Beyond the Words
A Look at the Business Side of Writing
Beyond the Words

Who Am I?

A full-time webmistress by day, Jamie DeBree writes steamy, action-packed romantic suspense late into the night. She resides in Billings, MT with her husband and two over-sized lap dogs.
Brazen Snake Books

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Recent Entries

  1. Business Administration in 2014
    Wednesday, February 05, 2014
  2. Review for 2013
    Friday, December 13, 2013
  3. The Valley of the Middle
    Thursday, July 18, 2013
  4. Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?
    Tuesday, March 19, 2013
  5. My Thoughts on Predictions
    Saturday, January 05, 2013
  6. Business Lessons for 2012 and Looking Forward
    Tuesday, December 04, 2012
  7. Whoa There! Reining Myself In.
    Thursday, September 06, 2012
  8. Understanding Book Lending and LendInk
    Friday, August 03, 2012
  9. Breaking Even
    Thursday, June 28, 2012
  10. The Long Haul
    Thursday, May 17, 2012


April 2014

Business Administration in 2014

It's been a busy couple of months since I last posted here, with a lot of thinking, waffling and soul-searching. Probably not much different than what other authors do, really. And no, I didn't forget the 2014 Business Plan I promised to post. I wrote it all out, let it sit for awhile, and promptly deleted it.

Why? Because it felt too ambitious. It wasn't even that much, really, but it was enough to overwhelm me and motivate me to do...absolutely nothing.

See, the problem with work's work. And I'm lazy, and I work all day at the day job (which I really don't mind, but it is...well, work), so when I get home to face this insanely huge mountain of things that still need to be done for the publishing side of my writing business, I sort of just stare at it like the proverbial deer in the headlights, and end up doing nothing. At that point, my brain's already tired from working, and while writing itself is fun even on its worst days, the whole business admin side of the business is just...more work. 

Yes, I'm very much aware that there are authors out there working full-time, raising kids and also spending full-time hours on their writing business. And they'll probably do very well. But for me, I never saw the point in working myself to the bone and missing out on "life" on the gamble that someday I'll have more time. Because what if I don't? Accidents happen, health problems happen, "life" happens, and I just don't want to be one of those people who misses things now because I'm always working. 

That, and my brain needs breaks. And variety. And my body needs to not sit for hours and hours on end. I want to live to a ripe old age and be healthy doing it, and that whole sitting for hours at a time thing (which I already do at the day job, though I try to get up every few hours) is really not conducive to the long, healthy life goal. 

All that said, I still really like owning my own micro-press. Seeing my business name on the spine of my books, and seeing my logo on my web sites - I'm proud of that. And owning a business of any size means a certain amount of administration really needs to be kept up on a regular basis. There's a certain amount of basic promotion I should be doing as well...easy, simple things that really could help a lot with both current and future sales. And there's the bookkeeping that I let go far, far too long, making spring tax time this huge, overreaching thing that it just doesn't need to be.

In any case, rather than make this mountainous list of things I need to get done for the year and then go do something more fun instead, I'm taking a different tack in light of my lazy, feet-dragging tendencies. To start with, I'm simply scheduling "office hours" four nights a week, in my home office (ie, not on the couch), for a specific and finite amount of time - an hour and a half. During that time, I'll be focusing solely on book business stuff. Formatting, cover art, giveaways, newsletters, the occasional blog post (like this one), review requests, distribution...whatever strikes my fancy and needs to be done on any given day.  I will eventually list and schedule out the things that need to be done, because I am, at my very core, a lover of organization, but starting out this way just allows my mind to really realize just how much of the business side of writing I can get done in a relatively small window, without giving up those "fun" activities that I prefer doing. Once I internalize that, seeing the tasks in lists and project management apps won't be so overwhelming.

That's how I trained myself to write in small increments of time, and I think it will work for this as well. There's a lot of catching up to do, but once that happens, I dare say things will be far less overwhelming simply because I'm keeping up with them as I go, rather than procrastinating.

Funny how that works, eh?

My new office hours are Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 11:30pm - 1am. Unconventional, but after any good TV, the kitchen is clean, the dogs are settling in for bed, and hubby's either watching videos or reading, so the house is relatively quiet and no one needs me for anything. My writing is done by then, and I've had ample time at that point to wind down from the day job and get a few "fun things" in before I settle down to work.

