Posts tagged: Tales from Earth’s End

Plucky Grandmother Fights Amazon, Apple, and BookBaby over KDP Promotion

The subtitle to this article is: Why is The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy selling for 99 cents (or more) October 12, 13, & 14 when it’s supposed to be free? It’s because of WHAT HAPPENED.

To qualify for Amazon’s KDP program, in which Amazon allows you to give your book away five days out of the 90 day enrollment period, you have to pull distribution of your eBook from all the other distributors, giving Amazon exclusive rights to market your book.

Yes, that means yank it away from the iBookstore (Apple and the iPad, etc.), Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Baker & Taylor, Copia, eBookPie, etc.  This is supremely monopolistic behavior on Amazon’s part, something that causes all economists to cringe and then foam at the mouth. I am an economist.

But I stuffed my principles to jump at the chance to give my books away. Why? Smart people have made fortunes doing it. I wanted to give it a chance. (See Cheryl K Tardif, How I Made Over $42,000 in 1 Month Selling my Kindle eBooks. Cheryl did it with the KDP program. That $42 K got my attention.)

I pulled distribution of my books from everywhere and gave exclusive rights to Amazon. I already have had two successful KDP free days with my books. The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy and Lady Grace did very well, hitting #1 and #3 in their categories. Many more copies were downloaded than my “commit seppuku on the front lawn” figure of three. That’s right, my lowered expectation was three (3) downloads or I’d off myself. There’s an article about this. A funny one, with a video of an Eddie Murphy look-alike.

Despite the grueling work of letting as many people as I could know about my giveaway, I decided to do it again. My sales did increase after the books went back up to their normal prices.

I scheduled the KDP free days. That’s when IT happened. I received the following email from Amazon:

"GET THAT BOOK DOWN, SANDY!"The email says that we’re still selling The Angel on the iBookstore and we had to get it off within ten days or the book would be tossed from the KDP program and demoted to regular status, where we could sell it for 99 cents instead of giving it away.  I didn’t know that the book was distributed by anyone but Amazon, but, clicking the link, I found out it was true.

Hmm. I have had a successful KDP promotion with this book, with Amazon happily giving it away for two days. I guess their ever-vigilant staff missed its rogue status.

When we decided to go for the KDP program early in 2012, we had BookBaby, a distributor of eBooks to all the neat places mentioned above, remove our books from their terrific distribution sites. To do this, we forfeited the $99 we paid to be part of their system.

So, the right to give my books away has already cost us $99, plus whatever we would have made selling through all those other channels.

BookBaby‘s not taking the book off of the iBookstore jeopardizes my new giveaway this weekend. I’d already told various blogs and other sites that The Angel would be free. More than that, I’m doing a humongous blog tour, and have they announced that the book would be free.

I immediately and laboriously  emailed Apple (It’s not easy to figure out how to get into the seller side of  the iBookstore.) and BookBaby, trying to get The Angel‘s sales off of the iBookstore and exclusively on Amazon. I’m currently at five emails from Apple customer service. Their response can be summarized as: ‘You have to contact BookBaby and get them to remove it.” And, “We feel your pain  . . .” No, it was: “We’re really sorry and wish we could help.” But then they didn’t help.

I moved on to the BookBaby site, determined to find some way to contact someone, since they weren’t getting back to me after my first email. I found the site extremely counter-intuitive, but I finally discovered the page I’ll attach below.

Are you relating to this, indie authors and publishers? The total opacity of the system and the impossibility of getting a real person to help you. The sense of being lost in a hostile, incomprehensible world. We indies deal with this all the time, on EVERY friggin’ thing about getting our books in print and posted somewhere where at least our MOTHERS can read them. It’s a nightmare. Write a comment if you feel my pain.

This is what happened next–I found this on BookBaby:

BookBaby Removed The Angel from the iBookstore Six Months Ago

This is taken from the secret innards of our account. It shows that BookBaby removed The Angel from all the places it sets books up back in May. April for the iBookstore. They did their job.

So why isn’t it removed? I asked Apple that and have not heard back from them. I also  added the following, “You say you care, so do something.” Maybe I said a bit more politely.

Then I responded to Amazon, sending them the above screen shot and an email explaining that I’ve done everything I can. I’m an individual caught in the middle of three corporations: Apple, Amazon, and BookBaby. I’ve acted in good faith. The outcome is out of my control. Could they cut me some slack and at least let me do the KDP promotion this weekend?

