It’s a new year and time for the first Author Toolbox post.
I’m going to look at all the important things we should take note of right now as author(entre)preneurs. I’ve read so many blog posts, listened to various podcasts and attended a multitude of webinars, that it feels like my mind might explode if I keep it all to myself.
Google+ is shutting down.
Because of some technical stuff that I really don’t have the time or energy to read through, Google first announced in November (or thereabouts) that it will shut down Google+ in August 2019. It has since moved up – due to another glitch in their system – to April 2019.
What does that mean for us as authors?
Google+ has been a great place to post your blog posts and boost SEO for your blog. (Google likes its own stuff best, so your blog posts as Google+ posts got a great boost in search rankings.) Now we’ll have to look at how SEO really works to get that right (or get something like Yeost and other Google analytic stuff that helps you make your blog posts SEO friendly).
Make sure that everyone you only have in your Google+ circles are connected to you via other social media platforms (like Twitter or Instagram) – or that they’ve joined your newsletter. No point in losing the connections you’ve made there just because it’s shutting down.
Print on Demand Distribution is where we need to be
Paperback, large print and hardback books are in demand in library, special needs and other sectors. And some people just like to read a “real” book.
I recommend IngramSpark. They distribute to several thousand retailers, libraries, etc. and they do print on demand (POD) in all of the above formats.
Sure, maybe print books aren’t big sellers (looking at my own stats, audiobooks are leading my sales), but there is still a market for them. And POD makes it cost-effective.
All you need to do is create an account with IngramSpark, choose the trim size of your chosen project, make sure your manuscript is print-ready with their instructions (a PDF is what they want), use their cover creator to make sure your cover meets their standards (or have your cover designer do that step for you) and upload it to their system.
Usually it costs $49 per book. But they are running a NaNoWriMo promotion until March – you can do a book for free.
I’m ready to launch “Once…” into the IngramSpark ecosystem – if I can just get my perfectionist side to agree that the PDFs are ready.
Joanna Penn has great resources on her blog about print books.
Audio is Huge
I’m not talking just about audiobooks (which you should totally do – they were my nr.1 revenue stream in 2018). You can read all about my thoughts on audiobooks over on the Writer’s Gambit.
Podcasts are gaining popularity. And it’s basically just blogging using your voice, isn’t it? So if you feel like that might be something you’d be good at and enjoy, you should look into it. If you don’t’ like your voice, you can go for voice coaching. I know that children usually go to drama training schools after school to learn how to talk properly to crowds, do speeches, etc. – but that doesn’t mean you can’t.
Voice coaching can also lead to you narrating your own audiobooks! A lot of readers like the idea of the author doing the narration.
If you want to do the DIY approach to audiobooks, check out Will Hahn’s blog series.
And it doesn’t stop there… A lot of people are using voice commands to search the internet. Which has an impact on SEO, because we don’t speak the way we write. So we’ll have to look at the way we create search terms in our blogs, books, book trailers, etc. (YouTube and Amazon are search engines, too, you know.)
There’s loads more to learn about audio – check out this podcast from The Creative Penn with Bradley Metrock.
The Amazon Ecosystem is changing
Amazon is ever changing, we know that. What with their review policy changing every other month (no paid reviews, $50 spends before being allowed to leave reviews, weird algorithms that decide that legit reviews are illegal, etc.) and shutting down services like CreateSpace, we know that we cannot depend solely on them.
But they have been great for Indie Authors. Things like “Also Bought” showing up beneath a book someone was viewing, really helped sales.
Oh, you noticed that? The “Also Bought” section had disappeared. It flickered in and out of existence for a while until it just vanished.
Some authors had no sales on backlist books in September.
Authors are panicking. What if this means that we have to “pay to play”? According to Orna Ross over at the Alliance of Independent Authors, we shouldn’t panic. Yet. Amazon is making subterranean changes to their system and only time will tell what it means for organic sales.
You can listen to the full podcast publishing salon with Orna Ross and Joanna Penn here.
But you can always check out Mark Dawson’s site to learn how Amazon Ads work. It’s tricky, with lots of sneaky things (check out this post and this post by ML Keller), but it might ultimately be what we need to do to get sales on the backlist.
Being a #productivewriter is so 2018
Not to say that we shouldn’t still produce excellent work, but maybe we should take some time off once in a while. That is the point of getting as much done in an hour as possible, isn’t it?
So many blogs talk about the adverse effects of burnout. Even I blogged about it at some point. We’ve all experienced it. But why?
Because we believe an hour not spent working, is an hour wasted.
