The Problem with Google Play if You’re an Author

It’s great that Google Play allows readers to buy directly from their store and read it on their android device.  As a consumer, it’s even better because Google Play steeply discounts books on their site.  My $3.99 book is only going to cost you $3.03.

Unfortunately, if you’re an author, it really sucks.  They say:

There is no cost for selling books on Google Play. You’ll receive the majority of the revenue from each sale, and your revenue share will always be based on the list price you provide.

Yet, I make $2.00 of that $3.99/$3.03 that my book is listed at.  No place else cuts into my royalties more than Google Play.  Even using Draft2Digital for distribution to Apple, Scribd, Kobo, ect, I make $2.57 of my $3.99 asking price.  Actually, I make $2.74 on Amazon, $2.59 on Nook, $2.57 on everything that Draft2Digital distributes, and approximately $3.00 if someone buys my book through the Smashwords website, which has happened exactly 11 times this year.

If you’re talking 10 ebooks, that $5.70 isn’t a big deal.  But I’ve sold 167 books on Google Play this month where I have made $2.00.  The difference is $95.10.  My sales on all sites are increasing, not decreasing.  Plus, Amazon offers price match, so what happens when they decide to discount my books to $3.03 to meet the Google Play price?  I go from making $2.74 a sale to $2.12 a sale.

It might sound like I’m whining, but it isn’t about whining, it’s about realizing what could happen.  I live off my royalties.  I don’t have a real job.  Writing books is all I do and some months every penny counts.  While the indie book publishing movement has been great for people like me (allowing me to skip traditional routes and start writing for a living without a contract that scares the snot out of me), it has some pitfalls: Google Play discounts my books by $0,96 thinking it will increase sales (and it doesn’t seem to work that way) and keeps it’s hosting fee of $1.00 leaving me with less money in my pocket.  The only solutions available to me are to suck it up and accept this $2.00 royalty or to increase the price of my book on Google Play (which completely negates their discounting in order to boost sales).

Now, here’s why I think the discounting doesn’t work.  The big three for me, in order, are Amazon.com, Apple, and B&N.  Behind this is Amazon UK, Kobo, Google Play, so it is the sixth largest retailer for my books.  I accounts for less than 5% of my total monthly sales.  As an author, I am aware of this cut in author’s royalties by discounted books, so while I buy books from Kindle, B&N, and even occasionally, Apple.  I never purchase the discounted books from Google Play.  I figure the author is like me and every penny counts, so I am willing to pay the regular list price on Amazon, B&N, or Apple.

July Kindle Edition Normalized Pages Read

I took the time this week to look at my July KDP report at more than just a passing glance.  As I studied it, I noticed there were totals for my pages read using the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages Read.  For those that haven’t been following the new KDP Select changes, authors with books enrolled in KDP Select are getting paid for pages read, not copies of their books *borrowed*.

I have a few “compilation books” in KDP Select.  You can read Tortured/Elysium together, Mercurial/Explosive together, Cannibal/Butchered together & the first four novellas in the Dysfunctional Chronicles.  Now, I don’t get a lot of pages read, most people just buy the books.  But for the sake of this post, I’m going to give you my figures for July.

3,479 pages read total on Amazon.com.

$20.10 made from total pages read on Amazon.com

$0.005779 is the price of each page read.

So, I made 1/6th of a cent for each page read on Amazon.com last month.

Now, my Tortured/Elysium combo book is 1,007 pages long and costs $0.99.  At 1/6th of a cent per page, I made $5.82 per completed book.  So, I made $5.47 more for the pages read than than the purchased book.

However, Mercurial/Explosive is 808 pages and $6.99 if you buy the combo ($7.98 if you buy them individually).  At 1/6th a cent per page, I made $4.67 per completed book.  This is $0.22 less than I make if I actually sell the book.

This month I have had 39,597 pages read.  At the going rate of $0.005779 per page, I’ll make $228.83. Now, 21,822 comes from books where I make $4.89 per sale.  21,822 pages is approximately 30 books.  30 books at $4.89 is $147.  However, pages read is only $125.

