Tag archive: Amazon

Who Would Walk Away From 500 Thousand Dollars?

Apparently Barry Eisler just did.  Why did he walk away from this lucrative book deal with St. Martin’s Press?  Because he believes he will make more self-publishing in the long run, particularly on e-book rights.

Eisler is joining a growing number of authors who are walking away from legacy publishers.  The problem is that the standard industry contract only gives the author  a 25% royalty on e-books, which comes off after Amazon or Smashwords has taken their cut.  Then the agent takes 15% off that 25% and it works out that the author is really only getting 17% of the e-book price.

Why accept that little crumb when an author can sell their novel through Kindle and get a 70% royalty?  No agent or publisher required.  In fact, how can publishers defend such a huge cut when they don’t need a printing press, trucks or a delivery network for e-books?

Up until now they’ve claimed that branding can save their publishing model–that readers will flock to a legacy publisher’s books because there are too many lousy self-published books to sort through.  But the truth is that the internet has its own filters, like the book bloggers who have made Amanda Hocking the new internet writing star.

Publishers are not obsolete, but they need to embrace the future and recognize that things have changed for the better.  E-readers have more people buying books than they have in a decade, and this should be a good thing.  Desperate attempts by legacy publishers to keep e-book prices high in order to stall the e-revolution will fail.  Refusing to give authors a fair cut will cost them content and market share.

Eilser wisely draws a parallel to railroads in the 1950s just as the interstates were under construction.  The railroads thought they were in the railroad business, but actually they were in the transportation business.  Once large trucks became a viable option, many railroads folded.  The smart railroads adapted, combining trucking and rail, adjusting prices and expectations and finding the niches they could still fill.

Because of my film industry background, I’m reminded of Kodak and Fuji film back in the 90s.  Even a camera assistant like me knew that high definition digital video was coming, but Kodak thought they were in the film stock business and tried to fight the change by producing better and better film stocks.  They achieved some amazing things with their 800 ASA film stock, but it couldn’t stop the slide to cheap digital.

Fuji knew they were in the image capture business and went aggressively after the digital video business.  Their CEO got an award a couple of years ago for keeping Fiji successful through this upheaval.

I was in Kodak’s home town–Rochester, NY–in 2006.  It’s the only time that I’ve seen an empty ten-story office building.  I’m talking about a modern glass and steel office building.  Kodak did follow Fuji’s lead into digital and has survived, but it was gut-wrenchingly painful to watch, and a lot of hard working people lost their jobs in the process.

Publishers should be in the business of selling books, not pulped dead trees.  Some publishers will recognize this and adapt to e-books and thrive.  Others will go down.  It doesn’t have to be this painful.

Don’t Buy My Short Story — Yet

So I’ve been crushed by an old version of Microsoft Word.  I knew I had paragraph formatting issues with my short story, Burning Moose, when I first uploaded it for sale as an Amazon e-book, but I thought I’d solved the problem with the short story Railroaded by saving it as an .rtf and going back to a .doc before uploading.

It turns out that did nothing.  Railroaded was MS from 2004, the others–well, I think I wrote Burning Moose on a MAC SE that I bought used from CPused, a great store that has since gone under.  You get the idea.  Very old technology.

Luckily Smashwords has a 73 page manual on how to format your MS word document so that it will upload nicely as an e-book.   So here I go again.  I’ve uploaded a new version of Fire Retardant but it’ll take 24 hours to publish.  I’ll check it out when it’s up to make sure it’s good and then I’ll relaunch.

I’m pretty sure this is going to get easier to do as new programs are written to solve these little formatting issues.  In the meantime: at least I learned a lot about MS word today.

Fire Retardant Launch

Cover for Fire Retardant--a Sioux Rock Falls Short Story

Forest fires regularly sweep through Northern Ontario during the summer months, and if a town is in the way it has no chance.  In 1979 the town of Cobalt, Ontario near Lake Tamiskaming lost a good chunk, with only the church, a few homes and a decaying strip plaza spared.

But when the Ministry of Natural Resources guy threatened to draft the bridge crew I was with to fight that forest fire, I got to thinking, talking with locals and hearing legends of fires past.  After a few more beers the short story Fire Retardant found a comfortable place in my brain.  It stayed there for years before I finally released it for Storyteller Magazine.

Fire Retardant is now available on Amazon.com for the Kindle.  This short story first appeared in Storyteller Magazine in their fall 2004 edition.

Soon I’ll have it for all e-pub format readers as well.

Kindle vs Sony: Pricing Divergence

I note this morning that Amanda Hocking’s Switched (see post below) is for sale on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents, but on the Sony Reader Store’s front page it’s $3.99.  While that’s not a horrible price, it’s four times out of line.

