Monthly Archives: March 2013

Staying exculsive with Amazon for the time being

I am new to this whole self publishing thing.  But I know few things seems to cause such debate as to the idea of staying exclusive with Amazon through their KDP select program.

For the time being I am keeping my work exclusive with Amazon.

Jeff and I have similar hairstyles.  Maybe that's why I am staying.

Jeff and I have similar hairstyles. Maybe that’s why I am staying.

Joe Konrath is going all in on KDP select.  But I don’t have his backlist.  Heck, I don’t have a backlist.

Here are the reasons why I am doing it:

1. It’s easy.  And I’m lazy.  Apparently I need a different file type to upload to the Nook.  I could set up a file with Smashwords and they could send my book everywhere but Amazon.  Two things with that.  One, they get a cut, and two they want me to upload in .doc format.  Word on the street is that Smashwords is very picking about the formatting of your file.  Formatting a paperback and Kindle book is enough trouble for me right now, thank you very much.  Sorry to my two Nook fans.  And don’t get me started on iTunes.  To upload to iTunes directly to iTunes I either need to buy a mac, or sacrifice a an iPod shuffle at Steve Jobs’ memorial.  Currently, I have no plans to do either.

2. I have GREATLY expanded my readership through Select.  I’ve done two different give aways of the first Kevin book.  Between the two giveaways the book has been downloaded over 7,000 times.  I consider that a success.  As a no name author my book is currently sitting in over 7,000 Kindles and devices with the Kindle plug-in.  And after each free promotion paid sales increased.  They increased a lot more and stayed selling longer the second time around this month in March.  Before January I had never published a book.  Now in March over 7,000 people have my book.  Thank you Amazon.

3. Kindle Lending Library.  Seriously, this thing is awesome.  People borrow my book for free on their Kindle, and then I get paid.  And in most cases, because the book is currently priced at $1.99, I get paid MORE for a borrow.  I even noticed that someone bought my book, then returned and borrowed it through the Kindle Lending Library.  Which means I get paid more for the borrow than for the sale.  Awesome.   That’s money I would not get if I left select.  And my borrows were a pretty high percentage in January and March, that I don’t see the borrows being made up by sales on a Nook.

Reasons to leave.

1.  People who own a Nook. I’ve had a few people tell they it on the Nook.  Seriously, I love all four of you very dearly, but this is a business decision.

2.  The ability to give away free copies on my website. This actually the main I was considering leaving select. Due to the exclusivity of Select I can’t give away copies on my site.  But then I did the obvious math. No way could I have given away 7,000 copies on this site.  Not even remotely enough traffic to reach that.  (I know. You’re shocked.)

3.  Just generally against exclusivity. When I tried my hand at stock photography years ago I never signed an exclusivity agreement because I liked having different sites. The problem is Amazon is so good at getting your book seen no other site even comes close.  See David Gaughran’s take on Amazon’s superior search engine. I have yet to read about a writer who had had more sales on Nook or Apple then kindle. If you are such a writer, please leave a note in the comments.

For those that don’t know exclusivity for Amazon is only 90 days.  So I may change my mind later this summer.  If I had several books available I probably would send a few books free from Amazon, but I don’t have that right now.  Leave your opinion about Select in the comments.

Are Music Labels and other publishers and middle men needed anymore?

Are music labels needed anymore?  I don’t need one. I’m not a musician   I did play trumpet in middle and school, but I hid in the second and third trumpet section for seven years.  I know, you’re impressed.  I also sing in my churches’ choir, but you may not want me to sing in yours.

But Alex Day is a good singer.  In fact he’s so good he recently beat Justin Timberlake in UK when he released his new album.  Now Timberlake is in movies, on the Jimmie Fallon show regularly, and he sells out concerts.  Yet Alex Day beat him.

Youtube beats bring sexy back...

Youtube beats bring sexy back…

Thanks to James Altucher for pointing this out.

I’m 39, so I had to ask “Who is Alex Day?”

Apparently he has big following on Youtube.  He makes regular videos interacting with fans, and he makes music.

But he is not on any major label.  If he can beat Justin Timberlake with no music label behind him then that begs the questions.  What is the purpose of a music label anymore?

Listen to Alex himself ponder the same question.

This is now being played out in the publishing world. Some will disagree, but things are changing quickly. Joe Konrath is now fully self published through Amazon and makes tons more money than when we was a traditionally published writer.

