Responses to My Amazon Question


Responses to My Amazon Question

Natalie Bright

In last week’s post, I blogged about concerns I had with the sales report for my new nonfiction picture book series, RESCUE ANIMALS. I have been promoting this book like crazy on a local level and was concerned with the reportedly 10 sales. All four books were enrolled into KDP Select, but the number of free downloads is not available on the reports. Here is what I posted on the Amazon Community Board:

“Specifically regarding ASIN: B01M0K6F6G FLASH, The True Story of a Rescue Horse. I have been promoting this eBook heavily in our local area. With just two events I reached close to 1000 people in the first month of release. At one school of 700, we know of at least 300 kids who had FLASH on their phones before they went home that day. I can count at least 50+ friends and family who ordered it as well. Total sales for that time period according to Amazon: TEN. In the meantime I’ve suspended all promo ads and local events, until I can figure out what is going on with my account. Maybe I missed something on the banking information or the pricing page? Can anyone think of something I might have set-up wrong? Thanks in advance for your time and expertise.”

I have since learned that Amazon had a major crash during the week I released FLASH. That might explain some of the reporting issues. Also below are the responses to the Community Forum question above, which is an open forum where KDP authors post their questions and concerns. Rather than joing the storm of accusations about how Amazon is ripping authors off, my first concern was that it might be a problem on my part. As I noted in the previous blog post, the sales ranking for FLASH made it to #5 under the sub-category Children’s eBooks/nonfiction/Farms and Ranch, but still only 10 total sales.

To date, I’ve had four responses to my question:

Amazon Community Forum Response #1:
The grade range for the book is P-5. I don’t know any kids 10 and under who have credit card privileges to shop at will online without parental approval (or parents thereof who would appreciate their kids coming home from school with purchases urged during a school-sponsored marketing pitch—what were you doing checking their phones?). Perhaps 300 small children downloaded the sample to appease the adults applying pressure. Unless friends and family can produce receipts for their purchases, they may also be being polite for the sake of appeasement.
If your Prior Months’ Royalties reports and Payments table show you’re owed money that you haven’t received, there may be a problem with your banking or tax information.

If they say you’ve gotten only 10 sales… you’ve gotten only 10 sales. The sales rank of nearly 1.3 million is consistent with that level of activity.

Response #2 & #3 from the same person:
Quando vai sair os pagamentos de janeiro e fevereiro ? Which translates to: When you are going out payments in January and February?
Hoje já é 18 de fevereiro – Today is February 18th.

Response #4
On the Reports Tab, what do the ORDERS total for that time period?
It is the blue line.

Response #1 was surprising and way out of left field. I’m not going to spark a debate in the forum, but I do want to address that here, specifically to make the point that I did not check kids phones. The point I was trying to make was that the promotion was concentrated to our local area because the horse is well known. The editor and horses’ owner is a music teacher, and everyone at her school, including the kids, parents and her coworkers, are very excited about this book. Each kid got bookmark. The kids probably showed their phone to their music teacher because they were excited and wanted her to see that they had the story. I’m assuming that some of those families have Amazon Prime memberships and hopefully took advantage of the free download.

My two boys were allowed to purchase things online with their phones by middle school age. It was part of their allowance for chores. They had a set amount each month and could purchase music on iTunes. (They did not want the Kindle App, although I really pushed it.) I thought it was a good way for them to learn money management and how to stick to a budget. If they went over budget, they had to do extra work for that month. Strange to me how a question about book pricing set-up shifted to parenting. Such is the world we live in today.

The Amazon Giant we Love

There is a book published on Amazon every five minutes. That’s great news for readers. Obviously, there will be glitches on a world wide scale. It is amazing that we can publish our work with ease and find the books we need, with delivery in a few days.

And then there was this food for thought about Amazon ranking:

According to John Skalzi: “a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.” Authors love validation and those rankings in subdivision categories is basically a “participation ribbon” as Mr. Skalzi explains. whatever.scalzi.com

“Every second you take to worry about your author ranking is every moment you’re not spending writing a book or promoting a book.” Jim Kukrel, sellmorebooksshow.com

In conclusion: I really believe the future is eBooks and as this evovles over the word wide stage there will be a great need for new and original content. As for FLASH, the numbers are the numbers and they’re not changing…just keep writing.

flash-true-story-cover_low

Ten Steps to Crafting A Picture Book


Ten Steps to Crafting A Picture Book

Natalie Bright

The step by step process I used to create and publish a nonfiction photo-illustrated picture book for Amazon Kindle using PowerPoint.

1. Words. Write the words first. After slogging through various processes to create a kids’ book series, for me, it all begins with the words. Picture books are typically 1000 words or less, and have a solid beginning, middle and end. Edit your story until every word is an absolute essential jewel. Involve you critique group and BETA readers in this process. The owner of the animals featured in my books became the editor to ensure accuracy.

