Monthly Archives: January 2016

Meredith Wild, a Self-Publisher Making an Imprint

31 January 2016

From The New York Times:

One chilly morning this month, Meredith Wild, the best-selling romance novelist, was sitting in her library in Destin, Fla., wrapped in a loose black sweater in front of a crackling fire. Most mornings, Ms. Wild writes her novels in this spot after her children leave for school, but that day she had other business to attend to. She had a call with a reality TV production company that is developing a show about her, and later, a conference call with a team at Waterhouse Press, the small imprint that is publishing her new novel in June.

Ms. Wild has an unusual amount of sway for an author, owing to her high-profile position at Waterhouse: She founded the company. After sales of her self-published erotic novels took off on Amazon and other sites, Ms. Wild created the press partly as a way to get print versions into bookstore chains and big-box stores.

“I wanted something that sounded like it was a real imprint, because nobody takes you seriously as an independent author,” she said. “I felt I was being discriminated against as an indie.”

. . . .

Her marketing abilities proved so effective — she sold 1.4 million print and digital copies — that she decided to expand her business by taking on other authors, in essence becoming a publisher herself.

Last year, Ms. Wild began quietly acquiring works by other self-published romance writers, including Helen Hardt and Audrey Carlan, and publishing their books under her Waterhouse imprint. The press will release at least nine novels this year, including two in Ms. Wild’s current series. She’s become a kind of value investor in erotic prose, pinpointing undervalued writers and backing their brands.

“We’re hoping to discover the next big person and replicate some of the success we had building the visibility of my books,” Ms. Wild said. “We’re interested in taking these diamond-in-the-rough type people and building their brands.”

. . . .

 Ms. Wild’s path from becoming a self-publishing star to operating her own small imprint is the latest sign that independent authors are catching up to publishers in the sophistication of their marketing and the scope of their ambitions. Self-published authors can negotiate foreign-rights deals and produce audiobooks. A handful of the most successful independent writers sell print copies of their books in physical retail stores like Barnes & Noble, Walmart and Target, giving them access to a market that traditional publishers have long dominated.

. . . .

For decades, the literary world dismissed self-published authors as amateurs and hacks who lacked the talent to land a book deal. But that attitude gradually began to change with the rise of e-books and the arrival of Kindle from Amazon, which gave authors direct access to millions of readers. Over the last five years, close to 40 independent authors have sold more than a million copies of their e-books on Amazon, the company said.

Publishers and literary agents who once overlooked self-published authors began courting them with staggering book advances.

. . . .

After Ms. Wild’s self-published “Hacker” series took off in 2014, she was bombarded with offers from publishers, agents and film producers. She was earning so much by then that she told her agent she would entertain only eight-figure offers. She eventually settled for a bit less, agreeing to a $6.25 million advance from Forever, a Grand Central Publishing imprint, for five books.

Forever has sold nearly 500,000 digital and print copies of the “Hacker” series — a healthy sum, but far less than the 1.4 million digital and print books Ms. Wild had sold on her own, without any of the editorial guidance, marketing muscle or sales and distribution channels of an established publisher.

Perhaps that’s why Ms. Wild opted not to sell the rights to her other books. Instead, she’s publishing her current series through her own imprint.

“I’m more comfortable being in control of my successes and failures,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to be on the sidelines.”

Editors and publishers are adjusting to a new power dynamic, one in which even multimillion-dollar advances aren’t enough to ensure an author’s loyalty.

“It’s a challenge, because a lot of the ones who are very successful at it are making a lot of money, which in all honesty can be hard to match with the traditional publishing royalty structure,” said Leah Hultenschmidt, the Forever editor who acquired the Hacker series from Ms. Wild.

Publishers fighting to recruit top-selling authors have other reasons to be alarmed by the growth of self-publishing. As independent authors grab a bigger slice of the e-book market, digital sales by traditional publishers fell by 11 percent in the first nine months of 2015, according to data gathered from more than 1,200 publishers by the Association of American Publishers.

Last year, a third of the 100 best-selling Kindle books were self-published titles on average each week, an Amazon representative said. Some analysts attribute the dip in publishers’ e-book revenue in part to the glut of cheap self-published books, which often sell for as little as $1.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

A dream, all a dream

31 January 2016
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A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.

Charles Dickens

Amazon Hiring Comedians, Engineers for Growing Audio Service

31 January 2016

From Bloomberg: Inc. is ramping up its investment in podcasts and other radio-style shows to expand the types of programming it offers via Audible, the audio book company it acquired in 2008.

