The Uk’s Selfies Award Announces Its First Self-Published Shortlist

5 February 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

At this time of year, shortlists, longlists, and calls for submissions swirl like snow showers up and down the UK. And a new book awards program today (February 5) is adding to the wintry mix something almost as distinctive as the proverbial snowflake’s design: the Selfies Awards has announced its first set of self-published finalists.

Produced by BookBrunch in association with the London Book Fairand the public relations and author services company Bookollective and IngramSpark, the Selfies represent the judges’ choice of a work of fiction self-published in 2018.

. . . .

In an interesting reflection of the task of self-publishing, the prize recognizes not only quality of writing but also, per the program’s media messaging, “the cover design, blurb and sales and marketing campaigns too,” a reminder of the breadth of activity demanded by self-publishing. And this was communicated to authors entering their work by describing the criteria beyond the writing as (quoting the organizers):

  • A well produced ebook or print book
  • An enticing cover and blurb that successfully addresses the target audience
  • An effective and creative marketing and publicity strategy
  • Great sales potential

. . . .

Those familiar with the ALLi community will recognize some of the authors whose work now appears on the Selfies’ inaugural list. The program has opened with submissions limited to adult fiction titles, but organizers have said they expect to expand the award to cover more categories in the future. Entries are limited to authors “based in the UK who are predominantly or only self-published, ie where the author themselves acted as the publisher and/or creative director.” Short stories and unfinished works are not accepted for consideration.

The winner of the Selfies 2019 will be awarded £1,500 (US$1,952) plus a special self-publishing package from the sponsoring IngramSpark for a next book. In addition, Bookollective will offer the winner a customized book cover design created by Aimee Coveney and a book publicity campaign that the company says is worth £1000 (US$1,301).

. . . .

The Selfies 2019 Shortlist

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Takeaways for Merchants from Amazon q4 Earnings

4 February 2019

From eCommerce Bytes:

Amazon released earnings on Thursday, and there were some takeaways about third-party merchant sales, changes in seller fees, Amazon delivery, advertising, and upcoming investment in fulfillment center capacity.

Amazon grew 2018 fourth quarter sales 20% to $72.4 billion. Sales for North America in the 4th quarter of 2018 were up 18% year-over-year; sales for International were up 19% FX-neutral; and sales for its AWS cloud web-hosting business was up 46% FX-neutral.

. . . .

“The better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, backed by strong holiday sales, comes as investors fret about decelerating growth following two straight quarters of disappointing revenue. Sales climbed 19.7 percent in the latest quarter, which was faster than the 18.8 percent expected, but still the slowest since the first quarter of 2015.”

. . . .

Amazon said third-party sales grew faster than first-party sales. It also called out the fact in its earnings press release, where it stated that nearly 200,000 small and medium-sized businesses surpassed $100,000 in sales in Amazon’s stores in 2018.

. . . .

Amazon said third-party sellers are an important part of its value proposition – “they’ve had great success on our site, more than half of our units sold are from third-party sellers.” Amazon said it would always be evolving that business, including adding new fees or subtracting existing fees. “We generally work to change the fees to make sure that the incentives are strong on both sides and we continue to have a healthy growth in third party.”

. . . .

The company continues to expand its Amazon logistics and delivery capability and it also matches up with the faster ship speed for Prime members. “We have over 100 million items that customers could get within two days, but there’s now over 3 million that will be delivered within one day or faster in 10,000 cities and town.”

Amazon deliveries are a big part of that. Often it costs the same or less as using its outside shipping partners. Amazon invests selectively because it has more perfect information about where demand is and how it’s moving items – “by not involving third parties all the time, we can find that we can extend our order cut offs.”

Asked about advertising revenue, Amazon said it was focused on evolving tools and services for agencies and advertisers to make it easier for companies to grow – “we’re continually excited about the opportunity there.” It said it was working on making smarter recommendations as well as addressing the needs of brands.

Link to the rest at eCommerce Bytes

PG has recently noticed more deliveries by people wearing Amazon shirts arriving at Casa PG.

It’s early days for Amazon’s delivery service, but the appearance of the Amazon delivery persons carries a distinctly more “temp hire” vibe than the UPS or Fedex folks.

