The loudest lament among authors today is: wouldn’t it be nice to write? Who has time when you spend hours trying to navigate the world of publishing and marketing. Yet unless you’ve been “discovered” by a large, traditional publishing house or clever agent, most of your effort goes into getting the word out about your book. And even those authors with traditional contracts spend huge chunks of time fulfilling the marketing requirements of their contracts.
The reality is you’re at the mercy of a new world of book publishing that’s so convoluted and complex these days that you spend a lot of time wearing a blind-fold and whacking at moles.
For those readers asking: what’s got your panties in a bunch this week, Genilee, the answer is: Amazon. The print version of our books under our own publishing name gradually started to show up on Amazon over the course of the last month, but I’ve been trying to ensure that the hundreds of people I know that use their Kindles could get our books, too.
I spent countless hours waiting, thinking it would work like it did for our first self-published book (Holiday Connections): just show up. Then I spent more hours trying to understand how Ingram Sparks (IS), my huge printing firm, works realizing that it gets distributed by them to Amazon and other retailers so I needed to start there. After several rounds of emails to IS (with absolutely no replies), I finally decided the best and only effective way to “contact us for help” was to pick up a phone. I waited 15 minutes to get through to a real live person. However, the very real, very live and helpful person I spoke with wrote one email to Amazon and our books reappeared in Kindle form on the Amazon site—within minutes of my initial phone call.
I’d celebrate this great victory, except for one reality: almost no one can find our books on the site, and the few that are clever or determined enough to try, find a huge conflict in what’s available.
By searching on Amazon’s site and using one of the book’s names and one of our last names (I used Swope), you get the following results:
For Twist of Fate: 1) A listing where it’s available for $9.99 new and $1.07 used; 2) A listing where it’s available for $30.67 “used & new”; 3) a listing where it is “unavailable.” No listing for the Kindle version. If you scroll down to the bottom of that page you see: Results for “Twist of Fate Swope.” Three things are listed: 1) Wretched Fate, the Kindle version only; 2) Twist of Fate, the printed version only (but wait, didn’t we just take out the first two words and get the same thing as our initial search??); 3) Violet Fate, the Kindle version only.
For a search for Wretched Fate and Swope you get: 1) A listing of an old, out-of-date version available new for $8.99 or for $.01 (really, a penny?); 2) a listing of the older version “used & new” for $83.26 (Would someone really pay that?). No listing for the Kindle version. Scrolling to the bottom to: results for “Wretched Fate Swope” you get: 1) Wretched Fate, the Kindle version only (yea, there it is!! But why does taking out the word “Wretched” get you to the right place?); 2) Twist of Fate, the printed version only; and 3) Violet Fate, the Kindle version only.
For Violet Fate: 1) A listing for the printed version for $8.99, 2) a listing that looks exactly the same except you can get it “used & new” for $28.11. No listing for the Kindle version. At the bottom of that page under: Results for “Violet Fate Swope” you see: Wretched Fate, the Kindle version only (there’s Wretched’s Kindle version again. All you have to do is search under a different name than Wretched Fate, the actual title!!); Twist of Fate, the printed version only; and Violet Fate, the Kindle version (REALLY: in other words, by taking out the word ‘Violet’, the Kindle version pops up. Hmmmmm).
My point in all this is not to paint Amazon or Ingram Sparks as the bad guys. They are just huge and with hugeness comes confusion. I couldn’t have afforded publishing my own books 20 years ago when these two players were emerging and the world of independent publishing was being born. My point is this: if you’re one of us out there trying to get down this great river of being an author through the wild jungle of learning how to get the system to work for you, make sure you have a spare paddle and lots of patience. You’re going to need it.
Genilee Swope Parente