Tools that helped me keep my cool in 2015

Near the end of the year, I put together a list of tweets of some of my favorite tools for keeping mu cool. They ranged across tricks & websites for tracking/analyzing your sales, places to get stock photos and make promo pics, and ways to format & convert your ebooks. It was a tangle of all my favorite bookmarks and programs, presented in 140 chars or less.

You can follow the tweet above back to the thread, or just browse the list below. (Keep in mind, brevity and abbreviations because, you know. Twitter!)

Bree’s Favorite Tricks

Book Report – a nifty way to watch & analyze your Amazon sales. Free if you make < $1k/mo on Amazon, $10/mo if more.

Google Keep – simple, easy to organize/tag virtual To Do list. Browser, Android or iOS. Free.

Kindle Sales Total Bookmarklet: Tired of adding up your MTD sales or page reads in KDP? Enjoy. It’s magic.

Spreadsheets – I made my own so they’d be as nitpicky & precise as I like them. Have one! Or two!

Sigil – Free epub editing software. Super useful if you need to fix small things in an ePub.

Trackerbox: When you need to track ALL the vendors, and multiple pennames. Free trial, $59.99 to buy:

Kindle Previewer: When you need a quick preview of your book, or to quickly convert epub to mobi:

PicMonkey – $4.99/month photo editing software. Make super pretty promotional pics without photoshop skills.

Dreamstime: Save up promo images & grab a monthly subscription to get ALL THE STOCK PHOTOS you could ever want.

The Windows Snipping Tool: Seriously, I screenshot everything and his makes my life beautiful. Just saying.

Redirects. Still. Always.

InstaFreebie: Give away books & let the winner decide their own format. Plus optional newsletter subscriptions!

RescueTime: No one wants to know how much time they’re actually spending on twitter. But you probably need to know.

Send to Kindle: A shocking % of people don’t know how easy it is to review your MS on your phone and/or kindle:

A post everyone should read.

Sometimes I reread this post by Courtney Milan because I think it says so many smart things, they get lost under their own radiance. But in particular, this one is something I’m thinking a lot about right now:

Some people call it “self” publishing. Some people call it “independent” publishing. I don’t think either of those terms describe what is happening. The other day, I described self-publishers as more like bacteria: most will never register above a blip, but because we’re capable of swapping ideas with each other and evolving at a high rate, the ones that do well can do really well.

It’s why the point that Mike Shatzkin expresses in the commentson this post here—that “it is hugely counterintuitive to me that a single actor whose main capability MUST BE writing could be a more effective marketer than a publisher who would have good reason to develop capabilities at scale across a list”—is both completely right and totally wrong. He’s totally right in that one individual, standing on his or her own, is always going to lose versus publishers. I suspect that is true, on average, by a margin larger than the 4x royalty difference.

But he’s not taking into account the intelligence of the self-publishing collective. The fact that writers have been so poorly paid for years is actually a huge bonus. Most authors by necessity have more skills than just writing. Do the math: There are more self-publishers with marketing backgrounds than there are marketers working in New York publishing. There are more self-publishers with backgrounds in statistics and data collection than New York has on their payroll. There are more computer experts, more graphics designers, more photographers. There are just so darned many of us, and so darned few (relatively speaking) of New York.

As an added bonus, we don’t have to pass ideas by a committee before we try them, so collectively, we have more information on crazy-ass shit that some person tried just because, hell, why not see what happens?

None of that would matter one damned bit—one person who has data expertise still might not understand what makes a good cover–except we talk to each other all the time. Participating in that conversation to some degree, staying nimble, seeing results, listening, learning as a constant matter—is where 70% of the value-added of being a self-publisher lies. The royalty rate is good, but it’s not the winner. The best self-publishers are doing things much, much better than the best publishers do. That may be hard to imagine, but it’s because taken as a whole, we have more data (most publishers don’t get the regular fine-grained data that self-publishers do, and don’t pore over it as we do) and more expertise than publishers do.