Raleigh Author Who Self-Published Best-Selling Book Lands Movie Deal for 4

31 January 2019

From ABC11:

Raleigh-based businessman A.G. Riddle had no writing experience when he was inspired to write a book.

Riddle was working as a tech consultant, helping to get Internet startups off the ground, when he decided to take a chance and write and self-publish his first book, “The Atlantis Gene” in March 2013.

“My first book was almost completely homemade,” Riddle said. “I wrote the book, did my own edits and then my mom edited the book; she was a retired eighth-grade English teacher, and I made the cover myself. It was OK, the current covers are a lot better.

“In March of 2013, I put it out there, my now-wife put it on Facebook and hounded her friends to read this book,” he added. “That’s how it sort of got started.”

Riddle self-published “The Atlantis Gene” through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and said being able to self-publish gave him more control of his new career.

“Writing the first one is certainly the toughest, but there’s never been a better time to release your novel, in my opinion,” he said.

“The Atlantis Gene” became the first book of “The Origin Mystery,” a trilogy that has sold more than 2 million copies in the United States. Riddle released his fourth novel, “Departure” in the fall of 2015. “Departure” follows the survivors of a flight that takes off in the present and crash-lands in a changed world. 20th Century Fox is developing “Departure” for a feature film. Several of his books have been picked up for film development.

“So, four of them are an option for feature films, so we’ll see where that goes,” Riddle said.

Link to the rest at ABC11

Amazon Is Dooming New Yiddish Publications. Can It Be Stopped?

23 January 2019

From Forward:

In 2005, Internet giant Amazon swallowed up yet another smaller fish, the self-publishing company CreateSpace, which made it possible to market titles in dozens of languages. Last year, in a decision that you would be forgiven for missing, Amazon announced that CreateSpace was merging with another division: Kindle Direct Publishing, now known as KDP. One Amazon province cannibalizes another. Nothing new there.

But it turns out that this move might endanger the important and unique realm of new Yiddish prose — a forum particularly important to Hasidim since a book released by CreateSpace can be publicized affordably, and sold on Amazon without the author giving his real name. (In the Hasidic community, anonymity is useful and even necessary online). Hasidic blogger Katle Kanye, one of the Forward 50 and often mentioned in the Yiddish Forward, chose CreateSpace to publish his sharp critique of what he says is the failed Chasidic education system.

Another Hasidic forum for self-expression in Yiddish is the online journal Der Veker, or The Alarm, a publication aimed at Hasidim who want to read about sensitive topics. In other Hasidic publications these topics might be censored or not discussed at all.

. . . .

Moving CreateSpace to KDP has made it impossible to self-publish titles on Amazon in a number of languages that used to be available, including Yiddish and Hebrew. Without CreateSpace, it becomes prohibitive for small periodicals written in minority languages, like Der Veker, to keep publishing.

. . . .

Why did the language selection change when CreateSpace merged with KDP? It’s not clear. Even years ago, when there were several separate divisions of Amazon devoted to self-publishing, each had its list of permissible languages which were technically possible. One should also note that other languages written right-to-left, like Arabic, are still publishing options on KDP. Why Arabic and not Yiddish, Hebrew, or other languages? It seems plausible that larger languages are economically and culturally valued by Amazon, while minority languages are left in the dust.

Reached by the Forverts, an Amazon spokesperson responded: “We are aware that because certain CreateSpace languages are not yet available on KDP, some authors and readers will be unable to publish and read new titles in those languages (all previous titles remain available). We are actively reviewing author and reader feedback to evaluate which features and services we offer in the future, including expanding KDP’s supported languages.”

Link to the rest at Forward

The issue described in the OP was completely absent from PG’s radar prior to his reading the article.

Without knowing details, he wonders if Amazon may have problems finding enough employees who are fluent in some languages to review POD books for errors of various types or for content that violates KDP’s Terms of Service.

PG will be interested to see how this matter plays out.

100% Diy: Interview with Cellist Zoë Keating

20 January 2019

From Indie Digital Media:

Zoë Keating is a cellist and composer whose music has appeared in tv shows like Breaking Bad and the Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary. She’s released several albums and EPs of her original music, and has recorded with artists such as Amanda Palmer.

