Tag Archives: social media

It’s really a business, pt. 2

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about how writing is a business and we need to treat it as such. In that post, I talked about some of the things we need to do after we hit the publish button. No, I didn’t discuss marketing, at least not in detail. Why? Because I’m still figuring that out myself. Instead, I talked about things we do, or should do, to make our product pages attractive. Today, let’s talk about the Amazon author page and one or two related topics.

First of all, if you have released anything on Amazon and haven’t set up your Amazon author page, do so now. Don’t finish reading this post. Hie thee off to Author Central. You will sign in with the same user name and password that you have set up for your KDP account. Once you have, the first page you encounter is a general information page. Review everything there because there is some interesting information, especially if you haven’t been publishing for long.

Now, go to the Author Page tab (or follow the link on the first page). This is your first, and most important, chance to increase the connection you build with your readers when they search for your name or your titles on Amazon. You can update your author bio, add information and links to your blog, talk about upcoming events you’ll be at and more. Take time to look it over and see how you can tweak the information there to make it Amazon author page more interesting to your readers.

The Books tab is probably as important as the Author Page tab. If you search your name on Amazon, I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that you will find not only your titles but the titles of other authors as well. That’s thanks to Amazon’s search function. It is also why you want to make sure all your books and short stories are listed on your author page. Yes, it is usually done automatically but mistakes happen. Using the Books tab, you can add titles yourself. Or remove them if a wrong title has been assigned to you.

The next tab, Sales, is a useful (if sometimes depressing) tool. It gives you not only your Bookscan numbers but also your author ranking and title rankings. I’ll admit, I don’t tend to pay much attention to these numbers except when a new title comes out. I want to see how that impacts the rest of my sales. It also helps track trends pertaining to the best time to release a new title, how many titles need to be released before the next sales jump takes place, etc.

The last tab is for Customer Reviews. The reviews are posted chronologically and aren’t for the faint at heart. After all, that one-star review will be right there with the five-star, not broken out by how many stars the reviewer gave you. There is no new information here. All the reviews are available on the individual product pages. This just gathers them all together in one place for you.

All of that is a long way of saying set the page up so your name will have that nifty little link on Amazon that your fans can click on to see all your titles in one place without having books by other authors added to the list. So spend a few minutes and set it up.

While you’re doing that, look at the website or blog you link to from your Amazon author page. I finally sat down and redid my blog a week or so ago. I really love the new look. It is cleaner and, imo, easier to read. But there are still problems with it. I hadn’t realized when I changed themes that there is no link from the home page to click through to comments. You have to open each individual blog entry to see — or make — a comment. Not good. Not good at all. So, I’m off on a hunt for another blog theme that looks pretty much the same but that has the comment function enabled for the home page.

I also need to redo my banner. I haven’t done so yet because of the need to find a new theme for the page. Each theme has its own requirements when it comes to the size of the banner. Since I’m lazy, I only want to do it once. Plus, I want to make sure I do it right or Sarah will yell at me. (She usually yells at me when I do graphics because I don’t do the lettering properly.)

Another issue I ran into when I redid the theme was discovering that Amazon no longer has an easy way to make a carousel widget to display your work with buy links active. So, when you go to my blog now, you see the books, well their covers, listed individually in the sidebar. That’s not too bad but I need to edit the CSS to fix the alignment. Again, I’m not going to do that until I find a new theme. Otherwise, I’ll have to repeat the work and, as I said earlier, I’m lazy.

But redoing the blog isn’t enough. I need to redo all my sites and combine them. The combining isn’t difficult. It’s simply a matter of redirecting URLs so I’m only maintaining one actual site. When the pen names were not “open”, it was necessary to have different sites for each one. Now that they are open, that’s not necessary. So, once the theme is found and the child pages set up, the other sites will be redirected and their information updated. What that means is I need to set aside a day or two in order to get it all done. That’s hard for me to do because there are always other things I need (or would rather) do.

Our blogs and websites, our Twitter and Facebook accounts are our faces to our fans. We might prefer to be sitting around the den in our underwear but is that really the image we want our fans to see?

