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Replay 2012 | How Much Should I Charge for My E-Book?

6 Dec

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not only dragging out the Stuff I Found While Procrastinating Online Gift Guides, but also replaying some of my most popular “self-printing” posts from the last twelve months for those who might have missed them first time around. They’re in no particular order, popularity-wise. Today’s asks—and attempts to answer—the question, how much should I charge for my e-book? (Also, see the end of the post for some news on how much I’m charging for my e-books this December…) 

I’ve experimented with my e-book prices at lot over the past couple of years. For a week—its first—Mousetrapped was $4.99. I soon learned my lesson there, and dropped it to $2.99. Just before Backpacked came out (at $2.99), I dropped Mousetrapped to $1.99 hoping it would lead to more sales, thus leading to more sales of its sequel. When sales of Mousetrapped inexplicably tanked for a month or two, I dropped it to 99c to get them going again. Half-way through its life, I increased the price of Self-Printed from $2.99 to $4.99. I’ve run four of my titles through KDP Select.

How much should I charge for my book? is one of the biggest questions facing the soon-to-be-self-published author. But I think self-published authors a year, two or three years in should also be asking themselves how much should I be charging for my books now? The answer is as much as you can, i.e. the highest price at which your books continue to sell consistently well. Lower than that, and you’re doing yourself—and possibly your work—a disservice. You might also be sending out subconscious messages about your book that are turning off prospective readers. Higher than that, and your sales might slow to a trickle. Yes, it’s nice to earn seven or eight dollars off each sale (!!), but not if you’re only making two or three sales a month.

So how do we decide how much to charge for our e-books? I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is almost always $2.99. At $2.99 you earn 70% off most Kindle sales and you say my book is worth something. (For those of you who doubt that $2.99 is a high enough price to say that, you may be in the wrong business.) I’ve decided that going forward, $2.99 is going to be my default price for full-length books. Here’s why.

99c is SO Last Year

Once upon a time, 99c was the go-to price for self-published authors—especially authors of fiction—but the tide appears to be turning against such low-priced books. Setting your book to such a low price no longer guarantees sales, if it ever did. Whether or not it’s true, having the lowest price-tag possible attached to your work sends a message to potential readers that it may only be worth a sum they could make up in change found beneath their sofa cushions.

I know it’s extremely difficult for us self-published authors to get perspective when we are surrounded by other self-published authors all the live long internet day, but you have to remember that the vast majority of readers do not read self-published books. You’re kidding yourself if you think they do. Yes, they might read them by accident, but they’d never choose to. Many avoid them, as a rule. So our next task, as self-publishers, is to show this group that our books can be as good as the ones they’re used to. We must show them that our books are worth their attention. And I don’t think 99c is the way to do that.

Now I know the other end of this argument is that if we’re supposed to think like that, we should be charging $9.99 for our e-books, because that’s what traditional publishing charges (as a sweeping generalization). But we have other factors in play—no track record, editorial approval, credibility, etc. being one giant one—and when we take that into consideration, I think we land on $2.99.

Sometimes we also have to consider the other books in our category. This happened to me with Self-Printed. I was charging $2.99 for it until I went looking for a reference guide myself about another subject, and noticed that the #1 bestseller was $9.99, while the #2 was only $1.99. I thought two things: the #1 must be a fantastic book if it’s so expensive and it’s still #1, and the #2 must be pretty rubbish if it’s so cheap and still can’t manage to overtake the #1. When a book promises to contain valuable information, the price has to go some way to conveying that.

A Discount On Sofa Change? So What?

As a newly self-published author, you need to build a readership. It’s your main priority. At the beginning, this is far more important that earning money. So you do whatever you can to entice people to “try” your book. Right now, a free promotion period with KDP Select seems like a good option for any self-published author just joining the party. If I was about to release my first ever self-published book, I’d definitely give it five days free as part of its launch. Readers, reviews and potentially even some Amazon algorithms looking our way: what’s not to like?

A discount on 99c is what’s not to like. Free isn’t all that attractive if the book is normally 99c. And remember that in other currencies, it’s even less. In Euro cent, it’s about 77c. In British pence, I think it’s 59p…? So if you charge 99c for your book, neither free downloads nor Prime borrows sounds like a good deal. But $2.99 to free? Now that sounds like something I can get on board with.

The first time I KDP Selected Results, it was 99c. It was downloaded just over 3,500 times. The second time, the price of it was $2.99, and it was downloaded over 20,000 times. Coincidence? I think not.

The same goes for review copies, or giveways on your blog. Why would I bother entering a competition for a free copy of something if I can just have it for 99c?

The Discerning Reader

I personally believe that the less you charge for a book, the less time people spend humming and haahing over their decision whether or not to click “Buy”. Therefore if your price-tag is 99c, you’re likely to experience what I call the “I’ll Give It a Go, I Suppose—And Then Hate It and Shred Your Insides With a Spiteful Amazon Review” factor.

Those of you who live in Ireland will be familiar with the phenomenon that is Pennys. (Primark, in the UK). It’s like a cheaper, high-fashion version of Target, except without all the non-clothing departments. In Pennys, you can get the latest trends for less than the cost of the magazine you had to read to find out what they were. The clothes are so cheap they’re practically disposable. Combined with the fact that the stores also tend to have the longest fitting room queues on the planet, you’re more likely to walk out with something you hope will fit rather than something you know will. If it doesn’t work out, so what? It was practically for nothing. If you don’t like it, you can bring it back or, at worst, be down a few euro. No big deal.

The same thing happens on Amazon with 99c cent books. Except if you don’t like it, you get to tell everyone else by way of an Amazon Customer Review. Horrible, acidic, ego-blasting reviews written by people who got something they weren’t expecting because they didn’t know what to expect. They didn’t take the time to read the synopsis, or even the other reviews, because what’s the worst that could happen? They’re only down 99c. It drives me mad to read one-star reviews that complain about things that either a) have been covered in the product description or b) already highlighted by another reviewer. Why didn’t they read that before they bought it?! Because we were charging so little for our work that we encouraged them not to.

99c Leaves No Room for Manoeuvre

My absolutely favorite thing about self-publishing e-books is the flexibility it offers. Whether you’re a self-published or traditionally published author, whether writing is your business or your hobby—or even if writing isn’t anything to do with your career at all—you can use this e-book business to your advantage. In other words, not every published e-book has to be a full-length book.

I’ve just released an e-book of all my “self-printing” themed posts, The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated. I’m charging $1.99 for it. [UPDATE: This e-book is currently 99c.] This is partly to compensate me for the money I spent on the cover and the hours I spent, first of all, writing those posts and then the far more headachy hours I spent compiling and formatting them, and partly because that’s where it “fits in” in the scheme of all my other books.

