Saturday, August 26, 2017

Eve's Hungry Book 1 FREE on Kindle and iBooks




Hey!  So I finally got the Eve's Hungry iWars Trilogy all formatted into three books and fancied up with new cool covers on both Kindle and iBooks. The first book, Forbidden Apple, is now perma-FREE in both formats if you want to check it out.

EVE'S HUNGRY: FORBIDDEN APPLE (FREE KINDLE VERSION)

EVE'S HUNGRY: FORBIDDEN APPLE (FREE IBOOKS VERSION)

Eve's Hungry: The iWars Trilogy is a fantastical mix of action and comedy in the spirit of "Austin Powers" and "Our Man Flint."  It focuses on the adventures of Doctor Eve Zachara, the Vice-President of Apple's secret Special Sales Division, as she battles Google's dark empire. In the future, the war between iOS and Android is fought not only over features and updates, but also with tanks, bombs and laser swords. Fighter jets roar over the deserts of Central Asia, machine guns blast in the jungles of Africa and high above the planet, vast battles are waged by opposing space fleets.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Self-Publishing is Easy: Using Your Kindle Free Days

It often seems like anyone writing about self-publishing feels obligated to talk about how hard it is.  It's like you're required to include the following warning label:

SELF-PUBLISHING IS LOTS AND LOTS OF WORK 
SUCCESS IS NOT GUARANTEED
YOUR RESULTS MAY VERY

Now, writing can be hard.  It's certainly hard to write a really good novel.  But who says you have to write something really good?  And who says it has to be a novel?  Why not write something a lot shorter?  How hard you make it on yourself is totally up to you.

My first self-published book (which happens to be free on Amazon today if you want to check it out) took me three years to write, and yes, it was hard.  But that had nothing to do with self-publishing.  That was because I made a decision to tackle a really epic story as my first project and it was probably (definitely) too ambitious for my first book.  My second self-published work I dashed off in a week and published quickly thereafter.  It was fun and yes… easy.

Self-publishing can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.

But what about promotion?  Everyone talks about how promoting your self-published book is really hard.  Everyone yelps about how there are too many ebooks out already, it's impossible to get people's attention, etc. etc.  But promotion can also be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.

I like it easy.

The easiest thing is using Amazon's Kindle Free Days.  You have to sign up for KDP Select, which means you have to be exclusive to Amazon.  But then if you like things easy, like me, publishing exclusive to Amazon isn't a burden; it's a relief.  You then get five free days a quarter and you can pick and choose which days to use.  You can run them all at once (that's easy) or you can scatter them over the three month period in any combination you like (also easy).  (You also have the option of what is called a Kindle Countdown, but I don't find it quite as much fun.  I suspect to really take advantage of it, you'd have to do a lot of work.  So I never use it.)

And here is the best part about Amazon free days.  Even if you do nothing but click a couple buttons to schedule a day on your KDP account, you will always have some downloads on your free day.   I got 56 downloads on one of my free days without doing anything at all.  I didn't even mention it on my blog or twitter feed.  That was nice.  Despite all the talk about how hard it is to get people to pay attention to your self-published book, you're almost always going to give away at least a dozen or so.  You pick the days, Amazon gives you a little promotion on their free deals page, and customers click on your book and download it.  People will hopefully read it and maybe even review it or recommend it to a friend.  Pretty easy.

On top of that, free downloads also help your sales ranking, and sometimes (not always) you will have a few paid sales right after a successful free promotion.  What could be easier?


Of course, like everything in life, you can make it harder if you want to.  If a few free downloads are good, then lots of free downloads must be better.  (They are.)  But it can be a lot of work trying to figure out how to get more free downloads on your free days.

In fact, I've been working hard (too hard) trying to figure out how, reading suggestions from more successful indy writers, experimenting on my own, and I still don't really know for sure.  But, as I said, self-publishing is best when it's easy and fun.  I don't know for sure how to get really huge numbers of free downloads, but I still find free days a lot of fun.  If your an experienced indy writer you probably know a lot more than me, but so let me share what I've learned so far for those new to self-publishing.

