Episode 46 – Digital Resale, Virtual Assistants and Shorter Books

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On this week’s show, Jim and Bryan tackled their latest trio of tips, including sharing your book’s title, using Fiverr for short story covers, and hiring virtual assistants. The dynamic duo also discussed news stories related to Mark J. Dawson’s 10,000 reader survey, used e-books, Bob Mayer’s thoughts on traditional publishing, Dean Wesley Smith and the tale of how novels got their length, and Amazon’s new giveaway service. Jim also ranted twice, and it was glorious. The Question of the Week: Would you be okay with a reader re-selling your ebooks? Why or why not?

What You’ll Learn: 
  • Why you should never just say “my book”
  • How to get a cover for just five bucks
  • What tasks you should outsource to virtual assistants
  • The facts author Mark J. Dawson learned from his reader survey
  • What the chances are of seeing used ebooks in the future
  • Why Bob Mayer recommended traditional publishing
  • How the length of the modern novel came to be
  • The value of lack thereof of the Amazon Giveaway service
Question of the Week: Would you be okay with a reader re-selling your ebooks? Why or why not?

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  • Reselling ebooks is theft, plain and simple. As Jim said, you’re not allowed to resell his video content from online conferences, so why would reselling an ebook any different? The concept of a “used ebook” makes no sense to me at all. Anyone who is “reselling” my books is stealing my material, trying to pass themselves off as the owner, author, or publisher — and they are none of those.

    Now, if I started giving all of my books away for free under a copyleft distribution of share and share alike, that’d be a different story. But my books are copyrighted material, and I expect to be paid for them unless I am hosting a promotional event like a giveaway or Amazon free days. (And even then, people who download the book for free are not being given permission to resell or redistribute those materials.)

    I think that people are confusing free books with copyright-free books, when those terms are really not interchangeable at all.

    • Bryan

      I could definitely see other folks having the same opinion. Thanks for sharing, Laura!

    • Gregory Lynn

      I don’t think someone reselling a book is necessarily trying to pass themselves off as anything but the owner of a copy of a book they no longer want. If they’re trying to sell it more than once, sure, but I have to assume these reselling sites aren’t going to allow that.

      And here’s the question, would you feel the same about a paper book? If not, why the difference?

      • The only current “resale market” for ebooks are on torrent sites and other book piracy sites. So yes, the “reseller” is trying to claim they own the rights to sell that book as either the original author or publisher. There’s no “authorized reseller” at this point, and no option for the authors/publishers to allow it, so I consider it theft of a digital product.

        I don’t feel the same about paper books because they’re material objects. They can (and will) lose value over time, due to wear and tear on the physical copy. The resale will almost always be for less than the cover price of the book (with the exception of rare books and collectors’ items), and that kind of reselling makes sense to me. But “reselling” a digital product is essentially cutting and pasting it onto someone else’s machine — and that’s a copyright infringement.

        If, as with Amazon’s loaning system, you could be sure that *only* the person who is purchasing the “used” copy is going to have access to it from now on, and not the original buyer (who might have other copies of it saved on their hard drive for further access, even after the supposed sale and transfer of rights), then I might be more open to it, but since words on a screen are the most easily stolen and illegally reproduced, I don’t think there’s really any way to prevent this type of theft, and I’m against encouraging people to view digital books and other digital products in this way.

  • I’m a trad pubbed non-fiction author (paperbacks only) who is publishing my own shorter fiction right now, by choice in both e-book and paperback. Back when I was writing NF, my publishers sent out dozens of review copies, press releases, got reviews in the “biggies” such as Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, sold to libraries, etc. I also had invites for speaking engagements, etc. My opinion backed up by what friends are saying is that authors are required to have a large platform now, be active on social media, set up signings, etc. and do a lot of this other stuff themselves. So yeah, in the past, publishers DID do a lot more to get books in stores and seen by those who counted. These days–not so much. I believe that where the trad publishers excel is in getting the book out faster, in front of more eyeballs in the early stages. But they’re also faster to drop a book or even a whole series if it doesn’t “pay out” very quickly. What I’ve seen in the mystery paperback field is that authors are required to write a series of at least three books to start with, then if it doesn’t do well, they go on to a new series of three. And of course, all these books are long.

