Archive for the ‘Self-Publishing’ Category

Happy New Year from Carolyn!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
Pink Tulips

Happy New Year

Photo by: Yours Truly. 2013’s tulips were lovely. There are something like 300 bulbs in the fridge so 2014 promises to be another banner tulip year. They’ll go in the ground soon and come early Spring I will have pictures! And vases of tulips in the house, too.

Happy New Year!

2012 turned out to be a year of ups and downs, more than usual, I think. My son graduated from High School and then went off to college. O_o

My day job turned out to be stressful in ways that aren’t good. It’s sapped time and energy from my writing.

I turned down a contract offer from NY.

I published my first independently written novel; My Darkest Passion, Book 5 in the My Immortals series. It was . . . something to write exactly what I wanted to write. I’d catch myself thinking, can’t do that! And then I’d realize I could. So I did. My editor edited for my story. Not for the market.

I took a serious look at some short, super dirty stories, some of which were written years ago. And I realized they could be out there making money for me, written exactly the way I wanted. One of the reasons I’ve not looked more seriously at the commercial erotica market is the language — words I feel writers are being asked to use. Words that make a lot of erotica/erotic romance feel cookie cutter and forced. As if vocabulary matters more than what sex means to the characters. I spent a fairly brief amount of time polishing etc and got them out there with words that were right for what I wanted to do. That’s the stories in Whispers, Collection No. 1.

Yes, there will be a Collection No. 2. Including continuations of the characters in Inigo The Magician and the world in My Goblin Boyfriend. And new stories. Some of the other stories hanging around needed more work than the 5 I put out.

The sequel to Lord Ruin continues to go much more slowly than I want it to. (See: Day Job, supra) It’s really at critical mass right now–enough words that really, the story is done, and I just need to make it work. It will work. It will be done. But I won’t put it out there until it’s ready.

Books You Should see From Me in 2014

Kind of in order.

My Dangerous Pleasure, My Immortals Book 4 (Reverted, re-issued with few, if any changes.) I know hardly anyone read this book, but I like it a lot because I got away with a lot. Because, I suspect, my publisher had already given up on the series. (When your editor sends you an ENTIRE CASE of Arcs they found weeks after release you know nobody gave a damn about the book.)

Lord Ruin Sequel

A novella in the My Immortals world

Whispers, Collection No. 2

A novella for Hester and Camber from Not Proper Enough

My Immortals, Book 6.


Not much.

Write more.

Possibly eat less chocolate. Or less of something else so I can keep chocolate levels optimum.

Write balls to the wall. Everything on the page.

What about you?


Irony Chickens? Smashwords, Scribd, and Piracy

Friday, December 27th, 2013

So there’s Scribd. Trying to reinvent itself. It’s a site that was trying to be Wattpad before there was a Wattpad and it’s not still clear from either site whether there’s a business model there. I suppose there’s something– ad revenue? I don’t know. Anyway, both sites allow anyone to upload documents. Any documents. And there have been legitimate uses of that. Court filings, for example. Other documents in the public domain or uploaded by the actual author. But not always, and now there’s a clear case of Irony Chickens coming home to roost as Smashwords, Scribd and piracy collide.

And then, as just about anyone could foresee, there is lots and lots of pirated material.  Books. Lots of novels. Lots. The DMCA says Scribd and other such sites are not responsible for that contact, the user who uploads it is. All Scribd has to do is take down the content when sent a DMCA notice. That’s the state of the law. It is, on the one hand, fair. Because it IS the user who is engaging in the pirating. Scribd merely provides file space.

Speaking not at all about piracy, but only about the DMCA and the ecosystem of pirated content, the problem with DMCA take-down notices is this:

If you’re an author concerned about pirated content, the more popular you are, the more your content is out there. There are authors who have THOUSANDS of pirated copies of their books on Scribd (as an example) and the DMCA says the author must send a URL to each and every allegedly infringing instance. Obviously, this becomes impossible to comply with. No one author has the time to do this. And Scribd, like every other similar site, is not required to self-police or in anyway assist with what becomes an impossible task for an author.

Scene set. Ready?

So now Scribd wants to become a subscription reading service. A publisher or author agrees to have their books posted on the site and readers (subscribers) will pay a modest sum per month to read all they want. From what I hear, the plan is to pay authors for full and even partial reads, if the readers progresses beyond a certain point. Sounds kind of interesting if that’s the way it works.

