Author Archives: caseykins

More Tweaks, and some Thoughts on Pricing

Self Publishing Update

Well, it’s been three weeks since the new cover for Blue Gentian launched.  It’s been a wild success.  I’m selling out my Amazon ads almost every day, and I think I’ll keep it.  Trial and error begat success this time (law of averages?  Who knows, but there was bound to be a success eventually).

Whenever my ads sell out, Amazon sends me an email notification and suggests that I up my daily budget.  Right now, I’m telling it no more than $2 a day.  I have not increased this.  Why not, you ask?  Because sales still don’t warrant it.  I’m still in that tenuous territory where I’m ALMOST breaking even, but not quite.  Which means there’s still more work to do.

What am I tweaking next, you ask?  I’m glad you did.

During the $0.99 sale I ran, I sold a grand total of 17 books.  That’s A LOT for me, you guys.  I’m extremely lucky if I sell 17 books in a month, and I was able to do it in 7 days during the sale.  Which suggests to me that I might be able to sell more books if I dropped the price a little.

I want to discuss price, because it’s a complicated issue and I don’t think I’ve explained how I got to my amount for Blue Gentian.  But in case you just want the nitty-gritty and don’t want the whys and wherefores, Blue Gentian will be on sale for $3.99 as a permanent price, down from $4.99, in a few days.  We’ll see if that tweak works in favor of more sales.  I’ll report back.

Now some thoughts about pricing in general:

I considered price carefully when launching Blue Gentian.  I’m a relatively unknown author, and therefore my works will probably not sell at the same price as an established author.  I have to be real about it.  That being said, price also implies quality.  If you’re attempting to give your book away at $0.99 when it’s not sale time, it leaves me wondering if it’s cheap for a reason.  Sometimes the reason is because it’s the first of a series.  I think that’s fine.  But if I don’t know the author and can’t figure out why their book is cheap, I assume it’s because it’s bad.  This has also borne out from my experience.  I’ve downloaded some truly terrible books, guys.  Almost all of them were insanely cheap and by self-published authors.

I’m not denigrating self-publishing.  First of all, I’m a self-published author and take great pride in my work and my business.  Second of all, I have read some AMAZING books by self-published authors.  The difference between the good and the bad?  I have found that good authors expect me to pay a decent, fair market value for their work.  I’m happy to do so.  But price then becomes correlated with quality.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this perception.

This means that how I price Blue Gentian will tell people how good it is.  Also, I know from some research that it’s MUCH easier to price a book down if you make a mistake than to price a book low at first and raise it.  Better to overestimate yourself than to underestimate.  So I decided I would go in at semi-established author rates and cut as needed.

I did a lot of research on well regarded books by self-published fantasy authors and their manuscripts of about the same length (62,000 words in case you were interested).  Most were priced at $4.99.  That’s how I got the starting price of Blue Gentian.  And now that I have some data, I’m going to cut to $3.99 and see how we do.

I might cut again to $2.99 if I see no better outcomes in the next couple of months, but I don’t see going lower than that.  Most other people don’t, even bad authors, since they’re trying to take advantage of the 70% royalty KDP offers on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.  Blue Gentian is supposed to eventually be part of a series, so it will also eventually go to $0.99 for good when the next books are published (a LONG way off). Still, that means I’m not feeling terribly precious about the price of it.  Whatever gets me the sales, man.

And that’s all I’ve got right now.  Thanks for listening to me about a complicated subject…

 

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Rain

It has been raining, raining here in California.  I don’t remember it raining for days like this since I was a little girl.  We lived in a house that was mostly windows back then, and the sound of the rain would drip off the eaves and make it sound like you were under a tree instead of safely tucked under the warm down comforter on the blue and white striped couch, book in hand.

I have sweet memories, but I’m really ready for the rain to quit at this point.  Asher and I have not been walking Brian to work in the rain and I wonder if we’re going a little stir-crazy.  Also, I have class tonight.  The first one of the semester.  I will be driving for 45 minutes each direction on the wet freeways in a deluge, crossing my fingers that no one gets crazy on me like they do so often in California.

