Episode 60 – Google Play, Discrimination, and Going Pro

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Bryan and Jim hit the big 6-0 this week, which made them feel old. This week, they covered a trio of tips on finding free or discounted local books, writing 5,000 words a day for a month, and perfecting your book’s title. They also touched on news stories about 12 essential book marketing tips, giving away books for free, discrimination against indies, Google Play’s shutdown for new authors, and the pros and cons of going pro. This week’s Question of the Week: Does the traditional publishing industry’s behavior toward indies count as sanctioned discrimination? Why or why not?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How to get Amazon books nearby
  • The steps Stacy Claflin took to write 150,000 words
  • 10 ways to make sure your book title is unique
  • The tactics of 12 successfully-marketed authors
  • When you should and shouldn’t write free work
  • How indies can fight back against discrimination
  • Why Google Play is closed for new business
  • The pros and cons of being an indie
Links:
Question of the Week: Does the traditional publishing industry’s behavior toward indies count as sanctioned discrimination? Why or why not?

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  • Sanctioned? I don’t know. Discrimination? Probably, with the catch that it is not just “publishing” but some bookstores and author groups themselves as well.
    An author recommended that I join an author’s group for a genre. In order to join, you have to have been published by an approved publisher. While the list fills a page, you’re not going to find the e-book publishers on there (except for an Amazon translation label). The new author program (why the author suggested I join) requires membership first (apparently new author must mean published in another genre so you can join).
    Also, with author associations that do accept self-published authors, the self-published author must sometimes provide far more proof of success or income than traditionally published authors to gain entry. That or significant fees vs. having a publisher.
    I have yet to be published (but I will be self-published by the end of the year) so this is just an outside view of someone trying to find where I’ll fit in the industry in the future.

    I also think it will be author associations that finally say self-publishing it their idea, not big publishing. Big publishing is back to pricing ebooks at the price of paper books as far as I can tell. They are a dinosaur that will be extinct. There will be paper books, but these companies are showing an inability to adapt that makes horse and buggy companies look like they were over prepared.

    • Bryan

      Ah, author associations taking the credit. I like that. Could be true.

  • TheCreativePenn

    Hey guys – in terms of campaigning for more indie inclusivity, check out the Opening Up to Indie Authors campaign by the Alliance of Independent Authors http://allianceindependentauthors.org/indies-campaign/
    (Jim is an Advisor!) It’s aiming at getting indies into competitions, bookstores and more

    • TheCreativePenn

      oh, and thanks for the belt 🙂

      • Daniel Martone

        You so deserve the belt! And we’re all very glad that your voice isn’t as deep as Jim’s. 😉

    • Bryan

      Good campaign! Here’s your championship portrait 🙂 (h/t to Jillianne Hamilton for making this)

  • No. I think discrimination is a strong term and overused in our politically correct world. Are trads biased? Yes. But, discrimination, at least to me, only applies when the people have some sort of power over the other, whether that be personally or in business. However, self-published, by their very decision to be non-trad, means trads hold no authority over them. So, discrimination? No.

    On another point. I have struggled between the free book thing.
    – Con: I personally think I should get paid for all of my work.
    – Pro: I get the marketing strategy. I get the first in a series free is like giving a free first toll on a long toll road. You’ll get your money by the time they’re done.
    – Con: What concerns me from a bigger perspective is simply supply and demand. If every self-published author of quality offered their first books free, then I fear there will be more of free supply than purchasing demand and will change the overall perception of consumer behavior.
    – Pro: readers usually stick with an author they like or series they like, so perma-free opens discoverability doors.

    As you can see, I’m conflicted. When I release my third novel in my Gabby Wells Thriller series, I’ll make the first one perma-free. Part of me won’t like it and the other will be excited about what it provides. 🙂

    • Daniel Martone

      The power that Trad Publishers have over the industry is with the control they have over most media outlets. Too many articles are published that make false claims regarding self-publishing. The battles that Amazon had with Hachette was proof that, for the most part, media was one-sided.

    • Bryan

      The free book thing is something I’m considering zagging from, even though it’s really helping with my mailing list. It’s a tough debate!

      I agree, discrimination may be a strong word.

  • Daniel Martone

    It is sanctioned by the Publishers. They continue to have their minions voice these anti- self-publishing opinions to every media outlet. Much like politics, they hope to keep all of the power in their little club. I think it was suggested a little while ago, that indies should stop talking about this on-going battle, and while I think our focus should be on writing more books, self-publishing still needs its vocal advocates that get their voices into the media.

    • Bryan

      I agree that more focus on writing is a positive thing.

