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Going Wide Unboxed

 

Going Wide

The Three-year, No-bestseller Plan[
**]for Making a Sustainable Living[
**]From Your Fiction[
**]Book 3

Patty Jansen

Capricornica Publications

Get notified of new books by Patty Jansen

h1<>{color:#000;}.

Going Wide

A Capricornica Publication / 2017

UUID# 990F93A1-3DF1-4857-B1D5-8BF80405893D

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright © 2017 by Patty Jansen
Cover design by Patty Jansen

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

http://pattyjansen.com

Editing and interior design by:

EQP BOOKS

The logo consisting of the letters “EQP” over an open book with power cord is a registered trademark of EQP BOOKS.

http://EQPBooks.com/

PUBLISHED IN AUSTRALIA

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CONTENTS

Terror and Trepidation!

Who Is This Book For?

Step Into The World

The First Step

Aggregator or Direct?

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Apple

Google Play

Shakespir

Aggregators and Small Sites

What Is Next?

Driving Sales

Best Hack to Website Content

The Power Of High

The Price Matching Monster

The Retailer As Content Delivery Site

The Right Mindset Wins

About The Author

h1<>{color:#000;}.

Author’s Mailing List

 

Click on the image above or visit pattyjansen.com
to sign up for Patty’s mailing list. You get four books for free!

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Terror and Trepidation!

 

O.M.G.

You have unticked that auto-renew box for Select in your KDP dashboard.

After a few seconds of exhilaration—“I’m no longer a slave to a single retailer!”—the fear sets in.

What do I actually DO? How do my books SELL? There is so much stuff to do and set up and I don’t get any of it. And I don’t even get how people find books on these other sites and it’s all so WEIRD.

Help!

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been selling books “wide” since 2011, was never able to get any traction in Select, through reasons that will become clear in this book. Non-Amazon sales have accounted for anywhere between 40 and 80 percent of my monthly income.

But, a word of warning: “going wide” is a mindset, and will require you to examine everything you do, from how you source your mailing list to where you advertise.

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Who Is This Book For?

 

THIS BOOK IS a service to my writer friends and anyone who is interested in taking their books to a worldwide audience in many different stores as opposed to being exclusive on Amazon.

For some reason, “going wide” strikes fear in the hearts of many. It is the great unknown, the morass, and it looks like so much work.

Yet, at any one time there is usually some form of panic going on about declining sales on Amazon, about declining page reads, scammers in Kindle Unlimited, or any combination of those things.

This is a book for people who are sick of the fearmongering, who are sick of worrying about what happens on Amazon, who want to stop caring about rankings and that a single bad review will torpedo your career. This is a book for people who want to see themselves as global citizens and invest time in building a more solid sales base that can support a longer lasting career, without having to fork out big in stomach ulcer medication.

This is not a book about Amazon, or about any of the storms that are going on there at any time, and it’s not about complaining how Amazon does the wrong thing by writers. This book is about everything that is not Amazon.

This doesn’t mean to say that you should turn your back to Amazon, to the contrary. For most writers, but not all of them, Amazon is likely to provide the bulk of their income. Now this may change, but at this point in time in 2017, it is the reality we live in. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But it’s a rollercoaster, and many people feel deeply uncomfortable with giving their entire income in the hands of just one income source. It’s not healthy, it’s not productive and not conducive to reaching out to a worldwide audience.

This is not a book that tries to convince you to “go wide”. It’s a book for those who have already decided that they want to do it.

[]

Step Into The World

 

TO GO WIDE is to step into the world. This may seem a little frightening to people from the US, because in the US, the prevailing attitude seems to be that Amazon is the world. The everything store.

It is not like that in the rest of the world. Sure, Amazon exists in other countries, but it’s often a latecomer on the scene, and not always the biggest one. Even if it is the biggest one for ebooks, it has a lot more healthy competition from the other stores in other countries.

If you’re not from the US, you will probably already understand that not everybody buys on Amazon. You already know that in some countries books are quite expensive, and readers are used to these prices. Traditional publishing has a much stronger grip on the market in those countries. Some countries, like France, have a protective industry with laws that make it easier for local content to be sold.

You may already understand that some people in some countries hate Amazon with a passion and actively legislate against it.

Or you may understand that books are sold to worldwide niche markets that are big enough to allow you to make a liveable income from selling to just that market.

My point is: it is not always about the price, and it is not always about being a fish in the biggest pond.

While market for science fiction books in Poland might be small, you could earn a handy income if for some reason your book takes off there. This is not to say that your book will take off in Poland, but there are many other countries and many other small markets where it might. And readers in those other countries probably don’t buy their books on Amazon. And even if they do, you give yourself more chance of being found if your books are available everywhere.

The frustrating part about your books taking off in Poland or Sweden is of course, that you can’t control any of it. You feel like you’re just throwing wet spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. You can’t game it and you can’t predict it, but there are definite steps you can take to make sure that something will happen somewhere.

An interesting byproduct of concentrating your sales efforts to non-Amazon markets is that you’re likely to increase your sales on Amazon, too. More specifically, you’ll likely increase your sales on Amazon stores that are not in the US.

The US is but one market. Quite a big one, but even so. The UK is one market. Germany is one market, and Canada, and Australia, and so on. By being in Select, you appeal primarily to people in the US, and a bit in the UK.

By being wide, you appeal to the entire world, no matter where they buy.

So, let’s get started.

[]

The First Step

 

FIRST, YOU FACE the unenviable task of creating files for all retailers and uploading them.

Yes, I can hear you groan.

I know this can mean a lot of work. I finally went direct with Apple a while ago, and took several days uploading all my books and filling out all the details. That was just one retailer. Of course I had more than thirty books, but I understand why people are turned off, I really do.

How can you make this easier?

Make sure you have accounts ready to go and set up for all retailers. Make decisions about how and where you’ll sell beforehand. You’ll need the next few chapters to decide how to do this.

