Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Writing Nemesis & AMAZON UPDATE

by Michelle Gagnon

Now, I bet you think I'm going to write something cute about how some of my own personal writing habits are my own worst enemy, right? Nope. The truth is, I have actual writing nemeses out there--all authors so. It's the dirty little secret that few of us ever confess to. Because here's the thing; when your book hits the shelves, it's directly competing against all the other releases that week (in addition to the books that go on sale in the weeks leading up to publication, and the ones for a month or so afterward). There's a reason that we compulsively check Amazon rankings during those critical first few weeks; many publishers keep close tabs on early sales to determine if a) they'll continue to publish your work, and b) if you merit an extra marketing push, or if the book will be left to languish.

There is quite literally not enough shelf space for all the new releases (even less now that so many stores have shuttered); and some will get prime placement, while others are crowded together in the stacks, with only the spine showing. It takes a truly dedicated reader to turn from those table overflowing with mountains of books to a perusal of the spines. And either way, your book will only be physically present in a store for anywhere from a few weeks to, at most, a few months after publication.

Which brings me back to my nemesis. Because not only is my book competing with every other book released in the same time frame, it's also been directly competing for marketing dollars and attention with the other books being released by my publishing imprint. 

And one of those authors, unbenownst to her, is my current nemesis.

Our books were released on the same day, so keeping tabs on her sales gives me a sense of how we're performing with regard to each other. Because there's an excellent chance that our next books will share a release date, too. And if one of our books takes off, and the other doesn't, when the sales and marketing team is trying to decide which novel to push in August 2013, guess which one they'll go with?

I know authors who went ballistic when a competing major author switched to "their" release week, claiming it stole their chance to make a bestseller's list. I've never gone so far as that, but I've certainly experienced frustration when another author with the same publisher received a marketing benefit that my book was denied.

I had a different nemesis with my debut novel, a lovely man whose own debut received the bulk of co-op placement and marketing dollars from our publisher. Oh, how I loathed him at the time. It's really not so different from an office environment. When a good friend gets a promotion, merited or not, it's difficult not to struggle with the green-eyed monster; especially if you felt it was a promotion you were owed. Well, it's no different for writers. Although our water coolers are virtual, and every day is casual Friday.

And that's our dirty little secret.

ADDENDUM: AMAZON UPDATE
I was checking my book's pages last night, and inexplicably, DON'T TURN AROUND is suddenly listed as a paperback, not a hardcover; the Kindle version can no longer be ordered at all, and none of the books are linked on each others' pages anymore. Maybe I'm paranoid, but this feels a lot like retaliation for my blog post about Amazon deleting legitimate reviews...




13 comments:

  1. great post Michelle! Do you think with the advent of electronic publishing that the traditional concept of the "competitor" has shifted? With no physical limitations to the number of books available, most of which can be sold at lower prices due to no overheads, buying one author's book does not preclude them from buying another. Thanks to this, coupled with unlimited shelf life, a reader doesn't have to choose between authors anymore. They can have both!

    Would love to hear your thoughts

    Nick

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  2. Hurdles beyond hurdles. It's a competitive market place, for sure. Hope your books continue to kick nemesis butt.

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  3. The whole thing about coop advertising and bookstore placement is Byzantine. Factor in non-bookstore venues (drugstores, airports, big-box stores, etc) and your head will explode.

    I just read today that 39 percent of all book sales are now online. Which makes me wonder what Nick just said: things are shifting away from the old publishing models so fast we can't keep up.

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  4. Thanks, Nick! That's an interesting question- I think it's less of an issue for indie authors who self-publish, but in the traditional arena, I believe it's still relevant. Coop space and marketing budgets are definitely something we all battle for.
    Thanks, Julie!

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  5. I too have a mortal nemesis in the writing world. His name is Roger Rodrigo Emmanuel Robert Rodriguez Culpepper the Third. He's not been born yet, but he is my nemesis nonetheless.

    My cousin Leonard met him in 2097, while on a time machine outing to search for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe that exists in the future, with intent to exploit it now for extra beer money. While searching he ran into the young RRERRC3, (everyone who wishes to be anyone in the future all have 2 first names, 2 middle names, 2 last names, and a generational number regardless if anyone else in the family ever had the same name). RRERRC3 as it turns out looks exactly like me, which is to be expected since as Leonard learned he is my clone taken from DNA after my death on my 104th birthday in 2072.

    While RRERRC3 looks exactly like me his personality is very unlike mine, considerably darker and not very honest. He stole Leonard's time machine, went back to three years from now (2015) impersonated me in the bidding war for the movie sale of the novel I am now working on, collected the unbelievably large check, cashed it, used the money to buy stock in a Richard Branson startup company called Virgin Kitchens Unlimited, then skipped back to the future where V.K.U. has become the multi-zillion dollar producer of humanoid kitchen helper femme-bots all of which are designed with digitally color coordinated miniskirts and the amazingly popular line of Geisha-bots. Both were developed much to the chagrin of Sony and Panasonic both of whom Branson bought out for the comparatively measly sum of $4-gajillion but returned him a 100-fold profit.

    So RRERRC3 becomes CEO of V.K.U., their youngest CEO ever at 26. But thanks to Leonard taking his time machine back and telling me of RRERRC3's duplicity, I have settled my revenge already. Unknown to him I have the future foresight to plant in my DNA a defect that will create extremely painful hemorroidal boils on his tushy that are programmed to appear the day he attains the CEOship of V.K.U. and specially formulated to expand to double size every time he touches money or sees a pretty girl.

    Yes, Roger Rodrigo Emmanuel Robert Rodriguez Culpepper the Third, you are my nemesis. But I will have the last laugh.

    Oh, as to the future cookie recipe, as it turns out Nestle Toll House cookies is as good as it gets apparently.

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  6. I never thought about other authors being competitors of mine -- not in the same sense that people in retailing or accounting compete -- until I read about Amazon deleting customer reviews written by fellow authors because they have "directly competing" products. I just never considered my author friends to be competitors. I never even considered the points you make in this post. Am I naive to think that there is room for everyone in publishing?

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  7. I'm hoping the Amazon problem isn't anything more than a temporary glitch! I think most writers would have someone who they track and compare themselves too - definitely a dirty little secret:) but this game is a long one and persistence pays off so we shouldn't get too hung up on these sort of comparisons. I swear every author no matter how successful feels frustrated, bitter or like a failure sometime because someone else sold better, got more marketing dollars etc...it can be like high school all over again (shudder)!

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  8. Release dates, co-op money, store placements & ad dollars are decisions made early on & factored into the pro-forma budget that derives the advance an author gets made. I see these things as beyond my control and business decisions of the publisher. If I sweated over other authors promo & success, it would drive me crazy & cause me to lose focus on my own work. I don't see other authors as competition. Launches are stressful enough, but I will admit that I didn't feel this way when my first few books came out. Ha!

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  9. Regarding Amazon, have you tried fixing things through Author Central? Query that & logon with your Amazon account. You can edit & fix things that way. As for books not being linked, I had that happen recently & heard on an author loop that I could contact Amazon via they customer service rmail addy. I think I found that contact info on my book page. I sent an email & Amazon fixed it in a day. Hope you gets everything fixed. Technical problems can be frustrating, especially for a recent release. Good luck, Michelle.

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  10. Don't get me started on Amazon and the errors they make. It took me (and my publisher) months to get them to fix the fact they spelled my name wrong, meaning no one could find my books.

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  11. Genius, Basil, as always.
    Oh no, PJ! I have heard of that happening before. The team at Harper has been hard at work on this all day. Now the Kindle page is fixed, but it's still listed as a paperback, not a hardcover. Maybe it's just a glitch--I am, after all, a huge conspiracy fan for a living. But maybe not...

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  12. Kathryn here, checking in from the road, in Hong Kong. And speaking of conspiracy theories, our little group has suddenly been denied entry into mainland China, where we were supposed to spend 5 days at a five-star hotel in Shanghai. We're scratching our heads trying to imagine what could possibly be so threatening to the Central Commissar about our little troupe of writers and expatriates. We'll probably never figure it out, so we'll go to Taipei, instead. Paging Hillary! :)

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  13. There's always going to be someone who gets better ratings, more reviews, better perks, or film options when we languish in the great midlist pit. As we've heard before, our journey is our own. Don't try to follow someone else's or it will eat away your creative energy.

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