  • It’s not discrimination, the way racism or sexism or agism is discrimination. It’s discriminatory behavior, but mostly it’s just resistance to change for the sake of maintaining the status quo. Change and transition are hard. Organizations are notoriously slow to do so. Seems a bit of a waste of time to “protest” the discriminatory behavior from the outside, since readers vote with their dollars (pounds, euros, shillings, rand, etc.) and authors are voting more and more often by their migration to independence. Small presses, now, they can be flexible faster. There might be something to traditional in the small press arena. Great show. Thanks, as always!

    • Bryan

      Thanks, DC! Could be a waste of time to protest, but I wonder if there would be any way to get readers behind it in a way that would encourage sales.

  • Jacob Williams

    I just can’t will myself to care what traditional publishers think. They’re as relevant to me as Milton Bradley is to a mobile game developer.

    • Bryan

      I think that all trad pub folks may look like the Monopoly guy.

  • Nick Marsden

    5k/day: Rachel Aaron wrote a book called “2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love”, which explains this strategy. It’s all about planning ahead, prioritizing your time and avoiding writing boring scenes. Rachel says she writes 10k in 6 hrs, most days.

    I personally write 2000-3000 words in my 2-3 hours a day that I get, and I haven’t streamlined my process half as well as Rachel describes in her book. If I had 6 hours a day to write, I’d definitely be able to do 10k a day.

    • Chris Fox

      I’ll second this. Rachel’s book is great, and definitely taught me a lot. I highly recommend writing sprints, where you write full out for a set time (in my case 30 minutes). I wrote an app to track my words per hour, and have gradually increased to a level a lot of people find surprising. I hit 5k every day, no exceptions.

      • Bryan

        Still need to try out your app, Chris. What’s your typical length of time writing every day? Is it all sprints or with some jogging periods in there?

        • Chris Fox

          I do three 30 minute sprints a day, and am averaging ~6,000 words in that time. The first sprint is usually the fastest, with each one getting a bit slower after that. I run two in the morning and one in the evening.

          Monday was the first day I tried more. I wrote a new non-fiction book and cranked out 22,000 words in one day. That was across 10 sprints, with short breaks between sprints. I wouldn’t attempt to do that on a regular basis though, as it was completely draining.

          The app has made it a lot easier though, as I can track speed over time. I added projects, and will be pushing a build with a time goal this week. That will tell you that you need to write X number of words a day to finish your book by the target date =)

          • Bryan

            Nice, I’ll have to give sprinting a shot. And I’ll have to use your new-fangled app to do it :).

          • Chris Fox

            Cool! I’m very curious to hear what you think. I’ll send you a copy of the 5,000 Words Per Hour book too. That’s coming out in a few weeks with the app, and the people who’ve used it so far have gotten pretty good results =)

          • A D Davies

            I’ve just started going Pomodoro. My week-day writing time is restricted to 50 mins on the train to and (if not too busy) from work. Today I even got a half-hour in at lunch time. Nearly 4000 words as opposed to the usual 2000-2500. If I were full time I can see my productivity going through the roof. Just need to keep this up. Five days a week, let’s say 3000 words per day, 80,000 words per book, that’s… um… a book every 26 days, so with weekends, I should get a first draft within a month. Okay, see you with a new book in July 🙂

          • Chris Fox

            Woohoo! Go, Davies. I’m in a very similar setup. I write during my commute, and maximizing that time is the reason I’m cranking out so many books =)

          • A D Davies

            Yes, Chris, I’m thinking very much long-term, trying to be patient. I’m getting the volume out there, and then work a strategy. I write crime and thrillers so I’m concentrating on getting two series off the ground (one a female cop investigating grizzly crimes, the other a male PI series where he champions lost causes around the world) plus the odd stand-alone. I’m aiming to get three books a year out, which is no small task part time, but if I can keep up the pace, in 2-3 years I should have a healthy enough catalogue to start using free funnels and investing money in promotions and more time in social media. That should make up the 5 year plan that I’m hoping will see me go full time. That’s IF those strategies are still effective in 3 years time. Things move quickly in this industry. But whatever, getting the back-catalogue will be key no matter what the strategy.

          • Perry Constantine

            I use the Pomodoro method as well and wow, I’m really impressed by your output. Even when I’m on a sprint, I’m lucky if I can get 1000 words in a half-hour.

          • A D Davies

            I meant it was almost 4000 words overall, about 130 minutes of work in total, so about 1800 words an hour, less than 1000 for a half-hour. My 30 minutes was a full sprint, but my two 50 minute sessions were 1 x 20 min sprint, 5 mins break, then another 20 min sprint, then I had to pack up and get off the train. Same on my commute home. I’m still pretty happy with that, though. When my wife takes the kids out to give me 4 straight hours at home, I have frequently come in at under 2000 words, what with re-editing and procrastinating. I’d be very happy with 6000 words over 4 hours, which I’m aiming for this Sunday. Pomodoro all the way!

          • Perry Constantine

            Ah okay, that makes much more sense. I was thrown off by the half-hour lunch break.

          • Chris Fox

            Perry, is that because of typing speed?

          • Perry Constantine

            Don’t think so, I do type pretty fast. When tested, I’ve clocked about 100+ usable words a minute.

      • Nick Marsden

        Chris, how do I find your app? I’d like to try it.

        • Chris Fox

          Nick, it will be going live in a couple weeks, but if you want to beta test it I can send it sooner. Shoot me an email at chris@chrisfoxwrites.com =)

          Right now it’s iOS only, so iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

          • Nick Marsden

            Rats! I am an iOS denier. I use Surface and Windows Phone. Oh well, just one more app I won’t be able to get (Windows has a lot of those). I might just have to get an iPad so I can take advantage of tools. :/

          • Chris Fox

            I can’t blame you. I was anti-Apple for a lot of years, but got into it when the iPhone was still the only smartphone. I’ve stayed because the vast majority of the money is here. iOS users will pay for apps. Android users generally don’t, and there aren’t enough Windows users yet to support developers =/

    • Bryan

      I write about the same and I agree that Rachel’s book is awesome.

    • I really need to pick up that book one of these days…

  • A D Davies

    Regarding putting “for fans of…” in the header. My feeling
    is that you should only do that if mentioned either an editorial review or *regularly*
    by customers in their review. The problem with this is, if you write “for fans
    of Lee Child” or “if you like Harry Potter…” etc, when someone reads your book
    they are immediately comparing your work with those authors. If they are die hard
    Lee Child fans and you work is either not up to that standard, or not quite as
    similar to Jack Reacher as they were hoping, you are automatically attracting
    bad reviews. Now, I don’t believe we should write our blurbs with that sense of
    fear of bad reviews in the background, but it’s certainly something to think
    about. In other words, make sure the comparison is accurate rather than wishful
    thinking. One writer – I think it’s Nick Stephenson – recommends putting those
    names in a self-penned author Q&A, as well as any sub-genres you might want
    to feature in. This doesn’t feature at the top, of course, but it’s worth a
    mention.

    • Bryan

      Ah, good point. I know that Mark D. uses the comparisons in his ads. It usually works, but it leads to some backlash and comparisonitis as well.

  • A D Davies

    Re discrimination of indie publishers.

    One of the big issues we indies face is the dearth of crap out there. I know, I know, trad publishers put out their fair share of crap, but they know how to market it. Yet, as little as 9-10 years ago, indie publishing was 99% crap. Now it’s probably 75% crap (the content, not just the covers and editing), with around 20% *almost* as good as the top trad-published authors (ie, needs a bit of polish), and perhaps 5% able to compete directly alongside.

    Note: that’s just my own experience and opinion with reading a lot, not a scientific or wide-ranging poll — of the indie books I download, free and paid, I delete at least 75% of them within five minutes of commencing my read, compared with around 5% of the trad-pubished purchases. So while the quality is certainly on the rise, even as an indie myself, I have to admit there is a ton of crap still floating around out there.

    Now, a lot of my favourite authors are trad published – Harlan Coben, John Connolly, Michael Connelly, David Baldacci – but I also read Joanna’s books and Nick Stephenson’s, and they’re up there on a par. I hope my own are approaching that level, but realistically I suspect I’m somewhere in that 20% – although I do keep striving for greatness.

    This is probably one reason why it’s hard for indies to get into the big conferences and contests, etc. Yes, there is that informed wisdom that says we’re all crap, and it’s been repeated so often it’s now considered a rule, despite evidence to the contrary. But let’s say those 75%-20%-5% figures I pulled out of the air are accurate. While enjoyment of writing is subjective to a degree, when you get to the worst work out there, you can tell within a couple of pages that the prose is clunky and that it hasn’t been edited, so even if it has a plot as rich as the Godfather, if the Godfather (movie) was badly acted, would it be a classic? What if 50% or even 75% of the entries you get to a contest are of that standard? How many man-hours will it take to wade through the dregs when you have established authors entering alongside? You get something from an agent or publisher, you know certain standards are in place. Direct from an author? Not so much.

    Now, is it fair that Joanna and Nick are excluded because of their indie status? No. But there needs to be some sort of quality control to filter out the unedited wannabes so the people who run these things are not snowed under to a degree that they can barely function. Perhaps entry requirements could be ascertained via sales figures, or ranking, or recognised bestseller lists? Mark Dawson would certainly qualify that way, too, and folk like Hugh Howey.

    So, yes, it’s discriminatory to take a label such as “indie” or “self-published” and just assume it’s crap, and shove us all to one side. But pragmatically-speaking, there needs to be some cut off. Any campaign needs to push the cut-off line back to allow that 5% (or whatever the actual figure is) admission to the top table so they can be heard alongside their peers; some sort of filter that keeps out those who typify the indie stereotype, and lets through those who take their careers seriously and achieve a certain level of quality.

