Tag Archives: self-publishing

Goodreads is Anti-Indie-Author — Sex For Money, Post #22

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance. All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ. To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.


It was announced this week that Goodreads will now charge authors or publishers who want to run a giveaway on the Goodreads platform.

I’ve long been an advocate of Goodreads giveaways, as I’ve seen that they can boost book purchases for a reasonably small investment. How it would work is you’d set up a giveaway on the Goodreads site, let it run for a few weeks or a month, and then you send out the copy of your print book to the winner. In a successful giveaway, a number of people who entered to win would have also added your book to their “to read” list on Goodreads. This strategy rarely led to an immediate bump in sales, but rather led to a healthy level of ongoing sales, as those who marked your book as “to read” would eventually go out and buy it.

Giveaways on Goodreads were a good way to spread the word about your book for a relatively small cost — just the cost of the book and postage.

Now, though, Goodreads is charging for authors or publishers who want to run a giveaway on their website. For a mere *cough* $119 USD, you can have the priviledge of giving away copies of your book to people on Goodreads. If you’ve got money to burn, you can pay *cough* $599 USD to also have the priviledge of “exclusive placement” on the Goodreads giveaway page.

Who the fuck has that kind of money laying around? Other than the big five publishers, of course.

There are some beneficial changes coming when this new pricing scheme is implemented. Now, the person who enters to win won’t be given the option of adding the book to their “to read” list — Goodreads will automatically go ahead and do it for them. (As a reader, I know that if I enter to win a book, it doesn’t imply I’m captivated enough to go out and buy it, so I’m not a fan of this automatic feature.) As well, if someone has your book on their “to read” list already, they will be notified if there is a giveaway for your book. That’s good, I guess, but the purpose of running a giveaway is to get more people to add it to their “to read” list, not necessarily to give it away to people who have already bought or are about to buy your book.

So, what’s going on here?

According to Goodreads, the new features (which are mediocre at best) are being implemented in the new giveaway system in response to requests from authors and publishers. They’re not clear exactly what authors and publishers have been requesting, but I highly doubt they were asking to pay through the nose for a feature that used to be free.

What I suspect is that the “Big 5” publishers are angry (yet again) that their books are being swamped by the glut of indie published books. Book selling can be a low-profit business, so these Big 5 publishers need every advantage they can get over the small publishers and indie authors — and what better advantage than to squeeze them out of the Goodreads giveaway system? Somehow, the Big 5 successfully made this pitch to Goodreads.

Really, though, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Goodreads is also looking for a way to capitalize on their platform. Goodreads makes money on advertisers on their site and they may even make money on referral links if you click the “buy” buttons on book pages. In the modern world of internet businesses, they’re not squeezing every dime out of their users like they’re “supposed” to. So, why not take one of their biggest and most popular features — the giveaways — and charge a fuckton of money for it?

I also suspect that they dislike the glut of erotica in their giveaways and are hoping to squeeze some of us out. I know that I’ll never post a giveaway again as long as they’re charging for it — and neither will my publishing company. If anything, this has the stench of an attack against erotica (read more about the booksellers’ war against erotica in my earlier post).

So — prohibitive cost aside — let’s look at what this wonderful new giveaway system on Goodreads brings to authors, publishers, and readers.

The help section reveals a couple more nasty details about the new giveaway system:

  • Giveaways can only be made available for US residents. For publishers and authors outside of North America, postage to send to the US can be prohibitive. In the past, I’m sure most of these individuals or companies made their giveaways available to their own country and nearby countries — so this clause only raises the price for foreign publishers and authors. As a Canadian, I object to not being able to make giveaways available in my own country. Also, now all non-US Goodreads users are banned from entering giveaways until this policy changes.
  • You can do giveaways for ebooks (yay!), but they must be ebooks that are available on Amazon. This is telling. While Amazon has owned Goodreads for a few years, they had promised to let it run independently as it always had. Apparently, that’s not good enough anymore and Amazon is bringing Goodreads under the Amazon umbrella. (In fact, you pay for your Goodreads giveaway with your Amazon account.) You can certainly expect more changes further down the line that make this beneficial to Amazon-exclusive authors and difficult/costly for widely-published authors.