We’ve established that Self-Printed is $4.99 because it’s 110,000+ words of valuable information that I believe will help other authors sell books. Next, my full-length books—Mousetrapped, Backpacked and Results Not Typical—are $2.99 each. [UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, I began selling Backpacked at $3.99 because it was "newer" than Mousetrapped—and it sold at that price.] Then, The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated, coming in at $1.99. Why didn’t I charge 99c for it? Because next month I’ll be releasing a smaller, shorter book—More Mousetrapped: A Little Bit More From That Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida—which, it being only 35,000 words and intended to be bonus material to the main book, is only going to cost 99c.

So:

  • Self-Printed, reference, 110,000 words+ @$4.99
  • Mousetrapped, memoir, 70k words @$2.99
  • Backpacked, memoir, 70k words @$2.99
  • Results Not Typical, novel, 95k words @$2.99
  • The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated, blog material, 120k+ words @$1.99
  • More Mousetrapped, bonus material, 35k words @99c (not out yet).

Two things are at play here: fairness and expectation. It’s simply not fair to charge $4.99 for a book that, if it were printed, would only have 10-15 pages. I don’t care if it contains the meaning of life; it’s just hoodwinking people. It’s fiddling the mileage on a used car. Similarly, if I was still charging 99c for Results, readers would expect More Mousetrapped to be the same length, since it’s being offered at the same price.

And if you think that people would in fact be thinking, Wow, I got a great deal on Results!, tell me: how are the sparkly unicorns in Delusional Meadow? I admire your faith in humanity, but PEOPLE DON’T THINK LIKE THAT.

(While we’re on the subject, I think if you’re offering a shorter-than-normal e-book, you should specify the word count on the Amazon product description.)

Selling Less Makes More

Obvious, but worth stating nonetheless.

At 99c, you make a 35% royalty, or about 35c. That means you’d have to sell around 286 copies to make $100.

At $2.99, you make a 70% royalty, or about $2.09. That means you’d have to sell around 48 copies to make $100.

Big difference, eh? I think in the first year of your self-published career, readers have to be the priority. If that means charging 99c for your books—or some of your books—so be it. I also think if you have a number of titles, charging 99c for just one of them (the first in a series, for example) is a great promotional tool. But once you’ve established yourself, you should move away from 99c, using it only for shorter books.

The answer to the question how much should I charge for my book? is as much as you can and still sell copies of it. For the average self-publisher, I believe that’s now $2.99.

UPDATE 5/12/12: Between now and Christmas, I’ve decided to have a little e-book sale. I’ve dropped the price of Mousetrapped from $2.99 to 99c, Backpacked from $3.99 to 99c and Self-Printed from $4.99 to $2.99 on Amazon’s Kindle store. If you’re considering downloading Self-Printed, remember you can buy it directly from me on My E-book Store page in all major formats. 

Click here for a list of all my self-printing posts.

50 Shades a Self-Publishing Success Story? I Don’t Think So

26 Aug

A couple of years ago, I heard about a book called The Passage. It was to be the first of three in a viral-vampire-post-apocalypse-type-thing, the author had got a huge deal and there were countless stories in the media and online about how the book had come to be written. I made a mental Post-It note to check it out but, in case the sticky stuff failed by the time it was released, there were still plenty of reminders about its publication, including mention of it in seemingly every newspaper I picked up and huge, movie-style posters behind the counter at my favorite bookshop. This wasn’t just the release of a book. This was A Big Story.

Stiletto fatigue: if you’re planning on releasing a book anytime soon and you’d like it to sell, start thinking about how you can feature one of these on the cover, preferably with a charcoal/steel color scheme. You’re welcome!

I probably would’ve read The Passage anyway. I was the target audience, in a way, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was how I’d hear about it. “Writer publishes a book” just isn’t a story anymore, especially now that with self-publishing digging its elbows into the mainstream’s ribs, anyone can publish a book in a couple of hours. The Passage needed a story that was better than that. Luckily the author got an eye-bulging deal, and reportedly worked on the storyline with his young daughter. Enter the New York Times and every other media news outlet that takes a minute to report on books. The Passage was a big deal book with A Big Story, and so there was plenty of story fodder to go along with reports of it. The writers, reporters and bloggers get something meaty to write about, and the author gets plenty of publicity. Everybody wins, Hooray!

Forward now, if you will, to the world we knew before we knew about 50 Shades. I’m sure erotica writers wish they could go back there. Booksellers are glad they don’t have to. I still haven’t read the books even though a copy of the first one is somewhere on my computer, so for my part I’m just glad I haven’t yet moved to a world where I’ve seen sentences such as “I rolled my eyes at myself” and “… bewildered by my lack of underwear” in a book a major publishing company giddily unleashed on the world.

What’s interesting, I think, is when we knew about 50 Shades. Think back, if you can. When did you first hear about it?

I would consider myself generally up to date with self-publishing news. Since I’ve written a “how-to” guide about it, I get paid to deliver workshops and participate in discussions about the subject, and I have a blog that’s about little else, that’s a good thing. A necessary thing. When the world found out about a young women’s seven-figure deal off the back of self-publishing success, I already knew all about it, because I’d been reading Amanda Hocking’s blog for months. When John Locke became the first self-published author to sell a million Kindle books, his name was familiar, because I was already following him on Twitter and receiving his mailing list updates. Because I follow so many self-publishing blogs and news sites, I usually have heard something about the self-publishing authors who hit the headlines before they do.

But I heard absolutely nothing about 50 Shades until I read about E.L. James getting her book deal.

Nothing. Nada. Not a peep.

Whatever success 50 Shades had as self-published books, it wasn’t big enough to enter my view of the blogosphere. Therefore I have to conclude that it wasn’t that big. I can’t find a single mention anywhere online of how many books it had sold before that dotted line came along, which I find a bit odd. [Does anyone know?] But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I’m wrong. Let’s say it sold millions and that I just wasn’t paying attention at the time.

Maybe I was distracted by my special edition Blu-ray Jurassic Park trilogy box set that week or something.

It’s still not a self-publishing success story, because its sales would’ve been logistically impossible without the help of a traditional deal.

I refuse to look up how many copies its sold, but by all reports it’ll be at infinity any day now. In the UK—and, honestly, I feel real despair at this news—it has become the biggest selling book ever. (Yes, in Harry’s part of the world, he’s been outsold by the story of a relationship that in the real world, would land one party in jail and the other in a woman’s shelter. THESE ARE ACTUAL TEARS.) A few weeks back I read that James was banking a million a week in royalties; most career authors couldn’t match the daily interest on her bank account with the sum total of their advances. Until everyone over-ordered copies of the trilogy so that now they’re like a branded set of sand-bags inside the door of every bookstore, the titles were sold out for a while. Someone told me that in one of Cork’s biggest bookshops, there was a list of no fewer than two hundred names waiting for news that it was back in stock. I’m sure any day now we’ll hear something like “1 out of every x households has a copy of 50 Shades…” and in a year or so, charity bookshops will actually be using them as sand-bags, or at least posting signs saying “No more 50 Shades, please!”

