The Easy Way To Track Kindle Sales For The Life Of Your Books

This Friday's recommendation is Book Report. If you sell ebooks on Amazon, or you plan to do so, it's a simple way to track sales and earnings over the lifetime of each book.

Without it, you can still easily see 90 days of sales on the Kindle Direct Publishing Dashboard. But the only way to figure out sales and earnings over the entire life of your books is to manually open multiple reports and tally the numbers yourself.

Last October I did that for the first book in my supernatural thriller series, The Awakening. That was tedious and took a long time, though I was happy to learn that I'd sold nearly 10,000 copies. Had I had Book Report, I could have done it for Kindle sales just by clicking a button. Book Report also shows a piechart of sales and earnings per book and by Amazon company (US versus UK versus Canada, etc.).

Here's the pie chart and the percentages by store for my Kindle ebooks. (The Awakening, Book 1, which has been out the longest, is the biggest slice of pie.)

Book Report is available free to anyone earning less than $1,000 per month through KDP. If you earn more than that, first, kudos to you, and second, it will be only $10 a month, but you can try it free for two weeks–without needing to enter credit card information now. Click on this link if you'd like to try it.

I hope that's helpful.

Until Sunday-

Best,

L. M. Lilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does The Weekend Mean For You?

Weekends are supposed to be a time to relax, yet most of us find them filled with all the responsibilities and tasks we didn't get to during the week. When you're also fitting writing into your schedule and/or you have a career that requires working weekends some or all of the time, that can add to the pressure. Instead of relaxing, you're stressing more because you're not relaxing.

That's why this Friday I'm recommending an episode of The Petal To The Metal where two authors talk about weekend time and the balance between enjoying life and getting things done. I was drawn to this because they offer tips and alternate perspectives and acknowledge that there's no one-size-fits-all answer. As I noted in Tips For Writing Novels While Working More Than Full Time, not everyone can follow generic advice (like get up an hour early, write every day, or write during your lunch hour). But that doesn't mean you can't finish a novel or that you shouldn't enjoy life while you do.

http://thepetaltothemetal.com/ep006/

 

Until Sunday–

Best,
L. M. Lilly

Tips For Writing Novels While Working More Than Full Time

Okay, I admit it. When I was in law school, one of the main reasons I sought a position at Chicago-based large law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (now Dentons US LLP) was that author Scott Turow is a partner there. It wasn’t just that I wanted to meet him, though that crossed my mind. Mostly, I figured a firm that touted a novelist/lawyer in its marketing must be comfortable with attorneys who pursued other vocations along with law.

In contrast, at the other big law firm where I interviewed, a partner glanced at the one line on my resume about fiction writing and said, “You know, you won’t have time to do that here.”  Points for honesty.

As anyone who practices law knows, regardless whether a firm or company tends to hire lawyers with outside interests, juggling law and the rest of life is a challenge in itself, let alone pursuing another avocation. I'm sure that's true for other professions and jobs, too, not to mention being a parent. The reality is, few people who write novels have more spare time than anyone else. And Scott Turow notwithstanding, most published authors don’t earn enough to quit their other jobs.

So below are a few suggestions on fitting writing into an already too-packed life.

(1) Seek Out Something Different

The less time you spend wracking your mind for ideas, the more time you'll have to actually write. Stimulating your mind with new activities and information can generate a lot of thoughts and ideas on which to base your fiction.

If you're too busy to add anything new outside of work, try to vary within your profession. Work with someone you don't usually partner with, have lunch (or coffee if you're short on time) with a colleague you seldom see, pick up a project that's just a little outside your comfort zone. Talk to someone whose views are completely opposite to your own.

And if you can do something new outside of work, that's a great way to get your creativity flowing. Attend a play, a movie, a concert, or just take a walk along a street you don't normally travel and really look and listen. It doesn't matter if you like what you're doing. Sometimes at a play that bores me out of my mind I come up with great new story ideas.

(2) Develop A Habit

In the classic Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill said, and I’m paraphrasing, you are what your habits make you, and you can choose your habits. In that way, writing is a lot like working out (though I'm far more likely to do the former than the latter). If you need to decide every day whether to go to the gym or what time to try to squeeze it in, it's less likely to happen. Same thing for writing. But when it becomes a habit, the pages start churning out, and it feels great.