I haven’t heard from Amazon, either.

Did you ever think it would be so hard to give your books away?

If you find a listing of free books this weekend and The Angel is on it, and you find its not free when you go to the book’s Kindle page, I’m sorry. I’ll get it marked down to 99 cents if I can.

Why go through all this? I contemplate this all the time. Is it worth it? Should I grant Amazon exclusive rights to distribute my work? Is the frustration worth the payoff?

One reason that I didn’t balk at giving Amazon distribution rights is on the table above. Our Total lifetime sales through BookBaby is $13.09. It’s not hard to walk away from that.

The reason that Amazon can demand monopolistic tariffs and conditions from sellers is that it is a monopoly. It has the books, and it has the customers, too. You’ll make a zillion times more on Amazon than anywhere else, at least in my experience. Plus, it’s easier to deal with one giant corporation with its rules and ways than a dozen.

Who knows? Maybe in the next five days one of the giants will get back to me and this will get handled. Or maybe not. Now to contact all those blogs and tell them that The Angel will be free this weekend. Or not.

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-two national awards for her writing. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (paperback. Kindle coming)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (paperback. Kindle coming)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice



eBook Pricing and eBook Sales––PROFIT MAXIMIZATION is the Goal

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, Book 1 of Tales from Earth's End, KINDLE will be FREE OCTOBER 12th & 13th! Get the winner of 4 national awards for NOTHING!

The other day, I read  author Samantha Fury’s blog discussion of the result of changing her books’ prices from $.99 to $2.99. A reader/author commented that he felt that $2.99 was a fair price of his work and to give it away or sell it for $.99 demeaned his work. (For his exact words, check Samantha’s post.) I tuned in to a similar discussion on the  World Literary Cafe: “Your worth and the worth of your writing is reflected in the price of your books. If you don’t value your writing, why should anyone else?”

As a former economic analyst with couple of degrees in the subject and a long professional career as an economist, I need to point out that  profit maximization is the relevant variable. When the author is maximizing his or her profit, the book’s price is pretty much irrelevant. I’m going to present a few basic concepts of economics and illustrate them with experiences of self-published authors.

Anyone discussing eBook pricing should read Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s book, How I Made $42K in One Month Selling my eBooks.  Whoever makes over  in $42K profit in a month trumps the other on-line pundits. Despite the raging discussion about book pricing, this person is worth listening to. She’s walked the walk, not just talked the talk.

In her book, Cheryl reports that she made $30K the month after her $42K score and averages about $20K/mo. As a result of her success, she has signed a Waa-hoo of a contract with one of the major publishers. She achieved those results using Amazon’s KDP program and lays out what she did in the eBook above. By skillful manipulation of economic variables and marketing techniques, Cheryl is reaping the economic reward of her work.

Cheryl says she used the Amazon KDP program, doing a giveaway for one book of her books at a time, focusing on the first book of a series.  She kept her other prices up. But she changes her modus operandi, rather than staying fixed on one strategy. I just checked her author page. Her books are priced between $4.99 and $0.00 at this moment. (From what I’m seeing today, Cheryl has changed her method and has several of her books priced at zero. I’d be interested in finding out how it works for her.) Note that she doesn’t leave her books priced at any fixed level based on some notion of her personal worth or their intrinsic value. She changes prices to take advantage of market conditions. Cheryl is a tireless marketer.

Here’s a story: Cheryl and I were communicating about her policies a while back. I was running a KDP free program myself, while I was on vacation in New Mexico. I was participating in a Tweet Team run by World Literary Cafe. (The WLC is a resource for writers which is DEFINITELY worth joining.) I was tweeting away fulfilling my fellow team obligations, when I saw that Cheryl was posting tweets for her tweet teams while on HER vacation. That’s tireless.

I tried to emulate Cheryl’s results with a couple of sets of KDP days in August. The link takes you to my write up of the results of my first set of KDP days, including screen shots of my book ranked #1 in Sci Fi Adventure (Free) right up next to George RR Martin. The main between us difference is: he got paid. My book stayed #1 for a whole day. The article is very funny, by the way.

I repeated the KDP promotion a couple weeks later with another book, which hit #3 in the same category.

