Category Archives: PROMOTION

What do you want?

As I was preparing for today’s post, I cam across a couple of things I thought I’d share. The first is a perfect example of one of the problems facing traditional publishing today. The second is a post about why it’s a great time — sort of — to go indie. Both are, in my opinion, things we need to think about.

Last week, the Buffalo News posted an article about Gov. Andrew Cuomo. No, it wasn’t about his politics. Instead, it was about his book and how much he’s made — and how many copies the book has sold. But before we get into the finance aspect, a little background. Cuomo was elected governor of New York in 2010 and took office January 1, 2011. His book, All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life, was published by HarperCollins on October 4, 2014. Even assuming HarperCollins pushed to get the book out as quickly as it could, I doubt they had the book for less than a year before publishing it. So, at most, Cuomo had been in the governor’s mansion for two years when the book came out. And this is where things get interesting.

Now to the money. According to the Buffalo News, Cuomo has made, to date, $783,000 for writing his book. The publisher is reported to have laid down a first run printing of 200,000 copies of the book. Now, based on all that, you’d think the book sold well, possibly going into second and third printings, right?

Wrong.

The book has sold approximately 3,200 copies since publication. As of the time I’m writing this post, the hard cover price is $8.45, more than a buck less than the e-book price (which is still set by the publisher at $9.99. More on that in a moment).

It is more than fair to say the book tanked. HarperCollins basically through Cuomo under the bus for the poor performance of the book back in 2015. It seems Cuomo didn’t tour to promote the book and turned down media appearances. They were surprised, I tell you, surprised. They thought he would do at least some promotion. That, it seems, is one of the main reasons the book didn’t sell as expected.

Riiiiight. Putting on my cynic’s hat, I could say HarperCollins never really expected the book to sell. They paid all that money to Cuomo as a legal bribe. But that’s the cynic and I have no proof of it. However, I’m not the only one that thought came to. Google the book and its poor performance and you will see a number of others who have thought the same and have made no bones about it.

Taking off my cynic’s hat, this poor performance is indicative of some of the problems in traditional publishing. HarperCollins didn’t consider the fact Cuomo isn’t all that popular outside of New York. Considering the low sales numbers, I wonder if he is all that popular outside of NYC. They made the mistake of paying on inflated and unrealistic expectations just as they did with the initial print run. As for the promo claim — or should I say no promo? — pardon me while I laugh. I’m sure if you asked Cuomo, he would say HarperCollins didn’t promote the book that way he thought they would. They expected Cuomo to do the promotion. Welcome to the world of publishing. Publishers, at least some of them, promise to promote a book and their idea of promotion is not the same as the author’s.

The long and short of the story is, however, a simple one and it is a cautionary tale. Publishing cannot continue to pay huge advances and guaranteed payouts to political darlings and Hollywood-types, giving them outrageous initial print runs without doing at least a simple market review first. How much money has been lost by traditional publishing houses like this? More importantly from a writer’s point of view, how many mid-list writers, those who have pretty much guaranteed sales of a certain figure book after book, have been dropped because publishers feel they can’t afford to keep them and how often has this happened AFTER a book has bombed by someone like Cuomo?

Next up is this post about why it’s a great time to be a writer, sort of.  I’ll leave you to read the post but the short version is simple. If you want to go traditional, not much has changed. You can keep slogging for months and years, trying to get your work picked up by an agent and then on an editor’s desk where you can hope to get a contract. While there is nothing wrong with this, the length of time it takes to break in this way is a negative, as is the declining number of bookstores.

Then there’s indie publishing. That’s the great part. If you have the drive and you have a book finished, you can publish it now. There’s no waiting to shop the book around, looking for an agent and then a contract. You make it the best book you can, slap a cover on it and push the publish button.

Of course, there’s a but. There’s always a but and that’s where the “sort of” comes in. To be successful as an indie, you have to work at it. You have to take on much of what the traditional publisher does. You have to make sure your book has a great cover, is well formatted and edited. You have to market it. You have to do the accounting and pay the taxes. In other words, you have to remember that this is a business. It’s a lot of work and there is no guarantee that you’ll be a “success”. However, there is an advantage in that you aren’t at the whim of a traditional publisher, held to releasing a book only according to their schedule.

The decision as to what is best for you is, of course, up to you.

Now, since I’m an indie, here’s a bit of promo.

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

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Filed under AMANDA, PROMOTION, WRITING, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Le Sigh

Yesterday, I blogged about writers and editors behaving badly in social media. No, I’m not talking about those writers who go after reviewers. I’m sure none of us will ever forget NB and his responses to anyone who might have ever posted a negative review to his masterpiece — and I use that therm loosely. This time it was a series of posts by different authors and editors complaining about how the authors who hired them to do work didn’t tip them after paying the agreed upon fee. Oh, that wasn’t the only complaint. There were cries of “foul!” when they weren’t greeted with profuse thanks for their work instead of question or — gasp — complaints. All that resulted in a blog about how you need to remember not to air your dirty laundry on social media because it will be seen by more folks than you think and it can — and probably will — run off business. The point of the post was that if you contract for editing or art or anything else, you need to price your services at a level where you don’t have to rely upon “tips”.

