Office Space

October 2nd, 2015

Last week I had dinner with two of my writing buddies, something we do fairly often, but not often enough. Along with much great conversation and enjoyment, we talked about  how things were going for us. I mentioned my challenges and how much they’ve impacted my writing schedule— as in I’m way behind on almost everything. One of my friends asked me this: what might happen to my writing time and production if I rented office space somewhere and went there after work to write? Would not the constant interruptions at home be less disruptive since I would have already put in writing time?

My other friend said she’d been thinking the same thing about my situation, and that by the way, the town where the two of us happen to live has an office-sharing business. Right smack downtown.

Are those angels singing?

One of my dinner companions once gave me some very very good advice I did not follow. I wasn’t mentally prepared to take steps she recommended. I knew she was right at the time, and two years later I knew for a fact that every single thing she’d said I should do had been spot on and that had I taken her advice, I’d likely already be in a position to quit the day job. I’ve always felt she would probably never give me that level of deep and targeted advice again, and that I had missed a big opportunity. I promised myself that if she ever gave me advice directed exactly at me and my situation, I would take that advice no matter how scary it felt.

I sat there with my friends knowing they were exactly right and thinking to myself, it’s probably too expensive. How can I do something like that? How would that even work? I would need afternoons and weekends and they probably only offer daytime on weekdays. Which I could not do. I already have a schedule that I adhere to, and it’s—subject to constant interruptions with a dose of distraction.

I also thought, really, what would be the worst case? It’s so expensive I can’t afford it? It is only weekdays during the day? How expensive would it have to be to exceed a rational, sensible, deductible business expense? I arrived at a number that would not break the writing bank, having factored in the benefit of getting more writing done, which is something that leads to more books on sale, which leads to more writing income.

My other friend said that she heard it wasn’t expensive at all. How could that be? I thought.

When I got home I Googled the company and looked at the costs, available hours and the required commitments.

Yes, Those ARE angels singing

They offer space after hours and on weekends. More or less, their space is available 24/7. The after-hours plan is $95 a month, no ongoing commitment required.


So. The day after our dinner, I went there and signed up for the plan that fits my schedule.


I’ve been there every day this week and I get a lot done.


Evergreening Your Links

September 25th, 2015

What Is Evergreening Links?

Evergreening a link means making sure the destination of a link always lands the user in the correct place, even when the correct place changes. (P.S I will probably be tweaking this page for a bit, but as of this original writing, there were a lot of people who wanted to know quickly.)

TL;dr :: use a plugin such as Redirection, or a link shortening service such as (likely the paid version) or an installed application such as YOURLS to manage updating the destination of links inside your books.

I am writing this in the context of eBooks where authors include links to the books they’ve written in the back of the book. However, the concept applies to any link you make.

The Basic Problem for Authors who write More than One Book

The more backlist you have, the more books you end up republishing with updated links for books that have been published since you wrote the previous ones. It’s a problem and can end up being a lot of work. But what if there was a way change the destination of existing buy links without having to edit and update books you have already published?

There is. You need to create evergreen links for your books. You do this by creating a type of link in your book that goes to an external page where you can then send the user to the updated location, a redirection, if you will.

There are Three Ways To Create Evergreen Links

There are 3 basic ways to achieve evergreen links. Some of the methods have more than one approach. Don’t worry, I’ll explain each of them. Also, some people do better when they can see a demo or a video, so don’t give up if a written explanation doesn’t quite do it for you. (Sorry, making an interactive demo involves more time than I have right now.)

  1. A plugin if you’re on WordPress or Blogger (SUPER easy!! Install the plugin and you’re done!)
  2. Build redirects at your website
  3. Use a link shortening service that allows you to update the destination of the link

Important Concepts

I assume you already understand how html links work. Even if you’ve only encountered them in the Word document you will upload to vendors, you should have encountered the need to create a link a user will click on to go someplace else. Other books you have written, for example, that you hope your readers will buy.

I also assume you are producing books customized for each of the major vendors such that in the version you upload to iBooks, all your buy links go to iBooks purchase pages. The version you upload to Amazon contains links that go to your Amazon buy pages. If you’re not doing this, you are losing sales.

