To self-publish, offer a book for pre-order, join Kindle Unlimited or not... Decisions, decisions! What's an author to do? I turned to Megan Michaels who is wading into self publishing as we speak to find out.
First, lets take a look at the finished product. A brand new erotic story available for sale on 12/3.
Preston Harrison is the picture of the gentleman Southern lawyer, as handsome and affable, as he was strict and precise. His ordered professional life suited him and his temperament, not a thing out of place, not an event unplanned. But he was more than a lawyer though -- he was also a Dom, and he made sure his personal life and professional life never intersected. Never that is until his world is turned upside down by one Avery Beauchamp, a stubborn, adorable, and way too sassy pocket Venus.
Being the only daughter of a respected Judge should’ve set Avery up for a life of ease, of privilege. But Avery had a habit of not doing anything she should -- she only did the things she wanted. Marching to the beat of her own (very smart-mouthed) drummer had always served the headstrong girl well… until the day she ran afoul of a little thing called the law.
A strict southern lawyer and a color-outside-the-lines misdemeanor offender should have been like oil and water. But when a Judge’s daughter finds herself on the wrong side of the law, she’s presented with a choice: a fine and possible jail time, or an alternative sentence. Preston -- against his better judgment -- finds himself agreeing to the rather unique sentence for the wayward girl: house arrest for Avery.
There was one problem for Avery though: the house where she would serve her sentence wasn’t hers -- it was Preston’s. Worse, as she learns what working for the strict Preston Harrison really means -- and how deep her own repressed desires might go -- she fears that she might lose more than her freedom to the devastatingly handsome Dom. She might lose her heart too.
Note: This BDSM erotic romance includes the following acts or themes: bare bottom spanking and other corporal punishment, D/s, explicit sexuality, anal play, and BDSM activity including kitty/pet play. If these acts or themes might be offensive to you, please do not buy this book.
Megan is in the author's corner with some added insight from Trent Evans who helped her navigate the self publishing maze.
There's a lot to cover, so let's get to it.
MT: I understand that Finding Submission is a self published title. Can you tell us a little behind your decision to branch out on your own?
MM: Self-publishing is something I think every author thinks about, but the nervousness of plunging in prevents us. We think: who will do my edits, formatting, cover, publishing, and, the most frightening, who will do my blurb? The prospect of making more money is always a lure. In addition, it is exciting to think about doing something like this on your own — or assisted, as I’m doing.
When Trent Evans offered to assist me with the process of self-publishing, I leapt at the opportunity. His goal is to assist and teach the process. He wants to give the authors the opportunity to self publish on their own, or pay for assistance if it is more convenient for them. To that end, he’s offering everything from just some “handholding” while learning the process, up to handling all aspects of the self-publishing process. I chose to have him have the all inclusive self-publishing package. LOL I am terrible at editing, so I definitely needed the complete editing process—line editing, copy editing, and content editing. I also asked him to do the blurb, help me with the cover process and assist/teach me how to do the self-publishing on Amazon.
MT: Wow, that's a lot to take in already. Talk me through it. You’ve written your book, now what? With a publisher, you upload, hit submit and wait. What was your process and how long did it take?
MM: Since Trent has been my beta for two of my three books, the editing was the same for me. On his part, he went deeper into it, checking for plot holes, conflicts, inconsistencies, etc. It has been five weeks in total since I submitted until preorder on Amazon, which is today! He has two cover artists that he uses (and has a list of several). The process was amazing and I was involved completely.
Choosing the color scheme, matching the pictures to the characters, font, etc. It was exciting to be so involved, and I’m just tickled with the end product. I feel the cover speaks to the genre and evokes a BDSM and Erotica look. Trent has explained the pros and cons of most things (not that I’ve understood most of them LOL) but I’m learning quickly.
We were going to do Pre-Order on Amazon but the rules had changed for uploading and we missed it. But, Finding Submission will be released on December 3rd on Kindle Unlimited exclusively for 90 days, then we’ll move out to other venues after the 90 days (Blushing, Kobo B&N, ARe, Smashwords, Exciticia
We had chosen to do Pre-Order and the benefits of it are: As stated earlier, we had originally thought we would do the Pre-Order, but the upload deadline had changed and we missed it. Next time!! But here are the reasons for doing Pre-Order: Trent: The value of pre-orders on Amazon is a controversial one, and there are definite pros and cons to it, at least as Zon has it currently configured. We talked this over and determined that the pros outweigh the cons by a comfortable margin. I’ll list them below:
1. The ability to collect “impulse buys” – especially when conducting pre-release/marketing activity – many of those buyers you may never see again otherwise. Readers forget, I’m a voracious reader myself, and I read metric shit-tons of books – but I’ll bet I’ve forgot to buy even more. There wasn’t a pre-order link anywhere when I stumbled across that awesome teaser/blurb/cover reveal/character interview – so I often just forget about it. I’m sure I’m far from alone in thatJ To me, as an author, capturing these impulse buys is the number one reason to do pre-orders.
