Culture

Book Plug Friday! Dear Mr. Bezos

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Dear Mr. Bezos,

I don’t often have the opportunity to say “you’re doing that wrong.”

To begin with let’s get something straight.  I’m not saying you’re doing wrong as in “you villain, Bezos, you, destroying publishing.”

To put it mildly, sir, I am your fan.  You have managed to free publishing from the yoke of the big traditional publishers with their clubby attitude, their “I want to impress my fellow editors more than I want to sell” and their blinkered insistence on the “correct” politics, because they want to get invited to all the good parties.

They were strangling science fiction and fantasy, and you’ve freed it.  For that alone, you have my gratitude.

The fact that you’ve also allowed me to make a considerable part of my income on my backlist through your company is just the icing on the cake.

And I confess I’ve been wrong before.  I thought KULL was a mistake, and that people would just borrow and not buy books.

I was wrong.  It doesn’t impact my sales at all, but my friends who write erotica are making huge amounts of money on the borrows.  And I’m all for that.

I still think your chart versus listing of sales is a mistake, because it often shows different numbers for hours, and that undermines confidence in the numbers.  But that’s a software issue, and that is probably being worked on as we speak.

As I said, when it comes to Amazon, I’m a fan.

In my view you’ve made only a mistake: when you had a publishing program via Amazon which operated as a traditional house. (Do you still have it?  I don’t keep up.)

Some of the other Amazon-fans were all excited.  “Now, he’ll show traditional publishing.”

I looked at whom you’d hired – most of them with “experience” in traditional publishing and I shook my head.

And in fact, last I paid attention a year or so ago, you’d failed to set the world on fire with that program.

Well, you’re a learning man. And a man who tries new things.  (I did mention I’m a fan, right?) So you’re trying something else.  A friend sent me a link tonight.

Amazon’s crowdsourced publishing platform will launch soon for mystery, romance and sci-fi authors

I read it shaking my head.

The Digital Reader first reported on the program a couple weeks ago, with Amazon confirming details. It’s somewhere between Amazon Publishing’s “traditional” imprints and self-publishing platform KDP: Authors whose books are selected get a $1,500 advance and 50 percent royalties on net ebook revenue. The contracts are for ebook and audio rights, with authors retaining print rights; initial contract terms are 5 years.

Perhaps I’m all wrong on this.  It’s quite possible I’m very very wrong.  Who knows?

But what I understood from reading around the net is that these books are submitted (with a cover image!) and the crowd votes on which ones are to be published.  Hence a “crowdsourced” publishing platform.

Mr. Bezos, can we level? Adult to adult? Free-marketeer to free-marketeer?

The only reason I don’t call this the dumbest thing I’ve ever read is that I assume you’re not a writer and have no experience of workshops, online workshops, contests and prizes.

Look, if this program is as I imagine, then people will vote on what they want to see “published” by Amazon.  That means you’ll get mostly writers who hope to be published in this program voting on other authors.  Oh, you’ll also get some friends and family.

I suppose there is some merit in picking people with the largest support community. They will talk them up.

But mostly what you’re going to get in votes is from other writers and even when they’re doing their best people are going to vote for two kinds of books: those that they think are technically good; and those that make them sound intelligent.

You see, we writers don’t read like other people.  If we’re evaluating other writers, we will judge them against our own technique.  A truly advanced performer who breaks rules will fall behind the unthreatening craftsman who does everything the how to write books advise.

So, mostly you’re going to get anodyne books that are perfectly executed and which have some element of intellectual snobbery that makes the voter feel smart.  Well-cooked oatmeal with a sprinkling of exotic fruit, say.

The only way to vote on a book we wish to see published is to pay for it.  That is the only sincere vote.

Beyond that $1500 advance?  And 50% for five years?  Why?  Why would anyone do that?  My own novel, unpushed and priced higher than it should have been, has made me more than that.  Friends have made more from their self-published books on Amazon, in the first month.  And could then make more the month after.  At a higher percentage.

$1500 is not enough of a trade off, nor does it make any of us sure you’re going to back this book with everything at your disposal. Particularly when you want us to do the cover ourselves.  I could see some people signing up just to have their covers done.  But this way?  No.

I’d like to suggest that instead of this gimmick, you ask some old pros.  They’ll tell you nothing sells like selling.

You have the heuristics behind the sales.  Look it up.  I’m sure there are writers doing surprisingly well with no push at all and often so so covers.  Several come to mind in science fiction, of all places: Chris Nuttall, Mackey Chandler, Doug Dandrige, Peter Grant.

These are all people who are performing very well, and have multiple books out.  Instead of doing the equivalent of panning for gold in your shower, put some money behind these “pretty well selling, not setting the world on fire authors.”  Give them a decent advance and then bring one of their books out and push, as I’m sure you can: top of the line cover, publicity, tour (if tours work.)

I’d bet you you’d make more money that way.  You see, they’re already doing well before they have any push. With push they could be extraordinary.

And you’d avoid the devil of the workshops.

I could be wrong. For one the program might be badly described. But if it’s not, it will be blah. And the authors who fail to take off will hold it against you.

Consider trusting the free market instead. It won’t disappoint you.


Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to [email protected] to be plugged here on PJ Media.

It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like

TITLE

My Book

AUTHOR

My name as it's on the book cover.

AMAZON LINK

http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/

BLURB

no more than about 100 words.


cover

The Lost Book of Anggird
By Kyra Halland

Stodgy Professor Roric Rossony has been asked to find a way to stop the deterioration of the powerful magica. He hires talented translator Perarre Tabrano to translate books for his research, and finds his orderly existence turned upside down by his unexpected romance with her. Caught up in his new-found love and the most important work of his life, he goes too far in his research, delving into forbidden books hidden away for centuries. Then the most dangerous book of all falls into the Professor’s hands. Magical disaster strikes, and he and Perarre are forced to flee from the authorities in search of the secret of the magica’s origins, a journey that only their growing magical powers and their love for each other will help them survive.


cover

Working The Trenches
By Dan Melson

Graciela Juarez has been an Imperial citizen for several years. She’s got a solid marriage into one of the Empire’s most important families. The Empire has been very good to her. For her self-respect, she wants to spend some time with her shoulder to the wheels of the Empire. Pulling the cart of Civilization. Working the Trenches of Empire


cover

MUSES OF TERRA
By Rob Steiner

Marcus Antonius Cordus thought he’d left his past behind when he escaped Terra and the Roman Consulship six years ago. All he wants is to explore the universe with his adopted mercenary family and stay far away from Roman politics.

But when a new sentient Muse virus invades Roman space—one even feared by the strain infecting Cordus—he is forced to choose between the freedom he’s always wanted and stopping the apocalypse that he was born to prevent.

MUSES OF TERRA is Book Two of the Codex Antonius and sequel to the exciting sci-fi/alternate history novel MUSES OF ROMA.