Do Amazon and Createspace rip us off? The update.

It’s has been several months since first publishing and republishing the story about Amazon and Createspace failing to report accurate sales.  It’s absolutely evil.   Here is what has been learned.

It's almost evil!

It’s almost evil!

Hundreds of authors contacted me regarding the inability to see their sales, especially from expanded distribution channels.   The story has been blogged and tweeted.  One author, on the grounds she stay anonymous, as her book was just picked up by one of the “Big Six” and she feared be dropped, told me that over 500 of her books sales never showed.AgeView Press was contacted by the Vice-President of Customer Service at Createspace, George  X ecr@createspace.com  who explained that he takes customer concerns very personally.  He pulled up my account for my latest book SOLO VIETNAM.   Now, I know for a fact that since it was published, April 2013 that at least ten friends have ordered it from Barnes and Noble and other retailers, which should have shown up on CreateSpace’s records as expanded distribution orders from Ingram.   Mr. X kindly shared with me that I had shown one sale from Expanded Distribution.  When asked where that was from?  He was not allowed to provide me that information.    Yet, he could see it from Ingram.

It get’s better.  This time, I chose not to go with KDP select.  I never saw the increased sales following the 4,000 free downloads of my award winning novel FLYING SOLO.  Not even after hawking it with KindleMojo, World Literary Cafe and anywhere I could get the info out there.   Never saw them.   I sold very few books with KDP select.  So this time, I decided to expand my ebook availablity by having in in multiple formats, Kindle, Nook, ebook and ibook via BookBaby.

The jury is out.   Scads of folks have downloaded the book in various formats, many writing reviews.    Yet, to date I show zero sales on BookBaby.   Now, to be fair, their policy is that after a sale is made in particular month, it can take up to 60 days after that month closes for them to report the sales from their distribution.   Seriously people?    Sixty freaking days?  Dont’ we live in an electronic world?   Are these retailers like Kobo, Itunes ibook, Barnes and Noble using the Pony Express?

What the heck?   <—-please insert selected four letter vulgarity here!

As an Indie author and owner of a small press, I find this completely outrageous.  How can one possibly track the availability of their marketing?   Last year, I sold more books hawking them myself via book signings and the Texas Author Book program and made more for each copy.  The problem?   And authors, you will just love this one, the numbers of books you order yourself from CreateSpace do not count as sales!    Yet, when big publishers order 10,000 copies of a new release for distribution, that book is automatically put on the New York Times best sellers list!

Again. . . what the heck?  No that one deserves fuckity-fuck, fuck, FUCK!!!

The morale of the story?   Authors you better love what you do.   Have a great time writing your Indie books, going to book signings and enjoying your fifteen minutes of fame.    Because unless you are born under a lucky star, you are barely going to break even.

What’s sad is that because of the desire to become famous, small press and Indie press have seen waves of authors turn to the dark side.   Vampires were hot, so they wrote that.   Bondage was hotter with 50 Shades of Grey, so they wrote that.    There are literally hundreds of thousands of poorly written books which overshadow quality Indie writing that get’s literally lost in the sea of Indie wannabes.    What’s an author to do?

1.  Keep complaining to CreatSpace to show your immediate electronic and expanded distribution sales

2.  Join forces with reputable Independent Press organizations like Independent Author’s Network, Readers Alliance and Book Your Next Read #BYNR.

3.  Follow Jonathan Gunson‘s tips for Indie author success.   Follow book bloggers.   Make thoughtful posts on their blogs.  Gain their trust.   Then ask for a review.

4.  Before you tweet a random book, READ IT!   Dont recommend books that are off your brand, poorly written crap.   Save your tweets for worthy words.

5.  Keep your network of solid, proven Indie Authors tight.   Communicate and unite.   Network and promo them.   Attend worthy writer’s conferences like Lexicon. You’ll be amazed.   By paying it foward, your returns will be rich.

A lawyer, David Berke has contacted AgeView Press about joining forces with other authors to draw publicity to this dilemma.   The Associated Press contacted AgeView Press, but the journalist, Hillel Italie, HillelHItalie@ap.org  never followed up on the story.   It continues to happen.   To me and to many other authors.  Please email this reporter and let them know this is NOT an isolated incident.

We keep the faith.   Continue to try and stay positive in the marketplace.   And most of all. . . write because we love doing it!    Please feel free to SHARE and reblog this post.   Grassroots efforts really do result in action.   Just ask President Obama!

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How you too can be a successful break out writer!

About a year ago, at the Lexicon Writer’s Conference I ran into a team of new writers. Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer. Immediately I was drawn to their ecclectic personality and antics. Their display table looked awesome. They were gregariously out there mingling and meeting. They were on the ticket to lecture to a packed room. They were on fire.

But how? How did two retired gentlemen who only published their first book a little over a year ago, become so popular so fast? It was something I wanted to find out. I found it was no secret. You’ve heard it before. They established a brand. Their brand and boy was it working.  The Black Eagle Force series.

Ken Farmer and Buck Steinke

Establishing their brand

Buck and Ken write in two genres, military fiction and action adventure. When they are out there, they are events that align with their brand . . gun shows, cowboy days, Indian events, military association gatherings, Western wear stores. Anything and everything that promotes their genre, their brand and thus . . .their books. It isn’t magic, its sound business sense.

Now, sure . . . they are retired and have time to do it. And they do it full time. But don’t go there, as a writer you can do it too.  However, they have another secret too. They have more than one book out there. They took the time to make sure they produced a second book, and then . . . a third, and a fourth. It is this type of succession that keeps their brand out there and keeps people wanting more. Most readers, if they like one book, will purchase a second from the same author.

So, really, it’s more than just successful branding and marketing. It is writing. We’ve all heard of the one hit wonder. As a writer, you do not want to be that. The proof is in the pudding. . . your second book.

 

There are some great lessons here:
1. Know your reader and your genre
2. Know what events are out there that match your reader and genre
3. Get booked into those events
4. Don’t be afraid to establish yourself as a character, an action hero, a cowboy, a philanthropist, a diva!
5. Get your calendar out and plot out which events will make you shine
6. Develop your marketing plan, start it, and keep the momentum going
7. Promote others that write well and guess what? They might just promote you.
6. Keep your keyboard and computer warm and running . . . keep writing!

Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer have become good friends and colleagues. I continue to be amazed to watch their brand grow successfully. They selected their genre carefully and have kept it narrow. As such, their novels have gotten onto Amazon’s top sales lists. Go take a peek for yourself.

Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer

Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer

The Nations
The Black Eagle Force seriesIf you get the chance, register and attend one of the most amazing, really helpful, networking conferences goign on in DFW – The Lexicon Writer’s Conference. What you will get there is a chance to network with writers who will promote you.  The founder’s philosophy is simply this:   “Would you rather hear someone saying ‘buy my book, buy my book’ or instead hear ten other people telling ten others to get this great book.”

At Lexicon you will hear talks on marketing, branding, social media knowhow.   You’ll meet publishers, agents, and successfull writers.  You’ll get a great bang for your buck and actually get a chance to meet these guys in person! I guarantee you’ll walk away motivated.   Don’t miss your chance to sign up.   Click here.

Ghost writers in the sky – do they exist?

Have you ever wondered why someone might need a ghost writer? It makes sense for the celebs that can’t put two words together. But why would someone else need one? Enjoy this guest post written by one to find out. Who knows, it could enhance your skills.  Enjoy!!

THE BUSINESS OF BEING A GHOST WRITER

by Karen Cole

It can be hard to write repeatedly about being a ghost writer, as I have already written something like a hundred pieces on this topic alone. But I find my job as a professional ghost writer to be fresh and new every time. Being a ghost writer is a lot like being a car mechanic – you’re on hire to work on someone else’s “baby,” and you do the best you can to get it in good running and working order. You fix whatever you find to be wrong with it, and you send it back to the owner in great shape.

I have been ghost writing and editing on the Internet since 2003, and was freelance writing before then, since 1980 at least. I have published a magazine of my own called “The Crusader” and have been published in several newspapers and magazines, including online ones. It is my business to be published occasionally under my own name, but normally my best work is published under someone else’s name. I specialize in editing nowadays, being semi-retired as a ghost writer.

Part of the business of being a ghost writer is receiving payments properly. As a ghost writer, what with the book field being nearly glutted with books nowadays, receiving payment during the course of completing a book writing project is paramount. Of course, with proper book marketing a book can pull ahead of its competition and sell well nowadays, if its author goes to the trouble to properly market and promote it. So it’s still worthwhile to be a book author and to hire a ghost writer or editor and proper, affordable book marketing services.

I run a team of some 100 book, screenplay and music ghost writers, editors, marketers and promoters, as well as accompanying illustrators, photographers etc. These people get most of the incoming job leads, and I take a job occasionally that suits my fancy, in a manner to how Sherlock Holmes took jobs in those famous stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes never worked a job unless it “fascinated” him, and I only take what is lucrative, fresh and interesting to me personally.

But I can locate a great, affordable ghost writer or editor for nearly anyone who writes into our ghost writing services agency, and I can help take a book from the inception of its ideas to its completion as a published work, editing, formatting and doing all that it takes to come up with the finished salable product. Whether you hire my affordable professional services as a ghost writer or as the overseer of an entire ghost writing job, you are indeed hiring the best, every time.

AUTHOR’S RESOURCE BOX:

Ghost writer revealed!

Ghost writer revealed!

Hi, I’m Karen Cole, Executive Director and appointed Head of Ghost Writer, Inc. GWI is an affordable ghost writing services agency that seeks to find and hire a ghost writer, editor, marketer and/or promoter for your book, screenplay or music needs. We will find you an expert, published, recorded or optioned freelance writer for all your possible service needs, and we always charge only affordable rates.

Link up to Karen Cole here:     Facebook    Twitter  LinkedIn

Do Amazon and Createspace rip off Indie publishers with failure to correctly report sales?

Guest post by John. R. Clark, Managing Editor at AgeView Press

When AgeView Press Indie pubbed the book FLYING SOLO in May of 2012, the author, Jeanette Vaughan  immediately began tracking sales.   She heard from excited friends and family who immediately emailed when ordering their copies.  The first sales were off of Createspace’s e-store with the title ID number given to the author.   Then, through Amazon, a week later, when the book went live on the site.  Finally on Kindle, when the ebook format was completed.

ostrich head in the sand

“Where, oh where are my royalties?”

Initially, things appeared kosher.    People exclaiming that they had ordered the book, were showing up within a day or two on the electronic royalty reports with a reasaonable accuracy.    But by June and July, sales descrepencies were noted by the author from customers claiming that they had purchased the book directly through Amazon, not an Amazon affiliate.    Many of these sales were simply not listed.The author contacted Createspace customer support, who gave assurance that all sales were being accurately reported.   FLYING SOLO was now also on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select, as well as expanded distribution channels, which included Amazon affiliates in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.    Sales were being reported to the author from readers and bookclubs in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The first note of apparent discrepancy came when a dear friend of the author ordered three copies of the book from Amazon in June.    These books were ordered all at the same time, from Amazon.com direct.   Yet, that cluster of three sales was never posted as such.      Another instance in early July involved the same issue.    Again, a customer ordered three copies, yet no sales were trackable through Amazon’s channels for three sales purchased on the same day.

In the meantime, the author was making public appearnances, being featured on blogs and radio, and rounding with booksignings.   During the months of June and July, no expanded distribution channel sales were posted on the royalty report, yet customers were emailing the author letting her know how much the book was being enjoyed overseas.   More than 15 five star reviews for the novel were posted on Amazon.

What should have shown as a surge of sales, as the book peaked, never appeared on the royalty reports.   The author was suspect.   She contacted Ingram directly, only to be informed that they were not supposed to reveal information to an author directly.  So, the Indie publisher, AgeView Press made the call.    Ingram showed 16 copies of the book ordered through their system total since May.   Those sales never showed on the June or July royalty report.    The author filed formal complaints with Createspace customer service, but received only canned letters in response explaining  that indeed there was an issue with reports in Expanded Distribution and it was being investigated.   Advice to the author from Createspace?  Please be patient.

By August, it was clear there were gross inaccuracies.  The 30 copies ordered from Barnes and Noble never showed up.   Few, if any, sales were listed for August.    Yet. the author had confirmation of over 4,000 copies in distribution worldwide.    The crowning blow came in September.   A plan was devised.    A friend, agreed to help with the investigation.   She ordered a copy of FLYING SOLO on September 7th, taking screen shots of her order and confirmation of payment directly from Amazon.    She printed out her receipt showing date and time of purchase.   The book arrived on September 13, to San Jose, California.   Photos were taken.   The sale was complete.    Copies of all screenshots and receipts were scanned and sent to the author.    By September 20th,  no sales were shown at all on Createspaces report.    Phoning Createspace, the author was informed that no sales were showing for Amazon for the month for that title.    It was time for outrage!     What had been suspected, had now been proven.  Not once, but twice!

Time to climb up the foodchain.  After many phonecalls and emails to Createspace, a Senior customer service “executive” phoned personally and stated he would investigate.    Talk about a wacky result.    Due to the print on demand status of Createspace books, sometimes they are one or two books ahead.   Thus even though your book was printed in one month, but sold in another, a royalty might actually show up in the prior month for that sale.   What???

No one expects to get rich off of writing a book.    Few and far between experience the Oprah Bookclub golden orbs of success.    But how are authors to trust a system, happy to take their money for assisting to create and publish a book, which does not thoroughly, detail accurate sales?    Simply outrageous.   What options does that leave the Indie publishers?     How can they possibly track the success of their marketing efforts.   Is the publishing world doomed to be controlled by the big six?     Are small bookstores and Indie presses to be overrun by powerhouse chains which offer the Indie published writer no turf?

How can the press or the author be sure those sales are accurate with no detail?   Rise up Indie authors!    Repost this story!    Tweet it, facebook it.    Make it go viral.   Print it and send it to your local newspaper and the Associated Press.   This abject fraud is outrageous and MUST STOP!

John R. Clark, Managing Editor, AgeView Press