How And Why To Batch Your Writing Tasks

If you batch tasks–rather than schedule them–you can get more done, save time, and lower your stress level.

I recently figured that out when I started batching the steps that go into writing and publishing articles for this website, and I'm so glad I did.

Working Too Hard On Weekly Tasks

If you're like me you probably schedule weekly time to accomplish projects or tasks that recur once a week. That approach causes duplication of effort and eats into your free time.

For example, I publish an article here every Friday. Until recently that meant that around the middle of every single week I did the following tasks:

  • decided on an article topic
  • researched the topic
  • opened Word and outlined the article
  • signed into Canva.com and opened my title graphic template
  • created and downloaded a title graphic

Then every Friday, I did the following:

  • opened Word and revised the article
  • signed into this website and created a new post
  • pasted the article from Word into the website
  • opened the website photo library and uploaded the title graphic
  • inserted the title graphic into the article
  • formatted the article
  • revised, previewed, and published the article

Each week this work took me 4-5 hours, meaning I spent 16 to 20 hours a month.

Batch Your Tasks To Save Steps (And Time)

Batching rather than scheduling means grouping your tasks by type.

Last month I started batching the work. Rather than focus on a week at a time, the last week of the month I accomplished similar tasks relating to writing all 4 of the following month's articles.

On the last Monday of the month I now do these things:

  • brainstorm and choose 4 topics for the next month (.5 hours)
  • research articles (.5 hours)
  • Open Word and outline the articles (1 hour)

Last Tuesday of the month:

  • sign into canva.com and use title graphics template to create 4 title graphics and download all of them (.5)
  • sign into the website, upload all 4 title graphics at once, create 4 posts   (included below)
  • open Word and copy article outlines into each post, inserting appropriate title graphic in each (.5)

Then on each Friday of the following month I do the following:

  • sign into this website and write that week's article based on the outline (1)
  • format, revise, preview, and publish the article (1)

While I could write all the articles in advance, I find I get burned out trying to do that and don't enjoy the process as much, so I prefer to write one per week. That also gives me flexibility to choose among the 4 topics based on what might be timely or might be taking my interest at moment.

That’s 11 hours per month (3 hours advance work and 2 hours per week per article). Which means batching saved me between 5 and 9 hours per month.

There are other advantages to batching, too.

More Energy

Jumping from one type of task to another means changing your way of thinking.

For most of us, that means getting tired more quickly.

With my old way of doing things, publishing an article a week meant I was often switching between creative work like generating ideas and writing first drafts, performing administrative functions like opening programs and uploading and downloading files, using the visual part of my mind to create and revise graphics and format text, and employing my analytic skills for choosing topics, researching, and revising.

By immersing myself in one type of task at a time I not only avoid repeating administrative tasks (like uploading graphics), I feel much less fatigued. That leaves me more energy to write, accomplish other goals, and enjoy life more.

Less Stress

I also feel less stressed.

Switching from one type of task to another makes me feel like I am figuratively running all over the place. Doing the same thing for a longer time but only once feels less intense.

Also, now there are a lot fewer moments when I'm tapping my fingers on the desk waiting for a website to open, file to download, or the Save function to work. (Isn't that something how quickly we expect everything to happen these days?)

That's all for this Friday. Until next week, when I'll talk about the value of reserving unscheduled time in your day

L.M. Lilly

P.S. For more on getting more done with less stress, check out Extreme Productivity (Part 4 – Less Stress).

Royalties After Your Book Sale

Offering your book at a sale price for a limited time can be a great way to raise its visibility and draw in new readers. Even better if it's the first in a series. But to avoid losing money, watch out for the issue below involving royatlies.

I've said “issue,” but what I mean is mistake. That I've made.

This mistake seems obvious, and maybe you'd never make it whether or not you read this article.

But just in case….

Royalties And Sales

On all the ebook sales platforms I use the royalty percentage the author/publisher gets is much higher if the book is priced at $2.99 or more.

For example, if the price is $3.99, the royalty is 65% or 70%. At $.99, it's 30% or 35%.

That royalty difference means not only are you starting with a lower price, you're getting smaller piece of it.

