Posted on April 24th, 2012
Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories is free on Amazon Kindle April 24-25. http://amzn.to/IwKima
Please share this with your friends!
Don’t have a Kindle? You can still read the electronic version on your computer. There’s no DRM, so converting it to another version is a breeze with Calibre.
Please grab a free copy to help my Amazon ranking, which will eventually sell more books. Thanks everyone!
Posted on March 18th, 2012
My next book, Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories, is now available for preorder from Amazon. I’m pretty excited!
This book is the first in a series of non-fiction books designed to help teen writers through all the stages of writing, from creating stories to writing as a career. It’s great for new writers of all ages, and is organized into an easy-to-read format with plenty of examples and exercises.
As well as accepting preorders through Amazon, I’m also looking for early reviewers who will read the book and write a review in time for its April 24 launch. Readers will receive a free PDF of the book, and as might be obvious, should not distribute the file to anyone else. Simply comment on this blog post, post a message on my Facebook Author page, or send me a tweet via Twitter (@mikekalmbach).
If you’re on Goodreads, take a moment to add Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories to your to-read list.
Thanks for helping get a new book off the ground!
Posted on November 15th, 2011
As I’m sure is not a surprise, I’m hard at work on another novel with the working title, Into the Land of Iowah. Here’s the blurb:
Vagus, a wizard from the realm of Amishan, loses a battle and is banished to the most heinous land his enemy can think of: a corn field in the middle of present-day Iowa. In a land where all people know of magic is from the movies, he’s convinced there’s no worse place to be. With the help of a trucker named Bob, Vagus must find his way back home in time to rescue his friends.
It’s intended to be a humorous fantasy novel in the vein of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Terry Pratchett’s novels.
While there is still a lot of work left to do on the novel, I was lucky enough to befriend a talented artist, Chris Osman.Â He’s created a cover concept for Into the Land of Iowah, and I think it’s pretty awesome.Â There’s still time to make adjustments, so feel free to comment if there’s something you think should change.Â Of course, comments like “this is an awesome cover” and “I can’t wait until it’s ready” are also welcome.Â 🙂
What do you think? I’d love to hear it!
Posted on October 5th, 2011
Did you just read an awesome indie book? Are you looking for ways to help the author out?
You’ve come to the right place.
What follows are several methods to help an indie author out.Â This includes:
- Buying the book (first for yourself, then as gifts for friends)
- Telling your friends (and posting reviews)
- Tagging the book to make it easier for people to find
While (perhaps obviously), I’m targeting this to my own fans, these strategies are general enough for any indie author. I’d expect the actual dollar values should be consistent for most indie authors as well.
Buy the book
Of course, the first and best way is to buy a copy of the author’s book.Â However, where you buy it is as important as your actual purchase.
Since I published through CreateSpace, I earn the most when people buy direct from them (about $4.50 per book from my $10.95 book).Â Amazon falls in at a respectable $2.94.Â However, when someone buys a copy from Barnes and Noble, I earn only $0.25 per book.
Buying the book as a gift is an excellent way to thank an author. That’s part of the reason I offer signed copies through my site (check the right-hand panel)–it’s an opportunity for fans to purchase a unique gift for themselves or their friends.Â Since I include a free ebook with autographed paperbacks purchased through my site, you can buy a paperback as a gift and keep the ebook for yourself.
Giving the book as a gift offers you the opportunity to talk with others about the book, which helps get the word out for an indie author.
As an indie author, Smashwords gives me the best return: about $2.21 per book.Â Amazon is second, at about $2.03 a book, and Barnes and Noble gives me $1.94 per book.Â Besides offering the best return, Smashwords also lets me run coupons as needed.Â If I want to give a free copy to a book reviewer, all I have to do is generate a code and pass it along.
Lending an ebook to a friend also helps spread the word about a good book, so take advantage of this opportunity.Â Which leads us to the next point:
Tell your friends
Think about the last book you bought.Â Why did you buy it?
Chances are pretty good that it’s because a friend recommended it.
