Blog

Recent Changes to Paperback Novels

11/17/2017

There’s going to be some changes to how my paperback books are distributed and sold.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Bookstore Availabilitybrick-and-mortar distribution is thirsty work when you cannot offer returns to booksellers.  The extra expense of adding a distributor and providing the steep discounts expected has the nasty side-effect of jacking up a novel’s retail pricetag, as well.

So I’m doing away with most of it–while at the same time adding to it.  To explain:

By the first of the new year, 2018 (as we brace for the release of my new novel, On the Path of Outcasts), paperback versions of my novels will be available on Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble.  Amazon resellers notwithstanding, these will be the only Online outlets for my paperback books.

The open door for those who prefer to shop for books inside of an actual book store is that these vendors can also carry my novels in their physical brick-and-mortar locations.  Amazon Books is springing up in tons of places these days.  Barnes and Noble has long been a dependable destination for book lovers, and has locations scattered across the United States.  Each location will have no trouble with stocking my titles should you, dear reader, request them.

The sugar on top?  They’ll be less expensive.  While ordinarily Through the Eyes of Outcasts retails for $11.99, with the new changes in place that very same novel will only cost $8.99.  Same book, same words… but at a much better price.  The links on this website have already been updated to reflect these changes, because I’m a lot like you:  I hate waiting.

E-book distribution will stay unchanged, and will remain as such for the foreseeable future.  If a given retailer sells e-books, chances are pretty good that you’ll find me listed and ready when you are.  If I’m not already there, you can request that your local library stock me via Overdrive.  Let’s also not forget my Payhip store if you prefer a copy which you can back up and own indefinitely.

All of that said, I feel these decisions will positively affect the strongest markets and pass those benefits on to you, my treasured readers.  There’s a lot to like about that!

Piracy in the Digital Age

“I just ran a Google search for your book, and noticed it’s on several piracy websites.  How do you feel about your work being pirated?”

I’ve run into this same question on multiple writer’s forums–so when I was asked personally about this topic, I already had plenty of time to form my opinion.  As with most of my views, I like to tap it down from more than one angle.

If it’s really a question of whether I have a problem with people reading my work for free, as an author my answer has to be, “Of course not.”

No, that’s what my answer has to be.

No matter how you’re published or how you market your material, not every reader is a sale.  Let’s say a library purchases one of my books.  That same library is going to allow hundreds of readers to borrow it.  None of those readers will add anything more than the single sale I made to the library.  It’s the same deal as Stephen King has.  It’s the same deal as J.K. Rowling has.  I want that library to buy my book, nonetheless.  Do you know why?  Because hundreds of readers will find it that way, free or otherwise.  They’ll know it exists.

I don’t make all-inclusive statements lightly, but I’m willing to say that every avid reader in the world has visited a used book store, or purchased a used novel at a yard sale or thrift store.  If you buy my novel from such a place, all I’m going to do is thank you and hope that you enjoy it–even though not a single penny of that sale ever made its way into my bank account.  You may have spent money to purchase it, but from my point of view you’re a free reader.  I have no bones to pick about that, either; as a matter of fact, it puts a smile on my face.  Pass it around to friends and family, knowing you’re doing so with my unreserved blessing.

In forums, I’ve seen other authors rage and foam about lost sales for every copy downloaded from a torrent.  I can’t join them in their anger.  Let me put this into proper perspective for you:  The e-book version of Through the Eyes of Outcasts is, at the time of this writing, priced at $3.99.  Four bucks.  About the price of a latte.  Less than the price of a deli sandwich.  Less than a month of Netflix.  If you were to purchase this work through my Payhip store and share the link on social media, you would pay $2.  That’s probably less money than you have hidden in your couch cushions.  If you wouldn’t pay $4, and you wouldn’t pay $2, you’re not a lost sale.  Enjoy your pirated download.

No, I have no problem with others reading my work for free.  Obscurity is far and away a larger enemy to myself (or any other author) than Internet piracy.  Besides all of that, there are so many of these sites that I would be wasting my time playing whack-a-mole trying to clean things up.  I’d rather be writing.