Maybe they already are.

How has the book sold so many copies? I’m not sure anyone knows. But I know what had to happen in order to facilitate the sale of that many copies: people who don’t normally purchase books and/or read for pleasure had to buy it/read it, and in order for that to happen, the book had to be widely available in stores. When books sell as many copies as 50 Shades has—and when you can’t turn your head without catching a mention of them on TV or in print—it’s because they have broken out from the planet’s Reader population and spread (like a sexually transmitted disease, in this case…?) into the Non-Reader one.

And Non-Readers don’t, generally, read e-books. They don’t order books online. I—and every other self-publisher—can attest to this, because chances are you’re related to a few of them, and trying to explain to them that the buying options for your book are: (i) e-book, (ii) POD paperback only sold online or (iii) not reading it at all, is usually a migraine-inducing waste of your time. Therefore it is a logistical impossibility that had 50 Shades remained a self-published book [I actually don't know was it available in POD paperback? I can't find any evidence that it was...], it would be the phenomenal—and inexplicable—success story it is today. It just couldn’t have happened.

50 Shades isn’t a self-publishing success story. It might’ve been back when she signed on the dotted line, but it’s not now. What it is is a win for traditional publishing. It’s a traditional publishing success story, served with a generous side of clever marketing.

And you know what, self-publishers? I think we should be happy about that. I know I’m unusual in that I quite like the traditional publishing industry, and hope that one day, they’ll like me enough to offer me a book deal. So you may not join me in being happy for them, but that’s quite alright. They did need this, though, and so did the booksellers who have been seeing a lot of new faces come through their doors in the last few months.

But I do hope you’ll join me, fellow self-publishers, in being glad that this isn’t one of ours.

“I rolled my eyes at myself?” Don’t our books get enough stick as it is?

In 2008 I went backpacking, somewhat against my will, and in terms of the obligatory travel-induced self-discovery, the only thing I got was a confirmation of what I’d thought all along: that I’d hate backpacking. But I got a book out of it, Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America, and it’s free for Kindle today and tomorrow. Once it goes back to paid, it’ll be $3.99 so, like, hurry up. Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and all the other ones.

Why It’s A Bad Idea to Overload Your Kindle Book

27 Jun

This week I read a rather disturbing but highly illuminating post about something I rarely think about and have never mentioned before: the fact that Amazon takes “delivery charges” out of our Kindle book profits.

Utterly irrelevant, but a nice pic from my recent trip to the States. This is a view of Lake Meade from the Hoover Dam, first thing on a sunny June morning. 

You can read the whole post by Andrew Hyde here—and you should; I’ll wait—but the problem he’s highlighting (among others) is that the size of your Kindle book affects your earnings from the sale of it.

Take my book Mousetrapped, for example. It’s $2.99 to purchase and I’m on the 70% royalty rate. Therefore Amazon’s cut is 30%, and I take home $2.09 from each sale.

Except that I don’t.

The average delivery cost, according to the detailed spreadsheet KDP presents me with once a month, is between 6c and 8c. (I have no idea why it changes; presumably it’s to do with geography.) And that comes out, surprise surprise, of my 70%.

Results Not Typical, my longest e-book when you take into consideration the length of the actual book and the word count of the previews included, has a higher delivery charge again, at 9c.

(If you’re on the 35% royalty rate, you’re all in. Amazon doesn’t take any extras—you make 35% off the sale price off every sale. This delivery charges thing only applies to the 70% option.)

Yes, these are miniscule amounts we’re talking about, but only because my books are relatively small (file size-wise). In his post, Andrew Hyde describes how he discovered that on the 70% rate for his $9.99, 18.1MB book, Amazon was taking $2.58 for delivery charges.

$2.58!

And that $2.58 was not covered by Amazon’s existing 30% cut, but coming out of his “70%” royalty.

Now this post isn’t about whether or not this is just, although I will say that I do understand that it costs Amazon more to deliver 300,000 words with a picture on every other page to your Kindle than it does to deliver my illustration-free 90,000, and you can’t calculate flat-rate royalties when every book is a different size. As you know, I’m the last person you’ll find bashing Amazon, because I’m able to earn a living as a writer purely because of them. This post is about why Andrew’s post has changed the way I’ll design my e-books in the future. 

Andrew’s post and a review of Mousetrapped in which the reviewer bemoaned the fact that the book actually ended at 65% on her Kindle, because the remaining 35% was previews of my other books.

And you know what? I totally understand where she’s coming from.

Will I ever forget the trauma I experienced watching the very last episode of LOST? I’d stayed up all night, first to, ahem, watch as much as I could of the US broadcast on the magical interweb before it got found out and cut off, and then to watch Sky’s early morning “simulcast”. According to the channel guide, it was due to end at 7.20 a.m. So as I sat there, watching Jack watching the plane fly overhead, I seriously thought I had another 15 minutes of LOST in my life. Turns out, the guide was wrong and it was more like 30 seconds. So when I was left with the end titles at 7.05 a.m., it was quite the shock. I hadn’t had time to prepare for the end. I was devastated. Extra devastated.

Now I’m sure the ending of Mousetrapped is nowhere near as upsetting—some people, I’m sure, were glad when it came to its conclusion—and I’m also sure the Amazon reviewer is nowhere near as over-emotional as me (who is?!), but I totally get what she means.

Up until now, I always thought that the length of your e-book didn’t matter. (Note: I’m talking about the length of your e-book. Not the book itself.) I have three books now excluding Self-Printed and The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated, so theoretically I can put previews of two books at the end of each one. I think the longer the preview the better—the more time a reader spends on them, the more likely they are to go on to buy the book—so right now I’ve something like four or five chapters of each book at the end of my others. With a chapter being 2,000-3,000 words, that’s something like an extra 20,000 words at the end of the book.

Thinking that the length of my e-book didn’t matter—and knowing how important it was to use existing books to sell my other ones—I chucked everything in there but the kitchen sink. Lengthy previews of my other books? Sure! Book cover images of them too? Let’s do it! Superfluous reminders about my blog, Twitter page, etc.? Why not?! It wasn’t like I had to pay for the pages like I did in my POD paperbacks, right?

Well, now I’m seeing the error of my ways. When you chuck a load of extra stuff into your e-book after the book itself, you are:

  • Eating into your profits because the larger the file, the higher the delivery charges
  • Annoying your readers because your actual book might end at 65%.

So from now on, I’m going to be more economical with my e-books. I’m still going to include previews and ads for my other books, but they’re not going to be 20,000 words long. Far from it.

What do you think? Is this all news to you, or something you’ve already taken into consideration? 

How Much Should I Charge for My E-Book?

