All Romance EBooks Pulls a Fast One: What You Can Do To Fight Back

pirates-bill-davenportI was at work yesterday afternoon when I got the email from All Romance Ebooks announcing they were closing their doors effective 12/31 and offering a paltry ten cents on the dollar in royalty payments to authors in lieu of the expected fourth quarter payment.’

Because I was at work, I quickly scanned the email (not noticing a significant typo of a date that gives the company a loophole with regards to making even the minuscule payments offered) and cursed. I immediately pulled my self-published titles from their website, and hurried to my publisher to see what they intended to do, as all of my Dreamspinner titles were posted on ARe as well.

I then made a post spreading the word:

  1. Readers should no longer buy anything from ARe, as authors were not being paid for their works.
  2. I’ve pulled all my titles for sale on the All Romance website in advance of their 48 hour notice of closure. The good news is that currently you can get all my Dreamspinner titles on sale at their own website until 12/30–which includes my new release, Holiday House Swap. As for my non-Dreamspinner titles, Fool’s Gold and A Summer Fling are still available on Amazon. Fool’s Gold is back on Kindle Unlimited, and A Summer Fling is permanently free. I hope to place A Summer Fling into KU once I make sure it is not available in any other markets besides Amazon.

Dreamspinner made the following announcement on Facebook last evening: In response to All Romance eBooks closure notice: If readers pre-ordered Dreamspinner titles on ARe then you will not be able to download them upon release. If rumors are true, ARe will also not refund pre-orders. Therefore, Dreamspinner offers to fulfill readers’ pre-paid Dreamspinner pre-orders from ARe. You need to forward the ARe receipt to contactATdreamspinnerpressDOTcom and the customer service department will be sure you receive the eBook at no additional cost to you. Thank you.

Kudos to Dreamspinner! This is one of the reasons I love working with this press.

But the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Though ARe called themselves a publisher, they provided no cover art, no editing, no formatting. They were a retailer only and their entire catalog was digital. Where did the money go? They were paying us out of a percentage of books already sold. How could they not pay us what was owed?

Then too was the shady practice of giving no advance warning of impending closure, of failing to notify anyone until the last day of revenue for the quarter had been wrung out of writers, publishers, and readers alike. Why then, were they offering ad space on their website just the week before–and saying it was almost sold out? You don’t just wake up one morning and decide your business is bust. I almost bought one of those pricey ads and I know other people who have. They aren’t being offered any means to get refunds.

Once the news spread, the website kept crashing as writers rushed to remove their titles and reader to download books already purchased before the ‘cloud’ vanished. People were left with ebucks that didn’t work and gift cards they didn’t know if they should spend or not, while the available titles dwindled sharply.

areMore questions have been raised, particularly in light of the extremely poor and insulting offer made to authors to accept a 10 cents on the dollar payout or NOTHING. Meanwhile, ARe posts a business-as-usual Tweet and nothing is said on their Facebook page, either. Most ironically, the banner on their Facebook page, which I saw when I went to leave a review about their shady practices, advertises “No Doors Closed.”

I can tell you, some of the author responses to this tone-deaf and out-of-place Tweet were priceless, even as the anger and worry came through loud and clear. I didn’t have a lot of independent sales on ARe at this time–I’d only recently moved Fool’s Gold off KU and over to wider distribution. But to be paid a handful of dollars when I’m owed hundreds is jaw-dropping. However ALL my Dreamspinner titles were on ARe as of last evening. Every story I’ve ever written. So I can only sit back and hold my breath to see what happens when DSP’s lawyers battle for what we’re owed. At least I have the power of an ethical and reputable publishing company behind me. I can only imagine how terrible it must be for authors who were counting on the fourth quarter royalties to make the mortgage payment or electric bill.

For the most complete summation of the extent of fraud perpetrated by the management of ARe–and more importantly, what you can do to prevent them from getting away with this scott-free, please check out this valuable post: Publisher All Romance: Closing Hits New Low in Stealing from Authors. The details in this post are jaw-dropping. If these allegations are true, then criminal charges need to be filed.

I’ve seen many readers ask what they can do to help. The first is don’t buy any more books from All Romance. Download the purchases you’ve already made. Seek out those real publishers, like Dreamspinner, who’ve offered via proof of receipt, to honor ARe’s fraudulent sales of pre-ordered books. But most importantly–leave book reviews. I don’t think readers have any idea just how much book reviews matter in visibility and discoverability in an increasingly discouraging and hard market. It doesn’t have to be much–but a short piece as to why you loved the story while you rate it is a big, big help.

Thank you.

Authors: Even if you decide to take no further legal action, please consider filing an internet crime report, copying and pasting your email from ARe and any pertinent information.

The KU Report from Sarah Madison: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Before I launched my last indie published book, I waffled a great deal about whether or not to make it exclusive to Amazon. I first wrote about my concerns here on this blog, and then shared further research over at Author’s Speak. In the end, however, it came down to not having enough practical experience to justify not giving the KDP select program a try–and on July 29th, I launched Fool’s Gold on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited for a 90 day trial.

Fool'sGold-400x600In almost every respect, I handled its release the same way I did any other launch of a new story written in collaboration with a publisher. I talked it up beforehand. Because it’s an Olympic-themed story, I timed its release with the 2016 Rio Games. I did an enthusiastic cover reveal (c’mon, this cover by Reese Dante is simply *gorgeous*, isn’t it?). I promoted it with several social media groups and did a book tour. None of this is any different from how I’ve handled most of my book releases in the last six years.

There are only three things that set this book apart from any other story I’ve written and released:

  1. It’s a contemporary romance. I tend not to write these very often because what I love best is the mix of romance and mystery,  or romance and the paranormal. I love the twist that these elements bring to a romance, as well as the built-in level of conflict such subgenres create. But it’s widely accepted that the straightforward contemporary romance tends to outsell the other subgenres, so yeah. This one was different from my usual fare.
  2. As an indie publisher, I set my own price. As such, I set it well-below the industry standard for books published through a publisher, however, on the advice of several people, I priced it at what seems to be the industry standard for an Amazon published book. Which is to say, almost half of what most e-books run these days.
  3. I published it exclusively through KDP Select for the first 90 days.

The first thing that happened is that Fool’s Gold broke the top 100 in its category on Amazon. It never got much past #60 on this list, but it did make the list and stay there for longer than my usual run. In fact, Fool’s Gold enjoyed top 100 status for almost 30 days before it suddenly crashed–I have come to find out that this is referred to as “falling off the Amazon cliff” and that it happens to nearly everyone at the 30 day mark because Amazon stops promoting your book as heavily then. Subsequent marketing through Amazon got me a modest bump back into the top 100, but it didn’t last long. The second promotion didn’t have any effect at all on sales.

Now, I spoke of my many reservations about going with KDP Select in my previous posts, and in my Author’s Speak post, I shared some real horror stories. But prior to the sudden drop-off in sales, I was delighted with how FG had been doing. I found it nearly impossible to tell how much I was making from the KU side of things though. That may well be my fault–I’m not good at making heads or tails of reports at times. But one of the things that concerned me was the constantly changing TOS as well as the change to being paid by the number of pages read instead of by the number of books downloaded. Someone could download a story through KU and not read it for months. Or they could only read a quarter of it and stop. Kind of discouraging, particularly since it was kind of sketchy as to how Amazon determined how many pages were being read… then came the news that the news Page Flip option, a piece of software introduced for reader convenience, prevents Amazon from accurately recording the number of pages read. You know, the thing they use to pay authors.

I have to say, this new bit of information was enough to make me pull FG from the KDP Select enrollment when its 90 days were up. I now have it available in different formats on multiple sites. However… I just got my royalty statements for this past quarter, and despite the fact I haven’t had a new release with my own publisher this past quarter (heck, not even this past year) my sales were up. WAY up. As in, I must have received a boost from FG being so visible and purchased by so many people–and they enjoyed it enough to check out my backlist.

I’m probably going to continue a hybrid model for the future. I will continue working with my publisher–they provide so many wonderful things that I have to outsource and pay out of pocket to receive as an indie author. But once a year, I think I’m going to self-publish something. Will I enroll in KU again? Not sure. We’ll see if Amazon can work the glitches out. Especially since, in their zeal to prevent people from scamming the system, they seem to keep catching up innocent people in their widespread nets.

If you’re looking for a good summation as to how KU works for authors, I thought this post explained things well.

shrimp-cat-2-halloween-2016And just to show I’m not always so serious, here’s a picture of my cat dressed as a lobster for Halloween. 🙂

More on KU , a Rafflecopter, and the upcoming release of Fool’s Gold!

Today I’m over at at Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate talking about my ongoing internal debate about whether or not to give KU a chance with my upcoming release of Fool’s Gold. I’ve posted about this before, but I have gathered new information since then, and guess what? It hasn’t made the decision any easier.

dangerI think what it’s going to come down to is doing it on a trial basis and seeing how it compares to the kinds of sales I’d expect otherwise. I mean, I won’t really know unless I try it myself, right? But if you’re also sitting on the KU fence, you’d be wise to read my cautionary tales in the Authors Speak post! Heck, even if you’re not sitting on the fence–if you have stories in KU, you’d better keep an eye on things!

In other news, we’re holding a Rafflecopter giveaway for those who sign up to follow the Authors Speak blog! Check out this post to participate and find out what you could win!

On the home front, I’m pleased to say by this time next month I’ll be attending Writer’s Police Academy! To say I’m looking forward to this is a bit of an understatement. I don’t get to travel much, so I’m looking forward to being in a different venue, but oh! The fun I will have! In addition to the regular seminars, I won lotteries to courses on ballistics and death scene investigations. I’m so excited! The hard part is going to be choosing between seminars held at the same time. I’m also looking forward to using the knowledge gained in upcoming stories, so be prepared for some gritty action in my future romances. 🙂

I’m also pleased to announce that Unspeakable Words is getting a makeover, with additional scenes that will expand it into a full-length novel! Unspeakable Words is the first major story I ever had published, and this revision is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. It only makes sense to have all the stories in the Sixth Sense series in the same format, and it had always bugged me just a little that UW was only a novella while the other stories were novels. So yay for Dreamspinner to allow me to publish a second addition! Hopefully it will be out by March of 2017.

I’m also pleased to announce Dreamspinner has picked up my Christmas-themed story called Holiday House Swap! When a reclusive writer on a tight deadline trades homes for the holidays in order to get fresh perspective, the last thing he expects to find is the actual owner in residence. Misinformation, misapprehensions, and general hi-jinks ensue. It’s one of my favorite tropes–the home for the holidays story. I think you’ll find it loads of fun. 🙂 Tentative release planned for December 2016.

But before both of those, I’ll be releasing my sport horse story, Fool’s Gold. It’s being formatted now, and I hope to have it available within the next few weeks–I’m timing it for the 2016 Summer Games, as it has an Olympic storyline. There will be a book tour soon, and I’ll be posting some excerpts as well. This story has a lot of personal meaning to me, as I used to event myself before I had to retire my mare from competition due to arthritis.

Fool'sGold-400x600Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

 

So that’s all the news in Lake Wobegone for the moment. 🙂 Stay tuned for updates as they become available. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

To KU or not to KU: That is the question…

Kindle_Paperwhite_3GTo KU or not KU, that is the question.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the dilemma, I’m referring to the decision most indie authors face when they go to upload a new book for sale: do I make it exclusive to Amazon, and if so, do I enroll it in the Kindle Unlimited program?

This is rarely an issue for me because I don’t usually self-publish. While I love the idea of publishing on my own schedule, the time constraints of my job mean that my efforts are better spent writing the next story than doing all the work of an author and a publisher. That may change in the future, however, and occasionally I self-publish a story just to keep my hand in. Especially with the recent wave of digital presses closing up shop, citing—you guessed it—an inability to compete with Amazon.

The first time I self-published a story, I made a lot of mistakes. I spent too much money in some areas, and not enough in others. It took me an entire day to format the story, which is not the kind of time I have to do this sort of thing, and then it turns out I formatted and uploaded the wrong version. The file I published was an older copy, riddled with errors, and it wasn’t until a friend commented on it to me that I’d even realized what I’d done. Even when I finally corrected most of my noobie self-publishing mistakes, I was never entirely satisfied. Which is a shame because I consider the story my best work to date.

Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to the process again, though I’m not going to make the mistake of trying to do the bulk of it myself. I’m going to have to farm out the things I don’t do as well to experts for assistance, and that means making a bigger financial investment at the beginning in the hopes of recouping it in sales.

Part of the decision-making process is determining whether or not to enroll in Kindle Unlimited. I confess, I have problems with the notion of Amazon exclusivity. Yes, most of my sales come from Amazon, but I like making my stories available across a wide number of outlets. When I last self-published a story, the exclusivity clause alone stopped me cold. Nope, nada, not doing it.

Then there were all the authors who posted about their tanking sales with the advent of KU, and how a reliable income had suddenly dried up as more and more people chose to pay a flat fee each month in order to read as many stories as they liked—as long as those stories were enrolled in KU. Most of the authors who posted about this reluctantly joined the KU boat, preferring to get some kind of payout to none at all.

I can’t help but think if authors had just held out a little longer, KU might have been unable to provide the diversity of stories that readers craved, and readers would have gone back to seeking their favorite authors elsewhere. Enrolling in KU feels a little to me like making a virgin sacrifice to the dragon in hopes of saving the village, ignoring the fact that eventually you are going to run out of virgins and the dragon is going to own you.

But now I keep hearing independent authors saying KU is the only way to go, the only way to get your story noticed in a sea of new arrivals every day (Amazon promotes KU stories and KDP Select stories more than others), the best way to reach new readers, the only way to make it to Amazon’s bestseller lists. I polled fellow authors on Facebook, and have heard strong cases for both sides of the argument from people I highly respect. I keep waffling.

Sacrifice the virgin one more year, or make a long-term plan to hold the dragon at bay?

Because that’s what it comes down to.

One of the things that bothers me the most is Amazon’s constantly changing TOS. It’s meant to stop the scammers from gaming the system but it worries me when I read posts like this one by author Selena Kitt. If KU pays by the page read, and Amazon can’t really tell how many pages are being read, AND that payout keeps dropping over time, there’s a problem. Not to mention this New York Times post as well, which indicates that a disturbing number of readers never finish stories in the first place. Or this disheartening post from The Guardian, which indicates that average author incomes in the U.S. have dropped below the poverty level.

Oh, Rick Castle, you’d better cut back on your lavish lifestyle, or else write more Nikki Heat novels. Fast.

My Facebook friends were equally divided on whether or not to enroll a new story in KU. Some were able to point to increased sales and readership overall, significant enough that they were very happy with KU and highly recommended it. Others not so much. Many people seem to feel that new or mid-list authors must enroll in KU if they hope for their stories to get noticed.

One of my friends, Anna Butler, pointed out that Amazon is not a bookstore. It makes it money on selling consumables—the real money in the book market for Amazon is selling Kindles. Cornering the book market in mobi format allows them to sell more Kindles. Authors and publishers are just another commodity to be exploited for the benefit of the consumer. She makes a strong point there.

Kindle reader in lapAnother friend reminded me that most book sales occur in the first couple of months. Making my next story exclusive to KU means I will have lost the best window for sales if it turns out that KU wasn’t a good choice for me.

Margarita Gakis remarked that KU is just another tool to be used, but to be sure that I was using the tool and not the tool using me. Enrolling in KU isn’t forever. I can choose to withdraw it after one cycle (90 days) and go across more outlets if desired. She’s made conscious decisions about her market and which stories to put in which venues, and I think that’s smart.

Several people messaged me privately to share their experiences—and concerns—regarding KU. Though they weren’t comfortable sharing their experiences publicly, they were happy to let me know what they were, both good and bad.

Author Josh Lanyon weighed on Facebook discussion. I admire Josh’s work greatly (Josh is the kind of author I’d sign a deal with the devil if I could get a tenth of the ability and talent). I asked if I could get a quote for this post. This was Josh’s response in a nutshell: “Authors who resort to KU are not evil. They should not be demonized. But they *are* short sighted. And they will pay the price.”

I’ll be honest. I’m still waffling about what I will do when I finish this current project. Most of us can turn a blind eye to the need for the sacrificial virgin if it will keep the dragon at bay another year or two.

Everyone except the virgins.

Dragons

Eventually, they’ll wise up. They’ll either leave town or have some smokin’ hot sex to take them out of the pool, but either way, the fresh-out-of-virgins dragon will eventually come to call.

 

And we all will be asked to pay the price.