Kristen Otte

Finding Love and Laughter through Story


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Permafree in the Children’s Book Market

Permafree is a common term in the indie author world. Many authors will vouch for the strategy. The strategy is to set the first book in a series free (ebook formats only of course) to encourage new readers to try the book. The theory is the reader will like the book and be willing to pay for the rest of the series. Many independent authors have had tremendous success with this strategy. However, most of these authors are also writing adult or young adult fiction, not kids’ books.

The children’s book market is a bit different and its transition to ebooks has been much slower. But there is evidence that more and more kids are reading on iPads and Kindles. With all this is mind, I decided to try permafree for my children’s chapter book series. I had three books out, and I wanted to try something to spur some sales.

In the beginning of November, I set the first book in The Adventures of Zelda series free in ebook format on all platforms. I spread the word via social media, and I also had my friend Chubbs the Wampug tell her followers. (Chubbs is a pug celebrity) Since then, I haven’t done any other advertising.

After almost three months of permafree, The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale hovers around number 5,000 in the Kindle Free Charts with some spikes. Those spikes are usually around 150 free downloads in one day. Otherwise, my downloads range from 10-50 on a typical day in the Amazon Kindle Store.

In December, I saw record number of paperback sales for the Zelda series as a whole, selling over 100 books. November was strong for paperback sales as well. To date in January, ebook sales for the second and third book of the Zelda sales have risen to their best month with a week left still in the month. I’m selling a few copies of the second and third book each day in the Kindle store.

The other platforms are not doing much for me. Apple’s iBooks is the only store that moves copies. Usually, I have about 5 free downloads a day of the first Zelda book with a few sales here and there for the second and third Zelda books. Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, etc aren’t moving any books most days.

It’s hard to know exactly what spurned my jump in sales, but I’m sure permafree was a big component. Going permafree made Zelda start appearing in also boughts on Amazon all over the place. It kept me at the top of the free kids’ pet books charts. I’m happy with the results so far.

I realize my numbers aren’t huge. I realize I’m not making thousands of dollars, but in a very tough children’s ebook market, I’m happy with the growth. I’m happy that kids and parents are enjoying the series and continuing with it past book one. I’m also happy with the results because I haven’t paid a dime for any advertising yet. That’s the next step. And writing book four!

Are there any other children’s book or middle grade authors out there? Any success with permafree?


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Measuring Growth as a Writer

'Chilli Growth' photo (c) 2009, Sam_Catch - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Last fall, I decided to start writing a short story series inspired by the life of my pug Zelda. I had so much fun writing the stories that I turned the collection into a chapter book for kids. After I released The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale, I received many positive reviews and reactions from children and adults, so I started working on the second Zelda book in October. A month later, the first draft of my second Zelda book is written with a publication date set for late December. The first Zelda book took me 9 months from start to publication. The second will be about 3 months from start to publication and I’m thrilled with the much quicker process.

So what changed?

First, the writing process was much quicker on my end. I had a general outline for the book from the start and I was able to write chapters quickly. When I knew the plan for a chapter, I wrote it within about an hour’s time.

Second, I hired an editor and cover designer before completion of the first draft. Therefore, my project was on their schedule ahead of time. For the first Zelda book, I took the process one step at a time and ended up spending a few weeks at each stage waiting.

Finally, the timespan to write, edit, and publish the first Zelda book was hindered by life complications this past spring. With the illness and passing of my stepfather, I lost many hours of writing time (which is okay, I wanted to be with him and family during this time). Maybe without these life complications the first Zelda book would have been finished in 6 months from start to finish.

When I think about the difference between the two books, I am very happy. I am especially ecstatic about the writing time. I can write faster than last year without losing quality. This gives me even more encouragement for the future as I want to produce more books quicker. Similar to many other aspects of life, you only get better at writing with more practice.

I’m happy that I’m learning more about the business side of writing. I understand the need to arrange editors and designers ahead of time and when to schedule. Some of these aspects will be key when I transition into full time writing some day in the future.

Most importantly, I’m really excited about the second Zelda book. I think it’s better than the first. I created it with a story arc in mind and it came together beautifully. I can’t wait to share it with you soon. More details will be coming on release date and storyline in the coming weeks!

All of this tells me that I am growing as a writer. It may not be in leaps and bounds, but I’m moving forward. I’m making progress.

How do you measure growth as a writer?


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Doing Good Work – Why I Write

Hello Friends! I’m excited to tell you I guest posted over at Cole Crook’s blog today. I wrote a little about doing good work and why I write. I think you will enjoy it, along with Cole Crook’s regular blog posts. He’s doing great work with writing and music! You can find the post here.

Also, if you have read The Adventures of Zelda, I’d love for you to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are so helpful for indie authors. Thanks for reading and walking beside me on this journey.


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The Fear of Failure – Writing Edition

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Last June, I finished the first draft of my novel and set goals for timeframes on revisions, sending query letters, and self-publishing. A year later, I completely missed the mark. I do have my Zelda series coming out very soon, but I am not even close to querying or publishing my novel. When I ask myself why, the excuses pop into my mind: work, family, life, etc. But, when I am honest with myself, I realize the biggest reason why my novel isn’t ready is me. It’s my fear of people reading my work. What if nobody likes the story? What if it’s a disaster? What if I wasted all this time on a dead project?

