As MWiDP enters its second month of pregnancy the ultra-sound scans are in and the bulge is beginning to show. So time for a quick update for those who are in, and too for those who are watching and wondering.
Well, the good news is we now have over sixty titles live, and more pending, so a great start.
Longer term we hope to get full recognition by Amazon as a publisher and get better access, but that will take time. For now we’re stuck with KDP.
Because our Crossing The Pond authors are already published on amazon.com and are transferring rights to us for European distribution we have the small problem of convincing Amazon’s anti-piracy police that we are not stealing these books without the authors’ knowledge.
In theory simple enough. We upload the title. KDP send us an alert asking to see the contracts. We send the contract. Title appears 24 hours later.
That’s the theory. And for 95% it works well. For the remaining five per cent one of two things happens.
Either the title goes live right away with no piracy checks. Not very reassuring for authors.
Or KDP simply ignore it. And then they ignore our emails asking why there is a delay. Then they finally reply to the formal complaint and answer a totally different question.
Amazon pride themselves on their customer-centric service and the ability to get a personal response to a problem. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to apply to UK-based publishers using KDP. It seems amazon.com treat their satellite Kindle sites (UK, France and Germany) as second-rate, and as a nuisance to be shoved to one side rather than as a valued part of the Amazon community.
Which perhaps goes some way to explaining why US authors seem to do so badly over here, and why authors publishing from here to the US site similarly do so badly over there.
Which begs the question, does it make a difference where you are when you upload an ebook Or at least on which site your account is based?
What’s for sure is that we’ve seen significant chart boosts for a number of our am.com authors since listing their titles direct on am.uk.
But anyone who has been following the MWiDP tweets and Facebook reports will know several am.com authors have suddenly found themselves with top 100 category places on am.co.uk since signing with us. Yes, they’ve seen sales too, but by no means huge. Yet a dozen or more authors who previously listed on am.co.uk from an am.com account have suddenly seen those same books make huge gains in chart position.
Do the Amazon sites favour home-loading for KDP authors? We can’t be sure. But it sure feels that way sometimes.
We’ve had a huge seller here in the UK with Sugar & Spice, but no movement on am.com. Sure, we sell there, but nothing remotely comparable. And we’re not alone in this. And we know that works both ways. Huge US indie sellers make insignificant sales here.
If it is the case that the Amazon sites favour home-loading then US authors clearly increase their prospects by signing their titles with us to upload directly to am.co.uk, quite apart from the long term benefits of the MWiDP cloud and our long-term promotion plans.
And likewise UK authors may find benefit in getting their titles uploaded direct to am.com from the US rather than indirectly through am.co.uk. On which point UK authors will be pleased to know we are making arrangements for just such a facility.
What’s next for MWiDP?
Well, some MWiDP authors are already getting together with like-genre sellers to exchange links and blog posts and support one another, and that’s a key part of the cloud idea behind the set-up. Authors are not just befriending one another but exchanging reviews and reviewers, and propelling one another forward.
They are also discovering each others’ editors, cover artists and formatters. As soon as time permits we’ll be updating the MWiDP site with details of editors, cover artists, etc who wish to offer their services, and we hope they’ll offer a discount for fellow MWiDP authors as part of the deal.
We will also be going through all our listed titles individually, looking at blurbs and other opportunities to tweak the UK listings to suit the UK audience. For example, children’s authors have books listed as Middle Grade (MG), but this is meaningless to British readers, who have no idea what age-group Middle Grade might be. There are lots of similar tweaks that can be applied to increase your appeal to the British audience. And after that we’ll be looking at tweaking the blurbs on the am.de and am.fr sites to make them more appealing to our European readers. No sales on am.fr yet, but a few MWiDP authors are selling on am.de.
Where we’ve read and enjoyed the books we are offering to write a foreword which you may wish to include in your actual book upload file. This would be in Saffi’s name and the benefit is that you can then add “Foreword: Saffina Desforges” to your contributors list, which will appear alongside the author name on the amazon home page.
Essentially your book will then appear in the results for any search for “Saffina Desforges”, which of course is a Kindle best-selling brand, and also the top most-searched for name on Waterstone’s, the UK equivalent of B&N. We can’t promise the customer will then buy your book, of course, but it will certainly increase exposure.
Beyond that, several major initiatives to come.
To begin with, the first of our short-story anthologies launches next month. As part of the Saffina Desforges Presents series, we open with the Kindle Coffee-Break Collection. A mixed genre pot-pourri of short stories backed by the Saffina Desforges brand.
Seven-to-ten authors in an anthology volume introduced by Saffi and with links to the authors’ other works included. Just one more way we at MWiDP are seeking to add value to your work.
This is the first of an open-ended series. More short stories needed for future volumes!
Secondly, we are in discussion with a number of international ebook outlets looking to get all the MWiDP titles listed on their sites. There is a keen interest in English language books in “foreign” lands, and also many English speaking countries like India, Pakistan, Singapore, Nigeria, etc, that have small ebook outlets that will grow and grow. Most such outlets do not handle self-published works, but as a “publisher” we can potentially open doors closed to indies going direct. The more authors we have on board, the stronger our ability to access these retail sites with your titles.
At the moment the key sticking points are currency exchange and payments issues. Given the small sales expected at this stage the cost far outweigh the returns, but as we bring more and more titles into the MWiDP portfolio so this problem will diminish. More on this as it unfolds.
Thirdly, we are creating the MWi ebook store, a direct-sales website where international buyers can purchase your ebook direct in whatever format they require, paying through Paypal, Google Check-Out, etc.
This should be up and running before the New Year – hopefully next month – and while of course we can’t begin to compete with Amazon’s one-click service, we can supply direct to anywhere in the world.
Important to understand Amazon does not do this. Amazon may be the world’s biggest bookstore, but it doesn’t supply ebooks to the world. Far from it.
As a resident in West Africa I cannot open an Amazon account, and I cannot even view most ebooks on am.com. I can only access and buy from Amazon through my pre-existing UK account. The same goes for many other parts of the world. Amazon is a closed shop to half the world’s population!
And for those places Amazon do actually download to, they add a $2 surcharge, even on “free” books!
So the new MWi e-book store will have potential to reach readers Amazon cannot. Sales won’t be huge, of course, but the more ways we can extend our reach the better. Every little helps.
Finally, as authors ourselves we are regularly in contact with, and contacted by, agents and occasionally publishers and other third parties interested in our work. None have yet come up with an offer interesting enough to tempt us. But where we come across any third party who we feel is genuine and likely to be interested in your particular work or genre you can be sure we will make a recommendation where appropriate. It may be nothing comes of it, but just possibly it will be a connection worth making.
As we begin the countdown to the Holidays a reminder to all that this is marathon, not a sprint.
We can’t guarantee a single extra sale, only extra exposure and opportunity, and while a few lucky authors have seen instant leaps in chart position, the real test is if we can make a long term improvement to your prospects.
Hopefully we will all see gains as we go into “the Holidays”, with all those new ereaders coming onto the market (an estimated 2.5 million KindleFires pre-ordered for November alone) and the big surge over Christmas and into January.
Of course for the US authors the main aim is getting a foothold in the UK / European market that they can build on.
But for MWiDP as a whole the real benefit is longer-term, building links, making friends and helping support one another. The more we do that the more we can all compete with the muscle and money of the traditional publishers as they shift inexorably to digital.
Christmas 2011 may be yet to come, but at MWiDP we’re already thinking about Christmas 2012 and beyond.