Up until now, you have only used MOBI files, but now you need EPUB files. Use Vellum, hire a formatter or learn to make them yourself. Draft2Digital has just added file creation templates to their file generation options. It’s free. I say something about file creation in Self-publishing Unboxed but, in a nutshell, those are your options.

I strongly recommend using EPUB3 (Kobo, Apple, Google Play) and EPUB2 (B&N) files, and not to use DOC files, even if many of the retailers allow it. I say this because the file generation sometimes produces strange stuff, especially if your DOC file comes from a program that’s not Word (Pages, LibreOffice, etc.).

Divide the work into bite-sized pieces. Go by retailer, or by series, whichever is easiest for you.

However, don’t make the mistake of taking a cookie-cutter approach to uploading your books. Before you upload to a retailer, have a look around on their retail site to see if it offers any clues how you might be able to optimise your listings. What categories do they offer, and how do you get into them? How much room do they allocate for book descriptions? Do they have different content for different countries? Are they curated by people? Pull up the top 100 of your genre. What books are in it and how are they priced? What does the site do with free books? If a book rises to the top of the rankings, how long does it stay there?

Those are all things that you can potentially use in tailoring your book’s listing and your approach to various websites.

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Aggregator or Direct?

 

THIS IS THE FIRST decision you have to make.

At the time of writing, we have the aggregator sites Shakespir, Draft2Digital, and new kid on the block, Pronoun.

For those who don’t know, an aggregator is a service that takes your book and distributes it to other retailers on your behalf.

In Self-publishing Unboxed, I said that I believe that you should always go direct to sites that give you special promotional opportunities that would not be available otherwise, most notably Amazon and Kobo. Otherwise, it’s up to you.

But in reality it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

I think that your ultimate aim will be to use both. But it may take you a while to get there.

Pros of using an aggregator:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Less work

*
p<>{color:#000;}. One account to manage

*
p<>{color:#000;}. One payment

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p<>{color:#000;}. Personal contacts with the retailer

Cons of using an aggregator:

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p<>{color:#000;}. They usually charge a fee of 10% of the retail price. This may not sound like much, and it isn’t when you earn $60 per month. But it becomes a lot more when you earn $600 per month. When you earn $6000 per month, you can pay an accountant with the money you save.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. When you’re with an aggregator, you have much less control over your listings.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. You may not be eligible for promotions on retailer websites, notably Kobo.

Think carefully, because when you go with an aggregator and then go direct, you may lose all your reviews for that book. Since people are more likely to review on sites other than Amazon, losing 900 reviews on Kobo just because you got sick of paying an aggregator $100 of your earnings per month is a difficult decision. If you intend to move your books across, it pays to email the retailers, because they may be able to migrate your reviews over for you.

The short & dirty:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. There is absolutely ZERO reason not to go direct on Kobo. Their dashboard is easy, you can get in-house promo and there are no restrictions on who can join.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. You need a Mac to access Apple, so you may want to use an aggregator if you are Mac-less. If you sell a lot, you can buy a small Mac with the money you save. Macs are cool and most high-earning authors have one, even if only for this purpose. You can also use it for Vellum, a Mac-only piece of formatting software.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. You need to be in the US to access Nook Press, so if you’re not, you will need an aggregator.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Google Play has been playing silly buggers with their new account creation and they open it for like five minutes at a time, so it’s hard to get in. So if you don’t already have an account and are impatient, you may want to use an aggregator.

In general, it’s better not to use an aggregator.

But, here is the rub, most aggregators have deals with sites that are not accessible to individual writers.

These are the library suppliers like Overdrive, which are accessible through Shakespir, Draft2Digital and will soon be accessible through Kobo. There are subscription services like Scribd and Playster.

Often you will see people in forums questioning whether listing there is “worth it”. To be honest, I think that’s a stupid question. What, exactly, do you lose by making your books available there? I have no idea what half of these services are or where their market is. Playster is a really new one that I’d never heard of. But Draft2Digital sent me a report that I’d sold $25 there last month. I’ll take it. In fact, I’ll take it along with the $25 per month from Overdrive and the $10 from Scribd and the $30 from the Shakespir retail site and the other small fry that adds up to $100 a month and $1200 over a year. Is that “worth it?” Well, if it’s not to you, I’ll take the $1200, thanks.

To be wide is to be wide. Make your books available on every available platform.

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Kobo

 

THE KOBO WRITING LIFE portal is one of the prettiest and easiest to use. Who can resist that awesome map that tells you where in the world you have sold?

Reporting is mostly real time, although in some countries it can take a while for the sales to show up. Also, Kobo’s partner sites report in bulk, so sudden jumps in sales are quite common.

Kobo sends you reports in a spreadsheet via email once a month. These also include deductions for promotions that you have taken part in, since some of the promotions charge you ten percent of your retail price. You cannot download previous spreadsheets from the website. If you have misplaced one, you’ll need to email.

There is a $50 payment threshold, applied worldwide since you will only receive one payment. Payment is through Western Union into your bank account. One of the issues with the site is that getting your bank account set up is not always easy, and it is not always easy to receive your first payment because some bug in the system won’t recognise your bank account. Neither is it all that easy to sort out, because the help team is not always familiar with what needs to be done.

Kobo takes files in EPUB, MOBI or DOC format. They accept EPUB3, which is their native format. They run EPUB check on your document, and will flag issues. This sometimes puzzles writers who do their own formatting.

You can also use MOBI files, providing they don’t contain links to competitor’s websites, which is fair enough. Some people upload DOC files, but my personal experience with this has been terrible. I would recommend producing and uploading an EPUB file.

Kobo is located in Canada, but will take your local tax ID, and apply local tax.

