N. P. Ryan vs. Self-publishing

The Bath Party Launch UPDATE:

If there’s one thing paramount to know about self-publishing – always check the date of the advice being read.

As example: a priority for anyone coming to self-publishing for the first time tends to be how to format. Seemingly luckily for them, there are plenty of sites out there claiming to share their pain, while also promising sure-fire ways of doing it, punctuated with things like coffee pots to emphasize all the stress-filled late nights it took to figure out.

But which one knows the right way?

With so many making the claim, while clearly showing different methods, it can get—is—confusing.

When I formatted The Medusa Protocol for Amazon just over a year ago, it was a htm web filtered file that had to uploaded. When doing The Bath Party the other day, there was a choice of files and htm wasn’t even one of them (though it might still be in the ‘other options’ list).

For me, it didn’t matter; one of the ‘new’ file types came earlier in the process of creating the one previously wanted, so I already had it. But if I’d written a blog explaining it to someone without a clue based on that first experience, the advice would now (just one year later) be confusing at worst and overly complicated at best.

Whether I’d update my blog on discovery is one thing; whether others would, another.

The launch of Book III on all platforms coincides with Books I & II being available on platforms beyond Amazon.

To achieve ‘all platforms’ I opted for Smashwords over Draft2Digital.

In the time since I first looked at these options (when publishing I & II), Draft2Digital has acquired a number of partners. People who offer editing services, etc; the ‘quality’ of some of those put me off.

As example; a service offering the above mentioned had formatting errors on the front page of its site . . .

Smashwords also has an online shop. However, it also has a reputation for ridiculous formatting requirements – I don’t know what lengths they are now, but a year ago the Amazon formatting guide was twenty pages, while Smashwords one-hundred-and-seventeen.

I only needed about seven pages of the Amazon guide. The files produced via this method are the same used for the ebooks I produce myself.

I know they work.

I could have uploaded to Smashwords in ebook form, in theory avoiding any nonsense about formatting (in theory), but that would have limited the formats they could sell. One option was the same file used on Amazon, so that’s what they got for both books.

If it all turned out to be too much grief, I’d just go to Draft2Digital (who actually offer to do formatting for you, no charge).

Despite the file being absolutely fine in every previous usage, Smashwords flagged it. The way it did this wasn’t very clear. Due to formatting errors, my books could not be approved; however they still showed as going live on the selected date – surely that would now be subject to me fixing the errors?

There was some back and forth:

  • Despite the nature of the flag being ‘alarming’, it meant there might be something in the file that could stop it working, and so it had to wait until a member of staff confirmed whether it did or not.
  • The problem was apparently in the way I’d formatted the toc (table of contents) – it was suggested I changed it to the requirements in the Smashwords guide (page number pointed out).
  • I asked for clarification – were they saying the books wouldn’t be published if I didn’t; were the files, ones used to produce numerous ebooks, actually not working?
  • They were working, just if the toc was formatted that way, the file would always get flagged on upload until a staff member cleared it (which they added they just had).

Much ado about nothing, though a bit of a risky one considering Draft2Digital, the only real competitor, does it all for free.

Sure enough, the relevant panels turned from angry reds to happy greens and all was good.

Then another refresh a bit later showed them flagged again!!!

  • Hi again – super big thanks for the earlier help and everything. Aah, but they’re showing as flagged and blocked again . . .
  • Nothing to worry about – it’s a two stage process for something like this and has to be approved by another member of staff after the first approval; to expedite things, I’ve done that second pass for you now.

They’ve remained clear ever since . . .

But the problems with Smashwords haven’t. Many of the outlets selected aren’t showing the books for sale. I don’t know why this is – it could be as simple as someone hasn’t updated a website yet, but Smashwords hasn’t given me any indication, neither did they let me know when I appeared on Barnes and Noble.

Likewise, I had to provide a maximum four-hundred character blurb for Smashwords that, according to them, would be used on every platform, with the option of a four-thousand one that would be used by some.

Yet there’s no sign of them on Barnes and Noble; are they on their way – who knows?

On the plus side, the first time I searched ‘The Medusa Protocol’ on both Smashwords (see page here)* and Barnes and Noble (link above), the books appeared with each other as they should.

