sue powers

short stories

Selling Your Book To Readers and Get Paid Immediately

These are extraordinary times and every day sees dramatic changes due to the global sweep of coronavirus COVID19. There will be many impacts on our lives, but one thing we will all need is immediate cash flow and this can be a problem for authors.

f you publish through traditional publishing, royalties can take many months to arrive. You can’t control the schedule of payment and you don’t get any details of the customers.

If you publish independently through online publishers like Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Google, and other distributors, you will get your money sooner — but it will still be 30-60 days later and once again, you don’t get any details of the customers.

If you publish and sell direct, you can receive money in your PayPal/bank account within 10-15 minutes.

Yes, you read that right. Minutes rather than months. You also get the details of the customer so you can own the relationship in the future.

You can control your cash flow and sell direct — but only if:

(A) You control the intellectual property rights for your book 

You need to have the right to sell your own book in ebook and/or audiobook format directly to readers in specific territories. If you have signed a contract with a publisher, then check that contract first as you most likely do not have that right as you have licensed it to a publisher. However, read it closely, as you might have licensed some territories and not others, for example, UK Commonwealth and nowhere else.

(B) You have an email list or a way to reach readers 

You can use your email list or Facebook, LinkedIN or other social media.

(C) You change your mindset

Many authors are so obsessed with chart rankings on Amazon that they forget the point is to reach readers who love your book — and for many of us make a living with our writing.

Selling direct enables readers to support us and money to arrive in our bank accounts quickly — but you will not see a spike in your Amazon rankings. So what do you really want?

The other mindset shift is to become a true business-person. Yes, you have to sell something from your website! You also have to learn a few things, some of which might seem technical, but it’s worth it for the control and (hopefully) the money. You will be on the way to becoming truly independent.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that you should stop selling through all the other channels, just that adding direct sales to the mix gives you more control. Basically, I will sell my books in every format in every place possible!

If you’re ready to sell direct, here are the steps to take.

Choose a service that allows you to sell globally. There are lots of options with pros and cons of each, but I hope to use Payhip.com.

It’s a great service that allows payment through card or PayPal, is easy-to-use with built-in marketing and analysis tools, and also deals with the EU digital tax laws, which many other services don’t do. Over the last decade, I have will use e-Junkie and Selz, but neither dealt with the EU taxes in an efficient way. Basically, if the buyer is in the EU, you have to pay tax in that country, even if you only sell a few dollars worth and even if you don’t live there yourself. Payhip deals with this for you — hooray!

  • Payhip has a free plan which takes 5% transaction fee, and then two premium plans where the transaction fee is reduced when you pay more upfront. Your choice will depend on how much you expect to earn each month.

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My fictions have appeared in numerous publications, including Saturday Evening Post, New Millenniums Writings, Blue Earth Review, Micro Monday, R-KV-R-Y, Funny in Five Hundred, Blue Lake Magazine, Adanna Literary, Dying Dahlia Review, Off the Rocks, and others. The News was on stage at Live Bait Theater. I was a recipient of a fellowship and grant from the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and two of stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Also, my book of my stories will be published by Atmosphere Press in May of 2020.

  • You will also need to set up your payment connections through PayPal and Stripe so people can pay you.

    If you don’t have these set up already, there will be some hoops to jump through because of international banking laws. So, start this process ASAP if you are new to online payments.

    Once they are set up, you will need to slowly ramp up sales. If you get a massive spike when you’re just starting out (and we all wish for that!) then your account might get blocked because of suspicious behavior. So get it set up, start transacting with a small group for testing and then ramp up over time.

    You can also set up integrations with email providers like ConvertKit (which is the service I use and love!). Click here for my tutorial on how to use them to set up your email list. 

    (4) Integrate your store into your website

    You should already have links to multiple sites on your book pages on your website. [If you don’t have this sorted, then check out my tutorial on how to build your own author website.]

