Does Blogging About Publishing Still Matter?

As I lay awake last night, trying to figure out who I could complain to about Amazon erroneously blocking one of my family-oriented science fiction novels (written under a penname), I realized that I missed my blog. I’ll write about that situation another day, when it has been resolved one way or another. The best memories from my decade of blogging were those times I was able to help authors and publishers who reached out to me with news of underhanded happenings. A few such issues I was able to help solve, thanks to the power of the pen and the strength in numbers.

In the twenty-plus years I’ve been writing as a vocation, the “creative destruction” of the print world has turned into the march of the displacement technologies, and equally important, of displacement cultures. Piracy, in addition to being healthier than smoking, is now the more socially acceptable of the two, something you don’t have to step outside to do. The culture of publishing is being displaced as well, with humans replaced by automated filters that look for “naughty” words in eBooks. 

The domination of the modern publishing ecosystem by a limited number of large players (you can count them on one finger if you’re a self publisher) has left most of us dealing with a publishing process that becomes painfully Kafkaesque if anything goes wrong. Large companies, especially monopolies, eventually end up acting like governments. If their model was democracy, it would be a mess, but eventually justice might prevail. Unfortunately, the model most often chosen by corporations is the authoritarian system, with supplicants forced to practice self accusation, and the overworked staffers implicitly trusting their own internal processes over any bothersome facts that may appear.

My years of blogging about sales rank data, market research, and minutia of publishing are behind me. In fact, I moved away from the original “how-to” mission of this blog several years ago. But I think there is still a value in providing a voice for the little guy, to speak truth to power, to vent my spleen rather than swallowing my bile. So I decided to give blogging another go, if only to have a place to occasionally point and say – J’accuse.

Hello again, if you are subscribed to my feed. This is a test:-)

19 thoughts on “Does Blogging About Publishing Still Matter?

  1. Chris @ grafproductions

    Yes. It does matter.

    Who else is going to figure out how big publishing companies manipulate data?

    On a practical note, I’ve been watching the sales rankings at Amazon UK and wondering how publishers are gaming the system. I mean they must be cheating, if one publisher can get four authors in to the top twenty sales rank on the same day – when their books haven’t been published yet!

    Or how does another publisher get six books by the same author into the top 20 on the same day?

    Or how does Amazon consistently keep its own publications at or near, the top of the rankings, despite the volatility of the list for everyone else?

    Keep it up.

    Reply
    1. morris Post author

      Chris,

      When you see books appear with high sales rankings, it probably means the publisher has developed large mailing lists and a social networking presence. Often, they use a new book release as an opportunity to bundle specials, do this and get that free. It’s a very effective method.

      Amazon extended the pre-publication option to self publishers last Fall, and I started using it immediately with my SciFi series. The 4th book, which is scheduled for release in January, has presold around 300 copies in the last two months. At 99 cents a copy (35 cent royalty) I won’t be retiring any time soon, but it’s fun.

      I assume that the way Amazon gets it’s own books to the top of the lists is by giving them enhanced visibility in the Amazon store. Publishers can buy visibility (advertising), but it’s probably not cost effective for most. The store does belong to Amazon so you have to expect that they’ll build big piles of their books right inside the front door. Trade publishers still buy this kind of exposure in chain bookstores.

      The reason I say “assume” above is that I haven’t studied it, I’ve been busy writing and editing all year. But I would be surprised if Amazon doesn’t do everything they can to increase the sales of their own books. Barnes&Noble has been doing the same thing since the early 2000’s, I think a double digit percentage of the books they sell are published through one of their own imprints, either out-of-copyright classics or nonfiction, especially how-to, cooking, etc. Back when I was still writing computer books for McGraw-Hill, my main competition in Barnes&Noble was a copy-cat book they hurried out.

      Morris

      Reply
      1. Charles Rathert

        Question: I have a book that I am self publishing on Create Space/Amazon. Am I better off to go with one of their assigned ISBN’s where my book must be published though them (they own the publishing rights), but the additional markets you have an opportunity for sales are Libraries and Academic Institutions. Am I better to go with one of their ISBN’s (cost $99.00) where they still do the publishing, but I own the publishing rights and can hopefully place my book with Apple and etc. If I buy the ISBN Amazon still sells the book and list it on Kindle plus foreign markets, it just isn’t marketed to the Libraries and Academic Institutions. Or, is one better off to buy his own ISBN from Bowker? Thanks Charles

        Reply
        1. morris Post author

          Charles,

          You ask whether you are better off doing this or that, but it depends entirely on what you are trying to accomplish and whether you are doing any serious marketing. If you will only be printing through CreateSpace, US and EU, there’s no need to buy an ISBN unless you are concerned about the publisher name. You are not giving up publishing rights if you use a CreateSpace ISBN, it’s only the number itself that you don’t own. You can always publish a new edition with your own ISBN at a later date if you feel that’s important.

          The book isn’t marketed to Libraries and Academic institutions no matter what, unless you do the marketing.

          Morris

          Reply
  2. Jeanie Cooke-Fredlund Author

    Interesting stuff. I find the publishing world (self or otherwise) to be a scary place for which I have little trust or faith. I think that when one is determined to get their material out-into-the-world, it’s essential to research, research, research before choosing a publishing company! There is a ton of info on the net if one simply googles, “publishing companies consumer complaints”. So far, I’ve had pretty good luck with publishing my book BAD RAP at Book Whirl. They haven’t tried to cheat me yet (that I know of!) ha ha

    Reply
  3. Bryan in Tahoe

    Morris, why did you start a new blog? Isn’t this your 3rd self publishing blog? Why not keep working on the old ones? You lose continuity doing it this way and YES your old posts are still useful.

    I try to have as many publishing “irons in the fire” as possible so no one or few corporations can ruin my career. i.e., my own email list, my own website, printed catalog, advertisers, different genres and publishing other authors, etc. I don’t think any one “monster” corporation could ruin me.

    But then again, I have a wife and 3 kids and bills to pay, so I’m more motivated than you are probably.

    (yes I’m subscribed to your feed and hear you loud and clear). Looking forward to more posts from you!

    Reply
    1. morris Post author

      Bryan,

      Yes, this is the third blog since 2005. The first one was published using Blogger via FTP, but Blogger (Google) discontinued that service in 2010, in order to try to make everybody use the Blogspot site. The WordPress blog I replaced it with I nuked early this year. My old host sold out to a nightmare of a company a couple of years ago, and the new guys didn’t know how to mantain anything. Everything got hacked due to their not updating basic mail server software, not structuring their drives properly, etc, so when I’d had enough, I simply deleted it all. I moved to a new host a few weeks ago, after procrastinating too long because the Internet hasn’t been part of my business model since early 2011 when Google ate my sites.

      I once had a four-legged publishing business, distribution books and eBooks through Lightning Source, books and eBook through Amazon, direct sale of eBooks, and discovery of my books online plus advertising revenue from Google. But the distribution sales and direct eBook were largely dependent on the Google visibility, and when that fell due to people pirating my pages, the associated revenue dried up.

      I checked feedburner, they claim I still have somewhere between 500 and 750 subscribers, depending on where you look. It was never much over a thousand that I recall because I never pushed it. I see that the social media widget I added offers the option of a pop-up to try to get sign-ups, maybe I’ll enable that if I post something more than opinion pieces.

      Morris

      Reply
  4. Lorri

    Welcome back. Enjoy your commentary and also like following the journey of fellow writers. Please continue your “test.” :)

    Reply
  5. Bryan in Carlsbad

    Rebonjour Morris.

    Nice tossing some french in there. I could pretend to be shocked that Amazon would do this, but I am not. I spent too many years managing the Geeks Amazon feed to be surprised with anything that they do. It could literally take one complaint to have a part pulled down, and loads of fun getting it put back up. I am not sure if it was some filter or a complaint that got your book pulled, but one of the tactics I uaed with Amazon TAM (their support people) is when I didn’t like an answer I liked from them, I dropped that case and opened another. One one I went as far as cc’ing a number of their VPs (got results, but not what I’d recommend). I forgot that you had another book coming out – I definitely need to pre-order!

    Take Care!

    Reply
    1. morris Post author

      Bryan,

      Wish I knew some VPs:-(

      They reversed themselves a few hours after telling me the only option was republishing (new ASIN) which I did, which is why I ended up unpublishing the wrong book after I thought both were live. Now the new version which I can’t unpublish until the button appears may block the original from republishing, causing another round of grief.

      Morris

      Reply
  6. Bryan in Carlsbad

    Hello again,

    Just pre-ordered Book 4. I assume that is it “High Priest on Union Station (EarthCent Ambassador Book 3)” that was the one taken down – if so, I am disappointed because I forgot about it coming out, so never ordered it! By any chance, any other formats other than Kindle it is available on?

    Reply
    1. morris Post author

      Bryan,

      After two days blocked, Amazon republished it, and I immediately unpublished it again by mistake. That’s what happens when I get frazzled.

      I only did Kindle format for Books 2-4 to be in Prime. It’s important for fiction, especially with Kindle unlimited, though the price of that payout has collapsed. I’ll probably blog about it next month.

      Morris

      Reply
  7. Kevin Siviils

    Glad to see you return to blogging about self-publishing. I always learned a great deal of information from your site that helped me and I never came across anywhere else.

    The world of self-publishing has changed incredibly since my first POD book in 2009.

    Reply
  8. Tracie Shea

    A conversation may be small (relatively speaking) but nonetheless important to have. True – Amazon, Google, etc. will never come over from the darkside, but if there’s no one to evangelize, how can we expect the behemoths to at least see a bit of the light? Keep leading the conversation.

    Reply
  9. Kevin Siviils

    By the way, I have really enjoyed your ventures into sci-fi.

    It is nice to read an entertaining story that does not rely on fairly graphic sex, profanity, etc, to tell its story.

    Perhaps its my age, but you are to be commended for your approach to story telling in this regard.

    Reply
  10. Jennifer E. McFadden

    It matters to me. I’m still working on my manuscripts and the way the publishing world changes and evolves, if I don’t keep up, there’s a good chance I’d do something based on how things used to work.

    I appreciate this site and others that help writers/authors who are busy getting to know their characters and writing their books (like me) and wouldn’t have the needed knowledge in this new digital publishing world.

    Jen

    Reply

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