The World of Publishing: 1991 vs. 2014

17 October 2014

From author Karen Karbo via PowellsBooks.Blog:

The Diamond Lane, published in May 1991, was my second novel, and what is most striking about the difference between the publishing process 23 years ago and now is not that the book was written on a Kaypro, Xeroxed at Kinko’s, and sent overnight in a FedEx box to G. P. Putnam’s Sons, but that after the manuscript was accepted and given a pub date, I asked my esteemed editor, “What should I do now?” and she said, “Just write the next one.”

. . . .

That said, in 1991, the main job of a writer was to just write the next one. Publicity-wise, you were expected to be able to show up to a reading (arranged by your more charming publicist) and read from your own work in a manner that didn’t put people to sleep. You were expected to be socially awkward, possibly unkempt, and a little wild-eyed — bonus points awarded for not being falling down drunk.You were expected to be socially awkward, possibly unkempt, and a little wild-eyed — bonus points awarded for not being falling down drunk. After your book tour, whether large or small, you were expected to disappear into your scribe-cave.

. . . .

[W]riters are outsiders, and usually not by their own choosing. It’s whythey’re writers. If they didn’t feel alienated from human experience, they wouldn’t feel so drawn to writing to make sense of their lives. It’s not the outsider’s facility for language that makes her a writer — many a student body president or homecoming queen can turn a phrase — but her ability to howl at the moon, on the page. To bring all his anguish, anger, sense of injustice, and loneliness to his work. This is true even for those of us who’ve been accused of being funny; in my case I wasn’t invited to the party, and was also the smart aleck at the back of the classroom.

In 2014, the landscape of a writer’s life is so different as to be unrecognizable. Every writer, whether legacy or self-published, is expected to be capable of launching a sophisticated, far-ranging, full-throttle, buzz-generating, platform-building, unending branding extravaganza. To do this, you must be charismatic, witty, attractive, selfiegenic, while also possessing the marketing chops of the team who rolled out the iPod, thus saving Apple from impending bankruptcy.

That the time-consuming, solitary indwelling required to build a world in your head and put it on paper and the zippity-do-dah extroverted glad-handing required to be a successful promoter of, well, anything rarely exist inside the same human being is immaterial. Publishers have always wanted to sell books, but historically they’ve tended to acquire books they believed they could sell; now we’ve entered an age where they acquire books which they believe the writer can sell. It’s a little like signing a player to the NBA based on his marketing plan to boost concession stand sales during half-time, and incidentally, his field goal percentage.

Link to the rest at PowellsBooks.Blog and thanks to Ron for the tip.

Here’s a link to Karen Karbo’s books

That Book cover is ugly!

6 October 2014

What Makes for a Brilliant Book Cover? A Master Explains
By Kyle VanHemert at WIRED

If you find yourself in a bookstore, Peter Mendelsund can be hard to avoid. His dust jackets wrap big-name contemporary releases like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. He’s created ingenious covers for reissues of Dostoyevsky, Kafka, and other literary giants, updating a wide swath of the canon with a striking, graphic look. Cover, a new monograph of Mendelsund’s work, showcases the designer’s uncanny talent for capturing entire books with succinct, compelling imagery—a talent that has led some to deem him the best book designer of his generation. What makes it even more remarkable is that Mendelsund started his career with zero design experience whatsoever.


On one level, dust jackets are billboards. They’re meant to lure in potential readers. For a certain contingent of the publishing industry, this means playing it safe. “The path of least resistance when you’re designing a jacket is to give that particular demographic exactly what they want,” Mendelsund explains. “It’s a mystery novel, so you just splatter it in blood, and put the shadowy trench coat guy on it, and use the right typography.” Familiarity, the thinking goes, will always sell something.

Mendelsund does not subscribe to this view. He’s said that he prefers an ugly cover to a cliche one, and looking at his body of work, the thing that holds it together is that nearly all of his jackets have something weird going on, in one way or another.


Of course, catching a potential book-buyer’s eye is only part of Mendelsund’s job. A truly great jacket is one that captures the book inside it in some fundamental and perhaps unforeseen way. As Mendelsund describes it, his job is “finding that unique textual detail that…can support the metaphoric weight of the entire book.” That, of course, requires actually reading a manuscript closely enough to A) determine the metaphoric weight of the book and B) find a handful of relevant details within it. In other words, making a great book cover isn’t just about making. It starts with understanding.