Typically, as soon as you input a lower price, the royalty rate automatically changes. That makes sense. If I were allowing people to sell through a website I owned and maintained, I'd be sure that I didn't get a lower percentage than I'd been promised.

But it doesn't always work the other way around.

Back To The Original Price But…

I discovered the hard way that the automatic shift doesn't always happen when I put my price back at $2.99 or over.  Because I didn't make that change, for weeks after a sale on one of my non-fiction writing books I was still earning only 30% on the $3.99 price.

Because I have over ten books for sale on that platform, it might easily have taken me much longer to notice. Fortunately, I caught it because every week or so I check to see how each specific book is doing.

When I filtered my sales listings for The One-Year Novelist for the week and compared the number of units sold to the dollar amount of sales, I saw the mismatch.

Sure enough, when I looked at the publishing dashboard, I found I'd left the lower royalty percentage checked.

Mind Your Royalties

To avoid losing out after you run a sale you can adopt these habits:

  • After any sale, double-check on the sales platform to see that the regular price is back in place
  • Check the percentage inside the publishing platform to be sure the royalty percentage increased, too
  • At least once a week, look at per book unit sales for the week compared to dollars and be sure the math works

That's all for today. Until next Friday, when I'll talk about Dialogue, Pace, and Genre

L.M. Lilly

P.S. For another mistake I've made that I hope you can learn from see A Major Mistake Using Amazon Ads To Sell Paperbacks.

One-Year Novelist Goes Wide

This summer I decided make my guide for those who want to a write a novel in a year available on multiple ebook platforms.

In other words, I'm opting for wide digital distribution rather than keeping the book in the Kindle Unlimited program.

(Until now, it's only been available for Kindle or in a workbook edition.)

A Novel In A Year

Some writers pen and publish multiple novels per year. If you're where I was for most of my career, though, you're fitting writing in around other significant responsibilities or work.

With that kind of schedule, finishing a novel in a year is a big achievement.

But it's a doable one. The One-Year Novelist aims to help you write a novel in a year without shortchanging other important parts of life.

Customize To Fit Your Writing Style Or Schedule

The book breaks down the steps from idea to a finished draft on a week-by-week basis. But it's not one-size-fits-all.

Instead, it's adjustable so it works for your life or way of writing.

For example, if you've already plotted your novel, or you'd rather start writing without planning first, you can skip right to the sections on writing the draft. (Though I suggest at least skimming the plotting section as it may help you figure out where you want to go.)

You can also go through the weeks more quickly or slowly if you want to finish faster or you feel you need more time.

Finally, breaks are built in: Times to catch your breath, catch up on other things, or reward yourself for a job well done.

 The workbook edition is available on Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through this site, but that doesn’t add any cost to the buyer.

A Boost When You Need It

On the subject of rewards, The One-Year Novelist includes more than a plot framework or step-by-step writing process.

It also includes quick exercises to help you stay motivated and meet your goals. And it encourages you to reward yourself when you reach a milestone.

All are designed to help you stay on track and feel good about your writing.

In short, the One-Year Novelist is for you if:

  • You have a great idea for a novel and aren't sure you have time to write it
  • You've started a novel and want help getting to the finish line
  • You've written novels before but are looking for a way to streamline your process

Get started by ordering the workbook edition today or downloading the ebook edition:

Kindle
Kobo
Nook
Apple
Google Play

That's all for today. Until next Friday when we'll talk about things to beware of when you change the prices of your books–

L.M. Lilly

P.S. For more on offering your books wide or exclusive to Amazon, you may want to check out Marketing Your Novel: Wide vs. Exclusive.

Extreme Productivity (Part 4 – Less Stress)

Lowering stress is one reason I transitioned from practicing law full-time to writing full-time. But the path to a successful independent author business is less clearly defined than the one for building a law practice.

As a result of that lack of clarity, my list of things to do (or that I “should” be doing) sometimes seems endless.

Which is why I've been writing about a step I learned from Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. That step is to write down next to each task on your calendar what your purpose is in doing it.

This is my fourth and the last article on the topic.

