Tag Archive | money

Repost: 3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better

Earlier this week I received this wonderful article called “3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better” in my email from Book Marketing Tools.  Great advice, especially for indie authors just starting to get into the business.  To these three tips I want to add one more of my own:  invest in multiple language editions of your books crafted by quality translators.

 

Here is “3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better” in full as presented in the newsletter I received.

Episode 108 of The Author Hangout Podcast featured this amazing advice from bestselling author Ernie Lindsey: Don’t be afraid to spend money early on on good covers, excellent editors, excellent proofreaders. Don’t be afraid to spend money on looking professional. If you don’t have it to spend early on, save it. Save up until you can. Four years ago, we didn’t know that it was going to get to this point. We didn’t know how professional the indie author community was going to get. So make it a top quality product before you even get it out the door.

Ernie is absolutely right — today’s indie authors need to keep up with an industry that’s producing books that are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the big-time publishers’ output.
But you’re an indie author, which means that you probably need to make a limited marketing budget stretch as far as possible.
So where should you spend your money to make the biggest impact?
Here are three great tips!
Catherine de Valois

Original cover for “Catherine de Valois” (English edition). The cover is good because it’s genre appropriate and features a lady contemporary to Princess Catherine and wearing the same style of gown she wore.

Aristocratic_Lady_15th_b1899sd

The small addition of a subtitle to the original cover makes it stand out more and provides more information to potential readers, moving it from simply good to GREAT.

#1 — Cover Design
“Dont’ judge a book by its cover” is great advice for everyday life, but it’s terrible advice when it comes to your books!
People are going to judge your book by its cover, no matter how much effort you’ve put into writing your masterpiece, so we recommend spending any extra money you have on professional, market- and genre-appropriate cover design.
This is really important, especially when you consider the way people browse books online these days!
For more info, check out episode 73 of The Author Hangout with guest Jim Palmer, who shared some great thoughts about how you should prioritize cover design, how much you should spend and who you should hire (not Fiverr!!!)
#2 — Hire an Editor
Maybe you’ve been using your spouse, significant other, close friend or family member to give your books a look before you publish. Or perhaps you’ve been relying on feedback from your writer’s group to polish your prose.
There’s nothing wrong with these methods of getting additional sets of eyes on your work, but we recommend that you hire a professional editor to give your book a thorough scrubbing!
Professional editors can be costly — don’t be surprised to get quotes for more than $1,000 — but an experienced, reputable editor can mean the difference between a bestseller and an also ran.
One of the best ways to locate an editor is to check the credits and thank-yous of books that you’ve enjoyed to see who your favorite writers turn to for editing. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
For more detailed advice on finding an editor, read this article from our friend Jane Friedman.
#3 — Supercharge Your Website
Your website is one of the cornerstones of your author platform, and it’s one of the foremost representations of your brand on the internet. So if it doesn’t look good and help you build your fan base, it can actually hurt your business.
Spend as much money as you afford to make it look great and ensure that it provides users with a satisfying experience. If possible, hire an experienced SEO writer to create copy that drives traffic to your site.
And don’t forget to make your site mobile friendly!
-Shawn & R.J. from Book Marketing Tools

Repost: 11 Things Truly Successful People Never Do

This morning I found this article from Inc. about success.  The information is so good I have to share!

the universe will remove

“1. Successful people refuse to fit in a box.

“Thinking outside the box” is a business cliché writ large. But truly successful people do more than that–they live outside the box.

They don’t let other people define them, whether those other people are malicious or well-meaning. They don’t listen to the jealous boss who tells them that they’ll never be a leader. Perhaps more important, they don’t hedge their ambitions because a parent or a teacher told them that–for example–they’re “good with numbers” but not creative, or an excellent team player but not a leader. They don’t just develop their strengths. They define their strengths.

Challenge: What external expectation do you need to let go of?

2. Successful people don’t bear grudges.

It takes a lot of effort to win a battle. But when you bear grudges, it’s like you’re fighting a war that only one side even knows about.

Sure, if we bothered, most of us could probably dig deep into our pasts and find a time when we were wronged–almost unforgivably wronged. Even thinking about it, however, hands another victory to whoever wronged you. Direct your energy at something else–the things you truly care about.

