Where Amazon Can Improve for Authors and Readers

Well this post has been a long time in coming.

No, seriously. We’re currently on Topic List IX, right? This post was a considered topic back on topic list VIII. Or maybe it was VII. I only started keeping track of carry-over topics with list number IX.

Point being, this one’s had a while to stew. It wasn’t a proper topic for Being a Better Writer, which meant that it needed to get it’s own posting on a day that wasn’t Monday, and so … well, after a few months of looking for time, here we are.

So, to the task at hand, then: Where Amazon can improve. I’ll warn you now, if you’re one of those readers that bears a solid dislike, or a powerful grudge against Amazon for some reason, this probably isn’t going to be the post for you. Likewise if you’re one of those convinced that the rise of Amazon will be the downfall of all that is holy about books and the publishing industry. See, while no company is perfect, from my perspective Amazon’s entrance into the publishing industry, along with its associated push in favor of ebooks and a more open publishing sphere, is a good one. Not perfect, but good.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, and that’s where today’s post comes in. See, I’ve been published on Amazon for several years now, and while I do like their service … it’s not perfect. No, far from it. There’s actually quite a bit of room for improvement, quite a few flaws that really could be fixed up to make Amazon’s publishing—and specifically, their Kindle service—not only more appealing, but easier and simpler to use. And I worry that since Amazon has entered a position of dominance as far as indie publishing goes, they’re simply going to do what they have been doing—which is rest on their laurels—rather than really looking to improve their service on both ends. Because as a platform that I sell my products on, I want my readers to have the very best experience. And if Amazon doesn’t improve, well, that leaves it open for someone else to sneak in offering services and advantages that, quite honestly, Amazon should have added years ago.

Right, enough beating around the bush. To put it plainly and simply, Amazon has stagnated. The only reason that they’re still on top is that no one else has come along offering anything better in large enough quantities to entice Amazon’s authors and clientele away. But the truth is, it’s only a matter of time until that does happen. Anyone who’s used Amazon’s Kindle service has undoubtedly looked at it and thought “You know, this would be so much better if …” and inevitably, the someone who thinks that is going to be in a position to do something about it and create something better. At which point a lot of authors might jump ship to the newer, better service.

Customers, too, because what you’re about to look at is not just a collection of what improvements Amazon needs to make for authors. No, customers need improvements as well … and Amazon isn’t delivering them. Again, they’re resting on their laurels, content for the time being to simply do little or nothing to improve their service. And that needs to change.

So, let’s talk about customer improvements first to Amazon’s Kindle and Self-Publishing services. What needs to be improved that’s fallen drastically by the wayside?

Continue reading

Price and Profit

So I learned something rather embarrassing a week ago.

Since the release of Colony, one of the more common questions I’ve received from fans about it has been “How should I purchase your book in order to make sure you get the largest cut of money?” Which is actually a pretty valid—and thoughtfully appreciated—question. This question comes from a reader who isn’t just concerned that they read a book, but that the author of said book is able to support themselves to the next one. Some of you may be scratching your heads even so, though, thinking to yourselves “Wait, I thought it was just an ebook?” Well it is, but there are two ways you can acquire it.

The first is to simply impart money to Amazon.com ($7.99 in this case, unless there’s a sale going) for a digital, DRM-Free copy of Colony. And for many readers, that’s what they do. However, I’m also a fan of putting my books up on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Program, which is kind of like a Netflix for books, and that means that it’s also available to those paying for the KU program to read whenever they want. Now, KU pays authors, but the question from these readers is “Which way pays you more?”

And it turns out, in giving my answer, I screwed up.

Continue reading

Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic

Oh boy. I woke up this morning to see this article on the front page of r/books, and you  know … I’ve never fisked anything … but this piece couldn’t be ignored. For those not in the know, a “fisking” is when someone replies point by point to the salient points of an article, offering a piece by piece rebuttal. I’ll let you read the original article first, so you can get it in your mind, but it’s just part of the continuing—You know what? You be the judge. Read the article, then check this rebuttal.

The quoted article bits are both quoted and italicized. My responses are the normal text.

So, let’s get started.

Continue reading

2016 in Review—What’s My Progress So Far?

Sands and storms, it’s time for one of these already? Even more alarming, this nears marking the the third anniversary of Unusual Things?

Boy, the days really fly, don’t they?

Well, it is what it is. Time marches on. Which means that once again it’s time to take a look back at my goals, accomplishments, and the like during this year and see what I’ve gotten done. It’s time to put 2016 under the microscope and look at some hard data.

Honesty? I expect that I got less writing done this year … though I published more, and definitely worked just as hard. It’s just a byproduct of what I worked on. 2015 was lots and lots of writing, while 2016 ended up being the year I published a lot of that writing. Which meant that I spent a lot of time trapped in the editing process.

Plus, I started working a second job every week to make ends meet, which also cut into my writing time.

I mean, that’s not bad. But both definitely slowed my pace, and while my “total” word count for productivity stayed pretty good (remember, I count editing as a 20% wordcount for tracking reasons), my actual wordcount for words written probably dropped for the year.

Granted. Next year I think I may see a bit more equilibrium. Maybe. Right now I’ve only got one book in editing, and one that I’m working on. Then again, next year may be a repeat of this year: two releases, lots of editing.

I guess I’ll find out. For now though, let’s take a look at 2016.

Continue reading

Some Thoughts On the Business Side of Things from Mad Genius Club

Some musings on paper books, indie books, hardcovers, and publishers that showed up in my feed this morning. Thought I’d share:

One of the puzzling things about the writing business, right now, is that “nobody knows anything” (or in proper vernacular “we don’t know nothing.” So I am continuously puzzled watching indie authors who are doing better by an order of magnitude than any traditional writer I know succumbing to the lure of a traditional contract. […]

via Some Hard Thinking About Our Business — madgeniusclub

Being a Better Writer: My Personal Editing Process

Welcome back! So, very quickly, first the news, nice and quick: There’s a Labor Day Sale. You should check it out. Boom, done, on to the next docket: The Dragon Award winners have been announced, and there are some who are very unhappy about it (guess who?). If curious, check that out here.

Now, onto today’s post! Today’s topic comes by way of surprisingly convenient request. Why the surprise and convenience? Well … because as it turns out, I actually received a request for a post of this nature a week or so after I’d written it … but as a reward for my Patreon Supporters, who usually get access to behind the scenes stuff and the like.

That said, it was a request for a Being a Better Writer topic, and aside from one caveat (that being that this is my approach, and other authors likely differ), it’s worth looking at. So often with BaBW we talk about writing in one form or another: How to improve, what to watch out for, even how to take care of yourself while writing. But aside from my own personal commentary on what I’m up to during the fact or some Q&A responses, we’ve not really talked in-depth about the process and steps from start to finish of a novel once the first draft is done. And there are a lot of steps!

Now, that said, the particular steps presented here? These are mine. Not in a possessive way, but they’re the steps that I use when taking my book from “finished draft” to “finished product.” They’re what I’ve settled on over years of writing and millions of words written. I bring this up because this is not the editing process that was used by any of my old teachers, from Sanderson to Kent (it’s actually much closer to Larry Corriea’s editing process). Each one of them, when answering a similar question, spoke of a different process than the one I use, with different steps, though—and I will stress this—we all still accomplish the same goal.

My point? This is the editing process I use. You can pick and select what steps from it you wish, but in the pursuit of making your work the best it can be, I would highly advise using it (and other’s processes) as a template, not a perfect guide. Know your weaknesses and build a system that is designed to ferret them out and fix them as you edit. Find steps that work. This post isn’t meant to be the way to do it, but a way.

So, that said, let’s get to it! My editing process, in several steps, with examples.

Continue reading

Op-Ed: The Indie Scam

There are a lot of blogs, posts, and news articles out there decrying the pricing of the big publisher’s books. They make regular appearances on smaller author’s sites, reddit’s r/books, and very frequently in the circles of indie authors. “Publishers are making their books too expensive!” they cry. Look at the price of these books!

And to be fair, they have a perfectly valid point. One I was reading last week pointed out the ridiculously high cost of a new fantasy title ebook: $14.99. Too high, the post claimed, and I agreed.

Then came the bit I didn’t agree with. That everyone should flock (and was flocking) to ebooks and indie because the prices were so much better.

The problem is, this isn’t always true.

Let me tell you a story. About a year ago, I was attending a con and talking with a bunch of authors about ebook sales and indie publication. One man in the “group” we’d sort of formed in the hallway was a known trailblazer in the ebook world, one of the first authors to jump ship from his publisher and go straight indie, a decision that had been great for him. Naturally, he being the one with the most experience in success, everyone was letting a lot of questions and comments gravitate his way.

At some point, ebook pricing came up, and I mentioned I was trying to figure out a price for the draft I was about to finish. He shrugged and said it was simple, and asked me how long it was. 300,000-odd words, I said. Eyes wide, he shook his head, and then told me the best way to sell a book of such length:

Cut it up into 8 or 10 sections and sell them for $2-3 a pop.

This, readers, is what I’ve started to see as “The Indie Scam.”

Continue reading