    As far as shorter fiction goes—bring it on! LOL. I’ve made the decision somewhat to focus on shorter stuff—I write mystery/suspense novellas and short stories, and have been told that I’ll “never make it” without a five or six volume series of longer books. I’m stubborn enough to believe that what you and others say is true–we do have a shorter attention span and less time to read these days. And the comment about the popularity of YA novels is true, too. Many adults read them not just because of the subject matter, but also because they are shorter. I’m not a fan of serials, but have seen how popular they are, for some of the same reasons.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the comment, Bobbi. Would I be right in my thinking if a book did “pay out” and quickly, the publishing company would probably throw more weight behind it (a la Divergent, Hunger Games, etc.)?

      • Hi Bryan. Oh, I imagine they would. But I expect their numbers would have to be high. It’s always more efficient to push something that already has a good start than to start fresh with something else.

        • Bryan

          Cool, I needed a little encouragement after Jim shot me down :).

  • My novel, Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, is 52,000 words long. It was the length that fit the story, the length that I was comfortable writing at the time and the length that I like in a book. It’s too long to be a novella but shorter than a lot of novels. I can’t STAND when books drag on just because the author feels they NEED to reach a certain word count. I’m just going to leave this here…

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (46,333 words)
    The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (52,000 words)
    The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (50,776 words)
    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (50,061 words)
    As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (56,695 words)
    The Giver by Lois Lowry (43,617 words)
    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (46,591 words)
    A Separate Peace by John Knowles (56,787 words)
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (46,118 words)

    • Bryan

      Way to stick to your guns, Jillianne!

    • Yes! Exactly right about padding books. Many genre writers these days are told to add at least two sub-plots, maybe three, in order to make the books longer. And one of those (I’ve been told) needs to be some romantic interest to catch the eyes of the other readers.

      Another thing I’ve noticed–many of the classic movies (and some contemporary ones, too) were based on short fiction, and especially short stories. 🙂

    • I hate padding in books too. I’m an impatient reader. I’ll read any length book if I’m entertained. But as soon as I start feeling like I’m wasting my time, I start skimming until the next interesting thing happens.

    • Perry Constantine

      Agreed completely. I was told a few times by people to pad my 30,000 word novellas to make them 60,000 word novels and I had to stop myself from using some colorful language in response. I go back to Elmore Leonard’s advice on this—leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.

      A book should only be as long as it needs to be in order to tell a complete story. Not a word more.

    • ❤️Marie Long❤️

      Unnecessary padding is definitely one of my many pet peeves when it comes to books.

  • E. Jacobs

    Going back in time a bit. Whenever you gave or sold someone used material like books, music or software, it was specifically written into the copyrights that you had to turn over all materials completely to do so so that only one person possessed a licensed product. Yes you could copy it but it was more tedious to do so at the time. It was also acceptable to copy music you heard on the radio because it was not considered a perfect copy of the song and could be considered artist promotion. After the CD and then the internet it was now possible to make a perfect digital copy and distribute it everywhere. That was where the problem was. Digital files can not degrade and therefore there is no such thing as a “used” digital product. The whole concept they are going for is complete desperation to grab the last piece of pie on the table.

    • Bryan

      Those pie grabbers!

  • Gregory Lynn

    I find myself remarkably ambivalent about the thought of people re-selling my books.

    On the one hand, I don’t really like the idea of anyone but me making money from my efforts.

    On the other hand, as long as they are only selling a single copy, they aren’t likely to get any more for the book than I paid to Amazon (or whomever) for the ability to sell that copy of the book in the first place. Meanwhile, libraries have been letting people read books for free for centuries and that’s something I applaud greatly.

    Then there’s piracy. If there is enough demand for someone to buy a used e-book, the book is on a pirate site somewhere. I think I would rather someone buy a used copy than pirate a copy. There’s some chance the funds from the sale end up going to purchase one of my newer books and even if there isn’t, I’d like my community of readers to be happy and successful.

    And oh yeah, I’m giving away free books. Do I really have a right to complain that I’m not getting money from the sale of my book when I’m doing it myself intentionally?

    • Bryan

      Yeah, I agree, Gregory. I don’t care that much.

  • I’d be furious if someone sold my ebooks. Since the digital file does not lose quality with each copy, it’s not used as it is a copy of a new file. The potential existence of a napster of ebooks is scary, in that it could gut income streams as it has in music. However, I think the margins are so small (millions of books are $2.99 or less) I don’t know the value of it. It’d be like reselling stuff from the Dollar Store. If copying starts happening, then authors will have to offer incentives beyond the book itself to lure people to legitimate sites.