Challenge: We all hold on to some things too long. What transgression do you need to forgive?

3. Successful people refuse to argue over “nothings.”

Again: wasted energy.

You’re not going to convince that diehard Trump/Hillary/Bernie supporter on Facebook to change his or her mind. Truly successful people spend their energy on things they can truly affect.

Challenge: What deeply held conviction holds you back? Are you prepared to let it go?

4. Successful people refuse to quit.

Successful people are often more successful simply because they work harder. And they work harder in part because the work they do doesn’t feel like work–at least, it doesn’t feel like drudgery. Their work is the kind of thing they’d do even if they weren’t paid for it (and sometimes, they aren’t!).

However, whether it’s rewarding or not, they don’t ignore the important work that needs to be done.

Challenge: You don’t have to say it aloud, but when was the last time you blew off something important and covered it with excuses? Are you planning to do it again anytime soon?

5. Successful people never betray their values.

At the end of everything, what else do you have besides your deeply held values?

Maybe you have a deep religious faith. Maybe you think it’s wrong to eat meat. Maybe you’d never root for an American League baseball team because you think the designated hitter ruined the sport. These are your values, not mine, my friend–and I’m sure they’re tested all the time. Truly successful people don’t have a lot of non-negotiables, but the ones they do have are sacrosanct.

Challenge: Can you articulate your core values? Even more important, are they obvious to others?

6. Successful people never betray friends or family.

Of course, this doesn’t mean letting yourself be rolled over. You have to stick up for yourself. However, truly successful people know that if your close family and true friends can’t trust you, why would anyone else?

Challenge: Um, when was the last time you called your folks?

7. Successful people never lose sight of their goals.

Identifying and pursuing your goals means the difference between spinning your wheels and actually getting somewhere. You’ll put in the same effort regardless of how well you focus on objectives, but if your aim is deficient, chances are that you’ll just be helping someone else achieve his or her goals.

Challenge: Can you articulate your three most important goals? What have you done today to make them come true?

8. Successful people combat self-doubt in all its forms.

Fear is normal, even healthy–but defeatism is a disease. I’m not sure where it comes from, but we all face it. Successful people refuse to give in, but what’s more, they make it part of their mission to help other people overcome self-doubt, too.

The easiest way to do that? Demonstrate respect for others in all that you do.

Challenge: Have you built up someone else’s ego today? If not, is it because you’re afraid that doing so will tear down your own self-worth? (Overcome that!)

9. Successful people refuse to betray their health.

Another non-negotiable. None of us lives forever, yet the temptation is always there to trade fitness, or sleep, or well-being for a pauper’s price–a few extra bucks, a little bit of esteem in a boss’s eyes. Truly successful people have no room for that in their lives. Their health is one of their top priorities.

Challenge: What’s the one thing you should do differently to ensure you have a better chance at living a long time–and well?

10. Successful people refuse to be dominated by others.

We all face bullies in our lives. Truly successful people don’t put up with them. They find ways to prevail. They don’t necessarily fight the other guy on his turf, but they find a way to win.

Beware that you don’t contradict the rule about not holding grudges with this one, but successful people find that standing up for themselves often means standing up to someone else.

Challenge: Who are the bullies you know? What have you done to offset their impact on others?

11. Successful people never give in to competition.

This is a multifaceted element. Successful people never run from competition–but they don’t let themselves be suckered into being measured by somebody else’s rules. They understand the wisdom of the reverse of that old lottery slogan: “You can’t lose if you refuse to play.”

At the same time, when they win, they can take a compliment. Truly successful people don’t gloat, but they also don’t minimize their contributions when other people are eager to offer them praise.

Challenge: What competitions are you engaging in that aren’t truly worthwhile?”

Babelcube beware: what authors need to know before signing a Babelcube contract

Boudicca German web

The German edition of Boudicca was beautifully translated by Christina Loew. Thanks to frequent communication and Ms. Loew’s professionalism, the translation process was smooth and easy — exactly what most authors are looking for when joining Babelcube.

