January 25, 2017

Planning Your 2017 Calendar

Where is my life going?I teach a time management class called Going the Distance, and one of the major things we do after we write out our Goals Master List is to get out the calendar and start crossing out all the days that you know you can’t work.

Plan For What You REALLY Can Do
It might seem in December when the new year is looking bright and shiny and empty that you can get everything done you ever imagined! But when you look back over the last year, you may realize that you are often overconfident about what you can do.

Get a Calendar!
Being disappointed in yourself erodes your confidence for the next year, which erodes it for the following year, etc., and I want to help you keep that from happening. So this is what we’re going to do: go get a calendar. Any calendar will do, but one you like and can use easily will be the best one for you.

Cross Off Days You Can’t Work
Starting in January, cross off every day that you know you won’t be able to work on your goals. For instance, if weekends are always for family, cross off all the Saturdays and all the Sundays from the year. Your 365 days just came down to 261 –  poof! Just like that!

Do you have a vacation planned? Go find the dates on your calendar and cross them off. Do you have kids in school? Go find their school calendar and cross off days you know you won’t be available, like for sports and music and drama and other events that you’re committed to attending.

Weddings? Bridal showers? Baby showers? If you are just attending one of these, you might only lose a day or half a day. If it’s out of town, you may lose several days due to travel. If you are part of the planning committee, rest assured you will be spending more time than you realize, so try to plan accordingly.

s an important reminder of a major appointment

Plan For Sick Days and Mental Health Days
About how many days were you home sick last year? How many days were you taking care of someone else who was sick? Plan a few sick days into your calendar, subtracting them from the total days left but leaving them “available for use.” There is no point in feeling guilty about being sick, and we both know that a good rest will often get you back to work sooner and better than trying to work through it.

How many days have you got left? I often end up with only about 180. That’s only half a year! But the fact is, you have a life outside of your work and your goals. Now you can adjust your goals to accomplish them in the time you actually have. Planning this way will keep you from over-committing and being disappointed later.

Planning Forward
Now look at your list of the 5 to 10 goals you wrote down since last week. You can either plan forward or plan backward. To plan forward, look at each goal and figure out about how much you can accomplish per day on that goal. Then plot it out on your calendar to see what date that lands on. Put a sticky note on that date with the goal. The sticky note is so that when things come up, you can move the goal without scribbling all over your calendar.

Planning Backward
Or if you already have a goal date in mind, you can plan backward. Say you want to finish the first draft of your next book by May 1. How many days do you have left on your calendar, the ones that are not crossed out, between now and May 1? And how many words do you expect your first draft to be –  50,000 words? 100,000 words? Take the word count and divide by the number of days. This is your daily writing goal.

Planning this way from the beginning of the year can help you see if you started out with too many goals in the first place. And it will also help you to adjust as you go. (Again, that’s why I use sticky notes!) The fact is you are planning for your own success this way, instead of not truly planning at all. And you know the saying, failing to plan is planning to fail. Let’s not do that.

How Does Your Calendar Look Now?
Continue in this way, planning forward and/or backward for each goal, until you’ve plotted everything out on your calendar. Now look at each of the twelve months. Is it challenging but doable? Does it make you break out in a cold sweat? Do you need to move a few things around? Did you schedule in a little down time, “you” time?

Only you know what will encourage you and make your brain believe that you can do this. And you do need to believe it. If it seems just a bit much, move one of the goals that you plotted out onto your “maybe” list. If you get everything else done, you can come back to this goal later in the year.

Looking at your goals in a big picture like this will encourage you, and that will give you more energy to start now and keep going. Trust me, go do this exercise this week. You are going to feel like you can conquer your world! Good luck!

January 17, 2017

Easy Goal Setting for Everyone

Calendar with Start circled

Welcome to 2017!

It’s January, and you know what that means: time to plan your goals for the year. Right?

Don’t Be Discouraged!
Depending on how well last year’s goal setting went, this might be easier said than done. Maybe you’ve tried a lot of ways to plan and they haven’t turned out very well. The biggest thing to remember is to find a method that works for you.

I’ve been teaching a time management and goal setting class for the last eight or nine years (not this January, as I’m busy living and writing books in New Zealand!), and there are a couple of things I’ve found that seem to work for most people.

Write It Down
The first thing you need is a list. Write down every single goal you have for your life this year – personal, financial, spiritual, career or writing-related – anything at all, write it down. This is your Goals Master List.

It may take you a day or a week to get everything written down, but once you think you’ve got it all, go through and circle the five most important goals. These will be your Primary Goals for the year.

Now go through and underline the next five most important goals. These will be your Secondary Goals for the year.

Move Some Goals to Next Year
Look at the rest of the items on your Goals Master List. Does it seem like there is more than you can do this year? Let me give you a hint: the answer is almost always yes. If there is anything that you are willing to put off until next year, get another piece of paper and move these onto your 2018 Goals Master List.

Now you have your primary goals, your secondary goals, and your extra goals. The idea is that you will work on your five primary goals first, and when they are accomplished you will work on your secondary goals. Then, if you get all of your primary and secondary goals accomplished this year, you’ll work on your extra goals.

Rearrange Some Goals
If, when looking at your lists, you feel like this won’t work for you, then you probably need to move some of your goals around. That doesn’t mean adding more than five to the primary or secondary lists, but simply exchanging one goal for another more important one.

Congratulations! You have your 2017 goals list!

Fewer Goals, Better Chance You’ll Achieve Them
Another way to do this, which arguably might be more achievable, is to look at your goals master list and choose no more than 7 to 10 goals for the whole year. That’s it. You can work at each of them a little at a time or work at one all the way through, it’s up to you. If you want, you can choose two or three extras that you will begin working on only when you finish the most important 7 to 10 goals.

Go back to your original goals master list and try the second method. Now look at both final lists. Which one speaks to you more? Which one excites you more? That’s the one you should type up and print out.

Or if you’re feeling artistic, rewrite it with colored pencils and pens and stickers and make it beautiful.

A Daily Reminder to Keep You on Track
Post it on your wall, someplace where you’ll see it often, and make sure to look at it every day.

If you haven’t started your goal setting for this year, or if you feel overwhelmed by the thought of it, or the thought of failing to achieve your goals, give this a try.

Then post a comment below or send me an email and let me know how it went. I know you can do this!

I’m super excited about 2017. It’s going to be a great year!

[Next week: Planning Your 2017 Calendar]

August 6, 2016

A Free Webinar – 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Self-Publishing

FreeIf you’ve been thinking about self-publishing but don’t know where to start, or you’ve given it a try and it seems more difficult than herding cats, stop by my free webinar – 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Self-Publishing.

This live, interactive webinar will give you an overview of the entire self-publishing process from the time you type “The End” on your manuscript to when you hit the Publish button at your favorite online retailer. My goal during the hour-long presentation is to make you feel less stressed and more confident, and help you to realize – if you want to do this, you can!

Join me live at Noon Pacific time on Monday, August 8, 2016. You could be on your way to a new stage in your writing career – and all the joy and satisfaction that comes with it!

Another KDP Ads Update – This Time Not So Good

If, after reading my last two posts about advertising a KDP Select free book (the first one and the second one plus additional information here), you’re thinking that this is a beautiful upward curve toward guaranteed results…well, we’re both wrong.

Not that I thought the results would be guaranteed to continue their upward trajectory, but I didn’t realize I could have such a terrible bomb when things were going well.

Using the same book, Little Miss Lovesick, I made my third 5-days-free promo during my third 90-day KDP Select period on October 21-25, 2015. I paid for three ads (fewer than before), but I forgot to sign up for all the free newsletters until after it was too late. (You need a 7-day lead time for the sites I’ve been using. I remembered 6 days before.)

In May 2015, my 5-days-free yielded 7312 downloads.

In August 2015, the same five days gave up 8108 copies.

Looking great, right? My October results came to only 662 copies. Did you see that – 662!!!

I honestly think there is a lot more owed to those free-to-list-in-our-free-book-newsletter emails than I realized. Forgetting to sign up with the 30 or so that I did all the other times was the only real difference in October.

Interesting, huh? Of course, there could be any number of other factors that I didn’t realize. But I think not signing up for the free sites was a big factor.

So when you’re thinking about how to advertise your free book, and wondering how much you can spend on paid ads, keep in mind that all of those free newsletters might be enough to get you a good start!

KENP “Tail” After a KDP Select Promotion

Woman with books and laptopOver the last several months, I’ve been sharing my Amazon sales numbers with you as I compare changes during and right after my KDP Select promotions.

I wrote about the results from my May 5-days-free promotion here, and I just updated the earnings this week to “actual” rather than a guesstimate, showing I overestimated revenue. I also tallied the results from my August 5-days-free promotion here. (I’m still showing revenue guesstimates until I get the final numbers for September, but I’ll update that post soon). Both of these promotions have been for Little Miss Lovesick, which has been in KDP Select since February 26, 2015.

Comparing Borrows After a Free Promo

FreeNow I want to discuss my “borrows” – which I’ll refer to as KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) for periods beginning July 1, 2015. I’ve been studying the “tail” of sales and borrows after my promotions to see how long it lasts. (The length of the period after a sales spike is commonly referred to as the tail.)

I don’t want to leave my book in KDP Select forever, but at what point has the positive impact of the 5-days-free promo in each 90-day period stopped influencing borrows/KENP? It’s not cut-and-dried, particularly because you can’t truly compare “borrows” of full books to KENP, “pages read” of full books. But for me, for this book, it looks like there are 4-6 good weeks of borrows, with the first three weeks the very best.

For example, for the first 2 1/2 months of the first KDP Select 90-day period (February 26 – May 25, 2015), I had 1 borrow. In the two weeks during and after the free period (May 19-31), I had 71 borrows! Then another 88 in the month following (June 1-30).

But the second month after the free period showed a sharp drop – 2381 KENP pages read. Little Miss Lovesick has 402 KENP pages, so that’s the equivalent of about 6 books borrowed and read July 1-31.

[NOTE: Little Miss Lovesick was earning about $1.35 per “borrow” through June 30, 2015. Since Amazon changed borrows to KENP pages read on July 1, the book – at 402 KENP pages – now earns about $2.32 if a reader reads every page.]

Comparing the Second Round to the First

Little Miss Lovesick book coverDuring the second 90-day period (May 26 – August 23), I tried to recreate the circumstances as exactly I could. During the two weeks during and after the free period (August 18-31), there were 24,899 KENP pages read! Because I don’t expect that every reader reads every page (copyright page, author bio, excerpt, etc.), I’d guess that’s between 62 and 66 books borrowed and read (compared to 71 borrows in May).

The following month, September 1-30, there were 15,567 KENP pages read. That’s probably about 38-42 books borrowed and read (as compared to 88 in June).

If you’d like to see exact numbers, here are the KENP pages read by week for the last seven weeks. Day 1 of Week 1 is the first day of the 5-days-free promo.

Week 1: 7246 KENP pages read
Week 2: 17,653
Week 3: 7831
Week 4: 3780
Week 5: 1692
Week 6: 1811
Week 7: 1274

It’s too early to guess what October’s numbers might be, but based on one period of history above (not a good way to show statistical integrity), and understanding that the previous way Amazon counted borrows (1 book, regardless of how much of it was read after the 20% mark) is significantly different from the new method (by page, exactly), my guess is that October’s numbers will be bleak.

The reason why I started looking at these numbers this week is because Little Miss Lovesick is in the middle of another 90-day KDP Select period, and I need to decide which five days will be free. Knowing that the sales/borrows tail will be good for at least three weeks, I want to do the free promo at least three to four weeks before the end of the period so I can get all the revenue I can from borrows before the book leaves the program.

KDP Select bannerMy Conclusion and Action Plan

Unless I change my mind and leave this book in KDP Select for another term (through February 19, 2016), I’ll set the five free days to start sometime during the week of October 18. That will leave me a four-to-five-week tail to get paid for as many KENP pages read as possible before the book leaves KDP Select on November 22.

ACK!! That doesn’t give me much time to figure out where and how to promote it to best advantage!

And that is why I wrote this post for you. 🙂 If you put a book in KDP Select, you need to think through all the potential good that can come your way and figure out how to harness it. If you leave your 5-day-free promo to the end of the period, and don’t renew the book in KDP Select in the following period, you stand to lose hundreds of dollars or more in KENP lost revenue.

