The Business Rusch: With A Little Help From My Friends (Discoverability Part 11)

Business Rusch logo webWhen we set up the anthology workshop that we held last week, Dean Wesley Smith told everyone that they would have a great opportunity to network. After all, 50 professional writers whose work runs the gamut of the fiction genres would be there from all over the world.

A few of the new attendees worried about that admonition because, as introverts, being in a new setting with that large a crowd (however sympathetic) was difficult.

But Dean’s comment wasn’t about the usual meet-and-greet stuff. Most writers are not good at that glad-handing hail-fellow-well-met thing that happens at most conferences. Dean was referring to the fact that throughout the week, writers would meet fellow writers with similar interests, similar tastes, and similar problems. Even the most reclusive introvert could find a friend at the workshop.

We spent a lot of time talking about stories, filling anthologies, and discussing business. But we also had unscheduled down time. Writers either slept or walked on the beach with new friends or made plans. Several books will come out of this workshop, and so did some discoverability plans, from guest blogging to group websites.

Plus we had fun.

editors1-MOTIONThe writer/editors had fun as well. We invited John Helfers, Kerrie L. Hughes, Kevin J. Anderson, and Rebecca Moesta because we liked their editing skills, yes, but also because we knew that their reading tastes were different than ours—and because we like them. As you can see from this weirdo gif that Google+ assembled from photos taken by Dayle A. Dermatis and Annie Reed. (Click on the image to get it to move.)

I don’t know where the synergy started with the six editors. We’ve all known each other for a long, long time. But I do know that introvert-me met Kevin (less of an introvert) at a creative writing class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We have been friends ever since. Over the years, we have written novels together, planned parties together, stood up for each other at weddings, helped each other in times of need, and oh, yeah, boosted each other up in our writing careers.

I met Dean (even less of an introvert) at a workshop as well, then introduced him to Kevin. Kevin introduced us to Rebecca. We met John when Martin H. Greenberg hired him to work at Tekno Books, and were friends damn near from hello. Then he introduced us to Kerrie. And all six of us, in combination and separately, came up with some truly fantastic ideas at this workshop as well.

I could go on like this about the whole workshop because writer networking leads to great projects. It also leads to discoverability. At the workshop, we introduced Kevin and Rebecca to the great writers who are part of our writing network (formed through our Coast Workshops). They have introduced us to great writers through their Superstars network.

Writer networking also happens online. Sometimes it happens in forums, and other times it happens on websites. The Business Rusch blog is a small community that shares information. Some writers share via the comments. Others send me e-mails. And still others donate to support the blog, keeping the information going.

Dean’s blog has a different community. In fact, every major blogger has attracted a community to his/her work. It’s networking at both its best and its worst. (Best when the information is shared through thoughtful discussion, worst when those networks turn into paranoid sound vacuums. See my post last week about politics and religion and blogging.)

There are a variety of networks. Some are informal, like the blog communities. Others are formal. The formal networks have contractual agreements that the members have to sign before they join. Some of these networks also have dues or volunteer time requirements.

One of the formal networks that I’m familiar with is Bookview Café. It’s a cooperative publisher, which it defines thusly:

Our members are authors across all genres, from science fiction to romance to historical to mainstream. We function as editors, copyeditors, ebook formatters, cover artists, website maintainers and more. We offer both reprints and new titles, currently in ebook form, but we’re looking at expanding to print…

Bookview Café does not prevent its members from placing their ebooks in other stores, like Amazon, B&N, or iTunes. But it does prefer to sell the books through its website. How all this works, aside from the fact that there are legal documents governing the relationship, is not something I’m really privy to. Some of the answers can be found on their FAQ. I know some others, because I know members, but I have no idea what information is private or not.

I mention them here, not because they’re the only cooperative publisher I know of, but because I spoke via e-mail with friends from the café for this piece. Also, BVC has been around almost as long as this e-book revolution, so they’re very well informed about what works and what does not.

They have a fluid business model, which adapts to the changes in the industry—in a smart way, as far as I can tell.

Less formal networks exist in all sorts of ways, which I will list below.

I will say this: If you’re forming a network, and that network involves financial transactions and/or expectations of work, then you absolutely need a legal agreement. Too many lawsuits occur because someone handled money incorrectly or feelings got hurt over volunteer work. I used to work for a nonprofit staffed by volunteers, and believe me, we had the most difficulty when there was no legal contract governing the relationship.

So, if you’re setting up a network, and someone handles money—even on one project—make certain you have a contract between all parties involved.