2. Images. Match the images to your words. While writing, envision what types of photos you need such as royalty free pictures, scanned art work, or graphics. If you use your own photographs, be aware that you may have to obtain releases from the recognizable people in those pics before you publish. Research any legals issues that might apply specific to your situation. I used a combination of my own photos, partnered with a professional photographer, and created clip art specific to the series.

3. Edit. You may have to adjust the text, swap out a few pictures or two, or stay on the hunt for the exact photo you need. You can find picture book templates online. A storyboard tacked to the wall or taped to a dry board can give you a whole new perspective. Stay with the theme and don’t rush the creative process. This is the fun part. Absolutely the words are important, but the pictures enhance the telling of the story.

4. PowerPoint. In my mind, an eBook is not a print book. A print picture book is not an eBook. Over the years, I’ve watched with great curiosity kids swiping through pages on their mother’s iPhones. This is a totally different experience than having a picture book laying across your lap. I kept this in mind as I thought about the animal stories I wanted to share with the world. After eight months and much trial and error with many different processes and multiple do-overs using various software options, I finally settled on Microsoft PowerPoint. The high def pictures are easy to insert, text boxes can be moved around, resizing is super easy, and graphics are a snap to add. Each slide would be one page in the eBook. The pictures I used in the Flash books were taken by a professional photographer because I wanted to capture those beautiful rescue horses in the best possible way.

5. Design. Now is the time to get serious about designing your cover and the pages of your book. I hired a graphic designer to design a professional cover and to provide guidance on compatible colors and layout. We purposely have a cover that looks like a regular thumb nail, but the inside of the book is landscape. Someone else helped with designing clip art and graphics, because honestly by the time I’d written the words and matched text with pics, my brain was fried. Having another pair of creative eyes speeds up the process. Compensation can be by the hour or a share of book sales. Make sure the creative team you’ve put together all share in your vision of the finished product. You are the conductor of this great

6. Facts. Work on front matter, back matter, bios of the contributors, a killer tag line and update all your social media sites. For kids books, I always like to include a glossary of terms and a fact section. Post a few teasers for a “book cover reveal” to Twitter and Facebook. Think about your target market and the key words you’ll need for Amazon. Add the book covers to your Amazon Author page.

7. Kindle Kids’ Book Creator. Here’s the best news: save your PowerPoint manuscript as a PDF and it opens right up into Kids Book Creator, which is a dream for indie authors. Book Creator is self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure about the how, there are several excellent help videos on YouTube (writers are such a giving lot!). After your book is in Creator and before you go live, be sure to use the review mode and view your book on all devices.

8. Launch. Yay, you did it!

9. Promote. There are so many options out there to promote Indie Authors, but readers can’t read the book unless they know about it. The Rescue Animal Series was launched in October 2016 with four books and more in the works for 2017. I know my little series will not be a runaway best seller at first, but I love these animals and I remain in awe of the people who care for them. I wanted to share their stories with the world, and hopefully we’ll reach the point where book sales can lend support to some of their efforts.

10. Holy Book Club, Batman, there’s a stinkin’ typo! Yep. That’s exactly what we found. After several people had read over that text many, many times, there it was. Ultimately, it’s me, the author who shoulders the blame. Thank goodness Amazon makes it easy to replace the previous manuscript. Go back to your PowerPoint file, make the changes, resave as a PDF 2nd version, re-upload to Kids’ Book Creator again to create a new Mobi file, and update the original manuscript in your Amazon KDP account.

You can do this! I hope this article saves you hours of trial and error. All the best for a creative 2017, and thanks for following WordsmithSix.

Natalie Bright is author of the Animal Rescue Series; true stories about animals with second chances.

Four Years from Now


 

Four Years from Now

Natalie Bright

Are you advancing towards your writing goals this year? We are fast approaching a new year. Have you thought about what you hope to achieve in 2017?

OLYMPIC SIZED GOALS

Joanna Penn, with TheCreativePenn.com podcast, challenged her listeners to think about their goals in four year increments. How can you define your writing career this year, while the 2016 Olympics occurred in Rio? In 2020, the Olympics will be held in Tokyo. Where will your writing career be by then?

This makes perfect sense to me because the wheels of publishing moves so very slow. It’s difficult to realize tangible measurement year by year, but when you look at your accomplishments over a longer period you can see some results. Consider financial goals, completion of a series, or rough drafts of several stand alone novels that have been inside your head. Can you accomplish those goals in four years time? Of course you can!

FOUR YEARS AGO

Four years ago, in the Fall of 2012, I cut my hours to a part-time day job and signed with a literary agent who shopped my middle grade westerns. I’ll never forget that same week I worked the Scholastic book fair at my son’s intermediate school. I noticed that historical titles were missing from the bookfair shelves. It was concerning because the year before there had been an entire section. I asked the librarian about it, and she explained, “They just didn’t send me many this year.” That was the year dystopian, vampires, and with the release of the movie, Hunger Games ruled. My cause for concern turned out to be reality four years later. The stories I loved writing had gone nowhere through traditional publishing route. During that time I hadn’t stopped writing though. In fact I completed three more novels, but it felt like everything had come to a screeching halt.

