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A Letter to Amazon

Dear Amazon,

I know that we aren’t on the best of terms.  Perhaps my decision not to buy a Kindle has something to do with that.  Don’t get me wrong; I love eBooks.  I can collect as many eBooks as I like, and I’ll never have to try to find room for them.  I just looked at the Kindle, as well as other options, and made a decision based on what would work for me.

I noticed that you use a proprietary eBook format based on mobi.  I’m sure that works for you.  I decided to go with the more openly available .epub.  After all, I can get that from my local library, and just about any eBook store.  To be honest, by refusing to use epub, you’ve made yourself unattractive to me.  But does that mean that we can’t get along?

I’d like to sell eBooks on Amazon, but you don’t make it easy for me.  You see, I’m Canadian.  You haven’t been very nice to Canada.  While you do have a Canadian store, many of your products aren’t available on it.  And eBooks?  Forget it!  We have to buy off of the American site.  OK, Fine.  It doesn’t make that big a deal, I guess.  On the other hand, selling books through you sucks.

I took a good look at Createspace and Amazon KDP.  I was Impressed at how simple everything was, except for one little thing; you don’t deal with Canadian banks.  Your Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) is available all over the world, except for your neighbors to the north.  (By the way, Canada and the U.S.A. have a very strong trade agreement.)  You expect me to wait till I’ve earned $100.00 US  in three different currencies, wait for checks in each of those currencies, and then pay for the inconvenience.  I don’t think so.  I’d love to deal with you, but I refuse to work under those conditions.

While we’re on the topic of bad conditions, let’s discuss KDP Select.  You have a special offer for people who are willing to make their books exclusive to you for a minimum of ninety days.  Availability on the Kindle lending library, five days of giveaways, and better royalties just for making a book exclusive to Amazon.  Of course, you don’t tell people how bad exclusivity is for sales, do you?

I have all kinds of reasons no to deal with you, but I’d really like that to change.  After all, I just want to sell my books.  Maybe we can work something out?

Sincerely,

R.D. Pruden

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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The “Evils” of the Agency Pricing Model

I received an email not long ago informing me that several publishers may owe me money due to a settlement regarding the agency pricing model.  I’d heard the term before, but – like many others – I didn’t really understand it.  So I did some research.
There are many articles explaining the case from as many different angles as can be found, so I won’t get into details here except to say that the big publishers weren’t happy with Amazon’s pricing for their books, and Apple offered them an alternative.  For some reason, everybody seems to think that this is all about Amazon and Apple.  As someone who deals with neither, I have a different perspective.

Every time I pull out my ereader in public I’m asked “is that a Kindle?”  To which I invariably answer “no”.  I try explaining that there are other brands of ebook readers on the market, and other places to get them besides Amazon.  They don’t get it.  Then I’m asked if it’s an IPad.  I just shake my head.  It seems that we as a society have forgotten that we don’t actually have to buy at the big department stores.  I don’t buy my groceries at Walmart, even though it’s only a few blocks away, and does sell groceries.  Instead, I go to a grocery store.  For books, I go to a book store.  Or I download the ebook.  Some of you are wondering what this has to do with Amazon and Apple.  It’s really very simple; Amazon is basically an online Walmart, and Apple is actually a computer manufacturer, not a major book seller.  But now I’m just splitting hairs.  Or am I?

Consider this; if you shop at Walmart it’s because you know that they have low prices.  They have buying power that other stores simply can’t match,  But they also sell some products at a loss.  That said, they don’t keep all of their prices low at all times.  You have to go in to see what’s on sale that week.  Now consider Amazon.  They sell books real cheap.  In fact, they are selling books – even print books – at a loss.  They can afford to do this because they make money on the up-selling of other products.  This is the difference between a bookstore and a department store.  Bookstores can’t afford to make all of their books cheap, because that is the source of their income.  Now, Walmart isn’t going to set the prices for Barnes and Nobel, but Amazon very well could.  The difference?  Amazon has other product to sell, Barnes and Nobel is primarily a book seller.  That means that they are dependent on book sales to keep afloat.

