Category Archives: Internal Debate 42

My Droplet Of Rain

If you’ve published a book on Kindle Direct Publishing, then you probably got a nice lengthy treatise from Amazon over the weekend. In short eBooks should be cheaper, Amazon good, Hachette bad. Amazon wants KDP Authors (and probably readers and authors in general) to e-mail Hachette and tell them to end this nasty little dispute between the two companies that’s been going on for months. And, oh by the way, CC Amazon when you do. One drop of rain cannot do anything against a stone wall, but hundreds of thousands of droplets, united together in the roaring river, can (my metaphor, not Amazon’s, but not far off the mark).

Amazon says the eBook should cost $9.99 and not $14.99. I disagree. I think it should cost $4.99.

See as a Kindle Direct Publishing author, I set my own price, so I don’t have a publisher like Hachette dictating what my price should be. Technically Amazon is in charge of the final price, but not to raise it, but rather to ensure it matches any low prices I might have set elsewhere in the marketplace.

And I’m not the only one. When I wrote my little “five dollar fractals” book, it was basically alone in the market for digital fractal books at that price. A year later there are several others, some that started at $9.99 and came down to my $4.99 and some even cheaper. (And they’re not bad books either, I own them both).

But this doesn’t mean I love Amazon and want to defend it. Hardly. Amazon would have published my book no matter how I feel because KDP is a platform. Sure they might promote it better, but only if it seemed to stand a chance at making them a lot of money. I do okay because I still am one of a few on a very small hill of digital fractal books, but let’s not pretend Amazon is really doing me any favors. In fact, half the profits I made in the last year were made from only a quarter of my sales through one of my other markets.

As an indie author I want every channel available to publish my books. That’s why it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me to rail against a publisher when conceivably they might publish something of mine in the future. From what little I’ve seen, you don’t succeed in the indie writer business if you narrow your markets. Amazon’s not a bad place to be for exposure, but they’re not my friend either.

Recently (although I’m honestly not sure when) Amazon made a change to the 70% royalty. For many countries (including the US) you don’t have to enroll your book in KDP select to get the higher royalty (meaning your book doesn’t have to be an Amazon exclusive). In my case this would be an additional $0.75 a sale, since the transmission size does figure into the 70% royalty, making my effective royalty more like 50%, but still way better than 35%. Did Amazon tell me about this? Ask me if I wanted to change when I logged in (which I do every day)? Or even better, just automatically set my book to earn more money because who wouldn’t want that? Of course not.

So maybe here’s the bottom line. It’s not a good idea to piss off people who might buy your book, so be nice. But on the other hand, remember that no one is looking out for your best interests but you.

So, Amazon, write your own damn letter.

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Filed under Books + Publishing, Internal Debate 42, Writing

Why I’m a little tired of hearing from Mark Coker

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, an online indie self-publishing marketplace with a C- better business bureau rating, says that “self-published ebooks will account for 50 percent of ebook sales by 2020”.

That’s ebook sales, not book sales. I think it’s easier for us to imagine that self-published authors will out-pace sales of conventional published books due at least in part to the shear volume of material.

In a Huffington Post article, Coker outlines his rationale and predictions for why self-publishing will be dominant. I’d like to take the opportunity to parse his specific points:

1-2) Print will decline as book-reading format, Brick and mortar bookstores are disappearing – Both true, and something Coker is apparently not happy about. It’s not hard to find eBook advocates who espouse the virtues of physical books and stores. I do most of my reading on an eReader now and yet I still surround myself with physical books. What I’ll actually mourn is secondary stores like Half Price Books. Doesn’t anybody remember when Barnes & Noble and Borders were the threat?

3) The perceived value of publishers will decline in the eyes of writers – I don’t buy this. Even though I’m a self-published author, and intend to continue doing so for certain books, I doubt any one of us wouldn’t jump at the chance to be picked up by a major publisher, especially if it involves a physical book you can sign for others. That’s how you know you’ve arrived. Print on demand is nice but doesn’t feel quite the same. I think until you get a generation of writers who have no relationship with physical books, you’ll still have a desire in the back of your mind to “really” publish as opposed to self-publishing. 2020 is too soon for that to change.

4-5) Indie authors have learned to publish like professionals, The stigma once associated with self publishing is disappearing –  Partially true and getting truer with self-publishing being branded as indie publishing. Diversity of projects is definitely a benefit as is not having to prove profitability immediately. However, I think the more likely outcome is “hybrids” both print and self-publishers (like Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi). They tend to make the most in terms of royalty and have loyal brands around themselves.

6-8)  The number of self-published eBooks will explode, Successful indies are mentoring the next generation of writers, Writers are discovering the joy of self publishing – Point 6, Agreed. Point 7, True but not personally relevant to every writer as many of us are a rowdy and independent bunch. Point 8, advertising for Smashwords? Truthfully no long form project is exactly a joy and royalties widely vary depending on venue and choices made. That said, I am proud of producing my own eBook product and testing it myself, but this appeals more to the programmer and less to the writer side of myself.

9) Readers don’t care about the publishers name on the ebook’s virtual spine – Agreed. Except I like Baen and Tor for DRM free reasons.

10) There’s a growing rift between writers and publishers – I know writers who resent the “gatekeeper” model of the publishing industry, low royalties, having to self-advertise etc. Don’t imagine the self-publishing world solves all those problems. Search engines are the new gatekeepers even before the readers, higher percentages matter less when you have to price lower to be competitive, and self-advertising is true either way.

Here’s my bottom line takeaway:

1) Indie (Self Pub) Authors need to be open to all avenues of publication (books, eBooks, magazines, blogs, etc.)

2) Writing and publishing are tough jobs and neither have many short cuts.

3) You need to have a good idea of your actual goal (to put your story out there for a few friends, a few hundred enthusiasts, or hundreds of thousands of readers). Do I want to make a living writing, or do I just write to live?

What do you think?

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Filed under Books + Publishing, Internal Debate 42, Writing, Writing Goals

Bundle Dragon (3 months in)

Can you believe it’s already been 3 months since the fractal book was released?

A few weeks ago I experienced one of the rare pleasures of being a writer, getting paid. Depending on how you look at it the fractal book is doing modestly well to super freaking fantastic considering it’s on a niche subject by an unknown author.

I’m very happy with how things are going, and I owe that in large part to the Bundle Dragon service.

Lots of personal attention

Bundle Dragon was kind enough to let me into their closed beta so I could get in on the ground floor before their public launch (around the same time as my book). From the beginning I’ve gotten personalized attention from their support staff, often receiving responses from their president Josh Whelchel to my MANY questions. In fact, Josh was the first one to buy my book. But everyone on their support staff is helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly, and problems tend to be resolved in less than 24 hours. You can’t get that kind of attention from Amazon.

Professional Looking Store

Let’s face it, Amazon looks kind of … dowdy. Their book cover art is small, and their site utilitarian. I don’t have a lot of customization to change how things look, and a lot of products that aren’t mine are shown on the same screen. Bundle Dragon is sleek, and is one of the few sites I’ve used where I’m happy when they randomly update their platform. The sites are stable in all browsers, and load quickly, even with a lot of pretty pictures.

Your name here

Bundle Dragon was also nice enough to feature my bundle on their main page for the last several months. This is especially nice when a very popular bundle is run, and people click over out of curiosity. I’ve probably gotten more sales because of the Game Music Bundle and the Big Bad Bundle than I would have otherwise.

Better royalty

My effective royalty for Bundle Dragon is around 80%. If I had sold with Amazon exclusively it would have been around 43% (possibly less). Nonexclusive, I get 35% from Amazon, and 65% from Barnes and Noble (though it seems few people have Nooks these days). And unlike Amazon, people can pay a little extra if they want to support the author, or just really like the book. This has actually happened a couple of times and is a really nice thing to see. People can be nicer than you’d think.

The book I wanted to offer

There’s no way Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple or any of them could have supported the package I was able to put together on Bundle Dragon. An hour of video, 100s of pictures and two books. I did a lot of work putting the fractal book together, and I wanted to share all that I had learned with people buying the book, and give them more to enjoy for their buck.

Bottom Line

I like Bundle Dragon so much I’m tempted to work on more projects that can be sold in this way. I already have another in the works in fact, and projections for a few more. It’s a very indie minded site, open to anyone wanting to sell their original material. If you have enough material to bundle in this way, I highly recommend it, even just to try it. You might be surprised how well you’ll do.

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Filed under Books + Publishing, Internal Debate 42, Trube On Tech, Writing

How to keep from checking your sales stats every 5 minutes

If I thought writing the blog made me obsessed about stats, I had no idea what I was in for when I actually published something. It’s even worse now that the book is on three different stores (more if you count all of Amazon’s countries, made my first couple of UK sales but still waiting on Germany). The book’s been out about five weeks now, and I thought I’d share some of the tips and tricks for trying to maintain at least part of your sanity:

Tips for keeping yourself from hitting “refresh”

1) Read your book. You’ve spent so long writing it, take a moment to actually enjoy it. Wait. Was that a typo? Forget what I just said!

2) Schedule a dental appointment. Preferably one that involves a root canal.

3) Play with your cat.

4) Take the dog for a W-A-L-K.

5) If I check the UK stats that’s in a different time zone right? There’s like a six hour difference or something. That’s not five minutes.

6) Tell your wife every time you check the stats.

7) Drive to Cleveland, stand in the public square, and protest the NSA. Chances are they’ll at least buy a copy if they haven’t already.

8) Take a hammer to your keyboard or your forehead, whichever costs less to replace.

9) Drive to work (most peaceful 70 minutes of my day, especially the morning).

10) Crash your host server (written as Kindle Direct Publishing stats seem to be down).

11) Organize your 2400 eBook library. Decide which books should go on the Nook and which on the Kindle.

12) Throw up your hands in frustration as your Nook forgets your shelves AGAIN!

13) Beta read for a friend.

14) Create a new fractal.

15) Watch Star Trek all day.

16) Wait. Kindle’s back up. What was I saying?

17) Futz with your Goodreads/Wordress/Facebook page.

18) Thank your beta readers, your blog readers, your reader readers.

19) Make lists.

20) Tell your wife you love her. Worth more than any sale.

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Filed under Books + Publishing, Internal Debate 42, Writing