That said, networks are a generally a good thing. Yes, they can get toxic and yes, there’s always going to be someone who pisses in the pool.  If no finances or division of labor is involved, make sure the network is run by one person who decides which direction it goes. If there are finances or expected division of labor, you need that contract to get rid of the troublemakers. (And you will never be able to predict in advance who those troublemakers will be.)

For the purposes of this blog, we’ll talk only about the way networks aid discoverability.  Networks can be invaluable in helping writers get discovered. There are a million ways to do it.

I asked a few of my writer friends who are very good at discoverability in 2014 how they or their organization is doing the work. I was going to ask more, but I didn’t have as much time as I expected to have last week. My bad. So I would love it if you folks add what innovative ways you’ve worked on discoverability with the help of your friends in the comments below.

In no particular order, here’s how networks can aid discoverability:

1. Call To Arms:

I put this one first because it’s the one everyone thinks of. It’s the obvious way to use a network. You give the network members information, then ask them to use their social media/bookstore connections to promote your work.

Honestly, I rarely do a call-to-arms. When I do, I don’t do it for my work. I do it for a charity or a good cause. Once, Dean and I did a call-to-arms for a friend’s business being badly misrepresented on a recommendation site. We asked anyone who had direct personal experience with the friend’s business to write about that experience. Dozens of people did, and the problem got resolved.

A call-to-arms is different than a notification. A notification is a single post or tweet or message letting your fans know that something new is available. A call-to-arms directly asks people to retweet, tell their friends, or do some kind of action for you. The more you do it, the less your network pays attention—and the less people outside the network pay attention.

Fantasy, historical, and mystery writer Pati Nagle, who publishes her work through Bookview Café, says that group learned this the hard way.

In an e-mail, she wrote,

One thing we’ve learned from past experience is that just having everyone share and retweet each other’s book posts isn’t all that effective—especially when we have friends in common and they start seeing the same post multiple times. That gets regarded as spam.

A call-to-arms is huge, easily misused weapon. Do this rarely, if at all.

2. Bundling

All Covers LargeSome of you know that last month, I was in a book bundle with several writers. I’m in a bundle this month too, through Storybundle.com. Kevin curated this bundle, and asked me to be part of it, not just because we’re buds, but because I had a series that fit with it. (He’s done other bundles without me.)

This bundle offers nine books. I put in the first book in my Fey series. Kevin has included a book, of course, and so have David Farland, James A. Owen, Peter Wacks & Mark Ryan, Peter David, Brandon Sanderson, Tracy Hickman, and Neil Gaiman.

Readers can set their own price for the bundle (no lower than $3), and some of the money goes to a charitable cause dear to all of us, The Challenger Center.

It sounds like a super-powered bundle, and it is, but I urge you to go to the site to see how it came about. If you click on the book covers on the home page, you’ll see Kevin’s curated comments. They’re not about the books. Each one describes how Kevin met or knows the writers in question.

The comments go like this one for Neil:

How can I not have a soft spot for Neil Gaiman? Fans know him as a god among writers, one of the most successful authors working today. For me, though, I got to know Neil when his young son (now a successful doctor!) was a big fan of our Star Wars Young Jedi Knights series. OK, Neil, we’ll let you in the StoryBundle… – Kevin J. Anderson

If you read the curated comments all together, you’ll see a network at work, and the center of that network is Kevin.

You’d think that this group doesn’t need discoverability, but every writer is unknown to a vast majority of readers. In fact, when I told one of my best friends (an avid reader [not a writer] who also knows Kevin) that this bundle was starting this week, my friend said, “Who’s Neil Gaiman?”

My friend was serious. He has read some of the other writers, but Neil has somehow never crossed his radar. Even when I told my friend the name of Neil’s books and the movies made from his work, my friend had still never heard of Neil. So if my friend buys the bundle, one of the authors he will discover will be Neil Gaiman.

Bundles like this one are run by a bundling company. The company brings its own newsletter to the table, plus hosts the bundle and does the work getting the books ready for download, etc. For that the company gets a percentage. The charity gets a set percentage. The rest is split with the authors.

And yes, absolutely, we have a contract.

Bundles like this, which are available for only a few weeks, only work when the writer-participants inform their own networks that the bundle exists.  The pooled networks invite readers to try writers they’ve never heard of.

If the readers like that writer’s work, then the readers will buy more of the work.

The magic doesn’t happen quickly, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Readers will respond—good or bad—when they get the books. We writers are gambling that readers who buy the bundle will like at least one other writer in that bundle. (And if the reader’s not one of our regular readers, then we’re hoping the writer the reader likes is us.)

What I love best about the book bundles is that the power of the bundle lies entirely in the work itself.  You’re gambling that readers who have never seen your writing before will like it.