Ideally, every dust jacket is unique to the book it’s wrapped around. But the realities of the marketplace often dictate how experimental a design can be. Mendelsund will have more interpretive freedom for a small volume of poetry, for example, than he does for a hotly anticipated piece of new fiction. “If you spend a lot of money on a book or an author, then you ratchet up the scrutiny the jacket’s under a lot—a hundred fold,” he says. “If this author got a big advance, then you’re going to have to jump through some flaming hoops with the jacket.”

Take The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Such was the buzz around the manuscript that when it came time to design the jacket, there were already a chorus of voices adding their take.


The final version, sure enough, had “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in huge type. To round it out, Mendelsund did what he describes as the “dumbass thing” of echoing the title visually on the cover itself, putting the text on top of an image of… a dragon tattoo. It was the rare case in which a novel had so much momentum that the best thing a designer could do was stay out of the way. “The book was going to sell well no matter what,” Mendelsund says.

And yet, Mendelsund insists that it wasn’t the most obvious approach he could’ve taken. The design featured at least one small victory against the obvious: the bright yellow backdrop. “Up until that point, I would defy you to find a dark gothic thriller with a day-glow cover,” he says.

For another view, an indie one if I may, I found Derek Murphy

Here’s what’s wrong with Peter Mendelsund’s Book Covers
From Derek Murphy at Creative Indie

A couple weeks ago I saw an article about Peter Mendelsund’s new book on book cover design; and I scoffed. Now I just saw another article on Wired, shared by Tim Ferriss.

Peter is obviously doing the rounds (and quite well) to promote his new book. Kudos to him. Here’s the big problem: Peter’s had a luxurious career as a cover design rebranding already famous and classic works of fiction, and breakout bestsellers – amazing books – supported by a heavy media campaign and a major publisher.

He’s said that he prefers an ugly cover to a cliche one, and looking at his body of work, the thing that holds it together is that nearly all of his jackets have something weird going on, in one way or another.

Looking at Peter’s work, I agree with his own take on his design philosophy. They are all creative, potentially clever, and ugly. And that’s fine – for literary fiction appealing to high brow readers. The tragic mistake is in applauding Peter’s work as a “golden measure” for book cover design, because it absolutely will not work for most books.


You see, most authors start out with no platform and have to catch reader’s attentions. They don’t have a big media or marketing campaign. Readers aren’t going to spend more than a couple seconds looking at their cover while browsing thousands of others in the same category.

The cover has to tell readers, immediately, what the book is about and what genre it fits into.

This can’t be done by being clever or thoughtful. Nobody is going to appreciate the cognitive associations and playful visual metaphors. Not to mention that a vast majority of authors are writing popular genre fiction or non-fiction (not literary) – and while literary authors may want to adopt Peter’s style to ‘fit in’ with other literary fiction, that in itself can be accused of being cliche; in other words, books in the same genre should look similar.


I pick the cover that is going to sell the most copies – and I’ll test it out with paid advertisements if I have to (though I’ve gotten very good at knowing which will perform the best). Selling more copies is all that matters for most authors. If you have a literary career, or are a professor, and are writing a book just to make yourself look good, then sure – go for something smart and obtuse and a little hard to figure out; something most people won’t like but a few people will think is brilliant.

But if you want to make money as an author, don’t be swayed by the sirens warning you to avoid the obvious and focus on something deeper and non-representational. Don’t worry about avoiding book cover cliches. Don’t focus on being creative. Get a damn fine cover that looks professional and immediately broadcasts the right genre. It SHOULD look a lot like the other bestselling books in the same category.

After you get enough people to buy it, read it and love it, and your name is so famous that people will buy anything you write, then you can start having fun with your book cover and taking risks with the design.

I’m not saying Peter isn’t a brilliant cover designer, of course he is. Another designer I like a lot is Chip Kidd.
And I’m obviously jealous of their talents. I’m not saying I’m a better designer than they are; only that, if they had to design covers that would sell popular fiction, they would probably look entirely different – and a whole lot more like mine – than the creative samples they’ve built their careers on.


So you have to decide what kind of author you are.

1. Are you the artist, who just wants to make an amazing book, even if nobody recognizes it in your lifetime and nobody loves and understands it like you do; you get no acknowledgment until decades after you die? Or, are you writing professional literary fiction with an established marketing campaign and recognized name? Great! Your book cover is a blank canvas.

