Episode 33 – Happiness, Author Ethics and Hachette Makes a Deal

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Jim and Bryan made it one-third of the way to 100 with this week’s news-packed episode. After discussing some of Bryan’s Amazon tech support issues and sharing their code for the WriteOn service (7TLTK92H), the hosts with the most talked tips with pointers on pitching festivals, connecting with reviewers and a checklist for successful authors. The news included stories on happiness for indie authors, Amazon purchase of dot-book domains, women’s dominance of self-publishing, the Ethical Author Code, and Hachette’s deal with Amazon. Our Question of the Week: Who won the Amazon/Hachette deal and why?

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What You’ll Learn: 
  • What multi-author events Jim and Bryan are taking part in
  • How you should go about pitching to literary festivals
  • One way to make deeper connections with reviewers
  • Things you should check off on your list as an indie author
  • Why indies are happier than traditionally published authors
  • What Amazon might do with its new dot-book domains
  • The reasons women dominate self-publishing
  • What it means to be an ethical authors
  • The details behind Hachette’s deal with Amazon
Links: 
 
Question of the Week: Who won the Amazon/Hachette deal and why?

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  • This whole Ethical Author badge is interesting to me. Like you guys said, sometimes people make these types of mistakes in ignorance when they’re first starting out. I remember inserting advertorial lines about my online magazine when I was first writing stories for my school newspaper, thinking I was Hunter S. Thompson-esquely inserting myself into the story, until a J-schooler pointed out that this was journalistically unethical and suggested I get someone to interview me instead. A lot of this stuff is really that simple: you just need to turn it around and ask “Would this seem sleazy to me as a consumer if I saw a writer I like doing this?” and if the answer is yes, then don’t do it.

    That being said, I think this also ties into that tip about cozying up to reviewers, since there’s definitely some borderline unethical stuff that can happen there. Your friends aren’t supposed to review your books – at least by traditional reviewing standards (or, at the bare minimum, they need to disclose the relationship) – but if someone is seen to be friendly with you on social media, does that mean the reviewer shouldn’t review their book because the relationship has biased them? When everybody is “friends” on Facebook, where do you draw the line?

    • It’s hard to come down on friends and family especially when the author is new and reaching out to everyone they know to read their book. And like you’re saying as the sphere of influence grows more of those reviews will continue to be from “friends.”
      The best sales I have are made one-on-one, its through a connection and that connection continues. We ask people who like our work to leave honest reviews but if they like our work the review is already skewed.
      Continuing on with this you have the problem of Amazon creating a review ranking system. I had an odd review the other day and it is something that I’ve never thought of before. I did two free book giveaways on Amazon where over 1700 books were downloaded. I had a small number of reviews from this, but one really surprised me. It was a 5-star review that clearly was just a re-write of the book blurb. This got me talking at my writers group and someone suggested that this person is trying to get themselves ranked as a reviewer and grabbing everything they can. The free books gives them the verified purchase seal on the review.

      • Bryan

        Yeah, I have a couple if ranked authors who’ve reviewed my books. Some of them have a CTA in their emails asking for honest up votes just like we’d ask for honest reviews. As Jim would say, it’s pretty game-able.

    • Bryan

      Good points here, Laura. I definitely didn’t know any better when I was starting out. I think this code’ll need to be pitched pretty hard to reach new authors though.

      Yeah, it’s tough to know where to draw the reviewer-friendship line for sure.

    • ❤️Marie Long❤️

      I think the Ethical Author badge thing is a bit redundant, and might even come off as off-putting to some readers. Just do the right thing and be polite and business-like in your interactions with others, plain and simple. You don’t need a badge to confirm that.

      • Bryan

        You’d think, but some folks are definitely bringing down the ship a bit…

  • Hey guys great show! For the question of the week, I think that it will take more time to know for sure who the winner is, but I think the clear loser has been the consumers and the authors who have limited and delayed sales.
    Glad to see it over and hope that we will continue to see strong competition in the market and less capitulation.

    • Bryan

      Agreed on all points, Clark. Thanks!

  • Crissy Moss

    No one.

    Whether or not Amazon sells Hachette books they still sell more books then anyone else, and it really wouldn’t have effected them. Honestly, by this issue dragging out as long as it did and Hachette finally having to give in just a bit that gives Amazon better footing with the other publishers when signing their deals, but otherwise that is the only real win they have.

    Hachette will go back to having pre-orders, and deals on their books. But did they get a better deal? Or a worse one? Unless we know more about the deal they signed who can tell?

    The authors might be the biggest winners because their books will go back into regular listings and they will finally get more sales.