4 Jun

I’ve experimented with my e-book prices at lot over the past couple of years. For a week—its first—Mousetrapped was $4.99. I soon learned my lesson there, and dropped it to $2.99. Just before Backpacked came out (at $2.99), I dropped Mousetrapped to $1.99 hoping it would lead to more sales, thus leading to more sales of its sequel. When sales of Mousetrapped inexplicably tanked for a month or two, I dropped it to 99c to get them going again. Half-way through its life, I increased the price of Self-Printed from $2.99 to $4.99. I’ve run four of my titles through KDP Select. And recently, I increased the price of my only fiction title, Results Not Typical, from 99c to $2.99, and now it’s selling better than ever.

How much should I charge for my book? is one of the biggest questions facing the soon-to-be-self-published author. But I think self-published authors a year, two or three years in should also be asking themselves how much should I be charging for my books now? The answer is as much as you can, i.e. the highest price at which your books continue to sell consistently well. Lower than that, and you’re doing yourself—and possibly your work—a disservice. You might also be sending out subconscious messages about your book that are turning off prospective readers. Higher than that, and your sales might slow to a trickle. Yes, it’s nice to earn seven or eight dollars off each sale (!!), but not if you’re only making two or three sales a month.

So how do we decide how much to charge for our e-books? I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is almost always $2.99. At $2.99 you earn 70% off most Kindle sales and you say my book is worth something. (For those of you who doubt that $2.99 is a high enough price to say that, you may be in the wrong business.) I’ve decided that going forward, $2.99 is going to be my default price for full-length books. Here’s why.

99c is SO Last Year

Once upon a time, 99c was the go-to price for self-published authors—especially authors of fiction—but the tide appears to be turning against such low-priced books. Setting your book to such a low price no longer guarantees sales, if it ever did. Whether or not it’s true, having the lowest price-tag possible attached to your work sends a message to potential readers that it may only be worth a sum they could make up in change found beneath their sofa cushions.

I know it’s extremely difficult for us self-published authors to get perspective when we are surrounded by other self-published authors all the live long internet day, but you have to remember that the vast majority of readers do not read self-published books. You’re kidding yourself if you think they do. Yes, they might read them by accident, but they’d never choose to. Many avoid them, as a rule. So our next task, as self-publishers, is to show this group that our books can be as good as the ones they’re used to. We must show them that our books are worth their attention. And I don’t think 99c is the way to do that.

Now I know the other end of this argument is that if we’re supposed to think like that, we should be charging $9.99 for our e-books, because that’s what traditional publishing charges (as a sweeping generalization). But we have other factors in play—no track record, editorial approval, credibility, etc. being one giant one—and when we take that into consideration, I think we land on $2.99.

Sometimes we also have to consider the other books in our category. This happened to me with Self-Printed. I was charging $2.99 for it until I went looking for a reference guide myself about another subject, and noticed that the #1 bestseller was $9.99, while the #2 was only $1.99. I thought two things: the #1 must be a fantastic book if it’s so expensive and it’s still #1, and the #2 must be pretty rubbish if it’s so cheap and still can’t manage to overtake the #1. When a book promises to contain valuable information, the price has to go some way to conveying that.

A Discount On Sofa Change? So What?

As a newly self-published author, you need to build a readership. It’s your main priority. At the beginning, this is far more important that earning money. So you do whatever you can to entice people to “try” your book. Right now, a free promotion period with KDP Select seems like a good option for any self-published author just joining the party. If I was about to release my first ever self-published book, I’d definitely give it five days free as part of its launch. Readers, reviews and potentially even some Amazon algorithms looking our way: what’s not to like?

A discount on 99c is what’s not to like. Free isn’t all that attractive if the book is normally 99c. And remember that in other currencies, it’s even less. In Euro cent, it’s about 77c. In British pence, I think it’s 59p…? So if you charge 99c for your book, neither free downloads nor Prime borrows sounds like a good deal. But $2.99 to free? Now that sounds like something I can get on board with.

The first time I KDP Selected Results, it was 99c. It was downloaded just over 3,500 times. The second time, the price of it was $2.99, and it was downloaded over 20,000 times. Coincidence? I think not.

The same goes for review copies, or giveways on your blog. Why would I bother entering a competition for a free copy of something if I can just have it for 99c?

The Discerning Reader

I personally believe that the less you charge for a book, the less time people spend humming and haahing over their decision whether or not to click “Buy”. Therefore if your price-tag is 99c, you’re likely to experience what I call the “I’ll Give It a Go, I Suppose—And Then Hate It and Shred Your Insides With a Spiteful Amazon Review” factor.

Those of you who live in Ireland will be familiar with the phenomenon that is Pennys. (Primark, in the UK). It’s like a cheaper, high-fashion version of Target, except without all the non-clothing departments. In Pennys, you can get the latest trends for less than the cost of the magazine you had to read to find out what they were. The clothes are so cheap they’re practically disposable. Combined with the fact that the stores also tend to have the longest fitting room queues on the planet, you’re more likely to walk out with something you hope will fit rather than something you know will. If it doesn’t work out, so what? It was practically for nothing. If you don’t like it, you can bring it back or, at worst, be down a few euro. No big deal.

The same thing happens on Amazon with 99c cent books. Except if you don’t like it, you get to tell everyone else by way of an Amazon Customer Review. Horrible, acidic, ego-blasting reviews written by people who got something they weren’t expecting because they didn’t know what to expect. They didn’t take the time to read the synopsis, or even the other reviews, because what’s the worst that could happen? They’re only down 99c. It drives me mad to read one-star reviews that complain about things that either a) have been covered in the product description or b) already highlighted by another reviewer. Why didn’t they read that before they bought it?! Because we were charging so little for our work that we encouraged them not to.

99c Leaves No Room for Manoeuvre

My absolutely favorite thing about self-publishing e-books is the flexibility it offers. Whether you’re a self-published or traditionally published author, whether writing is your business or your hobby—or even if writing isn’t anything to do with your career at all—you can use this e-book business to your advantage. In other words, not every published e-book has to be a full-length book.

I’ve just released an e-book of all my “self-printing” themed posts, The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated. (Which is FREE to download for Kindle until Tuesday.) I’m charging $1.99 for it. This is partly to compensate me for the money I spent on the cover and the hours I spent, first of all, writing those posts and then the far more headachy hours I spent compiling and formatting them, and partly because that’s where it “fits in” in the scheme of all my other books.

We’ve established that Self-Printed is $4.99 because it’s 110,000+ words of valuable information that I believe will help other authors sell books. Next, my full-length books—Mousetrapped, Backpacked and Results Not Typical—are $2.99 each. Then, The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated, coming in at $1.99. Why didn’t I charge 99c for it? Because next month I’ll be releasing a smaller, shorter book—More Mousetrapped: A Little Bit More From That Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida—which, it being only 35,000 words and intended to be bonus material to the main book, is only going to cost 99c.

