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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Amazon

Second Thoughts on Publishing an E-Book


Do you really need to publish your book as an eBook?  Won't that hurt your "real" book sales?  Isn't there something perverse about writing a book and then publishing it as something that is not really a book? Over on one of the discussion lists I follow, there's a debate going on right now about publishing in both hardback and paperback editions at the same time.  That's dangerous enough.  Why complicate matters by putting your hard work out there in some electronic form that people can't even pick up?  I've heard all these questions, and I understand the unwillingness to jump into a new-fangled technology.  But please pay attention.  You NEED to do this!

I understand how satisfying it is to pick up a beautiful book and be able to say, "Hey! I wrote this. This is mine."  The thrill of finding your book in a bookstore -- maybe on a table at the very front of the store -- is worth all the effort you put into it.  But what do you really want?  You write because you want others to read.  If you want to keep your words secret, get a diary and hide it under your mattress.  If you want living, breathing readers who will engage in  your ideas, you have to go out and find them where they are.  And the truth is that more and more readers are turning to e-books as their reading choice.

I'm not going to go into all the reasons WHY people like e-books.  Let's just accept the fact that readers are turning more and more often to their electronic gadgets instead of lugging around a book. And when they are looking for a good read, they have lots of choices. According to one set of figures I saw recently, there are more than 900,000 books for sale in the Kindle Store.  With an e-reader, you can also have access to 1.8 million out-of-copyright books published prior to 1923.  And they are FREE. With all those choices, who (except your mother) would pay $25.00 for  your real book?

As the diagram shows, the question is not whether to publish an e-book, but in what format. Should you go with Kindle, or Apple's iBook, or the Nook, or the Sony reader, or . . . . ? The answer is YES. Until the industry settles down and creates a single standard, you need to put your material out there in every available format.  That sounds daunting.  If you're a complete technological klutz, you can hire someone to do the formatting for you, but it's really not all that tough.

Start with Kindle.  Kindle editions show up as format choices on Amazon.com, right along with your print edition, and a large share of the reading audience will find your e-book there.  Kindle offers complete instructions on how to submit your manuscript in acceptable format. They accept Word files (.DOC)  or .PDF, or .TXT among others.  Just follow the instructions here, and your e-book will appeal like magic.

Then turn to Smashwords.  These folks take your .DOC file and convert your work into all the different formats needed for  second-tier readers.  They also handle the distribution of your files to the ordering websites of all of those different readers.  There is no charge for that service, and they stand behind their work.  Apple's iBook store recently tightened their standards for e-book coding and notified me that my version of Beyond All Price had coding errors.  I simply forwarded the message to Smashwords, and they fixed the problem within hours.  They make their own money by featuring your book as a page in their own catalog and taking a small amount of the sales from that catalog as their profit.  You get about 60% to 85% of the sale, without doing anything except letting them put  your work out there.

There it is: No difficult formatting.  No inventory to clutter you dining room.  No sales pitches to deliver.  No advertising to pay for. No sales to handle. No shipping to worry about. Just money coming in, steadily and reliably every month.

Why wouldn't you do this?

"I Think I Know What's Going On" -- A Follow-Up



by

.  After reading through the discussion on the book's product page on Amazon (here's the link so you can read through it, too), I think I understand what is going on.
This is the copy the customers who bought Beautiful Disaster have reported getting from Amazon (you can read it on the thread I linked to above):
Hello from Amazon.com,
We want to let you know that the edition of Beautiful Disaster that you purchased is no longer available. You can order a new version that is now available here:
Beautiful Disaster
You can also request a refund on your original purchase by responding to this email. After the refund is issued, you will no longer be able to access this item.
Thank you,
The Kindle Team
Here's what I gather from it, and if you take away something different or can shed more light on the thread, feel free.  I read through the thread a couple of times to understand what is happening (but I'm human and might be missing something).

Okay, so from the email I quoted above, it sounds like the self-published version of Beautiful Disaster is no longer available to read.  If I had bought this book when it was self-published, I would assume (from the way this email is worded) that I don't have this on my Kindle anymore.  It sounds like if I were to turn my Kindle on and search for it, the book would be gone.  Since I didn't buy
Beautiful Disaster, I have no way of seeing whether or not this is true, but scrolling down the thread, it sounds like customers do still have access to the self-published version they bought.

So what I think is happening is that the average customer is thinking they have lost the self-published version and are being told the only way they will get the book back on their Kindle is to buy the new edition (provided by the publisher) at a higher price.  This has caused some upset from some of the customers on the thread (I linked to above).  I would be upset, too, if I bought a book at a low price and was told I needed to pay more to keep it on my Kindle.  BUT, this is not the case.  The people still have the original book.

I think Amazon is just letting people know a new version is available for purchase if they want it.  However, they are leaving key items out.  Not only do they fail to assure the customers that their book is still on the Kindle, but they aren't telling the customers HOW they will get their refund and extra money to make up for the difference in cost for the new edition of this book.  They are making her pay for their "generous" offer.  The customers assume Amazon is paying for all of this (and I would, too, if I hadn't read Jamie's blog post
).  Some of those customers are saying they won't buy any more of her books because they think they're being ripped off in having to pay more for the same book in order to keep it on their Kindles.  I can only imagine the emails she's getting right now, and this isn't even her fault.  But how many customers will take the time to find out the truth?

I still don't like this tactic that Amazon is using, and I still think we should let others know what is going on here.  In my opinion, Jamie's only crime (and it's not even a "crime") was giving her successful self-published book to a reputable publisher.   Amazon should send another mass email letting her past customers know that the original version they bought will still be available on their Kindles so they haven't lost the book.  If Amazon wants to offer a refund and compensation to buy the new book or a credit if the customers opt to buy the new version, then fine.  But Amazon should be the one to pay it.  They're the ones making the offer, not her.  And I see no need to bother the customers over a version that has nothing wrong with it.  Customers think they are getting ripped off, and this isn't the case.

I feel horrible for Jamie and hope things work out in her favor.  In my opinion, she should be refunded the money Amazon's been taken from her.
| March 3, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Categories:




A Dire Warning for Self-Publishers Hoping for a Contract

If A Publisher Offers You a Contract for Your Self-Published Book, Will You Be Forced (By Amazon) To Refund Past Customers Who Bought It? by Ruth Ann Nordin

The answer just might be yes because this is exactly what is happening to Jamie McGuire.  Jamie originally self-published her book Beautiful Disaster and the sales were so good that a publisher wanted the book.  So now the book is with a publisher.  Cool, right? 

You'd think so except for this thorn that cropped up.  Amazon is sending out mass emails to people who bought Beautiful Disaster when it was self-published.  Amazon is offering a full refund for the $3.99 price it was when it was self-published PLUS the difference in price that the publisher is charging ($7.99).  And Jaime McGuire is the one paying the bill.  So Jaime is now paying every customer who wants a refund about $8.  Amazon's not paying it.  She's made it clear the publisher isn't behind this.


My thoughts on this: So what are we looking out here? Is it now a liability to accept a contract with a publisher who wants your self-published book?  Your book took off and became such a big hit that you got the attention of a publisher.  So you unpublish the self-published edition and sign a contract with the publisher who then gets your rights and republishes the book.  Everything should be roses from there, but I guess it might not be.  Because Amazon might send out mass emails to your previous customers and offer to refund the book + the difference in what the publisher is asking.

At what point do we say, "This is ridiculous?"  It's ridiculous as soon as it happens.  Is this a sign of things to come?  Will there be some other reason we'll end up owing past customers money on books they bought months or years ago?  Where does this end?  At what other job would the person be required to pay back customers for services or goods they received far back to who knows when? 

Can you imagine if your boss came to you and started taking money out of your current paycheck because your boss decided to refund some customers?  Like I said, the whole thing is ridiculous.  And yet, it's happening.  So not only is it ridiculous but it's also a nightmare.

What can we do to help?

1. I think we should spread Jaime McGuire's story as much as possible.  I ask that you Tweet, Facebook, Google + (or do whatever you can to inform other authors about this).  Here's the direct link to her post: http://www.jamiemcguire.com/amazon-beautiful-disaster-emails/.

2. If you bought Beautiful Disaster when it was self-published, please don't ask for a refund.  She's the one who pays the bill, not Amazon.  It's not fair that they're doing this.  I implore you to do what you can to lighten her burden. *If I have misunderstood this situation at all, please correct me.  I tried to get my facts straight before posting this.  

Ruth Ann Nordin | March 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/pLEbI-1pn

Kindle Tips Summary

Things have been really crazy around here for the last few days, and they are about to get worse.  I'm closing in on the release of my newest book, "The Road to Frogmore," with all that implies: piles of promotional materials, a dedicated website to polish, a newsletter for previous customers, an internet campaign.  You name it and you'll find it on my to-do list.

As part of my attempt to clear the deck, here's a final summary of what I hope you'll remember about how to work WITH Amazon to achieve what you both want -- more book sales.



Another Viewpoint

I'm swamped today -- checking the final proof pages of "The Road to Frogmore." So here's a post from another blogger about the current state of KDP Select. To see the whole post and comments, click here.

    1.    One of the basic elements in an author’s decision is whether he/she is selling a lot of ebooks outside of Amazon. If you’re selling 40% of your ebooks on Nook, you definitely don’t want to turn those royalties off to sell exclusively on Amazon.

    2.    The free pricing promotion used to be the best part of Select because it could goose sales rank and push a book into the top 100 in a genre or higher for much better visibility. Lately, free pricing has lost its luster in spurring “sales” because a lot of authors are doing it. Authors suspect many readers download free books that they never read, so authors don’t get many flow-over sales from free books into paid books. Additionally, some authors and analysts believe Amazon has modified its sales rank algorithm to give less weight to free “sales” than it does to paid sales.

    3.    Some people generate quite a few borrows from the Prime Lending program and regard those as the equivalent of sales. This seems to be the biggest draw at the moment, but its success varies a lot from author to author. Borrows do seem to be treated similarly to paid sales for Amazon sales rank purposes.

    4.    Nobody seems to be selling much in India, so the higher level of royalties there doesn’t mean much.

    5.    Fewer authors are putting all their books into Select. Typically, they’ll list one book to see what happens with borrows during the 90 day period, then take it out of Select to see if there is any increase in sales.

If you still want to try it, here are some tips I'm trying to follow this week.

1. Use your free days carefully - never on a weekend, and never around a holiday. Free promotions that occur in mid-week, particularly Wednesday and Thursday, are most successful.    

2. Publicize heavily. Send notifications to designated twitter sites such as free kindle, kindleebooks, KindleUpdates, etc. Use hash marks, like #free, #free ebook, or #freebies.  Contact websites that publicize such offers.  GoodReads will publicize your offer as an event, for example. Let your friends know -- especially members of online writers' groups, and ask them to retweet. 

3. Don't expect miracles, but recognize that any new reader you pick up may come back to purchase your other books. Without readers, our books can't communicate, and this is one way to increase your readership.