The Kobo retail site displays its book offerings by country. This means that someone shopping in the UK will look at the UK site, UK rankings, and UK prices. The same is true for people in the US, Australia New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and a whole host of other countries. Kobo advises writers to set the prices in friendly numbers, ending in .99 for all their books in all territories. Living in Australia, when I see this, I know only one thing: I am paying too much, because who ever rounds a price down? But this has to be weighed up against the fact that it looks like you have taken care of what typical prices look like in that particular country. To be honest I don’t think it makes that much difference.

Kobo has no price point limit. This means that you can make collections of your entire catalogue and sell them for $40 if you want. The interesting thing is that these collections sell quite well on Kobo. In general people are much more willing to pay premium prices for the books they really want. If you look at the top hundred in the various genres, you will see that there is hardly a book under eight dollars. Free and low-priced books get pushed down in the rankings, and their visibility is poor. I recommend not leaving books free or cheap indefinitely. Kobo considers a price point of between $2.99 and $4.99 promotional. If you can, price higher than that, so you can take part in their site-run promotions.

One of the great things about the Kobo writer tools is the promotions tab. This is not a standard feature that you will get as soon as you join, but you have to ask for it by using the “Contact us” feature on the site, because it is supposedly still in beta. Once you have it, click the tab and scroll down the long list of possible promotions for you to take part in. Most of them require a ten percent reduction in your cut, which will get deducted in your spreadsheet. If your book is accepted, it gets put onto a page with specials. This page tends to be a grab barrel, meaning that as soon as the first readers go in they grab books on special which brings the first sales to the top of the page, so if you fall down to the bottom you are unlikely to see much success with that particular promotion.

These promotions can be quite successful, especially if you have a box set that you normally sell for $9.99 and reduced down to $4.99. Kobo often runs these promotions by country rather than worldwide. Readers on the site get given a code, so the reduced price is not available in search engines, and thus it prevents price matching by Amazon.

One thing to remember with Kobo is that it is a truly international seller. Most of the sales are in Canada, but it is also very strong in Australia and New Zealand as well as France, Germany and South Africa.

The map in your seller’s dashboard is awesome. It will show you blue dots in all the countries where you have sold books. After a while, when your sales increase, you will see that most of the sales on Kobo are not in the US. In fact you will see sales in really interesting countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, India, Malaysia, Malta, and a multitude of other countries. Often, Amazon is not particularly friendly to buyers in those countries.

Kobo actively works with self-publishers through hand picking books for the promotions, and through the Kobo Writing Life blog and podcast.

Kobo also behaves a little bit like an aggregator. If you search your books and they come up in places like Bol.com, Chapters, FNAC and Dymocks, then this is through Kobo.

Kobo offers services for the production of audio books, but I have not tried this.

Kobo actively represses the rankings of free and cheap books. They do give promo opportunities for free books, but I would strongly recommend that you do not leave your books permafree on Kobo.

If you use more than one pen name, you can keep the names separate.

In short:

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p<>{color:#000;}. Register here: Kobo Writing Life

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Open for: everyone

*
p<>{color:#000;}. File format: EPUB3

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Payment: bank account

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Tax: local tax ID

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Barnes & Noble

 

YOU CAN GET direct access to Barnes & Noble through Nook Press. Because you need to be in the US to set up an account, I asked a fellow writer about it. Here is what Gene Doucette told me.

Nook gives you 65% on books between $2.99 and $9.99, but to make up for that, they pay 40% on books outside of that range. (Contrasting Amazon’s 70/35 range)

Sales on Nook Press are reported in something approximating real time, which is to say that it’s more like Amazon in recording a sale than it is like iTunes, which is usually a day or two behind. They don’t report a sale until it’s been paid for. Their interface doesn’t show daily sales graphs, only monthly totals, but you can toggle between units sold or royalty. (Again, as an aggregate.) You can click on a monthly sales report that breaks down date of sale, book, number of units and so on, and you can download a spreadsheet for any month you want.

Payments are direct payment into a bank account. Payments are on the same schedule as Amazon, approximately two months after the close of the month. The minimum payment is $10.

Quoting from the Nook Press website, “Your next step to publishing on NOOK”:

 

You can upload a Microsoft Word (.doc/.docx), .txt, .rtf, .htm, .html, or .epub manuscript file. Once uploaded, you can edit the text in the Manuscript Editor, invite collaborators to read your Manuscript, and preview the NOOK Book as it will appear on NOOK.

Once you’ve uploaded your manuscript file, you can edit it using the Manuscript Editor or publish as-is. File size limit: 20MB. For best results, format your file according to our guidelines: doc/docx, txt, html, epub.

 

Gene Doucet goes on to say:

The interface is really simple and very straightforward, as long as you’re uploading a well-produced file. It’s a little more difficult otherwise.

Nook Press does not allow you to schedule a sale, so you’ve got to go in ahead of time and change the price. They say price changes won’t happen for 48-72 hours, but mostly the price change tends to be an hour or two at most.

Nook has a direct print function, and they’re very good about linking the print edition to the ebook edition on their website. Their print books are quite expensive, though.

Nook’s format is really easy to figure out. They allow up to five categories, they allow zero pricing (this is relatively new—they used to not allow this), and they allow for preorders, but you have to ask for the ability to do that. They will also allow you to upload editorial reviews, insert keywords, make it part of a series, etc. Each book also has an About the Author option, which is something Amazon doesn’t have, which sounds great except Nook doesn’t have author pages.

Nook will sometimes do manually curated first in series free pages.

You can keep pen names separate.

In short:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Register here: Barnes and Noble

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Open for: people in the US and UK

*
p<>{color:#000;}. File format: EPUB2

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Payment: bank account

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Tax: US tax ID

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Apple

 

YOU HAVE TO OWN a Mac in order to run the upload software iTunes Producer. If you don’t have one, you can use a service called “MacinCloud” to access it. If you’re used to the Apple OS, then you’ll find it relatively easy. If have never used a Mac then You. Cannot. Find. Anything. Be prepared for some frustration. Their help function is reasonably good, and if you google “How do I [insert thing] on a Mac”, the Apple help files always come up first.

