Monday, April 16, 2012


To lighten up the tone after all my lawsuit bitching, I thought I'd share this.  May we all aspire to write such timeless books as these:

Amazon, Apple, Trad Pubs, the DOJ, and Agency

This is somewhat of an evolving story as 3 of 5 traditional publishers being sued alongside Apple have settled with the DOJ. What that means for agency pricing and if or when things will begin changing is up in the air.

Honestly, I don't really care about any of that.  This doesn't affect the day to day of my self publishing business.  I have no intention of ever submitting (in the truest sense of the word) to a traditional publisher  to publish my stories (unless I am wildly successful and they want to empty their coffers into my coffers for the chance to do business with me a la Hocking or Locke--in which case I might).

Then why am I talking about this?

Because I was initially surprised at the press over the suit (here and here).  Everyone is bitching and moaning about what a bad actor amazon is. I am sorry but lowering prices for your customers (charging 9.99 for bestsellers) and gaining marketshare because of that doesn't make one a bad actor. Do right by your customers and your customers will do right by you.

I say initially surprised because the news outlets that are moaning have been in bed with traditional publishing and will continue to be. These are the same publications that wouldn't even list self published titles in their 'bestelling' categories despite some titles selling hundreds of thousands more copies than the most successful traditionally published titles that they did list. They are basically the mouthpieces for the publishing industry. So, no, I am no longer surprised by the tone of the coverage.

This whole thing just seems so wasteful to me, however.  There will be untold millions wasted in legal fees because some CEOs couldn't be mature adults and instead chose to act like children.  Pure waste.

The rundown:

Basically, the companies being sued by the Department of Justice are alleged to have colluded with each other and Apple to the detriment of Amazon in the 1-2 years prior to the Ipad's release. While I can understand their motivation for doing this (they all seem to hate Amazon's success in the marketplace), it doesn't give you the right to break the law.  (I am not being a right and wrong moralist here-- If you don't agree with a law, go ahead and break it.  But be aware of the consequences of doing so.  Better yet, lobby to have the law changed.)

Apple's introduction of the iPad and the resulting growth of the iBookstore was bound to be an enormous disruptor to Amazon's marketshare. But everyone had to go just a step too far and that's why they are now in trouble.

Agreeing to use the agency pricing structure as a way to punish Amazon a) didn't really work and b) promotes price fixing rather than price diversity in the marketplace.  But that is not even the issue for me.

How things played out could have easily have occurred legally.  Without the collusion.  Apple was introducing a tablet that was (is?) definitely a game changer for ebooks and bad news for the Kindle.  They could have insisted on Agency.  That in and of itself is fine, though aggressive.  But still well within their rights.  And each publisher could have easily said yes or no based solely on their own counsel rather than making sure things are lining up with the other publishers.  (This is exactly what the 2 non-settling publishers say occurred.)  Each publisher most likely would have gone along with Apple's plan individually and the end result would be the same as what exists now.

Agency in and of itself is not bad.  Agency is not the reason they are being sued.  They are being sued bc of the way they went about it.

If I knock on your door and offer you money for your TV and you say yes-- I get a tv.  Or I could break into your house and take your tv--I get a tv.  One way of getting your tv is legal.  The other is not.

This is what I mean by waste.  Those being sued let their emotions rule and instead of thinking things through and making better decisions (I am sounding like a mom for a reason), they chose the first thing that came to mind.  If only a little more frontal lobe activity had occurred when making these decisions, perhaps they could have achieved the exact same result without resulting to such dubious methods.

Chatting it up over multiple dinners and phone calls about how we can stop a business from doing business bc they are hurting our business is just not allowed.  It is the opposite of a free market.  Consumers are the bosses in the market.  If you as a publisher are losing marketshare or profits then change is clearly needed.  Do something bigger, better, brighter for your customer and you will be the marketplace king.  It seems pretty simple to me.

Am I missing something?

Linky Links-
Some more opinions on the matter:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

To Pen Name or Not To Pen Name?

This is a personal choice in the sense that there is no right answer. There are authors such as BV Lawson who write in many different genres and do so very successfully. The benefit of writing under one name is cross promotion. Your readers might drink from your well longer because they try out one of your other books in a different genre. John Locke experienced this benefit when he began his Western series after having written many successful Donovan Creed suspense novels.

The risk of doing this can be seen in the reviews of those westerns. Many people tried it out because they loved his writing, characters, and wacky plots but didn’t quite get what they wanted from the westerns. And then wrote about it in an Amazon review. Turning off your reader is the risk you take. You may have it labeled all over the cover and description that this is a ‘departure’ or ‘different style’ or something like that in addition to the explicit different genre mentions. And then it will seem unfair when a reader then leaves a review saying this book wasn’t what they thought it was. It happens all the time.

The Solution? A Pen Name

Being a writer is one of the few professions where we are allowed to explicitly take on many different identities (other than being a spy—they’re allowed, too). Having a different pen name whether secret or public typically prevents a reader from dipping into the wrong genre well and being disappointed. One of the most famous uses of a pen name is with Nora Roberts who writes romance. She adopted (or her publishing house made her adopt) a pen name when she started her futuristic police procedural romance series called In Death. For that she writes under the name JD Robb. It is said to have been a private pen name for a couple of years before she was ‘outed’ and thus began receiving the cross promotional benefits of her more successful Nora Roberts name.

The Risks of Using a Pen Name

More work— it is that much more work to market and promote yourself and your work. However, if you are using an ‘open’ pen name where it is public knowledge that the name is the same writer as another name, the work load lessens. You can mention both names in various marketing endeavors and get the benefits.

You might want to keep a pen name private for a few reasons. First, good, old-fashioned privacy. This is even more of a concern today when we can find out so much about each other online in five minutes. A pen name can help keep your private life private.

Another reason, though, is to prevent audience crossover. But why oh why would we ever want to do that??  Because some stories are inappropriate for some audiences. This is usually only true for erotica pen names if you happen to write inspirational or young adult fiction (or don’t want your day job colleagues finding out about your erotica writing forays). In these cases, yes, you do have to do double duty on the marketing and promotional fronts. That is the main cost of private pen names.

A third reason to use a pen name is for marketing and discoverability reasons. Is your name hard to pronounce or spell? This might be a good time to adopt the name you always wished as a kid that your parents had chosen for you— as long as it IS easy to pronounce or spell. Smooth the way for potential readers to find you so they can become fans. The caveat to that is to not fall off the cliff into the pit of generic and forgettable names. It’s a fine line that I still struggle with myself (hello?Kate Madison?!?).

There is another issue (besides more work for you) with using a pen name: reader confusion. It is hard enough to get a reader to find your book, buy it, read it, tell someone about it, and maybe even buy another. And then you want them to remember another name on top of all you are hoping and praying they will do for you already? While this effort might seem small to you, it can be enough to prevent a potential fan of your ‘other’ books from ever checking them out. For some people with busy lives and brains full of endless details, this is too much and they don’t act (i.e. Buy your other books).  

There are costs and benefits on both sides of the pen name issue. Only you can decide what is right for you. 

Obviously, I have gone with using them.  Both private and public.  I have four pen names currently with 26 titles published between them.  Will I create more?  If I try more genres, yes.  I have enjoyed the benefits of the separation.  Although, yes, it has been more work.  But a lot of the extra effort is one time, upfront variety.  But for you?  Your call. 

Anyway, long post.  Sorry about that.  

Happy writing, all!


Linky Links:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Super Cool Stats

Okay so Self Publishing rocks.  I know it.  Hopefully, you know it.  But your brother-in-law might not.  I got into a huge 'discussion' with my BIL this weekend over the merits of self pubbing.  It was so weird bc it was almost like having a political argument.  If I played back the audio and just inserted a few different words, the thing would still sound authentic.

We were looking at things from very different points of view and not really addressing each other's points very well.  And both of us were a wee bit too emotional.  The only reason I care so much (otherwise I would have exercised a little stfu on myself and let it go) is that he is a great writer.  The man can whip out an article in like 30 minutes that would take other still-super-intelligent people a day or two at least.  He could be making a full on killing with self pubbing with minimal effort.

His main beef?  The 'reputation' of self publishing vs traditional publishing.  He didn't want to be seen in any way as low rent or un-intellectual by virtue of how gets published.  A sort of 'the message is in the medium' type bias.  Of course-- I just showed my own bias by calling his opinion bias, but whatever.

I am going to prove him wrong.  Or rather, gently change his opinion.  Yeah, that's it.  Gently guide him to a different way of seeing the world (my own).  If he still chooses to believe the way he does after being presented with all of my kickass facts then that's his loss and I really do need to let it go.

All of these postings will be called 'Proving My Brother-in-Law Wrong' and here is the first tidbit.

After digging in Kindleboards I found this beautiful list of kickass (I just love that word today) self pubbed authors.  Kickass being defined by sales numbers:

Amanda Hocking  - 1.5 million ebooks sold in the past 20 months (as of Dec 2011) (source: The Guardian UK)
John Locke  - sell more than 1,100,000 eBooks in five months
Barbara Freethy  - "over one million units of her self-published titles in 2011" (source: prnewswire)
Gemma Halliday  - over 1 million self-published ebooks as of March 2012
Michael Prescott  - "is approaching 1 million sold"
Christopher Smith    - 50,000 times 14 = 700,000
Heather Killough-Walden  - "have achieved huge online success and record-breaking sales of over half a million copies" as of end of 2011
J.A. Konrath  - He has sold over 500,000 ebooks (source: jakonrath bog)
Selena Kitt  - "With half a million ebooks sold in 2011 alone"
Stephen Leather  - "After selling close to half a million eBooks over the past twelve months"
CJ Lyons  - "CJ now has nine books self e-published with sales of almost half a million books in 2011
Bob Mayer- over 400,000 ebooks by 2011's end
Darcie Chan  - over 400,000 as of November 2012 (source: Wall Street Journal)
Bella Andre  - over 400,000 as of Feb 2012
Tina Folsom  - over 300,000 as of October 2011 (source: USAToday)
J Carson Black  - over 300,000 as of November 2011
Kerry Wilkinson  - "detective novels sell more than 250,000 copies on Kindle" source: the Guardian UK
T.R. Ragan  - 239,592 as of March 2012

And as I said in the last post I will make an effort to include lots of links.


Here is a link to the thread that lists authors that are kickass-lite (sold only over 50k) as defined by the above standards:,103665.0.html

And on a different topic, here is a link to an NYT article that oh so begrudgingly mentions self pubbing.  Of course, it manages to subtly belittle it as a 'learning experience' not unlike going to camp when you were a kid and to make it seem outrageously expensive at that (hint-- it's not--that post will be coming up soon).

Happy Monday, all.