Write as if you're never to write again.
Write as if it were your last book.
Write as if you're never to write again.
Some books take an instant to write. Other books take forever.
There have been many instances in the past when I had to give myself an ultimatum: I NEED to finish Book Y by X amount of time because of (insert important reason here).
When this happens---
Scenario 1: I create an outline and manage to follow it to the letter by keeping my demonic inner critic on a loose. I worry about the speed in which I've been able to finish the book, but because the story feels "right" to me and I can't think of any other way to write it - ah, f*ck it, que sera, sera.
The book is published, and it becomes one of my bestsellers.
Scenario 2: I create an outline, attempt to follow it but quit halfway and trash the first draft because I keep worrying about what others think. So I go back to square one and write something completely new - something that I'm sure will please EVERYONE (reader, non-readers, critics, fellow writers, I do mean everyone).
The book is published and voilà -
It's a flop. > . <
The amount of time it takes to write a book that sells is NOT my main point here. Let's be very clear with that. For me, the moral lesson here - and it's something even I myself unfortunately forget at times - is to write what you'll enjoy as a reader as well.
How much time it takes you to do that is immaterial.
Also, forget about your inner critic. I honestly believe 99% of the time it's not objective, and it's just your insecurities speaking. If you feel you absolutely must listen to it, then do so when you're done writing the book but not while writing it.
As long as you're writing something you love - you're good. :)
I think I've already mentioned this several times in previous posts, but today's publishing climate has become increasingly harsh (I miss 2013! 2014! 2015!).
It used to be that I'd release a new book and I'd immediately sell X copies on Day 1. Now, that number has been reduced by 50%, and the decline for total month's sales for a new book is about 70% (at least!).
The facts and figures I have at my disposal tell me that this decline is due to various factors: change in Amazon's algos for also-boughts etc., the presence of Kindle Unlimited, prioritized visibility for books pubbed by Amazon imprints, other authors' Facebook advertising budgets, etc.
In a nutshell: the decline is primarily due to factors I have no control over, and I know this. I know this, but even so I still end up getting depressed, thinking that the decline in sales is because MY WRITING SUCKS NOW, AND SO NO ONE WANTS TO READ MY BOOKS ANYMORE.
Although I'm still occasionally tempted to wallow in self-pity, I eventually learned to shrug off my insecurities and just write. I also constantly remind myself that ---
1) Self-pity is a luxury I can't afford because I have bills to pay and people who depend on me.
2) Dwelling on factors that are beyond my control is pointless; my time is better spent tweaking existing strategies - or developing new ones - in relation to factors that I can control (e.g. ads, release schedule, etc.).
3) I love what I do, and I believe 100% that success is guaranteed when you're doing what you love.
UF Pen Name Launch
One of said strategies is to re-launch certain paranormal titles (written under Marian Tee) via a brand new pen name in Urban Fantasy (UF).
Releasing mostly contemporary romances last year made me lose contact with my PNR readers, and so I want to woo them back but this time using my new pen name. This way, they know that every time I release a new book under said pen name, it's the kind of book that they want to read.
This month, I quietly un-published several of my PNR titles and re-published them with new covers and titles under my new pen name. I also made sure to add a disclaimer (This book was formerly published with the title X under the author's other name Y). Last but not the least, I did not inform any of my MT readers about this. I NEEDED to see if these books could do well on their own.
$68.05 for Book 1 (that’s the total amount for several ads, with the first one starting on Day 2 of free promo; last ad was terminated a few days back) and $1.64 for Book 2.
Overall total: $69.69
Book 1: 282 pages total, priced at $2.99, and with current rank of 22K+
Above figures mean I'm operating at a loss, with a deficit of approximately $20. However, the above figures have only factored in royalties. These two books are also enrolled in KDP Select, which means I also get to earn from pages read via Kindle Unlimited.
If you recall, I've mentioned several times that KU's payout rate - as well as the scammers dominating its charts - makes the program no longer feasible for those writing for certain genres, and I stand by this. Until Amazon changes its TOC, I don't see any way for me to release any of my Marian Tee books under this program.