I feel like I should repeat that. Backmatter links sell books. Vendor-specific links sell more books. You should have buy links in your books, and they should be vendor-specific for Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo and Nook at the very minimum. You will also need a generic version of your links. Those can go to your website.

No system is perfect (yet) but evergreening your links saves a lot of time and work.

Note: If you’re on the hosted, free version of WordPress, my understanding is you won’t be able to use plugins. Personally, while I realize that money can be an issue, this is an excellent reason to have a self-hosted WordPress install.

This is a business. Don’t leave money on the table because you’re too busy or don’t want to deal with the horror of tech. I get that, I really do. But if either of those things describe you, you can outsource the work. If readers loved your story, they WILL click those links to get more of your work.

Case Study

Assume you have written a three book series called Animals Who Talk.

Animals Who Talk Series!

  • Fred the Cat, Book 1
  • Suzy the Giraffe, Book 2
  • Roberta the Chicken, Book 3

Because you are a super fast writer, your production schedule looks like this:

Month 1: You write and publish Book 1.
Month 2: You write and publish Book 2.
Month 3: You write and publish Book 3.

The common situation is that at the time of publication, Book 1 will not contain any buy links to Books 2 or 3 because, of course, those books do not yet exist. On publication, Book 2 can contain links to Book 1 but not to Book 3. Book 3 CAN contain links to books 1 and 2.

On publication, without an evergreening system, the best you can do for Books 1 and 2 is send your readers to a webpage you set up about the series and/or each of the books. Sadly, the more clicks you put between your fans and your books, the fewer books you will sell. Commonly, this means an author will publish Book 2, wait for the vendor links to go live, then republish Book 1, which has been updated with the correct links for each vendor version of  Book 2. Then, when Book 3 is published, Books 1 and 2 are republished with updated links to Book 3. For each vendor.

An evergreening system means that all three books contain links to all the other books at the time you publish them. As vendor links go live for each of the books, you update your evergreening system (remember there is more than one way to do this!) once and only once without having to reupload ANY of your Animals Who Talk Series books.

Really Long and Detailed Explanation

You might want to skim or skip to the more technical explanations of the method below. Or you might want to read on to understand the use cases.

So, here’s my basic system:

I have YOURLS installed at This is not required, you can use one of the other methods, but the concept is more or less the same.

I devised a naming system for short link naming that I can remember and follow.

Using the example of a booklist in the back of books that are on sale containing a link to a book that isn’t available yet:

1. I create a page on my website in the books section of the site, for that specific book, The Adventures of Roberta the Chicken, let’s say. Below is the URL such a page would have on my website.

That page has all the information about the book as I would do for any book page on my website. This is the book’s permanent home at my website. I can update it at will.

2. Over at (or in my browser, either way works), I create links something like this—not my actual naming convention, I’m naming for clarity here:


I tell YOURLS that all the vendor links resolve to

3. In my book Fred the Cat and in Suzy the Giraffe for my Animals Who Talk Series, in which Books 1 and 2 are on sale everywhere, but Book 3 isn’t yet, my backmatter list of books looks like this. These are links, of course:

Animals Who Talk Series!

  • Fred the Cat, Book 1
  • Suzy the Giraffe, Book 2
  • Roberta the Chicken, Book 3

In the Amazon versions of books 1 and 2 my url (link) for Roberta the Chicken is:

There is no www because the point of YOURLS is to have short links, the install process makes that clear enough, so don’t worry about that.

For my iBooks versions of books 1 and 2, my link for Roberta The Chicken is:

Currently, both the Amazon and iBooks links will send the user to my website page for the book.

so, for iBooks:
<a href=””>Roberta The Chicken, Book 3</a>

Again, recall that, currently, all the various links take you to my website page for Roberta The Chicken.

This means that when readers of Books 1 and 2 click on the Roberta link, they will end up at my website page for Roberta the Chicken where they will be told the book isn’t available yet and hey, join my mailing list to get notified as soon as it’s released.

4. Fast forward 6 months and now Roberta The Chicken is done and I’ve uploaded it to all the vendors. iBooks goes live first because they are awesome like that. As soon as I have the live iBooks links:

I go to YOURLS and edit the link so it points to the live iBooks URL instead of my website.

