Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Is 2018 The Year Authors Become Activists? by Rolynn Anderson

I marched January of 2017; I'm set for another public 'appearance' on January 20th, 2018, pink pussy hat perched on my head, this time with six of my friends instead of three.  I'm not comfortable in these big crowds, but standing up for human rights is worth it, and the situation is dire enough for me to display my displeasure.  

I never thought I'd have to roll up my activist sleeves for the good of writers, but recent reports about Amazon coupled with our lackluster sales makes me wonder.  

In order to get our stories to readers, trad and indie writers are facing grave issues, according to Mark Coker, owner of Smashwords.  I encourage you to read his predictions for 2018 and listen to ALL of Scott Gallworthy’s video:  http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/12/2018-book-industry-predictions.html

Only last month, thinking worldwide was the way to go, I clicked the button to end my exclusivity (BAD LIES and CÉZANNE’S GHOST) with the big ‘A.'  Though Amazon still sells all eight of my books, Smashwords offers six of my novels through KOBO, iTunes, B&N, and other distributers.

No matter how much I'd like to bury my head in creating stories, how can I ignore the politics that prevent writers from being paid fairly and keeps readers from buying our books?

Have you come up with some ways to gain power in this situation?
1.  Certainly I could use more information.  Which experts have a good handle on the dynamics of our industry?
2.  I have left KU.  Do I stay out and support others who to do the same?
3.  Would selling my books on my website be the way to take power back? 
4.  Your question goes here:

Weigh in if you have some ideas about Coker and Gallworthy's concerns.  And if you think I should start knitting another hat, let's figure out a color and a shape :-)  As always, we mush on!
***
Meanwhile, want fly with me to Italy?  You can pretend you’ve got a chance to win a golf tournament helped by the caddy of your dreams.  Here’s BAD LIES http://a.co/0DuYNPn:

Italy’s haunted caves spell danger for an American golfer and a NATO geologist
***
Sophie Maxwell is a late-blooming, unorthodox golfer, and mother of a precocious thirteen year-old. Determined to put divorce, bankruptcy, and a penchant for gambling in her past, Sophie goes to Italy for a qualifying golf tournament.

Jack Walker turned his back on a pro golfing career to become a geologist. As a favor to his ailing father he’ll caddy for Sophie; off hours, he’ll find caves on the Mediterranean coast, suitable for NATO listening posts for terrorist activity.

Someone is determined to stop Jack’s underground hunt and ruin Sophie’s chances to win her tournament.

On a Rome golf course and in the Amalfi coast’s haunted caves, all the odds are stacked against Sophie and Jack.  In their gamble of a lifetime, who wins?

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35 comments:

Leah St. James said...

It is a dire prediction, and the problems are real. I find myself at that crossroad at this point, actually. I had my old books on KDP and KU in the fall through the holidays (but made sure to take off the auto-renew). It was a test since it's been years since I've gone exclusively with Amazon.

Surprisingly, with little or no promo, I started getting royalties for the KU reads...more royalties than I've made in a long, long time on purchases. Originally I had planned to release wide (after KDP expired) via Pronoun (a distribution company like Smashwords but much easier and prettier, and run by McMillan, I believe). Then came the news that even they couldn't fight Amazon, and now they're out of business. So I'm back to my quandary.

In my heart I don't want to bow down to Amazon's tactics (which are and have been brilliant), but I also don't feel like doing all this work (on top of a stressful day job) and going to the expense of publishing without any compensation.

I like the idea of selling direct through my website. I know it can be done. I think I'm going to explore that.

Great discussion, Rolynn.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Leah with 2 books on KU nothing was happening for two months! Nothing on Encore either. Nothing period. I’m trying other methods. Anybody sell books on their site?

Margo Hoornstra said...

Do things have to get worse before they can get better? Social media is so much a part of our lives now. As a hybrid author, I must say my trad books do somewhat better than my indies. But maybe that's just me. Excellent discussion that needs to remain at the forefront of our planning as we continue with our careers as authors. We certainly seem to be a bunch of misdirected cats seeking a limited number of available mice. But, the activist in me screams - It doesn't have to be that way! The key seems to be to build readership one reader at a time. The problem being, how exactly to find and obtain those readers.Which brings us back, in this day and age, to social media platforms. AKKKKK!!!

Jannine Gallant said...