You may be asking “what does that have to do with agency pricing?”  Did you know that Barnes and Nobel has it’s own ereader?  It’s called the Nook.  “Oh yeah, I think I heard about that one somewhere,” you might say.  Then there is my own ereader of choice – Kobo.  Kobo doesn’t sell anything but ebooks and ereaders.  And they sell the ereaders pretty cheap.  That means that they have to make money off the sale of ebooks.  If they have to follow suit with Amazon, then they will have to sell absolutely all of their product at a loss.  You don’t have to be an economist to know that no business can afford to do that.

So what if nobody can compete with Amazon?  Why can’t we all just buy a Kindle?  This is what we call monopoly, and, unlike the game, it isn’t much fun.  Right now Amazon has to buy ebooks at a set price from publishers, the same as anyone else.  They may sell at a loss, and it’s their problem.  If they were the only option, they could simply tell publishers “we won’t sell your book unless you sell it to us cheaper”.  They could also choose to raise prices for the end user (That’s you, bye the way) to make up for all the money that they lost selling books cheap.  Okay, they might not do that.  But reducing what they’re willing to pay for books?  you bet.  And I do like not having to go to Amazon.  And that’s the real point, isn’t it?  Don’t we want choice?

If you’ve stuck with me this far, you likely think that I’m for high prices.  Not at all.  I think lower prices are great.  I will buy more books if they are cheaper, and so will most readers.  But it should be left to the publishers to realize that lower prices will sell more books.  The market will determine this as indie authors take a larger share of the market simply on account of lower prices.  That said, let’s try to give our potential readers an option by not making our books exclusive to Kindle.  (KDP good, KDP Select bad.)  Try Smashwords, or Lulu.  Kobo, Barnes and Nobel, and Ibooks all have author platforms.  BookBaby distributes to ebook stores that I haven’t listed, as well as the retailers  have.  (Smashwords and Lulu are not retailers, though they do sell books direct to the reader.)

If you think books should be cheaper, then price your books at what you think is a fair price.  Don’t leave it to Amazon to lower prices for you, forcing other sellers out of the market.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2012 in Rants

 

NaNoWriMo

Here we are, November already.  AKA national write a novel month.  It’s quite an endeavor, to write an entire novel in one month.  I’ll be honest, I’m not up for that particular challenge.  Kudos to those who are, though.  It takes great discipline to do such a thing, and if you can do it, you should.  What a gimmick; this novel written for NaNoWriMo.  So, while more experienced writers write their one-month novels, I’ll go get my pom-poms.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Marketing to Writers

I have a dilemma.  I’m writing fiction, and my target audience is primarily readers of fantasy.  I have a blog for writers, a twitter account (most of my followers are writers), and a Facebook page liked by only friends and family.  So where is my target audience?
Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to sell to writers, friends, and family.  But they aren’t my target audience.  I can’t expect to earn much with my writing if I don’t develop a larger readership than my social circle.  There lies the challenge – how can I attract my target audience?
I’ve decided that my business plan will include short-story giveaways, which is all well and good if I can get those stories into the hands of my target audience.  So how do I do that? The funny thing is, I know that I’m going to be bombarded with spam offering me the best strategies and services to attract readers. I’ve seen some of those strategies in action, by the way. One such plan involves giving away a free eBook for subscribing to a newsletter. Sounds good. Usually said eBook is something like “How to Make Millions on Kindle”. Not bad if your target audience is writers who want to publish on Kindle. Another favourite is the podcast for writers. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to a few of those. But I’m listening as a writer looking for advice. I know, you’re probably thinking “isn’t this a blog for writers?” Well, yes it is. This is what I’ve seen in motion, so I figured I’d give it a shot. If it helps some writers, that’s awesome. In the end, they may be the ones to buy my books. Maybe I should write a book on self publishing.

In the end, I’d really just like to figure out how to reach readers who aren’t also writing.  If you have some good ideas, please leave a comment.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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In Defense of Print

I love books.  I suppose that I ought to love books if I plan on writing them for any length of time, but I love them as a reader.  I also love ebooks.  They’re just like print books, but stored as digital data on an electronic device.  This works great for me because bookshelves take up valuable space in my house.  Ebooks can also be cheaper than their print counterparts.  So why would anyone choose to buy their books in print?  I can think of a few reasons.  For starters, print books never have DRM, so they can be shared freely.  They also give us opportunity to get out and visit the bookstore.  Batteries are never an issue with print, as they can be with ebooks. And for collectors, ebooks don’t fill up shelves like print books do.
No DRM means your reader can lend or give your book to anyone. The biggest complaint I have heard about ebooks is that if they have DRM they can’t be shared. The other advantage to this is that those who have difficulty with DRM’d books don’t need to deal with it.
The bookstore used to be one of my favourite places to go. I used to spend hours at Chapter’s browsing new titles, and checking out some old ones too. It was a good chance to meet with other readers as well. Granted, conversation wasn’t always about books, but we actually talked in person. Now that I buy almost all of my books online, that social interaction is no longer associated with my books.
Batteries are always dieing on me. My smartphone drains juice faster than I ever downed an iced tea, mostly from the display. Ereading apps mean using your display for prolonged periods of time. No problem if you can charge your phone all day. Big problem if you have to wait till you get home. And even my energy-efficient ereader has run out of power on me. I hate going to read a book only to find out that I waited too long to charge the battery.
Collectors like to have something physical to put on display. Usually they’re the first to pick up the hardcover edition of a new book. You’ll also find them in used book stores and garage sales looking for something to add to their collection. Do they read? You better believe it. And they love showing off what they’ve read. They also love to lend out their books to friends and family, which is good for authors.
I like my ereader, I really do. Still, I can understand why some people resist. That’s why I intend to make sure my books are available in print as well as eBook.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Writing in Transit

If you’re like me, you spend lots of time on public transit.  (If you don’t, then please disregarid this post.)  This means that you have time that’s not taken up with other things like driving.  Many people use this time to read; a practice of which I wholeheartedly approve.  (After all, where would the modern author be if people didn’t read?). You (and I), oh writer, may do the same.  On the other hand, you may choose, instead, to write.  “How?” you may ask.  Let me answer with a question: Do you own any kind of portable computer?  Chances are that you do.
Most of us have laptops and/or tablet computers. Just about all of us own smart phones.  All of these can be equipped with a word processor.  (I use Open Office on my laptop and Kingsoft Office on my smart phone.  Both are free.)  That means that as long as I have access to either my laptop or my phone I can write.  Since I never leave home without my phone, I can write anytime I’m not otherwise engaged, such as commuting on the bus. 
Maybe you don’t take transit.  It’s likely that you drive.  Do you have an hour lunch?  That’s a great time to write.  Think about it.  What time works for you?

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Advice, Resources

 

Being Your Own Publisher

There are many so-called self-publishing companies out there, each of them offering many of the same services from printing on demand, editing services, cover design, and even reviews.  All of these services are thing which the self publisher may need, though they never have to buy the services from the same source (though I’m sure it’s quite convenient). There is, however, one service that takes the “self” out of “self-publishing”; ISBN assignment.
Let’s face facts; no self-publisher prints his or her own book. They will go to “vanity” publishers or POD companies to print for them. This is normal in today’s world of outsourced jobs. Even the biggest corporations are paying other companies to manufacture their goods. Just look at Apple. Their products are all manufactured by an outside company. Still, the product belongs to Apple, and is registered by Apple.
Many authors seem to think that they are publishing themselves, yet their books are registered as being published by a company like Lulu or Createspace. These companies are the publishers. So how can an author become his or her own publisher? Simple. Buy your own ISBN. I say buy, though in some countries one may obtain an ISBN for free. This is the case in Canada, where I live. In the United States they can be purchased from Bowker. Other countries set their own rules for obtaining an ISBN, but they are generally available to anyone. Given this reality, it’s much easier to become one’s own publisher than anybody really knows. Yet the self-publishing companies persist in offering this “service”. Some even insist that authors use the company’s ISBN rather than their own. Think hard about that if you want to be truly self-published.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Advice, Self Publishing

 
 
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