Amazon

Amazon In Space

So apparently Jeff Bezos is not content with taking over the entire retail world on Earth. He’s expanding his reach to the stars.

I’m not sure I really want the same guy who sells me my discount historical novels to be dallying with everything from on demand TV to space flight. I fear it distracts him from what really matters, like cheaper, smoothly delivered toilet paper.

However, as a spec fic author I have to applaud the gumption and entrepreneurial spirit it takes to assume your company must–and can, and will–do everything.

I wouldn’t want to hold stock in a company that has this many identities, but it is fascinating to watch Bezos try to be all things to everyone.

Even if he fails in that, he just might succeed at space travel and Lord knows Elon Musk needs some competition, and the ISS needs regular deliveries.

So you go, Blue Origin! We’re rooting for you!

good luck animated GIF

Taylor Swift Is Alright With Me

I like Taylor Swift and I’m not ashamed to say it.

I don’t, in fact, think she writes bad music. I like her tunes, I rock out to them all the time, and her Bad Blood video was everything, dahling, just everything.

Does she sometimes come across as the branded version of every good American girl a good American guy ever lusted after in a John Hughes movie? Sure. But it’s not her fault she happens to be blonde, talented and beautiful. And good for her, she also comes across as someone who has a sense of humour about herself and doesn’t really let what others think of her change what she likes about herself. As a feminist, I enjoy seeing a young woman move through the world confidently, living life as exactly the kind of woman she wants to be, and although the music industry famously warps everyone, Taylor still seems to be the same kind of likable girl we met when she was in her teens, despite the best efforts of most tabloids. In that, at least, she has beat out Miley, Lindsey, Hilary and a bunch of others.

However, what really made me like her recently is her stand against not being paid for what she does. Few artists have used their likability and success to actually stand up for principles that benefit the little guy. Most just use it to bankroll themselves. But twice now, Taylor has taken a stand against systems in the music industry that don’t pay performers properly for music. Withholding her massively popular album has served to spotlight practices at Spotify. And now, she has done the same thing with Apple, who intended to withhold royalties from artists whose tracks were downloaded during a user’s free three month trial period. Her latest stand against Apple was brilliantly explained. Apple does not give away its services for free, so they should not ask performers to do so. Only someone possessing no heart could fault it.

I never thought Apple had a heart (or rather, if it had one, it was a monstrous, misshapen entity, made up of the madly beating nerd hearts that gave out while standing in line for the newest variation of iPhones and iPads). But heart or not, they actually responded to her elegantly stated position by changing theirs.

This is big. Really big. Because for too long now, the internet has encouraged an entire generation to believe that entertainment should be free. Piracy is rampant in the music, publishing and film industry and in order to combat it, some industry leaders have tried and failed to plug leaks, while others have simply made as much content as possible free, at least for a time.

Giving away work for free is not a solution. What it does is enrich corporations, who can wait for profits, while seriously hurting artists, who are often on the bread line before they see a penny back from those long hours in a garage putting together demos and tracks. In the case of writers, it takes years to get novels done, and we already get paid a fraction of the sticker price of our own work unless we jump on board the Smashwords and Apple train, or sell our soul to sites like Amazon.

Problem is, Amazon is also a big company who can wait for profits. So it does things like arbitrarily reduce royalties on audio books after buying up Audible. Or change the rates on a programme because writers, you know, joined it. It can change the way it decides to price or market your book in KDP select without any consultation.

This basic disrespect of content creators comes in part from the false ideas that everyone can be a writer, and readers will pay for any book because they don’t care where they came from, they just care about the book. That’s not true anymore, if it ever was. Frankly, not everyone can be a GOOD writer, and most readers would like to pay for something that’s good.

There is some evidence that ebook sales are leveling off. More importantly, self-publishing and making money from it are not, and have never been, the same thing. Still, every writer should choose the path to publication they are most comfortable with because every path has drawbacks and positives. For me, not getting paid has never been something I’m comfortable with. I love writing. I want to do this full time. But I have a family who depends on me. If writing doesn’t pay my bills, I will have to try something else and let writing remain a beloved hobby. I’d rather not do that.

The creation of content, written, audible or visual, demands real money, time and work. Just because you can get something without paying, doesn’t mean it cost nothing to make. Artists deserve to be paid for it the same way everyone else gets paid for their work. Deciding that because it’s on the internet it should be free is simply a way of saying you don’t care what it takes to create content and you don’t want any more of it. If you like something, the only way for an artist to produce more is if they can feed themselves and their family doing it. If they can’t do that, why should you expect them too keep feeding your hobby? To keep entertaining you for free?

So I’m with Taylor. If you want to give people a free trail, do so by all means. But bear the cost yourself. Don’t ask artists to do it. If you want to enjoy an ebook, or music, or a film, consider buying it first. Respect the creator enough to acknowledge their right to earn a living from their own work.

But if you really can’t do that (writers and musicians are just a subset of broke people, after all), then at least advocate for what you love. Help boost the signal. Leave reviews for books on Amazon and Goodreads. Tell friends about your favourites. Someone with the money to buy the product might see your review and give a new artist a chance.

Support your habit. Support artists. Pay it forward. Because I suspect Taylor Swift is totally down with that too.

Taylor Swift Zendaya animated GIF

Stay thirsty my friends!

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, Amazon

Really, Amazon, really? This is what we’ve come to?

I won’t even bother to talk about the absurdity of trying to rope indie and self-publishers into your argument with a publisher they have NOTHING TO DO WITH. Smarter people than I have already done that.

And this is a reader’s perspective on this. If you have problems with the profane, you may want to avert your eyes, but she makes some really salient points.

I will say one thing. One last thing about this silly, never-ending story of two big companies throwing tantrums all over the book world.

Amazon, if you really believe that books will sell best at $9.99 and Hachette doesn’t want to give you the prices you need to do that, you should pick one of the two choices you have and run with it.

Let them swing by their own petard–after all, they’ll sell less if they price the book higher, according to the figures you won’t provide the metadata for. This will work out great for you as you will get all the sales they so foolishly left behind.

Or stop selling Hachette’s books. Since they won’t play ball with you, exercise the Walmart option and just take your business to the cheapest bidder.

Aside from these two options, I really don’t see what else you hope to achieve. Dragging indie authors into this mess is stupid. And I would add, I would LOVE for Hachette to keep selling at a premium. Readers will pay more for JK Rowling anyway. But my book might get their attention on the day they only have seven bucks to play with, and I’d like that to continue.

One thing I know for certain. As an indie author, I’m not interested in letting ANYONE set my prices for me. Nope, not even you and not even if you gave me the metadata to prove their figures. As the content provider, I will set my prices and let the customers decide what they want to pay, and they speak very clearly without any help just by walking on by when they don’t approve, thank you very much.

So put your money where your mouth is, Amazon. After all, if you’re sure you make more money at $9.99, then let Hachette eat cake. What do you care? You make 30% either way. And we’ll see the truth of it in the lowered profit reports next year, right?

Yeah, I probably won’t hold my breath on that one.

Popcorn dis gon b gud reaction gifs

What Everyone Who Loves Books Needs to Know

This is your writer speaking.

And what indie writer Ninie Hammon has to say is what EVERY writer–famous our not–would love to say if they weren’t worried about coming off as pushy, demanding, ungrateful or off-putting.

In today’s world, your open and vocal support has become something we cannot do without.

Once upon a time, a writer could just leave it up to the Fates whether their book caught on or not after the usual period of publisher hype. Now, there IS no hype–particularly for indie authors like myself–without the help of readers who like our work. If those readers don’t talk about us on Facebook, add us on Goodreads, review us on Amazon or rave about us on Twitter, we will most likely go nowhere very fast.

