Lot’s Cave has always been dedicated to helping authors with various publishing strategies. Right now, the big question in the market seems to concern Amazon. Do you publish with Amazon? Is exclusivity worth it? Are there options for authors writing taboo content? The questions can seem endless to an inexperienced or new author. Perhaps the main question though has always been is KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited worth it? Well, let’s take a constructive look at answering that question for you!
This year has certainly seen its share of market changes! We’ve seen slight changes in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited system, B&N purging all controversial content, and a small uptick in popularity for taboo content. The latest change? Smashwords implementation of a classification system for taboo content. While this change already has authors talking, Lot’s Cave thought we’d add a new perspective to the mix! So, if you’re an author looking to get a little more out of the Smashwords classification system, this blog post is for you.
Lot’s Cave believes in providing our authors and readers with the best experience possible. To do this, we’ve learned a few tricks. Maximizing the potential of each book an author produces is only part of what we do. Over the years we’ve collected feedback from our readers, listened to our authors, and improved with the times. Now, we’d like to share a few secrets along the pathway to success.
Know What You’re Writing
This may seem like a simple step, but Lot’s Cave often receives manuscripts that fail to sell themselves. Before an author submits a manuscript, or even sits down to write their first story, they need to understand the basics. Writing what you enjoy, or even think readers will enjoy, isn’t enough. Basic knowledge of the market is essential. Remember, you can write what you want, but publishers don’t have to accept it. Increase your chances at submission by working smarter not harder.
Know Your Sales Potential
Writing only for enjoyment and think you can skip this step? Think again. Everything boils down to sales. Those writing as a hobby or for the love of writing need to understand the sales dynamics involved. Lot’s Cave wants our authors to succeed along with us. To do this, we want authors to make the most of their time. What we’ve come to learn is that while many authors don’t care about getting rich off their books, they do care about the number of books sold. Because authors often use their sales to judge reader acceptance, it’s important to know the popularity of your book’s theme. While it goes without saying, certain sub-genres sell better than others. Think about whether you’re prepared for your book selling more or less in its competitive niche.
Know Your Sub-genre
Lot’s Cave gets its fair share of manuscripts. We tend to notice when an author or writer knows to pitch their book’s sub-genre. Sure, there are sub-genres within sub-genres, but authors need to know their particular theme. Writing Romance isn’t enough, nor is there a formula. Authors looking to get the most out of each and every book nail down a sub-genre. In an ever growing industry, knowing your book’s niche matters more than ever. If you’re expecting a reader to buy your book, you better tell them what they’re getting ahead of time. Yes, you can still be creative in the process. We promise.
Know How To Pitch Your Book
Don’t like begging readers to buy your book? Then let your book sell itself. In the day of eBooks, there’s one rule above all others: title, cover, blurb. If you don’t know how your cover, title, and blurb work together, start learning. Great books fail to attract readers every day because of lackluster titles, covers, or blurbs. Many authors feel their work ends at a first draft. Don’t fall into this trap. Lot’s Cave is always willing to help our authors maximize their metadata. However, we need a foundation. If you, the author, don’t care enough to lay a foundation to work from, why should we? The first step in selling your book is first not selling it short.
Know What You Don’t Know
Writing is a journey, and you can’t expect to know everything right away. If you’ve laid a basic foundation for your catalog, start writing. Will your first book be perfect? No. The important thing is it’s a start. From that humble beginning, authors have risen to learn a great deal about themselves and readers alike. Starting with your first book, ask what you can do better. Filling in those gaps in your knowledge will be what leads you to success. There are great resources available online, smart and successful authors utilize them!
Unsure of how to start getting the most out of your catalog? Try reading or taking a look at the questions below:
- Who represents my average reader?
- What category and sub-genre am I writing?
- Where do I want my writing career to go?
- How do my books satisfy readers’ expectations?
- Why am I writing?
Napoleon Hill wrote his infamous book, Think and Grow Rich in 1937. Ever since, readers have continued to pursue the knowledge within its pages. Standing the test of time Think and Grow Rich captures the knowledge of over 500 people, who have become some of the most successful in America’s history. Focusing on the philosophy of Andrew Carnegie, this book contains truths and business secrets still relevant today despite being written over seventy years ago. These secrets to success are just as relevant to authors as they are entrepreneurs.
Many authors equate success in terms of dollars. In today’s market especially, authors are claiming to make four, five, even six figures a month! While these claims often go unsubstantiated, authors still aim for incomes well above the average. All reputable data sources to date show self-published authors on average making between $1,000 and $5,000 a year! So, how then can authors expect to make this median income or higher? The philosophy of Andrew Carnegie not only holds the key to success, but also remains easy to understand and execute.
Andrew Carnegie’s philosophy is not unique, but its simplicity can be life changing. Summed up in a single sentence Carnegie’s message is this, believe your goals will come true and they will. While this may sound like wishful thinking, Think and Grow Rich outlines a more in-depth process for attaining ones goals. What’s important to remember though is the core of Carnegie’s philosophy. Without first believing in your goals, without refusing to doubt, there will never be success. No matter the goal, success can only be achieved through channeling your every effort toward success.
How does this translate to authors? Well, the process of Andrew Carnegie is very specific. Unlike other self help books, Think and Grow Rich outlines the following path to success:
- Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient merely to say “I want plenty of money.” Be definite as to the amount.
- Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.)
- Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
- Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
- Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
- Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning.
