Category archive: e-books

Will Publishing Streams Reverse?

There’s a shift going on in publishing that publishers and agents should be discussing over their lattes in the boardrooms of Manhattan.  I have a friend who is a well-published, successful author, but his publisher is putting the screws to him on a new contract, refusing to budge from a very miserly e-book royalty that they’ve decided is “industry standard” in a fledgling e-book industry.  This ridiculous “industry standard” mantra has so upset this author that he is considering walking away and self-publishing his next novel.

I can’t name this author because the contract negotiations are on-going, but I can say that he has a big enough name that he wouldn’t have to worry about being lost in what Joe Konrath aptly named The Tsunami of Crap that is flooding e-book stores like Smashwords and Kindle.  My friend already has an established audience that will seek him out and buy his novels.

So if the publisher calls his bluff and he indie-pubs, who will they publish in his place?  Who will accept a horrible contract to make a name?  A newbie like me, of course.

Right now we newbies put up our e-books on Amazon, desperately market them and hope to make enough sales to get the attention of the publishing or film industry and make the big sale.  Even Amanda Hocking, who could probably live on her e-book sales for the rest of her life, signed with St Martins.

But if the publishing industry continues to empty their stables of successful authors and runs instead with untested talent, it will come with an unintended consequence: self-publishing becomes more respectable.

For over a century publishers have maintained that only they know good work and that self-published novels must be crap.  They’ve been right often enough that this mantra has played well with the public.  But if publishers drive away their authors then a lot of high quality indie-pubbed novels will hit the market.  Worse for publishers, it means the public will not be so afraid to take a fly on a indie-pubbed e-book.  Note that it  won’t be self-publishing anymore, it will be indie-publishing.  Even J.K. Rowlings has placed a toe in that water.

So the streams would reverse: newbies would be with the publishers.  Established authors would indie-publish.

Of course it’s going to be a lot messier than that.  Newbies will still indie-pub first, get a small following and then take the lousy industry contract.  After their first bestseller, they’ll say goodbye to their publisher and go back to indie-publishing so that they can get the 70% royalty.

Watch out now for publishers trying to force authors into ten-book contracts to lock in long-term, cheap content providers.  This will hurt publishing in the long run, because sometimes acquisition editors make mistakes, and so a publisher could find themselves forced to publish one poor selling novel after another when an author doesn’t perform as expected.

In my humble opinion, publishers should just offer a better e-book royalty and keep their talented authors.  My friend deserves it.  Otherwise publishers may discover that they’ve made things worse for themselves by giving credibility to indie-published authors.

Is the Writers Union Living in the Past?

Sometimes little birds speak to me at this blog.  The latest nugget that dropped in my lap concerns the Writers Union of Canada, a great organization that provides its members with contract advice and more.

What surprised me is that apparently the Writers Union believes a 17% royalty on the retail price of an e-book is a fair royalty, even though the author will only net $1.70 on a $9.99 novel.

Now what I don’t get is that any author who indie publishes their novel on Amazon at $9.99 will get the 70% royalty on the retail price, which means we’re talking about $6.99 per copy sold.

How can the Writers Union think that $1.70 on the retail price is fair compared to $6.99?  I understand that a publisher doing a print run is adding a lot of value to an author’s novel by getting the paper copy out into the Walmarts and Targets of North America.  That’s actually good advertising for an e-book, and I can agree that the publisher should earn a nice cut of the e-book sales as a result, but I would suggest that the author should at least receive 40% of the retail price, so $4 bucks on a $9.99 novel.  That still leaves the publisher picking up $3 bucks a copy, and they don’t have to hire a truck driver or pay for ink each time an e-copy sells.

I know I’m just dickering about numbers here, but the spread is big, which is why I’m shaking my head in disbelief at the Writers Union.

I tried to confirm this stand at the Writers Union website, but my search only produced some out-of-date warnings about e-book publishers offering only 10% of net.  I’m not a member so I can’t ask advice myself.

My source, however, is very reliable.

So I’m left to wonder: when will the Writers Union change their tune?  Because they will.  They can’t live in the past.  Their members won’t let them.

The Verdict on Amazon Gift Cards

Promoting a novel through give-aways is a great idea, but I learned a lesson recently.  I was heading to the Bloody Words Mystery Convention in Victoria, mostly to hang out with a bunch of fun-loving authors.  But I knew there would be lots of mystery readers there too, so I decided to give away some e-copies of my anthology, Summer of Bridges, because it has an award-winning mystery short story, Railroaded, among the other Sioux Rock Falls stories.

So I went to Amazon and ordered fifty gift cards and took them with me along with a fistful of postcards featuring the anthology’s cover.  I’m not pushy, so I only handed out the gift cards to people who said that they were very interested.  I also made sure that they either owned a Kindle or were comfortable with downloading the Kindle app for their computers.

Then the real mystery began.  The week after Bloody Words my novel, Vampire Road, began selling copies but Summer of Bridges showed no spike at all.  What the heck?  What were those mystery lovers doing buying a vampire novel with their gift cards?

Then a few of my short stories started selling, and I thought the mystery was solved.  Perhaps they were using the gift cards to buy the short stories.  All of those stories are contained in the antho plus three new stories, so I was surprised they were blowing the gift cards on one story when they could have had them all with one free download.

Today I checked the status of the gift cards with Amazon and discovered that not one single, solitary, gift card from Bloody Words has been redeemed.  The sales for Vampire Road, White Metal, Railroaded and the others all came from book-lovers surfing Amazon.  None of those sales came from my gift card promotion.

I still think that gift cards can be useful, but next time I’ll say, “Show me your Kindle and I’ll give you an e-book.”  I’ve done that twice since Bloody Words with better results.  Both fans had Kindles and both used their gift cards.

So the verdict: the Amazon gift cards are a great way to introduce people to a novel.  Just don’t give them to people who may not be comfortable downloading the Kindle app or buying a Kindle.

 

German E-books Platform Contacts Me

It’s the wild west in e-publishing, and everyone is striving to find a niche.  I know this, yet I was surprised today when an e-mail arrived this morning from XinXii.com asking me to post my e-book with them for sale in Germany.

What the heck?  This is the equivalent of a European indie bookstore tracking me down and asking me to put my self-published novel on their shelf.  That would never happen in traditional publishing.

At first I wondered if this was some weird kind of spam, so I googled them and came across a number of bloggers who’ve checked them out and say they’re legit.  I also contacted my friend and fellow writer, Rebecca M. Senese, and she also said that as far as she could tell they were legit.  I’m guessing that it’s no coincidence that I loaded Vampire Road to Smashwords yesterday and got the e-mail this morning.  I suspect they’ve got some smart program monitoring the new releases and somehow mining e-mail addresses out of author websites.

So I’ve got another platform on the list to add my books to.  Who knows, maybe my novels will take off in Germany.  Due South was successful there, and I worked on Due South.  Okay, that’s a crazy stretch, but my point is that you can never tell where the sales might come from, and the more places I have my novels for sale, the greater the chance that they’ll sell.

So I’m adding it to the list of platforms where I still have to upload Vampire Road and Summer of Bridges.  I like this new e-pub world.  Book retailers come looking for me.

A Moment in the Smashwords Sun

I’ve waded through the Smashwords Style Guide and come out the other side, humbled and wiser.  I’ve learned more about Microsoft Word than I ever wanted to know.  But at last I’ve loaded up Vampire Road to Smashwords, and I’ve got my hour in the sunshine that is the  New Releases page.

Next task is marketing, but for an indie e-pubbed author the fun never ends.  I also want to put it up to Barnes and Noble through Pubit, and by the fall Kobo intends to have a version of self-pubbing as well.

The good news is that now I know how to format my MS document as I write it, so that I don’t have to go through the excruciating cleaning process with my next novel.  This cleaning of Vampire Road’s formatting was required to enable the Smashwords Meatgrinder program to digest my words and spit out multiple e-book formats.

I’m still waiting with fingers crossed to find out if I qualify for their “Premium Catalog,” which is proof of my prowess with Microsoft Word formatting.  It also gets me into the ibook store and the Sony Reader store, which was the whole point of publishing through Smashwords.

For all you indie authors out there, I’m going to finish the guide that will take your manuscript to Kindle.  It’s far easier and the biggest e-book market.  I’ll write up my notes about Smashwords later next week.

Tomorrow: the clickable table of contents.

Kindle Publishing: First Step

There are dozens of paths that will take your novel from a computer to Kindle, and the route will largely depend on the current file format of the work.  We’re going to start with the most common for indie authors: a Microsoft Word document.

Microsoft Word comes with some serious baggage designed to make your life easier if you just want to write and print a document.  But we want to publish that document, so we need to clean out all the Microsoft Weirdness formatting.

Smashwords has an excellent 85 page manual on how to do this, which includes going nuclear (their expression) but I found with my document that it wasn’t that complicated.

Step One: Activate the show/hide.  That’s the reverse P-thingy as Mark Coker from Smashwords calls it, or the pilcrow.  You’ll see that weird symbol somewhere in your toolbar.  In my version it’s beside the little red toolbox.  Here are some fun images for a pilcrow if you want to know what it looks like.  Just give it a click to show all your formatting.

Now you can see what a mess you’ve made of the document.

Step Two: Go to the Tools menu item and pull down to AutoCorrect.  Deselect each box under AutoCorrect, Auto Format as you type, AutoText and AutoFormat.  You have complete control now.

Step Three:  Look at your document.  Do you have little arrows showing tabs as paragraph indents?  Bad.  You don’t want these in the document.  Fortunately I stumbled across an easy fix.  Select the entire document and then align all the text to center.  Don’t panic.  It’s just temporary.  With the entire document still selected, align all the text to left.  Boom!  All those evil tab indents are gone and now we can properly format the paragraph indents.  The pros among you will have already formatted your paragraphs this way.

Select the whole document again and go to Format in the menu.  Pull down to Paragraph.  Under Indents and Spacing there’s a section on indentation.  Under ‘Special’ select ‘first line.’  It’ll default to .5″ which is a reasonable paragraph indent.  Click OK and we can move on to the easy stuff.

