"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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The Benefits of Running a Kindle Book Giveaway (shared)
Are You Looking for an Agent?
Times--They Are a'Changin'--Again
GoodReads Begins Charging for Giveaways
Hardbound Rip-Offs


A new contest
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Almost Free
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Second Mouse
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Taking a Break
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

The Benefits of Running a Kindle Book Giveaway (shared)

Here's the other side of the discussion on Goodreads new giveaway practices. I haven't tried it, so I will simply post both sides and let my fellow authors decide.

  • With the introduction of the new Goodreads Giveaway program, authors who publish their books via Kindle Direct Publishing are, for the first time, able to run ebook giveaways and get up to 100 copies of their book into readers’ hands. This has opened the door for thousands of authors who were previously unable to take advantage of the popular giveaway program when it was available for print books only. 

While giving away print books remains an option at both the Standard and Premium level, giving away Kindle books comes with its unique advantages. 

Authors only pay for the listing, not the books being given away.
Whether you choose to give away 1 ebook or 100, it costs $119 for a Standard Giveaway and $599 for a Premium Giveaway. Goodreads automatically delivers the ebooks to winners at no additional cost, meaning you don’t have to pay for those ebook copies. 

“We worked to ensure a seamless experience for both authors and readers,” explains Greg Seguin, Giveaways’ Product Manager. “Creating, entering, and winning a Kindle book should feel the same as winning a print book but with the added delight of getting the book the day you win.” 

Authors can give away up to 100 copies per giveaway.
To get more people talking about your book, you need to get more copies into readers’ hands. Traditional publishers have been running large giveaways with 25-100 winners each to help create many bestsellers over the years

But for authors who run print book giveaways, the cost of the books and shipping can quickly add up. Some authors have limited their giveaways to just one or a handful of winners, and missed an opportunity to create even more buzz. With Kindle book giveaways, that additional cost is no longer a concern for authors who publish via KDP. Authors can get up to a hundred copies of their book into readers’ hands, just like the largest publishers can. 

Winners receive the book instantly.
While winners of print books can expect their book within 2-3 weeks, winners of a Kindle book giveaway can start reading the book immediately after they win. This means they’ll finish reading the book sooner and may post a review sooner as well. Run a Kindle book giveaway for 1-2 weeks to get a much tighter turnaround on driving buzz around your book. 

Authors can use Kindle Notes and Highlights to promote your giveaway.
One creative new way authors can promote their Kindle Book Giveaway is by incorporating Kindle Notes & Highlights. By signing up for our KNH Beta for Authors (just send us an email at KNH-beta@goodreads.com), authors can highlight their favorite passages in their book and share them on Goodreads. One creative strategy: Run a Kindle Book Giveaway right before publication and encourage winners to share their annotations on Goodreads to get their friends talking about your book leading up to publication day. 

Depending on the timeline, budget, and goals, a Kindle Book Giveaway might be the more convenient and cost-effective way to promote your book on Goodreads.

Click here to learn more about running giveaways to U.S. residents and here to find some Best Practices for Giveaways.

Are You Looking for an Agent?

The Second Mouse Goes Digital does not have much to say about literary agents, except for a brief mention of how many agents didn’t reply when I was hunting representation during the early months of my writing career. I soon learned that agents weren’t necessary in the self-publishing business. Still, some writers find them useful, so here’s some good advice if you decide to seek someone to represent you and your writing. It comes from the Authors Community website, which you can fine here: https://authorscommunity.net/d
How to find a reputable agent from "Writer Beware"
Abridged by Gina Burgess

Finding an agent is difficult because there are a lot of really great agents, but there are hundreds of amateurs, and agents who are here today and gone tomorrow. There are probably just as many who are borderline or downright dishonest. Those are the ones that urge you to get your manuscript edited before submitting it, or who charge an upfront fee. The key is never assume all agents expressing an interest in your manuscript are reputable.