Honestly, I'm less anxious about everything that needs to be done (regardless of whether I type it out or not, it's still lurking in the back of my head - can't really just escape it) just knowing that I have a plan to get everything done and caught up.

We'll see how it goes...but even spending a lot of time just downloading/installing the proper programs on the office computer this week, I've still accomplished more business items than normal. So I'm optimistic...
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Review for 2013

I just deleted the whole long, involved, analytical post I wrote for this, because I was annoying *myself* with it. And because putting so much thought into the past year today actually sidetracked my mental capacity to delve into my fiction writing session, which I'm now skipping - and shouldn't be, because I'm on deadline, but my head is now stuck in this business/publishing crap which is completely unproductive as far as meeting my deadline goes. So quick post to get everything out of my head, and then back to fiction.

My sales bullet points from the past year (no, I don't have exact numbers - bad bookkeeper, remember?):

- Selling okay (Jan)
- Sales start to drop
- Raise prices and do a free promo (huh?!)
- Sales grind to nearly nothing
- Sales pick up briefly
- Sales back at nearly nothing for December

Releases for the year:

Romantic Suspense - 5 titles (one more coming before Jan. 1)
Erotic romance -  4 titles (ditto above)
Horror/thriller - 3 titles (ditto above)
Audiobooks (new this year) - 3 titles (4th on the way...before Jan. 1?)

Overall satisfaction with books written/published: Good.

Overall satisfaction with publishing/sales: Not good.

Planning for next year: On hold while I finish my obligations for this year.

And that's my 2013 in a nutshell. After I get these last three stories done and published, I'll figure out what the heck I'm going to do for next year. Stay tuned (if you're interested, anyways)...

The Valley of the Middle

When I'm writing, the first part of my drafts generally clip along at a pretty good pace. The characters are feeding me their story, tension is rising, plots are escalating - it's fun and exhilarating.

Then I hit the middle. Like a frickin' brick wall. Or not, actually...more like a deep mud pit. I can still move forward, but it's seriously hard work and extremely slow going. And sometimes I really have no idea how I'm going to ever escape the thick sludge my characters have dragged me into.

Needless to say, I'm not a fan of draft middles, and the only reason I drag my sorry fingers through them is because when I get close to the end, the sludge melts away and it's a happy mad dash to the big finale. I love that part. And I can count on that every single time. Well, aside from a couple of recent drafts, but we'll get to that a little later. 

Unfortunately, for the last few months, that's sort of how I've felt with the publishing aspect of this writing gig. I feel like I'm slogging through thick, black sludge, with no solid ground on the horizon. I see ropes and branches laying there and assume that if I could just grab one or two and pull, I could help myself out of the pit. But every time I grab for one, I end up letting it slip through my fingers, and I'm slogging through the muck again. 

I'm only sort of whining here - and I'm not asking for sympathy or pity. Note that I *let* those helping branches and ropes slip through my wasn't like they shook me off or anything. Quite frankly, I've failed at follow-through more often than not on things that I know would probably help sales, and that's a big part of my problem. So what am I not doing that I probably should be? Here's a short list:

- Newsletters
- More interaction on my author pages
- Review requests
- A more constant/consistent presence on social media
- Publishing on a consistent, frequent schedule
- Embracing the image-heavy digital culture

Note that I *know* all of these things would help...and I am trying to work on them here and there. My main issues are a lack of motivation and a serious case of spreading myself too thin - the latter referring more to publication times and my working on several drafts at once rather than one at a time. It's the way I've worked for a long time, but it basically means that instead of having a book ready every 4-8 weeks, I have four books ready every 6 months or so. That doesn't make for a nice, steady publication schedule, especially when many of the stories are in different genres.

It doesn't help either that I don't write in trendy or popular genres, and due to my relatively low sales overall, I have to assume that for some reason, my writing isn't connecting with a majority of readers (obviously it's connecting to some, because my books do sell fairly steadily, normally and I have decent review ratings on average).  Whether it's my characters, my style or my storytelling, it's lacking that "tell all your friends about this" magic. I'm reasonably certain that my grammar and technical skills are up to par, but even that could be a problem if it makes the writing too stale/boring to read. Hard to tell, really - all of these are completely subjective things. The authors who have this just seem to "have it"'s not like they can tell us what it is - they don't know either.

