The Main Problem With Indie Publishing Today by Chris Mason: Guest Post

Hello, my name is Chris Mason and I would like to thank Vicki before I start off for giving me a platform to speak with you today.

Today’s topic is “The Main Problem With Indie Publishing Today” The answer is indie authors themselves. Now before you get your torches and pitchforks and try to run me out of town hear me out.

I have been writing since 2008 and publishing since 2013. Almost all newbies authors form bad habits that are hard to break.

These bad habits include:
1. Idol worship of Amazon
2. A lack of professionalism and yet wanting to be taken seriously by the big 5. The Big 5 is slang for the big 5 publishing companies.
3. Not treating being an author as a real job.
4. The over-reliance on social media for marketing.
5. The inability to see the Longview and the big picture. What I mean by this is the lack of a plan or believing everything done in marketing is based on the acquisition of money. As an indie author, I have found I do a lot of things whose purpose is not going to lead to money.
Since each one of these could have its own blog post I will only be focusing on one of these points today. If Vicki invites me back I would be happy to cover the other points, However, today I Will cover idol worship of Amazon.
Don’t get me wrong Amazon accounts for one out of every two dollars spent in the United States and I am impressed at the empire that Jeff Bezos has created but one thing to keep mind is that Amazon is not your friend. I hear the following statement from many new authors “I just put my book on Amazon when should I expect the royalties to start rolling in”. Amazon is not a lamp you rub and money comes out. I will now cover the problems with Amazon and other alternatives authors can use without the pitfalls Amazon intentionally puts in the way.
The problems that will come up when using Amazon include:
1. The push towards exclusivity with Amazon. Amazon gives the new author the idea they can make more in royalties(70% per sale) if they are exclusive to Amazon. While this is technically true there is a high cost to pay. First off 70% is only 10% more than the standard royalty of 60%. The cost for the extra 10% is exclusivity with Amazon and I don’t think the lack of eyeballs is worth it. Don’t kid yourselves selling books is like any other type of sales, it’s a numbers game. There is even an old saying don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That saying applies to selling books just like to anything else.

Next problem with Amazon. The circle of death. If you have never heard of The circle of death it goes something like this. Every day an author’s book sells it moves up in the rankings of Amazon.However, every day that same book doesn’t sell it goes down in the rankings. For the average author just starting out no one knows who they are. The new author hasn’t built any social proof as to the quality of his or her book or credibility of the author to help sell the book in mass quantities. Therefore the book’s ranking will plummet like a rock till the book is so low in the rankings at Amazon that Waldo will be easier to find then the book in question.

The next problem is Goodreads. I will not go into detail about the problems with Goodreads here but understand all books will wind up at Goodreads whether the author of the book wants it there or not. I sure didn’t want any of my books on Goodreads. For more information about the issues with Goodreads please read the free book Authors versus Goodreads by Zoe Desh free at Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/505481.
Next, let us cover the problem with the ISBN assigned by Amazon. I know a lot of authors choose to go with the free ISBN that Amazon will give them mainly because it’s free. First off nothing is free.Everything has a cost and this ISBN is no different. If an author chooses to use the ISBN supplied by Amazon to publish their book through CreateSpace. The author may find several doors close to them. Here are some of the drawbacks when using the Amazon issued ISBN number. First off the ISBN issued by Amazon locks your book into only being able to be sold through Amazon’s distribution chains. This means you can only sell on Amazon. I understand that a lot of people claim Amazon can get their book into a library or a bookstore. This is not true. First, most libraries do not consider it a real ISBN because it’s not. It’s issued by Amazon. It is an ASIN. These are not real ISBN numbers.

Only Bowler is authorized to sell ISBN numbers in the United States. Authors can purchase ISBN numbers at this website. ISBN Org at https://www.isbn.org
I suggest buying in bulk to receive volume discounts. It is my understanding that Nielsen does the equivalent in the UK. Here is their website, http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk . Libraries and bookstore need official ISBN numbers to be able to catalog all books in libraries and bookstores. Without an ISBN both of these options will be closed to the average author. I have many more problems with Amazon’s business practices and their treatment of authors in general, however, let’s move to a much more pleasant topic.

The importance of diversification. Now listen to me very clearly. While I am completely against exclusivity and I personally don’t like Amazon and their business practices I would recommend using them as one of your distribution channels. Keep in the back of your mind that sales is a numbers game and you as an author need as many eyeballs looking at you and your books as you can get.
I’m going to quickly run down how to turn your one product into many products and how to get seen in wide release as fast as you can instead of choosing exclusivity with Amazon.
Let’s say you as an author wrote The Joy of flying. It’s a great book on how to get your pilot’s license. You have worked hard on it and you want to sell it to as many people as you can. So here are the steps.
1. Let’s make an ebook . First I’m going to make an assumption that you have a Word document. I’m also going to assume that you have paid for a proofreader and copy editor. Those two jobs by the way or different. A proofreader will look for grammar and spelling errors in a manuscript all a copy editor will actually change aspects of the manuscript. Next I’m going to assume that you have paid for a cover. While the cover is very important to book sales please be realistic in what you’re going to spend and do not spend more than $60 for a cover.

Now that we have all the necessary parts for an ebook let’s go shopping for a distributor. There are three major players for ebook distribution. They are Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital.

I have already discussed the problems with Amazon so I’ll be moving on to the pros and cons of Draft2Digital.

Draft2Digital will distribute your book to all the likely suspects of book retail.These include Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble. The benefits of Draft2Digital are they are easy to use, have phone support, and will pretty much take any manuscript and help an author format the manuscript into a book. On top of that while Drafr2Digital doesn’t do a lot in the way of print books, they will help format a book into a 6 by 9 perfect-bound paperback. The website is located at https://www.draft2digital.com .

Remember back I mentioned everything has a cost. The cost of having Draft2Digital format a book is that the book will not be distributed to as many retailers as possible.

Moving on to the last ebook retailer on the list Smashwords. Smashwords is my retailer of choice as they are the largest ebook retailer in the world and they have the widest distribution possible.

The cost of the incredibly wide distribution of a book is that you as an author have to use the Auto Vetter system. The Auto Vetter will automatically check for errors in formatting. However, using the Auto Vetter is going to be painful to use. The Auto Vetter is so hard to use because the books that Smashwords distributes have to be available in a variety of file formats and each format has its own specific requirements that must be met to be included in that retailer’s catalog. Some of these file formats are for e-readers that are no longer being made.

There is an easy way around the painful Auto Vetter. Outsource the format work of the book. If an author uses a service such as Fiverr he or she can get their book formatted for about $15-$200 depending on length. Author’s worried about losing sales to people who have Kindle devices don’t worry. All Smashwords books are available in Mobi format. the Smashwords website can be found here https://www.smashwords.com .

Both Smashwords and Draft2 Digital offer free ISBN numbers. In both cases the author keeps the rights and for filing reasons the company is put down as the books publisher.
Congratulations the author now has an ebook. This will be invaluable when review copies or ARCs( advanced review copies) are needed.

I hear what someone in my audience is saying. “What about print?” The print field is somewhat larger than the e-book field.

The main players are as follows: Amazon’s CreateSpace, Bookbaby, Ingram, Lulu and Print Ninja. unless the author in question has thousands of dollars we can knock some of these options off the list right now.

CreateSpace gets knocked off for its lack of distribution options.

Bookbaby and Print Ninja get knocked off due to price. Ingram gets knocked off due to complexity so that leaves us with Lulu.

I hear somebody out there saying “wait somebody told me Ingram was a great company why shouldn’t I use them”. Ingram is a great company. They are the Microsoft of books. Ingram prints about 99 percent of the world’s books.For this reason, their criteria for formatting is tedious and time-consuming they also charge fees up the wazoo. There is a fee to set up an account with Ingram and there is a fee every time a change is made to a manuscript. So for our purposes, they were removed as an option for a paperback.

Bookbaby was removed due to cost. While they will do both ebooks and print their fee is about $2,500 for a 25 book minimum. That leaves Lulu as the only player left in the game.
first off let me tell you I’ve heard on the web that Lulu is more expensive than its competitors. I believe Lulu has more benefits to offer than its competitors. For example, Lulu can offer hardcover, comic book, photo book, calendar and many other print options. Lulu also offers two types of paper. Create space in comparison only offers one. Lulu also offers flat-rate royalties. This means you set your royalty rate in dollars not in percentage.

For example, you may want a $4 per book royalty rate. if so Lulu will build that into the price. Lulu does offer to distribute your book to brick-and-mortar retailers for an additional fee. I personally do not take this option as I don’t think it’s a good return on investment. That being said, it’s still an option that most other book printers don’t offer. Lastly will do bulk printing and give authors volume pricing. Another good benefit to Lulu is its ease of use. For example, if you have all the documents you used for your ebook you have all but one document necessary to get your book up and ready to go at Lulu. the one missing document, of course, is the back cover. Once you have that it should take you no more than about 10 minutes to put your book up and have it ready for sale at Lulu.
Now onto audiobooks. If your book is suitable for audio you can open up several more markets by just making an audiobook.

The two major players in this Arena are ACX owned by Amazon and Authors Republic owned by Audiobooks.com. I understand the attraction to Amazon’s ACX. I mean who wouldn’t want their audiobook done for free. However, as mentioned before everything has a price.

Just like with Kindle unlimited and the exclusivity clause that prevents you from selling your ebook or paperback anywhere( including your own website) but Amazon the same goes for ACX. However, instead of a 90-day exclusivity clause use for Kindle Unlimited. The exclusivity clause for ACX is seven years. It should also be noted that just like Kindle Unlimited the only distribution you get with ACX is audible.com.

It is, for this reason, I suggest going with authors Republic. They can get you into Amazon as well as many other audiobook retailers. think of Authors Republic as the audio equivalent of Smashwords. They have tools like ACX to help you make your audiobook or you can submit an audio track already made. the latter is what I recommend. Since I use them I also know for a fact that authors Republic allows you to attach bonuses to your audio files.

For example, one of my audiobooks comes bundled with the companion e-book. I have built the ebooks price into the cost of the audiobook so I don’t lose money. It’s a kids book which is in essence a book and a tape bundled together. the Authors Republic website can be found at the following web address. https://www.authorsrepublic.com . A word of caution. just like every author should know the audience for their book. They should also be aware that not every book is suitable for every format. Well as an author you have written the joy of flying. It is in all available formats. This includes audio, ebook, and audiobook.

If you distributed through authors Republic, Lulu, and Smashwords your book should now be available in about 31 different retailers around the world. How is that for eyeballs?

I could give you some more retailers to sell the Joy of Flying but I will save that for another day.

I have a homework assignment I would like everyone reading this blog post to do something for me. I would like you to read the free ebook Why Authors Fail: 17 Mistakes Self-Publishing Authors Make That Sabotage Their success( And How To Fix Them). The book is available at Smashwords. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/631282 .I just think this is a really good book for helping Indie authors get set on the right path.

I would like to thank you all for letting me share my experiences with you today. Thank you again Vicki for letting me speak and share my views. I hopefully will be able to talk to you all again real soon. thanks for stopping by.

Here’s where to connect with me and learn more about me and my books

Link to my books in e-format: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/digitalattic

Link to my books in print: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ChrisMason

Link to my books in audio: https://www.audiobooks.com/browse/author/171672/chris-mason

Social media links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011109078034

Twitter @Chrismason9595

Bio: I live with my wife on a big rig that goes cross country. I mainly write in three genres. Children’s picture books, coloring books for both kids and adults and internet reference guides about free digital resources on the internet.

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In the Zone by Saralyn Richard: A Featured Fun Guest Post

In the Zone
Guest Blog by Saralyn Richard


Anyone who has dedicated himself to writing a book knows that it takes large portions of inspiration, perseverance, and focus to bring a story to life. The act of writing a book requires many hours of concentrated effort. Sometimes an author is able to concentrate so fully on the setting, characters, and plot of a story that he is transported to “the zone.”

What is this mystical “zone” authors talk about? It can be likened to a runner’s high, a surgeon’s precise focus, an actor’s immersion in a role. It happens quite fluidly, without intent. It has happened to me several times when I become completely engrossed in the story I am telling, so engrossed that I could not tell you whether it is night or day outside, where I live, or even who I am. Instead, I am inside of a scene. I am not just one of the characters—I am all of the characters. I am the pictures on the wall, the rugs on the floor, looking in all directions and observing, no, participating in all of it.
Naughty Nana by Saralyn Richard guest post on The Path of the Writer with Sojourner McConnell
When I wrote Naughty Nana, a children’s picture book about my wild and crazy Old English sheepdog, who “just wants to have fun,” I went into the zone so deeply that I became Nana. Since she is the narrator of the book, I had to know what she was thinking in that goofy canine brain of hers. I had to walk on all fours and communicate with nudges and rollovers, digging with my paws and jumping with exuberance. I didn’t actually crawl on the ground, but mentally, I was in her body and mind, envisioning the world from her point of view. When I was able to do that, I did my best writing.
Writing an adult mystery novel, Murder in the One Percent, required a different form of empathy, but again, I had to get into the heads of several diverse characters. One night I was so deeply into the zone that the plot ran away with me, taking me to an unplanned event involving a horseback riding accident. This event turned out to be pivotal in the overall plot of the book, and I owe it all to being in the zone.
How does one go about reaching the zone? There is no surefire route. We hear of writers who are transported by alcohol or drugs, but I wouldn’t recommend relying on those. I have had some zone-like experiences when dreaming or exercising, times when my mind empties itself of distracting thoughts and allows me to focus on my story. I tell my creative writing students to write as if they were the actors in the screenplays of their stories, fixed in their settings, driving the action of the plot. Then, if they are lucky, the zone will take over to transform the writing from good to great.
Does writing from the zone make a difference in the quality of the book? I’ll let my readers answer that question.
Author Saralyn Richard's guest post on The Path of the Writer with Sojourner McConnell
Naughty Nana is available at www.palmcirclepress.com, and Murder in the One Percent, published by Black Opal Books, will be available later this year.
For more information check my author website:  www.saralynrichard.com or contact me at saralyn@saralynrichard.com.

Valentine’s Day Guest Post from MTW authors Robbie and Michael Cheadle

Robbie and Michael are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate series of books which are all about a little man, Sir Chocolate, who lives in a land where you can eat everything, even the flowers and the trees. Sir Chocolate and his lady love, Lady Sweet, have a number of little adventures, sourcing ingredients for their fabulous chocolate creations and helping their friends in Chocolateville out of various scrapes and problems. Each book contains illustrations made from fondant, biscuits, and cake and also includes five simple recipes that children can do under parental supervision. Each book also features a poem about life with children by Robbie and a fondant creation by Michael, aged ten years. The books also include links to our blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com, where tutorials on how to make the various fondant creations that feature in the books are available. The link to our YouTube videos, edited by Gregory Cheadle aged 13 and ¾ years, Michael’s older brother, which show you how to make the more complex recipes is also included in each book.

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day Guest Post from MTW authors Robbie and Michael Cheadle”

Guest Post: Mystery Thriller Week Author Stephen Morris Explains It All

I first became interested in the occult and magic when I was very VERY young and saw The Wizard of Oz on television for the first and second times. The first time, my mom says I was terrified of the Wicked Witch’s appearance in Munchkin Land amidst smoke and flames and ran straight to bed! (I must have been 5 years old or so.) The next year I began watching the movie again and made myself stick with it past the appearance of the Witch and after that — I was hooked!

Continue reading “Guest Post: Mystery Thriller Week Author Stephen Morris Explains It All”

Indie vs. Big Six: The war rages on! Guest Post by Steven Perkins

Indie vs. Big Six: The war rages on!

The following may seem controversial.

And yet, evidence looms the ‘big six’ traditional publishers may be covertly manipulating or stifling indie book sales!

The sort of tactics about to be revealed will no doubt seem underhanded, even morally repugnant. Though dubious, these may not be considered unlawful or unfair in the normal scheme of legitimate corporate business practices. Both online retailers and major publishers are in the business of selling books to make a profit. From the perspective of maintaining a profitable business model, online retailers are more likely to feature products that are perceived to have better long-term sales potential, than upstart products perceived to have little or no overall market impact. But, like any new movement, whether political or literary, there will always be resistance. It seems there is no exception when it comes to ongoing efforts on the part of the ‘big six’ to hamper the market growth of indie authors and publishers. It could very well, most indie authors are not even aware of the weapons used against them. Ultimately, it can be difficult to police tactics one may not be fully aware. After all, one cannot effectively fight an enemy that refuses to reveal itself on the battlefield.

Not too long ago, encountering a harrowing story involving an aggrieved independent ‘romance’ author, one decided to curiously investigate. What one at first found, seemed incredulous. However, under greater scrutiny, the story of this anonymous author gained credence. The indie author in question claimed to have made a shocking discovery. She found her digital sales may have been capped via what can only be described as covert skullduggery.

Though appearing to sell briskly, her book was inexplicably halted at a certain rank in the best-selling category list, while similar books affiliated with big six publishers, not selling as comparatively well over the same sales period, continued to rise. Of course, this unfairly limited her book’s visibility, which meant not only was her title capped at a certain rank, it began to plummet shortly thereafter. After employing some investigation of her own, she discovered that sales algorithms were being manipulated in favor of titles published by the big six, perceived by the online retailers to be bigger sellers over the long haul. While the author appeared to possess no ability to pursue legal recourse, this underhanded scenario may not be an isolated case. Consulting various online indie author blogs, similar experiences appeared to have been luridly detailed.

What does this ultimately mean?

 

BIG SIX COLLUDING WITH ONLINE RETAILERS!

 

It may imply unscrupulous, but apparently not unlawful collusion, between big six publishers and major online book retailers. Obviously, such continued covert practices leave indie authors out in the cold, suffering from limited visibility and loss of increased sales growth. The real story in all of this speaks to a more cogent, but less obvious analysis. While big six publishers may collude with online retailers to better position their digital titles over those of indie authors, they are also able to continually exert greater influence and control over print copy distribution and pricing.

Let’s face it, despite growing popularity for digital books, sales of print copies, in the way of paperbacks and hard covers, is still where the real revenue is generated.

Considering this aspect of the publishing business, the big six still hold a commanding advantage over their indie counterparts. Recently, an example of this reared its ugly head in an ongoing dispute between Amazon and a major publisher over print copy price fixing. Naturally, the major publisher claimed Amazon’s pricing policies per their print titles worked against their best long-term business interests. The essence of the dispute involved Amazon’s repeated efforts to discount all print titles. Seeking greater control, the big publisher invoked what is termed the ‘agency model’, meaning while Amazon’s list price was significantly lower than the publisher’s suggested price, the latter was still able to collect royalties at a higher price point, while still able to move the same number of units corresponding to the discounted rate.

One can only imagine Amazon’s jocular reaction if indie authors bravely endeavored in attempting to negotiate for themselves such a lucrative arrangement. These sorts of scenarios demonstrate the disadvantages indie authors face in open market competition against a foe possessing both superior financial and negotiating resources.

Is there no recourse for indie authors in gaining for themselves similar market leverage?

The irony in this; in obtaining favor from online retailers for ultimate control over print distribution and pricing, the big six are continually at a disadvantage when it comes to digital publications. If indie authors continue to consistently publish digital works consisting of high quality content coupled with comparatively lower pricing, ultimate victory in the long term over the big six, seems not only realistic but perhaps, inevitable!

