Tag Archives | AWP

Amazon for Authors, Part Two: Tools and Thoughts

Book_books_pages_265007_lThe first part of this post, Amazon for Authors, Part One: Opportunities, ran last Monday.  You can read that here, and you probably want to do that before proceeding.

Ever since I wrote part one of this post, I've been obsessed with worry that I'm misrepresenting Amazon.  As in, presenting this rosy view of everything that you can do on the site without also showing the down side.  So, here's an article that does that.  And I want to state again that I fall down somewhere in the middle on the Amazon issue.  I like to think I can see both sides of the issue clearly.  In some ways, the issue is about much more than Amazon.  It's about the collision of the old style legacy publishing and the new digital revolution. But, of course, since Amazon spearheaded the revolution, it is difficult to take them out of the picture.

What I see is that each side often knows little about the other and it is my job on this blog to tackle the big picture–tackling all aspects of the writing life.  So I do my best to share what I learn.  And what I learned at AWP was that Amazon, love it or hate it, offers quite a range of tools and programs for writers.

Tools

Amazon Author Central.  Once you have a book or two published, you can create your own page for them.   The cool thing is that you can put whatever you want to on it, such as links to your site or sign-ups for your mailing list, an author bio, a rant about politics–anything.   You can also link to your blog so that posts automatically update, and your Twitter feed.  For an example, you can see my page here.   You essentially get your own web page for free.

Metadata on your book listing page.  I'm essentially clueless about this, but as I understand it, you can list keywords (and lots of 'em) of your own choosing in order to drive Amazon's search engines to your listing.  Read more about this here.

Amazon Programs

Create Space.  This is Amazon's service for creating hard copies of your book through print-on-demand technology.

Kindle Direct Publishing.  And this would be the Ebook arm of the indie publishing services.  Many authors start here and branch out to other formats.

ACX.  You can now also create audio versions of your book.  This website is essentially an exchange where you can find actors to read your book, and audition them.  You can then pay them upfront or with a cut of your royalties. Cool, huh?

Their own publishing imprints. Amazon also has their own publishing imprints, covering mystery, romance, women's fiction, science fiction, fantasy and horror, literary fiction, young adult, self help, non-fiction, memoirs and short stories.  In other words, just about everything.  Note, however, that their submissions page says they are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts at this time.  My idea is that they look for indie publishers who are doing well and offer them contracts.

Kindle Worlds.  Fan fiction now has a legitimate outlet that you can actually make money on.  I don't get it–either why you want to write in a world that someone else invented or how exactly this works.  But if you're interested, click the link and find out more.

Amazon Associates.  You can earn money just by putting links to Amazon to your page.  I used to do this years ago but it never amounted to much and didn't seem worth the time.  But I probably ought to revisit it.

Goodreads is a book-lover's site, and yes it is now owned by Amazon.  There was a big stink when they bought it last year.  People say Goodreads is great for authors, but I myself have never gained traction on it, which probably says more about me than them.

Kindle Singles.  The tag line for this is compelling ideas expressed at their natural length.  Ebooks have renewed enthusiasm for short stories and novellas and this program takes advantage of that.  And the good news is that you can submit to them manuscripts from 5,000 to 30,000 words.

No doubt, by the time this post is published, there will be even more programs and services for authors offered by Amazon.  You can see why people believe they are out to conquer the world.

And bear in mind…that many other publishing platforms exist, such as Barnes and Noble, Lulu, and Smashwords, to name only a few.  As far as I know, however, none of them offer quite the extensive range of services for authors that Amazon does.  If I'm wrong, please let me know.

My take.

Okay, that's it. That's all I know.  Over the next few months, I plan to experiment with Amazon publishing myself.  My novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, was published by a small press that took advantage of Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle Publishing.   I think the book looks good (I'm not biased or anything).  But the marketing part has been hard.  And I'm hearing over and over again that the best way to market is to make sure there's more work up for people to buy, so…I have a few short stories that I'm going to publish myself to bolster my presence on the site, so we'll see what happens. And I have a few ideas for genre pieces, as well. I'll keep you all apprised on my progress!  I'd be crazy not to give it a whirl.

I also have a new novel I'm working on that I would love to see published by a legacy publisher.  Unless something drastic happens to change my mind, when I finish the book by the end of the year, I'll be going the traditional route and looking for an agent.  So I'm a believer that we need to be open to all the opportunities we have available to us as writers.

What's your take on Amazon?  On indie publishing?

Image by white_duck.

8

Amazon for Authors, Part One: Opportunities

In my previous blog post on my time at AWP, I promised an article on how you, as an author, can utilize some of the many services Amazon offers.  So here it is.

