“Given the Circumstances” .99 BookBub, and, Thoughts on Writing for Money

Okay, selfpubbers, pay attention! Today we start a very interesting research project. I went “wide” on all my novels over the last month – i.e., they’re out of Kindle Select and into Apple, Nook, Google Play etc. And the response has been disappointing. Only AllRomanceEbooks has proven to be a new income stream for my books, especially for Werewolves of Brooklyn.

But! Today Given the Circumstances is on a .99 BookBub! Here are ALL the links:







It’s been a year since I’ve had a BB that was all-platform, so it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens. What I’m hoping is that this will “poke the bear” at Apple, especially, and start some sales moving on my other books there as well. I use the wonderfully competent folks at Draft2Digital to distribute me to Apple, Nook, Kobo (not GTC as it’s still blocked/banned there as part of their general smut freak out last year), and some other small players. And D2D is now generating automatic backmatter links for your other titles on the same platform. They don’t have any product descriptions, yet, alas, but! It’s a page of links at the end of the story and that’s massive.

Basically, the “other” markets for romance outside Amazon are probably about 20% to the ‘zon’s 80%. Maybe less. But…compare selling 1/5 as many $3.99 books, for a royalty of $2.80 or thereabouts, to getting what is now .0048 a page in KU, and since I don’t write doorstoppers, even on a 70k novel read cover to cover by every reader who downloads it, I would make…$1.72. And we all know that many, many books don’t get finished.

And, worst of all, Amazon DOES NOT SHARE vital data with us about what percentage of each of our various titles is being read. All they give you is a useless bulk number of “pages read” for each book.

If I knew that 90% of readers who’d borrowed GTC finished it, BUT, that only 50% or less of those who’d borrowed say Werewolves of Brooklyn finished it, well, I’d know which book to leave in KU and which book to take out, wouldn’t I? But they don’t. We’re cast adrift on a doldrum sea.

Some writers who’ve gone wide are going back into KU. Sky Corgan recently sent out an email announcing her return to KU after her 2 month experiment. She noted that when she went wide, some readers sent her “absolutely scathing” emails. Here’s some of what she wrote:

I think it’s important that readers understand why authors, specifically independently published authors, do the things that they do. Often, many readers forget that we are the same as you. Writing books that you enjoy is our job. Without the money from said job, we would not be able to pay our mortgages, our car payments, or put food on the table. Being self-employed, there are no set wages. It’s either feast or famine. Unfortunately, the latest changes with Amazon’s KDP Select program (a program that forces authors to be exclusive for 90 days if they want their books to be a part of the Kindle Unlimited program) has sent a lot of authors into famine mode, myself included. Many have stopped writing altogether.

For the past two months, my books have been available on all retailers. Unfortunately, I have continued to lose income every month from this decision. The appeal of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program has taken away a lot of business from the other online book retailers. Many of them have also implemented more stringent rules on their acceptance of erotic romance which has drastically reduced visibility for many books in that genre. Some have banned erotic content completely. All of these things combined have made it difficult for me to get a foothold with the other retailers. Having said that, I have decided to go back all-in with Amazon.

I gotta say, I got nothing but support when I pulled out of KU. My readers totally understand that this is a business, and they believe my books are worth $3.99. I feel awful for a writer who has a fan base that rips her to shreds, because they can’t read her books virtually for free anymore. And don’t think Amazon doesn’t know that this culture of entitlement exists in some fan bases – in fact, they’re counting on it to keep writers in KU even as they cut KU wages again and again…

There has always been a cultural/artistic attitude that an artist shouldn’t care about money. I remember when I was a teenager, already certain of my imminent conquest of the heights of literature. And at the local library, my Bible was the great thumping annual copy of Writer’s Market. It listed all the publishing houses, all the agents, and all the magazines in existence. The magazine listings would say that such and such a mag paid a penny a word, or five cents a word.

And then there was The New Yorker.

Which was the only magazine that, under the payment section, said only, “The New Yorker pays ‘very well.'”

In other words, you filthy lucre grubber, if you have a care for the material rewards of art, you shall not grace our pages!

Of course, those were the days of “white shoe” publishing, where rich preppies and bow tied aesthetes ran publishing, raised in an atmosphere where even discussing money was a faux pas. You know, that whole Henry James thing, where everybody has money but nobody dare talk about how it was acquired – my God, it was like James had revealed a murder when, at the end of The Ambassadors, it was revealed that the young American’s fortune came from “plumbing.” The Unspeakable Toilet Fortune! I’m fain to faint! If you wrote for money, of course you were Not Serious. One of my favorite classic novels is Fanny Burney’s Cecelia, not only because it’s hilarious, but because it’s a meticulous accounting of every penny robbed from the fortune of an heiress. The book is about money, and what people do for it, and there’s no dancing around that.

The Romantic movement fetishized the artist in the garret, the La Boheme ideal of “starving for your art,” because of course anything that was great would never make money, and anything that made money was inherently not great.

And that seeps into the public consciousness, and artists seeking not to offend that consciousness all pretend that they would gladly starve in a garret were it required of them. I’m always in stitches of laughter when literary prizes are announced, because everyone is so “stunned” to have won them – honestly, you’d think that as a general rule they were never awarded to anyone ever, since the people who actually win one are always so damn surprised.

But that’s the thing. Even if you’re not surprised, you’re supposed to act like it. It’s part of the humility, if not outright abasement, that artists are required to express in the face of fame and fortune. Be it the Academy Award or the National Book Award, nobody deserves it, which almost makes you think, fuck, just stop giving it then.

I allowed Dane Gale to cut loose on this in Apollo’s Curse:

You read all these stories about someone who hit it big with a bestseller, and you see the news story: it’s a charming tableau of the lady in her attic, beavering away at her next hit novel (or at least looking thoughtful while she types nonsense so the camera can capture her “creative process”). The sun streams in from a skylight like the light in a Vermeer, down onto the tranquil scene – the Writer at her desk, her cats attractively arranged around her, and hey ho! Out of the blue she had this huge hit. You can practically see the angel with the trumpet perched on top of her laser printer, annunciating her success. And she’s got her hand on her heart and she’s so humble, so surprised, so grateful!

Ha. Emily Dickinson here is secretly a marketing genius, a wizard of SEO and mailing lists and street teams and blogrolling, who read every bestseller in her genre before she first put pen to paper. Her innocent, shocked look is part of the plan, too.

I’ve always announced my success in Capital Letters, I’ve crowned myself the BookBub King because, shit, I get accepted for a hell of a lot of ’em. I’m not humble. But you know what? I’ve worked fucking hard at this since I was in the second grade, writing stories in which my dog was secretly the Empress of the Dogonian Empire, and the Space Doggies were coming in their space ships to rescue me from the dreary, humiliating life I led. I’m 53, and I’ve been writing for almost fifty years. You’re goddamn right I’m gonna crow! I’m really fucking good at what I do now, and any success I earn ain’t gonna make me blush and flutter my eyes and put that hand on my breast. Fuck it! If I was “shocked” that I became successful after logging fifty years and countless millions of words, I’d be a goddamn idiot.

Like the rest of the country, the “artistic middle class” is being squeezed out. We’re going back to a Victorian model where either you make a living only with the kind of prodigious output that Dickens produced, with much of your income lost to pirated editions anyway, or you’re one of those Ladies and Gentlemen of Leisure who pen their stories to amuse themselves and their families, with no thought of, because they have no need for, Filthy Lucre.

The only thing I know for sure is that I ain’t never goin’ back to Cubicle City, mister. If I have to bend the knee to Amazon and re-up in KU, I’ll do it. If it’s either that or spending my day watching a clock, performing nightmarishly repetitive tasks, gaining ever more weight as I try and eat my way out of the cubicle…I’ll do what I gotta do.

TL;DR: Today’s BookBub may very well make or break the “wide” experiment. Wish me luck.

9 Comments on “Given the Circumstances” .99 BookBub, and, Thoughts on Writing for Money

  1. Reblogged this on Love's Last Refuge and commented:
    Brad Vance’s take on KU, his experiments and more.

  2. Harper Miller // November 21, 2015 at 8:49 am // Reply

    First, congrats on the Bookbub promo! I hope you sell many units. You already know I loved GTC, and I also left my review when I finished!

    I have got to hand it to you, Brad; I admire people who do this writing thing full-time. I don’t trust the market, and I sure as shit don’t trust the distributors. Writing is one of those things that scares the crap out of me if I had to rely on it to put food on my table and pay my bills. It’s a scary predicament to be in. You know you write good stuff but as an indie, people want to take shortcuts and not always pay full price for something that’s worthwhile. The influx of 400 page $0.99 novels is partially to blame for that. People want to be seen, but at what cost? And you and I both know that sometimes quantity doesn’t equal quality.

    Amazon has a stranglehold on everything because hey, Kindles are popular, and Amazon is a one stop shop. They also tend to provide more variety bookwise. I would’ve thought iTunes would dominate and kick Amazon in the shins since Apple products are popular, but I doubt iPads sell more than Kindles. 80% of my sales come from Amazon. I sell on Kobo (which has just started to gain real momentum), B&N, and All Romance. I generate sales on each platform, but nothing compared to Amazon. It’s a beast. I keep waiting for the day when something pops up that will knock them down a few notches and not put authors in a chokehold.

    • Me too! Yeah, the competition is fearsome, and the new KU rewards the verbose lol. It’s a risky business if you’re not at the top of the bestseller list all the time…

  3. Great article, Brad. I pulled my books off of KU as well and Amazon is still the top sell. I also have banned books, my twincest, that I made free and the last one at 2.99 on Amazon and Smashwords. The “Zon” makes it hard for indie authors to make any money and often I wonder if it’s even worth it to continue. I work a day job I hate, but luckily my husband works FT to pay most of the expenses.

    Because I love creating worlds and characters, I continue to write, hoping someday to catch that elusive “lightening in a bottle,” but I don’t hang my hat on it.

    I wish you good luck in your Bookbub. I have a few of you books and I’ll need to catch up. 😀

    • Thanks 🙂 yeah I left my Erotica in place on Amazon because nobody else will take it now, other than smashwords. Good luck to you as well!

  4. Reblogged this on Michael Mandrake and commented:
    Great blog on KU and writing for money!

  5. You made a sale to me today because of the BookBub, and I had never heard of you before. The reviews of GTC make it sound like I have something interesting to look forward to reading.

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