Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections on 2011

Since it is the last day of the year I have been doing some reflecting on 2011. I did manage to get two books written and published this year, which I suppose is not too shabby. I continue to struggle with technology issues, mostly the fact that my house history website is still unavailable to me for posting. Getting a new person to help me with website frustrations is at the top of my list for 2012 resolutions.

I have been thinking a lot about where I see Provenance Publishing going in the new year. I really don't have a new project in mind for myself at this point. I thought about doing a short ebook on researching your Webster Groves home, but do I really want to go to the effort and expense to produce a book that has an even smaller market than my first book? I don't think so. While I contemplate that, I did at least set up a Facebook page that will give Webster Groves residents suggestions on where they might find records to help them with their research.

I have been talking with an author about consulting on his book project. I like the message of the book and think that I can offer valuable advice on how to write and publish this book. That would be a new direction for my publishing company, and that excites me. So I guess we will see what 2012 brings.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

End of the Year Drudgery

As 2011 rolls to a close, I realize that it is once again time to get ready for the tax man. The state of Missouri has already kindly mailed me the form to pay my state sales tax for the year. But that is just one small piece of owning a business which (hopefully) makes sales. Because I set up my publishing company as an LLC, the business is essentially run through on our personal tax form. But I still need to get to my accountant all the expenses and income that were incurred by the business during the year. Considering that the IRS says that you must make a profit in three of the previous five tax years in order to be considered a business and not a hobby, I always think twice about which expenses I want to declare. It is hardly fair that they will take 2009 into account since I just established the business in November of 2009, but no one has ever accused the IRS of being fair. I have not sold many books in 2011, so unless I want to declare only minimal expenses for the year, there is no way that I can show a profit for the year. The fixed expenses of website hostings and securing the domain names for and and .net probably exceed the profits from book sales this year. Since I declared a loss for 2009 and 2010, does that mean I have to declare a profit during the next three years in order to maintain status as a business and not a hobby? I guess this is a conversation I will be having with my accountant next month.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Amazon - Author Friend or Foe?

There has been a lot written lately about the way that Amazon is treating authors, particularly those who have self-published their books. I am fond of saying that Amazon does not play nicely with others in the publishing sandbox. The pricing structure is skewed towards Amazon even if you go through CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon. And if authors don't go through CreateSpace they may find themselves in the position, as I did, of Amazon listing their book with a 5-8 week delivery date. In our world of instant gratification, people are not going to order a book with that kind of delivery attached to it. Lynn Serafinn wrote an excellent blog post on this subject, and you can find it here.

I had just finished reading Serafinn's post when a beeping noise alerted me to a new email in my inbox. Coincidentally it was from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which is Amazon's vehicle for getting an author's ebook ready for sale on the Kindle. My ebook Keys to Unlocking House History was first formatted for ebook readers through, but I also set up an account with KDP to ensure that the ebook would be available on Amazon. Consequently I receive emails from KDP, and this one was notifying me of a new option called KDP Select. Basically the new service has to do with the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. If you haven't heard of the Lending Library yet, Amazon Prime members can borrow at no charge one ebook book per month with no due dates. To date the books had been limited to those from traditional publishers.

But now Amazon is reaching out to self-published authors. This is hardly surprising since most new ebooks are being produced by self-publishers. (And perhaps because the 6 major book publishing companies have refused to have their books available in the Lending Library.) To entice authors Amazon has set up a fund of $500,000 for December and at least $6 million in total for 2012 that will be shared by authors who enroll their books in the Select program. Here is how the email describes the calculation of payments:

Your share of the monthly fund is based on your enrolled titles' share of the total number of borrows across all participating KDP titles in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.  For example, if total borrows of all participating KDP titles are 100,000 in December and your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn $7,500 in additional royalties from KDP Select in December.  Enrolled titles will remain available for sale to any customer in the Kindle Store and you will continue to earn your regular royalties on those sales.

Now here is the catch - you must make your title exclusive to the Kindle Store for at least 90 days. Traditional publishers who are participating in the Lending Library are not required to make their titles exclusive to Amazon, but self-published authors must in order to be in this program. Amazon's email to me stressed that I will have access to a new set of promotional tools, reach a broader audience and be given a new way to earn royalties. And here is the kicker - KDP's Terms and Conditions (which can change at any time at their discretion, and did change on December 8, 2011) state that all digital books are automatically included in the Kindle Book Lending program. So if you have a KDP book you are in the Lending Library whether you want to be or not. But the only way you will be paid for having your book there is if you remove it for sale from all other markets, including your own web site. Good deal or not?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

St. Louis Publishers Association Board

Yesterday was the St. Louis Publishers Association (SLAP) transition meeting. It is a 6 hour event where the old board meets with the new board to brainstorm ideas for the new year and explain board responsibilities to new board members. My husband had graciously offered the meeting room at SWT Design for our meeting, which was great because we bring food along so we need a place that doesn't mind if we eat there. The down side for Jim was that he had to go there early with me to get coffee going and help me set up the room. Plus he had to come back at 3:00 for clean-up and to reset the alarm. But it was a great meeting space, and everyone was very appreciative that we could hold the meeting there.

I am not continuing on in the role of Communications Manager (i.e. newsletter editor) but instead decided that I would like to be the Membership Chairman. The position is currently held by Linda Austin, but she is going to be Treasurer next year. I like the idea of greeting members and guests at the door of each meeting, and getting to know more about who is attending our meetings and how they heard about us.

We have 4 new board members joining us for 2012, which is going to be great. I can already see that they have fresh ideas to bring to the table. Looking forward to seeing what we can do with the SLPA in 2012!