Episode 62 – MacGuffin, Apple Royalties, and the 10k Book Design

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Jim and Bryan topped Babe Ruth and Roger Maris this week by smacking number 62 right out of the park! After Bryan invited listeners to his Ted Head Games contest, the silver sluggers took on tips about profitability, internal defense, and series resurrection. The news included stories on MacGuffin, Nielsen’s ebook statistics, Apple’s possible switch to 85 percent royalties, the $10,000 self-published book design, and attitudes toward younger writers. This Week’s Question of the Week: If you could meet with the author who spent $33,000 self-publishing (Dr. Nancy Saltzman) what would you say and why?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • How to enter Bryan’s $100-$400 contest
  • What questions you should ask to ensure profitability
  • How to defeat your inner perfectionist, people pleaser, and procrastinator
  • Three ways Lindsay Buroker pumped on sales on an old series
  • Why MacGuffin could change how authors write
  • The pointlessness of Nielsen statistics
  • How Apple might recruit new authors to the iBooks platform
  • The way one author racked up a $33,000 self-publishing bill
  • Why older authors tend to look down on younger authors
Question of the Week: If you could meet with the author who spent $33,000 self-publishing (Dr. Nancy Saltzman) what would you say and why?

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  • Lavie Margolin

    Just look at the cost of a Blue Ink review: http://www.blueinkreview.com/purchase/

    • Bryan

      That review better be written in gold!

    • Highway robbery!
      I had a look at the books that used these services. Some of them have been on sale for over a year and don’t even have an Amazon ranking (does this mean they never sold any copies?). I saw one that doesn’t even have an ebook version available. Only paperback. This sounds like another classic case of unknowing authors being preyed upon by scammy services.

      • Bryan

        Huh. Well, maybe the paperbacks were sold and the ebooks weren’t?

  • If I met the author who spent $33k I would say “I’m sorry for your loss.”

    The comments on her blog post said enough of what I could say about how she overpaid for a book that wouldn’t sell many copies anyway.

    The $18k she spent should be pulled from that big number. It was stock that she got back when she sold her books. Cost of money aside, it was a better deal to print en mass than to use CS if you have the money and sell most of your books in person or on your web site.

    She’s also a professional speaker, so just having an extremely professional looking book might really work well for her, whether she sells any or not.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, you’re right about pulling the 18k out.

  • Amelia Smith

    I once had a bit of an exchange with an author who over-spent on her self-published book. She’d shared her publishing budget in one of the book’s chapters, and I wrote a review of the book which included my opinion that she’d spent too much and shouldn’t recommend that others follow that path. She did the bad thing and responded to my not-even-all-that-damning 3* review, and she and a sock puppet had a nice little ego-defending, which I decided to stay out of. So, if I encountered this author IRL, I’d probably just bow out of the conversation or say, “Come talk to me if you want to spend less on your next book!” Then (if she did) I would point her to some of the many resources out there, podcasts, forums, how-to books, websites, etc.

    • Bryan

      Good of you to stay out of it. It’s funny when the author becomes the troll, huh?

    • Amelia Smith

      OK, I’m burying this in the comments a bit, but here’s my mean ol’ review. This author seems to have gotten what she wanted by spending more than I consider sensible, but she is also obviously in a higher income bracket than I am and used her book to promote her speaking and consulting business. So, her goals were different from mine. Also, I am pretty stoked to see that my review was voted the most helpful critical review! http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R11QXTKA4CQCEA/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B006J7BZ8E#R11QXTKA4CQCEA

  • Crissy Moss

    “What the hell were you thinking?”

    Yep, that about sums it up. It sounds like a vanity project more then anything. She had the money, she spent it, and the price tag didn’t matter. I doubt people telling her how much she was scammed would change her opinion. She got what she wanted.

    To the website publishing this trite I would say “why aren’t you getting some real posts about the reality of self publishing instead of these outrageous ones?” but we already know that answer, right? Its called click bait for a reason.

    • Bryan

      Yes, we do know the answer :).

  • Carolyn Jewel

    Nielsen bookscan is not the same as the TV. Bookscan reports 66-80% of all books sales. There are a couple of large accounts that don’t report to bookscan and the tend to underreport certain genres such as romance because those genres sell well in non-bookscan vendors and because it is print oriented. Amazon reports your bookscan numbers.

    Carolyn Jewel

    • Bryan

      But, Amazon doesn’t report ebooks, just print. Right?

      • Carolyn Jewel

        What I meant was that on author sales pages Amazon will show authors their bookscan numbers if the author’s books are tracked by Bookscan. This is mostly only useful to authors who have been trad Pubbed. The point being that bookscan is THE major source of sales data for trad publishers. A trad pubbed author will live and die by Bookscan numbers. Jim was incorrect in dismissing the importance of bookscan– because he was unaware that neilson bookscan is not at all related to the TV measuring except by company.

  • Spider McGee

    What would I say?

    Look, it’s a damn shame that you spent $10,000 for your interior design…if you do another one, I’ll do it for $5,000. I’m just a hell of a guy.

    • Bryan

      What a guy!

  • Connie B. Dowell

    Been catching up on episodes lately. All very informative.

    To the author who spent $33,000 I’d say I hope you enjoyed it, because that is what that kind of investment in a memoir is, enjoyment, maybe personal fulfillment, but not business. I cannot imagine spending that kind of money on a book and hoping to recover that. Frankly, before I left a regular, outside-of-the home job (and this was only last year) that was more than I made in a year.

    Also, regarding the MacGuffin news story, I signed up for it and did some poking around and it doesn’t seem like a sales platform. All stories appear to be free. So I thought this is a lead generation platform, yet I couldn’t find links to author’s websites, other works outside of MacGuffin, etc. Also, some of the language on the site seems to indicate that they’re catering to writers, not readers (i.e. things like “read other author’s stories”). Now, it’s still in beta, so it might change a great deal. Wondering if anyone else had the same impression or something different.

    Finally in this super long comment, there are interesting things about 62! The Wikipedia page lists many of them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/62_%28number%29 In fact, there is something mathematically interesting about every number, and if we find an uninteresting number, it automatically becomes interesting because it is the first. There’s something to celebrate in every episode.

    • Bryan

      Ooh, I like that number Wiki. I’ll have to refer to that for future eps.

      Thanks for checking out MacGuffin. And for the kind words :).

  • I did a little sleuthing here, and this is my overall assessment of this $33k book:

    After checking out the cover and interior of her book ( http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Survivor-Through-Uncharted-Tragedy/dp/0615658199 ) the only reasoning I can see why it might cost her $10,000 for cover/interior design might be because of the font licenses. Some fonts can be ridiculously expensive. Sometimes you have to purchase entire font families to be allowed to use them commercially. And those can cost over $2,000! It’s crazy, I know. But if the font licenses wasn’t an issue, then she definitely got scammed.

    The book’s (paperback) interior is very plain. No special illustrations based on the Amazon sample, no special typefaces, dropcaps, nothing. The header is extremely distracting to the eye being offset like that. It looks very amateur.

    I checked out her cover designer’s website, according to what it said in the book’s interior: (http://tothepointpublications.com). The website itself is very unappealing and boring. They don’t list their prices for their services (which is an instant red flag that they are probably charging an insane amount if they have to hide their prices). Ironically, most of their clients seem to be charity/nonprofit and government organizations. Their online ‘portfolio’ which is hosted on a FLICKR site (tacky IMO for a company that’s supposedly ‘professional’ enough to charge $10,000 for book covers) is horrendous (https://www.flickr.com/photos/57120653@N03/). Very few pictures that showcase terrible graphic design. They should be ashamed.

    WoWo Press is the name of her own company (a.k.a Nancy Saltzman Enterprises, LLC).

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the sleuthing, Marie!

  • Clare Lydon

    I’d say, “So, Nancy, cup of coffee? And I was also wondering, have you done your will yet?” ;0)

    And yes, I agree with everything you said on the show – astounding.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Bryan

      Bahaha. Thanks, Clare :).

  • Sheenah Freitas

    In response to the question of the week: I don’t think I would say anything. The only thing to do would be to sigh and shake my head. Unless the author was telling me she was about to spend $33K, then I would point her in a much cheaper direction.

    In regards to the age discrimination: I started poking around the book industry when I was 19 and made my first foray into the self-publishing world at 20. I’ve seen this very strange age gap since then. Most of my author friends are much older because at the start of the self-publishing industry, a lot of authors started doing this because they were about to retire and they had always wanted to write a book.

    I also have people look at my icon or they see a picture of me and they’ve made automatic assumptions of me (I must be a precocious teen, I must write romance, I must write silly YA books that follow trends). From the beginning, I’ve made a point to attend local events and my dad likes to tag along. When people see him next to me, they look at the book and the name on the book and they start talking to HIM because they think he’s the author! When he corrects them, they look surprised. Just last week I was at a local event, and a woman asked me my age and when I told her, her eyes widened and she said, “You’re too young!”

    • Bryan

      I hear you on the ageism point, Sheenah. I’ve been blessed with a youthful appearance, but it can be strange at conferences.

  • Amar Vyas

    I would congratulate the author. Look at the publicity she is getting! I had never heard about her and probably there are many other people like me. The podcast episode and question of the week resulted in me searching more about her, visiting her book page etc. good ROI for her I think if visibility was her end goal. Coming to her ‘solution provider’ it her her money, if she got the returns that she wanted, good for her.

    • Bryan

      You’re right, Amar. It’s all about the ROI, not the spend.

  • Jacob Williams

    I think I nailed the prediction I made two weeks ago: That google would give relevance to and return search results for terms inside books on google play.

    Recall my prediction months ago that Amazon will start ranking based on retention. I also believe Amazon will share this data with the author. It is inevitable. Ebooks are webpages. Anyone who balks at it belongs in the same camp as traditional publishers.

    • Bryan

      Nailed it.

  • Eddie Jakes

    I was reading the article about the $33,000 book. I think there are some key things that weren’t touched on the podcast. Even though she put up a lot of money, she DID sell quite a few copies of the paperbacks she had printed (Even sold some TO Amazon apparently). So while she did put a lot of money into this she might not have had to, she CLEARLY had a business plan and strategy. The Book is basically her vehicle for selling her blog and public appearances. Plus she did all of this BEFORE services like Createspace we’re available and print-on-demand services were outrageously priced. She is now using Createspace to print future copies. I’m actually surprised that Jim isn’t fully behind her because it sounds like something he’d be more into. The only thing I would ask her is: “Are you happy?”

    • Bryan

      Good points, Eddie.

  • Jacob Williams

    I called it! Kindle Unlimited moving to pay per page read! https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A156OS90J7RDN

    • Bryan

      Rock star.

  • Chris Syme

    I think I’d ask, “Where did you get that kind of money?” I’d be interested to know if the author had an investor that funded the spend. Also, this is really a tough subject because I feel like authors are getting sucked into this kind of stuff all the time. This is another vivid reminder that many authors do not think like business people. And sometimes it’s easier to just spend money than to do the hard work of promoting your book like a business owner.

    • Bryan

      Great points, Chris!