They do require an EIN, and pay into your local bank account.

Think clearly how you’re going to set up your account structure before you apply. DON’T use your personal AppleID to create your account, because it will take all your details from there. You cannot change this. Create an AppleID specifically for your business and attach all the appropriate, business-related accounts, credit cards and tax IDs to it.

You may hear rumours going about that Apple will reveal your real name when you write under a pseudonym. This is no longer true. You can enter a publisher name, and this name will appear in the store.

Apple takes EPUB3 files. One of the requirements is that the cover file is a flat file, not a 3-D image of box set, so if you have a box set or collection, you have to make sure the designer gives you a flat file in addition to the 3D set image.

Apple allows you to set your prices separately in a wide range of countries in a wide range of currencies. That doesn’t mean that you have to enter them each individually. I usually enter one price—the one in US dollars—and apply it to all territories. Apple will automatically come up with a price point in all the individual currencies, and you can then use arrows to move that price up or down according to your wishes. For example if I want a book to be $.99 across the board for a promotion, I set it to $.99 in US dollars worldwide, but depending on the exchange rate it may go to $1.99 in Australia and New Zealand or Canada, so I then scroll down the menu and change the individual prices.

Apple does not have an upper limit, and I recommend uploading bigger box sets, because people in general are accustomed to pay more for their books on the iBookstore.

Because Apple displays sales per country, targeting ranks is not that easy.

You can use Facebook ads targeted to Mac users, but I am not sure how effective they are. The Kindle app on iPad and iPhone does not allow people to buy at Amazon. They have to log in to the Amazon website and purchase books there. The iBookstore sales and specials are curated by real humans. You may get lucky and get featured, but this is not really a strategy, although the uploading menu gives you an option to contact Apple about your special or new release.

If you don’t have a rep at Apple, and I don’t, your best bet is to target users of the ecosystem.

This is the major drawback of Apple: their stores are so fragmented, and site, so impenetrable, that it’s hard for those not on Mac devices even to see your books. Hint: google “iTunes [your author name]”. This will bring up a list of your books. There won’t be any rankings, but at least you can see whether the books are there.

Apple lists free books separately, and lists books by country. Also note that the search results are user-sensitive, and you will find a lot of authors you know in there.

If you publish under more than one name, Apple does not fully separate the pen names. You can enter a different name and publisher, but you can’t change the seller name without a second account.

In short:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Register here: [+ Apple+]

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Open for: everyone

*
p<>{color:#000;}. File format: EPUB3

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Payment: bank account

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Tax: US tax ID

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Google Play

 

IF YOU CLICK on the link, you may find a page that says they’re not accepting new accounts. You may also be lucky and strike the very short periods of time that Google Play is open for the registration of new accounts.

If you can’t open an account, the Google Play store is accessible through some aggregators, most importantly StreetLib and Pronoun.

On Google Play itself, you get 52% of recommended retail price. They have the tendency to discount, usually by about 30%, without your approval. This can both be annoying and be a boon. If they discount, you still get 52% of the price you set, so if you jack up the price, you will end up getting a lot more per book than on the other retailers.

Google Play does not require an EIN, and pays into your bank account without silly hoops or fees.

The site is a bit onerous, but believe me, it used to be a lot worse, and these days it’s reasonably easy to understand, and changes to your books and pricing are lightning fast.

You upload books on Google Play in the EPUB3 format. They also give you the option for PDF version, but no one is quite sure what it is used for—probably Google Books. This is a separate site from the retailer site that allows readers to sample your book. Even without a PDF, books are uploaded to Google Books anyway, so I am unsure why the PDF is needed. Perhaps it is for traditionally published books.

One of the annoying things about Google Play is that they do not give you live online reports. You have to download a spreadsheet every day if you want to know how much you sold. The spreadsheet is always one or two days behind, as well.

Google Play pays directly into your bank account. However, setting it up can be a pain. I initially published using my personal bank account, but when I started to become more serious I wanted to publish using a business account. This required me to set up a different bank account, and despite this change being in place for almost three years now, I have still been unable to change my bank account. Their help is useless, they are unwilling to look into your financial details, and I cannot even see which bank account is on the site, other than that I receive the money each month, into the wrong account.

Regarding their minimum threshold, their site says this:

The minimum balance for payments via EFT varies depending on the currency of the payment. For payments made in U.S. dollars, the minimum amount is US$1.00. Minimum amounts for other currencies are in a similar range. You can check this amount by visiting the Payment Center, editing the payment profile, then checking the threshold listed by the payment schedule.

When you do you get in, though, you can sell quite well on Google Play. The readers at the site accept a higher price point, and Google Play’s annoying tendency to discount can work in your favour, too. Remember that they pay you based on the full price, so, 30% discount on the sales of a book that you priced at $8 to stop Amazon price-matching can add up quite handsomely.

On the site itself, you will find that free books are invisible. In fact, for a company that made its name with a search engine, their search function is terrible. They have only a few categories, and when you click them, all that comes up is a page of the bestselling books, and there is no way to see the rest of the list.

Terrible, terrible.

Except the Google Play Books descriptions are indexed and searchable.

Wait. I’ll say that again: the book descriptions are searchable.

This is a feature not shared by any other retailer.

Now go use that to your heart’s content.

There is an option to add series titles to your books, and each book allows you to put up a bio. You don’t have to fill this out, and if you don’t, Google Play will simply reuse the bio from one of your other books. Google does have a recommended strip of also-boughts.

Because Google Play represses free books, you will see quite a few books priced at $0.01 so that authors can keep maximum visibility.

