Friday, April 19, 2013

Talking to Myself -- More Thoughts on ACX

I appreciate all the terrific insight and feedback got on my earlier ACX post. I got some good
suggestions and workarounds -- and some useful perspective. As I said in that initial post, there's no question of not continuing with audio books, merely figuring out the best way to commission them.

Since that post I've sold 397 audio books on ACX. I won't know until I see the royalty statement for April how many of those sold at the super-duper $1.99 price, how many sold through Audible subscriptions, and how many sold at regular prices through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. I don't know if those are respectable numbers or not, but they seem pretty average for my particular sales. The highest selling book was A Dangerous Thing (94), which does not have a pricing incentive attached, followed by Fatal Shadows (92) which does. The worst selling title was A Darkling Thrush (5). If I was going to attach a pricing incentive to any book, it would be that one. Audible doesn't see it that way, though, and no pricing incentive is attached. This is why I would like a say in pricing my own product.

In that time my titles have continued to dominate the Gay and Lesbian bestseller list on Audible (last time I checked, I had three of the top four titles) and A Dangerous Thing popped up on Audible's Mystery and Thriller Superstar list.

My post was picked up by a couple of other publishing blogs and it was interesting to read some of the comments. A number of people missed the point and thought I was complaining about the incentive pricing itself. The complaint was -- and continues to be -- not having any input or control over incentive pricing.

I certainly don't object to giving books away (regular readers will recall that I gave away over 50 trade paperbacks during December's Big Ass Book Giveaway, that I give audio books away regularly on Jessewave's Review site, that I made In Sunshine or In Shadow a freebie on St. Paddy's, etc.). I understand perfectly well how effective freebies and reducing pricing can be. But strategic pricing is just that. A strategy. It only makes sense to include the author in on the strategy.

Comment threads on other blogs diverged into the topic of self-publishing in general (I do self-publish, but I am also traditionally published -- and that of course is yet another issue. If the bundling is for a publisher-owned title, then I'm making considerably less on the ebook than I am when the bundling is for my own reissued titles) and -- I loved this one! -- whether it was even possible to commission a quality audio production for two thousand dollars. Short answer: go sample some of my titles at ACX and decide for yourself.


One thing I found interesting was the almost resentful attitude in some quarters that an author would "complain" about earnings -- or maybe even simply discuss money in public. But yes, shockingly, I am a professional writer and I do think about things like how much I earn. Especially around tax time. I think writing is the best job in the world, and I am grateful every day that I get to do this for a living. The catch is, I do have to earn a living at it.

I think it's useful when authors share facts and figures about their publishing experiences. Especially because, in our particular little genre, there isn't a lot of accurate, specific information. We know a lot about the romance genre in general, but I haven't seen a lot of breaking out m/m numbers from the bulk of romance. Plus, we see a lot of manipulating numbers and reviews on sites like Amazon, which contributes to the general confusion.  It would be great to have solid, specific information on our genre.

Anyway, I digress. I appreciate the advice and support I got -- I especially appreciate that you're continuing to the buy these audio books -- and never you fear, I will continue to make more!

32 comments:

  1. You've just sold another copy of Darkling Thrush! I don't know how I missed the announcement that this one was out, but I did.

    I'm glad that your previous post sparked some wider interest. Maybe things will change, so that authors have an input.

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    1. I think it would be a relatively simply change. Add a box where authors click in or not on incentive pricing -- and make it clear that it's up to Amazon whether the incentive is ultimately offered or not.

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  2. I'll be happy to contribute to your bottom line, Josh, as soon as Dragon Boy comes out... ;)

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    1. That'll be our test case for sure. ;-)

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  3. So glad the audiobooks are doing well and that there will be more of them! :-) I'm actually listening now to the Darkling Thrush and the audio is sooo good! It's one of a couple of titles i got from itunes before switching to audible.

    I found your previous post very informative, and it was certainly important for me as reader to know how these things work.

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    1. Thanks, KC.

      And I hope so. I don't want to get too narrow in my blogging focus, but I think some of these things are of interest to readers too. Judging by how many emails I get with readers asking how can they help, I think most readers don't mind the occasional discussion about behind the scenes stuff.

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  4. I very much appreciate your discussions on things like numbers, money, etc. I wish there was more of it from other authors. It *is* a business, after all.

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    1. And a complicated, changing business at that!

      Thanks, Christie.

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  5. I have all your books, both in audio (the ones that have been released) and in ebook (and I even have the The Irregulars in *gasp* paper)and I have to say it was so worth the money from my point of view. I just hope it becomes so, from yours.

    Thanks (as always) for keeping us in the loop.

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    1. Thank you, Nora.

      The truth is, no one goes into writing strictly for the money (I mean, no one with a clue). There are much easier and surer ways to make money.

      But I do want to be paid a fair wage and earn a living. It seems fair to me. I want the exact same thing for everyone else, too.

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  6. I'm surprised about the A Darkling Thrush sales. I guess I shouldn't be since we're looking at niches within niches — fantasy/mystery, romance, m/m, audio. It's such a well done audio book. I hope others catch on or Amazon changes its promotional policy to accept author/publisher input.

    I think I mentioned this before, here or on GR, but I remember a feminist essay (back in the 70s) comparing some of the attitudes/stereotypes about women to those about artists. On the pedestal, virgin/whore, and in the case of artists being expected to be "above" filthy lucre or labeled a "sell out". I think its amazing how many of us are still expected to ignore or be politely discrete about this rather essential aspect of real life. Teachers get this too. We shouldn't complain about our salaries because we "get 3 months off." When I add in the real hours spent during the school year and our breaks, it's kind of bleak.

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    1. Good point.

      I wonder too if because writing seems like a "fun" job, people think that should be enough recompense?

      I know a lot of people have really inaccurate ideas about what writers do and how much they earn.

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    2. It's amazing the perceptions, or rather misconceptions, many have about other people's professions. Think about it. Many think firemen sit around all day waiting for a fire call, policemen just ride around in cars, teachers talk five hours a day and get three months vacation.

      One of my aunts once told me "It must be nice to be a librarian because all you have to do is sit and check out books." Wish I'd had her around when the crazed homeless man threw a chair at me.

      One of my neighbors is a teacher. She leaves for work at 6:00 a.m. and rarely gets home before 5 p.m. She teaches elementary science and has a virtual zoo in her lab. Bunnies, mice, the IGUANA, and the 30 other animals just don't seem to be able to feed themselves over Christmas holidays, Spring Break, in the summer.

      Same thing with writers. You just sit at the computer, daydreaming and playing games, and occasionally jotting a few lines.

      The uncertainty of the profession alone (aside from the lack of talent by 99 per cent of the population) makes cowards of most of us.

      And, most people don't realize just how cheap publishers are. (Sorry, after 30 years of dealing with book salesmen I know just how tough they are to deal with.) Plus, I have a good friend who is a best-selling mainstream author. He has been in the business for a long, long time. He makes about $1.25 per book. Obviously, most of his income is gained via his advance, which, at his time in life is substantial. Still, there were many, many years when he made little, worked two jobs to support his family, and wrote at night and on weekends.

      So, I admire the way you're going at it. You recognize, and seemingly prefer, writing within your niche and doing it in a way that affords you a comfortable living.

      Very few writers get rich, but most live very rich lives. And, after all, that's what is important.

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    3. Same thing with writers. You just sit at the computer, daydreaming and playing games, and occasionally jotting a few lines.

      That is unfortunately true. Which is why we're all broke.

      :-D :-D :-D

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    4. Very few writers get rich, but most live very rich lives. And, after all, that's what is important.

      That's the truth.

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    5. All I can say here, is save what you can. Pay into SS and an IRA.

      My sweet old friend John Dickson Carr ended his days "dependent on the kindness of friends."

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    6. Gulp.

      I know. I think about it a lot these days.

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  7. About A Darkling Thrush: I bought it because I loved that book so very much (it's one of my favorite of yours!!), but I'm very glad I bought it with my Audible member discount because the reader didn't work for me at all. :( I found him very very very monotonous and not a suitable choice for Colin (his Septimus voice worked slightly better for me, though). I was surprised because all the other audiobooks of yours I've bought have excellent casting, so I expected this one to be the same and didn't listen to the preview, which might have spared me the disappointment. No idea if other listeners checked the preview out instead, had my same reaction and did not buy.

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    1. I'm sorry you didn't care for the narrator on that one!

      I should clarify. Those sales are just since I wrote that first ACX blog. The Darkling Thrush has overall done fine sales-wise, just not as well as the other books!

      But it's also fantasy and in general my fantasy work doesn't do as well as my mystery and romance.

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  8. You're discussing money? Next thing we know, you'll be talking about sex.

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  9. I purchased His For the Holidays Thursday simply to get your title. It was the best, though I did like one of the other writers pretty well. A couple of them were a bit too graphic for my tastes and I thought the sex was rather gratuitous.

    And, I did purchase at the $8.95 price on Audible. Hey, it was a deal!

    I do not normally buy compilations because you often get one very good title and 2 or 3 or 4 marginal ones.

    If I had my druthers, especially with audiobooks, I would like to see a novella offered as it's own entity. I would have spent $8.95 on "Ice" simply because I like your writing style, and it was a very nice little novella. But I understand the reasoning behind this type of publication for it does allow some to "sample" various writers.

    My solution has been to go in and "snip" the other writer out in order to have a stand alone.

    You did get some good solutions in the previous blog post and I appreciate your allowing readers your perspective on the "business" of publishing.

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    1. My plan for a lot of the novellas will be to combine them in two or threesomes and do those as the audio books. So there will only be a print book and it will be a couple of stories -- This Rough Magic and Ill Met By Moonlight, for example. Or the I Spy Stories.

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    2. Looking forward to that! :)

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  10. Great! As long as they are yours.

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  11. I admit I haven't listened to an audiobook in years but I love the compilations of your novellas in print. Going from one story to the next (and I do buy them as ebooks first) is like indulging in a particularly lush box of chocolates.

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    1. I'm glad. I'm working on putting all the short short stories together in one single collection -- that will go to audio as well. I think it's going to make for a rich assortment of flavors.

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  12. Thought you and your other readers would find these comments about eBooks by Margaret Maron interesting.

    She's one of my favorite Southern-themed mystery writers and if you've not read her, I highly recommend both of her series. The Judge Deborah Knott series is her best known, but both are standouts, IMO.

    FWIW:
    http://www.margaretmaron.com/blog/killer-market-flying-virtual-shelf-why/

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    1. Thanks, Penelope. I always enjoy these kinds of articles!

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  13. Josh said:
    >>I am a professional writer and I do think about things like how much I earn. Especially around tax time. I think writing is the best job in the world, and I am grateful every day that I get to do this for a living. The catch is, I do have to earn a living at it.<<

    Well, duh! And some people had a problem with this?!
    I guess, like you said, writing for some people falls under the category of "creative activity", therefore it's not a "real job" for them... Or maybe for some (aspiring) / (part time) writers, it's an activity they do in their spare time, to unwind from their day job etc. so talking about money in that particular context sounds like heresy? Who knows!?
    I'm totally with you, Josh. Writers write, and if they have fun while doing it, and feel grateful to do this wonderful job, it's still a job and it has to be profitable. That's also what makes a writer like you a professional. That doesn't take away the fact that you enjoy liaising with your online friends and readers, that you project this friendly, fun image, together with your professional, serious one. I guess everybody is not able to do that, But you've been writing a long time too, and have developed a well balanced attitude, whereas others may just have gotten their feet wet, and have yet to find a way to make writing a full time occupation that's also profitable, without thinking they've 'sold out'...

    On a related topic, thinking over the Whispersync facility on Amazon/Audible... I guess even if I was remotely interested in trying it, I don't think it would be for me anyway. I like to think of a book (ebook or print) and its corresponding audiobook as two separate products, to be enjoyed separately and differently. I don't like to 'mix & match'. the idea of continuing reading a book I've partially listened to, or otherwise, doesn't appeal to me. But I guess this is because the only audiobooks I've listened to so far were of books I'd already read... I don't know if it would be the same for something I hadn't read or listened to it yet. However, with bookmarks it wouldn't be difficult to manually pick up on one platform where one has left off on another platform, so Whispersync to me feels like a gimmick that's maybe 'nice to have' but certainly not something that would convince me to prefer Amazon/Audible to another webstore for my purchases

    Paola

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  14. Thank you, Paola. I think you've hit on something there with the idea that so *many* people write now, that it almost takes on a hobby aspect by default. It's almost mind-boggling given how many readers and bloggers and reviewers are hoping to eventually be writers.

    I'm not interested in whyspersynch but a number of readers pointed out that English is a second language for them so whyspersynch is useful. That does give a different perspective.

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