I know this because a watchdog group called Writer Beware has a list of more than 300 dishonest agents, maybe more by now. Yes, it is part of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers group, but it is definitely a great resource when you are a writer.
If you decide to go the tradition publishing route, then you really need to beware. For instance, traditional publishers do not require a proofread manuscript, or line editing. (It is a good idea to get some developmental editing, because family and friends do not have the professional eye a developmental editor has. This kind of editing will help you keep your own voice and style, but just make it better. But remember, it isn’t required.)

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to break into one of the big five publishers without an agent when you are a debut author. If you’ve got lots of sales under your belt, and a large, solid platform, it isn’t as difficult, but it is best to have a reputable agent represent you regardless. Your agent is the one who will make sure the contract is good for you and will explain the small print.
So study and research agents, what they do, how they do it, and search out their reputations.

To get a good list of agents who work with your genre, go to your library and research Literary Marketplace (US based). Other books to search include: Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents, and Guide to Literary Agents. I’m really not sure about Australia and the United Kingdom, so search and research. Look for complaints and reviews online about every agent you put on your list.

Make sure the agents on your list work in the same genre you write. This is an extremely important key that a lot of writers ignore. Without the right key the publishing door remains locked.

Make sure the agents are members of Association of Authors’ Representatives and in the UK Association of Authors’ Agents. Do a bit of extra research on agents that are not members. Reputable agents don’t have to be members, but you should check out the reputations of those that are not.

Here is a partial list of abusive practices of un-reputable agents from the complete list at Writer Beware:
  • Requiring a reading fee with a submission.
  • Requiring writers to buy a critique or manuscript assessment.
  • Running a contest that’s a scheme for funneling writers into a pay-to-play scheme, such as a paid editing service or a vanity publisher.
  • Placing clients with fee-charging publishers.

You can read a lot more advice at Writer Beware Literary Agents


Times--They Are a'Changin'--Again

Back when I was writing The Second Mouse Goes Digital, I made a brief statement about Amazon’s newest publishing offer:
“KDP Print is offering a new way to publish a print version of your Kindle Select book. The idea bothers me a bit because it seems to be undercutting CreateSpace, which is also a part of the Amazon family. KDP Print takes your Kindle publication and turns it into a printed paperback.”
I knew there was something going on that we mere authors were not being told. I just failed to guess what it was. However, it did not take long for the rest of the story to appear. Since CreateSpace‘s facilities are located in Charleston, South Carolina, the local newspaper was the first to leak the word to employees. In January, Charleston’s Post and Courier published the following announcement from Amazon:
After a thorough review of our service offerings, we’ve made the decision to discontinue CreateSpace’s paid professional editing, design and marketing services. We will work closely with impacted employees through this transition to help them find new roles within the company or assist them with pursuing opportunities outside the company.
Many customers discovered the changes when BookBaby leaped into a golden opportunity to steal customers from Amazon. On January 17, their webpage announced CreateSpace’s changes and then pointed out that they offered most of the services that CreateSpace was discontinuing. They promised never to abandon their customers like those big companies had just done.
Others learned of the change when they visited CreateSpace’s webpage:
CreateSpace no longer offers any paid professional services, such as editing, interior or cover design, or conversion to eBooks.

If you’re an author with incomplete services, please log into your CreateSpace account to send any questions you have to the Services Project Team. 

If you’re an author who completed a cover or interior design service with our CreateSpace Services team and want to make changes to your files, you can purchase and submit a changes service until March 15, 2018. All services must be completed by April 20, 2018. Once you’ve paid the fee, we’ll get to work making your changes.
Needless to say, my chapter on “Choosing the Right Production Company” would have been quite different if I had written it in 2018 rather than 2017. Nevertheless, I can sum up my advice simply. Now that Amazon has changed CreateSpace’s role, it really doesn’t make much difference which of the two big companies you choose to produce and market your book.  You’ll do your own marketing, which I’ve always recommended. You’re going to hire your own editor, a layout designer, and a cover designer, just as “The Second Mouse Goes Digital” suggests. If you are good with software, you can purchase your own editing software like Grammarly and a layout program like Vellum. You can design your own cover, too, although I don’t recommend that plan unless you are already a talented graphic artist.
And here’s my bottom line.
·      In 2012, I published The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese. I used CreateSpace to design my cover, do the page layouts, and the editing. They charged me close to $3000.00.  
·      In 2017, I published The Second Mouse Goes Digital. I paid a cover designer around $250.00 and spent slightly more that $500.00 on software to do the layout and editing. That software expense, however, was a one-time outlay that will pay for itself as I use it for other publications.
·      In both cases, I used CreateSpace for book production and distribution at no cost to me other than for the books I purchase from them at cost to use for resale or give-aways. 
The two editions are virtually identical. If anything, the newer book has the edge in terms of interior design. Amazon and self-publishers both win!


GoodReads Begins Charging for Giveaways

In Chapter 12 of The Second Mouse Goes Digital, we discussed various promotional schemes offered by Amazon and others. I did not include Goodreads' Giveaways because I had never used them.  It now appears, however, that the Goodreads promotion is falling under the spell of Amazon's marketing schemes to the detriment of authors. Jill Swenson, president of the Swenson Book Development Company, explains why Giveaways are now a bad deal for independent authors.

On January 9, 2018, the social media site for readers, GoodReads.com, changed its policy regarding Giveaways. What used to be an inexpensive and clever marketing tool for books is now a new revenue stream for GoodReads, which is owned by Amazon. GoodReads, established in 2007, had more than 65 million members registered in 2017. Until Amazon purchased GoodReads in 2013, it was a rival to Amazon itself as the place for discovering books. Based on friends sharing their reviews and recommendations, the social media network was once considered a reliable independent source of book news and publishers shared their list of titles as a way to promote new releases with readers.

Things have changed. Amazon consolidated its power to determine which authors get exposure for their work. Amazon is monetizing the value of their platform for authors and publishers. Much like Facebook would like you to pay to promote your status updates on your Author Page, GoodReads intends to profit from authors.

In the past, GoodReads hosted contests for readers to sign-up to win a free copy of a new book in exchange for an early review. The publisher would list a title and GoodReads would promote the giveaway, help drive entries to interested readers, and randomly select winners. The publisher would be responsible for mailing print books to winners.

After Amazon purchased GoodReads the doors swung open to authors listing their books for Giveaways. Self-published or “indie” authors flooded the Giveaways. And instead of new releases, the Giveaways could be a title with any date. Going to the Giveaways page to look for free books was like digging through a bargain bin.

Sometimes the contest winners did post their honest reviews. Other times, these free books appeared for sale as new or gently used on Amazon. Despite their ability to discern which winners turned around to sell a book they obtained free from a GoodReads Giveaway, Amazon does not prohibit such sales.

The original intent of a Giveaway was to generate early reviews and help build book buzz to increase book sales. In recent years, the number of Giveaways from self-published authors has grown exponentially and the effectiveness of a Giveaway has diminished considerably.

The expense of books plus shipping and handling were not insignificant to authors and publishers for this marketing tool, but now GoodReads offers two packages. Their new standard package is priced at $119 per giveaway. Everyone who enters your giveaway automatically adds the book to their Want-to-read list and eight weeks after your giveaway ends, the winners receive an email from GoodReads reminding them to rate and review your book.

The premium package includes all the benefits of the standard package plus a premium placement on the Giveaway page for $599 per giveaway. With tens of millions of visitors each month, the premium package is intended to increase your title’s visibility. With hundreds of thousands of self-published titles flooding the site, it isn’t clear how many eyeballs your book cover will reach.

The packages rolled out January 9 and GoodReads offered introductory prices through January 31 of $59 for the standard package and $299 for the premium giveaway. The new pricing structure will mean far fewer giveaways for readers and close the door to this marketing tool for most authors and publishers. The return on your investment in this kind of advertising is negative.

