Author Resources and other fun things

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Been a busy December for me.  Among other things, I have been researching the various avenues available to authors to take control of their careers.  Although I have the desire to be published via the traditional route, I have never intended to sit idly by if that doesn’t work out.  This storytelling thing is what I want to do.  I’m not going to trunk a novel that I believe in if it doesn’t find a market right now.  Same with the short stories that I write.  In both cases, I have a spent the bulk of 2012 shopping some stuff around and promised myself in January of 2012 that if no one bought them, I’d still put them out on my own in 2013.  Hence the research.

Ever the one to like to share and inform, I thought that I would list some of the resources I’ve been looking at, exploring and, in some cases, using in preparation for 2013.  Some of these you have absolutely heard of before, but I might be able to surprise you with a couple.

Kindle Direct

Screen shot 2012-11-28 at 2.58.54 PMI am betting you already know about this one.  KDP is Amazon’s portal for authors to submit, track and manage their publications.  I suggest you read through all the links before pushing up your book because, even though the interface is fairly straightforward, the more informed you are, the better you’ll be able to enter in the correct information and get things setup correctly.  Example: KDP Select.  What is it?  1) It’s an exclusivity program wherein you guarantee your book will not be available for sale or for free on any other website or store in the world.  Readers can only get it via Amazon.com.  2) It’s tied to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows Kindle readers to borrow the book (which they pay a fee to Amazon for via Amazon Prime).  Money from this program goes into a big virtual pot and when your books are borrowed, you become eligible for a portion of that pot based on total users and number of times your books were borrowed.  There’s a (probably too good to be true) formula example here.  3) It increases your royalty potential in certain markets (70% royalty for sales to customers in Brazil, Japan, and India) while you are enrolled in the program.  You can opt out (or back in) (supposedly) at any time by adjusting your settings on a book in your dashboard.  Pricing: You can earn a 35% royalty or a 70% royalty based on the type of book, the sales territory/country, and the retail price set for the book.  Example: you can’t earn 70% on a $0.99 eBook – your retail price has to be at least $2.99.  You also can’t earn 70% on public domain books.  KDP is for Kindle eBooks only, but you can connect to Createspace for printed books, and ACX for audio books using the same account information like your email address.  The reporting is very nice.  You can see month to date sales, prior six weeks and prior 12 months all with a click of the mouse.  These can be downloaded as spreadsheets as well.  You can also break everything down by sales territory/area.

pubit! by Barnes and Noble

pubit_logoThis is B&N’s answer to Kindle Direct where you can upload and sell eBooks.  There isn’t a lot of difference between this service and KDP except that you are adding books that will be available on the Nook in ePub format and your royalties structure is a little different.  If you have a good source file that is formatted correctly, ePub or mobi isn’t going to really matter as you can produce a quality end product in whatever format necessary.  (PubIt! accepts ePub, Microsoft Word (.doc and .docx), HTML, RTF, and TXT files)  Royalties, like with KDP, is based on several factors including the price of the book.  Price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 and you an earn a max of 65% for each sale.  Less than $2.99 or $10 and above, and you can earn 40% for each sale.  Like KDP, the user interface is really straightforward.  Their FAQ section has a lot to go through but it’s worth it to make sure you get everything right the first time.  Reporting breaks things down as a month to date summary, today’s sales, yesterday’s sales, prior months says (via a drop down that let’s you choose a month), and then payments that have been issued to you.

ACX

Screen shot 2012-12-26 at 1.47.03 PMThis one came to my attention via Mur Lafferty and is quite interesting.  First up, you need to know that this is an Amazon company.  When you sign up, you have the option to sign in using your Amazon.com credentials / account for a ‘seamless integration’.  IF YOU DO THIS, ACX will auto-search Amazon.com for ‘your books’ (searching your name) and present you with a list of publications to claim as your own, very similar to what Author Central (more on that shortly) does.  ACX has many features and uses.  Essentially, it’s all about Audio Books.  If you are an author with the audio rights to a publication, you can sign up and be connected with voice actors / narrators and audio book producers who can bid on your projects, send you samples, etc. and so on.  From there, you can accept a bid/offer, work out the details of payment (flat fee or % of profits) and have an audio book produced in 3 – 8 weeks.  Next, you can push that book to Audible.com, Amazon.com and iTunes, where people can purchase it.  Like KDP, there is the option to make the audio book exclusive to their distribution platform or leave it open, at which point you can manually push it out to other platforms than the ones listed above.  Payments are completely different from both KDP and pubit! because the retailers set pricing, not you.  This means Audible, iTunes and Amazon set the price.  A basic guideline for pricing is offered as: under 3 hours – $10 or less, 3 – 5 hours: $10 – $20, 5 – 10 hours: $15 – $25, 10 – 20 hours: $20 – $30, and over 20 hours: $25 – $35.  They caution you that iTunes has it’s own criteria and Audible has the AudibleListener program that allows them to purchase a book using a ‘credit’.  Royalties break down as: 25–70% for Rights Holders who choose the non-exclusive distribution option, 50–90% for Rights Holders who choose exclusive distribution option, or 25–45% each for Rights Holders and Producers who enter into a Royalty Share agreement (where you share your profits rather than pay an upfront production fee).  I don’t see any (obvious) reporting but that could be because I don’t have any books in this system yet.

A Caveat; you cannot put an audio book into ACX unless it has a corresponding entry of some sort on Amazon.com.  This can be an eBook, print book and/or CD that is offered for sale on Amazon.com.  The FAQ for the site is a little misleading in that it says something like, “If you’re an author and you already have an audio book produced and ready to go, simply upload it and use our distribution model…”  What they fail to tell you is that there is no way to do this.  You have to first claim your book/CD on Amazon.com.  So, yeah.  FYI.

The other side(s) to ACX is if you are a Narrator/voice actor or an Audio Engineer/Producer, you can put up a profile and start ‘auditioning’ for gigs, connect with people looking to produce audio books and maybe make a little money.

Author Central

Screen shot 2012-12-26 at 2.21.05 PMThis one is interesting.  Author Central is part of Amazon and is where authors can go and claim books they have written or contributed to and build a profile.  I say interesting because it reminds me of the chicken and the egg; you can’t create an account/profile here until you claim a book and you can’t claim a book unless your name appears, prominently, on the Amazon.com page for that book.  Let me explain.  When Space Battles came out, I wanted my name to be associated with the book since I had a short story in it.  So I did the research and came across Author Central.  Cool.  But the way Space Battles was setup, my name wasn’t listed anywhere on the Amazon page.  So I couldn’t claim the book and Author Central wouldn’t let me ‘save’ my author profile/page.  I found out later that if the ‘Look inside!’ feature is live/available, and someone at Amazon.com (you call a phone number to claim a book) can click that and see your name, say, in the TOC, you can claim the book.  At the time, that feature wasn’t available (takes a week or two for ‘Look Inside!’ to be live, apparently).  When the editor changed up the description of the book on the Amazon page to include all the contributor names, I was able to claim the book.  I also found out that Amazon limits the number of contributors (so if you’ve ever wondered why, when looking at an anthology, such n such author isn’t listed under the title at the top of page, this is likely the reason – they ran out of contributor slots (or they didn’t even bother to add any at all – I’ve seen that too)).  Once you get through all of that, though, you can setup your Author Page/profile, which can include a bio, photo, links and shows all of your claimed publications in a nice little list.  You can check my page out if you like (and give it a like once you’re there! (upper right hand corner)).

Smashwords

smashwordslogoFor all things not covered above (and some that are, actually), Smashwords is your goto platform.  Through Smashwords, you can reach major online retailers such as: Apple iBookstore (Smashwords is one of the few authorized aggregators that distributes ebooks to the iPad iBookstore), Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Baker & Taylor (operates https://www.blio.com/, a popular e-reading app, and also operates Axis360 which distributes ebooks to public libraries), the Diesel eBook Store, mobile phone appvendors (Stanza on the iPhone/iPod Touch; Aldiko on Android; and Kobo on all mobile platforms.  So, yeah – you can’t afford to ignore Smashwords as a platform to push your content out.  Pricing is set by you for your works. The price can be free, any price above $.99, or reader-sets-the-price (similar to John Anealio‘s ‘pay what you want’ model). In instances where your book is distributed to other online retailers, the retailers do not discount your work. If you select reader-sets-the-price, such books will default to a price of $4.95 at Smashwords’ retail partners because none of them support the Reader-Sets-the-Price option (Note: As of December 1, 2010, they can no longer distribute Reader-Sets-the-Price books to Barnes & Noble). If you would like to set a separate default price for retailers only, you can. You can also deselect markets where you are already doing something (like Kindle Direct, for example).  Royalties are structured as: 85% or more of the net sale proceeds (70.5% for affiliate sales).  For sales distributing through leading retailers, you’ll earn 60% of the list price you set. For Baker & Taylor Axis360 library distributor, the author earns 45% of the list price (library purchased once, lends out many times, one at a time). Royalty rates may differ based on the country or retailer.  Caveat: you MUST have your book setup in… wait for it… Word.  Sigh.  They offer a comprehensive formatting guide that walks you through how to set your file up for the best possible quality coming out of their system on the other end, but, still – it’s Word.  They essentially have an engine that takes the Word doc and spits out the various formats needed for all the different platforms, so, it’s worth it I suppose.  Freaking Word…

Podiobooks

pb-logoPodiobooks is a distribution platform for free, serialized audio books that are usually published by the author.  Nathan Lowell and Mur Lafferty have both used this site with success.  The idea here is to put your stuff out for free in order to build an audience.  Users of the site have the option to donate to support a specific author, who receives 75% of those donations from Podiobooks (I’m assuming the other 25% helps run the site).  Typically, you set up your audio book as ‘episodes’.  Each episode can contain one or multiple chapters shooting for a 20-40 minute length.  (ACX also wants your book broken out but as chapters, not episodes.)  Chances are you will not make money here, especially starting out, but you could build an audience because, hey, who doesn’t like free stuff?  Podiobooks has a set of guidelines they insist you download and study; I don’t disagree with them, it’s always important to follow the guidelines no matter who the ‘publisher’ is.  I will say that they almost go too far with the snark in those guidelines, pointing out how often authors don’t follow the guidelines and, therefore, are rejected for inclusion.  (“If you fail, we’ll email you back and tell you. No, we may not be extremely helpful with details on how to fix problems. Because had you used the Mentorship program as suggested, you would have passed the first time.” Short code: RTFGS)  That being said, follow the guidelines… :P  One important note: although Podiobooks is built on ‘serialization’ of books, you can’t, actually, do a delayed or step release.  You have to have the entire project complete and submit it as a whole, in parts as laid out in their guidelines, or else not at all.  They say this is due to consumer demand, which is fine.

Whew.  Okay!  Lot of information, I know.  But worth it.  Hope you find it helpful.

~P

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1 comment for “Author Resources and other fun things

  1. December 28, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Hi Patrick. Great article, and thanks for including ACX. I wanted to point out that sales info and tracking is indeed a feature of your ACX account, but as you stated, it will only start tracking sales once at least one of your titles is produced through ACX and available for sale.
    Also, we really do welcome those that have already produced an audiobook through other means who’d like to take advantage of Audible’s sales channels. You do indeed need to be able to claim the print/eBook on Amazon, but once you’ve done that you can upload your already created audio directly to our site for sale on Audible Amazon and iTunes.

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