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Messages - Seneca42

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1
Writers' Cafe / Re: In Need of Encouragement
« on: Today at 08:39:58 AM »
You feel doomed because you listen to those yahoos telling people how easy things are (or how difficult they are but that anyone can do it if they try hard enough and learn their secrets).

Without a big budget, visibility is very hard to achieve. And your marketing dollars don't generate the ROI you'd want to see unless you have a big back catalog. Why do you think these guys are writing a book a month? They are building that catalog so their marketing ROI gets more sustainable. They can go in with bids of $1 per click if they have 20 book that a new customer will potentially read.

Stick to the promotional outlets that give you a good ROI for your money. All the pay per click channels are swamped with high bidders and content mills.


2
Writers' Cafe / Re: Amazon wouldn't lie to me, would they?
« on: January 16, 2018, 08:39:30 AM »
... and today I receive an email informing me customers have reported quality issues with my book, and how my book's detail page will have this notification until I resolve the errors, errors I've already resolved and reached out to them about.

 :P

on a side note, i once came across a thread on people dealing with comcast. Apparently, after a certain period of time with a CSR you start costing the company money (you become a drain in their cost structure somehow). Not sure what the amount was, 15 minutes or something.

Anyway, some people were so annoyed with comcast they were calling them every day on their drive to work. So spending 30-60 minutes on the phone with them every single day hehe.

Maybe that's what you gotta do with amzon CSR. Just keep sending requests until the issue is fixed. Send an email every single morning with issues for them to resolve. At some point you're account will get flagged as chewing up too many hours of CSR resources and someone will try to actually fix your issue.  :P

3
Writers' Cafe / Re: 0.00506 per KENP in December
« on: January 16, 2018, 06:57:54 AM »
So which one happened?

That's the beauty of KU, every month is a surprise :)

Personally, I'm starting to think they are testing thresholds. Figuring out at what rates do they see an influx of authors, what rates create a stable flatline (no one coming or going) and what rates start to drive authors out of the program. That then gives them their range they can operate in and predictably know what is going to happen within the author community.

But does rate even matter that much anymore? If the rate stays the same but the cost of visibility rises, or the page count declines, then it's in essence a lower page rate in terms of money in your pocket. And vice versa, if the KENP rate declines 5% but your page reads go up 10% and your cost of visibility goes down (which never happens), then you're getting a raise even if the rate declines.

Ultimately, I guess the only metric anyone can really count on is whether their revenues are rising or falling.


4
Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 15, 2018, 03:03:51 PM »
You've made a lot of good points in your post, but you haven't factored Prime into figuring the net result of money Amazon spends and earns on KU. Last year during one of Amazon's quarterly reports (it might have been January), an Amazon spokesman revealed that Amazon's record sales were driven to a large extent by Prime. Prime members spend, on average, over $500 more than non-Prime members. Amazon uses unlimited KU books as the bait to lure people into Prime. If you crunch the numbers, Amazon can lose $30 a month between the revenue and cost for each KU membership and still make well over $100 on each KU membership. When you consider the sheer volume of people who have these memberships, it's a money machine.

I don't know much about this, but are those figures potentially inaccurate? I know in my family one person has prime and everyone uses their account to order stuff with prime. You can load as many credit cards into zon as you want, they don't have to be the account holder's.

So one prime account might have three or ten people ordering off it... but from amazon's perspective it's all being done via one account and hence no surprise that prime accounts have a much higher average spend (because some of them are 4 or 5 people's spending collapsed onto one account).

5
Writers' Cafe / Re: The beginning of the end for CreateSpace
« on: January 15, 2018, 08:34:43 AM »
Ugh. What do ISBN numbers cost these days? Guess I should look into Ingram too. If they make books in traditional paperback size, I might be all in. But, I have so many books it sounds painful.

I gotta say, we Canadians are very lucky on this front. We can get as many ISBN's as we want for free and it literally takes all of 30 seconds to get one.