Just as we have to take a hard look at our product pages, blurbs and covers, we need to look at what sort of “face” we present with our blogs and websites (and I haven’t even gotten to what we put out on social media).

I’ll leave you with this. Take a look at your blog and/or your website (whichever one gets the most traffic). Does the visitor see links to your work right away? Do you have a widget in place that allows them to donate money should they want to? If you live in a state where you can take part in the Amazon Associates Program, are you links set to your Associates account? In other words, how are you monetizing your page? That was something I learned long ago. I might not make a lot from my Associates account but it is nice to be able to buy an extra book or ten or more from time to time. (Hint: the more you use it, the more money you can make.)

Your website, blog and Amazon author page are ways you advertise your work. Don’t they deserve to look the best they can? Now go forth and put your best digital foot forward.

Oh yeah, check out my blog for a short snippet from Battle Wounds, the next short story set in the Honor and Duty universe.

12 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, MARKETING, PROMOTION

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?

46 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, MARKETING, PROMOTION, WRITING

Think like a pro

This is a quasi-follow up to last week’s post. In this case, I’m not necessarily saying to think like a “pro” writer but think like a business pro. This means sitting back and considering how what you just wrote as a blog post or FB status post or Tweet or whatever the social media platform of the day is called — and doing so before you hit the enter button. It means looking at the long term as well as the short term benefits of any action you are considering when it comes to your career. It also means doing what is best for you in this ever-changing career of ours.

So let’s start with the elephant in the room: social media. Almost every author and editor, publisher and agent, has a Facebook page. They Tweet and Reddit and whatever else is out there. Because is it an election year, our feeds are filled with a number of political posts. Some are thoughtful and well thought out. They look at the issues and the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. In short, they are the sort of posts where debate are encouraged and personal attacks aren’t tolerated. Then there are the ones where the pro in question starts out by condemning — or worse — anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their political beliefs. They ridicule those who don’t think the “right” way. They will instantly block or unfriend those who aren’t as liberal or conservative or whatever as they are.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy discussing politics — or just about anything else — with people who are willing to discuss and debate the issues with me. I also remember those who dig their heels in the sand, put their fingers in their ears and try to shout me down. In other words, online behavior can and does impact my decision on what books I buy.

But it goes beyond political discussion or diatribe. It is behavior in general. As noted in last week’s post, if a writer takes to social media to do a hatchet job on an agent or editor and doesn’t back up what they are saying, well, that author comes across as a prima donna and only does himself harm. When an agent or editor take to social media and make fun of an author, especially someone trying to break into the business, they are no better than the prima donna author. They go on my little list (that is getting longer with each month that passes) of folks I don’t necessarily want to do business with.

Then there are the authors — or anyone else, for that matter — who look at social media as their own private promotion train. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those authors or agents who Tweet constantly about their books. Every other Facebook post is about this book they have written or that book they are about to publish. They fill your feed with what are nothing but ads and, all too often, poorly written ones. I get the need to promote your work. Everyone in this business does. But there is a reason why folks love using their DVRs. They can fast-forward through the commercials and when you social media feed is little more than one ongoing infomercial, folks are going to do the FB version of  fast-forwarding. They will block your posts on their feed or unfriend you or both.

Even worse in some ways than the constant informercial postings are when authors (or others) create Facebook pages or groups and add folks to it without their permission. Guys, I can’t stress highly enough what a big no-no this is. I know it is easier and less time consuming to just add folks and let them then decide if they want to stay in the group or not but it isn’t cool. Instead of doing that, add a few folks you know want to take part. Ask them to help spread word about your page and then grow your fanbase that way. Most of all, when someone you have added without their permission calls you on the carpet for it, admit you screwed up and apologize. Don’t then be a dick about it and attack them. Man up — or woman up — and admit you made a mistake and ask them to hang around because you will do everything you can to make it worth their while.

There is more when it comes to social media but it all basically comes down to this: If you were talking to someone face-to-face, would you say to them what you are about to post on social media? A second question you need to ask is if you would say it to them in a crowded room where everyone can and will hear you say it? Finally, ask yourself if you would say it in front of your mother or grandmother, priest or pastor, or how about your child? If you answered “no” to any of this, you might want to seriously consider whether you want to put it out on social media where the world can see it.

