When the sizzle fizzles. Author Russ Crossley at the Murrayville library.

This is a review of Russ Crossley discussing print and ebook publishing at the Murrayville Library in Langley on April 19th. It is the viewpoint of this former reporter.

Russ Crossley provided some useful information for authors considering publishing in ebook or print format. He also provided a lot of misinformation.

Some authors write because they enjoy it and want to share their works with others. Some authors write because they hope to become rich. If your sole purpose of writing is to earn money, then you should not waste your time writing. From reviewing what others have written about works by Russ it appears he is writing ebooks solely for money.

My background isn’t in writing books, for I have a degree in Broadcast Journalism and am a former member of the Radio/Television News Directors Association. I also wrote a number of puppet plays, and taught public speaking for several years in the Surrey/White Rock area. My writing has been for the ear and not the eye. But I know bad writing/editing when I see it. (You, dear reader, may even find errors in this post for I don’t profess to be a print journalist.)

Russ is like many authors flooding the ebook market; poor writing skills, poor editing skills, but good at self-promotion.

Russ talked about the 100 books he and his wife have published. This is not such a big deal when more than a few of his ebooks are 30 pages or less – some only 14-18 pages – including copyright page and other front matter. Or when some of his works are collections of works he and his wife already published under one of their many aliases. Or when an author uses bits and pieces of already published works to kludge together another ebook.

In his handout, which had glaring spelling errors on the first two pages, Russ included a couple of graphs on how much income you can earn from self-publishing ebooks. Those figures are nonsense, especially if you write/edit as poorly as Russ and his wife.

Writing an ebook is the easiest part of being a self-publisher. The hardest part is getting people to 1) know who you are and, 2) persuading them to download your free ebook or actually purchase your ebook. The same applies to marketing your work to a print publisher, unless you have an exceptional work that everyone knows will be a huge success ( and what author doesn’t?).

Most new authors either price their works at $0.99 or offer them for free. At the end of this note are some links on publishing, mainly from Smashwords.

Attack of the Lushites

Russ talked about his Attack of the Lushites book, which he brought to the meeting to show everyone.

Here are some reviews from Amazon on Lushites. This information was taken before Russ changed publishers – almost 1 year after first appearing on Amazon – and all the negative reviews were removed.

From March 15, 2012

Attack of the Lushites

Review by: Richaundra Patry on July 29, 2011 :

What unfortunately almost ruined it for me is the intolerable amount of what I call ‘cosmetic’ issues. In short, the book seems to have been sloppily edited. In one paragraph, the names were mixed up, (Bud is called Jal), other times sentences showed rewriting without taking out the changed part, leaving the sentences incoherent.

Review by: Jackie West on July 26, 2011 :
I do not want to be overly harsh but the only reason I fully read this “book” was because it was an Early Reviewer “book” through LibraryThing. I don’t think it is too much for me to ask that a book have gone through some basic editing and revisions as needed before being presented as a professional piece of work. This feels like it was written in a weekend. Punctuation was lacking, words were misspelled, run-on sentences abounded, descriptions were redundant, and the author couldn’t even keep the names of his characters straight! Another review I saw mentioned Bud was called Jal – well, Jack was also called Jal a couple times. I am a fan of humorous books, have read all of Hitchhikers (as this author claims to aim for). I have to say it failed miserably. It is not funny, not even slightly amusing. The author rips off several things from other franchises, most glaring being Star Trek. I wish I could say there was at least one thing I liked as I know a person wrote this and I want to be compassionate but… it was so painfully bad to read. There is nothing to redeem it.

Review by: pratchettfan on July 26, 2011 :
Attack of the Lushites is a fun story set in the far future where Fast Food Companies have taken over the Galaxy and are fighting for the highest market share. Jal Popover is just a simple mail room clerk for Heavenly Sky Burger, but when a letter from the enemy (i.e. the CEO of competitor Galaxy Pizza) arrives, he suddenly is faced with much more adventure than he bargained for.

