Is Your Book Cover a Cliché?

by August Wainwright on July 30, 2013

You want to know what the problem is with using stock photography for your book cover?

It’s THIS:

Book Cover Cliche 1 by August Wainwright Book Cover Cliche 2 by August Wainwright
Book Cover Cliche 3 by August WainwrightBook Cover Cliche 4 by August Wainwright
 

How amazing is that? Almost too good to be true.

This is the main issue with stock images – anyone can use them. And on the surface, each of these authors was probably either:

1. Outwardly happy with what their publishers did with the cover, since they really don’t have much of a say anyways

OR

2. Super excited when their cover designer came back with such a dark, foggy, noir cover for their super unique, super well-written, soon-to-be bestseller that is just so darn… super.

If you’re a self-published author who actually has some say over their cover, I implore you to try something different. If you hire a cover designer, talk to them about where they get their images from, how often they re-use the same image – just talk to them. Make them prove their worth.

Their are a lot of cover designers that are springing up that have no problem taking your $100 and selling you a crappy cover… and then using the same image a week later and selling another version to someone else.

Take the time to find a well-respected PROFESSIONAL. They are out there (more on this later).

Click Here For More Cover Cliches

Images sourced from Buzzfeed.com

The Remy Moreau Facebook Fan Page

by August Wainwright on July 11, 2013

Remy Moreau Facebook Page by August Wainwright

For those of you who are readers and fans of my Remy Moreau mystery series of books, I’ve just finished creating a new fan page on Facebook.

Click for the Remy Moreau Facebook page

The Facebook page is where I’ll post most of the material that is specific to the Remy Moreau series and where I’ll interact with readers.

I want to keep the “selling” to a minimum on this site and keep the information relevant to helping other writers, so moving most of the Remy interaction over to Facebook should help serve both audiences.

And to get the Facebook page off to a proper launch, I’m running a pretty awesome contest. For each of the book covers in this series, my designer and I take an image of a famous – sometimes semi-famous – person and obscure their face.

The contest is simple: head over to the Fan Page, LIKE the page, and then take a guess at who the person is on any cover you like. Get it right, and I’ll send you DRM-free digital copies of each book in the series – for free – FOR LIFE!

That means, if you guess who is on the cover of ‘The St. Mary’s Cipher’, I’ll send you not only that book, but every other book in the series for free – even if the series eventually ends up being 20 books, you’ll get them all.

There’s 3 covers out right now, so 3 people can win every book in the series for free.

Click for the Remy Moreau Facebook page

Enjoy!

(Oh, and I just revealed the cover for Book 3 in the series, ‘The Red-Headed Order’. Go check it out and let me know what you think.)

How to Find Success as a Self-Published Author

by August Wainwright on July 10, 2013

I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone for the great response to the 50 Best Sites for Indie & Self Published Authors post. The reaction has been amazing and many of the writers and sites on the list have weighed in to say thanks. I’ve also learned about a few new sites that are worth a regular visit. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed answering emails and spreading the word, so I haven’t gotten around to posting a new article for the last 2 weeks. No bueno.

Recently, I’ve been struck by a recurring conversation that continues to pop up everywhere I turn. In various forums, on websites, and in comment sections, it seems to be what so many indie and self-published authors are thinking (and complaining) about right now.

So what is it?

Well for me, it’s a discussion about success. It’s a discussion about how to define what success looks like and a discussion about how to achieve that success.

However, on all of these sites, the argument is framed as one of failure – not of success. Here are just a few examples of what I’ve recently heard:

“Now that Amazon has changed their algorithms to target indie authors…”

“Now that free is dead…”

“Last year, with the post-free run bump in sales, I could count on getting at least “X” sales after it went back to its regular price. Now I’m barely getting any post-free sales. Either free is dead or Amazon is targeting authors like me…”

“There’s no way to sell books if you don’t use Bookbub…”

“Bookbub won’t feature my book because I don’t have enough reviews, but I can’t get enough reviews if I’m not featured on Bookbub.”