Word of mouth advertising is awesome.Â If you can’t stop raving about the plot twists in The Caldarian Conflict, (as a completely random and unbiased example), people take notice.
If you’re part of a book group, suggest that the group read a book by the indie author.Â Note: only do this if you’d give the book a 4- or 5-star review.Â And make sure the book is free of typos.Â When the average reader spots typo after typo, the book probably wasn’t ready to be released.
Did I just mention reviews?
That’s another great way to help out an indie author.Â Thoughtful reviews are more important than 5-star reviews (though as an indie author, I always love to receive a 5-star review).Â That said, when someone checks out a book’s rating on Amazon, they’re more likely to purchase a book that has several thoughtful reviews than several that say: “This book is teh best!!!” (typo intentional)
When reviewing, do explain what you liked and who might be most likely to enjoy the book.Â Try to avoid spoilers where possible.Â Post it everywhere the book is sold, and especially on reader communities like Goodreads or LibraryThing.
Once you’ve written a review, tell people on Facebook and Twitter about the book.Â When they know you wrote the review, your friends or followers are more likely to at least look at the book to see whether it’s a good match.
While we’re talking about Facebook and Twitter, definitely become a fan of the author and follow their tweets.Â When you see something interesting from the author, pass it along to your friends so the author can grow followers and potentially connect with other readers.
Tag the book
What is tagging?
Tagging is a method of adding keywords to a book so that it shows up in search results.Â The more people that agree with a particular tag, the higher the placement of the book in the search results.
Tags can usually be found on a product’s Amazon page.Â Other sites use tagging sometimes, but Amazon is the most widely used.Â Simply search for “tag” on the page, and you should find it.
If there’s nothing there, add tags related to the book.Â For example, some of the tags currently used for The Caldarian Conflict include pirates, monks, and corrupt government. If you have read the book, select the check box for those you agree with.Â If you happen to think of others that aren’t listed, definitely add them.Â The author will certainly appreciate it when others find (and hopefully purchase) their book.
If you’ve already read my book, please go to the Amazon page and help me out with a review and adding some tags.Â I’d really appreciate it.
What other ways can you think of to help an indie author out?Â What did I miss?
Posted on October 1st, 2011
This is my first monthly report on how sales are going for my book.Â Eventually I’ll include multiple books as I release them.
Why release my numbers publicly?
By sharing this publicly, I hope it helps other indie authors set expectations, plus it helps me maintain a monthly record of what I’ve done and what the results were.
Favorite quote from a review: “I was literally up all night because I couldn’t stop reading (if there are any typos in this review blame them on my blurry vision).” – Maxine McLister (Amazon)
This month’s goal: 100 books sold (ebook & physical)
Total sales: 124 books sold – 50 ebooks and 74 paperbacks
Promotional copies: 41 ebooks + 12 paperbacks (not included in sales)
I’m pretty pleased with the results.Â Exceeding my goal for first month’s sales is pretty awesome–especially since I had no measurements to guide my estimate.
My biggest surprise? That physical books outsold the ebooks this month.Â With everything I’ve read, and the lower price point on the ebooks, I expected ebooks to far exceed paperbacks.
That said, it’s probably a result of the heavy marketing I did.Â The single biggest day of sales was 43 paperbacks at my launch party.
At this point, I think it’s most effective for me to allow people time to read the book and (hopefully) write reviews.Â With the exception of occasional tweets and Facebook posts, I plan to focus most of my spare time on writing additional material.
I’m also planning to point out that signed copies of The Caldarian Conflict make a great unique gift for fantasy fans. (hint hint: check the right-hand panel for ordering autographed copies, or buy from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CreateSpace, or Smashwords)
In October, I plan to invest a lot of time working on my next two projects.Â With luck, I’ll finish the first draft of at least one of them by year-end.
Next month’s goal: 50 books (ebook & physical), due to spending much less time marketing
What do you think?Â Should I continue focusing on writing more material? Or are there other marketing avenues that I should pursue?
