“Your Margin Is My Opportunity.”

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The water cooler talk around ebooks and self-publishing is that revenues for self-published authors are falling and it’s not just for authors in the Kindle Unlimited program.

For those who don’t know: Kindle Unlimited works like Netflix Streaming. Readers pay a set fee and can read as many books available in the KU program as they like. One fee, limited choice, unlimited reads.

One of the reasons that self-publishing took off as well as it did was because there was a bunch of voracious readers out there who could tear through a book a day, and they liked buying cheap books. With the sales commission that Amazon took (do not speak to me of “royalties” from Amazon), authors could do pretty well with this readership. Some did very well indeed.

And those authors grew to love Amazon and Bezos himself for fixing the distribution issues that have long limited self-published work. But of course, that quote in the subject header is from Bezos himself, and everyone knew the sweet payouts that Amazon’s been turning over to indie authors would come to an end soonish.

Now it appears to be happening. Instead of taking a commission, Amazon has started setting aside a pot of money, and dividing it between authors. Bringing new readers into your series by making book 1 permanently free isn’t really viable any more, since so many of those readers are in KU. Instead, self-publishers are releasing shorter and shorter works–or serializing their novels–to increase the number of shares they get in that pot.

Still, it appears that Amazon has skimmed off self-publishers’ most fervent readership. Instead of taking commissions, they offer what they like. So much for our margins.

I’m not sure how this affects me. I’m not really aiming for the readership that likes them cheap and disposable. I can’t; I’m not prolific enough. I have to price my work a little higher and hope to attract readers who see my books are more of an event. If I’m aiming for the “This is affordable; I might as well” crowd, I’m doomed. (Those readers are welcome to give my books a try, I encourage it! but I doubt they will in great numbers.)

Not that there aren’t other options: Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Indiebound, etc etc. Right? Except that, speaking for myself, the majority of my sales come through Amazon’s Kindle program. (I should do a post on that.)

The problem, I think, is not that there’s a glut of terrible books. There’s also a glut of really good books. I’ll never be able to read all the awesome books in the world, even if I did nothing else for the rest of my life. Even if your book is great, it can be difficult to catch the attention of new readers.

Which means it comes back to discoverability, and reaching the “early adopters” of the book world–those readers willing to try an author for no reason other than they like the cover or the title. If those readers are giving their credit cards a vacation by turning to Kindle Unlimited, some new way must be found.

At the moment, the only genuinely reliable method is reader word of mouth, which is the least-new thing about new developments in publishing.

Read more on this.

Looking at numbers, part 2

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Part 1 is here and it talks about the numbers without giving specifics, but this post will.

No, not sales numbers. Clicks. And not clicks for something I’m trying to sell. This is a situation where “click” = “something people already paid for.”

Obviously, I’m talking about Kickstarter backers getting copies of my new book, plus.

Some background:

Because I had to get ebooks to almost 1200 people, I couldn’t send a flood of emails, especially ones with attachments over 5 or 10MB. That would have gotten me blacklisted by a bunch of ISPs (don’t ask me how I know that).

So I set up a newsletter program that would automate the emails, spreading them out over many hours. I also uploaded the ebooks to a folder on my website so I could send download links instead of attachments.

Finally, I did my best to make things as simple as possible. The email subject line was “The Great Way ebooks are here!” to be totally unambiguous. The list of books included cover pics. The download links were alone in their own section with a single line of text for each of the links. This is what it looked like (behind the cut) for people who backed at $25 or above. Backers at $12 had two fewer covers. Continue reading

Looking at numbers, part 1

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Actually, this conversation happened on Twitter Thursday night, but here you go:

Of course I meant “on Reddit” and “big traffic” but by that point I’d had more than two beers.

Last I looked, there was a fifth, complimentary comment on that thread (which I’m not linking to, because I’m not trying to drive readers there).

Re: sales, Amazon has continued to sell about the same, but B&N sales have dropped off sharply since that first day. And this conversation is all about ebooks. Print sales don’t come into it.

Randomness for 10/21

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1) World’s Worst Playgrounds h/t @cstross

2) Maps of modern cities drawn in JRR Tolkien’s style.

3) How to “gird your loins,” in illustrated form..

4) Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover art with DC Comics characters.

5) Drunk J Crew, a Tumblr.

6) An internet glossary, from The Toast.

7) The Zero Stooges (aka The Three Stooges Minus Stooges). Video.

New creepiness for the Halloween season

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Maybe you guys have heard about The Dionaea House? It’s a story (or is it real?) told through emails, texts and blog posts, a modern epistolary novel.

