Stuff I Want to Know
Okay, this would be a very long list if I didn’t give it some focus. For instance, I want to know stuff as banal as why in the movie LOOPER they didn’t just send those people back in time about a mile up above those corn fields. Be simpler and scarier. But I’m going to stick with stuff I would love to know from Amazon, since they are sitting on a pile of data that would help me reach more readers. Many of these things go for all my digital distributors, but I’m going to focus on Amazon because some of them are Kindle Worlds and Createspace related.
1) I would love to know how many readers borrow a book and then go on to buy a copy of the same book. I’ve done this before, and I tend to doubt my uniqueness. For Prime members especially, who only get one borrow a month, do they ever love an ebook so much that they decide to own a copy for good?
The reason I ask is because authors tend to view a borrow as a lost sale. If you could show me how many duplicate transactions there were like this, it would be super useful in understanding reading and purchasing habits.
2) I would love to know how far into my books readers get. Do they finish the work? Do most who drop out do so around the same chapter? What about from those who return the ebook? When I return a physical product to Amazon, I am asked to select a reason. Does that information get passed along to the supplier? If so, do the same for us. If you hate sharing even anonymous data without permission, allow the reader to adjust a slider when they leave a review to show how much they read. If they don’t adjust it, we see nothing and they share nothing. I think readers who complete works would love to participate in this.
3) I want to get to know my collector readers, the people who love a signed physical copy of an ebook they really enjoyed. I’m one of these people. After I read Max Berry’s LEXICON, I wanted a hardback, and I wanted it signed. I just loved the book that much. For years, I hauled signed books to the post office by the carload to send off to readers. The logistics were a nightmare. There are two awesome ways you could tap into the signed book market, and I’d love to know if either are feasible:
A) Let me digitally sign a page with a unique inscription. Ingest this page into the Createspace .PDF, print a copy and ship it to the reader. Easy-peasy.
B) Use your 3rd party seller infrastructure to handle orders of signed books. I get the order, sign the book, print the label, and have UPS pick the package up at my door.
Either way, the process for the reader is simple. If the author is with Createspace and has opted in, any reader who leaves a high rating on an ebook is asked: “Hey, since you like this, you might be interested in hearing that this author provides signed copies. You can get one for yourself or a gift for a friend.” I want to know why this isn’t possible.
4) Why can’t I see my lifetime sales anywhere on my dashboard? This one shouldn’t be hard. You do it on the ACX homepage. Give me total sales across all titles and for each individual title.
5) Related to the above, why not include print and audio sales as well? Are you all working on consolidating these three dashboards? The only thing comforting to me about how different the three interfaces look is that I assume the ACX royalty drop can’t have anything to do with future KDP decisions since it appears from the UX at each site that the people from these three companies have never actually met in person. You should get them all in a room together. Just don’t bring royalties up.
6) Still related to #4 (like a distant cousin by marriage), I would love to know why we don’t have any sort of gamification of writing implemented yet? Writers should receive little congratulatory badges for hitting reasonable sales milestones. I’m talking 10 sales, 50 sales, 100 sales across all titles. And readers should get badges for the number of ebooks they finish. Numerous studies have shown that gamification increases participation. Writers need all the boosts they can get. A few of the effects I think a program like this will have:
A) Authors will be encouraged to write more with occasional reminders that people are, in fact, reading their works.
B) Aspiring authors will be encouraged to finish their first work if they see others sharing these milestones on social media. How many talented authors sit on the fence because they don’t think anyone will read what they write?
C) Speaking of sharing: It is far easier for authors to share someone else’s praise rather than brag on their own. Nobody loves a braggart, but most people understand the joy of passing along surprise milestones. And every badge shared would not only be advertising for self-publishing, but a reminder that many people are reaching readers (and a reminder that your cousin Ismarelda is in fact a published author, and maybe you should check her stuff out).
All I ask is that you take caution in making this a celebratory announcement and nothing like: “Welcome to the 1,000 – Sellers Club.” No clubs. No in-grouping and out-grouping. Just a reminder of a milestone along the way to more milestones.