I didn’t realise just how much things had changed until my publisher recently informed me that without more reviews on Amazon, I could not ‘unlock’ better promotional support from Amazon itself.

Most people indie or self-publishing now don’t even realise the game changed last year, six months ago, even last month.

Think you’ll get traction by joining Goodreads? Maybe. If you give away a lot of books you might get a few reviews back, and thank your luck stars for those. Now let’s just hope they liked it.

Twitter freak who can charm anyone in 140 characters? Guess what? There are more writers following those writing/reading/publishing accounts on Twitter than readers. Yup. You’re mostly likely trying to sell your book to someone else who’s trying to sell you their book too. And in any case, are you really more charming than Neil Gaiman or Chuck Wendig? ‘Cause they’re your real competition.

Great blog you worked on for years? See Chuck Wendig’s site. Then go cry in a corner. Oh, and don’t be surprised if your blog followers are interested in…you know, your blog. People don’t usually follow other people just to buy stuff from them. In other words, be grateful if your followers love you enough to give your book a read. Be over the moon if they review it. A blog isn’t a marketing tool to readers and just talking about your stuff is no guarantee anyone will buy it.

Think you can join Wattpad and get more attention that way? Traditional authors are already way ahead of you. If you weren’t there already, building up a loyal fan base and adding friends and getting down with the community, prepare to roll up your sleeves before you see any real results. And if you do adult scifi like I do, then you run into the wall of YA love that puts every paranormal, urban fantasy or contemporary YA a la John Greene way ahead of you in the queue. Don’t expect millions of readers no matter how good you are. Do expect to compete for attention with long established writers like Cory Doctrow.

Facebook master? Good for you. I hope you have a lot of friends. Because whatever that number is, divide it by 1000 and that’s how many will actually share your writing updates or requests for reviews. And the writers groups are usually about supporting and critiquing and not cool with promotion, so you make a nuisance of yourself and end up getting kicked out if you try the hard sell. And if you do join a group that’s cool with promotion–you’ve most likely just entered the same game that Twitter has going.

Giving your manuscript away for free on NetGalley and LibraryThing so you can get more reviews and buzz? Even if you book is amazing, the number of reviews is usually quite low because EVERYONE is doing the same thing, and overwhelming the good-hearted readers on those sites. While we’re at it, sending off requests to people who joined sites and offered honest reviews in return for free books no longer works either. They’re even more overwhelmed than the NetGalley guys.

What about paying to get reviews from sites like Kirkus or sending your book to Publishers’ Weekly? Standard practice. For everyone. Kirkus reviews do nothing for most people in terms of sales. And even if Publishers’ Weekly likes you, that doesn’t reach readers as much as it reaches the industry.  Readers see those tags on the backs of every book they pick up–and their eyes go right over it.

So spend a little and pay to get on a email list like BookBub then, right? Nope. BookBub has so many people banging on their doors, they’ve become very select and more traditionally published books are on their lists than indie books now because traditional publishers usually have the Goodreads and Amazon ratings needed to meet their high standards and they have the cash to take the big deals too. Indie books generally get on if they have hundreds of good ratings–and they’re offering the book for free. Which sort of defeats every purpose except maybe hoping to get a review back. But since these lists operate to give readers cheap new books, not authors new reviews, a review is a possible and hoped for by-product, not a guarantee.

Well, the great God Amazon will be your saviour.

Wrong. Amazon is in business to make money. And if you’re not part of their imprints, you are a distant second. So those ‘recommended’ listings you see, those ‘people who bought X also bought Y’ ratings, even your place in the rankings after sales–they can all be paid for by traditional publishers. Indie and self-publishers can’t depend on that. And remember how you could just put out a good book with a nice cover, get a bunch of high ratings, climb the charts and reap the extra attention all the way to Hugh Howey sized success?

No longer.

