Hey Indie Authors, Has the Giant Lost its Nimbleness? (Taxes and Amazon)

Navigating tax season is certainly not one of the joys of being an indie author. (Nor of anyone else in the universe, but we’ll keep this post about writers.)

As I was beginning to think through necessary documents and collate what I had received already, something strange became very apparent: perhaps the mammoth, gargantuan, enormous, industry-leading Amazon is not quite as quick and nimble as it once was.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a devoted Amazon follower – for better or worse. I understand what they have done for indie authors like myself, and while I may not always agree with everything they do, they’ve given me a platform and have helped to even the playing field for no-name authors like myself.

But it does make me wonder what’s the problem when small matters such as tax forms become so difficult to receive online. I wrote the following note to KDP customer service the other day: “Can you tell me if the 1099-MISC tax form is available on-line?”

Reasonable and logical question in this day and age, I believe. Here was their courteous and prompt response. I’ve always had excellent customer service from Amazon and this encounter was no different:

“Hello, 

I hope this mail finds you well. I’m glad you wrote us today so that we can take care of this right away. Thank you for the opportunity.

I’m sorry that the 1099 form will be a physical copy that will be mailed to your address.

We will make every effort to evaluate the information and try our level best to lead it to program changes or enhancements to make 1099 forms available online.”

Fine. Not a big deal. I’ll get it in the mail. But contrast this with the email I received from Smashwords. They said that my 1099-MISC form was now available on-line and can be downloaded immediately by logging into my account. Wow.  Extremely convenient. I logged in and in a matter of seconds, I had my form.

Amazon doesn’t have it available on-line. They are going to mail out thousands upon thousands of 1099 forms because for whatever reason, they aren’t available.  Think of the thousands of dollars they will spend on postage. A pittance, no doubt, but it does say something to me: the giant is not as nimble as it once was. This is not the only example of Amazon being slower than someone else in the industry. Smashwords had pre-release selling of books for indie authors a long time before Amazon finally did the same thing. There are probably other examples as well.

It’s not uncommon for big behemoths to eventually slow-down – just look at the government. But here’s hoping that first off, Amazon will catch up and offer simple downloads on tax forms, and secondly, will continue to innovate in the big and small areas which will ensure a better experience for all kinds of authors, thus increasing book sales across the board. That would be good for everyone.

Another bookstore closing

Another bookstore closing — this one a major retailer in Hong Kong. The major overhaul in the publishing market continues as traditional, large book retailers are finding it more and more difficult to be profitable.

The impact of e-books and Amazon has certainly been slower in Asia than in the USA. There are, I’m sure, many reasons for this. Amazon doesn’t have the reach and muscle in Asia as it does in the United States, but that is changing. Amazon has Amazon Japan, Amazon India, and Amazon Australia throughout the Pacific Rim and South Asia. But vast swaths of Asia have a huge gap and many obstacles to overcome in order for e-books and e-readers to be readily used and available, as this paper from June 2014 points out: 

Click to access ALA2014-SEA-Ebooks-paper.pdf

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Despite the lack of dedicated e-readers and the lack of commercially available e-books for purchase, traditional bookstores in the region are STILL closing down.

Right about the time Borders was shuttering its USA stores for good, a Malaysian company purchased the franchise rights to open Borders Bookstores in Malaysia. When Penang’s Queensbay Mall opened in 2007, one of the featured stores was Borders. It had a huge retail footprint with its standard books, music, and coffee shop. But within the first year of operation, it could easily be seen that the music portion of their store wasn’t making money. It kept getting smaller and smaller until the music was removed altogether. Skip ahead a few more years and they remodeled the store once again. But this time, they cut the store in half, making it just a fraction of its original footprint.

The Borders franchise here got creative and tried new things. They opened up a Borders Express outlet at another mall in Penang. This was a very small retail location – kind of like a teaser of their other store. This small location lasted only a few months before it was shut down.

Time and time again, bookstores in the region find themselves unable to remain profitable, despite the fact that e-readers and e-books are not popular here.

I can imagine that the future of e-books in Asia looks bright because there are so many markets to grow in and so much of the region is already extremely tech savvy. But that technology also underlines some of the problems which booksellers will have to deal with including a reading public which has its attention severely split between the myriad of entertainment options found on the Internet. Many bookstores will continue to struggle to stay relevant in the every changing technological revolution we are all a part of.

Indie Authors: Take Control and Benefit More

I have a dear friend who a couple years back published her fascinating story about her family living as missionaries in South Vietnam during the war years. The book was published through one of the independent presses which require fees up front. They made a nice e-book for her and produced a very professional book in both hardcover and paper.

