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Amazon Author Central – New Sites!

This is a little late from the big announcement, but better late than never.

There are more Author Central’s to keep track of at Amazon. The first three, US, UK, and Germany I discussed in this post.

Now we have two more to add:

Japan
France

Please see the other post for advice on how to set them up even if you do not know the languages.

One good thing that I’ve noticed so far, is that any update on the US side appears to propagate across the other sites once they are set up. If anyone has had problems with this, please let others know in the comment section along with what you might have had to do to fix it.

____________________

J.A. Marlow


A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother’s house…

“Always wear the red hood and cape while you are in the forest,” Grandma admonished.

For a teen with purple and red hair, and an attitude to match, the small claustrophobic city of Oburos grows ever smaller with Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life.

An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite. But, there is no time for rest. A conspiracy among the forest inhabitants, moving trees, and other mysteries await her at Grandmother’s house.

Kate learns just how little she knew of the forests, much less its animals. To survive she must learn fast, and that includes trust and teamwork.

And just where was Grandma, anyway?

A Science Fiction 83600, 335 page (approximate) word stand-alone novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood”.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords




Distribution Channel: Smashwords Pt 2

And now we continue analyzing the objections to Smashwords. The main complaints?

  • I sell way more at Amazon with Kindle!
  • Quarterly payments are too slow.
  • Slow sales (for most)
  • Meatgrinder woes!
  • Premium Distribution is too hard to get into!
  • Premium Distribution sales numbers come in too slow.

The first three we went over last week. Now on to the last three!

Meatgrinder woes!

This is the biggest complaint about Smashwords.

Smashwords has a difficult task. Not only do they sell many formats of ebooks themselves, but they also need properly formatted ebooks to send to the other online etailers they distribute to. Add on top of that is that many authors don’t know how to make all the conversions by themselves.

So, Smashwrods came up with a converter program called the Meatgrinder that takes a DOC file and converts it into many formats. In order to do this they need a very specific formatted original file. The converter already has a lot to do so I can understand them wanting to standardize the original file (still would like the option of uploading an epub, though). Each ebook format has special features and problems. The Meatgrinder has to compensate for all of them.

What is the best way to deal with the Meatgrinder so it can do what it needs to do?

People are going to hate this…

FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS!

Yes, indeed. One of the first things you learn in school. Follow the instructions.

This means downloading the Smashwords Style Guide and following it. Create a checklist for yourself if need be. Whatever you need to do. Just follow it.

The only time I’ve had problems with the Meatgrinder is when the Meatgrinder itself had a problem (such as the one in May and June when it was corrupting the NCX file, and then of course the person manually checking for inclusion in the Premium Channels flagged as wrong). Smashwords admitted that it was a problem and worked to fix it.

Okay, I have had other problems. Such as when I messed up the formatting myself. I take responsibility for that. I found the problems, fixed them, and uploaded again.

Will the files resulting from the Meatgrinder be as polished and beautiful as they would if you did them all yourself? No, not typically. Is it enough to turn off readers? No, not typically.

I think that because the actual upload itself is such a big mental step that this has taken on a life of its own. But really, it doesn’t need to be. Follow the instructions of the Smashwords Style Guide (which has good advice for controlling the formatting in Word even for normal-day use) and let the Meatgrinder do its work.

If you have a problem, contact customer service. Smashwords has one of the best customer service response times I’ve had so far among all the vendors, and that includes Amazon.

Premium Distribution is too hard to get into!

This complaint has two parts. We’ll deal with the first one: the time needed for approval into the Premium sales channels.

Smashwords has been a victim of its own success. Sales are exploding. With it the uploads by authors and publishers is exploding. For a while the wait time for an ebook to be checked and either accepted or denied was going on towards a month.

However, Smashwords very quickly realized the problem. It benefits them to get books out into the distribution channels as fast as possible just as it benefits the author. So, they hired new people.

I can personally testify that the new hires have greatly speeded the process.  This is a short-lived complaint as Smashwards has always responded rather quickly.

The second part of this complaint centers around the Meatgrinder. If the source file isn’t just right, or the conversion process hiccups, then the submission will be denied. The author/publisher then has to go and find the problem and upload again. Not much an author can do other than to pay attention to the formatting (see the bigger section above about the Meatgrinder).

“Premium Distribution sales numbers come in too slow.”

Sorry, not the fault of Smashwords. Blame the other etailers for reporting so slow. Again, we are spoiled by having minute-by-minute updates on sales through Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  and even Smashword’s own dashboard. It’s a great thing, but also a recent perk.

In other words, be patient. Get into those other channels and start gathering sales. Remember, this is about the sales over the long-term, not short-term!

With this complaint we also go back to reader demographics and international sales.

Smashwords can get you into other etailer online stores in an easy fashion, and into some stores that will not work with individual authors. Those online etailers each have their own customer base, not only in basic demographics, but also in other countries.

