Victim of a Price War?

Today I received an email from Kindle Direct Publishing content investigation notifying me that Walmart is listing one of my titles below the list price I set. ($11.48 instead of $12.95. In addition, they are offering the book at a “rollback” price set the same as Amazon’s discount.) KDP informed me I need to adjust the list price in accordance with their price matching policy. The problem is, I don’t want Walmart to display an incorrect retail list price!

My expanded distribution is through Ingram Spark, where the list price is set the same as KDP. Obviously, I don’t want to start lowering my book’s price just because retailers want to engage in a price war. I’ve contacted IS, but they say they can do nothing. I’ve contacted Walmart, but so far have received no reply. I replied to KDP content investigation to state that I did not authorize Walmart to lower the list price. I asked for their help. In addition I queried the KDP community forum, but so far my question is still under review.

Of course, a lower list price means lower royalties. But the real problem is that if two or more sellers get into a price war and the author is required to adjust their selling price, then the author is no longer in control of pricing their books. Having that control is one of the benefits of being self-published.

Hopefully this is just a mistake, not a true price war, and Walmart will make the correction. If they refuse, then even if I lower my list price there’s nothing to stop them from lowering their’s again. That could be a problem, because there is a limit as to how low I can price my titles, based on print costs and seller’s discount.

At this point, all I can do is wait and see what happens.

Writing Workflow

I’ve always liked to consider myself an organized person. For example, I use the geologic filing system for all important papers. Everything is on my desk in a pile with the oldest material on the bottom, the newest on top. This actually works quite well, until I tidy things up and put everything someplace where I will remember where it is. (Ha!)

Computers are supposed to make organization better. That may be true in theory, but I can’t seem to get my practice in line with that. I usually end up with documents, links, and other bits and pieces of information spread out all over my computer. It takes just as long or longer to find things on my computer as it does on my desk.

When I’m working on a writing project, that won’t do, especially when it comes to numerous rewrites and edits that occur during the creative process. It took awhile, but I finally worked out a simple way to keep track of where I am.

I keep a folder on my desktop named for the book I’m working on. Inside that folder are subfolders: chapters, cover, end matter, front matter, images, research, and Zim files. Zim is a desktop wiki which I find invaluable for notes, outlines, deleted cuts, and keeping track of links.

The folder I access most often while I’m writing is chapters. Like most writers, I tweak a chapter every time I read it. I’ve discovered, however, that days later I sometimes don’t like my tweaks as well as my original. If I’ve been continually overwriting a chapter, the best I can do is hope my memory can get the words back.

I’ve learned that the easiest way to keep track of what I’ve written in the past is to save the chapter under today’s date as soon as I open it anew. I have a series of the same chapter, all dated according to when I worked on it. All available to go back to compare and pick and choose what best says what I want to say.

Simple, I know. But sometimes it takes awhile of experimenting with systems to figure out that simplest is always the best.

Files Uploaded, Now We Wait

I found Kindle Create a breeze to use and successfully created a textbook replica file of 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. Then I created a JPG cover file. I uploaded both files to KDP, reviewed the interior in the online previewer and clicked on “Publish.” Now it will be reviewed and hopefully should be live on Amazon within the next 72 hours.

Using Windows Software on a Linux Machine

So if I want to convert a PDF copy of 5 Acres & A Dream The Book into an eBook, how do I do that if the conversion software isn’t compatible with my operating system? The answer? I must create a virtual machine on my computer that can run Windows. How do I do that? With Oracle’s VirtualBox.

VirtualBox is virtualization software. It can be installed on any host operating system, and be used to run a huge variety of guest operating systems. My host OS is Xubuntu Linux. My guest OS will be Windows 10. VB does this by partitioning off a small section of my hard drive and installing Windows there. When I start VB and choose Windows, it opens Windows in a private space within Xubuntu. On my desktop it looks like any other window. If I maximize that window, then you’d never know it was any other than a Windows machine.

Once I had VB installed I added the VB extension pack. After I installed Windows, I added Guest Additions. Both of these increase the functionality of Windows as a guest OS on my computer.

The challenge, then, is to share files between the two. I have my PDF on Xubuntu, but since Win 10 is sandboxed, how do I let Windows access it? And how do I get a copy of my finished Windows work back to my regular OS? For that I had to create a shared file as part of a networking system between Xubuntu and Windows. Once I had that created and added my PDF file, I was able to download and install Kindle Create within Windows and get started on my project. The completed project is saved to the same shared file, so that I can upload it to KDP when it’s ready.

From Paperback to eBook: 5 Acres & A Dream The Book

Five years ago when I published 5 Acres & A Dream The Book I didn’t give electronic publishing a thought. I wasn’t especially big on eBooks, because I like nothing better than the look and feel of a real live book in my hands. I like seeing books on my bookshelves. And I like knowing that the books I want to read and keep will be available, even if my electronic device is not.

Finally, out of curiosity I bought a Kindle. I found that I liked the convenience of being able to keep numerous books on a small, handheld device, especially fiction. Then I began to dabble with creating eBooks for my Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. I learned the differences in formatting and how to make a flowable book for eReaders. I didn’t find them very convenient for images and graphs, however. I couldn’t fathom the many homestead maps in 5 Acres & A Dream The Book being legible on a small electronic device; it was hard enough to see them on the pages of a 6×9 inch paperback.

The real show stopper, however, was the file size of both 5 Acres & A Dream The Book and Critter Tales. Both are photograph heavy (something my husband thought was important), so the interior book files are quite large. Too large for the maximum limits of most eBook producers. So the idea was moot even if I had wanted to take such a plunge.

Recently the idea has come to mind once again. While Smashwords still maintains a 10 MB maximum file size limit, Kindle Direct Publishing and Lulu and greatly increased theirs. So much so that my most optimized PDF version of both books is within the new limits.

Even with this new possibility there is a problem. Most eBook publishers prefer to convert .doc files. These are easy enough to make and upload, but for my paperback books I never created a ready-to-print .doc file. I created PDF/X files, which is the standard preferred by print publishers. To create a .doc (or .docx) file would mean starting from scratch! Honestly, I have too much on my plate to do that; I’d rather continue working on 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel.

The other day something at KDP caught my eye – Kindle Create. Kindle Create is a program which can convert PDF files into “Print Replica eBooks” for Kindle. It maintains the print book’s layout and formatting while converting it into a mobi file. That sounded like the perfect solution for me.

The “glitch” is that Kindle Create must be downloaded to use and is for Windows or Mac only. Since I use Xubuntu Linux, that is indeed a problem. But not an unsolvable one. More on that next time!

Transferring Titles to Ingram Spark

With all of the problems indie authors have been having with Amazon’s replacing CreateSpace with Kindle Direct Publishing, I thought it might be a good time to transfer my paperback titles to a more stable platform. This is possible because I own my books’ ISBNs. As long as I use the same files with the same ISBN, I can have my books printed from as many sources as I wish. In fact, many authors publish through both Ingram Spark and CreateSpace, because IS gives greater royalty flexibility for non-Amazon distributors. For books sold through Amazon, royalties are higher for books published through their printers, hence the strategy to go through both.

The process of transfer was certainly easier than directly uploading the files to IS. I created an account and then contacted IS staff, explaining what I wanted to do. They advised me to reach out to CS to give them a heads up, and then remove all my titles from Amazon’s Expanded Distribution. Expanded Distribution covers all non-Amazon sales. Royalties are smaller through Ex. Dist., which is the reason for choosing IS for these sales.

It took a while because my request was initiated right before the big push to close CS and get everything moved to KDP. But both sides were cooperative and very helpful, and eventually, I received word from IS that the transfers were complete. Now I have to learn their ropes! Best of all, transferred files don’t require the IS processing fee, so moving all four titles was free.

My new titles will be be published through both KDP and IS.