amazon

Amazon has done a lot to make author dreams come true. Until Amazon, rejected manuscripts moldered in drawers, unloved and never-read. They gave authors the power to share stories with the masses.

So what has Amazon changed?

In November 2016, Amazon made two key changes to their author business model:

  1. They changed the rules for carrying inventory of print books. Rather than stock a minimum number of a specific title in a warehouse, they shifted focus to third-party vendors with titles on hand. Plus, they gave third-party vendors the ability to bid for the “Buy Now” button. Users don’t pay attention to who they’re buying from. Amazon orders fewer books and lowers inventory carrying costs. Customers don’t know the difference.
  2. Authors must pay for advertising to be seen on Amazon. Before November 2016, Amazon routinely offered users “recommended for you” or “similar books” on the product page for a particular title. Authors garnered additional sales because their books were being recommended. Now, those same slots are available for purchase through Amazon Marketing Services. Don’t have the budget to pay for pay-per-click advertising? Then nobody will see your books.

How these changes impact readers and authors

Third-party vendors often carry books obtained for free. Whether gotten through a Goodreads contest or as an advance or donated copy, many third-party vendors list books for sale when they obtained them for free. Authors don’t make a royalty on copies given in exchange for a review, used books, or copies won in a contest. Yet, both third-party vendors and Amazon are able to profit from our work. Why this matters: Most authors don’t bring in enough money to exist at the poverty level. I made more money as a twenty-two year old accounting clerk than I do today. Readers who truly care about supporting good stories shaft everyone when they buy into this system. Don’t complain about the quality of books if you’re not diligent about supporting authors who matter to you.

Authors have no way to know how many AMS clicks are legitimate. Authors can pay AMS MORE than their earned royalties. You read that right. AMS delivers thousands of impressions per ad. They know who’s likely to click on ads. Therefore, they show ads to shoppers who click, whether or not they buy. Why this matters: Amazon has touted its 70% author royalty as generous. Why publish with a traditional publisher who pays pennies per unit when you can get 70%, right? With AMS, it’s no longer that simple. In fact, it’s more likely that an author will PAY AMS more than their royalties earned in a given period. Clever to make authors pay more than they earn for the chance to be read.

Don’t want to spend money with AMS? Or participate in Kindle Unlimited? Then nobody will see your titles. In 2017, my online sales fell 90%. No, that isn’t a typo. I killed myself to keep my books high enough to be offered to shoppers as frequent alternatives. Very often, readers chose to give them a try. That exposure didn’t cost me anything, and Amazon still made money. Thanks to AMS, 2017 was my worst year as an author. (To help me turn that around in 2018, CLICK HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE).

What YOU can do to support hard-working authors

  1. Opt out of Kindle Unlimited.
  2. If you want to keep your favorite authors writing, BUY their books.
  3. As a corollary to 2 above, request those same authors’ books at your local libraries.
  4. Recommend your favorite authors’ books to other readers in your life.
  5. Or better yet, GIFT electronic copies to others.
  6. Try to buy NEW books whenever possible. Remember: Authors make NOTHING from used/won/free copies of their work.
  7. Communicate with your favorite authors directly. Join their e-newsletter lists. Be an enthusiastic fan. Make sure these authors know you’re on their team…..because Amazon will NEVER tell them.
  8. SHARE THIS POST TO EDUCATE YOUR FRIENDS.

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I don’t have time to read these days, especially fiction.

My weary brain struggles to process this bunion of information, dropped casually into conversation. As a fiction writer, such statements are bricks hurled at my head, dental drills applied to not-numb gums. Honesty flays me open, rearranges hurts, shreds my very soul.

Why don’t people have time to read?

Here are a few things people tell me:

  • I’m too busy, say some.
  • By the time I fall into bed, I’m too tired. Thinking hurts my brain. I just want to get my mind still enough to sleep.
  • My to-do list is staggering.
  • The kids need stuff.
  • I’m harried and heartbroken, stressed and consumed by life. With everything pulling at me, reading is a luxurious waste of time in a world lacking finery.
  • A brazen few actually puff out their chests and bark, I don’t read, like it’s a badge of pride.

Fiction is even harder.

  • I can’t escape into a story. Too much is happening on my phone.
  • Really, I can’t do anything immersive.
  • Why read novels when real-life is one screwed-up show, and I don’t have to work nearly as hard?

Last month, I spent time in LA with my dear friend Debra Fetterly. One of her granddaughters straggled into the living room while we were sipping tea.

“What’s up?” Debra wondered.

“I’ve been reading for about an hour, and I’m so relaxed,” her granddaughter chirped. “Can I read a while longer?”

After she left, Debra turned to me. “You know, we’ve forgotten what reading is supposed to be.”

“What do you mean?” I wondered.

“Reading is a form of meditation. We’re SUPPOSED to read when we’re stressed, when we have too much to do, when we can’t focus. It’s a delicious form of escape.”

Reading is a form of meditation.

I’ve thought about Debra’s observation many times since I came home. I wonder how the world’s stress levels would change if, for just one week, everyone set aside an hour to lose themselves in a story. It could be about anything, transport them anywhere. Instead of wondering what new outrageous-but-the-same thing is happening in real life, wouldn’t it be glorious to go someplace different? Even if it’s only in our imaginations?

For thousands of years, reading was the seminal way for humans to escape the drudgery and stress of living. I fear we’re returning to the Middle Ages, only then people didn’t read because they couldn’t. An institution hoarded knowledge and shielded it from the masses.

These days, with so much knowledge at our fingertips, why do we choose to scroll, distracted skimmers of everything and lost in nothing?

PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN. READ A BOOK. DON’T PICK YOUR PHONE UP UNTIL YOU’RE FINISHED WITH SAID BOOK. I DARE YOU TO TELL ME YOUR BRAIN DIDN’T BREATHE.

thankful

Having spent much of the past eighteen months wondering whether I’d go blind or lose my mind, I’m thankful for what eyesight I have. Others may argue I lost my mind long ago.

Whatever.

Being thankful is the cornerstone of a happy life.

Here’s my short gratitude list for 2017:

  • MTM didn’t divorce me over my illness. He’s still steadfast. He loves me. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
  • When I was at my lowest, unexpected souls stepped in the chasm. I’m thankful for friends in unexpected places.
  • I’m finding my writing voice. The worse-than-chemotherapy-like drugs I took for almost half-a-year made me a mush-brain. These days, I’m hearing characters again.
  • I’ve only lost 25% of my vision in one eye. I’m thankful for what remains.
  • I found a publicist!
  • My assistant didn’t quit, no matter how trying I’ve been.

And if that’s not thankful enough:

  • We’re fielding some really interesting appearance opportunities for 2018. If you aren’t one of my elite readers, you don’t know what they are. Email assistant(at)andrawatkins(dot)com to be added to that super-special group.
  • I’M THANKFUL FOR EVERYONE IN MY ELITE GROUP. SERIOUSLY, I’D SLOPPY KISS EVERY SINGLE DANG ONE OF YOU.
  • Despite all sorts of online changes that have decimated my income and reach, my stories still find readers. People make memories EVERY DAY because of my work. I’m grateful for every person who gives my stories a chance.
  • I’m glad Dad still finds joy in going out, bothering strangers, telling stories, and selling the crap out of THE DAD BOOK. Having my parents in my life, still healthy, is a blessing.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHAT DESERVES YOUR GRATITUDE THIS THANKSGIVING WEEK? PLEASE SHARE YOUR STORIES IN A COMMENT.

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