So:

  • Self-Printed, reference, 110,000 words+ @$4.99
  • Mousetrapped, memoir, 70k words @$2.99
  • Backpacked, memoir, 70k words @$2.99
  • Results Not Typical, novel, 95k words @$2.99
  • The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated, blog material, 120k+ words @$1.99
  • More Mousetrapped, bonus material, 35k words @99c (not out yet).

Two things are at play here: fairness and expectation. It’s simply not fair to charge $4.99 for a book that, if it were printed, would only have 10-15 pages. I don’t care if it contains the meaning of life; it’s just hoodwinking people. It’s fiddling the mileage on a used car. Similarly, if I was still charging 99c for Results, readers would expect More Mousetrapped to be the same length, since it’s being offered at the same price.

And if you think that people would in fact be thinking, Wow, I got a great deal on Results!, tell me: how are the sparkly unicorns in Delusional Meadow? I admire your faith in humanity, but PEOPLE DON’T THINK LIKE THAT.

(While we’re on the subject, I think if you’re offering a shorter-than-normal e-book, you should specify the word count on the Amazon product description.)

Selling Less Makes More

Obvious, but worth stating nonetheless.

At 99c, you make a 35% royalty, or about 35c. That means you’d have to sell around 286 copies to make $100.

At $2.99, you make a 70% royalty, or about $2.09. That means you’d have to sell around 48 copies to make $100.

Big difference, eh? I think in the first year of your self-published career, readers have to be the priority. If that means charging 99c for your books—or some of your books—so be it. I also think if you have a number of titles, charging 99c for just one of them (the first in a series, for example) is a great promotional tool. But once you’ve established yourself, you should move away from 99c, using it only for shorter books.

The answer to the question how much should I charge for my book? is as much as you can and still sell copies of it. For the average self-publisher, I believe that’s now $2.99.

Want a FREE book? Well, today’s your lucky day! Especially if you also like things that are pink.

Find out more about my books here. Sign up to my newsletter here. (Don’t worry. Nothing much happens.) Receive all future posts direct to your inbox by subscribing; look for the subscribe boxes in the footer or sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @cathryanhoward. Do all that and I’d estimate you’d be completely sick of me in approximately 11 days’ time. Best just to come back here whenever the mood takes you, me thinks. 

This is an “Ethical” Way to Sell Your E-book? I Disagree [UPDATED]

27 Mar

***Last updated Saturday 31st March 2012 2pm GMT***

Yesterday evening I received an e-mail to info[at]catherineryanhoward.com from a person I didn’t know. I’m always suspicious when this happens because if a stranger is trying to get in contact with me, clearly the Contact page on this very site is the way to go. But if you want to send me a message from your e-mail account, that’s not going to work, so you either trawl the internet looking for mentions of my e-mail address or you put “info” in front of my domain and hope for the best. The suspicion arises because of the answer to the question why must you send me a message from your e-mail account? It’s usually because you want to send me an attachment and/or include me in a mass mailing. Both of those say “I’m selling things!which, when you do it in an e-mail to a person you’ve never communicated with before, is called spam.

So I was suspicious before I even opened the message. Then I read it.

“Subject: Loved your book

Just checked out your book on Smashwords, Catherine and you’re so so talented. Do you have any suggestions for a budding writer like me? What has worked and what hasn’t? Tried FB, Twitter, even book marks. I just don’t want to waste my time on things that don’t work. I just read a couple EXCELLENT books on it. One was recommended by my friend called “Effortless Marketing”:http://amzn.to/EFFORTLESS I got it cause Mark Coker the Smashwords guy endorsed it and cause it’s free for the next 24 hours anyway. And it was surprisingly really, really good. Do you have any other books you’d recommend?”

(That text was copied and pasted from the e-mail; all mistakes sender’s own.)

I clicked on the link, and ended up on a listing for an e-book called Effortless Marketing: How I Sold Thousands of E-books, Landed an Agent and a Book Deal in Just 10 Minutes a Day Using Message Boards by someone called Jeff Rivera.

Now maybe I’ve been reading too many crime novels recently, but nothing about this sat right with me. First of all, the message was sent to my e-mail address instead of via my Contact page. That alone suggested spam, or at least something suspicious. Then there was the subject line—”loved your book”—even though the message seemed to imply that the sender hadn’t read it, but merely “checked [it] out” on Smashwords. (And if they had read it, they’d know I generally don’t do anything to promote my books that a traditionally published author wouldn’t do AND I don’t believe in selling books to other self-published authors, and therefore I avoid message boards.) Then there was the total focus on selling books as opposed to creating them, the odd mention of book marks (?!) and the late-night infomercial line “I just don’t want to waste my time on things that don’t work.” (I can just see that guy from Amazing Discoveries in his terrible wooly sweater, consoling the actor playing the part of a frustrated audience member. “Well, now you don’t have to!”)

But it was the completely out of the blue book recommendation—complete with link!—that really set alarms ringing, especially since it just so happened that it was free to download for Kindle that very day. There were the capital letters (“EXCELLENT”), the forced casualness (“that Smashwords guy”) and the odd timeline—free for 24 hours, but the sender has already found it, downloaded it, read it and wrote to me to recommend it? Somebody’s been a busy bee, eh?

The sender’s name was Mogoli Angelberg. When I googled it there were only about five results returned and none of them were very illuminating. The top one, however, was this (click for larger image):

A profile page for Mogoli on something called The Gatekeeper’s Post, of which Jeff Rivera—author of Effortless Marketing— is both founder and editor in chief.

So.

This was my reply, in its entirety:

“What hasn’t worked is spamming people with e-mails in which I pretend (badly) to be seeking information when what I’m obviously doing is trying to get people to download the book my “friend” recommended. –Catherine”

The truth is, I often get e-mails of this type. I must look stupid or something. Regular blog readers will know that this is the first time I’ve called anyone out about it (although rest assured each one I receive does get filed in the “Don’t Do This” notes section of the new edition of Self-Printed). But this one was so blatant and presumed me to be so stupid that I just had to say something.

Right up top on the book’s Amazon listing is an endorsement from Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, that reads:

“Jeff Rivera provides honest, ethical advice for how authors can leverage message boards to attract readership and build platforms.”

I’m guessing there’s no mention of spam-disguised-as-praise-and-queries e-mail in Effortless Marketing; I’m certain Mr. Coker wouldn’t have endorsed it if there was. Perhaps Mr. Rivera is unaware of this e-mail campaign. But if he isn’t, he should be. And he should make sure that it’s stopped.

Because the very last thing this effort could be called is ethical.

What do you think? And have you ever received anything like this?

UPDATE #1 | 27.03.12: As I suspected, I’m not the only person to receive this e-mail. See Ashley’s comment below.

