"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Amazon

And Here's What the Gorilla Will Do for Us

FOR CUSTOMERS

To order books on Amazon, you must, of course, open an account and provide a credit card number. Beyond that, you can simply order one book at a time for your permanent electronic library, just as you have always done. But if you are looking for "deals" you may want to try one of these options:

1. Amazon Prime costs $99.00 a year, but it carries valuable benefits. You get free two-day shipping on anything  you order from Amazon, and that includes everything from appliances to groceries. You also get unlimited access to music, unlimited cloud storage for your photos, and access to over 800,000 Kindle books. Through KOLL (Kindle Owners Lending Library), you can borrow one book a month with no due dates. If you are a Prime member, seven of my books will now be available in KOLL.

2. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service that costs $9.99 a month. You can subscribe one month at a time, or for various longer periods depending on how much you want to lay out in advance. This gives you free access to over a million books and thousands of audiobooks. And as explained above, seven of my books will now be available in Kindle Unlimited. You can download up to ten at a time, and once again there are no due dates. You keep them as long as you like. 

In both these options, the Kindle editions remain the property of Amazon, and you are expected to return them when you no longer want them. I get paid based on the number of pages you actually read, so long as you read at least 10% of the book.  (Of course, you won't be able to put mine down, so that limitation does not bother me.)  And you don't have to read the book all at once.  You can start it, put it down for a month or more, and then go back and read some more.  I get paid for the total you read, no matter how long it takes you to do it.

FREE PROMOTIONS

Here's the other part of the deal that I get for entering my books in KDP Select and giving Amazon exclusive rights to distribute the electronic editions. For each book, I can run a five-day free promotion offer in every ninety-day period. (That's something that is not allowed if the book is available on other distribution channels.) That's obviously a great deal for readers. But what do I get out of it? Well, it puts my books in the hands of more readers, it encourages Amazon to do separate promotions of books that do well when offered for free, and, with luck, the increased readership will produce more loyal followers and more reviews on Amazon -- which in turn brings in more readers. Here's the Free Promotion schedule for this cycle.

In March, my history books will be available:

  • "The Dilemma of Arnulf of Lisieux" from March 14 through March 18.
  • "A Scratch with the Rebels" from March 28 to April 1.

In April we'll do the creative biographies:

  • "Beyond All Price" from April 11 to April 15
  • "The Road to Frogmore" from  April 25 to April 29

And in May the historical novels will be on offer:

  • "Damned Yankee" from May 9 to May 13
  • "Yankee Reconstructed" from May 23 to May 27"

Happy reading!

Giving the Gorilla What he Wants


There’s an old, old joke about how one handles an 800-pound gorilla. The answers usually include saying “Yes, Sir!” and giving him whatever he wants.  For indie writers and self publishers, the 800-pound gorilla has always been Amazon. It dominate today’s book world, selling more books than anyone else, newcomer or traditional publisher. No one seems to have exact figures because they change minute by minute, but a safe estimate is that it has something in the range of ten million books available on its website.
 
From the time I first established my little self-publishing imprint back in 2009, I argued against allowing Amazon to gain complete control of my work.  Certainly, I published my books on the Kindle site and used the Amazon-affiliated CreateSpace to print and circulate my paperback editions. But I was also determined to utilize as many sales outlets as possible.  I always recommended Smashwords for its ability to place electronic editions in the Barnes and Noble and Apple i-Book catalogs, as well on an ever-increasing number of smaller book distribution sites.  It cost me more to get my books formatted for different sites, but I thought it was worth it, and for a while, it was.
 
I also spoke out against Amazon’s new schemes to get writers to give them exclusivity over certain books.  The promises of more support, free days, new promotions and things like paying lending libraries just didn’t seem worth giving one company a monopoly over publication. However, things change quickly in the publishing world, and I have slowly begun to realize that many of these changes are reader-driven. If one believes in a free-market system (and I do), then we need to listen when the market speaks.
 
In the past five years, the value of using multiple distribution channels has eroded noticeably.  In 2010, I could count on selling some 500 books a year through Smashwords with royalties of approximately $2.00 per book—well worth paying someone $50.00 to format a new manuscript for Apple and B&N.  Then—steadily—the numbers declined. In the first two months of 2016, I have sold exactly three books (total from 18 sales channels) through Smashwords, at a profit of $4.26. And meanwhile, formatting charges have increased to $100.00. It is simply no longer possible to justify avoiding exclusivity. 
 
What has happened? I don’t have some magic explanation, but when i look at my Kindle sales I see steady growth; when I look at Smashwords, steady decline. Obviously the people who read my books have made a choice, for whatever may be their reasons, to do their book buying on Amazon. And if that’s where my readers are, that’s where I need to be as well.
 
So . .  (drum roll for announcement!) . . . starting tomorrow, most of my books will be available exclusively on Amazon.  That will make them eligible for inclusion in the Lending Library and on the list of free books available to Prime customers. Already tonight, someone has borrowed a copy of “Damned Yankee” and read 190 pages. For those of you who have purchased any of my books from other sites, rest assured that the copies have been archived there. So if the dog eats your Nook, you can download another copy of my books from Smashwords.  However, if you want to make a new purchase, you will have to do so on Amazon. We’ll give it a 90-day trial and see how it goes.
 
 

Bright Ideas: Amazon's Author Central



Like almost everything on the Internet, many of the suggestions for new authors are useless drivel, but now and then really good ideas crop up.  For the next couple of weeks, I'll be trying to place the recommendations I've tried into one of those two piles. And because I don't want to bombard you with totally negative comments, I'll be alternating between the really bright ideas and the prescriptions for disaster.

Let's start with my favorite -- Amazon's Author Central. Surprised? True, I tend to be hard on Amazon when I catch them trying to profit from an author's innocence, but in this case, their offer of a free author's page not only makes sense -- it makes cents, if you'll pardon the pun.

The goal of any author's promotion is to draw attention to her books, and what better place to do that than on a website that sells  some 70% to 80% of all books, whether you're looking for hardback, paperback, or e-books?
Qualifying for an Author Page is simple. Do you have a book for sale by Amazon? Then you qualify to build your own page. Just go to: https://authorcentral.amazon.com usinsg your Amazon ID. Amazon will provide a detailed bibliography of all your books, complete with links to each one's sale page. You then can add everything you want a prospective reader to know about you and your work. 

Start with an appealing biography, and then add pictures of yourself (particularly at book-signings or speaking engagements), a list of awards you've received, your book trailers, links to your blog posts, your twitter feed, and your schedule of events and appearances. You'll be given a link to your page, so that you can tell anyone interested.  Mine, by the way, is amazon.com/author/carolynschriber. And Amazon will help you post that address on other social media sites if you choose. Keep the information updated regularly, and your readers will follow you with ease. They'll even find a button that will allow Amazon to send them a notice whenever you publish something new.

But wait! There's more. Author Central also provides you, the author, with another private page, purely for your own use. When you sign into Author Central with your Amazon ID and password, you will find a link to your author page, so that you can add information. Then you get a list of all your books, so you can check for completeness and accuracy. The Sales Info tab takes you to sales reports and book and author rankings. And the tab of Customer Reviews lists every review you receive on any book on Amazon (very useful when you're just curious to see if there has been a new review. You can have them shown by title or by date received.)

These two pages give you everything you need to sell your books on Amazon. It's a one-stop promotion headquarters. Yes, there are other places to list your book on the internet, but this is the most important one. It's accurate, it's kept up-to-date (every hour!), and it's free. Don't neglect it.

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True . . .

Here's the message Kindle Select customers received in their email today:

Hello,
Today we are excited to introduce Kindle Unlimited-–a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select. Customers will be able to read as many books as they want from a library of over 600,000 titles while subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. All books enrolled in KDP Select
with U.S. rights will be automatically included in Kindle Unlimited.
KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than 10% of their book-–about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books-–as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded. Only the first time a customer reads a book past 10% will be counted.
KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Japan where authors will continue to earn a share of the KDP Select global fund when their book is borrowed. KOLL borrows will continue to be counted when a book is initially downloaded.
For July, we've added $800,000 to the fund, bringing the July fund amount to $2 million.
Learn more about Kindle Unlimited. Visit your Bookshelf to enroll your titles in KDP Select, and click on "Manage Benefits" to get started.
Best regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team

What's not to like about all that?  Quite a bit, as it turns out.

1. In order to participate in this program, an author must remove his book from all other outlets. If you sell your books to Nook users, or in Apple's iBooks, or in other distributors' catalogues, you have to remove them completely.  Can you spell monopoly?

2. The Kindle Unlimited agreement says the author will receive "a share of the global fund" each month for every time a book is accessed.  But "Share" is not defined, and we already know that the "Global Fund" varies in amount from month to month.So there's no solid information about how much each book access will amount to, except for the fact that it is always subject to change (and I'm betting that change won't be for the better!) The author gives up a set royalty for a gamble.  And just like a casino, you can be pretty sure that the house [read: Amazon] will always win.

3. There's another small detail that bothers me.  The author doesn't get paid until the reader reads more than 10% of the book. Now, how many times have you purchased a book and then discovered that you don't have time to read it right away?  How many books are in your own "to be read" stack?  So in this new arrangement, the author has to wait for you to read the book before he gets paid. Have you ever gone to a movie where you didn't have to pay before you went in?

4. Furthermore, readers, how do you think Amazon is going to know how much you've read? Does that sound like a little invasion of privacy to you? It does to me. And since they don't pay the author if you don't read the book, will they refund your money if you don't read the book? Not a chance!

Is this good for Amazon? Of course! They're betting on those automatic payments of $9.95 a month ($120.00 a year!) to add up, especially when some of their customers forget to cancel the account when they quit ordering books.

As for what it will do for authors who do not drink the kool-aid, that remains to be seen.  Will my readers continue to pay $4.99 for "Damned Yankee" when they can spend $9.95 and get ten books? I hope so, but the prospect is worrisome. I hope you'll think carefully before you jump on this particular bandwagon.

Every Little Bit of Help is Welcome

Amazon seems to be in the mood to help my marketing efforts this morning.  First, I discovered they had added a link to my new audio version of Beyond All Price -- so it looks like this:


And then I received one of their "Deal of the Day" e-mails that said:



So thanks, Amazon, for help me spread the word.