Cozy Mystery Publishing

Cozy Mystery Cover Design: Interview with Mariah Sinclair

10 Reasons(20)

Today, I’m featuring an interview with book cover designer, Mariah Sinclair. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries, chances are that you’ve read a book with a cover designed by Mariah.

Cover design is such a critical element when it comes to marketing and selling your books.  I’m always amazed at how cover designers, like Mariah, can take images, fonts, colors, and other design elements, sprinkle their magic on them, and transform them into pieces of artwork that draw potential readers in.

Mariah offers custom designs and pre-made covers. I’ve also seen some cozy cover makeovers she’s done recently. It’s been interesting to see how she’s taken the original covers and design concepts and transformed them into something that really captures the fun, quirky nature of the cozy mystery genre. When it comes time to makeover my own covers, I’ll definitely be touching base with Mariah.

You can find out more about Mariah and see her portfolio on her website, check out her pre-made covers at The Cover Vault, join her Facebook group, or connect with her on Pinterest and Instagram.

But before you check out all of those links above, have a read below and find out what Mariah has to say about designing book covers, penguins, and cookies. She’s got some fun answers!

Interview with Mariah

Mariah Sinclair Covers
Some cozy mystery book covers designed by Mariah Sinclair.

1 – What inspired you to become a book cover designer?

Desperation? LOL.

I was a graphic designer/art director for ad agencies and magazines during the 1990s and early aughts, but took a 10+ year hiatus from design. A few years ago, I was earning my income by being a voice over artist. (Listen to an example of my voice over work here.)

Relocating from New Orleans to the Arizona desert dried out my voice  so I couldn’t do that type of work. I had to come up with another income—and quick. I hadn’t truly designed in a decade, but started playing around with digital art on deviant art. Stock sites (not as prevalent when I was a designer long ago), made designing so much easier!

I spent 6 months designing book covers on 99Designs to test the waters. While I DO NOT recommend contest sites for authors, it gave me a way to test my abilities, and research the market. When I learned over 3000 new titles are published on amazon daily, I decided it was a healthy market to jump into (and doesn’t require a sexy voice!)

2 – What’s your favorite thing about cozy mysteries? 

The titles. I didn’t know cozies existed before I started designing book covers. The word play of the quirky, punny titles drew me in and I *had*  to design those covers. Without examples of cozies in my portfolio, I couldn’t attract any custom cozy work. I started creating cozy premades which meant I could add my own quirky titles! Cozies have become a sprinkling of joy in my business and I’m so thankful I discovered them.

3 – What do you like the most about being a book cover designer? What do you like the least?

I love that I am helping individual creatives achieve their dreams of publishing (and hopefully earning a full time income.) It’s wonderful helping indie authors reach success, instead of marketing corporate widgets. I also get to work from my couch with my cats sitting on my lap!

The hardest part is when an author requests changes that break graphic design rules. Many people don’t realize how many *rules* are involved with design— including many book cover designers because they were self-taught. As a traditionally trained designer, I know the rules. Sometimes an author request will require breaking design tenets which forces me to choose between customer service and good design. Customer service wins, but it’s sad when good design is sacrificed in the process. 

4 – What does a typical day look like for you?

I naturally wake up between 5:30-6:00. I’m thankful that I don’t have to wake-up with an alarm. I grab some coffee and settle into my spot on the couch to begin working. Facebook and some word games while I’m waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Then email and admin and then I start designing.

Lately I’ve been doing design sprints with fellow designer Sylvia Frost of The Book Brander. We work for fifty minutes and share our progress. It’s been so helpful when the procrastination/burn-out bug hits. I work in silence in the morning, but around 2pm, I take a tv break while I eat lunch. Then a hot bath. Sometimes I go back  to work in the evening depending on my work load. I’m in bed around 9-10pm every night. It’s a pretty boring life, but should get more exciting in the coming months, as I’m making some huge life changes. 

5 – What advice do you have for cozy mystery authors when it comes to cover design? 

Your cover doesn’t require a lot of tiny details. It’s better to catch the eye with a specific focal point and engaging title. In my opinion, the title is really important to cozies, more so than other genres, so show it off! Contrast creates readability. If you want a readable title, make sure the image behind the words is simple and even toned (I use the “sky” as the title background most often) and use a contrasting color/value for the title. 

6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”

Asking for my favorite cookie is like asking about my favorite color— I love them all!— but a rich buttery shortbread with a dollop of homemade lemon curd is sublime. 

7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

Ha! My first thought was the penguin saying “Slide” (fans of Fight Club will understand that reference as seen on this YouTube clip).

 In the interest of not using a pop culture reference, my penguin would say, “Hey love, it’s time to travel the world.” 

8 – What else would you like us to know about you? 

I’m truly thankful for this opportunity to work with other creatives achieving our dreams. Being a part of the author community as been life-changing for me and I will be forever grateful. 

Thanks so much for being on the blog, Mariah! It was really interesting to find out that cover designers do sprints, just like we writers do. And shortbread is always a good cookie choice!

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

2018 in Review | Launching a Cozy Mystery Series

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2018 was a big year on the writing and publishing front for me. I launched my first cozy mystery series—The Mollie McGhie Sailing Mysteries—in June with the publication of my debut novel, Murder at the Marina. In November, I published the second book in the series, Bodies in the Boatyard. And, I made good progress on the third book, Poisoned by the Pier.

Now that the year has drawn to a close, I thought it would be interesting to share what my first year as a published author looked like in numbers. But, before we dive into that, if you haven’t already done so, you might want to check out this post where I talked about the launch of Murder at the Marina in numbers.

Please be aware that I won’t be sharing the number of sales I made over the course of the year. Yes, I know, that’s the number some of you are quite interested in and I’m sorry to disappoint, but I just don’t feel comfortable disclosing that. However, there are lots of other numbers you may find fascinating below.