I’d expected that to be the end of the “but it’s a business, damn it!” reaction I’d had to the different Twitter and Facebook posts. Then I turned on the laptop this morning and checked the usual social media sites and, well, realized it wasn’t over. So repeat after me, “Writing is a business and needs to be treated as such.” Repeat it again and then, if it helps, print it out and put it on your desk somewhere.

Today’s post comes after seeing several folks take to social media asking how to sell more books. Usually, such a question wouldn’t bother me. After all, it’s a question we all ask ourselves on an almost daily — if not hourly — basis. Most of those asking were looking for honest answers and advice. And, again, it all comes down to treating the writing as a business. You have to know your market. You have to actually write. And you have to be able to make the hard decisions some times.

One of those decisions is when to end a series. It doesn’t matter how much you, as the author, love the series or the characters. It doesn’t even matter if the series hasn’t run the full story arc you have in mind. Sometimes, you have to step back and look at your sales numbers impartially and make the hard call to stop writing that series and move on to something else.

But, before you do that, you need to have something else already going. Again, you don’t stop making widgets without having the machinery up and running to replace them with cogs or whatchamacallits.

I’ve made the decision to end a series before I initially planned to. I liked the characters but I had to take a hard look at what was going on with sales. Oh, each new release made money, but not as much as my other books. Worse, sales did not continue. There would be an uptick after a new book was released but then sales would fall off. Sure, I got reads on KU but not enough to spend time writing more of the series. So, I back burner-ed it. One day, I may return to to it. But, for now, much as I like the series, it has taken a backseat to other books and series.

I even know what at least part of the problem with the series happens to be. It’s multi-fold and the problems are ones I see other authors having as well. The first is covers. The covers on this particular set of books don’t match the genre, especially now. The second are the tag words. These books came out before Amazon gave us the handy dandy list of words to use. I need to go back and redo those meta tags. The descriptions need work as well. Finally, the books are really a different sub-genre now than they were when they were written. That makes a lot of difference. Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t completely write that series off after all. Maybe I should put the time into updating the info and seeing what happens.

Now, before I put that particular series on the back burner, I made sure I had something else to take its place. Fortunately, I rolled the dice right and that series has far outsold the one it replaced. And no, I’m not going to tell you what series and you won’t find it because — bwahahahaha — it is under a closed pen name.Not even my fellow bloggers here know that name.

But back to the issue. If you are writing a series and it isn’t making the money you think it should and you have done every reasonable — and even some unreasonable — marketing ploy, then you have to ask yourself if it isn’t time to move on. To help make that decision, you need to look at your sales numbers, going all the way back to the beginning of the series. Look for trends. Do you get an uptick in sales when you release a new book and what is the drop off after the first few weeks and months? Is that drop off the same from book to book or does it lessen with each additional book you publish?

There are other things to look at as well, especially when it comes to what you are doing to market your work. Do you have active links in the back of your book, complete with descriptions, of your other titles? How about links to titles of books by other authors that you like and think your readers will as well? Are you blogging about your work and your writing process? Do you post on FB and other sites when you have a new book coming out?

Conversely, if you do utilize social media platforms, are you pissing folks off by spamming your notices everywhere, including on other authors’ pages? If you have an email list, do you only send out to those who asked to be included or have you captured email addresses for other people and send to them? If the latter, DON’T! That is another way to make people want to NOT buy your work.

You also need to remember that readers and fans will have a perception of you based upon your social media posts. This is why so many publishers for so long told their authors to be apolitical or, more recently, have required them to be anything but conservative in their posts. These publishers and editors thought readers wanted their authors to be liberal on all things. What they didn’t get is that, by doing so, they alienated even more readers than they were gaining — at least in a number of cases.

So, if you are busy posting on FB and elsewhere whines about how badly your sales are going, you have just shot yourself in the foot. How? By telling potential readers who might see the post that your book isn’t worth buying. Remember, it is all about perception and appearance.

But that’s not to say you can’t ask questions about how to increase sales or how to best market your book. Far from it. But what I’m suggesting is you consider who might see your post. There are any number of author-centric groups and pages on FB where you can ask such questions and get responses from people who have been there and done that. You can ask your crit group or find a mentor — waves as Sarah and Dave — all of whom can make suggestions.

Sometimes, however, you just have to admit that the series that is near and dear to your heart isn’t as special to the reading public. So, pull up your pants, tell your characters you love them but it is time you give some love to some others characters and plots and move on. You can always go back — in months, not days or weeks — and look at that series with a fresh and critical eye. Sometimes, stepping away gives you the space you need to breathe new life into it. But, if you don’t step away, you don’t give yourself that chance.

It all boils down to this: if you aren’t selling what you think you should, why? Have you looked at your work with a critical eye, compared it to the books in your genre or sub-genre to see what those other authors are doing that you aren’t? Have you looked at your social media presence with that same critical eye to see what sort of appearance you are presenting to the reading public? Remember, as a publicity tool, social media isn’t there for only your established fans but to help you read new ones as well. So what sort of impression are you giving them?