First, let's get clear on a couple of things:

1. I am by no means an expert on this topic.   Many others, who have actual publishing experience with Amazon, are far better versed on the subject than I. Over the last couple of months I've been educating myself, however, and I've accumulated a bit of knowledge.  I also attended two panels at AWP last week and gleaned more information to share.

2.  I am not an apologist for Amazon, nor am I a hater.  I do not subscribe to the view that Jeff Bezos is the devil and his website the Evil Empire.  I think we have to admit that Bezos has changed publishing forever and that Amazon offers fantastic opportunities for writers.  On the other hand, I also lament the ongoing demise of bookstores, especially independent ones, that his reign has hastened.  In other words, I get both sides of the debate.  And I believe one of the reasons it is so heated is that we are standing smack-dab in the middle of a revolution in publishing.  Revolutions are always hard, because one side triumphs and the other slinks away.  But I take the view that there's room for both the old and the new.

So all that being said, let's look at what I've learned.  At one of the panels I attended, the moderator put up a slide with a quote from Jeff Bezos that encapsulates his goal: "Any book ever written in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."

Yeah.  That tells you something right there.  Bezos wants to get every book ever written anywhere on his site.  This means he's probably going to some day rule the world.  Kidding.  Sort of.  But it also means:

Opportunities for writers on Amazon are incredible.

Not only does Amazon widen the reach of legacy published books, it offers the chance to others who are tired of knocking on the doors of New York houses to publish their own work.  (I'll write more about the actual programs to do this in part two of this post.)

Self publishing, now more often called indie publishing, is no longer quite so frowned upon, especially with the success of authors such as Amanda Hocking, J. A. Konrath, and Hugh Howey. Some stats I picked up from one of the panels: 

  • In 2013, 1/4 of the top 100 on Amazon were indie-published titles.  In 2014, the company expects that figure to go higher.
  • In Germany, the number of indie published books in the top 100 was more like 50%.  In the United Kingdom, 30%.  In India (where Amazon has only been established a couple of years) it was 20%.

Those figures astound me.  As some have said, it's the wild west for authors these days.  (I'm also not good at looking beyond the obvious with statistics.  I'm a writer, not a mathematician.  Though I did manage to raise one.  Anyway, if you see a way we should dig deeper into those figures, let me know.)

And I'm about to divulge some stats that will make you run for your nearest computer to upload your work.  The afore-mentioned Hugh Howey, a writer of science fiction, sold 40,000 Ebooks of his title Wool in May of 2012, to the tune of $150,00 income.  In one month.

Hugh Howey is the current poster boy for Amazon success.  He did so well with his Ebooks that when legacy publishing came knocking at his door, he decided to sell them only his print rights and hang onto the rest himself.  (That a writer was able to negotiate such a contract with the big boys and girls is somewhat of a revolution in and of itself.)

Hugh sat on one of the panels I attended and he's a lovely man, gracious and willing to share his ideas about his success.  He writes an informative blog about his writing and publishing and his books are pretty damn good–I'm currently reading Wool.

By the way, Howey recently created waves a tsunami across the internet, with his report on genre indie author earning.  Read it here.  You can also read a story about it here.

And, all those wonderful, mind-blowing figures aside, there's this:

Discoverability is still a crap shoot.

Discoverability is the new buzz word in indie publishing circles.  It refers, as you have no doubt inferred, to the process of getting your books found among the noise.  I consulted the Google for advice on how many books are published on Amazon and other sites each year, and wasn't able to come up with a definitive answer (though I did read some fascinating articles when I should have been writing).  But we all know that there are a lot of books out there, some excellent, some mediocre, some awful.

The question is how to make yours findable in the midst of the field.   The answer to that deserves a post of its own, one I will no doubt write soon.  But Howey said on the panel that spending time writing good work is the most important thing.  He had put up multiple titles before he actually spent much time marketing his work (and then he used mostly social media).  Many genre indie publishers are finding success with old-fashioned serials, releasing their novels one segment at a time, as Howey did with Wool.  Others augment their novels with shorter works set in the same world.  And most all of them write in series and write a lot.

Amazon says it is working on the discoverability issue.  And one thing I came away from the AWP panels feeling was that they really do have the interests of authors at heart, especially when said authors are making them lots of money. (Because, at the end of the day, Amazon is, after all a corporation, and corporations exist to make money.)

Okay, that's it for part one.  Look for part two in the next few days.  In that post, I'll talk about the various programs that Amazon offers.  And by the way, I'm certainly not against the other indie publishing platfroms out there, including Kobo, Lulu, Smashwords and a gazillion others.  It's just that I've learned more about Amazon, and let's face it, our buddies in Seattle dominate the market.

So what about you?  Are you planning to indie publish?  Or are you dedicated to going the legacy publishing route?  Do you have experience with either?  I'd love to hear in the comments.