The only thing I do have a problem with is finding my work for sale under a different author name.  My writing is from me to you, and I don’t give a damn if it sounds selfish to say that I claim ownership of it.  I’m the one who spends sometimes up to a year writing and refining it.  I’m the one who puts money and time into creating it.  You bet I’m selfish about owning it.  If I ever find out that someone else is listing my work under his or her own name and claiming credit for it, I’ll own that person.  I register my work.  I have proof of publication dates.  I also have the ability and will to pursue the matter in court.  Make no mistake, I’ll win.  If this paragraph is speaking to you, all I can say is… your move.  Choose wisely.  My advice is to write your own book.

I also have a problem with the prevalence of viruses and malware that infest some of these piracy sites.  I build and work with computers on a daily basis, and I can tell you horror stories about the agony of those who were infected with such things.  Surely avoiding all of that is worth $2-$4 to you.  Or maybe it isn’t.  Either way, you get what you pay for.

You also might not be reading the most up-to-date version.  I’m a human being, and sometimes despite my best efforts the specter known as Typo makes his appearance.  Maybe my terminology wasn’t correct, and it mattered enough to the story that I decided to fix it.  While these things don’t matter much to a paperback book–that version of the novel is what it is and can’t be changed–anything you buy on legitimate sales channels is going to represent my latest and greatest.  I also can’t claim responsibility for any formatting errors the reader encounters when the pirate may have added formats I never made available.

Pirated work may be freely available, but sometimes free comes with a price after all.

Be True to Yourself?

“How much of you resides within your characters?”

This was an interesting question recently ran by me, and I thought I’d not only share my answer but also elaborate a bit upon it.

Like most authors, I put a lot of myself into my characters.  Writing isn’t just about entertaining–it’s also about clearing the cobwebs and making sense of the world that I live in.  I may create a strange world or extraordinary circumstances into which to stick a character, but my central interest is in what strength this character will draw from in order to dig him- or herself out and overcome the conflict… or will he or she be consumed?

To fall back, the deepest well I have to draw from is within.  What would I do?  Why?

I can answer this more accurately if I give the character some of my own traits–and indeed, I may be providing buried insight into overcoming an issue within my own life.

In Through the Eyes of Outcasts, Scott Ingram is in desperate need of development.  He has dug himself into a rut where he allows himself to be self-arrested on all fronts.  He’s created a comfort zone, only to discover that zone isn’t so comfortable after all.  Scott wants to belong to something.  He wants to matter.  He wants love, and to be loved.  Who among you hasn’t found yourself in a situation that fits this description?  If you can answer that you never have, I’d sincerely like to meet you because I know I’ll never meet your like again.  That said, there’s plenty of life experiences to draw from.  There’s a lot of common mental ground to write into such a character.

Sarah Bollinger starts off sounding very much like the logical voice of reason (which I probably don’t listen to as often as I should) inside my own head.  Harsh and disappointed at times… but always honest with her opinions.  Vulnerable as most of us are, but also strong in many areas–again, just as most of us are.  This is why she only exists within Ingram’s thoughts in the first book.  She’s my voice, she speaks in the cadence of my own internal dialog… and she’s a leading character for the rest of this series.  She’s very much me.  Even when I develop her identity and give her a personality not necessarily matching my own, I’m the cement in her foundation.

Douglass Stevens is trapped in a situation he’d rather get out of, and all he wants to do is get the unpleasantness over with so that he can move ahead with his life under his own terms.  (Sound familiar?  Again, if it doesn’t, we need to have a talk over coffee:  I’m going to find you fascinating.)  What would motivate me in his situation?  How confused would I be, and how would I form plans?  Those answers become his.

Anna is the version of me who knows that her logical voice is screaming against what her heart wants.  She knows what she’s stepping into, she knows at least enough to be sure it’s a bad idea–but she also knows that she’s going to do what is in her heart and make sense of the details later either way.

Even antagonists such as Rob and Lance represent what I feel would happen if I let my worst impulses steal the ball and run off with it.  We’ve all got that little devil inside.  What if we gave him the wheel for awhile?

At the end of the day, it is fiction–and those are fictional characters.  But in their cores, they are alive and breathing, and thanking you for reading this entry.

On the Path, and on Target

(10/01/2017)

I’m happy to announce that the follow-up to Through the Eyes of Outcasts is on target (like a mark through a sniper’s scope) for release during the spring of 2018.  As I type this blog entry, the manuscript is in the process of revisions.  If you’ve ever done carpentry work, think of this period as sanding passes:  rough spots get smoothed over here.  Within this very month, it will be in the hands of my editor.  After editing, there’s another round of final revisions (should my editor find any rough spots I’ve missed), copyright registration, typesetting/formatting, cover design, distributor set-ups… lasso tricks, cake, punch, and a dance contest.  But after all of that, dear reader, it will be in your hands.

Entitled On the Path of Outcasts, it will be available during the spring of 2018.  I’m aiming for March, but certainly April at the very latest.

That said, I’ll let you know that if something happened which saw this novel on your lap today, right now, I wouldn’t be too bummed or embarrassed.  The heavy lifting has been done.  The story is pretty much “there.”  And if you liked Through the Eyes of Outcasts, you’re going to really sink your teeth into this one.

Well… no, don’t eat it.  I’m not flavoring it or anything–the Cheetos crumbs are yours to put on the pages yourselves, okay?  That’s not on me.  That’s all you.  My writing, your junk food.  That’s the deal.

On the Path of Outcasts will be a larger novel than the fast-read feel of the first entry, but that doesn’t mean I’m backing off from giving the Outcasts plenty to do.  Scott Ingram and Sarah Bollinger will be at this party, and you’re going to get to know them a lot better.  I could tell you more… but what’s the point of going to a party if you already know what’s going to happen?

None.  No point at all.  Stop looking for spoilers.

Besides, finding things out on your own is the fun of readying a new novel–and this particular novel’s going to be tons of fun.  And remember:  there’s still another book that will be following in what I hope will be the spring of 2019.  Outcasts are busy people.

Stay tuned to find out more as developments occur.  I’ll keep you posted.  We’re in this together, after all.

On a sincere personal note, I wish to thank readers of Through the Eyes of Outcasts for their support.  The feedback I’ve received has been incredible, and it’s a special euphoria to know that you’re enjoying what you’ve read so far.  You’re the reason why I’m doing this, each of you.

Bookstore Availability

“So… um… dude?  I went to the book store yesterday, and they didn’t have your book.  They said they wouldn’t even stock it.”

And I don’t imagine they ever will, sadly.  Talk to any independent author, and you’ll likely hear something similar.  There’s several reasons why, and to explain further, I’ll need to dig into how brick-and-mortar bookstores operate–and how that relates to pretty much any author who isn’t sizzling his or her way through the New York Times Bestsellers List.  This is bound to be a long entry, but hopefully useful.  By the way:  If you, dear reader, are thinking about independent publishing (or trying to get published by a small press), find a comfortable seat since you’re going to need to know this stuff, and some of what I’m about to tell you might help you decide on what goals you’d like to put into place.

Bookstores operate on a type of consignment basis, where unsold material can be returned for a refund at the retailer’s discretion.  What usually happens is, the store will place an order with their distributor for whatever books they’d like to stock.  These books will find self space (or be warehoused) for whatever length of time the retailer sees fit, and leftover inventory past that point can be returned to the distributor.  The distributor then bills the publisher, and the publisher provides the refund.

I use two distributors.  The first is Createspace, which feeds the Amazon Marketplace.  They are owned by Amazon, so naturally they shake hands frequently and readily with Amazon’s Online store; books are always listed as in-stock, free Prime shipping is available, and delivery is just the way customers like it:  speedy.  For the rest of the world I go through IngramSpark, which gives me a listing in the Ingram database.  Ingram (no relation to Scott Ingram, thanks) is important since they feed damned near any bookstore you can think of.  If you’re an indie author, chances are pretty good you’re copying this model.

So in my case, Dude’s Book Store would place an order for my novels through Ingram–which is most likely where they get the majority of the other titles they stock–and be tripping over the box when it shows up less than a week later.  My books would sit on their shelf until someone buys them (Yay, me!), or their time runs out and they are sent to walk the Green Mile back to Ingram for a refund.

Just one problem with that:  I do not offer returns.  I can’t.  Here’s why.

Bookstores expect a nice discount off of retail price–which I do offer at industry-standard rates.  This expectation is normal, since every retailer buys at wholesale prices and that’s really all we’re talking about here.  They don’t give away books; they sell them, and each sale will ideally give them a profit.  In order to price my books, I not only have to factor in the size of discount expected… I also have to factor in the price of manufacturing and distributing the books.  My royalty is the last consideration, since I cannot price my books right out of their own market:  of all of my considerations, royalties are the only part of that process that I have any real control over.  It doesn’t leave me with much.

Let’s crunch some hypothetical numbers, here.

Let’s say it costs me $5 per copy to print and distribute a given book.  In order to give the bookseller room for their expected margin, I’d have to set a retail price of about $10 for that book… but that’s if I give it away.  Let’s say I decide that earning $1 of royalty is a fair amount to give myself.  We’re looking at a $11 book–which, those of you who buy a lot of trade paperback books know is low-balling it a bit (on average, trade paperbacks sell for $12–$16 or more depending on size and content)–but hey, let’s just use this as an example.  The bookstore pays the wholesale price of $6, which is the sum of my production/distribution costs plus my royalty.

The industry average for bookstore returns is 30%, last I heard.  This means that on average, three out of every ten books ordered from Ingram would be returned.  To me.  At $6 a pop that I’m responsible to pay.  $18.  On an order I only made $10 from.  This is the expected scenario, mind you–this does not factor in what happens every time someone types “55” when he meant to only order five, or what would happen in the unlikely but possible event that a big-box store orders thousands of copies.  This kind of thing actually does happen–especially when an author becomes widely-known and her career takes off.  I’m presently at little risk of having this happen, but I’m in business for myself and have to think long-term about all sorts of possible “what ifs.”  So do you, if you’re an author who is reading this.

So now we’re down to business decisions.  Booksellers have their way of doing things, right along with their own reasons for doing so.  Right or wrong, I’m not in the position to say–I write and make my work available, they sell it.  From my end, obviously a business model which revolves solely around paperback sales to brick-and-mortar bookstores is a clear losing battle.  If I was a major publisher, I could still gamble because of having hundreds of library sales (libraries do not tend to return what they’ve purchased), thousands of e-book sales (e-books are usually not refunded unless someone bought the wrong thing or there were formatting errors present), and the benefit of using an off-set printer (which dramatically lowers the cost of printing each book).  I’m not.  While I am making sales, they don’t come close to even allowing me to flirt with that risk.  Which leaves me with two choices:

  1. Do not offer returns.  While the booksellers can certainly offer their own returns programs to customers, those programs are not connected to me.  Book stores can absolutely still order my work at discounts they expect… but if they stock me, they’ll have to do so by ordering sensibly.
  2. Give myself enough in royalties to reasonably absorb the risk.  Unfortunately, this would mean charging the reader more since the retail price is tied to the book’s ISBN.  I’d not only be punishing readers from Online sources (who are unlikely to return my books), I’d be giving them less of a reason to take a chance on me in the first place, should this be our first meeting.  I write a lot about guns.  I don’t know why I’d aim one at my own foot.  Or yours.

So no, I don’t offer returns.  Bookstores can still get my novels to you by way of special orders, but it’s doubtful that you’ll see me stocked on their shelves.  Some might do it–but if they do, they would be the exception, not the rule.  There’s nearly one million novels published every year, and there’s only so much shelf space.  In their position, I don’t blame them for choosing titles that they can return in the event that they just don’t sell.  I’m minimizing my risk, so I can’t sling mud at a business which is minimizing theirs.

At present, I’ve heard of some booksellers who scoff at the idea of special orders and simply re-direct the customer to the store’s website, where my work is happily listed right next to everyone else’s.  That’s well and good, I suppose–it’s available and ready when you are.

Since I’m in business for not only myself but also for you, dear reader, I’m constantly evaluating the most mutually-beneficial methods for getting my work into your hands.  Flexibility is pretty much the nature of the beast here.  It could be that I’ll decide on an Online-only presence… or it could mean that things stay as they are.  It could mean changing vendors and negotiating agreements with sellers.  No matter what, you’ll always stay up-to-date by visiting this site and following the links provided for each book, and of course sipping some coffee with me on this blog.

For doing so today, I raise my mug in a toast of thanks.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