Episode 29 – Backstories, WattPad and Barbara Freethy

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Our most jam-packed show yet! After discussing the journey into ACX, Jim and Bryan talked social media cheat sheets, social media sins to avoid, and sharing your backstory. There was so much news this week that we left Kindle Scout and the Amazon/Simon&Schuster deal out of the top five. The top five stories included news on a WattPad success story, publishing advances, Kobo vs. Amazon, the Kindle Unlimited Author Earnings report, and Barbara Freethy’s print deal. The Question of the Week: How do you decide how to spend your time as an author?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • Which social media sites will help you build your platform
  • Things you should avoid in social media
  • How telling your back story can gain trust
  • More about Amazon’s Kindle Scout
  • Why Hachette should study Simon & Schuster’s new deal
  • If Jim believes in the power of WattPad
  • Why publishing advances don’t support serious literature
  • Jim’s idea for Kobo to compete
  • How Kindle Unlimited is impacting author earnings
  • Why Barbara Freethy’s deal is a win-win-win
Question of the Week:
How do you decide how to spend your time as an author?

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  • Crissy Moss

    Guys… The most viewed video on YouTube is Gundum Style by Psy with TWO BULLION VIEWS.

    JUST saying: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_viewed_YouTube_videos

    • Bryan

      I thought it might be him. Thanks for doing better research than us :).

  • Hey guys, great show, so much information! Great caller, what a wonderful voice 🙂

    I agree that Amazon would be wrong in changing the percentage for author earnings, but I’d like your opinion on the drastic royalty rate changes at ACX and tying higher royalties to exclusivity and if that is possibility with the KDP sister company?

    • Bryan

      Haha, that caller was fantastic :).

      I didn’t get into ACX until after the royalty drop, so I wasn’t too impacted by it. Since Audible is really the only audiobook companies in the biz, I think the exclusivity thing isn’t a big deal. If there was some competition, it would be a tougher decision.

      • Crissy Moss

        I think the only thing that would bother me about it is how difficult it is to get out of the exclusivity. Not that I’ve done it… yet… but I’ve heard stories…

      • Aww shucks, guys.

  • Recently I began to prioritize all of the things I needed to do as an author using a Google Docs spreadsheet. Before I did this I had so much stuff rolling around in my head, I’d just work on the first thing that came to mind. But now I work on high priority projects first. I tried to upload an image of what it all looks like, not sure if it worked or not. We’ll see 🙂

    • Bryan

      Cool, thanks for sharing!

  • TheCreativePenn

    Bryan – which college at Oxford?! I was at Mansfield and we had lots of Americans – they were a lot of fun as we introduced them all to British drinking 🙂

    • Lol! I was introduced to British drinking when I lived over there. it was the Age of the Laddett! It took a few years, but I have finally gone back to normal. 🙂

    • Bryan

      Cool! I was at St. Edmund Hall. It was just for five-weeks, but I loved the city. I enjoyed the Brits there more than I did the Americans I came with :).

  • I want to do a podcast but I don’t want to do it by myself. I write by myself. None of the writers I know have time—I barely have time, but it would be fun.

    • Bryan

      Maybe you need to find some more folks to ask. There’ve gotta be some folks out there who want to start something.

  • Nope, I loved the long show! Some folks have long shows b/c they don’t know how to stay on-topic or self-edit, but you guys stay on topic, keep it business-related, and it’s jam-packed with relevant content. As Jim Kukral would say – “It’s all about the content.” That is what you guys do best. Thank you!!!

    • Bryan

      And thank you, Taryn! Glad you’re listening :).

  • Crissy Moss

    Figuring out what project to work on is always tough. I started a spread sheet when I first started getting more serious about writing. I had thousands of ideas, and dozens of fully fleshed plot lines, even some finished rough drafts. I cut it down to the most promising stories, listed them all in a file, and color coded the progress. The first sheet looked like this: http://fangsandlasers.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/maybe-i-can-do-this/

    It wasn’t much to look at, but it did help me prioritize which short stories were closest to being complete, and I powered through 22 short stories, and three novellas over the course of a year, publishing them all and giving them great covers. (I often work on covers, social media, or even blogs when I’m feeling a little unfocused and don’t have the stamina to actually write. When I can write I write, it’s the only thing that’s really important.)

    It’s been a year, and I’ve updated my spreadsheet several times. I think I’ve finally found a version I like that I keep on Google spreadsheets. It tracks when I started a project, when I completed, how many words it currently has, and what stage it is in. It also tracks how many words I have in total, and how much I’ve published. This is in addition to my spreadsheet tracking how many words I write each day on each project, and a yearly bar graph of my progress toward getting faster. (I added a picture of my current spreadsheet.)

    • Bryan

      Thanks for sharing, Crissy! It doesn’t need to be pretty to work 🙂

  • I agree that complaining isn’t a good way to compete, but I can’t agree with Jim about exclusivity entirely. He’s right about the 90 day thing, but writers will keep their books in KU forever if they feel they are making enough sales. That’s fine and dandy, but places like Kobo cannot compete with KU. NO WAY can they do an “all you can read buffet” for $9.99 a month and stay afloat. No way. Amazon is bleeding millions to do it, and can afford to.

    Kobo and other sites will go under if writers continue to re-up their Select 90 day exclusivity forever. Once the other sites go under (worse case scenario I know) the 90 day exclusivity becomes meaningless as there will be nowhere to go. I hate exclusivity, even for 90 days because it starves all other sites of new content. Only old, under performing, titles will be left in those channels, and places like Kobo cannot survive on old content alone.

