Amazon news that might actually be true

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New reports suggest that Amazon is considering launching an Oyster-like “Kindle Unlimited” service that would allow readers, for $9.99 a month, unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of titles.

The really exciting thing about this for Amazon fans is that it appears that they’ll include audiobooks, too. That’s pretty cool.

This is something I’d be very interested in, depending on the contract terms. A Kindle Unlimited program would be a great way to introduce readers to my work; the real issue is how often those readers would venture outside the program for their books.

Is Amazon really in talks to buy Simon & Schuster?

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That would be crazy if it’s true. Of course it’s also, possibly, a misreading of this article: Amazon in talks with Simon & Schuster: Moonves

Still, I’m not sure why Amazon would want S&S. What does the publisher have that Amazon doesn’t? A bigger share of their author’s revenue? I suspect a great many S&S authors would rather jump ship than go over to Amazon, if only so their books would still be available in many different stores.

In other words, I’m really, REALLY doubtful that this story is accurate.

First week self-pub book sales: the numbers

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It’s been one week since I released the ebook of Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths And Other Tales Of Dark Fantasy (aka BLGDHDAOT oh, forget it) and I thought it might be interesting if I shared sales numbers. If you aren’t a regular reader of the blog and just like sales numbers, there’s more detail here, consider picking up a copy. It’s only three bucks.

First, we have the Kickstarter backers. There are 1166 people who pledged at $12 or above and who should have already gone to the download page and snagged a copy of this book. According to Google Analytics, there have been 1665 page views of the download page, and only 729 730 unique views (good job, late visitor). IF YOU BACKED THE KICKSTARTER AT $12 OR MORE BUT HAVE NOT RECEIVED THE DL LINK, CONTACT ME THROUGH MY KICKSTARTER ACCOUNT. You deserve to have your first book. Come and get it.

On a side note, releasing BAD LITTLE GIRLS… prompted eight unique views to the page where backers could get a copy of Twenty Palaces.

But what about readers who wanted the book but couldn’t/didn’t back the Kickstarter? Well, as you’d expect, Amazon generates the most sales. For this first week, there were 41 total sales: 16 on that first day, low numbers over the holiday weekend, then another 13 on Monday, when I posted an updated announcement post and a reader linked to the book on reddit/urbanfantasy. Later that day:

Broke 100 in Dark Fantasy

Hey, I’ll take any excuse to celebrate.

Using Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press, I’ve sold six copies. In Smashwords: three copies. Apple iBooks: one copy.

Of course, it took several days for me to get my book on Smashwords and iBooks. Those went on sale much later than the others, Smashwords because their formatting requirements are so complicated and iBooks because they take a long time to approve the books for their store. In fact, iBooks just made Bad Little Girls available yesterday, so that’s only one day’s numbers. If you’re an Apple partisan with an iPhone or iPad, you could swing over to iBooks yourself and bump their numbers. (Any benefit to me would of course be incidental.)

Other sales channels like Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, etc will be fulfilled through Smashwords’s distribution channel, and that hasn’t happened yet. Still, from experience I know those sales channels will be pretty thin.

Anyway, as expected, Amazon is readers’ preferred choice when it comes to buying and reading ebooks. I know short fiction collections don’t generally move a lot of copies, but I’d hoped the numbers would be higher. I received quite a few tweets and emails from people who had missed the Kickstarter and wanted to make sure they could get the books, especially the Twenty Palaces story BAD LITTLE GIRLS…. How to reach those people, though? I hesitate to send out a newsletter because I anticipate sending one in August for The Great Way. Few things will make people drop a newsletter faster than feeling that they’re getting too many emails. I’m planning to combine those newsletter announcements into one.

On top of that, there’s… what? Ads on reddit/r/Fantasy? I’m told reddit is one of the few places that ads will work. Maybe I could add comments to the five-star reviews on the other 20P novels, letting readers know there’s a new story? (Nah. Bad idea.) I’m planning to organize a blog tour for The Great Way, so I can’t do an extra one here.

In short, I wanted BAD LITTLE GIRLS… in my backlist when The Great Way came out, but I don’t want to do so much promo for it that people are sick of hearing from me when my trilogy comes out.

Fingers crossed.

My First Short Fiction Collection (20 Palaces-related)

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I announced this last week, but I think I did a really terrible job of it. Let me try again:

One of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter I ran last fall was a short fiction collection that would include a new Twenty Palaces short story. We hit that goal and the book has been delivered to Kickstarter backers.

It’s also on sale as an ebook right now for only $2.99. Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Smashwords | More to come

The book is DRM-free on every site. If you buy the .mobi file format from Smashwords, you can put the book on your Kindle without worrying that Amazon will take it away from you. In other words, you’ll actually own it. (Just back it up elsewhere.)

Some details:

  • The Twenty Palaces story is called “The Home Made Mask” and it’s actually a novelette, being about 10K words.
  • Four of the stories are reprints that have been published elsewhere. Their rights have reverted, so I’m self-publishing them for the first time.
  • Two are stories that I previously sold on Amazon for 99 cents each.
  • Five have never been made available before, including “The Home Made Mask.” (It was important to me that people who had bought those short singles not feel ripped off when buying the collection).

Some of the stories are straight fantasy adventure. Some are much darker, bordering on horror (but aren’t straight horror). Some are humorous. Some are grimdark.

Honestly, I don’t consider short fiction a natural length for me, but I’m proud of the work here. Also, I keep thinking I should offer a free sample in my blog (maybe of the title story). What do you think? I realize comments are off on my main blog but you can drop me a note via Twitter, LiveJournal, Facebook, G+, or whatever.

Cover art for Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths And Other Tales Of Dark Fantasy

Cover Art

Only $2.99 Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Smashwords | More to come

Hey, pick up a copy, maybe. You’ll like it.

Regarding petitions and joining teams.

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I’ve been mostly offline this week for my birthday stuff and to prep the release of my new book, so I’ve missed most everything going on lately. I even missed the pro-Amazon petition that’s been making the rounds.

Other authors stepped in though:

John Scalzi on treating publishing as a business:Amazon, Hachette, Publishing, Etc — It’s Not a Football Game, People

Chuck Wendig picks through the absurdities of the petition itself: THE PETITION TO PAINT AMAZON AS UNDERDOG

Fellow Team Caitlin author puts some numbers to the cost of publishing his books, self-published and not: The Cost of a Good Book

The petition itself is not Hugh Howey’s work, but he’s part of the group of authors who created it, and since he’s got such a high profile, people are attributing it to him.

That’s a little unfair, but the guy has made himself the public face of pro-Amazon partisanship, so it’s not exactly surprising. He turns up in the comments of Chuck’s piece, too, arguing his piece and explaining that his support of Amazon is provisional on their good behavior.

Sadly, he still hasn’t learned that publishers compete with each other. He claims they’re a cartel because they don’t compete on the royalty rates they offer writers, completely missing the fact that they compete on the advance they offer and the rights they take. This has been explained to him before, but it doesn’t do any good. If they don’t compete on royalties, he doesn’t believe their competing. It’s ridiculous, but you can’t force a person to understand.

Personally, I think Scalzi’s post comes closest to the point of the petition: It’s the creation of a team sport mentality to rally a fan base. I’m not even sure it’s something they do consciously, but there’s a positive feedback loop to crying “Revolution!” and “We have to stick together against the enemy!”

There’s no other point to urging others to support a corporation that sees you as an ATM. If boycotting Amazon means that readers will not be able to buy some authors’ work, those authors ought to be diversifying their business.

Look, I’m not against Amazon. Just yesterday I put a new book (with Twenty Palaces fiction inside) up for sale on their site! But it’s also with Barnes & Noble, and soon other places, too. I skip KDP Select because I don’t need Amazon’s basket for all my eggs.

Also, skipping Select means that Amazon takes a 65% commission on all sales, no matter what the price, in certain territories like Mexico and Japan. I don’t want to pay them so much, so I don’t let them sell in those countries. Readers there can still find my work in iBooks or on the Nook.

Have I mentioned that I worked there for a while? I did, in the warehouse “fulfillment center” way back before they opened a bunch of them all over the country. I liked (most of) the people, but didn’t stick around. There were just too many people who were GungHoOurCompanyWeMustBandTogetherToConquerAll! (One of the supervisors told us that Christmas was going to be a “war” around there, and we should be ready to put our personal lives on hold. At Christmas. For a corporation. I shit you not.)

And now I find the same attitude from people who don’t even work there.

Last week, I got into a Twitter conversation about whether Howey is “pro-writer.” The other person thought so (I’m sure Howey feels the same way) but to me he’s always pro-Amazon. The way he talks, you’d think writers’ and Amazon’s interests were so close together you couldn’t slip a piece of paper between them.

They’re not. Obviously. And I don’t mean “they might diverge at some point in the future.” They’re different right this very second, and no pro-corporate boosterism is going to change that fact. It might spread around the web like a meme and motivate fans to buy books, but it’s not healthy in the long run.

On an unrelated note, this is totally my latest earworm.

HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! anthology now available.

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Hey, not only do I have a new book of short fiction coming out very very soon (like, when Amazon et al approve the files I already uploaded and start selling it) there’s a new anthology out right now with a new story by me.

Actually, the story I wrote for John Joseph Adams’s HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects (it’s Amazon-only for the moment).

There are other stories by Seanan McGuire, Tobias Buckell, and a whole helluva lot of other terrific writers. Check it out.

AND! If you’d like to read my story–for freeyou can do that right here. The theme of the anthology is “stories told through the format of a Kickstarter campaign,” and mine is about a plan to summon the Taco God, with a bit of Lovecraftian pastiche, recipe pledge levels, and a religious schism in the comments. It’s fun and short.

It’s also the second story I wrote for the anthology. The first one (rejected for being too dark) is in the collection I announced in the post previous to this one.

Message for all Kickstarter backers and non-backers

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Huh. I expect I could have just said “Message for everyone,” but that doesn’t provide the same context.

Seriously, don’t skim past this post.

The latest KS update went out, and it informed everyone that the first of the backer rewards has been delivered. The short fiction collection, including the TWENTY PALACES novelette “The Home Made Mask,” is available. Everyone who backed at $12 or above should have gotten a message with a download link.

I’m pretty happy with the cover, if I do say so myself.

For people who didn’t back the Kickstarter but still want the story, it should be on sale Any Time Now. I’ve already clicked the “Publish” button on Amazon, B&N, (Update: Hey, available right now!) and iBooks as of 8pm, 7/2. After I finish writing this post and scheduling it for the morning, I’ll be taking a try at fucking Smashwords. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyway… new book! Twenty Palaces fiction with a new pov character. Other stories! Backers who should have gotten a message with a download link! New fiction for sale! Please god buy my work.

Terrible Indie Author Advice

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On 6/22, I blogged about a terrible piece of advice an indie author offered, which was to harass readers who leave negative reviews until they’re deleted. Seriously awful.

Well, the link to the original post now takes you to a 404 page, because the blogger has wisely taken it down. However, on the same day I wrote that post, he offered *new* advice, recommending that authors spam Twitter hashtags with pregenerated tweets scheduled at ten minute intervals to promote their books. When people tell him that’s not cool, he plays a clip from Spinal Tap: (“Lick my love pump”). Classy.

The best marketing advice is this: Write a book that people love so much that they tell all their friends about it. Not attacking reviewers, not highjacking TV show hashtags, not advising other writers to do these things. Write books people want to evangelize for. It’s not a guarantee of success (there’s no such thing), but it’s honestly the best thing you can do.

“So what then is an indie author to do?”

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I’m linking to a blog post from last January, but I think this is worth talking about. Besides, I only saw a link to it from @EvilWylie this morning. It’s supposed to be advice about reviews and what an author should do about them, but it’s the worst advice you could ever find, short of kidnapping reviewers so you can hunt them on your private game reserve.

[Update: that link leads to a 404 page now. Apparently he's pulled it down.]

Context: apparently the author sometimes receives Amazon reviews giving his books only one or two stars, and that is not allowed.

He starts by saying he never leaves reviews with less than four stars, which is perfectly sensible as policies go. There are a lot of people who prefer to be silent rather than talk a book down. Positivity, amirite?

