Sunday, December 26, 2010

How to get Reviews?

I’d like to say this is going to be a handy post full of tips and tricks, but in reality it’s a question that’s vexed me of late.

To be honest, in my naivety, I thought it was something that just happened. You put the book out, and then crossed your fingers and hoped people would write nice things about it.

Actually, I wasn’t so bothered about hearing the nice things. I was waiting to see the reaction of anyone picking the book up thinking it was another one of those paranormal romances that are so popular at the moment. Juvenile, I know. I think it’s a horror writer thing—that impish desire to shock and catch people off guard. Yeah, the cover might look sweet and innocuous—look, she’s wearing a Santa hat, how cute is that?—but within beats a dark and twisted heart.

I’m very much a traditionalist when it comes to my horror. Anyone expecting sparkly vamps or magical girlfriend succubi is in for a rude shock.

At least there’s plenty of hot sex to enjoy before the shocks show up.

It’s a dumb thought really. Anyone looking for another Twilight or Georgina Kincaid isn’t going to waste time writing reviews on or even reading a book that isn’t what they’re after and written by someone they’ve never heard of. Most likely they’ll read a few pages, decide it’s not for them, put the book down and move onto something else. There are a lot of other books out there after all.

Those plans to terrorize the eXcessica review list—not happening I’m afraid, Mr Hydra.

Which is probably a good thing. Reviews are a double-edged sword. When we say we want reviews, what we mean is we want good reviews. A one star on amazon is likely far far worse than nothing at all.

The silence (not quite complete – thanks Siren Book Reviews!) is a little disconcerting. I guess that’s part and parcel of taking those first toddling steps. I’m not the pushy type when it comes to self promotion, preferring to let my words and stories do the talking, but that’s a luxury that can’t be afforded when the hard part is getting people to read the words in the first place. There’s an art to that and it’s something I need to learn (without pissing people off along the way!). The Draculas experiment was something I watched with interest.

So, anyway, if the ebook whets your interest and you’d like to write nice things about it either on your blog or on amazon, feel free to contact me at manyeyedhydra at googlemail dot com. I’m sure I can probably rustle up a review copy.

(Now is this what I’m supposed be doing or pissing people off...)

M.E. Hydra

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our girl Muriel….

The woman on this cover I’ve nicknamed. Muriel. She’s been around a bit. I reckon I’ve seen her on a dozen covers already – mine/Penn’s included. Muriel’s picture makes me ask these questions –

1. Are cover artists basically busy/lazy and grab the first image that fits?
2. Are there too many novice e-book cover makers out there with limited to no imagination?
3. Are publishers paying the right people enough to do cover art or are they relying on paying people/authors, who think they have talent, dirt cheap?
4. Is Muriel on special – by that I mean is she cheap – like 0.75 cents a download?
5. Do women want to be tied up?
6. Are we all writing the same story and should we be tied up?
7. Do readers give a crap about the cover?
8. Do publishers give a crap about their readers?
9. Has publishing lost touch with reality or does reality no longer matter with so many small presses out there all trying to make a buck so screw quality?

Yes, yes, I know there are some very good covers artists out there who know what they’re doing and they strive to look beyond the obviousness of Muriel. They are indeed Artists by trade. The other patch-and-paste-four men-and-one-woman-in-a row-to-let-everyone-know-one-heroine-is-going-to-be-lucky-with-multiple-lovers cover people? I can’t stand disjointed covers that look like someone has cut out figures from a magazine for a school project. My opinion? They’re not artists. They’re making money with scissors and glue pots and good luck to them. But that’s not artistic. And yes, e-book romances are not real but can we at least have covers where the characters look like they may actually know each other?

Oh, and don’t get me started on cover hacks who read buxom and overweight on a cover request and see it as thin and emaciated….

Amarinda Jones
Penn Halligan
Be an Amarinda book

Monday, December 13, 2010

#4 “I Have Broken Smashwords” or “Yes, You Will Eff Up”

Good morning, kids. Today we continue in the my own little self publishing saga where I discuss some key points for hocking your wares to (unsuspecting) valued customers. Point number four is rather simple if you ask me. It regards those little sections marked CONTACT US FOR HELP/CONTACT US/or just HELP on the sites where you wish to sell you work.

The average human will jump through flaming hoops before clicking that button. Something about us does not want to admit defeat/lack of comprehension/hardship. Do NOT be that person. If you need help when considering a site to load your work—or if you experience issues while loading—CLICK. THAT. BUTTON.

Yes, yes, I have broken Smashwords more than once (or so I thought). The first time I tried to load a book, that thing that shows progress just went spinspinspinspin (for all eternity) for a very, very long time. Abnormally long. And then it gave me an error. I tried again. Finally, I contacted Smashwords via the handy dandy help link and it turns out that .rtf files can cause a snafu whereas .doc files are much easier for Smashwords’ tummy to digest. Simply switching out one document type for another made for easy going.

I never would have known that handy dandy tidbit had I not bitten the proverbial bullet and asked for help. Something normally very difficult for me. However, this is your business—your self publishing—and as a good business person, you need to explore all avenues to get the job done. So click it. It doesn’t hurt and there is no charge and no, you have not broken Smashwords.

Funnily enough—this seems to be a common phenomena—the ‘breaking’ of Smashwords. I got a phone call from a friend a few months after I first put work up on Smashwords. It was her first go at the site. It went like this:


“I’ve broken Smashworrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrds.”

And it wasn’t just the big meat grinder for words I have thrown a monkey wrench into. I have broken Bookstrand and All Romance Ebooks too. And hunh—who’d have thunk it—they also have very kind and patient folks on the other end of the help link/email link that will help you unbreak their system and get you where you need to go.

I spent hours one time on Bookstrand going back and forth with the help person. I was frustrated, but I imagine he was literally weeping on the other end of the internet (because it is finite like a phone line, dontcha know? Well, at least in my head, it is) as he continued getting my panic stricken, typo riddled emails at rapid fire pace, but in the end we prevailed. And now…I can upload a file to Bookstrand while simultaneously packing a lunch and singing Yankee Doodle Dandee.

My point? Ask for help! Yes, you will eff up. You will make mistakes. This is to be expected. Everyone makes mistakes whilst trying to navigate this self-publishing passage. But go ahead and let someone help you. It’s okay, no one will point or laugh and in the end you’ll have a better understanding of what you need to do. Those folks are there to help you. Let them do their job.

Come back next month when I tackle There. That's better.

p.s. due to current issues with Amazon, I encourage you to read the posts below this one

Amazon in the Book Banning Business

On December 9, 2010, I was contacted by CreateSpace (Amazon’s Print on Demand service) who publishes my print books. They informed me that my title, Back to the Garden, had been removed for violating their “content guidelines.” When I consulted their guidelines I found them so vague as to be useless—were they saying my content was illegal? Public domain? Stolen? Offensive? (All of these were on the list). When I inquired as to the specifics of the violation, they were not forthcoming, and sent a form letter response stating that Amazon “may, in its sole discretion, at any time, refuse to list or distribute any content that it deems inappropriate.”

