Tag Archives: amazon

Thoughts on Succeeding as a Modern-Day Author

 Image by "Lynn Gardner on Flickr":http://www.flickr.com/photos/grandgrrl/5240360344/ and used with Creative Commons License.

Image by “Lynn Gardner on Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/grandgrrl/5240360344/ and used with Creative Commons License.

A couple things happened in the world of eBook sales the last few weeks, and I thought it might be useful to write down some thoughts on the matter.

Massive Report On Amazon Sales Released

First, Hugh Howey, bestselling author of the Silo Saga, released a report on Amazon’s sales figures. If you’re trying to sell eBooks, particularly as an independent author, I highly recommend you read the report. The report goes into detail, examining how different types of authors do when selling their books on Amazon, including numbers of books sold, amounts of money made, and changes in which authors are walking away with the biggest slices of the publishing pie. In the end, the report (and other articles I’ve read that riff on it) make it sound as if, for new authors, self-publishing is the best way forward. Going with the big five only seems to benefit writers who are already established, particularly since (more and more frequently) marketing duties fall to the writer in both cases.

Apple Adds iBook App to iOS8, reducing purchasing friction

Secondly, I’ve just read an article on how iOS8’s inclusion of an iBook app does away with an important point of friction for buyers on the iBook platform. Knowing this, and having glanced a few times at my Smashwords sales reports, I took a moment to head over to my Buy My Books! page and enter in additional links direct to each platform that had reported sales. This included Kobo and iBooks,

Value Added By Traditional Small Publishers Continues To Lessen

The third point I want to mention is that a friend who works primarily in self-publishing, but also had a publishing deal with a small press for a horror novella, recently had an interaction with her publisher regarding their agreement and the number of copies that had sold during the two-year term of her contract with them. The email she received in return was disappointing: vague regarding actions they’d taken (which they were contractually obligated to undertake), nonspecific about the number of sales her book had seen over the past two years, and essentially tepid about continuing to sell and market her book. When she asked my advice about whether to keep or dump her publisher, my take was that they didn’t seem to be adding value.

Because value is what it’s all about, as an indie publisher, isn’t it? We spend our time and often our money finding ways to add value to our work: covers that pop, ads that reach our intended customers, giveaways that grow both awareness and mailing lists. While publishing houses might offer individuals with specific publishing expertise, if that only results in a few press releases being sent around a state – and no interviews or reviews – is any value really being added? If Smashwords can upload your eBook to numerous growing retailers (particularly those, like Apple, who are moving towards eliminating friction in the purchasing process), or Amazon actually pays you significantly more than a writer with a Big Five contract…what real value do you get from pursuing a traditional path to publication? One friend, who works closely with an Agent, even reported that if he couldn’t get his clients a good deal within six months, he recommended they self-publish then re-shopped their work once they had sales figures to back it up – and then got them much better offers. While we’re not all fans of marketing, and staying on top of the latest trends takes time many of us would rather spend in polishing our drafts, the reality is that self-publishing lets us make more money and saves the Big Five the problem of dedicating resources to authors who won’t sell.

In short, it’s looking more and more like writers who want to succeed have to be prepared to do so in a self-publishing space.

Thinning the Book-Herd

paring down my libraryI was reading this article from the Guardian Saturday morning, and it reminded me of my own recent library purge.

I’ve always loved books. When I was in elementary school, I used to walk through the halls reading a book. While I never crashed into anyone, my teacher had a prejudice against allowing this kind of nerdery to go unchecked. Similarly, I (though not other children) was banned from bringing a book to the cafeteria for lunchtime. (This problem was solved by reading over a friend’s shoulder – we were both obsessed with The Babysitters Club, so it worked out well.)

Over the years, I built up quite the collection: science fiction, historical fiction, foreign fiction fiction-fiction, mythology and more. Once, I calculated the cover value of my Star Trek novels alone – it amounted to several thousand dollars, and I was only in my mid-teens. Growing older, moving to college and then graduate school and then to live on my own, however, my collection was slowly pared down. First, the books moved to my parents’ basement and garage. Every time I’d come home, I’d go through them and winnow them down to fewer and fewer volumes. Several boxes came to New York City with me, but as my apartments grew smaller and smaller, even these – which I had thought of as the books I could never part with – became fewer in number.