[*I’ve discovered since posting the Smashwords link might not work without the ‘adult content’ option being selected top right of the site…]

If only things were that simple with Amazon.

I dropped them a quick line to clarify something about linking books together having ‘kinda’ made matters difficult for myself thanks to releasing Books I & II as a single volume.

The question, at least I thought so, was simple: do I put 1 and 2 in one field and 3 in the other, or just 1 and 2 in each field respectively?

I didn’t really care what the answer was, just so long as I knew which.


If you’re thinking, why didn’t you just try one and see, instead of being a lazy so-and-so and making more work for other people: the only way to see the impact of a change is to hit the Save and Continue option in the book set-up section; something that prevents any more changes being made for 48 hours.

Plus, with a book on pre-sale countdown, there’s also a cut-off point before it goes live after which no more changes can be made, meaning another reason that 48 hours should only be set-off when sure, not guessing.


What a can of worms that opened!

26061149_10159705628045371_253907197_o

Easy, Tiger: there’ll be no pics of cans of wiggly worms opening all over this blog merely to illustrate a point; just big fat puddles of purr instead! 

KDP sent me an email explaining the straightforward thing about the fields, while then going on to say that due to the nature of what I’d asked, they’d authorised contact by telephone for my account, and there was all this ***** kinda thing going on everywhere in the email, like certain parts of information had been blacked-out for security reasons.

WTFlip?!

Unfortunately, they sent it after someone made a call . . .

Since living in Canada, I get unsolicited/totally bogus phone calls on a regular basis – apparently they can be quite common here. It doesn’t take long to recognise the hallmark signs.

The call had them in bounds – the delay in a voice responding after I’d answered, then seeming to have trouble hearing me at first for starters. The caller knew I’d contacted KDP about linking books . . . had the message to Amazon been compromised?

The caller then asked me to confirm my email address . . . How much damage could giving them that do? Probably not as much as I imagined it could be the first step of when terminating the call on the grounds they’d asked for it – but why was someone calling about Amazon linking books?


It’s not flipping rocket science to know ‘The Bath Party (The Medusa Protocol Book III)’ is part of something bigger – it’s just a better customer experience to be able to easily get from one to the other.


There was no way Amazon could really be calling about that, especially so nervously, with all the hallmark signs n’ all . . . I wrote an email reporting a fraudulent attempt to obtain account information; just after hitting send, the above mentioned email turned up.

It turns out that not only do you have to fill the fields in correctly . . . actually; an excerpt from the email:

‘As part of our review, we take some or all of the following into account: book titles, volume numbers in titles, descriptions, cover images, Look Inside the Book features, About the book sections, customer reviews, author’s biography, author’s official webpage.

If you believe your series titles do have sequential volume numbers or a continuation of content, please submit your request with this information where you’ve specified your titles meet these requirements.

**************

Due to the unique nature of your inquiry, I’ve temporarily enabled your account for phone contact. Our phone support is available from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday.

To request a phone call from us, visit the Contact Us section of KDP Help:’

There then followed SEVEN steps needed to request a call.

I hadn’t even seen the email when I received mine, yet, to stop the kind of thing that happened, the last said

‘Choose “Call Me” or “Call Me in 5 Minutes,” and be ready to provide your account information when we call.’

I guess they were just having a slow day at the office and trying to be helpful, but it might explain why they were very keen to move on quickly, rather than have a bit of a laugh about it as was I . . .

What didn’t feel very helpful or slow-day at the office, was when they replied that they’d get back to me with more information by end of day Feb 5th . . .

But really, rather than lean me more toward the anti-self-publisher Amazon conspiracy theories, that reply reignited my initial feeling that I’d been misunderstood somewhere down the line, for now the correct info has been added to the fields, clicking on ‘similar books’ goes to a page showing both of them together, which is all I ever wanted in the first place.

Still, pricing:

Here Amazon has so far confirmed the theorists correct rather than just out-and-out deranged loons.

To negotiate a price as low as 1.99, an author has to show Amazon things like the book already being on other platforms at that price. Even then, Amazon can still elect to decline (they can also take it upon themselves to price match even if you haven’t asked and they find your product cheaper elsewhere).

I asked, they said yes, and all seemed to be moving along nicely, until the books appeared at 2.79 on Amazon U.S. – the one place they most definitely should be 1.99.

