This Week in Publishing…

23 June 2012

From Book

So, what’s going on in publishing this week?   I should correct that to say “What’s going on in publishing that I actually care about this week?”

It is 400 bazillion degrees in New York this week, and as such, everyone is cranky and everything is taking longer. For instance, even this blog post took longer, as this theme decided that it no longer wanted to recognize carriage returns, so I had to go all old-school and hand-write some hard returns so that it wouldn’t be the world’s longest paragraph. Sweet! In the continued saga of “publishing goes digital,” I have the following updates from the trenches, as it were:


1.  This week I had a weird “debate” with a person at a major publishing company about how they simply did not believe that eBooks should be priced below $10.   My reaction to this:   do you have a life-raft ?  You are on the ideological Titanic.  Publishers love to hate Amazon, but they sell a ton of books, and guess what?  They penalize you in the form of lower commission if you sell a book for less than $2.99 or more than $9.99.  To me, this means that Amazon will reward you if you stay in this profit zone.    Why on earth would big publishing not want the millions of dollars’ worth of market research Amazon is conducting every single day, I wonder?   Also, big publishing America, I would like to add that I talked to a New York literary agent this week who told me she just TURNED DOWN a $5,000 advance on a book for one of her authors because she wasn’t confident in the publisher’s digital capabilities.    Oh!  It burns!


2. I read this book, implemented some of this guy’s strategies, and am waiting and testing and recording results.  HOWEVER, I think he is absolutely insane for dismissing blogging and social media as a factor in author success.   I stopped reading his book once when he said “there’s no way Amanda Hocking blogged her way to success,” because I assumed anyone who would say something like that didn’t know the market and I couldn’t learn anything from him.  Well, my bad, he actually does have an interesting method (though, just to warn you, it is MUCH more complicated and time-consuming than it initially seems), but I still think he’s dead wrong about people with active blogs and social media.  Dead wrong.  Amazon will adjust its algorithm just like Google does, your books will rise and fall in Amazon ranking (after the first six months of your first book being out, you will quickly tire of this), and while this method may fall out of favor, you know what will NEVER be impacted be mysterious algorithms or whims?  A mailing list full  of your loyal followers and readers who actually want to buy your books.    I’m all for learning new things (in fact, I do it all the time so you don’t have to!), but it kind of bugs me when someone comes up with one theory, then dismisses all of the others.  This strategy, if you choose to learn it, should be PART of your arsenal of writer tools, not the whole thing.  Always be diversifying and building up that list!

Read the rest here:  Book Promotion .com

— From Julia Barrett


Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Amazon, Big Publishing, Books in General, Ebooks, Indie Bookstores, Kindle, Self-Publishing, Social Media, The Business of Writing, Writing Tools

20 Comments to “This Week in Publishing…”

  1. File under True Quotes: Speaking with a honcho at a small but powerful publishing house in North Carolina, I was told, “Amazon arbitrarily slashed the price on one of our books to $2.99 the other day.” The Big Mahoff (Born in Philadelphia, see: waited for my reaction, then added, “but that day we sold 27,000 copies of the book.” What’s the message here?

  2. Reading the sample, his math is a little off: 25k visitors to his blog, 5k click through to buy, and he says that’s about 25%. Nope, it’s 20%.

    Still quite enviable. 😉

    • You missed the bit where 20% (after correcting the math) click through, but of those, only 1% actually buy the book. Hence his conclusion that blogging is a waste of time.

      I bought the book, and while it does indeed have a lot of interesting techniques that I would like to try (and some that, though doubtless effective, I do not want to try), it is marred throughout by slipshod arithmetic. I would wager, if I had any money to stake, that he hasn’t done any real statistical analysis on the effectiveness of his various techniques, because frankly, I don’t think he has the mathematical skill for it.

      Take this as the equivalent of a three-star review based on an (as yet) incomplete reading. I’m about two-thirds of the way through.

      • Thanks for saving me some time – those of you who did buy and read the book are providing good summaries.

  3. I checked out the book she links to, and was surprised to find it had a lot of substance. (So many of these books fill the “get rich quick” formula of having a tiny amount of common knowledge or common sense, then pad it out with testimonials and teasers.)

    There is some snake oil, and some “black-hat” advice, but overall it seems to be about presentation. IMHO, that’s where people should be putting their marketing efforts. (I haven’t read it all the way through yet, though.)

    Also agreed with Julia that this book’s specific advice (the step by step stuff) does depend a lot on optimizing for a system which will change.

    • Hey Camille, since I haven’t read the book in question I can’t speak to it. I am quite aware of the unfortunate “snake oil” quotient in books offered. This one looked a little different. I stuck it on my ‘to review’ list.

      • Definitely worthy of a review.

        I am a little squicked by his advice to write glowing reviews of your competitors, and then put a clickable link to your own book in the first sentence.

        In general principles, highlighting the best of your competition is a great thing, and I highly recommend it as just a good thing to do — not as a marketing move. And yes, for non-fiction, pointing out your bonafides is also, theoretically, a reasonable part of that. You identify yourself as someone who knows what they are talking about.

        But if you are doing it for selfish reasons, it shows in the review. And the way he recommends doing it is so crass it’s just plain obvious that you’re not reading a genuine review.

        • Amazon review guidelines prohibit reviewing competitors’ books, or linking to your own book.

          So the guy’s not really giving good advice.

          • I don’t pay much attention to the rules and reviews… but I did wonder about that. I knew they had something against linking.

            I assume what’s going on is that Amazon depends on complaints to enforce that, and since he’s giving five-star reviews, nobody is complaining.

            Also, it’s kind of hard to define who is your competition. Some of the best reviewers out there are also writers, and they don’t see other books in their genre as competition. Most of us see other writers as our colleagues, and those of us who review do it professionally as an academic thing.

            So the rule about not reviewing your competition seems to be more a way to go after deceitful reviews than as something for universal enforcement.

            All the same, I consider what he recommends to be very deceitful – he even says that if you hate the book, find something to praise so you can lie and say you love it.

            • Yep, that is deceitful.

              Amazon has defined ‘competitors’ as ‘any book in the same genre(s) you write’, and you are likely correct that it is to prevent fake or retaliatory reviews by other authors.

              The thing is, some authors will go after someone for any review under 5 stars and I don’t give out a lot of 5 star reviews. 😉

  4. I read the reviews of Make a Killing on Kindle, most of which put links to their books and said how their sales increased dramatically.

    Being a sceptic, I clicked on the links. None of those books are highly ranked. If they got a boost, it was short-lived.

    • Well, the reviews themselves gave their books another opportunity for exposure (I noticed the same thing you noticed). I don’t know whether the book recommended cross-posting books in other places, but it’s certainly common. (and by the way, my book…)

    • You know, those reviews looked exactly like the usual “testimonials” you see in get rich quick schemes.

  5. I did buy it (Make a Killing on Kindle), and swallowed it whole today (okay, I skimmed some of the later parts I’m not quite ready for).

    I bought it because, following his own advice, the author made sure that the Look Inside the Book feature provided a lot of information about his advice and clearly illustrated his writing style, which seemed copacetic.

    I will not be able to put the energy into social media that so many other authors push. So the hook for me was exactly what the (?) blogger DIDN’T like.

    The book advocated writing a very good book (don’t they all), but gave specific advice about things like using the places where readers look for information (keywords, description, etc.) deliberately and carefully to give the best composite understanding of the book. For readers.

    IOW, there seemed to be more suggestions and examples that worked for me than usual – maybe because, as usual, I’m out there on the far edges of the bell curve.

    I thought I had been exposed to most of the ideas out there (have been exhaustively reading blogs for six months), and I still found a lot of new ideas, or ideas expressed in a new way. YMMV

    • So I think I will definitely have to read and review this book – It will be a first for me since I never read how to sell books books.

    • BTW, that’s why I bought it — although there were “black hat” elements to it, clearly the emphasis was on creating a good product.

      The packaging IS a part of the product, imho. When I get back to blogging about writing this fall, I think I’ll do a series on passive marketing — which is mainly about tending your own garden. Make sure that when a reader finds you, the experience is a joy.

  6. I’m just starting to look at Amazon for indie publishing and didn’t realize they penalized for listing under $2.99. I was planning on listing for $1.99. Anyone know the penalty?

    • Technically they aren’t penalizing you for the wrong price, they’re just rewarding people who use the best price points.

      Books of any price between .99 and $100 can sign up for the 35 percent fixed royalty option. Books priced between 2.99 and 9.99 can choose the 35 percent fixed, OR the 70 percent option.

      With the 35 percent option, you earn 35 percent of your list price, even if Amazon discounts the price (except for free). With 70 percent, you earn 70 percent of actual sales price, so if they discount the book, you only 70 percent of the discount price.

      Most of the time, they don’t discount unless you’ve set the price lower someplace else (which you are not supposed to do anyway). Now and then they will discount it as part of a promotion, and if so, you will get enough sales to really make it worth it.

    • I don’t know how to explain, RD. It’s less a penalty but more that your sales carry less weight in terms of ranking. Other than that, I can’t explain. I’m sure someone who frequents this site can do a much better job than I can.

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