If you don't already have a habit of writing at a particular time or for a certain number of minutes or hours per week, figure out when it's most likely you'll be undisturbed, even if it's only a half hour a week on Sunday morning or Friday night. When that time rolls around, write, even if you write about how you don't have anything to write about. Or you can use that time to sketch out what you'll write about in the following session.

Once you have the habit, you can increase the amount of time you write, and the quality of what you write.

(3) Create Time

If finding half an hour a few times a week is a challenge, look first at television, social media, and video games. I’m always surprised how many television shows my lawyer friends, even those with kids, find time to watch, until I remember–they don’t also write.

If you’re already lean on recreational activities, look at your work. Is it possible to work less and write more? Some firms or companies allow reduced schedules for reduced pay. I did this for several years at Sonnenschein, though I concede with mixed results. Sometimes I still billed more hours than people on regular schedules and just earned less. On average, though, it did allow me to write more. Likewise, when I ran my own firm, after a number of super busy years, I began deliberately cutting back. First I turned down new cases other than from existing clients, then I turned down any new matters at all.

If that's not an option, consider buying time. With the advent of virtual assistants and a sharing economy, almost anything can be outsourced. This is especially wonderful when you can pay someone less than your time generates in your own profession. If you earn two-four times as much per hour at your day-to-day paid work than you would pay someone to clean your home, remodel your bathroom, grocery shop, do your taxes, wash your car, fix typos in your manuscript, or keep your financial books up to date, do what you do best, and pay someone else to handle those other tasks. You can then use the extra free time to write.

(4) Harness Your Unconscious

Much of the creative process takes place behind the scenes. Even if you’re extremely busy, your unconscious can come up with story ideas and scenes and flesh out characters. The key is to stimulate the unconscious without stressing out. One way I do this is to ask myself a question before I fall asleep or head to the office, such as–when I was plotting The Awakening–“Where is the most unnerving place for Tara to be confronted by a stranger who claims to know the meaning of her pregnancy?”

If I ask a question like that every so often, then put it out of my mind, eventually a scene or idea pops into my head.  (In that example, the scene takes place just before midnight in a deserted Laundromat where Tara works. The stranger enters as she's closing for the night.)

(5) Use Your Downtime Well

One of the things I love about TV law shows is how no lawyer goes to court and sits forty minutes waiting to give the judge a status report. You also never see lawyers waiting at the gate when the flight to the deposition is delayed.

In the real world, most of us spend some time waiting. That’s why I carry a note pad everywhere and pull it out if I have more than five minutes. (You can also use the note function on your phone for this, but judges frown on lawyers appearing to be emailing or playing on their phones while in the courtroom so I carry paper.)

I particularly like scribbling about characters, because if I’m cut off in the middle, it doesn’t matter. In fact, my unconscious will probably keep going with the train of thought. Now and then I write snippets of dialogue or openings for scenes. While the legal pad pages rarely make their way to my writing desk, and the exact words almost never get typed into a manuscript, my thoughts flow more freely when I do have time. It’s a big part of why I’m usually able to turn out pages as soon as I sit down to write.

You can also use time stuck waiting in line to observe fellow customers. Notice their chins, their noses, how they carry themselves, their expressions. Think about how you'd describe them in writing. This can be especially helpful if your physical descriptions of characters tend to get repetitive or rely too much on describing eye color, hair color, and height.

You can find specific writing/thinking prompts for short time periods in Writing A Novel 15 Minutes At A Time.

(6) Set Small Goals.

Most professionals are goal-oriented people. That’s how we got where we are. Large goals, like writing a best-seller in two years, are inspiring, and they work well when pursuing a pre-set program like graduate school. But they also are too easy to put off truly pursuing until tomorrow.

So break those goals down. If you have a regular schedule, your first-draft goal could be a page a day or seven pages a week. If you have an erratic schedule, a goal of a number of pages per month or per three months may work better. One of my best writing instructors, author Raymond Obstfeld, called this latter approach the spare change method. Rather than writing X amount per day or week, you throw whatever you can into the writing equivalent of the spare change jar. So when I practiced law full time, one week I might have written 4 pages, the next 10, then next none, but at the end of the month, I’d written 30 pages.