7) I want to know why you all haven’t come out and explained that the 70% cut we make on ebooks priced in a certain range aren’t really royalties. (See #5 of this list for an example of improper usage of the term). When they’re called royalties, the 70% seems exceedingly generous. Because publishers pay a lot less. But publishers provide other services, like editing and cover art. We are handing you a finished product. As a distribution fee, you taking 30% (plus more for delivery fees) sounds less crazy-generous. It seems downright reasonable, in fact. Or even an area where you all could afford to give a little more.
Oh. Never mind. Just answered my question. I’d keep calling them royalties as well. You know, so it looks uber-awesome of you. So here’s a modified question: Why don’t you all come out and assure KDP authors that the 70% cut to us will never decrease. Ever. That it could only go up in the future. You would calm a lot of jittery nerves.
8) Why the 70% price cut-off? In a recent announcement about ebook prices, you all admitted that there are occasions when ebooks deserve to be priced higher than $9.99. I agree. I’d love to package my entire Silo Series trilogy together and sell it for $12.99. That would be an amazing savings to the reader, a great value to your customers. But you all treat every ebook product the exact same, which means my royalty rate would drop from 70% to 35%. That’s not good. I’d love to know why you all can’t make exceptions for certain products. In fact, indies are unlikely to EVER price their ebooks above $9.99, so why not drop the KDP price ceiling altogether. I promise you we’ll be more reasonable than other business partners you work with.
9) Related to the above, what about offering everything published by a particular author at great discount? This could be a dynamically generated package, so whatever is available at that moment is included. I’d sign up in a heartbeat if it meant a reader who enjoyed one of my books could “Complete their Library” with a single click. I’d give them 50% off the retail of every ebook I’ve published if they want to grab them all. iTunes does this with individual tracks. You can “complete the album” with a click. Why can’t we do this? I’d love to know.
10) Why don’t you all create a newsletter system for authors? Do you know how much MailChimp is making from writers right now? I know you obsess about customer experience, and you don’t want them getting spammed by desperate writers, so let them opt in. Let them choose the newsletter digest they want by selecting their favorite authors. You might launch the program by suggesting a list of authors of recent books they’ve purchased or reviewed. They click the boxes, and once a month, they get a feed from the writers who have something to share. This seems like a no-brainer to me. Include the ability to embed video messages and send gift ebooks or samples straight to their devices. There is so much you could do with this system. You could even charge authors for the service once their lists get over a certain number, the way MailChimp does. We’d happily pay.
11) Related to the above, how about something to compete with BookBub? You’ve got the emails. If you’re worried about being spammy, let your customers opt-in. We only want to reach the readers who are looking for us, anyway. Again, we would pay for the service. I bet you could beat BookBub both on price and efficacy. Why don’t you do this? I’d love to know.
12) Why can’t you help us hook up with cover artists, editors, ebook formatters, and beta readers? In fact, all four categories should have their own metadata entries. I should be able to include the cover artist so authors can get in touch with people whose works they enjoy. It would be great if you had a DeviantArt or Pinterest type landing page for authors to browse. And the same for discovering editors, where they can show off the books they’ve worked on and their rates and availability. This totally fits your commitment to customer service, because it’ll ensure higher quality products for sale.
You could even allow us to do a revenue share with freelancers. ACX does this (you should meet those people. If they start talking about royalties, tell them to shut up). What if we put a cap on the fee? So the cover artist earns 5% of every book sale until they hit $500, or some agreed-upon price. Maybe the one-time guarantee fee is higher, and the royalty share number is lower.
It’d be cool for beta readers to get a shout-out in metadata as well. Maybe you gamify this a little. When a beta reader has participated in books that aggregate a certain sales milestone, they get an Amazon gift card. Let’s figure out a way to thank and reward those who help make great ebooks happen. It should lead to even more great ebooks.
13) I got more, but you’re probably exhausted from scribbling down the answers to the above, so I’ll hold off until I hear from you.