Goodreads Ad and Giveaway

As an experiment, I’m running an ad and a book giveaway on Goodreads for Matcher Rules. The ad and the giveaway will run for a month, I have 10 copies to give away, and it looks as if whatever happens I will be mailing out all ten, since 67 people have already signed up in the first few hours. As far as I know, Goodreads waits until the end of the giveaway period and then randomly picks 10 names out of the entire list, so it’s not first come, first serve.

Right now, as an author who would like to get reviews and more readers, I’m more interested in the ad response. I cannot wait to see how the statistics break out. This should be fascinating.

Either way, this is a welcome break from the recording and editing and sound mixing and tagging of the podcast episodes of The Bone Road. I’ve completed 12 episodes out of a projected 30, so I have a long way to go.


Amazon and me

I’ve been concerned about Amazon charging the full retail price of $24.50 for Matcher Rules, as I mentioned before and I’ve niggled away at the problem, and I’ve (sort of) solved it. I sell the paperbacks myself, on Amazon, at a lower price.

Amazon does not do price matching for books, and it took quite a bit of pounding around on their site to find this out, because the back end of Amazon is not as well-organized as the front end. True, it’s better than Lulu, but Amazon does have more money. I got a definitive answer from a chat session with an Amazon rep. One of my friends who has his privately printed memoirs for sale on Amazon gave me some pointers and I set myself up as a seller. So when you go to Amazon for Matcher Rules there is a choice of prices for the paperback. Remember I have to buy the copies from Lulu and get them shipped to me, so I’m cautiously offering them at $18.00 plus shipping so my costs are covered.

There’s no answer on Lulu as to why they are not listed as a seller on Amazon, with their discounted prices. My guess: Lulu has a legal agreement with Amazon which precludes them doing this, and I suppose it makes sense because it’s always possible to buy a book directly from a publisher but you don’t see those publishers as sellers on Amazon. Also, Amazon has a contract with Lulu as a POD supplier where orders through Amazon get 24-hour fulfillment, unlike the rest of the orders including those from authors.

However, according to other authors on Lulu’s discussion forums, Amazon will lower their prices without notice and at random, leading to the bizarre situation where it can be cheaper to purchase copies of your own book from Amazon and pay less than you pay to Lulu. There may be some time limit or other trigger event affecting the price, which can then re-set to full retail. The mysterious ways of supply and demand? Phases of the moon?

Right now, the cheapest way to buy a paperback of Matcher Rules is on Lulu, followed by ordering it from me via Amazon, then directly from Amazon. And no, you can’t send me an email and order the book directly because I’d like as much ISBN-tracking as possible for statistical purposes and (ahem) tax records. Right now if I read the rules correctly this qualifies as a hobby but perhaps in the future it won’t. I can hope.

Smashwords, iBooks, and Amazon

Oh, distribution is a learning experience. With the ebook files created on Smashwords, I’d checked all the boxes to distribute to Kobo and Amazon’s Kindle and the iBookstore and there is a neat chart about the status of each channel. All the places I was vaguely aware of, but had never used, such as Kobo, sailed right through. iBooks and Amazon stuck, although there was a note Smashwords and Amazon were working on “technical integration”.

Then the file was sent to iBooks and never showed up. After two months, I queried Smashwords and eventually received a response: they’d re-sent the file. And, less than two weeks later, it was up. Which left Amazon.

Amazon has a new ebook program called the Kindle Lending Library, with increased payments to authors and other goodies. The catch: you have to distribute with Amazon exclusively. Since Smashwords’ entire business model creates ebook files in multiple formats for multiple ebook readers they aren’t too happy with this. According to the Smashwords blog Amazon is denying them ‘agency rights’ and there’s your technical issues in a nutshell.

Before I go any further, I should say how much I appreciate Smashwords. They charge an author NOTHING. I followed their clear instructions, created a file, uploaded it to their site, and multiple, correct files came out the other end. There is no obligation to use them for distribution and it’s possible to pick and chose which sources they send your book to.

So I reluctantly un-checked the Amazon box, created an id/password on Kindle Direct Publishing, worked through a few info screens, and uploaded my book to Amazon using their Kindle authoring tool. Naturally, Amazon uses a format no one else does. But it went through without a hitch, as did my cover, and the whole thing took about 20 minutes. I was extremely careful NOT to opt-in to the Kindle Lending Library, which is of course the default, and accepted the lower revenue percentage. It’s always nice to see the knife before the corporation stabs you in the back. So the ebook is “in review” at Amazon and should be available in a day or so. As soon as it goes live I’ll post a link here.

The paperback is also up on Amazon. Lulu was true to their word (“can take 2 months”) and all the data is there. Oddly, the book description lagged by over a day. There is no reason I can see for this, unless Amazon is treating book descriptions as reviews and sending them through a text filter to take out porno. And the price is, crazily, the full retail price of $24.50. I’ve sent them a note trying to get this changed to approximately the Lulu price of $14.70 because I will sell absolutely nothing at hardback prices. Again, I’ll put up a link here when things stabilize.