I have 5 self-pubbed books on KU. I get about the same number of borrows as buys, and for my full-length books make about the same off each borrow, a little less on the novellas. Since I see very few sales on other platforms with my publisher books, I haven't been tempted to take the ones I control off KU. I actually make a little money on them each month. I'm not crazy about the control Amazon has, but I also don't want to waste valuable time formatting for other venues that will sell very few (if any) books for me. I know authors complain that they aren't paid in full for borrows if the book isn't read completely. My books are read completely 95% of the time, so I don't feel this is an issue. I don't know the answer, either. I do know Mark Coker is in the business to make money, and he isn't making any off Amazon since everyone formats their own books for Kindle and doesn't go through Smashwords. He has a stake in pulling business away from them.

Betsy Ashton said...

Thanks so much for this discussion. I'm a newbie in self-publishing, so this is both timely and practical. With my Mad Max series controlled by my publisher, I've not had the opportunity to test KDP or KU.

I'm going to release my ebook in a couple of weeks. I'll do a test on KDP and KU to see what happens. I won't turn on automatic renewal until I see if it's worth it.

All guidance needed and welcome.

RE Mullins said...

It is an evil cycle. I want to write. To afford to do so, I must market. Marketing and writing are both full-time jobs. This is extra harsh for someone who can't sell girl scout cookies at a pot concert. Yet, I can't afford someone to market my work unless I sell books. I can't sell books unless I write...

Alison Henderson said...

I originally put my three self-pubbed books in KDP select because it was by far the easiest and most of my small-press sales came from there, anyway. I've left them there for the same reason. Last year about this time, I decided to see if there was anything I could do to improve my dismal sales (last February I sold 0 books!!!) I've always read you have to spend money to make money, so in March, I started experimenting with AMS ads. The results were so remarkable, I've kept it going. I spend around $30/month, and my royalties have gone from $6-$10/month to $80-$150/month. None of this is going to make me rich or a household name, but it's nice to know someone's actually reading my books for a change.

Amazon is a business, and as such, they have to look out for their own interests. I understand that. As a self-employed writer, I have to do the same. For now, it seems to be in my best interest to put some money in their pocket so they'll put more in mine.

Vonnie Davis said...

I spend what I feel is a lot of money on promotion. And I don't say that to brag. I'm trying to build up my reader base, my auto-buy readers. I can't do that alone. I need someone helping me. I hate tweeting, so my PA does that for me. She creates memes. She puts me into programs where visibility is high. This helps my newsletter numbers to grow. She recommends I do certain things. Her $1200 a year fee is a great tax deduction. Since I make more writing than I do from Social Security, our tax advisor is always telling me to spend more, to take trips to research books and things like that so I have more tax deductions for my writing business. As for Amazon, I'm on the fence. I earn well from them...well meaning 150 to 200 a month. Can I just say I HATE PROMO!

Andrea Downing said...

Rolynn, I wouldn't know where to start with all that's wrong with publishing at the moment, nor advise what to do. I've been in self-pubbed anthologies that have done remarkably well in KU, but have only self-published one of the stories that came out of one of the anthologies and now, with Pronoun gone, it seems to be quite a feat to go wide. Luckily, thus far, I've mostly had friends doing the slog for me with the anthologies but am trying to consider what to do with my latest.

Rolynn Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rolynn Anderson said...

Betsy, let me know what happens to your efforts. We’re in this together 😏

Rolynn Anderson said...

Wait.., Girl Scout cookies at a POT conference? I like your situation!

Rolynn Anderson said...

You made me realize the power of A Z... checking it out

Rolynn Anderson said...

I really need to hear this, Vonnie. Thanks!

Rolynn Anderson said...

I applaud your efforts in your niche!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Friends...too many margaritas-2 day’s on the course...I better say loess than more 🤡

Christine DePetrillo said...

I started out doing just KDP, then realized I was missing a whole host of readers by doing that. I then started releasing to other retailers through Draft2Digital and have found that while Amazon is still my top selling arena, Apple is doing some nice things for me too. If I went exclusive to Amazon, I'd be missing out on those iBooks readers. Cast a wider net has worked for me.

Also, as someone said earlier, the idea of you have to spend money to make money is soooo true.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I can't read the articles right now. I'm at my Mom's and dealing with her health issues. I read through all your comments. I'll definitely get back to this. Great spark.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Awkward response😛I’m determined to do well on this course and the margaritas they serve on the second nine really help my game😉

Rolynn Anderson said...