Step Four: Do any of your quotes look like smart quotes?  We need to get rid of those.  They’ll be gobbly-gook in your Kindle or Smashwords book.  Simply do a search and replace.  Because we turned off the smart quotes in step one, it’ll find the smart quotes ” and replace them with straight quotes ” .  I know, they both look like smart quotes here.  They’ll both look like straight quotes in the search and replace, but it’ll still do the job.

Now do the same for the apostrophes.  Again with the ellipses, you know, those three dot things…

Step Five:  This is probably a no brainer, but do make sure you’ve single-spaced your text.  We’re not sending it to an agent here.  We’re publishing!

Step Six: Insert your page breaks.  I do them between chapters.  Simply go to Insert on the menu and pull down to Break and select Page Break.  Oh, I assume you’ve put your cursor at the end of your chapter where you want your page break.

Step Seven: Make sure you don’t have more than three blank lines in a row anywhere in your document.  Multiple blank lines look awful in an e-book.

Step Eight: I really hope you’ve already figured this one out all by yourself, but just in case: if you have headers/footers/page numbers, get rid of them.  Like I said before, we’re publishing!  Forget the agent formatting.

Step Nine: I like to put my web address into hyperlinks right in the e-book.  Now’s the time to insert your hyperlinks.  Can you guess how?  Okay, just in case: highlight the web address and go to Insert on the menu and pull all the way down to Hyperlink.

Now you have a cleanly formatted document ready for the next stage.  Believe it or not it gets easier after this.  You just need your cover and…you do have a cover don’t you?  Okay, that’ll be tomorrow.

The New Slush Pile

Amanda Hocking, the  indie e-pubbed bestseller, credits book bloggers for taking her from a minimum-wage, dead end job to millions of books sold through Amazon and Smashwords and a seven-figure contract with St. Martin’s Press.

This news has started an avalanche of review requests by self-e-pubbed authors into book bloggers in-boxes.  So much so that Big Al, of Big Al’s books and pals, has stopped accepting unsolicited review requests.

The statement under Big Al’s submission guidelines sounds strikingly like something an agent or publisher might put on their website:

Big Al says:  “As of May 17th.  We are currently NOT accepting unsolicited review submissions until we catch up with evaluating those already received.”

I’ve heard many editors, authors and agents express concern about the e-publishing industry, and the biggest worry seems to be about who will be the gatekeepers of modern publishing.  Big Al’s announcement proves that book bloggers will be covering one gate.  How can I tell?  It just slammed closed until further notice.

I’m Selling in the UK

I was checking my sales report on Amazon to see if my efforts at  Bloody Words had produced a bump, but what caught my attention was a new report button for sales in the Kindle UK store (and another for the Kindle DE store in Germany)

Just for fun I gave it a click and discovered that I’ve actually started a trickle of sales in the UK.  Even one of my short stories sold on that side of the pond.

Why is this so exciting?  I don’t know anyone in the UK.  These sales are a tribute to cover art (thanks M. Custode) and good openings to the stories–because that’s the only way people in the UK can judge them.  Amazon allows readers to read the first several pages for free.

My efforts at Bloody Words did cause a little bump in sales for Summer of Bridges, my coming-of-age anthology of short stories that first appeared in Storyteller Magazine.

But here’s the really weird thing: Vampire Road, the young adult, violent, vampire novel has seen an even bigger jump in sales over the weekend.  I didn’t push Vampire Road at Bloody Words because this is a convention of mystery readers–many of them with grown children–who would have little interest in a YA novel.  I’d be doing them a disservice to try and sell it to them.  I pushed Summer of Bridges because the Sioux Rock Falls stories are light-hearted Canadiana, and one of them is a mystery.

So what demographic started buying Vampire Road over the weekend?  I guess the obvious answer is younger people who like vampire novels.  It’ll be interesting to see where sales go once I really get marketing.

If you were wondering: no sales in Germany so far.

Side Note: For the authors out there who are waiting for a blog on how to format and put up e-books, it’s in the draft stage.  It’ll be up this week.

 

How to Publish Your E-book

I’m at the Bloody Words Mystery Convention this weekend in lovely Victoria, and I’ve been surprised at how many authors, both newbies and established, have come to me asking about how to format and publish their e-books for Kindle and other platforms.

The established authors have figured out that their back lists are worth more than the 15-25% e-book royalty most publishers are offering, and the newbies just want to get their novels out there for the world to judge.

So starting this week, I’m going to do a series of articles on how to format and upload your novel for Kindle, Smashwords, etc.  It’s pretty simple, except for the clickable table of contents, and even authors who are technophobic don’t need to worry that it’s beyond them.

I’m also open to questions and am willing to help.

I’m off to a panel now, so the first “How to” article will appear tomorrow, and I’ll put up a menu item for anyone who wants to reference it in the future.

Vampire Road Launched

Amazon just gets faster everyday.  Vampire Road is already available in the e-book store.

Warning: Don’t expect to find sexy, conflicted vampires in love.  This is a man’s novel.  Okay, women who like to read about women kicking butt will like it too.

Enjoy.