Tag Archives: Amazon

Short Story: GRANDPA

This is the first short story in my collection 14 DARK WINDOWS. You can get it in its entirety if you download the free sample for Kindle, but I thought that maybe some people who don’t do Amazon or have a Kindle might want to read it.  I wrote it a long time ago as a contest entry where the first sentence and six additional words were given and you constructed a story around them.  Enjoy!

GRANDPA

“All the King’s Horses, and all the King’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again!” Grandpa finished the rhyme and closed the book. “Well, Billy, what else would you like to do?”

Billy loved his grandfather. Grandpa always had time for a story, a game, or to simply talk. “I’ll do whatever you want to do, Grandpa.”

* * * * *

You can read the rest of this story by clicking this link or by going to “Stories” on the menu above and choosing “Grandpa.”

You can buy 14 DARK WINDOWS at Amazon by clicking this link:  14 DARK WINDOWS

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Publishing Paralysis

As you may or may not have noticed, I have not published anything…ANYTHING…in 2016.  It’s not for a lack of things to publish.  I currently have four works ready to go.  They are, in no particular order, ODD MAN OUT, RECIPROCAL EVIL, THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT, and finally, DEAD OR ALIVE.  Most are novella-length; RECIPROCAL EVIL is a bit over 50,000 words, while ODD MAN OUT clocks in at about 33,000.  I think that both DEAD OR ALIVE and THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT are around the same length:  approximately 27,000 words.

I have been writing.  I have a YA novel finished called THE SEVEN CITIES OF GOLD:  CIBOLA which is about 53,000 words.  I am about 68,000 words into an untitled end-of-the-world novel which was inspired by Hugh Howey’s WOOL.  I’m working on a longer vampire novel which would follow DEAD OR ALIVE and a horror story set in a fictional town called Addison Falls.  I’ve also been tinkering with a series that I started with my son a couple years ago, called THE NINE KEYS.  The first of that series is basically finished, and it is something around 68,000 to 70,000 words in length.  The second is about 20,000 words at this point and has a long way to go.  I also started a space opera novel but that’s stalled out at around 17,000 words at the moment.

Covers are done for three of the four ready-to-go works, editing and formatting are done for all four.  So what’s the holdup, you might ask (assuming that “you” are reading this and are interested in reading what I’m writing)?

I haven’t been selling much (okay, I really haven’t been selling anything!) and I need to do something different.  One option is to give up.  Or keep doing what I’ve been doing, which involves tossing up my writing, offering it for sale, and having no one actually find any of it.

The second option is to try to form a better foundation.  So far I have only published ebooks and only at Amazon.  So, my foundation is this blog/website, my Amazon author page, and my Facebook page.  I have, like, 64 followers on Facebook.  Not enough.  And depending on Facebook to get the word out is a crapshoot.  When I look at how many people view my posts on my Scott Dyson page there, often it’s like 7, or 13, or at best low 20’s.  So of those 64 people, only a small percentage even SEE my notifications when I publish.  Without paying FB to show the post to more people, I guess that’s about the best one can do there.

I am thinking of doing Instagram, just for my cover photos.  I have thought about taking down my collections and publishing the individual works for free on Wattpad, but after looking around there, I didn’t have much luck finding a lot of stuff I wanted to read.  I went specifically looking for my friend Steve Moore’s work there, and I didn’t find it with their search functions.  So I wonder how effective that will be for what I write.

I try to “network” with other writers as much as possible.  I will promote authors’ works (assuming they are something I like and read) here on these pages, with FB posts, and in any other way that comes up, and I have a few author-friends who have helped me out as well.  But I don’t think our audiences cross over very much, or at least what I write is not necessarily of interest to their audiences.  I read so broadly and across so many genres that I am happy to promote their stuff; even more, I WANT to suggest and recommend good reads to my friends.  I think that maybe if I could network with some horror authors, it would work better.  I have tried with a couple, but they don’t seem interested in reciprocating.

