Why I Went All-In With Amazon

eLuna_screenshotThe ebooks of Baby Grand and Baby Bailino are now part of Amazon’s KDP Select program.

For those who don’t know about the program, when you sign on to KDP Select, you agree to sell your eBook only in the Kindle format (you can continue selling your paperbacks anywhere you wish). In exchange for this exclusivity, you are given some perks.

When I first published Baby Grand back in May 2012, I joined KDP Select and left after the first three-month period was over. Why did I leave? I thought it was a successful run, but I wasn’t really interested in offering my book for free (a big perk of KDP Select) and I had friends who were diehard Nook readers who wanted access to the book. So I went wide, as they say, and uploaded it to Kobo, iTunes, Nook, and other resellers. (For more details on why I left KDP Select, I blogged about it here.)

Four years later, things are a bit different. How:

  1. I have a four-year track record with Amazon. And, BY FAR, I have sold more Kindle versions of Baby Grand than I have any other outlet or edition. Amazon SELLS books.
  2. I have found — despite many opinions to the contrary — Amazon to be good to readers AND authors, offering low pricing and high royalties, respectively. And for such a mega-company, the customer service support is efficient and prompt.
  3. The introduction of Kindle Unlimited, which offers more than a million titles and thousands of audiobooks to subscribers. Books that are enrolled in KDP Select are also enrolled into Kindle Unlimited. This helps to increase the discoverability of the Baby Grand Series. Very important. After just a few days in the program, nearly 1,000 pages have already been read by subscribers. (Kindle Unlimited is populated mostly with books written by indie authors, like me. I like the idea of all of us getting the chance to find new readers.)

All this was enough to make me reconsider my participation in the program. It seemed like a good deal. And the right time, particularly with the sequel to Baby Grand on its way. So I decided to pull all the ebooks from Smashwords, the Self-e program (I was sad to leave this one), and others. At least for now. In three months’, six months’, nine months’ time, I can look at my sales and reevaluate. If something doesn’t seem to be working, I can always mix it up again.That’s the great thing about being an indie author. The decisions — writing, editing, publishing, marketing — are mine.

 

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Blurbs

BabyBailino_digital_final_FINALAs you work on self-publishing your book, you may want to consider getting a blurb or two. What are blurbs? Words of praise or reviews from another person that go directly onto your book cover or flap. Their purpose is simply to convince readers to buy your book. People like to read books that are liked by other people, so if a popular author gives a book an endorsement or her stamp of approval, that author’s legions of fans are opt to get on board and buy that book.

Who should write a blurb for you?

Well, there are no rules, but there are three good candidates:

  1. Celebrity
  2. Well-known author in your genre (fiction)
  3. Well-respected individual in your field (nonfiction)

How do you go about getting a blurb?

It’s easy. Create a list of potential book blurbers — maybe 7 or 8 — kind of like a list you would make when applying to college. Divide the list into “reach” (blurbers who are probably hard to get, like celebrities), “match” (those for whom you have a good shot a landing a blurb), and “safety” (people very likely to provide you with a blurb). And then simply go down the line and ask each one. The great thing about social media and the internet is that anyone is accessible.

Remember, of course, to always be courteous and to make sure that you’ve spelled the person’s name correctly and that your request carries no typos or grammatical/punctuation errors. (I believe written requests, in the form of emails, are best. Also, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a telephone number for someone famous.) The worst that could happen is that person will say is no, but he or she might surprise you and say yes. At the very least, even if the person declines, he or she will remember your name.

I humbly asked David Baldacci to blurb my new book, Baby Bailino (he declined), but his associate remembered that I had asked four years earlier for Baby Grand (as you can see I tend to never give up). My hope is that the third time will be the charm.

Cover Reveal!

BabyBailino_digital_final_FINALI’m so THRILLED to premiere the cover of the sequel to BABY GRAND — BABY BAILINO — coming out this fall! I decided to go with a more literal interpretation for the cover this time around, rather than conceptual, like Baby Grand’s. I’m sooooo happy with it. I think it really captures the flavor of the series. What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts!

#PubSmartCon Pieces: PubSlush

Amanda Barbara was the first person I met at PubSmart last week. My friend and I had just arrived at the Francis Marion Hotel and bumped into her on our way to our first master class. Turns out, Amanda is the vivacious co-founder and vice president of PubSlush, a crowdfunding company geared specifically to the literary world.

I know what you’re thinking… Crowdfunding???? Trust me. I’m not a fan of asking people for money either, but after hearing Amanda out, I have to say I’m intrigued.

During a panel about Authorpreneurship, Amanda explained that Pubslush, in addition to raising funds for your publishing efforts, is a platform that can help you:

  • Collect pre-orders;
  • Market your book pre-publication;
  • Build your reader database; and
  • Gain valuable insight into your audience with market analytics.

Amanda describes it as “reward-based crowdfunding.” In exchange for a donation, authors can offer anything from bookmarks and personalized thank-you notes to free books or Skype chats with book clubs. Interested authors can sign up for an account using the promo code PubSmartCon to receive The Guide: Tips To Successful Crowdfunding, an informative manual created by Pubslush for their authors.

It’s definitely worth checking out, no matter what your feelings are about hitting up folks for cash.

Should Authors Heed eBook Reader Data?

A recent New York Times article discusses how technology is allowing authors of eBooks to see all kinds of reader data:

  • How long does it take readers to read your book?
  • Do readers finish your book?
  • Do readers skip chapters? If so, which ones?
  • Do readers linger over certain scenes?

Some critics argue that having this kind of information will make authors more like pushers of product rather than creators of art, catering to the whims of a fickle consumer. They argue the information interferes with the creative process. Personally, I think the notion of authors writing to the market’s needs/wants is not something new. I have author-friends who have been “persuaded” by agents and publishing houses to write about topics that are “selling” or “hot now.” This kind of nudge or coercion, if you can call it that, is now coming directly from the consumer, rather than the publishing industry and, perhaps, has never been at this micro-level before, although you can argue that it has.

Is this kind of stuff good for authors to know? Sure, why not. Information is good. When I attend book clubs, readers tell me all the time what they’d like to see happen in the sequel to Baby Grand, and I always listen — readers have been very passionate about the book’s characters, which is so cool. But the truth is I already know in my heart how the next book will go, and I don’t think anything anyone says will change that.

I guess that’s the key. It’s like parenting. You listen to what’s being said. You read the information that’s out there. The reviews. You consider the suggestions. But then you do what you think is right. If authors feel strongly about their characters and their books, nothing should sway them from the book they set out to write, whatever the reader data says.

Do you agree? What say you, authors? Would you like to have this kind of reader information? Would it change the way you write?

Hugh Howey: `Every Author Has to Sort Out the Pros and Cons for Themselves’

Today, Hugh Howey, author of the best-selling WOOL series, conducted a Facebook Q&A. Tempted, of course, to ask Hugh “if he were a tree what kind of tree he would be,” I instead decided to pose a publishing question. In the Continuing Education class I teach at Hofstra University, we discuss the various paths authors have available to them, and I asked Hugh what, in his view, publishers were able to offer authors these days that they could not attain by self-publishing? Here’s what he said:

A few things:

1) Better print distribution.
2) A seal of approval (good for asking for professional reviews, interviews, blog mentions, etc.).
3) A team to offload the business stuff.

The question is whether or not what you give up is worth these advantages. Countering each, I would say:

1) You only get 3-6 months in a bookstore, and more and more books are being bought online these days.
2) I’m not sure if these mentions drive enough sales to warrant losing ownership of your art. You are better off writing than worrying about blog mentions and reviews. They follow sales rather than drive them.
3) Hiring your own team, each member based on merit and able to be replaced if need be, might be better than having people you don’t know assigned to work on your book, and only for a very brief time.

Every author has to sort out the pros and cons for themselves.

I totally agree. Frankly, if I had to point to one author today who is successfully “hybrid-ing,” as they say, between traditional publishing and self-publishing, it would be Howey. If you have a moment, check out the piece he penned earlier this year for Huffington Post titled, How WOOL Got a Unique Publishing Deal. It’s a fascinating read, and I think you’ll agree that what separates Howey from the crowd is not just his willingness to embrace new technologies and self-publishing, in particular, but his confidence and staunch belief in his craft and his abilities that allowed him to say no to a deal that wasn’t right — or, as he calls it, “an offer I can refuse.”

Why I Signed up for Amazon’s Matchbook Program

I have to admit: I was skeptical.

When Amazon announced its Matchook program, I didn’t think much about it. The Matchbook program allows customers who buy a print copy of a book to get a deeply discounted or free Kindle version of the same book (to learn more about the program, check out Christiana Miller’s HuffPo piece). I’m just not one of those people who buys every format of a book — eBook, print, hardcover, audiobook — but to my surprise, I’ve discovered there are lots of people out there who do. LOTS. They’ve been telling me things like, “If you buy the print book as a gift, you can keep the eBook” or “You can keep a pristine copy of the book on your bookshelf and read the other on vacation in Oahu,” etc., etc. Apparently, there are many reasons, from the practical to the bizarre, to have several copies of the same book in various formats in your home.

Who knew?

Well, sign me up then! In the coming weeks, when Amazon launches Matchbook, Baby Grand will be offered at the discounted price of $1.99 (regular price is $3.99 as of yesterday) whenever the paperback is bought.

This is just another example of Amazon responding to the needs of both readers and authors. I’ve said this before, but that Amazon… always thinking.

Authors, are you considering this new Amazon program?