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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Indie Publishing in 2013: Why We Can't Party Like It's 2009

Amazon's Kindle turned five years old last week. What an exciting half-decade it's been!

Jeff Bezos showed his genius when he gave his e-reader that name. The device sparked a conflagration that is still pretty much out of control. The old publishing world is in chaos, and nobody has a clue what direction the wildfire will take next.

Although if you want a little glimpse into the crystal ball, Agent Laurie McLean offered some optimistic predictions in her guest post here two weeks ago.

But in just the two weeks since her post, we've seen more wild shifts and changes. HarperCollins, moving to more ebooks, is closing one of its biggest warehouses, and seems set to gobble up Simon and Schuster.  And Simon and Schuster has launched a new scary-scammy self-publishing wing by teaming up with the vanity publisher Author Solutions. Yes, the Author Solutions which was recently acquired by Penguin, which was recently purchased by Random House. And Random House is launching several new digital-only imprints. Ditto HarperCollins' Avon imprint which is actually soliciting your NaNo novels. (Yes. That one surprised the heck out of me, too.)

Confused yet? I sure am. Some people think the Big Six-no-Five-or-is-it-Four—are soon to become the Big One, which still may not be Big enough to compete with what some fear will become the most powerful publishing force of all: the Mighty Zon. (Sarah Lacy at PandoDaily has some interesting things to say on the subject of Amazon's inevitable dominance.)

In five years, Amazon has gone from mail-order bookseller to major player in world publishing.

They did this partly by sparking the "indie revolution".

The "revolution" was another product of Mr. Bezos' marketing genius. He wanted cheap electronic books for his new Kindle, and the Big Six were not about to slash prices for some upstart online retailer with a gadget nobody thought they needed. Publishers wanted to charge the same price for an ebook as they did for a new hardcover book. Amazon accused them of price-fixing and went after them through the legal system.

But meanwhile they needed cheap books for the new Kindle owners.

So they opened up Amazon to self-publishers, offering an author-friendly e-book creation system and a 70% "royalty" to authors who priced their books in the range Amazon wanted to promote: between three and ten dollars.

I'm putting "royalty" in quotes, because, by strict definition, Amazon doesn't pay a traditional royalty. Publishers pay royalties. Retailers take a percentage. For self-publishers, Amazon is a retailer, so technically, Amazon is not paying a 70% royalty; it's taking a 30% sales commission.

But whatever you choose to call it, the payment system worked. Big time. While the Big Six were shrinking advances, lists and print runs—and making increasingly unreasonable demands on authors—the Zon offered writers a new way to distribute their work and actually make money at it.

I first became aware of the viability of Amazon-aided self-publishing in late 2009, when a fellow chick lit author, Elisa Lorello, self-published a novel that went to the top of the Kindle bestseller list on Christmas Day. This was when traditional publishers were treating chick lit as toxic waste and refused to acquire any titles that didn't involve vampires, werepersons, or other dentally-enhanced people-eaters.

I paid even more attention a few months later when Amazon offered Lorello a nice contract with their first publishing venture, Amazon Encore.

Elisa became one of thousands of highly successful e-book self-publishers. In 2010, Amazon's new "indies" like John Locke and Amanda Hocking became household names. At the same time, established, agented novelists like Joe Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith self-published and started to preach the gospel of the "indie" movement.

Then, on March 21, 2011, New York Times bestseller Barry Eisler turned down a six figure advance from St. Martin's  to self-publish his new thriller.

That was the moment when even the nay-sayers had to accept that self-publishing had become mainstream.

Indies went on to become some of the greatest bestsellers of all time, like E. L. James (although, like me, she started with a small press, not strictly self-publishing.) Other self-pubbers made high-profile deals with Hollywood, like Hugh Howey, who sold his Wool books to Ridley Scott for some serious bucks. (Sorry, Hugh, that I tried to give Wool to Speilberg in an earlier version of this post. LOL.)

Subsequently, a whole industry of editors, designers, coders and online advertisers sprang up to minister to the needs of the new indie entrepreneur-authors.

John Locke wrote a book telling how to achieve Amazon success like his. Literally millions of self-publishers flooded the marketplace in 2011 and 2012. (Nobody's quite sure how many ebooks there are, since many don't have ISBNs.)

But a few months ago, things began to change. Amazon made some policy changes that were decidedly less friendly to self-publishers.

Indies who formerly sang Amazon's praises began to get cranky. I recently saw this lament on the Kindleboards (with apologies to Tennessee Ernie Ford.)

You write sixteen books, what do you get
Another year older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the Amazon store.

Some authors even think indies are being "being quietly herded off into a corner" since the DoJ decision brought down the price of Big Six books. Stephen Hise wrote a dark post at Indies Unlimited on the effects of Amazon's policy changes on the indie author.

What we do know is that Amazon's attempt to bring down prices through the legal system finally paid off. Big name ebooks by Big Six authors are now selling for reasonable, and even give-away prices.

So indies aren't as necessary to the Amazon bottom line as they once were. I'm not sure things are as dire as Derek Haines says in his post in The Vandal, because established indies report they continue to have good Amazon sales. But he has some legitimate worries.

For the new author who is thinking of launching a career by self-publishing through Amazon, it's important to be aware things have changed drastically in recent months. One thing to be aware of—especially if you're a newbie—is that a lot of the most powerful marketing strategies of the "Kindle Millionaires" are no longer viable:

#1 Garnering lots of of Amazon reviews: A great deal of John Locke's success was due to his huge number of positive Amazon reviews. His "how I made millions" book claimed this was due to his expertise in targeting the right reader.

But it turns out his expertise was actually in buying fake reviews.

The paid review and sock-puppet review scandals that rocked Amazon this summer after revelations by Locke--and an embarrassing number of others--have resulted in a draconian crackdown on all Amazon reviews.

The L.A. Times reports that many authors have found their reviews disappearing. Some popular legitimate reviewers have had all their reviews (of indies and trad-pubbed books alike) deleted with no explanation. I've seen lots of reports from authors who have lost dozens of reviews for no apparent reason. And authors who question the arbitrary removals are told they'll be banned from selling on Amazon forever if they dare to question any action by the Great Zon. Even Amazon advocate Joe Konrath thinks they've gone over to the dark side with this.

Amazon now bans authors from reviewing other authors' books in their own genre. They claim this is because their TOS guidelines ban reviewing by a "competitor," and this protects against attacks on rivals by sock puppets. But they delete positive and negative reviews alike. And not only from authors in their own genre. Some people have been told all published authors have been banned from reviewing. (If the New York Times or the New Yorker did this, they'd have to go out of business. Authors have ALWAYS reviewed other authors.)

