What Wednesday: Indies and the Vitriol Against Amazon

What Wednesday: Indies and the Vitriol Against Amazon

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of vitriol against Amazon from indie authors on my feed. I haven’t clicked any of the articles they’ve linked to because I’ve mostly been fixated on their comments: ‘I won’t be surprised if Amazon fails.’ ‘All they want is money.’ ‘Amazon will collapse.’ ‘Amazon never does anything good.’ So on and so forth…

I’m astonished by these comments because our careers as indie authors wouldn’t exist without Amazon and its Kindle. Amazon is the reason why self-publishing is becoming an increasingly acceptable way of getting one’s book out there. Amazon is the reason why so many careers have launched. Amazon is the reason why there are successful authors out there that agents and big publishers wouldn’t give a chance. Amazon is the reason why many indie authors were able to find publishers, albeit much smaller ones. And Amazon lets our publishers and us put books on their website for free.

We receive 70% of the profits. We can list books for free to get our names out there. Amazon has opened up so many opportunities out there for writers whose voices would otherwise not be heard. I have one author friend who is successful because of Amazon. She found a literary agent, but that literary agent could not find a publisher for her, so she eventually had to drop her agent and fly solo. And she has Amazon to thank for this. I have another who is still with his literary agent but opted to self-publish the book the agent had since so many publishers kept rejecting it. He has Amazon to thank for this. I have Amazon to thank for making it possible for my current publisher to exist.

As indie authors, we’re really shooting ourselves if we wish for the downfall of Amazon. The downfall of Amazon can mean the downfall of our careers; I don’t foresee another online retailer being able to overtake Amazon’s ability to sell books, unless this retailer is able to create an e-reader far better than the Kindle–which is difficult considering the Nook couldn’t beat the Kindle.

I am grateful for the existence of Amazon. Yeah, book sales aren’t any easier, but at least When Stars Die will have a chance on the market, a chance to find new readers. I don’t wish for Amazon’s downfall. This is like wishing for the downfall of my own career. For now, most readers flock toward Amazon when purchasing books online, so Barnes and Noble or Smashwords or Lulu or whatever aren’t going to help book sales for many indie authors if something happens to Amazon.


You can now pre-order When Stars Die! preorderYou can purchase it here.

Giving Away E-Books for Free and the Damage This Can Do

Giving Away E-Books for Free and the Damage This Can Do

This is a very sensitive topic that I am going to try to handle with care, as I know some or many authors may disagree with me. However, this is a conversation I had with my personal assistant and the publisher of Writers AMuse Me Publishing. All of us came to the same conclusion: giving away e-books for free (outside of review copies, which are only given to select individuals) devalues both the author and his/her work. Now I’m not writing this article based on a conclusion among three people. However, I will use author Melissa Foster’s article to support my points, along with adding a few of my experiences as a YA author trying to compete with books being given away for free. Let me present this graph to your from Smashwords before I begin. smashwords-price-pointsOkay, so free books aren’t on here, but notice even books at $0.99 cents are selling way below books even priced at $9.00. This graph isn’t just talking about earnings monetarily, but also sales. Unfortunately I cannot find the article this graph was connected to, but the article did say that people are more likely to buy a book when there is a value attached to that book. In spite of what is shown on Amazon Bestseller lists, very few authors can get away with giving away a book for free and do well numbers-wise, then switch over to charging for their books and continue doing well. I have seen author friends do this, and their rankings didn’t improve greatly, for whatever reason. After all, in order for anyone to purchase a book, free or otherwise, those people have to know that book exists. Not to mention readers have to read your free book in order to trust you as an author. And a lot of readers have downloaded hundreds of free books.