LADY GRACE, Book 2 of Tales from Earth's End, will be FREE OCTOBER 12th & 13th! Get the second of the series, a national award winner, for NOTHING! Get 2 books of the series free!

After the books reverted to not being free, result was an increase in sales in ALL of my books, some by ten times. I would have NEVER seen that increase if I hadn’t done the giveaway. Before that, my books were buried in the lower reaches of Amazon’s rating dungeons, growing mushrooms. Their brief rise to the light let thousands of potential buyers know they existed.

Do I mind giving my work away? Not all all.


I’d rather get new readers than have my work sit in Amazon’s computers hoping that someone will see its value.

THIS IS IMPORTANT, SO LISTEN UP: DO NOT confuse your value as a writer and human being with the price of your books. PERSONAL WORTH, THE VALUE OF YOUR WRITING, AND ITS PRICE ARE DIFFERENT VARIABLES.

If you need credentials to back up that statement, I also have an MA in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling and a lifelong spiritual practice. I’ve walked the walk.


BACK TO SELLING BOOKS: The KDP glow didn’t last, so I’m planning on repeating it a couple of times in the next 2 months. Is it work to give your book away? Oh, yeah, horrible work. Here’s my article about what I did to prepare.

Doing the prep work  was fairly awful, but I got that great screen shot out of it and way more downloads than I expected.

MORE ON PRICING: I used to sell my books at .99. I know they’re intrinsically worth way more, but they SOLD at .99. Also, depending on the relationship of the supply and demand curves for your work, you may make way more selling for less. (We’ll talk more about those slippery curves below.)

Here’s another story: I have a friend who was (she died) a major, major seller on Kindle. (She also ended up signing with one of the big 6 publishers.) She had one of her new books marked at $2.99 and it wasn’t selling.

She fretted about knocking it down to .99. She’d have to sell six times as many books to make the same profit. She finally dropped the price, and sold 16 TIMES the number of books, making way more than she had been, even at the much lower margin Amazon gives .99 books. Amazing what hitting the right price point will do.

WHAT MY FRIEND’S EXPERIENCE ILLUSTRATES IS BASIC PRICE THEORY. Price theory is one of the first courses greeting budding economists.

One of the essential tenants of price theory is: Buyers will buy  more units of whatever you’re selling at a lower price than a higher one. Through statistical sampling, it’s possible for economists to draw a graph of how many widgets people will buy at different prices, up and down the range. It’s called the demand curve. The higher the price, the fewer units will sell. 

The other side of the pricing equation is the supply curve. Basic tenant of supply: The higher the price for anything, the more units suppliers will want to produce. The  graph representing the supply side of  goes  up as quantity increases. Lots of things are imbedded in the supply curve: the cost of producing widgets or books or anything else.

Supply and Demand for Pizza

Supply and Demand for Pizza

The graph above shows how the two curves function, using the market for pizza as an example. There the supply and demand curves are just as I described. Demand slants down, indicating people will buy more pizza if it costs less. The supply curve goes up, showing that pizza makers will make more pizza if they’re paid more.

The wonder of price theory is that the supply and demand curves intersect. The happy upward-pointing supply curve crosses the downward-pointing demand curve somewhere. This means that at that price and level of production, supply equals demand and the market is cleared. All the pizzas produced find homes and everyone’s happy.

This theory does not work so precisely when we’re discussing electronic books that have no cost after they’re rendered into pixels or POD books that are spit out to meet demand. (Those are extremely efficient means of production, by the way. No tons of books sitting around waiting to be pulped.)

But the general theme of lower price, more sales holds, due to the demand function. The economic issue for the writer becomes covering those initial costs and earning something on top of them for his/her time.

THE ANGEL IS UP THERE WITH GEORGE R.R. MARTIN! Would this have happened if I hadn't "given it away?" In my dreams.

MORE ABOUT PRICING BOOKS: Don’t follow the expert’s advice, necessarily––another story: A while back, I had my books priced at .99, based on the fact that they sold at that price.

One of the industry experts told me, “The .99 cent books  are the junk books. You need to get out of that pile. Your books are better than that.” That’s true, my books aren’t  junk and I deserve to make way more than I do.

