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Creating A New Pen Name for Already-Published Work

This post is inspired by a comment I made to Dean Wesley Smith’s reprinting of his “The New World of Publishing: Pen Names” blog article. In the comments someone asked if they should rebrand work to a new pen name that they have already published. That’s a hard question to answer.

First, decide why you would want a different pen name for the works in question. Go read Dean’s post on the subject and then think it over. Make the decision based on business reasons, not emotion.

My suggestion is to make the decision now and not put it off to later. Then stick with that decision, whichever way you choose to go.

Okay, you’ve done that and you are now sure these stories need a new pen name?

This was me this spring. I’d already published 3 stories in the “Gateway Roadhouse” series by the time I made this decision. Yes, three stories already out in the wilds selling.

The problem was compounded by a fourth story waited in the wings, just about ready to come back from the editor. Then I started getting other ideas that sorta fit with the series, with some of them branching off into a completely different genre that are even further from the works I write and release under the “J.A. Marlow” pen name. The more the ideas came, the more uncomfortable I grew about having everything under one name.

Okay, decision made. Time for a plan.

Now, my sales are not huge, as in not hundreds per month, but they do chug along at a consistent rate. Still, I worried about putting off any readers I did have. I also took this opportunity as a chance to look over absolutely everything about the books. Here is what I ended up doing:

  1. Researched the types of author names in the subgenre. Then started looking for a short name (to make it easier to fit on a cover) that I could brand for this specific genre and subgenre. I also checked to see if the domain name was available and once the decision on the name was finalized I grabbed it.
  2. Covers: Used what I have learned over the past year+ to create stronger and more professional covers. I also branded them to a specific design to make them stand out as their own and not look like anything under my main penname.
  3. Revisited the series name. “Gateway Roadhouse” still worked as it’s the location that is common to all the stories, but characters are not. Neither is it a ‘series’ in that the stories can be read in almost any order (barring perhaps the first two). After more research and talking to other writers, the “Gateway Roadhouse Series” was changed to “Tales from the Gateway Roadhouse Chronicles”.
  4. Rechecked the book descriptions and ended up rewriting all of them. Again, this is because I’ve grown stronger and learned a lot about writing book descriptions. I might as well apply it!
  5. Redid the back-matter of all the ebooks and started promoting the series within itself with the listings of “Other Books From This Author” portion.
  6. With all the ebook files now changed, it was time to go to all the retailers to update the product listings. This mean changing the descriptions, the penname, files, and covers (Plus I rechecked the categories the ebooks were listed in). This was painless to do other than taking time.
  7. Contacted Amazon to help me create a new penname author page and on request, they were kind enough to move the book listings from my old pen name to the new one (as far as I can tell there isn’t a way for an author to do this transfer themselves).
  8. Posted to my blog about the rebranding as it’s an open penname.
  9. Other possible step: With Amazon it’s possible to contact KDP customer service and ask them to push a new version of the ebooks out to previous customers. As far as I know, this is not possible with the other retailers, although the new versions are immediately available for new download at Smashwords and DriveThruFiction if the customer notices.
  10. Other possible step: Set up any social media accounts for the new name. For those who do not participate actively in social media, this step can be skipped (But do consider creating a static webpage for the new domain).

I’m now a couple months in from the change, and the interesting thing is that sales have increased. I’m sure it’s a combination of all the things I did to prepare for the re-branding and not one specific thing, but it’s still a great surprise. And this without having time yet to create and put up the static webpage for the new name!

It’s odd that sometimes once you make a decision and just do it, everything in your mind and body tells you it is either the wrong or right thing to do. For me, this was the right thing to do. I don’t regret it at all.

____________________

A science fiction retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood"J.A. Marlow

A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother’s house…

An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite from Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life. But, there is no time for rest. A conspiracy among the forest inhabitants, moving trees, and other mysteries await her at Grandmother’s house.

Kate learns just how little she knew of the forests, much less its animals. To survive she must learn fast, and that includes trust and teamwork.

And just where was Grandma, anyway?

A Science Fiction stand-alone novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood”.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Kobo




Amazon 47North – Pricing Analysis

“For our customers who are avid readers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, we’re happy to introduce 47North, the latest imprint from Amazon Publishing. 47North offers a wide array of new novels and cult favorites, from urban fantasies to space operas, alternate histories to gothic and supernatural horror.”

As I write science fiction, this is the area of the 47North catalogue I will focus in on. They are still rolling out the pre-orders, so the science fiction portion is a small percentage of the overall count. (8 books out of 35)

Even if we have only 8 books, here is the breakdown in book pricing:

$9.99 List discounted to $7.99
6

$9.99 List discounted to $3.99
1

$9.99 List discounted to $2.99
1

Yes, all of the above are ebooks with a list price of $9.99. All of them are discounted, with some more than others. 47North is one of Amazon’s newer imprints, and this shows in the pricing and discounts. Amazon is using pricing to help get a foothold. All but 2 of the books are pre-order and not yet shipping.

Interesting numbers on the science fiction side, but what about if we include all of the 47North genres, bringing in science fiction, fantasy, and horror? Here are the ebook numbers:

34 books total (One .99 ebook tossed out of the analysis as it appears to be the Indie novella version)

$9.99 List discounted to $7.99
14

$9.99 List discounted to $6.88
1

$9.99 List discounted to $6.39
1

$9.99 List discounted to $4.99 (One $5 ebook is included in this)
3

$9.99 List discounted to $3.99
1

$9.99 List discounted to $2.99
1

$2.99 List with no discount
11

$1.99 List with no discount
1

Again, the list price on 21 ebooks out of 34 as $9.99 is striking. All of these are novels, and all of them have the $9.99 list price, even if they are all discounted at the present time to $7.99-2.99.

Looking at the above, it appears as if the $2.99 price is edging in on the $7.99 price, doesn’t it? Only, on closer inspection it does not.

See, all the ebooks priced strictly $2.99 without discounting are novellas between 63 and 125 pages. The only novel among the $2.99 ebooks is the one with a list price of $9.99 and discounted to $2.99. The latter is mostly likely because of what I mentioned before: Amazon is positioning the line to gain readers.

Looking closer revealed a few other key things.

The novellas are not in print. Only 3 novellas together in a collection are in print, and the collections range from a list price of $9.99 and $7.99, discounted to $6.88 to $5. Meanwhile, all the novels are slated for both ebook and print, with the books having an across-the-board list price of $14.95, which, of course, are deeply discounted (but with print, Amazon is known for this).

As Amazon starts to sell the imprint catalogue and more books are put out, the pricing structure could change. The above is only what Amazon is starting out with, but considering the information they have on the back-end, it does provide a solid basis of where they believe the best pricing points are for all three of these genres.

(One caveat on the above findings is that 47North is a new imprint. It is still finding its legs. I’ll do another analysis in about 6 months to see how it is shaping up. I’m sure Amazon will be looking at its price structure a lot more often than that. Heh.)

In fact, studying the page breakdown of those books that listed page numbers (17 ebooks with listed page numbers), here are the findings:

Novels of 275 pages or more
7

Novellas of 63-125 pages
10

Looking at list prices, here is what Amazon is doing for list price in these genres for specific lengths:

Novels
$9.99

Novellas
$2.99

Interesting list prices, aren’t they? Yes, they are all discounted to $7.99 and below, but I do find it interesting. It tells me Amazon has found in its database that these are the target prices it believes these books should sell at. I, as an Indie and small press, am paying attention.

Especially after the Romance Writers of America “Readership Stats” survey, which came up with the following little tidbits of pricing information. Please note that each genre has a different audience and reader expectations when it comes to pricing:

Romance E-book Pricing
From the data in the survey, PubTrack was able to use a methodology known as the van Westendorp pricing model to establish a bottom price (floor), a top price (ceiling), and a target price for the typical romance e-book. In the survey, they offered two scenarios: the first was assuming that a $9 mass-market paperback was available as well as the digital format; while the second scenario assumed that the e-book was the only available option. The results were as follows:

Too expensive
$10.90 (If a $9 paperback is available)
$11.73 (Only e-book is available)

High price, but still reasonable
$8.33 (If a $9 paperback is available)
$8.57 (Only e-book is available)

Fairest price
$5.90 (If a $9 paperback is available)
$6.13 (Only e-book is available)

Floor price (would question quality)
$2.55 (If a $9 paperback is available)
$2.66 (Only e-book is available)

Dean Wesley Smith also had a pricing blog post (The New World of Publishing: Pricing Indie Books…Some 2012 Thoughts) not long ago, detailing his new pricing tier. It makes for interesting reading, as do the comments section where there are other great observations and experience details on the subject.