Amazon changes their formulas regularly just to make sure they can’t be gamed again like they were in the past by those guys who sell review packages. It’s a constant battle between unethical authors, shady review providers and Amazon that has led to draconian measures like not letting authors review for other authors, and even deleting reviews from close family, usually the only guaranteed reviews authors can count on. Thanks a lot, RJ Ellory and friends.

I could go on and on. As a recently published author, I can tell you I’ve tried just about everything in terms of marketing and promotion. Some things worked okay, some things not at all. Nothing has been a sure-fire winner. And the advice other authors and sites give about how to market is already outdated or has been taken by every other author out there competing with me, so by the time I try to follow it, the paradigm has changed and it’s no longer effective.

Only one thing hasn’t changed. The power of the reader and word of mouth.

If you love a book, if you think it was good, if you enjoyed something recently, then help a writer out. Talk about it. Leave reviews if you can. Follow a blog. A twitter feed. A Goodreads account. Tell your friends. Pass the book on. Say a few words on Amazon or Goodreads. Whatever little you do, it multiples for that writer a thousand-fold and it will be appreciated so much you won’t even understand.

Readers, your casual mention is the difference between us being able to write the next novel, and having to give up so we can work another job. We authors understand that like us, you have busy lives with your own concerns. We don’t expect reviews or social media campaigns. We know it’s not even realistic for most people. But just walking into a Barnes and Noble and asking for a book can make a difference. Passing your copy on to a friend makes a difference. Dropping a rating on Goodreads makes a difference.

On behalf of Ninie and other authors out there, I want to say thank you to all those who have done these things and more for their favourite authors. You are helping deserving writers keep their heads above water in a world inundated with books, good and bad. And what I want to leave you with is the idea that if you want to see more work from someone you read recently, consider lending a helping hand in some way.

Because it’s a new world and the rules are different every day and the only thing that hasn’t changed is that readers and writers both want more good stories out there.

It’s Just Business – Hachette and Amazon

This is a pretty balanced take on all sides of the dispute. Particularly liked hearing from an Amazon writer who is happy with his publisher.

For me, this is very simple. Both sides in this are capable of carrying out some pretty crappy moves. Both sides, on occasion, have done just that.

That’s how businesses work. They may have opinions and feelings according to the US Supreme Court, but that doesn’t make them devils or saviours. It’s makes them businesses and businesses watch out for their bottom line. Does Amazon have a right to do what it thinks it needs to grow its business? Of course it does. But if you accept that, then you have to accept Hachette has the same rights.

Authors are much better off if they realise that Amazon and other publishers are businesses they might work with some day, and only a fool puts all his eggs in one basket.

O rly really you dont say reaction gifs

Live Long and Prosper, my friends!

LEX TALIONIS – Today I Interviewed One of My Characters!

Welcome back from the weekend! I hope you had a good one. I certainly did. I saw Godzilla on Saturday and X-Men on Sunday and I feel fine!

While I was gone, a friend of mine posted an interview with one of my main characters on her website. So if you want to have a little fun with Lex today, you can read my guest blog.

A Twitter friend actually bought my book, read it, and had this to say about it. Which was awesome not only because he totally got the book, but he said such great things when he didn’t have to. He’s really well read in the genre, so I feel extra special that he liked it.

My newest review on Amazon was awesome too. This time from someone I ran into at my writing group online. It’s amazing how just striking up a conversation with a person can lead to friendship and a sale months later. It took me a few minutes to figure out who it was, but I’m pretty sure I know now!

(::Hint:: she comes by this blog a lot!)

So you can check out the review by Tropical Gal on Amazon if you need more convincing. 

If you don’t need convincing…well, what are you waiting for :-)?

Nailed it amazed excited reaction gifs

Stay thirsty, my friends!

 

LEX TALIONIS Is Now On Kindle!!

Get your Amazon on, people!

My debut space opera mystery, LEX TALIONIS, is now available on Kindle!

