Kindle Direct Publishing’s New Reporting System and Some Author Updates!


Yesterday I logged into my Kindle Direct Publishing account on Amazon and while looking at the reports, noticed there is a new “beta” reporting program they are working on that I could test (the picture above shows the new graphing, with part of the book breakdown below). I checked it out and it is WAY better than their old reporting program! It uses color coded graphs to plainly show which books you are selling, when you are selling them, and also easily separates books sold from “free” promotions vs. paid sales.

I am thrilled they are updating their system, because what they have had the last few years sucks in my opinion. It was hard to even tell which books sold! In other good news, while checking out the new system, I looked at my overall numbers from the last quarter and was pleasantly surprised to see that all together I’ve sold more than 230 ebooks (including promotions) during the last 90 days! Not bad for an indie author!!! It makes my heart happy to know that many people are reading my books!

If you use KDP publishing, I would recommend checking out the new program if you are able to under your own reports! By the way, if you want to check out my Amazon Author Page and maybe give it a follow, that would be awesome! I also have a FREE ebook promotion running today through Monday for my art ebook, “Stories Behind My Art” (if you like it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon!)

Lastly, a few years back, I published a little short story/spiritual ebook called “Jesus, Mohammed, and Abraham – A Parable about Love and Peace” under the name M.N. Russell ($0.99, FREE for Kindle Unlimited) . I decided to add that to my Amazon author bibliography, so you can check that out if you think it sounds interesting!


Being indie isn’t easy!

There is one thing I have sure found out in a hurry, in the world of writing, if you aren’t one of the bigwigs, there is a definite stigma and many doors are slammed in your face. “Indie” writers is a term that you often hear used to refer to authors who self-publish or publish with a small publisher that isn’t well known.

There is some argument about whether authors published by small traditional publishers are really “indie” or not, but in the business, they are often considered so. I have self-published and signed contracts with small traditional publishers, so I figure I definitely fit into the “indie” group one way or another. Anyhow, here are a few things I have learned in the short time I have been a “professional” author:

  • Getting your book into a big chain bookstore is almost impossible. I figured Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million would be happy to have me sell my books at their local branches and do author events. Boy was I wrong! I mean, I knew that the entire chain wouldn’t carry my books unless they became popular enough, but I figured at least the local stores would work with me, but the corporate powers-that-be won’t let them.
  • Getting your book into an independent bookstore isn’t much easier. Yeah, they are normally more willing to take a chance on local authors, but with the way the economy is right now, many of our local bookstores are barely keeping afloat or are in the red, so they just aren’t willing to take those chances right now.
  • Libraries can be kind of snobby, at least some of them. They will carry crappy quality books from major publishers (why else would they carry books by Paris Hilton, Snooki and the like?), but they can be EXTREMELY picky when it comes to unknown authors and publishers. They may turn you down with a reason that seems flimsy and ridiculous, but swarm to the newest fluff put out by celebrities. Of course, not all library systems are like that and sometimes they turn indie books down for good reason (like lack of funds).
  • Getting into local schools isn’t a piece of cake either unless you know someone personally. Many schools seem almost suspicious of authors they have never heard of, maybe because our society has become so crazy and schools have to be extra-careful about what kind of people they allow near their students. I can totally understand their point of view, but it still makes it difficult on us children’s writers.
  • Lastly, if you really want to be a success, you have to take advantage of every opportunity you DO get. Most of the businesses I have found who are willing to hold author events aren’t the ones I expected. Try coffee shops, art centers, community organizations and anywhere else you can think of. After all, the worst they can do is say no, right?

Are printed books really endangered?

With the advent and increasing popularity of ebooks, many doomsday prophets are now proclaiming that printed books will quickly meet their demise. I have heard experts claim that within the next 50 years, traditional books are destined to go the way of vinyl records. They might be used for decoration or sought out by collectors, but other than that, books as we have always known them will be obsolete.

Is this true? I hate to think so. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those purists who believe that ereaders are evil or anything, in fact I own a Kindle myself, but I still prefer the feel of a real book in my hands. Maybe I am old-fashioned or sentimental, but nothing will ever feel the same to me as flipping the pages of a new book.

I don’t really want to live in a world where the only place I can buy books is Amazon either. I like the convenience and wide diversity of internet bookstores, but I would much rather browse a brick and mortar store. I could literally spend hours in a cozy bookstore reading area. I prefer to sit down and try a book out before I buy it. Plus, in the bookstore I get to snoop around to see what other people are reading and get in some people watching, which happen to be two of my favorite pastimes.

