Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Writers' Wednesday: Looking Back at Sales and Royalties

Less than a year ago, I was at a crossroads with my writing career. My first publisher, Samhain, had dropped me about 18 months earlier. My most recent publisher, Lyrical Press, was about to be bought out by Kensington, a NY-based publisher that subsequently ended up offering me a 2-book contract to sign with them. I had also published my first indie title, which had done moderately well in sales. I struggled mightily with brand and name recognition and often thought about just stopping writing altogether, because at times the entire business seemed overwhelming and more work and angst than it was worth.

In early January of 2014, I made the decision to devote 1 year to hard-core publishing work, on my own. I turned down the Kensington contract, deciding I wanted the control, timeline, and greater profits that indie publishing seemed to offer. I had some ideas for stories I wanted to write, but I had no idea how fast I might be able to write and publish them on my own. I also wanted to spend more time and money on marketing my author name. I set a budget of $5000 for the year, which was meant to cover all expenses from publishing (covers, editing, ads, etc) to travel, conferences, and promo items like pens, bookmarks, etc.

In 2013, I made just under $800.00 in royalties. I had 5 books published with a traditional publisher and 1 book indie published, on my own. Though I didn't keep careful records, I'd say I probably spent about $500.00 out of pocket on my writing career.

So far in 2014, I have spent just under $4400 on my writing career, and,my total royalties to date equal just over $8000. I now have 5 books published with a traditional publisher, 6 books indie published, a boxed set with 9 other authors, and an upcoming boxed set of my own. In all honesty, I didn't plan on releasing so many new titles, but it's funny how things work out.

Now, I know authors who spend far less on their writing - and authors who spend far more. When I set out this year, I was hoping to break even. Looking ahead, my total costs for the rest of the year should fall under $500, and my total royalties should be somewhere around $1000 if I'm predicting accurately, so it's looking like I'll come out ahead :)

What did I do? Besides continuing to write on a regular basis, and studying what other authors did that seemed to work, I attribute my success this year to 3 factors:

1. I managed to get a BookBub ad in May 2014 for The Promise of Paradise. Although this was a free book, the 60K downloads, the sales that resulted from it, and my name recognition, along with the 75+ new reviews I got on Amazon, were definitely worth the rather steep ad price (just under $300).

2. I participated in a boxed set, Passionate Kisses, that has so far sold around 65K copies. Not only did this help sales of my other books, it gave me wonderful connections with other authors (and their fans and followers).

3. Finally, through a bit of a fluke, I sold the rights to 5 of my audio books to Audible. That was certainly unexpected, but I think the key lesson there is to diversify as much as you can - sell in other markets, other formats (ebook, print, audio), explore other markets, etc. etc.

Whew! Looking back, I can certainly say I'm pleased with the direction my writing career has taken this year. I don't know if I'll be able to duplicate it in 2015, but I hope so! My advice for other authors, especially those starting out? Don't give up, and learn as much about the publishing industry as you can. Take calculated risks - and most of all, do it because you love it. It's too tough otherwise :)

Write on!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Mentionables: Cover Reveal Time for the Cocktail Cruises Collection!

I mentioned on Friday that I'd be sharing my oh-so-lovely cover today, so without further adieu, here it is! What do you think?? I just love it!

So here's the deal: you can pre-order this set, which will release on December 1st. The Kindle link is available right here, and I'll post links for other sites as they become live. Super-low price of only $1.99, so grab it now before it goes up after release day! Want the details? Read on:

Enjoy all three of the Cocktail Cruise stories in one volume, along with cocktail recipes and excerpts from some of your favorite USA Today and Amazon best-selling authors – available only in this collection! 

A brawny construction worker and a plus-sized beauty… 

A millionaire playboy and an elementary school teacher turned sex advice columnist… 

A single mom and a sexy South American dance instructor… 

Tequila Sunrise, Sex on the Beach, and Between the Sheets are the three stand-alone novellas of the Cocktail Cruise series, but read together, these sexy heroes and feisty heroines will take you through one hot year on board the Spirit of the Seas, from the cruise ship to the Florida coast and beyond. 