Given that advice, I raised all my books to $2.99 and above, except for one kids’ book. Result? My sales plummeted. Fell through the floor. They’ve begun selling again, and I’m making a little more than I did previously, but the sales aren’t vigorous and I’m not getting rich.

Now I look at pricing in terms of profit maximization, not “how much my books are worth” or “how much I’m worth.” Our books are worth a lot and so are we. We deserve to make a great deal on them.

But that isn’t how worth is measured by economists. To an economist, things are worth what they sell for. Do you want to know what your house is  worth? Sell it. What it sells for is its value. (Of course, you don’t have it any more.) Most people just hate this, but it’s the only objective measurement of monetary value. Everything else is talk.

WHAT’S THE WORTH OF A BOOK THAT DOESN’T SELL? NOTHING.  A book you don’t sell brings you ZERO profit. So does one you give away.

The difference is, if you give a book away, you have a new reader.

I like what Cheryl Kaye Tardif’ says and how she uses KDP. So, I’m off to get them free days rollin’ again.



Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan’s writing has won twenty-two national awards. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (paperback & Kindle available)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (paperback & Kindle available)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

What You Can Win by Losing: The 2012 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards Have Been Announced! Didn’t Win? Some Words to Cheer You Up

The Gold Medal in the IPPY Awards--So near, but so far

On May 2, 2012, awards for the last few categories of the 2012 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards were announced. Did your book receive an award?

Mine didn’t, either. I’ve been entering the IPPYs for years. This was the first time  I didn’t win something. Kinda shocking.

It hurts to have your masterpiece spurned, but doesn’t hurt half as much as getting a one star review. That’s like a crossbow bolt to the heart, except you don’t get to die. You get to read those words savaging your beloved baby forever, or as long as your book’s Amazon page lasts. So losing in the IPPYs isn’t that bad.

You feel better already, don’t you?

This is an article about dealing with not winning a book contest. Usually I write about how to win book contests. One of the things I say in those articles is that you can do everything I say to do to win and still lose. I just demonstrated that.

Not winning in the 2012 IPPY (Independent Press) Awards brought to mind an actual event that happened to me in the olden days, before my body started disintegrating. I used to show horses.  My family was into horses. That means: We’d blow the kids’ college tuition fund if a good show prospect came up. We were over-the-top, raving horse maniacs, like everyone else we knew. We bred, raised, trained and showed our horses, which were Peruvian Paso horses. That’s right, they originated in Peru. What follows is an uplifting to you (I hope), though extremely embarrassing to me, tale illustrating what can be learned through losing.

Hang in there: This is more of a short (or medium length) story, than a blog post. Actually, it’s a free Kindle short.

Azteca de Oro BSN & I at the Monterey show. This is NOT me riding Vistoso. I couldn't find a picture of the Big V and me. I'm riding Vistoso's full brother, Azteca, at the Monterey Fairgrounds. Close enough.

OK. I was riding one of our top horses, Vistoso, at the Mission Trails Classic Championship Peruvian Paso Horse Show in Monterey, CA.  The Monterey show was very large and prestigious. All the top ranches attended the event; winning was a real coup.

Vistoso and I were in some class, most likely Performance Geldings, since he was a performance gelding. In performance classes, the horses don’t just zoom around the arena looking beautiful. They have to do something: stop and back up, go fast, go slow, turn in circles, reverse, and serpentine through poles set so close that the animals looked like snakes with manes and tails.

Vistoso and I were having the ride of a lifetime. We were on. We were in perfect harmony: a gorgeous young horse and an aging-but-still-pretty-together woman. Vistoso was a tall, bright chestnut gelding. He was big; he was bold. He was magnificent. (Which is what Vistoso means: Beautiful, delightful, showy, spectacular. Peruvian Paso horses are required to have Spanish names, in homage to their Peruvian roots.)

We moved around the carefully groomed arena. The stadium surrounding us was filled with everyone who wasn’t riding a horse or getting ready to. Vistoso didn’t take a false step the whole class. I could hear the four-beat sound of his gait, the paso llano, a slow gait particular to his breed. We were in perfect balance, horse and rider.

Other horses were in the arena, but I knew we had it nailed. We’d win the class, go on to the championship competition, and win that. From there, Vistoso would become the new Champion of Champions.