OTOH, studying the market has made me realize how genres like urban fantasy can STILL do extremely well with Kindle Unlimited, and that's why I've chosen to enroll all of my UF pen name's books in KDP Select.
The following are my KU stats from 9/2-9/28:
Book 1: 48,224 pages x .004 per page = $192.896
Book 2: 2,432 pages x .004 per page = $9.728
Total KU earnings: $202.624
Aggregate Total: $252.554
So yes, woohoo - my UF pen name is out of the red thanks to KU, and moreover it's even netted a nice little sum for its first month of publishing.
Also, a few points to consider ---
1. I know the above amount is just chump change to many, but I also think that sales / earnings are only likely to improve from here on with the help of steady releases.
2. I'm hoping to improve in terms of managing paid ads, and I aim to increase my ad budget as well, both of which will certainly contribute to an increase in sales.
3. I did not deliberately spend less on ads for Book 2. There just weren't enough clicks. >.< I still don't think this means Book 2 is a flop, though. I took a risk with its blurb, trying to make it stand out from the rest. Obviously, that didn't pay off (heh!), so I plan to rewrite my blurb and maybe include a new excerpt to show that it's still the kind of UF they'd like to read.
Overall, I'm really happy about this because I see it as further proof that my writing doesn't suck that much (a few people still want to read my books, yay!), and it's given me much-needed motivation to keep writing.
Lastly, I'm also glad that this experiment worked because it shows that self-publishing can still be a viable source of income, and you can successfully launch your "brand" without a huge advertising budget. Hopefully, this little experiment of mine can also encourage new or aspiring writers to continue doing what they love - maybe even inspire them to give self-publishing a try if they think - for whatever reason - traditional publishing isn't for them.
Anyway, that's it for now! Feel free to send me a message using the contact form if you have any questions or comments.
Note: Everything above is my personal opinion or based on my personal experience. You are free to agree or disagree with what you've read, and I am in no way asserting that my way of doing / seeing things is the best way to do / see things.
So...just came back from having dinner with my dad's side of the family and we also had First Friday mass at the office.
Today's gospel was particularly illuminating and helpful, the gist of it being this post's title. Basically, it means that while it's normal for us humans to feel anger, even hatred, we should avoid cursing or directing our anger towards the person who's hurt / harmed us in whatever way.
Instead, it's better (for everyone concerned) that we focus our anger on the sin itself and just pray for that person (well, actually, we're asked to LOVE the sinner but if this isn't possible then we can simply pray for him / her instead) to change or realize his / her mistakes.
Now, there are also times when we just NEED to release our anger. Maybe because we feel so hurt, betrayed, wronged - the reason doesn't really matter. Sometimes, we just feel the urge to release our anger. Well, this, too, is normal, and if you're feeling like this, Fr. E advises us to purge our anger simply by writing everything we feel and turn our hate into words on paper. And once it's done, crumple that piece of paper into a ball, and throw it away...along with your anger and hatred.
So yeah, bottom line is...let it go, don't hate, and focus on the positive. It's a tall order, as all of God's teachings are, but I definitely see the merits in it, and I feel - with regular practice - it will go a long way in making life better for us in the long run. We'll all be happier this way and find it easier to get along.
For those familiar with my release schedule, you may have noticed that I tend to release books fairly quickly. Granted, my books only fall in the 30-60K range usually so either novella or category length, but still. I frequently release more than one book/month, and I've been lucky enough that most of those books are capable of making people cry (I say lucky because I'm in the business of making people, well, cry).
Anyway, I've been in this business for just less than 5 years but I've already come to the point where I've stopped counting the number of books I've written. That's why I'm always stumped whenever a blogger asks for an interview, and one of the first things they ask is how many books I've written. Oh, and people who find out what I do for living (this job is mostly an open secret) ask me the same question, too.
Point is, I should at least take the time to know, right? But I don't because I'm too busy writing the next one. And every time I'm writing the next one I almost always have several paralyzing moments in which I ask myself - DO I STILL HAVE IT IN ME?