2. Do you want people to read and like your book? Do you want hundreds of reviews? Do you want to make a bunch of money so you can write full-time? Then you better make sure your book fits the conventions of bestselling books in your genre, and appeal precisely to the readers who love that genre, and broadcast the core story message, and most importantly, make an emotional connection (in away that literary book covers almost never do, being purely conceptual).

In other words, the publishing methods that apply to famous authors are not and should not be the same for unknown authors on a small budget. You need to be more careful with how you do things. Your cover needs to look like it belongs in the top 10 books in your category.

While Peter’s new book should in no way be used as a manual for commercial book cover design, as an exercise in creative thinking and design it’s definitely worth perusing.

Peters Book Cover at Amazon

Derek Murphy at Amazon

From Guest Blogger Randall

Seriously? Rotten Reviews…

2 October 2014

From The Atlantic:

Fake Reviews: Amazon’s Rotten Core

The web has created some fantastic opportunities for authors, publishers and self-publishers alike, but this summer has seen the industry’s dark underbelly revealed in all its venal, pustulant ignominy. Things kicked off in July at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival where successful author Stephen Leather confessed, during an on-stage panel discussion, that he used fake accounts to promote his own books. This admission of sockpuppetry shocked the writing community and has been covered well byfellow panellistSteve Mosby.

UPDATED 29 August (see below for details).

Leather admitted to creating accounts on forums under assumed names in order to “create a buzz” about his own work. He also promotes and reviews his work using at least one pseudonymous Twitter account. In Leather’s own words, transcribed from a recording of the panel:

I’ll go onto several forums, from the well-known forums, and post there, under my own name and under various other names and various other characters. You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself. And then I’ve got enough fans…

Although Amazon gets the headline, in the article the fake reviews cross all publishing platforms. Read here.

Julia Barrett

The $10k Self-Published Book Launch

1 October 2014

From author Nick Stephenson:

September has been a busy, busy month, and it’s been one of the least productive in terms of actually getting any writing done. Instead, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to grow some alternative revenue streams, while attempting to keep my existing income steady. It’s been a real slog. But it was totally worth it.

On the 18th of September, I launched a new book. I didn’t publish via Amazon, Nook, Kobo, or iTunes. Instead, I launched the title on WarriorPlus – a popular sales network for internet marketers.

. . . .

The book in question was a re-written version of “Supercharge your Kindle Sales”, with new content and a different cover. With the help of an experienced internet marketer, we were able to recruit 90 affiliates to help us launch this title and drum up over $10,000 of revenue within a couple of weeks.

The best part? That $10,000+ of income was split between me, my JV partner, and eight-dozen self-employed affiliates. Less than 3% went to the WarriorPlus site, meaning 97% of the money we made stayed in the hands of a group of self-made, hard working entrepreneurs. No publishers or retailers required

And even more exciting than that – more than 800 people picked up a copy of the book during the launch (at $11.97), and I’ve had a steady flow of emails thanking me for putting this content together.

. . . .

I’ve posted before about the apparent obsession many authors have with “being everywhere” as though that’s some kind of sensible strategy. Obviously, it all depends on individual circumstances, but when Nook, Kobo, and Apple make up less than 15% of my overall income, there’s still a huge amount of risk if my other revenue streams go belly up. Just “being everywhere” isn’t going to be enough to protect you, unless you’ve got some kind of marketing plan to keep those income sources growing. So, why not seek out alternative sources of income?

Link to the rest at Nick Stephenson

Here’s a link to Nick Stephenson’s books

Military Book Fair Coming to San Diego

29 September 2014

From The Writer’s Forensics Blog:

Book enthusiasts are invited to attend the Military Book Fair on November 8th from 10 am to 4 pm.  This book fair is unique because it will take place on the aircraft carrier USS Midway, located in San Diego Harbor. You will have the opportunity buy one or more books at the Midway/Fair bookstore and have them signed, as well as a chance to listen to the authors during panel sessions.  Just buy a $20 Midway ticket and you get the Fair along with a tour of the aircraft carrier.  The added benefit is that you will be helping our military, because all proceeds go to several veterans’ organizations.

Link to the rest at The Writer’s Forensics Blog and thanks to Shelton for the tip.

PG says this location beats any Barnes & Noble he’s ever visited.

BookBub Is Now in the UK

24 September 2014

From BookBub:

We’re very excited to announce that BookBub is now available in the UK!

