I bitch. I complain. When I read a book, especially one published by the so-called "real" publishers, I don't expect typos. I don't expect continuity errors. I don't expect issues with the narrative. When I find them, I get extremely angry. Why? I paid, usually top dollar if it's from a "real" publishing company, for an inferior product.
That said, however, I am in the publishing game, at least for my own work. I do my best to make my ebooks as professional as possible. For the most part I succeed. However, every now and then, my editor and I will miss something. When it happens, it's embarrassing and humiliating. But I have to own up to it.
A reader recently sent me an email outlining three mistakes in the Lovers ebook. They weren't huge. And in fact, most readers that weren't as diligent would have skipped over them completely. One was a continuity error involving a lamp. The other was a name change for an extremely minor character. And really, it was just a couple of letters off. Regardless, they are errors.
So what did I do? I fixed them. Immediately. I sent the reader an offer for a free, autographed version of the corrected ebook and thanked them for their careful reading and having the guts to email me. I am republishing Lovers with the revisions as we speak. In other words, I'm doing my best to make it right.
When books are published in paper, there are no "oops" moments when you can easily retract the version out there and replace it with a fixed one. Once a book goes to print, it's over. There's no more fixes possible until the next printing. Since most books only get a single printing, those mistakes are going to be there in perpetuity and there's not a damned thing the author or publisher can do about them.
In the ebook world, however, there is a chance to fix mistakes. It doesn't take much work to correct the issues, re-export the book, and then update your sales channels. Obviously going through something like Smashwords poses additional challenges, but for Kobo, BN, Amazon, and my own channels, it's extremely easy to republish.
So why don't we? Why don't most publishers modify their ebooks when they are notified of an issue? Several reasons. Most of them subcontract out the work and therefore have to pay more cash to get a fix, or at least that's what I like to think. However, my cynical side says "they don't give a shit." Unfortunately, I think that's the real reason.
The old publishing elite out there don't understand the new digital world. They never have. Until the moldy old bastards at the top die from disease or from going out of business, we're going to be stuck with one-off, never corrected volumes of digital crap. I simply don't see this changing any time soon.
But, I'm better than that. If there's a problem with my product, I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT! I do my best to put out quality. I want to give you the best read I possibly can and that means paying attention to not only the writing itself, but the proofing, the layout, and etc.
Indie publishers are gaining acceptance, but the big five (or is it four now?) continue to tell the world we are a bunch of rank amateurs putting out crap. Yet for every mistake I find in an indie book, I find ten more in the big publishers' books. But that doesn't let us off the hook. Not at all.
We have a responsibility to police not only our own products, but the products of our fellow authors/publishers. It's important we strive for perfection.
At least that's what I'm doing. If you find a problem in my books, let me know and I'll fix them. If you like, I'll send you an autographed, personalized copy of the "fixed" ebook. I strive for perfection. I'll always fall short, but I'm doing my best.
I recently ran an experiment for my ebooks to see how pricing affected sales. And no, this is probably not the first rant you've heard regarding this. But I have some interesting data now.
First off, I was told by another author that I was selling myself short on my ebooks. While I won't say which author this was, I will say this person specializes in selling erotica fiction.
At his suggestion, I raised my prices and sold Closet Treats for $5.99, Tattoo, Interlopers, and Lovers for 3.99, Legends for 2.99 and Fiendlettes for 1.99.
What happened? A serious drop in sales across the board. Tattoo, my most popular title, was selling 15-20 copies per month rather steadily. Since the change, it has sold 5 copies. 5. In 2 months.
Closet Treats, not a big seller anyway, sold 1 copy in 2 months.
The Garaaga's Children series? Legends sold 2 copies. Lovers 1, Legends 1, and Fiendlettes 1.
That's in 2 months, folks. That's pathetic. Truly pathetic.
Now this is across all markets. Smashwords, BN, Amazon, iBooks, etc.
What I've realized is that while Amazon is by far the most lucrative marketplace, it is completely flooded by free KDP Select titles and lower priced ebooks. This makes it very difficult to compete, regardless of the quality of your writing.
Couple that with the fact that I'm terrible at marketing and that I write in genres that aren't the most popular, and it's a perfect storm of fail. In other words, the experiment was a complete disaster.
So I'm lowering my prices again and praying I get back to sales. Also, the fact I'm not getting many reviews for the ebooks is further damaging my ability to attract new readers.
