Category Archive: publisher

Aug 12 2014

Amazon & Hachette, What’s the Deal?

amazonLogohachette_book_logo

 

I got the email. The one from the Amazon’s Book Team, urging me to write a letter to the CEO of Hachette Book Group (HBG) to remind them that e-books are not paperbacks or hardcovers and shouldn’t be priced as such.

Here are just a couple of the points I will make in this post:

  • This issue is not about authors or publishers but about the consumers, the readers. Even though some Hachette authors are affected, Amazon and Hachette seem to forget that this is about readers who buy e-books. Happy readers make happy business and a profit for author, publisher and retailer. Readers want low prices. Eventually, readers will not buy high priced e-books and Hachette will be forced to adapt to publishing’s changes or fail.
  • Although Amazon is strict about carrying e-books with low prices, maybe the way they are going about it is all wrong. Yes, I agree e-books should be priced lower than physical books as there are no warehouse costs, shipping cost, printing cost, etc., to offset. However, is preventing preorders and sales of these overpriced books the best tactic? Maybe, if that compromises your brand as the largest online retailer with the lowest prices. Read on.

So what’s up with Amazon?

Amazon wants to be the next Walmart and cater to their online buyers by guaranteeing low prices. Amazon’s mission is “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” As a bookstore this goal helps them beat out the competition, driving more readers to Amazon.com for low priced reads. How can they brand themselves as a “customer-centric company that offers its customers the lowest possible prices” if they are distributing digital books priced as high as the paperback?

So their statement to Hachette, in my words, are “You want me to help sell your books? You gotta play by my rules. Because I don’t want you exploiting my customers and taking advantage of them by charging them ridiculous fees.” Because even though Amazon gets a piece of the earnings of each e-book sold (30%), they’re reminded of their brand and their mission, the thing that makes them the go-to place for e-books and, well, everything else. Low prices. That’s essentially their thing. And they seemingly care a lot about their customers to prevent the sale of some titles to ensure their customers aren’t being overcharged.

Is this right? That’s the main question. And the answer varies from “yes” to “no” to “I don’t know and don’t care,” depending on who’s most affected by their tactics.

Why shouldn’t publishers play by Amazon’s rules?

Seems like a simple business maneuver (or bullying, depending on who’s talking). Want to work with me? Abide by my rules. Amazon is a business. The way they build their brand is by offering books at a low cost. I said it before, but it bears repeating. This is the difference between Amazon and Barnes and Noble, for instance. Barnes and Noble lists books at the price the publisher chooses. Amazon lists books at the price the publisher decides IF it’s a favorable price for their customers.

So what’s up with Hachette?

Maybe Hachette is a little behind the times. Maybe they don’t understand how publishing has evolved. Maybe they do, but don’t care. Maybe they’re just greedy and it’s all about money, money, money. Who really knows? In response to the letter by Amazon, chief executive of HBG, Michael Pietsch, had this to say:

“Unlike retailers, publishers invest heavily in individual books, often for years, before we see any revenue,” he wrote.  “We invest in advances against royalties, editing, design, production, marketing, warehousing, shipping, piracy protection, and more. We recoup these costs from sales of all the versions of the book that we publish—hardcover, paperback, large print, audio, and e-book.

“While e-books do not have the $2-$3 costs of manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping that print books have, their selling price carries a share of all our investments in the book.”

The bottom line is that Hachette wants to charge high fees for their e-books and that doesn’t fit with Amazon’s business model.

So what if Hachette said, “Screw you, Amazon,” and only sold their books through other online retailers, leaving Amazon in the dust?

They would probably lose money from Amazon’s customers, or face complaints from readers who prefer Amazon’s one-click buy now convenience, and enjoy adding to their collection of books on their Kindle readers.

So what if Hachette lowered they’re e-books on Amazon.com?

Hachette would be forced to lower prices of their e-books at other retailer’s sites too. Otherwise readers would flock to Amazon to get the lower priced books, which is good for Amazon and good for Hachette because it’ll probably increase  sales from Amazon, but the sales will come from lower priced books. Meaning less profit for Hachette (not so good from their point of view).

But money is the name of the game.

Greed aside. Money keeps a business afloat. Sure. Plenty Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) authors, including myself, complained about the royalty difference when pricing our books. KDP authors can select from two royalty options.

E-book priced at $0.99 – $2.99 = 35% royalty to the author

E-book priced at $2.99 – $9.99 = 70% royalty to the author

*$0.00 (FREE) e-books are only an option for Kindle Select participants = books are exclusively sold from Amazon

*All e-books to be priced under $9.99 

Here’s a more detailed explanation at this link.

OK, let’s think business here. Amazon crunched numbers to make sure when every book sells, they make a profit. Makes sense from a business standpoint, right?

I used to wonder, if Amazon really cared about the customer why not add to their database of free e-books by making it easy for KDP authors to upload free reads. I still have a book on Amazon (not enrolled in Select) that is free everywhere else, even Amazon UK and CA, but is still listed at .99 cents on Amazon.com US and other countries. This is so because Amazon uses price matching. If another retailer (competition) provides the book for free Amazon will (usually) do the same to stay on top of the competition.

However, by (definitely) offering the free option to books that are exclusive to Amazon through Kindle Select, they now eliminate the competition of Select titles altogether. As frustrating as this can be to authors not enrolled and want to distribute free e-books on Amazon, including myself, I get it. Business, remember?

Hachette—who I am not familiar with as a business, and never worked with—have an agenda and a profit to make too, to recoup the overall cost of producing the books, as stated above by the chief executive of HBG. If they make bad decisions by overcharging for e-books, over time, those mistakes will correct themselves one way or another. Readers will stop buying overpriced e-books, Hachette will be forced to adapt to the times, or buckle.

Bottom Line

Amazon must learn that although they are currently big and bad in the book industry, they are not the face behind a publishing revolution and they shouldn’t strive to be. They should do what they do best and provide e-books at a value by focusing on the consumer’s wants, but not tossing them in the middle of legal negotiations. Is going public really going to change the fact that these two companies want to do business together but can’t agree? How is a letter from little ol’ me to the CEO of Hachette going to change his or anyone’s opinion, especially if what I say is:

1) Bullet points at the bottom of their lengthy email Amazon prompted me to say

2) Things Mr. CEO already knows

Bestselling Hachette authors placing a $100k ad against Amazon in the New York Times, and Amazon mass emailing all of their readers, is simply putting us in the middle of a war that none of us deserve. The folks choosing sides are most likely the ones directly affected by the Amazon-Hatchette battle. Those on the fence are most likely the ones thrown in the middle and have nothing to do with either parties.

Frankly, both sides are publicly presenting themselves as unprofessional. To go so far with their tactics to start a war over the rights and wrongs of e-book pricing. What should have been a private matter has now spiraled into authors and readers and others in publishing from all over, taking sides and pointing fingers. When if only Amazon and Hachette focus on the reader’s wants (which is a huge factor to consider in the publishing industry) this war would have been nonexistent.

This has been my two cents. Mind sharing yours?

[Image credit: Claudio Toledo]

Apr 18 2012

Why Writing Well Consistently is Crucial for an Author

Part of an author’s job is to market themselves and their work. We keep up with our online social networks, updating Facebook and Twitter and engaging with other authors, editors, agents and readers. We blog, we’re interviewed and participate in discussions on online forums and blogs. Whether we’re writing books or writing Facebook updates, our number one job as a writer is to write and write well.

 

What makes good writing?

  • Proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, etc.
  • Ability to convey your message effectively

Why is it important to write well all the time?

Your writing is an asset. It’s what you are selling. It’s part of your brand. You’re a writer. You need to prove your skill. You’re expected to know how to write and write well.
Imagine a potential reader coming across an article you wrote online … and it’s littered with typos, emoticons and abbreviations one would use when text messaging. It may be difficult to see what type of writing you’re selling in your books.
It’s important to remember, while online everyone’s watching from potential readers to editors, agents and publishers. Show the world that you understand grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. Flaunt your writing skills everywhere you leave your writing, and be consistent.

 

When to stick with proper writing:

  • Writing and/or responding to emails
  • Writing, responding and/or commenting on blog posts
  • Article writing
  • Writing contests
  • Manuscript queries, partials and submissions
  • Book reviews or public reviews of any kind
  • Updating social network sites
  • Online interviews

 

 

When you can let it slide:

  • Twitter updates (due to the 140 character limit)
  • Text or instant messaging

 

Tips to make sure your writing is superb:

  • Always use spell check
  • Read it back to yourself out loud
  • Use Kindle or Microsoft Word’s text-to-speech feature
  • Have someone else look over it
  • Put it away for a couple days, look over it again, and then post publically
  • After publishing it (blog or online article) and you find a typo or mistake, correct it immediately

 

It helps to get into the habit of writing well if you do it regularly. Writing is your talent, your brand and your value. Don’t abuse it by not demonstrating your skill. Do you have any tips you’d like to add?

Mar 13 2012

Questions I’ve Been Asked Pertaining to Writing & the Candid Answers: Part 2

I’ve been asked a variety of questions over the years. Some questions been asked multiple times, some are a little odd, some are simple and only people not involved in the publishing business would seek the answer.  So below are some of those questions with simple, detailed and honest answers. You can find part 1 here.

Where does your cover art come from?

Simple answer:Skilled cover artists using royalty free stock photos edit the photos to make tantalizing book covers.

Detailed answer:The publishing house usually has cover artists on board to craft their covers for them. If I’m indie publishing a title, I’ll “hire” a cover artist to design cover art for me. Each artist uses their own graphic editing software (like Photoshop or Gimp) and royalty free stock images to create sexy cover art. They usually work closely with you to try to design the cover as near to your vision as possible.

How do you get paid and how much?

Simple answer: See below

Detailed answer: I get paid royalties either quarterly or monthly by the publisher of the book, and it’s usually a small percentage of the cover price. I’m paid out either by check, direct deposit into my bank account or through Paypal. For paperback titles, I receive 20 percent of the cover price for each book sold. For the same titles published through Kindle Direct Publishing *I receive 70 percent of the cover price of each book sold.

*The cover price of e-books is always cheaper than the paperback copies, as it should be (IMO). Every publisher offers different amounts of royalty percentages. There’s no standard.

Do you just call your publisher when you want them to publish your book?

Simple answer: No.

Detailed answer:With the success of digital books and electronic publishers, e-mail is the better, quicker and preferred choice of correspondence between author and publisher nowadays. Also, being published with a particular publisher doesn’t exclude you from having to submit to them. In my experience, you may be assigned an editor but just because you’re an in-house author doesn’t mean they’ll publish whatever you got. You still have to write and format your work to the publisher’s guidelines and they can ask for revisions before offering another contract. The good thing about being an in-house author is that usually you don’t have to query, you submit your work to your very own editor and it’s likely they’ll accept subsequent manuscripts from you since they’re familiar with your writing and professionalism.

Do you have an editor?

I believe this question was referring to a copy editor instead of a submissions editor at a publishing house.

Simple answer: When my book is published through a publishing house such as Breathless Press, that publisher assigns me an editor. Otherwise, If self-publishing, I have to pay for an editor myself which could be very expensive.

Detailed answer:At the start of my career I thought I knew it all (a common amateur belief). Now, I understand the value of a good editor. Editors are great to not only find typos or grammar mistakes I’ve overlooked, but to help make my work as polished as possible. Editors are great for helping eliminate redundancies, craft believable dialogue and characters and find other ways to make my manuscript crisp, polished and ready for the market. If I’m publishing an indie title and don’t have the privilege of working with an editor from a publishing house, I now consider paying for one.

Are there questions you have that are not listed and you want the candid answers to?

Mar 05 2012

Paypal Prohibits "Obscene" Content

No, I don’t write erotica with themes of incest, pseudo-incest, rape for titillation, underage sex or bestiality. However, even though erotic fiction with those themes does not appeal to me, there is a market for it. A huge market for it. And just like other readers, if the content of the story does not amuse me, I don’t read it. Simple as that.


But now, PayPal is cracking down on publishers and websites that publishes and sales said books. Paypal warns if publisher continue to sale those books with “obscene content,” Paypal will deactivate publisher’s account. You may wonder why a company would threaten to deactivate so many publisher accounts like Smashwords.

“Paypal doesn’t want to have to pay Visa and MC for carrying “high risk” accounts on their books.” Erotica writer Selena Kitt writes on her blog. And what’s considered high risk for Paypal? Erotic books that contain the themes listed above. “Sites that carry high-risk material have to pay the high-risk costs of doing business. If you’re going through Paypal, you don’t have to pay that. Until Paypal catches you. And then they insist you take down your high-risk content or lose your account.”

