Little Annoyances

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Tapping a Pencil

Rennett Stowe via Compfight

 At the end of last month I received an email from Amazon in which I was informed that my KDP Select title, An Unproductive Woman, was in danger of being nixed from the program.  Apparently, against KDP guidelines, my novel is still available on iTunes.  Amazon furnished a link and they were, of course, correct.

I immediately contacted Smashwords, as I’d previously published with them, to report this.  To my shock, as I’d totally forgotten, I was informed that Smashwords had removed their copy of my book from iTunes.  The culprit was Xlibris. It is their copy of my ebook that remains available on iTunes.

When I first published An Unproductive Woman in 2008, I did so through Xlibris, believing their package offered so much for so little, believing they would provide the great entrance I needed into the “writing life”.  (I know.)  I try not to live my life with regrets. I make decisions that I am willing to live with.  Even if things go awry in the end, I willingly, if not happily, chock it up to a lesson learned and am able to move on.  That is how I feel about my time with Xlibris.  In fact, Xlibris, as costly as it was for me, taught me what the “self” in self-publishing is all about and what it is definitely not all about… if that makes any sense.

In 2008, I was working full time and back in school so once An Unproductive Woman was officially published, I did absolutely nothing to promote it, until about a year ago when I remembered that I had a book somewhere out there languoring in the land of nothingness. I started networking and learning about self-publishing and realized that I never needed Xlibris and also that they have done little else for me other than make my book available via distribution to the public at large, and ask me for more money.

In May of this year, when I decided to enter Amazon’s KDP Select program for a three month “let’s see if this will make any difference in sales” trial, I contacted Xlibris and asked that they remove my ebook from all other distribution channels.  I did the same with Smashwords.  Once all looked clear, I signed on and… tada!  I’m selling thousands of copies a month.

Just kidding.

Actually, I’ve gone from selling a copy every couple of months to a very modest few each month.  Very modest.  Extremely modest.  Painfully modest.  But, nonetheless this is an improvement.  I never expected my efforts, the few that time allows me, to bring about overnight success or over decade success, to be completely honest.  I like writing and I’d do it even if I wasn’t getting paid.  Which is not to say that I don’t want to be paid, only that I write because I must.

In any case, between May and October my novel apparently was never removed from iTunes.  And, when I contacted Xlibris a couple of weeks ago, I was assured they’d clear up the situation.  In the interim, I’ve contacted iTunes directly.  Did you know they have NO call center and even sending an email is a pain?  And when you do send emails it is almost always to the wrong department and you almost always get a form email back that lists a half a dozen other links to help you solve your problem.  Of course none of those links will address your issue either.

My book is still on iTunes.

I called Xlibris back again today.  Do you know how aggravating it is to speak to a different person each time and have to repeat your problem each time?  Have you any idea?  Yeah.

So, as I write this post I simmer… but only a little.  My point here, other than a tiny bit of venting is this:

  1. If you ever decide to self-publish, know that you can do it on your own at little to no cost to yourself.
  2. The online community of indie authors is enormous and enormously generous.  If you get stuck, they will help you, coach you, befriend you, congratulate you, support you, encourage you, walk you through processes, and commiserate with you and none of it will cost you a penny.
  3. When you have a day where some little annoyance makes you feel like you may tip over the edge, stop and reflect.  I guarantee that you have so much to be grateful for.  It could always be worse.

There.  I feel better.  How about you?

My Literary Ghetto Cousin

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Back in late May I submitted An Unproductive Woman (AUW) into Amazon’s KDP Select program.  Since then I haven’t seen a massive jump in sales but in all honesty, I didn’t expect to.  One of the reasons I decided to go with KDP Select has to do with my lack of time to promote AUW.  Making my book available at multiple outlets, in my opinion, did nothing to help (or hurt) sales.  I figured that simplification and consolidation would make my life easier.  I also wanted to see if the increased exposure on Amazon would help.

Meh.  Not so much.  That said, despite only a nominal increase in sales, I figure I’ve still come out ahead if I don’t have to think about what I’m doing and where with AUW.  This gives me head space to think about and write my next novel.

About two weeks ago I took advantage of KDP Select’s free promotion.  Those signed up with KDP Select are allotted 5 days in every 90 day cycle to promote their books for free.  To me, the potential benefit was clear.  More people would have an opportunity to read and hopefully review my book which should turn into increased sales.  Right?