“No new authors in 2013 are finding any real success…”

“I published my book last week and only had 5 sales, this is ridiculous…”

No, sir, you are ridiculous!

(Sorry, that was an outburst).

The point of highlighting these arguments is to show the thinking of some self-published authors. And, seeing as how this site is quickly turning into a place to help writers perform better in the current publishing marketplace (which I love the direction it’s taking), I believe this is a conversation that needs to be openly, and truthfully, discussed.

So let’s dive into a few of the issues surrounding the success of a self-published author…

 

You are NOT an outlier

I hate to have to be the one to tell you this, but you aren’t Hugh Howey. You aren’t. Statistically speaking, it’s an extremely safe bet for me to say that you, the one reading this post, will never sell a million copies of anything you write – especially over the course of just a few months.

This idea that because one out of every ten thousand writers finds overnight success (that’s a completely made up stat; it’s probably much more rare than one in ten thousand), that it somehow translates to the idea that overall success as a writer is framed by these outliers is so wildly off-base that it’s comical.

The idea of a brand new author showing up with their first work and finding major success with no pre-established base was just as absurd in 1983 as it was in 2003 as it is now in 2013.

This skewed idea of success has led so many new authors to believe that if Brad Thor does it or Russell Blake does it or Joe Konrath does it, then they’re simply a click of a “Publish” button away from doing it too.

You aren’t that writer.

But what you probably are is a good writer. You might even be a great writer. So how do you attain the success that you’re seeking?

 

Slow growth is the sustainable way to success as an author

Let me ask a blunt question, and I want you to really think about this for a second:

Do you really want crappy books with crappy covers and crappy amateur blurbs to be able to get post-free sales bumps? Do you really want poor products to represent indie authors? Do you really want YOUR marketplace to be that easy?

You’re entitled to your own opinion, but my immediate answer is NO. I don’t want things to be that easy. Either way, you should stop to think about what the marketplace of 2011 and 2012 have done to the thinking of new authors.

The algorithms and marketplace of the last 1.5-2 years allowed unknown self-published authors to become overnight successes, sometimes regardless of the quality of their product. That 18-month period of the “free” gold-rush WASN’T the norm; it was never going to stay that way. Now the systems and algorithms are starting to normalize.

Is Amazon perfect? No. Is B&N or Kobo or Apple perfect? No. But the technology is still amazing and it’s still unbelievably liberating.

And yet, I’ve actually watched multiple authors on various forums publish their first book, with absolutely no prior following, openly discuss their first and second week sales numbers with smiling emoticons, and then after the sales fall off over the next few weeks, they post about how they are barely staying afloat and that they don’t know what to do and that it seems like the time of the indie/self-pub author is dead.

I say – GOOD.

As much as I want to help other authors that are on a parallel journey to mine, I have no time for the people who think that if success doesn’t come in less than 30 days, then it’s not coming at all.

Real success – the lasting kind – takes a tremendous amount of time and effort.

Whether it’s Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hours idea or Dean Wesley Smith’s thinking on slow growth, true success as an author takes years, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of words.

Did you know Issac Asimov is believed to have written or co-written 512 books (a New York Times article from 1969 credited the then 49 year old Asimov with 108 books and over 7.5 million words). Ray Bradbury published more than 30 books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays. Stephen King has published 55 novels and close to 200 short stories, and probably has many more that are yet unpublished.

So here’s the path to success:

Write. Edit. Re-Write. Re-Edit. (Do this a few more times). Get a great cover. Write a great blurb. Publish. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Notice the three repeats there at the end. That is the key. Most series don’t find success until at least the third book. Most authors don’t find success for the first few years, maybe even the first decade.

But what’s really worth discussing when it comes to “success” in today’s marketplace is what that success looks like when it finally comes.

 

A real example of a brand new author (with numbers)

Look, if you’re one of the lucky ones who hit it big because of a free run or the hot ad-company-of-the-week, well then great. But the idea is to keep writing, get better at your craft, and plan for the future.

