Proposed 2017 Product Plan

DeathtoStock_Clementine10smYou guys, I am loving Marcy Kennedy’s blog series about breaking down how an independent author can be even more legitimate by defining a business plan. You can read my previous posts where I defined my goals and stories, identified my readers, and defined business operations.

What I find interesting is that the previous steps should be stable across multiple projects, as long as I retain the target audience and other general business needs. Moving forward, however, it seems the product plan, competitive analysis, etc, will depend on each individual project that sits under the business umbrella. Here we go!

Product Plan

This is a list of everything Bright Bird Press intends to produce over a given span of time, including novellas, short stories, speaking engagements, and merchandise such as posters and t-shirts. Since the Bright Bird Press business plan had a calendar goal of December 2016, it makes sense that this product plan include and extend beyond that date.

As such, the time span will cover a little more than two years (remainder of 2015, and all of 2016 – 2017). This will help budget and plan for hiring editing and cover design services as needed. This timeline will change as required (e.g. I anticipate buying a house in 2016, which might make the business take the backseat for a while).

2015 Projects

  • Complete the Bright Bird Press business plan
  • Build Facebook and Twitter presence by sharing interesting historical content
  • Fiction project (in progress, details under 2017 Projects)

2016 Projects

  • Continue working on the fiction project as outlined in 2017
  • Establish relationships with Ohio Historical Society, Grove City historical society for potential marketing and community outreach opportunities
  • Create merchandise for 2017 fiction project

2017 Projects

  • Fiction project (as hinted in 2015 Projects)
    • Title: Untitled Grove City, OH 1865
    • Summary: When an amnesiatic Confederate soldier collapses at the feet of Unionist Alina Miller, she must decide between family obligation and personal patriotism while the country  hunts for President Lincoln’s killer.
    • Length: 45,000 word novella
    • Genre: Young Adult Civil War
    • Ebook Release: April 2017
    • Print Release: April 2017
    • Audio Book Release: TBD
    • Budget: $1000

Future Projects

  • Looking for Mr. Knightly – Late Victorian YA – A bookish girl falls off her balcony into quite the adventure.
  • My Unwitting Heiress – Late Victorian YA – A twin is left to pick up the pieces after her sister sprints from the altar.
  • The Shortie and Crooner Chronicles – Children’s mystery book (series?) – Sleuth dogs use their super sniffers to solve crimes, to be written under another name.

 

My Author Business Operations

DeathtoStock_Clementine6smToday I continue my trek down authorpreneurship by following Marcy Kennedy’s business plan guidelines, where we focus on how my business will run. Until now, I’ve set my goals, chosen my stories, and identified my readers (I could probably tweak the last one a little better).

Summary Paragraph

Bright Bird Press will distribute Belinda Kroll’s books through all available online distributors, focusing on Amazon. Books will be produced in both ebook and print formats, with a focus on ebook. Income will be reinvested into the business until each book earns back what was invested into it for production and marketing—plus 10%. All additional income will be paid to Belinda Kroll as a salary.

Business Structure

Capital Investment

At the time of writing this portion of the business plan, the Bright Bird Press account has $759 (rounded down) available to be counted as seed money.

This account is separate from my personal accounts, and all purchases from this account are used expressly for either Bright Bird Press or my other freelance gigs. At this time, all funds that did not come directly from another freelance gig are available for the book portion of the business.

Legal Structure

Bright Bird Press is a sole proprietorship under my legal name, to be considered as one of many multiple lines of business. My co-authors are considered contractors and therefore have received a portion of book royalties in the past. Royalties to said co-author contractors will not be remitted if the cumulative royalty amount over a six month period (Jan – June / July – Dec) is below $100.

Production Responsibilities

Formatting of ebooks and print books will be the responsibility of Bright Bird Press unless noted otherwise on a per-project basis. Cover design for print and ebooks moving forward will be hired via contractors, unless the contractor work is deemed unsatisfactory, at which point Bright Bird Press will be responsible:

Editing services will be hired via contractors, as Bright Bird Press is unable to self-edit with credibility:

Marketing events such as blog tours and giveaways will be the responsibility of Bright Bird Press. Special marketing events such as book launches may require event organizers:

Contract Threshold

Unsure at this point when Bright Bird Press will require hiring more services such as formatting and other marketing needs. This will be revisited at another date. At minimum, the royalties from Bright Bird Press will need to meet $2000 within a six month period (Jan – June / July – Dec) to justify hiring out more services.

Equipment Requirements

The income from Bright Bird Press, in order to self-sustain, will offset costs for:

  • A computer
  • Production software (i.e. Adobe Creative Cloud licenses for InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop as needed)
  • External hard drives for file backups
  • Printers and printer cartridges
  • Marketing supplies (via Vistaprint)

These costs factor into the production and marketing overhead per project, and as such, salary will not be paid out until these costs have been recuperated, plus 10% beyond the original overhead.

Playing with Pricing

Dear Reader,

Part of being an entrepreneurial author, indie author, self-publishing author, etc, is that I make my prices and have to watch my supply and demand. I have to experiment with marketing and production and everything else. My primary product right now is Haunting Miss Trentwood, the eBook version. It’s the one that’s selling and the one I’ve made any attempt at marketing. I’m rewriting Catching the Rose and I’m working on my anthology, Love or Lack Thereof, so there is no point playing around with those books right now.

Last Tuesday (Jan 18), I changed the price of Haunting Miss Trentwood from $2.99 to $3.99 for a couple of reasons.

  1. I believe it is worth that price.
  2. It has gotten good reviews that make me think others believe the same.
  3. Honestly, it’s my best (and sometimes only) selling product.
  4. I’m interested to know the perfect pricing for supply vs demand.
  5. I have no idea what the perfect price point is for my books.

I know pricing down is not what I want to do. Pricing up is something I’m interested in testing simply because I’m curious to know what a dollar more will do to sales and interest. I know customers can assume that a cheap eBook means it’s cheap in terms of more than just finances.

I know other authors have experimented a bit more… Right after I made the decision to change the price, I read John’s post about experimenting with his prices. He’s going higher than me, but he also has a larger following. Will my pricing ensure a larger following? Not sure. But I’ve had Haunting Miss Trentwood at $2.99 since October 16, 2010 for two months. I’m willing to try $3.99 for the next two months and see what happens.

I began with $2.99 because multiple authors say that’s the sweet spot. But I’m just not seeing the sales. Thinking changing the price will do something about that?

All the best,

Belinda

Genre Schmenre

Dear Reader,

I am giving up any and all pretenses of having a blog schedule because there have been too many interesting things to write about this week. Such as an analysis of indie authors who have reached the “1000 sales per month club” as described by Derek J Canyon. I encourage you to read his post where he analyzes what is getting authors into this club (hint: number of titles and genre).

What I found fascinating and a bit disheartening is the breakdown of popular genres for ePublishing. Why disheartening? Take a look at the pie chart that Derek uploaded.

This pie chart breaks down the genres of the authors that are making 1000+ sales per month, as self-reported by authors at KindleBoards. Top genre? Romance at 16%. Where is my genre, historical fiction? Do you see where the slices start getting really small as you go clockwise around the pie chart? Historical fiction is in there at 3% (orange).

Of genres ePublished, 3% of the authors who are making 1000+ sales per month are in the historical genre. That’s a really small number. Or really big, depending on the sample size of book buyers.

I suppose it makes sense. I guess a stereotype of someone who likes historical fiction would be someone who prefers a book with actual pages they can flip in hand. It’s certainly eye-opening to see where my genre fits in with everyone else.

Now, depending on who you talk to, I don’t write straight historical fiction, but historical romance. Which could bump me into the 16% slice of the pie.

Come on, Belinda, why is this so important? I really think genre is a huge indicator of “success,” i.e. getting 1000 sales per month. But then, this is a specific result, in that this is self-reporting through KindleBoards.

I don’t know. What do you think? I’m going to continue publishing because I enjoy it so much, and I know there are fans out there if my Goodreads reviews are any indication. I may never make the sales that Zoe Winters, Amanda Hocking, Susan Bischoff, and others are making. But that’s ok as long as I’m getting to my readers. I also, however, want to be successful. I want to get to that 1000 sales a month.

Do you think genre plays as big of a role as I do?

Indie Lovers Unite

Dear Reader,

I am stealing this idea from Stacey because it’s brilliant: buy indie this holiday season! As I am a part of the indie movement in more ways than one (authorship, furniture, food, clothing, jewelry, etc), my list of indie merchants will reflect this, obviously. What are the benefits to buying indie? Stacey summed it up for me pretty well…

The experience of purchasing something that was created by someone who will chat with you on Facebook or comment on your blog or even thank you for supporting them is great!

