Growing up, I always heard how two things were absolutes — death and taxes. Now, there are ways to get around the taxes part, at least if you want to risk big fines and possible prison. Death, not so much. For everything else there are shades of grey (get your minds out of the gutter. This is NOT a post about a certain series of books. Sheesh. VBG) Unfortunately, all too often we resort to absolutes in trying to make a point. The problem with that? Almost every time that absolute argument will come back to smack you in the face.
I was reminded of that this morning when I saw a reply to a comment I’d made on one of the various social media platforms. I’d referenced a discussion thread on another platform and was told that everything on that particular platform was nothing but bullshit. Every single thing on every thread on every part of the platform.
Maybe I’d not had enough coffee — hell, I hadn’t had any yet — or maybe it was the fact an absolute I knew was wrong had been thrown in my face, but it got my back up. Twice I started to respond and twice discretion won out over impulse, thankfully. Instead of hitting back — and it would have been easy — I simply responded with personal experience concerning the original topic of the comment we’d been discussing. It was better all the way around and, let’s face it, I don’t have time for a flame war. There are better things to do with my time than that.
Besides, my ulcer thanks me for not getting into flame wars these days.
But here’s the thing. When you say something is all good or something is all bad, especially something as broad and wide reaching as a social media platform, you’d better be prepared to defend your position. Better yet, instead of resorting to absolutes, give specifics. Tell me why something is wrong or why it is right. I am more likely to take your argument into account if you do than if you simply tell me I’m full of it..
The same goes when we’re talking publishing and what platforms we, as indies, should be focusing on. Some of us have had wonderful experiences releasing widely. Others, like me, have found it isn’t worth our time to release across all the different platforms and have seen more money coming in by sticking with just Amazon and going with the KU option. Just as no one book is the same as the next (unless it’s been plagiarized, no one career is going to be the same as the next). For every horror story about Amazon, I can find someone who has had a similar problem with one of the other platforms.
Here’s the thing, none of the platforms are perfect. They rely too much on automation. Some make it more difficult than others to actually speak to someone who can help you if you have a problem. All we, as writers, can do is keep a wary eye out on each platform, even those we aren’t publishing with, and try to stay one step ahead.
For example, the posts I’ve done over the last few days talk about refocusing and possibly relaunching a series. As part of that, I downloaded the Amazon mobi of the first book of the series yesterday. Why use that one instead of the one I have in my files? Because I wanted to recheck the formatting after it had gone through their “conversion” process. I put conversion in quotes because I upload mobi files to Amazon, so there is very little “conversion” that has to take place. But there is enough that, on occasion, changes to my original formatting occur.
What I discovered is that I was very close to being in violation of their current Terms of Service. Why? Because the bonus material at the end of the book came very, very close to their limit. Yes, my heart gave a little hitch and I had a moment of panic when I realized it.
It also drove home the point that we have to revisit our older titles because the ToS does change. What might have been within the guidelines initially could very well be in violation of them now. So I will be checking everything that came out more than two years ago to make sure I am in compliance. By doing so, I give myself both the time and the opportunity to update links and other information in the books. I’m not talking editing but those bits of “business” we put in our books to not only protect our copyright but to encourage readers to contact us or buy our other books.
So, along with everything else I had on my plate, I’ve added that and it is going to the top of the list. I recommend everyone who has posted additional content at the end of your books do the same. According to Amazon, we are limited to 10% of our book when it comes to bonus material.
This is the bit most authors who have found themselves in trouble with Amazon have either not realized is part of the ToS or they’ve decided to ignore the rule. “Primary and bonus content must meet all program guidelines (e.g., bonus content in KDP Select titles must be exclusive). Translated content must be high quality and not machine generated. Disruptive links and promises of gifts or rewards are never allowed. ”
Very simply put, your bonus content must be exclusive. This means it can’t be available anywhere else — and that includes your own website. If you want an exception to it, you need to contact Amazon and get it in writing. That is your only protection in case they come after you for violating the ToS.
“Promises of gifts or rewards”. This is another area where authors have gotten in trouble. You can’t link someone away from your book to another site and then promise them a freebie or discount if they do something. You can’t promise a free book in exchange for a review. Again, if you have a question about whether what you want to do is allowed under the ToS or not, contact Amazon. Get the answer in writing.
In other words, as I said the other day, treat it as a business. Doing so won’t solve all your issues but it will go a long way in solving most of them.