Posted on September 23rd, 2011
If you missed my book launch party and are in the Rochester, MN area, I will be signing books at:Rochester Family â€œYâ€
709 1st Ave SW,
I’ll be there (and dressed as a pirate) from 10am-3pm. My books will be $10 apiece.
There will be other local and talented authors there also, including:
o Elsie Dunn
o Divine Rhubarb Committee
o Helen Chen
o Joan Sween
o Jen Brewer
o Ann Schultz
o Tom Harper
o David Fingerman
As well as some local and talented artists:
o Brenda Kline
o Leisa Luis Grill
o Mary Lou Devlin
o Loretta Verbout
o Andrew Neville
o Deb Zipse
It’s going to be a great time!
Posted on September 21st, 2011
Yesterday, I hosted a launch party for my debut novel, The Caldarian Conflict.Â I invited virtually everyone I knew within a 50-mile radius to come to the signing event hosted at a local Rochester MN attraction, the Plummer House.Â Overall, it was a huge success from my standpoint, with sales exceeding expectations.
As such, I want to share what I learned with others and record what happened so I can hopefully repeat the success next time.
Since my own book launch was the first I’d ever attended, I had little information to go on when my wife and I planned this event.Â Brenda found lots of ideas, and we talked about a lot of different options.Â What follows is a list of decisions, why we went with it, and what I think about it now.
There were lots of things to consider as we marketed the party. We tried lots of traditional marketing, like:
- The Minnesota Writers Alliance newsletter included us in their event list and included an excellent article about me.
- The Rochester Post Bulletin was kind enough to mention the launch party not once, but twice in the days preceding the party
- Robin Wolfram, one of the anchors for KTTC, a Rochester TV station, interviewed me and helped get the word out about the party
Beyond that, we carefully considered what things would draw people to our party.Â For example, we knew that these things would help people say “yes” to coming:
- Book signing
- International Talk Like a Pirate Day theme (more later)
- Location (Plummer House, more later)
- Pirate costumes!
- Seeing my 3-month-0ld son (hey, it’s for a good cause)
- Door prizes
- Family friendly
With all of these reasons to say yes, who could say no?Â 🙂
Timing was pretty easy.Â After I’d written the first couple of chapters of my novel, I knew I was going to finish.Â I set a target completion date of September 19, 2011–which is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.Â Since my novel has a pirate theme, it was a perfect fit.
The pirate theme allowed us to have a second reason to celebrate the day: if nothing else, we could have a Pirate Day party.Â This helped create another reason for people to say yes to coming.Â Plus, since it related to the theme of the novel, we were also pulling in the target audience likely to be interested in the novel.
The location was more difficult.Â Originally we wanted something located downtown so we could maximize parking ability, random walk-bys, and the likelihood that people could find the place.Â After looking at prices and a couple of options, we were concerned about the costs.Â Thankfully, Brenda came up with the option that the Plummer House and grounds could be rented for significantly less than any space we’d looked at.
There were several other advantages of the Plummer House that we discovered:
- Though it’s a local attraction, few locals ever make the time to go up there (it’s situated at the top of a large bluff).Â This created an attractive draw for people who might have been more neutral.
- The Victorian feel of the house melded well with the pirate theme of the novel.
- Since we held the event on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, we suggested that people wear pirate costumes.Â The more remote location helped save people any embarrassment they might have felt about walking around in costume.
So, in short, the location and timing was a big win that helped this event succeed.
Giveaways (door prizes, etc.)
To avoid hurting sales, we didn’t want to use giveaways that included the novel.Â Brenda did a wonderful job creating lots of different door prizes, including this one:
It included some cashews, a pair of mugs engraved with the title of the novel, and a copy of The Pirate Primer, so the winner could learn how to better talk like a pirate.
Other door prizes were targeted for children and teens, with special consideration given to each age group.Â Being new parents, we wanted to make the event as family-friendly as possible.
Also, we had lots of little gift bags, special bags for the first ones to arrive, and a free eye patch.Â My talented mother also created custom-made bookmarks for the books.
We received a ton of positive feedback around all the giveaways and ideas designed to keep the party a positive experience.
