Saturday, July 4, 2015

#The Hoard & the Hoarding Gene

I finally rented space in a consignment mall to help get rid of #TheHoard. A month of very busy yard sales didn't make a dent in it.

It took three of us to get the shelves and a load of stuff moved. I thought I was doing great, until the price tags went on and I had to take my hands off the items. 

Holy Hoarders Captain Marvel!

I cringe a bit every time I get a sales report. I've got to get a grip on this before I end up on AMC's TV show. This is NOT what I expected to feel.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Tale of Two Subscriptions - Kindle Unlimited and Scribd

There's been a pretty big shake up at Scribd. They've cut an estimated 90% of their best-selling Romance titles, according to this post on the Smashwords blog.
Mark of Smashwords had this to say: "It's ugly. The problem for Scribd is that romance readers are heavy readers, and Scribd pays publishers retailer-level margins for the books."
There's been a good bit of screaming going on, none of it screams of pleasure. (Sorry, couldn't help it.) Here's Selena Kitt's take on the subject:
"Look, if we don’t stop this ride now, we may never be able to get off. And this particular ride ends at welfare-ville. So let’s not go there. There are plenty of erotica authors who have made a nice living from writing. And we are satisfying a very voracious readership. Why shouldn’t they have books they want to read, too? And why shouldn’t we get paid for them?"
Selena points out that the Erotic Romance genre has taking a hell of a hit in the wallet.

What has just rung a big bell for me is this: the average Erotic Romance author is female. Their readers are also female. This means there are hundreds of women (readers and writers) who've just been cut off at the knees. And having been sliced and diced from two different directions in the same week, these women are truly reeling.

I could, but that's not what I think it really is. Both programs are suffering from too much success. Women are reading the erotic shorts as fast as the writers can churn them out. There's money changing hands at a faster rate than either Kindle or Scribd can handle.

In all honesty, I think erotica is going to go full circle, back to sites exclusive to the genre. We're gonna see a new book vendor, or two, or three pop up and the erotica writers are going to thumb their noses at Amazon and Scribd. Their going to take their lucrative business elsewhere, and both Amazon and Scribd are going to notice.

Both of them might heave sighs of relief. (rolling eyes)

I know that Smashwords and Mark Coker are ready, willing and able to pick up the slack. The site will handle the traffic. It will need a nicer interface. Readers need to know the site exists and will cater to their reading habits.
Fortunately, none of this has any impact on my e-books.

My e-books are still up on Scribd, and haven't been in Select in two years, or Unlimited ever. Three of Mom's short stories are in both programs on Amazon. 'The Secret of Aleworthy Acres' is free today and tomorrow on Select. 'Character Flaw' was supposed to come out, not sure how I missed that. 'Shelter from the Storm' was free two weeks ago. It had a pathetic free run of 12 downloads in two days.

'The Secret of Aleworthy Acres' had 11 d/ls already today. So it's doing a bit better than the other two.

I'm not sure where I'm going to release the next short story. I've put a lot of time and effort into it. It's a sweet, senior romance, and I've been toying with the idea of putting it up on Smashwords as a pre-order.

Ninety days is too long when my main markets are somewhere else.

PS - Please buy my Mom's e-books. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Scribd Shoots Off Own Foot?

This just came off the Smashwords blog:
Scribd, the fast-growing ebook subscription service, today announced dramatic cuts to their catalog of romance and erotica titles.

Effective immediately, I (Mark Coker) estimate 80-90 percent of Smashwords romance and erotica titles will be dropped by Scribd, including nearly all of our most popular romance titles.  Books priced at free are safe and will remain in their catalog.

Based on what I've been able to glean, the lower the price and the higher the word count, the better the odds the book will remain.  Few books priced $3.99 and above will remain.  Scribd is not publicly revealing the formulas for what stays and what goes, probably because much of this is still in flux. They're cutting all publishers and distributors with the same blunt knife.

It's ugly.  The problem for Scribd is that romance readers are heavy readers, and Scribd pays publishers retailer-level margins for the books.  In a letter to publishers and distributors delivered earlier today, Scribd said:
Dear Publisher

As you know, in starting Scribd, we bore the majority of the risk when establishing a business model that paid publishers the same amount as the retail model for each book read by a Scribd subscriber. Now, nearly two years later, the Scribd catalog has grown from 100,000 titles to more than one million. We’re proud of the service we’ve built and we’re constantly working to expand the selection across genres to give our readers the broadest possible list of books for $8.99 per month.

We’ve grown to a point where we are beginning to adjust the proportion of titles across genres to ensure that we can continue to expand the overall size and variety of our service. We will be making some adjustments, particularly to romance, and as a result some previously available titles may no longer be available.

We look forward to continuing to grow subscribers, increase overall reading, and increase total publisher payouts in a way that works for everyone over the long term. We of course want to keep as many of your authors and titles on Scribd as we can, so we’d love to discuss our plans and how we can best work with you going forward.

Thank you for your business.

Bottom line, romance readers - readers we love dearly at Smashwords - are reading Scribd out of house and home.  Scribd's business model, as it's set up now, simply can't sustain the high readership of romance readers.  They're not facing the same problem with readers of other genres.
WoW! Read the rest HERE

Never thought I would see this.

Okay, I admit I've never been a fan of Erotica. I've slammed them as pornographers and rolled my eyes when Erotic authors brag about their earnings.

I've already noted that B&N weighs the rank of Smashwords titles by about 100k points. They've done that for years now.

But I never, ever thought I was going to see this.

I don't know if Swallow The Moon and Let's Do Lunch will be affected. Both are short and under $3.99. Neither of them is going to Scribd via Smashwords. (*Which doesn't matter, D2D sent out a similar notice. The difference is they aren't looking at 90% of their catalog.)

I'm going to test the links. Yes, the books are still up.

Perhaps I will get a few more sales because of this. But I'm not going to hold my breath. This is a very, very strange thing to watch happen.


There have been rumors that the purge is aimed at the content, but I've also been told that Erotica has never been part of the subscription service. So I raise an eyebrow at Mark's assertion that the Erotica titles are going too.

Perhaps we will never know why this is happening.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Points To Ponder

As I withdraw from the World of Social Media, I'm feeling less stressed. I've stopped lurking on every writer's site on the web, and I'm getting more active around the house. As a person with an addictive personality, I find that I've been addicted to being online. 

I'm sure that my attempt to liquidate #TheHoard will pull me offline quite a bit. It might be enough to shake it off.

I'm making quite a bit of progress with the latest short story. It's twice as long as what I started with, Mom didn't do dialog. I've centered it in the Harbor, where I believe she intended it to take place.  I've decided NOT to release it via Amazon, Select/Unlimited -- as I have with the recent e-books,

Since Amazon announced changes to it's Select/Unlimited programs, I've taken a long hard look at my results.

Frankly, from where I stand, Amazon is no longer a viable market.

Two days of freebies resulted in 12 d/ls for "Shelter From The Storm" last weekend. Two days for "Character Flaw" gave 2 d/ls, 1 a day.

I can do better than that on both B&N and Apple's iBooks and get a few sales on other e-books after the giveaway.

It's time for me to drop out of Select/Unlimited for good.

Oh, and PS - buy my books. :-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Sky Is Falling! Kindle Select Pays By The Page

First of all, I need a Puppy Break.

Aren't they cute? That's Trouble (with the slipper in his mouth) and Mocha the Great Watch'em Dog.

Now that my breathing has returned to normal - let's talk about Amazon's newest program in Kindle unlimited. The Blogosphere would have us think it was designed to make us Indie Writers insane.

Remember, these changes only apply to e-books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Look at the puppies, and breath. (Make sure Carole isn't around.)

My mother's Short Stories are released in Kindle Select. Usually I put them in Select, wait a week, crank out all the free days and when the 90 days are up, I go ahead and release them from captivity.

I do that to give them a boost. I might get 1 or 2 halo sales, but not too many.

So I understand why ANY changes are making other people crazy. The whole WORLD is in chaos! The economy stinks, mad-men with guns are walking into churches and killing middle-class citizens, Steven Colbert has vanished and Jon Stewart is quitting. (Ulp, back to the puppies.)

The fact that Publishing Bloggers, like The Little Red Hen, are screaming "THE SKY IS FALLING!" doesn't help me a bit.

It's okay, really, it's all click-bait.

Look at the puppies. (Carole isn't around, it's safe.)

Maybe Amazon is trying to lure the Novelists back to Select/Unlimited. If that's true, then it's going to pay to be a Novelist again. At $0.60 a borrow, Select and Unlimited don't pay a lot, so longer works shouldn't be trapped in the system.

I used Select when it first came out, hit the Amazon UK Best Seller's List and rode that pony for 10 long and lovely weeks. Then the algorithm changed, and that pony didn't go as fast or as far after that. My work settled deep in the mulch layer, and has never been able to dig it's way out. Yikes!

Here's another pretty face:

That's Grumpy, in full length fur. Ain't he squee-worthy?

We work hard for our sales. Some people have success, others don't. It really sucks to go from Best Seller to micro-seller. But that's what happened to me. When Amazon changed over to Kindle Unlimited, my sales tanked. I went six months without one damn sale on Amazon.

Publishing is a craps-shoot. It's worse than D-n-D. You roll the dice, pay the price and there's nothing in the world that will give you a +1 bonus.

The Honeymoon is long gone.

For me, the advantage, when there was one, of releasing Mom's short stories to Select/Unlimited is pretty much gone. Amazon's lowest price, $0.99 yields $0.35, which is better than $0.01 or $0.10. With an average of 12 d/ls for 2 free days, no halo sales and no lift in sale's rank, why wait 90 days to hit a dozen more markets?

I can get a better run on Apple's iBook with either Smashwords or D2D, WITH halo sales and a bump in sales rank.

The playing field levels out.

For a rational examination of Amazon's new policy, I recommend this post The Great Amazon Hysterian...Part 31 by David Gaughran. 

For a gentle scolding if you've already become hysterical Elizabeth Hunter posted this gem: For Indie Writers: You Have The Control. Own it!

PS - Please buy my books.*

* (They say Barry Eisler ends his posts with 'Buy my crap.' I figured 'what the hell?')

Dawns The Light

Last night a some of our local authors gathered together for a Meet-&-Greet, it was a small gathering, like the Reading on Saturday.

The wonderful thing was we got to put our heads together and share information.

It freaks me out when someone says they can't afford to publish a book because it costs thousands of dollars. I realize that communication, between writers, isn't as lightening fast as email.

It is easy to forget that I'm plugged into the World of Indie Publishing in ways that other people aren't. The hundred or so hours I've spent every week since 2009, learning all I can, is stuck in my head. (It wants out.) I want to pay it forward, and haven't had a clue on how to do it.

My books rode the cutting edge for a few sweet, fleeting, weeks, and dropped into the mulch layer, like thousands of books before and after mine.

I see myself as a micro-publisher, on the fringes of a vast industry that doesn't know that my itty-bitty company exists.

I live in a region full of talented writers. The more I hear and see the work of others, the more in awe I become.

These books are incredible.

On Saturday I heard four authors who wrote completely different genre, in different styles, and they all touched me with the quality and craftsmanship of their books.

Craftswomanship is a better term for Saturday, but yesterday there were two guys there, and they were craftsmen, too.*

These authors and their books don't belong in the Mulch Layer. The bookstore that was kind enough to host us should get recognition as well as the gallery/pub who hosted us last night. There are supporting craftswomen and craftsmen, editors, proofreaders, cover artists toiling in obscurity who deserve some kind of recognition.

Together, we can achieve, or ascend, to heights we can't reach alone.

It's a matter of finding the way to dig ourselves out of the mulch layer.

This blog might make a good starting point.

* Gender is such a sticking point. Using either pronoun leaves out half the population. Using both sounds stilted. (sigh) I'm gonna use both.

Monday, June 22, 2015

New Cover For 'The Emissary'

My proof of the new book cover came today. I'm pleased to say that I approved it and ordered a number of copies.

We have another event tomorrow, however, I'm almost out of books.

I'm Pleased With D2D Today!

Remember a couple days ago, when I mentioned that 'The Emissary - Journey' had a higher rank on Draft 2 Digital than 'Impressive Bravado' did via Smashwords, that was also a freebie and being d/led briskly on iBooks and B&N?

Check this out:

Product Details
BN ID: 2940152209761
Publisher: Icy Road Publishing
Publication date: 7/14/2013
Series: Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse, #1
Sold by: Draft2Digital
Format: eBook
Sales rank: 93,410
File size: 3 MB

Product Details
BN ID: 2940011320446
Publisher: Icy Road Publishing
Publication date: 5/17/2011
Sold by: Smashwords
Format: eBook
Sales rank: 113,405
File size: 2 MB

Crazy! Isn't it?

The D2D file has 22 d/ls on Barnes and Noble in two months, when 'Impressive Bravado' is just 2 e-books behind, but has been free since 2014. 

Yet 'Impressive Bravado' is still ranked 113k, after a year or more of 8 to 10 d/l a month.

'Impressive Bravado' is doing really well as a freebie on iBooks and iTunes with 47 d/ls last month and 60 in April. There's the prologue and first chapter of The Emissary inside it. The highest monthly d/l for the year is 87.

Of course, since they're both free I've missed out on $200 in royalties. But if they weren't free...I'd get zip anyways. (rolling eyes) That's just how the publishing cookie crumbles.

Visibility -- there just doesn't seem to be any way to pull myself out of the mulch layer and into the bottom-tier of the mid-list. 

I've been kicking the tires on the ideas for the Icy Road Publishing mailing list. I sold a buncha fence posts the other day, I'm hoping it will cover getting some help with the Mailing List. 

I'm going to see if my writer friends want to share email addresses for a slot on the August Newsletter. I'm thinking Drew, Juliet, D. A., Briget and Debra might be interested. (The links are to their books on Amazon.)

We need a thousand addresses by Christmas. So we can send out a New Year's Special Edition to kick off Reading Season.

There's so MANY talented authors around here, and we ALL need a break.

It seems that a co-op mailing list is the way to go.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Draft 2 Digital - Update

I'm pleased to say that I'm getting some results from Draft 2 Digital.

I've had books on the site for two years now, and had ZERO sales. But I'm a bit more than frustrated with Smashwords. Half of my frustration is their content, every pornographer in the world uses them, the other half is the fact they hold earnings for 3 months before they pay.

So I switched over to D2D. They post faster, and the books appear to have better visibility. (They aren't being filtered for content, which helps.)

The results are encouraging.

My B&N downloads of free books are double what they were from Smashwords. Or at least the reporting is twice as fast. On Smashwords I get one or two d/l of Impressive Bravado a day, but The Emissary might as well be invisible.

On D2D, I've already had 20 d/l of The Emissary this month.

Why the difference?

Content filtering, is my guess. As Smashwords panders to the pornographic, B&N is forced to blanket filter their content - it all goes into the mulch layer and stays there. They don't have time to sort it, so it all gets about 10k 'points' added to the rank to keep it from dominating the charts.

Since D2D doesn't carry that content, the files have an even chance of being seen, which is a BIG boost to a small-fry like myself.

Why do I say this? Impressive Bravado (via Smashwords) has been a steady give-away on B&N for 3 years, it has a rank of 113k. The Emissary, Smashwords version, is invisible. I can't find it with a simple search. However, the D2D version is sitting pretty with a rank of 101k.

My work has always sold better on B&N than on Amazon. Smaller venue, better chance to be seen. But the NookPress website offers no advantage, and is being curated by Author Solutions; of all the drek vanity publishers in the world, Author Solutions, under all it's aliases, is the worst.

Unfortunately, I can't close the NookPress account, just like with KoboWritingLife, there's no way to close the account as an author and no way to get your money out if you have them do it. (Both sites have owed me $9 for years, I'll never see that money.)

In case you are curious, I'll clarify my methods. I uploaded all my short fiction to D2D two years ago, where it did nothing. I've been getting a smattering of d/ls of freebies on Smashwords, but only about $10 of sales per year. (Most of those were Sony Sales.) This February I uploaded Mom's short stories to D2D, made a couple of hers free and one of mine (Impressive Bravado) her's started to get some action when I re-did the covers.

The Emissary started getting hits on B&N via D2D with the new cover. I couldn't even FIND the Smashwords version on B&N, so I pulled it. They report 2 months in arrears on Smashwords, while D2D has promised to report daily starting yesterday.

Oh, what a difference a day made.

I'm showing 11 d/ls of The Emissary in May and 10 for June. The Emissary has FINALLY been discovered on B&N!

I'm handling the switch-over very carefully. First, I've raised all Smashwords prices to $.99. I'm handling all the freebies via D2D. Then I started pulling all the Smashwords files from vendors who have hooked up with both companies.

The wild card is Apple, currently my best vendor for Impressive Bravado. Switching over to Apple has proven trickier. First off, they require ISBNs from Smashwords. However, they do not appear to require ISBNs from D2D.

I may not switch over on Apple. Upsetting the Apple-cart is not in my best interest. We'll see what happens with freebies vs dollar-dreadful on Apple.

If I can start making money on Apple, I'll leave Smashwords alone.

IMO Kobo is a black-hole. Kobo is a black-hole even if you have an account in Writing Life. I've found it impossible to get any ACCURATE sales information out of them since Day 1. (Shrug) They never update covers, or files, or prices and they never pay.

Meanwhile, I earn a dollar or two from Amazon each month.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to make this announcement: I'm pulling out of the e-book business at the end of 2015. 

I had two books hit the Best Seller's List - it was fantastic - but it didn't last. Since 2012 my best month was $14 last year. I can't justify all the time I spend online for zero return.

I'm going to finish up all the current projects in time for the Winter Reading Season, in my spare time. I'm pulling e-books from every market that has zero return at the end of 2015.

I intend to get rid of The Hoard, get Talbot Hill sold and get a Real Life.