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Behind the scene of a self-publishing author

This is a little bit of a rant, but lately I hear far too often that I (and many other self-publishing authors) are charging too much for our books. WTF… 1.99 or 2.99 is too much? Buying a book is something someone does for pleasure or because they are looking for information on a certain topic, right? Right!
Now the same people who say that have no problem spending 20$ to go into a movie, or 5$ to enter the swimming pool, or 15$ to go into the zoo and watch polar bears play. They have no trouble paying a traditional published author/publishing house 15$ for an eBook. Yet 1.99 is too much.
When I ask those people what they think they are paying for they look at me and most answer, “Words.”
Only recently I spoke to some people about the writing process and explained to them what work is involved into getting a book out all on your own. Because according to myth, there is a book in everyone and everyone can publish these days. Both statements I’m not generally refuting, but it takes a certain kind of person to put in the work.
First of all, most self-publishing authors do put in that work in addition to a full time job, family, friends, and housekeeping. Others like me who are chronically ill and can’t work or hold a job and yet aren’t ill enough for disability, have no other source of income. Of course you will find the odd one who has enough money to write full time and has not to care if they make they make money with it.
So keep in mind when you think 1.99 or 2.99 is too much that someone might be living of that money.
Now what goes into a book? Words of course, but they don’t just appear on blank pages. Most authors spend hours on research, I know I do. For my Utopian Sage alone I spend two months of research on ancient Celts, myths, legends and religion. After that came six months of writing the drafts of all five books, rewrites, edits, more rewrites and edits until after two years the first book saw the market. Then you have to add the hours spend on designing a cover design and on formatting the book. So that’s what, let’s say an average of five hours a day, for two years with a six day week to be on the lower end of numbers. That’s 3650 hours at least going into the first book, meaning you pay me as author when you buy my book 0.00082 per hour. Could you get a handyman to work for that, or a sales clerk or a truck driver? I don’t think so.
On Waiting in the Wings, where I didn’t have that much research I spend about six or seven hundred hours, that’s about 30 full days, or 60 twelve hour days, and invested 800 dollar for editing. While only making about 2 dollar tops on a sale. Meaning I need to sell 400 eBooks just to get the edit back, but you think 2.99 is too much to pay.
Yet all of those numbers are irrelevant for most authors, including me. Because we don’t write and publish just for the money, but because we want to tell a story and share it with the world. You don’t pay us for our time or the money we invested, but for entertainment. Most of us can’t afford a professional editor, or we would need to charge even more. So next time you open a reading sample and get annoyed over the use of an oxford comma or a misspelled word, remember how much work went into that mistake, because you pay us for those as well. Because no matter the mistake, you pay for the story not just words.

Icebreaker review

You wrote and published a book, spend weeks, months, maybe even years on it, so you get it right and it’s the best book you can create. But you have a hard time selling it. Sure once in a while you sell one, you get many downloaded when you offer it for free, but the moment your reader has to pay, it stagnates. It’s frustrating, annoying and sadly part of being an independent author.

One strong point in selling are reviews, and not just because they let other readers know what to think of your book. Amazon won’t promote you until you have some reviews, and it takes at least 50 reviews before they will help you promote.

The thing is, nobody leaves one. You have a few hundred books out, most of them during a free download campaign, but still, why is nobody saying anything? It makes you wonder.

Am I that bad? Does my writing suck that much? Do I do bad marketing? Can’t they even find my book? Did I put it in the wrong category, or maybe the whole thing isn’t working right?

I know, it’s not different for me. However, back in the day when I with a publisher back in Germany, my publisher hired people to write so called ice breaker reviews. Ice breaker reviews are not always good or bad, often they are neutral just pointing out some pro and cons for a book. Quite frankly I don’t think the people my publisher hire, ever read the books.  Still, once there was one review, others followed.

I know that big publishing houses do the same, or at least I know they hire reviewers, so their books quickly have a few reviews, making it easier and more comfortable for the reader to say their own piece.

The thing is, big publishing houses have big budgets to buy those reviews, or at least the time of a reviewer. We as indie authors often don’t have that budget. We try to ask friends, other authors, and family even. However, most people either don’t feel like what they write sounds fair, or right and others don’t have the time to actually read your book. I had it more than once, that I handed a free copy over with the promise that they would write a review, and never heard of them again. I did swaps with other authors, finished mine within a few days and never got the review I was promised while I had posted mine already on Amazon.

So, yeah… been there, done that and it’s frustrating like hell. (To all of you who still owe me a review, hurry the hell up. I didn’t write War and Peace, my books aren’t that long, it does not take half a year or more to read them.)

