"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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"
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
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.
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.
Here's the message Kindle Select customers received in their email today:
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.
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.
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.