Monthly Archives: December 2014

My First Year as an Indie Author

30 December 2014

From author John D. Brown:

On November 24th last year, a little over 13 months ago, I released my first indie title—Servant: The Dark God Book 1. That release was the official rise from the sideways swamp crash I had with Tor Books.

BTW, sideways swamp crashes in publishing, which can be caused by all sorts of reasons, are not uncommon. Most writers will take a hit or three in their career. That’s just part of the writing business. The question is what happens after the swamp crash?

In my case, I got to work. And, boy, was it a lot of work.

The results have been positive. It was not a phoenixian rise from ashes to glory; it was more like a damp crew patching the ship in the jungle with whatever they had at hand and then launching with nothing but a few birds making any noise. We are by no means past the many perils and obstacles on the path–right now a solid hit from just about anything could knock us out of the sky.

But we are airborne.

We are flying.

And by that I mean the business is delighting readers and generating income.

I’ll probably hit close to 23,000 paid sales since that launch.

. . . .

The good news is that the majority of writers making a living don’t appear [on bestseller lists]. The fact is that you don’t have to sell 100,000+ copies of a single title in a year to make a living. In the indie world, you can do just fine with what Russell Blake calls base hits and doubles.

So are we making a living?

Those sales have generated enough net profit to purchase us a nice used vehicle and a few other things.

. . . .

2. There are a couple of ways that I was able to make my stuff visible

The way to make my stuff visible was not by publishing on Amazon, Nook, and the rest.

Publishing means nothing.

Think about it. There are, right now, 3,079,561 books in the Kindle bookstore.

Yes, three million!

If those were physical books, and we lined them up spine-out like we do on a bookshelf, and we assumed the spines average about an inch in width, they would make a line 48.6 miles long.

. . . .

So if getting it in the store that’s 50 miles long didn’t help, what did?

Getting on a bestseller list.

I sold thousands of copies of Bad Penny on Nook when I was on the Nook’s top 100 list. I rose to #3, in the entire Nook store, then hung out around #50 for about a month. And when that burst of sales that made me #3 fell out of the algorithm (30 days later), I fell off the list. My sales dropped like a stone. Not to nothing. But they were a fraction of what they had been.

How did I get that #3 slot to begin with? The same way I rose to #30 for a few hours in the Kindle store, then slowly dropped to the 1,200s for a few days. I got it by placing an ad with the king of book advertising services, aka BookBub.

. . . .

3. In most cases, books in a specific genre are substitutes

When readers purchase a book, they are looking for a certain type of experience. And my book’s experience isn’t so singular that readers can’t get something roughly similar from another book.

I love Lee Child. But Robert Crais provides an experience that’s basically inside the same ballpark. So does Nelson Demille and a whole host of others, including me.

If Lee Child stops writing or slows down his production to one book every four years, I’m not going to stop reading thrillers. There are plenty of other authors that give me the general adrenaline, surprise, action experience I’m looking for. I’ll be sad, but there are a lot of good authors out there. And I’m sure a few will become my new Lee Child.

Of course, we aren’t all exactly the same. I provide a noticeably different tale than Lee Child does even though we’re in the same Lone-Ranger-vigilante-justice action genre. And so, if I produce the best tale I can, I will find some readers will come to prefer me to Child because I line up more with their tastes than he does.

In addition to continue to work on visibility and craft, this means I’ve got to up my production. I’m going to try for 2.5 brand new books in 2015. That’s nothing for some folks. But that’s a good stretch goal for me.

Link to the rest at John D. Brown

Here’s a link to John D. Brown’s books

Subscription Model Squabbles

29 December 2014

From John Scalzi:

So, authors, you’ll all remember when, in the middle of the Amazon-Hachette spit-fight, I noted that Amazon isn’t your friend, it’s a business entity with its own goals, which may only tangentially align with yours (and the same goes for Hachette)?

. . . .

Part of the issue, as I understand it, is that the payment Amazon doles out to many self-published folks who participate in Kindle Unlimited comes not from the percentage of a sale price, but from a slice of a pot of money Amazon decides to offer, called the KDP Select Global Fund.

. . . .

However, as Amazon gets to select the size of the pot, and the share of the pot is contingent on performance relative to other titles, how much that cut is can fluctuate substantially, as is noted in the article. The article also notes that as the cut is the same for any read (i.e., a short story and a Rothfuss-sized epic novel are the same in the eye of the Kindle Unlimited clicker), authors are chopping up larger books into several files, or writing books as serials (looks like The Human Division was on target for that model).

Given the nature of the payment game here, this is a rational response, but it’s a short term solution at best, as it explodes the number of titles in Kindle Unlimited (and commensurately the number of titles read). As more authors catch on that particular trick, the less useful it will be for everyone. And while Amazon says it will tweak the size of the pot “to make participation in KDP Select a compelling option for authors and publishers,” inasmuch as self-published authors are already griping about how much revenue they’ve lost, the question becomes whether it will ever become a genuinely compelling option.

