Monthly Archives: March 2011

New Entrants in Publishing or Self-Publishing Start with the Customer

31 March 2011
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Brian O’Leary writes a long piece primarily focused on publishers. He’s trying to get them to quit thinking about books, magazines or newspapers so they’re not destroyed by self-publishers

You see, although this blog is focused on the changes taking place in what we call “books,” everybody in the commercial word business is being disrupted. Magazines and newspapers – aggregators of small and smaller groups of words centered around a particular theme – have, of course, seen their business models decimated by online aggregators of words – blogs, The Drudge Report, etc., etc., etc.

Books took longer because reading War and Peace on a computer screen is beyond the capacity of all but those on the fringes of normality. You needed a slate, a pad, an ereader – a different form factor that accommodated the human body and its physical limitations – before consuming the large collection of words we call a book was a reasonable possibility. This big-bunch-of-words consumption device is in the process of becoming ubiquitous.

One factor that characterizes all successful online entrants is they pay close attention to their customers. What links are clicked, what stories are read? Even a modest undertaking like The Passive Voice has a sidebar that displays its most popular posts as chosen by its readers. This is both a help to visitors and an aid to Passive Guy in deciding what sorts of new posts to create.

Big Publishing is really a wholesaler to bookstores, not a retailer to customers. Big Publishing understands the book buyers at Barnes & Noble very well. Transforming itself into a business that understands readers as well as Amanda Hocking does is going to be a large (impossible?) task.

Anyway, back to Brian O’Leary. Almost. One more thing that is interesting to me is that Clayton Christensen first published his best-selling book on disruptive change in 1997 and began writing about fundamental principles of disruption in scholarly articles in about 1993. The high tech world was sucking in the implications of disruption as fast as it could during the late 1990’s. Only now, over ten years later, is the publishing business discovering that it can be disrupted as well.

Now back to Brian.

Excerpts:

My idea in a nutshell is this: book, magazine and newspaper publishing is unduly governed by the physical containers we have used for centuries to transmit information.  Those containers define content in two dimensions, necessarily ignoring that which cannot or does not fit.

. . . .

We need to think about containers as an option, not the starting point.  Further, we must start to open up access, making it possible for readers to discover and consume our content within and across digital realms.

Without a shift in mindset, we are vulnerable to a range of current and future disruptive entrants.  Containers limit how we think about our audiences.  In stripping context, they also limit how audiences find our content.

Here, scale is not our friend.  It may well be the enemy.  As Clay Christensen first outlined in 1997, disruptive technologies don’t look or feel like what we typically value.  Often enough, they are cheaper, simpler, smaller and more convenient than their traditional analogues.

. . . .

As barriers to entry have fallen, I’ve started to think more about how traditional book, magazine and newspaper publishers can survive in a digital era.  There are both new and non-traditional established entrants across most publishing segments.  Their successes have pushed traditional publishers to look at ways to change business models and organize around customers.

It is time to see our publishing brethren – newspapers and magazines – as part of a disrupted continuum that affects us all.  Digital makes convergence not only possible; digital has made convergence inevitable.  Marketers have become publishers; publishers are marketing arms; new entrants are a bit of both.  Customers have become alternately competitors, partners and suppliers.

. . . .

And imagine a world in which content can be disseminated in a range of formats, at the figurative or literal push of a button.

That world exists today, with literally dozens of credible, widely accessible tools and resources. These authoring, repository and distribution tools and resources make it possible for anyone to create, manage and disseminate digital as well as physical content.

. . . .

While publishers think of agile workflows as an opportunity to drive down the cost of making content for containers, a newer breed of “born-digital” competitors have started with context. These new entrants are developing taxonomies and tools so that they can invade the same niches we thought we were making more efficient.

The challenge is not just being digital; it’s being demonstrably relevant to the audiences who now turn first to digital to find content.

New entrants – our real competition – start with the customer. They develop contextual frameworks that help them differentiate both readers and themselves. The new guys like the new tools because they are cheap, scalable and open-source. In fact, they are already exploiting tools that many traditional publishers lament are “just too hard to learn”.

Link to the rest at Magellan Media Consulting Partners

 

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Want to be a Famous Author? Check Craigslist

31 March 2011
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I haven’t read anywhere that one of the benefits of being an indie author who sells ebooks and POD is that there are no book signings.