PS.  I'm experimenting with the font size on posts.  It suddenly occurred to me the default font size was a bit smallish.  But this font looks big to me. Weigh in, please–which do you prefer?

20

Report From AWP 2014

If you were on Twitter this weekend, you probably saw #AWP14 trending.  If you were on Facebook, you no doubt noticed a lot of photos from Seattle (the Space Needle! Chihuly Glass! Pike Place Market!) and people quoting various writers.  And if you read last week's newsletter/most recent post, you know that I was one of the many writers who attended three full days of panels, readings and an enormous bookfair at AWP in Seattle.

When I say many, I mean many.  I heard estimates between 11,000 and 13,000.  The official AWP website says "over 10,00" and also that it is the largest literary conference in North America.

I believe it.  Events were held at the Sheraton (the official conference hotel, where I stayed, one of a gazillion hotels that housed us), the huge convention center and the convention center annex.  I've never been on so many escalators in my life.  There are events all day long and into the evening at these venues, as well as numerous off-site parties, readings, and get-togethers at night.

AWP stands for Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and the organization is comprised of 50,000 writers, 500 college and university programs, and 125 writers' conferences and centers.  (I'm quoting from the website.)  Many of these programs and centers exhibit at the conference, along with numerous literary journals and small presses.  The Bookfair is unbelievably huge and I've learned over the years not to buy or collect too much, or the tote bag you get upon picking up your badge will not fit in your luggage for the return trip home.

The schedule features panels, readings and, if you're a really big author, an interview or discussion about your work.  But most of the day is taken up by panels of three or four writers plus a moderator. Any member can submit a panel (I've got a group in discussion about submitting for next year and have been on a panel in the past).  The subjects vary wildly, from topics on craft, to pedagogy, to trends in publishing, to information on how to create a winning reading.  Anything related to literature might find a home on an AWP panel.  As a wild guess, I'd say there are upwards of 30 panels and readings at each time slot during the day, of which there are six, and then there are two time slots for readings in the evening as well.  The selection is, to be honest, overwhelming. And it's a crap shoot as well, with the panels varying widely in quality (which is why there's no stigma attached to arriving or leaving in the middle of a presentation).

AWP is about as literary a conference as you're going to get.  (Some might same that a few panels even lean toward the arcane.)  You don't attend expecting to hear the latest bestselling romance author speak, that's for sure.  And it is a stronghold of writers from traditional university programs with legacy publishing house contracts.  Which is why it was so interesting to me to see Amazon all over the place–as sponsor, exhibitor, and host of two panels.  Indeed, Jon Fine, director of author and publishing relations at Amazon, joked that he used to feel he should wear a Kevlar vest to protect himself at such events, though things have changed in the last year or so. (I meant to write more about these panels in this post but since it is already getting so long I will save that info for another day.)

I gotta say, being around this many people for several days is wonderful–and also a bit much.  I think of myself as a balance between introvert and extrovert.  I crave time alone spent writing, but at the end of the day, I'm ready for human contact.  This year at AWP, I realized that maybe I'm more on the introverted scale than I thought.  I'm actually very outgoing and easily strike up conversations with strangers. But, after a couple of panels and a stroll through the bookfair, I needed to go back to my hotel and get some downtime.

A non-writing friend asked me if I was meeting new people.  Yes, and no.  Mostly I hung out with my dear friend Diana, which was the best treat ever.  (She has an amazing new book of poems just out called Lust, which I highly recommend.)  Diana's son Josh runs a hip literary journal called The Newer York Press and it was fun to meet him and the people who work with him.  I reconnected with old friends from my MFA days and that is always a pleasure. I had some entertaining brief chats with other writers. But the conference is so big and overwhelming that it is not conducive to meeting new folks. (The place where I did meet people was on the train.  My seatmate on the way up was also attending AWP so we chatted happily off and on from Portland to Seattle, and the woman I shared a cab with from the station to the hotel was also from Portland.  Turns out we are pretty sure we used to know each other when we were both active with a local writing group.)

To me, attending AWP is acknowledgment that there is a huge like-minded community out there that cares about the same things that I do.  It's fun to wander around town and see other people with the tell-tale lime-green lanyard attached to their badge and feel a connection.  It's thrilling to walk the street from the hotel to the convention center in a throng of writers.  It's amazing to come home with your head buzzing from all the information it has just absorbed–and also to feel energized and excited about the possibilities for putting words on the page.

So, if you get the chance, attend AWP some time.  You don't have to be affiliated with any university or writing program, all you have to be is interested in writing.  Next year the conference will be in Minneapolis in April.  I'm pretty sure I'll be there!

What's your favorite writing conference?  Do you make it a point to attend conferences regularly?

6