Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Vetting e-Book Authors

I'm always on the prowl for potentially lucrative affiliates for my e-books. I'm not complaining about the sales of my e-books, I've done fairly well with them, but I know those sales could be much greater if I could get my books in front of more people. Web marketing is about reaching a big audience. Not just in terms of numbers of people, it needs to be a specifically targeted big audience. People don't buy things, potentially interested in them or not, that they're unaware of. D'uh, right?

Most of the time, when I send an email of inquiry to a potential affiliate -- someone or some site I believe could generate significant sales -- I'm ignored. I've spoken with other e-book authors and they say they regularly experience the same thing.

Just the other day, I sent an inquiry to a fairly well-known site that pimps more than a few e-books, books, and other photography training and education media. They wrote me back. (I did appreciate not being ignored, BTW.) But in their response they cited the content of one of my books, Guerrilla Glamour, as not being appropriate for some of their site's visitors and, because of that, they felt they must decline.

"No problem," I told them in a follow-up email. I have two other e-books, Guerrilla Headshots and Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography, and both of them are "G" rated and would be a perfect fit (and should be no problem) for anyone on their mailing list.

"Well," they told me, "The problem is we Googled your name and email address and a number of the "hits" were flagged by Google for content inappropriate for children and some others.

I politely responded that Disney produces "R-rated" movies (and has for some time) and that simple fact doesn't seem to effect the marketability and sales of their traditional "G-rated" children's fare. I'm sure there's a few people who began boycotting Disney once Walt's company got into the "R-rated" markets but I stress the words, "few people."

Although they admitted they could probably sell a ton of my "G" rated e-books to the tens of thousands of people on their mailing list, they still told me, "Thanks but no thanks." According to them, they didn't want to risk any of their people Googling me and discovering links with "content problems" attached to some of the results of such searches.

Obviously, their business is their business. They can choose to support or not support anyone they want and for any reason they deem appropriate. It's a free country, right? Well, it's sorta free, at least it used to be, but you get my drift.

I am, however, rather bemused that someone or some site might not support "G-rated" photography books because the author has written an "R-rated" photography book. I could name off any number of books authored by high-profile photographers which include plenty of not-for-kids or not-for-church-ladies content. Would they, the site I was going back and forth with, turn down a book by a successful contemporary photographer like Michael Grecco, as an example? How about one by an iconic fashion shooter like Helmut Newton? I'm certainly not putting myself in the company of those two great photographers in terms of their successes, but I think the comparison is still valid. Significant amounts of nude and/or erotic work are part of those two photographers' resumes.

I also question how many of a website's followers or subscribers would actually take the time to research an author on the chance he or she might have written other things or, in the case of photography, shot stuff that doesn't fit into their personal, tidy, moralistic view of what's right or wrong? I don't know about you, but when I purchase books, books of any sort, I don't do background checks on the authors. Authors don't need to be vetted for me to want to read their books or look at other work they may have done. For whatever reasons I might buy a book, any book, the author's personal sense of morality, supposedly represented by portions of their work or history, or his or her background isn't on any of my lists of reasons to buy or not to buy a book. Maybe I'm just unique that way? (Although I think not.)

The pretty girl at the top is one of my favorite models to work with, Faye Reagan. We were shooting in a loft in downtown L.A. I used the sunlight coming through the big bank of windows plus a reflector and an HMI to light her.


Anonymous said...

There are categories of writing that are used by people as a litmus test -- guns, religion, and erotica come to mind. By itself, this wouldn't be a problem, but some of these people take it upon themselves to try to damage the careers of people who write in those categories. I might make the same decision were I running a publishing company, even though I obviously have no problem with your work.

Frankly, in your situation I'd do what authors have always done -- write under different names for different audiences. I've heard from more than one big-name author that he or she has written romance, and always under a nom de plume.

You could easily enough change the book title and reissue under a new author name and imprint. The only problem I see is that you wouldn't be able to use your reputation as a photographer to sell the book, and many photography books depend on a cult of personality for sales.

Worth considering (always assuming you haven't already dismissed the idea, of course).

West coast Jim said...

I'm shocked! Truly I am. You don't do background checks on authors before you buy their books???. Whoa.

What horseshit! No one does. They're totally disingenuous!!!
Totally. And sadly they think they're just swell thank you. And "swell" and "swill" are very similar words. Hmmm.

jimmyd said...

@West Coast Jim: It is swill.

@Anon: I thought about that but fuck 'em. My name certainly isn't a household word but it's known, fairly well known, to a few thousand photographers out there. I'm not going to trade the branding i've spent years doing because some wimps are worried about a teeny-tiny number of people amongst the thousands they reach with their site and their bulk emails. I'm not ashamed of anything I've done and I'm certainly not ashamed of any of my photography.... well, except some of those pics I've taken that really suck. :-)

The Boatwriter said...

You're fighting a losing battle against the powers of "decency." My advice: Throw 'em off balance with a couple of ebooks featuring kittens, puppies and insipid landscapes (covered bridges and lighthouses are perennial favorites).

When you think you're ready, try a series of portraits of simperingly cute kids, the obnoxious rug rats you see moms pushing around the mall in $1000 strollers.

Or just give it up, call a couple of models and shoot another ebook, sell it the way you've been doing. The world has enough pix of lighthouses and four-legged pussies.

jimmyd said...

@The Boatwriter: LOL! Thanks, I needed that!