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Filed under AMANDA, MARKETING, PROMOTION, WRITING

Promo Post

Brad got hijacked by real life this morning and wasn’t able to post. So here’s a new promo post for your Mad Geniuses (Genii?), Enjoy.

Tom

by Dave Freer

Tom is a cat in trouble. The worst possible kind of trouble: he’s been turned into a human. Transformed by an irascible old magician in need of a famulus — a servant and an assistant, Tom is as good at being a servant as a cat ever is. The assistant part is more to Tom’s taste: he rather fancies impressing the girl cats and terrorizing the other toms by transforming himself into a tiger. But the world of magic, a vanished and cursed princess, and a haunted skull, and a demon in the chamber-pot, to say nothing of conspiring wizards and the wickedest witch in the west, all seem to be out to kill Tom. He is a cat coming to terms with being a boy, dealing with all this. He has a raven and a cheese as… sort of allies.

And of course there is the princess.

If you were looking for ‘War and Peace’ this is the wrong book for you. It’s a light-hearted and gently satirical fantasy, full of terrible puns and… cats.

***

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)

by Amanda S. Green

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

***

A French Polished Murder (Daring Finds Mysteries Book 2)

by Elise Hyatt (Sarah A. Hoyt)

When Dyce Dare decides to refinish a piano as a gift for her boyfriend, Cas Wolfe, the last thing she expects is to stumble on an old letter that provides a clue to an older murder. She thinks her greatest problems in life are that her friend gave her son a toy motorcycle, and that her son has become unaccountably attached to a neurotic black cat named Pythagoras. She is not prepared for forgotten murder to reach out and threaten her and everything she loves, including her parents’ mystery bookstore.

Originally published by Prime Crime.

***

Impaler

by Kate Paulk

Impaler by Kate Paulk revisits the tale of Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler. This is the tale of historical fact mixed with fiction and a touch of fantasy. But this is most definitely not the tired tale of vampires skulking in the night, lying in wait for innocent victims. Impaler tells the tale of a man devoted to family and country, cursed and looking for redemption.

December, 1476. The only man feared by the all-conquering Ottoman Sultan battles to reclaim his throne. If he falls all of Europe lies open to the Ottoman armies. If he succeeds…

His army is outnumbered and outclassed, his country is tiny, and he is haunted by a terrible curse. But Vlad Draculea will risk everything on one almost impossible chance to free his people from the hated Ottoman Empire.

***

Jade Star (Tanager) (Volume 1)

by Cedar Sanderson

Jade is determined to die. She is old, and useless, when she points her tiny subspace craft at the cold stars. She wakes up in the care of others who refuse to grant her death, and instead give her a new mission in life.

Jade isn’t happy, and she only gets angrier when she learns that her mysterious new home hides a horrible secret. It’s time for this old lady to kick butt and take names. Aliens, death, destruction… nothing trumps the fierce old woman who is protecting her family.

A Tanager Novella

***

The Chaplain’s War

by Brad Torgersen

The mantis cyborgs: insectlike, cruel, and determined to wipe humanity from the face of the galaxy.

The Fleet is humanity’s last chance: a multi-world, multi-national task force assembled to hold the line against the aliens’ overwhelming technology and firepower. Enter Harrison Barlow, who like so many young men of wars past, simply wants to serve his people and partake of the grand adventure of military life. Only, Harrison is not a hot pilot, nor a crack shot with a rifle. What good is a Chaplain’s Assistant in the interstellar battles which will decide the fate of all?

More than he thinks. Because while the mantis insectoids are determined to eliminate the human threat to mantis supremacy, they remember the errors of their past. Is there the slightest chance that humans might have value? Especially since humans seem to have the one thing the mantes explicitly do not: an innate ability to believe in what cannot be proven nor seen God. Captured and stranded behind enemy lines, Barlow must come to grips with the fact that he is not only bargaining for his own life, but the lives of everyone he knows and loves. And so he embarks upon an improbable gambit, determined to alter the course of the entire war.

***

Rocky Mountain Retribution (The Ames Archives Book 2)

by Peter Grant

In the post-Civil War West, the railroads are expanding, the big money men are moving in, and the politicians they are buying make it difficult for a man to stand alone on his own. So, Walt Ames moves his wife, his home and his business from Denver to Pueblo. The railroads are bringing new opportunities to Colorado Territory, and he’s going to take full advantage of them.

Ambushed on their way south, Walt and his men uncover a web of corruption and crime to rival anything in the big city. And rough justice, Western-style, sparks a private war between Walt and some of the most dangerous killers he’s ever encountered, a deadly war in which neither friends nor family are spared.

Across the mountains and valleys of the southern Rocky Mountains, Walt and his men hunt for the ruthless man at the center of the web. Retribution won’t be long delayed… and it cannot be denied.