Audible has recruited well-known comedians, along with radio and podcast producers for the initiative, and job postings suggest a significant global push. Maria Bamford and Jonathan Katz are taping episodes of “Bedtime Stories,” a show in which comedians rewrite fairy tales, according to their manager Bruce Smith.

Entertainment plays a crucial role in Amazon’s effort to push beyond its core business of selling books, laundry detergent and televisions online. The Seattle-based company’s original films and TV shows have won critical acclaim and helped increase the appeal of its $99-a-year Prime service, which includes delivery discounts along with video and music streaming. Audible has more than 250,000 audio programs including books and plays, with downloads available for iPhones, Androids and other smartphone systems.

“Amazon is doing to Audible what it’s done to Prime Video — investing in original programming,” said Nick Quah, an executive at the Graham Holdings Co.’s Panoply podcast network who also writes a newsletter about the industry. “Amazon is hiring a ton of really good producers and managers out of public radio to acquire podcasts and develop shows of their own.”

. . . .

Podcasts and other radio programs are a sweetener for existing members and to entice new ones. Audible sells products individually, along with monthly subscriptions that include access to a certain number of titles, reinforcing Amazon’s push to engage online shoppers with gadgets and entertainment offerings.

Radio-style programs could also be a good extension of Amazon’s voice-activated speaker Echo, which already plays customized news from National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg and thanks to Nate for the tip.

An Amazon Review

31 January 2016

Nothing to do with books, but PG received the following review that was written for a men’s suit offered on Amazon:

Greetings fellow amazonians, just bought this suit a few weeks ago and it helped me out big time. You see one reason I haven’t been able to give as many reviews over the past few years is because I was in jail. The only access I had to the internet was in the prison library, but I was not able to go often because I was not labeled a “good” prisoner. I had a parole meeting scheduled a few weeks back and I wanted to look good so I bought this suit. I had it delivered to one of the COs houses that owed me a favor and he snuck it in for me. I put it on and my cellie Big Todd was really impressed. I went to the meeting and to my shock I was not supposed to dress up for it. They wanted me to show up in that ugly orange jumpsuit for some reason. I decided to tell the parole board the whole story as to how I got the suit and some other lurid details of what went on while I was behind bars. The entire time though I noticed that the board members were not really listening to me, but admiring this suit. After about an hour of me spilling my guts about spilling guts I finished and waited for the board members to respond. It was like they were under a spell or something, but just then they awoke and voted on letting me out. I couldn’t believe it I was out and free to join my carnival again thanks to this suit and amazon.

Self Publishing Notebook

31 January 2016

From Creative Loafing Tampa:

“Self Publishing.” Say it out loud. “Self Publishing.” How did you say it? Did it drip from your lips like other vile phrases? “German cockroach.” “Humidity.” “Donald Trump.” “Hemorrhoids.” Well, my fine readers and writers, those days are over. Let’s scrap the “self publishing” vanity press-laden moniker, hipster this thing up, and call it Indie Publishing like it’s something that happens in the desert every summer with Russell Brand in attendance. Why? Because Indie Publishing is cool. Like winning awards cool. Like Matt Damon in Andy Weir’s (indie published) The Martian cool. Like 50 Shades of – no I didn’t read it (self published), but E.L. James is rich from writing, and I’m guessing you’re not. Yet.

Gone are the days of writing a novel and spending five years honing your query letter-writing skills trying to find an agent or publisher. Thank god we don’t need to rely on some whiny English major with his own collection of rejected novels to decide if we’re worthy of a reader’s attention. In fact, publishing houses are in such bad shape they arelooking for indie writers who already have an audience — who already have some good work they can rely on. On average, Indie Publishers are writing more books and making more money than their traditionally published counterparts.

. . . .

How do I know? I’ve been writing something all my life, but really only writing (and finishing) novels for three to four years. I have an adventure thriller novel on Amazon called The Grandfather Clock (check it out, cheapskates, it’s 99 cents.) It came out in November 2014. A friend helped me with a promotional campaign and suddenly, my damned book was on the Kindle Best Sellers lists… before slipping back into total obscurity. In spite of spending a day in the top 20 next to The Great Gatsby, in no way was my book even a modest success. The most my earnings have bought me is beer and coffee — and an occasional egg sandwich. My wife frequently asks things like, “Why did we just get $17.31 cents from Amazon?” Remember dear, I wrote a book?

Link to the rest at Creative Loafing Tampa and thanks to Julia for the tip.


