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Creating A New Pen Name for Already-Published Work

This post is inspired by a comment I made to Dean Wesley Smith’s reprinting of his “The New World of Publishing: Pen Names” blog article. In the comments someone asked if they should rebrand work to a new pen name that they have already published. That’s a hard question to answer.

First, decide why you would want a different pen name for the works in question. Go read Dean’s post on the subject and then think it over. Make the decision based on business reasons, not emotion.

My suggestion is to make the decision now and not put it off to later. Then stick with that decision, whichever way you choose to go.

Okay, you’ve done that and you are now sure these stories need a new pen name?

This was me this spring. I’d already published 3 stories in the “Gateway Roadhouse” series by the time I made this decision. Yes, three stories already out in the wilds selling.

The problem was compounded by a fourth story waited in the wings, just about ready to come back from the editor. Then I started getting other ideas that sorta fit with the series, with some of them branching off into a completely different genre that are even further from the works I write and release under the “J.A. Marlow” pen name. The more the ideas came, the more uncomfortable I grew about having everything under one name.

Okay, decision made. Time for a plan.

Now, my sales are not huge, as in not hundreds per month, but they do chug along at a consistent rate. Still, I worried about putting off any readers I did have. I also took this opportunity as a chance to look over absolutely everything about the books. Here is what I ended up doing:

  1. Researched the types of author names in the subgenre. Then started looking for a short name (to make it easier to fit on a cover) that I could brand for this specific genre and subgenre. I also checked to see if the domain name was available and once the decision on the name was finalized I grabbed it.
  2. Covers: Used what I have learned over the past year+ to create stronger and more professional covers. I also branded them to a specific design to make them stand out as their own and not look like anything under my main penname.
  3. Revisited the series name. “Gateway Roadhouse” still worked as it’s the location that is common to all the stories, but characters are not. Neither is it a ‘series’ in that the stories can be read in almost any order (barring perhaps the first two). After more research and talking to other writers, the “Gateway Roadhouse Series” was changed to “Tales from the Gateway Roadhouse Chronicles”.
  4. Rechecked the book descriptions and ended up rewriting all of them. Again, this is because I’ve grown stronger and learned a lot about writing book descriptions. I might as well apply it!
  5. Redid the back-matter of all the ebooks and started promoting the series within itself with the listings of “Other Books From This Author” portion.
  6. With all the ebook files now changed, it was time to go to all the retailers to update the product listings. This mean changing the descriptions, the penname, files, and covers (Plus I rechecked the categories the ebooks were listed in). This was painless to do other than taking time.
  7. Contacted Amazon to help me create a new penname author page and on request, they were kind enough to move the book listings from my old pen name to the new one (as far as I can tell there isn’t a way for an author to do this transfer themselves).
  8. Posted to my blog about the rebranding as it’s an open penname.
  9. Other possible step: With Amazon it’s possible to contact KDP customer service and ask them to push a new version of the ebooks out to previous customers. As far as I know, this is not possible with the other retailers, although the new versions are immediately available for new download at Smashwords and DriveThruFiction if the customer notices.
  10. Other possible step: Set up any social media accounts for the new name. For those who do not participate actively in social media, this step can be skipped (But do consider creating a static webpage for the new domain).

I’m now a couple months in from the change, and the interesting thing is that sales have increased. I’m sure it’s a combination of all the things I did to prepare for the re-branding and not one specific thing, but it’s still a great surprise. And this without having time yet to create and put up the static webpage for the new name!

It’s odd that sometimes once you make a decision and just do it, everything in your mind and body tells you it is either the wrong or right thing to do. For me, this was the right thing to do. I don’t regret it at all.


A science fiction retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood"J.A. Marlow

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

An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite from Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life. 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 stand-alone novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood”.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Kobo

“Amazon Serials” Launch – A Few Thoughts

Along with everything else they are launching this week, Amazon also launched a new service called “Kindle Serials (Great Reads, One Episode at a Time)”. Their description:

“Kindle Serials are stories published in episodes. When you buy a Kindle Serial, you will receive all existing episodes on your Kindle immediately, followed by future episodes as they are published. Enjoy reading as the author creates the story, and discuss episodes with other readers in the Kindle forums.”

Kindle Serial Submission page

Kindle Serial Front Page

First, yes you need to submit to them. You cannot opt into this through KDP.

Web serials, also called webfic and litfic, have a long tradition on the internet. Websites like Tuesday Serial, Web Fiction Guide, EpiGuide, Muse’s Success list such endeavors. Such type of fiction is huge business in countries like China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan with millions of users and stories that go into the millions of words. In the US, we have websites like Wattpad who, by hosting the stories on their site, allow users (readers and writers) to “Connect, collaborate and share interactive stories or stumble across the newest trends in fiction.”

Now Amazon is entering the fray. I do have a few thoughts about what I’ve discovered after poking through the Amazon information:

NOTE 1: The price listed is for ALL updates, not one episode. In other words, you better be pricing the offering as a novel from the start:

“This book is a Kindle Serial. Kindle Serials are stories published in episodes, with future episodes delivered at NO ADDITIONAL COST. This serial currently contains one episode out of an estimated six total episodes, and new episodes will be delivered every month.” (Emphasis mine.)

This is unlike other models in Asia where there is a micropayment per episode, and the episodes tend to be under 1000 words. This encourages long sagas that the readers in those markets lap up. With Amazon, the way the payment structure is set up, it does not encourage the longer works. The size of the episodes brings us to the next note…

NOTE 2: Episode “Chapters” are 10,000 words (in science fiction this is a novelette). Personally I really wish Amazon didn’t have that threshold so high. In webfic the installments are usually under 1000 words with the average between 300-800 words. A better compromise would have been a more typical chapter length, such as between 2500-5000 words. This would have equalled an average webfic monthly output using the averages I mentioned (Oh horrors! Here comes the math! Once a week: 800×4=3200. Three times a week: 500x3x4=6000 words. Five days a week: 300x5x4=6000 words).

NOTE 3: The program is non-exclusive. Which means the stories can appear for sale on other websites. Someone who was contacted months ago by Amazon for this program says they can even set a first episode free to garner interests, as well as release a separate book for sale. Authors set the price. These are very good things.

It has some good and bad points so far, but I don’t think Amazon really thought this all the way through. There are very successful models of this all over the world. A hybrid of what Amazon came out with and the types of setups seen in Asian markets would have been nice to see.

I’m in the planning stages for a webfiction serial for this website (as an experiment), but I think I can do better releasing collections of ‘episodes’ than this. Plus, I can engage with the fans on my own website and hopefully interest them in my other books (and maybe encourage them to sign them up for the newsletter). I like the idea of holding the demographic and subscriber information instead of a third party that won’t share (Amazon does not share this with publishers). Plus, discussion on the Kindle forums? As an author, I shudder in horror as overall, we are not welcome there and the oversight of moderators is notoriously bad (if they ever bother to show up).

Whether Amazon Serials would be worth using would depend on how much push Amazon gives the program and if they can get a handle on their forums. They did well in not requiring an exclusive to the content. As a writer, I’m interested in the concept, but it all comes down to the details of the deal.

Each writer will need to make up their own mind on if this program is for them or not.


J.A. Marlow

The String Weavers (The String Weavers – Book 1)

Kelsey Hale thinks she’s just a typical mixed-up teenager. Everyone feels that way, her teachers assure her. Yet, strange things happen to her, like food disappearing before she can eat it and hearing music no one else hears.

Then a giant flaming bird drops an alien at her feet. Well, good grief, how can you ignore something like that?

Abducted from Earth, the only planet she’s ever known, Kelsey finds herself thrust into the middle of a deadly conflict among alien worlds and parallel universe. She must not only survive herself, but also find a way to rescue her father from a dangerous group with unknown motives.

In the process, she’s confronted by a hidden secret about herself which will shake the very foundation of who and what she thought she was.

And connecting it all are the mysterious Weavers.

A 97,100 word, 389 page (approximate), science fiction novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

The Rebranding of a Series

I have this poor little series that came out of nowhere.

Why is it “poor?”

Because it doesn’t fit in anywhere. It doesn’t fit in with the “Coalition of Worlds” Universe which includes the Alaska science fiction series “Salmon Run.” This universe includes a new series set in the distant future. No details to release yet, as the idea is still percolating.