Just because I'm a glutton for punishment, I both raised prices this month, and put half of my books into a free/discount promotion on Smashwords at the same time. I figured the free thing was going to kill sales anyway (and I always do a free download day on July 4th in my own store), so I decided to just do everything all at once. Why raise prices? Call it an experiment. I'm already only selling a few copies of each title every month, with the occasional title that sells several. If I can maintain that slow, low level of sales at a slightly higher price point, why not make a little more? That gives me more room to do monthly specials and deals in my own web store too - special discounts only for...say, newsletter subscribers and such. For some of my books, the price hike just brought my stories more in line with others in the same genre/length range. For others it was a nominal raise of a few cents to make the pricing more "standard" alongside other books on the shelf. 

Believe it or not, even with sales down, free books flying off the shelves and the price hike, books are still selling this month. Not nearly as many as normal, but there are sales, by golly. So I think there's hope for the future, I think I'm just really impatient with the whole thing - I want the whole process of building this business to go faster, instead of slogging along for the moment.

Just like being in the middle of a draft.

In any case, the number one thing I'm working on (and continuing to work on) is making my writing better. Analyzing my use of description. Working on my character arcs. Watching for weak plots. Trying new things. Working only on stuff I'm excited about (ie, no, I'm still not jumping onto trendy bandwagons).

In addition, I'm also going to try switching up my working method a bit. Instead of working several drafts at once, I'm going to do my best to focus on just one or two at a time until they're done. I can't stick with just one genre, because that would be boring for me, but I can try to give my publishing schedule more consistency.

I'm also getting my newsletters fired up again, using a very simple style so they're easier to deal with and take less time to create. There will be monthly discounts for books in the BSB store as well, and subscriber only specials.

More interaction on the author social media accounts will be slow going, but I'll work on it. With any luck, it will involve photos, though not to the extent many people use them, because that just isn't me, and it never will be. And that's okay.

But most importantly, I think I just need to accept that like every draft, this is a part of the business that I just have to keep slogging through, pushing forward even though it pretty much sucks. I mean, there isn't any going backwards - that would just be stupid. And staying in one place would mean drowning in mud, which just sounds really gross and uncomfortable. So...forward it is.

On the bright side, mud baths are supposed to be really good for the skin. So when I eventually do get through this stupid pit, I should be looking like a million bucks. It would be awesome if I were making that much too...
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Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?

By now you've heard about the demise of Google Reader coming July 1st (and probably heard my wailing along with thousands of other anguished souls). In exploring my options for a new place to park my feeds, I was disheartened that the most popular are all laid out in a more magazine-style format, where text takes a back seat to big, colorful pictures and offline reading seems illusive as the jackalope.

Then I got the new Pinterest layout, and the pictures are bigger/take up more space, but it's an image sharing site, so that didn't surprise me in the least. I'm not there often - too much busy-ness for my brain, but it's fun sometimes.

Then I checked out the new Facebook news feed...and oh look! Bigger pictures, more prominently displayed. It's actually so close to the Google + layout that if the colors were closer, you'd risk forgetting which site you're on altogether.

This is all very disconcerting for me. I've always been a more text-based person. Sure, pictures are pretty and all, but words are more my thing. Somehow it seems like society as a whole is writing less, reading less, turning to icons and images to communicate rather than using text. It makes me feel a bit lost, to be honest.

When I want information, pictures are generally just extraneous, and often in the way unless they're used specifically to prove a point (even then, some aren't too helpful). Too many pictures all in one place is just a lot of noise for my brain to process - give me a page of text, and I'm happy as a clam. Text is simple. Soothing. Not so "in my face" demanding. I love color, don't get me wrong, but I get overloaded easily when faced with a lot of it all at once.

I never felt odd about the way I process things until just recently, as more and more the internet goes image-based. Considering how quickly everything is moving away from text, and how people as a whole seem to be adopting it without complaint, I'm starting to wonder if I'm in the minority on the whole "preferring text" thing.