What I find more interesting is that if you visit the Scribd site, it’s easy to find out what subscribers will get in return for their money.

If you’re an author, however, there’s only a contact form. “We’d love to hear from you!” And you fill out a form where you tell them the number of books you have available, the genre and the format. That’s it. Classic gatekeeper.

In our quest to ensure Scribd subscribers never run out of great books to read, we’re constantly looking to expand our digital library. Please contact us if you’d like to make your ebooks available via our subscription offering. Our content acquisition team would love to talk to you.

There’s NOTHING at the site that tells me, an author, why I would want my content in their subscription service.

I find this language alarming. I think it’s an indication that Scribd sees the author as a resource to be consumed by them, not a business partner. Otherwise, wouldn’t there be something there that says, Hey, Author! Here’s what’s in it for you! That contact page, which you can only find if you clicked on the subscription FAQ and scrolled down a lot, makes it pretty darn clear that Scribd isn’t thinking of authors as potential partners.

If I go to any eBook vendor, I can find out what’s in it for me if I make my books available through them. I know how and when I get paid.

Other than the rumors flying around, where is Scribd telling me how and why I would benefit? If the answer is “Readers!” that’s not good enough. That’s more of the baloney along the lines of “We can’t afford to pay authors, but you’ll get exposure” and someone gets free professionally written content for their website. Or free graphics. Or what have you. If you think you have a service where my books will make you money, then you should tell me how that happens and why and how it makes money for me, too.

I’m getting to the chickens.

Smashwords, a company that allows authors to self-publish books and then sell from the site as well as distribute to other vendors, recently sent a letter informing Smashwords authors that they had a deal with Scribd and that beginning January 1, content would automatically be enrolled in Scribd’s subscription offering. What became apparent when authors went to look was that books were ALREADY opted in and being made available. (That was true of my books.)

It’s my belief that no book distributor should opt-in automatically to some other vendor. This should NEVER happen without the author’s explicit consent and review. First, the distributor does not have rights in the content. The author does. The author elects where that content is distributed. There are cases where authors do not have ALL rights. There are cases where an automatic opt-in could put an author in violation of the terms of a contract.

Further, it’s not cool to automatically opt-in content under terms that may be less favorable than if the author, if she wanted to be there at all, went directly to the vendor. Because, really?

This automatic opt-in by Smashwords is a major misstep.

Pirate Chickens.

Authors are well aware that Scribd hosts a massive amount of pirated content. And there are authors who feel strongly that pirated content should be taken down wherever it exists. (It happens that I am not one of those authors, but that has nothing to do with the authors who do feel that way.)

So. Smashwords just opted those authors into a service they know nothing about at a site that hosts THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of pirated copies of their books and gave them no opportunity to think and consider.

Some authors objected to that. They wanted nothing to do with what they consider a pirate site. And they appear to have been told–quite bluntly and directly, “opt-in to this service and Scribd will take care of the piracy problem for your books.” Otherwise, too bad.

That is fucking ballsy.

What the hell did Scribd think would happen? They have a piracy problem. Lots of authors are upset about piracy (again saying nothing here about whether there’s actual harm). Scribd wants to sell subscriptions to books while at the same time continuing to permit users to upload documents where hundreds of thousands of those documents are pirated books.

Did they really not anticipate that authors might say, well, eff you? Because that’s what’s happening.

It’s what you call chickens coming home to roost. I’m sorry, but this was completely foreseeable.


Why eBook Formatting Will Drive you Crazy

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Here’s a new problem I encountered today. I’ve been uploading Whispers to various vendors and I ran across a new issue. First, here’s my process–it includes a short cut that hasn’t been an issue until today.

My shortcut is that I upload an ePub to Amazon and let Amazon convert it. That saves me some trouble, but I have long recognized the risk inherent in that. What I should do is upload a mobi. But I haven’t been because it’s an extra two or three steps. Until now, that process has been error free and, even, produced a better result than a lot of mobi uploads I’ve seen.

[Clarifiction: When I say Kindle Previewer, I mean the app you can download from Amazon. I am not talking (much) about the emulator portion of the tool. You can never fully trust an emulator. I am talking about the FILE produced. The downloaded Kindle Previewer app produces a Mobi and prc file that you can upload. It is NOT just a file previewer. It is also a file converter. I am NOT saying that when I looked at a Kindle Previewer display I saw these differences. I’m saying the physical file that resulted from a local Kindle Previewer conversion displayed differently from the file Amazon converted on line when viewed on the same physical devices. And that the file converted by Amazon via the dashboard was WORSE.]

I have an iPad 3 and I do almost all my reading on my iPad, usually with the Kindle app. When I am proofing final files, I use Kindle previewer to preview my ePub across devices. This also creates a file that contains a mobi and a prc, and you can upload that file to Amazon which will then deliver either the mobi or the prc to the user, depending on their device. I also email that previewer generated file to my Kindle account so I can preview it on my iPad.

Today, I uploaded the final epub to Amazon and when it was live, I bought the Kindle version so I could see what the actual delivered file looked like.

So. First, here’s a screen shot of what the Kindle-previewer mobi that I emailed to my kindle account looked like when I was proofing stuff yesterday:

My mobi converted epub. Italics

Note these things:

1. My slug line (the city and date) is in italics.
2. In the first paragraph I have a bold initial letter and then normal text.
3. In the 3rd line of the 2nd paragraph, the word “Da-veede” is in italics.

My personal compromise has always been No. 2. I use a set of style that, as you will see when you compare it to the next image, degrades very nicely (in my opinion) in an ePub converted by Amazon and viewed on the Kindle App on my iPad 3 (and elsewhere).

Until today, there has never been a difference between the Amazon ePub conversion and the converted file I mail to my account. Now there is.

This is a screen shot of the ePub Amazon converted today, viewed in the Kindle App on my iPad 3:

Amazon Converted epub

1. The italics from my slug line is gone.
2.  My first paragraph styles are rendered. I have an initial large, bold cap AND my small caps for the first line.
3. The italics for “Da-veede” do not display.

For reference, here’s a screenshot of the same page viewed in iBooks (via the BookProofer tool, since I can’t do the Apple upload until they’re re-opened to submissions):
ibooks Version

As you can see, I have italics AND my first line/first para styles

In the Kindle previewer tool, by the way, the tool previews my file across the various devices with ALL italics text appearing as italics and the expected ability to render my first paragraph/line styles or to degrade acceptably.

Here, for another comparison, is the converted mobi viewed on the Kindle App on my iMac:

KindleDesktopApp mobi

As you can see, I get italics and my first para/line styles rendered.

I am reasonably certain that if I instead upload the mobi instead of an ePub, this will resolve the issue. So I will try this and let you know. Otherwise, I’ll have to introduce another hack to the hack that already deals with device incompatibilities with respect to the display of italics. Yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t have been taking any shortcuts and yeah, I know, this is what you get when you take them. But come, on! The display of italics should be a no-brainer–the core set of html that should NEVER break. It’s already beyond stupid that some devices don’t render the italics tags correctly and require a hack.




Say What?

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Melville House blogs this post about Indie books that may, or may not be, bestsellers.

The quarter of sales they site [sic] here is referring to total sales, which gives us no information about the total revenue. Self-published titles are likely to be marked in a lower price range, beginning at ninety-nine cents. So while this is a great campaign to appeal to authors interested in self-publishing, there’s no information for authors about the bottom line.

I’d say that quote is just as problematic as the problem cited.

Except the blogger wonders “A Quarter of What?” when right below is the explanation: “A Quarter of the Top 100 books on Amazon are Indie-published.” I don’t think Amazon was saying that Indie titles are responsible for a quarter of the revenue. Amazon is saying that of the top 100 books on Amazon, 25 of them were Indie published.

She goes on to say this:

So while this is a great campaign to appeal to authors interested in self-publishing, there’s no information for authors about the bottom line.

OK, look, I don’t get why this is so hard for those in traditional publishing to grasp. Maybe it’s because they know the statements they send to authors are pretty close to impenetrable when an author wants to know how she’s doing. But really, when I see my self-published income, I know exactly what the book cost me to put out, and I know the percentage Amazon (and other vendors) are paying me. And guess what? I have no problem figuring out whether I’m making more self-publishing or traditionally publishing.

None at all.


Amazon, Publishing, and the Future

Friday, October 25th, 2013

A while back, Amazon made it clear it wanted to compete with NY publishers in the print space as well as digital. They hired a lot of NY editors and opened an office in NY.  Now we hear that Larry Kirshbaum, the man who headed this publishing arm, is leaving and that that editors have been laid off. There were some high profile non-fiction books that were mostly considered failures because Amazon could not get print editions into stores.

I have some thoughts about this that cover several areas, with respect to fiction. I don’t know enough about non-fiction to have an informed opinion.

Same Old Same Old

When I heard that Amazon was hiring NY folks into these positions, one of my thoughts was that all they were doing was bringing the same moribund thinking into their publishing arm. I think that’s a part of the problem.

What self-publishing has proved: Traditional publishing rejects stories that are commercial. It also insists on editorial changes that make stories less successful.

I have heard Amazon authors complain about editorial policies that imposed the same notions about what’s commercial and what will sell. This is no surprise because Amazon hired NY editors who either brought all their traditional mores, if you will, or remained unable to let the author decide because of pressure from the top.

What I think should happen: Publishing needs to take more risks with books and they need to trust their authors more. I’m not saying abandon editorial input. I’m saying let the author take risks.

Print Still Matters

There’s no question print still matters. Self-published authors are frustrated by the roadblocks to print. If the publishing system weren’t fundamentally broken, it would be possible for any reader to buy a print version through a physical store. This is not possible in part because of the returns issue, but also because there is significant ill-will against Amazon.

Amazon Dug Its Very Own Hole

Almost from the get-go, publishers and bookstores expressed a deep and abiding hatred for Amazon. Hatred might actually be too weak a word. Amazon does itself no favors in the way it conducts business with publishers and bookstores.

The bigger deal here is Amazon’s relationship with physical bookstores. If you want bookstores to carry your books, then it’s pretty important to have a relationship that is mutually beneficial. From everything I hear, Amazon has done the exact opposite in this respect. What I hear from booksellers is that they would gleefully refuse to do ANYTHING that would benefit Amazon, and they would do it even if it means forgoing an otherwise profitable arrangement. THAT is some serious hate.

Unless Amazon is betting on the disappearance of bookstores, this is a relationship they should be looking to repair.

Updated 2013.11.07: Indie Booksellers appear to be turning away from Amazon’s offer of 2 year cut of every book purchased from a Kindle bought through that store. While this is an obvious strike at Kobo and its current deal with indie bookstores, it’s also mystifying to me why Amazon thinks booksellers will jump at this. Amazon appears not to understand that they have burned some bridges.

A Clear and Present Danger

Here’s what really worries me.

I see people in publishing saying “See? Print Matters! Amazon isn’t such a big deal.”

This ignores a pretty scary circumstance.

Amazon wants to play in the print distribution world.

The strategy for stopping that relies on distributors and bookstores refusing to distribute Amazon’s products or carry them in stores.

For publishing, this has eventual failure written all over it. If does nothing to address the real danger, which is Amazon finding a way around that. Legal action might be one way. I’m not a lawyer so maybe that’s all fine and dandy. But hmm.

Another might be mending fences with Indie bookstores or even mending fences with B&N. From everything I’ve heard, B&N is in a precarious financial position. Suppose Amazon made B&N an offer too good to refuse. Or even took a stake in B&N?

All Amazon needs is some set of physical bookstores that WILL take the product. Someone, somewhere, will crack.

But is that even necessary? Baker & Taylor will distribute self-published titles under the right circumstances. What happens if those circumstances expand?

The Easy Way or the Hard Way

Amazon has tried the easy way: acquiring books by authors they hoped were big enough that physical stores wouldn’t refuse to carry them. Not a bad strategy. Amazon just seems to have misjudged the animosity toward them.

What’s the hard way? Buying a presence. Paying BIG Co-op to get their books present in Indie stores. Taking a stake in B&N. Solving the returns problem on their own. Waiting to see if someone else solves the POD and returns problem. Waiting for the desktop edition of the Espresso Book machine. (GAME OVER.)

Forming their own distribution company and contacting Airports, drugstores, gas stations, Wholesalers, libraries and schools. “We’ll pay you for rack space in your store, and you keep x% of all sales. Here’s your free desktop edition of a book printing device.” Call up a few professors and say, hey, publish your next textbook with us and we’ll give Universities a better deal than they get now.”

Ultimately, publishers do not own the Point of Sale. They can’t stop Amazon from innovating and/or playing the long game on this issue either.

Publishers could, however, attempt to innovate and problem-solve on their own. They could, perhaps, treat authors a little more fairly so we don’t look to Amazon as the place where we’ll maximize our earning potential.

Who’s Looking Pretty?

Quite possibly authors.

Think about this: If the biggest selling Romance authors left their publishers to self-publish, what do you think bookstores will say when those authors want their print books in their stores?

Pretend it wasn’t just the midlist walking away but the upper-midlist. Lead authors. NYT bestselling authors. Pretend it was oh, say, Theresa Medeiros or Stephanie Laurens and others like them.

Do you see the risk?

It’s the author’s decision where to go, and if authors are getting a better deal elsewhere, and if the print distribution problem is solved in some ingenious fashion by Amazon or someone else, what happens to publishers who took no steps to be viable in that world?

It worries me that publishers might actually be saying, the current print world isn’t going away so we don’t have to innovate, because, what if they’re wrong?

We already know they were wrong about digital, wrong about new genres, and wrong about genre backlist.

3-D printers used to be Science Fiction. Then then were too damn much money. Now they’re something a lot of us could buy right now.

That’s going to happen to book printing.

Updated 2013.11.07: Lookie here: Espresso machine in a Drugstore. Via The Digital Reader.


Why I didn’t Renew my Author’s Guild Membership

Friday, August 16th, 2013

This is pretty old news. I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages. I did not renew my Author’s Guild membership this year.

One Sentence Answer: Every stance the Author’s Guild has taken on current publishing issues have not been in the best interests of my writing career.

The Author’s Guild is an organization of professional writers regardless of genre. I was mostly on board with the Google Books action since I do feel Google should have asked me if it was OK to scan my in copyright books.

Every stance the Author’s Guild has taken since then is a stance that benefits a very, very small number of authors; authors who sell millions of books. Undoubtedly, in the current traditional publishing environment, eBooks reduce the income of that handful of authors.

For the rest of us, the companies that are giving authors the worst deal are traditional publishers. I wish that weren’t true but for now it is.

Not once has the AG publicly acknowledged the fact that the self-publishing environment driven by Amazon and others are offering authors an income stream that has been impossible through traditional publishers.

My question to the AG has been, who do you represent? Authors or traditional publishers?

The answer so far has been traditional publishers, and I’m done with the AG.


Today, I had a Thought. About Publishing.

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Okay! I hereby award myself the prize for lamest blog title ever.

That said, my RWA conference flash drive arrived the other day, and I’ve been listening to the workshops…  I’ve decided I am User Interface impaired. Probably every UI/UX person in the world should want me on in their user group because I WILL be confused and manage to do something completely effed up.

I deserve major kudos for figuring out how to make an iTunes folder for the files and then a playlist consisting of the contents of the folder. On my phone, for some reason, all the files are sorted in descending order, which means (since they have numerical prefixes) the last workshops are first. Hey, fine! No problem. But then on my phone, I did something, I have NO idea what, and suddenly I have a sublist of all the spotlight sessions. This, I decided, was too useful to mess with, so I’m listening to all the publisher spotlights.

My Mind is Blown

I listened to five or six spotlights so far and here’s my impression:

Avon somehow managed to hire the right people. Because they are the ONLY traditional publisher so far who has shown ANY understanding of the new world they’re in. They have a guy who does their pricing algorithms. They’re studying what happens when they change prices. They’re the only traditional publisher so far who’s shown even a glimmer of being agile in a digital environment.

And then I listened to the Coliloquy spotlight. (RWA18-035ST – if you have the flash drive, listen to it. If you don’t, buy this one when they’re available.) coliloquy is a publishing startup and they do what you’d call enhanced eBooks.

What blew me away about this spotlight was not so much the interesting technology — which it is — but the way they talked about books and authors. They have changed covers for books that aren’t performing as they expect. Let me say that again:


I’ve yet to hear of any traditional publisher doing that for an eBook. Indies change covers all the time– because it matters and in the digital space, it’s easy.

This publisher had a book that wasn’t performing as they hoped, and still didn’t even after they tried a bunch of things AND THEY GAVE THE AUTHOR BACK HER RIGHTS. Yeah. First they tried things to get the book to readers. The publisher actually took blame for that outcome. And then they gave the author back her rights.

They do a 50-50 split of the income and they pay their expenses from their half. Not the author’s half. Think about Random’s “profit split” for their digital first line that comes only after they’ve essentially made the author pay Random’s expenses.

There’s a heck of a lot more they’re doing and thinking about and it’s really really worth a listen to.

If traditional publishers were doing any of these things, RWA wouldn’t have been mostly populated with authors looking to walk ASAP.

I bought one of the Coliloquy books, I’ll report back on my impressions.

And now, back to work for me.


Post RWA Post – The State of Publishing

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Part 1 of my impression of the state of publishing after attending the RWA National Conference.

RWA is the Romance Writers of America and they have an annual conference for members. This year, it was in Atlanta, Georgia, which is a lovely city. The weather is bad-ass for someone from Northern California. There were at least 3 flash flood warnings. I was happy to get back to Nor Cal and feel the fog. Ahhhh…

About Me Impressions

On a personal level, I LOVE RWA Nationals. It’s one of the rare times I get to hang with people who share my mental quirks. I get to see writers who are on-line friends and I make new friends, too. There’s gossip and rumor and dancing, a trifecta of WIN. I’m pretty sure I saw Jim Hines dancing at the Samhain party after the RITAs. That Samhain party is AWESOME and I want to issue a huge thank you to them for the wonderful entertainment open to everyone.

The Marriott Marquis hotel staff were wonderful, all of them so charming and helpful and just plain friendly. When my luggage did not arrive on the plane with me, the woman at the registration desk got me a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some mouthwash. MUCH appreciated.

Conference Mood: Trouble in Publishing on the Horizon?

In a word: Revolution.

My impression is admittedly only that, an impression. I didn’t see and do everything or see and talk to everyone. I didn’t do as much hanging out in the bar because I was coming down with a cold and, yuck. I needed the rest. That said:

Revolution is not too strong a word for what’s going on in the publishing world. Harlequin authors in particular seemed frustrated and upset. Their current contract terms materially screw them over in this new environment. Many of these authors have deep backlists that earn them very little. More to the point, that backlist is not earning them what they could earn if they were self-publishing it. So many of the authors I talked to or overheard said things along the line of: “I have x number of books to deliver and then I’m done.”

Apparently, 141 Harlequin editor appointments went unfilled. My understanding is that there were other publishers also with unfilled appointments. (At RWA, you can sign up to pitch your book(s) to an agent or editor. In the past, these pitch appointments have been hard to get. They fill up fast and well before the conference.) I know last year (or maybe the year before) when my RITA status gave me a preferred sign up status, I went ahead and took an appointment with a Harlequin editor because I had an idea… Between the sign-up and my appointment time, news hit about certain HQN contract terms that made me decide there was no way I’d ever sign with them (assuming my agent would even be on board with such a project). I kept the appointment because I didn’t want to be rude, but yeah.

Sign On or Don’t Publish?

It used to be that authors had more or less no choice but to accept some flavor of unfavorable contract terms because there was no viable alternative. How badly you were affected by those terms depended on how good your agent was and how well your last book did. But now?

There IS an alternative and it’s better than what publishers are offering. This bears repeating. The alternative is BETTER than what publishers are currently offering. Authors know this. Even if they’re not sure they want to publish on their own, they are aware.

Walking Away

The mid-list is walking. I’m not sure it matters, though. Yet. There are still enough writers looking to break in that I don’t think publishers are in any danger of not being able to find books to publish. Yet. Publishers increasingly look to self-publishers as the new slush pile. The issue here is that the indies who are getting offers from traditional publishers understand how they’re currently making money and they can compare it to how they will make money if they go traditional. For many of them, those terms do not compare favorably.

This really can’t be stressed too much. The typical debut author had no data to compare to what was offered them. All she could do was spend time Googling, talking to other authors and learning as much as possible about the business without being in the business. Now? Indie authors are in the business and they have sales data that’s far more detailed than any traditionally published author has available to them. When a publisher says, “we’ll give you X dollars as an advance and a royalty rate of 25% of net” that author can look at her track record and do some math.

Why say yes when your data says you’ll make more money staying on your own?

Like I said. Revolution.


What Should eBooks Cost?

Friday, July 12th, 2013

In this article is the following quote:

“The cardinal rule for digital ebooks is that you want to sell them for as much as you can,” says Allen Weiner, an analyst at Gartner.

Now, think about that for a sec.


Is that not fundamentally wrong? What you really want in an eBook, is to find the price point where you’re making the most money in aggregate for that book. In other words, the maximum price customers will pay may not yield the highest income. Suppose both the price points produce a profit when you do your P&L. Now suppose you get 100 sales at $9.99 (call it $1000 bucks). That’s nice. You have $1000 bucks in the door. But what if 4.99 gets you 1000 sales? (Call it $5000) You make A LOT more if the lower price sells a lot more books.

In eBooks, mind you, you manufacture once and sell multiple times with no per unit manufacturing cost. More units sold do not result in more expenses. There are some server costs, as the files must be stored and backed up. But it’s not like paper, where each book contains paper and ink that you have to pay for. With an eBook, the vendor assumes the cost of delivery. You get your file to Amazon (for ease, pretend that’s all) and you’re done.

It seems to me that the goal should be finding the sweet spot for the trifecta of price, units sold, and income realized.

I’d shrug and say I don’t understand traditional publishing’s P&L except there’s just overwhelming evidence that a lower price sells significantly more books. Ask any self-publisher.

What do you think?


Thoughts About Starting a Business With No Money

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

I Taught Myself to Knit

Years ago, I taught myself to knit by buying a book called How to Knit The Right Way. I bought knitting needles and yarn and learned to knit and purl. I made a scarf, and the yarn, it was so pretty and soft and I LOVED the color. The scarf itself was a bit…odd looking. It did not actually have straight edges anywhere. But hey! It was a scarf!

Then I tackled a sweater. I was at least smart enough to figure out I should start with something basic, which I did. All the knitting instructions in the whole world say “CHECK YOUR GAUGE” but there I was, all excited about starting my sweater. Why bother? Why delay my awesome project in this way? My knitting was my knitting and besides, I could always knit a bunch and THEN measure the equivalent gauge area, right? So I knit and purled and followed the directions and eventually I had all the pieces of a sweater.

Simpler and not crazy

Not a crazy aunt sweater

Nothing actually fit together quite right. It was definitely sweater shaped, in that it had sleeves and such, but it looked like what it was: a sweater knit by a person who had no idea of the nuances, skill and expertise involved in knitting a sweater.

Not to be deterred, I continued to practice knitting. And eventually I learned that my knitting style was actually a bit odd because of the way I hold the needles and the fact that, though I am mostly right handed, my left hand tends to be slightly more dextrous for some things than my right.

I am not, it turns out, a normal knitter (so I was told once I had the nerve to go to actual knitting shops and interact with knitters) My knitting was pretty, actually, once I learned to how to keep an even tension. I learned how to do cables, too! The magenta sweater was my third sweater, I think, after a couple more scarves to work out my tension issues. It’s a fairly simple sweater.

My fourth sweater (below) was a tour-de-force of intricate cables. And when I was all done, the neck was just a wee bit tight (but not too tight) because, had I bothered to check my gauge, I would have known that I also tend to knit tight and that I should use larger needles than the recommended size.

Why are you yacking about Knitting?

Because I was not able to make a sweater that did not look like your crazy aunt’s nightmare sweater gift until I had made several sweaters, practiced a lot, HOURS, actually, and consulted experts for help.  The brown sweater you see here took me months to make. MONTHS.  The neck should be looser. This is a lovely sweater and I love it. But it’s not a sweater I would ever consider selling (supposing I wanted to go into the sweater-selling business) because while it’s pretty, it has flaws that an end user should not have to suffer.

It's Brown! With Cables.

It’s Brown! With Cables.

Kerfluffle on the Interwebz!

One of the many kurfluffles on the interwebs rights now has to do with self-publishing and costs. Some people say you don’t need to spend any money!!! Others say, spend money to do it right!

Regardless of the answer, starting a business with no money doesn’t seem to be very realistic. Do you know anyone who expects to start a (non writing) business without spending any money? Is there any other business with ZERO start up costs?

Lookit. Yes, you COULD learn to DIY cover. Or DIY edit, proofread, file creation, html.

But allow me to ask you this:

All of those things are full time jobs for people. I think it’s insulting to believe you can, with close to zero investment in time, do any of those things in a professional manner.

Could you at least admit that there’s a learning curve and that until you push over the top, your efforts will be subpar?


In your writing business, why would you take the risk of your covers looking like a crazy aunt sweater? Do you really want to DIY your html and find out that, actually, what you did doesn’t look the way it did on your computer, and that, in fact, on some devices, your book is actually unreadable? Do you really want to invest all that time learning and mastering a skill that is not writing?

You might have so little money that the answer is yes, but in that case, you’d better expect to spend a lot of time making mistakes and doing things that are not writing.

I submit that you might be wrong if you think you should.