More Random Writerly Thoughts

This morning I was curious and tried to look up an author’s books. And I’m pretty sure they’re only listed on Smashword and publish print through Lulu. Which, ouch.

I understand that not all authors worry about making money from what they do, but that’s an interesting set of choices to make to be found by readers. I had tried looking them up on Amazon before I clicked their links on their website, because I’m weird that way, but there was nothing for me to find. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does that.

Then again I have another author I know who is very serious about doing well at this and they published non-fiction but only in ebook and only on Amazon. Which means all those Fortune write-ups are mostly wasted. If you’re going to pursue more traditional media coverage, then being available on all major platforms and in all formats is kind of key.

I also know an author who has done incredibly well with a few series for a short period of time on each one through KU who can’t be bothered with print. More understandable there because fiction readers that read self-published books do lean more towards ebook, but that author is still leaving money on the table every time their books are on the top 100 list.

I know we all have different goals in what we’re doing and different bandwidth and energy for doing all the various aspects of this writing gig. Still. I think sometimes it’s “can’t be bothered” but sometimes it’s “I was given really bad advice.”

Like the author I met with a while back who was going to use IngramSpark for ebook distribution. (Plenty of discussion on why that’s a bad idea in the Wide for the Win Facebook group.)

So, yeah, interesting choices. Of course, I’m sure someone looks at mine and thinks the same. I am not immune to bad choices.

Also a few AMS comments for the day.

Years ago I opened I think it was an Advantage account in the UK. I’d actually transitioned from using it for the most part in the last year or so because the account I can access through my KDP account is just fine. Which is good.

Because when I was looking at ad spend this month I noticed that for that account they tacked on 20% tax. Must’ve been because I never fully completed setting the account up back then, which was the trick to get access to AMS in the UK without having to pay the fee for that type of account.

I am not seeing that same 20% charge on my KDP UK AMS account.

I have to say that tax must really disadvantage authors who are getting charged that amount. 20% is a lot. I still make $2 when I spend $1 on AMS so I could keep going, but if someone were operating closer to the edge, that would push them right over into unprofitability. And if all they’re doing is paying attention to their dashboard numbers they won’t even see that.

For the record, I track AMS ad spend in a spreadsheet and not only do I add in any extra fees or taxes like that I also add in 3% for a credit card fee for all of my foreign AMS ad spend because that’s what my credit card charges for foreign transactions. If you’re not factoring in those extra costs, you could be losing money and not realizing it.

Also, I just have to roll my eyes at the scammers in one of my niches. I at some point mentioned that X keyword was one of my best keywords and now I get to watch that particular keyword be hit by fake clicks on a regular basis. It looks awful day of but then Amazon seems to back it out a few days later.

Some days I turn of that keyword and its iterations and let them have their way and some days I’m luck “fuck it” and just let it ride because I know in a few days it’ll sort itself out. But it would be nice if we operated in an environment where that kind of crap didn’t happen and it was just about the books and the readers.

But it’s a lesson, too, that you can’t expect the same strategy to work long-term. New players, new opportunities, new developments. It’s 3-D chess played against ten thousand opponents.

Which reminds me of the guy who posted in one of my FB groups some thing about how writers don’t have gold medals to compete for and so it’s all just one big love fest. And I was like, uh, Hugos? Nebulas? Booker Prize? Pulitzer? And what about Amazon rankings? Last I checked, only a hundred spots available on each list.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. The writers who form good peer groups absolutely help each other succeed. I can point to numerous examples of that happening. A good group forms and they all find long-term success. And the social support is pivotal for some to keep them going.

(Although I think sometimes that social support is a bit like what I saw with skydiving where you end up with a peer group because you all do Y together and then it’s really hard to walk away from Y even though you should because it also means losing your entire support network, too.)

So, yes, there’s absolutely value in having friends and not trying to compete with your fellow authors or be jealous of their success.

But, at the same time…Don’t be fooled into thinking there is no competition or that visibility isn’t impacted by who else is out there. When you search for X type of book, only one book can be listed first. And people only have so much downtime to spend on reading. If they’re getting their needs met elsewhere (which may not be happening, given my recent run of bleh books I’ve read), they aren’t going to find you.

I personally have no interest in “Being #1”. I could go my whole life without winning a literary award and be perfectly content. And I’m happy to let someone else get the suicide and death threats for not writing their series fast enough or in the right way.

I just want to hang out with my dog, keep a roof over our heads, and do something that engages my mind without destroying my spirit. But I also know that to hit that #2 part of my goal I have to contend with the fact that this is in fact a competitive industry and there are “winners” and “losers” no matter what someone’s goal is.

Anyway. Back to it.

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is a former securities regulator, registered stockbroker (although only briefly), and consultant on regulatory and risk-related matters for large financial institutions with expertise in the areas of anti-money laundering regulation, mutual funds, and credit rating agencies. Since 2013 M.L. has also been a published author under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at]

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