Friday, May 30, 2014

Smashed and Confused: an open letter to Smashwords CEO Mark Coker in regard to the Hachette vs. Amazon feud

I have been struggling for a while to put my thoughts on the Amazon/Hachette dispute into an article. I still believe that indie publishing and traditional publishing are on the same side, and deadlines kept me from getting my thoughts down. Lucky for me, my bestie and Green Envy Press partner Larry Kollar wrote a fantastic bit covering everything I would have said, and offering some fantastic perspective!

If you’re an author, you’ve certainly heard about the big showdown between Amazon and Hachette, one of the Big 5 publishers. Or rather, you’ve heard the breathless reports from traditional media outlets about how the Amazon colossus is attempting to strong-arm helpless publishers into accepting its terms. Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords (a combination eBook store and distributor to other stores) weighed in with a blog post titled Amazon Hachette Dispute Foreshadows What’s Next for Indie Authors, The title provides a strong hint at Coker’s views on the matter. What follows are my own views, in the form of an open letter to Mark Coker.

Dear Mr. Coker,

Your recent blog post does not only a disservice to those authors that you claim to champion, but your own company as well. Rarely has the phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face” been more relevant. Frankly, I’m surprised—almost shocked—that you would so blatantly side with large publishers in this dispute, especially when you admit that the same publishers shun Smashwords due to your (correct) stance on DRM. Let’s be honest here: major publishers would be happy to see Smashwords dead, right after Amazon. 
If you are getting your information about the dispute only from the likes of the Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, you’re getting a very one-sided view that is slanted to favor Hachette. That shouldn’t be a surprise; PW is the traditional industry's mouthpiece, while the WSJ is owned by the same conglomerate that owns HarperCollins (and Fox News, but we won’t go there today). Amazon, which owns no major media outlet to tell its side of the story, has mostly taken the more typical corporate approach: keep mum until reaching an agreement. One offer Amazon has made, that has somehow escaped the notice of the world at large, is to fund 50% of an author pool “to mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties” if Hachette funds the other half. So to say Amazon is unconcerned with how this is affecting Hachette’s authors is blatantly untrue. To my knowledge, Hachette hasn’t exactly jumped on this offer, which I think tells us who is more concerned about authors in this dispute.

The root of the dispute is this: Hachette is attempting to reinstate the Agency Model, and Amazon does not want it. Hachette, and other major publishers, were found guilty of collusion when they forced it on Amazon a few years ago. The problem with the Agency Model is that it turns the whole system of retailing on its head. Any store, including brick-and-mortar bookstores, pays a fixed price for each unit of inventory—be it groceries, CDs, monitors, books, or rolls of carpet—and sells them at some markup (usually). Amazon has never been shy about their corporate strategy: focus on market share, and profits will follow. So Hachette might set a retail price of $14.95 on a new release; Amazon pays maybe $7.50 and sells it at whatever price they decide best fits their needs at the moment. Larger retailers can demand (and often get) discounts—that’s how Barnes and Noble killed locally-owned bookstores; they used favorable wholesale prices to undercut the indies. Would publishers demand of Walmart, or B&N’s brick-and-mortar stores, the right to set prices? If not, why is it okay to demand the same of Amazon?

Now, let’s talk about Smashwords, and why some authors might stick with Amazon. (Hint: it isn’t because they’re all starry-eyed about the Kindle ecosystem.)

I’m a member of a publishing co-op, Green Envy Press. We pool our various talents to help each other produce eBooks with at least as much polish, inside and out, as major publishers. We have varying thoughts about diversification—of our authors, I’m the one most dedicated to the proposition. Nine of my ten books, including the just-released Into the Icebound, are available at Smashwords and the stores they distribute to. I have what I think are good reasons to spread my books far and wide, although my sales figures might disagree. When I look at my income, I see $600-$900 coming in from Amazon every quarter (paid monthly by the way), and maybe $20-$30 from Smashwords. Since I use Smashwords to aggregate the rest of the world (except B&N, because I like their Nook Press tools so much), it’s safe to say that 97% of my sales come from Amazon. On a good day, I’ll sell as many books at Amazon as I have in over two years at Smashwords proper (38 books). I know that other authors have different spreads, maybe a few lopsided the other way, but I can only speak for myself. 

How much effort goes into gaining that 3% of sales, then? In my opinion: far too much. If you hadn’t started taking EPUBs, I'd have given up on you and started going direct. I write in Scrivener, and format in Sigil, so my workflow doesn’t involve a Word file. The income I get from Smashwords is not worth the time to produce a Word file just for the Meatgrinder. I’ve uncovered two problems in the EPUB autovetter (y’all were using a ratty version of Epubcheck at first, and it checks the manifest instead of the spine for the title page). Fortunately, you have excellent and responsive support staff who want to make this stuff work. But why not take it a step further? There are excellent open-source tools that can automatically convert a good EPUB to all the formats you support—like Meatgrinder, only better because those of us who don’t work from a Word file could play.

So. Why is it that, despite the far wider reach that Smashwords affords, do I typically get 30 times the sales (or more) from Amazon? It’s not for lack of trying on my part—in the beginning, I tried to give all bookstores equal time, and my non-Amazon sales have actually picked up since I gave up and just focused on Amazon links. Could it be that Amazon mentions (and sometimes headlines) my books in their massive email blasts once a month or so?

Another possibility is that online publicity sites/newsletters work from the assumption that you're in KDP Select and can schedule free days whenever you need them. Maybe Smashwords should create its own promo services, or at least encourage the established services to be more Smashwords-friendly. I would love to see more revenue coming from Smashwords.

Amazon is winning the eBook wars for a number of reasons right now, not the least of which is that it's making a lot of authors a lot of money without much up-front hassle. Between the most basic of promotions that nobody else seems to do, and the Amazon-centric review and promotion ecosystem, a cycle of dependency is spinning up. Smashwords needs to counter that, somehow, before authors have no choice but to follow the money. But backing traditional publishers in a fight against Amazon isn’t going to do that.

Author of White Pickups and Accidental Sorcerers

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thanks for 1,000+ Facebook Likes

Big surprise here, I am a bit behind schedule!

I meant to post this a week ago, you know, when I actually hit 1k Facebook likes--but I was busy living in book worlds and I didn't want to stop. Trust me, you didn't want me to stop either!

There are certain things I thought I would never do when my first book was published in 2011. I never thought I hit 1k Twitter followers... or 2k, or 5k, or 10k... if you would have told me I'd have 23,000+ without being a household name I would have laughed. But here I am. Only none of the Twitter numbers are as shocking as the Facebook numbers.

Because I really used to dislike it. I dug in my cute little kitten heels, I crossed my arms and turned up my nose. I did not want. But some people wanted for me, and now we're here. So thank you. Without the people reading this blog, without the people buying my books, I don't know where my life would be; but I'd be missing out on a lot of amazing fans and friends. I am grateful for every single one of you. Every Twitter follower, every Goodreads and Amazon reviewer, everyone who takes time to post a comment on and every Facebook stalker.

Never think you don't matter. No matter how many books I write and sell, no matter how many new friends I make online--you will always matter to me.

Stay tuned for amazing announcements, giveaways, cover reveals, and book launches. June is going to be a big month!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

HEY YOU, yeah, you! Whatcha reading?

So I have to hand a book in to my editor after this long weekend, and I have to hand in another (surprise!) book a week or so into June. NO ONE PANIC! (I mean, besides me!) I know that many authors tend to stop reading when they are staring down the barrel of hellacious deadlines, but I am not one of them. Actually, I read crap tons when I am busy writing and editing. There's a good reason for that, it's because I'm tired. I know what your thinking--wouldn't your time be better served sleeping if your so tired?

Well, yeah. IF I was talking about that kind of exhaustion. But I'm not. There is something so draining about living inside your own world for so long--searching for lost commas, coming up with solutions to problems you caused. It's not bad in small doses, but when you start doing it for hours and hours a day you start looking for a way out. That's why I have to read, even when I'm too busy for it. To fix the mental fatigue that I bring down on myself, I like to escape to a universe that I am not the god of.

Currently I am re-reading all of Cassandra Clare novels to get ready for the next book, what are you reading? What kind of things do you do to relax?

Next week I am celebrating 1k Facebook likes... I am a little behind ;)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tiffany King, MISUNDERSTANDINGS book release! Stop reading this blog & buy it!

Rarely does a book release make me cry, but this one does. I love Tiffany King, she is not only an amazing writer--she's amazing person.

A Woodfalls Girls Novel
by Tiffany King

Available Now
Purchase Links

“Funny, real, moving and passionate, Misunderstandings is a MUST-READ for NA contemporary romance fans."--New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young

“Super sweet and swoon-worthy!”— #1 New York Times Bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout

Just when she thought things were going up…

Two years after a devastating breakup, Brittni Mitchell has moved on from Justin Avery—or so she tells herself. But when she returns to Seattle for her best friend’s engagement party, Brittni finds herself the victim of a disastrously timed elevator breakdown. She’s trapped with the last person she wants to face, and forced to recount the past she desperately wants to forget.

She’s going to have to look back…

When Brittni left her podunk hometown for a big city college experience at the University of Washington, hooking up with a guy like Justin Avery was not part of her plan. Between Justin’s attention-grabbing tattoos, cigarette smoking, and bad boy attitude Brittni quickly chalked him up as “Mr. Wrong.” But his charm was unrelenting, and Brittni’s decision to give Justin a chance quickly turned into the worst choice she ever made.

So that she might be able to move forward.

Now she’s stuck with Justin—literally—and the complicated web of misunderstandings that tied up the truth for two years is about to unravel.

USA Today Bestselling author Tiffany King is a lifelong reading fanatic who is now living her dream as a writer, weaving Young Adult and New Adult romance tales for others to enjoy. She has a loving husband and two wonderful kids. (Five, if you count her three spoiled cats). Her addictions include: Her iPhone and iPad, chocolate, Diet Coke, chocolate, Harry Potter, chocolate, zombies and her favorite TV shows. Want to know what they are? Just ask.

For information on any of Author Tiffany's titles, visit her blog at

Where to connect with Author Tiffany
Twitter- @AuthorTiffany
Pinterest- Tiffany King
Goodreads- Tiffany King

"Dreams do come true...Dream big."

Friday, May 2, 2014

Truck Stops and State Lines (I moved cross country)

This was almost the most boring blog post I have ever written. I packed up and left Las Vegas--I moved cross country, and I made the whole thing sound boring and dreadful--I mean, a lot of it was dreadful; but not because it was DULL. I had mishaps worthy of any middle grade adventure novel, I was the kind of terrified reserved for just before the epic cliffhanger in the best kind of suspense novels...

Only I didn't write any of that down, instead I turned to fiction. It's like to wrong sort of therapy, and I know lots of authors are into it. When life is tough, live outside it. Readers do that too. So I am not too upset that I've ended the book of my life in Las Vegas, because it's only the first in an EPIC multi-book series. I'm only just getting started, and I am honored you are around to see me through it.

The thing about writing books is, it's not often book goes from pen to print in a hurry--and you guys haven't even gotten to see any of the novels inspired by, or set in Las Vegas. I touched the area briefly in Coffin Nails & Other Beasts
but all my novels and novellas were inspired by places I lived before I ever even moved to Las Vegas six years ago.

Right now I am not blogging from truck stops or State Lines. I worried my way through those, and there were many.  Still those ragged places and stresses will live in inspiration for years to come. So now I'm home, home for the next few years anyway; and then it will be time to pack up and move to the next adventure.

Right now, I'm writing on a folding car table in a me-made cubical of unpacked boxes. I thought it would inspire me to unpack them--but that hasn't worked out so far.