That is what self-publishing allows for. I entered the industry full-time somewhere around late February of 2013, with no writing experience other than as a hobby. I’ve been writing off and on my entire life, but I’ve never approached it as a potential career.

Last year, my wife deployed, my other business was doing well, and I had a lot of free time on my hands. I started writing letters to mail to my wife (a dying but extremely valuable art) and she eventually asked me to send her a few stories. (You can read my first ever post and a little more about the start of my journey here). That’s how I initially got into writing on a semi-regular schedule.

I never submitted to agents or publishers; I also never submitted a single story to competitions or magazines. I published my first book via Amazon in late May 2013. I just finished publishing the 2nd in my current series, a short 12,000 word novella, in late June. The 3rd is due out in the next few days. I’m not yet on any platform other than Amazon.

And now I’d like to take a minute to talk specific numbers. I know most people frown on the idea, but I’m not begging and I’m not bragging, so I see no issues with discussing real numbers.

So far, in the month and a half I’ve had books available to purchase, I’ve sold roughly 1 book per day, per title (full disclosure: those sales are both as myself and under a single pen name where I have two books published). Just a single sale per day, per title.

So, again, I ask: what is “success”?

Because under almost any metric you’ll find online, I’m a complete failure.

 

Yet, here’s the reality for someone who is a completely new author in 2013:

  • In roughly 4 months (beginning of March to present day), my website has attracted close to 500 subscribers who are actively engaged in the articles I write.
  • In the roughly 2 months of being “published”, I have 115 subscribers to a newsletter specific to my book series. (The cross-over between these lists is minimal, roughly 4%).
  • In the those 2 months, I’ve averaged about 1 sale per title released, per day.

 

This is what those numbers project to be by the end of 2013:

  • My website subscriber list should be somewhere between 1000-2000 people.
  • My book series subscriber list could be anywhere from about 500 up to “who knows”. The reason this is hard to quantify is because I only have 2 titles out right now in the series (and an additional 2 under a pen name), whereby the end of 2013 I plan on having 8-10 books out.
  • I plan to publish to all platforms later this summer. Should I be able to bump the 1-sale-per-day-per-title up to a modest 3 sales per day (across all platforms) and, accomplish my goal of releasing 8 titles by years end, I would be selling 24 books per day. 24 books per day at my current avg. profit price of $2.35 would equal just over $20,000 in 365 days.

 

Also, it’s worth noting that I have a KDP Select run scheduled for July 26-27th, but as of right now, all my current numbers are with no free runs and no advertising. I’ve yet to use a KDP free day, and as of writing this, I’ve not submitted my books to Bookbub or any other major advertiser (but I do plan on doing so).

Are those numbers blow-the-roof-off amazing? I don’t think so, but what IS amazing is that they are completely attainable.

Is it “success”?

To me, it’s a damn good start. To you, I don’t know, I guess that’s for each individual to decide. But for me, the idea that a very realistic minimum of $20k in 2013 with ZERO pre-established base before March of this year, I have to say that I think that’s quite amazing.

With the right marketing (which is something I plan on discussing in great detail on this site), a mediocre free run (regardless of what that means right now), or a well-placed ad, my numbers could be well in excess of that projected minimum.

And the key is still the long term. Look at what happens if I publish 8 titles a year, for the next 3 years and STILL only average 3 sales a day per title at an average sales revenue of $2.35.

8 titles per year X 3yrs = 24 titles
24 titles X 3 sales a day per title = 72 sales per day
72 sales per day X avg. sale profit of $2.35 = $169.20 per day
$169.20 per day = $61,758 per year

With 50 titles available and STILL only 3 sales per day per title, that yearly income becomes $128,662.50.

So from writing 1000 words a day on my laptop over the course of the next 5 years, I could possibly end up making an additional six figure income doing something I love. That’s “never hitting it big” – never selling more than 3 copies of any title on any given day.

And that income should continue on forever. In the digital marketplace, my books never go out of print.