    As for book length. I’m writing YA. I aim for 65K words. Not much more. Feels the right length for it. Even though my first drafts usually fall around the 45K range, I feel the push to 65k forces me to add layers I normally would have never discovered. 65k is a healthy place for me as an author.

    • Bryan

      I feel the same way about book length. Mine start at 60, though they end up around 75 when I’m through actually adding description and emotion ;).

      • Exactly. My first drafts are such a point A to point B exercise. No fluff. Hints at character arc and development. Groundwork for cool scenes. More plot than character. And the second draft allows me to explore each of those incomplete areas to some satisfactory end. It’s not really until I’m finished with the second draft that I allow 8.3 minutes of selfish celebration before thinking about what still needs to be tweaked 🙂

  • Jacob Williams

    KDP ad performance attached:

    The bottom one was my first campaign. I targetted all books that were competing directly.

    The top two are divided by products I targetted that were more or less than 9.99.

    The theory goes that I have more impressions on lower priced products because more people view those products. However, I have more clicks on higher priced products because my product solves the same problem, but for cheaper.

    The thing to understand is that if you have 20-30 books, and can reproduce this performance, you’re looking at an extra $500 a month.

    Then again, we must ask ourselves if I’ve fully optimized this thing. Three tests aren’t sufficient. Nob turning continues. Will return.

    • Bryan

      Ooh, thanks for the follow-up on this.

      So, high price targeted books, lower price targeted books and then self-targeting. Right?

      And you only have to put out money when someone clicks, there’s no putting your $100 in a pot and then waiting until it gets let out, right?

      I actually have 20-30 workbooks available in Kindle format that aren’t selling that well. I’d love to apply this formula and get that extra $500 you speak of ;).

      • Jacob Williams

        Several people are confused about the $100 minimum. It’s not the minimum amount you must spend. It’s the maximum that you’re setting. The maximum you will allow Amazon to bill you during the set time period. Notice how I ended my first campaign after only spending $12.39.

        You can set your timeframe for 3 days. Chances are you won’t spend the whole $100. Also, you can manually go in and end the campaign at any time.

        To clarify, the bottom campaign was not self-targeting. I just named it “Learn Ruby” because that was the book I was linking to. It targeted ALL of the books of the top two campaigns combined.

        Sidenote: Someone at Amazon must listen to the show and read the comments. Self-targeting isn’t working anymore. (Just hire me already Jeff. How long must we do this dance?)

        I’m only working with one book. I imagine you would still be able to target your own books with another book of yours though.

        Another tip: Amazon tells you what books your should target. “Customers Who Bought This Item also Bought.”

        Now, let’s turn the focus on Ted. Is it smart to advertise a free book?

        You need this data point: Your total revenue of the whole Ted series divided by downloads of book 1 of the series. You need to know how much a download of book 1 is worth. (Nobody reads book 2,3,4 without reading book 1.) It’s a mistake to separate the earnings by book.

        This number will tell you how much you should spend per download.

        Remember, the goal is to break even with advertising. It means you got more readers, reviews, downloads, email signups, etc for free.

        • Bryan

          Ted’s not in Select, so I wouldn’t be able to do an ad for it. I do have 20-30 creative writing workbooks I’m thinking of testing out.

          Those jerks getting rid of self-targeting!

          • Jacob Williams

            Yes, creative writing workbooks. That would be legitimate.

            I know, Amazon’s trying to catch me ridin’ nerdy. From now on we’ll have to talk in binary so they don’t close our loopholes.

            01000001 01101100 01110011 01101111 00101100 00100000 01110011 01100101 01100101 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01100011 01101111 01101101 01101101 01100101 01101110 01110100 00100000 01100001 01100010 01101111 01110110 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01100101 01111000 01110000 01101100 01100001 01101001 01101110 01110011 00100000 01101000 01101111 01110111 00100000 01001011 01000100 01010000 00100000 01100001 01100100 01110011 00100000 01100011 01101111 01110101 01101100 01100100 00100000 01100010 01100101 00100000 01110101 01110011 01100101 01100100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100100 01100101 01110100 01100101 01110010 01101101 01101001 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01101000 01101001 01100011 01101000 00100000 01110100 01101111 01110000 01101001 01100011 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110111 01110010 01101001 01110100 01100101 00100000 01100001 01100010 01101111 01110101 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101101 01100001 01110010 01101011 01100101 01110100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110100 01100001 01110010 01100111 01100101 01110100 00101110

            That is all. -Jake

    • Bryan

      Also, can you target physical products or just e-products?

    • I’m impressed you managed not to lose money Jacob. Well done mate. You’re the only one I know of who has done that, unless others are keeping it secret. Very well done.

      • Jacob Williams

        Thank you Mark. Next time my wife and I get in an argument I will use that as a defence. “I’m the only one that didn’t lose money with KDP Ads!” Hopefully it’s completely out of context and she ends the argument out of confusion.

        As I say, I’ll keep posting results and turning knobs.

        Also, see my comment above that explains how KDP ads could be used to determine which topics to write about or market to target.

    • Thanks for sharing. As someone struggling to more ANY books and get more review, I am willing to pay to get even a few buys, hoping to get a few loyal customers. I don’t know if it will be worth the time and energy to manage something like this later, but for now…

      • Is this pretty straightforward to figure out?

        • Jacob Williams

          KDP ads can be used to figure out where demand is high. How? Impressions.

          If I set a high cost per click on say… PHP books and Python books (Two different programming languages.) I will set a different campaign for each language I’m targetting. You might say, “Why target PHP or Python books if your book is on Ruby?” Well my dear friends, because there’s a gem of a data point that a lot of people aren’t paying attention to. It is IMPRESSIONS!

          If I am targeting the top 20 PHP books and the top 20 Python books, I will be able to contrast the impressions of each campaign to determine which language has a higher market demand.

          If PHP has 40,000 impressions in a week, and Python has 10,000 impressions in a week, I can assert that PHP is more likely to have a bigger market demand. Because… an impression is a page view.

          Therefore, my next book should be PHP.

          Shhhhh. Let’s keep this a secret. 🙂 I rather enjoy everyone writing KDP ads off.

    • Also, thanks for the clarification on the $100 spend. THAT is good to know.

  • Jim, I had to laugh when you talked about how your kids engage with media content. My 14 year old Skypes while playing video games. My 17 year old isn’t into Skype, but has 20 windows open at a time on his computer. Both watch short YouTube clips. (I confess that as I type this, I have 9 chrome window tabs open, Scrivener open, MacMail open, and about 7 word docs open.) All this to say…we are a distracted, multi-tasking society. We don’t do it very well, but…it’s the way of things. Given that, I’m not about to write a 70,000+ word book. My longest book was at 40,000 – “Cubicle Jail to Laptop Lifestyle” – and I wonder how much of that actually gets read.

    • Bryan

      Is it a problem that this is already how I engage with media…? 🙂

  • I love those 50,000 word paperbacks. I get bored with —ahem—-series— because I like to read as many different kinds of stories as possible. I do get the odd complaint from readers, though, if the book isn’t long enough. But I figure if I am not enjoying the book that much, I might finish it if its short and give it a chance and if I love it I will read again. I have some of these that I’ve read several times.
    I’m not sure short attentiuon spans are good for the intelligence of people though. There is something about soldiering on and completing tiugh projects that amkes you smarter and stronger as a person. Look at us writers!

    • Bryan

      I’ve been reading a lot of first in a series books lately. I’m enjoying dipping my toes in all sorts of different stuff :).

  • Perry Constantine

    The idea of reselling digital content is a good question. I’m not really sure what the answer is.

    On the one hand, I love the resale market. The vast majority of my movie and video game collection was cobbled together from hitting up resale shops and picking up DVDs and games for sometimes as little as $2 and rarely more than $10. Ditto for comics and books. Finding all that discounted material gave me countless hours of entertainment at a very low cost, and encouraged me to try things I probably never would have bought at full price.

    On the other hand, most ebooks are $5 or less and there’s always another deal around the corner. There’s also no real way to guarantee that the seller isn’t trying to make a little cottage industry for themselves by selling bootlegs of those ebooks. The only way to really get around that would be something like DRM. But DRM is less useful than an ashtray on a motorcycle and twice as irritating. So until something better comes along to guarantee that people won’t be able to copy that media, I think I might have to lean more towards reselling ebooks being a bad idea.

    Right now, it comes down to the first-sale doctrine. As I understand it, the copyright owner retains the right of reproduction and the first-sale doctrine doesn’t permit the owner of the material object to reproduce it. Until the laws are altered to reflect the realities of the digital age, this will probably continue to be a debate (and even if the laws are changed, the debate will probably continue).

    • Bryan

      Good points, Perry. Thanks!

  • Okay this is my opinion…. Jim Kukral IS WRONG! Gasps, shock horror! Yes I know, how dare I say that?

    Well, here is my mitigation. He’s right about nonfiction, about ‘how to’ training vids, about any kind of media that attempts to teach someone or answer a question they have. The reason is that people want the answer now, right now, and they want it to be easy-peasy. So if I have a book that answers their exact question or problem, and can answer it in 10k words, they will LOVE IT and pay the same price as a book twice as long. They will prefer it, because they’ll assume it will be easier for them to follow. No effort.

    However, where he’s DEAD wrong in my opinion is in reading for pure entertainment. When was the last time YOU read a book cover to cover in one session? How many readers do you know who do that? Not many I bet. Readers already break their reading into sessions. Most read for an hour, and then come back later for another hour. Or they read a couple of chapters. The point is, authors already break their books into reading sessions called chapters. It’s a bit like Walking dead episodes are an hour long, but the story (season) is 12 hours long.

    So my opinion is like TV and movie goers, readers read differing lengths depending upon the genre and type of story. The book should be as long or short as the STORY requires, not padded, but also not cut to the bone in some attempt to follow a trend that SAYS it should be x words long. Try selling a 50k novel to my sci-fi fans and see what happens. I would hear the howls of outrage from London. Genre is important. My YA fans like 60k (ish) my sci-fi fans like 100K+ I won’t be following Jim’s advice on this one, unless I start selling nonfiction to writers, who like me, have so little time, would pay $97 for ANY length so long as it is good and fixed a problem, or told me how to fix it myself.

    Your friend and servant, sir,

    Mark E. Cooper…Esq 😉

    • You may be right about fiction (entertainment). However, I will point to other entertainment like video games and videos and even television series. There is clear indication that consumers of these types of content prefer shorter “cuts” in lieu of things that take up a lot of their time.

      I could well be wrong about lumping books into that established trend. Time will tell. But I’m sticking to it. 🙂

      • But that’s my point you see? Write a 100k words book. One reader reads it a single session (unlikely but what the hey) the other reads it in 5 x 4 chapter chunks. What’s the difference? They both enjoyed the same story, they both go and buy book 2.

        BUT, if I write a 50k words story. One guy reads it in 2 sessions, the other guy goes looking for another 100k words story, and gives the 50k short a miss!

        I guess in the end, the answer is KNOW your audience.

        So there 😛

        • In your scenario you make the assumption that they read some, the come back and read some more. In my scenario, the reader says to themselves subconsciously, “This is too long and is potentially taking up too much of my valued time.” And then gravitates to content that is consumed faster. So this really about time, which is a major trigger in a purchasing decision.

          Let’s take Netflix’s House of Cards series for example. Each season is let’s say 10 episodes of an hour a piece. When I commit to start watching it, I realize my time commitment to it and I mentally agree to take part. I know that I can watch it in pieces when I’m ready and how I want.

          That’s why it works. If Netflix released the entire thing as a 10-hour uninterrupted piece I argue that most people would not make that purchasing decision. So this isn’t about length, this is about perceived time.

          • I make the assumption based upon facts though, Jim. I can only go on my sales and my own reading habits. I write what I like to read. I’m a fanboy of my genres.

            When someone purchases a series book like mine, don’t you think the reader knows how long it will take to read? Of course he/she does. The readers are fans of the genre. They know what to expect. We shouldn’t treat them like idiots.

            Like your House of cards scenario. 10 episodes, is no different to buying a long book, except books are better of course 😉

            You said “it isn’t about length” EXACTLY! I’m glad you agree with me finally 😉

          • It’s not clear how long a book is when you buy it. It shows pages on Amazon, but honestly, I doubt anyone pays attention to that. You missed my point on the House of Cards scenario. They know they can watch it in chunks, therefore it’s more palatable to them to purchase. I argue a reader might feel the same. If they know they can consume it in chunks, they might be more acceptable to buying it. I also think you can make more money from it. A 10 part series at $.99 each is way more profitable than a one-time $3.99 sale. Again, time will tell which one of us is right. I don’t think all books will have to be short, and your point on genre is correct. But long term, I tend to believe that shorter will play better for the reasons I’ve already stated.

          • ANY reader knows they can consume a book in chunks. It’s what readers have done since printing was invented! Come on, you know I’m right. Admit it!

            Seriously, if I try to sell space opera in 10 10k chunks, you know how many I would sell? ONE, to myself. I know KU is swaying people to chop up books and dump them into the pile of… into KU, but I’m not one of them. I guess I’m too old to change. I made my hobby into a full time career writing 100k+ books. I won’t change my style now.

            It’s not a matter of right and wrong Jim, you said it up thread. It’s not a matter of length. It’s a matter of whether people feel the time is WELL spent or not.

          • Are we at Bryan’s 100 comments yet? 😉

          • Bryan

            Almost halfway!

          • Jacob Williams

            Something to keep in mind is that Amazon is updating their algorithms to rank books that have longer reading times. This is a fact. Amazon knows exactly how far people are making it in a book.

            YouTube has already done it with video. Videos with the longest overall minutes watched are the top results. Not those with the most views. My YouTube programming tutorials are the highest ranked on Ruby search results because my videos are 15min long. The average view time is 5min. Whereas most others who have 3min tutorials, average only 1min in view time. They will never catch up to me.

            The longer a reader sticks with a book, the better the content is. The better served the customer is. It also means the less Kindle Unlimited downloads they’ll make because they’re finishing every book they get. It means Amazon doesn’t need to payout as much.

            Prepare to be blindsided. I know several YouTubers who made a lot of 3min videos and saw their views tank overnight. We’re talking 97% drop.

          • Can you point to some documentation to prove that? Not saying you’re wrong. I’d just like to read more about it.

          • Jacob Williams

            The same principles of retention and quality apply across content domains.

            Here’s Jeff Bezos dropping some hints in December: http://youtu.be/Xx92bUw7WX8?t=25m

            “Kindle has been about reducing friction for reading a whole book.” He also specifies long-form reading here.

            That entire interview is great btw.

            I think there will be two factors here: Total pages read and the ratio of downloads to reads.

            Here’s why: I have a thousand people on my email list. When I publish my PHP book, roughly 500 of them will download the book for free when it goes on promotion. (Based on my last books performance.) However, those downloads don’t represent the quality of the book. They represent the size of my email list. If 0 of those five hundred finish my book, it’s actually an indicator of how “bad” my book is. We know Amazon cares about quality because they have a rating system.

            Here’s more on the importance of retention for determining quality. http://youtu.be/BsCeNCVb-d8?t=2m53s

          • Jacob Williams

            In case anyone from reads this thread. Amazon indeed just changed to a retention model. https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A156OS90J7RDN

          • Perry Constantine

            It’s not so much the longer a reader sticks with a book as it is the longer a reader sticks with a series. To use the Netflix example from earlier, you probably don’t have a lot of people who will binge on movies for five or six hours. But they will binge on TV shows for that long. Shorter content is easier to consume and it tends to encourage retention.

            Should also be noted that Amazon does have categories for books with short read times. And Amazon does benefit from purchases of short content because the quicker a reader finishes a book in a series or a serial, the quicker they’re back on Amazon to buy the next installment. Yes, for KU Amazon would probably prefer longer works, but unless they completely overhaul the borrow payouts, authors have far less incentive to put longer works in KU as opposed to shorter.

            There’s always going to be a market for long books, that’s not going away. But there’s no reason to believe that customers are better served with longer works. That’s a completely subjective point of view. The longest book I ever read was Atlas Shrugged and I can tell you that not only was I an extremely unsatisfied customer, but it was one of the most godawful books I’d ever read.

          • Jacob Williams

            I agree. All those variables would be accounted for and used to determine quality.
            I could imagine a sort method that allows you to sort by series length. Amazon will have information on what 5 book series is higher quality based on how far people make it through the series. (Price models and book lengths accounted for.)

            It’s just one more data point Amazon can use. There’s no way I can imagine them completely ignoring it.

        • Perry Constantine

          Actually Mark, I can say that from my perspective as a reader, I have passed on books because of their length. It’s one of the reasons why I haven’t bought the first Game of Thrones book despite many people telling me I should, because the length of it puts me off.

          Not just books, but movies as well. There have been many times when I’ve been on Netflix and opted for a TV show over a movie because even if I’m going to watch three hours of TV, I’d rather watch three hour-long episodes as opposed to one three-hour movie.

          If I watch three episodes of a TV show or a three-hour movie, I’m still giving up three hours of my time. And if you’re looking at it from the perspective of time investment, then you’re right, there is no difference. But it’s not just the investment of time, it’s the perception. For people with shorter attention spans (like me), it’s easier to focus on three hour-long episodes as opposed to one three-hour movie.

          • Hey Perry, you did the right thing with Game of Thrones, but not just because of length. He kills all the people you care about. So unless you want to kill yourself due to depression at the end of each book, I would watch the TV series personally. I bought them on box set. I really should get around to watching them one day. I never have time to turn the telly on though.

        • I think Mark’s right. Genre expectations determine the length people are prepared to buy at. Most people who read epic fantasy know what they’re getting into, they like the idea of reading half a dozen books or more, each of 150-200k words. There will also always be people who don’t bother because they’re too busy or the story waffles too much and they lose interest. Length is very much a reader choice.

          I think that the arguments that have been put forward here for short attention spans actually prove the opposite point. People are prepared to spend three hours watching a single tv show, with no ads? People are prepared to play video games for hours on end? That sounds like long attention spans to me. If you’re doing something you love, you can usually spend hours, days, years doing it with no loss of focus. Perhaps, as writers, our own attention is focused on things other than reading, or, when we read, we are more critical of the story and thus more likely to lose our focus on it. I know that I’ve found myself unable to finish reading books that I used to love, because now that I’m a writer and editor, I notice all the mistakes and they kick me out of the story. Writers may not be the best people to provide accurate information about attention spans. Just saying. 🙂

          • Yes, exactly, and that is another reason I listen to books rather than read them now. It’s easier to lose myself in stories. I don’t notice word choice of story structure quite as much. I use it like listening to the radio — as background while i do chores etc.

            Works for me.

  • Reselling digital files… hell no! But I think it will probably happen. IF it does, I would like it to be controlled in that if reader A buys a copy of Book A, he can only sell it ONCE and that his original MUST disappear like in real life. That of course won’t ever happen, and if it did, hackers would get around it somehow.

  • A D Davies

    Regarding reselling of digital books – our careers are based largely on how many people can read our books. Maybe it will result in a review, maybe you even make a new fan and they buy up your back-catalogue, and eagerly anticipate your next novels. We already give away review copies for free, so as long as it doesn’t turn into something scammy, I’d be happy for readers to sell on my work.

    Two features I would like to see, but may be unrealistic, would be that, 1) once it has been sold on, the seller doesn’t retain access to it. 2) it cannot be sold for more than the purchase price, otherwise you will end up with people buying up those KDP freebies, waiting until they go back up to full price, say $3.99, and pushing it on their customers for $0.99 – $2.99. People could operate whole businesses that way.

    So, in summary, yes no problem, as long as it doesn’t mean scammers can take advantage.

    • Bryan

      Scammers often find a way though, A.D. Thanks for the comment.

    • I agree. There’s been a market for used books for decades. If people were reselling my book, I’d look on it as advertising. I mean, if I’m prepared to give the book away for free in order to get people interested in my consecutive books, why should I care if someone is selling it? The more people it reaches the better, right? The book has all my information in it, links back to my website, links to other books, etc. If you’re prepared to pay for an ebub for a free or 99¢ book, why not write off any money that person makes as advertising costs? That said, it would be nice if there was an author kickback on resales, and if there was some way to ensure that it was a sale and not just piracy.

  • Kim smith

    I am on the fence about the resell of ebooks. On the one hand, anyone reselling an ebook without permission from the author is illegal-and again, most ebooks sales from reputable dealers like Amazon are sales that are not for the content but rather for a license to read it. Amazon can yank that digital file from your ereader anytime they please as has been done in the past for proof. On the other hand, if I were to get a sum of money for the passage of my work to another that was NOT through said dealer, say, a reseller site, that might be okay. The bottom line is cash flows to the author, not away. A reader is a reader no matter how they come by the content. But in consideration of the laws, this is truly not likely to happen.

    • Bryan

      Yeah. Cash should always flow to the author.