I did one bundle last summer with the first book of the Retrieval Artist series, and I watched the readers work their way through the rest of the series like a mouse through a snake. I thought it was done until my sales for the series went up last fall on non-DRM sites. Bundles like this attract non-DRM readers, who will then buy the remaining works through sites that don’t use proprietary technology.

But bundles don’t have to be through a formal bundling site.  There are other ways to do this.

Last week, romance and fantasy writer Anthea Lawson (who writes fantasy as Anthea Sharp) told me about a successful bundle that she has done, and I asked her to write it up for me for this blog.

She got the idea from another group of writers in a collective called The Indie Voice, which I had not heard of until Anthea e-mailed me this week. I urge you to go to the Indie Voice’s About page so that you see how writer networking can lead to Something Good. Here’s a sample:

Eight writers met, many for the first time, on a windy day at an all-inclusive hotel in Cancun, Mexico on February 22, 2013 in a big ass hot tub. What began as a mere spark of an idea to join together to promote and market literally exploded … Needless to say, bonds were made, friendships were forged, and the moment everyone got home, big ideas did not disappear within hectic work schedules, but instead became reality amongst a deluge of Facebook comments and emails. In hopes of realizing widespread results, two more writers…were suckered into joining The Indie Voice, completing this unique partnership.

(And yes, this is one of those formal groups with a contract. It required everyone to put in up-front money.) I just clicked on the book that came from their newsletter which Anthea mentioned in her e-mail, and these women are going to get a sale—because of our networking here.

In March of 2013, according to Anthea, these women started doing multi-author bundles that were very successful. Anthea did what any good businessperson does—she studied the model and tried to see how to adapt it to her own work.

She writes,

While some authors were banding together to try and hit lists, I know that YA fantasy (without vampires/werewolves/fallen angels) is a soft market. My goal was to try and reach new readers within my genre and cross-pollinate and promote with [similar] authors. I also knew I wanted to position the bundle as a long-term loss leader if it ended up taking off.

She adds that having a large mailing list or bestseller status was not the point of including an author.

Having a good fae-fantasy YA book with a follow-on series was the baseline.

The plan included putting all the proceeds into advertising the bundle. They launched in June at $2.99, but over time, decided to lower the price to 99 cents.

By October, we were selling thousands of copies a month. Collectively, we decided to keep the .99 price point going. In December, we sold 15K copies of the bundle and at this point everyone’s follow-on books in their series were taking off. Sales of my Feyland books more than quadrupled…

As of now (March 2014) we have sold over 50K copies of the Faery Worlds bundle. Our ranking on Amazon has finally dropped out of the top 1,000 overall but we’re still selling plenty of copies and reaching LOTS of new readers, not only on Amazon, but B&N and Kobo as well… 

There’s a lot more to her e-mail, and I will use some comments from it in future posts, but suffice to say, this is how networking can work—with some smarts, targeted marketing, and set goals. If you want to see the bundle, check this link (with all the buy buttons).

Sidebar: Be Prepared

If you’re going to tap into vast fan networks other than your own, you need to be prepared.  At minimum, you’ll need a newsletter. The staff at WMG Publishing worked really hard to have my Fey series website up and running properly before the bundle hit. (Believe me, these folks worked their tails off!)

If you want to see how the website redesigns that I’ve been talking about are going to go, look here.  Note that there’s a newsletter signup, so that fans can be notified about the upcoming books.

You want your site to be as professional as possible, even if it’s a static site, so that people will find the information they’re looking for and maybe give you their e-mail address.

But if you don’t want to do all the work of a bundle, then here’s something less complicated, but which seems like fun:

3. Blog-Hopping

Last week on Facebook, writer Esther Schindler  tagged me with this sentence:

I rather like this idea for fiction authors (and maybe us non-fiction authors): a blog hop.

 Then she sent me a link to two participants in a blog hop that occurred on December 21, 2013.  To celebrate the longest night of the year (in the Western hemisphere), 31 writers “cast light into darkness.” That was what they were supposed to blog about.

It was the blogging equivalent of a progressive dinner party (or safari supper, as you Brits call it) where you eat a different part of the meal at a different home. Readers start with the first blog, then “hop” to the next. All 31 were up that day, and readers could spend the long night reading about light.

I’m going to link to the blog that intrigued me. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll find the entire list.

4. Joint Giveaways

Kathryn Loch e-mailed me in the middle of February to let me know that “a bunch of us romance authors get together and chip in for a Kindle giveaway or Amazon gift card.” I don’t have a link for you, but she tells me that she’s gotten a lot of exposure and sales that way.

5. Your Turn

I’m bumping up against my self-imposed word limit, so I’m going to let you folks discuss what worked for you in the comments. I’m interested in sharing networking ideas that had a true impact on sales (such as Anthea’s example), something that actually spiked your sales or raised your profile in a lasting way. Let me be clear: this is work that you’ve done in conjunction with other authors, not information you received on a site, but a group promotion or group marketing of some type. I will monitor these comments closely. If they don’t adhere to the commenting assumptions below, I won’t post.

Finally…

Not all networks that aid discoverability need to be networks of fiction writers. Because of the blogging post I did a few weeks ago, Bonnie Koenig contacted me. Bonnie runs a site called The Cat Post Intelligencer , which focuses on…you guessed it…cats. I had mentioned that I wouldn’t mind blogging about cats and she gave me the opportunity—plus, completely unasked, she promoted my books. (Pleased me, I tell you.)

That one contact put me in touch with The Catblogosphere, a website devoted to cat blogging. A number of cat bloggers now follow me on Twitter and Facebook and are retweeting my (almost weekly) cat pictures. I have no idea how many new readers this has brought to my books or website (if any), but it’s a network I can tap, particularly for some animal-based charities that I have peripheral involvement with.

Links, connections, ideas, discussions.

I’m only just now digging out from last week’s deluge of information, and the new connections I made there. I’ve agreed to some things, and am working on promotions—particularly for Fiction River—that would not have occurred without the workshop.

It’s fun, but like everything to do with discoverability, it’s also a time sink.

As you develop your own discoverability plan, remember that you will be using up some of your writing time for every project you agree to. Also remember, the most important thing you do is write.

If the things you do for discoverability interfere with that, then you need to clear the promotions and marketing out of your office and get back to work—writing the next story.

Which is what I need to do. My office looks like a tornado hit it. (Maybe it did: Tornado Kris, zooming in and out while teaching a workshop.) I’ll be more responsive this week than in previous weeks, but I’m still buried.

So…for the sake of brevity: comments, ideas, e-mails, and opinions welcome. Donations gratefully received to help me continue the blog on a weekly basis.

Thanks so much for your time and your visits!

Click here to go to Paypal

“The Business Rusch: With A Little Help From My Friends” copyright 2014 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Please Read These Assumptions Before Commenting:

I’m going to make some assumptions in the next group of blog posts, and I’ll repeat those assumptions each week until I’m done.

Assumption #1: I’m going to assume you’ve read the previous posts, which you can find here.  

Assumption #2: With only a few exceptions, we will be talking about fiction here. There are promotion techniques that work for nonfiction—even on the first book—that do not work for fiction. I don’t want to muddy the waters here. We’re discussing fiction in these posts.

Assumption #3: You have learned your craft well enough to intrigue readers. You know how to tell a good story, you have grammar, spelling, and punctuation under control, you create interesting characters, and you write what you love.

Assumption #4: If you have indie published your work, then your work has a good blurb, a great cover, and a well-designed interior. Your work is available in ebook and trade paper formats. (I also hope you have audio books, but for our purposes here, I’m not going to assume it.)

Assumption #5: If you have indie published your work, your ebooks are available in every ebook venue you can find. Your paper novels are in extended distribution on CreateSpace or Lightning Source. In other words,  if a bookseller whom you don’t know and never will know wants to order your paper book, that bookseller can call up a catalogue from a major distributor (Baker & Taylor, Ingrams) and order your book at a bookseller’s discount.

Assumption #6: If you are traditionally published, your books are with a company that makes the books available in e-book and paper formats, and your books are still in print. (If they aren’t, ask for those rights back and then publish the books yourself.)

Assumption #7: You have at least a minimal web presence. You have a website that readers can easily find. You have a list of your published books somewhere, also findable. You have some passive marketing in place. (A mailing list, a social media presence, or a contact button on your website. Something.)

Assumption #8: You have published more than one book. Most of what I tell you won’t work on one novel. You’ll need several—or at least a novel and some short stories. If you’re haven’t published much, make sure you’ve done 2-7, and write the next book.

Assumption #9: You will finish this discoverability series before you decide which of the things I mention is for you. Because one of the last posts I’m going to write is how to measure success. That should have been one of the first posts I wrote, but of course, I write out of order, and so it’ll go at the end. [VBG]

Those are the assumptions.

Now, I have one big WARNING:

Everything I say here, everything, MUST take place after you’ve finished writing your story/book/novel. Do NOT take ANY of this advice into your writing office. None of it. Be an artist: write what you love. When you’re done, then worry about marketing it. This new world of publishing allows us to write whatever we want and publish it. Please take advantage of that. When you write, be an artist, be a great storyteller, not a marketer or a salesperson.