Hugh Howey is currently criss-crossing the country promoting his book Wool. Yes, that book is being done through a traditional publisher Simon and Schuster, but Howey kept the digital rights to his books (smart) and only gave the print rights to the publisher, and the rights were bought by 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott to turn it into a movie. All of this occurred only after he choose himself and self-published.

Now is the time to stop waiting on New York to ordain you a writer.  Or waiting on LA to give you a music contract or a movie contract.  Get up everyday and choose yourself.

Currently Createspace is the place to go and publish your book on Amazon and other places.  But you can also publish your music or movie into the Amazon world.  Think about that for just a minute.  With a group of friends, a video camera, and some basic software you can go out, make a movie and then have shown on Amazon Instant Video in MILLIONS of homes and get paid every time someone watches it.  The world isn’t going to change for artists.  IT HAS ALREADY CHANGED.

As I was writing this I listened to a few of Alex’s songs on Youtube.  I am now a fan.  That’s how that works.  Tower records didn’t tell me to listen to Alex, nor was he played on the car radio.  He was recommended by blogger, I listened, and am now a fan.  That is the 21st century.

Stop waiting for someone to Choose You.  Now you get up everyday and Choose Yourself.

Do that long enough and then everyone else will Choose You.

Here is an Alex Day song that already had over a million views but was new to me.

First illustration from “Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien”

The new book is not a full blown picture book.  It is designed as an early chapter book, and I went with black and white illustration to save on the cost of printing the book.  Hopefully making the book more affordable.  Ironically it also makes the Kindle version cheaper to send.  Who knew?!

But of course the first illustration from a book about a three-headed alien is a pirate and his crew.  Sounds about right.

From the upcoming "Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien."

From the upcoming “Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.”

Chapter 1 of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien

We’ve moved from the editing phase to the illustration phase of making Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.  Thanks to all my beta-editors and readers!

This next book is an early chapter book.  It’s around 10,600 words.  (For all you teachers out there.)

So I thought I would share the first chapter and beginning part of chapter 2.  This time around Kevin has a last name and friends.   The universe gets expanded here.

I’m eager to share and hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 1 – The White Whale

“Ahoy! Man ye stations!  We’ve got a ship to board!” shouted Grey Beard, the dirtiest pirate that ever sailed the Seven Seas.

“Aye! A ship to board” squawked Dirty Melon, Grey Beard’s parrot.

Men ran back and forth across the swaying ship. Grey Beard, with Dirty Melon perched on his shoulder, walked slowly to the stern of his ship, the White Whale. 

There she was, the prize, the Falcon, the fastest ship on the high seas, with treasures to match inside.  Grey Beard had been pursuing her for months and here she was, right in front of the White Whale.

Cannons began to fire.  Smoke rose and billowed everywhere.  But Grey Beard just stood there staring at the Falcon. It was going to be his. He felt it. He knew it.

He pulled out his spyglass and held it up to his right eye.  There, looking back at him through his own pirate telescope was Captain Kurtz, the soon-to-be former skipper of the Falcon.

Although he stood 400 yards away, Grey Beard pulled his pistol from his belt, pointed it at the White Whale and pulled the trigger. BANG! 

Chapter 2 – Jared

“Kevin! What are you doing?” shouted Jared Thompson, Kevin’s next-door neighbor. Jared was also in Kevin’s class. “Get up! It’s your stop.”

Kevin Kershner looked up, put down his pencil, closed his notebook and got off the bus. He walked briskly to his house, hoping that Jared would just go home.  Kevin’s sandy brown hair bounced as he walked.


Jared wasn’t going to his house. Kevin kept walking. Jared ran to catch up, his backpack slung off his left shoulder. “Kevin, what’s with the notebook? Let me see.”

That’s all you get for right now.  We began work on illustrations this week.  So it is coming together.  Thanks again everyone!

Book is currently cheaper as an autographed version

I’m a newbie at this publishing on Amazon thing.  At times Amazon baffles me.  When I set up the paperback I had to set a minimum price of somewhere a little above $10.  But then for over a month Amazon lowered the price to $7.62.  I had absolutely no control over that.  In fact I wasn’t even notified of the price change, I just saw it one day.  But the very cool part was that my commission was based on the retail suggested price, so it was a win for everyone.

And then whoops, it went back to $11.95.  So I lowered the price to $10.95, and I can’t offer it much cheaper than that on Amazon.  (46 page color books are expensive to make apparently.)  But based on the price I get from Createspace, I can offer the book even less and then sign it for you.

Shockingly I got C's in elementary school in handwriting.  I

Shockingly, I got C’s in elementary school in handwriting.

The trade off is I can’t offer Amazon free Prime shipping, and I have a busy day job.  So I can’t promise two shipping.  Pretty certain I can get to the post office on Saturday.

If you are just dying to have an autographed copy then by all means click on the pic below.

"Kevin and the Seven Lions"

Click on the book cover to purchase a signed copy of Kevin and the Seven Lions.

Are there any other writers noticing something similar?  Leave a comment if you are.

On another note, I will be writing soon about the new Kevin book coming soon.

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Apps, Books, and Education

My daughter is 1.  We recently read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish on my Kindle, an app by Oceanhouse Media.  Or more accurately the book was read to us by the app.
Right then an entire world opened up or more accurately worlds opened up.

This app let's readers choose between reading the text themselves and having it read to them.

This app let’s readers choose between reading the text themselves and having it read to them.

1.  Education

This app makes me happy as a teacher.  The ability to have the words highlighted as they were read, and then they can tap a particular word and have it read back to them.  What an amazing tool for early or struggling readers.  I found my self just tapping on different parts of the screen to see what it would say.  I stayed on several pages just exploring the text.  How many young readers do that as well, thus spending more time in the text.  I imagine kids with their tablets exploring a text by reading it and clicking on the illustrations to see more.  Great opportunities here.

2. Indie book publishing

Dr. Seuss wrote One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish in 1960.  His family still owns the copyright to it, and unless they sell it, they will own it for another 48 years.  (Dr. Seuss died in 1991.)

When you you write a book it begins as just a book.  But in reality it is an intellectual property that can be sold as hardback, paperback, or ebook.  It can also be packaged as an audio book.  Several different ways to bring income with the same property.  And if handled correctly it isn’t just income for you, it is income for your children and grandchildren.  Think about that.

3. Apps

If you write children’s books, like I do, you can also turn them into apps that students can explore.  I guess in theory you could turn an adult book into an app.  I’ll leave that up to other people.  Imagine though making a book, and then turning it into an app where students may interact with it even more than a paper book.  I’m seriously going to be looking into how this is done.  If you know how to do it, leave a note in the comments.

But turning your book into an app is a great exercise in intellectual property, you make one intellectual property sold several different ways, and you own that property for the rest of your life, and then your descendants own it for 70 years after your death.  The possibilities are amazing here, who knows what, in the future, digital ways we can sell an intellectual property.  Simply Awesome.


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Hire what you are not

The hiring process part of the next Kevin book is over.  Now the real work begins.

I’ve written before about the importance of hiring someone to help you in some way, be it in editing, illustration, making the book cover, book design, ebook formatting, or all of the above, odds are you are going to need some help with something.  It is okay to not be able to do everything.

Everyone needs help, even The Beatles.

Everyone needs help, even The Beatles.

I am currently in final editing process for the next Kevin book.  The manuscript should be in it’s final edited phase by next Thursday.  I need help with proofing and editing, as does every writer.  But I’m really terrible at proofing, not my strength.  I’ve also read that writers are too close to their own writing anyway to edit it. That is very true for me.

Hire for what you are not 

I’m also not an illustrator.  I am a photographer, but not an illustrator.  Consequently I needed to hire an illustrator.  And my illustrator will also do the book cover as well.  I can get two birds with one stone there.

Do what you are

I won’t use anyone to help me design the book or the Kindle version.  Looking at the first Kevin book, the only thing that I might change would be the font.  But that is a personal taste I guess.  And formatting a Kindle book isn’t much different from formatting a website, which I’ve done plenty of over the last 15 years.

Where do you hire?

I’ve used Elance over the last several years for various projects.  But there are other places to use as well.  I’m just comfortable with Elance.

Of course if you know someone that can do what you need, such as illustration or editing that may work as well.  I have not had that happen yet, I really like hiring people I don’t know personally, it allows more of an ability to say “no” when needed.

Hiring someone can raise the level of your book, and keep it from that “self-published” look.

I put the last period on the next Kevin book in February   In the traditional publishing world, as I understand it, I would pretty much be done.  The publisher would take the manuscript edit it, get an illustrator and book cover artist.

In this new world, I am in charge of those added elements.  Which is why independent publishing gives you higher royalties than traditional contracts.  Makes sense, I do more, I need to get paid more.  I like that.


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