Friday, 18 November 2016

Three Things Readers May Not Know About Being An Author - Kara Isaac


It has been just over six months since my debut novel, Close To You, released and a month since my sophomore novel, Can't Help Falling, came out. While this (in no way!) makes me a publishing veteran, I thought I'd blog today on some of the assumptions that some of my friends/family/readers have made about having a couple of books out there in the big wide world (and that I myself had before this new adventure!).

**I should note that the below are only for authors published by traditional publishing houses. Some of the below are very different for independently published authors.**

Before we continue, I should start by saying this is not a whinge. I love being an author, I love working with an amazing publishing team, I love interacting with readers and being able to give away books and all the other unexpected amazing things that come with this adventure. These are just a few things that people have been surprised by when I've told them that I thought may be of interest to others :)

We have no say (or control!) over price
Every now and then I'll get a message from a reader wanting to know when my book/s are going to be on sale for $1.99 (or better yet, free!) or someone will ask me why it is X price at one retailer but Y price at another.

Honestly, honestly, honestly, we have no say over what our publisher charges for a book, or what the distributor then charges for a book, or what a then retailer charges for a book. I've seen the paperback version for Close To You priced by retailers from $19.07 (NZD) up to $36.00 (NZD) and everything in between and I have no intelligence as to why any are priced the way they are!

We also have no say as to whether a title goes or e-Book sale, when it goes on sale or what the price is. Simon & Schuster put the Close To You eBook on sale for $1.99 the week before Can't Help Falling came out. Which I was absolutely thrilled about because one of the best ways to have new readers take a chance on you in the current environment is by offering it at the big discount. But I wasn't part of that decision, I was told about it after it was made and then used all of the channels I had available to me to try and spread the word.

Good reviews in publications do not necessarily equal good sales
With Close To You I was fortunate enough to receive a favourable review in a magazine in the US that had a circulation of over two million people (TWO MILLION PEOPLE! I thought I'd hit the author jackpot!). With Can't Help Falling I was blessed that it was named an October Top Pick by RT Book Reviews. Both were huge honours but I've also heard comments from people assuming that they resulted in books selling like crazy and so whether they bought it or not wasn't going to make any difference because I was already riding high on great sales numbers.

As much I would love this to be true (oh, so much so!), turns out it doesn't work that way. That magazine with the two million distribution? When I compared sales in the four weeks before the magazine came out and the four weeks after, the weeks after saw a sales increase of 28 books. Total. The day you see an author on the New York Times Bestsellers list or read that they signed a six or seven figure deal on their next contract is the day you can assume they're all good. Before that, I promise you every sale does count :)

We don't have access to limitless number of author copies to give away
My contract gives me fifty author copies for free, to be primarily used for promotional purposes. Of those five I held back for family (parents, grandmother, mother-in-law, sister and, strangely enough, one for my own bookshelf!). Another five went to friends who had saved my bacon somewhere in the writing process - either by being early readers, helping create promotional material, babysitting my kids so I could write etc. The other forty? Almost all are committed to giveaways before the book was even released via GoodReads, Facebook, guest blog posts or interviews, promotional giveaways with other authors etc.

Once those are gone, I have to buy them. While I could access them at a steep discount from my publisher, because I live in New Zealand by the time I also cover the cost of shipping them from the US plus the taxes that I incur importing them it actually ends up cheaper for me to buy my own book from a place that offers free shipping like BookDepository.com at their full retail price and have it dispatched from there. I'm 99% sure I'm their best customer for my own books :)

What about you? Were any of these things a surprise? Any other questions you'd like to ask me about life as a traditionally published author? There is the winner's choice of a copy of Close To You or Can't Help Falling for one commenter (please leave an email address if you would like to be in the draw so I can contact you if you win!). Entries close midnight, Sunday 20 November (US CST).

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. Her sophomore novel, Can't Help Falling, is about about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Author and Twitter @KaraIsaac   

28 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading (and learning) about your journey so far. I knew that you had no control over pricing but I had NO idea that you are responsible for most of your giveaway copies. I am also surprised that being featured in the popular magazine wasn't more productive! I will certainly value winning a copy, if I should be so lucky! Thanks for this giveaway.
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)om

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    1. Hi Connie. Thanks for dropping by! I was the same, I was like REALLY ONLY 28 COPIES MORE?! But then I thought about how many books I had bought because I'd read a good review and realised it was one, at a stretch two (if you included the one I had already heard about and was considering), in about ten years!

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  2. Interesting. I am one of those people who bought Close To You when it went on sale right before Can't Help Falling was released...and enjoyed it immensely! Thank you for the giveaway!

    dmandres5@gmail.com

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    1. You're welcome, Melissa. I'm so glad you enjoy Close To You :)

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  3. Excellent post, Kara. The pricing one I've found frustrating as well. I don't think in the 3 years Angelguard has been out there has been any price change in the ebook price. It doesn't make sense to me because once the ebook is created isn't every dollar earned in sales essentially profit (less the retailer margin)? Maybe I don't understand it well enough or once again it's the reality of there simply being too many books and not enough hours in a day for a publisher to work on so they apply the 80/20 rule of working on those books that will move the dial the most in terms of sales volumes.

    I also like your new photo - especially the top one. Buy books, best thing for authors.

    Kara, your but must be about due? Wishing you all the very best and enjoy those first few weeks with your new little miracle.

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    1. Hi Ian. I'm with you! I know some publishers have some quite strict rules about "never" putting their eBooks on special and I certainly agree that putting a new release on special very quickly would be very counter productive. Why would anyone but the most ardent of fans buy a book at full price or pre-order if that publisher has a track record of putting it up for sale within a matter of weeks?

      But I think once about six months is passed, it can be really beneficial to put an eBook on sale for a limited time. Especially for debut or little known authors who (short of having a huge marketing spend thrown behind them) are these days competing with a lot of great independent authors who are able to price their eBooks much lower because they don't have to recoup the same level of overheads that come with being traditionally published.

      And yes, due in a two weeks give or take!

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  4. As a bookseller I have no control over price either, and have been accosted many times over that one lol!! I guess my big surprise was that the publisher have you that many copies, which figures I guess but I didn't know it. Glad you don't have to purchase all those for give away. I have to say tho I'll never really understand why so many mediocre authors are automatically on the best seller list with each and every book. I guess they have enough readers they were put there, but I have read a few and think there is much better. Kind of like what you know you read, but it warrants more people taking a chance outside of the box. If I could magically catapult you onto the list Kara, I would ;)

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    1. I have a theory about the continuous bestselling authors! I think they write great books to achieve that status and then if they get complacent and start producing not-as-good stories their readers may let them get away with it for a book or three because they keep hoping they'll return to their previous greatness. But, there will be a tipping point where they give up and find another author. For instance, it used to be that whenever Patricia Cornwell released a new Kay Scarpetta novel it it was hugely hyped for months leading in and went straight to #1 on all the lists and stay there for awhile. Now, well it's been awhile since I've any hype around her latest releases and it they have made it onto the lists they've disappeared back off them pretty fast.

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  5. I had no idea you didn't have any influence over prices and sales! In some ways that must be frustrating. Thank you for sharing your journey! I would love to win Close To You because I read Can't Help Falki g and absolutely loved it!!!
    Pjcbaker@yahoo.com

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    1. I wish I had influence but alas not! That would definitely be one upside to being an independent author - being able to set your own prices and change them at will! I'm so glad you enjoyed Can't Help Falling :)

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  6. Thanks for giving us a bit of a behind-the-scenes look! I was a bit surprised that the reviews in larger publications didn't result in greater sales... :( It's good to know as a reader though!

    kvanderh(at)ualberta(dot)ca

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    1. Hi Kim! So was I! Goes to show that when people say that word-of-mouth from people they know who have loved the book is the biggest influencer it really is :)

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  8. Thanks for this, Kara. I didn't know some of this, but am not really surprised. The reality of being published is so much less and so much more than we dreamed, isn't it? By the way, I loved 'Close to you' - got it on sale - and am now going to purchase 'Can't help falling'. Loved your metaphors. I often read back over them just to enjoy them again and marvel at their depth and just how clever they were. Thank you for your honesty in this post. Much appreciated.