Cait Reynolds blames self-help books. She has a point: sometimes the glass is exactly as full as it needs to be.
If you’ve read my first IWSG post for 2019, you would have noticed that my summer vacation lasted exactly two days. And then I was back at work.
We can talk about why (especially women) writers feel the need to constantly show results – glass ceilings, etc. We can talk about all the psychological nonsense that drive us nuts. We can fill Angst Jars à la DIY MFA to get over stuff and get back to work.
Or we can get off the hamster wheel of insanity and ask ourselves: do you know who you are? Do you know what happened to you? Do you want to live this way? (Yes, I’ve been binge watching Grey’s Anatomy again.)
Just like Cristina had to figure out what she really wanted out of life and what she was willing to let go to get what she wanted (Season 10), we have to take stock.
Joanna Penn proposed in her 2019 Goals post that we ask ourselves the following: “What do you need to let go of in terms of beliefs about publishing and how the world is? Does your opinion serve you or is it time to gain a new perspective? What do you need to learn about?”
Nick Stephenson takes this even further. I did a free video training series with him during December (I was cleaning out my inbox and somehow found myself furthering my education) and in one video he proposed that “one of the biggest obstacles we face when growing our business is learning where to focus our efforts – and, of course, what activity we need to limit”.
By using his 3 Step Formula.
Traffic + Conversions + Engagement = Sales
If your day-to-day marketing efforts do not meet any of the above objectives, you are better off writing.
(I highly recommend that you join his newsletter if you are serious about your author business.)
Kristen Lamb talks about learning to relax and have fun – without alcohol and other stimulants. It makes one think back to the festive season and whether you were able to enjoy a get-together without drinking the entire bottle of tequila, a bottle of some kind of sour shooter thing, what was left of the vodka and some creamy, sweet thing someone started to pour into the shot glasses (with your best mates, of course).
You can take from this what you want. For my sanity, I’m taking weekends off. Unplugging completely. This weekend I’m building new coops for my chickens – if it isn’t raining. Otherwise I’m going to read a new book – an actual physical book (staying unplugged).
You can check out my currently reading shelf on Goodreads to get an idea of what I’m planning to read in January.
Remember: this is a business
You are the content creator, the book designer, the outsourcing manager (book covers, editing, etc.), the bookkeeper, the CFO, the marketing department, the CEO and the face of the company.
There are so many roles you have to fill, it can make a head explode.
But take a step back.
You are an author. Are you happy with your publisher?
You are a publisher. Are you happy with your (only) author?
Scary. (And can probably give us a personality disorder or two.)
As an author, are you happy with the way your publisher is distributing your books? Did your publisher use all rights available to increase revenue streams? (Did they take one book and turn it into: audiobook, hardback, large print, paperback, ebook – and translated it into various languages and published it in the aforementioned formats?) Are you happy with the way your publisher is marketing your books and your brand?
As a publisher, are you happy with the amount and quality of work your (only) author is producing? Are you happy with the way your author is acting in public (online, speaking engagements, etc.)? Are you happy with the amount of work your author is doing to build her brand?
So, ah, this might sound like it is countering the previous point about being a #productivewriter. But you have to know what you want, where you want to go, to know that what you are doing right now is taking you in the right direction.
Non-Fiction is booming
Not that everyone should jump in. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. But if you can… go make a name for yourself. People love to learn new stuff.
I’m planning on publishing a new non-fiction ebook every month. It is based on past blog posts, only fleshed out (and some have worksheets!). And though it takes me some precious fiction writing time to get it right, I feel like it might be the right thing to do. And they’ll only be 99 cents (the American kind), but available everywhere Draft2Digital can get them into. (As a South African author, I can’t use Barnes and Noble – among others – if I try to do it myself. But D2D can.)
Maybe it’s the insecure writer in me believing that I cannot compete at a higher price with established non-fiction writers… or maybe it’s business savvy?
I’m sure I’m forgetting something… Oh, well. I did mention everything that was on my mind. You might’ve noticed that at the start of the post, there’s a link that you can now follow this blog on Bloglovin’. We talked about RSS feeds in an earlier Toolbox post. I’ve found that now that I’ve moved over to a new site, it is easier to keep up with other blogs by using Bloglovin’. So go ahead and claim your blog over there so you can see the statistics.
What are your thoughts about the things we should keep in mind as authorpreneurs in 2019?
Sign up for my newsletter and receive a free ebook. I won’t share your information and I’ll only email you once a month with updates on new releases, special offers, and a bit of news.