Beware of Rights Grabbers

Hi Folks,

I really hope I’m preaching to the choir here. Forgive me if that’s true, but better safe than sorry. And if you aren’t currently in the choir, this should convert you.

A new literary acquaintance I’ve never met, Linda Maye Adams, commented on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog post  one day awhile back:

Just passing along another rights grab I ran across. It’s a writing contest sponsored by a non-profit [Story Shares] who is trying to help teens and young adults read. If you SUBMIT to the contest, you automatically give up all the rights to your story and payment. SUBMIT, not win or place.

I emailed Linda to ask her to divulge the name of the particular non-profit. She did, so I added it to the quote above [in brackets].

Rights grabbers are organizations that take all rights to your work. And folks, even if it’s FOR payment, that’s just wrong.

A major example of this is Reader’s Digest, at least a few years ago. At the time, they offered payment for short pieces in various sections of the magazine. But upon payment, they own all rights to the piece.

Most, if not all, traditional publishers are rights grabbers, but if you sign a contract with one of those—well, frankly, you deserve what you get.

Unfortunately, rights grabs abound in places you would never suspect. And their stock in trade are writers who don’t read submission guidelines and rules of contests. Or publishing contracts.

Think about it. Your copyright is your intellectual property. It’s like a rental property that you own. With a rental property, you rent or lease apartments or houses for a specific use by a specific person for a specific length of time.

With copyright, you license slices of it for a specific use by a specific company for a specific length of time.

But when that time is up, you still own it. If you give away “all rights” to your work, it’s exactly like selling your rental property outright to a renter in exchange for one month’s rent or a year’s rent in advance. Would you do that? Of course not.

Back to the contest Linda mentioned on Dean’s blog. It’s only a writing contest, right? No biggie. Submit, win or not, then submit elsewhere.

Wrong. Read Linda’s comment above again. If you only SUBMIT to this contest, you forfeit all rights to the work you submitted. You created it. But you no longer own it. In this case, you just gave away your rental apartment or house to someone who showed up to look it over.

Rights grabbers also appear in other, slightly less-innocuous forms. Believe it or not, many subsidy publishers are also rights grabbers. One subsidy publisher whom I used to recommend includes in their contract a “no-compete” clause.

Let’s say you’ve submitted your work to a subsidy publisher and they’ve “accepted” it (BTW, they accept everything).

And let’s say later you become unhappy with your contract and are unwilling to pay the exorbitant fee for return of your rights (the fee is in the contract).

If there is a no-compete clause in the contract (and there usually is), you also can’t simply slap another title on the work and publish it as a new book on your own. Nor can you go through the manuscript and change all the character names. Nor can you even write another book based in the same fictional world. Nor can you write another book that resembles, in any way, the book you placed with that subsidy publisher.

If you do any of the above, they will sue your backside off. And they will win.

How to avoid such pitfalls?

Easy. Don’t submit your work ANYWHERE without reading the submission guidelines, rules of the contest, etc. And if there’s a contract involved, read it thoroughly. Better yet, have a copyright attorney read it.

‘Til next time, be careful out there. And happy writing!

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. For more writing tips, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click The Daily Journal link in the header on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Traditional Publishing: Just Don’t

Hi Folks,

Via The Digital Reader, The Huffington Post (whom I would never and am not now promoting) published an article titled “The 4 Great Myths of Book Publishing.”

You can read the full article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-4-great-myths-of-book-publishing_us_5988e9ebe4b08a4c247f252d/ but I’ll save you the trouble.

There are actually a lot more myths about traditional publishing than four, but we’ll go with the ones they list.

According to the article, the myths are that a traditional publisher will

  • aggressively promote your book to the widest possible readership,
  • ensure your book gets on the shelves of all the nation’s bookstores,
  • print your book’s text in exactly the way you conceive and arrange it, and
  • provide you with a sizable monetary advance.

Of course, the article goes on to say no, they won’t. Because No, They Won’t.

The “remedy” the author of the article recommends for points 1, 2, and 4 (3 is just silly) is to do it yourself. But still use a traditional publisher.

So let me get this straight:

According to the author of the article, you should develop your own promotion plan, promote your book aggressively yourself to ensure more people order it in bookstores, “be flexible” regarding layout, and “be grateful if you’re offered any advance at all.”

So in addition to writing the book in the first place, you have to do everything else too. Okay, I’m good with that.

But in return for your effort, you should still give ALL RIGHTS FOR THE LIFE OF THE COPYRIGHT to the traditional publisher and receive around 12% of the net royalties for as long as they decide to sell your book.

Oh, and if you also have an agent, he/she gets 15% of that 12%.

Uhhhhh, no.

This is it, folks. This truly is your forehead slapping moment. Please don’t pass it up.

If you have to do all that anyway, Publish It Yourself and pocket 100% of the net royalties.

And MOST importantly, Keep Your Copyright (your property) for the rest of your life plus 70 years.

You STILL have to develop your own promotion plan, aggressively promote your book, and you can do the layout yourself (or pay to have it done — see https://covertoupload.com/).

Of course, you’ll have to forego receiving an advance you wouldn’t have gotten anyway. Darn it. Oh, and somewhere, some village idio— er, agent — will go a little hungry. But so what?

Copyright is property, folks. Your property.

Don’t give it away, and don’t sell out for a pittance.

Harvey

“Real” Books vs. Ebooks

Hey Folks,

Note: If you’re one who prefers reading paper books over ebooks, that’s fine. I’m happy for you. Enjoy. This post is not to bash you, but to shed some light on some misconceptions that have been circulating far too long.

On my Facebook pages, I recently announced the BundleRabbit bundle (Guns of the West) that includes two of my books, two of DWS’ books, and one each by five other writers. (You can see it at https://bundlerabbit.com/b/guns-west/.)

I’ve had a great response thus far, and I know at least 20 people have bought the bundle as a result of my letting them know it was available.

I hope the old “80-20” rule holds in this case. (grin) And if you’re one of those who has already plopped down $2.99 (no tax) of your hard-earned cash for the bundle, thank you.

But this morning, I checked Facebook to find this question and comment:

“Can’t I buy the actual books? I don’t like reading on line. I like to hold the real books in my hand.”

This question/comment is flawed on at least three levels, which I find amazing in our current age of technology.

It’s like saying you’d rather watch a “real” film in a theater for $15 a pop instead of buying it on DVD for $5 or $6.

“But the movie is the same,” detractors say.

Yes. It is. And the ebook is the same. Every word.

Okay, so here are my responses to the three flaws in the question/comment:

One, ebooks ARE “actual books.” Every word of every story or novel is included in both ebook and paper editions. The assertion that a paper edition is “real” intimates that the ebook edition is not, and that’s an insult to the author.

Additionally, the ebook edition often contains little extras that are not available in paper editions (just as the DVD of a film often does). In my ebooks, I include those extras as a special Thank You for not insulting me and for being wise with your money.

Two, you don’t have to read ebooks “on line.” To continue the analogy with film, this is like saying “I don’t like to watch movies on my TV.”

You can read ebooks on your phone unless it’s the kind that’s permanently tethered to the wall. You can also read them in .mobi (Kindle), .epub (Apple, B&N and others), or .pdf formats on dedicated e-readers made by numerous manufacturers.

If you don’t want to spend the money to buy a dedicated e-reader (I don’t blame you), you can download a free app for your phone or your computer and read them on that. You can find links to a few free e-readers on my website under the Readers’ Resources tab in the left sidebar.

But with current novel prices at around $16 and up for paper books and $5 for ebooks, a dedicated e-reader pays for itself pretty quickly.

Three, it really isn’t that difficult to find out whether a title is available in both paper and ebook. Simply key a title or author that interests you into any search engine (or Amazon or Barnes & Noble) and see what pops up in paper and ebook editions.

Identical titles are most often displayed alongside each other, which I particularly like as a writer and as a proponent of ebooks because it gives the reader an immediate price comparison.

If you key in “Harvey Stanbrough The Right Cut” for example, the first four entries are Amazon Kindle, Amazon paper edition, Smashwords (ebook only but with a link to the paper edition) and a single entry for Barnes & Noble.

Then the listings continue with Amazon UK, Amazon Japan, etc.

At B&N, you DO have to click one more time (See All Formats and Editions) to learn that the book is available in both ebook ($6.99) and paper ($15.99).

And that’s just for The Right Cut, the last book in the Wes Crowley Series.

You can also buy the entire 10-novel series in paper for around $150, or you can buy all 10 novels in one big volume (but still with all 10 covers plus the cover for the compilation) in ebook for $20.

As an added bonus, if you’re going on vacation and you don’t want to limit your reading choices, you can carry an extra bag with several of your wanna-read-someday paperbacks, or you can simply slip your e-reader (or phone) into your bag and carry them all that way. I prefer less weight.

Finally, Support Your Favorite Authors.

Strictly as an example, if you buy the ebook version of The Right Cut, I’ll earn 70% of the purchase price. You’ll spend $5.99, and I’ll get $4.19.

But if you buy the paper version for $16.99, I’ll earn about $2 per sale. Yes, that’s two dollars. It’s also very bad math from a standpoint of personal economics.

(Yes, writers who are dedicated to publishing only paper editions, I can earn more per sale if I want to order a stack of them myself, then schlep them around in the bed of my pickup or sell them at book signings, etc. But I’d really rather be writing, wouldn’t you?)

So the upshot is, the reader spends more per book for the paper edition, and the author gets less. As Yakov Smirnov used to say, What a country, eh?

Ebooks are here, folks. They aren’t going away. And they’re a boon to readers, not something we writers do to annoy you.

Chances are you already have the ability to read ebooks in your smart phone or on the tablet you carry with you pretty much everywhere you go. The app is free and the SAME STORIES cost a lot less. What in the world is the downside here?

Please, dive on into the 21st century and let’s get back to things that actually matter, like writing more stories.

Oh, and if any of you writers out there are not publishing your works as ebooks yet, feel free to ask me anything you want. I’ll be happy to help.

‘Til next time, happy writing and reading,

Harvey

The Journal, Saturday, 4/8

Hey Folks,

Yesterday turned out to be productive, albeit not with actual writing.

I did create a cover and a promo doc and get the new book up in all major e-venues.

But this morning, something was bugging me about that cover. It just didn’t pop off the page.

So I revised it. Now it reflects “noir” better and it pops off the page. That’s it on the left over there.

Topic: Thoughts on Novel Two-Fers

So I’m thinking I want to put the last two novels (both pulp fiction detective noir mysteries) in a “boxed set” in ebook.

But I’m also thinking of doing the same thing, sort of, in print.

But why only two? I mean, I can easily turn out two of these masterpieces per month (grin), so why not wait until I have three or more to put in a boxed set?

Well, does anyone out there remember the old pulp novel two-fers?

You buy one physical book, but it has two front covers, one on each side, and the covers are upside down from each other.

You open one cover to read one novel, then flip the book over and open the other cover to read the other novel. (grin)

It was charming, to say the least. And the idea of it is intriguing to me.

I’ve already been in touch with Kat at Cover to Upload to see whether she has any ideas and whether the project interests her.

I really doubt I’ll be able to replicate the old pulp two-fer construction. But I’m looking for a way to do something that’s at least similar.

Oh, and let’s toss in another challenge while we’re at it. I’m kind of a stickler for having my ebook and print book covers look the same.

Of course, you can’t flip an ebook over, so….

Hmm. Maybe a new cover with both the other covers on it, only sideways with the top of the original covers at the spine.

I don’t know.

I’ll keep you posted.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out a little before 4 after a rough night with my stomach. Ugh.

After briefly playing with email and FB, I updated pages on my website and my publisher website to reflect the new book. If you wanna read about it, here’s the 411: http://stonethreadpublishing.com/the-pyramid-killer/.

Around 7 my wife and I went for a short walk (about a mile). Then back to breakfast and writing.

Good short walk, then a trip to Sierra Vista (about 45 miles) for two new tires for my Tacoma.

Lunch in Sierra Vista and ate too much (burgers and fries, and if you know me, nomnomnom).

Out to the Hovel around 2:20 to see if it’ll still have me. (grin)

Around 3 I started a new novel. Woohoo! As my buddy Dan says, I am in hebben. Like the previous two, this one features Detective Lou Galecki. He’s a Polack, but he has a Brooklyn accent and an Italian partner, so it’s all right.

A great hour. I’ll hope to write more on this one tomorrow.

See you then.

Of Interest

At Dean’s place, “Two More Stories in Two Days” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/two-more-stories-in-two-days/.

Fiction Words: 1381
Nonfiction Words: 490 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1871

Writing of The Platinum Blond Perturbance

Day 1…… 1381 words. Total words to date…… 1381
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 8750
Total fiction words for the year………… 217126
Total nonfiction words for the month… 3480
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 60820

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 277946

The Journal, Friday, 3/17

Hey Folks,

This morning, after spending about ten minutes with email and Facebook, I dived right into Smashwords. Time for some admin work and hard choices.

That led to the topic below. I’ll be back tomorrow with another set of recommendations re DWS’ lectures (as opposed to his workshops).

Topic: Why I’m No Longer Using Smashwords for My Novels and Short Stories

This is kind of a personal author earnings report. I’ll still use Smashwords for my nonfiction. Some. But only in the Smashwords store.

Oddly enough, my nonfiction sells far better than my fiction.

I find that truly weird. Think about it. People are willing to buy advice on writing from me without verifying for themselves whether I know the first thing about actually doing it. No wonder there are so many scammers out there. Check your sources, folks.

Anyway, there’s an old saying that goes something like this: Change occurs when fear of the status quo becomes greater than the fear of change.

Here’s the rundown on the three main distributors:

First, Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/). Not recommended.

Smashwords distributes to a boatload of venues. Fifteen venues, to be exact. Sixteen if you include the Smashwords store itself. That’s what always attracted me to it.

Those venues include Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Inktera (formerly Page Foundry), Baker & Taylor Blio, Txtr, Library Direct, Baker-Taylor Axis360, OverDrive, Scribd, cloudLibrary, Gardners Extended Retail, Yuzu, Tolino, Odilo, and Gardners Library.

All those venues is one wonderful feature of Smashwords.

But I’m an old sales guy. There’s a difference between a feature and a benefit.

That feature doesn’t become a benefit unless people are actually buying my books through those venues.

Also, the clunky interface at Smashwords takes a lot of time (comparatively, to me) and that’s always been annoying.

So I decided to do a kind of “return on investment” study this morning (with the investment being the time it takes to use the Smashwords interface) for 2011 – 2017. (Because it’s early in 2017, this is almost exactly six years.)

To date, all of my sales — that’s ALL of my sales — through Smashwords have come either through the Smashwords store or via Apple, B&N, Kobo and Scribd, with the exception of Oyster, whom Smashwords dropped in late 2014.

So most of my non-Amazon sales have come through the major players (Apple, B&N, Kobo and Scribd). Keep that in mind. And we’ll move on to

Pronoun (https://pronoun.com). Not recommended.

Pronoun distributes to Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo, plus GooglePlay. So all of the major players except Scribd.

I still haven’t dealt directly with Pronoun. I have tried. What appeals to me about them is that they distribute to Amazon.

But frankly, for me, the benefit of allowing them to distribute my work to Amazon (so I won’t have to) and the “appeal” of GooglePlay hasn’t yet outweighed the PITA of dealing with Amazon on my own.

Nor does it outweigh the annoyance of putting up with Pronoun’s condescending interface and the effort I would have to expend to learn that interface thoroughly. I mean, even Smashwords doesn’t get condescending except around NaNoWriMo, and I kind’a understand that.

And that leads us to

Draft2Digital (http://draft2digital.com). Very highly recommended.

D2D distributes to Apple, B&N, and Kobo, plus PageFoundry (Inkterra), Tolino, Scribd and 24Symbols. So all the major players except Amazon. (Again, I distribute to Amazon myself.)

With their easy-to-use interface, I can publish any work there in two or three minutes.

This vs. ten to fifteen minutes per book at Smashwords, including time to add an ISBN (required for inclusion in the premium catalogue, which means distribution) and make selections on the Channel Manager.

D2D even generates an interactive TOC (table of contents), no matter how the chapters or sections are titled and with minimal formatting on my part.

Unless all your chapters are in Arabic numerals only (1, 2, 3, etc., no “Chapter” no “One, Two, etc., no prologue or epilogue), Smashwords requires you to send them a Word file with an interactive TOC already formatted. Another hour or two of the day gone.

D2D also takes ZERO fees from the net royalty. Whatever the venue pays goes directly into my bank account. (Smashwords takes a percentage.)

And at D2D, my books are distributed to all the same major players.

Yeah, that’s a really difficult decision to make.

If I continue to use Smashwords at all, it will be only for my major works (novels, collections, nonfiction) and I’ll offer them only through the Smashwords store.

That means I won’t have to jump through several hoops (and spend more time) to get them listed in the “premium” catalogue so they’ll be distributed to outside retailers. Nor will I have to mess with the hyper-clunky Channel Manager.

Ahh, I feel better already. Any questions about this topic, feel free to email me.

Just in case Mark Coker (founder and CEO of Smashwords) sees this, seriously, upgrade your site, Mark. Players gotta compete, and extra venues that don’t sell my books just don’t matter to me.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 3. Got right to work on the admin stuff above, and then wrote everything above this.

Now, a little after 7, a break for breakfast.

7:40, to the Hovel, did a little more admin.

Ah some family stuff came up. I have to visit with my grandson for awhile this morning. I’ll write today if I can.

No fiction on the day. Hey, days happen. Maybe tomorrow. See you then.

Of Interest

See “Freedom in This New Publishing World” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/freedom-in-this-new-publishing-world/.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 850 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 850

Writing of Novel Two

Day 1…… 978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 33439
Total fiction words for the year………… 185305
Total nonfiction words for the month… 9820
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 46410

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 231715

Prepping to Epublish

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 8/30/2013. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I have NOT revised the original post other than reparagraphing some of it.

This post goes hand in hand with my previous post on Busting the Myths of Digital Publishing.

I often hear from folks who say they want to “publish like you, on Amazon” but they don’t mention any other venues. If you self-publish, you will be both an author and a publisher. The one big secret to building a presence as a publisher is to sell your ebooks in several different venues.

Dean Wesley Smith, to whom I cannot give enough praise for his “Think Like a Publisher” series (now available as a recommended book), even suggests you don’t try to sell 1,000 books per month at one venue. Instead, try to sell 10 books per month at 100 venues. But how do you get into 100 ebook selling venues?

If you publish with Amazon’s Kindle store, that’s around 20 markets already. Of course, through Smashwords your book will also be available worldwide through markets established by Apple (that’s another fifty markets), Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and others. That’s a pretty good start.

You can set up a Scribd account and offer your books for sale in the Scribd store. That’s one more venue, and it’s worldwide.

You can set up accounts with Google +, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and others to let your contacts know what you’re up to and to announce book releases, sales, special offers, etc.

(Note: Your primary effort on these social venues must be social, not business, so the better you are at chitchat, the better these will work for you.)

You also can set up a blog through which you give people something of value (if you have something of value to give them), then advertise your books at the bottom of each post. Set up a website and a PayPal account and you can sell books directly from your own website as well. PayPal has a free shopping cart, no problem.

Okay, so what about the prep work?

If you’re going to submit your Word file .doc to Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and Scribd (for starters, for example), surely you don’t want to completely reinvent the wheel each time, right? Right. So here’s what you do:

1. Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble PubIt do not require (or even want) an ISBN, so first, decide who you want to be as a publisher, then create a name. If you’re name’s Jack Smith, I suggest something like JSmith Publishing. It’s just that easy. That’s the publisher you’ll list (or you can list nothing at all in the Publisher block) with Amazon and B&N.

2. Smashwords will provide a free ISBN if you allow them to list themselves as the official publisher. (This entails you putting in the front matter “the Smashwords edition of / a JSmith publication” where the forward slash is a line break.) Otherwise they provide an ISBN but it costs you $9.95. So let Smashwords be the publisher for what you submit to them. Trust me for a few minutes and you’ll understand.

But how do you publish under JSmith Publishing with Amazon and B&N (and Scribd and any other venues you find on your own, like Xin Xii) and yet list Smashwords as the publisher for Kobo, Sony, Diesel, et al? Here’s what you do, and again, most of this is from Dean Wesley Smith:

Then set up a file folder with the name of your book. For example, my latest file folder is named Maldito & Tomas. In that file folder, I keep the standard cover for my ebook (mine are all 2000 x 3000 pixels), the thumbnail-sized cover (mine is 200 x 300 pixels). You will also keep the following:

1. Your original Word document set up with your own publishing info and your own license notes in the front matter. For example, my latest file (.doc) is titled Maldito & Tomas.doc. The first page will be your title page, which also contains the publishing and copyright info and license notes, then the table of contents (if necessary), then the story/novel/memoir, and then the back matter, which for me consists solely of a brief About the Author section. Here’s the front matter for the first document (Maldito & Tomas.doc):

Maldito & Tomás
a StoneThread Publication
Copyright © 2011 by Harvey Stanbrough

StoneThread License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. Please don’t resell it or give it away.
If you want to share this book, please purchase an additional copy as a gift.
Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

2. A second Word document set up with Smashwords’ info in the front matter. In my example, that file is titled Maldito & Tomas Smash.doc and it’s set up with front matter that reads “the Smashwords edition / of a StoneThread publication.” Making it the Smashwords edition is all that’s required. Here’s the front matter for the first document (Maldito & Tomas Smash.doc):

Maldito & Tomás
the Smashwords Edition
of a StoneThread Publication
Copyright © 2011 by Harvey Stanbrough

StoneThread License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. Please don’t resell it or give it away.
If you want to share this book, please purchase an additional copy as a gift.
Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

3. A third Word document with promotion information. In my example the file is Maldito & Tomas Promo.doc. This file contains the title of the book, a “teaser” for the cover, a good, strong book description, the author bio, the categories or genres into which the book fits (the shelving sections where you would like it to be displayed if it were in a brick and mortar store) and any Internet search keywords.

When you publish your work to Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Scribd, and pretty much anywhere else, they will ask you for all of this info.

I open the Internet window over 2/3 of my screen and I open the appropriate “promo” file in the other 1/3. Then it’s an easy matter to copy/paste the required info from the promo.doc into whichever form (Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc.) you’re using at the time.

To extend the example, here’s what’s written in Maldito & Tomas Promo.doc:

Title: Maldito & Tomás

Cover tease:
Tomás comes to help,
but not everyone in a robe
is a priest….

Description: When Maldito finally escapes his horrible home, he flees to an ancient stone house high in the jungled mountains overlooking the sea where he soon encounters both his future and his past. He makes a new home, finds a vantage point from which he can see the whole world, both past and future, encounters Tomás, whom he takes to be a priest, and begins to become aware of his destiny. If you’ve enjoyed the works of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, you’ll enjoy these Stories from the Cantina.

Author: Harvey Stanbrough was born in New Mexico, seasoned in Texas, and baked in Arizona. He spent most of his early life in the home of his heart, the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona. After graduating from a 21-year civilian-appreciation course in the U.S. Marine Corps, he attended Eastern New Mexico University where he managed to sneak up on a bachelors degree. He writes and works as a freelance editor and writing instructor from his home in southeast Arizona.

Categories/Genres: Fiction > Fantasy > General / Fiction > Fantasy > Paranormal

Keywords: magic realism, fantasy, short story, stories from the cantina, surrealism, paranormal, stanbrough

As you can see, this appears to be a time-consuming effort, but it really isn’t.

For one thing, you can keep a stock folder on hand with a Word document titled MyFiction.doc and another with Smashwords.doc. In those files, respectively, you can keep your standard front matter and Smashwords’ standard front matter.

Then it’s a simple matter to copy/paste from that document to the front page of your story/novel/memoir etc. Given a finished, formatted manuscript and the promo doc above, I can publish it to Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and Scribd in about a half-hour. With just a little practice, you can too.

Happy writing!
Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Update to Brave New World of Publishing

Hi Folks,

This morning as I emailed a friend, I had occasion to revisit an old blog post, one I wrote here back in October, 2015. The information in it bears repeating, especially in light of recent posts over at Dean Wesley Smith’s website. I recommend you read my older blog post before continuing with this one, even if you think you remember everything about it. To do so, click Brave New World of Publishing.

After that, to read one of the more important posts to come along in awhile in the way of advice for writers from a guy who’s been doing it successfully for decades, read Dean’s Blaming the Reader (for no sales).

His post includes a list of reasons your books don’t sell even a few copies. It was so good I copied/pasted it into a Word document, mostly so I could re-read it in the future and also to share it with others.

But back to this post. This is an update on the information I shared in the October 17, 2015 post.

First, I no longer use Pronoun. They don’t allow the author to select the venues to which they distribute the author’s work. For me, that’s a deal killer.

As for XinXii I have sold one copy of one short story collection through them (as far as I can tell) for a grand total royalty of $1.10. That’s in well over a year. So I’m not pushing them anymore either. Then again, $1.10 is a minuscule price to pay for a lesson.

I also had some problems interfacing with OmniLit’s website (they’re also All Romance Ebooks). I found the website clunky at best and unresponsive at times. Soon I decided the few sales I might get through them wasn’t worth the hassle. But that might have just been me. I recommend you check them for yourself, especially if you write romance or erotica.

So today, my titles are distributed through Amazon, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and through direct sales at StoneThread Publishing.

Yes, Amazon remains the biggest seller.

Draft2Digital remains by far the easiest distribution venue to use, and they pay fair royalties.

I still despise Smashwords’ extremely clunky interface. If you have only a few titles to manage, it isn’t a big deal and it isn’t bad. But if you But with 200 titles in my account, using the channel manager or anything else is a nightmare. Still, the number of big-deal sales venues they offer makes the aggravation acceptable.

Back in the Iron Age (2011) I didn’t mind the clunkiness at Smashwords so much. It was pretty much state of the art. But today, all you have to do is compare the submission process at Smashwords with D2D to see what I mean. If D2D had the venues Smashwords has, I’d drop the latter in a heartbeat.

I haven’t mentioned CreateSpace. They are by far the best choice for do-it-yourself print production and distribution. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you’ll need to look around and select a print-layout and cover design service. Because loyalty and honesty are important to me, I cannot in good conscience recommend any service in particular.

If anyone out there knows of any that you recommend or if you do your own layout and spine and back cover AND ENJOY IT, please let me know.

Of course, if you aren’t writing and producing new work, none of the above matters in the slightest. Ahem.

That’s it for this time. ‘Til next time, keep writing.
Harvey

Farewell, Smashwords, and Why

Hi Folks,

First a couple of announcements—

1. On September 23, Author Earnings released a new report that ALL writers should see. Especially if you’re locked into traditional publishing or if you’re on the fence.

The previous report I mentioned talks about market share in ebooks from traditional publishing vs. indie publishing. So it was kind of abstract.

But this report shows the actual distribution of income to individual authors who choose to publish traditionally vs. independently. This probably will surprise you. And if you’re an indie publisher, it will surprise you in a very good way. http://authorearnings.com/report/individual-author-earnings-tracked-across-7-quarters-feb-2014-sept-2015/. I encourage you go follow this link and sign up to get your own reports as they come out.

2. Yesterday, September 30 2015, was the final day for my Daily Journal blog. I created a spreadsheet that enables me to track what I write, how long it takes, and my daily, monthly and annual numbers. So no more need for the journal.

However, past editions of the journal will be available on this site for a limited time in case anyone wants to go back over some of them for the topics. Just click the tab.

3. And a note — If you self-publish, you are an indie publisher. If you publish through ANY subsidy publishing house — in other words, if you pay money to a publishing company to publish your work PLUS they keep a share of your royalties — you’re not an independent publisher. You’re just lost. Please don’t fall into that trap, and if you’re already in it, please do yourself a favor and break free. Every subsidy publisher, every place that charges you an up front fee PLUS keeps a share of your royalties, is a scam.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programming. (grin)

If you are an independent (self) publisher, this is an important post for you.

In the previous post, I busted a few of the myths of digital publishing. In that, I talked about the distributor, Smashwords. Recently I decided to leave Smashwords behind and switch all my distribution to Draft2Digital. Below is why.

Now this was strictly a business decision, as you’ll see below. If Smashwords cleans up their act quite a bit, I probably would go back to them, at least for partial distribution. This post appeared in slightly different form in my other blog, the Daily Journal.

Back in 2011, during the first year of the “gold rush” of electronic publishing, I signed up for a Smashwords account. Today, I have 143 books (nonfiction, novels, short stories and collections) published with them.

When I finished a work, whatever it was, first I published it to Smashwords. I allowed them to distribute it for me to 12 of 13 sales venues (all but Amazon). Then I published it to Amazon.

Enter Draft2Digital http://draft2digital.com, a sleek new company that does what Smashwords does but MUCH more quickly and efficiently. They distribute to the same “big six” that Smashwords distributes to (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Inktera, Oyster, and Scribd) plus Tolino, a growing ebook store in Germany that was created specifically to rival Amazon.

Yesterday, I published a short story to D2D and Amazon, but for the first time, did NOT publish it to Smashwords. Why? Because then I’d have to clunk my way through the “opt out” radio buttons thirteen times so Smashwords would not distribute it (because D2D is distributing it).

Now admittedly, if I HAD done all that, the story would still be available in the Smashwords store, and I’m always advising writers to sell in as many markets as possible. But the thing is, having to spend a half-hour clunking around on Smashwords’ site just so a short story will be in their store… well, it simply isn’t worth the time.

Another thing, through the Smashwords online store I’ve sold mostly nonfiction. And most of that I’ve sold when I’ve created coupons for it, and then advertised the coupons. Again, it’s a lot of effort for very few sales.
I’m not lazy when it comes to expending necessary effort, but any time I spend uploading etc. is part of my investment in my writing. Since it’s part of the investment, I have to consider what return the effort will yield.

Here are a few stark numbers:

  • At Amazon.com it takes me about 15 minutes from clicking Create New Title to clicking Publish IF the process is uninterrupted by Amazon’s ridiculous page-loading times and jumping around. Probably the average time is 20 to 25 minutes. However, Amazon is currently my best venue, so the frustration, while annoying, is worthwhile.
  • At Smashwords.com it takes me about 10 minutes to go from entering the title of my book to clicking Publish at the bottom of the form.
    • But then I have to go to their ISBN Manager to assign an ISBN for distribution to some of the big six as well as several tiny library venues (where I’ve never sold a book).
    • Then I have to go to their Channel Manager. There I have to find my book (there are three pages) and then click thirteen “opt out” radio buttons one at a time so Smashwords will not distribute to anyone except the Smashwords.com online store.
    • Even after I’ve done all that, even though I’ve opted out of distribution to every place that requires an ISBN, I continue to see a message saying I need to assign an ISBN to my books. Very, very clunky system. I skip over the ISBN Manager since I no longer use them for distribution, but using the Channel Manager easily adds another 10 minutes and roughly half a ton of frustration to the process. Not worth it.
  • And D2D. Ahh, D2D. At Draft2Digital.com it takes me about 3 minutes from Add New Book to Publish. On the final page I check the stores to which I want them to distribute my work (so seven checkmarks), verify that the work is either mine or that I have the rights to publish it, and I’m done. They assign an ISBN for the venues that require it, but I don’t have to do anything with that.

D2D does for me what Smashwords does but in a lot less time and with absolutely zero frustration. Score!

So for me, it’s bye-bye to Smashwords. I might put my major publications (novels, collections) up in their store, but frankly I doubt it. I really REALLY don’t like having to “opt out” 13 times per publication.

Now I’m a fair guy, so I will be addressing this issue with Mark Coker soon. Well, relatively soon. I probably won’t do so until I’ve moved my major nonfiction books over to D2D. Anyway, I’ll keep you updated, but I think he’s pretty entrenched in the way he does things.

So it’s like this. Five years ago, Mark and his company were on the cutting edge of ebook publishing and distribution. Today they’re eating dust from every other major player.

If you have any questions about any of this, I’d be happy to try to answer them for you. Please ask in the comments section below.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

PS: UPDATE: I’ve also found another sales venue. To look it over for yourself, visit OmniLit.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out or just click paypal.me/harveystanbrough. If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much. If you can’t make a monetary donation, please consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. (grin) Again, thank you.

News of Import to Authors

Hey Folks,

This is not part of the usual sequence and it will be very short.

If you’re a writer and/or an indie publisher, this is some VERY exciting news.

The 2015 Author Earnings Report just came out. It turns out ebooks are NOT declining as reported by traditional publishing’s “Big 5.” Ebook sales by traditional publishers are declining.

It turns out, indie published ebooks are on the increase. They also are taking a lot larger market share. Ebook sales overall actually are increasing.

This truly is great news in this wonderful new world of publishing.

The upshot is this: If you write well and are indie published, hang in there. Great things are coming.

If you’re still traditionally published, you should seriously consider witholding e-rights for future books or, smarter yet, break away altogether. See for yourself at
http://authorearnings.com/report/september-2015-author-earnings-report/.

I urge you also to visit the website of Dean Wesley Smith where he provides a brief discussion of this. Very interesting stuff.

Best,
Harvey

Writing and Selling Short Fiction

Hi Folks,

I’m thinking about doing a daylong seminar on this. It would depend on interest. If you happen to be interested and able to travel to Tucson, let me know by email please at harveystanbrough@gmail.com.

A brief announcement for a friend. JoAnn Popek and Deborah Owen recently told me about a no-fee short story contest. The deadline is September 15 though, so get cracking. (grin) For guidelines, visit Creative Writing Institute and scroll down.

I’ve had questions recently from folks who are signed up for my Free Short Story of the Week. (If you are not signed up, you can Sign Up Here.) They all ask why I’m not selling my short stories instead of putting them on the website free. A professional writer friend of mine asked the same question in a slightly different context a few weeks ago.

Think about that for a moment. Why in the world would I limit the audience for my short stories to around 70 subscribers? The answer is, I Don’t.

Yes, if you subcribe (see Sign Up Here above), you will receive a brand new short story free in your email once a week. It costs you nothing and you can read it as many times as you want for the next week or so.

But I ALSO publish each story, usually on the day I write it, to Amazon, the Smashwords store, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Inktera, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd and Tolino. Through those markets, my stories, collections and novels are available in over 100 nations worldwide within a few days of publication.

To give you an idea of the process, as I’m writing this (September 2), I wrote the next short story of the week yesterday. It’s called “Paper Hearts.” As soon as I finished it, I did the format, created a cover, and published it to my Free Short Story of the Week blog. It will go live on my website on the morning of Monday, September 7. It will go out in email to subscribers on the afternoon of the same day.

So I posted it to my website yesterday and set a future release date. But I also published it for sale to Draft2Digital, a distributor who sends it to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Inktera, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd and Tolino. Then I published it to Smashwords, but only for sale in their online store. (You can buy titles at Smashwords.com in any ebook format.) Then I published it to Amazon.

If you want to see it, I recommend you subscribe to my Free Short Story of the Week and wait until Monday to read it. Or just come back to my website on Monday and click the Free Short Story of the Week tab.

But if you’re really in a rush and you have more money than patience, you’re more than welcome to visit your favorite ebook store anytime and buy it. It only costs $2.99. That includes tax, even if you live in Europe and have that horrible VAT thing going on.

Not ony do I sell each individual short story that I write, I also do this:

When I’ve written five short stories, I combine them in a short collection and sell it for $4.99. So my readers can buy my stories one at a time for $2.99 (five stories would cost just under $15) or they can get five stories in a short collection for $4.99.

So when I’ve written TEN short stories, guess what? Besides the two 5-story collections for $4.99 each, my readers can also opt to buy one 10-story collection for $5.99 to $7.99. Can you say Good Deal?

From a writer and indie publisher standpoint, each story gives me multiple streams of revenue, too. When I’ve written ten short stories, I get thirteen publications: ten individual stories, two 5-story collections, and one 10-story collection.

And each of those is for sale at every venue listed above PLUS at those venues’ subsidiaries. Most of the “big” vendors have a few to several subsidiaries to whom they further distribute the books. Cool, eh?

That gives me three separate streams of revenue for each short story. Thirty streams of revenue for ten stories. Times the number of venues in which my stories are for sale.

Finally, I also publish each 5-story and 10-story collection as a paperback. Do I get a lot of sales in paperback? No.

But when the reader finds my collection or novel online and sees the paperback price (usually around $15.99) right alongside the ebook price (usually around $5.99) it makes the ebook price look really good. See? Which of course it is.

‘Til next time, happy writing. And selling.

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks! If you can’t make a monetary donation, please at least consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. Again, thank you.