***

Scaling The Rim

by Dorothy Grant

Never underestimate the power of a competent tech.

When Annika Danilova arrived at the edge of the colony’s crater to install a weather station, she knew the mission had been sabotaged from the start. The powers that be sent the wrong people, underequipped, and antagonized their supporting sometimes-allies. The mission was already slated for unmarked graves and an excuse for war…

But they hadn’t counted on Annika allying with the support staff, or the sheer determination of their leader, Captain Restin, to accomplish the mission. Together, they will overcome killing weather above and traitors within to fight for the control of the planet itself!

***

Wraithkin (The Kin Wars Saga Book 1)

by Jason Cordova

How far would a man go to protect those he loved? For Gabriel Espinoza, the answer was simple: to the ends of the universe.

When a failed genetic test ruins his life, Gabriel and his fiancée prepare to run to a world where the laws aren’t as strict. There they could remain, in peace, for the remainder of their days, their love unspoiled by the strict regime which controls the Dominion of Man.

But Fate is a cruel, fickle mistress.

Torn from the only woman he had ever loved, Gabriel is prepared to burn the galaxy to get her back.

How far would a man go to protect the empire he was sworn to uphold? For Andrew Espinoza, the answer was a bit more complicated.

Torn between family loyalty and his duty to his country, Andrew must infiltrate a rich and powerful clan to determine if they are plotting against the Dominion of Man, but while undercover he discovers something far darker and more dangerous is lurking in the shadows, and he is the only man who can stop it.

But Fate is a cruel, fickle mistress.

How far will Andrew go to ensure the success of his mission?

One brother must save himself; the other must save the universe. But can either survive long enough to achieve their goal?

***

First Posting (The Directorate Book 4)

by Pam Uphoff

A Novella. Fourth book of The Directorate series.

Three shiny bright graduates head for their first postings. They all want to get on Teams, to explore across the dimensions. But Ebsa finds himself behind a desk, and Paer’s a nurse’s assistant in the hospital.

They are both determined to earn a spot on a team.

Ra’d is the only one who’s gone straight to teams . . . but an Action Team? Well, no doubt their reputations are exaggerated. All he has to do is fit in and enjoy the work.

***

Tales of the Unquiet Gods

by David Pascoe

Unearthly darkness stalks the streets of Manhattan. Glowing eyes haunt forgotten tunnels. In the daylight, inhuman shadows grow ever deeper and … hungry.

Six are chosen to confront this gnawing evil, and given help from an unexpected power. Hunting them come walking shadows and fallen godlings, abominations and darkling creations seeking to devour their very souls.

Follow a busker, a bouncer, a homeless vet, and a cop as they the battle the darkness without and the despair within, for the fate of the city and the souls of those they love.

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Filed under AMANDA, PROMOTION

Scaling the Rim

As we come up on Valentines Day, I want to take a moment to acknowledge all the gentlemen and ladies (and dragons, and other) in the audience who see a hint of romance in their scifi or fantasy and immediately ask:

As The Princess Bride proves, it’s possible for a wider audience to really enjoy your scifi and fantasy, even if it has kissing, as long as it’s worked in well. Who doesn’t enjoy fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles?

Good stories aren’t split into stories for boys and stories for girls. If you do it right, the guys will find that maybe it’s not so bad to sit through the kissing parts, and the girls will make it past the screaming eels. Besides, it’s always good to slip in there that you should never trust a traitor, even if he is your prince, and that even kissing can be awesome if it’s done by the Dread Pirate Roberts.

I tried to clear that high bar with this book – Scaling the Rim. It’s set on a colony trapped in a crater while the terraforming on their iceball is failing. While the two factions have temporarily ceased their running civil war and are pretending to cooperate in order to install a weather station that’ll warn them both of killing cold coming down from above, things are never as simple as they seem!

It’s got fighting and skiing, avalanches and intrigue, killing cold and uncovering old secrets, gunfights, true love and sacrifice…

You’ll like it.

Never underestimate the power of a competent tech.

When Annika Danilova arrived at the edge of the colony’s crater to install a weather station, she knew the mission had been sabotaged from the start. The powers that be sent the wrong people, underequipped, and antagonized their supporting sometimes-allies. The mission was already slated for unmarked graves and an excuse for war…

But they hadn’t counted on Annika allying with the support staff, or the sheer determination of their leader, Captain Restin, to accomplish the mission. Together, they will overcome killing weather above and traitors within to fight for the control of the planet itself!

Scaling the Rim, by Dorothy Grant

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Filed under FYNBOSSPRESS, PROMOTION, Uncategorized

Why not let a little reality into the room?

Let me start by saying I have not successfully carried out a coup here at MGC and taken over. Nor did I draw the short straw and get stuck with filling in for everyone. Brad did me a favor last week by switching days with me. That left me posting Sunday, his usual day, and yesterday, mine. This morning, knowing Sarah is on the homestretch of her novel, I offered to fill in for her. I blame the fact that I am in the last third of my final edits and that gives me brain mush. But, in a way, I’m glad because it lets me continue talking about about the DBW conference and some of the information coming out of it.

