So I’m making an ecourse…

Your DIY Writing Retreat - A Guide to Getting Away E-courseI’m working on an e-course version of DIY Writing Retreat. Basically, I’m expanding the ebook and breaking it down into eight steps that you can work through at your own pace via email. It’s going to have fancy printable worksheets and fun quizzes.

Why am I doing this? A few reasons…

  1. I wanted to try out doing it. I like e-courses and I wanted to make my own.
  2. I wanted to try selling my writing in a different format.
  3. I wanted to try teaching via email.
  4. I like making stuff.

And, to be perfectly transparent, I wanted to see if this might be a more efficient way to make money from writing than an ebook. For one thing, Amazon won’t be taking out a chunk of my sales–and for another, prices on e-courses are generally higher, so I can charge a more reasonable price for the amount of work I put in.

I’m sure I’ll have fewer sales on Your DIY Writing Retreat (the name of this new endeavor)–for one thing, I don’t have the benefit of Amazon’s platform, or the numerous kind reviews that I already have on my other ebooks–but I figured I’d give it a shot with you, my dedicated readers.

So tell me in the comments: are you interested in e-courses? Are you interested in this one? You can sign up here to find out when it launches (and get a free guide to writing, if you haven’t already!).

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My KDP Amazon Experiment

Since 2013, I’ve published two writing guides. Both were edited/formatted/published by KMR Publishing (aka my pal Kelly). DIY Chick Lit has been on sale on Amazon and Smashwords (which distributes to Barnes & Noble’s Kobu and other ebook platforms) since November 2013. DIY Writing Retreat went on sale on Amazon 10 months later in September 2014.

The biggest reason we didn’t publish DIY Writing Retreat on Smashwords is that formatting for Smashwords takes for. ev. er. It was by far our biggest challenge. On Amazon, you can just upload a PDF.

In January of this year (2015), I took my exclusivity on Amazon a step further and enrolled both books in KDP Select. KDP Select is a program that lets readers who participate in Kindle Unlimited (a pay-per-month program) borrow books for free on their Kindles. It also lets writers put their ebooks on sale for a limited time, or offer them for free. All this in exchange for total loyalty to Amazon; your book (in ebook format) can’t be for sale anywhere else for 90 days.

I wanted to try KDP Select because I’d listened to a talk by Ingrid Ricks at PubCamp, a conference in Seattle. Ricks achieved awesome self-publishing success and her memoir, Hippie Boy, was eventually picked up by a traditional publisher. Ricks attributed some of her success to giving away her books for free online, which led to more readers and more sales of her other books. I’ve read about KDP Select success in other places, but seeing Ricks (and emailing with her–she is super nice!) convinced me to give it a shot.

Another reason I wanted to try KDP Select is that Andrew gave me a Kindle for Christmas this year, and it came with a trial membership to Kindle Unlimited. I ended up using it to read a fair number of books, and I noticed I was disappointed when I saw that some of my favorite authors didn’t participate in it.

Armed with an experimental mindset and few expectations–I sell a few copies of both books each month–I enrolled both books in KDP Select (and unpublished DIY Chick Lit from Smashwords).

 

Here’s what happened:

Borrows replaced sales. In KDP Select, writers are paid from a pool of money set aside for Kindle Unlimited borrows. So, every borrow earns me some cash, even though I don’t sell my book to Kindle Unlimited users. I noticed right away that many of my sales–more than half–were replaced with borrows. This might seem like it matters, but in terms of cash, I am right on track with my quarterly earnings compared to last year.

I gave away more than 800 copies of my books. I ran two promos: on Valentine’s Day weekend, I offered DIY Chick Lit free, and on the last weekend in March, I offered DIY Writing Retreat for free. Both times, I gave away 400+ copies of my book. I plan to write more about this in a separate post, but the short story is that I didn’t do much in the way of marketing or advertising for these promos: I tweeted about the sales, shared them with my newsletter list, and posted a link on the blog. 800 copies is not much in Bookland, but it is still many times my monthly sales, and it was fun to see my books make #1 in their respective categories.

My sales have not changed dramatically. The chart of my sales before and after the giveaways looks about the same: a few sales each month.

 

So what are my takeaways from all this?

KDP Select isn’t a magic bullet, but it does increase your readership. Even if only 10% of my free ebook downloads get read, that’s 80 more readers than I had last year. (I like to think my books have a better chance of getting read because they are short–but it’s hard to say.) More readers means potential for more reviews–though so far, I only have one new review for DIY Chick Lit–plus more visits to my website and more subscribers to my newsletter. I read all of those stats as more readers who are willing to read my writing elsewhere, and perhaps to buy another book down the road.

