27 August 2010

Why being paid in the indie way works for you...and against you!

Some of my NY conglomerate published friends do not really understand the way indie press pays on net (read this as your royalty rate applied to the actual amount received for the book from third party distribution sites). For someone that makes the same percentage of the cover price, no matter where the book sells or what price it sells at, it seems counterproductive to use a net contract, but the contracts both work for us and against us.

In most cases, the indie net contract works for authors. We get a much higher percentage of ebook sales than NY conglomerate authors do, in general, and a much higher percentage of ebooks sold from the publisher site than we do with any given distribution channel. The NY conglomerate authors will make the same percentage, no matter where the book sells and a lower percentage than indie authors make, in general. It's a no-brainer to see why the net contact is appealing to us.

The publishers (depending on which one I'm dealing with) give me between 30% and 60% of cover price on all sales from the publisher site. But I get that same percentage (or slightly higher*) on the amount they receive from the distribution channel on third party sales. So, if it's a $6 ebook, and I have a 50% royalty rate, I make $3 on sales from the publisher site but may only make $1.05 to $1.50 to $2.06 on the same book selling from a third party site (35% to 50% to 70% (less 10 cent "delivery charge" on the latter...thank you Amazon) remitted to the publisher and then my 50% royalty rate). The highest royalty rate is currently Smashwords, but that's assuming it sells directly from Smashwords (few books do) and not via a channel Smashwords is the aggregator for...and assuming you choose not to opt into paying people that send business to your book/s.

Now, when does it work against us? When the contract between the publisher and the distribution channel allows the distribution channel to play games with sale price and pass that along to us!

I'd propose that Amazon and the other distribution channels should be FORCED to sign agreements with us that say the publisher gets a set rate (a set dollar amount) on every ebook sold, and if they want to play price games and loss leaders, they do so out of THEIR portion of the book sale and not ours...just as I understand they do with paper books. Right now, that's not the case. So that works against us.

*Some publishers are nice in that they give a higher percentage rate from distribution than from the home site. At one, I get 40% on publisher site sales, but they raise it to 50% from distribution channels, so that $6 book nets me $2.40 from the publisher's home site but that same $1.05 or $1.50 or $2.06 from distribution channels...assuming the distributors DON'T have undercutting sales with each other and further cut my royalty rate by up to 50% trying to outdo each other's sales, dropping me to $.53 or $.75 or $1.03 per book sold, for THEIR greed, their attempts to monopolize the market. And this happens far more often than you might believe.

See why I say we need to make them eat that instead of us? I have nothing against a free market and sales for readers, but this sort of free market hurts the authors and publishers instead of the distribution channel choosing to do it. But when the Big 6 pushed for contracts that said Amazon wasn't allowed to hold sale prices, they were accused of price fixing and are being investigated for antitrust/monopoly issues. I can see why they might say that, but... The obvious answer is to make the distribution channels eat the sale. That works for me. It might not work for NY conglomerate, since they are all about protecting the "price point."

25 August 2010

FABULOUS new contest for romance and erom authors!

What is it? All Romance eBook's Just One Bite Short Story Contest. If you will have a 2500-3000 word romance or erom story hanging around in September (submissions run the 1st to the 28th) that has never been published before, consider entering ARe's contest. No entry fee. $1000 grand prize. Lesser prizes for other winners, including an iTouch and gift certificates for ebooks... And bragging rights for being chosen a semifinalist/finalist. No matter how many entries they get, they will be posting 32 as semi-finalists on Oct 1. From there, there will be 5 rounds of reader voting to whittle them down to the grand prize winner. Even being shown on Oct 1 means extra exposure with readers and bragging rights. Of course, if you make it to at least the 32 slots, you are agreeing to let ARe publish the story as a free read on their site. Since many of us have ebooks on ARe, this works to your advantage, and that's the reason I offer so many free reads there personally. Just a thought for a little extra exposure and promo hype.


09 August 2010

How will the industry change?

A lot of people think ebook will replace mass market, and they are using Dorchester's decision as an example. That's not feasible, IMO...not in the near future, but I've said why that is many times. A more even split between ebook and print is in the works, surely, but not the death of print...and not the death of mass market to ebook. I won't bore long term readers with a recitation of it again, but I will give an in-depth overview of my vision of the coming future (within the next two decades or a little more, I would estimate, but maybe as far out as four or five decades).

Yes, the offset printing has to disappear. It's not the mass market/pulp paper books that have to disappear. It's the process of making bulk orders and stripping for returns (or even allowing returns) that we have to lose. It's too much waste: paper, gas for shipping, investment that doesn't get a return... You can already do POD printing and choose pulp paper, which can reduce costs a bit. POD does NOT mean trade paperback. It does not mean certain sizes. I have POD-printed books that are 8.5X11 trade, and I have them in both pulp paper and perfect binding and in comic paper with saddle stitch binding. The possibilities are nearly endless. The term doesn't even mean paperback. There already exists an option for hard bound books (not the greatest hardbound but hard) in POD.

Now, imagine what I've been imagining for years. Big stores like Borders would have the following to replace the broken offset system:

3-6 POD machines in the store, hooked up to central databases like LSI and Booksurge and even CreateSpace that we already use. They could even be set up so that a couple do mass market paper books, some do hard bound, some do trade...

The system would be fully integrated. Customers could order books remotely to be printed AT the store and picked up there while they were out later in the day. Customers could order from home/work and have the books shipped to them. Customers could use in-store computers (like Borders already has) to find books by author, title, series, keyword, publication date, publisher...much like we do now. From that kiosk, customers could order books that are not on the shelves to be printed and waiting for them at the front. They could even prepay for them at the kiosk, if they want to cut down the wait.

There would be books on the shelves, but less. They'd have some classics, board books and such that POD can't do...yet, proven bestsellers, maybe a few copies of new releases, do-dads... The rest would be POD.

When a book is ordered from a kiosk or home computer, a print order is put in for it and delivered to the front desk with a picker matching them to the order slip and preparing them for pick-up. The kiosk can even give an estimated time for pick-up to the customer, who can then go browse and perhaps pick up another book or two while he/she waits. The order slip can tell the picker if the order is intended for a customer that is IN store or coming soon to the store from another location.

When a book is taken from the shelves and purchased, the computer will have one of two orders. Either it will automatically send an order to reprint and shelve to the printer. Or it will not, because it's an older book that is being allowed to leave the shelves.

Will it take some getting used to for readers? Yes, but it has distinct advantages.

1. Books will never be out of stock. NO book in the system will ever be out of stock. It just means a wait for the printer to spit it out. Imagine going to the store, any time of day, no matter how old the book is (as long as it's still in print somewhere), and being able to purchase a legal copy on the spot.

2. It puts NY conglomerate and indie on a MUCH more even playing field. I know NY doesn't want that, but readers do. Yes, only NY conglomerate will be taking up that shelf space most likely, but as readers become more adept at searching for (say) vampire or I/R or M/M in the computer system, they will find indie books.

3. Less waste. Not only in the physical wastes of printing books and investing in that printing that may not sell...but also in manpower. You will have a certain amount of trade-off: maintenance for the machines and pickers in the place of some of the stockers. But you'll need less people to run the store, and more will be able to interact with customers and introduce them to the system.

From a more industry-wide standpoint, you will lose people from the offset printing industry but GAIN people in the production and shipping of the machines. You won't lose an incredible amount of people from the shipping industry on the book side, since you still have to get the paper and cover stock and such to the POD sites. The only ones that will have considerably less work will be the trash men, and let's face it...they have enough work already. Hang on...I'm going to get back to this in a minute.

4. A fully integrated system for home and store. Borders is CLOSE now, but it's still awkward. I am SURE one of the books...or two on my daughter's last order were in the store. We asked for store delivery, but they were not picked from the store shelves. They were shipped to the store as if they weren't there, which is highly inefficient. And back to this...

5. Delivery could be streamlined. We'll assume every book is coming from a store site instead of a warehouse, with this system. People can pick up books on site, but if they want delivery, that can be streamlined into only using a delivery service like UPS or USPS for remote locations and depending on an in-house delivery man for local deliveries, which the computer could figure out, based on store locations and customer address. Less time to get books AND the store can make it worth their while and still have next day delivery.

Say the system has three dozen orders that are within a twenty-mile radius of store 123 on a particular day. You send out a single delivery man with a list separated by cities the orders are from. You charge each customer either a flat-rate delivery fee ($5 per order maybe) or by the number of miles from the store they are and you've more than covered your truck, driver, and gas/maintenance.

Yes, I think ebooks will play a big role, but I really believe a lot of people out there are still tied to paper. Those people will demand paper, but who says it has to be the old offset system delivering it? It doesn't. And if the new system is more advantageous to them, why would readers complain? They won't. The people that will complain will be the book stores that have to implement it. They can't play the returns game. They have to actually PAY for what they sell. And they have to make the initial investment to get it running.

08 August 2010

My impressions of the EPICon 2011 site!

I went up with Lisa to visit the hotel and convention center at Colonial Williamsburg, in preparation for EPICon 2011 in March. What a joy that was! No seriously...no snark intended at all. Hang on for all the juicy details.

The first thing to keep in mind about the site is that nearly everything you need is fairly close together. It's like being on a college campus, but you're not running from building A to building Z. Nearly everything you need will be in buildings A-C.

Out the front entrance to the Woodlands Hotel and to the left, it's just a few dozen yards to the visitors' center. That is an experience in itself. If you've purchased the historic district pass, that's where you catch the shuttle to the historic district and other resort stops. For those with vehicles, you can also drive to many of the entry points. You can also choose to walk along the path from the side door of the visitors' center into the historic district. And your pass to the district also lets you see the historic film at the visitors' center.

You can also reach the visitors' center out the back door of the hotel, down the scenic walk (which will be LESS scenic in March, when it's not fully spring yet, but still something to see). Hang on for more information about the scenic walk and the visitors' center later.

That same back exit from the hotel, puts you just a stone's throw from the convention center building. If you look at the map, you can see that it's less than a city block down the back path.

The convention center is stunning. Nearly every window overlooks the trees and gardens. This is a cross section (about a quarter) of one of the two banquet rooms. You may not be able to see the vaulted ceilings in the picture, since it's a little dark.

I absolutely fell in love with this annex room to the banquet room. The circular light fixture is a work of art that rivals the actual paintings and murals on the walls.

This is the serving nook of the banquet room. Remember that I mentioned murals on the wall? You can see part of one on the right, and the left are huge mirrors.

The lobby is no less impressive than the rest. That's a Baby Grande at the top of the staircase to the lower level classrooms and banquet room.

And, of course, no proper lobby on this resort would be complete without a fireplace. I'm not sure if it will be lit when we're there, but it's a glorious sitting room, complete with benches around the perimeter. Back at the hotel, there are three separate conversation nooks with chairs that match these benches that I'm sure we'll be making use of. That's also where you'll find the gorgeous restaurant where the continental breakfast is served.

I told you about the scenic paths between the buildings. Here are just a few shots of them.

Between the hotel and the visitor center, along the scenic path, is Huzzah! Restaurant. Huzzah! is only open for dinner and serves sandwiches, stew and soup, pizza, and a few other little things...including wine and beer. If you want a drink or someone in your party is not joining us for meals, that's one possible destination for dinner. Of course, if you've purchased the historic district pass, you can head into the district and purchase dinner there. Or you can grab a sandwich, soda or water, and baked goods at the little cafe in the visitor center. WONDERFUL sourdough bread! I'll have more updates about dining and shopping coming soon.

The standard rooms aren't cramped at all. The one Lisa and I visited had two double beds. It also had an easy chair, a table with two plush chairs, a TV hutch, a coffee maker...

Of course, the suites are even more impressive. The one we visited had a king-sized bed in the bedroom, TV hutch, and a single plush chair in there, which can be moved to the sitting area for more company out there. In addition, the central area contains a kitchenette, shelves, and bathroom.

The sitting area has a coffee table, two plus chairs, lamps and end tables, and a sofa that folds out into another bed...oh...and another TV hutch.

One of my favorite places is the open area behind the visitor center. This picture shows the stairs coming down from the scenic walk, complete with gardens and waterfall between. In the bottom right of this picture is the edge of a fabulous map table.
Inside the visitor center, you can also find a book store that sells reference materials about the time period and the area (we got to meet an author signing his historical novels while we were there!), a huge shop, information about the historic district, shows, tours, and so forth...and costume rental for any children you might have with you.
I really want to mention that costume rental again. Why? It has some perks. In addition to the kids getting to play dress up ($20 rental for the day for the clothing. You have to purchase hats, but you can do so at a discount. There is a $75 security deposit, but if you return it on time, they take that off the card.)... In addition, they give the kids a list of things they can do with the staff in the historic district...like churning butter or learning about weaving. If you're bringing along younger kids, that's a fun, interactive thing for them to do.
Remember, you still have time to register for EPICon at http://www.epicon-conference.com/