Once again, I want to thank The Passive Voice for pointing me in the direction of the post that is today’s inspiration. For those of you who are not currently following TPV, why not? All kidding aside, I highly recommend the site.

Ron Vitale attended the DBW conference and has blogged about the experience. I will admit up front that I don’t agree with everything Vitale has to say. That doesn’t mean he is wrong, just that my experience as an indie shows me different aspects or approaches to the subject. His comments are italicized.

The biggest take home message from Digital Book World Indie is so simple that I almost missed it while preparing for the next talk. When we as indie authors unite, we have strength. We are the sum of our individual skills.

I totally agree with this. There are very few of us who have all the skills necessary to put out a quality project. Sure, we are writers. Some better than others. Some of us are excellent self-editors and others, to be honest, suck at it. Some of us are also awesome artist or can do a beautiful job lettering a cover. However, those who can do it all are few and far between. So what are the rest of us to do? If you are like me and most of us here at MGC, you find other authors or artists who will trade services. Or you hire someone to do it for you. This is not a new idea. There are any number of loose, informal co-ops for indies out there. We do not have to work in a vacuum.

The second most important lesson I learned at DBW Indie is that traditional publishers, to quote Jane Friedman, “are kicking ass in marketing.”

Now, this is where the OP began to lose me. What? How are trad publishers “kicking ass” in marketing? The only real advantage I see with going the traditional route is that it can get you into bookstores — for a limited period of time. But, as we’ve discussed before, how much of an advantage is that really when more and more readers are going to online sites to buy their print books?

But, I’ll give the OP the benefit of the doubt and see why he believes this to be the case.

Not only are publishers creating apps such as Crave, but they are performing A/B tests with their advertising, targeting the appropriate readers with the ads as well as sending out thousands of ARCs in advance to build reviews online.

Wait, what? Publishers are creating apps and testing their marketing targeting and sending out ARCs?

First of all, as PG noted in his comments about the piece, just about anyone who wants to can create an app. So what is Crave and can it really help you, the reader?

I remembered vaguely reading something about Crave, but I didn’t remember the details. So I followed the link and, omg, all I could do was shake my head. In case you haven’t looked it up, Crave came out in 2015, iirc, and was built to keep the Twitter and Snapchat generation interested in a book. Here is a description of what Crave was meant to do:

As you scroll through an ebook on Crave, the app periodically breaks into the narrative to show you a text message conversation between two characters, a video of an actor portraying one of the characters doing an interview about the book’s events, a filmed moment (like the hero first looking up at the heroine) or even a reaction GIF.

But after around 1,000 words, you’re cut off. Crave slices each book into mini-chapters intended to take only three or four minutes to read, including multimedia. You can tune back in the next day for another bite-sized installment, generously salted with supplementary videos and text exchanges.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want is for some idiotic text message to pop up in the middle of a scene I am reading — or a video or pretty much anything else. I sure as hell don’t want to be forced to stop after 1,000 words. Can you imagine how long it would take you to read a book that way? A 100k word book would take almost 1/3 of a year. Would you remember the beginning? Would you even care about finishing it? And yet this is supposedly one of the ways traditional publishing is winning the marketing war against indies.

The mind boggles.

As for the testing of advertising to see if it hits the right target market, hell’s bells, that is what advertising agencies have been doing since their inception. It is not new.

The sending of ARCs? Again, not new. Also not limited to traditional publishers. Indies do this as well. Indies also utilize social media, email, mailing lists, etc., to get the word out.

I’m not convinced traditional publishing wins the marketing war in any way except for getting books into bookstores and that is no longer nearly as important as it used to. Do you agree?

There is more and I’ll let you read it. The one thing the OP brings up that I will admit I have been thinking about again is diversifying my catalog beyond Amazon. For a long time, I had my books in every major online outlet. I followed the adage of not putting all my “eggs” in one basket. It made sense to make my work available on all platforms.

Then came the day when I realized I was actually losing money doing so. I wasn’t bringing in enough from the other sites to justify the time needed to put together different upload files, the time necessary to upload the files and build the product page on the different sites, the time necessary to check to make sure the other sites had the correct information on their sites, to check the sales pages, make sure I got paid on time, etc. Then Amazon started Kindle Unlimited and the monies for “borrows” went up dramatically.

There was also a change in technology. More and more people were reading their e-books on tablets and smartphones. That meant they were not tied to a single store like they were with dedicated e-book readers. Folks who had been buying solely from BN could not buy their books through Amazon and read them using the Kindle app. That was another thing that saw my sales on Amazon increasing. No longer was I getting folks asking when my books were going to come out on BN?

Now, however, more and more indies are taking part in the KU program. That is great in some ways but when you look at the bottom line, there is an impact. Just as there was after about a year of the old Kindle Lending Library. The monies being brought in are decreasing. I know this isn’t what is happening for some indies but a number of others I have spoken with are experiencing the same thing. So it is time to sit down and determine whether to remain solely with Amazon or to give up the monies coming in from Kindle Unlimited and expand my marketplace once again.