What does this have to do with business? A lot, actually - at least I think it does. Cover art has always been very important for books, but now I think it's starting to go way past that. I think that businesses and brands and people in general (read: authors), if they want to be noticed, will need to use images more heavily to catch the majority of eyes. For someone like me, that's a daunting task. But necessary, unless I want to disappear in the midst of all that noise/color.

What's the plan? Honestly, I'm not sure yet. I have some ideas, of course - some of it requiring technology I don't currently have, some just requiring additions to my already-packed schedule, and most of it requiring a lot more conscious thought about images and pictures and sharing. It's not going to happen overnight, but I'm hoping that I can eventually learn to get used to the image-rich environment that the internet is becoming. Sometimes you really do just have to go with the flow (or bow out, and become obsolete).

I'm not giving up on the idea of finding a feed reader that will just give me a simple list of article headings sans magazine-style layout and imagery though. They're out there, just overloaded with new users at the moment. I know I'm not the only one who doesn't want to sift through a bunch of boxes and pictures to read the morning "news" from blogs/sites I follow, so I'm confident that in that particular realm, I'll be able to keep my nice, quiet, text-based least for a little while.

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My Thoughts on Predictions

From a fellow creative soul (posted on Facebook): 
Predictions for 2013: Stuff will happen, followed by other stuff and some other events will come about at the same time. People will talk about stuff that happens and do things in response to what happens, which will cause more stuff to happen and then more stuff to happen. Then the there won't be any more stuff that happens in 2013 because by then it will be 2014.
- Ford Forkum

It seems that everywhere I look, people are making predictions about what will happen in the new year, specifically in the book industry (because that's the one I follow most closely). After skimming through a myriad of articles & blog posts on the subject, I've come to the following conclusion:

I don't care.

Honestly, I care more about what someone says one of my stocks might do than whether big publishing houses merge or raise/lower prices, or whether bookstores will go under or figure out how to embrace the digital age. Should I care? Maybe. But I just...can't.

I think the reason I really don't care is twofold. One, I don't make a living wage from my books, and the odds of my ever actually doing so is pretty remote. And I don't really say that from a "woe is me" perspective, but more from a "that's how it's always been, and always will be" perspective. The fact is, no matter what the publishing climate, it's always been difficult to impossible for most authors to make a living writing. Considering that publishing books is an entertainment industry job, it seems obvious to me that the status quo isn't going to change on that. While I dream of locking myself in my house for most of the day and writing with breaks to play with the dogs or do housework, I'm very much aware that in reality, it will probably never happen. Sure, I may find some other line of work that allows me to work from home, but I dare say writing fiction will still be the "second job".

The second reason is simply that regardless of what happens in the industry, regardless of what Amazon does, or big publishing does, or small bookstores do (or don't do), I'll keep writing and publishing and offering my own books for sale. I don't write to market, I write what I like, what I'm interested in, and I write because I enjoy doing so. I'm not a writer who would write something and just tuck it away, but with the internet, I will never have to do that. As long as I have the money to run my own web sites on my own corner of the 'net, I have a forum for my work. And really, that's what matters to me, because even if I did start making good money writing, I doubt I'd have the gumption to leave the security of my day job and retirement account unless the money was huge enough to have an incredible reserve built up for the day when things dry up (having grown up with a small business owner/freelancer, I understand the realities of that life all too well).

I am a consummate planner. Planning is like a hobby to me - I do it automatically and to give myself at least the illusion of control. Sometimes my planning is based on predictions, when those predictions are based on a lot of solid historical data in a particular area (like stocks and company earnings). But with writing, since I don't consider it a reliable source of income and because I'm not locked into any specific distribution arena, I have the luxury of ignoring all the predictions being bandied around and just focusing on my own books and my own publishing schedule. Because that's all that matters *to me*.

And that would be my advice to the majority of writers too. Don't let predictions for the industry distract you from the task at hand - which is writing the next book, preferably one that you love, rather than one that you think might sell somewhere. Write, publish, repeat. That's our job.

