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The difference between lending, borrowing and pirates.

There is always chatter on writer loops about websites Pirating eBooks. This is a huge problem and does often take revenue from the author and publisher. True, pirate sites should be shut down, but spending the time chasing them and sending take down notices takes up a lot of valuable writing time from the author. But one website recently struck a huge cord in the writing community. I saw a lot of talk amongst authors regarding this site in at least five different loops and on various writer boards.

The site is Lendink. I’m not promoting the site or suggesting that readers or writers use it. There are many other sites like this one such as eBook Exchange, Lending eBook and on Goodreads if you go to their groups and search for lending eBooks you will find message boards of readers who are willing to lend out their eBooks to other users. (Amendment: It appears the Lendink site is no longer valid. I get an error when going there that says the site either was overused or owner ran out of resources.)

Everyone breathe and let me explain what lending is and how it works (when used as it is intended).

When you publish on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) you have the option to allow those who purchase your book to lend it to ONE person for 14 days. Once the other person hits 14 days, the book disappears from their Kindle account. The same is true for Pubit (Barnes and Noble).  What this means is that if I buy Atlantis by Bob Mayer I can loan my copy to one of my friends (who has a Kindle account) for 14 days. Once that time frame is up, the book is gone and my friend no longer has access to it. AND, and this is a big AND, I can only lend the book ONE time.

What these sites do is hook one reader up with another to share books they LOVED.  This to me is awesome both as a reader and an author. Why? Because the more people who read my book, the more people are more likely to buy one of my other books, so if one found me through it being lent from a friend, then yippee for me.

Word of mouth is still the number one way to sell books.

So are these sites bad? It’s a gray area, but one that can actually help the author. Consider this. Your book, your name, your brand…is listed on a site readers hang out. They are not selling your book illegally, they are simply lending the book for a short period of time to another user. This is readers’ talking to readers’ and well, readers rule.

I do want to clear up one other thing. This is very different from the Amazon Lending Library, which allows members for Amazon Prime to download free eBooks. The author gets paid for each of those downloads (done through the KDP select program) and the sale goes towards your book’s rankings.

I agree, those who pirate books, meaning steal the authors work and sell it for a profit should be shut down. However, this gray area of lending books is something we, as an industry, need to understand and figure out if and how it adds value to our overall careers. The technology is changing rapidly and we need to be aware of what is going on and how it affects our business.

Go here to find more information about Kindle Lending. Go here to find out about lending on Nook. To my knowledge, you can’t lend books via the iBookstore. You can borrow books from you local library and read them on on your Kobo reader. FYI, Cool Gus is getting their books into the library system through Overdrive. Working on that right now.

Thoughts?

Keeping up with The Technology…

Yesterday Bob forwarded me an email from Amazon about new Kindle Publisher Tools with the Kindle Format 8 (KF8) support, which is Amazon’s next generation file format. This new format offers new features and enhancements.

I’m drooling. And as Bob is reading this, his eyes are rolling to the back of his head. Not because he’s not excited about it, but when I get talking about techie stuff, Bob starts to twitch.

Amazon also has a beta tester for a Kindle Adobe InDesign Plugin, but it doesn’t yet have the ability to support the KF8, so its kind of useless to me, but when they do figure that out (and they will) I won’t be drooling, I’ll be foaming at the mouth.

So what does all this mean?

That is what Bob said in his email. When I translated what it meant…I haven’t heard from him since. I think he’s avoiding me…

Seriously, this is very exciting stuff. But it’s only the beginning of what is going to happen as eBooks take over the world. As we discussed before, using a Word document or using a web page .htm Word generated document isn’t a very good idea when creating an eBook. See this blog post. I prefer to use InDesign or Pages, which allows me to create a quality ePub file. The KindleGen is a free download from Amazon that accepts HTML, XHTML or an ePub file as a source file. What is most exciting to me is that I can use a single ePub file that I created that works fabulously with iBooks, B&N and Kobo (video and all) to create the new files for Kindle that can be used on both KindleFire and Kindle eReaders.

Even better, there is a Kindle Previewer Software. I don’t have to be in KDP to “preview” my eBook. (A little piece of advice: if you can, preview your book on all devices and apps).