EXCLUSIVE to this set: Spirits for All Seasons features yummy cocktail recipes (alcoholic and not) from some of your favorite USA Today and Amazon best-selling authors. Get ready for Santa, spice up your summer party, or prep for football season with these original drink recipes along with romantic sneak peeks and excerpts!

Finally, YES, to all my non-e-reader owning friends and followers, this set WILL be available in print. Stay tuned for all the ordering info on that, still to come.

Happy Monday!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Fun Facts: Let's Talk About Cover Designers

Most of you know that I have a boxed set coming out in the near future (hooray!!) so I've been working on getting a cover designed for it. First off, let me say I totally admire cover artists and/or anyone who can create their own book covers. I have zero talent in that area.

Over the last year of indie publishing, I've worked with 3 different cover artists. All talented, all charging somewhere around the same price for either custom (my Hometown Heroes covers) or pre-made designs (my Cocktail Cruise individual novellas). When it came time to work on my boxed set cover, I went back to one of my designers from the past.

Unfortunately, this time we didn't gel. Specifically, the turn-around time was MUCH longer than the first time we'd worked together, and also, she was communicating with me almost exclusively through an assistant. Now, I myself have a virtual assistant, so I know how helpful they can be when it comes to answering questions/communicating via email. But when you're trying to design something as personal as an author's cover, I'd like a direct contact to the designer. Is that a lot to ask?

Anyway, I switched gears and got a little frustrated when I found myself back at square one. Happily, though, after a few hours of searching websites and getting some author recommendations, I found a new cover designer that I LOVE. I cannot say enough about her; she is designing 3 custom covers for me (3D, 2D, and print), for a very reasonable price, and she's done it in about 4 days. Best of all, I've been emailing back and forth with HER, and she is totally open to thoughts and suggestions. Plus she has terrific talent.

Want to know who it is? Check out Dar Albert at Wicked Smart Designs. Just a look at her work and you'll know why I chose her. And......cover reveal next Monday for Cocktail Cruises: The Collection. I can't wait to show you!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Writers' Wednesday: Writing a Killer Book Description

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Here's the latest email from Let's Write Books, a great discussion of how to write a book description that will get attention and SELL BOOKS! I'm definitely going to take these tips into consideration when I'm putting together my blurb for the Cocktail Cruises Collection!

Dear Fellow Writer,

Next to your tile and cover design, the next most important element in selling your book online is your book description. Your selling page must “convert” viewers to buyers.

In this week’s newsletter I will discuss the key elements of creating a killer book description for both fiction and non-fiction books.

For all books:


• Make it motivational – get people interested in book
• Easy to read
• Ask them to take action – buy it now!
• Know your audience and what motivates them/ what is important to them
• Remember to use your key words: If your book is on Amazon, then make sure you are using your keywords in your description, as it is searchable.


• List your website or any other website. This will only drive people off your sales page and away from purchasing.
• Use long paragraphs without breaks. This makes it hard to read easily. Remember people want to scan quickly on the internet.
• Talk about yourself too much - what is in it for the reader? People buy because of what is in it for them, not to hear about you. Your bio is the place for that.

The are some special considerations for fiction versus non-fiction.

For fiction:

• Have drama in opening line. The first line is most important – it has to have impact to “hook the reader.”
• Describe a compelling description of plot/conflict and main character(s).
• Share a well-written passage. This is an opportunity to showcase your best writing and impress the potential reader.
• Refer to famous writers or books that are similar to yours. For example, “if you like James Patterson mysteries, you’ll love this book.” Or, “this book has been written in the spirit of ____.” This a great way to define your book and associate it with well-known writers.
• Add any high level review or award.
• Have a call to action. Ask them to buy now. “Order a copy of _______ today and be mesmerized by this science fiction story.”