  • I think the history behind novel length is great to know, and I hope readers eventually learn to appreciate shorter works again, but it seems that as long as so many readers are trained to expect long books, we have to play their game. It doesn’t matter what history calls a novel.

    • Bryan

      Give it a few years and we’ll be back to the old ways. Shorter novels and bellbottoms are in!

  • Kyle Schiebel

    For artists, I think one of the benefits of the evolution of digital is that buyers don’t really have an expectation that they will be able to re-sell the digital media they purchase. No reasonable mechanism exists to even facilitate digital re-sales. Never mind the fact that digital purchases, more often than not, are actually licenses; the buyer has no true ownership of the digital property, nor do they have a right to re-sell it. Of course, most consumers have no idea this is the case, and do believe they “own” the digital media they have paid for. I don’t know the extent to which current used physical media sales harm artists profits, but digital media sales is a paradigm shift. In the long term, the very notion of re-selling digital media will likely disappear in parallel to the disappearance of physical media.

    • Bryan

      I think you’re right, Kyle.

    • Yes. Also, ever since youtube and napster, etc, there has been a growing sense among new consumers that a lot of things they want should be free, so that may drive the idea of recycling ebooks for cheap/free.

      But, I’m also a believer that people like that will rarely buy your stuff anyway. I look at my own behavior. Movies, for example. There are some I’ll see, some I’ll want to own and most I don’t care about unless I can see them for free. I’d never think about buying from that last category since my exposure to that films is based primarily that its free.

      I think the danger from an ebook napster isn’t really pilfering potential buyers, but creating a mindset, like in music, that that form of entertainment should be free as a whole.

  • Crissy Moss

    I think reselling digital media is, for the most part, a little useless. I mean you can’t make sure the person didn’t keep a copy unless it’s amazon doing it directly and switching it from one account to another. Even then you can’t be sure they don’t have a copy somewhere.

    Also, a lot of my books I’ve given away for free. It would annoy me a bit if they resold my a free book that I’ve given them. Personally I wouldn’t resell my digital stuff because I bought it for very little and I would feel bad about taking someone else’s revenue away, though I would love the ability to give the books to someone else.

    On the other hand, it’s marketing. It’s like a used book store. I would be kind of thrilled to see my paper book in a used book store. It meant someone read it and liked it enough to at least not throw it away, but share it with someone else. That’s kind of neat.

    One thing I have wanted… I would love a way to leave my digital collection to my children just like all of my other belongings. At the moment you still can’t do that, and that sucks. How many of us have gotten rid of physical copies of everything so that we can digitize our library media? Why shouldn’t I be able to leave my cloud library to my children?

    On the subject of long/short books…. I passed up a lot of good books simply because the length was intimidating. I’ve got stuff to do and places to go. I love reading, but I do not love my book being filled with extraneous matter. Like the Wheel of Time series. It was a good series, but just chalk full of things I didn’t need to know and 13 books long. (And I stopped reading them back when I did read A LOT). I’m waiting for the condensed version.

    • Bryan

      I stopped Wheel of Time early too. Read what happened on Wikipedia and none of it made sense without the million pages I skipped ;).

      • Crissy Moss

        Oh I know, right? I tried the same thing.

  • The issue with ebook resale is interesting. Ebooks are software. We license the use of the software content when we “buy” an ebook. But in Europe, all software licenses are transferable. That’s why Adobe and Microsoft went to subscriptions – because the EU court ruled that anyone could resell their Photoshop or MS Office license!

    At some point, it is VERY likely that the EU will rule ebook licenses are transferable as well. The impact of that will trickle back over to the USA sometime after. So it’s likely that ebook resale is in the future…which is why both Amazon and Apple have already filed patents for ebook resale systems. Also a good part of why Amazon is investing heavily in ebook subscription – like Adobe and MS, Kindle Unlimited represents a sheltered way to sell ebooks that cannot br read by a consumer and then resold for a penny.

    • Jacob Williams


  • Daniel Martone

    No, they should not be able to resell a digital product. There would be no way to monitor sales shy of implementing a more advanced DRM where they would have to legally transfer the rights to the new buyer. It would then require all books/devices to check rights every time a book is opened on a device. I hate DRM and don’t currently use it, but this sort would be even more restrictive. Watch out, the major publishers might push for this to be legalized, thinking it may sway the sales back to print.

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