You really should read the entire post. Even if you’ve read it before. Courtney Milan is one of the smartest people I have ever met, and I am deeply grateful that she is endlessly generous with all of her wisdom.

Tracking Month-to-Date Self-Pub Sales

So, I haven’t posted since July, because the first rule of Self-Pub Club is do not make any plans you’re not okay cancelling in a feverish zombie deadline fervor.  But a conversation on twitter today prompted me to come on over so I could post…

Glittery pink text with SPARKLES that reads: A SPREADSHEET!

(I mentioned the zombie fever, right? Give me some sparkles, y’all.)

This is not the world’s fanciest spreadsheet, but I find it pretty useful as a quick way to keep an eye on how much money I’ve (probably, roughly) made this month.  When I’m feeling excitable, I update it a few times a day. When I’m tired…well, I just started December’s Running Total page 4 days ago. But you don’t need to update it constantly to keep it accurate, since it was designed to use the information vendors give us.

In no particular order… (and with totally bogus numbers)…

Amazon section of the spreadsheet.

You can grab the Amazon numbers from your Sales Dashboard (the one with the graph.)  Remember to set the totals to Month to Date first (and click Update, which I never do) because it defaults to showing the last 30 days.  Paste the totals in the 2nd column. The 3rd column are conversion rates (some more recent than others, all subject to change, all just estimates) that spit out US Dollars in the last column.

The Apple & Google parts of the spreadsheet. The B&N and Kobo parts of the spreadsheet.
Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo are simpler, since all will let you grab a MTD total.  Barnes & Noble has the “Month to Date” sales that exclude the current and previous day, which you can click on to get. I’m lazy, so I have a space for each of those numbers so I don’t have to add them together. If I wanted to add, I wouldn’t have a spreadsheet.

I also have a line for draft2digital, since I have some books through there, but prefer to keep track of those by the vendor they’re selling on.

As for google…I don’t know. Make something up. (I’m kidding. Maybe. You can pull a transaction report and add your total, but only if you’re a masochist completionist–or you’re making enough money on Google to get you excited. :D)

The borrows section of the spreadsheet.

I grab my borrows totals from the Month to Date sales reports. (NOT the one with the graphs.)  I just add up the borrows for each book manually, because I haven’t found a less annoying way to do this yet. And you have to do it for each domain (so Amazon US, UK, DE…)  The good (bad) news is that you may not have many sites moving borrows yet. Though I changed the numbers above, I didn’t change the countries I’m tracking for.

The estimates at the top are my current range for what those borrows might be worth. I keep a high/mid/low range, and this spreadsheet uses the low range in all totals. Because I’d rather be happy than cranky.

Breakdown of %s sold at each vendor.

Finally, the monthly breakdown is…a monthly breakdown. Because, you know. I like knowing where my money is coming from, and where it isn’t. And where I want more coming from.

So, that’s the form! Like I said, not the fanciest thing in the world, but if you need an easy way to keep track of stuff, it works okay, it’s easy to update, and it’s compatible with google docs, which is where I keep mine.  🙂  Feel free to download it and adapt to your own needs!  Link below.

Running Totals Spreadsheet

An excel spreadsheet that tracks MTD sales for self-pubbers. Vendors included: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Draft2Digital, Apple, and Google. Also provides a way to estimate money from Amazon borrows.




Since this is a thing I’m doing now…

If there is something about our process or our website or our formatting or basically anything related to being a self-published author team that you’d like me to talk about, let me know.  I can’t promise to be timely or wise, because books writing zomg. Also my biggest belief about self-publishing is that there are about a hundred ways to do anything, and the only right one is the one that results in a good product and works for you.

But I probably know more weird tricks than I realize I know, so if there’s a particular topic you’d like me to write about, ask here. I will try to answer. 🙂

(Right now, the only posts I’m working on are directly related to ebook formatting.)