All of this Keating does with a “100% DIY” approach, as she wrote in an LA Times op-ed in 2013. She owns the rights to her music and controls the distribution, by putting it up herself on iTunes and other platforms like Bandcamp.

Even better, this DIY approach has been successful. In the following interview with her, you’ll see a detailed breakdown of how much money she made from her music in 2018. In summary, she earned $20,828 from streaming and $42,229 from digital downloads and physical albums. That’s not counting revenue from concerts, licensing fees from tv and movie soundtracks, and other income.

. . . .

In her end-of-year Tumblr post, Keating outlined her streaming royalties for 2018. She had earned $12,231 from Spotify, from 2,252,293 streams. That equates to about half a cent per stream. She estimated $3,900 from Apple Music and $2,800 from Pandora, and from everything else it was two or three figure sums (including $71 from Napster, the once popular file sharing service that didn’t pay artists a penny in its prime). All up, she earned a bit over $20,000 from all streaming sources in 2018.

I asked Keating how her revenue from digital downloads and physical media (CDs and LPs) compared with the streaming royalties?

“In 2018 there were 5,024 downloads and 4,093 physical albums sold on Bandcamp,” she replied, “which after packaging, shipping, and tax netted me $28,729.”

She made a further $13,500 from 6,610 iTunes downloads (albums and songs combined) in 2018, down 11% from the previous year. This, said Keating, parallels the industry decline in digital downloads.

“iTunes download revenue has been gradually going down for me over the years,” she said.

Streaming services are of course to blame, since they’re making the act of downloading less and less common.

. . . .

This trend is also reflected in Bandcamp, the leading platform for indie musicians to sell their music online.

“Bandcamp sales are not as large as you’d think,” Keating told me. “Bandcamp does not market or advertise or receive any kind of press, unlike the major music services. When I mention Bandcamp, many listeners say ‘oh what is that?’ So my sales are from the listeners who take the trouble to visit my website, are comfortable with the concept [of buying from her site] and purchase the music directly. But people tend to use their service of choice and only a fraction buy from me directly.”

. . . .

In a recent Facebook post, Keating wrote that “the hardest problem I have as an artist these days is reaching the people who already love my music.” Considering she has 52,000 Facebook followers and 989,000 Twitter followers, this shows how hard it is for even popular indie creators to get attention on social media platforms.

Link to the rest at Indie Digital Media

Wall Street Journal Comments

17 January 2019

Last night, PG posted about an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about Amazon and the publishing business. Click Here if you haven’t seen it.

He just checked the comments to the WSJ article, expecting to see great galloping herds of rampant ADS.

PG was pleasantly surprised to see the large majority of the comments were supportive of Amazon and several talked about their good experiencing self-publishing. If you’ve already read the original WSJ article, here’s a direct link to the Comments that worked for PG, but may not work for others.

PG isn’t certain how the WSJ paywall might affect others.

UPDATE: Mike shared a paywall workaround in the comments: “Doing a Google search on the post title gave me a link to both the full article and the comments.”

The title of the OP is:‘They Own the System’: Amazon Rewrites Book Industry by Marching Into Publishing

The Future of Music, Where Middlemen Have Met Their Match

4 January 2019

From OZY:

“Hey, Dad. I want to show you a song.”

The speaker was my 16-year-old daughter. Music for her? Primarily visual and to be enjoyed in video clips. Video clips that did not always feature videos. Sometimes it was just some clip art and the music. But no record store, no record album, no tape — reel-to-reel, eight track, cassette or otherwise — and finally no compact disc. And she’s not alone in how she’s digging on the music she digs on.

According to Nielsen’s music report, digital and physical album sales declined (again) last year — from about 205 million in 2016 to 169 million copies in 2017 — down 17 percent. Over the past five years, right up to Nielsen’s mid-year report, sales had fallen by roughly 75 percent. That decline is coinciding with a streaming juggernaut that continues to grow. How much so? Last year streaming skated, quite easily, beyond 400 billion streams. You include video streams and you have figures over $618 billion. You look back at the year before and you see a 58 percent increase in audio streams.