It’s true. When I pulled together my Kickstarter care packages, I made sure everything involved was indie, if possible. The “surprise” was coffin soap from Etsy merchant My Vintage Vanity, and she was brilliant. Made forty soaps in a week and shipped them to me in time to post images on the Kickstarter website. The Haunting Miss Trentwood book launch party was catered by Sugar Inc Cupcakes and Tea, and as a barter I made the website. I love indie creators. It’s what my masters thesis was about, to be honest.

So without further ado, my list of indie people you might want to buy from this holiday season.

Shop at Etsy and Feel Good

My friend ArtsiBitsi at Etsy makes these adorable monsters that protect your Android, iPod, iPhone, etc. One of my friends from grad school started her own screen printing press, called Gas Stove Press, and she makes awesome nature prints for you to enjoy.

Etsy has this awesome functionality where I can create lists of products from independent merchants that relate to my books, Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood. I could spend so much time there. I want to make lists for each of the main characters, as well. Enjoy!

Support Indie Music

The Phantods were originally billed as Zombie Polka Rock. Once you stop giggling at this  awesome genre you didn’t know existed, buy their music. It’s pretty freakin’ sweet.

Indie Books by Other Authors

I’ll admit I stole most of this list from Stacey. It’s a good list!

Young Adult

Susan Bischoff, Imogen Rose, Amanda Hocking, Sarra Cannon, Jess C Scott, V.J. Chambers, Jason Letts, Elizabeth Isaacs

Paranormal/Supernatural/Romance

Zoe Winters, Kait Nolan, Ashlynn Monroe, Claire Farrell, Tarrant Smith, Nicole Zoltack, Lauralynn Elliott, Amber Scott, H.P. Mallory, Stacey Wallace Benefiel

Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror/Thriller

David Dalglish, Daniel Arenson, William Meikle, Cristyn West, Mari Miniatt, David Wisehart, Scott Nicholson

Historical Fiction

Belinda Kroll, Jens Kuhn, JR Lindermuth, Joel Kirkpatrick, Zoe Archer

I’m fibbing a bit with the historical fiction simply because there aren’t many indie historical fiction authors that I’ve been able to find. I am on the hunt, though, so let me know in the comments if I missed anyone and I will add them to the list!

So there you have it. Go indie this holiday season and feel good about the fact that you are supporting the arts.

Following Through

Dear Reader,

kickstarter-logo-lightPeople should deliver on their promises. End of story.

This is in response to a comment Kait made about indie authors using Kickstarter but not following through on their promise of a well-designed product, etc. I find this, in a word, disgusting.

Indie authors are small-business owners, as far as I am concerned. We have a product we develop, produce, distribute, market, and more. Our customers are our readers, and we depend on their word-of-mouth to keep us in business. Nothing tops the word-of-mouth. Nothing.

So when Kait told me there are indie authors using Kickstarter to raise funds but don’t follow through with a good product, I got really angry. So angry, I had to wait a couple of days before writing this post.

What gives anyone the right to not fulfill a promise, especially a promise from a merchant to a customer?

With no semblance of apology or explanation?

I am all for supporting indie authors, especially since I am one myself. My twitter bio says I enjoy “paying it forward,” and I do. I will retweet anyone who is putting forth a good effort to make a good product, with pleasure. But when I hear about people cheating others, indie authors et al, it makes my midwestern blood boil.

You make a promise, you make it happen. Or you give a damn good explanation why you overestimated your abilities.

Best,

Belinda

P.S. Warning: completely unrelated. If you’re in the Columbus area, I hope you’re able to make it to my book launch tea tasting party!

Indie Methodology

Dear Reader,

Let’s talk about the indie methodology. That is, the method in which an author decides to indie publish. This is largely inspired by Kait Nolan’s recent post about Kickstarter (I’ll admit, my heckles were raised), but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I realize I am taking a very different path along my indie publishing journey. Let me break down the “traditional indie method” for you, as I understand it.

Author wants to self-publish. Author has little-to-no money, and no followers. Author decides they need to cut corners in self-publishing. How? By releasing to eBook first (or only). Maybe hire an editor. Maybe hire a cover artist. Use free services like Amazon DTP, Smashwords, PubIt. Send out coupons and giveaways to attract readers. Solicit reviews. Attract followers through social networking. Earn money from purchases. Save up to maybe release a print book, set up a micropress, etc. Or not.

This works for many indie publishers like Kait Nolan, Zoe Winters, Susan Bischoff, Amanda Hocking, etc.

It doesn’t work for me. Why? Because I published in high school and made a profit even though I used a vanity service. I continued to write for the next seven years, but put schooling first and didn’t publish.

Now I’m back. I’ve been at this for three concentrated months, and I decided to use Kickstarter to build up venture capital because I intend to indie publish a little differently.

Author wants to self-publish. Author has little-to-no money, and a number of followers. Author has a print book out, and short stories on Scribd. Author wants a micro-press and to dual-release the eBook and print versions. Author needs venture capital. Author applies to Kickstarter to reach new readers, gain support and excitement for new book. Buy ISBNs. Design cover and interior layout. Register micro-press. Use services like Amazon DTP, Smashwords, PubIt, CreateSpace. Send out coupons and giveaways to attract readers. Solicit reviews. Attract followers through social networking. Earn money from purchases.

The process is very similar. But the reason why I’m talking about this is because there was a lot of questions, even negativity, about authors using Kickstarter, as if they were trying to cheat the system. As if they’re clinging to the traditional method of getting an advance and then receiving royalties, etc.

Independent, as I understand it, means to go your own way. Do your own thing. March to the beat of your own drummer. Who cares if I’m using Kickstarter to raise money? Who cares if I decide to go print and eBook, rather than just eBook? As long as I follow through with my promises, it should be all gravy.

I admire and respect Kait, Zoe, Amanda, and Susan. I love what they’re doing for the indie publisher reputation. I’m taking my own spin on the indie publisher’s path, though, because that’s what an independent thinker does.

What am I trying to say? I guess all I’m trying to say is that if you’re deciding to go indie, read up on it. Learn who the big names are, and study how they are doing it. Make note of the methods that will work for you in your situation, and throw the other methods away. The indie world is too small for negativity about how you’re doing things if you’re producing quality work.

All the best,

Belinda

P.S. We made the Kickstarter goal! Huzzah! We’re still accepting pre-orders for Haunting Miss Trentwood through Thursday Oct 14.

Interviewing Susan Spann

Dear Reader,

We indie authors need to stick together, and most especially us  indie historical fiction authors. We seem to be a rare breed.

Today my guest is Susan Spann, a fellow indie historical fiction author who was kind enough to answer some tough questions for me.

Learn more about Susan

Susan lives in Northern California with her husband, teenage son and three cats (one of which is large enough to count as two). She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Association, and enjoys horseback riding, archery, rock climbing and books about adventures (both fictional and non-fiction).

When not running amok or too far in the weeds, Susan writes historical fiction. Her work takes legendary (or semi-legendary) historical figures and tells their stories as though they had really lived. She loves research as much as writing, and particularly enjoys finding a kernel of fact that can grow into an interesting story. You can find her on Twitter as @SusanSpann.

How do you transform your passion into focused research?

I approach research like a category 5 hurricane goes after a coastal fishing village – hit hard, cover as much ground as possible and leave no stone unturned.

When I’m starting a new novel (as I am now) I pick the legend or person whose story I want to tell and then scour the Internet, bookstores, and the library for information. Sometimes I also contact museums or researchers in the location where the events took place. I read as much as I can about the era in which the story is set and the people and places involved. I look at history, geography (including photographs when possible), culture, literature, and especially personal narratives. Only after I stuff myself full of facts and images do I try to let a focused story flow.

How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?

Starting from legends gives me an advantage. Someone already took a life and turned it into a song or story that people want to hear. After researching the historical “soil” in which the legend grew, I try to cultivate the story as it might have really happened, generally in a first-person narrative voice, without losing the vital elements of the legend itself. I’m looking for a blend of fact and fiction that does justice to both.

It also helps to work with children and animals. W.C. Fields discouraged it, but I include them in every novel and I never want for entertainment – some of it more scatological than I expected.

How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?

If you put all the white spaces between the words together, they make a picture of a horse in a snowstorm.

The honest answer is, I cheat: legends carry their own messages, which amplify on their own when the story goes from short-form to novel length. I find characters I admire and work on telling their stories in a compelling way. When the protagonist is admirable and surrounded by a supporting cast of realistic characters and challenges, the messages seem to take care of themselves.

Thank you to Susan for providing great answers to some tough questions! Make sure you check out her website and follow her on Twitter.

Interested in being interviewed?

I’d love to profile you on Worderella Writes, especially if you are an indie author, and most especially if you are an indie historical fiction author. I look forward to learning more about you and your upcoming projects!