If you subscribe to this blog you know that in 2016 I took my books deeper into the global market.  After an exasperating fore into the Chinese market via Fiberead, I had high hopes for Babelcube, a platform for translation that mirrors many of the features familiar to authors who use Amazon’s ACX.com site for audio production.  But as with ACX, successful production and publication requires understanding the system and knowing how — and when — to walk away from something that is not working.

The ability to walk away is important for independent authors because a poorly translated book is damaging to the author’s brand; it reflects on the author as much if not more so than the original editions written by the author in her or his native language.  Therefore an author’s career is at stake each time the author signs a translation contract.  Don’t mess with this, my friends.  As much as you want to be sweet and nice when it comes to dealing with potential translators your life depends on you being picky and walking away when you can from any deal or possible deal that doesn’t uphold your author brand.

The first place you can walk away is when a translator first sends you an offer to translate.  This is the best time to fully vet the candidate.  Don’t skimp on this and do not feel obligated to accept any particular offer. We all want to be nice and we want to give people their break into a new career.  The problem with doing that is you may end up with poor quality work because the person has never been tested in the professional world as a translator.  Before signing anything TALK TO THE TRANSLATOR — don’t just look at the profile and give the person the benefit of the doubt because s/he seems likable.  Remember that this is a form of job interview and treat it as seriously as any job interview you’ve been on.  If anything does not smell right or you aren’t sure of anything at all politely decline.

But let’s say you’ve accepted the contract.  The next place and final place you can walk away is when the translator submits the first ten pages. In evaluating these, don’t just look at the words on the page but the FORMATTING because, as with your own books you self-publish, the formatting and editorial can make or break the book.  If anything seems like you would not submit those ten pages as a stand alone, polished work DECLINE THEM — this is your last and ONLY chance to get out of the contract.  Despite what you may see in the system, this is the actual point of no return for you.  Once those ten pages are accepted you are committed to publishing the book — no matter the quality of the final product you are given.

And this is the part that no one ever mentions to you:  you cannot decline to publish a completed book on Babelcube — even though there is a button in the review process that says “decline this translation.”

What happens if you do hit the “decline” button?  Firstly you are asked to confirm and warned that confirming the decline will open a dispute with Babelcube.  What this means is that they will investigate and make a ruling.  If they rule for you, the translator has to fix the errors.  If they rule against you then you owe the translator an undisclosed amount of money.  But the system doesn’t tell you that.  I found out by asking via email after I reviewed the final document on one of my books and deemed it of such poor quality that I was not comfortable with continuing.

In essence you have to approve the final book.  You can ask for some changes (hit “return” and then send a message to the translator to do so), but you actually DO have to hit “accept translation” and then publish the book. “Reject translation” means you are willing to pay for the translator’s time for a book that you will not publish.

For most people it’s far cheaper to enlist the help of someone outside of Babelcube’s system to help you fix the document so you can publish — which is exactly what I am doing right now.

This is why it is critically important that you wait until each translation is complete before signing another contract with a translator. Even after publishing one or two books all the way through the process (meaning the book is live Amazon, iBooks, Scribd, etc.) with a translator, my experience shows that it is best to only contract one book at a time with a specific translator.  Life happens and schedules change.  Limiting yourself to one contract at a time per translator helps everyone balance time and priorities to the satisfaction of all parties and empower everyone to create the best work possible.

In summary, Babelcube can be an excellent platform for translating books into multiple languages.  But success with it requires the author always beware of its inner workings and courageous enough to walk away from any project that does not meet expectations either before the contract is signed or when receiving the first ten pages.

This is your brand.  Protect it.

Going Global: A Look at Translation Options for Independent Authors

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as an author was to publish as many books in as many places as possible and to sell on as many websites as possible.  The writing profession is a numbers game.  To win it (meaning making a living as a writer) you need to be where the customers are and sell what they want to read.  You cannot achieve it with a single kindle book sold exclusively on Amazon.  It won’t happen — or perhaps it could but your chances of winning the lottery or becoming president of the United States are greater if you lay only the one literary egg and sell it from a single basket.

One efficient way of maximising your exposure is to publish in multiple languages, opening your books for sale in more markets with more readers.  As popular as English is with Americans, the reality is that globally there are far more readers outside of the United States, readers who prefer to read in their native languages — not English.

For independent authors, there are three primary methods of reaching this global audience in the form of translated editions 1) contract with a traditional publisher offering translation services, 2) Utilize a royalty share-based translation platform, and 3) hire an independent and professionally certified translator.

I personally use all three.  Here are the pros and cons of each.

Traditional Publisher

My Chinese language editions are published with Fiberead, a Beijing-based fusion  publisher slash translation service using royalty share to pay the translation team.  It works similar to many self-publishing platforms.  You fill out a form about your book, provide Fiberead with both the current and blank versions of your cover art, and upload it to their system.  A team of translators is recruited and eventually your book is published in Chinese.

Pros:  Getting a contract is relatively painless.  It’s a straight forward process setting up your title with them. Publishes to Amazon China, iBooks, and several Asia market retailers unknown to most Americans. No upfront costs to the authors. All the technical details of the publishing process is handled by the publisher; once submitted the author does not touch her book again. Cover art is done by in-house designers from the blank cover provided by the author.

Cons:  Once your title is set up, you have little to no control over the book.  Author has no input on the translators chosen or quality of the translation.  Contract empowers Fiberead with broad editorial powers, including over book content (they can re-write your book if they wish to). Royalty share rate is (currently) 30% for the author — forever.  Fiberead forbids translators from providing authors with copies of the final work.  Authors cannot control or even suggest the sale price.  So for example Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni sells for just 1 RMB. Converted to USD the sale price on Amazon China is about 12 cents.  At 30% of 12 cents, the per copy payment to me is 3.6 cents USD.  It takes 55 copies sold to equal the royalty paid on just 1 copy of the book in English on Amazon.com.  Once a book sells, Fiberead does not release any funds to the author until the author earns $50 USD.  As you can see from the above figure, that takes a long time.  Fiberead does not promote your book either — that’s your responsibility.  And if you want a copy to quote from, you must buy it yourself.

Royalty Share Translation Program – Babelcube

Boudicca German webThe second option for independent authors is to use a royalty share translation platform such as Babelcube which is what I use.  Very similar in format to Amazon’s ACX audiobook publishing platform, authors fill out a form with book details and the book copy for consideration by translators in several languages including Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Portuguese.  Not every language is offered, notably Chinese, but authors are able to upload books published in any language so long as the book is sold on Amazon. Once the book is completed and approved, authors initiate the publication process on both digital (primary) and paperback options.

royalty

Babelcube’s incremental payment scale.

Empress Wu Spanish webPros: royalty share works on an incremental scale based on royalties earned, no upfront costs to the author, creative control over the final published work, ability to edit pricing and other details by re-publishing after the initial publication, some control over who translates the work. Authors are able to leave reviews for each translation.

 

Cons: authors need the technical ability to custom format their own work and correct certain errors that can come up in the publishing process. Not all the translators are professionally certified nor in possession of appropriate technical skills. Not all desired languages are available.  Some languages offer very few translator choices.

 

Independent Translator

Boudicca Welsh webThe third and final option is, in most respects, the most traditional. Translators are available globally and discoverable online through search engines, social media, or in the case of my work with Gwenlli Haf of Cyfieithu Amnis Translation, through a personal recommendation from a mutual professional acquaintance.  Translation fees are typically word count based, a format familiar to authors who hire professional editors.  A down payment is typically required at the time both parties sign the contract.  At project completion translators then invoice the author for the balance due.  Only upon payment in full is the work released to the author for self publication.

Pros: translators are typically professionally certified with some level of guarantee built into the contract. Authors and translators are able to negotiate precise terms for the project so the details (such as publishing rights) are clear before the work begins. Upfront payment to translator; the author keeps all royalties upon payment of the invoice unless other terms are specified in the contract.  Creative control across the entire process.

Cons:  word counts in different languages are not uniform, making it easy for the author to underestimate the final word count for the translation.  Translators and authors are typically residents of different countries and using different currencies with exchange rates and currency exchange fees varying widely.

Analysis/Summary

Independent authors benefit greatly from expanding into larger, more global marketplaces by offering their books in multiple languages.  In my personal experience with all three options, hiring a translator offered me the most flexibility and creative control which I, like many independent authors, tend to value. The professionally certified skills of independent translators offers security and confidence in the quality of work offered.  However as with any upfront professional service such as editors and illustrators, this option requires considerable pre-publication investment.  Of the royalty share options, the translation publication platform offers a balanced approach.  Though great care must be taken in choosing the translator, the author is able to avoid upfront costs while maintaining creative control.  The royalty share split is typically fair to both author and translator.

One important lesson learned from all of this:  traditional publishing contracts offer less and less value to independent authors.  Therefore 21st century authors seeking to prosper in the new publishing market increasingly thrive by handling as much of the publishing process as possible rather than defer to traditional publishers whose contracts increasingly work against the author’s interest, costing authors more while offering less value.

 

Fines not Jail Time — A Better Solution to America’s Incarceration Epidemic

Incarceration_rates_worldwideAmerica has an incarceration problem.  The United States has only 5% of the world population, but 25% of the world’s prison population.  Since 1972 the US prison population is overwhelmingly for non-violent crime, especially drug offences.   Most American prisoners are poor and non-white.  Enforcement is overwhelmingly higher among non-whites and sentences are stricter as well.  Recent statistics show that many states pay over $40,000 per prisoner per year to keep them in jail — that’s more than what many teachers are paid.

WI_Incarceration_rates_by_race_0The social consequences for incarceration are even higher.  Our tough stance on non violent crime has wrecked havoc on our communities and broadened the race divide.  What is worse:  given the poverty of most prisoners and the reduced employment opportunities to ex-convicts, there is far less incentive for most ex-cons to stay out of jail.  When life in jail is better than life outside of jail, it becomes understandable why so many choose to return to prison.

There has to be a better way.  I think there is.  Instead of sending non-violent offenders to prison, we FINE THEM.  Money talks.  Money motivates. Just think about how many people take care to follow traffic laws for fear of a speeding or parking ticket?  How many people will park in the correct spot because they don’t want the expense of their automobile being towed?  If we levied hefty fines instead of jail time on non-violent crime, we would save taxpayer money while increasing revenue through the fines themselves — once we close one critical loophole:  bankruptcy.

StudentLoanDebtMap440x281In the United States filing for bankruptcy will discharge your debts — including fines for breaking the law — but it WON’T purge your student loans.  This of course is completely backward.  Student loans need to be forgiven after ten years.  Period.  No one should die still owing student loans.  Twenty years after I graduated student loans, I still owe more than it costs to buy a house in my local area.  Yet if I failed to mention a box of crackers at customs returning to the USA from a trip to Canada, I could get out of my $10,000 fine just by declaring bankruptcy.

This is backwards.

So let’s reverse this.  Let’s increase fines on criminal offences.  Let’s punish with fines instead of jail time.  Let’s prevent bankruptcy from discharging debts owed to states for criminal offences (even parking tickets).  And at the same time, let’s forgive all student loans after ten years, including and especially for those who graduated university before 2005.  You shouldn’t be paying student loans while receiving medicare — but you should be paying back child support if you skip out of your obligations.

To make the system even more fair, let’s make fines follow income resources with the wealthiest paying the highest fines for the same offences.  Earn less than $20,000 a year and your parking ticket (as a simple example) is $25.  Earn $25 million a year and your parking ticket is $2500.

We need fines to work this way because at present the wealthiest Americans feel they are above the law.  Of course they are:  they have loopholes they can use to avoid taxes.  And if they receive the same fine for the same crime as someone making minimum wage, they have no deterrent.  What is $100 to a billionaire?  They spend more than that on lunch everyday.

We can make the system fairer.  We can bridge the gaps between us.  We can close loopholes and use the power of money to reduce crime.  And we can use that savings to fund education and forgive educational debt.

We can and must do better, forgiving educational debt while using monetary incentives instead of costly jail sentences to reduce crime.