And it’s spooky as hell.

Not gross, not horrible, or filled with monsters tearing people apart, or demon children, or whatever bullshit modern horror is about. It’s a smart, subtle (except where it shouldn’t be) scary story, and I highly recommend it.

It’s by Eric Heisserer, and it was popular enough that it launched his screenwriting career. The film that was supposed to be made from it hasn’t happened, for the usual reasons, but it’s supposedly going to be name-checked (or featured, not sure) in the upcoming series The Librarians. Anyway, you should read it.

The reason I mention it? Heisserer is back at it: “Information I’m Dumping Here for Safekeeping”

Read through. Open the images. Follow the updates. It’s fun.

h/t to John Rogers (@jonrog1) for the link.

Randomness for 9/26

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1) The 50 Dorkiest Songs You Love. NB: you don’t have to tell me you personally don’t love some or all of them. I know.

2) Edgar Wright – How to do visual comedy. Video. This is excellent and shows why I find modern comedy so incredibly boring.

3) Joaquin Phoenix’s Forehead (Rotated). Video. So weird and funny.

4) Anonymous Gods. The computers at Google automatically blur the faces of famous religious statuary.

5) Netflix’s new spoiler website. #spoilers

6) Malkovitch Malkovitch Malkovitch Malkovitch.

7) Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Charles Manson & the Birth of Cults

Time is running out on Dark Fantasy StoryBundle

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Mind if I show some covers?

All 9 StoryBundle Covers

The countdown for the dark fantasy StoryBundle is about to run out. If you want to do a little early Giftmas shopping, now is the time.

Some points:

    Pay $3 or more, get five books.
    Pay $12 or more, get all nine.
    You get to choose how much goes to the author and how much to StoryBundle.
    You get to choose which charity, if any, your purchase will benefit.
    You can buy the books as a substantial but inexpensive gift.

Anyway, I’m trying one last push to sell some books. The more retweets this tweet receives, the more free bundles I’ll give away. If you have a Twitter account, please consider clicking that RT button.

No one is ever going to hire me for my graphic design skills. Yikes.

The last Twitter giveaway got over 70 RTs, so I have hopes this one will do ever better. Thanks for clicking “retweet.” Frankly, I need the money.

How not to respond to a mildly negative review, part 3,000,807

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Guy writes interactive novel about mystery-solving teddy bears in Venice, which is apparently not for children(?)

Reviewer gives it a mildly negative review.

Author loses his mind in comments.

This is from last May, and I’m not sure how I missed it. It’s the perfect example of the ABM, Author’s Big Mistake, in which an author takes great pains to try to school the reviewer in all their numerous errors but ends up looking like a complete tool. As it so often is, Dunning-Kruger Effect is in full swing here. The writer thinks his book about teddy bears is on the level of Keats or Fitzgerald, and nothing can convince him otherwise.

This train wreck comes to you courtesy of @Hello_Tailor, @Stacia_jones_, and @jamesdnicoll.

Dark Fantasy StoryBundle is now live

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Hey, you guys. You know what a StoryBundle is, don’t you? There are several novels all bundled together into one package, and you can pay whatever you like for them (with a $3 minimum). If you’re willing to pay above a certain dollar figure ($12), you get extra books.

Well, currently there’s a Dark Fantasy StoryBundle running for a limited time. You can spend three measly bucks and get five novels. For $12 (or more) you get nine.

Plus, if you so choose, 10% of your purchase price can go to charity. In fact, you can support the ALS Association, the charity that has been benefiting from the ice bucket challenge, but without the social shaming issues that come from “challenging” people. If you think ALS has already received its fair share of support lately, the other options are Girls Write Now and Mighty Writers. There’s a “Learn More” link on the page to tell you more about those charities, but I just want to say that I grew up in Philadelphia and anyone who wants to throw a little love to Mighty Writers would earn my gratitude (not that the other programs are not worthy, too).

You also get to choose what percentage of the purchase price goes to the authors and what goes to the folks at StoryBundle, which is a great way to do things.

All the books are DRM-free. The other authors include a Hugo-winner and a couple of best-selling authors (as well as, somehow, me). The fiction here is *dark* urban fantasy without romance plots, so if you like my work, you might also like these other books. PLUS, it’s super easy to buy the bundle as a gift for someone else.

Anyway, if you guys wouldn’t mind helping to spread the word about this, I’d appreciate it. And check out those books. I’m downloading my bundle right now.

The Bundle will be available until Sept 17. If you’re interested, don’t put off the purchase. It’s going to go away soon.

Here are the covers:

All 9 StoryBundle Covers