Gabrielle Bisset

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Author As Distributor

This post was supposed to be about something else, but an email from Amazon this morning changed my mind.  In that email, Amazon informed me that my book, Destiny Redeemed, is not exclusively for sale at Amazon, as I'd believed, but in fact is still for sale at Sony Ebooks.   And the reason they're selling my book Vampire Dreams for $.99 when I changed the price to $1.99 at all the outlets I've uploaded to over a week ago is because Sony Ebooks and Apple Itunes are still selling it at $.99.  One problem:  I never uploaded anything to either Sony or Apple.

As an indie, I have many choices as to where my books can be purchased.  Anyone who thinks that indies are limited to Amazon and Barnes and Noble is in for a big surprise.  My books are there, 1 Place for Romance, All Romance eBooks, in addition to Smashwords, which if my book is approved for its premium catalog, it goes out to all sorts of places.  It's rather impressive, actually.  It's also quite unnerving to know that as the author and sole owner of the work, you have no idea where the hell  it's actually selling. 

Smashwords is a wonderful resource, but this isn't the first time I've gotten an uneasy vibe from using it.  There's just something I don't trust about it, and today's email is why.  I checked out the links Amazon sent and there the books are, one where it shouldn't be because it's supposed to be with Amazon exclusively, and the other for less than it should be priced.  I took Destiny Redeemed down from Smashwords in mid-December, so why is it still for sale in one of its distribution channels?  And I changed the price of Vampire Dreams a week ago.  Why is it still the other price? 

To be honest, I sell very little at Smashwords itself.  I use it more as a place to store my books so I can offer a coupon when people win them in giveaways. However, it's the premium distribution channels that are more important.  The problem is that they're so far away from the author who is also the distributor that it's difficult to keep on top of them. But isn't the whole damn point of Smashwords to make things easier?  Isn't it supposed to make getting your book to those places easier for an indie?  I think it might just be too easy.

But this issue brings home the idea every indie author must remember:  As the distributor, you have the responsibility for everything regarding your book.  So if you thought that writing, getting cover art, formatting, and uploading were it, here's another job you need to attend to.  I still wouldn't have it any other way (unless NY is feeling free with some cash and ebook rights and wants to talk!), but it's a reality that must be handled.

I think it's time I added another resolution to 2012's list.  In addition to being smart about marketing and more aggressive about selling, I think I need to add being more attentive to where my books are out there in ebook land.  My gut tells me if I don't, I'll regret it. 


E Kelly said...

Sorry to hear you're having trouble with Smashwords. I have three books with them that are also in their premium catalog. One of the reasons I chose them is because they send the books automatically to the distributors. I keep an eye out on what the distributors do, though. To date, I have had no trouble at all. Good luck.

Gabrielle said...

Thanks E. The problem is that I have 6 books at so many outlets that the Smashwords distribution wasn't something I was paying enough attention to. Plus, I haven't found that their sales tally system is as up to date as the other outlets. So I can see daily the sales made at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and All Romance eBooks, but Smashwords isn't as current.

Rayne Hall said...

Sorry you're having trouble with Smashwords. Smashwords is a useful service for distributing books to other channels, but it has its drawbacks.

One drawback is that changes made at Smashwords are slow to arrive at the other outlets.

That's not Smashwords fault; it's the other outlets 'fault' for not updating their information from Smashwords frequently. That's how it happens that outdated versions still get sold weeks after you've uploaded revised versions, and price changes don't take effect for ages.

If you want to make sure all prices are changed by a certain date, you need to make those changes at Smashwords weeks in advance.

Regarding your statement that you never chose to sell in those places, and that as the author you have no idea where the hell you're selling, I'm afraid you're accusing Smashwords unfairly.

When you uploaded your book at Smashwords, you chose where to sell your books. You ticked all the outlets where you want it to sell (or neglected to untick the ones where you didn't want it to sell). It's an easy enough mistake to make, since you're probably excited at that stage and just want to get it published. But you're still responsible for what you tick at that stage.

Next time, be careful what you tick. You actually get a chance to halt the process while the book uploads - it's the grid which gradually changes colour - so if you've made a mistake, you're reminded.

Even if you didn't realise the consequences of your choices at the uploading stage, you can change those settings later on. It's easy - but those changes may take days or weeks to take effect. And you have to make those changes. Smashwords can't read your mind and know that you've decided you don't want your book sold everywhere after all.

I suggest you go to your author dashboard at Smashwords, then check all your books individually to see which formats and distribution channels you've chosen for them, and change your choices.

I'm afraid it will take some days (or many days) for those changes take effect.

I hope this helps.


Gabrielle said...

Hi Rayne,

I'm afraid in your zeal to defend Smashwords and lecture a perfect stranger at THEIR blog, you misunderstood my post. When I said I don't know where the hell my books are selling, I meant that I don't know as in "Did I sell any at Sony or Apple today or this week?" That you chose to come to another author's blog and lecture is offensive.

Perhaps you're new to the blogging world, so I'll give you a break, but if you plan to stick around and visit people's sites, I suggest you learn not to offend with your comments and their tone. Since you're someone who calls themselves an author, I would think you'd understand tone.

I certainly hope you're understanding mine.

Komal said...

I must admit, I purchased Vampire Dreams from the iTunes store. How ridiculous that the price was not changed in a reasonable amount of time. 48 hours is as long as it should take, not a week.

It looks like there is a lot to think about when self-publishing. Thank you for this post. It was very helpful.

Nicki J Markus said...

Sorry to hear about the issues, I hope you can get everythin fixed up!

Gabrielle said...

Hi Komal and Nicki! Just another day in the life of an indie. Like any other business, right? I think I'd like an assistant to take care of this kind of stuff, though. LOL I'll do the writing and he (because in my fantasy my assistant would be an incredibly hot man LOL!) does the tracking down issues stuff.

Thanks for stopping by guys!

Morticia Knight said...

I like the sounds of that incredibly hot guy assistant! This was an interesting post for me, because I can't even get past all of the formatting for Smashwords ( 72 page style-guide aside), especially with the crappy netbook I've been working on. When I get the new laptop next week, I shall face the beast again. Amazon has been too easy for me - lol.
Thanks for sharing about how the bulk of your sales come from other sources - that is something I've heard before from other authors. But I think you have a good point about being able to keep them there to use for giveaways. That's too tricky at Amazon.

Camelia Miron Skiba said...


I disabled SW for distribution to some sites for the simple reason that after 9 months of my first book to be out on the market, they still didn't upload it to ITunes. I went on and added not only my first book, but also my second one to ITunes by myself and within a week both books were up for downloads.
SW has its limitations, but also when they distribute to all kind of places, you have to do a lot of digging to make changes to your prices or pull books from some of them.
My main retailer are Amazon and B&N, but now with ITunes selling my books as well, I see an increase in sales like crazy... keep my fingers crossed :)