Why?

Book signings happen in book stores and, indie boy and indie girl, you are anathema to book stores.

For non-indie authors, book signings happen.

Some authors like ’em. Some authors hate ’em. Alexander Greenwood described them as “lonely after school detention for grownups.”

But you don’t have to go to all the trouble of writing a book to sign books like a famous author does.

Excerpts:

To some authors, the book-signing is a curse. What could be more excruciatingly dull, to the sensitive creative mind, than to sit for hours in a festival tent or bookshop, inscribing your name on several hundred copies of your new masterpiece? This isn’t a proper display of your writing talent – a baboon scratching the dirt with a stick could do it just as well.

To other authors, signing books for the public is a sacramental act, a talismanic ritual in which the bond between writer and reader, expressed in a few words of warm mutual stroking, is sealed by the seminal squiggle of ink.

Between these extremes of attitude lies the truth: book signings are a repetitive chore, mitigated by the pleasure, for authors, of meeting their buying public, and the joy, for readers, of meeting the mind that dreamt up an imaginative creation which lives in their heads. But such is the demand for signed copies that authors often have to sign several thousand books in private, to be sold later.

. . . .

Now, though, an American publisher is short-circuiting the process. His company has posted an advertisement on Craigslist, the internet listing site, asking for 14 volunteers who can fake the signatures of two big-name authors of a forthcoming book; each successful applicant will be paid $25 for every 200 books signed. “You will need,” reads the advert, “to be able to copy the look and style of both authors’ signatures.” It must be some book: the ersatz signings are scheduled to last 16 hours: with 14 people signing at a rate of four books per minute, that suggests more than 50,000 copies will be processed.

The identity of the publisher, and the co-authors, remains unknown. Their signature scam is a clear case of fraud, or “passing off,” but is being greeted in publishing circles as an enterprising answer to a problem. And it throws up some long-overdue questions. Such as: Why would you want an author to scribble her name in your book? Does it increase its value? How can best-selling authors sign books for seven hours at a stretch? Why do readers want to meet writers anyway?

Link to the rest at The Independent

 

 

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The Dreams of The Writer Lead To The Dreams of The Reader

30 March 2011
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A lot of indie publishing discussion centers around the writer as a seller and the reader as a buyer.

Alexander M. Zoltai discusses an entirely different aspect of this relationship.

Excerpts:

The dreams indicated in the title up there are what have been given the fancy term, “fictive dreams”, more reasonably called “fictional dreams”.

The writer is in a dream-like state when the creative act is flowing and, hopefully, the reader can fall into a similar state. Still, the dream of the reader is rarely just like the dream of the writer.

. . . .

[John] Gardner argues that this fictional dream first happens in the writer’s head, and the writer’s job is to write it down for the reader:

“In the writing state—the state of inspiration—the fictive dream springs up fully alive: the writer forgets the words he has written on the page and sees, instead, his characters moving around their rooms, hunting through cupboards, glancing irritably through their mail, setting mousetraps, loading pistols. The dream is as alive and compelling as one’s dreams at night, and when the writer writes down on paper what he has imagined, the words, however inadequate, do not distract his mind from the fictive dream but provide him with a fix on it, so that when the dream flags he can reread what he’s written and find the dream starting up again. This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer’s process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things—sees them clearly—and in the act of wondering what they will do next he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find, understanding even as he writes that he may have to find better words later, and that a change in the words may mean a sharpening or deepening of the vision, the fictive dream or vision becoming more and more lucid, until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.”

Link to the rest at Notes from An Alien

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Video – Amanda Hocking Talks About Writing

30 March 2011
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Data point: She has between $1.4 million and $2 million in royalties that she’s earned, but not received yet.

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If that’s your real name on the book cover, what’s your pen name?

30 March 2011
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10 Strange Things People Said to a Writer at a Book Signing.

Excerpts:

This is a free sample, isn’t it? (Asked while the writer was inscribing the book.)

. . . .

Did Oprah like it?

Link to the rest at The Brimstone Murder’s Blog

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Realistic Expectations for Online Book Marketing

30 March 2011
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So, you’re going to blog and Tweet and Like and Link, then everybody will buy your book.

Count the number of authors who blog. Count the number of authors who are bestsellers. Do you see a difference?

Phyllis Zimbler Miller suggests what an author can reasonably expect from online marketing.

Excerpts:

1. Do I have the determination, patience, commitment (whatever you want to call this ability) to spend at least an hour four or five times a week engaging in social media participation or can I afford to hire someone to do this engagement for me?

2. Do I like to engage with my book fans or potential fans on a one-to-one basis or do I want to stay hidden behind the cover of my book?

3. Do I want to help other authors by sharing my hard-learned wisdom or do I want other authors to have to reinvent the wheel as I may have had to do?

. . . .

But what if you really, really want to sell your book?

First, consider whether you must only sell the book in its entirety in physical form, or can you sell your book in individual chapters as downloadable ebooks from your website?

Nowadays people are inundated with information. Reading a book on a specific topic may seem too much; but reading the one book chapter about which you particularly want to know may seem quite reasonable.

Second, are you going to integrate your online marketing plans with offline plans? Are you going to do live book signings? Sell books at your children’s school events and donate a percentage to the school?

While you may have better odds of actually selling books offline than online, what you do online can help encourage book sales. For example, people who already follow you on Twitter may have a stronger allegiance to you at a book signing than people who only came to the signing because free food was advertised.

If the person who follows you on Twitter buys a book at a signing, is that sale the result of your online or offline activity?

Link to the rest at Marketing Tips for Authors

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New Rules for Self-Publishing

30 March 2011
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Penelope Trunk, CEO of The Brazen Careerist, makes some new rules for self-pubbing.

Excerpts:

1. Mainstream publishers help very few people. And probably not you.
Authors sell books, not publishers. For writers without a big name, publishers give them credibility. The problem is that publishers aren’t set up to be able to make money from authors who haven’t already made a name for themselves. This arrangement used to be fine before social media, before almost every author needed a channel to an audience. But now authors have the ready-made sales channel that is social media, so the publishers are no longer the gatekeepers to customers.

. . . .

5. Forget about the book cover — have a great landing page instead.
You are going to send people to a page to buy a book, not a book store, not Amazon. This is your place where you are selling. It’s like your food truck. People will take a look at it quickly to see if it’s trustworthy and worth their time to try it.

The number of people you lose on the buy now page has to be really, really small. And it is not necessarily true that a picture of the cover of your book is what will close the sale. So you need to do a lot of tests to see what kind of copy and layout can close your sale. And if you’re on a limited budget, tell your designer to focus on the landing page, not the book cover.

Today authors need to be good at creating landing pages. It used to be that publishers were market-makers for books. We know now that authors are, but since publishers are not great at online marketing, it makes sense that the person who is writing—and connecting with the audience—would also be the person writing the landing page to turn interest into sales.

Link to the rest at Penelope Trunk

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How to Self-Promote Your Ebook

29 March 2011
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Suggestions from Victorine Lieske:

I quickly learned that the wonderful people over on the Kindleboards don’t appreciate authors who post an ad once a week and never stick around to socialize.  Those get ignored.  I found that the best way to draw attention to my book was to put my book cover in my signature line with a link to the Kindle version, and then get to know people.  I posted on the threads that I was interested in.  I joined in the conversations.  I tried to be polite.  I also tried to make sure my posts weren’t filled with grammatical errors or typos.

. . . .

Now, Kindleboards.com is a fantastic place for authors to mingle with readers.  But it’s also a wonderful place for authors to network with each other.  When any author was looking for another author to interview, I signed up.  When a new person was starting a review blog, I submitted my book.  I found out a lot of ways to promote by reading the posts in the Writer’s Cafe.

. . . .

1. Giveaways.  Goodreads.com is a great place to give away paper copies.  If you’re giving away Kindle books, try posting about it on the Amazon Kindle facebook page.  Just have people send you their email in a private message.  Doing giveaways on your own facebook fan page is a good way to get more followers.  I also did a giveaway on this blog.

Link to the rest at Victorine Writes

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Update on a Self-Publishing Experiment

28 March 2011
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I’ve blogged before about self-published author Derek J. Canyon and all the details he provides about his experiences on his blog, Adventures in ePublishing.

Beginning on March 1, Derek started a pricing experiment with his two ebooks , dropping his fantasy novel, Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance, from $2.99 to 99 cents and raising the price of Format Your eBook for Kindle in One Hour from 99 cents to $2.99.

His charts tell a more detailed story, but unit sales of his novel are up and his Amazon sales rank is much higher. He projects sales of 1,000 copies of his novel in March. The price increase for his how-to book  on Kindle formatting has not adversely impacted sales and, as you would expect, his revenue is up substantially.

Link to the rest at Adventures in ePublishing

Links to prior posts about Derek J. Canyon HERE, HERE and HERE

 

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If Authors Lose Faith in Big Publishing

28 March 2011
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Smashwords CEO Mark Coker lays out the path to destruction for Big Publishing in a blog post and an online interview. To him, it looks a little like the Egyptian revolution.

Excerpts:

If authors – the beating heart powering Big Publishing – lose faith in Big Publishing, then big publishing as we know it will die. By “Big Publishing,” I’m referring to the old, pre-self-publishing system embodied by the Big 6 New York publishers, in which the publisher serves as the author’s judge, jury, gatekeeper and executioner.

If Big Publishing approves of your book, they acquire it. Post-acquisition, an author can die happy knowing they’re a published author with all the esteem, respect and future possibilities embodied in this blessing. At least, that’s what most authors are trained to believe.

Unfortunately, it’s tough to find a traditionally published author who waxes eloquent about their post-publication experience. It’s like the author goes to heaven and reports back via John Edwards (the guy who talks to dead people) that they discovered famine on the other side of the pearly gates.

Big Publishing, although it employs thousands of talented and well-intentioned professionals, is built upon a broken business model.

. . . .

Two questions and their answers will drive the author uprising against Big Publishing:

  1. What can a publisher do for me that I (the author) cannot do for myself?
  2. Might a big publisher actually harm my prospects as an author?

Ten years ago, the answers to these simple questions validated the need for Big Publishing. Why? In the old print world, Big Publishing controlled access to readers. They controlled the printing press and the access to retail distribution.

. . . .

Indie authors are a leading indicator of where publishing is going. Ebooks already outsell print for most indie authors. Brick and mortar bookstores are in decline, and this is both a cause and a result of the move to online book buying, among other factors. When book shelves go virtual, the playing field between big publisher and indie author is leveled. Actually, I’d go one step further and say that the move to indie ebooks actually tilts the playing field to the author’s advantage. Big Publishing can’t compete against indie ebooks because their expenses are too high and production schedules too slow.

To appreciate the dramatic growth of ebooks, the numbers from the Association of American Publishers provide a useful point of reference. According to the AAP, ebooks as a percentage of overall trade book sales in the US reached about 8% in 2010, up from 3% in 2009, 1% in 2008, and ½ of 1% in 2007. Yet these numbers dramatically understate what’s really happening.

The AAP numbers reflect what the 12-14 large publishers who contribute to the data are doing with ebooks, but the data doesn’t capture small presses and indie authors. The numbers also don’t reflect unit volume. Since ebooks are priced less than print, the unit market share for ebooks is greater than the revenue numbers would indicate.

Large independent publishers like Sourcebooks that have embraced ebooks are already seeing 1/3 of their revenues coming from ebooks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sourcebooks begins deriving over 50% of their unit volume from ebooks with the next nine months.

. . . .

Many writers today still cling to this old idea that they’re not a real author until they’ve been blessed by the Holy Father of Big Publishing. Screw that. Why should authors subject themselves to this false religion of Big Publishing? Big Publishing as we know it is dead.

Sure, some of the Big 6 will survive, but they’ll do it by getting smaller or consolidating. Their expense structures are unsustainably high. Manhattan sky rise rents add absolutely no value to a book, only expense.

Ebooks, led by indie authors and mainstream author defections to indie, will accelerate the demise of Big Publishing. Authors are already asking, “what can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself.” The next big questions is, “Will a big publisher limit my success as an author?” You’ve answered that question for months here on your blog. It’s a question Big Publishers don’t want their authors asking, because the answer reveals the mirage of Big Publishing.

Big Publishing was built on a model of scarcity. They controlled the printing press, they controlled access to distribution, and they limited supply. In the old print world, if a writer wanted to reach a lot of readers, they had to bow subservient upon the altar of Big Publishing.

Link to the rest at The Smashwords Blog and A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing

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