C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Amazon policy changes. We probably don’t.

Amazon has announced that KU will pay per page. Previously, authors were credited with a “borrow” only after the reader got past 10% of the book. Now the pay will be based on how far the reader actually gets so authors of longer works will be compensated more (and, perhaps, fewer people will write shorter works or try to “game the system.”)

The above statement is how many people seem to be reading the new Kindle Unlimited policy change announcement. 

That’s not how I see it. Here’s my take:

1. It doesn’t matter. Write your books to whatever length tells the story satisfactorily. Readers don’t care about this behind-the-scenes drama so you shouldn’t worry overly much about it, either.

2. A lot of people are talking about jumping out of Select because of the surprise change. Here’s the thing: after July your revenue may go up or it may go down. That depends less on KU and more on your books. For instance, you can write a really long book and assume you’ll get handsomely compensated under the new system. However, if readers abandon the book in the early going when they encounter a saggy middle, you’re no farther ahead than if you wrote a ripper at a shorter length that the reader fully devoured.

3. I plan to write some shorter fiction. I’m not altering that plan because I’d rather have more stories in a series or in a world. I can always box them up later for length later if need be.

4. Shorter work still has another advantage everyone seems to ignore: increased visibility. Publish more often, be seen more often. Every 30 days, every author faces the dreaded Cliff. Focusing on page count alone blinds us to other variables.

5. Once again, Amazon is innovating. Don’t be afraid of change. Roll with it. Adapt. Crush your enemies and drink wine from their skulls and whatnot. The writing biz is not for pussycats.

6. Again, the other sales platforms are not changing a thing. Hm. That’s not stability you’re smelling. That’s rot.

7. If you take a hit from Amazon’s change in policy, it may be time to go wide to other platforms and build your readership elsewhere (if you aren’t working on that already.) The catch is, though Amazon may suck in one regard for you, that still does not equate to improvement on the other platforms. I make all my money on Amazon US and that’s pretty much it. 

8. Panic is not a plan. I’ll leave it to others who are geniuses with calculators to do the calculating. I’m waiting and watching to learn if there’s anything to learn (besides write more great books.) I’m also expanding my plans for serious promotional tactics in any case. Even before yesterday’s announcement of changes with KU, I’ve noticed slower sales and fewer reviews. Like it or not, ready or not, it’s time to spend money to make money to stay in this game.

9. I never tried to “game the system.” But I think people who wrote shorter after KU was introduced weren’t necessarily “gaming” anything. They were being flexible and using business acumen. Serials made a comeback. Their popularity has always waxed and waned. And what’s wrong with writing short, anyway? Many people tell us that many readers prefer shorter books because it fits their lifestyle demands, their attention span and their time management choices. Write what you want and what you think your readers want (or what you can make them want.) Fashion changes. Winds change. Leaders go out front with a lantern, a will and a plan to break the trail.

10. If you write short books, you might take a hit. Or box sets are going to come roaring back. (I have omnibuses, so cool.) You know what else is growing and only going to get bigger? Audiobooks. There’s plenty to sell on Amazon besides mobis. KU is only one segment of sales.

11. This really doesn’t change anything for me. I’ll write short books. I’ll write long books. I’ll find out what I get paid when the Amazon check arrives. It is, as always, about the writing. Arguably, judging books by pages read means it’s about pleasing the reader, now more than ever.

12. Everybody relax. We’ll all live longer if we relax. Breathe. Repeat. Continue.

Okay? Okay. Oorah.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I’m giving away super duper cool stuff on my author site right now. Download your free review copy here while the offer still lasts. Thanks.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , , , ,

Writers and Writing 2015: Everything is Awful Edition

Everywhere you look, it seems we’re entering 2015 under a dark cloud. In many ways, 2014 kind of sucked. Tales from the torture report and numerous shootings seemed to reinforce my chronically disappointed view of humanity…but let’s talk publishing and tackle what we can handle.

Yes, publishing news sucked, too.

The VAT has come in. If I sold much in European markets, I’d be upset about it. Almost all my book revenue comes from the US, so it’s a shrug for now and a worry for later in my case. There’s a lot of Chicken Littling going on, and even a guru or two saying indies will be begging to get trad contracts again. 

Before I go on, I want to burn a straw man argument. There’s a lot of nyaa-nya, nya-nyaa-nya about how Amazon isn’t so great anymore because Kindle Unlimited (KU) devalues books etc. The forces behind the gloating (“Do you still love Amazon now that they’ve proven they aren’t your fairy godmother?”) are arguing with ghosts. Our love for Amazon was always conditional, so chill.

Let me clear a few things up from the indie side about our prospects in 2015:

1. Amazon has grown progressively less attractive to some authors. True. I’m one of them. However, some authors report they are doing better since KU came in. Let’s calm down and evaluate on a case by case basis. Running from Amazon might not be for you even though it may be right for big sellers who aren’t selling so big anymore. KU might still serve you if you aren’t so well known and if you write short.

2. When we defended Amazon, it was because that’s where we made money. It was a business decision, just  as the decision to leave exclusivity with Amazon is a business decision now. The straw man screams we either have to love or hate Amazon’s terms. Appreciate the nuance because it’s more complex than that. Look at your numbers and consider how you feel about Kindle Unlimited’s limited payoff before you make your move.

3. KDP Select versus the other platforms is still not a binary choice. I’ll keep some books exclusive to Amazon for a time. Not all of them. Not forever. I’ve been migrating a few books to other platforms as they come out of Amazon exclusivity. That will continue. My debuts will go to Amazon, but I won’t be clicking the auto-renewal button. After 90 days, most books will be everywhere. It’s got to be strategic, not a panic.

4. Just because Amazon isn’t paying off as well as it did does not mean the other sales platforms have improved. Can you name a single recent innovation the other platforms have come up with that benefits writers? Any new discovery tools over there? No? Waiting for Amazon to devolve isn’t a proactive strategy.

5. Considerations: I’m pulling many of my books out of exclusivity because of Kindle Unlimited. Though I get new borrows all the time, I’ve written a lot of long books and who knows how long it will take readers to get around to getting past 10% on my big books? KDP and KU exclusivity, in my case, seems increasingly a place for top of sales funnel projects (i.e. prequels, short stories and novellas.)

Add a call to action to short works to help readers find the longer books. Serials appear to be gaining popularity among writers again since KU came along. I serialized This Plague of Days, but some readers get awfully confused about serials and I don’t want to have to do it again if I can avoid it. I’d rather sell the TPOD Omnibus. Serialization is an option, but the tools to make it work better are not honed. 

6. Corollary: Kindle Unlimited pays horribly, but we may not actually be losing as many sales as we think. I suspect there are book buyers and there are KU users who are into free and super cheap books. Two groups. No one knows for sure how much that Venn diagram overlaps, but my guess is many KU users tended to get their books from libraries, not bookstores, before Kindle Unlimited became available. Nothing wrong with book borrowers and library users, but I can’t afford to subsidize the lending program anymore. I believe that exclusivity is hurting me too much and I hate the uncertainty of the KU payment, so I’m getting out.

7. Caveat: To harken back to point #4, since it’s so important, the fight for dominance is between what we can gain from all the other sales platforms versus what losses we attribute to Amazon’s exclusivity and Kindle Unlimited. So far, my experiments on other platforms have convinced me they really need to develop better discovery tools. When I have to use two searches to find my own books? Ye gods! Apple sucks at discovery.

I’ve said this so many times in this space: I look forward to the other platforms developing better sales strategies and discovery tools. I want to upload my books with some confidence that Amazon’s competitors will do better for me than Kindle Unlimited’s lousy pay. When one alternative book sales platform, an innovator and leader, can show me the effort is there, I’ll be shouting their praises on this blog.

8. What’s next for indies in 2015? I suspect a new platform will emerge or one of Amazon’s competitors will offer a strong alternative. I’m not betting on Smashwords to do it. I’m thinking Alibaba.

9. What else is new(ish)? I’m not impressed by interactive books at all. I want to choose my own music to read by and all that tech takes me out of the reading experience, especially if they perfect it. That’s crap.

Early adopters and smarter indies will diversify with audiobooks and translations. Indies will found more partnerships to put out more books. Author collectives will pool resources for closer “coopetition.” I’m in one cooperative for a book project with eight authors in 2015, for instance. Working together, we’ll be a huge marketing force. Cooperatives can work in lots of ways. Most of us can’t afford even a cheap virtual assistant, but several authors working together could.

You will also see more pen names crop up as indies, desperate to chase hotter genres, will abandon what they thought they wanted to write for what might pay better. Some will sell their souls chasing that kite. Others will discover that good writing is always about the writing, not the subject matter. They may even grow to love the genre they feel was forced upon them.

Direct sales are a good idea for the few with a huge mailing list, but it won’t come to fruition for any but a few in 2015. Now’s the time to build your mailing list. Several years ago was a much better time to do that, so whip out that time machine, kill Hitler, then zip forward and build your mailing list in 2008. No time machine? Set up your Mailchimp account, put a pop up plug-in for a sign up on your blog and offer readers something really sweet to get them to sign up. It’s very difficult to get people to give up their email addresses, so make that lure with extra fudge.