If your book isn’t selling anywhere else, as was the case with this book, it probably doesn’t hurt to keep trying different ways to gain readers using KDP Select. For instance, if you don’t want to make your book free for five days (and they can be any five days, but everyone I know, myself included, has found the best results when the five days are in a row), you can try KDP Select’s Kindle Countdown Deal.

The key is – whatever you decide to do, think it through and make a plan. Good luck!

KDP Select Ad Results August 2015

LMLebookAllRomanceBringing you another episode of “What Might Be Working in Book Ads.” 😉

You may remember, I added my chick-lit book, Little Miss Lovesick, to KDP Select in March 2015. The book wasn’t really selling, so I figured it would be a good time to do some experimentation. After all, you can’t sell fewer than zero books, right?

I took advantage of the five free days at the end of May 2015 and shared my results with you here. Things went so well that I wanted to continue my experiment, so I left the book in KDP Select and did another five free days August 18-22, 2015. I am happy to report that the sale went even better the second time! Here are the details…

Before the sale:

I applied for the same ads that I purchased in May since they did so well. I didn’t get all of them, but I also asked other writer friends what worked for them and picked up a couple of new ads on recommendation (Ereader News Today and Robin Reads).

In May I paid $14.99 to use Book Marketing Tools’ ebook submission tool to somewhat-automatically apply to 32 websites at once that accept submissions to advertise your free book. (During a promotion last year, I used Ebook Booster, which submits your free book to 45+ sites for $35.) In August, I decided to try the free membership tool at Author Marketing Club to manually apply to about a dozen sites by clicking through from buttons on AMC’s web page.

It’s difficult to know which sites are going to list your book as they don’t all reply back to you. And in the past, I haven’t been able to find my book on all the sites that did reply back. In any case, I’m pretty sure the book was advertised on DigitalBook Today and FreeBooksy, and probably others, but I didn’t double-check any of the sites during the free period.

I applied for the “free ebook of the day” ad at Indie AuthorNews, which appeared to be a good ad for me last time, but I didn’t get it this time. I also wrote down that I used a pre-paid ad credit at The Romance Studio blog page for one day, but I forgot to follow-up and see if the ad appeared and on which day. So I don’t know if I got any traffic from there.

What I did during the sale days:

Tuesday, August 18: 2645 free downloads today
* KENP = 0
* Free ad on ReadCheaply.com
* $45 premium ad in Choosy Bookworm email newsletter to 40,000+ subscribers, on their website all week

Wednesday, August 19: 1963 free downloads
* KENP = 470
* $21 to BKnights on Fiverr to 4800+ active Facebook users for 7 days, “extra” promotion with viral Facebook post for 7 days, promote on website with 2000 visitors/day for 1 day, promote in email newsletter to over 2500 subscribers for 1 day
* Julie Kenner’s Hump Day feature, no charge – promoted with other books on a blog post
* $25 Ereader News Today ad in email newsletter

Thursday, August 20: 850 free downloads
* KENP = 515
* $25 InD’tale Bargain Book ad to 10,000+ email newsletter subscribers
* Blog posts on Romance Readers Club, The Romance Studio, and Coleen Kwan sites

Friday, August 21: 2080 free downloads
* KENP = 1131
* $20 ad in Robin Reads email newsletter
* Blog post on Tracy Reed site

Saturday, August 22: 561 free downloads
* KENP = 2066
* Blog post on Alina K. Field site

On the last day of the freebie sale, there are always a few copies that get downloaded early the next day before the price goes back to normal, and 9 free copies were downloaded on Sunday. The grand total of free ebooks downloaded in this 6-day period was 8108. In May, the total was 7312, so I’m quite happy with the 11% increase.

Comparison of KENP pages read in Kindle Unlimited:

In May, Kindle Unlimited still counted each title as one borrow rather than counting the number of pages read (KENP) as has been the case since July 1. Also, it took me six weeks to get my results to you last time, and I’ve compiled the results after only 16 days this time. So the comparison here is going to be a bit shaky.

In my prior post, I reported “about 138 borrows” over 6 1/2 weeks. Little Miss Lovesick has 402 KENP pages, so that’s approximately 55,476 KENP pages if every person read every single page (unlikely).