As our co-founder Josh Schanker mentioned back in May, one of our goals for 2014 has been to expand BookBub internationally, both to help authors and publishers reach readers beyond the US and to help people around the world discover new books they’ll love.

With a fast-growing ebook market and a ton of demand from both our partners and subscribers, the UK was a natural first step, so we recently began offering British readers the option to sign up to BookBub. The initial response has been very encouraging — in fact, our user base has grown to over 100,000 members in just the past few months, and we expect it to continue growing rapidly in the weeks to come.

So how can you reach this market full of keen new readers? Starting today, you’ll be able to tell us during the submission process whether your deal will also be running in the UK. If your title is selected for a feature, the total cost to run the listing will be the usual US price plus an additional 5 percent for being featured in the UK.

Link to the rest at Bookbub and thanks to Adam for the tip.

Author Conference of the Future

13 September 2014

From Joe Konrath:

If it ever does happen, this is how I’d picture it:

One giant room, similar to ComiCon, with a stage and microphones.

Authors sit at tables, which are set up everywhere. For table space at the 3 day conference, authors pay $25 a day.

Attendees get in for free.

Authors bring their own paper books to sell. They can accept cash, or credit cards via PayPal Here.

Authors can bring cardboards stands, giveaways, whatever they’d like to make people come to their tables. I suggest having QR codes on promo material, so attendees can instantly buy ebooks.

Conference fees pay for the room space, advertising, and maps that show where the authors are on a numbered seating chart (also name plates and name tags for authors) and the schedule for the author talks.

. . . .

Any author who wants to appear on the main stage in book room to talk for 15 minutes can, for an additional $50. Authors who want to appear on panels can book a block of time together (for example, 3 authors on stage at the same time would get 45 minutes and it would cost a total of $150).

In addition to the main room, there will be additional side rooms available as needed. If an author (or group of authors) want to appear in a side room to speak, it is $25 for 15 minutes per author.

. . . .

Fans get in for free, which will allow them to spend more money on books.

All authors can sign for as long as they want to.

All authors can speak for as long as they want to, on whatever topic they choose.

Even if an author has a table every day, and talks every day, the max they’ll spend is $175. This is cheaper than most conferences, with a lot more visibility.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Eric for the tip.

What You Need to Know about Amazon Pre-ordering

2 September 2014

From author Laurie Boris via Indies Unlimited:

When Amazon announced that indie authors other than Hugh Howey would be allowed to offer their e-books on pre-order, the timing couldn’t have been better for me to give it a try. I was in the midst of planning my next book release. The description was ready, the categories and keywords chosen, and I’d just sent the final draft of the manuscript out for copyediting.

. . . .

Load a draft copy of your manuscript. If you enable the right settings, it will NOT be available for sampling or download on Amazon, so no worries that readers will get a sneak peek of something unedited. BUT, in a last-minute and disturbing discovery, if you load your book to Goodreads during the pre-order period, your preview WILL be available to US Goodreads users. [The preview is a feature Goodreads just added.] When I asked KDP about this, they suggested I talk to the Goodreads people. I’m not holding my breath for a quick solution. In the meantime, I’d suggest either loading up only your print version to Goodreads [previews are not available for print] or making sure the manuscript you submit to KDP is either the final version or one of at least the quality you’d be comfortable submitting as an ARC (advance reader copy.)

. . . .

1. Be careful with your deadline. Yes. You get a deadline. When you choose a pre-order date, KDP works backward ten days and gives you a drop-dead for loading your final materials. I guess they want to make sure we’re all tidy and ready for our close-up. Or that they will have sufficient time to calculate your pre-orders into your sales ranking.

Choose your date carefully. At this point, I expect to be “all systems go” before the actual date I entered. (It’s that advertising background, I guess.) So I assume I can change my release date to something earlier if I want to. Missing your deadline, however, comes with penalties. One, you will be banned from pre-order privileges for a year. Two, and more importantly, your credibility with your fans could take a hit. Depending on your genre, and if you’re writing a series, fans’ tolerance for the next installment varies. Three, love Amazon or hate them, but they’ve given us an opportunity. If we give them enough evidence that we can’t keep our promises, I can’t imagine that they will continue to offer the privilege. After all, “customer satisfaction,” at least publicly, drives the company.

. . . .

3. Pre-release reviews are not possible, at least at this point. Apparently you can’t upload a review until the book is released. But…your pre-order period seems like a fine time to solicit prepublication reviewers, if you’re so inclined.