The last few months have seen another reduction, setting bags on the stoop of my building with signs: “FREE BOOKS!” on sunny weekend mornings.

In her article (an excerpt from her book) Linda Grant writes:

The methodology I used for my cull was very high-minded: I would preserve those books of literary merit, the books I had not yet read but wanted to and the books given as gifts with an inscription on the flyleaf. “

This reasoning approximated my own library reduction. I kept the sci-fi greats, books I would not be able to easily replace. Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card – these were books that remained on my shelf, in part because their writing styles always inspired me but also partly because I can’t imagine going out and re-buying these books.

My books of “literary merit” also included classics and old books inherited from my grandparents. I have an entire set of the complete works of Tolstoy, of Sir Walter Scott, of Victor Hugo. The Tolstoy was published in the early 1900s and the author himself was consulted on the translation; I can’t see how reading another version of War and Peace will take me closer to the original Russian, which I don’t read and can’t see myself learning.

Then there are the plays I’ve seen and loved: mostly scripts purchased from the Traverse Theatre or the Royal Court, or gifted to me by playwrights like Alan Wilkins or Jo Clifford.

There are books of sentimental value: my complete set of Moomin novels, by Tove Jansson, or Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. And there are many books I haven’t read yet, but want to, but suspect I may not: Heaney’s Beowulf, some Balzac, a few graphic novels.

What remains on my shelf is eclectic, and still takes up an entire shelf on my wall, but it is pared down. There is a surprising amount of nonfiction, for someone with reading
roots so deeply associated with sci-fi and other imagined worlds. And these days, I hardly buy books any more: I check out digital editions from the library or purchase copies of the books I want from Kindle. If they’re classic, there are almost always free digital versions (or low-cost ones) and if they’re new I can usually borrow the digital copy from a friend, or occasionally spring for it. I read more indie novels, paging through Wattpad in search of samples that get my mind going.

While Grant laments having gotten rid of so many of her books in her move, I find that I rarely miss the physical volumes I’ve let leave my life. Once or twice I’ve wanted a quote only to find that the book in question left me long ago, but for the most part I have what I need. Most of my college textbooks are finally gone – if I want to get back into filmmaking, rather than scriptwriting, there are websites and other resources where I’ll be able to refresh my memory. I no longer felt attached to my British editions of Harry Potter, and kept only a handful of my favorite Star Trek novels – mostly by Peter David and Daffyd ab Hugh (whose no-holds-barred stories satisfied my affection for bloodthirsty sci-fi, as a teen).

What I realized the other day – and what I found a bit upsetting – is how few of the books on my shelf are written by women. While it’s not yet time for me to rebuild my library – that will have to wait until I own my own home instead of rent a small shoebox – the temptation to refill my shelves with Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Poppy Z. Brite, Octavia Butler, Anne McCaffery, Diana Gabaldon and more is difficult to resist. They and others are finding their place on my virtual bookshelf, but it’s clear to me that I need to put more effort into reading (and buying) non-white, non-male authors.

What books do you read? What are some that you’d recommend? Leave a comment to let me know, and don’t be discouraged by the weird error message that comes up when you click “submit” – the comments are posting, there’s just something wrong with the blog.

 

Like reading? Enjoy writing reviews? I’m currently seeking beta readers/advance reviewers for my upcoming collection of sci-fi and speculative fiction stories, SHORT FRICTIONS. If you’re interested, please click here to find out more.

For Self-Published Authors, Restoring Your eBook Price Comes With A Catch-22

raising ebook prices across platformsIf you’ve self-published an ebook, you’re probably aware of the disclaimer most sites hold regarding pricing: namely, that they’re allowed to change the selling price of your ebook whenever they want, without reason given or consultation.