Closet Treats is back to $4.99. Lovers, Interlopers, and Tattoo are back to 2.99, Legends at 1.99 and Fiendlettes to .99 cents. When I release Scrolls, I'll price it the same as Lovers, Interlopers, and Tattoo, even though it's a much longer work. Why? Well, because some sales are better than none.
I used to be able to at least pay for some beer at the end of the month with my sales. Now I can't even afford a snickers bar.
One wonders what would happen if I lowered all my book prices to $1.99 (yes, even the novels) and see how fast they would sell. But I'm dubious. I write horror and dark fantasy, and not tropish stuff. No vampires, no zombies, no werewolves, no dashing babe or dude on the cover looking all broodish and buxomy.
I'm in a difficult market. I realize that. And these are the stories I've chosen to tell. They either sell or they don't and they're either good or they aren't.
However, there's a lot of luck involved here as well as marketing expertise that I'm simply inept at cultivating. So I'm still in murky waters. You'd figure that after 2 years I'd be an expert at all these things. But no matter how good of a book I write, or its cover, layout, or quality, there's still something ephemeral that I just can't seem to capture.
Anyway, just thought I'd let that out there and share my experience. If you have ideas on how to improve my marketing or hell, even my stories, please let me know. I appreciate your patronage and know I have a very loyal and wonderful following. I'll keep writing. Y'all keep listening and reading.
It's time for a little update.
Those of you who listened to the "Marker" reading from Balticon know that I hoped to have "Scrolls" done in June. Well, I've finished the first draft and I'm doing my best to get the tome ready for professional editing by the end of the month. As soon as it's somewhat put to bed, I'll start working on the last of the Garaaga's Children: Ancients volume with "Ama".
I expect "Ama" will write itself fairly quickly and it should be a treat for those of you familiar with The Fiends universe. I will keep you up to date on progress and I promise to get back to podcasting on a more regular basis assuming I get my voice back under control.
My offer for free e-book copies of my work in exchange for reviews is on-going. And, in fact, this will probably be the norm from now until doomsday. Bascially, I'll always show my appreciation for your time and patronage. If you have other ideas for contests and giveaways, please leave comments in the blog. Also, if you have questions about what's going on, feel free to add 'em. I'll respond to them best I can.
In the meantime, try and take care of yourselves. We'll talk again real soon.
A while ago, I released an essay about "The Dreaded Amazonasaurus." Since then, KDP Select has not only gone live, but many of my fellow authors have capitalized greatly on its "benefits."
If you've forgotten, KDP Select is the new program that Amazon has instituted for authors. Basically it amounts to this: give Amazon exclusivity on your ebooks, and they help you market your wares by making them available in the vaunted lending library. But, of course, exclusive means you shut out smashwords.com, diesel, BN, iBooks, etc.
I made the decision to keep myself out of this madness, preferring instead of maintain some of my ideals. One of my ideals is fair competition. KDP Select, my friends, is anything but. Regardless, I have noticed an interesting trend. As KDP Select grows in popularity, my sales on Amazon.com have dwindled.
Why? Can't say. As far as I can tell, my books still show up in the same searches and etc. However, they do show up LOWER in the search results than they used to. Is Amazon.com fiddling with their search algorithm to favor books by authors that have enrolled? Yes, it sounds like a conspiracy theory and perhaps it is. I
haven't had much luck on the sales front with BN.com, yet I'm now selling more there than on Amazon. This is both troubling and perplexing since the majority of my writing income (pathetic as it is) was attributable to my Amazon sales. Tomorrow, February 14th, I'm releasing Garaaga's Children: Lovers on all the e-book outlets. If you're an Amazon customer, get it there. If you're a BN customer, get it there. I don't really care, so long as you let me know what you think of the story.
If I get enough sales tomorrow, perhaps we'll see an uptick in my search results for the other books. Maybe not. I'm a pretty tiny fish in a HUGE pond, but I figure if 20 or 30 of you purchase a copy of Lovers, I should be able to see some kind of impact in the metrics. But we'll see. Again, maybe my conspiracy theory is utter bollocks and I'm just paranoid.
I bash Amazon for its recent predatory policies and perhaps that's unfair. But you, the reader, need to know what's going on in the business of books. You'll continue using your Kindle, continue purchasing from the monster, and that's okay. If you like them, continue using them. It's your choice.
But I'd love to hear your thoughts on the recent changes. Do you think they're good for you? For the author? For the industry? What will a world with Amazon as the sole e-book outlet look like?
I shudder to imagine it.
Were you listening? Did you hear it? The snap and crunch of digital teeth... The rumbling roar of a giant, market eating monster? Did you hear the screams and cries of small, upstart lifeforms as they quivered in fear?
The Amazonasaurus. The wrathful, menacing, carnivorous giant decided it's had enough of the small-time animals like Diesel Books, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble. They were nipping at its heels by providing ebooks for its platform without the dreaded "amazon" tax.
The amazonasaurus, a massive, bloated creature that requires more and more of the food chain to survive, decided to evolve. Rather than being content to live side by side with the other creatures, ignoring their occasional nips from its massively stocked island, the creature declared war on all those that would dare threaten its gluttony.
This new psychological evolution of the Amazonasaurus is called "KDP Select." Now those of who you who aren't in the writing biz have probably never heard of it, unless you've been paying attention to some of the conversations on twitter, facebook, and the like.
In an effort to starve out its competitors, the Amazonasaurus created a program for authors that guaranteed them access to the Kindle Owners Lending Library. This means their books will show up as select choices in that library, thus giving indie authors, and even mainstream authors, more exposure. It's a marketing dream, if the Amazonasaurus is to be believed.
What does the author have to do to participate? Guarantee the Amazonasaurus an exclusive right to the title for 90 days. This means no books to smashwords, none to Diesel, and especially none for B&N. For 90 days, the Amazonasaurus will "market" your books to the masses and all you have to do is guarantee only those who shop the Amazonasaurus will be able to find it.
In some ways, this is a trap for us authors. If you read the KDP Select fine print, when your 90 days is up in the program, it automatically renews. In other words, you'll have to log in to their console and forcefully end your participation. And if you change your mind? Unpublish your book to get out of the contract? The Amazonasaurus reserves the right to kick you off its store. For forever.
So it's a Faustian bargain, dear authors, or one made with Tony Soprano. You don't get a way out, because the Amazonasaurus puts its jaws right over your head like the dreaded sword of damacles.
So what if you do all this and still make no money? Well, that's your fucking problem. You have spent 90 days fucking your customer base with no guarantee of return. Nothing. If you were making $30.00 per month (meager, but very realistic) on royalties from ALL your ebook outlets, your monthly royalties may dwindle to nothing. Again, there's no guarantee of anything.
If I were to be conspiracy-minded, here's what I think will actually happen. The Amazonasaurus is going to grossly INFLATE the royalties for authors in KDP Select. Why? Very simple. If indie authors who are used to making $30 a month suddenly make $60 a month for that 90 days, then the idea of opting out of KDP Select is foolish from a practical perspective. Very foolish. The Amazonasaurus then starves the other outlets by paying its authors for doing nothing more than refusing to let their books into those markets.
Thus, Smashwords, Diesel, and even the terribly klunky awful secondary powerhouse known as B&N, fold, which, of course, leaves the Amazonasaurus control of the island once and for all. In other words, the Amazonasaurus has a monopoly on the ebook market.
If I were to engage in serious paranoia, I would suggest that the Amazonasaurus will pull all of its non Kindle-Fire-centric apps from the various app stores. This means you could no longer read your kindle books on your iPad, iPhone, or Android device. Thus, you are forced to purchase one of their hardware offerings. Yes, truly paranoid, I know. But it's the kind of shit large corporations do. It just is.
So what's my standing? Well, I need the money. I really need the exposure. But, as cynical as I am, I'm also a bit of an idealist. Fuck 'em, is what I say. I refuse to let the Amazonasaurus dictate where I sell my wares. From a practical standpoint, there's no real guarantee this is going to do anything for me other than further limit my exposure to new readers.
I'm boycotting KDP Select and the Amazonasaurus' Faustian bargain. I'm not going to give my fellow authors shit if they choose to participate--that's their business, not mine. I own a kindle and I doubt I'm going to purchase another book for it from the Amazonasaurus. Instead, I'll purchase from one of the other outlets, and then convert the book to kindle format. I'm a geek. I know how to do this crap.
The Fiendmistress has often joked that Amazon is the Walmart of the internet. Now, more than ever, I think she's right. So, Amazon, go roar and scare and do all the other things you do. Go be the giant that tries to devour everything in the foodchain. Just remember--monopolies are illegal. And you too may one day be an endangered species...