They are also deleting reviews by anybody with a name similar to the author. I've had reviews deleted from anybody named "Allen". The rational is that anybody with the same name has a financial interest in my work. (Yes, Woody Allen, Joan Allen, and General John Allen have a big financial interest in my books :-) )

As you can imagine, this has made many reviewers wary of posting anything to Amazon, and has left readers jaded and untrusting. Seeking reviews is now a much less sure-fire way of making sales. Unfortunately, search engines still favor books with more reviews. Not a good situation for a newbie self-publisher.

2) Using free ebooks to raise your Amazon profile. Elisa Lorello had her big Christmas 2009 success because she offered her book free on Amazon that day. That pushed her to the top of the "bestseller" list and raised her book from obscurity to the top of suggested "also boughts" and "top sellers" that appear on every Kindle.

But in late 2011, Amazon introduced KDP Select. Only authors enrolled in the "Select" program are now allowed freebie give-aways. Select requires exclusivity. If you sell ebooks at Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, Kobo, etc—or even on your own website—you aren't allowed to list a book as "free" on Amazon.

And the "also boughts" and "top sellers" also heavily favor books in the KDP Select program.

Until recently, Amazon matched the price you charge for your book on other platforms, so it was possible to get around the KDP Select exclusivity by making your book free on Smashwords, but many of us are finding that even after several months, Amazon doesn't seem to be matching a "free" price.

They are however, sweetening the pot for KDP Select members by doubling the price they pay for "borrows" (Select books are also free to borrow for Amazon Prime members.) Now many Select books will get more than the sale price for a borrow. It's tempting, but only if you have other books available at other retailers. I think it's unwise for anybody to be 100% dependent on the whims of Amazon's ever-changing algorithms.

3) Selling mass quantities of 99 cent ebooks to become a bestseller on Amazon. A year ago, D.D. Scott, the force of nature behind the Writers Guide to E-Publishing, preached the gospel of "Snickers-bar marketing" and the 99 cent ebook.

But that has all changed. Here's what she said last week,

"Up until a few months ago, using the 99 Cent Price Point got you a ton of fabulous VISIBILITY ….You could more than make up for a higher royalty per book (using a price point of $2.99 or above) because of the higher quantity of books sold at the lower 99 Cent price.

BUT…not anymore!!!

Due to the agency pricing/cost-fixing schemes and the resulting Department of Justice settlement with a few of The Big Six Publishers – with several more holding out for litigation, many Big Six/TradiPubs are lowering their prices to between 99 Cents and $3.99.

Also…and this is HUGE…Amazon’s algorithms have definitely changed to favor the TradiPub books at these lower prices."

There was also a change in the Amazon algorithms last May that give a 99 cent book sale less "weight" in sales rankings. To be counted as a full "sale" a book has to sell for $2.99 or more.

4)  Getting featured on Kindle Nation Daily, E-Reader News Today, Pixel of Ink or other sites for e-book readers. Recently the big sites for ebook promos announced they will be severely restricting the number of free books they list, due to a firm request from Amazon. Here's how they put it at ENT.

"While Amazon cannot "make" us do anything with our website, they can tell us they will not pay us anymore if we don't do what they want us to do.  And what they've told us to do is cut down A LOT on the free books or they will not pay us at all.  I can't go into detail on what they've told us but this is something that will be affecting all sites similar to ours within the next month."

5) Promoting your work on Facebook. Facebook is still "free" for family and friends, but now you have to pay to use it for marketing. Meghan Ward talked in her post this week about "Promoted Posts", which Facebook launched in May of this year.

"For $5 $10, or $15, Facebook will make your post more visible within your followers’ news feeds. If you don’t promote your post, only a fraction of your followers will ever see it." 

Facebook's changes mean that only about 16% of all your followers now see your regular posts. If you want more people to see them, you have to pay around $50. Even for family photos and LOL Cat videos.
~ ~ ~
So does all this mean the indie movement is over?

Not at all. Simon and Schuster wouldn't be making their clueless foray into self-publishing if they thought indie publishing was going to diminish.  

But I think it's important not to think of it as the "Kindle" movement any more. I think the "revolution" needs to wean itself from the Mighty Zon and Facebook to be truly "indie".

The truth is, "indie" is a misnomer for someone who is 100% dependent on a mega-corporation. Yes, when you publish on Amazon you're an "independent contractor" rather than an employee, but that isn't necessarily a ticket to financial independence.

I think the indies of the future will need to focus on smaller outlets like Smashwords, Kobo and Barnes and Noble, even though they may require more initial work.

Smashwords may be a little cumbersome, but it is a truly "independent" company. Mark Coker started it because he's an indie author himself, and I think right now he still only has about thirteen employees. It's still a very "indie" operation.

And a number of indies are finding Smashwords is their best source of revenue. Horror author Edward M. Grant said on the Passive Voice blog this week,

"I’ve sold about 4x as many e-books through Smashwords and its distributors as through Amazon in the last three months, and made more money on most of the sales."

If you want to support independent publishing, look for ebook titles to buy at Smashwords before clicking automatically to Amazon. You can buy a book there for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad or any other device just as easily as with Amazon. And there are a whole lot of great books free. (Shameless plug: My comic mystery SHERWOOD, LTD is free on Smashwords.) Leaving your reviews on Smashwords instead of Amazon may also have a greater impact. Certainly your review will have a better chance of a long shelf-life.

Kobo is another very author-friendly retailer that's just beginning to hit its stride. They're the biggest online book retailer in Canada, where they started, and now they've been acquired by e-commerce giant, Rakuten, they're getting a good chunk of the global market.

British indie superstar Saffina Desforges says Kobo is blitzing the airwaves with adverts for their mini ereaders, which are "cute and back lit--with a very attractive price tag of 40 quid."

Kobo reps tell me they plan to start forums and discussion groups to rival the Kindleboards. Let's hope they'll be monitored by polite Canadians so we can leave the crankypants Kindleboarders behind to snipe at each other in the Amazon jungle.

Let me be clear: I'm not telling indies to abandon Amazon. It still has 43% of the ebook market--which may go up again with the phenomenal success of the new Kindle Fire tablet.

And I think KDP Select is great for launching a book, but I suggest using it for the minimum of three months. Do your freebies and get your title and name out there. But then I think it's best to opt out and spread your book to as many platforms as possible.

Amazon's shift to favoring the traditional publishers may mean fewer "Kindle Millionaires," but I have no doubt there will be new Indie E-Book Millionaires.

For the new writers out there who are on the fence about self-publishing, my advice is to keep your options open. Don't make your decision based on old news. The new digital imprints and unagented submissions at Random House and HarperCollins could be game-changers. (They are offering real publishing contracts: the opposite of Simon and Schuster's vanity publishing imprint.)

And don’t forget there are wonderful small digital publishers like mine who pay great royalties and take all the financial risk by providing cover design, editing, formatting and even some marketing. A niche publisher that carries only your genre and targets your market can be a very good choice for a newbie writer who is not an expert in business or marketing. (Just make sure the publisher is legit and check them out with Writer Beware. If you have to pay up front or sign away any rights, you don't want to go there.)

Because now more than ever, indies will have to become market-savvy entrepreneurs. Here's advice from Kristen McLean at Tools of Change for Publishing.

"In order to be well-equipped for this new environment, we think authors and content creators need as much training in business and publishing expertise as they do in writing. They need to understand deep structural issues like the way data flows around the industry, new modes of discovery, new thinking about consumer behavior, how to read the numbers, the potential of new technology, and how to build an effective team around themselves so they can run their businesses."

One way for authors to keep up with publishing business news is to follow Jane Friedman, who has launched a new link list today of Best Business Advice for Writers.

Whether or not Amazon is "dumping" the indies, it's time to rethink the rules that have been working for self- and small publishers for the past four years. We all need to plan innovative marketing strategies that involve smaller, more indie-friendly companies.

You don't want to find you've escaped the oppression of the Big Six only to be squashed by the Big Zon.

Book News: Anne's new Camilla Randall mystery, NO PLACE LIKE HOME will be launching next week. It's set in San Luis Obispo, "the happiest town on earth" and explores how close we all are to homelessness. (I'm totally in love with this cover by Laura Morrigan.)

Also, we'll be having some exciting give-aways of ebooks AND paper books for HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE...AND KEEP YOUR E-SANITY on this blog and Catherine Ryan Hyde's next week. Stop by for a chance to win free books!

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Blogger Charley Robson said...

Eeeeeeaaah, it all sounds like a huge great conspiracy here! Still, the industry is ever shifting, so as long as we keep our eyes on the ball we should be fine, right?

Fantastic post Anne :)

December 2, 2012 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, that's a lot of changes - and a lot to keep up with. (I confused myself just reading this.)
I know my publisher moves a lot of eBooks through Amazon. However, as a reader, especially one whose household possesses three iPads, my first stop for an eBook is the iBookstore. (I only get it from Amazon if I have no other choice.) So more books available on more platforms would make me happy!

December 2, 2012 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Thanks for an important and informative post. Fact is, publishing has always been difficult—for authors & for publishers. Now that authors ARE publishers, we get the best—and worst—of both worlds.

Bottom line: plus ça change plus c'est la même chose. (At least according to me!)

December 2, 2012 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Ranae Rose said...

I've been making an effort to stay up-to-date on the recent changes you highlighted, Anne. It can be tedious at times because I find that most blog posts addressing the news are very doom-and-gloom (unlike yours) and are mostly just lamenting how the sky is (supposedly) falling on indies.

I actually feel quite differently. I'm a 'hybrid' author, but about 75% of my books are self-published, and those books are the ones that keep a roof over my head. I've definitely noticed changes since I started self-publishing. Such as the fact that offering a free book is a much less effective promotional strategy than it used to be. However, I still feel that Amazon is indie-friendly, even in light of the recent changes (and yes, I've had a few legitimate reviews disappear from my books' pages).

The biggest thing I see authors lamenting is the fact that traditional publishers will now be offering more reasonable book prices. In my mind, this is a very good thing. No reader should have to pay $14 for the ebook edition of a novel.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't feel that my success as an author is contingent upon lack of competition. All books were already competing with millions of others on Amazon even before these recent changes. I don't think more reasonable prices from major publishers are going to automatically send me plummeting into obscurity. I try to focus on producing high-quality books for my readers and believe that in doing so, my titles can continue to hold their own, even among titles by the biggest publishers.

I don't think these changes are as crippling for indie authors as many people have made them out to be. Indie books still have the opportunity to succeed.

December 2, 2012 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger T.L. Bodine said...

Wow, this was *very* informative. Thanks for keeping abreast of the industry news. Things are changing so quickly that it's nearly impossible to keep up!

December 2, 2012 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Charley--A lot of people are crying "conspiracy" but it's just business. What we need to do is be aware and change our own strategies accordingly.

Alex--I'm glad to know people are using the iBookstore. It's a weird scary place for those of us who don't have Apple products. I can only find my own iBooks with a Google search. But it would be great if more iPad users bought there instead of Amazon. Competition is good.

Ruth--It's true. Big corporations are big corporations, and all that matters to them is the bottom line. Indies started to see Amazon as Santa Claus, so now they're devastated, but the truth is, it's just business as usual.

Ranae--You're so right. Competition is good. A lot of the marketing methods indies were using were getting stale anyway. When everybody's tweeting free books, people don't even notice any more. Time to think smarter.

TL--I know the feeling. This industry feels like the Wild West sometimes. Anything goes. And anything goes away...

December 2, 2012 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Sandy Nathan said...

Wow. This is one of the scariest and most informative blog posts I've seen anywhere in a long time. No wonder you're winning blog awards, Anne! I'm going to be studying this and checking out the links. I've sent this post around to a few friends and will Twitter & FB it. While presenting some negative trends for self-pubbers, you also present some ways out. I'd love to hear more from people who use venues other than Amazon. How hard are they to set up? Do you sell anything on them?? I put my first Kindle book out in 2007 (or 06, memory fails). That was a totally different world. My book shot to the top with no promotion at all. Those were the days, but we live in the present, so we've better pull up our socks and get truckin'. Thanks for writing.

December 2, 2012 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Wow - talk about a comprehensive article. Thanks heaps for all this, Anne. Also, how great to see that cover for No Place Like Home & have it out in the world.
Mazel tov!

December 2, 2012 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Tamara Marnell said...

When Amazon started to do scary things like set up their own publishing subsidiaries and buy out the little houses, I was stupid enough to say, "Whoa, wait a minute. Maybe they're not as indie-friendly as they pretend to be." Then all of my self-publishing comrades piled on me and tore at my flesh like rabid wolves. "Jeff Bezos is our savior! How dare you suggest that Amazon could ever be anything like the big businesses we hate?! Get outta your parents' basement and get a life!" You would've thought that I'd walked into their church and set fire to the Bible.

It was only a matter of time before people caught on that Bezos is not Moses parting the Red Sea to lead us to freedom from the tyrannical Big Six. We're a commodity, pure and simple. The good news is that now we have the tools to set up more small presses and compete with the big boys, whether Amazon makes it easy for us or not.

December 2, 2012 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Julie Luek said...

Very thorough history. Amazing how e-readers have changed the landscape for publishing with more change on the horizon. Thanks for sharing.