TWIGGY & LILY at Monterey–- This is my daughter Lily riding out of the arena on Twiggy, probably the hottest horse we've ever owned. Notice how the horse seems to be compressed horizontally, smashed from front to back. That's because she wants to leave the ring. If Lily let go of the reins, that horse would launch faster than something from Vandenburg Air Force Base.

The judge pointed to a number of horses moving along the rail, including Vistoso and me, and indicated that we should move to the center of the arena, next to the flapping canvas pavilion where the ring steward and officials sat with a pile of gaudy trophies. I eyed the trophies, panting slightly. We were in “the good pile.”

The judge then motioned to the horses still moving along the rail, indicating that they should leave the arena through the newly opened gates. They were “the bad pile.”

If you’re in the good pile, you’re that much closer to winning. Except that horses do not care about winning. They are herd animals: they care about being with their their buddies, who were leaving the arena. Horses in the good pile can become very anxious at this point.

The judge sent us to the far end of the arena and the announcer began  calling out winners, working from the lowest place to the highest. A couple of honorable mentions. Fifth place. Fourth . . . When their numbers were announced, riders piloted their horses to the flapping pavilion and picked up their ribbons. They then left the arena, the horses practically bolting as they neared the open gates.

The higher your placement, the worse it gets. I was circling Vistoso at close to light speed as he became increasingly distressed watching his fellow equines escape. Finally, the Big V and I were the only horse/rider pair in the arena, except for this other woman on a little liver chestnut. (Yes, he was the color of liver.) I knew her. She was a really nice lady. Little horse. No sweat. The class was mine. I kept circling Vistoso, hoping that my triumph wouldn’t be overshadowed by him bucking me off. Then the announcer called the second place number.

It was MY number! I came in second.  That was impossible. I had won the class. No one could have had a ride as good as ours. I rode out of the arena with my lousy red ribbon. I was pissed off, and I stayed that way the rest of the day, and into the night.

Evening fell, as it inevitably does. The big dinner dance was on. The Monterey fairgrounds have a really cool party set-up. Soft lights twinkled and the band struck up. A gorgeous buffet was laid out. Champagne flowed and folks in “Western/Peruvian formal” attire chatted it up or took to the dance floor.

I made my way through the crowd, turned a corner, and ran smack into the show’s  judge. My eyes narrowed and my back went up.

The judge recognized me and put out her hand, grinning broadly. “Boy, did you ride that horse this afternoon!” Her praise was as heartfelt as any I’ve heard.

She didn’t fool me. That class was MINE. “Well, if you liked us so much, why didn’t you give us the blue ribbon?” I said. You see, I’m a liberated woman. I’ve also taken nine million assertiveness trainings. I was not about to let someone ***** me over.

The judge rocked back, and then replied without missing a beat. “Well, this is a very good show. A second prize in this show is equivalent to a championship somewhere else.”

I walked away, feeling slightly better and proud that I’d spoken up for myself. I was no wimp.

* * *

Fast forward to the end of the show season, late Fall. I’m at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA. The National Championship Show for the Peruvian Paso breed is  in full swing. This is the big, BIG time. Griffith Park is a real equestrian center. Massive cement grandstands circle an over-sized ring, creating a bowl which is spanned by a very high and equally massive ceiling.

The Nationals are like this: All the horses you’ve seen  in the magazines are there with their famous trainers, equally famous ranch owners, and enough stable help to run a small resort. The barns where the horses are kept when not performing sport flags and banners and swags up and down the aisles. Each ranch has its signature colors. Videos advertising the ranches’ charms and horses for sale play at the end of each stall row. Multicolor ribbons flutter, too––whatever each ranch has won at the show is displayed front and center.  Believe it or not, some ranches deck out their turf with potted palms and carpeting. It’s a spectacle that looks like it came out of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, but with more horses.

My nervous system goes into overload and then flames out with the tension of the Nationals. I’d already blown the classes I was riding in. “The bad pile” was probably above my head in that company.  I had plenty of free time, so I sat in the stands, watching the show.

I jumped out of my seat when the  woman who stole that class from me in Monterey rode through the gates. I leaned forward, teeth bared, a growl turning over in my throat. She was a petite, slender woman with rich dark hair. Her spine was erect, perfectly balanced as she sat the horse. Her stirrups were long, permitting her legs to extend downward gracefully. If you had dropped a line from the point of her knee, it would touch the tip of her toes. She held her hands low, almost touching the front of the saddle. Her equitation was plu-perfect.