6
Writers' Cafe / Re: Full Price Launch
« on: January 15, 2018, 07:48:32 AM »
In my mind, $0.99 should be for special promotions and first-in-series loss leaders. That's generally what I see in my genre (fantasy). A lot of authors, especially those with longer series, price the first book at $0.99 (or even give it away for free).

So here is the evolution I've seen in my limited time in SP and the notion of loss leaders:

* people used to give away short stories
* then they started giving away novellas
* then they started giving away novels
* then they started giving away novels and bonus books
* then they started doing 99c box sets
* then they started doing multiauthor 20-book 99c box sets
* then they started doing 99c launches with thousand dollar marketing spends

I mean, it doesn't take a genius to see where this is going. The lower you go or the more you give away, there's always someone else ready to go lower and give away more. Hence why the content mills are becoming such an issue, they are set up to undercut and rapidly overproduce.

Normally markets find their "floor" when it comes to pricing. But SP'ers are so damn desperate in this market (because of saturation and marketing spend competition) that, so far anyway, there seems to be nothing they won't do.

There are lots of people out there who have money from other sources and are happy to sell at a loss for a LONG time. Which means the pain is only going to intensify for some time to come. 

7
Writers' Cafe / Re: Full Price Launch
« on: January 14, 2018, 07:36:56 PM »
I've said it on other threads, I'm new, so I may just have my head in the clouds. If your experience is different, I'd like to hear about it. I've always preferred to have my feet firmly planted.

Your logic is completely logical. The only thing you're missing is the saturation phase the market is currently in. So it's like there are a 100 movie theatres on the same street. So they start doing everything they can to get customers, including running at a loss (and you better believe there are TONS of high ranking authors who are losing money because their marketing budget outspends their revenues). Heck, they even hire people to stand in line at their theatre to make it seem like it's the better theatre (cough, cough, fake reviews).

So, back to basic business logic, the solution is that movie theatres need to start closing down until you reach an equilibrium where the market stabilizes: the theatre owner makes enough to make a living, the cost of a ticket is within consumers reach, and the theatres compete with each other through good old fashion differentiation that doesn't involve slashing margins.

If you can't sell at full price, then you can't really sell. At best you can try and win in the bargain bin. Nothing wrong with that, but let's not act like the king of hte bargain bin is somehow a masterclass genius.  :P

 

8
Writers' Cafe / Re: Full Price Launch
« on: January 14, 2018, 07:11:32 PM »
What about Indies who give away books for free? That's still a thing, and it's still a strategy that some of our biggest indie names still use. Jana Deleon and Liliana Hart are just two indie giants that I can think of who still do that. I do that, too, although I'm far from an indie giant. It does get eyeballs on my work, though.

You can argue that Amazon somehow ruined the indie world because of its reliance on algorithms, but the reality is, we, as Indies, live or die by those algorithms. And having sophisticated algorithms is much more preferable than not having these same algorithms. Just try to get visibility on platforms that aren't algorithm-driven.

In the end, this is a business. Whatever you can do to maximize profits, short of scammy or shady techniques, shouldn't be looked down upon.

Oh I get why people do it.  It's just sad that this is what the industry has become.

I've launched at 99c and i've done permafree, I'm not being critical of those practices (I mean, I am, but not on a personal level, simply in terms of industry dynamics). I am, however, saying that this is not in anyway a strategy anyone should be happy is available to them nor should they be happy it works with readers. It means we're conditioning the market to expect product dirt cheap. That's a bad bad bad thing.

It's only in this weird world of SP that falling margins and increasing opex somehow equates to "opportunity". 




9
Writers' Cafe / Re: Full Price Launch
« on: January 14, 2018, 11:41:48 AM »
The amount those indies with low rankings and a minimal-barrier-to-entry price point are making on page-reads is probably astounding. They're primarily pricing like that for visibility, I think... like Annie was describing upthread.  ;)

Yes. They are all trying to trick the algo into thinking their book is "hot" so they get visibility with the KU reader and rack up page reads. And I don't know how to say this politely, and it's going to sound way ruder than it's meant to be, but is this what anyone envisioned their life as an author would be? Basically giving their work away to influence an algo in the hopes that they'll be able to be seen by a bunch of bargain-basement readers in a subscription program?

I'm not trying to be critical or pass judgment or anything... I just find it almost impossible to believe this was anyone's ambitions when starting out writing.

Zon has turned this industry into a crying shame.

10
Writers' Cafe / Re: Full Price Launch
« on: January 14, 2018, 10:43:16 AM »
Full priced launches should be the norm for any writer with a following. The only reason they aren't is two-fold:

1) The bigger name indies have been using 99c so everyone thinks that's the key to success
2) Amazon rewards low pricing; and that is the big issue overall... that amazon discourages high profit margins.

Meanwhile, over on Kobo, they are running the book business the way it should be and encouraging authors to price based on the product having some value.

I mean, $3.99 for a full length novel is what we should consider DIRT F'ING CHEAP. Compared to TP, that's 70-90% off!

But because of KU and amazon, 99c has become the new cheap. It's absolutely ludicrous.

I see some pretty big indies with high ranks at 99c and everyone thinks they are huge successes. I just shake my head that this is the new definition of success... basically giving your work away for next to nothing.

11
Writers' Cafe / Re: Do you still consider yourself an Indie author?
« on: January 13, 2018, 10:50:05 AM »
I don't even consider myself an author, much less an indie author. I've written some books, sold some books, have some fans... but I still don't consider myself an author.

To me, the title of "author" I reserve for the day when I have enough fans/readers that I know I can write for the rest of my life. I kind of see it as a professional moniker, not just something someone gets because they wrote a book. So until then, I'm just some guy writing books in the hopes that people will like them.

But I do agree with Mark's sentiment... if you're beholden to single vendor, you really aren't independent. Whether or not you chose that is another debate (is it really a choice if you can't sell elsewhere and make money?).


12
Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 13, 2018, 07:41:17 AM »
I did a bar napkin comparison of the two stores a while back and I may be off a bit, but I think Amazon sells 40 times more books per year than Kobo. So the numbers won't come close between the two when comparing them, but that said, it is frustrating to ever feel like you are getting somewhere with Kobo. I do like how Kobo readers pay more on the next in series books than Amazon readers. I just wish more readers used Kobo. I think writers outside the U.S. might be doing better with them than I do being here in the states.

Ya kobo is strong in Canada, Australia, UK, and a bit in europe. They are abysmal in the US. They need a partner (like walmart) to push their devices into people's hands (and let people know they even exist).

What's frustrating is that the competitors actively seem to not want to upset amazon. I mean, marketing 101, there are TONS of people in the world who HATE amazon. They should be promoting themselves as a company that "cares about books"... because that's where zon's achilles heel is... they are the big, faceless, 2,000 pound gorilla that doesn't care about anything other than taking over the world  :P

They should be doing all kinds of promos with the TP's as well, who have a vested interest in diminishing zon's control of the market.

But everyone seems to be sitting on their hands. I'm sure there are good reasons for that (most likely resources and finances), but unless they do something they are simply handing hte market to zon.

 

13
Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 12, 2018, 08:35:56 PM »
Am I the only one who remembers the AMS credits, some of which were tens of thousands of dollars, indicating the whole thing has been janky from the start? A month or so ago, they gave me an additional credit for a few hundred because they're still finding discrepancies they think it's prudent to make friendly overtures about. Their transactional processing is brazenly trash.

Yep. It was also stupid how they gave some people a $100 credit to blow on AMS but not others.

The whole thing always felt odd to me. It was only when i had a stint with a permafree and got a ton of impressions and clicks on very low bids (6-16 cents) that I realized the bid doesn't even matter, it was the clicks that mattered. Get a ton of clicks, AMS would push you more regardless of your bid (let's not even waste our time about how easy it would be to game that system).

I have no clue if AMS still behaves like that (haven't been in it now for 6 months),but that was enough to tell me that it doesn't operate the way they say it does.

I've also been noticing that there are authors (some of them regulars here on kboards) who are using the sponsored ads. Now here is what is totally F'd up. If you search for their books, let's say a series called "Bill the Cook", the results will show...

* Bill The Cook Book 1 (sponsored ad)
* Bill the Cook Book 1 (just regular listing)
* BIll the cook book 2
* bill the cook book 3

etc.

So zon is putting that product ad RIGHT ABOVE the regular listing (and they both look identical because they are, just that the ad gets listed first). And I'm telling you, if I avoid clicking on ads (because I don't want to cost authors money; I'll just search and click on the product link to get the book, never the ad), and even I instinctively go to click on that sponsored ad... then you know consumers are ALL clicking on that ad.

How is that for taking every penny out of your pocket that they can? I'll never use AMS again because of stuff like that, which is going on as we speak.

14
Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 12, 2018, 08:23:04 PM »
What would be really nice is if we were able to gain some insight on how to reach readers on different retailers. For example, several folks here have mentioned Kobo's in house promotions. But I don't think the other stores have this...do they? I mean, how do we reach readers at Barnes and Noble? Or Apple? Or Scribd whatever else? We've got our books up at these places but don't know how to draw in their readers, or even how much traffic these sites get. Is any of this information readily available? It seems we need a good starting place and that power rests in the hands of other retailers. If we can figure out how to better advertise or reach their people, we might be able to depend less on Amazon over time.

100% the case. I'm canadian, so I have to go through D2D for BN and ITunes; but even on those stores it sounds tricky to get promos. And let's not even talk about google play... wtf is with those guys?

This is what I meant earlier... these guys need to get their acts together and start making it easy for people to use them. Like itunes making you upload from a mac? Are you serious? Why not require that I crochet a tuque while you're at it?

I've said this before, and I have no idea if anyone agrees, but Kobo is the only one who has their *&%^ together. In-house promos, they cost basically nothing upfront and only 10% of a sale on the back end (you never actually pay, you just get less royalties... so no spending money now and getting money in 3 months when you get paid your royalties).

Kobo has its flaws, but it's the closest thing to a genuine, author-centric ebook store that is out there. It's actually quite sad that they can't get more traction without having the big bucks behind them.


15
Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 12, 2018, 02:26:29 PM »
What this thread is telling me / showing me is that the will to go beyond amazon, even if that entails risk and possible downsides, exists within the author community. If those voices grow louder in time (and I'm pretty sure they will in the future as zon soon gives everyone who signs up to KU a free bottle of KY Jelly so they can fully enjoy the experience), then what's going to happen next rests in the hands of innovators out there who bring to market solutions that the author community needs.

This means promoters, other distributors, web services, ecommerce services, cover and editing services... everyone needs to up their game and offer more than just "zon-centric" solutions.

Especially zon's competitors. Let's go boys, time to start rewarding authors who do business with you with your own perks. Hell, even consider an exclusivity program of your own (just not a subscription model!).

Anyway, this thread has been enjoyable to read. It's nice to see people not responding to this insane market with new year's resolutions to publish one book a week.

16
Writers' Cafe / Re: KDP Select vs Other Vendors
« on: January 11, 2018, 06:48:31 PM »
Your best bet is to simply look at the top 20 in the genre you write in and see how many of those are in KU.

None of the top 20 on kobo or itunes are in KU  :P

17
Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 11, 2018, 04:15:26 PM »
I wasn't going to post on this thread until I read your comment about the post office. As it happens, the post office is running at a HUGE deficit. Amazon gets a bulk shipping rate from the post office that US taxpayers subsidize. Those of us who are tax-paying US citizens are literally helping Amazon run their business as cheaply as they can. It's another win for Amazon. If the US wanted to start reducing its huge deficit, a start would be doubling the bulk mail rate. Unfortunately, it would hurt magazines, but we wouldn't get as many catalogs that we throw out.