It doesn’t fit in with “StarBlink” Universe with its few truly comfortable habitable worlds of that universe, which spans across time both before, during, and after the StarBlink event. The world of “Into the Forest Shadows” being one of those few naturally human-compatible planet, but oops, it’s already inhabited.

Nor does if fit in with the “Galactic Commonwealth” universe which includes the Redpoint One romance series, The Children of Jad, and a host of other stories.

See, this series involves a time-traveling galactic-traveling roadhouse with a mind of its own, a cantankerous multi-limbed cook, a giant cockroach poet, and a refugee from 1800’s London. Among other (strange) things.

The Gateway Roadhouse building can literally appear anywhere at anytime for any reason. Only it knows for sure why it will appear. Other than the travel aspect of the building, the series is not pure science fiction, either. The stories run the gamut from suspense, steampunk/steampulp, a little bit of a thriller, historical, adventure, and even romance.

The “Gateway Roadhouse” series needed to find its own home. It now has one.

One of the points of pennames as a brand is so a reader knows what to expect when they see a name. It’s the reason Nora Roberts is employing the penname of J.D. Robb for her science fiction oriented novels. She is not the only author to do this. Dean Wesley Smith has a great article on this subject on his blog which includes other reasons for using pennames in traditional publishing and why one might want to use them on the Indie side.

Because of this, the Gateway roadhouse has now been rebranded under the new penname of “Alex Vaugn” as of the publishing of a new “Gateway Roadhouse” novelette called “Oxygen Kisses.”

Ahh, it feels so good to find a home. 😀

Spread The Word – Kris Rusch – Royalty Statement Update 2012

Kris Kathryn Rusch’s blog was hacked about 12 hours after she posted an update to the infamous Royalty Statement. For anyone who didn’t read it, it was reporting ebook sale underreporting by many major book publishers. It’s gone on to be one of her most famous posts, and people still talk about it.

Not only did her main site go down, but then when she reposted it on another of her sites, *IT* then went down. And now it’s posted on her Livejournal, and it looks like that has malware on it already.

Yeah, a lot of people are speculating about it. It ranges from conspiracy theories, to stalker issues, or a tremendous amount of bad luck. Me? I think one is bad luck. But, now we’re going on three sites, and possibly more? Nah, something else is going on.

Kris Rusch has given approval for everyone to spread the blog post that got hacked far and wide. If you want to also repost it to spread the word, please make sure you leave Kris’s copyright notice at the end of the post intact.

So, here we go…

Beginning of post:

Welcome to one of my other websites. This one is for my mystery persona Paladin, from my Spade/Paladin short stories. She has a website in the stories, and I thought it would be cool to have the website online. It’s currently the least active of my sites, so I figured it was perfect for what I needed today.

Someone hacked my website. Ye Olde Website Guru and I are repairing the damage but it will take some time. The hacker timed the hack to coincide with the posting of my Business Rusch column. Since the hack happened 12 hours after I originally posted the column, I’m assuming that the hacker doesn’t like what I wrote, and is trying to shut me down. Aaaaah. Poor hacker. Can’t argue on logic, merits, or with words, so must use brute force to make his/her/its point. Poor thing.

Since someone didn’t want you to see this post, I figure I’d better get it up ASAP. Obviously there’s something here someone objects to–which makes it a bit more valuable than usual.

Here’s the post, which I am reloading from my word file, so that I don’t embed any malicious code here. I’m even leaving off the atrocious artwork (which we’re redesigning) just to make sure nothing got corrupted from there.

The post directs you to a few links from my website. Obviously, those are inactive at the moment. Sorry about that. I hope you get something out of this post.

I’m also shutting off comments here, just to prevent another short-term hack. Also, I don’t want to transfer them over. If you have comments, send them via e-mail and when the site comes back up, I’ll post them. Mark them “comment” in the header of the e-mail. Thanks!

The Business Rusch: Royalty Statement Update 2012

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about the fact that my e-book royalties from a couple of my traditional publishers looked wrong. Significantly wrong. After I posted that blog, dozens of writers contacted me with similar information. More disturbingly, some of these writers had evidence that their paper book royalties were also significantly wrong.

Writers contacted their writers’ organizations. Agents got the news. Everyone in the industry, it seemed, read those blogs, and many of the writers/agents/organizations vowed to do something. And some of them did.

I hoped to do an update within a few weeks after the initial post. I thought my update would come no later than summer of 2011.

I had no idea the update would take a year, and what I can tell you is—

Bupkis. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.

That doesn’t mean that nothing happened. I personally spoke to the heads of two different writers’ organizations who promised to look into this. I spoke to half a dozen attorneys active in the publishing field who were, as I mentioned in those posts, unsurprised. I spoke to a lot of agents, via e-mail and in person, and I spoke to even more writers.

The writers have kept me informed. It seems, from the information I’m still getting, that nothing has changed. The publishers that last year used a formula to calculate e-book royalties (rather than report actual sales) still use the formula to calculate e-book royalties this year.

I just got one such royalty statement in April from one of those companies and my e-book sales from them for six months were a laughable ten per novel. My worst selling e-books, with awful covers, have sold more than that. Significantly more.

To this day, writers continue to notify their writers’ organizations, and if those organizations are doing anything, no one has bothered to tell me. Not that they have to. I’m only a member of one writers’ organizations, and I know for fact that one is doing nothing.

But the heads of the organizations I spoke to haven’t kept me apprised. I see nothing in the industry news about writers’ organizations approaching/auditing/dealing with the problems with royalty statements. Sometimes these things take place behind the scenes, and I understand that. So, if your organization is taking action, please do let me know so that I can update the folks here.

The attorneys I spoke to are handling cases, but most of those cases are individual cases. An attorney represents a single writer with a complaint about royalties. Several of those cases got settled out of court. Others are still pending or are “in review.” I keep hearing noises about class actions, but so far, I haven’t seen any of them, nor has anyone notified me.

The agents disappointed me the most. Dean personally called an agent friend of ours whose agency handles two of the biggest stars in the writing firmament. That agent (having previously read my blog) promised the agency was aware of the problem and was “handling it.”

Two weeks later, I got an e-mail from a writer with that agency asking me if I knew about the new e-book addendum to all of her contracts that the agency had sent out. The agency had sent the addendum with a “sign immediately” letter. I hadn’t heard any of this. I asked to see the letter and the addendum.

This writer was disturbed that the addendum was generic. It had arrived on her desk—get this—without her name or the name of the book typed in. She was supposed to fill out the contract number, the book’s title, her name, and all that pertinent information.

I had her send me her original contracts, which she did. The addendum destroyed her excellent e-book rights in that contract, substituting better terms for the publisher. Said publisher handled both of that agency’s bright writing stars.

So I contacted other friends with that agency. They had all received the addendum. Most had just signed the addendum without comparing it to the original contract, trusting their agent who was (after all) supposed to protect them.

Wrong-o. The agency, it turned out, had made a deal with the publisher. The publisher would correct the royalties for the big names if agency sent out the addendum to every contract it had negotiated with that contract. The publisher and the agency both knew that not all writers would sign the addendum, but the publisher (and probably the agency) also knew that a good percentage of the writers would sign without reading it.

In other words, the publisher took the money it was originally paying to small fish and paid it to the big fish—with the small fish’s permission.

Yes, I’m furious about this, but not at the publisher. I’m mad at the authors who signed, but mostly, I’m mad at the agency that made this deal. This agency had a chance to make a good decision for all of its clients. Instead, it opted to make a good deal for only its big names.

Do I know for a fact that this is what happened? Yeah, I do. Can I prove it? No. Which is why I won’t tell you the name of the agency, nor the name of the bestsellers involved. (Who, I’m sure, have no idea what was done in their names.)

On a business level what the agency did makes sense. The agency pocketed millions in future commissions without costing itself a dime on the other side, since most of the writers who signed the addendum probably hadn’t earned out their advances, and probably never would.

On an ethical level it pisses me off. You’ll note that my language about agents has gotten harsher over the past year, and this single incident had something to do with it. Other incidents later added fuel to the fire, but they’re not relevant here. I’ll deal with them in a future post.

Yes, there are good agents in the world. Some work for unethical agencies. Some work for themselves. I still work with an agent who is also a lawyer, and is probably more ethical than I am.

But there are yahoos in the agenting business who make the slimy used car salesmen from 1970s films look like action heroes. But, as I said, that’s a future post.

I have a lot of information from writers, most of which is in private correspondence, none of which I can share, that leads me to believe that this particular agency isn’t the only one that used my blog on royalty statements to benefit their bestsellers and hurt their midlist writers. But again, I can’t prove it.

So I’m sad to report that nothing has changed from last year on the royalty statement front.


The reason I was so excited about the Department of Justice lawsuit against the five publishers wasn’t because of the anti-trust issues (which do exist on a variety of levels in publishing, in my opinion), but because the DOJ accountants will dig, and dig, and dig into the records of these traditional publishers, particularly one company named in the suit that’s got truly egregious business practices.

Those practices will change, if only because the DOJ’s forensic accountants will request information that the current accounting systems in most publishing houses do not track. The accounting system in all five of these houses will get overhauled, and brought into the 21st century, and that will benefit writers. It will be an accidental benefit, but it will occur.

The audits alone will unearth a lot of problems. I know that some writers were skeptical that the auditors would look for problems in the royalty statements, but all that shows is a lack of understanding of how forensic accounting works. In the weeks since the DOJ suit, I’ve contacted several accountants, including two forensic accountants, and they all agree that every pebble, every grain of sand, will be inspected because the best way to hide funds in an accounting audit is to move them to a part of the accounting system not being audited.

So when an organization like the DOJ audits, they get a blanket warrant to look at all of the accounting, not just the files in question. Yes, that’s a massive task. Yes, it will take years. But the change is gonna come.

From the outside.

Those of you in Europe might be seeing some of that change as well, since similar lawsuits are going on in Europe.

I do know that several writers from European countries, New Zealand, and Australia have written to me about similar problems in their royalty statements. The unifying factor in those statements is the companies involved. Again, you’d recognize the names because they’ve been in the news lately…dealing with lawsuits.

Ironically for me, those two blog posts benefitted me greatly. I had been struggling to get my rights back from one publisher (who is the biggest problem publisher), and the week I posted the blog, I got contacted by my former editor there, who told me that my rights would come back to me ASAP. Because, the former editor told me (as a friend), things had changed since Thursday (the day I post my blog), and I would get everything I needed.

In other words, let’s get the troublemaker out of the house now. Fine with me.

Later, I discovered some problems with a former agency. I pointed out the problems in a letter, and those problems got solved immediately. I have several friends who’ve been dealing with similar things from that agency, and they can’t even get a return e-mail. I know that the quick response I got is because of this blog.

I also know that many writers used the blog posts from last year to negotiate more accountability from their publishers for future royalties. That’s a real plus. Whether or not it happens is another matter because I noted something else in this round of royalty statements.

Actually, that’s not fair. My agent caught it first. I need to give credit where credit is due, and since so many folks believe I bash agents, let me say again that my current agent is quite good, quite sharp, and quite ethical.

My agent noticed that the royalty statements from one of my publishers were basket accounted on the statement itself. Which is odd, considering there is no clause in any of the contracts I have with that company that allows for basket accounting.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with basket accounting, this is what it means:

A writer signs a contract with Publisher A for three books. The contract is a three-book contract. One contract, three books. Got that?

Okay, a contract with a basket-accounting clause allows the publisher to put all three books in the same accounting “basket” as if the books are one entity. So let’s say that book one does poorly, book two does better, and book three blows out of the water.

If book three earns royalties, those royalties go toward paying off the advances on books one and two.

Like this:

Advance for book one: $10,000

Advance for book two: $10,000

Advance for book three: $10,000

Book one only earned back $5,000 toward its advance. Book two only earned $6,000 toward its advance.

Book three earned $12,000—paying off its advance, with a $2,000 profit.

In a standard contract without basket accounting, the writer would have received the $2,000 as a royalty payment.

But with basket accounting, the writer receives nothing. That accounting looks like this:

Advance on contract 1: $30,000

Earnings on contract 1: $23,000

Amount still owed before the advance earns out: $7,000

Instead of getting $2,000, the writer looks at the contract and realizes she still has $7,000 before earning out.

Without basket accounting, she would have to earn $5,000 to earn out Book 1, and $4,000 to earn out Book 2, but Book 3 would be paying her cold hard cash.

Got the difference?

Now, let’s go back to my royalty statement. It covered three books. All three books had three different one-book contracts, signed years apart. You can’t have basket accounting without a basket (or more than one book), but I checked to see if sneaky lawyers had inserted a clause that I missed which allowed the publisher to basket account any books with that publisher that the publisher chose.


I got a royalty statement with all of my advances basket accounted because…well, because. The royalty statement doesn’t follow the contract(s) at all.

Accounting error? No. These books had be added separately. Accounting program error (meaning once my name was added, did the program automatically basket account)? Maybe.

But I’ve suspected for nearly three years now that this company (not one of the big traditional publishers, but a smaller [still large] company) has been having serious financial problems. The company has played all kinds of games with my checks, with payments, with fulfilling promises that cost money.

This is just another one of those problems.

My agent caught it because he reads royalty statements. He mentioned it when he forwarded the statements. I would have caught it as well because I read royalty statements. Every single one. And I compare them to the previous statement. And often, I compare them to the contract.

Is this “error” a function of the modern publishing environment? No, not like e-book royalties, which we’ll get back to in a moment. I’m sure publishers have played this kind of trick since time immemorial. Royalty statements are fascinating for what they don’t say rather than for what they say.

For example, on this particular (messed up) royalty statement, e-books are listed as one item, without any identification. The e-books should be listed separately (according to ISBN) because Amazon has its own edition, as does Apple, as does B&N. Just like publishers must track the hardcover, trade paper, and mass market editions under different ISBNs, they should track e-books the same way.

The publisher that made the “error” with my books had no identifying number, and only one line for e-books. Does that mean that this figure included all e-books, from the Amazon edition to the B&N edition to the Apple edition? Or is this publisher, which has trouble getting its books on various sites (go figure), is only tracking Amazon? From the numbers, it would seem so. Because the numbers are somewhat lower than books in the same series that I have on Amazon, but nowhere near the numbers of the books in the same series if you add in Apple and B&N.

I can’t track this because the royalty statement has given me no way to track it. I would have to run an audit on the company. I’m not sure I want to do that because it would take my time, and I’m moving forward.

That’s the dilemma for writers. Do we take on our publishers individually? Because—for the most part—our agents aren’t doing it. The big agencies, the ones who actually have the clout and the numbers to defend their clients, are doing what they can for their big clients and leaving the rest in the dust.

Writers’ organizations seem to be silent on this. And honestly, it’s tough for an organization to take on a massive audit. It’s tough financially and it’s tough politically. I know one writer who headed a writer’s organization a few decades ago. She spearheaded an audit of major publishers, and it cost her her writing career. Not many heads of organizations have the stomach for that.

As for intellectual property attorneys (or any attorney for that matter), very few handle class actions. Most handle cases individually for individual clients. I know of several writers who’ve gone to attorneys and have gotten settlements from publishers. The problem here is that these settlements only benefit one writer, who often must sign a confidentiality agreement so he can’t even talk about what benefit he got from that agreement.

One company that I know of has revamped its royalty statements. They appear to be clearer. The original novel that I have with that company isn’t selling real well as an e-book, and that makes complete sense since the e-book costs damn near $20. (Ridiculous.) The other books that I have with that company, collaborations and tie-ins, seem to be accurately reported, although I have no way to know. I do appreciate that this company has now separated out every single e-book venue into its own category (B&N, Amazon, Apple) via ISBN, and I can actually see the sales breakdown.

So that’s a positive (I think). Some of the smaller companies have accurate statements as well—or at least, statements that match or improve upon the sales figures I’m seeing on indie projects.

This is all a long answer to a very simple question: What’s happened on the royalty statement front in the past year?

A lot less than I had hoped.

So here’s what you traditionally published writers can do. Track your royalty statements. Compare them to your contracts. Make sure the companies are reporting what they should be reporting.

If you’re combining indie and traditional, like I am, make sure the numbers are in the same ballpark. Make sure your traditional Amazon numbers are around the same numbers you get for your indie titles. If they aren’t, look at one thing first: Price. I expect sales to be much lower on that ridiculous $20 e-book. If your e-books through your traditional publisher are $15 or more, then sales will be down. If the e-books from your traditional publisher are priced around $10 or less, then they should be somewhat close in sales to your indie titles. (Or, if traditional publishers are doing the promotion they claim to do, the sales should be better.)

What to do if they’re not close at all? I have no idea. I still think there’s a benefit to contacting your writers’ organizations. Maybe if the organization keeps getting reports of badly done royalty statements, someone will take action.

If you want to hire an attorney or an auditor, remember doing that will cost both time and money. If you’re a bestseller, you might want to consider it. If you’re a midlist writer, it’s probably not worth the time and effort you’ll put in.

But do yourself a favor. Read those royalty statements. If you think they’re bad, then don’t sign a new contract with that publisher. Go somewhere else with your next book.

I wish I could give you better advice. I wish the big agencies actually tried to use their clout for good instead of their own personal profits. I wish the writers’ organizations had done something.

As usual, it’s up to individual writers.

Don’t let anyone screw you. You might not be able to fight the bad accounting on past books, but make sure you don’t allow it to happen on future books.

That means that you negotiate good contracts, you make sure your royalty statements match those contracts, and you don’t sign with a company that puts out royalty statements that don’t reflect your book deal.

I’m quite happy that I walked away from the publisher I mentioned above years ago. I did so because I didn’t like the treatment I got from the financial and production side. The editor was—as editors often are—great. Everything else at the company sucked.

The royalty statement was just confirmation of a good decision for me.

I hope you make good decisions going forward.

Remember: read your royalty statements.

Good luck.

I need to thank everyone who commented, e-mailed, donated, and called because of last week’s post. When I wrote it, all I meant to do was discuss how we all go through tough times and how we, as writers, need to recognize when we’ve hit a wall. It seems I hit a nerve. I forget sometimes that most writers work in a complete vacuum, with no writer friends, no one except family, who much as they care, don’t always understand.

So if you haven’t read last week’s post, take a peek [link]. More importantly, look at the comments for great advice and some wonderful sharing. I appreciate them—and how much they expanded, added, and improved what I had to say. Thanks for that, everyone.

The donate button is below. As always, if you’ve received anything of value from this post or previous posts, please leave a tip on the way out.


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“The Business Rusch: “Royalty Statement Update 2012,” copyright © 2012 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.


J.A. Marlow

Where the Purple Grass Grows

Reporter Steve Gortney expects boredom on the backworld of Vorstogen, but instead must survive a mysterious space-elevator with awakening secrets, and the raiding pirates who are about to trigger it.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Effective Ebook Front and Back Matter

This article is not about the story itself. It will assume you have finished the work in questions and are now making the hard decisions that come with publishing. One of the most time-consuming is putting together the front matter and the back matter of an ebook for the first time.

Yes, we can use the print books we likely have around us as a guideline, but those are print books. Ebooks are completely different animal when it comes to the format, presentation, and mode of selling. Items which may seem like a no-brainer need to be rethought.

Many ebook buyers have learned to download samples from their favorite retailer to be sure they like it enough to buy it. This is the equivalent to readers browsing through the pages of a print book in a bookstore, flipping to the start of the book, then maybe to the middle.

Only, an ebook sample is not the entire book. A reader cannot flip to various areas to see if it suits them. A typical ebook sample is the first 10-30% before the reader needs to buy the work before reading anymore. Because of this, be careful of what you put at the front of an ebook. This is valuable space, as many retailers have pre-defined sample percentages which the author or publisher cannot alter.

Make the most of this space.

To help you along, below are a few guidelines of items which one might see in the front matter or back matter of an ebook:

Title Page: Is a title page still needed in the ebook world? Doesn’t it just repeat the title and author name? Well, it does those two things, but it can also do much more. Many times it will include a curtailed copyright notice (more on this later), but there is also something else an author/publisher should consider, and that is “sample conversion.”

This is one area where ebooks really excel. Many readers are downloading samples of the work to their ereaders or ebook programs, and then going through them at their leisure. This is great for the readers, but it presents a problem. Readers are sampling so much now that they are losing track of all of them. They cannot remember what the story was about or what attracted them to a specific work by only the title or cover. How is that sampling converted into a sale?

My advice: Place a very short description on the title page. By short, I mean very short. Two paragraphs maximum, and if you can manage it, one paragraph or even one sentence. The shorter the better, otherwise you threaten to take up valuable sample space.

Dedication: In print books this is always in the front matter of the ebook. It’s a way to thank special people or for the author to make a specific declaration.

My Advice: As the sample becomes so important, it may be time to push this off into the ebook back matter. Or, another option may be to combine it with the title page.

Character Lists: Some books are so long and complicated they need a ‘cheat-sheet’ listing the various characters. Often, this will include where they are living or where they are from, or other information to help a reader remember them.

My advice: List on the Table of Contents and put it in the back matter. A reader shouldn’t need it to get started.

Images: Have a map you want to include in the ebook? As a reader, I find these fun sometimes, and give me a visual cue of where characters are moving or where events occurred. Mysteries are one genre where maps are particularly popular.

My advice: List it on the Table of Contents, and then put in the back matter of the novel. If the reader wants to see it, they can navigate to it using the (usually automatically generated) internal TOC linking.

Other Books Available: If a writer has produced more than one book, the front matter will often list several more. I love these as a reader, as I will hunt down all the other books written by a writer I like. For promotion and marketing, this can be the best way to drive backlist sales.

My advice: Keep this, but reconsider where it is located. As I mentioned before, the sample is valuable. Place it in the back matter immediately after the finish of the story. The only exception would be for a series. I’ve personally found that it works well to list other books of the series, in order, on the title page right under the title and author name.

About the Author: I love these as a reader, as well. We get to learn a little bit about the author, what their interests are, and hopefully ways to follow more of their work.

My advice: As a reader of print books, I see the “About the Author” sections most often on the back jacket of a hardback or in the back matter of a paperback. This is a good place for it. For marketing and promotion reasons, also include your webpage address and other ways readers can connect. This is also a good way to drive traffic to a newsletter.

Copyright: In print books the copyright statement usually goes in the front of the book. It’s usually written in small letter, and almost everyone skips them.

My advice: For ebooks, rethink the placement. Again, the front of an ebook is valuable for selling the ebook to samplers. If you feel uncomfortable leaving everything out, then craft a small one-paragraph copyright and place it on the title page (you can use a modified version of Smashwords’ copyright declaration) and then place the larger and expanded version in the back of the ebook. This will save front sample space as well as keep intact the full copyright page with all the information you may need to include.

Samples of Other Work: This is something that is showing up more and more often even in print books in the form of the first three to five pages of another work to be available by the same author or the imprint in the near future. It’s been used with great success, and so ebook publishers and authors have followed copied the technique.

My advice: This is a good practice with a proven track record, but there are a few things to be mindful of when it comes to ebooks.
1. Keep it short. Do not allow all the back matter to go over 15% of the total ebook. This can result in reader complaints who upon reaching 80% thought the book would go on for a while more and suddenly find the story to an end.
2. With ebooks the reader has become addicted to and expects instant gratification. If they want a book they can buy it, download it, and be reading in minutes. For this reason, think long and hard before sampling a work that is not yet available for sale. The reader might move on to a book by a different author and completely forget about yours by the time it is released.
3. For an effective sample, choose something with a similar theme or genre/subgenre. It will increase the chances the reader of the current work will be interested in and purchase the sampled work.

Last advice: Once you have made the decisions on what format you want your front matter and back matter, consider creating templates. This will make any future ebook publishing faster, less stressful, and more accurate. Why make this harder on the future-you?

Front matter and back matter of a novel (or short story) may seem like a simple thing, but as demonstrated above, the decisions you make can make a big difference. Use them wisely and you will create a better reader experience, as well as convert reader samplers into sales and generate interest in backlist.

These are important considerations for anyone in the business for the long-haul. A little time and effort now can pay off big in the long run.


J.A. Marlow

Coffee Cup Dreams New CoverCoffee Cup Dreams

She wasn’t supposed to wake up when dead…

During what should have been a simple operation, Tish Douglas died. And yet, she also awoke… in what the doctors called a ‘psi event.’

Despite having no memory of the incident, it means she’s required to go on a life-time course of debilitating drugs designed to reign in her supposedly new psi gifts. She’s left with the option of existing on Earth in a drug-haze, or leave the planet.

When an opportunity for a good paying job on a space station known as Redpoint One is offered, she jumps at the chance. Even though she doesn’t have any experience as a ‘maintenance engineer.’ Even though the station sits in the middle of nowhere, a still-operating construct of a long-gone alien species.

Between pirate attacks, intelligent repair robots, and maintenance emergencies, Tish must find a place for herself.

All complicated by a growing attraction to the one person on the station she can’t have: boss Arthur Getty.

A stand-alone 48400 word, 193 page (approximate), science fiction romance novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

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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!

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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