Friday, August 8, 2014

A LETTER FROM AMAZON TO THEIR INDIE AUTHORS CONCERNING THE HACHETTE NEGOTIATIONS

In this battle between Amazon and Hachette, I'm siding with Amazon, not only because I'm a Montlake Romance author and a self-published author, but because I've been closely following (as much as possible) the information and discussions about this situation and feel Amazon is (for the most part) in the right. I'm very concerned about my colleagues who write for Hachette. They are truly the ones suffering because their publisher is using them as canon fodder. (Although many of them don't realize Hachette has thrust them into the front lines, and they are blaming Amazon for the war.)

Please don't throw the "Amazon is not your friend" comment at me. I already know that. Amazon is a business--one that has changed my life for the better. I'm deeply grateful to the company, but that doesn't mean I'm blindly on Amazon's side.

What I am against is paying high prices for ebooks. However the dust falls from the giants duking out the contract, I will NOT buy high priced ebooks. I don't care who publishes them or if they are written by my favorite authors. For me, it a matter of principle. I feel it's WRONG for publishers to charge a high price for an ebook, and that they are just trying to GOUGE the reader. Sometimes, it's really hard not to press that buy button on a book I really want. At those times, I feel resentment at the publisher who controls the pricing. But then I browse the Amazon or iBooks website and find something else to read--something affordable. There are always other books. :)

When I say "affordable" that's perhaps misleading. Thanks to Amazon, I'm in a position to afford to read whatever I want, regardless of the price. But I won't. Perhaps it's from too many years where I could never afford enough books. I out-read my types of books at the city and school library. I haunted used books stores and garage sales for paperback books I could buy for .25 or .50. Sometimes, it still feels like a luxury to go on an ebook "shopping spree" or pay a high price for a hardback book that only takes me a few hours to read.

There are a lot of people out there like me--avid readers who speed through books and can never have enough of their favorite type of stories. Many of those readers cannot afford to feed their habit--or they couldn't before so many free and low price ebooks came on the market--again due to Amazon.

There are many, many, many inexpensive books out there, and readers will buy them, find new authors to love and auto-buy, and drift away from old favorites whom they cannot afford (or don't want to afford.) Then both author and publisher will lose.

Debra Holland, Ph.D
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author


From: Kindle Direct Publishing
Subject: Important Kindle request
Date: August 8, 2014 at 10:12:34 PM PDT
To: Debra Holland

Dear 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 www.readersunited.com

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What a Difference a Cover Makes

I've had Beneath Montana's Sky, the prequel novella to Mail-Order Brides of the West and The Montana Sky Series available for sale on pre-order since April. The book is available on June 30th.

Here was my cover:



Perfectly fine. What I didn't realize was that this wasn't the final version. When I recently went to upload the book to Nook (anticipating that I might need a couple of days for the book to go live) I found the cover was too big. So I requested a smaller version from my cover artist. She sent me this:






I loaded the cover on Nook. (I was at a conference at the time and was sleep deprived.) To my surprise, the book was live in three hours. The next day, while on the phone with Caroline Fyffe discussing our Mail-Order Brides of the West series, she mentioned that I had two different covers. Not knowing what she was talking about, I had to go look and each. Sure enough, the covers were different.

When I uploaded cover #2 on Amazon, my sales increased and the book went from having a sales rank in the 3000s to the current rank of #1500 overall in the Kindle store and #15 on the top 100 Western Romance list.

I love the new cover, although I'll probably have her make my name and New York Times Bestselling Author more visible.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Fantasy Author Holiday Sale

To honor the holiday season, I've reduced the price of Sower of Dreams to .99 from $3.99.



AND I've joined with some other fantasy and fantasy romance authors to do a special promotion, where they too are discounting their books to .99 (or making them free.) In addition, there's a rafflecopter give away, including gift cards! The top giveaway is a $100 gift card for either Barnes & Nobel or Amazon.





The other awesome authors in this promotion are:


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Crista McHugh, The Tears of Elios
 

 
Mona Hanna, High Witch


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Michelle McCleod, Psychic Appeal







S.A. Hunter, Unicorn Bait



Priya Ardis, My Merlin Awakening









Thursday, November 14, 2013

Facebook Launch Party Invitation!




COME CELEBRATE THE LAUNCH OF SWEETWATER SPRINGS CHRISTMAS

Monday, November 18th, I will be hosting my first ever Facebook launch party at: https://www.facebook.com/events/628356887207612/?ref=br_tf.
I will be joined by ten other authors who’ve contributed short stories to Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology. Throughout the day, we’ll be “chatting” and doing playful question and answers. Each hour there will be plenty of giveaways, and at the end of the day, commenters will be entered into a grand prize drawing for a Kindle Fire.

