I’m Going All In

Last night, I made a decision … we’ll lovingly call it the May Day choice.

I’ve decided, starting May 2, 2012 or as soon as the “pending” icon beside The Milestone Tapes vanishes, I’ll be going Select.  100% in it.  100% Amazon.

Two months ago I took a risk, a calculated risk, but still a risk.  I self published.  This book that no agent believed in has since gone on to gather glowing reviews … after 14 on Goodreads I’m still a strong 4.5 stars.  I thought, in the beginning, that market saturation would be the key to this novels success.  That if everyone had the chance to own it, I’d be selling smart.

Two months later, data has proven, my original stance was wrong.  No, market saturation and a bagillion blog tours isn’t making this book rise and shine in the rankings.  Here is the break down.

B&N – 3 copies sold

Smashwords (et all) – 2 gifted, 0 sales.

Amazon on the other hand accounts for almost 100% of the interest in both paperback and eBook.

It wasn’t a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants decision I made when I decided to pull my title from Smashwords and B&N … it was calculated.  It was ultimately based on where I was seeing the book sell and the opportunities the book would have if I gave the rights exclusively to Amazon and Select.

Select will give my title, in a perfect world, more visibility.  The glorious free days will also let readers take the chance on a book they otherwise might not buy.

All of that aside, what ultimately made my mind up (outside of the advice of David Adams, a gifted writer and fellow author friend) is that I shopped at Macy’s.  Just follow my thought here for a moment …

My sister was looking for a dress for an upcoming engagement party and we decided that Macy’s would probably have the right selection for her needs.  As we browsed the racks I noticed a few things … there is such a thing as brand exclusivity.  Macy’s carried Ralph Lauren while Sears does not.  Why?  Because Ralph Lauren probably sells better at Macy’s.  So while RL does have stand-alone stores that I’m guessing do well with the preppy Americana crowd, they also let Macy’s act on their behalf because it works as well at the department store.

Select is not really so different.  Books are a commodity.  Selling them where they actually sell rather than where they don’t is, in a word, smart.

I have to be smart.  I have to take things at face value.  So, ultimately, for the next three months I’m going all in.

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“Obviously You Don’t Care!”

An interesting take on the new KDP Select Program was raised on the Kindle Boards Forum … by a Nook user.

In the past few weeks, this Select program has gone from very hush-hush with secretive terms and confidential phone calls to loud and proud.  We now know the terms of the agreement, the limitations and the benefits.  While no official cheques have been written by Amazon, we have numbers in terms of “lent” books … which are more than just a little impressive.  Some authors are seeing lending numbers garnished from a singular hour match what they did on B&N in an entire year for a single title.  Like I said, impressive.  As for what percentage those numbers will win them from the $500,000 pool … that’s still TBD … but it’s a bright light, and I look forward to hearing from the brave souls who gleefully publish their numbers.

And for me, with this new information, it’s become an increasingly difficult decision to make … spread the love or give it all to Amazon?  What’s a girl to do?

So, that brings us to this Nook User (we’ll call her Nook User for the duration of this post).  What makes her take so interesting is this … she’s not an author, she is a reader — a very brave reader who came out of lurking to write an open letter to the authors who post there.  She is our target market, the reader with the open mind, and rightfully so, she guessed that her opinion would matter.  She clearly stated that she uses a Nook by choice — leaving me to guess no one from B&N has put a gun to her head.  And, as you can probably guess, she has great issue with Amazon’s new “take all” strategy.

Nook User uses Amazon.com and it’s Kindle Store as a shopping tool.  She’ll research the books on Amazon’s much friendlier site, and then — with list in hand — head over to B&N for purchases.  She has a well oiled system to her buying … and when a to-be-bought book that was listed on Amazon fails to appear on B&N she feels like “obviously you don’t care!”

It’s an interesting take, right?  To think that if your book isn’t widely available your actions are perceived as careless … thoughtless … insensitive.  After all, you’re making a business decision … but for others, those that want to read your work, it’s personal.

In my opinion no one single reader is more important than the next … I say that as a reader and as a writer.  That the sum is truly greater than its parts.  Amazon has always been a much friendlier place for authors than it’s brick and mortar counterparts — and even its online competitors.  The lending program is proving to be a valuable tool, reaching new readers who will borrow a book from a new author whereas they may not make the decision to “pay” for the chance otherwise. Likewise, Amazon understands business and the business of writing books and in turn, give the writer a nice compensation.

But still …

I do care.  I care a lot.  Which is why Nook User’s post earned its own place on my blog.

My first eReader was a Sony 505 … or something like that, I can’t remember.  I wanted a Kindle … but Oprah had gone and made it the hardest and hottest grown-up toy of the season.  The backorder log was months deep and I would have had to wait forever for an Kindle of my own.  It was hard decision, but I decided to give up my place in line and buy a much more accessible Sony.

It was a beautiful eReader … a glossy powder coated blue metal device.  The case had a built-in light that, when folded down, covered the whole screen.  I was so excited to have it.

And, like Nook User, I found an easy way to find books I wanted to read … I went to Borders.  I would make short lists, come home, log into my account and try to find the books.  This was still the dark ages of ePub, and 90% of what I wanted to read wasn’t for sale through Sony.  Unlike Nook User, I did deviate from my eReader and simply supplemented my Sony by buying hardcovers and paperbacks.  What I’m trying to say is that, I understand, I’ve been there.

But, I never felted slighted by the authors for not publishing their books with ePub.  No, I understood that businesses make decisions based on what works for them and eBooks, at the time, were still a sluggish yet proven venture.

I eventually popped on the Kindle 2 and sold my Sony after spending some time on the Amazon site and realizing what an opportunity I was missing.  It changed for me then, I started ONLY buying e-editions of books … and rarely would I go for a paper version.  So, in that instance, again … I understand.

My point is … I get it.  I know that, in a perfect world, every book would be available in every format, but it’s not always the sagest business decision to do that.  And as an author I’m half writer half, business woman.  I have to look at the bigger picture to make the best decision … it’s really as simple as that.  It’s not that I don’t care … it’s that I care too much.  I care about everything.  I care about sales and readers and marketing and profit/loss … I care about my image and availability and the economy and the market.

But, there is a happy medium.  There is a solution …

PDF.

My decision in regards to KDP Select remains unmade in this moment.  But, I have scrambled my brain around making it fair … fair for everyone.

KDP lends the books to users for free.  Android users, iPad users … anyone with the Kindle app can pounce on the lending option.  It gives someone the opportunity to take the chance … and I think that paying that forward in the spirit of fairness is the best.

So … this is my personal solution …

If I decide, in the end, to make my book exclusively linked to Amazon … in essence shunning myself from readers of B&N and Apple, I will offer free PDF versions of my book for those unable to access it with their chosen provider.  I will set a pre-determined number of “free copies” … and when they’re gone, they’re gone.  Like with Amazon, I will run the promotion for 90 days and reevaluate things at the close.  It will allow me to be as fair as possible while still playing by the Select rules.

So, Nook User, I care.  And I consider your feelings and opinions very important … and you’re right … books are for reading.  So, no matter what I decide … anyone who wants to can read it.