Overall, the giveaways were a definite win.
Brenda found a plethora of pirate-themed decorations from Amazon, Oriental Trading, and others.Â We may have helped keep some of these businesses afloat in tough economic times.
While we found lots of things we liked, we overbought.Â Due to time restrictions, we didn’t use all of the things we purchased.
Also, for every item we put up, we extended our tear-down time at the end.Â When I release my next book, assuming we do a party, I’m planning to take a minimalist approach to decorations.Â Not only will this reduce costs, but it will also help save us time in setup and tear-down.
In summary, while the decorations were cool, I think we overdid it.Â It’s an opportunity for us to improve for next time.
We purposely bought much more food than we thought we needed.Â We had a few friends volunteer to make things for us, and a talented friend of ours volunteered to help make some fancy hors d’ourves.Â We had shrimp on guacamole and crackers, salmon on a custom blend of herbs and cream cheese, and many other seafood-themed snacks.Â For the adults, we included rum balls as a tasty dessert.
For the kids we knew would come, we cooked pizza rolls and chicken nuggets.Â For dessert, we had cupcakes, cookies, and candy readily available.
Everyone loved the food.Â A definite win, and something I’d do again.Â Next time, I might buy a little less, but I’d rather have too much food than too little.Â A side benefit: my coworkers at my day job got to help me take care of the leftovers.Â I think they’d declare it a win too.
From a strict income/amount spent perspective, a launch party is not likely to be worth it for a first-time author.Â Unless you’re selling hundreds of books, the income from the party will not cover the costs.
That said, there are many intangible benefits of hosting a launch party beyond selling books.Â In no particular order, here are some of the benefits we found:
- I enjoyed celebrating the completion of a large project with friends who care and want to see me succeed.Â We had a great time, and it sounds like our friends did too.
- I found the Plummer House inspirational.Â There are lots of story ideas lurking within those walls, and I expect I’ll incorporate some aspects of the house into future stories.
- This event is something I think people will talk about for a while.Â If nothing else, this party offered a great advertising opportunity–I think people will be talking about it for at least a couple weeks.
- We took lots of pictures throughout the night (unfortunately, I don’t have access to them right now, but I’ll update this later with pictures), which we can use to continually advertise.
- We loved the opportunity to have a historical landmark all to ourselves for a full day.Â What an excellent opportunity to explore!
- I’ve found no other way to feel more like a successful author than to have lots of people coming in to receive my autograph.Â If nothing else, this made the whole party worth it.
Things we thought of during/after the party
In no particular order:
- Post signs suggesting that people consider buying additional copies for custom gifts
- Make it easy for people to prepay for autographed novels so we could have the books ready and waiting for them
- Let people know that we’ll have plenty of additional copies available for purchase
Bottom line: This is something I’d love to do again.Â All I have to do is finish writing another book!
Posted on September 15th, 2011
I’ve been a self-published author for about three weeks, so it’s time to take my wealth of wisdom and share it with the world.
There are a few steps you need to take before you can make your book available to the world.Â Beyond the obvious revisions and editing, you also need to format your manuscript so it looks correct on ebook readers and print versions.Â In my case, I have separate files for each format.Â If a reader tells me that there’s a typo, I’ll need to update each file with the fix and submit it individually to each publisher.
That brings me to my next point.Â Even before you can format, you have to decide where you’re going to release your book.Â I have four places in my case: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CreateSpace, and Smashwords.Â Each one needs a different ISBN, so I ended up buying a block of 10, which allows me to prepare for my next book that will be released sometime next year.
After you’ve got your work in finished form, you need to register your copyright.Â Go to http://copyright.gov to do so–if you’re creating a print version, you’ll need to mail two copies of the book in order to register your copyright.Â ebooks can simply be uploaded after you’ve paid the $35 fee.