Am I excited to be back at school?  I don’t know.  The CSET has wiped out most of my classmates, so there will be fewer familiar faces than there used to be.  We did a poll by hand last semester and there were only three of us who were definitely cleared to go on, of a class of eighteen people I was fond of.  More will likely have passed since then, and we’re getting an influx of people who didn’t pass the year before.  But it will not be the same thing.

Still, I enjoy learning about teaching.  And I enjoy having a few hours a week where I don’t have to watch the clock, keep the schedule, and meet someone else’s needs before I meet my own.  I get to be a professional adult.  Or, you know, as professional as one can be when wearing a “When in doubt, go to the library” t-shirt, oversized men’s sweater, and saddle shoes.  I get to be my weird academic self, and it makes me feel human again.

If only I didn’t have to drive through the rain to get there.  I know we need it, and I know I’ll enjoy the beautiful vista of snowy mountains once it’s all over, but a little sunshine would be much appreciated.  We’ll get it eventually, I guess.

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A Fence Fiasco

 

We moved into this strange house in the middle of the summer, knowing that the house had been beautifully flipped but the yard was a travesty of epic proportions.  I pulled cactus and dead rose bushes for months.  Almost five years in the making, and the front yard is looking decent.  We haven’t touched the back yard, except to put in two raised beds amongst the weeds so I can have tomatoes.

Although we have had the funds to do small projects, the fence has been beyond us.  Every time we think we’ve finally saved for it we get some sort of a disaster.  The car needs a whole new transmission, and the stove broke, and, and…

I think now this was probably fate.

In the week long rains of two weeks ago, the world softened.  The rusty nails holding the fence together slipped free, and the fence collapsed – revealing a rather beautiful hedge of cypress trees that the neighbors had erected.

Brian and I looked at the glimpse of elfin style we had beyond the weeds and decrepit fence and saw potential.  It looks like we’re just going to take down the back fence and enjoy the trees, since the hedge is a solid screen and we don’t have to worry about keeping any pets in.  It will help us when we go to replace the rest of the fence too.  That back stretch was the longest and most expensive.  Bonus!

Now to find the time to take the old one fully down… Which I’m sure I’ll manage in a fit of tomato longing in the next month or so.  This year, now that I don’t have to spend 20 hours a day holding a baby, there is produce in my future.  I’m determined.  And the baby can dig in the dirt with me.  Just as long as I get the fence down first.

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New Cover Update

Well, so far the new cover of Blue Gentian has been selling like gang-busters.  I’ve sold 17 books since I changed it all, and haven’t had a day without selling at least one book.  That’s HUGE for me.  I’m not sure if it’s because the book is currently $0.99 though, so I guess we’ll find out next week.

Speaking of which… if you haven’t already read the book and haven’t already taken advantage of the Blue Gentian New Cover Sale, it ends tomorrow.  Just saying…

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On Sale!

Well, it’s official. Blue Gentian’s new cover is live and the book is selling for $0.99 this entire week, starting today. If you haven’t read it yet, now is a good time. Enjoy!

Get Blue Gentian on sale here

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Some Blue Gentian Tweaking

Well, my first Blue Gentian experiment didn’t go that well.  My husband suggested that he didn’t think the book blurb was punchy enough, so I rewrote it to sound a little more scandalous.  No dice.  I kept it up for several months, but my sales dropped dramatically during that time.  Like, probably by half.

So, the old copy is back.  No surprises there, and isn’t it wonderful to be a self-published author where I can change things on a whim to see what happens?  And change it back in a snap when it’s wrong?

But, I’m still left with a book that I believe can sell better than it is currently.  So I have plans to tweak something else.

I was discussing the cover with my dad the other weekend, because I was really torn by the poll on which cover to use all those months ago.  Most people, including everyone who had read the book, liked the one I went with.  But everyone who was a fantasy reader liked the second one, with the girl in the hooded cloak.

“You should go with the one that the people who didn’t read it liked,” said my dad.

