aliciareneekline.com

Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

Too Busy Reading

In the past two years that I’ve been blogging, I slowly developed a theory that I was hesitant to vocalize.  We hear good-intentioned advice from those in the know that all self-published authors should have a blog.  And obviously, since you’re reading this on my blog , I halfway agree with that sentiment.

Blogs are great tools for getting your name out there on search engines.  Let me tell you, I felt like I had arrived the second I Googled myself and actually came up with something that pointed back to me.  Now, there are pages and pages of results, but I’ve also written hundreds of blog posts, been relatively active on various social media outlets, and of course published four books.

Blogging is also a great exercise for making a commitment to writing on a regular basis.  Common convention suggests that a successful blogger should be posting new content at least once a week with few exceptions.  No one’s going to come after you with a wet noodle if you take a week off for vacation or over the holidays, but you don’t want tumbleweeds to roll across your page either.  Sticking to a consistent schedule forces you to devote a certain responsibility to creating posts, even if they aren’t all going viral.  At least you’re in the habit of writing and publishing for the entire world to see (if they so choose).

So what then is the epiphany that I’ve been loathe to announce?

Blogging hasn’t helped me sell books.

You see, the target audience for my blog is authors.  I talk about publishing, advertising, social media and the like.  Things that would bore laypeople to death.

The target audience for my books is not authors, but readers.  And the readers are way too busy reading to look me up on the internet and see what I’m ranting about this week.  A lady who is quite possibly my biggest fan (and no, we aren’t related) – as in I chat with her online at least once a day – told me this very thing.  She has never been to my website.  She doesn’t have time.

Maybe this would be different if I was writing non-fiction.  If I was the go-to person for insurance questions or home mortgages or something and my blog content was directly related to the books that I wrote.  But I’m not and it isn’t.

True, I do post promotional things from time to time here because I can, but my readers don’t see my bonus content, or my top ten lists or my character studies because they aren’t looking for them.  And I can’t blame them one bit.  I know I don’t stalk my favorite authors online.  I read their books and move on, because I’m too busy reading myself.

This further cements my idea to curate all of this promotional content into ebook format and offer it at retailers.  Then it would actually be getting to the correct audience.

So does this mean that I’m going to stop blogging?  No way.  But I won’t fret as much about page views or post shares or retweets because it’s a very small facet of my writing life.  If I had to choose where I wanted to be ultra popular – in the blogging community or in the author/reader one – I know hands down what my answer would be.

Fiction authors:  do you notice the same thing?

 

The Sound of Sucking

My Amazon sales rank absolutely, positively sucks.

Let’s just get that out of the way right now.  I won’t sugar coat that, or entertain you with bogus claims that my books are best sellers or that I’m raking in the royalty checks.  I’ve never claimed to be a publishing guru, and those who have stopped by my blog often know I’m my own harshest critic.

Let’s also preface this post with a disclaimer:  I’m not complaining.  In fact, I wonder how much sales rank really even matters.

Gasp.  Yes, I just typed that.

To us author types, sales rank is a metric that we tend to live and die by.  Especially on Amazon, because it’s so readily visible.  We go to our dashboard on a regular basis, checking that damn graph for new sales.  We troll our own book pages, looking for how those elusive sales affect that almighty number.  But in the end, does it really matter?

Back in the olden days, before I tried my hand at publishing, I was just a mere reader and I didn’t give a rat’s ass about what that number was when I scoped out my next read.  Sure, titles that did well were certainly easier to find when I scrolled through the Kindle store.  But if I found an author that I liked, I would search by his or her name and get my fill of their works.  I never continued on down the page to see the sales rank and the publisher.  (Self publishing?  What was that?)  I’m betting that my tactics aren’t that different from most current readers’.

I’ve made my peace with Amazon.  I’m never, ever, going to be one of their featured authors because I detest their practices of handing out perks to those who pledge to be Amazon exclusive.  I’m not; nor will I ever be.  So I’m not allowed to use things like free days or countdown pricing or Kindle Unlimited to my advantage.  That’s fine.  And unless something really major and unexpected happens, I don’t see myself taking the romance world by storm and getting a movie deal or anything.  That’s cool, too.

I won’t lie.  Now that I do this myself, when I download a new book for my Kindle, I do look at the sales rank.  99.9% of the time, it’s way better than mine.  Sometimes, that makes perfect sense, because I enjoy books by majorly popular authors just as much as the next person.  Other times, I shake my head because even though I’m biased, I just don’t get the popularity of some things over my own.

People (authors included) tend to see the ebook market as Amazon dominated.  But a low sales rank on Amazon – or none at all – isn’t necessarily a testament to the quality of the product.  Here’s some food for thought from my personal experiences:

1.  When I sell multiple books in a day, it’s usually spread out among all of the books in my series, not just one title.  So while each book’s individual sales rank climbs, there’s never a boost to one particular novel worth writing home about.

