Self-Publishing

Self Published Title is Kobo’s Most Read Crime Novel of All Time

28 July 2016

From Kobo Writing Life:

Rakuten Kobo, a leading innovator in the digital reading space, joins WHSmith as a sponsor of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival taking place this week. In celebration of all things crime, Kobo is releasing insights from an independent survey of the British public and its own user database, which reveals the insights about crime readers and predicts where crime writing may head in the future.

Move over Miss Marple and watch out Watson, because when it comes to the general public’s favourite character from crime novels, it seems one quirky man has definitely won over the hearts of the British public. He may be more than 100 years old, but when asked to choose their favourite character from classic crime novels from seven well-known and well-loved characters, Sherlock Holmes was voted the favourite by every age, gender and location, garnering almost a third of the entire vote!

. . . .

When it comes to crime readers’ favourite reads, Katia Lief’s One Cold Night comes out on top as the number one best-selling crime novel of all time on the entire of Kobo’s platform in the UK. One Cold Night also topped the bestsellers list for self-published titles. Mark Sennen’s Tell Tale: A DI Charlotte Savage Novel tops the best read, with 100% of those who opened the book getting right to the end! The top British crime author of all time, with the most sales across all their books is Lee Child, followed by James Patterson in second place.

Whilst older women may make up the largest demographic of crime readers on the Kobo platform, when asked what genre they would primarily choose to write in when penning their own novel, it seems that the younger generation are the ones who will drive the genre forward with 43% of 25-34 year olds wanting to become authors of their own crime novels. Interestingly, although those over 55 make up a large percentage of crime readers, they were the age group least inclined to add to the genre they love, with 72% saying they would not like to write their own novel.

. . . .

When asked what themes they’d like to see addressed in crime novels, artificial intelligence was the single most popular with (34%) closely followed by virtual reality (25%).

Link to the rest at Kobo Writing Life

For those TPV visitors who don’t use Kobo, here’s the Amazon author page for Ms. Lief.

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Maverick women writers are upending the book industry and selling millions in the process

23 July 2016

From Quartz:

“I just wanted a story with a nice guy.”

In late 2012, author H. M. Ward had an experimental manuscript collecting proverbial dust on her computer. It starred a woman named Sidney and a man named Peter—an impossible nice-guy combo of handsome, strong, smart, patient, and, oh, super wealthy.

Ward had been writing since 2010 and had been down the traditional publishing route before, finding an agent and shopping her work around. Her instinct told her that publishers would have no interest in Peter. “If you take a nice-guy book to a traditional publisher,” she says, “They’re like, ‘That’s weird. Nice guys are boring.’”

So in April 2013, she published her manuscript online on her own. “I just put it up out of curiosity to see what would happen,” she says.

Despite reports that e-books are dying, Ward’s chance paid off, and continues to pay out today. According to the author, Damaged shot to No. 6 in Amazon’s Kindle store within a few days and held the No. 1 spot for several weeks. It spent a month on the New York Times bestsellers list for combined print and ebook. It was the first in two series of nice-guy books that would go on to sell 12 million copies in three years.

Publishers took note. In the year after Ward published Damaged, she was offered a series of deals from various publishers totaling $1.5 million, by her estimate. She turned them all down, and by the time she said no to her last contract, she was making eight figures as a self-published author. “It would have been a colossal mistake to sign with them at that point, financially,” she says.

Romance novels, home of heavy lids, hot breaths, and grabbed wrists, have long been the embarrassing secret money-maker of the book industry. But today, a renegade generation of self-published authors like Ward are redefining the romance novel, adapting to digital in a way that has long-lasting lessons for the book industry.

. . . .

 “Romance readers are a really, really different animal from any other kind of reader out there,” says Laura Bradford, who founded the San Diego-based Bradford Literary Agency, which focuses on romance fiction, in 2001. “They are incredibly voracious. They consume content like locusts.”

. . . .

Ward now earns seven figures a year. She writes in an email, “I’ve been able to hire staff, rent an office, and I admit I might take a private jet now and again. I was living below the poverty line when I started in publishing.”

But she claims none of it would have been possible with a traditional publisher.

. . . .

 With less overhead, self-published authors can set prices far lower than traditional publishers can, usually $3 or $4. Despite the lower prices, the high payout of self-publishing means that some ultimately take home far more than if they go with a publisher, even after accounting for their marketing and editing costs. That’s an added advantage for romance, where authors set their prices extra low because they know their readers read more, and are especially price-conscious.

