Rethinking Audiobooks

Pexels photo by Stas Knop

Back in January, one of my goals was to create audiobook versions of my mystery novels. I began reading up on the topic and one information source, in particular, caught my eye. In fact, information from the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is making me rethinking my strategy because this is where I first learned of Audiblegate.

Some of you might be familiar with the term, but Audiblegate apparently stems from an author pressure group known as TERM, The Equitable Rights Movement. They created a campaign known as Audiblegate after determining that there were consistent and significant discrepancies on royalty statements from Amazon with regard to their ACX platform. Of particular concern was Amazon’s “easy exchange and refund” program. They discovered that Amazon was paying for customer refunds through authors’ share of royalties and not their own resource fund, which wasn’t stipulated in the contracts.

This is a simplified version of events and there’s much more to this story. Rather than repeat it all, I encourage you to check out the full background story HERE. There’s also a great piece by a writing colleague from my neck of the woods, Colleen Cross. As a professional accountant and mystery author who has several audiobooks on the market, Colleen’s been digging into the accounting side of things and made some troubling discoveries. Please read her piece on “Should You Sell Your Audiobook Rights?” HERE.

While Amazon has made some improvements and adjustments to their refund program (though not nearly enough for some) they haven’t compensated authors for lost royalties. If you are interested in keeping up to date with developments, check out the Facebook page that’s been set up to address this issue HERE.

Upon further reading, my takeaway is that all is not lost as far as deciding whether to venture into audiobooks. There are several other publishing options with good distribution that don’t involve Amazon at all. One of these is Findaway Voices, a company that works with Draft2Digital. D2D already lists my books for sale via Kobo, Nook, and Apple, among others. Still, I need to do more research on Findaway.

This Audiblegate saga isn’t over, but it does demonstrate how careful we have to be when starting a new venture. Things become sticky when key players either change the rules or don’t clearly spell out the rules in the first place. Meanwhile, if any of you have published audiobooks, I’d love to hear about your experience.

More Free Writing Workshops and an Editing Booster

Last week’s newsletter promotion has resulted in 155 downloads of my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark, so far, which is great. The downside is that there aren’t nearly as many new subscribers. In other words, people check the subscribe box, download the book, then immediately unsubscribe. But free things rule this year, right? If you had a chance to check out free mystery and suspense novels, you can find the link HERE. Clearly, you don’t have to stay subscribed!

Now for another freebie. ProWritingAid is offering four days of workshops on crime fiction from April 19-23. Presenters include Karin Slaughter, Ian Rankin, and Lisa Gardner among authors. If you’re interested in attending, check out the link HERE. You’ll see a registration button on the page.

The beauty about registering is that if the timing doesn’t work for you, you can view them later for up to a seven-day period. I learned a lot from the fantasy workshops I took in February. Although I’ve been writing mysteries a while, there’s always something to learn.

During the fantasy week workshops, ProWritingAid organizers offered a significant discount on their editing program. I signed up for a year because I was hoping to find a way to speed up my editing process. I’ve been trying it on my mystery novella and so far find I’m finding it quite helpful. It’s designed to assist with copyediting needs and does everything from pointing out overused and repetitive words, to grammar glitches, punctuation errors, passive sentences, overlong sentences, and so forth. The program also gives me a summary report that lets me know how strong some areas of my writing are and where I could use some tweaking. The link to the editing program is HERE, but if you hunt around, maybe you can try it for free.

They also offer a ProWritingAid university program, which I haven’t signed up for, but I won’t rule it out in the future.

One Promotion Done, Another Underway

Happy April, everyone! I’ve never been a fan of April Fools Day, so no pranks will be found here.

Today launches the start of a brand new promotion I’m taking part in. In a bid to find more newsletter subscribers, I’ve joined a group of 50 other authors, and all are offering free mystery/suspense ebooks if readers sign up to their newsletter. The promo lasts until May 9th , which provides ample time to find great new reads. I have no idea how this event will go, but if I don’t try I won’t have my answer either. The link to all of the offered ebooks is HERE If the link doesn’t work, please let me know!!

Last week’s series promotion on Freebooksy went well, I think. Of course, when you’re trying something new there’s nothing to compare it to. But I sold a couple of hundred ebooks and wound up ranking #52 in the free Kindle books category and #5 in the women sleuths category. This is a rarity for me. I had just over 2,000 downloads on my featured day, but Amazon and other outlets are keeping The Opposite of Dark free until April 5th, and sales are still trickling in. Perhaps the most important part of this exercise is that I improved my discoverability, which is wonderful.

A year ago, I gave no thought to promoting an entire series, or a newsletter, for that matter. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and taking some risks. One of the best parts is that I’m learning a lot and by sharing my experiences, I’m hoping it’ll help with your strategizing too.

Series Promo Event is Up and Running!

Marketing guru David Gaughran has long advised authors to offer their first book for free when promoting a series. Given the tough financial circumstances many readers face these days, it sounds like a good idea to me, so I signed up to be featured on a book promo site called FreeBooksy on Saturday, March 27th.

Because things can always go wrong with changing prices, especially since I need to rely on Amazon’s cooperation to make the book free, the changes have already been made and are now in effect until April 5th. I contacted Amazon on Monday and requested a price match. This is the only option that authors with wide distribution have to make their books free for a short time period. The tricky part is that Amazon can always say no. I had to provide links to their competitors’ sites, showing that the book is indeed free elsewhere. Luckily, I corresponded with a really helpful person, who made the book free the same day.

So, I’m giving away Book #1, The Opposite of Dark. Book. #2, Deadly Accusations is now at $.99.. #3 Beneath the Bleak New Moon is $1.99, #4, The Deep End, is $2.99 as is #5, Knock Knock. My latest, The Blade Man is $3.99.

One of the cooler things Amazon does is to provide a link to the entire series so readers can purchase all six books with just one click. Right now, the entire set can be purchased on amazon.com for $10.35 US! You can find the link HERE.

The books are also available at:

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-opposite-of-dark-2

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1151714413

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/opposite-of-dark-debra-purdy-kong/1101958680?ean=2940153393650

The cost of this Freebooksy campaign is $170.00 US, however, with the Canadian exchange I have to pay over $200, so we’ll see what happens. As Gaughran says, a large part of marketing is all about experimenting, trying new things to see what works and what doesn’t. I still need to put more focus on ads, but I’m not quite ready until I have a clearer understanding of how they work. Wish me luck!

A Writer’s Recycling Conundrum

Pexels photo by C. Technical

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to downsizing my home this week. It’s probably because we’re in a hot housing market in our area and three houses on our street are suddenly on the market, one having sold in a matter of days, above asking price, which is a common occurrence right now. Since we’re planning to downsize and move in two years anyway, should we step up our plan? This leads to a more immediate issue. How do I begin to sort and recycle over thirty plus years of paper in my home office?

I’ve been writing since the early 80’s. During my first fifteen years, it was all about submitting short stories, personal essays, and articles in paper form, complete with a self-addressed stamped envelope for an editor’s response. I still have tons of correspondence from those days.

I keep our family’s household records in another filing cabinet, but I’ve been much better at shredding and recycling those. Canada Revenue Agency only requires folks to keep records dating back seven years. So, why haven’t I done the same with my writing files?

Two reasons, I think. One is that I have an emotional attachment to my writing things. All that correspondence, all the paper drafts and final drafts of stories, and all of the notes represent four decades of work. Tossing it away seems counterintuitive. On the other hand, everything I’ve written is on the computer and backed up on flash drives.

The other reason is one of habit. For many years, I’ve printed out a final draft of a book, blog, or review, though I’ve now stopped doing so for blogs and reviews. It took a conscious effort and some resolve to break an old habit.

I have two scrapbooks filled with memories about fun book launches, writing events, and reviews of my work. I also keep a binder containing my publication credits, publishing stats, income and expenditures, and so forth. Maybe that’s more than enough of a physical reminder of those decades, and I should just let the rest go.

I’ve managed to sort and recycle a few things. In a blog last year, I mentioned that I cleared off unnecessary information from my two bulletin boards and I’ve managed to keep them clear. I also went through my collection of articles on writing and began organizing them into binders. I’ve found that it’s a 50/50 mix about whether I look something up in a digital folder or a paper one.

I’ve also renewed efforts to pare down my book collection. Last weekend, I began filling a box of books to give away, but it’s part of a larger downsizing and spring cleaning project that will also involve dozens of cookbooks I haven’t used in years. Sorting and recycling all of my cupboards could take a while and I expect I’ll need to set up a schedule.

For you writers who’ve built quite a collection of notes, drafts, correspondence, and such, what do you do with all of that material? To you keep it in boxes and binders? Is it organized? Or do you recycle almost everything and rely on digital backups?

So, How’s Retirement Going?

Before I start this week’s topic, I want to add extra information I received regarding Access Copyright, which I mentioned in last week’s blog. An author kindly provided a link which indicates that if you are self-published you can apply to Access Copyright as a Creator Affiliate. I’ve provided the link with more information HERE. As my colleague pointed out, it’s not that easy to find the info on their website. But if you’re interested in registering with the program, you can fill out their form HERE.

So, I’ve been retired from my day job a little over nine months now and if you were to ask me how I find it, my answer is that it’s great, except I’m still working full time. It’s just that those hours are spent on editing and the many tasks that go with being a published author.

I’ve been keeping track of I’ve the hours spent on writing, editing, and promotional stuff each week, and was a little surprised to see that I’ve been averaging a 37 hour week from the get-go. Hmm. Am I okay with this? Yeah. It still gives me more downtime than I had this time last year. Did I set out to create a 35-40 hour week? No, not really. It happened because I’m enjoying what I’m doing and I’ve spent a fair bit of time implementing some of the new things I’ve learned in workshops over the past six months.

I start each day, thinking about what I need to get done, what I would like to get done, then head downstairs to my office, and work on what I can get done. I often ask myself how much can I accomplish each day without pushing too hard?

Another reason for the all the computer time is that winter’s kept me from gardening and going for long walks. No matter how bundled up I am, I wind up with runny noses and a cough in damp, rainy weather. Secondly, I’m focused on completing the next round of edits to send my current WIPs to beta readers. Third, I’ll be babysitting Ellie starting in August, which will definitely cut down writing time. We’re also planning to downsize our house (a chore in itself since we’ve lived here over 30 years) and move in 2023, which will likely throw productivity way off course.

I still keep a routine because it helps with productivity and creating more downtime, but I also need some flexibility. Life still involves appointments and unexpected situations. I have no idea what my writing life will be like a year from now. All I know is that I’m enjoying the moment while looking forward to the future. And maybe that’s enough.

Writing Income, Beyond Bookselling

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Surveys and data collection sources in the UK, Canada, and the US, have shown that writers’ incomes have decreased significantly over the past decade. 2020 made things worse for many, so I thought I’d share ways that authors can potentially earn some extra cash through their writing. The list below represents things I’ve done over the years to supplement my income.

  1. Submit, articles, personal essays, and short stories to magazines and periodicals
  2. Enter contests
  3. Guest speaking
  4. Workshop presentations
  5. Facilitate creative writing sessions for my local community center
  6. Joining PLRC and Access Copyright (available in Canada)

I haven’t submitted shorter pieces or entered competitions for years, so maybe it’s time to reconsider. Most magazines don’t pay well but every bit helps and it’s a great way to build your CV if you’re just starting out. Competition prize money averaged around $200 for me, which was a great sum when I was starting out. Still is, actually.

I know writers who also offer professional editing and publishing services. Others conduct virtual courses for reasonable prices. Of course, grant money can be available, and many cities have writer-in-residence programs for authors. There’s also mentoring and coaching for beginning writers, plus tutoring for people who have difficulty with English or writing in general.

Until November’s shut down, I was facilitating creative writing sessions through my local parks and recreation community, which is work I really enjoy. It also pays better than my day job did, although facilitating is only 2.5 hours a week. Happily, that might be starting up again in April.

For those of you unfamiliar with Access Copyright and PLRC, here’s a little info.