So it’s the major credit card companies behind it all.

As a writer of erotica and erotic romance what I take form this is the major credit card companies saying… “We’re not supporting your icky imagination and if you force me to associate my name with your obscene fiction, then we can’t be friends anymore.” … That’s how I read it If it’s really about the money or not.

No matter my personal views on erotic books with those “questionable” themes (incest, pseudo-incest, rape for titillation, underage sex or bestiality), they’re still legal to write about. I am not a person to condone the suppression of published material. We’re adults. We should be able to write, read, and buy the kind of fiction we desire without someone or some group making it difficult due to their tastes.
Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, had this to say about Paypal’s crackdown. “PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction. Regardless of how one views topics of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction. We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This is unfair, and it marks a slippery slope. We don’t want credit card companies or financial institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It’s legal.”

It concerns me. What will they target next in erotica?

Gay sex? Threesomes? Sex out of wedlock? Erotica in general?

What do you think about the crackdown?

Feb 24 2012

Embracing Rejection Instead of Fearing It

All writers experience publisher/editor/agent rejection at one point in their writing careers, but serious writers learn to embrace that rejection and use it to improve their writing.

 

Here’s how:

 

Don’t let it hinder you

 

Just like that cutie in high school who never knew you existed. If only you could’ve built the courage to plop your food tray down at his table, slide in beside him and say, “Hi,” things might’ve been different. Instead, fear held you down at the table in the corner with the rest of the unpopulars as you watched big-busted Kyla sit down beside him and start a giggle-laden conversation. What, just me?

 

Fear keeps you from trying because you’re uncertain of the results. And the ultimate fear for writers is … what if they don’t like my writing. And instead of finishing the novel, you put it on the back burner because if you finish it then you’ll want to share it. And what if they think it sucks?

 

You want to get it published, but you’re afraid of submitting it because you’re writing sucks compared to other writers. What if publishers think you have no business writing even grocery lists?

 

They accepted and published your novel, but you’re afraid to market it because reviewers and readers could be harsher than any editor. What if they hate your book so bad the only sales you get are from readers who buy your book for the satisfaction of watching the book burn ritualistic style, and in your backyard, nonetheless?

 

Own up to the fact that you will be rejected one way or another, sooner or later, and make sure every time you …

 

Learn from it

 

A (sort of) nice thing to take away from being rejected by a publisher, editor or agent is that sometimes you get a valued piece of written inscription known as a personalized rejection letter. Sometimes the editor will explain why the manuscript was rejected and sometimes she will even give you pointers on how to improve it, leaving you with the decision to fix it and move on (or resubmit) to another publisher without making any changes at all. Whichever you choose, the point is … you’re moving on (or revising and resubmitting) and trying again.

 

You may get rejection after rejection and no explanation for it. Which isn’t unusual but if your work is continually getting rejected it’s time to change your tactics.

 

  • Rewrite the query letter. Sometimes tweaking the query letter is all it takes. Since the query is the first hint of your writing skills the editor encounters, it’s important that it’s just as polished as your manuscript.

 

  • Have someone else look over the query letter and manuscript. Sometimes it’s difficult for you to see your own mistakes and typos, or if something needs clarification.

 

  • Double check and follow the submission guidelines. Make sure the publisher publishes similar books in your genre, are open for submissions, accepts from author or agent, etc.

 

  • Be professional. No emoticons, text-like abbreviations or usage of slang in your query letter or any written correspondence between you and publisher/editor/agent.

 

  • If all else fails … focus on writing your next novel. Don’t spend too much time rewriting and submitting the same manuscript. Move on to your next novel which should be written better than your last. You should keep learning your craft and improving.

 

Know it’s not the end

 

Serious writers understand it’s not the end of your writing career or the end of rejection. There will be more rejection letters just as long as you keep writing and submitting manuscripts. Rejection is a huge part of being a serious writer.

 

Imagine plopping your food tray down next to that cutie in high school and he turns to you with a look of disgust on his face. Your worst fear, right? Hey, you knew it could happen, at least you can say you tried and that you learned to never go that route again. (Next time you’ll catch him at his locker after school.)

 

So embrace rejection instead of fearing it and use it to improve your writing.