Saturday was our annual Texas Blueberry Festival, one of our favorite events. Every year, my husband and I go through the hassle of loading his pickup with all the things necessary to make an attractive booth: table, chairs, inventory, canopy, weights to hold the canopy frame in place, ice chest full of water and Gatorade, table decorations, a box fan, and my ever-present and ever-necessary air conditioner (you can see it to the right side of the picture). When he retires, we’ll do this more often, but for now, the Blueberry Festival is one of only two events we attend—both in June.
Every year, I learn more about what readers I meet in person want. This year, I’m working to increase my product line to give them what they want. Aside from what I have available for them in person—exceptional books with great covers and professional formatting—readers want these:
- The Digital Version
Of course. Who would be surprised about this? Whenever I’m asked if the book is available on Kindle, I say yes and hand them my business card. And every time, my heart sinks because I know they’ll forget or lose the card or change their minds. Subsequent e-sales after festivals have proven me right.
What to do? I discovered recently that there’s such a thing as “ebook download cards.” Little plastic cards that look like a credit card that you can sell in person. They give the reader one-time access to your novel. They cost you so much per card to be bought in lots of however many you need (they usually require a minimum purchase) plus the cost of putting your image on them (usually just a sticker you can order from Vistaprint or somewhere similar). You sell the cards in person at a higher price. Whether the buyer actually downloads the book doesn’t matter—you’ve made a sale, and you don’t have to worry about them remembering to buy the book later.
Problem is, Livrida and Enthrill—two companies that create these—are either out of business or I simply can’t pull up their websites on my computer with the funky internet service I have. HarperCollins bought Enthrill and put it up with a collection of other umbrella companies that now serve only traditional publishers (from what I can tell).
I’m getting mine made through Texas Association of Authors. I wrote a note to our president to see if this service is limited to Texas. I’ll let you know what he says. Meanwhile, if you know of another place, fill me in, okay?
Problem #2—if it’s a problem—is that I’ll have to take my books off Kindle Unlimited. I’m not certain just how big a problem that is. If I can find retailers to carry the cards, and I’m certain I can, then I’ve improved my distribution. Getting off KU means I can sell my ebooks through other online distributors too, an idea I’ve been playing with anyway. Folks with a large enough product line have severed the cord with KU, and those who have learned the hard lesson about the dangers of keeping their eggs in one basket are no longer restricting themselves to Amazon in general. I have to admit, though: it’s a hard cord to sever.
- Audio Books
Again, no big surprise. I’m in the process of turning every book within my control into an audio book. But I’m in a dilemma. Amazon’s ACX service is affordable and, for now, the only way I can create an audio book. Paying a reader outright isn’t an option for me yet, and I don’t have the means to read my books myself. So, ACX it is, where I divide royalties with the reader and pay nothing up front.
One of the big cons is that selling an audio book in person—making CDs, for instance—violates Amazon’s exclusivity clause. The clause makes sense. Any sales made outside Amazon would take from the reader’s share of the royalties and therefore are prohibited. Which leaves me in the same boat I was in for digital book sales. Haven’t figured out a way around it yet, other than to pray my income will eventually be enough to bypass ACX. If you have any tips, please share.
- Large Print Books
This one comes as a surprise but shouldn’t. We sometimes forget that there are people out there who love to read, but don’t spend their lives in front of a screen or plugged in to an iPhone. Granted, I don’t get a lot of calls for large print, but I get enough to make it worth carrying around a few. Whenever someone says, “I love to read, but my eyes won’t let me,” I’ll be able to whip out a large print and say, “Here, just for you!”
The Product Line
Increasing your product line is just plain smart business, and I’m working at it. Some of it falls in the category of “it takes money to make money,” but in the long run, it’ll be worth the funds and effort.
It’s all part of being independent. Once we’ve published a book, we have to shift focus. We are our own marketers and distributors. We have to figure things out. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites and blogs that give us hints and tips on things to do. Subscriptions to The Creative Penn and Jane Friedman are vital.
Thing is, we’re writers. All of us “just want to write.” Well, kids, you can do that. It’s okay. If you want to wait on a contract from a traditional publisher, that’s okay too. More power to you.
If you want to be a successful indie author, however, you have to learn all aspects of the business. I’ve said this more than once: Don’t wait as long as I did to figure all this out. Learn from my mistakes!