Why: is it an error – who knows?

Amazon just agreed to do it without specifying how.


Either or, shoppers like things simple and straight; like being able to buy from where they feel happy and comfortable, which is the point of going to as many platforms as possible – what they don’t like is finding out their choice of retailer is almost a third more expensive than everywhere else.


If all that isn’t enough to make me think, flip ‘em all, pay wordpress that little bit more for the PayPal button and go totally underground:

Goodreads.

As a reader, Goodreads is fun (though I read two of their book recommendations based on my library and both turned out to be a long way from my cuppa tea). To an author, it can feel more of a liability; if I’d gone on all the things said about it online by other authors, I wouldn’t have bothered.

Torn between whether I was just finding sites written by loads of sourpusses or it being a conspiracy to keep newbie authors from signing up to some secret website worth its weight in gold, I forged forward like a Viking on a hilltop on a very snowy and windy day.

the-it-crowd-the-it-crowd-20584011-760-505

Don’t be silly, Jen – the internet doesn’t weigh anything!

From the worst winter, weather conditions can only improve substantially even if at nothing but a slow and steady pace.

One of the things I read about way back was the difficulty of adding a second work to an author profile. Goodreads started so readers could create an online library; so allowing friends to browse it and vice versa – as one of those people who will browse the books in someone else’s house or even on their hospital bedside cabinet, and used their Facebook About section to list all their favourites, I love the idea.

It didn’t have self-published authors in mind, so no surprise there were teething issues; surely by now, things like that would be sorted.

I was surprised at how quickly Books I & II appeared there to link to; something that was beyond straightforward.

This time, Book III seemed to take an age to turn up. When it finally did, I couldn’t see a single way of claiming it as my work.

Then I clicked on the author name; all well and good both books showed. It was now automatic – fantastic! . . . But then I went back to my profile and looked from there. Just Books I & II.

I went back to Book III, clicked on the author and this time looked at the profile – an empty one with the message: ‘this author doesn’t have a Goodreads profile’.

But Book III is linked to Books I & II . . .

If this is confusing to follow, it should be – it means I’m conveying how it made me feel with adroit aplomb!

I messaged Goodreads, going to great lengths to explain the phenomena facing me.


I have to put my hands up here – in their reply they mentioned my name is displayed on the site N.P. no space. This is apparently mandatory to Goodreads.

I don’t remember if I just ignored this when first signing-up or if the site defaulted the space out.


They went on to say that they had mistakenly been imported from their direct publisher feed with an extra space.

I am the publisher and I put the space there on purpose. Platforms like Smashwords may say they are publishers, but only in relation to the ISBN number. True, they might very well purposefully try and let it happily look like it’s more than that. Still, they may not make any changes without my permission. If they wanted something changed and I said no, they could certainly kick me off the platform, but they couldn’t change something and simply carry on.

It’s the same with Amazon. How can Goodreads not know this?

They sent me a picture to demonstrate:

 

unnamed

The top book with ALL the gold stars is the real one, obviously . . .

It only made things worse.

Where’s the ‘&’ gone from the second Book I & II?

No explanation for that was offered. Apparently, though, the N.P. being tight on the first book had always been that way – meaning I never noticed it there before either . . . fair enough, I can’t argue about that if I can’t remember it otherwise.

But this is where it all gets even weirder.

The top book in the pic represents the initial release via Select. Goodreads said the second one appeared due to a recent release on Kindle (as though they think the first was paperback), when the new release is via Smashwords so it’s available on more platforms.

Book III only shows up once, despite being released on both Amazon and Smashwords at the same time.

Both the new releases show up on Goodreads with the space present, meaning it is possible for the site to display like that (they can ignore spaces all they want to index) and the empty profile had to also display a space to be able to say the author in question didn’t have one.

They even persisted in addressing the emails to N.P. despite me pointing out there’s meant to be a space and there is anywhere else on the net I knowingly have a presence.

I’m also going to release more work: Book IV; paperbacks; stories of a completely different nature that are just as fantastic and riveting nonetheless – and they’re all going to be written by N. P. Ryan with a space!

In the past, I’ve sometimes lazily signed emails tight, but no more, oh no – from now, nothing but N. P.!

In the meantime, welcome to my day tomorrow trying to sort out all this mess 😀

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