Category Archives: Distribution

Marketing and distribution issues for the self publisher

Patreon pains


As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently opened a Patreon account so that those who feel sorry for me like my work can throw the odd dollar my way. Part of this process has been creating a one minute introductory video for my new Creators Patreon account, explaining who I am and what I have to offer to prospective patrons. As it’s been the long Canadian thanksgiving weekend, I took time out from the day job and set to work.

Thirty plus ‘takes’ and two hours later… I have about five one minute video segments that I’m actually half way happy with. Not that I’m in love with the sound of my own voice or the way I look, my voice is too light and nasal for my liking and I’m not a handsome sight, but I am what I am and that’s all that can be said for it. I didn’t actually think that speaking under a hundred words to camera would be difficult. Oh how wrong I was. Fortunately the world will never know because all the fluffs, corpsing, swearing, face-pulling and mispronunciations have been consigned to digital Hell. There will be no gag or blooper reel. At least at this stage of the game. There’s simply not enough space on my hard drive.

Apologies….. #VATMESS


… To anyone in Europe who wants to buy an eBook via Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, and Amazon.it.

The 20% UK price hike from 1st January 2015 is not due to publishers and authors getting greedy. Far from it. Collectively we’ll be taking a sizeable pay cut. Because in the New Year (2015) eBook downloads and similar are being subjected to Value Added Tax. This will hit anyone who is an ePublisher, both coming and going. Especially the small independents.

As a Kindle Direct Program Author I received an email containing this bombshell;

On January 1, 2015, European Union (EU) tax laws regarding the taxation of digital products (including eBooks) will change: previously, Value Added Tax (VAT) was applied based on the seller’s country – as of January 1st, VAT will be applied based on the buyer’s country. As a result, starting on January 1st, KDP authors must set list prices to be inclusive of VAT. We will also make a one-time adjustment for existing books published through KDP to move from VAT-exclusive list prices to list prices which include VAT. We’ll put these changes into effect starting January 1st; you may always change your prices at any time, but you do not need to take any action unless you wish to do so.

One-time Adjustment for Existing KDP Titles:
Starting January 1st, for any titles already published in KDP, we will make a one-time adjustment to convert VAT-exclusive list prices provided to us to VAT-inclusive list prices. Subject to minimum and maximum thresholds, we will add the applicable VAT based on the primary country of the marketplace to the VAT-exclusive list price provided. For example, if an author had previously set £5.00 as the VAT-exclusive list price for amazon.co.uk, the new VAT-inclusive list price will be £6.00 because the applicable VAT rate in the UK is 20%. Please note, if an author had set a consistent VAT-exclusive list price for all Euro based Kindle stores, those prices will now be different due to varying VAT rates for the primary country of each Kindle store. For example, if an author had previously provided a €6.00 VAT-exclusive list price for amazon.de, amazon.fr, amazon.es, and amazon.it Kindle stores, the list prices including VAT will be €7.14 (19% VAT), €6.33 (5.5% VAT), €7.26 (21% VAT), and €7.32 (22% VAT) respectively.

Minimum and maximum list prices for the 35% and 70% royalty plans will now also include VAT. For books published before January 1st that would fall outside these new limits after VAT is included, we will adjust the list price to ensure the book remains in the same royalty plan that was previously selected.

I have only one title available on Kindle alone and that’s ‘Head of the Beast’ special Kindle edition. Which has me thinking of withdrawing said ‘Kindle only’ eBook and producing a new edition for general distribution on all the main platforms.

In the interim, there is a way around the EU’s tax grab, which is to surf Amazons listings via a VPN service like TunnelBear. Avast! antivirus also offer a reasonably priced VPN solution for subscribers. Or go to your chosen author’s offshore web page and purchase a download directly from their US or overseas publisher. In my case Lulu.com (See sidebar). This is a win-win for both independent author and reader, as the author of a chosen title will probably get a bigger royalty than if purchased via Amazon. In my case that works out at CAD$3.46 (About GBP1.90) from Lulu.com out of a CAD$4.99 priced title (Currently about GBP2.75) or CAD$1.92 (About GBP1.05) if the same title is purchased via Amazon and the reader can duck the EU’s tax hike. Currency conversions are based on the current rate of 1.82 Canadian Dollars to one British pound.

We should have seen this coming like a twister on the horizon. Staring at this dark cloud but not quite believing it was heading our way. A tax on eBooks? Surely not. Too late. If you can’t use technology to duck the extra tax, buy all the eBooks you can before the 1st January 2015 deadline. For my part, I’ll try to work out how to trade direct to consumer with a virtual currency like Bitcoin.

The UK’s Daily Telegraph is not impressed. Neither am I. It’s hard enough trying to make a little money in the writing game without being subject to daylight robbery.

Pass it on.

Updates and headaches


Amazon used to do a little ap you could paste the HTML from into a blog sidebar or widget. Having updated my profile on five marketing web sites today, I went looking for the HTML on Amazon without much success. In the end I was forced to create my own profile link to Amazon using WordPress’ handy ‘Image’ widget, which allows a site owner to add a small image weblink from their site to just about anywhere on the web. I was originally tempted to use an adaptation of Amazon’s logo, but then had visions of copyright lawyer emails, closed accounts etc and chose discretion.

It’s the little icon on the right hand sidebar with the moon and a meteor shower. Which I think looks rather cute.
Amazon link logo
There’s one below it for my Lulu.com Author spotlight, which I think gives a more noirish feel.
LululogoM

The biggest source of headaches is trying to untangle the web of HTML and ensure anyone who is interested finds what they’re looking for. Preferably in three clicks or less. I’ve also tried to tidy up the site a little as far as sidebars are concerned. Simply for the convenience of any visitor.

On the distribution front there’s been one minor glitch with ‘A Falling of Angels’. All fixed now, but there was a little bit of hidden code in the manuscript file that iBookstore didn’t like. One line. This means revision and a further two week delay until the eBook gets listed on the main online outlets, but that doesn’t matter so much. I think I’m getting the hang of everything now, and will have proper links to and from all the major players by the end of this week.

After that Angie and I are off to Vancouver for swearing in, so will be incommunicado. Forty eight hours after we get back from the fleshpots we have family coming to visit for three days, so I’ll be busy ministering to their needs and trying to stay sober. Somewhere between now and the festive season I may even do a little proper writing.

Profiles and marketing


Over a lunchtime coffee yesterday I was explaining to my long suffering wife about what it means to be an independent author. All the hoops that have to be jumped without assistance and the sense of never actually having caught up with yourself. It’s not just the writing, it’s the marketing and self promotion. How even with a mainstream publisher you’re still going to have to do a lot of this. Especially if you’re like me, a modest man with much to be modest about. The whole practice of self aggrandisement goes against nature. Sometimes I can feel my body cringing at the very thought. Friends, family and employers may congratulate you on your turn of phase and ability to communicate in prose, but from the depths of childhood there’s always this awful insidious doubt. Like fluffing your lines at five years old and having the whole class laugh at you. It’s a little like dying.

Nonetheless, accepted wisdom is if you want to sell, you are your own brand and this can get in the way of actually producing anything for a possible reading public. I hear this a lot on the forums I lurk around and get automated emails from. There’s just so much to do, if like me you’re an Independent with limited resources to pay for visibility. With another million (and then some) voices out there, clamouring for attention the task of getting noticed can seem impossible. Even if you do manage to get your work listed in all the right marketplaces. Then you’re faced with the last hurdle that most bookstores won’t stock independently published work. Everywhere there are mountains to climb with a great deal of sometimes contradictory sounding advice on how to scale those vertiginous heights.

So here’s my ten cents worth; there are ways of attacking this issue. Send it out to get reviewed, if the reviewers aren’t swamped or simply aren’t interested in your genre. Wait for a third party to check it out and see if they like your work enough to pen a couple of lines about it. Quite frankly I find the whole business of reviews a little scary. I try not to read them anyway, as I’m more likely than not to disagree with the reviewers. To quote the Latin; De gustibus non est disputandum. For example, in the past I’ve tried to read past Man Booker prize winners and found myself going to sleep after the first three pages. Same for many ‘critically acclaimed’ works. I’ve heard friends say exactly the same. It seems to me that critics and the public rarely concur.

Bearing this in mind, what I’m going to do over the next week is to work down the list of online distribution outlets and marketplaces checking my listings. Post a couple of short stories on genre web sites. This is time consuming but critical. Check my author profile is correct, confirm as much of the work as the distributor has listed, ensure they’re the right editions. Check the ISBN’s, iBookstore ID’s, Amazon references and other reference numbers. Confirm on at least three of the Amazon sites; .com, .co.uk, .ca and more because they’re all separate entities. Apple Author ID (Which I knew nothing about until today) Then there are all the promotion links; all forty six of them. Even logging on using my standard Facebook profile is a lot of duplication of effort and that’s only the beginning. Did I mention iAuthor? Then there’s the site admin updates by the providers coming up with the next big thing. You almost need another person full time to keep track of it all, never mind doing any writing.

My solution to keeping track of everything is to create a spreadsheet and make a list of tasks or I’ll never keep up with all the necessary site updates. It’s like eating an Elephant. You have to do it one sandwich at a time. Not to mention that after a while you can get heartily sick of Elephant Sandwiches.

Still, it’ll keep me gainfully occupied on the run up to next Monday and our Canadian Citizenship swearing in ceremony.

A long wait….


It’s always a long period between approval and distribution listing times. At the moment I’m twiddling my thumbs and playing with site headers and profile pictures, which I’ve tried to make a little less intimidating. Yes, I’m fully aware that I look like a mildly scary screen villain. The kind that always appears to be having an internal debate between kneecapping or simply throwing his victims into a bottomless pit lined with spikes. If I try to smile it’s even worse, as though I’ve forgotten my chainsaw, but have just happily remembered that there’s a nice rusty old axe out back. The mirror is not my friend.

Despite appearances, in real life I’m a decent enough fellow whose behaviour normally falls within the parameters set for ‘Gentleman‘. Kind to animals, women and children. Courteous, polite and despite often being preoccupied, few unkind thoughts pass unprovoked through my temporal lobes. Any tendency to wickedness on my part is restricted purely to the narrative. Why I’ve ended up looking like the bouncers evil uncle (At least in my own mind) I have not the faintest idea.

No matter. I’m going to try and pick up the narrative threads for the third offering in the ‘Stars’ trilogy over the next week or so. For some reason the story loses its way about sixty thousand words in and there have been too many distractions and divers’ alarums over the past nine months to devote enough processing time to such a large project. Although I will finish ‘Darkness’, it’s only a matter of time and effort.

One other thing that I’m thinking about, apart from doing a course of Neuroscience and its application in marketing, is a new service called iAuthor. Is it worth the candle?

Sometimes it seems that the learning curve is more of an inward spiral.

Out now…


Even though it’s the weekend and under our self imposed house rules I’m not supposed to be working, the one minor correction has been made to ‘A Falling of Angels’, the second Paul Calvin Adventure and it’s out on Lulu.com. Adverts and other links will be up late Monday morning via Goodreads.com and AuthorsDen. Previews are already available.

There’s been no Distribution problems reported with any of the main platforms (Kindle, Nook, Kobo et al) in the past two weeks, so go-ahead has been given for the project to go ‘live’. For a paltry CAD$4.99.

Links are available via my ‘published works‘ page. Or from the links below.

Cerberus Conspiracy
Book One
Head of the Beast Kindle eBook edition.
Book Two
A Falling of Angels eBook available via Lulu.com.

Waiting for proof


Proof copy of ‘A Falling of Angels’ has finally arrived and will be approved shortly. There’s a couple of minor issues, but nothing major or unfixable. The blurb text has one minor grammatical error and there were a couple of odd printing marks on the title page. The rest is fine. I might alter the layout slightly before final distribution approval, but aside from that it’s all good. There’s no sense changing the spelling standard for the US or Canadian marketplaces, my sales simply don’t justify it, so Oxford English will continue to trump Merriam-Webster. When it comes down to ‘ise’ vs ‘ize’ I’m with Shakespeare.

After a weekend that saw Angie and I dashing around on unexpected errands of mercy all is well. I have a new pair of tall chisel toe Blundstones and now a heater for my otherwise chilly west facing office. I’m also a waist size down. Things are looking up.

Sidebar links will be up shortly to the approved version for anyone interested. I haven’t had any negative feedback on the eBook distribution side, so am keeping my fingers crossed. I’ll quickly change the blurb and excerpts now I can work for more than half an hour in my little refuge without getting icicles in my beard.

Almost Canadian


Another day, another hoop jumped. We’ve been accepted for Canadian citizenship. Swearing in ceremony is for December 1st 2014, Vancouver. Angie and I have decided to make a weekend of it as we haven’t had a break that wasn’t work or family business related in almost a year. Christmas shopping, Citizenship, a little wine and personal abuse. I’m still shaking a little.

We had our interview on the 6th, which apart from the usual interminable waiting, went well. I think both of us were humming like tuning forks on the quiet. I was suffering from a bad case of “What have we forgotten?” on the drive up to Nanaimo, trying desperately not to go rifling through our documentation package every five minutes. We’d got our whole lives in there. Passports, old passports, Permanent Residency cards, copies of IMM1000 forms from November 2010. Copies of just about everything we could think of; certificates, travel receipts, a neatly printed out schedule of all absences from Canada over the past seven years, receipts for all travel, car hire, hotel bills the lot. Memberships, qualifications, the kitchen sink. We were ready for just about everything.

When Angie and I arrived at Nanaimo, we found our way to the right room in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, even though it wasn’t exactly as specified on our letter of notification. Joining a crowd of about eighty people, we sat down in a large room, about a hundred feet by sixty unless I’ve lost my eye for distance, with the oddity of power outletsalmost twenty feet above us in the alcoved ceiling. Four officers sat at brown folder loaded desks interviewing everyone in turn. Only one had a computer of any kind. Which I found a little odd in this day and age.

The time rolled past. Names were called, interviews done, documents inspected and boxes ticked in a surprisingly church-like atmosphere. Everyone talked very softly, so no one would miss their turn at being called. No voice was raised in frustration, exuberance or disappointment. Even the one young man we heard turned down over his refugee status barely spoke over a whisper. I found it curiously eerie.

After over an hours nervous wait our turn came and our young (Nice lad, mid-late 20’s, bespectacled Asiatic with a brown dyed buzz cut you could almost have balanced a plate on) interviewing officer checked our UK passports PR cards and Drivers Licenses. He asked me whether or not we’d been in trouble with the Police or Immigration, to which I answered “No, no, no.” in a mildly distracted manner, slightly surprised by the question. He worked for the Immigration department didn’t he? Surely he knew we were squeaky clean. He said that I didn’t sound convinced, but Angie confirmed we hadn’t had any problems, and that was the one tense moment over and done with. He asked us about our absences from Canada, then almost in a teasing manner asked about proof of the journeys. “Which ones?” Asked Angie.
“The first two?” He asked. At which my darling wife proceeded to extract the relevant stapled receipts, passes and booking forms out of a huge buff envelope. A wedge of papers two inches and more thick. I caught a flash of alarm in his eyes as if we’d called his bluff, but in the end it came out all smiles and handshakes. The right boxes were ticked, and we were offered the choice of Vancouver or Nanaimo for our citizenship ceremony. “What about Victoria?” I asked. Our interviewing officer did a little double take as he realised our new Victoria address was on the form, but we happily agreed to Vancouver on the 1st of December. Considering the course we’ve sailed, a ferry journey and long weekend are no real inconvenience.

With a final handshake we were on our way to pick up our house guest for the weekend. My knees almost giving way beneath me as Angie disappeared for her third rest room break in two hours. My sense of relief was that intense. We’d done it. From a wedding day promise in 2002 to here. I’m still not sure I really believe it myself.

Now it seems as though a leaden weight has lifted. I see a new happy light in my wife’s eyes. Citizenship has been a long road that’s almost broken both of us. But champagne has been drunk, a new confidence has arisen, and now we feel more secure in ourselves. Or we will do when we get our citizenship cards. We’re still a little on edge, but not so much. Smiling is much easier. 2014 has been a hard year emotionally.

‘A Falling of Angels’ should be ready for distribution by next Friday, and all the links will be on this web site, Authors Den and GoodReads by then. For now the only book I have to deal with is booking a Vancouver hotel.

Royalty


Got my first royalty notification via email half an hour ago from Kobo. I’m not saying how much for, but let’s just say it’s not enough for the tax man to get excited about. This will not be catapulting me into the upper tax bracket. The deposit on the Lear Jet will simply have to wait.

Still, it’s nice to have sold something. I hear about other people claiming to have made thousands, but I’m sceptical. There are many sellers, but only a finite number of readers. The mathematics are not encouraging. Even the best-selling authors find it tough. For my part I hardly do any marketing, as I spend most of my time creating something to market. Let the dice fall as they may.

Done


4:10pm Pacific Standard Time. ‘A Falling of Angels’ pocket paperback is now ordered for printing. Can’t say I’m overly impressed with the end price of CAD$22.50, but that’s print to order I’m afraid. No economies of scale. The eBook version just went out for distribution at CAD$4.99, so I’m much happier about that.

Tweeted. Sent. Links will be posted here and at my Authors Den page when approval for distribution comes through. The latest Paul Calvin adventure has all been quadruple checked and I can go and deal with my Citizenship Interview with a clear conscience. Now I’m going for a lie down in a darkened room.

Up the Amazon


This is proving an education in so many ways. ‘Head of the Beast’ is now available on Amazon, and I shall be adding the heavily revised editions of ‘Sky Full of Stars’ and ‘Falling Through the Stars eBooks in the next two weeks. They’ll take a week to ‘go live’ on the major Amazon web sites.

In addition, last night I revisited Lulu.com for the first time in months and was delighted to find that their eBook distribution now covers both the Kobo and Kindle platforms as well as the Nook and iBookstore. All I need is to double check what’s available and tick two boxes. Hooray.

On the downside, what this means for me is a lot of administration. Creating and updating author pages and profiles. I’ve had one on Amazon.com some time, now the task has to be repeated for Amazon.co.uk. Authors Den and other promotional profiles need to be tidied up and improved. Adverts added to sidebars and a whole host of other time consumers. Not sure whether I want to become an ‘Amazon Associate’ though.

Also I’m writing again. Last nights contribution was a dark little tale of techno-convenience gone wrong. A 2500 word piece I’ve been struggling to finish called ‘Blink’. Today I have some domestic tasks to do before doing the weeks shopping. After that, while I’m in the mood, I’ll revise another 5000 word tale I’ve given the working title ‘the Immortality bug’. Thence another go at ‘A Falling of Angels’. It’s going to be a busy week.

Publication schedule


The updated Paul Calvin eBook ‘Head of the Beast’ has (finally) been submitted via Amazon to their Kindle Direct program. Paperback and Hardback versions have been withdrawn from Lulu.com for the moment, but new editions will be available shortly with updated text and better cover art. Link to Amazon Kindle format will be added to my Authors Den page and this blogs ‘Published Works’ page around ten am Pacific Standard Time, Saturday 23rd August.

Per previous blog post, work on its sequel, ‘A Falling of Angels’ continues. Less than 12,000 words and a denouement to go. First eBook edition should be available shortly before Christmas.

To close, I must say it isn’t easy being a one man writing, publishing, and marketing band. I really do find these final submissions quite stressful so I’m off for a quiet lie down now until my hands stop shaking. Many thanks in advance to everyone who likes my work enough to spend the price of a cup of coffee and a cookie on it. Enjoy.

Back in action


It’s been a rough few months since March. A lot of profoundly distressing things have happened, including getting cleaning fluid on both hands which caused the skin on my fingers to break up. This halted typing for over three weeks with predictable consequences. For six weeks thereafter it was one wretched thing after another, meaning I didn’t write a word. Therefore all my good intentions lie shattered at my feet. Transatlantic travel and jet lag are not good for study or the creative writing process. Neither is multiple bereavement. Nor is being handed post mortem revelations about close family. None of which I intend to share on a public forum. Although I think I will miss my dog Amos most of all.

Today the clouds lift. Since we returned from the UK I’ve been working on the Kindle edition of “Head of the Beast”, cleaning up text errors and minor glitches in punctuation, even rewriting certain passages. Forcing myself to re read and rewrite until I thought my eyes were going to bleed. The story remains the same, but it reads much better. There’s also new cover art, which is one of the low resolution examples below. A volume of short fiction is forthcoming, which is a work in progress. Maybe in late November, maybe not. Recently the sound of self imposed deadlines whooshing overhead has been deafening. There’s a number of back catalogue stories I intend to include, including some published over ten years ago. Rewritten, extended and improved. No title as yet, but I have a number of possibles.

Artwork and poll for Kindle edition of the Paul Calvin supernatural sci-fi title ‘Head of the Beast’ below.

Head of the beast cover Version A
Head of the beast cover Version A

Head of the beast cover version B
Head of the beast cover version B

Good advice from Goodreads


Pleased to say I’ve been accepted for GoodReads as an author.  As a matter of course I spent a few minutes going through their ‘Author Guidelines’ and found this solid little gem;

From time to time, Goodreads authors have responded to readers who gave their books negative reviews or ratings, and the results have been disastrous for the authors’ reputations. Goodreads is not private; other readers will see a hostile reaction from the author, and a single negative interaction is often enough to turn a reader against an author permanently.

Couldn’t agree more. Don’t engage with hostile forces unnecessarily, and you’ll never lose the fight. Make the trolls punch smoke. Sound thinking there from the Goodreads team.

There’s also a mechanism for flagging, downgrading and even removing pointlessly hostile reviews. Splendid stuff.

I have a feeling we’ll get on famously.

On the domestic front we had a minor panic last night. Around half past ten I was convinced I could smell burning insulation in the kitchen. Called Angie, who agreed; yes, that’s hot wiring, not my over active imagination. Called Mark, our landlord, who checked out the wiring and circuits, which were all running cool as frozen yoghurt. After he’d gone I checked underneath the fridge, which seemed to be the source of the hot insulation smell. Plenty of fluff on the evaporator coils, so I set to work with a long crevice nozzle on the vacuum cleaner. At one stage in a highly undignified posture with the fridge up on blocks and me scrunched up between it and the wall, straining to clear greasy dust off electric motor stators. This state of affairs continued until midnight, and I ended up sleeping with a fire extinguisher by the bed. Electrical fires, especially in frame built housing, are no joke.

It’s not like we don’t clean the kitchen regularly, but from what I could see, this was the accumulation of airborne muck from the day the fridge was installed. I’ve seen this phenomenon in old server rooms where the air conditioners were faulty or didn’t have decent air filters. Fine dust in the air builds up over time until you have motherboards that look as hairy as a Yeti in full moult, and there’s a growing smell of hot insulation. Even the odd soft ‘zipping’ noise of a static short circuit. No-one’s fault, but it can be quite worrying to see what people in ‘clean’ offices are actually breathing. Same for the fridge.

This morning; no smell, and the fridge is cool. We’re all good. The sun is shining and think it’s going to be a really good day.