Writing is a career where you put yourself out there. You become vulnerable. I don’t like being vulnerable like most people. Writing is also a career of uncertainty. I don’t know if the next project will be well received. I don’t know if one day I can make a living off writing. I can take positive steps and make smart decisions to help this process, but it may take a long time.

I am trying to live with this fear and uncertainty. Some days are better than others. When I get positive feedback, my writing productivity soars. When I feel stuck in a story, I find myself turning on the tv or reading a book instead of opening up Scrivener.

Recently, I find myself in many conversations with friends and family about my future. They ask reasonable questions:

– Where are you going to live? (Our lease is up on our house and we are getting kicked out in a few months.)

– What are you doing next?

– What do you want to do?

The truth is I don’t know where I will be one year from now or even six months from now. I don’t know the details of where I will be living or what I will be doing. I do know I will be working somewhere- maybe the same jobs I have lined up right now, or maybe something completely different. But, I do know I will be writing. 

I love writing. I love creating characters and discovering how they transform in the course of a story. I love the idea of my words help someone smile on a rough day. I love brainstorming new story ideas.

And so, I will keep writing on the good and bad days. If I sell 10, 100 or 1000 copies of my next story, I will keep on writing. It’s who I am.


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The Ins and Outs of Self-Publishing

Today’s post is going to tackle some of the questions associated with self-publishing. Self-publishing is a relatively new phenomenon, but the self-publishing industry is growing tremendously. Some authors are bypassing traditional publishing offers in favor of self-publishing or looking into hybrid models of self-publishing and traditional publishing. But, many misconceptions remain about self-publishing. Drawing on my experience as a self-published author, this post explains the ins and outs of self-publishing.

The Ins (the Good Stuff)

Control

The best aspect of self-publishing is control. With self-publishing, the author has complete control over the process. The self-published author chooses an editor, the cover design, and the marketing strategy. The self-published author doesn’t have to worry about his or her book’s message or changing content to fit the publisher’s wants or needs. The self-published author makes all final decisions on the book without an agent or publishing company hanging over his or her head. As an author, the freedom of self-publishing is very attractive.

Ease

The process to get published through traditional options is tedious. An author needs to write a query letter to attract an agent. After securing an agent, an author and his or her agent composes a lengthy book proposal to send to publishers. If a publisher expresses interest, a fiction author sends the entire manuscript for review. Then the publisher may sign the author. Traditional publishing isn’t easy and lots of great authors are rejected.

On the other hand, self-publishing is simple and anyone can do it. (Seriously!) The formatting for both kindle and smash words ebooks is simple and easy to learn. Furthermore, there are a variety of programs and service providers who will do the formatting for you at an affordable cost. But, honestly, if I can learn how to do it, I’m sure you could in a few hours. The truth is anyone can publish and when faced with the choice between the long, detailed traditional process and the ease of self-publishing, it’s easy to understand the popularity of self-publishing.

Infinite Listing

Often with traditional deals, a publisher sets the print run number and then if the initial print doesn’t do well, they will take the book off the market. With self-published books, your book is in print forever or until you take the book off the market. Amazon or Smashwords are not going to take your book off their sites after a certain amount of time. I use Amazon’s Createspace to print and sell paperback copies of When Light Hits the Path. When a customer orders a book off Amazon, the book is printed and shipped. I also can order books to be shipped to me for distribution and selling. With self-publishing, your book listing is infinite. Even if a book’s sales start slow, they can grow over your career.

Almost Instant Money

The last in of self-publishing is getting paid. With self-publishing, an author is paid almost instantly for book sales. Amazon Kindle and Createspace pays monthly for the previous month’s sales. Smashwords pays every quarter. This is completely different from traditional publishing. With traditional publishing, an author receives an advance with a book deal and additional royalties after the book is successful on the market. But many times, an author doesn’t receive royalties until 2 years after the advance. That’s a long time to wait and hard on an average author’s budget.

Outs (the Bad Stuff)

Marketing

The process of self-publishing may be easy, but marketing your book is not. Marketing and publicity for a self-published book is crucial for it to sell. A self-published author needs to grow a fan base to sustain its work. This marketing is time-consuming and not easy. With traditional publishing, an author has the advantage of working with a publisher which helps significantly with the marketing of a book and author.

Up Front Costs

For a self-published author to succeed, his or her work must be professional. This means they need to hire an editor or two, hire a designer for the cover, and maybe pay for some advertising. All of these costs can add up to a few thousand dollars and this is before you make a dime off your books. If you are just starting off as an author and are low on cash, the up front costs can be really tough.

The Verdict

Self-publishing seems to have more ins or advantages according to my list. But honestly, the two outs for self-publishing are big ones. So I’m on the fence still. I am exploring both options for future works and will see what the cards have in store for me.

Do you read self-published books?
What do you think of self-publishing?

 

My blog, www.kristenotte.com is a resource for readers and writers. I post articles on reading, writing, and publishing, along with book reviews and an occasional pug lover’s post. My email newsletter includes exclusive articles, giveaways, and stories in addition to my blog posts. If you are not an email subscriber, I invite you to sign up here and to invite a friend to sign up so our community can grow. Thanks for your support! Peace & Love, Kristen