Kim McDougall

Book Dragon is tired

**squeeee** I'm doing a happy dance because I just saw the mockups for the cover of Worlds Don’t Collide, Valkyrie Bestiary Book 9, and Kayla Schweisberger has outdone herself! I can’t wait to show it to you, hopefully in the next newsletter. Such a tease, I know.
Other than that excitement, this has been a week of writing, writing, writing, plus the busy work of publishing, and not the fun kind—the kind that makes me feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels and not accomplishing a lot. Among other things,  I decided to take down Kyra’s fictional blog. Well, not take it down entirely, but all the text is gone. I left only the images because I know people like to see the critters. I’ll explain why I did this in a moment.
One of my mandates of this newsletter is to let you, the reader, get a peek behind the curtains of the publishing world. I try to be as transparent as possible about my publishing choices and obstacles, so you can make informed decisions about your purchasing power. And yes, the choice you make in buying books is a great power (book dragon says you are a superhero!).
So let me explain the events that led up to my decision to remove the blog.
Like all industries, the publishing world has its quirks and pitfalls that can snag unsuspecting authors. But even seasoned authors who have been around for a long time can fall into the pit of Amazon hell and be left there to rot. This past week, author and amazing advocate for indie authors, Rachel Rener, had her book removed from Amazon for no apparent reason. She received an automated message saying her book, Jinxed, violated Amazon guidelines because it was widely available on the internet and this causes a poor experience for buyers. Like my books, Jinxed is in the Kindle Unlimited program. This means the ebook must be exclusive to Amazon. Of course, Amazon allows excerpting for review and promotional purposes—up to 10% of the book.
When authors receive a letter such as this it is usually because of pirated books, something completely outside the author’s control. Rachel eventually got a response from Amazon (after many tries). Here’s the response she got:

That website they cited is a valid review site. Nothing hokey going on there. But the Zon bots flagged it and now the onus was on Rachel to prove her copyright status. Guilty until proven innocent.
Rachel did eventually get her book reinstated. She was lucky. Every week, I read about indie authors who get flagged by these bots and have their books removed, or worse, get their accounts shut down entirely. Often they have little recourse to contest the ruling because it’s near impossible to actually speak to a human at the Kindle Direct Publishing help desk.
Rachel's letter to Jeff Bezos really resonated with me. Rachel said, “I was once in an abusive relationship and I am not exaggerating when I say that working with Amazon gives me PTSD. I'm forced into a relationship that causes me inordinate amounts of stress - like my actual earnings being 20% different than the estimated royalties, or having my page read payouts be slashed again and again to fractions of pennies, and now this - some sort of sick guessing game where I have to figure out what I did wrong or continue to suffer.”
This is exactly it. Getting shut down is every author’s worst nightmare. If Zon shut my account, I would no longer be able to write because the main part of my income would disappear in a flash. I would be forced to do something else. It’s an axe that hangs over me and all indie authors every day—a dread that never goes away. Will I be the next one Zon picks on for no reason? Will I have my livelihood snatched away without reason and without recourse for fixing it?
And so, even though the posts on Kyra’s blog are tiny excerpts that are well below Zon’s excerpt guideline limit, I shut it down. It’s just not worth the risk to me.
It also means that I spent the good part of the week with busy work, redoing the site, checking pirate sites for my books, getting copyrights for recent books, and verifying all the affiliate links on my author website. Busy work that I could have spent better elsewhere.

I’m sure I will get questions about this, and I welcome them. I’ll answer a few that have popped up already in previous chats.
Q: Will you continue to keep your books in the Kindle Unlimited program?
A: Yes. I committed the series to KU, and even with the Zon axe hanging over my head, I feel it isn’t fair to KU readers to snatch it away before the series ends. Also, right now, KU makes up 60-70% of my royalties. That makes it hard to ignore. But I believe that the readership in KU is a pool that has finite possibilities. My plan has always been to leave the Valkyrie Bestiary Series in KU until it is finished. Then, after a few months, move it to a wide distribution. When the series is selling through a wide distribution, I will rebuild Kyra’s blog.
Q: Should I get rid of my KU subscription?
A: No! I love KU and have a subscription myself. And I understand that for some people who read dozens of books a month, KU is the only way to keep up with books. Zon’s exclusivity rules may be draconian, but they only really become an issue when they let internet bots make decisions that should be made by a rational human. AI isn’t that sophisticated yet! But if you want your book dollars to matter, you might consider other buying options in addition to KU.
In the next blog, I plan to talk some more about these issues, including the real dollar cost of all this busy work. I’d love to answer some of your questions in the newsletter too. Feel free to respond right in the comments. 

Valkyrie Bestiary Cage Fights

Semifinal Extravaganza!

Semi-final Week 5: Heavy Weight Division—Supreme Valkyrie Beast 
Draika vs Dragon

Two dragons: one master of the sea, the other master of the sky. Sort of makes me think of a crocodile fighting an eagle, but bigger. Badder. Let’s assume that this fight allows both contestants to showcase their skills. The dragon will have to take a swim to fight the draika, but if he can pull that water dragon out of his element…it’s anyone’s battle! You decide the winner. Vote in the comments. Be original. Show me the twists and turns this fight will take. All voters will be entered to win this week’s eBook prize.

Voting starts February 2 on the Valkryrie Bestiary FB Discussion Group. The winner will be announced Thursday, February 8 at 3pm EST. 

This week’s cage fight sponsor is C. Thomas Lafollette. From all the participants, 3 will be chosen at random when the fight ends. Those commentators will win a free eBook: Dark Fangs Rising. Thank you C. Thomas Lafollette! 

Join the Valkyrie Bestiary FB Discussion Group to Vote!

Book Fairs & Events

This weeks book fairs are full of spice and free reads! Get your vampires, witches and shifter free, or find something spicy to heat up the Valentine's vibe.


Spotlight Books

Gilded Blood Series
by Rachel Renner

This week's spotlight books are the Gilded Blood Series that includes Jinxed, the one that Amazon decided to tear down. Thankfully, it was reinstated. But if you'd like to support Rachel Rener, you can also find the book on her website. And she has some lovely gift ideas to go along with it! 
About the series:

When Zayn, your smoking hot boss, tells you never to touch the cache of deluxe tattoo ink locked away in his office, you listen to him… until the day you run out of your own ink, your squirming client is on the verge of peeing his pants, and your boss is nowhere to be found. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

I fully expected Zayn to yell at me when he returned to the shop. What I didn't expect was the fresh cobra tattoo on my client’s butt magically springing to life. Or the interdimensional filing cabinet hiding in the back of his office. And, oh, did I mention that my gorgeous, magic-ink-hoarding boss is actually an incubus?

Now – through (mostly) no fault of my own – we have to venture into a strange and distant land where a never-ending list of lethal flora, fauna, and fae await us. When you add in my Jewish mother’s string of poorly-timed, hysterical phone calls, there is one thing I’m grateful for: There’s no cell service in the fae realm.

Get the Gilded Blood Series now!

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