Goodreads’s/Amazon’s claim for the price is that it reflects the marketing value that is provided by running a giveaway. In my opinion as an author, that is pure and simple bullshit.

While I have long advocated Goodreads giveaways as an effective marketing tool, that ends as of yesterday. There is no value in listing a giveaway on Goodreads.

The effectiveness of giveaways on Goodreads have dwindled over the years. I still remember my first one that I listed four or five years ago — I had hundreds of people enter to win and hundreds of people add my book to their “to read” list. For my last few giveaways, I had hundreds of people enter to win, but only dozens add it to their “to read” list. Readers on Goodreads are in it for the free books — which is totally fine, I’m not lambasting that — but if your aim is to sell books, the effectiveness of a giveaway on Goodreads has dwindled.

As well, as part of a giveaway, winners are requested by Goodreads to post a review. In my experience, this happens less and less frequently. Years ago, if I sent out three books, I got three reviews from winners. Nowadays, if I send out three books, I might get one review from a winner. (Part of Goodreads’s new system is that they will remind winners to post a review — I doubt that’ll change the follow-through rate.)

I also suspect that Goodreads/Amazon is slowly pushing authors who want to do giveaways over to Amazon itself. I have not investigated giveaways on Amazon (so some of my assumptions here may be wrong), though I know giveaways on Amazon are a thing now, it’s something you can do. If the prices are cheaper than on Goodreads, or if they’re even free, then that is part of the grand design — they’re planning to integrate Goodreads and Amazon into (eventually) one thing, and they’re starting by shunting all the indies over. I wouldn’t put this past Amazon — the writing is on the wall for Createspace with the introduction of KDP Print. I’m holding off on transitioning to KDP Print until they offer the same level of service that Createspace does or until they force me over. The writing has been on the wall for Goodreads for quite some time now.

So, back to giveaways. what’s next? What is an author or publisher to do?

You could run giveaways using Rafflecopter, but unless you’ve got a wide network already, you’ll end up with few entrants. The benefit of the old Goodreads system (before it began to lose effectiveness) was that new readers could discover you, which won’t happen with a Rafflecopter giveaway marketed to people who already are fans of your work.

You could use Instafreebie to give away a free book to whoever clicks a link. This could be effective for series starters (provided you have the sequels out already), but from what I’ve seen, I think the Instafreebie thing came and went already — they were a craze for a while and now fewer authors and readers are using it.

What we need is an indie-friendly giveaway site. Not like Instafreebie where you give away hundreds or thousands of free copies of ebooks, but a site like the old Goodreads giveaway system. And to make it extra-effective for marketing, after someone enters a giveaway, the system should have a pop-up asking the entrant to sign up for the author’s newsletter. That would be effective promotion — the #1 avenue for marketing is your author newsletter, and if the giveaway system would integrate with MailChimp and auto-add people (with consent) to your mailing list, then that would be awesome.

(If you’re a computer programmer and like that idea, I claim no copyright on it — steal my idea and make it happen!)

For now, though, goodbye, Goodreads. I wish I could say it was nice knowing you.

Edited to add: Also, the fact that the post on Goodreads announcing this change has been closed to comments shows that Goodreads knows they’re doing the wrong thing — but they don’t want to hear about it.

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A Ceasefire in the War Against Erotica

A few weeks back, I wrote about the war against erotica — about how big ebook retailers go through periods where they purge whole catalogues of erotica from their websites, throwing the erotic author community into turmoil. I argued that we as a community of erotic authors are partly responsible for our own demise — largely through the actions of a subset of us who engage in shady practices and/or make unwise choices. For my full argument, please read my previous post.

Yesterday, Smashwords announced what is essentially a ceasefire in the war on erotica.