December 2, 2012 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sandy--Thanks for spreading the word. It's not doomsday. But the glory days of 2007 are gone, indeed.

CS--Thanks! I'm so excited about that cover. It gets my themes across perfectly.

Tamara--You're right about the Zon cultists. There's something that makes them turn their brains off and run for the torches and pitchforks when confronted with facts. Nothing to do but ignore them until they figure it out for themselves that Bezos is just a businessman, not the Messiah. And I so agree with you about small presses. Indie publishers can help us band together and target the right readership.

Julie--It is all happening so fast, but the changes aren't bad. Just hard to keep up with. :-)

December 2, 2012 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Chihuahua Zero said...

This is a great run-down of the issue that I might be linking to another place soon.

By the way, have you read Livehacked's article on Author Solutions: http://www.livehacked.com/business-2/hey-simon-shuster-im-calling-you-out/

December 2, 2012 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger J. R. Tomlin said...

Amazon did NOT accuse Apple and 5 of the Big 6 of price-fixing OR go after them through the legal system. That was the US Department of Justice. Now I agree that in online retailing that Amazon is the big dog, but not NEARLY big enough that they order the US government around. That is simply absurd.

The joke about the Tennessee Ernie Ford song was exactly that... it was a joke. It was not a serious criticism of Amazon. Good job taking a joke out of context.

There are numerous other inaccuracies in your blog post, but I won't bother to point them out since your response will simply be to say that I am "ignoring facts." Well, it happens you both twisted and ignored facts in your scare piece.

Is Jeff Bezos a businessman? Of course he is. Amazon does what is best for Amazon--as any business would. I do what is best for my own sales, so why should I complain about that?

I will simply say this. This sky is not falling. Do I worry about "partying like it is 2009"? Nope, I'll party like it is 2012 and sales have never been better.

December 2, 2012 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Excellent analysis of what's happening, up until now! Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Personally, I LOVE iTunes. Amazon have their own agenda and that's fine because it's their sandpit. But they've been forced to price match my free book since it's in the top twenty over twenty three countries with iTunes and sales of book two have soared in both iTunes and Amazon. As a wise man said do not specialise in one distributor but become skilled in many.

The READER is the person ruling our universe and not once do I hear the reader mentioned in this debate. Which to me means our focus is wrong, even Mr Haines who I'm sure must have many readers, doesn't mention a reader once. And the world is shrinking. iTunes are everywhere. Kobo's reach is extending. And Nook has liked up with Microsoft. But Kobo's search engine is a disgrace even though the admin people are lovely. Smashwords have twenty one full time staff (according to Marc's latest blog) which is nothing. Smashwords real time reporting through their distribution channels is a disgrace too. Who can wait three months to see if a promotion has worked?

Authors are speaking to readers directly. And I'm listening. They want a book now and in all formats. Why on earth publish in Kindle Select when an author will miss tens of millions of readers by doing that? Doesn't make sense.

And 'Boutique' publishers are bridging the gap between self publishing and the reader and are sprouting up everywhere. One is Bookouture which has just successfully launched a new paranormal author Lindsay J. Pryor.

I say, 'Bring it on!'

December 2, 2012 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Batsy said...

Thanks for the amazing informative article!

December 2, 2012 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger O'Brian Gunn said...

Wonderful and informative post, as usual. I really enjoy how you lay out the facts without sugarcoating anything and still manage to give readers hope. You're like a mother for writers. :-) Thank you!

December 2, 2012 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

Lots of great stuff here. I for one have been published both on Amazon and Smashwords for the last year. With the way sales have waned on Zon and picked up on SW, I'm seriously thinking of just promoting for SW these days.

The way Amazon plays with their algorythms every other month leaves authors like me going up and then going down quickly, instead of just quietly going up in sales like I do on SW.

You're right, even in the last two weeks, things in the publishing world have changed, and who knows what will happen in the next two weeks.

I guess all a girl can do anymore is just write the next book, publish it across the board and see what happens.

December 2, 2012 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger widdershins said...

Thanks for making sense of the last few weeks, Anne. My eyes were glazing over every time I tried to decipher what was/is going on.

We do indeed live in interesting times!

December 2, 2012 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Chihuahua--Thanks for the link to LiveHacked. I think Victoria Strauss's post at Writer Beware (link above My link above (on scary-scammy vanity publishers) links to David Gaughran's post on Author Solutions. It should disabuse any newbies of the notion that the new S&S imprint is anything but vanity publishing.

J.R.--I'm so sorry if I frightened you, but my intention was to write the opposite of a "scare piece". There are a lot of frightened indies out there and I wanted to put them at ease. I'm so glad to hear your career is doing so well. As I say above: "established indies report they continue to have good Amazon sales" and I congratulate you.

Christine--I'm glad to hear iTunes is working so well for you. You make very good points about the necessity of being reader-oriented. Indie authors shouldn't just try to sell to each other. I have great hopes for small digital publishers who serve a niche market. I love your term "boutique publishers". I'm going to use that from now on.

Batsy--Glad it helps.

O'Brian--Thanks so much. Now go eat your spinach...:-)

Anne--Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It seems to be true especially for romance and women's fiction. Maybe because Nook marketing targets young moms.

Widdershins--I felt the same way. Lots of "sky is falling" posts were scaring a lot of people. I wanted to separate fact from fear.

December 2, 2012 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Chihuahua--Sorry. I totally garbled that comment. Thought I had deleted a sentence and I hadn't. Here is the link to Victoria Strauss's post at Writer Beware about Simon and Schuster's new vanity imprint http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2012/11/archway-publishing-simon-schuster-adds.html

December 2, 2012 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

Can't believe I actually read this on Sunday - my life must be returning to some semblance of normal.

Anyway - Thank you for the great update on publishing with a focus on Indie.

And you're new book next week eh? Well then I know what's on my to read list - which reminds me of reviews... technically I have a little short story out there on Amazon, so can I now not review any book?

December 2, 2012 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Cathryn--I think we should continue to review on Amazon, but post the reviews other places, too, since Amazon may remove them at any time. I'm not sure that all authors are banned from reviewing on Amazon, or if their algorithm is just targeting more than it should, like an over-zealous spamblocker.

December 2, 2012 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger gadget said...

Just a correction on Facebook's changes: Facebook has always shown posts to only a fraction of a pages fans; after all, not everybody's fans are staring at their newsfeeds right when they make a post. So 16% is what they stated their average was. But around September sometime, they did make an effort to "clean up" user's newsfeeds so they'd see more content from their friends and less from pages. This did drastically reduce the effectiveness of marketing on Facebook. So while the 16% figure isn't really accurate (and Twitter's is in single digits), Facebook has moved to add some distance between authors and their fans.

December 2, 2012 at 4:49 PM  
OpenID amarquette333 said...

Anne, I am way behind in reading all my fab bloggers, AND not on fb not nearly as much as I used to.
Your #5 above about posts on fb...

"For $5 $10, or $15, Facebook will make your post more visible within your followers’ news feeds. If you don’t promote your post, only a fraction of your followers will ever see it."

Facebook's changes mean that only about 16% of all your followers now see your regular posts. If you want more people to see them, you have to pay around $50. Even for family photos and LOL Cat videos.

Does this refer all our general posts? It seems that should be noted out there big time on FB and passed around. Maybe it was and I just didn't see it :-)

I am considering closing my account with fb.

As for Amazon, I've had an issue with them regarding my previously published book. I am no longer with the publisher, and since there are only a few copies left out there I'm considering buying them to put in my own dwindling supply :-)

December 2, 2012 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger BECKY said...

Powerful and full of information, Anne! I'm with Alex, though, "I confused myself just reading this"!! I'll have to go over it again tomorrow, and also read all the comments. It's a scary time for me because I finally completed my memoir and am ready to publish.

December 2, 2012 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

My Kindle is the great love of my life right now. An entire bookshelf in my purse :)


December 2, 2012 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gadget--Thanks for the clarification. I noticed a big difference in traffic to my FB author page a few months ago.

Ann Marquette--do follow that link to Meghan Ward's post. She has the Facebook changes detailed much more than I had room for here.

Becky--Don't be scared. Just don't follow an old rule book. Consider launching through Select and then putting it on all platforms three months later. What's most important is to reach the readers who are likely to be interested in your story. So the subject of your book rather than the fact you wrote a book should be the hook. And don't discount going the "boutique" publisher route. Is your story set in a particular region? Are you religious? Is there a particular disease or hobby or interest involved? There are niche publishers for most regions, religions and interests.

Donna--I love my Kindle too. I was so pleased to find I can buy books for my Kindle at Smashwords just as easily as on Amazon.And lots of them are free there, too.

December 2, 2012 at 8:38 PM  
OpenID mesmered said...

Anne, this year I was advised by an industry adviso not to go to KDP Select. I bucked that advice and have had the best year of my writing life. So much so I have actually signed all my books bar the very very newest to KDP Select for the next 3 months. I may not use the option but it is there, even though I know that a KDP Select option often produces no reviews at all.
The reason I did this was that Smashwords paid me nothing in 2 years of hard graft on my part...sold so little, Smashwords haven't paid what they owe me.
But these days, I get a monthly cheque from all Amazon branches.
What I hope is that I can continue to write books that people like to read and that thanks to intelligent comment from people like you and David Gaughran, I will always manage to make an informed decision.

December 3, 2012 at 12:00 AM  
OpenID sapphicscribe said...

Another great post Anne and any new writer would do well to follow your advice. ONLY option going forward is to have your books on as many platforms as possible and keep your prices reasonable. Also, don't discount traditional publishing over indie, you CAN do both.

December 3, 2012 at 1:01 AM  
Blogger Mari Passananti said...

Fantastic post, Anne. Great food for much thought.

I'd love to hear your thoughts sometime on how to make the jump from being an indie micropress (my Rutland Square Press so far only publishes my work), to publishing others—and doing so with at least modest profits.

December 3, 2012 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline Howett said...

Thanks Anne for the updates. Wonderful piece. There's a lot to take in. The comments were also helpful. It sounds like this is just the tip of the iceburg.

Congrats and good luck with No Place Like Home. Nice cover.

Have a great week!

December 3, 2012 at 7:31 AM  
Blogger Seeley James said...

Anne, this is the most comprehensive, well thought out and accurately researched blog post I've seen on the topic. You've hit on the head, everything I've noticed in the past year.

Last Friday, I launched my first novel into Amazon, along with 82,000 other titles in the past 30 days. I have ten people (not writers or family members) who report their reviews are not showing up. Amazon is definitely turning it's big back to the indies who built the Kindle market.

Peace, Seeley

December 3, 2012 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mesemered—I congratulate you on your Amazon success. I love your books and it's been great to watch your career grow. If it's working for you to be exclusively with Amazon, then by all means continue. Nobody can argue with success. But I'm very troubled to hear you've had trouble getting paid by Smashwords. I know they're an honorable company, and you seem to have fallen through the cracks. Probably because they were understaffed, but they do have more people now. I urge you to contact them again to get what's owed to you. You can contact Mark Coker himself through his blog. He's a very accessible guy.

Sapphi—I know you continue to be a top seller as an indie AND trad-pubbed author. Congrats on being a bestseller in France! I think you're right that the #1 thing is to keep our options open.

Mari—I'm not the one to ask about being a publisher. That's why I'm with a boutique press myself. I let my publisher take care of all the headaches. And I know he gets a lot of them. Running your own business is a very big step.

Jacqueline—I agree there are some very useful comments here. I sure appreciate the input. Networking with other writers is the best way to keep up with the changes. And whatever is true now probably won't be a year from now. Thanks! I love that cover too.

Seeley—Congrats on your book launch! You're right that the number of books getting published is staggering. It gets harder and harder to stand out. Pretty much every indie I know has had reviews removed. I still haven't heard of any Big Six-er who lost any. So if anybody knows of one, do let me know.

December 3, 2012 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Mark Young said...

Anne: You have really put it all together in this post. As an 'indie' author, I have gone back and forth regarding the KDP Select program, and with another novel coming out this month, I hope to get out from other this exclusivity contract with Amazon and broaden my market. Amazon has been good to me, but I feel the company is changing,and my sales will be negatively affected.

December 3, 2012 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Bob Sanchez said...

Anne, thanks for your detailed and thoughtful post. This has been a good year for me with KDP, but there are signs in the last few months that the bloom is off the rose. Perhaps it's time for another look at Smashwords.

December 3, 2012 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mark--As I said, I see nothing wrong with using KDP Select to launch a new book, as long as you have others on more diverse platforms. And for the people who are still doing great in Select--no reason to be alarmist. But if sales fall off, it's good to be on the lookout for new marketing strategies with a more global outlook. Lots of untapped markets out there.

Bob--As I said to Mark Young, you don't want to mess with success. But you do want to be aware when the winds are changing. And I am really impressed with Mark Coker as a person. I think Smashwords has a great future.

December 3, 2012 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

Anne, Thanks for this wonderful summary of the changes going on to Indie publishing in the past few months. I had no idea about John Locke's fake reviews or that Amazon is becoming less friendly toward indie authors.

I was surprised to read that authors are selling more through Smashwords than through Amazon. Whenever I've seen statistics posted (on your own site by Ruth, too, right?), it seems people sell a small fraction of their books through Smashwords as compared with Amazon. I'm a big Mark Coker fan, however. I've met and interviewed him, and he's a great guy, so more power to him if that's the case.

And thanks for the link! I'll share this post.

December 3, 2012 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Kallypso Masters said...

Great post, Anne! I sell 80% of my books at Amazon, but that's down from 85% earlier this year. I've ALWAYS avoided KDP Select, for the very reason I didn't want Amazon to have a monopoly, so I'm kind of happy to see that other e-book sellers like Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc., are starting to get their share of the market.

Tips for making a book free (because I know I've won over a lot of readers with my free introduction to the Rescue Me series):

On Amazon, ask your readers to report the free prices at Smashwords, Kobo, B&N using the price match. It can be done in as little as 4-7 days if enough people report it. (I have an awesome street team and even when Amazon's search engine was screwed up when my fourth book came out--making my book show up 8th in Amazon US and 21st in Amazon UK, despite putting in the title and author name--my Street Brats got the correct URLs out to readers and that book hit the USA Today list that week despite there still being people writing to me 4 days after it was posted saying they couldn't find it on Amazon. It was only on Amazon and B&N that week, too.)

For free on Barnes & Noble, you need to upload it free to Smashwords, then distribute to B&N through Smashwords, because B&N says they have NEVER allowed free books. I did that and it went free on B&N about a week after being accepted into the SW Premium Catalog.

I price my books at $3.99 (well over 100,000 word books--the fourth being 171,000 words) and will continue to do so. And I made more than $200k in 2012, so it's still working for me. If sales slump so badly, I'll consider $4.99, but that's as high as I plan to go in the foreseeable future.

While an editor at Penguin did ask if I'd consider going traditional after she saw the success of my fourth book, I refused to consider giving up my digital rights to the e-books, so that was a deal breaker. But author Ruth Cardello is my indie idol. She turned down a 7-figure deal with New York knowing she'd make that in two years if she stayed indie. My hero!

All the best--and I still think most of us who know how to hire quality editors, cover artists, and write compelling books will do better as indies than with New York. Their industry relies on the status-quo and a demand for books that mirror what's selling today or yesterday, rather than writing something truly unique and in your own voice. I think readers who find quality indies are grateful to have something different. I know I aim to give them that for a very long time, breaking rules that would have forced me to change my series if I'd gone traditional.

Kallypso Masters
Indie Proud

December 3, 2012 at 10:08 PM  
Blogger Kallypso Masters said...

Oh, about marketing on Facebook, please stop "marketing" on Facebook. Stop inviting everyone to your launch of your book (or book cover, or whatever).

ENGAGE with people! Be a person, not a business, when you go there. I've got thousands of friends and a couple thousands of followers on my author page. Granted, I do tend to just post business-related stuff on the author page, but on my timeline, I just talk about what's going on (books, being a new Gramma, making fudge for the troops, whatever). I respond to messages/posts sent to me (although I'm sure I inadvertently miss some because timeline makes it hard to see things).

I also comment on posts that interest me on readers' timelines or other authors' ones.

And start a group where fans of your series can talk about it without worrying about spoilers for new readers. I have more than 850 members in my series group and it's a great place to visit.

Start a street team of avid fans who want to promote you and give them a group to chat in. I love going in and reading where my books have been pimped at lately (everywhere from Michael's quilting circle to school book fairs to bible studies--and I write about kinky Marines in erotic romances!) But their being able to share their successful pimping stories with each other gives other members ideas, too. My personal assistant keeps them stocked in things to hand out and several of my Street Brats administer the group, so I just get to pop in, give them occasional exclusive news items, and keep them up to date on what I need them to do. (They're also the ones I go to to ask for price matching at Amazon. I even asked them to help out a friend who is mega successful, but hadn't been able to get Amazon to price match until the day after I sent my Brats to do the job.)

First and foremost, be a real life person there, not an "Author" *nose pointing in the air. The best thing about Facebook is that it gives us a chance to ENGAGE with readers. No more stories of Harper Lee and her solitary life after publishing her book where she rarely interacted with a reader (and then usually only via letters her publisher sent her once or twice a year). Readers are fascinated by writers and this crazy world we live in populated by their favorite fictional characters. Share your journey with them!

All the best!


December 3, 2012 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Lang said...

An excellent and balanced article on the state of Indie publishing today. Stuff that I've been warning about for over a year regarding Amazon and its true intentions--and being lambasted for doing so.

Even self-publishers are starting to wake up and smell the dung. I just hope it's not too late.

December 3, 2012 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Julia Munroe Martin said...

THANK YOU!! On the brink of a self publish decision, and this has given me so much helpful information. Much to think about and consider. And I also downloaded SHERWOOD, LTD. Can't wait to read it!

December 4, 2012 at 4:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kallypso--Thanks much for the long and helpful comments. Maybe you can do a guest post on your marketing techniques for us sometime.

Elizabeth--I don't thing Amazon is malevolent. They're just a big corporation looking at the bottom line. People who thought they were Santa Claus have to re-adjust, but it's still going to be an important part of any indie's sales.

Julia--I'll be talking more about the self-publishing decision next week. I don't think any author should feel pushed into self-pubbing because it's "the only way to make money" or "Big 6/5 are only going to rip you off". There are good career choices to make in either direction.

I'm so glad you downloaded Sherwood! I hope you enjoy it.

December 4, 2012 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Judy Goodwin said...

Thanks for the update! I regularly follow Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blogs to try to keep abreast of all the changes, but I'm happy to have come across your post! It's basically a quickly changing world out there so I agree that having the most options available is the best way to survive and flourish.

December 4, 2012 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I'm an unpublished newbie and your post has given me some things to think about. I had heard about some of the things you spoke about but not all. Wow is all I can say.

December 4, 2012 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger Patrick Samphire said...

Thanks, Anne. This is fascinating stuff.

I've always been slightly suspicious about the long-term prospects of indies with Amazon, but because getting your books up on Amazon has been so much easier than other publishers, I've only ever uploaded my stuff there. (They're only short story reprints, so not a major market anywhere for them.)

Still, I think it's time to get my stories up on Smashwords too.

December 4, 2012 at 11:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Judy--I follow DWS and KKR too, and they have great things to say--but they're both formerly trad-pubbed authors, so what works for them may not work for the fledgling indie. It's good to keep tabs on what's going on for the "ordinary" self-pubber and not just the superstars.

Melissa--The Traditional publishing route is still an option for the new writer, so don't let the self-publishing "revolution" force you into making a decision you're not ready to make. I think looking for an agent via the trad route is a wise option for many new writers. The best agents can help you self OR trad pub. Most of the "indie" superstars have agents.

Patrick--Nice to see you again! Yes, I'm not telling people the sky is falling: just that it's time to branch out and open up our options.

December 5, 2012 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Carl Grimsman said...

Great article. One observation of mine that underlines for me the new publishing atmosphere of 2012 (and looking ahead) is that, after hanging out at Kindleboards' Writers Cafe for most of this year, where many successful indie authors chat around the water cooler, I can not think of one indie writer that has gone from sales zero to hero, starting out in 2012.

Besides having written good books, and working their tails off to market them, all of them have benefited, it seems, from a variety of algorithmic advantages that no longer exist. They were able to build their brands before some of those loopholes shut.

It will be interesting to see by what methods newbies will be able to establish themselves in the year to come.

December 5, 2012 at 7:01 PM  
OpenID mystichawker said...

Thanks for the awesome post. You've confirmed the trend I've been seeing in my own sales over the past few months. I was thinking that it was because my editor and I have fallen a bit behind in getting new books out, but I guess it is more than that. Like other folks, I'm now making more on SW than I am Amazon. Been working my butt off on blog hops and interviews but not seeing as much of a spike as I did in 2011 and early 2012. Let's hope this turns around or that more readers start using the other services.

December 5, 2012 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Carl--Thanks for coming over from the Writers Cafe. There are always interesting things going on there,and the successful ones tend to think anybody can have success if they follow the same path. But I have had the same feeling you've expressed here: "all of them have benefited, it seems, from a variety of algorithmic advantages that no longer exist."

mystichawker--I'm glad to hear from another author who is doing well on SW. I hope they will be the future. They have vastly improved their interface and I think things will continue to build there. And yes, I've kind of given up on bloghops myself. They don't seem to generate sales at all. Some interviews do, but they have to be specifically targeted. What we need to do is stop marketing to other writers.

December 6, 2012 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Victoria Strauss said...

This is a fantastic post--I'm sharing it with my network.

Mike Shatzkin predicted the impact of the demise of agency pricing several months ago--that deeply discounted ebooks from traditional publishers would seriously diminish a major discoverability advantage for self-publishers.

December 6, 2012 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger D..J. Kirkby said...

Thank you so much for posting this. There is a lot of stuff in here that I didn't know and sure need to.

December 7, 2012 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger John Wiswell said...

This is some fantastic blogging! The longest thing I've read on a screen in several weeks, barring copy-editing. That you tied so many of the topics together gave it the necessary coherence of things affecting the same field in some very similar ways. Some of it is worrying - some of your list suggests a culling of many of the existing few ways unknown writers have of getting noticed. But it's all quite useful information. Thank you for writing up your thoughts in such a clear way.

December 7, 2012 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Victoria--What an honor to have you here. Your Writer Beware blog is the #1 blog for ALL writers to read. I saw Mike's post and thought he made a lot of sense. There has also been a rise in Big 6 prices--but that's just for the mega-books like Casual Vacancy. But they're steeply discounting the backlist titles of big name authors--and those can knock unknown indies out of the running. Thanks much for the RTs!

DJ--It's hard to keep informed when so many people are pushing their personal agenda instead of informing us of the facts.

John--Thanks much for the kudos. I know my posts are sometimes a little long :-) But I've been seeing so many changes, I wanted to look at them all at once to get an overall picture. I'm glad it clarified things for you.

December 8, 2012 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Kiel said...

So many changes to keep up with. Thanks for taking the time to share this info!

December 9, 2012 at 4:40 AM  
Blogger Claude Nougat said...

Thanks, Anne for a wonderful, informative post. I'm coming late in the comments thread so I won't repeat what's been said before. I completely agree with Victoria Strauss and long ago I had had a comment exchange with Mike Shatzkin about the probable effect of the DOJ settlement so I'm not surprised at the outcome.

The handwriting was on the wall and it has punctually come to pass. I remember it was beginning to happen back in April/May. Suddenly I could get on my Kindle all the books of "big authors" for highly accessible prices.

How can a newbie "fight" an established NYT best selling author? Impossible! And now, there's no newbie in the top 25 best selling titles on Kindle and there hasn't been any since August.

Finished. Kaput. Game over. Under the circumstance, your advice to newbies is wise: try the small presses or go direct to those big publishers that are set up to spot emerging talents (eg. HarperCollins). Alas, too few Big Publishers are interested in spotting new talent and most seem to continue to rely on literary agents who are quite literally snowed under by a tsunami of queries (I don't envy then, tough job...)

The big problem in book discoverability is the slush pile. The Zon's Kindle has gone ahead and published the slush pile and now they're trying to back track, you can't blame them.

What next? The publishing industry has always used the concept of "genre" to put some order in the slush pile, and if you write in a genre that has historically small sales (like "literary"), it will be twice as difficult to land a contract.

Of course, you can always invent a new genre and launch it and see how it flies - maybe it will take your book along, float it on a rising new wave...

With modern technology and the Internet, book discoverability in theory should become easier to solve. So far, that hasn't happened. Yet tools exist to analyze the market and people's tastes. Nowadays one can go beyond mere hunches (i.e. simple reasonings like this book is like 50 Shades of Grey, we'll publish it!)

The problem is that Amazon is best placed to analyze consumer reading patterns - better placed than any traditional publishers. Yet the big Zon is not physically present and that's it biggest drawback...

Book stores (especially B & N) in theory would be ideally placed to play the game with publishers, but they both need to change their modus operandi (especially that silly book return policy, so costly for publishers). If the world were a better organized place, publishers would seek to find out via book stores and book reading clubs and other reading fora what really attracts readers. For example, I've heard so many derogatory comments about 50 Shades that I'm certainly not going to read it. I downloaded a sample and my suspicions were confirmed, this is not my kind of read!

So there ought to be a better, more innovative way to identify the next Big Read...

December 9, 2012 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rebecca--Thanks much! Keeping up with this business is probably the biggest challenge for a writer right now.

Claude--Thanks so much for this informative comment. I think you're so right that we need to be innovative. What worked last week may not work this week. We have to keep thinking of new ways to reach our readers. I love your Baby Boomer Lit affinity group on Goodreads, and I think that creating new genres and groups will be part of the new paradigm. I've mentioned you in my new post this morning.

December 9, 2012 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Jackie Castle said...

As a new indie author, I really appreciated all your information. I didn't find it scary at all. You gave a clear view of what's going on and what it means for us. I appreciate that. I've been on the fence about putting my book on Smashwords, but I see you are right, the more outlets we have, the better chances our book has. Of course, the most important point is to start with a good. book.

