My author page

My publisher keeps getting more organized.  Recently they launched author “landing” pages for the folks they represent.  Here’s mine.  They’ll include a link to this page at the end of each of my books, to make it easy for readers to check out my other very fine novels.

Now if only I could get more organized . . .

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Does everyone know I have an Amazon author page?

You can find it here.  Notice the exciting Follow button beneath my photo.  Click it, and apparently Amazon keeps you updated on my new releases and maybe other cool stuff.

(For those keeping track, I’m about halfway through the second draft of the sequel to The Portal.  I was hoping to get it out this year, but I have a feeling it’s going to leak into 2016.)

My ePublisher weighs in on the state of ebooks

Every once in a while my ePublisher sends out an email giving their thoughts on the state of ebook publishing.  The latest one is pretty interesting. In a section titled “Reality Sets In” they talk about the glut of ebooks on the market:

With the filters removed, the market is flooding with dreck. It’s hard to get an exact number, but there are about 4 million ebooks on the market right now with nearly 100,000 new titles added each month. Shockingly, most will never sell a single copy. Of the remainder, only about 2% will sell at any meaningful quantity.

Unfortunately for many, self-publishing was sold as the easy path to notoriety and fortune; simply publish your story and readers will send you mountains of cash! But many found out the hard way that the only thing more demanding than publishers are readers and their unbridled reviews. A few discovered success, while the masses simply found a harsh dose of reality; this business is tough.

With time, this realization will thin the ranks as the hopeful become discouraged and opt for other pursuits.

They point out one way that Amazon (and other vendors) could help thin the ranks:

The available inventory of ebooks needs to be purged. At some point, natural selection will reign and the purge will happen.

We’ve already seen the first waves in the subscription services, and, at some point, resellers will also tire of being loaded down with dreck and will perhaps begin charging to maintain books in their system. Imagine the income Amazon could draw down if they charged $1 per month per title? Once one eRetailer does it, the others will follow. Then, all books that never sold a sustainable number of copies will leave the system and things will normalize—for a while.

It never made much sense to me that Amazon (and other vendors) would just store everyone’s ebooks on their servers for free.  Sure, storage is cheap, but it costs Amazon something to store millions of books, from most of which they will never see a penny in revenue.  I would certainly pay a storage fee if it would help get rid of the dreck.

My ePublisher’s advice to writers has been constant for a while: quality matters.  So does productivity.  Series are better than individual titles.  Long, complex narratives don’t do as well as simpler narratives.  Attention spans aren’t what they used to be.  Readers have lots of other ways to entertain themselves–often on the same device on which they’re doing their reading.  So get back to work.

Which I will now try to do.

More on e-book price resistance

Via The Passive Voice, I see the Wall Street Journal reporting on the decline in e-book sales from the major publishers.  This is in the wake of the new contracts they signed with Amazon, which allowed them to continue to set their own prices.

A recent snapshot of e-book prices found that titles in the Kindle bookstore from the five biggest publishers cost, on average, $10.81, while all other 2015 e-books on the site had an average price of $4.95, according to industry researcher Codex Group LLC.

“Since book buyers expect the price of a Kindle e-book to be well under $9, once you get to over $10 consumers start to say, ‘Let me think about that,’” said Codex CEO Peter Hildick-Smith

Hachette cited fewer hot titles and the implementation of its Amazon deal as reasons that e-books fell to 24% of its U.S. net trade sales in the first half of 2015, from 29% a year earlier. Declining e-book sales contributed to a 7.8% drop in revenue in the period.

Then there’s this paragraph:

One high-level publishing executive disputed that the Amazon pacts are contributing to the e-book sales decline. “This is a title-driven business,” he said. “If you have a good book, price isn’t an issue.”

This is, of course, insane.  Price is always an issue.  Maybe you’ll pay more for a new Stephen King book, but there is a price at which you won’t bother to buy it.  And how much money are big publishers leaving on the table by not appropriately pricing their backlist?  The novelist James Salter died recently.  I had heard of him but never read anything by him.  I went on Amazon, and all his ebooks were $9.99 or more; recently one showed up on BookBub for $1.99, so I scooped it up.  As the Passive Guy says:

Since Amazon is the biggest bookstore in the world, one which obsessively collects and analyzes data concerning customer behavior, it is much better qualified to set optimum prices to maximize revenues from the sales of ebooks than a bunch of provincial publishers who have never run any sort of store and have virtually nothing in common with a typical reader.

If you give a kid a stick of dynamite, why would you expect anything other than trouble?

E-books and price resistance

Now that I have a Kindle Paperwhite, I’m paying more attention to my book-buying thought process. Yesterday I was thinking fondly about A Fan’s Notes, and I was prepared to purchase the ebook, but I just couldn’t bring myself to click the button — $9.99 just seemed too high a price for an impulse purchase where there was a good chance I’d be disappointed.  I would certainly have bought it for $4.99, but I wouldn’t have gone much higher.

The big publishers essentially won their battle with Amazon over agency pricing for ebooks.  They get to set the price, and they don’t seem to want to go below $9.99, even for a 47-year-old mid-list book like A Fan’s Notes.  I can’t really say they’re over-charging simply based on my personal level of price resistance.  But:

We’re hearing widespread but totally unofficial reports that big publisher ebook sales are dropping noticeably when their new higher Agency prices are activated.

And:

What appears to be happening, writes Shatzkin, is that higher Agency pricing by publishers may be placing  the majors’ ebooks right out of the market for many potential buyers.

I did pay $11.99 recently for the ebook version of Faith vs. Fact.  But that was at least partially because I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment over the years from reading Jerry Coyne’s website Why Evolution Is True and wanted to give something back to him.  I find it hard to imagine I’d pay that much otherwise.

Interesting times for traditional publishers.

My Kindle Paperwhite and me

I finally splurged and bought a Kindle Paperwhite–and immediately thereafter Amazon went ahead and announced a new improved model at the same price.  Oh, well.

My lovely wife got an early-model Kindle a few years ago, and neither of us used it much–the interface was clunky, and the resolution wasn’t very good.  I then used the Kindle app on my iPad 2, which was much better, but the iPad’s weight and form factor weren’t ideal for casual reading.  The Paperwhite is much better.

Thoughts on the Paperwhite so far:

  • The weight and form factor are fine.  You can hold the thing in one hand while holding your beer in your other hand.
  • It’s easier to use in sunlight than the iPad.
  • The resolution in my model is good enough for me, although I’m always happier to get better resolution. The ability to change font size and screen brightness is a big plus (as it is on the iPad app).
  • The built-in dictionary and Wikipedia are probably the biggest advantages for me over reading printed books.  I’m currently reading a novel set in the ninth century called Pope Joan, and the author doesn’t spare the medieval vocabulary.  (She does a good job with the olde-time dialog, although her characters aren’t particularly interesting so far)  At my age I should know what a posset is, but OK, I don’t.  It’s so easy to highlight the word and have the Kindle tell me what it means.
  • I sure wish it had color, if just for the book covers.
  • A battery charge lasts, like, forever.

And, of course, there’s the content. I was listening to Being Mortala wonderful book about old age and dying. The author mentioned Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich, which I haven’t read in decades.  So I went to the Kindle store and found it for $1.99–in a book with everything else Tolstoy ever wrote.  So now I have War and Peace and Anna Karenina on my Kindle, just in case.  If I get tired of Tolstoy, I can always dip into the complete stories of H. P. Lovecraft, which I also picked up for $1.99.  (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Tolstoy is a better writer.)  Or the complete stories of Chekhov.  Or an old P. G. Wodehouse novel.  Or the Federalist Papers, which I never got around to reading when I was in school.

So far I haven’t spent more than $1.99 on anything I’ve bought for the Paperwhite, and I probably have enough on it to last me the rest of the year.  The older content has its share of typos and faulty layout, but the price is right.

Have I mentioned lately that my novels are all available for the Kindle Paperwhite at astonishingly low prices?  No typos, no faulty layout.