2016 Rio: What a Party!

In 2016 I made the difficult decision to mix it up yet again and researched Indie Publishing. Seriously, I feel so relieved to be back in control again. There have been so many changes since I first self-published a book in 2010. Moving onward.

Let us know what goals you hope to achieve in the next four years. We will see you right back here by Tokyo 2020!

INDIE ALL THE WAY with Bethany Claire


INDIE ALL THE WAY with Bethany Claire

By Natalie Bright

 

Author Bethany Claire gave an energetic and informative talk to the Texas High Plains Writers in Amarillo this past Saturday about her experience as an Indie (independently) published author.

“Indie publishing is very much an individualized decision,” she told the packed room of area writers.

We Love What We Do

She told us about attending a writer’s conference when she decided to give up teaching and turn writing into a career. At that conference, she made an effort to attend sessions about both traditional publishing and self-publishing. She discovered that the self-published group better fit her goals.

“Indie published authors are excited, they are in control of their careers, and they love what they do,” said Bethany. “I am definitely a control freak.”

Real Time Reporting

One of the aspects she likes the most is the ability to realize real-time reporting. “See your sales at that minute,” Bethany said. “The money you make as an Indie author is directly correlated with how much work you are willing to do.”

If something isn’t selling, authors can determine why. Is it a bad cover? Maybe the price is not in line with the other books selling in your genre?

One of the musts for any author who is considering indie pub options and is serious about making money, is the need for a professional editor. Bethany uses two. She suggests researching lists of people for hire, and submitting two to three chapters and requesting an audition edit. Compare those editing styles to determine which one fits you can work with the best.

Writers’ Academy

One of the turning points in her writing came through participation in a week long writer’s academy. Held in June of every year on the campus of West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, the event is hosted by Amarillo Author Jodi Thomas. Jodi has penned 40 books and is a New York Times Bestselling Author.

I’ve attended the academy twice, and it is a life-changing experience. Bethany will be teaching a class in 2016 at the academy. Here’s the link to register:

http://wtamu.edu/academics/eod-writing-academy.aspx

Bethany will also be offering an online class later this year about her writing process, marketing, and other facets of publishing your work as an Indie Author. You can learn more about Bethany Claire on her website:

Bethany Claire USA TODAY Bestselling Author of

Morna’s Legacy Series, Scottish Time-Travel Romances

Purchase books at: http://www.bethanyclaire.com/love-beyond-time.php

www.bethanyclaire.com

www.facebook.com/bethanyclaire

www.twitter.com/BClaireAuthor

CHANGE. COUNT ON IT.


CHANGE. COUNT ON IT.

By Natalie Bright

YOUR TUNES

Who remembers 8-track tapes? Soon after, the cassette player in my then boyfriend’s car was something else, and the fancy case with his cassette collection was impressive. From even further back, I have a cabinet full of mom and dad’s album collection. Their beloved, overly large, oak-veneer record player makes a great plant stand.

YOUR TELEVISION PROGRAMS

Some of you may recall surfing through only three major television channels, and the lucky houses with strong antenna signals could pick up PBS. And then cable brought channels devoted to history or animals. Cartoons were on 24 hours! It wasn’t any time before we could watch edgy content that would never be shown on CBS, NBC, or ABC. The satellite dish brought us hundreds of channels. I streamed the entire season of Longmire on Netflix one snowy, dull weekend not too long ago. Waiting for a major network to schedule the reruns is a thing of the past. Amazing!

YOUR BOOKS

Music and television have gone through a transformation in the past decade. Now it’s book publishing’s turn. As I follow blogs and podcasts this year trying to educate myself on the changing tide of book promotion in the new century, all indications are that 2015 was the turning point. How we publish and read books has been altered forever. There’s no going back.

I’ve been pondering these important points:

  • I just downloaded the first book in a series by a favorite author for FREE in iBooks. The iBooks App is a built-in app on some hand-held devices, or is available for free download for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  • India and China have seen the largest growth in the number of hand held devices, and now have more users than US, with 250 million English speaking people living in India.
  • It’s impossible to analyze the impact of eBook sales because many are being published without ISBNs.
  • Through a wide variety of book platforms such as iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Nook, Kindle, etc., paired with all that social media offers, readers will seek their favorite genres and discover authors. The publisher’s name has very little impact. People are going to read what they want to read.
  • The future is mobile.

For the work that writers do, I think there are several important questions to consider. Where will fans find your books in 2016? Will more people read stories on their hand-held devices? What if more people became readers because they have easier access to the kinds of stories they like?

What I’m trying to tell you is that during a one hour traffic delay because of the lumbering construction equipment blocking Highway 287, I read the heck out of an iBook on my iPhone.

Welcome to the 21st Century. I’m thinking it’s a great time to be a writer!

Keep on writing onward as always, WordsmithSix-ers!

nataliebright.com