(7) Write Something Bad.

If you’ve tried cases for twenty years, you might be able to think through an opening argument the night before trial and give it the next morning. But when you started out, you probably outlined the argument, practiced ten times in front of a mirror, and tried it out on a colleague or two. Yet, for some reason, many of us insist on trying to make every sentence of our fiction perfect the very first time.

Hemingway said all first drafts are sh*t. I find this very freeing. Many of my first drafts are rambling or too sparse (or both) and include pages that ultimately don’t need to be there. A first draft is a thing of beauty not because it’s perfect, but because it’s done. Trying to write well the first time out can keep you from writing at all. So the biggest key to finishing–no matter how much time you have or don't–is being willing to write something bad. Then you can revisit, rewrite, and polish all you want.

There’s no magic to finding time to write, any more than there is to finding time to study in college, or to raise children, do volunteer work, or care for your parents while working fifty hours a week. There will be things you’ll miss while you sit and write, and carving out the time to write may mean, for a while at least, earning less than you could if you focused all your efforts on a more immediately lucrative profession.

But if you love writing the way I do, it will be worth it. Much as I enjoyed practicing law, nothing satisfies me more than finishing a piece of writing and feeling I’ve done my best with it. (Though practicing law did mean I eventually got to meet Scott Turow. Pretty cool.)

Until Friday, wishing you a productive and not-too-stressful week–

Best,

L. M. Lilly

P.S. If you're starting a novel and are looking for a clear, quick way to plan it without being bound to a rigid outline, try Super Simple Story Structure: A Quick Guide To Plotting And Writing Your Novel. It's free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers (reg. $0.99 for Kindle, $4.99 paperback). The Kindle version includes a link to helpful worksheets. It can save you a lot of time.

One Author’s Challenges With Assisted Publishing

This Friday I recommend a post by an author on her experience with assisted publishing. As I wrote about in Do You Need A Publisher, Part 1, these types of publishing services assist with the tasks authors who self-publish do on their own, such as uploading books to different platforms, finding a cover designer, and editing. Some charge a flat up front fee and others get paid through a percentage of royalties.

Author Maggie Cammiss thought this sounded like a reasonable deal when offered by a division of the traditional publisher who'd published the first novel in her series. Some challenges arose, though, with the paperback edition that led her to wonder.

Read about her experience here:

Getting Back on the Horse

See you again Sunday, when I'll talk about creating time to write as you manage your first profession.

Best,

L. M. Lilly

If At First You Don’t Succeed: Iterate and Optimize

This Friday I'm recommending a book that's a quick read with a mix of inspiration and business advice for writers: Iterate and Optimize: Optimize Your Creative Business for Profit by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright of the Self Publishing Podcast.

What I like most about it is that it encourages writers to get started or to grow their business rather than being frozen by indecision and concern about doing the “wrong” thing.

Under this philosophy, let's say you finished a novel you're pretty happy with. You spent the last two years writing and revising in the early mornings and a few weekends carved out of your other job or profession. Rather than spending two more years tweaking it for fear of rejection or bad reviews, the Iterate and Optimize approach encourages you to start querying agents or to publish it yourself and to get on with your next novel. If you get rejections on the first, or it isn't as well-received as you hoped, or you discover six months from now that the cover you got fairly cheaply doesn't match your target market, you can both improve and update the first novel and use what you learned in your second.

The book also provides a lot of solid information not only about self-publishing but about growing a business. Even if you're planning to stay focused on your current career and write on the side, and so feel you don't need to worry about the business, this is worth a read. It's quick and interesting and will give you context for the ever-changing publishing world where your books will live.

The Amazon blurb and the book itself suggest reading the authors' Write. Publish. Repeat. first. I haven't read it, so I can only say I got a lot out of Iterate and Optimize without having done so, though it's possible I missed something in the process.

Until Sunday —

Best,

L. M. Lilly

Is This Blog For You?

An experience last spring started me thinking about writing a blog for people who write, or want to write, novels while pursuing another career or profession.