The format for entering prices is rather unusual, but there is a very useful thread on the Kindleboards that explains how to use it. Since the start of that thread, the publisher interface has improved markedly, but it will help you understand how it works. The thread even contains a handy table for which prices to set on your books to make sure that Google Play’s automatic discounting will not result in your price being reduced on Amazon through price matching.

Once your books are up, you will find that changes are lightning fast.

I would classify Google play as one of the most annoying retailers to work with, but they can certainly be worth the effort, because once books are up on that first page, they take a very long time to go back down. Out of all the retailer sites, it probably has the lowest level of churn.

Google Play displays search results per country, and does not show free books in search results. If you publish under a pseudonym, you can keep names separate.

In short:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Register here: Google Play

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Open for: everyone

*
p<>{color:#000;}. File format: EPUB3

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Payment: bank account

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Tax: local tax ID

[]

Shakespir

 

IN ADDITION TO being an aggregator, Shakespir has their own store. They distribute to all major retailers—except Amazon and Google Play—and a lot of smaller places, including library suppliers. The website looks very 1990’s, and a lot of smut with insanely bad covers gets sold there. But some people in some countries swear by Shakespir. The nifty thing about Shakespir is their coupons. This allows you to make a book free—and email the codes to the members of your ARC team.

They pay monthly (they used to pay quarterly until recently), use PayPal or cheque but have a strong preference for PayPal (and have no payout limit for PayPal), and take 10% of your earnings from other sites and 30% of your earnings from their retail site.

They do require an EIN.

Shakespir does not issue monthly reports, but you can generate your own at any time over any period.

Their accepted format has taken a bit of a beating over the years, but they now also accept EPUB files as well as specifically formatted DOC files which need to go through a piece of software terribly named “meatgrinder”. Seriously, whoever came up with that?

So! No need for DOC files any more.

But.

There is a big but.

The appeal of Shakespir for the reader is that they offer files in all these weird and wonderful quaint and ancient formats. Palm readers, PDF files, there is a list of file formats they produce . . . from your DOC file. Your EPUB file will stay an EPUB file and that’s it. No other formats. So I highly recommend that you do not upload an EPUB file but a DOC file.

I have found the Shakespir DOC file very handy for print formatting. It already has headers and body text properly formatted, and I only need to drop the file into my print formatting program InDesign and it automatically copies the formatting across into the correct styles.

On the Shakespir store, you can easily toggle price. The rankings don’t mix free and paid books.

If you write under pen names that you want to keep separated, you’ll need two accounts with two different PayPal addresses.

In short:

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p<>{color:#000;}. Register here: Shakespir

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p<>{color:#000;}. Open for: everyone

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p<>{color:#000;}. File format: DOC, with specifications

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Payment: paypal, cheque

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p<>{color:#000;}. Tax: US tax ID

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Aggregators and Small Sites

 

Draft 2 Digital

Aggregator only, although they are starting to do some really interesting things such as offering audio books.

Distributes to major retailers except Amazon and Google Play. The website is nice and sleek and easy to use. They host nifty universal links, where you can generate just one link for your book to use in advertising, taking the reader to their retailer of choice in their country. Beware, though, that those links don’t always work, especially for readers who are not in the US. They have recently added pretty ebook templates to make your book look good. They’re free to use, whether you distribute your books through D2D or not.

They pay through bank transfer or PayPal or and require an EIN.

Pronoun

The new kid on the block at the time of writing this book. There are a number of advantages of going with them:

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p<>{color:#000;}. They are the only aggregator that will upload to Amazon.

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p<>{color:#000;}. You will get the full 70% of Amazon sales in the US; Pronoun takes no cut.

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p<>{color:#000;}. You can get preorders for longer than 3 months on Amazon.

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p<>{color:#000;}. They give a lot of data.

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p<>{color:#000;}. You can make a book free on Amazon.

Disadvantages:

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p<>{color:#000;}. Suspicious as we all are, everyone is wondering where the catch is. They’re owned by Pan Macmillan, and maybe they’re using the data to gain insight into what self-publishers are doing. It’s a mystery.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Their sales data takes a long time to show up.

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p<>{color:#000;}. You cannot make a series page on Amazon for books distributed through Pronoun.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Outside the US you get 41-50% on sales via Amazon or Kobo. For me personally, this is the killer. I sell a lot more outside the US than in.

This is from the site’s Terms and Conditions:

 

The amount of money you receive for your book sales depends on the country of sale and the list price you set.

United States & Canada

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p<>{color:#000;}. You receive 70% of your book’s list price when it is priced between $0.99 and $9.99

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p<>{color:#000;}. You receive 65% of your book’s list price when it is priced $10 and above

International (i.e. outside of the US and Canada)

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p<>{color:#000;}. For Amazon sales in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, you receive 41% of your book’s list price. You receive 45% for Amazon sales in India and China, and 46% for Amazon sales in all other countries. You receive 50% for Amazon.com sales made by customers outside of the US.

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p<>{color:#000;}. For sales on Apple iBooks , you receive 70% of your book’s list price in all international territories.

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p<>{color:#000;}. There are no international Barnes & Noble stores.

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p<>{color:#000;}. For sales on Kobo , you receive 50% of your book’s list price in all international territories.

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p<>{color:#000;}. For sales on Google Play , you receive 52% of your book’s list price in all international territories.

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p<>{color:#000;}. For sales on OverDrive and Bibliotheca , you receive 70% of your book’s library price in all international territories.

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p<>{color:#000;}. The “list price” is the price in USD that you set when you publish your book through Pronoun.

 

Small sites

Smaller retail sites include: DriveThruFiction, especially for science fiction and fantasy. Clunky interface, but it has a cool bundling feature and offers signatures on book pages, where you can advertise your own books.

Smaller aggregator sites include: Streetlib (recommended, can get you into Google Play), XinXii (not recommended, impossible to update and remove books) and the up-and-coming PublishDrive.