    The author earnings thing… top sellers are killing it at KU, and newbies are getting great visibility. We all know visibility is king at Amazon. The only people who are getting screwed are the people between these two extremes. Established mid list genre authors who don’t write romance or erotica in other words. Hugh said that authors are losing 30% of their sales (he meant earnings I think not sales) in exchange for a 13% increase in sales. That’s why Jim was confused I think. Hugh said sales and sales, when he meant EARNINGS in exchange for SALES.

    The sales increase is due to visibility and the all you can eat feeling of KU, but the reduction in earnings is because the payout is only $1.52 per sale. Again, author earnings relies upon averages, right? The top sellers are killing it, the newbies are doing well (hence the 13% increase shown in sales) but the lost earnings are all from the masses in the middle (there are more of them, so the average loss is high)

    Sorry if I seem preachy here, but I am one of the people who feels screwed. My sales of kindle and audio halved the moment KU was born. In fact, it happened the week before KU as if Amazon was already tinkering with algos to pre-position itself for KU.

    Mark E. Cooper

    • Ember Casey

      I have similar views about the whole 90-day-exclusivity thing, though more about its effect on individual authors rather than other vendors. I hear a lot of people saying “it’s only 90 days!” like that isn’t a HUGE amount of time in this industry (not to mention a full financial quarter), or that it’s not enough time to have a significant (and likely negative) effect on their potential sales on other vendors. If someone’s ultimate goal is to sell everywhere, or to cycle books in and out of KDPS, they’re putting themselves at a huge, huge disadvantage on other vendors. (I mean, think about it: NO ONE would question the fact that taking their books off of Amazon for 90 days–or releasing their books 90 days later on Amazon than all the other vendors–would hugely disrupt their rankings, momentum, and audience there. So why do so many people act like that’s not the case on other vendors? I think a lot of people vastly underestimate the opportunity cost of that 90 day exclusivity.

      As for KU…. I’m not really worried about it taking over or driving other vendors under unless (or until?) they get more bestsellers in there. And I mean the big, “selling in the airport” names. Because let’s be honest: right now, it caters to a very particular crowd of readers–those who read LOTS of books but aren’t looking for specific authors/titles. That’s not your “average” reader. The titles/authors that consistently move the most copies (and probably generate the most sales on those other vendors) AREN’T in KU (or are in KU without exclusivity) and seem unlikely to be in KU in the future (unless Amazon works something out with the trad pubs), so while I’m sure the other vendors have lost some indie publishers to KDPS, I think (hope!) it’ll take a little more to cripple them. I’m still very much of the mind that while KU had completely changed EVERYTHING on our end, I’m not sure it’s changed much significantly on the average reader/consumer’s end. Yet.

      But now I’m just rambling/thinking out loud (or in text. Or whatever.). This is what happens when I have Diet Coke late at night, haha.

      • Bryan

        Not rambling at all, Ember! Maybe nighttime Diet Cokes are just what the doctor ordered 🙂

    • Bryan

      Good points, Mark. I’ve noticed all of my nonfiction books outside of KU have tanked of late. If it hadn’t been for the new fiction, it would’ve been a rough couple of months.

      And, thanks for the clarification on the AE post. That makes more sense now :).

  • Guest

    PS: The like Facebook thing at the bottom right is fine on the desktop, but it absolutely ruins the mobile browsing experience because it does hide. It sits there over the comments button. VERY EXCRUCIATINGLY annoying guys.

  • PS: The Facebook popup ruins the mobile browsing experience because it stays there over the comments and buttons. It doesn’t auto hide. It’s EXCRUCIATINGLY annoying. Sorry Bryan. It’s fine on the desktop because the screen is larger.

    • Bryan

      Ding dong the Facebook pop up is dead! Thanks!

      • Crissy Moss

        YAY! I’m so happy!

  • Julie Farrell

    Hey guys, I loved the show! As Taryn Markele said I’m also happy to listen to you whatever the length, because you always stay on topic and give loads of great info!
    The question of the week: I save my to-do list up for every Friday, so that I can write when I’m writing without feeling guilty about not marketing (or doing the ‘business’ side of things). It really works for me to do this. It means I can fully immerse myself in the Friday tasks, knowing I can get back to writing as soon as I’ve completed the to-do list!

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Julie! And a good system for figuring out what to do.

  • Kathy Kulig

    Hi Guys, Loved the show! Thank you for the great info. The question of the week: Prioritizing has become more and more of a challenge. I do write a daily To Do List with writing WIP at the top. I try to keep emails/social media for later. Easier said, I know. Avoiding a ‘quick’ email or FB check can turn into an hour or more of lost writing time for me.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Kathy! I hear you on the lost writing time from social media. Sometimes I want to dunk my phone in a glass of water.

  • Ember Casey

    Great show! And totally fine with the long show. 🙂

    I’m trying to come up with a better system for how I spend my time day-to-day. I’ve been experimenting with the pomodoro technique (which is going great, though I’d like to start tracking my daily word counts more regularly to get a better idea of what’s working and what isn’t). On a broader scale, I’ve recently started using ToDoist to organize my projects and break them down into parts (writing, other production tasks, distribution, marketing) to get myself more organized when it comes to planning more “big picture” stuff.

    • Bryan

      Very cool, Ember! I’ve never done Pomodoro, I’m glad that it’s going well for you.

  • I’m not quiet sure why, but I want to know more about that Kindle Scout program. I don’t plan on writing for it, but I’m interested. See y’all at March to a Best Seller.

    • Bryan

      I think more has come out about it. I’m not sure we’re going to chat about it more until something momentous happens. Here’s the link to the site:

      Looking forward to chatting with you at MTAB2 as well :).