    With Payhip, you can easily add a button on your site so readers can buy directly from you. You can change the text on the button, so I like to use ‘Buy direct from the author’ to emphasize the personal connection.

    The Other Stores button goes to my Books2Read.com links as I sell in so many places! If you’re wide, it’s a great service to use to get one link to share to all stores. [At the time of writing, they do not allow Payhip, but hopefully, that is coming!]

    Example of buy buttons. Note: these are not live so you can’t click them! It’s just an image but go to www.TheCreativePenn.com/books and each page has these buttons on

    You can also add links in other places — for example, at the top of my Books page I have the following text:

    Here are my bestselling books, non-fiction for authors under Joanna Penn and thriller fiction under J.F.Penn, as well as foreign-language editions and workbooks. Click on the books below to see more information and access buy links for all online stores. Available in paperback, ebook, audio, and some in Hardback and Large Print editions.

    You can buy my ebooks (and some audiobooks) directly from mewww.Payhip.com/thecreativepenn

    You can also get my books for free if you request them on your library app or through your local Librarian.

    (5) Email your list

    Your readers want to support you and a growing number understand the financial stress that creatives are under, particularly in the case of an economic downturn. Increasingly, many readers also have ethical issues with some of the big sellers and want to support creators and independents directly.

    This is a snippet of the email I sent out to my list this week offering a discount on my ebooks and audiobooks if people bought from me directly.

    [And yes, you too can use coupon code: QUARANTINE – just go to www.Payhip.com/thecreativepenn ]

    You can also add a call to action within your email list auto-responder, perhaps with some special offer for your email list that is valid over time. I use Payhip to distribute my ebooks to my supporters on Patreon.com/thecreativepenn.

    (6) Share on social media

    You can share products directly from Payhip and include social coupons if other people share as well.

    You can also create banners on Canva.com to advertise your products on sale — as I have done on Twitter @thecreativepenn and Facebook.com/thecreativepenn

    When is it worth selling direct?

    You really need to have an email list or another way to reach people online with your offer. It would also be best if you had a few books as the benefits grow if you have multiple products as you can upsell and cross-sell, and generally make more income per customer.

    If you don’t have either of these, write more books and build an email list so you are positioned for the future.

    Because we will get through this, but the experience will accelerate online sales and marketing and those authors who can control their income will be far better placed for the next time something happens.

    I started this site in late 2008 as the Global Financial Crisis hit and I was laid off. I was determined to make sure no single company controlled all my income, and over the years, I have grown multiple streams of income, most of them online, global and digital.

    The negative financial experience of the GFC spurred me to change the way I lived and the way I earned. But now I feel that I didn’t go far enough. Even though I have been doing direct sales for a decade, I have only ever included it as a secondary option. Now I’m determined to push it as my primary sales channel so that I can own and control even more of my book sales in the future. What do you think? How will you change your processes?

    Are you selling direct to readers? Or do you have any questions? Please do leave a comment and join the conversation.

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4 Tips for Working at Home

Whether you choose to, or whether circumstance forces you to work from home, here are 4 tips to effectively work from home:

  1. Establish a routine
  2. Set aside a specific place for your work
  3. Block out time for writing
  4. Get out of the house and preferably into nature

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My fictions have appeared in numerous publications, including Saturday Evening Post, New Millenniums Writings, Blue Earth Review, Micro Monday, R-KV-R-Y, Funny in Five Hundred, Blue Lake Magazine, Adanna Literary, Dying Dahlia Review, Off the Rocks, and others. The News was on stage at a Chicago Theater. I was a recipient of a fellowship and grant from the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and two of stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Also, my book of my stories will be published and on sale in May.

Writing Skills for Leaders

If you’re a leader, you should have good communication skills. Here are some ideas to help you as you write:

Good Writing Helps Demonstrate Leadership Skills
• Articulates a clear vision
• Shows you see the big picture
• Shows you clearly understand the problem or situation
• Effectively explains what actions to take
• Empathizes with subordinates

10 Steps to Good Writing
1. Understand the Demand for Good Writing
2. Define Your Message
3. Be Precise, Clear and Succinct
4. Grab Your Reader’s Attention
5. Hold Your Readers with Rhythm
6. Discover Your Organizing Method
7. Choose the Right Tone
8. Use Your Best Grammar
9. Edit, Rewrite, Refine
10. Master the Documents You Use Most Often

Simplicity
• Simplicity is the most powerful way to communicate.
• State your points positively
• Drop unnecessary words

Replace Stuff Language
• Jack was disappointed due to the fact that his boss never recognized his hard work.
• In the event that it starts to snow heavily today, please follow our storm policy.
• Jack will furnish the team with notes subsequent to our conference call.

Drop Unnecessary Words
• Overstuffed: I thought you might like to know that more than 30% of the support staff will be taking vacations next week.
• Overstuffed: Let me start by thanking all who have contributed to our team’s success.
Replace Buzzwords with Straightforward Words
• If you disagree with Steve during our meeting. don’t say anything. We’ll discuss it offline.
• We need to incent our paralegals to make fewer errors.

Grab Your Readers’ Attention
• Start with what is important
– Get to the point immediately
– Avoid information overload
• Use active verbs

Use Your Best Grammar
• Grammar is a simple set of rules
• Grasp them
• Apply them
• Bend some of the old ones

Email Pointers

• Craft explicit subject lines
• Be brief
• Be organized
• Don’t cheat on grammar
• Don’t use funky fonts or text-messaging abbreviations
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My fictions have appeared in numerous publications, including Saturday Evening Post, New Millenniums Writings, Blue Earth Review, Micro Monday, R-KV-R-Y, Funny in Five Hundred, Blue Lake Magazine, Adanna Literary, Dying Dahlia Review, 34th Parallel Magazine, Off the Rocks, and others. The News was on stage at a Chicago Theater. I was a recipient of a fellowship and grant from the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and two of stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Also, my book of my stories, A Surprising Measure of Subliminal Sadness, will be published by Atmosphere Press fairly soon.

How to Make Setting a Character

For myself (and many writers I know), character or plot usually take the top spot. Setting usually doesn’t. Humans connect with other humans, after all, so it’s often easier to invest oneself in characters and their conflicts. A setting, though still important, is a bit more difficult to connect with. If you’re one of those writers who struggle with setting, I’d like to share with you an approach that might help by treating our setting like a character.

No, that doesn’t mean we’re going to write pithy one-liners for our setting (though that does sound kind of cool, now that you mention it). Instead, we’ll explore how to assign vivid characteristics to our settings, how to suggest those characteristics to readers, and how to develop our setting’s arc.

Exploring Your Setting’s Characteristics
Eddard Stark is honorable. Atticus Finch is courageous. Amy Elliott Dunne is dangerously cunning.
Memorable fictional characters always have strong characteristics. How can we translate such characteristics to setting?

Let’s start with the basics. Here are some questions we all ask ourselves when creating characters:
What does this character look like? What is this character’s backstory? What does this character want? What secrets does this character hold? What is this character’s conflict?
Now that we know our questions, let’s answer them for our setting.

Appearance
Most writers begin with question one, usually using a few sentences to set the scene. It’s the most basic aspect of setting and likely the most obvious.

To address this question through the character lens, let’s imagine what our setting might look like as a character. Are they young or old, rugged or refined, diminutive or enormous?
Better yet, is there an existing character in your book who personifies your setting?
An excellent example comes from my own book. The book’s main setting is cold and filled with snow. It’s cold because the mystery starts out as cold (i.e. we don’t have a clue how it’s going to end.) As the main character finds clues, it gets warmer outside because the main character is getting closer to finding out how to solve the mystery.