Free book delivery services

If you want to give your books away and collect email addresses, you may want to get accounts at Bookfunnel and Instafreebie. There is much more about these in Mailing Lists Unboxed, because these services integrate really well with your mailing list.

Despite the fact that they both offer this service, they are not the same.

Instafreebie comes with a built-in promotion engine that will put your free book in the hands of people you didn’t know.

Bookfunnel concentrates on getting the book onto people’s devices with the most ease possible. You will realise that this is an important function once you give your book for free to list subscribers and start getting “How do I get this on my Kindle?” emails.

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What Is Next?

 

SO NOW YOU HAVE your books up on all the sites.

How do you tell everyone about them?

This is one of the questions I get asked most often. Writers want to know the magic pill to selling on other retailers. They probably forgot that in their first months on Amazon they didn’t sell much either.

So the first ingredient to getting people to buy on other platforms is time. You need to give people time to discover you.

Then you will need to advertise. How?

Many of the so-called rented lists like Bookbub, ENT, Book Barbarian and such offer opportunities to enter links to other retailers. Use them. In fact, I suggest that from now on, you try to step away from the lists that advertise only on Amazon. You want to advertise your books everywhere. Not just that, you want to advertise the fact that your books are available everywhere. Even if people buy on Amazon right now, you want them to know that if they decide to buy elsewhere, they can.

Next, you need to realise a very important point about wide sales. When you sell your books wide, you are the main driver of discoverability and sales. You, not a retailer. You don’t sit back and let the machine do its work (or as it is, let the machine let you sink). You promote your books. You own your audience. You send people to retailer pages to buy.

So yes, ads are good, but you can see what I’m going to say: your own mailing list is better.

But.

If you have been exclusive to Amazon for a long time, your mailing list will be populated by people who mostly read on Amazon; after all, that’s the place they found your books. So you are going to want to recruit people who read wide. How do you do that?

In the first place, you advertise where those readers are. As we have already seen at the beginning of the book, they are quite likely to be in other countries, and they can be targeted in Facebook ads through their locality or operating system.

Reaching wide readers may also require a bit of lateral thinking. I’ll address a few points about wide sales.

In the first place, and this is an utterly important fact that often gets overlooked in the KU vs. wide discussion: you won’t be leaving Amazon. You’ll just be targeting a different type of reader on any platform, including Amazon. In fact, it is 100% possible, as I did, to significantly increase your sales on Amazon by unticking that exclusive box. People will buy instead of borrow. You are likely to get more per sale than you get per read. People may borrow (propping up your ranking) but won’t read. When people buy, that’s money in the bank. When people borrow, they may not get around to reading. Most importantly, the reader who will buy books they really want is a different type of person than the one who buys a subscription and samples. Not saying either is better or worse, just different.

Many readers like free books. The Three-year Plan methodology relies on giving away free books to readers in the hope that a percentage of them will buy the rest.

We have to look at where people get these free books.

People in Kindle Unlimited are less likely to download free books from free websites, because once they paid for their membership, they can get any number of books for free from Amazon. They have more books than they can ever read.

Readers who do not have Kindle Unlimited, and still like to get free books to sample new writers, have to go somewhere else. They will either download free books available from retailer websites or Amazon, or they will get their books in other ways. One of those other ways is book giveaways and sites like Bookfunnel and Instafreebie.

I already mentioned Bookfunnel and Instafreebie in Mailing lists Unboxed, but they warrant special mention here. Since I started using the sites about a year ago, I have noticed that my sales at other sites and outside the US on all retailers have increased. I can only conclude that people who get free books at Instafreebie do not in general have Kindle Unlimited, because, if they did, they would be getting their free books there. Instafreebie works on the premise that people leave their email address in return for a free book, so it’s a good source for mailing list subscribers who don’t buy at Amazon.

A wide audience is much more international, on Amazon or off, and therefore it makes sense to promote internationally.

If you don’t live in the US use your local contacts. Go to a local con, or organise a cross-promotion with local writers of the same genre. And if you do live in the US, try to swap mailing lists or blog posts with people who have an international audience.

One word of caution: first make sure that your fiction appeals to international audiences. If your fiction is very US-centric in setting or subject matter, then you may be better off staying in KU. Do your research. Have a look at what is for sale in the target country. Which genres do well? What sort of books do well?

In general, humour translates badly, pop culture is likely to be different except for the very famous references, and anything based on hot subjects in particular regions also does badly.

You can drive readers to your books by using the free drawcard. To make your book permanently free on Amazon, it needs to be distributed to other sites, notably Apple or B&N, and then you need to let Amazon know that the book is available for free elsewhere. If your book sells reasonably well, the price match will be quick. If your books needs a bit of a push, send an email to KDP support via your author dashboard. Give them the links of where the book is free.

Beware that if you want to use Instafreebie or Bookfunnel, you cannot have that book in Kindle Unlimited.

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Driving Sales

 

SO HOW DO you drive sales?

First of all, you need somewhere to drive them to.

In Self-publishing Unboxed, I already mentioned the importance of your website. I told you that the function of your website is only partially to display your books. More importantly, your website is a place where you host your landing pages where you can send people.

And while those people are there, you can find out who they are by asking for their email address.

Before you start advertising your books everywhere, you need to update your website with all the retailer links where you want people to buy. This can be a major pain in the behind.

There are WordPress plug-ins that will make this process easier, but there is no denying that adding four or five links for each of your books can be a headache, especially if links change or you make a cover update.

If you’re not afraid of a bit of simple code, turn to the next chapter for an easy and free way to do this with a minimum amount of hassle.

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Best Hack to Website Content

 

ONCE YOU HAVE a couple of books on your website, you have to maintain those pages. Every time you make a change the potential for errors increases. For example, when you change your blurb or your cover, or one of your book’s links changes, you need to change it in a number of different places.