For non-fiction:

• State/highlight the problem /ask a question. Asking a question forces the reader to engage, because their minds want to answer the question. Want to see how? (See, I just did it).
• Ok, here are a couple examples: Would you like to lose 1lb this week or 5lbs?
• Describe how your book solves the problem. What will your book do for the reader? How will it transform their life?
• Use bulleted points. Identify key benefits with 4-6 bullet points.
• Sum up benefits.
• Call to action: Ask them to buy now. “Order a copy of Weight Loss the Right Way, and start losing weight today.”
• Personal note from author: Consider writing a note that explains why you wrote the book.
• List any awards or high level reviews.

Additional tips:

Look at top selling books in your category or niche and review those book descriptions.

Go the bookstore, pick up the top selling books in your niche, and read the back covers.

Read reviews of top books in your niche on Amazon. What do people like, what are they criticizing? Use this info in your book description.

Action step:

Review your current book description using the information above, and see how you can improve it. If you haven’t written the book description yet, use the hot tip section to do a little research first.

Keep writing!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Mentionables: Cocktail Cruises: The Collection Officially Releases December 1st!

Happy Monday, everyone! I'm excited to announce that the boxed set of my Cocktail Cruise novellas will officially release on December 1st - with a new cover soon to come! It will be available in both ebook and paperback - perfect for holiday gift-giving! I have a whole bunch of "Coming Soon" events and giveaways coming up, so please keep on dropping this blog by to find out what they are!

Besides featuring the 3 original novellas (Tequila Sunrise, Sex on the Beach and Between the Sheets), there will be a special section EXCLUSIVE to this collection: cocktail recipes and sneak peeks at books from some of your favorite romance authors. Who's participating? Take a look:

Stay tuned for a cover release!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Writers' Wednesday: Are You Tapping Into the World of Audio Books?

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today's post is borrowed in its entirety from an email I received from Let's Write Books yesterday - but I echo its message of exploring audio books if you're an author and have never considered or seriously looked into that avenue of sales and distribution. Several of my books are available in audio format, and I've both signed with a production company and gone through ACX to produce them on my own. Bottom line: they are one more way of selling your books to an audience. Read on:

Dear Fellow Writer,

Turn your book into an audiobook and watch royalties soar. In 2013, the audiobook market generated between 1.2-2 billion dollars in revenue. Consider this in light of the fact that only 5% of all books have been converted into audiobooks. The market is huge and hungry for more.

Amazon has recognized this opportunity, and is very excited about audiobooks. So much so that they now own Audible and ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), which is their audiobook distribution division (More about ACX later in this newsletter).

Here’s why the market is so hot:

• You can download audiobooks to any phone, tablet or computer. Currently, there are approximately 1.5 billion smart phones in use worldwide (1 out 7 people) and the # of phones + pc’s + tablets + computers shipped in 2013 = approx. 2.35 billion.
• Download instantly = immediate gratification for the consumer.
• Audiobooks are portable: listen in the car/commuting, while multitasking, and on the go.
• Some people prefer to listen to books, & won’t read them.
• Great for kids and those who have trouble reading.
• The average salary of the download audiobook listener is $84,000.

Here’s why you want to turn YOUR book into an audiobook:

• Create additional distribution channels, reach new markets.
• Additional royalties for you.
• It looks professional and prestigious.
• Bundle your audiobooks with books, eBooks, videos, etc.
• No inventory needed
• No shipping required
• Environmentally friendly

Now that you know about the market and the benefits of having an audiobook, let’s look at how to produce one. There are 5 options:

1. Do it yourself
2. Hire a production studio
3. Hire talent directly
4. Share royalties instead of payment
5. Sell rights to your audiobook

The first option of doing it yourself works well if you have a good voice, work well with technology and don’t mind a small learning curve. To do this you will need a good microphone and/or recording software. I recommend a Yeti USB microphone, and free recording software called Audacity, which is fairly easy to use You can download the software here: There are also lots of video tutorials on YouTube for this software. If you have never done this before, make sure your files match the specs of the company you are producing the audio for.

