Tag Archives: Publishing

Readers (and Writers) Beware!

The world of electronic publishing and reading has been a blessing to many people. My DH for instance. On his Kindle reader he can enlarge the font and enjoy reading without his glasses. I, too, like reading on my Kindle and getting ebooks at a cheaper price than print books most of the time. It certainly has eliminated a storage problem for me in that even before Kindle, I already had rooms full of books that I didn’t know what to do with and didn’t have room for more. Still the case, I might add.51nk+aSvOFL._AC_US327_QL65_

Electronic publishing has enabled me to publish my own books instead of going through the crap-shoot of trying to sell them to New York publishers, which is like wading through Saran Wrap. It has brought me income that I wouldn’t have received from traditional publishing, for which I’m grateful.

A couple of years ago, Amazon introduced the Kindle Unlimited program that was immediately recognized as a boon to readers, but an unknown quotient to authors. Nevertheless, authors embraced it and put their books in the program exclusively for 90 days, shutting down their listings in other retail venues such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.


Around the end of last year or the first of this year, my book sales at Amazon started tanking and I couldn’t figure out why. I wasn’t doing anything different from what I’ve always done. Sales got steadily worse every month. Admittedly, I’m not one of those prolific authors who rolls out a new book every 2 or 3 months, but still, the books I had on Amazon had always moved steadily along.

Eventually, I started seeing comments on social media from other authors about the same dearth of sales. I was still scratching my head, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. (And I haven’t figured it out entirely.)

I  already had faced that my self-published books were competing with books being   published directly and heavily marketed by Amazon under its own imprints. Amazon now has several imprints in several genres. They work the  same way as the traditional publishers in New York, i.e., paid advances to authors for acquisition of a work, contracts and deadlines and editors.

In addition, they have created the Kindle World program in which some of their paid authors they have made into bestsellers now have their own Kindle Worlds and are bringing ebooks to the market at lower prices. These are books written by authors who haven’t quite made those bestseller lists, but are riding the coattails of an Amazon-made bestseller. Sort of a modified pyramid scheme.

Still, though common sense told me Amazon’s own products got preferential treatment in terms of rankings and publicity, I accepted that as just one of those challenges with which all entrepreneurs no matter what they’re selling have to contend.

Little by little, bits and pieces of another problem started to eke out.

Can you say CLICK FARM?

Click farms have existed for quite a while for all kinds of products, but the fraud hadn’t 5hf8bU3kJM0QRK6dreally leaked into book publishing except through weird book pirating sites. That has changed.  In the last year or so, Amazon book sales has been invaded by click farmers. Self-publishing authors in particular are competing with fraud and plagiarism on a scale not seen before. It’s insane. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/01/05/selling-social-media-clicks-becomes-big-business/4327905/

What is a Click Farm? Wikipedia says a click farm is a form of click fraud, where a large group of low-paid workers are hired to click on paid advertising links for the click fraudster (click farm master or click farmer). The workers click the links, surf the target website for a period of time, and possibly sign up for newsletters prior to clicking another link. http://www.businessinsider.com/silicon-valley-are-click-farms-real-2016-6

Here’s the definition from Google: A click farm is a business that pays employees to click on website elements to artificially boost the status of a client’s website or a product. Click farms are usually based in developing countries, where wages are extremely low by Western standards. https://kotaku.com/inside-chinese-click-farms-1795287821

Somewhere in China or Bangladesh or the Philippines or even Russia, a person beingwnus15o6tm4ekewlelgn paid a pittance is sitting at a computer that might be connected to 100 or a 1,000 phones or tablets or even more. All day and all night, they generate phony likes on Facebook, Instagram and other social media, to the tune of billions of “likes” in a year. When you look at a Facebook post that has many, many “likes,” you don’t know if they’re real or counterfeit.

The social media sites don’t really care as long as they’re getting traffic that, in turn, generates advertising dollars. The chances of someone, anyone, doing anything about this are pretty close to zero.

So what is happening with books listed for sale or borrow at Amazon? If you’re a Kindle Unlimited  member, you might find this article interesting: https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/scammers-break-the-kindle-store/  I couldn’t possibly explain the problem any better than the author of this article explains it.