Because I've already written so many books, so I feel like I've already used up my lifetime's supply of tearjerker stories. And of course when I start thinking this I end up falling in the same rabbit hole, and the self-inflicted torture begins. I panic, I even end up literally hyperventilating. Oh no, it's the end. My next story will be a bust.
That's EXACTLY what happened to me after I released Love You Again and immediately moved on to my next WIP. I was quietly but seriously panicking on how Malik would turn out. My greatest worry: I won't even get my readers to shed a single tear.
But I kept writing.
Mostly because one: I can't afford not to since it's what pays the bills, and two: because, well, what else is there for me to do? And besides, I hate quitting.
So I kept on it.
And you know what happened?
I ended up bawling (i.e.,serious ugly crying) almost the whole day, and I wasn't even done with the prologue.
I'm sure people will be able to draw all kinds of conclusions and moral lessons from this, and that's fine. For me, it's simply this: ups and downs in your writing life are normal. It won't ever go away no matter how successful you become or how many books you've written. That's just the way it is, so deal with it and keep writing.
Back when I first started indie publishing (late 2013 I think), things were really still good for self-pubbers like me. You didn't need to spend on marketing much, and algos for also-boughts et al were pretty straightforward.
Then KU entered the picture. It was a semi-huge blow to my income and after much futile resistance, I finally decided to establish a secret KU pen name and gave it a try. Unfortunately, I only got to enjoy two months or so of success when KU was revamped. TBH I can't even remember now what exactly changed. All I know is that the methodsc which used to work no longer work.
Fast forward to present, and my income is now down to 15 - 20% of what it used to be. Which is crazy, if you think of it, since I have more books out now compared to before. So technically, I should be earning more, right?!
But I'm not and that, my friends, is why I sometimes find myself literally and secretly having panic / anxiety attacks when I think of my career. I wonder if I'm able to sustain my writing pace, if I'm able to earn enough for everyone depending on me, if I'll always have readers...
But then I think of Stephen King. He's been writing for forty years, and I love how Hollywood seems to have recently rediscovered their passion for his work. YAY for more adaptations! I clearly remember when people were less than supportive of those adaptations, but you never hear King getting affected by what's being said or hinting about quitting because of it.
And then I think of my own career. I feel like I've been writing forever, but actually it's only been 4 years since I've started self-pubbing. King has been releasing books for times ten of that. And you never or at least I've never heard him whine about the industry. I guess it's because he's too busy writing...as I should be. 🤣🤣🤣
I used to think that not following your outline to the letter means you lack discipline. But yes I do know better now, and I've stopped beating myself up every time I'm unable to stick to the plan.
I also used to think deviating from your outline would mean more time wasted or at least taking the longer route to finishing your novel. But again I know better now. Admittedly, I sometimes find myself stubbornly rewriting a scene several times just because I want to follow my outline, but then I realize in hindsight that's how I end up wasting precious time in the first place.
IF it doesn't work, it doesn't work, and as with any relationship that doesn't work out, you just have to make a quick, clean break and move on.
There were other rules (and perks!) as well, but I'm not sure if they were specifically for Melody Anne's KW books or KW in general, like---
I didn't expect that at all. So imagine how thrilled I was, especially once I saw the amount converted to PHP (more zeroes, you know, haha!). But anyway, back to KW. I know some of you are thinking this is just basically a pat-on-the-back post, but it's not I promise. It's good news for both YOU and ME---
Off topic: Me Before You was a recent blockbuster, and then AlDub (yes, I’m still a fan, I just don’t have that much time to gush over them) has an upcoming movie, Imagine You and Me…mm…I wonder if I include the words ‘you’ and ‘me’ in my next book, I can get some of their good luck to rub off on me and I get to sell lots of copies. Mmmmm...
Well, anyway (sorry for getting off track >.<). Back to KW. Our April books launched on the 28th if I'm not mistaken (but we uploaded on the 26th), and the thing with KW is that you don't actually get to see the number of books you sold until the month after (e.g. I only found out about my May sales on the first day of July), and it will show up on your AuthorCentral account rather than your KDP dashboard.
