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.