I know, I know. Lots of warnings and assumptions. But I had to be clear, because these points are extremely important. I won’t get to everything this week or even the next week. So…you need to be on the page that I’m on to understand what I’m talking about.




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42 Comments

  1. How timely! I’ve recently been given the opportunity to join Windtree Press who are a great bunch of people, some of whom I met at one of your workshops on the coast. Initially, we were talking about it as a way for me to get my audiobooks up through ACX (who have an Americans only policy), but then we talked about publishing my ebooks and paperbacks through them too.

    Part of me was really excited in working with a group. Another side of me was worried about losing some control and of what might happen should a group fall apart. I also have my own imprint, Elly Books, and not sure if I should let this go. I could, of course publish as Elly Books through Windtree Press, but that might be just confusing (although if it all went wrong, it might be easier to withdraw)

    But if Kris thinks it’s a good idea, maybe I should go for it! So thank you for today’s post.

    I wish I could have been at the coast with you recently. In fact, I had a dream that I was actually there! Lol! You guys are just so far away from Britain, it’s an expensive trip. Such a shame because the networking there is brilliant. Wish there was something similar over here where I could network with British writers. Ah well, hope to join you again on another occasion.

    Jane

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words, Jane. Make sure you have a contract with the company, and it’s one that you can get out of quickly. I’m not familiar with this group, so can’t judge it on its merits. Make sure you vet it before joining. (I probably should have said that.) And through the Oregon group, there are a lot of connections to places like Bookview. Ask those folks what kinds of policies they have so you know what to look for in yours.

      Good luck with it! And it’s great to hear from you.

      Reply
    • Jane, I just ended my contract with an e-book publisher, and maybe that’s a very different kettle of fish from an author’s cooperative, but I was glad to gain my independence again, although I will have to rebuild book sales as an independent. Differences of opinion about pricing, book covers, and limitation of retailers made it difficult for me to publish with them. I hope that these issues won’t arise for you.

      Reply
  2. None of this stuff works for me. Maybe it’s because I’m becoming a hermit. I can’t be bothered with networking, tweeting, blogging. None of it. I worked my butt off writing nearly 14 books in the space of 2 years. I did that while promoting my books online. I burned myself out on writing and social networking.

    Now, I’m taking it back to the writing 100%. Slowly.

    I still have a blog, but that’s just to update when I have new work out. I don’t do social networks at all any more. Maybe when I’ve got forty books under my belt I’ll think about discoverability, etc. But hopefully by then I won’t have to.

    I still enjoy reading yours’ and Dean’s blogs. I donate when I can too, so hopefully things keep going for news about the pros who know how to act responsibly in the world of publishing. Unlike me, a total weirdo without a clue.

    Reply
    • I forgot to say my reasons for why this networking stuff doesn’t work for me. It’s because I go about it all wrong. I always screw things up in some way or another. Over the years I’ve been involved with projects and learned so much about self-publishing, but mostly it’s because after everything I’ve done for fellow indie authors, they’ve stabbed me in the face! I was going to say they stabbed me in the back, but that would mean they’d cared about keeping what they did to me a secret. Which they did not.

      One things for sure, you’re right about getting things legal. I made book covers and did formatting and promoting for writer ‘friends’ for FREE, who totally took advantage of my kindness and never helped me out in the end, and actually made things worse for me.

      Perhaps that’s why I’ve got a negative outlook on the whole networking thing.

      I’m happy now on my own, doing my own thing. Just writing. :)

      Reply
  3. Interesting post today. I have bought bundles before and they are a great way to discover new writers that are new to you. I’ve met a quite a few who never heard of Neil Gaiman. I bought the faerie collection that Anthea put together. I love the faerie worlds so I’m looking forward to this. Thanks also to the cat website. Under my own name I like to write cat fiction and plan on publishing it. I live with six cats in my house plus three kids and a husband. It gets crowded.
    I think authors networking can work but I have a long way to go. I’ve only published one romance novella (Elizabeth Baillie) so far. My next one should be out real soon.

    Reply
  4. Forgot to mention that I have wanted to give your fey series a try. Is that in the faerie world as well?

    Reply
    • It’s a faerie world and more. (And it’s a series about war, so be warned.) I had a lot of fun going back to the old myths and legends–the old, old ones, not the ones cleaned up for children.

      Reply
  5. Wow, Kris, that Fey website is hot! Great going!

    Reply
    • Thanks. Wish I could take credit, but all I said was “I trust you guys” and then “Yes” when they gave me the details for approval. WMG has a talented hardworking team.