Leave out Premium Distribution, and you are leaving out potential audience.

Also, think of this: Some of these etailers have horrible customer service on the publisher end. Getting answers or help with problems is like pulling teeth. Having Smashwords on your side can be a great benefit. Smashwords is providing so much content, content which is helping with the bottom lines of these etailers, that they are much more likely to listen to Smashwords when a problem comes up. Much more than if you complained yourself.

***

Smashwords has benefits not discussed in the previous sections. I think it’s a good idea to go over them, as well.

Sales Coupons:

Smashwords has the easiest coupon system I have used across all the big sites. They are very handy to use with reviewers, family, and for limited time sales.

The last item is important. You see, Amazon has these little webcrawlers roaming the internet looking for lower prices. If they find one then your ebook will be marked down whether you want it to or not. At times this can be a good thing, but most times it isn’t. If it isn’t wanted, then this can have a horrifying affect on your royalties.

With a coupon the sales price of the ebook displays as normal, satisfying the Amazon webcrawlers that all is well in pricing-land. But, at checkout time, your customers can apply a coupon for any percentage you set including 100% off.

There are so many ways to use these coupons such as book-cards suggested by Dean Wesley Smith. Don’t underestimate the possibilities.

International Authors:

Did you know international authors are having a hard time with Indie publishing? Barnes & Noble’s Pubit program won’t even talk to them. Then there is the problem of the tax treaties with the US (where the big ebook etailer companies are located). 30% is deducted from any payment unless the proper papers are filed and the IRS gives the author permission to be paid without any witholding.

Amazon will work with international authors, but they will not help at all with giving the authors what they need to go to the IRS, specifically a letterhead letter saying, “Yes, they are selling through us.”

Smashwords WILL work with authors. They will help provide the special letter and have a dedicated FAQ section on the subject on their website.

By using Smashwords, not only do international authors have the help they need with the IRS, but they can also use Smashword’s premium distribution to get into online etailers that won’t allow them to sell through directly such as Barnes & Noble.

For international authors, Smashwords is a great thing.

Conclusion

Successful business is about putting together the tools needed to make it a success. Smashwords is a valuable part of the Indi publisher’s toolbox. Smashwords does have its issues, but then so does every other etailer and distributor. It fills a big niche and to ignore it will be to the detriment of your books and sales. There is a reason it’s called one of the “Big 3” when it comes to ebooks.

Think long and hard before turning your back on it.

Summary:

  • Marketing: Offer your wares at as many outlets as possible so that you can reach as many readers as possible. This is the most basic piece of marketing you can do other than write new product.
  • Do not keep all your ‘eggs in one basket.’ The markets are changing. By diversifying you can be ready for it.
  • Do not ignore the international markets. The potential there is massive, and Smashwords can help you reach them.
  • Don’t ignore the small sales in favor of the big sales. A sale is a sale is a sale is a sale (you get the point).
  • Follow the instructions. Smashwords provides a lot of information between their FAQ and Smashwords Style Guide. Use them.
  • Be patient. This is a marathon, not a race. Whether it be payment cycles, sales reporting from distribution channels, or premium approval, remember how not too long ago things were much much worse. Unlike Big Publishing, I haven’t heard of Smashwords delaying its author’s payments.
  • Whether you like it or not, you are now in business for yourself. Treat it as such. Don’t look down on sales and new readers. Keep yourself flexible, and that means not closing your mind to new possibilities.
I hope this these two posts have been helpful. I love the Indie movement, and I want to see as many successful as possible.

__________________________

J.A. Marlow

Welcome to Salmon Run, Alaska! A place of wild animals, wild land, and wild inhabitants…oh, and native legends come alive and an inter-planetary alien conflict at their backdoor.

Zach Callahan and his father, Hawk, arrive in Alaska to begin a new life. Anxious to arrive at the lodge crazy Uncle George left them, they find the first challenge is just getting to Salmon Run.

While still in Cordova, an old prospector declares the two greenhorns unprepared for the realities of an Alaskan winter. Sasha, a young native girl, attaches herself to Zach, much to his disgust. A failed sled-dog won’t leave Hawk alone, giving rise to an old phobia. They think they have it made once they get to the Solar Express, the unique train that will take them through a dark road-less wilderness to their new home.

The same night a massive display of the Aurora Borealis lights up the sky.

The Solar Express shuts down, stranding its passengers in the middle of nowhere. Hidden beneath the snow and ice, and under the path of the rescuers, an alien spaceship also feels the effects of the light show.

Cut off from the rescuers and trapped inside the spaceship, Zach and Sasha must ally themselves with a pair of aliens before either the malfunctioning security systems or the native Alaskan wildlife kills them.