Practically speaking, this generally comes into effect when there’s a discontinuity between prices set on different sites. For example, if you’re charging $2.99 on Amazon and $.99 on Smashwords, Amazon will most likely adjust the price of your ebook downward so it’s competitive with its competitor. Some writers have even found a way to game the system in order to give away free copies of their books permanently, and rather than just use the five free days Amazon Kindle Select users are entitled to, they price their ebooks as free on Smashwords then self-report until Amazon lowers their selling price to zero.

Here’s the problem: if, at any point, a writer wants to push the price of their ebook up, coordinating all these sites’ pricing information (and we’re not just talking Amazon and Smashwords – there’s also Nook Publishing, and if you manage sites like Kobo, etc. independently, those can also factor in) can be a logistical nightmare. Smashwords’ distributors can take from one to three weeks to reprice your book. Amazon won’t raise the price if it’s offered for less elsewhere. And who has any idea how Barnes & Nobles manages their Nook site; I can’t quite figure out who’s buying self-published books over there, anyways.

The solution seems, at first glance, simple: just withdraw your book from publication until you’re down to one distributor (ideally the one you’re making the most sales on) then add back the other retailers at your new price point. The problem is that this leads to lost sales metrics and an effect on your overall ranking, as Smashwords so carefully warns when you go to “unpublish” a book.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but self-published authors may want to consider this difficulty when they’re choosing what platforms to use and where to set their original price point. While you can always adjust the List Price of your book upwards (and may want to consider doing so, since it can give customers the impression that they’re getting a deal), moving it up from a lower price point once you’ve published on multiple platforms is nowhere near as easy as you’d think.

I’d love to hear how other authors are dealing with the issue of having publishers slash their ebook prices, since I couldn’t find information online with some quick googling. If you’re selling across platforms and want to raise an ebook price back to its original list price after your distributor has lowered it, what’s your strategy to coordinate all the different timelines involved?

Additional reading:

I’m currently seeking beta readers/advance reviewers for my upcoming collection of sci-fi and speculative fiction stories, SHORT FRICTIONS. If you’re interested, please click here to find out more. 

SHORT FRICTIONS: Collecting a Collection of Short Stories

picI first started talking about publishing a collection of short stories shortly after HOT MESS went live. Initially, I had a set of about eight short stories on themes around artificial intelligence and robots – some written, some ideas – and the group of them should have been out for your reading pleasure about a year and a a half ago.

Obviously, that hasn’t happened.That isn’t to say I haven’t been writing. I have. A lot. And two weeks ago, I realized that what I thought were a couple of reader-ready stories were actually several more than that. Also that I have a tendency to forget when I’ve finished something if I don’t make a big deal of it right away.

Therefore, this post is an announcement of an upcoming publication from yours truly.

Some of the stories I wanted to write wound up not being the ideas I thought they were, others were far longer than I’d meant them to be, and in at least one case, a criticism from a friend crawled into my brain and died there – which isn’t to say that story will never be written, but there were enough flaws with the idea that it needs some serious time and attention before it’s ready for popular consumption. Others, which would have been timely if I’d managed to get them published 18 months ago, now feel a little stale and in need of a reworking that might not have mattered if so much time hadn’t gone by. Some of the stories in the collection will already have seen the light of day, and some are no longer available in their original publications.

Some of these shorts have been sitting on my hard drive for quite some time – in particular, a piece about a vampire during the Holocaust which I wrote over ten years ago and have been too self-conscious to share since then*.

Well, self, time to get over it.

It will likely be a few more weeks before the collection is ready to go, so consider this a heads-up. I have a new book coming out. It will be available both electronically (through Amazon and Smashwords) and in print (via Createspace, which also feeds into Amazon).

The title will be SHORT FRICTIONS, and I hope you will enjoy it.

Meanwhile, I am legitimately terrified, and once the finishing touches are on the publication file, I will be hiding under my quilt in bed.