2.  I also sell on other Amazon outlets, usually Canada, UK and Australia.  Those numbers, while making me happy, don’t reflect in the ranking on Amazon.com.

3.  It took me several months to get anyone on Amazon.com to purchase the third book in my series, though it was selling well (by my standards) on other outlets.  That first Amazon sale?  It was returned the same day.

4.  In 2014, I sold more copies through iBooks, B&N, Kobo and Smashwords than I did on Amazon.  I don’t even have a clue how you look at sales rank on iBooks, and they were my personal top performer.

I’m tired of the snobbery that’s found on message boards about books with low sales ranks being pieces of crap and the few copies sold being to family and friends.  Hell, I can’t get the majority of my family and friends to read my books or my blog, or like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.  They don’t give a flying poo about my author life.  And they certainly haven’t written any reviews for me.

Here’s what I see from my perspective as one of those so-called crap authors:  awesome reviews from people I don’t know, a small but growing loyal fan base, people who take the time to post unsolicited plugs for my books on social media, and over twice as many books sold in 2014 as in 2013.

If that’s the sound of sucking, I think I’ll continue doing it.

Stay tuned for 2015; there’s some exciting news coming soon!

 

 

 

 

Us Versus Them

I’m about to go on a rant here.  Hopefully, I won’t come across as an unholy bitch.  That’s not my intention at all.  But seriously, I’m sick and tired of a couple of bad apples ruining things for the entire bunch.

Most of us author types are professionals.  And by professionals, I don’t mean we rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars while practicing our craft.  I mean that we act like adults and are courteous.  We treat others like we want to be treated.  Of course we are also human, so our feelings get hurt.  But by and large, we think before we act, because we all know that in this day and age everything we do is public.  The majority of us do not have online hissy fits on social media or stalk people that give our books 1 star reviews.

But every time an author (self or traditionally published – because it happens in both camps) oversteps their boundaries, the rest of us are made to feel like we should hang our heads in shame, too.

It reminds me of high school, and an online version of us versus them.

So now we have bloggers mad at authors and vice versa.  Lines are drawn in the sand and generalities have been made.  And what everyone seems to forget is that we are all supposed to be on the same side, right?

A recurring theme that I’ve heard from both sides is “they don’t appreciate what we do for them”.  Granted, these are the people whose opinions are at opposite ends of the spectrum and who in turn are the most vocal.

Let’s recap:

Bloggers – read authors’ books on their own time, generally don’t get paid, post honest reviews on many outlets, provide a means of promotion for authors, do their best to pimp out the stuff they like.

Authors – generally provide free copies of books for blogger review, do interviews, write bonus scenes, character interviews, etc. that become content for other people’s blogs, provide prizes for giveaways.

Just like in any relationship, there’s a mutual give and take if this is to work correctly.  And when both sides do their part, it’s beneficial to all involved.  But when hard feelings enter the picture, it’s difficult to have shiny happy people on either side of the fence.

How about we get back to basics and realize that no one owes anyone else anything?

If a blogger doesn’t want to read books and write about them, then they shouldn’t.  If the time that they are devoting to blogging should be spent instead at work or with family or whatever, then that is what should be done.  For most bloggers, this is a hobby and it should be at least halfway enjoyable.  If this starts feeling like work (the dreaded kind) or a chore, then it’s going to come across that way to readers.

If an author doesn’t want to give away books to bloggers for free, then they shouldn’t.  At the same time, they shouldn’t expect a bunch of review coverage for that upcoming release.  And certainly if a review or ten pop up, don’t have a meltdown if they aren’t favorable enough.  Even bad reviews spark interest.  Don’t want to do a giveaway?  Hate writing bonus content for other people?  Fine.  No one is holding a gun to your head and making you do those things.

And while we’re on the subject of criticism (constructive, not the threatening or attacking kind) , here’s my take.  If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t publish anything in the first place.  Sure, pass your Word doc around to your mom or your friends, who will tell you how awesome it is, then stick it in your closet and forget about it.  If you can’t put on your big girl panties, you have no business selling your writing to the general public.

I’ve had some great interactions with bloggers myself.  I certainly can’t be the only author who has had a blogger (on more than one occasion) actually purchase the next book in my series because they enjoyed the one that I gave them for free.  And goodness, if I would have known that they were that into my writing, I would have handed over coupon codes for all of my releases.

I’m lucky enough to have one blogger who doesn’t even ask for book descriptions anymore – I simply let him know that I’ve got a new novel ready and within five minutes I get an email back saying “send it”.  Those are the relationships we should all strive to have.  And if I, a literary nobody, have already fostered this, then I’m sure there are plenty more instances out there.

But we never hear about the good, which happens a lot more than the bad.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Why are we wasting our efforts on people who are drawing attention to themselves in the wrong way?  Shouldn’t we be ignoring them instead?