UPDATE #2 | 27.03.12: Julie Cohen has also received this e-mail. It seems to be coming from Smashwords—i.e. the people behind it are trawling through Smashwords looking for authors to send it to, presuming they’re self-published and interested in selling more books. Considering how many authors are on Smashwords and that only a few hours after posting this, at least 3 people who also received it have read this post, I think that points to potentially hundreds of recipients.

UPDATE #3 | 28.03.12. Oh boy. It’s now 10.30 a.m. GMT on Wednesday 28th March, or about twenty-four hours since I first posted this. In that time, between comments, tweets and e-mails, 19 other people have told me they’ve received this exact same “Loved your book” message. Considering that this group consists of people who received it and either knew me or took the time to Google the sender’s name, found me and were motivated to leave a comment, I think that points to a huge number of potential recipients. More than one recipient found the message in their Spam folder, which also points to a mass mailing.

I also received a very interesting message from a self-publisher who prefers to remain anonymous for personal reasons. (I know this self-publisher, believe he has no reason to lie and therefore am trusting that this is the truth. However I must of course concede that this did not happen to me; I’m merely repeating it.) Several weeks ago this self-publisher—let’s call him Bob—received a message from Jeff Rivera, the author of Effortless Marketing, entitled “Loved your book!”—the same title, of course, as our spammy message.

The message began with praise, just like the spam message does, but then went on to invite Bob to read an interview Rivera had done with a big-name author who had turned to self-publishing. Bob didn’t reply. Later Bob received another, similar message from Rivera. He didn’t reply to that either. A week after that, Rivera sends him another message saying (I’m paraphrasing): “Hey, I think I deleted your most recent message. Can you re-send?” Suspecting that Rivera is “just trying to sell” him something, yet again, Bob doesn’t reply.

Sending messages into the abyss doesn’t, apparently, deter Rivera, who sends Bob another message shortly thereafter. This one promises Bob a “top secret” list of agents and editors who are foaming at the mouth looking for self-published success stories (um, obviously I’m also paraphrasing there, but you get the idea)—in exchange for a review of his book. Needless to say, Bob didn’t respond to this either. But his curiosity was piqued, so he downloaded Effortless Marketing, which was free for Kindle at the time.

Now I have a personal rule about not revealing the content of books like this, but suffice to say that his “effortless marketing” method has a lot in common with the spammy messages we’ve all been receiving, according to Bob (it just moves it to a message board/private message setting), and among other terrifying advice, suggests using Fiverr.com to find an editor. I was also pointed in the direction of a thread on Kindle Boards where Rivera, back in August 2011, told his fellow authors that if they had had self-published success, he could help them get a traditional deal. In it he says “Ask Joe Konrath or Karen McQuestion if you have any questions” [about his or his offer's legitimacy]. What does that mean?! Presumably he wants you to think that Konrath and McQuestion, two of the world’s most successful and most visible self-published authors, will vouch for him. But that’s not what that line says.

Let me be clear here: this is not intended in any way to be an exposé, or an attack. I really don’t care what this guy is up to, whether or not his book is good or if this “Mogoli Angelberg” even exists. I think people should make their own buying decisions, I couldn’t give a crap either way, and, anyway, this isn’t that kind of blog. But as soon as I read that message, I knew something was wrong with it. I knew something wasn’t right. After Googling, I was positive something wasn’t. And because e-mail happens behind the scenes and spamming operations like this can go unnoticed, I decided not to let it go. I decided to blog about it. And I think that’s my right, considering that I was a recipient of the e-mail.

Regular readers of this blog will know what my stance is on selling books. This isn’t a game. This is a wonderful opportunity for writers who previously had no hope other than the magic “yes” from an agent or an editor. Now we have the world at our feet—or at our keyboards, anyway. We should never abuse it. (See my infamous guest post on Taleist, Why Self-Publishers Need to Start Minding Their Manners, for more info on that.) We should be honest, and work hard to find readers and convince them, through transparent methods, to buy our books. Organic growth is the only growth that works, the only growth that matters. Yes, you might manage to sell 100,000 or even 1,000,000 books by some form of Jedi mind trick, but what then? What happens when people read your crappy book? What happens when you release your next one? The only way to sell books is to write good ones, and then let people know—in a way that’s acceptable to everyone—that they exist.

It drives me ten kinds of cuckoo when people try to sell books by any other method, but the red mist descends when they try to sell them that way to me.

UPDATE #4 | 28.03.12

UPDATE #5 | 28.03.12 I’ve been informed that the Amazon.com listing for Effortless *cough cough* Marketing has received 3 one-star reviews from people who have received the same message, word-for-word—and I know this because I went to read the reviews, and two of them have the message pasted in. I read it about five minutes ago, and just now when I went back to copy and paste the URL, there was a new 5* star to add to the 20-odd 5* reviews already on it. This is amazing, considering the book was published six days ago, on March 22. What’s his secret? Apart from the spam, none of us are privy to what lengths exactly Mr. Rivera has gone to to promote this book, but I think we can all agree on one thing: he’s sure making a huge effort.

UPDATE #6 | 28.03.12 This saga now has its own thread on Kindle Boards! I would URGE anyone following this story and/or concerned about this issue to read through the posts on this thread. [*waves to everyone on that Kindle Boards thread*]

UPDATE #7 | 28.03.12 Jeff Rivera has posted an update on his site in which he responds to the “Mogoli Angelberg” spam debacle. I don’t want to keep dragging this on and on, but I’m afraid I have to take some issue with Mr. Rivera’s explanations.

He seems slighted that we, the recipients of the spam messages, didn’t immediately contact him about them and instead complained about them publicly – on blogs, Twitter, Amazon, etc. Of course, if something like this was happening in my name and I was unaware, I would wonder why, when I found out, that someone didn’t tell me sooner so I could have done something about it. I totally get that. But it was only by sharing that we’d received this weird message that it became clear it was not a one-off, but a spammy mass mailing.

Secondly, if you look at the Twitter screenshot above, when someone did approach him about it yesterday, his answer was “I’m not sure what you mean.” Yes, if he wasn’t sending the e-mails, he wouldn’t have known what the tweeter meant. But the tweeter specifically mentioned the name Mogoli Angelberg. If he is known to Mr. Rivera, as he statement claims, wouldn’t that have raised alarm bells with him then?

Moreover, in his statement Mr. Rivera says he found out about this because he saw the spam-related negative reviews on his Amazon listing. Such reviews on Amazon.com are all dated March 27th, yesterday. As you can see in the screenshot above, the tweet was sent to Mr. Rivera on March 26th, the day before that.

The endorsement from Smashwords founder Mark Coker has also been removed from the Amazon.com listing.

Finally, I was sent a link to this statement via e-mail. But when I went to Mr. Rivera’s home page, I could find no trace of it. I had to go back to the e-mail and copy and paste the link just to re-locate it.

(On a personal note, yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I’m relatively young. Yes, my blog is pink. But I’m not stupid.)

UPDATE #8 | 28.03.12  Jeff Rivera has also taken the time to comment on this post, below.