      Reply
  6. I have two supplemental points to add to Our Gracious Hostess’s well-considered piece. They are the kind of supplemental points added by someone who has spent the last couple decades or so dealing with the fallout from when things did not Proceed According to Plan.

    (1) Not just any contract will do; it needs to be the right kind of contract. I understand full well that lawyers can get very expensive very quickly, so there’s a tendency to reach for a form book and do some self-help legalism, with the idea that “any contract is better than nothing.” Well, sometimes not; if one doesn’t reach for the right form book, or the right section of the form book, it might be worse.

    As a specific example, the “leading” legal treatise on entertainment law (I will not mention it by name, but it’s ten volumes long and has the form L____ on Entertainment Law) is flat wrong in everything that it says about publishing contracts and cooperative arrangements among authors for anything that is not based in California and related to an existing media property (that is also governed by California law). A nonlawyer would have difficulty seeing that; hell, a lawyer who doesn’t practice in the area would have difficulty seeing that. And fixing it is beyond the capability of just about any lawyer; far better to start from scratch. Further, every contract in L____ is written by attorneys whose only experience in practice is representing midmajor and major H’wood studios, so their very perspective is unlikely to be author-sympathetic (or even cooperative!) in the first place. It doesn’t help that so many of the boilerplate terms in the form contracts are still based upon the 1909 Copyright Act… which has not been the law for thirty-five years.

    This is just one, easy-to-cite example. Virtually every form book out there is full of model/sample agreements that are tied to the form book author’s preconceived notions — in his or her jurisdiction/industry and based on his or her client base or personal experience — of what works. If I were to write such a form book, it would have the same problem. The difficulty this presents is pretty obvious: Any form drawn from such a source is so laden with assumptions that it may not — indeed, almost certainly is not — adaptable to changing circumstances and different contexts by anyone other than one of those expensive lawyers (or, at least, not without running afoul of the Law of Unintended Consequences).

    (2) Do not base organizational and operational decisions on potential tax consequences. In particular, if a cooperative is successful and grows, somebody will suggest making a business entity out of it; and somebody else will come along and claim that the best way to do it will be (at present) a Nevada LLC because there are essentially no taxes or filing fees. And then, the first time there’s a disagreement or lawsuit, the cooperative will run into the Fram Oil Filter Theory of Litigation Support: You Can Pay Me Now, or You Can Pay Me Later. The problem is not that Nevada LLCs are never appropriate for anyone; it’s that they’re not ordinarily appropriate for out-of-state organizations whose primary asset is intellectual property rights, nor for non-US citizens, and especially not if any principals of the LLC are married to nonprincipals and residents of community property states (like, say, California… or, more to the point, Oregon, if to a lesser extent…).* If your family needs a minivan, a shiny Mustang convertible is not a good choice of new family car no matter how good a deal one can get on it. In commercial terms, it is not “fit for purpose.” And it’s not just Nevada LLCs that are problematic, either — there are lots of other examples of inappropriate business structures in and around publishing, writing, etc. — I just mentioned them because they’re a concrete, common example.

    In the end, I agree with Justice Holmes: Taxes are the price we pay for civilization… and reading and publishing both benefit from more civilization, not less. There are perfectly legitimate ways to minimize tax burdens, but those should not determine other choices.

    * Explaining why is several law review articles’ worth of prose and footnotes. Badly written law review articles. And incomprehensible footnotes. And a lack of consensus that those articles are correct.

    Reply
    • I should mention that my husband is an attorney and helped draw up the contract (fairly informal, but still stuff in writing) we all signed and agreed to for the Faery Worlds bundle.

      Absolutely agree that it’s important to cover those bases!

      Reply
  7. I’m in the midst of promoting Terminally Ill, my latest book, right now, and one thing that struck me was danzierlea’s comment (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/02/10/wuzza-wither-woozy-book-marketing/), “So book signings, right? You…wait for people to show up. If you’re in a small town on a cold as polar whatever day, nobody shows. So much for all that work. My idea is, get a bunch of authors – like, at least ten – to collaborate and do a group book tour/signing.”

    So I asked some local authors to join in, and L.K. Below volunteered. I knew she would. She’s the only author I know who started writing full time right out of high school. She’s that determined.

    I had won a contest with Kobo, and they had offered to support me–no small feat, since I live on the other side of this snowy province. When I told them I wanted someone to jump out of a coffin, the only person willing to step up and jump out was Mark Leslie Lefebvre. In case you haven’t heard of him, he’s the Director of Self Publishing and chief of author relations for Kobo, but more than that, he’s an author, he was a bookseller, and he was my editor for the anthology Tesseracts 16 (a coincidence, not nepotism), and a hilarious and intelligent speaker who drives back and forth to work with a skeleton as his passenger. He flies internationally to speak at conferences, but he’s rearranging his schedule so he can come to this teeny corner of Ontario for my book launch.