On Sunday, December 12, the print title that had been removed had now disappeared from the Kindle store, as well as two of my other titles, Naughty Bits and Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed. I have over fifty titles selling on Amazon, all of them in erotic fiction categories. The only thing these three singled-out titles had in common, besides being written by me—they were all erotic incest fantasy fiction.

About this time, I heard that two other authors, Jess C. Scott and Esmerelda Green, both had erotic incest-related titles removed from Amazon's site. After some research, I discovered one of Frances Gaines Bennett’s incest-related books had also been removed. As the night wore on, and public outcry about censorship and banned books began on Twitter at #amazonfail and #amazoncensors and on their own Kindle Boards, more and more incest-related erotica titles began to disappear from the Amazon site, so that the “Kindle Incest” search page began to look like swiss cheese. Teleread covered the story soon after.

When some of my readers began checking their Kindle archives for books of mine they’d purchased on Amazon, they found them missing from their archives. When one reader called to get a refund for the book she no longer had access to, she was chastised by the Amazon customer service representative about the “severity” of the book she’d chosen to purchase. 

As of this writing, Amazon has refused to respond to my emails or phone calls in regards to this matter and has refused to further clarify what, if any, content guidelines the books in question violate. If Amazon had clear guidelines that were applied to all publishers across every platform and enforced them consistently, this would be a moot issue. By not clearly stating their position and choosing books either arbitrarily or based on searches of top-rated titles which are the most visible titles in the genre, they seem to be deliberately hiding a clear case of discrimination and what amounts to censorship (albeit ipso facto) because of their lack of transparency.

I want to be clear that while the subject of incest may not appeal to some, there is no underage contact in any of my work, and I make that either explicitly clear in all my stories or I state it up front in the book's disclaimer. I don't condone or support actual incest, just as someone who writes mysteries about serial killers wouldn't condone killing. What I write is fiction. It's fantasy, not reality. And I'm not saying what I write isn't controversial, but it's not illegal (at least in some states) or a threat to national security, and seems as undeserving of censorship as... well...

As fellow author, Will Belegon, noted, if Amazon is going to start pulling books with incest in them: "I just re-read Genesis 19: 30-38 and realized that Lot's daughters got him drunk, had sex with him and bore sons. I demand you follow your clear precedent and remove The Bible from Kindle."

Or perhaps Amazon should create a new television ad after they follow their clear precedent and ban the book the woman is reading in the advertisement on her Kindle ("Sleepwalking" by Amy Bloom) which tells the story of a 19-year-old boy who has a sexual encounter with his stepmother, which, in some states, is legally incest.

While it can be said that, for an author or celebrity, any press (including bad press) is good press, for a bookseller and publisher, that does not necessarily hold true. Can Amazon afford the bad press about book removal which may spark outcries from many corners, including self-publishing authors, the fastest-growing segment of their Kindle ebook distribution?

In speculating on the motivations of Amazon’s actions, as they have not been forthcoming with any statement or explanation, I am concerned that they may be acting out of reactionary fear. This may be based on pressure from a small number of vocal and complaining conservative and/or religious right extremists who object to and are afraid of sexual fantasies and erotic printed material (including incest fantasies). It may also be based on threatening governmental pressure related to the recently removed WikiLeaks. More speculation may point to overzealous lawyering as Amazon moves from just-distributor and bookseller to publisher.

While I am not a lawyer, constitutional scholar or legal expert on free speech and intellectual freedom, I am an author and publisher and know that, regardless of the technical legalities of Amazon's actions, buckling to this pressure and the removal of books will hurt their bottom line. It will damage relationships with readers, authors, publishers and organizations such as the American Library Association and the ACLU, among others, who are interested in supporting free speech. I should also note that I am a professional psychologist and, while no longer licensed or working in the field, it’s clear that when individuals and organizations fail to recognize the difference between fantasy and reality, problems such as this result.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

After the Starting Gun

Hmm, one definite piece of advice:

Finish the manuscript for the forthcoming book before your first book comes out and you need to pimp it online like a madman.

I have a personal blog for promoting my own work. Letting it go completely silent the month after my first book goes out because I’m frantically trying to get a third manuscript finished in time for next Halloween is not what you’d call ideal marketing strategy. Self promotion—not my strong point.

Anyway, let’s pretend it’s actually really November 17th, my usual blogging spot, and I’ll continue with my thoughts and experiences on finally getting my first book out there.

For me this is huge. It’s something I’ve wanted to achieve all my life. Then one morning you wake up and your book is available for the world (well, lots of) to buy on Amazon.

I remember some very useful advice from one of eXcessica's experienced authors to another first time author in a similar position to me. “Expect it to be anti-climactic.”

I’d also add: “Be prepared for the silence.”

That’s the scary part, tossing something you’ve laboured lovingly over for the past few months out into the great black void of the internet and then waiting in vain for something, anything, to come back.

This is where Amazon’s little ranking stat is both a curse and a godsend. Watching that value spiral down into the millions doesn’t exactly do wonders for the ego, but that’s balanced out by the nice little ding! I feel every time the number jumps back up and I know that someone somewhere bought a copy of my book.

Obviously, it would be better if the ranking was high enough so that I couldn’t see each sale as it came in, but I’m realistic enough to know it’ll take time and probably a great dollop of good luck before I get there, if at all. In the meantime I’ll smile over my breadcrumbs and keep working on building up the backlist.

M.E. Hydra

Sunday, December 5, 2010

E-zines - what editors want...

Well, I’ll tell you what I look for from an editorial standpoint.  When I read Allegory e-zine submissions, I want the television and my children and my husband to fade into the distance.  I want to be so engrossed in the story that dinner burns and we have to order out.  I want that first line to catch me in the snare and drag me through the story as if you, the writer, have my hand in a death grip and are racing through the streets at mach speed.  In essence, I want to be blown away.
Give me emotion, and action, and a plot that isn’t predictable.  I want the story to unfold before my eyes. I do not want to be told what’s happening at every turn.    I want to know how the characters react to the situation – not just in their heads, but physically – viscerally.  I want the flow to make sense, stimulus then response - in that order, because if not, it dilutes the impact.   
I want to laugh, or cry, or shiver with anticipation, and I believe this is what every editor wants regardless of the genre.
So how do you as the writer accomplish this?
Well, let’s take a deeper look at a couple items I hit on above.  First - Stimulus / Response. 
Let me give you an example of what I mean.  Think about when someone jumps out of a hiding place to scare you. (Stimulus)   
What happens first?
You jump, your heart skips a beat, you yelp in surprise - all visceral reactions / initial responses. 
Then your mind registers what’s going on and emotions roll in.  Relief or anger or fear depending on whether the situation is a joke or not. 
What happens next? 
You laugh, or scowl at the joke, or swing at an attacker, or turn tail and run.
All of this happens within seconds, but the order is always the same – it’s a natural progression of emotional response and needs to be in the right order to reach the reader on a subliminal level.  
Here’s a couple examples, one that’s out of sequence and the other that’s in the proper order and you tell me which one has more impact: 
1.        She opened the door and yelped, her heart lurched in her chest.  “What are you doing?”She shrieked at the man with the mask who jumped in front of her and she took a step back.     