This is the biggie.Â I’m trying several different avenues, including:
- obtaining a live TV interview with KTTC (link to come)
- creating a YouTube book trailer
- posting on social websites, including Reddit and Twitter
- participating in a Facebook group for my book
- submitting to multiple book reviewers
- hosting a launch party in Rochester MN on September 19
- signing at an author event in Rochester on September 24
- sponsoring a Goodreads giveaway of 5 signed copies of my novel
- spreading my press release to several area newspapers, many of whom published it verbatim
- securing a feature article in the Minnesota Writers Alliance newsletter
- accepting preorders on my own site, and including a free ebook with purchase of an autographed novel
- requesting honest reviews from family and friends
- reviewing indie books and connecting with other indie authors
There are many other opportunities (and probably a few things I’ve missed that I’ve done), and I’m trying a lot of different things.Â However, by far the best way to get additional sales has been for those who enjoy the book to talk about it with others.Â Word of mouth is amazing at selling books.Â A few vocal readers have done a lot to help get my work out there.
As a related aside, I’d love to get my novel into book clubs (The Caldarian Conflict is a fantasy novel, so fantasy book groups would be best for me), so if you have any advice on that, let me know in the comments below.
The biggest issue I’ve found is that many people presume a self-published novel will be low quality.Â This is hard to change.Â However, since I know people are concerned about quality, I offer them a free preview of the book so they can decide for themselves.Â Many of those who read the preview ended up buying the book.
By my estimation, it’s possible to make a reasonable living by selling between 75 and 100 books per day.Â Since at the moment I’m only selling about 2-3 books per day, that’s a pretty far stretch.Â However, by writing more books, suddenly it becomes much easier to achieve that goal.
- With one book, you might need to sell 75-100 copies per day.
- With two books, you might need to sell 35-50 copies of each book per day.
- With ten books, you only need to sell 7-10 copies of each book per day.
And so on.
So while I’m spending a majority of September taking advantage of the time to market my debut novel, I’m going to spend October and November finishing up the draft of a second. With a little luck and a lot of work, I should be able to release the new novel by mid-next year.Â I also have a few short stories I may decide to release in the interim.
That’s all I’m planning to divulge tonight. What do you think?Â Am I missing something? Or are there other areas to explore?
Posted on September 10th, 2011
As a writer, I have to set goals in order to keep myself motivated.Â On a rough draft, it might be that I set a goal of 500 words per day of new content.Â For editing, I might want to revise a chapter a day.
Since I’m just starting out on selling books, I’m not sure what’s really achievable, so these goals may be too high or too low.
My near-term goals for The Caldarian Conflict:
Sell 100 books by the end of September
I’m actually not doing too badly here.Â I have already sold:
- 17 paperbacks (plus 2 review copies requested from book reviewers)
- 30 ebooks (note: some who bought ebooks also bought paperbacks)
With my launch party on September 19, and another signing event on September 24, I have a pretty good shot of making the 100 copy mark.
Obtain at least 5 reviews by the end of September
So far,Â The Caldarian Conflict has received two reviews–one 5-star, and one 4-star.Â Both are excellent reviews, and I think they’ll help me sell books.Â However, prospective book buyers aren’t impressed by two good reviews (as awesome as they are).Â I really need to have several, and for the end of September, I think 5 is doable.Â That would require a 5% review to purchased rate, which is high–my understanding is that it’s more typical for 1% of purchases to actually receive a review.
I know I have a couple of book reviewers scheduled to publish their reviews in October, so hopefully these are just the first of many to come.
Obtain 15 photos of readers with their copies of The Caldarian Conflict
Perhaps it’s a little silly, but I’d love to see readers holding a copy of my book…be it the physical version or the cover displayed on their Nook or Kindle (or any other eReader, really).Â I was pretty excited to receive my first shipment of books, so I’m hopeful that others will be willing to share their photos too.
What do you think?Â Is it wise to set (and make public) goals like this? What would you set your goals for?
Posted on September 9th, 2011
I received the first shipment of my books today. Wow, that’s a lot of books.
And I’ll be signing every one of them. Holy cow!
Here’s me standing next to the pyramid:
And me trying not to knock over the pyramid:
I’m excited.Â Now I’m off to go sign them and get them ready for shipping!