Shifting Strategies

A couple of weeks ago, Kobo came out with some new terms and conditions for their Kobo Writing Life program. Under the new terms, the list price for a book (not the sales price) cannot be higher than it is elsewhere.

This throws a kink in the works, since the only way I’ve ever gotten traction on Kobo is by taking advantage of their promotions, like the half off box set sales or the 30% off monthly sales. The problem, of course, is that Amazon has the same clause in their TOS, and if you undercut the Amazon price they will 1) match the lower price, and 2) send you a nastygram threatening to close your account if you don’t change your prices to comply.

(This is also the reason why my books are not on Google Play Books. Google will arbitrarily drop the prices of your books, sometimes setting the price to free without any prior warning, leading to a loss of income on Amazon when they price match your books.)

Until now, the way I’ve gotten around that is by pricing my books a little higher on Kobo so that I can drop the price for the promotional sales. But it does feel a little weird to have the same product at a different price on different sites. If I were a Kobo reader, that would turn me off (hence the change in their TOS).

At the same time, it’s come to my attention that unless your book has an ISBN, Kobo will not distribute your books to the many local ebookstores that they partner with. You can still publish on Kobo, but your books won’t go any further.

In the United States, ISBNs are insanely expensive. If you buy them one at a time, it costs $125 for each one. You can get them as low as $1.50 each, but you have to buy 1,000 at a time.

Until now, I haven’t really bothered with ISBNs. Most ebook publishing platforms don’t require them, and for those that do, you can publish through a distributor like Draft2Digital who will assign you an ISBN for free. The catch is that the publisher on record for the free ISBN will be D2D, but that doesn’t impact your publishing rights at all.

(Print also requires ISBN, but CreateSpace also gives you an option for a free CreateSpace-assigned ISBN, which is what I’ve been doing for print.)

In short, by publishing my books directly to Kobo without providing my own ISBNs, my reach is greatly limited. I can publish to Kobo via D2D and get the extra reach, but then I’ll lose access to the promotions tab, which is pretty much the only way to get my books in front of Kobo readers. But that doesn’t matter anyway, since I can’t price my books on Kobo higher than they are on Amazon, and if I drop the price on Kobo for a sale, Amazon will start sending nastygrams.

So here’s my new strategy:

  1. I’m going to pull all of my books out of Kobo Writing Life and go through Draft2Digital instead. There really is no advantage to staying all-in with KWL anymore, and the added benefit of the D2D ISBNs is enough to convince me to go through them.
  2. At the same time, I’m going to create some Kobo-exclusive bundles to take advantage of the KWL promotions tab. If the bundle doesn’t appear on Amazon, then it doesn’t matter how I price it on Kobo because there’s nothing for Amazon to match. At the same time, the contents of the bundle are still available as individual books, so my Amazon readers lose nothing.
  3. For my single-title books, the price on Kobo will be the same as the price on Amazon. For the Kobo-exclusive bundles, the list price will be higher, but they’ll also be on sale more often which should bring more attention to my single-title books.

The biggest downside I can see is that my Kobo royalties will be split between D2D and KWL. To offset this, I’ll have to publish a variety of Kobo-exclusive bundles. Here are some of the ones I have in mind:

  • Bringing Stella Home and Heart of the Nebula, in one double-novel.
  • Desert Stars and Stars of Blood and Glory, in one double-novel.
  • The complete Star Wanderers series, with Brothers in Exile.
  • A first-in-series bundle, with Outworlder, Brothers in Exile, and Bringing Stella Home.
  • The first Sons of the Starfarers omnibus (I-III). This means I will take it down from Amazon.

So that’s the plan. I probably won’t announce these new bundles to my email list, since most of my subscribers are Kindle readers and I don’t want to be too spammy. But I will announce them here.

Well, that rules out time travelers

If there’s one thing that the events of the weekend have proven, it’s that time machines aren’t going to be invented for at least another few hundred years. Because if time travelers from our immediate future were in our midst, I have no doubt that either Hillary or Trump (or both, Godwilling!) would have been assassinated by now.

Of course, it could just be that things are going to collapse so hard that it wouldn’t make a difference which one of them became president, but whatever. No sense in being overly optimistic.