{Note: Not all percentages add up to 100% and some items show up as 0% in the charts below due to rounding.}

Sales Peaks & Troughs

The chart below shows the peaks and troughs of my sales over the year. No surprise that I sold the greatest amount of books when I launched the first book in my series in June, followed by the second book in November.

After my initial release, sales slowed down quite a bit. I started to experiment with ads (more about that below) which led to a slight increase in sales. The release of my second book led to a spike in sales, but nowhere near the level of my debut book. That’s not all that surprising due to the fact that I didn’t do nearly as much marketing with the second book as I did with the first. I also assume that some people who bought the first book did so because they wanted to support me and not because they’re cozy mystery fans, then found that it really wasn’t their cup of tea and didn’t go on to buy the second.

I did have relatively strong sales during December which I think can be partially attributed to holiday gift buying (sales of large print books increased quite a bit during that period).

The other thing to note is that the majority of my sales are for my first book, Murder at the Marina, which isn’t really a surprise as it’s been out longer and I direct more advertising and promotional efforts toward it.

Sometimes people often focus on how many books they sold rather than how much they earned, which I think is an important distinction. Selling a lot of books at 99 cents may be less profitable than selling fewer books priced at $3.99. For example, although I sold more books in November than I did in December, my earnings were lower in November because I discounted Murder at the Marina as part of a promo.

2018 Review - Units Sales by Month Chart

Sales by Format

While the majority of my sales are in ebook format (67%), paperback and large print editions make up a substantial chunk of sales (21% of my sales are large print and 12% are paperback). I’m selling far more print books now than I did when I first launched Murder at the Marina due in a large part to Amazon ads. I’ve found that it’s definitely worth the extra time and expense involved in formatting and publishing print books and it’s something I’ll continue to do.

I use Amazon and Ingram Spark to distribute large print and paperback books, however the majority of print books that I sell is via Amazon.

2018 Review - Sales by Format Chart

Ebook Sales by Retailer

Because I decided to go wide rather than be exclusive to Amazon, I was quite interested in seeing what proportion of sales came from non-Amazon retailers over the year. While the bulk of sales were on Amazon (86%), I had some sales on Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google Play, and Overdrive. I’d like to continue to see this percentage grow and will be focusing more efforts on advertising and promotions targeting non-Amazon retailers.

2018 Review - Ebook Sales by Retailer Chart

Ebook Sales by Geographic Region

It’s no surprise that I sell most of my ebooks in the States (81%), but it’s nice to see sales in other countries as well. It’s pretty cool to know that people are buying my books in places like Japan and Brazil.

2018 Review - Ebook Sales by Country Chart

Experimenting with Ads & Promos

As mentioned above, I started experimenting with advertising in September and October, which accounts for the gradual increase in sales during those months. During that time, I focused on Amazon Marketing Services sponsored ads (AMS), primarily for my large print edition of Murder at the Marina. I set pretty low daily budgets and bid levels and was pleasantly surprised to find that they worked pretty effectively. I think this is in part due to the fact that not many cozy mystery authors advertise large print editions so there isn’t a lot of competition for keywords such as “large print” and “large print mysteries.”

I also played around with a few ads for the ebook and paperback editions, but didn’t have much success with them. For ebooks and paperbacks, I can’t bid high enough for Amazon ads to be cost effective (people with several books in a series can bid higher on ads for the first book in their series and recoup their costs through read-through to subsequent books).

In December, I ramped up my spending on AMS ads for the large print editions of both Murder at the Marina and Bodies in the Boatyard in the hopes of driving some holiday-related sales. That strategy seemed to have worked. It is a bit scary to see the advertising costs escalate, so I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve crunched the numbers and that the ads are more than paying for themselves.

I also started experimenting with BookBub ads for the ebook edition of Murder at the Marina, primarily on non-Amazon retailers. (Note: These are the CPC ads, not the feature deals). It’s still early days, but so far they seem to be driving a few additional sales. Nothing to write home about though.

Kobo promotions was the other area that I dabbled in. If you publish directly with Kobo, they have a handy tab on the author dashboard where you can sign up for promotional opportunities. During 2018, I participated in four promos. I didn’t see a huge amount of sales as result, but it was more sales than I would have made on Kobo otherwise.

How did 2018 go for you? What are you looking forward to in 2019?

Are you interested in learning more about my cozy mystery publishing journey? If so, check out these posts:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Murder at the Marina Cover 1000 x 1400

Murder at the Marina is available at Amazon (US) |Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask you library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.

 

Bodies in the Boatyard Cover 1000 x 1400 (2)

Bodies in the Boatyard is available at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask your library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Large Print Books | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Large Print Cozy Mysteries

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked with you about ARCs (advance reader copies). Today, I’m going to tell you about my experiences publishing large print editions of my cozy mysteries.

What is a large print edition?

This seems like a simple question, but when I did some research on large print books I found varying answers.

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn uses 16-point font for her large print editions which is consistent with Amazon’s criteria and the Royal National Institute for Blind People. I’ve heard other people say that 14-point font is considered large print. However, both the American Council for the Blind and the American Federation for the Blind suggest a minimum of 18-point font. And what some organizations and readers consider to be “large print” is what others consider to be “giant print.”

Font size isn’t the only consideration—line spacing (increasing the space between lines can improve readability) and type of font (sans serif may be easier to read for some) are also important. As with font size, I found varying advice on the ideal line spacing and type of font for large print editions.

Formatting my large print editions

When I decided to create a large print edition of my first cozy mystery, Murder at the Marina, I found Joanna Penn’s tips to be really good starting point. I also went and looked at large print editions of novels at my local library to get a feel for what readers might expect in terms of font size and spacing.

First off, I decided to go with a larger trim size (6×9 inches for my large print edition vs. 5.5×8.5 inches for my paperback edition). Next, I took my paperback document and reformatted it using a larger font (17-point compared to 11-point in my paperback edition) and increased the line spacing. {You can read more about how I formatted my paperback and ebooks here.} Finally, I adapted my paperback book cover by increasing the trim size and adding a “Large Print” sticker to the front to differentiate it from the paperback version.