But here is the problem. This isn’t perfect yet. Certain things that are supported by Kindle Fire Table (such as nested tables and merged cells and scalable vector graphics) are not supported by Kindle eInk based devices or Apps for PC, Mac and Smartphones.

The Vook is another new great tool for authors. I’ve tested it, and while it’s not for me, it’s a really excellent option for authors for formatting both ePub and Kindle eBooks. I do recommend it over some other options out there for authors because it does create high quality and the author does control the end result more so than other services out there, whether it be free or paid. If I didn’t have InDesign, I’d probably use Vook regularly. They’ve done a really good job of working out some of the kinks and for those authors who don’t have a nerd who lives to “figure things out” as their business partner like Bob has with me, then it’s an excellent option.

Also, Apple is going to make some big announcement soon and it will most likely have something to do with eBooks either directly or indirectly.

As eBooks gain popularity, this technology is going to get better and better. We are going to undergo some major changes and with it will come some frustration since we will have to learn new things. But at the same time these changes are very exciting and will help authors connect with their readers and that is a beautiful thing.

Write It Forward!

We’re Looking For A Few Good Writers

The publishing world is moving faster and faster as it becomes digital.  At Who Dares Wins Publishing, we’ve embraced the digital world, but also realized that the creative world isn’t moving as fast as the technology allows and readers are starting to demand product quicker than we can produce it.  Since we already exceeded our year-end 2011 goals by June, we’ve redone our business plan and are ready to take the next step.

In traditional publishing, you were considered odd if you published more than one book every twelve months.  In fact, one of the reasons I wrote under four different pen names was I was writing faster than my publishers could handle.  The due dates in my contracts were always spaced a year apart.

That’s all changed.  In the past year we’ve uploaded 20 years worth of my backlist along with several new titles.  The result has been fantastic, with sales of over 100,000 eBooks a month.  I’m currently going through the last book in the nine book Area 51 series: Legend and  the 8th, Area 51 Nosferatu is uploading on all platforms.  I’ve still got to go through the second book in the Psychic Warrior series, the first of which has just been uploaded exclusive to Nook and our web site.  (If you’ve seen Men Who Stare at Goats—yes, a program like that existed, I was affiliated with it, and it wasn’t that funny, but it was intriguing).

But here’s the problem.  I’ve got several different series that readers want new titles in.  There’s simply not enough time in the year for me to write all those books.  I’ve prioritized which ones I’ll be writing and I’ll still be working on the same schedule I did with traditional publishing:  no more than four titles a year, most likely only three.

Thus:  we’re looking for a few good writers to move some of these series forward with new books.

Let me lay this out clearly so you know our parameters, what’s expected, and have a realistic view of what will happen.

Parameters:  Writer Qualifications:

  • Have been published traditionally or have experienced substantial sales in self-publishing.
  • Have your own backlist you have self-published or want us to publish for you at the highest rates in the business or that your traditional publisher controls and is selling.
  • Have a social media presence and understand how to market and promote yourself, your books and any books in our series you write.
  • Be able to write action/science fiction/thrillers.
  • Be able to take story lines and characters that already exist (in some cases invent new characters and story lines using an existing back story) and move them forward.
  • Be willing to read all the existing books in a series.
  • Be willing to work with me on developing a story outline. (in many case we have ideas and in some cases story outlines already developed).
  • Be willing to write an outline and two sample chapters on spec before getting the final go-ahead and contract.
  • Write the story and be willing to work together on revisions.
  • For Black Ops/Cellar/Green Beret, practically all the books, be able to write the semi-paranoid mindset of the covert operative.
  • For the science fiction series, be able to write high-tech scifi.

Writer compensation:

  • Participation in established series written by a NY Times Bestselling author where the titles are still selling solidly.
  • 33% of gross royalties earned, paid out quarterly by the 15th of the following month.
  • Co-author cover credit.
  • I’ll be launching Readers Rule shortly, a cooperative of several bestselling eBook authors that will generate publicity.

The reality:  no money up front.  You’re working for the future.  I can’t guarantee income rates but as we decide on each series, I will tell you what the books are averaging in sales per month, so you can get an idea of what you might be earning.  The key to this is the long tail.  You’re doing the work up front, but as long as we push these series forward, and we get more titles up, your income will continue to grow.  So, if you’re looking for money now, this isn’t the deal for you.  We’re also looking for books to be around 50,000 to 60,000 words so we’re not looking for the usual 80-100k novels.  They will be priced between $2.99 and $3.99 on all platforms (earning 70% royalty rate and 100% from our web site).  Other than the writing and revising we take care of everything else, from editing, covers, formatting, etc. although we would expect you to assist in marketing via social media since your name will be on it.  Besides earning money on the long tail, this could assist sales of your own titles.