Thanks for helping to make these issues more clear for a newbie.

December 18, 2012 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jackie--I think most authors are using KDP Select to launch a book, because Amazon gives so much more visibility to Select books, but after the first 3-month Select period, it's best to move to all platforms. In fact many indies are now selling better on SW than Amazon.

December 18, 2012 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger David Haywood Young said...

I tried KDP Select a few months ago--more people downloaded my book than I'd expected (about 2300) but there was no effect on sales at all. Of course I did nothing to "promote" my promotion.

Anyway, I regret getting into that mess to start with. I'm trying to get Amazon to list a story as free in perpetuity, and if it works I'll probably chum the waters with another every couple of months or so. It seems a better idea than an Amazon-exclusive arrangement.

If it doesn't work, that's fine with me. I'll put all my stuff out on a larger stage (meaning everywhere but Amazon) as soon as I can. I'm in this for the long haul anyway, and I don't really care how many books I sell this year. In fact I'm not going to check sales figures again until November.

December 31, 2012 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

David--My publisher has got my latest in KDP select for the launch, but I think this will be the last time. Free just doesn't seem to work any more. I guess because everybody's doing it. And putting a book free on Smashwords no longer gets it free on Amazon--at least I've had a book free for 3 months now and in spite of lots of reports to Amazon from readers, they haven't made it free.

December 31, 2012 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger David Haywood Young said...


I think "free" still works to the extent that it does get books in front of readers. But Amazon doesn't dispense a lot of algorithmic love any more.

I've definitely had a similar issue with one of my stories not going free--though I haven't been trying for too long. OTOH I've seen others going free (there's a topic on Kindle Boards abt this). And FWIW Amazon UK seems more responsive (very anecdotal stuff here), so it might be worth asking readers to report over thataway.

I'm also starting to include excerpts from one book in the back of another, and to encourage readers to visit my personal page for updates (rather than link to a retailer). In the long run, with sands shifting under our feet, we can probably only keep the readers who will make a point of finding us. Which isn't too horrible, really.

I'm kind of looking forward to watching all this play out.

December 31, 2012 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

I'll find out if free works at all, since my new mystery No Place Like Home is free for the next three days. But I've certainly been hearing the algo-magic is gone.

I think including the first chapter of the next book is a good thing. Unfortunately, I usually write my first chapter last, so I'd have to have two books all edited and ready to go at the same to do that. I'm not that organized :-)

It certainly will be interesting to watch those sands shift in 2013!

January 1, 2013 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger WanderingScribe said...

I have had one book published and was thinking of publishing my next as an e-book (in fact 2 books, as 1 is really my original blog turned into a book - whereas the actual book I got published was about my life not the blog - phew! that all sounds a bit muddled, am typing at speed before leave). But reading this post I am thinking it might be better not to publish as an e-book it all sounds very complicated.
This is a great post though, so I look forward to coming back and reading it when less rushed!

January 5, 2013 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Wandering--I don't mean to discourage anybody from self-publishing--whether in paper or/and ebook. Just be aware the rules have changed a bit in the last three years. Self-publishers are still succeeding every day. If things seem a little daunting, do try BookBaby, which can format your books for both ereader and paper and posts to all platforms--and helps handle your royalties--for a very reasonable fee.

January 5, 2013 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger David Young said...

Hi again Anne!

Just wanted to drop by and tell you my story "Thursday Night Game" is now free on Amazon. I sent it to Smashwords on 12/7 and started seriously trying to get people to report it on 12/19.

If you search for the "Make it free" thread on Kindle Boards you'll find several people who are helping each other report free ebooks to Amazon. I have no evidence that this helps, but I was reporting several links a day for a couple of weeks, and at least two other people's books became free this morning too.

Now...does it help with sales? No evidence yet. I don't see how it can hurt, though.


January 8, 2013 at 5:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

David--Thanks for reporting in! My novel SHERWOOD, LTD has been free on Smashwords since early October and many people tell me they've reported it to Amazon, but it's still not free on the Zon more than three months later. But if you have better luck, do let us know!

January 8, 2013 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger David Haywood Young said...

Well...I did have better luck, and so did a few other people this morning.

It might just be about volume/frequency of reports. At least four people were reporting all six of my "free" listings daily for a couple of weeks. Maybe the 'Zon just got tired of being bugged about it?


January 8, 2013 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

David--Congrats. Thanks for letting me know. That sure shows it's important to have a "street team" to back you up in these things. "Regular channels" don't work so well.

January 8, 2013 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Kate Harper said...

I've been what I might call a "successful author" on Amazon meaning: I rely on it for a significant part of my income.

My thoughts as I read this article are:

-It's good and you are very knowledgeable on this subject.

-#1Regarding fake reviews: I've always felt that the only people who should be allowed to leave a review are people who have actually bought the book. I'm surprised amazon lets anyone review anything. It seems like they could easily set up a screen that only allows us to review things we've bought on our account.

-#3Regarding 99 cent book rankings. I'm leery of the info on Amazon's algorithms. Last I knew, they did not share info with the public.

-#4 sounds a little odd. If Amazon was doing something that radical (limiting links to their free books), it's seems like it would be front page news and they'd look like idiots. Plus it would cut down on their site sales. Why don't these site publicize this on wiki-leaks if it is real? Amazon's ultimate goal is to get people to come to their website. I find it hard to believe they would discourage that activity.

My overall feeling is that there is no beginning or end to this dramatic change in publishing. With every movement, there is a counter movement. If people can't market on FB, they'll go somewhere else and FB will suffer.

I still trust in crowdsourcing and honest peer reviews as a driving force for sales. Our customers are our friends and they will keep us in line.

Kate Harper

February 28, 2013 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kate--Thanks for the comment.

As far as the change in the Amazon algos, of course nobody but the mighty Zon knows for sure, but everybody in the business was very aware of the change. Here's Mark Coker talking about it in Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2012/08/03/mark-coker-indie-authors-are-underpricing-their-books/

Ditto the changes in freebies. That's a direct quote from E-Reader News Today (ENT) The link is live above. Why question a direct source when the link is right there?

And there's been another big change this week: Amazon has notified all its affiliates that they will no longer get ANY funds if they give away more than a certain percentage of books. More on this from David Gaughran in his post of February 22nd.

"you won’t receive any affiliate income in a given month if:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks."

This is all big news in the publishing industry. It may not make it onto the front page of USA Today, but these are well documented facts.

Amazon isn't the enemy, but it's also not a friend. It's a big international corporation that is a publisher as well as a retailer. A lot of indies have been gaming their system for a while and they want things to be as customer-centric as possible. Authors aren't customers. They're vendors.

February 28, 2013 at 7:29 PM  

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