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1.20.2015

Book Promotion Sites Ranked & Rated Part 1: AwesomeGang, FussyLibrarian, Ereader News Today, EbookSoda, ReadCheaply, BookBub

With millions of published books out there from authors, there’s no shortage of book promotion sites looking to cash in. Some of these are honest, hard-working folks offering good services at fair prices. Others, not so much, especially some of the ones that are the talk of the town in certain circles.

To help the thousands of ReadIndies, GoIndie, FreeToday and AmBlogging members find the gems and avoid the duds, myself (Robert Stanek) and 14 others tried many of these services and tracked the results. What follows is Part 1 of a summary of results gathered between January 2014 and December 2014. We will be following up with these services for 2015.

The 15 participants promoted 42 books from 11 different genres, including:

Mystery
Thriller
Romance
Scifi
Fantasy
Young Adult
Teen
Horror
Literary Fiction
Nonfiction
Children's

Each and every service was used by at least 10 of the 15 participants, one or more times. Our overall rating for these services is a simple thumbs up or thumbs down system:

Two thumbs up - Excellent
One thumb up - Good
One thumb down - Not Good
Two thumbs down - Not Recommended

To this, we added a numeric indicator from 0 to 20 to indicate level of success regarding downloads or sales during the promotion:

0 - the lowest score, the worst value for your time, money

10 - the middle score, a good value for your time, money

20 - the highest score, the highest value for your time, money

Before you try any of these services, be sure to read the “tips for your success” at the end of this article. Also note that any service listed who wants us to give them another chance, simply needs to write williamstanek@aol.com with the subject “Book Promotion: Give Us Another Try!”

As you consider using these services, never forget for a moment that book promotion is big business, and that many of these services are making quite good livings from their offerings. For example, we estimated based on the number of listed features each day that AwesomeGang is earning $50,000+ a year. Writers are we in the wrong business?


AwesomeGang


AwesomeGang (http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/) Kudos to AwesomeGang for offering a free submission option along with their $10 paid option. With the free option, each of the ten participating authors saw some nominal results. With the $10 paid option, we saw slightly better results, though not always enough sales to pay for the $10 promotion.

AwesomeGang features 20 to 30 books a day, with each featured book getting two days on the home page and some social media promotion. There are also 20 to 30 free listings of books a day on the home page. Some books seemed to be given preferential treatment over others, which we didn't like, especially if we were all paying $10 for our feature.
 
NOTE: The recommendation for this service is under review and may be removed. Sorry for unintentionally misleading anyone with the statement that this was a friendly service. Please read the comments regarding this service below and make sure to expand to see the full details.
 
Rating: One Thumb up. Service would be much better if listings were limited to 15 - 20 a day.

Success Level Free Book: 2. Fewer than 20 downloads on average for free listings and fewer than 35 downloads on average with $10 promotion.

Success Level .99 & up: 1. Fewer than 3 sales on average for free listings and fewer than 5 sales on average with $10 promotion. .99 and 2.99 books had the best results.

FussyLibrarian


FussyLibrarian (http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/for-authors/) Kudos to FussyLibrarian for changing the restrictions regarding number of reviews and ratings as services requiring authors to have a 4.0 rating or higher and specifically at Amazon only was causing some to toss 1- and 2-star reviews around to keep others out of services like these. However, points detracted for requiring an author with a new release or pre-order to have at least one other book with 50 reviews AND a 4.0 rating as again such a requirement encourages shenanigans.

Current pricing ranges from $5 (for genres with 12000+ subscribed) to $14 (for genres with 80,000+ subscribed). FussyLibrarian features about 25 books each day. Featured books appear on website and in daily email. When contacted, the team at FussyLibrarian was friendly.

Rating: One Thumb up. Service would be much better if listings were limited to 15 - 20 a day.

Success Level Free Book: 3. Fewer than 50 downloads on average for lower price ranges and fewer than 65 downloads on average with higher price ranges.

Success Level .99 & up: 1. Fewer than 5 sales on average for lower price ranges ($5) and fewer than 10 sales on average with higher price ranges ($14).  .99 and 2.99 books had the best results.


Ereader News Today (ENT)


Ereader News Today (http://ereadernewstoday.com/requirements/) Kudos to ENT for having one of the largest subscription bases at over 500,000 members. This service is also used by traditional publishers for their special promotions. Also looks at Amazon reviews to determine whether to carry a listing for a book. Price for promotion varies according to price of the book and genre.
 
Books must be free or discounted to $2.99 or less. Free books: $15 to $25. .99 books: $15 to $45. $1.99 books: $30 to $60. $2.99 books: $60 to $120.

Ereader News Today features 5 to 6 books at a time, several times during the day, on its website. Each set of featured books appears in an article that is skillfully put together. Featured books appear in daily emails as well. Because ENT has fewer featured books at a time, there is a higher potential for success than with services featuring 30 or more books all at once --and we liked that.

Rating: One Thumb up, though high marks for being creative and trying to give value.

Success Level Free Book: 4/5. Fewer than 100 downloads on average for lower price ranges ($15) and fewer than 500 downloads on average with higher price ranges ($25).

Success Level .99 and up: 3. Fewer than 20 sales on average for lower price ranges ($15 to $45) and fewer than 30 sales on average with higher price ranges ($60 to $120). With these sales level, authors didn’t earn enough to recoup the cost of the promotion.

At .99, authors earned back $7 on average from royalties and paid $30 on average. At $1.99, authors earned back $14 on average from royalties and paid $45 on average. At $2.99, authors earned back $62 on average from royalties and paid $90 on average.

EbookSoda


EbookSoda (http://www.ebooksoda.com/authors/requirements/) Kudos for accepting novellas, short stories and children’s picture books, which not all services do. However, points detracted for looking at reviews rather than the actual book to determine whether books have grammar errors and typos as qualifiers like this encourage shenanigans. Also points detracted for requiring a specific number of reviews and for not specifying any details on the size of its following.

Currently charges $10 for promotion. Ebooksoda features about 25 to 30 books a day.  Features appear on website and in daily email. Unlike many others, listings don't have much information to help readers make purchase decisions. This makes listings easy to browse, but harder to make a buying decision from.

Rating: One Thumb up. Service would be much better if listings were limited to 15 - 20 a day and some details were added, such as limited descriptions.


Success Level Free Book: 2. Fewer than 25 downloads on average.

Success Level .99 & up: 1. Fewer than 5 sales on average.

ReadCheaply


ReadCheaply (http://readcheaply.com/submit/) Even though free, not worth the time it takes to submit. Points detracted as well for making their website all about signing up authors.

Selects books based largely on having lots of reviews and high ratings. Looks primarily for free and discounted books from large, traditional publishers.

Features books in its newsletter and a deals page. However, the only link for the deals page is currently hidden all the way at the bottom of the home page. Other sites move the author sell page to secondary pages and focus on the deals, which is how it should be done.

Wasn't responsive to our emails, even when we were trying to give them a second chance.

Rating: Two thumbs down. Not recommended.

Success Level Free Book: 0-1. Fewer than 5 downloads on average.

Success Level .99 & up: 0-1. 0 sales on average.


BookBub


BookBub (https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing) Kudos to BookBub for being the largest and most successful in this category of promotion services, with 4 million members. Kudos also for having requirements that focus on the book itself, but points detracted for actually looking at the number of reviews and ratings to determine whether to feature a book. For 2014, BookBub states that they received 37,280 submissions from 13,791 authors but only chose to feature 8175 ebooks from 5042 authors across 30 categories/genres. Or put another way, an average of 22 books were featured each day.

BookBub gets a little crazy with pricing, however, which varies according to cost of the book and genre. Books must be free or discounted. Most free books cost $65 to $350 to promote. Most .99 books costs $130 to $700 to promote. Prices go up from there. For $1 to $1.99 books, the cost is $195 to $1050. For $2 to $2.99 books, the cost is $325 to $1750.

Are the prices justified? Hard to say. For all of 2104, BookBub states that the 8175 ebooks featured from 5042 authors across 30 categories had approximately 10 million sales. One assumes these are paid sales only, as the average free book is supposed to get 17,000 to 32,000 downloads during its feature. If approximately half of features were for free books and half for paid books, the average paid book then is supposed to have 2446 paid sales (10million / 4087).

BookBub does indeed list some huge stats for average number of books sold and range of total sales achieved during promotions. There’s also a large spreadsheet that goes into details for each price range. However, these numbers are largely reported to them by authors and not actual sales numbers, and it’s hard to say whether these numbers are truly representative of anything.

How good are BookBub paid promotions? BookBub states that the average Mystery book featured had 3,020 total paid sales as a result of the promotion, the average Fantasy book featured had 1,450 total paid sales, the average Thriller book 2,380 paid sales, and the average cook book had 1,840 sales. None of the participants who used BookBub saw numbers like these. Mostly, paid sales were well below what was listed as the low end of the range, which is 520 paid sales for Mysteries; 250 paid sales for Fantasy; 410 paid sales for Thrillers; and 310 paid sales for cook books.

Paid promotions didn’t meet even the most modest of expectations:

  • At .99, books didn’t recoup the cost of the promotion or even come close. The average .99 book earned $108 (.35 from each sale) but the average promotion cost was $420.


  • At $1.99, books didn’t recoup the cost of the promotion or even come close either. The average $1.99 book earned $224 (.70 from each sale) but the average promotion cost was $772.


  • At $2.99, books came closer to recouping the cost of the promotion. The average $2.99 book earned $788 (2.04 from each sale) but the average promotion cost was $1294.


How good are BookBub free promotions? BookBub states that the average Mystery book featured had 32,400 downloads as a result of the promotion; the average Fantasy book featured had 22,100 downloads; the average Thriller book had 23,500 downloads; and the average cooking book had 33,400 downloads.

None of the participants saw numbers like these. Mostly, downloads of free books were slightly to modestly below what was listed as the low end of the range; which is 9,500 for Mysteries; 6,500 for Fantasy; 6,800 for Thrillers; and 9,900 for cook books. However, the average cost of the promotion was $280.

It's also important to point out that BookBub is primarily about the daily email and that's a major disappointment because their website has so much potential. The home page has a scrolling banner of supposed "recent deals" but it's primarily past deals from big name authors that they're using as a hook for new subscribers. To give authors value, the scrolling banner should feature current deals or at least not the same deals as months ago.

The BookBub website doesn't have a section for discounted books. If you look hard enough, you can find pages for free ebooks and free kindle books. The links are all the way at the bottom of the page and what you find when you follow the links are the current day's deals.

Rating: Two Thumbs up (with caveats)

Success Level Free Book: 10. 8400 downloads on average.

Success Level .99 & up: 10. 336 sales on average.


Tips for Success

When using these services or any other, you’ll do best if you follow this advice:
  1. Take your time with each and every listing. Provide as much information as you can and as much detail as you can. If the service allows you to include links for many different retailers, include links for as many as you can.
  2. Make each listing unique, if possible. If you are asked to provide a summary of your book, try to make this unique each time.
  3. Choose specific dates for each listing. If you want the biggest bang for your time and money, make sure each listing has a different promotion date. For example, have one listing on Monday, the next on Tuesday, the next on Wednesday, and so on. You also may want to have several days between each listing, such as one listing on Monday, the next on Wednesday, the next on Friday, and so on.
  4. As you’ll often be providing some of the same information over and over, create a promotion document for each book you plan to promote in this way. Be sure to track the dates you request for your promotion, and the actual date assigned for a promotion.
  5. Most listing services require payment through PayPal and will email a request for that payment to an account you specify. Make sure you have a PayPal account set up beforehand. Make sure you provide an email address that you check regularly.
  6. Before using ENT or BookBub, make sure you really want to spend that kind of money on promotion and then take extra time in preparing your listing.
  7. Authors with multiple books published will have a better chance of a successful promotion, especially if offering a book free and hoping for a boost in subsequent sales of other books.
When signing up for these services or any other, you need to pick a promotion date and you may be wondering if any particular day of the week was better than any other. Based on our results, it didn't really seem to matter what day of the week was selected for the promotion. That said, a key determining factor for success seemed to be how many books were listed each day. As an example, you'll do much better on a day when 20 books are featured than a day when 30 or more are featured.

In Part 2 of this special report, we'll share results gathered from:

Freebooksy
Bargain Booksy
Genre Pulse
Book Gorilla
Kindle Nation Daily

and others.

We also hope to have a Part 3 where we evaluate other types of book promotion services, including those for social media promotions through Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.


Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek


Addendum


So many have pinged me about this post and asked questions that I thought I'd add more here instead of trying to respond individually. I’ve also made some additions in comments below.

First, remember, a promotion that doesn’t do as well as hoped isn’t necessarily a failure on the author’s part. It can be, and often is, a failure of the marketing done on the author’s behalf – and marketing fails quite frequently in my experience.

NOTE: 1/27 - I added necessarily and "can be" qualifiers to the previous statement. That said, it's up to the author to put his or her best foot forward. You really need to take your time, and treat each and every promotional effort with the respect it deserves.

Many questions about the residual value of these services, as in: Is there value beyond the promotion period?

To be clear, the study looked at the value of the promotion not just on the day of promotion but within a reasonable window of time that extended beyond. As an example, a book may see 80% of its boost on Day 1 and Day 2, 15% of its boost on Days 3 to 5, and 5% of its boost on Days 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, and that windowing effect was taken into account.

These offerings are really one-time and done, with little residual value. Remember, many of these services are featuring 20 – 30 or more books a day with promotions appearing on “daily feature” pages, promoted through daily emails, and sometimes on social media.

With the “daily feature” page, your book is one of many. Successive daily promotion pages quickly follow the page your book is on. Thus, after 7 to 10 days, your book is already several hundred books back in the queue.

With daily emails, your book is included in a daily email. Successive daily emails quickly follow. Thus, after a few days, the email containing your book has already been superseded several times.

It’s also important to remember that just because a service has 1,000,000 followers doesn’t mean 1,000,000 are going to see your promotion. Typical open rates for such services are likely 2 to 3%, though I’ve seen claims as high as 6 to 10%. Open rates are posted by some services if you look for them, though self-reported and based on all classes of recipients.

With an open rate of 2 – 3% and 1,000,000 emails sent, that means about 20,000 to 30,000 are opening the email. With an open rate of 6% and 1,000,000 email sent, that means about 60,000 are opening the email. Once those emails have been opened, some subset of those who did so will make one or more purchases based on what they read.

Going back to the idea of residual value. Marketing isn’t just about the sales made, but also building brand, following and cache. However, most of these services would have to rethink their entire approach to build any actual product awareness: daily pages and daily emails don’t build anything. 

With 20, 30 or more books featured at a time each and every day, readers are simply being overwhelmed and it’s highly unlikely any value is being built. ENT and BookBub might be exceptions, as their larger followings make the building of traction more likely. 


Anyone working at these services may wonder how they can start providing more value more consistently. There's no easy answer but here's a start: Don't feature so many books at once. Build additional value using your website and social media. For examples of better websites, start by looking at how ENT is doing things.


Thanks again,


Robert Stanek

1.16.2015

Paid Reviews: Myths, Truths and Misses (Kirkus Reviews, Indie Reader, BlueInk Reviews, PW Select, Self-Publishing Review, BookRooster, Net Galley)

Anyone who’s visited Amazon knows there’s a problem with reviews. Some books have thousands, many from questionable sources. But are paid reviews the real problem? And what really is a paid review?

Amazon seems to have no problem with authors buying reviews through giveaways and special offers designed for the express purpose of getting readers to write reviews. I’ve seen authors giving away thousands of dollars’ worth of swag to readers if and only if they write reviews, everything from $5000 vacations to $150 kindles to $50 Amazon gift cards. Sometimes these approaches to buying reviews are as blatant as headlines in social media that read: “Review my book, win a kindle.” Sometimes these approaches to buying reviews are pitched right under Amazon’s nose, as in through Amazon’s own social media channels.

Amazon also seems to have no problem with authors buying reviews through certain recognized paid review services, including:

Kirkus Reviews (formerly called Kirkus Discoveries and Indie Book Review) – Kirkus Reviews writes a 250-word review of a book in 4-9 weeks and charges $425 for standard service or $575 for express service (https://www.kirkusreviews.com/author-services/indie/).

Self-Publishing Review - Self-Publishing Review writes a 500-word review of a book in 2-4 weeks and charges $59 to $249. (http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/)

Indie Reader – Indie Reader writes a 300-word review of a book in 4-9 weeks and charges $225 - $300. (http://indiereader.com/authorservices/service-sample/)

BlueInk Reviews – BlueInk Reviews writes a 250-word review of a book in 4-9 weeks and charges $395 - $495. (http://www.blueinkreviews.com/purchase)

The paid review game is so lucrative Publishers Weekly even got in on the action with PW Select, which is now BookLife (http://booklife.com/). Under PW Select, authors were charged up to $475 for reviews of their books and the reviews would then appear in special indie sections of their magazine. Authors who got in that game early get to say for all time their books were reviewed by Publishers Weekly, even if they bought and paid for the review out of their own pocket.

So if these paid reviews, costing hundreds of dollars are okay, why is a $5 review from Fivverr.com or any of the other cheap review services not okay? I couldn’t tell you. But I do know this: The problem with paid reviews isn’t with singular paid reviews. It’s with paid reviews bought by the barrel full for the same book. 

Some authors are buying paid reviews 20, 50, 100, or more at a time for a particular book. Some authors have hundreds or thousands of reviews from these services—and that’s the real problem. A problem that makes honest authors whose books have few reviews by comparison or few reviews relative to actual sales look unsuccessful and unpopular—and publishing, like a gallup poll, is a popularity contest.

Okay, so there I’ve said it. I believe there’s nothing wrong with an author buying a single paid review for his or her book, but everything wrong with an author buying reviews by the barrel full. If an author wants to pay $500 for a review, she should have at it and Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and the rest of them will gladly take her money. Some authors will even double or triple down, buying reviews from one paid review service after the other in the belief that all these paid reviews will help them become successful. But do they? And what does it say about an author who shells out $1200, $1500 or $2000 to buy a handful of reviews? After a while, are they any different from the author who paid $1000 for 50 reviews?

Also, is there really a difference between that $500 review and a $5 review? I honestly don’t think there is. I think an honest $500 review and an honest $5 review have similar value. If you’re an author of 10 books and you want to buy a review for each of your books, whether you pay $5000 ($500 x 10) or $50 ($5 x 10) for the privilege should be up to you and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say there’s nothing wrong with either approach if that’s what you want to do. Why? Tens of thousands of authors already have bought reviews. The five review services I mentioned, two of which are from industry titans, collectively have written more than 50,000 reviews. Paid reviews are big business, after all.

To be clear, I’m not talking about buying 10 reviews from 1 review source for 1 book, which is wrong and unethical. I’m talking about using established, recognized sources to obtain a review for each of an author’s books, and in this example that author has 10 books. Also, to be clear, whether from industry sources or otherwise, all of these reviews, the $500 review or the $5 review, can end up on Amazon as a customer review or an editorial review with Verified Purchase / Real Name tags. Verified Purchase and Real Name tags have no bearing whatsoever on whether a review is from an actual reader who was not incentivized in some way to write the review.

In the old days of publishing, one way authors and publishers would get honest reviews legitimately was by sending out galleys. Sending out galleys was costly as publishers and authors had to pay for printing the galleys, shipping and postage. In the Internet age, there are several services that improve upon the galley model, including BookRooster (http://www.bookrooster.com/for-authors/) and Net Galley (https://www.netgalley.com/home/request).

The idea with BookRooster and Net Galley is that they’ll help get a galley of an author’s book into readers’ hands and that some of these readers will then write reviews of the book. BookRooster is the most economical, with prices ranging from $42 to $67. Typically, a book may go out to several hundred readers, and out of these hundreds a small trickle may like the book enough to write a review. Net Galley is the most expensive with prices starting at $300 for one-week of availability and going up from there. Typically, a book may go out to several thousand readers, and out of these thousands a small handful may like the book enough to write a review. At Net Galley, there’s also an indie special at $399 to $599 for a six-month listing.

Disclosure: I’ve never used Kirkus Reviews, Self-Publishing Review, Indie Reader, BlueInk Reviews, PW Select, or BookLife. Although I haven’t tried Net Galley, I tried BookRooster once, but had extremely limited results.

And yes, I have talked much about reviews before:

Amazon’s Broken, Unfixable, Rotten Core

Selling Your Soul to the Company Store

Authors “Writing” Their Own Reviews



Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek 

12.23.2014

Translating Hugh Howey: No Hugh, Self-Published Authors Don't Treat Readers Like Dirt. If You Do, That's Between You and Your Readers.

I'm Robert Stanek, a pro author since 1994 and an indie since 2001. Normally, I wouldn’t comment one way or another about Hugh Howey. We swim in different oceans and our paths rarely cross. In truth, I didn’t know the guy existed until he made several direct responses to me in online discussions I participated in last November/December.


Clearly, based on these posts, Hugh Howey wanted me to know he existed. The fact I didn’t have a clue who he was seemed to wound him deeply and a fisticuffs ensued with several of his online associates. I had no clue why Hugh Howey would care so much whether I knew who he was until I learned later he had been taking shots at me for quite a long time.

Over the past year, Hugh Howey seems to have been waging war against traditional publishing, a long string of a-list authors, and anyone who supports traditional publishing. To give you an idea of some of the things he’s been saying, here are his thoughts on David Streitfeld of the New York Times:

David Streitfeld of the New York Times has now cemented himself as the blabbering mouthpiece for the New York publishing cartel, and while he is making a fool of himself for those in the know, he is a dangerous man for the impression he makes on his unsuspecting readers.


Recently, I chanced upon a discussion in response to Hugh's blog post entitled, “Are Indies Treated Like Second Class Citizens?”. As you can see from the screen shot (at the end of this article), there’s some simple discussion and then Hugh Howey appears out of the blue saying:

How am I bashing Amazon? I'm guessing you just read the first line or two? Really asking.

The only bashing I see is from the usual suspects and aimed at me. Thinly veiled, of course.


Read the posts from the screen shot. If Hugh thinks he's being bashed somehow by that, he really needs to get out more or at the least learn how to take some simple criticism. 

Intrigued by his hubris, I decided to read “Are Indies Treated Like Second Class Citizens?” Knowing what I know about publishing from over 20 years in this business, I want to translate a few things Hugh says in the article.

Based on my read of the article, it seems Hugh Howey has recently learned that trad publishers not only get higher royalty rates than him but also get more money for borrows in KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited than he does—and he wants to figure out how to get the same pay day. A few choice quotes:

[A KU author gets] $1.30-ish for a borrow. A $9.99 ebook borrowed from a trad publisher, meanwhile, will pay 70%, which comes to $6.99. It’s worth pointing out here that the trad-pubbed author of that ebook will only receive around $1.48 for that same borrow of a $9.99 ebook.


Hugh bases the $1.48 on a 21% royalty rate from the publisher. In actuality, the royalty rate paid for ebooks by trad publishers to their authors can be anywhere from 10% net to 25% net, so in the range of .70 to $1.75.

Hugh also states:

indies aren’t just treated like second class citizens by Amazon — self-published authors treat Amazon’s customers like second class citizens.


Um, speak for yourself, Hugh Howey. Most authors, whether self-published or traditionally published, don’t treat their readers (who are Amazon customers) poorly. If you do, then that’s between you and your readers.

Next, Hugh tries to figure out a plausible way to get more money for himself and authors like him. His words in bold italics. The translation of his words in normal type.

The same freedom to publish that has changed the lives of thousands of authors also brings a wild west where others take advantage and try to game every system in every way possible. A handful of rotten apples spoils the entire bunch. The only way to prevent this is heavy curation, which I certainly don’t want. I want freedom, but with freedom comes the need to curb abuses. The logical step (and many have argued for this, some with compassion, some out of spite) is a tiered system. Classes of treatment for publishers based on the class of treatment given to customers.

What Hugh's really saying: Authors like me who sell lots of books and have thousands of rave reviews should get paid more than authors who don’t. After all, in the class system I'm proposing, I'm in the top tier (and the rest of you aren’t.) Also, while we’re at it, let’s make sure there’s real incentive to take down any author who tries to climb the class ladder.

So you have a class of authors who make their deadlines and a class of authors on probation for not meeting their deadlines. You have a class of authors who get regular feedback from readers about typos and a class of authors who rarely get this feedback (or who act on it promptly when they do). You have authors whose ebooks are read in a few days and authors whose ebooks are read in a few weeks, a reflection, perhaps, on the quality of the customer experience but not on the quality of the work.


What Hugh's really saying: Sorry the rest of you authors are fuck ups. In the class system I'd like to build, you'll be at the bottom anyway and guys like me will be at the top. 


I think we should have the same opportunities... but I don’t think we have the right to expect the same outcomes. That’s where the classes start sorting themselves. Should authors who sell a lot of books get better treatment than authors just starting out?

What Hugh's really saying: My success isn't something you'll ever achieve and the class system I want to build will help ensure this by making sure none of you get paid anywhere close to what a guy like me gets paid. The class system has worked so well throughout history. Peasants should not mix with us nobles and royals. I've been an author for 5 years now. If you haven't, you shouldn't have any of the same rights as I do.

Of course, it will be impossible to prevent abuses by the untoward and impossible to agree on metrics of quality (an exercise that I abhor). But now we can ask again whether Amazon should pay indies — as a whole — the same way they pay trad publishers. ... do I think indies as a whole should get paid the same as trad publishers as a whole? I do not.


What Hugh's really saying: Indies as a whole don't deserve the same pay as someone like me. Authors like me who sell lots of books should get paid more than authors who don’t. Although I abhor having to be the one to determine metrics of quality, I will as it'll help ensure the class structure I want to build remains top light and bottom heavy. I want to control the class ladder to make sure it's impossible to climb to the same lofty heights as me.

The authors who respect Amazon’s customers by providing high quality reads with professional covers at a great price should be treated better than those who upload short error-riddled rough drafts at high prices. And the latter should be treated better than those who break Amazon’s TOS, like having KDP Select books available elsewhere. And this group should be treated better than those who break the law by uploading stolen material (or by profiting from open-source or crowd-sourced material).

What Hugh's really saying: You must overlook the fact that the rules don't apply to me. My books are in KDP Select and also available everywhere else. Further, even though I became a success by cutting my books into parts and selling them in as many pieces as I wanted, that's not something anyone else should be able to do. In a class system, guys like me will make the rules anyway and they'll only apply to the rest of you. Also, while we're at it, let's find ways to make sure that everyone recognizes that everything I produce is a flawless gem and that everything the rest of you produce is flawed crap.


I am biased. I think Amazon should tweak their KU payout system to make it more fair among us indies. 99 cent short stories and novels should pay the same 35 cents that they do on KDP. The payout should also come at higher than the 10% read range (maybe more like 50%). Works priced from $2.99 – $6.99 should pay $2.00 per borrow.

What Hugh's really saying: Take a look at the price of my books. Since my work is better and costs more, I should be getting $2 a borrow and the rest of you shouldn’t. Further more, no one should be able to price their books at .99 like I did. That approach to success is only reserved for people like me at the top of the class structure I'm building.

The fairest thing I can think of is escalators. Amazon’s self-publishing audio book program, ACX, used to employ earnings escalators. The payout rate might start at 40%, but it can go up to 90% with enough sales. This puts the job of rewarding customer experience where it belongs, and that’s with the customer. Keep them happy and coming back for more, and the payout goes up.

What Hugh's really saying: Authors like me should make more than everyone else. After all, in a class system, we’re the top tier (and the rest of you aren’t). Also, while we’re at it, as authors like me start to earn 90% royalties, it’s highly likely the payout for the rest of you will go down closer to 0%, but don’t worry about that. I’ll spend my millions wisely and I encourage you to help me fight for my pay raise. I earned it. I'm Hugh Howey.

I’d love to see that 70% payout creep up to 85% with enough titles sold. Maybe 1,000 sales moves the peg up to 71%. 5,000 sales gets you 72%. Perhaps reaching 85% requires selling ten million ebooks (something no single self-published author has yet done on Amazon). I don’t dream of ever reaching that sort of level, but I would applaud those who do for being rewarded for it.

What Hugh's really saying: I’m on track to get to 10 million sold in a few years. Authors like me who sell lots of books and have thousands of rave reviews should get paid more than authors who don’t. After all, in a class system, we’re the top tier (and the rest of you aren’t). Also, truth be told, no one is going to get a raise after 1,000 sales or even after 5,000 sales, but those of us with 1,000,000 or more sales will. When we do, it’s highly likely the payout for the rest of you will go down considerably, but don’t worry about that. We’ll spend our millions wisely, so keep fighting for our pay raises.

As I said in the original post, it is cosmically unfair for all KDP users to be lumped together. That’s the conundrum. I don’t see an easy answer to any of this, just more problems.

What Hugh's really saying: I really hate the fact that I get paid the same royalty rate as everyone else. It’s not enough that I get perks and privileges the rest of you don’t, like having my books in KDP Select while they’re also on sale everywhere else. I’m supposed to be paid more than everyone else. I’m Hugh Howey. It's cosmically unfair that I don't get 90% royalties.


Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek


12.22.2014

Translating JA Konrath Translating John Sargent: Are Subscription Models Bad For Authors?

I'm Robert Stanek, a successful indie author since 2001 and a successful pro author since 1994. Joe Konrath is quite outspoken about his dislike and disdain for traditional publishing. Some would even say Joe is quite angry. I don't blame Joe for his anger considering he labored for many years as a traditionally published author, barely making a living, until he went indie and finally found true success. In past blog posts, Joe has angrily tore apart trad published authors like James Patterson and others, including the Authors Guild, for their defense of traditional publishing. (For the record, this is not meant as a dis on Joe.)

Personally, I think Joe should be more angry about the broken state of publishing and many of the things I've been blogging about right here: runaway ugliness in publishing; Amazon's broken system; Amazon's unfair business practices; etc.

There is no doubt Joe's an unfettered champion of Amazon, but Joe has much to learn about the heartless, soulless company in Seattle that puts smiley faces on its boxes while working to destroy everything we love about books and reading. If Joe really thinks any executive at Amazon gives a damn about his loyalty, my advice is this: wait a few years and see how they repay your loyalty when you're not making $1 million a year.

I became a pro author the same year Amazon became a company: 1994. I was one of the guy's who put Amazon on the map. My bestselling books, widely read articles, and highly popular websites all told readers about Amazon. I brought millions of new customers to Amazon's doorstep. My reward for years of steadfast loyalty? A handful of shit from a company that could care less about years of loyalty or the millions brought to their doors. And when they use you up, Joe, and shit you out on the pavement, there'll be a thousand guys in line to take your place who all will also think their loyalty means something.

Recently Joe's war against traditional publishing has taken him in new directions. He posted a tirade as a  response to Macmillan CEO John Sargent’s open letter to authors regarding tactics the company is taking to preserve market share in these difficult times for publishing (and books in general). Personally, I think John should have posted such a letter on Macmillan's site and not a Tor.com blog, but that's neither here nor there as I'm sure the letter went out in printed letters, email, etc as well.

As my books have been published by Macmillan, Random House, Pearson, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, etc, John's words were of particular interest. One of the biggest takeaways from the letter is that Amazon sells 64% of Macmillan's ebooks (meaning all other markets represent only 36%). I was not surprised to learn Macmillan was going to begin trials of subscription-based services. I had just done the same in September/October with my ebooks and audio books going into several subscription services.

I was surprised that Joe, whose books are all in Amazon's subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, was suddenly telling Macmillan authors that they should be screaming their heads off about Macmillan's potential use of subscription services. Is not what's good for the goose, good for the gander?

If subscription services devalue authors' works and are bad, why are 100% of Joe's works in Amazon's subscription service? Also, with current payouts for Kindle Unlimited not being far off from what Joe earns in KDP Select, isn't KDP Select devaluing his work and bad as well? As far as I know, Joe has been fine with the ~$1.70 payout of KDP Select, making north of $1 million from borrows, so what makes the ~$1.50 payout of Kindle Unlimited any different?

Joe's questions for John Sargent on behalf of Macmillan authors. My responses in normal type.

1. Can I opt out of this new subscription idea?

Likely, many/most authors are excited about these opportunities, especially with dwindling sales for most, increasing competition and decreasing market relevance. Recently, another publisher (Pearson/Microsoft) did allow me to opt out no questions asked from a new plan I didn't like.

2. My books aren't available in print anymore, or the print sales are minuscule. Can you give me my rights back?


Regarding reversions of rights, there's not a whole hell of a lot authors can do. Joe was fortunate to get his rights back from Macmillan. Many others won't be as fortunate. 

Macmillan made a huge amount of money from my books, north of $50 million, give or take. In the early days when I was writing for Macmillan, I worked hard to make my contracts more fair and balanced, but rights were something they held fast to. A lucky few might get back their rights, but may have to wait a decade or two until Macmillan believes the rights no longer have any value.

There are worse things than publishers holding onto rights. Ever heard of the Creative Commons? The Creative Commons basically is a set of rules for putting an author's work in public domain before copyright expires. In plain language, Creative Commons makes the work freely available to all.

In and of itself, Creative Commons is not a bad thing and was in fact created with the best of intentions. However, some publishers have turned those good intentions to their favor. As an example, O'Reilly Media's standard contract puts an author's work into Creative Commons automatically when it goes out of print or sells fewer than X copies a year (and then also grants O'Reilly Media a perpetual grant to use the work for free). 

For many O'Reilly Media authors this has meant that in 2 - 5 years after publication, their hard work is suddenly in the public domain and O'Reilly Media is free to start using it however they want in perpetuity. Now that's something to be outraged about.

Questions 3 - 17 are all pretty much the same: Why a subscription service? What does this mean to me when you went to war with Amazon over prices?

The fight with Amazon wasn't about price at all. It was about who gets what share of the royalties. See Selling Your Soul to the Company Store.

Joe's further comments in bold italics. My comments in normal type.

Macmillan supporting Oyster and withdrawing titles from Amazon is going against what the majority of the world is doing. That isn't kicking Amazon in the nuts. That's throwing away potential money, and pretty stupid. At this moment in time, competing with Amazon isn't wise. Look for markets Amazon doesn't care about.  Throwing support behind one of Amazon's competitors--when Amazon has the same program--is like starting a fire by burning piles of cash. Yeah, you get heat, but at what cost?

Um, earlier, you said this:

I'm unclear: are you only pursuing this subscription model with Amazon's competitors? Or are you going to also enroll my ebooks in Kindle Unlimited? If so, doesn't that negate everything you've done previously? If not, and you put my ebooks into Scribd or Oyster or wherever, will my ebooks still be sold on Amazon? Or will you pull them from Amazon?

I think a test of the subscription model will be exactly that. A test to determine viability. Likely, Macmillan will use Oyster and possibly Scribd as well for this test. Further, John states exactly this: We plan to try subscription with backlist books, and mostly with titles that are not well represented at bricks and mortar retail stores.

And can someone answer how any author, other than a big bestseller, would ever sign with Macmillan knowing their books are going into a subscription plan?

One could ask the same of any author who has considered or used subscription plans. Joe, you currently do this, and you also use KDP Select for all of your titles. As far as I know, the ~$1.70 payout of KDP Select and the ~$1.50 payout of Kindle Unlimited aren't much different.

The reason most writers sign legacy deals, other than getting an advance, is legacy's ability to get paper books onto retail shelves.

Strongly disagree. The reason most writers sign legacy deals is because of the worldwide reach of traditional publishers coupled with the belief that there is more potential for sales success. I'm not saying this is true any longer, but it is a long-held perception.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek

12.09.2014

Avast Ye Matey: What to Do if Your eBook is Pirated

Lots of talk about piracy these days and much discussion about whether it's worth the effort to try to take down pirate copies or whether it's simply a whack-a-mole undertaking. IMHO, I think the answer as to whether trying to reduce or eliminate piracy of your work is worth the effort depends on the author and his/her body of work.

For an author starting out or with only a relative few books to his or her credit, piracy likely will not cause harm and may actually be a net benefit. Yes, you read that correctly: a net benefit. Some authors spend a considerable amount of time, money and resources giving away free copies of their books and a limited amount of piracy could be seen as one way to get free copies of a book into the marketplace.

For other authors, such as those with many works or some modicum of success, some piracy is part and parcel with being an author. However, too much piracy can derail success.

I've been a professionally published author since 1995 and have over 150 books to my credit (William Stanek for technical works, William Robert Stanek for learning books and compilations, and Robert Stanek for everything else I write). My books have generated well over $100 million in sales at retail. Or put another way over 7.5 million people have purchased my works, $59.99 at retail x 2 million = ~$120 million and the other 5.5 million+ sales at other price points were gravy.

I've been researching the impact of piracy on sales of my books for many years. Part of this research has been tracking the number of illegal downloads, which runs into millions of copies, and the sites where these downloads are/were available. Many of my most valuable properties were made available for illegal downloading, including audiobook and book products that retailed for $29.99 to $59.99. The total value at retail of the stolen: $100 million+.

I have no illusions that my sales would have been twice what they were if my work hadn't been illegally downloaded by the millions. I do, however, believe a considerable portion would have. The exact portion is unknowable, but even if only 10% that's tens of millions of dollars in sales.

How many content creators have been impacted similarly? My thoughts are that thousands have been. Maybe not as considerably as myself, but certainly collectively this pirating represents billions of lost sales annually.

For authors concerned about piracy, there are an increasing number of tools. You can try sending a DMCA Takedown notice to the site owner, such as the following:

DMCA
VIA Email at [[ISPHosting[at]YourIsp.com]]
Re: Copyright Claim
To [[ISP Hosting Company Where Your Work Is Being Infringed]]:
  I am the copyright owner of [[BOOK] in contract with [PUBLISHER]] being infringed at:
 [[http://www <list the exact link or links to where the infringement is taking place>]]
 This letter is official notification under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") to effect removal of the above-reported infringements. I request that you immediately issue a cancellation message as specified in RFC 1036 for the specified postings and prevent the infringer, who is identified by its Web address, from posting the infringing photographs to your servers in the future. Please be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to "expeditiously remove or disable access to" the infringing book downloads upon receiving this notice. Noncompliance may result in a loss of immunity for liability under the DMCA.
 I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of here is not authorized by me, the copyright holder, or the law. The information provided here is accurate to the best of my knowledge. I swear under penalty of perjury that I am the copyright holder. Please send me at the address noted below a prompt response indicating the actions you have taken to resolve this matter.
  Sincerely,
 [[Your Name]]
 [[Your Email]]
 [[Publisher and Publisher email <if you have a publisher> ]]

Several services also have been started recently to help authors fight piracy. One of those services is www.Muso.com. Muso.com offers a free trial period and then acts as a paid monthly service.

I've tested out the Muso service for some time to see how it worked and whether it was useful to me. For me, the free trial was the most useful aspect of the service as it quickly identified all the locations where my books were being pirated (as opposed to me manually performing searches of all my titles, variations of title names, my name, variations of my name, etc).