This may mean that you need to insert the same image and the same text in a number of different places. It is easy to make a mistake, and you might not find out until your readers point it out to you, because there are just too many places to check all at once.

What you really need is a content management system. Most people will think about some sort of database when I say content management. You could indeed use a database, but if that sounds too technical for you then I’ve got good news, because it need not be.

A web page for a book typically consists of a framework of elements in HTML code and the cover image and blurb for a book and links to retailer sites.

Web code is only visible if you use the “view source” option in your browser.

The user will see a title, the image of the cover, the book’s blurb and maybe a sample, and then links to all the retailers where the book can be bought. It is more than likely that, in order to create uniformity on your website, you made the design of each page the same. This makes it ideal for automation.

A content management system is simply a system that merges your data for each book with the code that needs to be on the page that controls how the text and images are displayed.

Since the code is always the same, you can perform this merge function with a database, but everyone has a piece of software that can perform this task and it is free. It’s a humble spreadsheet.

Most people think of the spreadsheet as software that calculates data, mostly financial. It will be used for accounting, for keeping your books and for making financial statements.

Spreadsheets also have a number of very powerful logical and text operations functions.

I said earlier that a website has very simple code. Using the spreadsheet’s functions, you can merge the code with your book’s data and produce your book’s pages off-line, so that if you need to update it you only need to copy and paste a single cell.

You can use any spreadsheet software, but I prefer to use Google Sheets, because it’s platform-independent and stored on the web. This is important for backup purposes, but also because I use a Mac and a PC.

You can export your spreadsheets to back them up and share them with other people. You can use the spreadsheet to produce more than one different type of page from the same data. When you now need to change your cover, you only need to change it in one place and all your updates are done with.

Moreover if you ever have any problems with your website, like it is hacked or becomes damaged, all you need to do is delete everything and copy your book pages again from your spreadsheet. No expensive restores or finding of data required.

I suspect that for many of you, this will still come across as abracadabra. Therefore, I have produced a spreadsheet so you can see how it works for yourself. [+ You can see an example here.+] You can copy this sheet to your own Google Drive account and insert your own books. The instructions are all on the sheet.

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The Power Of High

 

IF YOU’RE DOING your homework and you’re going to all retailer sites to look at the way they list books, you will very soon notice that the prices of the top 25 books are likely to be a lot higher than on Amazon.

There are several reasons for this.

In the first place, other retailers tend to be dominated by the traditional publishers. These sites often have relationships with traditional publishers. Not only that, they make a lot more money from selling a book at $10 than selling one for $2.99. So it would make sense for them to push the more expensive books harder. Some of the sites even give better rankings to higher-priced books and repress the rankings of free books entirely.

For them, it makes a lot more sense to have a top 100 filled by the biggest names than one filled with cheap books by authors no one has ever heard of. That just does not look good for the site.

Now that we know this, what does this mean for you?

Well, you could price your books higher.

But, you will say, the site terms and conditions mention that you can’t price higher than on other sites and I have my book set at $2.99 elsewhere and I’m happy with that. I don’t want to price my books at $6.99 on one site and $2.99 on the other, because that’s not fair.

The easiest way to play the high-priced game that can make wide listings interesting is to make a large set of your books that is not available on Amazon. I have a couple of complete sets of series that I sell at these websites for over $15. I don’t put these books on Amazon.

In fact, Amazon would penalise me for charging that much by taking an extra 35% of my earnings, so I refuse to list my books there. I just think that’s nonsense. Besides, box sets don’t sell much there unless they’re on special and really cheap.

So: bundle your books into really large sets. Charge more than $9.99 for them. Leave them off Amazon.

Enter these sets in Kobo promotions. Advertise them on Facebook. Advertise them to your mailing list.

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The Price Matching Monster

 

THERE ARE A NUMBER of things about Amazon that really put the boot into how we can run our business. The worst one of these is the tendency to match the lowest price available anywhere automatically.

Because Amazon does not allow us to make our books free, we misuse that capability by making it free on the other sites, and wait for Amazon to price match.

But there are also a lot of situations where price-matching works to your disadvantage.

For example Google Play tends to discount your books randomly. They may also randomly choose to make a book free, and they compensate you for that by continuing to pay royalties for the price you have set.

That is all very well, but Amazon will price match to free and will not compensate you. Google Play is also the main reason why books are sometimes listed under weird prices like $3.76. And if this price match brings you below the magical $2.99 barrier on Amazon, they will conveniently drop your royalty rate to 35%, all because of something you did not set and agree to.

What should you do about this?

We go back to the chapter about pricing. People who shop at Google Play are prepared to pay a lot more for their books, because most of them are traditionally published. So, price all your books at $9.99, let Google Play discount them to six dollars, and pay you 52% over $9.99.

If Google Play ever makes your book free without your consent, sure enough write an angry email, but make sure to bump up the price of your book to something like $60 meanwhile, because they will continue to pay you 52% of that price for each copy sold, even if they’re given away.

It is my most fervent wish, although probably futile, that both Amazon and Google Play stopped messing with people’s price points.

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The Retailer As Content Delivery Site

 

AN INTERESTING ARTICLE I read recently stated how people are becoming less loyal to brand and more loyal to retailers. People prefer to go to one place and do all the shopping in that place, rather than chase around finding certain brands. This meshes with a society in which people are less willing to spend time shopping, because they can have purchases delivered to their door. They may have accounts with certain retailers and it is just too much of a bother to go somewhere else for specific things.

What does this mean for the authors selling their books online?

Sales are becoming divided into pillars of retail. The retailer has great influence over people’s buying power. If I have an iPhone I am likely to shop for my digital content on Apple; if I have an android phone I will shop on Google Play—unless I have an Amazon account, and then I may shop for everything on Amazon. Except I can’t buy books from Amazon on my Kindle app on my iPhone (because Apple and Amazon are toddlers who can’t play nice in the same sandbox). So I may buy on the Kobo app instead. I may have both Kindle and Kobo apps, and can’t be bothered to download yet another app where I have to open an account.

Each of the major technology companies is trying to create their platform to hold onto their loyal users.

The world is fragmenting into thousands of smaller and larger pillars of retail. The boundaries between going from one retailer to the next may well be stronger than buying one brand over another. We already know that many of the brands are made in the same factories, so there often isn’t that much difference between them anyway, except status. This is very obvious with ebooks: they’re exactly the same across all retailers.

Yet the boundaries for people to set up an account, to enter their credit card and download an app are bigger than just buying another book. People live within the retailer ecosystem and are reluctant to venture outside.

We’re in the last chapters of this book, and you may wonder where I’m going with this.

I mention this here to illustrate the true independence of being wide.

Loyalty to only one platform means a certain short-sightedness to all the other pillars of retail that don’t happen to be important to you, to your country, or even just the area where you live.

A smart author uses the retailer as a content delivery site.

The retailer is not proud to sell your product for you, they are merely a place where you can send your readers to get the book. It is their task to collect payment, process delivery and deal with complaints.

The reason I mention this is that I highly encourage you to see retailers in this light: they are pillars of retail whose function it is to display and sell your book, collect payment and deal with delivery.

The retailer doesn’t care about you. The retailer doesn’t owe you anything other than the agreed percentage of your sales. You definitely don’t owe the retailer anything—least of all complete loyalty.

The retailer is a content delivery site. The content is yours.

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The Right Mindset Wins

 

IF YOU LISTEN TO or read any interviews about the successful careers of long-standing midlist writers, you will notice that one thing stands out. They may have relied on a major source of income for short periods of time, but not for their entire lives, and in fact they strongly advise people against relying on a single income source. Diversification is key to a long-term career. Believe it or not, today’s giants are tomorrow’s have-beens. Companies go broke, break up, get bought by other parties with visions that send them in a different direction, or just plain fail their target audience and die. This is the reality of a creative freelance career, which is what you’re doing as a self-published writer. So, either straightaway, or not too much later, you have to look at some form of career diversification. You have to make sure that if one of your boats sinks, even if it is the major one, you still have other boats to keep you above water.

But, you will say, I’m only a small time writer. I will worry about things like that when I sell more.

I think that is wrong.

Not only do you have no idea what is going to take off, and where, but if you start on all platforms, you start building your audience on those. There is no worse time to start building an audience than when you’re desperate and there has been a major industry shake-up and many other people are desperate, too.

You hear all the time that people find it so hard to get away from Amazon. This is because they have spent their entire career selling books on Amazon, attracting an audience that buys mostly on Amazon, and not on any of the other platforms. In a world where content is king, Amazon is just a single content provider. You need to make people want to read your books, which are not interchangeable with any other writer’s books, and offer them wherever those people are. If the world is a pie, you want a bite of all the different sections of the pie. You can’t make a reliable living by just putting yourself on only a slice of the market, even if that slice happens to be the biggest right now. This is a major mistake people make. They ask who is the biggest, and then only focus on the biggest, forgetting that a slice consisting of 30 million people can generate a pretty solid income.

There are many stories of freelancers who have been saved by the foresight to put their material in places that they never thought they would rely on. When you’re into freelancing, you simply have to diversify to survive.

There is no secret, and it is a lot of hard work, and success is not guaranteed. However, when you diversify, your sales will be more stable and ups and downs on any one single retailer will not affect you as much.

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About The Author

 

PATTY JANSEN lives in Sydney, Australia, where she spends most of her time writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her story This Peaceful State of War placed first in the second quarter of the Writers of the Future contest and was published in their 27th anthology. She has also sold fiction to genre magazines such as Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Redstone SF and Aurealis.

She has written over thirty novels in both the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, including the Ambassador series and the Icefire Trilogy and Moonfire Trilogy. Her books are available on all ebook outlets as well as in print.

Patty is on Twitter (@pattyjansen), Facebook, LinkedIn, goodreads, LibraryThing, google+ and blogs at: http://pattyjansen.com/.

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More By This Author

 

Quick link to all Patty Jansen’s books

In the Earth-Gamra space-opera universe

RETURN OF THE AGHYRIANS

Watcher’s Web

[+ Trader’s Honour+]

Soldier’s Duty

Heir’s Revenge

The Return of the Aghyrians Omnibus

The Far Horizon (For younger readers)

AMBASSADOR

Seeing Red

[+ The Sahara Conspiracy+]

Raising Hell

Changing Fate

Coming Home

Blue Diamond Sky

The Enemy Within

The Last Frontier

Historical Fantasy

FOR QUEEN AND COUNTRY

Innocence Lost

Willow Witch

The Idiot King

The For Queen and Country Omnibus (Books 1–3)

Fire Wizard

The Dragon Prince

The Necromancer’s Daughter

Hard Science Fiction in the ISF-Allion universe

Shifting Reality

Shifting Infinity

Epic, Post-apocalyptic Fantasy

ICEFIRE TRILOGY

Fire & Ice

Dust & Rain

Blood & Tears

The Icefire Trilogy Omnibus

MOONFIRE TRILOGY

Sand & Storm

Sea & Sky

Moon & Earth

Space Agent Jonathan Bartell

Contamination

Observation

Extermination

Short story collections

Out Of Here

New Horizons

Non-Fiction

Self-publishing Unboxed

Mailing Lists Unboxed

Going Wide Unboxed

Visit the author’s website at http://pattyjansen.com and register for a newsletter to keep up-to-date with new releases.


Going Wide Unboxed

  • Author: Patty Jansen
  • Published: 2017-10-03 06:41:51
  • Words: 10363
Going Wide Unboxed Going Wide Unboxed