Bear with me this morning, folks. I’m pretty much scattergunning this post. This is one of those mornings where my brain is going in a million different directions and I’m trying to pull it back so I can get a few things done before I have to head out of the house. Among the things I’m going to touch on are publishing numbers during the past year, some news (gossip?) I’m hearing coming out of Amazon and one of the most hilarious pieces of “advice” for writers I’ve seen in a very long time.
Let’s start with publishing. For the last three months or more, traditional publishing has been telling us how wonderful their numbers are. Covid restricted Americans were buying more books, reading more and everything was rosy. Well, the latest numbers from AAP for 2020 show that’s not exactly the case.
The teaser for the article could be read in a way to lead you to think the year had been a good one for the industry:
AAP’s Maria A. Pallante praises ‘the incredible dedication and innovation of the industry’ in a remarkable year’s outcome.
But the first paragraph quickly dispels that assumption.
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) today released the StatShot Annual report for calendar year 2020, estimating that the United States’ book publishing industry generated US$25.71 billion, a slight decrease of 0.2 percent from 2019 revenue of $25.77 billion.
Now, that’s not a huge decline, but it is damning at a time when more people were home. When more people were homeschooling their kids or at least doing distance learning and had to buy more books and other educational material. At a time when Americans were searching for something, anything to keep themselves entertained and their minds off of Covid, the publishing industry lost money.
If your reaction to that was “WTF?!?” join the crowd.
And know the publishers didn’t lose money because they lowered prices so more people could afford their wares. Instead, prices remained the same.
And their profits declined. . . and they learned nothing from it. Read the rest of the article and let me know what you think.
Next up, some news about Amazon and some comments coming from a number of authors I’ve come across recently. First for the documented news. This comes with a hat tip to The Passive Voice. It is an open secret that Amazon has a review problem. Whether we’re talking about product reviews or book reviews, Amazon has struggled to keep reviews honest. But not all sellers are ethical and not everyone bothers to read the terms of service. In this instance, the sellers can reasonably be said to fall into the former category.
In this case, sellers would content customers and basically tell them if they bought Item A from Amazon and gave them a 5-star review, the seller would refund the purchase price and the customer could then keep the item. Totally against Amazon’s terms of service and done on such a scale that it won’t surprise me to see Amazon doing something to counter the problem, especially since the who and the what were uncovered in an open database.
The real question is how this will impact us, as readers and writers. The last time we had a review “scandal” on the book side, Amazon started trying to prevent friends and family from reviewing our books. This is something easy to do since they have agreements with sites like Facebook, etc., where data is shared. Our browsing history is tracked across multiple platforms, etc. So expect some fallout over the next month or so. Watch your titles and review numbers.
As for the rest of it, there are a number of authors, mainly of low content titles, who have run into problems with Amazon. Some are legitimate problems where the authors failed to follow the terms of service (this is where I once again remind you to review the ToS on a regular basis because Amazon does change them). But there are others where Amazon’s bots just screw up. In one instance, an author woke up to a notice that their account had been suspended for inappropriate content. It took a while but it turned out that not only had they not been in violation of the ToS, but the book in question wasn’t even their book.
But what I’m seeing in most of these questions is panic and anger and lashing out by the authors involved (something I understand after having gone through my own issues with Amazon). That’s natural. But it needs to be reined in. We need to remember that this is our business and we need to respond to these situations in a business-like manner. Gather your information. Contact Amazon with details and without emotion. Remember if you do so via email, it may take 24 hours or more before you get a response. So start with a call and document not only what you say and what you are told but who you spoke with. If the situation isn’t resolved, go up the chain of command. Once you’ve hit the wall there–if you hit the wall–then write a detailed and business-like email to the new head of Amazon, Andy Jassy. That should get a response. It might not be the one you want, but it will get a response.
And–major point here–make sure you aren’t in violation of the ToS and, if you are, admit it, apologize and explain how you hadn’t meant to be so and then ask for your book or your account to be reinstated.
In other words, be the businessman or woman you would be in your “real” job.
Finally, one of the most boggling pieces of advice I’ve seen in a long time when it comes to writing. Again, this comes with a hat tip to The Passive Voice.
There are a number of apps out there that can help you as a writer. One of them, not my preferred but I have used it, is Grammarly. A couple of days ago, they posted on their blog an essay on “How to Write Faster”. I don’t know a writer out there who hasn’t, at one time or another, lamented they needed to write faster. Grammarly comes to the rescue with a few good points and one that had me laughing out loud.
Okay, there were two points that had me laughing. The first was “type faster”. Yes, you read that right. If you type faster you will write faster. Duh. Now, their point has some merit. If you learn to type faster–and hopefully more accurately–it will speed up the process. But, dayum, c’mon. Surely there’s something more insightful they could have offered than just “type faster”.
The second suggestions that had me laughing is one that would have every pantser out there screaming at their computer screen. According to Grammarly, in order to write faster, you should only write “what you already have in mind”. As one who just spent three days with hands on keyboard, words spewing out without me knowing what they would be until I saw them on the monitor in front of me, I could only laugh and shake my head. This was three days in which I wrote close to 40k words. And most of the time I had no idea what Myrtle the Evil Muse had in mind. I was the only the tool for her use. Gee, think I could have written more if I had tried to coax the story out of her first?
The answer is a big, resounding “no!”.
The reason I bring this up is that there is no right way to write. You have to find what works best for you and for your current project. Yes, some of what the post says is good advice. But choose what works for you.
And now I have to choose–more coffee or a shower? Maybe coffee in the shower?