But it might be the most important one because stress has so much to do with our happiness and health.

Not Knowing What Works

The more articles I read, podcasts I listen to, and authors I talk to the more possible paths to success (or lack thereof) I find.

Unfortunately, a strategy that works for one author might not work for me.

For example, if a romance author who publishes a book a month earns a lot of royalties by running Amazon ads, that doesn't mean my new mystery/suspense series will benefit from the same approach. Not only is it a different genre, I've only written 2 novels in the series so far. In addition, right now I'm still aspiring to publish a novel every six months, let alone one per month.

To add to the difficulty of deciding whether to adopt another author's strategy, it's not always easy to tell how well a particular book or set of books is selling.

A book that ranks in the Top 5,000 on Amazon regularly is probably selling well on that platform. A different book that rarely ranks above 40,000 on Amazon might, however, be earning its author more money.

How?

If the book is sold on multiple platforms in addition to Amazon (such as Kobo and Apple), and in multiple formats (paperback, hardback, e-book, audiobook), and the Top 5,000 book is sold only for Kindle, the lower-ranked booked may earn more money overall.

Because of these differences, comparing ourselves to another author won't always help us figure out which tasks will help us.

Comparison Shopping For Less Stress

As I wrote about last week, noting the purpose of each task when you add it to your calendar helps eliminate unnecessary tasks. Taking the unnecessary items off the To Do list helps with stress management right there.

But it also lowers stress in another way.

By adding a purpose, we are grouping the tasks in a logical way. Now instead of choosing 2 or 3 tasks to do in an afternoon out of a list of 50 that serve multiple purposes, we're choosing among the smaller number of tasks all intended to accomplish the same purpose.

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through this site, but that doesn’t add any cost to the buyer.) 

That makes it a lot easier to compare one task to another and decide which one is most worth doing.

To use a shopping analogy, I'm deciding which fruit to buy among a handful of oranges, apples, and pears rather than which food to buy from the whole grocery store.

What Works Best

Let's say my purpose in writing this article about stress management is to encourage readers to buy my most recent nonfiction release, Happiness, Anxiety, and Writing: Using Your Creativity To Live A Calmer, Happier Life. (While I'm happy if you check it out, that's not the purpose. My goal is to connect with other writers by providing useful content.) Once I define that purpose I can now compare to everything else on my task list that might increase sales of that book.

Based on how much time or money each task would cost, I can decide which is the most worth doing.

For instance, if it takes me three hours to write an article, it might make more sense to instead run a sale on the book and spend an extra $35 advertising it.

Which one I choose will depend in part on whether I have more time than money, what I enjoy doing, and whether the article (or the ad) might serve more than one purpose.

An added plus of comparing similar tasks is that it's easier to decide afterward which was more effective. In the beginning, I might try both of the above approaches on different weeks. I can then compare the sales of the book and decide which task resulted in more sales.

When I didn't group tasks by purpose, I was less likely to check my results–because often I didn't know what I'd been aiming for.

Knowing When To Stop Working

To bring this article back to feeling less stress, comparing similar tasks helps me choose which ones to do, but that's not the only benefit. It also helps me feel I have accomplished something when I complete each item on my list.

Before, no matter how much I did or how many items I crossed off, I always ended the day feeling uncertain whether I had moved toward my goals or not. That question often led me to do just one more thing.

Or, if I did stop working for the day, I kept thinking I should have done something more.

Now when I finish the items I've put into my calendar, I feel that my day is finished. I'm more able to relax and so have less stress.

That's because even if each task doesn't turn out to move me toward my goal, I know how to evaluate whether it was helpful or not. So at least in the future I'll be able to choose more valuable tasks.

Eventually, everything on my calendar will help me reach my goals.

That's all for today. Until next Friday, when I'll talk about a podcast I recently discovered. It's not about writing, but it nonetheless could help you figure out by example what's working and not as you start your novel

L.M. Lilly

Extreme Productivity (Part 3 – Work Less, Achieve More)

Is it possible to work less and get more done?

Writing what I aim to accomplish next to each task in my calendar (learned from Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours by Robert C. Pozen) is helping me do just that.