THE IMPORTANCE OF RANKINGS

In other instances, fraudsters go into Amazon book listings under phony names and post reviews that affect a book’s Amazon ranking. Enough 1-star reviews will sink a book to the bottom of the list.

At the same time, if the click farmers post enough 4 or 5-star reviews on their own books, those books zoom to the top of the bestseller lists, thereby eliminating legitimate authors from competition and the opportunity to earn royalties. I’m not sure why, but apparently, Amazon’s bots do not know the difference between the artificial reviews and real ones.

The Amazon rankings are so important to authors. Sad to say, if you as an author have a book for sale and its ranking gets close to or drops below 500,000, you can bet that unless you can come up with a magic marketing formula that gets you back in the running, your book selling days at Amazon are over. Readers will simply never find your books, thus never buy them.

COUNTERFEITING

Then there’s the guy conducting seminars on how to hire some third world person to write a book for $200.  By this method, he “writes” at least a dozen books in a month, puts his name on them, lists them to borrow by Amazon KU members and collects a royalty. Because he’s successful, others are now doing the same thing. This isn’t exactly plagiarism. I don’t know if it even rises to level of fraud, but it might.

Here in the states, the same thing is happening, but probably not for as little as $200. It’s called “freelance writing” and there are several web sites promoting this service. For an agreed on fee, a ghost writer, by contract, gives away any rights he has to what he writes for someone who has hired him. He gets not a penny more than the agreed-on fee no matter if the book is a bestseller. In the end, he might or might not get paid the agreed-on fee. Plenty of instances exist where an author agreed to be a ghost writer, then got stiffed by the non-author who hired him or her.

VICTIMS OF PLAGIARISM

Real plagiarism is even more sinister and an even greater threat to legitimate authors. In some cases, somebody in a third-world country (or maybe somebody in the good old USA) copies a book’s content, changes words here or there, changes a few paragraphs, puts on a new cover showing a different title and a phony author’s name and markets it as his or her own book through Amazon for 99-cents. Much of copying of the books is done by software, so enough changes are made to prevent Amazon’s bots from catching the duplication and calling it plagiarism.

The fraudulent author then follows up by buying “likes” and/or phony reviews from a click farmer, which drives the book to the top of the bestseller lists. The click farmer, because he runs a sweatshop, puts up book after book and dominates the bestseller lists with several books, which qualifies him to receive substantial “bonuses” over and above royalties from Amazon.

With more exposure at the top of the lists, the click farmers sell more books, which forces legitimate authors whose books might be listed for more than 99-cents farther down the list. The only legitimate authors who can compete with them are the ones who have books for sale for 99-cents, but I don’t know how much competition they really present. No one who is really writing a book can do it that fast.

AMAZON’S ATTITUDE

Amazon doesn’t appear to care very much about who they’re paying royalties to. Their #1 interest is keeping the monthly KU subscription fee coming in from readers and or selling books to customers. If Amazon can somehow persuade authors to keep the inventory supplied for little or no money, so much the better for Amazon’s bottom line. Their payout is the same whether the recipient is a *real* author or a third-world-country fraudster.

Multiplied by tens of thousands, this tallies up to a lot of money.

This is fraud. This is plagiarism. This is crime.


THE FUTURE

What will happen eventually is that real books by real authors will have no more distinction and won’t be worth wasting your time reading. A lot of authors will probably bail. What is the point of continuing to write books if they can’t make any money?

I’m a good example. I spend many hours of a day in front of the computer trying to produce a quality, professional product. Do you think I or anybody else is going to keep doing that if something out of my control prevents my making a decent amount of money? ….. Writing a book is hard. If I’m going to work for nothing, I can find something easier to do.

When you start to buy a book that’s for sale for 99-cents, look at it closely. If it has an author’s name on it who released several titles just last week and has waaay too many reviews to have been on the market for only a week, maybe it’s been stolen from a legitimate author who spent a year of hard work writing it. Complain about it to Amazon.

Or if you buy a book in which the syntax, the editing, the grammar, etc., are awful, you might be reading a book produced by a third-world person who doesn’t know English very well.

Just recently, on a book at Amazon I was thinking about buying, I read some reviews. Every reviewer spoke about how bad the spelling, the grammar and the editing were. The listing said the book was published by a real publisher, so my first thought was if a professional publisher released this book, why is it full of errors that could have been easily corrected? My next thought was some kind of fraud. I didn’t buy the book and the author lost that royalty. This is an example of what I’m talking about.

Royalties are the same thing as commissions. They are the only pay an author receives. If someone takes them away by fraudulent means, a real author can’t continue to exist.

Amazon knows this is going on and what have they done? Instead of meeting the fraud head-on, they’ve tightened their requirements for *real* authors who try to put up new books for sale by demanding that they prove they have legitimate copyrights, for one thing. That might be a good first step, but it causes real authors a lot of headaches and delays their book releases, while the click farmers go happily along collecting royalties on a book they didn’t write. So far, defense against this has proved to about as effective as that old needle in a haystack cliche.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

As far as I can tell, authors can’t do a damn thing about it. It’s up to readers to sort this out and complain. And complain. And complain. And return books you believe to be fraudulent to Amazon. Amazon responds only to customers. Believe me, they’ve already heard plenty from authors.

And bear in mind, Amazon now uses overseas call centers for customer service. If you have a complaint, don’t give up and pull your hair. If the individual you complain to sounds like he’s out to lunch, hang up or ask for a different person.


On a final note, I would add, if you read a book by an author whose name you’ve never heard, if the “voice” sounds like *my* voice, let me know. I can tell you in an instant if I’m the one who wrote it. I don’t know what I can do about it, but I can let you know you’ve been cheated.

Having said all of the above,  I’m painfully aware that a reader, at 99-cents, might not care if he’s reading something that has been stolen or counterfeited and that he or she might not care if an author gets cheated out of a royalty. And that is the most hurtful, scariest scenario of all.

SUPPORT YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS. CALL OUT FRAUD AND PLAGIARISM.

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SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION…

Happy Holidays, everyone. As for me, I’m just glad it’s almost over. When you work in retail, the Christmas season calls for a huge amount of work and the patience of Job. And it’s hard to find fun in all of the chaos.

North Texas actually had snow on Christmas Day this year. In my entire life, except in the Panhandle, I don’t think I’ve ever known of it snowing on Christmas in this part of the world.

A lot of other things were going on besides work at my real job. First and foremost, (And I don’t want to forget a trumpet blare here), I finally got THE TYCOON uploaded into the Kindle Store on Amazon. But it didn’t happen until Christmas week. And here’s the cover one more time.

AnnaJeffrey_TheTycoon_200px

 

I ran into a few snags, like a copyeditor who dropped the ball. Consequently, I ended up hurrying through it and formatting it myself. The result of that was a whole lot of errors in the formatting. I hate that, but I had to upload it. I had copyrighted in in 2012 and I wanted it to be a 2012 release. Now I’m in the process of going back and correcting the errors. I can’t move on get into Book #2 because I can’t seem to get free of Book #1.

My intention was to get it uploaded the first week of December, then follow up with the promotion of SWEET WATER free in the Kindle Store, thus expose it to more traffic. Not getting the copyedit back threw my schedule all off and nothing came off as I had planned.

One of the things I’m learning in self-publishing is that there are a lot of unqualified, unreliable folks out there. I knew that about other endeavors in which I’ve been involved through the years, but I was hoping for better from the writing world.

I put a price of $4.99 on THE TYCOON because it’s a long book and a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it. It’s my usual character-driven soap opera. As I think I’ve said before, it’s Book #1 of a trilogy called SONS OF TEXAS. The books will be romance novels, but overarching the trilogy and threading through it is the story of a wealthy, dysfunctional Texas family. The true ending will not come until the end of the 3rd book.

Besides that, I got SWEET RETURN uploaded into the Amazon Kindle Store. Kim Killion designed an awesome cover. It might be my most favorite cover. Let me know what *you* think.

AnnaJeffrey_SweetReturn_800

 

The female model on the cover wrote me a Facebook message and told me how happy she was to be on the cover. I thought that was cool. Actually, it’s kind of surreal how much these two models look like I imagined Dalton Parker and Joanna Walsh, the hero and heroine in that book.

SWEET RETURN is a reprint of my 2008 book. It won the Aspen Gold contest held by an RWA chapter in Denver and placed in several other contests. It will also be available as a print book from Amazon. It was a fun book to write and I hope it’s a fun book to read.

So that’s what’s been keeping me busy writing-wise and publishing-wise.

Prior to that, my daughter came and stayed ten days with me. We beaded and cooked and shopped and did all of the things we usually do. Had a great time. I enjoy her company so much and miss her a lot. One of these days, I’m going to have to move to Oregon to be near her. She hates Texas and only comes here because I’m here.

I didn’t do a lot of holiday cooking this year, but I did make biscotti to take to work. Turned out to be delicious. I had never made it before, but it’s fairly easy and almost foolproof. And tomorrow, I go back to my real job, which ends the holiday for me.

One of my resolution for the coming year is to try to be more attentive to this blog. For me, its purpose it to promote my books, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about other things. A lot is going on in the world and most of it bears discussing. So please hang in there with me.

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TIDBITS OF NEW OLD NEWS . . .

I’ve hired someone to format THE LOVE OF A LAWMAN for the digital bookstores, so I won’t be taking six months to do it myself and get it uploaded. If all goes well, I’ll be able to upload it by the end of this month and hopefully, it will be error-free.

I have a cover ready and waiting. It was designed by miracle worker Kim Killion. I love this woman.

I’m weary of seeing half-naked men on book covers, so I decided to go a different direction. Seems like every other book these days has a picture of bare chests and abs. Hope I haven’t made the wrong decision. This guy looks pretty good, doesn’t he? Even if he is fully clothed. Let me know what you think. One nice thing about self-publishing: If the cover is wrong, you can take a mulligan.

This book was originally released in 2005. The original cover designed by my print publisher won the Cover Cafe award for cover of the year.

Like all of my books, it’s kind of a soap opera. The “What If?” question I asked when developing this story was, what if beautiful gutsy woman who has been abandoned by the guy she ran away from home with years back, returns to her hometown, bringing her brainy daughter, searching for her roots and starting her life anew, only to encounter and be distracted by the man who has been in love with her since they were teenagers?

What if a handsome ex-ProRodeo champion, who is divorced and starting over, takes on the job of sheriff in his tiny crime-free hometown just to while away a few months before he does something else, then a murder occurs under his watch? And what if, at the same time, he runs into the beautiful woman he had a crush on in high school?

If you’ve read my books, you know that all of my heroines are beautiful and all of my heroes are handsome. Romance novels are, after all, fantasies. So if you haven’t read this one, it will soon be available through Kindle and Nook and other online venues.

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The second occurrence is I had a conversation with Amazon about publishing a print edition of THE TYCOON. According to them, I’m wrong in thinking I should publish it as an e-book first. They recommend I publish it as a POD book first. I’m still deciding. In any event, God willing, I’ll get this book on the market this year. I started the year thinking I would get it out there in February. Then I moved the date to May, then September. Now I’ve lowered my sights and I’m just shooting for 2012. So much for best-laid plans.

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My newly designed Web site is up and functioning. Check it out. www.annajeffrey.com. Let me know if you have any problems navigating it. It can be fixed.

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THE READING REVOLUTION IS HERE….

And if I ever doubted it, I no longer do.

As some of you know, my real job is with a major retailer. For most of the holiday season, I worked in the electronics department. The number of iPads, iPods, KindleFires, Nooks and other tablet-like devices that were sold was astonishing. Amazon is already claiming sales of more than a million KindleFires.

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

And what can we do on each and every one of these electronic devices besides play games, email and surf the Net? WE CAN READ BOOKS!

Even though I wrote back in October about reading on an e-reader as opposed to having a printed book in your hands, I see the handwriting on the wall.

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Mid-list authors like me have already found a home on the Internet with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords, which distributes e-books to e-retailers like Sony, Kobo, Diesel, Apple and others. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are paying nine times the royalty rates for e-books as the Big 6 in New York. I have a friend who has self-published 17 of her backlist books and has now sold more than a million e-books. She would never have seen the day in traditional publishing when she would be as well-paid as she is in e-publishing.

Amazon already has an apparatus in place where mid-listers can self-publish in print if they so desire. Mid-listers also now have access to editing, copyediting, cover design and even reviewing by a major reviewer. A writer who dreams of seeing his great American novel in print is no longer stymied and denigrated by the gatekeepers.

Of course, none of this is free. Authors will have an outlay of cash to make this happen. The author with business savvy will put together his or her own little organization that functions in a professional way, which will benefit both author and reader.

Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device)

Image via Wikipedia

It’s only a matter of time before one of the major bestselling authors will take a close look at his or her royalty statement and recognize how much money he or she is sacrificing by not being independent. And when that happens, I believe it will be like opening the floodgates. All bets are off when it comes to the future of New York print publishing and to existing online e-publishers. The ball is now in the court of authors and readers, where it should have been all along.

Like all change, on the surface, it seems as if this cataclysm has occurred overnight, but that isn’t the case. It has been evolving for at least 2 years. What will now make the difference, though, is that so many people now own e-reading devices and will now be able to buy e-books cheaper than they ever could buy new print books. So each and every one of them can fill up his e-reader with as many as 3,000 books. Even school books will be e-books.

So if you didn’t get an e-reader for Christmas, you might consider it. You can soon pay for the e-reader with what you’ll save buying books.

This is an awesome development and I’m so glad it has happened in my lifetime.

I’d love to hear your comments.

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Now I’m Independent…

Amazon Kindle PDF

Last week, something finally happened that I’ve been working at for more than two years. I finally got the copyrights back on two more of mybooks. Whew! What a pain.

I’m so happy about this. It’s a good feeling to know that books I slaved over are no longer hanging in limbo where they’re not on the market, but there’s nothing I can do about it because I don’t own them. That’s like having them fall into a black hole. Getting my rights back makes me feel like I have a future again.

Publishing and bookselling have become dramas with lots of moving parts. Independents are barely hanging on, Borders is gone and every day, B&N is starting to look more like a gift store than a book store. I don’t know about the other chains because none of them are located in my part of the country. But I do know this. Big retail is in the process of killing mid-list authors like me.

Big retail is not in the book and author promoting business. It doesn’t have a dedication or devotion to *books*, as such. Big retail is in the RETAIL business, which is fundamentally the real estate business. Every square inch of space has to produce so many dollars over a certain period of time. Consequently, they’re going to fill that space with stuff that sells lots of items as fast as possible because profit lies in volume of rapidly moving stuff. From their perspectives, books are strictly a commodity that sells well or not. Thus, their interest in stocking only name-brand authors.

Entrance of a typical Costco warehouse club.

Image via Wikipedia

These days, if you stroll through the book section of a Walmart, a Costco or a Target, you won’t see a large selection of books by authors other than New York Times Bestsellers. Some of the stores are stocking the whole backlist of those authors, which leaves no space for mid-listers. So for you readers out there, if you don’t want to read every book by an author going back to 1985, or if you’ve already read them and don’t want to read them again, you’re going to have to buy a digital reader.  Online is where the mid-listers have found refuge.

So now I’m no longer a mid-list author. Now I’m an independent author selling my out-0f-print books for e-readers. I’m on my own. this is why I’m blogging, tweeting and facebooking more than previously. It’s a brave new world out there. I’m trying to reach as many readers as I can, hoping to find a larger audience for my stories.

Publishing houses are no longer the gatekeepers. The rights to my future books will not be owned by anyone but me, which is a liberating feeling. They most likely won’t be showing up in big-box stores, but that’s okay with me.

I sure can’t predict how digital readers and independent authors are going to affect publishing houses in the final analysis. Some of them might very well go out of business altogether. Having said that, I should also say that I suspect there will always be books in print. The publishers that survive this earthquake will always publish the big sellers. So if you are someone who loves the feel of a*real book* in your hands, something will be out there for you. But basically, books are going to become like music. In bricks and mortar stores, you’ll only see the big names who are posting big numbers. This is a huge boon to imaginative authors who have business sense.

I posted earlier on Facebook that I’m already starting to format my first release, “The Love of a Cowboy,” for Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and others. Cowboy was released in 2003. It has been my bestselling book and I still hear from readers about it.

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader

See you online, Readers. Come and Facebook with me and Tweet at me. I’m interested in *all* of your opinions and thoughts.

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