Thoughts about selfpublishing


”Selfpublishing is better.” ” Selfpublishing is the only path.” I’ve lost count on how many times I have read things like that, both in blogposts and in comments..
Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why selfpublishing is appealing, but for me it is more complex than that.

When I consider which stories I’ll selfpublish and which I’ll submit to a publisher, it depends on the genre and the length.
The Portal Universe stories is slated for selfpublishing, purely because they are an odd length, and the fact that most of the stories are Urban Fantasy set in an secondary universe. There isn’t many fantasy publishers interested in novellas shorter than 30 0000 words. For the same reason, The Wild Hunt and its sequels is also slated for selfpublishing. Epic fantasy novellas isn’t something publishers are interested in.

On the other hand, the Queen of Sind isn’t slated for selfpublishing. It is slightly longer than the Wild Hunt, but it has a romance subplot. That romance subplot makes all the difference. What I have found from looking at submission guidelines is that more publishers are interested in fantasy romance novellas than fantasy novellas. Because of this, I’m making a list of publishers I’m planning to submit to.

Another aspect is the fact that to be successful in selfpublishing you have to spend money. I know that some authors manage to selfpublish their novels by spending very little money. I’m not one of them. For Daughter of the Dark I will end up spending 300-400 dollar on editing and cover art.
Is it a lot of money? Not really. Not when you consider it includes content editing, copyediting, proofreading, cover design.  ( Yes, I’ve managed to find a cover artist that I like for less than 120 dollar.)

But if I had written novels? I wouldn’t have had the money to put out a quality product. In fact, I wouldn’t have considered self publishing. Mainly because I think publishers have a role, and that they know what they are doing. Mostly. Since I write Fantasy novellas, that is a purely hypothetic question, though.

Review: Scribd’s subscription service

I have mixed feelings about Scribd, since an author search on their webpage is as likely to turn up an pirated copy, as it is an legal copy. Because of that, I was torn when they announced at a worldwide subscription service for 8.99 with the first month free, but decided to give them a try.


The Content:

I wasn’t sure what I expected when I downloaded the app, but I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t do any in depth searches, but they have the big names from Kleypas, Gibson and Heyer within romance, to Gaiman, Hobbs and Kim Harrison within Fantasy. And a lot of other authors that I have been wanting to read. This makes sense, since they signed with Harper Collins, Sourcebooks , Kensington and others, which gives them a big catalogue.


The App:

I downloaded the Android app, since I have an Android phone. The app was easy to navigate, and it was easy to find titles to read. Unfortunately, the app made my eyes tired. Fast. In the Kobo app, I can read one book before feeling eyestrain. Maybe I would have had less problem, if there was more settings available.  You could adjust text and background, but you couldn’t adjust the light contrast  within the app.


Will I keep the subscription?

Probably not. Maybe I would have, if I had had a tablet to read on,  since I was happy about the content, but the combination of a small smartphone screen, and no ability to adjust the light turned out to be a deal breaker for me.

Who is it for?

Voracious readers that like to read on their phone or tablet, or owns a rootable e-reader ( Nook or Sony PRS T1).

Free is good, but it doesn’t make me read your book

My recent shopping spree at Kobo made me think about pricing, and what my sweet spot is for a new to me author, and how it has changed over the years. ( Not to say I’ll not buy anything at full price, I will.) I bought my first e-reader a Sony PRS 505, in Sept 2009 (Yikes! Four years already), and at first, I went wild. I didn’t care about the price, if it sounded good, I bought it since the e-book price was lower than the price of the paper book in Sweden. But gradually, I got more aware of prices. I started using coupons on Kobo, and when Amazon started the KDP I downloaded freebies. Lots of them. Except… I didn’t read that many of the freebies. I picked up the books I had bought, and read first.

And gradually I became very picky when it came to freebies, and I figured out that 1.99-2.99 was my sweet spot for new to me authors. Why not 0.99? Purely psychological. 1.99 is high enough that I have to want to read the author, yet it is low enough that I haven’t wasted money if I didn’t like it.