Always remember, your social media presence is the only interaction most of your fans and potential fans will ever have with you. This is your chance to win them over to your side, not alienate them because you are being a douche.

Social media isn’t the only thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to acting like a pro. Some of us are more than happy to take the risk of indie publishing. We know we face an uphill battle getting our books into brick and mortar stores. We have to decide if we want to put all our e-book eggs into the Amazon basket or spread them far and wide with different online vendors as well. We have to deal with our own bookkeeping and making sure our work is edited, etc. However, we also know we can get our work out at our own schedule and not be limited by the number of slots a publisher has or working our way through slush piles. The indie route isn’t right for everyone just as the traditional route isn’t the only way.

However, there is a quote that caught my eye this morning that I’d like to share with you. It comes from an interview with agent Molly Friedrich. She has been in the game for some time now and represents such authors as Sue Grafton and Frank McCourt, among others.

When asked if ebooks and they way they have changed the industry has impacted her, Friedrich responded:

Ebooks have been very healthy for publishers. They have not been healthy for authors. Publishers are making a load of money — very little of which is going to the author’s statement.

I know that doesn’t surprise most of us, or it shouldn’t. We have seen publishers trying to claim they have to re-edit ebooks or redesign covers, etc. They have tried double-dipping on their so-called expenses to lower the monies they have to pay out to authors. Then we have the debacle of the price-fixing attempt some of them did with Apple in an attempt to hurt Amazon. The only ones hurt then were the authors and readers. It has become clear that publishers either don’t understand the economics of ebooks (or of customer demand and price points) or they don’t care.

At a time when most folks balk at paying cover prices for books, hard cover or soft, why do publishers think we will pay $12.99 for an ebook? When they should be realizing that more units could be sold if they would lower prices (even if it was simply to $9.99) why are they continuing to raise prices? New ebooks by J. D. Robb and David Baldacci are now listed at $14.99.

$14.99

Nope, this reader is not going to pay that much for a book, no matter how much I like the author. The only exception might be for research books but not for fiction. Not now and probably not ever. That is especially true when I can and have found indie authors and small press authors who sell their books at half that price or less.

The lesson from this is to recognize that even a pro on the traditional side recognizes the fact that the publishers are not working in the best interest of authors when it comes to ebook pricing. That means you need to take this into consideration when you are contemplating whether to go indie or traditional.

I guess what I’m saying is that, no matter whether you are looking at promoting your work or trying to decide which route is best for you, approach it like you would anything else in business. Look at the strengths and weaknesses. Look at what will best serve your needs and help you reach your goals. Then go for it. Just remember that this is your profession and you need to always remember that.

23 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING, WRITING: LIFE, WRITING: PUBLISHING

It is a business. . .

So treat it as one. Yesterday, as I was looking at FB, I came across a post from someone I respect a great deal. He also has one of the most unverifiable jobs there is in publishing. No, not reading the slush pile, although that is part of his job. He has taken it upon himself to do what so many publishers don’t do. He responds to those who send something in, letting them know whether or not their work has met the minimum threshold to be passed up the line for further consideration. Believe me, that is definitely more than a number of publishers do. Too many simply never get back to you unless they are interested.

What caught my eye with his post was how unprofessional someone had been in response to his email letting them know their story had not been passed up the line. Now, I know how it stings when you get a rejection. It’s like someone telling you your baby is ugly. But it happens and we have to accept it with grace and move on. Yes, we can kick and scream and curse in public but you do not send a note back telling the editor how wrong they were. Nor do you tell them that the title has been published during the time the editor was considering it, especially if the editor has gotten back to you in less than half the time they say it normally takes.

And that is where this particular author screwed up. Not only did they send back an unprofessional note to the editor, insuring he will remember the author and not in a good way, but he went ahead and self-published the book without removing it first from consideration by the publishing house. That is two very big strikes and, in this case, the author doesn’t get a third strike before he’s out.

