Tag Archives: amazon

On CreateSpace

On my to-do list for some time has been to talk to you a little bit about print, how I came to choose CreateSpace for that, and my experience with it so far. Hopefully this will be just an overview and informative while mercifully brief.

Question #1: To print or not to print?

Print! Yes, ebooks ARE the future. I buy digital whenever possible, don’t even like to buy paper books anymore, and I absolutely believe that’s where we’re going. But I also understand that I am not Jill Every-Reader. While more and more people are trying out ebooks and embracing them every day, there are still plenty of people who prefer paper, or who are simply not ready to take that plunge.

For me, print is about customer service. If I were running a retail store (which I have done), part of my job would be to stock the types of products my customer wants and needs. I know from experience that customers can get pretty peevish when you don’t supply what they want. If it’s within my power to give my customer the type of product that best suits their need, why would I not do that? This is as true for providing both print and ebook formats as it is for providing your customer with a variety of file formats for various devices.

Question #2: DIY or Author Services Company?

I think of Author Services as those companies that offer to do this for you. Names that come to mind are AuthorHouse and Xlibris. Companies like CreateSpace and Lulu also offer author services packages in addition to the DIY stuff. This is something you’re going to have to answer for yourself. For me, and most of the indies I spend time with, it’s DIY as much as possible. We simply don’t have the money to shell out hundreds of dollars for someone else to do this work, and it just doesn’t have to be a big deal.

In fact, I think that, especially when you’re talking about fiction which is primarily text without images, print can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. A simple print edition is no harder than formatting for e.

I have read some scary-ass things put out by Author Services Companies. I’m not saying they’re all charlatans, and I’m sure that some of them provide great service which the authors feel is worth the price. I get that they need to make their services sound important, worth the price they’re charging, etc. I have seen some claims that lean toward un-truths, and some really bad “science” when discussing sales numbers. If you’re going that route, beware. Read a lot. And keep in mind when reading testimonials that many people have a need to justify their own choice, sometimes by making it seem better than it is.

Question #3: Which company should I choose?

Keep in mind from this point on that I’m talking about my thought process, my choices, and what works for me. Your mileage my vary. Because we’re obviously going to talk DIY, the conversation usually comes down to three: Lulu, LSI, or CreateSpace.

I’m throwing out Lulu right off the bat as too damned expensive. A big part of the decision-making process for me was: how cheaply can I sell my book? Answer from the Lulu calculators? Not cheaply at all. In just the manufacturing costs, the exact same edition I got from CreateSpace prices out 70% higher on Lulu. (To be fair, I have to say that they price out about the same, except that I’ve added an option to lower my CS price, which I’ll talk about later. As far as I know, Lulu could have something like that, but I don’t know.) Lulu has more format choices (coil-bound, hardcover), but for fiction and a first novel, I don’t see any need to get fancy.

LSI (Lightning Source) is favored by many indies as the most professional way to go. And likely it is. It certainly seems moreso in the way they don’t put a lot of information on the website and expect you to do a lot of talking on the phone. (Oh yeah, you know that’s an issue for me.) Most of going with LSI is about having more options and maintaining ultimate control as the publisher. The trade-off in that seems to be having a somewhat more complicated process with a bit more to learn–although I’m not sure because I haven’t actually worked with them, and shelling out a good deal more up front.

ISBNs and ownership are an issue for some indies. They want to have their own imprint, to have everything in their own name, they have their reasons and they’re willing to pay for that. I’m not right now. Unlike the other options, LSI doesn’t offer free ISBNs and requires you to set yourself up as a publishing company. And while that may look really spiffy, I’m just not into the added hassle right now.

LSI has other initial costs that are greater than CreateSpace. I don’t know if the books cost appreciably more like they do at Lulu, again because LSI isn’t upfront about that stuff. I do know that most of the LSI books I’ve seen are priced higher than mine, but then, most of the books I’ve seen are priced higher than mine.

LSI has some other benefits with regard to distribution and you can find people talking about these all over the web. Most of them don’t apply to me as a beginner, and those benefits don’t outweigh the added hassle and expense.

After I have progressed in my career, if I feel I need to have an LSI edition, there’s nothing that says I can’t go do one later. I still own all my stuff, right?

My choice was CreateSpace and I’ve been very happy with it. And since this is running long, I’ll try to just bullet the pros and cons for you.

Pros:

  • No up-front cost. Nothing. You can go print your book with CreateSpace today for free. Free ISBN (but you can bring your own if you’re into that), no setup fees. We like free.
  • ProPlan- Lowers your cost. You’ll want to add this. It’s an up-front cost of $39.00 (for each book). For this you get a lower manufacture cost which allows you higher profits and/or the ability to lower your retail price. Since you pay the manufacture price for any copies you personally buy, this will pay for itself pretty quickly in your copy for your mom, giveaways, review copies, and the ones you sell out of your knitting bag to sweet people who are just excited to meet someone with their name on a shiny cover.
  • ProPlan- EDC: Just as important, this gets you into the Expanded Distribution Channel which I believe gets your book into Baker & Taylor (but I don’t think into Ingram and I cannot find that info). Don’t get excited. This does not mean B&N is going to order your book to stock in their stores. They probably won’t, even if it’s doing well. I’ll discuss that in the Cons. But it will allow your book to be listed at B&N’s website, at Book Depository (which has free international shipping), and allows registered booksellers (like your local indie bookstore that carries books by local authors) to order your book at wholesale prices.
  • You will find VS. posts around the internet that talk about CreateSpace books not being able to get into Baker & Taylor, not being available to resellers, etc. Be advised that the EDC is a new program, so check the date on those posts when you’re doing your research.
  • Oh! You should also know that renewal of ProPlan is only $5 per year. My annual fee was waived in December, I assume because my book was out less than 6 months. I believe LSI does charge an annual fee to list your book in its distribution network. I read somewhere that it’s around $13, but that may be old or inaccurate info.
  • Easy as print as PDF. Really. That’s all there is to it. Now, getting that PDF just right might make you pull out a few hairs, but you don’t HAVE to get super fancy in your layout to produce a good book. MOST people don’t care about fancy book interiors. What’s important is that your book is readable. With a little thought and care, you can do that. You did it with e, you can do it for print.
  • It’s pretty fast. Once you’re done with your part and you upload your book, it take a few days for them to review it. They’re not proof-reading it for you, but they are making sure you have the right margins, stuff like that, and that nothing’s going to get cut off or anything. After that, you order your proof copy for the price they’ve quoted you as your cost. From my limited experience, I’d say expect to pay about the same amount as your book’s cost for media mail which generally takes a 7-10 days unless it’s a busy season. Expect to pay exponentially more for expedited shipping options. Once your proof is in-hand, all you have to do is log on and say yes! I approve! Go sell that bitch! And then it goes live on Amazon pretty quickly, like within a day or two, if I recall. Other sites will pick it up eventually.
  • Low cost means low price. You know how I feel about low consumer prices. CreateSpace, and some fudging with fonts and layout stuff, allowed me to put together a book that sells for $8.99, the same as what the mass-market price seems to be right now. Not being more expensive than my vetted counterparts is important to me.

Cons:

  • Borders doesn’t list it. I’m at the point of thinking this is more Borders’ problem than mine. I mean, It’d be cool if they would pick it up and I could sell a few more, but whatever. I don’t think I’m losing that much by not being at Borders.com. They’re losing more by not embracing indies in general, that’s for sure. Anyway, I think this may be because I’m not in the Ingram catalog, but like I said above, I’m not sure about that.
  • This edition will probably never be in the brick and mortar chain stores. Doesn’t matter who it’s listed with, CreateSpace does not allow you the option of making the book returnable. Essentially, the bookstores want to order a bunch of books, put out a few for however long they decide to try them out on the shelf, then box them up and send them back for credit. So think about it like this: maybe one day you have orders for a couple hundred or a couple thousand books. Awesome. And then in six months you find that all but six copies were returned. And all the “profits” you’ve been waiting on, that couldn’t be distributed to you because they’re held against possible returns, are now gone, and you get a check for $3. Possibly it’s better to have loved and lost, and certainly I’d like the opportunity to be browsed in the chains, not saying that wouldn’t be a great thing. Just it’s hard to work up a lot of upset about it, and the hassle/expense vs. potential benefit ratio just isn’t impressing me right now. (Ok, who am I kidding, if B&N calls me up and tells me they want to stock my book, my laptop and I will be on Zoe’s doorstep begging her to help me put together an LSI edition ASAP. I will bring a Firehouse Sub to get me in the door. I’m crafty that way. But I just don’t see as a likely scenario right now.) I know there are people who go with LSI for reasons of ownership who still don’t want to exercise the option to make the book returnable.
  • I’m not the publisher. Like I said, I don’t really care about that at this point. CS puts their name on it. I think this may be because I went with the free ISBN, and I think it might also be a requirement of expanded distribution.

I think a lot of the point is that I’m happy with CreateSpace because it was cheap and easy for me to just get it done now without adding fees I couldn’t afford or stresses I don’t need. If I get to the point where it’s no longer the right choice, I figure I can go with something different at that time, when I’ve grown into it.

Sorry about the lack of merciful brevity, and I’m going to continue for a bit because indies like numbers. It’s been absolutely worth it for me to put out the print edition. Extra costs for me were $80 for the rest of my cover and a new title page from Robin (a title page I also put in my e after that), and the $39 pro plan from CS.

I make 5xs more in royalties on Amazon than I do when I have sales through the EDC. Which is fine. The royalty from EDC sales isn’t much less than I’d get from a standard royalty if I had a trad publisher. So I’m not really losing anything, I’m just getting 5xs more from Amazon. Since I put the book out at the end of September (actually 4 months exactly from the day I’m writing this. Print was several weeks behind the ebook version because I thought it would be harder and I was learning a lot of stuff at once), I’ve sold 45 copies through Amazon and 38 through EDC (most of those I believe are via B&N), for a total of 83 paperbacks. I’ve pretty much just cleared my expenses. And that doesn’t count any of the ones I sold to local acquaintances. Having print also gives me something more to offer as a giveaway, which is nice, as people seem to get more excited about a $9 item than a $1 item. Go figure. And it’s cool to know there are people out there who are actually willing to pay that much to read my book. Yay!

So, in conclusion (finally), totally worth doing, really happy with CreateSpace as the cheap and easy alternative, and looking forward to reaching over 150 paperback sales soon so that I can rub Brad’s nose in it. I’d love to hear your experiences, addendum to this info, and will try to answer questions in the comments. Hope this was helpful.

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Late #ROW80 Check-in, Minced Oaths and Miscellanea

This is intended to but will probably not be a quick post. As it’s two days late, I obviously don’t have a lot to say on the subject, so probably light on the ROW80 appeal.

Review of my short-term and measurable goals for anyone just stopping by:

  • Spend at least an hour with at least half an hour unplugged, working in the world of the Talent Chronicles.
  • Finish at least 3 scenes per week.

I didn’t get any new scenes finished, but I did do a lot of thinking. A lot of it is series stuff, side jaunts, and that kind of thing, but I also had a really good day of note-making at Chuck E Cheese on Thursday during which I had some new ideas for book 3 that will help fill in some stuff in book 2.

Good News:

The schoolbus just left. After 27 straight days of no school (snow days plus holidays and weekends), I finally have some hope of getting back to work. Things are kind of a mess here, I need groceries, I need to EXERCISE, but hopefully some of that, done without all the chatter and the I need I need I need and “the dog is following me!” etc, will let me think my way into some stuff.

Had a nice family weekend. I’ve been trying to wean myself off the internet lately, especially on the weekends when we do more family stuff. It happens that when I don’t answer email for a day or two, I sometimes get a note from someone asking it I’m mad at them. Which is fine; that doesn’t bother me at all, and it’s always just that I wasn’t on the computer to respond. But I think it really shows that I’m pretty responsive with my communications and could do with slacking off a bit, as many of my friends have suggested.

Have had great Amazon sales this month. It’s making me really long to know what my PubIt sales are. But Amazon sales were such that yesterday I felt I could justify spending money. So I declared it Epic Game Day. We went to GameStop and bought everyone a new video game, stopped off for snacks (like Epic-Sized 1 liter bottle of Diet Coke), and played all day.

Even though I started ROW80 with the intention of doing it and getting this book out as soon as possible, I’m feeling so much better since I just accepted that I can’t do everything. I can’t force a book out in the conditions I was in, and my daughter isn’t at a point in her maturity where I can try to go to work every day when stuff like that happens. And once I stopped trying to be an author and a mom at the same time and punishing myself for not doing really well with either, I started to feel much better, and maybe even like my brain is starting to unlock.

I sometimes stay up later than I should, just to have some quiet time in the house by myself. I’ve been in one of those sleeping 5 hours periods anyway. So I watched White Oleander. I put this in the good news because I had been feeling a lot of mom guilt, and then I was like, hey, I’m doing better than that. And so I decided that I should get kudos for not murdering a boyfriend and making my daughter complicit in it, and started giving myself a break.

Mixed News:

After a straight month with me, my daughter is saying “freakin'” all the time. This is especially cute when she says, “That’s freakin’ awesome!” and I’m like, “I know, right?” It’s mixed because while I think the minced oaths are totally fine, we live in a place where some parents get uptight about them. Dang, geez, etc., are often not good. I don’t get this. I don’t know how these kids are ever supposed to express their thoughts. So if my daughter wants to complain that the freakin’ dog took her freakin’ toy outside, I figure what’s the big deal? At least she didn’t end the complaint by referring to him as a goddamn sonofabitch, right? But my husband is coming down on the use of “freakin'” which is, I’ll admit, a bit excessive. So yesterday B and I talked about language and that the trick with language is knowing your audience and when it’s appropriate. See? I’m framing that as an important life lesson, not so much as, “I don’t care, just don’t do it when Daddy gets home.”

Hope everyone else is doing well. As a ROW80 sponsor, I was supposed to go around and visit some blogs over the weekend, so I still need to make that up. But maybe I’ll save that for tomorrow’s round. Who knows, maybe I’ll get so much peace and quiet this week that I’ll even be able to write some concise, topical blog posts instead of just personal babble.

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Birthday Post!

Don’t worry, I probably won’t get in the habit of doing these. It’s weekend with the fam, but I just wanted to pop in and put up a Happy Birthday shout-out to my good friend and fellow indie Lauralynn Elliot. Pop over to her blog and tell her Happy Birthday, or make her even happier and check out some of her books!

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Filed under writing

2010 in review: The story of Hush Money

So I need to do the look back at the year thing. I’ve kind of been waiting to see what the end of the year numbers were. When the month rolled over, it seemed like I lost some PubIt sales. They finally showed up again, and then they found a few more stragglers over the next few days. I mean, I realize the report itself is always 2 days behind and you have to add those separately, but mine kept changing after that. This makes me a little nervous about them…

But that’s neither here nor there. It’s been a really big year for me, so I thought I’d try to talk about where I started and where I ended up. Be warned, this post is incredibly long.

Prologue

Some of you know that, when I started Hush Money, it was after a period of not having seriously written for a lot time. The only thing in my idea file that really interested me was my Talents, but even though I worked some on their stories and new characters showed up all the time, I couldn’t really bring myself to get a real story going. Part of that was a matter of motivation. Even if I finished one book of the Talent Chronicles, the idea of shopping it didn’t appeal to me, for a lot of reasons. I thought about, maybe, just starting to write it myself and putting it up on a website somewhere. You know, for fun. But writing is pretty emotional for me. I love creating this stuff, but most days…it is not fun. That idea wasn’t motivation enough.

Act 1: The world before

But Kait, my writing buddy and best friend going on, what, four years now? kept after me. Because of her, part of my mind was always in the writing world. She’d send me articles, talk about writing and bookish topics, and of course we worked a lot on her various writing projects.

And then, of course, there were books. I’d run of out room for books, had to feel guilty about any new book I brought into the house, but ebooks bought me back to book-buying and collecting big-time. I found myself getting passionately pissed off about availability issues, format incompatibilities, and DRM, and did a lot of reading and research on ebooks. Part of that was reading some of the stuff that Konrath was saying about ebooks vs. paperback; ebooks, DRM, and piracy; and then he was talking about his ventures in self-publishing.

Which was really interesting because Kait’s friend Zoe was also self-publishing. I was one who thought self-publishing was great for niche-markets and how-to books, I’ve got a bunch of self-pubbed how-tos, but I had been less than impressed with some of the fiction I’d read, and my opinion had been pretty negative. However, the more I read about it from the writer’s perspective, the more I started to think about it the same way I thought about crafting.

I’d had a good run selling intricate and pricey items on Etsy, and I was burnt out on that. But for a while there, I’d been having a blast, being creative and having my work sought after and appreciated. (I really thrive on that shit, but who doesn’t?) Etsy took crafting for money to a whole different level. It no longer mattered if there was a market for what I wanted to make in the place I live. I wasn’t going to have to try to make a bunch of inventory to try to sell batches to local shops or try to do shows to reach more customers. I could just do what I wanted, at my own pace, in my own home, and reach that niche of customers around the world who were interested. Freakin’ awesome.

I started to see indie publishing as the exact same thing. And, for the first time in a long time, I started to get excited about the idea of writing a novel.

Kait decided she was going to go ahead and do it. I was totally encouraging because, hey, she’s good at learning all the stuff, and if it went well, I could totally benefit from her knowledge later. Kait published Foraken by Shadow at the end of March. And people bought it. With money! And it was freakin’ awesome.

I really wanted to do it too.

Act 2: Into the story world

I got my outline together. I’d been studying story structure via Larry Brooks’ Storyfix blog, and suddenly, planning a story from beginning to end seemed so much easier! In fact, all the writing books and articles I’d been reading over the last few years seemed to be coming together in my head, like everything was just there waiting for me to get started.

I had a startlingly positive attitude going into Hush Money, that if I would just sit down to do the work, of course the words would come. Words had never been a problem for me, unless it was having too many of them. I was going to start the book, I was going to finish it. I was going to make it good, and then I was going to see what I could do with it.

But I was up against a ticking clock. It was already May, after all, and there weren’t that many more days of school. Soon my daughter would be with me to destroy any hope of concentration or immersion in character and world. I had get moving.

I wrote the first draft of Hush Money in 30 days. That last week or so, school was out, but Vacation Bible School filled the gap. When I might have gotten scared of the end and stuck in a slump, I pushed forward, knowing I only had a few hours a day for one, more, week. I would drop her off at the church, rush home, write like a maniac. Then go pick her up, go to McDonald’s, wolf down a double cheeseburger and write at least another one or two thousand words while she played on the playland with other kids.

After that week, I was almost at the end. I wrote the last several scenes in one day. I asked my mom to have my daughter over to play so that I could work on getting my first draft finished before my upcoming visit to Kait’s house. I wrote thousands of words that day.

I’m still very happy with the way the book ends, but the biggest criticism of the story is that the ending is somewhat abrupt. Maybe I was just exhausted.

Act 3: In which the Wanderer becomes a Warrior

Well, I’m not sure Susan as a protag will ever be considered a warrior, but certainly there was a lot of self-doubt to be overcome. I had to get 11 beta readers with overwhelmingly positive responses on Hush Money, before I started to believe that it was good enough to put a price tag on it.

I was editing a manuscript, something I’d never really done before. I’d finished a few things, but nothing I’d ever loved enough to want to make it better. And I was learning about formatting and all the other stuff that goes into publishing an ebook.

During this time, I’d finally hooked up with Zoe Winters one-on-one instead of going through Kait. It was fun and exciting to talk to her. She was in the crazy period of having released Claimed and Mated and having incredible success with those. Kait was having record sales of Forsaken by Shadow. Evenings would go by, with both of them in separate chat windows, both of them giving me their stats, rankings by the hour, in stereo.

And I was waiting for Hush Money to return from 11 betas and feeling absolutely desperate to join this party. By the time I had to leave my original cover artist and hire a new one at the end of July, I was crazy obsessed with getting my work out there to see how it would do.

Act 4: The exciting climax sequence

Finally, at the beginning of August, I was finally ready to get this thing out there! I uploaded on August 2nd, and the book started to go live all that week. First on Smashwords on the 3rd, then I think the Amazon listing started show up on 4th, with a buy button by the 5th.

And then commenced the crazy. I had to start doing that which I had dreaded. Marketing. I had to go back to blogging. I had to active on Twitter. I had to try to learn Facebook. And it was hard to find the time for all that because I had to check my stats EVERY. FREAKIN’. HOUR.

The week after Hush Money was released, I went to Disney World. While I was there, Kait sent me a text to let me know I’d made my first Amazon bestseller chart.

I had to check out Goodreads. I did the ebook giveaway event there, got great response, and had people reading my book.

In August, I “sold” a total of 113 copies.

36 of those I gave away.

I was also very busy researching print-on-demand and trying to figure out the best method for doing that for my non-existent budget and attention span. I chose Createspace. The print version of Hush Money was released on September 24th.

Hush Money was finally finished, I was getting started on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, and by the time the second month was over, I’d sold four times what I’d sold in the first month.

Epilogue

Five months later, I still struggle with making this sequel happen. Just like I’d never liked anything enough to do serious edits (though at least I’d edited for others!), I’d also never tried to write a sequel.

Hush Money continues to do incredibly well. I went into this with no idea what to expect, hoping, perhaps, to reach 1000 copies by this time. I’m astounded to be able to tell you that I was able to reach well over 6000 copies by the end of this year.

I can’t begin to tell you the joy that sharing this story has brought me. I’ve met so many incredible people this year, made so many wonderful friends. At least a few times a week I experience the wonder of finding that someone has taken the time to contact me, by email, or by leaving a comment on my About Me or Talent Chronicles pages, or somewhere else, just to tell me how much they enjoyed Hush Money. I get fan mail! Internationally!! I have been thanked countless times for doing something that I loved doing. And I’ve been damned, numerous times, for the sins of keeping someone up past their bedtime or making them remember how it feels to be a teen.

This will probably be the last time I talk about numbers for a while. Certainly, for me, the subject will always inspire excitement and a measure of awe. In the beginning, I really did believe that sharing these numbers was helpful for those who might be considering indie publishing and might want some ideas what to expect. But sometimes more is just more, and I don’t want to invite negativity into my life by having anyone take my sharing of this information in a different spirit than it’s intended.

What I hope I have managed to express, in this post and in this year, is the profound sense of gratitude I feel for everyone who’s helped me. Toward everyone who has (in no particular order) reviewed the book at a retail site, left a review on Goodreads, talked about it in a forum, voted for it in a poll, tweeted about it, blogged about it, told a friend, written to me, asked me a question about it, longed for the sequel, encouraged me during the many times I get nervous and feel like I’m losing my mind, bought it for someone else, sent me interview questions, and, hey, bought it and read the freakin’ thing.

Thank you all for making 2010 an absolutely amazing year for me.

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Amazon, Censorship, and DRM

I freaking hate DRM. Hate hate hate. DRM absolutely affects my buying decisions. Absolutely. I’ve been an ebook fan for a while now. My device was pretty expensive, because the technology was newer when I bought it, but before agency pricing I was able to save enough money on my book-buying habit to make it worth the price, because back then you could get a lot of good deals on ebooks. (And you still can, if you stick to cheap, DRM-free indie reads.) What really made the decision for me to embrace ebooks at the time was how much I love getting digital books from the library. So my choice of ereader was the one that worked with the library’s DRM.

I’m going to want a new device down the line. I’m already looking. But in purchasing a device, I want to concentrate on device quality and features–not the quality of the store to which the device is virtually tethered. A main reason I don’t buy DRM-encumbered books is because I want to be sure my library is as future-protected as possible, and that I’ll be able to read all of those books on my next ereader.

There may be some of you who are confused about what I’m saying here, so let me pause to explain. But do keep in mind that I’m not a technician and I don’t play one on TV, so my understanding and explanation may be technically flawed. An ebook is a file. When you purchase an ebook with DRM, that file is locked by the DRM. You need to have a program that contains your (or your device’s) individual license in order to unlock that file and enjoy your purchase. That program and information is contained in your device, and you may or may not also have that on your personal computer as well. As long as the DRM encumbers your purchase, you will need to rely on that program and license info any time you want to experience the media you bought. Depending on how much you buy, that can start to require a lot of faith on your part. Faith that your license will always be honored.

And the fact is, a lot of people just don’t think about or care about actually owning what they buy. But I’m not one of those. Books have never been throwaway purchases for me, and I don’t have a different attitude toward ebooks. All my ebooks get saved to my hard drive, backed up, and the selection I want to keep on the device gets side-loaded (moved from PC to device by cable) on and off.

So guess what’s not going to happen to my DRM-free books. And here’s where the inspiration for today’s post comes from: I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and find that the willy-nilly Amazon censorship committee has dicked with my personal library. Unless I very much mistake how the world works, if it’s DRM-free and I’ve backed it up, they can’t take it away from me. And, of course, I can convert it to any format I want, to read it on whatever device I choose to purchase going forward.

It’s my money and my purchase. I deserve that security and that freedom to be able to own what I buy. And my readers deserve it.

All the DRM has been cracked. The amount of effort it takes for a pirate to strip a book of DRM and fileshare it is about as much effort as it takes you and me to check our email. Yes, DRM will prevent casual sharing. It will prevent Sally from telling Jane, “OMG, I just read the greatest book. Read it nooowwww,” and attaching the file, in the same way she, and probably you, have lent out paperbacks in the past. And yes, I agree that there are no controls on the number of copies the enthusiastic Sally can fileshare, and that’s a problem inherent in digital media.

But at the end of the day, I trust Sally, my reader, more than I trust the corporate entities that are currently screwing around, back-room dealing in DRM to control my purchases and spending. And I’d kind of rather be a little dicked over by Sally’s enthusiasm than dick her– and my other readers, scrupulously honest readers– over by not allowing her to take my book with her to her next device purchase or to find it no longer available to her when the retailer from which she purchased it decides to remove her access.

Want an example of the controlling bullshit going on with DRM? Sony Reader reads EPUB, and DRM’d content for the Sony is “protected” by Adobe. Wow, same with NOOK! So that means Sony owners have a whole new store to shop! Um…no. Notice how Sony’s not on the list of supported devices. Why? It makes no sense. Same file format, same program for licensed content. What’s the deal? I NEVER got a straight answer out of B&N customer service. At first I think they wanted to talk about the wireless stuff. Um, I don’t CARE abut the wireless stuff, my device is pre-wireless. Why can’t I just purchase the content, open it in Adobe Digital Editions, and side-load it? And I actually think that customer service just wasn’t educated enough to answer my questions.

A lot of Googling finally informed me that just because both devices go through Adobe Digital Editions, doesn’t mean it’s the same DRM. I read somewhere that NOOK DRM is a variation on the previous Adobe DRM, and that’s why it won’t work for the Sony Reader. Why? Or maybe because they’re following Amazon’s model: if you want to shop our store, you’re going to have to buy our reader (we’re just not even going to talk about smartphone or PC apps because who wants that?). Maybe because everyone else who’s been dealing with Adobe got together and pressured Adobe: No! Don’t let them have the same DRM as us or we’ll lose all our ebook customers to B&N! Who knows?

But what’s any of that got to do with piracy?

Nothing.

Indies have the choice to DRM or not to DRM with some retailers. Many DRM without even thinking about it. Oh yes, protect me from the dreaded pirates! when it’s got so little to do with piracy and so much to do with controlling the market. We can’t always control what happens to our uploaded content at all retailers (I’m sure Hush Money is DRM-encumbered at Kobo, Sony, and Apple, for example), but we can give our customers choices.

My readers don’t deserve to be encumbered by bullshit DRM, and I won’t choose it.

PS. Everyone who commented yesterday was a winner. I’ll send those prizes out today. Thanks, guys!

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Filed under rant

Giveaway: My favorite book marketing how-to guide

ETA: Read on for more about this very helpful book, but please note that this giveaway is over and comments have been closed.

My daughter’s scheduled outpatient surgery (getting a bunch of gum-chewing teeth taken care of because she tried to sock the dentist, even with laughing gas), was canceled due to snow. It’s certainly not a ton of snow by our standards, but for this part of the country, everything has to shut down. I hate snow, I really do, and my daughter told me, “If you hate snow, you hate Christmas.”

But, I really don’t. I’ve “Bah Humbug”ed more than once already, and I’ll do it again, but underneath this stress-ed out exterior, I really do love Christmas. And to prove it, I wanted to give away something I’ve found very useful this year.

Yep, I’m talking about We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb. I talked about this book when I was reading it back in September, but I just got around to writing an Amazon review yesterday. Bad Susan.

I’d like to believe you all hang on my every word and that, when I mention a book, you all run right out and buy it. But hey, you don’t, and this one’s 8 bucks for the Kindle version! And we’re all starving artists, aren’t we? But thanks to the magic of Amazon’s Gift as a Gift button (how much does that rock?) (and my magical Amazon credit card), I can easily offer you this book that I found so helpful, encouraging, and entertaining.

Note that this is the Kindle edition, and is DRM’d, so you’ll have to read it on a Kindle-compatible device or on your computer.

It would be lovely if you’d use the sharing buttons below to mention this to your friends and get more people to check out Kristen’s book, but I’m keeping this simple and all that’s required is that you leave a comment, saying that you’d like to win the book (to distinguish you from the other people who have to comment to gush about how great Kristen is). Let’s have an end to entries at 9am Eastern on Friday, since I’ll have another 1-day giveaway for you on Thursday. That should jog my memory to, you know, pay up. Then I’ll choose one random winner from among the entries. (ETA: it looks like I’ll be doing that other giveaway tomorrow, FYI. Doesn’t affect anything for this one, though, except my ability to remember to hand out a prize.)

And if you already read this book, will you please drop by Amazon and leave a review? Just your 5-star rating (I assume) with the line “I found this book really helpful” or “Great introduction to social media for authors” or something like that. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but ratings really help. In a world of corporate-branding For Dummies and Idiot’s Guide how-to books, let’s help out one of the little guys who deserves it.

27 Comments

Filed under Contests

PubIt vs. Smashwords, now with numbers

First of all, sorry for the hit and run posts lately. I know I’ve been dropping these posts and then running off and not being good about responding to comments. It’s rude and I apologize. I want to thank everyone who reassured me about that email/article the other day, especially. And I’m claiming “silly season” for the rest of it.

And, not to be all about the apologies, but this is another post that’s very indie-author oriented and of limited interest to readers.

So today I found that I finally have actual numbers for my sales at Barnes and Noble through Smashwords, so that I can give a more accurate picture.

I wish I’d kept better records of this stuff, but it’s hard to keep up with everything. Hush Money was published via Smashwords on August 3rd, but I don’t think it caught a ship date to BN until the end of the month. Then it takes a while for the book to actually show up at BN. So I don’t remember the date it actually showed up at BN, but it was sometime in September.

I published via PubIt on October 14. The book went live quickly, within a day, I think, and the Smashwords version was taken down within a week.

Anyway, sales at BN via Smashwords were actually better than I thought. For the period ending October 31, I sold 13 copies and estimate royalties (because they just gave me sales, not royalties yet) at $5.59.

These last two months with PubIt I’ve sold over 1800 copies and they tell me they owe me over $700.

(Since we never get paid until 2 months after these sales, I still haven’t actually received more than $150 for my work, so all this discussion of royalties still feels very theoretical for me. Theoretically cool, but still like Monopoly money.)

Why some authors took off at PubIt right away and some haven’t is something we’ve been trying to figure out. And it’s not just one thing. I’m pretty sure price has something to do with it, as some readers have told me they picked up Hush Money because it’s cheap. It’s possible there was a problem with the searchability of the Smashwords listings and they weren’t being categorized and sorted when NOOK users wanted to search by price.

But it seems unlikely that price, and searching by price, could be all of it, since Zoe Winters’ sales make mine look like peanuts, and her work starts at $2.99.

It’s possible that BN chose to promote some authors on some kind of a “Deals” list or something of that nature, but I’ve no idea if that happened, nor how they would have selected.

But I think the point is that BN just hadn’t gotten behind the indie books until PubIt. It doesn’t seem like they took care of the Smashwords listings. Many authors have complained about not being searchable by category, and I think browsability must be an issue. Essentially, it seemed that we just weren’t being found on BN unless someone searched for our book specifically or followed a direct link. Until PubIt.

It should be noted that the royalty rate for titles under $2.99 is going to be significantly higher via Smashwords, as Kait recently explained to us so clearly in this article. However, this is like my arguments about the 99cent price point for new indies: a higher royalty on significantly fewer sales doesn’t benefit you.

And I say this loving Smashwords, and Mark, the vision of it, and what it tries to do for us. I hope we’ll come to a point where indies will have enough of the market that our listings will be treated as valuable commodities no matter how we choose to publish, and that Smashwords will gain the power to assure us of proper categorization, browsing, and searchability with other retailers, more reasonable and certain stocking times (I’m STILL not stocked at Diesel), faster reporting and payment. Because the one-stop, multiformat publishing and distribution they offer really is a great service. The ebook thing, as a whole, is still very new. Everyone’s still scrabbling to try to figure it out, and just starting to realize that it’s worth doing well.

(I mean, look, if I just made $700 at BN at 40%, that means they made $1050. Which is not huge, but I’m sure they’ve got plenty of listings that didn’t make that for them in these last two months. And I’m not Zoe Winters, Amanda Hocking, or HP Mallory who are making me look like adorable baby indie isn’t that cute. Is Borders wondering if maybe now it’s time to get a piece of these indie sales yet?)

Anyway, I hope this helps any of you who might be trying to make the decision about whether to go with Smashwords to get into BN–which I believe Konrath said he was sticking with a few weeks ago–or whether to go with PubIt. And if anyone’s still on the fence about whether they should bother with anything outside of Amazon, I hope this helps you realize the potential of sales at Barnes and Noble.

21 Comments

Filed under PubIt

Lessons from the Universe Continue to Plague Me

Some days are just full of headaches and embarrassments.

The headache is mainly just that I’m sick with one of those nasty, painful colds. At least we didn’t have a snow day for the THIRD day in a row. I know I’m not supposed to consider school my babysitter, but come on.

Anyway, I feel terrible about this, like I just have total promo fail. I can’t believe my reach is still so small that I can’t even give away 10 copies of a book. And it may be partly that Imogen and I have been doing cross-promo and she’s already tapped as much of my small network as she’s gonna. And it’s probably also that I had to go our around 12:30 yesterday, didn’t get home until 8pm, and then just crawled into bed, so the PM world didn’t really know about the giveaway. So basically, everyone who commented yesterday wins, and I appreciate it. I’ve already sent those out.

So a friend of mine, who is somewhat down, has written to me with some questions about self-publishing. And like the indie fiend that I am, I’m responding with a long letter, attempting to take advantage of his frustration and bring him over to the Dark Side.

And while I’m doing this, an email I wrote a few weeks ago come back to haunt me.

While I was away for that reunion thing over Thanksgiving weekend, I got this email from the people at BookBuzzr, basically saying: hey, since you’ve been with us, your rank has gone from this to this. Do you know how that happened and have any marketing tips we could share with our readers?

Well, now, you guys know that I am always happy to babble about that stuff, so I did. With my husband tapping his foot, I furiously typed this really long email in which I brain-dumped everything I could think of, most of which you guys have already read. Only, you know, I thought I was just talking one-on-one, and I was pressed for time, and I left out the self-effacing humble stuff that I actual feel, but just didn’t have time for that morning.

So in the middle of what’s supposed to be a kick-ass, indie-rah email to my friend, I get a promo in my inbox that mentions my name in a link. And follow it to the reprint of this previous email.

Now, don’t get all mad on my account. I say I didn’t know it was coming out, but I’m sure it was a misunderstanding on my part and I’m not mad. You’d be AMAZED and frightened by the amount of stuff that goes over my head and that I just plain forget. If you’re one of those writers who goes about in a fog most of the time and makes the absent-minded professor look like Franklin Planner-Man, you know what I’m talking about. (I am, actually, the antithesis of Kait Nolan. And suddenly the Anti-Kait has a ring to it…) But it leaves me sort of nonplussed and kind of embarrassed, and concerned about whether, perhaps, I came off as a big no-it-all with a huge, bloated head. Plus I might have tried to sound more smarter than I do around here, talking with you friends.

The lesson here, for all of us, is to remember to be careful in our communications with others, to pay attention to whether or not we’re projecting what we intend, and that what we say electronically can live on for a long time in ways we didn’t originally expect.

Heroes ‘Til Curfew, for enquiring minds who want to know, is going fairly well this week. I enjoyed the 2500+ words I wrote yesterday from Dylan’s perspective, many of which were written in Burger King, with its wonderful indoor playground. You know, when I mention fast food playland, NO ONE takes their kids to unhealthy places like that. Oh well. Deal. I got words down and no one had to die, and if someone had to suck down some chicken and fries for the cause, so be it.

I have now exercised two days in a row, and three times within a week. Now, I will grant you, it hasn’t been a lot of exercise, but I have turned on the Wii and done something, and I demand at least partial credit for this. Plus, there was water consumed that was not even carbonated. I know, right? But I did it anyway.

That’s it! That’s all the babbling you get for now. I have things to do, tissues to destroy, and vulnerable writers to corrupt, and I must move on.