If you buy Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology before November 18th or during the time of the launch party, you can be entered into a grand prize drawing for a $100.00 Amazon gift card. Just forward your Amazon receipt to my assistant Mindy Freed at: freedmindy@yahoo.com.

The party starts at 9:00 am Pacific Time and ends at 5:00 pm Pacific Time. The two random drawings for the grand prizes will take place at 5:00 pm. I hope to see you there!



THANKFULNESS BREATHING

This morning after working until 3:00 am to finish the edits to Sweetwater Springs Christmas and send the story off to the formatter, I lay in bed reading emails on my phone. At some point, I became aware of feeling happy, and I set down the phone to explore and savor the emotion.

The first and easiest reason for the feeling was because the book--my focus for three intense months--was finished and turned in. Then I became aware of my cat sleeping on my legs. The heaviness of his body curled between my knees was both cozy and comforting. Third, I realized my breathing had deepened and become slow and relaxing, and that I’d unconsciously been breathing thankfulness in and out, expanding and contracting my ribcage and belly.

Deep breathing combined with a focus on feelings of gratitude is a meditation technique I often practice, especially during times of stress. For a few minutes, I take deep breaths making sure I fill my whole lungs, which will expand my belly. In other words, my stomach (not just my chest) poofs out. Then I exhale, pulling my stomach in.

At the same time, I concentrate on different things I’m grateful for. These can be as small as appreciating being snuggled in a warm blanket, or as large as my gratitude to all the veterans who have served our country. Or, as in today, I may just enjoy a general feeling of gratitude and wellbeing.

Both deep breathing and focusing on gratitude are excellent (and quick) stress reducing exercises. They each help our body and our brain become positive and calm. When combined, we feel the beneficial impact of both.

As we head into the holiday season, our stress level tends to increase as we add more tasks to our already busy lives. Thankfulness breathing is one of the best ways to help us de-stress, allowing us to better enjoy all the pleasures of the season.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Debra Holland, Ph.D

Sunday, October 20, 2013

INTRODUCING SWEETWATER SPRINGS CHRISTMAS


In the spring, I issued invitations to fifteen of my friends who write Westerns or Western Romance (or in one case horse racing romance) to submit stories for a Christmas anthology set in my town of Sweetwater Springs, Montana in 1895. Ten of them accepted for Sweetwater Springs Christmas. I think none of us had any idea of how much work this kind of collaboration would be. It wasn't easy for them to write in MY "world" and in some cases, the authors had never written short stories. (Nor did I have as much time as I thought to guide everyone because I was bogged down in finishing Harvest of Dreams, which went 30k longer than I expected.) Nor did I realize how much time I'd spend editing to make sure the stories matched my town and characters both from past and FUTURE stories. Since I have about ten stories in my head, that's a lot of characters no one knows about yet. For example, I couldn't accept another hero or heroine who'd be a doctor because the town already has a doctor and is about to acquire another.

But we've had a lot of fun in the process and friendships have grown out of the collaboration. I've LOVED seeing what other authors could do with stories set in Sweetwater Springs (with my characters making some brief appearances.) I hope you enjoy reading the collection as much as we've enjoyed creating it!






Here's the description:



Come celebrate the holidays in 1895 Sweetwater Springs, Montana, as ten Western Romance authors join New York Times Bestselling author DEBRA HOLLAND in telling SHORT STORIES of love and laughter, heartbreak and healing, and most of all, Christmas joy.


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ELIZABETH AYERSA CHRISTMAS FAR FROM HOME
Far from home, a young Wyoming rancher and the daughter of a Montana railroad man learn the true joy of Christmas is in giving.
LINDA CARROLL-BRADD - WISHES ON A STAR
Will a wish on a star foretell the future of a young suffragette and a visiting rancher?  
MJ FREDRICK - ABIGAIL'S CHRISTMAS ANGEL
A lonely widow and a lonelier marshal make peace with their past.
DEBRA HOLLAND – THE GIFT OF MUSIC
Can two reserved people overcome their limitations and find love?
drdebraholland.com
DEBRA HOLLAND - A FAMILY FOR IKE
A newly-orphaned boy finds and unexpected family.
drdebraholland.com
DEBRA HOLLAND - THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS
The town banker learns that perhaps some things are more important than money.
drdebraholland.com
PATY JAGER – A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER
Ida doesn't remember the last two years, but her husband is determined to find her and reignite their love.
JILL MARIE LANDIS - UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR
A spinster discovers it's never too late to embrace love and the surprises life has in store. 
www.jillmarielandis.com

TRISH MILBURN – A NEW HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
A woman scarred in face and heart finds love with a cowboy.
www.trishmilburn.com

LINDA MCLAUGHLIN -  THE BEST PRESENT
A grieving ten-year-old girl anticipating a sad Christmas receives some holiday surprises.

BEV PETTERSEN - THE CHRISTMAS CROSSING

With a little Christmas magic, two searching hearts discover they can bridge much more than a raging river.



www.BevPettersen.com
 
TORI SCOTT – A PROMISE FOR CHRISTMAS
Faced with her first Montana winter without her husband, Rachel Tanner and her young son need a miracle.

http://toriscott.blogspot.com

CINDY WOOLF - SUGARPLUM DREAMS
Julia Bosworth travels west to fulfill a special dream and finds her heart’s desire.










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Friday, March 29, 2013

Jasinda Wilder: A Self-Publishing Success Story

About a month ago, I made a new author friend--Jasinda Wilder. She'd joined a cross-promotion group I've recently become part of. Until that point, I'd never heard of Jasinda. But I was interested in her book, Falling Into You, because it's a story of love and loss and grief and loving again. I started to read the book and was immediately riveted. I read the book straight through, then thought a lot about the story afterwards. I can honestly say that Falling Into You is one of those rare books that I'll always remember.

The book starts out with sixteen year old protagonists, but it's not a young adult book, its a new adult book (meaning college age and up) then jumps to a time period of several years later. The book is very sensual and makes an accurate portrayal of what can happen when someone becomes stuck in grief and guilt as well as the aftereffects of trauma.



But Jasinda's terrific book isn't why I'm having her guest blog for me. I wanted to showcase her on my blog because of her life story. A year ago, she was struggling with a family member in the hospital and bills mounting up to the point of almost losing her house. Today, as of this week, Jasinda is a USA Today Bestselling author, A New York Times Bestselling author, and #1 on the Amazon Kindle Top 100 list. Needless to say, her financial situation has considerable changed, and all because of writing good books and then self-publishing them.

I felt reading Jasinda's story couldn't help but motivate other struggling authors and give them hope and encouragement. Writing books for publication can be extremely difficult and discouraging. Not everyone will experience the extremes of darkness to fireworks kind of success that has been Jasinda's journey, but you don't have to hit #1 to make a positive difference in your financial situation.

And so, I bring you, Jasinda Wilder. 




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ON HEARTACHE; OR, THE NEXT GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL
By Jasinda Wilder


We’ve all been through hell. I have, and you reading this…you have too. Stop for a moment and think about your life, think about the hardest times. You probably went to bed wondering how you could get up in the morning, and then when you did wake up, you had that blissful moment where you let yourself think it was all a bad dream, something horrible you imagined. Then, of course, reality asserted itself and you wished you could go back to that place of denial. It’s tempting, isn’t it? To want to just deny, deny, deny. Pretend the horror that’s swirling all around you and making a ruin of your life is just a dream.

The problem is, reality doesn’t stop. Truth doesn’t go away, and life doesn’t live itself. Sure, if you ignore the problem long enough, circumstances will eventually change; usually, in my experience, the way they change is for the worse, whereas if you stand up, accept the heartache and let it wash through you and breathe past it, take life one step at a time, you can forge a new reality for yourself. It’s easy for me to type those words, though.

I’ve been there, though, that’s the thing. I’ve been betrayed. I’ve had my heart stomped on and my life ruined and my trust broken and my reality shattered. I’ve ignored problems in the hopes that they’d work themselves out, and I’ve spent the weeks and months and years working to rebuild myself and my life after it all came crashing down. I’ve lost people I loved and cared about to cancer and suicide and age.

I’ve been Nell. I may not have chosen to deal with my pain in the same self-destructive ways she did, necessarily, but I’ve been in denial of my own pain, I’ve closed myself off from those around me, I’ve drank too much in the search for numbness. I’ve also been Colton, having to make my own way in life, having to believe in myself when no one else did.
There’s no secret formula, no magic bit of advice I or anyone else can offer to help you through your hardest times, except, perhaps, what Colton told Nell: just keep breathing. Keep getting up day after day and force yourself to go through the motions. Fake it till you make it. Eventually, things will get better.

How does this apply to writers?

Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep publishing. Finish a story, be it a novella, short story, novelette, or the fictitious “next great American novel”. Finish it, set it aside and write another one. Polish the first one, make it as best you can, and then don’t mess with it anymore. Just keep writing. Publish it, or work up your query letters if you’re going the trad-pub route. And then? Keep writing. If the first thing you published doesn’t sell, publish something else. Don’t endlessly fiddle with the cover or the blurb, don’t screw around with a social media campaign. Just keep writing. That’s not to say that covers and blurbs and social media aren’t important, because they are, especially for the indie author. But don’t let anything overshadow the writing. That’s where the satisfaction is, that’s where the money is. Write, publish, repeat. Do this as fast and furious as you can.

If your book gets shit reviews, keep an open mind and take the core advice to heart when you write the next one. Try—and you will sometimes fail at this—not to take the bad reviews personally. There’s no accounting for taste, you can’t please everyone…take your pick of overused adages. They’re all true, though, which is why they’re so overused. The reviews are there to help, good or bad.

Before things started taking off for me as Jasinda Wilder, I’d been writing and self-publishing here and there for a long time (and I even made a few passes at trad-pub agents and writing contests), but nothing ever really hit, never felt quite right. I hadn’t found my niche. It was hard. It was discouraging. The stuff I was putting out there just wasn’t finding an audience. So, instead of giving up or continuing to throw more of the same thing at the wall, I stopped, stepped back, and reconsidered my approach.

I looked at what I was writing and why. I looked at the market, at what was selling, what people were reading. Then I looked at myself, my life, the stories I had to tell, and tried to come up with a new plan. The result was a partially-autobiographical novelette, Big Girls Do It Better, and that was the beginning. People identified with my characters and seemed to be responding to my writing style, and were asking for more.

But like I said, that was the beginning. I had setbacks, I had stories that didn’t quite flop, but weren’t really going anywhere either. I had partnerships dissolve and friendships fizzle. I had personal drama, illness, bills that weren’t being paid. And in it all, I kept looking at the market, following the trends, watching for what kind of stories were doing the best and trying to figure out my own angle. See, I don’t want to ever just write a story that will fit neatly into a slot. I believe in taking risks—calculated, considered risks, but risks nonetheless.

So when I look at the market and the bestselling titles, I don’t ask “how can I mimic this and capitalize on the trend?” but rather, “what is the trend, and how can I write a unique and edgy story that will fill that niche?” I don’t want to be part of the trend, I want to further it, make it new, expand on it, push the boundaries.

Falling Into You is a New Adult novel, because that’s the big thing right now, but it’s also a story that (I hope!) will always be relevant. Nell and Colton are all of us, anyone who has faced a mountain of grief and felt buried under a deluge of trial and tribulation. They’re you and me. The healing power of love, the need to let yourself grieve, to own your emotions and keep breathing through the hardest times, the need to find someone that fills the space in your heart, these are timeless issues. Death, pain, the mistakes we make in dealing with our problems, these too are all things that will always be relevant.

You can’t just capitalize on a trend. You have to be relevant and daring. Most of all, you have to believe in your own talent and in the stories you have to tell.

The most-quoted words of advice for new writers: “Write what you know.” But that’s so ambiguous. What you know can be anything. If you know historical fiction, you don’t have to have lived in Restoration-era England to write good Restoration-era romance. I know loss and grief and betrayal and redemption and love and hot sex, so I write about those things. If you know what it’s like to be cheated on and how devastating that is and how to move past it, write that story. It will always be relevant, because people are stupid and cheat on other and they always have and always will.

Write what’s true for you.

Just write. That’s my biggest piece of advice. Don’t be an aspiring writer; be a writer. I can be an aspiring Olympic gymnast (Ha, right!) but unless I go to the gym and get a coach and start learning to do backflips and handstands, I’ll never be anything but an aspiring gymnast. I have to get my ass in the gym and start practicing my backflips. Same with writing. Aspire all you want, all day long. But you’ll never sell a single copy until you sit down, put on your headphones and fill the page with words every single day and finish the damn book.

This is all a bit rambling, I guess, but it all fits together, I hope. Take risks. Understand that heartache is part of life, and one day you might be able to put that heartache into a story and it’ll move people, it’ll touch their lives. But before that, you have to just keep breathing, keep living. Love. Be true to yourself and what you want your life to be. Just breathe, just write.
And listen to great music, because music heals, too. 

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Debra Holland is teaching an online self-publishing class for the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal Chapter of RWA, starting April 8 and running through May 12. Cost is $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers. For more details, see http://romance-ffp.com/page/workshops