As an author, I can also attest to the fact that there is nothing like holding your own book in your hands. I have had both ebooks and traditional books published, and the ebooks don’t elicit near the excitement from myself or others as the handheld ones do. This fact gives me hope for the future of traditional literature. What about you? Do you think that printed books are on their last leg? If so, will you consider it a great loss?

Tips for Publishing on Smashwords

Since I recently published my new ebook, “In Memory of Dad” on Smashwords, I have had quite a few other authors ask about how the Smashwords process works.  Many didn’t even know what Smashwords was, which didn’t surprise me too much since I only recently found out about Smashwords after being asked to review a few books published there.

Put simply, Smashwords in a website that allows you to publish your own ebook.  Even if your book is available in hard copy or is published by another company, as long as you have the rights, you can publish your book on Smashwords as well.  Not only does Smashwords allow you to publish your ebook for free, but they offer the opportunity to have your ebook distributed to other major ebook retailers, provided that you follow their guidelines.  Another thing I really like about Smashwords is that they offer your book to customers in a variety of formats, including Kindle, PDF, online reading and various popular phone apps.

If you are considering publishing an ebook and want to know more about Smashwords or what the publishing process there is like, here are a few tips:

1.  Above all else, make sure to follow the guidelines Smashwords provides when you upload your book.  If you don’t it will affect your chances of having your book distributed to other retailers.  Also, your book might look kind of wonky if you don’t follow the guidelines.  Luckily, Smashwords offers a great resource to help you at no charge, the Smashwords Style Guide.

2.  Make sure you have a good cover image for your ebook.  You can hire someone to do one for you or create one yourself like I did.  Of course, if you create it yourself, make sure it looks professional…your cover WILL affect sales.

3.  Don’t post your ebook, walk away and hope to sell millions of copies.  Realistically, there is too much competition for people to just keep randomly stumbling over your ebook and actually want to buy it.  Do some promotional work, even if it is only on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.  If you can get your friends to review your book, that helps a lot too.

4.  Edit, edit, edit!  I love Smashwords and have found some great stories there, but far too many authors publish mediocre or downright painful prose.  If you don’t know how to edit yourself, find a friend who will help or consider hiring someone.  Even picking up a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and studying it would help many authors to avoid common grammar, punctuation and style errors.  Check your spelling too!

5.  Read the FAQ page on Smashwords.  This resource can help you avoid ALOT of mistakes and wasted minutes!


Another book being published!

Hello!  Just thought I would check in briefly and let you guys know what is going on in my life.  First of all, I received the fabulous news that 4RV Publishing is interested in publishing a book I wrote entitled “Pumpkin Pie Birthday Cake”, which was inspired by my foster son.  It will be my second published picture book, so it really excites me.  Now I don’t have to worry about being a one hit wonder!  I was very happy that 4RV liked the book because I have reviewed several books they produce and found the quality of the writing and the illustrations to be excellent.

As for my first picture book, I did receive a couple character sketches so I will share one here of the main character, who is a cat named Icky.

The book will be entitled “Ode to Icky”.  Again, it was inspired by someone I love…a big, fat cat of ours named Einstein who seems to have lost his ability to effectively clean himself due to his girth.  I can’t wait to hold both of my upcoming books in my hands!  Of course, for all my friends, family and fans out there, I will offer you the opportunity to buy signed copies from me if you so desire after the books are published.

The next 5 days I will be at family camp, so I may have time to post and I may not.  I am hoping to fit in a review or two, but sometimes the family camp schedule can be packed, so we will have to see!  Either way, I hope you will keep visiting my blog!  I love to get feedback, so feel free to chime in at any time!

Book signing lessons for new authors and why Willy Wonka would make a great bookseller

Since I will soon have my own published book that I will need to travel around and promote, I’ve decided to check out a few local author talks and book signing sessions to see what I can learn about what works and what doesn’t work.  The first author signing I attended was today.  At a Barnes & Noble store near Dayton, I stopped by to listen to an elderly man read his picture book during storytime.  Here are a few of the lessons I learned from the little old man today:

1.  If a little kid decides that your book is less than enthralling and decides to throw it on the ground and stomp on it repeatedly, YOU MUST NOT PUNCH HIM.  I know it’s tempting, but you just can’t do it.

2.  Dressing up like Willy Wonka does seem to draw in the kids.  Maybe it would work even better if I give away candy…if not, I can always eat the candy myself.

