Following Through

Dear Reader,

kickstarter-logo-lightPeople should deliver on their promises. End of story.

This is in response to a comment Kait made about indie authors using Kickstarter but not following through on their promise of a well-designed product, etc. I find this, in a word, disgusting.

Indie authors are small-business owners, as far as I am concerned. We have a product we develop, produce, distribute, market, and more. Our customers are our readers, and we depend on their word-of-mouth to keep us in business. Nothing tops the word-of-mouth. Nothing.

So when Kait told me there are indie authors using Kickstarter to raise funds but don’t follow through with a good product, I got really angry. So angry, I had to wait a couple of days before writing this post.

What gives anyone the right to not fulfill a promise, especially a promise from a merchant to a customer?

With no semblance of apology or explanation?

I am all for supporting indie authors, especially since I am one myself. My twitter bio says I enjoy “paying it forward,” and I do. I will retweet anyone who is putting forth a good effort to make a good product, with pleasure. But when I hear about people cheating others, indie authors et al, it makes my midwestern blood boil.

You make a promise, you make it happen. Or you give a damn good explanation why you overestimated your abilities.

Best,

Belinda

P.S. Warning: completely unrelated. If you’re in the Columbus area, I hope you’re able to make it to my book launch tea tasting party!

Indie Methodology

Dear Reader,

Let’s talk about the indie methodology. That is, the method in which an author decides to indie publish. This is largely inspired by Kait Nolan’s recent post about Kickstarter (I’ll admit, my heckles were raised), but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I realize I am taking a very different path along my indie publishing journey. Let me break down the “traditional indie method” for you, as I understand it.

Author wants to self-publish. Author has little-to-no money, and no followers. Author decides they need to cut corners in self-publishing. How? By releasing to eBook first (or only). Maybe hire an editor. Maybe hire a cover artist. Use free services like Amazon DTP, Smashwords, PubIt. Send out coupons and giveaways to attract readers. Solicit reviews. Attract followers through social networking. Earn money from purchases. Save up to maybe release a print book, set up a micropress, etc. Or not.

This works for many indie publishers like Kait Nolan, Zoe Winters, Susan Bischoff, Amanda Hocking, etc.

It doesn’t work for me. Why? Because I published in high school and made a profit even though I used a vanity service. I continued to write for the next seven years, but put schooling first and didn’t publish.

Now I’m back. I’ve been at this for three concentrated months, and I decided to use Kickstarter to build up venture capital because I intend to indie publish a little differently.

Author wants to self-publish. Author has little-to-no money, and a number of followers. Author has a print book out, and short stories on Scribd. Author wants a micro-press and to dual-release the eBook and print versions. Author needs venture capital. Author applies to Kickstarter to reach new readers, gain support and excitement for new book. Buy ISBNs. Design cover and interior layout. Register micro-press. Use services like Amazon DTP, Smashwords, PubIt, CreateSpace. Send out coupons and giveaways to attract readers. Solicit reviews. Attract followers through social networking. Earn money from purchases.

The process is very similar. But the reason why I’m talking about this is because there was a lot of questions, even negativity, about authors using Kickstarter, as if they were trying to cheat the system. As if they’re clinging to the traditional method of getting an advance and then receiving royalties, etc.

Independent, as I understand it, means to go your own way. Do your own thing. March to the beat of your own drummer. Who cares if I’m using Kickstarter to raise money? Who cares if I decide to go print and eBook, rather than just eBook? As long as I follow through with my promises, it should be all gravy.

I admire and respect Kait, Zoe, Amanda, and Susan. I love what they’re doing for the indie publisher reputation. I’m taking my own spin on the indie publisher’s path, though, because that’s what an independent thinker does.

What am I trying to say? I guess all I’m trying to say is that if you’re deciding to go indie, read up on it. Learn who the big names are, and study how they are doing it. Make note of the methods that will work for you in your situation, and throw the other methods away. The indie world is too small for negativity about how you’re doing things if you’re producing quality work.

All the best,

Belinda

P.S. We made the Kickstarter goal! Huzzah! We’re still accepting pre-orders for Haunting Miss Trentwood through Thursday Oct 14.

Media Mail and CreateSpace

Dear Reader,

Don’t switch addresses while waiting for a shipment of books from CreateSpace. It causes a mini-headache.

So get this: I’m currently at my parents’ house, waiting for a shipment of books from CreateSpace that I will be giving to winners of a GoodReads contest I’m holding, as well as my local library. They should have come last week, but I had my fingers crossed that they would magically appear at my parents’ door.

You see, I’m moving out, and I have a forwarding address in place. I assumed the book package would be forwarded to the new address.

WRONG. Oh so wrong. I just got an email this morning stating CreateSpace couldn’t deliver the package and it has been returned to them. In ten days, the package will be destroyed.

WHAT?!

Ok. Don’t panic. Contact them. Only, what do you know? Their response form is BROKEN. Ok, don’t panic. Have them call you. Wait on the line. Ask them what the freaking hell happened, why are they back in CreateSpace’s hands if they were at my doorstep?!

I’m sorry ma’am, I’m looking through all our systems and I can’t find a reason why. Here’s the package number for you, it was sent media mail. We’ll send them back to you the same way you originally asked, free of charge.

So I look up the number at the USPS and UPS websites. Except they say the number doesn’t match their tracking systems. Oh, excellent.  Let’s call the local post office and see if they know what happened.

Nope, they don’t. By this point, I think the lady on the other end heard my irritation and slight desperation and began asking questions.

Did you write the address correctly? Yes, I’ve had shipments from CreateSpace to this address only last month.

What sort of shipment method was it? Media mail? Why yes, it was. I set up a forwarding address because I’m moving, why didn’t it go to the new address?

We don’t forward media mail. That’s just not how it’s done. Especially books. We never forward bulk book shipments. Consider me flabbergasted and resigned.

All right then. I guess I’ll twiddle my thumbs in the meantime while CreateSpace sends it back to me, free of charge. It better come in time for my GoodReads contest! At least I got answers and know the books are coming back to me.

Lesson learned: stay where you are when books are coming your way.

All the best,

Belinda

Don’t Make Me Opt-Out

Dear Reader,

I got the following email this evening that really got me riled up.

Hello, Worderella —

Recently, we launched a beta test of a premium feature called “The Scribd Archive” that allows people to download certain archived content for a fee. This test does not restrict readers’ ability to interact with documents on Scribd or across the web. As a valued member of the Scribd author community, you will always be notified about new Scribd features, and we hope that you were not caught off guard by this test.

The program helps us maintain our site and fund development of future products, but we realize that you may want to ensure free downloads of your work so we’ve given you the option of removing all your documents from The Scribd Archive in your account settings page. By opting out of the Scribd Archive, your documents will be available for download (if you have enabled download) for no charge.

Thank you for your continued support and feedback.

-The Scribd Team

P.S. You can always fine-tune which notifications you receive or opt-out completely.

No. Lynn Viehl wrote about this a week or more ago and I can understand her fury because I’m furious as well. This is just as shady as Facebook automatically opting people into services they didn’t join Facebook for, all because the Facebook team assumes “hey, you joined Facebook, so you must want this.”

No! Do not automatically opt me into something and then tell me, as if you are being so kind, so very generous, to allow me to opt-out of this service I didn’t know I didn’t want because it didn’t exist when I originally signed up for the service.

The proper way to do such things is to create the service and email your existing subscribers about their newly available choices.

Authors, pay attention

No one likes to be automatically opted into a service without their permission. In an extreme case, it’s an army draft. You will make enemies. Give people the option to select your service, and those who want to, will. Those who don’t, won’t hate you for making them tell you they don’t want to.

Don’t automatically subscribe people who you have emailed onto your author mailing list. Send them an email that they have the option to, since you’ve exchanged emails and perhaps they might be interested. Don’t spam them on Twitter on Facebook by only talking about yourself, because you’ll have tons of un-follows and un-friendings… the ultimate opt-out.

I just really hate it when software companies take advantage of their customers. And I’ll be damned if I like it any better when authors take advantage of their social connections and readers.

All the best,

Belinda