While this buoyed the damned-near-moribund music industry to the tune of 12.5 percent growth from 2016 to last year, the music business is now, as it has been, all about discovering the music that can generate all of those streams. And that’s where things get curious because record labels that are used to creating heat now have to go places where the heat is being created to stay viable and vibrant.

. . . .

With a number of presently high-profile artists — Odd Future, Lil Yachty, Post Malone, etc. — being “discovered” on places like SoundCloud over the past five years, entire communities of music fans can beat both the hype and the Spotify/Pandora/SiriusXM radio/Amazon algorithms that suggest if you liked this, you might also like that, by starting there, and branching out. First stop: Instagram.

“People come in all the time and play me stuff from their IG feeds,” says Mark Thompson, founder of Los Angeles-based Vacation Vinyl (that sells, yes, primarily vinyl). “So I’m hearing bands that it soon becomes pretty clear have no label, no representation, nothing but an IG feed and maybe some music recorded on their laptops.”

To put this in perspective, in July 2018, Instagram added the music mode in Stories, and just that quickly streaming started to feel … old. Because from the musicians’ mouths to our ears, unmediated music finds its way from the creator to the consumer. Spotify is trying to adapt too — it has over the past year begun to sign deals with independent musicians to give them access to the platform.

. . . .

“It’s free,” she says, having endured speeches about listening to unpaid/stolen music. Since she and her friends don’t ever listen to more than 60 seconds of any song, at least while I am around, this raises the question: Is it a business and is it sustainable in the same way that Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer or iHeartRadio have managed to be?

“Unknown,” says former promoter and music industry executive Mark Weiss. “But the business is where the ears are. And if the business is any damn good it’ll figure out how to stay in the conversation.”

. . . .

Flash-forward to record contracts from the mid-1990s that covered cassette tapes, vinyl, compact discs and “future technologies not yet known.” The digitization of analog music had already changed the landscape for everything from crime to interior design.

Whereas previously you’d have needed a turntable, an amplifier, maybe a preamp, a tape player, a receiver, speakers and a subwoofer to listen to the music that you’d be playing off of tapes, vinyl or CDs, after everything was digitized you just needed a phone and speakers.

Link to the rest at OZY

Local children’s book authors find new ways to reach readers

31 December 2018
Comments Off on Local children’s book authors find new ways to reach readers

From the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram:

With the development of new technologies and marketing methods, children’s book authors are finding new ways to publish quickly rather than wait years for a traditional agent or publisher. These days, with a plethora of juvenile books on store shelves already, competitive agents gravitate toward the sure thing. So what’s the newbie to do?

Four writers connected to this area shared their methods: Nick Zwirblia, author of “The Bramford Chronicles, Book 1: Johnny and Baby Jumbo;” Susan Lubner, author of “Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl;” Rebecca Boucher, author of “The Adventures of Mist;” and J. Anthony Garreffi, author of “I Caught Santa.” Each uses publishing methods unique to their talents: partnerships, informed self-publishing, e-books or traditional representation.

Susan Lubner

Susan Lubner lives in Southboro and was raised in Maine, the setting for her middle-grade book (MG, aimed at readers 8 to 12), published Nov. 6. Her heroine, Lizzy, is 12. Lizzy searches for good luck symbols everywhere. They lead her to hide a runaway girl at home, probably not the best decision to make solo. But life is complicated.

Lubner has traditional representation: a literary agent and a publisher. This setup opens the door to professional marketing assistance, editing and guaranteed publishing quality for the book.

The author of three previous books for children and another novel, “The Upside of Ordinary,” she is published by Running Press Kids, an imprint of Perseus Books/Hachette Book Group. Its MG designation removes the book from the more mature topics found in teen books (YA: young adult). That’s not to say MG doesn’t get real.

“Kids that age do face difficulties — death, divorce, sometimes alcohol abuse,” she said. “The issues are serious, but the book is very different from YA, in terms of language and social issues. Every child wants to feel safe and protected. When your foundation is turned upside down by death or divorce, you look for a safe haven.”