I’d love to make apple work for me! What did you do to make it work for you?

Rolynn Anderson said...

Brenda, we’re thinking about you and your mom...thoughts your way of the positive kind. We’re sparking each other!

Leah St. James said...

Chris, you make a good point about iBooks. If anyone can challenge Amazon right now, it's Apple. I have published directly on the iTunes store before, but the last time, which was about 18 months ago, we needed to use their proprietary software which was only available for an Apple product (Mac, etc.). (We did find a workaround where we sort of rented a Windows-based application to get the files formatted and uploaded.) I wonder if that's still the case. I need to learn more about Draft2Digital. Smashwords is a great company but the formatting process is such a pain.

Christine DePetrillo said...

Leah, for Draft2Digital, you just upload your Word doc. Easy-peasy. My first self-published book was with Smashwords and I vowed never, NEVER to go through that formatting process again. Draft2Digital also just added distribution to Amazon, but I figured I'd continue to do that directly since it's not that cumbersome.

Alicia Dean said...

I have all my SP books in KU, and I ran some Amazon ads and it greatly increased my pages read, so it was totally worth it. I have periodically tried the other platforms, and I always use D2D, which is fabulous and sooo much easier than Smashwords (and, it's right here in Oklahoma! :)). However, I have gone months without selling a single book on any of the other platforms. And, my Amazon sales go down (well, I don't have the pages read advantage), so it is not worth it for me to do anything other than KU. It might be disheartening that Amazon has so much control of the market, but as an author, I have to do what I can to get the most sales and get my books in the hands of the most readers, and KU is it for me.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Margo, I like your idea of gaining one reader at a time...it sounds doable that way. I got one reader here in Maz from among the golfers! :-)

Rolynn Anderson said...

I agree, Jannine...everyone has to make a living...and has a bias!

Rolynn Anderson said...

I had no idea this was so difficult...on I-tunes...will look into it more.

Rolynn Anderson said...

I know , Leah. We are such small players on a gigantic stage!

Diane Burton said...

Sorry for being late, but here's my experience. I use Smashwords for the books I can't put up on other vendors by myself (Apple [iTunes], Overdrive [libraries], Baker & Taylor, etc.) I put them up by myself on Amazon, B&N, and Kobo. My sci-fi romances do very well on Kobo. My mysteries, not at all, but they do well on Amazon. B&N is ho-hum. My point is that with persistence and taking time to read carefully, I can save myself Smashwords' cut on Kobo and B&N. My self-pub books do much better than my trad book.

Marketing is so important. I've depended on DIY advertising. Now I realize I need to spend money to get more coverage. I took advantage of Smashwords End-of-the-Year Sale, offering one of my books for free and discounted the others. I hoped to hook readers with that book so they bought the others in the series. Some people bought all the books in a different series. That was a big surprise. I never put my books in KU or KDP Select because I didn't want to limit my books to one vendor.

Becky Flade said...

Marketing and self-promotion have become significantly more complicated since my first book published 5 years. I'm not sure human rights, or the political atmosphere, had anything to do with that as much as the exponential growth of available books did. I know it didn't help though. As for KU, I kept my novella erotic spy thrillers in the program (they sit at the 99¢ price point I find fair for stories of that length) and keep my full length novels out of the program.

Janet Walters said...

I'm with a small publisher and don't think I have many books on KU. My sales are steading increasing on the other markets than Amazon. As to Amazon, most of my sales are there. Not sure there is a solution. Writers have always faced this with a few getting rich and the most making a little money. I've been published for 50 years and have seen so many changes in the industry.

Linda McLaughlin said...

I'll be marching on Saturday also, but for the first time. This time last year, I had extremely painful plantar fasciitis that kept me at home. Happy I can go this year, though without a pussy hat. I'm allergic to wool.

As for the sales situation, I'm as much at sea as everyone else. Hope we can figure this out.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Becky, sounds like you have learned how to develop a following outside of Amazon as well as within their system. Well done!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Janet, good to hear from you. I know you've learned so much in your 50 years...I'd love to hear more of your insights...you got me at 'steadily increasing!' Good for you!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Linda, thanks for weighing in on our dilemmas. Geesh, I've had that plantar horror and thought I'd never walk again! With a boot worn at night, I did get through it...and do exercises every other day, hoping it will never happen again. So glad you're marching...ours is a rally, actually...but numbers showing up tells the world of our concerns. Onward and upward!