New Editions at Amazon

The Beauty Bride, book #1 of the Jewels of Kinfairlie series of Scottish medieval romances, by Claire DelacroixOne of the challenges with publishing at Amazon is that the portal doesn’t always deliver the newest edition of any given digital book to readers. In the past year or so, they’ve posted rules about the how and why of updating books that readers have already acquired—a 20% change in the content is one guideline, which is a LOT of corrected typos—but it’s also become clear that sometimes when a book is updated, the previous version continues to be delivered even to new customers.

As you might imagine, this is somewhat vexing to authors. It’s impossible to know what version of a book any given reader has on his or her Kindle.

Today, however, I have a nifty solution for you. You may have heard last month about an issue with the location of the table of contents (the TOC) in Kindle book files. It’s a long story, but the end result is that Amazon decided it was not appropriate for the TOC to be at the end of the digital book. Many (many MANY) formatters, however, choose to put the TOC at the back, because the Kindle finds it no matter where it is, and because having it at the back means that it isn’t part of the Look Inside feature on the Amazon store. Readers get to preview more of the actual book if the TOC is at the back of the file. (This could also be corrected by allowing publishers to create sample files, as can be done at iBooks, instead of having them automatically generated, but that’s another issue.) My formatter has always put the TOC at the back. Even though Amazon later rescinded the necessity of the TOC being at the front, my formatter and I chose to go ahead with the revision of all of my book files.

Serpent's Kiss, a paranormal romance and Dragonfire #10 by Deborah CookeIt was a lot of work and not a job either of us were counting on, but there is a silver lining: the Look Inside feature on these books in the Kindle store now shows the TOC at the beginning. I hope this means that this newest edition is being delivered to new customers. The other perk is that if you have one of my books on your Kindle (or many of them) you can easily tell whether you have the latest and best version: look for the TOC. If it’s at the beginning, after the copyright page and the reader letter but before the opening of the book, then you have the current version. If not, you can ask Amazon customer service to update your edition with the current one.

The Amazon edition of all future releases will have the TOC at the front.

Note that we didn’t bother with the short stories and novellas, and also that you must have the current version (without DRM) in order to request the update. We still have a few more to do.

One More Time, book #3 in the Coxwell Series of contemporary romances, by Deborah CookeThe updated books, as of today, are:

Third Time Lucky
Double Trouble
One More Time
All or Nothing
The Dragon Legion Collection
Serpent’s Kiss
Firestorm Forever
The Rogue
The Scoundrel
The Warrior
The Rogues of Ravensmuir Boxed Set
The Beauty Bride
The Rose Red Bride
The Snow White Bride
The Jewels of Kinfairlie Boxed Set
The Renegade’s Heart
The Highlander’s Curse
The Frost Maiden’s Kiss
The Warrior’s Prize
The Crusader’s Bride
The Crusader’s Heart
The Crusader’s Kiss

The Store is Back

My online store is back in business again. You can find it right here.

The Prometheus Project Boxed Set of urban fantasy romances by Claire DelacroixYou might remember that I had planned to dismantle the store and only offer free downloads there. As is so often the case in this market, I’ve changed my mind, and here’s why. First off, I discovered that disabling the payment options at the store meant that it didn’t work at all. If payment options aren’t enabled, then you can’t even download free stuff. I’d disabled them because all the content there was free, so that was an oopsie on my part. Selz isn’t a portal designed for delivering free content, so in hindsight, this makes perfect sense. Several of the popular portals designed for delivering free content don’t work for people outside the US (ha! Like me!) so reconfiguring my existing store was the simplest solution.

I’d also disabled the payment options because they require me to pay a monthly subscription fee. That’s okay if I’m selling content and can cover the cost as an expense, but when the content is free, it made little sense to me. (I didn’t realize the store wouldn’t work at all without them.) So, now that the payment options are enabled again, the content for sale is back, too.

I could have just put the PDF’s – like the family trees – back on my website, but several other cool changes have happened since I put the store on hiatus a few months ago, and those changes meant the store was a good solution. First of all, Selz now integrates with Facebook. You’ll be able to shop from my store on either of my Facebook pages, either Claire Delacroix or Deborah Cooke. See? The Store is on the tab under the banner, after Timeline and About. Click through and you can shop from within FB. I think that’s very slick!

The Coxwells Boxed Set by Deborah CookeAlso, Selz now offers the Send to Kindle app which I’ve enabled at the store, so this should mean that those of you who read on Kindles won’t have to figure out how to sideload content. Anything you buy in my online store should be delivered right to your Kindle for you to read. This is also pretty cool.

There are still a couple of challenges that are ongoing. One is sales tax calculation and submission for other territories. Ugh. If you remember, the EU began requiring ALL parties to submit sales tax for each territory in the EU last summer. (There are a lot of them!) There’s no way I’m undertaking that kind of paperwork, so for the moment, the store is configured for sales to US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand only. I’m hoping that the EU – or at least the UK – comes up with a better solution for small businesses that sell online (like me!). Fingers crossed that we can open up in other territories soon.

The Crusader's Handfast: Part Two by Claire DelacroixThe other challenge, which is the calculation of shipping costs from me (in Canada) to you (wherever), remains a bit complicated. Shipping calculators are scarce for these kind of store facilities – those with look-up tables that give accurate results seem to be part of custom store software. For the moment, this is partly solved by restricting the territories of sale at the store, and partly by my listing bundles of books for sale instead of individual titles. The bundles come out to weights in the same price class this way. The postage should work out pretty well for US and Canada, but when you order through the store, I’ll let you know if you’re getting a refund or need to pay a bit more. I don’t make money on postage, but I don’t want to lose money on it either. The book bundles include a tote bag, too, and are similar to the show specials that I offer for booksignings. I think this is a good compromise and hope you do, too.

So, what’s in the store?
• Free downloadable PDF family trees

• Free downloadable excerpts for upcoming books, in both EPUB and MOBI

• Signed print copies of my books for sale, specially priced in series bundles

• Downloadable audiobook samples, which are MP3 files. You can listen to these 5 minute samples online here on my site or my Soundcloud page, but if you want to download them, they’re in the store.

The True Love Brides Boxed Set of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix• Digital copies of my books for sale. Although I’m loading the same individual titles you can buy at major online portals in my store, I’m also including content that isn’t available everywhere. There’s going to be more of that. For example, the new $14.99 boxed sets which are available at Kobo and iBooks – The Coxwells Boxed Set, The Prometheus Project Boxed Set and, coming in February, The True Love Brides Boxed Set – are in the store now. If you want a MOBI version of any of these boxed sets, you’ll need to buy it from me. 🙂

Also, I’ll be moving some content into the store that I’d like to price below $2.99US or which is already below that price. The individual Dragon Legion novellas are currently on the move, and will soon be available individually only from my store. The Dragon Legion Collection will remain in wide distribution. An Elegy for Melusine, Kinfairlie Knights, Highland Heroes, and Harmonia’s Kiss will soon be available exclusively from my store.

Check back tomorrow for more about my plans for the store!

eReadLocal at Kobo US

eRead Local promotion from Kobo in the USHere’s a wonderful promotion that I learned about while at NINC, which is available to those of you in the US. Kobo wants to encourage you to shop at indie bookstores, many of which sell Kobo e-reading devices. eRead Local also is a drive to get more readers to sign up for Kobo accounts. Here’s a bit more detail:

  • Aug 22 – Nov 29, Kobo is launching an exciting 100-day incentive program for local, indie bookstores, “eRead Local”
  • For every new customer that signs up for a Kobo account affiliated with a bookstore, that store will receive $5 USD. The customer will also receive $5 USD credit towards their first eBook purchase
  • Stores that acquire 100+ new customers will be entered to win a Kobo-sponsored event featuring a bestselling author. Stores that acquire 50-99 new customers will be entered to win free eReaders
  • After a customer’s account is affiliated with a bookstore, a portion of every Kobo purchase they make goes straight to that store

From where I sit, this is totally win-win. You get a credit to buy the books you want, and your fave indie bookstore gets a credit from Kobo.

I don’t need to remind you that ALL of my books that are available in digital editions are available from Kobo. 🙂

You can read more about the promotion on the Kobo Writing Life blog, right here.

Harlequin Historical BackList Titles

Many of you know that I began my writing career with Harlequin, and ultimately published eleven historical romances with them, under the name Claire Delacroix. (You can see all of the Harlequin Historical books right here.) None of these books are available in print editions in English North America, and they haven’t been so for quite some time.

Not all of these titles are available in digital editions, but I’m not very happy with the way the ones that are in digital are being managed and republished. I would prefer that these titles return to my control, so that I can re-edit them, re-write them if I choose, re-package them and re-publish them. Some of them are twenty years old – the market has changed, and I’ve learned a lot since then. I would like to improve the reading experience for you. I would also then be able to price them more competitively.

This reversion process is contingent upon time and also upon poor sales for the digital editions. At this point, I have the rights back to two of the eleven books, but since they’re written in linked series, I need to wait on the rest before republishing anything. So, I’ve removed the buy links to those titles which are available in digital format from my site, and am asking you to buy used print editions instead of the digital ones.

This might seem like a strange request to me. When you buy a used book, the author doesn’t get paid a royalty. The royalty, if there was one, was accrued on the initial sale, when the book was new. The thing is, though, that I would prefer you buy a used print copy, so that the rights to the books revert to my control sooner. You can find print copies in used bookstores, if you hunt, or online at used bookstore sites like AbeBooks – here’s a link to a recent search I did there for my own Claire Delacroix books. It returned over 1500 results, and an awful lot of them are priced at $1 US. That’s a lot cheaper than the pricing on the digital editions.

Thanks for your support! 🙂

Guest Blog Post at StoryFinds

Recently, a group of writers were talking about selling content directly to readers, and I mentioned that I had opened an online store. Renee Fields at Storyfinds was intrigued and asked me to write a guest post about the store—and my reasons for setting it up—for their Insight blog.

The post is live today, so come on over and say hello. Here’s the permalink.

Flashback

I’ve been struck lately by how prolific many indie authors are. That, in turn, makes me think about changing expectations from readers and publishers.

Let’s start off with the publication schedule. There are authors who publish works monthly, even biweekly, which is a truly amazing feat. In an ideal universe, the next work in a series would be available to a reader as soon as he or she finished reading the current work. In the past, this meant having the next book available for pre-order, but now it’s often for sale. This rapid publication might be ideal, but there are few authors who can write as fast as readers can read – but many are getting closer.

Once upon a time, it was believed that authors should have a new book published once a year, or at most, once every 8 months. This was believed to be the way to build audience among readers, and was the prevailing wisdom when I sold my first book in 1992. The issue with this is that it’s very hard to make a living in traditional publishing with only one genre fiction release per year. Publishers, though, were convinced that more frequent publication would mean that the author “cannibalized” his or her own sales. (Really. That was the verb of choice.)

In series romance, however, it was possible to have more frequent publication, which was one of the reasons I was glad to sell first to Harlequin. Harlequin and Silhouette authors might get two or even three publication slots per year. I was considered a prolific writer in those days, being capable of writing three to four books a year. And I was the first Harlequin Historical author to be given four slots in one year. That was in 1994 and it was considered to be radical. (I suspect, actually, that they had some issues with empty slots in the publication schedule: my books were delivered early and there, so I got lucky.)

Even then, authors like Nora Roberts were beginning to prove that more frequent publication did not diminish sales. Fans could read faster than authors could write, and having more books available faster meant building sales. It seems so self-evident now, but it required a big change in the thinking at publishing houses for authors to be given more frequent publication slots. Many authors wrote under two names, so that they could have more books published. When I moved to Dell, they scheduled the Bride Quest trilogy at six month intervals, which was considered audacious. It worked. Roughly ten years later, NAL used the same six-month-publication strategy for the initial three Dragonfire books, and it was still considered to be a bold sign of support from the house.

There were authors who had back-to-back release schedules in that era, with each book in a trilogy published in consecutive months. April, May and June, for example. There was mixed thinking about the success of this: one reason for skepticism is that readers often stash print books in their TBR pile, so might not read book #1 before book #2 was available for sale. (This happens in digital, too.) The other issue is that the rapid publication comes at a cost – the books were still produced at a rate of 2 per year, so clustering three together for publication often meant a big gap in the author’s publication schedule both before and after that promotional push. On the other side of the argument, though, some readers won’t buy a trilogy until all three books are available. This is a newer wrinkle, and the result of pubilshers pulling the plug on linked series, and never publishing the completion of the series.

But then there is digital. In the digital market, where indie authors don’t have any publisher to control their release schedule, many are publishing very very quickly. There are two variables at work here—one is how quickly these authors write, but the other influencing variable is that many write shorter works than tend to be published in traditional print publishing. In traditional publishing, the 100,000 word mass market paperback is the standard. In digital, a work can be any size, and actually, pricing skews very well for 25,000 word novellas. Some authors can write novellas at double or triple the rate of writing books, while others take the same amount of time to write a story no matter how long the finished work is.

Also, in this new world of digital books and online book portals, frequent publication is one very good way to build sales and visibility. So, these very prolific authors are becoming terrific success stories, because they’re listening to readers and publishing new works very frequently. I do find it rather funny to be considered a slow-poke now, with my 3-to-4-books-a-year writing speed, after being called prolific (and maybe even TOO prolific LOL) for so long, but there’s the reality of the new market.

How does this reality change my future plans? Well, I’m still working that out. It’s possible that I will write more novellas and shorter works in the year ahead, and structure new projects to be linked novellas instead of linked books. It’s possible that I’ll just carry on with linked full-length books and have four releases per year. (I do like how big and chewy a 100K book can be.) It’s likely that I’ll mix it up. 🙂 But the change in the marketplace certainly bears some consideration.

How about you? Have your reading habits changed? Do you like to read books by a single author in succession, or do you prefer to alternate between favourites? Do you think you read more than before? Faster than before?

Shout-Outs

Double Trouble, book #2 in the Coxwell Series of contemporary romances, by Deborah CookeThere are two shout-outs today for Double Trouble, at its discounted price of 99 cents at some portals (B&N) and free at others (Amazon in most markets, Apple and Kobo). This sale price only lasts until the 30th.

Here’s the first mention in today’s Digital Book World.

And here’s the second, in today’s Kindle Books & Tips.

These are good newsletters to subscribe to if you like bargain books. (And who doesn’t?)

These promos also work best if people like and share them, so I’d appreciate if you did so. 🙂