Tuesday, December 13, 2011

eBook Monday - $280 million in Royalties

On Sunday December 25th Americans are going to be opening presents. If experts are right several million are going to find a brand new ereader under the tree. If experts are correct the number of ereaders given may reach as high as 25 million units.  That is a very large number and will invariably lead to an even larger number.
All of those happy new owners of Kindles, Nooks and other readers are going to want new books to put on their new devices. If each new owner purchase, oh say, 4 or 5 new books that would translate into as many as 100 to 125 million eBooks sold in a matter of a day or so.  Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday, what about eBook Monday and the potential of 100 million eBooks? 
If the average eBook sells for $8.00, (Average ebook best seller lists for $8.50+) that translates to a total revenue generated of $800 million. Authors receive from 25 to 35 percent royalties, on average, so that means the pool of potential revenue could be as high as $280 million, perhaps in as little as one day.  Will this spike in eBook sales actually take place is unknown, but it is an almost certainty eBook Monday will be a huge sales day for eBooks. What have you done to be certain you are in a position to earn a share of the pot?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Barnes and Noble Losing in Fight With Kindle

Depending on who you ask, Amazon.com controls from 50 to 80% of the eBook market. A great deal of this comes from the success of the Kindle and now the Kindle Fire. In an effort to keep up with Amazon.com and the Kindle, Barnes and Noble has been investing a great deal of money, mostly in the development of the Nook. Upgrades and new features have been costly, as has the national advertising campaign launched by Barnes and Noble as they attempt to take away some of the market share controlled by the Kindle.
This investment may pay off in the future, but for the moment it is having a very negative effect on Barnes and Noble. 2011 earnings were projected at $210 to $250 million. With the high cost of playing catch up, Barnes and Noble recently reported they will be very near the bottom estimate.  While still within their projections, investors were apparently not impressed. Stock prices dropped $3.06 per share for a loss of 17.5 percent of the stock value. This is a major hit and a major loss, nearly a fifth of the overall value.
Barnes and Noble now claims to control between 25 and 27% of the eBook market. This is a significant market share, but it has been achieved at an apparent heavy price. S & P has changed their recommendation on B&N stock from 'Hold' to 'Sell'.  It was also noted the Kindle Fire is far outselling the Nook.  Amazon.com reported sales of the Kindle quadrupled on Black Friday compared to a year ago. Retailers who offer both the Nook and the Kindle seem to be giving the Kindle better and more prominent placement. The loss for the quarter was reported at $6.6 million dollars. While this is disappointing, it is better than the same period last year when Barnes and Noble reported a loss of $12.6 million.
Losing nearly a fifth of their stock value, Barnes and Noble is staggering in their heavyweight fight with Amazon.com. The problem is that Amazon.com has very deep pockets and are most definitely in the driver's seat. In a recent review Kindle was ranked better than the Nook and in fact took three of the top five spots in the rankings.  The Kindle does not seem eager to relinquish its thrown, and does not seem in danger of doing so.  Will this holiday season see the Kindle extend their lead, or will the Nook gain ground? Early indications are that Barnes and Noble are in for a very hard fight, and the loss reported for this quarter will not be their last.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Indie-eBook Prices vs. Other Best Sellers

Not long ago I did a post on the average price of an indie bestseller. At that time the average retail price for an indie eBook was $1.81. This was very close to what I would have predicted, but it did raise another question. How do indie best sellers compare to the big name best sellers in retail pricing?
I checked the NY Times best sellers list for eBooks and combined the top 50 books to get an average price.  I used the price listed for the book, which in several cases included large discounts and special offers. The average best seller on the NY Times list sold for  $8.46.
The difference in pricing is amazing and constitutes a much large gap than I had expected. The indie best seller's list price is just 21.5% of a main stream best seller. While an indie-author should not expect to command the same price as James Patterson, Janet Evanovich or John Grisham, the gap is based on far more than name recognition. Indie-authors set the price for their own books, so why so low? Why are so many eBooks, even by the best sellers priced at $0.99?
This is an ongoing debate. Many believe indie-authors must set the prices low to entice buyers to give them a try. Others feel by pricing their product so low they are tarnishing the image of their product. Prices have generally been set on 'what the market can bare'. Apparently the majority of indie-authors feel the current market will not support a higher price structure.
I recently read a note on a company bulletin board concerning an eBook. The note said not to let the low price of $1.99 discourage you from buying this book, it was really good. Perception is not reality, but people do make purchases based on perception, and we as authors must be careful not to present the wrong image. Prices should, must, be a part of an overall marketing strategy. I will look at such a plan in more detail in coming post. For now, keep in mind, readers are always looking for a new favorite author, and they are willing to pay for the work of someone they like. Don't under price your work just because you are new or because that is what others are doing. Develop a strategy, and stick to it. More to follow...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tools of the Writer - Sentences

