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Please Return My Books

January 27th, 2014 No comments

Reading a book, especially by a new author, is an investment and a risk. Sure, you aren’t exactly betting your life’s savings on a roll of the die, but you are walking through the door to a new world, investing your emotions into fresh characters, and giving your time in exchange for the hope of entertainment and maybe some deeper and more complex emotional reward.

Novels, and the authors who write them, offer you the promise of entertainment, laughs, tears and maybe even a few chills. If an author breaks that promise, you deserve your money back.

If any of my books break that promise, I want you to return it and get your money back. When I write, my goal is to pull readers into my world like a magnet, and keep their attention fully invested. I want your breath to hitch; I want laughs; I want that tightness in your throat. Most of all, I want you to care what happens to Maya, Gabe and Tarren. I want to make your heart ache for their troubles.

If you read a few chapters, and are, “Meh…” then I didn’t do my job as an author. Don’t let me get away with that. Return the book. It may have only cost you a few dollars, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t deserve your money if I didn’t do a good job.

Amazon has a seven day book return policy for Kindle ebooks, which you can find HERE. You have seven days to try out a book and return it for a full refund if you don’t like it. You don’t have to explain why or fight to get your money back. Amazon also offers a generic 30-day return policy for most of its products and encourages its sellers to do the same. Most print books should follow this 30-day policy, but certain books may vary depending on their publisher. (I believe that all of my print books follow the 30-day policy)

Amazon’s return policy makes some authors nervous, and I can definitely see why. The opportunity for abuse is pretty clear. I’ve published a handful of short stories in my The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles that take less than two hours to read. Last year, I noticed that someone returned each of my short stories, and I wondered if it was the same person, buying one story, reading, returning within the seven-day window, and then buying the next story in the series. Well, at least they liked the stories enough to keep reading through the series!

Yes, the potential for abuse concerns me, but I stand behind Amazon’s return policy. I think it is much better to offer readers an easy out than to try to save authors a few dollars by making returns difficult or impossible. I trust that the majority of readers are honest and will be glad to pay a few dollars for a good book that can make them laugh so hard they pee a little. In fact, I wish there was a pee bonus I could give out to certain books.

Authors shouldn’t fight against Amazon’s return policy. The policy is not our enemy; it is actually an ally. If readers know that they always have the option for a full refund if a book turns out to be a stinker, they will feel safer investing in a new author or trying out a new series.

Self-published authors have long tried to entice readers by slashing their prices to the bone or even setting books and short stories for free. These practices may generate interest and downloads, but they undercut an author’s profit potential. (And there’s that whole concern about bottoming out the market, which is a topic for another blog.) Rather than trying to lower prices as far as they will go, authors should trumpet Amazon’s return policy as the no-risk opportunity that it is.

Invite your readers to return your book is they didn’t like it, and then they’ll have no reason not to try it.

The Why Behind My Marketing Goals

January 6th, 2014 No comments

Goals. Some people hate them. I love them. Me and goals are BFFs. My goals guide me throughout the year. They cheer me on when I pay attention and haunt me when I start ignoring them. When I achieve a goal, they throw me a party…an imaginary party that I make up in my head…but that’s beside the point.

The point is that goals are important to me. At the end of each year, I take a full day to reflect and determine my goals for the next year. As you can imagine, this is a pretty exciting day for me. I get to lovingly craft my goals and make them all sorts of promises about how I will lavish care on them, call them every day and rush over with chicken soup if they should get sick. This day is also a little scary. Some of the goals I make are big and scary. They loom over me like huge mountains, the kind you need sherpas and very hardy goats for. One of my big goals this year is to buy my first house. This may not seem like such a big goal, but if you look up real estate prices in Southern California, you’ll begin to understand why I might need to hook some ice picks on my belt before I start on this goal.

I like to break goals down by categories. Writing is always a goal category, so are Finances, Health & Wellness, Personal Growth, etc… Once I create yearly goals, I break them down into quarterly goals and monthly goals to make them more manageable.

It’s easy to get fixated on a goal, whether it’s to complete one new novel by the end of the year, make a certain amount of money, or listen to one audio book a month (all goals of mine, by the way). This year, I did something a little different. Before I wrote my goals in each category, I took some time to ask myself Why is this important? I guess I just wanted to see in black and white why I was willing to work so hard.

One of my goal categories this year is Writing Marketing. I slacked on marketing my writing last year like it was nobody’s business, so I knew I had to enshrine some specific goals this year. I know many, many writers who fear or dislike marketing just like I do, so I want to share my little thought bubble on the topic. This is why behind my marketing goals:

One of my dreams is  to live off the proceeds of my writing. That won’t happen by itself no matter how good my writing is. Being a commercially successful author is about writing great and entertaining stories and also convincing people to read and talk about your work. It’s about creating excitement, which requires focus and action. Marketing is very challenging for me. In many ways, I am still uncertain and shy about promoting my writing. A deep, dark part of me worries that my writing isn’t good enough, that I’m embarrassing myself. Marketing also feels selfish and bad, so it’s easy to put it aside and to do other things instead (like write more). But I have to recognize that marketing is part of the self-publishing process and it’s a key component to commercial success. With that in mind, in 2014 I want to focus on creating a long-term and consistent marketing plan, as well as educating myself about marketing techniques. In the past, I haven’t consistently given time to marketing, and I haven’t kept up marketing campaigns. 2014 is the year to go all in. It will take work, time and belief  my writing. I can do this. I will do this.

I wish you the best of luck with your goals for 2014. If you don’t have any yet, start writing!

Categories: Marketing, Self-Publishing, Writing Tags:

An Early Halloween Treat – New Short Story By J Bennett

October 7th, 2012 No comments

Nathaniel and Deidre are Back in Duel With The Werefrog

Blog Update: Duel with the Werefrog has been bundled into a three-part novella, Employment Interview with a Vampire, available on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and BarnesandNoble.com.

 

It’s all fun and games until someone starts a werefrog rampage

Now that we’ve officially entered the spookiest month of the year, I’m really excited to announce the launch of a new short story in my satirical vampire series, The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles.

 

Duel With The Werefrog – Summary

When salacious 70-year-old gold digger Silvia starts batting her astigmatic eyes and flashing her pearly dentures at Nathanial over bingo, Deidre knows she needs to convince her smitten boss that Silvia is nothing but trouble.

 

When Nathaniel accidentally espies Silvia laying her charms on a neighboring obese werefrog named Henrick, Nathaniel vows vengeance. There’s only one way to uphold Silvia’s honor. Nathanial challenges the werefrog to a duel.

 

Join Deidre in another adventure as she burns dinner, ducks bullets and tries to protect her vampire boss’s undead heart even as her own might be in jeopardy courtesy of Henrick’s handsome nephew who has secrets of his own….

 

Another hilarious addition to The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series by J Bennett. (Approx 8,300 words)

 

Thanks for your support of the world’s grumpiest, most crotchety vampire!

Behind the Scenes of Self-Publishing

March 11th, 2012 No comments

This post was originally written for and hosted on “Book Savvy Babe“, a fabulous book review blog written by Heather. 

Intro:

I thought it would interesting to write about the self-publishing revolution that’s going on in the writing world as we speak…er, as I type and you read. Specifically, I thought readers might be intrigued to learn about my self-publishing process. Unfortunately, what started out as a perfectly normal little blog post somehow got hit by some gamma rays and turned into a huge monster blog post. Hopefully it won’t terrorize the Japanese population or knock over any buildings.

 

This blog post

How Things Used To Be

Long long ago, (we’re talking about three years), the only realistic chance most authors had of getting any reader love was to go through a well-defined and traditional publishing process that involved sending out a flurry of query letters to literary agents, praying, sending out more query letters, praying even harder and rinsing and repeating.

A lucky author would get “The Call” from a literary agent who wanted to represent their novel and shop it around to publishing houses. If a publisher bit, the author was expected to drop their baby at the publisher’s doorstep and let the experts take over.

Bad publisher stereotype

Makeover big time. The publishers created the book’s cover, determined the book’s release date, suggested editorial changes and even developed the back cover copy. Sometimes the author got a say. Most of the time, not so much.

What’s not to love about that situation?

A New Day Rises

Now leap forward to the present day, and we’ve got a touch of anarchy going on in the publishing world. With the advent of the (amazing, wonderful, life-changing) Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other eReaders and tablets, authors suddenly have a half-decent way of getting their books out to readers without the whole querying, praying, rinsing and repeating process.

Authors have power. Life is good. Kinda.

This unruly mob of authors is drunk on power and will viciously beat down any innocent bystanders with heavy metaphors

That’s what this blog post is about. The publishing world is changing…a lot. We’re talking monumental shifts in how readers find and consume books and how authors get a shot at glory. We’ve practically got a revolution on our hands.

The whole eReaders part of the equation is pretty obvious (just scope out any airport longue), but I don’t think most readers have much of a sense about what’s going on in the author’s world. Well, it’s a’ spinning, baby. Big time.

Below is my self-publishing story. Readers take notice. I am not alone. You’re going to see more and more authors following this path and more and more books coming from the self-published crowd. If you’ve ever been interested to see how it’s done, then read on.

Step One: Holy Crap, Look What I Wrote!

So I had this idea about a girl named Maya who feeds off human auras. It’s an addiction, and she has to constantly struggle not to go all monster on crowds of innocent people. On the up side, she also has some pretty cool enhanced senses. Through intense, finely-writ circumstances, she gets caught up in an underground war with her two vigilante half-brothers who hunt and kill other creatures like herself. Only the angels her brothers kill don’t exactly have Maya’s guilt complex about killing innocents (yes, we’ve got some evil angels going on).

My book’s Amazon Page  [oops, how did that get in here?]

I wrote, and that was the easy part. Then I read what I had written, and, well, let’s just say I could have entered it into an ugly manuscript contest and probably won.

Complimentary matchbook included in"Ugliest Manuscript" prize package

I edited. And edited. And edited.

Around draft six, seven, or eight (I don’t even remember now), I started seeing hints that maybe there might be a diamond somewhere underneath all that rough.

It was time to bring in the heavy hitters.

Step Two: Wait, My Novel Isn’t Totally Awesome? I’m Confused

Heavy hitter number one was my sister. You may think that she would go easy on me because we share blood and have a pretty solid organ donation pact in place (we’re twins). Nope.

She thoroughly and a little too gleefully for my taste, eviscerated my novel.

Extremely accurate portrayal of my sister

Next up was my incredible critique partner, a fellow writer, who helped me iron out flow, character development and active dialogue. She was much, much nicer than my sister.

Guided by a Gypsy [Oh look, there’s a link to her Amazon novella. How do these keep sneaking in?]

There were others after that, each providing an important perspective that helped me keep polishing and polishing the rough away.

It was not a fast or easy process. It shouldn’t be, at least in my opinion.

What came out of it was Falling – Girl With Broken Wings, the first novel I’ve written that I think is actually worthy of outside viewing (there have been other novels, but we shall never speak of those). It was time to…well, that’s where things get interesting.

So far, the process of my “little novel that could” is identical to that of a traditionally published book. Next up is where the two paths diverge.

Step Three: 70% Royalty vs. 15% Royalty. So Hard To Choose

I did a lot of research, and learned all about the publishing revolution. Not that I wasn’t completely unaware of it, but I didn’t realize how revolutioney the revolution really was.

Super size my publishing revolution please.

Authors could now publish their books themselves on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many other sites that get books into the hands of the readers. By “publish” I mean ebooks and soft covered books through print on demand (Amazon and many other online publishers offer POD services). The process was actually kind of easy (a little too easy some people think, but that’s a whole different blog post).

The traditional setback for most self-published authors was the difficulty in getting their novels into traditional bookstores. However, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s not that many bookstores left to get your books into anyway.

And those eReader thingeys and tablet thingeys? People are buying a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.

There are some downsides to self-publishing. Self-published authors have to create their own cover, edit their own book, make sure they upload the files correctly to the publishing sites and do all their own marketing to get people to actually read their book. (Apparently readers don’t just magically find your book, buy a thousand copies each and gush about it to all their friends and family. You can’t know how disappointing this realization was to me)

However, there are many upsides to self-publishing. Firstly, authors get to create their own cover and book summary. This can be a very empowering process that allows the author to keep creative control of their baby.

The marketing thing is kind of rough (authors are not typically known for their outgoing personalities), but it’s a consolation to know that many traditionally-published authors get very little marketing support from their publishers. You’ll see traditionally published authors writing blogs, going to book signings, holding library talks and generally shilling with the rest of us.

There is one more compelling reason to self-publish, and it all comes down to money.

You’d think that traditionally-published authors would get a big percentage of each book sold. After all, they did sweat and bleed and cry tears of alternating joy, rage and agony (in that order) to get the words on the page.

You’d be wrong. Authors get around a measly 15% of the profits from each book sold (sometimes less), and that’s before their agent takes out their commission. If an author doesn’t sell enough books to cover the advance the publisher gave them, they may never see a penny of royalties.

Yet another shameless publisher stereotype

Compare this with the major online publishers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords which offer self-published authors royalty rates of 65% (B&N), 70% (Amazon) and even 85% (SW) if their books meet certain pricing standards. (As of this writing)

That’s a big, big, BIG difference (assuming you can actually sell books).

In other words, not exactly a hard decision. At least not for me, especially when I learned how extremely difficult it is to get agent representation.

So, I made the decision. Falling was going to be self-published. I wasn’t letting go of my baby, and whatever happened, I’d only have myself to blame.

Step Four: The Difference Between “To” And “Too” Is Just To Confusing

One of the nice things about getting traditionally published – at least in my opinion – would be having your manuscript copyedited. No writer is perfect. I’m not even close.

You think I kid...

After I decided to self-publish, I realized that, holy cow in a barn, I was actually responsible for this thing (I make up really lame curses when I get nervous). People would one day read it and judge me for it. That means I needed to put my best face forward, or my novel’s best face forward…I mean, it’s not like my novel has a face, but you know what I mean.

I ended up hiring a professional copyeditor to go through my manuscript, and it’s a good thing that I did (you did catch the error in this headline didn’t you). My English teachers would weep if they’d seen how much red came back.

Step Five: Doing Your Own Cover Is Just Plain Awesome

I actually feel kind of bad for traditionally published authors, because many of them get little or no say in what their cover looks like.

Covers are a big deal. They are the first thing most readers see related to your book, and we all know how important first impressions can be.

In many ways, books are defined by their covers. I would hate to lose that control over something I spent so much freaking effort on, even if I did have to pay for it.

Yes, I definitely paid someone to create my cover for me.

There is no way in the world that I would trust myself to create my own cover. Maybe one day if I write a book that takes place in a magical land full of stick people I might consider it…even then, probably not.

Can you say best seller?

So, I brought in an expert. Marcella Smith of Paradigm Design did the most amazing thing during our first meeting. She listened. I blabbed. She kept listening and nodding and not pointing toward to exit

I was lucky to have found her.

The cover came together rather quickly (Marcie may disagree), and it didn’t take a lot of editing. I think it was because of Marcie’s mad listening skills.

Ain't she purdy?

I can’t describe how amazing it was to see my cover come to life. There was my main character Maya, crouching front and center, and her two brothers looming behind her like shadows. (Are they protectors or enemies…you’ll have to read to find out).

In other words, the cover was perfect. It was Falling. Money well spent.

Step Six: Uh….Can I Just Say Cool Stuff Happens?

I kind of thought that I would like writing the book summary because I didn’t have to pay anyone to do it, and I did write the entire book and all. After writing and rewriting a 70,000-word manuscript over a dozen times, a 100-word blurb should be a piece of cake…right?

Writing a summary is SO SO SO hard! At least for me.

Would rather take a swim lesson with this guy than write my novel summary

How do you squeeze the essence of a book into a few measly paragraphs while capturing the adventure, the humor, the very soul of the prose?

Easy answer, I’m still working on it. I came up with something, but, yeah, it needs work. (Suggestions anyone?)

I guess that’s another great thing about self-publishing – we’re not chiseling into stone tablets here.

Descriptions can be updated. When I do write the best summary the world has ever known, I’ll just log into my various author accounts, paste in the new description, and my book page will be updated in a few days or less.

Step Seven: Moment Of Truth (Bolting Not Advised)

To read the final step in my self-publishing process, hop on over to the full post on Book Savvy Babe.