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1
Writers' Cafe / Re: Speculation about Kobo and KU
« on: July 09, 2018, 05:04:26 PM »
I never shopped at Walmart when I lived in Portland and none of my friends did either. The city fought it long and hard.

I don't understand why anybody cares whether the stores are clean or whether they actually shop at Walmart. All that matters is whether they can put together a viable ebook platform, and RPatton swears they've got that covered. The more outlets for ebooks the better.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Speculation about Kobo and KU
« on: July 09, 2018, 09:31:29 AM »
That's a good balance. I don't want to see Amazon collapse in flaming ruins, but real competition might encourage it to address some of the problems that make life harder for us.

I wouldn't have much faith in Walmart by itself competing in ebooks, and I'd be worried it would run right over Kobo in terms of controlling the operation--except that Kobo is owned by Rakuten, a big multinational that wouldn't be as easy to push around. If Kobo gets enough say in the way the program is run, it could do well. Kobo's own operation looks pretty good, even though it isn't that big in the US.

It wasn't so long ago that IBM was such a dominant power in computers that no one could imagine a time when it wouldn't be. It didn't change with the times, putting too much emphasis on mainframes and not really understanding the potential of the PC. By the time it figured that out, other companies had become entrenched in that market. OK, so that does sound a little more like Barnes and Noble than Amazon, but Amazon has made its share of mistakes. There are openings for possible competitors.

Bill most of your analysis is spot on, but actually, it was so long ago that IBM was king of the PC world. I'm old enough to remember back in the eighties, but in high tech, that was eons ago. The point is still valid that Amazon might not last, and probably won't. I'd like to see more competition for KDP/KU now, and Kobo/Walmart seems to be the only viable contender anytime soon.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: I'd like to proofread your work (for free)
« on: July 08, 2018, 09:23:41 PM »
I'm still open to proofreading novels for free. Please PM me if interested.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm happy to pay for good work. In fact, I'd rather pay for someone I know who will do a good job than to get a freebie from someone who seems to be completely anonymous. So, who are you, and what is you experience? Do you have any testimonials from folks who've liked your work?

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Speculation about Kobo and KU
« on: July 06, 2018, 03:28:15 PM »
Yes they do, but it's not a self-publishing portal akin Amazon's or Apple's setup.  You have to jump through hoops if you want to publish on Microsoft.  That's why I see room for potential there.  Microsoft has been trying to bribe people to use features like its browser by giving them redeemable points if they do so.  If you're trying to bribe people to use your services, you're pretty desperate.

If you think Microsoft is going to provide anything more than token competition to Amazon, you're pretty desperate!
At least Walmart knows how to sell books . The question is whether they want to bad enough to provide a viable alternative to Amazon in the self pub ebook market by partnering with Kobo.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Speculation about Kobo and KU
« on: July 06, 2018, 08:27:35 AM »
Yes, it is possible.  Walmart could get good people to run a subscription program or just a serious contender could force Amazon to up their game.  I don't know why Google and Apple don't try to do more.  We shall see!  I definitely think some company should give Amazon a run for their money.

I think we're all hoping Kobo/Walmart will force Amazon to up its game. Google and Apple don't really compete with Amazon because their ebook programs are far from their core competencies. It's a niche neither sees as a big moneymaker. Hopefully, though, Apple is moving in the right direction towards providing more content as their hardware sales plateau. On the other hand, Kobo/Walmart are both very experienced in selling digital content online and their partnership could be a game changer.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Minor Tech Question
« on: July 06, 2018, 08:15:40 AM »
You don't need to do anything. Amazon automatically asks readers to review your book at the end. You can use backmatter links for other reasons, which may or may not screw up Amazon's link to your review page.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: I have six novels. Not sure what to do next.
« on: July 05, 2018, 03:40:15 PM »
Publish them formatted the old way. Formatting them in Vellum isn't going to earn you an extra dime. The majority of the readers aren't going to even see the formatting until they've already bought or borrowed the book. The ones who see the Look Inside aren't going to be swayed to buy/borrow because you formatted it with Calibre rather than Vellum. And every day they're sitting there unpublished they're not getting readers, reviews, or making you money.

I agree. Readers are interested in content much more than elegant design.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Speculation about Kobo and KU
« on: July 05, 2018, 07:52:02 AM »
It's fun to speculate, but I think we have to be careful about wishful thinking. I'd love for Kobo/Walmart to compete directly with Amazon on all levels, including a subscription service, but neither Kobo nor Walmart are interested in making me happy as a self pub author. More competition is good for me but not them.

I think they're going to focus is going to be on what's the easiest way to make money in the book market. To the extent they can avoid competing directly against a well-established juggernaut like KDP, they will. And Walmart doesn't need Kobo to sell paper books in its stores, so they'll focus online. Selling ebooks should be more efficient than pushing around paper, but Kobo/Walmart have to compete with Amazon, Apple, Google, and B&N. So, I think they'll take it slow and see whether they can provide something unique to the ebook market that the established players have overlooked.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: B&N CEO fired for "policy violations"
« on: July 04, 2018, 08:15:42 AM »
There's no reason why the brick and mortar stores can't endure for decades, albeit contracting steadily. Lots of people love to browse paper books and love the ambiance of a physical bookstore. There isn't likely any opportunity for growth that way, but the company could endure for a very long time if it didn't have an online store. Shareholders won't like it, but the company could endure.

Their big problem is the only opportunity for growth is online. But the management won't let the online business grow because it cannibalizes their physical store sales. So while Amazon has been expanding its online store over the last decade, Barnes and Noble's has shrunk by ninety percent! That wasn't just neglect. The management at B&N has both hands wrapped around the neck of the online store and are throttling it. For investors, it's a lousy situation because the company can't grow until it accepts that the digital store will eventually consume most of the market for the physical stores. So there's a disconnect between adapting to the future and protecting their existing physical stores.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: B&N CEO fired for "policy violations"
« on: July 03, 2018, 03:41:27 PM »

You don't often see a CEO outright fired, with no severance package at that. He had to have been caught at something very bad for that to happen.

That's exactly right. He was fired immediately, no severance, and kicked off the board. That's about as harsh as it gets. Then the company says he wasn't fired because of "financial reporting, policies or practices or any potential fraud relating thereto." In other words, he didn't do any of the things that get you summarily canned. Something doesn't add up.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Shiny new cover for my October UF release!
« on: July 03, 2018, 03:29:34 PM »
Well, some of you chimed in when I was struggling with designing my own cover for my upcoming UF series. And, despite some really excellent help from Scarlett over at the Book Design House, I couldn't get my own design to be what I wanted it to be because I was too mired in the details and unable to step back far enough from my own book.

So, I went ahead and hired Natasha Snow to take the design out of my hands. This was an excellent choice.

Without further ado, I present to you Victoria Marmot and the Meddling Goddess:



And the thumbnail:



 ETA: And I LOVE it, in case that wasn't already clear. :-D

It isn't showing up in your post for me.

12
Sir, I have worked in contract packaging for 16 years. Before that, I worked in direct sales for almost a decade. I genuinely do not need you [explaining] to me about business expenses. Seriously. Amazon's costs are Amazon's cost to run their business. Amazon's expenditures of their infrastructure are not for my benefit. They are for Amazon's benefit. That infrastructure would exist with or without KDP. Seriously. The amount of money genuinely needed to store ebooks is nominal compared to the entirely of Amazon's business. And believe me, I would know, since many of our clients work in contract packaging work with Amazon so I am willing to bet I have a far better understand of what Amazon actually spends housing ebooks in comparison to their other business sectors than you.



edited, PM if you have questions -- Ann


Julie, the main problem with your argument is that Amazon isn't simply storing ebooks, it's constantly managing them, updating them and all their associated metadata, marketing them with myriad approaches, advertising them, etc. And according to a recent blog, there's a lot to manage. They have 48.5 million books and almost 4 million ebooks. Keeping there website up to date and functioning with the constant changes occurring has to be tough. The fact that we all occasionally run into problems, large and small, attests to how complicated the task is. Storage is the easy part.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: The 99 Cent Get Acquainted Thingie?
« on: July 03, 2018, 11:55:45 AM »
So there you are looking at color swatches for a new Mercedes or dreaming about a trip to the grocery store. It is at this precise moment you realize you are now in competition with a digital tsunami of unsold materials already out there. What to do? Does anyone have any experience or advice on going CHEAP with a $0.99 Get Acquainted ebook?
Lots of authors discount the first book in a series to get readers to follow through to full priced books. There's not much point to discounting a single book, though.

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Series sell but I've noticed that the first book in each of my series substantially outsells the others in the series.  Am I wrong to conclude that (a) I ought to write lots of short (3 book) series to take advantage of this first book sales phenomenon and (b) if I want to write more in the original series I ought to create another 3 book series rather than extend the original series?  Or am I as wrong about this as I am about most things marketing? ???
I, like most people who write in series focus my marketing efforts on book 1, both by discounting the price and promotions. What I find is that about half of the people who buy book one tend to continue the series. If they go to book 2, they will almost certainly read every other book in the series that's available. Because that's the case, if a series takes off, I keep writing more. If it doesn't, I stop and start a new series.

15
Grown ups expect their business partners to act like business partners and hold their feet to the fire when they don't.

Grown ups demand the same level of ethics and fair treatment from their business partners that their business partners demand from them.

Grown ups expect their business partners to at, a minimum, at least follow their own TOS.

Because THIS GROWN UP RIGHT HERE isn't a struggling author. She's a professional business woman who runs a publishing company. She expects her business partners to behave in the same transparent manner that she does. In effect, she expects everyone she does business with to act like a responsible grown up.

Maybe some of you live in a different United States than I do, but in the one I live in, retail businesses tend to be pretty cutthroat operations, particularly the discount side of that world. That's the world Amazon competes in, and I've yet to see anything pointed out about Amazon's business practices are illegal or out of the ordinary.
In particular, in retail, suppliers tend to be squeezed regularly. From day one, Bezos made it clear how he does business. "Your profit margin is my opportunity."
Virtually all large retail outlets in the United States also compete against their suppliers with house brands, and they do everything possible to favor those house brands. If you don't want to deal with those retailers because they don't meet your standards, fine. But I don't buy the argument that Amazon concealed its rapacious tendencies to lure suppliers in, as Julie's chronology suggest, and now we're trapped. Sorry, but Amazon has always been up front about its practices. And unless some other entity comes along to compete, like maybe the Walmart-Kobo deal, Amazon is likely to squeeze its suppliers even harder. Get used to it, or you always have the option of not dealing with them at all.

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1. You say that like we actually get service from Amazon.
2. You say that like they are doing us a favor
3. You say that as if Amazon is interested in selling ebooks over using ebooks as a gateway drug into their ecosystem
4. You say that like it would actually be a bad thing

1. Amazon has a skeleton crew of customer service reps for KDP. The majority of problems are handled with auto-generated replies. You don't get actual help unless you escalate...and escalate...and escalate. They are spending next to nothing serving KDP accounts.
2. Amazon doesn't "let" us do things "for free." We are providing them with free inventory which they them can sell for profit. Amazon gets to "stock" our books at no up front cost to them. In a normal retailer/supplier relationship, the retailer pays a flat rate for the supply and then sells for a profit. Instead, we give Amazon inventory at no up front cost. We are the ones taking 100% the financial risk. Amazon has no investment other than their basic infrastructure, which they would have anyway.
3. Amazon isn't a bookseller. Amazon doesn't even CARE about books. Books are widgets. And Amazon uses books as a gateway drug to get people into their ecosystem. The entire reason for the ridiculous Select program, which by design is financially unstable as a stand-alone subscription, is to get people locked into Prime. Amazon can't even get their crap together enough to remove the tens of thousands of scams, fake books, and plagiarized books from their system...because there is no reason to do so. Server space is cheap. Ebooks cost next to nothing to store. And Amazon gets to claim they have "the world's biggest bookstore." Because the illusion of choice, which is what the millions of books on Amazon provides, drives sales. 

Years ago, WalMart did an internal study and found that 90% of their business was being driven by about 25% of the products they stocked. So they got the idea that they would save warehouse space and a lot of costs if they shrunk the number of brands they stocked and limited it to the ones that sold. On its face, it makes sense. But WalMart forgot human nature. Humans want the illusion of choice, even if they are going to buy the same thing all the time.

A year after the experiment, WalMart started stocking all the former brands again, because they were losing business. People wanted in and only found three varieties of a product where there used to be ten. People WANT to feel they have a choice, and they no longer had a choice. McDonald's had the same thing happen when they did their experiment to clean up their menus. The majority of their business is comprised of about ten items. But when they shrunk their menu, they started to lose business. People want choices, even if they order the same thing all the time.

So, no, Amazon is not going to kick a million books off the site just because they get their panties in a knot over people on a forum whining.

4. If Amazon were to apply a fee to their service, that wouldn't be unheard of. And if it meant they would actually provide real customer service, I wouldn't even be opposed to it. Ingram charges $49 to process a book (though in reality they often run specials that waive the fee). Charging a fee runs counter to their goal of being the world's biggest bookstore, however, so they won't. But if they did, it might actually do more to clean up the scum on their site than their current algorithms. The idiots uploaded 50 scam books might think twice if it cost $5 per new title, and the title was actually going to be reviewed by a human being and not a bot.

1. You say that like we actually get service from Amazon. Actually, I do get service from Amazon. They're constantly updating my books and metadata and blurbs. And on the few occasions when they screw up, they fix it. They've made it clear from day one that they're a discount sales outlet, not Neiman Marcus.
2. You say that like they are doing us a favor. When we're starting out, they certainly are. They give us entry into the largest bookstore in the world and take whatever money they can make on the back end. And for the majority of authors, Amazon probably never makes enough from them to justify the expense. They do that for a business reason, not because the "care" about a tiny supplier like most self pub authors, but they do it.
3. You say that as if Amazon is interested in selling ebooks over using ebooks as a gateway drug into their ecosystem.They can provide plenty of books for readers without going through all the brain damage of dealing with huge numbers of self pub authors. At this point, in particular, they could dramatically cut back inventory and still have the largest bookstore in the world.
4. You say that like it would actually be a bad thing. For most self pub authors, losing access to KDP would be a terrible thing. If you really think they're taking advantage of you, I can't imagine why you'd stay. For God's sake, save yourself.

As for the economic benefits to Amazon of serving anyone who wants to throw up a book, they have considerable costs built into maintaining such a large inventory. And as for the option of charging a fee, that's not their approach. They're much more likely to say screw it, like they did with Kindle Scout and Kindle World. Like you say, we're just selling widgets. If you want personal service, go to your local bookstore and see if they want your inventory.

17

Step Six: Stop pretending you ever cared. The suppliers can't afford to go elsewhere at this point, because they are solely dependent on you for their livelihood.

The comments people make about Amazon remind me more of partners in a marriage than in a business deal. What ever made you think Amazon "cared?" DPT offered you a business deal that both side are free to walk away from at any time. Even in KU, you can get out every ninety days, or just by asking. It's not Amazon's problem that you've got no better place to sell your books.

If you really want something to be annoyed about, ask yourself this question. What if someone from Amazon bothers to look at all these threads on Kboards about how some folks are so unhappy with KDP? Automated support just isn't good enough! And what if that person from Amazon thinks, you know ninety percent of ebooks aren't making us any money, but we're still letting over three thousand books a day be published on our service for free. And we freely allow changes on a constant basis to the millions of book we already offer, most of which aren't worth the bother. What if instead, we charged of fee for all those small sellers, or better yet, just got rid of them? We could save a ton of money on support for these non-selling books and we won't lose hardly any income.

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There isn't a day that goes by that somebody on Kboards isn't claiming false or fraud or even criminal behavior by Amazon, and I've yet to see anything more than run of the mill stupidity. Yeah, they make plenty of mistakes, including with me, but the vitriol is getting tiresome.


Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

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I absolutely agree that it's Amazon's store and they can do what they want as far as product placement goes. They have every right to give their own products optimal placement over anything else in the store. But putting books in bestseller lists when they're not could easily be construed as false advertising. You're telling the customer that the book is in fact a bestseller when it isn't. That's generally frowned upon by the FTC.

And what is your proof that Amazon is falsifying the sale/download numbers for books sold by Amazon's imprints?

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"It's not personal. It's strictly business." Michael Corleone.

So don't take it as a personal insult by the 'Zon. The more time you spend complaining about what every retailer does, the less time you have to write. Maybe, eventually, Amazon will be more trouble than it's worth, but we're still a long way from that day, at least for me.

21
Yeah, I assume it would take years to get a following as a new writer. And that would be after writing twenty or so books.

I listed my novella, which I didn't think would sell, for free for a few days and advertised on Reddit for free. That was the only advertisement, but it brought me to #23 in my category. Not bad, but it was free of course so it didn't mean much. Reddit has a subreddit for advertising free books so that was the only advertisement I did besides Twitter... which I use once every few months (forcing myself to post on it now). I wanted to at least put my name out there.

A lot of people say to pay for advertising. The problem is I don't know where to advertise, and how much, and so on. Then again, I spent all my money on an editor so I can't pay for advertising now.

Contrats on being a published author. You're right that it usually takes a while to become established, but you're on your way. The best thing you can do now is write a follow-up book, and that mainly costs your time. Good editing and covers are important, and they are only one-time expenses. Best of luck to you.

22
Personally, I've given up on trying to convince people they are not failing. It's the same here as everywhere: failure is temporary unless you quit. Then it's permanent.

I know a guy that wrote practically every day for 25 years. Wrote over 100 novels, amassing hundreds, perhaps thousands of rejection slips while selling a few short stories. Frankly, his stuff was terrible at the start. By 10,000,000 words, they weren't bad--but weren't great, because he never got developmental edits or even beta reads. He just wrote in imitation of his favorite books.

Then Kindle came along and changed the game. With a near-term goal in sight, he started really working to get his books cleaned up and self-published. He didn't take off like crazy, but he did grow his earnings into the low four figures per month with 30-40 books up. But he kept working, kept improving, and after about 5 years of Kindle publishing, he hit one out of the park. Like, his 50th book. That series of eight has sold a million copies. Maybe 2 million.

The other 50-60 old books he has in the can, he doesn't think are even good enough to publish. They'll never see the light of day.

He didn't fail, because he never quit.

So frankly, if someone wants to quit because they haven't gained traction within a year or two or even five, I'm not gonna waste my breath anymore trying to convince them otherwise. It often takes grit to succeed. Fire in the belly.

The success story you describe is inspirational.

One of the great things about self-publishing is that you can learn from your readers' reactions to your books, both through their reviews and by watching for follow-through sales. The author you describe probably learned to write better by seeing what worked for his readers and what didn't.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Splitting A Long Book into Two Releases
« on: June 22, 2018, 10:28:48 AM »
I haven't read your book or Hyperion Cantos, but I'd be cautious in relying on another author's success in breaking the rules, if that's what he did.

Writing isn't applied physics, where the rules are extremely clear and inviolate. Anything can work for an author sometimes, particularly if you're a brilliant wordsmith, but most of the time, a new author is much better off sticking to basic story patterns readers recognize and look for. In particular, they want a novel with a beginning, middle, and ending in one book before they're willing to buy another one from you. If you give them that complete reading experience, they'll generally continue on with the series. Best of luck.

24
Writers' Cafe / Re: KU Payout
« on: June 22, 2018, 10:13:23 AM »


So, there's a line somewhere in the list of authors, above which the authors gain by being in KU, and below which they've lost by being in KU. It makes sense to stay there if you're above that line, even near that line, perhaps. Of course, it's hard to know where that line is--and then there's the "black swan" risk of your account being suddenly terminated for no apparent reason, possibly destroying your livelihood.

I think that paragraph nicely summarizes the essence of the matter. For a lot of self-pub authors, KU works. The program is constantly changing, and the scammers in the program are constantly adapting Amazon's often clumsy efforts to combat them. But at the end of the day, KU still makes sense for a lot of authors.

At the periphery, there are many minor considerations, like whether sales are cannibalized, whether other retail outlets are more trouble than they're worth, or the remote "black swan" risk of having your account questioned (my understanding is KU isn't closing accounts anymore because of the blowback from their earlier sanctions).

The central issue remains how well an authors books sell on KU compared to how well the might sell wide. For now, KU still works for a lot of authors, and now its paying out more than twenty million bucks for the authors in the program in April. Maybe some other company will come along with a better deal, like the promised partnership between Kobo and Walmart, and then authors will have to reconsider KU. Until that happens, though, I'll stick with what has worked for me so far.

25
I can say from personal experience that releasing the first three books in a series a month apart seems to help launch a series by building momentum. It doesn't always work for me, but when it does, the series will take off on its own with minimal initial marketing. My books are in KU, and maybe that makes a difference. Of course, it also helps to write books that readers like, and I wish I knew how to do that consistently, but a series can catch fire still.

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