And it hit like a revelation that he was probably right.  I was thinking that because people knew the book, they would know what was representative of the book.  But what I really needed to be thinking about was not book representation, but book desirability.  Theoretically, the one that hooks and intrigues people who haven’t read the book is the one to go with.   A side I hadn’t considered, but ultimately saw the truth in.

Sometimes my dad is pretty brilliant.

Also, you guessed it.  Blue Gentian is getting a new cover, posted below.  I’ll leave it up for several months and see what we see on the sales.  I’ll report back when I have something to report.  Cross your fingers for me that this works.  I DO kinda love this new version…

blue gentian jpeg

I’m waiting for Amazon approvals before you can see it on the buying page, but I’ll let you know as soon as I know it’s live.  I’m thinking about running a new cover celebratory sale, too.  We’ll see.

 

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This January Week, and Blue Gentian Thoughts

If the first week of the new year is supposed to herald the rest of your year, this one has been pretty good.  We went to the zoo, lazed around the house, and cooked fancy meals for each other.  Asher got his first haircut and looks instantly dapper and boyish instead of babyish.  I started a fancy Bullet Journal that I’m very proud of.  Brian and I have been watching Tidying Up on Netflix, and now I have an overwhelming desire to touch all of my things to find out if they bring me joy.  The only thing missing is that I haven’t done much writing.  Gotta add that in.  Starting now, our first full week of normal since the new year.

Blue Gentian isn’t doing as well as it was previously, and I’m sure that’s because I changed the back cover blurb in an effort to improve it.  Well, no improvement.  I’ll be putting it back to the old one this week, and I’ll also consider changing the cover for a few months to see what we see.  A lot of people liked one of the other cover options, so I’m thinking about trying it.

My dad has been bugging me to rewrite the first three chapters of Blue Gentian, since the overwhelming feedback was that the book starts slow, but is great after chapter 3.  I am loathe to do this.  I’ve been over those chapters dozens of times over the span of five years, and it’s already published and out there.  The advice I’ve heard from other authors, too, is to let imperfections go.  If you’re forever looking backward, your new work will suffer.  I feel like I’m pragmatic about this book: a sweet little tale with profluence that nonetheless is not ever going to sweep the market with accolades.  Fine.  Next.

And Next is going decently, so there’s that to be thankful for too.

 

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A New Year, 2019

I’ve been extraordinarily bad about this blog lately.  I think it’s probably because I’ve been extraordinarily bad at the writing at the end of this year.  Teaching while going to school and mothering a small baby (while still trying to make room for Brian and his homework) is no joke my friend.  Still, I have rosy hopes going into 2019.

And speaking of 2019… This is the blog post where I review what I agreed to do last year and see if I did it, and then re-calibrate for next.

In 2018, I vowed to publish Blatantly False and Blue Gentian.  I vowed to read 100 books this year on Goodreads.  Done and done (153, if you were wondering).  I also wanted to have Easterbay ready for beta reads and write 20 days of the month.  That last one I added in, like, July or something.  Neither of those two things happened.

Easterbay is thisclose to being ready for Alpha reads.  I estimate about another 2 months before I really feel okay about showing it to others, if I can keep up a steady writing schedule.  I also wrote about 15 days of each month, give or take, and never made it more than 18 no matter how hard I tried.

Now, here comes the 2019 resolutions.

  1. I will publish Easterbay by the end of the year.
  2. I will write more than 15 days per month
  3. I will get a blog entry up at least once a week
  4. I will read 150 books, with at least 12 being of a genre other than romance or parenting.

Personally and professionally, I’d also like to mention that I have aspirations of keeping up my new Bullet Journal all year, being a more confident teacher, and continuing to tweak Blue Gentian art and ads to maximize sales.  Those things are harder to measure quantitatively, though, so I’ll mention them but not make them actual resolutions.

That’s all, folks!  Send any good thoughts you can to me to help me keep this stuff up.  I know I’m going to need all the help I can get as this baby naps less and less.  Sigh.