Smashwords has introduced a new classification system for erotic works. Authors and publishers now have to explicitly state if their book contains age place, bestiality, dubious consent (dubcon), incest or pseudo-incest, nonconsensual sexual slavery, and rape for titillation.

I know for some authors, this will immediately feel like they are being discriminated against because these rules don’t apply to any other genre. However, I argue that these special classifications help you as an author/publisher, not hinder you.

If you occasionally write one of the above categories — say, age play — and you care about your account and your standing with Smashwords, then prior to the introduction of this new system, publishing an age play story could be a nerve-wracking experience. You know that not all stores take age play. (According to a chart provided by Smashwords, iBooks does not take age play.) Although you have done nothing wrong, what happens after uploading to Smashwords is largely out of your hands — Smashwords pushes your ebook to all of their third party retailers, including ones that don’t accept your story.

Let’s say that your age play story somehow got into iBooks. The system isn’t perfect, so these things happen. Some time later, iBooks catches on that they have age play in their store, so they go on a hunt for it and delete all of those titles — and if you catch the wrong person on the wrong day, that staffer might decide that you are trying to push the boundaries and purposely publish stuff against their guidelines… and they could ban your pen name entirely.

Under one of my other pen names, I occasionally publish stories that fall under one of these special classifications. Believe me, this has been my worry every time I upload a questionable title. If iBooks has a problem with what I write and makes a big enough stink about it, they could ban all of my stuff from their site — and iBooks is a big selling vendor for me.

But with this classification system, I can explicitly say which of the topics (if any) are contained in my story. If I publish something with age play in it and specifically mark it as such, then it will not go to iBooks, Scribd, Gardners, Overdrive, Odilo, or Bibliotheca. This reduces the chance of me being on the receiving end of backlash if my story ends up in the wrong place.

The retailer benefits, too. They can ensure that what they are carrying is specifically what they feel is acceptable. This reduces the risk of erotica purges (sometimes called a “pornpocalypse”), because they are receiving none of what they do not want.

This does, of course, depend on authors and publishers being truthful about what’s in their book. And that is a problem for some. Some authors and publishers deliberately miscategorize their books to get around filters and content bans. However, it sounds like Smashwords is taking a much more involved role in this — miscategorization can lead to your account being banned.

The act of deliberate miscategorization helps no one — not the author and not the reader. All it does is put a book up in a totally inappropriate place, which then leads to backlash against the industry, which harms all erotic authors, including the majority who follow the rules.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go ahead and read the blog post from Smashwords that details all of the changes and some of the negotiating they’ve done to lead up to this.

There are a few important points that I’ve gleaned from their post:

Smashwords fights for the rights of erotic authors.

Smashwords could have easily rolled over and acquiesced to the demands of their third party retailers and just remove the ability for erotic authors to have their books published on B&N, Kobo, etc. Instead, Smashwords worked with them to create this classification system that satisfies the retailers and Smashwords. Indeed, erotica is being allowed back onto a retailer’s website that had previous banned it (Gardners) — because Smashwords worked with them and rebuilt that trust.

I often see endless debate among authors as to which is better — Smashwords or Draft2Digital. When I last looked into Draft2Digital a few years ago, they didn’t even accept erotica. Their argument was that there are too many headaches in navigating what third party retailers do and don’t want. I just took a look at their site again and I don’t see any mention of erotica not being allowed, so perhaps they’ve changed their mind. However, I never see or hear of D2D going the extra mile for author rights like the way Smashwords does.

This will impact your sales strategy if you write one of these taboo topics.

Let’s say you write incest, which was available on B&N until very recently. There are readers who used to get all their incest erotica needs met on B&N — now that incest is being removed from their catalogue, readers are going to have a hard time finding what they want. This means that the reader will either settle for non-incest erotica or search for a new retailer that sells what they really want. If they choose to stay on B&N and settle for some non-incest erotica, this will impact your sales as you are missing out on opportunities.