Bookshop Santa Cruz

My local independent bookseller, Bookshop Santa Cruz, has a consignment program for local authors. I provide the copies and they display in the ‘Locals’ section and also in the Fantasy section. I’ve also arranged to be mentioned in their online newsletter.

Of course, I couldn’t resist going to see, and there, in the Fantasy section, was Matcher Rules right next to Tanya’s Huff’s newest paperback. I love the alphabet!

The woman browsing next to me thought I was absolutely crazy when I took the picture.

Moving On

The paperback of Matcher Rules is again available for order via Lulu. The consignment copies have been delivered to Bookshop Santa Cruz. With luck the book should make their Christmas newsletter promotion and will be featured on their web page. I don’t have a link for that yet.

So, moving on the next project: I’ve decided to resolve the plot issues with The Bone Road before moving on to the new, untitled, book. Bone Road is much bigger, in size and story, to Matcher Rules, but the basic structure of who does what to whom, when and where, should remain unchanged. I need to clarify some motivations, add/remove backstory, and take a hard look at the second half of the book.


Lulu Redux, or Re-Do

I swear, the devil’s in it. I received and approved the proof copy from Lulu. I have also received 10 more copies for consignment in my local independent bookstore and as gifts for friends. I sent out announcement emails. I did all the ‘marketing’ stuff, including Facebook.

And yesterday I received an email from Lulu: they have pulled the book because it will not print. Obviously, it has printed, so I was confused. Also, angry. I look like a fool vis-a-vis all the marketing, plus all my pleasure in my publication has been destroyed.

The problem seemed to be with the dimensions of the file, but the email didn’t say whether it was the cover or the interior text, or both. We used their template for dimensions and the files were accepted by their system, plus the proof copy printed. Other copies, ordered by friends, are printing. And yesterday was Thursday, when Lulu Customer Support (please insert sarcastic tone) was not available.

So today I attempted to get some information from a live chat session. I did get some: it’s the interior text file, not the cover. I won’t need a new ISBN. The PDF file created from their Word template is off by .12″ in one dimension. No one is saying why or how they let it get this far, no one has apologized.

I’ve asked my PDF designer to re-size the text file dimensions. She hasn’t gotten back to me yet and I can’t blame her. The whole situation is infuriating.

Update: I seem to be using a lot of bold type for this one. Anyway, the problem seemed to be the Word to PDF conversion altered the dimensions by a smidge. Lulu’s system didn’t catch it — don’t get me started — but Linda kindly re-did the PDF to be exactly 6×9. I uploaded it and told Lulu Customer Support to manually check the file, because if the first file got through how would I know if the second one was any better? They did so and now the book is back in the proof process. Lulu only grants one free proof so I thought I was going to pay but someone there obviously feels guilty, as well they should, and they are giving me another free proof with free shipping. All I lose is time and marketing, sigh. I have no idea how many people are going to try for a print copy between now and then, but I hope they email me if they have problems.

In the meantime I have contacted Bookshop Santa Cruz about their consignment program and I’ll post later about that process, with links when it goes live.

Backing Into The Future

I’ve decided to self-publish Matcher Rules, my first novel, as an ebook. I’m also planning on a POD copy via Lulu, although I have more doubts about that.

Why self-publish? Well, this is the end result of a great deal of thought, self-doubt, and research. In an ideal world I’d be able to land an agent, and eventually sign a contract with a professional publisher. The more I query and send out manuscripts the less confidence I have in what is now the publishing establishment. Even for established authors, the publishers seem to be doing less and less. Authors are expected to do more and more of their own marketing and promotion, publishers are cutting back on the number of hardcopies printed even for popular authors, and books go out of print within months of publication. The publishing conglomerates are less and less inclined to take a chance on new authors — and frankly, would like those authors to fit in a certain demographic.

Ebook publication, I suspect, is being used as another filtering tool by the publishers. A few years ago self-publishing an ebook was the kiss of death: no reputable agent or publisher would consider any subsequent work. Now, successful ebook authors are being offered straight contracts, because they have, without costing the publishers a dime, demonstrated their ability to craft a tale and sell novels. Like all businesses, publishers like a sure thing.

All business aside, I’m publishing Matcher Rules on my own because I believe in the story. I have always re-read my favorite author’s works. I’ll remember part of a plot or a favorite character and I’ll re-read for pleasure. To my great delight, I found myself doing this with Matcher Rules. I was re-reading the manuscript because I loved the story and the characters and wanted to spend some time with them again. And, without false modesty, I’d like to give other people the chance to do the same.

Right now I’ve signed a contract with a cover designer and I’m vetting the manuscript one final time before trying the Smashwords conversion. I’ll post on how it’s going, and I’ll also post on the go or no-go decision on Lulu. Right now, a self-published print book looks like an enormous amount of work, but at heart, I’m a Luddite. If I can, I will, so I can hold the story in my hand — in paper.