Link to the rest at Quartz

B&N to Sell Self-Published Books In Stores

23 July 2016

From Book Business:

The big news about Barnes & Noble is that after twenty years of battling with Amazon they have finally made a competitive move that Amazon cannot match. Barnes & Noble, with 640 bookstores in 50 states, is giving self-published authors a chance to get access to their hallowed bookshelves.

. . . .

The news reads best at a quick glance: “…authors have the opportunity to sell their print books at Barnes & Noble stores across the country… participate at in-store events including book signings and discussions, where they will be able to sell their print books and meet fans.”

But the devil’s in the details: the program is for “eligible” NOOK Press authors, defined as “those print book authors whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year.”

. . . .

In my coverage of last fall’s NINC conference I noted some remarks from publishing expert Lou Aronica. Lou provided a forceful reminder that self-published authors can’t afford to ignore print: it still accounts for some two-thirds of book sales overall. The larger problem is getting retail access for print. Independent booksellers have always been more open to dealing with self-published authors than the chains. But trying to get into the 2,311 outlets operated by the 1,775 American Booksellers Association (ABA) members is a logistical impossibility. Barnes & Noble has fewer total outlets than the ABA, but a lot more floor space.

Link to the rest at Book Business and thanks to Deb for the tip.

PG had a previous post on this subject, but revisited it for the last paragraph excerpted above.

Thinking about self-published authors as an industry, like traditional publishing, is, in PG’s charmingly humble opinion, a mistake.

If you’re talking about traditional publishers, you’ll find very little difference in their business methods and practices.

Indie authors, however, are individual entrepreneurs, much more flexible and innovative than tradpub, and able to discover and exploit parts of the market that are invisible to Manhattan.

While some indie authors may find good business selling into the print market, PG suggests that, for most, it’s an unprofitable time-waster. For anything but POD, it’s too much overhead, too much administrative work and simply not profitable.

Ebooks are a far more profitable pursuit than print for the large majority of indie authors. As Author Earnings has demonstrated, indie authors are dominating more and more of the ebook market on Amazon. And not just with price. Top-selling indie authors are far better marketers, even with small budgets, than traditional publishers.

And print is a declining market. Most avid fiction readers have already moved to ebooks and they’re becoming accustomed to great prices and instant availability. Articles about the renaissance of print are focusing on ripples in a rising river that’s flowing in the opposite direction.

Barnes & Noble had 726 stores in 2008 and it has 640 today.

In 2005, Borders operated 1,329 stores. Today, it operates none.

And no, independent bookstores have not made up for this decline.

Want to Succeed at Self-Publishing? Reviews Are a Double-Edged Sword

19 July 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Kealan Patrick Burke won a 2004 Bram Stoker Award for his novella The Turtle Boy, but he still couldn’t make writing his full time job. Eventually, he stopped writing altogether: his job as a fraud investigator sucked up much of his time and energy. “But because a writer can never really quit writing,” Burke looked for ways to get back into it. He decided to try self-publishing his considerable backlist as an experiment. Three short years later, he was able to quit his job and start writing full-time again. Publishers Weekly gave one of his self-published novels, Sour Candy, a starred review, calling the writing “visceral” and said of Burke “[he] creates a stomach-twisting ride through the depths of horror, breathing new life into an often-stagnant part of the genre.”

Burke did much research into self-publishing before he committed to it: “I sought out advice from and read the accounts of those who had already done so…I wanted a balanced view of both the positives and negatives before I committed to it. I brushed up my Photoshop skills so I could design my own covers (a practical and economical consideration), read the formatting how-to books…and basically over the course of six months, tried to learn everything there was to know about the process.”

However, Burke readily admits that he underestimated the need for marketing, despite his research: “I was naïve and supposed that if the book was more widely available, the amount of promotion I would have to do would be minimal, that the exposure itself would sell it. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the lessons I had to learn the hard way (and it’s same no matter what the medium), is that no matter how good a book is, nobody will read it unless you teach yourself to be a savvy marketer. It’s a simple fact that many people continue to ignore, and then they blame Amazon, or competing writers, or the publishing climate, when quite often it comes down to the world not being aware that your book exists.”

. . . .

 “Good reviews are wonderful for the ego, but an informative negative review can be invaluable. You are not infallible and you cannot expect your work to be any different. It can always be better. The minute you think you’ve nothing left to learn is the moment you’ve given up on your craft. Do not engage reviewers. It is not their job to answer to a writer, and while you may not agree with them, the fact remains that you had your one and only opportunity to sway the opinions of reviewers when you wrote the book.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Tough Sell

16 July 2016

From The Globe and Mail:

On a recent Saturday evening, Douglas Gardham is sitting behind the wheel of his black Acura TL, on a highway west of Toronto, making his way back to Alliston, the small town where he lives. The road is slick from the rainstorm that passed through the area earlier that afternoon, and traffic is relatively light. The radio is off, and the car, for the moment, is quiet. He seems tired. It’s almost 10 p.m., and it has been, for Gardham, a long day; he’d arrived home just after one that morning, having spent the previous week-and-a-half in Mexico with his wife, where they celebrated their 30th anniversary, and left his house at 10 a.m. to drive to a Chapters bookstore in a big-box shopping mall on the border of Oakville and Mississauga. He spent the subsequent nine hours standing behind a small table, near the entrance, hawking his two self-published books to strangers.

“It was a better day than I thought it would be,” he says, his eyes darting between the road ahead and the rear-view mirror. “I didn’t think we’d get to that number.”

He sold 29 books that day, surpassing the 16 sales he averages at each event. This is Gardham’s career. Every weekend for the past three years, with very few exceptions, Douglas Gardham has travelled to a different bookstore, from British Columbia to New England, to sell his books. Three years ago, just after his first novel, The Actor, was published, he quit his full-time job of 20 years to try and make it as a writer. By his own estimate, he’s driven more than 115,000 kilometres during his travels, which have undoubtedly cost him much more than he’s earned. This weekend, he’ll be in London; next weekend, it’ll be Peterborough; at the end of the month, he’ll visit Toronto. He has events booked through the rest of 2016. When I ask, as we leave Mississauga behind, how long he can keep this schedule up, he doesn’t hesitate at all before answering.

“I can’t see myself stopping.”

You’ve probably never heard of Douglas Gardham. I’d never heard of him, either, when, a little more than three years ago, he e-mailed me out of the blue. He’d just published The Actor, which he’d been working on since 1998, and was trying to drum up some media attention. As a rule, I rarely write about self-published books – there are too many, they are largely terrible and most of them are not readily available in bookstores. I told him to send me a copy of the book, though I had no intention of writing about it.

Over the months – and eventually years – that followed I began to think of Gardham as my benevolent stalker; he sent me regular updates, links to blog posts he’d written, interviews he’d conducted with small-town papers and radio stations and tagged me in tweets, which often included a photograph of Gardham, taken in whichever bookstore he happened to be visiting that weekend, smiling and holding up copies of The Actor and The Drive In, a short-story collection he published in late 2014.

. . . .

 “I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” he says of his early media outreach. “I had to come to the realization [that] I’d been writing most of my life, but from the world’s perspective, I’d just started.”

. . . .

 “I’ve talked to so many people who are not necessarily doing what they want to do,” he says. “They have something inside them that they would like to do but they just can’t. And that’s how The Actor was originally written – the idea of someone getting out from what they were doing and chasing a dream.”

. . . .

 “Engineering is not particularly creative, and there’s a reason,” he says. “You want the planes to stay in the air, boats to float, wheels to stay on your car. You don’t want to get creative in those areas. So, for me, writing was always that outlet.”

. . . .

After completing a manuscript in 2000, Gardham then tried to find a literary agent or publisher, sending the novel to several of the big American imprints.

“I knew nothing,” he admits. “I would get rejection after rejection. I can remember being in Bolton” – where Husky is based – “and literally phoning New York from a pay phone to see whether they’d looked at my submission or not.”

. . . .

 Finally, after a decade of frustration, he turned to iUniverse, the Indiana-based publishing service that has released some eventual bestsellers, including Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and, here in Canada, The Best Laid Plans, by Terry Fallis.

. . . .

“I think Doug probably does more signings at Chapters-Indigo than any other author in Canada,” says Keith Ogorek, the senior vice-president of marketing at Author Solutions, the parent company of iUniverse. “I don’t know what his motivation is. I don’t know how he’s wired – I haven’t seen his Briggs-Myers [personality test] or anything so I don’t know why he does it.”

Gardham’s wife, Laura, describes her husband as “an introvert,” and Gardham himself initially dismissed the idea of doing in-store events, saying, “I’m the guy that comes in the store [and] goes to the shelf and looks at books. I’m not the guy that’s coming to the table.”

. . . .

Despite his relative success with self-publishing – he’s sold more than 4,000 books in total, a solid number for Canada – he very much hopes to land a “traditional” publisher. He talks of reaching “the next level.” He’s planning more events in the United States, calling it “wide-open territory.”

Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail

BookBaby Launches e-Book Editing Service for $1,200

11 July 2016

From GoodEreader:

BookBaby has just announced that they have a new editing service available to self-published authors. They will copy edit a 60,000-word eBook for under $1,200, which is 50% lower than other competing premium offers.

. . . .

“Every book needs editing–that’s an established fact,” says BookBaby President Steven Spatz. “Now every author can get the kind of top-notch editing they need. Our goal was to provide a cost-effective solution for self-publishing authors while maintaining the quality that they expect and deserve.”

Here’s why our program is different–it’s not just about speed and price. It’s about providing a book editing service that keeps authors’ best interests as the priority,” says Spatz. “Our editing process is personalized by matching authors with book editors that specialize in their respective genres to yield the best possible results. And while the editor’s goal is always to improve the book, we understand this is a subjective process and authors may not always agree with the changes. But authors will always have the final say on their work, retaining control throughout the entire process.”

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

Indie Authors to Finally See their Books on B&N Shelves

28 June 2016

From GoodEreader:

About three years ago, then-VP, Digital Content and GM of Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press division Theresa Horner sat down with GoodEReader at the Frankfurt Book Fair to discuss the state of the company, namely its self-publishing option and its ebook self-publishing platform. She posed the question as to what it would take to effectively compete with Amazon. Our response–which was not at all tongue in cheek–was for the retailer to stop banning indie authors’ books from brick-and-mortar stores. If Nook Press had developed a viable print-on-demand option and then told authors there was even a possibility of seeing their titles in their local bookstore on the condition that they pulled their books from Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program, authors would have jumped at the chance.

Unfortunately, that didn’t come to pass and Theresa Horner is no longer with the company. The concept of opening the doors–and the shelves–to great self-published titles fell by the wayside.

. . . .

Now, the retailer has some (hopefully) exciting news that will come out today. In an earnings call to investors only a matter of days ago, the company outlined several key proposals for the coming year, which included Barnes and Noble table-side service restaurants and a plan to cut losses of the Nook division down to $30M to $40M in the coming year. But tucked in there was a tiny mention of a plan to reshape the Nook Press print-on-demand model, with further details to come out on the 28th.

. . . .

UPDATE: Barnes and Noble just issued a press release on its Nook Press print-on-demand service. As we predicted, it finally puts in motion the possibility of authors seeing their books on stores shelves. Opponents’ concerns over a general drop in quality of books in the stores are unfounded, as all submitted titles will be vetted for approval and have to meet the company’s outlined standards. Authors will also be required to be “eligible Nook Press authors,” meaning their titles must be available as ebooks on BN.com and not included in Amazon’s KDP Select category.

There’s another catch, though: it’s not just about quality, it’s about prior sales. The opportunity is limited to titles “whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year.”

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

PG says if BN had done this five or six years ago, the book world might look different today.

Book Length, Cliffhangers, and the Economics of Paper Publishing

27 June 2016

From M.C.A. Hogarth:

This issue comes up often enough that I think having a permanent post about it would be good. Here it is then: “Why does Jaguar write so many cliffhangers! It’s annoying!”

I feel your pain, my readers. I, too, dislike cliffhangers. (Actually, I hate them.) But as Business Manager Jaguar implies, this is an economic issue, not an artistic one… or rather, a place where art and practical reality collide, and art loses.

Physical books have a presence. We know this because when we rhapsodize about them, it’s what we talk about: their weight, their heft, their smell, the sight of them, the sound of the pages whispering as we ruffle them. But in particular, I want to talk about weight, because this is a primary point of interaction between the reader and the material. The weight of a book will influence how long you want to hold the book, how comfortable you are while reading it, and the ability of the book—the physical object—to disappear and the story to seem to form in your head without aid. If the book is too large or too heavy, you will get dragged out of the story when your wrists or arms start complaining. Likewise, if the book is too small, eyestrain will pull you away.

. . . .

Here, then, is the takeaway: If you write big stories, stories that take hundreds of pages to unravel, you will quickly run into the problem that they don’t fit into a comfortable-sized print book.

What do you do, then?

Some publishers handle this by decreasing the font size and the whitespace of the layout. You can squeeze a lot of text into a “four-hundred page” book if you mess with those variables. For a while, in fact, this is what I did in order to make my books more handy. But I had one reader tell me one day, “I really wish you would make the font bigger on your print books. I find them hard to read.”

. . . .

So here’s the rock and the hard place: my choice is to fit an entire story into a single package and have it be impossible to read and uncomfortable to hold, or to break up a story into bits that might not have satisfactory endings. If you’ve read commercial series fiction, you know the choice that publishers have historically made: they chop the books up. (Lord of the Rings is a famous example.) Despite hating cliffhangers with a passion, I too found myself making the same choice, and consoling myself that at least I wrote fast enough that my readers wouldn’t have to wait long for the conclusion of the story.

But wait! you say. E-books aren’t affected by length at all! Why don’t you break up the story into pieces for the print books, but have the e-book sold as a single story?

Would that I could! But unfortunately, when you post books for sale, they’re linked to their various editions. This is not just a computer/sales/data issue, but a reader issue. Say you’re a reader who read the (enormous uncut) e-book version of The Godkin Saga, a story that was cut into two volumes, Flight of the Godkin Griffin and The Godson’s Triumph. You enjoyed that book and want the print book because you’d like to see the illustrations on paper. You go to Amazon and there’s no print edition linked to the e-book edition that you bought. Confused, you search for ‘godkin hogarth’ and discover there are two other books with different names (Flight of the Godkin Griffin and The Godson’s Triumph) with print editions but no e-book editions. Are these sequels? If you buy Flight, does that include everything you remember from The Godkin Saga? Or do you need Triumph as well? You try buying one of them, receive it, and are extremely irritated to discover that it’s not the entire book. Now you feel Extremely Cheated.

Link to the rest at M.C.A. Hogarth

Here’s a link to M.C.A. Hogarth’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

I Lost $6,500 on My Last Book Launch

27 June 2016

From Renegade Writer Press:

Hello, Renegades! You may remember that I started a series of posts on the work and expenses that have gone into writing and publishing my new book,How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie.

I promised to follow up with a final accounting and to let you know if all the work and expense was worth it. That’s what you’re reading now.

In short, I’ll tell you that the book cover designer, interior layout designer, and proofreader were all 100% worth the cost. They all delivered on what they promised in their contracts.

The launch team that constituted the bulk of my expenses ($6,500 of the $10,000 spent)? That’s another story. I learned a lot of hard lessons from this, and hope you will, too, as I’m passionate about helping writers and want to make sure no other self-publisher has to go through what I experienced.

. . . .

I hired Insurgent Publishing to launch my new book. I had interviewed the owner, Tom, in the past and liked him.

When I contacted Tom in November 2015 about doing a book launch for me, he created a short video outlining the services he would provide. He mentioned in an email that “I only work with people who intend to sell more than 10,000 books in the first year alone.” Of course I intended to sell over 10,000 copies — who wouldn’t? — so that was a go! He put together a page of testimonials, and those included some very big names. Finally, Tom was very charismatic and reassuring, for example telling me (since I’m no longer on social media) that “social media is overrated” and “you do not need to blast on all channels to make this happen.”

. . . .

[I] decided to hire Tom for a full launch of How to Do It All, which I was about to start writing. After a bit of haggling from the initial quote of $10,000 to include a “rebranding” of Renegade Writer Press, Tom drafted a contract where I would pay $7,500 over the time leading up to the launch of How to Do It All, plus “15% net receipt of all book sales” for the next 12 months.

. . . .

Some of the particulars of the contract included:

  • “Active promotion and outreach during launch sequence (30 days prior to campaign start through the completion of the campaign, and post launch to facilitate ongoing sales of book).”
  • “Insurgent Publishing will manage an ambassador group/launch team for the Client, with input and feedback from the Client. (b) Insurgent Publishing will provide feedback and direction on marketing collaterals and develop alternative marketing channels for promotional efforts.”
  • “Create an ambassador group/launch team.”
  • “Finalize outreach timeline and materials. For example: how we need to approach influencers and mainstream media, how we’ll track and follow up with them, and all the organization and tracking that goes along with this process.”
  • “Conduct promotional outreach 30 – 60 days out from launch. Arrange podcasts, blogs, and other promotional opportunities with the help of the Client.”

Tom set me up with Jamie [not her real name] as my account manager.

. . . .

Jamie and I spoke once a week, and I started to notice that every week we would come up with a list of tasks that Jamie would promise to do or follow-up on, but by the next week’s call, many of items were not completed and the list would remain much the same for the following week. But I liked Jamie and trusted that things were moving along on their end.

As the book launch date approached, I started noticing that more and more was left undone. For example, the contract stated that Insurgent Publishing would identify and reach out to 200 “mainstream media, blogs, podcasts, listing sites, forums, FB groups / social media groups.” A few weeks before the launch I saw that the team had reached out to about 30 outlets — and those were mostly business podcasts and writing blogs, not women’s and mom podcasts/blogs (which is the obvious audience for this book), and certainly not the “mainstream media.” Moreover, the writing blogs were all ones I had written for multiple times before, and I’m friends with the owners; even if their readers were an appropriate audience for my book, I wouldn’t need any help placing guest posts with them.

. . . .

I started to worry, so I sent an email to Tom asking what was being done for the launch. As per the schedule we had agreed upon, I had been updating my early notification list at least weekly, managing the Facebook group, writing guest posts I landed, reaching out to my own contacts, and building a website. I had also made plans to contact every website, author, and business I mentioned in How to Do It All. But I wanted to know: What had Insurgent Publishing done?

Tom responded with, “We do what we do on our end” and that I should “trust the process.” He also said, “We also have plenty of stuff up our sleeve for launch day, from a Reddit promo, to ProductHunt, etc.”

At the time I didn’t see this as a bullying tactic, and I’m very non-confrontational, so I just put my head down and kept working, hoping that on launch day I’d see the results of the $7,500.

. . . .

On April 13 (remember, the launch was scheduled for April 18), I noticed that Jamie had not been responding to the emails I had been CCing her on. We had a phone meeting scheduled in 15 minutes, so I went to ding her in the Facebook Group for the book. I was surprised to see that she was no longer a member of the group. I emailed Tom, and he replied that Jamie was no longer with the company and the call would be with him.

The fact that I hadn’t been told that my main contact at the company had left goodness-knows how long ago — I noticed the last time she had responded to one of my emails was April 4 — and that I had been emailing her all that time with questions and comments, kind of freaked me out. But again, I tamped down my worries and kept a smile on my face.

In the week leading up to the launch, the communication from the company became even more scarce. The Friday before Monday’s launch, I sent a pleading note to Tom for information and support. He didn’t respond.

. . . .

The launch was scheduled for Monday, April 18. After all that work and expense, along with the promises from Insurgent Publishing, I was expecting congratulations, updates on what they were doing, and updates on results. Or at the very least, the promised Reddit, ProductHunt, etc. Instead: silence. No promised Reddit posts, no ProductHunt listing, no emails from the team — nothing.

I was stunned. Even when I sent a note asking for an update, I heard nothing from Tom or Insurgent Publishing on launch day. And even more troubling was that they were doing nothing that I could see to launch my book.

I went into the book’s Amazon dashboard to see if Insurgent Publishing had at least done something with the SEO (search engine optimization) terms, which they had said they would do. I discovered that they had changed the keywords to “Leadership in Management,” “Communication in Management,” “Inner Child,” “Study Aid,” and “Consulting and Psychology,” keywords that were irrelevant for How to Do It All — which is, if you’ll recall, a self-help book for women.

. . . .

Sandra told me that boilerplate packages used by launch companies often include software to generate keywords in order to save the company time from reading the actual book. If anyone working on my behalf at Insurgent Publishing had read the book, they would have known that those keywords were completelyinappropriate for my audience.

. . . .

So the next day, I took some important screen shots and sent an email to Insurgent Publishing. I said I feared Tom had some issue that was preventing him from working on the project, so I would need to cancel the contract. I requested, at the very least, a partial refund. To this point, I had already paid him $6,500 of the $7,500 fee.

This e-mail finally got his attention: Tom responded just 17 minutes later with a lengthy missive that questioned my character, and that said he didn’t respond to my emails on launch day because was too busy doing tasks that would have happened later that week. He also blamed the fact that I had sent an Advance Reading Copy to my list for the extremely slow sales (just over 30 sales on launch day) — which seemed pretty strange to me, considering I had paid Insurgent Publishing $6,500 so far to reach out to the media, bloggers, websites, podcasters, and more. If I was expected to rely solely on my subscriber list for sales, why hire someone to help?