Your job as an author is to find a way to point all your readers to a retailer that allows erotica. My suggestion is to point all your readers to Smashwords as they have the most open guidelines, their guidelines are unlikely to change, and they offer a higher royalty than sales through one of their third party retailers.

So how do you get your readers over to Smashwords? Plaster the message all over your social media channels that all of your books are available at Smashwords. Avoid making derogatory statements about other retailers being prudes. Instead, tease and entice your readers — your stories are “too hot for Barnes & Noble” and are available “exclusively at Smashwords”. That’s likely to have an effect.

You could also write a very dirty erotica that fits in the guidelines of what the other retailers allow — so, make it mainstream but it just feels very sinful (for example, my book, Seduced By My Best Friend’s Dad is a fairly vanilla mainstream erotica story, but it feels dirtier than it is because the “best friend’s dad” is like pseudo-pseudo-incest, without actually violating anyone’s guidelines — and make it clear in your back matter that the rest of your stories are “even dirtier” and the reader should go to your website to find out where to get “exactly what you’re looking for”.

While the war against erotica is not over, we’ve reached a truce.

Unfortunately, the war against erotica will never be over. Reading the comments below the post on Smashwords finds at least one person so far who is outraged that Smashwords would even consider allowing erotica. There are others who feel that this classification system is a step closer to further troubles, that an outright ban by some retailers is going to be the next step.

Is this system perfect? Absolutely not. Does it at least bring some temporary stability? Yes, I believe so.

As an independent author, I need to balance my sense of art with my goals as an independent business-person. I want to tell the stories I want to tell — but I also need to make consistent income. I depend on my monthly royalties to help pay the bills.

When Barnes & Noble temporarily deleted half of their erotica catalogue, I somehow flew under the radar and my books were not touched. However, it was very concerning — Barnes & Noble is a big percentage of my sales. If I were to be kicked out of there, I would lose out on sales and my monthly income would be lower.

If a further ban would be enacted and the big retailers only allowed erotica with certain themes, I would be disappointed, but I would also take it as a challenge. How can I, as an author, write the hottest story imaginable within the small sandbox a retailer is giving me? It’s not the ideal, of course. However, as an independent author who depends on royalty income, accepting that challenge is how one survives.

Additionally, if a further ban would happen and all taboo themes would be removed, then that could be the opportunity for smaller retailers like Excitica to shine. If there’s a market for it, someone will make money off of it.

Nowadays, an independent author has to be nimble to keep up with changes in the industry. Sometimes it means taking a hit, but other times it means taking advantage of an opportunity.

For now, though, I’m pleased with the stability Smashwords has brought to my “workplace”.

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Seven Perspectives on Author Branding — Sex For Money Post #14

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance.  All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ.  It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there.  To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.


 

As you have have noticed here on the good ol’ blog, I’m now part of the Oh Get A Grip! blog, in which ten erotic authors tell it like it is.  The topics each fortnight cover pretty much every area of life possible, only sometimes returning to the actual topics of writing and self-publishing.

This past fortnight, the topic was “branding,” which could be taken multiple ways — the author brand, marks on your skin, or whatever way branding speaks to the author.

Most of the contributors spoke about the author brand, which is an important consideration for the erotic author (or authors of any genre, for that matter).

Here are links to the author branding posts:

 

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DRM and DMCA and Preventing Piracy – Sex For Money Post #13

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance.  All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ.  It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there.  To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.


Piracy is, unfortunately, a common crime in our modern world.  Why pay for something when you can get it for free?  I doubt any of us are truly innocent — I’ve downloaded my share of music over the years, as well as a TV show that I couldn’t wait to be released on DVD.

Ebook piracy happens.  Some people will buy your book and then post it publicly somewhere so that others can download it for free.  Other times, piracy hasn’t occurred, but it appears your book has been pirated, but it’s a ruse for other purposes.

So what is an author to do?  Mostly nothing.  You’re honestly not losing much, if anything, in sales.

Stick with me — I’ll explain.

Let’s start with the basic habits of the reader.  Some readers will always buy the books they read.  Others will only read it if they can get it for free.  These are largely two separate groups of people.  Someone who always buys books is unlikely to scour the internet for the free copy they can illegally download.  Conversely, someone who only downloads pirated books is unlikely to read your book if they have to pay for it.

Last time I searched for free copies of my books — and I did that search maybe two years ago — I found my first novel, Autumn Fire, and my first short story, Go Deep, on torrent sites, as part of larger m/m ebook bundled downloads.  I didn’t put up much of a fight about it because I realized that if someone is going to download an illegal bundle of m/m ebooks, then they’re likely looking for whatever they can get for free — they’re unlikely to say, “Hey, that one specific title I wanted to read isn’t here.  I better go buy it.”  Rather, they’d just move on to something else for free.  I also realized that readers who usually purchase ebooks are unlikely to go in search of an illegal download to save three or four dollars.  Did I lose some sales?  Possibly, but I don’t think I lost many.

Now, let’s move on to the other scenario.  There are sites all over the internet that appear to have your ebook for illegal download.  Ninety percent of the time, they don’t actually have it.  Instead, they’ve posted your cover and blurb and claim to offer it as a free download — but before the reader can do so, they need to enter a credit card number “for verification purposes.”  They’ll then find out the book isn’t there and these scammers now have their credit card info.  Some of these sites instead package viruses into the download — so the reader doesn’t get the book, they get a virus.

That scenario is a little more insidious.  However, since they don’t have your book, you’re not losing sales on them.  If anything, your readers might be angry at the website for conning them.  But on the other hand, a smart reader can see there’s something wrong about the whole set-up.

So what can an author do to prevent all this?

As authors, we’re told that enabling DRM — Digital Rights Management — on our titles helps prevent piracy.  It’s a little bit of code that’s added to your ebook to prevent it from being shared.  What we’re not told as authors is that DRM is largely ineffective and a real pain in the ass.

If I were unscrupulous and wanted to buy your book and then distribute it illegally (or even if I was an honest person that just doesn’t like the hassle of DRM), I can “crack” it in seconds.  A quick Google search of “how to crack DRM” brings up immediate results that even a not-too-capable tech person like me can follow.  To someone who’s determined to share your book illegally, DRM means nothing.  (And I see I can crack DRM using Calibre, a program I already have on my computer.)

For the honest person, DRM can be a real pain in the ass.  Some of the books I read have DRM on them — and now that I’ve got the process down, it’s not too huge of a hassle, but the first couple times, I was like, “Oh, fuck!”  After purchasing the book, I downloaded it, then had to download a DRM management program, then had to create an account, then had to unlock the ebook in that program, then I had to sync my ereader with that program, then copy the file over.  What should have taken about ten seconds instead took about ten minutes.  (In hindsight, if I had downloaded directly to my Kobo, it might’ve avoided all those steps.  However, I prefer to side-load via my laptop.)  This whole process left a sour taste in my mouth and made me feel like I couldn’t be trusted as a reader.

So, whether or not to enable DRM is completely up to you as the author.  DRM can add the feeling of security, but keep in mind it’s just a feeling.  It doesn’t actually secure your ebook.

Let’s say that someone has uploaded your ebook and is either offering it as a free download or even charging money for it.  Or, let’s say that a site claims to offer it for free but you know it’s one of those scam sites.  Can you do anything?

Yup.

If you want to invest the time in doing so, you can send the site a DMCA notice.  (DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act.)  To do this, do a search for “DMCA notice template” and you’ll find free samples of takedown notices.  Plunk in your information and send it to the email address attached to the website.  They are legally obligated to take your book (or if they don’t have your book, take the cover image and blurb) off their website.  From what I’ve seen when people have tried this, the website complies, even if it’s a scam site run be people who don’t care about theft.

So what happens if they don’t comply?  Your next step is to report this infringement to Google.  Do a web search for “report copyright infringement to Google” and you’ll find the proper links.  While this may not remove the site from the internet, it will be removed from Google search results.

But there’s one last thing to keep in mind.  Remember I found Autumn Fire and Go Deep listed on a torrent site?  As far as I know DMCA notices are ineffective for torrent sites.  Here’s why: Normally, when a site has your book illegally, it’s on their servers and they can just delete the files.  Torrent sites are different — torrent sites don’t actually have your book files.  Instead, these sites connect individual users who have the files.  So, while my books were listed on a torrent site, they weren’t on the site’s servers, they were instead on some random person’s hard drive.  I didn’t bother sending the torrent site a DMCA notice as they don’t actually have my books, rather, they’re facilitating the connection between two people who want to share my books.  While a torrent site may choose to block the transmission of certain files, all it takes is for someone to change the file name to work around such a block.

Does piracy suck.  You bet your ass.  Is there something you can do about it?  Yes.  Is it worth your time?  That’s totally up to you and your answer might vary based on the individual situation.  For myself, I don’t worry too much about piracy, but then, I’m not exactly raking in the cash.  I’ve maybe lost a few dollars over the years.  Personally, my time is worth more than that.  But I totally get if someone feels personally violated that their book has been pirated, or if their book is being used to scam someone out of their credit card number.  I felt violated the first time it happened.  But after about the fifth or sixth time I found it, I just stopped caring.  I don’t even Google my book titles or name anymore to find out what’s happening because I just simply don’t care — because for every site you successfully have your book removed from, another site has just uploaded your info.  It’s a never-ending game that takes away valuable writing time.  Instead of worrying about a few lost dollars due to piracy, I’d rather work on creating a new work that will bring in ten times more than what I’ve lost.

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Google Play and Price Matching – Sex For Money Post #10

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance.  All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ.  It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there.  To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.


Anybody who has self-published and read the fine print of the contract between publisher and vendor website will know that there’s always a clause that the price must be no higher than elsewhere.  Each site that an author publishes to wants to have the books listed at a price that is competitive with all other vendors.

Usually, this isn’t a problem.  If an author prices their work at $2.99, they do so on all sites that they upload to.

However, there are two notoriously difficult factors in this.

The first is that Amazon scours the web for your products and, if it finds your book elsewhere for cheaper, it will automatically lower the price of your product on their site so that it is competitive with the lowest price it can find.  It does this without your permission and, from what I’ve heard, is almost impossible to undo.  They’ll either undo it on their own, or they may accommodate your request to do so, but it’s more likely they’ll leave it at that lowered price and, if ever, raise it at their leisure.

The second is that Google Play will automatically discount books above a certain price.  There is no set percentage that they take off of a book’s price, but rather there is a range of percentages.  (This forum post gives you a good idea of the spread of discounts.)  If an author’s not careful, their book will be discounted by Google Play, making it cheaper than anywhere else.  And when Amazon catches on, their prices get lowered.  Authors have lost tons of money over this.

The strategy that authors take, including myself, is to price books on Google Play much higher so that the automatic discount brings it down to close to regular price.  However, while that forum post linked above is an excellent guide to the discounts, I find Google Play will make random deviations of a percentage point or two in their discounts.  The only real way to fix it is to set the price to what you think is appropriate, give it a couple hours to change the price throughout their system, then check up on it by accessing it through the storefront… then go back into the publisher portal and adjust the price accordingly and waiting a few hours to see if it’s correct.  It can take several tries, I’ve found, to get it right.

Even if this goes smoothly, there are still problems now and then.  I noticed on Amazon (accessing the .com version from Canada, so your results may differ) that Men In The Hot Room: The Complete Series is priced at $1.95 USD, despite me setting it at $1.99 USD.  The only explanation I can come up with is that Google Play has my book priced just under $1.99 USD and Amazon has price matched.

But here’s where it gets difficult (for non-Americans).

Presumably, all of this price adjustment stuff is based on the American prices on the American sites.  When I go to Google Play it shows me Canadian prices.  (I have to run everything through a currency converter, which helps me set the right price for Google Play.)  However, Google Play seems to have this tendency to display “nice” prices for me in Canada.  My short stories are all priced at $0.99 USD.  This is below the level where Google Play automatically discounts my prices, so I don’t have to worry about that.  Or so I thought.  Google Play doesn’t want to show me the correct Canadian-converted price of $1.31 (as of right now).  Instead, it shows me $1.09.

$1.09 CAD is equal to $0.82 USD (as of right now).  I think Amazon has picked up on this.  When I recently checked my Amazon catalogue, nearly all of my short stories were priced at $0.84 or less.

Because of Google Play’s tendency to do whatever-the-hell it wants with book prices, Amazon has subsequently slashed my prices, which cuts into my royalties.

However, I don’t think I’m going to do anything about it.  All of my $0.99 short stories are older stories, so at this point I’m glad for any sale.  And the royalty change between $0.99 and $0.84 is six cents (for a 35% royalty rate on Amazon).  That’s nothing to cry over.

With my more expensive stories — the novellas and novels — the price matching has only taken a few cents off the retail price, which has a negligible effect on royalties.

Additionally, I seem to have the unusual result of Google Play being one of my bigger sellers.  Most authors complain of Google Play as being a wasteland for ebooks, where a sale might happen once every few months.  For me, sales are not very high, but they rank higher than Smashwords (and through Smashwords I get distributed to iBooks, B&N, Kobo, and more).  My top two sales venues are Amazon and All Romance eBooks — they switch first and second place often — and then Google Play is usually close behind.  My profits gained on Google Play far outweigh the profits lost on Amazon.

There is a lesson in here, though.  An author must always read and understand the terms and conditions of any self-publishing site, as well as research everything they can on the industry.  (I usually lurk and read the erotica authors Reddit, but don’t post there.  There’s tons of good info there.)  An author must also be adaptable and responsive — quick to change prices if need be, always looking for new revenue streams in case profits dwindle on a regular site, and be willing to experiment to find out what path in erotica self-publishing works best for that person.

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Filed under Sex For Money

eBook Pricing

I’ve been cruising through Smashwords lately — I’ve got a free short story up there and I occasionally check the stats — and I’m about to self-pub another short story through Smashwords in the next few weeks.  Whenever I log in, I see a whole ton of erotica in the list of latest publications… and I’m constantly amazed at what people consider to be an appropriate price for an ebook.

The short story I self-publish in the next few weeks will be $0.99.  I think that’s an appropriate price for a fairly short story.  If I were to write something over 10,000 words, I might bump it up to $1.99.  Over 50,000 — maybe $2.99.  And anything at 80,000 and above would be $3.99.  I don’t foresee ever pricing my own stuff at above $3.99… and I feel it’s important to have the price reflect the general length of the novel.

Yet, on Smashwords, it’s not unexpected to see a short story of 3,000 words or less priced at $2.99 or higher.  I don’t think I would ever pay three bucks or more for a story that’ll take me 10-20 minutes to read.  The pricing has to be part of the appeal of the ebook — if the price is too high, the book loses appeal.  (If I recall correctly, I saw one erotica short story of 760 words — and that’s not a typo, it’s 760 words — priced at $3.99.  I don’t understand how a story that short could possibly be worth that much money.)

It also doesn’t help that a lot of those overpriced short stories have descriptions filled with typos, clumsy sentences, and vague statements.  A lot of them just list a few details of the setting and characters and… it just fizzles for me.  Selling ebooks is an extremely competitive task as there are thousands, if not millions, of people who are all competing for readers.

In addition to a solid story, a professional editor, and a top notch cover (and a writer should be hiring editors and cover designers unless they are supremely gifted), a writer MUST price their works appropriately.  To do otherwise works against the effort the writer has put into their story.

There are some truly good works on Smashwords — but there’s a lot of rather questionable stuff.

But I’ll throw it out to anyone who’s reading this:

What do you consider to be an appropriate price for an ebook short story?

What about an ebook novella / novel?

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Filed under eBooks, Publishing, Writing, Writing Tips