Subscription Based Serial Fiction: The Technical Problems

bluefirereaderWhen it comes to delivering serial fiction directly to the reader, Amazon has set the bar high. By operating the Kindle Serial Store, creating the Kindle device and rendering their branded ereading app ubiquitous across multiple platforms (iOS, Droid, etc.), they can take your money and deliver the product to your reading device of choice with one click. Booyah. And they will continue to deliver the serial installments every two weeks until the story has run its course. (Pay once, ie. subscribe, and the rest takes care of itself.)

If any storyteller is serious about monetizing serial fiction outside of the Kindle Serial Store, this high bar has to be the goal. Readers will demand it.

One Click Must Do it All! (But How?)

How does an indie writer attempt such a monumental technical and organizational feat? The most obvious solution to me was also the least practical: Create a specialized app of my own that will bridge my fiction onto every smartphone and tablet out there with access to Droid, Windows, or iOS app stores.

Since this requires a chunk of change upfront, as well as the determination to update the application continuously across all platforms… I quickly crossed this off the list of personal options. I don’t want to go into app development. I want to write stories from which I generate a living wage.

That leaves the indie writer/entrepreneur shopping for go-between services and trying to piece together a network to mimic the one Amazon has built. Let’s break down the necessary pieces: (and my preferences so far) [Read more...]

Subscription Based Serial Fiction (Direct to Reader): Has the Time Come?

iphone-ereaderThe Holy Grail (for some) seems nearer to hand than ever before. The time is ripe, the technology is there. Storytellers since the beginning of time have been drawn to episodic narrative. Great characters demand repeat stories be told of them. And the audience loves to keep coming back for more.

Subscription and the Written Word

The most cunning and successful model for monetizing serial fiction has always been subscription. In recent history this was most evident in newspaper and magazine. The upfront promise of payment by consumers made the publication of the story possible, while the routine and regularity of the media delivered tantalizing snippets in a convenient manner. It was a win/win.

The times have changed. The desire to tell and enjoy good stories hasn’t. Television, and more recently platforms such as Netflix and Hulu, continue to emphasize our love of serialized and episodic story. When it comes to visual media, we consumers receive the best of both worlds–we can allow the storyteller to tease us along on a weekly basis, or we can gorge at the trough of story by watching multiple episodes until our bleary eyes explode.

But what about the written story? Web fiction has quietly been popular in small circles of readers for a decade. The Kindle Store created an epic shift in the digital storytelling landscape by breaking down the gates and trampling the gatekeepers. Now readers have more direct access to writers than ever before.

In 2012, the inevitable finally came to fruition when Amazon created an online store specifically for serial fiction. It became possible for consumers to pay a small upfront cost and then receive regular installments/episodes of serial fiction delivered directly to their kindle ereading devices or apps.

Amazon: The New Gatekeepers [Read more...]

Amazon Does it Again (Why Can’t Anyone Else?)

kindlecountdowndeal_hauntedhouse1_560I soiled myself this afternoon, just a little. And it wasn’t from the pizza I left out overnight (again). The afore stated befoulment happened after skimming an email I received from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

I always read these emails close enough to see if for some magical reason Amazon has selected me to be the next instant rags-to-riches self-pubbed author. (I have delusions, okay?) This time, I quickly realized the email was about the Kindle Countdown Deals I learned of this morning (from another blog I follow).

The Kindle Countdown Deals Go Beyond Cute

I hadn’t looked too closely into the “countdown deals,” instead dismissing it as another nifty Amazon strategy to suck authors and publishers into exclusivity with KDP (via KDP Select). I decided a year ago that KDP wasn’t really for me. The benefit of being able to easily “pulse” scheduled promotions of my titles didn’t override my desire to spread my content far and wide.

I don’t like to be tied down. One committed relationship in my life is enough. I’m a child of Generation X, dagnabbit. The man’s constantly trying to get me down, and I don’t even know who the man is! (Oh, it’s Amazon, that’s right.)

Anyway, so back to the reason I had to bidet my backside. On the surface, the Countdown Deal allows the author/publisher to run a promotion on Amazon which displays an actual countdown timer revealing when the promotional deal will expire.

Clever, right? Now the first thing to catch the reader’s eye will be an inanimate salesperson tapping the reader’s shoulder and saying, “This deal is for a limited time only! Get it now, or forever regret your lack of fortitude, you gutless wonder! Don’t shop around! Buy, buy, buy!”

While clever, this is by no means enough to drag me back to KDP Select and its exclusive demands. Then I read the next bullet point in the email I received:

  • Retain a 70% royalty rate – You will earn royalties based on your regular royalty rate and the promotional price. As a result, if you are using the 70% royalty option, you’ll earn 70% even if the price is below $2.99.

What the crap!? Did I read that right? I mean, son of a–[deep breaths]–

You had me at, ‘$$$.’ [Read more...]

Kobo Writing Life Adds Free Tracking

Writing LifeI’m beside myself with nerdy glee. One of my largest requests for Kobo’s self-publishing platform, Writing Life, has been fulfilled. Now self-pubbers can track their free “sales” or downloads.

Why is this so important? Well, it reveals a mountain of reading and consuming trends inside the loyal kobo using world.

For example:

It turns out that I’ve “sold” 37,566 free downloads in the last year. This is a significant number that far outstrips my free downloads on Amazon. You heard me. I had more downloads of my book, Fistful of Reefer, on Kobo over the last year than Amazon. This tells me that the small fish in a big pond philosophy has some teeth when it comes to Kobo. I was able to get Fistful on top 100 free list on Kobo several months ago (it is currently listed at #100). At the time it was ridiculously hard to find free ebooks on Kobo outside of that list. Now it is possible to find some via category if you have a kobo device (but not via their website).

Why am I happy almost 40,000 people downloaded my product for free?

[Read more...]

Kobo Store Changes: Update!

updateHere’s a brief update for those of you interested in Kobo (and who wouldn’t be?).

I heard back from an individual within author relations about the current changes going on at the Kobo Book Store. It turns out the version of the book store I have been seeing is a beta roll-out that only 25% of users are currently seeing. I logged out and refreshed and sure enough, the older (and better) version reappeared!

I was reassured that the changes were in progress and that the final product will be much better than the old interface. So far I have noticed that some of the curated lists are beginning to return in the form of visual book-cover-sliders. Plus, I’ve seen a slider for “Hidden Gems,” which appears to be a new curated list (and something tantalizing for writers such as myself, even though all the hidden gems on the list currently appear to be with major publishers).

Reading between the lines of the email communication with said Kobo representative, I came away with my suspicions confirmed that the reviews and star ratings have been nixed due to Amazon’s buyout of Goodreads. I suppose all the realists saw that one coming.

Here is the relevant quote from the email response, “I believe we are working toward creating our own system for leaving reviews, instead of relying on an outside source.” I read this as, “Amazon blew-up our outside source, so now we figure it smart to develop our own.” [Read more...]

Kobo Store Changes: What the #$&*!

koboFor the many of you who may not have noticed, Kobo books (an entity I have much praised in the past) has made some bizarre changes to their online book store that have me stumped (and hopeful that they are merely hallucinations). No one else online seems to be talking about the chances, so I thought I should. I sent the below letter to feedback@kobo.com and now post it here. I’ll let you know if I hear anything in response!
To Whom it May Concern,
I’m curious as to the recent changes from kobobooks.com to the store.kobobooks.com.
As a reader, the new site has lost considerable usefulness in helping me find and decide upon books to read.
As an author and self-publisher, I’m baffled by several changes that seem to be taking Kobo Books in full reverse. I’m hoping these changes are some sort of temporary stop-gap (or a sick joke). Several things have me stumped:
  1. The disappearance of reviews. I realize Amazon purchased Goodreads. I’m hoping this has not forced Goodreads reviews to be removed. This was one advantage Kobo had over Amazon as many people consider GR reviews more reputable than Amazon ones.
  2. The disappearance of star ratings. Even if the Goodreads reviews had to be dropped, why the star ratings?
  3. The disappearance of most of the curated reading lists. The Indie Next list is still around (even though I’ve never been able to figure out what it means, or what the definition of indie is supposed to be for this list), but the rest of them are gone. Reason?
  4. Lastly, the Free list is gone! And so recently after some positive changes to help more free books to be discoverable on Kobo. Seriously? Now the only way to find free books is to do a search and sort by price? Even if I can find one, there are no reviews, star ratings or even rankings (since free books are put at the bottom) for me to use in deciding whether to read the book or not.
I’m still struggling to establish myself firmly as one of the new generation ebook mid-list authors able to make a living entirely from writing novels. But I’m getting there. [Read more...]

Get Free Autographed Ebook This Weekend

Autography ebook signingTo inaugurate my teaming up with a brand new (and rather spiffy) service called Autography, I’m offering a FREE autographed EBOOK of any one of my first six novels! But act fast, the deal stands only for this Friday and Saturday, June 28 and 29.

Just click here and follow the simple steps. When the time comes to download, you will be able to choose between file formats for Kindle, Nook, iPad/iPhone, Kobo, Droid, etc. So no worries about compatibility. (And the book will be DRM free for easy use anywhere.)

I’ll post more about Autography once I get a better hang of the service. So far, it makes me prance around like Homer Simpson in the Land of Chocolate.

This could be your last chance to stake a claim to a small piece of history before the initials DMB become synonymous with David Mark Brown (rather than Dave Matthew Band or perhaps Digital Multimedia Broadcasting).

Get your autographed ebook now!!!