Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Libraries, Nook Readers, and Amazon

By L.J. Sellers and Andrew Kaufman

L.J: In response to one of my blogs about enrolling in the Amazon select program, which requires exclusivity, a librarian posted this comment:
"As a public librarian and a Nook owner, I see another side. We are struggling to offer ebooks and eaudiobooks to our patrons without any increase in funding while still keeping up our print collections for patrons who have not jumped on the ereader bandwagon. We have to deal with everything from publishers who won’t sell to libraries at all, publishers who charge libraries up to 10 times the price of what an individual pays, publishers who limit the number of times the item we purchase may be used, etc. We have access to one company (Overdrive) who will maintain our ematerials, but we are bound by their policies or we can go independent, but the costs and knowledge base required are so astronomical that it currently isn’t possible to maintain our own ematerials. Seems like everyone is trying to figure out the best way to do this.

...It worries me when I read that some of you want to be Kindle exclusive. As I said, I have a Nook and I don’t want to switch to an Amazon ereader for many reasons. It worries me that some day there might be only one ereader and we would all be at the mercy of one company. None of you mentioned selling through Overdrive and I wonder your thoughts on that.

Please know that the library community wants you to make money. We are author’s biggest champions and want you to flourish in whatever medium is popular at that time."

Andrew’s response: I actually struggled for quite some time over the decision to make my work exclusive to Amazon, and the reasons were exactly as mentioned above. I didn’t want to keep people from having access to my work simply because they owned different e-reading devices, didn’t think it would be fair. In addition to that, I believe competition among companies is of benefit to all.

Unfortunately, at the same time, I also noticed that my sales on Nook and other e-reading devices had been progressively dwindling down to practically nothing. In addition to that, on Amazon—the place where I make the lion’s share of my earnings—my sales were also showing a steady decline as the market became flooded with more self-published authors than ever. I was sinking all around and at one point, wondered if I could stay afloat. I soon came to the realization that if I didn’t have readers, I wasn’t going to survive as an author, something that’s as vital to me as breathing. I had to do something.

As independent authors, we face a particularly difficult challenge because odds are stacked against us. We carry the stigma that our work is inferior to traditionally published authors. We also don’t have the kind of wide distribution channels that mainstream authors have, nor do we get cash advances to rely on. We make our money one book at a time, one reader at a time. In short, it’s up to us and only us to ensure our work gets read, and we have to do what we can do increase the odds.

After releasing my new novel, one that I’d worked tirelessly on for more than two years, and after seeing that it was beginning to fall through the cracks, I knew I needed to take action. I believed very strongly in it and knew I needed to do whatever I could to ensure its success. Select was an opportunity to do that, to breathe new life into it, to give it the exposure it needed. In all honestly, was my only option. I took it.

Do I feel badly that readers with Nook and other devices are being penalized? Absolutely. However, I also realize that the decision to go exclusive is not forever; it’s for ninety days, and I can most certainly make my work available to the others after that if there’s a demand for it.

L.J.’s response: I also feel badly for Nook readers, but I’m running a small publishing business that supports my household, and I had to make a profitable business decision. I hope Nook owners will take their case to B&N and ask them to make the changes that will allow self-published books to be discovered. Without that, most indie authors aren’t making money on Nook and have little reason to stay.

As for library patrons, I would love to make my books available to them, but unless I donate them, it’s nearly impossible. Even when I had a small publisher, libraries didn’t buy my books, despite my great reviews and the thousands of dollars I spent sending out promotional material.

As for Overdrive, they don’t deal with individual authors. Even my ebook distributor, which handled hundreds of authors (all with five books or more) had difficulty accessing Overdrive. The other consideration is that indie ebooks typically sell for less than five dollars, and digital files never wear out or need to be replaced, so the library market holds little profit for indies. Still, if the opportunity were available, I would donate ebooks to libraries just to expose new readers to my work. But I have no idea how to make that happen or if libraries can even accept donated ebooks.

The bottom line is: Amazon is the only company that has ever supported my work and helped me access readers, so they have my loyalty.

What are your thoughts on this hot-button topic? 

13 comments:

  1. LJ -
    Any Library who wants copies of my books I will gladly donate. No library should be charged for books. That is so wrong on every level. My books are on Amazon and Nook. All the libraries have to do is contact me and I will gladly send them whatever they need. It is my way of giving back. As an indie author I don't have to worry about that middle man. I can have thier books drop shipped directly to them. All they have to do is email me and I will take care of it for them

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  2. I can understand the various positions presented but I tend to fall on the side which allows me to have a successful writing business. Writing is not a hobby for me. If I can't support myself through sales then my career is over. I think it's a tough, personal desision that each author has to carefully consider and I admire ysam51's decision to donae materials. Charity is great but you have to be financially sound lest you become a charity case. It sounds to me that Amazon is making the greatest efforts to help indie authors. In any event, like Andrew points out, these decisions can be temporary (90 days) depending on the success of the author at that time.

    This was a very interesting post L.J. and Andrew. I really appreciate you presenting this.

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  3. I agree that Amazon is the most author-friendly option out there. There are three things that have stopped me from going exclusive:
    1. I have one of my titles in the Select program. It's been about 3 weeks and so far it's been kind of a bust. I'm not seeing the benefit of Amazon-only.
    2. As I understand it, when I give Amazon this exclusive deal, I am no longer allowed to put excerpts of my work on the internet. I'm uncomfortable with them having that much control of me.
    3. I'm not making a lot on B&N (or Sony or Apple), but I'm making money - about 10% of what I do on Amazon. At this point, dollars is dollars.
    There might also be a small part of me who doesn't like getting boxed into a corner because a company makes it easier to say yes than to say no. That may just be me. I'm kind of a fight-the-current gal.

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  4. Gayle,
    If you haven't taken advantage of the giveaway opportunity, then that's probably why Select isn't working for you. Try it, then get back to us. I expect your attitude will have changed.

    My understanding is that you can put excerpts of your books on your website. It helps sell books and Amazon wants us all to sell books. :)

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  5. Tried it, LJ. Results are here - http://gaylecarline.blogspot.com/2012/01/i-am-quirk.html

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  6. Tried it, LJ. Results are here - http://gaylecarline.blogspot.com/2012/01/i-am-quirk.html

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  7. I entered While the Savage Sleeps first, and gave away 6,0000 copies. Immediately after, the sales hiked it into the top ten where it's remained for several weeks. After that, I enrolled, The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted and gave away 16,000 copies. It's presently at #3 in its genre and #50 in the paid Kindle Store. I'm thrilled with the results--and thankful for them, but at the same time, have no idea how long it will last.

    I'm not sure why it works for some authors and not others, and to be quite honest, I'm not really sure if what works today will work tomorrow, anyway. Things are moving at such a rapid pace--it's difficult keeping up. I just try and grab onto whatever I can, when I can, then hope for the best.

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  8. Wow! Interesting! Thanks for doing this, LJ and Drew!

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  9. I was also reluctant to go exclusively with Amazon, but it so happened my historical novel, Corn Silk Days, Iowa 1862, was not out yet with any other retailer, only because I never got around to putting it at Smashwords. So I went for Amazon’s program. I gave it away and had more than 7,500 downloads, and it was #1 on the Free War fiction list, above Tolstoy’s War and Peace! After 2 days it went onto the paid list, # 1 and stayed in the top numbers for weeks.

    So I tried it for my nonfiction To Dance With Angels and that has been successful, also. Not only are the books still making nice royalties, but that has increased sales on my other books.

    Even though I have made money on the Smashwords listings, they still do not come close to my Amazon sales.

    Most all my books are in print also, so in regards to the librarian’s comment, libraries can have them in print.

    And some of my readers, and those of my late husband, still prefer the books in print, but print sales do not match Kindle sales.

    So I am in the process of putting a couple additional books into the Amazon exclusive. What’s 90 days?--time flies by.

    For dedicated and professional authors, writing is a business and we have to make the best business decisions for ourselves. And I love having the freedom to do so.

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  10. The main reason to go with KDP select is the sale feature of you eBook. I had like 200 downloads nothing huge like many of you, but I'm happy. It 200 more people that know my name and might hit the buy button next time. When I release my debut novel I want it on Barnes and Noble too.

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  11. As a debut indie author with one title, I face numerous issues:
    1. How to create awareness - there's only so much you can do with Twitter, and Facebook is useless for this.
    2. How to generate credibility to get sales - gaining reviews is one thing; word of mouth is better.
    3. How best to price to encourage sales, but not devalue the book (gaining revenue is the least problem) - I could give it away, but some ebook distributors won't sell free books - Apple requires minimum price of 99c, which I think is fair enough.
    4. How to assist the print book to sell, when it is not physically in stores - traditional public relations maybe?
    I originally published widely but unpublished with others to go Select, on the basis of the Amazon claimed promotional benefits, and the "Select Fund" for borrowed books (I have just three borrowed this month).
    I was not getting sales in Apple, Sony or Nook.
    But, I have yet to see any benefits in terms of Amazon's promotions. Has my book been promoted at all by Amazon? Not so I can see.
    I am paying for internet advertising, paying a PR firm for promoting the book, so we'll see what happens in the next 90 days I guess.
    Gaining cut through is extremely difficult, and I believe that we are all undermining the value of our work by offering our books for free. Even for 99c.
    Nobody has much time these days, and we're told to write blogs etc. So, everyone is reading blogs and activly writing on facebook themselves, instead of passively reading books.
    At this stage, I think I will probably go back to publishing widely at 99c after the ninety days.
    And I think I'd like to get back to the enjoyment of writing books and cut all the facebook/twitter time wasting. One life, remember...

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  12. Ian, your action-thriller No Remorse is a topnotch, riveting, page-turning roller-coaster ride, so it's frustrating to think that you're having to jump through hoops like this and spend precious time and energy promoting your book when you'd rather be, and should be, writing the next one. Same goes for LJ and Drew and the rest of you. I just hope these tactics work well for all of you.

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  13. Good blog, suggestions! Thank you for sharing!They could be useful for any writer! Especially to a new one in the branch! I would like just to remind that no one have to use the services of literary agents who want to charge you for editing of your amnuscripts... They are cheaters, their job is to find a publisher, not to gain money from the author in any other way...
    I guess also many authors will like another idea of mine: using sites like zazzle.com, cafepress. com, fiverr? They could be a good way to promote your works and to help "remove" stupidity in the streets like headlines on t-shirts, fridge-magnets, cups, etc: My Boyfriend kisses Better Than Yours, FBI - female body inspector, etc. Not everything we see and think of should be about sex, right? It would be much better if there were more nice pictures of mythical creatures, good thoughts, poems from fantasy genre, etc? I'm allanbard there, I use some of my illustrations, thoughts, poems from my books (like: One can fight money only with money, Even in the hottest fire there's a bit of water, or
    Let's watch the moon, let's meet the sun!
    Let's hear soon the way the Deed was done!
    Let's listen to the music the shiny crystals played,
    let's welcome crowds of creatures good and great...etc). Keep the good work going! Best wishes! Will be glad to follow your blog and learn a lot more about publishing, etc. Let the wonderful noise of the sea always sounds in your ears! (a greeting of the water dragons'hunters - my Tale Of The Rock Pieces).

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