Buyer's Remorse…

I was in Austin, Texas, waiting for an airport shuttle in the hot sun. And I wasn't otherwise feeling great. I couldn't shake a cough I'd gotten weeks before, my shoulder bag was filled with law student papers to grade, and I was starting to feel some buyer's remorse.

008My destination was a two-day writing/self-publishing conference. I'd done something I never did in my life as a lawyer. Before researching the people hosting the conference, I paid the registration fee and bought my plane ticket.

Why?

Joanna Penn, an author/entrepreneur whose podcast taught me a ton about publishing over the past two years, was speaking. I wanted to meet her in person. Also, I figured if she was involved, it must be a worthwhile event.

The night before my flight, though, I listened to the Self-Publishing Podcast by the three authors hosting the conference. And thought, Oh no.

Info And In-Jokes

The hour-long podcast episode included some information I found useful.

The rest struck me as mainly inside jokes and infomercial. Plus, it was all jumbled together, so I couldn't simply fast forward to the content. Don't get me wrong, a lot of seminars of any type could benefit from more humor and fun.

But here I didn't get the inside jokes because I wasn't a long-time listener. And my sense of humor on the rest differed from that of the hosts.

Careful Time Management

Most of my living is made as a lawyer. One who usually has more work than I want and struggles to carve out time to write and for a personal life.

So whether I'm listening to an hour-long podcast or attending a seminar, if half of it is giggles and digressions, I'd rather be working on my own writing, getting my legal work out the door, or doing something fun that's unrelated to either.

As I stood in the hot sun outside the airport that day, I wondered if I'd taken four days off of work (counting travel time) for a spoonful of information.

What Professionals Look And Sound Like

Finally, little of the podcast fit with my idea of how professionals act.  And I wanted to learn from professional writers and marketers.

My idea of professional is drawn from the legal field. And law is a client service business. Most of my clients are corporations. A Fortune 500 company is unlikely to hire a lawyer who chortles through a presentation, says “like” a lot, or repeatedly goes off on tangents.

Too many stories about your pet or your spouse or what you had for breakfast and the client is wondering if this is how you always work, mentally tallying exactly how much each tangent costs, and thinking about hiring a more focused attorney.

Because I need to meet those standards, I usually look for them in the people I choose to learn from.

But that view can cut out a lot of people in the world of self-publishing and writing. People willing and able to share useful information.

A Kindred Spirit

I wasn't the only one concerned. Another woman waiting for the shuttle and I introduced ourselves. It turned out she also was an attorney. She signed up for the seminar based on a friend's recommendation.

Like me, she later listened to one of the podcasts and was having reservations.

Happily, our concerns proved to be baseless. The next morning the hosts started by saying they knew not everyone who attended was a long-time fan. They promised to keep their banter to the first half hour. Which they did.

A Learning Experience

That half hour of banter included not only jokes but the hosts' experiences starting and growing their publishing business, all of which I found useful.

The remaining speakers each day also gave detailed and entertaining presentations on writing, marketing, and self-publishing. The presenters and attendees were upbeat and excited about their work. I felt inspired and better-informed when I left.

The other attorney/author I had met at the airport felt the same way. We were both glad we attended.

Yet both of us, had we listened to the podcast before committing to the conference, probably would have skipped the entire experience.

And so this blog.

This Space Is For You If…

Many attorneys, business people, and other professionals have called or emailed me over the years to ask me about writing and publishing. I'd love to think it's because they loved my novels. But most contact me without ever having read them.

Instead, what interests them is that as a writer, lawyer, and adjunct professor of law, I probably have similar ideas to theirs about what indicates success or professionalism.

We also likely have similar constraints on our time.

If in addition to writing, you're also pursuing another career (be it as a lawyer, a stay-at-home parent, a business person, or another professional or pursuit) your time is limited.

So my goal is to share with you what I learn in a quick, clear fashion.

I listen, read, and put into practice as much as I can about marketing, publishing, and writing. While I can't promise to have all the answers, I'll share what I find most useful and include links if you want to learn more.

If you have topics you'd like me to cover, feel free to post them below or email me at [email protected]

Until then, wishing you a productive, not-too-stressful week,

L. M. Lilly