    Honestly, I don’t know if the people here know what a big deal this is, but I do know this: I feel good that I’m not just promoting my own work, but showcasing an up-and-coming local author and bringing a wealth of publishing knowledge to a small town.

    I also don’t know if this promotion has worked, or will work, to sell my books, but I’m thrilled because even if no one shows up, I get to pick Mark’s brain and make him jump out of a coffin. Can’t lose.

    So, my promotion tips would be something like,
    1. Band together. Authors, companies, whatever works. I should write a separate comment about Windtree Press, the authors’ cooperative I belong to.
    2. If you win a contest, work it for all you’ve got.

    Reply
    • If you don’t mind my asking, Melissa, in what part of Ontario are you doing the promotion? I’m in Hamilton, and I’m a mystery/romance writer.

      Reply
    • I hope lots of people show up. Unfortunately, all my Ontario pals live in the big cities, so I can’t send them to see you. I’m sure you’ll have a good time and I hope it’s not too vortex-y.

      Reply
      • Thanks, Sally. If you have any friends in Montreal (1 h away) or Ottawa (1.5 h away), please send them.

        Unfortunately, it’s been a vortex-y winter!

        Reply
        • I’ll mention it to my friend in Montreal — though for business she often gets sent to the Yukon, talk about a vortex!

          Reply
          • My Montreal pal is being sent to Nunavut during your event!!! (I had to look that up. It’s almost Greenland)

  8. Wonderful post, Kris.
    Your comment, “Most writers are not good at that glad-handing hail-fellow-well-met thing that happens at most conferences” rang absolutely true for me. The great thing about the fantastic networking opportunity you and Dean provided to us wasn’t only about meeting other authors (although that was terrific), but the realization that these same people were also editors, publishers, and fellow winners in the Lottery of rejectomancy helped us to widen our peripheral vision into other aspects of the business. I for one walked away with several new software solutions (widgets) I want to try on my website, an XCEL spreadsheet template, hints on how to improve my writing habits, and a sense of community forged from an intensive week together that a CON just can’t match.
    You, Dean, John, Kerrie, Kevin, and Rebecca hammered home the value/need for friendships and networking by marvelous example. It’s no coincidence that the photo montage shows all of you so animated and laughing.
    For all you and Dean do, THANK YOU.
    Sharon

    Reply
    • Thanks, Sharon. And thanks for letting people know what writers can figure out together. :-)

      Reply
      • I was curious about that aspect of the event Dean was hinting at in his daily summary. Thanks for the specifics, Sharon.

        Reply
  9. Thank you so much for the shout out! I loved doing it and you are welcome to blog about cats for our site any time! I posted in the CB group a link to this post so they know about the shout out too.

    And yes, as a newbie writer it is hard to think about “Oh my gosh what am I doing, networking?” And it’s nice to remember that sometimes it’s just about making friends.

    Reply
    • My pleasure, Bonnie–on all of it. And yeah, we’ll talk about a return visit. Maybe featuring Little Tough Guy. (I have stories–not fiction–about him.) :-)

      Reply
  10. Walter has much more non-white fur than I expected! I didn’t know he had points. This is an important detail that had previously escaped my attention, or been omitted.

    Um, books. I think these bundles are a great way for readers to discover new stuff. Just as I often follow new authors when they’re on panels at cons with people I already like. The bundle is like a virtual panel. Authors don’t have to travel and talk in front of people, they just have to put up a book. This latest one, I like Kris and Neil’s work, and Peter David is always a delight. Now a few of the other authors, I hadn’t heard of, but maybe I’ll like them when I read them. So this seems like an ideal plan for hermit authors who don’t blog.

    Also, you can’t go wrong with cats. A cat SF/F anthology would probably sell millions. ;)

    Reply
    • Walter is a purebred Birman who ended up as a stray. Hence the points. Lots of stories there too. And I love the virtual panel. Exactly. With instantly readable texts. :-)

      Reply
      • I can see why he’s The Most Trusted Cat In America.

        Also, I looked on my shelves and I do in fact own a fantasy cat anthology. Duh.