Then I uploaded my files and hit the publish button. Everything went smoothly after that. . .well, that is, until it didn’t.

Yikes! Negative feedback

A few weeks after I published the large print edition of Murder at the Marina, I received a negative comment on Amazon saying that it wasn’t comparable to Reader’s Digest large print editions. Remember what I said above about varying definitions of large print? Well, I ran smack-dab into that.

I felt absolutely horrible that this poor man bought something that didn’t live up to his expectations. I really wished I could have contacted him, but I had no way of doing so. I can only hope he was able to return it and get a refund.

Despite the negative feedback, it was a great learning experience. I updated my book descriptions to indicate what size font and type of font I was using in my large print editions. For the Amazon description, I also added in a section letting potential buyers know they can use the “Look Inside” feature to see if the font size would meet their needs

When it came time to format my second cozy mystery, Bodies in the Boatyard, I went with an even larger font (18-point this time) and used a sans-serif font (Arial vs. Gentium Book Basic in the paperback) to improve readability.

Large print editions make up a good chunk of my sales

When I first set out to make a large print edition, I thought I might sell a few copies and I liked the idea of having a version that would be easier for some folks to read. Little did I know that my large print books would end up being 17% of my sales. So, although it takes some effort to produce a large print version (not to mention the cost of an additional ISBN), it’s been quite worthwhile.

For another perspective on formatting and publishing large print cozy mysteries, check out this informative post over at The Ninja Librarian.

What are your thoughts and experiences with large print editions?

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Large Print Front Cover

The large print edition of Murder at the Marina is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo. If you would like to request that your local library order a copy of  Murder at the Marina, you can find the necessary information here.

 

Bodies in the Boatyard Large Print Front Cover

The large print edition of Bodies in the Boatyard is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble. If you would like to request that your local library order a copy of Bodies in the Boatyard, you can find the necessary information here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Getting Advance Reviews |Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Advance Reviews

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked with you about blog tours. Today, I’m discussing ARCs (advance reader copy) and getting advance reviews for Murder at the Marina.

What is an ARC?

ARCs are free copies of a book (ebook and/or print) that is going to be published but hasn’t been released yet. While they are fully formatted, they’re not necessarily the final version of the book. Through the ARC process, readers and the publisher may find typos or other errors that need to be fixed before the release.

ARCs are used not only to get advance reviews, but also to build excitement about the release (some people give out ARCs as part of giveaways) and, in the case of traditional publishers, to advertise to libraries and bookstores.

How I used ARCs

For Murder at the Marina, I touched base with three main groups of potential readers: (1) cozy mystery book bloggers; (2) friends within the writing community; and (3) members of the boating community.

For the first group, I sent emails asking if they would be interested in reviewing Murder at the Marina and included a link to BookFunnel where they could download a copy of the ebook. Because this was my debut novel, I didn’t expect that many established book bloggers would be willing or able to review my cozy mystery, but I figured it was worth a shot. I was pleasantly surprised that a few agreed to help out.

For the second and third groups, I put out a call on my other blog (The Cynical Sailor) asking if anyone would be interested in helping out. I had a fantastic response which was so encouraging.

In the end, I ended up sending ARCs to over 60 people (including my beta readers) and about half of those people left reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. (A few people also left reviews on the other major eretailers.)

In my initial email to my advance readers, I explained why reviews are important—they make your book more visible to potential readers and provide social proof and credibility (i.e., people are going to be more willing to read your book if they see other people have read it and enjoyed it).

I also explained what’s involved in writing a review (they can be short, a sentence or two is fine) and suggested that they might want to include a disclaimer in their review such as: “I received an ARC of this book and voluntarily chose to leave an honest review.”

The other thing I mentioned was Amazon’s review restrictions—you need to have spent $50 in the last twelve months to be eligible to review.

When the book was released, I sent through a follow-up email letting them know that they could now go ahead and leave reviews.

After my book launch, I sent an email to everyone who had left a review to thank them and ask if they would be interested in being on my ARC team for the next book in the series (Bodies in the Boatyard). Most people said yes leaving me with around 30 people on the list (not including beta readers).

Using BookFunnel to distribute ARCs

I chose to use an online solution, BookFunnel, to distribute ARCs. While I could have just emailed files to my advance readers, BookFunnel takes the hassle out of everything by making it simple for users to download the file that best suits their device and providing support if they have any technical issues.

I signed up for the First Time Author plan which allows me to store five books and have up to 500 downloads a month. It costs $20 a year and is more than adequate for my needs. BookFunnel has other plans which allow for more than one pen name and more monthly downloads, as well as collect email addresses (useful for building your newsletter lists).

I also use BookFunnel to distribute draft manuscripts to my beta readers and final manuscripts to family, friends, giveaway winners etc.

What about reviews going forward?

Advance reviews are great, but you also want people to leave reviews once your book is published. The easiest way to do this is to ask your readers to help out. I add in a request for reviews in the Author’s Note & Acknowledgements section at the end of my book, as well as mention it on social media (Facebook and Twitter).

FB Review Post

Want to know more?

Bookworks discusses tools you can use to share your ARCs (including BookFunnel) with readers.

Check out Jenna Moreci’s video on how to get advance reviews (warning—she uses strong language at times).

The Author Learning Center has a good overview of ARCs and how they’re used.

Alex O’Connel discusses ARC dos and don’ts for self-publishers.

If you’re interested in distributing print ARCs, Ingram Spark has a useful article on how to create them.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook, paperback, and large print), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Blog Tours | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Blog Tours

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked with you about my book release in numbers. Today, I’m sharing how I went about organizing a DIY blog tour to get the word out about the release of Murder at the Marina.

What exactly is a blog tour?

A blog tour is pretty much what it says on the tin—a trip around multiple sites during a set period of time to promote your release. Kind of like a virtual book tour, but do much less stressful for introverts like me as you interact with folks through blog posts and comments, rather than face-to-face.