She has had more than one agent, having changed agents when one didn’t produce results. She also submitted to publishers independently, selling her first four books without agent representation. Now she has linked up with Linda Epstein, her agent for the past several years. “I adore her,” Lubner said. “It’s hard to get an agent, you have to be persistent, go to conferences, write a good query letter. You meet agents at conferences. I met Linda because one of my critique (group) buddies had seen in her blog that she was looking for funny picture books, and I had one. She thought it was hilarious and asked to see more of my writing.”

This route may not be easiest. “It’s a very difficult business to break into — be persistent, hone your skills,” Lubner said. “Just never give up. I’ve been very lucky. There are so many writers who deserve an agent but don’t have one, and it may just be a matter of timing, or the market when they submit. Just polish a novel, get it in the best shape possible and network.”

Lubner also works hard to promote her books, although publishers are very helpful. “I do what I can to help it sell,” she said. “There are a lot of great books out there, and you only have a certain amount of shelf time.” There is so much competition for shelf space that books can disappear within months. She finds independents such as Tatnuck Bookseller in Westboro very willing to shelve her books and counts on libraries for a chance to meet with readers. She’s making the rounds and mentioned upcoming events at Southboro Public Library’s Middle Group readers book club. She’s also working on a group tour with other authors. Innovative marketing is key.

One thing she asks of readers: “Leave reviews on Good Reads or Amazon. They’re so, so important and helpful.”

. . . .

Edward “Nick” Zwirblia

Edward “Nick” Zwirblia’s long-held dream of telling a story about Depression-era Vermonters has been realized through self-publishing on Amazon. His first book of a planned series, “The Bramford Chronicles: Johnny & Baby Jumbo,” is about Johnny Edes, 9, who rescues an elephant from a train wreck and hides him in the family barn. The chronicles are a planned four-part series to recreate times now fading from memory.

Zwirblia, 56, raised in poverty in Worcester and living in Vermont, has written in a unique voice because he learns by ear. His dialogue reflects the rural speaking habits he learned from locals, and the learning habits he adopted from a lifelong battle with dyslexia. Altogether, it gives the characters a lively presence and adds rapid motion to the story. Sentences are short, direct.

The book highlights the difficulties of people living in a rural, Depression-era Vermont town.

“I also wanted to write about discrimination and racism. These three boys became best friends, and the African-American boy teaches two poor local boys whose fathers are farmers and bootleggers about what life is really like for him in the 1930s,” he said.

He captures the times with camera-like precision, and the book reflects the flow of a kid’s thoughts, much of it stream of consciousness. It’s set in rural Bramford, Vermont, a small, fictional town near White River Junction.

Dyslexia gave Zwirblia limits (“I never read a book in school”). He relied on narrative voices from the past, especially an 86-year-old Vermont friend, Claude Thurston, whom he credits with much of the dialect assistance. “I gave the first copy to Claude.”

Like many a novice, Zwirblia connected with people willing to take his money without helping him out much. He battled early editors to retain language he knew was right for the place and times.

“I figure I spent about $26,000 trying to write this book for publication,” he says. That’s far more than most self-published authors will spend. The money went for typing, photo art, editing and publication details, and the cost of books donated to libraries and others. “There are a lot of marketing scams out there,” he warned. “I listened and believed everything they said.”

It wasn’t until he met Donald Unger in Worcester that he found an editor who understood his book and stuck by his side in getting it ready to publish. He credits Unger for helping him arrange and prioritize his story’s facts. “I couldn’t have done it without him. I have to write from A to Z because of my dyslexia. I can’t start in the middle.”

“Having an editor is a key step, as most beginners don’t know what to do to successfully complete a book and make it publishable,” he said. The book is available as a Kindle e-book and in softcover. Now he’s ready to complete part two, “Lost, One Elephant.” He plans for his series to advance into World War II.

Nostalgia factors into the series. His dyslexia has influenced his scrappy writing, a communicative style that may appeal to readers as young as 10 as much as his intended audience, adults. “Donald (Unger) feels it will appeal to a younger audience as well, but I have tried to reach out to people in their 40s and above. There’s no vulgarity, no horror or blood and guts. They can read it to their grandchildren. For some of them, it brings back childhood.”

Link to the rest at the Telegram

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