Category Archives: Indie Business

Is Your Book Cover Killing Your Sales? Part 1 #indiebooks

Cain's_Coven_Cover_for_KindleIs your book cover killing your sales? Mine is. How do you find out?

Recently I shopped with my niece for a black leather jacket. It’s spring in Holland, so parkas–Dutch for jacket– are in abundant supply at the shops. We’re gearing up for summer storms, cool mornings and evenings, and rain of all shapes, sizes and directions. The classic black leather jacket hunt followed the size, cut, and price criteria my niece set forth.

Some of us are also stock piling our summer reading list. The criteria for shopping will include favorite genres, authors, and prices. In the midst of the search though, the covers and blurbs tantalize readers to buy or borrow, to reach out with hand, to click the button.

The cover is not only a billboard for the book, but, in a sense, the first page of the story, because it is here that the book can communicate a little of the style and mood of the tale inside…A well-designed cover is the first assurance the reader has that the book is of a high quality, both in content and delivery. The cover can scare away a customer or lure them in. Bad covers, with pixelated images, watermarks clearly visible, text badly formatted or aligned, and so forth, suggest to the reader that the interior of the book will be equally sloppy. (More from Jo Linsdell at

How do I know my cover isn’t working? Last fall I signed two books up for Reading Deals Reviews. The way their site works is that authors and small publishers pay $20 to list their book with a large community of reviewers. Reviewers get weekly offers of what’s available to read for free in exchange for an honest review. The listing is tailored by genre, so as a writer you know folks interested in your type of story are seeing your cover. The jacket fits and the price is right for the reader, will they click the button?

Each week an email revealed whether readers in the genre were lured in by the covers of the two book. Below is an update from November.

Here is your order update for your order of 10 reviews for the book Survive Little Buddy (Iron Curtain Memoirs 1-3) that was placed on August 26, 2015:

15 readers have requested and downloaded your book. (The requested number is higher than the number of reviews you ordered in order to ensure fulfillment of the order.)

7 reviews have come in so far.

Thank you so much for you order!

– The Reading Deals Team

Shortly after Christmas, all the reviews for Survive Little Buddy were in. Thank you very much.

Flash forward to this week and check out the update for my first novel.

Here is your order update for your order of 10 reviews for the book Cain’s Coven (Begotten Bloods Book 1) that was placed on August 26, 2015:

7 readers have requested and downloaded your book.

5 reviews have come in so far.

Huh. Kind of disappointing, to say the least. Worse yet, those 7 readers have had their downloads since (drum roll please)…November.

What I’m hoping is that when the book (series) get all new cover(s) (and series branding), I can change the cover with Readers Deal and see if that makes the difference. With one change at a time, first cover then blurb, I can experiment with the variables and report back to you.

Here are a few additional resources you might want to check out as you contemplate your next book’s cover or updating the one you already have.

Simple Tips for Hiring a Book Cover Designer from

3 Foolproof Strategies for Designing Fiction Book Covers (with video tutorials for each strategy) from

24 Extreme YA Book Cover Makeovers from


Coming next…French Tongue Twisters, Scottish Poetry and Skat


Kristin King is an author and publisher. She is most passionate about her family and her projects with Future Hope Africa which is experimenting in crowdfunding Congo VBS. Check it out.


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Can You Make a Living Self-Publishing?

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 7.24.03 PMWhile I enjoy hearing amazing self-publishing success stories like Hugh Howey’s “Wool” and Amanda Hocking’s “Trylle” or even moderate successes like the book “Warm Bodies” which was made into a movie before most people knew it was a book, I like to think there are more folks making a go of fiction writing careers than industry publications indicate.

Awhile back “they” claimed that 80% of self-published authors make less than $1000 a year, which is quite discouraging to start-ups. So I’ve put together a few bits from around the web rejecting that dismal claim. Take heart! If you plan to make a career of writing, think long term. There are few one book wonders in the world today. Write on!

The leader of the WANA writing group (i.e. we are not alone) wrote a blog rejecting the 1K a year claim and adding how to’s for success saying:

Anyone who has studied the industry knows that one book alone isn’t going to cut it. Professional authors, those that treat their writing as a career, focus on building a backlist. If we have 3-6 books out, it doesn’t take much income from each to break $1000….

While 80% of respondents with 1-3 books for sale make $10K or less, that figure drops quickly with additional books. About 50% of respondents make more than $10K when they have 4-7 self-published books available, and 20% make more than $50K. At 12-20 books available, over 50% of respondents are making 50K or more, and 30% are over $100K.

Beverley Kendall’s report is a gold mine for those on either path. Her results show what works for maximizing income, but many of the tips are also no-cost ways we can reach more readers:

  • Write a series
  • Make a series-related short story, novella, or the first novel free
  • Include excerpts of other stories, especially at the back of the freebie
  • Price novel-length books in the $2.99-$4.99 sweet spot
  • Build a backlist of quality stories
  • Don’t expect success overnight—think in years

See the rest of this eye-opening post on making a living as an author at Kristen Lamb’s Blog “Show Me the Money” here.

Meanwhile, The Passive Voice had to shut down the comments to his most popular post ever: Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs post received so many comments the wordpress theme would no longer operate properly. Need a bit of encouragement? Peruse the “Comments” on this topic here.

If you happen to like statistics and numbers fascinate you, check out Dana Beth Weinberg’s series of posts using Bowker’s ISBN database to analyse the rise of self-published books vs. traditionally published titles and differences between authors who do one or the other and both (hybrid publishing).

As interesting as these various sites and perspectives are the biggest item on your to-do list if you want to write is Do It. Do it now. Do a little every day. Then I’d say, Finish something. Finish it BEFORE you show it to anybody (even your spouse or mother).


Kristin King is an author, publisher and new US expat living in the Netherlands. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel in the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint.

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Posted by on October 4, 2014 in Indie Business


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Alternative Publishing Model for The Big 5

The Big 5

The Big 5

Guest Post by Ryan King, whose post-apocalyptic Glimmer of Hope novel is currently a Kindle Countdown Deal.

I think just about everyone would agree there has been a major shift in the book publishing industry in the last five to six years. The final outcomes are still uncertain, but the truth is that it has become easier for authors to publish books and for readers to buy them. There are many pros and cons to self-publishing which is not new. Self-publishing has been around for decades, but recently it has been seen as the last resort of rejected authors who simply could not get their books published any other way. In most cases those books were destined for anonymity because the delivery platform was nearly non-existent.

Large publishers typically received first right of rejection on all books. They sifted through the chaff for the delicious wheat and if they missed a few choice morsels here and there, they could live with that. They still get plenty of authors coming to them, but that is slowly changing. What should frighten large publishers are not the books they have rejected that are being published, but those that they no longer even get the opportunity to reject. Worse yet are the established authors leaving publishing to go it alone. It may be a trickle now, but I predict it will increase.

The reasons for this change in attitude are varied. Many authors like the control, or dislike the traditional publishing process, or simply want a higher royalty rate. The standard 25% return rate (with 15-20% of that going to an agent) for paper books and ebooks is dwarfed by the royalties on most self-publishing sites such as Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Some established authors have been able to negotiate larger royalty rates or keep their digital rights with these traditional publishers, but those authors are in the minority.

Right now traditional publishers are still the giants, but that is likely to change. Their big name established authors will eventually die off or maybe even leave to self-publish. I predict fewer and fewer first-time authors will even bother with the tedious query process. This is what should concern traditional publishers. So how do they increase the industry lead, which they still maintain, but is slowly and surely shrinking? In a word – money.

Most authors want to write full-time. That takes money to quit a day job and focus on their passion. Book advances are not what they once were and many books don’t even earn out their advances. Advances are a calculated risk on the part of the publisher.

What I propose is an end to the advance and royalty system. Publishers should consider buying books outright. They would certainly have to pay more than they would on an advance, but less possible than the lifetime of the book. Additionally, this would be for books, ebooks, international sales, audio books, movie rights, action figures, future scent-based books for dogs – everything. One of the biggest sources of friction between authors and publishers is payments. This would eliminate that source while allowing the publishers to not worry about tracking and paying quarterly sales. They buy the book and its rights and the publisher and author part company, each of them happy. The author has a wad of cash to let them pursue their dream and the publisher has the rights to that book (but should not try to lock in other books with a non-compete clause. If it is a series I would recommend giving the publisher first right of refusal).

Publishers instantly increase their returns on book sales by 25% and can sell other rights they are not interested in (audio, movie, t-shirts, etc).

Up front money. It’s the one thing self-publishing can’t compete with. Its big publishing’s greatest strength, and one it should leverage.


Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.


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Top Indie Authors on Amazon

Sample Ryan's Post-Apocalyptic style with a free download for Kindle this week.

Sample Ryan’s Post-Apocalyptic style with a free download for Kindle this week.

Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

A couple weeks ago I was curious to find out how well indie authors were doing compared to the authors from big publishing companies. I was little shocked at the numbers in the top 100. By now we all know that indies are doing well in the mid-list realm, but to be one of the Amazon Top 100 Authors, you are pulling in some serious sales (likely thousands of sales a day).

I’ve listed these authors, their respective numbers on the Amazon author list, and their predominant genre. Note: the below list does not include small publishers, hybrid authors, Amazon imprints or independent publishers that were not obviously indies – the number might actually be larger.

Deborah Bladon (#9 on Amazon’s Bestselling Author List) – romance.

A.G. Riddle (#30 on the list) – science fiction.

Victoria Ashley (#38 on the list) – romance.

Kristen Ashley (#45 on the list) – romance.

Chris Culver (#51 on the list) – mystery, thriller and suspense.

Bella Forest (#53 on the list) – paranormal romance.

Melissa Hill (#71 on the list) – mystery, suspense and thriller.

Lauren Blakely (#79 on the list) – romance and suspense.

T.K. Leigh (#87 on the list) – romance.

Bella Andre (#89 on the list) – romance.

J.S. Cooper (#90 on the list) – romance.

Jana DeLeon (#93 on the list) – humor.

L.P. Dover (#94 on the list) – romance.

Casey Hill (#98 on the list) – adventure and romance.

So what does this tell us? Well, first of all women are doing well. Only three of the fourteen on the list are men. Additionally, romance accounts for the majority of mega indie hits – ten of the fourteen above.

Regardless, it looks like indies are growing in popularity and are here to stay.


Ryan King launched his indie author career in 2012 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction. For more information about Ryan and his writing visit the link here.


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Anne Rice Quote RE: Self-Publishing

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 12.07.45 AM…anyone “can” publish. And I think it’s a good thing. Technically, it’s always been possible for a person to publish his or her own work. But today it’s infinitely easier than it was in the past. And I think that’s great. And who is to judge as to qualifications for self-publishing? Who is qualified to determine whether or not an author has “experience or the proper education?” I don’t know of anyone who can make such judgments. What matters in the world of writing is not your experience or your education, but what you actually produce. There are no real qualifications for being a writer that universally apply. Again, what matters is the work — what the work achieves.

Interview about her next release and more at

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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Indie Business


Are Book Reviews Important to Sales?

Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

Dead World Voices: Post Apocalyptic Boxed Set  On Sale  $3.99 13 Reviews--4.5 Stars

Dead World Voices: Post Apocalyptic Boxed Set
On Sale $3.99
13 Reviews–4.5 Stars

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about reviews, as well as bemoaning my general lack of them. Conventional wisdom says that the more reviews your book has, the more copies it will sell. Although this may be true, it appears to be circular logic. It seems more plausible that a book has more reviews because it has sold more copies and has more people who are willing to review the book.

But I wanted to conduct a little cursory research on this topic and examined the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List for all Kindle Books. It’s important to recognize before examining the list that all of the below books certainly sell thousands of copies a day (a personal friend of mine has a book sitting around position 500 in the below list and it sells over 600 copies a day).

Below is the current number of reviews for the top 20 books:

#1 – 16,334

#2 – 449

#3 – 83

#4 – 762

#5 – 8,854

#6 – 572

#7 – 896

#8 – 122

#9 – 97

#10 – 1,824

#11 – 84

#12 – 277

#13 – 8,542

#14 – 11,661

#15 – 9,340

#16 – 83

#17 – 491

#18 – 69

#19 – 5,526

#20 – 1,101


So what does this tell us?

Not a thing that I can tell. The spread on number of reviews is fairly large, although all the books have at least 60 reviews. When you look at the books sitting at the 21-100 spots, you see some books with a fairly low number of reviews (and I left out the big name books that likely get on the top 100 because of the popularity of the author or previous wildly successful books in the series):

#22 – 35

#29 – 37

#49 – 34

#50 – 43

#69 – 35

#70 – 44

#71 – 28

#77 – 30

#80 – 14

#100 – 24

This made me think that number of reviews may not matter as much as we believe. Then I thought that maybe it was a matter of the number of average stars or rating the book received. After reviewing the list, I saw that nearly all of the books had between a 4 and 5 star average, but not all of them did. #8 on the list had an average rating of 3.6. #30 of 3.5 and the lowest rating on the entire Top 100 list sat at #14 on Bestseller List with an average rating of 3.3. Now I should say this book is part of the Divergent Series and may get negative reviews from rabid fans wanting more, but I think the point still stands.

So, do reviews matter?

To readers they probably do. My father-in-law says he does not even consider buying a book that doesn’t at least have a 4 star average, but he doesn’t necessarily care about the number of reviews. And honestly we all know that reviews are not always fair. Robert Jordan’s final book in his Wheel of Time series had almost 200 one star reviews before it was even released because fans were upset with the delay in putting out the kindle version.

Should reviews matter to authors if they do not necessarily translate into sales?

I say yes. New authors hear from seasoned silverback writers never to read reviews or check their sales. Does anyone really adhere to this advice? I certainly can’t. It’s just too darn exciting that someone would actually pay money for something I made up in my head. I have learned to look at the overall rating of a review and if it is a low one, I do not read it. Although the criticism may be justified in some cases, I simply find that it sucks the energy right out of my creative impulse.

Now the good reviews are another matter.

I think there is a part inside most of us that appreciates the appreciation of others. This is especially true when it comes to something we create ourselves. My grandmother used to love compliments on her cooking — which she richly deserved by the way. When I get superior service at a restaurant I want to thank the cook or leave a good tip. When I see excellence in anything, I want to recognize it. As a matter of fact, it’s hard not to recognize excellence.

In writing, for others to recognize when we have done something special is like fuel for the engine. It is so easy for doubt or lethargy or inertia to seep into the creative process, but positive feedback and recognition has a way of blowing this away. This is especially true when it comes from total strangers who don’t owe you a thing except the truth.

Reviews are a form of recognition, feedback, and appreciation that writers need, especially those who are new and aren’t already convinced of their writing prowess or reinforced by extravagant wealth, multiple Pulitzer Prizes, or legions of fans.

It’s not shallow to need encouragement. It’s human, and its part of the creative process.


Links of Interest:Why Kindle Book Reviews Are So Important to Sales by A Reading Place,  Book Reviews–Are They Important? by The Writer’s Guide to Publishing, and How Important Are Book Reviews by Derek Haines.


Ryan King launched his indie author career in 2012 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction. For more information about Ryan and his writing visit the link here


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N is for Notable Self-Published Books

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 10.08.59 AMOne of my best friends at work gave me a copy of The Joy of Cooking when I got married. She said the book taught her how to cook. Years later as a budding author I discovered that the classic was originally self-published, and I smiled.

I know there are sites trying to sell their publishing services that use suspect lists of self-published authors. If you’d like to read why it is erroneous to call Stephen King or Frank L. Baum self-published then visit here. Still there are several notable books that make a solid list in my opinion.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard
The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Hensen
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer (aforementioned) has an interesting list of self-published books, how many copies they sold, what publisher eventually picked them up, and how many copies they went on to sell. Here are few examples and you can find more at this link.

In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. More than 25,000 copies were sold directly to consumers in its first year. Then it was sold to Warner and the pub- lisher sold 10 million more.

When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple has been through the press 42 times for 1.5 million in print. It allowed Sanda Haldeman Martz to build Paper Mâché Press.

Life’s Little Instruction Book was initially self-published by H. Jackson Brown. Then it was purchased by Rutledge Hill Press. It made the top of the New York Times Bestseller List in hardcover and soft at the same time. More than 5 million copies were sold.

Hitting it as big as these books and authors did is still not the norm. Indies love Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey stories, but there are so many more success stories that aren’t famous and probably never will be. So what makes them a success? The writers are doing what they love and making a living at it. These folks typically don’t publish one book and promote that title for the rest of their lives (though there are one hit wonders–often self-help or how-to hits). No, these successful writers continue to work their craft and turn out stories year after year building a body of work.

As much as I’d like to make the New York Times Bestseller List, the real goal is to write-up all the stories churning through my brain, engage a modest number of readers, and to eventually make a living at it. Even if I had a mega hit, at this point I can’t quit my day job since it’s raising my children, my best legacy.


Kristin King is an Army wife, mother, publisher, non-profit founder, animal lover, traveler, reader, Jesus follower who sometimes ekes out time to write. W should probably be Works In Progress.




Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Indie Business