From that moment forward, a reader of the iBooks versions of Books 1 and 2 who clicks on the Roberta link, will go to the iBooks page for Roberta The Chicken.

When Amazon goes live, I go to YOURLS and update to point to the Amazon page instead of my website.

Same for Amazon, as soon as I update the YOURLS link, anyone clicking the links in the Amazon version of books 1 and 2 gets sent to the Roberta Amazon buy page.

You can make your links book-specific so you know not just that your link came from an iBooks reader, but an iBooks reader of a specific book. I advise you to think about this and devise a system that works for you:

For Fred The Cat and Suzy the Giraffe, you could make links like this if you wanted to: <– use that link in the iBooks version of the Fred book for the Roberta link <– use that link in the iBooks version of the Suzy book’s link to the Roberta book.

You need a naming system that makes sense to you. There”s no reason you can’t use really long “short” names, but it’s more opportunities for typos. But longer tends to make more sense. If you use abbreviations, never deviate from them. It’s worth it to spend some time working out your naming system.

YOURLS is also case sensitive, so FredTheCat is different from fredthecat.

It’s more work to track book-specific urls, but then you have more granular data and more data is better! You’d know that iBooks readers of FredTheCat clicked on line to the Roberta book 500 times while iBooks readers of Suzy The Giraffe have clicked on the Roberta link 754 times. Up to you.

This way, I do a lot less reuploading of books in order to update links. As long as I’m using my links, I can repoint my short links to wherever I want them to go. Some reuploading is unavoidable of course. Series you haven’t thought up yet, etc.

But How Do I Achieve this Magic??

1. Plugin

If you have a WordPress driven website, the Redirection plugin is simple to use. I know several authors who are using that plugin. My site is hybrid, so though I have Redirection installed for my WordPress instance, the plugin only redirects WordPress pages, not pages on the non-WordPress portion of my site, so this is not as useful for me as it is for others. But it’s nice to have. If you’re on wordpress, I’d recommend that. You don’t need to read any farther, unless you’re unclear on the timing of the process.

2. Redirects on a non-WordPress or non-Blogger site

Depending on your webhost, you can do your own redirects, either directly in the htaccess file (assuming you’re on a Linux flavor server) or via a tool your host provides, or by building a redirect page.

If you don’t know what an htaccess file is DO NOT not use the htaccess file method. You don’t know enough to do this safely. A typo or wrong setting could disable your entire site, and really, just don’t if you haven’t mucked around in this file before.

If you’re on a windows server, well, I doubt your webhost would give you direct access to IIS. If you don’t know what IIS is, then this is also not something you should expect to do.

Most people are going to be on a linux server and if you have a good webhost, there will be a website tool that allows you to set up redirects. Mine has one that is OK enough, and I use that tool from time to time, depending on what I need to do. I explain more about this below.

2A. HTML redirects

If you have a regular website, you could also build web pages for your redirects. This is probably more work and the reporting would depend on how good your website analytics tools are. If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your site already, get it set up (Google “Google Webmaster Tools” and you should find all the info you need.) That will help with overall analytics. Plus, if you ever have a malware issue, having access to Webmaster Tools can get your site cleared faster.

This method requires that you know now to create a webpage and upload it to your server AND realize you have to test that you did it right. Typos happen, people.  It’s not hard, but honestly, why would you want to learn to do this when you could be writing instead? Outsource it.

Here’s an example of an html redirect page:

This will display the information about an updated page, then take the user there. For evergreening, you wouldn’t want the page to wait. I built this page when I switched my site from html to php and certain files needed a manual redirect. The page “about.shtml” redirects users to “about.php” so if someone out there on the web is linking to my about.shtml page they’ll end up at the new page.

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN”>
<title>Carolyn Jewel – About Carolyn Page Redirect</title>
<meta http-equiv=”REFRESH” content=”5;url=about.php”>
<p>This About Carolyn page has been updated. Please wait while you’re redirected to the spiffy new page!</p>

This line is the key one:
<meta http-equiv=”REFRESH” content=”5;url=about.php”>

The number 5 tells the page to wait 5 seconds then take the user to the url listed after ;url (that is, about.php)

You can set the number to any integer.

0 would be no wait. You’d still want to have the header and paragraph just in case someone’s browser or settings disallow redirects. Additional considerations go into deciding how to style the page and whether to provide a URL in the body, but I won’t bore you with that. For some pages where I do this for one reason or another, it looks just like my regular website.

If you elect to do this, I assume that you already understand at least something about what considerations go into building and styling a redirect.

3. Roll Your Own Short Links: YOURLS

YOURLS is free software that you install on your own domain that allows you to create and manage custom short links. Since the point is a short url you’ll need to register and host a domain then install and configure the software. I blogged earlier about installing YOURLS

Most of the process details for using YOURLS are explained above. When I needed to install an update to YOURLS I hired someone from Odesk. He was a Polish college student and did a great job for $22.00. It was totally worth it.

YOURLS comes with reporting so you can see how many times a link has registered a click, where they came from (IP address or country, and what time, etc.) There are other graphs and charts. Another advantage is that some vendors or sites have an issue with links because they can be used to obfuscate malware. Technically, so could a roll your own solution, but your short link domain wouldn’t be flagged unless you were a really bad person or got hacked. (Please don’t use a stupid password to secure your domain or the login to administer YOURLS.)

The advantage to a link shortening service (there are several such services) is that you can use them anywhere you want to, including Facebook, Twitter, etc, and for reasons other than book links. YOURLS includes a nifty tool that allows you to create short links from your browser. There is also a WordPress plugin that will create YOURLS short links to posts.

YOURLS is free, but I recommend you donate an amount you can afford. That would be super nice.

If you have questions, let me know in the comments and I can clarify or what have you.



Book Updates and News

September 23rd, 2015

I’ve been really low profile these days, but here’s some book updates and news.  I ended up working on multiple projects at the same time, which isn’t always the best thing for me. I can’t really lay things out linearly because they didn’t happen in a straight line. I have personal issues that are taking up more of my writing time, but I have managed to figure out how to adjust to that. The adjustment involves the word  “ruthless.”  Woo-hoo?

I have a historical novella A Seduction in Winter for the   upcoming Christmas anthology Christmas in Duke Street.  It was rough going. My initial idea seemed great. I really liked it. But when I sat down to  write, a different story showed up and it wasn’t the story I had prepared for. Long story short  (Hah!  That’s a writer joke!)  It took a lot longer to write and then rewrite than I anticipated. Involved at least one night of staying up until 2 AM and getting up at 6 AM to get in the final edits. However, I really like the story. It came out great.

Now I’m back to working on  My Demon Warlord which is on track and going well. I am targeting a December release date, which is well beyond what I’d originally hoped.

After that, I’ll start on Sinclair Sisters Book 3, Emily and Bracebridge.

Once all my fast writing was done for A Seduction in Winter, my hands were sore and achy so I’ve started dictating as much as I can.  It speeds things up considerably.

And now, back to the writing cave.


Richmond Unchained by Luke G. Williams

September 8th, 2015

Preface: Today I have author Luke Williams here with a guest post about his biography of Regency era boxer, Bill Richmond. I read this book and absolutely loved it. I stayed up late reading every night until I finished it. Richmond’s story is fascinating and gripping and it’s beautifully written.  I’m giving away a copy to a commenter, rules below.

Luke Williams about his biography of Bill Richmond, Richmond Unchained

It’s a pleasure to have been asked to write a guest post here about my new book Richmond Unchained. Given that most people probably haven’t heard of the remarkable man who is the subject of my book, I figured that some background info would be useful for you all.

Cover of Richmond Unchained, a barechested Black man in yellow breeches in a boxing pose

Cover of Richmond Unchained

Sub-titled The biography of the world’s first black sporting superstar the subject of my book is the life of Bill Richmond, a black man who was born a slave in Staten Island in 1763. Bill’s initially bleak prospects in life were immeasurably enhanced by the altruism of a British soldier named Earl Hugh Percy, who met Bill when he was a teenager, took a shine to him and persuaded his slave owner to free him.

Percy brought Bill back to England and paid for him to be educated. By the 1790s, Bill was leading a respectable existence in London with his wife and children as a literate and trained cabinet-maker. In 1805, though, Bill’s life took a remarkable twist when, despite already being in his forties, he decided to try his hand in the sporting arena. It seemed an act of madness but, within a few short years, Bill was one of the top boxers in the country, at a time when ‘pugilism’ was perhaps the most fashionable spectator sport among both the upper and working classes.


Richmond by Hillman, watercolor sketch of a black man in a green Regency coat and a red neckcloth

Richmond By Hillman

Bill became so famous and feted that he was among a group of boxers enlisted by George IV to act as ushers at the coronation celebrations of 1821 in Westminster, while his skills as a pugilistic and gymnastic tutor saw him mix with the nobility and the literati, William Hazlitt and Lord Byron among them.

I first came across the bare bones of Bill’s life story in the late 1990s. Given his status as the first black sportsman in history to achieve widespread fame, and the Dickensian rags to riches narrative of his life – complete with mystery benefactors and a fair dollop of both glory and tragedy – it astonished me that no one had written a full biography of his life.

From the moment I began carefully researching Bill’s life in 2003, with the intention of eventually writing a book about him, I was convinced that someone else would come along and ‘beat me to the punch’ by writing a rival book. But no one ever did … so when Richmond Unchained was finally published in August of this year it represented the first full-length account of Bill’s life story.

Pen and ink drawing of Richmond wearing clothing from 1600s against a background of the coronation of George IV

Bill Richmond at the coronation celebrations of George IV (original art by Trevor Von Eeden)


‘Black history’ has traditionally received a raw deal from publishers and mainstream historians in the UK and I think it is crucial, given the wonderful, multicultural and multi-ethnic society that modern-day Britain has become, that the stories of significant figures from black history such as Bill Richmond are now told.

Thankfully, my publishers Amberley agreed, although it is worth pointing out that five other publishers passed on my proposal – one claiming Bill’s story was too ‘niche’, while the other four neglected to even send me the courtesy of a rejection letter.

My main ambition in writing this book has been to ensure that more people learn about Bill Richmond, a truly ground-breaking ‘man of colour’, who succeeded, against all the odds, in winning fame and respect in Georgian England, during an age when slavery was still in operation throughout the British Empire and America.

To these ends, I was also delighted when Shepherd Neame brewery agreed to my proposal to honour Bill in the form of a memorial portrait at their Tom Cribb pub in central London – a location which holds great significance in Bill’s life. (Find out more about this here:

The author and Earl George Percy at the unveiling of the Richmond tribute. They are standing at either side of a framed picture of Richmond

The author and Earl George Percy at the unveiling

When Bill’s portrait was unveiled at a recent launch event for Richmond Unchained, in this very same pub, what made the moment even more significant and fitting in my eyes, was the fact that the ‘unveiler’ was Earl George Percy – a direct descendant of Richmond’s benefactor Hugh Percy.

As I stood next to George, with news cameras capturing the moment for television and admirers of Bill Richmond surrounding us, I like to think that Bill would have been proud.

Where to Get Richmond Unchained

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amberley Books (UK) | B&N | Kobo | Google Play | iBooks

The Giveaway

I’m giving a copy of the book to one commenter. It’s out in digital format now, print forthcoming. So I can (probably) send you your choice of format. If you’re in the US, it should be pretty easy. If you’re outside the US, it’s a little trickier, but we’ll work it out. I might not be able to get you a digital copy.

Rules: Must be 18 to enter. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Prize will be awarded to an alternate winner if the winner does not respond to notifications from me.

To enter, leave a comment to this blog post. It would be awesome if you comment about the post, but telling me what color breeches you think Richmond should be wearing is fine. (It’s yellow on the book cover.) Leave your comment by 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time Wednesday September 9, 2015.


Christmas In Duke Street – The Cover!

September 1st, 2015

For your enjoyment, here is the cover of Christmas in Duke Street.


Cover of Christmas in Duke Street, handsome couple against a snowy background with a building and a very small christmasy-tree in the backround

Christmas in Duke Street


The Fork is OUT!

August 30th, 2015
Fork against a blue sky with white clouds

The Fork

My story for the Christmas Anthology Christmas in Duke Street is done. The title is currently A Seduction in Winter, but I’m not sure that will be the final one. It’s off to the copy-editor.