. . . .

While I was reading this e-mail, I happened to have Basecamp, our project management program, open and I could see that Tom was going through our to-do list right then and checking off all the to-dos that hadn’t been completed, including low-priority tasks on my own list that I hadn’t yet done. Luckily, I had a “before” screen shot, so I took an “after” one that included the time stamp. Now I had proof that something fishy was indeed going on.

I responded with a very simple note requesting that Insurgent Publishing stop work immediately, and asked for a full accounting of not only the extra time they spent over the $6,500, but also for the entire $6,500 — including what they did, when, and proof that they’d done what they were contracted to do.

Tom wrote back immediately and said, “Let’s consider the contract cancelled.” To me, that was a big red flag that he didn’t want to show me an accounting. I emailed back, requesting the numbers I had asked for.

On April 23, I received an email from Insurgent Publishing with eight attachments meant to serve as proof of hours worked. And behold, the final tally of what I owed was $7,600 — $100 more than the total worth of the original contract.

Link to the rest at Renegade Writer Press and thanks to Toni for the tip.

Purchased by accident? Cancel Order

27 June 2016

From Trout Nation:

On April 26th, I bought Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful on my Kindle Fire. On May 2nd, I still had the option to return it. I’m not a fast reader, and honestly, I haven’t even cracked it open yet (I read it years ago, before it went out of print, and desperately needed it in my library again), but when my eyes were younger and my attention span longer, I could have easily devoured it in a few days, with room to spare to request that Amazon return my money.

Amazon will refund readers for an e-book purchase within seven days, regardless of how much content has been read. At first glance, this might seem like good customer service. I’ve certainly thought so in the past when I’ve accidentally purchased a digital duplicate copy of a paperback I already owned. Still, this is something I’ve done rarely–twice, if I remember correctly–and each time I worried that my return might affect the book’s sales ranking.

Other people, it seems, do not feel that kind of guilt. Last week, a story circulated on social media that outraged readers, writers, and book bloggers alike. An author (who appears to have removed their original post) received an email from a reader who, writer M.A. Knopp reports, wasn’t happy with the price point of the books they’d enjoyed:

Dear Ms. Author.

I really like your books. I think they are well-written and I enjoyed reading them. (So far, so good, right? Hang on.) However, I have returned them all because you priced them at $0.99 to $2.99, and that is too much to pay for them. I can’t afford to pay that much for a book, even though I liked it. In the future, can you make sure you make all your books free so I don’t have to return them?

Free e-books, which were once considered a promotional tool or a gift from authors to their loyal readers, are now an expectation. Despite the endless options for free digital reading from sites like Wattpad and An Archive Of Our Own, some readers feel that all content should be free, regardless of whether or not the author is a professional who relies on writing for their income.

. . . .

On the surface, Amazon return scams seem no different from piracy. But whereas readers who pirate ebooks seek out a particular torrent with a title already in mind, Amazon’s return policy allows unscrupulous readers to browse at their leisure and easily download the content to their devices.

Author Bianca Sommerland understands the difference between piracy and what’s happening at Amazon: “With pirates, it sucks. It’s horrible, but those people aren’t buying books. That isn’t money I would have made. They wouldn’t have given me a cent.”

. . . .

The results of an informal survey asking authors to report their April sales and returns showed numbers ranging anywhere from 1.2% in overall returns, to a whopping 40.1%. Losing 40% of a monthly income would be devastating to any household; to authors, it could mean future releases are spaced out further or cancelled altogether.

The timing of the returns is also particularly cruel. Author Stella Price reported that her return rate can be devastating during the week of a book’s release, usually the most financially profitable time for an indie author: “I might end up selling 70, but I have 20-30 returned in a day.” It’s become such a problem that it has influenced Price’s recent decision to stop publishing in the e-book market. It’s a choice that has made some of her readers unhappy, but with such a high digital return rate, she sees no other option.

That’s not to say that all returns are fraudulent. Books purchased by accident in the Kindle app can be easily returned within seconds by clicking a link on the purchase screen. Honest mistakes happen; anyone can fumble their device and hit the One-Click button. But not all mistakes are so honest.

“I had a group of at least 5 returns on each book in the Cobra series last month,” Sommerland says. “They came close together. Maybe I’m imagining things, but the way they were spaced, it seemed like the books were read, then returned as each person in this group finished the book.”

Link to the rest at Trout Nation

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