Category Archives: amazon

Why Doesn’t America Read

Why doesn’t America read?

Well, it isn’t a simple answer. Certainly, there are still many out there perusing internet articles for current events or scanning various sites for information, but where are all the Americans who read for entertainment?

Anyone who does actually read will claim that there are large communities of readers on sites like Goodreads, that there are plenty of places to download e-books like Smaswhords, and that the big boom in books released through Amazon and to e-readers would prove that there plenty of readers in America, but in truth, it’s a very small fraction of the country that engages in the lost art of reading.

Here’s a quick quote from the L.A. Times

The study found that overall, 72% of American adults have read a book in the past year, while the percentage for millennials, ages 18 to 29, was higher: 80%. The percentage of overall book readers dropped from the previous year, when 76% of American adults reported having read a book, either all or part of one.

Do you see? These are people who have read a book in a year, and not even a whole book; lot’s of people try to read, and then give up after a few pages, but why? Furthermore, the study doesn’t discuss what kind of book was read and why; some people glance at a non-fiction book for information, but does that count as reading?

The major presses are releasing tons of books for entertainment in America and other countries, but the presses are way out of touch with today’s audience; they don’t post book releases and reviews to social media outlets, they don’t really show any commercials for new releases on television, and unless someone is already a subscriber to Reader’s Digest, there isn’t anyone out there reading magazines containing book releases, but is marketing the problem?

No, it isn’t. The problem is that today, everyone and their grandmother can sit down at their computer, type out 50,000 words, buy a cover from some photoshop artist, and release it through Amazon, Smashwords, and Lulu. These people are often called indie authors, but that’s incorrect; indie authors are published through indie presses like Baen, actual presses with editors, marketers, and printers. The correct term is self published author, and these authors release their books through POD companies like Friesen Press; it’s a flurry of unedited mush, and, all too often, self published authors also release e-books, which flood the market, through Amazon and Smashwords.

But why is that a bad thing? Is it inappropriate to write a book and release it? Would not the readers and the market decide if the author and book are worth buying? In a free trade system, yes, but these authors get together through social media and trade books with each other, so that they can all give each other 5 star reviews on book sites. The result is a poorly written, cliched, stagnant piece with 100 5 star reviews enticing readers to buy a book, and then readers purchase it to find the writer wasn’t able to string together five words, much less reveal a cogent plot, and so they feel shilled, and they give their 1 star review, but it doesn’t end there. That doesn’t solve the problem.

You see, these self published authors get together on social media and tell each other to support other self published authors because they write for a living and need to pay their bills, so they all congregate and talk about trading good reviews in order to boost their sales, and there doesn’t seem to be anybody out there trying to dissuade them from this practice, which fools unsuspecting readers into buying trash.

Now, not all self published authors are terrible writers just like not all mainstream books are properly written. Some of them hire professional editors, others buy manuals to learn how to properly edit, some find beta-readers for feedback before a release, and some have degrees in literature or composition, but it’s so overly difficult to know which author has an inkling of editing when tons and tons and tons of e-books are flooding the market, and as I said, they all have hundreds of glowing reviews.

Another problem is the book reviewer industry. When a major press, or even a true, indie press, releases a book, they hire professional reviewers from companies like Kirkus to read and write a real, professional review on the book; these are paid professionals who take their careers very seriously, and they will describe in detail the good and bad points of the book. Furthermore, if the book is terrible, they will explain why and provide their rating for everyone to see. Self published authors don’t do this; they claim that paid reviews are biased, but it’s the paid reviewers that tell and post the truth!

Here’s the kicker, since these self published authors have been destroyed by real reviewers, they resort to each other for fake reviews, and they will even find blog sites and review sites to post reviews. Many will go so far as to create fake email accounts with which they create fake Amazon accounts, and then they give themselves great fake reviews.

On top of that, too often, these non-professional reviewers promise that they will NOT post a bad review. Instead, if they don’t like the book, rather than shaming the author, they opt out of posting the review, but reviews are not for authors, they are supposed to be for READERS. Readers deserve to know if a book is a waste of their time and money!

So, why doesn’t America read anymore? Because every time an American tries to pick up a book and start reading, their eyes are assaulted by uninspired dialogue, unbelievable characters, convoluted, nonsensical plots, and feel so disgusted with the world of reading, that they become jaded, thinking that books are simply terrible. In the end, they aren’t wrong because most of the mainstream trash is also poorly edited, and I’ve blogged extensively about that as well. You can see it here on Quora.

What can be done? Writers, all writers, can start hiring competent editors. You can learn more about editing here.

No one is saying that people should stop writing; it’s great that so many Americans have decided to put their thoughts into words, but they should do their due diligence and make their work a professional masterpiece; it doesn’t matter if the concept within the story is any good, everybody has different tastes, what matters is the quality of the writing, and the only way to let readers know whether a book is worth reading is by posting a real review.

If a book is bad, people need to say so. If a book is good, people need to say so, but what’s killing the reading industry is the masses of self published authors trading these fake reviews and these non-professional reviewers deciding NOT to post bad reviews; they must post bad reviews because reviews are for readers, not authors.

Add to that the dreck spewed from the disconnected, mainstream publishers, and what do you have? Americans that don’t want to read!

The Brian Griffins of the writing industry have been taking over. Someone needs to curtail this horrendous practice and restore reading and writing in America to its former glory.

Not only do readers deserve to know if a book is readable, but the authors deserve to hear why their book was bad, so that they can sit back and improve on their next novel. So many self-published authors write and release a book every month; there’s no way a book written that quickly is ready for release, and these clowns have no idea that they can’t write because they’re surrounded by their own ilk, raving about how amazing their book is, even though it lacks any kind of punctuation, all the characters talk the same, the plot makes no sense and wanders off like a drunken horse, and offers no lesson whatsoever.

Add to that all the mainstream writers out there buying 5,000 copies of their own books in order to fake their way onto the New York Time’s Best Seller list. It’s all garbage. It’s all designed to take your money; it’s no wonder America doesn’t read!

Do you want America to start reading again? You can help to solve the problem. Before you buy a book, take a look at the reviews; look at the 5 star reviews, look at the 1 star reviews, and then, on Amazon, you can click “look inside” and actually check to see if the writer was able to keep an idea within a paragraph; there’s an art to writing; it isn’t just words on a page. Each word has to fill the sentence with life. Each paragraph has to drive the essence of the story forwards. Each piece of dialogue has to sound like people conversing, and if an author fails in these concepts, readers will drop the book and walk away, enraged at the fact they just blew 2 dollars.

Please, America, read again; read reviews, good and bad, take a look inside the book, you have the opportunity, and on Smashwords, you can often download a free sample of the book. You can check out sample on Barnes and Noble, too. You have the powers to fix the issue, so stop complaining that no one reads anymore, and start promoting great books, and start chastising bad books.

Readers, you wonderful, American readers out there who still love finding a diamond in the rough, please review all the books you purchase; reader reviews are by far more important than professional or author reviews. If you want America to read again, give them a reason; talk about how good a book was; talk about how bad a book was; inform your fellow readers, so that all of you might band together on social media like the self published authors who are trying to trick you into buying a 50,000 word train wreck.

Be wary, be very, very wary; lots of self published authors will maliciously post negative reviews for writers if the other writer gave them an honest, bad review on their book. I’ve seen it; one author trades a book, he or she posts a review of the other author, and then, when they get their bad review in return, that author will remove their first review, and write a scathing indictment instead only to try and make themselves feel better, so it’s up to you, the American reader, to fix the book industry. If you love to read then you must review for better or worse, and you must tell your friends and family as well.

Help me make reading fun again. Please, but don’t just stop there, either. If you’re a professional book blogger or book reviewer, you can really share your influence, and you can earn money doing so.

Don’t just buy books from Smashwords. Sell books through Smashwords. Smashwords offers a super simple type of affiliate marketing where if you simply post a referral link on your site, and people buy the book through your link, you earn a portion of the sales.

Got a bookblog? Constantly discussing books with friends? Well, then, you’re selling books. Might as well earn a cut. Learn more here.

Be leery of millionaires- a tip to indie writers

You’ve written a book! Congratulations, you’ve just accomplished the biggest step towards a successful indie writing career, but wait; you’ve been published for six months, and you’ve only sold two copies of your e-book. You joined all the prominent communities on Google + and a plethora of groups on Linkedin. All the people you speak to say they’re best sellers; they sell several copies of their books everyday; they’re rich and only work day jobs because they want to. They make hundreds of thousands of dollars off their one book, and you want to as well, but no one gives you a straight answer on how to do that. None of those rich indie writers can tell you anything more than “I do signings at my local book store”, or “I sell dozens of copies every time I do a signing”, or “I just Tweet about my book, and everyone buys it”, yet there you are with your two sold copies.

What went wrong? Nothing. Those other people are lying to you.

Here’s the truth; you’re doing just as well as everyone else, maybe even better. Take a look at the math.

You publish one e-book to Amazon’s KDP select at $.99, which yields about $.35. If you sell one copy, yes, just one copy, every day that’s 365 x $.35 = $127.75 per year supposing you do sell an e-book everyday, which would put you in Amazon’s top 100 easy, and if you follow up on those other writers, you’ll see their book–or books–is somewhere in the millions range. That means they aren’t selling one copy every day, much less enough copies to hit 5,000 a year to be a real best seller.

Certainly, they may have 400 5 star reviews, but they get those by trading their e-book with another author, and each author gives the book a 5 star review for a 5 star review, an abhorrent practice as it makes readers think they’re buying a quality product when in fact it’s barely mediocre (always read the couple of 2 star reviews the authors have for a real look into how good the book is. Those are real reviews by real readers).

Well, gee, that does sound awful, but I don’t care about that. I want to know how I can make a living off $127.75 a year. You can’t. You have to write more books, yet to even break $10,000 a year, on which you still cannot earn a living, you must sell about 80 e-books every day, so if you have written 80 e-books, and you sell one of each of them every day, you can make $10,200 every year.

But those rich, best-selling, indie authors don’t have 80 books. No, they don’t, further evidence that they’re not telling the truth, and it’s this that leads me to question Amanda Hocking’s success, but I’ve written about her before; she has several traditional print contracts with imprints from larger companies. Even James Crouch has a literary agent.

I don’t have contracts or an agent. Why do people become indie writers if they can’t make a living, and why do they lie?

Well, crazy people do crazy things, and I’d like to believe that an indie writer can make it big. I’ve talked to some writers that seem successful, and I stay positive and force myself to believe that it can be done because I need to believe that a self made person can be successful, but if you’re writing in the hopes of getting rich, you better pander to the masses, hire a team of professional editors, and write the next big book-to-movie product or you’re outta gas. Indie writers write for themselves and for the fans, which means you need to release a perfect product all on your own and abstain from trading 5 star reviews with other authors for 5 star reviews. You need to get real reviews from professional reviewers, so readers won’t be disappointed in your product and write a revenge review- an evil review to deter everyone else from even taking a chance on you.

But that will cost upwards of a $100 or more! Yes, it will, so write for the sake of telling the story!

Now, I’ve read Linkedin posts about authors who travel the country and sell print copies of their books. Let’s take a look at the math again.

A print copy of a full length book–300 pages of a 9 by 6 copy–can be priced about as low as $10  from which you’ll only make about $3 after someone makes a purchase via Amazon, so selling those at one copy per day for a year gets you $1,095, which means you need to sell about 10 copies per day, or have 10 print books available and sell one of each every day for $10,950 per year. These authors, who are supposedly showing up at places across the country, talk about buying their own copies, traveling, booking a venue, and selling their books to people. The cost of buying your own books and traveling can be astronomical.

One author purchase of a print book is half of the price, so $5 per book if it’s priced at $10, which you then sell at $10, unless you jack up the price because its signed, so we’ll even say $15 per book. How many books would you have to sell to make up your losses; that is, the cost of buying the books, traveling, and booking the venue? While you’re doing this, you can’t work your day job, either, so how much are you losing there? If you buy 1,000 print copies, that’s $5,000 dollars! Then, you have to travel the country, book hotel stays, book a venue through which you can sell and hope that people show. If you sell all your books, which won’t happen until after you’ve spent years amassing a fan base, at $15 per book that’s only $15,000 minus the $5,000 of the books purchased, which is only $10,000 minus the travelling expenses!

Don’t buy into the guff! Please, please, please don’t buy into the guff. The cold truth is that most indie writers, ones who have been on the market for less than 5 years, are probably selling one book a month, maybe less. It takes a great deal of time, effort, and money to promote your book.

This isn’t meant to be discouraging, on the contrary, it should be uplifting to know that you aren’t doing any worse than anyone else. The trick is to keep at it.

Also, get away from promotions with KDP select, which prevents you from publishing elsewhere. In fact, you may want to rid yourself of Amazon altogether; check your sales and payments, and double check your Kindle Pages Read. I promise you, Amazon is stealing from you.

Buy 5 or so print copies and do giveaways on Goodreads, blog about your books, your writing, your life. Learn the intricacies of editing and sell your services to others, but for the sake of the readers, make certain that if you do do that (heh, do do) you understand what editing is.

You can learn more about editing here.

So, to answer your question; how can I make it big? The truth is that without an agent or a big contract from a major publisher, you’re looking at peanuts, but still, writing 80 books and selling each of them every day isn’t that daunting…well maybe it is….

Write because you love it, write because you have a story to tell, write because you want readers to enjoy a mental vacation, and all the while, hone your art. You should want to break into the mainstream world; there’s nothing wrong with that.

Stephen King is a big time writer, yet he also self-publishes his own books, and he writes from a small indie press, too. Do it all. Stay positive. Keep looking for new and inventive ways to market your writing. Do what others haven’t, but don’t listen to the guff, don’t get discouraged, and if you do find someone who says they’re doing phenomenally well, have them prove it then ask them what they did.

I wanted to copy Amanda Hocking’s meteoric rise to indie stardom, and that’s how I learned a lot of this information.

So far, everyone I’ve looked into, every indie writer that is, has not become successful on their own; they have had help from editors, publishers, agents, professional marketers, etc.

Today, everyone and their mum writes books and publishes to Amazon, and some people even publish through an indie press like Del Ray, but even then, even with a renown indie press, you’re still not going to see a book sale everyday, so it takes a gargantuan effort to be a youngish, quit-your-day-job, indie author, and if you are one, or you know one, talk to me. I’d like to see some real proof and hopefully a marketing plan because I want to make it big, too.

But wait, don’t some authors get advances?

They certainly do, but the advances from an indie press are somewhere between $100 and $5,000 dollars, and that’s cash that they have to earn back before you start getting royalties, so if you do get the advance, but fail to sell enough copies to recoup that advance, you don’t get squat after the advance!

As a final note, if you are an indie writer, please do your best to release a perfect product; don’t help flood the market with mediocrity. It’s bad for business, it’s bad for the indie writing name, and it’s bad for the readers. It’s these bad practices that send people running when they see the word indie before the word writer, and then they end up buying the mainstream crap that’s peddled today, and worst of all for you, when an agent or publisher sees that you’re an indie writer, they won’t touch you unless you can prove thousands of sales.

Be honest, be positive, and do your best. Thanks.