If you don’t want to bother with all of this, but still want to use your voice, a great option is to go into a recording studio. They will record your reading, edit, and provide you with files. Because voice-only files are not too complex, you can easily record in a small, home-based studio and save a lot of money. Check Craig’s List for a recording studio, or consider posting an ad there to find one. Expect to pay between $25 to $50/hr. for a small studio.

The third option is to use a professional narrator. They will handle everything for you from recording to editing to producing the files. Expect to pay $200 to $300 per recorded hour. One recorded hour is approximately 10,400 words. You can find talent on, ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), and Craig’s List. Be sure to listen to their audio samples and have them do a sample of your book based on one or two pages of your manuscript.

The next option is to share your royalties in lieu of payment. This can be set up at To do this, you post your job under the category of royalty shares. You pay nothing, but agree to share your royalties on a 50/50 split. I don’t advise this if you have a short book, or if you have a book you believe will be a good selling book. I do, however, see this as a viable option when you have a long book – say 60,000 plus words, as longer books will generate larger royalty payments, and then it might make financial sense to split the proceeds.

The last option is to sell the rights to your audiobook just as you would sell the rights to your book. You can do this by finding and audiobook agent or publisher. Locate one by searching the web, asking your publisher if traditionally published, and posting on

Now that you know the different ways to get your audiobook produced, let’s discuss As mentioned earlier, ACX is Amazon’s audiobook distribution arm. They distribute to Amazon, Audible and iTunes – the big three platforms for audiobook sales.

You cannot upload to Audible or iTunes without going through ACX. It is possible to upload audios to Amazon directly from Createspace, and you can check this out if you prefer. In order to use ACX, you must have your book as a Kindle or paperback book on Amazon. If your book is not on Amazon, you will not be able to use ACX.

ACX provides a variety of options:

1. Upload your own recording
2. Hire a narrator
3. Hire a narrator for free by agreeing to share royalties
4. Sell the rights to your audiobook

Yes, there is a little learning curve in doing this, but it is very worthwhile. The easiest way to market your book and see more royalties is by expanding distribution. Audiobooks provide a very direct path for accomplishing this.

Action step:
Visit and have a look around.

Keep writing!
Howard VanEs

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Fun Facts: A Chance to Read, Review, and Win!

TGIF everyone! Some Cocktail Cruise news today:

A new 5-star review for Tequila Sunrise that says, This story was realistically warming that the story could be read on a weekend over and over again. The characters are relatable and you are able to empathize with the conflicts and opinions of each one.

And a new review for Between the Sheets too!

I’ve read all three of the Cocktail Cruise stories now and each time the one I just read is my favorite. BETWEEN THE SHEETS is no exception. It’s about single mom Andrea and sexy dance instructor Sebastian. Both characters were introduced in the earlier stories. As a stressed out single mom, Andrea has had no time for love and romance. And the oh-so-hot Sebastian is trying to escape a very public life as the star of a dance reality TV show in Argentina—he just wants to be left alone. Neither is looking for love. Neither is quite willing to trust the motivations of the other. The story was sexy, romantic and sweet all at once. Absolutely loved it!

***Now the very important news: if you'd like to read and review Cocktail Cruises: The Collection, please sign up right here: Advance Reader Copy

What does signing up mean for you? Your choice of an electronic file of the entire Cocktail Cruise series to read, Books #1, 2, and 3 PLUS the special section never before published, Spirits for All Seasons, an awesome collection of drink recipes (both alcoholic and not) from some of my fellow romance authors, along with info about their latest books! I'll throw in some fun swag too, and everyone who posts a review on release day will have their name tossed in the ring for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

Sound good?

This collection will release at the end of November, so I'm looking for reviewers now who'll be able to read and post a review within a month (Advanced Reader Copies will be available by the 3rd week in October).

Remember, sign up here: Advance Reader Copy

I'm looking forward to it ~ hope you are too!