Those of us who have ignored print sales will capitulate and get print editions up beside the ebooks. I’m finally printing Murders Among Dead Trees and Hollywood Jesus this week and there’s more to come in print. I typically only move a few print copies here and there, though Self-help for Stoners sold 72 copies in print in December. If nothing else, the print price makes our ebook prices look better.

10. Indies will not run to traditional publishing any more than they have in the past. Despite the hoopla, ebook growth has not stopped. It’s slowed from a pace it couldn’t possibly sustain. Amid the growing pains of any new tech experience and the cyclical shifts and bumps that are inherent in any young industry, we’re still better off keeping 70% of the profits and retaining our rights forever. As bad as things appear for us, unless it’s a sweetheart deal no one else is getting and you’re allergic to entrepreneurship, staying independent is still better than most alternatives.

That said, I think there will be more hybrid deals. I’ll be in an anthology in 2015, but the publisher is friendly and forward-thinking. These hybrid deals will be short term with small stakes and indies will generally accept them to boost their self-published works. Traditional publishers will dump their non-compete clauses, too. In fact, that’s already happening as some houses already recognize new deals won’t happen if they insist on draconian contract clauses. Non-compete clauses aren’t compatible with the current landscape, as challenging as it can be. More indies want to make a living from writing and, through ebooks, have been doing so at a greater rate than their traditionally published counterparts. Yes, things kind of suck for indie authors right now, but accepting abysmal terms from a trad house that pays pennies on net, would definitely suck.

Am I optimistic for 2015?

No, that’s not in my nature. But optimism and pessimism don’t really matter. Assessment, adaptability and strategy matter on the marketing side of this business or any other.

On the writing side?

I have to keep writing. It keeps me out of jail. I’ll keep writing no matter what. You will, too. We have an infection and that writing rash sure is itchy, isn’t it? 

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a suspense and dark fantasy novelist who is funnier and nicer than he seems in this post. Blame the headache. 

HaUNTING (6)

Filed under: author platform, ebooks, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10 in Publishing: What’s changed again? Amazon.

If hope you enjoyed my interview with Simon Whistler on The Rocking Self-publishing Podcast (see the post below this one for details if you missed it.) We recorded the episode on July 4. It didn’t take long at all for some details to change since the interview. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Yes, on too much coffee, I can get pretty manic. Also, some of the interview was edited for excessive Sean Connery impressions.

2. I was in Kobo briefly. I made $27. Finally and at last! I can retire! …Mm…no, actually, I pulled the plug on Kobo except for some short stories.

Everybody agrees. The folks at Kobo are nice people. Then I heard a horror story of someone who couldn’t move books on Kobo even when Kobo promoted them! I was to meet with the good people of Kobo in Toronto. After evaluating the track record and potential, I blew off the meeting so I could stay home and write and edit my next books. The trip literally wasn’t worth the gas. I do hope things will improve in this regard in the near future for Kobo and several other platforms. Amazon needs healthy, not anemic, competition.

3. Kindle Unlimited was introduced soon after the interview. Seeing so little movement on Kobo, I promptly pulled out and slapped my books back into KDP Select. With their value added proposition, suddenly there is more marketing juice to squeeze out of Amazon. 

4. Kindle just announced they will reward early adopters of the program by relaxing the 10%-read-to-get-paid rule on the first round. They also added to the shared fund for borrows. I missed out on the money bump when they introduced KDP Select in the first place. I wasn’t going to miss out again.

5. Since returning to Select, My KU earnings frequently surpass my regular sales. People are taking to the program. This is especially nice because This Plague of Days, Season One is a whole book, the first in the trilogy. It’s selling at just 99 cents. More readers are willing to check it out through the KU program. That pays roughly a couple bucks per borrow instead of 30 cents. Am I a huge success, yet? No. However, I’m getting exposure that other platforms can’t seem to give.

6. This Plague of Days is getting promoted on a couple different lists by Amazon. Seems it’s getting some traction with teens most, science fiction second and fantasy third. (Interesting, yes? Maybe I should revamp the sales descriptions to skew away slightly from horror since its layers and appeal may lie elsewhere.)

7. Amazon just upped the ante in the value added column by opening up the pre-order button to little guys like me. Holy crap! I have some thoughts on how that could be useful, but I’ll save it for another post once I’ve gone through their submission process firsthand.

8. When we recorded the interview, Simon and I discussed whether the Amazon-Hachette debacle would still be a thing by the time the interview aired August 14th. As I recall, neither of us were that optimistic the battle would be over by then and we were right. In an attempt not to bore the audience or appear dated too soon, we largely avoided that discussion. We’re all suffering Amazon versus Hachette fatigue, aren’t we? Looking forward to the titans figuring it out for themselves.

