Basics, Blurbs, and Business

One truth universally acknowledged is that everybody wants the silver bullet, the winning lotto ticket, the lightning captured in a bottle. And that’s absolutely human; if I could reliably wave a wand and create bestsellers, I absolutely would! However, despite the active myth of the writer who toils in solitude, or the garage band that puts out one song, and then has the amazing breakout hit that goes viral, the reality is that most big hits came after a lot of groundwork and preparation.

If you want to capture lightning, your best bet is not just to put up a lightning rod, but to put up fifty of them, all along the tallest ridgeline and highest peaks of the castle roofline. You also need to make sure that your lightning-capturing vessels are all made of the best glass, blown to withstand the pressures of aetherial containment, and that you have tested the auto-sealing triplines such that lightning will reliably get captured, but the king of crows cannot send his spies to trip the lines with beak and clever feather.

In authorial terms, you must write the next book, and the next book, and the story after that. As well, you need to consistently go back to your books, and check that book 4 has a link to your author page, and book 3 now has a link at the back to book 4, and possibly a mention of your same-subgenre other series, and that book 2’s link still works to book 3. (Broken URLs are common with website redesign. Don’t get caught!) You also need to cruise the sites on which you sell every now and then (at least every six months), and see how the layout at different monitor sizes affects your blurb, and if your cover still looks like the top in genre, or if the genre covers are shifting and yours now looks dated. For Amazon, what new categories and sub-sub-sub genres have been created? Is there a newer, better, more specific audience that you’ll want to change keywords to try to capture?

In basic business, how many times have you added up the royalties that should be coming in, and the borrows (if Kindle Select), and made sure that what the distributor / publisher is paying is actually, factually, correct to the penny?


On blurb writing: Dean Wesley Smith is starting a mini-series over at his place to go over writing blurbs for all the short stories he wrote last month. Check it out!


Also, on business news:

B&N was reported to have problems paying some of its marketplace vendors. We authors, unless we’re also selling trade paper copies through the site as a third-party seller, are not affected… but watch this space. It’s not that technical glitches don’t occur to companies in fat and lean times, it’s that companies who are cash-poor tend to have more and more “technical glitches” that result in the money coming in not going out where it’s supposed to, at least not until they’re called on it the second or third time.

That B &N neither communicated with the sellers, nor paid the cash out despite the glitch, is a giant red flag to auditors, anyone who’s worked with a cash-poor company, and trad-pubbed authors who’ve dealt with the same behaviours before. (Funny how it’s always the unsecured creditors who don’t get paid due to technical issues, and not the electric bill, eh?)

What is Nook’s viability? Pretty shaky. It’s trying to compete against Amazon without bringing anything better to the table. With that in mind, remember these unhappy words “Unsecured creditor.” If you sell through B&N, you are one. Which means if they declare bankruptcy, that $500 in royalties you thought was coming… won’t. You’ll be lucky to see a nickel of it, after the secured creditors have gotten their recompense first. Better to plan your budget as if that money wasn’t there, and be happily surprised when it comes in, than to count on it and need it when it doesn’t.



  1. Folks, I’m not an expert on writing and publishing, but unfortunately I have seen what happens to creditors when a company goes under: You. Don’t. Get. A. Dime.

    I work at a utility, and it’s all too common for someone to file for bankruptcy protection while they owe you money. We also have them up and skip, but it’s harder for a company to pull this stunt (though some have folded with no one knowing who to go after for the amount owed). One big tip off is increasing bill delinquency. If you hear of unpaid creditors, including employees, do not be surprised if the next news you hear is that a company filed for bankruptcy.

    I had that happen with a company that owed me money many years ago. It was when the Internet commerce thing was still new, and a company had a pay-as-you-read plan. For writers, you earned royalties each time someone clicked on your story, essay, review, or whatever. I made a small amount (emphasis on small), when the company folded. And I never saw any of the royalties.

    Creditors can file when a company goes bankruptcy, but it amounts to getting in line, and you likely will only see a fraction of the amount owed. The problem, besides time, is legal fees. In my case I wrote it off as a bad experience, because what I’d pay in fees to claim my pittance would cost more than what I’d gain. That’s exactly what many creditors do, unless they’re owed a large amount. Our company even refers to it as write-offs.

    Sometimes glitches do happen. Stuff falls through cracks, which is why our Accounts Payable puts Attila the Hun to shame when someone doesn’t turn in a receipt. But usually it’s isolated cases and not across the board. I do know that one business we were certain was headed for bankruptcy is still chugging along today.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to what’s going on. Remember one thing: glitches usually aren’t consecutive. I’m not sure what an author owed a substantial amount could do if a publisher folded, unless it was large enough to pay the legal fees. At one time I thought things like this was what the SFWA did. Now I know better.

  2. Since March 1 of this year, I have sold 0 books through B&N. I have sold 8 through Kobo, all in March and April. Interestingly, what sold the most through Kobo are the Cat books, and they went to buyers in Germany. Although, given the, hmm, less-than-ideal search and marketing options through B&N, I’m not surprised that nothing moved there. Not that Kobo is much better, but they do have a better international market share than B&N.

    1. At this point in the game, is there a good reason not to indie publish exclusively on Amazon? The author retains the rights so can publish elsewhere later, but I get the impression that the other outlets don’t sell much and aren’t as indie friendly right now.

      1. For e-books, I’m coming to see less and less reason, at this moment in time. For print books (which I will have one of this year and at least one next), you pretty much spread your distribution around when you use D2D or CreateSpace.

  3. I’m writing this while waiting for my review of Alma’s “When Chicken Feet Cross the Highway” to post on Amazon, and listening to the tail end of an Emerson Lake and Palmer concert. When you read the review, you will understand why I am doing that.
    But in the interim, would one of the moderators mind putting a picture of Dorothy up in the “Authors” column to the right, so I don’t have to do any work in order to remember who fynbospress is?
    Boy, this review is taking a long time to post.
    OKAY! Here it is:

    And remember, internet friends, YOUR ‘Helpful’ vote counts!

  4. “B&N was reported to have problems paying some of its marketplace vendors.”

    Oh f^&**. That’s a very bad sign. (And if they go down, the number of bookstores that sell new books in my area goes down to zero—and by “my area” I’m talking about 60-90 miles. 😦 )

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