Fortunately for self-published authors doing this, there are a myriad of services to help them out, compared to self-published authors who refuse to give their books away for free. There are very, very few free services to help out self-published authors who attach a price to their books. (I could be wrong. There might be enough for $2.99 and below). But I have done the research for my own book, and the only service I could find was The Fussy Librarian. But even TFL is charging now; the price luckily is very, very low. However, I don’t know how effective those free services are for self-published authors giving away their books for free. In fact, I had one author friend doing relatively okay with giving her book away for free, but then as soon as she attached a price to that book–just $2.99–sales plummeted–severely. It’s as though her readers began to expect that she would keep giving away her hard work for free. Or her readers hadn’t read her book at all, because it was for free, so there was no word of mouth going around. If readers pay for something, they want to make use of what they spent their money on. In fact, readers are more likely to read review copies, as a stipulation to reading a copy is leaving a rating or review. This is almost a guilt factor. This is not so for free books.

Now on to my points using Melissa Foster’s article to back me up. I encourage you to read it before reading further.

  1. Giving away a book for free devalues books overall. Melissa Foster says that  “self-published authors have created a devaluing of the written word” (ALLi). This is a generalization, she admits. Many do not. My publisher has been helping AEC authors build their platforms, and one facet of this platform building encouraged me to do some interesting research, with the help of my PA. My PA and I noticed that the bestselling books for the YA paranormal romance genre were all being given away for free. These books don’t have their own separate bestseller’s list. They are part of the same list for all paranormal romance books–and there are over 1,000. How can anyone who has a price attached to his or her book compete with pages and pages of books being given away for free? To be noticed on Amazon, you have to have a great ranking; the number of reviews can help, too. Price is not factored into this. This completely contradicts the graph above, but I suspect that once a price is attached to these free books, the downloads plummet. If a price was attached to the book from the beginning, sales my be slow, but over time the payoff will probably be worth it more than if that book had been given away for free from the start. I want an audience AND money from my own book, both at the same time. Even if it means my career starts out slow, the payoff will probably be worth it in the long run. It’s my belief that if an author gives away a book for free from the get-go, readers will probably continually expect free material.
  2. “Mismanaged expectations.” Melissa Foster states that “many self-published authors hear about the outliers who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they’ll do anything to try and reach that pinnacle” (ALLi). Therefore, authors will throw their work up for free in the hopes of building a wide audience that will pay for their next work. In most cases, this doesn’t help, which is why Foster calls it “mismanaged expectations.” As with publishing in general, only a small percentage of authors exit the gate as bestsellers.
  3. Interesting points that Foster mentions on why some authors give their books away for free–or post at 99 cents, which is a price point I’d rather have than a free one, because there is at least a value attached to it:
  4. 99-cent price point for ebooks
  5. KDP Select program (free ebooks)
  6. Unedited books/ebooks
  7. Gimmicks for sales and reviews (Kindle giveaways, etc.)
  8. Nasty reviews from other authors with the sole purpose of driving down ratings”

Now I am going to take some points from Melissa Foster and develop them on what we can do to bring value back to books. Overall, I think the problem with giving away books for free is that readers will download a bunch of these and never get to that book. Granted, you will see fantatastic reviews for a lot of the free books on these bestsellers list, but it’s likely rare, as any bestselling author is. But I do not download free books. I refuse to. I want that author to attach a value to his or her work.