Her horse, the grubby little thing I’d dismissed, wasn’t so grubby when I looked at him carefully. Liver chestnut is actually a rich medium brown, very correct and conservative. The horse was small and fine, elegant, like its rider. They were a brilliant match of type and style. Her poncho, saddle, bridle, everything, was exactly what the rule book specified. The animal moved along, relaxed, but alert, and precisely gaited.

Riding is one sport where the better you are, the less you do. You can see dressage riders in the Olympics whose horses are doing unbelievable things, but you can’t see the rider doing anything. The pair before me were like that. Exquisite. You know, there’s good riding, and then excellent riding. This was riding touched by angels.

I sat there, my mouth falling open. My hands went cold. I didn’t win that class in Monterey because I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t see my competition because I was busy riding my own horse. Seeing her in that arena told me that she and that little gelding were world class. (In fact, they would win the National Champion of Champions Performance Gelding title later in the show.)

I had a sinking feeling when I realized what I’d done. I felt like my center of gravity was ten feet below the stadium and dropping. I remembered what I had said to that judge. My cheeks flamed. Embarrassment so powerful that you could almost see it washed over me. I had been so rude to that nice woman. I am still embarrassed about what I said, many years later.

I’ll never forget it.

* * *

So there it is: I didn’t win because I didn’t deserve to. I didn’t know I wasn’t the best because I was busy riding my own horse and couldn’t see the others.

* * *

Am I saying that your book didn’t win in the IPPYs because it wasn’t good enough? Well, . . .

Let’s take a look at that. When you enter your book in a contest, it’s like entering the arena on Vistoso that day in Monterey. You’re busy with your own entrant and can’t see the competition. You don’t know how good the other entrants’ books were. And you’ll never know. Remember me mouthing off to that judge when you feel like screaming over your placement. Don’t embarrass yourself.

Let’s look at book contests. You’ve zeroed out at the IPPYs this year. What should you do? Here are some options:

1. Walk away from it and never enter a book contest again. This is a pretty good option. Book contests are expensive. Aside from the cost of editing, proofreading, having my book designed and printed, along with the two years of my life I spent writing my book, Lady Grace, I forked out maybe $150 for the single category I entered. That includes the entry fee, postage, and materials for the press kit, which I included even though it wasn’t required. If I’d entered more categories or books, the cost would have multiplied.

Lady Grace, my 2012 entry into the book contests. Finished moments before entries close,will the Lady have what it takes?

As an indie author, do you need awards from book contests to sell your book? Let’s look at some of the most successful authors––indie or traditional––of our time. Take John Locke, the first indie published author to sell one million ebooks. John’s probably about to hit the two million mark by now. What did that get him? A lot of money and a contract with Simon & Schuster, one that he designed that meets his needs. (No yanking the indie author around.) And then we’ve got Amanda Hocking, who parlayed her young adult series into millions of book sales and dollars, and a contract with St. Martin’s Press. Darcie Chan, who published her book as an eBook after being rejected my the major publishers. She’s probably getting close to a million eBook sales by now and is a NYT Bestselling author, not to mention having a lot more loose change. What list of successful indies could leave out JA Konrath, the father of the “you can do better publishing it yourself” movement. Or M.J. Rose, probably the first author to go the self-pub route.

Did any of these people use awards from book contests for independent presses as their springboards to success? No. Did any of them enter such contests? Not that I know of.

(I don’t think they do blog tours, either.)

From these success stories, it looks like not entering book contests may increase your chances of success. Figuring out how to effectively sell your book is way to go.

2. Say you want to win prizes and enter more contests. What then? I’m like that. A compulsive competitor. I like to say, “Hi, I’m Sandy Nathan, award-winning author. I’ve won . . .” I like stickers and medals and certificates. I like to increase the number of wins I’ve got and post the new totals all over. Look at my website, for Pete’s sake. If that isn’t ever conspicuous flashing of glitz I don’t know what is.

My husband says, “Isn’t twenty-one awards enough?” I say, “No! A million wouldn’t be enough!”

You’re like me, you didn’t win the IPPYs this year, but you want to try again. Read the article below and follow it. This is my famous “What I do to win book contests” article. Do all that and enter your new book next year.

