Identifying my Readers

DeathtoStock_Clementine9smI was super excited the other day to see that Janice Hardy had posted the next step in developing an author business plan: identifying your readers. This is a part of the process I’ve always struggled to formalize… I know I write for young adults interested in history who also want to be entertained, but what else do I need to know about them?

Gender and Age Range

Janice emphasizes this is the gender and age range most likely to read my books. I think there are a couple men who have read Haunting Miss Trentwood and enjoyed it, but I’ll admit, they weren’t my target audience. I love that they had fun with the book, though!

  1. Primary audience: Girls ages 12 – 17 years
  2. Secondary audience: Women ages 30 – 44 years
    55% of YA purchased by adults; of that, 28% belong to this gender/age group according to Nielson Market Research

What popular authors write similar books to mine?

According to Amazon:

  • Amanda DeWees
  • Cheryl Bolen
  • Cheryl Holt
  • Theresa Greene
  • Jennifer Anne Davis (only YA)
According to myself:

  • Ann Rinaldi (more history-focused)
  • Laurie Halse Anderson (more dramatic)
  • Cheryl Bolen (sexier)
  • Richard Peck (definitively YA)

Somehow my books have been lumped up with far more gothic and sexier books than the ones I believe I’m writing. Hmm… I wonder how I can change that?

What TV shows draw a similar readers?

This is a hard one since there aren’t many historical shows out right now. But the shows which hint at the tone in my books (or the tone I perceive in my books)…

  • Reign
  • Pushing Daisies
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
  • Anne of Green Gables

What expectations do they bring to the genre?

  • I want to learn a little about historical events.
  • I want to escape from my day-to-day worries and settle into something fun for a little while.

Will I fulfill or break these expectations?
Well, my hope is to meet these expectations, for sure. I think I’ll break expectations by not spending as much time “teaching” the way Ann Rinaldi does. Perhaps this is a way to differentiate so my writing seems more young adult rather than escapist adult fiction…

Create a Booktrack (Soundtrack for Books) to Market your Book

booktrackLandingBack in July 2014, I read about Booktrack from Jane Friedman’s blog and simply had to try it out. A “booktrack” is exactly what it sounds like… a soundtrack for a book.

There is no dialogue, so it’s not like a true audiobook. Instead, a cursor moves along the page so you know how fast you should be reading (I believe you can change the reading speed to suit your needs), and you hear the different supporting noises for the words on the page.

I was hooked when I read/heard a sample of Alice in Wonderland, and wanted desperately to create one for Haunting Miss Trentwood. The first chapter is rife with ambient sounds… whispers, the wind blowing, dirt falling on a coffin, a ghost crawling from his grave, teapcups clanging, screams, and heartbeats. It wa a blast to make and took me a couple of hours because I was particular about the proper sounds.

Haunting Miss Trentwood on Booktrack as of April 2015
Haunting Miss Trentwood on Booktrack as of April 2015

How do you create a Booktrack?

When you sign into Booktrack, you’re given the option to add books to your bookshelf, or create a project of your own. The steps I took to create my booktrack included…

  1. Adding a chapter of text, including the chapter heading
  2. Selecting sounds per selected section of text
    1. Seems like you can select a single word, or multiple pages, and then decide whether to loop the sound
    2. You search for sounds via their pre-loaded library, which includes music, ambient noises, and more
  3. Listen to your booktrack and tweak the timing
  4. “Publish” your project by adding a title, byline, cover, description, and genre

 What were my results?

Well, first, I had a lot of fun creating this! It was a blast looking through sounds and syncing them with the text. I published the soundtrack and left it alone… when I checked on it in September I only had a couple reads, so I added the link to my website and tweeted about it. That seemed to help. I also added the Booktrack to the Haunting Miss Trentwood page on this website. When I took the screenshot for this post, it was in April, and I had 326 reads with an average rating of 3.8 stars out of 5. Not bad for an indie author!

Have my sales improved since publishing the Booktrack? It’s hard to say. I had to comment on the Booktrack page to confirm to readers this was only the first chapter, and people should go to Amazon and elsewhere to purchase the full book. Haunting Miss Trentwood is an odd little duck; part humor, part horror, part historical fiction. It’s a difficult work to market, but there is an audience out there.