The book itself is an absolute fascinating read. My friend is a wonderful storyteller, and the stories of ministry and faith in the midst of the chaos of war and both eye-opening and inspirational. It should have a large appeal, even to those who are not Christian because it gives a view of war rarely seen.  (I’ll highlight the actual book with a later post.)

Since the time she published her book, I have become an author myself and have walked in indie author shoes for a while now. Earlier this year I contacted her to ask her if she still retained all the rights to her book (she did) and if she would be interested in re-publishing it as an independent author. She was interested, as I knew she would after I first noticed the e-book price for her work on Amazon: $9.49.

I told her I could help her republish it at a much lower price, she would keep more of the profits and reach more readers.

Let’s think about that $9.49 price point. When I told her she would get 70% royalty on Amazon for books priced from $2.99 to $9.99, she immediately acknowledged that by putting the re-published book at $3.99, she’ll make more money per sale than she does now.

Luckily she wasn’t stuck at that price point by having signed away any rights. She was selling an ebook at a high price with a publisher doing nothing to promote it, which is a fact I don’t understand. Doesn’t the publisher realize that if they sold more books, they, too, would make more money? Competitive pricing, more sales, more money for everyone. ??? Why is it hard for these companies to understand this basic tenant of a market economy? That’s why I side with Amazon on the Hachette dispute, but that’s another story.

Within the next few days, the book will be re-offered on Amazon for $3.99. Once her old publisher un-publishes the ebook from the different retailers then she’ll be joining KDP so she can offer it for free and reach thousands of readers which were previously unavailable to her.

I wish her all the success in the world, as I do with all indie authors. It’s great to be able to take control of our own destiny, and reach readers on our own terms.

Don’t you think so?

 

FREE – The Recluse Storyteller – First Time Ever

I’m very pleased to offer my second novel, The Recluse Storyteller, for free over the next two days – February 20-21.

It’s free in every Amazon store worldwide. Please pick yourself up a copy and share the link with a friend. And if you like it, please write a review.

Thanks so much!

Here are a few of the links:

USA: The Recluse Storyteller KINDLE VERSION

UK: Amazon UK Store

Canada: Amazon Canada Store

Australia: Amazon Australia Store

India: Amazon India Store

Workshop Aftermath: Wow, the Ground has Shifted!

I had a great time this evening highlighting the changes in the publishing industry over the last decade or so with a great, responsive group of eager writers trying to best understand the landscape through the eyes of this indie author who is still finding his way.

I greatly enjoyed seeing the shock on the faces of certain attendees who had not been keeping up with how Amazon has completely changed the way the publishing industry is operating – from Print on Demand to KDP to Goodreads to the blogosphere, the resources now at the disposal of writers is truly amazing.

I love the freedom to control my own destiny and I thankful that Amazon has provided this opportunity. I know that they don’t care about me personally, but their business model could not be anymore beneficial for an indie writer.

What a great time to be an author! The world of readers is at our fingertips!

(OK, we all know there are ups and downs in being an indie author. Well, today, I feel, is one of the ‘up’ days! :))

 

Goodreads + Amazon = ? Hmmm …

I’m sure you’ve heard the news that the behemoth of a retailer Amazon.com is acquiring book-loving, social media site Goodreads.  There are lots of opinions out there as to what this will mean in the long run. My only concern is what it will mean for an indie author like myself.

I have no idea. But my first thoughts is that it can only be good for me.

Imagine having a fluid connection between a book recommendation and a one-click Kindle download. I’m especially interested in what it will mean for Goodreads advertising. I’m currently running ads for my novel Beauty Rising on Goodreads. It has been somewhat successful. I’ve had a good amount of views and a bunch of clicks that have led to a few sales. Right now, Goodreads recommends that an ad’s link circle back into the Goodreads’ book page instead of an external link. Their reasoning is that by having interested readers go to the book’s page on Goodreads, it will then lead the person to click the ‘to read’ button which will have a multiplier advertising effect as their actions, concerning my book, will show up in their friends’ feed, further promoting my book.

I understand their logic, but I have wondered if it has stopped people from buying my book because it’s not set up to go to a page where they can actually purchase it. Perhaps a reader thinks it looks interesting, they click the ‘to read’ button, but then my novel gets buried underneath the other hundred books that they haven’t read yet.

Now let’s enter Amazon into that equation. A potential reader clicks on my Goodreads ad and goes to the book’s page on the site. Sitting right on that page is a ‘one-click’ purchase button for an easy Kindle download of my book.

Sounds good to me.

Will the marriage drive away some readers for fear that Goodreads’ impartiality and independent minded set-up will be compromised? That remains to be seen.

But I can’t see Amazon doing anything to Goodreads that would jeopardize the positive experience of 16 million Goodreads users because, bottom line, they want to sell books. As many as is possible.

I could be wrong, but I think they are on to something. Here’s one indie author who’s hoping it will be another way to broaden his base readership.