I enjoyed reading Attack of the Lushites with its hilarious setting and strange characters and would read a follow up. What I found a bit annoying was the amount of typos, which was rather high (in the Kindle version that is) and at times disturbed the reading flow. But I was informed by the editor that they are hard at work to correct these problems which occurred during conversion to digital format. (Note by Ted: It took almost 1 year for Russ to switch to another publisher, who hopefully cleaned up the many errors in the original book.)

Review by: Huibert-Jan Lekkerkerk on July 25, 2011 :
The book I received was rifled with errors making the read especially hard for me, a non-native english speaker. But apart from that, the book was also hard to read due to the lack of a clear story line. I completely missed the shift from the ‘fast food’ universe to the ‘drinking’ universe at the start leaving me wondering for quite a few pages what had happened. The (somewhat) unexpected end did not really help here either, the introduction of yet another galaxy with a focus on smoking was on the one hand to be expected, on the other hand it made the story quite unbelievable.
As a great fan of humor books with the Hithchikers guide my all time favourite, I must say I was disappointed. The book is advertised as being in the same category and has some interesting views. But the writing style / storyline somehow manages to spoil an idea that could have been great. It might be the constant reference to other SF works or the constant hammering on the obese shape of the main players, but all in all this was not the enjoying read I had hoped for!

On April 12, 2012, following Russ changing publishers for Lushites, only 1 review of Lushites was left on Amazon; all negative reviews were removed. The one review left was by Ladybug, a gushing reviewing offering 5 star rating. Ladybug has reviewed only this book. This same review of Lushites was copied to Smashwords, but under a different name.

Many readers seeing such a review will question its validity and honesty. A quick look on Smashwords found similar poor reviews for works by Russ.

Russ repeated an often quoted statement on being a successful writer requires writing a great book in the first place. Too bad he doesn’t follow his own advice.

Here is a review on Amazon of another work by Russ.

Round Up At the Burger Bar (The Story of Trixie Pug) [Kindle Edition] Free.

Was $1.99

Print Length: 6 pages

Publisher: 53rd Street Publishing (August 27, 2011)

Review By

James N Simpson (Gold Coast, QLD Australia) – See all my reviews

(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

This review is from: Round Up At the Burger Bar (The Story of Trixie Pug) (Kindle Edition)  1 Star

This is a poorly futuristic written tale about a fat girl in a world of obesity where everyone rides around on hover chairs as they are too fat to walk and do very little work. It tries to poke fun at the fast food world and even lazy junk food obsessed culture but just falls short. I really thought I would like this one but am glad I didn’t invest in the full length novel of which this ten minute or so length short story is a prequel. Western obsession with poor quality fast food definitely needs a good novel (or short story) to point out just how absurd our lifestyle is, this just isn’t a very well written tale.

James N. Simpson is a top 1,000 reviewer on Amazon, having reviewed at least 1975 ebooks.

It takes a lot of courage by an author to offer a 6 page book, including copyright info and possibly a cover image, for $1.99. I can see why he lowered the price to free. But asking $1.99 for 6 pages seems a slap in the face to readers.

Print on Demand books through Amazon CreateSpace

Russ talked about POD books using CreateSpace. Many print authors and ebook authors use CreateSpace to extend their presence on the Internet and in online retailers.

I haven’t used CreateSpace yet, but I may sometime in the future just to extend my Internet presence. I certainly don’t expect to make a living off any POD works.

Here are some links to CreateSpace community forum posts:

“Quality Control” a lengthy discussion on quality control of POD books and the steps some CreateSpace members take to prevent/correct issues. https://www.createspace.com/en/community/thread/19653?start=0&tstart=0

Here is a link to the main CreateSpace community forums: https://www.createspace.com/en/community/index.jspa

Link to a selection of community threads at CreateSpace dealing with formatting: https://www.createspace.com/en/community/tags?recursive=true#/?tags=formatting

Becoming a millionaire writing books and ebooks.

Russ presented a glorious couple of graphs showing how you can become a millionaire writing books and ebooks. Hogwash. The majority of authors starve. They starved when there was no such thing as the Internet, ebooks or POD, and they continue to do so today.

Is Russ earning a decent income with his Lushites ebook and POD? I seriously doubt it, comparing his Amazon sales ranking to mine.

From April 2, 2012 on Amazon for both paperback and ebooks. Rankings may have changed.

Attack of the Lushites [Paperback]

Product Details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (June 16, 2011)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,605,368 in Books

I looked on CreateSpace for information on ranking numbers and found some threads, a link to one thread is below.

Here is a partial quote from one CreateSpace reader in reply to another CS author who was thinking of pulling his book because it was only ranked 289. This thread from April 2011.

“…Your book is currently the 289th best-selling title, with CreateSpace named as publisher, on Amazon. And if it has sold 75 copies as you say then it is already in a tiny percentile of the most successful self-published titles, most of which seem never to get into double figures.”

If a ranking of 289 equals 75 copies, then a Lushites rank of 6 million means very few POD books sold.

CreateSpace community forum on author considering pulling book from CS is quite lengthy and worth a read…  https://www.createspace.com/en/community/thread/16195?start=0&tstart=0

Attack of the Lushites [Kindle Edition]

Product Details

  • File Size: 305 KB
  • Print Length: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Lucky Bat Books (April 26, 2011)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,274 Paid in Kindle Store

It would appear Russ is doing much better with his Kindle ebook edition, ranking wise. But is he earning any worthwhile money?

Russ offers his Kindle edition at 8.99, about 50% discount from the POD price. This is the Amazon suggested discount.

So how well has Russ done selling his Kindle edition of Lushites? Not too good if my ranking are any comparison.

Here are the Amazon KDP (kindle) information on two of my worst selling ebooks on Amazon.

A Cookbook By Ted. Volume 2. [Kindle Edition] (9 sales) second to worst seller

  • File Size: 47 KB
  • Print Length: 44 pages
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,511 Paid in Kindle Store

(This cookbook ebook sells for $0.99 and was published 3 months after Lushites.)

Dopey Stories [Kindle Edition] (2 sales) worst seller

  • File Size: 102 KB
  • Print Length: 24 pages
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #774,593 Paid in Kindle Store

(This ebook sells for $1.99 and went on sale at Amazon on April 2011.)

I looked on Amazon for rankings of other works by Russ and they were all high, which is not a great indicator of success when a ranking of 289 on CS equals only 75 books.

My Barnes & Noble sales through Smashwords have always exceeded sales on Amazon, by a far margin. Both Amazon and B&N are well-known brand names, both sell books and ebooks, both have ereader devices. As of today over 6,100 of my 23 ebooks on B&N have been downloaded/sold through B&N this year.

6,100+ may sound like a great number for one retailer, and it is pretty good, but probably 30% of that figure is actual paid sales.

I started publishing ebooks in August of 2010, with Smashwords. But I started promoting myself and my ebooks in 2005 when I created my first forum on ebooks. In March 2010 I started this WordPress blog.

I suggest any author considering ebooks or POD to create a blog and start writing on it long before you publish your first work. That way you’ll have some built-in audience for your works.

Good stuff for authors considering publishing ebooks or POD:

“The Secrets To Ebook Publishing Success” has great information for new authors and is a good opportunity for established authors to review their marketing efforts.

You can download your copy from Smashwords here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/145431

“How to publish on Smashwords” has information for authors considering publishing ebooks http://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords

“Smashwords Style Guide” has information on formatting ebooks for Smashwords   http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52

“Smashwords Marketing Guide” contains tips from 30+ tips on marketing your ebooks http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/305

Link to CreateSpace main web page https://www.createspace.com/

Link to Amazon KDP (Kindle ebooks) publishing site https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help

Summary

I enjoyed the brief discussion Russ gave at the library and his handout had some helpful information on other blogs by authors.

It’s too bad Russ felt the royalty rates between Smashwords and Amazon Kindle KDP were the same. They are not the same as Smashwords has never offered a 35% royalty, and in fact offers a much higher royalty rate than Amazon for ebooks sold on Smashwords itself; or that he couldn’t take the time to correct glaring errors in the handout; and provided unrealistic expectations for what an author can expect to earn self-publishing.

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