Any way, read the OP and let me know what you think. The one thing I agree with completely is the best way for indies to not only survive but to flourish is to share ideas and information. That is what we try to do here at MGC and each of you are a big part of that.

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Tuesday morning links and thoughts

I am up to my eyes in finishing up a major rewrite so I can finally send Dagger of Elanna to press. Because of that, I forgot today was my day for MGC. So, when I did finally remember, I went looking for any news that might be of interest. I’m going to link to some of what I found and am interested in seeing what you think.

First off is an article from Publishers Weekly. It details the “bad news about e-books“. It seems part of the Digital Book World conference, Jonathan Stolper from Neilsen Books noted that e-book sales from “reporting publishers” was down 16%. He noted that one cause of the decline was the rise in e-book prices. According to him, on average, e-books increased $3 to an average of $8 per title. He also claimed another factor for the decline was the increase in use of tablets by readers instead of dedicate e-book readers. Stolper said that readers who use a dedicated e-book reader buy more books than those who use tablets.

Now, I’ll admit I was surprised to see he admitted part of the problem — a major part, in my mind — is the increased price of e-books by traditional publishers. I’m not sure where he got the average $8 price. It certainly isn’t the average price of new titles coming from the Big 5 publishers. I checked yesterday and the latest e-book coming next month from J D Robb is $14.99. James Patterson’s upcoming book, the 16th in the Women’s Murder Club series, is also selling for $14.99. Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs is selling for $13.99. Those are a long way from the $8 per title Stolper mentioned.

Perhaps he is averaging out the prices of new and old books. If so, he is not only comparing apples and oranges but he is trying to fool us with the old shell game con. Yes, e-book readers look for older books to read and buy them. But most readers, be they those who only read print books or those who read only digital or those who do both look for new books to buy from their favorite authors. Readers understand that there is no reason for an e-book to cost more than they have to pay for the print version. So, instead of buying the e-book, or even the print book, they wait for it to go on sale through Amazon or another online retailer or they go to the second hand bookstore or borrow it from the library.

There is something else that, when considered, shows a major flaw in Stolper’s argument. He discusses only sales form “reporting publishers”. In other words, indie authors, small presses and probably a number of medium sized publishers aren’t included in his data. When you take that into consideration, what you have is a window into what is happening with traditional publishing and not with publishing as a whole. Not that it surprises me. As for the “people who read on tablets buy fewer books than those with dedicated e-book readers” argument, all I can say is he needs to talk to my bank account. I buy as many books, if not more, now that I use a tablet for the majority of my reading than I did before I owned a tablet.

I recommend comparing what Stolper has to say with what Author Earnings said. You can find the Authors Earnings report here.

In other news about e-book pricing, for those who live in Canada, Apple and several major publishers have reached an agreement with the government to end what has been termed anti-competitive pricing. That sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how it impacts pricing. Will Canadian outlets take the approach Amazon did when agency pricing ended here? With publishers setting the price for e-books, will the online outlets start discounting print books more, even if — as with Amazon — it is only for a limited time? If so, how will the publishers react to that and what sort of spin will they put on it to explain their financial losses/gains?

There is a new “publisher” out there for indies. Looking at it, it looks more like a distribution platform ala Draft2Digital and others. Called Pronoun, it bills itself as a “free publishing platform where authors can create, sell, and promote their books”. It might be legit and a great platform. My problem is it says it is free but then talks about distribution fees. Unfortunately, on a quick look at the site, I did not find any real information about what these distribution fees might be. In fact, when I went to the support page and clicked on the link for how much it would cost, I got a 404 page error. In other words, no information. That always bothers me. I want to know before signing up for an account, even a free account, how deeply someone is going to try to reach into my pocket. So, if any of you guys have had experience with Pronoun, I’d love to hear what you think.

Finally, Amazon UK has launched its second literary competition in just a few months. This one has a pretty substantial prize and the promise of a marketing campaign for the winner. For more information about the Kindle Storyteller Award, check here. Full details can be found on the official page for the contest.

Have I missed any recent news you think we need to know about? If so, list it in the comments.

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Filed under AMANDA, PROMOTION, reading, WRITING

Food for thought

Instead of an article dealing with a single theme, what I’d like to do today is link to several articles that I’ve bookmarked in recent months, all of which affect us as writers to a greater or lesser degree.  I invite you to read them in full for yourselves, to assess how the issues they discuss may affect you, your family, and your writing career.

Let’s start with an important issue for writers’ health:  our eyes.  The New York Times published an article titled ‘Computer Vision Syndrome Affects Millions‘.  It’s certainly a very important subject for writers, who use computers more than most.

Studies have indicated 70 percent to 90 percent of people who use computers extensively, whether for work or play, have one or more symptoms of computer vision syndrome. The effects of prolonged computer use are not just vision-related. Complaints include neurological symptoms like chronic headaches and musculoskeletal problems like neck and back pain.