There there is this post from over at The Passive Voice. Yet another author powering up his computer when he should have been walking away from it. In this case, he submitted his work for consideration to an agent, said agent rejected it and then made the mistake of not remembering the work when she and the author met for a face-to-face pitch session. Never mind that the agent probably receives thousands of submissions each year. Never mind the agent had been seeing other authors with other pitches that particular day. She obviously hadn’t read his earlier submission or she would have remembered it. How dare she!

So, instead of asking himself why he had just received rejection #319, this author decided it was a good idea to go onto his blog, name the agent and then proceed to try to shame her for her actions — or should I say inaction?

As I read his post, all I could think of was a situation five or so years ago where an author went on a tirade on his blog against his editor who had sent back edits he didn’t agree with. By the time his agent saw, or heard about, the post, it had gone viral. Yes, he finally took it down, but the damage had been done. I have a feeling that author is still trying to climb out of the hole he dug for himself.

In this instance, the author was so tied up with his own ego, he didn’t realize that he was shooting himself in the foot when it came to doing what he wanted — getting an agent. This time, the agent he was attacking took screen caps of his blog and then did her own post about what happened. That post has been picked up and is making the rounds of social media. The author now has the reputation of being, at worst, an online bully and, at best, someone who can’t control himself.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. If you are a writer, you have to treat your writing as your business. That means you have to be businesslike in your dealings with others in the industry, especially if you are trying to get them to buy your work or act as your agent. Ask yourself before writing that scathing blog or tweet or FB post if you would be doing this if the person in question was someone you had interviewed with for a mundane job (something not related to writing). Is it something you would want a perspective employer reading before your interview with them?

Remember, the internet is forever. Just because you take a post down, it doesn’t follow that the post hasn’t been memorialized elsewhere. So pull your head out of your ass and think before hitting the send button. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you find you have just killed your chances for a traditional publishing career.

46 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: LIFE, WRITING: PUBLISHING

To pirate or not to pirate, that is NOT the question

Over the last few days, social media has been alive — again — with author outrage over e-book piracy. Apparently someone on Facebook started a thread on her wall asking for recommendations for pirate sites where she could download e-books for free. It’s no surprise that the authors were up in arms. After all, no one likes seeing work they have up for sale in one place being offered for free — without permission — somewhere else. But, when the woman who started the thread started blocking those who didn’t agree with her, and when others started attacking those who pointed out what they were advocating was stealing, the internet exploded.

I’m on the record as being against piracy. I’m also realistic enough to know there is little we can do about most pirate sites. Those who are often the worst offenders aren’t located in the U.S. They have little concern for the law or for takedown notices. The time and money that it often takes to get that site in the Ukraine or elsewhere can be better spent writing my next book.

What does get me, however, is the attitude of people like the OP and her supporters who have this sense of entitlement to our work. Like so many in society today, they feel they have the right to take our work without compensation, because they want it. In this case, the OP claimed, from what I’ve read, that she was “poor”. Yet she either had internet or the means to get somewhere there was internet. She had access to a computer, tablet or smartphone to post her request. That request also meant she had access to something that allowed her to read e-books. Oh, and from what those who have purportedly seen her post and Facebook page have said, she is a photographer. Hmmm, I wonder if she gives her work away for free.

One of the commenters said that he had no problem pirating e-books because writers make enough money as it is. Yes, I laughed. He suffers from the Castle Syndrome — thank you very much, ABC. For every Stephen King or Nora Roberts, there are thousands of authors working one or two jobs to make ends meet.

From personal history, one of the sites that did — and possibly once again does — have my books listed, they also listed the number of times a title had been downloaded. I lost several thousand dollars from just that site alone. I was lucky, however, because they did take down my books when I contacted them. But I have to spend time every few months going back and seeing if my work has once again found its way onto their menu. That money could have been put to good use doing things like, oh, paying bills.

Much as I hate pirate sites, I know they also serve a purpose, limited yes, but a purpose. The problem is that they also cause issues with retail sites like Amazon and B&N, etc. If those sites learn that our work is being “sold” for less somewhere else, they will send notice, telling us we need to either price match or risk having our work removed from the legitimate site. Fortunately, the few times that has happened with me, either the pirate sites have taken my work down when I’ve sent them a DMCA notice or Amazon, etc., have accepted my explanation that the offending site is a pirate site and has failed to respond to the DMCA notice.

