Tag Archives: Kindle

Update to the Fantasy Bestseller Breakdown

Back in February, I posted the results of some data mining, specifically about the bestseller lists for fantasy and science fiction. You can see the old article here.

It seemed like now might be a good time for an update. There’s been much to-do about the change to the Amazon algorithms. The very-important “Popularity” ranking has seen significant changes in March and again in May. The new algorithms have made major changes to how books show up in the “Popular” ranking – which is the default manner customers see ebooks on Amazon, making it vital to sales.

Roughly how it works: you get sales, your rank goes up. The more sales you get over the period tracked, compared to other books, the more your rank goes up. The old system made loans via the Select program about the same as sales, and gave a lot of weight to free books given away through Select promotion periods. The new system rates free books at perhaps 10% of the value of sold books, does not seem to give any boost for loaned books, and most crucial – it seems to factor price into the equation, weighting higher priced books more heavily.

So how does this affect indies, whose books have been selling like hotcakes because they’re priced lower? If Amazon weights higher priced books higher, then this makes breaking out at $0.99 or $2.99 that much more difficult.

It’s the end of June, four months since my last survey and over a month since the May algorithm changes. Seemed like it was time for new data!

 

Fantasy Genre, Top Hundred Bestsellers

Well, top 95 bestsellers, anyway. There seem to be some issues with doubled up versions of some of George R.R. Martin’s books, which resulted in only 95 books actually listed in the top 100.

The breakdown was 53 (56%) traditionally published books vs 42 (44%) self published books. This is a significant change. In fact, it’s the first time this year that I’ve seen the genre drop much below 50% indie/self pub books; in February, indie books were 53% of the top list for fantasy, and it’s stayed at that level +/- about 4% through early May.

Some other interesting data points:

Indie price average: $3.24

Trad price average: $9.56

Overall average price: $6.77

Breakdown follows. Note, there were several books I raised to the X.99 levels to make the data easier to chart. These were Indie at $2.51 and $4.95, and Trad at $4.90, $7.29, $7.39, $8.32, and $9.34 (actual numbers were used for the averages above, no rounding).

$0.99 – Indie 6 (down 7), Trad 0 (same), Total 6 (6%)

$1.99 – Indie 2 (same), Trad 0 (same), Total 2 (2%)

$2.99 – Indie 16 (down 7), Trad 0, Total 16 (17%)

$3.99 – Indie 13 (up 1), Trad 0, Total 13 (14%)

$4.99 – Indie 4 (up 2), Trad 2 (up 1), Total 6 (6%)

$5.99 – Indie 0, Trad 0, Total 0 (0%)

$6.99 – Indie 1 (up 1), Trad 0 (down 1), Total 1 (1%)

$7.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 20 (same), Total 20 (21%)

$8.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 15 (up 4), Total 15 (16%)

$9.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 7 (up 4), Total 7 (7%)

$10.99 Total 0 (same)

$11.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (same), Total 1 (1%)

$12.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 6 (same), Total 6 (6%)

$13.99 Total 0 (same) (0%)

$14.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (down 2), Total 1 (1%)

$29.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (same), Total 1 (1%) (Martin boxed set)

 

Fantasy Graph

As ever, a picture is worth a thousand words:

 

Thoughts?

This is not enough data to draw conclusions from. However, coupled with the excellent analysis done by Ed Robertson, it’s possible to hypothesize that the changes he noted to the Amazon book algorithms are damaging indie sales penetration. Some of this might be the loss of impact from Kindle Select promotions and loans. Some could also be due to algorithms favoring higher prices (note the upward trend across the board for prices of indie books which made the top ranks).

I think we need to do substantial more work on data crunching to see where things are headed, and I’m open to collaboration with others. In the short term, however, I think it’s extremely likely many indies are selling themselves short by pricing too low – to their detriment.

Hopefully this helps some folks out.

 

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you found this information interesting and useful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the data, what it might mean, and how writers can best adapt to these changes.

To celebrate a year of indie publishing, I have my novel, “By Darkness Revealed” reduced to FREE on Amazon for today and tomorrow – 6/21 + 6/22 only. If you enjoy urban fantasy, you might enjoy checking it out, and you’ll aid my in my quest to break the top 100 free books! http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Revealed-Blackwell-Magic-ebook/dp/B005G8L3X4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340283711&sr=8-1&keywords=by+darkness+revealed

Publishers begin removing DRM from ebooks, smashing walls on Amazon “walled garden”

At the London Book Fair, one of the major topics of discussion was publishers discussing cessation of DRM use on their ebooks. DRM – digital rights management – is the encryption added to digital media which prevents copying, conversion, and some other sorts of uses of the media. In some cases, it might force the use of a user key to use the media. In others, it locks the media to a specific device. For ebooks, generally it prevents copying, prevents use on other devices, and prevents conversion.

All of the largest publishers used DRM as an anti-piracy measure – until yesterday. TOR, a subsidiary of Macmillan, announced that their imprints would be issuing ebooks DRM free in the US and UK.

The TOR announcement:

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, today announced that by early July 2012, their entire list of e-books will be available DRM-free.

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

DRM-free titles from Tom Doherty Associates will be available from the same range of retailers that currently sell their e-books. In addition, the company expects to begin selling titles through retailers that sell only DRM-free books.

Removal of DRM is a big, BIG deal.

First off, it’s important to understand that DRM is ineffective. There is no unhacked DRM; in fact, any ebook from any major vendor can have the DRM quickly and easily removed with free tools you can acquire using a simple Google search. And once even one person removes DRM from a book and posts it publicly, the DRM free version is out there, being passed around.

Second, public feedback on ebooks without DRM has been positive. For example, in the hours after Pottermore opened, pirated versions appeared online (they don’t use DRM, they use watermarking of the files instead). User response was immediate: they saw this as taking advantage of a product which was already doing as users asked (cheap and DRM free), and within hours most of the pirated versions were taken down without the company having to do anything.

Third, and this is critical for publishers (and it’s key to understanding why TOR and other publishers are getting ready to remove DRM now), the main thing DRM does today is keep anyone but Amazon from selling books for Kindle devices and software.

Most people reading ebooks use Kindles or Kindle software on other devices (about 2/3). The only form of DRMed book that can be read on those is the sort bought from Amazon; anyone can make DRM-free mobi files, but only Amazon can sell Kindle ebooks with DRM. The result is that it’s impossible for companies like Google and Apple to really compete with Amazon for their market share – it’s locked into a “walled garden” by DRM.

Removing DRM would allow other companies to sell mobi books. It would allow new indie ebookstores to open up, selling epub AND mobi files. Since mobi/Kindle is the most popular ebook format right now, indie ebookstores at the moment are locked into competing with B&N/Apple/Kobo for the other third of the market.

Removing DRM opens the door for more companies to begin nibbling at slices of the Amazon pie. I suspect this could make a huge difference in the long run, allowing greater competition between online bookstores and more viability for smaller startups in ebook retail.

In short, this is a smart, smart move, and one which I believe other publishers will follow once they see TOR’s success. Kudos to TOR for having the courage and foresight to go first.

 

Addendum 1: John Scalzi (SFWA president) sounds off on the subject here.

Addendum 2: More on the topic from Charles Stross.

Amazon Updates KDP eBook Cover Recommendations

This change IS a pretty big deal for indie writers.

Amazon announced today in their KDP newsletter that they have updated their recommendations for cover sizes for Kindle ebooks.

The new guidelines are a minimum of 1000 pixels on the long side – although they “recommend 2,500 pixels on the longest side to ensure better quality, and an ideal height/width ratio of 1.6.”

So to break this down, if you go with the minimum, your new image size should be 625 pixels wide by 1000 pixels tall. If you jump to the recommended level, to retain a 1.6 aspect ratio, you want an image size of 1562 pixels wide by 2500 pixels tall (roughly).

While the smaller size is pretty typical of what many indies are already using for cover images, jumping to the recommended level will often mean paying higher prices for art. Jumping an image from 1000×625 to 2500×1562 isn’t just a matter of expanding it in your image editor – that way leads to pixelated, ugly looking images. Instead, you need to go back to the source art and use larger source art. Both royalty free art sites and artists for unique art will generally charge more for larger images, and in some cases artists might not have larger source art available for an image.

It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something indie writers need to pay attention to moving forward. Screen quality is only going to continue improving on ereaders, which means images with higher pixel counts are going to become desirable. Plan accordingly, and build your cover images with higher resolution than you intend to use.

A last note on this: these images are the display images Amazon uses to sell books on their site, NOT the cover image included in the book. In most cases, it is advantageous to include in the book file an image on the lower end of the spectrum, since readers will rarely actually see it there, and higher quality images result in a larger files size for the ebook. Since indie writers getting the 70% royalty from Amazon are billed a  small amount for file downloads, the bigger the file, the less you earn per sale. Those pennies can add up in the long run, so best practice is to include in the book file a smaller file size of image than the one you’re using for display.

Author’s Guild: latest evidence of loss of a clue?

The Author’s Guild blog has just posted a letter from Scott Turow titled “Grim News”. The post expounds upon how the DOJ’s recent announcement it intends to file suit against major publishers for conspiring to fix prices on books is a terrible thing for everyone, and basically defends the assorted publishers’ actions.

Leaving aside the major issue of trying to excuse publishers taking allegedly illegal actions in the defense of their business model, let’s look at the rest of the issues a minute.

Remember, his thoughts were sparked by the “Grim News” that the Department of Justice has just announced it plans to sue several major publishers and Apple for colluding to price fix ebooks with Apple, via the agency pricing system on ebooks. His thoughts are here.

 

Scott Confuses “Bookseller” with “Brick and Mortar Bookseller”

It’s an easy mistake to make. We’re all used to thinking about bookstores as those actual places you go to, you know, buy books. But that’s simply not the case for most readers anymore. Most consumer books are bought online. In fact, Amazon alone is thought to have close to half the trade book market in the US, these days.

Are the brick bookstores getting hammered? Sure. First by B&N – then by Borders – then Amazon, and now by ebooks from a variety of sellers. I know a lot of you reading this like the physical bookstores, enjoy browsing the stacks. Lots of folks liked buying CDs from a big CD store, too. That didn’t save CD stores, and bookstores are headed to the same place they did: online. Today most music is bought in MP3; and what’s left of the CD market is mostly either top album sales in Walmarts or online sales. Some music is coming out in MP3 only now, and that trend will likely grow.

We’re about seven years post iPod. We’re also about three years post Kindle. Based on comparisons of the trends in each, it is extremely likely that book buying is going to follow a similar pattern, which means over the next few years almost all chain bookstores will close, most indie bookstores (physical ones) will close, and most (but nowhere near all) books bought will be ebooks.

We don’t have to like it, but we should prepare ourselves for the idea. Ebooks are a replacement media, and are almost certainly the last nail in the coffin of physical bookstores. Nothing publishers or writers do is going to substantially slow that process.

 

Scott Attacks the Amazon Walled Garden

Scott attacks Amazon for having a walled garden, using it as an excuse for their alleged collusion with Apple. That would make sense – walled garden approaches to commerce limit competition, and aren’t really good for suppliers. But Apple, Sony, and B&N each have their own walled gardens too. It’s about as hard to get most Apple epubs into a Nook as it is to get most Kindle books into a Nook. Just because a company is using the epub “standard” doesn’t mean that DRM makes it easy to transfer the books to a new reader.

I recall getting a free review copy of Stephen King’s “11/22/63″ from the publisher’s website. I know from personal experience that converting a Kindle book to Nook is a LOT easier than getting that book onto the Nook software on my cell phone (yes, my cell phone has both Nook and Kindle apps – why not?). Shame on Scribner for making what ought to be an easy experience into one so painful that, tech savvy as I am, I had to spend half an hour trying to figure out how to follow arcane directions that I had to use Google to find in the first place.

Here’s the other catch: Amazon didn’t make their place a walled garden; publishers gave Amazon the walls. It’s called “DRM” – digital rights management. The little bits of code which prevent an ebook from being converted or copied. Years ago, the music industry figured out DRM was bad for business, bad for sales, and dumped it. The book publishing business has not caught on that the same might just be true for them, so pretty universally big publishers launch their ebooks with DRM.

Yes, I can remove DRM. In fact, just about anyone can remove DRM. But it’s a pain, and unless your Google-fu is strong enough, finding out how can be tough. Most customers probably won’t bother unless they’re driven to do so for some reason. Which means the DRM publishers *ordered* Amazon to put on their books is one of the most powerful tools Amazon has for retaining customers (note: Amazon is just as happy to not put DRM on books; none of my works have DRM on Amazon, because I don’t want DRM on my books – I want readers to be able to read my books where they want to). Once customers have invested heavily in a DRM-laden library from Amazon (or anyone else) they are unlikely to switch venues.

Publishers, you MADE the monster you fear.

 

Scott Mixes Up His Facts About Booksellers

Once again, recall: Scott only considers bookstores with a physical store “booksellers”. Those online places which ship tens of millions of books per year to customers don’t count.

He claims “bookstores are critical to modern bookselling”. No – they’re critical to large publishers maintaining their oligopoly on distribution of books. Books are selling just fine online.

He claims “Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online.” To which I reply, “lies, damned lies, and statistics”. There are very few studies out there about book buying patterns performed in the last two years which I have not read. I have never seen data which even vaguely backs up his claim. Citation, please?

He says “Publishing shouldn’t have to choose between bricks and clicks.” He’s missed the point. Publishers don’t get to choose where they sell their product. Readers get to choose where they want to buy the product publishers sell. If readers want to buy books from physical bookstores, they will; if not, they won’t. Publishers don’t get a say in this.

He says “A robust book marketplace demands both bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles and online distribution for the convenience of customers.” A fascinating claim. Why? He never explains. In fact, the majority of fiction ebook bestsellers in my recent genre surveys have no print presence in bookstores, putting the lie to his claim. What he truly means is major publishers need bookstore showrooms to properly display their wares and advertise them to readers so they can charge higher prices for their work.

He claims that bestsellers are OK, but that “For new authors, however, a difficult profession is poised to become much more difficult.” Again, pretty obviously false. Even a cursory investigation of Amazon shows that, on that site alone, several thousand self published ebooks are selling in excess of a thousand copies a month. The reverse of his claim is actually true: as bookshelf space decreases, bestseller advances are going down. However, more “midlist” writers are making excellent returns on their work than we’ve seen in over fifty years.

 

Scott Thinks Agency Helped!

No, not really. What agency pricing did was allow publishers to set their prices: which they did. At very high levels. In fact, skimming by Amazon one can find hundreds of ebooks from major presses at $10-15. Most of those titles have numerous 1-star reviews from customers protesting the price. Publishers didn’t help themselves with their ebook pricing scheme.

But most devastating for publishers is the loss of a majority of the ebook market.

There’s only one type of book growing in sales today – ebooks. Print sales are declining, and will likely continue to decline in a rapid slide for years yet before they settle down. Ebooks are the growth market. Ebooks are what most readers will be buying – if they are not already – within a year or two. And by pricing themselves out of the market, all existing evidence says that publishers have handed a majority share of that market to self publishing writers and small presses. No, we don’t have all the data to absolutely and positively prove that as fact – but all data which does exist, including all the market surveys I have personally done, support that theory adequately enough.

The folks who will mourn the passing of agency pricing the most are not publishers – it’s the indie writers, the self publishers, who will miss it the most. Agency pricing has allowed self publishers to dominate ebook fiction in a manner which would never have been possible if Amazon and B&N had been able to discount books from major publishers. Once Amazon gets to discount the hit bestsellers (at their expense), indies will have a harder time of it. We can only hope enough writers will have won enough fanbase by the time that happens to make a difference in the long run.

So yes, when agency pricing falls, life will get harder for writers, but not for the reasons Scott suggests. ;)

 

So what the heck is going on there over at the Author’s Guild?

They’re sticking up for publishers committing allegedly illegal actions. They’re spreading information that’s got more holes than swiss cheese, loaded with false claims and erroneous data. They’re favoring one retailer over another. They’re proving they’ve locked their minds into 20th century retail, ignoring the fact that for better or worse, retail has changed with the advent of the internet.

Perhaps Scott, who wrote this article, really believes this stuff he wrote; it’s certainly being shoved down the throat of the public by enough mass media sources (the owners of whom also own the publishers currently under threat). But shouldn’t somebody over at the Author’s Guild be better informed? It’s embarrassing to see this sort of tripe up on the website of what’s supposedly a writer-focused organization.

Survey of a Genre: Science Fiction eBook Market Under the Microscope

So there’s two big questions on everyone’s minds about ebooks these days, right?

1) How much of the market do indies (self publishers) really have?

2) What price is working for folks?

There’s going to be some variability to the answers. Some genres will likely see greater or less indie penetration; some will see higher or lower prices as the most popular. What follows is raw data mined from Amazon (which represents ~70% of the US ebook market, and is therefore a better tool for ebook numbers than Bookscan is for print). Answers from one genre won’t answer decisively for all genres. Nevertheless, it’s a useful tool for getting some ideas.

Overview

I picked science fiction for the genre to mine. A couple of reasons: SF was consistently a genre where indies had a lower presence in the top 25 bestselling list, for my December/January checks; and I write SF, and have read SF for over three decades, so I know the publisher names very well.

Analysis and data are from the top 200 bestselling science fiction ebooks on Amazon, February 26th 2012. EVERY attempt was made to ensure the data was as accurate as possible. Publishing companies owned by the author were counted as self publishing. Publishing companies which publish any submitted book for a fee were likewise counted as self publishing (there was one case of an Outskirts book). Publishing companies which in any way vet incoming books or have a submission process were counted as traditional publishers (couple of cases of Piers Anthony books by Premier Digital Publishing, for example). Whenever a question existed whether a publisher was trad or indie, I counted it as trad.

Please note that this is a limited data set, from one retailer (albeit a dominant one), about one genre of fiction.

Self Publishing (Indie) vs Traditional Publishing

Top 25 Bestselling breakdown was 72% indie, 28% traditional, with a 18/7 split.

Overall for the top 200 books, there were 154 indie books and 46 traditionally published books, or 77% indie and 23% traditional publisher.

Of interest: out of those 46 trad pub books, only 25 were recent books (which I define as originally published in the last ten years). The remaining 21 were older books, by authors like Burroughs, Heinlein, Asimov, Orwell, Anthony, and Adams. These older books represent most of the prices under $10 for traditionally published ebooks.

A couple of stray thoughts:

1) The idea that “only a few” self publishers are doing well is false. This is 154 books all selling well in excess of a thousand copies per month, in one (rather smallish) genre.

2) The data showed 72% indie penetration for the top 25, and 77% for the top 200. I suspect that the figure would remain roughly constant much deeper.

Pricing

I’ve broken out pricing by price, and by indie/trad.

$0.99 – indie 48; trad 3; all 51 (25.5%)

$1.49/1.50 – indie 2; trad 0; all 2 (1%)

$1.99 – indie 7; trad 0; all 7 (3.5%)

$2.99 – indie 74; trad 4; all 78 (39%)

$3.95/99 – indie 8; trad 3; all 11 (5.5%)

$4.50/4.79/4.99 – indie 13; trad 7; all 20 (10%)

$5.99-6.35 – indie 2; trad 4; all 6 (3%)

$6.99 – indie 0; trad 4; all 4 (2%)

$7.95-$8.09 – indie 0; trad 10; all 10 (5%)

$8.99/9.00 – indie 0; trad 2; all 2 (1%)

$9.99 – indie 0; trad 3; all 3 (1.5%)

$11.99 – indie 0; trad 1; all 1 (0.5%)

$12.99 – indie 0; trad 2; all 2 (1%)

$13.99 – indie 0; trad 2; all 2 (1%)

$14.99 – indie 0; trad 1; all 1 (0.5%)

Despite the marked dominance of the 99 cent and $2.99 price points, I am noting an upward trend in self published ebook prices among better selling writers. As they grow fanbases, I suspect these writers are becoming more confident in their work and bolder in their pricing. There’s a distinct move toward the $4.50-$5.00 price point for indies (8.4% of indie books), and 14.9% of bestselling indie SF ebooks were priced above the $2.99 point.

There’s also a distinct drop off point after $8.00. Very few books were able to prove highly successful above that price, indicating that about the price of a mass market paperback is the highest most consumers are willing to pay for most ebooks. The exceptions were books by well known name authors such as George R.R. Martin.

The Future?

What’s next? Difficult to say. I feel that the 99 cent and $2.99 points will remain dominant for as long as Amazon continues to use their current pricing structure. The 99 cent point is the lowest price allowed; the $2.99 point is the lowest books can get a 70% royalty from Amazon. That makes these prices standard starting points for newer writers trying to “earn their chops”.

I believe we’re seeing a trend which will continue of self published authors starting at those points, then gradually moving prices up as they acquire more readership and audience. More books, more years of work in learning the craft, and more readers will enable writers to boost prices and therefore profit more from each sale.

On the trad pub side, I believe we’ll see less books published at prices over MMP price. Their ebook prices will trend down – *must* trend down, to compete with indie pricing – so we’ll see a settling into $5-8 for most traditionally published ebooks, with higher prices for books they believe will sell well at a higher price. However, with such a high percentage of the ebook market (in this genre; preliminary evidence suggests similar self publishing penetration in most other genres) seized by self published books, publishers are in a tough spot. Retaining dominance in chain bookstores is their only remaining point of strength. As sales in those chains continue to dwindle, publishers will be forced to find more effective ways to regain lost market share in ebooks, or be relegated to a minority market position.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the data presented above! If you see flaws, please point them out; this is the first time I’ve done this in-depth a survey, but I intend to do more. If there are other things you think I ought to have looked at, or would like me to examine in future surveys, please let me know. Hopefully, this data will prove useful to many of us in making informed business decisions!

 

Update to Indie Bestsellers and KDP Select

The holidays are over. All those millions of new Kindles are unwrapped and in use. So I thought it might be a good time to take another peek at those bestseller lists, and see how the indies are faring in a market which some analysts believe has doubled since this time last year.

The answer is, very well.

If you’ve been reading here a while, you’ll remember that on December 20th I was window shopping for ebooks on Amazon and noticed something odd. Last October, there were a few indie books in the top seats of most genres, but the majority of each top 25 list was traditionally published books. In December, something seemed to have changed, and self published books were everywhere. I did a survey of four genres and posted the results here.

Today I revisited those genres, and added two more. So I’m covering Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Thrillers, Mystery, and Horror today. What follows is an analysis of the top 25 breakdown in each genre on Amazon. Why Amazon? With around 70% of the US ebook market, Amazon represents a higher percentage of ebook sales than Bookscan does of print, making the Amazon lists the most reliable bestseller list for ebooks available today.

I’ve also mentioned how many of the top 25 were in the Kindle Select program, as this seems to be having an increasingly robust impact on bestseller listing.

  • Romance: 24 self published, 1 trade published, 20 Kindle Select
  • Fantasy: 18 self published, 7 trade published, 17 Kindle Select
  • Science Fiction: 18 self published, 7 trade published, 14 Kindle Select
  • Thrillers: 18 self published, 7 trade published, 19 Kindle Select
  • Mystery: 21 self published, 4 trade published, 21 Kindle Select
  • Horror: 23 self published, 2 trade published, 23 Kindle Select

So at this moment, self published books represent from 72-92% of these Top 25 bestseller lists.

Also noteworthy that 56-92% of the books on these lists were in the Kindle Select programs, and overall over 90% of the self published books were enrolled in Select. While Select may not be working perfectly for every writer, it does seem to now be key in reaching the very top of the Amazon bestseller lists.

Now, bestseller lists aren’t everything. They’re the top books right now. Tomorrow, some of those books will have swapped out. And thousands of other books, indie and trad pub, are selling just fine without ever reaching a bestseller list.

But it’s noteworthy that not only did indies grab the majority of the bestseller lists last month – they seem to have held that majority and even gained more ground on traditional publishers in some genres.

The prevalence of Select in those titles is also relevant, because it demonstrates the effectiveness of that program. While I still believe it’s something of a lottery – and most writers will probably do better to at least have *most* of their books available everywhere – it’s undeniable that Select is making magic for some writers. Having a book rotate through Select might be a powerful tool for indies to build name recognition on Amazon.

New Things and Giveaways!

So, a few new changes to the blog over the last 24 hours!

First, I added a new column. The new column has links to my books and short stories on various vendors (just Amazon and Smashwords for now, but I’ll be adding B&N soon as well). I can already see that becoming a problem down the road as I get more stories up. I think I need a slider or something…! Not yet. But can definitely see the need. If anyone out there knows a good tool that I can use with WordPress to show images and text links in a scrolling manner, I’d be obliged to hear about it.

I also added a new page – contact me! I’ve got links there to Facebook, Twitter, and my email. I’ll always try to respond to every email. Might not be right away, but I do love hearing from readers, so I’ll get back to you. There’s also a link to a newsletter sign-up. And another link to the same newsletter in the side bar.

What newsletter? Well, it’s new, too. =) I’m using MailChimp to collect the email addresses of readers who’d like to hear about upcoming book and short story releases. The list is private, of course, and will be used sparingly; but if you’ve enjoyed By Darkness Revealed, for instance, and would like to read “Ashes Ascendant” when it comes out, then the newsletter is a great way to hear about the release.

Yes, soon.  =)

 

And to top it all off, I’ve decided to try something really different, and participate in a blog hop.

Never having done one before, I have no idea how well this will be received, but…why not? As a character from my kids’ favorite show says “Get messy! Make mistakes!” One could do worse than follow the advice of Ms. Frizzle.

So I’ve signed up to offer a giveaway for the 7th through 10th of October, as part of the HOP FOR RED OCTOBER.

 

 

And what am I giving away, you ask?

Something with monsters, and magic, and a little mayhem.

Something with darkness, and sinister beings, and a battle against a renewed evil.

For the next few days, til the blog hop is done, every person who signs up on my newsletter list will receive a coupon good for a copy of By Darkness Revealed on Smashwords.com. That will include all major and most of the minor ebook formats – Kindle, epub, even PDF. Download and enjoy in the format of your choice, just for signing up.

One reader who signs up in that time will receive a free print copy of the book, autographed by the author however the winner would like.

But that’s not really enough; so here’s a little advance news. A short while before Ashes Ascendant is released to the world, I will be doing a drawing for several people to win ARCs – advance release copies – of the book. The winners will be chosen from folks who’ve reviewed By Darkness Revealed at the location of their choice. Amazon, B&N, Apple, Smashwords, Goodreads, your own blog – doesn’t matter where, and multiple entries will be awarded for reviews at up to three locations.

So, you can sign up for the newsletter now, get a free ebook, maybe win a free print copy of the book, AND get more information emailed to you about an upcoming special giveaway of a privileged few advance copies of the sequel!

All for signing up with a newsletter? Yes!

To make it really easy, here’s the newsletter link:

Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy the book! And check out the other blogs in the Hop here:

Star Trek FREE for Amazon Prime members (Amazon Tablet thoughts)

I’ve been an Amazon Prime subscriber for a couple of years now. It’s been a huge money saver for the family. Free two day shipping on books and many other items is an absolute life-saver sometimes. It also means I don’t have to fret – or wait long! – on a print book I want. Love it. Two days isn’t the two minutes it takes to grab an ebook, but it’s pretty good. And some books, you just want the print version, you know?

Amazon’s been stepping up Prime benefits, though. They recently started adding free video to the membership. Lots of TV series, buckets of films. My wife tore through a couple of seasons of Torchwood using Amazon video – free. She’s watching Dr. Who right now. Stargate SG-1 is up for free as well.

And they’ve just added Star Trek. Not some of them, but every live actor televised episode of every series. The original is there, Next Gen is there, DS9 is there, Voyager is there, Enterprise is there… Wow.

I’m sure this is all part of the prep for the release of Amazon’s Android Tablet later this year. The idea is simple: tablets are not computers. Tablets are media consumption devices. Tablets are for listening to music, watching video, surfing the internet, reading books, etc. Amazon already dominates the ebook market. They have a Cloud Music player with free storage, and often cheaper prices than iTunes on the same tracks. They have an Android App store which is easier to navigate than the Apple one, and head and shoulders above the Google one. And now they have a video arsenal which seems to rival Netflicks. In short, Amazon is building the infrastructure they need to go toe to toe with the iPad.

But there’s a critical difference. Apple built the infrastructure for media consumption, but their focus is still on sales of the device, which costs $500-800. Amazon is building an equivalent media consumption system, but seems intent on making that their money-maker – with a device cost predicted to be $249 that includes free Prime membership (a $79 value), so the tablet effectively costs only $170. That’s remarkable for a color tablet. The low price coupled with the strong set of offerings makes Amazon’s entry into the tablet market a potent one.

And it’s good for the rest of us, too. ;)  Even if you’re not planning to buy their tablet, having access to thousands of hours of popular TV shows and films is pretty amazing!

What’s the future for print books?

I’ve participated in a number of interesting discussions on LinkedIn of late. One which stood out was a group of people chatting about the future of the print book in an increasingly ebook world. Is there a future for print books? What would that future look like? The opinions, suggestions, and predictions ranged the entire field of possible answers, and the discussion has been well thought out. Posts ranged from “ebooks are here, get with the future!” to “you can pry my print books from my cold, dead fingers!”

One fascinating thing about that discussion is that, being something of a history buff, I happen to know that almost the same talks were had back when the printing press was first introduced.

That’s NOT a slam on the arguments against ebooks, though! My wife, among many other things, creates beautiful recreations of medieval manuscript pages, and new works in the same style. The calligraphy and illumination (artwork done in the margins, painted by hand, often unique to each copy of a book) that were part of most pre-press manuscripts were simply amazing!

And they’re gone, now. It’s an art form practiced by a diminishing few.

There are *enormous* benefits to be had from ebooks. Ease of access. Ease of storage of our beloved works of literature. The ability for those who have trouble reading small text print books to access literally any written work. Ease of transportation of the books. Lower costs for production of books. The ability for anyone to publish, to try to have their voice heard. Access to books which might have too small an audience to warrant print publication. The surety that no work of literature we own will be lost to the ravages of disasters. Increased ability to interact with other readers and even the writers of beloved books through the increasingly interactive networking available between readers. And buckets more.

But there’s something to be said for holding a physical object, as well. We’re physical creatures. We value having a possession, owning a thing. It’s built into us over millions of years of evolution, made much more intense over the last couple hundred thousand years. Humans like to have *stuff*. There is a visceral pleasure in it; scientists can even tell you precisely what chemical compounds are released in the brain upon acquiring a new possession to make us feel good. Acquiring more stuff is a survival trait.

And the only “stuff” we get to physically acquire regarding ebooks is newer, better, faster, cooler looking readers. Yes, we get to read the books – we can collect them, ephemerally. But the *physical* object – the thing our DNA is coded to make us want – is the reader, not the ebook. I think there’s significance to this.

Think about being given a gift from someone – which would you prefer? A little card saying “here’s the code, go download Book X”? Or an actual physical copy of Book X? We’re hard-coded to prefer the latter. It’s in our genes.

It’ll be very interesting to see how this change affects our species moving forward. I, for one, think that while ebooks will take over the vast majority of all publishing, there will still be a place for special books, for special gifts of print editions – which perhaps we’ll finally treasure again the same way we once viewed the hand-copied medieval manuscripts, because like those books, the future print books will be rare and memorable items.

Literature, past, present, and future.

Spotted an article by way of the Passive Voice blog which tweaked a few thoughts in my head.

Some of the pertinent bits:

Reading an old fashioned novel seems to be dying out, with people increasingly too busy or too stressed to sit down and actually read. On the rare occasion people do sit down to read, it is often a magazine, a newspaper, a celebrity autobiography or with recent technological developments, a Kindle. For many people this is not an issue, the human race moves on as technology moves on, but will the book be forgotten? Will the Kindle have the same effect on books as MP3 players did on CDs? Or will those who appreciate the value of an actual book continue to do so?

You can read the entire article here.

I read this sort of thing often – people scared about changes in culture, about ebooks eroding print book sales, about bookstores moving from the building down the road into online stores. It’s change. Change makes folks nervous. But I’ve never like the whole “sky is falling” routine. The only constant in human history is that things have always changed.

I don’t understand the assertion that “reading an old fashioned novel seems to be dying out”. We’re living in a time when last year, despite global financial issues, more novels were sold than in any other previous year in human history.

Dying out? Hmmm.

Yes, there are many things out there which compete with reading for our time. But there always have been; there have always been other entertainment options available. The form these various activities take vary from era to era, but their existence is nothing new.

I think the author is confused about the nature of the ebook, as well. Once, most books were hand copied, with gorgeous illumination works embedded on each page. Every page of your average book was a work of art in itself. With the advent of the printing press, these unique books went away.

But I think most would agree that the printing press was a wonderful invention.

So too with ebooks. With a distribution cost approaching zero, the ability to send and receive virtually any book instantly, almost anywhere on the planet, ebooks are changing the function of books more completely than anything since Gutenburg’s press. Yes, the pressed paper pages are on their way out in favor of electron-based digital work. Much like the printing press replaced the illuminated manuscript, there are some elements of grace and beauty which will be lost in this transition.

But when all is said and done, the printing press opened new doors for literature – and the digital book is doing the same. And like the printing press, I think we’ll all look back in hindsight and agree that this has been a good thing.