The report’s authors … cited four studies demonstrating that use of a computer for even three hours a day is likely to result in eye symptoms, low back pain, tension headache and psychosocial stress.

Still, the most common computer-related complaint involves the eyes, which can develop blurred or double vision as well as burning, itching, dryness and redness, all of which can interfere with work performance.

I regularly experience this problem.  When I’m working flat-out to complete a writing project, I may spend twelve hours or more every day in front of my computer.  Dry, itching, irritated eyes are the inevitable result.  To stave off more serious problems, I use an eye ointment when I sleep, plus moisturizing eye drops at intervals during the day.  If redness or scratchiness results, I add allergy eye drops to the mix.

Next, a couple of useful articles on Amazon algorithms.  Self-Publishing Review put out an article titled ‘Mythbusting The Amazon Algorithm – Reviews and Ranking For Authors‘.

MYTH 1 – Nobody knows how the Amazon Algorithm Works

TRUTH – Yes they do.

The Amazon Algorithm is an A9 algorithm, a pretty run-of-the-mill product search engine with a personalization built in. A9 is a company in Palo Alto that creates product algorithms, code that tells Amazon’s website how to sort and load product lists for each customer’s experience. Anyone who wants to read about how this algorithm works has to do nothing more than search for information online and read the manuals, forums, science articles, and a myriad of other documents that tell you EXACTLY how it works. You can even see samples of the code that makes it work if you look!

. . .

MYTH 3 – You can figure out keywords that people will use to find you by typing into the search bar and seeing what is autosuggested.

TRUTH – The search bar is personalized to YOU and YOU ALONE.

The article contains many other very useful and insightful comments about how Amazon searches work.  It’s important information for those of us who rely on such searches to help potential readers find our books.

Startup Brothers adds to the mix with an article titled ‘How to Rank Your Products on Amazon – The Ultimate Guide‘.  I’m not sure how ‘ultimate’ it is, but it contains some very interesting information.  Here’s an excerpt.

These 3 rules are critically important to making the most of this guide, so make sure you read them twice:

  • Amazon’s top goal in everything they do is always maximize Revenue Per Customer (RPC)
  • Amazon tracks every action that a customer takes on Amazon, right down to where their mouse hovers on the page
  • The A9 algorithm exists to connect the data tracked in #2 to the goal stated in #1

From A9’s website and from the information that Amazon makes available to us through their Seller Central (login required), we can group Amazon’s ranking factors into three equally important categories:

Conversion Rate – These are factors that Amazon has found have a statistically relevant effect on conversion rates. Examples of conversion rate factors include customer reviews, quality of images and pricing.

Relevancy – Relevancy factors tell A9 when to consider your product page for a given search term. Relevancy factors include your title and product description.

Customer Satisfaction & Retention – How do you make the most money from a single customer? Make them so happy that they keep coming back. Amazon knows that the secret to max RPC lies in customer retention. It’s a lot harder to get someone to spend $100 once than $10 ten times. Customer Retention factors include seller feedback and Order Defect Rate.

. . .

What you’ll find below are 25 Amazon ranking factors that either Amazon themselves or independent marketers have confirmed the A9 algorithm to use.

I’m taking a good, hard look at those 25 factors, and considering how to use them in marketing my books.  There’s a lot of food for thought there.

Bloomberg may be stating the obvious in an article titled ‘It’s a Writer’s Market: Digital platforms have emerged to serve midlist authors‘, but remember, many of those reading it won’t have our exposure to the market.  It reminds us that niche organizations are emerging to offer trad-pub alternatives to self-publishing authors.

A new generation of online editorial services and self-publishing platforms … offer skills and services that used to be available only through traditional publishing, plus favorable royalty splits. They also allow authors to retain the copyright to their work. The array of offerings is spurring some writers to leave their publishing houses—particularly midlist authors whose books receive scant marketing support. Some are also using the new services to put out e-book versions of their out-of-print titles.

The always interesting Simon Owens surveys technology, media and marketing issues.  I’ve used two of his articles in previous blog posts, here and at Bayou Renaissance Man.  I recommend them to your attention.  The first, ‘Book publishers are incentivizing midlist authors to abandon them for Amazon‘, is a searing indictment of how mainstream publishers are effectively cutting themselves off from the next generation of writers.

… over the past few decades, what was once a diverse publishing field has consistently coalesced, through acquisitions and mergers, into an industry with only four major publishers. What’s more, these major publishers are owned by even larger, multi-billion dollar media conglomerates.

So when you’re a company that’s dealing with revenues in the billions (with a B), suddenly a product that can only sell a few thousand units and is ultimately “unscalable,” isn’t worthy of investment. So instead they invest in products that have the potential to not only sell millions of units, but also spawn spin-off merchandise and movie deals.

Amazon, with its ecommerce system and now its Kindle publishing platform, has figured out how to scale midlist authors, and is therefore willing to gobble up those writers the big publishers turn away, offering them a bigger cut of their sales in the process.

The second article, ‘Jeff Bezos is busy building moats‘, examines how Amazon is making sure no competitor can horn in on the territory it’s carved out for itself.