1. DON'T STRESS

I hear a lot about how back in the day indy writers were getting THOUSANDS of downloads on their free days.  Everyone says that these days it's a lot harder to get that many.  But even today, one indy writer I respect a lot said you should shoot for at least 1,000 downloads.  I've never gotten anywhere close to that.  I suspect to get that many downloads you have to do a lot of work.  And that's after you've done a lot of research into exactly what works.  Even worse, what works keeps changing, so it's very likely what worked before, might not work now.  Or might not work for your book.  (My novel is a sci-fi satire, and just might never get as many downloads as a YA romance or thriller.)

So I vote for keeping your expectations very low and enjoying the wonder of the internet.  I'm very happy if I get a dozen or so downloads and thrilled if I get fifty.  Imagine how much work it would be to give away a dozen books to friends.  It wouldn't take me long to run out of people to hand them off to.  Imagine giving out fifty copies of your novel to people on a street corner.  That's a lot of work, would cost money for printing and most of the copies would be thrown away minutes later.  Reveal in the glory of ebooks, people click and download them without much thought, without you having to beg, and they sit quietly in the background taking up no space until the reader is ready for them.  Count your blessings and don't make yourself feel like a failure if you can't give away hundreds every time you put up a free day.

Undoubtedly, free days are a powerful tool.  Those indy writers with a solid catalogue of books can really take advantage of them.  But for those of us just starting out, with one or two books available, I recommend just testing the waters, rather than trying to swim the English Channel.  You'll have plenty of opportunities to use free days more effectively later when you also have more books to promote in general.  Why not work harder later when you have more to gain?  Meantime, you can focus on writing new books.

2. WEEKDAYS SEEM BEST

So in my own lazy way I've done a little experimentation and I think it's best to use your free days during the week.  That's when everyone is at their job, surfing the internet so they don't have to work.  I've heard others recommend Sundays, but Sundays seem get me a lower number of downloads.  I like Wednesdays best.  (Your results may vary.)

3. USE TWO DAYS AT A TIME

Should you use all five days at once?  Or use them one at a time, or mix it up? Who knows?  This is where it gets complicated.  Since free days help your ranking, if you use all five at once you'll get the best initial ranking boost.  Which "might" help you sell some books when you come off of free.  But the number of downloads tends to drop the longer the run.  I once did a run of all five days at once.  The first day was 114, second 62. third 9, fourth 13 and only three on the last day.  So it appears you'll be wasting some of your days if you use them all at once rather than space them out.  (Presuming you have no other promotion.)  I've heard people suggest that two day runs are the sweet spot. So I'm going with that.

4. SPACE THEM OUT OVER THREE MONTHS

It also appears, based on my limited experience, that if you run a free promotion one day, and have a another a few days later, you'll get less downloads.  It seems like I get a lot more downloads the longer it's been since I offered a free promotion.  So I would suggest you try to max the time between free promotions, probably at least a month or so.  But be sure you use all your days before the quarter is up!



5. KEEP ONE DAY IN RESERVE

The best single day I've had so far (doing very little) was 158 downloads.  While it's nothing compared to those who get thousands, I was pretty thrilled.  I got it because one of my blog posts was linked to by The Passive Voice and The Digital Reader.  When I found out, I quickly used a free day and updated my post with a plug for the free download.   I got about 1,000 hits on my blog post thanks to the referral traffic so I'm figuring at maybe 100 of the downloads came straight from my blog.  Nice.  And not too much work.  So keep one free day in reserve for as long as you can for just such a social media event.

Did I mention that my wonderful sci-fi adventure/comedy novel is FREE TODAY ONLY?

6. DON'T SPEND MONEY TO PROMOTE YOUR DAYS

There are lots and lots and lots of sites that will charge you money to promote your free days.  I don't know for sure which ones are best (if any) because it would be be a lot work (and money) to find out and, as I said, I'm not stressing over getting the biggest number of free downloads right now.  Maybe I'll try out some paid sites once I have a better catalogue of books for sale.

Until then, I have a firm rule, I won't spend any money to promote my free books.  Unless you are an experienced indy who already knows the ropes, I recommend you follow that advice too because you might get ripped off.  I'll let you know if I find any paid sites that I'm sure work and are worth the money.