 

*I still remember standing in Blackstone’s Book Shop on Charing Cross Road, back in 2002, staring at a book I wanted to buy and thinking, on my student budget, I can justify buying this if I write something about it afterwards, then it’s research and that’s totally okay. Since then I’ve shared it with a few friends, as well as an agent who said she’d be interested in reading the novel, should I ever choose to develop it into one, I just haven’t actually published it anywhere. 

After the Geeks: On Arriving Home from Geek Girl Con

I got home early this morning after a whirlwind weekend at the 3rd annual Geek Girl Con. I already wrote about Saturday morning here — now for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday afternoon and into Sunday were intense – and intensely awesome. While I took audio recordings of most of the panes I attended, I wasn’t able to upload them all to Soundcloud and am still looking for alternatives, so will come back and add links if and when I can find a better way to share the sounds. (They’re in a weird file format on my phone or I’d just upload them directly to the website.)

wpid-IMAG2170.jpg

We talked a lot about this on the BGN Podcast Sunday afternoon, but I have literally pages of notes from this panel in my green spiral notebook. Panelists the Shanghai Pearl and Chaka Cumberbatch offered tremendous insight, led by moderator Dr. Andrea Letamendi. Topics discussed included plus-size cosplay, cultural appropriation in the burlesque acts of Dita von Teese, how it takes more to build something than tear it down, and how to have the confidence to keep speaking out against oppression after you’ve been attacked for your opinion.

  • The Best of Both Worlds – STEM Careers in the Humanities

Moderated by Suzette Chan, this panel included input from Hsiao-Ching Chou and Nazila Merati regarding how those of us without advanced degrees in the sciences can still find work in STEM fields. Apparently there’s a lot of call for people who can write a paragraph…or even a sentence…that gets a complex scientific idea across to an audience of laypeople. We talked a bit more about this on the podcast as well, particularly given Jaz’s background in engineering, and I got a chance to plug HOT MESS: speculative fiction about climate change as an example of how writers and artists can contribute to conversations about the sciences. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to soundcloud the entire panel, but you’ll get a good idea of the tips, etc., that were given from the link above.

  • Black, Latina, Girl, Geek

A really positive panel from Aquala Lloyd, Emily Berrios and Tiffany Janibagian about what it meant to them to grow up as geeks, and how geek culture in places like Panama and Puerto Rico differs from geek culture here in the US. This was the first panel I attended where there was a lot of discussion about video game geekery, too, and it was exciting to hear about how the next generation of geeks are growing up in an atmosphere of wider acceptance than those who came before.

2013-10-20 10.01.29Sunday morning brought this panel, where my Twitter friend (and now real-life con lunch buddy!) Barbara Caridad Ferrer spoke along with Corrina Lawson, Karen Harbaugh and Katt S, again moderated by Suzette Chan. I don’t consider myself a romance reader (though I’ve enjoyed both Outlander‘s first book and every Georgette Heyer novel I’ve been able to get my hands on), but after this panel and a chance encounter with Corrina Lawson in the airport late Sunday night, I have a list of which books to read and am looking forward to getting started.

  • Bringing Your Writing to Life with the Spoken Word

This was a last-minute addition to my panel schedule, and I’m really glad I went. Panelists Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard and Julie Hoverson ran this session as a Q&A, and it was full of advice for both writers and performers who want to get into audiobooks and podcasts as a way to spread their work. I was convinced; I’m going to start looking around ACX and seeing what I can find that might fit a few of my current projects.

A con isn’t all about panels, and Geek Girl Con had great peoplewatching, art and merch opportunities – as well as chances to mingle and network with other like-minded folk. Here’s a gallery with some photos of sights around the convention:

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On Sunday afternoon, I joined Jaz (@ANappyNerdGirl) for our appearance on the Black Girl Nerds podcast, where we discussed the convention, its attendees and how it felt to spend the weekend celebrating our geekiness in a safe space. Oh, we also had trolls call in. They were cut off quickly, but they were pretty obscene, and while they didn’t get to me or the others it was a pretty graphic example of just how badly some people behave when they perceive someone else’s celebration as threatening their privilege.

The con closed with The Doubleclicks playing “Nothing to Prove” to a room full of con attendees – most of whom sang along.

