing with some of the other challenges in becoming a fully-developed self-publisher.

Certainly, without the writing, you have no product. But without the rest of it, you have no business. Now, not everyone wants to build a business, and that’s fine, but for the rest of us…

I published my first book 5 years ago. As I look back, I can see all the places where I invested in things beside my writing. If I had done nothing but write, I’d have several more books – but then, I’d probably be selling fewer of them, in fewer places, in fewer formats, and I’d be less prepared to support my new books as they emerge. On the whole, I recommend balance between the writing and everything else.

It helps that I have a technical background and some experience with professional photography, so investing in things like learning how to format my own books and make my own covers (out of someone else’s background art) came relatively easily to me. So did building my first websites, one as a publisher (Perkunas Press) and one as a platform for other writing friends (HollowLands). That held me for the first couple of years as I tooled up and kept my costs down.

But I face learning curves, too, just like all of us, and my biggest are:

  • Product availability (format & distribution)
  • Marketing
  • Learning the deep processes of the current (traditional) book trade

Cover reveal – Structures of Earth

Posted in Artwork, and Structures of Earth

Alas, all good things must come to an end. My cover artist of the last couple of years, Jake Bullock, got a full-time job (good for him) and is prohibited from doing freelance projects (bad for me). The good news is that I had just finished The Chained Adept series, but I already had a cover from him for book 1 of The Affinities of Magic series. So I had to start over again for that.

Happily, I've partnered with a new cover artist from Poland, Michal Wojtasik.

His audition blew me away. I only asked for a simple sketch of the scene I had in mind, and look what I got, a day later.

Needless to say, he buried his competitors.

He's completed the actual cover and is working on the one for book 2, Fragments of Lightning. I'll be writing book 4 before I release the first 3 books in the series, one right after another, to try and build up some momentum for the new series.

Amazon AMS Ads – A Case Study

Posted in Just for Writers

Introduction

I'd like to focus on my own experience with Amazon AMS ads over the last 9 months.

For information about Amazon AMS ads in general, look for free introductory courses online, and I recommend some of the for-fee courses by people like Mark Dawson for in-depth guidance.

For context, here are some basics. (If you're already familiar with AMS ads, you can skip this.)

  1. You can only run ads for your own book and, at this time, only for the US. Other regions are anticipated, e.g., the UK.
  2. There are “Sponsored Product” ads (which show up at the bottom of product searches and below the “also-boughts”) and “Product Display” ads (which show up near the “Buy” button and on Kindle screensavers) — I'll only be talking about Sponsored Product ads
  3. Each ad is a “campaign”. You supply up to 1000 keywords or keyword phrases for each campaign, and a maximum price you're willing to bid for the ad. You compete with other advertisers to show your ad prominently in its display area.
  4. I call a cluster of campaigns for a single product (to use more than 1000 keywords) an “ad farm”.
  5. You supply a 150-character ad copy, and Amazon supplies the book image from your book listing. There are restrictions on what you can claim in the ad (e.g., “Bestseller”).
  6. Amazon will suggest some “automatic” keywords of minor usefulness, but I will be talking about the “manual” keywords I supply
  7. You are charged the bid amount each time someone clicks on your ad, whether or not they buy your book once they look at the book's page. You are not charged for impressions (the display of your ad).
  8. You set a daily budget for each campaign which caps the maximum spend. Raising the budget for a successful campaign does not necessarily make Amazon display the ad more frequently — it is difficult to really maximize the use of successful campaigns, once identified, aka “Amazon won't spend my money”.

Why Amazon Ads?

This post arose in response to an innocent question on a forum about “Why should I care about Amazon Ads?”

This is why.

Taking stock of 2017

Posted in Goals

Still Life and Street, M.C. Escher, 1937It's time to look back on 2017 and take stock — what worked, what didn't, and where I spent my time.

Accomplishments

Early in the year, just after I released the 4th and final book in The Chained Adept series (On a Crooked Track), I decided to pause my miscellaneous plans, including my audiobook recording, in order to devote the year to a major ascension of my learning curve for marketing, making 2017 the Year of Marketing.

* Third website (for Readers) with professional branding elements – KarenMyersAuthor. This is a companion to HollowLands (for Writers) and Perkunas Press (Publishing). Facebook & Twitter persona to match.
* Courses in Amazon Ads and Facebook Ads
* Advanced newsletter services and landing pages
* Related tooling up in video and other image processing
* New author photos and bio (not getting any younger)

Images of plansNot all of this was finished in 2017, but everything except the Facebook Ads is now up and running, and the first FB ads should get implemented fairly early in 2018.

While I was doing all this technical stuff, I also tooled up in other ways — republished 20 titles, created ONIX records to make broad distribution more professional, and even added a fancy email signature with the new branding, for engaging with readers or fans.
Image of signature

On the publishing side, there were several unexpected developments.