15 Comments

Filed under Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Increasing Kindle Rank, Laws of the Universe, links, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, what not to do, word count, writing

For Indies: Get your print and ebooks linked

My rankings are really sliding the last few days. I hope that means some of my buddies are getting some traction and selling lots of books.

To that end, I come to you with a quick post of hopefully helpful indie info.

My print and Nook versions of Hush Money are finally linked on Barnes & Noble. Moreover, when they linked the two listings they also copied ratings and reviews from one edition to the other. This does give me a couple duplicates from a few people who were kind enough to find both listings and leave reviews for me, but it also means I now have 70 ratings and 17 reviews that people can see when they find the print version. Yay credibility.

Ok, so if the listing for your print version states that there’s no Nook version available, you’ll want to email BN at corrections@barnesandnoble.com and let them know that you do have both formats. Provide them with the links to both listings, and especially the ISBNs for each edition. When I did this, they took care of it VERY quickly (but if there’s a small flood of them they might slow down).

If you haven’t done this on Amazon, you’ll want to take care of that too. When your cheap Kindle version is climbing the charts, sometimes it gets onto “Books” charts, not just Kindle charts. So when those non-Kindle readers find your awesomeness, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy for them to see there’s an edition they can buy too. (Not that mine are flying out the door, mind you.)

When I wrote to Amazon, a very nice CSR told me that if your titles are exactly the same for both editions, this usually happens automatically. This may be the same for BN, I’ve no idea, as I think the format of my title is a little different (like one is Hush Money (Talent Chronicles) and one is Hush Money: Talent Chronicles #1, or something like that). When they’re not identical, you’ll need to email these guys and give them a heads up. I contacted DTP customer service for this at dtp-support@amazon.com, and it was taken care of within a few days. Make sure you send them the ISBN for the print, the ASIN for the Kindle edition, and send them links to both listings in case that makes it easier.

Don’t put it off. It’s Christmastime. Go and sell some books.

And hey, don’t forget that a shiny new copy of Hush Money would make a swell gift. If anyone’s interested in autographed copies for gift-giving, I’ve got some copies here and would be happy to send those out for you, though I’m not promising next-day order fulfillment. Email me with any personalization details you need and don’t forget to include your PayPal address so I can bill you. I think I can match Amazon’s $8.99 with no shipping fee and break even.

4 Comments

Filed under Hush Money, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Status Update, Coming Attractions, Secret Identities

Let’s just get this out of the way. I don’t think Stacey Wallace Benefiel (authoress of Glimpse, Glimmer, Day of Sacrifice) ever initiates a conversation two times in a row using the same messenger. One day it’s email, then Goodreads PM, then Facebook message, then a DM on Twitter… Is Stacey a secret agent, trying to cover her tracks? Are there coded messages I’m too blonde to see? While posing as a home-renovating mother-of-two, is she really about to drop from a helicopter onto a moving train and wondering why I haven’t rushed her plea for extraction to the agent they have planted at the local Waffle House?

These are things I ponder.

Hush Money hit a new milestone yesterday: 2000 sales. The end of October/beginning of November was freaking awesome on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

This will probably not be the last time that I mention that there’s nothing like a shiny new paperback under the tree, should you wish to consider Joss and her friends to fulfill your gift-giving needs this holiday season.

Can you believe she’s starting up with that crap already, and it’s not even freakin’ Thanksgiving yet? Damn. I know!

Ok, what else. Oooh! Right. So Quantum! Who’s a fan of the Portal Chronicles, raise your hand? (If your hand is not raised, it’s because you haven’t read yet, so go, buy Portal, start getting caught up now, ’cause…) The third book, Quantum, releases on Tuesday, November 16th. The main character, Arizona, is due to drop by here and drop off some kind of message for you on Tuesday. So make sure you’ve done the homework.

Also of possible interest, she said innocently, the cover of Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the follow-up to Hush Money, will be revealed on Wednesday, Nov. 17th. It was not at all what I expected, and really took my breath away when I saw the initial concept. Robin is awesomesauce, and I hope you’ll all like it as much as I do.

Yes, the new book is coming along better, thank you for asking. Yesterday I finally pushed through a scene that was giving me all kinds of problems. When I was finished, I just wanted to sit and write more. Dammit. Self-washing dishes, where are you?? As I was driving to Girl Scouts, I was totally seeing the inside of the record store instead of the road, Joss was yelling, stuff was flying–it was all pretty distracting. Now imagine me, having this realization: Wow, I could totally have a really bad wreck right now! and grinning from ear to ear because I’m finally getting somewhere.

Watch out you Nano peeps. Don’t count me out yet!

Did you guys know I have another identity? No, I don’t use a pen name. In the dark and dangerous manuscript critiquing underworld, I am known, by those who can find me, as Pink Hammer. My supercharged weapon of choice? The Pink Hammer of Doom, of course. Now this is all totally wrecked by Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, because now even I am asking myself if the hammer is really my penis, and it pretty much makes me the laughingstock of the underworld. Thank you very much. Nevertheless, I persevere, and will be taking out these frustrations on Devil’s Eye by Kait Nolan. So if Kait seems a little jumpy this week, if you see her stocking up on adult diapers because she’s pissing herself in fear, be kind.

Haha, no, really. It’s not like that.

Is it?

Ok, I think I’ve babbled at you guys long enough for one morning. Anyone have news? I haven’t been getting out much; feel free to tell me what’s up.

14 Comments

Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, Kettle chat, me me me, NaNoWriMo, progress update, PubIt, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing