DMCA Problem Resolved — for Me. Not So Sure About Everyone Else.

I’m delighted to say that Nolander is back on sale — or on giveaway, anyway — on Amazon. Even as the lower levels of KDP were churning out the form letter I quoted in my last post, the upper levels must have been giving the problem more individualized consideration. So, thank you to Amazon and KDP for taking care of this problem. And a huge thank you to the folks on Kboards who orchestrated an attention-getting email campaign on my behalf. You guys are the best. :)

Hopefully this situation is all wrapped up. I’ve been in touch with other retail platforms, asking them to be alert for fraudulent attacks on my books. Fingers-crossed, I won’t have to deal with this sort of thing again. But of course, other people might. In fact, I might be safer than others, now, since there’s a paper trail (“electron trail”?) at all the retailers documenting my having been targeted.

For the time being, I had better go grade some student papers.

But I want to think about this DMCA-scam issue some more. My scammer clearly made some mistakes, and those allowed me to build a convincing case. But what if there are no mistakes, next time? The person I spoke to at Amazon said the company doesn’t want to inadvertently aid spurious uses of the DMCA and that it would be taking a fresh look at its current policy. I trust they will do that. Nevertheless, it seems like a tough problem to solve. The DMCA may have been written for the digital age, but it wasn’t really designed for a truly global environment — nothing that leans so heavily on the U.S. legal system for both its teeth and its safeguards is going to work properly when information flows unimpeded across borders. And it doesn’t seem to have been designed with today’s massive digital sales environment in mind, since retailers apparently see themselves as exempt from the counter-noticing process.

I’m not quite sure what to make of it, but it seems like a problem we need to solve. Anyone have any ideas?

March 7 update: Aftermath for Nolander, and thoughts on how retailers could react to fraudulent DMCA notices more effectively.

Today Is Tolkien Reading Day! … #MadMarchness … #TolkienReadingDay

But what if you’ve already read Tolkien a zillion times?

(Um … “more than five but fewer than ten” doesn’t count as “a zillion,” right? Okay, good. Just checking.)

As I was saying, what if you’ve already read Tolkien a zillion times? Well, read a different book with Tolkien in mind. Or read Tolkien today and buy something written by one of Tolkien’s hopeless-nerd groupies another perfectly respectable author for another day.

A bunch of fantasy writers have gathered to offer their books at the bargain-basement price of $.99 in a Tolkien Reading Day promotion. Nolander is $.99, and so are more than twenty other books. Stock up and enjoy!

Indie Authors and the “Rule of Seven”

Why market your books? It takes time away from writing, after all.

I’ve been thinking for the last few months about the so-called “rule of seven” — the old advertising saw that people need to see or hear your marketing message seven times before they’ll follow through with a purchase. Maybe it’s true, in at least a general way, that potential buyers are more likely to pull the trigger if they’ve built a sense of familiarity with a book through repeated exposure. (I’m a little doubtful about the power of seven in particular.)

So I’ve been trying to get Nolander out there a bit more in low-key, low-stakes ways. I have an ad running on Goodreads (23,309 views and thirteen clicks — about an average rate, believe it or not). Occasionally I promote a post on Facebook. And for the time being, I’m keeping Nolander discounted to try to keep it prominent in Amazon’s “also-bought” recommendations and to try to gain exposure on the other sites (the latter is not easy, that’s for sure). In a few days, Nolander‘s cover will be part of a genre-guessing game on The Cheap Ebook. Later this month, I’ll be joining with other authors on the Magic Appreciation Tour for a Spring Equinox promotion. In April I’ll be promoting the book through Kindle Boards Blog.

And sometimes a little bit of exposure just falls in your lap: today Victorine Lieske‘s terrific book-discovery site, Addicted to Ebooks, chose to feature Nolander on its front page. Isn’t that nice? Thank you, Vicki! :)

At the same time, I’m trying not to let my promotional activities eat into my writing time too much. After all, if you think of the author herself as the “product,” then each new book presents that product to the public all over again.

Guest Post by Elizabeth Baxter, Author of The Last Priestess

TheLastPriestessCoverToday The Active Voice is celebrating the release of The Last Priestess, a fantasy novel by author Elizabeth Baxter. Beautiful cover, eh?

There is a name that is uttered only in whispers. The Songmaker. A ruthless rebel mage, he is bringing civil war to the once-peaceful kingdom of Amaury, enveloping all in a tide of violence. For Maegwin, a tormented priestess, the path forward lies in forgiving her temple’s enemies—but she dreams only of revenge. For Rovann, a loyal mage haunted by his failures, salvation might be found in the unthinkable: defying the very king he swore to protect. If they are to succeed they must form an unlikely alliance. For someone must stand against the Songmaker. Someone must save Amaury from his dark designs. But first, they’ll have to learn to trust each other.

And so a magical fantasy of darkness and redemption begins.

Read an excerpt:

Maegwin de Romily woke with a headache on the morning of her execution.

As she roused from dark dreams she became aware of smells first: damp stone, the skitter of rats, the hushed voices of the other prisoners. Then finally, sight. Dawn sunlight fell through the barred window so brightly it brought tears to her eyes and made her head pound like a drum, beating out the rhythm of her heart.

About Elizabeth Baxter:

I’ve been a bookworm since I was five years old. The first book I ever read was about a boy going shopping with his mum. I picked it up from my brother’s bedroom floor and suddenly those strange shapes on the page made sense. I could read! Hallelujah! I was soon working my way steadily through the school library and it wasn’t long before I realised that stories about dragons, elves and great big talking lions were by far the most interesting. And that was it, my obsession with fantasy fiction was born.

I wrote and published my first book when I was six. This was a rip-roaring adventure tale called “The Golden Pheasant,” about, well, a golden pheasant. I wrote out three copies on bits of paper pulled from my school books, bound them in covers made from old cereal boxes, and gave them out to my teachers. And that’s it. I was a writer!

When I’m not writing I enjoy playing tennis (badly), playing the guitar (very badly) and watching cricket whenever I can. I’m also intent on cramming as much world travel as I can into one lifetime. Funny, but my list keeps getting longer. You can never see it all can you?

EBaxterprofilepictureYou can connect with Elizabeth Baxter on her blog, her Amazon author page, Facebook, and Twitter.

Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and the 70% Royalty

I’ve read a few recent articles that make things sound pretty damn ominous for Barnes & Noble. The company’s been closing storefronts all over the country, so perhaps it’s no surprise that revenue from that segment was down almost 11 percent in the last quarter of 2012. What’s more surprising is that the Nook segment’s revenues were down over the holidays as well — by 12.6 percent. (These numbers are drawn from the article in Publishers Weekly.) It sounds as though the Nook is not competing all that well, at this point.

The closure of B&N would be a bummer for many readers. The majority of people still prefer paper books, and many people enjoy shopping for them in bookstores (though perhaps quite a few of them actually buy the books they’ve found through Amazon). I myself love browsing in B&N. I’ve always loved the big-box bookstores. Even back in the 1990s, I wasn’t one to think they were wicked for driving indie bookstores out of existence. I was too busy being excited about the ability to walk into a bookstore and walk out ten minutes later with exactly what I wanted — Book 5 out of eight in a fantasy series, a piece of literary theory, an obscure magazine, a map of a foreign country, whatever — instead of having to special-order it. That was what made the big stores attractive to me: selection, selection, selection. And they let you drink coffee around their merchandise. That was nice.

Then along came Amazon and put everyone else’s selection to shame; as you might expect, that’s where most of my book-shopping dollars began to go, especially after I moved to a small, rural town and signed up for Prime. Poor B&N.

But when I take off my reader hat and think like an author, I find B&N’s position not just sad but alarming. Here’s the thing: Amazon has recently opened virtual storefronts in Brazil, Japan, and India that do not permit authors to receive the normal 70 percent royalty on books unless they’re enrolled in the exclusive KDP Select program. (Books enrolled in Select may not be sold or given away in electronic form through any other site or vendor.) Amazon has not made membership in Select a precondition for the 70 percent royalty in the U.S., Canadian, or European stores. In those stores, any book priced between $2.99 and $9.99  is eligible for the 70 percent royalty.

But if Amazon’s largest epublishing competitor founders, who will provide pressure to keep royalties up? I’ve read that Amazon is currently pursuing the holy grail of same-day deliveries to major metro areas. To pull that off, it’ll need more major new distribution centers. That’s expensive. Really expensive. And Amazon has always operated with a tiny profit margin.

I can think of one place where huge profit margins are available. Ebooks. Sure, Amazon has some costs in running the KDP publishing platform. It’s a good platform, so it must’ve cost a chunk to develop it. KDP provides has pretty good customer service for its authors. And I’m sure it needs a whole bunch of servers and so forth. But surely the costs don’t compare to those incurred by traditional publishers, which provide editing and design and distribution of a physical product. Not to mention remaindering. If Amazon begins to pay royalties on ebooks similar to those paid by traditional publishers, a whole lot more of that income will represent profit.

As part of the general entity of “authors publishing on Amazon,” I suddenly feel a bit like a goose with a golden egg in my nest. (Well, my personal nest has something more like a brass gumball in it, but there are thousands of indie authors out there who sell a shitload of books.) Amazon’s too smart to kill its layers. But it could well take a much bigger bite of each egg. A 65 percent bite, to be exact. We’re already feeling that bite in three storefronts. It’s hard to believe Amazon wouldn’t like to impose it universally.

That’s why the possible loss of B&N alarms me so deeply. Amazon is an amazing company, but it’s already dominant enough to give me the heebie-jeebies. Once it becomes the only mass distribution point for paper books other than super-sellers, that dominance will progress from heebie-jeebie territory to the land of shaking-like-a-bowl-of-Jell-O. If the Nook goes under along with the brick-and-mortar stores … well … I can’t come up with an adequately quivery metaphor. It’s scary.

We call ourselves “independent” authors, but we’re only independent in some senses. In many others, we’re highly dependent. By and large, Amazon is what we’re dependent on. With every alternative publishing venue that proves unable to compete with Amazon, that dependence grows. It’s not a good feeling.

So come on B&N! Come on Nook!

(Of course, what do I own? Two Kindles. Sigh.)