I didn't expect much from my April sales since we only had a few days, but I was also secretly and quietly hoping it won't be small change since Devoured has been my best-ranking book for 2016 so far. And well, the bottom line: April sales were much, much better than I expected, with Devoured selling as many copies as my best-selling books on their first days of release. This is rare IME because Devoured's characters obviously have nothing to do with my Greek billionaires, and I also didn't do that much promotion for it prior to its release.
As for Devoured's May sales, well, let's just say it BLEW MY MIND, and is basically equivalent to 20% of my total income for the month. ONE BOOK, and it represents 1/5 of my monthly income, with no marketing from me. I have, like, thirty or so books and yet one book makes up for 20% of my sales for May! Imagine!
There's more. ;)
Yesterday, I was randomly checking my Amazon rankings on my phone, and I was totally surprised when I saw this---
This was at three in the morning and at first I was thinking, maybe my phone was loading an old page, probably because I didn't clear my browser's cache or whatever. You see, I also checked Devoured's ranking the other day and it was ranking somewhere between 4k to 6k if I remember correctly and down to #12 or #13 on KW's bestseller list. So you can understand my surprise. Anyway, just to make sure I'm not imagining things, I switched to my laptop and checked Devoured's ranking again.
And hey, it really IS #1.
That was 3AM and at that time, Devoured ranked #1781. Now at 1430h, it's #2 on KW's bestseller list, BUT the book's overall rank actually improved.
It's now #1140! On its THIRD month. This is AMAZING. Compare it to Prince of Darkness 1, for instance, which was released end of May and now ranks around 13k. When I Love, also released end of May and the last book of my stepbrother trilogy, ranks around...lemme check...10k (yesterday it was 8k), but keep in mind that Book 1 is currently free from Friday to Sunday, hence Book 3's improved rankings for the weekend (previous to Book 1 being free, it was down to 21k or so if I remember correctly).
AND THIS, MY FRIENDS, IS THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON WHY I THINK (imho!!!) KINDLE WORLDS IS WORTH GIVING A SHOT.
Amazon is a for-profit business and as such there's nothing wrong about Amazon looking after its own interests. That said, KW books are one of those interests and that's why I believe Devoured gets to enjoy nice boosts once in a while. Don't get me wrong. Amazon is NOT manipulating sales or rankings. But what it CAN LEGALLY DO is make the book more visible using its own ad spaces on its own website to promote Devoured and other books Amazon published, which they also technically own.
Now...one of the major reasons why I wanted to give KW a try was because I believed Melody Anne's fans could also like my books since we write the same stuff. I was hoping that if they liked Devoured enough, they'd give my other books a try.
Two months after, I'm not sure if I did actually end up getting new readers (my post-Devoured sales for other books, new and backlist, remained pretty much the same) BUT it's still a win-win situation since what I did get instead was nice sales from Devoured and, as evinced by July 1's rankings, I can also be assured of the fact that once in a while the Amazon gods would remember Devoured and give it a nice boost. Considering how much I'm still struggling with increasing visibility for my backlist, having one book less to worry about is more than good enough for me! :D
So...I've been self-publishing since late 2013 (I started 2012 with a small publisher) and it's now 2016. A LOT has changed since then, not just qualitatively but quantitatively, too.
Just to give you an idea of how much things have changed, I wrote this post back in Dec. 2013.
Basically, I did a quick search on "romance bundle" on Amazon, and I got 799 results. If you do that now, you will get 40,588 results. So you see just how much digital publishing (especially the indie aspect) has grown?
If you click this link, you'll be able to see just how many ebooks there are on the Kindle store. As of time of writing (05.27.2016), Kindle Store offers a little less than 4.5M ebooks. Crazy, right? That's the number of books people have to choose from each day.