To me, it’s amazing what is possible for a new author in 2013. The technology and networking at our fingertips is nothing less than incredible. But you still have to write. Sit down, every day, and write. Write a little; write a lot. Just keep writing. Keep turning out great products and, eventually, you’ll find an audience.

Success isn’t something achieved overnight – it’s earned over a long period of time, with a tremendous amount of effort. But it’s very attainable – now more than ever before.

 

What are your thoughts on the state of indie and self-publishing halfway through 2013? Are you encouraged or discouraged? What’s your story so far and what are you planning for in the future? Leave a comment below.

The Indie 50 – The 50 Best Sites for Indie and Self-Published Authors

by August Wainwright on June 23, 2013

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now and kept putting it off. Having now finished the list, I completely understand why I’ve been procrastinating for so long.

Trying to compile a list of relevant sites was hard enough. But attempting to get that list down to the final 50 sites turned out to be a massive endeavor; and I wasn’t even The Indie 50 – The 50 Best Sites for Indie and Self-Published Authorsdone yet – I still felt the need to try to rank the sites. How, or using what scale? Hell, I have absolutely no idea.

In the end, I decided the Indie 50 should be the 50 sites that, in my opinion, represent the best the Internet has to offer for indie and self-published authors.

That might mean something different for you (I’m sure it does), but for me, this list is made up of the sites that I visit on a daily or weekly basis. These are the sites that have helped me get to where I’m at. And, should I find a higher success in this industry, it will more than likely be due to something I picked up from one of these sites. I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time and I owe most, if not all, of that to the sites on this list.

The Indie 50 – The 50 Best Sites for Indie and Self-Published Authors (help promote the Indie 50 by clicking here to tweet)

The list is both searchable and fully sortable. You can sort by rank, alphabetically, or by category. There’s quite a bit of overlap for some sites as far as categories go, but I’ve attempted to put each site into 1 of 5 categories :

Self-Publishing, Writing Process, Resource, Social, and Industry/News.

The Indie 50 represents my personal journey, and to those who have created the sites and resources on this list, I can’t thank you enough.

So with out any further ado, I present for your viewing, and clicking, pleasure:

The Indie 50 – The 50 Best Sites for Indie and Self-Published Authors

 

#URLCategory
1KBoards - Writers' CafeALL
2The Newbie's Guide to PublishingSelf-Publishing
3Amazon KDP & Author CentralResource
4The Passive VoiceIndustry/News
5Dean Wesley SmithSelf-Publishing
6TerribleMindsWriting Process
7The Creative PennSelf-Publishing
8No Rules Just WriteSelf-Publishing
9Self Publishing PodcastSelf-Publishing
10David GaughranSelf-Publishing
11The Book DesignerSelf-Publishing
12BookBubResource
13Nook Press / PubItResource
14GoodreadsSocial
15CopybloggerMarketing
16Jane FriedmanSelf-Publishing
17Seth GodinMarketing
18ScrivenerResource
19TED TalksAWESOMENESS
20Hugh HoweySelf-Publishing
21Lindsay BurokerSelf-Publishing
22Writer's DigestWriting Process
23The Self Publishing TeamSelf-Publishing
24Kristine Kathryn RuschSelf-Publishing
25KOBOResource
26Digital Book WorldIndustry/News
27Storyfix.comWriting Process
28Karen WoodwardWriting Process
29Publisher's WeeklyIndustry/News
30Mystery Writing is MurderWriting Process
31Catherine, CaffeinatedSelf-Publishing
32Write on the RiverSelf-Publishing
33EBookBoosterResource
34Goins, WriterBlogging/Platform
35Draft2DigitalResource
36LibraryThingsSocial
37ProBloggerBlogging/Platform
38Wise, Ink.Self-Publishing
39Rachelle GardnerSelf-Publishing
40IndieReaderIndustry/News
41ScribophileResource/Writing Process
42The Kill ZoneBlogging/Platform
43Kristen LambBlogging/Platform
44Write to DoneWriting Process
45GetMeWriting.comWriting Process
46Live Write ThriveWriting Process
47HAROResource
48Author Marketing ClubResource
49SmashwordsResource
50The Writer's Guide to E-PublishingSelf-Publishing

 

A little more about the list:

Some amazing sites got left off. It just works that way when you’re trying to pare down a list like this – not everyone can make it. I’m a personal fan of Barry Eisler, both as a writer and for his strong opinions (well… most of the time). His blog, The Heart of the Matter, is one I visit often, but it landed just outside the top 50 for me.  I’ve also enjoyed quite a few articles from Jen Falls at Falls into Writing lately; she’s written some great in-depth posts that are worth a read.

I purposely left off the major social sites – Facebook, Twitter, G+ – because they aren’t specific to indie and self-pub authors. Should you be using them? Absolutely. Do they have anywhere near the effect on an overall career as the other sites on this list? In my experience, that answer is a resounding NO.

After much deliberation, I also decided to leave off sites specifically targeting UK audiences. Mostly because I don’t personally frequent any (yet), but also because the list would have needed to become the Indie 100 with so many great sites to choose from.

But there are definitely some great UK based sites; The Kindle Users Forum is more-or-less the equivalent of KBoards in the UK, and Indie Book Bargains seems to be a great promotion resource. I’m planning on doing a separate UK specific list of sites in a future post.

Last, I originally had a few cover design sites I wanted to include on the list under the Resource category, but eventually decided to remove them. Cover design is a bit of a “hot-topic” for me, mostly because I feel it is the one obvious area where indie and self-pub authors fall short of traditionally published authors. This is not ALWAYS the case, but more often than not, you will find self-pub writers who spend months, maybe years, writing a great book that deserves to be published, and then they slap on a cover they “designed” themselves in 2 hours on GIMP.

I’ve written about how a cover can KILL your book before anyone has the chance to read it, and after thinking about using valuable spots on the Indie 50 list for cover designers (as much as it is warranted), I decided it would be much more beneficial to do another separate post on the best cover designers for self-published authors. There’s just too much information to cover and it warrants more than a simple outgoing link.

So if you’re interested in getting either the post on the UK specific list or the in-depth cover design post/list, sign up for the newsletter by CLICKING HERE and I’ll be sure to let you know when those are finished.

 

Please take a few seconds to spread the Indie 50 list.

I believe the Indie 50 deserves to be shared – writers that are just starting out have a tremendous amount to gain from having access to this list and from the information on the sites listed here. So please share it with your followers and friends, or post a link to it on your site.

The Indie 50 – The 50 Best Sites for Indie and Self-Published Authors (help promote the Indie 50 by clicking here to tweet)

And, again, Thank You to all those who have put in a tremendous amount of time and energy building the amazing sites on this list.

 

If I missed any great sites, please drop a link in the comments below. The plan is to revisit the list whenever needed… hopefully that will only be once a year. Thoughts?

Publication Day! The St. Mary’s Cipher

by August Wainwright on June 18, 2013

Volume 2 in the Remy Moreau series just went live over at Amazon. And for a limited time, from now until Sunday at midnight, I’m going to have both volumes, #1 & 2 in the series, on sale for only $0.99 each.

For the next 6 days only, you can download both books in the series for only $1.98. That’s more than 70% off the normal list prices. 

Get Volume 1, ‘A Study in Sin’, here.
Get Volume 2, ‘The St. Mary’s Cipher’, here.

Here’s a brief description of volume 2 in the series:

The St. Mary's Cipher

Tim Fairling has a problem. His wife is getting coded messages, she won’t tell him the truth – won’t even talk to him – and she’s constantly looking over her shoulder. Something is after her, and Tim can’t figure out what.

Before it’s too late, he turns to the only person that might be able to help…

Remy is comfortable with Watts as her sidekick, constantly keeping him at arm’s length. But when Watts finally confronts her about what happened during their “Study in Sin”, he’s not going to like what she has to say.

I love getting feedback (both good and not-so-good) from readers, so please let me know what you think.



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