Here are the series we’re looking to co-author:

  • Chasing series.  (Chasing the Ghost.  Horace Chase as the protagonist).  We have a concept for the next book and partial outline already:  Chasing The Dead.
  • The Cellar seriesBodyguard of Lies and Lost Girls.  We have a concept for the next book about the Cellar, the organization that polices the world of covert operations.
  • The Green Beret series:  We’re looking to launch a brand new Green Beret series set in the current day, so in this case characters and plot are wide open, as long as a Special Forces A-Team is at the center of the story. If you’ve watched The Unit, you have an idea what we’re looking for.
  • The Black Ops series:  Taking characters from The Gate, particularly, Lake, we want to extend the series about a counter-terror operative working inside of the United States.  Several story ideas have already been generated along with outlines.
  • Psychic Warrior:  The first book has just been published for the first time in eBook.  Psychic Warrior Project Aura will be out later this year.  We want to extend this series about Special Forces soldiers operating on the virtual plane via avatars than can come into the real world.
  • Archangel:  A concept only, but it would tie to our Area 51, Atlantis, and new Nightstalker series.  High tech scifi with a literary base.
  • Area 51 and Atlantis series.  These are our real money-makers, but the reality is I ‘closed out’ both series in their overall arc.  However, if you’ve read the series and have ideas for spinoffs, we’re open to that. Area 51 has the possibility of moving forward as Earth helps other Airlia seeded planets, and Atlantis also has the same possibility as our timeline saves other timelines.

Additionally, we’re looking for one or two authors who have extensive backlist who want to make the plunge into self-publishing but don’t want to do all the heavy lifting themselves and want to be part of our team.  We offer the highest royalty rates off gross in the business, do all the work, charge no fees, and also do direct sales from our automated web site.  Our experience in e-publishing is extensive.

If you are interested, send us an email:  admin@WhoDaresWinsPublishing.com or visit our submission page and attach all necessary information.

Please give links to your backlist as published, or if it isn’t back in print, or held by a traditional publishing houses, links to your titles.  Your background for the series you think you could write and any other pertinent information.

Thanks and Write It Forward.

If I Build It, They Will Come; If I Write It, They Will Read It

Recently Australia’s Minister for Small Business said that he believed that online sales would wipe out bookstores in five years, except for a few specialty stores.

He was greeted with outrage.  From bookstore owners.  “I’m gobsmacked,” one owner said.  (I put that there because I’ve never typed gobsmacked, and since I’m presenting at the Australian RWA conference in August, I need to practice).

Here and there, a few people are saying that 99% of self-published books are going to die slow, un-noticed, deaths.

These announcements are greeted with outrage.  From self-published authors.

There is a thing that supersedes these proclamations and resulting outrage.  Called reality.

The Australian minister made this announcement after Australia’s largest book chain collapsed due to on-line competition.  Why would someone then be gobsmacked?  The largest surviving chain left in the US announced it is making more off Nook sales than in-store print sales.  That they were seeking shorter leases to 100 stores, to give them the “option” to close stores efficiently.  Speaking of B&N, this morning I was mentioned in Barnes & Nobles’ Press release thusly:  Barbara Freethy’s Don’t Say A Word recently held the title of the top-selling NOOK Book, a first for a PubIt! title. Current PubIt! bestsellers include Switched by Amanda Hocking, Area 51 by Bob Mayer and Divorced, Desperate & Delicious by Christie Craig.

The people arguing the loudest against the rise of the ebook are independent bookstores.  They claim their uniqueness and their atmosphere will keep them alive.  Perhaps.  But only if they adapt and provide customers with a unique experience.  Frankly, and I know this will cause outrage, too often my experience has been in such stores of finding an attitude of “I built it, now you come in and buy some books.”  That attitude is reaching new heights as some indie bookstores are now going to charge customers to come in for author events.  I might be wrong, but that just seems backwards.  One store said that 10% of their revenue comes from this.  I wonder how much of that they share with the author?  In Seattle an indie bookstores posted emails on why they declined to have an author published by Amazon to do  a booksigning, going so far as to say Amazon was evil, and that Amazon censors books, while they proceeded to do exactly the same thing.