 

 

All of which brings me to the “after” part of this blog entry’s title. I went, I listened, I learned – now what? GGC ’13 gave me a lot to think about, and I’m sure the effects will be percolating and expressing themselves in my work and interactions with others for months to come. I want to look into some of the information from the STEM careers in the humanity – and the acronym STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts & Math, as I learned on Sunday). I have a pile of books to read and notes to parse. I’ve already approached a few artists about cover commissions for upcoming books. I met new people. I had a blast. I’m already looking forward to 2014.

 

 

Alloy, Kindle, Fanfic & E-Publishing

Some quick thoughts regarding Amazon’s deal with Alloy Publishing and the discussions I’ve read about it.

Most of that discussion seems like it’s centering around the down-the-road implications of Amazon’s deal: when will Harry Potter fans be able to write for fun and profit? If 50 Shades was so profitable, why is this deal specifically banning pornography/erotic fiction?

One thing I notice is missing from the discussion is the connective tissue played by Alloy Publishing’s role in and relationship to a multimedia experience for its properties. In this context, one sees quickly that Alloy has positioned itself in a way that makes this Amazon announcement practically inevitable.

For a start, Alloy’s advertisements and guidelines have always represented the company as a packaging (in addition to publishing) company. This is borne out by the company’s successful franchises – Gossip GirlPretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries and so on. They existed as books long before they stalked our screens, looking sultry, via the CW. Alloy is a publishing entity that has been clear from the submission point onward that it’s also interested in multi-media moneymaking.

The Amazon/Alloy deal signals a potential sea change for legally monetizing an entertainment arena that has existed in a gray area for decades. It can also be seen as a difficult-to-replicate pairing of two unique companies with particular agility in the online publishing arena and specific interest in forging new slivers of profit from the interest and participatory nature of their active online fans.

The real question, for writers interested in this self-publishing opportunity, is how far-reaching the effects of this initial Kindle Worlds program wind up being.

The Alloy announcement concerned three distinct properties, belonging to a single division of a larger entertainment behemoth. There’s nothing in the press release linked above that signals successfully completed talks with anybody outside of Alloy, let alone Warner Bros.

Writers outside the three fandoms of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries probably have a long wait on their hands, but it seems clear to me that these three fandoms represent a litmus test for the idea of formally coupling of fan fiction and corporate profitability.

 

Sunday and Monday: Kindle Select Promo Days!

Cover art for PLAYING IT COOL

This Sunday and Monday (September 16th and 17th, 2012) you can download my first Edinburgh Fringe play, Playing it Cool for free on Amazon. (Apologies to those who’ve been patient since Friday night – a glitch in scheduling meant the promo didn’t go live as planned on Saturday).

Playing it Cool (a snappy romantic comedy) was written in 2003, and was my first produced play since 1999’s POST (a surreal tale about gun violence).

If you don’t own a Kindle and want to check out the play,  you can download apps for almost any platform on Amazon’s home page.

And as I said last time:

Playing it Cool is a one-act play about two friends, subtext and communication. It’s a two-hander that takes place in an apartment and a cafe, so might be of interest for those looking for audition scenes to read with a partner.

No big monologues here, I’m afraid, although both my later Fringe plays, Stuck Up A Tree and Mousewings (particularly Mousewings) will deliver on that front.

I’m listing Playing it Cool with Kindle Select for at least 90 days, so if you’re a member of Amazon Prime, make sure to put it on your list for a free read.”

Reviews of Playing It Cool:

Playing it Cool may not be the most ambitious play, addressing only a single issue. However, it contains much humour and is very well written. It will be very interesting to see a longer and more intricate play from the very promising Rachel Lynn Brody, at some time soon.”

– Philip Fisher, The British Theatre Guide, regarding the play’s premiere.

If you want to find out about awesome stuff like this ahead of time, subscribe to my Mailchimp mailing list. I won’t send stuff often, and won’t sell your email info, but I can promise at least a few promos ahead of the curve. And who knows what else.

But first, download Playing It Cool.