If you use the monthly service, you can have them send out takedown notices for you. Once you have these locations, you also can send your own DMCA Takedown Notices where there were instances of actual piracy. However, you still need to check each location. For example, about 1/3 of the sites identified weren't actually pirating my work and about 1/3 weren't actually full pirate copies of my work--they were simply samples. For those remaining that were actually pirated copies, I could have specified that I wanted the service to send automated take down notices.

You also can set up Google Alerts for your books and your name to help you track where your books are appearing online. Notifications from Google Alerts will include information about all locations the tracked books appear, including those that are legitimate and those that are illegitimate. Because of this, you'll need to go through and identify which are legitimate and which are illegitimate. Once you've done that you can issue takedown notices as appropriate.

Hope this information helps you,

Robert Stanek

12.02.2014

Oh the Choices! Choosing Between Ingram Sparks, Create Space & Nook Press

For authors, there are many choices for printing your own books, including Ingram Sparks and Create Space. Also, Barnes & Noble just announced a print-on-demand service. However, there's not a whole lot here yet. My guess is Barnes & Noble is testing the waters to see if the service is viable.

For Nook Press, looks to me like there's a starter set of options for standard B&W and color:
5" x 8"
5.5" x 8.5"
6x9"
7.5" x 9.25"
7" x 10"
8" x 10"
8.5" x 8.5"

With B&W, you have the book printed on 50# white or 55# crème paper. With full-color, you can have the book printed on 70# white paper.
Since Nook Press allows you to print without even having an ISBN and it's only for printing and sending books to you, this service is best for hobbyists, who want to:

A) Print up their own copies of a particular book as gifts
B) or Sell books from home.

I've use both Ingram and Create Space since they started operations years ago. Both are good options for self-publishers.
Here's my .02 and hope you find it useful:

Ingram Sparks is part of Ingram Digital, which also has Lightning Source Inc. Ingram Digital / LSI have invested heavily in printing machines and continue to update their machines. When it comes to full-color, they have premium and non-premium options as well with the premium being of exceptional quality. Their investment in machinery has always put them ahead of Create Space in terms of overall quality, but Create Space is working hard to catch up.
The relative quality and thickness of paper depends on the type of paper. Generally, for non-color, I believe Ingram Sparks uses #50 paper stock with both white and crème, while Create Space uses #50 white and 60# crème. Either way, the quality of paper stock is comparable.

Overall quality of the resulting product, also depends on how well the binding is glued, how the cover is fitted and more. Here, in my opinion, Ingram Sparks has always beat Create Space when it comes to overall quality, but again Create Space is catching up.
For me, the choice on whether to use Ingram or Create Space depends on the sales potential of the book.

With books where you expect low sales, you'll find Create Space can't be beat. Create Space has no setup costs and no annual fees for distribution. This makes it a low-cost choice. Create Space also gives you options for a free ISBN (for that specific print edition), $10 for a custom ISBN or using your own ISBN. Create Space staff is exceptional and you have many expanded distribution options that will get your books not only into online retailers but libraries and international markets as well.

With books where you expect better and continuing sales or want to do print runs of 20, 50 or 100 copies, you're better off using Ingram. With Ingram, you have to pay setup costs and annual fees for distribution. This is offset by the generally lower cost per printing (particularly with expanded distribution options). If you do print runs, you often can get discounts depending on the size of the print run, such as 10%, 20%, or even 30%.
Ingram staff also is fantastic to work with.

Both good Create Space and Ingram Sparks are good choices -- and better choices than Nook's service for self-publishers.
Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek

11.17.2014

Indie Plus: A Distribution Service for Indie Authors, Allowing Indie Authors to Reach the World in New Ways

For those authors who want to keep their rights, be able to manage their own Amazon KDP accounts, but have someone else distribute everywhere else you may like Indie Plus.

The first thing you need to know about Indie Plus is that the service is free. All work performed on behalf of authors, publishers and agents is done at no cost, including:
  • Document conversion to industry standard formats, such as Epub and PDF
  • Document optimization as required for various retailer and library platforms
  • Cover optimization, sizing and format conversion as required for various retailer and library platforms
Thus, with Indie Plus, you submit your formatted document (.doc/docx) and image (.jpg) files and the service creates the .EPUB, .PDF and other book files needed for submission.

Indie Plus earns based on commissions from the actual royalties you receive, which depend on the retailer or library where the purchase is made. The top retail royalty rate is 70%. The top library royalty rate is 70%.
Indie Plus gets a 20% commission on the net proceeds. With a 70% royalty rate, this means Indie Plus gets 14% (20% of 70% = 14%). With a 35% royalty rate, this means Indie Plus gets 7% (20% of 35% = 7%).

Unlike other services, Indie Plus distributes print, ebook and audio. When you submit your work, you can specify the formats to distribute. Ebook is the primary format and Indie Plus must elect (optionally) to handle your print and audio.
Indie Plus requires a minimum 2-year commitment, with automatic renewal unless you cancel within 90 days before or after the renewal period. Why? Many of the retailers and libraries to which Indie Plus delivers print, ebooks, and audio are only available to established publishers and/or expect stability in their product offerings. Established publishers don’t make constant changes to their data and this is what these retailers and libraries expect.

Indie Plus is a good service to use with titles that you want to continue to have available in Amazon KDP but no longer want to use with Kindle Select, Kindle Unlimited or Kindle FreeTime.
Indie Plus distributes to the following retailers:

CreateSpace
Barnes & Noble / Nook Press

iBooks / iTunes
Kobo Books

Oyster
Scribd

Google Play

& Many, many more.

Indie Plus distributes to the following library aggregators:

Baker & Taylor
OverDrive

3M
BookWire

TXTR
Gardners

& Many, many more.

Indie Plus also works with national retailers and library organizations in many countries.

With audio, Indie Plus allows you to continue to manage your titles that are enrolled in Audible / ACX services while distributing your works to dozens of other retailers and library aggregators. This allows you to manage titles in Audible / ACX while opening many new opportunities.

Video options are in process and the distribution chain is being developed. With video, Indie Plus will allow you to continue to manage your titles in Netflix while distributing your works to select retailers and library aggregators.