. . . .

That said, the thing to actively dislike about the Kindle Unlimited “payment from a pot” plan is the fact that it and any other plan like it absolutely and unambiguously make writing and publishing a zero-sum game. In traditional publishing, your success as an author does not limit my success — the potential pool of money is so large as to be effectively unlimited, and one’s payment is independent of any other purchase a consumer might make, or what any other reader might read.

In the Kindle Unlimited scheme, the pool of money available to authors is strictly limited by a corporation whose purposes, short- and long-term, are not necessarily aligned with the authors’, and every time someone with a Kindle Unlimited account reads another author’s work, every other authors’ share of the pot  becomes that much smaller.

Link to the rest at Whatever

Here’s a link to John Scalzi’s books

A word

29 December 2014

A word after a word after a word is power.

 Margaret Atwood

Ten library systems pass one million digital checkouts in OverDrive in 2014

29 December 2014

From TeleRead:

OverDrive announced that 10 public libraries surpassed one million digital checkouts for 2014. Six did it in 2013. Checkouts include ebooks, audiobooks, music and video streaming, and periodicals from OverDrive’s collection.

Two libraries hit the two million mark.

. . . .

2 Million or more digital checkouts
• Toronto Public Library (ON): (49% growth over 2013)
• King County Library System (WA): (33%)

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Anticipating Change in the Myopic Publishing Industry

29 December 2014

From Book Business:

In 2006 the ebook marketplace mostly consisted of PDF files. There were a few other formats but none showed any signs of broad consumer adoption. The industry seemed to be growing weary of anticipating the ebook explosion that was always “just around the corner”.

I remember working at a large book publisher in those days. One of my former colleagues was very outspoken, noting that books aren’t like music (which had already made the shift from physical to digital), there’s no device that makes a digital version more interesting than a print version, consumers like holding and reading a print book, etc.

Then, in late 2007, Amazon launched the Kindle and everything changed.

Let’s fast-forward a few years for the second example… In 2011 I was co-chair of the Tools of Change publishing industry conference. One of the messages we communicated to attendees was the need for them to diversify their channel strategy and focus on the one channel they totally control: direct-to-consumer. Our pleas were met with rolling eyes, yawns, and responses like this one from a very high-level executive at one of the Big Six: “We don’t need to create a direct channel…that’s why we have retail partners like Amazon, for example.”

. . . .

For my third and final example, let’s look back to 2013, when some were suggesting a “Netflix for books” model would emerge. Most scoffed at the idea, suggesting books aren’t like movies and an all-you-can-read option would never take hold.

Earlier this year we saw the launch of Oyster Books, featuring that all-you-can-read model. Some publishers opted to experiment while consumers (like me) flocked to the service. Even Amazon has copied the model with their Kindle Unlimited program.

. . . .

Ebook revenues have plateaued for many book publishers. Some believe the market has reached equilibrium and that a roughly 75/25 split between print and digital is the future.

These publishers are quite comfortable living in the “print under glass” world, where they drive incremental revenue from digital editions that are identical to the print editions. They don’t like it that consumers expect to pay less for the digital edition (vs. the print edition price), but they’re growing comfortable with the model. Many of them briefly experimented with native apps and enriched ebooks; for the most part, their expenses exceeded revenue on these failed projects.

This is largely why these publishers have an allergic reaction when someone mentions the phrases “enriched ebook” or “enhanced ebook”.

Link to the rest at Book Business

There’s a Question We Should Be Asking Re Kindle Unlimited and Its Impact on eBook Sales

29 December 2014

From The Digital Reader:

For the past month or so, Kindle Unlimited has been one of the hot topics in digital publishing. A number of indie authors are reporting that their revenues have dipped since KU launched in July.

. . . .

As I sit here writing this post Sunday morning I can see that, even though a month has passed on this story, no one is asking the right question.

Right now everyone is asking whether KU is worth it for indie authors, and that is not the right question.

What we should be asking is whether traditional publishers are seeing a similar impact on their sales.

. . . .

Yes, I know that all of the talk is focused on indies and KU, but that is not the problem itself; it is just the way that the problem is expressed in the market.

When you get down to it, the actual cause of the drop in revenues is a shift in consumer book-buying behavior as consumers sign up for ebook subscription services and stop buying as many books at retail.

. . . .

But leaving my doubts aside for the moment, if a radical change is occurring then it would most likely affect a consumer’s entire book-buying behavior.

This means that if a consumer really does buy fewer books after getting into Kindle Unlimited or another ebook subscription service, they’re buying fewer books over all – including ones published by legacy publishers, indie publishers, and indie authors.

Now do you see why I want more data on trad pub ebook sales?

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Bestselling books 2014: the kids are alright

28 December 2014

From The Guardian:

At long last, kids ruled in 2014. Books aimed at them have often figured in the top 10 of the all-year sales chart for printed books, but in the respective heydays of JK Rowling, Stephenie (Twilight) Meyer and Suzanne (The Hunger Games)Collins the rest of the elite group usually consisted of grown-up titles and there was always a chance that one such mega-seller – by Dan Brown, say, or EL James– would pip them to the top spot.

This year, in contrast, seven of the top tier books including the No 1 – by John Green, David Walliams and Jeff Kinney, plus four Minecraft manuals – are for children or young adults and an eighth, Guinness World Records, is predominantly aimed at them.

. . . .

What’s fascinating about this is that there should be a market for video game spin-off books at all, let alone such a stunning one. There’s no shortage of Minecraft tutorials on YouTube, in its own online domain, but rather reassuringly young gamers en masse evidently felt a need for a hardback handbook opened next to their PCs – a demand reflecting the relative robustness of manuals of all types and children’s books, compared to other genres whose print sales and revenue have been hit harder by readers’ inexorable (though possibly slowing) flight to ebooks.

. . . .

Just like YouTube idols transformed into writers, reminiscing celebrities capitalise on their screen fame (usually on television) to win publishing deals; but the 2014 list confirms that the public long ago got out of the habit of seeing the resulting books as ideal Christmas presents. Besides the late Lynda Bellingham’s autobiography (12), two sports books, by Guy Martin (32) and Roy Keane (37), are the only hardback memoirs in the top 100. Yet publishers still seem in denial about the once-mighty subgenre’s slump, shelling out for much-hyped autumn offerings from John Cleese, Stephen Fry, John Lydon, Graham Norton and others that all flopped.

. . . .

More surprising is the decline of cookery titles, which until recently gave crime and children’s fiction a good fight for the highest positions. The genre’s talisman Jamie Oliver, who up to 2012 routinely occupied a top 10 spot and for several years running was the Christmas-week No 1, now languishes at No 23. Mary Berry is ahead of him at No 13, but you’d expect her to be higher, given The Great British Bake Off’s vast audience.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The nicest and sweetest days

28 December 2014

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Indie Book Covers are On The Up

28 December 2014

From author Rebecca Lang via ALLI Self-Publishing Advice Blog:

Can I just say all of these amazing book covers I’m seeing are exciting the socks off me! That good covers are becoming the norm, rather than the exception to the rule, is truly heartening.

When I first started self-publishing, good covers were few and far between. I really feel the balance has now tipped tremendously in favour of indies, and this demonstrates a high level of professionalism. I’m so pleased to be part of such a focused and inspiring group of people.

. . . .

Nearing the completion of my first self-published book, I decided to have a stab at designing the book’s cover. I had seen some covers that I really liked and set my mind to replicating a couple of them – an eye-catching tabloid-style of cover with block colours, arresting images, and a darker more academic effort.

If it was any good, I reasoned, I would have saved myself some money and added an extra string to my bow (writer, editor AND book designer!).

As it was, it really wasn’t very good at all – but at the time I thought it was Magnificent! Genius! A Work of Art!

That was until I showed a graphic designer friend Tim Hartridge who politely considered it. He never said ‘Oh sweet Jesus, this is an abomination!’, but he did design something much, much better.

. . . .

Paying for the services of a good graphic designer is part and parcel of investing in yourself, and getting your readers to invest some time in getting to know your writing.

Link to the rest at ALLI

Here’s a link to Rebecca Lang’s books

The Emotional Side of a Book Release

28 December 2014

From author Katie Cross:

There is one thing about publishing that I’ve never been able to come to terms with: vulnerability.
For me (and others, I’m sure), releasing a book is like taking a scalpel to my sternum, slicing through my chest, and saying, “Here total stranger, for $3.99 you can have a glimpse into my heart.” Because, inevitably, every author writes pieces of their soul into their work, and if it’s good writing, you can never get away from that.

. . . .

This didn’t become quite real for me until a woman and blogger that I adore with all my heart,Cristina T, said to me in an innocent, random conversation, “I think we all picture you as Bianca when we read.”

My heart stopped. Not that it was real news, of course. Anyone who has read this blog knows I’m a snarky mess, just like B. All the same, I responded with, “Really? Because that was never the point. I never wanted someone to read the book and see me in it.”

In fact, I tried very hard to take myself out of Bianca in the beginning drafts, but my beta readers called me on it. She was “too perfect” and “boring.”

. . . .

I don’t like to need other people.

But you can’t release a book on your own. You just can’t, and you shouldn’t try. Networking works for a reason: we all need each other. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to rely on others to help my purposes be successful. My inherent skeptic always asks why should they care? Not to mention the phrase of no one will ever care as much about your book as you do.

Like the itchy wool sweater Grandma gives you at Christmas, accepting help from others is uncomfortable for me. While it’s incredibly appreciated, it also makes me incredibly vulnerable.

Link to the rest at KCross Writing

Here’s a link to Katie Cross books

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