(The Final!) UPDATE #9 | 29.03.12 So, this turned into something, didn’t it? Wow. I hope you made enough coffee to get all the way down to this bit. The thing is, I’m so glad I posted about this and helped, in a little way, to expose shady practices of people who prey on my fellow writers and self-publishers, but Catherine, Caffeinated isn’t supposed to be an episode of 60 Minutes. Therefore, this will be my last word on the matter, although of course please feel free to comment, move onto Kindle Boards where this has got VERY interesting indeed, and spread this around so we can alert as many people as possible to this kind of crap.

Jeff Rivera posted a statement on his blog and has left comments below, but his explanation is that an employee of his sent these messages. He’s fired him, he apologizes, end of. But he completely ignores all the other things about his practices that have come to light during this and seemingly has no intention of addressing them.

For instance:

  • If you believe that Mogoli Angelberg exists, I have a time machine disguised as a remote control that I want to sell to you. He’s been on the internet since 1997, apparently, but has fewer Google search results than my stapler. The Kindle Board thread also has screenshots that, to me, look like evidence that Rivera and Angelberg are the same person. One is a posting on a message board where, signed in as Mogoli Angelberg, Jeff posts and signs his own name. If Mogoli was an employee working on Jeff’s behalf, wouldn’t it be the other way around?
  • The same thread highlights an e-mail Rivera sent offering a list of agents and editors supposedly looking for self-published authors IN EXCHANGE for a review of his book. Effortless Marketing, published on the 22nd of this month, already has more than 30 5* star reviews.
  • Some very clever person on the Kindle Boards thread has been examining how many times the link in the spam e-mail has been clicked. It points to a spam operation on a massive scale. Even if Rivera is telling the truth, (i) how could such a huge undertaking have been conceived of and executed without his knowledge? and (ii) why would anybody but the author be motivated to do such a thing? My conclusion is that it couldn’t have been and no one would.

So that’s it. I hope your cup of coffee lasted this far. I’m off to make another, and tomorrow this blog will return to its normal fare. If you have anything you’d like to add, I’d suggest you pay a visit to the Kindle Board thread listed above, or comment below. Tootles for now.

(This Time It’s Really the Final) UPDATE | 31.03.12 I really was done with this whole thing, but Jeff Rivera has pulled his book and posted another statement, and since (i) people are still coming here to read this post and I want those people to have all the information and (ii) the statement itself needs addressing, I’m afraid I posting another update…

You can read the statement in full here, but here are some highlights:

  • “I wanted to personally thank the thousands of writers who downloaded my eBook, Effortless Marketing this week and the over 34 four and five star reviews I received.” This week, potentially thousands of writers were spammed about Jeff’s book, and we know that he contacts people offering them things in exchange for reviews.
  • “And I want to thank those who helped make it the #1 Marketing Book on Kindle.” It was free.
  • “I also received interest from a traditional publisher about the book as well and what’s funny is that I didn’t approach that publisher at all. They approached me!” You’re right, that is funny.
  • “Unfortunately, due to the campaign of bizarre false accusations about me supposedly spamming people about the eBook even when I explained what happened, I’ve decided to pull it off the market for now.” I presume by “bizarre false accusations” he is referring to the majority of people not falling for his explanation that “Mogoli Angelberg” is an employee of his who conceived and executed this entire spamming operation without his knowledge, despite Mogoli having no independent internet presence or any online proof that he has ever existed at all, and e-mails from Jeff and Mogoli coming from the same source and being worded the same way. His explanation doesn’t explain anything, and he hasn’t even attempted to explain—or even address— why he approached writers offering lists of agents in exchange for reviews, or why he does things like advertising a query writing service that charges $450 upfront, and then another $450 when you get ten responses, which Jeff guarantees (see below). It is bizarre.

  • I pray that those who went out of their way to do so will not experience that type of negativity in their own lives.” You don’t need to, because I would never do something as stupid as this. And if he’s referring to me, I didn’t go out of my way to do anything. I received a suspicious e-mail that insulted my intelligence, and when Googling the information in that e-mail led me to believe that someone was conducting themselves in a manner that brings down all self-publishers, I decided to post about it to see if anyone else had got the same thing.
No, Really. This Time I Swear… Someone just sent me a link to a rather relevant “daily inspiration” post from Jeff’s blog, in which the image below appears. I know, it looks like it must have been doctored or interfered with since this whole spam saga began, but it’s not at all. This is actually on his blog. I’ve taken a screenshot in case it disappears.

The phrase “You said it, not me” comes to mind…

If you received a “Loved your book” message from the complimentary Mr. Angelberg, please let us know in the comments below.

The Girl Who Came Home: A Guest Post by Hazel Gaynor

19 Mar

Welcome to another week on Catherine, Caffeinated! While I recover from making Mother’s Day dinner on three hours sleep thanks to the Australian Grand Prix (Sky Sports started coverage on the new dedicated channel at 4.30am—although I should’ve just stayed in bed until the race started at six, because Sky Sports F1 is total rubbish. But anyway… ), my friend Hazel Gaynor is going to amuse you today with the story of her book, The Girl Who Came Home. With a stunning cover, timely subject matter and glowing reviews stacking up, I just know this e-book is going to be a huge success. Here’s Hazel to explain how it came to be...

“So, I did it. I finally took the plunge and self-published my novel, The Girl Who Came Home, on Kindle this week. It’s an exciting, nerve-wracking, exciting, terrifying, exciting experience! So, why Titanic? Why Kindle? Why now?

Ever since I was a child, I was amazed by the story of Titanic: the ship, the people who sailed on it and the unimaginable scale of the disaster. From the age of about twenty, I’ve been saying I’d love to write a novel, set on Titanic. People nodded politely. ‘Of course you do,’ they said, patting me on the back. When I was 27, I cried buckets as I watched James Cameron’s epic movie and fell in love with Titanic all over again. ‘I’m going to write a book about that one day,’ I said. ‘Of course you will,’ my friends replied politely, patting me on the back. The dream never went away – I knew I would do it one day.

When I was made redundant in March 2009, I finally set about taking my dream of becoming a published author a lot more seriously and last year (after various ups and downs, failures and successes in my writing endeavours), I started doing some serious research into Titanic – not realising at the time that 2012 would be the centenary year of the disaster. It seems I had got serious about writing this book at just the right time. I mentioned the idea to my agent, who encouraged me to write my book.

I soon became completely immersed in Titanic’s fascinating history, absorbing every detail of the event, from the deck plan of the ship to the handles on the dinner knives to the moving accounts of survivors. Then, I stumbled across the story of a group of fourteen Irish emigrants who left their homes in Mayo and sailed together on Titanic. They are known locally as ‘The Addergoole Fourteen’. I was so moved and inspired by their story that I wanted to write about it. Going back to the notes I’d been keeping for the previous fifteen years and using the new research, The Girl Who Came Home was written over the following four months in a blur of early mornings, late nights, twenty-minute bursts while the dinner cooked, a five hour flight to New York and snatched hours on a Sunday morning while my husband took the children swimming (they are great swimmers now!).