Indie Plus is a service of RP Media. For those who don't know RP Media, this is RP Media:

RP Media includes three primary operating companies:

RP Books
RP Audio
RP Video

The key RP Media imprints by operating location are:

RP Books

Olympia:
    Reagent Press
    Reagent Press Signature Editions
    Reagent Press Echo
    Reagent Press Large Print
    Ruin Mist Publications
    RP Classics
    Pequena Imprenta
    Reagent Press Books for Young Readers

Seattle:
    Bugville Learning
    Bugville Publishing

Seattle:
 - Stanek & Associates


RP Audio
    Reagent Press Audio
    RP Audio Publishing
    Classroom-To-Go
    RP Audio Kids

 RP Video
    Bugville Kids
    My World Video
    Wonderful World Video

Reagent Press itself is one element of RP Media. Indie Plus fits in as a new branch in the RP Media family. There are independent RP Media operations out of Concord and Boston as well with their own imprints. These imprints are managed separately.

Hope you’ll consider Indie Plus for your publishing needs!

Thanks for reading,


Robert Stanek

11.15.2014

Amazon’s Broken, Unfixable, Rotten Core: Time to Salvage the Parts to Save the Cancerous Whole

Many of America’s inner cities are food deserts. They don’t have grocery stores, corner stores or any type of store really, excepting the occasional fast food establishment. If Amazon has its way, America itself will be a vast shopless desert where our goods come from massive automated, virtually workerless warehouses with our goods delivered by pilotless drones. That’s not science fiction, that’s Amazon.com’s vision for our future. Remember that this holiday season and beyond before you buy any physical product from Amazon.com that can be readily bought in your local community.

But the recent Amazon – Hachette debacle is a discernible symptom of something far worse: Amazon.com’s broken, unfixable, rotten core. The end of the public brawl makes no difference. As Douglas Preston stated in The New York Times, “If anyone thinks this is over they are deluding themselves. Amazon covets market share the way Napoleon coveted territory.” In “Amazon May Get Ubered,” a Newsweek columnist went even further, stating: “Hegemony never lasts in technology. The day the first pundit calls a tech superpower a dangerous monopoly, start looking for whatever is coming to overthrow it.”

Amazon.com was founded the same year I became a professional writer: 1994. I was an exuberant public supporter of the company in my bestselling books and high-profile articles read by millions from the start. I was even stupid enough to drive many millions more to Amazon.com through my popular websites, including Internet Daily News, the Writer’s Gallery, and Internet Job Center. Why? I was taken in hook, line and sinker by the way Amazon.com positioned itself as a righteous David in a world of unethical goliaths. How naïve I was, how wrong I was, for Amazon.com has developed into a heartless, soulless, unethical goliath that has demonstrated repeatedly and publicly it answers to no one—not investors, not employees, not partners, not even governments.

Worse, Amazon.com has a strangle-hold over an industry beloved by people around the world: publishing. This dangerous strangle-hold threatens the livelihoods of millions: authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, and others.

Not only is Amazon.com’s proximate monopoly control of the publishing industry untenable, but Amazon.com should be under investigation by governments worldwide for its many unfair labor and business practices. Although Amazon.com's exploitive labor and business practices have been the subjects of headlines around the world, no government has stepped in, taken action, and demanded that exploited workers and business partners, which include content creators, developers, publishers, authors and others, be made whole.

At Amazon.com’s broken core are its sales systems which reward those who see publishing as a zero sum game in which they lose out if another succeeds. Many in publishing will recognize the widespread use of malicious reviews and commentary as well as vicious attacks designed to sabotage sales and careers.

As many authors and industry pundits have stated publicly, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that many of these reviews, comments, and attacks come from other authors and persons related to other authors. Other nastiness comes from certain authors’ fans who see anyone else’s success as a threat to those authors, as well as those who just get off on attacking strangers in public.

The effect of spurious negative reviews is to undermine the reader’s confidence in making a purchase, to damage a book’s ranking, and to destroy an author’s sales. The flood of negativity isn’t about helping readers avoid a bad book—it’s about ruining careers and livelihoods.

How books are ranked on Amazon.com determines not only where they appear in search results, but whether they appear at all. Ranking also controls overall visibility throughout Amazon.com websites with regard to specials, lists, categories, features, promotions, and more.

How books are ranked on Amazon.com is dependent on several factors, including: how positive a book’s reviews are and how well a book is selling. Amazon.com looks not only at recent sales, but also at sales history and sales trends. Amazon.com looks not only at overall ratings, but also at review and rating trends, up/down voting of reviews, and how recently a book has been reviewed.

Those with destructive intent know how the sales systems work and they use the systems to cause harm. They do this in many ways, including by ensuring negative reviews stay visible, where they are most effective and cause the most harm. Thus, not only do they often ensure recent reviews are negative, they often vote up past negative reviews while voting down any positive reviews. They do this to torpedo an author’s sales.

Amazon.com’s rotten core doesn’t just affect the publishing industry—it affects the entire entertainment industry and other industries as well. The same nastiness that occurs with books, ebooks and audiobooks also occurs with other products sold on Amazon.com, including music, movies, video games, apps, and more. Amazon.com’s rotten core does, in fact, extend to every part of its operations.

As I wrote about in Selling Your Soul to the Company Store: Amazon’s Mistreatment of Its Employees, Amazon.com’s unfair labor and business practices have been widely documented, but no one is doing anything about them. As a public company, Amazon.com has been funded by starry-eyed investors who, like me, believed the Rumpelstiltskin-spinning-straw-into-gold stories coming out of Seattle. Stories that don’t hold water in the face Amazon.com’s epic failure to become a consistently profitable company.

Amazon.com is no longer a 2-year-old startup that can make empty promises and deliver empty air. What is there to show investors after 20 years in the business? What is there to show for endless promises that someday Amazon.com will start making a consistent profit? Billions upon billions of investors’ hard-earned money poured down a toilet drain, and a company whose parts are worth more separately than the cancer-ridden whole.

In tech years, Amazon.com is an octogenarian who can’t decide what he wants to be when he grows up. Does he want to be a product company, a hosting company, a device company, a services company, a streaming company, a shipping company, a publishing company, or a Hollywood movie producer? All of which, Amazon.com is currently trying to be—and all of which are bleeding the company of much needed operating cash.

Regarding cash on hand, financial analysts have stated the company doesn’t have enough cash on hand at any one time to pay what it owes its business partners: you know, the people whose products are sold on its site, including authors, developers, publishers, and other content creators. Instead, Amazon.com keeps itself afloat by relying on the fact that it generally has up to 90 days to pay its partners.

The emperor has no clothes. It’s time for investors to call Amazon to account. It’s time for business partners to demand prompt payment. It also may be time for a breakup of Amazon.com to salvage the remains of a cancerous whole. Like the breakup of the Bell System in 1982, the breakup of Amazon.com would effectively take a damaging monopoly and split it into entirely separate companies. Companies that would no longer have monopolistic controls. Companies that could start anew and rid themselves of their unfair labor and business practices roots. Companies that might even become consistently profitable.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek