Are Libraries Bad for Authors?

Before we stumble into a cliche-filled moment of drama where inferences are made off of the title, I’ll be blunt: No, I don’t think so.

Let me say that again. Are libraries bad for authors? No, I don’t think so.

MacMillan, on the other hand (one of the larger book publishers), does.

Remember about … I want to say eight months or so ago, but it may have been longer, when Tor went ahead and decided that libraries were a threat to their business, since they let people check out books “for free” (the library pays for the book at a high price, mind). And therefore, they were going to be barring libraries from purchasing new copies of their books until a set time after release so that readers would be forced to buy them, rather than reading them at a library?

Well. apparently this idea is catching. MacMillan is the latest publisher to jump on this train. Now normally I’d sort of shake my head at this and move on, because this is just more book drama with publishers trying to recoup a market that’s slowly and steadily slipping away from them, but then in the news release, something else caught my eye. Something that really said a lot to me, personally, about how MacMillan is seeing things.

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Amazonian Advertising Practices: Part 2

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There’s a lot going on this week. Hence some daily posts. Today’s topic of choice? More on Amazon’s Advertising System.

So some of you may remember my first post on this topic a few months ago. I’d taken the plunge, using my tax return to pay for Amazon Advertising Services to see exactly how it would shake out. I had to use the tax return for it, because Amazon is paid up front, but any earnings you make are, as expected, royalties. So while you may spend $50 to make $50, you will still have several months to go before that $50 rolls back into your bank account.

Anyway, I’m not going to spend time reiterating exactly how AMS functions, since I gave it a long-form explanation last time. The basic gist of it is that you set up advertising keywords that describe your product (for example, one of Colony‘s keywords is “Expanse” because of its similar genre to The Expanse) and then a bid for that advertising spot. Your bid wins while someone is looking at that product? That individual sees your product, and if they click on it, whether or not they purchase it, you pay the bid.

Anyway, after a month of using it, I’d come to some tentative conclusions, which at the time were that many people who found it balanced out pretty much neutral were right. I was earning back pretty much exactly what I put in, plus or minus a few bucks here and there. Which I found odd, as even if my numbers jumped around quite a bit, they still somehow wound up around 100% in and out.

I’m still not sure why that is. But I can report that with lots of careful fine tuning, several months in, the venture is a little less neutral.

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Amazonian Advertising Practices

So, for the last month, I’ve been experimenting with Amazons Marketing Services. Or, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, what amounts to paying Amazon in exchange for Amazon running ads for your product based on keywords and the like. So if someone searches for, say, The Expanse on Amazon right now in the books section, Colony comes up, because the two are similar Science-Fiction.

After a month, I’m starting to see a few of the things I’ve been told about AMS confirmed. One of the reasons I’d avoided it until now was because my research into other authors trying it out came to the conclusion that it was basically a way to get advertising for your books … but to in turn make almost no money off of them, if not none. This because of the strange way Amazon runs its ads, and the system by which they do it.

See, how it works is you set a book to be advertised, followed by a per-keyword ad cost and a daily limit to how much you want to spend. So the keyword may be “action adventure.” You set a cost of 25 cents, and then a daily limit (say, a dollar).

Now what happens is that whenever someone searches for books with the keyword “action adventure” Amazon performs a “bid” for the highest paying ads for that keyword. The ones paying the most go up, and then if the viewer clicks them, it pays one cent more than what that bid beat—so, for instance if the 25 cent bid beat out a 22 cent bid, then it would pay Amazon 23 cents—and the viewer looks at the book, and that 23 cents is counted towards the daily limit.

A little convoluted, but not bad, right? Well … there’s a catch. There’s obviously a catch. See, as was pointed out to me long before I ever tried Amazon Ads, and one of the big criticisms leveled against them is that Amazon has more data on who buys what than the Ad service uses. It simply acts off of keywords, rather than Amazon’s own “We know you’ll like this” system. And so you may end up with clicks that lead to nothing at all quite frequently, because the person who search “Science Fiction” reads Foundation and Hyperion, not Colony. Amazon knows this, but they let the clicks go through anyway.

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Being a Better Writer: When Readers like It … but It’s Bad

This is an interesting one, and one that I’ll freely admit I never would have thought of on my own—at least not in such context. Which means that, yes, today’s post is another reader-requested topic (which reminds me, we’re getting closer to needing more of these, so start thinking of questions you’d like me to address).

But first, some quick news. Those of you who read my LTUE recap might remember the uncertainty around the Barnes & Noble upset? Well, it’s still going. Though it didn’t seem to make the news most places, hundreds of former B&N employees have now spoken up an confirm that yes, almost most if-not-all full-time employees of the last remaining physical book retailer have been let go. At least a thousand people from one department alone confirmed as gone. B&N has since seen that yes, it has “saved” the 40 million it won’t be paying those employees … but it’s stock has also tanked (dropping by around 60% in a single day last I heard) and seen a massive bailing of investors and stock offloads.

So head to your nearest B&N store and pick out the furniture you’d like to take home, because they’ll be selling it soon!

Second, Alpha Editing on Shadow of an Empire continues to progress. The good news is that we’re not seeing any major changes, just tiny alpha tweaks. The bad news? Well, you can’t read it yet, I suppose. But soon! Still looking at a spring release!

Right, that’s the news! Onward to bad writing!

So, you’ve just put the finishing touches on your latest story. Maybe it’s a fanfic, maybe it’s something original you put together after a workshop or on the train ride to work. What matters is that it’s yours. You wrote it, and you’re proud of it.

Well … almost. Or crud, maybe you are in the moment. Point is, you’re excited and enthused, and with a few clicks you throw your story out there into the wild. It hits the net … and your readers love it. You go about your day, and come home to a barrage of comments, attention, and fanfare. Great!

Except there’s just one problem. The comments aren’t what you expected, and as you look over your own story you realize that in the excitement of getting this idea down on paper it kind of slid past you how bland the rest of the story really is outside of that concept. You start noticing all the errors that you should have fixed before posting, all the flaws, but at the same time …

All these readers love it. Is it really so bad?

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