Marketing’s Big Lie: Instant Results

SherlockMost writers want to do just one thing:  write our books.  Few of us come from marketing backgrounds.  Still fewer of us think of ourselves as entrepreneurs and business owners.  In the old ages of traditional publishing, authors rarely had to be any of those things.  We slaved away trying to get a publisher to notice our work and/or securing a literary agent who would pimp our work for us — for a fee — while we went off and kept writing.

Self-publishing and the digital age has changed that for both self-published and traditional publishers.  Just as cigarette machines have gone by the wayside and Sherlock Holmes uses nicotine patches instead of smoking his pipe in response to smoking regulations in London, the days of in-house marketing and advertising for books by publishers are gone.  Today authors must do most of the work themselves.

There are no shortage of marketing firms to delegate to, of course, but as I found out across the winter of 2014 when I hired 180Fusion, marketing firms too often care about getting the business — any way they can.

new-york-times-best-selling-author3

What this means is that marketing firms promise the sun and moon to you — if you hire them.  180Fusion promised to put me on the New York Times bestseller list within 30 days, using my natural optimism to augment their pitch.  I, like most people, want to believe that people are telling me the truth.  I have faith that everything works out.  I have faith in the quality of my work.  I know these books are well-written and reflect a lifetime of scholarship and dedication to my craft.

180Fusion took that and used that very positive quality against me with their pitch about what they can do with advertising on facebook.

Facebook advertising can and does work for some people.  The essence of their work is to study the numbers to make facebook ads profitable, making adjustments until the ads result in sales.  As Jonathan Gebauer points out, this actually is sound — but with one catch that was omitted from the pitch until I was ready to close my account:  it takes time, often months and years for it to work.

This is not something that can be achieved in the 30 days promised to me back in December 2013 when I signed up.  In fact it was only when I made a fuss about not getting results that I was told, quite condescendingly, that what they promised was actually not at all possible.  Then they said I needed to give it more time.  Just give it more time.

This was the truth in the lie.  It takes time.  Except they never told me this upfront, before I signed up.  They told me when I was ready to cancel, when they knew my patience was at an end.

permission to walk awayNow normally I am a very patient person.  If this service had cost me $10 a month, odds are very good I would have stuck it out.  Except it costs a minimum of $300 a month — when my budget was $10 a month!  This was known from the onset.  So they promised me the sun and moon and instant results.  It didn’t matter that their service was many times more than my budget!  Because I would re-coup what I spent with them very quickly.

It was a lie and they knew it!  It was predatory, disrespectful, and sadly not atypical of far too many marketing firms.

Instead, their focus was on getting me to sign up; it didn’t matter that to pay for their service I would have to plop down hundreds to thousands of dollars on a high rate credit card; as long as they were getting paid, they really did not care about me or my books.

Most people have a word for that and it is not nice at all!

gbp-50-british-pounds-2

So what can we learn from this?  

Number one:  NO MARKETING STRATEGY GIVES INSTANT RESULTS.  As Jonathan Gebaur puts it, “Marketing never comes with a red button. 90% of the time marketing means: Work… Frustration… Small Improvements. Working out the little details. Improving little things to improve our results just a little bit. Good results take a lot of sweat and tears.”

Number two:  no matter what a pitch says, do not spend what you do not have in cash right now.  Set your budget honestly and hold to it.  If a company tells you that your budget doesn’t matter and you must spend more than that with them, they do not care about you; they care about getting your money.

Number three:  choose carefully.  Know that whatever do in terms of marketing and advertising will take several months to get results from.  Don’t just throw money at things hoping they will work; approach this with a plan and a clear set of perimeters and goals.  Pick one primary approach (like guest posting) and focus on that.  Don’t try to make everything happen all at once from everywhere.  Chaos works against you and ultimately robs you of your ability to focus, concentrate, and respond to your business and reader’s needs.

Marketing firms are out there to help you and should be used by independent authors.  But as with so many things, the rule “buyer beware” applies.  Ask questions, probe firms for answers, and if you see even a whiff of a hard sell or pressured pitch, run do not walk away.  Any business who cannot respect your budget and your goals is not really interested in working for you; rather they just want your money.