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A letter from KDP Amazon

amazonDear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at http://www.readersunited.com

Excitement and thrills: a middle grade action adventure

Twitterbackground captureCRIME TRAVELERS: BRAINWASHED is a novel aimed for the preteen market and it hits the mark. The book follows thirteen-year-old Lucas Benes, a typical kid who sleeps on the roof of a hotel somewhere on the Strip in Vegas, saves kidnapped babies and rappels through windows. This happens at the start of the book as a way to get things going and soon the story blossoms into an international adventure.
Lucas is the part of a group of teens fighting the GOOD Company, an organization that is anything but good. The company does many bad things along the way, going to the extremes of kidnapping children and selling them into servitude in armies across Africa and Southeast Asia.
But don’t be too alarmed, this tale only talks about the deepest evils and always keep its focus on the kids as they outwit other kids and the bad, but semi-inept, adults running the bad guys.
Racing from Las Vegas and whirling though all the major attractions in Paris, this is more of a travelogue than nefarious story and kids from 10 on up should relish it’s campy flavor of excitement and thrills. Crime Travelers starts fast then speeds up to a rousing conclusion that also leaves enough doors and windows open for a well-anticipated sequel.
I won this book through Goodreads and enjoyed every minute of it. I give it four stars only because I feel that once the author, Paul Aertker, really gets started, the stories will be better yet.

From Goodreads:

More info at http://www.crimetravelers.com

Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Brainwashed-Crime-Travelers-Paul-Aertker/dp/194013711XGargoyle (1)

A Thriller For Kids

 

 eBook cover

Crime Travelers—Book One: Brainwashed is “a fast-paced and endlessly clever action-adventure novel with a globe-trotting plot.”

While sleeping on the roof of his father’s hotel, thirteen-year-old Lucas Benes finds a baby alone and learns that the Good Company has restarted its profitable kidnapping business. Multilingual and already on his third passport, Lucas leads a network of international teenagers through the hotspots of Paris-from the catacombs to the Eiffel tower-in an all-out effort to spoil a brainwashing ceremony that could potentially turn them all into ‘Good’ kids.

 A realistic middle-grade (tween) action-adventure novel packed with secret societies, questionable friends, and international chases. 

  1. Print version available here at Amazon
  2. ebook version available here at Amazon
  3. Print version available through any bookstore

“Reads like Jason Bourne, but for kids.” —Chris Everheart, award-winning author of The Delphi Trilogy

 “A superb page-turner.”—Mark Robichaux, editor, and author of Cable Cowboy

 “An entertaining and exhilarating ride… a welcome addition to any library.”—Elizabeth Zoby, librarian

 “I love how math helps Lucas and his team escape danger at every corner.”—Kevin Graovac, middle school math teacher

 “At first glance, Lucas Benes, the hero of Crime Travelers: Brainwashed, is a typical teenage boy, impulsive, insecure, and brash.  Yet, like most adolescents, he proves to be so much more: resourceful, courageous, and most importantly, kind.”—Josh Cobb, Head of Middle School, Graland Country Day School

“Perfect for preteens and early teens who envision days of action and excitement.”— Jane Phillips, education consultant

Quotes from the back of the book. More info @ www.crimetravelers.com

Crime Travelers—Book One: Brainwashed

No matter how bad your past is, you still don’t want it erased.

Twitter Follow-back Policy (for me)

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Most people are on Twitter either to learn or to promote, or both.

I follow everybody back on Twitter except for three kinds of folks.

  1. People who aren’t people.
  2. The people who tell me I can get 10,000 followers like they did and then you click through to their profile and you find that they have only 189 followers. Hmmm. How’s that working out for you?
  3. Creeps. Obvious creeps. I’m a kid book writer. No creeps. I don’t follow creeps and I don’t want creeps following me. That’s creepy.

 Who to follow

As a writer of children’s books, I want to follow parents of my target market and I want them to follow me back so I can learn from them and promote my work (Foreshadowing here: I can’t promote to a nonfollower.) As a writer who is publishing and marketing his work, I want to follow teachers and librarians to learn what kids are reading and I want them to follow me back so I can promote my work (Sound familiar?)

 We all want more followers on Twitter

If you’ve gotten close to the 2000 following mark, you’ve no doubt hit the ratio wall.  For some reason, the Twitter gods decided that you could only follow 2000 people and then in order to advance, you have to maintain a super twecret ratio of followers to followings.  I think it’s like 20%. (Scratch that. Update: 20% didn’t work. Try 10% ratio.)

Regardless, you have to unfollow people to move on.

Who to unfollow

If you can follow, then you can unfollow. Since you have to adhere to the mysterious x% follow ratio, you will eventually have to unfollow some folks. I’ve been using www.justunfollow.com and it’s pretty good.

I am also developing my own unfollow philosophy

I now unfollow most people who have a ridiculous ratio. The other way. By that, I mean people who have 15K followers, while they follow only 12 people. Really? Are you that great? Come on, man. We’re just people here.

I’m really not that great. Honest. I’ve written some really good action-adventure travel books for children. But I am certainly not so awesome that I just have people follow me without following back. Following back is common courtesy. And it’s Karma.

Ted Coine says it perfectly, “any time you don’t follow someone back, you’re limiting who else they can follow. That’s not nice. Be nice.”

There is really only one true way to get followers on Twitter

Good Content. Period. End of story. Post good stuff. People will follow. Help other people promote their stuff. They will follow. Twitter is not about getting more followers for the sake of getting followers; Twitter is about people helping other promote what’s important.

A funny thing happened on the way to 2000 followings

I noticed that many people I followed had enormous followings and they followed relatively few. Here’s the rub. In order to surpass 2000 followings you might have to unfollow people who are not following you back. I have used justunfollow.com and I use manageflitter.com (nice guys from New Zealand). 

We all have a few exceptions

Okay, celebrities aren’t going to follow you back. Sorry. For me, my exceptions are Nathan Bransford@NathanBransford because of his literary sagacity. (vocab word!) He has no reason to follow me back. Tim Ferris @tferris is another one but, hello, the guy invented the 4-hour workweek. And, Chris Guillebeau @chrisguillebeau is not going to follow me back because he’s traveling to every country on the planet. Really. I also follow him because he’s got an awesome Cajun name (and he’s a non-conformist iconoclast. Ted Coine should be an exception for me, too. But he follows back because he’s real.

Be real and follow people back. You might learn something, or promote something, or both.

Ted Coine inspired me to write this. Thanks Ted. Check him and his work out here. To find out more about me, please visit my new (as in WIP) site: CrimeTravelers.

Time for fiction to become reality.

Time for fiction to become reality.

I haven’t been this excited about books, writing, and publishing since I started down this road a long time ago.

I do think the stars are coming together. At the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, there was considerable interest in contemporary realistic fiction with “an emphasis on Middle-Grade.” (Grades 4 – 8 or preteen).

This is my niche.

Time for fiction to become reality.

Available at Amazon and at fine bookstores everywhere.

www.crimetravelers.com