BUT you don't need to think of them as your competition, though. At least I don't. My way of thinking is - you can't ever write as fast as your readers can read, which is why I'm always happy to recommend other books to them. At least they're still reading. At least they're still in "our" world. As far as I'm concerned, my "real" competition is other forms of entertainment (e.g. TV, movies, music, etc.) although honestly, I don't try to compete with those things, too. I have so many stories I want to share and need to write that I don't even have time to think about competing. All I care about is writing the best story I can for every release.
But I digress.
Back in 2013, there was this chart I used (data provided by authors from the forum I'm a part of) that gave me a good idea of how many copies a book had to sell per day to achieve a particular rank on Amazon. It wasn't 100% accurate but it was reliable enough.
My new book When I Love peaked on Amazon at #591. That's great, and I am thankful about it.
Back in 2013, however, I would have probably ranked somewhere between #200 and #270, maybe even in the 1XX range.
But like I said, it's different now.
1. There are more books in the market. So even though your book's selling more or even the same number of copies each day, other authors may be selling more copies than you, which is why your ranking isn't as good as it was before.
2. You need to factor in pages read. Ever since Kindle Unlimited launched, I've given up monitoring sales ranking. I just don't know how to compute pages read, and I haven't yet heard of anyone who's been able to even come close to any kind of reliable formula (even if it's based on estimates) for this.
When I Hurt, for instance, is 110 pages long.
If 440 pages of the book were read (doesn't matter how many readers since Amazon is all about page count), then you could also read that as 4 copies sold, right?
Back in 2013, let's say that this would give me a ranking of #20.
Let's adjust this for 2016, and since there are more books now, I should have a ranking of anywhere between #30 to #40 (we're playing it really safe with this estimate). After all, this is what happened to When I Love (to recap: it's Top 600 now, but three years ago, it would have been Top 300 easily).
BUT GUESS WHAT? The ranking of When I Hurt today is #10!
3. Just because a book has better ranking than yours doesn't mean it's earning more. I've mentioned this time and time again, but I think it bears repeating. $.99 books only offer 35% royalties to authors while books priced $2.99 above earn 70% royalties. Of course, this doesn't mean I have anything against 99c books. Not at all. At the end of the day, pricing is just one of the 4 P's of marketing, and it just so happens that 99c pricing isn't part of my marketing plan.
The reason I'm sharing this is because for a time I was really REALLY bummed over my book's rankings. I felt like my career was over (but then again, if you've been reading my posts for some time, you probably know that I always worry about this hehe). It was only when I consciously took a step back and spent actual time crunching numbers that I realized that it wasn't the case at all.
Originally, I believed that poor new release rankings = decreased popularity = income drop, but it's not the case at all. My new releases are doing fine, if I compare it to the number of copies I sell on release day.
After doing more number crunching, it turns out that reduced organic visibility = decrease in backlist sales = income drop.
By organic I mean the way your book remains visible to readers even without the help of paid advertising. This is usually due to having your book show up on also-boughts and bestseller lists. Unfortunately, there's been talk on how the algorithms for also-boughts have changed. There's also been talk on how Amazon's been more proactive when it comes to advertising their own books (like those enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, Kindle World, and those that they publish like Montlake titles).
Whether these are true or not doesn't matter that much to me, though. They're outside my control anyway. The only thing that I - we - should focus on is doing what we can to keep our backlist alive.
In the past, it used to be that making Book 1 in your series permafree was good enough.
Now, I'm sorry to say that it's no longer so.
BUT...it's not all bad news.
I'll be experimenting with some stuff that other authors have had great luck with. So we'll see. Hopefully I'll have more helpful news to share next time. Fingers crossed!
p.s. In case you're wondering if traditionally published authors are doing better...
You might want to read the latest / February 2016 report from Author Earnings. Again, this is not to say that indie is better than trad pub in any way. Nope, nope, nope - we are never going down that road. In the end, each has its pros and cons, and it's up to you to determine which path to publishing is best for you.
No, you should not pay for taxes / customs / duties for imported books or books shipped to the Philippines.
A few entries back, I posted my experience with The Book Depository, which was 100% positive. They offer free shipping to the Philippines and the package was delivered straight to my doorstep. My second package - a pre-ordered copy of Hot Dudes Reading - also arrived safe and sound, and yes delivered to my front door, too.