Or––take a look at your book and what you’re writing now. The IPPYs are a huge, prestigious contest, like the National Championships I described above. Are you up to that competition? If you don’t think you you can make it in the rarefied atmosphere of the IPPYs, pick a different contest. My article on how to win book contests has links to some very nice smaller contests. Maybe one is just perfect for your book.

3. If my recitation of what you actually get out of book contests sticks in your craw, pick a contest with really good prizes. Good prizes are a reason to compete even if you’re horrified by what I’ve said above.  I’m sharing a secret now. The 2012 National Indie Excellence Contest has killer prizes. Check ‘em out on their web site. They have regular winner and finalist prizes for the various categories, but the overall winners get stuff like thousands of dollars of services from top publicists. That’s worth competing for. It’s too late to enter this year, but 2013 is coming fast.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy––Winner of the 2011 Gold Medal for Visionary Fiction in the IPPY Awards

4. What does winning really mean? In 2011, I was thrilled and delighted when my book The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy won the Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction at the IPPYs. I’d won in previous IPPYs, but never a Gold. I feel tremendous gratitude to the people putting on the contest for acknowledging my book as they did.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is Book I of Tales from Earth’s End. The series is a fantasy/sci-fi/visionary fiction tale about people pushed to the literal ends of the earth. In The Angel, nuclear holocaust looms as the characters work to mend their past “business” and figure out how to survive the destruction of the planet. The Angel is a good book. It’s an important book treating the possibility of nuclear weapons destroying our world, as well as what can come from an economic disaster which is not successfully resolved. It’s beautifully produced and has a killer cover. I like this book very much.

Lady Grace is the second book in the Tales from Earth’s End series and was my entry in the 2012 IPPY Awards. Lady Grace sets out what happens to a small group of survivors of the nuclear war as they begin to create a new world. Every book professional who has touched Lady Grace has told me that it’s not just better than The Angel, it’s way better. “Your pacing, the plotting, the characters––all are terrific. This is the best writing you’ve done.” That was my editor. Others have said the same sort of thing: I’ve hit my stride with Lady Grace. I knew it, too.

A woman in my book club who told me she’d hated everything I’ve written called me babbling in rapture after reading Lady Grace. “It’s fantastic, Sandy. It’s the best book I’ve ever read. How did you do that? Where did you come up with all that?” And more, she went on and on. I loved it.

Lady Grace, my 2012 entry into the book contests. Finished moments before entries closed, Lady Grace was left in the paddock area at the end of the race.

OK. The Angel won the Visionary Fiction category in 2011, for which I will be eternally grateful. Lady Grace didn’t win anything in 2012, but it’s a better book in every way. Except maybe its cover. The version I submitted was straight off the presses; it might have been a proof. The print copies of the book arrived so close to the contest’s deadline that we didn’t have time to make adjustments in the cover or anything else before shipping them off to the IPPYs.

The final issue I’m raising is about judging. I’m not doing the snotty thing that I did to that poor judge in Monterey. I realize that the emerging National Champion of Champions might have been entered in the Visionary Fiction category in 2012. I don’t know what the competition was, or what the competition was in 2011 when The Angel won the Gold.

It’s just really weird to me that a lesser book should win the competition and a superior one not even place. Did the judges read it? Maybe totally different judges were working in 2012, and they had different preferences. You see that showing horses all the time. Some judges hate a particular type, while others love it. Maybe the fact that the cover wasn’t totally jelled knocked it out. That’s possible. We’ve since modified the cover, cleaning up the colors and changing the tag line.

A lot of things could have happened, and some of them must have.

What does the judging mean? What do you win when you win? Are the winners really the best books? What does an award mean?

The more I think on these things, the more I tend to agree with my husband. Maybe twenty-one awards is enough. (Twenty-two now. Lady Grace was a finalist in Visionary Fiction at the 2012 Indie Excellence Awards.)

So, campers, we’ve finished our romp through Contestland. I don’t know if I made you feel any better after your non-award, but maybe I made  you more thoughtful.

I look forward to hearing from others about their contest experiences. Would you do it again? What did it do for book sales? Your career?

Let me know, folks.

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-one national awards for her writing. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (paperback. Kindle coming)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (paperback. Kindle coming)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice


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