  • “Work together, not against each other.” I do not like the idea that another author is my competition. Our books are stories, not pens or toilet paper or cereal trying to use their prices to get people to buy more. Books are too complex for that. So while I may be saying how are priced books supposed to compete against free books, we authors need to ultimately uplift each other and not devalue our work by giving away our work for free. After all, if readers have no choice but to pay for a work, especially if free books are nonexistent, that will do so much more for all of us in the long run. I am not about competing with Twilight. I want to make it big, but I also realize lovers of Twilight may not love my book, just because it offers something different. Books are about catering to all different tastes. I don’t want books to be thought of in the same light as things that aren’t considered art. Books are art. Writers have passion. I highly doubt makers of cereal have the passion we have.
  • “Publish only professionally edited work.” There are a lot of free books that shirk this altogether because they arrogantly think people are going to download their book and forgive a lot of errors–and many unfortunately do. This devalues hard work.
  • “Get rid of the gimmicks.” Okay, I’ll admit I did this to gain adds on Goodreads by offering books similar to my own. But I’m not doing that anymore, because it was very gimmicky, and I wasn’t earning them by my own right. However, as reviews are concerned, I work for all my reviews. I worked for all 71 reviews on my book. It does take time to earn reviews like that, but they get rid of “freebie trollers,” as Foster calls them, so you can avoid bad reviews from people who haven’t even read the book.
  • “Work smarter, not cheaper.” Gaining an audience takes time. I am with a small press, and it is taking me time, but I’m not going at it alone, which is a plus with being with a press. Don’t think about getting sales as fast as possible or growing a readership as fast as possible. Just produce the best book you can so you don’t shortchange your readers. It takes time, but it’s time well worth it. I have found my platform niche on Tumblr, and I have fallen in love with this platform and see it as a great launching point to build my audience.
  •  “If you drive price and quality down, it’s easy for readers to lump us into a group and ignore us all. Each of us, has the power to succeed and if quality and value is what we want to see in the indie world, then we, as a collective group, must work together to achieve it.”

I agree with Foster’s entire article. If indie authors want to establish a solid reputation amongst themselves, they must ban together, so to speak, and imbue quality in their work by not giving it away for free. Yes, there are books given away for free that have great ratings, but then it drowns out the rest of those who want to attach a value to their work. Authors, do not undervalue your efforts. If every single author never gives away a book for free again, readers will have no choice but to pay, will not expect free books (save review copies), and you will be making money that is well-deserved.

I am going to end this article with a crushingly honest statement: I am not impressed when an author boasts a high ranking for a free book in a genre category (especially since genre categories are so erratic on Amazon, like sword and sorcery???), even if that book has great ratings. I’ll be more impressed if your book has a value attached to it AND you can get readers to see the value in your book by purchasing it with their picky dollars. Then I’ll be impressed with a great ranking–even if it is just a 99 cent book.

My First Author Visit at Grovetown High School’s Creative Writing Class

My First Author Visit at Grovetown High School’s Creative Writing Class

ImageI had my very first school visit today as an author, and it was so exciting and fun. Time went by so fast that I couldn’t believe it. I had an entire agenda planned out, but I couldn’t get to all of it, like reading an excerpt from my book and having a Q&A session, but at least I got to the important parts.

I’m going to talk about what I did for those curious about how to do an author visit, or for teachers who want their authors to visit and what they can do to prepare. Keep in mind that I did this for a creative writing class, so your presentations are going to differ depending on what type of classroom visit you’re doing. For example, I will be doing a visit in February to an economics class about marketing and branding, using my book as an example.

  1. I did a presentation on The Realities of Publishing, using this cute Pusheen cat to the right to add some spice to the PowerPoint. These are high school kids, and I didn’t want to bore them with some flat PowerPoint with nothing fun to spice it up. I talked about everything, from the expectations they need to have, to the pros and cons of being with big presses, small presses, and self-publishing, and I was pretty even-handed with all subjects. Unfortunately, I was really hoping to have a Q&A session so I could clarify anything the students had questions about during this presentation, but, well, it was a fifty minute class, and it’s so much shorter than it seems. I felt like I had been there for ten minutes! Even my mom was surprised by how fast I came home.
  2. Next, I did a fun dialogue activity, and the kids seemed pretty excited about this because the teacher did say they have problems with writing dialogue. There were 26 kids in the classroom, so I divided them up in pairs of 2. I admitted that I didn’t know how successful the activity was going to be, but they had fun. Basically, they were going to make up two characters. One partner would be a character, and another partner would be the other one. They were to discuss the types of characters they wanted to be, and the scenario they wanted their characters to be in, such as a party or some other event. Then they were to write one line of dialogue each–silently–and pass it on to their partners, getting in as much dialogue as possible in 10 minutes. This was actually a really funny one because I heard the kids putting up some funny scenarios–like doing jello shots– but the point of the exercise was to get them to write the dialogue how they would say it, read it aloud, then I would take it and read it sentence-by-sentence out loud, and then give them advice on how to make it more effective. Hopefully it was a little bit effective in getting them to understand what they could and couldn’t use in dialogue, but it is a process.
  3. Last, I gave the teacher a classroom copy of my book and a stack of flyers/business cards (courtesy of AEC Stellar Publishing Inc.) that she could pass out to her kids the next day. The business cards are so that the students can e-mail me about anything they want to. One student already swiped up the classroom copy, as well as a flyer that can also double as a bookmark, and the teacher is excited to give out the flyers tomorrow.