Last week was a total wash after the motorcycle accident, but I’m slowly getting back into the saddle. I’ve got the comments back from my first readers for Gunslinger to the Stars, so that’s the WIP I’m picking up next. Deadline for draft 2.0 is October 29, but I may be able to get it done sooner than that. Hell, I may even get it done this week.

Publishing it is another question. Finances are tight, and it’s been a bad year for sales, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to produce a quality book. Right now, I’m shooting for an April release date. That may actually be a good thing, though as it gives me time to write and release a few tie-in short stories. But regardless, it’s going to come out early next year.

Between now and then, I’ll probably release a couple of short stories and story collections. The shorts are selling better than I expected, and they make great giveaways for InstaFreebie and my mailing list. I’ve still got a bunch of stories on submission, but some of them are coming off soon, and others (like the tie-ins I want to write) would probably do better as direct to publish anyways.

As far as other WIPs go, my next big project is The Sword Keeper 2.0. I want to do a solid clean-up pass before I hand it off to my first readers, which shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks. It is my first epic fantasy novel, though, so it’s probably going to need a lot of work before I can publish it.

Next one up after that is Edenfall. There’s been a lot of interest in that one from readers of Genesis Earth, so I think it’s time (after so many years) to finish the trilogy.

I have plans for Sons of the Starfarers, but those will have to go on hold for a while as I work on these other projects. I’ll probably write the last four books in a big sprint and publish them all within a month of each other. No idea when, but hopefully before the end of next year.

That pretty much does it. I’ll leave you with some words of Hungarian optimism that showed up in my YouTube feed today:

If it seems like I’ve fallen off the face of the Earth…

…it’s because I sort of have.

First, I went to Iowa to visit family for my birthday. Was gone for an extended weekend, and understandably, updating the blog was not a high priority. But I figured I’d get back into the swing of things once I got back.

Then I took a job that sucked up almost all of my time, making it difficult to write, much less post an update. Perhaps if I had something of a routine before, it would have been easier to manage my time and fit blogging into it. But since the job was only for a week, I figured I’d just soldier through and get back into blogging after it was done.

Then yesterday, I had toe surgery. And a motorcycle accident.

Since I don’t have health insurance (thanks Obama!), getting back onto my feet is going to be tricky. Fortunately, I’ve got enough saved up in the emergency fund to handle both. The toe is healing fine; it’s the shoulder that’s giving me grief. I think I reopened an old injury that never healed properly, which may be good in the long run but really really sucks in the short term.

Point is, I’m all right, but it’s going to take some time before I get back into writing and blogging regularly. Hopefully not too long, but right now, I’m just focused on recovery.

I’ll leave you with the trailer for The Man in the High  Castle, which I’ve been watching as I recover. It’s a fantastic show—I highly recommend it.

The Sword Keeper 1.0 is finished!

It’s been roughly four and a half years since I wrote the first word in The Sword Keeper, and now the first draft is finally complete! I finished it on Monday and promptly came down with the flu, which is why I’m only writing about it now.

This is my first complete fantasy novel, which is kind of a weird thing to realize. I started writing fantasy back in high school, but I never actually finished anything until college, and by then I was writing science fiction almost exclusively. Of course, the line between fantasy and science fiction is pretty fuzzy, especially the science fiction I tend to write, but still it’s a different set of tropes and a different kind of story.

In terms of other fantasy books, this one is pretty light. It’s just under 100k words, which makes it about 1/3 to 1/4 the size of a Brandon Sanderson novel. There’s magic, and it does drive the story, but the magic system itself isn’t the main driving factor of the plot. No elves, no dwarves, no dragons.

Instead, there’s an ancient order of magic sword bearers, a secret brotherhood of dark mages, a prophecy about saving the world, and a tavern girl (not a farmboy) who turns out to be the chosen one. About half of the fighting happens in the Void between the mortal and immortal realms. Oh, and the cost of magic is death.

There’s no question that this book needs a lot of work before it’ll be ready to publish. That said, I’m really excited about it. If all goes well, I expect it to be out sometime next year.

Cover reveal: “L’enfer, c’est la Solitude”

So for this next story, I decided to buy a premade cover over at I think it turned out pretty well!lcls-coverThis story appeared in Perihelion about six months ago. It will be out as an individual short story by Monday.