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Amazon: Throttled Part 1

In today’s mega post, Part 1 of 3, I explore Amazon’s change of Terms of Service that throttles free ebook promotion and what it might mean to you.

Or, skip to Part 2, where I give new, pointed advice about book promotion dos and don’ts (and some of it is not very nice )

Or skip to Part 3, where I invite you to join me in a new way to reach readers who would otherwise never know you or your work.


Amazon’s Terms of Service have changed.

Amazon sent out this decree recently:

“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”

Ed Robertson broke down the numbers and some possible implications here. 

Free is throttled.

That’s okay. For most of us, free was in a coma, anyway.

From the flaking, protective teflon coating of your brain pan to the tip of the peak of Despair, indie authors everywhere wonder, “Amazon is discouraging websites that publicize free books? What Next?” Amazon doesn’t make emotional decisions. It makes business decisions. Now it’s time for us to make business decisions, too. I come to praise Amazon, not to bury it. (I’m relieved Free is over or at least reined in, but that’s because of Parts 2 and 3 of this thought train. If you only depend on KDP Select free days to promote your work, it’s time to get new egg baskets.)

Why Amazon’s bad news is a good thing and what we can do about it in three parts:

You’re going to hear a lot of uproar about free days going away. It’s understandable. Websites promoting free ebooks won’t be getting those juicy affiliate commissions anymore, so there are fewer choices in promoting our books. Authors need help to get the word out about their books. Some thoughts on our predicament:

1. For some, Free rocked as a short-term strategy. Free was always a poor long-term strategy. It undermined the market. Many readers, feeling entitled and smug, filled their kindles but never got around to reading all those hoarded books. I sure couldn’t read them all. Aim a 500-pound-per-square-inch fire hose at a teacup. That teacup will not retain a lot of water. Our overly full kindles are teacups.

2. Free was over, anyway. Everywhere I look, someone’s offering a giveaway but I’m already overloaded. I’m giving Six Seconds away as gifts to get honest reviews, but I’m not trying the scatter shot of Amazon free days anymore. Free helped for a short time. The biggest bumps came in the earliest KDP Select Days. If you got in early, you had a good shot at making money. After the algorithm changed? For most of us, the answer is “much less so”.

3. Some people still made money, and will continue to do so, with Free. These sturdy outliers have good books, but just as important, they have marshalled forces to get the word out about their books without relying on those throttled websites to spread the word. I know a couple of authors who did so well with free listings that they don’t cower one bit at paying a bunch for advertising their books. They’re happier because we can expect more signal and less noise since free ebooks won’t crowd out the paid ones as much.

4. Some of those free ebook websites will continue without the affiliate sales. Amazon is like the cops announcing it’s time to shut off the stereo, end the party and go home. Some other sites will simply shrug and start referring their subscribers to non-Amazon platforms.

5. Some websites will adapt well. The TOS changes were pretty much met with a shrug at Digital Book Today because their business model doesn’t rely on free book links to make them rich.

6. Fore sites that do rely heavily on those affiliate links, far fewer free ebooks will be pushed and it will be harder for us to be among the chosen few. For many of those sites, it was already darn hard to get your giveaway listed anyway, so many authors won’t notice a difference.

7. Cheap books can be pushed without punishment, therefore 99 cents is back in play. The “I’d buy that for a dollar!” price point is back. It had a brief spike before Free rose up to crush it, but now 99 cents looks fresh and ready for vengeance. Thirty cents or so isn’t an impressive pay out to authors. It is more than zero, but the bad news is you’ll still have to sell whatever tattoo space that is left on your body on Fiverr.com to pay for a can of beans to share with the other hobos under a bridge.

8. The good news is that there’s a huge gap in the buyer’s mind between free and cheap. With that tiny investment, you’ll get fewer one-star reviews from disappointed people who mistakenly grabbed up your book in a free book spree. (You know the sort. They blame you for their unwillingness to read a product description.)

9. We’re going to have to adapt more. Even more. Sure, you probably aren’t making money and this profession is usually a glorified hobby that disappoints your parents. Your friends make encouraging sounds with their mouths, but their sidelong glances say they’re worried about you. Nonetheless, this is the game. Calling this a game suggests this is play. That might help you get through this. Take it too seriously and you’ll be out here with me on a ledge worrying about bills. If you’re a worried indie author out on a ledge, take comfort in the fact that (look left, look right) twas always thus and plenty of traditionally published authors are out in the wind contemplating doom, too.

10. KDP Select has less and less to offer. Are those library sales worth it? Are five free days (over 90-day, exclusive commitments) going to pay off when you have a harder time promoting them? Probably not, in most cases. It’s a reasonable guess that Amazon throttled back on free because they were paying out too much for those affiliate referrals. Will Amazon come up with another program to address our problem created by their solution? I don’t know. No one knows (but I do doubt it.)

Despite the TOS change, a lot of authors are still stuck in KDP Select until their 90-day term is over. It happens I have only one book left in KDP Select and I used up all my free days before Christmas as I launched Murders Among Dead Trees. Lucky timing. If I was stuck with all my books in KDP Select now, I would be very annoyed at being in that canoe without a paddle.)

11. Kobo and Apple smell opportunity. Draft2Digital rises and maybe Smashwords will, at least and  finally, update their look. The great migration across other platforms had already begun. KDP Select has been steadily turning off authors since last spring. Now there’s more reason for us to explore our options. Perhaps the #2 contender, Kobo, will offer a new program to lure us to their lair. Or maybe you’ll get around to selling books straight from your website.

12. As detailed in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, the only book promotion tool I have confidence in (that isn’t unethical) is: Write More Books! I amended that decree with: Write shorter books. And more of them.

But what else can we do to promote our books?

I have some ideas about what we can do and

some strong ideas about what we shouldn’t do.



SKIP TO PART 3: What we can do about this, together.

Filed under: book marketing, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Smashwords — PayPal vs Erotica Debate Update & a New Deadline

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction
Mark Coker responds to critics and says the issue is not only bigger than Smashwords. It’s bigger than PayPal! Read on for the update on the deadline extension and the “sliver of hope.” Click the link for Mark Coker’s latest letter on the censorship debate. ~ Chazz
Via www.smashwords.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, ebooks, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , ,

Two Legs Bad: An Open Letter to Mark Coker | Remittance Girl : Erotic Fiction, Stories and Series

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

This post is a public response to an email sent by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, asking all erotic writers to take down any books that contravene their…
Via remittancegirl.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, publishing, self-publishing, Useful writing links, , , , , , , , , ,

PayPal cracks down on erotica e-book sales | TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

So from the last post, we know that erotica is very popular on e-readers. But slow down, there, aspiring erotica fiction writer. PayPal just made Smashwords clamp down on your id with ice tongs and put your readers’ vice in a vice.

I’m probably not going to miss books I wanted to read, but the ultimatum from PayPal is a bit ironic considering that I often write about clever serial killers and nobody will bother me about it. Also, isn’t there research that shows that transgressive fiction may provide an outlet for kinks the world says it hates so said nastiness is not acted out in reality? Also, does it bother anyone that all this stuff Paypal is censoring is, in fact, legal? A group of European scientists are going to publish a scientific paper on how to weaponize an extremely virulent bird flu and nobody’s stopping them?! Wow.
I also worry that Mark Coker states up front in his warning letter to authors that “mistakes will be made.” (Points for honesty.) But will those mistakes include my book Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit) because of the title? I’d say obviously not, except someone already assumed it was porn because of the title. (It’s creepy suspense and brilliant literature in which you discover more about yourself, I assure you.) If my book gets swept up in the censors’ purge, how long will it be off the electric shelves?

Ultimately, if they’re going to censor, I wish they’d done this on a complaint-based, case by case basis so fewer mistakes will be made and authors won’t lose income.  It’s a sticky situation and I’m sympathetic to Mark’s position. To save the whole, he had to amputate a limb. If that imagery titillates you at all, I’ll have to delete this post. Click the Scoopit! link to learn more and to figure out your feelings on this. ~ Chazz
Via www.teleread.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, Genre, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: How to Publish on Smashwords (by Guest blogger Rebecca Senese)

Image representing Smashwords as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Firstly, thanks to Robert for allowing me to do a guest post on his blog. This is my very first guest post and I’m thrilled to “be” here!

This is an exciting time to be a writer, full of opportunity and scary possibilities. It’s easy to become paralyzed. I know I felt like that for some time over the past year as I watched the e-book market explode. I knew I wanted to start putting up my back list of pre-published short stories but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing it. I decided to jump right in.

One of the sites I decided to post my work on was Smashwords. According to their website, they claim over one billion words published. That’s a lot of typing!

Of course, the very first step is to create a free account at Smashwords. Make sure to print out and read their publishing agreement. This is true for any site you wish to publish on. When you load up your work, you are effectively acting as your own publisher and need to know what kind of agreement you are making with the site that is acting as a distributor. Take the time to print and read the contract before putting anything up. Remember to take responsibility for your own writing career.

Next I downloaded their free style guide. This guide, written by Smashwords founder Mark Coker, provides a step-by-step manual for formatting your book to meet Smashwords’s requirements.

Once you’ve completed the proper formatting, Smashwords takes your single format file, processes it through their Meatgrinder software and outputs it into approximately 10 separate ebook formats, including ePub, PDF, Mobi (Kindle) and RTF among others. There’s no trying to figure out how to do it yourself. Smashwords’ Meatgrinder does it for you!

I created my cover page and formatted my first short story according to the style guide and I was ready. From the top menu, I choose Publish. This took me to the upload area.

Section 1 “Title & Synopsis” included Title, Short Description (400 characters allowed), Long Description (4,000 characters allowed) and Language of Book with a part for adult content.

Section 2 is Price and Sampling. Unlike Amazon, Smashwords allows for free content, readers set the price (with a note that Barnes & Noble no longer accepts books with this option), or with a price set from a minimum of 0.99 cents or up.

Sampling allowed me to choose the amount of my work available for a reader to download to review before buying. I chose 40% as an option, to give readers a good chance to read my work. I have downloaded e-book samples that don’t even go past the table of contents page before the sample is done. I never got a chance to even taste the author’s writing. That’s not a book I would buy. Sampling is the equivalent of being able to pick up a book and crack it open to take a look at the writing. It’s a good idea to give readers a real opportunity to see if they like your work and also to get hooked on your story. Give them enough to really get into it and they’ll want to buy to find out what happened at the end.

Section 3 is Categories which open up to the right, from general categories to more specific subjects.

Section 4 is Tags that I used to tag my e-books.

Section 5 is eBook Formats and the default is set for all of them. I left all the defaults in place. My thinking is that the more formats, the better for a reader to find one that works for her.

Finally, Section 6 Covers and Section 7 Select File of Book to Publish are where I was able to upload my cover and my e-book file. Section 8 is the Publish button. Once I pressed this, my file was uploaded for processing.

My first e-book took about twenty minutes to upload. Others have taken as long as four to five hours. It seems to depend on how many other books are being uploaded at the same time as yours.

After uploading my first ebook, I created my Smashwords author page under My Smashwords tab. Here I uploaded a photo, a small bio and was able to link to my website, blog, Twitter account, Facebook and LinkedIn. On this page, all of my uploaded e-books are listed with a tag cloud at the bottom of the page.

Smashwords includes a Dashboard tab where you can obsessively track your sales or sample downloads. As one writer suggested online, the best thing to do with e-books is to publish and forget it. It’s very tempting to check on the Dashboard every day or every few hours and become disappointed when you aren’t rivaling Amanda Hocking’s sales. The best cure is to keep writing and keep publishing. The more e-books you have available, the more chance you give the readers to find you and like your work. When that happens, they’ll look for more.

That’s my plan as I continue to move forward into this new world of publishing. And I’m sticking to it!

Rebecca M. Senese is a writer of Horror, Science Fiction & Mystery. Now that you’ve read about how she uploaded to Smashwords, complete your research and go by her stuff!


Website: http://www.RebeccaSenese.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/RebeccaSenese
LinkedIn: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/RebeccaSenese
Blog: http://RebeccaSenese.wordpress.com

Filed under: authors, DIY, ebooks, publishing, self-publishing, Useful writing links, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , ,

Bestseller with over 1,000 reviews!
Winner of the North Street Book Prize, Reader's Favorite, the
Literary Titan Award, the Hollywood Book Festival, and the
New York Book Festival.


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

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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.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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