* Two paid consulting gigs bringing manuscripts to market for a couple of authors, one a colleague and one a stranger.
* New imprints. Three old friends who are not in a position to get beyond the manuscript stage themselves (age, infirmity, tech competence) have manuscripts that need publishing, indie style. I have a long and trusted relationship with them, and it's a great way to get started publishing other authors

Finally, on the writing side, I was able to get some work done. I completed the paused Structures of Earth, the first book and prequel for the new series The Affinities of Magic. I'm well along on book 2 (Fragments of Lightning), and I've lined up a cover artist for the series since my old cover artist is no longer available (stay tuned for several cover reveals).

I also released a few SciFi short stories.

Word Count 2017

Posted in Goals

table_abacus-gregor_reisch_margarita_philosophica_1508

Always good to know what the numbers say…

Words of fiction

2017 –   94,891
2016 – 346,258
2015 – 119,593
2014 –   64,390
2013 – 210,470
2012 – 270,600

Total – 1,106,202

 

Goal for fiction for the new year

2018 – 385,000

Blog posts

2017 – 30,777
2016 – 43,429
2015 – 30,619
2014 – 34,214
2013 – 28,714
2012 – 18,347

Total – 186,100

Returning to my writing (yay!)

Posted in A Writer's Desk, Goals, Publishing, and Structures of Earth

After my long prior post about all the learning curves for reaching my next marketing plateau, I'm finally (almost) done and have picked up my latest book (Structures of Earth) and poured another 55000 words into it, just in the last month, and finished it. I've missed it badly!

I'm just starting book 2, Fragments of Lightning. I plan to complete the first three books before releasing any of them, and have the fourth one almost done. The first book, Structures of Earth, is a prequel that takes place five years before Fragments of Lightning, while the hero is still a teenager. I expect to write quite a few books in this series, each of them complete, like a detective series. The release(s) of the first few books should happen in the Spring of 2018, one right after another.

The remnants of my 2017 plans

 

Republishing all titles

I've finished cutting over to ActiveCampaign from MailChimp, and created suitable landing pages on my websites for newsletter signups from various locations.

Image of a stack of booksThat was the last thing I needed before updating all my titles (20 of them) with:

  • Misc. accumulated typo corrections
  • Longer next-book sample excerpts
  • Updated contact info
  • Updated newsletter info
  • UTM-wrapped links to other books & my websites for Google Analytics
  • Better TOC & metadata info inside the books
  • Larger cover images
  • Improved copyright pages

No one item is important enough, but with all of that I felt it was time to finally refresh all 20 titles, ebooks & print. I even moved from Ingram LSI to Spark for various discount coupon situations in the future as part of it. With any luck, I won't need to revise these particular titles ever again.

Associated with that was getting a copy of ONIXEDIT so that I could use the same distribution tools (ONIX) used by traditional publishers with their channel partners. It is of limited immediate use (only for my PublishDrive and StreetLib partners) but just going through the process was immensely educational about the metadata and channel communications issues that go on behind the scenes in the industry. I'm ready to start transmitting using ONIX to these partners very soon.

The newly branded website just for readers

Image of a fantasy landscapeKarenMyersAuthor is up, and so are its related Facebook & Twitter pages, but I haven't produced content yet, and so I haven't announced it. I need to start getting active there.

Helpful tips for new writers: 3

Posted in Just for Writers, and Tips for New Writers

At the request of a colleague, I'm spending some time talking to some writers far, far away that she's working with, and I thought it would be useful to collect the presentation in a blog post for them, and for anyone else who might be interested. You can find all the posts in this series here.

Image of confused womanI can't possibly touch on more than a handful of topics in a single session, so I'll just mention a few that I think are important:

* Evaluating Advice
* Priorities
* Marathon vs Sprint

As question/answers are added during the talk, I'll update this.
 

Introduction

I'm Karen Myers, and I've been a writer of fantasy and science fiction books for five years. I came to this late, after an official career building computer software and services companies that lasted four decades.

Today I have eight novels in two series and several shorts stories and bundles for a total of twenty titles, and I'm just finishing the first book in a new series. I produce three or four novels most years, when I'm not concentrating on other aspects of the publishing business.

I'm an independent author — all my books are available worldwide, in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats. I expect to bring most of the audiobook editions out next year (only one is currently available).

As an independent author, I'm in charge of all aspects of publishing, from writing and editing, to layout and formatting, covers, audio recording and production, distribution, marketing, and all the finances of the business. Almost the only thing I don't do myself are the cover backgrounds and titles (though I do the Photoshop work that adds my author name, imprint, and blurb to the work from my cover artist and I make all the output formats). Independents work with various third parties for those parts of the publishing business that they can't or won't do themselves, and different authors have different needs for those services. My publishing business is evolving, too — I'm adding new imprints and authors in 2017.

This is not the only time I've taken on serious work in the arts. I picked up a violin for the first time in my 30s, and a camera in my 50s, so I know what it's like to go from nothing to reasonably competent. I'm finding it's no different for writing fiction, now that I'm a few years into it. You can see some of my other interests here.

Just about all the best advice I've ever gotten came to me from people just a little further along on the same path, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to do the same in my turn.

Evaluating Advice

So, you know what this blog post is? It's advice.

And you know what you should do with advice? Treat it very carefully.

No one has all the answers, and that includes me. The most well-meaning person in the world may be completely honest about telling you what to do, and the advice may be completely wrong for you.