2.       She opened the door and a man wearing a mask jumped in front of her.  With her heart lurching in her chest, she yelped and took a step back. “What are you doing?”She shrieked.
For me, the second paragraph makes more sense.  It still isn’t as powerful as it could be, but it’s better than the first one.   
Now let’s take a gander at the second point I want to touch on… Visceral Reactions. 
Looking at the example above – when someone jumps out of a hiding place to scare you, what physical reactions happen first?
You jump, your heart skips a beat, stops, or pounds in your chest, your stomach drops like you took a dive off a skyscraper, you might even pee in your pants a little - all visceral reactions – physical reactions to stimulus that can’t be controlled.   
Writing visceral reactions in a fresh way and avoiding clich├ęs is a key component in reaching your readers on a subliminal level. 
Here’s the better of the two stimulus/response examples above:
3.       She opened the door and a man wearing a mask jumped in front of her.  With her heart lurching in her chest, she yelped and took a step back. “What are you doing?”She shrieked.

Let’s take this a step further and get some fresh visceral reactions in here to make the read more compelling:

4.        She opened the door and a man wearing a mask jumped in front of her.  Her heart slammed against her ribcage in a staccato beat that would challenge even Jimmy Sullivan’s drumming skills.  She took a step back, distancing herself from the intruder when his laugh cut through the air, sending shivers up her spine to the base of her neck, where they bunched and turned her muscles to liquid.  “What are you doing?” She shrieked, her voice breathy and shaking with fear.
I used three visceral reactions in the passage above.  For me, the second paragraph has much more impact than the first.  Now, let’s see what you can do with the same scenario… 
Thanks for hanging with me for a bit.
In the meantime, check out my November releases:
VENGEANCE: After an undercover bust goes to hell, Special Agent Steve Williams becomes the target of an assassin and his wife’s visions escalate, forecasting a brutal assault on their family. Escaping from the city and armed with scant details from Jennifer’s dreams, Steve trudges through a litany of past connections, searching for the key to stop the course of fate.  A brother with a grudge, a serial killer and a mafia assassin are all on his trail and the hunt begins . . .

Released November 1, 2010 by FIDO Publishing. 
MIND GAMES Chris Ryan doesn’t understand why he’s alive.  If it wasn’t for a miracle, he would have died in the prison his step-brother created and five years of nightmares hasn’t erased his passion for Jessica Connor. Haunted by visions of her daughter’s death, he runs to her doorstep, but all his good intentions fall short when they realize he led the vengeful spirit of his step-brother right to her. 
Released November 29, 2010 by eXcessica.
Until next time.

 J.E. Taylor is a writer, an editor, a manuscript formatter, a mother, a wife and a business analyst, not necessarily in that order.

She first sat down to seriously write in February of 2007 after her daughter asked:

"Mom, if you could do anything, what would you do?"

From that moment on, she hasn't looked back and now her writing resume includes five novels either published or targeted for release in early 2011 along with several short stories on the virtual shelves including a few within upcoming eXcessica anthologies.

Ms. Taylor also moonlights as an Assistant Editor of Allegory, an online venue for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and as a "slush slasher" for Dark Recesses, an online venue for literary horror. She also lends a hand in formatting manuscripts for eXcessica as well as offering her services judging writing contests for various RWA chapters.

She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children and during the summer months enjoys her weekends on the shore in southern Maine.

Visit her at

Friday, December 3, 2010

Are All Self-Published Authors Amateurs?

In a post on my blog about competition, a commenter made several points about why he felt self-published books were in no way part of anyone's competition. He also had a lot to say about amateurs vs. professionals (self-pub authors, of course, being the amateurs).

Anyway, a fellow indie friend said to me in IM... "Did he just call you an AMATEUR?" And I was like "LOL, I don't know, it was possibly implied."

So, I added a general comment on the issue of amateurs, but, that comment could have been it's own post and it's definitely something I would like to open the floor up to discuss. (Wow, that sounded hoity toity.)

Here was my original comment:

Something else to think about… amateur vs. professional. How are these terms defined?

Why is a self-published author automatically an “amateur”. Exactly how many times do I have to double my husband’s salary before I’m considered a “professional”?

Do these kinds of prejudices exist for other entrepreneurs?

When someone opens a flower shop do you consider them an amateur florist?

When someone opens a restaurant are they an amateur restaurant owner?

Are independent filmmakers who make a living from their craft, amateurs?



1. a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons. Compare professional.

2. an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize.

3. a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity: Hunting lions is not for amateurs.

4. a person who admires something; devotee; fan: an amateur of the cinema.

There are several indies making a living, so definitely definition 1 doesn’t apply to them. Definition 3 could be argued for perhaps, but experience and skill are highly subjective things in artistic endeavors. I’ve been writing seriously since junior high school (in fact, in school I ignored most of my other classes and wrote during lectures.) And surely a certain sales threshold proves at least a competent level of skill.

This wasn't part of the original comment but I felt like adding it now:

Here are the definitions of "Professional" at


1. a person who belongs to one of the professions, esp. one of the learned professions.

2. a person who earns a living in a sport or other occupation frequently engaged in by amateurs: a golf professional.

3. an expert player, as of golf or tennis, serving as a teacher, consultant, performer, or contestant; pro.

4. a person who is expert at his or her work: You can tell by her comments that this editor is a real professional.

I suppose we could rehash the expert thing, but expert is SO subjective. Like... raise your hand if you think Stephenie Meyer is an expert at writing? And yet, she makes more money than God right now and I'm pretty sure most people who identify as professional writers consider Meyer a professional writer.

The definition with regards to earning a living... many indies are fulfilling that requirement.

Now in the grand scheme, it doesn't really matter if you or anyone else calls or thinks of me or any other indie as an amateur or a professional. It doesn't change the fact that several of us are making a living doing what we love while maintaining creative control. In much the same way that Stephenie Meyer laughs all the way to the bank despite the people who say she sucks... I laugh to the bank whether or not you think I'm an amateur or a "fake author". Of course Meyer laughs much louder than me. Still, there is much merriment going on.

Thoughts? What makes a writer a "professional", and is it fair to keep indies out of that club by definition of being indie?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Year of Profits in Ebooks 2010

2010 was a good year for ebooks. The stats are being thrown around like bibles at a Tea Party rally - but the concensus seems to be something like a 190% increase in the year 2010 over 2009?

Yes, it's been a good year.

Anecdotally, our sales at Excessica show this is true as well - they have increased exponentially every single quarter. We went from selling 16,000 ebooks in Quarter 1 2010 showing $27,000 in royalties to selling 73,000 ebooks in Quarter 4 2010 showing $154,000 in royalties. Talk about a jump - that's no measly almost-200% jump - that's more like an almost-600% leap!


A few months ago, J.A. Konrath challenged me to post my own numbers when I complained that Amazon was setting price points (too low in my opinion) for ebooks. While I would argue that $9.99 is too high and agency pricing does, indeed, suck - $2.99 may just be too low of a value for books.

So I thought I'd put my money where my mouth is (so to speak) now that the numbers for the year are all in. What follows is a basic breakdown.

In 2010, I sold 62,000 books on Amazon Kindle. That worked out to a $120,000 profit from Amazon.