Secrets
This one may or may not apply to your setting but it’s a potent addition when it works. Consider the secrets hidden within the country house of Bly in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. A setting within a secret is just as compelling as any secretive character.

Conflict
Great characters have conflicts, and so do great settings. For instance, take the war-torn city of Osgiliath in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This location provides a visual representation of the greater conflict in the series; what was once a thriving city of humans is now a smoking ruin overrun by orcs.

Suggesting a Setting’s Characteristics
I’ll bet you’ve heard of show, don’t tell. It’s a fine rule of thumb though it need not always be followed. For example, it’s often acceptable to describe a character’s appearance rather than conveniently have them peer into a mirror. The same goes for describing a setting.
Imagine if J.K. Rowling had written this: “The Forbidden Forest was super creepy.” That doesn’t scare anybody! She made it creepy by showing us the centaurs, werewolves, giant spiders, and more that roamed within.

So how can you do the same for your settings? Here are a few tricks.
For starters, allow yourself to “tell” in your first draft. Let’s say you’re writing a story set in a small town during winter. In the first draft, you might simply write, “The town was cold.” We forgive you. It’s just a first draft!

In your second draft, return to those blunt descriptions and decide how to show coldness rather than tell it. Describe the ice hanging from the eaves of the houses, the slippery snow packed upon the sidewalks, the breath hissing from your characters’ mouths. You haven’t used the word “cold” anywhere, yet the suggested meaning is clear.

Furthermore, having one character describe another is an effective way to suggest characteristics. This works just as well with settings.

Finally, show your setting’s traits through action. Cormac McCarthy didn’t just tell us the world was dangerous in The Road. He showed it by populating that world with ashes, marauders and cannibals. If your setting is trying to kill your protagonists, it’ll feel more like a character.

Developing the Arc of Your Setting
Characters have arcs. So, like characters, great settings often have arcs as well. This might sound like an odd concept at first, but it really can make a difference in your writing.
To build your setting’s arc, consider what your setting is like at the beginning of the story, what it becomes by the end, and what happens in the middle to make it so.

Maybe you start with an idyllic pastoral country which ends up ravaged by war. Or your post-apocalyptic wasteland might be restored to beauty by the heroics of your protagonist. Or perhaps your setting stays just the way it always was despite what happened in the middle. Whatever arc you choose, it should improve your setting.

Lastly, do you consider the characteristics of your settings when you’re writing? Please leave your thoughts below.

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Sue Powers is an accomplished short story writer. Her many stories have been published in magazines such as Saturday Evening Post, New Millennium Writings, Blue Earth Review, Funny in Five Hundred, Another Chicago Magazine, Happy, Facets, The Writer’s Place and Samizdada. She has written a mystery and is writing another one. She also has a book of stories, entitled, A Surprising Measure of Subliminal Sadness.

My Brother Richard

I wrote a mystery that my writing group disliked. My writing group only accepts and critiques literary works, and the mystery I wrote isn’t literary. So they rejected it.

But there are people to whom I value their opinions. And they liked it. So I decided to self-publish the mystery. But when I went to self-publish my book, it wanted me to embed my fonts. I have no idea what that means, so my brother took over. My brother is an environmental engineer and quite brilliant (he got a 100% in math on his GRE plus he now has a PH.D.) So I let him take over, fully confident he would do the right thing.

Now I’m waiting, as there were changes to be made. His wife is reading my mystery and the changes I made. We’ll see what she thinks. Meanwhile, I’m writing another mystery. This one involves a murder where the first one involved a missing person. It requires a lot of reading.

So I’m reading Tripwire, by Lee Child. I’ve gotten ideas from this book, and now I’m just curious how it ends. There are other authors I could read, but I want to finish this book first.

Here’s hoping I finish my second mystery and it is good enough to be self-published!
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Sue Powers is an accomplished short story writer. She has a book of short stories entitled A Surprising Measure of Subliminal Sadness that is seeking a publisher.

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