Kindle MatchBook

Here’s Amazon’s press release and here’s basically what it says:

For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases will soon allow you to buy the Kindle edition for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free.

This is pretty much nothing but cool. Not only for readers, but for publishers. Especially self-publishers.

I signed up both my novels for this. Paperbacks are $9.99; the bundled Kindle version is only $0.99. I added in my novella too, making the Kindle edition free with the purchase of the $4.99 paperback.

As a bookseller/publisher, this is a no-brainer. I make about $2.00 on every paperback I sell. I make the same on a Kindle book. If I sell them bundled, then I earn an extra $0.65.

This program is great for readers too. I could use this many ways. Buy a paperback as a Christmas gift for a relative and get the Kindle edition for cheap. My wife still reads a lot of paper, so she could get the paperback and I could get the Kindle version. Or let’s say I’m one of those collector types. I keep the paperback on the shelf for display and actually read the Kindle version.

Some complaints I heard was that the Kindle version should be free, comparing it to Amazon’s “Autorip” feature (where each physical CD gets free digital copies of the music). This is different and I’ll tell you why. Recording music is done once and mastered into an original. It’s then copied into various formats. So to convert a CD track to an mp3, all that’s required is software and an encoder. Click a button and you’re done.

Ebooks aren’t like that.

There is no button to push. When I build an ebook it’s a separate physical copy of the book, compiled into Kindle and ePub formats. To build a paperback, I have to use different software and templates to build the interior text file, build the cover file and then proof it all before publishing it. Different files, different skill sets and different levels of effort. In other words, two completely different projects.

As much as I’d love a push-button solution that produces perfect ebooks (which outsell my paperbacks 100 to 1), one simply doesn’t exist. I won’t compromise quality of either format for a quick-fix. That said, I elected to charge a small fee for the accompanying Kindle version. Just to compensate me for my time and effort. Seems fair on both sides. (Update: I opted to make the Kindle version free when purchasing any of my paperbacks.)

Anticipating the debut of MatchBook in October, I’ve updated the interior of my novels, Into the Badlands, fixing some typos and a few other annoyances. Both the paper and electronic versions will be completely in sync now. The Desolate, my horror novel, will also be ready to go.

I’m hoping this will drive some more sales. I also hope it’ll encourage gifting of paperbacks, thus expanding my potential readership. The success of this program will likely depend on the big publishers getting on board, however. Those are the same greedy bastards who want to sell readers a $14.99 paperback and a $13.99 ebook. That’s simply not reasonable or fair.

Either way, come October, I’m on board. And just in time for Christmas, too.

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What’s the Hold Up?

So it’s no secret now that Beyond the Badlands, the sequel to my debut novel Into the Badlands, is behind schedule. Here’s a little insight as to why I’m in this particular boat.

First off, the book ran long. I was shooting for 90,000 words, but the first draft ended up clocking in around 114,000. That added another month. After the beta readers finished the book I found that I needed to tweak, expand or (in some cases) completely rewrite sections of the book. Fleshing that stuff out added several weeks to the mix.

The nice weather caused delays. Last year we suffered through two months straight of over 100 degree days. This year we hung in the 70 to 80 degree range. My family and I ended up doing a lot more together outside the house. This was great from a family perspective, but it without a doubt caused a slowdown in the progress of the book.

And beyond all that, the first draft was in many cases pretty damn terrible. Lots of over-writing, lots of superfluous and repetitive descriptions, more telling than showing. Some aspects of the plot were sketchy since I was still trying to pin down where I wanted the story to go. In the rewrites over the past couple of months I’ve had to rewrite entire chapters. Slow work.

The day job, the income stream that keeps the lights on and the mortgage paid, has been in high gear this year. We’re working on a big project and that’s been sapping my energy. I’m spent when I get home, falling asleep behind the keyboard on more than one occasion. That puts a dent in forward progress.

And lastly, I’ve been working on this book since December of last year. So that’s nine months so far. I got to a point where I just couldn’t look at it anymore. I’m sure I dragged my feet for a while because I just couldn’t bear the sight of it.

That’s pretty much it. I’m not bitching, just explaining. I figure folks don’t really get to see much of the behind-the-scenes stuff related to the writing of novels, providing me an opportunity to show how alike we all are. There’s no “writer’s block” here, just time constraints and other real-world hindrances.

When’s it coming out? That’s a tough call. I’m 50% through the rewrites now. I figure a couple more months and then editing, proofing, etc. I’m confident that it’ll be before Christmas, unless something comes at me outta left field. I REALLY need to hit Christmas. I can’t afford to miss that.

So thanks for hanging in there. Sign up for the mailing list if you want to be notified the moment it’s available. Until then, take care.

Two Years In

Today marks the two-year anniversary of my foray into the world of self-publishing. On September 3, 2011 I published Into the Badlands, a post-apocalyptic thriller. Since then I’ve published a collection of short stories, a horror novel, and a short story. I’ve written a good chunk of a sci-fi novel (yet to be published) and I’m nearing release of my first novel’s sequel, Beyond the Badlands.

So I thought it fitting to use this opportunity to talk about the state of things today, two years in.

I’ve pretty much given up on KDP Select. Although Amazon is still the thousand pound gorilla in the room, not all my readers have a Kindle. My non-Amazon sales haven’t been staggering, but they’re consistent. Over the past two years Amazon sales have accounted for 97.6% of my units sold. Non-Amazon sales sit at 2.4%. Had my best-selling title not been opted into Select for nine months, those non-Amazon sales would have been a little higher, though I doubt much.

Barnes & Noble accounted for 1.5% of my sales, with Apple coming in at .5%. Kobo brought in .3%. Smashwords and Sony brought in only a handful of sales. I’ve sold not a single book direct. Seems folks simply do not want to buy that way (at least not from me).

Sales have been up and down, mostly following the holiday trend. I’ve been through two holidays and sales have been wonderful both years. This past Christmas was my best holiday period yet. Conversely, this summer has been absolutely terrible. Overall, I’m more or less breaking even with last year though.

I think part of the summer drop is because I haven’t released a title this year. Plans are that it’ll be out by Christmas, so I should hopefully see a jump in sales over the holidays.

Personally I’ve pretty much checked out of the so-called “real world”. I don’t watch the news anymore and I don’t spend any time on Facebook or any other social media site. I don’t check sales very often (a few times a month) and I’ve even cut back on the number of self-pub blogs I read. I don’t listen to self-important dinosaurs or self-pub zealots. Instead, I’ve been redirecting that time into my writing and my family. As a result I’m more productive and happier.

Unfortunately I’ve still been reading my reviews, something I said I wouldn’t do anymore. But at least I’m not letting it get to me, the good or the bad. Hopes are that next year I’ll just stop reading them altogether.

I also allowed myself to get too caught up in deadlines, pressuring myself to work, work, work. My wife had to call me out on it, which ultimately ended up being a good thing. You’ll probably not be seeing two novels a year out of me, but I’m shooting for one per year. Pretty reasonable with a full-time career and a family to contend with.

The upside of slowing myself down is that I’m enjoying the writing again. I can see it in the work, too. The quality is better because it’s fun again, less of a chore. Besides, there are plenty of great writers and great books out there. It’s not like folks won’t have something else to read between my releases. I’d rather release fewer good books than more bad books and I think most readers would agree.

Speaking of releases, my new release mailing list has seen some action. I set it up at the end of last year and it’s slowly growing. When my new books come out, those on the list are notified first thing, before anyone else. It’s a great way to connect directly with fans and get some momentum behind a book right after release.

Two years in, I’ve begun to settle in. I’m a working, part-time writer. I’m focusing on that writing and having fun with it. The rest will fall into place.

So what’s next from me? Beyond the Badlands is my first priority. Once that’s out then I’ll pick up the sci-fi novel again and finish it. After that, Into the Badlands Book Three (and after that, book four). I’ve got a half-dozen ideas for novels waiting in the wings, so there’s no shortage of inspiration (only time).

Write, release, repeat. That’s the long-term mantra.

I’m looking forward to another year of more writing, more books and more fun. I hope all of you are too.