I’ve hosted a number of people’s blog tours over on my other blog, The Cynical Sailor, so I thought it might be a fun thing to do for my own release.

It seemed like a pretty straightforward thing to organize—ask people to participate, set up a schedule, prepare blog posts and release materials, and visit all of the participants during the tour. I’m a big fan of project planning and spreadsheets, so I dove right in.

But while it is a straightforward process, there are a lot of logistics to manage. And it can get time-consuming. Which is why some people outsource the whole thing.

Should you outsource or take a DIY approach?

I don’t actually know what the right answer to the question above might be for you. But I can tell you why I chose to do it myself. There are three reasons:

(1) Cost – Independently publishing a book is expensive. Where I could do things myself and save money, I did, like managing my own blog tour.

(2) Capability – I knew I had the skills needed to manage a blog tour.

(3) Time – If you’re short on time and have the money, this might be an activity to consider outsourcing. It took many hours to manage the process. Perhaps time that could have been invested more wisely in sorting out the cause of the leak on my sailboat, making chocolate chip cookies, or working on the next book in my series. But I had the time and didn’t want to spend the money, so DIY it was.

The downside of taking a DIY approach

My blog tour was fantastic with wonderful participants, but there was one major downside to doing it myself, namely not having many cozy reader blogger connections.

I have two primary audiences for my cozy mystery series: (1) boaters who might enjoy light-hearted mysteries with a nautical setting and (2) die-hard cozy mystery readers. While a number of my blog tour participants were fellow boaters, I didn’t manage to include many cozy mystery bloggers.

If I do a blog tour again in the future, and have the funds for it, I might consider outsourcing to someone like Lori at Great Escapes with Dollycas who has an extensive list of cozy mystery bloggers that she works with.

In some ways, going DIY for my first cozy release was realistic. Many cozy mystery readers aren’t likely to pick up the first book in a new series from an indie author who doesn’t have a proven track record. They’re more likely to want to wait until they see that you’ve published a few books already before they invest their time in your series. I figure I’ll go harder after the cozy reader audience once I’ve published the third book in my series.

{Note: Authors in Kindle Unlimited have an advantage in this area as readers can take a chance on a new author/series as they don’t have to buy the book, but can read it as part of their subscription. This doesn’t work for me as I’m wide, not exclusive – read more about that here.}

The nitty-gritty of organizing my blog tour

The first step in organizing my blog tour was to put out a call for participants on my other blog as part of the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) blog hop in March (my book released on June 21st). I set up a Google Docs sign-up form and thought I would be doing well if I got somewhere between five and seven people to raise their hands. Over twenty people volunteered. Twenty plus. A whole lot of people. I was stunned. This wasn’t any old blog tour anymore, this had turned into a blog fiesta!

These wonderful folks were a mix of sailing bloggers, fellow authors I had met through the IWSG, and blogging buddies. I also reached out to some cozy mystery bloggers, some of whom were kind enough to take a chance on a new author.

I offered participants the choice between: (1) writing their own blog post to tie in with the release and the start of summer in the northern hemisphere; (2) having me write a short boating-related post to tie in with the book; or (3) something else. Most people went with option #2.

Now, remember I thought I might be lucky to get seven participants. Writing custom blog posts seemed doable for that amount of people. I ended up having to write a lot more than I anticipated. Yikes, but in a really good way cause it meant so many people wanted to help out with my blog tour.

Did I mention that I love spreadsheets? And that’s a good thing because having a way to track all of the participants, what date they were scheduled for, their name and email address, what kind of post they wanted etc. was essential. I also made a calendar so that I could visually see where people were scheduled and make sure to spread participants out during the course of the blog tour (it ran from June 21st-July 3rd).

Once everyone was scheduled and sorted, I pulled together the custom blog posts along with a book release “package” (cover image, other promo images, tagline/blurb, buy links, author bio, social media links etc.). I then emailed everyone with what they would need and followed-up closer to their scheduled blog tour stop.

Before the blog tour kicked off, I did a post letting everyone know about the “blog fiesta” with dates and names of everyone participating. I also included a little bit of personal info about each participant, such as how I know them, what they blog about etc. I also encouraged my blog followers to go visit their sites. The way I see it, blog tours are a two-way street. The participants are hosting you and sharing your book release with their followers, but you can also drive traffic to participants’ sites and they’ll hopefully end up with new followers as well. {You can see my blog tour fiesta kick-off post here.}

During the blog tour, I visited each participant and responded to comments on their sites. It was so much fun to read the kind and encouraging comments that everyone left.

And perhaps the most important step of all was thanking the blog tour participants after the fiesta was over. They were all truly awesome! I still can’t believe how generous people were with their time and energy hosting me on their blogs.

So was it worth it?

I was talking with a friend the other day and she asked me if I thought it had been successful. My immediate answer was yes, followed by a “but.” That “but” has to do with how you measure the success of something like this.

It would be nice if there was some magic calculating device that could tell me if I sold more books as a result of it, but there isn’t. {Some people use Amazon affiliate links to track sales as a result of promos. I don’t.} Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. I’ll never know.

Selling books is only one success criteria. Raising awareness of your book release and your author brand with your target audience is also important. I think the blog tour was helpful in regards to the boating community, but less so in terms of cozy mystery readers (which I knew would be the case). There’s probably also some knock-on effect in terms of SEO with Murder at the Marina coming up in search results and linking back to blog tour participants’ sites.

However, regardless of generating sales or reaching my target audience, I think it was a huge success for three reasons: (1) it underscored how wonderfully generous and supportive the the blogging community is; (2) in the end, I did get the word out about my book release; and (3) it was a lot of fun!

Want to know more?

If you’re thinking about organizing a cozy mystery blog tour, here are a few sites to check out. Lori at Great Escapes with Dollycas organizes blog tours. Marie at A Cozy Book Experience organizes book release Facebook parties, among other things. Dru’s Book Musings features upcoming releases, character interviews, and day in the life posts and was gracious enough to host me during the blog tour. Many thanks to Linda at Chatting about Cozies for reviewing Murder at the Marina on her site.