Wood is the raw material used by a carpenter when building furniture, a house, or any other object. The carpenter uses these raw materials to create works of art as well as day-to-day essentials. He knows his craft and his materials. He knows oak is stronger than pine, he knows which woods will polish the best, which need more care, and which to avoid. A writer uses words as their raw material. A writer who knows their craft uses nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and pronouns to mold their creation. Each word has a place, each word offers something to the whole, and each word must be scrutinized over, polished and placed correctly within the framework. When used correctly, words tell a story, have power, evoke emotion, and can leave a lasting impression. It is up to the craftsman to learn his trade, hone his skills, and monitor how and when he uses his raw materials.
Every part of a story is crucial, how it is told, how it is shaped, and how it is presented to the reader. When writing an action scene, you should use shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, and action verbs. We must always be cautious in the use of adjectives, we must always remember a reader doesn't want to be told something, they want to be shown. Which words you choose is critical, but just as critical is the framework in which you present these words.
I was given a eBook to review this week and as I went to page one I inwardly groaned. The first paragraph, was in fact, one long continuous sentence. It was so obvious I found myself going back and counting the words. There were 35 of them, in one sentence, the opening sentence. The author had used one comma in the sentence, and its placement was rather suspect as well. At that point I had serious doubts concerning the quality of writing and story content which lay ahead. Had I been a potential buyer and were reading a sample of the book, it is very probable I would have stopped there and moved to another selection.
A sentence must convey an idea, must have a purpose. It must also fit within the overall framework of the paragraph. The task of a paragraph is to develop a point. During your first draft, don't worry about sentence length, just get the story on paper. As you edit, watch for sentences that run-on. If you have a sentence that goes on for, say 35 words, it can almost certainly be broken down in two or three smaller sentences. This will generally improve the flow and aide the reader.
As mentioned, a sentence must convey an idea, move the story forward, but just how long should a sentence be? The average sentence contains 14.3 words. The appropriate sentence length is said to be from 15 to 20 words, based on human memory principles. If a sentence runs too long, people tend to forget or lose sight of the idea you are attempting to present. There are no hard and fast rules that govern how long a sentence can be, but shorter is generally better.
Sentences are grouped together to form paragraphs. Like sentences paragraphs should not run-on. A page of print with only one break for a new paragraph, or no breaks at all, can be very daunting to a reader. The average paragraph should contain 5 to 7 sentences. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule. Some paragraphs will be longer, some a little shorter, but you must monitor this very closely during the editing process. 
The story which began with a one sentence paragraph of 35 words, no it did not get any better. Always monitor your sentence length and structure, especially in the opening. Remember, if the reader is reading your opening sentence it means your cover caught their attention and the synopsis got them to take a peek inside. At this point you are ready to close the sale, don't blow it with poor sentence structure than runs-on and on and on. When you are editing, always remember to read what you wrote, not what you thought or meant to write. It will save you a great many headaches later, and help you close the sale.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Red Herring

I once read a quote which said a writer can only make a living in the United States by writing one of two kinds of books. They must write either cook books, or crime books. This is not entirely true of course, as a number of writers have found it possible to write in other genres and enjoy a very healthy audience. Crime novels, however, are among the most popular and consistently top the best seller lists. There are many types of crime novels from mysteries, to hard-boiled detective stories, to romantic investigations. Crime can also take place in almost any setting, be it science fiction, historical, or gothic. Regardless of which area of crime you write in, you need to include one essential element, the red herring.
In a really good mystery/crime novel you don't want the reader to figure out who the bad guy is until the very end. A crafty writer will reveal hints and clues as the story progresses, then reveal these clues at the end. If done properly, the reader says "Ah, I should have seen that." One way to keep the reader from seeing that element until you are ready is to give them a false lead. A red herring is something or someone who appears to be guilty, appears to be the one you will reveal at the end of the story as the bad guy. Just before the conclusion, you reveal the red herring is not guilty, leaving the reader a bit confused, after all they thought they had figured it out. Now they will not be able to put the book down until they see who the bad guy actually is. If you accomplish that, you have succeeded.
There are a few rules involved with red herrings. The first and foremost rule is to not cheat the reader. You want the red herring to appear guilty, to distract the reader and the protagonist of your story away from the real criminal, but not by cheating. Always be able to explain the things which appeared to be clues, but in fact were not. If the police find the victim's blood in the red herring's apartment, there has to be a logical reason  for it. If the real killer didn't know the police thought the red herring was guilty, how could they have known  to plant blood in the apartment? If the true criminal was framing the red herring from the beginning, then you will need to explain how he/she were able to get the blood in the apartment, thereby proving the innocence of one and the guilt of the other.
In longer pieces of fiction you can have multiple red herrings. Keep the reader guessing between any number of suspects until the very least scene. One of the best tricks is to reveal someone as a red herring, thereby putting them in the clear, then reverse yourself to expose they are indeed the criminal after all. In this instance you will need to show how the detective was fooled, but finally came to realize the truth.  Be crafty, be mysterious, and keep your reader guessing and engaged. Nothing beats a good mystery, but nothing is much worse than a mystery gone bad.