Monday, February 08, 2016

Attack of the Bibliography!

I noticed an Amazon trend a few months ago. Some third party indie publishers were creating Kindle bibliographies for bestselling authors who had a lot of titles.

I thought it was interesting, but probably not necessary. Amazon makes it pretty simple for readers to find books. Why should readers have to buy an ebook to get a list of ebooks to buy?

But more and more of these bibliographies began to pop up.  I took a closer look at the trend, and realized why.

Amazon customers were searching for series titles in order. So to find them, they would type in something like "JD Robb series in order" or "Nora Roberts series" or "JD Robb books chronological".

If you search for any of those, you get four different bibliographies by different publishers offering their $0.99 checklist of JD Robb/Nora Roberts titles.

So I had myself a think.

I have two pen names--Jack Kilborn and Melinda DuChamp.

I operate under the assumption that most of my ebooks are bought and read by readers who haven't heard of me (or my pen names) previously. They're browsing, find a title, and buy it. If they like it, the hope is that they'll seek out other titles.

One way I do this is to have a bibliography in the back of my ebooks. But this is problematic; links are tied to a specific region, like the US or UK or Canada, so I haven't been using links, just a static list. This makes it harder for readers to instantly buy one of my other titles (every step introduced between the desire for a purchase and the actual purchase loses some potential customers). It's also problematic when, like me, you have 60 ebook titles with more coming out every year, which requires updating the bibliography in every single title.

Maybe readers who try me and like me will Google me and find my website. But that takes an extra step. More likely, they'll search for me on Amazon, perhaps with the term "JA Konrath series in order", and maybe they'll start the series from the beginning. Or maybe they won't. Or maybe they'll miss a title. Or maybe they'll give up in frustration because it isn't immediately apparent to them which books of mine tie in together, and the order they should be read in.

So I published this, for free on Amazon.

The long and search-intensive title is:

"J.A. Konrath Books in Order: Jack Daniels Series in Reading Order, Jack Kilborn, Codename: Chandler, Melinda DuChamp, Complete Pen Name Chronological Bibliography".

The link is: http://www.amazon.com/Konrath-Books-Order-Chronological-Bibliography-ebook/dp/B01BD0167G

I also made free downloads available in my website, as Kindle and pdf files.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

The Reading Order ebook has links in it, to make it very easy for readers to immediately download any of my titles, in order.

Q: But Joe, earlier you said that was a problem, because links are tied to a specific Amazon store. What if an Amazon.ca reader downloaded the book? Does your ebook have links for Canada too?

Joe sez: Sort of. I took a shortcut. There's a very cool, and free, service called Booklinker.net. You put in an Amazon link, and you can create your own URL.

For example, for my upcoming 9th Jack Daniels novel, RUM RUNNER (being released March 25), I created this universal URL:

http://getBook.at/rumrunnerebook

That link is clicker specific. If you are from Canada and shop at Amazon.ca, it will take you to the RUM RUNNER Amazon page in Canada. If you are in England, it'll take you to Amazon.co.uk. And so on.

Pretty cool, huh? So rather than have a gazillion links for each ebook title, I only have a single, Booklinker link.

BTW--if you haven't pre-ordered RUM RUNNER yet, please do.

Q: Okay, so you've got a bibliography, and it has links for all of your ebooks at all Amazon stores worldwide. But how did you make it free? Does Amazon allow free ebooks?

Joe sez: No, Amazon doesn't allow freebies. But it does price-match with other retailers who do offer freebies.

So I used the fine services of Draft 2 Digital. In about ten minutes, I set up an account and uploaded the READING ORDER ebook as a free ebook, and D2D distributed it to Apple, Kobo, Scribd, Nook, and Inktera, and they all went live within 24 hours. It was fast, simple, and free to do, and the D2D folks were accommodating and responsive.

I also created a Google Books account and uploaded it there, also for free.

Then I went to me Amazon page for the READING ORDER ebook and clicked on tell us about a lower price at the bottom of the Product Details section.

I started this on February 2. Once a day I'd tattle on myself, clicking on that link and reporting the free links from Apple, Nook, etc. Six days later, Amazon price-matched my book, so it is now free.

Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca aren't free, because first I wanted to see how the US experiment went. But now I'm doing the same thing with those stores, and I expect they'll be free soon.

All in all, not too much work. A few hours at most to compile the book. I paid 52novels.com to do the formatting, and Extended Imagery to do the cover, so there was a cost involved.

Q: Was this effort worth the time and cost?

Joe sez: I have no idea. I saw a trend. It made sense to follow it, because I understand why it's happening. Aggregation is a form of information, and it has value. So much value that some readers are willing to pay for compiled information that they could otherwise get for free.

Amazon is very good at collecting data, and very good at recommending books to readers. But there are many ways to skin a cat. The fact that these "reading checklist" books seem to be so popular shows that some readers want aggregation in ebook form. I've even seen some ask for pdf form, to print out. Why miss an opportunity to connect with fans and potential fans if this is how they prefer to find you?

Media industries are filled with cautionary tales about companies not listening to customers. One that springs to mind is Napster. Rather than study and learn from consumers who were trading digital files, they tried to shut it down with lawyers and cries of copyright infringement. As a result, Apple--a computer company--is now the biggest music retailer in the world. If the record companies had listened to what consumers wanted (easy to download digital files) they could have made billions.

If some readers want a handy ebook checklist to make sure they get all of my work, it makes sense to give it to them.

My approach seems like the best way for me to give it a go. It works for all Amazon stores, it will allow new fans (and longtime fans) to easily find and read all of my ebooks in order, and it should be easy to maintain and update as I release new titles.

But if anyone has any suggestions or better ideas, I'm all ears.

Visibility and discoverabilty seem to be the biggest hurdles for authors to overcome. Remember, sales isn't about selling something to someone who doesn't want it. It's about informing people who are looking to buy the type of things you're selling.

You want readers to be able to find you in as many ways as possible. And once they find you, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to read you. Every extra step they have to take--even if it's just one extra click--will lose you some customers.

If someone likes your kind of books, you should be very easy to find and acquire. If you have more than twenty titles, that might mean you should consider a reading order checklist.

Thoughts?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Cover Art Sale

My cover designer is having a sale on his pre-designed covers, and they're gorgeous.

As I've said many times in the past, a great book cover is one of the four essential ingredients to finding readers (the other three being a great book, great description, and reasonable price).

If your sales are slumping, one of the things you should look at is your cover art. An amateurish cover can send subconscious signals to potential fans that the writing is also amateurish. You don't want to be dismissed by your readers before they even read your first sentence.

For a limited time, these pre-designed covers available on www.ExtendedImagery.com are $200. When you buy one, it's yours, and no one else can claim it. So if you see one you like, snap it up fast.

Via the Extended Imagery website:

When a book cover concept is created but not used as the final, I alter the design and offer it to other authors for a discounted price. See a concept that would work perfectly for your paperback/ebook cover? Email me at carl@extendedimagery.com with the number of the cover you're interested in.

Pre-designed covers are sold on a first come, first serve basis. Minor changes to elements such as the color scheme or font are included in the price. Additional fees will be required for any major alterations. Fees are determined by the complexity of the requested changes.

Just like with my custom covers all pre-designded book cover packages include:
- 6x9 inch (72dpi) ebook cover used for publishing on Amazon and all other major online retailers.
- 6x9 inch (300dpi) full paperback print cover used for Print-On-Demand books.
- 3D book mock-up image used for online promotion.
- Website banner used for social media sites, blogs and author sites.













Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Guest Post by Silas Payton

The F-word Authors Should Learn from Rap Music

Hip hop, or rap, has done extremely well in the past twenty years and I would argue it is largely because of the F-word. Fans want the F-word, plain and simple, and I'm willing to bet this holds true with writing just as much as with rap music. The F-word I'm referring to is featuring. It's seen after the title of many, many hip hop songs, used to highlight a guest performer. Many music artists have worked together in the past, but no other music genre has done it so effectively. Writers would do well to learn from this strategy. In this post I highlight some rap examples of this success and discuss ways we can apply this technique to writing.

When someone starts listening to a particular rapper, it's not long before they have a list of other rappers they also want to check out. Fans quickly become aware of other artists similar to, or liked by, their new star. When they are looking for something else to listen to, guess where they are going to turn.


Rappers seem to enjoy promoting each other. Not only do rappers collaborate on songs and show up to each other's concerts, but often other performers will be mentioned in a song without even being featured in it. The only benefit is to raise awareness. Perhaps it's from the roots or history of rap, I'm not sure. What I do know is rappers take cross-promotion to a whole new level.

Take for example, Eminem. Arguably one of the most successful rappers of all time. A quick scan of singers he has featured, or has been featured with, reveals an extensive list, including: Skylar Grey, Obie Trice, Pink, Rhianna, Sia, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Busta Rhyme, Cashis, Yelawolf, Dr. Dre, D12, Lloyd Banks, and Akon, Jay-z, and The Game, to name just a few. I stopped counting at sixty collaborators.

As a second example, I looked up Snoop Dogg. I stopped counting at ninety collaborators. Here's a quick scan of a few other big names: Jay-z, over sixty; Lil Wayne, over fifty; Kendrick Lamar, new to the scene has over twenty... eleven on one album.

This "featuring" in rap music, is simply cross-promotion done right. A fan of one is introduced to another through collaboration. Just as in the book world, rap fans are always on the lookout for more. As an author, there are a number of ways we can cross-promote as well. A few come to mind and I'll briefly mention each: anthologies, multi-author book collections or boxed sets, Kindle Worlds, co-writing a book with someone else, and a few other ideas.


Anthologies

An anthology is a collection of stories... quite often short stories, from different authors. An anthology often has a common genre or theme, which introduces fans to authors they may not heard of. It may be be a collection put together and sold for shared profits, for charity, or it may even be put out as a free collection. Either way it gets your name out in front of new readers.


Multi-Author Boxed Sets

This is a collection of books put out by a number of authors, usually at a discount price. Similar to an anthology, this may be a collection of books of similar genres. This is often a collection of previously released books bundled together. It could be a permanent option or and possibly only be available for a short time for a promotion. A huge benefit to anthologies and boxed sets are the collective marketing. If all authors are pushing the book or collection, more readers can be introduced to the other authors.


Kindle Worlds

Anyone who follows Joe's blog should know about Kindle Worlds. Amazon has a series of Worlds that anyone can write in. These include a number of popular series from authors, comic books, and even television series. The idea here is the same... if you write in the 'world' of an established author, you may be able to entice some of their existing fans to cross over into your books.

I've been in J.A. Konrath's Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World for roughly six months now, and sales have been steady since. Not only am I currently selling books to Konrath fans, but I have no doubt this will also bring new readers to my other books over time.

I have two in Joe's Jack Daniels Kindle World, White Lady, and Paralyzer. Please check them out.


Co-Writing a Book

If you are very lucky, you may be able to co-write with a more established author. There are many examples of new authors being given an opportunity. Self-published Jude Hardin writing with Lee Child, Russell Blake writing with Clive Cussler, and Joe Konrath writing with F. Paul Wilson, are a few that come to mind. Even if you collaborate with other new authors, it will still benefit both of you. This isn't something I've tried yet, but it's on my list.


Author Mentions

In my first book, Going Under, I name drop as a character (my psychotic antagonist) reads a J.A. Konrath book. In my new book, 14 Gable Lane, due out in February, I've worked in a similar scene where I have a character reading a book by another author friend of mine.


Back Material: Recommended Reading Lists, and Bonus Material

I've also seen cross-promoting using a Recommended Reading List in your back pages. This has been used by traditional publishing for years. If you can get a group of writers together who you recommend, you can list each other. With ebooks, you can even add hyperlinks to the author's Amazon page. You can also pair up and have an introduction to a friend's book as an extra at the back... maybe a few chapters, or a blurb, maybe even a short story.

Cross-promotion is an easy way to get your work in front of new eyes, but the take home message here is not just how to gain readers. The real message is, there are many ways in which you can help others by cross-promoting their work. We all gain far more from trying to help others than from trying to help ourselves. Take a lesson from the rappers on this one...prolific use of the F-word will help.

Silas Payton

Friday, January 15, 2016

Freedom of Expression?

A guest post by frequent contributor to this blog, Barry Eisler. I chime in midway.

Barry sez: I just learned about an event put on by an organization called New America (formerly The New America Foundation): Amazon’s Book Monopoly: A Threat to Freedom of Expression? Ordinarily, propaganda is something that concerns me, but when it veers this far off into parody, I sometimes welcome it as a comic diversion.

Because, come on, putting your tendentious conclusion right there in the title and disguising it as a question, while an impressively textbook instance of question-begging, in this context is also pretty funny. Because, “Hey, we’ve already established that Amazon is a monopoly; we’re just here to determine how much of a threat the company poses to Freedom and All That Is Good. Is it an existential threat, like Roger Cohen said about ISIS? Or merely an extremely threatening threat?”

And who knows, maybe they’ll answer the question, “No,” right? Maybe the panelists will decide that Amazon’s “book monopoly” is actually a benefit to freedom of expression, as monopolies often are. It’s not as though they’ve structured things so that the question answers itself, and I don’t know why anyone would suspect this panel might be anything other than a diverse collection of open-minded people honestly engaging in free inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge wherever the facts may lead!

Thanks to the efforts of serious-sounding organizations like New America (and if that vague but happy-sounding name didn’t cause your bullshit detector to at least tingle, it should—see also Americans for Prosperity and the Center for American Progress), this “Amazon is a Monopoly” silliness is so persistent that Joe and I dealt with it in our inaugural post on zombie memes—“arguments that just won’t die no matter how many times they’re massacred by logic and evidence.” Half the purpose of the Zombie Meme series is to save Joe and me from having to repeat ourselves, so if you want to have a laugh about why, despite its persistence, “Amazon is a Monopoly” is so embarrassingly dumb and misguided, here’s your link.

But here’s the amazing part: “Amazon is a monopoly” is actually the clever half of the event’s title. The really funny part is what follows: that Amazon poses a threat to freedom of expression!

As I said in a previous Techdirt guest post called Authors Guilded, United, and Representing…Not:

Given that Amazon’s self-publishing platform enables all authors to publish whatever they like and leaves it to readers to decide what books they themselves find beneficial, while the New York Big Five (no concentrated market power in a group with a name like that!) has historically rejected probably 999 books for every one they deem worthy of reaching the public, a few questions present themselves. Such as:

                     Who has really been “manipulating and supervising the sale of books and therefore affecting the exchange of ideas in America,” and who has really “established effective control of a medium of communication”—an entity that screens out 99.9% of books, or one that has enabled the publication of any book?

                     Who has really been running an uncompetitive, controlled, supervised, distorted market for books—a company dedicated to lower prices, or a group calling itself the Big Five that has been found guilty of conspiracy and price fixing?

                     Who is really restoring freedom of choice, competition, vitality, diversity, and free expression in the American book market—an entity that consigns to oblivion 999 books out of a thousand, or one that enables the publication of all of them?

                     And who is really ensuring that the American people determine for themselves how to take advantage of the new technologies of the 21st Century—an entity responsible for zero innovation and dedicated to preserving the position of paper, or one that has popularized a new publishing and reading platform that for the first time offers readers an actual choice of formats?