The above numbers include part of July as well, but the July total alone was 2381 KENP pages read (with a payout of about half a cent per page, which is very close to what I got paid for a “borrow” in the past). In the 17 days of August before the book went free, there were 697 KENP pages read. But from the day the book was free to the end of August, there were 24,899 KENP pages read in 14 days. In the first seven days of September, the daily average dropped 40% with 7831 pages read.

Totals are:
July KENP = 2381
August 1-17 KENP = 697
August 18-31 KENP = 24899
September 1-7 KENP = 7831

j0315542Total book sales:

In addition to wanting to get more people reading Lovesick for free, as a borrow through Kindle Unlimited, and as a sale, I also wanted to get people trying my other books. (I have four titles total.)

There are three titles in the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke superhero urban fantasy series – the first is a free short story, the second is a long novella (45,000 words), and the third is officially the first book in the series at 100,000 words.

At the beginning and end of Lovesick, and the beginning and end of the free short story, there is a note to join my newsletter and get the novella for free. That means that if someone downloaded Lovesick for free, and followed up to see what else I had, and read the note about how to get the novella for free, they could’ve gotten three of my four titles for free. If they do that, I think I’ve got them as a reader. And they’re on my newsletter list. 🙂

So total book sales are:
July = 12 (0 for Lovesick)
August = 24 (9 are for Lovesick)
September 1-7 = 8 (0 for Lovesick)

Total spent on ads to get to this point was $136 in August. I’m estimating that I’ve earned more than twice that so far in the last three weeks. Excellent! Compare that to the first time I used a KDP Select free period when I spent less than $100 and didn’t break even, the second time when I spent less than $100 but did break even, and now this time I’ve made about a 100% or more return on investment (ROI).

This is by far the best result I’ve had so far with any kind of advertising, any kind of freebie/sale. I’ve let Little Miss Lovesick stay in KDP Select for a third period. I’ll let you know what I decide to do this next time.

Meanwhile, I’m going to put Unexpected Superhero on sale for $2.99 (down from $3.99) October 1-10 and use the same Choosy Bookworm feature ad to see how it works on bargain-priced books. I chose to discount it only $1 because anecdotal evidence shows few books sell at $1.99, and the number of books (104) I’d have to sell at 99c with only a 35% royalty is more than my sales history says I can expect to get to cover the cost of the ad. (I only need to sell 17 books to break even at $2.99. I’ll try the 99c test later when overall book sales have increased.)

I hope this has been useful in helping you decide what you might want to try in your own advertising and promotion. Good luck!

August 9, 2015

If You’re a Writer in Need of a Cheerleader

Where is my life going?On my author blog, I started writing posts on Sundays focused on life and spirituality and how to live better using your gifts. I believe each of us has a purpose in life – and not just one.

If you’re reading this, you are probably a writer. You have your own unique set of gifts that the world needs you to use. That’s why God gave them to you! So I’m going to write encouraging posts at least a couple Sundays a month to help you believe you can keep going.

Writing is fun and exciting when it’s going well, but hard and lonely when the words aren’t flowing. So I need to ask myself with surprising regularity – why am I doing this?

We’ve had four long, hard years in a row. Our life has never been so tough, and it hasn’t gotten easier yet. When rushing to do our taxes earlier this year because we needed the tax refund for groceries, I had to confront some cold facts. If I had stayed at home and watched TV all day, every day, for the prior year, we would have been several thousand dollars ahead.

Several thousand dollars.

I cried.

It made me feel like even though my sales have been slowly increasing every year, I was wasting my life and making my husband’s life harder. I didn’t want to tell John because I didn’t want him to tell me to quit. But a month or so later, I finally told him, in tears, that maybe we had to consider this a failure and move on before we threw more good money after bad.

I was ready to quit, much as my heart ached at the thought.

But in spite of all this evidence, my amazing husband told me fiercely I couldn’t quit, that he knew I could do it, that we just needed to buckle down and get through this, that I just needed to work harder and push through it.

I wasn’t sure I should even write that because I know so many people whose spouse is not like that, and I don’t want you to feel bad about it.

But then I realized I could be your cheerleader! If you’re having a hard time finding people to tell you not to quit yet, let me encourage you: If you think you still have something to say to the world, don’t quit. Don’t stop writing yet. Take a week or a month or a summer off if you need to and regroup.

But don’t quit.

If you want to hear about how I was asking God for guidance last week and he answered me the next day, read the post on my author blog today. One of the things I’m learning is how I can serve others with my writing and teaching gifts. And it occurred to me…

I might never write a book that changes lives.

I want to, Lord knows!  And I’m trying. But maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Maybe part of my purpose in life is to help you write a book that changes lives for the better.

The tagline of this website is not just to have a cute, memorable saying. I really believe any of us might write a book that changes the world. Maybe fiction, maybe nonfiction. There are already so many examples of books that have done so.

Why not ours?

BookBub’s Ultimate Guide to Selling More Books

BookBub guide to marketing and self-publishingThe great thing about the Internet is that you can find almost any information you could possibly want. Of course, whatever comes up in your search could be too old to be useful or just plain wrong. So while it’s great that you can find anything, it’s hard to find current useful information.

But for at least a short time – while the information is still new enough to be accurate – there is a great new resource for writers on marketing their books. BookBub, a fantastic email ad service for writers (and awesome for readers looking for great deals), has another helpful resource that goes above and beyond what I’ve seen from them before – The Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing.

The guide is like an online book with sections including Before You Publish, After Your Book Launch, Running Price Promotions, and Other Insights. In each section are related subsections with links to BookBub’s best articles on these subjects. There is a gold mine of information here. Check it out!

Happy Writing!

Webinars for Writers

Busy man typing on old typewriting machineCan you empathize with this?

When I started writing books, I wasn’t sure what genre I wanted to write.  The first writers conference I ever went to was for those interested in writing for the Christian market. I pitched some romances to a few editors and got some great responses, but there was always something in my stories that caused the editors to pass.

I heard about “chick-lit” books, checked them out, and thought, “Finally, books written the way I would do it if I didn’t have to follow any publishing house rules!” So I wrote another romance aimed at the mainstream market with this chick-lit voice. I got an agent, she sent it out, and we got the nicest rejections from editors. Chick-lit was on its way out and they weren’t willing to gamble on buying more.

By then, I was getting tired of writing books that were all about the romance. I wanted to write books with action and adventure and humor as well as romance. So I wrote my first superhero book. When I pitched it to editors (I no longer had an agent), they said it sounded fun but they didn’t know how they would sell it. Where would it be shelved in the bookstores?

I was beginning to think I was never going to get published. Certainly not if I continued to write the stories in my head.

Asian woman typing on laptopSo in September 2011, I decided it couldn’t hurt to try self-publishing using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform. I loved it! I didn’t have the back list to be an amazing success on Day 1, but I’ve sold more books every year than the year before. I’ve got four titles out, two of which are also available as audiobooks, with more on the way. Self-publishing is working for me. Even better, I really enjoy it.

If you’re interested in self-publishing, I’d like to help. It’s not difficult, but there are a lot of steps, and usually some unexpected potholes. And getting your book up for sale is not the last step. Having a good teacher can make a huge difference. I’ve been teaching at writers conferences since 1998, and I love to teach. Will you let me help you?

Here is the initial list of upcoming webinars I’ll be teaching or hosting over the next few months. I’ll add to this list regularly as I get more of my classes converted to webinars.

Monday, July 27, 2015, 1:00-2:30pm Pacific
10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Self-Publishing
with Kitty Bucholtz

Thursday, July 30, 2015, 1:00-2:30pm Pacific – RESCHEDULED
10 Easy Steps to Starting Your Self-Publishing Business
with Kitty Bucholtz

Tuesday, September 22, 2015, 1:00-2:30pm Pacific
Successful Facebook Parties for Authors
with Elena Dillon

Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 1:00-2:30pm Pacific
Pinterest Promotion for Authors
with Elena Dillon

Each webinar will offer 60 minutes of quality content followed by 30 minutes of Q&A taught live during the time indicated. Registered participants will be able to watch the recorded webinar (assuming there are no technical difficulties!) as often as they like afterward. Each participant will also have access to a downloadable PDF of the slides for their personal use.

All this for only $27 each.

If you sign up for my email list, not only will you get a free checklist on starting your self-publishing business, but you’ll hear about upcoming webinars and other classes as they’re announced. And would you mind helping me spread the word by clicking the share buttons to your left or below this post? I sure appreciate it!

I hope you’re excited about what the future holds! I am! 😀