The completed novel was submitted to publishers last summer. Feedback was positive and very complimentary – but that elusive contract wasn’t forthcoming. I was devastated and went away to lick my wounds. I couldn’t bear to see anything about Titanic for months afterwards.

Having read the book, my mother-in-law encouraged me to keep trying to get it published and friends suggested self-publishing. I thought about it, put it off, suffered from crippling self-doubt, thought about it some more, edited my manuscript and just before Christmas 2011, decided to self-publish. I set about self-publishing the novel on Kindle. This in itself wasn’t the easiest of tasks, being a bit of a technical luddite, but buoyed by the self-publishing success I’d seen of fellow authors (Catherine Ryan Howard and Mel Sherratt in particular, I stuck with it.

The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel was published on Kindle this week. You can click on the link to read the description, or I have also taken the liberty of copying it in below!  I am so proud to see it up there with my name on it. The stunning cover (even thought I say so myself!) was designed by Andrew at Design for Writers and he did an incredible job, capturing the era and the mood of the book perfectly. The image of Titanic on the cover is from a painting by Belfast artist Jim McDonald, who very kindly gave me permission to use his beautiful work. You would be surprised to learn how tricky it is to get an image of Titanic – such is the stuff you learn when self-publishing!

From here, I can only hope that my novel does well and that self-publishing turns out to be a good decision. I am so passionate about the subject and feel a real sense of responsibility to tell the story of the thousands of people who travelled on this incredible ship with the passion, sensitivity and respect they deserve. Undoubtedly, Titanic’s legacy will live on long well beyond this centenary year. And I suspect our, and our children’s, fascination with her story will only grow stronger over time.

Of course I am still chasing the dream of being traditionally published and am already well under way with my next novel which is set in Victorian London. But more about that another time.”

The Girl Who Came Home is available now on the Amazon Kindle Store. Click here to download from Amazon.com and click here to download from Amazon.co.uk

The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel (the blurb!)

Inspired by true events surrounding a group of Irish emigrants who sailed on the maiden voyage of R.M.S Titanic, The Girl Who Came Home is a story of enduring love and forgiveness, spanning seventy years. It is also the story of the world’s most famous ship, whose tragic legacy continues to captivate our hearts and imaginations one hundred years after she sank to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean with such a devastating loss of life.

In a rural Irish village in April 1912, seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy is anxious about the trip to America. While the thirteen others she will travel with from her Parish anticipate a life of prosperity and opportunity – including her strict Aunt Kathleen who will be her chaperon for the journey – Maggie is distraught to be leaving Séamus, the man she loves with all her heart. As the carts rumble out of the village, she clutches a packet of love letters in her coat pocket and hopes that Séamus will be able to join her in America soon.

In Southampton, England, Harry Walsh boards Titanic as a Third Class Steward, excited to be working on this magnificent ship. After the final embarkation stop in Ireland, Titanic steams across the Atlantic Ocean. Harry befriends Maggie and her friends from the Irish group; their spirits are high and life on board is much grander than any of them could have ever imagined. Being friendly with Harold Bride, one of the Marconi radio operators, Harry offers to help Maggie send a telegram home to Séamus. But on the evening of April 14th, when Titanic hits an iceberg, Maggie’s message is only partly transmitted, leaving Séamus confused by what he reads.

As the full scale of the disaster unfolds, luck and love will decide the fate of the Irish emigrants and those whose lives they have touched on board the ship. In unimaginable circumstances, Maggie survives, arriving three days later in New York on the rescue ship Carpathia. She has only the nightdress she is wearing, a small case and a borrowed coat, to her name. She doesn’t speak of Titanic again for seventy years.

In Chicago, 1982, twenty-one year old Grace Butler is stunned to learn that her Great Nana Maggie sailed on Titanic and sets out to write Maggie’s story as a way to resurrect her journalism career. When it is published, Grace receives a surprising phone call, starting a chain of events which will reveal the whereabouts of Maggie’s missing love letters and the fate of those she sailed with seventy years ago. But it isn’t until a final journey back to Ireland that the full extent of Titanic’s secrets are revealed and Maggie is able to finally make peace with her past.

The Girl Who Came Home is available now on the Amazon Kindle Store. Click here to download from Amazon.com and click here to download from Amazon.co.uk. Thanks Hazel and best of luck with your book! 

The Answer To All Your Cover Design Problems …

13 Mar

… is Andrew Brown of Design for Writers. And finally—FINALLY!—there is a spot on the internet where you can go and look at some of his work.

I found Andrew quite by accident, and I think I was his first book cover client. (If that’s not true, Andrew, just let me believe it, okay?) Back when I was preparing Mousetrapped for the Big, Bad World, I realized that what CreateSpace’s Cover Creator was producing was forcing my eyes to close reflexively in an attempt to save themselves from the horror. But I presumed, as many self-published authors do, that to get anyone professional to even glance in the direction of my cover would cost thousands, or at least a lot more money than I had. And the thing was, I knew exactly what I wanted. I’d even mocked it up using MS Word. I just needed someone to build it for me using the proper design program stuff, and give it back to in the proper format and size. I tweeted about it and a Twitter friend, Rebecca, got back to me saying, “I think my husband could do that for you…” You can read more about this in what is now a very old blog post, A Cover Story.

(Click on any image to start the carousel/view larger.) 

So Andrew did the cover for Mousetrapped. And Self-Printed. And Backpacked. And Results Not Typical, twice. (The original green one and the new pinky one.) And the covers of basically every self-publisher I know, because I’m always recommending him. Not only completely original designs, but conversion/improvement of author’s existing ideas (as with Mousetrapped) and updating of previously traditionally published books, as in backlists. But there was one thing Andrew wasn’t doing, and that was building his own website. He couldn’t do it, because he was getting so much work he didn’t have the time. But this morning he informed me that he has put together a Facebook page, which will do nicely for now.

The funny thing is, I used one of these covers—A Falling Knife—in the presentations I did at Faber Academy and Inkwell as an example of a great e-book cover. Attendees may remember I pointed out that it was “clearly an original illustration”, my implication being that you’d end up paying more for that than what I suggested, which was to go to Andrew and have a cover created from stock imagery. Imagine my surprise when I went onto the Facebook page and saw that very cover! Turns out it’s one of Andrew’s! (I know this sounds like I’m making up this story but honestly, I’m not. Actually happened.) So if that’s not testimony to his work, I don’t know what is.

Andrew has designed every cover in this post, and many more—and done them all for reasonable prices. Do pop over to Facebook to “like” his page and check out the rest of work, and when the time comes for your cover, get in touch with him.

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