These are the steps to attaining your goals no matter how sophisticated they might be. Putting the following philosophy into practice will not always be easy, but the pay off is seen in achieving whatever goal you work toward. For authors Lot’s Cave believes this same process will not only work, but stand the test of any eBook market. As a company we’re dedicated to helping our authors attain their goals, and Lot’s Cave welcomes feedback on their achievements, struggles, and long term goals as authors. Lot’s Cave hopes all authors no matter how small or large the goal, will adopt a similar version of Andrew Carnegie’s philosophy.
- Determine both a long term goal and a yearly short term goal in exact income levels and dollar amounts.
- Decide how many eBooks you wish to produce per month(s) and what subject matter these titles will share in common.
- Establish a stated and exact completion date for your goal.
- Start writing while your goals are fresh and in your mind. Don’t wait for the perfect time! Now is when action counts… not tomorrow as tomorrow never comes.
- Put all your effort into attaining your goal. Do not stray from the path. Never let doubt set into your thoughts.
- Remember and state your goal every day before working. Feel inspired and reaffirm your long term goal until you achieve it.
Authors that put this philosophy into practice will notice the process works. No longer will authors face unattainable and unrealistic goals. All authors really struggle against is doubt, lack of effort, and managing to put pen to paper. For those who haven’t already read Think and Grow Rich the book is certainly worth the time, and it’s available free (as it is in public domain). Any author wishing to achieve their goals should give their prior efforts thought, and focus on the future. Most importantly though, Lot’s Cave invites authors to use every resource available to them– including us!
Lot’s Cave would like to take a moment to personally thank Lily Weidner for participating in another of our studies. We’d like to direct readers of this post to also check out her personal experience and perspective of this experiment in her latest post titled: Elusive Money & Indie Publishers
Is the short story market dead? If you haven’t done so already, consider reading our last publishing experiment focusing on Amazon’s short story market. The experience proved so beneficial, we decided to try another! This time, Lot’s Cave wanted to test the viability of publishing short stories outside the Amazon system on all other possible publishing platforms. What we found was quite surprising, and many of our authors will find the confirmation they’ve been looking for.
With Amazon’s self published market becoming more popular through Kindle Unlimited, Lot’s Cave has found indie authors tending to shift away from indie publishers. Since we’re an indie publisher, this trend has been cause for concern. Many authors outside the Lot’s Cave family felt indie publishers provided no additional benefits to selling their eBooks. This sad opinion caused us to rethink how we advertise our eBook services directly to authors, not just readers. Putting our knowledge and experience at the forefront, we found there are in fact many benefits to publishing with indie publishers like Lot’s Cave.
Before discussing the experiment in detail, it’s important to note the need for indie publishers. Lot’s Cave is one of very few e-publishers specializing in controversial subject matter. Our experiment then, focused on short stories with this controversial subject matter in mind. While Lot’s Cave is an e-publisher, we’re also a distributor. We fully believe the best way to maximize profits is not through publishing only with Lot’s Cave, but embracing as many publishers as possible. With that in mind, Amazon’s exclusion from the experiment remained rooted in their refusal to accept controversial subject matter and their requirements for publishing exclusivity.
Our Publishing Objective
Much like our Amazon experiment, Lot’s Cave decided to do some prior research to accumulate as much data beforehand as possible. As a company, Lot’s Cave wanted to know what a new inexperienced author could expect by publishing and distributing short stories. Finding new authors writing in the 5,000 word range tend to make a monthly income of $20 a month on Amazon, we wanted to see what new authors rejecting Amazon’s exclusive high traffic website could make. To do so, we came up with the following criteria:
Rules for Lot’s Cave Short Story Experiment
- All stories are to be within the 5,000 to 6,000 word range including end matter
- eBooks must be distributed through Lot’s Cave to affiliates
- Stories must feature controversial subject matter
- The controversial subject matter chosen must remain consistent
- Prices will stay at $2.99 for single stories
- Bundles (three stories each) will be priced at $4.95
- The Collected Set (nine stories) will be sold for $9.95
- eBooks must feature a common cover design across all titles
- Author will focus solely on publishing short stories acting as a new author
- All eBooks should feature cover, front matter, formatting, and end matter standard for Lot’s Cave authors.
Before conducting the experiment, Lot’s Cave worked closely with our author to assure the overall objective remained consistent, and in line with their own goals. Letting the author choose the controversial subject matter, Lot’s Cave then designed covers with the same overall look. Our author already had an author page established, author biography, and avatar. With everything in place, we let our author write and prepared for the first week of the experiment.
Publishing the first short story on the 27th of November, the first three shorts and volume one bundle sold a total of $51.30.
After selling so well the first week, Lot’s Cave was happy to see week two sales total up to $69.93.
After week three, we were starting to notice a steady trend in sales, as the total ended up coming to $56.32.
To conclude the month’s sales, we published a complete set of all nine stories. Publishing only this one bundle set, sales still came to $55.13.
Summary of Author’s Income
In total, the author’s nine shorts and four bundles made $232.68. This is a significant amount. Remember, many authors new to publishing shorts within the same range on Amazon make a potential $20, even in their exclusive Kindle Unlimited program. By publishing outside Amazon’s exclusive program, authors can potentially make $212 more. For authors unfamiliar with Lot’s Cave, or the distribution process, lets take a look at the added benefits of publishing through Lot’s Cave contributing to this difference in overall sales potential.
Content: One of the biggest factors in the success of going through Lot’s Cave is the fact Lot’s Cave takes taboo subject matter. When publishing in a wide market beyond Amazon, Lot’s Cave has found this to be necessary step in attaining higher sales. Readers are not only demanding taboo erotica, but they’re willing to pay for it. This competitive pricing also brings us to our next advantage.
Higher Price Points: Notice how well our author’s bundles sold, and the prices for each. Three story volumes were priced at $4.95, while the complete set sold for $9.95. Royalty rates really make a difference with these maximized price points. There’s no reason to sell quality work for less, and Lot’s Cave knows it. Even authors new to publishing short stories will discover their books sell better at the appropriate price point.
Publisher Quality: Lot’s Cave sold $72.98 out of the total $232.68. This means that as an indie publisher, Lot’s Cave sold over 30% of the author’s overall books. However Lot’s Cave also acts as a distributor, which yields our authors a unique advantage. Our books sell by author, but also by subject matter. Readers looking for taboo themed books can browse our whole catalog, increasing the likelihood of new authors selling their books. In fact, we question if such performance would have even been possible without Lot’s Cave’s prior commitment to quality.
Established Reputation: Along with publishing quality comes a benefit unique to indie publishers. Not only do authors receive a top quality book, they have access to an established customer base. Right from the start, new authors are able to present their work just as, if not better than, established authors. This goes deeper than the eBook itself, but to the company itself. Lot’s Cave has worked hard to attain the reputation as the premier publisher of controversial subject matter, and our authors see a direct benefit in their sales because of it.
Distribution Time: One of the interesting advantages Lot’s Cave learned happened to be in the time necessary for distribution. Since Lot’s Cave handles the formatting and distribution uploading, our author was free to spend the time writing. For authors this is another distinct advantage, as we’ve found many authors complain about complicated upload processes or the time investment involved. When distributing through Lot’s Cave, authors can rest assured we handle those hassles for them.
Cover Cost: Every eBook needs a cover, and Lot’s Cave recognizes the investments covers potentially pose to authors. Many authors today purchase their own photo stock, often at a minimum $40 a month. Other authors can pay an average of $25 for a quality cover. In either case, this investment comes directly out of the author’s income. Lot’s Cave has no such charge for our quality covers, making it easy for authors to not only produce their next book, but make a profit for doing so.
Quality Covers: Not only is cover cost an issue, but knowing the right design can be a challenging new step for authors. When publish to many different websites, it’s difficult to find a cover that stands out across multiple platforms. Luckily Lot’s Cave has experience in this area, and we offer all of our authors this quality cover design. As a company, we see an author’s success as part of our own success as well for new or established authors alike.
Starting out, Lot’s Cave wanted to see what new authors could expect in Amazon’s exclusive program, as well as what they could expect outside. We had our own ideas, but we lacked the numbers to prove it. After two months publishing on Amazon and elsewhere, we can back up our analysis with some figures. The process has been a long one, but the results have been well worth it. What we’ve found is still quite a new idea.
Lot’s Cave can only conclude any author wishing to make money is better off encompassing as many e-publishers as possible. Instead of investing in this process by themselves, authors stand to gain a huge advantage maximizing the potential of distribution sites like Lot’s Cave. What makes a distribution site stand out above the rest remains for individual authors to decide, but we’ve learned transparency and experience top the list of qualities.
As Amazon’s authors continue to compete in an exclusive market shying away from short stories, Lot’s Cave has found readers still desire the same lengths as before. The profit hasn’t disappeared, at least not elsewhere. Quality is key in today’s market, and we’re proud to show our authors produce the best story possible. While it might be difficult to believe, the numbers simply don’t lie. Our eBook market is shifting, and we’re here to help authors shift with it every step of the way.
While paying an indie publisher to distribute books may seem like a senseless waste of money, our results tend to direct our conclusion otherwise. What many authors lack in today’s market is experience, and time. These two factors contribute to sales greater than splitting the royalty fees involved. Often, these fees are minuscule in comparison to the profit authors make. At the end of it all, not all publishers are created equal, and indie publishers can still be a valuable asset to self-publishing authors of both short stories and longer works.
Authored By: Samantha Zacharda
Marketing Director & Promotion
Published By: Lot’s Cave
Special Note: Lot’s Cave would like to add a special thank you to Lily Weidner for participating in the Amazon publishing experiment. The transparency required has been quite eye opening and insightful. Please check out Lily Weidner’s followup post as well, found here.
For the last year stories have abounded regarding authors getting rich with incomes of ten to a hundred thousand per month by writing short stories. Is this possible? How much can I really make?
Ever since Amazon changed their Kindle Unlimited program, authors have been trying to gauge the eBook market. Authors, particularly those writing short stories (3,000-5,000 words) have started to wonder if the market will even support their shorts, or if a shift into longer works is necessary to earn an income. Doing some initial research, I found answers couldn’t have been more conflicting.
Usually when conflicting answers exist, one finds in them a majority opinion. With enough backtracking the answer process becomes clear. In this case however, little data could be found with which to form a starting point. What I found is the entire industry consists conceptually of a clear divide most easily represented by factions we find in the initial Kindle Unlimited program (KU), and what authors have come to call the second Kindle Unlimited (KU2). Desperately wanting some numbers to work with however, I came up with a solution–I did a study of my own. The goal was to achieve $20.00 in profit.
With help from a Lot’s Cave author, I was able to create a test designed to take advantage of Amazon’s large eBook market size. Since Amazon’s KU program had been designed for short stories and the new KU2 program is now desgined for longer works, contrasting income performance between the KU and KU2 programs could simulate what it would be like for a new author specializing in short stories starting out with their first book. As an added byproduct–which is what this is about–I would also learn what authors face when trying to sell their eBooks on Amazon. After spending a couple of days to form the rules of this research project, I came up with the following:
Rules for KU2 Publishing Experiment
- All stories are to be the minimum 3,000 words
- eBooks must be enrolled in KU2
- No additional marketing must take place
- Stories must have a common kink
- Prices start at $.99, and then after a week increase to $2.99
- At minimum, author should publish two books a week (9 titles a month)
- Titles should include subject matter metatags
- Covers must fit their target audience’s particular style
- After completing 9 titles, bundles must be published in varying forms
- Stories must emphasize romance with intense but short sex scenes
First, an Amazon Author Page was created to begin the experiment. Starting our test off, progress seemed quite slow and uncertain. Week one saw a total of two sales and sixty-five page reads. Given Amazon’s current payout rate (.0005 a page) our author only made $1.02. To my surprise, discouragement over that insignificant amount was immensely high. Convincing the author to keep writing new titles wasn’t easy, but Amazon’s ninety day exclusivity trap helped. The author had already committed such a large investment to the test that persuading the author to continue for the remainder of the month was not difficult.
Thankfully, week two saw somewhat better results. Significantly, this result could only be due to the price increase from $.99 to $2.99. Page reads increased while sales increased dramatically. Taking a quick look at the numbers, week two tripled the previous week’s results. Seven sales and two hundred and thirty-six page reads increased the week’s total to $3.61. While the author remained apprehensive, I could detect a little more eagerness to move forward into week three.
To my dismay, the growth occurring in week three was quite minimal. Sales topped out for the week at nine purchases and page reads dropped to two hundred and ten. Thankfully, the author was still able to see an overall increase for the week’s profits at $4.17. By this point however, the author made it clear the process didn’t seem worth the effort. The author felt drained and expressed a feeling that writing wasn’t as enjoyable as it once had been.
Finishing up the month, our author completed the nine titles. Able to take a break from writing, the author decided to release an additional four bundles created from bundling various combinations of the nine titles. Interestingly, week four’s breakdown is rather surprising. Out of thirteen sales, only one of them came from a bundle and there were one hundred and thirty-one page reads. For the final week, the author made $8.28.
Summary of Author’s Income
- Week 1: $1.02
- Week 2: $3.61
- Week 3: $4.17
- Week 4: $8.28
- Total Month: $17.08
Before we examine the market figures, let’s examine what no other study gives… the author’s experience. Interestingly, our author became extremely discouraged. This occured despite nearly reaching the $20 personal income goal. What caused this? Well, the author felt the money didn’t merit the time and effort put into the process. Worse, the author began feeling readers didn’t enjoy the titles because some of them were no longer selling after the first week they were published.
Moving onto the numbers, the first month performance of $17.08 is nothing to shy away from. In fact, the amount is actually quite impressive for a new author starting from scratch. We can see the growth potential, after all, because no marketing was involved. What’s important to note though, remains the fact the author felt the eBook titles were worth more. Dividing the author’s income by the number of books released ($17.08/13), we find the author only made around $1.31 per book published. Sadly, this is nothing considering the figures reflect an entire month.
Worse, $1.31 per book title published isn’t even the right number when comparing income to actual sales. Lets look at the sheer number of eBooks the author sold. On the surface, we’re quick to assume the author sold thirty-one copies. However, we must calculate into this figure the number of page reads. With a total of six hundred and forty-two reads, we can figure out the real number of books this would be.
Given the average page count (according to Amazon) was twenty pages per book, that would equal an additional thirty-two eBook sales (642 pages/20 = 32 books). With a grand total of sixty-three eBooks (32+31=63), the payout rate becomes $.27 per each book sold. Can anyone blame the author for feeling their title is worth more than twenty-seven cents? Even if the author only spent three hours working on the book, minimum wage would make them $21.75. Chances are the author spent more time writing their book than just three hours, but the statistics remain quite dismal. After nine titles, there’s a potential twenty-seven hour investment. At a minimum wage job, the author could have made $195.75.
It’s interesting to note, there’s hope at the end of this bleak tunnel. The author that participated in our Amazon experiment also publishes novels with us at Lot’s Cave. These longer stories of 40,000 words each are priced out at $4.95 and distributed across multiple retail platforms. This fact allows us to compare the same amount of effort on longer titles, distributed across multiple websites. The results couldn’t be more eye opening.
Taking the author’s latest eBook alone–written during the previous month, we find the sales for that month coming in at a total of sixteen eBooks sold. While that number may seem small in comparison to their Amazon sales, this book was able to be sold at the $4.95 price. Assuming these websites payout at a consistent rate of 70%, this author made $55.44. Keep in mind, this is one book. While it may not be minimum wage, it more than doubles what the author made on Amazon.
Now it’s important to note that longer novels have a very unique distinction from short stories. Longer novels have staying power while sales on short titles drop off quite quickly. This means the most this author will ever make on Amazon from their titles is that initial $17.08. No future sales income can be expected. Yet this author’s longer novel will continue to earn sales for several years, adding to the $55.44 amount. While the author may have felt discouraged at their efforts from putting out nine titles, the author did not feel that way about publishing one full lenght novel with Lot’s Cave.
While not every novel will sell sixteen titles a month, the opportunity cost to other authors following in these footsteps is important to consider. Amazon authors are invested in their shorts taking off immediately, if they fail to perfom, there’s no back catalog to make up the difference. If the worst happens and a novel does not take off however, consider having the benefit of having a back catalog that still sells alongside the future new release. In order to make the $17.08 Amazon monthly figure, an entire back catalog of multiple novels would only need to sell five titles. With a full month’s time span, five additional sales seems entirely reasonable. The back catalog becomes an almost guaranteed source of income the author can depend on. So, what happens if an author wants to go down this path and shy away from Amazon’s market?
The very first thing an author should do if they wish to publish outside Amazon’s market is examine their short stories. Because of Amazon’s market size, we can see how many authors feel they run an output treadmill. This output treadmill has caused many authors to diminish the quality of their short stories. If this is the case, authors need to invest in revamping their stories. Before publishing elsewhere, consider doing a general read through for errors.
After revamping the story, formatting remains the most important issue with eBooks coming from Amazon. For authors formatting their own books, reading up on the latest formatting requirements is a time consuming investment. This is a necessary investment however, one readers highly notice and value. Taking time to add the appropriate formatting can really set an eBook apart from the rest.
Another important difference is pricing. Amazon authors choosing to list their eBooks on multiple websites often find pricing uncomfortable. When authors are accustomed to charging $.99, selling the same eBook later for $2.99 can be quite unnerving. With the new price point comes a new change for author’s accustomed to Amazon’s market, slow sales. Instead of selling a book every day, authors can wait two or three days before seeing a single book sell. The benefit of this however is the higher royalty rate balances out the sale’s rate.
Lastly, any author looking to publish across multiple websites should factor in time. On Amazon, the results of sales is immediate with a sixty day lag period for payout. When authors choose to list books across multiple websites, this can be a significantly longer progress. Payouts have been known to range from a month to six months, or longer. Keeping this in mind will help authors looking for immediate results; sometimes authors just need to set a time length and stick to it beforehand.
In closing, the Amazon experiment was a grand success. The marketing insight I gained for Lot’s Cave has been exceedingly helpful for both Lot’s Cave authors, and those coming in from Amazon. While each market has its own difficulties, it’s important to remember different systems work for different types of authors. The main thing to note however is this, authors can still make the same, if not more money, by skipping Amazon’s eBook market. There’s no need to feel trapped or held over a barrel.
As an author just starting out, it’s tough to know exactly what to do. You want to make a good first impression, but don’t know how or where to start. With today’s growing eBook market, finding advice everyone agrees with can be its own challenge. Lot’s Cave would like to help authors through the process of submitting their first manuscript. Many of our authors started out submitting their very first manuscript directly on our website, why? Because Lot’s Cave provided the resources. Since our company values author experience, Lot’s Cave would like to make submitting your first manuscript as painless as possible.
Research Where to Publish
When first starting out, it’s important to have a basic knowledge of where and what to submit. Not all publishers accept the same material, especially when dealing with erotic content. Doing a little research regarding your story, and potential publishers can save lots of time in the long run. Is your story too short for one publisher but not another? Does your content require a little polishing before submission? Is there a special format required for your manuscript? These questions can be answer with minimal digging on any publishing website. If you’re hoping to publish with Lot’s Cave directly, authors can find such information here: Submission Guidelines.
Summing Up Your Manuscript
Once you have a publisher in mind, start summing up your story. Before you start going through the metadata and manuscript process, know what you have. Making a list to go back to is always helpful. As a new author, it’s easy to get lost in fancy words or difficult requirements. Summing up your story’s information, while your mind isn’t spread out will be worth the time. If you’re unsure of what kind of information to include start with the following five items:
- Story Theme: Is your story Menage? Incest? BDSM?
- Title Information: Does your story have a name yet?
- Brief Summary: What happens in your story?
- Length: Approximate word count?
- Cover Image: Do you have a cover?
Fix The Gaps
At this point, it’s easy to feel unsure or have some parts of the list missing. When starting out, it’s extremely rare to have it all figured out. Try doing a brief search for more information. How have authors handled covers in the past? What categories seem to fit your story? Does your summary seem to work for you? Many times, these gaps can be figured out doing ten minutes of digging. While you may feel more unsure, you’ll still have something you can come back to later. Don’t settle for a blank space. You can find more information provided by Lot’s Cave here: Writing Tips & Advice.
Tackling Manuscript Submission
After a basic summary of information, a completed story, and some brief research, you’re likely ready to begin the submission process. Today, many publishers have an online submission process similar to that of Lot’s Cave. During this first submission, it’s extremely easy to feel overwhelmed. Try not to feel overwhelmed by the entire form. Focus on one detail at a time, and before you know it, the form will be complete. Simply grab your story/manuscript, your summary information, and open the manuscript submission form.
Tackling Manuscript Submission: Basic Author Information
Starting out, it’s important to feel accomplished fairly early. The likelihood of an author finishing their submission form is increased if the author starts out confident. To encourage this, we recommend providing your author information first. This information often includes: name, pen name (if using one), and email. That’s it, though providing such personal information can seem a little daunting. Taking that first step though is always the hardest.
Tackling Manuscript Submission: Basic Story Information
The next step in the submission process is going to require some of that summary information. Enter your book’s title, story length, and category information. From here, you’ll also want to provide a price for your future eBook. Often, this is done by considering the length of your story. Price ranges will vary site to site, but competitive market values should always be considered. If you’re unsure, publishers will often be happy to help recommend a price. For now, enter what you feel comfortable with. Once the basic information is entered, you’ll often find most of the form has been completed.
Tackling Manuscript Submission: Submitting Metadata
Metadata is a term that describes much of the information already on your summary sheet. Remember that plot summary? Well, you’re going to need it. As an author it’s important to provide that summary, or a book description. Even better, try to take your summary and turn it into a description using your category information. A combination of the two will help promote your story. When in doubt, stick to what feels right. If you feel your story’s summary provides better information, then go with that. Descriptions take time, and they’re not easy. If you’d like more information on descriptions, check out our information here: Writing A Great Description.
Tackling Manuscript Submission: A Brief Note About Keywords
Many publishers have started asking authors to provide a set of keywords. These may feel like a daunting task on the submission form. There’s an easy way to find keywords however, think of them as search terms. If you wanted to search for your book, what words would you use? Consider your category, description, and book title, what themes stand out to you? A list of keywords is essential information to provide, as it helps readers find your story! Don’t skip this information, you might find out it’s more important than you think.
Completing the Submission Process
After providing all the above information, all that’s left is to upload your story. Today, most publishers accept Word files. There might be some additional publisher specific information you need to provide, but otherwise you’ve completed your first manuscript! Allow the publisher time to get back to you. If a publisher has any questions, they’ll contact you. While many authors wait to submit their next manuscript, it’s not necessary. Try using the wait time to write your next book, or submit a new one. In the end, you’ll find your books published in no time!
In today’s erotic market, it can be tough to measure an author’s individual success. Part of the problem authors face is the question of how to remain motivated to do well. Authors repeatedly pour their heart and soul into their erotic books. Whether the story is short or long, takes a day or a month to write, an author still wants the book to succeed. It’s worth noting that this urge to do well drives every author in every book he or she publishes. An author’s success is not measured overall, but rather on an individual per book basis. The definition of a book’s success, while a personal one, often transfers into a greater overall opinion of the erotic market. Every author views the market differently and therefore measures success differently, various similarities remain standard for the majority of authors.
High Sales – The most obvious measure of success for authors is the concept of high sales. This metric poses numerous problems, especially for controversial erotica. Many erotica authors hear grandiose stories of riches and wealth from other authors bragging (sometimes falsely) about their book’s latest success. Claims of making $5,000 dollars in a single month is not unheard of. For an author trying to make a living and barely getting by, this is immensely discouraging. The truth is, many authors would be considered successful just to make a meager living from their royalties. Perceptions do not change easily in authors’ minds however, causing many successful authors to quit early just because they don’t see insane profits as quickly as they’d like.
Reader Feedback – Reader feedback is perhaps a less obvious measure of success which authors rely on heavily. Nothing excites an author more than seeing a positive book review raving about his or her writing skill and efforts. These reviews many times are the only measurement of a reader’s happiness. In the erotic market however, book reviews are rare occurrences, as readers often do not want their name connected permanently with erotica on Internet. Even so, in today’s market, many authors give away free copies of their books by the hundreds just to receive this feedback. The truth is, we live in an age where many reviews are faked, paid for, or insincere. Because of this, many readers have stopped looking at reviews, not to mention even reading them. For erotica authors, reviews should not be a measure of success in any form. On the bright side, a bad review doesn’t make an author’s work bad either, as so many erotica authors find their books under attack by religious zealots.
Fan Base – Another less obvious measure of success worth noting is the idea of a fan base. Many authors just starting out want to see a fan base, or an instant number of guaranteed sales. While this may actually be a justified measurement of success, this metric is the hardest to judge. Fan bases change depending on time of year, individual financial situations, and book platform availability. It’s worth noting that just because an author sees a disproportionate number of readers to actual sales doesn’t mean those “fans” don’t exist. In actuality, it takes several months, if not years, to build a good steady fan base. While a fan base isn’t a good way to measure success, it can be a rewarding undertaking for authors to consider. Keeping the reader in mind will often turn out to be a better experience for authors.
Getting Discovered – The worst metric of success in the mind of many authors is a fantasy of “getting discovered.” Fifty Shades of Grey, left many erotic authors with sudden hopes of their book taking off. While the Fifty Shades Trilogy has done enormously well in multiple regards, authors should not use this as a tool of measurement. Many authors have compared their own writing to that book, finding their own better. Authors begin wondering why his or her books haven’t taken off. Getting discovered is a lengthy, painful, and not always beneficial process–much depends on chance. Authors should instead focus on writing their books, enjoying the freedom they have to do so. This is especially true for authors of more controversial works; consider the likelihood of such books taking off in the public mindset. While getting discovered isn’t impossible, it should NEVER be a metric for new authors to gauge success in any form.
With so many traps to measure success, accurate judgments of success may seem impossible. Authors will find that multiple ways to judge success do exist, however. These methods will be very individual, but each author should try to be adopt them in some form. Try replacing any of the above traits with the following positive ways to judge success:
Positive Ways To Judge Success
Writing Goals – Every author has things they’d like to work on. Whether it’s about writing better blurbs, or changing the overall length of stories, writing goals can be extremely productive. Setting small goals that enhance the quality of an author’s writing will lead to outside feelings of accomplishment. In time, authors will feel less defensive of their writing opting to actually share selections of their work. Being able to take a step back from your writing will also help the feelings of anxiety and nervousness at publishing a new book. Feeling proud of your work as an author is more important than feeling successful by society’s standards. At the end of the day, an author has to answer to themselves about their writing first. Small writing goals is certainly the way to go. If an author wants to be successful, then keep writing writing writing and do not stop to play with marketing, making book covers, or become distracted by other facets of publishing.
Quarterly Sales – While I mentioned above that high sales rates are a bad measure of success, that doesn’t mean sales are a completely negative measurement tool. Taking a step back, and looking at your personal sales report can be highly productive. Please do not use this on a monthly basis, as some months are not good sale months… ever. The right unit of measurement seems to be somewhere around every four months. A four month’s span seems to be just enough time to find an overall sales pattern. By comparing four months at a time with another 4 month segment, authors can see increases based on the number of new books an author has for sale. Looking at these subtle increases, an author will most likely find only a positive notion of success from these overall spans of time while looking at it month by month doesn’t cut it at all.
Knowledge of the Market – An author hardly ever considers their knowledge of the market as a measure of success. This is one of the biggest mistakes made, especially by authors just starting out. Knowledge of the market seems to correlate to an author’s success. Think about it; the more an author can navigate the market, the more an author knows how to judge their books. Taking into consideration how successfully an author can navigate their potential sales, an author quickly changes their writing. Not always, but usually these changes are for the better. Authors that take time to understand how the market works learns to improve the writing of their blurbs, their story content, and even to set the titles of their book. In order to truly be successful, an author simply must learn how the market works.
Trademark Writing – Part of understanding the market and improved authorship skills results in trademark writing. This takes a couple different forms, depending on the author. Some authors like their cover to have a certain design quality specific to them. Other authors tend to write only within a certain sub-genre. Being able to lock yourself within a specific sub-genre really allows author success. While some authors hesitate to pick one sub-genre for fear of not appealing to the vast majority of people. successful authors know their audience. Writing for five different sub-genres creates confused readers who will, never really know what they’ll get. Trademarking turns into a positive way to measure success.
Fan Outreach – Differing from trying to measure a fan base, an author’s fan outreach doesn’t focus on numbers. Fan outreach is an author’s ability to be found online by their readers. Taking time to utilize social media is the sign of a successful author. Not getting trapped in an endless social media marketing loop authors that have fan outreach know when to quit. Taking time to be searchable, but not overwhelming, successful authors have the ability to self promote. While this may not seem important to success, it is. If an author takes time to look at their appeal to readers, they can gauge some fan feedback. All in all, fan outreach can be good or bad. It can get real bad if an author spends time blogging that would be more productive in getting a new book out.
Taking time to measure success can be painful for authors who don’t know any better. Realizing that some gauging methods are more successful than others, authors keep from getting too discouraged. Judging the various methods for their effectiveness, some authors may find individual ways of feeling successful. So many author experiences are unique, as each genre can be measured differently. Feedback from readers may be more likely for example, or sales higher than in a separate genre. Whatever method an author uses, it’s important to remember everything should be taken with a grain of salt. Feedback won’t always be positive, but that doesn’t mean all books are poorly written. Take time to enjoy being an author, whether or not you feel successful. In any case, for an author to be successful, just keep on writing and do not waste too much time gauging. Write!
With so many authors trying to make a transition away from Amazon, there’s an apparent problem. The challenges many authors face remains rooted in the fact Amazon was a market of its own. There were facts, data, market techniques authors learned to navigate Amazon’s market. Sadly, authors are having to realize these techniques do not work outside of Amazon. Successful authors upload their books only to realize there’s no sales. If there are sales, authors become disappointed seeing their small profit. Many authors remarked that Amazon was, “an easy gold mine” one that has dried up paying out a potential half a cent a page. Taking a moment, authors will notice a few necessary techniques in the market outside of Amazon.
Amazon Means Cheap: Many authors have never made this association themselves, but Amazon eBooks have become cheap. With Amazon being seen as a, “potential gold mine,” many authors put up whatever they could to make a small fortune. This growing quantity of eBooks lowered prices below the standard $2.99 to a surprisingly low $.99 even bundles of 30 books were offered for this $.99 price. The eBooks readers got for their $.99 drove them to alternative sites like Smashwords. Readers that enjoy good quality eBooks would rather pay the $2.99 then settle for these bad quality $.99 eBooks. Because of this, today’s market is filled with readers that avoid Amazon looking books, and yes, they can tell. This means that if authors want to sell their eBooks on sites outside of Amazon, they need to shed their “Amazon identity” and present a better quality product.
Text Based Covers: These covers with full text are a sure way to turn off readers. There’s nothing more distracting than an image covered behind blocks of text. Covers are made to appeal readers, and initiate their interest. When all readers are left with is a blur behind bold often off colored neon text, that doesn’t say much about a book’s potential story. Some of the best selling books in the market today have one word titles. These intriguing titles combined with sexy cover images really excite the reader’s curiosity. Authors coming off of Amazon will find their block text covers will not appeal many readers. This directly impacts sales, leaving some authors to feel discouraged. The market has potential buyers, they just happen to know what they want. Text based covers are not what readers want.
Long Book Titles: Similar to the issue of text based covers are these long book titles. A book’s title should never take a full cover to display. Often, this problem arises because there’s too many keywords in the book’s name. This stems from Amazon having a weird way of using metadata or a book’s keywords. Authors could literally write anything in the keywords, and it’d have little to no effect. Outside of Amazon this issue doesn’t occur. Readers will find a book based on a catchy title, along with those keywords typed in the appropriate box. It’s painful to see good titles off Amazon drowned in layers upon layers of the book’s keywords. Readers are not accustomed to this on outside sites, and many associate this with lower quality eBooks now. If authors want to improve their book instantly just edit out these keywords from the book’s title.
Quality Cover Images: Now first off, I know not everyone is a cover artist or can afford to pay for covers. Amazon books however are well known for extremely lower end covers. These are covers using photos that are often quite frankly terrible. Often, these images will have very little to do with the book’s story at all. When the image does pertain to the story, it’s off colored, neon colored, out of focus, stretched, or even appears photoshopped. Put bluntly, these covers do not further a book’s sales. However, it’s worth noting these bad covers are better than some books with no cover images whatsoever. In the end, a book should have the best cover it can. Whether that means being creative with ideas, or just knowing how to put an average but good cover together. A well put together cover will sell an eBook, but a poor one will not.
Certain Kink Advertisement: Outside of Amazon’s market, there’s a realm devoted to the controversially kinky. While menage might be the highlight on Amazon, it’s standard elsewhere. Authors should note certain kinks are not in high demand outside of Amazon. This includes (with exceptions) Billionaire Romance, Alpha/Breeding, Menage, Tentacle/Monster Erotica, and Pseudo-Incest. While these categories in many instances will appeal to some readers, they aren’t the selling point authors think they are. Many times this has to do with the content Amazon excluded that outside sites allow. Pseudo-Incest can be replaced for outright Incest, Billionaire Romance can be BDSM, Monster Erotica often gets turned into Bestiality. The market can be quite different when listing kinks… in the keywords.
Pricing: The last change to note has to do with pricing. Many books on Amazon have become cheap to seemingly compete in the market. However, these lower prices actually harm books outside Amazon. Readers want to pay for good quality works. Authors often remark, “$2.99 was the going price, but it’s too much now” this is far from true. $2.99 is still the going rate for a short. Longer works can get as high as $5.95, but they have to be good quality. Remembering that price can communicate quality, authors will appreciate a reader’s willing to buy their properly priced works. Please take note, this does include bundles. Series books as a whole set should never be priced at $.99. Nor should books be given away free just to promote a series. These tactics worked mainly in the heyday of Pulp Fiction, but not anymore. Readers honestly associate a price with a book’s quality now.
While this post in no way should be taken as an end all fix all, it stands as a starting point. Authors who have shifted to an Amazon only focus and are now confused. They’ve forgotten what the market continues to be, though it’s only been a year. An author’s knowledge of the market continues to be a critical advantage. Taking a moment to fix a few of these changes will result in a better sales potential. Every author wants to succeed in the market today, and Lot’s Cave understands this. We hope this post might give a few authors a starting point. In time, authors can then learn the critical marketing information we’ve acquired as a company over the years. The Kindle Unlimited program’s fate may be uncertain, but that’s no reason to panic. Just take a deep breath, and try something new. It might not be so bad after all.
Notice the dramatic changes in erotic books over the last couple years. Market saturation has become the norm, leaving authors to fend for themselves at a loss to figure out the reasons for their rapidly declining sales. What happened?
Amazon has erotic issues!
While self-published authors try hard to locate multiple distribution sites, they remain unaware of any good solution capable of competing with Amazon sales. Authors agree Amazon excels as the best place to publish erotic eBooks. But Amazon keeps censoring books resulting in banned author accounts, and confiscation of authors’ hard-earned royalty money.
Authors who grow increasingly tired of Amazon’s repeated issues are learning that other solutions, such as Lot’s Cave exist, and will publish their Amazon censored erotica. They disagree with the idea of Amazon being the only place to make money. Additionally, successful self-published authors find they can bypass Amazon’s exclusive publishing deals.
With controversial erotica being the bestselling subgenres of erotica in today’s market, many self-published authors find they can’t publish their books on Amazon. One of the best ways to get your book or account banned for life is by publishing incest or bestiality themed erotica. Because of this content censorship, many readers looking for taboo based erotica no longer search Amazon’s website as it yields either incorrect or poor content results. This leaves many authors questioning the effectiveness of Amazon’s market for the book’s target audience. With no readers to buy their books, what money do authors stand to make?
Looking at Amazon’s latest censorship trend while pooling together the combined experiences of erotica authors, let’s analyze Amazon’s publishing policy and the significant difficulties one must hurdle.
Guidelines Aren’t Clearly Stated or Consistently Applied: Many books on Amazon contain content that authors know aren’t within Amazon’s Content Guidelines. Popular books containing BDSM, bestiality, incest, and more can be readily found on Amazon’s website. Yet Amazon uses the popular, ‘unsuitable content’ blanket term to regulate author’s controversial content. In no other genre is this issue raised more than self-published erotica. This means authors never know if their content is within guidelines, even if they try to meet Amazon’s murky standards.
Amazon Doesn’t Publish Incest, Bestiality, Dubious Consent, or BDSM: While Amazon’s policy is to not publish BDSM, incest, bestiality, or dubious consent, readers can find the subject broadcasted across the Amazon bookstore. Self-publishes find their books banned, while books from notable publishing companies have no problem selling their books. Complicating issues is Amazon’s sexist policy for adult erotica. Covers depicting women in BDSM themed bondage is quickly banned, while a male in the same situation is quickly overlooked. This conflicting standard happens repeatedly across various erotic subgenres indicating a company bias if not outright sexist policy.
Complaints Against eBooks Are Indiscriminate With No Appeal: Amazon’s customer first policy only complicates an author’s ability to provide quality content. Controversial erotica will always raise complaints despite artistic value, political merit or moral point to be made. At times, Amazon users ban books they haven’t even read leaving them with wrong impressions. Complicating matters are religious standards against any adult material, even in an artistic light. This indiscriminate policy victimizes authors, leaving them with no way to appeal Amazon’s mistake.
Banned Accounts Result In Lost Royalties: Getting a book or account banned may seem like the worst thing Amazon can do, but it gets worse, much worse. A banned account can mean the entire account is frozen, with all funds confiscated and reverting directly to Amazon’s bank account. Because Amazon delays royalty payments, this confiscation can result in authors losing several months’ worth of sales. Amazon’s policy states ‘If we terminate this Agreement because you have breached your representations and warranties or our Content Guidelines, you forfeit all Royalties not yet paid to you.’ Making this issue worse, is a banned account means authors can never make a new account because, ‘If after we have terminated your account you open a new account without our express permission, we will not owe you any Royalties through the new account.’ This is true regardless of a mistake on Amazon’s part, or whether a valid ban took place.
Feel free to share your personal publishing frustrations!