However, our THIRD package...ah, well, that's when I had an "encounter" with a customs officer of Pasay City's Post Office.
Our authorized staff went to Pasay's PO to pick up our TBD parcel. To be honest, I'm not even sure why we had to pick it up in Pasay when we live in Quezon City, and - believe it or not (sarcastic) Quezon City has its own post office, too (Also, I love QC's post office. I've never had any bad experience with them).
Here's TBD's official receipt.
Let's say the exchange rate is P47, so that's P4,319.3 when converted.
However, custom officer thinks differently.
The price of the boxed set ended up P7.7k+!!!!
Even worse, the officer is charging me around P1,308, which is approximately 30% of the price TBD charged me for the boxed set.
Our staff called us, asking if he should pay for the taxes, and I said no. I told him to inform the customs officer that I'm a registered author with the National Book Development Board so I definitely know my rights, and as such I know that I can't be charged for any customs / duties where books are concerned.
Custom officer then told our staff that the rule ONLY applies to "educational books and cultural materials".
To emphasize (read: IMHO, parang gusto niya pa mag-mukhang tanga ang staff namin, but hey that's my opinion and sige, baka gusto niya lang maging properly informed ang staff namin), binigyan pa yung staff namin ng photocopy of BOC rules, with the appropriate text highlighted and encircled.
Talaga lang ha.
Eh bakit ito ang sabi ng NBDB in its February email to me---
Above document clearly states that it doesn't matter how the books were acquired or shipped. BOOKS ARE TAX OR DUTY-FREE for as long as they're not more than the specified number of copies and they won't be used for advertising purposes. Our boxed set consists of various titles and it's for a personal collection (for my boyfriend's sister, actually, who's in the process of building her own home library). Also, nowhere in that document states that the books have to be educational or cultural in terms of content. Rather, the law concerning this (and I'm speaking to you, customs officer) is the AGREEMENT ON THE IMPORTATION OF EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC, AND CULTURAL MATERIALS.
Aaaaaanyway, I told our staff not to bother paying for the parcel and simply ask for the officer's name.
Following this, I then asked for my lawyer aunt's help and forwarded her all the necessary documents concerning my package. FYI: I am not the FIRST VICTIM of this type of...umm...encounter. Here's one reported by a netizen and shared by When in Manila, and which I also forwarded to my aunt.
I SWEAR TO GOD, SA SOBRANG INIS KO, KUNG HINDI PA DIN NIYA IRE-RELEASE ANG BOXED SET NAMIN, MAGKAKADEMANDAHAN TALAGA. To be honest, if they had just charged me P500, I would have paid even knowing that I didn't have to be charged. I know that's not right and that would mean encouraging this practice to continue, but that's what disappointment and frustration can do to you - sa bwisit mo, you choose the no-hassle-way out, even if it's wrong.
Sobra naman kasi yung siningil. Even if we could afford it, nakakainis na approximately 30% of the retail price ang nicha-charge. Parang sobrang...umm...there's just one word that comes to mind, but huwag na lang natin gamitin.
Baka...hindi talaga naintindihan ng custom officer yung rule about books.
30% of retail price talaga ang tax?
No comment na lang.
Anyway, going back to the story, we had our staff drop by the post office again, this time armed with our politely worded legal letter.
I am not the kind of person to make waves. In fact, I am so ridiculously shy I avoid public appearances (as an author) at all costs. However, I feel that this is something I should share in case other people find themselves "encountering" the same thing. Paano naman yung mga bata na nag-save ng sarili nilang allowance to buy the books they love? Tapos icha-charge ng ganito? It's not right, not fair, not everything - which is why I'm also sharing my experience (just like the netizen with the Harry Potter boxed set) in hopes that it would give others leverage of some sort or just confidence even to let customs officers know that their book purchases shouldn't be subjected to customs / duties.
End of rant. >.<
* Starting February 1, 2014, this blog will be dedicated to providing publishing tips for aspiring Filipino writers.