Moving Forward or Onward or Whatever

By now, you’re probably tired of reading about my journey away from being Amazon-exclusive. In some ways, I am as well. It’s been an interesting voyage. Not because of the move away from Amazon but because of things it’s made me consider, things I’d been taking for granted or had let slip for much too long. In other words, I’d gotten too comfortable and that is a bad thing for writers, especially right now when we don’t know what is going to happen with Amazon’s KDP program or its publishing arm.

Before I head back to going wide, let’s talk about some of the changes coming to Amazon that may impact some of us. Jeff Belle has headed Amazon Publishing since 2009. He’s leaving–may have already left–and Mikyla Bruder is taking over. She’s been with Amazon for 10 years–that’s a good thing because it means she’s familiar with the system and the authors–but she comes from a traditional publishing background. That could be good or bad.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, Bruder doesn’t anticipate any problems in the transition or plan to make any big changes. That’s pretty standard boilerplate for any exec taking over a company or division when there’s no real problems the public is aware of. However, PW is quick to jump on the PC wagon:

Though Bruder does not see a shift in the overall vision for Amazon Publishing, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some changes. Most importantly, she brings a completely different life experience to her job than Belle did. Bruder, who is Asian American, said she has lived as an “other” in the largely homogenous world of trade book publishing and knows how tiring that can be. “I have seen firsthand how difficult it can be to work in that environment,” she added.

What this means beyond the fact PW is being, well, PW is up to interpretation. We’ll have to wait and see if Bruder continues to buy books from authors based on how well she thinks they will sell–and thus make profit for Amazon–or if a political/social agenda takes the forefront. If it is the latter, I don’t expect her to have the lengthy career with the ‘Zon her predecessor enjoyed.

Speaking of Amazon, while other companies are recovering from the limitations put on them by the pandemic–fewer employees, more working from home, etc–it seems Amazon’s KDP support staff is still at a low. I contacted them a week ago about an issue with my Honor & Duty series. For some reason, I can’t edit the series information. So I sent an email–always have a paper trail, even with the ‘Zon–detailing the issue and what I needed done. Usually, I get a response and resolution within a few hours. The longest I’ve waited for anything since trying to go wide has been 18 hours. This time? I was told they’d get to it within a week or so. Color me not happy. But they will be even less happy if I have to contact them again about this.

Now back to the going wide journey.

I knew when I started it more would be involved than just uploading my books to the various storefronts or 3rd party aggregator. I hadn’t anticipated having to retrain myself to think in ways I haven’t since going exclusively with Amazon. 

Without going into too much detail, I had to look at how to get my books into the various storefronts, which storefronts I wanted to go with, etc. Initially, I decided to upload direct to BN, Kobo and Apple. I’d use Draft2Digital for the rest. I’ve changed my mind. The time saved alone by using D2D for everything is worth the few pennies per sale I pay to D2D to handle things for me. All I have to do is upload a generic ePub of the book, fill in the blanks and they do the rest. 

There is an added benefit of allowing them to handle it. Draft2Digital has a “sister” site called Books2Read. I’ve mentioned the site before but I am really starting to appreciate how powerful of a tool it can be for a writer. For example, here’s the landing page for Witchfire Burning. It shows the cover, gives the description and below lists other books (showing covers) I’ve written. It’s a much more attractive landing page than the product page at Amazon. If you click on the “get it now” button, it will take you to a new page where you can choose which storefront you want to visit (and I need to update it to pull in the Amazon link). 

The great thing about something like this is you can use it as your landing page for the book on your website. But even better is you can use this universal link in your books and promotional material. Think of it as a one-size-fits-all link you can use pretty much anywhere. That includes in your ebooks.

For example, I use the universal links in the front matter of a book if referencing a previous book in the series. I use the universal links in the “also by” for all storefronts except Amazon. For those, I still use Amazon links. I do that mainly because those links are already programmed into my Vellum template. 

And there are no problems using these universal links in the other stores because the reader is directed to a landing page instead of a store page.

Going wide has also made me look at book covers. Some of my covers were five years or more old. Let’s face it, genre cuing has changed in that time and sub-genres have grown. Because of that, I’ve taken time to redo a number of my covers. Some have been subtle changes: a change in font, the addition of a visual element. Others have been complete redesigns. It takes time but it helps give the books a fresher “image” and it will help draw in new readers.

There have been other steps along the way but my focus is now on finishing up getting my backlist out there and getting new titles up. And that means looking at how best to do it and what ways are best for promotion. 

That’s meant updating my checklist of things to do. And I’ll admit it. I’ve been doing this for so long, I’d moved away from the checklist I put together years ago. After all, when you’re exclusive to Amazon, you don’t have to worry about a lot of things you do if you are putting books onto multiple platforms. Also, promotion opportunities have changed and you have to figure out where to best put your money and your time.

With time being the most important consideration in many ways.

Here are just a few things I’m having to add into the list–a list I am now checking regularly.

Title/series/release date/release price

Is the blurb written

Cover Design

Cover Reveal and when

Am I going to offer it for pre-order? (Yes, you can do so on platforms other than Amazon. The only question is how to do it on Amazon–if you can–without listing through a 3rd party or wrangling with Amazon about it because you’re no longer part of KDP Select).

If so, what storefronts and when? Also, need to make sure the pre-orders go live at the same time.

Have I updated with the new title information sites like Books2Read and BookBub?

Have I updated booklists (in published e-books) and updated my website?

Have I researched and determined what pre-order promotions/ads I’m going to use?

Have I done the newsletter about the pre-order coming up? That the pre-order is available? That the book is now released?

Am I doing eARCs to help drive early reviews?

You get the idea and trust me, this is just the tip of the checklist iceberg. Yes, it is daunting, but it is something that once I get into the habit will be much easier to envision and then do. And I am kicking myself for getting complacent while exclusive with Amazon. I didn’t worry overly much about updating BookBub before a release. I didn’t worry about the newsletter, etc. I’ve made good money writing. How much more would I have made if I’d been more diligent?

So, yes, I’m kicking myself for not following my own advice and treating my writing more like a profession. I took it seriously but I could have done so much more on the backend, on the icky business side, than I did. 

I know going wide isn’t for everyone. But I do urge each of you, whether you are Amazon only or wide or whatever, to take a long, hard look at what you’re doing now. Are there things you could do better? How much time and effort are you putting in on promotion? When’s the last time you updated your website? Do you blog on a regular basis? When you are on social media, are you on it as a private person or in your writer persona and how much time is spent in each?

Yes, going wide has me scared. I know my income will probably take a bit of a hit for the first few months until everything is released across the board and new titles are hitting. But, and this is interesting, as the number of books in KDP Select decrease, it appears that my Amazon sales are actually increasing. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

In the meantime, here’s my Books2Read author page. It is a work in progress, partially “thanks” to Amazon and the issue with the way they have the Honor & Duty series listed. But it is a quick and easy landing page to send your readers to, one that certainly looks nicer than your Amazon Author Page. I do wish it listed your website and blog the way the AAP does, but you can’t have everything and it is just one more tool in your author’s toolbox.

And now, it’s time for me to get back to work. Since I’m talking about promotions and how I need to get better at them, if you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter, you can do so here. I promise not to spam you with constant messages. My goal is once every month or two. When you do sign up, you’ll get a confirmation email. When you confirm, I’ll get notice. This weekend, new sign-ups will get a follow-up email that will include a link to Wolf’s Prey, an prequel short story set in the Nocturnal Lives universe available exclusively only to newsletter subscribers. The short story tells what happened the night Mac Santos was attacked by the lycan, the night that set everything in motion for the series.

With that, I’m off to find more coffee and put butt in chair to get to work. Until later!

Welcome to The Passive Voice readers. Thanks for the link, PG!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

24 comments

    1. I know. So much better than what you see on Amazon and, imo, it helps entice readers to check out other titles. What I need to look into is listing books I recommend and see what sort of traction that brings me.

  1. Thank you for walking us through the process. I’ve been making mental and physical notes, because like you, I’m mildly concerned about institutional politics at Amazon.

    I wonder if the bloom is off the rose as far as KDP Select for some readers? I’m not seeing as much push from Amazon to sign up for Prime and other services, although they may just have given up on me. 🙂 That might lead to more people buying outright, especially known authors, instead of “renting.”

    1. I think that is part of it. The push I’m seeing from Amazon is they offer a certain number of months free when you buy a Kindle device. They they hope you stick with it and get charged without realizing it (imo). Authors are getting tired of it because Trad Publishers are using KDP Select for some of their books, mainly backlist but some new releases as well, but don’t have to be exclusive like indies do. It is that sort of double-standard that is pissing some of the indies off.

  2. No, this isn’t boring or rather, it shouldn’t be. Writing is a business. If you want to make money, you’ve got to pay attention to the business side.
    Everything you’ve written on the subject of going wide is useful AND it helps others to not reinvent the wheel.
    So thank you!

    1. Thanks. I’m finding it exciting and terrifying at the same time. And time consuming. I’ve been working more hours each day than I have in a long time, between writing and doing the work required to go wide with the titles already out.

  3. The part about updating your BookBub page is a good one, and something that I’ve personally been neglecting, so thanks for bringing it up. In last year’s reader survey that I sent out to my newsletter, the #2 way that they said they discover new authors was from BookBub (the #1 way was from group promotions like Book Funnel and Story Origin, though that’s not surprising given that those are the primary sites that I’ve used to build my list).

    Does Books2Read allow you to add a link to your own author bookstore, if you have one? I’ve been setting mine up using Woo Commerce and Book Funnel, and it’s been a lot of fun. What I really want to do is get to the point where I can give my readers the ebook free with every print purchase—or better still, to discount the cost of the ebook from the print book, if they’ve already bought the ebook.

    1. My only issue with Bookbub is the limit on number of pen names you can have per account. I need to set up a second account because I write under 3 names. But, before I do, I’m going to contact them to see if there isn’t a work around for it.

      As for your question about Books2Read linking to your own store, the short answer is I don’t know. Their FAQs and youtube videos are really pretty good and you may find your answer there. My guess, however, is that it won’t. But I very well could be wrong.

  4. > landing page

    That weird “scroll above fixed bottom panel” is maximally annoying and serves no purpose I can figure out. Why force a view through a porthole instead of just scrolling the page, which is only a few inches longer than the screen anyway?

    1. At a guess, because it is more than “inches” if you are looking at it on a phone or tablet. From what I can tell, they’ve done their best to maximize the site for all possible viewing formats. I’ll agree, it isn’t optimal, but it is far and away better than what you get from your Amazon author page. Plus, it is something I don’t have to spend a lot of time updating on my own site. All I do is when a new release comes out or a pre-order goes up, I edit the landing page so it is the first book visible. It takes all of two or three minutes and I’m done. Plus, it will link to all the stores the book is available in and I can use that one universal link in my ebooks instead of having to code in links for each individual store.

  5. The Newsletter signup page is pretty bare, even a bit scary as you have no clue what you are signing up to.

    Something I’d really like to see mentioned is if you have any books coming off the KU program. I’d grab them before they do rather than just getting to them when they make the top of my to-read list and finding them gone.

    1. I have yet to take the time to see how to make a better page for the sign-up. As for books coming off, right now it is easier to say which ones are still on. I took several off today.

      Off the top of my head, here’s what is still on KU: Nocturnal Haunts, Cat’s Paw, Nocturnal Prey, Jaguar Rising, Skeletons in the Closet, Christmas Magic, Wedding Bell Blues, Sword of Arelion, and Dagger of Elanna. There may be one or two more but that’s pretty much it. All of the Honor & Duty series is now off of KU or will be by morning. The mainstream novels in the Nocturnal Lives series are all off. Same with the mainstream novels for Eerie Side of the Tracks.

  6. Thanks for making the thought of going wide SO much easier. With detailed steps. Have bookmarked.

    Hope the gang here is doing well – it’s been a while for me. Still working on the second book when any of my brain cells fire, and it’s over 2/3 finished. Estimating this year or early next – been working on it since 2016. I’m SLOW.

    1. Hey! Good to see you back.

      I won’t lie. Going wide takes time if you’ve more than a few titles you’re doing it with. Using a 3rd party aggregator like D2D makes it easier. I’ll also admit I’m having to bring my knowledge of the best promo sites, etc., up to date and that takes time. But it is well worth it, especially in light of the fact we don’t know what the changes coming to Amazon will mean for indie authors.

      1. All the more reason for considering it seriously when you have ONE book and zero energy – easier to add future books that to have to move a lot. I tell myself. Being this non-functional means I always have to balance the writing with the rest – so the detailed guidance is even more useful.

              1. Few people offer actual help – I won’t forget it. Thanks.

                And yes, I do ask for what I need. I have some very interesting email chains stored.

                One of these days one will hit the right person in the gut. Meanwhile, I’m practicing my letter-writing skills, and my command of nuance. Can’t hurt.

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