    I would be EXTREMELY surprised if Hachette raised the royalties for eBooks. They just took an 18% hit on their income. They need to recoup that because they are a corporation. They care about share holders and CEO pay, not their authors. If they cared about their authors wouldn’t they have signed this deal a long time ago?

    Biggest winners? Probably the people who jumped ship and found a new publisher, or tried to self publish for once.

    • Bryan

      True that, Crissy. I’d be interested to hear how many trad pub authors gave self pub a shot as a direct result of this standoff.

  • Another great show. Solid info and no excessive banter (though your banter is fun [and clean]). I’m very excited about Write On. Thanks for the link and code. All kinds of ideas are floating through my head as to how best to use this. If I had a popular series going, I think I’d post the next installment real-time. The fans would love it and you’d get immediate feedback, not to mention new readers flocking to you previous books. I can’t wait to here how other authors are going to use it.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Ron! Please, let us know how WriteOn goes!

  • Patrick Stemp

    Just started listening recently and love what I’m hearing so far. Great podcast.

    Re Amazon/Hachette I think the winners are the authors who got to watch it unfold We learned a lot about what traditional publishing values, and it isn’t us. They’re in it to make money for themselves, which is fine, but we don’t have to put all our eggs in their basket anymore thank God!

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Patrick! Agreed. We got quite a show :).

  • Who won? Who cares? As an independent author, should I care about Hachette or any of the other dinosaurs?

    • Bryan

      Jim would agree with you, Lew :).

  • Julie Farrell

    Thank you for another fab show guys! 🙂
    I totally agree with your comments about women being a good influence on the indie author community. I went to an all-girls school, so I know sometimes women can be bitchy, BUT I haven’t experienced that at all in our community. I write ‘respectable pornography’ (I love that term!) so most of my fellow writers and readers are women, and I’ve experienced so much love, support, and kindness in the last year since self-publishing. I wish this attitude of supporting each other would be used as a template for humanity! I really liked what Jim said a few shows ago about how a rising tide raises all boats. Very true! When we sisters (and brothers) pull together – rather than trying to pull each other down – it makes our community strong and successful!
    Thank you for your excellent show and for the community that you’re helping to build around it! 😀

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Julie! I agree, working together is key. Most people understand this. Those who don’t won’t get very far!

  • Who won? Who knows? During this whole conflict, we have never really known the real stakes, and the actual deal is under wraps as well. We really have no idea what exactly happened. That said, it has been interesting to see how various people and entities (like NY Times, for example) have come down on one side or another.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, Erik. We really know everybody’s teams after something like this.

  • I have to laugh because of all the men I know writing under female pen names. Also all the retirees have the free time. And life experience always helps give depth to stories. So #3 has been pretty obvious to me for quite a while.

    • Bryan

      Hahaha, that’s great, Alyne.

  • As far as Amazon/ Hachette–I was too busy writing to pay much attention to it. There were non-authors who were more in an uproar than I was. Indie publishing is so cool, and there will always be lovers of print books, that I had no worries about the outcome.

    • Bryan

      That’s awesome, Alyne. Good for you :).

  • Perry Constantine

    Hard to say for certain who won the Amazon/Hachette fight without seeing what the deal they came to was. But (and I can only speculate here) Hachette seems to need Amazon more than Amazon needs Hachette. So my guess would be that Amazon is the winner. They may have agreed to some concessions for Hachette, but I can’t imagine Hachette walked away from the negotiating table with everything or possibly even most of what they wanted.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Perry! Will do 🙂

  • Who wins? Ultimately, I’d say readers win.

    On a topic not-of-this-podcast, you guys have mentioned Amazon affiliate links a few times. I know Jim thinks they’re a waste of time and effort. However, something people who don’t have an affiliate account probably don’t know is that when you send someone to Amazon with an affiliate link, you get credit for whatever it is they buy – not just your book or whatever. True, I’ve gotten credit for a number of ebooks sold, but also dance shoes, a blender and a sex toy – none of which I actively promoted. Sales of my own books from my affiliate links are “only” about 4%, but what the heck. At this point, it’s not even gas money, but I only published my first ebook at the end of June. No, I’m not getting rich on affiliate payments, but just consider what an additional 3% of Steve Scott’s monthly income ($60k I think you reported) would be. I certainly wouldn’t throw away another couple grand a month.

    • Bryan

      That’s true, Scott. I think Jim is more against expecting much income from being an affiliate for other people’s products. 3% of 60k sounds nice ;).

  • roytheartist

    I dont know if this discussion relates to your html problem, Bryan…seems to be an Amazon bug?

    https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?threadID=213458&tstart=0

    • Bryan

      Thanks Roy, I’ll check this out!