And while I figured out that, the publishers took a look at the market, and realised the same thing.
2-3 ago it was common for publishers like Del Rey, Sourcebooks and Kensington to offer free e-books, even if Penguin, Simon and Schuster and Macmillan was much more restrictive. At that time, free reads was the most common promotional tool for Selfpublished authors.

Now it is much more common that publishers uses discounts to promote books. Most of the deals that I see, and post, offers discounted titles for 0.99-2.99. The attitude to discounting varies between publishers, and sometimes between imprints, but the discounts have a huge impact on the bestseller lists. Courtney Milan wrote a blogpost that showed how Avon’s willingness to discount had affected the bestseller lists.

The trend to offer less freebies is also happening among self published books, too even if it is at a slower rates. For example, it is becoming common to offers bundles that is discounted compared to buying the books separately. ( Although that isn’t the always the case, so check what the books cost before buying it.)

Even if a lot of authors still offer the first book in the series for free on a more or less permanent basis. Free books still have an effect on bestseller lists, but I cannot keep on wondering how long that will last? When will readers stop sampling new authors through free, since they already have a lot of books to read?
The answer to the last question is never, since readers love free books, but maybe the correct question is: When will there be so many free reads, that free isn’t a good promotional tool anymore?
I think that has already happened. If it hadn’t been for Amazon KDP Select, the level of freebies would be much lower. Which raises the question: How long time it will take before Amazon changes the KDP Select Terms of Service to say ” Free or discounted to 0.99/ 1.99 for at least 5 days”?

What Bookstores can do to survive


I meant for this to go live weeks ago, if not months but I never posted it. But here it is, and it especially vital after Amazon’s announcement that they are launching Kindle Matchbook.

A good Integration with the online store

No bookstore can keep every title in a series. While most stores offer to order it for you, there are ways it could be improved. For example, a major Swedish bookstore chain used to have that you could order a book from their online store, and then pick it up in store 3 days later. And pay at pick up. It was a really neat way to buy books. Unfortunately, they removed it. Sigh.


 Offer discounts on or bundle e-books/ audiobooks when buying trade or hardcover

Now a days, most bookstores also sell e-books and audiobooks. Either because they are running an e-book store themselves, or because they are partnering with Kobo, or another e-book store. This means it would be really easy for them to offer a bundle of e-book/ audiobook and print, for a good price.  There are some publishers that are taking steps in this direction.  Angry Robot have just announced that they are extending their clone files project to the US, and Candlemark & Gleam offers the e-book version for free if you buy the print version from their webpage.


Give customers a reason to visit your store:

This might sound like a no brainer, but I think many bookstores forget about it.  For example, I haven’t been in  the bookstore in my local mall that often. Why? Since the book prices higher than the chains, because their store looks as if they are closing any week. But, I would love to if they gave the impression that they were service minded, and devoted to selling books. How? I will not say lowering the prices, since they are independent, but restructure the store. Focus on books, focus on making it welcoming to the customers.




An open letter to GoodReads

Yesterday Goodreads updated their review  guidelines, and started to enforce them directly.

While I am not affected directly by the new guidelines, since my reviews are short, and focused on the book, I am worried by the direction Goodreads have taken.

After all the drama recently, and Amazon buying them, it doesn’t feel as if their focus are on readers anymore. A part of me can understand why they felt the need to start curating reviews and shelves more. But I really don’t like the heavy-handed way they did it. It is not OK to delete shelves and reviews without warning.

The result, for me personally, is that I will not post reviews on Goodreads for the foreseeable future. I am not deleting my account, or the reviews that I have posted, since I feel that it is important that they are still available to readers.

The paradox with prolific authors

This is an elaboration on a comment I made to a blog post by Judith Tarr a month ago, or so ( I recommend that you read it. It is long, but eye opening.).  And I am not talking about authors that release 1-5 books* a year, but rather authors that release 6 or more books. 
This post have been brewing for awhile, and Judith Tarr’s blogpost only made me verbalize what I felt.
I love to read. I love to support authors by buying their books, and then gobbling them up. Except, some authors that I love isn’t on my autobuy list. Why? Well, there are multiple factors. But a big one is that they are too prolific. Which sounds like a paradox, I know. If I love their books, I should buy them at release day, right?  Well, yes. Except that once an author starts releasing more than 5 books a year, I lose interest. The only way I can describe it, is that the Shiny! New! Buy! Factor diminish. Often two things happen:
A) I keep one series/ genre on my autobuy list, and buy the rest as the mood strikes me.
Or B) I stop autobuying all your books.
What decides if A or B happens is a combination of the price of your books and how much I enjoyed your latest book. For example: If all your upcoming books are in trade, and I liked but didn’t love  the latest book by you that I read, then I most likely wont buy your books at release day. I’ll still buy your books, just not immediately when they are released. And yes, sometimes it can go a long time before I remember to buy it.
On the other hand, if you have a mix of books at a different price levels, it is likely that I’ll keep on buying at least some of the books. ( For example: I buy Lauren Dane’s Petal series at release date, and the rest of her books when I have the money.)

I have a suspicion that I am not the only reader that feel like this. And yes, I am aware that in the long run this might lead to lower sales. So if you are a prolific author and the sales for one of your series start to decline,I suggest that you  look at how many new releases you have had in that genre over the last 18 months.  You might get a bit of a shock, especially if you start to add in mass market reissues and anthologies, which I haven’t taken into account.

As a contrast, the authors  that are firmly on my autobuy list  releases 1-3 books a year. That slightly slower pace means I am clamoring for their next book, and I am willing to pay more for it.

* And by books, I mean novels longer than 150 pages

Why I stop reading a series

The series goes on and on
Don’t get me wrong, I love opened ended series. But when the books are a tightly connected, we are at book 14 and the author happily announce book 16-18 and states it isn’t the end? I walk away.
I get having a long series, but when I have to re-read the books to remember what happend it isn’t fun anymore. A part of it is also what May wrote about in her post at Smexybooks in May : Keeping your readers informed. It is one thing to say that ” I plan the series to be 13-16 books long, and then I’ll write stand alones.” and one thing to say ” I plan to write in this world forever.” The first makes me keep reading. The second? Makes me walk away.
There are no series arc
Even if the series are focused on just one character, I want a series arc. I want that an event in book one sets up book 2, and book 2 in turn sets up book 3 and so on. If there is no series arc all the books start to blur, and feel the same around book 4.
The characters doesn’t change
This is the most important for me. The characters doesn’t change. They do the same mistakes again, and again. And it just never occurs to them that their actions affect the world around them.
The plot starts to feel formulaic
For me it comes a moment when I read a book, and I realises that it could have been any of the previous books by the author. The books might still be good, but the series isn’t on my autobuy list anymore.

4 things e-book stores can do to survive

The e-book market is competitive right now, and I have been thinking about what I wish e-bookstores* would do to survive, because I would hate for Amazon to be the only store to buy e-books from. So here is my wish list, but hey, maybe someone reads this and decides to implement part of it.

( And, yes, I would love for DRM to go away, but that is up to publishers, not e-bookstores.)

1. Offer subscriptions

I know that several publishers offers subscriptions, but what I am missing is a bookstore doing it.    Offer say… a subscription for 3 trades or Hardcovers in a genre the reader choose,  every month for 15-20 dollars. I personally would jump on a chance like that.    

2. Reward loyal customers 
Offering a steep discount  is a common way to lure new customers,but what I am missing is sales specifically tailored at loyal customers. Have a standard discount at 20 percent, or maybe 25, and then regularly offer multi use ( 5 times maybe), account specific coupons at an additional 10-20 %, depending on how long you have been a customer ( The account specific part might be hard, but I suspect that for example Kobo already has the technique to implement it). And yes, I know that Allromance has their Buy 10 Get One free coupon, which I love. I am just waiting for Penguin books to get eligible….

3. Customize their frontpage

   E-book stores have a lot of information about what their readers like, and doesn’t like. Both Amazon and  Kobo offers reading recommendations.  What amaze me though, is that none of them have taken it another step and written a script that customize the homepage so that if I am logged in, books from genres I read are highlighted, along with similar genres. If I read a lot of Urban Fantasy/PNR, there is a chance I might like Paranormal mysteries/ suspense. This would benefit me, the stores, and the publishers( or author if it is self published).

4.   Offer good customer service 
One reason that Amazon is so successful is because of their customer service. They offer returns on e-books, answers rapidly on e-mails etc. Both BN and Kobo need to  improve their customer service, or they will continue to lose market shares to Amazon and Apple. 

* I plan to do another list what I think brick and mortar bookstores should do next month or so.

How reading e-books have changed my view on book prices

I live in Sweden, but I read a lot of fantasy in English. In fact, there is a splendid bookstore specializing in fantasy, science fiction, horror, and related other genres. I shopped there a lot. And I happily paid their prices, which ranges between 10-15 US dollar (paperbacks) and 25-30 dollar (hardcovers).
Then, I discovered the joy of internet bookstores, and the fact that they offered better prices.  But I still supported the Scifi bookstore.
Until I discovered e-books. Which meant that I suddenly pain US prices.Even without a discount, I still save almost 30 percent on e-books. With discounts, it is a lot more.   

Today I had an sudden insight.   I wanted to see if they had Thieftaker by D.B Jackson, but I was out of luck. Still, I wanted to read a new book, since I have re-read a lot recently, so I browsed the store. As I browsed the store, I realised that I am not prepared their prices on paperbacks any more.  
And, yes. Despite that insight, I left with a book. But, I do think it will be the last paperback I will purchase in a long time.  (At least by authors that are new to me. I still have some auto-buy authors I’ll buy in paper.)
(And, as a twist of fate, when I came home I discovered that Booksonboard has ceased with all their discounts. I do think it is temporary, though, since the same thing happened in January. )

The major e-bookstores from an international reader’s perspective:

Amazon: Amazon is the gigant in the e-book business ( with all the good and bad things that comes with it). For some countries they are the best source for e-books. Best prices, and the biggest sortiment. I’ll admit that I download free reads to Kindle for PC, and then transfer them to Calibre ( thanks to third party plugins, I am able to open up the encryption), and the convert them to epub.  The thing that stops me from buying books is the fact that Amazon adds 3 dollar to the price, supposedly tax but honestly 2 dollars tax on an 0.99 e-book? Uh. No. I know that VATin most European Countries is 20%, and 20 of 0.99 isn’t 2 dollar.   Also, Amazon are inconsistent, sometimes they add the fee, some times they don’t.

BN:  BN, unfortunately, is US only.  Which annoys me, but I accept it. Until recently, I used to be able to download free e-books from them, but that stopped.  Interestingly, about the same time I read that  Barnes and Noble is about to launch Nook internationally.  Uh-uh. If so, it is good if the new Nook owners are available to buy from BN. 
Kobo:  Kobo is Canadian, and I used to shop there a lot.  They frequently offers coupons, and discounts. What made me stop using them were several things. They started to add taxes to the prices. ( I understand the reasons behind them, but I don’t have to like it)  There were also other things, like the fact that their search function is bad, they don’t have a cart or a wishlist. Minor, but it get  annoying after awhile. It does happen that they have a book that I want, for a good price.

Booksonboard:  I switched to Booksonboard from Kobo, and I must say that I am happy.  Their prices includes tax, the sortiment is good and so are the prices.    Oh, and they have a cart and wishlist function too.   The only thing that annoys me is the fact that some of the older e-books  only are available as pdfs and Ms Reader.   Beyond that I am happy with them.