Of those books, my highest sellers are priced as follows (in order, highest selling to lowest):

$5.99 - Babysitting the Baumgartners
$5.99 - Under Mr. Nolan's Bed
$4.99 - The Real Mother Goose
$4.99 - Quickies
$5.99 - A Baumgartner Reunion
$4.99 - Unfolding
$4.99 - Heidi and the Kaiser
$5.99 - Baumgartner Generations: Janie
$5.99 - Naughty Bits
$4.99 - The Sybian Club

In total, I sold approximately 80,000 books this year through various distributors (though a majority of those sales were, as you can see, through Amazon) and made a total of $170,000 in profits from those books.

Now, granted, I'm not complaining about profit here. (Ow, my diamond shoes are too tight!) But I'm just wondering aloud about the price points we set for our books. Would I have sold more books at $2.99? It could be. I've put all my short stories on sale for $0.99 on Amazon for a month and have seen my sales of those titles triple. Of course, my royalty rate went from 70% to 35% for most of those and it's pretty much averaged out, in terms of actual profit for me.

But more books are being downloaded, which means higher rankings and increased visibility. That's always a good thing. And considering I write adult material that isn't ever going to be featured on Amazon Encore or anything like it, I have to market my work a little differently than a mainstream author might.

But what would happen if I dropped the above prices of those top ten bestsellers to $2.99 or even $3.99?

Maybe that will be my 2011 experiment. 

Still, I would encourage you, self-publishers, to stop waiting and start publishing, no matter where you decide to set your price. There's nothing to lose, and a lot - a whole lot! - to gain.

And think of this way - you're lucky. You don't need to do what I did. Back when I started out, we didn't have things like Kindle DTP and Barnes and Nobles "PubIt." We had to actually form co-ops to be considered a "publisher" before we could get our work out there to the major distributors. You don't have to do that. The whole self-publishing world is wide open to you!

Not that I'm really complaining. Yes, I've been working my a$$ off for two years publishing authors who might otherwise not have done it on their own. But I've given a lot of new authors a start under the umbrella of Excessica and it's been an amazing journey so far. I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and that I've put my money (and time - lots and lots of time) where my mouth is when it comes to helping other authors. I don't just talk about it. I actually do it.

And what a ride it's been! I've been in the middle of a huge revolution in the industry - one that isn't anywhere close to being finished. Who knows where it may end up?

Let's hope next year's post: "Year of Profits in Ebooks 2011" will grow exponentially as well!

Selena Kitt

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Becoming Published

Anyone who is published already will sooner or later be asked by someone else, "How can I get published too?" Sometimes it's a subtle hint (e.g. "I'm a writer of blank genre, as yet unpublished..."). Sometimes it's a blatant ("Hi [fill-in-famous-name], can I send you my unpublished novel so that you can help find a publisher?"). While the request is polite and seems reasonable since the sender is doing their best to allow said famous person to easily decline, yet it is an obligation put on that person just by asking. It becomes something that they have to deal with either through significant personal effort most, or by trying to let the requestor down gently in that they really can't do what is being asked of them. The good news is that – with a little flexibility – getting published is easier now than ever before. That little flexibility that I'm speaking of is in how you decide that you must be viewed as an author.

We tend to have different goals in how we'd like to be seen as a writer. Selena Kitt, for example, of eXcessica Publishing which has published a number of my titles wanted to get her work for sale on Fictionwise (the largest eBook retailer of that time) without having to deal with publishers who didn't see a sufficient market for it to offer to publish it themselves. She believed in the value of her own writing, found out from FW what their requirements were to be able to distribute on their site (a minimum of 25 available titles from at least 5 published authors to start with) and started soliciting friends and contacts to put together the necessary package. She succeeded well and eXcessica Publishing currently has over 100 contributing authors with over 400 titles in print at this time. They release 4 new titles every week and are booked out a year in advance.

My initial goal was to see my work distributed on, The World's Biggest Bookstore. I felt if I had my titles for sale there then I had "made it" by my definition. And this is where you have to decide what your expectations for your writing really are.

Some writers feel that they can't accept anything less than a high-powered agent, a fat advance, and hard cover publication by one of the Big Six publishing houses (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster). If that is your dream I won't tell you not to go for it because people do succeed at doing exactly this – but success is likely a long and difficult patch to achieve, even for those already with such publishing credentials. To take this route, finish your novel, including rewrites, and get it into acceptable standard manuscript form. Some very good tips on doing this can be found without needing to be a member at the SWFA (Science Fiction Writers of America) website. Start with the information on this page: and continue on with their warnings and further information here: Once you have that, start soliciting agents. I'd say start at the top and work your way down because why would you ever want to start at the bottom and possibly be accepted by the first person you send it to?

Then there are writer's groups. Yes some groups that you may wish to join are rather high and mighty about what they feel qualifies as "publication", SFWA among them as evidenced here: . If you want to be part of that circle you'll need to play by their rules.

Or you can decide that you write to please yourself rather than some elitists (defined as anyone who doesn't think that you’re a real writer yet) and never worry about what "qualifies" you to be a writer in someone else's view. That is a decision each individual person needs to make for themselves.

Your next option for publication is a whole raft of smaller publishing houses with a track record that can be viewed before you try submitting to them. The smaller houses – independent publishers if you prefer – may specialize a single, or a small number of, genres that are overlooked by the Big 6 as not worthy of consideration. If you write in their particular genre that can be a good choice to try. There are all kinds of things that people like to read from high-brow literary through smut and all of it sells when well written. In fact, about the only genre that doesn't sell are badly written books full of grammatical errors that have no discernable plot, or titles that try to rip-off someone else's copyrighted creations. Don't waste your efforts there. An excellent resource of small publishers, including which ones to avoid as outright dishonest, is maintained by author Piers Anthony here: .

The third way to getting published, if you want to have your books actually distributed from anywhere other than your own personal website and get paid for them, is to go the Self-publishing route. (A fourth way is to set up your own publishing company, however that is a large amount of work for the average person with a steep learning curve. It can be done, however, you may have little writing time leftover afterwards.)

Now Self-publishing is not to be confused with the rightfully reviled Vanity Press of years past. Today advances in technology and imagination will let you publish any book on your own with very little upfront commitment in terms of money – call that risk – on your part, and actually have it out there for sale afterwards.

Now before you jump at this chance with that novel that has been burning to get off of your hard drive be aware that when you take this route you become responsible for every aspect of your manuscript from the quality of your narrative to the cleanness and correctness of your manuscript. If you aren't an English Major graduate you will likely need some help in ensuring that your compelling story and perfect manuscript is really almost as good as you think it is. Just because you didn't see any errors in the last read-through doesn't mean that they aren't lurking there in bunches. We are often our own worst proofreaders. While the many methods of improving your writing to a standard that you shouldn't be ashamed to show the world overall go beyond what I can cover in this particular essay, the value of finding and participating in local writing groups (start your own if you can't find any in your area) and inexpensive junior college writing classes to perfect your craft cannot be overemphasized. The large publishing houses employ professional editors to fix issues in their submissions before publication because the house's reputation is on the line. Without that safety net for self-publishing, you'll need to be beyond scrupulous about this yourself. Remember that each title you make available for sale promotes all of your other titles. A single bad book can keep readers from ever considering buying anything else from you again.