Creating The To Do List

Most of us who create To Do lists or include tasks on a calendar every day do it because it helps us get things done. In addition to keeping me on track, crossing something off a list gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

But that feeling can fool us.

If the thing you crossed off doesn’t serve a purpose, you spent time working for nothing.

But wait, I can hear you say, at work you get paid to get things done. So we are not working for nothing.

It’s true. When you work for someone else, that person or company usually creates your To Do list. And rewards you for crossing things off.

When you work for yourself, though, or pursue a project like writing a novel because you've chosen to do it, no one is paying you based on finishing tasks.

A task only has value if it helps you reach a goal. If not, you're better off doing something else (or taking a break).

Getting To The Goal

As one example, if your goal is to write a novel, you might include on your calendar participating in a writers critique group (in person or online). Let’s say the group requires all five participants, including you, to circulate 10 pages of writing 2 days before your meeting.

Everyone reads and critiques one another’s work. You meet weekly to discuss the comments.

You're hoping the group will help you reach your goal of finishing your novel.

But will it? And are the tasks relating to it truly necessary?

Necessary Or Not?

There is no one answer to whether a critique group is necessary or not. So let’s look at how you figure that out by adding your purpose into your calendar.

First, think about your overall goal in attending the group. If the goal is to finish your novel, write that down.

Second, look at each separate task.

Writing your pages serves the purpose of getting you closer to finishing a novel. That one seems easy, and we'd probably keep it on our calendar regardless of the critique group.

The reason to read other people's writing seems obvious: fair is fair. If you want group members to critique your work, in turn you need to critique theirs.

That reason, however, doesn't tell us if staying in the group serves a purpose.

The question is whether the group causes you to write more pages than you would if you freed up the hours it takes to read other people's work and to attend meetings. If without a group you won’t write, or you'll write a whole lot less, then the group-related tasks serve their purpose. I’d keep them on my calendar.

But let's say that you generally write whether or not you attend a critique group.

If so, the group is not serving the purpose of helping you finish the novel. In fact, it might be getting in the way of it because the hours you spend critiquing other people's work and at meetings could be spent on your own book.

Before crossing all the critique group tasks off your calendar, though, it's worth looking at whether you have any other purpose in attending.

For instance, you might attend because you want to improve your writing skills. If that's so, likewise you need to look at each task related to the group and ask yourself if it accomplishes that purpose.

Writing Your Purpose Every Week

Once you decide a critique group (or anything else) is worth your time, you might be tempted to block it into your calendar for the entire year.

Including the purpose each week, though, is key to spotting tasks that no longer serve a purpose.

Going back to the critique group example, I typically write whether or not I attend a group. But for a long time I attended a writers group for a different purpose. Reading and critiquing the pages of other people helped me become a better novelist.

That was so because I could often see things in their writing that I didn't recognize in my own, which helped me improve my novels.

As I wrote more and more, though, critiquing group members' pages helped less. I often gave comments on basic grammar or sentence structure. While I'm not a perfect writer, I felt pretty confident about those skills. And what I needed to work on most–overall plot and character development–wasn't covered because we read only small sections, not entire novels.

Nonetheless I kept attending for years because I thought going to writers groups was a good thing.

Had I started writing down the purpose for each task earlier, I would have realized much sooner that I was spending time on things that weren’t helping me reach my goals.

Now I am focusing particularly on things I do for marketing and promotion. I’m continuing with many of them, but already dropped three or four that didn't truly serve a purpose. Which means I'm working less.

If you'd like to work less, too, try looking at the tasks on your own calendar.

Write your purpose next to each one. I’m betting you'll discover a number that you can drop. Let me know!

That’s all for today. Until next Friday when we’ll talk about accomplishing more with less stress

L.M. Lilly

P.S. Writing down a purpose for each task also helped me stop putting things off, as I wrote about last week, and increase my energy and motivation.

Extreme Productivity (Part 2 – Motivation)

Today's post is about motivation. Last week I wrote about a simple step I learned from Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours by Robert C. Pozen that made my life as an author so much easier. That step is to write in your calendar next to each task what you aim to accomplish by doing it.

Not only can doing so help you stop putting things off, as I wrote about last week, it can increase your energy and motivation.

When Short Stories Are Like Vegetables

Knowing exactly what I want to accomplish with each task gets me a lot more excited about it.

For example, while I love to write novels, I tend to put off short story writing. I just don’t enjoy it the way I do writing novels, and I don’t read as many short stories as I do books.

For me, writing a short story has always been like eating vegetables. I do it because I know it's good for me, not because I like it. (Sorry to all who love veggies, I am just not a fan.)

Reasons Are Not The Same As Purpose

Following Pozen's approach of figuring out and listing my purpose for a goal or task, I thought about why I want to write short stories.

One reason is that I know from experience that writing short stories helps hone my craft. It's easier to see what's working and isn't with the plot. I'm also more apt to focus on one character and make sure that person's motivations and growth are clear.

As important, because I don't release multiple novels a year (I'm still aiming to get to two per year), short stories can be a way to bridge the gap in between.

In that sense, short stories are a form of marketing.

Readers are reminded that the characters they remember and love from a series are out there.

Writing Short Stories
When writing feels like eating your vegetables

Also relating to readers, it's a chance to explore side stories that don't quite fit into the novels but that add depth to the characters. Because I release the stories initially exclusively to my email subscribers, it's a sort of inside scoop that they get about the world of my Q.C. Davis mystery/suspense series and the people who live there.

With all those reasons, you'd think I'd be diving into getting those stories written. And yet, until recently, I didn't.

Because reasons are not the same as purpose.

Purpose = Energy And Motivation

Because I had all those reasons to write short stories, I dutifully reserved time in my calendar this year to write the second short story, the one I wanted to release after Book 2 (The Charming Man), which came out in December, 2018. (I wrote the first short story last year after pushing myself to do it for about 6 months.)

That task appeared on my calendar at least 2 or 3 times a month this entire year.

Yet, almost every time it was the thing that got pushed to the end of the day, then the week, then the month.

As I read Extreme Productivity, I set aside all the reasons writing short stories was a good idea and asked myself what I truly wanted to accomplish by doing it.

I realized I wanted to do something nice for my subscribers. In other words, to improve my relationship with them.

When I thought of it that way instead of feeling I was working to check off a box, I felt excited about sending my readers a gift they’d enjoy. Not only did I finish a draft in a week, I added layers and further developed the characters in ways I hadn’t thought of before.

And it was fun.

Next week I'll be sending No New Beginnings to my subscribers.

That's all for today. Until next Friday, when we’ll talk about eliminating unnecessary tasks (that you previously felt sure you needed to do)–

L.M. Lilly

Extreme Productivity (Part 1 – How To Stop Putting Things Off)

While I was on a long vacation, I started reading the book Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours by Robert C. Pozen. (I know, I know, that doesn't sound very vacation-like. But I did spend most of my days having fun. See photos below.)

What I read led me to examine the way I schedule tasks and how much I focus on the amount of time to spend on each.

As a result, I discovered that while I no doubt got more done compared to simply winging it, I could increase my productivity and feel less stressed by adding one simple step Pozen suggested.

That step benefited my writing and my publishing business tremendously, including in these four ways:

I'll talk about the first one today and the rest over the coming weeks.

The added step is to identify the purpose of each task. Seems pretty basic, right? Well, it is and it's not.

Knowing What You Plan To Accomplish

Under Pozen's approach, when you schedule any task or event in your calendar you list next to it what you intend to accomplish by doing it.

At first that struck me as waste of time.

For most things, I thought my goal too obvious to bother thinking about. For instance, the purpose of advertising books on Amazon or BookBub is to increase sales.

Why spend time writing that down?

The other downside I saw is that my calendar has limited space. I use a paper appointment book because it helps limit my screen time and it's easier for me to get organized on paper than any other way. I don't have a lot of room on it to put in extra info.

To my surprise, though, forcing myself to define what I hoped to accomplish made my entire week more productive, and I felt full of energy, despite that I’m still struggling a bit with jet lag.

Beating Procrastination

Keeping my bookkeeping up to date for my author business, which includes balancing my accounts and paying bills, is a task I often put off. I do so despite that in my calendar I set aside one morning each month for it.

My purpose in scheduling the task seemed obvious.

Good bookkeeping is just good business so you pay bills on time, avoid overdrafts, and gain a good sense of your finances. So this task in particular seemed like a silly one for writing out what I hoped to accomplish.

But when I made myself think about exactly why I wanted to update my bookkeeping every month, immediately what came to mind was the end of last year. I hadn’t balanced my accounts in over 6 months. (Though I did pay my bills. I wasn't that much of a procrastinator).

Productivity And Time

Because I waited so long, the time it took for each bank statement tripled due to how much more difficult it was to track down missing entries. A month after an expense or of receiving income, I usually remember what a $35 payment was for.

Or I can easily find an email about it.

Finding the same charge or royalty payment 6 months later is much harder. Especially if, for example, the company to which I made the payment, or that paid me, has a different name from the brand names it uses on its products or platforms.

All that extra time spent on bookkeeping is time I can’t spend finishing a novel, creating a large print edition of a book, or practicing law and getting paid an hourly rate.

In short, spending more time on bookkeeping costs me money.

Time Off In Paris
I really did go on vacation.

Putting off bookkeeping tasks cost me money in another way, too.

Productivity And Money

My mental picture of what I'm earning in royalties versus my expenses is usually overoptimistic. (For more on that, see A Major Mistake Using Amazon Ads To Sell Paperbacks.)

Balancing my books makes me take a good look at the actual numbers. If it’s 6 months down the road, it’s too late to get back 6 months of spending on an ad that’s costing too much. It's also often too late to double down on an ad with great returns. Things change quickly, and reader interests may already have shifted.

In contrast, a monthly snapshot of spending and earning means I can quickly adjust.

The Purpose

So what purpose did I list in my calendar next to my bookkeeping task? Increase income.

Seeing that purpose this past Wednesday prompted me to pull out my bank account statements and balance my books first thing in the morning. And I felt great doing it.

That's all for today. Until next Friday when we'll talk about increasing motivation and energy

L.M. Lilly

A Major Mistake Using Amazon Ads To Sell Paperbacks

This year I've been experimenting with Amazon Ads for my books, both fiction and non-fiction. I've been trying to be as thoughtful and careful as I can.

Yet I still made a big mistake.

One I'm embarrassed to write about. But I will because maybe it'll prevent another author from doing the same.

Sales And Percentages For Amazon Ads

The Amazon Ads dashboard (for the U.S., where I'm based) shows your ad spend and your total sales. You can look at it for different periods of time, including the current day, week, month, or year-to-date.

It also calculates for you a percentage of what your ad costs compared to your sales. So if your total sales were $100 and you spent $30, your average cost of ad per sale was 30%.

The thing to remember is that this figure is a percentage of sales, not royalties. If most of your books are priced so that you earn 70% in royalties, a 30% cost of sales is pretty good.

I knew all of this.

Yet because I failed to take into account the difference between my ebook and paperback royalties, I didn't realize for weeks that I was running ads at a loss.

Selling And Losing

The first novels in my two series earn a 30% royalty and the rest earn 70%. My non-fiction ebooks are mostly at a 70% royalty. So I thought any total percentage below 50% would mean I was earning more than I was spending.

And that worked pretty well for January. As I wrote about in Advertising Books in 2019, I figured if I expanded my ads and gradually spent more I could raise my total sales and come out ahead.

I knew I'd likely lose some money as I tried different ads. That's why I checked every day to see how the ads were doing and what they were costing.

What I didn't factor in was that my paperback ads would trigger the most sales.

Because I initially published paperbacks mainly so readers would see the higher price, highlighting what a good deal the ebooks were, I hadn't been looking at the profit margin.

Which I found out the hard way when my writing workbooks started selling well.

Know Your Paperback Royalty

On a paperback, what you earn depends on a formula based in large part on the length of your book.

So it's not a flat percentage. One $6.99 paperback might earn me $2 and another only $0.50. I don't have any priced in a way that gets me a 70% royalty. If I did that, the prices would be far higher than those of similar books.

I didn't think about any of that when I expanded my Amazon Ads to my workbook editions and started to see my sales climb.

It wasn't until I neared the end of the month and compared royalties to sales that it hit me that on most paperbacks I earned less than a 20% royalty. As my cost of ad per sale was often around 45%, that was bad.

The more paperbacks I sold, the more money I lost.

Adjusting Up And Down

It turned out not only were the royalties low if I planned to keep advertising, publishers of similar books priced them higher than mine on Amazon. Once I saw that, I adjusted the paperback prices up by $1 each ($2 for the longest book).

Even at the new prices, though, my royalty is around 28%. So I also lowered my bid for each click.

It's been a bit hard watching slower sales. I really enjoyed seeing those spikes on the sales graph! But not enough to lose money on ads.

Since then I've watched the total royalties for each month (which you can find on your KDP Reports page) and it's staying above the cost of the ads. Which means it's time once again to try to increase ad spend.

I hope I won't make any more mistakes like that, but it is all part of learning.

That's all for this week.

I'm taking the next few weeks off (my longest vacation ever and the first one in quite a while). But I'll be back at the end of the month. Until Friday May 31–

L.M. Lilly

 

Find Books Like Yours To Target For Your Ads

I've written before about how to improve the content and look of BookBub ads for better results. But how do you choose which readers to whom to advertise? In particular, how do you find books similar to yours and their authors?

One way is through Yasiv.com.

A Graphic Look At Your Book

Yasiv.com is free to use.

Once there, enter the title of your book and wait for it to show on the right. You'll also get a list of other books, so you may need to scroll to find it.

Click on it and you'll get a graph showing your book cover and the covers of books that readers of your book bought on Amazon and vice versa.

Here's a page from the search of the first book in my Awakening supernatural thriller series:

You can keep scrolling in any direction to see what other books the ones that appear near yours connect to.

Learning About Other Authors And Genres

I often discover books and authors with which I'm not familiar near mine on Yasiv, and I don't always see the books I expect. That's why Yasiv is so helpful.

Instead of guessing which readers will like your books and spending money advertising to them, you can instead target authors and books you see on the Yasiv graph. I've used these authors for both Amazon and BookBub ads.

Experiment with other sales platforms as well, not only Amazon.

For example, I found Harlan Coben, whom I target with ads for Kobo for my Q.C. Davis series, through Yasiv. Ads targeted to his readers on Amazon, though, don't work that well for me.

Yasiv also helped me see that a lot of sci fi readers like my Awakening series, despite that it has no hard science at all. But it loosely falls in the sci fi/fantasy genre and it's a four-book series, which often appeals to fantasy readers.

Connections To Your Own Work

If you have a number of books published, you'll be able to see whether readers move from one to another. The later books in my Awakening series (The Unbelievers, The Conflagration, and The Illumination) appear pretty close to The Awakening.

That didn't surprise me, as I generally see sales of the later books after a spike in sales of Book 1.

What did surprise me is that When Darkness Falls, which I think of as my orphan book, also appears pretty near The Awakening. I'm surprised because WDF doesn't sell much.  Occasionally I run a Free Day through Kindle Unlimited and people download it or borrow it.

It's a standalone that loosely fits in the same genre as The Awakening but has significant differences.

WDF is a paranormal romance that features a woman in love with a man who has become a vampire-type creature but doesn't know it. In contrast, The Awakening has little romance and no supernatural characters. It's about a young woman against a powerful cult convinced she'll trigger an Apocalypse.

I had thought about making When Darkness Falls wide (available on multiple ebook platforms) like my other books. Now that I know that free downloads of When Darkness Falls drive some sales of The Awakening, though, I decided to keep it in Kindle Unlimited.

I also learned that not many readers cross over from the Awakening series to my Q.C. Davis series, a suspense/mystery series with no supernatural or occult elements. Disappointing, but it confirms that I need to target entirely different readers for the two series.

That's all for today. Until next Friday–

L.M. Lilly

 

Are You Giving Your Readers Good Customer Service?

A CVS I once shopped at every week closed the other day. Its disappearance made me think about customer service and how that relates to the business of being an author and publisher.

An Unsurprising Store Closing

The CVS that closed was once directly on the way to my office, which is how I started shopping there. When I switched my place of business, I detoured a few blocks out of the way because the pharmacist was helpful and cheerful, and I was in the habit of picking up things like toothpaste and Advil there.

Gradually, though, going a few blocks out of my way became less and less appealing.

It started when CVS put in self-checkout machines.

No matter how long the lines were, how many employees were stocking shelves, or how many machines errorred out and stopped working (I found them very unreliable in the beginning), the employees rarely opened up a regular cash register to ring people up.

Also, working or not, I find the machines cumbersome and awkward to use.

There's no room to put anything down, as the machines are jammed against one another.

The only shelf is for bagged items you've already rung up, as the mechanical voice sternly advised me when I momentarily set my purse there to keep from dropping it.

All of that means that when it's twenty degrees and sleeting outside I have to juggle my umbrella, hat, mittens, shoulder bag full of files, wallet, credit card, and items to check out with only two hands. While sweating under my winter coat.

Other times the specific item I need is out of stock.

Or it's been recategorized and shelved elsewhere. (I don't have kids, so it doesn't occur to me that I might only find cotton swabs, for instance, in the infant aisle.)

While I occasionally buy a few things at CVS, these days I usually order online. And that's despite that because I now work in my home office I'm looking for reasons to take walks and interact with other people.

CVS simply makes it far too hard for me to spend money there.

What Good Service Looks Like

My first order with Amazon might easily have been my last.

Early on when Amazon sold only books I ordered five on the origins of monotheism and on goddess cultures. I wanted them for research for what eventually became my Awakening supernatural thriller series.

Local bookstores didn't carry the books.

Amazon offered free shipping. But weeks after I ordered I'd gotten nothing. Happily, I pretty easily found a link on Amazon to report the missing books.

A few days later a box of books came. No questions asked. Two weeks later the original set of books also appeared at my door. But Amazon had already told me to just keep them if they ever showed up.

I was thrilled. One set stayed at home for close study. I kept the other at work to read in those rare times when I had a break.

I also became a customer for life. Especially later when one-click ordering made it even easier to buy.

Putting It Together

What I learned from these experiences about retail business:

  • Make it easy, not hard, for your customers to give you money
  • Make your products easy to find
  • If you make a mistake, fix it quickly and add some value

These seem like obvious points. Yet I go into stores all the time that don't follow them.

Authors And Customer Service

What does all of this have to do with your author business?

Easy Spend

Most of us sell through other companies like Kobo or Amazon, so we we have limited control over how easy it is for a reader to buy.

But one thing we can do is make our books available in as many places and in as many formats as possible.

Audiobooks, for example, took off very slowly for me. But the other day I sold my 1,200th audiobook, not counting The Worried Man, which is published by a separate company. And the great thing is that I either did a royalty-share deal or paid the narrators up front. So all royalties to me are pure income at this point.

Similarly, at first I issued only ebook editions. But as I met more people who only bought paperbacks I decided I ought to make those available too.

Now about one-third of my sales are paperback editions.

Findability

Having books in multiple formats and on multiple platforms also makes them easier to find. Having your own website that lists all the editions also makes it simpler for a reader who hears your name to track you down.

In addition, covers and book descriptions that accurately convey your genre will help readers determine quickly if your books might interest them.

Fixability

If you learn that there's a typo in your book, or if you discover your book description is giving people the wrong impression, if you're a self-published author you can fairly quickly make changes and updates.

And, as an author, sometimes fixing an issue means responding to a reader who emails you. If the reader didn't like the ending, you can say thank you for the feedback, empathize, and let the reader know that with the next book you'll keep those thoughts in mind.

It doesn't mean you need to change your writing style. But if you're thoughtful and appreciative in your response, the reader may give your next book a try. And you may learn something.

That's all for today.

Until next Friday–

L.M. Lilly