But the biggest thing I want to do is set up a mailing list.  And I don’t really know how to go about it.  I mean, signing up is easy.  And it seems that putting the widget on the website is not a big challenge either.  But most authors I’ve spoken to who use mailing lists effectively offer a free work, and all I have are mobi’s of my works.  I’d certainly be willing to offer one or both of my short story collections, or even one of my novellas, for free as an incentive to sign up for the list, but as I have not used any of the software (Vellum, Sigil, Calibre) that apparently can generate ebooks in various formats, I don’t know how to get these files to give away.

As a mailing list builds, eventually you have a ready-made list of people who are interested in receiving information about your releases, and maybe, just maybe, you can sell enough books upon release to push your work into some sort of visibility on Amazon.    I think that this sounds like the best way to increasing sales and visibility.

I also plan on giving away both of my short story collections (as they’re both in Amazon Kindle Select and in KU) and I want to try a FB experiment, ask some friends if they’d share the links to the free books, see if I can give away a bunch more than I usually do.  Watch this page for announcements about those giveaways, or if you’re a Facebook friend, watch my feeds there.

Anyway, I’m going to try to break the paralysis in the next month or two, and get this stuff out there for anyone and everyone to read.  If anyone is interested, that is…

***

 

ODD MAN OUT – Prologue

(I have three new stories ready to go; I’m just dragging my feet on publishing them because I want to get a few other things in place before I start running them out there.  One is a long version of my short story “Odd Man Out,” which was published as a standalone (with another short story called “The House at the Bend in the Road”) and as part of the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS.  What follows is the Prologue of that story, which is novella-length (about 33,000 words, if I recall correctly).  Watch this space or sign up for my soon-to-come mailing list to find out when it is available on Amazon.

ODD MAN OUT

Prologue

Roger Sinclair checked the calendar that hung on the wall over his computer. October nineteenth. Only the nineteenth. It seemed that the thirty-first was taking forever to arrive this year. Time was dragging.

Anticipation had a way of making the passage of time seem very slow.

The Cabin Weekend was approaching, and Roger had big plans for the traditional yearly gathering of his friends.

Friends. That was a laugh. They didn’t like him any more than he liked them. They used him. They always had. Vinnie, Jack and Paul – they hung around with him – no, they let him hang around with them – because he was smart, dependable, and well-off. He made them feel superior – Look at rich, smart, loser Roger, who can’t get a girl and gets shunned by everyone…but us! We’ll take pity on the loser, and we’ll take advantage of his brains and his wealth.

Like the Cabin Weekend. They always went to Roger’s cabin. None of them had cabins. And why spend money on a real vacation when they could just sponge off Roger? Vinnie and Susan, Jack and Nancy, and Paul and whatever hot-looking hosebag he was dating at the moment.

Well, not this year. Paul wasn’t dating a hot-looking hosebag anymore. He was engaged. To Amy Wellington. Amy might be hot, but she was no hosebag. She was the epitome of class. She was the girl of Paul’s dreams, as Paul himself had pointed out.

She was also the girl of Roger’s dreams, but that was beside the point. Paul never cared about what Roger wanted, only what he wanted. He wanted Amy, so of course he ended up with her. That’s how it worked with Paul.

No matter that he had been Roger’s guest at a charity function when he met Amy. Paul had deigned to accompany Roger to the event when Roger’s own date fell through. ‘Fell through’ is sort of misleading. She dumped me on my ass, he remembered. Bitch.

Focus! Roger forced himself to get back on track with his thoughts. This wasn’t about Melissa, the stick-up-her-ass bitch that worked in the IT department of Roger’s family’s company. The point was Paul, and how he met Amy, and how he had practically run Roger over in his zeal to get to her first.

Paul knew that Roger saw her first, that Roger wanted to take a shot with her, but could Paul let him have a chance? No, of course he couldn’t. What Paul wants, Paul gets.

Roger’s fantasy was that Amy would see Paul for what he was and eventually they’d split up. It would be Paul’s fault, of course, and Roger would be there for Amy. He’d be the understanding friend she would need, the shoulder she could cry on, the guy who’d be there for her as she worked through the pain of their broken engagement. Of course it would end Paul’s friendship with Roger, but that was okay. It wasn’t a real friendship, and it had not been one for a long time. Ever since that day at the frat party back in college…

Focus! he told himself again. This isn’t about embarrassment that Paul caused him in college, this is about Amy Wellington. Paul’s fiancee. Roger’s one true love.

And the Cabin Weekend would be the time when things would turn in favor of Roger.

#

(To find out what happens at the Cabin Weekend, watch for ODD MAN OUT at Amazon or on these pages…)

JACK’O’LANTERN (and THE MOMENT and SARAH’S PUPPY) free on 10/29!

In honor of Halloween, I’ve made my short story trio containing JACK’O’LANTERN, THE MOMENT and SARAH’S PUPPY free for five days, starting Thursday, 10/29/15, till Monday, 11/2/15.  It’s been free before, but this time it contains sample chapters from my novellas THE INN and THE CAVE.

Jackolantern updated cover

All three stories are also found in the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS, which is priced at only $0.99 and will continue to be priced there for the foreseeable future.

Grab it while it’s free! If you like it, grab something else as well! Thanks for reading!

*****

THE INN is live!

I finally did it!  THE INN, my 37,000 word horror/suspense/thriller, is live on Amazon!

Take a look at the cover:

The Inn Cover 4

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

BAND TRIP TO PERIL…

The Jackson High School Band and student director Kimberly Bouton are making their biennial journey to a music festival in the deep South for fun and educational opportunities. Kim expects to deal with hormonal teenagers, a severe lack of sleep, and long boring bus rides, but the roadside inn where the band stays on their visit hides a sinister secret – and it translates to unimagined horrors for students and teachers alike…

Check into THE INN, where the guests are the entertainment…

It’s not for everyone.  It’s horror (nothing extreme, but people die and such, like in most horror), and it’s the realistic type of horror, not the supernatural type.  But please take a look if you are so inclined.

!!!!!

*****

Kindle Unlimited – how’s that workin’ for you?

I really don’t know yet.  I enrolled all my books in KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited about a month ago — maybe it’s two months, I don’t know.  But I did notice that, after day after day after day of zero pages read for Kindle, my novella THE CAVE (see it over there to your right?) all of a sudden had 318 pages read over the course of a couple of days.  And my short story DEAD OR ALIVE (it’s not over there on the right, but it is part of THE STRIKER FILES, which is) had 50 pages read.

I looked, and THE CAVE has a KENPC (Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count) of 166, as opposed to its stated length of 88 pages.  DEAD OR ALIVE has a KENPC of 56.

Now, that doesn’t sound like much, but basically it’s two full reads of the novella and one full read of the short story.  For me, that’s fine.  Those sales would have earned me 35% of $0.99, which is little over a buck.  The KU reads paid me more than that; a bit less than two bucks.

(Yeah, that’s the sort of life-changing money I’m earning right now from my writing.  🙂  )

Couple that with a few purchases of THE CAVE, one of DIE 6, and one of my non-fiction DOING DISNEY quasi-guidebook, I’ll have done okay.  Maybe I’ll sell a couple of copies of my new one, THE INN, when it comes out.  Crossing fingers.  (Watch this space for announcements.)

The way I see it, the more people who grab my stories and read them, the better chance I have of actually getting noticed.

And that’s the state of the state right now.

*****

Two SF Novels: MORE THAN HUMAN and TIME HOLE

I read two hard SF novels back-to-back, which is something I haven’t done in a while.  (Read two hard SF novels in a row, that is…)  The first was TIME HOLE by Mit Sandru.  (I received this book as a gift!)  The second was MORE THAN HUMAN:  THE MENSA CONTAGION by Steven M. Moore.  (I received this book as a gift as well!)  The books have similarities, although they tell very different stories in terms of subject matter and scope.

TIME HOLE tells the story of an odd discovery on the Moon, where international teams are working at mining and exploratory operations.  A piece of equipment breaks down and a pair of generalists, DeeDee and Arno, are sent to drive the new equipment to the outpost.  On their way they encounter a large crater…but this crater isn’t made by a meteor impact, and it had not been noted before along this road.

When Arno falls in, DeeDee uses the truck’s winch to pull both of them back to safety, and they make a startling discovery.  They aren’t on the same moon that they were on a few minutes ago.  Or, perhaps it’s the same moon, but where in time are they?  Things are much different.

This short novella (47 pages, according to Amazon**) read a little longer than this.  It told a lot of story in those pages, and I came to really care about the two main characters as they tried to get back to their own reality, then find themselves “out of phase” and basically invisible as they return to their base and solve a mystery of what caused the huge time hole on the Moon.

(** ETA:  The author pointed out that it is 119 pages, not 47, and now Amazon reflects this length.  I thought that it seemed a lot longer than 47 pages and was wondering why Amazon said it, but I took them at their word when I looked…)

This is smart science fiction, that requires the reader to think as he reads, and that works around some more advanced scientific concepts.  I enjoyed it quite a lot, and if I have a criticism, it is that the first chapter seemed a little dry, too expository perhaps.  Once the characters are introduced, the story kicks into a higher gear and it became a very good read. The writing is very good, and it was a clean ebook, few errors in terms of things to be caught by a proofreader.  (I don’t really remember seeing any.)  I liked the cover, too.  Intriguing image.

The second book, MORE THAN HUMAN: THE MENSA CONTAGION, promised to be really good and right in my wheelhouse in terms of describing an apocalyptic-type event (disease, one of the standard cataclysms that affect humanity in that sort of book).  But It became a lot more than that.  It became a far-reaching “history” ala Dr. Asimov and his FOUNDATION/EMPIRE future history.

In this story, a meteroid strikes Earth in South Africa, and it carries something with it:  a virus.  It is quickly determined that the virus is a.) bioengineered, and b.) deliberately aimed at Earth.  The story starts with an airline cleaning crew finding a dead body with green sludge oozing from his orifices.  The CDC and the government quickly act to lock down the passengers and crew and anyone associated with the plane, but of course, it’s not enough and the virus gets out.  Others die before the virus mutates — again and again — into something more benign and even beneficial, perhaps.

The virus wakes up the world to the possibility that there is something more out there — and the second part of the book deals with man’s colonization of Mars as a response to a perceived threat by aliens who would target the planet with a virus, even if the virus is meant as a gift.  The third part of the book deals with the discovery of the aliens’ ship found in the vicinity of Saturn, and the resulting recurrent xenophobia brought on by humanity’s first contact with life from somewhere other than Earth.

A lot of packed into the 231 pages of Moore’s novel, which begins to read like a series of short vignettes rather than a continuous story; this style is made necessary by the many jumps in time between significant events.  I was reminded of Heinlein stories as far as the flow and pacing of this story.  With its cast of hundreds (it seemed; I really didn’t count them), this was a novel with an incredibly broad scope and a quite optimistic, if realistic, take on the future of humanity.

As always, this is a well-written and well constructed SF tale, again with a pretty clean job of copyediting and formatting.  Steven M. Moore has something like twenty novels out there, and while I can’t rank this as his best, it’s right up there.  (As an aside — when you’ve read a lot by a particular author, you can’t help “grading” them against their own output, or at least I can’t.  For example, when I read a Stephen King novel, I often think it’s only a “B” effort, but that’s because I’m judging it against King’s best works and not against “all” books.  If that same book had been written by a different, new  (to me) author, I might give it an “A”, if that makes sense.  I think I’m doing that with Steve Moore’s works now.  There have been several that I’ve liked so much that other good stories might suffer a bit in comparison to those.)

In conclusion, I’d say that these are both worthwhile reads for anyone who likes their SF to be of the “hard” variety.  I’d grade them both as “A”.

Happy reading!

*****

ODD MAN OUT Promotion

It was a spur-of-the-moment decision – I decided to give away ODD MAN OUT, a short story pair that featured the title tale (about 1600 words) and a second short story called THE HOUSE AT THE BEND IN THE ROAD (about 1800 words).

Of all my works, I like this cover the best.  It looks professionally done, because it was.  I have a good friend, Rich Siegle, who did the cover for me (gratis), and he does book covers for small publisher Poison Pen Press in Scottsdale, Arizona.  I paired these two stories because, well, they seemed to go together.  Originally I had paired SOLE OCCUPANT and ODD MAN OUT because I liked them about the best of all my short stories, but I ended up using this pairing because it kept the word counts between the two ebooks about the same.

ODD MAN OUT is also found in the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS.  The short story pair costs $0.99 on Amazon, because that is the lowest price Amazon will let you set for something.  I lowered the collection to $0.99 also, because I hoped to move some titles.

I decided to give this short story away because I thought if someone liked enough, they might be inspired to buy the collection which contains both of these and twelve other stories (including the aforementioned SOLE OCCUPANT).

I also started to expand this short story into a longer work.  Hoping that I can get 20 or 30 thousand words out of it.  It struck me as I read it that there was a lot more story to tell.  So we’ll see what comes out of that project.  I haven’t been putting much time into writing on this story recently; there’s been a LOT going on with my family, but I think things might start to wind down now.

The other reason I haven’t been writing it is because I spent some time finishing up the collaboration between my son Kevin and me.  It’s part of a series, and we completed Book 1 and got a fair start on Book 2.  Book 1 is about 77000 words, so it’s a full length novel.  Believe it or not, it started life as Harry Potter/SwordArt Online crossover fan fiction written by my son.  I saw some potential in it and decided to write it with a more original slant.

So, maybe I will get some things written before summer runs out of time.  We’ll see.

Oh, yeah.  The point of this post was that I did a giveaway with ODD MAN OUT.  The giveaway ran three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).  I only announced it on Facebook.  I gave away 35 copies of the short story in that time frame.  (Well, 36, but one was downloaded by me for free in an attempt to boost the number by one.)

I guess that’s 35 people who never heard of me before, because I doubt I had anyone from my Facebook announcement get it.  Okay, perhaps there were four or five downloads because of that announcement.  I can’t say for sure.  We’ll see if anyone grabs the collection in the next week or so.  Even one or two downloads would be great!

So, did it do what I hoped?  No…it made it to #10 on a “Ghosts and Haunted Houses” list on Amazon, but it certainly didn’t amount to much in the sense of sheer downloads.  But it’s just one of those things.

Have a great week.

*****

Going all-in on KDP Select…

Yesterday I was reading blog entries on The Passive Voice, on Joe Konrath’s blog and some Hugh Howey thoughts, and I thought, “Wow!  Why am I not in KDP Select?”

So why wasn’t I?

I put my short stories in KDP Select when I wanted to give some of them away several months ago.  But I never put my longer collections and my novella into it.  My reasoning was that I was going to move to publish the works with other platforms, like B&N, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords.  I was thinking that maybe Draft2Digital was the way to go, but I wasn’t sure.

I never did any of that.  Honestly, I can’t see myself putting in the work to do so at this time.  Maybe if I was seeing income worth talking about, I could justify putting in the time.  But right now, I can’t.

So, I placed everything into KDP Select.  My novella, THE CAVE, costs $0.99 to buy, but can be borrowed in Kindle Unlimited or through Prime.  My short story collections, DIE 6, 14 DARK WINDOWS, and THE STRIKER FILES, are all currently priced at $0.99, and all can be borrowed via KU or through Prime.  And my four short stories (all of which are found in 14 DARK WINDOWS as well), are also priced at $0.99, and all are part of KU and Prime.

Here’s what one reviewer said about my short story ODD MAN OUT:

A pair of creepy tales, well written if on the short side. Worth a read, especially via Kindle Unlimited. I’ll be checking out the collection that includes these.   EC, Amazon review.

Another review about the same says:

The book is two short word pictures of atmospheric horror. They both nicely evoke a feeling of creepy dread, and in the case of the House At the Bend In the Road, mystery. Worth a read!  Scott R. Turner, Amazon review.

(ODD MAN OUT is available as a standalone short story or as part of the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS.)

Anyway, there it is.  I’m all in on KDP Select for now.  Grab ’em or borrow them.  They’re not pricey.  I think they’re good reads, but of course I would think that, since I wrote them.  But a few others think the same.  Don’t let others do your thinking for you; check them out yourself…

*****

Subscription services for ebooks – some thoughts

When I started practicing dentistry almost 30 years ago, I became involved in a reimbursement plan called “Capitation.” It was “insurance” where families or individuals paid a set fee every month, then the company took a percentage of that fee and passed the rest on to me. Their advertising to patients stated that they ‘covered’ 100% of every dental procedure known to man.

When I first started with them, I was actually getting checks for a little more than what I would have billed for services on capitation patients that month. But very soon that corrected itself and I was getting less than what I would have billed, by about 20%. Then another provider quit and I got a large influx of new patients. I started making more money, but very soon I was doing way more work than I was getting paid for. It got to the point where I was getting only 40-50% of the work I was doing.

So I quit.

The future of bookselling, says Joe Konrath among others, is in subscription services.  No one says that books will not still be purchased, but what Joe says, if I’m understanding him correctly, is that for many readers, especially avid readers, there will be a significant economic incentive to borrow books via a service like Scribd or Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited rather than purchasing the titles.

I can certainly see how he comes up with that view.  It’s exactly what happened with my capitation participation.  As the subscribers to the plan figured out that they could get an unlimited amount of dentistry done for one set monthly fee, and perhaps just as importantly, that there was a new young dentist out there who would do the dentistry they needed (and do a good job of it), they flocked in to use their “insurance.”  Very few of them understood what they were paying for.  As far as they knew, they were paying an insurance premium and I was getting paid by the insurance company for work done as I did it.  (That IS the situation with fee-for-service insurance, which is capped at one to two thousand dollars per year but pays me for the services I perform on patients.)  Capitation was a great plan for the patients – as long as there was a provider willing to do dentistry for the amount of money he was receiving.

So, there are three distinct entities involved in systems like this.  One is the reader.  She is analogous to the patient in my capitation situation.  She wants stories to read, and a subscription service would seem to give them to her.  How many stories she reads in a month?  It’s limited only by her speed of reading and the time she has available for reading.

The second is the author.  She would be analogous to the provider, who, in my case, is the dentist.  She produces stories for the reader to read.  How many stories can the author provide?  Well, again, it depends on the speed of the author (ie, how fast she can write) and the amount of time she has to actually write stories.  It’s limited by both of those two things, just as in a dental practice.  In my case, I was limited by the number of appointments I had available for everyone, not just the capitation patients.  I was also limited by how long I took to perform a specific procedure.  Root canals took longer than fillings and cleanings.  Dentures took more appointments.  I was also limited by my own costs.  I suppose an author is limited by the costs of editing, proofreading, cover, formatting, etc etc.  In other words, in both situations there would seem to be a floor as to reimbursement.  Reimbursement needs to cover the costs of doing business.

The third is the “Company.”  In my case the company was one that provided capitation-style “insurance” to various employers so they could provide reasonably priced dental plans to their employees.  In an author’s case, the companies are Scribd and Oyster and Amazon.  The company has to balance the amount of money coming in with the amount of money going out in such a way that it covers its cost of administering the plan (in the dental example) or delivering, storing and providing some promotion for the ebooks in the lending service (Scribd, Oyster and Amazon).  Oh, and it needs to make a little profit.  (Costs would include the salaries of everyone involved in the process of acting as the middleman.)

In the case of Scribd, it seems that they were paying authors for borrows as if the books were purchased.  Voracious readers were reading a LOT, apparently, and Scribd was responsible for paying the authors as if those readers were purchasing every book.  (Almost sounds like a fee-for-service dental plan.)  Authors were paid per unit read, full price for the book.  Readers were paying a flat fee (something like $8.99 a month?) to access as many books as they wanted to.

In Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, Amazon collects a flat fee ($9.99 a month) from subscribers, and allows them to borrow ten books simultaneously.  It then takes their subscription fees and puts them into a pool (minus whatever costs they feel they need to withhold to cover their operating costs and whatever profit they want to make), and from that pool it reimburses the authors whose books were borrowed.  (I think I understand this correctly.)  Amazon was paying authors if a reader read 10% of their book, which was great for short stories (my own shorts were in there, but I think I only had one or two Kindle borrows), not quite as good for authors of novels and such.  Now they have switched it so that writers will be paid by the actual pages read of their works.  I take this to mean that if someone writes a ten page short story and a reader finishes it, that writer is paid the same as an author who writes a 300 page novel and a reader only reads the first ten pages of it.  (Seems relatively fair on the face of it.)

So, if everything is golden, why did Scribd remove a bunch of romance novels from their service?  Apparently they did this because romance readers are reading them right into the poor house.  They’re reimbursing every author full price for the books borrowed.  If a reader is paying $8.99 for a month’s subscription, it’s easy math to see that they can read three books priced at $2.99 before the company starts taking it on the chin.  Not just no profit, but real financial losses.

I think this is illustrative of the pitfalls of this sort of model.  Because when you look at Scribd’s options, you see that there aren’t too many.  First, they could raise subscription fees.  Mark Coker suggested that perhaps there should be a tiered plan, with a basic level that allows a certain number of borrows per month, and maybe an unlimited plan for more money that allows as many borrows as the reader can read.  Any increase in costs up front to the reader will likely lead to less subscribers.  For some it would be a good deal at a much higher fee, but for others it would perhaps tip the scales in the other direction.

Second, they could pay authors less.  This is sort of what Amazon’s KU does.  There is a fixed pool of money, funded (I assume) in large part by subscription fees.  The pool is divided by the total number of pages read by subscribers, and the authors are paid by pages read.  In general, this model will reimburse authors by some amount that is probably less than the amount they would receive had all the borrowed books been purchased by readers.  I can’t say this with 100% certainty, but the math seems to make sense, especially if we’re talking about books that are reimbursed at 70%.  (At 35%, the math tips in the other direction.  All of my books are currently priced at $0.99, so I don’t make much per purchase.)  But they run the risk of having authors pull their books out of the program if they aren’t making enough money for their efforts.

Third, the company could simply take losses and hope that the subscription dollars grow as more people subscribe, and hope that not all of them are voracious readers who consume many more books than they are realistically paying for.  They run the risk of losing money and putting themselves right out of business, unless they’re a company like Amazon.

In my capitation case, the company who administered the plan had very little, if any, risk.  Their biggest concern was in getting a provider who would adequately care for their subscribers.  I know that one of the problems when I was doing it was that when I got that influx of patients due to another provider dropping out of the system, I found that they all needed a bunch of dental work.  The other dentist wasn’t doing much of anything.  Cleanings, a few fillings, and not much more.  He was coasting – sitting back, collecting checks and not doing the work because he wasn’t treatment planning it.  Many of them needed crowns and partial dentures, and I was doing them, one after another.  I had to ration out the care, because I simply couldn’t afford to do it all in one month.  I wasn’t being paid for it.  Also, I had to ration out chair time.  I couldn’t allow more than a certain number of patients with that plan per week, because I had other, paying patients who I needed to work on in order to keep the business running at that time.  The theory was that once I got a patient or a family completed, they would not need much work in the future, and I could collect their capitation fee without providing much value in the way of services.  In practice, many of the patients dropped the coverage once they got their crowns and partials, and there was no way to force them to continue to pay for it.

Some of this has implications for subscription services, some of it is unique to dentistry.  The thing with ebooks is that there are tons of providers (authors) and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of books out there.  It isn’t a single author being forced to write stories for the masses for virtually nothing.  But in another sense, that just means that the pot (the subscriber fees) has to be divided in a lot more parts before being distributed to the providers.

There is a delicate balance here that is going to be very difficult for a company to negotiate successfully.  Amazon is experimenting with the way they reimburse authors, and they have the size and the ability to spend money in an attempt to figure out a way to do this right, to find that perfect balancing spot.

There’s more to be said on this issue, but this has gone on long enough today.  If anyone reads this and has any thoughts, please jot them down in the comments!  Thanks!

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