Is this REALLY happening?

I’m going to be doing a a bit of fortune-telling with today’s entry, a la Winter 2012.  It wasn’t me doing the telling, but it still counts, so I’ll redact some parts and get to the point.

She said: I predict in the not-so-distant future, Amazon will segregate indie writers and trade published authors into two separate book stores umbrella-ed under Amazon, separate but equal.  

We said: What about our visibility?  What about all those also-boughts?  What about search terms and keywords?  What…what…why?!

We were all worried.  But, with a bit of navel-gazing, we managed to convince ourselves Amazon wouldn’t do that to us, because … they just wouldn’t!

We talked ourselves into believing that Amazon, with the freshly minted Kobo store and iTunes biting at its ankle, has a reason to keep us happy so they can stay the course of being the briggest (bright married with biggest, a new word!).

But the truth is this: Amazon would do that to us.  And now, slowly, they are.

We are, essentially and in many way, science experiments for the shopping-giant. We are taste-testers, we are tryer-outters, we are eager and clawing for new ways to break the publishing world in two. We’re susceptible to they frothy, pretty ploys.

For example, Select.  In its hay-day Select was likened to a gold rush.  You took your free days, promoted them on blogs that hung a shingle on pumping free books, and, just like that, you’d “give” hundreds, if not thousands, if not tens-of-thousands, of books away.  Each free book was ground down into a scale that converted free to paid, so, coming off an exhilarating free run could likely land you in the PAID best seller list, cha-ching-ching!  In the words of Charlie Sheen, #winning.

But then Select changed … and changed … and changed, until blogs were put on notice that their affiliate status could be yanked if a certain percentage of clicks were for free book.  Free is now all but defunct.  .99 is the new free.

We, Select-authors, were prepared for this, so we bent in the wind and many of us have survived … it had been coming, but still, it changed things.  And now, we’re strapping ourselves in for yet another devastating change that will, if our crystal-ball prediction is to come true, spin us around like fucking tops.

It’s not really a secret that on the Amazon boards readers are clamoring for this.  They don’t want to see our weak-sauce books mixed with “real” books.  They want to see only Harlen and Patterson under mysteries, not some Joe Schmo from the deep south with his genre-bending, piece meal, hard-boiled stuff that’s good but not great.  They have pleaded and bemoaned this for…maybe ever?  They don’t want to have to slop through the trenches to find a read-worthy book.

And Amazon did as Amazon does … they listened, they put their customers first … they took action.

So, today it came in the form of a “search term” … you can now find Indie books by looking for them.  We’re no longer one big happy cluster of books, publisher (or lack thereof) be damned … no, we’re split — them and us.  This, dear friends, is a hop, skip and jump from separate stores.  Hunker down, it’s coming.

As of right now, at this moment, the search term isn’t easy to find … so I’ll link it:


There we and we’re dressed up: Amazon calls us cool, creative and different.

But not cool enough or creative enough to just be authors.  No.  Not that.  We’re different then regular authors.  They pretty much said so themselves.

It feels a little bit like putting lipstick on a pig, no?

On one hand, this is brilliance.  For Amazon.  They keep their peas in one pile and their carrots in another.  They keep the naysayers from staging a coop.  They still sell all books, but they’re flexing their discretionary muscle when it comes to just how they continue to do so.

On the other hand, it sucks.  I’ve never had a lot of luck with “also-boughts” … but many writers I know have.  They get boosts and jumps from big name authors who also write in the same wheelhouse, for many, this has afforded them the ability to quit the 9-5 and just write.  I worry for them.  I do.

Over the past years many of us indies have tried to break the stereotype of indie books.  We’ve tried to come up with great context, worked with great editors, hired out great cover artists.  We’ve worked and worked and worked … and now, for all that, we’ll back slide.  A book no longer be just a great book … it will be a great indie book … no longer can an author who doesn’t have a powerhouse published behind them be just a great author … now they will be a great indie author. It’s not the end of the world, but still … it feels like regression to me.





Advice for New Writers

IconOtherAdvice250So … today there is a little hot debate about the “advice for new writers” over on a social board I frequent. It was written to strike “humility” (not my word) into the hearts of the young. Obviously, for numerous reasons, it got a little ‘hot around the collar’ … some called the original advice “arrogant” and “belligerent” … and there is a part of me that couldn’t help but to agree, although I do respect and flat-out like the original poster.

See, two years ago I was “new” … scary times … I stepped onto that board with a binder full of (not women) questions.  I had written (or half written) a book, but as to what came next?  Hadn’t a clue in the world.

That board, the one aforementioned where this lively little discussion ensued, is where I learned about things like agents and cover design and formatting and promotion.  And see, two years later, I’ve been able to cash in on that advice.

  • I have an agent
  • I have, if people are to be believed, nice covers
  • I have a great formatter who is amazeballs
  • I have become a “best seller” by promotion ventures*

Now, I have a binder full of (not women) answers to questions I wasn’t smart enough to know I needed to ask.

So, I came up with my own list … which is probably as good as the paper it’s written on — which means ‘not good at all since it’s not actually written on paper’ … but this blog has a journal template, so here we go …

1. Ask your questions, get your answers.  Things change, rapidly.  What was modern and fresh yesterday may be archaic today, a la Select.  So if you’re curious about where to price your book, or if the cover you like is working for your context … by all means, ASK!

2. Trust yourself above anyone else because it’s your name on the cover, not mine and not anyone else’s either.  If you’re looking for answers on publishing, promotion, pricing, covers, blurbs, then chances are you’re Indie … which means independent, so embrace the moniker, doll. We’re here to help, but you don’t need to believe everything we say and take it as gospel. What works for the aforementioned “greats” (and there was a list of them about 5 deep in the original post) may not work for you … so if it doesn’t, don’t force it.  Publishing isn’t a one size fits all, not even for those professionals, who were, believe it or not, once new with questions of their own.

3. Fail, but fail trying.  And age-old sentiment, but totally true.  If the first book flops, shrug it off and write again. Not every writer will find his or her audience, but the moment you quit is also the moment you guarantee you never will.

4. Grow some thick ass skin.  The sooner you do it, the better off you’ll be.

5. Prepare yourself now for the first five-star review and the first one-star review.  They’re both valid.  Teach yourself to take both in stride.

6. Read…and read, a lot.  Read everything you can get your hot little hands on.  Read the genre you’re pursuing and other genres, too.  Figure out what works in the market and what doesn’t. Last year, New Adult didn’t formally exist, this year it’s the BIG THING … so pay attention to trends and figure out how they impact your own novels.

7. Take yourself seriously and other’s will too.  Don’t talk about how “new” you are … talk, instead, about how “eager” you are.  One is more endearing than the other.

8. Pay it all forward.  You won’t be “new” for very long, things move fast once you’re in the thick of it … but try to remember what it felt like the first time, that virginal experience of being an “unknown.”  And so, when someone asks, “how do I price my book?” … don’t roll your eyes, groan and begrudge them what they don’t know … answer them!  Take five minutes of your life and give them what someone once gave you.

The publishing world — trade, self, indie, hybrid, whatever — is a big, shaggy beast.  We try to tame it, but we never will.  It evolves, we evolve.  But somewhere along the way, we opened the barn door latch and now we have new souls entering our arena everyday.  But try to remember this: This, our profession, isn’t the Hunger Games, we don’t need to eat our young, folks … we need work with them, for them, and towards a common goal of making literature (in all forms) as truly amazing as it can be.

*qualified via the Amazon the best seller Kindle list, thankyouverymuch.