And for those of you who purchased the paperback, we have a special offer.

You can get the Kindle edition for just $3.00! That’s $4.00 less than the retail price.

A little thank you to those who were kind enough to NOT wait.

For those of you who want to know what LEX TALIONIS all about, here’s the Publishers Weekly review.

You know what? I think they liked it. I think they really, really liked it!

High five reaction gifs

Stay thirsty, my friends!

 

 

 

The “I Pinch Myself Every Day Now” Roundup

So I was so excited yesterday, I forgot to point out that if you want to read part of Chapter 1 of my debut novel, LEX TALIONIS, you can head on over to Tara Maya’s blog at bestfantasynovel.com. Just scroll past all the interviewy stuff and you’ll find the excerpt waiting to sit you down, put your feet up and give you a bucket of popcorn so you can settle in for the short haul 😉

Hopefully, you’ll like it and want to throw money at it.

LEX TALIONIS is now also available at Barnes and Noble.

And if you have something against them, just head on over to Kobo.

It should be up on Amazon really soon, so I’ll drop a note when that happens.

And as if that wasn’t surreal enough, one of my sister’s co-workers got her copy today, so my sister got to touch it and flip through it and realise the bedtime story of her youth was really out there in the big, bad world as a novel. It was a head-spinning moment for both of us (she sent me pics). One that I think made it worthwhile.

I’m always worrying if I did the right thing. If it was worth all the sacrifice to just keep pursuing this crazy goal. If it was smart to put myself and such a dark, difficult story out there like that. When you start to get your first ‘meh’ reviews and reactions your heart kind of plummets and you start wondering why you ever signed up for this.

But then you see an interview go up, or you read a reader’s reaction where they basically freak out over how much they love your story, or you just hold that dream in your hand as a real physical copy of all the thoughts and words you had. And it’s totally, totally worth everything it took to get there.

Even if you never sell another copy. Even if the books sinks into the massive trove of new books out there without another peep. Even if every critic that reads it hates it. I realise now I don’t care. I have shared my story, and part of me, with other people. No one can take that away from me.

I have been luckier than many to have this opportunity. And I treasure it.

So no matter what, stay thirsty, my friends. Take it from me; you’ll get there as long as you don’t quit.

LEX TALIONIS Is Now on Amazon!

*Runs around in circles squeeing*

Peeps! My novel, LEX TALIONIS, is now up on Amazon.com! I even have a review already!

It’s just the paperback for now. The Kindle edition will be out on May 30th, and until then, you can get all the formats from Dragonwell Publishing’s website.

I cannot believe I have a novel on Amazon! It’s surreal! And my use of exclamation points just went through the roof!

So between you and me, if you have any friends who like science fiction or mysteries or both smashed together in one gritty whole, please whisper in their ear about my book. I’d appreciate it. And my stomach–which has no interest in being a starving artist–will appreciate it too!

Have a good one, and stay thirsty, my friends!

Amazon and Publishing – A Postscript

I thought this was another valid and interesting follow up to George Packer’s piece in the New Yorker.

It doesn’t bode well that open discourse about the publishing industry and Amazon’s place in it is practically impossible. I think it leads to a lot of guesswork and assumptions on both sides. It also makes it easier to paint publishers or Amazon as the devil, depending on whose side you’re on.

I’d rather have information. Real information. Not parcelled out, carefully sanitized and vague figures. Not bullshit and mirrors. And certainly not assumptive guesswork that conveniently reflects what the person presenting it wants you to buy into. But we can’t get any of that when many of the players involved insist on being the man behind the curtain that we must pay no attention to.

Because the decisions I have to make as a writer shouldn’t be based on what indie authors want, or what traditional publishers want, or what Amazon wants. It should be based on what I want. And I can’t make those decisions in room full of people shouting half-truths at each other.

Most importantly, I shouldn’t have to. We’re all adults here. Can’t we act like it, just a little?