I can't mention names, but someone did tweet about the post office and amazon recently.  :P

18
Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 11, 2018, 03:44:44 PM »
* You enable Bid+ for your ads.
* AMS will increase your bids by up to 50% to appear on the top carousel of sponsored ads.
* The enabled option isnít done by ad, but for all sponsored ads.
* Which means getting the prime position on the top carousel will cost you 50% more than you bid.

Hmm, for anyone using AMS (I gave up on it in early 2017), I guess the ROI is about to get even worse.

My strategy for 2018... find an angel investor group, bid $10 a keyword, spend $200k in ads, be #1 on zon. Then I'll pop into kboards and act chill and say it's cuz i have a good cover and blurb.

But I'm throwing down the gauntlet... $10 a keyword, let's see you people keep up with that! You're going to have to get 3 full time jobs just to afford AMS ads  ;D

19
Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 11, 2018, 03:40:24 PM »
I think the one thing every single wide author should do is email their distributor (kobo, itunes, D2D, whoever) and promo outlets they like and let them know that you want enhanced promotional tools / opportunities that are non-zon specific/targetted.

We gotta let them know we want more from them. If we don't they'll just assume there's no hunger in the market for services that help authors build a revenue stream away from zon.

20
Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 11, 2018, 07:48:57 AM »
How do you do that? The promo sites ask for Amazon product first, and some of them demand the book must be on Amazon. A lot of them get all the details from the Amazon book link.

I'd like to see BB offer a non-Amazon alternative. It might help with boosting a book wide, if Amazon is not on the list. But here's the thing - the pricing includes Amazon, and if you untick Amazon, you're still paying for the full price, while expectation of downloads will be a small fraction of before.

This is the crux of the problem. And it's a chicken and egg issue. The promoters don't want to offer non-zon offerings if the authors aren't leaving zon, and the authors aren't going to leave zon while all promotion services (and their costs/ROI) are centered on zon.

And yes, I'm not paying $500 for a bub when 70% of its value is derived from zon sales. Give me a $90 kobo-centric bub and I'd take it. Or a $150 itunes bub, I'd pay that. Technically it should be super easy for bub to do this because they already have their lists broken down that way (i'm pretty sure if you say you're interested in kobo books that they don't blast you with offers that aren't available on kobo; but I could be wrong on that).

No one person, or even a thousand authors collectively, can unstick this market from its current stuck position. It will take the promoters, other vendors and authors all doing something to unstick it. But it doesn't look like the will is there yet. Which makes me wonder, has zon, in essence, fully captured the market. The illusion of "competition" is mostly just that, and only allowed to exist to keep antitrust issues at bay.




21
Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 10, 2018, 08:10:38 PM »
Now that would be an interesting situation. Thousands of authors doing it, and Amazon sending out all the infringement notices, and  p*ss ing everyone off more than they already do.

Has anyone asked their readers what they would do if you abandoned Amazon completely?

Here's what confuses me right now with the market... is amazon stronger or weaker than before? It seems like everyone is getting more annoyed with them every passing month, yet no one can stand up to them either (the best we've been able to do is stay wide and not cave completely to them). I'm not sure if they are sowing the seeds of their destruction or if they have basically won (captured the market) and could care less what authors think of them; both scenarios annoy me to no end :P 

It's a very confusing time. I'd love to leave zon entirely at this point, but the other vendors won't/aren't incentivizing me to do so in any way, so I'm not going to walk away from my zon revenues without some kind of carrot on the other side of that move.

If Kobo had some kind of exclusivity package, I'm actually so annoyed with zon's behavior that I'd make the jump. I'd spend my marketing dollars driving readers solely to their site. At the end of the day zon makes me generate all traffic anyway (or tries to make me pay as much as possible via AMS), so how much would I really be losing?

The problem is the promoters need to support non-zon authors. I've seen a couple on bookbub promos that were non-zon, but they are super rare. But if promoters were to work up some non-zon packages, I'd seriously consider leaving zon. Like if bookbub offered a Kobo-only promotion package and it cost say $90, I could leave zon and still reach new readers and build a non-zon foundation.

I'm ready to leave, I just need the rest of the industry to support that decision in some way  :P

22
Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 10, 2018, 09:45:47 AM »
It should be pointed out that even if we are cut to 50% for being non-exclusive, we'll still make more money per copy sold than if we had a traditional publishing contract.

except TP is paying for your cover, editor, has an existing marketing channel, maybe an advance, PR support, you're open to submit to industry awards, etc.

I'm no fan of TP, but they bring something to the table for their cut.

23
Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 09, 2018, 10:08:45 PM »
That's what they did to smaller book publishers in the early 2000s. Read the article and see if that doesn't sound awfully familiar with what they've been doing to us with KU and AMS ads. That's the norm for Amazon. Once they've made a seller dependent on them, they go to work with the thumbscrews. And now with something like 80% of ebook market share and competition dead, most of us are highly dependent on Amazon.

If they're going down this path, then self-publishing as a business is dead.

But I'm still not convinced they have anywhere near the power we think they do. All they are is a distributor. So yes, if everyone distributes with them and hands them exclusivity, then they have power. But if the content all flocks somewhere else, then they don't. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy... everyone believes they have power, hence because of that they do have power.

Anyway, the irony may be that it will be the TP's who stand up to zon; because the indies sure haven't. 

24
Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 09, 2018, 09:46:45 PM »
My prediction:

70% for KDPS $2.99 - $9.99
50% for non-KDPS $2.99 - $9.99
50% for KDPS <$2.99 and >$9.99
35% for non-KDPS <$2.99 and >$9.99

Jeff Bezos is now the richest human ever. Gotta squeeze those indie margins.

This would be absolutely brutal. And honestly, could spark antitrust issues.

But let's say they did exactly what you listed above. The result of it would be kobo goes out of business within a year. iTunes sticks around if it wants to, but is no threat. Everyone is forced into KU, and as that happens, KENP rate goes down massively.

Everyone gets destroyed in the above scenario. I'd predict a KENP rate of .001 or .0015 if KU becomes the defacto ebook market. At which point you could probably make more money blogging than writing a book.

Although, I'll say this, the TP's would be sitting pretty at that point.


25
Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 09, 2018, 09:28:08 PM »
Ummm. Why not?

I'm not saying that I think this is what they're doing. It might have nothing at all to do with anything that's been suggested. But based on their history of treatment of their other vendors/suppliers and the way that authors have bent over for them in the past, it wouldn't surprise me at all if this was exactly what they were doing. "Your margin is my opportunity..."

They could have done it at any point over the past few years. Touching the 70% thing would be a huge shift and would represent taking the boots to authors in a way they haven't to date. Sure, they've already done that with KU... but they've done it under the cover of "lose on royalty, but make up for it in volume.". And they've got an army of authors who endlessly endorse KU as generating more money than they ever did wide. In addition, KU drives value to the reader and so they hide behind that also "we have to pay x so we can have a $10 sub cost." But cutting the direct royalty has nothing to do with driving value to the customer, it would be nothing more than a naked, brute force attack on author's margins. I just don't see them touching the 70% situation.

If they did, I think you could see a movement to boycott zon among wide authors. Obviously, I agree with you that no one author would do so on their own. But strange things happen when large corporations nakedly abuse their power. Zon, so far, hasn't (we know they have, but most people see KU as optional and a take or leave thing; they don't see it for what it really is).

Anyway, very little about zon shocks me, but dumping the 70% to 50% would actually shock me.

I don't assume anyone thinks the way I do (hehe), but I can tell you that if they did that I'd have to think long and hard about whether I even wanted to sell on zon anymore. Right now I'd say there's a 65% chance I'd leave (regardless of what anyone else did). But I'm not making six figures... but then again, neither are 99% of indies. Most people aren't living off their royalties, so they can afford to walk if you  p*ss  them off enough :)

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