 

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Advent Devotional

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I know I’ve been posting a lot about the baby lately.  I mean, he’s the guy I spend most of my time with these days.  And I promise that this is writing related, but unless you haven’t guessed yet, it’s also about the baby.

My church decided to put together an Advent Devotional this year – twenty five stories (one for each day of Advent) on what Christmas means to the congregation, one for you to read each day.   A fun writing assignment for church?!?! I submitted.  And of course Christmas means a different thing to me now that I’m mothering, which I started during the Christmas season.  I’m December 6th in the booklet, so I feel good about posting it here.  Especially because the only way for you to get one yourself is to go to the church and pick up a copy in person.

(Before you continue, here is also your warning for uber-religious sentimentality.  It happens sometimes.)

What Christmas Means to Me:

My first son was born last Thanksgiving, and so my family charged into Christmas a little more filled with joy than usual.  He’s the first grandchild, after all, and the result of many years of prayer. My entire extended family rallied to my side like Wise Men as I recovered, sharing the holiday season with us and bringing gifts of clean laundry, lunch, and naps.

I imagine that any family would feel a deeper connection to the Christmas season with an infant to share it with. I had expectations of what that would be like. I expected to feel new respect for Mary, for her tough journey and frightening birth.

But what I didn’t expect was the wide and tangible aura of potential in the air. It hovered like a halo around my son, Asher. In every moment friends and family spent with us, I saw the deep love that Asher inspired in everyone he met. He seemed to belong not to me, but to the world. And the love that he gathered and then dispersed out again was deeper than anything I had previously experienced.

The song “Mary Did You Know,” is a favorite one around the holiday season. I used to wonder the same as the song, if she knew what that small baby in her arms would become. But now I can guess. A few simple words in Luke 2:19 tell the story, in a paragraph filled with shepherds and prophecies, the whole world rallying to her baby’s side: “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

If I could look down at my swaddled son sleeping in the dim light of the Christmas tree last year and see the possibility he holds, how much more did Mary look down at the Christ-child in the lamplight of the manger and see the divine love that filled her own son up full? Couple that with the miracle of his conception, and I’m sure she at least guessed at the transformation her son would give to humanity.

Because with Jesus, of course, all things are possible.

And nothing represents that more than a small and sleepy child who belongs firmly to us, but not to us alone; a child who belongs to the world.

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A Mothering Year

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The baby is one today.  Which means that I also have been a mother for a year.

A few things stuck out to me today when I was pondering it all.  I remembered clearly sitting in the hospital bed on one of the top floors.  My sister and Brian were passed out on the little built-in couch in the room, and my own mother was sitting beside me for a bit.  The two sleepers stirred and I pulled myself back from the drowsiness I had sunk into when they gave me the epidural after thirteen hours of labor.  It had now been almost twenty hours since the contractions started.

Someone pulled back the vertical blinds and together the four of us watched the sun rise over the hills in the distance, knowing it wouldn’t be long until we met the fifth person in the room.

Motherhood is hard, mostly because you have no idea what to do and there are a million conflicting “methods” out there to make it even worse.  I still have no idea, I’ll be honest, but I have a set of mores in place that allow me to review the options, evaluate them against our goals, and then make a gut-call.

Here’s what I strive for:

  1. Respect the baby’s wants, needs, and bodily autonomy when you can
  2. Be compassionate when you can’t
  3. Don’t leave him alone to cry (even if it means you’re sitting in his bedroom crying together)
  4. Arrange things to avoid fighting as much as possible (climbing on that table?  Replace the table with something he won’t climb on)
  5. Have him do as much as he can for himself

I find that if I weigh what’s happening currently and all the methods that are out there against the following five criteria, I end up with a solution that usually works pretty well for everyone.   Sometimes it takes more than one try, but often it doesn’t.

I’ll be honest when I say that I’m worried about next year.  I hear things about Two tantrums that make me think I might not handle it well.  But I guess this year has given me a process for figuring it out.  And that’s not nothing.

Cheers – to another year of becoming better at this mothering thing…

 

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