Episode 93 – BookBub vs. Facebook, Pottermore, and Author Solutions

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Question of the Week: Why do you think Penguin sold Author Solutions? Will the Author Solutions’ new owner expand or retract the company’s reach and why?

The lab segment has returned! J. Thorn dropped by the show to compare his recent results between a successful Facebook ad campaign and a BookBub for his box set. Check out the infographic on our website! After giving props to their latest patron Anthony A. Kerr and his book The Dragon Rustler ( http://bit.ly/dragrust ), Jim and Bryan took on tips about book preview embedding, outsourcing, and idea generation. The Top 5 News included stories on more Amazon title culling, the “secret sauce” of marketing, Pottermore’s big change, reactive editorial selections, and the sale of Author Solutions. This Week’s Question of the Week: “Why do you think Penguin sold Author Solutions? Will the Author Solutions’ new owner expand or retract the company’s reach and why?”
Sell More Books Show
What You’ll Learn:
  • How J. Thorn’s Facebook ad campaign compared to his BookBub
  • How to give your blog visitors an attractive preview of your book
  • What you can do to outsource common stressful author tasks
  • Where you can generate some ideas for your next book
  • Why Jim was asked to change the title for one of his books
  • What the real “secret” to book marketing is
  • Why Pottermore may have made a major mistake
  • The flaws in trad pub’s editorial decision-making process
  • Why there isn’t much to celebrate about Author Solutions’ major change
Question of the Week: Why do you think Penguin sold Author Solutions? Will the Author Solutions’ new owner expand or retract the company’s reach and why?

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  • Hey Bryan and Jim. Loved the lab segment with J. Thorn. This kind of information is so helpful for making informed business decision without making so many mistakes, ultimately saving in the author time and money. Please keep these coming. And thanks so much for the shout out.

    As a side note, Here’s the origin of the word Sissy according to http://www.etymonline.com/
    sissy (n.) 1846, “sister,” extended form of sis (q.v.). Meaning “effeminate man” is recorded from 1887; the adjective in this sense is from 1891. Related: Sissiness.Sissy bar is recorded from 1969

    • Glad it helped! I’d be happy to answer questions here ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Bryan

      I love etymology! Thanks, Anthony.

      • Great episode. But, Bryan, I think you put an extra syllable in “Sisyphean.”

  • Jim, How TO is a category. Amazon probably would prefer Learn To. I doubt anyone will drop the old title though.

    • Bryan

      Smell is the reason I make all of my publishing decisions too.

  • Kirsten Oliphant

    Great episode! I think that Jim should change the name of his book to: How to Write a Bestseller on Kindle and Have Amazon Remove It for FREE!

    • Bryan

      Hahaha. Nice.

  • Spider McGee

    Jim should rename his book The Sell More Books Show Book. Screw those guys.

    • Bryan

      You tell ’em, Spider!

      • Spider McGee

        I feel you’ve just made a Goodfellas reference.

    • therealcromar

      No joke, Bryan and Jim need to sell a book on selling more books tied to the Sell More Books Show and call it The Sell More Books Show Book.

      • Bryan

        And then we’ll do a show about that book!

        The Sell More Books Show Book Show.

  • Hi Bryan and Jim, I got caught with the keywords problem too (on 2 x fiction books), this is a summary of the email that I received when I didn’t alter the keywords:

    We are writing to you regarding the following book(s): … please remove any reference to Free books, Best seller or Kindle from your keywords) *title name: The Secret Bunker Trilogy: Part Three: Regeneration (ASIN:B00R4VQ2TG) ( please remove any reference to Free books, Best seller or Kindle from your keywords) … We previously requested that you remove the misleading search keywords from all of your catalogโ€™s affected books and re-submit the book(s) for review. It appears that the required updates have not been made. Consequently, weโ€™ve removed the book(s) listed above from Amazon.

    The reason I didn’t alter the keywords was because, like Jim, I didn’t know what I’d done wrong.

    When they removed my books, I used a technique that I learned in this article – I emailed Jeff Bezos directly: http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-customer-service-and-jeff-bezos-emails-2013-10

    When you do that, you get a direct response from a senior adviser.

    I had a phone call with a lady at Amazon and expressed my views about this policy and the vague email that I’d received.

    I told them that:

    1) The original email was like a game of ‘guess what I’m thinking’, I didn’t know how I’d violated their policies and therefore couldn’t take the appropriate action
    2) They’d have been better off just telling me what I’d done wrong so I could put it right – I’m an honest author who wants to abide by the rules
    3) This is no way to treat legitimate authors – how can we trust a platform which remo books like a toddler having a tantrum? This is our livelihood!

    Whether this will do any good in the long run, we’ll have to wait and see ๐Ÿ™‚

    But I guess if more authors complain when this happens, it’ll encourage Amazon to change their approach in the long run.

    Love the show guys, thanks very much for all the work you put into it, Paul

    PS It turned out the problem was in my list of keywords, I’d used ‘free book’ or something like that. Trouble was, it was a permafree book, so I’m not sure how that’s misleading ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the info and context, Paul!

    • But the email told you to check your keywords for those words, which were, in fact, in your book’s keywords.

  • Scott Nelson

    I think you missed an issue on the Pottermore news.
    Amazon could make as much getting 10% off Harry Potter as they could getting 30% off any other series. But the same leverage that could make that royalty deal could easily get Rowling that crucial customer data too.
    What happened was that Pottermore saturated their market based on their business model and stopped growing.
    In the publishing world Pottermore has a capped market, children. Children grow up and stop being their customers. Actually their parents don’t have to by for younger children anymore.
    The failure was that Pottermore didn’t become that Mythical Beast Jim keeps hunting for, a competitor to Amazon.
    Pottermore would have had to become a traditional bookseller to do that and it wasn’t part of their business model.

    Scott Nelson

  • Spider McGee

    Pottermore wasn’t an open-ended thing. I don’t know what they sold besides Harry Potter books, but there are only so many of those. The thing that might have worked, to a larger degree, would be to have opened it up to new writers, and sell those works exclusively on Pottermore. This would never happen, of course, because the entire fabric of J.K. Rowling’s universe would unravel, and it would all have ended up in Snape/Dumbledore slash fiction and dragon porn. It always ends in dragon porn.

  • Another great and informative show guys. This is a bit off topic in regards to the question. What is the widget y’all were discussing in the tips section of the show? Thanks.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Alison! We were discussing how you can now embed Amazon book descriptions. I believe you can find it on each Amazon sales page.

      • Thank you! I just hopped on my sale pages and saw it. Had no idea this was available. You guys rock!

        • It’s not too bad… ๐Ÿ™‚

          You have to play around with the height and width to get it to look right on your website, but it wasn’t too much trouble.

          It did remind me that I have to update my lame copy. http://thefitink.com/book/man-on-top/

          • Bryan

            UPDATE YOUR LAME COPY! ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Bryan

          We do what we can :).

  • At a guess, I’d say the word they’re complaining about in Jim’s title is “books”. They mentioned in their email to me that I shouldn’t use book, novel, series, etc.

    I wouldn’t mind if it was universal, but they seem to pick authors at random. My co-author hasn’t had any of the same issue of using free, kindle, etc.

  • Joe Wocoski

    Bryn & Jim loved the show thank you for mentioning my prediction. I have had similar misunderstandings with amazon. I suggest that Jim contact amazon and get a clarification on why they removed his book. Usually they respond with the specific offence and then you can respond with your justification. Then they say oh no problem. But I will warn you whenever you change your book price in kdp they will do it again, and then you send them your justification again. It appears to be an automated logarithm and they have to many different people trying to do the same thing, so you never seem to get the same response. I hope this helps you. IBCNU Joe Wocoski

  • In an industry that is rapidly falling to pieces, I don’t think Penguin could afford the bad press of keeping Author Solutions on their books.

    I also loved the Lab segment. Keep them coming!

  • Crissy Moss

    Penguin bough AS for $116 million.

    I find it interesting that they aren’t disclosing how much they sold it for, but it looks like Najafi is in the habit of buying failing businesses: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/69062-author-solutions-sold-to-private-equity-firm.html

    More then likely the news is getting out that AS is horrible, and that it is much, MUCH, easier to just go self publish your ebook and/or get a paperback through Create Space for a lot less money, AND keep all your rights. With that in place who the hell would go through AS? Only the uneducated.

    The best way to kill of AS was always educating the unwary, and I think people like Gaughran and the two of you have done a fantastic job of educating the masses.

    • Bryan

      Great points, Crissy. And thanks for the kind words :).

  • therealcromar

    QOTW: I think Penguin determined that Author Solutions’s toxic reputation wasn’t worth keeping around or repairing. The new owners will double down on the scam. Nobody would buy that “property” for any legitimate reason, not now.