Writing as a Business

KDP’s New Age Range Features

I got an interesting email this morning over breakfast. Apparently KDP Amazon has added a new feature or two which is supposed to help market your e-books. You can now select an age-range and (if you’re marketing your books to schools) a grade-range for your works. The former goes from 0 to 18+, the latter from “Board books” and “Picture books” to “Teen and young adult chapter books”. The people who wrote the email recommend you generally space your minimum and maximum ages or grades within 3 to 4 years.

I have to say, it sounded intriguing and decided to try it. Neither the email nor the new options on KDP (listed where you can put and change your e-book’s general information) list how exactly these ranges help get your books to your customers, but I think Amazon probably knows the ages of its customers, and can target books to their customers based on age and past buying experiences. In any case, I thought I’d give it a try and see if anything happens.

The one thing I can see wrong with this new feature is that they don’t go higher than 18+ or “Teen and young adult chapter books”. It would be convenient to have options that go higher, seeing as 18+ is a pretty wide range and I’m sure plenty of people would like to put a range on their books that’s closer to college-level or higher.

Then again, this is the early stages of these options and there’s room for improvements. Maybe in a few months they’ll adjust the ranges to allow for more diverse ranges.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing how author’s book sales are affected by this. Will you be doing these age ranges? Do you see any problems with these new options? And do you think they’ll affect sales that much? Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Categories: Amazon store, Book Promotion, Business Plan, Digital & ePublishing, Marketing & Promoting, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

“Hey, That’s My Idea!”: When Works of Fiction are so Similar You Want to Sue

This morning an interesting story showed up on my Facebook feed: Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and director of the Avengers movies, was hit by a lawsuit over alleged copyright infringement. In the lawsuit, an author by the name of Peter Gallagher (not the actor) alleges that Joss Whedon and the film company Lionsgate, among others, stole the idea for the 2012 movie Cabin in the Woods from his own self-published novel The Little White Trip: A Night in the Pines, which he first put out in 2006. Apparently both the book and the movie have similar premises (spoiler alert!): a bunch of teens go hang out for the weekend in an old cabin, they’re attacked by monsters, and they find out they’re subjects in a horror-film scenario run by a strange organization or group. Gallagher also says that several of the characters in both works have similar names and personalities. No word yet on what the defendants in the case say or whether the lawsuit will actually go through or be thrown out of court (for the full story, click here).

Strangely enough, something similar happened to me last year. I was on Facebook and I saw on my news feed that a movie company that produces really interesting horror movies was getting ready to release a new film and had just uploaded its first trailer online. When I read the synopsis of the movie and saw the trailer, I was instantly reminded of a short story I wrote back in June 2013, one with an eerily similar premise and which I plan to expand into a novel when I get a chance. I will admit, the thought to sue did cross my mind.

But I didn’t. This was partly because I’d never published the short story. I’d sent it to a friend who recommended I expand it and I did speak of it one or two times on my blog, but beyond that it’s been languishing on the shelf until I feel it’s time to start expanding it. It’s a little too much to suppose that they somehow found a single post on my blog back in 2013 or maybe even hacked my flash drive and used that material to create their movie. That sounds more like a conspiracy theory or something.

Not only that, but I felt that what I was going for with my story set it apart enough from the movie in question that I didn’t need a lawsuit. And finally, I’m just finishing up my undergraduate degree. I have no time and none of the expenses for such a lawsuit, even if I was inclined for one.

But just because I didn’t feel that copyright infringement had happened here doesn’t mean it never happens. There are quite a few cases where judges have found that movie producers or book writers or TV showrunners have owed someone money over a possible infringement. Some ways to prevent yourself from being caught in either the plaintiff’s or defendant’s side include, of course, to seek out every copyright protection you can get. For example, with every book I publish I make sure to send it to the US Copyright Office first. I know, technically publication or sending it to myself in the mail is considered copyright enough, but it helps to have federal protection.

Another thing to do is, if you suspect that someone’s infringed on your copyright, that you do as much research as possible. See if you actually have something to worry about. Also remember that there are plenty of stories that have similarities (like Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down have similarities, for example), so keep that in mind while you research. It could turn out your work and the work you’re researching only has a few similarities, and the ones there are just the kind anyone could come up with.

But if there’s enough resemblance that you can’t pass it off as just a few coincidences, then perhaps you might want to see if a few more people see the resemblances. If they see them too, then maybe you should consider consulting a lawyer.

Of course, I am no lawyer and I’ve never had to worry about this. If anyone has experience with this subject, please let us know your story and tell us what happened. We’d love your feedback.

In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye on this Whedon-Gallagher story and see how it turns out. Because this could be our story. Anyone of us could go through this, as any one of us could have a copyright infringement lodged against our own properties simply to con us or someone could steal our works and sell them for their own profit. And we need to watch so we know how to fight it and keep it from happening to us.

Categories: Copyright, General Writing, Publishing Basics, Self-Publishing, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saying No Can Be Your Best Business Move as a Writer

Today I’m going to a post on the business side of writing.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to skip.

I’m going to discuss how to maximize your income potential by saying no to those things that  get in the way of being able to do this.  Every time you say “yes” to an activity that doesn’t earn you money, you are saying “no” to something that will earn you money.

1.  Picking what to write.

The goal is to pair up what you love to write with what people are willing to buy.   The two don’t have to be exclusive.  Perhaps there are elements you enjoy that can work into a plot or genre that you’d either like to experiment with or are already selling better at.

For example, I started writing Regencies because I noticed those sold pretty well overall in romance.  I picked elements I already enjoyed (a marriage of convenience and a hero and heroine who didn’t initially want to be together) and wrote the romance in that time period.

Another example, I am quickly realizing that (for me) contemporary romances are not my better selling books.  I was thinking about writing a short story (which would have been about 15-20K words) to go along with a recently published contemporary that wasn’t doing as well as I’ve historically done.  But I realized I was about to spend time writing a short story in something that wasn’t doing so well when I could be using that energy into writing a historical western or Regency (which sell better for me).  So I made the decision to nix the short contemporary romance idea.  Why waste time on a project that you already know doesn’t have a good chance of succeeding when you could be spending the time writing something that might have a better chance?

I don’t know what the situation is for you, but hopefully, the two examples above can help you figure out where you can make the best use of your writing time.

2.  What activities to do.

Writing groups are great.  They can help us learn and grow as writers.  Some of my favorites are conferences which focus on writing fiction.  We want to grow as writers.  Writing compelling stories with emotionally engaging characters is still (in my opinion) the best use of our time.  But in order to do this, we need to keep learning the craft.  No matter how much you’ve improved, you can always do better on your next book.  You don’t want to stop growing.

But when you choose conferences and writing groups, you need a place that is safe.  You need to be able to be with people who are supportive, who care about helping you, who can also benefit from your experience, and who will build you up.

When you spend time around people who tear you down or make you feel like you’re inferior, this weakens your ability to be creative and it hampers your energy when you are trying to get out there and engage with others in a positive way.  I suggest staying away from these toxic situations.

3.  Non-writing Stuff

Yes, it’s good to have a life outside of writing.  You want to be a well-rounded individual.  But, if you are making it a habit of spending your time doing too much stuff that doesn’t make you money, you’re running into the danger of limiting your income potential.  It’s fine to take a break and spend the day with a friend.  It’s fine to set aside a block of time where you focus on your family.  It’s fine to catch up on a favorite TV show or do a hobby.

But if you want to make money writing, you need to write.  Some writers do make additional income by speaking and consulting others.  Some do cover work, formatting, or editing.  So you might want to focus on these areas more if they are your greater income stream than writing books.  This post, however, has been focusing more on the writer who makes the bulk of their income by selling their books.  Or if you want your main income stream to come from selling your books, then you will need to do whatever you can to focus the most time you possibly can on writing in addition to some marketing, but marketing can’t get in the way of writing.  The rule I’ve often heard is you need to focus 80% energy on writing and 20% on marketing when you are engaging as a writer in this business.  (That’s a ratio you can go by to gauge if you’re doing too much–or too little–marketing.)

I understand if you have a day job, it’s going to be harder to get as much written as someone who stays home all day and can write.  But I bet there is some area in your life you can give up in order to write more.  Even if it’s getting up an hour earlier to write on the weekends.  Or maybe you need to say no to your cousin who wants to go to another movie.  Or maybe do some writing or outlining during your break.  Or maybe giving up on reading a book so you can write one instead.

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Closing thoughts

This all boils down to opportunity cost.  It means that you need to choose one option or the other.  You can’t do both.  Sometimes you have to tell yourself or people you care about in order to get your work done as a writer.  If making money writing books is a priority, you need to make it a priority.  It  must be first on the list.  You need to find time to get it in.  Otherwise, it won’t get done because other things keep popping up, and you will limit your potential to maximize your chances for making your dream a reality.  That’s not to say it’s a guarantee.  Nothing in life is a guarantee.  But you can increase your odds of winning if you say no to the right things.

Categories: Business Plan, Writing as a Business

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