Think about it. This “New America” organization has put together a panel dedicated to persuading you that there was more freedom of expression when an incestuous group of five Manhattan-based corporations held the power to disappear 999 books out every thousand written, and indeed performed that disappearance as the group’s core function (they call this “curation”). And that, now that Amazon’s KDP platform has enabled all authors to publish virtually anything they want, freedom of expression is being threatened.

 For an organization calling itself “New America,” these jokers sure seem wedded to the old version.

In fairness to New America, I should note that their worldview is hardly unprecedented. The notion that the traditional way of doing things is ipso facto the best way of doing things was lampooned by Voltaire over 150 years ago through his character Dr. Pangloss, who was convinced (before experience in the world introduced doubts) that “All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” And Pangloss was himself based on the religious philosophy known as theodicy—a word coined over 300 years ago to describe a kind of faith that’s doubtless as old as the human race (and a word I admit I like because it sounds a bit like “idiocy”).

In fact, it was as recent as, say, the 1950s that a group of tweed-jacketed, straight white male college professors were genuinely convinced that the collection of books they deemed the most intrinsically worthy—all, coincidentally, written by other straight white males—represented the maximally possible amount of valuable expression, information, and ideas. They even called their collection the “canon,” which I admit did tend to make their subjective choices sound important and even divinely ordained. As people came to question the absence of women and minority writers from this collection selected exclusively by straight white males, I imagine the straight white males genuinely believed that broadening the “canon” to include women and minorities was a threat to freedom of expression and all that. This is just the way a lot of people are wired, especially when status and privilege are part of the mix.

And really, you do have to take a moment to applaud the mental gymnastics required of otherwise presumably intelligent people to say shit like “more authors writing more books reaching more readers is threatening freedom of expression, the flow of information, and the marketplace of ideas.” It’s War is Peace/Ignorance is Strength/Freedom is Slavery level doublethink. On the one hand, it’s sad, but on the other hand, in all the universe could there be a race as capable as humans of clinging so resolutely to faith in the face of so many contrary facts? Seen in this light, there’s something tragically beautiful about it.

And while I admit that New America’s “day is night, black is white” bizarro worldview isn’t easy to parody, I can’t resist trying. So…

Coming up next from New America: The Internet’s Dictatorial Grip: Impeding Access to Information? And The Tyranny of the Cell Phone: Shutting Down Communication? And Our Addiction to Paved Roads: A Threat to Freedom of Movement?

One more thing about this event that’s unintentionally hilarious, and then I need to get back to something worthwhile (AKA, the new manuscript). Take a look at the guest list. If you hired a team of NASA scientists to design the most rabidly, incestuously anti-Amazon panel possible, this is pretty much the group the team would propose. Though I doubt even the scientists (assuming they had a little dignity) would have gone to far as to bring in Douglas Preston and his literary agent, Eric Simonoff. I mean, this is getting pretty close to just adding clones of existing panelists and eliminating the last fluttering fig leaf of diversity.

They also have the dean of the Amazon Derangement crowd, Scott Turow. And Franklin Foer, who in fairness should be disqualified from even being on this panel because of his claim—in his much-derided “Let us kneel down before Amazon” screed—that “That term [monopoly] doesn’t get tossed around much these days, but it should”!

By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Foer makes the same cringe-worthy claim again, on this very “Amazon is a Monopoly” panel. The anti-Amazon crowd has never been particularly educable.

Also present will be Mark Coker, the head of Smashwords, an Amazon competitor. And author Susan Cheever, a member of Authors United, an organization that represents pretty much the platonic ideal of Amazon Derangement Syndrome. A couple of anti-trust lawyers to provide a veneer of legal gravitas (and to troll for clients, no doubt). And a second-year law student named Lina Khan who has argued that Amazon “should alarm us.”

And that’s it. That’s as diverse and wide-ranging as the lineup gets. The full gamut of viewpoints, from A…all the way to B.

Although really, even that feels a little generous.

Oh, by the way, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, another Amazon competitor, is the chairman of New America’s board of directors, too. No conflict of interest there. Nothing to disclose to anyone who might think this is some sort of disinterested, scholarly event.

So yeah, it’s really that much of a hive-mind lineup. But that’s not even the best part. The best part is, this remarkably insular and incestuous exercise in groupthink has been assembled to speak out against a purported threat to…freedom of expression! The flow of information! And the marketplace of ideas!

None of this is an accident, by the way. It isn’t just stupidity and incompetence. There’s a reason organizations will try to take a narrow outlook and propagate it through multiple mouthpieces: doing so can create the impression that a rare and radical notion is in fact widely held—held even by ostensibly disparate groups—and therefore more trustworthy. Indeed, this form of propaganda is a favorite of some of the same reactionary groups New America is showcasing on its panel. As I said recently about the supposedly “unprecedented joint action” of some booksellers, authors, and agents complaining together about Amazon:

Which brings us to the second revealing aspect of this “propaganda masquerading as an interview” drill. You see, in the standard “blow-job masquerading as interview” gambit, it’s generally enough to hope the reader will just assume the interviewer and interviewee are working at arms-length. Making the point explicitly isn’t really the done thing. Here, however, perhaps not trusting readers to be sufficiently gulled, the ABA and AG are at pains to describe the “unprecedented joint action” of the AG, Authors United, the ABA, and the Association of Authors’ Representatives in going after Amazon for monopolizing the marketplace of ideas, devaluing books, and generally crushing dissent, democracy, and all that is good. The impression they’re trying to create is, “Wow, if so many separate organizations hate Amazon, Amazon must be doing something bad.”

But what’s critical to understand is that the most fundamental purpose of the Authors Guild, Authors United, the American Booksellers Association, and the Association of Authors is to preserve the publishing industry in its current incarnation. Whatever marginal differences they might have (I’ve never actually seen any, but am happy to acknowledge the theoretical possibility) are eclipsed by this commonality of purpose. Under the circumstances, the fact that these four legacy publisher lobbyists agree on something is entirely unremarkable (indeed, what would be remarkable would be some evidence of division). But if people recognize the exercise as a version of “No really, I read it somewhere…okay, I wrote it down first,” the propaganda fizzles. And that’s why these propagandists have to nudge readers with the bullshit about the “unprecedented joint action.” Otherwise, when Authors Guild Executive Director Mary Rasenberger cites Authors United pitchman Doug Preston as though Preston were a separate, credible source, people might roll their eyes instead of nodding at the seriousness of it all. They might even giggle at the realization that all those “When did Amazon stop beating its wife?” questions were functionally being put by Rasenberger to herself.

So no, this wasn’t remotely a cross-examination, or even a cross pollination (indeed, publisher lobbyists are expert at fleeing anything that offers even the slightest whiff of actual debate—which does make their alleged devotion to the Free Flow of Ideas and Information as the Engine of Democracy worthy of a smile, at least, if nothing else). It was just a stump speech lovingly hosted by someone else’s blog. The sole reason for the exercise was to create the misleading appearance of multiple, arms-length actors when functionally there is only one.

In fairness to the aforementioned Unprecedentedly Joint Actors, there is a rich heritage behind this form of propaganda. For example, in the run-up to America’s second Iraq war, Dick Cheney would have someone from his office phone up a couple of pet New York Times reporters, who would then dutifully report that anonymous administration officials believed Saddam Hussein had acquired aluminum tubes as part of his nuclear weapons efforts…and then Cheney would go on all the Sunday morning talk shows and get to say, “Don’t take my word for the aluminum tube stuff—even the New York Times is reporting it!”

So leave aside the fact that the “joint action” in question is anything but unprecedented—that it is in fact publishing establishment SOP. Anyone familiar with the record of these organizations will instantly realize that the “unprecedented joint action” in question is a lot like the “joint action” of all four fingers—plus the thumb!—of someone throwing back a shot of tequila. Like that of a little boy pleasuring himself—with both hands!—and trying to convince anyone who will listen that the Unprecedented Left and Right Action is proof that “Everybody loves me!”

Okay, I apologize for the multiple excerpts from previous posts. But what are you going to do? These bloviators keep vomiting up the same tired bullshit, no matter how many times it’s debunked. It just saves time to refer to the previous debunkings rather than typing it all out again.

My advice to New America? If you’re more than just a propaganda operation—if you really do care about freedom of expression, and the flow of information, and the marketplace of ideas—you might want to add at least a token panelist with a viewpoint that differs even just a tiny bit from that of the nine Borg you’ve assembled to intone that Amazon Is Evil and Will Destroy All That Is Good. Otherwise, your event is going to feel more like a circle jerk and less like sex. And, doubtless, with similarly productive results.

Joe sez: And just when I think I’m out…

Thanks, Barry, for turning a spotlight on this silliness, and patiently picking apart why it is so silly. I’m sure the panel will be a resounding success, much like all circle jerks and echo chambers are for those involved. Masturbation is supposed to be satisfying, and a nice “atta boy!” and backslap at the finish seems preferable to eating the soggy biscuit.

Don’t Google that if you don’t know what I mean. You can’t unlearn it.

One of the reasons I’ve largely eschewed activism lately is because I haven’t seen any ill effects from all the Amazon bashing being done by the usual spin doctoring suspects.

At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, the propaganda classic Triumph of the Will was just released on BluRay for the first time. It’s an effective piece of filmmaking, and Frank Capra imitated a lot of elements from it for his Why We Fight series.

It worked. And it is still being imitated today, both as a film, and as propaganda. Fear mongering is an old standby for getting people on your side. I wrote a whole post about alarmist terminology and spin

But I don’t think this approach works when it comes to Amazon. People aren’t so ready to buy what the pinheads are selling. Today we can have the New York Times, which I believe still has the motto “All the news that’s fit to print”, show such stunning anti-Amazon bias that the public editor has called it out more than once, and the public simply doesn’t give a shit. Amazon still gets their approval and their business, no matter how many times David Streitfeld one-finger-types his screeds while busting out knuckle babies with his other hand.

The public likes Amazon. Even if it were true that Amazon is planning to overthrow the government and replace the Bill of Rights with a guarantee of same day free shipping, its approval rating is so high that I don’t think most folks would care.

But for all the alarmist rhetoric and soothsaying predictions of world domination, I’ve yet to see anyone other than Big 5 apologists and their NY media cronies show much concern over Amazon’s mounting dominance of online retail.

Maybe that’s because—wild guess here—Amazon offers authors unprecedented opportunity to reach readers, and offers readers the widest selection at the lowest possible prices coupled with good customer service.

Authors United, and the NYT, are doing everything they’re supposed to be doing to spread their anti-Zon propaganda, but the people don’t care.

If I had faith in human nature, I’d posit that access to the Internet (and the ability for anyone with second grade spelling skills to type words into a search engine) can reveal in a click or two what utter nonsense the morons are spouting.

But I think the more realistic answer is that people simply like Amazon because it has a wide selection, low prices, and good customer service.

So I no longer feel the need to correct the greedy, self-interested 1% of authors who want to prop up an archaic, inefficient, and ruthless publishing industry with stupid organizations and articles and events. Joe Average might very well read about this panel in a Streitfeld spat of “journalism”, cluck his tongue at how Amazon is destroying freedom of expression, and then quickly forget about it when the UPS guy knocks on the door with a box of Bounty because yesterday Joe used his Amazon Dash button to order more.

The legacy publishing industry is dying. Once it lost its lock on distribution, it lost the majority of its power. The only ones who will mourn that industry are the few handfuls of authors it made rich. And when their corporate masters merge and downsize into inevitable bankruptcy, watch how quickly they jump on Amazon’s teat when the seven figure advances are gone.

But, for old times’ sake, let me fisk New American’s event description. Their nonsense in italics, my replies in regular font.

Amazon dominates the U.S. book market to a degree never before seen in America.

But does it dominate the U.S. book market to a degree never before seen in Canada?

Okay, I’m making fun of the lousy sentence, but isn’t that like saying “In my house I dusted the bookcases to a degree never before seen in my house?”

That's silly. Especially since I switched to ebooks and got rid of my bookcases.

This corporation dominates every key segment of the market.

Wow, that's a lot of dominance. I hope the public has a safeword.

We had a cartel dominating publication and distribution for decades. It was an oligopoly called the Big 6. Not only did it reject a high percentage of books submitted to it—which can be argued is a form of censorship—but when it accepted a book it fucked the author in the ass with unconscionable, one-sided contract terms. Terms even the Big 5 enamored Authors Guild has spoken out against.

And this immense size gives Amazon unprecedented power to manipulate the flow of books – hence of information and ideas – between author and reader.

OK, reread what Barry and I have written here. For over a hundred years, publishers have refused to publish the overwhelming majority of books, essentially preventing the public from ever reading them. They had a right to do that, just like Chick-Fil-A has a right to be closed on Sundays for ridiculous religious reasons.

But unlike the Big 6, or Chick-Fil-A, Amazon is allowing more traffic than ever before. More books are flowing with Amazon than flowed with the Big 6.

Plus, Amazon isn’t a monopoly, and doesn’t control the Internet, so if there were cases where Amazon decides it doesn’t want to sell something, it can’t prevent it from being sold elsewhere.

Last summer a group of authors made the case that Amazon’s actions constitute an abuse of its monopoly powers and threatens this vital marketplace of ideas.

It was a shitty case. But let’s not allow facts to get in the way of good propaganda. Because if you keep repeating the same lie, some people are bound to start believing it. 

Unless they're Prime members. Then they'll cluck their tongues and ask Alexa to pre-order the new Barry Eilser book,

Amazon’s actions, they wrote, may already be affecting what authors write and say.

As evidenced by Amazon refusing to sell any work by any signatory of Authors United.

Oh… wait.

But look how Amazon has forced writers to cower in the shadows, fearful of offering any sort of critique.

Oh… wait.

Hmm. Doesn’t a panel about Amazon restricting freedom of expression prove that Amazon can’t restrict freedom of expression? Or if it can, doesn’t want to?

Oops, my bad. They used the word "may". So it could read "may already be affecting what authors write and say, even though there is no evidence or logic to support that conclusion." Like someday I "may" own my own country, which I'll name Joetopia and make our main export beer parties. If you'd like Joetopia to export a beer party to you, let me know because it "may" happen. Wait by the phone until you hear back.

The authors strongly urged antitrust regulators to take action, in what would be the most important antitrust case since Microsoft in the late 1990s.

Except for the tiny little fact that, you know, THERE IS NO CASE.

Barry and I take a lot of time to add these links to prove out points. You diligent readers are clicking on them, right?

Join New America’s Open Markets program for a discussion of Amazon’s monopoly over books and what it means for American readers and America’s democracy.

For God’s sake, someone think of the children! Because an online retailer is all that stands between the freedom to vote for representatives in government (that's the definition of democracy), and a zombie world where neighbors feast on neighbors and the only law comes from the business end of a twelve gauge. Because that argument makes as much sense as theirs.

Some of the nation’s best-known authors will discuss their personal experiences with Amazon.

And nary a one with a contrary point of view! Perhaps because they couldn't find any author with a good personal experience with Amazon. I mean, other than a hundred thousand or four. But I'm sure New America has much better things to do with their time than a little research.

Antitrust lawyers and experts in Big Data and price discrimination will then discuss the larger effects of the corporation’s behavior, and whether the government should bring a case against Amazon.

With Data so Big it’s Capitalized! Did that become a thing and I missed it?

And what could they possibly say in regard to price discrimination? Amazon fights to keep prices low. The Big 6 fight to keep them high. They illegally collude to keep them high. They print the prices on their damn books to keep them high.

Could they be going into the nefarious business practice of co-op, and Amazon charging publishers for better visibility? Is that the discrimination they mean? Or maybe loss leads?

Last I checked, both were not only legal, but commonplace in retailers.

I wonder what the antitrust lawyers will say about Amazon allowing anyone to sell through Amazon. In other words, if Amazon decided it no longer wanted to sell Big 6 titles, I could open up an Amazon seller account and sell Big 6 titles on Amazon. Can someone explain to me how that limits the flow of books between reader and author?

Follow the discussion online using #BookMonopoly and follow us @NewAmerica.

No thanks. But here's a hashtag you can follow: #StoptheStupid.

Lunch will be provided.

And it will be the only substantive thing offered that afternoon.

Now I’m going back to my WIP. When the NYT write-up of this stupid event runs, I’m going to ignore it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Latest from the Authors Guild

From the Authors Guild website:

January 5, 2016

AN OPEN LETTER TO MEMBERS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN PUBLISHERS FROM THE AUTHORS GUILD, MEMBERS OF THE AUTHORS COALITION, AND MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL AUTHORS FORUM

Unfair terms in publishing agreements negatively affect authors’ incomes and even their ability to write at all. That’s the conclusion the Authors Guild’s Fair Contract Initiative has repeatedly demonstrated since it was launched in May 2015. Now it’s time to act on that conclusion.

The Initiative’s fresh look at standard book contracts has proven without doubt that provisions that would never be acceptable in other contexts have long been taken for granted in publishing agreements. Authors are now standing together to say “no.” It is time for publishers to give authors the respect, compensation and fair play they deserve.

What we demand is simple: Publishers need to revise many of their standard contract terms to make them more equitable. Authors should get at least 50% of net e-book income, not a mere 25%. They should not have their hands tied with non-compete and option clauses that can make it impossible for them to write new books without delay. They should not be forced to accept royalties that can decline by 50% when the publisher cuts its wholesale price by a single cent. They should be able to get the rights back when the publisher stops supporting a book.

And authors should be able to get a fair shake even if they don’t have powerful agents or lawyers. When negotiating with known agents, publishers often start from previously negotiated contracts that remove many of the most draconian provisions handed to unagented authors. Why not do the right thing by all authors and eliminate those provisions for everyone?

Authors’ income is down across all categories. According to a 2015 Authors Guild survey—our first since 2009—the writing-related income of full-time book authors dropped 30% over that time period, from $25,000 to $17,500. Part-time authors saw an even steeper slide: their writing income dropped 38%.

While there are many reasons for these declines, unfair terms, including reduced royalty rates, are clearly a major part of the problem. Without serious contract reform, the professional author will become an endangered species and publishers—as well as society at large—will be left with less and less quality content. Publishers need to treat their authors equitably so they can keep writing the kinds of books that have enabled the publishing industry to achieve the financial and cultural status it enjoys today.

We’ll be asking for individual meetings in the coming months with publishers both large and small to discuss the substance of the attached articles and what publishers can do to ensure this business is fair and profitable for those who create the works that sustain it.

We don’t stand alone in our commitment to more equitable book contracts. The Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative has earned the support of many U.S. and foreign authors groups, representing many tens of thousands of individual members in the United States alone. Those supporting groups have signed on to this letter.

Sincerely,
The Authors Guild

Joe sez: I've been blogging about unconscionable contract terms for years. I've also been chastising the Authors Guild for years, berating them for not doing anything.

Well, now it looks like they're doing something.

And I tip my hat to them.

I look forward to Authors United buying a full page NYT ad to support this cause, because this actually is a cause worth supporting.

I also look forward to the media giving this a lot of attention. Do you hear that, David Streitfeld? We're all waiting for your in-depth expose of how--for decades--NY Publishing has systematically screwed tens of thousands of authors with one-sided take-it-or-leave-it contracts.

The Authors Guild has my support in this endeavor. I've created a petition on Change.org to show solidarity. Please add your name.



Sunday, January 03, 2016

Pay the Writer?

I just read a repost on Passive Voice called Pay the Writer. And I disagreed with most of it.

Why?

Because no one owes me a living.

Repeat that to yourself. Say it out loud if you need to.

No one owes me a living.

A sense of entitlement is a dangerous thing. If you're lucky, you'll find readers. If you're really lucky, you'll make a few bucks.

But just because you can string a few pretty sentences together doesn't mean you get to earn a living.

I know how hard you work, because I also work hard. But I'm not entitled to earning a living, either.

It's a very dangerous thing when writers start to believe that they are owed something for their work. It's also fallacious.

Let's say you're a ditch digger, because--as a wise man once said--the world needs ditch diggers too. And you spend 8 hours digging a ditch, busting your ass in the hot sun.

Do you deserve to be paid?

Sure, if someone hired you to dig that ditch. If you're just randomly digging ditches that no one commissioned, on property no one owns, you don't deserve anything. You're an idiot. Or a dreamer. Or both.

Same thing with writing. Just because you wrote it, doesn't mean you deserve to be paid for it.

Q: But! But! But! But what if someone reads what I wrote? Don't I deserve to be paid then?

A: Someone reading your book is not the same as someone hiring you to dig a ditch.

First of all, when you write a book, you can potentially have an infinite number of readers. Let's say you work on it for three months. Well, someday your great-great-great-great grandchildren might read that book in the year 2155. Do you really think you deserve to get paid for something you wrote 139 years ago?

That ditch digger, assuming he was hired, dug a ditch and got paid for his time. He doesn't continue to get paid every time someone looks at his ditch. He got paid for the hours he put in, then he didn't get paid anymore.

The doctor who got a $700,000 salary for 2015 got paid $700,000 for 2015, and no more. He doesn't continue to earn money on hours he worked last year.

Are Khufu's relatives still getting royalties every time someone visits the pyramids?

Intellectual Property, which is protected by archaic copyright laws, can allow creators to continue to get paid for things they wrote long ago, for long into the future.

Personally, I don't think that's fair. And I've blogged about that at length in the past. But we'll hold off on making this an argument about reforming copyright, and focus on the belief that if a writer spends an hour on a story, they deserve to be paid over and over for that hour for eternity.

It doesn't make sense.

Q: But! But! But if someone reads a book, shouldn't they pay?

A: Not necessarily. You don't pay the writer if you check out a book at a library, or buy it used, or borrow it from your buddy.

Q: That's because readers haven't been properly taught that those venues don't pay writers.

A: Kinda like teenagers haven't been taught that drugs are bad? Do you think being taught makes a difference? While you answer that I'll be over here, getting stoned with my teenage son.

Heads up: there has always been free media. You could spend fifty lifetimes reading books and watching videos and never pay a cent. Welcome to the digital world. It's here to stay.

And beyond the free stuff out there, I believe subscriptions are quickly outpacing sales when it comes to ebooks (according to my own numbers). Kindle Unlimited pays me less for borrows than it does for sales, and my sales continue to go down as borrows go up.

Also, whining to your customers that they should spend more money on your work because you're not getting paid, and calling that "education", isn't a wise way to get in their good graces. Just sayin'.

Q: So are you okay with this borrowing trend?

A: It is what it is. Educating readers isn't going to change anything. Pleading with Amazon for scraps won't change anything. I expect this trend to continue, and whining isn't the answer.

Q: What is the answer?

A: The answer is looking for new ways to monetize your IP. But, again, that isn't the object of this blog post. This blog post is about writers who believe they deserve to be paid. I think this attitude is bad, and potentially dangerous. Encouraging a sense of entitlement isn't a good thing. Irritating readers is shitting where you eat. Believing that you deserve to earn $100 an hour on a book you wrote in 2005 is nuts--and I say that having ran a BookBub ad yesterday for Bloody Mary, which I wrote in 2005. I sold over 3000 copies and made about $2400.

I don't deserve this. I'm lucky as fuck.

Q: So what attitude should writers have?

A: I hope to be read. Any way possible. Free books, libraries, loans, used, whatever. I believe that the more readers who find me--whether they pay for it or not--the better off I'll be.

Q: But what if two million people read you but no one pays you?

A: If I have two million fans and I can't figure out how to make money off of that, then I'm an idiot.

But rather than try to squeeze money from every single person who ever glances at one of my IPs, I think the smarter thing is to sell stuff to people who want to buy stuff.

I don't fear free ebooks. I fear obscurity.

Q: And what if everything becomes free and no one buys ebooks anymore?

A: That could happen someday. But something will come along and monetize that model. Where there are fans, there is cash spent. I can't think of any situation that works differently.

But we shouldn't be expecting all fans to pay. We shouldn't be whining that we're owed something. As a writer, you're contributing to the collective creative output of the species. Good for you. But no one is forcing you to this. If you can get paid, awesome. If you can't, go find someone to pay you to dig a ditch.

Blaming Amazon, or bookstores, or libraries, or ebooks, or readers, for your inability to turn your clever words into eternal and infinite cash isn't the way to go. Less time whining and blaming, more time writing and innovating.

Q: But what about piracy? What if people are stealing my stuff?

A: You mean like someone broke into your house and stole your bike, thereby preventing you from continuing to ride that bike?

Q: No. I mean stealing my IP.

A: You mean plagiarism and bootlegging? They're selling your ebooks without your permission and keeping all the money?

Q: No. I mean they're reading my ebooks without paying.

A: Like at a library or used bookstore?

Q: Yeah! I mean no. What it they got it by file sharing?

A: Are you telling me that it upsets you when someone goes through the trouble of downloading your ebook and reading it?

Q: Yes. Without paying me.

A: Because you think you deserve to be paid every time someone reads you?

Q: Yes.

A: Do you pay the creator of every YouTube video you watch for free?

Q: No. But they have ads.

A: Then maybe your ebooks should have ads.

Q: They choose to put their work on YouTube. I don't choose to be file shared! I'm being pirated, man!

A: I've blogged at length at how I don't mind piracy. But, again, that's a topic for another blog post. This one is talking about writers who feel they deserve to be paid.

If you feel you deserve to be paid, and get upset that people are pirating you, there is an easy solution: stop writing.

There is no one forcing you to write. And certainly no one forcing you to try and sell what you've written. You wouldn't go swimming in shark infested waters, would you? Especially if you were bleeding.

Well, writing an ebook and then being shocked that you were pirated is the same thing. If you don't want to get eaten, stay out of the water.

Piracy isn't going away. Go do something else with your precious time if piracy bothers you, because if you create any sort of IP that anyone is interested in, that IP will be pirated.

Not only are you not owed a living, but you will never stop people who want to experience and share your work for free. Our species shares information, freely. It's the reason civilization exists. To try to limit that is a fast track to censorship and flies in the face of net neutrality. The reason oppressive regimes have always existed is because of their ability to limit information and the free exchange of ideas. Sorry, but I support open and free sharing of ideas over your insistence that you earn $2.74 from every person your reads your opus.

Q: You're a hypocrite. Why don't you write for free if you love free so much?

A: I'm not saying writers shouldn't be able to make a few bucks if they can. I'm saying the world doesn't owe them, so stop whining about it. I consider myself lucky to be read, and even luckier that there are avenues where I can make some money. But I also understand that getting rid of libraries and used book stores and piracy would be a bad thing, even though I don't make money in those venues.

Do you really want to prevent people from reading your work because they can't afford it?

Do you want to miss making a fan because they don't want to spend any money on you until they've tried you for free first?

Do you really think they only value books have is what people pay for them? And that everything available for free has zero value?

Do you believe that berating your customers and potential customers is ever a good thing?

You insist the writer get paid?

Instead, thank the reader.

Because if you get enough readers--no matter how you acquire them--the money will follow.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Konrath's New Year's Resolutions for Writers

Every December I do a post about resolutions for writers, and every year I add more of them. They've changed a lot; after all, when I began this, there was no Amazon Kindle, self-publishing was a bad idea, and this blog was for writers eager to find agents and land deals with the Big 6.

But a lot of the advice from a decade ago still holds true, so take these resolutions for what they're worth to you.

2006

Newbie Writer Resolutions
    I will start/finish the damn book
    I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth 
    I will attend at least one writer's conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers  
    I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to  
    I will join a critique group. If one doesn't exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library  
    I will finish every story I start  
    I will listen to criticism  
    I will create/update my website 
    I will master the query process and search for an agent  
    I'll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something  
    I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing--and I'm a lot more talented than that guy
Professional Writer Resolutions 
    I will keep my website updated  
    I will keep up with my blog and social networks  
    I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I'll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner  
    I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won't send out more than four a year  
    I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how  
    I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher's  
    I will stay in touch with my fans 
    I will contact local libraries, and tell them I'm available for speaking engagements  
    I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford  
    I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion  
    I will help out other writers  
    I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy 
    I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic  
    I will do one thing every day to self-promote  
    I will always remember where I came from

2007

    Keep an Open Mind. It's easier to defend your position than seriously consider new ways of thinking. But there is no innovation, no evolution, no "next big thing" unless someone thinks differently. Be that someone.  
    Look Inward. We tend to write for ourselves. But for some reason we don't market for ourselves. Figure out what sort of marketing works on you; that's the type of marketing you should be trying. You should always know why you're doing what you're doing, and what results are acceptable to you.  
    Find Your Own Way. Advice is cheap, and the Internet abounds with people telling you how to do things. Question everything. The only advice you should take is the advice that makes sense to you. And if it doesn't work, don't be afraid to ditch it.  
    Set Attainable Goals. Saying you'll find an agent, or sell 30,000 books, isn't attainable, because it involves things out of your control. Saying you'll query 50 agents next month, or do signings at 20 bookstores, is within your power and fully attainable.  
    Enjoy the Ride. John Lennon said that life is what happens while you're busy planning other things. Writing isn't about the destination; it's about the journey. If you aren't enjoying the process, why are you doing it?  
    Help Each Other. One hand should always be reaching up for your next goal. The other should be reaching down to help others get where you're at. We're all in the same boat. Start passing out oars.

2008


I Will Use Anger As Fuel


We all know that this is a hard business. Luck plays a huge part. Rejection is part of the job. Things happen beyond our control, and we can get screwed.


It's impossible not to dwell on it when we're wronged. But rather than vent or stew or rage against the world and everyone in it, we should use that anger and the energy it provides for productive things.


The next time you get bad news, resolve to use that pain to drive your work. Show fate that when it pushes you, you push right back. By writing. By querying. By marketing.



I Will Abandon My Comfort Zone


The only difference between routine and rut is spelling.


As a writer, you are part artist and part businessman.


Great artists take chances.


Successful businessmen take chances.


This means doing things you're afraid of, and things you hate, and things you've never tried before.


If, in 2008, you don't fail at something, you weren't trying hard enough.




I Will Feed My Addiction 

Life is busy. There are always things you can and should be doing, and your writing career often comes second.


So make it come first.


Right now, you're reading A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Not A Newbie's Guide to Leading a Content and Balanced Life.


You want to get published and stay published? That means making writing a priority. That means making sacrifices. A sacrifice involves choosing one thing over another.


If you can't devote the time, energy, and money it takes to pursue this career, go do something else.




I Will Never Be Satisfied 

Think the last resolution was extreme? This one really separates the die-hards from the hobbyists. 


While an overwhelming sense of peace and enlightenment sounds pretty nice, I wouldn't want to hire a bunch of Zen masters to build an addition on my house. 


Satisfaction and contentment are great for your personal life. In your professional life, once you start accepting the way things are, you stop trying.


No one is going to hand you anything in this business. You have to be smart, be good, work hard, and get lucky.


Every time you get published, you got lucky. Don't take it for granted.


When something bad happens, it should make you work harder. But when something good happens, you can't believe you earned it. Because it isn't true. You aren't entitled to this career. No one is.


Yes, you should celebrate successes. Sure, you should enjoy good things when they happen. Smile and laugh and feel warm and fuzzy whenever you finish a story or make a sale or reach a goal.


But remember that happiness isn't productive. Mankind's greatest accomplishments are all tales of struggle, hardship, sacrifice, work, and effort. You won't do any of those things if you're satisfied with the status quo. 


Who do you want on your team? The kid who plays for fun? Or the kid who plays to win?


If you want this to be your year, you know which kid you have to be.




2009

This year I'm only going to add one resolution to this growing list, but if you're writing for a living, or trying to write for a living, it's an important one.

I Won't Blame Anyone For Anything

It's tempting to look at the many problems that arise in this business and start pointing fingers. This is a slippery slope, and no good can come from it.


Do agents, editors, and publishers make mistakes? Of course.


You make mistakes too.


Hindsight is 20/20, so we can all look at things that didn't go our way and fantasize about how things should have gone. 


But blaming others, or yourself, is dwelling on the past. What's done is done, and being bitter isn't going to help your career.


So try to learn from misfortune, forgive yourself and others, and make 2009 a blameless year.



2010

I Will Be Wary

The medium in which stories are absorbed is changing in a big way, and it will continue to change. 2009 will go down in publishing history as Year Zero for the upcoming ebook revolution. Writers should explore this new territory, but we need to understand that Print is still King, and any goals and dreams a writer might have regarding publication should be focused on getting into print.


That's not to say that ebooks shouldn't be explored and experimented with. They should be, and in a serious way. Erights are a very long tail--one that can potentially continue long after our lifetimes.


Don't forsake print for ebooks without understanding what you're giving up, and don't give away your ebook rights to get a print deal.




I Will Be A Pioneer

Remember the old saying about how to recognize a pioneer? They're the one with the arrows in their backs and fronts.


I've tried to be forward-thinking in my career, rather than being content with my role as a cog in a broken machine. Your best chance for longevity is to question everything, test boundaries, experiment with new ideas, and be willing to change your mind and learn from your mistakes.


Your job is to survive, by any means necessary. So pull out the arrows and forge ahead. Discover the difference between determination and stupidity by being an example for one or the other or both.


Though this may seem at odds with the previous resolution about being wary, it's actually quite simpatico.


Q: What do you call a wary pioneer? A: Still alive.




I Will Read Books

I'm surprised I haven't mentioned this in previous years. If you're a writer, you must be a reader. I don't care if you read on your Kindle, or on stone tablets. Reading, and giving the gift of reading to others, is essential. Period.




I Will Stop Worrying 

Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It's also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn't the way to get ahead.


You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.



2011

I Will Self-Publish

Just twelve short months ago, I made $1650 on Kindle in December, and was amazed I could pay my mortgage with ebook sales.

This December, I'll earn over $22,000.


The majority of this is on Kindle. But I'm also doing well self-pubbing in print through Amazon's Createspace program, and will earn $2700 this month on nine POD books. I'm also finally trying out B&N's PubIt program, which looks to be good for over $1k a month, and I'm doing okay on Smashwords, with Sony, Apple, and Kobo combining for another $1k.


This is nothing short of revolutionary.


The gatekeepers--agents who submit to editors who acquire books to publish and distribute to booksellers--are no longer needed to make a living as a fiction writer. For the first time in history, writers can reach readers without having to jump through hoops, get anointed, compromise integrity, or fit the cookie-cutter definition for What New York Wants.


I'm not saying you should give up on traditional publishing. But I am saying that there is ZERO downside to self-pubbing. At worst, you'll make a few bucks. At best, you'll make a fortune, and have agents and editors fighting over you.


But remember: even if you are being fought over, you still have a choice.


DO NOT take any deal that's less than what you believe you could earn in six years. If you're selling 1000 ebooks a month, that means $144,000 is the minimum advance you should be offered before you consider signing.


It blows my mind to think that way, let alone blog about it. I got a $34,000 advance for my first novel, and even less for my last few.


Currently, I have seven self-pubbed novels, each earning more than $24k a year. In six years, at the current rate, I'll earn more than one million bucks on those.


But I don't expect them to maintain their current sales.


I expect sales to go up.


Ebooks haven't saturated the market yet. But they will. And you need to be ready for it. Which leads me to...



I Won't Self-Publish Crap


Just because it's easier than ever before to reach an audience doesn't mean you should.


I can safely say that I'm either directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of writers trying out self-publishing. The majority of these writers aren't making the same amount of money that I am, and are scratching their heads, wondering what they're doing wrong.


Luck still plays a part in success. But so does professionalism.


Being a professional means you make sure you have a professional cover (http://www.extendedimagery.com), and you have been professionally formatted for ebooks (www.52novels.com) and for print books (http://yourepublished.blogspot.com.)


Being a professional means you're prolific, with many titles for sale, and that you diversify, exploiting all possible places to sell your work (Kindle, Createspace, Smashwords, iBooks, iTunes, Sony, Nook, Kobo, Borders, Android, and no doubt more to come.)


But most of all, being a professional means you won't inflict your shitty writing on the public.


Self-pubbing is not the kiddie pool, where you learn how to swim. You need to be an excellent swimmer before you jump in.


If your sales aren't where you'd like them to be, especially if you've done everything else I've mentioned, then it's time to take a cold, hard, critical look at the writing. Which segues into...



I'll Pay Attention to the Market


To say I'm excited about the ebook future is putting it mildly. But that doesn't mean I have carte blanche to write whatever the hell I want to, and then expect it to sell.


Yes, writers now have more freedom. Yes, we can now cater to niche tastes, and write novellas, and focus on more personal projects.


But if you want to make a living, you still have to understand your audience, and how to give them what they want.


Self-pubbing is not an excuse to be a self-indulgent egomaniac. On the contrary, it's a chance for you to learn what sells.


For the very first time, the writer can conduct their own real-world experiments. By trying different things, learning from mistakes, and constantly tweaking and improving, we have more power than ever before to find our readers.


A lot of folks know how much money I'm making. But how many know:


I've changed or tweaked cover art 45 times.

I've reformatted my books five times each.
I've changed product descriptions over 80 times.
I've changed prices on each book two or three times.

Unlike the traditional publishing world, where published books are static, self-publishing is dynamic. If something isn't selling as well as you'd like, you can change it. The work doesn't end when you upload your ebook to Kindle. The work is never-ending, and vigilance is mandatory.


Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow. This means you MUST try new things.


2011 is going to be a turbulent year for publishers and bookstores and editors and agents. Change is coming, and many of the stalwarts of the industry aren't going to be around for much longer.


But savvy writers will be safe from harm. In fact, they'll thrive like never before.


For the first time in the history of publishing, we have control. Embrace that control, and make 2011 your year.



2012


Hard to believe this will be my sixth year offering New Year's Resolutions to writers. Even harder to believe is how much the publishing industry has changed during that time.

When I first began this blog, it was about helping authors find an agent and a legacy publishing deal. And once they did, it was about working with your publisher to sell as many books as possible by understanding how to self-promote and market.


Now, writers are much better served learning how to upload their work to Kindle and write a product description than learning how to write a query letter or do a successful book signing.


So is there still anything left for me to say?


Yes. There's plenty.




I Will Experiment

Don't let fear prevent you from taking chances and trying new things. I'm talking to all of you who refuse to raise or lower your ebook prices. I'm talking to all of you who pass judgement without any experience to back up your position. I'm talking to all of you who insist that your way is the right way without ever having tried any other way--or in some cases, knowing nothing about the path you want to take (I'm looking right at you folks still chasing legacy deals.)


The goals you set should constantly be adapting and changing as more data comes in. But don't be a lump, expecting data to come to you by surfing the net, or reading this blog, or praying Santa Claus helps you out.


You need to be the one actively trying different things, taking different directions, and learning through trial and error.


In the past, there were a lot of gatekeepers who could hold you back.


Today the only one holding you back is you.




I Will Help Other Writers

If you learn something, share it. If you have some success, show others how to follow your lead. If you fail miserably, warn your peers.

Writing and publishing were once solitary, private matters, and everyone played their cards close to their chests. No one knew how much anyone else was earning, or how many books they sold, and this suited the publishers just fine. The dark ages are all about being kept in the dark.


Well, let there be light.


The more we share, and help one another, the more our collective base of knowledge can grow.


Self-publishing is an open source project. Add to the database.




I Will Control My Fear

There will always be doubt and uncertainty, because luck plays such a big role in success. I know there are writers who are doing everything right, who still haven't found readers.

But don't let fear own you.


It is easy to get frustrated.


It is easy to get envious of those doing better.


It is easy to dismiss the success or failures of others.


It is easy to worry about the future.


It is easy to ignore good advice. It's also easy to take bad advice.


It is easy to make snap judgments and quick dismissals.


It is easy to make predictions without evidence.


It is easy to give up.


BUT NOBODY EVER SAID SUCCESS IS EASY.


Yes, it is the greatest time ever to be a writer. But no one owes you a living, and no one promised that even if you write a great book and promote the hell out of it you'll get stinking rich.


Not to get all Yoda here, but fear leads to doubt, and doubt will take you down the wrong path.


Controlling fear is easier than you might think. Just accept that failure is part of the process.


Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. All major success stories are filled with setbacks and mistakes and bad luck. But all successful people persevere.


We've all heard that luck favors those who are prepared. So be prepared, and stay prepared, for as long as it takes for success to find you.


Remember that. You don't find success. Success finds you.


This is especially important when you realize this truism:



What Goes Up Must Come Down


I've had a lot of writers email me that their sales are down. Mine are, too. Because ebooks are so new, no one knows what this means, and it is easy to let fear cause doubt.


Here's a mantra for you to help you get over it.


1. Ebooks are forever, and shelf space is infinite. Once you're published, you'll always be selling.


2. Ebooks are not a trend. They are the new, preferred way to read, and mankind will always have the need and desire to read.


3. Ebooks are global. Doing poorly in the USA? That's okay. There are plenty of other countries where you can make money.


4. Sales fluctuate. Always. And there is often no logical or discernible reason why. Riding high in April, shot down in May, that's life.


5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You're a writer. You're in this until the day you die. As long as you continue to write good books, you'll find readers.


2012 is going to be a very interesting year. We'll see unknown writers get rich. We'll see big name writers leave their publishers. We'll see more and more people buy ereaders throughout the world. We'll see some companies go out of business. We'll see other companies start growing market share.


We're part of something big, and it's going to get even bigger. And while everything that goes up must come down, we've got a very long time before that happens with ebooks.


And when it does? That's okay. Formats and gadgets come and go.


But the world will always need storytellers.


Have a great 2012.



2013


I've lived long enough to see my advice become obsolete, and that gives me hope for the future.


Back when I began, this business was all about finding an agent, finding a publisher, then doing whatever you could to promote yourself.


This blog spoke at length about social media, and book tours, and partnering with your publisher.


Things have changed. 


I have 10,000 followers on Twitter, but I only use it occasionally  Facebook? Haven't been on there in eight months. I witnessed the rise and fall of MySpace. I've opted out of Google+ because I saw no benefits. LinkedIn? I can't even remember my password.


I'll never do another book tour. I doubt I'll ever do another official booksigning. I've stopped speaking in public, stopped attending events. Once it was important to meet fans and network with peers. Now I can do that just fine via email. 


Partnering with your publisher? Why would you do that, when they offer so little? 17.5% ebook royalties with them, vs. 70% on your own. 


I haven't blogged or Tweeted in months. I've been busy doing what writers should be doing: writing.


And guess what? My sales have remained constant. 


Many times this year, I took industry practices to task. I saw stupidity, or unfairness, and I did my best to discredit it. I fought, tooth and nail, for what I believed, and wasted untold hours arguing with pinheads.


Which brings me to my resolution for 2013.



Get Over Yourself


I have turned off Google Alerts, and don't Google my name or my pen names.


I don't go on message boards.


I don't read my book reviews.


I don't care what people are saying about me, good or bad, in blogs or on Twitter or in the media.


There will always be people who don't like you, and don't like your books.


Ignore them.


Trust me, it is liberating to be free of the opinions of strangers. We all need to focus on our writing. Because the millions of readers out there don't care about your blog. They aren't searching for you on Twitter and avoiding your books based on the comments of others. They aren't taking one star reviews seriously.


It's very easy to obsess in this business. But I haven't seen a single shred of evidence that obsession helps careers.


The thing that I have seen, over and over, is people finding success by writing good books.


I really think it is possible to make a very nice living by writing and not worrying about anything else.


We all want to believe we're doing something good for our careers, so we abuse social media, buy ads, rigorously defend our good name, cultivate media contacts, make appearances, and celebrate our own very minor celebrity.


Let it all go. Spend your time working on your books. That's the only thing that really matters, and the only thing you have control over.


I hope everyone reading this has a very successful 2013. Happy new year.



2014

I'll get all of my real-life shit together.

That means:

1. Incorporating and paying quarterly taxes.

2. Creating a will, including a living will.

3. Making sure the will includes provisions for your literary properties.

4. Keeping accurate track of business expenses.

5. Getting regular doctor check-ups so you don't die from something avoidable.

6. Remembering that future goals shouldn't come at the expense of enjoying every single day.

7. Appreciating the people you care about, and making sure they know it.

With luck, we'll all die very old and very rich.

But I've always said that luck favors those prepared. It's very east to get caught up in writing and promotion and ignore the stuff that only becomes obvious when you're in a life-or-death scenario.

Don't wait for the life-or-death scenario. Take care of it now. It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 108, death and taxes are unavoidable. The more you do now to prepare for them, the less painful they'll be.

If you die tonight, will it be with regrets? If so, sort that out immediately. Don't leave loose ends. Don't leave things unsaid. Don't leave a mess for others to clean up.

Now go take care of business, and have a great 2014.



2015

I skipped this year, and did this post instead.



2016

This year, I'm boiling my resolutions down to the essence:

WRITE.

It's so easy to get caught up in different aspects of a writing career. I've had phases where I tried to help other writers, started my own company, blogged, collaborated, fought the publishing world, evangelized, experimented, promoted, tried to figure things out, and spent a whole lot of time doing stuff other than writing.

I'm happy I did all that. But it has taken me away from the thing I like most.

I might be a blogger, and a teacher, and an innovator, and a pundit. But first and foremost, I'm a writer.

And writers write.

So for 2016, I'm going to write more than I've ever written before. I'm going to finish those stories I've put aside, I'm going to break new ground, and I'm going to get back to my roots. I've spent a lot of time tending to my career. And for good reason. A backlist is a garden that needs attention to grow and prosper.

But now I'm going to spend the lion's share of my time planting more seeds. 

I'm looking for 2016 to be my most productive year ever.

So, did I miss any resolutions? What are yours?