By encroaching into the spaces of other industries, Bezos keeps those other industries from finding cracks in the walk with which to encroach on his main cash cows. And once he has firm moats around his main profit castles, he can start increasing the price on those castles, capitalizing on competitor-free profit margins. The more power he holds over the ebook industry, for instance, the more authors he can direct away from traditional New York publishers and into Amazon’s internal publishing platform, where Amazon takes between a 30 and 70 percent commission on all sales.

Seen this way, Bezos is more concerned with future competitors who are nipping at the edge of his margins than traditional retail companies trying to move into his space. He’s cornered the e-retail market, now he’s simply scorching the earth around it.

Simon Owens brings a very valuable business perspective to our outlook as writers and publishers.  I’ve subscribed to his newsletter, and I highly recommend it to you too.

Next, I’ve said before that the subscription model of reading books, exemplified by Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, is likely to become dominant, just as it has (and is continuing to do) in the music and video markets.  It’s not limited to entertainment, either.  It’s now penetrating other sectors of the economy.  To take just one example, the Guardian asks, ‘Is the mass sharing of driverless cars about to reshape our suburbs?‘  It’s written in the context of city rather than rural driving, but its points affect far more than just transport.

“Look at something like car parking,” Bondam told me. “It’s so old fashioned in my eyes. The private ownership of a car – that will end in the next 10 to 15 years. I think it’s going to be a combination of shared cars, of city cars, of public transport, bicycles, electric bicycles, of freight distribution by electric cargo bikes.”

This sounded like a rapid timeframe, I told him. Bondam was adamant: “I’m totally convinced about that. Why on earth would you make a big investment that you just leave outside 95% of the time and don’t use?”

Think of this in the context of reading.  More and more of our customers are asking themselves, “Why should I pay the full retail price for an item that’s going to sit on my shelves, or as a file on my electronic device, and never – or seldom – be read again?  Why not just ‘rent’ it for as long as I need it, then hand it back?”  It makes more and more economic sense for readers;  so we, as writers, are going to have to adjust our business model to take that into account.  We’ll make less on each ‘sale’ (or borrow, or rental, or whatever you want to call it), but at least we’ll make something.  This is an unavoidable wave that’s only just begun to affect our industry.  We need to be thinking very seriously about its impact on our income stream.  It’ll be considerable.

Finally, we need to accept that many of our potential readers are going to have a lot less disposable income to play with, as the ‘new economy’ takes hold and uproots long-established patterns of work and compensation.  MarketWatch warns bluntly:  ‘Workers will simply try to survive, rather than prosper, as tech takes over the economy‘.

For most people, a secure, well-paid job is the difference between a reasonable life and penury. Today, changes in the structure of the work force driven by globalization and technology make this objective increasingly elusive.

. . .

U.S. median earnings have not increased since 1975 in real terms. Average real Japanese and German household incomes have been stagnant for more than a decade. U.K. factory incomes haven’t risen since the late-1970s, after adjusting for inflation.

. . .

While there are well-paid jobs for a small portion of the workforce with the required skills, the vast majority of new employment is in the low-paid service sector, such as retail, security and health care. Youth unemployment remains high.

A large part of the population are now members of the “precariat,” a shortened version of the term “precarious proletariat” used in Japan to describe workers without job security who now make up over 30% of the country’s workforce as companies cut labor costs.

Changes in the workforce affect the nature of society. In the brave new world, a small elite, say, 5%, enjoy the significant wealth and control of much of its resources. They employ another stratum of people, say, 20%, to administer their affairs as well as control the precariat, 75% of the population.

Connections, beauty and brains will permit upward mobility, though movement between the groups may become more difficult. In the new economy, the precariat survives rather than prospers in an essentially subsistence existence.

We have to understand that a large – perhaps a very large – proportion of our readers are going to fall into the ‘precariat’, as the article puts it.  Their discretionary income to spend on luxuries such as entertainment is going to be severely circumscribed.  That’s precisely why the ‘sharing’ economic model in general, and the subscription model of entertainment for music, videos and books in particular, are becoming so widespread.  They’re all the ‘precariat’ can afford.  It’s even happening in luxury goods – for example, Cadillac has just announced a (rather expensive) car sharing scheme.  They haven’t done so out of the goodness of their hearts, but because they understand that their traditional ‘buyers’ won’t be able to afford to buy their vehicles in the same numbers as before.  They’re adapting to the changing market.

Whether we like it or not, as writers we’d better work hard to understand the wider economy, note what’s going on there, and adjust our income and expenditure plans accordingly.  It’s going to be more difficult to make a living in our field in future.  Unless we can confidently predict sales in the thousands every month, we’ll probably need to hold on to our day jobs.

Well, there you are.  That’s a selection of articles that I’ve found thought-provoking in terms of my writing career and activities over the past few months.  I hope they’re just as interesting and useful for you, too.

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Filed under MARKETING, PETER GRANT, PROMOTION, WRITING: PUBLISHING