How to Improve Amazon

30 January 2016

From Chris McMullen:

I love Amazon. As a customer, as a reader, as an author.

Yet, I see ways that Amazon could be even better.

Although I use Amazon frequently as both a reader and author, most of this post is from the publishing perspective.

. . . .

 Does Amazon Care? 

Yes. I know this because I and other authors have made several suggestions in the past, and Amazon has already made significant improvements.

  • KDP authors now have access to pre-orders.
  • KDP reports have improved significantly.
  • For weeks toward the end of 2015, Amazon had a large banner advertisement on their homepage announcing Countdown Deals.
  • The Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks.
  • KDP authors can now send emails through Amazon to their Amazon followers when they publish a new Kindle e-book.

I could go on. And on.

. . . .

Mediate Publishing Services (Cover Design, Editing, Formatting)

First of all, did you know that Amazon now offers services like painting your house, cleaning your home, mounting your television, mowing your lawn, fixing your computer, and much more? Amazon connects local top-rated professionals to customers in select cities. Customers pay Amazon, and Amazon offers a Happiness Guarantee.

150,000 books were published on Amazon in the last 30 days. That’s a rate of 1.8 million books per year. Very many of those books were self-published through KDP or CreateSpace.

Just imagine how many authors are interested in:

  • cover design
  • editing
  • formatting
  • translation
  • book promotion

And much more. We’re talking millions of dollars in author/publisher expenses.

Where do authors and publishers go for these services now? They go off Amazon.

One of Amazon’s big marketing rules is don’t drive traffic off Amazon hoping to drive it back onto Amazon later. Amazon wants to keep people on Amazon as much as possible. Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime keep customers at Amazon. Discussion forums keep readers and authors engaged on Amazon.

But many authors/publishers are leaving Amazon to find publishing services.

Authors can get limited services from CreateSpace, but it’s fairly expensive, it lacks interaction with the actual designer, and the file format of the result usually isn’t portable.

Amazon has a golden opportunity to implement something like the new Amazon Services, but for self-publishers, only it would be online and worldwide (not local, like painters and yard crews). Amazon would connect authors/publishers with cover designers, formatters, editors, translators, book promotion services, etc.

Link to the rest at Chris McMullen and thanks to Craig for the tip.

Here’s a link to Amazon Services if you haven’t seen it before.

The End of Twitter

30 January 2016

From The New Yorker:

It wasn’t that long ago that I—and many other people I know—would have argued that Twitter was more than just another social network. I would have told you that Twitter was more like a utility, a service so fundamental that I could imagine a scenario in which it was literally underwritten. Twitterneeded to exist. A stream of those hundred-and-forty-character tweets was how you found the most crucial, critical, and thought-provoking stories of the moment.

When bombs went off during the Boston Marathon, in April of 2013, users sat glued to the feed, suddenly privy to something visceral and real, somethinghappening. And Twitter provided the view, an unedited, unscripted look into the world as it changed, through police-scanner blasts, eyewitness reports, and grainy citizen-journalist photography. It was raw, but it was streamlined.

But cracks in Twitter’s façade had been showing already. Changes to the product made it hard to follow conversations or narratives. A lack of rigor in verifying reliable sources made information suspect or confusing. More troubling was the growing wave of harassment and abuse that users of the service were dealing with—a quagmire epitomized by the roving flocks of hateful, misogynistic, and well-organized “Gamergate” communities that flooded people’s feeds with hate speech and threats. The company seemed to bewholly unprepared to handle mob violence, with few tools at its disposal to moderate or quell uprisings. Even its beloved celebrity users couldn’t be protected. In August of 2014, Robin Williams’s daughter, Zelda, was driven off the service after a series of vicious attacks.

. . . .

In the yearlong stretch leading up to Dorsey’s return, the number of active users on Twitter only grew by eleven per cent. Even more troubling was the service’s penetration in the U.S.: it remained completely flat for the first three quarters of 2015. Facebook has surpassed the company by orders of magnitude, but it’s hardly Twitter’s only foe. Instagram, WhatsApp, and even WeChat all now have more individual users than Twitter does. Snapchat has almost caught Twitter, too.

In Facebook’s case, the company has demonstrated its mastery of product focus and long-term commitment to user experience. While Mark Zuckerberg’s empire sent users sloshing to and fro on the seas of privacy invasion in its early years, the past five years have seen the company come to dominate and define the concept of a social conversation.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Julia for the tip.

Sometimes I can feel my bones

30 January 2016
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Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.

Jonathan Safran Foer

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