My decision to publish through Smashwords. Why I decided to do it.

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Arranah, Aug 1, 2017.

  1. Arranah

    Arranah Master

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    I've been writing for years. In fact, I'm probably old enough to be a grandmother to a lot of you. I began writing in 1981 after my older brother murdered four of his neighbors. I had a story to tell about victims on the other side of the crime. It took twelve years to rewrite and rewrite ad infinitum and get it published. Oh, I had an agent, but the publisher she and her associate found for my work, butchered it. Much of the message I was trying to get across was ripped out of the work. What remained was raped and abused. I wrote another work, this time fiction, and published it. That publisher promised a lot. What he delivered was corruption. He and his son embezzled ten million from his company. He was forced into bankruptcy. We authors never saw any of that money when the bankruptcy was settled. I lost twenty thousand dollars.

    Even with all the hassle and disappointment, by then I was hooked on writing. My fiction can be pounded into a number of genres. Some call it fantasy, some call it magical realism, some paranormal, mystical or visionary. At present I've written eleven books. They have the character develop of literary fiction - why - because when I read a story I want to know who the characters are, or I don't care what happens to them. Character development makes a story unique. Everything under the sun really already has been written about. So....

    My last agent, who truly loved my work, died of lung cancer last summer. Now, by this time I've gone to conferences, taken classes, read lots of books on how to do everything pertaining to the craft of writing, including query letters and the like. I'm tired of pursing that avenue. So, kicking and screaming against the idea of self-publishing, I decided to try Smashwords.

    In case you are unfamiliar with it, it was founded by Mark Coker in 2009. That year he published 140 titles, I believe. At this point there are 462,000 plus book that have been published through this company. They only publish digital works. It doesn't cost a person a thing. You do have to prepare your work through Microsoft Word - a .doc file. Since I write with Word Perfect, I purchased a used MS Word program for twenty bucks and converted my work. Using his detailed instructions I prepared my first work for publication and painted my cover art. It was the rewrite of the murder story. I uploaded it in the summer of 2016 shortly after my brother died in prison. Over the course of the year I prepared seven other books for publication through Smashwords. Plus, I uploaded three articles. At present I have eleven works available through Smashwords and most of the major outlets, except Amazon. I won't work with Amazon - a conversation for another time perhaps.

    Have my works sold? Well, to be honest, not so much. But now, as I write my next book, I am also working on ways to promote my works. Unless a person gets a super deal from a publisher, they have to do the promotion themselves anyway. I did try Facebook - my account was hacked and eventually disabled. I tried a forum of my peers. One person was angry at one of the other members I befriended. When I talked of my book, she went to Smashwords, bought my book and trashed it in a review before she even had a chance to look at it. I know because I received notification of the sale - with a time stamp, as well as, a notification of the horrid review with a time stamp of only a few minutes after the sale. At present I'm in the process of cultivating new ideas for promotion. I plan to upload my cover art for my works on this site in the near future, as soon as I overcome my nervousness about doing it.

    If you are thinking of self-publishing I suggest you check out Smashwords. The staff is very supportive. Thought you might like to know.
     
  2. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    I am curious, how did you lose $20k? Was it unpaid advances, or royalties earned that were never paid out?
     
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  3. Arranah

    Arranah Master

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    I abbreviated my initial post. It was a co-publishing deal with Northwest Publishing in Utah. There were four books, actually. Two of them were mine and two my husbands. It was the early 90s. It cost more to do that then - $5,000 per book. I knew of someone who'd had a good experience with the publisher. The company was recommended to me by a friend. We published two books with them. It seemed to be going well. We were getting royalties and selling books. Then the publisher promised to promote my husband and I as a writing couple. He would send us on tour. So we submitted two more manuscripts. In all, we spent the 20k. Before the second two books were published he was forced into bankruptcy. We lost that money and the royalties. Now, I realize we were taken, but it seemed to be going well. Turns out he and his son spent the company assets on hookers and gambling in Reno. We learned of it from the state of Utah. We received all our rights back, but none of the money. So, what I learned was, I will never pay someone else to publish any of my work. Never.
     
  4. psychotick

    psychotick Dark Lord

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    Hi,

    Sorry to hear of your experiences and I also have some works pubbed with Smashwords. I can attest that the staff there are excellent in following up queries etc. But I pubbed with them as a second string to my bow, using Amazon Kindle first. And my experience has been that Amazon sells roughly fifty times as much of my ebooks as Smashies. And when they came out with KU, I doubled my income. Of course to enroll in KU / select I had to stop publishing with Smashwards.

    I don't know what your problem is with Amazon, but they are the big players in the ebook market. If you are determined not to use them could I suggest a go wide strategy. Don't limit yourself to Smashwords. Also put out copies of your books on D2D (Draft to Digital), Apple (Can't remember if Smashies works through them or not), and every other online publisher who won't charge.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes. Last Author Earnings report I saw had Amazon with about 83% of the U.S. eBook sales market and 87-88% of the UK market. I'm also interested why the OP doesn't want to publish through Amazon, because that is giving up the vast share of the eBook market. The one self-published book I have, and the anthologies I edited and published as eBooks, have sold enough more through Amazon that sales through all of the other markets have been insignificant in comparison (which includes the markets Smashwords gives access to). Which isn't to say there aren't reasons a person might refuse to work with them, I'm just curious.
     
  6. Arranah

    Arranah Master

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    Thanks for your input. Amazon is a player. They want to own access to everyone's books, without the authors' consent. Thankfully they lost the last round in court, and it's been dropped for now. When one goes in to buy something on their site in general, like cat food for example, one time it will be $44 and the next $66. The next day it can be back to $44. I will not be part of business that is out to gouge people. Even if that means I miss out on sales, so be it. I stand on the side of ethics. Without ethics we are nothing.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    The implication is that anyone who sells through Amazon is not on the side of ethics. I disagree entirely with that assessment.
     
  8. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    Although there are fundamental flaws in the Author Earnings Analysis, there is no doubt that Amazon in the biggest player in the e-book market. They are a whale amongst fish.

    They do some things from time to time that I don't like, for a multitude of reasons, but I would not say that by any stretch there are an unethical company or engage in more unethical practises than anybody else on selling e-books on any scale.

    Changes prices is a normal part of the retail market. Generally I find Amazon offers their products at lower prices than many other sources and encourage aggressive price competition. Now that may make it hard on their competitors but so far, that has probably been good for consumers.

    They also offer the biggest, most effective platform for indy writers by a long shot. Without what Amazon offers indy publishing would be a tiny fraction of what it is today.

    I also don't think from a logical viewpoint that just because one sells on Amazon one is giving tacit approval to any or all of their policies.
     
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    @Russ

    The comments probably revolve around things like Amazon's kindle lending library. There, Amazon initially approached publishers about joining the program, then when publishers declined Amazon decided it didn't need their permission to move forward. Amazon's reasoning is actually grounded in long-standing principles of IP law, like the First Sale doctrine. They reasoned that so long as they paid publishers the agreed-upon price per-download, the publishers couldn't reach through to control what Amazon did with the books. That's generally correct--the whole reason we have used bookstores is that authors and publishers can't control what happens to a copy of a book once that copy is sold. I don't know if Arranah considers used bookstores unethical--I've actually run across some writers who do. Of course, digital products add a lot of new wrinkles to this.

    I've not seen too much in the way of day-to-day pricing variation across Amazon, though I do see it. Often, these are third-party sellers who are running short-term promotions on their items and not simply Amazon setting prices one day to the next. People sometimes forget that a lot of what you see for sale on Amazon is sold by third-party sellers who are able to set pricing (there are over 2 million such sellers, last I saw). The same item could pop up from two different sellers and be listed at two different prices--that can, and does, happen. I could post a bag of cat food for for $10 and you could post the identical bag for $20. Depending on which listing a user sees first, they're going to see a different price.

    In addition to the foregoing, there are now complex algorithms that third-party sellers can employ for their listings on Amazon (eBay has them as well), so the price and even apparent quantity in stock of your listings gets adjusted automatically as a result of a software algorithm taking in data from similar listings. The idea that Amazon has someone sitting at a keyboard for any given listing and laughing maniacally as they manipulate the price just isn't the case. Which isn't to say you don't see price changes on Amazon's own listings--you can certainly see them. And when I go to my local grocery store, one day the chicken might be on sale and the next day it might not.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
    Russ likes this.
  10. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    I was aware of that suff, and I too suspect those might be the foundations of Arranah's concerns.

    I just don't see pushing the boundaries of IP law to see what happens as unethical. Aggressive? Sure. Unethical, not so much.

    Same with pricing. I don't see attempts to price products to maximize your profits in the way you want as unethical. I don't buy almost anything from Amazon except books and some electronics, and I have a pretty good idea as to how book price changes happen. I just don't see what they are doing as unethical, unless the whole capitalist model is unethical.
     
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  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes. None of it is "unethical." Even the lending program is consistent with pre-digital IP law principles and policy. But, as I said, i know some writers who think used bookstores are unethical and shouldn't be allowed. So long as Amazon is paying publishers and authors the price per book they agreed upon, it is hard to cast what they're doing as unethical. The fact that prices for items change from time to time--well, that's just a normal part of life.
     
    Russ likes this.
  12. Arranah

    Arranah Master

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    i did not say that to publish through Amazon made a person unethical. What I said was the Amazon is unethical for doing whatever they want to with the author's work without the author's permission. I will not work with a company who does that, for to do condones their behavior. Now, a person may not be aware that a company works that way. But under the law ignorance is no excuse. So it behooves us to learn about the companies we work with. Even if I published through a major publisher, I retain my rights to the work. The publisher has the right to publish it, and that's it, unless I sign a contract giving them more rights. As authors we have to stand up for ourselves. Business will take advantage of us if we are not careful.

    Obviously some of us disagree about the meaning of ethics. That is our right, but that does not make what businesses do to the rest of us okay with me.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    As far as I'm aware, Amazon isn't claiming to have the copyright in any of these works. They're just contending that once they buy a work and pay the publisher for it, they have the ability to do certain things with the work on a per-copy basis. The only thing that makes it murky is the digital aspect. It has been the case for over a hundred years with physical books. I suppose the question is this: do you believe used bookstores and the like are also a problem? Because once you sell a copy of a physical book, your rights in that physical copy are pretty much extinguished and people can do what they want with them. Amazon is taking the same view with respect to digital works, with the limitation that it only applies to the number of copies of the digital work that they've actually paid the publisher/author for.

    In any event, it makes for an interesting discussion topic.
     
  14. Arranah

    Arranah Master

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    In a discussion there are often a variety of points of view. That what makes for a discourse.
     
  15. Aurora

    Aurora Mystagogue

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    I publish through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited and own 100% rights to my work. The contract for KU is to be exclusive for 90 days but there is the option to go wide afterward. Stating Amazon can do as they desire with a publisher's work is a misinformed statement.
     
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  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes, Amazon does not take the author's rights away. One might argue on policy grounds whether all of their practices are good (or whether, for example, they engage in predatory behavior with respect to pricing), or whether long-standing pre-digital doctrines of copyright law should apply in the digital sphere, but those are all topics that can and should be debated on policy grounds and not on allegations that Amazon is doing something it isn't.
     
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