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The Secret To Successful Self-Publishing – An Advisory Council

Since many of my readers are young adults and aspiring writers I thought I’d address a process issue which has been asked of me on a few occasions. One of the most important elements I use in the process of writing a story is an advisory council.

An advisory council is a group of advisors who review my manuscript prior to publishing. I know other writers who do this and it works well for me because of what I call the ‘forest for the trees syndrome’. Essentially what that means is that after working on a manuscript for several months I get so deep into certain aspects of the story that I can no longer see story holes, character issues or loose ends, aside from intentional ones of course that will be dealt with in the subsequent novel.

My advisory council is like having several pairs of fresh eyes looking at it that are able to see potential issues with the story that need to be corrected for the final draft. This could be anything from story arcs, plot and subplot refinement, pacing and character development issues.  As a writer my goal is to try and ensure that there aren’t any of these issues, or only a couple by the time the manuscript reaches my advisory council.

Ultimately I am responsible for the finished product of the novel. But having a team of people I can rely on to help assess the quality of the writing and provide insight where there are problems is an invaluable part of my writing process. If you are an aspiring writer I would strongly recommend assembling an advisory council of your own. It will improve your writing immensely and enable you to publish a quality piece of work that you know has passed a litmus test of satisfied readers.

– John

Why Is Amazon Holding Back The Spread of eBooks Around The World?

I’d noticed a discrepancy in the pricing of my book when it went for sale on Amazon. The list price is $3.99 but it showed up as $5.99 in some jurisdictions. I contacted Amazon as well as another self-published author and discovered, from the author not Amazon, that Amazon levies a $2.00 charge on books sold in some countries.

As it stands my book displays and sells for the correct price in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and ‘Amazon Germany’ (Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and a few other places. But in many other countries it costs $2.00 extra. Why?

First, you must understand that this is not my doing and I don’t make any money from the extra charge you may be paying. As far as I’m concerned the book should be the same price wherever it is sold. Amazon does this but doesn’t really explain why. It has nothing to do with sales or VAT taxes. It certainly isn’t a distribution cost since it’s an eBook and isn’t physically freighted anywhere.

The answer seems to be that Amazon does this because they can. At least that’s the only answer that seems to make sense. Perhaps it’s a means of bankrolling the free 3G access some Kindle owners enjoy.

For some strange and inexplicable reason some books escape that surcharge net. Perhaps it is based on sales but the indiscriminate way it is applied seems to make me think this isn’t the case. There is no surcharge if you purchase an eBook through iTunes or Smashwords instead of Amazon.

Why Amazon chooses to penalize readers who buy their books or writers trying to sell their books in some countries and not others is beyond me. It suppresses readership of eBooks in markets that are potentially quite lucrative for Amazon.

Brazil, for example, has no bookstore infrastructure so the eReader market is low hanging fruit for a company like Amazon to go in and make a huge splash there. But instead of helping foster eBook sales there they are hindering them unnecessarily with the surcharge. You’d think that for sentimental reasons at least (I know, it’s a corporation – give my head a shake) they’d give Brazil a break since it is the place they took their name from.

If they removed the surcharge eBook sales would be bound to rise lifting everyone’s boat. The truth is that it is hurting Amazon as much as it is hurting authors which is another reason why the surcharge is so dumb.

The only good news is that as Amazon sets up in newer markets the surcharge gets dropped. So, hopefully as they move into India this year and into other parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and South America in the next couple of years this will be less of an issue.

– John

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