Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's all about distribution...stupid

Okay, so I'm sorry to be so harsh in my intro but I get angry when I see author's setting themselves up to fail. I just ran into two people on facebook and neither of them were in any of the main distribution networks. How is this possible? I know (or hope) that most people here already know all that I'm about to tell them. But in case there are a few people here that are just getting started please listen up.

The first guy mentioned "I just hired a publicist for my book xyz just the latest attempt in getting my writing noticed." My first thought was...did this guy just attempt to run before walking...So I went to Amazon with an intent to find what his ranking was...and it wasn't there. Nor was it on B&N! Further research showed in ONLY available on LuLu and for $17.99. Really? Seriously? So you've spent money to HIRE a publicist and your books aren't even available for purchase (lulu is not enough) and your price is WAY TO HIGH!!

The second guy announced "I've finally taken the plunge and released an ebook". Again I went out to the usual suspects and nothing...so I wrote to him (Maybe my search wasn't very good). "Are you on Amazon, B&N, ibookstore?" His response ... "Should be; I know Smashwords distributes to Amazon, B&N, Sony and Apple, among others." My thougths...So you're making an announcement before you have verified live links? UGHH!! Work with me people.

Okay rant over lets get some real information going.

#1 - If you do nothing else put a kindle version of your book up. It is free. Formatting takes just a little bit of time to learn and if you're not here - you're not really publishing your work. If you don't know how to format...there are many books on this (some free some $0.99 - $2.99) It really is not rocket science.

#2 - Once you have the kindle formatted use Calibre (free software) and make an .epub from it. Post it to B&N using PubIt...Also free and easy to do.

#3 - Open your kindle version in a browser (it is essentially just .html which is read by browsers and copy paste into word (don't use your original word file -as it will have lots of "overhead" you don't want or need for it's own formatting. Then follow the layout guidelines at Smashwords to format it the way their "meat grinder' wants it.

#4 - Post to Smashwords and go to their distribution area and turn off: Kindle, B&N (since you'll do direct) and turn on ibookstore, kobo, diesel, etc.

#5 - Watch your smashwords to see if it gets kicked out by their meatgrinder - if so make the changes they recommend then resubmit.

#6 - Wait until you see links available for your books at Kindle & B&N and then...you can announce to people.

Okay I'm back to work on other things. I plan to continue the "Goodreads thing" tomorrow. This just got me hot enough under the collar that I had to post.


John Twipnook said...

Love the rant! Thanks. :)

Abigail Hilton said...

Tangentially related: I went looking for Eric Flint (and co)'s alt-history 1632 Books the other day. No Kindle version. Huh. I was disappointed and went on to purchase something else. I'm a traveling nurse. I can't be buying paper, even if I preferred it, which I don't.

Later, I tweeted about this, and several people directed me to Baen's eBook store, where these books are available in Mobi versions. I bought the book, but the process was annoying. I didn't actually pay the author; I paid an email transfer fee get it onto my Kindle. This is inconvenient. It involves multiple steps. It involves finding the book when there's no clue on Amazon's site that a Kindle version exists.

This is a mistake. It's like having the only Mobi version of your book available on Smashwords. Can people buy it and put it on their Kindles? Yes. Will they? Mostly, no. Because they won't find it, and it involves too many steps, and the archiving system for books bought outside Amazon's site is much less convenient.

I guarantee you Baen is loosing sales. Probably a lot of sales. If the book is not in the Kindle store, it does not exist for most Kindle readers.

Ruth Madison said...

What do you think about people who try to build anticipation of a novel ahead of time?

Some seem to treat it like a movie premier, trying to get everyone excited for the book for a few months before it's released.

Personally I've found that frustrating because when I see some interesting book, I want to be able to buy it right then.

What are your thoughts?

A.G. Claymore said...

I love how you mention waiting for it to show up on the channels excepting Kobo. Nobody can afford to wait for their book to show up on Kobo!

Michael J. Sullivan said...

@John - I feel a bit bad about it now - but I was hot under the collar

@Abigail - there are oh so many problems I have with Baen as a company in general. Their ebook situation is downright wierd. They do "non-exclusive" ebook rights and sell exclusively on their site - I agree it is a HUGE mistake.

@Ruth - that's much different thing - and not a problem as long as there is a pre-order page. I've been doing promotion for Michael's releases from Orbit and it's not out until Nov 23 but there are 41 different sites people can go to in order to purchase.

@A.G. - I believe in the 90/10 rule if your books are live on Amazon and B&N it's good enough for announcing.

Abigail Hilton said...

Michael - Huh. That is strange. They don't like money, do they? On the other hand, if Baen takes only non-exclusive rights, seems like the authors could then self-publish their eBooks to Amazon. So, it's sort of the authors' faults that they're missing sales.

wannabuy said...

@Abigail Hilton:" I went looking for Eric Flint (and co)'s alt-history 1632 Books the other day. No Kindle version. Huh."

Yep. I would be an easy sell at $7.99 or less if on Amazon. I'm a fan of the Baen 'stable of authors.' But not their ebook policy.

But then again, David Weber jumped from Baen to Macmillan and trying to charge $12.99 for an ebook isn't working either. Both frustrated me so I just clicked on a new author that Amazon recommended that really interested me. What part of choice do the old publishers not get?

It is about the distribution. Make it stupid easy to buy...


Robin Sullivan said...

Oops - Just noticed I posted a whole bunch of stuff when logged in as Michael - all the comments above that are on his account is really "me".

Robin Sullivan said...

@Abigail - exactly!! Why more of them aren't putting out their ebooks themselves - is mind boggling. Still if I were Baen - I would adopte a different ebook stance.

KevinMc said...

Might be worth pointing out to some of those folks that Smashwords does NOT, at this time, distribute to Amazon...also that giving up a seventh of your income on 2/3 or more of your sales because you didn't want to learn Kindle formatting (which is REALLY easy, folks!) is pretty silly. ;)

Sally Spedding said...

Great rant. Very helpful. My only reservation re; this whole e-book publishing scene, is, if the book hasn't benefitted from a thorough editorial process. Yes,formatting correctly is crucial, but how about the content? I would advise any would-be self publisher to invest in the above.
Exciting times...

Renee Pawlish said...

Wow, what a great post. Not only do indies make this mistake, but many also think just because they wrote it, it must be good. I read a great piece of advice the other day (wish I could remember what indie said it, I'd give her credit) but she said that when you've written your first book, step away for a couple of weeks, and then come back and evaluate. Truth be told, it's probably not good. But instead, people just up and publish without solid editing not only for grammar but content and story structure and so on. It makes me cringe to see all the crap out there, knowing that there are gems to be found. But it's harder to find them with all the poor writing.

Abigail Hilton said...

@Robin - I'm sure that, for the 1632 books, self-pub probably seems daunting, because after the first book or 2, there are so many co-authors. That's a lot of people to get to agree on something like self-pub, and a formidable amount of bookkeeping (and trust) on the shoulders of the person who lists the books and distributes the payments. I share royalties with my artists on some of my illustrated books. It's involves a lot of interlocking spreadsheets.

@KevinMC - Oh, Smashwords distributes to Amazon. They're just mind-numbingly slow, take a cut of your earnings, pay royalties quarterly instead of monthly, and provide a reporting spreadsheet that is nearly impenetrable. Most authors close SW's Amazon distribution channel and do it themselves through KDP. But, if you're a masochist, you can go through SW to Amazon.

Kirsten Corby said...

This is great info, Robin. I think I am going to print this out and keep it.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Sally & @Renee - I've been thinking a lot about developmental editing because I agree with you authors really can't know if they "have something or not". Having a good independent source to read and comment would certainly be a good business. I'm hoping that some very experienced editors who have found themselves downsized in publishing will consider putting out a shingle to do just this.

Sarah Wynde said...

Thank you so much for this! I'm not ready to use it yet, but I'm bookmarking it to come back to in a few months.

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