I was stunned to see after less than 24 hours that there were nearly 700 downloads of AUW.  After five consecutive days, total downloads were a little more than 1200. Certainly not stunning, but it is nice knowing that over 1200 people have my book in their Kindles.  If even 10% eventually read AUW… Wow, wouldn’t that be grand?  I mean, isn’t that what we writers want more than anything?  To be read?  Within a few days my humble little first novel garnered two 4 star reviews.  I was tickled to have those reviews and I am hoping for more.

I noticed something that disturbed me though.  At first I thought it hilarious, but now I find it more than a little annoying.  What, you ask?

GarbageCreative Commons License Bart Everson via Compfight

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not snobby and I don’t think I’m the next Jane Eyre or anything but— Okay, I’ll tell you.
In the Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought section, the selection of related books are, shall we say, sort of trashy.  All of them.  To give you an idea of what I mean, one book is titled Ghetto Pocahontas.

No lie.

How did this happen?

I started to worry that perhaps I assigned AUW to the wrong genre.  I know that there are a lot of people out there, actually more than I ever thought, who enjoy the risqué and romantic.  I’m not one of those people.  I’m really not one of those people.  (Hold on a sec while I try not to erk.)  I’m also not a literature snob…ok, maybe I am, a little, but the caliber of book associated with mine is, at least to me, appallingly cheap and cheesy.

Cheesy Gouda Earrings Stéphanie Kilgast via Compfight

Big Girls Need Love?

A Child of a Crackhead?

Sucka For Love??????

I am certainly not passing judgment on the people read this stuff, because I want them to read my stuff too, but the fact is, I don’t want my book lumped into the same category or on the same page as those other ones.  I’m worried that people who happen to peruse my title will see those related titles and peruse right away from my page thinking that my book is written in the same vain.  I would.

I love how Amazon seems to know exactly what I am thinking and what I want.  When I type the web address into my search bar and the Amazon home page pops up their little cookie algorithm psychics are able to match me up with products and titles based not just my previous purchases, but also on things I’ve merely looked at before.

AUW is currently listed in the contemporary fiction section and literary fiction.  I’m thinking of removing it from the contemporary section as the books that I believe are most like mine are listed in literary fiction.

So what happened?  How did the reader of Ghetto Pocahontas stumble upon my book?  And is there any possible way to make Amazon stop telling people about it?

Someone

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On May 19th (wow, it’s already been more than a month) I enrolled my novel An Unproductive Woman in the Amazon KDP Select program.  I know that there are some authors who like the program and others who don’t.  Initially, I thought that KDP Select was an attempt by “the man” to control us little ‘ol authors, but the more I thought about it in relation to myself, the more I realized that I have NOTHING TO LOSE and anything (and I mean anything) at all to gain.  So I enrolled, mostly as an experiment, to see how my  humble novel would do.

Well, I made a few sales.  By a few, I mean a couple here and there.  Literally.  I’m not being modest here.  Honestly, one, maybe two sales a week.  Some of this is my fault…actually I take most of the blame.  I haven’t exactly been promoting.  Mostly, I don’t know how.  I tweet about AUW on occasion but I feel weird about dropping consistent consecutive tweets about my book on twitter, and Facebook, and G+ like some people do.  Kudos to them, but I just feel weird.  Don’t get me wrong, I do, just not very much.

Wednesday of this week, I decided to get online (finally, because I’ve been meaning to do this since joining KDP Select) and make AUW free for five days.  Yesterday was day one.

I don’t know what other people’s sales look like, but they certainly can’t be worse than mine have been, so you’ll certainly understand why when I checked my account last night I was more than a little thrilled to see that in less than 24 hours my book rose from  a rank of 448,224 in the Kindle Book Store to 296.  None of this actually translates into cash, which is okay with me at the moment.  I’m awed by the fact that nearly 900 people have copies of my book in their Kindle.  Of note, my novel is currently ranked #41 in the Best Sellers in Contemporary Fiction Top 100 Free.  Pretty awesome.

So, this brings me to my point, in a round about way.  Writing is the thing that I love to do. Writing is the thing that I would do all day everyday (you’re right, I have difficulty balancing) if circumstance and time permitted.  Last night, I gave a lot of thought to what this whole Amazon thing means and how I feel about the sudden jump in downloads.

There are people out there, myself included, who always have their eyes peeled for a good cheap or free book.  These downloads may not translate into great reviews.  Let’s be honest.  My book may just sit in hundreds (perhaps thousands by the time this is over) Kindles and never be read.  Never.  But someone will read it.  Right?  Someone will like the story.  Someone will review it on Amazon.  Someone will tell their friend about this new indie author who wrote this terrific book called An Unproductive Woman.  Someone will be angry with my characters, or love them, or cry for them.  Someone.

And that is how I will know that I have done my job.