I like my Sony e-reader, but I’m getting the Kindle app for my i-phone, and the e-reader will idle for yet another novel.

Sony, Why Do You Make Me Crazy?

I want to like my Sony e-reader.  I was one of the early adopters, which means I paid double what most of you paid so that I could  get it a few months sooner.  Yes. I’d have waited if I’d known the price was going to fall through the floor, but I’d been tracking e-readers since the Rocket e-book debuted in 2000, and I just couldn’t wait any longer.  This was the future.

I’m no tree hugger, but hey, why cut down forests so that you can read a mystery novel once or twice, let it gather dust on a book shelf and leave someone else to throw it into landfill after you’re dead?

Content is king, and when I found out Sony was open source e-pub software and would have a e-reader store a la Amazon, I went for it.  The problem is the Reader Store.

For the third time I’ve gone to the Reader Store, clicked on a promoted novel and been unable to load it because it’s “Unavailable in your territory.”

Worse, the first time I had clicked “Canadian Edition.”  It took two days for Sony staff to figure out that it was a mistake and there was no available Canadian edition.

Today’s victim was “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”  Susan bought it with her Kindle from Amazon.com no problem and recommended it.  We debated whether she’d just loan me her Kindle, but it was easy to see that she didn’t want to part with the device for even a day.  She’s an avid reader.

That’s how I ended up at Sony’s Reader Store today, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that Larsson’s bestselling novel was on sale for five bucks.  Now I’d signed in to the store, so the software should have known my “territory.”  But instead it just threw up whatever page is there for Americans, prominently featuring Larson’s novel.

So Sony promotes this novel to me but won’t sell it to me.  Why do you make me so crazy?  If it weren’t for the fact that Google e-books work on the e-reader, I’d be pitching the damn thing into the snow on my front lawn.

Better Not Trash My Sony E-reader Yet

While I’ve metaphorically trashed the Sony E-reader a couple of times when comparing it to the Kindle, a whole new world just opened up for the little device: Google has launched their new Google ebookstore, and they’re selling books in the e-pub format for Sony and Nook.

But the best news is that they’re making literally millions of public domain books available for free.  Want to catch up on your Sherlock Holmes–maybe Dickens for Christmas?  It’s going to all be there.

Better yet, Google executives have stated that while they don’t want to start a price war for the copyrighted works they sell, they do want them to be among the most competitive.

I predict a fall in the price of e-books with Amazon leading the way.

This will be fun!

Conflicted About The New Publishers Taking Their Cut

Amazon and Sony have crossed the line from e-book stores to publishers, although they’re using a very old method to recruit want-to-be-authors:  self-publishers, also known as vanity presses.

There are still bent self-publishers out there, promising fame and fortune if you pay them to publish your novel.  But there are also new smart and professional self-publishers.  Amazon fronts CreateSpace.  The Reader Store has made two deals, one with  Author Solutions and the other with Smashwords.

Traditional publishers have been accused of being gatekeepers, of publishing only authors they know and not truly considering new talent, but the new e-book stores like Amazon and Sony are minding a different gate.  They’ll publish anyone and let the market sort them out, but they want their cut.

To e-publish with Amazon, you’ll get a 70% royalty.  This may be great compared to the 15% you’d be happy to get from a traditional publisher, but Amazon doesn’t have to hire editors, printing presses, trucks or pay for promotion.  What they’re charging 30% royalty for is simply the right to be on Amazon.

Sony’s deal is pretty much the same for their Reader store.  If you want to e-publish with them they’ll send you to Smashwords, who will put your novel into a number of formats, including the e-pub that you need for the Sony Reader store.

Now I could use Calibre open source software to put my novel into e-pub format and offer it for sale through my website for fans who own Sony e-readers, but the traffic on my website isn’t anything compared to the Reader Store.

So that’s why I would eat the 30%.  It’s not unlike the traditional publishers paying for prominent placement in brick and mortar stores.  Not that a self-published author will get front page placement on Amazon, but they’ll have the feel of legitimacy when they send friends to search Amazon or the Reader store for their novels.

And Amazon and Sony will be happy to take their cut of your friends’ money.

I guess that’s okay.  They’re not promising to make you famous.  Yet I’ve got that oligopoly feeling I get when I look at traditional publishers–that claustrophobic feeling that makes me want to shout unfair!  Who made you the gatekeepers?

Of course they’d probably reply that the internet is a big place and I can go anywhere I want, and try to sell my novel anyway I want.  Which is true.  It would just be much easier with Amazon and Sony.

So I’m conflicted.

Is My Sony E-Reader Doomed?

If I truly knew the answer to that I’d be a rich stock investor and not a writer with a day job, but this article makes me wonder if sometime in the next couple of years there might be a great opportunity to short Sony stock.

For those of you who have a life and don’t have time for the article: the salient prediction is that Amazon and the Kindle will move from 50% e-book market share to 90% market share.

This is because Amazon wisely treated Kindle as a platform rather than a device.  You can download Kindle for free to everything from your Blackberry to your PC and then buy your e-books from Amazon.

Remember all those predictions about i-pad being a Kindle killer?  Most people now use the Kindle app to read books on their i-pads, which means they’re buying e-books from Amazon instead of the i-bookstore.

I still use my Sony E-Reader, but I remember beta VCRs and I wonder if one day one of my kids will find a dusty Reader sitting on a shelf and say, “Hey Dad, what’s this thing?”

What I Wrote for The Crime Writers of Canada

E-readers: A Fad or the Future?

Way back in 1994, a CBC television producer told a researcher I was dating that the internet was just a fad like CB radios.  If she wanted to build a web page for the show, she’d have to do it on her own time.  Oops.

The producer can be forgiven this assessment of the internet because he was confusing a device, a radio, with a new and highly versatile medium of expression.  C.B. radios had only one purpose, and no one could use them for advertising.  He was also probably thinking about that eight-track tape player gathering dust in his basement.

E-books are the new must-have gadget, and they are everywhere.  Last week the new color version of Barnes and Noble’s Nook reader launched.  They’ve sold over a million of the old (so last year) black and white version, and they expect to sell a million of the color Nook over the next year.  Combine that just with Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony e-reader and you’ve got a lot of consumers looking for content for their new toys.  Let’s not even get into the tablets like the i-pad.  Avid readers can also get apps for their smart phones that’ll allow them to purchase e-books, so every Blackberry, Apple i-phone or any phone with Google’s Android operating system is a potential e-reader.

But I’m sure some authors and publishers are still thinking about all those eight-track tape players or their Beta VCRs.

They should think again.  E-readers are evolving platforms for expression.  Cookbooks will be able to insert how-to videos, and advertisers can find nooks (pun intended) and crannies to sneak in their less than subtle messages.  People can find new ways to make money.

More importantly, like the internet, e-book readers are going to enable content providers and facilitators to appear from unexpected places.  Who’d ever heard of Google, E-bay, Wikipedia, Facebook or even Craigslist in 1994?

E-readers are going to allow small publishers to distribute electronic downloads on an equal footing with big publishers.  No trucks required.  No expensive warehouses.  There will be price wars, content wars and jostling for attention.

I don’t predict the imminent death of the hardcover or paperback because some people still like to show how smart they are by what’s on their bookshelf.  But like the newspapers, big publishers are going to have to get used to slumping sales of paper books–sales that never recover to the glory days of the twentieth century and fade with the boomers.

Yet e-readers may be good for writers.  There’s opportunity for creativity, a new and (for now) more egalitarian platform from which to sell your words.  It’s exciting.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s the future.  You heard it here first.

By the way, I married the researcher.

Mike’s Note:

The Crime Writers of Canada asked me for an article on e-books for their newsletter.  The article I wrote above turned out to be very similar to one they’d published last month.  Who knew?  I’m not the first person to see this coming.

I slashed off a different article for the newsletter, but above is what those Crime Writers would have read if they hadn’t aleady read it somewhere else.

You Don’t Need A Kindle To Buy E-books

Amazon’s Kindle e-readers may cost you some bucks, but the Kindle reader software is free to download onto your computer.  So you can start reading e-books without buying the Kindle, dipping your toe into the e-reading water at no cost.

I  had trouble finding the link for the free download, but it’s here.  I got there through Kindle, e-books, Kindle Support.  The great thing is you can get it for your Mac, PC, Blackberry, i-phone or any smart phone with Google’s Android operating system.

Besides the obvious advantage that you can immediately purchase and read my short stories Railroaded or Burning Moose, it also means you can buy any book you want to read  on your computer or mobile device.

But free stuff is why I prefer the Kindle over the Sony e-reader.  Amazon has put up a bunch of content for your reading pleasure that won’t cost you a dime.  Never got around to reading the original Sherlock Holmes short stories?  Now you can.

Worried about losing your book if your computer crashes?  No problem.  Once you buy it, the book goes onto your bookshelf in your Amazon account so that you can recover it for free.

So download that free Kindle software.  Save some trees.  Buy my short stories.  Make me rich!  Actually, at 99 cents per story, it’s more like contributing to a cup of coffee.  But thanks!

H/t to Kim for pointing out that I’d never explained how to buy my stuff.  I’m going to make a new menu item for this tip.