 

  Steven Perkins has written two engaging books that have been well received and rewarded with excellent reviews on Amazon. This guest post allows Steven to speak to an issue that has not been addressed openly but needs to be.  I offered my blog as a way for Steven to pass along his insights as well as bring his work to light. As one of over 200 respected MTW authors, I am glad to give him this opportunity. You can find Steven Perkins books, Raging Falcon and American Siren, on Amazon both in paperback and Kindle Unlimited.

During MysteryThrillerWeek you can learn more about Steven and his two books when he hosts an hour on Facebook February 12th, 10:00 PM EST.

By signing up as a Mystery Thriller Week fan on the website, you will have full access to all event such as this one.

steven

Can too many words spoil communication? A 2017 #MTW Guest Author Post by Geoffrey Monmouth.

Can too many words spoil communication?

By Geoffrey Monmouth

“No adjectives!” cried Geoffrey, the author, “No effing adjectives?  Who says?”

“It’s company policy.” replied Colin, the executive from his publishers as he handed back the annotated manuscript.

“Well, what stupid, blinkered, unimaginative, idiotic, moronic old fool came up with that one?”

“You’ve just used six adjectives, most of which were unnecessary.  They were synonyms, or nearly.  There was no need for the expletive in your previous remark, either.  You see how wasteful you are with words?”

“So is this an efficiency drive?”

“I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.  To answer your question, the policy came down from the top.  The senior partner, Mr. Roget, has recently stated the policy unequivocally and categorically.  By the way he’s not old.  He’s only in his forties, although they say his mental age has always been greater than his chronological age.”

“You’ve just used two adjectives.  You said ‘mental’ and ‘chronological’ and they’re near-synonyms.   What about adverbs?”

“They’re banned too.  Most of them are unnecessary.”

“You use them.  You just said ‘unequivocally’ and ‘categorically’ which are also near-synonyms.  And ‘unnecessary’ is an adverb too.  You’re as bad as I am!  Anyway, repetition is often used for emphasis.  We all do it in speech.  Why not in print?  I’ll bet a lot of famous writers would never get published if your Mr. Roget had his way.  What about titles?  Do you allow adjectives and adverbs in them?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think we encourage them.” Said Colin as he looked nervously at the list of new titles he was holding.

“I suppose you would have published the Curiosity Shop!

“If you’re going to be like that, I suppose it ought to be just the Shop.”

“Like the Girl with the Earring, or is that the Girl with the Ring?”

“Now you’re being silly and pedantic.”

“That’s good, coming from you!  What about the Sleep by Raymond Chandler, and Hardy’s Far from the Crowd?  Would you have told Louisa May Alcott to call her books Women and Men, not to be confused with the Man by H.G. Wells?  Or Dashiel Hammett to call his book the Falcon?  Don’t you see that adjectives make a difference, sometimes an important one?”

“They’re all great writers who know when to use a word and when to leave it out.  You seem to think the more words the better!”

“Isn’t that a subjective opinion?  Some readers probably like it plain and simple, whilst others prefer a bit more colour.  If people like you and your Mr. Roget had their way in the art world, paintings would be reduced to diagrams.”

Colin looked at the cover of a book on his desk.  There was a picture of matchstick men on a minimalist background.  He said, “I can think of some modern artists who do just that, quite successfully!”

“Yes, but not everyone wants that kind of thing.  Surely we want to give the readers a choice?”

“Go through your manuscript and take out all the adjectives and adverbs that don’t add anything to the narrative or even to the descriptions.  Then I’ll see if I can persuade the firm to give it another look.

 

 

Geoffrey Monmouth is appearing as part of Mystery Thriller Week and is one of the participating authors.

His mystery “Highwaypersons” is set in 1715 and covers most of England in this story of a brother and sister seeking to pay off the debt their father owes.so that he can be released from prison.  

“Highwaypersons” is available through Amazon and KindleUnlimited.  

Mystery Thriller Week runs from February 12-22, 2017.