Mixtus Media, has a downloadable blog tour worksheet and explains How to Set Up a Successful Blog Tour.

Stephanie Bond talks about How to Book a Successful Blog Tour over at the Book Marketing Tools site.

Janice Hardy talks about How to Promote Your Book with Blog Tour on Anne R. Allen’s site. She also has a follow-up post on her own site about whether blog tours are worth it.

Anne R. Allen’s offers some crucial advice—Treat Book Bloggers with Respect.

The Alliance of Independent Authors talks about Why Blog Tours aren’t about Sales.

Elaine Viets shares tips about Cozy Book Promotion: A Soft Sell in a Hard Business. While this is primarily aimed at traditionally published authors, it’s also good food for thought for independent authors.

Penguin Random House tells you Everything You Need to Know about Organizing a Blog Tour. It’s interesting to note that the onus for organizing a blog tour is on the author, even if they’re traditionally published.

What do you think about blog tours?

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook, paperback, and large print), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Book Release in Numbers | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Book Release

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about what distribution channels I used. This time, I’m going to share details about the release Murder at the Marina, in numbers.

While some people look at stats for the first 30 days after a release (the supposed 30-day cliff), I decided to make things easier on myself from a reporting perspective and look at the numbers from the release date of June 21, 2018 to the end of July 2018. That’s roughly a six week period.

What numbers are important?

So, what numbers did I look at and why? The obvious one that I was interested in was the total number of sales. Now, this may disappoint some of you, but I’m not planning on sharing that here. What I can say is that my expectations were greatly exceeded, which is in large part due to all of the wonderful people who helped spread the word for me on social media. Thank you!

The other numbers I spent time poring over had to do with sales by format and where books were sold. I also got a kick out of checking out what I like to call my “popularity” stats. Let’s dive into the numbers, shall we?

Sales by Format

I’ve mentioned before how surprised I am at how many people purchased the paperback version of Murder at the Marina. If you look at the chart below, you’ll see that 10% of people bought paperbacks and 90% bought ebooks.

On a whim, I also created a large print version and, while I didn’t sell any of those during June and July, I have sold a few during the past month. (If you’re interested in learning more about large print, I found Joanna Penn’s article on the subject helpful.)

Despite the learning curve involved in terms of book formatting and set-up on Amazon and Ingram Spark, I’m really glad I decided to publish hard copies in addition to ebooks.

Murder at the Marina - Launch Graph 1

Ebook Sales by Retailer

Because I decided to go wide instead of be exclusive with Amazon, I was really interested in seeing how many books I sold on non-Amazon sites. No surprise that the bulk of the sales were on Amazon (88%), but I was pleased to see that I sold a few on Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and Overdrive.

Hopefully, the percentage of non-Amazon sales will increase over time.

NOTE: The percentages below don’t add up due to rounding.

Ebook Retailer Graph

Ebook Sales by Country

I love the idea of knowing that people around the world are reading my book, so I was thrilled to see that 17% of my sales came from outside the States. Most of them came from the United Kingdom, followed by Australia, Canada, and EU countries. And I’d love to know who is reading Murder at the Marina in Japan and Brazil.

Ebook Country Graph

Popularity Stats

Come on, admit it, sometimes you compare yourself to other people, don’t you? You like to see how you rank against others. Or is that just me?

In any case, it’s a bad idea to get too caught up in this as a writer. Reading all of the success stories out there about folks who are top of the charts, pulling in the big bucks, or have a million 5-star reviews can get a tad depressing. It’s enough to almost make you forget what the real joy of writing is about—having fun creating imaginary worlds, people, and situations.

But, I confess, I did check my Amazon popularity stats during my release. Like where Murder at the Marina ranked on the Hot New Releases list. It peaked at #81 in the Cozy Animal Mystery sub-category at one point. (The lists are updated hourly.) We can all thank Mrs. Moto, the best clue-finding feline in the business for that.

Screenshot_2018-06-28 Amazon com New Releases The best-selling new future releases in Cozy Animal Mystery

Amazon’s Author Central lets you check how popular your book is compared to others. The Kindle edition of Murder at the Marina ranked #30,571 on release day, peaked at #25,456 a week late, and has been on a roller coaster ride ever since. When some sales comes through, it perks back up, when sales are quiet, it plummets down the ranks.

To be honest, I wouldn’t expect to do great in Amazon rankings due to the fact that I’m not exclusive to Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited. From my understanding, pages reads and increased visibility in the Amazon store can do a lot to boost your position on the charts.

Amazon Bestseller Rank - June & July 2018

But it’s not just about your books, Amazon gets personal and give you an author rank. My highest ranking (#38,745) was actually when Murder at the Marina was on pre-order. It stayed above the 100k mark for a couple of weeks after the release, then tumbled down the charts after that.

Amazon Author Rank - June & July 2018

If you’re an author, what kinds of numbers do you track? If you’re a reader, do you pay attention to book rankings?

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook, paperback, and large print), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Distribution Channels | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Book Distribution

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about how I formatted my ebook and print books. Today, I’m going to cover the next step in the process—how to get my book out there so that people could buy it, namely what distribution channels I used.

But before we do that, let’s address one of the key decisions I had to make first.

Decision Point 1—Amazon exclusive or wide?

One of the first big decisions I faced was whether I wanted to be exclusive to Amazon in terms of ebooks or “go wide” and distribute via other retailers. I chose to go wide, which I’ve talked about in more detail here.

If I had decided to be exclusive, that would have made everything about ebook distribution much simpler because there would have been only one retailer to worry about—Amazon, or the big ‘Zon as some people affectionately refer to it.

But because I decided to play the field, that led me to my next big decision. . .

Decision Point 2—Go direct or use an aggregator?

There are some great aggregators out there who make things simple. They’re one-stop shops where you can load up your ebook and they take care of distributing it to the various eretailers, like Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, and Google Play.

The upside is that they make it easy-peasy. You just have to do everything once and you get consolidated reporting and payments. The downside is that they take a cut of your royalties as compensation for their service.

The alternative is to go direct with each retailer. The downside is that you have to open separate accounts, fill out separate tax forms, upload things multiple times, and deal with multiple reports and payments. The upside is more money for you.

I chose to do a take a hybrid approach. Direct with some, via aggregators for others.

My hybrid distribution approach

So, here’s what I did. Keep in mind we’re just talking about ebooks right now.

WHO I WENT DIRECT WITH

1 – Amazon

This seemed like a no-brainer to me. I found Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to be really simple and straightforward to use, both in terms of publishing my book and in using the reporting.

2 – Kobo

This is another easy to use platform. Simple to set-up and manage. In addition to selling my books to people who have Kobo e-readers, I also use them to distribute to Overdrive (a library distribution service which they own) and participate in their Kobo Plus subscription service (kind of like Kindle Unlimited, but with a focus on the Dutch and Belgian markets).

3 – Barnes & Noble (Nook)

This platform is also user-friendly, however, it can take a while to get a vendor account set up. Something to factor in if you go down this route.

WHO I USE AN AGGREGATOR FOR

1 – Draft2Digital for Apple iBooks and Others

Unless you have an Apple computer, it isn’t easy to publish directly with them. Sure, there are workarounds (like renting time on an IOS system), but it really wasn’t worth it to me.

Draft2Digital makes it easy to distribute to Apple in exchange for 10%. They also provide a great, free, formatting system to turn your Word document into ebook file formats (MOBI and EPUB).

You can pick and choose which stores you distribute to via Draft2Digital. In addition to Apple, their current partners include Amazon, Kobo, Overdrive, Barnes & Noble, Scribd (subscription service), Bibliotheca (another library service), and Tolino. Because I don’t know much about the latter three and/or don’t think the time would be worth it to figure out how to go direct with them, I happily let Draft2Digital take care of them for me.

2 – PublishDrive for Google Play and Dangdang

I’d heard that it wasn’t possible at this point in time to go direct with GooglePlay, so I went direct with PublishDrive for them in exchange for 10%. I’ve since found out that GooglePlay is accepting applications to partner with them. I put my name down on the waiting list and the wait turned out to be less than 48 hours to be approved.

However, their user interface doesn’t seem all that simple and I don’t sell a huge amount of books on Google Play, so I think I might stick with PublishDrive for the forseeable. Plus I also like the fact that PublishDrive manages the discount issue with Google Play. Google Play likes to discount books they sell. The consequence of this is that Amazon will then lower the price of your book on their site to price match them. Publish Drive automatically increases the retail price of your book on Google so that any discount they apply never reduces your book price below what you have on Amazon.

Another factor playing into this is their new partnership with Dangdang, a Chinese ebook distributor. Who knows, maybe the Chinese love cozy mysteries?

PublishDrive can also distribute on Apple iBooks, but because I was already signed up to Draft2Digital for them, I passed on that option.

But what about print books?

I’ve been surprised how many paperbacks I’ve sold, including a few large print ones, so I’m really glad that I opted to go down the print book path. Unlike with ebooks, I’m only dealing with two companies for distribution—Amazon and Ingram Spark.

AMAZON

There are currently two ways into Amazon when it comes to paperbacks—Create Space and KDP. Create Space has been around for a while, KDP is the new kid in town. There are rumors flying around that Amazon is planning on shutting down Create Space and migrating everyone to KDP.

When I was ready to publish Murder at the Marina, KDP had just been introduced. I decided to go with that platform because I liked the idea of having my Amazon ebook and paperback reporting all in one place.

It was super easy to set up my print book on KDP, review proof copies (both online and physically), and get my paperback out for distribution on Amazon.

INGRAM SPARK

Some people use the extended distribution option on Amazon to sell to other stores. The upside is that you’re only dealing with one platform, the downside is that Amazon’s competitors really don’t want to buy books from Amazon.

I decided to go with Ingram Spark instead to distribute to all other online stores, such as Barnes & Noble (print only, I go to them direct for ebook), Books-A-Million, and The Book Depository.

I wish I could tell you that it was a simple, straightforward, user-friendly experience. It wasn’t. You’ll need a glass of wine or some chocolate (maybe both) to get through the whole process. But persevere, it’ll happen, even if you might have to finish off that entire bottle to keep your sanity.

The other downside of Ingram Spark is the reporting. I know people have bought paperbacks via them, but I have no idea where. They don’t provide reporting at a store level, just how many units you’ve sold.

So why bother with them, you might be asking yourself? Well in addition to the whole issue of retailers not wanting to buy from Amazon, I also get a better cut from Ingram Spark than I do from Amazon. That’s down in part to the fact that I’ve applied the minimum wholesale discount that I could, which is related to the fact that I’m not focused on selling my book in bricks and mortar stores. But that’s a huge topic for another day.

Want to know more?

Reedsy has a very comprehensive guide to ebook distribution. I found their aggregator comparison spreadsheet to be particularly helpful.

Elizabeth Spann Craig talks about expanding her book distribution on PublishDrive and StreetLib.

Interested in a comparison of Create Space and Ingram Spark? Check out this article on Kindlepreneur and Jenna Moreci’s video. {Warning: she sometimes uses language that may offend people.}

Jane Friedman has a self-publishing checklist and a list of self-publishing resources which includes information ebook distribution.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

Where do you like to buy ebooks and print books? If you’re an author, where do you distribute your books?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Formatting eBooks & Print Books| Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Formatting

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to publish both ebook and paperback versions. Today, I’m going to cover the next step in the process once my manuscript was finalized—formatting. This is one of the areas where “ugly” really reared its head.

Programs

Before I get started, let me just mention what programs I used. I started off writing in Scrivener. Once I had a decent draft completed, I compiled the document and then finished editing in Open Office Writer (a free open source alternative to MS Word – you can easily convert files back and forth between the two programs as required).

Once the ebook manuscript was finalized, I used Draft2Digital‘s free service to convert into mobi (for Kindle) and epub (for everyone else) files. Once my paperback manuscript was finalized, I converted it into a PDF for uploading for print-on-demand on Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark.

I’ve heard great things about Vellum when it comes to formatting, but it’s not compatible with PCs (only for MacOS). Plus it costs quite a bit, whereas my approach cost nothing, except time and frustration.

Here’s how things should have worked

If I had been more patient, these are the steps I should have taken. Note that there would have been celebratory chocolate and pats on the back. Instead, the process I took involved banging my head on the table and eating chocolate to make myself feel better when things went wrong.

1 – Lock down the manuscript before beginning to format ebook and print versions.

2 – Get the manuscript ready for conversion to ebook files. (This mostly involved stripping out unnecessary formatting and making sure chapter breaks were distinctive and consistent). Make this version the master document.

3 – Convert into epub and mobi files using Draft2Digital.

4 – Check the epub and mobi files and do one last proofreading round. (You might catch things when looking at a manuscript on a Kindle, iPad, or tablet that you wouldn’t necessarily see on the computer.)

5 – Go back to the master document and fix anything caught during the final proofreading.

6 – Make new epub and mobi files.

7 – Do one last check of the epub and mobi files.

8 – Have some chocolate because things are going so smoothly.

9 – Upload to the various ebook distributors / aggregators – in my case, Amazon KDP, Draft2Digital (for Apple iBooks), Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Publish Drive (for Google Play).

10 – Paste and copy from the master document into the print book template in Open Office Writer.

11 – Complete the print book formatting.

12 – Convert into a PDF file and upload to print-on-demand distributors – in my case, Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark.

13 – Pat yourself on the back for a job well done without any hiccoughs.

Here’s how it really went

1 – Got excited that the edits to the manuscript were finished and wanted to see what it would look like as a print book, cause you know that makes it more “real.”

2 – Started copying and pasting like mad into my print book template. Dove into formatting, which turned out to be quite involved and revealed what a total newbie I was to this sort of thing. Things like checking margins and gutters (even and odd pages are different), making sure section breaks were working correctly, ensuring consistent font size and placement for chapter titles, fixing hyphenation (don’t want them breaking across pages or stacking up with several lined up on top of each other in a paragraph), looking for widow / orphan issues (don’t want just a few words being orphaned by themselves on a page), and checking indentation (none at the first paragraph of each chapter and scene).

3 – Have a stiff drink cause it’s all a bit overwhelming.

4 – Wonder if you have a migraine coming on.

5 – Question your decision to do your formatting yourself rather than outsource it.

6 – Realize you need to download fonts into Open Office Writer that MS Word has, but you don’t. Make sure all fonts are copyright free.

7 – Finish formatting the print version, then create the ebook version.

8 – Discover a couple of small changes that need to be made. Realize that you don’t have a master document, you have to fix things in both the print version and ebook version. Chocolate required.

9 – Decide to keep your print version as the master document, make changes in that one, then strip out the formatting in order to convert it back into an ebook version.

10 – Discover that somehow everything got messed up in the new ebook version file. Italics have disappeared. Capitalization issues in the first sentence of each chapter. Tear your hair out. Have more chocolate.

11 – Finally get back on track, finalize files, and upload.

12 – Go to have some celebratory chocolate only to discover someone ate it all. Hmm…who could that have been?

So, was a DIY approach a smart idea?

Sure, it would have been a lot easier to outsource formatting to someone else, especially for the print version. However, I’m still glad I went with the DIY approach. Obviously, I saved money, and when it’s your own money you’re investing into publishing your books, saving money is a good thing, at least it is for me. More importantly, I learned heaps in the process and it will be so much easier next time. I’m also not dependent on anyone else if I need to update my manuscripts at any point.

But perhaps the biggest lesson I learned was to stock up on more chocolate.

Want to know more?

Elizabeth Spann Craig talks about using Draft2Digital’s free templates to format your ebook.

The Alliance for Independent Authors shares 6 tips for indie authors to format print books using MS Word.

Joel Friedlander has lots of useful resources from articles about print book sizes, how to check your book proof, and dealing with widows and orphans, as well as offering book design templates for sale.

L. Diane Wolfe at The Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers tips and tricks on ebook formatting.

Reedsy explains the difference between epub and mobi files.

A useful list of 10 ebook conversion tools on Bookworks.

Amazon KDP Paperback Manuscript Templates—choose from blank MS Word templates and those with sample content; select your trim size, download and away you go.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Have you ever formatted your own ebook and/or print book?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Ebooks, Print, or Both? | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Ebook or Print.png

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to go wide, rather than enroll in Amazon KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited. This time, it’s about my next big decision—should I publish ebooks, paperbacks, or both formats?

Ereaders and living on a sailboat

Several years ago, my husband thought he had come up with the best present idea ever—he was going to get me an ereader. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly respond with the level of enthusiasm he was hoping for. I’m one of those people who loves print books. I used to spend hours looking at my bookshelves, rearranging my books, and visiting bookstores to add even more books to my overflowing shelves.

Then we moved onto a sailboat in New Zealand. An extremely tiny sailboat. It was time to downsize and one of the casualties was my collection of books. That’s when I discovered the joys of ereaders. I could have tons and tons of books that took up no space whatsoever. I became a full-fledged member of the Kindle revolution. So when it came time to publish my first book, having an ebook version was a no-brainer.

But what about a paperback version? Did anyone out there even buy them anymore?

The case for publishing paperbacks

I knew I was going to publish a paperback version regardless of whether anyone would buy it or not. I liked the idea of being able to hold an actual printed book in my hands that had my name on it, kind of like a “trophy” in a way. Plus, my family had requested signed copies and you can’t really say no to your mom, can you? And, it turned out that buying your own author copies through Amazon isn’t all that expensive (you just pay printing cost, not Amazon’s mark-up), although you do have to factor in shipping.

But there are other benefits to publishing print copies of your book:

1 – Pre-Orders on Amazon

If you go down the ebook pre-order route on Amazon and you publish the print version at the same time, the “look inside” feature will be enabled and people can check out the beginning of your book which might tempt them to click the Buy button. {By the way, you can’t do pre-orders for print books on Amazon, something I found out about the hard way.}

People you’ve given ARCs (advance reader copies) to can post reviews on the paperback edition and they’ll show up on Amazon before your ebook goes live.

2 – Getting a Bargain

Amazon displays the print list price and the Kindle list price and notes how much you can save by going with the ebook. For some people, this might make them feel like they’re getting a real bargain. For example, the paperback version of Murder at the Marina is $10.99, while the ebook currently sells for $2.99, a 73% savings according to Amazon.

3 – Getting into Bricks and Mortar Bookstores

Some folks want to see their books for sale at their local bookstore. So, making a paperback or hard cover version of their book is important to them and by using a distribution network like Ingram Spark, it’s possible. Probably challenging, but possible. I can imagine that it would be pretty exciting to see your book on the shelves, but, to be honest, that wasn’t a driver for me for going down the print copy route.

4 – Selling at Events

I’m thinking that I might put a sign up offering Murder at the Marina for sale at our marina in the autumn when cruisers start coming back and getting their boats ready for the winter season sailing in Florida and the Bahamas. I don’t know if I’ll get any takers, but I can offer the books for a lower price than they would pay if they bought through one of the online retailers.

Other authors do something similar, bringing print copies of their books to conventions, talks they might give at libraries, local events, conferences, book signings etc. Some people like buying books directly from the author and getting a chance to interact with them.

What about the cost?

I chose to go through both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark for print-on-demand. {Print-on-demand means that when someone orders a paperback, they print it off then and there and ship it to them, rather than storing boxes of books in a warehouse waiting for orders.} I use Amazon KDP to distribute on Amazon and Ingram Spark to distribute elsewhere (like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Book Depository). I’ll talk more about the set-up process in a future post, but for now, let’s just talk about the cost.

Amazon KDP doesn’t charge a set-up fee or fee for making changes, which is awesome. Ingram Spark charges $49 to set up your title, with a $25 fee every time you want to make a change. But they seem to regularly offer promo codes for free set-up. I happened to set up my book using one of these codes, so my cost was zero.

The only cost I incurred was for an ISBN (unique book identifier)—you need a new one for each edition you publish—which cost me $29.50 from Bowker (based on buying a block of ten). ISBNs are actually free for our lucky neighbors in Canada, but Americans have to shell out money for them. You can, of course, opt to use the free one provided by Amazon KDP instead, but there are pros and cons with that approach, and, if you go down the Ingram Spark route, I don’t believe they offer free ISBNs.

So, although I didn’t really expect to sell any paperbacks, I was okay with spending $29.50 to be able to hold a print copy in my hands and send copies to my family.

Much to my surprise, I found that a number of people (as well as one library system) have been buying the paperback version, despite how much more they cost than the ebook. I guess there are still people out there who’d much rather hold a real book in their hands.

Want to know more?

Just Publishing Advice asks the question, Should I self-publish in paperback?

Small Blue Dog presents case studies from several authors about their experiences publishing in both ebook and print formats.

Alliance of Independent Authors podcast on whether indie authors can make money with print books.

Description of how the print-on-demand process at Ingram Spark works on The Creative Penn

Derek Murphy on why you should launch your ebook before you think about creating a print version.

If you’re interested in digging into detailed numbers, check out the 2016 US Trade Publishing report from the Data Guy at Author Earnings.

Molly Greene looks at whether it pays to do print books.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

What about you? Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Pick up your own copy of this lighthearted and humorous cozy mystery (ebook and paperback) at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Release of Murder at the Marina & Thank You

Murder at the Marina Cover Beach Scene (2) (800x600)

Whoo-hoo! I released my debut novel, Murder at the Marina, on June 21st. It was the start of summer here in the northern hemisphere which seemed like the ideal release day for a lighthearted, humorous cozy mystery, perfect for reading at the beach or by the pool.

Murder at the Marina is the first in my new Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series about a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth. After Mollie’s husband, Scooter, presents her with a dilapidated sailboat for their wedding anniversary, she quickly learns more about boats, sailing, and murder than she would like. The series is set at a marina in a small town on the Florida coast populated with lots of quirky characters and where a surprising amount of people end up dead.

I wouldn’t be celebrating this incredible achievement without the help of so many friends and supporters. I was overwhelmed in the best possible way by the number of people who signed up to be part of my blog tour. In fact, there were so many people that it wasn’t just any old blog tour, it was a fiesta! Oodles of people raised their hands to read and review ARCs (advance reader copies) of Murder at the Marina on Goodreads and Amazon. Others shared details about the release on social media. And it was so gratifying to see all of the pre-orders that came in and the sales since then. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The feedback has been wonderful and inspired me to keep working away at the next two books I have planned in the series—Bodies in the Boatyard and Poisoned by the Pier. Of course, there are lots of other ideas churning away in my head, so there’s bound to be more installments after that.

If you’re curious what a day in the life of a book release looks like, check out this post on my other blog. The highlights included plenty of chocolate, some bubbles, and a bit of obsessive checking of sales and ranking stats.

Mollie McGhie Sailing Marketing Image

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Finally, I’d love to see pictures of you reading Murder at the Marina and share them on social media. Feel free to email them to me at ellenjacobsonauthor (at) gmail (dot) com or tag me on Facebook.

Check out these cool shots from Lucy at The Larks of Independence reading Murder at the Marina on a beach in the Bahamas with her adorable dog and from Sara at Sailing Illusion reading over breakfast in El Salvador.

Thanks again to everyone for their support and encouragement!