Give Booktrack a try if you’ve always dreamed of having a book trailer, but didn’t have the video capabilities. I love my Booktrack a lot more than my traditional trailer for Catching the Rose. I can’t wait to finish my next work so I can make another one!

Update!

Caroline from Booktrack reached out to me to correct a slight error in my description of the booktrack (very kindly, I might add!). From Caroline:

The cursor along the page, isn’t there to to tell you how fast you should be reading, it tracks your reading speed and automatically adjusts the sound to your reading pace, to make for a customized reading experience.

So there you have it! Booktrack is even more magical than I described, it automagically tracks your reading speed and adjusts the sound accordingly. Let me know if you guys create any, I’d love to read your works!

Authorpreneur Business Plan Brainstorm

Authorpreneur desks stay positive!
My desk at work reminds me to stay positive!

Hello! I return after ruminating about writing for months between family stuff, getting engaged(!), and rejoining the swing dance team. I’ve gotten a little breathing room, and my authorpreneur brain is whirring back into gear.

In the midst of it all, I despair over missing my writer’s group meetings, which are direct conflict with the swing dance team practices. I lament over my inability to concentrate on my research in the evenings. Instead I practice choreography, hunt for budget wedding supplies, veg out on Property Brothers and other Netflix necessary evils, and attempt to keep my place clean.

Today, I jump back into the writing world by brainstorming my authorpreneur business plan, which is inspired by Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog series. Let’s jump right into the authorpreneur business plan brainstorm…

Authorpreneur Goals

What will it take for me to feel successful?

  1. Earning enough book royalties to pay for future books, i.e. current royalties pay for editing, design, publishing, or marketing services or fees for future books
  2. Receiving 25 positive reviews on the Amazon listing (whether print or eBook)
  3. Holding a physical copy in my hands

Why am I doing what I’m doing?

  • This is a creative outlet that balances me mentally and emotionally compared to my other creative outlets
  • This is a learning outlet that exposes me to a greater understanding of my Anglo-majority culture

What are my lines I won’t cross?

  • Smutty material; no sex scenes
  • Gore; egregious violence
  • Private life; only writing-related personal details will be shared

How do I want to improve?

  • Each book should display a stronger craft of writing than its predecessors
  • Each book should showcase better awareness of genre and audience marketing than its predecessors

In summary…

Bright Bird Press intends to spearhead the authorpreneurship and marketing of Belinda Kroll’s fiction. By December 2016, Bright Bird Press intends to earn enough royalties to cover the editing, design, and marketing costs of Kroll’s as yet unnamed book. Each book published will be in print and eBook formats, and will try to meet a minimum 4.5 star average (measured by Amazon.com reviews). Any book published will attempt to gather 25 book reviews within the first twelve months of publication and over fifty reviews by the end of the first three years.

To reach these goals, each book should improve on writing craft compared to previously released books, and Kroll will release one full-length novel every two years. Kroll will maintain a website and blog, post interesting internet finds on Twitter, and will release a newsletter announcing new releases and giveaways.

Bright Bird Press will make decisions toward reaching these monetary and quality goals while also respecting Kroll’s moral standards. Additionally, if a decision is made which puts Kroll’s personal life at risk, she reserves the right to reevaluate her writing career with impunity to reader expectations. Kroll is accessible to fans through her website and select social media accounts; names and stories of her family are to remain private.

Choosing Stories

What are common threads in books you enjoy reading?

  • Young women coming of age in eras where society has high expectations of them; so many apply to today’s society
  • A touch of romance, which either begins between friends, or presumed antagonists who have to join forces
  • This romance would be categorized as sweet; never going beyond kissing on the page
  • A moderate plot pace, which ends in a generally happy, perhaps bittersweet, ending
  • Familiar but distant history in United States and United Kingdom
  • Descriptive, flowing sentences combined with punchy, blunt sentences in moments of severe action

Do I want to be a single-genre author?

  • Yup

What themes touch your passion?

  • External: Father-daughter relationships in a patriarchal society
  • Internal: Trusting your instincts when no one else will
  • Thematic focus: Trust in the self

How long should my books be?

  • Young-adult length novels; 54,000 – 74,000

In summary…

 Belinda Kroll will write Victorian historical novels (or novellas) of between 50,000 and 75,000 words. These historicals will feature sweet romances, where physical contact does not progress beyond kissing on the page. Kroll and Bright Bird Press intend to build a brand where readers can look forward to coming of age stories featuring father-daughter relationships and bittersweet endings.

Kroll’s books will highlight challenges of establishing oneself in the face of an unsympathetic society. These books will explore the theme of trust, specifically the importance of working to trust oneself despite failings and mistakes. Readers should leave each reading experience with a sense of renewed determination to love oneself.

– – –

That’s it so far! I’m looking forward to the next installment in Janice’s series. I’m finding this helpful for me, and I’m curious to see how this influences my writing. I don’t think I realized my writing length has shortened over the years… my first book was a little over 100k and now I’m interested in writing fiction half that length!

My one concern is that heretofore, I’ve been a pantser… all this thinking and plotting and general authorpreneur stuff makes me worry that I’ll lose my creativity by documenting my (existing) constraints. Oh well! We shall see where this takes me.

All the best,
Belinda

Keeping Track of Financials using Outright

Dear Reader,

I’ve never been big into the numbers of running an independent publishing company, so long as the hobby of writing supports itself. Because I want to make sure I’m following the law, at least, in terms of taxes, etc, and honestly I think I was cheated and paid more taxes than I was supposed to last year, I joined Outright.com to help me track finances.

Outright.com is like a Mint.com but for individual and small businesses rather than personal finances. They connect with your seller accounts on Amazon, Etsy, FreshBooks, PayPal, Shoeboxed, Harvest, and all the major USA banks. Let me tell you, I’m really liking it so far.

Until September 2012 they provide free charts to know who your most popular distribution channel is (pictured below). This is great. I know that I sell most my books through Amazon, but seeing the chart really drives this point home.

Outright also does you a favor and gives you an estimate of your quarterly and yearly taxes. Now since I’m such a small entity, I don’t make enough money for taxation (especially this year, where I used my royalties of the last two years to pay for the audio book). See below.

I say that these charts and tax estimations are free for now because after September 2012, I believe you will have to pay about $10 USD to get that information. I might be wrong. But honestly, if I can get this sort of information automatically, I’m not going to complain. It would save me SUCH a headache come tax season.

The only complaint I have, and this is because I’m a book publisher, is that I don’t know the quantities of books I’m selling, only the deposit amounts from my distributors. So I still have to do that by hand in a spreadsheet, which, I have to admit, I am AWFUL at.

But at least when it comes to finances, I feel like I can breathe a little easier. To read more about taxes as a self-published author, check out my 2008 post on the topic, which still pertains today.

If you own an Etsy shop or sell items via Amazon Seller Central, I suggest giving Outright a try. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the experience!

Best,

Belinda

Four Projects Which Pique My Interest

Dear Reader,

As you may (or may not) remember, this time last year I won the funding for Haunting Miss Trentwood by pitching a campaign via Kickstarter. That 40 days of promotion was a whirlwind of stress, exuberance, and exhaustion, which led to the success of the project. Because I was blessed to get funding, I do my best to support other writing/publishing/local projects as a way of paying it forward.

So far, all six of the projects I’ve backed have been funded, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Today I’d like to highlight other writing and publishing projects that piqued my interest, and might pique yours as well. If you find these projects interesting, back the projects by choosing a reward tier and the amount you would like to pledge.

Four Creative Projects

Blood Sex & Cogs interests me because my masters thesis was about the Steampunk craft culture. Here, the author is crafting their own book, with your help. Check it.


Children of Earth and Star interests me because it’s going to be a digital and physical illustrated book. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the story intriguing… what happens when an earth child and a star child meet and fall in love?


The Gremacht Episode is about a family of Victorian archeologists by author/illustrator Ruth Lampi who encounter demons, immortals, etc. My favorite part? The author is dressed like her characters in the video. Talk about dedication!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/298867900/the-germhacht-episode-an-adventure-serial-by-ruth

The last one I just found out about yesterday, and isn’t on Kickstarter, I assume, because Kickstarter is only available to those living in the United States at this time. It’s a historical by Dubliner David Doughran called A Storm hit Valpraiso. I’m interested to see how his project goes, since I have no experience with any crowdfunding other than Kickstarter.

I’m a big fan of supporting the little guy, and maybe you are too. If so, I hope this post helps.

Everyday I’m Tumblin’

Also, don’t forget that I’m on Tumblr these days! I’m becoming more obsessed with the platform hourly, and am finding all sorts of quotes, images, and funnies to share with you. Make sure to hop over there from time to time.

I feel like Tumblr is a great way for you to see my personality (well, sense of humor, really), more than a blog. I don’t know. We’ll see. Fact is, I love it, and I’d love to see you over there to share in the nerd love.

Best,

Belinda

On the Subject of Copyright

Dear Reader,

I was asked an interesting question via the Self Publishing Review website the other day about copyright and publishing. I figure many have this question, or might find it interesting, so I’ve taken the liberty of answering here on the blog. From the United States Copyright website

No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright.  Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

Now for most self-publishers, this isn’t really an issue. It’s seen as another expense that you may or may not be able to afford. Ask yourself this question, and be honest with your answer: if someone did infringe upon your copyright, would you sue them? Do you have the money to sue them? What do you expect to be a satisfactory resolution to that situation?

I’ve broken down the different items of a book that authors, aspiring and published, might want to copyright below, telling you whether you can copyright it or not, and why.

Copyrighting a Title

You can’t do this. This would technically be more of a trademark, because it is a specific combination of words to create a phrase. A trademark “protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.” So don’t try to copyright your title, because you’ll just be directed somewhere else.

The best protection for your title is to run a number of searches online to ensure that your title is unique so your readers can find you.

Copyrighting an Idea

You can’t do this. No one can lay claim to an idea or discovery. Technically, you can patent a discovery, but your book is hardly a discovery. Your book is an expression of an idea, or collection of ideas. It is that expression which deserves protection, as I’ve explained below.

Copyrighting the Implementation of an Idea

You can do this. For someone to copy your exact words in your exact phrasing with your exact paragraphs is called plagiarism, and is grounds for a lawsuit. You have a stronger foothold with this lawsuit if you have registered for copyright because it is a form of copyright infringement.

Keep in mind copyrighting does not protect you from plagiarism. Having the publication year listed inside the book would be suitable evidence for a plagiarism case. As long as the plagiarist released their work after yours, of course.

That said, you can preregister your work if it is unpublished… Not sure why you would want to do that, though. I guess if someone broke into your house, stole your manuscript, and tried to sell it to the highest bidder? But then that would be outright stealing, and would go to a different court.

The point of making a copyright is that it gives you the right to make copies and that is it. Filing for copyright means that you are the only one allowed to publish it in whatever form you wish. Anyone else trying to publish your work is performing copyright infringement because they don’t have the right to make those copies.

I hope that helps clear the confusion!

Best,

Belinda

Going Like Gangbusters

Dear Reader,

This was a GOOD week for Round of Words. Not only did I copy over my entire plot for The Rebel’s Hero over from sticky notes into the computer (you can see it on my fan page), but I also wrote character bios for half of my characters, and wrote another 1667 words on top of that initial 750 words, thus completing the first drafts of chapters two and three!

And then yesterday, while working in a coffee shop, I realized something awful. The Rebel’s Hero continues to change and morph away from Catching the Rose. So much so that it feels weird using the same character names. So I changed all of the character names and have finally broken free from Catching the Rose. The Rebel’s Hero is still technically a rewrite, so there might be a similarity here and there, at least between character relationships… Anyway, I think this is for the best.

Oh. And I made the cover for The Rebel’s Hero and unveiled it Friday evening on my fan page. If you’re a subscriber to the newsletter, you got a larger version in your inbox. As a bit of housekeeping, from now on I will be releasing book information first to the newsletter subscribers, then to Facebook fans, and then on the blog. That makes sense, right?

I updated the website home page, so if you haven’t visited in a while because you have an RSS reader, hop on over, if you please.

Now as you might have guessed, I’m exhausted. Because on top of all that, I worked full-time last week where I wrote a 32-page report that had a ton of diagrams (ok I’m cheating, I took two weeks to write that). And last night, I was swing dancing until midnight.

Belinda iz ded nao.

I’ll check in next week with a brushed up excerpt from chapter two, I think. Or maybe not. Not sure. My brain hurts.

All the best,

Belinda