Continued from Part 2

So.

I have my stories, and I have a way to publish them. What do I do next?

To begin with, based on advice given me, I have decided to use Smashwords as my primary distributor. It will give me access to all major retailers except Amazon. For that, I will have to republish my ebooks separately through Kindle Direct.

I have also decided to offer some of my books for free, for two reasons.

One -- Marketing research compiled by Smashwords and others has shown that offering free stories, or free copies for a limited period of time, or the first book of a series for free, or the first few chapters of a book for free, can generate more long-term sales than not offering free stuff. And frankly, free books outperform sale books.

Two -- While I believe all my stories are good enough for publication, frankly I'm not sure all are good enough to sell. If that sounds irrational, think of it like this:

While good writing and marketing helps, what really sells books is reader loyalty. Reader loyalty is built up by offering good stories they like. If a reader pays for a story that he ends up not liking very well, he will be less likely to buy another story by the same author. But if he reads a free story that is so-so but enjoyable, he is more likely to take the risk of purchasing another story. It's not that, in the former case, he felt cheated, but rather that he doesn't want to waste his money on another read that won't interest him. Whereas in the second case, his interest is sufficiently piqued that he is willing to take a chance with his money.

The point is, I would rather give a so-so story away, in the hopes that a reader may come to like my characters or my style, even if the story didn't grab him, than have his regret at the loss of his money stigmatize his desire to read more. It's a matter of reader loyalty.

However, out of my 50 finished stories, there are only 13 that I plan to give away, and I have published 4 of those already. The rest will be scattered amongst the sale books, as a kind of occasional treat.

Meanwhile, I will use Smashwords to distribute the free books to Kobo, but I will publish the sale books through Kobo Writing Life separately to take advantage of special promotions that Kobo offers.

Next I need a schedule. Based on research by Smashwords, having additional books to purchase or download helps to increase overall sales, and not just arithmetically (one book, one sale). Readers who are able to buy other titles are more likely to become fans, and thereby buy new titles as they become available. It can actually become something of a geometric progression, especially if he tells others how good your books are.

Based on that, I originally intended to divide my 50 stories up into 4 story collections and publish them all at once. That would then give me time to complete more stories and two or three novels. That would also take advantage of another piece of research that shows that, all else being equal, the longer the book, the better it sells, because people want to get a bigger bang for their buck.

However, I needed to complete an additional story for one collection, and as often happens when I'm pressured, I hit writer's block. (Writer's block is not normally a problem for me, because if I get stymied on one story, I just switch to another.) I could have published the other three right away, but I had decided to increase the lengths of two of them with more stories, none of which were finished. That left only one, and I didn't want to publish just one.

I solved my dilemma by deciding to publish the stories I had first, then I could publish the collections later. That meant sacrificing length for multiple titles, but I decided to risk it.

It was tempting to publish a bunch right away, or publish a new story every day or every other day, but 50 stories wouldn't last very long at that rate. However, I didn't want to publish only once a month, or even twice, or once every two months or every quarter. That seemed too long, and I feared I might lose my momentum after each publication.

So I decided on a once a week schedule. That will allow me to publish continuously for virtually an entire year, giving me time to complete more stories. At the same time, hopefully people wouldn't forget about me before the next book was published.

Besides, my artist friend can only do one cover a week. Any faster would be inhuman.

Finally, I had to decide what to charge for my sales books.

More research --

Yes, it exists.

-- shows that most Smashwords writers charge $4.99 or less. Mostly because the highest unit sales volumes are achieved at $0.99, $2.99, and $3.99. Above 5, sales volumes drop off dramatically. However, $2.99, $3.99, and $4.99 produce the greatest earnings.

But what about $1.99?

For some inexplicable reason, that appears to be a black hole. It produces the lowest sales volume below $6 and it yields the lowest earnings, even compared to books sold at $10 or higher.

Technically, I won't know what would be the best price until I try it and see how sales track. However, my current thinking is to price the individual stories at $0.99 and the collections and novels at $2.99.

I can always change it later, if the numbers warrant it.
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Published on June 16, 2013 06:21 • 74 views • Tags: self-publishing, smashwords, writing

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Songs of the SeanchaĆ­

Kevin L. O'Brien
Musings on my stories, the background of my stories, writing, and the world in general.
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