The Access Copyright Foundation is a Canadian non-profit national organization that compensates authors whose work is being photocopied at educational and other institutions. Those of us whose work is not directly copied still receive a small share of the collective pool every November. It’s available to any Canadian who registers with the program and has published work (but not self-published, as far as I know) in a variety of categories. To learn more, check out the link HERE.

The Public Lending Right Program compensates authors whose books are available for free use in Canada’s library systems. According to their website, over 30 countries offer similar programs, so it’s worth checking out to see if this is available to you. I joined many years ago when I published my first book in 1995 and still receive money for it. Seven more titles have been added over the years, so the check I receive every February is now in the modest four-figure range. To learn more about how the program works, see the link HERE.

I’m sure more opportunities are out there. It’s just a matter of doing a little digging. So, do you find other ways to earn writing-related income or plan to near in the near future? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Making the Most of Freebies in 2021

Free ebooks and workshops have been fairly common for some time, but over recent months the popularity of free anything appears to have exploded.

I used to resist offering one of my books for free, mainly because my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark was traditionally published a decade ago, at a time when advanced review copies were the only freebies my publisher offered and self-publishing was just starting to ramp up. Things have changed a great deal, including my mindset, and I now offer the book free for anyone who signs up to my newsletter.

I also offered the book free during a BookBub promo event in late 2019, which garnered enough sales of the other books to make this event profitable. Based on a recent blog post from author and marketing guru David Gaughran, 2021 is the year for free, and he recommends offering at least one of your books for free more than ever before. You can read more HERE.

I was recently told that there are now over 2 million books published worldwide, and over one million in the U.S. alone, each year. A staggering number when you think about it. With the collapse of in-person book selling opportunities in 2020, more authors turned to online selling through book promo sites, for example. To compete with all the others, many of them have offered at least one book, if not a whole boxset, for free.

I’ve taken part in a number of cool free workshops lately, one on marketing and others related to fantasy writing. The information’s good and the presenters knowledgeable, but there’s a lot of upsell with links to purchasing software, courses, and other things, which seems fair enough, as long as they’re not bombarding me everyday. But it really does feel like free is king these days, which is okay is you have a series, but not so much if you only have one published title.

Self-isolation and uncertainty is tough for many of us, but I’ve found that taking workshops is a good use of time. Once things go back to normal (whatever that might look like) I doubt I’ll be inclined to spend as much time at home in front of the computer. Who knows, maybe all the free courses will disappear too. It’ll be interesting to see what bookselling looks like a year from now, and if David will still recommend free for 2022.

I Read Canadian Day

Today in Canada, we’re celebrating a day of reading Canadian books for young people. I’ve already seen terrific Facebook posts by Canadian children’s authors, Darlene Foster and Eileen Holland to promote exactly that. As stated on the I Read Canadian website, its purpose is to “raise awareness of Canadian books and celebrate the richness, diversity, and breadth of Canadian literature. You can read more about it HERE.

When my kids were in school, reading was a high priority in elementary and middle schools, but it dwindled somewhat in their high school years. When I was in school, oh so long ago, the majority of our required reading was by American or British authors. It’s great to see that more Canadian schools and libraries are reaching out to local authors.

Some of the books I love are Darlene’s, who many of you know through her WordPress blog. I also want to give a shoutout to children’s author Eileen Holland, whose two children’s books found a home with a Canadian publisher a couple of years ago. If you have school age children in your lives and you’re looking for good reads, please check them out.

Darlene can be found HERE and Eileen can be found HERE

There are many other great children’s authors, but a google search will help you find many more. And if you know of any, feel free to share their links with others.

As it happens, I’m also reading a Canadian mystery author this week, named Winona Kent. Although Lost Time is written for adults, it’s still Canadian and Winona is another terrific author who deserves attention. Canadian books and Canadian authors have been working hard to raise their profile over the years. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the number of Canadian publishers has risen all that much recently. Our country is a small market, so we have to work hard to gain a little attention. But we’re a tenacious lot with plenty to say. It’s always a thrill to find new exciting authors, not only here in Canada, but everywhere. 😊