Now, the thing with new indie authors is, and I belong it that category more than others, our books are rarely perfect. It’s called a learning curve, yet without reviews and response to what we wrote, we can’t get better. We need the response in order to grow and evolve, to make us better authors.

So, that brings me to what I am offering.

If you need an ice breaker review, I will help you by writing one.

How it works.

You send me a copy of your book in pdf (certain genres only) and I will read it. Why pdf? Two reasons, I can attach sticky notes, and unless I want to be mean, evil and destroy any reputation I have, can’t meddle with your text. While I read your book I will attach sticky notes, but not only for myself to help me write the review, if I find spelling mistakes, or typos I will point those out as well. When I’m done, I will write my review, even when I think your book sucked, I will find something that is good about it. My review will concentrate on those good points. Then I send you back your file, with the sticky notes and what I intend on writing in the review. It’s your call if I post it on Amazon and Goodreads or not, however I will post it on my own review blog.

If your book makes it in the three star and more category I will also add it to my own online bookstore.

Now, we all know thing are rarely free in these times. However, I am cheap (pun intended). When I send you back your file, I will attach a donation link to PayPal, you decide what my help is worth to you.  In addition I will send you a collection of links to my website, blogs and bookstore to choose from. Please place one link to any of those sides on your website, blog or storefront.

I think that is a fair offer, and as I said if you think my help isn’t worth anything, you just don’t donate anything. I will still post the review on Amazon and Goodreads, unless you don’t want me to.

If you are interested feel free to contact me either by email at or via Facebook messenger.

Genres I take on are:

Romance, erotica, fantasy, history, paranormal in any combination of those and their subgenres. Young adult is fine too, as long as it is within those combinations.

Beta reading

Beta Reading

Before proofreading, editing or publishing there is beta reading. The beta reader is the one supposed to point out plotholes, when your characters are underdeveloped or simply not realistic. Beta readers are supposed to point out when something isn’t logical or doesn’t make sense. Yet finding beta readers is almost if not harder than writing the book itself.

The problem is that either beta readers are from a circle of family and friends, that will praise you even when it’s horrible. Or they take forever if they ever get around to reading it at all.

Many good books could be amazing books if the author would have found a beta reader that knows what to look for, what to point out and doesn’t take several months to do it.

Now, you might say, “Why pay someone for beta reading?” and you’re right to ask.

Several reasons…. because you pay for their time and discretion….. as well as for an honest opinion from the reader perspective, while at the same time having access to another author who might be able to point in the direction of how to improve it.

What I offer:

I offer to read you work in a timely manner (depending on size)

I will never breathe a word about your work in social media or any other means, neither will I publish, copy or steal your work in any way.

I will point out plotholes, inconsistencies, underdeveloped characters or when characters suddenly act out of character, or when the timeline isn’t clear or messy.

If you have a certain target audience I will point out if your story is inappropriate at times for that target audience.

I will point out parts that are high on impact and usable for promotion.

If there is something illogical or confusing, I will point it out so you can decide if it is on purpose or if you need to clarify it.

If I see spelling mistakes, I will point them out. However, I don’t do editing.

You can send me your manuscript as doc. (Microsoft Word) or pdf. I will use track changes and comment function or sticky notes in case of a pdf file. If you are interested in this service, contact me at

What I want in exchange

Now this is how it works.

I’ll charge you a basic fee depending on the size of your manuscript, anything above that is up to you. If I helped you, if what I pointed out makes your book better, then please use the donate button and pay me the amount you think my work was worth.

Basic Fee:

under 50.000 words              $10 Cad    (5 days or less)

50.000 – 80.000 words         $15 Cad    (8 days or less)

80.000 – 100.000 words       $20 Cad    (10 days or less)

100.000 – 120.000 words     $25 Cad    (12 days or less)

120.000 – 140.000 Words     $30 Cad    (14 days or less)

140.000+                              by negotiation

Once you get the manuscript back you will also get a link with the email sending you back to this page where you can decide how much my work is worth to you, using this donate button.

Writing + Reading give and take

It’s an old and well-known truth that a good writer is an avid reader, and most of the time an eclectic reader as well. Now, I have been asked on several occasions why I write if I have a goal or a message when writing. The answer to that is easy, yet complex.
When I write my goals are my expectations as a reader. I know sounds weird and complicated.
As a reader I like to read stories, no matter the genre that are emotionally deep and complex, that are well researched and hold facts within their fiction. I like characters like you and me, fashioned after people you could encounter on the street, in the subway or at work. I read books with a plot that has meaning, not just boy meets girl, falls in love, and they have sex and live happily ever after. I want plots that have the best and the worst of humanity, where tragedy and drama can be overcome and survived and where characters have to fight for what they want. That combined automatically produces a story with meaning, with a message and with a plot I can relate to at some level.
When writing, all that I expect to find in a book I want to read, are my goals in what I write. Do my books have a message? Yes, sometimes it’s a very simple one like, hang in there, don’t give up, fight for what you want. Sometimes it is more specific like, rape can be overcome, love deserves a second chance, disabilities are no reason not to fulfill your dreams or family is important.
Do I have a goal? Rarely at the beginning, simply because I let the story guide me, so ergo there is no goal when I start out. However, once I’m done with the first draft that often changes. The story might develop into one (like Waiting in the Wings) that raises awareness for domestic abuse victims, demonstrating that the victim can still love and trust, it just isn’t easy. It might make a statement against rape, theft, discrimination, racism and anything else. But I never plan in advance on such a goal.
I spend hours researching, communicating with a specialist when I can, talking to people who have lived through one tragedy or another, in order to make my story believable and bring even fantasy into the realm of possibility.
I study people, in simple settings like a restaurant, in the mall or on the street. What they do, how they move, or how they communicate.
Now, why do I write? Easy, because I can and because I love it. There are stories of me and I want to tell them, share them, and the easiest way is with a book. Those are the main reasons, however, there is also the fact that I can use the money, I would be a big liar if I wouldn’t admit that. The main reason still is because I want to share my stories, and if I were a millionaire I would share them for free, but I’m not, so I don’t.
Why do you write or read?

100 000 words

My technique to learn spelling as dyslexic

So… lately I have been asked how I deal with my Dyslexia, and how I teach myself to get better in spelling, grammar and such. So here it goes.
I say in my book, but if you haven’t read it you can’t know of course, that when I found out I was dyslexic with 18, I started to research it and tried several techniques I found in books. None of them worked for me. If that was because they were designed for children, or just not for me, I don’t know. After those first few tries I tried again from time to time, but just couldn’t find anything that would work for me. Maybe it was the German language that made it harder, I don’t know. Truth be told, I made my peace with being dyslexic a long time ago, and have stopped thinking of myself as stupid or incapable a long time ago. So basically for several years I didn’t try to better it, because it’s part of me and I don’t see why I have to change that part… well, I do know… but I didn’t care and in a way still don’t. I am me, and me is dyslexic… done.
However when it was evident that my Fibromyalgia would force me to stop working at some point in the future, my dyslexia became a problem again. Becoming unable to do physical labor, would mean I would need to take a job in an office, which in most cases includes writing, something not exactly easy for me. Well I can write, just not always right.
In Germany I was taught from the first day of school that words are spelled like they are spoken, and most therapies I could find were based on exactly that. With English that simply doesn’t work. The language has too many words that sound the same, but are written totally different, or slightly different. The way I had tried to improve my German spelling, was utterly useless now.
Yet at the same time I didn’t think that using anything I would find in books would help, so I tried to find out how to help myself.
Writing in Word and using the spellcheck I soon noticed that if I corrected wrong spelled words myself, instead of letting the computer do it, I started to remember how they are spelled right after a couple hundred times. So every time my spellcheck underlined something, I deleted it and wrote it again, until I got it right. That meant sometimes to write it five or ten times, and when I used that word again, I would repeat that procedure and at some point I started to write it right.
Yet spellcheck isn’t perfect, you can activate all its capabilities, but if you use the wrong word and spell it right, it won’t correct it. Or rather if you spell a word right, but it has a different meaning, but sounds like the word you were trying to use. For example… ruff and rough, it’s sounded out the same, but I would often write ruff when meaning rough. The same is with words like women and woman or men and man… Where and were….
This is where it gets often complicated for me. Because I actually need someone to point those out to me, in order to know I write or use them wrongly. Now sadly you don’t find many people who are nice enough to send you a PM saying… Hay, liked what you wrote, but did you know you used ruff on page soandso and it should be rough? Just wanted to let you know…. No sadly those are very rare…
However I figured out that using either Narrator or another app that will read my text to me, I sometimes can find some of those problem words. When I find them, and figure out how they are written right I put them down on a list I hang up beside my computer when writing. The list has all my word I have problems with on it, telling me their meaning… like this is plural, this is singular, or this is past tense… you get what I mean…
I know that I also make a lot of grammar mistakes and that my punctuation is horrible, but decided to work on those once I actually get along with the spelling. In most cases I will build my sentences the same way I speak or hear others speak. For punctuation I do the same as when searching for words spelled wrong, I use a narrator that read my text to me. That way I can often find where I need to place a comma or shorten or split a sentence.
If I look at texts written in the first two years after coming to Canada, and now, the difference is very obvious and easy to spot. If I had to put it in numbers I would say I improved by about 200%. My first tries wouldn’t even have matched a first grader.
I don’t know if what I do will help anyone out there, but if it does then I’m glad about it.