Once you've handled the technical part of writing a proper story, as opposed to just a series of scenes, in correct manuscript form then there are just 2 more steps to know:

1: Publish in eBook form. Let me repeat this: Always publish in eBook form! Electronic books are the future and the cost of publication is virtually nothing since it’s all just bits and bytes in the computer memory. To ignore this market is to cut yourself out of a place that will probably generate the bulk of your initial sales. Price it as you wish (you'll get a percentage of the total sale price) and be aware that many people these days feel that $2.99 is the magic impulse buy price for eBooks in the same way that 99 cents is the magic price for music tracks. And the way you will publish it is through SmashWords ( They are the true innovator in this area of opening electronic publishing to the masses. In return for their cut they will get your book out nationally.

2: If you just have to have your book in print as well, check out the POD (Print on Demand) publishers who literally print individual books as they are sold. As a result you don't spend a whole lot of money upfront for a print run and then pray that the books get sold. You only pay for what you sell. Several firms offer this service, but I suggest looking into CreateSpace ( The reason for this is that CS is tied in with and will not only that get you placement for sale from both the CreateSpace and Amazon sites, but they handle the finicky publishing details such as not requiring you to buy an ISBN number. You may not be able to sell your print books everywhere without that magic (and expensive in small quantities) ISBN number, but if you're on CS and AMAZ and linking from everywhere else to those 2 sites, you'll be able to sell print books to pretty much everyone who really wants a copy.

Publicity after publication is up to your own efforts. Start with social networking sites like this one and look for other opportunities. You do need to know that you will be competing with others to accomplish your sales. Amazon currently lists 725,000 Kindle titles and that's a pretty big pile to throw yours onto as well. Yet you will be published and available for sale far faster than pretty much any other method, after which it's up to you to promote the heck out of your title in-between writing your next one.

In the future now, anyone who asks me this about how can they get published too they will be referred to this boilerplate reply.

Thank you!
-D.B. Story

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Since the day dot….

You know, when you think about it, self publishing is not a new thing. It’s been around since the day dot. Think of cave paintings or the ancient slaves of Egypt writing 'the Pharaoh sucks’ as they toiled on golden tombs or great philosophers like Herodotus or Sophocles who probably had a patron to finance their works but basically they put their observations out there without fear or favour. Look at modern day graffiti – albeit annoying - self publishing or the twitterati who bang out their thoughts in so many letters for their ‘followers’ to read. Or look at this blog or my own blog - we're all out there publishing at a button touch.

Self publishing is not new at all. It’s more that it was hidden or confined to sites like Literotica which people thumbed their noses at but secretly read. Self publishing is literally doing it yourself without the aid of a net or dealing with a hierarchy of people who are so caught up in red tape, pontification and ego that they forget the basics. People want to read a good book regardless who publishes it or how. The ‘revolution’ part is that people have suddenly woken up to the possibilities presented to them.

Amarinda Jones
Penn Halligan
Be an Amarinda book

Saturday, November 13, 2010

#3 Oh crap, I need a cover...

If you are anything like me, the very thought of a cover will send you into a panic attack riddled, wine-chugging tailspin. But soldier on! I did. I figured the only way to get it done was to do it. Onward and upward. So, armed with a boy child’s camera and the Paint program (hi-tech baby), I came up with this:
Or as I call it “Blech or What the Fuck is that?” (nods head) However, that is still the current cover because a) I am lazy and b) for whatever reason that story is selling and always has so why screw with it, am I right?

Then I got a bit bolder and armed with my trusty (son’s) camera, a silver foil tree from Christmas, a whip (yes, mine, shut up) and a blind fold (see previous note) I did an hour of photographs to end up with this~~~~~>

Better, but still. Jesus. Help me, someone! But again, selling, so I placated myself with that and said to myself “Self, you will get better” (this turned out to be true).

So theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen, I found a picture in my photos (one of my own) that I had used in a blog. I was getting better at futzing around with my stuff. So I turned my picture into a negative, smoonched it per one sites size requirement (200x300) and accidentally, mind you, made it look cool. So cool! (ironically enough, as an aside, this title does not sell as well as the suck ass cover stories do, but still does okay). I was feeling stoked.

Then I discovered (quite by accident) that I could fuck with photos in Photobucket. Ah…whole. New. World. So I did it (per their free membership requirements) and ended up with more and more stuff that looks like this:

Ahhhhhh. Now that sooths the savage I don’t know what I’m doing with covers soul. I have to say, most of my covers from this point forward are pretty good. I have learned not to get too hung up in nitpicking and pick one inanimate object or scene that fits a story and then play with it. Once I stopped having seizures and panic attacks and requiring medication over the whole thing, I got tons better.

The key is to remember YOU CAN ALWAYS CHANGE IT. I can go back and swap out every damn cover if I suddenly drank a tanker truck full of coffee and couldn’t sleep and decided to do so.

My final recommendation is this: suck up to a friend who is talented! Tada!

I have this nifty cover for an upcoming December Ink release because I have this fantabulous friend named Willsin Rowe who is wickedly talented. We did a little barter and I gave him something (minds out of the gutter please!) and he gave me fabulous sexy cover.

So, to recap. You might suck at first. Do not fear the suckage. Soldier on. Do not panic. Play with it (heh). THEY CAN ALWAYS BE CHANGED, you are not carving them out of granite…or find a very talented friend and beg, trade, weep or threaten until they give you a shiny new cover (or pay them, that is what I call “the duh is implied” moment)

So, why are you still here? There are places like Photobucket and Picnik and Free Stock photo places you can look over. Paint has come very far and guess what! There are programs and fonts and all kinds of places to explore (something yours truly is STILL doing). So go, you have covers to work on. Chop chop!

Come back next month for the next exciting installment titled “I Have Broken Smashwords or You Will Eff Up”


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Self-Pubbed Authors Banned from Kindle?

No, self-pubbed authors haven't been banned from Kindle. But if you're a self-pubbed author, that title just about gave you a coronary, didn't it? The reality is that it could happen, and it could happen sooner than you might think.

If you haven't heard the controversy about the self-published book The Ped0phile's Guide to Love and Pleasure (that link is no longer active on Amazon, by the way) by Phillip R, Greaves - where have you been? It went on sale, according to Amazon's book page, on October 28, 2010. On November 10, 2010, the link disappeared. Before Amazon pulled the book, they issued this statement:

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

So much for that noble idea. The book went bye-bye.

Now, I'm not going to take a position on the heinous topic of the book or whether it should have been censored. (Or pulled for atrocious spelling alone - the description was in need of serious spellcheck). It's a moot point at this juncture. But what I am interested in is the possible problems for self-pubbed authors that this may cause.

I can see Amazon's legal having a heart attack at this point, telling them that THEY would be seen as the publisher and responsible for any backlash from this book if anyone sues. And someone just might. People were pretty angry about the whole thing - there were over 3000 comments (i.e. "reviews") on the book before it disappeared. And there is precedent for threatening to sue over books like this (see example below).

Remember that article in Slate a few months back about Amazon publishing "porn":

"The Kindle, however, pushes Amazon over the line from mere enabler of erotica to promoter and producer. Many of these e-titles are specifically being published by Amazon..."