    (apologies – that went on a bit. Hope it wasn’t too ranty)

    • Bryan

      No, it’s a great series of points, A.D., and I think the 75% crap assessment may be accurate. Hard to know without some data.

  • Darren Sapp

    They perpetuate an inaccurate perception of indies. For example, I’ve submitted my
    military thriller, Fire on the Flight Deck, to several targeted museums. The
    largest one said they don’t accept self-published works because “they have too
    many typos.” I wanted to point them to one of those websites that shows
    typos/mistakes in traditionally published bestsellers and classics. I held my
    tongue and chose to say, “Feel free to pass it on to someone that will enjoy it
    and ask them what they think.” I feel the quality will speak for itself on that
    work and the vast majority of indie works over time. For now, we can rest
    assured that traditional publishing will do nothing to correct the myth that all
    indie work is poor quality.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, we definitely need to work harder to get rid of those stereotypes. I’ve seen plenty of trad pub books with tons of typos :).

      • My book Attention! from Wiley… When I got it back from the “professional” editing team at Wiley my wife found over 65 grammatical errors and typos. She basically edited it again. Maybe I just had a poor experience. That was the last book I’d traditionally publish that’s for sure.

        • Darren Sapp

          And the beauty of eBooks and createspace? I have one typo in mine that my editor caught but I failed to fix (the word “screw” instead of “crew.” All fixed and new files uploaded. Can’t do that when trad pub prints a large batch.

    • Their loss, that’s what I say.

  • There’s discrimination and bias in any kind of contest or achievement award. I prefer not to allow myself to fall into victim status, and choose to simply ignore the contests. We’re in the business of writing, meaning that our goal is the freedom that indie writing provides us. To lose sleep over some meaningless award, which will not put an extra dime in our pockets, is to sacrifice a bit of that freedom. The day my readers ask which awards I’ve won before they buy next book is the day I’ll concern myself. Let’s sell our books and let the other guys wear their rented tuxedos to the award cermonies.

    • Bryan

      Haha, this is perfect: “The day my readers ask which awards I’ve won before they buy next book is the day I’ll concern myself.”

      Good point about the victim status, Ron. Thanks for the comment.

  • Question of the Week – Yes, they is discrimination, buuuuuut…

    Like it or not, the fact that there are no gatekeepers means that those who hold competitions, own bookstores, and accept books for review would have to wade through a lot MORE crap just to find the good stuff. The odds are simply better with a traditionally published book, although it’s no guarantee that that book won’t be crap or even crappier than many indie books.

    I also think that those who’ve made it through the Trad process aren’t as likely to submit their books to contests, because they are less likely to assume their book is amazing; at least one agent and editor has already brought them down a few notches during the publication process. This limits the amount of books they have to wade through, as well, and the ones that are left are more likely to be worth reading.

    Indies (myself included) need more writing education, feedback, and more honest editors, then all this great marketing advice will REALLY help.

  • Jacob Williams

    Most authors will be self published indie authors in the future. We’ve probably already hit that point. It’ll be like distinguishing someone as an indie blogger to call them a self published or indie author.

    • Bryan

      We’re the trend setters!

  • Jacob Williams

    Google Play’s author story: I think Google will start returning search results for content that’s inside Google Play books. I suspect that’s a motivating factor for them to clean house. They’re mission is to index the world’s information. Not just the information that’s on the web. They’ve recently started returning results for content that’s inside apps. Attached is an example.

    • Bryan

      I-i-interesting.

  • Perry Constantine

    Jim’s got a point about the use of the word discrimination. As someone else said in the comments, discriminatory practices is probably a better term for it.

    As for the “for fans of” thing in the blurb, as Jim correctly pointed out, you can’t put it in the title or subtitle. You also can’t put it in the keywords. You can put it in the blurb, but I’ve heard from many that it might not be the best idea. To kind of get around it, I’ve discussed my influences for the book in question in the “From The Author” section that you can add in Author Central.

    • Bryan

      Good idea to put it in the From The Author section.

  • Amar Vyas

    I get a strange look from people whenever I tell them that I self published my book. It’s almost as if they are saying that “Maybe he is not good enough as a writer, so his book never got accepted by the major publishers.” Newspapers rarely review books by indies, nor will you see a self published book in bookstores that easily. So in a way, it is sanctioned discrimination, but let us talk sales figures and monthly royalty income, then let us ask again: who is really getting discriminated?

    • Bryan

      Haha, great point :).

  • QotW: I think there’s a certain level of discrimination toward indies. Yes, there are a lot of bad indie books out there, just as there are a lot of bad trad books out there. I think all this discrimination stems from a certain level of jealousy toward the fact that so many average joes out there rose to the top without the help of a corporate backing. Traditional publishers know that their days are numbered and are blaming it on the indies who have ended up becoming more successful than many traditional authors.