Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Saronna's Gift is available on Barnes & Noble!

As of now, Saronna's Gift is no longer exclusively a Kindle ebook.  I loaded an epub version to the Nook Press platform and successfully published it to the Nook store. I had held off on leaving KDP Select for one additional 90-day cycle because the book was doing well with Kindle Unlimited (KU) borrows, but that was tapering off, and so I went ahead and launched it on B&N.

I plan to also load the book to Smashwords soon, so that I can make it available on iBooks and Kobo, and other vendors.  One reason I started with the Nook platform is that the print version is already available on Barnes & Noble, so with Amazon, this will make two retail stores that offer the book in both ebook and hard copy formats.

And there's one nice thing about KDP; Amazon is still reporting on (and thus presumably paying me for) pages of Saronna's Gift read by users who borrowed it while it was in KU. I'll be curious how long it takes for that to stop completely. I expect people borrow books but don't read them right away, so it might be weeks or even a month or two. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What Amazon Knows

Digital vs. Print

The experience of digital reading is not fundamentally different from reading on paper, especially if you read on an e-ink device.  But digital purchasing is different.  If you walk into your local bookstore and put cash on the counter for the latest best seller, the retailer has no way to track who you are. With ebooks, the retailer always knows the buyer, because the transaction happens online and involves a credit card.

I don't know much about other ebook readers, because I have had a Kindle since 2007 (that's my latest, the new Kindle Voyage in the photo below), but Amazon has been adding features ever since they came out with the original Kindle. After they created Kindle apps, which works on phones, tablets, PCs, Macs, etc., one of the things they did was to allow you to sync your books across your devices. That is, if you like to read on your phone with a Kindle app while you're on the bus to work, and then switch to reading on your Kindle when you get home, Amazon keeps your place for you. Even audiobook versions are supported by this function, if you buy them from Amazon.

Amazon as Big Brother

Of course, for syncing to work, you have to be connected to Amazon's cloud. When you turn on the wireless connection (or in the new Kindle parlance, you turn off airplane mode), the function of checking for new new items also syncs. As part of that, an enormous database tracks information on every Kindle title you ever bought. Amazon records what devices you sent the books to, where you are in every book or document on every Kindle or app, what text you have highlighted, and any notes you have made. 

Keep in mind that Amazon isn't actually psychic. They don't really know what you have read, only what you have looked at. If you were to open a brand new book and use the Go To menu to go to the last chapter, that would mark that page that as the "last page read." On the Home screen (in List mode), the little dots under the title that track your progress in the book would jump almost to the end, even though you haven't read a word. Likewise, if you finish reading a book and go back to chapter one before connecting, Amazon's database will be marked as if you have just started that book. Of course, a reader usually has no reason to do this, which is why I feel confident in saying Amazon doesn't bother tracking every keystroke.

Further, Amazon only knows the new information after your Kindle has connected. E-ink Kindles have great battery life, but only if wifi and/or 3G are not on, so most people read with in airplane mode. Of course, with tablets and phones, people are used to charging them often, so they're usually connected all the time.  However, even with e-ink Kindles, sooner or later, the reader will need to connect to get a new book, and at that point, the cloud will database will be updated. 

Borrowing ebooks

This need for connectivity means that ebooks can easily support borrowing. Amazon can loan you a book, and then take it back later. In fact, they have two separate borrowing programs. The Kindle Owners Lending Library is an added benefit for people who a) pay the annual Prime membership fee and b) own a Kindle or a Kindle Fire (not just an app on a phone or a tablet). These folks can borrow one book a month, but only books that participate,

The second program is Kindle Unlimited (KU), which is Amazon's ebooks subscription service. KU readers pay a flat fee per month. They can use any Kindle device or app to borrow as many KU-participating books as they like but they can have only 10 out at once. This program is especially popular with romance readers, many of whom go through books like winos go through Two Buck Chuck. In fact, Scribd just pulled most romance titles from their subscription program for being too popular.  They weren't charging enough to be able to pay the authors, and let the readers get all the books they want. I don't understand why they didn't create a second program for romance, or make the first program multi-level, with a higher tier price for voracious readers. Amazon probably has a similar situation, but they took a different approach. 

How the author gets paid for borrowed books

When Amazon started  Kindle Unlimited, they decided that they would pay participating authors a sort of royalty as soon as a borrower got through 10% of the book.  I say "sort of royalty" because the fee was unrelated to cover price or length, and was determined after the fact by dividing up the pot of money Amazon had set aside for that purpose.  These rules meant a novella of 100 pages paid the author the same after the borrower read 10 pages as a 1000-page novel paid after the borrower read 100 pages.  

Guess what? Amazon has changed the rules. They have announced they will pay a per-page fee, based on the actual number of "Kindle Edition Normalized Pages" (KENP).  This shifts the compensation paradigm on its head. Now longer works will make more for the author (still regardless of cover price).  Some people have pointed out that this rewards authors for writing page-turners, which I think is true, and is not a bad thing.

As someone whose only Kindle Unlimited book is a full-length novel, I am fine with the new model. I do wonder what the fee will be. Since the old system paid about $1.40 per borrow, it would have to be at least $0.0028 per page to reward the author of a 500-page book at about the same level as before. There is speculation that it could be higher, and pay out twice as much as before, when the entire book is actually finished. I also wish Amazon would tell us how many copies are being read at once. Right now the report shows only total page count per marketplace (US, UK, Germany, etc), without any indication of how many readers are being counted. 


Amazon knows way more than who is buying which books. They know which books are read immediately, and which wait to be opened; which books are read slowly, and which are devoured on the same day they're purchased; which are abandoned midway through and never finished at all. This is information that print books can never provide.

You can think of Amazon as Big Brother, if you like, but they are far from alone in the corporate world.  We needed a new toilet recently, so I used Google to find photos and info online, so I would know what models the plumber was talking about. I now have toilet ads all over my Facebook feed. Google is pretty much the ultimate Biggest Brother, but they don't seem to be that good at selling ebooks, at least not my ebooks. On the other hand, the commenters on this post seem to have had some luck with Google Play; I wish they had mentioned their genres. If anyone out there has any info on how Google Books is doing generally, I'd love to know.

The writer, as usual, gets left out in terms of information sharing, However, I do like the thrill of checking the new Amazon report and seeing that someone is reading my book!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

More on Google Books

I now have 6 books for sale in Google Books/Google Play. I still think their interface can use some work, but when everything is exactly right (all the fields are filled in, the cover and book/epub file have been uploaded) it takes seconds for Google to process a book for sale. Amazon and Barnes and Noble both take hours.

Book 7 will be along shortly. My husband is home form the hospital, but he still needs a fair amount of help.

Friday, May 29, 2015

WFC Reminder!

If you have a membership in the World Fantasy Convention, you should have gotten an email with the nominating ballot, that allows you to propose people and works to be nominated for a World Fantasy Award. This weekend is the deadline for mailing (or emailing) your ballot!

I would post a photo of the award, but it's God-awful ugly, and it depicts HP Lovecraft, not my favorite person. I never understood why they used a horror writer's likeness in the first place, let alone that particular horror writer.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Hugo Voter Packet Is Out

If you're a member of this year's Worldcon, you're entitled to vote in the Hugos. The voter packet (ebook versions of nominated works) is out and can be downloaded here. You need your membership number and Hugo PIN.

Voting is important every year but this year there is a firestorm about it, so make your choice while you can!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mostly offline for a while

My husband's medical emergency is ongoing, so I won't be posting much in the near future. Watch this space for updates!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

TRIBES is in Google Play!

I haven't posted much lately because of a family medical emergency, but I did find the time to investigate what it takes to load a book onto the Google Books/Google Play platform. Their interface is not nearly as easy to use as KDP, Nook Press, or Smashwords, but I managed to get Tribes loaded into their system.

Some early observations on the author interface are that it could really use some work. It requires an ISBN to even start the process, for one thing, as it uses that as an identifier for the book. Also, there are fields that need to be filled in that seem to rely on controlled lists, but the lists are not on a pull down menu; you have to type them. For example, the Book Industry Study Group (BISAC) subject/genre field. I had to find the online list to know exactly what to type. Also, the upload process is odd. It says basically "upload content" and you then upload the epub or PDF file and an image file for the cover, but there's not a specific place to do each. The first time I loaded the epub and the cover together and it only kept the cover file. I had to upload the epub again.

Finally, once the book is there, you can't see an online list of sales; instead you have to download a CSV file. That seems incredibly clunky to me.

I picked Tribes for this trial because it's standalone book, but when I have time, I plan to go back and add some more books, possibly the two Haven books. I got the idea to try Google Books from another author's posting on Facebook, so I will be curious to see how well the book does.

Correction:  Google Books doesn't require an ISBN, but it does use it as a file name identifier, so if you don't have one, it makes up its own identifier.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Borrow my book— please!

I hate the fact that Amazon requires exclusivity for a KDP book to be in Kindle Unlimited. Exclusivity means the ebook version of a book can only be for sale in the Kindle store. Amazon doesn't care about the print version, but the ebook can only be a Kindle book. Amazon calls this status being in Kindle Select, and they sweeten the deal by allowing a limited number of promotions for Kindle Select books: the author can make the book free or on sale. Of course, you can lower the price of your Kindle book to 99¢ anytime you want to, but that's not the same as displaying it as "Regular price, $3.99, on sale for 99¢, YOU SAVE $3.00!" which is what the Kindle store buyers see with a Kindle promotion. It eevn shows how long the sale will last, which is a good impetus for a browser to click the buy button.

To date, I've never kept a book in Kindle Select for more than a single 90 day cycle. In the past, being able to make the book free for a few days was a great way to get some reviews, and reviews sell books. But once that first 90-day period was over, I always loaded the book on other platforms. I still plan to do that for Saronna's Gift, but not for another 90 days. I've signed on for another cycle because Kindle Unlimited has been pretty good to this book.

As I said in my earlier post, the Kindle Unlimited per-borrow fee paid to the author is running about half of what the royalty is for a #3.99 book. However, that doesn't mean you always make less money with Kindle Unlimited. That's only true if people who would have bought the book borrow it instead. As a new author, I think the borrowers I'm getting are people who might otherwise never have seen or bought my book. Ergo, I'm going to give it another 90 days and we'll see where we are then.

Hopefully, by then that book will have more than 6 reviews. Honestly, people, would it kill you to post a review?  They make it really easy! There's a button right on the product page.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Value of Kindle Unlimited

Well, Saronna's Gift has been out for about six weeks now, and it's been a different experience from the other seven books. This is the first book I have marketed as a romance. Some of the others are very romance-friendly, but in this book, the point of the story is the relationship. It's also the first book I put out since Kindle Unlimited was an option.

In self-publishing ebooks, unknown authors have some tools (besides writing an engaging book) to get their work to readers. Two of the main ones are they can make books free (on some platforms), and they can price them very cheaply. Giving away a book works best as a marketing strategy if it's the first book in a series. But even that has limitations because there are so darn many free ebooks, that many of them are never read. People see “free” and click the button, but once they have the ebook, they don't feel any urge to read it right away. It might not even be a book they would want to read, but what the heck, it was free, right?

The Kindle Unlimited program is different. It's a subscription program, aimed at “heavy” readers, people who read a lot!  They pay a fixed price (I think it's $10 a month) and then they can download as many KU books as they want, but they can only have 10 KU books on their device at a time. Because they have already paid the fee, they feel a need to get their money's worth and read lots of books. They don't download as recklessly as they would totally freee books, but they are willing to take a chance on new (to them) authors.

Amazon pays KU authors for every time a book is borrowed and read to at least 10% of the book. Some authors are not happy because Amazon pays a flat rate, without regard to the book's price or length. Right now, the rate is approximately $1.40. That means if a book sells for 99¢, the author gets paid more for a borrow than a sale. But if the book sells for $3.99, the borrow pays only about half what the sale would pay.  Sounds like a terrible deal, right? I don't happen to think so.

Some people look at a borrow and see it as a lost sale. I don't. I see it as a reader gained. The thing is, if you're Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, anything you write will get a lot of attention. If you're Carmen Webster Buxton, your books have a ton of competition for readers' time and money. A program like Kindle Unlimited gets an unknown author over the barrier of the reader plunking down money to find out if they like a book or not. The free sample feature helps a lot, but I know a lot of people feel like it's not enough to really tell them if they'll like the book. With KU, there really isn't much of a barrier except the reader's time commitment, and they can stop reading any time, return the book, and go on to something else.

And I have to say, when it comes to “heavy” readers, romance readers have it all sewn up! They read more books than almost anyone. Which is fine with me!

Now if they would only write more reviews . . .

Addendum:  Adding a link here to an excellent discussion of this topic on Jane Friedman's blog.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The books are in the mail!

The Goodreads giveaway (see post below) is over, and the books are in the mail! If you were notified you won a paperback copy of Saronna's Gift, you should get it before the end of the week.

If you're not familiar with Goodreads, you should check it out. Lots of authors host giveaways. The cover all genres, and it doesn't cost anything to enter.