A 37800 word stand-alone Novella in the Salmon Run series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords




Distribution Channel: Smashwords Pt 1

I promised a post about Smashwords and here it is! A word of warning: this turned out to be a little long, but there’s a lot of information to cover. So much so that I had to split it up into two posts.

Smashwords. The ebook etailer and distributor that either has authors/publishers smiling or frothing at the mouth.

First, before I go on, realize that I treat publishing my books as a business and I’m in it for the long-haul. It colors everything I do and decide. With that in mind, let’s start.

What are the main complaints about Smashwords?

  • I sell way more at Amazon with Kindle!
  • Quarterly payments are too slow.
  • Slow sales (for most)
  • Meatgrinder woes!
  • Premium Distribution is too hard to get into!
  • Premium Distribution sales numbers come in too slow.

Some view one or several of the above as deal-breakers and refuse to upload with Smashwords. I believe that is short-sighted, and I would like to explain why by taking each of the objections and analyzing them.

“I sell way more at Amazon with Kindle!”

For many this is true. Amazon has a big market and some believe if they hit Amazon big they have it made. But, there is a problem with this kind of thinking. Amazon does not have ALL the market. Other retailers are nipping at their heels and shaving off market-share every day. Why ignore the other markets that are attracting readers? What if one of them someday starts gaining a bigger market-share than anyone expected?

Even now, isn’t finding readers what is important?

If it is, then you need to know something. Amazon is a friendly place to shop for ebooks for only part of the world. The rest of the world? Amazon is the last place to go. Why do I say that?

Because Amazon tacks on a $2 surcharge on any ebook bought if you are not in one of their preferred geographical locations. That can get expensive really fast. For a $.99 ebook it’s ridiculous.

So, all those international customers who might like to buy your ebooks… are you going to ignore them? They aren’t going to buy from Amazon unless they REALLY want the ebook.

Most don’t. Several have thanked me for thinking of them. They go to places like Smashwords where they can buy the ebooks they want without a surcharge. In fact, they love Smashwords. One payment, no surcharge, and they have the ebook available in multiple formats that they can download or re-download depending on what piece of hardware they want to read on.

Oh, and the royalties? Smashwords does not play games with the royalty rate being different in different geographical locations. The royalty rate is the royalty rate is the royalty rate (unless it’s a sale initiated by an affiliate).

This is a win-win for both the author/publisher and the reader. It means gaining access to a worldwide audience. To purposely ignore it seems rather foolish.

This point is also why I upload to All Romance eBooks (Omnilit). This is another site that has a different demographic than many other sites as well as a very good international audience. By using ARe I can reach readers that may not frequent other ebook retailers. Every person finding my work is a win!

“Quarterly payments are too slow.”

The first time I heard this complaint I almost collapsed laughing. Wow, have Indies become spoiled.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble pay 60 days after the close of a fiscal period (fiscal period = one month) if the sales are above a certain threshold (depending on payment option selected). Typically the threshold is $10.

Once an author is earning more than $10 a month for several months in a row, they get a nice little deposit every month.

Oh yes, this is nice. Very nice indeed. But it’s also a recent development.

In Big Publishing? If you are lucky enough to get a royalty payment above the advance, you will likely get paid every six months (and expect them to be delayed until you yell loud enough and threaten to invoke certain contract clauses). So, from this, to a payment every month.

It’s easy to see why Indies have become spoiled, but come on, a payment every quarter is a reason to balk? You’re still going to get paid! This is money you might not have received any other way by reaching an audience who might not be shopping at the other big etailers.

You’re going to spit at more money? Really?

Slow sales (for most)

As with anything, there is a bell-curve. Most putter along at a definable level, while others go much higher or lower. This is the same across all etailer sites.

First, consider the international customer, those with multiple ebook reading devices who don’t like to convert themselves, or those who dislike DRM (which Smashwords doesn’t use at all). Smashwords is valuable to all of these demographics.

Only a few sales? They are likely sales you wouldn’t have made elsewhere. Again, I ask, isn’t this all about finding readers?

A slow sale is still a sale you might not have made anywhere else.

***

And this is where we break for this post. Part 2 will show up soon, taking on the rest of the objections!

____________________

J.A. Marlow

A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother’s house…

“Always wear the red hood and cape while you are in the forest,” Grandma admonished.

For a teen with purple and red hair, and an attitude to match, the small claustrophobic city of Oburos grows ever smaller with Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life.

An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite. But, there is no time for rest. A conspiracy among the forest inhabitants, moving trees, and other mysteries await her at Grandmother’s house.

Kate learns just how little she knew of the forests, much less its animals. To survive she must learn fast, and that includes trust and teamwork.

And just where was Grandma, anyway?

A Science Fiction 83600 word stand-alone novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” by J.A. Marlow.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords




Amazon Author Central

To aid authors and provide more information about authors to readers, Amazon has what are called ‘Author Pages’. This is a place for a simple bio, an avatar icon, social media feeds (such as for blogs and twitter), and a full listing of books by that author.

As a reader I like them because I get to find out more about the author.

As an author they are a pain in the neck, at least, right at first.

First, Amazon does not set these up automatically. An author must sign up and verify who they are. Then comes the matter of populating the page with the author’s books.

The sequence goes like this:

  1. Find ‘Author Central’ website.
  2. Sign up and wait for Amazon to approve the account.
  3. Set up the preferences, including all social media feeds.
  4. Add all your books one at a time.
  5. Wait for the books as the feeds to show up.

And after the above come these steps:

  1. Manually add your book any time you have a new one come out.
  2. Find all the other ‘Author Central” links for the other Amazon sites.

You see, Amazon does not propogate your author page to the UK or the DE (Germany) websites.*1 You, the author, have to hunt down all these links, and do all the steps listed above to get them set up.

Like I said, a pain in the neck.

However, to help you, here are the links to the various Author Central pages. Be warned, for other countries you will have to create a new account, and for Germany you will need to decifer the page, as there is not an English option. Each site will not acknowledge the existance of your accounts on any of the other sites:

US: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/
UK: https://authorcentral.amazon.co.uk/
Germany (DE): https://authorcentral.amazon.de/

Is it worth the hassle? Yes. It provides information, is a great selling tool to help guide readers to your other work and social media platforms, and makes the author appear to be accessible.

Do I have all of mine set up yet? Sorry to say I don’t, but I’m working on it!

*1: I’ve seen a handful of authors say their accounts did propogate over. But I, and a lot of others, are not so lucky.




Oh Noes! Amazon is Getting Too Big!

I’ve been seeing a curious fear-reaction on a number of blogs, comments, in articles and news. All to the news that Amazon is opening up more imprints, furthering their steps from book seller to also book publisher.

And the comments to the Indies, who are happily selling their wares without any publishers but themselves? “Yeah the percentages are great right now, but what happens when Amazon changes the terms/drops royalties/kicks out Indies/(insert fear here).”

You know what? One day I’m going to die. So is everyone else.

But that doesn’t stop me from living!

As with any other aspect of life, you deal with what you have now, plan for the future with the information you have available NOW, try to make informed and good decisions… and then you move forward.

Fear is a dangerous place to make good business decisions (or life decisions). Yes, Amazon is big. Yes, they can do big damage if they choose to. Yes, an individual author means nothing.

But like in life, if there is a change we’ll have to adapt or die. So will everyone else.

Time to take the fear out of it.

Diversify! Why sell only through Amazon? There is no reason not to also distribute ebooks through Barnes & Noble, Kobo (and all their affiliate stores), Diesel, Sony (and all their affiliate stores), Smashwords (so many affiliate stores!), XinXii, Omnilit, and so many others. That doesn’t including selling off your own website, if you want to go through the hassle of setting one up.

We really have no control with any of the other online retailers, either, but at least by having the ebooks available in so many places we’re not allowing Amazon to have a monopoly in our ebook availability. This not only helps us with sales and finding new readers, but it also helps balance out the business moves Amazon makes.

The best any of us can do is take the situation and make the most of it. Fortunately there are a lot of avenues to sell ebooks right now. We can list and sell right NOW for very nice terms.

The only big sales avenue I’m opting out of at the moment is Google until their royalties, interface, and contract terms improve. As an individual author/publisher my opting out is pretty much the only influence I have. On any company.

Put away the fear and live!

Or, to turn this into a writing analogy:

Put away the fear and write and sell!




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Mom (A.K.A. Mother Hen) Cancer Fund

Yes, our very own beloved Mother Hen is now struggling with a GBM tumor. The family is struggling because of no insurance and we are desperate to get her the life-saving treatment she needs. If you have a little extra and would like to help out this very deserving person, please consider giving a little donation to help her along the way. Thank you!

GoFundMe Help For Mother Hen

Click Here to use Paypal

Writerly Progress

2015 Yearly New Words
47.15%  188600 of 400000
2015 Yearly Revision Words
9.53%  38100 of 400000

Free Serial: Zerralon

Available Ebook Formats

The works of J.A. Marlow are available in a wide number of formats including DRM-Free. Below is a list of a few of the retailers the various formats can be found at.

Mobi (Kindle compatible): Amazon, Drive Thru Scifi, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Epub (Nook compatible): Barnes & Noble, Drive Thru Scifi, Google Play, Kobo, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii, iBookstore

PDF: Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Palm DOC/iSolo (Palm compatible): Smashwords

RTF (Rich Text Format): Smashwords

LRF (Older Sony Reader format): Smashwords

Plain Text: Smashwords

Online Reading (HTML): Google Play, Smashwords