3.  If the kid throwing a tantrum is louder than you, you will likely lose your audience.  Scream at the top of your lungs if need be.

4.  If the only people who show up for your book signing are relatives, pretend that you don’t know them.  That way, people will think that you are more popular than you really are.  Of course, it is possible that the old man was simply senile, in which case, I feel terrible for making fun of his condition.

5.  No matter what your story is actually about, just throw in a few words about world peace and watch your profit margin grow!!!

Well, that’s the end of the lessons for today.  If any of you have advice to share about author readings or book signings, please feel free to share!

Work, work, concerts and movies

Yesterday I worked some more on my picture book that is soon to be published, and today I am putting the finishing touches on another manuscript for a picture book that another publisher has expressed interest in.  I feel a little overwhelmed, and wonder how hard it will be to go through the editorial process with both books at the same time, but looking on the bright side, if both are published around the same time, I will be able to promote them together and take both to book signings and readings, which will save me a ton of time.

Keep your fingers crossed that my second book is accepted.  The publisher seemed pretty excited about it, but you never know until you actually sign the contract.  Due to all the work on my books, I have been letting my columns slide a bit, hopefully that will pay off in the long run!

Somehow even with all this going on, and the ever-present pressures and responsibilities of foster parenting, I have found the time to do some recreational activities.  This past weekend my husband, Steve, and I went to a free concert at the park, where we listened to the Highway Junkies, a local band that can really play.  They perform everything from AC/DC to Johnny Cash, so it’s quite a range, and somehow they make it all sound good!

Yesterday for Memorial Day we cooked out for dinner and went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  Since Captain Jack was still in the movie, it was great.  I think all the other characters pale in comparison to Captain Jack’s awesomeness.  By the way, can’t wait to see Mr. Popper’s Penguins!  I loved that book as a kid and it looks like the movie will be both hilarious and adorable!  I want a penguin of my own!!!

Happy Memorial Day! Some sad remembrances and happy memories in the making

First of all, I want to take a moment to thank all of those brave souls who gave their lives so that the rest of us could live freely.  I think too many Americans are really unappreciative of the sacrifices those who went before us made.  I would also like to send my love to my Grandmother, father and all of my friends who have passed away and gone on to the next world.  I love you all and miss you very much.

Days like this are bittersweet.  Especially since I am in the process of getting my first picture book published.  Yesterday I worked on the manuscript, making the first round of editorial changes.  Today as I think about those who have passed away, it makes me sad to think that my dad and grandma will never get to hold my first book and beam with pride, as I know they would have.  I hope wherever they are that they can see and are still proud of me.  In some ways it saddens me that my loved ones will miss this milestone in my life more than it did that they missed my wedding.  Maybe because it takes a lot more work to get a book published than it does to get married.

I have heard authors talk before about how writing and publishing a book is like giving birth, but I think I’m just now starting to understand the feeling.  It’s a lot of work, pain, sweat and tears that go into a good book, plus you struggle with feelings of inferiority.  The whole process can be rather overwhelming, even though it is a happy time as well.  I’ve had ebooks published, but it’s different.  Throwing out a few twitter messages or advertising on Facebook is far different from the face to face experience of trying to sell a traditional book at a book signing or reading.  Especially if you are shy around strangers like I am.

I guess that is enough rambling for today.  I hope you can make some sort of coherent speech out of my tangled up emotions today 🙂

I’m getting my first picture book published!

Yesterday I received the news, a publisher officially wants to publish my picture book manuscript.  It’s only a small press, and my book will only start out with a small run, but depending on how hard I am willing to work to promote it, the sky is the limit.  I am so excited and can’t wait to hold my own book in my hands.  I think the first thing I will do when I get it is to sniff it and savor that new book smell.

Along with all the excitement and the pride, comes a lot of nerves though.  I keep hearing the same refrain go through my head: what if no one wants to buy my book?  What if I set up a book reading or signing and absolutely no one comes?  Or even worse, what if a bunch of people come and I get all tongue tied or want to puke while talking to them?  What if none of the local bookstores will even let me come speak?  And one of my biggest fears of all…what if I don’t even like my book?  After all, I’m not illustrating it, so what happens if the book looks nothing like I imagined? 

If only I could shut all of these thoughts down long enough to actually enjoy the process.  Is this normal?  Do all writers go through these panic attacks before they sell their first book?  Someone please reassure me that I am not freaking losing my mind!