Terry, Bro — This One’s For Youse!

Back in second grade I had a crush on a kid named Terry. Amazingly, Terry ignored me.

I obsessed about ways to win his attention, none of which ever worked but did result in a novella (yes, when I was 8) about heroically saving Terry after he faceplants into Niagara Falls. Anyway, Dead Spot is a grownass reworking of it, wherein the heroine’s got a motorbike instead of a Radio Flyer, and dark proclivities, and no moral compass.

Yo Terry, if you’re out there, read Dead Spot. Ebook $5, dead trees $12. You owe me, pal.

DEAD SPOT on AmazonCopyright © 2017 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.


Thank You, Porter Anderson!

Big shout out to Porter Anderson, the journalist, lit critic and former UN diplomat who posts at PorterAnderson.com and @Porter_Anderson on Twitter. A while back the lovely Mr. Anderson tweeted wryly about Dead Spot and got me my biggest one-day response ever to this blog. Thanks, Mr. Anderson!

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER
Sydney Schuster
and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorsed any third-party advertising that may appear on this blog, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore such crap.

Why Self-Publishing Doesn’t Totally Suck

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER

My last post was about self-publishing on Kindle, and Kindle’s mysterious sales ranking system for the million-plus ebooks in its catalog. This post is about why you can ignore it.

I published my novel Dead Spot on Kindle. A colleague asked me why I chose self-publishing, considering that my nonfiction journalism — the kind paid in dollars per word, not pennies — has been published many, many times. (Google me, dogs.) I told her straight up that I’d been hosed enough by literary agents and publishers. (Hey, Syd, Dead Spot is nice but why don’t you write a book just like [title of that week’s NYT’s best seller]?).

Even if I did succeed in getting one of them to publish my novel, establishment publishers are notoriously uninterested in promoting new authors. Odds are my book would be on B&N’s remainder table before the advance cleared, unless I did my own PR. And if I have to do the PR myself, what am I paying them for?

My author friend, the one I was explaining all this to, has published several books the traditional way. She couldn’t argue with my logic.

Here’s the thing: I’m not getting any younger. I have a novel to sell, and I’m through begging pseudo-intellectual snotbags to publish it. Ergo, Kindle. I’ve now sold way more books there than I did (i.e., zero) without it. In that regard, Kindle can be a marvelous thing for authors with marketable product and limited patience.

And not for nothing, but B&N and Borders recently picked up the paperback version of Dead Spot, which I publish myself. So 4Q2, Random House.

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorsed any third-party video advertising that may appear on this blog, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore such crap.

A Great Mystery Solved! | How Kindle Rankings Work

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

One of the great unsolved mysteries of independent publishing (to me, anyway) is Kindle seller rankings. How do they work? Why are they there? What the hell good are they?

I have a rockin’ ebook for sale on Kindle. It’s called Dead Spot.  It’s one of more than a million ebooks Amazon claims to be selling now. So yesterday I sold an ebook. Here’s the kicker. Before the sale, Dead Spot‘s Kindle ranking was around 625,000. After my single-unit sale, it ranked 76,058.

I think I speak for everyone here when I say, “Huh?!?

Obviously, Kindle isn’t selling all that many of its one million-plus ebooks. Last year Amazon boasted it sold 105 ebooks for every 100 dead-trees books — then went on to predict its Kindle-related revenue would represent only 10 percent of total 2012 revenue.

The math here isn’t rocket science. A lot of Kindle books are free or close to it. And a lot of Kindle-related revenue comes from selling $80-$380 Kindle reading devices. Translation: Your life’s work is competing for seller ratings with the 99¢ epulp flooding Kindle’s site and 800-pound literary gorillas like Tim Tebow and the Kardashians.

But there’s a bigger, more troubling equation involved. Those 548,942 Kindle books ranked behind Dead Spot, the ones not lucky enough to have a sale this week — do they all share the same nomimal Kindle rank of, say, 625,000? Or are they being scored by some other method — say, alphabetization? Amazon has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Kindle’s own forums are ablaze with wild conjecture on this very subject. (The reason:  Amazon only promotes best sellers, so authors are obsessed with gaming the ranking system.) One author posted: “I have seen my Amazon ranking for my novel … fluctuate up and down by 10,000 spots without seeing any additional sales.” Another replied: “I think it takes more than 50 sales/day to break the #1000 spot.” Said another: “Since I don’t write about zombies, this is not good!”

Another forum respondent said his ebook always ranks number 1 in Amazon’s King Henry VII historical category, even though it’s a metaphysical fantasy that’s not about Henry VII. He added, “I know an author whose thriller book used to rank #1 in ‘Car Parts’.”

The New York Times ran an article claiming Amazon has traditional publishers in a frenzy, quoting them saying things like “Publishers are terrified and don’t know what to do” and “Everyone’s afraid of Amazon.” Again I say, huh?

So keep buying Dead Spot, beloved fans. One more sale and it’ll rank … minus-554,985!

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version’s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

DEAD SPOT on Amazon

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

Unethics in the Internet Age | Why I Hate Lulu (And You Should, Too)

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

If you want to see Internet piracy in action, publish a book.

I wrote a killer novel. It’s called Dead Spot (available on Amazon). It’s so good, everyone but me is making money with it.

Originally I published Dead Spot in 2011 on Lulu.com, the Chinese kitchen of publishing. (It’s ebooks! It’s POD! It’s social networking! It’s design and editing services!) Let’s just say Lulu’s real agenda is to shovel as much content as possible through as many outlets as possible, without a care about producers getting their royalties or buyers getting their purchases.

My first attempt at marketing Dead Spot was a read-only PDF version sold on Lulu. Submission was a breeze and the company very helpful — until my book went live. After that I was unable to reach anyone at Lulu by phone, and it took about a year to get an email response written in the Queen’s English.

A recap of the Lulu Experience:

• Someone buys your book on Lulu. If the transmission is interrupted for any reason, that buyer doesn’t get a second chance to download (nor a refund).

• If a buyer doesn’t download the Adobe reading software before downloading your Lulu book, their book download will abort and the buyer won’t get a second chance (nor a refund). No, there’s no explanation on Lulu.com of how this works; you find out the hard way.

• If you want to give your cheated buyer (or a reviewer) a free book, there’s no way to do that on Lulu.

• Once you upload anything to Lulu’s server, you will never, ever be able to remove it. (They claim it will damage their servers. I am not making this up.)

• Lulu will continue to duplicate, repurpose, and market your intellectual property without your knowledge or consent, no matter how many times you tell them to stop. (Lulu claims I’m bound by a contract I never received from them, via which I magically implied consent because I never declined it.)

• Lulu is an ocean of plagiarism where anyone can publish anything they want, including your stuff. If you suspect another “author” has stolen and published your work, the only way you can know for sure is to buy it.

• If you use a Lulu-supplied ISBN, your publication will forever be locked into distribution solely by Lulu. (The moral: Get your own ISBN from Bowker.)

• It took me a year to pry my royalties out of Lulu from my three sales. Good luck getting yours.

Award-free Customer Service

I exchanged many, many emails with Lulu’s customer service reps located in countries where pets are considered meat. (Hello! My name Peggy. What is problem?) Many MadLibbish responses later, none of my problems was ever directly addressed.

I shut down my book on Lulu and moved it to Amazon.

I’m not saying Amazon is heaven on earth. Uploading my manuscript to Kindle was a nightmare (their epub conversion software didn’t work on my computer, so I had to code the entire book by hand). But at least Amazon sends you a free proof before you go live (unlike Lulu, who forces you to buy your proof and then tells you you can never delete any of your files from their database, because there was a sale). Also, Kindle book buyers can download a title as many times as they need to.

But back to Lulu, and here’s the part where it gets really psycho. In April of 2012 I received a cheery boilerplate email from my ex-publisher about how they were vetting their catalog for suitable candidates for iBook and Nook. There was a disclaimer, natch, about how they intended to edit the winners at their discretion. (Ack ack! Don’t run away, we are your friends!)

I ignored their email since I’d long ago pulled Dead Spot from Lulu’s catalog.

Whaddya know! Shortly thereafter I found my copyrighted intellectual property for sale on both iBook and Nook — sans my consent, notification, or review of whatever it is that Lulu, Apple, and Barnes & Noble were suddenly selling without my knowledge and keeping 56% of the revenue.

My confidence was not buoyed by the iBook product page showing a long-abandoned cover and a hacked-up ESL version of my old synopsis.

Wait, there’s more! Lulu was selling Dead Spot onsite again as an ebook — the one I canceled the previous year — for the very special Lulu price of 99¢.

What part of “no” is so hard to understand? I yanked my book from their stupid catalog AGAIN and blasted off a threatening email. Eventually I got them to step off, but only after reporting them to various authorities and offering to sue.

What the hell?

Lulu’s business model — an entirely automated multi-market enterprise that steals people’s intellectual property and parlays it into gobs of cash (for Lulu), with steel-clad shielding from consumer or regulatory intervention — is the brainchild of Lulu CEO and founder Robert Young, who also founded Red Hat Software. In 2001 Young was sued via class action for federal securities violations in Red Hat’s 1999 IPO. Young bailed from Ass Hat — I mean Red Hat — in 2005 to start Lulu, in a departure strategically timed to avoid major patent infringement lawsuits against Red Hat.

Bob Young is a bad man. In 2008 he sued Hulu just because their name rhymes with Lulu. And in 2009 he snarkily told the New York Times: “We have easily published the largest collection of bad poetry in the history of mankind.” Then he dumped Lulu’s entire poetry division (formerly Poetry.com) without notifying the authors.

Remove one book? Server damage! Purge 14 million poems? No problemo.

How about you? Got a problem with Lulu? Tough. You can’t call Lulu. Lulu DOES NOT WANT YOU TO CALL THEM, OR WRITE. Ever. Don’t even look at them. You won’t find Lulu’s phone number, street address, or the names of its corporate officers anywhere on Lulu.com.

The take-away: I did not spend ten years writing a book to put up with this crap. Neither should you.

So what can you do? Complain to the North Carolina Attorney General or Raleigh Better Business Bureau. Contact Lulu.com’s Designated Agent for Copyright Infringement. She’s Veronique McMillan, vmcmillan@lulu.com, fax 919 459-5867.

FWIW, here’s Lulu’s super top secret contact info:

Lulu Enterprises, Inc.
3101 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
919 459-5858 (fax 919 459-5867)
Robert Young, CEO
Bryce Boothby, President and COO
Tim Albury, CFO
Doug Rye, Treasurer
Elizabeth Broadwater, Secretary
Steven Fraser, Director
Jeff Kramer, Engineering Staff/Senior VP
Debbie McGrath, Controller

Copyright © 2014 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.