I’m not *sure* KDP Select is worth it, but so far, it hasn’t been doing any damage to my sales. Quarterly royalties are the same this year as they were last year, so if anything, KDP sales have increased slightly, since I’m no longer on Smashwords. This actually seems like pretty good reason to go back to Smashwords–I’m missing out on the royalties I earned from there last year (which made up about 15% of my total royalties, nothing to sneeze at).

free sales

I haven’t decided yet what to make my next book-selling experiment. I have a few ideas, including introducing an e-course companion to DIY Writing Retreat. But this has been more fruitful than I could have possibly expected; seeing a massive spike in “sales” came as encouragement I couldn’t have expected after a slow year of drips and drabs.

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How I write, Part 2: Getting Away

Shameless plug! DIY Chick Lit is free this weekend on Amazon—get yours now (and tell all your wannabe-chick-lit-writer friends).

Everyone loves to get away, and it’s something writers dream of. But like I wrote in DIY Writing Retreat, you don’t need a bunch of money or time to get away. “Getting away” just means changing your scenery, and there are ways to do that every day, if you want to.

Here are some reasons I need to get away:

  • I have to write a brand-new pitch letter and I really don’t want to.
  • I have to revise something, and I really, really don’t want to.
  • I want to research something.
  • I want to get some new ideas—I’m feeling bored with what I’m working on, and it needs some facts/background/new ideas to make it more interesting.
  • I can’t make myself write anymore, but I want to get something
  • I haven’t left my house in a few days and I’m starting to feel like a hermit.Getting Away - Alicia de los Reyes

And here are some ways I get away:

When I don’t want to do something, I go somewhere totally new and random. My personal favorite is a library in a different town. Thanks to the Rollinsford Library, I revised my thesis. In a new town, there’s very little chance you’ll run into anyone you know, so you don’t have to explain yourself or worry about distraction. It’s fun to be in a new place, and a library doesn’t require you to interact with anyone. You can put on your headphones, open up your laptop, and be “that” guy/gal.

Going somewhere different somehow makes it clear that this task is a departure and not what I have to do every single day for the rest of my life. When I’m done, I can go home. So that means that I will, at some point, be done.

When I need to research something, I try to go to an actual physical place related to what I’m doing. Maybe that’s a library (I’m lucky to be able to go to the gorgeous downtown Seattle library, which has almost every book anyone could ever want). Maybe it’s a setting related to a story I’m writing: a dock, a baseball field. Maybe it’s a place where people who I’m writing about hang out, and I try to interview them (for me, that’s usually a church).

The Internet is vast, but people are deep. They will give you much more information than you can get from the most well-researched article; they can point you to other people, give you the real story, make you consider your story from a viewpoint you hadn’t thought of. Getting out and talking to people is scary, but people love talking about their experiences. So don’t be a hermit. Sometimes I give myself a reward for being brave and asking a stranger questions (a latte with a crazy amount of sugar in it).

When I want to get new ideas, or I’m just feeling kind of bored with whatever I’m working on, I go to a museum or a new place. I go with Andrew on a day trip to a new town and we explore all the local stuff there is to see there: cafes, shops, local history museums. Travel, even to someplace an hour away, wakes up my brain and makes me feel like the world is a big, interesting place. Because it is.

When I can’t make myself write anymore but I really want to feel like I finished something, I go to a coffee shop, even just for 45 minutes, and bang out a draft of something. I either set myself a bite-size task (“just write one blog post”) or I free write for a while. Sometimes I get ideas, sometimes not, but it’s all practice. Not every day is going to be a stellar writing experience.

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I have the luxury of having mornings and early afternoons to myself, the trade-off of working in the evenings. If you work a regular job, you might try going somewhere new after work: a new bar or coffee shop where you can sit and write for a bit before you go home, or the library in a different town. If you have kids or home duties, try thinking of it as taking a class or joining a book group, and trade your buddy for another free night. If that’s not possible, you might try joining a writing group; then, at least occasionally, you can host it at your house. It’s not a new setting, per se, but it will shake up how you think of your house (I certainly like my living room a lot more when it’s clean and filled with snacks and friends).

If you tend to be a homebody, I can’t recommend a writing group enough. Even if everyone else in the group is a terrible writer who gives awful feedback, you will have talked to other people about being a writer. You will have said “I usually write X.” A writing group affirms that you’re a writer, which is always a good feeling. I’ve rarely left a writing group feeling anything but inspired and happy about writing. Contrast that with how I feel after trying to make myself revise something alone in my house…

Getting away can be tricky, but it’s worth it.

If you’d like some more motivation and ways to get away for a retreat, check out DIY Writing Retreat. It includes a schedule for what to do every hour of a day- or weekend-long getaway, and even includes a shopping list and recipes, so you can focus on just writing. I’m also creating an e-course based on this retreat that includes worksheets and email-lessons tohelp you actually take a retreat. If you’re interested in test-driving it, you can sign up here.

 

 

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