4. You can monitor your pre-order numbers in the KDP dashboard. It even lets you know how many you got on specific days. This is great because you can roughly attribute pre-orders with any specific announcements you’ve made. For example, I sent out an email newsletter to my list and saw a spike soon afterward in my pre-order numbers.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

Here’s a link to Laurie Boris’ books

Amazon Prepares Online Advertising Program

24 August 2014

From The Wall Street Journal: Inc. is gearing up to more directly challenge Google Inc.’s dominance of the online advertising market, developing its own software for placing ads online that could leverage its knowledge of millions of Web shoppers.

Initially, Amazon plans to replace those ads on its pages that Google chiefly supplies with a new in-house ad placement platform, said people familiar with the matter. In the future, that system could challenge Google’s $50 billion-a-year advertising business and Microsoft Corp.’s, they added.

The Seattle-based retailer already has a limited business placing ads on other sites. In a sign that it has larger goals, Amazon is testing ways to expand that program with new types of ads.

“Amazon could use the data it has about buying behavior to help make these ads much more effective,” said Karsten Weide, an analyst at researcher IDC. “Marketers would love to have another viable option beyond Google and Facebook for their advertising.”

. . . .

“Amazon knows a lot about how people are searching on the site and consumer preferences and histories. It can use that to tailor advertising in ways that probably nobody else can,” said Reid Spice, vice president of media at digital agency iCrossing.

. . . .

Amazon now displays several types of ads on its pages, including text-based keyword ads placed by Google and other third parties, as well as product ads that Amazon places itself. EMarketer estimates that Amazon will sell nearly $1 billion in advertising revenue this year, up from more than $700 million last year.

. . . .

Amazon today has an “affiliate” program that offers websites Amazon product ads and pays small commissions when those website users click through and buy a product on Amazon. To attract more websites, and help their owners earn more, Amazon also is testing a way for them to get paid any time a user sees an ad.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Patricia for the tip.

PG wonders if indie authors may be purchasing ads for their books on Amazon.

Just Another Bookbub Top 25?

15 August 2014

From author Michael Bunker:

Was yesterday just another Bookbub promo?

Three top 25 showings on all of Amazon in just 5 weeks… but was it just a product of using Bookbub?

. . . .

“Boy those Bookbub sales are nice!”

“Wow, you can’t beat a Bookbub promo!”

But do Bookbub promos consistently put books into the top 25? Not at all. In fact, almost never. It takes Bookbub+ to get the kind of numbers you need to break into the top 100, much less the top 25. And most authors don’t realize that it is not a smooth ride once you hit the top 50 or so. At that point, the sales trajectory needs to be almost perfectly vertical to gain any ground on the top books on the chart. Making it onto the first page on Amazon (the top 20) requires a combination of things, and just the brute force email power of Bookbub alone is not usually going to get you there. In fact Bookbub, though it is obviously the best paid promotional tool available to Indie authors (or any authors for that matter), only advertises an average unit sales number in Scifi of 1,180 per promo.

On the very top end, obviously with some other factors increasing sales (author fame, bestseller status, multiple promos, Amazon love, some big mentions,) Bookbub reports that a little over 2,600 is the most that can be expected in unit sales of Scifi titles through the entire promo period of a Bookbub feature.

But the AVERAGE Bookbub feature in Scifi results in 1,180 sales. That is the average unit sales throughout the entire length of the promo. That’s good enough to get you into three figures in ranking but not two. Our last three Bookbub promos have each averaged almost 3,000 unit sales in just 24 hours. If we added up unit sales for the entire length of the promo, the average would be close to (or over) 4,000 unit sales during the respective promo periods.

. . . .

In the cases we’ve been able to track, up to 35% of our promo day unit sales did not come through Bookbub.

Whoa! Are you surprised? In fact, a large number of our promo day sales didn’t come through any sale feature ad at all. On the sale day for the Pennsylvania Omnibus, we already had 400 unit sales – 1/3 of Bookbub’s average reported sales – BEFORE the first feature even started! And this figure is based on Amazon’s delayed reporting. The real number might have been twice that!

What does this mean? It means that readers were already convinced of the quality and the value of the book, and the budget minded ones were waiting for the book to go on sale. And when it did… they pounced! THESE are the readers who will push the book after they’ve read it and loved it.

Link to the rest at Michael Bunker and thanks to Patrice for the tip.

Here’s a link to Michel Bunker’s books

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