2. Also-bought lists fill in before the book is even released, which means that once the book is published, Zon’s algos likely will start pushing the book internally faster. It’s possible – though there is not confirmation of this – that Zon begins pushing pre-orders internally before the book is even published.
3. Though it doesn’t apply for this particular book (since it’s a stand-alone), pre-orders are potentially very powerful in increasing read through to subsequent books in a series. Imagine you’ve just read a kick-ass book, you’re out of batteries, but you want MOAR! How many readers, seeing that pre-order link in the back of that book for the next installment of that kick-ass series wouldn’t click that pre-order with a quickness? I say quite a few WILL – which is why having that pre-order link there to get that ultimate of impulse purchases is potentially huge. It’s a no-brainer for increasing read-through rates.
1. There’s really only one, and on the surface, it appears to be a big one – but I’ll explain why looks are very deceiving here. The biggest objection to the preorder set-up on Zon is that while the pre-orders accumulate and and are dumped into your KDP dashboard as sales the day before your book goes live, the effect on ranking is more or less real time, meaning that as each pre-order is logged by Zon, it affects your bestseller ranking accordingly. Many people think this attenuates your opening day “juice” where theoretically those pre-orders might have been sales recorded on the first day of a book’s publication. If you look closely though, you;ll see that this is really no longer a problem.
The first and most important reason why I think this supposed “con” is actually not a big deal is that opening day launches mean, well, much, much less than they used to due to tweaks in Zon algorithms. I think of this algo tweak as the BookBub Killer (even though it really won’t kill BookBub at all). What I mean by that is that in the past, authors would line up as much promo as they could for that opening day in hopes of skyrocketing their book’s sales upward (notice how I didn’t say “ranking” – more on that later). This huge sudden surge in sales would be such that Zon’s algos would notice it, and (hopefully) start pushing the book internally.
This technique used to work very,very well, and services like BookBub arose to take advantage of it. However, Zon eventually got wise to this, and adjusted their algos sometime last year such that those one or two day “spikes” in sales were essentially ignored for purposes of determining whether or not the algos would take hold of a book and start aggressively pushing the book internally, largely in the form of improved 'also boughts', also bought placement, and targeted e-mail campaigns to Zon customers (we all get those e-mails from time to time, don’t we?).
The other reason why I don’t think this is “con” of pre-orders, is that I think rankings (as in bestseller ranking, the one we see on a book’s listing page), are a symptom of sales, NOT the cause of sales. A lot, and I mean a LOT, of writers seems to think ranking begets more sales, which begets better ranking. But I believe they’ve got it exactly backward.
I do not think Zon’s internal algorithms look ONLY at ranking to determine if Zon will begin pushing a book more aggressively internally. I believe that there is a whole panoply of metrics Zon’s algos probably use to determine what books it will give more “juice” to, and bestseller ranking, if it’s even factored in at all, likely gets very minor weighting.
Some of you will be calling bullshit right about now, but hang with me here. What reason would Zon have to make some arbitrary ranking threshold the reason its algos take hold of a book and give it a big push? Answer – they have none, because if it were that simple, it would be easy to game. What’s more, if bestseller ranking really was the determining factor in the algos conferring a push to a book, what is the upside of Zon advertising said ranking to anyone able to access Amazon.com? Again, zeroJ
It’s the same bitter lesson Google learned the hard way when they, early on, told everyone how it determined pagerank for websites; the entire SEO industry sprang up overnight, and gamed pagerank to DEATH. Zon learned from that fiasco, and I am confident in saying Zon has zero reason to give people such critical data in determining how it pushes this book or that.
In short, bestseller ranking tells us a book’s sales volume over time in relation to all the other books, and to a lesser extent, its sales velocity… and that’s about it.
Now, this is my opinion, and nobody really knows how Zon’s evil little algos make their determinations, but based upon what I’ve observed in the past three years, numerous anecdotal reports and analyses, and what logic would indicate, I think this is very plausible. This outta start a few discussions, no?
We have chosen KU:
Trent: After talking it over for quite some time, we’ve decided to open with KU first for two reasons. The first is that it’s now fairly obvious that Zon is giving increased visibility to KU titles. No, there is no hard evidence of this (there never is when trying to divine how Zon works), but the circumstantial evidence for this -- as well as logic -- indicates it’s likely occurring. Since the first 90 days are the most important for sales at the most important retailer, it makes business sense to open in KU first and take advantage of whatever additional horsepower having the book in KU affords.
The second reason is a more minor one – it’s simply easier logistically to go wider after KU than it is to take a book down from existing retailers and then go exclusive with Zon for a KU run. Additionally, starting with KU, then going wide is less confusing to readers.