Time to rethink the pricing, don’t you think? The discounted prices of Amazon’s 47North line come in rather close to the RWA survey.  Sure, bargain-basement pricing has worked for some, but for many others it is not working like it once did. We, as writers, think different than readers. Most who buy our work are not writers. It’s readers who are our ultimate customers and buyers.

Think long and hard over the $.99 and $2.99 price points unless it is a part of focused and well-planned promotion or marketing blitz. Notice Amazon still has a higher list price on the novels. There is a reason for that. They have a higher regular place and the deep discounts may not last long.

I know I’m going to get push-back on this post and the couple paragraphs above, along with several people talking about “but I have no name, I must price low.” Go hence forth to Kris Kathryn Rusch’s latest article “Audience” and see her thoughts about the matter. Oh, and also New York Times bestselling author Tracy Hickman.  Because you are ‘not known’ is not a valid argument. It is insecurities (Oh boy, watch the comment section now…).

The industry is in flux. There’s no doubt about that. It’s important to keep an eye on trends, to continually educate yourself, and try to do better not only in the business, but also with the craft. Complacency or gut feelings can be dangerous to longevity.

Write good books. Present them well with a good cover, title, and blurb. To add to the mix, we now have new information coming in concerning pricing points. Do your own research for your own genre or sub-genre. Pay attention to all of it.

And then, based on knowledge and not insecurities and emotion, make wise decisions.

____________________

J.A. Marlow


A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother’s house…

“Always wear the red hood and cape while you are in the forest,” Grandma admonished.

For a teen with purple and red hair, and an attitude to match, the small claustrophobic city of Oburos grows ever smaller with Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life.

An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite. But, there is no time for rest. A conspiracy among the forest inhabitants, moving trees, and other mysteries await her at Grandmother’s house.

Kate learns just how little she knew of the forests, much less its animals. To survive she must learn fast, and that includes trust and teamwork.

And just where was Grandma, anyway?

A Science Fiction 83600, 335 page (approximate) word stand-alone novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood”.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords




Smashwords New Distribution Channel

I thought I posted about this, but a look through the archive shows I didn’t. Oops!

Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Baker & Taylor, one of the world’s largest distributors of physical and digital books.

The agreement will expand distribution for nearly 100,000 Smashwords books to new devices and markets.

There are two components of the agreement. The first is distribution into the Blio online store and e-reading app. The second part of the agreement gains Smashwords authors and publishers distribution into the library market through Baker & Taylor’s Axis360 service.

More information at the Smashwords Blog.

The new channels are already showing up in the Smashwords dashboard and it looks like for some of us distribution started even before the announcement. I’m happy to see Smashwords expanding what channels they distribute to. The more the better.

I find the library angle quite interesting. The other big library service, Overdrive, is notoriously difficult for Indies to get into unless you are dominating bestseller lists. The Axis360 service isn’t as widely used as Overdrive, but maybe this will put some pressure on Overdrive to get their act together.

____________________

J.A. Marlow

Welcome to Salmon Run, Alaska! A place of wild animals, wild land, and wild inhabitants…oh, and native legends come alive and an inter-planetary alien conflict at their backdoor.

When Zach Callahan and his father, Hawk, arrive unprepared for a new life in the wilds of Alaska they find the first challenge is just getting to the small town of Salmon Run. They think they have it made once they get to the Solar Express, the unique train that will take them through a dark roadless wilderness to their new home.

The same night a massive display of the Aurora Borealis lights up the sky.

With the Solar Express shutting itself down, stranding its passengers in the middle of nowhere, Zach and a new friend find themselves on a collision course with an alien spaceship hidden under the snow and ice.

Right under the path of the rescuers. A spacehip also feeling the effects of the light show…

A 37800 word, 152 page (approximate), Alaskan science fiction stand-alone novella in the Salmon Run series by J.A. Marlow.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords




“Coffee Cup Dreams” Has A New Cover!

2012 is a year of many changes. Not only am I writing and revising more than ever, I’m also looking back on what I did in 2011 to see if I can make it better. Specifically the stories already out there.

I’m in the slow and detailed process of getting several books ready for print. Before doing that, I want to make sure each is the best it can be. One of the big items that I’ve noticed, is that I’m not completely happy with some of the covers.

A good cover is crucial for basic marketing and promotion, and is in the top 5 points of a successfully selling book. It can sell a book to a reader 24/7. That is, if the cover represents the book well.

The first up for changes is the science fiction romance “Coffee Cup Dreams.” While I don’t think the old cover turned off readers, I also don’t think it attracted those who are looking for a dose of romance along with their science fiction. The original cover had several elements from the book, but fails in one crucial area: hinting at the sub-genre.

Coffee Cup Dreams Old Cover

Sure, it says ‘science fiction’, but where is the rest of it? While watching a few movies with the family, I started playing. I tried adding a human element, first by trying images of women, representing the main character Tish. Then tried adding in an image to represent the male lead: Arthur.

I came up with several options with Tish, but trying to add in one more figure just didn’t work out. The cover ended up far too complicated and did not shrink down well. So, in the end, I stripped it out and stayed with one female on the cover.

Then I started digitally painting. It’s odd, but I can usually look at a painting and remember what I was listening to or watching while I was doing them. For “Coffee Cup Dreams” this was both “Night in the Museum” movies.

Those are fun movies, by the way. I wish they would make a third, even though I’m not sure where they would go with a new story. 😛

The digital painting was fun, and I loved how the skin tones came out. Anyway, here is the result:

Coffee Cup Dreams New Cover

I’m much happier with this new cover, as I think it represents the book much better. It is now uploaded at all the retailer sites and will be propogating out to all the distribution sites and databases over the next few weeks.

____________________

J.A. Marlow

Coffee Cup Dreams New CoverCoffee Cup Dreams

She wasn’t supposed to wake up when dead…

During what should have been a simple operation, Tish Douglas died. And yet, she also awoke… in what the doctors called a ‘psi event.’

Despite having no memory of the incident, it means she’s required to go on a life-time course of debilitating drugs designed to reign in her supposedly new psi gifts. She’s left with the option of existing on Earth in a drug-haze, or leave the planet.

When an opportunity for a good paying job on a space station known as Redpoint One is offered, she jumps at the chance. Even though she doesn’t have any experience as a ‘maintenance engineer.’ Even though the station sits in the middle of nowhere, a still-operating construct of a long-gone alien species.

Between pirate attacks, intelligent repair robots, and maintenance emergencies, Tish must find a place for herself.

All complicated by a growing attraction to the one person on the station she can’t have: boss Arthur Getty.

A stand-alone 48400 word, 193 page (approximate), science fiction romance novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords




Expanded Distribution Through Apple

On Tuesday October 4th, Smashwords announced that the Apple iBookstore was expanding Smashwords ebook distribution into 26 more countries. This is very exciting news, as these markets are largely untouched when it comes to the ebook revolution. As time goes on they could start to make up a larger and larger percentage of sales. Added markets are always good for the bottom line.

New Country Markets:

Austria
Belgium
Bulgaria
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
Greece
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland

This is on top of the previous markets which were:

US
Canada
U.K.
Germany
France
Australia

For those who are counting this makes a grand total of 32 countries that authors and publishers are now able to penetrate via Apple or through Smashword agreement with Apple. This allows more market penetration and the reaching of new demographics. Yay!

____________________

J.A. Marlow


A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother’s house…

“Always wear the red hood and cape while you are in the forest,” Grandma admonished.

For a teen with purple and red hair, and an attitude to match, the small claustrophobic city of Oburos grows ever smaller with Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life.

An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite. But, there is no time for rest. A conspiracy among the forest inhabitants, moving trees, and other mysteries await her at Grandmother’s house.

Kate learns just how little she knew of the forests, much less its animals. To survive she must learn fast, and that includes trust and teamwork.

And just where was Grandma, anyway?

A Science Fiction 83600, 335 page (approximate) word stand-alone novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood”.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords




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Writerly Progress

2015 Yearly New Words
47.15%  188600 of 400000
2015 Yearly Revision Words
9.53%  38100 of 400000

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Available Ebook Formats

The works of J.A. Marlow are available in a wide number of formats including DRM-Free. Below is a list of a few of the retailers the various formats can be found at.

Mobi (Kindle compatible): Amazon, Drive Thru Scifi, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Epub (Nook compatible): Barnes & Noble, Drive Thru Scifi, Google Play, Kobo, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii, iBookstore

PDF: Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Palm DOC/iSolo (Palm compatible): Smashwords

RTF (Rich Text Format): Smashwords

LRF (Older Sony Reader format): Smashwords

Plain Text: Smashwords

Online Reading (HTML): Google Play, Smashwords

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J.A. Marlow and Star Catcher Publishing is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, iTunes PHG Affiliate Program, and affiliate programs with Kobo, Smashwords, DrivethruFiction, and All Romance Ebooks. These affiliate advertising programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking.