Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Publishers to get stranglehold on Amazon Kindle sales?

I think Stephen Leather is right (see my last post, Sunset or sunrise on the Indie Summer). The Indie Summer may be over. What made me come to this conclusion, apart from my own drop in sales? This article in The Bookseller, Amazon readying October Kindle offer. Let me quote: has asked publishers for discounts of 90% on titles in order to participate in an October Kindle promotion.

The campaign is due to run from 17th to 31st October inclusively. Amazon has told publishers this will be the "main focus for our merchandising efforts during this period", and would be supported with emails, on Facebook, and via Twitter. It has asked for new frontlist as well as key backlist titles.

Of course, publishers are grumbling about this - they hate to reduce their prices, and have spent the last year coming up with specious arguments as to why an e-book should cost as much as a paperback, in spite of savings on paper, print, transport, storage and the pulping of remaindered books. But I'll bet they were pleasantly surprised by the profits they made during Amazon's Twelve Days of Kindle, Spring Spectacular and Summer Sale. Amazon wants to encourage them to produce more and better products (many mainstream books' formatting is poor) at a lower price.

At the start of this year, along with other self-published books, Remix was featured on Amazon's promotional pages. This gave it a huge boost. The same hasn't happened with Replica, nor have I noticed any other indie books being promoted recently. This may be because there are now many more trad published books available. And the algorithm tweaks, which made rankings less 'sticky' and changed the recommendation system have hit our sales particularly, as we don't have the marketing opportunities big publishers do.

It's not a conspiracy. I don't think Amazon has anything against self-published books. Amazon constantly seeks ways to improve its selling and profit, and indie sales are just collateral damage. But it's kind of depressing to suspect that within another year, big publishers will have established the same stranglehold over digital that they have always enjoyed over print.

Once more, the authors they reject will have no way of reaching readers, and readers will not have access to some books they would have loved.

I do hope I am wrong about this.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Sunset or sunrise on the Indie Summer?

Stephen  Leather, 19th September 2011, UK Amazon Forum:
"I think a lot of 'Indie' writers are going to find the times ahead quite difficult. Most don't really understand how publishing works and have had their hopes and ambitions raised by the sudden interest in eBooks which started late last year. But the simple fact of publishing remains the same - very very few writers make a living from their writing. It has always been that way and just because companies like Amazon make it easy for anyone to publish their work doesn't change that fact.

A lot of Indies thought that because they were selling lots of books at the start of this year that they now had a guaranteed income stream and that they would be earning money for ever more. That's not how publishing works. It doesn't work that way with paperbacks and people are starting to realise that it doesn't work that way with eBooks either. Most of the books that were in the Top 10 at the start of the year are now selling just a few copies a day. Writers who were heading the bestseller lists in the spring are now lucky if they have a book in the Top 100. And by next year most will have dropped out of the Top 1000. Books come, and they go. So do writers. It has always been a precarious way of earning a living and that hasn't changed!

What we have seen over the past year isn't so much a revolution as a bubble. The bubble isn't going to pop, but it is now deflating slowly and will continue to do so, and my prediction is that once everything has settled the eBook bestseller lists will be dominated by the same names that top the print lists. Just my humble opinion...."

Mark Williams, 11th September 2011:
"Fully one third of the top 500 ebooks on Amazon are indie-published. That means that the trad publishers, with all their money, their professional resources and their years of expertise, their huge marketing budgets and their acclaimed ability to know what readers want to read, combined with long-published names that have loyal followings built up over decades, can only manage to hold 66% of the market.

Indie publishers, on their own, often complete beginners, unknown names with no following, no resources and a shoestring budget, are mopping up 33% of the ebook market. And that can only get bigger.

How on Earth can totally inexperienced indie authors, most with day-jobs, just come along and outsell the experts? Here’s why: The success of the indie e-publisher is based on their ability to be flexible; to price low; to offer quick turnaround; and to engage directly with readers and deliver what the readers  actually want to read, not what the gatekeepers think readers should be reading."

So who is right?
Speaking from my own experience, just when I expected to sell more - the two month Amazon Summer Sale is over, and I've published two new books - my sales have slowed dramatically. I am not alone; it seems to be happening to most other indie writers. See this thread here on Kindleboards. The consensus is that Amazon has tweaked its algorithms twice this year, back in spring and about a week ago, each change incidentally making it a less favourable marketplace for the self-published, and better for the big publishers.

Publishing is still in a state of turmoil, though, and the fat lady sings on. Pottermore, due to launch next month, will be a game changer. Agents and publishers feel beleaguered, and with good reason. Indies have got a taste of freedom and success, and will never again feel quite so abject towards the publishing industry.

For me, the last year has enabled me to prove there is a readership for my writing, and cock a snook (whatever that may be) at all the agents who rejected my novels. I've sold over 44,000 books, and made quite a bit of money. Even if it is all downhill from now on, I'll be eternally grateful for the opportunities Amazon gave me.

Friday, 16 September 2011

I've published my first two fantasy novels...

I finally decided to publish for Kindle the first two novels I wrote, Torbrek...and the Dragon Variation and Trav Zander. 

I hesitated because they are such a different genre from Remix and Replica. Difficult to pin down what they are precisely - in fact, the way I generally describe them is fantasy for readers who don't usually like fantasy. For one thing, the characters talk like normal people instead of in that stiff archaic way so common in fantasy fiction. The setting is medieval with dragons, but no magic or elves. Especially not elves. They are suitable for any age reader from young adult upwards.

One of my favourite comments came from Steven Cudahy: "I love the characters. You seem to have managed to create a set of people halfway between Lord Of The Rings and Monty Python's Holy Grail."

I'm looking forward to seeing what the new gatekeepers, readers, think of them.

Torbrek...and the Dragon Variation UK 99p, US $0.99

Trav Zander UK 99p, US $0.99

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Just Fiction Edition scam

Today I got this email:

Dear Ms Revellian, 

I am writing on behalf of a new international publishing house, JustFiction! Edition. 

In the course of a web-research I came across a reference of your manuscript TRAV ZANDER and it has caught my attention. 

We are a publisher recognized worldwide, whose aim it is to help talented but international yet unknown authors to publish their manuscripts supported by our experience of publishing and to make their writing available to a wider audience. 

JustFiction! Edition would be especially interested in publishing your manuscript as an e-book and in the form of a printed book and all this at no cost to you, of course. 

If you are interested in a co-operation I would be glad to send you an e-mail with further information in an attachment.

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Kind regards 

Evelyn Davis
Acquisition Editor

Lots of writers have received similar emails recently. Go to Just Fiction's website and it's curiously vague about the details of what is on offer should you sign up with them. Check out Writer Beware and you will find it most likely appropriates your rights forever and pays you 10% royalty - extremely stingy for ebooks, even by publishing standards.

It's a sad fact these days that if a publisher expresses interest in your novel off his own bat, it is almost certainly a scam. Don't be flattered, do be suspicious. You can do better than this on your own.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Revenge of the Rejected

Anyone who has tried to get a publishing deal knows it's currently harder than ever. If you succeed, the advance is likely to be small and the contract all-inclusive ( just in case something unforeseen like holograms or brain implants become the dominant format some time in the future.) I've speculated before that all this rejected talent may come back to bite the publishing industry on the bottom, and with so many indie books in the Kindle charts, I think there is now evidence this is happening.

It's easy to say when JK Rowling chose to e-publish Harry Potter herself via Pottermore that with her money and clout, she can do what the rest of us can't. But there's more. Mostly in America, publishers have picked up the best-selling indies - at a price. (If they'd had the wit to sign Amanda Hocking when she was submitting the year before, they'd have got her for much less than the two million dollars they paid.) Barry Eisler turned down half a million dollars from St Martins to stay indie. John Locke, a prolific and successful indie writer, has just signed a deal with Simon & Schuster. But it's a pretty unusual deal - it's just for print books. He retains ebook rights.

No eager publisher has contacted me. But in the unlikely event of this happening, would I be interested? I'd love a print-only deal that would get my novels into the bookshops, and handle foreign and film rights for me. This is improbable, though; I imagine they'd want full control, with a modest advance of five or ten thousand - and I've earned more than that on my own in one year of self-publishing. Add the loss of control, a delay of eighteen months before publication, and paper book sales dropping all the time as digital rise, and I'd feel a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

Bob Mayer, a New York Times best selling author, has been approached three times in the past month by trad authors asking him how ebooks work. He says, "Frankly, I don’t think anyone in NY Publishing really understands the big picture of ebook publishing from writer to reader." I'm not sure they get the small picture, either. Inexcusably, some formatting is  carelessly done. I often notice blurbs on Amazon for mainstream published ebooks with duplications, stray bits of HTML, or missing punctuation. Sometimes the author's page is left blank. When I told an author friend I'd noticed mistakes in his blurb, he said that was the responsibility of the marketing department, and it was difficult to get them to change things.

So: we have good books the public wants to read being rejected by publishers. Midlist authors are treated badly by their publishers. Bookshops are struggling, closing or changing hands. A growing indie movement has proved astonishingly successful over the last year. Writers and readers have more choice and opportunity.

Vive la ré