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Amazon Exclusivity: Well, Maybe

It would seem to be an easy question to answer; would I, in exchange for several juicy benefits, give Amazon exclusive rights to distribute my book? Given that I don’t use Smashwords due to quality control issues and given also that every major distributor except Amazon hates us dirty foreigners/indies/dirty foreign indies all to heck, why wouldn’t I go with Amazon exclusivity?

Well, for one, because exclusivity often leads to complications. In a certain sense it’s a bet; Amazon is currently the biggest name in e-book distribution, but will that continue? What if something changes? What if the KDP terms are altered (pray I do not alter them further), what if royalties are cut in half? I don’t personally see Amazon coming out behind in any e-retail fight, but who knows what the future holds—and what they might decide to do should they achieve that elusive monopoly. I have a certain amount of trust in Amazon (or, to be more specific, in Amazon’s business sense; they know not to mess with a good, profitable thing), but things could always change.

Right now I certainly can’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to exclusivity because this is all still very much speculation based on rumour, although it’s a pretty solid one as far as rumours go. I don’t know the details of the contract involved or what Amazon might offer, and so a lot of questions are raised. Would this exclusivity be for a set length of time, or could one ‘opt out’ with a certain amount of notice? What, exactly, are they offering—the ability to make your books free whenever you want (attractive), the option to make a product page for your books before they’re released and take pre-orders (very attractive)? What if (as is rumoured) some manner of special promotional options were included (extremely attractive)? Does exclusivity extend only to other retailers, or would it prohibit selling through my website—or even giving away books for free? What if I offered ePub versions of my books through my website as a free download with a donate button nearby (as I have tentative plans to do), would that conflict with ‘exclusivity’? What if a situation came up like I had earlier this year, with Power Play not being available to buy (for two freaking months), would I be allowed to offer it as a free download, as I did then?

Lots of questions, but of course no answers. As mentioned, this is all based on speculation which is in turn based on rumour. Pointless? Well, I believe it’s good to start thinking about these things early. It’d be a big decision to make, perhaps one of the biggest as an indie author; do I want to trust Amazon to be my sole distributor?

As things stand I think my answer could be ‘yes’, but it really does depend on the terms of the exclusivity contract and the bonuses offered. With that said I feel that the benefits for myself could easily (and heavily) outweigh any negative points. There’s another aspect to this too, one I mentioned right at the start; as things stand, Amazon really is the only major distributor that does us indies any favours at all—from the ease of use and openness of KDP to the mysterious Amazon algorithms working in our favour (without ‘also boughts’ I doubt I’d have even the few sales I enjoy), there is the sense that they have a certain amount of respect for us (or at least for the money we bring in). I do feel an odd sort of loyalty to The Mighty Zon for that; for the opportunities Amazon has given me.

Although with that said if this does all come to be and I am faced with this choice, my decision will be based on reason rather than emotion. I’ll read the contract, consider the benefits, consult with my learned peers, think things over, and only THEN will I click “YES YES TAKE MY INDIE SOUL GIVE ME THE SHINY TOYS YES”.

As a final thought, pairing this rumour with ANOTHER rumour, that Amazon may allow formats other than Mobi (most importantly ePub) to be sold through the Kindle store, well … that would make things look even more attractive. In any case it looks like 2012 is going to be a very interesting year. Very interesting indeed.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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State Of My Personal Indie Nation – November 2011 Edition

NaNovember! And what a crazy NaNoWriMo this one was—my first attempt (Charlotte Powers 3) turned out to be only 40k long, which wasn’t so helpful with a 50k target, so I had to very quickly outline and write another book (Charlotte Powers 4!). Thankfully the second one clocked in at well over the necessary 50k and all was well, although it needs a lot of rewriting. In essence, my first effort was a technical failure but a success as a book, while my second effort was a technical win but a failure as a book. In any case NaNo was hugely fun and I had a great time with it, as always. That’s the real answer to any NaNo-naysayers; it’s fun. Like I always say, nothing’s a waste of time if you’re enjoying yourself, and getting a couple of first drafts out of the deal isn’t too shabby either.

Anyway, numbers!

November 2011 Sales

Charlotte Powers: Power Down – 58
Charlotte Powers: Power Play – 29
The Undying Apathy Of Imogen Shroud – 3
Miya Black, Pirate Princess I: Adventure Dawns – 1
Miya Black, Pirate Princess II: Freedom & Responsibility – 0
Miya Black, Pirate Princess III: Fractured Lives – 1
Resonance Book One: Birds Of Passage – 0
The Boy & Little Witch – 0

Total Sales For November: 92
Sales/Day: 3

So! It’s finally happened! Finally and definitively I can say that November 2011 is the first month in which I sold LESS than the month previous. Phew! It’s such a relief to have that out of the way. Also, it’s only by four books so it’s not a huge drop. As predicted, the release of the Kindle Fire has resulted in a huge increase of sales of, y’know, ACTUAL comic books from the Kindle store, which has had the effect of pushing Charlotte Powers out of the Superhero Top 100 almost entirely. I’m actually not that upset about this, it was a great little boost for a while but I was never relying on it to continue forever (plus I’m mostly being beaten by The Batman, impossible to feel bad about that). Technically the books shouldn’t have ever been in there at all (it’s the superhero comics section, after all) but it really is the best category for a superhero story (as there isn’t a prose superhero category) (ALTHOUGH THERE SHOULD BE) (zombies too, there are MORE than enough zombie books out there to fill out a category) (but categories are definitely one area where Amazon is deficient), and it meant the book got exposed to people who became interested in it and bought it (and possibly read it and maybe even enjoyed it). What I mean is that I don’t think putting my book in that category was hurting anyone, so I never felt bad about doing so. Anyway! The free ride’s over and consequently sales are down, but that’s okay. YA’s a tough sell no matter what little lucky breaks you get, I just have to hope that enough people liked the story enough to recommend it to friends. (And hope also that it’s still showing up on some also-bought lists.) It might be that next year I have to do some actual (gnngh) marketing, but on the other hand naaaaah. Anyway, although I predict a further drop in sales for Charlotte Powers now that the Superhero Top 100 cheat code doesn’t really work any more, my hope is that they won’t stop completely. As long as I’m selling something I’m okay, it’s when nothing is moving at all that I get a bit down, worried that my fate is to write lovingly crafted, well-reviewed books that sell about ten copies a year.

Anyway, in 2012 I’ll be focusing on my episodic series, that’s going to be VERY fun. I was looking through my notes for it today and it really has the potential to become something pretty special. Of course it’s easy to say that when you haven’t actually written anything, but I’ve got a really good feeling about this one. I think it strikes a good balance between what I want to write and what people want to read, more than anything I’ve yet published—of course, when I say ‘what people want to read’ I don’t really mean mainstream people, I’m more talking about my people, those trope-savvy, webcomic, anime and game-loving people who are always on the lookout for something new and interesting and depthy to latch onto.

Milestones for this month? Over five hundred sold, that’s pretty special. Half a thousand! Also, with Charlotte Powers 3 & 4 done for NaNoWriMo I have now written over eight hundred thousand words of fiction in 2011. I’m not sure if I can crack a million words by January 1st, but I’ve surprised myself in the past so, y’know, we’ll see.

Aside from the aforementioned Charlotte Powers 3 & 4, what did I accomplish in November? Quite an entirely surprising amount, actually! I did take a break from NaNo for a few days to work on an unrelated project, around 30,000 words that may or may not be useful (I just couldn’t help myself, I really got sucked into that thing almost to the point of obsession, although I’m still not sure if it’ll go anywhere). I also picked away at some notes and research for Tactics Heart, and even started doing the second draft outlines for the episodes (up to nine already and having a ball). Charlotte Powers 5 also called, said, “Hello, I’m pretty much definitely going to be the last book in the series and I’m kind of slightly just a bit epic, so keep that in mind, okay?”. I’m almost certainly going to have the entire Charlotte Powers series published by the end of next year, it’ll be nice to actually have something ‘finished’ out there. This seems like an ideal point to segue into:

GOALS FOR DECEMBER
1 – Tactics Heart. Lots of stuff to do there. Most importantly, writing up proper outlines for every episode (twenty-one at this point, in the first season) and lay groundwork for the website. Maybe write an actual episode or two.
2 – Edit, proof, polish Charlotte Powers 3.
3 – PUBLISH THAT SUCKER.

That’s probably enough, considering I’ll be in Japan for most of the month (and the next). This does mean that I won’t achieve my goal of having ten books published by the end of 2011, but I’d rather fail a self-imposed challenge than push things out too quickly. I guess I could publish Miya Black IV but considering the potential market for that is less than a dozen people I’m not really in too much of a hurry. It is pretty much finished, though, and having it out there wouldn’t hurt … well, maybe. I’ll see how things go. In any case getting Charlotte Powers 3 published is a definite priority—in time for Xmas! Maybe I should churn out a Christmas-themed novella too. Haha. Kind of half-serious about that.

In any case, NaNovember was (as always) both fun and productive. December is going to be busy, but I’m always happiest when I have a lot to do and deadlines to pummel into submission.

Next year will be, I predict, unusual and exciting. I’m looking forward to it already.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in My Personal Indie Nation

 

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Pricing Error In Your Favour

So I’ve made kind of a big decision re: pricing. Previously, I was going by the 99 cent first-in-series $2.99 subsequent-book model, but lately I’ve been thinking, why? And I couldn’t come up with an answer to that. There’s the theory that if someone liked your first book then they’ll pay a little more for others, but I don’t know … it’s logical and I think maybe it works in practise, but do I actually care if I get two dollars or thirty-five cents? Not really! Besides which, especially with the Miya Black books, I wrote the first couple years ago and they don’t represent me at my best–I’m proud of them, don’t get me wrong, but I can almost chart my progress as a writer as I go through them–here’s where I figured out how to pace a book, here’s where I figured out how to better make plot serve story. Around book four the quality increases, and with book five I feel I wrote something really pretty excellent, but who’s going to know that unless people read the earlier ones?

So yes. Back to the point. All of my books are now 99 cents, regardless of length or position-in-series. This will continue until such time as I discover a good reason to increase the price.

(Secret Bonus Reason: When I was young I loved books but they were so expensive. I know there’s not a lot of difference between 99 cents and $2.99, but I can remember a time when two dollars was all the money in the world.)

Oh yes, I’m also going to release books three, four and five of Miya Black this year, pretty much as quickly as I can. Why not? Why not get them out there? They’re already written, they’re just sitting around, there’s no reason not to push them into the world.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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