How Amazon Prime is now taking book sales away from indie authors. Seriously.

I kbook iconnow we are not supposed to speak badly of those who help feed us, but I want to tell you about the newest ‘benefit’ for Amazon Prime members–all 54 million of them in the U.S. Now those members can read free books–any or all–from a Thousand Book reading list for Prime Members.

This is separate from Kindle Unlimited’s all-you-can-read program of books enrolled in KDP Select where authors are paid by the number of pages read.

These are a Thousand Books selected by Amazon for Prime members only.  A closer look at this list reveals that over 80%+ of the works of fiction are published by Amazon imprints, like Thomas and Mercer.  And most of them appear to be Book 1 of a trilogy.

Very clever marketing by Amazon.  You get Book 1 for free and buy the next two. Book promoters like Bookbub, Read Cheaply and Free Booksy have been facilitating this type of marketing for years.  But it is not so good for us indies and traditional or small publishers and those book promoters. Even Bookbub, which is arguably the most important of the discount/bargain book promoters, does not have a list of 54 million would-be book buyers.

There are also non-fiction offerings in the Thousand Books, including Lonely Planet guides to practically every country on the planet, plus a lot of books about crafts. So if you were thinking about leaving your day job to live off your earnings as a fiction writer, maybe you should wait a little bit and see how this all plays out.

As for me…I abandoned writing fiction some time ago and two of my non-fiction guides, on the right, continue to sell.  The ‘How Seniors Travel for Fun and Profit’ is, in fact, a best seller and has been for over six weeks now. But I think this turn of events will seriously impact the writing future of many indie authors.

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What happened with my Goodreads Giveaway–worth it or not?

L.A. Ladies ebook cover

‘L.A. Ladies’, a romantic mystery is available as an ebook and paperback now.

Like most indie authors I felt as if getting those first reviews for my books resembled climbing a mountain in a blizzard wearing lead boots–one slow step at a time.  Of course, some indies have a very supportive Writers group or belong to a book club or have some other circle of friends and acquaintances who will eagerly buy and review their new novel.  And lickety-split, the reviews pile up fast. (Although if Amazon discovers that the reviews are by relatives or close friends, it will take those reviews down.  And Amazon has been doing that with a vengeance lately.)

So I looked around for alternatives to the slow uphill slog and came across three well-known choices: 1) Kirkus Reviews  2) NetGalley and 3) Goodreads Giveaway.

With Kirkus Reviews the cost is $425 if you are willing to wait 2 or 3 months for a single review which can be published on their website–if you decide that you like the review. If the review is less than favorable, you can decide not to publish it. If you want rush service the price is $575. This all struck me as being a bit pricey for one review. (For heaven’s sake, I’ve heard that reviews used to cost $5 on Fiverr but Amazon put an end to that, too.)  Anyway for complete details about Kirkus go here.

NetGalley was recommended by a woman who publishes romance novels, so I checked it out.  So much better!  For $399 an indie author can post a book manuscript for download by thousands of potential reviewers who, in exchange for the ‘free’ book, are asked to post reviews on the NetGalley website.  Apparently some of these readers also post their reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. For details about NetGalley go here.

Then I looked into Goodreads Giveaway and it sounded great!  All I had to do was offer to send a  specific number of paperback copies of my new novel, ‘L.A. Ladies’ to the winners of a drawing.  Goodreads information indicated that a month long promotion period would result in about 800 Goodreaders signing up for the giveaway.  Goodreads suggests offering 10 books and notes that about 60% of the winners will actually write a review. I noticed that not all authors were offering 10 books; one offered only 2 copies. For more details about a Goodreads Giveaway, go here.

Quickly I crunched the numbers.  The books would cost me 2.69 each plus rush shipping through CreateSpace.  Postage would add a little, I thought, but not much.  I’d send the books using the media rate. So I jumped right in, deciding to offer 12 books–signed copies.  I had already set up pre-publication orders on Amazon and B&N so my publication date was fixed–just two weeks away.  That determined the expiration date for my Goodreads Giveaway. And I decided to make the giveaway available in Canada because I’d sold some books through Kobo.

Oh happy days!  Those lovely Goodreads readers signed up in droves!  In 2 weeks 900+ women entered my Giveaway–twice what I had expected.  And within hours of its end Goodreads sent me a list of the 12 winners.  One in Canada, the others scattered across the U.S.  I bundled up the books and drove to the Post Office where I found that there is no media or book rate to Canada.  It cost $15 to send ‘L.A. Ladies’ to Alberta! In total my shipping costs were around $70.

And now for the results. There are now 4 reviews on Goodreads, three of which state that they received the book in a Giveaway.  The fourth reviewer didn’t say one way or the other whether she bought the book or got it for free, but her review was very positive and she posted it on Amazon, too.  In fact, all the reviews are positive–but there are still so very few. I’ve since heard from a fellow writer in my online writing group that Goodreads Giveaway reviews come in slowly so more reviews may come from this Giveaway.  But the cost for each review at this point works out to be about $30–a lot less than Kirkus Reviews.  I could, of course, reduce costs by not offering the Giveaway to Canadian readers and planning far enough ahead so I wouldn’t have to pay for rush shipping, but I don’t think I’ll do it again.

Now I wish I’d followed the romance publisher’s advice.  I’m going to check out NetGalley to see whether they allow books that have already been published to go onto their site.  Or I may put ‘L.A. Ladies” into Kindle Select and run a freebie sale. I’ll let you know what happens next.


L.A. Ladies now available for pre-order on Kindle and Nook

Tooting my own horn here!  My new novel, ‘L.A. Ladies‘ is now ready for pre-ordering on Kindle. You can find it here and read more about Robin, a ghost-blogger who is re-starting her life after the death of her husband. (And–Yes!–a collie is a character in the novel.)

The paperback edition will published on February 18th, too.

This romance-mystery is available for pre-order at other online bookstores, including Nook and Kobo. Coming soon on iTunes and Scribd.

L.A. Ladies ebook cover

The ebook cover of ‘L.A. Ladies’. It is now available for pre-order of Kindle


‘Speak’ and ye shall find ghost words, typos and other errors

Frog Gate to River Walk Studio City

In the romance novel ‘L.A. Ladies’ Robin goes for walks along the L.A. River. This photo is of the frog gate leading to one path along the river.

I spent all day yesterday listening to the latest draft of my novel, ‘L.A. Ladies’.  That’s right, I listened to it using a nifty feature in Word that I didn’t previously know existed.  The feature is called ‘Speak’ and I decided to use it to see if I could find any ‘ghost words’ in my manuscript.  ‘Ghost words’ are those little leftover words that accidentally end up in revised copy.  When an author re-reads the revised section, her eyes slide right over the ghost words because, after all, she ‘knows’ what the passage says.  The eyes and brain play tricks.

In one writers’ group online a fellow author suggested I read my manuscript aloud, but I wasn’t at all confident that the eye-brain trick wouldn’t happen again.

Instead I decided to use ‘Speak’ and sat here at my computer following the words with my eyes while Microsoft Anna (the voice of Speak and it’s a semi-mechanical sounding voice!) read to me.  Much to my horror, I discovered a ghost word in the first chapter. Somehow the word ‘handed’ had been left in a sentence right beside ‘handing’. I quickly deleted ‘handed’ and kept on listening to Anna. Two other ‘ghost words’ showed up later in the novel and in one other instance I discovered that I’d written ‘on’ instead of ‘of’.  All were fixed instantly. What is also important to note is that these four tiny errors in my manuscript were all properly spelled so they would have gone right through the Kindle Spell-Check and not shown up as mistakes.

Another discovery I made while listening was that in an early meeting between Robin, the main character, and one of her love interests, she sounded bitchy instead of surprised. So I re-wrote that exchange, too. Then checked it again with Speak to make sure there were no ghost words in my revision!

Okay.  If you’re interested in using Speak — and I highly recommend this approach–search Google for text-to-speech in Word and follow the steps to activate it. It’s really easy and can save you from serious embarrassment.

Later: When I posted about this topic on my FB wwriter’s group I learned from other writers there is also a text-to-speech function in Adobe’s pdf reader as well as several free programs available online. I might try them to see if those other voices are more pleasant than Anna’s.

Oh, one last thing.  Anna sometimes reads ‘is.’ at the end of a sentence as ‘island’. At other times she read ‘no.’ as ‘number’.  She apparently ‘thinks’ they are abbreviations.


I spent $40 for a beta reader and am glad I did! Read how this happened.

This post is definitely not about a ‘misadventure’.

I’ve been writing and publishing fiction for almost 3 years.  (After 35+ years writing for corporations and magazines.) I’ve learned a few things along the way and do many more things ‘right’ than I did back when I wrote and published my first novel, ‘Playing for Julia’. This is one of those ‘right’ things.

As I wrote in my previous post, I’m to the beta reader stage for my new novel, ‘L.A. Ladies’, and decided to move outside the realm of Friends and Family for beta readers. F&F will almost always tell you that the book is good and they loved it–whether true or not.

So, with some trepidation, I joined the Goodreads Beta Reading group.  Following their instructions I posted a request for beta readers for my manuscript.  And waited.  While I was waiting I read other posts by authors and by beta readers and came across a message from a beta reader named Elle who charges $40.  There was a link to her site, AlphaBeta Reading, where I found an example of what Elle does as a beta reader.  Basically, she goes far beyond beta reading and provides a light edit for a lot less money than a typical editor charges for a line-by-line reading.  I was impressed, but not entirely convinced.  So I bookmarked her site and waited another day.  Still no response to my query on Goodreads.

After a third day with no responses from the Goodreads beta group, I took a chance and sent my MS  in .docx to Elle who I later learned had lived in L.A. for a while. That’s helpful since the book is set in Los Angeles and women are the target market.

Within less than a week she sent a reply with line-by-line comments as well as overall observations about characters and plot.  For example, her comment about using contractions: I should use more contractions in the dialogue because one character sounded too formal. She caught grammatical slip-ups. She noted overusage of words. She pointed out which conversational exchanges should be revised and why. And who she thought “Who done it” as the novel unfolded. (And what she thought when she found out it was someone else!)

She also made comments that I don’t agree with–primarily having to do with minor characters. She suggested that I eliminate some. I love minor characters in books I read!  I plan to keep them in the book, although one supporting character will probably be minimized.

collie dog

Pretty Girl is the collie owned by a triathlete trainer in ‘L.A. Ladies’.

Oh, she made no comments about Pretty Girl, a collie dog that plays an important role in the book.

Perhaps the most important aspect of her reading of ‘L.A. Ladies’ is how she seemed to regard the novel: more as a cozy mystery than a romance.  It’s both, but I have to admit it was easier to write the mystery parts of the book than the romance chapters.  I’m now trying to decide if I should revise the novel in that direction.  Well, I’ll decide that after Christmas.

Overall Elle offered much more than I expected. Take a look at the example of her beta reading at AlphaBeta Reading.


Fiction sales figures by genre for 2013 – some surprises!

Bookstat just released the sales figures by adult fiction genres for 2013.  The surprise is that Mysteries came in lower than Literary fiction–at least according to this information.  (I’m not sure what the genre called “general” is!)

 

1 – Thrillers ($1.088 billion)

2 -Romance ($1.079 Billion)

3 – General ($810 million)

4- Literary ($548 million)

5- Mystery & detective ($442 million)

6 -Fantasy ($377 million)

Another valuable source of information about sales by genre can be found at authorearnings.com  This site reports quarterly and provides various kinds of data for authors.  Their rankings by genre differ slightly from this.

Working AFter Retirement cover

The best-selling guide provides real solutions to retirees who need more income.

My newest book is a non-fiction guide entitled Working After Retirement.  It has all 5 star reviews on Kindle and B&N!

 


Conversations with Veronica Roth, author of Divergent, and Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel

More about the L.A. Times Festival of Books, the largest book festival in America.  It was held last weekend on the campus of the University of Southern California.  I have posted photos from the event on my other blog,  LACityPix.

Line of people to hear VEronica Roth

The line for people who wanted to see Veronica Roth speak but did not have tickets. Ticket holders were in another line that stretched almost completely around the building.

Along with literally hundreds and hundreds of other people, mostly women, I attended the interview–which the Festival called a ‘conversation’–with Veronica Roth, author of ‘Divergent’.  She turned out to be taller and younger than I had imagined.   She wrote Divergent while she was still in college and stated, among many other things, that the book is NOT an anti-evolution tract.  This anti-evolution idea apparently has been making the rounds in academia.  (I guess academics have to come up with this stuff to keep their jobs!)  After she spoke, she signed books–but the number of books she would sign was limited: one per person and a green ticket was required.  Given the huge fan base she had at the Festival, she probably could have spent all afternoon  and into the evening signing.

I also joined hundreds of people, mostly men, to hear what Jared Diamond, the author of ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ talk about his new book, ‘The World Until Yesterday.’  He seemed to be more concerned about falling in his shower than anything else.  He’s 76 years old and this is important to him.

And finally…

I had conversations with two very knowledgeable ‘book people’ both of whom were trying to make new lives for themselves as the independent bookstore world is collapsing.  One formerly owned a bookstore on the East Coast; the other had worked in a now-closed bookstore here in L.A.   Both seemed unsure about what lies ahead of them and both were volunteering to work in booths at the Festival.  It was clear that it was difficult to let go of something they love.

One told me that Book ‘Em, a mystery book store not far from my home, is going out of business.  That means there are only two remaining bookstores in Pasadena: Vroman’s, which was founded in 1894, and Distant Lands, a travel bookstore.  Borders closed a couple of years ago.  Cliff’s Used Books shut its doors last year.  And a few weeks ago Barnes and Noble abandoned Pasadena, leaving a gaping hole on Colorado Blvd., the main shopping street in the city.  Even though I am an independent author who publishes e-books, I am sorry to see this happen.

Penguin's mobile book shop

Penguin Publishing’s mobile book shop at the L.A Festival of Books.

Given the way we Americans love to reinvent things, not all indie bookstores are gone, however.  A new trend is the mobile book store that goes from Book Festival to Book Festival around the country. I love this!  When I was a child, libraries across the nation sponsored Book Mobiles to bring books to far flung areas of rural America.  Now, instead of being sponsored by public libraries, the new mobile book sources are privately operated.  And instead of lending books, they are selling them.

At the L.A Times Festival of Books, one example was Mrs. Nelson’s Book Festival, a blue truck loaded with books, that goes from place to place.  Sorry, but the photo I took of it wasn’t good, but this traveling book shop looked very similar to the Penguin mobile book shop.  Only blue instead of orange.  And Mrs. Nelson’s mobile book shop had book signings, which Penguin did not.  I hope that these ‘book trucks’ become as popular as the gourmet food trucks that are now found all over the place in L.A. and other big cities.