I wish I could start this blog by promising to bring you new
solutions to current problems, but unfortunately all I can manage is an
identification of those problems. The
topsy-turvy world of publishing is facing a whole series of crises at the
moment, and e-book authors are not immune.
In fact, we are at the very center of some of these problems. Here are
some of the trends I’m noticing. What
are we to do about them? I have no easy
answers, but I suspect the first step comes with recognizing that there are
The big crisis of the week was the revelation
that Todd Rutherford and others like him have been selling 5-star book reviews
to anyone willing to pay for them.
You’ve likely heard the outcry! Once it becomes known that not all
reviews are legitimate, all reviews become suspect. Those of us who work hard
to earn the praise of strangers who read our books are tarred by the same brush
as those who have laid out thousands of dollars to fill up their Amazon
ratings. Because, after all, how can a prospective customer know if that great
review came from a happy reader, or your doting Aunt Sally, or one of
Rutherford’s lackeys who churn out reviews based on a picture of the
If there’s any comfort in this,
it comes from viewing our less-than-stellar reviews with a certain amount of
gratitude. In one location I have a
2-star write-up that goes on for some time about how boring my book it. Now I
can say “Thanks” for demonstrating that at least I haven't purchased my reviews!
The second crisis that disturbed me this week was
triggered by a status that appeared on my Facebook page from someone I have
never heard of. How did this gentleman
get there? I have no idea, which is in itself troubling. However, what really worried me was his
message. This was a writer who, based on the popularity of “50 Shades,” had
determined that no one wants to read anything but sex today. So he had just
issued a 12,000 word, 40+ page “book” that contained nothing but one prolonged
sexual encounter – no plot, no setting, no names beyond “he” and ‘she” – just
steamy scenes. He offered the “book” for free, with a link to a Smashwords
page, where a prospective reader could download the first few pages to whet the
appetite – or something! I have no idea
how many downloads he chalked up, but his approach to writing a “book” must
cast a shadow over all our legitimate efforts.
And in the midst of unscrupulous people out for
a buck without caring about the overall effect of their actions, we’re getting
word that the rules of social media are changing – faster and more quietly than
we can keep up with. I pointed out a
couple of changes on Amazon last week, having to do with the way they count
free downloads as “sales.” Now I’m wondering what they will do about some of
their lists, like the ones that rely totally on customer reviews to provide the
“top-ranked” books in each of their categories. If reviews are now suspect . .
. . . . . .?
Another place where the rules are changing is
Google. They, too, are changing their algorithms that show the relative
popularity of websites. I can’t begin to
explain what’s going on, except for pointing out that one Google mogul has been
quoted as saying, “We’re changing it, and
you’re not going to like it!” I’m
seeing the effects of it (whatever it is) already. The report that tells me how many hits my
website gets has been running even, or
growing slowly, every day for the past 18 months. How, then, did it plummet from an average of
450 hits per day to 47? I don’t think I said anything offensive enough to cause
a total black-listing, but there it it. Rumor has it that they are no longer
counting back links or connections that come from other sites such as Twitter
or Facebook. If so, internet marketers will have some major adjustments to
Have you noticed any other changes coming? Do you have any
suggestions as to how we meet the new challenges? Let’s start a conversation.
It's Friday! I'm swamped with banquet preparations and book production, so I really needed a laugh this morning. This post supplied more than its share of chuckles. Thought you might enjoy it, too.
The Bloggess writes: "Paraphrased email between me and a marketer. The sad thing is that this is only slightly paraphrased:"
Them: We would like to buy a text ad on your blog.
Me: Ok. It’s $75.
Them: We will write a guest post on your blog with 4 embedded links to our product. We will give you $15.
Them: We will give you $18.
Them: You will put 4 links to our product pages on your blogroll page. We will pay you $2 per 1,000 click-throughs that result in sales.
Me: Wow. Does this usually work for you?
Them: You will write a review about our product. We will send you high quality photos of the product if you agree.
Me: That sounds great but the electric company just stopped accepting high-quality photos as forms of currency. I will send you a high-quality photo of me saying no to you.
Them: We are not currently paying for marketing but your readers would appreciate learning about our product.
Me: Nice try, Obi-Wan. Your Jedi mind-tricks won’t work on me.
Them: This is no trick. We can offer your readers a 10% coupon if they tweet about our product. Your readers will thank you.
Me: You will send me $1,000 and I will send you a high-quality photo of me spending it.
Them: This would not benefit us at this time.
Me: You will send me a dog as big as a pony and I will send you a high-quality photo of me riding it.
Them: We have many other bloggers interested in being in this exclusive program. If you are not interested in this program please let us know so that we can move on to our next choice.
Me: You will send me a cloak of invisibility and I will send you high-quality photos of me being invisible in it.
Them: We are sorry that you are passing on this valuable opportunity to help your readers. We will keep you in mind for future products which meet your requirements.
Me: You will send me four dead cats in a shoebox. I will send you high-quality photos of them as marionettes.
Them: Thank you for your time. Your blog is not a good fit for us presently.
Me: So you aren’t interested in placing your links on my blog?
Them: Yes. Please notify us when the links are active.
Me: You will send me a large Sasquatch. I will send you high-quality photos of me playing Chinese-Freeze-Tag with it.
So far I have received no response.
You know what she's thinking, don't you? "How can it take you an entire year to write a book? You can make a baby in less time than that. And just look at the authors on supermarket book shelves. They have a new book almost every month. Come on, Schriber, get with the program. Why so slow?"
Well, the truth of the matter is that it takes even longer than that. I can't possibly write a book I'm proud of and satisfied with in a year. Here are my production figures:
A Scratch with the Rebels: Started in 1981, revised in 1987, put away until 2002, started hunting for a publisher in 2004, and finally published in 2007. Twenty-six years is not a record, but it's close!
Beyond All Price: Started in 2006 while waiting for Scratch to hit the bookshelves; self-published in August, 2009. Three years!
The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese: Started blogging about the writing process in 2008 while finishing up Nellie's story and then kept it up while I did the research for The Road to Frogmore. Finally had enough material for a "how-to" book in January 2012. Three and a half years!
The Road to Frogmore: Research started in 2008; will be published in October/November 2012. Almost four years.
And there's the explanation for bringing out Left by the Side of the Road: Characters without a Novel. I wrote the first of these little sketches during National Novel Writing Month 2010. They've been floating around ever since without a home and without much hope that they will ever find their place in a book dedicated to them.
So here they are, in the hope that the weeping lady up there will take some small comfort in having something new to read. Is the launch successful? It's too early to tell, yet, but I can give you a couple of figures. A couple of hundred people have downloaded the short stories -- enough to boost their ranking to #19 in Kindle Short Stories and #25 in Historical Fiction. The book is still free until midnight tomorrow night, so please pass the word in case there are other desperate readers out there.
I've been reading and posting a lot lately about the future of publishing. The most recent is an article in Forbes Magazine, which gives thumbs up to Amazon, Harvard Business Publishing, and hybrid self-publishing companies, while predicting that traditional publishers will fade away and the written word will go online in shorter ebooks. (Read the
For authors, it's an exciting time and a terrifying one. Unlike the publishing model I first experienced in the 80s, where all I had to do was write the book and give it away to the publisher, now I'm facing all kinds of decisions, any one of which could make or break me as an author. So, this morning, when Amazon e-mailed me a new list of books on publishing they thought I'd be interested in reading, I simply shuddered and deleted them all.
it's time to ask some important questions and find some answers through personal experience.
1. Does offering free copies of e-books for a few days really spark sales and boost the book's rankings?
2. What about the relatively new Kindle Select program? Will people really "borrow" books that they could buy for a couple of bucks?
3. What are the consequences of giving Amazon exclusive sales rights over a new book?
4. Does Barnes and Noble offer any marketing advantages to the authors whose books they sell? And if so, why don' we hear about them?
5. Is it true that publishing a "book-a-year" is no longer enough? Are our readers demanding extra books, even if they are nothing more than long short stories?
6. What about serious works of non-fiction? How are the few daring academics who have chosen to self-publish their dissertations faring? Is there an untapped academic market out there?
7. What about out-of-print books, which an author can re-issue in trade paper if the original publisher will return the author's rights?
8. How effective is the new ploy of re-issuing "old" books (i.e., those that are no longer selling well) with a newly revised title and eye-catching new cover?
I'll be starting my research next week. I have just released on Amazon Select, a small volume of short stories designed to serve as a connection between my last book, Beyond All Price
, and my upcoming book, The Road to Frogmore
. Starting on Tuesday, July 24 and extending through Thursday, July 26, Left by the Side of the Road: Characters without a Novel
will be available as a free Kindle download. How well will it do? What will happen to its ratings because of free downloads? And will that nudge carry over and result in actual cash sales once the promotion is over? What do you think?