Good-Bye CreateSpace, Hello Problems

Those who keep up with the Indie publishing scene will likely know that Amazon is closing CreateSpace and shifting its paperback publishing arm to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I’ve gone through CreateSpace for my self-published print-on-demand paperbacks and used both KDP and Smashwords for my eBooks. Recently, KDP started offering paperback printing services to it’s eBook authors. Now Amazon is closing CreateSpace. In the announcement email, we were told that we could either transfer our books from CS ourselves, or they would do it automatically in the near future.

I’ve been extremely happy with CS, so like most of the other authors who have published through them, am sorry to see this turn of events. Because of that I expected to see grumblings on the CS community forum, but it’s worse than that. People are having significant problems with KDP to the point of looking for different printing venues. Common complaints include dropping book sales, limited font availability, awkward author dashboard, decreased royalties, books suddenly becoming unavailable on Amazon, and little to no technical support. Both cover and interior book files which passed CS’s reviewing process are being rejected by KDP.

Everyone is scratching their heads over the whole thing. and authors’ speculations are not flattering. The most common sense explanation is that Amazon rushed into a business decision without taking the time to analyze potential problems and properly prepare for the move. Considering that so many authors are having problems but can’t get help, it looks to me as though Amazon has simply lost interest in POD book publishing.

None of this instills confidence in the direction Amazon is taking its print-on-demand publishing service. I used to be an enthusiastic promoter of CreateSpace, but suddenly find myself considering other options. That will take some work, but apparently, so will transferring my print books to KDP. At this point I’m thinking I may as well save myself the headaches of the latter.

eBook Purchase Options Indefinitely Unavailable

I have to make the unfortunate announcement that purchase options for my eBooks through Smashwords and it’s outlets (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Scribd., etc.) are indefinitely unavailable. This is not something I ordinarily would have chosen to do, because I believe people should be able to choose where they purchase their eBooks and the format they want. I made this decision because last year PayPal made two unauthorized withdrawals from my bank account. They weren’t for large amounts, the first was for about $36 and the second for about $12, however, this not only set up an alarm, but also sent me in search of answers.

For each withdrawal I first searched my PayPal activity record to make sure I hadn’t forgotten about them. When I couldn’t find a corresponding purchase amount, I went through my emails in search of an old purchase receipt for that company in that amount. When I could find neither, I filed a report in PayPal’s resolution center. The auto-reply in each case said I would hear back within a week or less.

The first time I waited several weeks without hearing a response to my case. The auto-reply is a no-reply, so I went back to the PayPal resolution center and discovered that my case file had disappeared. It was neither under open nor closed cases. I filed again with the same result. I finally went to the PayPal forums and asked for help. Someone had a number to call, which I did. After making several tries with the auto-options, I finally got a computer voice that told me I had filed for a refund back in 2016 and had lost. Good grief, if I had money coming to me wouldn’t I remember that? And for it to take over a year to be resolved? That didn’t make sense. What made it more puzzling was that the amount was for GBP. No other details were given that would have helped such as original transaction date and seller, and there was nothing on my activity records for 2016 to verify this. Even so, a record of my claim should have been in the resolution center for the entire time. I should have found it when I went to file the withdrawal the first time. But there was no claim.

Last month I found another unauthorized debit to my account from a company called Enumber NJ. There was a phone number, which I called, but it just hooked me up to PayPal’s automated phone answering system. Once again I first checked my PayPal activity records but there was nothing for that amount by that company. I opened another case in the resolution center. While I waited for a reply I tried to find information on this company. The only thing I learned is that they are a foreign company that has filed to do business in the U.S. No mention of what that business is or what they sell. They have no website.

When I heard back from PayPal all they said was that the debit was consistent with my activity record. Again, no date, no reason why the amount appeared nowhere on my record, no details about the company. This time my case did not disappear, but was placed in closed cases. It simply said “transaction not covered.” The only information I can find on this is that it has something to do with seller protection. I’m not a seller so I don’t understand what that means.

I later found quite a few complaints about this on the PayPal community forum. The official explanation is that the Enumber charge is because the buyer didn’t have enough money in their PayPal account and this is the fee for them using your backup bank account. Huh? I thought the purpose of PayPal was to pay directly from my bank account. I missed the memo that this was now just a back-up and that I would be charged $12 any time money was debited from my bank account. Even worse, I haven’t purchased through PayPal for months, so what purchase am I being fined for?

Anyway, this tale of woe is to explain why I have discontinued Smashwords publishing for the time being. Smashwords royalties are paid via PayPal, but it’s too nerve-wracking to leave things as is. It’s a horrible feeling to check my bank account online and be afraid more money has disappeared, especially when there’s nothing I can do about it. The bottom line is that I no longer trust PayPal.

I’ll conclude with the standard “apologies if this is an inconvenience” blah, blah, blah. Honestly thought, I hate that it’s worked out this way. My eBooks can still be purchased through Amazon.

 

Update on the Odd Amazon Categories

When I saw this

#1 Best Seller in Caribbean History???

#1 Best Seller in Caribbean History???

I knew it was time to do something. I went to Author Central and sent a message to Amazon. They responded quickly and told me how to select other categories. I asked them to delete “Caribbean & West Indies” and “White Collar Crime” and asked to add “Sustainable Agriculture”.  I could have added another but couldn’t find one I thought fit.

Amazon_new_categories2I’m happy with the Best Sellers Rank in the new category, although I’m sure it has more to do with less competition in that category. These rankings do fluctuate wildly, even so, it’s encouraging to have stayed on these lists for as many months as I have. Here’s hoping future books do as well.

 

Odd Book Stats At Amazon

I like to check my book’s Amazon page from time to time, to see if there are new reviews and to see if it’s still on the Sustainable Living best seller list. I was surprised to discover it was ranking on two additional best seller lists as well –

odd+at+Amazon

#3 in “Caribbean & West Indies” best sellers? Really? Was it the mention of heavy seasonal rains in Chapter 3, “Setting Priorities”? Or my discussion of solar energy in Chapter 8, “Energy Self-Sufficiency”?

How about #4 in “White Collar Crime”? Was it that part about doing in the rooster, in Chapter 11, “Difficult Things”?

By what stretch of the imagination does 5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead come close to either of those categories! It’s great to have such high rankings, but I’m afraid anyone purchasing a copy based on those ranks in those categories will be sorely disappointed.

Crafts, Home, and Hobbies > Sustainable Living was the category I chose when I published the book. I’ve been very pleased with my ranking in that category.

I asked about this on the CreateSpace community forum and learned that sometimes Amazon adds categories (based on ???). Also, that I can request to be added to categories. I reckon I’d better find something more appropriate than the two they selected.

Smashwords

Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of eBooks. Many authors choose to go with Amazon’s Kindle publishing program, but there appear to be some excellent reasons for going with Smashwords.

Kindle offers only one eBook format for its various Kindle readers while Smashwords offers all formats, so that one can purchase and download books for any eBook reader including iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, B&N Nook, Kobo, of even one’s computer. Broader distribution channels is a very practical reason for not wanting to go exclusively with Amazon. Philosophically, it represents a choice not to contribute to another big corporation’s attempt at monopolizing a given market.

A third option appears to be going with both. I read about this on the CreateSpace Community Forums. Many authors apparently publish on both venues to take advantage of Amazon’s higher royalty rates for its own authors, plus take advantage of sales to other eReader owners. Care must be taken in selecting sales channels on Smashwords, but it seems to be a popular way for authors to go.

So why am I blogging about eBooks? Am I going to publish an eBook edition of 5 Acres & A Dream The Book? Or perhaps upcoming Critter Tales? No, I tend to include a lot of photos. eBooks do best with text, so I will continue to publish my homestead books as paperbacks. What’s happened is, I have found myself researching this for a different author. I figured I might as make a record of what I’m learning and share it with others as well. So stay tuned for my take on what I find out.

Gradually Expanding Sales Channels

I finally got listed on Barnes & Noble. That means my participation in expanded distribution is kicking in. On the one hand it’s good, because it means more options for people. The way the expanded distribution is set up, however, it means lower royalties. No matter, the point is to sell books. Not that I’m expecting to make my fortune, but getting it into the hands of others who like it is a rewarding feeling.

I also signed up to participate in Amazon Associates affiliate program. Apparently quite a few CreateSpace authors do this. It means that if someone clicks through on the book link on my blog or website and purchases the book, the associate gets a small percentage. The percentage is calculated on the entire purchase, which could be nice. For selling one to seven items through that link I can get 4%. If I sell a total of 8 items, I can get 6%. I confess I have mixed feeling about monetizing my blog, and have turned down every request for an ad or guest post I’ve received. Since this is my link, or links for products I’m pointing out to others, I’m going to give this a try. Again, no fortune, just content with every little bit that helps.

Selling Books The Long Way Around

Recently I learned about a site that will track down books from online sellers based on the book’s ISBN. The site is GetTexbooks.com. I check it occasionally for new listings of my book. I add these to my Kikobian website so folks can see their options.

The other day I found it was now listed on AbeBooks.

AbeBooks_listing

Click on the image to enlarge it. Notice the price.

List price US$ 12.95
Price US$ 23.73
Shipping US$ 9.83
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.

Would anyone really pay almost double the retail price just to get it shipped from overseas when it can be printed here at home? Needless to say, I will not be adding this one to my list of “Where to buy.”

So Far So Good

It was a week ago today that I made the official announcement on my blog about the release of my book. I have to say that the response has been encouraging, humbling, exciting, and a relief. To date, I have sold a total of 38 copies; 34 through Amazon.com, 3 through Amazon.co.UK, and one through Amazon Europe, although I don’t know from which one, France, Germany, Spain, or Italy.

I have my homesteading blog to thank for those sales. Since the book is based on my blog, there is a somewhat ready-made market there. Still, it is a niche book and won’t be of interest to everyone. Even so, the feedback I’m starting to get is encouraging. I knew I wouldn’t make a lot of money at this, but my goal was to encourage others with similar interests. I tried to do this by telling our story, of our ups and downs, and what we learned from them. So much of homesteading is breaking new ground in terms of knowledge and skills. I learn a lot from others and hope others can learn a lot from me.

Besides my two wonderful reviews on Amazon (so far), I’m going to make a “What readers say” page on my publishing website. I can link to that from both this and my homesteading blog. Promoting one’s book is a huge task but makes the difference between sales or no sales. My hope is that my book has enough merit for folks to recommend it to others, gift it to others, and help spread the word.

I should mention that collecting royalties requires a minimum before they are paid out. I can’t find the exact figures for all of them, but I think it’s a minimum of $10 in royalties to receive it from Amazon US. It’s similar for the other channels, so it’s entirely possible to sell books but never get a cent for them because the royalty threshold has never been met.