But, when someone tells me they have the right to pirate my work because they like to read and can’t afford my work, well, that does get my dander up. First is the sheer audacity of it all. What is it about our society, both here in the U.S. and elsewhere, that has bred this mentality in some people? I have been known to ask people like that if they are willing to give away their own hard work to someone just because that person wants it.

The argument spotted in the Facebook thread from one person saying they like to read, so they should be able to pirate any book they want, almost had me beating my head against the desk. There are libraries, and most libraries now allow you to borrow e-books, if you want to read something for free. There’s Project Guttenberg. Amazon and other e-tailers offer hundreds to thousands of free titles. That’s more than enough for someone who wants free books to read.

Jim Baen proved the validity of the “give the first taste for free” with the Baen Free Library. Unfortunately for writers, there are some out there who believe every taste should be free. Fortunately, they are in the vast minority.

Here’s the thing. Writing is a business. It is our profession. The reason the vast majority of writers hold down a “real” job — or two — is because writing doesn’t pay a lot. Not when you consider the number of hours an author spends writing and preparing a book for publication. If that author then publishes that book traditionally, his income is cut even further per unit sold. Most of us don’t live in fancy apartments in New York, play poker with famous Hollyweird folks and go out solving crimes with NYC detectives. Most of us are lucky if we can replace our laptops before they wear out.

Here is something else to consider. Most of us are also very thankful to our fans and are more than willing to send a free e-book to a fan in need. I would much rather do that — and have done that.

Now, I know there are going to be some of you out there who will note the high prices of e-books coming from certain publishers. Those books, if I have to read them, I borrow from the library. Sure, it means I won’t get to read it as soon as I might like but I am still sending money to the author that way. The only time I will even consider pirating a book is when it is something so obscure that it hasn’t been published here and isn’t available through any legitimate means — and I have to have a pressing need for it. Funny, I haven’t found anything like that, yet. I have always managed to find an alternative. However, I know there are some reference materials that aren’t available through anything here in the U. S. except pirate sites. Fortunately for my conscience, I haven’t had to use those materials yet.

So here’s the thing, folks. Just because there are pirate sites out there, that doesn’t mean you need to use them. If the download links go anywhere but to Amazon or another legitimate e-tailer, you are taking money out of the hands of the author. If you legitimately can’t afford an e-book, contact the author. I have a feeling if you do, and if you explain your circumstances, they won’t hesitate to send you a copy. That’s especially true if you offer to leave a review for the book when you finish reading it.

Most of all, don’t be a butthead about it. If you are going to pirate, that’s between you and your conscience. Don’t go to Facebook or Twitter, etc., and ask in a post authors can see that you want recommendations for pirate sites. It tends to get our backs up, especially if you then start blocking those who point out that what you are doing is wrong. And, authors, take a page out of Jim Baen’s book. Offer your work for free from time to time to hook new readers. Your bottom dollar will come to appreciate it.

158 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Most of us are amateurs and thieves if you listen to some folks

Last week, I wondered if we were in a perpetual full moon phase because of all the craziness that seemed to be going on. Little did I know that the craziness was just beginning. In the time since that post went live, we’ve seen an author on Amazon taking the fight to reviewers because they didn’t like his book, another author going on a rant because of another writer’s politics and espousing the fact that you aren’t a “professional writer” if you self-publish on Amazon and then the latest from HarperCollins, once again proving that legacy publishers look at their customers as thieves. Foolishness, just foolishness with a sense of entitlement thrown in.

Starting from the top. . . .

For years, Sarah and I have inflicted on our friends and people we’ve done workshops with a certain book we found at an RWA conference. This book has been an example of not one what you shouldn’t do as a writer but also the fact that publishers will buy bad books and put money behind them, making them successful enough to become a series. While the book isn’t Eye of Argon bad, it comes close. So close, in fact, that I never thought to find one worse. Until we were introduced to a book in the Diner on Facebook. From a cover the author worked on for years but which screams amateur to poorly written prose, it is a prime example of why you always check the preview samples before buying a book.

That, in and of itself, wouldn’t be enough to cause comment here. What does is the behavior of the author himself. Ten reviews have been posted since the book was first published. The average rating for the book is two stars. Now, that’s not all that unusual. You can find bad books on Amazon and other retailers without much difficulty. Where this one differs is what happens with the reviews. This is the first time I have seen so many comments regarding the posted reviews. The author continues to try to refute the bad reviews — heck, he even tries to refute anything negative that might be in the good reviews — to the point that it goes beyond just being invested in what is obviously a story he believes in. His straw arguments are that you can’t review a book unless you buy it and read all of it. This comes after he has invited folks to read the first five chapters — or the preview on Amazon — and post what they think.

When that argument doesn’t work, he either completely ignores the specific critiques or he chooses one obscure point a reviewer has made and latches onto that with a death grip in an attempt to prove the critic has an agenda he is working and that is why he didn’t like the book. The accusations from the author have ranged from envy because he is such a good writer and the critic will never be able to write a book to the critic not being smart enough to understand what he was striving for in the book (mind you, this is a book the author says is for children) to religious bias and, quite possibly some sort of global conspiracy. He comes across as condescending and more than a bit “off”. That is never good when it comes to engaging with your readers.

As tempting as it is to respond to negative reviews and to try to explain why you wrote something the way you did, don’t. Just don’t. It isn’t going to help you any and it will drive you crazy trying to keep up with reviews and, worse, trying to make everyone happy. Write your own book, pull up your big boy — or girl — pants and take your lumps. There is going to be someone who leaves a review that has you scratching your head and wondering if they read the same book you wrote. Move on to your next project after you finish the first one instead of trying to guard the gate and defend it against the naysayers. If you just have to defend it, don’t, absolutely do not, claim that some unnamed person who holds some super important job that is so important you can’t name the job or the employer or the person himself read you book and loved it. The moment you do, you will be called on it.

As I said, pull up your big boy pants, kiss your darling book goodbye and send it off into the world to sink or swim.

In the next example of what not to do, don’t go onto Facebook or other social media to rant and rave — and, in the process, show your own fear of the changing face of publishing. In this particular example, an author ranted that they would have loved to join a professional writers group but for the organizer’s politics. The tone left no doubt that the organizer — who at least wasn’t named in the rant — was a wrong thinker and didn’t follow the current cause du jour of traditional publishing. My first thought as I read the rant was to wonder if the author put the same sort of requirement on authors they read as they obviously did on authors they might network with. For myself, as a reader, I don’t give a flying rat’s hairy butt what an author’s politics are as long as they don’t hit me over the head with them in their books.

But that wasn’t what really bothered me about this author’s comments. What did was the comment that you can’t be a professional author if you self-publish on Amazon.

That brought the whole potential for understanding that they were having a bad day and maybe had a history with the group leader that hadn’t been detailed in the rant. Nope, the comment about indies was a slap in the face not only to me but to every author who has taken advantage of the new opportunities provided by Amazon and other e-tailers. It also indicates that this particular author is still buying in to the arguments of traditional publishers that the reading public still needs gatekeepers. It also forgets that these same publishers have abdicated much of the gatekeeping responsibilities to agents who are now, in all too many cases, acting as competitors to publishers because they have their own publishing imprints.

Since the first of the year, I have made more from indie publishing than I would have received as an advance from a traditional publisher — assuming they didn’t see me as the next Stephen King or Nora Roberts. I know others who have made much more than I have. Indie authors have been able to quit their day jobs and work as writers full time. But, according to the ranting author, we aren’t professionals because we haven’t made our bones in the traditional way.

Sorry, but I’ll take indie publishing over almost every traditional publisher. I’ve seen how much work authors who are still traditionally published have to do to make sure their books are of the quality they want. Some hire outside editors and proofreaders because they know they can’t trust the editing and proofing that comes out of the publishing house. Almost all authors do their own promotion and spend their own money to do so, despite assurances from their publishers that they will take care of promotion. It is a lie, in almost every time.

I’ll settle for doing all that and keeping most of the money made from my sales. I’ll proudly wear the label of indie and call myself a professional writer. I don’t care that SFWA has yet to figure out what to do about indies who are making more money and accruing more sales than many of their so-called professional author members. As a reader, I’ll remember the words of those same so-called professionals who trash other writers simply because they chose a different path to get their work out to their readers.

If all that isn’t enough to convince you that the inmates are still trying to run the asylum, this last bit might. HarperCollins has decided that it isn’t enough to add DRM to its ebooks because, you know, all readers are potential thieves. Now the publisher is going to add a digital watermark to its ebooks so there will be an “additional layer of security”. The explanation offered is that HC wants to make sure the etailers it uses to sell its ebooks overseas are using the highest security possible. However, this new technology will allow HC to know if someone has illegally downloaded a book. Any bets on how long it will be before HC sends its first cease and desist letter to a reader? If you don’t want to place a bet on that, how about on how long it will take for the geeks to figure out a way to break that level of encryption as well as the standard DRM?

I don’t know about you, but I hate DRM. I hate being treated like a crook by people I’m paying money to. Of course, the whole thing boils down to the simple fact that publishers, on the whole, don’t believe ebooks are “real” books. That why they sell “licenses” for their ebooks and why they fight against the mere suggestion of the customer being able to sell an ebook after reading it.

And they wonder why people look for plug-ins and programs to break DRM and why we read as many indie books as we do.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for the grown ups — or at least someone with some common sense and an understanding of basic economics and the theory of supply and demand — to take over the industry. I’m tired of the tantrums and the digging in of heels and the denial that things need to change. This is a situation where the industry is broken and it does need to change and adapt if it is to survive.

70 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Full moon craziness?

Yes, yes, I know. Craziness is the common state of affairs for most writers and especially for the publishing industry. But lately it seems that the craziness has expanded to epic proportions — and that’s without going into all the contretemps with SFWA, SJWs et al. Add in the craziness in my life right now — we are on crisis #3 for the morning, none of which are easy fixes — and I am ready for sanity to return, overrated as it might be.

First bit or recent craziness falls under the category of “Things a writer should never, ever do”. It’s not a new story nor is it the worst in the category. But it does point out the permanent nature of the internet and it proves that we should always think about what we just typed before hitting “enter”.

In this case, author Chelsea Cain, a NYT best seller, went on a mini-tirade on Facebook and Twitter. The long and the short of it comes down to this: she’s mad she didn’t make the best sellers list with her latest book. She’s tired of fans asking her to list the order of her books and asking other dumb questions. The FB post was quickly taken down, “at the request” of her publishers in a non-apology apology which, iirc, is also missing from her FB page now. Full admission: I could be wrong on this last part.

You can see screen captures of some of her comments here.

The issue I have with this sort of thing is that it was unnecessary. I can understand why Cain might be upset for not making the best sellers list. But don’t go whining about it in a public forum. Her Facebook and Twitter pages aren’t locked. Anyone can and will see them. Having a public meltdown, even of a minor nature, doesn’t draw new fans to you.

As for being upset when fans ask for the order of books, you just don’t tell them they are wasting your time and that’s what Google is for. You especially don’t tell them that when you have just admitted you spend hours on social media each day. You most especially don’t say that after saying you spend hours on social media each day and that answering a simple question like that would take away from writing time. Wait! Writing time? How about letting it take away from the hours of social media time. Or better yet, why not list your books IN ORDER on your website like most other authors who write series do?

Ms. Cain shot herself in the PR foot and hasn’t done much since then to treat the wound. I hope that, from now on, she remembers that what goes into the interwebs is there forever.

The next bit of insanity comes in a rant by a book buyer against the big evil that is Amazon. Mind you, it is published in that shining beacon — coff coff — The Guardian, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about bias. I mean, how can anyone think there is anything but bias in a post that starts out with:

Amazon.com owes me at least $212.82.

Amazon’s strategy to torture Hachette into reducing prices for its books has been to make the publisher suffer by imposing delivery delays on many of its most in-demand titles.

You see, according to the author of the article, Amazon owes a refund for their Prime membership — because, duh, that membership apparently is a guarantee that you can get any book you want anytime. Wish I knew that when I first signed up for Prime. There are a lot of books out there no longer in print or that haven’t been published yet I could demand as a Prime member. — and for the cost of books they chose to buy at a brick and mortar store.

The sense of entitlement that sort of statement makes has me shaking my head. There is nothing in the ToS for Prime membership that guarantees the “right” to pre-purchase a book. Nor is there anything guaranteeing that books bought while a Prime member will be discounted. Heck, what you get with Prime is free second day delivery, the ability to borrow some books and lots of music and video benefits. It has nothing to do with Hatchette or the article writer’s sense of entitlement.

But let’s look further.

“. . . and for customers, Amazon has reversed its promise of instant gratification.”

What? WHAT?!?!?!

Are we so entitled now that we have to have instant gratification and new hardcover books in our mailbox on the day of publication AND at a huge discounted price?

Yep, the author of the article complains because Amazon isn’t offering new Hatchette titles at the usual discount. Let’s not think about the fact they are in the middle of contract negotiations and Amazon very likely doesn’t have the contractual authorization to continue the discounts.

The author goes on to admit he could buy the Kindle version of the books in question, but since at least two of the ones he listed were for book club discussions, that just wouldn’t work. According to him, you simply can’t flip to a particular page of a book if you have the ebook version. So that just won’t work. Funny, I have any number of Kindle books on both my e-ink Kindle and the Fire that allow me to go to a particular page as well as a particular location. Maybe only Hatchette doesn’t allow that function — but that’s Amazon’s fault because it is allllllllll Amazon’s fault, don’cha know.

This time, the financial damage totals $212.82, the bag is stuffed with books – including several I was eager to read but wasn’t even been aware had been published. I also emerged with a Barnes & Noble membership card, for which I had paid a further $25 – and that pretty much guarantees I’ll be spending more time and money there in future, in exchange for more discounts and – given the recent evidence – greater availability of the books I want and need to lay my hands on.

This time being his first visit to a B&N, at least when he actually bought more than one book, in at least six months. So now he wants Amazon to pay him for his membership card to B&N as well AND he thinks he will have a great availability of books. Well, I don’t know about the B&N he went into but my local B&N is woefully short on books, especially books in certain genres and certain non-fiction areas. If I ask for them to be ordered, maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Even if they do, there is no guarantee I will get notice if the book comes in and there is still the delay in getting the book.

But Amazon is evil.

It gets better. In one paragraph, the author whines because in two trips to the bookstore to pick up two paperback books, he’s spent $400. The not-to-subtle implication is that it is Amazon’s fault because he couldn’t get the book instantly from them. In the next paragraph, he says he doesn’t really blame Amazon for his lack of self-control but, you see, he was irked and, well, Amazon’s fault implied once again.

The whole gist of the article is that, because of Amazon’s footprint, it shouldn’t worry about things like contract negotiations and making money. It has a duty to provide whatever we want when we want. Oh, the author tries to not quite say it that bluntly and even makes a pass at trying to appear unbiased by noting that neither Hatchette or Amazon are completely in the right in what’s going on. But that doesn’t happen until four paragraphs from the end of a story that is 30 or so paragraphs long. And, in case anyone doubts the sense of entitlement and twisting of facts to suit a point of view, consider this statement:

You need to give customers the best possible array of products, available instantly.

Especially when 20 million or so Amazon Prime members are paying $99 apiece each year for guaranteed two-day delivery — that’s how much they value that instant gratification.

The complete lack of understanding of economics, product supply and the Prime membership agreement is staggering. There is a failure to take into account that there are two parties involved in making products available — supplier and seller. Amazon is the seller. It has to buy the products or reach some sort of agreement with the supplier so it also makes money. It also has to rely upon the supplier to, duh, supply the product. As for the guaranteed two-day delivery, that is for items IN STOCK.

To the article’s author, get over yourself and realize you aren’t entitled to what you think you are. Amazon is a business and is in it to make money. Hatchette is the one who has turned done several proposals by Amazon to help the authors impacted by the prolonged negotiations. Amazon isn’t an angel but is certainly isn’t the root of all evil as as vocal minority wants us to believe.

57 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized