Tag Archive | sales

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.

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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.

 

Repost: Book Pricing Tips

The following just arrived in my email from Book Marketing Tools.  I think it contains excellent analysis and information.

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reviews help authorsBook Pricing Tips
Many self-published authors tend to price themselves out of sales.
This happens because:
1) You know how much time you spent to write the book, time or money spent on editing, time or money spent on the cover, time spent on learning to self-publish, plus the priceless view you have of your own work (rightfully so), all which combine to make you put a higher price tag on your book,
2) Self-publishers aren’t making many sales, so they often price their book higher to earn more per sale since their sales are infrequent. We get that… but we’ve always been a proponent of the fact that you can sell more books with a lower price, and while you’ll earn less per book, you will make more in aggregate than you would with a higher price book.
Now we have proof, with numbers directly from Amazon!
Amazon is usually pretty guarded with their stats. They don’t share much, but they recently shared some numbers regarding book sales at different price ranges here.
Here is the quote relevant to book pricing:
“It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%. This is good for all the parties involved.”
This is directly from the largest marketplace in the world, who specializes in ebooks. How much clearer can it get?
Sure, we would all love to sell at $14.99 or even $9.99, but that’s not the reality for the self-published author. But, you can still make good money selling at $0.99, $1.99, $2.99. Especially for the new author, with so much competition out there, you don’t want price to be the reason people aren’t willing to give you and your books a shot.
Once you have a strong following of readers who love your books and want to buy more (you’re building that mailing list, right?), then, you can experiment with $3.99, $4.99, even $5.99. Many self-published authors are now able to command those prices, but they were not always able to sell their books for those prices. If you try to start at that price, for whatever reason, and you have very few reviews and hardly any fans, you’re going to continue to not sell many books, and you will earn less than you would with a lower price point.
Your goal is to reach as many readers as possible, and to get them to want to buy every other book you come out with in the future. The bigger fan base you are able to build now, the easier it will be to sell books in the future with every new book you write.
Get people in the door with a lower price, build a readership, get them to fall in love with you and your books, THEN price your books higher.
Here’s to selling more books!
-Shawn & R.J. from Book Marketing Tools

Name Your Own Price Comes to the Peers of Beinan

Complete Series 3DThe Peers of Beinan Series is my epic medieval social science fiction series focusing on the adventures of Beinarian nobles and royals from the Gurun dynasty.  It is a six book series with a Legacy of Princess Anlei Trilogy edition and a Complete Series volume.  There’s also The Complete Data Files reference book and The Lost Tales companion book for a total of ten total book titles.

 

Effective the 12th of April 2015 all regular Peers of Beinan series books are now name your own price on Smashwords.  The two books that are staying regular price are the two you expect:  the Legacy of Princess Anlei Trilogy edition and The Complete Series volume because these contain multiple books at already low prices.

Returns 3D

Name your own price is only available on Smashwords; on all other retailers such as Amazon, Barnes/Noble, and iBookstore the books are all at their regular prices.

 

View and purchase the entire Peers of Beinan series on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/2371.

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.

No Excuses: One Star Reviews on Ebooks

permission to walk awayEvery author wants five star reviews.  This is a given.  As human beings we want everyone to love and adore our work, even when we know that is impossible.  Everyone has different tastes in books.  I like non-fiction history, you like a spicy romance.  You want to escape into another world; I want to better understand the one we are already in.  Different tastes make the world go round.

Indeed, critical reviews help authors by offering substance, feedback, and credibility.  No author with more than five or six reviews has a perfect five star average; someone will always find something imperfect about your work.  This is how it should be.  Your work should receive a mix of reviews.

With one exception:  the one star review.

Ghosts of the Past cover webOn books, there is absolutely no reason for a one star review.  Why?  Because all book retailers offer book SAMPLING — try it before you buy it.  The purpose is obvious:  if you like the sample, odds are really good you will like the book and buy it.  If you do not like the sample, odds are equally good that you will move on and not bother to purchase the book.  Sampling helps match books with readers who like and appreciate them so that there is SOMETHING the reader likes before purchase.

If you like a book before you buy it, odds are good you will still like something about the book after you read it.  Yes, there are plenty of examples of books not living up to their promise by the end — those are the ones who receive two star and three star reviews.  But a one star review is different:  it means there is no redeeming quality to the book.  If this is the case, why did the reader download it after reading the sample in the first place?

To this, only one logical answer resonates:  the person did not read the sample before download.  Why not?  In my experience this happens with free books.  A person who pays nothing for a book risks nothing by downloading it (this is often why authors often their books for free).  The flip side to this is that the person who pays nothing invests nothing in the same book; there’s no value to it because no money is actually paid.

When we pay money for something, we value it.  It matters to us.  We are careful about our choices.  We make sure before we buy something that it is something we (or any person we give it to) really want and expect to enjoy.  The more something costs us, the more careful we are to evaluate whether or not we really want it in the first place.  With books, we take our time and read the samples.  We research.  We investigate.  Then and only then do we spend the money and buy.

Every single one star review I ever received came from people who received my book as a gift in some way — a winner in a giveaway, a special sale promotion, or a permafree book.  In paying nothing, the reader invested nothing.  By investing nothing the reader had no inhibitions about trashing my book and hurting its review average with that one star.

That is, if s/he read it at all; I have reviews where it is clear all the person did was skim the sample, then write the review based on a few paragraphs and feign to have read the entire thing.  These too were negative reviews whose content did not match with anything mentioned in reviews written by those who read the books.

Why do people do this?  Give me your thoughts!  Let’s talk about our experiences dealing with negative reviews!  Post your comment here or tweet to https://twitter.com/laurelworlds.

Repost: How to Find Book Reviewers on Twitter

Back in September I received a nice email about finding reviewers on Twitter from Book Marketing Tools.  With all the insanity that was autumn 2014, the newsletter naturally filed itself away, not to be seen again until this morning.

Not everything in that newsletter is blog worthy in my humble opinion; here is the section of that which I do think is valuable and useful to independent authors.

Influences upon readers when buying self-published books

—————————–

Here is how to find book reviewers on Twitter:
by – Shawn & R.J. with Book Marketing Tools
  1. Load up Twitter, and using the search form, search “book reviewer” “book blogger” “(your genre) reviews” and other topics like that. Be creative! I don’t want everyone contacting the same exact reviewers!
  2. This will show you a list of Tweets. Scroll and find the “People” box, and click “View All”. You will then find all profiles related to your search topic.
  3. Click on each profile and make sure they are a) active with a fairly recent tweet and b) they have at least 100 followers (the more the better).
  4. Then, identify possible matches, click through the Website listed on their Twitter profile, and find their rules for review submissions.
  5. If your book is within the confines of their rules, then submit your book for review!