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Business Lessons for 2012 and Looking Forward

Wow. Another year almost gone, and I'm looking back on the routes I took over the last twelve months, the choices I made, and making a plan for next year. Some things still feel like choices. Other things feel like paths I *must* correct to stay in business, especially since I can no longer afford to "help" the publishing business out with personal funds. This means that whatever I do going forward, I will be relying solely on money the business brings in to pay all business expenses, and if the business account is empty, that means I may have to cut some services (like my BSB online store) or get really, really creative with cover art and things like that. 

Luckily, even though this year has been slower than the last (which is in large part my own fault for not publishing more books), I've still been able to pay the business bills and even pay for stories to publish in a few anthologies. Except for this month. This month, I have anthology authors to pay, which means the money I need for cover art just isn't there. Which is going to set back my publishing schedule by one, maybe two months into 2013, unless I can find suitable free images to use. I'm actually going to pay my authors early just so I can get my budgeting done and see what's left - the author payments come first, of course. And that's another thing I need to make sure I have enough money coming in for, because I enjoy publishing these anthologies, and I want to continue with them.

These are the realities of business. Money in must equal or exceed money out.

You might be reading this thinking, "We knew you'd eventually have to do more promotion, or lower your prices. We tried to tell you - that's how all those authors making the big bucks work."

You'd be partially right, although I do really believe that the key to making more money is to publish more books, not to throw myself into some huge promotional campaign. And my romantic adventures were certainly selling better at 50 cents cheaper, though lately a couple have been doing better than I thought they would at $3.49. I'm still not wholly convinced that lowering prices is the answer though, so I'll keep them as is for at least a few months into the new year.

In any case, there are three things I'm going to change in my writing/publishing business next year to see if I can't get more income flowing:

1. Publish at least one story per month (short, med, novel - whatever). This means more writing, and more focused writing at that, plus no more being lazy about formatting and cover art. Just do it.

2. Get my newsletters going again. I have newsletters for BSB, as well as each of my pen names. They'll go out whenever something new is published under that name (or for BSB, once a month to announce new releases).

3. Create new content weekly (flash stories, shorts, non-fiction, etc) for inclusion with newsletters, blog posting, and exclusive content *to the BSB store*. These will not be available in the major bookstores for several months after they're written, but rather will only be available initially through venues I control. Not only do I hope to bring readers back to my own sites and the BSB store by doing this, but it will be a body of completed work that I can pull from to distribute on the big retailer sites next fall when life gets busy and I don't have so much time to focus on writing. A safety net for ensuring I can keep up with item #1 above.

I've considered a lot of different options, but these three make the most sense to me in beefing up my fiction career. Yes, I could write and submit books to publishers for a two-prong approach, but the simple fact is, I don't want to work with larger publishers. Not because I think they're evil or bad or that they'll ruin my stories - I just simply like publishing my books myself. I take personal pride in having "Brazen Snake Books" listed as the publisher - immodest as that may be. I don't feel like being published by a large company would give me that same sort of feeling.

But I am interested in working with short fiction publishers - magazines and anthologies, mainly. I love my editor and we work very well together, but I think having an editor I don't know go over some shorts would be beneficial to me, and I also just think it would be fun to see my work in some anthologies alongside other authors I admire, and/or in the occasional literary magazine here and there (and by literary, I include things like horror mags and the like, not necessarily highbrow stuff). So I may devote some time next year to pursuing that avenue, not expecting it will bring in much money (who knows if I'll even get a story accepted), but for the experience of doing so. I really like the short story form, and I'd like to get better at it.

You'll notice that nowhere up there does it say I plan to engage in more promotion, aside from reincarnating my newsletters and keeping my blogs up. That's because I want to be a writer, not a promoter, and I know that if I keep publishing steadily, I can make enough to keep my business in business, which is good enough for now. Later, when I have a larger body of work and sales are pretty steady, I may consider a few promotional things to help push it along, but for now, it's all about the writing. As I want it to be.

2013 is going to be a lot of work, but I'm looking forward to it...
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Whoa There! Reining Myself In.

I cannot believe it's fall already. This year has been flying by, and I've been swept up in a sea of publishing this summer. It just so happened that I ended up with a lot of stories ready at the same time this year, so for awhile there, I was releasing a new book about every two weeks. That is a lot of work, let me tell you, and I don't even promote my books aside from a general press release, blog post and the accompanying FB updates and tweets that go along with it.

It's been a wee bit crazy, to say the least. I'm doing my own covers, and I still do my own formatting though I did buy a software package called Jutoh that has made ebook formatting far more quick and painless than it used to be. If I could find a program like that for print books, I'd be insanely happy. I'm putting another anthology together now and it's going so well that I'm excited to get the submissions call up for the winter one, though I have no idea when I'll have time to work up that cover and theme.

The problem with momentum is that it feeds on itself. I don't know about you, but for me, working on all these different publications and all the different *aspects* of publishing spurs ideas for me - it makes me think about what's possible, and what I could be doing. Then I see what other people are doing (especially people with more experience than I have) and I start planning to add things like round-robin stories and writer's workshops and independent consulting and short stories in print and those CD stories I've been wanting to do since last year and...

And I have to tell myself to *stop*.

The reality is, I'm already working under a serious backlog. I have six covers waiting to be designed or redesigned at the moment. I have a novella that still needs to be formatted and published in print. I have the anthology to finish up, and the next one to put a call out for. I have holiday stories that need to be written now if they're to be out in time for Christmas. I have flash fiction that needs to be bundled, formatted, and published (either for free or .99). And if I don't pick up the pace on my serial stories, I won't have the individual stories done in time to publish anthologies for December, as I'd originally planned.

In addition to all that, I'm behind on my bookkeeping again, and I need to switch my accounting over from financially tracking every single sale by venue to tracking income from each sales venue as a whole, because now that I have over 20 books up, it's not even remotely feasible to keep track of how many copies of each book sells per month per venue in my accounting software, because I can't import the different reports from all the sales sites, and I simply don't have time to enter all that by hand every month (it gets more time consuming the more books I publish).

In light of that, I also need to choose a program that will import those sales reports from different venues and aggregate them for me, so I can still have decent data on which books are selling best where and when.

Basically, I have all the issues of any other small press to deal with aside from royalty payments (which thankfully, I don't have to deal with unless something by one of the 2 authors who publish with me sells on the BSB site, which happens extremely rarely). That's in addition to my own writing/blogging schedule.

I'm not complaining. Really. I love all of this, and I don't even mind working on a backlog as long as I can keep moving forward (which I generally do). I take time out for myself and household stuff evenings and weekends, so I don't work non-stop. That way lies madness.

But every so often, I think of how much more I *want* to be doing, and it's frustrating to realize that I simply can't. Or won't, if you prefer. I'm just one person, and I work 40 hours a week at a job that pays the bills. Even when I'm at the top of my game, I still can't do everything I want to do with the time and energy I have leftover. That's just how it is.

It's annoying, to be honest. I've had to throttle back several times this year when I caught myself making plans to do something that would be really cool, but would also be more work than I can manage by myself. And I'm not quite flush enough to hire help just yet, though I think I'll get to that point eventually. I want to be able to contract with two each of cover artists, editors and book designers. Why two? Because I tend to burn people out. I don't intend to (and I feel bad about it), but when I get on a roll, it's full steam ahead.

The day I can hire an accountant I just might weep for joy...

Until then, I'll just keep pushing everything along as well as I can, and reminding myself that there are plenty of other authors/small publishers in my position with even more on their plates. After just three years, I'm still at the start of my game. If I'm playing it right, it should only grow from here.

Scared reading this? Tired? Just remember, I am where I am because I put myself here. The beauty of publishing yourself is that you control the pace. Don't let my perpetual state of chaos scare you off - do it your way, and you'll be just fine. Even if your way is a bit chaotic too.

Chaos is fine - as long as it's *your* chaos.
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Understanding Book Lending and LendInk

I rarely (as in nearly never) get involved in online drama. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's a complete waste of time, and much ado about nothing.

But it sickens me to see LendInk, a book lending bulletin board service being raked over the coals for *piracy* when they have done *nothing wrong*. And the only reason for this is that a subset of authors can't seem to read a simple FAQ page or comprehend the logistics of book lending as sanctioned by Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or the desire of readers to have a place to coordinate that socially with other readers.

People are tossing a letter from Amazon all over the internet, claiming Amazon never sent anyone book files and doesn't sanction off-site lending. And all that is absolutely true. It's a boilerplate response from customer service. Amazon doesn't send your files out, and they don't sanction file sharing on other sites. Obviously.

Problem is, LendInk (and sites like it) never *had* any book files. Just because your cover shows up on a web site doesn't mean the whole file is there. It means the cover and information is there. That's *all*. So no, Amazon didn't send them any files. You know how Goodreads used to pull book information from Amazon? That's exactly what sites like LendInk do. They get the *information*...not the actual book.

When you want to borrow a book from someone on sites like LendInk, you find the book (cover) you want to borrow, and then LendInk sends the person who has it available to borrow a message. That person *goes back to Amazon or B&N*, and lends you the book *through either the Amazon or B&N web site*, using the tools that those two companies have provided to do exactly that. LendInk is only a bulletin board where readers can post what books they're allowed to lend, and other readers can hook up with them to arrange the deal through the major retail sites.

No files are shared via LendInk. None. It's all done through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Of course Amazon doesn't send LendInk files, because LendInk *doesn't need them*. Piracy is file sharing without the author/publisher's permission. This is *not* piracy. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Amazon and B&N both have lending set up for all users. All the lending is done *through those sites*, not at LendInk. Are you understanding this yet? LendInk does not have, or share files. Ever.

LendInk doesn't even *loan* books. They just set you up with people who have books to loan or those who want to borrow. That's all they do. 

As for whether your book is "lendable" or not, as an author or publisher, if you choose the 70% royalty option on Amazon, they *require* you to make your book lendable. This is completely separate from the Select/Prime program, and it's the last check box on the pricing and royalties page as you're publishing a book. If you don't want your book to be lendable to other Kindle users, you must choose the 35% royalty option. That's all in their terms of service, which I hope you've read at least once. Because if you're going to license a site to sell your work, you should know what rights you're giving them, and why.

This morning, the LendInk site is down - for what looks like too much traffic. Things like this whole debacle can do that to a site. Hopefully the owner will have enough money to pay the bill and get it moving again.

Authors, please, I beg you. Read your terms of service for *all* the sites you sell on. Learn and understand how the devices you're for work (don't have one? You're on the internet - find someone who does), and how that affects your books. Because maybe nothing will come of it this time (though you may well have caused a perfectly legal site that promoted reading and legal lending to shut down, if he decides it's not worth the effort), you could actually be *sued* for spreading inflammatory lies about a company as some of you have done this week.

I know some of you are just so sure that everyone in the world wants to steal your books that you're unwilling to see reason, and that's a shame. It's also the height of egotism, if you think about it.

And that's all I'll say on the matter - I have better things to do, but at least I tried.

Comments are can argue about it elsewhere.

Breaking Even

I've realized something recently that doesn't seem all that significant to me due to the lowish numbers, but really, it is, considering that this is the third year Brazen Snake Books has been in operation.

This year, I think my book business may actually break even financially.

I have pretty...exacting ideas about how I want my business to look to potential readers. We're not talking brick & mortar type stuff (we did get our house re-sided last year, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count). But as far as web sites and my online storefront and covers and author sites go, I want them all to look and act a certain way - and all of that costs money. Some of those costs are monthly, some yearly, some piecemeal, but it's all overhead that adds up. Sure, I could do what the average author does and make use of free blog platforms and sites, but they wouldn't act exactly like I want them to, so I pay to have that functionality. I even pay for my newsletter service, because I want some of the perks that comes with a paid service (you know, when I actually use it...which is a whole 'nuther subject).

For the past two years, I've paid for a lot of this out of my own pocket. The day job isn't just handy for paying personal bills & buying groceries, it's also been subsidizing my book business. I'm fortunate in being able to do that.

Of course, I've also been releasing new books, experimenting with pricing, and spreading my work over multiple sales venues. I started with one book (as do most people), and now I have 19 titles available (with three more on the way in the next couple of months), most of which sell fairly consistently, even if the quantities are on the low side. Because I've moved my prices up (aside from my introductory offers), the quantities aren't really as important, because selling fewer still nets me more profit overall.

After I got my bookkeeping caught up for last year's taxes (*ahem*), I started looking at this year's numbers (which I still need to catch up, dang it). And I realized that I haven't had to add any personal money to my business account to help with the normal month-to-month costs (including various cover art needs) since late 2011. Even in a slow month, I have enough in my BSB account to cover the cost of doing business, and purchase the images I need for cover art (or pay an artist when I need to). That means that I make enough in my "good" months to cover the loss in my slow months....which means BSB is solvent, and also fairly stable since I don't see the huge rises and falls that a lot of other authors see in certain months and at certain times of the year. I'll take long-term stability over wild highs and lows any day, personally. It's easier on both my stress levels and the ego.

I don't have any hard numbers to share at the moment (that whole bookkeeping nightmare again), so I don't actually know if I'm making any kind of actual profit over my monthly costs. But I have to say, just breaking even is insanely exciting, and not just because it means the IRS will continue acknowledging my business as a "business" and not downgrade it to a hobby next year. It's exciting because it means I'm moving forward, however slowly - the business is growing. And that is exactly what I want it to do.

More importantly, it tells me that my business plan is *working*, perhaps slower than I'd like, but it's motivating to know that all my efforts are paying off, and that if I stay on this track, the possibility of full-time income is definitely within reach.

That is an amazing thing - to me, anyways.

Now...back to work...

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The Long Haul

I've written three posts in the past couple of months for this blog, and abandoned all of them for one reason or another. And I think I've finally figured out why. It's that I'm not confident giving others a lot of advice on business when the way I choose to shape my own strategy is a much longer-term plan than most people have the patience for. And since I've never done it before, I can't even say if it will work or not - it will be years before I have that kind of data to share.

Honestly, I've seen so many authors hit it big with just a couple books that some days, I end up doubting my own writing abilities - thinking that those authors must put something on the page that I just don't get (or have), especially since I've read and enjoyed many of their books.

In some cases, I don't see the difference. I don't see what makes those stories more appealing to the general public than mine. Alas, that is the blindness that *all* authors face - the inability to see their own work through any eyes other than their own. 

In other cases, I do see the difference, and yet...I have to write the stories as they're given to me. I can't write in a specific style or format just because that's what sells. Or rather, I *could*, I just won't. Because that would take away the pleasure of the journey for me, and when I'm writing, the discovery is the whole point. That's why I write. 

This isn't jealousy - it's genuine curiosity and...fascination, I guess, with story and writing and what makes a story "take off" when others (not even mine, but similar books) languish in obscurity. I'm not convinced at all that marketing has much to do with it...authors who sell a lot of books are all over the map when it comes to marketing - some do a lot, some do none, some are in the middle, but there are big sellers in all marketing categories.

All this may sound like I'm not happy with my sales, which actually isn't the truth at all. Honestly, I'm kind of surprised that my books sell so steadily - I don't do much in the way of volume (especially after raising my prices), but my books sell at a fairly steady clip, and sometimes certain books surprise me by selling after periods of inactivity. Many authors complain of ups and downs and seasonal changes...and I feel those to a certain extent, but it all seems to even out in the end.

And I also have the pleasure of knowing that sales will go up as soon as I release another book - they always do, without fail. Sure, they fall again, but to a higher level than they were at before, so it's still a net gain.

I wrote a post shortly after the release of my very first book (it seems so long ago!) titled "Passive Marketing", and while I've since tried more direct forms of making people aware of my books, I still believe that simply being involved in social media as a "whole person" (as opposed to an author trying to sell books) is one of the best forms of advertising. The same probably holds true offline as well, but I have career conflicts that limit my ability to do that (as well as my natural aversion to being around other people).

My business strategy is pretty simple. Keep writing. Keep publishing. Network with people. Relate to people in all areas of life, not just writing/reading related.

Write more. Publish more. Read more. Repeat.

My hope is that with this strategy, sales will keep climbing, slowly but steadily. With any luck, eventually I'll make a full-time, career income from them. If it takes ten years or more to get there, so be it. The important thing is, I'm doing something I love, and I'm not giving up on my dreams, no matter what happens down the road. 
I'm beginning to understand that much like getting to "The End" isn't the point of my writing, a full-time income isn't really the point of my publishing business. It's the journey, and the discoveries I make along the way that will truly define my life and by extension, my work.

I'm okay with that.

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