I’m learning to work with and around the disruptions that are happening in what is supposed to be my prime writing time. This is due to the medical condition of a family member. There is nothing I can do about that but figure out how to deal with the changes.

I’ll post the anthology cover shortly.


Back and Still Alive

July 29th, 2015

I returned from the 2015 RWA national conference this past Sunday evening. Since this was my first conference as a member of the national board of RWA (As a Director at Large) my conference experience included duties and activities above and beyond the usual.

Alas, I was unable to pack in just a carry-on size bag, even with packing cubes and video watching. As a Board member, I was at conference from Saturday to the following Sunday. I would have totally been able to do carry-on, even with my admitted failings, if I were only there from Tuesday to Sunday.

But that turned out to be OK, because that meant I could put lots of books in my luggage. I’m still not clear on why my bag wasn’t overweight. The carry-on failure was mine. I brought too many clothes. There were items I did not wear… ::::but what if I’d needed them?????::::  One year someone spilled wine on my only pair of pants and boy do I wish I’d brought an extra pair. Oddly, my packing cubes were full on the way to conference but on the way back, one was empty. I guess I got better at rolling up things small. I’m a convert. Those make it really easy to keep organized.

Highlights of Conference

Guys. I got to shake hands with Nora Roberts!!!!  Tessa Dare and I met Jude Devereaux. I managed to put some brakes on the fangirling but not much. Tessa was gracious as always. I also met Carol Mortimer. Oh, gosh. It was wonderful.

The doughnut party was another success. Megan Frampton was in charge of fetching the doughnuts and they were delicious.

Box of doughnuts

Why you shouldn’t be late to the doughnut party

Workshops and Meetings

I didn’t make it to as many workshops as I’d hoped. Good thing I bought the conference recordings! The workshops I attended were fun and /or informative. I was able to meet up with a lot of authors I only see at conference even though I “talk” to them all the time on Facebook and Twitter or other author forums. The bar arrangement at the hotel was strange. It was as if no one believed Romance authors would want to sit around and drink and talk all day. I felt for the wait staff. There weren’t enough of them for the demand, but they were all lovely while insanely busy.

The Mood by Numbers

This one is harder for me to assess because as a Board member I have much more insight into the issues of the organization. In addition, my writing career is going far better than when I was traditionally publishing. That’s a pretty simple truth. From 1987 until 2010 I think my total writing income was something like $60,000 TOTAL for 17 books. That’s about $2,600 a year. From 2011 to present, total income is roughly $240,000 or about $60,000 a year, and 140,000 books sold. Those totals are actually higher because that doesn’t include income or books sold from projects that went through accounts that aren’t directly connected to my reporting. It’s closer to $260,000 and 160,000.

I had none of my old anxieties and fears about contracts and publishers, and that was great. I had some killer hallway conversations with authors about career planning and management. My anxieties now are about the bets I placed on certain career events. For example, I “bet” if you will, that I would get reversions for 6 of my traditionally published books. I got three of the hoped-for reversions. I had the basic plan B in place and that’s the trajectory I’ll follow now.

For me, I made contacts and arrangements with my fellow authors that I expect to materially improve my career position and that is the reason to go to the RWA national conference.


RWA – Reporting In!

July 25th, 2015

I have been crazy busy at RWA, the Romance Writers of America’s national conference being held in New York City. The Golden Heart/RITA ceremony is later tonight. I’m as gussied up as I can be and then I get to cheer on all the contestants. Yay!!!

Tomorrow I head home. Later, I’ll blog more about the conference, not of interesting to everyone, I know. I will also update you on the status of projects . . .


Various Bits of News

July 16th, 2015

I leave for RWA (Romance Writers of America) Nationals on Saturday. I’m on the National Board which meets Sunday, Monday, and possibly Tuesday. Conference starts Wednesday and ends Saturday evening.  The Board has loads of stuff to discuss. I return from conference the 26th. I will try to blog if possible.

If you’re planning to be at RWA, please say hello! If you have any concerns or opinions about RWA, please do let me know. The annual donut party Megan Frampton and I throw is scheduled for sometime Friday afternoon. If you’ve been a past attendee, you know it’s fun as heck. Plus. Free donut. BYO beverage. If you’re not following me on twitter (@cjewel) now would be a good time to follow me so you don’t miss the official time announcement.

I’m busy writing my Christmas novella for Christmas in Duke Street. My Demon Warlord should be back from beta after RWA, so once the novella is done and the beta read is back, I’ll be revising My Demon Warlord. Then I start Sinclair Sisters Book 3  (Emily and Bracebridge, for fans of the series ….)





July 11th, 2015

Last week Nook announced it was shuttering its international store and now there is, at least as far as I can tell, unsupported claims that the North American Nook store will also be closed. Maybe. But I’m not so sure. But first, the international issue.

From the get-go, I had doubts about Nook’s International offering. The first red flag was that it could take 6-8 weeks for a book uploaded through Nook Press to show up for sale in the UK and EU countries. A delay that long suggests a manual process, as in the US store and the International store not being served by the same servers and back-end. It made me wonder if they were doing uploads via spreadsheet and there were subtle indications and a few whispers that this might be true. Certainly, a 6-8 week lag is inexplicable if the US NookPress back-end was the same as the European operations. I really don’t know, but to me, that was a sign that something just wasn’t right with the implementation AND with the corporate commitment.

Then came VAT and B&N did it all wrong. They were the ONLY vendor that had no way of saying, hey, “assume the price I’m giving you includes VAT.” It totally screwed authors who felt felt they should/must/needed/wanted to normalize prices. Nook made it impossible for an author to provide EU/UK prices that end in .99 — a proven sales strategy. It put self-published authors at risk of running afoul of EU fixed price book laws as well as Amazon price matching. I worried about the price matching because in one case, when I lowered the price of a book I was promoting, Amazon price-matched the UK version of my book to the Nook version within two hours of my update at Nook — before I’d gotten around to the other vendors. Amazon didn’t price match the US price for another two days.

Theoretically, other book vendors shouldn’t have to care about the self-publishing environment at Amazon. They ought to be free to have whatever policies they like. That is not the reality. Google, which could be killing it in self-publishing, has several policies in place that keep a lot of self-publishers out of Google Play because those policies wreak havoc with those titles at Amazon. In fact, Christmas in The Duke’s Arms had to be taken off sale at Google because they’d decided to discount the book to $0.99 and Amazon was price matching it in an environment where that was harmful to our pricing strategy for the next anthology.

That’s a reality, and regardless of the fact that Google can, of course, do whatever it likes, there are many, many authors who do not publish to Google because of this (but also because their discounting policy requires keeping a brain-busting accounting of List Price/Actual Price. It’s awful awful awful.)

Bringing this back to Nook in the US, Nook did what was easy for them regarding VAT and immediately screwed self-published authors.

Now, I can also say that over the past two years, Nook has been a decreasingly important vendor in terms of sales. From everything I can tell, they still impose an artificial ceiling on the ranking of self-published books. They also made it difficult to find Nook Books at their website. I got a lot of emails from frustrated Nook readers who could not find my books in a search. Jesus. Just a terrible, terrible user experience.

Plainly Nook is looking to spin off the eBook store, which wouldn’t be so bad — especially if it ended up in the hands of someone committed to the tool. (I find that doubtful, alas.)

But does it make sense for Barnes&Noble to have no way to buy products on-line? Does it really make sense for Nook to shut out self-published titles entirely? Only if they intend to go the “Indie” route and hand everything over to Kobo the way other physical bookstores do. Which, you know, is a conceivable result.

If Nook Press spins off, it seems to me it would have to become more like Book Baby (::snort::) or Draft2Digital— an aggregator. OR it would have to try to be an independent eBook store. If it’s doing to try that, then I would be whispering to Draft2Digital that they need a direct-to-consumer storefront. They already have a superior author interface and they can already handle multiple file versions whereas Nook, to achieve that, would have to develop Kindle compatible processes. I don’t think Smashwords is a serious contender, by the way. They, too, impose harmful terms and policies on authors. (Automatic opt-ins, enforcing the text of  copyright statements when they are not the copyright holder so what the hell business is it of theirs how I word my copyright statements? their broken ePub upload process. No. Just no.)

D2D, however, appears to have real tech chops and a UX team that knows what the X in UX means, which appears to entirely escape Smashwords.