All in all, I would say it was a success. Now I’m going to give you tips on how to be a good presenter/public speaker. Image

  • Prepare a month in advance. I started preparing last November, especially with creating the PowerPoint. I went through several drafts of this, trying to find the perfect design that would be both attractive and fun, and trying to create the slides with the information to make sure the students would understand it. I also created an agenda, too, for the order I was going to do everything in. I couldn’t get to it all, but I did get to the important stuff.
  • Try to have some formula for the presentations. I didn’t fully use the speech formula I learned in my communications class, where you have the introduction mentioning your various points you’re going to talk about, and a conclusion summing up those points. I eschewed that entirely, especially because of time, so I went right on to talking about what the whole presentation was about. I simply said that I was going to talk about the realities of publishing, some things to consider when starting the publishing process, then went on to talking about the advantages and disadvantages of large presses, small presses, and self-publishing. Since I already had bullet points, I felt no need to have note cards, so I improvised the examples I provided for each bullet point. I hate note cards. They’re so limiting and don’t really show my personality. They can be very boring, too, because they don’t always allow you to establish a sort of connection with your audience. A lot of public speakers, to me, can be very dull because they stand behind a podium, read from notes, and look up from time-to-time. I don’t like to be that way.
  • DON’T BE SHY! Apparently authors are notorious for being shy, but not me. I love speaking in front of crowds. As I said before, there were 26 kids in this class, more than I thought there were going to be, but I didn’t feel pressured at all. I felt really relaxed and just had fun with it. You should have fun with it, too. At any presentation, the people there want you to do well, because if you’re not doing well, they’re not going to have a good time themselves. So these people do not want to see you fail, so keep that in mind. Even if you stumble on your words, just keep going. If you’re prepared for the presentation, then there should be no need for worry. I was certainly prepared–candy included!
  • If you’re a teacher, let your students know in advance that an author is visiting. This can get the students excited, especially in a creative writing class. Don’t schedule a visit within a few days because this leaves no time for neither you nor author to prepare. As an author, even if I have everything prepared a week in advance, I still like to go over everything to make sure everything is solid. So schedule about a few weeks out to a month.
  • If you can, give your students some background on the book the author wrote. This can make the kids even more excited and MAY potentially boost your sales. But, really, it’s promoting you and your book, but is really just a way to get yourself out there more–sort of an ego boost, to be honest. One successful school visit can lead to another. I don’t think Grovetown High School is going to put me anywhere else, but I do have a speaking engagement at a public library, a possible school visit from having a connection from someone who teaches at the school, and another school visit–and if that visit goes well, I WILL be getting recommendations to other schools. I’m also hoping to get into doing Skype visits for classrooms across the nation.
  • If you can, especially if you have the visit scheduled months in advance, have your students read that author’s work. Students can then prepare questions about the author’s work and how said author went about writing it. People think anyone publishing a book is cool, especially kids, because they really will feel like they’re meeting a celebrity, even if you have not reached celebrity status yet.

That’s it! If you have any questions for me, feel free to e-mail me at thedancingwriter@gmail.com.

***In Other News***


AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. is holding an e-book launch party on Facebook. That can be found here. Prizes will be given away, including a Kindle Paperwhite.


The e-book of When Stars Die is already out, but it “officially” releases tomorrow. You can currently find it on Amazon and Smashwords–Smashwords contains all formats, from Mobi, to EPub, to PDF, among others. It’s $3.89, so it’s very affordable, and you can read a 20% sample of the book.