My Life with Dyslexia and other Shit… to be published at February 8th 2016

My Life with Dyslexia and other Shit… is now ready to go towards publishing and the date is decided on as well… February 8th 2016, family day in Canada. In my opinion there couldn’t be a better day to bring my story out.

For now you can get a reading sample either on my website, or here Reading sample

Pre-ordering will be available soon, so keep on checking in.

Can you believe that?

Since Waiting in the Wings was republished after being professionally edited by 3Pediting, I tried to get local stores to sell it for me. Not that I had much success with that but besides that I got the most ridicules excuse this week. You know I can life with, “sorry but I don’t want to take the risk.” Or something like, “sorry but your just not known enough to make me any money.” I get that, I grew up in business and know the risk they take, by placing me in their inventory. But I got the most amusing and ridicules excuse a little while ago.
I live in a small town of around 2000 people, out in the prairie, where you find more churches then schools and kiddy places together. It’s a quiet town, peaceful, and yet there is always something going on it seems. Anyway, it’s your average town, and the population is mixed in age.
One of the businesses I talked to, that serves mostly customers in the age group of 30 to 90 looked at my book. They sell from several other independent authors from the area. I left them a copy so they could read through it, and came back a little more than a week later.
The store owner then informed me very nicely, …drumroll… “I didn’t read it, I just opened it to one side and well… it was quit sexual. I since most of our customers are pious, God fearing folks, and many of them older, I think they might be offended. You know they are just too old for something like this.”
I was quiet torn when he looked at me apologetic, because for one the upper range of customer age in statistics is around 54 years of age. I also know that the main age range of his customer is around that age, it was one of the reasons I hoped to sell there. The other reason was, I had 10 books on my backseat destined for delivery in the old folk’s home. All of the people who had ordered one over the age of 75.
When I delivered them I had to bite my tongue not to tell them what the store owner thought of them.
Here a link to one of many statistics
To fellow authors, I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going advertise more in old folks homes, so far I had my best sales there.

Operating in a void

Fellow authors will most likely know what I mean right away. As and author the feedback of readers is one of our most important tools, only with feedback can we improve.
When our readers don’t tell us what they like or dislike, we operate in a void. A very frustrating void, especially when sales a low, or none-existent.
Any review is helpful, even when it’s telling us that we suck… sigh… because it might be the reason we don’t sell. We can’t improve if nobody tells us what we are doing wrong.
I call it operating in a void, because the silence is deafening and the daily look into the reports frustrating, making us wonder if we suck so much that there is no chance to ever sell a book.

When I first published Waiting in the Wings in April, it was the review of a reader that alerted me to the fact, that the person I had trusted with the edit, didn’t do a good job. Since I’m dyslexic, I knew that I couldn’t correct that, so I hired a professional editor to help me out.

I didn’t want to take the book completely of the market, so I put an info post in each description, warning the reader of the problem and promising to correct it as fast as possible. It took the editor and me four months, but we are finally done and the book is out again, fully edited. Yet contrary to the first publish, nobody is saying anything about it, and I live in a void when it comes to Waiting in the Wings.

It’s like torcher, wondering if the editor did a good job, if the changes made it better or worse, and if the story speaks to anyone. In my case, because of health issues, my writing, cover design and print work is all I have as income and this void is frustrating.
I talked to several people for the past view years since I was first published 2006 in Germany, and heard very often that they don’t want to write anything that is negative, but don’t feel like pointing out only the good without the bad. Well, hell… as an author I grow from both, the good and the bad. Sure I would love to read, hear nothing but praise, but that will never happen. I read a lot, many books are bestselling novels, yet I always find something negative.

I hope fellow authors agree with me, when I tell you to leave your opinion, even if you only read the sample, even when all you have to say is “it sucks because….” stop leaving us authors in a void, it would be highly appreciated. At least by me.

Mental abuse the killer of the soul

What is mental abuse?
It was one of the questions I had to ask myself while writing Waiting in the Wings.
And why aren’t the woman who get abused like that, simply walking away?
In the end I answered the second question first. The woman didn’t walk away because emotional abuse is like waves, it erodes the soul slowly, as waves erode the coast over hundreds of years.
I’m no expert, all I know is from articles I read and what I imagine happens.
Just like in any relationship that becomes physically abusive, I would think emotional abuse, develops over time as well. I simply can’t imagine that any person, male or female, would fall in love with a partner when the abuse is there from the beginning.
Now, where a physically abusive relationship would leave bruises, broken bones, lacerations, and other visible evidence, emotional abuse is invisible.
Its words, comments and behavior of the abusive partner that causes the damage, not his fists. Comments on how you look, move, act, or talk, voicing dissatisfaction on a constant basis, chafing on self-esteem, confidence and self-worth. In time the person entering that kind of relationship, becomes someone else, someone who measures their worth on the reaction of their partner.

“You went out of the house like that, you look like a slut. But I guess you wouldn’t know better, since you don’t pay attention to much.” Would be something that hurts, yet the abuser would see only his effort in correcting a perceived mistake, even believe he is helping.

“I gave you the responsibility of the finances so you could learn to be responsible, shouldn’t have thought you could manage it.” Another thing is that often the abuser will hand over responsibilities and decisions to the one abused, so he/she can see you fail, can rub it in and help you better yourself.

Physically the abuser will use the abuse victims’ desire, sexual longing and intimacy against them.
Where in a physically abusive relationship sex might be used as punishment, going as far as rape, in an emotional abusive relationship it’s often the other way around.
The abuser will reduce intimacy to a minimum, or refuse it totally, he might say things like, “I don’t feel like touching you tonight, I rather wish I had someone attractive around.” Making the abuses partner feel not enough, unattractive and unwanted.

What I read and learned is, that there is one big difference between a physically abuser, and an emotionally abuser. The difference is that the physically abuser often regrets his doings, and when calmed, knows that his doings were wrong. Yet the emotionally abuser, seems to believe himself as actually helping, caring and supporting his victim. “I’m telling you that not to hurt you, but so you can work on your flaws and become a better person.”
With time the abuse victim will believe that he/she is flawed, needs to change to become a better person, change her looks, her behavior, losing herself in the process. While they fight for their marriage, relationship, partner’s attraction, they change only to fail again and again in the eyes of the abuser.

I can see a person recovering from physical abuse, the wounds heal, and the person might have trust issues, be more careful, maybe even avoid a new relationship for a long time, but I can see them recover.
Yet I have trouble imagining anyone coming out of an emotional abusive relationship even close to the person that went in. The abuse victim lost him-/herself during the time, changed in so many ways, that the original person might not be existing anymore. Yet I also know that if the abuse victim isn’t totally isolated, she might have a chance to maintain some parts of her/himself. Then if they ever free themselves, or are freed by a tragedy like in my book, there is therapy, and years of it might restore some of what was lost.

The things I learned while researching the topic, for Waiting in the Wings, inspired me to look into programs offered to those victims. Which is why I decided to spend $0.50 of every sold paperback to a woman’s shelter or organisation helping those victims to find themselves again. I will donate it twice a year, so if you know an organization that needs that money, please feel free to contact me. Canadian or Canadian based organizations only please. Only organizations that work with abuse victims.

Waiting in the Wings by Nicole Kiefer available on Amazon, Barns & Nobel or

waiting in the wings front cover

The Bookmark

The Bookmark

When reading a paperback, many of us use a bookmark if we have one. Bookmarks come in all forms and sizes, different colors, motives and messages.
To an independent author it’s one of the cheapest and most powerful promotional tools. Every customer of you can use one, since he/she just bought a book to read. If that person likes your book the bookmark will remind her/him of you, every time it ends up in their hands.

Now nothing against the traditional bookmark made of thick paper or thin carton. They are cheap, mass produced and still fulfilling their intended use. Yet they never last long, at least not for me. I read in the bathtub, they draw in moisture. I push my book in a corner, they bend. I need to write something down, they get used as notepad. In short, they are easily abused, and quickly done for.

From the first book I sold to today I put one bookmark in each book I sell. At first I bought them, but they weren’t personalized enough for my taste, or too expensive. On top of that I find them easily abused and discarded.

Now I design them myself, specific to the book it’s supposed to end up in. Considering tax + shipping and handling, I actually end up spending less on them then when I order them online. On top of that mine are laminated. No problem with water, bending or getting written on. I know not every author has that opportunity, that’s why I offer it to other authors.

The benefits of a specialized bookmark is that you can say thanks for buying your book and promote another. You can promote your website or distributors, or your shop if you have one. The laminate gives the bookmark a nice gloss effect and makes it stable and water proof. Hell, you can drop it in the sink and nothing will happen to it. Do that with a standard bookmark.
Cost wise, it’s like with everything else, the larger your order the lesser the price per piece. I sell mine for as low as $0.72 a piece, tax and shipping not included.
Bookmarks are one of those promotional tools no author should miss out on. You can find my prices here, mark front promo