Pre-Orders: Are they worth it?

When I published my first three novels, setting up a pre-order was not available to self-published authors. Since then, both Amazon and Smashwords have begun offering pre-orders.

This means up to three months before your release, you can already start selling books. Now for established authors, this might be a big advantage. The success for small-scale authors is typically not as good.

Smashwords

Smashword offers you the pre-order option which means your pre-order will be on their affiliates – Kobo Store, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

There are several benefits to this. Because you determine the pre-order time period and launch date in advance, you are certain your book will be available on the release date rather than waiting for your book to go up at the respective retailers whenever it filters through Smashwords’ approval process.

This will help you in marketing as you will already have your purchase links available for blogs featuring your new release or to post on your own website.

But one of the biggest benefits is that all pre-orders get credited all at once on your launch date. This can pop your novel into the bestseller list for those respective stores. This of course adds to your exposure to potential readers. You can read more about this on Smashwords’ blog.

Amazon

preorder amazonUnlike the method used by Smashwords, Amazon counts any pre-order sales immediately. This will affect your books ranking during the course of the pre-order and not have as big of an impact on launch day. For this reason, some authors feel it dilutes their sales during launch week and adversely affects chart position during what some consider a crucial period.

Another plus for doing pre-orders through either company is that reviewers can star leaving reviews (although not as verified purchases) before your book is released.

Now remember that if you are doing a pre-order, your book must be ready to upload to the respective sites. You can always upload a different version before launch day but remember that the first 10% to 20% of your book will be offered as a sample so you will want to make sure your work is well edited prior to uploading.

Are pre-orders worth it for new, unknown authors?

It makes sense that established authors would have the best possibility to sell their books as a pre-order. The Smashword blog suggests that with the appropriate marketing, a less established author can do well with pre-orders and see their book crack the top 10 or top 20 of their genre list if they can steadily collect some pre-orders.

While this may be true, I am not sure how many pre-orders (beyond friends and family) most newbie authors can accumulate. I know that I never pre-order a book, and if I did, it would probably be for an author in which I know what I am getting. (In other words, an established, popular author.)

So, The Heir to Alexandria, will be released next week. I did not offer it as a pre-order. I don’t feel I have the fan following needed to make pre-orders worth it with only three other full-length novels to my name. (I have read numerous places that authors need three to five books under their belts before they really begin to get traction.) Now perhaps after this, with the next book, I might give it a try.

If you want to read some more of the pros and cons of pre-orders, check out this blog.

Buying the kids’ Halloween Costumes

Anyone who knows me knows I am a planner. We will never be the family on Halloween still trying to find a discount costume. For as much as I like a bargain, I won’t want to wait until the last minute.

Who am I kidding? Like I said – planner here! I won’t even be waiting a week before Halloween to purchase the kids’ costumes. We had our costumes bought in the middle of September. No, we didn’t rush out and buy them as soon as stores started stocking them. I purchased them online. I have done this the past few years and love it.

Not only can I find a costume in the size I want (without running all over the town to find that size), but I get it at an awesome price which is lower than our local stores. I have bought them off E-bay (brand new), Amazon or Walmart’s website and usually saved 20-30% off the normal retail price. Add in the free shipping and these costumes are always great deals.

IMG_2465Now if I was a crafty-type momma, I would be making my kids unique costumes. But I am too busy for that and frankly, not that crafty. I did make a pirate costume for Jase’s third-grade performance. I just cut up some clothes we already had and added a $2 eye patch. Of course, he lost the eye patch the day before the performance, so we added a maroon pirate scarf for his head. I thought it turned out great. But this is the extent of my craftiness. I don’t sew but can use scissors!

So this year, Jase originally said he wanted to be a knight. But while looking online, he saw an ARF Trooper. For those of you not up to snuff on your Star Wars knowledge, an Advanced Recon Force trooper (or simply ARF Trooper) was used to scout enemy positions and sometimes to carry out surprise attacks. They wear special camouflaged armor. Jase being a big Clone Wars/Star Wars fan fell in love with this costume. It came in early enough that he even wore it to the Alamo City Comic Con at the end of September.

CIMG3400Now Lexie, on the other hand, has changed her mind a few times. For a while, she wanted to be a pink Power Ranger. But she kept coming back to Queen Elsa (from the movie Frozen – in case you have been hiding under a rock or don’t have kids). She received a Queen Elsa costume for her birthday. Originally, I was just going to buy her the wig/hair piece that she wanted. And then while on E-bay I saw a different Elsa dress I liked. It was cheap as it came from China, and they sold it with a tiara, wand and Elsa hair braid. Perfect. Lexie loves it. And she too wore it to the Comic Con and people raved about it.

So this year we are all set for Halloween. Now it is just a matter of not letting them ruin their new costumes and not losing any of the pieces like we did on that pirate costume. There are only 18 more days until the big candy-hauling night.

Formatting your self-published novel – DIY or hire someone?

CIMG1036You have written your novel and now are ready to publish it as an e-book. But your file needs to be submitted in the proper format as required by the publisher. So do you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you?

Well, that really depends on how computer savvy you are. I have done the formatting for all my books with no problems. I know of other authors who would never want the headache of formatting their book and hire someone to do it.

Option 1 – Do it yourself

You can follow the step-by-step instructions offered by Smashwords to prepare your manuscript.

Amazon too offers a simplified formatting guide.

Advantage – It is free. If you are relatively proficient at MS Word, it is not difficult to follow the Smashwords guide. Amazon’s is a little more complex.

Disadvantage – if you aren’t proficient in MS Word, or you don’t own/use MS Word you could produce an improperly formatted book that will prevent or delay the publishing of your book. Also depending on your level of proficiency, it can take a while to follow all the formatting steps.

Option 2 – Hire someone

As I said, some authors would rather leave the formatting to the professionals. Just remember that when you hire someone to format your book that is all they are doing. They are not proofing the content.

Smashwords offers a list of formatters (as well as cover designers).

Advantages – Hiring someone who knows what they are doing can take less time and relieve you of having to worry about the formatting being done correctly.

Disadvantage – It cost money. The average rate can vary from $30 to $100 depending on the complexity or condition of your current file. It also can take longer depending on the turnaround time of the person doing the formatting.

In most cases, you will need to do several versions of your book. You will not want to use the same formatted version for all the publishers, especially as Smashwords requires a specific notice as part of the front matter that you will want to remove for submission to Amazon and other providers.

The most important thing is that you follow the guidelines provided by Amazon, Smashwords, or whatever other e-book publishers you are using so that your book not only meets their requirements but looks professional.

Amazon Author Central is an author must

As an author, there are numerous sites and resources out there but one that definitely should not be ignored is Amazon’s Author Central. (Amazon after all is the largest e-book retailer out there.)

Once you log in, you will see the Welcome screen that invites you to update your author page. This is more than just listing your author bio (which of course should be on the page). You can add photos, blog feeds, videos and even includes your latest Tweets or Facebook posts.

Author page amazon

***If you are an author, you NEED to have an Amazon Author page. Readers want to be able to find information about you, plus it easily links them to your other books. They need a way to connect with you and this is one of the easiest places to list all your links, news and events. (I am always amazed at how many authors, and not just newbie authors either, that don’t have an Amazon Author page. It is free, so there is NO excuse not to have one.)

Now back to my information on Amazon Author Central…Once you have logged in…

Click to view your list of books to ensure that Amazon is showing all the books you have written. If any books are missing, simply click the “Add more books” button, which will bring up a search screen for you to locate your other books.

books by SLN

Clicking on any book in your book list will bring up details about that book. Here you can edit the product description, add snippets from professional reviews, add notes from the author, inside flap or back cover information as well as your author bio. Whatever is entered in these sections will appear on this book’s Amazon page.

If you flip to the Book Extras tab (remember we are still looking at just one of your published books), you will see a list of extras you can add by visiting shelfari.com. Shelfari is a community of authors, Amazon customers and Selfari users. On the site, you can include series information, character descriptions, and memorable quotes. If information is added, readers can see a link for Book Extras on their Kindle or Kindle app. (Doesn’t work on Kindle for your PC though.)

OK, back to the home page of Author Central real quick. You can also find Author Central news here as well as links to Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, Audiobook Creation Exchange and other areas that might interest you.

At the top of the page, in the blue bar, you will see Sales Info. Clicking on this brings up a new screen where you can select to view information on all your books or just one select title. Clicking on “Rank over time” will let you see mini charts of your books’ sales history, their current rank, and how much they have moved today. This is updated hourly.

rank amazon

By clicking on any title, you can see that books detailed information. You can see the sales information for the past two weeks, one month, six months, one year, two year or all time. This information can help you evaluate how well any marketing endeavors have fared.

Search sale info

The Rank section shows your author rank on Amazon. You can do it for All books or break it down by the genre you are listed under. Again, you can select the period of time to view.

The last tab is Customer Reviews. Here you can see each review on Amazon about your books.

Author Central gives you a wealth of information and best of all it is free. There is no reason any author out there is not using this tool – if for nothing else then use it for your Amazon Author page. Just remember you need to keep it up to date.

Gifting a copy of your ebook

gift a copyWhether it is for a prize, or because you are sending it to someone for review, you may need to send your e-book to someone else. Now you may have a mobi file, a PDF of your book or even an ePub version but there are benefits to gifting your reviewer a copy, especially if it is on Amazon.

For those of you unsure how to gift a copy of your book, here is how to do it on both Amazon and Smashwords. For both methods, you will need the recipient’s e-mail address.

Amazon

To send a copy of your e-book on Amazon, go to your book’s page and click “Give as a Gift” button near the buy button. amazon giftEnter the email address of the person to whom you want to send the book, or you can enter your email address and then forward it to the recipient. (I use this method since my Amazon account is under my real name, and I want to send the book using my pen name.)

The recipient will receive an email that they have reviewed the book as a gift. When they accept it, the e-book will be delivered to their Kindle device or app.

If you are sending this to a reviewer, I have heard that recipients can decline the book and elect to receive a gift certificate instead so make sure you only gift books to people who have expressed a willingness to receive, read and review your book.

Of course by gifting a book, you have to pay full price for the book. But you do receive the royalty from the sale so basically your cost is your sales price less your royalty. If your e-book sells for $2.99 with a 70% royalty, your cost will be just over $.90 (Amazon’s 30% plus a small download charge, usually a few cents). That is a small price to pay, especially when you compare it to the cost of printing and mailing a paper book.

Now you may be wondering why you want to send your book this way instead of just sending them the mobi file. In the case of a reviewer, when they post their review on Amazon, it will note “Amazon Verified Purchase.” Showing this can add credibility to the reviewer.

Smashwords

Now with Smashwords you have two options for giving someone a copy of your book. You can gift them a copy similar to the method above or your can create a coupon making the book free. The good thing about Smashwords is that the reviewer can pick which e-book format they need.

To gift a copy, go to your book page and select “Give as a gift.” smashwords giftYou will enter the recipient’s name and email address, or you can enter your own information if want the notification sent to you. Once you have completed the gift purchase, your recipient will receive an email with instructions on how to redeem their gift. They will need to have a Smashword account to access the book. If they don’t have one, they will be promoted to set up a free account.

If you choose to create a coupon to do a giveaway or to offer review copies, you just have to ensure that the expiration date on your coupon is far enough away that the recipient has time to use it. In other words, don’t make it a few days after you give them the coupon. You will need the expiration date a few weeks away.