Thursday, July 2, 2015

Never a dull moment in Indie publishing

Dear oh dear, there's never a dull moment in this publishing caper. In the past week:
  • Scribd (a readers subscription service) has pulled most of its romance titles (except the free ones)
  • Amazon's Kindle Unlimited (another subscription service) has revised its algorithms to try to correct the ways in which dastardly authors were gaming the system to earn more than they should have
  • Yet another author has been told that posting a review on Amazon for a book written by someone you know online is not allowed. And no, we're not going to tell you what knowing someone online means.
 The Scribd debacle - and, I guess, the Amazon KU, one - reminds me of the saga we had with gym memberships back in the eghties. In an effort to gain members, gyms would offer lifetime memberships. They weren't all that cheap, but the idea was you paid your money and you could use the facilities for free. The gyms figured they'd make more money from members by selling extras. But guess what? It didn't work. Because people didn't buy enough extras and the cash flow dried up. One large gym chain went bust and the others went back to a more sustainable model, where patrons paid for a given period of access.

It seems to me that if Scribd is cutting back the books it holds in the genre which is most read (romance) its days must be numbered. I had hoped that my SF romances would remain because they have a foot in both camps, but I was wrong. Hey ho. I'll be withdrawing my books - not because I generated much income that way, more as a protest. They're happy to offer my free title, but not the other romance titles? I don't think so.

I've also pulled my one remaining title out of KU. It's an old title (Supertech) and I'd hoped that I could squeeze a few downloads out of it through the lending system. Nope. At this stage, I guess I'm rationalising where I sell. It seems at Omnilit/all Romance I can only give away my free title, so that's becoming pointless as well. I'm still in Smashwords, although I regularly ask myself why. It's more trouble that it's worth. I'll stay with D2D because I like their model, and I'll stay with Amazon because that's where I make most sales. I don't intend to use Amazon's exclusivity again - but I'm a tart and if they come up with something new, I'll consider my options.

Like most people I know, I find Amazon's rule on not writing a review for another writer pretty much incomprehensible. How does Amazon determine who is permitted/not permitted to review? Your mum, because she has the same surname as you? And does that work if you're a woman writing under her married name? Or if you use a pen name? If I've met a fellow writer in real life, does that make them ineligible? Am I supposed to be in competition with every writer I know online? Even if they write (say) erotic gay romance and I don't?

As other people have said, I'd be much happier if the Zon put some effort into curbing troll reviews. But then, I don't use reviews to select reading material - especially not Amazon and GoodReads reviews. As far as I'm concerned, their value has been compromised so much they're not worth my time.

And in other, lighter, news, I've re-released A Matter of Trust in the Dryden Universe, joining the story that was a spin-off from it, The Demon's Eye. Dreams2Media has designed a brand new cover, so the two have a matching theme. Here they are. What do you think?


7 comments:

  1. I'll be posting about Scribd on Tuesday, but right now all my titles are still live there. Maybe because I didn't list them as romance first, but space opera/paranormal/urban fantasy. I don't know. Maybe they just haven't got to mine yet. Since Scribd has been my second best selling platform this past two months, I'm loathe to leave but I don't like what they've done. Mark Coker advised staying in Scribd because a) there will now be less competition among the surviving romance titles (ugh, but when you're trying to make a living) and b) it's all in flux and things may change. My view is that, even if my titles remain, sales are more likely to drop as the romance readers go elsewhere after being targeted and let down by Scribd. We're going to remove the free antho from Scribd because how dare they make money from that when it's free everywhere else!? But I'm sick and I can't be doing with it right now so I'm all wait and see at the moment.
    As for other retailers - I only stick with SW for Overdrive. After the initial release, sales of my books on SW and ARe die completely (and not even the free antho does well). They're probably both more trouble than they're worth. I'm getting a few sales on Kobo, and though I hate the payment scheme (once every six months if you don't make $100 a month), it's an improvement. I have fewer sales at iTunes and B&N (both via Scribd), and right now I haven't had a sake at Scribd in a couple of weeks, but I would stick with D2D. I may put my first book in a series exclusive to Zon when book two is due out, but only as a temporary thing.
    As for Zon - to my knowledge, I've only had one of my reviews taken down way back when they first decided authors can't review other authors. Because, of course, if we write a nice review we must be a friend giving them a boost. If we write a negative one, we're trashing our competition. O.o Funnily enough, the review taken down was on book two of a series. My review for book one remained. So Zon isn't even consistent with who can't review for a certain author. I essentially got around it by sending the review to a review site who then posted it on my behalf. There are ways around Zon's random review cullings. However, like you, I rarely trust reviews anywhere, especially after a UK documentary revealed that in all probability, half of all reviews are fake. Me, I'm going to jeep on posting reviews of my honest opinion, and if Zon deletes them they're still on other sites because I try to post them to all retailers regardless of where I got the book. It would help if actual people checked the reviews instead of algorithms. Personally I don't believe Zon has actual data proving whether a reviewer is friends with an author or not - I reckon they just say that because they have no actual way to confirm anything of the kind.
    Nice covers, and I like the matching theme.

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  2. Thanks for the long reply. I guess we all have skin in the retailer and subscriber service game. It doesn't get any easier, does it?

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    1. Delirious ramblings, lol... It's difficult. I'm not sure if I'm happy my books are still up at Scribd when so many of my friends and colleagues had their books pulled. On the other hand, I have just three years left to try and make writing pay before I have to look at getting a 'proper' job. It doesn't get any easier. I thought going fully indie would be an improvement, but every step forward seems matched by a shove back. Chances are, as you say, Scribd won't survive anyway. A publishing guru I follow said Scribd's system was sustainable, and he was right. He's also predicting their days are numbered now, and I agree. Unless they switch to the Amazon method of underpaying authors, and let's face it - Amazon outrun all the competition in all they do, so I doubt Scribd could succeed.
      I'm having to consider the thought that exclusivity at Zon is the only viable route, which of course is what they're hoping. Rope us all in, crush the competition, then really squeeze the authors when they no longer have anywhere else to go!

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    2. I must say, I'm glad I'm not trying to make a living out of this. Writing for me keeps me out of less palatable options like the local bowls club. I hope it turns out for you. I know you work hard at it.

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  3. Greta, I had more than a dozen reviews of mine taken down during the first wave of "review cleanup" a few years back, and so did my mum and my husband's mother because when we bought them their Kindles for Christmas, I put my credit down on their accounts so that we could fill their devices and they'd be ready to go. Even though they took over the accounts and put their own credit cards down, Amazon wiped out almost all of their reviews. Mind you, some of the books they reviewed, I had as well because we all liked them, but some were completely different from what I would read or they would. I sent email after email trying to say how ridiculous this situation was and how they had shown both of our mothers how little they repscted their opinions as consumers, but to no avail. now, neither my mum or my mother-in-law will even think about writing a review, and I don't blame them. Such a silly business.

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    1. Wow. It's all so very 1984, isn't it? Except so much worse. And yes, stupid. It's really sledgehammer to kill a fly stuff.

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