Amazon is, essentially, a publisher now. And they're publishing not just erotica (which is fine as far as I'm concerned, obviously) but apparently, guides on how to be a pedophile.

What's even more interesting and indicative of a possible future ban on self-pubbed authors is that in 2002, Amazon had a similar problem with a title called Understanding Loved Boys and Boy Lovers by David L. Riegel, but this book is still available on Amazon - and it was published by SafeHaven Foundation Press. Presumably, the conservative group who threatened to sue over this book would have had to take it up with the publisher, not the retailer.

But in the case of Mr. Greaves books, Amazon is the publisher. As of this writing, his other four listings are still available for Kindle. For how long, I wonder?

I know I've been called an alarmist in the past, but hey, someone's gotta watch for forest fires, and where there's smoke...

I wouldn't be surprised if we heard in the future that Amazon will no longer be accepting self-pubbed works and publishers may have guidelines to prevent them from just incorporating as an LLC and publishing their own books (i.e. Fictionwise has had these requirements for years: each "publishers" must have for sale at least twenty-five non-public-domain works by ten different authors).

Of course, Amazon may decide to tighten their own gatekeeping process in accepting books for Kindle. That's a possible solution. (And another slippery slope). But if they decide to skip that process altogether, in order to avoid being seen as the only gatekeeper and responsible party, self-pubbed authors may find themselves out of a publisher.

-Selena Kitt

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Smashwords Experiment

Hi folks,

During October, I experimented in a little test of name your price at Smashwords for my short stories.  It made a difference in sales.  I did three times as much during October, than I sold during either August or September.   However, to put some perspective to this - my Kobo and Sony sales were up too and those were paying venues. 

I believe the illusion of sales did drive my numbers up a little, however, folks decided to pay on other venues that they trusted more than Smashwords. I don't quite know what to make from this little experiment, so I'm going to try another promotional avenue for my books.   In looking at what eXcessica did for their scavenger hunt, I thought a smaller scale one might just drum up business for both my eXcessica and FIDO titles as well as my shorts. 

I'll let you know how that works next time. 

Until then, write like a demon! 

Happy November.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sabbatical is a Lovely Word

The last time I spoke with Selena Kitt I was having a meltdown. I was emo and depressed. The moment I realized I was totally coming apart at the seams, I called an immediate partial sabbatical from Internet activity and especially blogging. I called it a partial sabbatical because there were a few interviews I still had hanging out there, as well as my Indie Reader blogs I’m committed to.

But for the past three weeks, with those very few exceptions, I have been radio silent. If you noticed the Internet was quieter and less obnoxious, that was totally me! :P

On Monday I posted my return post on my personal blog. The title of the post was: “I Never Want to Come Back to the Internet” (to give you some idea of how much I loved this!)

Here are some things I learned while I took a break from all the noise:

* I can keep my writing and editing deadlines. (Amazing what you can do when you aren’t on Twitter or arguing with random people on the Internet all day.) Also directly connected to this: I can write fast.

* There is this thing called the sun. It shines outside most days. The sky is often blue.

* Adults should play. Playgrounds are fun. Swinging (at the playground, you pervs!) is a lost art. And many swings are built to accommodate adult human beings.

* There are 3-D people who live out in the 3-D world. You can touch and talk to them. Even for a semi-hermit this is kind of awesome when you’ve been locked behind your computer.

* Everybody has an opinion about you and most of them good or bad are based on partial information. I intellectually knew this, but the time off gave me the opportunity to really reflect on and internalize it. This type of information will prove beneficial to me going forward.

* Working 10 hours a day 7 days a week is insane and doesn’t actually make me a more productive human being. Just a crazier one. In fact a lot of that “working” was social networking. I can save a whole bunch of time and have more “me time” by just disengaging more.

* My platform and sales will not disappear and I will not fall off the planet if I engage in some premeditated anti-social behavior on occasion. It allows me to get more work done, which helps me more in the long run. It also makes a sane Zoe. Everybody loves a sane Zoe. At least more than an insane one.

* I’m a lot more introverted than I thought. This explains so much about me I didn’t know. If not for the sabbatical I might not have truly figured this one out. People who don’t know me that well often see me as an extrovert because I’m not shy, and I do enjoy social situations when I can work myself up to go to one.

BUT it drains the hell out of me. I usually prefer my alone time. You would think I would have figured out that means: “mostly introverted” a long time ago. But several factors which I won’t bore you with, led me to think I was an “extrovert but...” Um. No. I’m not. And figuring that out has completely rewired how I see everything. But most importantly it’s given me permission to be who I am without feeling like a freak, which was taking up too much of my energy. (The feeling like a freak part.)

If you’ve been plugged into the Internet like it’s your umbilical cord, trust me, cut the cord. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced burn out. I’d been going nonstop since June and was so burnt-out that I just wanted to quit writing altogether. I had lost my joy for it. I couldn’t remember why I even liked doing it because all the crap on the Internet and feeling like everybody was pulling on me, was sucking the life and joy out of it. It was certainly sapping my creativity. It’s really hard to focus on writing a novel when you’ve got a stupid argument going on with some random boob online.

I got so much done during the sabbatical that I have a very different approach to interacting with the Internet now. It’s no longer my first priority, and three weeks away proved to me that the world won’t explode if I don’t run on the social marketing treadmill. In fact, probably just the opposite.

I’m going to go outside and play in the leaves now; don’t expect me to report back on Twitter about it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Start

In a few days time I’ll be entering the next phase of my writing adventure. On Friday my first book, “A Succubus for Christmas and other tales of Devilish Delights”, will come out from eXcessica. In one respect it’s the finishing line of a long-cherished dream, in another it’s only the beginning. Now I have to sell it...

This is the hard part. There are a lot of books out there and tons more being published all the time. Somehow I’ve got to get my book noticed amongst all those and then persuade YOU to part with your hard-earned cash to buy a copy. Some writers only get as far as selling to friends and family before drowning in the forgotten 1’s and 0’s of search result page #101. I don’t even have that to fall back on as my friends and family don’t know I write this kind of thing and I’m not about to tell them either!

It’s not all black. There are a couple of things which will work in my favour. I hope!

I’m not a completely unknown first-timer. Okay, I’m an almost completely unknown first-timer, but it’s still a start. For the last three years I’ve been writing and posting stories up on the internet at sites like Literotica. Some of these stories have picked up a lot of views. One of them placed in one of the regular contests. I’ve topped Lit’s All-Time list in the Erotic Horror category for the past year and a half.

Okay. I know, I know. In real life terms this is all small beans, amateur coupons, or whatever you want to call it. No matter, it’s getting my stories read. That’s the important thing—finding readers. I think of it as kind of like a new rock band touring their local pubs and clubs to build up a name. If people like what they read (and I know some have) then maybe they’ll buy the book (and I know some have said they will)

It’s a start.

The other thing going for me is I’m targeting a fairly unexploited niche and I know it fairly well. If you want to write about vampires, zombies or werewolves then you’d better roll up your sleeves and get ready to swing your elbows and bellow your lungs out to get noticed amongst the thousands of other people writing about vamps, brain-munchers and woofs.

