Entry from 23AUG11:
I've updated a few things in the older posts to reflect the current situation with the distributors I use.
Entry from 20June11:
Definitely do not take my words for gospel. I’ve learned a lot of information over the years and, like most friendly writers I would rather give you a hand up into this business than a boot in the face to keep you down. What would be the point of discouraging you? You want to write, the market is out there and people will buy from you…or not, but a sale to you does not equate to a lost sale for me, we are not in competition. I mean, does any avid reader only pick up and read ONE book? No, chances are they will read everything we write and demand more, so you need to do your part to help entertain them.
In the spirit of not just taking my word for things, I’ve recently started reading John Scalzi’s works about writing, “You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing” This book is interesting because it discusses what I regard as the important things about writing: How to start, what the money can be like, some of the nitty-gritty about dealing with both print and electronic media and the way he got to where he is. Don’t know him? It doesn’t matter. I ran into his writing when I picked up “Old Man’s War” a few years ago, I had no idea who he was or that he wrote more than the three books in that series (there are two more related stories to it now). Now I know a bit more and his advice and experience seem both pragmatic and sound. He’s not making a million bucks a year writing (yet) but he is averaging in the low six figures and that’s not bad target to shoot for.
Right now I am getting through the Barnes and Noble version of his book and starting to troll his website for more nuggets of knowledge; I would encourage people who wish to write to do the same.
Oh yeah, and many of you probably know I still do a lot of writing in Coffee Shops, I like coffee shops. I seem to be able to push out 5 thousand words just by parking my ass on a chair in one for a few hours, so the title is oddly ironic for me. The links above are not affiliated with me in any way or form, I don't get kick backs if you buy through them and I didn't post them for anything other than to provide information.
Entry from 26March11:
You’re a writer. You want to publish your content online and get paid for it. How do you go about it?
Here is what I do, this may work for you too. I use two different distributors for my work, Amazon and Smashwords.
Amazon is a direct to Kindle sort of place, your books only end up on kindle readers if you use them. Smashwords is a distributor who handles getting your work to Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Apple, Diesel and Amazon.
Both services do not cost any money up front to use. They make their money by taking a cut of your sale price. If you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 they pay you 70% of the sale price as your royalty. Smashwords pays you 65% of your book price for books listed on in the ‘premium’ markets: Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Apple and Diesel the percentage for sales directly off the smashwords website is approximately 77.5%.
For Smashwords there is a $9.95 charge to buy an ISBN that lists you as the publisher or you can get a free ISBN that lists Smashwords as the publisher. The ISBN is required to sell on the Apple store (and others). I bought ISBNs for the first few books I distributed through Smashwords, but now I just use the 'free' ones, it saves me $10 and doesn't effect sales, plus it keeps some junk mail out of my mailbox. (The ISBN seller can and does sell mailing lists to third parties, learned that one the hard way!)
To set yourself up with a publishing account with Amazon go here:
You will create an account and will probably have to do the financial stuff too, like where is your money going to be deposited and giving them a SSN for handling federal taxes. They can handle international authors too. I think you can still opt to have them cut you a check, but maybe not. Go for the direct deposit into a bank account, it is easier and arrives faster. I will explain the money part in a little more detail further down the page.
Once you have created an account on Amazon you will have access to a dashboard which has three links: “Bookshelf”, “Reports” and “Community”. Bookshelf deals with your content on Amazon, Reports are your sales reports, Community is where you go for user support and to look up any problems you might have.
To publish a book you need to visit the Bookshelf, there will be a button on that page that says “Add a new title”, this opens up a form for you to fill out. You’ll need the following information (optional information is in parenthesis):
Book Name– title of your book
(Is this book part of a series, if so Series Title and Volume number in the series)
(Edition Number) – I’d use this, in case you revise your book later.
Description – A blurp about the book.
Book Contributors – Author information, Editor information, etc. You MUST have an author. The others are optional.
Language– what language it is written in.
(Publication Date) – Can be any date, I’d use the real one though.
(Publisher) – if you have one, otherwise leave it blank or put your name here. I use ‘Ctales’.
(ISBN) – Amazon gives it an ‘internal’ ISBN for their records if you don’t have one, I don’t believe the one you can buy from Smashwords will work with Amazon, but haven’t tested this yet.
Verify your publishing rights – Public domain or you hold the necessary publishing rights.
Categories – Where your book fits, the audience it is intended for, ie- Horror, Action, Adventure.
(Search Keywords) - Use stuff that comes up in your books, I use stuff like zombie, apocalypse, etc
(Upload your cover) – Highly recommend you do, even though this is optional, snap a picture, edit it with free software and save it as a JPEG or TIFF image, I’d suggest JPEG, as that is what Smashwords likes too. For Amazon the minimum size of one side MUST be 500 pixels, with a maximum of 1280
Select Digital Right Management – Enable or Do not enable DRM, I do not enable drm.
Book Content File – here is where you upload your book. A word 2003 version doc is preferred; I’ll get to how to format it down below.
After entering all this in (or selecting the files to upload) you save and continue and head to the next step where you select your royalty, 35% if your book is below 2.99 or above 9.99, 70% if it is between those prices. Amazon really, really wants most books to fall into those ranges. After that you hit submit the form and it churns away and after a few minutes you will be able to go to the Bookshelf link again and you will see that you have a book there, with a pending or publishing in the status column.
It typically takes about 3 days to get your books ‘live’, but it takes many more for them to be found and bought (usually) by shoppers. You can check the sales of your books by going to the “Reports” section and selecting any of the options listed there (Month to date sales, Prior Six Weeks or Prior Months) to see the data for that range. Be sure to note that there are sublinks under each of these for sales in the United Kingdom as well. All the sales are not consolidated. I haven’t seen any sales come through in Canada/Australia/New Zealand yet for Amazon, so I am not sure if I am not listed on those copies of Amazon or if I just don’t have any sales in those places.
Smashwords has a similar process, but there are a few of ‘gotchas’ that need to be mentioned. Start here with smashwords:
First, you need to opt-in for premium sales (you know, to all those other emarkets) Their dashboard is not too different from Amazon’s, but is definitely laid out differently. To enable premium sales you will need to visit the Distribution Channel Manager and select all the places you want to sell your book. (Your book will be listed on Smashwords, and I think it also distributes to all but Apple automatically as well) I disable distributing to Amazon (because I am already handling that separately) and enable Apple in that area.
Second, you need that ISBN to distribute to all of the channels, (Kobo and B&N do NOT require an ISBN, the other companies do). You can supply your own ISBN if you bought one directly somehow. I don’t recommend this, I looked into it and it is costly unless you buy a block of them and they bloody well expire if they are not used. What am I going to do with 25 ISBNs? I don’t think I can use that many in 3 years and that is how many you need to buy to get the price down to $10 a pop, which is what is costs buy one from Smashwords. Option two is to take a FREE ISBN, but this lists Smashwords as your publisher, not just your distributor, probably this option is fine, but I like option three that lists me as both the publisher and author and Smashwords as the distributor. The rights of the material always and forever belong to you no matter which way you go.
Third:Your book has to pass the formatting vetter. Smashwords runs your book through their auto-vetter and it MUST pass or it does not go into the premium catalog listing. This is not very hard to do, just follow the instructions. (hey, you just wrote a novel, you can handle formatting it!) Smashwords provides a free guide that tells you exactly what you must do to get your book passed the auto-vetter.
On both Amazon and Smashwords flesh out your ‘author’s page’, I’ve gotten positive feedback by doing this and it makes it easier to link to your work when you have more than one book up there for sale.
Download and follow the Smashwords style guide: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52
Follow it and you won’t go wrong, it applies to any ebook you publish anywhere. Smashwords has to have your book as a word 2003 document (I believe open office can emulate this format just fine too) Amazon can take it as a 2010 docx or an earlier version of word. I am so impressed with the guide that I recommend you download it and set up a template to use for your writing even if you are not going to use Smashwords.
Amazon pays monthly, approximately two months after your sale, so if you sell a book in January, you’ll get cash for it at the end of March. It's simple and you know what’s coming by using the Reports section of your dashboard.
Smashwords pays quarterly and pays out a month after the quarter ends. So at the end of April, you’ll get paid for all the sales from January-March. Also pretty simple, but, and it’s a big BUT, sometimes the retailers don’t pay Smashwords on time, so some of your cash might be setting in the accrued sales column of your report until Smashwords gets paid. Also they are still working on their sales reporting from the channels so you don’t see up to the minute sales like you can on Amazon. Smashwords also does a direct deposit, and they can drop it in your PayPal account (they can write a check, but it pays later than an electronic deposit and they are trying to phase this out), Amazon will not deposit to PayPal.
With income, comes a tax. Yes, you will have to pay them. Sucks, but set aside roughly 30 percent of your earnings for Uncle Sam if you can do so. That way you will have enough to cover the bill when it comes due. I ran into this fun this year (2011) and certainly wish I had saved more of my earnings from last year for the bill. Neither Smashwords nor Amazon withholds any taxes; it is royalty income and you are stuck with the full bill, including a 15% charge for Social Security. The semi-good news is that you don’t have to pay quarterly taxes if you make less than $600 a year, just add the earning to your normal income and they get lumped in. Once you are over that limit of (and you will be, this is $50 a month and it probably won’t take that long for you to earn more than that) you may have to pre-pay an estimated tax amount. I haven’t been asked to do so yet, but I can see that happening.
If you have any questions about this, please comment or contact me and I will do my best to answer them.