Many bookstores treated genre authors as some sort of subspecies not worthy of their literary consideration.  I’ve literally (pun intended) been told several times that “We don’t really do your type of book” by these stores.  When you don’t do the types of books that sell the highest percentage of fiction, how do you expect to stay in business?  Not only do you need readers to come to your stores, you need writers, particularly local writers and genre writers with a fan base.  One store that shoved my books back at me and told me this was out of business six months later.  I did come to them because they’d built it, offered to help and was rebuffed.  Don’t get me wrong, I love indie bookstores and have spent thousands of dollars in them, but we all have to adapt and a key to survival is to link the author with the reader, which means also valuing authors regardless of genre.  What’s amazing in the Seattle situation is that the bookstore was a mystery store and the author was published by Thomas and Mercer, Amazon’s mystery and thriller imprint.  That imprint will only grow larger over time, yet the store is saying they won’t rack books by it.  That is a glaring lack of facing reality.  We can wish things to be different, but when we ignore the iceberg looming, it’s called switching deckchairs on the Titanic.

Books are being loaded onto Amazon Kindle and PubIt at record numbers.  The reality is, 99% will die quiet, but agonizing deaths (agonizing to the writer).  At the height of the POD rush, there were 1.2 million titles in 2006.  950,000 sold less than 99 copies.  At .99 cents, more writers may be selling more than 100 copies, but the income is poor and this can only last for so long.  But, let’s face the reality of traditional publishing:  99% of the authors who were published the same year my first book came out (1991) are no longer writing for a living.  It’s actually probably higher than that since most weren’t even writing for a living then.

Adding to the problem, thieves are reformatting other people’s books and loading them, hoping to quickly make some bucks and clogging the system.  My Area 51 book has been pirated and republished on Amazon Kindle like this.  The fact the thief used a character’s name as the author was a red flag.  I do have to give Amazon credit in that they contacted whoever uploaded the book– and I just got an email from them apologizing about the “mistake”.  Right.

My previous post that an unpublished writer should have at least 3 manuscripts done before uploading was greeted in two ways. On this blog, overwhelmingly positive.  On Kindleboards, the results were mixed, 50-50.  Someone even accused me of trying to keep a foot in traditional publishing by suggesting writers submit to agents.  As if that were some crime.  I find a rather negative attitude sometimes toward traditional publishing among indies, just as many trads sneer at indies as producing drek.  There’s enough drek to go around in both camps.  I consider publishing Snookie to be questionable and a case of just because she wrote it, didn’t mean people would buy it.  We constantly see the celebrity book deal.  How many really earn out?

The bottom line is just because you write it and upload it, that doesn’t mean many people are going to want to read it.    I work full time (which for me is 7 days a week, around 14 hours a day) at being an author.  Which means 50% of my time is spent running a business, and a large chunk of that is promotion.  That doesn’t mean running around trumpeting my books (although, let’s be honest, some of it is), but rather building community and a reputation.  

What is key now is that the reader-author relationship is finally the cornerstone of publishing.  Authors can talk directly to their readers on social media.  Bookstores had the lock on distribution for decades.  They no longer do.  That’s a reality.  To survive requires accepting that reality.  Writers can now publish immediately.  That’s a reality.  But that doesn’t mean it’s a good one for everyone.  The successful writers are the one who realize quality content is what will draw readers, not smoke and mirrors.  The best promotion is great content, and multiple titles.  Success requires a long term plan and perseverance.

I love this quote from Terry Gilliam (can’t beat a Python for a great line):  “Talent is less important in film-making than patience. If you really want your films to say something that you hope is unique, then patience and stamina, thick skin and a kind of stupidity, a mule-like stupidity, is what you really need.”

Yee-haw.

I don’t expect readers to come to my books.  I have to go to my readers, with quality writing, community, blog posts, social media, conferences, unique topics, YouTube clips, answering every email, and just plain hard work.

So just because we built it or we wrote it, is no guarantee of success.  That will go to those who learn, adapt, change and work very, very hard.  What we all must do is go to the READER.

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