I specialise in succubi. They’re familiar enough to be a recognisable horror trope, but they rarely show up in books or films, despite being popular in both computer games and Japanese anime/manga. I have more elbow room. It’s easier to get spotted by the web sites and forums that are interested in this kind of thing. These are the same places that potential new readers will stumble upon during random internet searches. So, getting this kind of write-up from possibly the most comprehensive information repository on succubi in media on the internet is fantastic word-of-mouth (thanks Tera!).

Will it translate to lots of sales?

I don’t know. I’m still a newbie at all this. There might be a very good reason why the niche is unexploited—there isn’t enough interest. I don’t know.

At the moment I’m trying to keep myself grounded. The book might only sell a few copies. Short story collections are traditionally hard sells.

I don’t care. It’s mine. It’s out there. I’m looking forward to the next stage of the adventure.

M.E. Hydra

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Who Knew by Amarinda Jones in Romance

By way of an experiment, when I couldn’t sleep last night, I ventured into Lulu self publishing territory. Why? Because I could and because Pallavi Agarwal inspired me to do so when she put her book Slow Burn on Lulu. What will be the result into self-pubbing? Not sure but it’s the first step into having my own publishing site and what the hell – life is a risk so why not take a chance on all things unknown? And now I'm hooked. Yes, correct I'm completely out of control with self publishing. I got over my vistaprint addiction and now this is my drug baby....

Go on - give it a go...

Amarinda Jones
Penn Halligan
Be an Amarinda book

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

#2 Think It Through, Genius...

Step two of self publishing is to name your site/publishing ‘house’/store/blog what have you. I named mine for a joke in my family. I once had a friend who called me unco or spaz. I am the girl known for tripping, falling, whooping, hollering and dropping stuff. It’s part of who I am and a running joke that I’m the klutzy one.

So I named my press Spastic Girl Press. Um…turns out this wasn’t such a good idea as overseas, it’s not really okay to say that. Or at least to some folks. Even here, it’s iffy, but since the girl being referred to was myself, I never gave it a second thought. When polled when the issue came up, most readers and friends mostly said: The name made me think of Lucille Ball…Stepanie Plum…You…

But the name did come up and some people were put off by it and I had been playing with the idea of changing it for various reasons. The point of this blog is name your site with care. Google it first, ask folks if you suspect it could be iffy. You don’t want to offend potential customers (though you do want to be true to yourself and your vision, so walk that line however you are comfortable). Do your research. Look into names and phrases and then find one that makes you happy.

When the name issue came up I recalled sitting at the dinner table with my family and my son telling me how they had to change a video game cover because the hand gesture on the cover was fine here, but in the UK it was basically the eff you finger. So that stuff does crop up if you want to sell your work across the board (USA, UK and beyond). Try to keep it in mind.

And me? I ended up being December Ink (named by my husband ‘the man’ no less). I ended up being happier with my new name than my original, but it was a PITA (pain in the ass) to do all the changing at vendor sites. So if you think it through right out of the gate you can save yourself a lot of fretting, paperwork and brain cells!

Back next time when we discuss art or as I like to call it: Oh crap! I need a cover!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Chinese Ebooks

Is anyone else glad we don't live in China?

"(A)mateurs involved in digital publishing must register with local authorities by the end of September for permission to publish."

Thank you, first amendment.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Piracy Isn't "Truly Criminal" - In What Alternate Universe?

Whether you believe piracy is a necessary evil or you fight it tooth and nail, I think it's comments like these, from an article about website filtering, that drive me to drink: 

True criminal activity means making a profit on the backs of the hard work of others. If file-sharing was “stealing” from these union’ members then why is is that the motion picture industry has enjoyed year after year of record breaking profits? 

Wow. Really? If you make an increasing profit over time and someone steals from you, you shouldn't care? That's not stealing? It's not criminal behavior?

So if my local drugstore makes increasing profits over time, I should be able to go in and steal a candy bar occasionally. That's the logic here, isn't it?

No? What do you mean, I'd get arrested for shoplifting? What the heck? I thought, if a business had increasing profits over time, that stealing from them wasn't really "criminal!" 

So why is it okay to steal from an author or an actor, but not okay to steal from the drugstore?

This belief stems from our idea that creative endeavors aren't valuable. I was in a graduate program that allowed us to do "art projects" in lieu of a final paper or exam. Many people chose this option, and many professors grumbled about it. Why? Because the perception of creative endeavors is that they aren't "real work." Somehow sitting down and writing a paper was more valuable than doing a painting, or a sculpture, or writing a poem.

The reality is, it's not true. In fact, I'd argue that being creative and imaginative takes MORE discipline and work than not. I know I learned more about myself and my subject doing an art project than I ever learned sitting down and writing an academic paper.

Writing is work. It's hard work. It requires thought and effort. Why is it we believe people who write, or act, or paint, or do anything that involves creativity, shouldn't get paid? I've made an increasing profit over the past two years since I've started publishing my work. So does that mean it's okay for people to pirate my work?

I don't think so.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Censored by Amazon

I found out today that I've been censored by No, they didn't remove my book. And no, I wasn't censored because of the content of it according to my publisher. I was censored based solely on the basis of its cover.

Several things to point out here.
  1. This title with this cover had resided happily on Amazon for a year prior to this happening. It continues to reside on other sites at this time without apparent concern.

  2. What Amazon has done is to remove my book from the "All Departments" search. So far, if you search by title in just the Kindle Store, you can find this title -- but who knows when that could change. What has happened is that I have been taken out of the most common search results utilized by visitors to the website.

  3. The irony of this is that no actual woman was involved in the creation of this cover. This is a pencil sketch transformation of an image of a doll.

  4. No official notice of this action by Amazon was ever received. In fact the only way it was discovered was when another author asked why their work had suddenly disappeared from the All Departments search and, after much prodding, was told that the cover would have to be changed without saying exactly how.

  5. No changes of actual content have been requested -- again, so far.

  6. Could Amazon's action have been prompted by this Attack Article that recently appeared in Slate - an article that was, btw to my second-hand knowledge, a trojan horse in the way it was sold to the interviewee who didn't realize that it would be used to attack her largest distributor.
So it looks like I'm coerced into creating a new bookcover just for Amazon to meet unspecified criteria from an unpublished policy. Call that one more item that I can check off of my Bucket List. Shouldn't everyone be censored at least once in their life? After all, you don't know where the line is until after you've crossed over it.

Amazon, you could have just come to me and asked for a new book cover.

D.B. Story

Friday, October 8, 2010

Crime/Mysteries Edge out Romance/Erotica - Really?

According to a Harris Poll published by Publisher's Weekly, crime and mystery novels have edged out romance, chick lit and erotica. Of course, they only interviewed 2700-ish people.

Personally, I think there are far more people willing to ADMIT they read mysteries, crime novels and sci-fi than there are people willing to ADMIT they read romance and erotica.

In that sense, the study is probably accurate! :P

Selena Kitt

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Amazon Kindle is Doing Wrong

I had a conversation today that got me thinking about what Amazon Kindle might be doing wrong.

I think we can all agree that they have done a lot right, in terms of selling ebooks - as their 70-80% of the market share proves. The Kindle is a fantastic e-reader, and as a dedicated device, I wouldn't recommend anything else. They make buying books ridiculously easy with 1-click (i.e. 1-crack). They make publishing books easy, too, for the big six, indie publishers, and self-pubbed authors alike. 

