First, the good news: Peter has started preliminary work on the second Western. Amusingly enough, there’s a category of videos on Youtube that are just people driving from one location to another. And while the roads have changed a lot in 150+ years, the general scenery hasn’t that much – and they still seek the lowest pass, and the easiest climb and descent over the mountains. Nor do the river crossings really stray that far from where they first went in. (I learned this when I found Peter following one with both a modern road map and a very old map of original routes.)
Second, the cautionary tale: When you choose to participate in a multi-author box set, you are, in essence, choosing a publisher. You’re going to hand some of your IP over to a person or group of people, and they will receive the money from royalties and promise to disburse it wisely and in accordance with the written contract. That’s what publishers do. So don’t gleefully leap into “awesome marketing opportunity!” without doing some careful research on the prior history of your proposed publisher. Have they done this before? Did it go well on the marketing and release end? Did it go well on the royalties disbursement and return of rights / end of box set end? Talk to authors who’ve worked with them before.
The romance / erotica markets are seeing the rise of con artists who talk sweetly about “awesome indie author box sets!” … and then never pay the money. When pressed and threatened with lawsuits as the missing royalties climb into five figures, and as the retailers yank the bundles, the “coordinator / bundler” suddenly puts up posts about being deathly ill, so sorry, have sympathy… and then when the heat drops, immediately starts seeking new marks without paying the old.
What happens in erotica hits romance six months later. What happens in romance usually hits SF/F about a year later. But cons are cons, and depending on how hot they make their original pool of marks, we may be seeing them seeking new innocents to fleece sooner than that. So walk wary when people make offers that sound buddy-buddy “just for you”, or “we’re all in this together” or “I’ll handle everything, don’t you worry.” Research as carefully as if a small press suddenly came sniffing ’round your inbox, and do your due diligence.
To Quote Rosalind James:
Here are some other sketchy things I’ve heard are happening, just as an FYI, author-beware. If you’re being asked to do any of these things, you should seriously consider getting out. Remember: it’s your account you are risking.
1) You’re asked to put a KU book into a preorder for a wide boxed set, even with the idea that once it’s published, the bundle won’t be in KU. This is NOT OK, on preorder or after release, and Amazon has bots checking for exclusive content on other sites. If somebody talks to Amazon about it, YOUR account could be in trouble.
2) You’re required to have a bunch of friends/acquaintances buy or borrow/read the 99-cent bundle to push up the ranks (not just to share in your newsletter, on social media, etc., which any author would expect to be asked to do as part of their participation).
3) If there’s no transparent/explicit explanation of how all your buy-in money will be spent. The organizer should be sharing exact costs and where the money’s gone. When I did the only 2 boxed sets I’ve organized (I don’t normally participate in them), my assistant put together a spreadsheet listing every promo site, cover/graphics designer payment, etc., when the promo would run, when it had been booked, and how much it cost.
4) If there’s any resistance/anger to your request for that kind of transparent accounting, [ETA] or unprofessional online behavior in general (esp. somebody who complains about other authors, gets involved in public feuds, etc. This kind of behavior is sadly not unknown in the indie world, esp. in group stuff, but you really don’t want to get involved with people who engage in it–next time, it might be you in the cross-hairs, or you may be asked to join in to gang up on somebody else. In any case–unprofessional behavior in one aspect of work life probably ought to make you leery.)
5) If there isn’t a detailed contract saying what your obligations are and what you’ll get in return (when/how payouts will be made). If you’re asked to do anything beyond that contract (see above).
$500 buy-in for a boxed set is a LOT. Assuming there are 10 authors, that’s obviously $5,000. You’d really want to ask exactly where that money is going, and to be assured that you’ll be shown documentation. Also: be aware that there are SOME organizers out there using a type of click-farm or reciprocal borrows/buys to make the sets hit lists. Even if they do hit the list or whatever, is that really going to result in more borrows or buys for individual-you-set-participant? If people aren’t actually reading your book, the answer is going to be “no,” beyond whatever cachet the letters get you.
Really–at this kind of buy-in–dig deep. I’m not saying it can’t be legit. I’m saying–ask the questions. Hitting a rank, any rank, doesn’t pay any bills. Actual purchases or borrows of YOUR books pays the bills.
Others may have things to add to this list. I’m certainly not the most knowledgeable about this–those are just the items that have come to my attention sitting on the periphery.
Third: Yes, some Createspace books did go unavailable for sale for about 2 hours yesterday on Amazon, due to a glitch. They should have fixed everybody’s by now, but if you have print versions available through Createspace, check your Amazon page to make sure everything’s all right. It’s not a bad idea to eyeball your older books every now and then anyway, just to make sure everything looks good, and contemplate after all this time if the blurb could be freshened up, or the cover needs tweaking look like the current covers in your subgenre, or if you think it’s in the keywords and categories where it needs to be. (This is not unlike authors strolling through a bookstore to make sure their books are really on shelves / the coop endcap really was set up, whether they’re face-out or spine out. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean we shouldn’t occasionally look at it to make sure that it looks good, sounds awesome, and is properly presented and available.)
Fourth: Print-only deals are coming back. Yes, the famed “keep your ebook & subsidiary rights” deals that we haven’t seen since Hugh Howey? Joe Konrath just signed a print-only deal with Kensington for some of his books, and Annie Bellet got a print-only deal with Simon & Schuster’s Saga imprint for her 20-sided sorceress series. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out on the second round.
Fifth: This is my last post for the year, so have a wonderful Christmas, and may your next year be far better than the last! What plans do you have for 2017?