9. We had a great time with that interview and I hope you laughed along with us. There’s some good information sifting through that hour of self-publishing talk. The field is growing and changing so fast — or at least Amazon is changing their game so fast — several things changed in a very short time.

The other platforms? Um. Can anybody name an innovation from any of the other platforms in the last six months? (There must be something, but nothing strong has stuck with me.)

10. What didn’t change? Pretty much everything else. I’m still glad I serialized This Plague of Days but I don’t intend to serialize again (too many gears and pulleys and cons versus pros on that machine.) 

What’s next?

More series (not serialization) and another omnibus edition. 

Stay tuned.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kindle Unlimited: Connection and Market Correction?

Kindle Unlimited is up and running at Amazon. For about ten bucks a month, readers can read a lot and authors will get paid if 10% of the book is read. Across the writerverse, we are speculating. Is it good news or bad news?

I suspect it’s good news. Here’s why I’m not worried:

1. There are other subscription services and there wasn’t really much outrage about them. Questions, certainly. Usually the question was, “Is this new thing I’ve never heard of legit?” Since it’s Amazon, the question is often, “Why are they out to destroy the world?”

The answer is, they want to own it, just like every other company. Competition and all that. That’s all of us. We’re all selling something, so let’s keep calm and bang a gong. 

2. Those other subscription services have failed to usher in The End Times. This is one marketing idea among many. Some of the loudest concerns seem to be raised from a section of the marketplace that generates no new ideas. I’m suspicious they are decrying Amazon’s potential for success because they’ve failed to remain agile and open to new ideas. New ideas are always scary, but being scared and playing a defensive game is no way to score. 

3. Amazon often knows what it’s doing. They test and survey ideas and probably didn’t come up with this just last week. They want reader and author participation so they want to make the new service profitable for Amazon and for us. If it doesn’t feel good, too many authors will drop out. A lot of authors left KDP Select’s Clause of Exclusiveness. This will probably bring a bunch back, to test the waters if nothing else.

4. You can limit your participation. It’s just for those titles enrolled in KDP Select so, just like always, any 90-day commitment you may choose today is only 89 days long if you change your mind tomorrow.

5. Anyone who subscribes to this service is a hardcore, enthusiastic reader. Different rules apply to power users.

The parallel to piracy is obvious. Some authors worry about pirates, but there is evidence that pirates are power users. They take a lot, but they also tend to be power buyers. Ultimately, I most want to connect with readers who want to read the next Robert Chazz Chute book. Power readers are more oriented to author brand and less so to particular genres.

To build 10,000 true fans, I need to find those people who say, “I liked the autistic boy versus the apocalypse. But I wonder how that voice shows up in Murders Among Dead Trees or his crime novels?”

6. Subscribers who will go for this deal are a subset of the reading public. It’s not for everybody. Many will stay away because they’re already paying for a gym membership they don’t use. They’ll prefer to buy books one-by-one because they’re already stressed out and guilty about they’re TBR pile.

7. If you’re making money from other platforms, stay diversified. If you’re unknown, this is another avenue to consider to become better known.

If you’ve already got it made, there is an argument that you might make more money if you lived in a plane of existence that doesn’t include Kindle Unlimited. If that’s you, you may need to work your massive email list harder, diversify further, sell direct or use a few dozen other strategies to stay relevant.

However, we have no data on that group yet. The good news is, they’re in a good position to finance adaptation.

8. When Amazon innovates, it makes me more hopeful because it’s more pressure on other platforms to up their game. The market is changing, but once again, it’s Amazon that’s innovating and trying new things to reach readers, not trad publishing or the other sales platforms.

If I were CEO of another sales platform, I wouldn’t be sleeping well. I’d be offering bonuses to my creative teams to be creative. Come up with new tools and plans to boost market share. KU is pressure that may squeeze a diamond out of their competition’s butt.

9. However, I’m not “all in” for Amazon. Some people think that. They don’t know I’m moving more of my books across many platforms and I don’t have anything in KDP Select at the moment.

I am in favor of experimentation.

I’ll have another couple of books ready soon. When they are ready, just as before, they’ll go into KDP Select and therefore into Kindle Unlimited automatically, too. I’ll see how they do and make more decisions from there.

We need more data, but cautious optimism seems reasonable at this point. Let’s try it out, maybe find more readers. Let’s write more, read more and worry less. In the end, it’s all about you, you, you and the readers you have not yet met.

Me B&W~ Robert Chazz Chute is a suspense novelist who does not tend to be Zen about anything so, in light of today’s post, maybe there really is nothing to worry about in this one, tiny regard. Otherwise, we can be sure the universe is indeed out to get us. And it will.

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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