The new rules for giveaways indicate up to 100 copies of print books can be listed for authors who are U.S. residents. In the past, most giveaways were for 5 or 10 copies. Today, if you go to the GoodReads Giveaway page you will discover thousands of contests listing 100 copies of Kindle versions of books no one has ever heard of and mostly self-published. Almost no traditional publishers have listed Giveaways since the change in policy was announced.

This leaves the GoodReads Giveaway program weakened by offering free books no one is interested in buying. The program now targets those authors who think the only way they can get readers to select their book is to give it away free.

Authors have limited budgets for advertising and marketing their books. GoodReads grossly overestimated the value of its Giveaway and we’ll likely see this program disappear in the coming year. Readers who get a free book under the new program will discover it is worth exactly what they paid for it: nothing.

The best advertising for a book comes from word-of-mouth recommendations and not from social media or reviews posted online. Write a book that satisfies readers and work with your publisher and publicist to effectively promote it. Don’t pay GoodReads to give it away free.

Hardbound Rip-Offs

Here’s this week’s update to The Second Mouse Goes Digital. In Chapter 9, “Choosing the Right Production Company,” I discussed the two most widely-used and trusted print-on-demand companies, Create Space and Lightning Source. I also announced the recent appearance of two additional resources:
“Two additional printing options have become available in the past year, and they may be viable alternatives. Both strike me as being hybrids—a crossover of the vast divide between print and electronic books. The new plans may indeed set the next standard for independent publications. They certainly fit into the pattern of consolidation that is happening in other industries. I can’t say a whole lot about these options because I’ve not tried either one, but I can tell you what the pundits are reporting and what the new companies say they offer.

“The first to break into the market was Ingram Spark. In case you’ve forgotten, Ingram is the largest book distributor in the country and the parent company of Lightning Source. Ingram Spark is the company’s solution to complaints that Lightning Source is too expensive and too complicated. It promises a cleaner, simpler interface, allowing authors to submit files similar to those Lightning Source accepts for digital editions. Since I’ve not tried this program, I can’t evaluate that promise.

“They do, however, offer certain advantages. The Spark plan will produce either paperback or hardbound copies, and there’s little difference in the costs between binding styles. That will be important to any author who hopes to place books in schools and libraries, which will usually purchase only hardbound books.”
Since my book came out, I have discovered that there are actually several new hybrid publishers who offer the same service—hard-cover format at prices that independent writers can afford. The question, of course is whether they can deliver on their promises.   
Recently, I had occasion to evaluate one of these new hardbound volumes from an unidentified publishing company and found it lacking in many respects. A hard-cover volume from a traditional publisher will have a stiff casing covered in cloth, with an additional cloth strip covering the spine and an inch or so of both the front and back covers. The title of the book is stamped onto the spine, often in metallic lettering or other forms of embossing. Then a paper book jacket protects the book. The front cover of the jacket will contain a well-thought-out cover design, with additional material on the back cover. The ample jacket flaps will provide a short synopsis, or perhaps a biographical sketch of the author.  Many variations exist, but all give an impression of high quality.

The hybrid book I examined was lacking in every respect. From the first touch, I realized that this “hardbound cover” had been done on a budget. It was paper, not cloth, and it reminded me of the kind of cheap textbooks I used in grade school. The colors were garish and inappropriate for the subject matter. The book’s black spine did not align with the printed illustration, so that there was a crooked line of color running down one edge of the spine. The corners of the paper cover were not glued completely over the cardboard backing, so that they soon worked loose, leaving sharp little folds that caught on my sleeve as I held the book. The binding itself was so tight that I had to fight to keep the book open, and the binding had failed to catch the first several pages. They threatened to fall out eventually.

The Second Mouse now encourages anyone considering using one of these hybrid presses to provide hardbound copies to proceed with caution. I would ask to see samples of their work before making a commitment. As in most other cases, you get only what you pay for.