I’ve had 15,262 pages read of my $0.99 combo.  I make $0.35 per sale.  15,262 pages is approximately 15 books for this combo set.  Which means I would make $5.25 for sales, but I’m making $88.20 for the pages read.

The last is the 4 novella set.  I make $2.45 for each sale of this set.  This month, there have been 2,531 pages read of The Dysfunctional Chronicles which is roughly 4 books.  4 books at $2.45 is $9.74, but pages read is $14.63.

Now, I have a friend who offers all his books on KDP Select.  They are priced at $3.99 a book, he makes $2.74 off each sale.  The print book is 473 pages long, but the normalized pages is only 298.  So for each complete book he has read through KDP Select, he makes $1.72.  Meaning he is losing a full dollar each time his book is borrowed through Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.

My conclusion, KDP Select favors cheaply priced books or best selling authors… I have not had enough pages read to qualify for any of their “bounties” on any of my books.

A Little Darkness In All Of Us

A few weeks ago, I was discussing the Dreams & Reality books with a dart player.  Someone else had told them about my books and they were telling me about the encounter because he got to say “Hey, I know her personally.”  As the other person talked, he realized she was talking about my serial killer books.  When he saw me in person, he had to ask:  “You seem like such a nice, well-adjusted person and she was telling me how in one book you had someone eating kids.  Where did that come from?”

I would never consider myself nice or well-adjusted, but other people think I am and I refuse to argue semantics over whether I’m either nice or well-adjusted.  However, I will say that I think there’s a little darkness in all of us.

We all have that person or persons that we would rather set on fire than talk to, but we don’t, because that would be wrong.  Not to mention setting someone of fire for saying hello or asking how you are is just rude.  But those people still exist in our lives, all of our lives.  However, most of us don’t consciously think about what we could do to them, because that isn’t how normal people think (one could argue that normal people do in fact have these explorative thoughts, they just don’t vocalize or act upon them).

As a writer, I do explore these very thoughts.  I even vocalize them, in the form of the written word.  I don’t fantasize about killing everyone that irritates me, that would be an exhaustive use of time and I’d never get any book written.  But I do think about it.  I like to play the “What if” game.  I have been known to look at my friends and go “if they were a serial killer, how would they go about it?”  Which is where most of my serial killers come from.

For example, my best friend would be quick, but brutal.  I could see her hacking off people’s heads, executioner style.  She would disagree, but I think it would suit her.  My SO would stab people if he was a serial killer.  He’s pretty good at repressing emotions, so stabbing let’s him get the frustration out.  My mother would be creative, she’s just that kind of person, she’d slip nitroglycerin pills and Viagra to her victims.  It would be slow and painful, but not bloody because she doesn’t do well with blood.  My father is even worse with blood and gore than my mother (at least my mom watches zombie movies) and he is afraid of needles… so I think my father would have to hire someone to do the job for him… which means he technically wouldn’t be a serial killer.

I have never figured out how I would do it.  I’ve thought about it a lot and never come up with an answer.  One day, I will.

An UpdateOn The Break

Despite the physical mishaps, break is going great!  I feel creative!  I feel productive!  Some of this could be the meds, I am still taking some, although I have replaced the Percocet with Tylenol.  My broken tooth doesn’t hurt, which is amazing.  Although, I have not made it to the dentist.

I’ve finished The Dysfunctional Delivery and sent it to the content editor, who really didn’t like it.  I’m kind of hoping to have it back in a week or so with her notes so I can make it better.

The first Reality book is well underway.  I’m about 12,000 words into it.  Malachi appears to have a guy-crush on Caleb Green and he seems to have zero real personality.  I’m not sure why either of those things have happened, but I’m going to hammer out the story and then he and I will work on the details of his oddness… And I really do mean he and I.  To most, the fact that he’s a fictional character means that he should conform to what I want, but none of my characters bend to my will, because in my mind they are all individual people.  They even talk to me (yes, I know they make meds for that, but it isn’t that sort of problem).

I’m about 10,000 words into Legacies Awakened: Book 1 of the Death Demon Trilogy.  It’s going ok.  I’ve always had issues imaging immortals as “grown-ups”.  If one knows they can live forever, why should they have to be adult-like?  They don’t experience the myriad of things that us poor mortals experience, like loss and if they fail, well they have eternity to figure out how to make it work.  So, while most people think ancient beings would be very wise, I picture them as having the same attitudes as teenagers.

I’ve had some ideas for the next Dreams book, but I haven’t started writing it. I can’t have both Aislinn & Malachi trying to talk to me, I’ll go crazy and possibly start needing the medication for that sort of problem (I can only deal with so many crazies at one time).

And I just finished reading two books; one is called Pawn and isn’t available to the public yet, but was really good.  The other was The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker and it was amazing.  I haven’t read any other fiction books lately… I am reading a biography of Nikola Tesla that isn’t exactly what I expected it to be, the author has made some wild claims about some of Tesla’s “missing years” and “mysterious projects.”

Thinking Like Malachi

It is surprisingly difficult to think like Malachi Blake.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew it would be hard.  After all, he’s a psychopath.  His motivations are much different than the average person’s.  It seems only right that his thoughts would be significantly different than the average person.

When I write Aislinn Cain, I know that she doesn’t feel much, so she doesn’t talk about them much.  Her mind doesn’t catalogue extraneous information, so she’s oblivious to most of the world around her, hence the lack of in depth descriptive paragraphs.  She’s a narcissist, so everything relates to her.  She is motivated by a sense of right and wrong that isn’t always apparent to anyone but herself.

Malachi’s different.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s also a narcissist and believes the world revolves around him.  But he does have more feelings than Aislinn; he chooses to ignore them.  His mind catalogues everything, even if he doesn’t realize it.  He has no real sense of right and wrong.  He is less aware of himself, he cannot see most of his own shortcomings or fails to see them as shortcomings.

I find it hard to stay in his mindset.  I struggle to identify most of his motivations.  I grapple with which emotions he is willing to experience and which ones he is more likely to ignore.  And his mind wanders… holy crap!  Aislinn’s mind wanders too, but not like Malachi’s.  Malachi makes connections that even I, as his creator, cannot figure out.  I don’t know if that’s a sign of a bad writer or a well developed character.

However, I have definitely come to understand the differences between Aislinn and Malachi.  And appreciate them, immensely.

Ok, back to work.

Meds & Sleeping

I’m officially taking so many drugs, I’ve had trouble convincing myself to go to sleep.  So, I have drastically altered my sleeping schedule.  Here’s the schedule:

Percocet – Every 5 hours (1 pill, so I am getting better, however I do require 2 first thing in the morning to overcome my tossing and turning during the night).

Flexeril – Muscle relaxer 10mg taken 30 minutes before bed (for my bruxism, which is the fancy word for jaw clenching while I sleep… although it is currently helping with my back too).

Valium – One 5mg tablet every 8 hours.  I take them at midnight, 8 am, and 4 pm.  They make me very sleepy.

Klonopin – Two .5mg tablets taken 30 minutes before bed.

So here’s how it works:

At midnight, I take a Valium.  An hour later (1am), I take one Klonopin.  An hour after that (2am), I take the other Klonopin.  At 2:30, I take the Flexeril.  I stay up for another 30 minutes just to make sure I’m not going to have breathing problems or have my heart rate drop really low.  So, I climb into bed at 3.  I sleep approximately 5 hours on all those drugs before my back pain wakes me up, at which point, I get up, pop 2 Percocet and another Valium.  And the day starts all over again.  After the first dose of 2 Percocet, I can manage the pain with a single pill, every five hours (although, there are times when that last hour is a killer).  I’m hoping to get to six hours between doses by Monday.

I don’t worry about the day time meds.  They make me sleepy and they make me feel like a zombie.  But that’s how I feel on all narcotics.  It’s the night time stuff that actually bothers me.  I know the doctor told me it wasn’t a big deal to take the Valium, Klonopin, and Flexeril within a short time of each other, but it’s hard to convince myself it’s safe.  That’s a lot of medicated relaxation.  Two types of benzodiazepines plus a muscle relaxer just seems like a lot of drugs that cause drowsiness and relaxation of the muscles (including the diaphragm).

Reasons not to watch TV

I have consumed an unconscionable amount of television this week.  Not my “stand-bys” without commercials, but the stuff on my DVR.  I get that I can fast forward through commercials, but I don’t always remember… actually, I rarely remember.  I’ve tried doing stuff like reading, but I can’t stay interested due to the drugs.  I’m not a good narcotic user.

Anyway, back to the television.  As I watch episode after episode of whatever, I find myself also watching commercials. There is a lot of shit out there that I don’t need, but my brain seems to think owning them is a good idea.

For instance, I have now seen a commercial for a WiFi enabled doorbell that lets you answer the door from your smartphone.  I do not need this.  It’s rare for someone not to be home at my house.  However, the more I see the commercial, the more convinced I become that I need this doorbell.  I have no idea why.  I work from home.  I don’t own a car, which means if I have left the house, someone else is probably stuck at home, waiting for me to return their car.  Yet, for the rock bottom price of $??.99, it seems like a steal (I can’t remember the price).  My brain is imagining scenarios in which it might come in handy, but the truth is… It won’t.

I’ve begun to wonder if I need to start getting new quotes on my car insurance (yep, that’s complicated as hell and a story for another day).  I have a great rate and my insurance company doesn’t care who I add to my policy as long as they either live at my house or I co-own their car (which is why I have car insurance… I theoretically own half of my mother’s car and it was cheaper for me to get it in my name than hers).  In reality, I did get quotes on insurance at the beginning of the year and my provider was the lowest.  So, 8 months later, I’m doubting things have changed enough to make shopping for car insurance worth the effort.  I’m still considering it though.

I spent ten minutes talking myself out of buying an Amopee or whatever it’s called.  I don’t know why I would need one.  I don’t ever go barefoot.  I never wear sandals or flip-flops.  Hell, it’s hard to get me out of my socks.  I even sleep in them most nights.  Why do I need to shave the dead skin from my feet?  I don’t even have tough, dry, snaggable skin on my feet.  There is no way it should have been an “I want” item, let alone an “I need” item, which was how my brain interpreted it.  I’m not going to start wearing sandals or flip-flops just because I’ve shaved the bottom of my feet.  I’m not going to start walking around barefoot.  They aren’t going to “feel” better, because I don’t touch my feet let alone let other people touch my feet.

The real kicker though was when I saw the fake security cameras and started thinking about where I could place them.  I don’t believe security cameras deter that much crime.  I think it makes people pull their shirts up over their faces.  Then there’s the issue of there is always someone home at my house.  Anyone breaking into my house is in for a surprise, just because there isn’t a car in the driveway, doesn’t mean the house is empty.  Plus, if I did buy them and someone committed a crime on my property,I would have to explain that the cameras were for show.  I think that would be embarrassing.

These are just a few observations I’ve made lately on why I should watch TV.  You may now return to your George Foreman infomercial.

Lower Lumbar Strain

Who knew stress could lead to muscle strains?  I guess I do now.  Monday, I spent several hours in the ER in an attempt to figure out what I had done to my back.  After some tests and X-rays, it was categorized as a lower lumbar strain.

Essentially, I have pulled the muscles that connect by back to my legs.  The ER doctor, seeing I had an anxiety disorder, informed me that muscles can be weakened during times of extreme stress.  He looked over my current medications list and decided that I needed some help in the stress department as well as the pain department.

His prescription list: Percocet, Valium, and a note saying “less stress, no bending at the waist, and no household chores for at least one week.”  I’m supposed to continue to take my Flexeril (a muscle relaxer) and my Klonapin (another benzodiazepine) as I would normally.  The Percocet and Valium get taken as needed for pain.

I was kind of shocked by the amount of Valium he prescribed: 8 full days worth at 5 mg a pop.  So, for at least the first few days I will be taking 15 mg of Valium and 1 mg of Klonapin along with Percocet and Flexeril.  Needless to say, I’m feeling less stressed and incredibly stoned.

I’m also learning more about my lumbar.  There are things it does that I did not realize it did.  For example, while the muscles surrounding the bladder are useful for urination, the lumber region of your back also gets involved.  The lumber is involved in walking, sitting, laying down, standing, and everything else a person does during the day.  However, it also impacts the muscles above it.  My shoulders and mid-back are attempting to compensate for the lumbar strain and I feel these muscles working more when I am doing activities such as standing or sitting.

There are “dangers” to straining the lumbar muscles.  Without treatment, it can lead to spinal compression, tingling in my legs and feet, a change in spinal curvature, problems with urination, problems with constipation, headaches (just what I need), and spinal hernias.  These can become permanent.

It’s a good thing I called my doctor (who sent me to the ER because they would do tests that he couldn’t do in the office).  Now, I have over a week to wait to see the dentist… there are going to be a lot of dirty knives in my house.

Pricing Options

A few weeks ago, I began to look at my ebook prices.  There are just some countries where I do not sell books, even though English is a common secondary language or there are large populations of English speaking immigrants.

I took the time to actually look at my pricing, like most authors, for countries outside of my own, I just check the little boxes that say “base on US prices”.  I began to wonder if those little check boxes were hurting me.  Currency conversion rates flex every day, so it’s hard to change prices based on the fluctuations that occur there.

But I can price based on cultural information.  I’ll use India as my example; My $0.99 ebook is priced at 69 rupees when based on the US price.  Today, that’s $1.06.  I only make $0.35 when I sell it in the US, why am I making so much more when I sell it in India?  The truth is, I shouldn’t be.  Unfortunately, 49 Rupees is the lowest I can set my ebook in India, so I changed all my $0.99 USD to 49 Rupees instead of the 69 Rupee default on Amazon.

That was in June.  Today, if I sell an ebook for 49 Rupees, I’m making $0.75.  That’s more than I’m making on it in the US, UK, Canada, or Australia… but that 20 Rupee difference is even bigger in India.  Big enough, that once I dropped the price, I started to sell a few ebooks in India.  I’d only sold 6 in the last 3 years in India.  Suddenly, in a month and a half, I’ve sold 21.

Noticing an uptick in sales in India, I began to evaluate my prices in other countries.  I dropped the price in Japan and started selling more ebooks there.  I also dropped it in Canada and Australia and saw a decent rise in sales in those countries.

For some of these, I’m not making $0.35 on a $0.99 ebook, but quantity is making up for the exchange rate.  In other countries, I’ve dropped the price, the exchange rate and minimal price is still higher than my standard $0.35 and yet, I’m making more sales.

The other thing to keep in mind if you are writing a series, if you check that box, book 2 might be priced a whole lot different than book 3, because the exchange rate was different when the books were published.

The moral of the story: don’t be afraid to lower your prices in other countries.  Just because the retailer has a suggested price, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

My Weekend Can Be Summed Up With 2 Words: Nadine Daniels-esque

I started The Dysfunctional Delivery with a note from Nadine Daniels about her life being a source of entertainment for the universe.  It is something akin to a cosmic practical joke.  Unfortunately, I lived it this weekend and now have more sympathy for the character whose life I am constantly forcing to endure the most ridiculous situations.

I will start with Friday.  My best friend drove up from Springfield, Missouri to have lunch with me.  This went exceptionally well.  We had a great time hanging out and talking.  I should have ended my celebration with a sopapilla and a night at home watching horror movies.

I didn’t.

Friday was not just my birthday, it was the first night of the Governor’s Cup Dart Tournament.  This is a team oriented event for leagues and their players from all over the state of Missouri as well as players from a few surrounding states that also play darts in a Missouri league.  Our arrival was great.  Our room was wonderful, we rented a suite since it was my birthday weekend and the Columbia Dart Association team was made up of darters we see every week.  We unpacked, got settled in, made the rounds to say hi to darters that were arriving that we see only a few times a year at tournaments, but darters are a family… no matter how diverse and wide spread.

I will point out that this is a steel-tip tournament, which is a dying sport in the US.  It is being replaced by soft-tip.  In the US, soft-tip offers more money at tournaments than steel.  This is not the case outside the US.

Anyway, Friday was going well when all hell broke loose.  I can’t actually say what happened, because I’m still not entirely sure.  Somehow, I turned into a “bad guy” and a few ladies’ on my team got really pissed at me.  I’m still not even sure I understand why.  However, we worked it out as best we could and the weekend continued.  We will discuss random acts of rage at a later time.

Saturday, I awoke with a migraine.  Full-blown and kicking my ass, I popped some migraine meds, plastered on a smile, and made it through the events.  I didn’t shoot great, but I didn’t shoot terrible, my shooting was mediocre and consistent.  This did not help my team or my partners in the events.  It was an early night.  So, it sucked, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Sunday was.  I awoke without a headache.  I actually felt fine.  I was picking stuff up in our room (because while I realize the cleaning staff gets paid to clean up, I like to leave a tidy mess, a good tip, and a personal note), when I bent down, picked up an empty pizza box and pain shot from my rear end down to my feet.  For several minutes, I couldn’t stand upright.  I finally get myself standing and moving again, but that doesn’t help the pain.  I make it downstairs to the dart hall, primarily because we have doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and chiropractors that all play darts and I have no idea what the hell has happened to my behind (my first thought was that I had somehow fractured my tailbone when I bent over, which is strange, but I didn’t have another option for the pain at that time).  Thankfully, I didn’t fracture my tailbone, I pinched my sciatic nerve.  Okay!  I have some tramadol, I keep it for my migraines.  I pop two, because one isn’t going to do it.

Neither does two.  I shuffle back to my room.  Our group has ordered sandwiches from Jimmy John’s Subs.  I eat about 3/4 of my sub when I realize it feels odd to bite into my sandwich.  I chew.  That doesn’t feel strange.  So I take another bite and that same weird sensation happens.  I put the sandwich down, walk to the bathroom and the horror of the situation hits.  One of my front teeth has broken.  Not completely, just the back of it. However, when I touch it with my tongue, it moves forward.  Biting into my sandwich is no longer feasible.  I throw away the leftovers.  Now, one of my nieces is starting dental school this year.  She’s done tons of job shadowing and no matter how many doctors and nurses are downstairs, not a single one of them is a dentist, she’s the best I have.  I call her into the bathroom.

Now, I have known for 20 years that my teeth are decalcifying.  It’s a constant, irritating problem.  Some of my teeth have holes that can’t be filled because the decalcification causes the filings to weaken and break or fall out in a short time.  A couple of my teeth have actually been made worse by trying to fix them.  I’ve actually started having some of them pulled, because they were just beyond saving.  However, this is a front tooth.  I try not to be vain, but I’m not keen on the idea of walking around missing a front tooth.  But… my teeth aren’t just decalcifying where it can be seen, they are decalcifying under the gum line.  This makes caps and crowns kind of iffy.  The last dentist I saw told me I could spend the $20,000 to fix all my teeth, but in five years or less, most of it would have to be redone.  I don’t really like those odds.  My niece is fairly sure that if they attempt to cap or crown it, it will be like some of my other work and actually do more damage than good.

Great… Other options?  Implants!  I can have the tooth removed and get an implant.  I’m allergic to metal.  Yet, I do have one filing that is metal that has been in my mouth since I was fifteen (a few of my teeth actually grew in with holes in them, this filing is in one of them).  So, maybe I can do an implant.  My teeth aren’t strong enough for a partial.

I guess I will see what the day brings.

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