Then he starts talking about the sort of people who *would* leave a two- or one-star review, and immediately it becomes about “holier than thou Grammar Nazi[s]” who don’t understand how hard indie authors work on their books! And are just like those awful elitist college professors. Or something. Plus, all books have errors in them, so why do these reviewers have to be so fussy?

But what to DO? The first suggestion he makes is, if it’s the first review, to unpublish and republish the book so the review will be lost. Also, maybe–just maybe–the author should consider the possibility that they need to take another editorial pass.

Next, he suggests talking to the reviewer, maybe asking for their help, because it’s possible that a person leaving a negative review is not a bad person.

No, seriously, that’s what he says:

Often a reviewer doesn’t take into consideration of the impact a bad review can have on your sales. They may not even be bad people.

Look at that fuckery. In fact, let’s highlight something: They may not even be bad people.

Let’s get to the point, because this is the point right here: Just because someone does something you don’t like and/or is actually harmful to you, does not mean that person is attacking you personally. How people manage to bumble into adulthood without learning this, I’ll never know, but it’s a simple fact. Okay? “I feel pain” does not necessarily lead to “You tried to hurt me” even if they’re college professors.

So the author suggests talking to the reviewer politely, asking for tips to make things better. In his first example, this works out fine because the reviewer takes the time to respond, offer help, and improve the author’s work. Wasn’t that kind of them? They even changed the review.

But what happens to a reviewer who leaves a negative review but doesn’t respond to the author’s request for help? What if they don’t want to take time out of their day to point out the errors they found or beta-read a project?

So what then is an indie author to do? Well this is where we as indies have to stick together. This is trench warfare people… anything goes.

Clearly, the solution is to find a bunch of other authors to go on the attack:

I called on some friends to discredit the review, promising to do the same for them should the need ever arise. I’ve made a lot of friends in indie author community through kindlemojo. I asked some of fellow authors to write comments in this fellow’s review.

OMG, I had no idea that some of them were going to be as vicious as they were. The looked up this guys history and saw that he mostly liked to review video games and painted him as a mommy’s boy living in her basement with nothing better to do. They got personal with him as well – it was getting quite ugly – but in a good way. One of the comments even accused him of being a mole of the big 6. However most were simple rebuttals to the unfair review. Someone even pointed him to the article I reblogged about how the first mass marketed Harry Potter novel had over 200 typos. After a few days of the onslaught he took the review down.

Let’s highlight something else here: They got personal with him as well – it was getting quite ugly – but in a good way.

Hey, there is no good way to get personal with a reader who left a negative review. The author includes a quoted text of the review in question (not a screencap, because as they said they bullied the reader into dropping it) that states the one-star is because the reader found four typos, but even if we were assume the review really was that extreme, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who posted the review or why, you leave it alone.

I have a one-star review that I know for a fact was payback for an online scuffle. Whatever. I leave it alone. There’s a one-star review on the Goodreads page for Game of Cages that mocks the book for an error that doesn’t actually exist: the reviewer misread the scene. What’s more, she has a ton of likes for that review and it pops up at the top of the page. Whatever. I leave it alone.

One thing indie authors like the dude I linked above could learn from traditionally-published ones is professionalism regarding reviews: Leave them alone. They’re written for the benefit of other readers, not for the author (or the author’s marketing efforts).

Don’t attack people because they say they don’t like your book. Even if you think they didn’t read it or they’re just taking a dig at you–even if you know both of these things for a fact–it’s completely unprofessional to silence readers’ opinions in readers’ spaces, whether by unpublishing the book or through an “onslaught” when they refuse to help you fix your mistakes for free. If it bothers you so much, do what other authors do: stop reading your reviews.

John Scalzi’s take on Yog’s Law

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So, John Scalzi had a response to my post about Yog’s Law, and we still disagree.

As I mentioned in the comments over there, the beauty and power of Yog’s Law is in its simplicity. Once you start talking about spending money with your publisher hat on rather than your author hat, that’s when things get conditional, and Yog’s Law stops being so useful.

And, by my reading, Scalzi’s Self-Pub Corollary boils down to “Keep your rights and spend wisely,” which is straight up normal business advice, as far as I’m concerned.

Which is not a slam against Yog or his law. Some years ago, it saved me when I was a noob looking for any way in. I just think it is not as useful as it once was.