(Famously, almost everyone says Bookbub is worth it.  But it costs a lot and you have to have a lot of reviews and you have to keep applying because you're likely to be rejected the first few times you apply.  Already sounds like too much work for me.)

The other thing I will point out is this, sites that point people to free ebooks can make money from Amazon affiliate deals.  That is, if someone clicks and gets the free book, and then ends up buying something else on Amazon, the site that linked to it makes a little money.  Not a ton, but it adds up if a lot of people download your book.  So free promotion sites have a real financial incentive to promote your free download.  That is… unless they can't get you downloads.  So they might prefer to charge you up front.  For that reason, I'm pretty skeptical of any promotion sites that expect extra money in advance.  There is also the danger that some of these paid promotion sites are just using bots to download your book so you buy ads.  I have nothing personal against bots, but they don't read your book.  You want real humans to read your book, not just clicks from bots.  So I'm skeptical about paid sites.

7. USE THESE FREE SITES TO PROMOTE YOUR FREE DAYS

Below are a few truly free sites I've found that will promote your free day.  As of this posting, they all have active links, they don't charge you anything and they are straight forward and professional.  (IE, not too much work filling out forms and minimal attempts to pressure you into spending money for paid ads.)  They do, unfortunately, require a little work and planning.  I advise you schedule your free day a couple weeks in advance before you sign up with them because some require advance notice.

Will they lead to a lot more free downloads?  To the magical 1,000 free downloads in one day?  We'll find out, I'm using them for today's FREE PROMOTION OF EVE'S HUNGRY.

ASK DAVID

FREE KINDLE DEAL

CONTENTMO

FREE BOOKS

EBOOKSKILL

FRUGAL FREEBIES

BOOK ANGEL

There are lots and lots more sites that do these kinds of promotions. As I find them I'll try to keep this list current. (That is, if it's not too much work.)  Also, please leave a comment if you know some free day tricks I haven't mentioned.

HAVE FUN WITH YOUR FREE DAYS!

By the way, I'm now officially trying to get reviews for Eve's Hungry.  If you do download the FREE novel today, please consider writing a review.  Also, if you are interested in getting a FREE audiobook version or FREE Trade Paperback in exchange for an honest review, let me know.

You can contact me at: mackaybell@gmail.com

UPDATE APRIL 27: So the final tally for my free day, yesterday, was just 12 downloads.  That's not a lot based on what other people say.  I didn't detect any extra downloads from the promo sites above.  (That may or may not mean they work.  Also, at least one of them didn't put out the promo notice until the day AFTER my free sale.  Another reason to maybe run two free days at a time, just in case one of your promos missed them.)

Perhaps I get less downloads because my genre, my description,  my cover or something else.  It might be the lack of reviews.  (I have 5 star reviews on a previous version, but they didn't shift over to the newly edited edition.)  Still, 12 downloads was enough to put Eve's Hungry in the #3 slot for LGBT sci-fi, which is fun:


Also, I got a paid sale today!  (Which I'm almost sure is thanks to the download exposure.)  It also upped my official Amazon rating from over a million into the 100,000 paid range.  I still have much to learn about using free days, but all and all, I'd say this one was a success.




Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Time to Give Up on Self-Publishing?

It’s been quite a while since my last post. And yes, you heard a collective sigh of relief in the blogosphere to see Mackay Bell’s return, quickly followed by an anguished gasp at the shocking headline. “Give up on self-publishing!? No, Mackay, tell us it isn’t true!”

After all, for years I’ve been one of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders of the self-publishing movement. Publishing my first novel on Amazon was one of the highlights of my life. I’m the guy who would jump up and down in rapture when I made a single 99 cent sale. My charming (if crudely drawn) cartoon strip series, Hyper Geek, features a perpetually optimistic and largely autobiographical writer (named Mackay) enraptured by self-publishing.



How is it possible Mackay Bell could even think about giving up?

Before I answer that, let’s back up for a moment.

Many people live by the motto of “never give up.” Mine, however, is more like: “never be afraid to give up.” It’s been my experience that knowing when to quit is critical to a happy life. I’ve lived through good times and bad times, but I’ve found that I always do better when I walk away from something that isn’t working. Not that I give up quickly. I give everything my best shot and try to fix things before moving on. But I know people whose biggest regret is sticking with something too long and feeling they wasted a good chunk of their lives. In terms of my own past, there isn’t anything I think of and go… hmm… if only I’d stuck with that job a little longer, wasn’t so quick to drop out of college, move out of that crappy apartment or upgrade my computer. Quitting, frequently, has worked out nicely for me.

Being willing to walk away means you can safely take chances with your career and life. I like trying new things and I’ve taken a lot of long shots, particularly in business. Many didn’t work out. Some worked out for awhile, but went south. Over the long term, I satisfied with the results of both my successes and my failures. Failure usually leads to valuable experience. Often you learn more than with success. That is, if you are willing to move on and take advantage of that knowledge in something new. It’s important to know when to pocket your wins and cut your losses.

Since I was a kid, I dreamed of being a novelist. I wrote short stories, started a couple novels and went to college to study fiction writing, but… yes, I gave up. The more I learned about the state of the traditional publishing business back then, the less I wanted to attempt a writing career. I simply couldn’t see myself playing the submission game, particularly by writing the kinds of books my professors thought would get past the gatekeepers of the literary elite. I had no interest in being a starving artist fighting against the system. I moved into personal computer sales and then into computer education and business consulting. I have no regrets about changing course back then. It was probably one of the smartest moves I made in my life.

Then the internet took off and the digital age arrived, which provided me with all sorts of business opportunities working for tech startups. But I also realized it presented new creative opportunities for writers to go it alone through self-publishing. I decided to try writing a novel once again. I started this blog in 2010 when enthusiasm among indy writers was rapidly growing, in a large part thanks to Amazon and Kindle. People talked about a gold rush in self-publishing. It hit a fevered pitch around 2014 when Hugh Howey published his first Author Earnings report. He and the Data Guy proved that the self-publishing market was growing by leaps and bounds and some indy authors where making serious money. Many were even able to quit their day jobs and support themselves simply by self-publishing. A few were even getting rich. It was like a shot heard round the writing blogs.

Quit your day job? That’s sounds great! Get rich? Sign me up!

Of course, while Hugh Howey and others were talking about the great opportunities for writers in self-publishing, there were plenty of doomsayers, particularly pundits connected to the old publishing world. They warned of a “shit volcano” of bad writing flooding the market. They predicted that there would be a “tragedy of commons” that would mean all writers had to work for free. They warned that anyone who dared to self-publish would brand themselves forever as an amateur who couldn’t cut it in the “real” publishing world.

None of that concerned me in the least. In fact, as a business consultant, it seemed like exactly the kind panic to expect from a dying industry being disrupted by new technology. (Like when newspapers complained about bloggers.) All the arguments against self-publishing by the old gatekeepers and their minions just made me more determined to try it.

Slightly more persuasive were early warnings from struggling writers who tried self-publishing without much success. There were plenty of sad blogs and comments from writers who couldn’t sell their books, couldn’t get reviews and found the entire process very frustrating. They certainly couldn’t make enough money to quit their day jobs. Let alone get rich. Some would even announce that they were… quitting self-publishing. While I understand quitting very well (I’m all for it), it seemed a little absurd to publicly announce you were quitting self-publishing. If you aren’t selling anything, no one would notice if you stopped. But some writers even went so far as to say they were pulling their books down from sale to focus on submitting to the old publishing world again.

I ignored the doomsayers and the dejected and decided to give it a shot. I wrote and self-published my first novel, Eve’s Hungry, on Amazon through KDP. It took longer (three years) and was more work than I anticipated, but I was very happy with the result. I started to build a little following on this blog and Twitter. I was learning a lot, and having fun. Sales were nothing to get excited about, but I got a few nice reviews and followed it up quickly with a short little book of cartoons I had drawn years ago. Initial sales of that were double my first work. Still combined sales were tiny and sporadic. I certainly wasn’t going to be able to quit my day job. I’d be lucky to buy a Happy Meal at McDonalds.

Then reality hit: my day job became a night and day job.

I got so swamped, I couldn’t even put out 140 character tweets to promote my book, let alone think about writing a new one. I stopped blogging and working on my Hyper Geek cartoon series midway through the story. Months went by and I… gasp… stopped checking my ebook sales (which had flatlined anyway). Things have gotten a little better with my schedule lately, but it’s unlikely my day job will ease up significantly for years. I now know from experience how much work is involved in self-publishing new books. It’s not an easy hobby and it's unlikely to be a real source of income anytime soon. Conventional wisdom is that in order to make a living by self-publishing, you have to crank out books regularly, like every three months or faster. I can’t possibly do that now. I’m not even sure I could or would want to work that fast in the future if I did have spare time.

Meanwhile, outside of Mackayland, the self-publishing industry has experienced what appears to be its first real downturn after many years of growth. Author Earnings last reported that the indie ebook market had shrunk significantly for the first time since they started tracking it. Big publishing seems to be learning how to compete with self-publishers so it can continue to dominate the market (stealing valuable listings on Bookbub). Some services for self-publishing are going bust, sometimes stiffing writers in the process. Smashword’s Mark Coker declares that formerly best selling indy writers are quitting. Even the highly knowledgable (about traditional and self-publishing) writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch announced flatly that the gold rush is over and “getting rich quick is no longer possible.”


So, is it time for Mackay Bell to give up on his crazy creative aspirations yet again? Like I have so often in my past? If formerly “best selling” self-publishers are quitting, how can someone like me, who never even sold many ebooks, keep at it? Do I finally understand why someone would give up self-publishing? What’s the point if it is “no longer possible” to get rich? Or replace your day job? Is my last post about self-publishing to be an announcement of defeat and surrender?

No.

Of course not. Only an idiot would quit self-publishing.

Now, before you flood the comments with complaints that this whole post was just shaggy dog clickbait, let me explain. Yes, I never had any intention of quitting. I got busy and had to take a break, but I always figured I would get back to self-publishing. While I'm a big believer in quitting things, I can't see any reason I ever would quit self publishing. Frankly, I can't see any reason anyone else would.  Even if the market is down. So what is really going on with this latest doom and gloom meme about how all these indy writers are quitting?

Who is quitting? Quitting how exactly? Supposedly "successful" and "best selling" indy writers are quitting "self-publishing." Presumably, they aren't being named because they are too embarrassed to admit it. (Not because, as a skeptic might suspect, this is total bullshit.) What does "quitting" mean? Are they actually taking down from sale ALL the books they published? (Formerly successful books?) Because that just seems stupid. Even if you have no sales (like me) why wouldn't you leave your books up and see what happens in a few years? Even if you're too busy to market (like me) why wouldn't you occasionally click on the free days or Kindle Countdowns that almost always move a few books? Maybe a super fan will stumble upon it and it will go viral. And if you aren't in Kindle Select because you went wide, if you aren't selling books, why not go back to Select? Or visa versa.

Now, it's certainly possible, in fact predictable, that some self-publishers sales went down after having a good stretch. (What goes up, might go down.) I totally understand if someone is disappointed with their progress and they change priorities or spend less time writing new books or promoting them. Or if, like me, they need to take a break. I certainly suppose some writers might decide to try traditional publishing after a sales drop in self-publishing. But that doesn't seem like "quitting" exactly, unless they also pull down their self-published catalogue. (Which, to repeat, just seems stupid.) And what happens if traditional publishing doesn't work out the way they hope? They'll never return to self-publishing? Even for one book? Let's say they have success in traditional publishing, they'll never self-publish a smaller book or one rejected by their big publisher? Either these stories are bullshit, or they are leaving out some significant details.

If you own a restaurant, and close it to become an Uber driver, I think it's safe to say you quit the restaurant business. If you leave your job as a newspaper reporter and open a bait shop by the lake, you can certainly say you quit journalism. But I just can't wrap my head around the idea of a "successful" self-publisher completely shutting down. I guess it's possible, but I'd love to hear some actual details that make sense.

Why would a self-published writer with half a dozen previously successful romance novels completely give up because sales are down? I could see them try submitting their next book to a traditional publisher to check out that world. I certainly understand it must be tough if they have to return to a day job or look for other sources of income. But give up writing? Completely? Pull down their books for sale? After having experienced success in finding an audience? I'd like to know the details. Are these "best selling" self-publishers writing sci-fi, thrillers, mysteries, or simply books on how to make money self-publishing? If the "best selling" writers became successful copying wikipedia into book form and taking advantage of quirks in Amazon's sales ranking and free days to make cash, yeah, I could see someone like that quitting. But I'm not sure how that's relevant to the overall market. If they actually write fiction, do these "best selling" indy writers have any audio books? Are they pulling those down from sale too? If they don't have audio books, why aren't they trying that, since that market is still growing?

I suspect if one were to investigate, the truth would be that these writers (if they even exist) are taking breaks, changing priorities, returning to day jobs or just threatening to quit out of frustration. (While leaving most of their self-published books up for sale.) It would be helpful to hear actual specifics rather than people repeating this blanket "successful writers are quitting self-publishing" meme.

Me, despite low sales, I'm more excited about self-publishing than ever before. For myself and for the industry as a whole. Taking a break has actually given me a good chance to really think about the business, my limited success so far and my own long term goals for it.

“Long term goals?! But Mackay, don't you quit at everything?” Yes, but self-publishing is different. Really different. Compared to other things I have quit in my life, self-publishing is still the answer to all my dreams. I never expected to get rich quickly self-publishing. So if that is “no longer possible,” I’m not surprised or disappointed. Also, I have a day job I like, so dumping it quickly was not a priority. 

The main reason to self-publish is because it’s FUN. That is, if you enjoy writing. If you don’t enjoy writing, it’s certainly not something to spend time on, particularly in hopes of making money. If you don't like writing, and you have no sales, yes: quit. But if you enjoy writing books and having people be able to read them, self-publishing is a blast. There is absolutely no downside. Write a book, publish it on Amazon or elsewhere and… YOU WIN! It’s that simple. You’re a winner.

Defenders of the old publishing world complain that people like me who self-publish are deluding themselves: thinking they become real “authors” just by putting their own books up for sale. They argue that those who don’t go through the torturous submission process, and aren’t paid to publish by a traditional established press, foolishly believe they are budding Ernest Hemingways and that readers can’t tell the difference.

And they are right. I do think that. Yep, by publishing my first novel, I am now officially an author. I went from a wannabe writer to a published novelist. And yes, readers can’t tell the difference. My novel is right up there on Amazon, just like Hemingway, and often ranked higher than some of his (admittedly lesser known) works. Readers looking for something to read don’t care if it was published by a big company or my own tiny Hyper Geek Press. (Well, some readers care, but they are a minority of snobby jerks.) Some readers actually seek out indy writers. Some readers automatically snap up any book published by Hyper Geek Press. (Okay, that isn’t true… yet!)

Meanwhile, my novel is available to more people, more easily than Hemingway could have imagined when he first started writing. I have world wide distribution. People can buy (or get my book free) almost anywhere and start reading it instantly. It’s incredible. The number of available readers are growing everyday. The technology for digital reading is getting better and cheaper every day. If you like print, POD gets better and cheaper. Shipping print books is getting cheaper and faster. And, while nothing lasts forever, there is every reason to believe that people will have access to my writing for the rest of human history. By self-publishing, I have made my characters immortal and secured a beloved place for Mackay Bell in civilization’s collective cultural tradition.

Nice.

As a bonus, I get to piss off all the elitist literary types who argue unconvincingly that I shouldn’t be taking so much delight in ignoring their opinions of who should and shouldn’t be considered a “real” author. Anyone who is a writer knows that finishing a novel is a real achievement, just like runners know that finishing a marathon is an achievement, even if you didn’t win a gold medal at the Olympics. As far as sales, well, nothing is selling as well as Harry Potter so anyone but J. K. Rowling is an underachiever depending on your criteria.

Now, let’s compare my new career as a successful novelist to some of the previous creative efforts (that I quit). In high school, hoping to become a published author, I wrote short stories and submitted them to magazines and journals. After all, Hemingway got started with short stories. I was told by my English teachers that it was a good path to begin as a writer. I enjoyed writing the stories, but it was a lot of work researching where to send them and writing submission letters. Back then, there were also expenses in photocopying and snail mailing them. I also had to worry about what magazines were looking for, and write what I imagined might suit them. More frustrating, all were rejected, most often without a rejection letter. It felt like a total waste of time. It felt like I was being perosnally rejected. Not fun. So I quit. And I’m glad I did.

Many years later, I tried writing some non-fiction articles for computer magazines. And, after much work… I got published! I even got paid! Three hundred dollars! So I kept writing and writing and… didn’t get anything else published. The magazine that first published me folded. I wasted a lot of time asking publishers what they wanted and running around trying to deliver it, only to be told they changed their minds or it wasn’t good enough. Not fun. So I quit. And I’m glad I did.

Around that time, I also started work on a series of digital comic strips called MacToons which were passed around by Macintosh computer fans on floppy discs. It was lot of fun. I had total independence to do what I wanted. But distribution was a big problem (back then). I did some research and found it was highly unlikely I could ever get them published in newspapers by the big comic syndicates. There seemed to be no path toward wider distribution (back then) or any possible way to monetize them (back then). Much as I loved it, it was a time consuming hobby. Without the possibility of growing the audience significantly, it seemed to be a dead end. So I quit.

Later, thanks to the internet, I returned to writing non-fiction articles and published them on my own blog. It was fun to know that what I wrote would actually be read. I didn’t need to go begging to magazine editors. It was also fun to know that there was no real limit to my potential audience. I built up a little following, even got a write up in Business Week ("… the Mackay Bells of the world…")  but, just as it started to take off… I quit.

Why? Because as much fun as blogging about tech was, I asked myself “Mackay,” (yes, I do ask myself questions aloud using my name in third person) “What do you really want to be when you grow up?” And I realized, “an author.” Not just any author. A novelist. Even better, a sci-fi novelist. Blogging wasn’t going to make me a novelist. But self-publishing could.

Now, I am not only a novelist, but I can write anything knowing I have the tools and skills to self-publish it immediately. Everything I write in the future will further my audience as a published author. If I write a short story, maybe someone will read the story and buy my novel. Or visa versa. If I blog, I can point people to my novel and hopefully gain readers. I can combine my non-fiction into a book and self-publish it too. I recently self-published all my old MacToon comics and started my new Hyper Geek comic series knowing I can reach a larger audience and monetize them through self-published books. As a bonus, anything I do now on social media, just for fun, might feed people back to my fiction or comics. I have already learned that simply commenting on blogs like the Passive Voice or the Digital Reader can result in someone buying my novel. There is no limit to the creative ways I can promote my books and build a readership for my publishing company.

So why would I, or anyone, “quit” self-publishing after having already done the work of writing and then publishing? It makes no sense to me. Once your book is up, you don’t have do anything else. Maybe someday Amazon might shut down their Kindle market, or cull out books, but you can worry about that then. (Undoubtedly, there will be other options for self-publishers.) Meantime, you’re a real author with a book available from the biggest book distributor on Earth.

I suspect much of the non-specific chatter about "successful" writers “quitting” is coming from people with other agendas, good and bad. Rusch uses it as an opportunity to advise writers keep expectations reasonable and to save up for bad times (which is a pretty good agenda). Coker seems to be using it as an opportunity to slam Amazon again for being a monopoly and claim, falsely in my opinion, that it is forcing a race to the bottom in ebook pricing (which a bullshit agenda). Various literary agents seem to be pushing the meme to try to get writers back to submitting to big publishers. (Thereby protecting their middle man position to take cuts from writers. Not a good agenda.) It’s also coming from the same old people who bitched about shit volcanos and tragedy of commons. People who want to put the gatekeepers back in charge. People who hate the idea that anyone can be an author.

The "shit volcano" meme took what was one of the biggest positives of self-publishing, that anyone could publish anything, and tried to make it a negative. The "tragedy of commons" meme, took another positive, that indy writers were a community with shared interests, and tried to spin that into a negative.  This latest meme "successful self-publishers are quitting" is likewise trying to turn a huge positive, there is no reason to EVER quit self-publishing, and spin it into a negative. It's bullshit.

Does this mean I only see self-publishing as a hobby and have no expectations to make money from it? No, I still would like to make money, and I even hope to get rich from it some day. As I have said before, the most likely path for a self-published author to really hit it big is if their story is acquired for film or television production. While it's a long shot, I think Eve's Hungry is the kind of story that would make a great movie. So I think it's worth promoting. (I believe the odds of an indy writer getting a film deal may be better than maintaining a steady income from Kindle year after year. Over 500 films are produced every year, and most of them are based on books.)

The potential to make money is part of what makes self-publishing fun. But coming from a business background, I never expected to make a lot of money overnight. I’ve spend many years self-employed and working freelance and I know it’s hard. Business is hard. Getting rich is hard. Making a livable earning is hard. And there is always going to be a lot of competition, as well as ups and downs, particularly in creative enterprises.

Yet, from a business standpoint, I’m also stunned at how many advantages self-publishing has over other self-owned business ventures. The cost of entry is amazingly low (even free), and the cost of keeping the enterprise going is very low (even free). All the more reason talk about quitting seems absurd. What could be a better part time job? What could be a better enterprise to take a break from and return to later? On top of that, there is a clear path to monetize your all efforts in success, even many years later. Finally, the potential market is huge. And it’s only growing. When I look at the state of the indy market, I'm less concerned about a small downturn than all the continuing innovation and progress. Growth in the audio book market, Kindle Unlimited, enhanced ebooks, etc. Meanwhile, originally self-published books like The Martian are being produced as super successful films.

If you enjoy writing, there are really no downsides to self-publishing. And once you’ve put in the work to get your book published, I can’t see any reason to quit.

So… Mackay is back! I've been working hard (and having fun) on some new things. Check out all my latest news.



I have a cool new cover for Eve’s Hungry. The revised ebook is now available with less typos! Eve's Hungry is also now available in trade paperback!  (With hopefully no typos!)

And check out the new paperback version of MacToons. Why would you want a paperback of old crudely drawn cartoons from the 80's? I have no idea, but at $6.999 it makes the MacToons ebook look like a great deal! Because it's now PERMAFREE on Kindle! Includes a thrilling FREE excerpt from Eve's Hungry. (If you made it all the way down here, you should get something free!)

MacToons is also now available on iBooks! PERMAFREE!

And the biggest news of all, Eve’s Hungry now has a spectacular audio book version narrated by the wonderful Tess Irondale! (Completely free of typos!) To check it out, click the pic below!



UPDATE: Thanks to The Digital Reader and The Passive Voice for linking to this post!

Also, a new Author's Earning report just came out that said overall ebook sales have already turned around and went up 4% AND the indy share of that market has also increased.  So good news indy writers!  Aren't you glad you didn't quit self-publishing?


Thursday, February 25, 2016

MacToons FREE!



My delightful collection of cartoon strips is available FREE today on Amazon.  (You can click the link above to get it.)  It will never, ever be free again… oh, okay, it's probably going to be free a lot since it's a pretty short little book.  In fact, I'll probably make it perma-free before too long.  But heck, why not get it now and not have to spend sleepless nights worrying you'll have to spend .99 cents later?

EDITED 2/24/2017 TO ADD: Yep, I made it perma-free.  Check it out!  It's jut a click away from your library.  It also includes a FREE chapter of Eve's Hungry, my amazing sci-fi novel.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Yes, Amazon is my Friend: Part 2 1/2

Quick note about Amazon sales ranking because I find this stuff fascinating. I mentioned in an earlier post how a single .99 cent sale jumped my novel, Eve's Hungry, up from a ranking below a million into the under 200,000 category.  With no subsequent sales, it drifted back to the below a million.

Yesterday, someone in KU read a mere 18 pages of it, and it jumped up into the 500,000 rank.  For just 18 pages.  Many people seem to think a ranking below one million discourages people from buying.  I'm not really sure that is true.  But if it is, here again is proof that Amazon does everything it can to help the low selling book have a chance to get noticed.  THANKS AMAZON!

SHAMELESS PLUG: MacToons will be on sale for FREE tomorrow only.  Be sure to grab a copy.

UPDATE: MacToon's is now PERMAFREE FOREVER!