Aside from eliminating the agency pricing model, which is a given -  for me, there are two things that come to mind that would make the experience at Amazon a better one for readers and authors alike.

First would be allowing self-published authors to offer books for free. I understand that there's bandwidth and delivery issues involved as a cost, but they offer it to the Big Six publishers (and others as well - you'll notice Samhain Publishing offers free titles, and they're an indie) why not to self-pubbed authors? Even if we had to pay a fee for doing so, I think we'd all agree the boost in exposure would be worth it.

The second thing would be to give away a free ebook to everyone who buys a print version. As a reader, I know there are certain books I will always buy in print, as long as print exists, because I'm a fan and collect them. Stephen King books, for example, in my case. But I also want to read that book when I'm sitting at my son's wrestling practice or waiting at my daughter's orthodontist appointment, and I don't want to have to carry a huge hardcover with me. (Have you ever lifted one of the tomes SK has written? They're like doorstops!) I want it in ebook form, too. But if I want it...I have to pay for it. Again. And of course, because of the agency model, I may have to pay just as much (or more!) for the ebook version as I do for the hardcover! That just makes me mad.

I think Amazon Kindle is in a unique position to offer this option. Excessica publishes all our print books through Amazon's CreateSpace, and it would be easy, I would think, to link the systems together and give the reader an ebook version when they buy a print version. And it would also marry the idea of print-and-e together. It would send the message that they're not mutually exclusive, and Amazon isn't trying to "kill print books" with ebooks. (Even if they are... shhh!)

I also think they're setting the bar too low setting the price point at $2.99 for a full-length book, but that's something I've talked about before - and I'm gathering data together to see if my theory that pricing full-length books at $3.99 and $4.99 and even $5.99 doesn't hurt (and may even help) sales. That's something that Amazon doesn't really control, aside from the royalty option they've set up. It's the thrifty Kindle readers who seem to think that, after paying $200 for an e-reading device, content should be "nearly free."

I think Amazon Kindle has done a lot for ebooks - but I also think they need to pay attention to the trends and possibilities. The good news is, I think they are, and they will. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw them offering the "free" option to self-pubbed authors and a complimentary copy of ebooks with a print sale as well. After all, they're now offering their popular 70% royalty rate on books sold in the UK.

The good thing about Amazon is they pay attention and listen to authors. Which is more than can be said, it seems, for big publishing.

Selena Kitt

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October experiment

I decided to do an experiment with my short story sales during the month of October.  I posted them on Smashwords over the last couple of months at a price of .99cents and made 4 sales over that course of time.  

On October 1, I reset all the titles to "Pick your own price" and sold three times as many within a couple days as I had within the last two months.  Of course, pick your own price also includes free as a price tag - but if people find a writer they like, they tend to continue to read other stuff by that same author.  I figured this was the best way I could get these stories into the hands of readers, to get folks to take a chance on me.

I'm not sure if it will translate into real sales when this is all said and done, but my hope is that it will raise awareness and open more doors for my work. 

There has been a great debate on what the golden price is for an e-book and I've seen $2.99 thrown out there a fair amount  of times.  Is that the magic number?  I don't know, but from a consumer standpoint, I'd more readily take a chance on an unknown author if the price was $2.99 as opposed to $6.99 or higher.  I'd also be more likely to impulse buy at the lower amount too. 

Perhaps this theory has creedence.  What would happen if a publisher set the price of a new release as $2.99 for a full length novel - even if it only lasted for the first month along with an advertisement of new releases on sale.   

After all, it is amazing what the label "sale" does to the purchasing mentality.

Until next time . . .

Monday, October 4, 2010

Baby Got Back... List

Lately I’ve gotten into laser-focus mode. I comment on blogs less frequently than I used to, and when I do, I don’t tend to keep coming back or engaging in debate. I’m spending a bit less time on Twitter and Facebook as well. Why?

Besides being burned out...

Marketing is important, but the most important thing is backlist. Selena Kitt and Joe Konrath are selling like crazy crack-monkeys not only because they can write, but because they have monster backlists. As you start to build a name for yourself as an indie, the best thing you can do is have more work for your fans to consume once they finish whatever they’re reading of yours now.

The more times someone clicks a buy button for a book with your name attached to it, the more buying from you becomes a habit and the lower the wall of resistance for them to buy something from you in the future.

My focus right now is on writing more and putting more work out into the world so I can build my backlist. It may take awhile, but it’s my goal to get to the point where I can release a book every six months without quality suffering. Since I don’t have a job outside of this, it should be doable eventually.

It’s my belief that when you’re starting out you hit a bit of a plateau where, unless you have a huge marketing budget where you can spend actual money to bring readers to you, you’ve exhausted your current reach.

It’s not your total reach. There are probably many people out there who would like your work that you just haven’t reached yet. But, without the marketing dollars, there is no good way for you to reach them.

I did a big Kindle giveaway recently. I had a rush of blog visitors and a lot of contest entries, and several new readers, but it still didn’t broaden my overall platform gigantically. The only way to move forward at this point is to release new work, and then build platform from the momentum of that release. Then do it again. And again.

I know many indies feel sort of adrift because they’ve told me so. And I’ve felt adrift as well at times, not knowing where to put my focus. It seems absolutely necessary to stay plugged-in constantly with people so they don’t forget who you are and you don’t fall off the map. But unless we’re talking about your hardcore uber fans who will pimp your work until their dying day, there is a law of diminishing returns here.

I’m starting to believe that the best strategy is a big marketing push at the beginning of a new release, followed by consistently (but moderately) getting your name out there and focusing most of your effort on building your catalog of work.

The more books you have, the more opportunities people have to find your work, and once hooked, the more chance you have of repeat buyers who become serious fans.

Zoe Winters is an indie author of quirky paranormal romances. Her favorite colors are rainbow and clear.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Viva la revolution baby…

Okay, so when I first heard of ‘self publishing’ the old quote of “She/he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” came to mind. Why? Well it’s all about knowledge and knowing how to apply it in order to succeed. If you have no knowledge you have the amazing ability to bugger stuff up. This is why most writers latch on to a publishing house in order to get their epic saga to print. The idea of having no clue and being unaided in getting a book out there is daunting. But then there’s the flipside. This writing gig can be a minefield. How so? Dodgy publishing houses, suspect royalties and in-house fighting between writers/editors/publishers. Yeesh. Go with that or take a crack at self-pubbing?

Essentially writers are quite mad. No really. Who else is going to sit on their arse for hours talking to themselves as they bang out a stream of vaguely coherent words into a computer? Yet as mad as we are we retain stuff to be used later on…like in stories…or in business. We watch, we gossip, we listen. We look around and think ‘well crap, they suck as a publisher. I can do what they’re doing.’ Let’s face it – most of the e-book publishing companies out there were started by people who took a chance and had a go. So why couldn’t anyone do that? You don’t have to be a genius – just a risk taker.

So – thinking about self-pubbing? Go for it. As for revolutions? I love a good stousch. Put my name down for the next one…

Amarinda Jones
Penn Halligan
Be an Amarinda book