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    1. Hi Jenny. I'm so glad you enjoyed Close To You. Hope you enjoy Can't Help Falling just as much! :)

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  9. I think the thing that surprised me the most is that good reviews ddidn't necessarily equal an increase in sales. That was interesting. Great job on two published novels!!

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    1. Hi Deborah. Thanks so much :) I know! I was surprised too. I didn't necessarily expect a huge game changing increase but I was surprised by what little impact it actually had.

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  10. I was surprised over how little you had control over prices and copies. It sounds like a hard occupation, yet a rewarding one!
    kathrynlvossATgmailDOTcom

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    1. Hi Kate! It is definitely a rewarding and challenging one :)

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    2. Hi Kate! Congratulations, you're the winner! I'll send you an email shortly :)

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  11. 50 promotional copies to give away! WOW! I got 4 for my first non-fiction and 10 for my second (although I did have 20 that the publisher sent to 'key' people). Yes, I give away a lot but I buy them. In the case of "Telling the Gospel Through Story" it is because Bible storytelling is the best ministry tool I have and if I can let Bible Colleges and missionaries ...know about it, I'm willing to give them a free copy. An eternal investment. A novel will be different for me.
    Yes, this week it started to be cheaper for me to buy my own books on Book Depository sale rather than with the 55% author discount from the US - because of their crippling postage costs (more than US$4/book!

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    1. HI Christine! Postage costs are definitely a downside for us international authors, aren't they! Not just the cost of getting books to where we are, if we wanted to take advantage of our publisher's discount but then of posting them on to recipients. I was doing my taxes the other day and worked out that I've spent over $500 NZD just on postage and packaging since Close To You was released!

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  12. I personally find it laughable that readers think authors have any control over price! But I suppose if you aren't in touch with authors and publishers through reviewing regularly as I am it is understandable.

    I do love it when an eBook is on sale for the soon to be released second book by an author. It makes it so much more affordable to try a new author!

    I hate shipping costs. :( Probably why I've turned to mostly reading eBooks...

    dlknee@gmail.com

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    1. I love it too! I've found quite a few new authors that way. Especially ones that I've heard good things about but the budget hasn't stretched to being able to purchase their debut novel at full price.

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  13. I guess the biggest surprise for me was the fact the good reviews in large circulation publications don't get more sales! :-/ LOVED Close to You! Looking forward to CHF! :-)

    Cyndi Wilson
    cyndilou83(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks so much, Cyndi! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Hope you enjoy Can't Help Falling just as much when you have the chance to read it :)

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  14. Kara, my question is about the different markets for your books. Is there one country where you tend to get more sales? As an American, I never thought about what it must be like for international authors who come from countries much smaller than the United States. I wonder if American authors take it for granted, living in the U.S. where the market seems huge.

    I just reread my question, and I realized that it sounds like I'm just wondering about the money. That's not really it at all. I just find it fascinating, the idea of living in a geographically small location and thus needing to rely on international business.

    Anyway, thanks for explaining some of the details to us. I absolutely love the story behind the stories. 😉 Oh, and I hope that you get to write off all of that postage as a business expense on your taxes! Do you get to do that in NZ? 😳

    mylittlebirdie (at) yahoo (dot) com

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    1. Hi Karen, since Can't Help Falling has only been out in the Northern Hemisphere for seven weeks and the Southern Hemisphere for three weeks I don't have any intel on how that is going in different markets yet. I do know that for Close To You even though the US has been its biggest market, it also sold a lot more copies in New Zealand than it was expected that it would through our largest general market chain.

      One of the challenges is that a lot of New Zealanders and Australians use places like BookDepository.com to buy books because they offer free shipping so end up being much cheaper than places like Amazon. Where books are bought through sites like that my publisher doesn't get any information on where the end purchaser actually resides. It's all just classed as an "outside US" purchase so I could be widely popular in somewhere strange like Greece and just not know it :) Similarly for international users with Amazon.com Kindle accounts (like me). If someone buys an e-copy of either book off Amazon.com then its classified as a US purchase, even though the person doesn't actually live there.

      And yes, postage is definitely a business expense, thank goodness!!

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