        Reply
  11. Just bought the bundle! I love saying thanks for all that you do while I’m getting great new things to read in the bargain! I’ve been a huge Neil Gaiman fan for years and have turned more readers onto him than I have my own work.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Tim. And honestly, your comment about Neil is how word of mouth truly works. :-)

      Reply
  12. Just a short note from this ‘ol greatgranny reader-gal to say, “Thanks Kris”. Verrrrry interesting stuff you’re putting out. Due to your bookbundle plug in Discoverability 11, I just bought the Truly Epic Fantasy Bundle, no doubt just what you’d hoped for…eh? I’ve been a reader for over 65 years and vastly prefer the feel/smell of a paper book rather than an eBook. You reached right out and ‘got me’, lol. Said purchase is only the second time EVER that I’ve bought any kind of eBook.
    And thanks also for Free fiction Monday…very kind of you. Is appreciated. Keep up the good writing work.
    Regards
    Lou B
    (aka greatgrannyLou in soNV)

    Reply
    • Thank you for the wonderful compliment, Lou. I hope you enjoy the bundle. And you’re so welcome for the Free Fiction. I enjoy doing it, and revisiting old stories. :-)

      Reply
  13. This bundle thing inspired a thought to me: discoverability is getting tougher, if big names have to regroup together and sell one of their great novels at such a low price in a bundle.

    My own experience as an indie without network is matching that, as I’ve only sold six of my debut science fantasy novel ebook at $0.99 since its release on February 27th (worldwide, only two on Amazon.com, and nothing on other platforms than Amazon).

    Reply
    • Yes, Alan. Exactly. People don’t magically discover your work no matter who you are. Thanks for the comment. :-)

      Reply
  14. I have to say I got the bundle, too — I got the romance one last year as well (the first romances I’d ever read!). I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman’s since I first moved from “Good Omens” to his other works, and I’m delighted to try some new authors. Also, it gives me hints as I’m trying to get my first book out this spring . . . I’m currently working on my author website. It’ll come.

    Thank you for the Free Fiction Mondays, too. I am in awe of your variety and sheer quantity! Also, I wanted to thank you for something you’ve mentioned once or twice (I’m not sure when, I was reading through a lot of your archives) about writing short stories and novellas when you’re stuck or want to explore a world better. Somehow this had never occurred to me — but now that it has I’ve been writing short stories like mad! So thank you for all of it. :)

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Victoria, for all of it! I’m glad you’re using the short story method to explore. It’s so much more fun, isn’t it? And thanks for buying the bundles. Much appreciated.

      Reply
  15. Great post/series!

    I’ve participated in bundles and joint giveaways before, and just this week, two friends and I self-published a three-book continuity – three interconnected novellas about three college friends on spring break, all published on the same day and with the same series title.

    We didn’t conceive it as a networking or promo opportunity, just a fun collaborative project, although I daresay we were all aware of the fact that once we put the books on sale, we’d be engaging in a form of community networking. With the books available, the crossover of readerships is becoming obvious, though, as each individual author’s readers are becoming aware of the other two authors.

    Of course, it isn’t something that would work with existing projects, unlike a bundle. It involved all of us writing something new. But it’s been a fun experience, and one I’d definitely repeat. The sales are ticking along, too. :)

    Reply
    • Great idea, Jenna. I’ve been thinking of doing the same on some projects. Hadn’t thought of the marketing side. What a great idea!

      Reply
  16. Hmm… There’s not much talk of shorts as discoverability aids, is there? On one hand, someone has said something about those being paid advertising… On the other, things like short story anthologies are a kind of bundle. Personally, I find it much easier to spend money in, say, Fiction River, than in Story Bundle. There’s even same-author anthologies, like Kris bundles on, say, Cats, touching several different genres with the same… theme?

    On the gripping hand, an this segues a bit into promotion, beware of certain tactics: I recently saw a 2-month old novel downpriced to about a third what I had paid for a single day promo. It’s a novel from a 2-degs separate friend: my loyalty to the brand is not set. And things like this, even if the conscious mind makes an effort, undermine the subconscious mind.

    Take care.

    Reply
    • The short stories are coming up in the discoverability blog posts. I promise. And promotions happen. Even from the big guys. One of my Sourcebooks novels is having a one-day promotion next week. (If I could remember with my teaching-addled brain, I’d say which.) I’m sure someone will have bought the novel at full price this week, and will miss the one-day promotion. Remember, every writer–even Stephen King and J. K. Rowling–are new to someone, and that someone doesn’t have any loyalty built up yet.

      Promotions are about discoverability: they’re designed to attract new readers and remind older readers that this book is available (if the reader hasn’t already bought it). If all readers got offended about the occasional discount, then all publishers would be out of business. Discounting is a tool that should be used sparingly, but it must get used. It’s up to the writer/publisher when to do the discount–and for a variety of reasons. (See the pricing posts.)

      Reply
      • Hmm… yes. And I can understand that in older works. 2 month old ones? Annoying.

        Take care.

        Reply

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