There is a serious problem with KU, one that gets worse with each passing month, and that’s the declining payout per borrow. Oct (the latest available borrow data) pegs the per borrow amount at $1.33. IMO, there is no reason to expect it won’t go even lower, until Zon sees enough authors pull their books out to materially affect the selection available to readers subscribed to the KU service. Nobody knows when (or if) that might occur.
The current borrow rate is of course much less than a writer might see when self-publishing a novel at $4.99 (you’d expect a net of about $3.49 per sale, before delivery fee), and on the surface makes KU look like a very bad deal for novelists. However, each writer has to judge whether the increased visibility one gains from having the novel in KY outweighs what is, in effect, a rather large cut in profit (this assumes, of course, that borrows do to a large extent, cannibalize sales – which is itself a controversial position). I won’t open that can o’ worms here though J
Bottom line for us is that we do feel that the increase in visibility does outweigh the potential cannibalization of Zon sales, and foregoing the few sales we might see at other retailers. That said, it’s a very close run thing – if the borrow rate drops down near $1.00, it ceases to make any sense whatsoever to put novels into KU.
MT: Scary, intimidating, overwhelming... These are the emotions I feel when just thinking about going it alone. What were you feeling as you went through the process?
MM: Well, if I was truly alone, I would have been petrified. But Trent has been very supportive and truly spends a lot of time teaching and explaining the process to me. Many days there are too many words LOL. It takes a while to ingest the process and everything that goes with it. I have had my days where I have been very nervous, but I then remind myself of all the benefits of doing it this way—venturing out into something new (is always a plus), learning a new skill, more money, and satisfaction of being independent.
I was so excited seeing my new cover, I can’t even describe it. I just kept looking at it over and over and over. There was a definite satisfaction in being involved with every step of the process. And I’m sure I’ll be excited next week when it hits Amazon.
MT: What have been the biggest pros and cons in the whole process?
MM: The pro to me has been the involvement in the process and learning a new skill. As well as knowing that I will reap a financial benefit. The cons would be the nervousness of trying something new and the newness of KU. There is still an unknown factor with KU but from what I’ve been reading out there, it seems like it’s the new wave and the way to go – for now J.
MT: There has been a lot of discussion in social media and the blogs of late about changes in the ebook industry, including difficulties with self publishing and also the recent crack down on erotic content including titles, cover art, and the scary Amazon dungeon. How have you been affected and what do you see as the future impact on authors?
MM: Amazon seems to be cracking down on anything that they feel is questionable, but they refuse to let people know what falls into that category—it seems that side boob, “O” mouth, butt crack, breeder, slave, etc are of issue. I personally haven’t had anything that went to the dungeon, but have watched close friends suffer from this. When we were making this cover, I specifically said I didn’t want too much skin or side boob or butt. Amazon keeps tightening the reins and I see them continuing to lock out sub genre after sub genre.
MT: You answered most of my Kindle Unlimited questions earlier, but there still seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding the whole KU experience. does that make you anxious moving forward?
MM: As I said earlier we are going to publish my book with Kindle Unlimited. There is still a lot not known about it, so that’s nerve-wracking. But it seems that they are doing their best to lure authors and readers into it. KU definitely gives authors a wider range of exposure to new readers and even if they only read 10% we get a percentage. In addition, there are financial incentives for authors who do well in the rankings and sales. It is my hope that the lack of sales in Blushing, Kobo, ARe, B&N, etc., it will be made up with the increased exposure through KU.
Feel free to contact Trent Evans for questions about the assisted self-publishing services he is offering at: Trentevansletters@gmail.com
MT: This was a lot of serious, technical, business info to take in. I don't know if I feel better or worse <wink>
How about we finish up with some fun stuff:
Tell me 5 fun facts about yourself that would surprise us if we knew, sexy or mundane is up to you…
MM: I have been practicing D/s with my husband and although I don’t consider myself a meek submissive, I am enjoying being a sassy submissive. LOL
I have three dogs that I love to dress up for the holidays. Read: torture.
I had my first pedicure and manicure when I was 40, and I’m totally addicted to getting them done.
I’m ridiculously afraid of spiders, I mean scream like a little girl and throw anything that is in reach or in my hand at it to kill it. Screaming the whole time. And I will not stop, until there is a dead body.
I coordinated, decorated, gathered dozens of volunteers, dressed up, and busted my ass for Breakfast with Santa and Holiday Lane (shopping area) for my kids’ elementary school for six years!!
MT: What fun! First of all, sassy submissive usually equals sore butt so my follow up question is do you have to stand up to tackle the "shit-ton" of books that you read??? Do tell? LOL
Second, I can forgive you arachnophobia but not dressing your poor pets into frou-frou outfits, puhleez, Megan. Where is Dr. Doolittle when we need him so they can tell you how they really feel about that. haha
Informative interview Megan and Trent, thanks so much. Come back, Megan, when you have buy links and bring a hot excerpt to share. Can I pencil you in for 12/3? LOL